Monday, 25 July 2011

Hey,where'd the darned expediency go?

"In my view, American Soto Zen is almost choking to death on the efficaciousless idea of "Just this.""

This from Mike Dosho Port's site "Wild Fox Zen." You know, I agree, though I would extend the sentiment to include our tiny Zen circles here in old Blighty (that's Britain in case you don't know.) I know that Zen has come along a bit since the early years in China, and that it's not all hitting each other on the head or yelling like nutcases at one another in the hope of enlightenment. But what you get a sense of in reading the koans and tales which make up Zen folklore is the sheer range of teaching methods available to those cunning old masters. Whether verbally or physically, using inanimate objects or object-lessons from Nature, it seemed that the really good teachers were those who were ready to knock down beliefs and challenge concepts wherever  they reared their tricksy heads.
Since enlightenment is now a dirty word, however, this kind of thing is writen off. This equates to a loss of biodiversity in the Zenosphere. "Enlightenment" was only ever ateching tool, one perfect for underlining spiritual pride and ideas of attainment.There are few teachers willing to deal with students expectations of enlightenment it seems. But aren't these heartfelt curiosities the perfect opportunity for a teaching to strike home? It takes real courage to put oneself forward in a mondo, and ask a question. If the answer is simply a verbal lecture, I wonder about the point of it...
Having said this, I know that teaching in the old school way would probably scare most people off; it would probably scare me off. But I wonder if the only answer is to prescribe zazen or samu no matter what the temperament or concern of the student? I'm not a teacher, so all this should be taken with a vat of salt. But think about Gutei: remarkable it seems, because his only answer was to hold up the finger in answer. But even he had to break a pattern in order to teach, and suddenly fingers were flying about like chopped grass.
"Present moment" "Just this" and yes, even zazen: all these have the potential to become staid and ineffective. So then what?
As I say, I'm not a teacher, and neither do I even have a formal teacher, so I am spectactularly ill-qualified to talk about any of this. But that doesn't usually stop me.
If zazen becomes our only method, expecially in Soto Zen, are we not in danger of fixing on it, getting stuck in it amd imagining it to be something special? Your thoughts, readers, would be appreciated.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Spin Cycle of Nirvana

"It'll even do your cat..."
Of course, being me, I only really appreciate something when I can't have it. So this week finds me rather incapacitated after a minor operation, and somewhat unable to sit. I can hobble, I can perch, but I can't do regular-style zazen. What happens then? Can I get past pride, and attachment to form, and do zazen in a chair? I haven't yet. Being at home, and not having the distraction of work, my mind  becomes very busy trying to find things to get on with. New schemes, career ideas, things I should write: oh man, it goes around and around, a washing machine on a very familiar spin-cycle. I find also that I am an entertainment beast. I rent DVDs, I watch things on the Internet, I leaf through books casually, I write, I make hot drinks...I do everything but sit here and appreciate existence. Because that would be boring. I hunt crazily on the Internet for books to buy about Zen! Hah! Now and then, even I am sensible enough to realise, and I hope I don't come across too damned hippy here, but that everything really is right here. In my smallish lounge, with the tree outside the window, the books on the shelves, the houseplants waving gently, the gentle ache in my butt... Yeah yeah, books and entertainments and schemes are fine, they're not bad. But coming back to here? Back to now? It's all there is. And what a relief.