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Questions about Zen

Posted: Sun Nov 11, 2018 12:39 am
by banhmi
Hi, I am a university student currently enrolled in a global religions course. I’ve recently been interested in Zen Buddhism and decided to focus on that for the topic of my semester project. If anyone can spare the time I would like to ask some questions for those of you who practice it:

- How were you introduced to Zen Buddhism and what drew you to it?

- How does meditation affect your daily life in terms of challenges and well being?

- When Zen became popular in the U.S. during the mid-20th century, many Americans were drawn to the idea that it was “esoteric, occult, exotic, and romantic.” Do you agree with this description of how Zen was absorbed into American culture? If not, what parts do you disagree with and do you think there is a disconnect between what Zen really is and how pop culture portrays it?

Thank you so much and have a nice day!

Re: Questions about Zen

Posted: Sun Nov 11, 2018 6:27 am
by Wayfarer
Hi and welcome to DharmaWheel forum!

I was to drawn to Zen by the books of D T Suzuki and Alan Watts, and also the classic book, Zen Mind Beginner's Mind, which I must have bought in 1972. I never formally joined a Zen sangha or trained at a centre, but I studied Buddhism to MA level, and sit every day in accordance with instructions on 'how to sit Zazen'. (Oh, and I did stay for two days and one night at San Francisco Zen Centre eventually, and attended morning zazen that day, so I guess that at least is the extent of my 'formal training'. :smile: )

What drew me to Zen was the directness of its approach, and the fact that it was quite unsentimental and pragmatic. Sure it has the 'aha' element of mysterious sayings and doings in Zen lore, but once you start to appreciate the Zen sensibility, they make a lot of sense in their own terms. At the time I encountered Zen, like many other people of my generation (namely, 'baby boomer') I also encountered books from many other traditions, both Buddhist and not. Also I would go along to see visiting teachers and lectures. I saw quite a few well-known teachers over the years. But in the end, it was the Zen books that I read that really 'stuck' - particularly one I read in the 1980's called To Meet the Real Dragon by Gudo Nishijima.That was one of those books that really change your outlook on life (in my case anyway).

How meditation affects my life - well, sometimes it's not that obvious, although my relatives all say that I seem to have developed a much more even disposition over the years. I do feel a great sense of joy which arises from somewhere 'behind' or 'within' - it's hard to describe. Also there's a definite sense of what is called in Buddhist terminology 'mudita' which is 'joy arising from the well-being of others'. It sounds mawkish when you try and explain it but overall it's very beneficial. One has spontaneous upwellings of feelings of compassion and joy. There are many other such kinds of feelings that arise, although one is counselled not to seek such experiences or try to cultivate them. They come and go of their own accord.

As for Zen being esoteric - I think that's true. And it's also 'exotic' insofar as that word simply means 'from another culture or location', although in today's global village, that means less than it once did. As for Buddhist Romanticism, have a read of this web article - it's by a Theravada monk, Thanissaro, rather than a Zen monk, but it's worth a read.

There are much more experienced practitioners than me here, hopefully some will pitch in, and good luck with your studies!

Re: Questions about Zen

Posted: Sun Nov 11, 2018 10:03 pm
by banhmi
Thank you so much for your thoughtful response! I'll be sure to give the article a read!

Re: Questions about Zen

Posted: Sun Nov 11, 2018 11:44 pm
by bokki
greetings, banhmi
i will say only in my opinion, and im sure ill go wrong
zen is not esoteric, contrary, it is very direct
it is not occult, contrary, its down to earth
it is not exotic, contrary, it is ordinary
it is not romantic, contrary, its realistic

zen is preoccupied with 1 thing, enlightenment to the true nature of all, everything, you, me, every molecule... in this
it has no compromise

maybe, before writing a thesis, just maybe.. you practice a bit of that of what you would like to preach in a thesis

Re: Questions about Zen

Posted: Mon Nov 12, 2018 8:45 pm
by Lindama
bokki .... :namaste:

Re: Questions about Zen

Posted: Sat Nov 24, 2018 1:16 pm
by bokki
Linda...luv u... :namaste: