Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Re: Shimano Archive, It Wasn't About Fujin...

Just want to say, regarding my posts that now appear on the Shimano Archive, that they weren't about the nuns.

They were about Mr. Shimano. 

For some reason, Kobutsu decided to put a picture of Fujin up there, accompanying the post.  I asked him to take her picture down, but he refused.

I only included the nuns' stories because I thought I had to, in order to explain why I had to challenge Mr. Shimano.  My old blog never even mentioned the nuns.

My Shimano post was a long one.  It was long because I was trying to describe the level of deceit at DBZ.  To describe this, I had to include the types of abuses that were going on up there.  That means I had to write about the nuns and, honestly, I did so reluctantly.

Back then, it pained me whenever people described anything as "Jushin vs. Fujin".  To me, it always seemed like this was a way of avoiding the point.  If I was trying to get word to a donor who had been lied to, it wasn't "Jushin vs. Fujin".  It was a donor, and a lie.  If I was trying to make sure 40 paying guests would not be sleeping in bat shit, it wasn't "Jushin vs. Fujin".  It was about the guests and bat shit.

I thought I took pains to explain the difficulties in communicating anything, at DBZ. 

So, for me, it was annoying to see it reduced to "Jushin vs. Fujin", again, on the Shimano Archive.

Because it was never that. 

Like I mentioned in the post, it is impossible to talk to Zen people.  They hear only things that you are not saying.  Always, it's like that -- as though there is no possibility, at all, that anyone could ever be acting out of concern for others.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Probems in Zen? There Were Always Simple Solutions

So all four first generation Zen monasteries were involved in decades of deceit and cover-ups involving sex and finances.

I lived at some of these places.  The level of devotion is unhealthy, and what is not known to most is that the "masters" kept careful watch of the sanghas, making sure the unhealthy environment remained in place.  They never really had any interest in "Zen".   Their sole interest was creating and maintaining a blindly devoted, cult-like group.

What happened at these places required:  1) remarkably deceptive and manipulative character on the part of the master 2)  lack of simple policy and awareness to protect students 3)  secrecy 4) a small number of loyal, devoted followers.

You can't eliminate 1) without committing murder, but you can remove his/her influence, using openness and transparency, and implementing measures that provide choice, within the group.

Actually, this is a simple thing to do.

There are an infinite number of things you can do.

Here are just some:

  1. Separate the notion of "spiritual hierarchy" from operational function of the center.  Include such operational hierarchy only where it is necessary -- work. 
  2. Elect "work leader", periodically, through sangha elections.  Make it known that all sangha members (including "traditional" monks and "masters") are to be treated as equals regarding work (at least, to their abilities).  If a "master" has truly "achieved the ultimate", he would be OK with washing dishes, right?
  3. In an effort to minimize unhealthy "guru"-dynamics, make spontaneous "challenge-response" periods part of practice, where students sit in a circle, and anyone may question anyone else on the subjects of "insight", etc. Provide a mechanism to disallow interruptions.  One way:  everyone has a bean bag.  When one person raises his, it means he will as a question, and nobody else raises theirs.  He tosses the bean bag to the person he will question.  The person answering the question has as long as he/she wants to answer.  When he/she is finished, he tosses the bean bag back to the questioner.
  4. Would it hurt to keep the circle around for normal sits too?
  5. Reduce or eliminate ceremony and liturgy.  If people feel they need this, make it optional, allowing people to sit in the zendo while others attend the devotional practices.  Make concerted efforts to NOT present "leaders" of form, or simplify the devotional forms to the point that "leaders" are changed often, and easily.  Change them all the time.  After one guy leads, he chooses the next guy.
  6. For sesshin, allow up to two talks a day, and allow sangha to nominate speakers from within the group or invite guests.  Do not limit this to "Buddhist" or "Zen".  Compassion isn't "Buddhist", it's just compassion.  You can say the same for wisdom.  Don't sweat the talks.  Put no ceremony around them, so all  would be comfortable speaking spontaneously, with little or no preparation.
  7. Take steps to ensure extraordinary level of transparancy regarding financial matters.  Examples:  post, online, all donations higher than a certain level.  post salaries of all who are on center payroll?  Post approximate costs, per person, of running a retreat, etc. etc.  Keep a blog, online, regarding expansion projects costs, donations.  Elect a treasurer to do these things.
  8. Post, online and in commons areas, center-specific guidelines regarding sexual relations, and harassment policy.  Doesn't even matter what they are, just decide on them and make them.  Include 3rd party contact number of professional counselor.  Include set procedures for dealing with violations.  Make sure every person at the center understands.  Nobody is "above" these rules.
  9. Instead of "traditional" dokusan, allow sesshin participants to select who they wish to meet with, during retreat.  Allow them to meet with their friend, for example, if they wish.  Allow them to choose on a per-day basis (if you are laughing at this idea, ask yourself if you really have the right).  Make only a few dokusans per sesshin -- perhaps only three total.
  10. Internally, perhaps once a month, publish minutes of "resident meeting", where each sangha resident has a chance to speak, or may, alternatively, submit a written post.   Keep these records in a repository.
  11. Minimize the operational difference between "monk" and "layman".   Make these the same thing, as far as how the center is run.  If you are talking about "commitment" to the center, then just call it "one year commitment to the center".  Put no secular/sacred into practice.

This list can go on.  These aren't all "great" ideas.  But they are, at least, very simple ideas.  It is very, very easy to come up with ideas that would make the problems in Zen go away.  It is a simple thing to choose openness over secrecy.

Anyone could actually do things like this, and anyone could have, at any time, during the last five decades.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

All Children are Solipsist

"The man aged in days will not hesitate to ask a little child of seven days about the place of life, and he shall live; for there are many first who shall be last, and they will become a single one." -- Gospel of Thomas

I am often sad.  Often, I just have no hope for people. 

I often think that people talk and talk about Zen, or God, or "insight", or Buddha, but they actually aren't even interested.  They are interested in adopting belief, or in becoming something (Buddhist, Christian, Monk, Master).  They are interested, mostly, in the comfort of their "place" in the world.   They are trying to define this "person", their "place", or to decorate it.


This actually means they are not interested!  They have no interest in un-becoming!

So, it is all very sad.

But now I am in a good mood, because of something I read.

I just read that many development psychologists believe that all infant children are solipsist, and that, as children grow, they infer that "I" is separate from "other", and, though experience, come to see the world the way the "grown-ups" do.  In time, they differentiate "self" from "other".

Of course that is how it is. 

Still, it is heartwarming to read it in the news.

There are different sub-definitions of solipsism, although the word is sometimes tossed around as if they all mean the same thing.  So, to clarify, I am using, here,  any definition of solipsism that maintains mind as a question, and, through the existence of this question, therefore allows multiple "sentient beings". 

I don't want to get bogged down in the definition. For me, the interesting point is that, within the apparent world, young children see you and me, along with themselves, as "one".

This is a true way of seeing.

Within the grown-up world,  the infallibility of the reasoning behind solipsism keeps the idea around, lurking at the edges of thought, always.  In various forms, it has made entrances in the ideas of Descartes, Berkeley, Schopenhauer, Plato, and nearly every religious "prophet".

Ask yourself this:  What is NOT mind?

Scientists, generally,  will do anything they can to avoid the idea, as anything that hints of solipsism necessarily invalidates the importance of their lives.  Nobody would wish to look back on their years to say they studied the properties of dream-things (such would be a wasteful use of a dream indeed!). 

(Note:  children have no such baggage)

So they fight  the notion.  Scientists sometimes refute the philosophical idea of solipsism altogether by simply noting the creative output of mankind.  To them, this means there are "two or more" minds at work here. 

But this is an obtuse argument, in that it presupposes the mind-is-of-the-body-and-that-tree-is-over-there view, which is a notion that the philosophers are questioning, usually, when they bring up any form of solipsism in the first place.

And, to make things worse (better), you have two of the greatest scientists in history, going head to head, for decades, over the meaning of mankind's greatest (in my view) experimental breakthrough:

Einstein:  Do you really believe the moon isn't there when nobody is looking?
Bohr:  Yes, it's not there when nobody is looking.
I am a big fan of Neils Bohr -- not only for his genius, but for his gentlemanly ability to withstand the full force of none other that Einstein himself.  He managed to do this, for decades, generally coming out on top. 

You would not think it possible to approach the workings of the dreamer only by examining the dream-things.

You have to be a fan of Bohr.

As well, you have to be a fan of every little child.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Difference Betweeen Courage And "No Fear"

There are some walks of life that exist as near caricature of masculinity itself.  "Soldier" is one of these things.  For some people, "Rinzai Zen Monk" is another.

When people hear "soldier", they think "courage".

And the commanding manner in which some Zen people speak conjures the same image, for many.

But, what is "Courage?"

It is overcoming  fear.

So the two (courage and fear) are connected.  They are intertwined.

And this is a very different thing, from "no fear".  Someone without fear has no use for "courage".

Question:  In a military ceremony, with everyone dressed up, behaving very seriously, or in a Rinzai Zen sesshin, how would this guy of no fear appear?

Well, he won't appear like the others.  He won't appear courageous.

Reminds me...

When I was a teenager, I had the chance to go to the Naval Academy.  I was invited to go down to Annapolis for a week.  I was thinking of studying Engineering down there.  The Navy guys showed me the place, and took me and some other guys on a boat ride around the Chesapeake Bay.  I saw where Roger Staubach broke the record for the obstacle course.  Made me want to try, but it wasn't part of the program.

My family didn't have much money.  Annapolis was a cheap way of getting a pretty good education. 

At 16 or so, I struggled with this decision.

But I decided against it.  I just didn't want to be part of the military.  Although women seemed to like them (important to a 16 year old) the spiffy uniforms didn't excite me so much.    I was just never one for uniforms, even if women like them, and that is still the case.

And something ate at me, back then.

I can think of reasons to shoot somebody.  Perhaps if there is an immediate threat -- you come home to find somebody attacking your children with a knife.  Of course, if you have a gun in your hand, you use it.

But we can even dispense with the notion of justice, for this exercise.  Lets say somebody does something really nasty, and you just get really angry.  OK then you might want to shoot the guy.

I'm not saying that is a good reason.  I am just saying it makes a kind of sense.  It is a reason.  "What do you want?  I got angry!"

To me, "being a soldier" just didn't seem like a good reason.  It seemed like a crazy thing, to me.  I was thinking: you have to follow someones orders, and that guy might be an idiot!  That's OK if you are helping to manufacture widgets, but, for a soldier, lives are a stake. 

There are all of these ideologies afloat.  To the soldier, these ideologies serve to help bring about courage.  They help in overcoming fear.  Soldiers, around the world, fight for country, for freedom, for the "American way of life", and so on. 

But, from a "universal" view, what exactly are these things?

What is "freedom" to an Iraqi?

Hard to say.

It is just too hard to say.

A Challenge/Response Period, And More on Karate and Zen and Sex Abuse

Interesting fact:  Buddha was an accomplished sport wrestler.

Another interesting fact:  Bodhidharma was a champion sport wrestler.

I find this very interesting.

By the way, I don't mean to dwell on the horrible things in life.  That is not what I am like.  The point of this blog is to provide some support for a long-term project of mine, where people could meditate together in a simple, cooperative, no-nonsense, non-devotional format.

Part of this plan involves an optional challenge/response period, during silent retreats, where participants sit in a circle and challenge each other with purposefully difficult questions.  A simple example is asking a monk who speaks of no-self  "well then, who is 'monk'?" or  "how can one teach 'emptiness' and devote his/her life to promoting 'Buddhism' at the same time?"

The point is, someone who claims "insight" really should be able to explain himself.  Likewise, a visitor whose bullshit meter starts flashing should have an opportunity to present a challenging  question.

I'd like to record and transcribe these interactions, and put them online, for each retreat.  This way, prospective participants, investigating online, might be stimulated into showing up (or not!).

Because I have really done some traveling, and such a format doesn't exist.

Why is it necessary?

All four of the first-generation Zen centers in the U.S. have suffered through extended periods of malicious deceits on the part of the "masters".  Always, these deceits involved sex, or money.  Always, the ugliest stories come in the wake of the scandal -- politicking, backstabbing, and so on.

AT DBZ and Mt. Baldy, these abuses continued for decades.

Why was that?

In my view, the Japanese Zen tradition is itself at fault, as much of the rhetoric, imagery, and pageantry is designed to evoke deep reverence -- even awe.  For newcomers, and for those unfamiliar with the Japanese Zen form, this display usually appears innocent. 

But it is actually never an innocent thing, as there is no good reason to manufacture such notions.

In fact, if you are considering the path of Buddha, there are only "bad" reasons to do this.

Which brings me to Karate.

What does this have to do with Karate?

I wrote about my Karate and Zen once before.    There are strong similarities between the two practices.  I was trying to point out (in that post) that making a big show of something is always done for a reason.   That reason is never a benevolent one.

I thought I would look into it some more.

So, it wasn't actually much of a surprise, to me,  when I decided to Google "sex scandal" and "martial arts"...

 Karate isn't a sport.  It is a "martial art", like Aikido.  You can't call it fighting, as there isn't any real, live sparring.  Like Rinzai Zen, Karate class is full of shouts (Kiai!), and the strict discipline of the students promotes an attitude of strong purpose.

And that leads to funny things.

Like Zen, the Karate "masters" are often described, by their students, in mystical superlatives.

As in  Japanese Zen, such reverence is rarely, if ever tested, or challenged. 

For me, it is difficult not to call it "brainwashing".  If you look at the way most people viewed Karate masters in the 70's, you'll see how effective their marketing was.  If you notice that no pure Karate master has ever won a match in a major MMA promotion, you'll see how backward this belief had been.

 As I said, it is never an innocent thing.  It takes a certain type of character to manufacture such illusion (or delusion), holding himself at the center of it.

Here are a  couple of videos listing hundreds of arrests and convictions of martial arts instructors over the last few years:


(Notice how many of these are "Karate"...  Also notice how few are "Judo").

My point is that there are very real dangers being presented to the world.  Wherever there is bullshit being peddled, there is danger.  That danger comes not from "tradition", or culture, but from the type of character that would put effort into putting forth such a (seemingly) powerful or intimidating image -- especially in a setting where "traditional" forms dictate that such apparent omnipotence is never actually put to test.

Who would even want to project such an image to others.  Why do it in the first place?

I am critical of Japanese Zen, just as I am critical of Karate.  But my point is not to put down the Japanese, or "tradition".   In fact, there are very few Judo cases on that list, despite Judo being a very popular, international Olympic event since the early 1970s.

Judo is a sport -- big in Japan.  Opponents try their best to defeat the other by choke, armbar, throw(s) or pin.  Under the given rules, it is "fighting".

Come to think of it, in a Judo class, male Judokas are often wrestling with female Judokas.  They are always in very close contact.  In fact, the somewhat common (neutral) guard position comes very close to "missionary".  (True!)

Yet, Judo only appears on the list a couple of times.

Why is that?

Because it is real.  It is a sport.  Therefore, there is a simple truth to the practice.  Bullshit won't get you very far. 

Go ahead.  Puff your chest out and scream.  You are wasting energy.  You'll get tossed around, and choked.

This is a very healthy thing, actually.  Some of the best guys I know, I met in grappling gyms.  I like to think that, over the years, their excitement and competitiveness dissipated (perhaps with the physical decline of age), leaving only their love of dynamic motion, and sport

These guys would be a big help in any meditation center I have ever visited.  They would help cut through nonsense. 

But you rarely see these characters in the meditation centers.

In the centers that exhibited the most glaring deceits, you see the very opposite.  You see followers chosen, and praised, simply for their commitment to the Zen form (and therefore the master). 

And that's too bad, because it turns Zen from an open, investigative practice, to one of simple, dead loyalty.  

And that is a dangerous thing. 

There simply is no reason for it. 

There is no reason why meditation can't be done with the same efficient practicality of sport training.  It would be more interesting, more dynamic, and safer.  There is no reason not to encourage inquisitiveness and experimentation in spontaneous debate.

There is certainly no reason to preserve an explicit "spiritual hierarchy"  ( present in most all traditions) especially with the obvious hypocrisy in such structures, given the stories and sayings of the prophets. 

There are many very good reasons to eliminate parts of traditional forms that insulate the "teacher" from scrutiny.  There is no reason, at all, why the traditional forms should not be turned upside down, to guard against the formation of personality cults.

That's the idea behind the Challenge/Response period.  Sit in a small (first come first serve) circle, so the quieter people will feel more comfortable (they don't have to shout toward a distant "master" up on a high seat, in a full auditorium).  Allow anyone to challenge anyone. 

There are simple formats one can use to disallow interruptions, etc.  Employ these.  Make something new.  Invigorate the practice.

That would be fun.  It would be good, dynamic Zen -- an honorable, healthy Zen --  a sportsman's Zen.

Not like what has happened in the Japanese Zen tradition, or in the Karate schools.

(Perhaps the reader now finds it at least a little interesting that both Buddha and Bodhidharma were  decorated sport wrestlers!  They were no-nonsense guys!)