The question you've asked touches a theme that surfaces from time to time on
this forum. That is whether zen is a sub-set of Buddhism (as in Zen Buddhism),
or whether zen is something that can be found outside of Buddhism as well. I
believe the latter, but you must know that many on this forum reject that view.
So...the answers to your questions will depend on whether you are talking about
Zen Buddhism or just zen (lower case 'z' to differentiate it from Zen
Buddhism). I'll try to do both by marking the answers as ZB for Zen Buddhism)
and z for zen:
>Are there such things as monks and nuns of Zen?
ZB: All Buddhism has various levels of clerical stati. In fact many Buddhist
'rules' are different for clergy and lay people. Zen Buddhism certainly has
monks. Western versions also have female monks, and also have female Zen
z: zen has no formal teaching, no holy books, no organization, no rituals, no
ceremonies so has no clergy and does not make any differentiation between
practitioners, or non-practitioners for that matter.
>I have always thought of Zen as very individualistic and idiosyncratic. Zen is
>life. Very simple. Are there big rituals and ceremonies in Zen?
ZB: Zen Buddhism, for the most part, fully embraces Buddhist rituals,
ceremonies, etc... It is a sub-set of Buddhism.
z: I don't know that I'd call it individualistic. It is in the sense that you
have to take complete responsibility for your own practice. No one can do it
for you, or give you some kind of template on what you must do - although a
teacher can help guide you. If by idiosyncratic you mean peculiar or
eccentric, then I'd say no - zen is not peculiar at all. It's everyday life -
eating when hungry, sleeping when tired. There is a popular misconception that
zen is somehow eccentric and therefore 'hip'. It actually takes those things
that many people would think as very boring and makes them 'holy' by enabling
you to express your buddha nature through every one of these acts. zen does
not have any rituals or specific ceremonies. Every act performed could be
called a ceremony celebrating life and expressing buddha nature.
>I kind of doubt if the first Buddha had a zafu under the Bodhi tree and even
>if he sat in a lotus position. These are latter day rituals added on for
>organizational purposes. But is Zen supposed to be like this?
ZB: I think Zen Buddhists believe Zen practice has to be like this, or is at
least best if practiced like this.
Z: No, zen does not have to be like this; although the practicing rituals and
conducting ceremonies (whether they be Buddhist, Christian, Islamic, Jewish,
Hindu, etc...) do not have to detract from zen practice, and in the beginning
of your practice for some guidance or at any stage in your practice for
community, they could actually be beneficial - but they are not essential.
Current Book Discussion: any Zen book that you recently have read or are
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