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The purpose of monasticism in Zen

zenguitarzenguitar Bad BuddhistNew England Veteran

Greetings, perceptive Sangha. This may be a somewhat ignorant question, but I have read that in Zen it is possible for a layperson to achieve the highest understanding of emptiness, i.e. enlightenment. In fact, the understanding of a highly realized layperson (it is said) can even surpass that of a monkish disciple of the Buddha (e.g. see the Vimalakirti Sutra). If that is true, what is the purpose of a Zen monastery? And why wasn't that tradition jettisoned the way that religious celibacy was eschewed by Protestants breaking away from the RC Church (to draw a very rough analogy between Buddhist and Christian institutions)?

Comments

  • howhow Veteran Veteran
    edited August 2014

    @zenguitar

    The depth of understanding that a Buddhist can achieve strictly accords with how willing they are to get themselves out of it's way so that understanding can shine of itself.
    Monastic and lay practice simply offer two different forms for doing that.

    zenguitarBunkslobsterInvincible_summer
  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited August 2014

    Celibacy in Zen was dropped in most, maybe all (?), sects. The monasteries are for study and focussed spiritual advancement without distractions, for those who want that.

    zenguitar
  • @zenguitar said:
    Greetings, perceptive Sangha. This may be a somewhat ignorant question, but I have read that in Zen it is possible for a layperson to achieve the highest understanding of emptiness, i.e. enlightenment. In fact, the understanding of a highly realized layperson (it is said) can even surpass that of a monkish disciple of the Buddha (e.g. see the Vimalakirti Sutra). If that is true, what is the purpose of a Zen monastery? And why wasn't that tradition jettisoned the way that religious celibacy was eschewed by Protestants breaking away from the RC Church (to draw a very rough analogy between Buddhist and Christian institutions)?

    Tradition. Although monastic celibacy was eventually done away with in Japan and for some sects in Korea. Actually, if a non-monk can be enlightened or not was a thriving debate and some Masters claimed it wasn't possible, others grudgingly said maybe possible but rare, etc.

    zenguitar
  • anatamananataman Who needs a title? Where am I? Veteran

    What if there was no purpose to zen monasticism!

    How joyous might that be!

    Can you imagine a religion where you can just be, albeit in a monastery, with others just being, but just being for itself.

    Hmmm!

  • zenguitarzenguitar Bad Buddhist New England Veteran

    @anataman said:
    What if there was no purpose to zen monasticism!

    How joyous might that be!

    Can you imagine a religion where you can just be, albeit in a monastery, with others just being, but just being for itself.

    Hmmm!

    Good point @anatman, and I would have thought that myself had I not seen the documentary "In the World of Zen," in which the point of Zen monasticism seems to be to inflict misery on the poor monks.

  • EarthninjaEarthninja Wanderer West Australia Veteran

    @zenguitar‌ I think monastic zen life would be an easier way to let go. You have no belongings. You get disciplined by the teacher. Makes sense to me :)

  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    edited August 2014

    @zenguitar said:
    If that is true, what is the purpose of a Zen monastery?

    To allow people to "leave home" like the Buddha taught and devote the entirety of their life to practicing the dharma if they want to. Same as any other Buddhist monastery. The point made in the Vimalakirti sutra is that enlightenment does not depend on ordination. It does not say that ordination is not beneficial.

    howlobster
  • DharmaMcBumDharmaMcBum Spacebus Wheelman York, UK Veteran

    @anataman said:
    What if there was no purpose to zen monasticism!

    That would be very zen.

    Earthninja
  • @how said:

    The depth of understanding that a Buddhist can achieve strictly accords with how willing they are to get themselves out of it's way so that understanding can shine of itself.
    Monastic and lay practice simply offer two different forms for doing that.

    Exactly so.

    Eventually the form is empty. In other words distinctions of monastic/lay/Buddhist/mystic/self actualised/[label of choice] become meaningless.

    That is the emptiness of form.

    Practice. Awaken. Run on emptiness. Maintain form.

    :wave: .

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