Monday, March 12, 2007

Real Buddhism

This is my personal take on what counts as a real buddhist school.

A real buddhist school will emphasise the importance of regular sincere daily meditation/zazen.

it wil not promise that with very little effort you will be magically gain deep wisdom/understanding/enlightenment in a short space of time but instead assure you that it takes a lot of discipline and patience to sincerely practice buddhism.

it will emphasise the importance of conducting yourself in person in a courteous and respectful manner to everyone you meet and just generally not to be a dick to people.

it will emphaise the importance of a healthy diet and lifestyle.

as far as metaphysics goes; well that's where no one can ever seem to agree on much but that's probably for a different post.

so is this a reasonable definition of what counts as a real buddhist school?

have i left out any glaringly obvious bits? anyone?

21 Comments:

At March 12, 2007, Blogger Jinzang said...

There's a standard definition of Buddhism, which is: you believe that samsara is impermanent, suffering, and devoid of a self and that nirvana is peace. Dzongsar Rinpoche writes about this definition in his recent book "What Makes You Not a Buddhist."

 
At March 13, 2007, Blogger gniz said...

Jinzang,

That may be what is considered a standard definition.

What a silly set of beliefs you listed.

 
At March 13, 2007, Blogger Jordan & The Tortoise said...

My wife went to a real Buddhist school in Japan. They taught basic grammar, math, and social skills. Supposedly English too but they did an awful job of that. They did not teach any sort of meditation as part of the curriculum though. I think it was run by the Judo Shinshu guys so they would lean more towards chanting but my wife says they did not do that in school. But that pretty much sums up my thoughts on what a real Buddhist school is.

May you be well and happy!
Jordan

 
At March 13, 2007, Blogger Dan said...

Jordan,

I meant a buddhist school in the sense of 'school of thought' rather than a literal school. like different brands of buddhism. e.g. NKT, Dogen Sangha, The Dalai Lama's crew (i forget their name), etc etc. these are all different schools of buddhism in the sense of the word i meant

 
At March 13, 2007, Blogger Anatman said...

I think the foundation for most Buddhist thinking and 'schools' of thought consists of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path.

The sitting/meditation aspect that you mention is just one-eighth of the Eightfold Path. And "right concentration" does not even necessarily refer to sitting Zazen/meditation. It could be interpreted as simply "pay attention."

Western Zen seems to place 98% emphasis on "just sitting" (Zazen), but personally, I think this is a disservice to practitioners who come to believe that this is the end-all solution to their search for awareness and fulfillment.

You regularly hear Zen "Buddhists" saying things like "Zazen IS enlightenment" and "Just sit."

You also constantly hear, "I just sit to sit, not to gain or achieve anything." You hear this from beginners as well as the old jaded war horses. It may be true for the old horses, but it definitely is not true for beginners.

I think these types of proclamations are good reminders for students and practitioners that have become preoccupied with philosophy, dogma, superstition, ritual, etc., but for an individual just starting to study the Dharma, I think it sets them on a path that values ignorance and encourages unfounded arrogance.

 
At March 13, 2007, Blogger Jordan & The Tortoise said...

Dan,

Yeah I kind of figured that but I think the question is a loaded one.

All the divisions in the teachings are just different ladders for people to climb.
They are all going to the same roof. I don’t think it maters if you practice chanting or Zazen or awareness or playing the flute or some odd combination of all of the above and more or something different altogether. What is important is that which ever method you choose to use that you do it whole heartedly. Not like how I got through High School.

Jordan

 
At March 13, 2007, Blogger dan said...

what i was trying to get at with this clumsy topic was the question ' what does a buddhist DO that makes her a buddhist rather than what does a buddhist believe that makes her a buddhist.

"think these types of proclamations are good reminders for students and practitioners that have become preoccupied with philosophy, dogma, superstition, ritual, etc., but for an individual just starting to study the Dharma, I think it sets them on a path that values ignorance and encourages unfounded arrogance."

i think this is true but in many ways i honestly dont see why it is that bad to be ignorant of all the complex metaphysical aspects of the dharma. i would much rather be of the mind set of 'just sit everyday come on it's not rocket science just do it and stop being so stubborn' rather than spending lots of time day dreaming about the finer points of buddhist philosophy.

i once heard a story of a tibetan lama who's only practice was to sit down everyday with two heaps of pebbles, black ones and white ones. everyday he sat there and every time he had a negative thought he placed a black pebble in front of him and everytime he had a positive thought he placed a white one in front of him. he was totally ignorant of tibetan metaphyscial philsophy. this was his only practice. he kept doing this until he was only placing white pebbles in front of him.

Now, aside from any qualms anyone may have about the actual value of this practice, i like this story because it demonstrates that you dont need to be knowledgable about buddhism to be a buddhist.

as for the arrogance thing. this is the flip side of it of course: being actively aggressive to any more complex/ interesting aspects of buddhism rather than the simple practice. i dont see anything wrong with being ignorant about buddhism in the way that this lama was but i agree that there is a danger for people (me, not me the guy who blogs but me) to pride themselves on this ignorance.

 
At March 13, 2007, Blogger dan said...

All the divisions in the teachings are just different ladders for people to climb.
They are all going to the same roof

i dont think this is true of any religion. there are 'schools' who call themselves buddhist but are full of crap just as their are schools of hinsuism, islam an christianity who are not actually real christians/muslims/hindus. there are religious sects out there who are, for want of a better word, fake. what interests me and what i think brad has recently been getting at is the importance of not being afraid to say 'those guys are full of shit' instead of saying - it all leads to the same path/it's all relative etc.

 
At March 13, 2007, Blogger dan said...

" i think this is true but in many ways i honestly dont see why it is that bad to be ignorant of all the complex metaphysical aspects of the dharma. i would much rather be of the mind set of 'just sit everyday come on it's not rocket science just do it and stop being so stubborn' rather than spending lots of time day dreaming about the finer points of buddhist philosophy."

wow. quoting myself, that;s a first i think but i thought i should add something.

someone here once said that their teacher told them not to read more about buddhism than how much they've been practicing (meditating).

what i'm trying to say is basically that a balance of both theoretical knowledge and actual physical practice is the best but, if you have to be dualist about it,

i think that it is better to only practice while remaining ignorant of the theory ( as in - sit for the sake of it dont expect anything, just sit)

than to only be knowledgeable about the theory but remain ignorant of the practice (as in being able to speak eloquently for hours about buddhism but never actually sitting down on your arse and actually doing buddhism)

 
At March 13, 2007, Blogger endofthedream said...

what i was trying to get at with this clumsy topic was the question ' what does a buddhist DO that makes her a buddhist rather than what does a buddhist believe that makes her a buddhist.


Dan, there are no buddhists.
They don't exist.
Neither does buddhism.
Get it?

If not...here, this is another way of vectoring in on the subject:

There are collections of beliefs, some of which some people label "buddhism." There are other collections of beliefs that some other people label "buddhism." Which is the "true" buddhism? Is there a "true, genuine" buddhism? It may be worth questioning: who defines what for whom?


what i'm trying to say is basically that a balance of both theoretical knowledge and actual physical practice is the best.....i think that it is better to only practice while remaining ignorant of the theory

Again, ... best? For whom? For you? What is best for you is exactly what you're doing. It couldn't be otherwise.

But can you know what is "best" for another? Is there a single mode of "buddhism" that is "best" for everyone?

I am not saying that you don't have a right to your opinion. Nor that it should not appear in print or other media forums. But why is there a concern about defining some standard, one-size-fits-all "buddhism"? Why is there any care about how others see buddhism, practice buddhism, preach buddhism? That, I think, is a good question to answer.

It's not as if what others do in some zendo across the country (or even across the block) will be a problem or an issue for you. They will practice (and believe) as they see fit. And so will you. It amounts to tolerance: acceptance of what is. (And this is not to say one will condone murder, rape, torture. This is about concepts here, not physical acts.)

Step back far enough and you will see dozens, scores, perhaps even hundreds of different perspectives on the same thing. Is one more valid, more "true" than another? For an individual, thought may say "yes, this is right and that is wrong." But is that so, in Reality?

It's analogous to the rainbow thingy discussed in the previous post: for each individual there is a perceived rainbow. There is not, however, a single, immutable, "true" rainbow. There are as many rainbows as there are perceivers of rainbows.

And this is true of everything. Nothing escapes it.

And this is the beginning of genuine compassion. For one's self, for one's neighbor, for the ten thousand things which arise for you, me, and all the rest of the bodymind mechanisms which seem move about in the world.

 
At March 13, 2007, Blogger Justin said...

As many people have said already, there are many real schools of Buddhism other than Soto Zen. Only one school emphasises just sitting with no goal. There is no evidence that this is exactly the sort of dhyana practiced by the Buddha. Other Zen schools can be much more goal-orientated. They are not 'wrong' its just a different method.

The practice of Buddhism is following the Eightfold Path, of which meditation can be an aspect.

Judging some schools as real and others as not real is just samsara chasing its own tail.

 
At March 13, 2007, Blogger endofthedream said...

Jordan (and the tortoise) wrote

All the divisions in the teachings are just different ladders for people to climb. They are all going to the same roof.


They are all already standing on the roof.

It is simply confusion which says that they are on the ground floor.

When the confusion lifts, this is clear, incontrovertible, and undeniable.

Remember what the dude said: "Samsara is nirvana. Nirvana is samsara."

 
At March 13, 2007, Blogger Jordan & The Tortoise said...

Endofthedream,

"They are all already standing on the roof."

Yeah, I like that. But the Adhearants don't know that.

Thanks

Jordan

 
At March 13, 2007, Blogger MudderPugger said...

I'm not a real Buddhist, so I'll sit this one out.

 
At March 13, 2007, Blogger Jinzang said...

What a silly set of beliefs you listed.

Well. that's the philosophical presentation of Buddhism. All philosophy sounds silly because when you take a close look at "common sense," it's full of contradictions. Modern science is silly too, with all its talk of quanta not being able to decide if they're particles or waves. So what's wrong with being silly?

 
At March 13, 2007, Blogger gniz said...

Jinzang

Nothing wrong with being silly. It just struck me as silly, to hold a certain set of beliefs and then define myself by it.

Really, who cares?

And dont say that I care cuz i discuss it on a blog. I discuss boxing, poker, and whether mighty mouse can beat superman also.

 
At March 13, 2007, Blogger Anatman said...

Mighty Mouse beat Superman?

Puh-leeeeeze!

Now you're just being ridiculous.

 
At March 14, 2007, Blogger Dan said...

This is about concepts here, not physical acts.)


well no, i was trying to talk about the physical acts not the concepts

 
At March 14, 2007, Blogger Dan said...

As many people have said already, there are many real schools of Buddhism other than Soto Zen

yes but no one has said that soto zen is the only way or the best one. all i'm saying is that there is real buddhism and phony buddhism. the difference i think lies in how they act (what they do) not what they believe.

 
At March 14, 2007, Blogger Dan said...

Judging some schools as real and others as not real is just samsara chasing its own tail.


what use is this kind of view? are you saying that judging (to use an extreme example) that crazy japanese death cult whol called themselves buddhists as fake buddhists is pointless or just chasing my own tail?

 
At January 17, 2008, Blogger fred-fx said...

This may all be very interesting... but a real Buddhist would not waste thier time.

Fred_

 

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