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Old 12-25-2007, 05:36 AM   #1
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Zen Buddhism

Didn't quite know where to post this. Or even if it should be a journal entry. But hey, it's offtopic and it has something to do with spirituality and I am certain there are people on board more versed in zen than I am.

I discussed Buddhism online over several months with a Buddhist.
I think we frustrated each other because although I was curious, I think he held to a dogma which seemed anti-zen to me. I also think I was dumped by a Buddhist, lol, because I think perhaps he wanted to convert me, which was also anti-zen. I wanted the practicality of zen and not the esoteric. He talked about circles of light. I wanted to know how to practice zen when I'm stuck in a traffic jam.

I think what attracts me to Buddhism is that it requires no beliefs--not in a deity, not in reincarnation, not even in enlightenment. It demands questioning--of authority, of belief, of self, of Buddhism.
It requires a stripping down. What is reality as opposed to my perceptions of it and what of my perceptions are coloring it? I renewed my interest by reading a book called Hardcore Zen. I'm starting to find it gels more with my natural approach than the other paths I've looked at.

Anway, I'm obviously a novice at this. I'm not a Buddhist, but I am looking at it and I was hoping for discussion on it. I know there are many schools of Buddhism that are just as dogmatic and esoteric as the religions I've abandoned. But also there are schools that are just as pragmatic as I am.

So, for all the Buddhists or Buddhism explorers out there, how do you practice?
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Old 12-25-2007, 08:55 AM   #2
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I should preface this with the disclaimer that I'm not a Buddhist, but I am interested in world religions.

My first impression of Buddhism is that it means different things to different cultures. That is, Buddhism is seen differently in Tibet, Southeast Asia, Japan, and, yes, in the West. In Southeast Asia, I believe, Buddhists there believe in deities, have extensive rituals, and are seen as a conservative force in society not all that different from how the Vatican is seen in Europe.

Western Buddhism, as such, is described as probably 95% Zen Buddhism (predominately Japanese in origin), with 5% Tibetan Buddhism for a pinch of mysticism. Something to keep in mind, if Buddhism, as practiced in the West, is what you had in mind. This could also explain why you conflicted with that Buddhist online.

In a related tangent, it has been noted by some scholars that Buddhism has been widely misinterpreted as "atheist," as we'd define it in Western civilization. However, it should be noted that Buddhism existed as an offshoot of Hinduism, which includes one interesting theological quirk. As you know, Hinduism believes in numerous "gods"; however, most believe that these "gods" are just manifestations of one Supreme Being, Brahman, who is otherwise formless and unknowable. As such, it is thought by some that early Buddhism cast off belief in the "gods," since they weren't "real," but since Brahman was, by definition, inherently unknowable and considered above worship, Buddhism, instead, focuses on the self. However, I imagine that it would have been implied that states like "nirvana" and escaping rebirth could only happen if a concept like "Brahman" still existed. Buddhism is "atheist" in only the sense that the "gods" aren't real, our "Creator" is completely unapproachable, and, as such, they don't matter.
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Old 12-25-2007, 09:58 AM   #3
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Thank you for your explanation. I've never done well with mysticism. The concept of nirvana is in general beyond me, not that I don't understand the explanation of it, but I see no reason to seek it as a goal. However, I do appreciate the awareness factor, the here and now of zen. I appreciate the philosophy of it. I find I've stopped looking for a religion, but have begun to search for an approach.
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Old 12-26-2007, 01:31 AM   #4
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I'm not a Buddhist either (as you know ) but I have several good friends who are Buddhists, and just from knowing them it's clear that Buddhism is as diverse in practice and belief as Christianity (or any other belief system for that matter).

But you know that.

I've been interested lately in what motivates people to believe what they believe. I know--especially as a Christian--it sounds kind of cynical (but it's really not cynical at all--it's hard to explain) but I've really come to think that all people--or almost all people--believe what they WANT to believe. (I mean think about it, when was the last time you met someone who said, "Well, I don't want WANT to believe that this is true, but the "evidence" is just so compelling and I'm so convinced that I have no choice but to believe. But I hate it and I wish it weren't true." I've been wondering what what is it that people want to believe? Do we all want the same things? In a sense, I think so, and yet the variations in belief (and lack thereof) that people seem to find satisfying are so great. So great, that sometimes the needs the different "approaches" fill seem to be completely unrelated to each other.

Sorry, I hope that's not taking off in a different direction than you wanted to go.
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Old 12-26-2007, 03:05 AM   #5
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No, that's a perfect direction. It's wonderfully zen.

Actually, I was thinking very much the same thing day before yesterday. Perhaps that question was in my sentence that zen seems to gel with my approach. Or when we all accuse each other--and rightfully so--of cherry picking. We are heading toward what seems to validate us--maybe to a sense of importance and conversely to a sense of humility. Discipline, wholeness, order, intimacy, passion, something transcending (and many, many things I'm sure I'm missing). We want answers and we want to know we're good. While simultaneously backing away from all those things. We walk a precarious tightrope between desire and aversion.

One piece of music moves you to great heights, but does nothing for me. Something else speaks truth to me but leaves you cold.
What causes a chemical reaction in you doesn't in me and vice versa. It's a copout to say it's all subjective (although that may be the truth) But I think it's fair to say there is no one "truth" that satisfies everyone and that ultimately people believe what they choose to/want to.
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Old 12-26-2007, 06:52 AM   #6
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Then again, I'm speaking above about what I want. The "we" is me. I was presumptuous with "we". But I've heard other people voice similar things so perhaps my presumption has some validity.
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Old 12-26-2007, 09:18 AM   #7
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Hmmm. . .

Just thinking out loud here. . .

If we all want different things then maybe it would make sense that there are different "truths" out there for each person and it is, essentially, subjective.

If, on the other hand, we all want essentially the same thing, the truth is whatever best meets that need.

I'd suggest that perhaps there is one truth, but nobody has a total handle on it. . .

Then again, what we "want" can be a tricky thing. Maybe it's more about what we need than what we want. We often "want" things that will kill us.

I was intrigued by this statement of yours: "I wanted to know how to practice zen when I'm stuck in a traffic jam." Before I comment on it though, I was wondering if you'd be willing to articulate that a bit more.


Where's Irvine anyway? Seems I recall he was interested in Buddhism. . .
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Old 12-26-2007, 11:20 AM   #8
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I meant what was the practical expression of zen daily, when I'm dealing with the everyday frustrations. I know how to practice zen when I have clarity of thought, when there is nothing pressing on me.

I guess maybe what I mean is close to the experience that a Christian might feel at a retreat or an effective church service or at prayer or at anything that is a grounding for him. Then how do you carry Christ to the everyday, how do you hold on to that? How do you make it still be real to you without just mimicking it?
What are the changes you make in the daily minutia? Not the big stuff. Anybody can do the big stuff. But the little stuff. I distract easily.

(I don't plan on chanting in traffic jams, or anywhere for that matter.)

Back to your posts. Or perhaps there is not one big truth, but a lot of little ones and we search for something big enough to encompass all those little truths.
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Old 12-26-2007, 04:31 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by maycocksean

I mean think about it, when was the last time you met someone who said, "Well, I don't want WANT to believe that this is true, but the "evidence" is just so compelling and I'm so convinced that I have no choice but to believe. But I hate it and I wish it weren't true."
I just wanted to randomly chime in and say that I went through a period where I sincerely wished I did not believe in God. I knew I would be happier in life if I didn't believe, I hated that I couldn't shake it and I went against it for a while, but I don't know if it was so ingrained in me from my upbringing or whether it was actually true, I just couldn't not believe. And I hated it.

I still kind of think that way...I don't know. But I do agree that this is generally not the case.
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Old 12-26-2007, 06:53 PM   #10
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Originally posted by AttnKleinkind


I just wanted to randomly chime in and say that I went through a period where I sincerely wished I did not believe in God. I knew I would be happier in life if I didn't believe, I hated that I couldn't shake it and I went against it for a while, but I don't know if it was so ingrained in me from my upbringing or whether it was actually true, I just couldn't not believe. And I hated it.

I still kind of think that way...I don't know. But I do agree that this is generally not the case.
Thanks for chiming in

So do you believe today?
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Old 12-27-2007, 08:25 AM   #11
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I have a Buddhist friend. He comes to peace rallies with the Pax Christi group I'm in.
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Old 12-27-2007, 08:28 PM   #12
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Originally posted by maycocksean


Thanks for chiming in

So do you believe today?
Well, I don't want to completely de-rail the thread, so I'll just briefly say that yes, I do believe today. I know that God exists, but I don't exactly know what to do with that; as in, how to truly know anything about him or to know him. But I think I've made some progress (relatively).
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Old 12-28-2007, 05:03 AM   #13
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I'm not a Buddhist, but my best friend practices it (along with other spiritual rituals, just that kind of fellow) and I find it to be a most rewarding and fulfilling lifestyle, whether theistic or atheistic.

Local Buddhist temples and houses are a good place to visit even if you don't practice the religion. Lamas tend to be very friendly and willing to help out those unfamiliar with the practices. There are a lot of good Buddhist books out - basically anything written by the Dalai Lama and anything containing historical scriptures or guides is worth a look at, I'd think. Even if you don't convert, it's still very interesting to research.
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Old 12-28-2007, 05:22 AM   #14
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Don't appear to be a wide variety of (or any, actually) Buddhist temples in my neck of the woods. But I have been reading.
Thank you.
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Old 06-06-2009, 03:13 PM   #15
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So...now I'm at the point in my life's journey where I am exploring Buddhism. Hopefully this time around some more responses can be generated? Are there any practicing Buddhists on this thread now, almost 2 years since this was posted?

What brought you to Buddhism (were you raised that way or did you convert?) What keeps you there?

I've seen local postings about Buddhist meditation groups in my area, and I'm sure at some point I'll attend one. I just would like to test the waters here and ask about it before diving in.

Is it true that Buddhism teaches that there is no soul? If that's the case, how is that congruent with karma?

Any insight would be very helpful
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Old 06-06-2009, 06:36 PM   #16
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So...now I'm at the point in my life's journey where I am exploring Buddhism. Hopefully this time around some more responses can be generated? Are there any practicing Buddhists on this thread now, almost 2 years since this was posted?
I practice. So far with concentration and mindfulness. I need to add loving kindness as well. (Grudges can interrupt concentration).

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What brought you to Buddhism (were you raised that way or did you convert?) What keeps you there?
I studied Stoicism first and then got interested in Buddhism. I like reading MANY different philosophies.

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Originally Posted by unico View Post
I've seen local postings about Buddhist meditation groups in my area, and I'm sure at some point I'll attend one. I just would like to test the waters here and ask about it before diving in.
I recommend this book which talks from the point of view of a psychologist. The most important part of the book is the appendix which shows some of the pitfalls of joining a meditation group. This can save you years of failure.

http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/meditdepthpsych6.pdf

If you start a meditation practice for narcissistic reasons you'll probably get disappointed. The correct way is to let go of craving because many people can actually ironically get attached to Buddhism. Buddhism is supposed to be anti-narcissism.

Quote:
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Is it true that Buddhism teaches that there is no soul? If that's the case, how is that congruent with karma?

Any insight would be very helpful
The non-self teaching you are talking about is well explained by the Dalai Lama in his book:

Amazon.com: How to See Yourself As You Really Are: His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Jeffrey, Ph.D. Hopkins: Books

It's not that you don't exist but that nothing "inherently exists". Everything we see has building blocks (cells, atoms, subatomic particles, particles we haven't found yet). Our senses are limited so all we see is cause and effect. Because everything has building blocks (dependent arising) nothing is permanent and everything is susceptible to change yet we emotionally treat things as permanent. Our grasping at anything we want beyond what we need can lead to emotional suffering if we feel entitled to that thing (which is not permanent). Karma to me is basically an abstract concept and so can be riddled with holes but if you look at it more as cause and effect and how your choices have consequences it becomes more like existentialism where there is a burden of choices and you must take responsibility for them. I personally don't believe in the karma wheel and many old religions aren't perfect but much of Buddhism I like despite how old it is. I like to study modern psychology along with buddhism.

Basically there are three important strands: concentration, mindfulness, and loving-kindness. When concentration is developed you can use it for mindfulness (basically self-cognitive therapy) to test your mental projections to see if they are accurate or not. Loving-kindness is to deal with aversion towards people. The non-self part of it is what is needed to really get more results in combination with your mindfulness practice. If everything is impermanent and then so are your emotions and ruminations. When meditating you want to actually feel the mental interruption happen and then dissapate with your awareness. This will help you let go of useless ruminations and expectations that cause emotional suffering.

Here are some free e-books to do your own studies (which I recommend you do before you seek out a teacher).

BuddhaNet's Buddhist eBook Library: General Buddhism, Meditation, Theravada and Mahayana Texts, History and Art.

I personally don't bother with a teacher because the readings give you lots to work with. I also recommend:

Amazon.com: Mahamudra: The Moonlight -- Quintessence of Mind and Meditation: Dakpo Tashi Namgyal, Lobsang P. Lhalungpa, The Dalai Lama: Books

There are lots of how to manuals in this old compilation. Just take the instructions that you can use (don't throw out the baby with the bathwater) and update it with modern science and make your own meditation practice. Many teachers have different ways (focus on breath in the belly, focus on breath at the tip of your nose, focus on breath with eyes slightly open, focus on a visual object) depending on whether it's Theravada, Mahayana, Chan or Zen. Many texts talk about omnipotence and perfection of the practice and how to eliminate desire. These are exagerrations. To practice Buddhism you need some desire but the desire you have is based more on essentials as opposed to superficial things. You need effort and intention to practice. You probably won't have too much happiness in life if you don't pursue some kind of job to pay the bills and if you don't take care of your health or relationships. Beyond that it's okay to let go because the ultimate purpose of Buddhism is to develop equanimity. Take it slow as you develop your own practice and do lots of reading and regular meditation.

So far in my practice I've learned:

- I have to test my inhibitions and mental projections to reality because they often overly limit my choices in life.
- Don't be self-judgmental when practicing meditation and to bring myself back to the present moment watching body sensations, or the breath, (depending on the type of meditation).
- Practice being in the present moment for most of the activities during the day as much as possible. I love walking meditation. Being concentrated on the cushion doesn't mean you are concentrated throughout the rest of the day.
- The more you put in the more you get out. You don't want to look forward too much at your goal but to look back after months of practice at where you were.
- It's okay to take in some pleasure from being in the present moment. Equanimity is a beautiful thing.
- It's extremely helpful to do at least one thing (if not more) per day that I should do that I'd rather not do.
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Old 06-06-2009, 08:24 PM   #17
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I ran into this book a few months ago and found it really concise. Since so many books out there reference buddhism it's easy for things to get blurred Amazon.com: What Makes You Not a Buddhist: Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse: Books

I've been exploring and reading about so many approaches to spirituality most of which end at the same place, but get you a little confused about what your approach might be called. I've decided not to label mine

I take *Hatha yoga and meditation classes at a very traditional yoga center (not a chain), they clear my mind and seem to just make me a better person to myself and others.

*I love Bikram but for a different reason

not to change the topic but can anyone recommend a Sutras of Patanjali translation?
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Old 06-08-2009, 10:38 AM   #18
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not to change the topic but can anyone recommend a Sutras of Patanjali translation?
Hinduism is next on my list.
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