Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Zen and the art of becoming cliched

I'm a sucker for Buddhist writings: I own more of Shambhala's books than they do. I trawl websites and blogs and I used to buy the two big magazines before the demise of Borders, the sole stockist in my city. If one immerses oneself in all this print for long enough, you begin to see patterns forming; patterns which quickly become cliches or buzzwords.  I'm guilty of it in my own amateurish scrawlings. Spoken words I believe are less susceptible to becoming stale. But writings start off somewhat stale, and only get worse with repetition and time. So for expediency's sake, I shall engage in a little cliche busting, albeit with the greatest respect for the writers who are bravely putting their stuff out there. Apologies for the lack of slanty thing over the "e" of cliche. I don't know how to do it in Blogger...

In no particular order:

1) Domestic Zen

Yes, yes, Zen isn't all about samadhi, koan and and satori. It's about real stuff like housework and washing your pants. I love that Zen has that practical edge and isn't all crazy metaphysical hooha. But I like the hooha. I like that Zen looks squarely at the Great Matter of Life and Death, and at our small ideas about self, time, and our place in the Universe and busts them right apart. And there's some magic in that. It's not all domestic drudgery hem hem sorry Dharma. 

2) "The present moment"

What can I say? The whole thing behind this teaching it seems is to get a person to see that it's serves no purpose catapulting their mind about like a time-travelling worry machine, that everything you neeed is right at hand. But this phrase gets chucked around so much, when I hear it I have visions of time all sliced up into little bits and marching past my eyes...there is no present moment! There are no "moments"! Time is not divided up into little moment-shaped pieces, okay?

3) The koan about rubbing the tile to make a mirror

Zazen has no point, you can't become Buddha by sitting, blah blah blah...Yeah yeah, but it was his rubbing the tile that made the other dude realise his Buddha nature wasn't it? This koan is in almost every book about Zen that I pick up. That's all really.

4) Babies and their bathwater

This one crops up whenever the state of Western Dharma is up for discussion. Archaeologists of the future may well conclude that Western Buddhists were cruel to children.

5) Zen and the art of...

Okay guilty as charged. "Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance" was a great book, which no-one seems really to read. They just appropriate the title for their own devious ends...

I hope you've enjoyed my rant. And taken it with a large dosage of salt. 

1 comment:

kowey said...

The Soto Zen Facebook page has a tendency to fill up with "lovely" Zen quotes and sayings. Makes me gag, but I think it's recycling the likely grouchy-Zen cliché