Saturday, August 22, 2015

"Us and Them"

There is an "Us and Them", in Zen.

And, this is actually a kind of proof that there are very few "true" masters, because this way of thinking is not something that is to be created.

It is something to be destroyed, in a true practice.

It is saying, in one's life:  "I am one of these people.  I am one of all people.  They are no different from me", a way of thinking that is expressed by Buddha's dropping of of "caste", "noble", etc. when he left his father's compound.

This is a very rare view.  It requires a great heart, and/or a wish to develop one.

Most people spend their lives trying to separate themselves from the next.  It is maybe 10,000 to one, in any setting, including a monastery.  Most people want this, to gain riches, status, position over others, and so on.  It is very rare that one actually wishes to see himself on the same level as others.

But this is the only real way to see, and if your group is heading this way, there would be no "Us and them", and there would be no weight placed on the labels like monk/layman/master/layman/formal/informal, and so on.  If you think in these terms, you think in terms of separation, and your practice is one of division.

How can you see which way you are going?

The hidden lines present themselves plainly in difficult times.  This is when they become apparent.

America went to war, when "we" felt we were attacked.  A lot of people reacted in ways they didn't expect.  A lot of people came to see the world differently, on that day.  For many people, a line came into focus, one that had been hidden before. 

"American" suddenly meant something.  It was always there, actually, but it had been hidden.

It is the same in Zen.   There's a line.

In truth, there were many, many people who spoke up about characters like Shimano and Sasaki in the past.  There were probably over a hundred of them.  They weren't listened to.  They were not "monks" or "masters", so they didn't "understand Zen".  For decades, they were ignored, or labeled ignorant, or dismissed.  They were seen as "negative" somehow.

People only started to pay attention when a "monk" spoke up, one day, after decades of silence.

Suddenly, it was "one of us".

So there is a division, held by many,  that was actually created, in the practice, and people have trouble looking beyond this division.   It is part of "them", so they protect it.  It is actually exceedingly rare that somebody goes beyond this.

It is much, much more rare than what one may think, at first glance.

Just as with the Catholic church, in the Zen community, there was an institutional silence, held under the force of those who felt protective of what had become "part of them".  Even now, you still hear people recommending solutions to past problems, but only in "Zen" terms.  The AZTA, who had also remained silent for many years,  is creating a "Zen" ethics committee to oversee breeches of conduct within their ranks.

"Zen" writers interview therapists who "have many years of Zen experience"

This sounds rational, to people.  But it is actually irrational.

In fact, the problems in the Catholic church were only addressed, in a meaningful manner, once outside groups became involved.

That's "Us and them".

If you look at the traditional Zen practice, it appears set up to allow for the creation of such identity, rather than its destruction.  As one "progresses" in monastery life, one is offered social rewards, public ceremonies, celebrating one's "commitment" to the group.  One is even given new names -- a new "Buddhist" name, and a new "monk" name. 

In the group, this is done to great fanfare.  It is displayed as a big, important step in one's life.

No doubt those "within the group" feel great about all of this.  No doubt there are positive effects for the individual.

But if you are talking about what Buddha did, if you take the wider view, if you say "hey, forget about me, is it good for everybody?", does it help? 

Or does it help, instead, to create a "Me and You", and an "Us and Them"?

You know this:  Such things weren't around in Buddha's practice.  These are things he actually left behind, when he walked away from the Hindu places he had visited before he went under the tree.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Re: Shimano and Sasaki

There was/is something about Sasaki and Shimano that most people don't realize.

Usually, when you read about these men, the articles, or the posts, are written by people who never dealt with them, or by people who sat sesshin a few times, something like this.

So most of the discussion is simplistic binary thought.  He had sex with a student, "that's bad!" or something like this.  People go on from there, expanding on how a Buddhist master, or sangha should behave.

Often, these articles end with a call for more critical thinking, on the part of the Sangha.  They warn against how unhealthy a group can become with blind devotion, and they make a call for a more active, aware, and responsible sangha.

That's fine. 

But it is a mistake to think that such a thing happens on its own.  It is also a mistake to think it is simply a "Buddhist teacher who had sex", and that this was the problem.  Los of people have sex.  Sex is not an ugly thing.

What is ugly is how all these things happened, if you were there to see some of it.

It is not as though students would just show up, get into the rapture groove, and give their lives away. 

That is not what happens...

The truth is, Mr. Sasaki and Mr. Shimano kept very careful watch over their sanghas.   This was actually the focus of their days; to maintain the very atmosphere of devotional excess that all now recognize as unhealthy. For these men, this was a conscious, deliberate effort.  They would surround themselves with a few enablers, and offer kind words of approval to those who displayed reverential awe.

That is how most people behave, actually.  The formality of the practice encourages this.

But this doesn't describe everyone in Zen.  There were indeed critical thinkers happening by, and/or those who, for whatever reason, remained as they were when crossing the gate.  And these people would be treated very differently. They were targets.  Mr. Sasaki and Mr. Shimano wanted them out.  They would manipulate those closest to them into sniping at anyone who they even suspected might cast an eye their direction. Whistleblowers, even potential whistleblowers, were very quickly made unwelcome.

They were not stupid men.  They could very easily see who these people were.  They would very quickly make them targets.

This was an easy task.  Within the air of devotional excess, such a "master" need only whisper to those close to him.  Even "I fear this new student takes energy from the Zendo"  will send a remarkable percentage of people into an angry rage, against the target.

It is not a normal environment.  This behavior was rewarded, by these "masters", and the inherent secrecy of the Zen form ("master" is rarely seen by anyone, aside from a few people, "dokusan" always in secret, no public questioning, no public forums) makes this an easy job.

Also, nobody ever admits their role.  That never, ever happens.

This is how such an unhealthy environment is created. It doesn't just show up.  It is a product of willful deception, and manipulation.  It is a calculated creation.

I was in a position to witness this.  I didn't know about the stories, at either place.  But it was frightening enough to witness this.  It is a mark of very dangerous character.  Not many people would wish for such control over others, much less deceive and connive to create and maintain it.

It will never, ever, be put to "good" use.  Such intentions will always reveal themselves in the selfish harm of others.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Question: What Allows It, and What Denies It

The only really important koans boil down to "What is this?".  This is actually the same question as "What were you before your grandparents were born?"  You should be able to figure out where these two questions meet. 

A koan that does not aid in resolving these questions, or aspects of what becomes known, is not a real koan.

Joshu was speaking from the answer, or shouting from it, when the monk's question cornered him into the false view.

Zen masters like the fact that Joshu screamed.  It makes it look like the old man was great and grand, and the monk was a fool.

Personally, I see this as a terrible distortion --  an abuse --  like many aspects of the traditional Zen form.  Many aspects of the form extend the idea of "master" over "student".  This includes ceremony, elaborate costumes, a rich Zen mythology, an impressive spectacle of formal order in the zendo, the "master's" aloofness from "normal" work, etc. etc. 

The list just goes on and on, and, oddly,  people criticize sanghas, for excess devotion, when the "masters" screw up.  But it is the traditional masters that insist on such ridiculous form, just for sitting still together, and it is the corrupt masters who require such unhealthy devotion from their students.

Anyway, Joshu is in no way dismissing the monk's question, nor is he demonstrating any sort of superiority, nor is he expressing frustration with the monk, nor is he "blasting away" the question into "nothingness".

He is doing none of these things.

In fact, this question, for all we know, may have been a test.   And, if so, it is a good test, because it scrambles things in a way that makes it impossible to answer. 

So, Joshu was forced to shout. 

What are you?  How are you here?  How are you seeing out your eyes?

Seeing this actually isn't so important, but in Zen, it is talked about as though it is everything. 

How best to address the question?

The truth is, the question is best presented unadorned.  Like any other investigative endeavor, like scientific inquiry, any belief system or devotional notions only diminish it, or steer one away.

In the traditional practices, if you look at the different ways that "insight" is characterized, things just don't match up.  Commitment to a traditional form is not part of the equation.  It won't help anything.  Obedience and devotion to a particular man or woman is not part of the equation.  "Advancing" in a number of  "stages" of "enlightenment", or considering things this way, is not part of the equation.   The unquestioning manner in which one goes through one's monastic rituals is not part of the equation.

Belief in any of these things -- even seemingly innocent trust in them -- are things that actually diminish the question, taking power away from it.  All of these things make it seem like there is something "else", besides "you" that will assist in the answer. 

They are all things that remove the ideas of independence  and self-sufficiency from the investigation.  They make "Zen" or "Buddhism" or "Advancing" into important words. 

A real group meditation "practice", then, where everyone is truly addressing the question while sitting beside one who no longer has no use for it anymore, would appear as "less" impressive, important, or ceremonial.  There would be nothing added to this, save some worldly regulations to make sure everyone is on the same page, operationally.

It can't even be "Buddhist".  Even this is a smokescreen.  Why make smokescreens?  There is no "belief" in a question, and there is no "faith", aside from that in yourself.    What you will see isn't "Buddhist".  It isn't "Zen" insight.  It isn't "Christian". 

It isn't "nothing" either.

You can't describe things these ways.

So why describe the approach this way?

The only people who would do this are the ones who have never seen.  Because there is no reason to burden people with weight that only has to be dropped, if they are to see.

The best group setting would simply be a schedule, and a cooperative, non-hierarchical format that the group has agreed to.  If it is seen by the participants as anything else, anything "more", then things have gone off course.

In fact, much of what is considered "traditional" does not even allow for the question.  A long time ago,  perhaps the practice did, when people were just meeting up to sit together, and chatting about it.  But as soon as "Zen" becomes a "thing", or "Buddhism" becomes a "thing", people behave in a manner, and reward a manner, that actually diminishes the question.

This is just a function of the rarity of the answer, especially among the leaders of form.

All personal labels deny the question.  "I am a Buddhist, I am a monk"  means you have not accepted the question of what you are.  You have, instead, accepted an appearance, and you have called the appearance the answer.  Moreover, you have added  additional layers on top.  You have added things to "Man" or "Woman", making an idea heavier, and thus making the answer more remote.

As Lin Chi said, you have added a head to the one you already have.

If you are interested in the question, you can't even think this way.  How do you see out of your particular eyes?  What puts you there?  What is the root of consciousness?

All experience, thought, and memory depend on this.

So it is worth an investigation.

Your whole life is certainly worth a look.

"I am a student" denies the question.

If you see things this way, you are not looking toward where the answer comes from.

"I am a master" denies the question.  It is even worse than saying "I am a student".

It sounds like I am being nit-picky, but I'm not.  People think "everyone knows the labels don't mean anything.  The masters know that, they aren't idiots".

But nobody is calling them idiots, or bad people.  They are just interested in doing things that are unrelated to the question -- or the answer, in fact.  Much of their life, and much of their activity, and much of their speech, relates, in fact, to the nonsense labels -- monk/layman, etc... 

This is just what happens, after awhile.  Things drift away.

Once in awhile someone comes along and changes things, for a bit, but things drift back, because it is not so common that someone shows up with the answer to what we are.  A man removes all the labels from his life, finds the answer, and wishes to help others do the same.  He doesn't bother with wasteful things.

After he dies, people start picking up labels, applying them here and there, and talking about them as if they are meaningful.   Then, in more time,  they start making great ceremonies for the labels.  They make great spectacles about the very things that have no importance, because they themselves have not found the answer.  They need the spectacle.  They have to make things look important.  They actually have to, because they don't have what is important.

Maybe there is a traditional master somewhere that has truly seen, but I listen to them talk all the time, and they give themselves away.  They always do.   Maybe they believe they have seen -- maybe they have thought out an idea about things being connected, and so on.  But then they will always give themselves away.

If you ask them "what is free will?"  they will talk about Buddhist beliefs, for example.

If you ask them "how about a question  not from the books?" they will give you a speech about the tried and true koan curriculum.

They won't come up with something that you have not heard before, or will not hear again.

They don't know.

If anyone is reading this, there is a point to this blog -- don't assume anything.  Don't assume what I am saying is true. 

The only way you will know, is if you see for yourself.  If you don't know, nobody can teach you.

You have to find out. 

There is no purpose to "following" anything, or anyone.  It is not sensible.  In fact, it is better to go to different places, all the time, like Lin Chi did.  They all say they know, but they give themselves away.

Because someone says "I know" doesn't make it so.

They know how people may answer the koans, but this isn't truly seeing.

Those living the answer have trouble speaking, or behaving, the way the masters speak.    They can, but it annoys them.  It is boring to speak about belief, and tradition, and divisions, and adornments to the self, and other things that are not real. It is a waste of time.

Long ago, it was believed that the sun rotated around the earth.

That is an appearance. 

Everybody thought this.

Galileo figured out that it was the other way around, and he spent his life in jail for what he said.

What was the first step in his figuring it out? 

He accepted the question.  He allowed himself to doubt the appearance, and approached things rationally, from there.

People think "This traditional master has great insight" but it is a nearly impossible thing.  It is like saying "This Geocentrist is a great Heliocentrist"

It just doesn't work.  It is impossible.  It is one way, or the other. 

Today, nobody would talk about Geocentrism.  Why would they?  It is boring.  It is a waste of time.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Genesis: Two Words For One Thing

If there is an icon American religious belief, it is the Bible.

And if there is one story of the Bible that everyone has heard, it is Genesis.

So why not write something about Genesis?

Everyone knows the story.  "God" makes the universe, makes Adam, pulls out a rib and constructs Eve, says have fun but don't eat the apple, the snake comes and says go ahead, so Eve eats it, and she convinces Adam to take a bite, "God" notices their shame, says "You ate the apple!", puts a curse on Eve and kicks them out of Eden.

Life for mankind is more difficult, after that.

The important thing in this story is the apple.  Here, the apple is from the tree of "knowledge of good and evil".  Adam and Eve can do anything in the garden.  They can frolic naked all they want.  There is nothing that is disallowed.  Sex all day.  Sex and sleep, sex and sleep.  Great life.  Anything.  Any amount of sloth.  Whatever they want.

They just can't take a bite of this "knowledge of good and evil".

In the story, this is the one thing that gets them cast out of the garden, when they take a bite of this.

That is actually what the story is saying, for mankind as a whole:  We have all taken a bite of the apple.  The great majority of us continue to take bites of the apple.  Whenever we judge, in our hearts, we take a bite.  We say "I know what is good, and I know what is evil"  and we make life difficult for those around us.  We diminish the shine of our heart.

That's pretty obvious. That's what "knowledge of good and evil" is;  judgement.

And so the path back to the garden is also pretty obvious, for mankind:  Each of us is to clear out our hearts of all judgements  -ALL of them, no matter what they are, and no matter how socially accepted they are.

Jesus's forgiveness, Buddha's acceptance.  Work so your heart gives freedom to others, and don't put conditions on your compassion.

This is actually a very difficult thing to do, without an enormous amount of travel, and tremendously varied experience.

Why is that?

Because you don't know the things you hold until they are brought to you.  You don't know jealousy until you have faced some terribly painful situation with someone you love, for example.  You don't get a chance to clear that unless you face it, and dive directly toward it, while you sit.  You don't get the chance to say "OK that feels horrible.  I have to feel warmth and love down in my stomach again.  I have to wish her well" for whoever it was, in whatever situation, no matter how bad it was.

This is the only way to find the root of jealousy, and pull it out.

It doesn't matter how you act.  Everyone can act OK after awhile.  It matters how you feel, way down deep, to the depth of all you think you are.  That's why the work takes effort.  It would take less effort if more people were doing it, but, today, it's just not the case.  You are on your own.

Now, the more you face, the better, and the less control on your life, the better.  The more different cultures, the better.  Every society has their particular shoulds and shouldn'ts.  You get hit with them all.  You forgive, and as an added bonus, you become comfortable everywhere.

You see in time that there is no way to live, that everyone is actually free, except for the fact that they keep telling each other how to live, in their hearts, in their words.  "Knowledge of good and evil".  Together, as a whole, mankind creates a cage.  There is only one cage, with different colors, in different societal groups.  It is a devious creation, because its strength is a product of us all, and its destruction requires all of our efforts.

Everybody points that way, to the next guy, in some way.  Nobody considers themselves "judgmental"  but everyone holds something, and we are talking here in absolutes.  Remember the garden.  What is "Adultery" in the garden?  The word seems written in stone, but it wasn't given by "god".  It is fed to each of us by the serpent.

This is not to say "Cheat on your wives and husbands".  Of course that would hurt people. 

Jesus was actually asked about "adultery"  His response was "you make it a sin", remember?

So, the point is to destroy what the serpent has fed us.  We are different people, then, with different motivations.  Sex is no longer so much a driving factor.  In a world where all hearts are pure -- which is something that is possible -- each heart gives freedom to all others, every person cares for the next, and there is no sin.

It sounds crazy, but it's not crazy.

But people live their life, and they don't question.  Because they don't question, they cement themselves into a particular position.  There is a shape to their life, and they cast that shape out on others.

Young adults often face this, with their parents.  A successful businessman makes things very difficult for his free-spirited daughter, telling her how she should be serious about her decisions in life, her career, and so on.

That's the thing.  The guy can't say anything else.  If he did, he would, in a way, invalidate his own life.  He would be forced to face himself.  He sees what he says as "love", but it isn't "love", because it is not shining on what the young woman is.  It is shining on what she is not.

So it exists in everyone: "Knowledge of good and evil".

But it wasn't there before.  For each of us, it was adopted, learned. 

And almost nobody in the world ever wishes to invalidate his  life.  Almost nobody wants to face himself.

And this brings you to  the most interesting part about the story of Genesis.

When "God" shows up again, he sees Adam and Eve sneaking around, covering themselves in shame.

That's interesting. 

This is how you know the story is meaningful, because it illustrates how the heart works.  These two things actually come hand in hand:  judgement, and shame.

They are actually the same thing. 

It doesn't seem like it when you hear the words, at first, but it is true.

They are exactly the same thing.

India is going through a transformation.  Traditional society is being upended by western-style, secular life.  Women are running companies in the cities.  Young ladies are going to university, wearing pretty dresses, falling in love.

I was in India a year ago.  I would read, often, of some stomach-churning stories going on, villagers hanging a young woman for having a lover, things like this.  While I was there, a western woman was raped by seven men on a bus.  The driver didn't even stop.

It wasn't happening, before.

Now, there are different forces, moving through Indian society, ramming into each other, like waves.

I loved India.  When I speak about these incidents, I am not talking about "Indians", I am talking about the men on the bus, or the villagers who hanged the young women.

What would cause somebody to behave this way?

A man grows up in a traditional religious village, is told over and over what women are, what men are, and how one must behave, how women must live, and what a young man must and must not do.

He follows along, all his life.

One day he is confronted by young lovers holding hands the way he never could, the way he feels he was never allowed.

And he is forced into something. 

He can either face himself, he can either say "I hate the life that I have led", or he can lash out at the lovers and call it "evil".

It's the same everywhere. Nobody wants to question his life.  Nobody wants his life invalidated.  Nobody wants to face himself.  It is easier to lash out.  It is the easier thing to do.

So you take another bite of the apple.  You say "I know good and evil"

That is the story of Genesis.

Hatred of the self (shame), and Judgement.  They are the same thing, taking us all out, away from the Garden.