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how does zen differ from theravada? - Dhamma Wheel

how does zen differ from theravada?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
bugslikescarrots
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how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby bugslikescarrots » Mon Dec 31, 2012 4:52 am

aside from the obvious "north/south" buddhism. how do the approaches to enlightenment and meditation differ? are there more intent focuses? thank you

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mettafuture
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Re: how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby mettafuture » Mon Dec 31, 2012 5:02 am

I found Zen to be frustratingly abstract. It doesn't depend as much on "words" like other Buddhist traditions; for me this quality made it more difficult to understand. I've dabbled with many philosophies and religions over the years, and I've yet to find anything as clear, systematic and practical as Theravada. Daoism, which could be consider the mother of Zen, comes close in its practicality, but putting it into practice isn't as straight forward.

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mikenz66
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Re: how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Dec 31, 2012 5:22 am


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ground
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Re: how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby ground » Mon Dec 31, 2012 5:45 am


alan...
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Re: how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby alan... » Tue Jan 01, 2013 6:51 am

zen being influenced heavily by chinese and then japanese mind sets which themselves were largely influenced by taoism, confucianism and shintoism respectively is largely naturalistic and practical in nature. it relies heavily on concepts such as oneness with nature or the universe, actualizing "the way" (in essence, this is rarely said outright) which is largely similar to taoism. meditation is usually just letting the mind be, which is supposed to lead one to nirvana which is an unconditioned, natural state.

theravada is more influenced by indian mindsets from it's time of inception which are more meticulous and specific in practice and teaching. they use lists and numerical progressions and clearly laid out and defined step by step meditation procedures and so on. as opposed to silent illumiation and shikantaza are both methods in which progressive mind state teaching is not given.

it is very similar to vipassana in it's focus on mindfulness and non jhana sitting meditation, however unlike vipassana it does not use much contemplation. everything is thoughtless and without much direction. by thoughtless i mean one is usually not taught to contemplate not self, death and what not. one is just taught to sit. either literally just sit with no guidance or just sit with the breath. by direction i mean there is no listing of progressive states one can achieve such as the theravada stages of purification or the jhana progression. the only time one is taught to work with thoughts as contemplation is for koan study.

they teach from a few mahayana sutras such as the lankavatara sutra, heart sutra and lotus sutra among others while theravada uses the entire pali canon. the mahayana sutras are so massive and varied that one school rarely proclaims and uses all sutras within it as this would cause a lot of confusion and conflict. for example the pure land school sutras talk about how one can go to amitabha's pure land after death and reach enlightenment there by having faith in him, whereas other mahayana sutras talk more about self effort and direct practice to get oneself to nirvana in this life as opposed to the next or some kind of pure land, the lotus sutra proclaims itself the ultimate and highest sutra and so on. if you tried to practice all the mahayana sutras teachings you would end up in hundreds of knots. the pali canon is more or less internally consistent.

i do not know of a single practice found in zen, aside from koan, that is not found in theravada (and some would argue that there are things similar to koan in theravada as well). however there are many practices found in theravada that are not found in zen.

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Dan74
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Re: how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby Dan74 » Tue Jan 01, 2013 8:53 am

There is a bunch of generalizations and inaccuracies in the above, but even the most accurate description is unlikely to convey what it means to practice Zen. Instead we will project our preconceived notions onto it.

I found Zen to be neither abstract nor relying on concepts.

Mindlessness rather than mindfulness is more common in Zen.

Nature and any sort of oneness are not what it's really about.

Words and descriptions don't get close, if you really want to find out, practice each (Zen and Theravada) intensively for at least several years each. Then there is at least a hope but no guarantee. As a friend who has practiced alongside with me for at least 8 years now and done many retreats recently said, "I don't get it at all." I guess some of it has to with being ready to let go...
_/|\_

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tiltbillings
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Re: how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Jan 01, 2013 8:57 am


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mikenz66
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Re: how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Jan 01, 2013 9:12 am

Thanks for your comments, Dan, and for the comments you made on this thread, which I found very useful:
viewtopic.php?f=43&t=13382&start=20#p211749

:anjali:
Mike

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Dan74
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Re: how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby Dan74 » Tue Jan 01, 2013 11:00 am

_/|\_

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tiltbillings
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Re: how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Jan 01, 2013 11:01 am


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Re: how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby Raitanator » Tue Jan 01, 2013 11:05 am

I believe that in Theravada Prajnaparamita-sutra is not used as one of the main authorities for the meditation? Please correct if I am wrong.

:stirthepot:

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Dan74
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Re: how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby Dan74 » Tue Jan 01, 2013 1:34 pm

_/|\_

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Sambojjhanga
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Re: how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby Sambojjhanga » Tue Jan 01, 2013 2:55 pm

The flavor of the dhamma exceeds all other flavors

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Re: how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby plwk » Tue Jan 01, 2013 3:26 pm


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Sambojjhanga
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Re: how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby Sambojjhanga » Tue Jan 01, 2013 4:04 pm

The flavor of the dhamma exceeds all other flavors

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daverupa
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Re: how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby daverupa » Tue Jan 01, 2013 4:30 pm


alan...
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Re: how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby alan... » Tue Jan 01, 2013 5:28 pm


alan...
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Re: how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby alan... » Tue Jan 01, 2013 5:57 pm


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m0rl0ck
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Re: how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby m0rl0ck » Tue Jan 01, 2013 7:09 pm

I think the biggest difference is that zen is right and theravada is wrong. The biggest similiarity being that they both have an "e" in them.
“The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I'm looking for the truth," and so it goes away. Puzzling.” ― Robert M. Pirsig

Raitanator
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Re: how does zen differ from theravada?

Postby Raitanator » Tue Jan 01, 2013 7:13 pm

I'm not sure if it has been mentioned already: Zen also has teachings from second turning of wheel, and some of the third. While Theravada doesn't have. Hence, Zen, like any other mahayana-school, has the burden of proving themselves to be an authentic buddhist school. Theravada doesn't have to do that. In zen, Sutra is the main authority also, because of mahayana. Dogen didn't invent his stuff out of thin air.


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