Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Conquering Ol' Pointless

I mentioned before that it can be tough to “go against the stream” of society. Let’s be honest, being a Zen Buddhist is hardly what most mothers would choose for their precious offspring:

“Oh yes, she’s doing really well, sitting on her little cushion for an hour nearly every day! The other day, she got to ring the bell which signals the start of zazen, so the Godo must trust her. Another few years, and she might be allowed to lead the chanting. Hours and days of her life, she pours in to it, finally she’s learning to go nowhere and do nothing. We’re so proud.”

Of course, most parents are happy if their children are happy, I don’t mean to imply that all parents want is for their children to be bankers and lawyers. Zen revels in pointlessness, however, and in our culture that’s pretty subversive. We’re used to chasing after something or other. Perhaps if we could make out that we were chasing enlightenment, it might make people feel more comfortable.

“Yeah man, I was just paddling about in No-mind, everything was groovy, thought and body were calm, posture was good, then out of nowhere comes this big mother of a kensho, man this baby was ripping apart all concepts, beliefs were being eaten up like sardines at a shark disco! I tell you, it was goddamned satori, nothing more nothing less. It was all I could do to cling on and ride that sucker out to the edges of my existence. What a damned rush!”

Sigh. But it doesn’t really happen like that. There is only one consolation, though as soon as I say it I’m in danger of saying too much: zazen makes things better, for me, and for those who deal with me. I don’t know how, I don’t know why. It just does. I hear sirens in the distance….the Zen police are coming for me. Until next time, Zen fans.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Woah like totally sick,dude.

I have been ill for a couple of days at home, and have spent a large portion of my time a) watching films and b) wondering what the flying fudge I should do with my life. I have even been reading a book "What should I do with my life?" by Mr. Po Bronson, and it's one that I can recommend. Or maybe not, because I still don't have much of a clue...
I'm someone who is rarely capable of settling down and enjoying where I'm at. I like to think things are moving along, that I'm getting somewhere. In terms of Zen, this is making all kinds of trouble for myself. After all, shouldn't I just be happy with my job? It is Buddha activity after all, as much as my next job will be. Shouldn't Zen allow me to be right where I am without  adding extra confusion or suffering? Well, kind of, yes. But on the other hand, if I am malcontented, I can also find my Buddha nature in that. If I feel the need for change, that's the way it is. To pretend that I'm content would be foolish. It would also be untrue.
 There is a particular criticism of Zen and  similar practices that I never really understand, which suggests that if everyone were to suddenly feel contented and whole where they were, various social ills and causes would never be addressed. But to feel whole is not to lose your passions. The people that would be politically inactive anyway would still be inactive perhaps. But the revolutionaries, the passionately engaged ones would feel whole in exactly what they were doing too, so there'd be no reason for the process of political liberation to suddnely halt. I am living, coughing proof of that. Not that I'm a political activist. But I still agitate about my own condition: I am a true worrier of Zen.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The Stink of Zen: the Ox-Tail Welcome Mat

Sometimes, Zen seems a little crazy. Going against the stream of the Game that we all play out day-to-day can be a little exhausting, and sometimes it's just damned disheartening to see impermanence wherever you look. Without a weekly visit to see some Zen friends, and the understanding of a Zen-practicing girlfriend, I would feel rather mental. On one level, Zen is everyday, it is the washing-up, the spreadsheet at work, and the waiting on hold whilst you attempt desperately to pay a utility bill to an inane computerised voice (I'm sorry, I don't understand. Was that "yes"?). On the other hand, letting go of views, living amidst impermanence, trying to live in a Bodhisattva way: these things can just seem plain bloody weird. Rinzai's "nothing to do, nowhere to go" is something I'm playing with at the moment, and with very little success. If I really "get into" practice, inevitably I start thinking "Oh cool, maybe I could write one of those tasteful Shambhala-type books, or become a groovy lay-Zen teacher. I could start a Zen school. Or maybe I could write a pithy, witty spiritual-type blog..." This is because I need something to lay hands on, something that says "Yes I am a Buddhist this is why I act funny okay?" As if I needed some excuse or some permission. But really all this could be dropped, and we could quite disappear to Zen : like a white heron in the snow, as the saying goes. Mind you, herons have got black legs, and they must have coloured eyes or that would just be just plain weird..
There's a koan, case 38 of the Mumonkan: "A buffalo passes by the window. His head, horns and four legs all go past. But why can't the tail pass too?"
This blog, this idle verbal lollygagging around that thing named Zen, this is my ox tail. Welcome to the Stink of Zen.