Many Practices in Tendai, but for Whom?

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Many Practices in Tendai, but for Whom?

Post by DGA » Fri Feb 23, 2018 2:12 am

Recently, a familiar theme has come up in discussions in other subs at DW that is worth revisiting: the notion that one of Tendai-shu's strengths is the multiplicity of practices that are available for the aspirant to engage in.

for example here

viewtopic.php?f=60&t=27848&start=20#p437124

It is true that there exist Tendai-shu people engaging in a diverse set of practices, including some that are distinctive and unique to the Tendai school (the "cleaning hell," kaihogyo...). But it is important to ask: what practices are available to whom, and under what circumstances?

There are some practices that laypeople engage in, and not only paying their membership fees. What are these? What do the Tendai laypeople you know practice?

Then there are practices that one trains in after one takes tokudo (ordination). There exist persons who have been ordained but not trained, and therefore are unable to undertake certain practices, and who may know a great deal about Dharma or may know nothing. There also exist persons who have been ordained and have trained EXTENSIVELY. These people are true gems.

You can get a sense of the many and various trainings and practices that Tendai ordinands engage in here:

http://www.tendai.org/wp-content/upload ... 605_72.pdf

What would a Venn diagram look like of practices that, on one side, laypeople engage in, and on the other, practices that a Dai-Ajari have engaged in? How much overlap would there be?

I am asking because it seems to me that some of those who are enthused about the variety of practices in Tendai-shu are interested in practicing as laypersons. Hence it is valuable to probe what spectrum of practices is available to laypersons, and under what circumstances.

Similarly, there may be some who feel that ordaining and training in Tendai-shu may be the right choice for them, and therefore, it is good to explore what that might look like.


I would like to underscore that this training is not for laughs. It is not for dilettantes, jokers, or fakers. It is not a seminary or a study hall. I feel that I lack the words to communicate this point adequately, so please trust me when I say it is rigorous, rigorous, rigorous training in Dharma practice. If you approach a teacher and ask to train, and that teacher says No, it is surely for your own good--it is obvious to that teacher that you would fail the training and even harm yourself or others. If you are told No, you are best advised to practice as best you can, improve yourself, take advice, and ask again after you have worked on it for a while.

:cheers:

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Re: Many Practices in Tendai, but for Whom?

Post by coffeebeans » Fri Feb 23, 2018 2:40 am

DGA, this may prove to be one of the most important threads in understanding Tendai on DW. Looking forward to the discussion. :cheers:

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Re: Many Practices in Tendai, but for Whom?

Post by Seishin » Fri Feb 23, 2018 10:45 am

It is true, Tendai Shu (like Shingon Shu) is notoriously difficult to get in to in a meaningful way in Japan for foreigners, and to an extent the Japanese themselves, unless you have family ties to a Tendai lineage. There are many practices that are "closed doors" to lay people, and even many which are only for those who have gone through training on Mt Hiei. This poses a problem for us English speakers as you need to be proficient in Japanese, and to an extent Classic Chinese (as many texts are in Classic Chinese). Thankfully we have a handful of stalwart teachers in Japan, the US and elsewhere, who are working extremely hard in trying to bring Tendai to the West and translating materials; something I'm incredibly grateful for. But it is a long hard road and much to do.

In terms of lay practice, whilst it doesn't cover the breadth and depth of Tendai shu, it does have some weight to it, and as my dear late teacher used to say "you can find a lifetime of study and enlightenment in the Heart Sutra". Lay people are able to practice a vast array of meditation practices (under the guidance of a diligent teacher), as well as the lay liturgy, textual study, nembutsu, and to an extent, mantra recitation. This also grately depends on the teacher, their level of training and what they are allowed/willing to teach.

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Re: Many Practices in Tendai, but for Whom?

Post by rory » Fri Feb 23, 2018 7:33 pm

DGA: There are some practices that laypeople engage in, and not only paying their membership fees. What are these? What do the Tendai laypeople you know practice?
DGA; you received a doshu ordination ( a lower level, a full priest is a soryo) , at the NY Tendai Betsuin and lead a Washington sangha: why not tell us what you taught your members? Were you taught any mikkyo and are you still a NY Betsuin priest? As really Malcolm thought so and you didn't answer.

So it's important for people to know who practices in Tendai and what they are able to teach!
gassho
Rory
Namu Kanzeon Bosatsu
Chih-I:
The Tai-ching states "the women in the realms of Mara, Sakra and Brahma all neither abandoned ( their old) bodies nor received (new) bodies. They all received buddhahood with their current bodies (genshin)" Thus these verses state that the dharma nature is like a great ocean. No right or wrong is preached (within it) Ordinary people and sages are equal, without superiority or inferiority
Paul, Groner "The Lotus Sutra in Japanese Culture"eds. Tanabe p. 58
https://www.tendai-usa.org/

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Re: Many Practices in Tendai, but for Whom?

Post by coffeebeans » Sat Feb 24, 2018 1:54 am

Curious: what does Tendai Mikkyo practice consist of and how does it compare to Shingon Mikkyo?

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Re: Many Practices in Tendai, but for Whom?

Post by DGA » Sat Feb 24, 2018 2:25 am

Seishin wrote:
Fri Feb 23, 2018 10:45 am
It is true, Tendai Shu (like Shingon Shu) is notoriously difficult to get in to in a meaningful way in Japan for foreigners, and to an extent the Japanese themselves, unless you have family ties to a Tendai lineage. There are many practices that are "closed doors" to lay people, and even many which are only for those who have gone through training on Mt Hiei. This poses a problem for us English speakers as you need to be proficient in Japanese, and to an extent Classic Chinese (as many texts are in Classic Chinese). Thankfully we have a handful of stalwart teachers in Japan, the US and elsewhere, who are working extremely hard in trying to bring Tendai to the West and translating materials; something I'm incredibly grateful for. But it is a long hard road and much to do.
:good:

Your observations align with my own. I am also heartened by the quickness with which important translations are being made for use by practitioners, and the persistence of those who are working hard at it in spite of challenges and obstacles. Persistence!
In terms of lay practice, whilst it doesn't cover the breadth and depth of Tendai shu, it does have some weight to it, and as my dear late teacher used to say "you can find a lifetime of study and enlightenment in the Heart Sutra". Lay people are able to practice a vast array of meditation practices (under the guidance of a diligent teacher), as well as the lay liturgy, textual study, nembutsu, and to an extent, mantra recitation. This also grately depends on the teacher, their level of training and what they are allowed/willing to teach.
These observations are limited to what I've seen in the US, and what I've heard reported to me by trusted friends in the UK and Canada:

The daily practice of Tendai folk in the English-speaking world looks a lot like the daily practice of a Ch'an or Soen practitioner. Someone merely watching and listening the daily practice may not be sure where the differences lie. Seated meditation, chanting sutra and dharani, nembutsu, various "smells and bells": really, the continuity of Tendai to Ch'an is obvious in the form and content of the practice I have engaged in and also observed in others. I'm a poor historian of Japanese Buddhism, so I haven't been able to convince anyone but myself really that from the perspective of a layperson, Tendai can be understood as at least Ch'an's next-door neighbor, if not close cousin.

I wasn't in Japan long enough to make many observations, but from what I've had reported to me, laypeople who are members of Tendai temples largely practice with others. Their practice is integrated with the social life of the temple. They are not leading the goma, but they will be present for it and participating at that level, for example.

Speculating here: I think there is a different understanding of what it means for a layperson to practice Buddha Dharma in a Japanese village rather than a city or town in the US, UK, or Canada. I don't know if this reflects the limitations in what can be (or what has so far been) transmitted outside Japan, or if it's a reflection of Anglophone cultural norms that differ from Japanese ones.

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Re: Many Practices in Tendai, but for Whom?

Post by DGA » Sat Feb 24, 2018 2:26 am

coffeebeans wrote:
Fri Feb 23, 2018 2:40 am
DGA, this may prove to be one of the most important threads in understanding Tendai on DW. Looking forward to the discussion. :cheers:
I hope so.

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Re: Many Practices in Tendai, but for Whom?

Post by DGA » Sat Feb 24, 2018 2:28 am

rory wrote:
Fri Feb 23, 2018 7:33 pm
DGA: There are some practices that laypeople engage in, and not only paying their membership fees. What are these? What do the Tendai laypeople you know practice?
DGA; you received a doshu ordination ( a lower level, a full priest is a soryo) , at the NY Tendai Betsuin and lead a Washington sangha: why not tell us what you taught your members? Were you taught any mikkyo and are you still a NY Betsuin priest? As really Malcolm thought so and you didn't answer.
What Malcolm said in that thread was correct, so there was no need to follow up. Also, I don't comment on my own practice in public. It's bad manners.

I'm interested in learning from others. I'll get my own licks in as the conversation proceeds.

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Re: Many Practices in Tendai, but for Whom?

Post by DGA » Sat Feb 24, 2018 2:33 am

coffeebeans wrote:
Sat Feb 24, 2018 1:54 am
Curious: what does Tendai Mikkyo practice consist of and how does it compare to Shingon Mikkyo?
The comparison to Shingon is not so easy to describe in an online forum, and because I'm ignorant of Shingon, I shouldn't even try to comment on it. I will say that the rationale for practice differs, because Tendai and Shingon take different doctrinal positions... which is to say that an important difference between Tendai and Shingon schools is the way in which the practice is framed by the teaching. One rule-of-thumb that may be useful and not too inaccurate: in Shingon, you learn how to become the deity, while in Tendai, you get used to being the deity you have always been. That last bit was from a Tendai teacher; I suspect a Shingon master may not accept that. YMMV.

Tendai Mikkyo involves four big practices, and a number of others. The most prominent or maybe famous of the four big ones is the goma. This may be informative:

https://www.adirondacktendai.org/2010/1 ... yo-tokudo/

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Re: Many Practices in Tendai, but for Whom?

Post by rory » Sat Feb 24, 2018 11:06 pm

coffeebeans wrote:
Sat Feb 24, 2018 1:54 am
Curious: what does Tendai Mikkyo practice consist of and how does it compare to Shingon Mikkyo?
Historically they were basically the same. Sects and sectarianism only came into effect during the Tokugawa period. Before that think of Tendai, Shingon, Hosso etc as faculties in a university. Monks would study Shingon, Kegon, Tendaim,etc and would travel from temple to temple to study the texts. So monks would study with whomever had the texts and transmission. A great Shingon monk such as Dohan had Johen a Tendai monk as his influential teacher. Today Tendai Mikkyo is called Taimitsu and Shingon Tomitsu, so they are basically closely related.
gassho
Rory
Namu Kanzeon Bosatsu
Chih-I:
The Tai-ching states "the women in the realms of Mara, Sakra and Brahma all neither abandoned ( their old) bodies nor received (new) bodies. They all received buddhahood with their current bodies (genshin)" Thus these verses state that the dharma nature is like a great ocean. No right or wrong is preached (within it) Ordinary people and sages are equal, without superiority or inferiority
Paul, Groner "The Lotus Sutra in Japanese Culture"eds. Tanabe p. 58
https://www.tendai-usa.org/

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Re: Many Practices in Tendai, but for Whom?

Post by coffeebeans » Sat Feb 24, 2018 11:50 pm

DGA and Rory--

Really interesting. When it comes to the actual specific instructions of Tendai Taimitsu practice, are they kept hidden from Shingon Tomitsu practitioners, and vice versa? That is to say, are they 'lineages' with different methods and initiations? Also wondering if the way a Tendai priest would receive and train in Taimitsu is in something like a long-term retreat environment, and how much if any Taimitsu is an option for lay practitioners in Tendai.

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Re: Many Practices in Tendai, but for Whom?

Post by rory » Sun Feb 25, 2018 12:31 am

coffeebeans wrote:
Sat Feb 24, 2018 11:50 pm
DGA and Rory--

Really interesting. When it comes to the actual specific instructions of Tendai Taimitsu practice, are they kept hidden from Shingon Tomitsu practitioners, and vice versa? That is to say, are they 'lineages' with different methods and initiations? Also wondering if the way a Tendai priest would receive and train in Taimitsu is in something like a long-term retreat environment, and how much if any Taimitsu is an option for lay practitioners in Tendai.
Mikkyo practice is secret and yes within Tendai and Shingon there are sub-lineages but I don't know if 2 priests would discuss their differences
as for priestly training read below.
In the case of ordinary priests they have to stay 65 days for practicing both of the two courses at Gyōin monastery on Mt. Hiei. This is the minimum required for every Tendai priest in Japan.
The first one month, the novitiate priest practices recitations of exoteric sūtras. The latter one month entails learning the esoteric practices known as The Four Initiations into Esoteric Buddhism, which are the Juhachidō (Eighteen Ways to Welcome Buddhas), the Taizōkai (Garbhadhātu Maṇḍala), Kongōkai (Vajradhātu Maṇḍala) and Goma (Fire ritual). Before entering into the esoteric course, practitioner prostrates to the thousand Buddhas for esoteric initiation........ Tendai emphasizes the historical Buddha Śākyamuni who represents the exoteric world, and the eternal Buddha Vairocana who represents the esoteric world of the Dharmakāya (the highest aspect of the threefold Buddha bodies). Both of them are one and the same. This is a major difference between Shingon esoteric Buddhism (Tōmitsu) and Tendai esoteric Buddhism (Taimitsu)but a characteristic of Tendai Buddhism is its insistence that the Tendai lotus teachings and Shingon esotericism have fundamentally the same meaning.
https://www.tendai-usa.org/what-is-tendai-buddhism

As for laymen practices, I don't know what is/isn't permitted. But for sure Koyasan is teaching esoteric Ajikan meditation, a very serious deep practice to laypeople: http://www.koyasan.or.jp/en/experience/
gassho
Rory
Namu Kanzeon Bosatsu
Chih-I:
The Tai-ching states "the women in the realms of Mara, Sakra and Brahma all neither abandoned ( their old) bodies nor received (new) bodies. They all received buddhahood with their current bodies (genshin)" Thus these verses state that the dharma nature is like a great ocean. No right or wrong is preached (within it) Ordinary people and sages are equal, without superiority or inferiority
Paul, Groner "The Lotus Sutra in Japanese Culture"eds. Tanabe p. 58
https://www.tendai-usa.org/

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Re: Many Practices in Tendai, but for Whom?

Post by jake » Sun Feb 25, 2018 1:26 am

rory wrote:
Sun Feb 25, 2018 12:31 am

Mikkyo practice is secret and yes within Tendai and Shingon there are sub-lineages but I don't know if 2 priests would discuss their differences
as for priestly training read below.
..... Tendai emphasizes the historical Buddha Śākyamuni who represents the exoteric world, and the eternal Buddha Vairocana who represents the esoteric world of the Dharmakāya (the highest aspect of the threefold Buddha bodies). Both of them are one and the same. This is a major difference between Shingon esoteric Buddhism (Tōmitsu) and Tendai esoteric Buddhism (Taimitsu)but a characteristic of Tendai Buddhism is its insistence that the Tendai lotus teachings and Shingon esotericism have fundamentally the same meaning.
Rory
Hi Rory,

Could you please clarify the "major difference" referenced above? The sentence structure is such that I'm not sure what they're saying is the major difference. e.g. Vairocana and Sakyamuni or "Tendai lotus teachings" and Shingon esotericism (??what is that?).

Thanks. I'm assuming it's the latter, but the "This is a major difference" phrase is throwing me for a loop.
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Re: Many Practices in Tendai, but for Whom?

Post by rory » Sun Feb 25, 2018 1:38 am

here is the link Jake, I'm not sure who is the author:
https://www.tendai-usa.org/what-is-tendai-buddhism
gassho
Rory
Namu Kanzeon Bosatsu
Chih-I:
The Tai-ching states "the women in the realms of Mara, Sakra and Brahma all neither abandoned ( their old) bodies nor received (new) bodies. They all received buddhahood with their current bodies (genshin)" Thus these verses state that the dharma nature is like a great ocean. No right or wrong is preached (within it) Ordinary people and sages are equal, without superiority or inferiority
Paul, Groner "The Lotus Sutra in Japanese Culture"eds. Tanabe p. 58
https://www.tendai-usa.org/

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Re: Many Practices in Tendai, but for Whom?

Post by rory » Sun Feb 25, 2018 1:43 am

And here is a very nice article by Paul Swanson the English translator of Maka Shikan:
Ch’an andChih-kuan, T’ien-t’ai Chih-i’s View of “Zen” and the Practice of the Lotus Sutra
https://www.academia.edu/1092296/Chih-i ... _Chih-kuan it's an important read. There are some other excellent articles there as well.
The translation of Maka Shikan is wonderful, there are so many discussions of the sheer varieties meditation practices in it, and these are all exoteric too.
gassho
Rory
Namu Kanzeon Bosatsu
Chih-I:
The Tai-ching states "the women in the realms of Mara, Sakra and Brahma all neither abandoned ( their old) bodies nor received (new) bodies. They all received buddhahood with their current bodies (genshin)" Thus these verses state that the dharma nature is like a great ocean. No right or wrong is preached (within it) Ordinary people and sages are equal, without superiority or inferiority
Paul, Groner "The Lotus Sutra in Japanese Culture"eds. Tanabe p. 58
https://www.tendai-usa.org/

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Re: Many Practices in Tendai, but for Whom?

Post by DGA » Sun Feb 25, 2018 1:59 am

rory wrote:
Sun Feb 25, 2018 1:38 am
here is the link Jake, I'm not sure who is the author:
https://www.tendai-usa.org/what-is-tendai-buddhism
gassho
Rory
According to the footnotes of that website, it was excerpted from this document published by the Jigyodan:

http://www.tendai.or.jp/english/image/p ... mphlet.pdf

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Re: Many Practices in Tendai, but for Whom?

Post by coffeebeans » Sun Feb 25, 2018 8:22 am

This pamphlet is great. Goes over exactly what I was curious about and much more. Thanks!

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Re: Many Practices in Tendai, but for Whom?

Post by jake » Mon Feb 26, 2018 3:10 am

DGA wrote:
Sun Feb 25, 2018 1:59 am
rory wrote:
Sun Feb 25, 2018 1:38 am
here is the link Jake, I'm not sure who is the author:
https://www.tendai-usa.org/what-is-tendai-buddhism
gassho
Rory
According to the footnotes of that website, it was excerpted from this document published by the Jigyodan:

http://www.tendai.or.jp/english/image/p ... mphlet.pdf
Thank you for the link. The pamphlet makes claims about Shingon that really don't make sense to me but the information on Tendai is helpful.
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Re: Many Practices in Tendai, but for Whom?

Post by Seishin » Mon Feb 26, 2018 10:18 am

DGA wrote:
Sat Feb 24, 2018 2:25 am
Speculating here: I think there is a different understanding of what it means for a layperson to practice Buddha Dharma in a Japanese village rather than a city or town in the US, UK, or Canada. I don't know if this reflects the limitations in what can be (or what has so far been) transmitted outside Japan, or if it's a reflection of Anglophone cultural norms that differ from Japanese ones.
Yes there is definitely a difference here. Personally I don't think it is a reflection of what is being transmitted in the West vs Japan. I think its because of numerous things, starting with how a lay person sees their practice and the importance/use of the temple. In Japan (it seems) the temple is very much the heart of Buddhist life, not just for things such as liturgy, but also for functions and activities, cleaning and maintenance, and much more. From my own personal experience, it can be difficult to get people together if it isn't meditation related. This of course may just be my own failings. I don't know if its different in the US... I think, also, another major factor is the fact that I live quite far (and remote in UK terms) from 90% of our members, meaning anyone who wants to visit needs to make a day of it, rather than for a couple of hours. I think this puts most people off. Because of this, and more, it can be very difficult to create the same sort of relationship that the laity in Japan have with their temple and temple leaders.

Again, my own failings may also be a huge contributing factor in this regard.

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Re: Many Practices in Tendai, but for Whom?

Post by DGA » Mon Feb 26, 2018 2:31 pm

Seishin wrote:
Mon Feb 26, 2018 10:18 am
DGA wrote:
Sat Feb 24, 2018 2:25 am
Speculating here: I think there is a different understanding of what it means for a layperson to practice Buddha Dharma in a Japanese village rather than a city or town in the US, UK, or Canada. I don't know if this reflects the limitations in what can be (or what has so far been) transmitted outside Japan, or if it's a reflection of Anglophone cultural norms that differ from Japanese ones.
Yes there is definitely a difference here. Personally I don't think it is a reflection of what is being transmitted in the West vs Japan. I think its because of numerous things, starting with how a lay person sees their practice and the importance/use of the temple. In Japan (it seems) the temple is very much the heart of Buddhist life, not just for things such as liturgy, but also for functions and activities, cleaning and maintenance, and much more. From my own personal experience, it can be difficult to get people together if it isn't meditation related. This of course may just be my own failings. I don't know if its different in the US... I think, also, another major factor is the fact that I live quite far (and remote in UK terms) from 90% of our members, meaning anyone who wants to visit needs to make a day of it, rather than for a couple of hours. I think this puts most people off. Because of this, and more, it can be very difficult to create the same sort of relationship that the laity in Japan have with their temple and temple leaders.

Again, my own failings may also be a huge contributing factor in this regard.
What you have described here aligns 99% with what I've seen at different Tendai practice groups here in the US.

The 1% difference is that people here also come together for food. If we are having a potluck, or even just pizza night, we come together and call it "sangha building." :D

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