Buddha and the Wright Bros.

Discussion of Zen Buddhism, Soto Zen, Rinzai Zen, Chan, Seon and Thien.
Post Reply
User avatar
jundocohen
Posts: 604
Joined: Fri Nov 10, 2017 2:30 pm

Buddha and the Wright Bros.

Post by jundocohen » Sun Mar 11, 2018 4:44 pm

Hi,

I am sometimes asked about Zen and its relationship to the "original" Teachings of the Buddha. So many Buddhists seem very concerned about this question of the "original Teachings." The Mahayana Buddhists, through the centuries, jumped through some hoops to prove their doctrines as the "original" and "greatest" (the "maha" or "mahayana") including stories of hidden Sutras guarded by Naga sentinals. Now, based on historical studies, we know that all of the Mahayana Sutras are likely the product of religiously inspired authors writing long after the days of the historical Buddha. Zen is also a later development in Buddhism, as Indian Teachings met the lens of Chinese culture and religious sentiment, further remixed in Japan, Korea, America, Europe and other places. Tibetan and other esoteric schools of Buddhism are also later developments. (It is also a misnomer to say that "Theravada" Buddhism is close to the historical Buddha because, while having elements that may be more closely based on the historical Buddha's original formulation, it is difficult to be sure and the Theravada has undergone very great change and reinterpretation of its Teachings and Practices at the hands of later commentators and teachers).

In any case, I am not so concerned with determining the "original." We should move on from this obsession with originalism. Here is what I usually say:

There are many flavors of Buddhism, none of them likely precisely the original historical Buddha's formulation, some of them much later adaptations (e.g., Mahayana Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, Zen, and even much of the modern "Theravada"). However, why such concern to find the Founder's intent? Something later might even be better (we don't drive Henry Ford's cars or the Wright Brothers' planes today). It is kind of an obsession with Buddhists to feel that earlier is better, rather than finding refinement and improvement in some of what came later as in many forms of development and evolution. In fact, there are many good paths. Of course, I personally recommend the way of Master Dogen and Shikantaza, tried and true, and others here Practice other variations on a Zen theme. When one is sitting Zazen, one can realize the Buddha's Truth in one's own heart. I will tell you that, whether or not this Zen Path is the historical Buddha's or a later remix, it works and I will keep walking it. Whether or not my own Path is exactly in line with the historical Buddha's original formulations (in fact, I am sure it departs in some significant ways), it seems a solid Path and I will stay on it. It is a timeless Path, and it is the Buddha's Path as all drops away on the cushion.

Let me just add that, as far as I know historically, the Buddha's original focus on the "basics" of non-self, impermanence, Dukkha and its cure, and many other basic Teachings are alive and well in Zen Buddhism. We have our own approaches to those sometimes, as do other flavors of Buddhism. However, there are many good and nutritious ways to cook tomato soup, and all are based on the same tomatoes. It may not be the original recipe of the founder of this bistro, but it is a good and healthful soup.

Gassho, J

PS - A fellow on a Facebook group said made a wise observation on this question. He wrote, "the older traditions favors the "spark" metaphor: the appearance of the Buddha was like a spark in the darkness and it has been fading ever since. The more interesting metaphor is the "seed" metaphor: the Buddha planted a seed which has grown and developed into the various Buddhist traditions." That does resonate with me.
Teacher at Treeleaf Zendo, a Soto Zen Sangha, an online practice place for folks who cannot commute to a Zen Center due to health, living in remote areas, work or family needs. The focus is Shikantaza 'Just Sitting' Zazen http://www.treeleaf.org

User avatar
fuki
Posts: 1773
Joined: Fri Dec 01, 2017 12:02 am
Location: Zandvoort, The Netherlands

Re: Buddha and the Wright Bros.

Post by fuki » Sun Mar 11, 2018 6:43 pm

Thanks Jundo great post.

There's an irony in there being no unchanging cause "between" a moment ago and now and trying to "protect the dharma" as if the dharma is something fixed, ofcourse it's important to maintain some genuine written teachings but any argument about what is "original" or "better" are just ego-manifestations in my view, ironically related to what I thought in the "past" :lol:

But I respect anyones view on the matter or on "Buddha's words" eventhough I think attachment to the dharma is the main obstacle in the practise. The dharma is a cloud in the sky, it adapts occording to conditions. But whatever rocks one's boat. It's just part of the human persona (the clinging and protecting)

Funny enough I once read two Buddhist teachers articles, one Soto, one Chan. Both told their targent audience that, shikantaza is superior to sillent illumination and vice versa. :roll:
meldpunt seksueel misbruik in boeddhistische gemeenschappen.
https://meldpuntbg.nl/

IZIhttp://www.zeninstitute.org/en/iziae/main.html

Caodemarte
Posts: 420
Joined: Mon Dec 11, 2017 7:02 pm

Re: Buddha and the Wright Bros.

Post by Caodemarte » Sun Mar 11, 2018 10:00 pm

It is not just moderns that realized that the major Mahayana sutras were not literally the words uttered by the historical Buddha. After all translations of summaries of the Buddha’s teachings by missionary disciples (many of which were later apparently approved by the historical Buddha) appear to be the source of the earliest surviving texts (BTW, some of those preserved in the Mahayana agamas appear older than the oldest preserved in the Pali canon). The important question is whether or not they help realize the Buddha’s teachings. You find the phrase “What is true is the Buddha’s word” in old Chinese Buddhist texts (at least in translations!). That seems to me a good religious attitude. If our concern is to realize the trurth, rather than blindly follow our narrow little sect, then we must do as Joshu said and learn from a 7 year old child or a 70 year old if they have something to teach. It reminds me of the story they tell in Turkey. A Franciscan monk surprisingly showed up in Istanbul to seek out Rumi. Rumi asked why a Christian would want to study under a Muslim. The monk answered that he heard Rumi loved God and he wanted to learn to love God (the rest was just trivial differences of clothing).
Last edited by Caodemarte on Sun Mar 11, 2018 11:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
jundocohen
Posts: 604
Joined: Fri Nov 10, 2017 2:30 pm

Re: Buddha and the Wright Bros.

Post by jundocohen » Sun Mar 11, 2018 11:54 pm

fuki wrote:
Sun Mar 11, 2018 6:43 pm

But I respect anyones view on the matter or on "Buddha's words" eventhough I think attachment to the dharma is the main obstacle in the practise. The dharma is a cloud in the sky, it adapts occording to conditions. But whatever rocks one's boat. It's just part of the human persona (the clinging and protecting)
Well, this is why I use my "tomato soup" simile. There are many good, healthful and nutritious ways to good the soup, suited to different needs and tastes. However, there are also many bad ways, with poisons or empty filler which do harm to the recipient. Or, if speaking of Buddha Mountain, there are many paths up and down Buddha Mountain, all the same mountain, although some lead in circles, into poison ivy or right off a cliff! (Shikantaza, by the way, I sometimes describe as the path where we hike the mountain, avoiding the pitfalls, and arriving in each step by step of the hike as we realize each cloud and sky and tree and grain of sand, the beautiful grass and the poison ivy and cliffs, the walker and path and the bringing to life of the action of walking itself as all Buddha Mountain Mountaining! ;-) However, many other good Paths.)
Funny enough I once read two Buddhist teachers articles, one Soto, one Chan. Both told their targent audience that, shikantaza is superior to sillent illumination and vice versa. :roll:
Yes, Shikantaza is the best Path and the "original Teaching" (meaning the Buddha's Teaching which gets right to the root of the Buddha's Meaning) ... for some. For others, it may be Silent Illumination, Koan Introspection, Tibetan or Theravadan Practices, this or that. One medicine is not suited for all patients, although I feel that Shikantaza is a very good one for so many. There are many ways to cook good soup, many solid paths on Buddha Mountain.

In fact (I will offer an opinion that has gotten censored on a couple of the Buddhist boards), I even feel that Buddhism itself may be the wrong Path for some whose Karma does not lead them such way, and for some people Christianity, Islam, Atheism or some other Path may be right for them and where they should be right now. I do not feel that one size need fit all, but that is just my view.

Gassho, J
Last edited by jundocohen on Mon Mar 12, 2018 12:04 am, edited 2 times in total.
Teacher at Treeleaf Zendo, a Soto Zen Sangha, an online practice place for folks who cannot commute to a Zen Center due to health, living in remote areas, work or family needs. The focus is Shikantaza 'Just Sitting' Zazen http://www.treeleaf.org

Caodemarte
Posts: 420
Joined: Mon Dec 11, 2017 7:02 pm

Re: Buddha and the Wright Bros.

Post by Caodemarte » Mon Mar 12, 2018 12:02 am

jundocohen wrote:
Sun Mar 11, 2018 11:54 pm
...
In fact (I will offer an opinion that has gotten censored on a couple of the Buddhist boards), I even feel that Buddhism itself may be the wrong Path for some whose Karma does not lead them such way, and for some people Christianity, Islam, Atheism or some other Path may be right for them and where they should be. I do not feel that one size need fit all, but that is just my view.
It is also the Dalai Lama’s view and that of many others.’ You are in very good company.

User avatar
michaeljc
Posts: 149
Joined: Sat Nov 18, 2017 8:15 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Buddha and the Wright Bros.

Post by michaeljc » Mon Mar 12, 2018 5:28 am

Why worry about what the other fulla thinks or believes?

when -

little enough time for our own practice

Words and scripture don't cut it

While teachers and scripture may help

they are not the soul of practice

m

User avatar
fuki
Posts: 1773
Joined: Fri Dec 01, 2017 12:02 am
Location: Zandvoort, The Netherlands

Re: Buddha and the Wright Bros.

Post by fuki » Mon Mar 12, 2018 7:47 am

jundocohen wrote:
Sun Mar 11, 2018 11:54 pm
fuki wrote:
Sun Mar 11, 2018 6:43 pm

But I respect anyones view on the matter or on "Buddha's words" eventhough I think attachment to the dharma is the main obstacle in the practise. The dharma is a cloud in the sky, it adapts occording to conditions. But whatever rocks one's boat. It's just part of the human persona (the clinging and protecting)
Well, this is why I use my "tomato soup" simile. There are many good, healthful and nutritious ways to good the soup, suited to different needs and tastes. However, there are also many bad ways, with poisons or empty filler which do harm to the recipient. Or, if speaking of Buddha Mountain, there are many paths up and down Buddha Mountain, all the same mountain, although some lead in circles, into poison ivy or right off a cliff! (Shikantaza, by the way, I sometimes describe as the path where we hike the mountain, avoiding the pitfalls, and arriving in each step by step of the hike as we realize each cloud and sky and tree and grain of sand, the beautiful grass and the poison ivy and cliffs, the walker and path and the bringing to life of the action of walking itself as all Buddha Mountain Mountaining! ;-) However, many other good Paths.)
Funny enough I once read two Buddhist teachers articles, one Soto, one Chan. Both told their targent audience that, shikantaza is superior to sillent illumination and vice versa. :roll:
Yes, Shikantaza is the best Path and the "original Teaching" (meaning the Buddha's Teaching which gets right to the root of the Buddha's Meaning) ... for some. For others, it may be Silent Illumination, Koan Introspection, Tibetan or Theravadan Practices, this or that. One medicine is not suited for all patients, although I feel that Shikantaza is a very good one for so many. There are many ways to cook good soup, many solid paths on Buddha Mountain.

In fact (I will offer an opinion that has gotten censored on a couple of the Buddhist boards), I even feel that Buddhism itself may be the wrong Path for some whose Karma does not lead them such way, and for some people Christianity, Islam, Atheism or some other Path may be right for them and where they should be right now. I do not feel that one size need fit all, but that is just my view.

Gassho, J
:560:
meldpunt seksueel misbruik in boeddhistische gemeenschappen.
https://meldpuntbg.nl/

IZIhttp://www.zeninstitute.org/en/iziae/main.html

User avatar
fuki
Posts: 1773
Joined: Fri Dec 01, 2017 12:02 am
Location: Zandvoort, The Netherlands

Re: Buddha and the Wright Bros.

Post by fuki » Mon Mar 12, 2018 7:54 am

michaeljc wrote:
Mon Mar 12, 2018 5:28 am
Why worry about what the other fulla thinks or believes?


It's part of the human software to lock things/ppl up in a mental picture. Some need fat/ugly ppl to reify their own fragile self-image. The same happens in Buddhist circles, what we think someone else thinks or believes (or whether we think others are foolish or wise) we need to keep reasserting to grant reality to our own false ideas about ourselfs. All views we have about others or ourselfs are false, there are no true ideas.
:111:
meldpunt seksueel misbruik in boeddhistische gemeenschappen.
https://meldpuntbg.nl/

IZIhttp://www.zeninstitute.org/en/iziae/main.html

User avatar
Larry
Posts: 615
Joined: Wed Nov 01, 2017 8:17 am

Re: Buddha and the Wright Bros.

Post by Larry » Mon Mar 12, 2018 9:56 am

Caodemarte wrote:
Mon Mar 12, 2018 12:02 am
jundocohen wrote:
Sun Mar 11, 2018 11:54 pm
...
In fact (I will offer an opinion that has gotten censored on a couple of the Buddhist boards), I even feel that Buddhism itself may be the wrong Path for some whose Karma does not lead them such way, and for some people Christianity, Islam, Atheism or some other Path may be right for them and where they should be. I do not feel that one size need fit all, but that is just my view.
It is also the Dalai Lama’s view and that of many others.’ You are in very good company.
Including Thich Nhat Hanh.

User avatar
jundocohen
Posts: 604
Joined: Fri Nov 10, 2017 2:30 pm

Re: Buddha and the Wright Bros.

Post by jundocohen » Mon Mar 12, 2018 12:54 pm

Someone wrote to ask about past rationalizations in the Mahayana for supplanting the Teachings of the historical Buddha. The following article seems a pretty good summary of some of the traditional strategies. The only difference in what I wrote is that I believe that we should face up to the historical facts honestly, and see Buddhism as something which develops and (hopefully) improves through trial and error. No need any longer to claim that we are the beneficiaries of some secret "True" Teaching. Teachings are "True Teachings of the Buddha" when they are effective to Liberate, nothing more and nothing less.

Better said, our Practice is a "True Teaching of the Buddha" when it proves out on the cushion and in daily life. Seeing the "Prajnaparamita" as the "True Buddha" (as described below) is still valid.

==============

From: Historical Consciousness as an Offering to the Trans-historical Buddha by John J. Makransky
In Buddhist Theology: Critical Reflections by Contemporary Buddhist Scholars, Routledge-Curzon, John Makransky and Roger Jackson, eds.


As contemporary scholars have noted, neither in the Mahayana nor in
prior Buddhist traditions was the Buddha's official teaching limited only to
what Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha, spoke. Prior non-Mahayana
traditions accepted some teachings as scripture (sutra) if they were inspired
by Shakyamuni Buddha and certified by him (Davidson: 310). Mahayana
sutras, although they appear centuries after the historical Buddha, use a
literary device to fulfil that criterion: they mythologize history to place the
scripture back into the time of Shakyamuni Buddha, so he can inspire and
certify it.
...
... But this literary device also enables something new to be said: that the Buddha's authority
and power comes not just from the historical Buddha, but from the wisdom
of enlightenment itself, now located within other persons in the religious
community, the Sangha, who have realized the perfection of wisdom that
the Buddha had realized.

In contrast to the historical Buddha Shakyamuni, we might call the
perfection of wisdom itself, the wisdom of enlightenment embodied in the
practice experience of accomplished members of the Sangha, the "transhistorical
Buddha." ... The perfection of wisdom is the trans-historical Teacher that speaks
through any teacher who has authentically embodied it. To recognize the
real import of the sutra is to meet the trans-historical "Buddha," the
perfection of wisdom that inspired its composition and now communicates
itself to the disciple prepared to encounter it. The perfection of wisdom is a
direct, non-dual, liberating awareness of the real, undivided, insubstantial
nature of all phenomena (dharmata). It therefore comes to be designated in
this and other Mahayana texts as "dharmakaya": embodiment (kaya) of the
real nature of things (dharmata) in direct, non-conceptual knowledge.
...
Skillful means, explicitly or implicitly, provided the rationale for the
very appearance of new sutras, and by extension, for the very rise of the
Mahayana as a distinct movement, for it enabled the trans-historical Buddha
to speak newly again and again. So the anonymous author of the Ashta.
passage earlier quoted does not have the historical Buddha Shakyamuni
himself begin the teaching on perfect wisdom, but has him request Subhuti
to teach. The anonymous author, in his literary imagination, invokes the
historical Buddha Shakyamuni to request himself, with Subhuti as his
textual persona, to reveal the trans-historical Buddha's new teaching,to
communicate the Dharma in newly effective ways necessitated by
intervening centuries of development in thought and practice set within
culture. And so new sutras continued to appear over centuries.
The anonymous authors of Mahayana sutras, then, by employing the
literary device that put the historical Buddha in the text, liberated the
wisdom of enlightenment in them to speak in new ways. But in ancient
Indian culture where the new sutras appeared, to experience the power of
the texts to elicit the very awareness they expressed was to take literally the
device that legitimized them: to believe that such texts had actually come
from the historical Buddha Shakyamuni.

...

John Makransky is an American professor of Buddhism and comparative theology at Boston College and a meditation teacher within the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.

http://www.johnmakransky.org/downloads/ ... fering.pdf

Gassho, J
Last edited by jundocohen on Mon Mar 12, 2018 1:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Teacher at Treeleaf Zendo, a Soto Zen Sangha, an online practice place for folks who cannot commute to a Zen Center due to health, living in remote areas, work or family needs. The focus is Shikantaza 'Just Sitting' Zazen http://www.treeleaf.org

User avatar
fuki
Posts: 1773
Joined: Fri Dec 01, 2017 12:02 am
Location: Zandvoort, The Netherlands

Re: Buddha and the Wright Bros.

Post by fuki » Mon Mar 12, 2018 1:18 pm

Thanks for sharing.

I think part of the problem is that in some cultures, or practisioners "Buddha" is a thought-object which leads to the practisioner getting trapped in archetypes which many sutras or questionable texts reify. (and ofcourse many texts are written for political motivation/manipulation as what happens in any religion.)

Here's a vid I ripped a few years ago and posted on zfi too, I would not post it outside of a zen forum but I think it's of additional value here.

Image
meldpunt seksueel misbruik in boeddhistische gemeenschappen.
https://meldpuntbg.nl/

IZIhttp://www.zeninstitute.org/en/iziae/main.html

Caodemarte
Posts: 420
Joined: Mon Dec 11, 2017 7:02 pm

Re: Buddha and the Wright Bros.

Post by Caodemarte » Mon Mar 12, 2018 1:40 pm

jundocohen wrote:
Mon Mar 12, 2018 12:54 pm
.....Teachings are "True Teachings of the Buddha" when they are effective to Liberate, nothing more and nothing less.

==============

From: Historical Consciousness as an Offering to the Trans-historical Buddha by John J. Makransky
In Buddhist Theology: Critical Reflections by Contemporary Buddhist Scholars, Routledge-Curzon, John Makransky and Roger Jackson, eds.


.... But in ancient Indian culture where the new sutras appeared, to experience the power of the texts to elicit the very awareness they expressed was to take literally the device that legitimized them: to believe that such texts had actually come from the historical Buddha Shakyamuni....
It was understood in old India, as well as in ancient Greece, that the argument from authority is one of the weakest “proofs” possible, especially in debates where the opponent does not already accept your texts as an authority. ”Teachings are "True Teachings of the Buddha" when they are effective to Liberate, nothing more and nothing less.” was a principle held by at least some in ancient India as well as the fuller Makeansky and Jackson quotes make clear.

It seems apparent when you read them that not all Indian “ancestors” felt compelled to take the historical origin of sutras literally, including their authors. That is simply not the point at all. This is certainly often explicit in Chinese Buddhism.

Post Reply