August 20, 2014

Making Connections

Discourses on the relationship between Zen, Buddhism, and culture

At the beginning of the year 2011 a group of our clergy decided to tackle the complex subject of Zen as it relates to Buddhism and to culture through a series of loosely interconnected essays.  The idea was inspired by a dialogue I had several years ago with a Chinese monk who I have known for many years.  We were discussing some of the differences between Buddhism as it is practiced in China and as it is practiced here in the Western world.  Considering the differences in our cultural backgrounds and personal experiences with Buddhism, it was not surprising that our viewpoints were strangely malaligned at times.  While we could agree on all the fundamental and most important basics of Buddhism, a chasm opened when the conversation moved to things like the color of robes, methods for almsgiving, devotional practices, the role of the "Zen Master", Buddhist mythology, the significance of the rules of conduct a monastic takes vows to uphold, among other things.

The objective of this essay series is to consider the Nature of Zen Buddhism from different angles and different focuses of attention; to engage in an exploratory meditation of Zen as perceived through the eyes of various Western Zen practitioners.  Some of the topic ideas originally considered for the series included: Zen’s Heritage Zen as seen through the eyes of Buddhism, Buddhism as seen through the eyes of Zen, Buddhism without Zen, Zen without Buddhism, Seeing 'the Forest for the Trees', Buddhist methods of Zen training, and Zen Mind.

While we open this series with contributions from several of our clerics, we would like to open the conversation to the world at large.  If you would like to share your ideas in the form of an essay, please send a copy to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Only essays that are well written, demonstrate carefully reflected thoughts, and do not attack, defame, or belittle other groups, individuals, or cultures will be considered for posting. If you would like to comment on the posted essays in this series, please use the comment form at the bottom of any essay page.

-- Chuan Zhi, March, 2011

 

The Urban Hermit

by Fa Dong Shakya

Published Dec 05, 2011

The Urban Hermit

As anyone versed in Chan’s history knows, the hermitic life is a common one passed through by many of China’s most famous Chan teachers.  In fact, all mystical traditions commonly find their members, at some time in their life, retreating from society.  For the mystic, living a reclusive hermitic life is... Read more

Zen Ritual

by Fa Dong Shakya, OHY

Published Mar 18, 2011

Zen Ritual

In her bestselling spiritual memoir "Eat, Pray, Love", Elizabeth Gilbert tells a delightful story of a great Hindu teacher who led his followers in daily meditation in his ashram. The only problem was that the teacher "had a . . . cat", an annoying creature, who used to walk through... Read more

To Suppose A Post-Modern Buddhism

by Fa Gong Shakya, OHY

Published Mar 18, 2011

To Suppose A Post-Modern Buddhism

In Buddhism's adaptation to the concerns and climates of the post-modern West, much of what has been taken for granted as necessarily intrinsic to it has inevitably been questioned. Ancient Indian and exotic Oriental flavours react unpredictably on a Western palate, and for some, the taste does not appeal. An article... Read more

Zen Without Buddhism: Getting to the Heart

by Fa Che Shakya, OHY

Published Mar 18, 2011

Zen Without Buddhism: Getting to the Heart

As a Dharma teacher in the West, in a small, rural town of 2500 people, Zen is virtually unknown. Perhaps there's a class or two at the university about 25 miles away. But outside of college elective courses, people out here break down into two categories: Catholic or Lutheran. When... Read more