Sunday, July 15, 2012

Zen is not just koans; Tibetan Buddhism is not just mantras and deities

I would like to share with you this video which is showing a short clip by a Western Zen Master (Dae Kwang Su Nim) telling us that Koan technique is just one of many techniques. Indeed, it is one of many techniques even in Zen but in Zen it is a unique distinguishing technique from other techniques used in Zen. Really, when I hear of questions on "what is Zen?" or request from people who want to be taught Zen meditation, they expect koan. But seriously, Zen is just direct looking at the mind. If you can do that, even if you do not study even a single koan, then that itself would be Zen. There is no need for koans. For example, if you are doing chanting, even chanting properly would be Zen. Initially I made the mistake of thinking that Zen meditation has to have an element of koan in it. Well, I realised that I was wrong. It did not have to. The same for Tibetan Buddhism. It does not need to have mantras in our practice. But of course, it is the distinguishing technique of Tibetan Buddhism from other traditions. If we do not recite mantras or visualise deities, it does not mean we are not practising Tibetan Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism is much more than that. For example, there is also the aspirational part of practice that is important. And also, putting that aspiration into our daily actions. There are also the purification practices (which may be called "repentance" practices in other traditions). One of the essence of Tibetan Buddhism is divine view. If we can have that without mantras and deities, then who can ever say that we are any different from practising Tibetan Buddhism? Dogen Zenji, for example, in his writings in Shobogenzo, have written that every aspects of our life and phenomena around us are "instances of prajna". It is only that ordinary sentient beings like us fail to see it that way. Hence, we cannot exactly label a person by merely his outer practices or what robe he/she is wearing. When we are looking into the nature of mind, it is just that. It is not exclusive only to Zen tradition. It is not exclusive only to Tibetan tradition. That was why Zen Master Seung Sahn said, "If we start discriminating between Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, already we are mistaken." Refer back to my previous posts on "Zen vs Tibetan Buddhism" topics.

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