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.