Saturday, November 14, 2015

A Prayer

With respect,

This afternoon I was honored to offer a prayer at the opening of our monthly Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association meeting here in Las Cruces. I would like to share a few thoughts about my offering. I said, to paraphrase, 'my faith tradition has a slogan: "May all beings be free from suffering." I noted that all of us suffer and as veterans of combat we have a pretty damned good idea as to what real suffering is. God knows we are a suffering world. We suffer and live, we suffer and are wounded. I asked each of us to pray for those who were killed in Paris in violence that was...and is...meaningless. I asked us to pray that the Lord keep warm the hearts and souls of the families involved. 

My thoughts are also with those beings who suffer so much that they feel the only way to free themselves from their hate is to harm others. All of us feel the need to retaliate injury, but not all of us do harm as a result of that feeling. Our desire to seek retribution comes from the dark side of our nature, it is both normal and toxic, a result of millennia of natural selection. Yet so is our desire and need to care for one another a result of that same evolutionary principle. 

I believe the most difficult thing a person of spirit must do is love those who wish us harm. Few get there and many who do are assassinated for it. Peace is not easy. And working for peace in a climate of hate is dangerous. 

Personally, I must work hard every day not to give in to the inclination to harm those who threaten us. I often fail in this. I am human after all which is, then, a contradiction as the Latin, homo sapien (our biological classification), means wise man. Ironic, isn't it? 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Authentic Zen

With palms together,
Good Afternoon All,

From Rev. Senzaki’s correspondence in “Eloquent Silence,” (p 386) a few noteworthy notes: 

“… present day Japanese Buddhists do not understand true Buddhism, but are clinging to sectarian ideas instead.”  

And of Priest emissaries here to teach Zen:

“With few exceptions they are not accomplishing anything here but propaganda and the advertisement of their titles and cathedrals, like sandwich men peddling their wares.”

…”They may think they can do things here in America just as they do in Japan, but they are badly mistaken.”

Yet, today, years later, some of us cling to the Japanese as final arbiters of what is and is not Zen.  Authenticity from mind-to-mind transmission, practice, and up-right living are not as important, it would seem, as what lineage we are from and whether that lineage is officially recognized by Soto Shu in Japan.  

Senzaki-roshi, like Matsuoka-roshi, wished to build an authentic Zen practice here in the United States, a practice not dependent on Cathedrals, titles, and brocade robes. Theirs was a simple practice, one Rinzai, the other Soto, but each engaged in a simple, straightforward practice of Zen.  As we so often say, it was “nothing special.” 

The quotes above remind me of Dogen Zenji’s travels to China and his desire to bring “True Buddhism” to Japan.  His True Buddhism was in the daily practice of Zazen.  As Dogen Zenji attempted to find an authentic teacher, he went through a lot of “advertisements” and those closely affiliated with governing bodies first.  His true teacher, like another Zen radical, Uchiyama-roshi, simply practiced Zazen.     

Many have written and spoken about Zen in America.  There have been retreats dedicated to discovering, or perhaps creating and directing, what Zen in America is or will become. I fear these are essentially a wasted effort, as Zen cannot be directed, especially from the top down, or by groups of well meaning priests.

My Dharma grandfather was a pioneer in Zen here in the United States. He had a fresh vision developed Zen from its true roots, practice.  When he initially taught, Zen Centers were rare.  He did what Senzaki did, he practiced living room Zen.  His centers often, if not always, began from establishing sitting groups in living rooms. Nothing fancy and no trained assistants. He made do, training an Ino when necessary.  Training a Tenzo when meals were needed. As was pointed out as if a criticism of Matsuoka, he often ordained people before they were ready and trained them into their positions. Today we call that OJT.  It is not a bad way to teach.  On the Job Training (OJT) is hands on. In fact, we might say, “it's the American way.”

In truth, living room Zen is good, practice in parks and on the streets is good, and practice in our offices or on our motorcycles is good.  Each of these require nothing but the willingness to sit down and shut up.  Pandering to benefactors, holding out one’s lineage as something special, or making idols of dead teachers: these are our jailers, dear friends, not our advocates.

So?  Ahh, here is no so.  Zen is in the practice and the authentic relationships of teachers and students and these to the everyday.