Monday, March 31, 2014


----- April 1, 2014 -----

Let’s face it, most individuals like to question what they do and how they think. They also want answers. Eastern thought can be bewildering to some people because it has no definite answers, and because whys and wherefores are relatively unimportant.
Taoism, Buddhism, and Zen may have different names, but they are related. They are Asian ways of life that deal with the human condition. Because they differ from Western religions, beliefs, faiths, or convictions, their practice raises countless questions in the Western mind.
This talk, and several that follow, presents a number of typical questions and answers regarding Taoism, Buddhism, and Zen. Most them have come up in Zen sessions.

Question: Can a Zen person also be a Christian?
Answer: Yes. Just because Zen does not subscribe to the concept of a divine being does not mean Zen is anti-religious. Religions serve important social needs that some people require or are comfortable with. There is nothing wrong or bad about that, and it does not nullify the benefits of Zen living.

Question: Are Buddhists, or Zen people, vegetarians?
Answer: Not necessarily. What one eats or doesn’t eat is a personal choice that has nothing to do with either Zen or Buddhism. The Buddha never cautioned anyone against consuming meat. In fact, legend has it the Buddha himself died after consuming contaminated meat, but legends are not truths.

Question: Zen practice is rudimentary and simple. Is Taoism as basic, as straightforward, as Zen?
Answer: It depends on the individual group. There are large Taoist congregations in Asia and elsewhere that meet in richly adorned temples. They observe rituals that involve bowing, chanting, and handclapping. Their priests wear ornate robes and headpieces. Other Taoist groups consist of a handful of individuals who come together in a simple room. They sit in silent meditation, and their leader wears ordinary street clothing.

Question: I have heard that Buddhism and Zen are not the same. What makes them different?
Answer: Buddhism is an organization or an association, whereas Zen is a way of life. Therefore, using the term Zen-Buddhism is ambiguous. It would be like saying, “I ate an apple-grapefruit.”
Question: I understand there are basically two schools of Zen: Rinzai and Soto. What is the difference between them?
Answer: Rinzai Zen strives for the attainment of enlightenment; that is, awakening, or seeing one's true nature. Training focuses on zazen (seated meditation) and the use of kōans (stories, dialogues, questions, or statements, used to test a student's progress). The Rinzai School is known for the severity of its training methods.
Sōtō Zen has been called more gentle. It emphasizes shikantaza (meditation with no objects, anchors, or content). The meditator strives to be aware of his or her stream of thoughts, allowing them to arise and pass away without interference. Soto says that meditation is awakening, and awakening is meditation.


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