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indi wrote

I've always thought the term "organized" is pretty useless. It was coined in a Christian context - and particularly an American Christian context, which was all about a slew of different Christian denominations coexisting - and Christianity is by and large all about organizations and official hierarchies and whatnot. With most Christian denominations, one actually has to take some active measure to join the congregation - usually being baptized. And there is almost always an official dogma, with a sanctioned leader or group of leaders to specify it and make ruling on applications of it, and functionaries at various levels with various powers to teach and enforce it. Generally speaking, if you're a Christian, you have a clear and explicit dogma you're supposed to believe in - supplied by your sect - and any deviation from that dogma is heresy. (This has become less true in modern times, as a lot of people have become "unaffiliated Christians"... still Christians, still believing at least basically the same dogma as many/most churches... just refusing to be beholden to any Earthly religious leadership, preferring a direct line to God instead.)

But those ideas don't really apply to most other religions. You're slamming into the limits of the term here, with Buddhism. Most forms of Buddhism are not particularly rigidly defined, and variation in the dogma is not only tolerated, sometimes it's encouraged. Zen in particular is all about eschewing dogma and finding your own path. Most forms are also quite comfortable coexisting with other beliefs, within limits, which is why you get crossovers with Shinto, and things like the Triple Religion. (All this is especially true for the more modern schools of Buddhism.)

If someone is practising zazen, I'd say that's pretty much practising some form of Zen Buddhism (possibly the Japanese form, whose name I cannot recall at the moment). Picking and choosing what works is the whole point of it. If sitting straight-backed in a full-lotus with your hands in a mudra doesn't work for you, but stretching out on a couch with your arms behind your head does, then the latter is not "wrong". Similarly, if the sound of a waterfall doesn't relax you and help you clear your mind, but some melodic death metal in the background does, then go ahead and put on the Amon Amarth. Rejecting authority and finding your own way is really the whole point of Zen Buddhism.

If someone rejects the label, that's fine; labels can still apply even if refused. It makes no sense in any case to talk about "organized Zen Buddhism" or being "affiliated" with Zen Buddhism. (I think the term "(un)affiliated" is also pretty useless outside of a mostly American Christian context.)

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Dumai wrote (edited )

your picture of christian history is pretty generalised; which, fair enough, it would have to be if we're talking about a tradition roughly 2000 years old, but it's a little too one-dimensional. if zen buddhism, a religion with a socially recognised clergical hierarchy, an established liturgical tradition, and a rich doctrinal background doesn't count as organised, then i can easily think of a few notable protestant christian demoninations that wouldn't fit the bill either. plenty of churches have strictly congregationalist polities! quakers who practice waiting worship, -- like me -- don't even have any ordained clergy (our numbers are pretty small so i'll accept we don't fall under your 'generally", but i really wouldn't appreciate any implication that we're less christian because of this)! anyhow, zen doesn't exactly discard written doctrine as much it seeks to transcend it -- you'll know christianity has attempted something pretty similar from the very beginning of our tradition if you know your pauline hermeneutics.

it's a plain fact that the dharmic traditions, buddhism included, have historically demanded far less exclusivity then the abrahamic faiths, but there's a fair distance between living and growing within several traditions and plucking a particular practice out of its cultural context as an outsider, which i have to say, is pretty common in western (white) buddhism. but i'd say "picking and choosing what works for you is the whole point" is, at best, hugely misleading. ask your average zen teacher if abusing substances is compatible with zen. go on, do it! they didn't accept the fifth precept for nothing.

edit: nevermind dumai, of course evangelicals practice baptism, god i'm embarrassed about that -- i meant they don't do infant baptism or view baptism in general as an initation into christendom. it's very symbolic and not at all essential for their soteriology, to the point that many of them allow unbaptised believers to partake in communion, and a lot of baptist churches don't require baptism as a prerequisite to church membership. brainfart/oversight on my part.

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indi wrote

your picture of christian history is pretty generalised....

Oh yes, I freely admit I was speaking in very hand-wavey terms, and focusing particularly on the major American denominations and ideas of what Christianity broadly "looks like" to the average English-speaker. I wasn't really trying to make a point about the nature of Christianity or Christendom, I was just trying to get at the idea of "affiliation".

The idea of "affiliating" with a church or religious group is very much a Western, and mostly American, idea, probably going back to all the inter-denominational strife and endless "schism-ing" in the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries. I'm constantly amazed at how well most Christians can identify their particular branch of Christianity (reminds me of that famous Emo Phillips joke); that's not something adherents of most other faiths can do. (I wasn't even a Christian, but I knew to say I was "Anglican" to some people and "Pentecostal" to others to avoid headaches.) While some strains of Zen Buddhism do have "official" hierarchies, that stuff is only of interest to the most devout - mostly the people intending to become part of the hierarchy themselves; most adherents would look at you confused if you asked them how to "join" their religion, and probably answer with something vague like: "You just sorta... do it."

I don't deny Zen Buddhism is a religion; it undoubtedly is. I just don't agree that the concept of "affiliation" makes as much sense with it as it does for most forms of Christianity.

For sure there are plenty of Christian denominations that don't really fit the standard mould, but are just as much Christian.

As for baptism, it's not usually something that's required to join, but it's often part of the process - especially if you're not coming from another Christian tradition. And if there's not a literal baptism with water and all, a lot of traditions have the notion of a "metaphorical" baptism - baptism by the Holy Spirit (such as with Pentecostals) - or they talk about being "born again", or "accepting Jesus into your heart" or whatever. There isn't always a literal, physical joining ritual, but there's almost always the idea that you need to "do something" to really join the congregation, and there's a some kind of delineation between people who are "in" and people who aren't, whether taken seriously or not.

I have to describe these things in very hand-wavey terms, because there are so many different forms, and many churches will happily welcome new members right off the street (if only to grow their numbers, or in the hope of fully converting them later) and don't really take the literal word of what's in their theology all that seriously (for example, allowing communion to the unbaptized). Covering all the various practices in anything but the vaguest terms would be too much. Much easier to just generalize what the biggest denominations (Catholics, Pentecostals, etc.) do, and hand-wave away the less common variations.

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amongstclouds wrote

Your commitment to religious authority is worrying.

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amongstclouds wrote

Ikkyū

Chögyam Trungpa

Here's two examples of very iconoclastic masters.

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Dumai wrote (edited )

i could think of a few equally heterodox christians. i don't know if i could name anyone who thought exactly like simone weil or ivan illich in general, let alone among their fellow catholics. and i'd bet you most of what they wrote would be shocking to most christians.

but uh... i really try not to commit to religious authority. i belong to a denomination that was forcibly suppressed for much of its early history, in part because it rejected authority as such. but i don't think either of the buddhist masters you mentioned would deny that zen is transformative, that it demands a change in you, and i think that kind of flies in the face of this very casual "picking and choosing what works for me".