View Full Version : Zen Over Tibetan Buddhism

10 May 12, 14:56
I wonder if I should sort of 'switch' to Zen Buddhism as I'm finding studying Tibetan Buddhism is a bit tedious -- learning rituals and mantras.

I do like the simplicity of Zen Buddhism, and have to admit that I like how Western it has become -- I lived in Poland for several years and have had enough of wading through trying to understand someone's poor translation of English as they are trying to explain a complicated point to me. And I have run into this a few times when studying Tibetan Buddhism and know its me, but am tired of being frustrated.

I know there's nothing that says I can't go down the Zen road and still study Tibetan Buddhism or the masters of it's school -- the Dali Lama, Pema Chodron, etc. -- but am a little worried that there are differences between the two that I may not understand.

Many people say the differences are all cosmetic, but through my own studies I can see that this sort of explanation is a bit simplistic as well, and so that lends me to believe that it is a dubious explanation.

I was wondering if anyone had any thoughts about the differences and what they might be.

10 May 12, 15:57
Hi chrisfraas,

I cant compare Zen "over" Tibetan because I have never been into Tibetan. Just some books about it.

I was a Soto practitioner and during that time I found Zen suitable for my needs. But it has rituals and manners to perform many things. Its core practice is called Za-Zen or sitting meditation in the case of Soto school.

The best way is to attend a dojo (meditation hall) or a temple and to feel and taste the tradition. Zen temper fitted well with me but can be different for others.


10 May 12, 16:36
Hi chris,

I can sympathise with your difficulties because I was a TB practitioner for a long time. However there came a time when I felt a strong need to leave it all behind after discovering the Theravada Thai Forest Tradition, - and I've had no regrets.

I would imagine that Zen is a lot less ritualistic and also doesn't appear to have a need for all the excessive guru devotion that's an important part of Tibetan Buddhism.

with kind wishes


11 May 12, 00:48
Hi chrisfraas,

I've never practiced in the Tibetan tradition but have done my research and it does not seem well-suited to my individual disposition. I have, however, practiced Zen for a number of years and I've yet to encounter any rigid rituals or demands of blind faith. Personally, Zen works quite well for me. The only way to know if it works for you is to try it yourself.

Every school of Buddhism has its own flavor of rituals, some more-so and some less-so. No school is inherently better than another. All have their flaws. None is exempt from criticism. There is no sect with an absolutely perfect track record. In my practice, realizing this has helped me immensely.

In my experience, Zen is much less dependent on authority, and at times anti-authority compared to what I know of Tibetan Buddhism. At the same time, Zen is not a free-for-all. To me, it achieves just the right balance I need in my life.

Feel free to ask any questions of our Tibetan Buddhist and Zen Buddhist members here. Good luck in your journey.



11 May 12, 09:32
Hi chrisfraas,

My personal experience with Zen was like this:

1. If you are hungry,
Zen says: Go and grab a bite, whatever you can find, fill your hunger first so that you can think about what to cook later.

Others say: You are hungry now because you did not do your homework earlier. So go and get a cook book,
study hard and hopefully you can cook some good food for yourself.

Zen is "straight to the point"

2. If you think Zen is simple,
Zen says : "You are totally responsible for your own karma, your own life and death.
Zen is about yourself.
Besides the collective practices and regular "interviews" with your Zen Master, the rest of the time, you are "alone"

Some Western students says "Just go and sit (meditation) and do nothing" in Zen practice.

If you take this literally, don't be surprised if you find yourself sitting and doing nothing for years.......

Bodhi Tree
20 May 12, 02:11
Actually if you would rather study Zen over Tibetan thats fine. As a mater of fact our Daishin recommends learning Zen but also learning other forms of Buddhism also.According to him it helps in learning Zen to begin with. Before I first found Zen I was studying these two forms of Buddhism (Theravada and Tibetan Buddhism). Of course once you start learning Zen you have remember not to intertwine the different types of Buddhism you study.

I think death comes up alot in Buddhism you have one side (Theravada or Tibetan)) who believes in reincarnation (me) and the other side (Zen) that believes death is like you die and go to another place (but not associated with reincarnation). Thats one difference in the practices of Buddhism I can think of that brings alot of conversation and isn't associated with either cosmetic or simplistic out looks.I hope this may help a little.

Bodhi Tree

09 Jun 12, 23:51

Have a read of Shunryu Suzuki's "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" available on PDF free online, that would be a good place to start.


Gnosis Cupitor
10 Jun 12, 01:03
Why not do every tradition? By that I mean, take the best, what makes the most sense, through logic and practice, contemplation.

And here are some good reads too.

(Sixteen Books by Thich Nhat Hanh) http://torrentz.eu/6a23f22277eb7899c87b7679a971d8b9d1fb6b10

(And you use this to read them, to keep a library of them) http://www.adobe.com/products/digitaleditions/#fp

My apologies in advance if giving torrent links are not allowed on this forum.

10 Jun 12, 02:49
Don't worry,

Just feel your way towards whichever tradition, method, etc. you feel the most comfortable with, the one that resonates with you the most. I think most people practice in their particular tradition because it seems to make the most sense to them and then further more because they see noticeable improvements in their daily experience and in the understanding of their own mind and conditions.


10 Jun 12, 05:20
I am a new Buddhist so I cannot answer your initial question but I can say I play the drums. I used to be very frustrated with the drums. No matter how hard I practiced, there was always some one out there that was doing crazy stuff that I could never compare to.

I eventually realized that If I were to study the best drummer in the world, learn his every stroke, learn his every movement, I would just be a clone of him. I had forgotten the whole reason I had started playing the drums in the first place. I wanted to make my own beautiful music, and now I was being a follower instead of doing what was right for myself.

I went back to the basics and built myself up again. Today, I stand on my own two feet. The music I make may not be the most beautiful music in the world but it is mine and mine only. The same can be said about your question. What is the reason you chose to follow the Buddhas teachings in the first place? I believe if you answer that then everything else will fall into place.

10 Jun 12, 08:42
Sometimes it helps to read some of the newer teachers, to find the plain language you seek. I find books by HH the Dalai Lama too deep for me, but there are people like Pema Chodron, and I believe another mentioned Suzuki, also Jack Kornfield is a great beginner Zen teacher. The whole point is to find a way to understand the beginning teachings, and start to practice meditation in a way that clears and focuses the mind. The rest is frosting. (in my humble opinion)