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6 years ago  ::  Jun 25, 2008 - 2:11AM #1
Siderius_Nuncius
Posts: 11
First: I apologize for starting another newbie thread.  They must get tiring!

Now:  As a scan of my journal and posting history should reveal, I am guilty of a kind of religious ADD.  Realizing this, and hoping to amend it, I've taken up the practice of zazen again, which I had done last summer for some time.  I am now looking to join one of two zen gatherings in my area.

But all I have right now is zazen and an affinity for koans and the heart sutra.  I have a real intuition (and that's all) that "emptiness is form and form emptiness" really is the heart of the matter, but I have no idea yet what it means.

The four noble truths are about escaping suffering, or difficulty, or however you want to translate it.  That's not really what I'm after.  I'm after reality.  I'm after the experience of reality that made the Buddha conclude it was all impermanent, etc.

All right, here's the point:  If you start with a default agnostic position, will zazen be fruitful?  Will chanting be fruitful?  Will reading scripture be fruitful?

Accepting the four noble truths seems like a leap of faith without experiencing them for yourself.  Is faith a necessary pre-requisite for doing Zen practice?
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6 years ago  ::  Jun 25, 2008 - 12:11PM #2
RenGalskap
Posts: 1,420
[QUOTE=Siderius_Nuncius;585618]But all I have right now is zazen and an affinity for koans and the heart sutra.  I have a real intuition (and that's all) that "emptiness is form and form emptiness" really is the heart of the matter, but I have no idea yet what it means.[/Quote]

In other words, you're making a leap of faith. :)

[QUOTE=Siderius_Nuncius;585618]The four noble truths are about escaping suffering, or difficulty, or however you want to translate it.  That's not really what I'm after.  I'm after reality.  I'm after the experience of reality that made the Buddha conclude it was all impermanent, etc.

All right, here's the point:  If you start with a default agnostic position, will zazen be fruitful?  Will chanting be fruitful?  Will reading scripture be fruitful?

Accepting the four noble truths seems like a leap of faith without experiencing them for yourself.  Is faith a necessary pre-requisite for doing Zen practice?[/QUOTE]

When you say "agnostic", I assume you mean agnostic about the results of Buddhist practice.

There's a growing scientific literature on meditation, and there seems to be a consensus that practicing meditation over many years does have a measurable effect. There appears to be objective, empirical evidence that long term meditation is beneficial. Of course, that's true for any Buddhist meditation, not just zazen.

It's also true that studying Buddhist texts and sincerely trying to practice what they teach causes changes in the way we perceive ourselves and others, but this is true for any religion that teaches compassion and equinamity.

The Buddha taught that duhkha can only be overcome by knowing the cause. The point of Buddhism is to bring you to experience what the Buddha experienced so that you can know what he knew, which in turn leads to liberation. According to the Buddha, there's no other way.

Everyone experiences reality. We don't have any choice. But even though we experience the real, we pay attention to the unreal. Buddhism can't help you do something (experience the real) if you are already doing it. However, practice can help you stop paying attention to the unreal.
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6 years ago  ::  Jun 25, 2008 - 10:18PM #3
Siderius_Nuncius
Posts: 11
Thank you, RenGalskap, your reply was very insightful...

You just, just after posting it did occur to me that the very act of practice is a leap of faith.  Or at least a leap of hope.

I've read some material on the heath benefits of Buddhism... perhaps I should do more.  But then, I have also read that in some circles practicing meditation simply for health benefits is seen as the "lowest" form of Buddhism-- there is a term for this, which I can't recall just now.

I like the way you put things.  To be liberated from the "unreal," essentially from "ignorance," rather than to discover the real, which is there anyway.  Sometimes I think that ignorance prevents us from experiencing the real.  Do you find that to be the case?

My trouble, I think, in taking the leap of faith as far as taking refuge in the Dharma is that I am operating on an essentially scientific reductionist view of the universe, and trust scientists far more than I trust religious leaders.  It boils down to a question of trust, ultimately.  Can I trust the scriptures and practices of any religious tradition?

Perhaps this is why the Dalai Lama suggests that we should stick to the religion of our birth.  Cultural and religious concepts translate hard.  Should I trust that once the cobwebs are cleared away, my agnosticism will transform into gnosis?
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6 years ago  ::  Jun 25, 2008 - 11:45PM #4
RenGalskap
Posts: 1,420
[QUOTE=Siderius_Nuncius;587525]I've read some material on the heath benefits of Buddhism... perhaps I should do more.  But then, I have also read that in some circles practicing meditation simply for health benefits is seen as the "lowest" form of Buddhism-- there is a term for this, which I can't recall just now.[/Quote]

I can't remember it either. :)

Very few people are disciplined enough to meditate regularly just for the health benefits. Or more accurately, I can't do it. I admire anyone who has the discipline to consistently practice the "lowest" form of Buddhism. But I do feel that they're missing something.

[QUOTE=Siderius_Nuncius;587525]Sometimes I think that ignorance prevents us from experiencing the real.  Do you find that to be the case?[/Quote]

According to the Buddha, ignorance is what prevents us from attaining liberation. Once we remove ignorance and know for ourselves (i.e. when we're no longer taking it on faith), there's no longer a barrier to liberation.

[QUOTE=Siderius_Nuncius;587525]My trouble, I think, in taking the leap of faith as far as taking refuge in the Dharma is that I am operating on an essentially scientific reductionist view of the universe, and trust scientists far more than I trust religious leaders.  It boils down to a question of trust, ultimately.  Can I trust the scriptures and practices of any religious tradition?[/Quote]

It's a good question. It's also a question that you have to answer for yourself.

While the Buddha was alive, he pointed out that the Brahmins of his time were teaching that the Vedas were the final authority, without being able to confirm it with their own experience. The Buddha was able to say that he could confirm his own teachings with his own experience. But until we attain liberation for ourselves, we still have to take his word for it.

One thing that I can point out is that science doesn't claim to reveal reality. The only claims it makes are that its experimental results are reproduceable, and its theories can be used to make predictions that can be confirmed or rejected.
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6 years ago  ::  Jun 25, 2008 - 11:45PM #5
RenGalskap
Posts: 1,420
[QUOTE=Siderius_Nuncius;587525]I've read some material on the heath benefits of Buddhism... perhaps I should do more.  But then, I have also read that in some circles practicing meditation simply for health benefits is seen as the "lowest" form of Buddhism-- there is a term for this, which I can't recall just now.[/Quote]

I can't remember it either. :)

Very few people are disciplined enough to meditate regularly just for the health benefits. Or more accurately, I can't do it. I admire anyone who has the discipline to consistently practice the "lowest" form of Buddhism. But I do feel that they're missing something.

[QUOTE=Siderius_Nuncius;587525]Sometimes I think that ignorance prevents us from experiencing the real.  Do you find that to be the case?[/Quote]

According to the Buddha, ignorance is what prevents us from attaining liberation. Once we remove ignorance and know for ourselves (i.e. when we're no longer taking it on faith), there's no longer a barrier to liberation.

[QUOTE=Siderius_Nuncius;587525]My trouble, I think, in taking the leap of faith as far as taking refuge in the Dharma is that I am operating on an essentially scientific reductionist view of the universe, and trust scientists far more than I trust religious leaders.  It boils down to a question of trust, ultimately.  Can I trust the scriptures and practices of any religious tradition?[/Quote]

It's a good question. It's also a question that you have to answer for yourself.

While the Buddha was alive, he pointed out that the Brahmins of his time were teaching that the Vedas were the final authority, without being able to confirm it with their own experience. The Buddha was able to say that he could confirm his own teachings with his own experience. But until we attain liberation for ourselves, we still have to take his word for it.

One thing that I can point out is that science doesn't claim to reveal reality. The only claims it makes are that its experimental results are reproduceable, and its theories can be used to make predictions that can be confirmed or rejected.
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6 years ago  ::  Aug 22, 2008 - 11:05AM #6
Ilman
Posts: 11
Dear Siderius_Nuncius, The advice from RenGalskap is thoughtful & to the point. You have an intuition & you trust it. That is faith. Proceed with confidence.Question everything & trust your experience(s).All belief systems involve Faith, Vows,& Practice. The simplest vow is to practice with a sincere & joyful heart. Good luck,Ilman
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6 years ago  ::  Sep 18, 2008 - 2:58AM #7
ZenYen
Posts: 447
I would advise heeding your curiosity and embarking on your Buddhist path, while trying to put aside any expectations of exactly what you will find. Simply explore it, and experience what you experience. Then you will know whether to continue or not. There is no need to take anything on faith beforehand, except for the faith that you might find something useful if you try it.

However you proceed, I wish you a pleasant journey.
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