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 Dogen's advice is harmful

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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Dogen's advice is harmful   Thu Nov 18, 2010 7:50 pm

Dogen says, "If you meet a Zen Master who teaches the truth, do not consider his caste, appearance, shortcomings or behavior.....but bow before him out of respect."

Well, as far as I'm concerned, this statement is foolishness and actually contradicts basic Buddhist teaching. Dogen is wrong and this teaching is harmful.

Of course, you should notice any teacher's actions, behavior. The Buddha specifically said you should carefully scrutinize a teacher's behavior over a long period of time. He told people to scrutinize his behavior. The Dalai Lama has also emphasized this and said that if a teacher's behavior is abusive, find another teacher. Enabling abusive behavior is not a positive thing to do.

Just because Dogen says something, it doesn't mean its the sacred holy truth. In this case, he is full of BS on this matter. Just because someone is called a "master" does not mean somehow they deserve blind respect. It does not mean that because of this title, you just bow down. Use your common sense. There is no need to surrender your intelligence or everyday awareness.

When I ran this counseling project SORTING IT OUT in the early 1980s - i saw well over 1,000 people that had left various gurus, roshis, masters, swamis, spiritual groups of various sorts. I heard hundreds of tales of spiritual abuse, excesses. And in most cases, these people were told to bow down, accept the great teachings no matter what, ignore your own personal insights and feelings, submit, surrender. And in every single case, this was an idea that only created more suffering.

I left Kennett and Shasta because I used my own intelligence and insight and what i saw was unacceptable. Kennett's behavior was emotionally abusive, irrational, not skillful, and caused harm and trauma. It was my duty to leave and not support this any further.

So my advice, when you meet anyone who has been named a "master" or who claims to be enlightened, just like the phrase, "let the buyer beware." I say -- let the seeker be aware and not assume anything. And even if you decide to become that person's student or disciple, you always have the right to CHANGE YOUR MIND, no matter what promises or vows you have made.
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Iain

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PostSubject: Re: Dogen's advice is harmful   Thu Nov 18, 2010 7:59 pm

Could it be that you may have misunderstood what Dogen was saying here?

The quotation clearly begins "If you meet a Zen Master who teaches the truth ..."

I think what he is saying is that if you meet a true teacher with experience and ability who knows what he/she is talking about don't be put of by their status or the fact that they are as human as anyone else.

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Lise
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PostSubject: Re: Dogen's advice is harmful   Thu Nov 18, 2010 8:31 pm

I wouldn't be put off by a teacher's status or appearance. I would not, however, be able to get past a teacher's being "human", if by that we mean anger/manipulation/other abuse. And why not say what we mean? It's unfortunate that "human" isn't more often used to refer to people acting right and treating others well. It shouldn't just be a code word for the opposite.

At the moment I began to perceive a teacher's behavior as emotionally abusive, irrational & causing harm, the enquiry as to "do they teach the truth" would be over; I would just never reach that question. It would be self-evident to me that a person who treated others badly doesn't know the truth. The only way they could teach it to others is by an example of what not to be or do. And the cost of learning that truth directly from them would be far too great.
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PostSubject: Re: Dogen's advice is harmful   Thu Nov 18, 2010 8:42 pm

A person can "teach the truth" and still behave in ways that are harmful. I know this from both personal experience and from the accounts of hundreds of disciples of various teachers including one Zen "master" who was/is a revered koan teacher and who molested women in the sanzen room - for decades.

The recent stories of Edo Shimano Roshi attest to this also -- see the big article in the New York Times a few months ago. For four decades, he used his female students as sexual play things, as dolls. There have been many other spiritual teachers who were brilliant thinkers, speakers, charismatic and powerful characters -- and abused their roles, their students.

At least at Shasta, there was no sexual or financial abuses, but there was mental, emotional and verbal abuse.

My post referred specifically to "behavior" -- obviously, we shouldn't focus on a person's caste or appearance. There is nothing profound in that suggestion. But ignore a person's behavior. That's foolish.

Pay attention.......
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PostSubject: Re: Dogen's advice is harmful   Thu Nov 18, 2010 8:57 pm

Yay Lise! for your whole post above and especially the comment on being "human". That little phrase and its many implications has gotten right under my skin since I started reading this forum. You made an excellent point, as did jcbaran. Thanks.
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: Dogen's advice is harmful   Thu Nov 18, 2010 9:04 pm

During my time at Shasta, no one EVER EVER EVER disagreed with anything that Dogen or Keizan or Kennett said. NOT EVER. That would have been so beyond the pale. You would have been sent to milk the goats and banished from watching those soap operas with Kennett for months.

I didn't misunderstand what Dogen said. I disagreed with it. I see it as wrong, harmful, not in accordance with what is useful. Let this phrase just sit there -- Dogen was wrong. OMG!!!!!!

By the way, Dogen severely criticized other Zen teachers and schools. Hakuin viciously attacked Soto Zen frequently. So, in the old Zen tradition, people often disagreed.
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Iain

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PostSubject: Re: Dogen's advice is harmful   Thu Nov 18, 2010 9:34 pm

Jcbaran wrote:
A person can "teach the truth" and still behave in ways that are harmful.


Completely agree. Where better to appreciate the wisdom of not acting motivated by greed, hatred and delusion than through reading the pages of 'Mein Kampf'?


Quote :
But ignore a person's behavior. That's foolish.

Completely agree. Where does Dogen ever suggest that? The poor guy spent fifteen years trailing around Asia on hazardous journeys looking for a teacher that he could relate to.

He teaching is 'not to consider it'. All he is saying is don't judge from superficial appearances, put down your baggage and avoid letting your opinions get in the way of seeing what is being taught. I think it is good advice.


Quote :
Pay attention.......

Good advice! clapping

And 'Yay!' to you too Lise and Polly! lol!
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Lise
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PostSubject: Re: Dogen's advice is harmful   Thu Nov 18, 2010 11:41 pm

Iain wrote:
... Completely agree. Where better to appreciate the wisdom of not acting motivated by greed, hatred and delusion than through reading the pages of 'Mein Kampf'?
I do believe in the exhortation "do not waste time". To read Hitler for the purpose you've stated would be a waste; I'm already sold on the idea that greed, hatred and delusion are not wise motivations. To spend time with an abusive teacher is the same form of waste wearing a different dust jacket. Nobody has to do that, when there are so many other, compassionate ways to practice and learn.
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Iain

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PostSubject: Re: Dogen's advice is harmful   Fri Nov 19, 2010 12:08 am

Lise wrote:
To read Hitler for the purpose you've stated would be a waste.

Don't agree. Most of us seem to be blissfully unaware of how very easy it is to slide into similar deluded patterns of thinking and motivation, even if not so gross and fortunately we don't personally get to invade Poland. I think that is a key part of the teaching of the 'Six Realms' in Buddhism.

Quote :
To spend time with an abusive teacher is the same form of waste wearing a different dust jacket. Nobody has to do that, when there are so many other, compassionate ways to practice and learn.

Right. So here is the real difference eh? That is your personal opinion based on your own experience over some years at Shasta Abbey. But but it doesn't correspond with mine. Over the last thirty years my own experience of Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey is as a compassionate place to practice and learn.

My opinion equally may or may not correspond with that of others but I'm just doing what the Buddha taught - take a good look and then making up my own mind.
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PostSubject: Re: Dogen's advice is harmful   Fri Nov 19, 2010 12:21 am

Criticize Dogen! Oh this gauntlet has sooo been dropped.
I usually only see problems with Dogens stuff when I see his teachings used to bolster anothers ego.

People usually teach or lecture according to the problems that they see before them.
I picture him, surrounded by a bunch of whiny unappreciative inattentive disciples giving his, "If you meet a Zen Master who teaches the truth, do not consider his caste, appearance, shortcomings or behaviour.....but bow before him out of respect." Maybe it stopped them scratching their whatevers for a while.


I assume many of his teachings were as inappropriate for public consumption as Rev. Jiyu's could be. If not for those unexpected scribes, everything would of just been fine.
I'm sure that much of what was studiously written down, and credited to Dogen were teachings that pertained to specific issues that certain disciples were needing to hear at that time. The problem is not so much what was written down but the way those writings are regurgitated as truth when they are completely divorced from the situation that spawned them.

I don't disagree with your assessment of the dangers of this particular saying. I'm only saying that I bet it had it's proper place. And yes if that place was Shasta, 36 years ago, and I was dissing Dogen the way another forum member is, a certain baran might of recommended a days meditation of straightening bent nails in penance.
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PostSubject: Re: Dogen's advice is harmful   Fri Nov 19, 2010 5:00 am

"...a days meditation of straightening bent nails in penance."

After all the complicated editing I've been doing recently to get my book finished, a day straightening bent nails sounds absolutely lovely! What do I have to say or do to get one?

Sorry; please continue your serious discussion... :-)
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PostSubject: Re: Dogen's advice is harmful   Fri Nov 19, 2010 9:56 am

Iain, you've made assumptions -- I'm talking about the pointlessness of spending time with any teacher that one finds abusive; I said nothing about Shasta or the OBC in particular. I attended another church as a child, saw abusive teachers there, and am aware of (from a safe distance) one or two since leaving the OBC. This is not specifically about the Shasta or Throssel groups, either one.

My point is that there is no need to seek out difficult or painful experiences if that isn't one's preference. It isn't mine. I would rather spend the limited minutes of my life reading Thich Nhat Hahn or Tenzin Gyatso, or attending their talks, than reading Hitler. I'm sure there is teaching to be found in the writings of many individuals who made serious mistakes in their thinking, but I don't feel compelled to look there first.

My other posts on the forum show how I feel about my Shasta experience. Some of the teaching/counseling I received was misguided and very detrimental to a correct understanding of Buddhist principles, but I didn't leave feeling personally abused by anyone. I did see others abused, however, which is perhaps only a slight step removed, I don't know. In any case I wanted to clarify this, since your reply has misstated what I said.

Getting back to Dogen, Howard's post makes complete sense (as usual). Context is important, as is what may be lost in translation. I treat Dogen as I would any other teacher. I put the best bits into my market basket and leave the rest. That's the student's job, to decide what to bring home and make a meal out of it, isn't it?
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PostSubject: Re: Dogen's advice is harmful   Fri Nov 19, 2010 10:23 am

The difference between teaching and behavior is certainly one that has given me pause about religion over the years. As noted in other posts, Buddhist teachers are not exempt from this dichotomy, and the disparity is both confusing and harmful. It is particularly harmful when harmful behavior is modeled by others because they believe the person to be enlightened. Or they ignore and indulge their own gross misbehavior by rationalizing it as acts of enlightened beings. That is in fact, i think, part of the serious harm of Jiyu's legacy.

Osho, aka Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh,was one of these terrifically harmful personalities. But if you just read what he wrote, ti seems to be an elegant statement of profound truth. I read the book first, and then investigated his behavior (long after he'd been expelled from the US). I sat there for a while, shook my head, and threw the book (a large expensive volume) in the trash. I did not want to inadvertently "accept" some distorted truth that came from someone whose behavior was so reprehensible.

Most of us can discern in our own hearts, if we listen, what is wise, enlightened behavior and what is not. Tirades, malicious behavior, raging -- we don't have to be saints to recognize that for what it is. Only those deluded by their need to believe will make it something different than it is.

People's behavior reflects what they really believe, and is far more persuasive than anything said or taught.

I did find consolation in the Buddha's teaching in the Pali canon. He absolutely emphasized behavior. And the story of Devadatta is instructive to me. He had vast powers and accomplishments of meditation but was condemned to hell, not because of his lack of understanding, but his behavior motivated by jealousy. So at this point, I won.t ignore people's behavior. Unless they can at least reasonably comport themselves with the equanimity and integrity of the truth they espouse, I;m not interested in anything they have to say. I've avoided much mischief by this approach. Unless "understanding" can transform behavior, then it's just the worthless chaff that comprises most of religious practice.

I don't demand perfection from any along the way who can see and state the goal while honestly realizing and acknowledging how far they are from it at times. That honesty is an integral part of being awake. But if you claim to be near Buddha, then I think it's reasonable to expect behavior close to that of a Buddha.
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PostSubject: Re: Dogen's advice is harmful   Fri Nov 19, 2010 11:06 am

Jack,
Your last post says so much that makes sense. In Meian's last talk she stated that everything Rev. Kennett did was done from kindness. That was certainly not my experience. Sometimes she was just plain angry. But how much does one have to distort reality to make saintly acts out of even those acts that are vindictive, cruel, and stem from unresolved anger and unresolved issues? But in such communities to see those acts as such, just betrays one's own unenlightened thinking. So we must endure the abuse because the abuse is really wisdom, if we could only open our eyes. I guess the world is filled with religious people who deify those who have some way to travel yet before they are worthy of the title of Perfection. In the meantime, those in such communities who dare to publicly speak otherwise are marginalized and shunned. Rising up the ranks into position of authority goes to those who can raise the banner highest, leaving those below with the option to buy into distorted thinking, keep one's views to onself, or leave.
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PostSubject: Dogen's advice is harmful   Fri Nov 19, 2010 12:51 pm

I've been lurking here for quite a while and never felt moved to post. But this discussion hits on a point which may be critical to the OBC moving forward. The issue seems to be whether or not it is possible to show respect for an individual while simultaneously recognizing their flaws. Howard's post (I always like Howard's posts) speaks to an aspect of this issue, I think, in that he points out the need to know the context of a teaching in order to understand it - I hope I got this right, Howard.

I like what Lise said as well, that "I treat Dogen as I would any other teacher. I put the best bits into my market basket and leave the rest."

In my view, there is nothing wrong with showing respect to someone for the best parts of their character, teaching, or behaviour while recognizing that they are like me - quite flawed. Their flaws need not take away from my respect for what's best in them though. It is only important that I see, accept and learn from both qualities and flaws.

In this way, I can "bow down" before a teacher while not ignoring those behaviours that might do me harm.

If I have misinterpreted any of your comments or intentions, Howard, Lise, or Josh - please accept my apologies.

Back to lurking now. study

Rob
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PostSubject: Re: Dogen's advice is harmful   Fri Nov 19, 2010 10:35 pm

Hi Rob -- welcome.

I've been struggling a bit with how to respond to your comments. I agree with what you've said, and at the same time I think there are further issues beyond showing respect for an individual whilst acknowledging his or her flaws. Eventually people look at how the flaws have caused harm and continue to do so, and how this might be stopped for the good of all. This doesn't negate the gratitude one may have for the benefits a teacher gave. Sometimes though, there is little respect or gratitude left if someone has experienced sufficient harm. It's a very mixed bag.

I hope you'll feel welcome to keep posting and observing. I see that Canada is your home? brrrrrrr.

L.
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: Dogen's advice is harmful   Fri Nov 19, 2010 11:12 pm

I have learned from many wonderful and wise teachers, mentors - who I respect enormously -- and there is no pretense that these people are perfect, infallible, beyond criticism. I am not suppressing my own insights, i don't need to deny my ability to respond. I can be open, honest, myself. I ask questions and sometimes disagree. I see this as a healthy, living relationship. And I hope that these mentors don't need to pretend to be wiser or more enlightened then they are.
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PostSubject: Re: Dogen's advice is harmful   Sat Nov 20, 2010 2:53 am

Josh Did I ever tell you of my encounter with the drunk roshi.
To get a full picture, you have to remember, that I helped run a very large refuge for alcoholic and homeless people, I helped a cathoic father, gave him a night off anf we did a Buddhist night,I have to say we were the only helpers that did not actually get physically attacked, as we went on the streets and under bridges andstuff, into the hide outs. So when the teacher who was off his head grabbed me by the throat,it was not his best move,and he could not stand up for a bit the temple went quite as we helped him up, I wonder is this the sound of one hand clapping
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PostSubject: Re: Dogen's advice is harmful   Thu Feb 10, 2011 8:45 pm

Josh posted this: 'Dogen says, "If you meet a Zen Master who teaches the truth, do not
consider his caste, appearance, shortcomings or behavior.....but bow
before him out of respect."' I've enjoyed reading this thread, but didn't notice anyone posting anything about the cultural context. Japan at Dogen's time (correct me if I'm wrong) was extremely caste conscious; couldn't Dogen have simply been saying that if a teacher had behavior a Japanese person associated with a lower caste, the teacher should not be rejected on that account?

With this said: this doesn't mean Dogen can be taken out of context by our own "teachers" and misinterpreted to us. But just because others misinterpret, or overinterpret, Dogen doesn't mean his words are harmful. And conversely, just because they are Dogen's words doesn't mean they should be slavishly followed--which was, perhaps, the problem Josh was addressing.
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PostSubject: Re: Dogen's advice is harmful   Fri Feb 11, 2011 12:58 am

Very well said Small Fires.

And, welcome to the forum!
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PostSubject: Re: Dogen's advice is harmful   Fri Feb 11, 2011 1:13 am

I was being a little provocative. When I was at Shasta, no one ever ever ever even suggested that anything that Dogen said was anything but perfect. Just the statement, "Dogen was wrong" would be have been heresy. Unbearable. You would have been sent to the goat house for months. Banished from her presence.

Of course, we don't know the context of Dogen's statement. And i was making a point that we should indeed consider the behavior of teachers. That is basic Buddhist teaching. The Buddha emphasized this point many times. There is no enlightenment outside of daily life, outside of this present moment. Ignoring is ignorance. Keep our eyes open. Question.
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PostSubject: Re: Dogen's advice is harmful   Fri Feb 11, 2011 8:16 am

Small Fires,
That is a whole new take on this subject and one that never even occurred to me. I wonder if anyone has studied this possibility in the context of Dogen's and other writings of the time. If there were scholarly corroboration it could definitely bring a world of sanity to the previously held belief which is fraught with every conceivable avenue of exploitation.
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PostSubject: Re: Dogen's advice is harmful   Fri Feb 11, 2011 11:31 am

Hi folks,

As far as I know, Japan in Dogen's time might have been class-conscious to the extent that medieval Europe was, but not to any greater degree in particular (and I probably wouldn't say 'caste' conscious). The more rigid division of Japanese society into merchant, farmer, artisan, samurai etc classes developed more extensively later on - under the Tokugawa Bakufu and the increased influence of samurai ideals, class values and neo-Confucianism. Buddhist clergy were a little off to one side as they didn't quite fit the system; the class system even then wasn't 100% rigid, as (low ranking) samurai did sometimes become farmers, and merchants became samurai (and vice versa). That it, as far as I know...
I certainly agree that we shouldn't slavishly follow e.g. Shobogenzo - I think Dogen's writings are incredible, and should be a much valued source and aid to practice and thinking about Buddhism (and life in general), but not 'enshrined' in some sort of ecclesiastical museum...yuk. I think to enshrine his words as such, is perhaps another hang-over from the influence of Judeo-Christian religious culture in the adaptation of Buddhism...
I would also argue that Dogen's words are sometimes made to fit particular interpretations not always fit for purpose, as I don't always think there's been much education of clergy in terms of fundamental aspects of Buddhism, Zen and Japanese Buddhism etc, i.e. a bit of necessary context.

Cheers,

Stu

(P.S. apologies if my spelling is eccentric at any point)
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PostSubject: Re: Dogen's advice is harmful   Fri Apr 22, 2011 9:04 am

Surely Zen isn't supposed to be this complicated? Shocked Being a relative beginner at all this, please forgive me, but isn't it our own responsibility to establish a practice and make up our own minds about what is right...

Badger
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PostSubject: Re: Dogen's advice is harmful   Fri Apr 22, 2011 1:13 pm

Hello Badger & welcome to the forum.
Surely Zen isn't supposed to be this complicated?

Yes, Yes & Yes

Perhaps in the beginning and in the end it's not that complicated but there is a lot of room for complexity in between. Zen's initial simplicity is very appealing. The complexity comes from folks trying to change it to fit the difficulties that they are just not yet prepared to own.

Everyone of those folks (Teachers & students alike) just make it more complicated for everyone else. Pretty easy to say and but the word "Koan" is just a fancy word for complication.

My practise is pretty meditation oriented. I'm not sure that establishing a practise and making up my mind what was right had anything to do with Zen. Living where mind & whats right can unfold unhindered by our own possessive complications is Zen practise and Dogen's truth.

Zen is simple/ people are complicated/ hopefully somewhere between is truth, freedom and an awakening to be shared.

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PostSubject: Re: Dogen's advice is harmful   Fri Apr 22, 2011 4:22 pm

Badger wrote:
Surely Zen isn't supposed to be this complicated? Shocked Being a relative beginner at all this, please forgive me, but isn't it our own responsibility to establish a practice and make up our own minds about what is right...

Badger, I agree with Howard, the answer is yes and yes to your very good, common-sense points above.

We do have our own responsibility to look after ourselves and how we practise, and trust ourselves to decide what is right. No one else owns any part of this.

You may know this already if you've read much of the site -- watch out for teachers (of any stripe -- they all bear scrutiny) and don't swallow anything on blind faith. Beginners are often in the strongest position they will ever be, if they learn what to watch out for and avoid before any damage is done.
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PostSubject: Re: Dogen's advice is harmful   Sat Apr 23, 2011 1:47 am

Badger

i think that Zen can be very simple - the practice of zazen, practicing mindfulness in your daily life, paying attention in each moment, taking inspiration from some of the great teachings and stories. This can be relatively simple. It all starts and ends on this breath, with you, here now, all you need to do is see. Nothing comes from the outside, you lack nothing. Only on this breath.

AND Zen as practiced by various organizations, as religious institutions, as defined by various teachers -- that can get complicated, like any religion - like the Catholic Church or orthodox Judaism. Human nature kicks in - so anything can happen and it can get messy and confused and complicated.

One way to avoid complications is to keep your distance from organizations and most "teachers" or "masters." At least in the beginning. and if you do connect with a group or teacher, my advice - "Let the seeker be aware." In other words, don't follow blindly and don't give up your adulthood.

I think you said you are connected to an OBC priory or organization. If you want to see the complicated side to Zen - or at least some institutional religion -- just tell the head of your local priory that you are reading this website. See what happens. If you want to keep things simple, don't tell them. If you want to test the waters, tell them and notice their response.

Let the seeker be aware.

josh
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PostSubject: Re: Dogen's advice is harmful   Sat Apr 23, 2011 5:31 am

Interesting comments all...thx...perhaps because I am a Lay person and have always kept the Priory at arms length as an aide/encouragement to practice is in fact one of the reasons it works well for me. I have no desire to "join" any particular group or reach any particular stage...trying to experience or understand the truth is my main goal...Of course the whole monastic thing is quite interesting but probably not for me...if I'm being honest with myself.

To pick up the last point, I wouldn't have any problem telling the Rev. about my posting on this website if it were to come up in conversation - it doesn't seem to conflict much with my practice and it may even enhance it!

Nice to meet you all

Badger
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PostSubject: Re: Dogen's advice is harmful   Sat Apr 23, 2011 11:35 am

Hi Badger,

I have to say I do love sitting with a group when possible. There's something about the energy in the room...

However, Josh is right when he describes the potential messiness developing out of institutionalizing anything simple and pure in its own nature.

What drew me to Zen was the Buddha's proclamation to "Never believe anything just because I say it; prove it true for yourself." That has been my salvation and guiding light.

Best wishes to you,
mokuan
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PostSubject: Re: Dogen's advice is harmful   Sat Apr 23, 2011 12:06 pm

Badger wrote:

To pick up the last point, I wouldn't have any problem telling the Rev. about my posting on this website if it were to come up in conversation - it doesn't seem to conflict much with my practice and it may even enhance it!

Nice to meet you all

Badger
sunny

If you decide to tell the Rev of your Priory about your posting here let us know what happens.
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PostSubject: Re: Dogen's advice is harmful   Sat May 28, 2011 4:06 pm

"If you meet a Zen Master who teaches the truth, do not consider his caste, appearance, shortcomings or behavior.....but bow before him out of respect."

Interesting thread here. It's almost like Dogen is permitting a double standard of behavior. And, I wonder if that is the source of some of the conflicts here. That is do we tolerate behaviors in teachers that we do not tolerate in others? I certainly hope not! I certainly don't. Do teachers tolerate that in themselves? Unfortunately, according to the accounts posted here, many do.

I propose that there is one standard of behavior, for both teachers and students.

Jim Trivelpiece
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Ol'ga

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PostSubject: Re: Dogen's advice is harmful   Sat May 28, 2011 4:28 pm

I think the problem is in Dogen's very first words:
If you meet a Zen Master who teaches the truth...

How on earth does one know the person teaches the truth, if one is to not to consider (i.e. if one is to disregard) their behaviour? What is one to go by? I am not talking about foibles of various sizes. What I encountered in Roshi was nastiness to the point of sadism, hostility, perfidity - all that in the name of teaching the truth.
Ol'ga
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PostSubject: Re: Dogen's advice is harmful   Mon May 30, 2011 11:06 am

I would say that at that point in Zen history, if you were recognized as a teacher in your lineage - had "transmission" or "inka" then it was assumed that you were a master by definition. You held this special rank and that was everything in Japanese Zen so the potential disciples were supposed to just bow down and accept the teachings as well as the behavior of the "master." After all, in this system, an "ordinary" person could not possibly judge the behavior of a "master".

Dogen practiced what some scholars called "monkish elitism." Ideally, in Dogen's view, anyone could realize enlightenment through the diligent practice of zazen, but in actuality, it was the idealized monk life that offered the best and probably only real possibility of enlightenment. The monk robe became even more than the symbol of enlightenment - just seeing or putting on the robe was seen as enlightenment itself.

In one version of Dogen's Bendowa, he argues that monks will attain enlightenment even if they violate the precepts. So clearly, monks - let alone "masters" are special persons and are not subject to the same rules and laws of karma as ordinary people.
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PostSubject: Re: Dogen's advice is harmful   Wed Jun 01, 2011 12:39 am

Although I loved many of Dogens writings, the Shobogenzo, I always cringed at his frequent use of the phrase "ordinary people" and can understand why some scholars would call it "monkish elitism". To be sure it is a beautiful thing to dedicate ones life to the pursuit of the Highest (although it could be argued what that really means and by what means that is accomplished), but when the robe becomes looked upon as a religious status symbol, the whole of the Buddhas teachings have been misunderstood. During my "training" I have been fortunate to meet monks who truly understood that, as well as some who clearly did not, just as much as during the course of my life I have met "ordinary" people who without having had any religious inclination or interest whatsoever demonstrated what true kindness, generosity and goodness are really all about.
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PostSubject: Re: Dogen's advice is harmful   Wed Jun 01, 2011 5:10 am

I seem to remember reading somewhere that Dogen said early in his career that anyone could train, it was only in later life that he became 'monkish elitist'. I'm afraid that all over the world self serving priests, monks, etc. are telling their laity that they will gain great merit, or rewards in heaven, by supporting them in their spiritual quest. I'm afraid I think that the laity, and the world, would be better off helping the poor and their neighbours whilst leaving able bodied monks, etc. to fend for themselves. I would not go as far as Blake in his poetic railing against 'priests in black gowns' but I do fear that a best many are just well meaning leaches. I don't see any problem with charging modest ammounts for services rendered but whilst begging might humble the heart I think it is best left to beggers.
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PostSubject: Re: Dogen's advice is harmful   Sat Jun 04, 2011 12:12 am

I believe, Mark, that those that commit themselves to monastic training, come to it for various reasons, and that yes, there are those that could be categorized into the leach category and that the institution will support them for the rest of their lives. There are also others who come to the training out of conviction and complete comittment and could have brilliant careers or have various talents, abilities, which could, would support them in life, but they chose to give it up to pursue religious training totally and completely. It seems though that when the disease of elitism spreads out in an institution, it attaches to some that are weak and some that are strong in equal fashion, yet there are always the few who have developed an immunity to this ugly disease by having understood what true virtue and humility are really all about, and that should be recognized.

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