Zen Study Group

The Zen Study Group will resume in January with a revised format. The group will now meet each of the last three Wednesdays of the month from 7:00 – 8:00 PM.

Led by Bob Tremmel: “Forming an Intentional Lay Zen Practice”

DESCRIPTION: The matter we’ll take up in our February discussion groups is how to create for ourselves an intentional lay practice that works in our own lives and is also workable within the larger framework of institutional Zen. Historically, this kind of practice formation has not always been easy, especially for people outside the cultural mainstream. Women in particular, at various points, have been marginalized or even excluded. Likewise, Hui-Neng, the sixth Zen ancestor in China, was excluded from full participation in the monastery of the Fifth Patriarch because he was an illiterate “barbarian from the south.” And when his true insight was recognized, he had to run for his life.

One matter to keep in mind is the unique quality of the way Zen is being adapted in the West. Unlike some Asian countries, in the West lay people practice zazen and participate fully in the range of liturgical actions while maintaining their spiritual autonomy. Many have pointed out that lay people in the U.S. who are affiliated with Zen centers are hybrids of sorts, practicing in a range somewhere between traditional Buddhist lay practice and the practice of ordained clerics.

TEXTS: I’ll provide excerpts from various texts to help form the basis for our discussions. At this point the readings have not all been selected, but if you want to start reading ahead, you can find a copy of the Vimalakirti sutra (tr Charles Luk) online. Vimalakirti is probably the most prominent lay person in the early Zen/Buddhist tradition. We’ll also read various accounts of Layman P’ang (some of which feature his wife and daughter), as well as excerpts from The Blue Cliff Record that are based on lay people, including the most prominent female practitioner in early Chinese Zen: Iron Grindstone Liu. As I plan our discussions, I’m aware that some of you have already investigated these issues, so if you have any suggestions that will help guide our work, please let me know.

Led by Christopher Genyu Spinler: Awakening, Realization, and Enlightenment: Historical Perspectives on a Challenging Notion”