Are there any practices in Zen not found in Theravada

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Are there any practices in Zen not found in Theravada

Postby johnny » Mon Jul 30, 2012 6:07 am

Are there any practices in Zen not found in Theravada (other than koans and shouting and hitting)?

I practiced Zen for a long time and then changed too theravada and as i read the pali canon and commentaries and some other theravada literature, i'm finding every single thing i learned in zen.

the attitude and goal are a little different, but only when you get into debates on literal meanings of phrases and defining states of mind that are usually outside of normal comprehension in the first place.

i am not talking about doctrines or philosophical ideas (buddha nature, etc.), i'm talking about literal practices (sitting meditation methods, chanting, walking meditation, etc.).

if this were something more mundane it would be like:

does restaurant "A" have the same cooking methods (stir frying, mincing, deep frying, etc.) as restaurant "B"? but i'm not concerned about ideas (restaurant "A" thinks that painting the walls yellow makes customers feel relaxed and restaurant "B" thinks painting them blue is better, restaurant "A" believes that deep down everyone wants too stuff themselves until they cannot eat any more, restaurant "B" believes that deep down people prefer moderation and do not like overeating, etc.)

is there anything a theravada teacher will tell you to do that a zen teacher would not.
Last edited by johnny on Mon Jul 30, 2012 6:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
The time would not pass. Somebody was playing with the clocks, and not only the electronic clocks but the wind-up kind too. The second hand on my watch would twitch once, and a year would pass, and then it would twitch again.
There was nothing I could do about it. As an Earthling I had to believe whatever clocks said -and calendars.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
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Re: Are there any practices in Zen not found in Theravada

Postby Cittasanto » Mon Jul 30, 2012 6:30 am

johnny wrote:Are there any practices in Zen not found in Theravada (other than koans and shouting and hitting)?

I practiced Zen for a long time and then changed too theravada and as i read the pali canon and commentaries and some other theravada literature, i'm finding every single thing i learned in zen.

the attitude and goal are a little different, but only when you get into debates on literal meanings of phrases and defining states of mind that are usually outside of normal comprehension in the first place.

i am not talking about doctrines or philosophical ideas (buddha nature, etc.), i'm talking about literal practices (sitting meditation methods, chanting, walking meditation, etc.).

if this were something more mundane it would be like:

does restaurant "A" have the same cooking methods (stir frying, mincing, deep frying, etc.) as restaurant "B"? but i'm not concerned about ideas (restaurant "A" thinks that painting the walls yellow makes customers feel relaxed and restaurant "B" thinks painting them blue is better, restaurant "A" believes that deep down everyone wants too stuff themselves until they cannot eat any more, restaurant "B" believes that deep down people prefer moderation and do not like overeating, etc.)

is there anything a zen teacher will tell you to do that a theravada teacher would not.

not that I am aware of (and koans & Hwadu can be seen in the pali canon BTW)
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Are there any practices in Zen not found in Theravada

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Mon Jul 30, 2012 9:03 am

Cittasanto wrote: not that I am aware of (and koans & Hwadu can be seen in the pali canon BTW)


Now, that's interesting. Do you happen to have any references handy?
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Re: Are there any practices in Zen not found in Theravada

Postby ground » Mon Jul 30, 2012 9:44 am

johnny wrote:is there anything a zen teacher will tell you to do that a theravada teacher would not.

That question is not phrased correctly. The other way round may be applicable.

A Zen teacher most likely would not encourage the typical shamata/vipassana style of meditation that is common in Theravada. Also the jhanas that seem to be so crucial in Theravada are not relevant in Zen.


Kind regards
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Re: Are there any practices in Zen not found in Theravada

Postby johnny » Mon Jul 30, 2012 6:22 pm

Cittasanto wrote:
johnny wrote:Are there any practices in Zen not found in Theravada (other than koans and shouting and hitting)?

I practiced Zen for a long time and then changed too theravada and as i read the pali canon and commentaries and some other theravada literature, i'm finding every single thing i learned in zen.

the attitude and goal are a little different, but only when you get into debates on literal meanings of phrases and defining states of mind that are usually outside of normal comprehension in the first place.

i am not talking about doctrines or philosophical ideas (buddha nature, etc.), i'm talking about literal practices (sitting meditation methods, chanting, walking meditation, etc.).

if this were something more mundane it would be like:

does restaurant "A" have the same cooking methods (stir frying, mincing, deep frying, etc.) as restaurant "B"? but i'm not concerned about ideas (restaurant "A" thinks that painting the walls yellow makes customers feel relaxed and restaurant "B" thinks painting them blue is better, restaurant "A" believes that deep down everyone wants too stuff themselves until they cannot eat any more, restaurant "B" believes that deep down people prefer moderation and do not like overeating, etc.)

is there anything a zen teacher will tell you to do that a theravada teacher would not.

not that I am aware of (and koans & Hwadu can be seen in the pali canon BTW)



really? where? not that i disbelieve, i'm just curious and would like too learn more. what is "hwadu"?
The time would not pass. Somebody was playing with the clocks, and not only the electronic clocks but the wind-up kind too. The second hand on my watch would twitch once, and a year would pass, and then it would twitch again.
There was nothing I could do about it. As an Earthling I had to believe whatever clocks said -and calendars.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
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Re: Are there any practices in Zen not found in Theravada

Postby johnny » Mon Jul 30, 2012 6:24 pm

ground wrote:
johnny wrote:is there anything a zen teacher will tell you to do that a theravada teacher would not.

That question is not phrased correctly. The other way round may be applicable.

A Zen teacher most likely would not encourage the typical shamata/vipassana style of meditation that is common in Theravada. Also the jhanas that seem to be so crucial in Theravada are not relevant in Zen.


Kind regards


good point, i flipped it, so it should work now.
The time would not pass. Somebody was playing with the clocks, and not only the electronic clocks but the wind-up kind too. The second hand on my watch would twitch once, and a year would pass, and then it would twitch again.
There was nothing I could do about it. As an Earthling I had to believe whatever clocks said -and calendars.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
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Re: Are there any practices in Zen not found in Theravada

Postby Cittasanto » Mon Jul 30, 2012 7:43 pm

Khalil Bodhi wrote:
Cittasanto wrote: not that I am aware of (and koans & Hwadu can be seen in the pali canon BTW)


Now, that's interesting. Do you happen to have any references handy?

try any teaching in the canon, not all koans are riddles, although ud 1.8/10?? does spring to mind, "in the seen there is only the seen" is a hwadu, and the story behind it is the koan.
a Koan is properly the story or public record, and a hwadu is what is now known as a koan, and commonly thought of as a paradoxical one liner (so to speak) or an "anti-thought" although this is not always the case. so you could also say the Dhammapada with origin stories are also "koans"
a better explanation of this can be found in a "compass of zen" by Zen Master Seung Sahn (shambala) or
http://hsuyun.budismo.net/en/dharma/chan_sessions1.html
Look for hua t'ou (another transliteration of the word.)
although I have the book in full in pdf the section linked there is excellent and I believe fully in line with the Dhamma, but if anyone is interested the rest can be read through links here http://hsuyun.budismo.net/en/dharma/index.html I believe it was mikenz I mentioned this to a few weeks ago but never got around to posting the pdf up as it is too big!


edit - and while I remember, Luang Por Chah once said to Ajahn Sumedho
LP Chah ="you must be very confused sumedho; The Dhamma is all about letting go, yet the Vinaya is all about holding on!"
Ven. Sumedho = "Yes" (expecting the answer from Luang Por)
LP Chah = "Well When you work out how these two work together, you will be fine!"
Last edited by Cittasanto on Mon Jul 30, 2012 8:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Are there any practices in Zen not found in Theravada

Postby befriend » Mon Jul 30, 2012 8:42 pm

shikantaza, is taught after one practices zazen for a while. i dont know there might be theravadan teachers who teach something like shikantaza, which means nothing but sitting.
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Re: Are there any practices in Zen not found in Theravada

Postby Cittasanto » Mon Jul 30, 2012 8:52 pm

befriend wrote:shikantaza, is taught after one practices zazen for a while. i dont know there might be theravadan teachers who teach something like shikantaza, which means nothing but sitting.

it is actually quite common! just being being what is pressent, non-judging, not reacting...
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Are there any practices in Zen not found in Theravada

Postby johnny » Mon Jul 30, 2012 10:59 pm

befriend wrote:shikantaza, is taught after one practices zazen for a while. i dont know there might be theravadan teachers who teach something like shikantaza, which means nothing but sitting.



shikantaza is a unique version of silent illumination created by dogen. at least as far as i know. some versions of silent illumination are very similar too some versions of theravada vipassana as found in the pali canon. shikantaza is where dogen took this method too japan and made it basically doing absolutely nothing. he said that sitting itself is literally nirvana. there is no equivalent too this in the pali canon, but dogens zen is very much it's own thing. at least it was when it appeared. today "soto" sect is one of the largest and it comes from dogen. however before him, when zen was first created and then during it's golden age, his style of zen didn't exist. the caodong sect is where his style derives from but there are many large differences in teaching that make dogen zen truly unique.

so there is near equivalency too silent illumination in the theravada pali canon, but there isn't for shikantaza (at least not dogen's version of it, which is the most prevalent). again, as far as i know, i'm far from an expert in this.

there may well be types that are identical too all of the zen versions in theravada as a whole, though, undoubtedly there are teachers now and in the past who have taught exactly these things.
The time would not pass. Somebody was playing with the clocks, and not only the electronic clocks but the wind-up kind too. The second hand on my watch would twitch once, and a year would pass, and then it would twitch again.
There was nothing I could do about it. As an Earthling I had to believe whatever clocks said -and calendars.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
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Re: Are there any practices in Zen not found in Theravada

Postby johnny » Mon Jul 30, 2012 11:08 pm

Cittasanto wrote:
Khalil Bodhi wrote:
Cittasanto wrote: not that I am aware of (and koans & Hwadu can be seen in the pali canon BTW)


Now, that's interesting. Do you happen to have any references handy?

try any teaching in the canon, not all koans are riddles, although ud 1.8/10?? does spring to mind, "in the seen there is only the seen" is a hwadu, and the story behind it is the koan.
a Koan is properly the story or public record, and a hwadu is what is now known as a koan, and commonly thought of as a paradoxical one liner (so to speak) or an "anti-thought" although this is not always the case. so you could also say the Dhammapada with origin stories are also "koans"
a better explanation of this can be found in a "compass of zen" by Zen Master Seung Sahn (shambala) or
http://hsuyun.budismo.net/en/dharma/chan_sessions1.html
Look for hua t'ou (another transliteration of the word.)
although I have the book in full in pdf the section linked there is excellent and I believe fully in line with the Dhamma, but if anyone is interested the rest can be read through links here http://hsuyun.budismo.net/en/dharma/index.html I believe it was mikenz I mentioned this to a few weeks ago but never got around to posting the pdf up as it is too big!


edit - and while I remember, Luang Por Chah once said to Ajahn Sumedho
LP Chah ="you must be very confused sumedho; The Dhamma is all about letting go, yet the Vinaya is all about holding on!"
Ven. Sumedho = "Yes" (expecting the answer from Luang Por)
LP Chah = "Well When you work out how these two work together, you will be fine!"



i looked at the canon sections you referenced. perhaps precursors too koans, but as far as literally giving someone an illogical phrase and instructing them too use it as a meditation object, i have never seen that in the pali canon.

however i fully agree that koan like teachings abound in some of the canon, so similar that one could easily argue they were the original "koans". just not stylized into specific training methods yet.
The time would not pass. Somebody was playing with the clocks, and not only the electronic clocks but the wind-up kind too. The second hand on my watch would twitch once, and a year would pass, and then it would twitch again.
There was nothing I could do about it. As an Earthling I had to believe whatever clocks said -and calendars.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
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Re: Are there any practices in Zen not found in Theravada

Postby johnny » Mon Jul 30, 2012 11:10 pm

the more i look into it, the more it seems like zen is the mahayana equivalent too the theravada vipassana school. kind of a "drop everything but some very bare bones practices" kind of deal. very efficient and simple. great stuff.
The time would not pass. Somebody was playing with the clocks, and not only the electronic clocks but the wind-up kind too. The second hand on my watch would twitch once, and a year would pass, and then it would twitch again.
There was nothing I could do about it. As an Earthling I had to believe whatever clocks said -and calendars.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
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Re: Are there any practices in Zen not found in Theravada

Postby sutira » Tue Jul 31, 2012 12:11 am

ground wrote:
johnny wrote:is there anything a zen teacher will tell you to do that a theravada teacher would not.

That question is not phrased correctly. The other way round may be applicable.

A Zen teacher most likely would not encourage the typical shamata/vipassana style of meditation that is common in Theravada. Also the jhanas that seem to be so crucial in Theravada are not relevant in Zen.


Kind regards


But the very word 'zen' actually came from the word 'jhana'. Do Zen Buddhists in modern times have ignored this aspect already?

From wiki: The word Zen is derived from the Japanese pronunciation of the Middle Chinese word 禪 Dzyen (Modern Mandarin: Chán), which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word dhyāna, which can be approximately translated as "absorption" or "meditative state".

But in reality, if one meditate on emptiness diligently and skillfully, one could enter into a formless absorption state (arupa-jhana). IMHO, even though the 'style' of teaching may differ between a Zen master and a Theravada teacher, it could lead to similar results.
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Re: Are there any practices in Zen not found in Theravada

Postby johnny » Tue Jul 31, 2012 1:18 am

sutira wrote:
ground wrote:
johnny wrote:is there anything a zen teacher will tell you to do that a theravada teacher would not.

That question is not phrased correctly. The other way round may be applicable.

A Zen teacher most likely would not encourage the typical shamata/vipassana style of meditation that is common in Theravada. Also the jhanas that seem to be so crucial in Theravada are not relevant in Zen.


Kind regards


But the very word 'zen' actually came from the word 'jhana'. Do Zen Buddhists in modern times have ignored this aspect already?

From wiki: The word Zen is derived from the Japanese pronunciation of the Middle Chinese word 禪 Dzyen (Modern Mandarin: Chán), which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word dhyāna, which can be approximately translated as "absorption" or "meditative state".

But in reality, if one meditate on emptiness diligently and skillfully, one could enter into a formless absorption state (arupa-jhana). IMHO, even though the 'style' of teaching may differ between a Zen master and a Theravada teacher, it could lead to similar results.



i know right? total can of worms. many zen teachers specifically speak out against the jhanas, saying they are just going into a state of bliss that is a waste of time and far from realization! i don't know of any that teach them. i'm not saying this is a right or wrong opinion, but it makes no sense at all that their name literally means jhana if that's not the complete focus of the school!
The time would not pass. Somebody was playing with the clocks, and not only the electronic clocks but the wind-up kind too. The second hand on my watch would twitch once, and a year would pass, and then it would twitch again.
There was nothing I could do about it. As an Earthling I had to believe whatever clocks said -and calendars.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
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Re: Are there any practices in Zen not found in Theravada

Postby Dan74 » Tue Jul 31, 2012 5:32 am

I guess Zen is also not one lineage and includes Chinese Chan, Korean Seon and probably Vietnamese Thien.

Within these traditions there have certainly been teachers who have taught jhanas or have considered jhanas as stages along the path. For me it is hard to envisage complete liberation without deep jhanas of some kind but I could be wrong.

I also feel that a bare bones approach is only possible when sufficient garbage has been moved out of the way to make "seeing own nature" possible. Until then it is seeing "garbage" (of the more spiritual and lofty type) and believing it to be it.

The shouting and hitting was probably more of an exception that got promoted into the Zen brand in Ming dynasty as different schools vied for imperial patronage. The Zen way has always been the chick working hard to break out of the shell (of ignorance) and the mother hen helping just on the other side where the chick is pecking. So whatever was the key obstacle was brought as a question to the master ans the master responded appropriately. These were life and death encounters. And they became mondo and koans (kong-an) and later hua-tou. I don't think this is about iconoclastic, non-conformist, anti-thought, cool, etc. This was the heart question put in the most direct way available within that tradition. And likewise with the response. Our modern psychological way of "my mind" "i am thinking" is far more removed and dualistic than "the mind is the Buddha" or "no mind, no buddha" or "not knowing is the most intimate".

Don't you think so?
Last edited by Dan74 on Tue Jul 31, 2012 5:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Are there any practices in Zen not found in Theravada

Postby Cittasanto » Tue Jul 31, 2012 5:36 am

johnny wrote:i looked at the canon sections you referenced. perhaps precursors too koans, but as far as literally giving someone an illogical phrase and instructing them too use it as a meditation object, i have never seen that in the pali canon.

however i fully agree that koan like teachings abound in some of the canon, so similar that one could easily argue they were the original "koans". just not stylized into specific training methods yet.

Hi Johnny,
There are Koans which are not necessarily illogical or paradoxical.

take this example
Twenty monks and one nun, who was named Eshun, were practicing meditation with a certain Zen master.

Eshun was very pretty even though her head was shaved and her dress plain. Several monks secretly fell in love with her. One of them wrote her a love letter, insisting upon a private meeting.

Eshun did not reply. The following day the master gave a lecture to the group, and when it was over, Eshun arose. Addressing the one who had written to her, she said: "If you really love me so much, come and embrace me now."

when I described what they were I was basing this on the teachings of those in the cultures & traditions who use them, not the westernized idea or one particular form of them.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Are there any practices in Zen not found in Theravada

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Jul 31, 2012 5:38 am

Dan74 wrote:I guess Zen is also not one lineage and includes Chinese Chan, Korean Seon and probably Vietnamese Thien.
I do not know about the Vietnamese Thien, but the others have distinct schools.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Are there any practices in Zen not found in Theravada

Postby Cittasanto » Tue Jul 31, 2012 5:42 am

Dan74 wrote:I guess Zen is also not one lineage and includes Chinese Chan, Korean Seon and probably Vietnamese Thien.

Within these traditions there have certainly been teachers who have taught jhanas or have considered jhanas as stages along the path. For me it is hard to envisage complete liberation without deep jhanas of some kind but I could be wrong.

I also feel that a bare bones approach is only possible when sufficient garbage has been moved out of the way to make "seeing own nature" possible. Until then it is seeing "garbage" (of the more spiritual and lofty type) and believing it to be it.

it would also include the other Zen Schools within each country.
although they all come from China as I understand it, and there is a Japanese zen school in South Korea also.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Are there any practices in Zen not found in Theravada

Postby johnny » Tue Jul 31, 2012 6:28 am

Dan74 wrote:I guess Zen is also not one lineage and includes Chinese Chan, Korean Seon and probably Vietnamese Thien.

Within these traditions there have certainly been teachers who have taught jhanas or have considered jhanas as stages along the path. For me it is hard to envisage complete liberation without deep jhanas of some kind but I could be wrong.

I also feel that a bare bones approach is only possible when sufficient garbage has been moved out of the way to make "seeing own nature" possible. Until then it is seeing "garbage" (of the more spiritual and lofty type) and believing it to be it.

The shouting and hitting was probably more of an exception that got promoted into the Zen brand in Ming dynasty as different schools vied for imperial patronage. The Zen way has always been the chick working hard to break out of the shell (of ignorance) and the mother hen helping just on the other side where the chick is pecking. So whatever was the key obstacle was brought as a question to the master ans the master responded appropriately. These were life and death encounters. And they became mondo and koans (kong-an) and later hua-tou. I don't think this is about iconoclastic, non-conformist, anti-thought, cool, etc. This was the heart question put in the most direct way available within that tradition. And likewise with the response. Our modern psychological way of "my mind" "i am thinking" is far more removed and dualistic than "the mind is the Buddha" or "no mind, no buddha" or "not knowing is the most intimate".

Don't you think so?


absolutely. it's a very broad statement too just call it all "zen"! if you include all of those versions they probably contain a vast number of things not found in theravada. i'm kind of thinking japanese zen and chinese chan alone, i should have been more specific.

and by "bare bones" i feel that, if nothing else, zen teachers do not usually throw a ten thousand page book of sutras at a student. it's very practice oriented, and so skips a lot of stuff and goes straight to the point.
Last edited by johnny on Tue Jul 31, 2012 6:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
The time would not pass. Somebody was playing with the clocks, and not only the electronic clocks but the wind-up kind too. The second hand on my watch would twitch once, and a year would pass, and then it would twitch again.
There was nothing I could do about it. As an Earthling I had to believe whatever clocks said -and calendars.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
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Re: Are there any practices in Zen not found in Theravada

Postby johnny » Tue Jul 31, 2012 6:30 am

Cittasanto wrote:
Dan74 wrote:I guess Zen is also not one lineage and includes Chinese Chan, Korean Seon and probably Vietnamese Thien.

Within these traditions there have certainly been teachers who have taught jhanas or have considered jhanas as stages along the path. For me it is hard to envisage complete liberation without deep jhanas of some kind but I could be wrong.

I also feel that a bare bones approach is only possible when sufficient garbage has been moved out of the way to make "seeing own nature" possible. Until then it is seeing "garbage" (of the more spiritual and lofty type) and believing it to be it.

it would also include the other Zen Schools within each country.
although they all come from China as I understand it, and there is a Japanese zen school in South Korea also.


indeed, i should have been more specific. if you look at all of "zen" from it's inception up til today, there are hundreds (thousands?) of schools!
The time would not pass. Somebody was playing with the clocks, and not only the electronic clocks but the wind-up kind too. The second hand on my watch would twitch once, and a year would pass, and then it would twitch again.
There was nothing I could do about it. As an Earthling I had to believe whatever clocks said -and calendars.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
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