Monday, February 16, 2009

Five Mountain Sangha

There are five primary aspects of Zen training in the Five Mountain Sangha. Primarily, it is important for each student to establish their direction by adopting two processes; the first of these are adopting the Buddhist vows and second is attained through following the precepts. Every morning and evening our students recite the four great vows which reminds them of their chosen path. As the students progress, they may take more advanced precepts, which establishes more firmly their dedication to the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. Perhaps the greatest vow that one must take is with his or her self, Buddhist practice can only be done by the student and nothing can substitute for this primary commitment. Practicing allows the student to slowly release their attachments to their opinion, their condition and their situation. The Zen Teacher can respond to this commitment by sharing his or her unconditional compassion.
The next aspect of training is the process by which the student begins to clean their own kárma. This is accomplished by bowing one hundred and eight times (or some reduced number when a student’s health does not permit) every day. Correct bowing means that the student must, with each prostration, allow their (small) I to take refuge in their Big (universal) I. Additionally, students perform many acts of together action at our Zen Centers as well as in their extended community. Every deed of selfless compassion helps to clean our kárma. It is very hard for a student to change their kárma if they live and practice in isolation.
The third aspect of student training involves leaning how to focus their attention, so that they might experience a before-thinking mind. This allows an experiential contact with their original nature and is sometimes called kensho (to perceive one’s nature). Meditation, both seated and walking, various types of yoga and some types of martial arts are all useful in this training. The Five Mountain Sangha emphasizes sitting Zen as the core of this training.
The fourth aspect of training involves expanding the student’s generosity of spirit. In our group we call it developing our Bodhisattva intention. Chanting helps to open a student’s heart, which is at the core of Bodhisattva intention. Zen Master Seung Sahn once said that we must chant for years in order to develop a tear in our voice. This can facilitate the students to share their feelings of generosity and become helpful to other people in the Sangha (and their extended community) through genuine service.
The fifth aspect of training is insight training, and this is Koan study, and Dharma talks. Koan training is many-sided and is used initially to give the student a map of the territory. The training introduces the student to the history of Zen and its primary teachers and leaders. It also brings them into a relationship with the basic cognitive aspects of Zen teaching. The actual attainment of insight is not the same as understanding the map of the territory of Zen. A second purpose of Koan training is that it will illuminate to the student those places where their kárma prevents them from seeing clearly.
The student and the teacher must approach Koan training in the correct spirit. There is no room for arrogance. There is also, no secret knowledge associated with passing particular Koans. Arrogance always comes from dry cognition; a cleverness, which only creates more kárma. And, this kárma is usually more difficult to overcome that any previous kárma accumulated by an individual. Conversely, genuine insight results in a widening of the generosity of spirit of the student.


Algernon said...

Much rejoicing for your new sangha and your teaching!

dochong, jdpsn said...

Thanks Mumun,

Hope all is well with you and your family.

Chris said...

Sign me up!

Al said...

I think I'm already signed up. Do I get a t-shirt? :-)

dochong, jdpsn said...

Thanks Chris for the comments.

Al, what size shirt do you wear?

Al said...


I wear a large these days.

Jiun said...

One of the things I love most dearly about the Five Mountain direction, is its core non-localized essence. Yes, there are centers - but the primary practitioners are using modern technology to interact with our Teacher and each other. so if someone who didn't live near a Five Mountain center really wanted to "sign up" - no problem!