The Concept of Surrender in Buddhism

Paladin

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This is a difficult question to frame, so forgive the crudeness of its form.
In the study of Buddhism I have found an excellent way for dealing with ego and looking deeply inside myself to see its internal workings. Yet in all my studies I have not come across the concept of "surrender" as it is understood in Christianity. When the pain of wrong doing, willfulness, or error builds up in an individual to the point of exploding, that person is said to have "hit bottom" and in an act of pure contrition and despair just gives up and surrenders. Are there teachings in the Suttras that correspond to an event like this? I do know that many persons doing prayers to Vajrayana (sp?) often burst into sobs and it can be very cleansing.
Any ideas?

Peace

Mark
 

seattlegal

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This is a difficult question to frame, so forgive the crudeness of its form.
In the study of Buddhism I have found an excellent way for dealing with ego and looking deeply inside myself to see its internal workings. Yet in all my studies I have not come across the concept of "surrender" as it is understood in Christianity. When the pain of wrong doing, willfulness, or error builds up in an individual to the point of exploding, that person is said to have "hit bottom" and in an act of pure contrition and despair just gives up and surrenders. Are there teachings in the Suttras that correspond to an event like this? I do know that many persons doing prayers to Vajrayana (sp?) often burst into sobs and it can be very cleansing.
Any ideas?

Peace

Mark
Um, I think in the Pure Land Buddha tradition there is what some describe as "the fourth mind of contrition" in addition to the sanjin (three minds) that might be considered to be analogous to the Christian concepts of Faith, Hope, and Love. (If I understand the concept correctly, which is probably not the case.) :eek:
CR member, Tariki, aka Derek, will probably know more about this.
 

Snoopy

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Hi,

In my limited experience I have not come across the concept of surrender so perhaps that is why you also have not come across it?

Looking inwards to examine our thoughts and actions is a way to address our experiences and so perhaps change in some way, but I’m sure you know this already.

“Wrong doing, willfulness, or error” are ideas around evil, sin, guilt and punishment. These don’t seem like helpful concepts on any path you may be on. The psychological construct of the ego may be a motivating force in our lives but we need to be the master of it, not the slave.

And who or what is the surrender to?

s.
 

Paladin

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You see the difficutly in posing the question Snoop.
I don't think in this particular event the threat of punishment comes in so much but sin or error as it were is very much a part of it. Do you remember the story of the murderer who terrorized the towns near where the Buddha taught? One night as the Buddha was walking back to his little hut the feared criminal blocked his path. As I remember the story, the Buddha merely gazed at this man, radiating love and forgiveness (as the Buddha would) and the man broke down, threw down his sword, fell on his knees before the Buddha and began to sob uncontrolably begging him for forgiveness.
Eventually this man was ordained a bikku(sp?) and became one of the best dharma teachers around.

Peace
Mark
 

Snoopy

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Hi Mark,

Yes, words can be pitiful tools! I know the story you relate. We can make an error, maybe with skilful intentions but only afterwards see it as error. Or we may know we are acting unskilfully. This is something that ultimately only we can deal with IMO. I consider "sin" to be a Christian concept, nothing "wrong" with that in itself, but I don't find it a helpful one.

s.
 

earl

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Yeah Mark, one of the many things that makes me a heretic to both Christians & Buddhists is that neither camp appreciates it when I point out the tremendous similarity in psychospiritual dynamics of view when one compares Amida/Pure Land Buddhism to Christ/Christianity.;) But the similarities are quite striking. Here's an article from a zennie that touches on devotion and surrender, (seems that you scratch a Buddhist and a gush of love for the "Divine" emerges:) ):

ascent magazine

have a good one, earl
 

Paladin

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Thanks Earl, that was an excellent article and I found it very helpful. I guess I just wanted to know if there was anything in the Buddhist thinking that recognizes the transformative power of contrition. Normally I hate long posts, but I suppose I should elaborate just a bit with your forbearance.

Back in the 90's I was married to a woman who had three sons, two of which lived with us and the youngest Andy with his father. I was recently out of the army after ten years of Infantry trainig and was struggling to understand what the civilian world was like. Gina, my wife was actually my second wife the first Cindy, left me due to the rigors of Army life.
Gina's other two sons, Joey and Christopher were to live with us in the house I had remodled for us. Christopher, the eldest boy had been born with Muscular Dystrophy and was a full time care kid. Because he was getting older and heavier much of his care fell to me being the strongest and having to lift him from the bed to the chair and sometimes into the bath. I had a major role in his care and even took Nurses aid training to help care for him and others.
It was hard for an introvert like me to adjust to family life and having Chris to care for strained me more than I could tell. I loved both the boys as my own but sometimes the frustration and wear and tear got the best of me and I would lose my temper.
Gina' and I eventually separated because of the strain and I moved to a dingy little apartment on the north side of town known for its drug addicts and other outcasts of society. Back then I was smoking pot and drinking moderately but still working and taking care of myself.
One morning I got a call from Gina when I was getting ready for work. I answered the phone and heard her voice say: "Christopher is dead" in an emotionless tone. It took a few moments for the truth of this to sink in and when it did I drove at breakneck speed to her house. The police officer outside the house wasnt near quick enough to stop me going in.
There was Christopher lying cold on his bed. I had gone over the night before to help get him to bed and telling him I loved him I tucked him in and went home.

Losing Chris and my marriage to Gina both at the same time unhinged me something fierce and I began to use drugs and alchohol all day long sometimes to kill the pain.
One day, nearly six months after we buried Chris I felt ready to die. I walked out of my room and headed to a little empty lot adjacent to a creek behind the apt building. Once hidden from anyones view I just sank to my knees sobbing, grabbing handfulls of grass and angrily throwing them into the wind. I don't even know what I was saying exactly but I had enough, I wanted to die, I knew that I had messed everything up, and hurt others because of my own stupid pride and ignorance. I shouted at God " If you can't show me that you are real, that love is real, then I'm checking out, DO YOU HEAR ME!!!"
I was on my knees crying hysterically then not caring who heard when eveything got quiet, even the wind and birds seemed to make no sound, and I began to feel this incredible warmth spreading through my body. I felt rather than heard the words that at once seemed inside and outside me as well. It said simply "I am here"
I felt wrapped up in a blanket of love like I was being held by invisible arms, and my crying quieted leaving me exhausted and emptied of all energy to fight.
It was after that I began the slow process of recovery. Eventually I went back to the east coast and entered therapy, part of which was going to NA meetings several times a week.

It was that final giving up to whatever was out there, call it what you will, it didn't make any difference. That final act of surrender took me from the bottom of human experience to the peak in the time a teardrop takes to hit the dust.

And this kind of story pops up again and again if you ever listen to Drunks and Addicts tell their tale.
Today, I still live one day at a time, and I am careful to watch my motivations and behaviors. the spiritual path that includes concepts from Christianity and Buddhism helps me to continue what the twelve steps started. It isn't easy, but as most here know, no genuine spiritual path is.

Peace

Mark
 

seattlegal

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article said:
The process of Buddhist training, he explained, was like walking through a long tunnel. But unlike a regular tunnel where the goal is to get somewhere else, the important thing about this tunnel is what it does to you while you are walking through it. So it does not really matter which end you go in or which end you come out, what matters is that you walk all the way through and emerge a transformed person.

Then he gave a name to each end of the tunnel. One he called "Zen Buddhism"; the other he called "Shin Buddhism." Shin, or Pure Land, is the other major form of Buddhism found in Japan, and it may well be the most devotional type of Buddhism around. Shin Buddhists revere the Buddha Amida and worshipfully recite His name many times a day to refocus their devotional attention upon Him. Koho Zenji told my master that it was fine to enter the tunnel through the end called "Zen," with none of that "religious stuff" anywhere in sight. He just warned her not to be too surprised, however, if she came out the other end a devotional person.
It sounds like what happened to me. I was unknowingly conditioned and trained in Zen, then after several years became a Christian, and only after several more years did I discover my prior Zen conditioning.

article said:
What is the difference between a self dropped away and a self surrendered? What is the difference between Truth and Divinity? I believe that there are, indeed, differences between those things, but I have come to suspect that such differences pale in the face of the shared similarities. Something seems to be at work in both of these great ways of spiritual practice that is bigger than their differences. And, of course, the two can be practised together.
Please forgive me for having a Christian vocabulary, rather than a Buddhist one. This seems to have a similar savor to the Trinity...but that's just me. ;)


Paladin said:
It was that final giving up to whatever was out there, call it what you will, it didn't make any difference. That final act of surrender took me from the bottom of human experience to the peak in the time a teardrop takes to hit the dust.
Thank you for sharing your experience, Mark. :)
In my Christian vocabulary, it seems that you have gone through what Jesus described in the beatitudes in Luke 6. :)
 

earl

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Yes, Mark, thanks for sharing your story of pain and redemption. Glad to hear you're in a better place in your life these days. This wasn't the first article I had read from a zen guy mentioning Shin and devotionalism with respect. A number of zen teachers have commented that the very emphasis on strong personal effort in zen practice can subtly seem to reinforce the very "self" they seem to wish to see through and a practice such as Shin which instead emphasizes trusting entirely in the redemptive action of Amida instead of assuming one's own efforts will be the key to enlightenment, i.e., surrender of self, counteracts that. There is a long tradition of combining the two. As I owe my life quite literally to forces greater than me, it only makes sense to in some sense acknowledge that in the basis of my spiritual practice, while also attempting to take personal responsibility to deepen my understanding of Reality. Ironically, to fully trust in an Other to the extent required seems to me to be difficult to achieve without the complimentary work on seeing through the self that fears surrendering:) Take care, earl
 

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wouldn't worry about "crudeness of form", paladin...

as u say, there is no "surrender", although there is plenty of ridding/shedding/cleaning/cleansing/polishing the bright mind, and I think this is because in buddhism u don't give urself up to something/someone else, but look instead for the self... u have to save urself, instead of being saved, is the way I see it...

saying that though, buddhists do surrender, without maybe knowing that they surrender- prostrations, a way of accumulating merit, kneeling, bowing, lying on the floor on ur belly in the dirt before ur Lord, this is an implicit surrender, and the same "throw urself down before the greatness of the lord" thing that most religions do, and most buddhists also recite the triple refuge at some point- which is, basically "I take refuge in the buddha (the person), the dharma (the doctrine), and the sangha (the community)", which again, to me, is implicit surrender, a giving up of the self as an individual, although rather than surrender before a victor, we beseech them for protection...

there are a few vajrayana (diamond-vehicle, aka tantra) visualisation exersises where u imagine urself becoming one with a higher status deity, but again, this is not a true surrender, and unless u can generate the subtle energies of the inner winds all ur doing is pretending and doing what is known as "peopling the bardo"... there's loads of tantra about these days, and most of it u should stay away from, as its a complete waste of time...

so, although the concept of surrender is not specified within buddhism, as far as I know, u are encouraged to surrender, implicitly, and in some places this surrender is more sinister, and u are actively encouraged to give everything up and do and think only like the guru does, but buddha didnt teach it...
 

Francis king

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wouldn't worry about "crudeness of form", paladin...

as u say, there is no "surrender", although there is plenty of ridding/shedding/cleaning/cleansing/polishing the bright mind, and I think this is because in buddhism u don't give urself up to something/someone else, but look instead for the self... u have to save urself, instead of being saved, is the way I see it...

saying that though, buddhists do surrender, without maybe knowing that they surrender- prostrations, a way of accumulating merit, kneeling, bowing, lying on the floor on ur belly in the dirt before ur Lord, this is an implicit surrender, and the same "throw urself down before the greatness of the lord" thing that most religions do, and most buddhists also recite the triple refuge at some point- which is, basically "I take refuge in the buddha (the person), the dharma (the doctrine), and the sangha (the community)", which again, to me, is implicit surrender, a giving up of the self as an individual, although rather than surrender before a victor, we beseech them for protection...

there are a few vajrayana (diamond-vehicle, aka tantra) visualisation exersises where u imagine urself becoming one with a higher status deity, but again, this is not a true surrender, and unless u can generate the subtle energies of the inner winds all ur doing is pretending and doing what is known as "peopling the bardo"... there's loads of tantra about these days, and most of it u should stay away from, as its a complete waste of time...

so, although the concept of surrender is not specified within buddhism, as far as I know, u are encouraged to surrender, implicitly, and in some places this surrender is more sinister, and u are actively encouraged to give everything up and do and think only like the guru does, but buddha didnt teach it...
 

earl

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Mark as I see you appear to be a bit of a Christo-Buddhist as do I, thought I'd post a few more tid-bits as re blending of traditions. You probably are aware that a number of Christian clerics have studied and even mastered Zen, (a number of Catholic priests have become roshis-we know because they have published books:D). Interestingly, don't see many Protestants so inclined, thoug you might want to check out the website of empty bell-the fellow, a Protestant, has allowed Buddhism to steep into his Christianity in a productive manner
The Empty Bell

Heck, as a bit more trivia, some time ago ran across this obscure group-St. John's Order-which intrigued me as the site describes the order as founded by a group from Mongolia which practiced Vajrayana Buddhism & Russian Orthodox Christianity-now thems my kinda guys:) . But if they still exist, never have responded to my e-mails to them seeking more info.

htp://www.quietmountain.org/dharmacenters/st_johns/st_johns.htm

May God bless you with perfect enlightenment.;) earl

Don't know why that link didn't post right. Not much info on that page but you might want to goole it as what there was was intriguing. The branch I tried to contact in Missouri has their website:

St. John's Order of Missouri
earl
 

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Seattlegal,
Thank you so much for your kindness:)

Francis,
I find your insights very helpful, thank you.

Earl,
What would I do without brothers of your wisdom? I will look into these sites and am intrigued no end!

I don't know about you, but there is a certain pain, perhaps pang of lonliness when by virtue of the beliefs in our hearts we cannot at the threat of severe cognitive dissonance adhere to traditional doctrine. It would be so very easy to just say, "yes I believe" and embrace the whole of the Catechism the way it was given us as children. Maybe I should start another thread in which we could issue our own statements of beliefs and those we reject and why. Don't know if it would help, but it sure would be cathartic :)

Peace
Mark
 

seattlegal

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Heck, as a bit more trivia, some time ago ran across this obscure group-St. John's Order-which intrigued me as the site describes the order as founded by a group from Mongolia which practiced Vajrayana Buddhism & Russian Orthodox Christianity-now thems my kinda guys:) . But if they still exist, never have responded to my e-mails to them seeking more info.

htp://www.quietmountain.org/dharmacenters/st_johns/st_johns.htm

May God bless you with perfect enlightenment.;) earl

Don't know why that link didn't post right. Not much info on that page but you might want to goole it as what there was was intriguing. earl
You missed one of the "t's" in "http." It works now. :)
St. John's Order
 

earl

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Thank you SL. I've always been quite typo-prone. Sometimes in cases like this I take it as a sign from God to take a break (briefly) from the cyber world:D Time to give the fingers a rest. earl
 

samabudhi

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Maybe I should start another thread in which we could issue our own statements of beliefs and those we reject and why. Don't know if it would help, but it sure would be cathartic

If we suffer in this life, it is from accumulation of bad karma. This results from our own sin; sin, which from the Buddhist view is seen as conceit / wrong view.
By confessing your negative deeds and hiding your good ones, you purify your karma. In Vajrayana, confession takes the form of a meditation on the deity Vajrasattva. Vajrasattva is considered the embodiment of all the Buddhas. In the presence of the pure Vajrasattva, you can confess all your negative karma. If you aren't empowered to practice Vajrasattva, you can still confess to friends or colleagues, but some people find it easier with Vajrasattva.

In a way, confession is just one form of surrender in Buddhism, and an integral part for entry in Vajrayana.
(I had a confession blog on another forum, but I find confessing in writing somehow seals things. When I confess in speech, then Vajrasattva forgives me, and I never have to look back.)

Guru Yoga is the pinnacle of Vajrayana practice, and is the complete surrender to a single, living person (a difficult thing to do) and ultimately, to your own enlightened nature.
 

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As my good friend Commander Peter Taggart of the NSEA Protector has always said:

"Never give up, never surrender!"

~ from the Historical Documents of Galaxy Quest
 

InLove

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samabudhi said:
By confessing your negative deeds and hiding your good ones, you purify your karma. In Vajrayana, confession takes the form of a meditation on the deity Vajrasattva. Vajrasattva is considered the embodiment of all the Buddhas. In the presence of the pure Vajrasattva, you can confess all your negative karma. If you aren't empowered to practice Vajrasattva, you can still confess to friends or colleagues, but some people find it easier with Vajrasattva....

...In a way, confession is just one form of surrender in Buddhism, and an integral part for entry in Vajrayana.
(I had a confession blog on another forum, but I find confessing in writing somehow seals things. When I confess in speech, then Vajrasattva forgives me, and I never have to look back.)

This is an interesting thought. It reminds me a bit of the "priesthood of the believer" concept in certain Christian philosophies.

InPeace,
InLove
 
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