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 Shushogi - the back story that we never heard at Shasta

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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Shushogi - the back story that we never heard at Shasta   Fri Dec 27, 2013 1:20 pm

In the previous topic, I noted that Zen scholar Steven Heine had written a chapter about the Shushogi in a recent booki.  It turns out that you don't need to buy the book to read this chapter.  I think a few pages of the chapter are not posted, but most of it is. 

Do a google search on "Steven Heine Shushogi" - you can find the full chapter posted on line through google books. 

Because of the on-line format, I can't copy and paste the chapter here, so if you want to read his essay, it is only readable on line.  This essay is not some expose, per se, but since this chapter of the Shobogenzo was the most read at Shasta, you might find it of interest to read how this chapter came into existence, the issues and controversies surrounding it, etc. 

Real Zen history is complicated, filled with doctrinal and personal disputes, history rewritten, politics and factions, secrets, broken lineages and traditions, dark periods, and so on.  In other words, not the storybook Zen that most followers believe and that we were presented under Kennett. 

Using your critical thinking or examining the actual historical record does not destroy faith... it is called adulthood.  For me, it is sane spirituality that can handle shadows, contradictions, imperfection, human nature.  You don't have to fear reading history or critical analysis.  The clear fact that the transmission lineage is a fiction is not a problem, because awakening is not dependent on believing in fictions, even golden fictions.  The demand, "you must believe" is conservative dogmatic religion not dharma.
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Isan
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PostSubject: Re: Shushogi - the back story that we never heard at Shasta   Fri Dec 27, 2013 2:20 pm

Jcbaran wrote:
In the previous topic, I noted that Zen scholar Steven Heine had written a chapter about the Shushogi in a recent booki.  It turns out that you don't need to buy the book to read this chapter.  I think a few pages of the chapter are not posted, but most of it is. 

Do a google search on "Steven Heine Shushogi" - you can find the full chapter posted on line through google books. 
.
Here:

http://books.google.com/books?id=ajUW8jnMnOQC&pg=PA169&lpg=PA169&dq=Steven+Heine+Shushogi&source=bl&ots=pUxbz1gV_D&sig=EfF30QjcMMUgUehOz5BNQI9Q1zQ&hl=en&sa=X&ei=btK9Uvb_OceEogTruoGoCA&ved=0CCkQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Steven%20Heine%20Shushogi&f=false

There is a lot of interesting historical information about the Shushogi, but (based on a quick skim) it doesn't seem to be saying that it is corrupted by political or other forces.  Do you feel the article does say that?
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: Shushogi - the back story that we never heard at Shasta   Fri Dec 27, 2013 11:07 pm

complicated and political, not corrupted.  Dogen did not write the Shushogi, it was compiled many hundreds of years after his death.  And the Shobogenzo is also a complicated tale, with many versions, different editions, and so on. And all such texts do not exist outside of influence, politics, social trends, hierarchies, rivalries, current needs, etc.  If this is a seminal text for Soto Zen practitioners, then it's good to know the truth of the history of the piece.
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Isan
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PostSubject: Re: Shushogi - the back story that we never heard at Shasta   Sat Dec 28, 2013 2:51 pm

Jcbaran wrote:
Complicated and political, not corrupted.  Dogen did not write the Shushogi, it was compiled many hundreds of years after his death.  And the Shobogenzo is also a complicated tale, with many versions, different editions, and so on. And all such texts do not exist outside of influence, politics, social trends, hierarchies, rivalries, current needs, etc.  If this is a seminal text for Soto Zen practitioners, then it's good to know the truth of the history of the piece.
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I agree that it's good to understand that religious texts are created in the real world and transform over the years in response to various influences.  That can help us move from "storybook religion" to something more realistic and practical.  I feel it's important to note though that an accurate history doesn't say anything about the content/worth of the text as spiritual teaching.  Part of the discussion in the linked e-book focuses on whether or not the Shushogi is representative of Dogen's beliefs and teachings.  Again that may be interesting to scholars, but with regard to practice it isn't important to me.  I've always found the Shushogi (as it was presented to us at Shasta Abbey) insightful and helpful, and discovering that Dogen didn't write it and that it has been altered over time doesn't make it less so.  It stands on its' own.
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: Shushogi - the back story that we never heard at Shasta   Sat Dec 28, 2013 3:38 pm

good points. sometimes it's fine to keep things simple.  Sometimes good to look through other lenses and contexts.  The Platform sutra may not have anything to do with the mythical sixth patriarch, but some of the insights and teachings are brilliant - and some are worth questioning or at least engaging in a thoughtful way.
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Isan
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PostSubject: Re: Shushogi - the back story that we never heard at Shasta   Sat Dec 28, 2013 4:05 pm

Jcbaran wrote:
good points. sometimes it's fine to keep things simple.  Sometimes good to look through other lenses and contexts.  The Platform sutra may not have anything to do with the mythical sixth patriarch, but some of the insights and teachings are brilliant - and some are worth questioning or at least engaging in a thoughtful way.
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You make another good point which is it's not necessary to accept the content whole.  Some parts my ring true and others not so much.
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PostSubject: Re: Shushogi - the back story that we never heard at Shasta   Sun Dec 29, 2013 5:35 pm

Isan wrote:
You make another good point which is it's not necessary to accept the content whole.  Some parts my ring true and others not so much.

That evokes a non-Christian Amen from me. It has been part of Buddhist maturity to be at ease about what I find to be true and what I don't. Some of the Buddhist sutras are a bit of rubbish -- obviously manufactured to make a point that was culturally important, but quite devoid of any useful insight, and sometimes filled with a bit of poison.

The Buddhist admonition about being a "lamp unto one's own feet" is one that expresses confidence in our own ability to find and trust truth.  There's always this tension between the sharp edge of truth that can cut us from the nets of our own "common sense" delusions, and unwholesome clap trap that often accompanies it  -- sort of like a sharp knife amidst the flotsam.  


Rather than accept this responsibility of distinguishing the knife from the rubbish as an integral part of the Buddhist path, many I've known seem to abandon their own mind's sense of truth and gobble up whatever someone else offers them -- no matter how distorted. It happens in other religions too.

I think people who follow Zen tend to be more vulnerable than most because they are urged from day one to accept the nonsensical (if pronounced by a Master of sorts) and deprecate any nonconforming  thinking and perception of their own as delusional and worthless. "Don't try to understand it with your decrepit delusional mind." Most simply give in -- at least for a while.

Buddhism, at least as expressed in the sutras in the Pali Canon, doesn't take this approach at all. Though the sutras are sometimes are  logically fallible, they mostly resort to understandable wisdom and rationality as a basis for comprehension and discourse -- very sensible, very grounded in reality.
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: Shushogi - the back story that we never heard at Shasta   Sun Dec 29, 2013 5:49 pm

back to the Shushogi essay, you can't read the full essay on line - google books deliberately leaves out pages, so we are only seeing half the essay.  Some key points based on that. 

Yes, most of the text is taken from Dogen, but it is the selections and editing where the meaning is changed or slanted.  As the essay notes, the Shushogi was actually written in the Meiji-era as a response to the growing influence of Christianity.  Soto Zen was mostly lay people and ritual priests who could not understand most of what Dogen taught - it was just too much and too esoteric and did not relate to their daily lives.  They didn't study it. 

The Soto sect needed a very simple text that anyone could understand and chant and that countered Christianity and the beginning of new religious movements.  So the Shushogi was deliberately made to be similar to some aspects of Christian teachings - especially repentance.  Remember, Dogen quotes his own master as saying - zazen only - specifically not burning incense, not reciting sutras and not repentance - only zazen is it.  The Shushogi never mentions zazen, not once - and this is supposed to be a distillation of Dogen's teaching?  But at that time, what the Soto sect leaders during Meiji needed was to to promote simple religion - that did NOT emphasize zazen or enigmatic koans or teachings from Dogen that most people couldn't understand.  So, was the Shushogi's creation affected by politics? - totally - its creation and selected words reflected what was needed then and there to promote the Soto sect and protect it against attacks and new influences.  It is not some pure piece of dharma, outside of time and space.  Religion always exist in time and space. And with the Shushogi, there was a back-story, a clear agenda, that was based in a combination of making Soto teachings more accessible and of dealing with political and social forces of the time.  I am not saying there is anything sinister here - just that there is much more to the story and the issues than the simple storybook approach that is often taught. 

Now, you / we can still find the text very helpful in daily life, in practice, and we can say that is enough - we don't need to look behind the curtain.  That is sometimes workable - especially in the context of meditation, of simple instructions.  After all, I sit on my cushion, and then read an inspirational text - I really don't need to look to the past or think about Meiji era politics.  Does the text point out something that is helpful, truth-full, here and now.  Fair enough.

But beyond meditation practice, I think this general approach works well if you NEVER look behind the curtain.. if you only ever accept everything as it appears, on its face value.  It is certainly less complicated when you do that.  And that's the way most people live their religion.  God wrote the Bible.  Moses delivered the Jews out of Egypt.  Jesus was born of a virgin. Padmasambhava came to Tibet riding over the Himalayas on the back of a flying tiger.  The Buddha held up a flower and......
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