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Schools of Buddhism => Mahayana => Zen / Ch'an / Seon / Thien => Topic started by: TonyD on December 07, 2015, 10:52:47 am

Title: Is Zen really designed for monastics?
Post by: TonyD on December 07, 2015, 10:52:47 am
Hi,

I just recently joined this forum, though I have been practicing Buddhist meditation (badly) on and off for a couple of decades. I'm pleased to meet everyone!

I have a question. One thing that strikes me about Zen is that if you look at the way  it is practiced in, say, Japanese monasteries, it is very formal and highly disciplined. The atmosphere of the temple is both quite peaceful and very intensely focused at the same time--kind of like a spiritual boot camp. There's even a stick to keep you awake during meditation. :) And the monks have regular interviews with the roshi to make sure they are on track. In the monastery, the monks live, breathe, sleep, and eat Zen 24/7.

That kind of atmosphere one can't get in daily lay life, with all of its distractions and responsibilities. As a result, it's likely that one's practice at home is not going to come anywhere close to what it would be if one practiced in a monastery.

So my question is: Can a person really progress in Zen as a layperson doing only (say) 15-20 minute periods of shikantaza-style meditation each day at home, without every attending a monastery?

Related to this: Can one progress in Zen without close regular contact with a roshi or teacher?

I'm asking because I have no intention of joining a monastery. I'm a lay person through and through. So if the answer is no to these questions, I am wondering if the Zen path is really the right one for me.

Thank you and gassho  :pray:
Title: Re: Is Zen really designed for monastics?
Post by: meez on December 10, 2015, 08:39:43 am
It seems that Zen, just like anything else a person might "practice", has its levels of participation (for lack of a better term).  Some find that they need the life of a monk in a monastery to benefit the most from Zen. Some do not and progress just fine.

The approach one takes is up to each individual.  Everyone experiences these things differently, so I don't believe it can be said definitively that the only way to experience Zen to its fullest is to seek a teacher and monastery.

My advice is to continue doing what you are doing. Read, listen to people who have knowledge of Zen (among other things), meditate, and you will go down the path that is right for you.  You have the chance to practice every moment, and in all circumstances.

Best wishes to you.
Title: Re: Is Zen really designed for monastics?
Post by: TonyD on December 10, 2015, 10:54:51 am
Great, thanks @meez
Title: Re: Is Zen really designed for monastics?
Post by: NoEssentialNature on February 11, 2016, 12:27:05 am
It is profoundly worth finding a teacher you respect. This is because there will be times in any long term practice where you will need the inspiration of someone who seems to have got past what you face.

Monastic life is not essential to awakening. Buddha and the Buddhist tradition are very clear on that. But it can help. The way I see it, that kind of life mainly benefits those who partake in it. It is up to us non-monastics to take the benefits out even to non-practicioners.

Seung Sahn was asked about whether there is a best place to practice, in particular with reference to a great master who spent many years in seclusion meditating in an ice cave, and whether that was an example to follow. He said there are benefits to that practice. But, that for an aspiring boddhisattva, the very best place to meditate is Main St. in New York, the busiest road in the busiest city. It is easy to attain equanimity and other Buddhist virtues in a monastery. Our challenge, is to develop the capacity to take them in to the world. Not when we meditate, but each time we get up from the mat, that is the real heart of this practice.
Title: Re: Is Zen really designed for monastics?
Post by: Lobster on February 11, 2016, 08:23:01 pm
You can train with online zeniths
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treeleaf_Zendo (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treeleaf_Zendo)

You might ask teachers in the 'ask a teacher section' here
http://www.zenforuminternational.org (http://www.zenforuminternational.org)

Plenty of lay practice support options ...

 :namaste:
Title: Re: Is Zen really designed for monastics?
Post by: Spiny Norman on February 12, 2016, 07:01:28 am
Related to this: Can one progress in Zen without close regular contact with a roshi or teacher?

You can, but regular contact with a teacher is beneficial, as is regular contact with other meditators.  Are there any local groups you could try?
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