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Thursday, October 4th, 2012

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Saturday, September 29th, 2012

Dogen Zenji developed what is known today as the Soto sect of Japanese Zen Buddhism as taken from the Chinese Caodong school of thought. Dogen Kigen was originally a practitioner of Tendai and like Myoan Eisai travelled to China to find the true path of Buddhism. His quest led him to study Chan which involved the use of Koans which he eventually became disenchanted with leading him to search out a different style of Chan under the tutelage of Rujing. This form of deviant Zen would take the expression of Zazen or Shikantaza which is a seated meditation that involves no objects, anchors or content in allowing streams of thoughts to freely come and go without interference which if practiced is said to be equivalent to enlightenment. Amazingly these two men were basically contemporaries that had both travelled to China for nearly the same reasons and even studied the same religion of Chan but came up with two completely different methods or systems for attaining enlightenment. Whereas  Myoan Eisai focused on the use of Koans; Buppo Dogen emphasized the practice of Zazen which both believed were critical instruments for enlightenment. Thus my question is which was right if either?

Also Eihei Dōgen supposedly sought to restore Buddhism to its original and pristine state and yet it is not even historically orthodox to the more traditional form of buddhism known as Theravada but rather supports the Mahayana branch of devotion. Joyo Daishi also deviates from the religious practice of Chinese Chan by formulating his own brand of buddhism as incorporating faith in one’s master and the Buddha along with the study of the sutras apart from the zen teaching that stresses self realization. This movement was further altered and degenerated by the influential teaching and practices of Keizan Jōkin also known as Taiso Jōsai Daishi who brought in a mixture of expression which incorporated such matters as Tendai esotericism along with Dogen’s monastic rules and rigorous meditation which seems to move further away from the practice of “zazen alone” for enlightenment. Keizan’s disciple Gasan Joseki, in a popularity campaign, further joined the elements of shamanism and religious folklore such as the belief  in divinities to protect the welfare of sacred sites. This along with attaining worldly benefits such as prosperity, fertility and safety during travel is a compromise from the traditional practices of Zen. This movement was further influenced by the superstitious practices of Keizan who used such mysticism as finding religious authority through dreams, astrology and the invocation of the local gods including his preeminent devotion to the bodhisattva Kannon which shows how far this group has gotten of course in straying from the truth of its original journey to China as it has evolved through the ages of time in incorporating the syncretism of which Dogen was trying to eliminate in the first place and which stands contrary to his original enlightenment.  If that weren’t enough even the very thing he opposed and rejected was the practice of the Koans which was studied by this group during the medieval ages. Finally it underwent yet another revision by the monk Otori Sesso who modernized buddhism to eliminate the dissonance between traditional monasticism and secularization among monks/laypersons by producing an abbreviated version of Dogen’s teaching as a source of guidance for the lay practitioner known as shushogi which does not even mention zazen but emphasizes a life of gratitude and penitence which has resulted in several associated lay movements or kyodan.

My question is based on all of these models by whose supreme authority does any of this really represent a pure teaching on enlightenment or satori especially as it stands in contrast to the brotherhood of other Buddhist organizations as well as its own internal inconsistencies? Who knows maybe a future leader may change things again which calls to question if enlightenment is standardized as being foundational or is it in a constant sate of flux? If enlightenment can be attained through various means and paths then why the need to practice under an exclusive movement of Sotoshu? If the patriarchal figures of Koso and Taiso aren’t in complete agreement then essentially what hope is there for you and in what or whom do you base your confidence in? Furthermore how ironic is it that the majority of the people who associate with this movement don’t even take their organization  seriously as they only attend the temples for the observation of funerary rites which is a commentary that calls to question the efficacy amongst it own adherents towards enlightenment.

Anyway regarding the philosophy of zazen here are some snippets in how the this practice is viewed which is said to be free of thoughts, directed to no object, and attached to no particular content. It is regarded as a defocalized method as giving attention to the entire screen of consciousness in a non attached way without reaction or elaboration just a randomness that is open to the flow of mental contents but does not think about them or get carried away by them as it is a non thinking, themeless practice. However,  how can you follow this procedure wholeheartedly or with single mindedness when you have distractions which may really be a valid indication that you do have anchors and how do you know if these stronger ties or associations are really contrary to enlightenment in favor of this unnatural practice of disassociations.

Also just to say that this is an unique experience or a different train of thought does not necessitate or qualify this experience as enlightening no more than embracing a contradiction. Essentially how do you know this is enlightening except to agree or accept what you have been taught as a blind leap of irrational or illogical faith?

Moreover once you have mastered this technique then what if you get off track do you then lose enlightenment only to have to regain it again? In other words does neglecting this meditative practice undo the doer resulting in unenlightenment? If this is possible then the next question is whether a person really had it to begin with.

So what confidence can you put in such a procedure which has to be continually practiced as a post enlightenment experience of cultivation or shushu Itto and shotaichoyo in order to be realized and sustained and whose to say that you will properly maintain or nurture this to the end of life?

More importantly  this deviant practice is not livable nor is it consistent with a persons lifestyle as it requires cognitive associations to manage basic life functions and decisions even as regulated through the simplicity of a monastic lifestyle. Furthermore to use the phrase to put on this so called monkey mind is a derogatory statement towards your humanity and is even slanderous to  chimps who are able to make simple rational choices based on intelligible thoughts.

So on one hand to daily act or live as a walking and thinking unenlightened being is not practicing what you preach and is likened to the equation that 1-1=0 as there is no positive result as these factors cancel one another out through their counterintuitive and unsustainable practice as trying to allow your meditation to be random while your non-meditative state of thinking to be determinative.

Also to have thoughts come and go as not holding on to them by allowing the mind to be emptied of all discrimination and attachments is contrary to even Dogens reasoning as he questioned the very nature of sitting in providing a range of different possibilities yet he was determined and discriminatory in his solution as selecting a particular form to represent this art of sitting. If we rightly applied his methodology it would seem to lead to a relativistic view of skepticism and a degree of nihilism as nothing can be rightly determined or known  except to say that there are many ideas floating around and to act otherwise is to behave contrary to the theory as making concrete associations. Conclusively, that is why I think that one of the main reasons this whole methodology falls apart and should be challenged or questioned is that it just doesn’t correspond with a universal reality.

This anti-intellectual approach to life which Dogen espoused in taking on a distinctly nonattached or non clinging kind of action, that is, an activity completely unconcerned with benefits or the accomplishment of ulterior goals as being self seeking  is also not consistent with its own ideal as reaching the goal of enlightenment. Moreover, for this practice to be regarded as a silent illumination is antithetical to the position of Dogen as the ‘dropping off’ of sensations and thoughts has lead to the “dropping into” the minds of others. Thus it has failed to purge the mind of all concepts and notions but has succeeded to clutter the thoughts of it practitioners.

So in closing I would simply ask to meditate on what I have said but not in a disconnected way but as making a connection with the intent of a more rational approach  which may lay beyond your present religious experience. Likewise I challenge to take on the pioneering spirit of Dogen himself who was dissatisfied and sought enlightenment beyond his geographical boundaries as looking farther than the cultural venue as defined by Japanese buddhist expression.

Finally his method of sitting straight without any effort essentially takes great effort as disciplining oneself under this demanding practice which requires diligence as well as alertness. This isn’t daydreaming which is more descriptive as being effortless but rather it is an arduous practice of nonthinking which perhaps has wearied and worried you as being unsure about your meditative efforts and Jesus provides a solution to enlightenment through Himself as He states:


Matthew 11:28-30 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” 





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Soto Zen Buddhist Resources



Encyclopaedia Britannica,Inc., copyright 1993, Vol.4, pg.150, Dogen

Encyclopaedia Britannica,Inc., copyright 1993, Vol.15, pg.290, Buddhism

Encyclopedia of Religion Second Edition, copyright 2005 Thomson Gale a part of The Thomson Corporation, Lindsay Jones Editor in Chief, Vol.1, pg.605-606, Philip Novak

Encyclopedia of Religion Second Edition, copyright 2005 Thomson Gale a part of The Thomson Corporation, Lindsay Jones Editor in Chief, Vol.2, pg.1244-1245, Michio Araki

Encyclopedia of Religion Second Edition, copyright 2005 Thomson Gale a part of The Thomson Corporation, Lindsay Jones Editor in Chief, Vol.2, pg.1293, Clarke Hudson

Encyclopedia of Religion Second Edition, copyright 2005 Thomson Gale a part of The Thomson Corporation, Lindsay Jones Editor in Chief, Vol.4, pg.2306, Roland A. Delattre

Encyclopedia of Religion Second Edition, copyright 2005 Thomson Gale a part of The Thomson Corporation, Lindsay Jones Editor in Chief, Vol.8, pg.5109-5110, William M. Bodiford

Encyclopedia of Religion Second Edition, copyright 2005 Thomson Gale a part of The Thomson Corporation, Lindsay Jones Editor in Chief, Vol.14, pgs.9943-9951, Steven Heine

Religions of the world: a comprehensive encyclopedia of beliefs and practices/ J. Gordon Melton, Martin Baumann, editors; Todd M. Johnson, World Religious Statistics; Donald Wiebe, Introduction-2nd ed., Copyright 2010 by ABC-CLIO, LLC. Reproduced with permission of ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara, CA.