Bob,

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 
Masters.
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. 
 
...Bill! 


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