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Not much more to elaborate than just the question. But the website is making me type more stuff. So here it is.

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    Keeping a journal to what purpose?
    – esh
    Jan 26, 2017 at 17:28
  • just to write down thoughts and explore them... no purpose really
    – jason
    Jan 26, 2017 at 18:27

5 Answers 5

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There is no "Zen" attitude about anything. That in itself is not Zen. If someone keeps a journal, then someone keeps a journal. That's all it means, and it is neither good nor bad. It is just keeping a journal.

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Zen is indescribable. Where do you get these thoughts like zen has some rules or attitudes towards anything you do apart from maybe sitting meditation?

Look most of the things we do in this world has not much point apart from the ideas and concepts we are creating in our minds. I don't see why journal keeping is any different unless you unsuccessfully try to write Zen everyday in your journal.

Let's take for example tea-making. It is done with great attention and care and sipped with great attention and care. Such a simple thing is a ceremony. So, you could also sit there and write a journal with focus and attention if you would like to. Why are you bothered about Zen? Throw it and write your journal.

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  • wow. that really rings true.
    – jason
    Jan 27, 2017 at 14:43
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It's not necessary. In fact, it might even be an impediment. Thoughts about your experience/practice have a pesky way of being wildly wrong. Any idea or theorizing generally just gets in the way. I remember working with one koan in particular that I was damn sure I had nailed down. I began ruminating over it and extrapolated that experience into all sorts of crazy theories. Sure enough, in the dokusan room my teacher told me that I was barking up the wrong tree. With that, my entire theory crumbled into dust.

So no, a journal isn't necessary. Not unless you want to laugh at yourself and your overwhelming stupidity somewhere down the road! :)

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When I was a novice monk in a monastic retreat at my temple in Taiwan, which lineage wise is Linji Chan although they embrace all forms of Buddhist practice, as well as modern methods and technology to propagate the Dharma, one of the activity was to keep a daily diary of our experiences. And generally I tend to have a lot to say just about everything that occurred as well as my personal thoughts, this was handed over to our teachers for feedback. My teacher thought it was good that I have a lot to say, maybe even a bit too much to say that it has become a stream of consciousness. I distinctly recall an acquaintance new to the Dharma that struggled badly to write anything down and end up doodling on the page. It was through this comparison that I realized I really did mature as a person through my practice. Good diaries were further shared on the notice board to benefit other participants.

Generally it can be wonderful to reflect on and share important special moments. It can cultivate a mind of gratitude, appreciation, good will and resolve. When you begin to cultivate yourself, your writing likewise show your personal refinement.

You can even find inspiration from seeing enlightened thoughts within your peers, their resolution to become better people and so forth. Our temple even publish diaries of young novice monks which are just wonderfully heart warming.

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I think writing a journal is okay. I'm not so keen on the idea of comparing one's own writings to someone else's 'doodles' to bolster ideas of one's own maturity. Some people might be more confident in expressing themselves in other ways. The idea of using it to become a better person seems contrary to the spirit of Zen.

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