Author Topic: Origins of Zen  (Read 786 times)

Offline ELite

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Origins of Zen
« on: September 07, 2016, 06:18:35 am »
I read somewhere that Zen began as a solitary practice by someone before it was spread to other people. Even when it began to spread it only later became communal. Is this true? I am asking primarily because I do not have the means to go on retreat and I am nowhere near a physical Sangha and I have no vehicle other than a bicycle. Is it possible to practice Buddhism without a physical Sangha? Is it possible to take refuge by myself at home?

I am sure I have asked similar questions before but I have not been on these forurms in a long time. I also asked a similar question in another part of this forum but without involving Zen.

Offline zafrogzen

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Re: Origins of Zen
« Reply #1 on: September 07, 2016, 11:33:56 am »
Legend has it that zen was brought from India to China by Bodhidharma, who sat facing a cave wall for nine years before a follower arrived so he could transmit the "Mind" that had been come down from the Buddha through numerous individuals. But it's more likely that zen grew up gradually and was influenced by native Taoism to develop into a form of Buddhism with a unique flavor. Zen emphasizes meditation to the exclusion of almost everything else.

Like the rest of Buddhism zen was mostly a monastic, group practice. However, it is more accepting of lay practitioners and women than other forms of Buddhism.

As for practicing on your own. I think that is essential. I know people who only meditate with a group or when on retreat. That is probably better than no meditation at all, but it is not nearly as effective as consistent daily practice. Unless you plan to spend your entire life living in a practice community or monastery, if you’re really serious about meditation (zen), I urge to you make the effort necessary to establish a personal, daily practice. A sangha and a teacher can be helpful along the way, but developing your own daily practice is where it's at. Here's a link to some basic instruction: http://www.frogzen.com/meditation-basics/


My first formal meditation training was with Shunryu Suzuki in the 60's and later with Kobun, Robert Aitken and many other teachers (mainly zen). However, I've spent the most time practicing on my own, which is all I do now. I'm living in a rather isolated area so I miss connecting with other practitioners. Despite my interest in zen I've made an effort to remain secular. You can visit my website at http://www.frogzen.com

Offline ELite

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Re: Origins of Zen
« Reply #2 on: September 07, 2016, 01:26:51 pm »
How then may I take refuge in the sangha without a group or even a teacher or retreats?  And no money for online options.

Does the sangha have to be physically present for me to take refuge?

Maybe it's a moot point?  A good Buddhist is a not-Buddhist.

Offline ELite

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Re: Origins of Zen
« Reply #3 on: September 07, 2016, 01:38:14 pm »
Okay, I see now the sangha is the monastic community.

Also, I am not taking refuge before practice and more study.  But would like to know how taking refuge works for laity in general and in cases in which one must be solitary or primarily so.  I understand it is repeatable.

Offline NiagaraGrrl

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Re: Origins of Zen
« Reply #4 on: September 07, 2016, 02:09:37 pm »
Sure, it's quite popular. Even then it was, a solitary monk in a hut. Buddha said , "Be a lamp unto yourself."

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Offline ELite

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Re: Origins of Zen
« Reply #5 on: September 07, 2016, 03:09:04 pm »
I'm not understanding.  Is a physically present community required to take refuge and become a lay Buddhist?

Offline zafrogzen

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Re: Origins of Zen
« Reply #6 on: September 07, 2016, 05:35:38 pm »
Yes, you usually take the precepts and so forth with a zen teacher or priest.

Why is that so important?

Zen does have some ceremonial aspects, titles, robes etc. I think most are later additions from Japan. For me, they're not really necessary except for those forms that make sesshins run smoothly,
My first formal meditation training was with Shunryu Suzuki in the 60's and later with Kobun, Robert Aitken and many other teachers (mainly zen). However, I've spent the most time practicing on my own, which is all I do now. I'm living in a rather isolated area so I miss connecting with other practitioners. Despite my interest in zen I've made an effort to remain secular. You can visit my website at http://www.frogzen.com

Offline zafrogzen

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Re: Origins of Zen
« Reply #7 on: September 07, 2016, 06:15:39 pm »
Elite,

This might be a solution to your dilemma --

http://www.treeleaf.org/

Check it out. I've had some contact with Jundo and can feel confident recommending him.
My first formal meditation training was with Shunryu Suzuki in the 60's and later with Kobun, Robert Aitken and many other teachers (mainly zen). However, I've spent the most time practicing on my own, which is all I do now. I'm living in a rather isolated area so I miss connecting with other practitioners. Despite my interest in zen I've made an effort to remain secular. You can visit my website at http://www.frogzen.com

Offline stillpointdancer

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Re: Origins of Zen
« Reply #8 on: September 08, 2016, 02:18:45 am »
I'm not understanding.  Is a physically present community required to take refuge and become a lay Buddhist?
It depends what you mean by 'take refuge'. The normal understanding is that you take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, that you accept the path the Buddha developed, and that you follow it. That's all you need to be a Buddhist. But to be a lay Buddhist is to be accepted by some sangha, with a teacher who sees that you understand how to follow the path. A public ceremony would then give you a formal chance to state that you are going for refuge, and then you would be a 'lay' Buddhist.

For me this means that you can explain to others why you consider yourself to be a Buddhist, with the authority of a sangha backing you up. An online sangha such as that recommended by zafrogzen would be the next best thing. If those don't suit and you still want to be a Buddhist there is nothing stopping you. Follow the path and you are a Buddhist whether you know it or not. Labels are just labels, although the quality of my practice changed, for the better, when I became a mitra, taking the precepts at a local Buddhist center. Never had the time to get ordained, though.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

 


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