« Follow your passion wherever it leads | Main | Cogent critical analysis of Sant Mat »

May 03, 2009

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

My understanding is that Zen Buddhism is Taoist-influenced Buddhism.

I readily agree with your statement that "I enjoy learning about how other pathless (or semi-pathless) wanderers look upon reality from their vantage point. I don’t want to follow in someone else’s footsteps, but it’s nice to meet up with like-minded travelers for a friendly get-together around a literary campfire."

One point I reiterate constantly on my blog -- since a lot of folks arrive there based on a Google search of "taoist blog" -- is that they won't find THE way there. The way must be found by each individual. My sincere hope is that when people visit this blog, mine or a number of others that our own personal ruminations will spur them to seek their own solitary path.

> Zen has little if anything to do with
> Buddhism.

Not only that... but true Zen has little if anything to do with Zen!

That is, the Zen tradition points to awareness of this moment, what you perceive and what you're doing right now. It's about this experience... not words and ideas like "Buddha" or "Zen" or "Tao."

Sometimes, someone is suffering, and you can help them with words and concepts from Buddhism etc. Zen style is to use words and ideas like a tool or a medicine... but never to cling to them as Truth.

> I mean, Buddhist meditation practice
> emphasizes mindfulness in the here and
> now. Yet much of Buddhist philosophy
> stresses the goal of detaching from this
> illusory world of maya, getting off the
> wheel of rebirth, and experiencing some
> sort of transcendent reality.

I'm sure some of these ideas are prevelent in some schools that call themselves "Buddhist" or even "Zen."

The Zen tradition I've practiced, though, has got nothing to do with holding ideas about maya or illusion. "Transcendent" doesn't matter; the only experience of reality we need is the one right in front of us.

When Zen Master Nam Cheon was asked "What is Buddha?" he happened to be weighing flax. So he replied, "Three pounds of flax."

That's why we say things like, "The sky is blue. The grass is green. When you're hungry, eat; when you're tired, sleep; when someone is suffering, help them."

Stuart
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kH6ZHocFSA&feature=PlayList&p=8BF285034927CE1C&index=0&playnext=1

"That is, the Zen tradition points to awareness of this moment, what you perceive and what you're doing right now. It's about this experience... not words and ideas like "Buddha" or "Zen" or "Tao."

---This is it, in a nutshell.

Dear Brian,

I'm afraid the author of this book seems to be deeply misguided in his/her understanding of BOTH Taoism and Zen.

In actual matter of fact, Taoism is a purely esoteric school with numerous graduated levels of 'attainment'. Anything with graduated levels of attainment is by neccessity deeply embedded within a conceptual cosmological paradigm.

Taoism entails a 'course' of meditation type practices that, apparently, can take 12 years or more to master; to eventually attain the 'immortal body'.

Zen, on the other hand, completely discards all conceptual paradigms, be they Buddhist or otherwise, on it's pathless path. If you think there's *any* conceptual overlay in Zen, then you haven't yet grasped it's essence, imo.

Whereas ultimately, the 'realisation' of both schools may be identical, with the identical mental & phsyical experiences along the way, Zen places absolutely no importance or emphasis on them whatsoever, thereby by-passing the humanistic tendency to lose the forest for the trees.

Anyone with a deep understanding of Taoism & Zen, and with no axe to grind or preference for either, would know this is clearly the case.

I'm afraid to say, much like a whole host of your recent blogs, you're way off the 'truth' here.

And more into your own 'mind', and how you *want* things to be.

Dear Rambling Taoist,

Just reading your comment, I am struck by:

"My understanding is that Zen Buddhism is Taoist-influenced Buddhism."

Where & how did you come to this understanding?

Having studied the tantric & mahayanist roots of Zen / Ch'an practice, I would have state you have come to a completely misguided understanding?

There are far more links of Zen to Dzogchen and Indian Tantric practices, than there is a connection (if any at all whatsoever) to Taoism? The geo-historical evidence I'm aware of all points to this quite strongly?

Though I'm open to any new info? Any sources for your understanding?

Thanks.

Manjit,

If you desire, write a comment, regarding a comparison of taoism, dzogchen and zen/ch'an buddhism.

Would be interesting to read something in a general format.

I have no opinions, for or against.

Thanks,
Roger

Manjit, I know a lot about Taoism. I disagree with you. But hey, Taoism is a very accepting, flow with it philosophy. You look upon Taoism your way, and I'll look upon Taoism my way.

That's the wonderful thing about Taoism. It encourages happy, hang loose diversity. Each to his own Way, smiling.

Hello Roger,

It's a good question, perhaps better suited to some kind of Religous history scholar or some such.

My interest in these matters was/is purely non-scholarly, so therefore I have made absolutely no notes, have no attachments to precise names & places etc. All I have is this vague awareness in my head of diverse sources, and only the essence remains/is of importance to me!

Sat here at work, with not even my humble selection of books, all I could say is that Dzogchen / Ch'an / Tantra appear to have all originated in the same geographical area, around the same time, and with the same 'teachers'. That area used to be called Uddiyana, or something? I believe today that region is known as Kashmir.

Also, I can state the actual practices themselves are very similar in conceptual elaboration of the 'transformations' that occur.

I'm sorry I cannot be of more help, but if you are genuinely interested, I hope there's some pointers in there? Sometimes there's much more fun & *insight* to be had in the journey to understanding, rather than the 'destination' itself?...

Nowadays, all so-called sacred & secret texts have been fully opened and revealed widely. So much so that we go to our local bookstore, pick up a copy of, say, the Upanishads, read it in a few hours, put it down, and forget about it, totally unmoved.

Two thousand or more years ago, a potential student would first have to prepare for potentially decades before their teacher would deem them fit to hear an Upanishad. And, apparently, with that one hearing of the text, they would attain en-lighten-ment.

I think there's a subtle lesson in there, somewhere. Perhaps.

Dear Brian - Fair enough. I take it then you are aware that 12 years + of Taoist cultivation is a neccessity for the 'higher' levels of 'attainment'? In my opinion, Taosim minus graduated stages of 'attainment', time-lines of achievment etc, equals Zen :oP

Dear Tao - That was a wonderfully expressed sentiment in your post yesterday about being a benign force etc. I hope you stick to it. And much Kudos to you if you do.

Cheerio all.

Manjit,

Thanks for your reply.

"Two thousand or more years ago, a potential student would first have to prepare for potentially decades before their teacher would deem them fit to hear an Upanishad. And, apparently, with that one hearing of the text, they would attain en-lighten-ment."
---I can see that a message could come from this passage.
---My concern would be with the kind of "preparation" the student would be put through.
---Likewise, what kind of "enlightenment" One gets from a particular type of preparation.
---Interesting, that "enlightenment" can be obtained from hearing. I wonder, can One obtain enlightenement from smelling, or feeling something?

---If my sense of smelling, hearing, etc. is off, will the quality of my enlightenement be off too?

Best wishes,
Roger

Roger wrote...
"Interesting, that 'enlightenment' can be obtained from hearing."

In pretty much every Zen school, we do a chant every day that makes it clear that there's no obtaining, with nothing to obtain. In this moment, right in front of you, what do you perceive? What are you doing? That's all.

"Enlightenment" is a teaching word that's used in special situations to help and inspire people. "Zen" is a name for a particular tradition that uses various means to point directly to the truth of your just-now experience.

Stuart
http://stuart-randomthoughts.blogspot.com/

Why do ppl have to be trained to appreciate 'just this'?

when you are hungry, eat.
when you are tied, sleep.
when someone is suffering, help them.

Surely ppl do this already without Zen, Taoism or Buddism.

Re George's Oct 9 post:

People eat when they're hungry, etc, whether or not they're trained in Zen etc. People frequently hold and cultivate thinking of the sort, "I want to get something," in addition to just doing what they do.

Holding such "I want" thinking is called "painting legs on a snake." A picture of a snake is complete as it is. It's mistaken to believe you need to add legs to it.

So... training in Zen etc does affect the extent to which you make "I want to get something" thoughts, and/or whether you cling to the thoughts when they appear. When there isn't such clinging, then you just eat when hungry, sleep when tired, etc.

Stuart,

i wonder if you could explain buddha nature, which i understand forms part of both buddhism and zen.

in general, these traditions seem to aspire to knowing one's true nature or original mind without ego (or the i-self).

But is this buddha nature unique or the same for each individual?

all these traditions appear to require meditiation (chan, zen, dhyana) to experience the supposed undivided, inseperable interconnectedness of ultimate reality (tao, oneness, budha nature, dzogchen).

Hmm posted back in May '09 eh? Glad a web search brought it up, very nice piece.

Tao, glad you enjoyed this post. Grigg's book helped me understand why I both enjoy and am bothered by Zen literature. I resonate with the non-dogmatic side of Zen, but get turned off by the overly religious Buddhist side.

Like, the notion that only a Zen master can affirm or confirm that a practitioner has realized whatever the heck it is that Zen practitioners realize.

The whole koan thing seems pretty ridiculous to me. You go along trying to use your non-conceptual Buddha mind to figure out a koan, suddenly get an "aha!" realization, and then head off to the Zen master to have him give a thumbs up or down to it.

If your realization matches with his, then yes, it's authentic. If not, then head back to the meditation cushion until you really, really have a real realization. A good way to keep Zen masters in business, but I much prefer the hang-looser, much more egalitarian Taoist sensibility.

I'm quite interested in Taoism and Zen, which have the least theology.

The Grigg's book looks interesting. Alan Watts is very good here. Watts has the unique ability of explaining chinese thought to a more linear western mind.

Watts describes that Zen is as much Taoist as Buddhist, but its flavour is more chinese than indian. I think this means that with Taoism and Zen there is an emphasis on instantaneous awakening and naturalness, as opposed to Buddhism's staged approach to enlightenment.

The other aspect i prefer of taoism and zen is its connectedness to nature, rather than transcendental to it where so many others tend to dissapear into Nevernever land. Buddhism and hindu traditions seems to encourage a dissasociation with the things of this world, whereas taoism and zen instead seem to encourage a connection with nature and to roll with experiences and go with the flow of life Wu-Wei.

George, you hit on points about Taoism and Zen that also appeal to me. I like Griggs' book because he discusses the connections between the two, concluding that Taoism is more fundamental (which, of course, many Buddhists and Zen types would disagree with).

Brian, yes i do wonder tho if taoism lacks that which all the great mystics stressed, i.e. self enquiry?

Tho taoism teaches understanding self before interfering with other things, there is not a formal system of self enquiry set out. This is perhaps in keeping with the very essence of the Tao, flexibility free from rigid confines - of naturalness and spontenaity - free from conceptualization.

If Taoism is a practical philosophy for living life, then Zen (which retains the essence of Tao) must be that which additionally borrows some formal medititave training teachniques for self enquiry from buddhism to provide a slightly more cultivated approach.

If one is of a more pantheistic bent, which i believe Einstein was, then something like Taoism is about as close as one might get to describing some unfathomably esoteric absolute reality pervading all. The properties of the Tao as best conveyed by Lao Tzu seem more intuitively plausible than a personal god or set of deities operating within a system of morals or karmic laws.

Roger's query above concerning the possible overlap re Zen and Dzogchen is also interesting, both appear to be from the Mahayana Biddhist tradition. tAo might be able to shed more light if around.

This sounds like an oversimplification, like saying Me Minus my Father Equals My Mother. If you read the Chinese masters, they constantly reference the Buddhist Sutras, but not Taoist scriptures. However, if you read some Taoist scriptures (Secret of the Golden Flower comes to mind), they DO reference Buddhist scriptures. These Zen masters presuppose a background in Buddhism, but not Taoism. Why is that?

Also, Zen is a continuation of Indian Buddhism. Indian Buddhism is about a deep investigation into the nature of reality. It consists in calming and focusing the mind, and turning it to phenomenon. Eventually, one discovers the true nature (or dharma) of things. Zen is a similar investigation, as you can see in koan study and zazen practice.


Matt, I found Griggs' book to be persuasive about the history of Taoism and Buddhism, but I'm no expert in this area.

It struck me, though, that perhaps one reason Taoists cite Buddhist writings, but not the reverse, is that Taoism seemingly is quite a bit more relaxed, unorganized, inclusive, and light-spirited than Buddhism.

I mean, Buddhism takes itself much more seriously than Taoism does. So it could be that Taoists find it easier to quote Buddhist writings, since they aren't attached to defending Taoism as a "religion" (which it isn't, at least in its philosophical guise).

I have a lot of fondness for Buddhism. But I prefer the crazier, who knows?, non-hierarchical style of Taoism more.

Buddhists go in for a lot of highly disciplined spiritual exercises and submission to spiritual masters in order to realize their freedom. Taoists go more directly to freedom without all (or most) of the organizational trappings.

Thanks for making this information available.
What is the title of the Briggs book?
I just found Qi- Gong with Master Mingtong Gu
And how and where does qigong fit in with Taoism
Thanks
Jon

Jon, it's "Griggs." HIs book is mentioned in this blog post. It's called "The Tao of Zen." I like it a lot.

I do some qi gong in my tai chi class, but don't know a whole lot about it. Tai Chi is speeded up qi gong, according to my instructor. And Tai Chi is a reflection of Taoism. So there are connections all over here. I just don't know how to describe them very well.

I have only just begun my journey, into what I first thought was Taoism. I am finding that I am by entering the "world of Taoism", I am not necessarily following Taoism, I am following myself. As I began my search to learn more about Taoism, I found there is not much in my area, however, I did find a Zen Buddhist Center. I had been struggling with whether I should go or not, if I was somehow being "unfaithful" to the Tao. Like a Christian going to worship in a Synagogue. So, I started researching the differences between Zen/Buddhism/Taoism and I have had an epiphany. I can follow my self, by wandering and intermingling between any and all practices that I find interesting or helpful in my journey. There is no right and wrong in the journey, there is only the journey itself.
By the way...I love the title, "The Churchless Church" It says it all !

"I can follow my self, by wandering and intermingling between any and all practices that I find interesting or helpful in my journey. There is no right and wrong in the journey, there is only the journey itself."

--This statement sounds nice. However, what would be the 'self' that one is following? This 'journey' is what? A journey of dualistic right and wrong? How would a 'journey' become an it-self? Do I need to engage in a practice to follow correctly? I don't know much about stuff.
Please help me correctly wander and intermingle on my journey of myself. Thanks Roger

it is a journey of discovery. Seeking to discover the "ultimate reality/God" etc, that is within each of us. By saying there is no right or wrong, I mean that nobody can say for instance, that this practice, or that practice, or this belief or that belief is right or wrong. Proof, thus far, is an impossibility in spirituality. What we have, in various practices, such as Taoism,Buddhism etc...is people who have followed these practices, saying "This worked for me". You can then try them out for yourself. What practice works for me, may not for you.

Thanks for your reply. Ok, I now properly understand that Taoism/Buddhism is a collection of various practices, that I can decide which is right/wrong for me. The practice that I find that works for me will give me the discovery of 'ultimate reality' that I am seeking. Is all of this seeking, what spirituality is all about? Thanks for your continued messages. Roger

Roger, i would say it may or may not give you the discovery that you are seeking, but it certainly COULD. Only you will know.
That is a pretty good "definition" of what I believe spirituality to be. however, I also believe it is up to each person to determine on their own.

Listen to me...I sound like I am a Master speaking, and I am far from it ! Please take my posts with a grain of salt, as I am very new to this myself !

"just as the Buddha renounced self"
quote

To renounce the self is to fight it.

To laugh at the self is to kill it.

Hi Brian, It is a pleasure to find this post. It's nice to know there are like minded folk out there.
Cheers,
Ervin

Simply to Be, covers zen, buddhism & taoism. Religions & philosophies perpetuate the desire to pose the question of How to be...suggesting that being has not been found, that a search must be instigated. You are already Here.

This is interesting to me. For a number of years I have found myself on the path of myself. I understand little, but sense the direction the path is taking. I meditate to embrace the moment. I watch the trees bend and see the beauty of the world. I wish to hold no connection to myself other than to see the world like an ever opening crysanthemum. But ever I find myself marking the moment to unmark it.
Am I zen or Taoist? Perhaps I am neither or both, or just myself.

PS,

If you are just yourself, then you could be the zenist or taoist. Does the (-ist) mean you are a follower?

What is this moment, you mediate to embrace? Your self(myself) is sensing the direction the path is taking. Nothing wrong with watching the trees bend and seeing the beauty of the world. Seeing the crysanthemum may/may not involve a connection to yourself.

No problem there.

Speaking with a retired teacher about history we had different opinions about whether cave art of prehistoric man indicated some elevated awareness related to conceptual reasoning. We arrived at some agreement that language and art may or may not. Maybe the reliance on koans and masters was due to some recognition that verbal language wasn't the vehicle for transmitting the understanding Zen practitioners were shooting for. I have read literature on Zen for many years and am not sure I 'grasp' it. I believe there are elevated forms of awareness and understanding - not all is scientific or intellectual, but some is.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Welcome


  • Welcome to the Church of the Churchless. If this is your first visit, click on "About this site--start here" in the Categories section below.
  • HinesSight
    Visit my other weblog, HinesSight, for a broader view of what's happening in the world of your Church unpastor, his wife, and dog.
  • BrianHines.com
    Take a look at my web site, which contains information about a subject of great interest to me: me.
  • Twitter with me
    Join Twitter and follow my tweets about whatever.
  • I Hate Church of the Churchless
    Can't stand this blog? Believe the guy behind it is an idiot? Rant away on our anti-site.

Posts compendium

Teeny-tiny Collection Plate

  • Brian Hines: Return to the One

    Brian Hines: Return to the One
    If you'd like to support the Church's efforts in a small way, and also learn about a great Greek mystic philosopher (Plotinus) who wonderfully embodies our creedless creed, consider buying our unpastor's book, "Return to the One: Plotinus's Guide to God-Realization."

Blog powered by Typepad

Become a Fan

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...