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TOPIC: Essential Zen practice

Essential Zen practice 13 Dec 2010 12:41 #648

In another thread, Gozen wrote:

Speaking as a Zen priest, I'm not happy with much of what passes for Zen in America (or anywhere else) these days.

-mlatorra
I would like to start a thread inviting Gozen to elaborate on that statement as Zen, I think, resonates at some level with many of us here. Speaking for me personally, there is something about it that attracts me, but I am not quite able to say why. There are also things about it that are off-putting. We have high-profile people like Brad Warner who, deliberately or not, are carrying the Zen flag, and we have high-profile vipassana teachers who used to be Zen practitioners but have left the fold.So, Gozen, what is the essential core of Zen practice?-- tomo
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Essential Zen practice 15 Dec 2010 20:23 #649

Well, I can't speak for Gozen, but Adyashanti's Buddhist Geeks interview pointed somethings out to me. He talks about how he was giving a talk and one woman came up to him crying. He'd brought her to a breakthrough just through presence and pointing with words. He told his teacher about it (or maybe she was there to see it) and she said "Now that's Zen".

To me, this was a real blow to what I thought Zen was. For me, it involved sitting there for a long time, learning how to properly stew in ones juices, and bringing things to the teacher for explanation. The idea that Zen wasn't some secretive thing that needed to be kept absolutely quiet and individual, between teacher and student only, was a shock. Adyashanti's story suggested to me an openness to the Zen experience that I've not seen much evidence of.

Now granted, Adyashanti's clearly a special case, but on the other hand, he chosen not to bill himself as a Zen teacher, so, it makes one wonder.

I don't want to get into a Zen bashing thing here, but I just feel there's so much possibility to Zen's wide-open framework that I just don't see evidence of in the western zen community. It's like the entire community is going through a continual dark night or something...
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Essential Zen practice 16 Dec 2010 00:16 #650

Why is Adyashanti a special case?
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Essential Zen practice 16 Dec 2010 05:23 #651

What is Zen?

The answer you get will depend on whom you ask. A scholar would say that Zen is a group of related Japanese Mahayana Buddhist schools, and give all kinds of historical, cultural and theoretical or philosophical information about it.

Zen teachers of some depth and authenticity generally skate lightly over all that stuff to focus instead on the "Great Matter" of Awakening. For them, Zen is "direct pointing to Reality." Like what Adyashanti did with his student, which earned the approving comment of Adyashanti's own teacher "Now that's Zen."

From the former point of view, epitomized by scholars, this guy born Stephen Gray who now calls himself Adyashanti cannot be a Zen teacher because he never received dharma transmission from a teacher registered with any of the official Zen organizations in Japan and doesn't refer to Dogen or Hakuin, etc.

With all due respect to scholars, that view makes about as much sense as saying that you don't exist if you don't have a birth certificate.

So when Stephen Gray took up his teacher's recommendation to teach, he did not take a Japanese name or try to "act Zen". Instead he took the Sanskrit name "Adyashanti" and did not associate himself with traditional Zen at all.

And do you know what? THAT'S ZEN!
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Essential Zen practice 16 Dec 2010 05:26 #652

Gozen, let me be the first to say that your response is BADASS!
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Essential Zen practice 16 Dec 2010 12:44 #653

Zen is easily misunderstood. I think that's part of the point ;-)
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Essential Zen practice 16 Dec 2010 14:27 #654


What is Zen?
With all due respect to scholars, that view makes about as much sense as saying that you don't exist if you don't have a birth certificate.


-mlatorra

Ha! That really made me smile. Thanks Gozen, you really put that all very clearly. Arguing cholars and smiling mystics, yet again. : )

@Chris: I said Adyashanti is a special case because his teaching method and his life story seem relatively unique to me. Though I don't think we should measure people's awakenings against each other, I do hold respect for those who are able to present their understanding of it in a way that isn't reliant on any dogma or tradition. There is also the fact that he came to this at such a young age. He then broke with his tradition, as Gozen points out, and started his own thing, which has (seemingly, I'll admit I'm basing this on his popularity) proven to be beneficial to many people. That doesn't happen ever day.
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Essential Zen practice 19 Dec 2010 01:05 #655

I found this:

plato.stanford.edu/entries/japanese-zen/
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Essential Zen practice 19 Dec 2010 01:37 #656


I found this:plato.stanford.edu/entries/japanese-zen/

-cmarti

Thanks, Chris. A lot to chew on there. I am not totally unfamiliar with the zen basics, albeit "bookstore zen", but am still left wondering a bit about what Gozen thinks is wrong with zen in (North) America. I am not trying to be provocative, just genuinely curious.

-- tomo
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Essential Zen practice 19 Dec 2010 14:41 #657

I'll leave it to Gozen to explain himself but I do know he's not enamored of inauthentic Zen, meaning the kind I found when I visited my local Zen center last summer -- a Roshi who was basically mailing it in. There was nothing I could find there focused on awakening, even during my one hour talk with the Roshi. Instead, it was all about "mindfulness in daily life" and how to reduce stress. Now, there's nothing wrong with either of those things as far as they go but if that's all the Roshi talks about when asked about real practice, well, Houston, we have a problem.
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