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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Zen Practice

Ha ha, you thought I was done with the Zen Doubt thread? Guess again. Here's more on the topic:

10. Great Doubt (Z 57-59) To what does the Zen phrase 'the Great Matter' refer? Do you think this issue is 'the great matter' only in Zen, or this a core problem of human existence everywhere? Does Zen provide an intellectual answer to clear up our doubts about the meaning of life? Dogen's spiritual quest began with a tormenting doubt: If, in our buddha nature, we are fundamentally non-different from buddhas from the very beginning, then why do the sutras teach us that we must be willing to sacrifice everything in order to attain the enlightenment of a buddha?

In Rinzai, koans are used to stir up and intensify such existential doubt, until it feels like there is a ball of molten metal stuck in your gut. Rinzai teachers say that without first experiencing such 'Great Doubt,' one cannot break through to the kensho experience.

11. Faith (Z 59-60). While we may think of doubt and faith as opposites that cancel one another, Zen is not unique in recognizing that doubt can be a vital part of an honest and deeply felt faith. The Christian theologian Paul Tillich makes a similar point in his book, The Dynamics of Faith. Without strong faith in buddha nature, Dogen could not develop great doubt about the need to strive for enlightenment. And without this nagging doubt, he would not have the determination to seek out teachers and meditation experiences that would move him past that doubt.

We could say that doubt without faith is paralyzing and destructive, but faith without doubt may become static and self-satisfied. Strong faith and strong doubt react upon one another to produce a dynamic spiritual energy. As Scott and Doubleday put it (Z 60), we have to believe that the Buddha was telling the truth when he said that we all have the perfect buddha nature; and once we have that faith we will want to know: Why don't I see this clearly and experience the world in this way? Za-zen, not philosophy, is the Zen approach to such questions.


Blogger Jack said...

This is such a powerful awareness - the intersection of faith and doubt invites us to realize a much different experience of both.

9:52 AM  
Blogger M said...

It's something that has grabbed my interest of late, especially the importance of "doubt" in the whole equation, which seems to mean "curiosity" as much as the normal concept of doubt.

6:51 AM  

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