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Schools of Buddhism => Mahayana => Zen / Ch'an / Seon / Thien => Topic started by: Joka on March 14, 2017, 10:10:55 am

Title: Japanese Zen Buddhist Traditions
Post by: Joka on March 14, 2017, 10:10:55 am
Are all Japanese Buddhist traditions solidified and unified or, are there different factions and schools of thought comprising of Zen beliefs?

If there are different schools or factions of Zen belief, can somebody here list them?

Much appreciated if somebody did.
Title: Re: Japanese Zen Buddhist Traditions
Post by: IdleChater on March 15, 2017, 05:50:01 pm
Are all Japanese Buddhist traditions solidified and unified or, are there different factions and schools of thought comprising of Zen beliefs?

If there are different schools or factions of Zen belief, can somebody here list them?

Much appreciated if somebody did.

Theres more than Zen.

Besides Zen, you ha the various Pure Land schools, and Tendai which Vajrayana.

For Zen there is Soto, Rinzai and one other.
Title: Re: Japanese Zen Buddhist Traditions
Post by: zafrogzen on March 15, 2017, 06:05:51 pm
The two main schools of zen in Japan are Soto and Rinzai. Sanbo Kyodan, which isn't big in Japan, is popular in the West, thanks to teachers like Phillip Kapleau and Robert Aitken. There is also the small Obaku school in Japan which hasn't transplanted to the West, as far as I know.

All of the schools except possibly Sanbo Kyodan, originated in China. The Soto School is the largest in the West, as well as in Japan. It was brought to Japan by Eihei Dogen. Their main practice is "Shikantaza" or "just sitting."

Meditation on "Koans," or public cases and dialogues, usually between master and student, originated in the Rinzai school. Koans also figure prominently in Sanbo Kyodan, primarily from the Mumonkan collection. Koan meditation is used to trigger "kensho" or an initial experience of enlightenment as to our "true nature."

There might be smaller offshoots here and there, but those are the main streams of zen from Japan. You can google some of those terms for more information.

In the west there appears to be considerable crossover between the schools, with some teachers receiving "transmission" in more than one tradition. Meditation, which is what the word "zen" means, has many serious lay practitioners in the west, which is not so common in Japan, where temple priests and monastics are the rule (although that may be changing).

As for "beliefs," that term doesn't always apply in zen, which is based on "experience," rather than philosophy, but the principles and terminology, as well as literature and favorite Sutras, such as the Lankavatara, are almost identical in the various schools of zen.


Title: Re: Japanese Zen Buddhist Traditions
Post by: Ron-the-Elder on March 18, 2017, 02:33:51 pm
Another  school in Japan not mentioned in other posts, with which I am familiar is Nichiren:  https://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=the+writings+of+nichiren+daishonin&tag=googhydr-20&index=aps&hvadid=177091669185&hvpos=1t1&hvnetw=s&hvrand=10325187005452769966&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=e&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9002353&hvtargid=kwd-2972967308&ref=pd_sl_4hurigzzsx_e (https://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=the+writings+of+nichiren+daishonin&tag=googhydr-20&index=aps&hvadid=177091669185&hvpos=1t1&hvnetw=s&hvrand=10325187005452769966&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=e&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9002353&hvtargid=kwd-2972967308&ref=pd_sl_4hurigzzsx_e)

For many years I thought them to be of the Zen tradition, but have been recently corrected ( see next post above by zafrogzen ).

They were in the past affiliated with Soka Gakkai, which has been cited as largely being a political organization.

While I am not familiar with the current communities in Vietnam, since I have lost touch, in the 1960s, The Buddhist Monasteries were called:  'đạo Phật or Phật giáo'  largely identified as Mahayana.

The following Wiki links may help you with your research: 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zen (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zen)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhism_in_Vietnam (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhism_in_Vietnam)

There are many books written by Thich Nhat Hahn, who currently identifies himself as Zen, which might be of interest to you.  Having belonged to a Zen organization in Rochester, N.Y., U.S.A. in the early 2000's we read and studied his works after group meditation.  I had also met with monks from his monastery located in Hue' as mentioned above, in what was then called South Vietnam as a young man, while stationed there in the U.S. Military.

Tich Nhat Hahn:  https://www.lionsroar.com/mindful-living-thich-nhat-hanh-on-the-practice-of-mindfulness-march-2010/ (https://www.lionsroar.com/mindful-living-thich-nhat-hanh-on-the-practice-of-mindfulness-march-2010/)
Title: Re: Japanese Zen Buddhist Traditions
Post by: zafrogzen on March 18, 2017, 06:12:40 pm
Hi Ron,

You wrote --
Quote
Another Zen school in Japan not mentioned in other posts, with which I am familiar is Nichiren

You can't be very "familiar" with Nichiren to call it a zen school. It has even less to do with zen than nembutsu (chanting the name of amida buddha). Instead they chant the title of the Lotus sutra -- "nam-muyho-renge-kyo." Just because a sect is Japanese doesn't means it's zen.

I'm really surprised at how little you appear to know about Japanese zen. No wonder you were so puzzled by my statements in previous discussions (which were just basic zen).

Japanese zen training does not involve repetitive chanting. It's strictly zazen (meditation). The quote by Dogen (the founder of Japanese zen's largest school) that I brought up in my discussion with Dharma Flower exemplifies zen attitude towards repetitive chanting like that --

Quote
"Furthermore, do you really know the virtue to be gained by working at such practices as reading sutras or chanting nembutsu? The notion that merely making sounds by moving your tongue leads to the virtue of the Buddha work is completely meaningless; it is extremely far, tremendously distant, from resembling Buddha-dharma. Intending to reach the Buddha-way through stupid ceaseless chanting millions of times is like steering a cart north and trying to go south. It is also the same as trying to put a square peg in a round hole. Continuously uttering sounds like frogs in a spring rice paddy croaking day and night is also ultimately worthless." From The Wholehearted Way, a translation of Eihei Dogen’s Bendowa by Shohaku Okumura and Taigen Daniel Leighton page 25.

As for the rest of your post -- the question was about "Japanese" zen, not Vietnamese zen. I think you might be the one who "needs help with your research."
Title: Re: Japanese Zen Buddhist Traditions
Post by: Ron-the-Elder on March 18, 2017, 09:55:44 pm
Hi Ron,

You wrote --
Quote
Another Zen school in Japan not mentioned in other posts, with which I am familiar is Nichiren

You can't be very "familiar" with Nichiren to call it a zen school. It has even less to do with zen than nembutsu (chanting the name of amida buddha). Instead they chant the title of the Lotus sutra -- "nam-muyho-renge-kyo." Just because a sect is Japanese doesn't means it's zen.

I'm really surprised at how little you appear to know about Japanese zen. No wonder you were so puzzled by my statements in previous discussions (which were just basic zen).

Japanese zen training does not involve repetitive chanting. It's strictly zazen (meditation). The quote by Dogen (the founder of Japanese zen's largest school) that I brought up in my discussion with Dharma Flower exemplifies zen attitude towards repetitive chanting like that --

Quote
"Furthermore, do you really know the virtue to be gained by working at such practices as reading sutras or chanting nembutsu? The notion that merely making sounds by moving your tongue leads to the virtue of the Buddha work is completely meaningless; it is extremely far, tremendously distant, from resembling Buddha-dharma. Intending to reach the Buddha-way through stupid ceaseless chanting millions of times is like steering a cart north and trying to go south. It is also the same as trying to put a square peg in a round hole. Continuously uttering sounds like frogs in a spring rice paddy croaking day and night is also ultimately worthless." From The Wholehearted Way, a translation of Eihei Dogen’s Bendowa by Shohaku Okumura and Taigen Daniel Leighton page 25.

As for the rest of your post -- the question was about "Japanese" zen, not Vietnamese zen. I think you might be the one who "needs help with your research."

Hi, zafrogzen.  You are of course correct.  I was responding to the OP in the first line:

Quote
Are all Japanese Buddhist traditions solidified and unified or, are there different factions and schools of thought comprising of Zen beliefs?

And, it is true that I am not at all very familiar with them.  We were only exposed to them (The SGI) when they were protesting on top of the Asahi Brewery in Fukuoka, Nippon and the police threatened to push them off the roof into the streets below the building.  I have carried the misperception that they were a subculture of Zen for over fifty years. My error.  Thanks for the correction.  Apologies to The Zen Community, and the OP.
Title: Re: Japanese Zen Buddhist Traditions
Post by: zafrogzen on March 19, 2017, 09:42:11 am
Hi Ron,

Sorry if I jumped in your s**t.

Japanese zen is about the only tradition I do know much about, having practiced and studied it most of my life. However, within zen I'm an outlier because I never "put on the robe" (got ordained) or found one teacher to stay with.

My brother got involved in chanting with the Nichiren folks when he was having a personal crisis (which is typical). When he tried to stop chanting after a short time they told him terrible things would happen to him if he did (good things if he continued). He stopped and his life only improved.

While chanting Nembutsu is not nearly as significant in zen as Dharma Flower wanted it to be, it did have some minor connections with zen in China and is apparently popular with some sects in Vietnamese zen. But Nichiren is another thing entirely.

The word "Zen" has come to have a certain vague status or repute connected with it here in the west. It really means "meditation." That's what zen is all about. Of course over the centuries zen has developed its own techniques and style, which make it somewhat unique -- particularly with the use of Koans.

I can sympathize with Nembutsu and Nirchiren. Chanting is a simple practice for those who are unable or unwilling to engage in decades arduous meditation practice. Whether it's an effective substitute is open to debate.
Title: Re: Japanese Zen Buddhist Traditions
Post by: stillpointdancer on March 20, 2017, 02:59:50 am
Hi Zafrogzen. I guess the chanting could be similar to mindfulness of breathing, with an element of mechanical vibration thrown in. Is it all chanting, or is there a quiet meditation element too?
Title: Re: Japanese Zen Buddhist Traditions
Post by: zafrogzen on March 20, 2017, 01:19:56 pm
Quote
Is it all chanting, or is there a quiet meditation element too?

You might ask "LetGo." I'm not really qualified to answer that.
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