Zen 101

Monday, July 07, 2014

Some Days

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Again it has been awhile since I posted any Zen-related musings. I'm not sure what's happening, but as I've said in earlier posts, I feel I have little to contribute that hasn't been said before. As it says in Ecclesiastes, there is nothing new under the sun.  That being said, perhaps I might make a few comments on the state of Zen today.  

Frankly, I feel Zen is suffering from a sickness which is pervading our world.  It is a sickness that causes a perversion of Zen and assaults its very nature.  There is no name for this sickness, at least not yet, but its symptoms include: a desire for power and recognition by its priests, a desire for money to support bigger and "better" Temples and Zen Centers, an all too willing effort to kow-tow to those interested in "self-improvement," an unwillingness to take on politically dangerous or incorrect stances in a public way, and an interest in playing the part rather than being the part of a Zen practitioner.

I admit, this list exposes my own biases.  I am not interested in fancy robes, public recognition, recognition by other Zen teachers, or any of that ego-driven crap.  I am interested in piercing the veil, uncovering the truth of our reality, living an honest and morally upright life, and being in service to others (sometimes at a cost to myself and my relationships). 

When I look at the ads in Buddhist magazines I cringe.  They expose the sad truth that Zen as practiced in some centers is more about profit than anything else. The costs all but prohibit ordinary, blue collar people from participating and seem directed at the more "privileged" classes of our society.  Ads that promote self, as opposed to renunciation of self seem so common as to be the norm. 

I really don't know what the "cure" might be for this sickness, but I believe it is our responsibility as Zen practitioners to do a fearless moral inventory of our practice and our relationship to power, authority, and wealth. Zen, in my humble opinion is, at root, iconoclastic, yet I rarely see the shards of our society's icons on the floor. While money is necessary to operate a Center and/or Temple, it is important, it seems to me, that we examine our needs to see if they are actual needs or, rather, "wants."  I would be careful of any Zen Teacher who values his or her robes above his or her relationship to the Dharma which teaches renunciation.  Personally, I think those who dress in fancy robes, carry whisks and/or teaching sticks about with them, should be carefully scrutinized.  This includes those priests who seem to pride themselves in who they know or whether they are members of the newly forming organizations that hold themselves out to be gatekeepers.

A true Zen teacher in my opinion is one who renounces such things and simply goes about his or her business teaching the Dharma in everyday life in an everyday way: nothing special.