American Zen - A Brief History

Discussion of Zen Buddhism.
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clyde
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American Zen - A Brief History

Post by clyde » Sat Jul 13, 2019 9:15 pm

In a Facebook group, this link to this old article on “How Did Zen Come to America?” was recently posted.

Part 1: https://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/11 ... ry-part-i/

Part 2: https://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/11 ... -the-west/

The author’s answer was not how, but who: D.T. Suzuki and Alan Watts! While they certainly were influential, they were not alone.

At the end of the article, the author talks about “American Zen”. Is there a distinct “American Zen”? And if there is, how would you describe it?
“Enlightenment means to see what harm you are involved in and to renounce it.” David Brazier, The New Buddhism

“The most straightforward advice on awakening enlightened mind is this: practice not causing harm to anyone—yourself or others—and every day, do what you can to be helpful.” Pema Chodron, “What to Do When the Going Gets Rough”

Caodemarte
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Re: American Zen - A Brief History

Post by Caodemarte » Sun Jul 14, 2019 4:00 am

Zen has not yet been really introduced to the Americas. Give it a few centuries and then maybe then we can talk about an American Zen style. It is a bit premature at this early date.

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Re: American Zen - A Brief History

Post by lindama » Sun Jul 14, 2019 5:24 am

Ruth Fuller Sasaki .... she has earned a place in American Zen History.

Recalling the Great Zen Pioneer: Ruth Fuller Sasaki, James Ford, Oct 2017:

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/monkeymin ... asaki.html

Zen Pioneer: The Life and Works of Ruth Fuller Sasaki, Isabel Stirling, 2006

https://www.amazon.com/Zen-Pioneer-Work ... 1593761104

"Ruth Fuller Sasaki, who died in 1967, was a pivotal figure in the emergence and development of Zen Buddhism in the United States. She is the only Westerner — and woman — to be made a priest of a Daitoku-ji temple and was mentor to Burton Watson, Philip Yampolsky, and Gary Snyder, and mother-in-law of Alan Watts. This is the first biography of her remarkable life.

Few devoted their lives to Zen Buddhism as Ruth Fuller did. As a senior student of Sokei-an Sasaki in New York, Ruth helped him develop the infrastructure of what would eventually become The First Zen Institute in New York City. She married Sasaki in 1944, and it was her mission to maintain The First Zen Institute and later, to establish The First Zen Institute of America in Japan. Her legacy remains today in the Zen facilities she helped build in New York and abroad and in the many texts she saw through translation, published from the 1950s to the 1970s. For the first time in book form, three of her writings are included here—Zen: A Religion, Zen: A Method for Religious Awakening, and Rinzai Zen Study for Foreigners in Japan."

Ofc, IMO, we may bow down to our ancestors, yet zen has nothing to do with history. It has less to do with celebrity and identity spirituality. just sayin

"Ordinary mind is the way"

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clyde
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Re: American Zen - A Brief History

Post by clyde » Mon Jul 15, 2019 6:10 pm

I agree, Ruth Fuller Sasaki certainly deserves mention with D.T. Suzuki and Alan Watts as influential persons in Zen coming to America.

And while I agree that American Zen is still young and unfolding, I disagree that it’s too soon to talk about American Zen. The article identified at least one characteristic of American Zen that is clearly present; i.e., the emphasis on lay practice.
“Enlightenment means to see what harm you are involved in and to renounce it.” David Brazier, The New Buddhism

“The most straightforward advice on awakening enlightened mind is this: practice not causing harm to anyone—yourself or others—and every day, do what you can to be helpful.” Pema Chodron, “What to Do When the Going Gets Rough”

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Re: American Zen - A Brief History

Post by loves' the unjust » Mon Jul 15, 2019 7:11 pm

I think american zen more focus on bodhidharma.it's normal.

i had too met zen with D.T.Suzuki books while living like a beat generation american in my younger days.
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clyde
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Re: American Zen - A Brief History

Post by clyde » Tue Jul 16, 2019 4:20 am

What do you mean “more focus on bodhidharma.” Please explain.
“Enlightenment means to see what harm you are involved in and to renounce it.” David Brazier, The New Buddhism

“The most straightforward advice on awakening enlightened mind is this: practice not causing harm to anyone—yourself or others—and every day, do what you can to be helpful.” Pema Chodron, “What to Do When the Going Gets Rough”

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Re: American Zen - A Brief History

Post by loves' the unjust » Tue Jul 16, 2019 9:34 am

clyde wrote:
Tue Jul 16, 2019 4:20 am
What do you mean “more focus on bodhidharma.” Please explain.
I mean the american zen seems to look more close to japanese rather than hindu ,chinese or other.
cooper

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Re: American Zen - A Brief History

Post by Seeker242 » Tue Jul 16, 2019 11:22 am

clyde wrote:
Sat Jul 13, 2019 9:15 pm
And if there is, how would you describe it?
We had a woman from Japan attending our group once and she commented that American layperson zen was quite different from Japanese layperson zen. Mostly because of how much American laypeople do actual sitting meditation. Whereas in Japan, laypeople don't do very much sitting meditation, if any at all.

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Re: American Zen - A Brief History

Post by Spike » Tue Jul 16, 2019 12:02 pm

So some can do zen (chan/dhyana/meditation) without actually doing meditation . . .
Perhaps it is an identity, maybe cultural, moreso than a practice orientation? What would be the zen substitute for zen? (No koan intended!)

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Re: American Zen - A Brief History

Post by lindama » Tue Jul 16, 2019 2:06 pm

If you ask me, I've often thought that so-called beat zen would be good fading into history. I live near the hub of beat (SFO) and people influenced by it. I came later and can't claim hippie genes. 50 years later, we're still hearing stories about a wondrous cultural experiment, stuck in the past for some. As the koan goes: it is dead or alive? Alan Watts may have lived in that period and inspired it, but IMO he went beyond the beat. Then, the purists still argue about his passport.
linda

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Re: American Zen - A Brief History

Post by fuki » Wed Jul 17, 2019 4:24 pm

Caodemarte wrote:
Sun Jul 14, 2019 4:00 am
Zen has not yet been really introduced to the Americas. Give it a few centuries and then maybe then we can talk about an American Zen style. It is a bit premature at this early date.
Hmmm I dunno, I mean everything changes with conditions so does (Zen) Buddhism, so whatever Zen is in America can be called American Zen, even though it's just a name given ofcourse, just as any country is merely an idea.
But I saw a documentary once where it was mentioned that Buddhist teachers from Asia only came to the US in response to the 1893 tour of Swami Vivekananda or was it Yogananda in the 1920's? These days when I see religious centers popping up I "wonder" about the motive behind it, is it "natural compassion" or is there another motive to spread "Zen"?

In any case I have never been able to find a location of consciousness, and sure I never will ;)
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Re: American Zen - A Brief History

Post by fuki » Wed Jul 17, 2019 4:31 pm

lindama wrote:
Tue Jul 16, 2019 2:06 pm
Then, the purists still argue about his passport.
linda
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Re: American Zen - A Brief History

Post by lindama » Thu Jul 18, 2019 4:19 am

Fuki, welcome to American politics and propaganda. I'd say it's more about love for our parents, zen parents, who brought us to a new opening in life. It's a maturation process to love our parents and then go beyond to find our lives.
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Re: American Zen - A Brief History

Post by loves' the unjust » Thu Jul 18, 2019 6:37 pm

Everyone has a style.Yours should be to look different.
cooper

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Re: American Zen - A Brief History

Post by KeithA » Sat Jul 20, 2019 1:11 pm

clyde wrote:
Sat Jul 13, 2019 9:15 pm
In a Facebook group, this link to this old article on “How Did Zen Come to America?” was recently posted.

Part 1: https://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/11 ... ry-part-i/

Part 2: https://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/11 ... -the-west/

The author’s answer was not how, but who: D.T. Suzuki and Alan Watts! While they certainly were influential, they were not alone.

At the end of the article, the author talks about “American Zen”. Is there a distinct “American Zen”? And if there is, how would you describe it?
Fortunately, silence has no East or West.

I understand that when ZM Seung Sahn started teaching westerners, it was important to him that they not copy Korean practice, but instead develop a practice organically within the culture. I am not sure he succeeded entirely, as our places of practice look a bit like Korean temples, we wear Korean style robes, etc.

And yet, when Korean natives come to our ZC, it is very clear to me that it is something they don't entirely recognize. I would echo Seeker's comment...my small sample of one is that Asian natives think we sit too much. I have heard that comment many times over the years. My rebuttal is that is what we were given. :115:

All of this is faff, though. The magic is in the silence, not the theorizing and classifying. There is no "American Zen". There isn't even something that can be called Zen!

Imho, of course.

_/|\_
Keith
You make, you get.

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Re: American Zen - A Brief History

Post by desert_woodworker » Tue Aug 13, 2019 11:44 pm

clyde wrote:
Sat Jul 13, 2019 9:15 pm
Is there a distinct “American Zen”? And if there is, how would you describe it?
There's no distinct American Zen, now, Clyde, no; and, I hope not.

There may be peculiarities of American Zen-practice, versus those peculiarities of practice in the East (China; Japan; Korea; Vietnam), but this is only natural (to develop).

"Zen" is just "no-mind". Be sure!

We (many of us... ) have Western teachers, in N. America, now. In fact, we have THE DHARMA now (let's not blow it).

Helen Tworkov's ZEN IN AMERICA (1994) is a pretty neat banquet (q.v.).

Cheers, and wishes,

--Joe

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clyde
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Re: American Zen - A Brief History

Post by clyde » Wed Aug 14, 2019 6:15 pm

Of course there isn’t an American “no-mind”. But there is, according to many American Zen teachers, a distinct American form of Zen practice.
“Enlightenment means to see what harm you are involved in and to renounce it.” David Brazier, The New Buddhism

“The most straightforward advice on awakening enlightened mind is this: practice not causing harm to anyone—yourself or others—and every day, do what you can to be helpful.” Pema Chodron, “What to Do When the Going Gets Rough”

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Re: American Zen - A Brief History

Post by fuki » Wed Aug 14, 2019 10:20 pm

desert_woodworker wrote:
Tue Aug 13, 2019 11:44 pm

There's no distinct American Zen, now, Clyde, no; and, I hope not.
Over here we have no frame of reference, nor reference to frame....
[SPOILER]
VOC sucks though (all countries do, if you're a country you're an evil MF'er)
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Re: American Zen - A Brief History

Post by desert_woodworker » Wed Aug 21, 2019 10:31 pm

Clyde,
clyde wrote:
Wed Aug 14, 2019 6:15 pm
Of course there isn’t an American “no-mind”. But there is, according to many American Zen teachers, a distinct American form of Zen practice.
Did you miss it? This is what I mean, above, by "peculiarities".

This is certainly not a distinct "form", but a form or forms which are hoping to converge upon a form that will "suit", and which will fly for a century or two, to be replaced by other more enlightened forms, as things happily develop. Be there!

:namaste:

--Joe

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clyde
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Re: American Zen - A Brief History

Post by clyde » Thu Aug 22, 2019 3:15 pm

No, I didn’t miss “peculiarities” and if this is how you denote forms, then OK. And just as Ch’an and Zen have evolved over time, American Zen, in its multitudinous forms, will not remain static.
“Enlightenment means to see what harm you are involved in and to renounce it.” David Brazier, The New Buddhism

“The most straightforward advice on awakening enlightened mind is this: practice not causing harm to anyone—yourself or others—and every day, do what you can to be helpful.” Pema Chodron, “What to Do When the Going Gets Rough”

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