Re: [Zen Living] Evaluation of Soto

With palms together,
God Morning Sangha,

Guy has written an excellent post below. He asks similar questions Master Dogen asked many centuries ago.

Let me try to walk through this as a morning message.

We are indeed, enlightened and perfect as we are. Why practice? Dogen asked this very question. Because we possess Buddha nature does not mean we arer in touch with it. Because we can run or walk or talk, does not mean we can do it without practice. We inherently possess, but we must manifest.

The Sixth Patriarch uses a similar metaphor in his Platform Sutra. A rival for the robe suggests the mind is like a mirror and that practice must be used to clear the dust from its surface. Hui-Neng argues back:

Bodhi originally has no tree,
The mirror also has no stand.
Buddha nature is always clean and pure;
Where is there room for dust?

(Yoplansky translation, p. 132)

The questions raised in this post are essential. The go to the heart of the matter. What is "reality?" Why do we even concern ourselves with it? What is "enlightenment?" What is "Samsara?" What is "dust, the mirror?" If A is A, why B?

These questions are not an evaluation of Soto. They are the questions that take us to the cushion. They are the questions that provide a 'platform' for our existence and thus, our practice.

Apparent contradiction and paradox in Zen should always be understood as existing within a certain point of reference: relative truth. Resolution of the paradox exists in Absoulte truth. Practice teaches us both the difference and the means of being simultaneously in both. Samsara/Nirvana: heads/tails, one coin.

There are many practice gates. Zazen is the first and last, but this is Zazen properly understood. What is this "properly understood?" That is your practice.

If we sit with a corse in a cemetary, as once was done, we do not stink, we discover stink and the sweet smell of a rose are essentially the same. Our valuations are something we add. If we sit with a corpse and witness decomposition, we see life. We see process. We see ourselves as something not dependent on form.

Such activities as sitting with corpses, sitting with ourselves, eating in mindful silence, tea ceremonies, koans, the smack of the kyasaku on our shoulders are simply means, but here's the thing. They are also ends. Reality is 'perfect' as it can be no other way than it is. Our thoughts about it, how we discern it, our relative comfort and discomfrt within it, these are imperfection.

I hope this short answer helps.
Be well.


ventouxboy <ventouxboy@yahoo.com> wrote:
Good day all sangha, I've been exploring the Soto line of Zen for
the past year and have started to come to conclusions that may draw
me away from it. So let me see if my understanding is correct. It
seems to me that Soto's view is that if there is something wrong
with reality, what is wrong is not reality. We are already perfectly
awakened, there is nothing to achieve. And I fully agree with this,
to a point. The point is this. Isn't the act of "just sitting",
although not trying to achieve anything, doing exactly that? It's
clearing the mirror of our minds. If we were perfectly awake, we
wouldn't clear anything from our minds when we meditate.
So there is something wrong, we live in Samsara. Our view is not
perfect, although buddha said it is possible to achieve. In one of
Sodaiho's post the other day he made reference to Dogen's statement
that we are all living on leftovers. Sidhartha found the way, we
just follow what he did. So i consider this the source to fall back
on even though the cannons were not written in buddha's time. Brings
me to two conclusions. First, suffering exist, and Buddha advocated
alleviating suffering. Seems to acknowledge that something might
just be wrong. Second ,buddha taught in ways other than just
meditation. After recently being admonished by a Soto priest for
saying to face one's fears; he came back and reinforced my point by
saying that Buddha sent his monks to sleep with corpses. Hard to say
what Buddha was trying to say here: maybe it was confronting the
fear of death, maybe he was telling his monks they smell bad. But it
points to teaching off the mat. So maybe there is more than "just
sitting".
Anyway, this is my conflict with Soto. Anybody able to resolve
this? In gassho, Guy.



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