Relating Tibetan and Zen Views
The Zen tradition consisted of 5 different schools when Dogen, who attained awakening under the guidance of Chinese master, Ju-tsing, felt that Dharma as taught by Buddha Shakyamuni is one system. His view, known as Soto Zen, presents an undifferentiated approach. Its position is that Buddha-nature exists in all beings and that enlightenment consists of realizing it through "relaxed meditation." In this way it has much in common with the Tibetan Kagyu denomination. Shakyamuni is the yidam (meditational deity or "object of veneration") and it is he who is depicted in the giant statue that shows the fingertips of both hands touching, while the thumbs form the circle of Emptiness.)
Pointing at the Moon
Wujin Chang, a nun, asked the Sixth Zen patriarch, Hui Neng, for help in understanding the Mahanirvana Sutra. The master answered that he could not read, but if the nun would read it aloud for him, he would do his best to help her. The nun then asked, "If you can't even read the words, how can you understand the truth behind them?"
"Truth and words are unrelated. Truth can be compared to the moon," answered Hui Neng, pointing to the moon with his finger, "And words can be compared to a finger. I can use my finger to point out the moon, but my finger is not the moon, and you don't need my finger in order to be able to see the moon."
Absolute and Relative Truths
Skill or "Method" consists of knowing what to think, say or do, and when.
In the opening chapter of psychotherapist Mark Epstein's
Thoughts Without a Thinker
an anecdote appears about a meeting at the home of a Harvard
University psychology professor of two prominent teachers of Buddha-dharma:
The two monks entered with swirling robes -- maroon and yellow for the
Tibetan, austere grey and black for the Korean -- and were followed by retinues
of younger monks and translators with shaven heads. They settled onto cushions
in the familiar cross-legged positions, and the host made it clear that the
younger Zen master was to begin. The Tibetan lama sat very still, fingering a
wooden rosary (mala) with one hand while murmuring, "Om mani padme
hum" continuously under his breath.
"What is this?" he demanded of the lama. "What is this?"
This was a typical opening question, and we could feel him ready to pounce on
whatever response he was given.
"Rinpoche says, 'What is the matter with him? Don't they have oranges
where he comes from?' "
Note: Khyabje Kalu Rinpoche died in 1989.
This school of Japanese Buddhism was founded by Kobo Daishi (774-835) known as Kukai. It is a Mantrayana school; that is, a Vajrayana sect in which recitation of mantra is the main support for practice.
undifferentiated: Not yet separated into Hina- , Maha- , and Vajra-yana. Shakyamuni is said to have taught 84,000 different approaches.