What makes Zen Buddhist unique

What makes the Zen Buddhist culture unique?
A Zen Buddhist devotes a portion of every day to sitting, known as the practice of Zazen. This is a time to meditate and consider your existence in the universe. During the Zen meditation sessions I attended at USM, the instructors had you focus on slowing down your thoughts. The goal is to ultimately detach yourself from the worries and burdens of day to day life. Try and be mindful of your place in nature and determine what is essential to a happy life. I was surprised to find that Zazen is practiced with your eyes open. I always assumed that it would be easier to mediate with your eyes closed to avoid visual distractions. My instructors said to avoid concentrating on anything in particular and simply gaze at what is before you.

The Zen Buddhist culture values simplicity. It is critical for a Zen Buddhist to live a life free of unnecessary materialistic possessions. In my mediation I quickly realized how hard it is to honestly detach yourself from your normal train of thought. The key is to realize what things are truly giving you happiness, and what things could go. For a Zen Buddhist, it is much easier to accomplish the goal of mindfulness with a simplistic lifestyle.

Unlike most cultures, Zen Buddhism puts a great concentration on something as simple as breathing. During Zazen it is impossible to detach yourself from all thoughts if you are still preoccupied with breathing. I was given the instructions to breathe deeply; inhaling and exhaling through your nose. You want to let each breath come and go naturally. In my meditation I found it helpful to use your slowed breathing to help slow down your mind. Each inhale envision the air gathering all the unneeded thoughts in your mind; which are then released with every exhale.

A Zen Buddhist shows more outward respect to others and to the world. At each mediation I attended, we began by facing each other and bowing. Zen Buddhism values selflessness and respect for others, bowing is a sign of respect. I was surprised by the fact You then bow to your cushion out of respect for your place in the universe. The extreme example of this is Zen Buddhist monk, whose entire life is devoted to teaching and serving others.

Zen Buddhism is a unique philosophy because of the importance it places on the individual. They do not waste their time trying to determine the universal way to reach enlightenment. I have great respect for a Zen Buddhist who recognizes that while they may have found peace of mind, what worked them will not work for everyone. We all have different needs and find happiness in different ways. The goal is determine what is essential to your own life, not to anyone else’s life.

12 Essential Rules to Live More Like a Zen Monk


Seven Treasures of the Noble

The Buddha said “Monks, there are these seven treasures. Which seven? The treasure ofconviction, the treasure of virtue, the treasure of conscience, the treasure of concern, the treasure of listening, the treasure of generosity, the treasure of discernment.

“And what is the treasure of conviction? There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones has conviction, is convinced of the Tathagata’s Awakening: ‘Indeed, the Blessed One is worthy and rightly self-awakened, consummate in knowledge & conduct, well-gone, an expert with regard to the world, unexcelled as a trainer for those people fit to be tamed, the Teacher of divine & human beings, awakened, blessed.’ This is called the treasure of conviction.

“And what is the treasure of virtue? There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones abstains from taking life, abstains from stealing, abstains from illicit sexual conduct, abstains from lying, abstains from taking intoxicants that cause heedlessness. This, monks, is called the treasure of virtue.

“And what is the treasure of conscience? There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones feels shame at [the thought of engaging in] bodily misconduct, verbal misconduct, mental misconduct. This is called the treasure of conscience.

“And what is the treasure of concern? There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones feels concern for [the suffering that results from] bodily misconduct, verbal misconduct, mental misconduct. This is called the treasure of concern.

“And what is the treasure of listening? There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones has heard much, has retained what he/she has heard, has stored what he/she has heard. Whatever teachings are admirable in the beginning, admirable in the middle, admirable in the end, that — in their meaning and expression — proclaim the holy life that is entirely complete and pure: those he/she has listened to often, retained, discussed, accumulated, examined with his/her mind, and well-penetrated in terms of his/her views. This is called the treasure of listening.

And what is the treasure of generosity? There is the case of a disciple of the noble ones, his awareness cleansed of the stain of stinginess, living at home, freely generous, openhanded, delighting in being magnanimous, responsive to requests, delighting in the distribution of alms. This is called the treasure of generosity.

“And what is the treasure of discernment? There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones is discerning, endowed with discernment of arising & passing away — noble, penetrating, leading to the right ending of stress. This is called the treasure of discernment.”

Aguttara-nikāya, Sattaka-nipāta, No. 5


Aries: “Have compassion for all beings, rich and poor alike; each has their suffering. Some suffer too much, others too little.”

Taurus: “Teach this triple truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.”

Gemini: “There is nothing more dreadful than the habit of doubt. Doubt separates people. It is a poison that disintegrates friendships and breaks up pleasant relations. It is a thorn that irritates and hurts; it is a sword that kills.”

Cancer: “To keep the body in good health is a duty…otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”

Leo: “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”

Virgo: “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.”

Libra: “The whole secret of existence is to have no fear. Never fear what will become of you, depend on no one. Only the moment you reject all help are you freed.”

Scorpio: “Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”

Sagittarius: “In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.”

Capricorn: “Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.”

Aquarius: “Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.”

Pisces: “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”

On the Scene… Thailand’s Annual Poi Sang Long Festival

Thailand’s annual Poi Sang Long Festival, which occurs in the first week of April, celebrates the ordination of ethnic Shan boys to the Theravada Buddhist Order. For three days, these sang long, or “jewelled sons,” are dressed in bright colors and adorned in flowers and make up, and then carried on the shoulders of relatives to the Wat Pa Pao Temple in Chiang Mai, where they will adopt the monk’s traditional saffron robes. the ritual is meant to mimic the Buddha’s renunciation of his life of material luxury as Prince Siddhartha.

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Buddhist Temple Offers High-Tech Death Care In Japan

The Ruriden, operated by the Koukokuji Buddhist temple, took two years to build and houses 2046 futuristic alters with glass Buddha statues that correspond to drawers storing the ashes of the deceased. An IC card allows the owner of the alter to access the building and lights up the corresponding statue. The ashes are stored for 33 years before being buried below the Ruriden, currently 600 alters are in use and another 300 are reserved.

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Study Finds Being Exposed to Buddhist Concepts Reduces Prejudice and Increases Prosociality

Researchers from Belgium and Taiwan have found that being exposed to Buddhist concepts can lead to increased prosocial behavioral intentions and undermine prejudice towards others.

Buddhism contains a variety of teachings and practices – such as meditation – intended to help individuals develop a more open-minded and compassionate personality. Unlike the three dominant monotheistic religions, it does not draw a sharp line between believers and unbelievers.

In three separate experiments of 355 individuals, the researchers found that being exposed to words related to Buddhism could “automatically activate prosociality and tolerance, in particular among people with socio-cognitive open-mindedness.”

The study adds to a growing body of research about priming, a phenomenon in which merely being exposed to certain words or concepts changes the way people think or behave. It was published in the April issue of the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

When Westerners familiar with Buddhism read religious words like “Dharma” and “Nirvana” – which they were exposed to under the guise of completing a word puzzle – they reported lower negative attitudes toward outgroups compared to participants exposed to positive non-religious words like “freedom.”

Westerners with a Christian background also became more tolerant after being exposed to Buddhist concepts, though only among those with a predisposition for valuing the welfare of all people and an aversion towards authoritarianism. Implicit association tests showed that these participants were less prejudiced against African people and Muslims than participants exposed to Christian concepts or neutral concepts.

Westerners with a Christian background also scored higher on measures of prosociality after being exposed to Buddhist concepts. Surprisingly, participants did not score higher on measures of prosociality after being exposed to Christian concepts.

The effect of being exposed to Buddhist concepts was not restricted to cultures in which the religion was seen as particularly exotic, the researchers said. Being exposed to Buddhist concepts also fostered increased tolerance and prosociality, compared with neutral and Christian concepts, among participants living in Taiwan.

“To conclude, we think that this work provides, for the first time, experimental evidence in favor of the idea that in both the East and the West, across people from both Christian and Eastern Asian religious traditions, Buddhist concepts automatically activate positive social behavioral outcomes, that is, prosociality and low prejudice, in particular among people with personal dispositions of socio-cognitive openness,” the researchers wrote.

“Unlike Christian and other monotheistic religious systems that paradoxically seem to encourage not only prosociality but also prejudice, Buddhist ideas favor both prosociality and outgroup tolerance, and these ideals seem particularly efficient (in leading to action) for people with relevant personality dispositions.”

“Emotional (compassion) and cognitive (tolerance of contradictions) mechanisms explain, to some extent, how Buddhist concepts, across cultural and religious contexts, enhance prosocial and tolerant attitudes and behavioral tendencies. Religious and cultural characteristics ‘travel’ and influence people’s attitudes and behavior in a globalized world even at the implicit level of consciousness,” the researchers concluded.

The Zen Experience

What is Zen? Many people have tried to answer that question. There have been very brief answers, and there have been thousands of books written on the subject, yet the definition of Zen remains a mystery. Years ago Kapleau Roshi was speaking at a university in New York when a student asked, “What is Zen?” In reply, the roshi simply picked a banana from a nearby bowl of fruit and began to peel it. He didn’t say anything. Someone asked again, “What is Zen?” Kapleau Roshi proceeded to eat the banana. When the question came a third time, he threw the banana peel away.

When I first heard this story, I laughed, even though I didn’t think it was funny. Somehow, Kapleau Roshi’s answer seemed pretentious to me. But over the years, I have come to appreciate more and more why he chose to answer in that way. Now I realize it is impossible to say with words what Zen is. Words are simply inadequate. When we try to use words, there is a danger that whatever we say will lead only to confusion. Peeling the banana, eating the banana, and throwing away the peel was Kapleau Roshi’s way of directly pointing to the answer.

Although the essence of Zen may be impossible to capture in words, that doesn’t mean we cannot say anything about Zen. But when we speak about Zen, we need to remember that no matter what we say, it will miss the mark; it will be limited and insufficient, only one view of the whole. Nevertheless, it can be helpful to discuss Zen – what it is and what it is not. For example, Zen is not a religion. But Zen is almost always taught within the tradition of Buddhism, which is often considered to be and practiced as a religion. The Buddha discovered Zen, but he did not invent it. In a way, Zen invented the Buddha. The word Zen refers to the direct experience of one’s true nature, and that is what Siddhartha Gautama awakened to when he became the Buddha. So Zen and the words realization, enlightenment, and awakening refer to the same experience. Yet words can never capture it; they can only point to the direct experience, which goes beyond any words or name.’

The First Noble Truth

‘The key to understanding the truth of suffering is what the Buddha called the “three marks” of everything that exists. All conditioned phenomena, he said, are pervaded by these three marks: impermanence (anitya), dissatisfaction or suffering (duhkha), and insubstantiality (anatman, “without self”).

According to the Buddha, if we do not understand how conditioned phenomena are marked by these three aspects, then we will not be able to understand the first Noble Truth. We do all we can in order to avoid facing the fact that everything is contingent and transient – we may try to hide ourselves from it, and we may even spin out all kinds of metaphysical theories of an unchanging, permanent, substantial reality to avoid this all-pervasive nature of ephemerality. Also, if we do not understand that conditioned phenomena are unsatisfactory, we will not think about restraining ourselves from overindulgence in sensory gratifications, which makes us lose our center and become immersed in worldly concerns, so that our life is governed by greed, craving, and attachment. All of these things disturb the mind.

If we do not understand that everything is insubstantial – anatman – then we may believe that there is some kind of enduring essence or substance in things, or in the personality, and because of this belief we generate delusion and confusion in the mind.’

– Traleg Kyabgon, The Essence of Buddhism

Mummified Monk Sits Inside Ancient Buddha Statue

Researchers at the Drents Museum in the Netherlands made a shocking discovery when they imaged an ancient Chinese statue and found a nearly 1,000-year-old mummy inside.

Sitting in the lotus position, the mummy fits within the statue perfectly.

“On the outside, it looks like a large statue of Buddha,” the museum said in a release. “Scan research has shown that on the inside, it is the mummy of a Buddhist monk who lived around the year 1100.”

Glowing through the statue’s golden cast, the human skeleton is believed to belong to Buddhist master Liu Quan, a member of the Chinese Meditation School.

To further investigate the mummy, the researchers took the statue to the Meander Medical Center in Amersfoort and carried out an endoscopy and additional CT scans.

They found out that Liu Quan’s internal organs had been removed and replaced with scripts covered in Chinese writing.

The museum speculates Liu Quan may have “self-mummified” in order to become a “living Buddha.”

Practiced mainly in Japan, self-mummification was a grueling process that required a monk to follow a strict 1,000-day diet of nuts and seeds in order to strip the body of fat. A diet of bark and roots would follow for another 1,000 days.

At the end of this period, the monk began drinking a poisonous tea made from the sap of the Japanese varnish tree, normally used to lacquer bowls and plates. The tea caused profuse vomiting as well as a rapid loss of bodily fluids, possibly making the body too poisonous to be eaten by bacteria and insects.

A living skeleton, the monk was then placed in a stone tomb barely larger than his body, which was equipped with an air tube and a bell.

Never moving from the lotus position, the monk would ring the bell each day to let those outside know that he was still alive. When the bell stopped ringing, the monk was presumed dead, the air tube removed and the tomb sealed.

After another 1,000 days the tomb would be opened to check whether the monk had been successfully mummified. Of the hundreds of monks that tried this horrifying process, only a few dozen actually became self-mummified and venerated in temples as a Buddha.

Researchers aren’t certain when or how this monk’s organs were then removed and replaced with scripts.

The Buddha statue is currently on display at the National Museum of Natural History in Budapest. It will remain there until May.

3D-Printed Buddha Sculptures That Look Like Pop Culture Characters From Video Games, Movies, TV Shows, and Comics

Teaneck, New Jersey-based artist Chris Milnes has created a fantastic collection of 3D-printed Buddha sculptures that each portray pop culture characters from video games, movies, television shows, and comic books. Milnes has turned “the enlightened one” into well-known figures like Batman, Master Chief, Darth Vader, and more. His large series of sculptures are available to purchase online from the Etsy shop, muckychris.

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