Jody,

Thanks for your post.  I appreciate your perspectives and welcome the
opportunity to discuss topics like these in an open forum.  I hope others
reading these posts will feel free to share their perspectives also.

My responses are embedded in your most recent post below:

Jody posted:
>As much as I appreciate the Soto zen methods of meditation, I am also  
>curious about the Tibetan methods of focusing on an image of compassion
>and moving towards it. I will use both methods at different times.

If you think that is a good approach for you, then go for it!  I have almost
no knowledge of Tibetan Buddhism.  From the little I do know, however, it's
approach and teaching methods are quite different from those used in zen
Buddhism.

I want to make sure you don't think I represent Soto zen techniques.  I do
have a personal history of learning in both the Soto and Renzai zen schools,
and even spent a short time later in my life with a Korean zen teacher.  I
have found that although their methods and techniques for beginners may
differ, their core teachings and core techniques are the same.  At times in
my life I have incorporated various techniques: zazen, koans, chanting,
visualizations, bowing, tai chi, special diets, fasting, etc...  Currently I
only employ zazen (shikantaza - clear mind) in my practice.

>The chant I use is OM MANI PADME HUM. I found that when I learned it's 
>meaning I appreciated it more. I think that using this chant is like 
>counting breaths, it keeps your mind from jumping around.

I agree with you that chanting does serve the same purpose as counting
breaths.  They're both used to quiet the mind - the rational mind.  This is
why I am still curious at your belief that knowing its meaning would better
serve this purpose.  For me, knowing its meaning while chanting, and worse
yet appreciating that meaning, does not serve to quiet your mind.  'Knowing'
and 'appreciating' are functions of your rational mind, and as long as you
continue to know and appreciate, your rational mind is not quiet.  Referring
back to your first paragraph, 'images' and 'compassion' are also products of
your rational mind.  As long as you visualize images or feel compassion your
rational mind is not quiet.

>As I first discovered Buddhism I thought I had to pick which was best,
>now I feel that Buddhism is Buddhism and all the ways are the same. It's
>all part of the whole.

I also want to make sure you don't think my perspectives represent
traditional Buddhism.  I don't consider myself a Buddhist and certainly do
not speak for those who do think of themselves or their practice as
Buddhist.

I don't consider zen a sub-set of Buddhism as most people do.  I consider
zen to be a super-set, and most religions, including Buddhism and
Christianity, culturally-colored subsets of zen.  When I post I usually
speak about zen using Buddhist terms, but I could also speak about zen using
Christian terms or even non-religious/logic-based terms.  For me these are
just different sides of the same coin.  The coin is zen, the sides - heads
and tails - are just specific and partial perspectives of zen - like
Buddhism and Christianity.  I discovered this coin examining the Buddhist
side, but having discovered and embraced it I quickly realized it was the
same coin that I had been taught about in my Christian upbringing.  So, when
people discuss the merits of various religions, I just ask: heads or tails?
It really doesn't make any difference.  It's the same coin.

>I just appreciate learning something new every day.
>JODY

So do I!  Thanks for your post which contributed to my day.

...Bill!



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