Monday, January 25, 2010

Elmer Gantry Rides Again -

Welcome Echart Tolle , who writes and teaches zen stirs in a little Christian mysticism and calls it his own. Stand aside for Genpo Roshi (Dennis Merzel) master of all schools of Zen and none. Just Grab your credit card and your on your way to enlightenment.
Americans have always been susceptible to the instant gratification of buying enlightenment. It also seems the more these guys charge the faster the suckers line up. Buddha said Buddhism is a raft to carry us across the river. I doubt he meant a huge pleasure barge with room service and flashing lights ,dancing girls and 10 dollar drinks in the bar.
In the enightenment supermarket - its buyer beware..

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Zen and Faith

If you want to clear a room of Zen practitioners just toss out the word "Faith". Many Buddhist and almost all Zen practitioners hate that word faith.

But in truth we only know things in 3 ways.
1. "Personal Experience" - you experience something and you "believe" it is a "true" experience not a delusion.
2. " Authority" - We accept the word and reports of those we trust that something is true. Most of us if we looked closely would find that most of what we "think" we know to be true about the world falls into this category. Most of my college science projects failed because I messed them up, not because the teacher was wrong. I accept that.
3. " Faith "- Belief that dose not rest on logical or observable proof or material evidence.
I argue that in fact both personal experience and authority rely in the end upon faith. they rest upon faith in our own ability to discern the truth and faith that the authorities we rely upon can discern the truth.
Buddha never asked us to accept anything because he said it was so. he instructed us to follow the way and find out for ourselves.
Zen promises us nothing and is said to rest upon doubt. Perhaps it can be said that in Zen doubt is our faith. Zen begins with the realization that you have exhausted reason and proof in the normal sense of the words and that reaching the absolute requires something else, something beyond reason, proof and authority. Zen is nothing but faith, it is the true nature of faith.
So don't sit because you have faith, sit because what you will experience is faith.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Zen Master said, "For forty years I sold water by the river."

The other day a nice lady logged onto a Buddhist Webb site I attend and asked several questions about Buddhism. Her questions were really easy to answer and several people did answer them. Her response was rather startling as she responded she was looking for a community of seekers not answers, and left the forum in a huff.
Lets talk about questions and answers.
Zen, of all forms of Buddhism is famous for its questions, and infamous for its answers. The Koan is perhaps the ultimate example of this issue. As far as I know Zen and Chan are the only schools that use this teaching tool. A koan is an unanswerable question for which your asked to provide an answer.
In the west we are not strangers to the insoluble question. In fact most of the major Philosophical issues debated for century's in the west are issues of debate because they are more or less insoluble.
Insoluble questions are usually of two kinds. The first being the type such as "how much dose Zen weigh?" In the west we would call these nonsense questions, simply a meaningless series of word strung into a sentence with a question mark tacked onto the end of the sentence. The second is usually a question that could be answered if we had the power or the data required to answer it. If I ask "What is the nature of gravity?" I know once I define my terms the answer will be available once I have all the empirical data.
The Koan is of the first kind of insoluble question. A western logician might say " Well such a question has no meaning, it is unanswerable by its very nature and thus is no question at all!"
I am no Zen master but I think one's response to that would be "exactly!"
My master sells water by the river and has done well at it for 40 years. But it dose not taste like the water from the river, it has added value. People wander this world suffering and seeking and never once stopping to taste the water. They seek it , and never see what is right in front of them.
Once we truly learn that our own questions are no questions at all, we can begin to drink.
Bottoms up !

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Zen that ate Chicago

This is a blog on, more or less, Zen buddhism - Today I found a post on the internet that said " Shohaku Okumura gave Dharma transmission to Taiun Micheal Elliston of the Atlanta Soto Zen center, helping to further legitimize Elliston's previous transmission in the sometimes disputed lineage of Soyu matsuoka."

Lineage - lets talk.

Lineage is more or less the recorded record of transmission of the Dharma from teacher to student going back in time towards the Buddha.

To Buddhist this is like a family tree, and is often used to gain respect , prestige, respect, glamor and as the man said legitimization. It is just sooooooooooo important. It is of course so important that many westerners, and probably some Asian teachers as well, have been know to claim lineages they don't have or that don't really exist.

I have studied with Buddhist teachers from several schools and lineages and have found that a lineage is like most things written on paper, mostly good for burning in a coffee can to keep warm when it gets really cold and little else. Paper is just paper.

Employers depend on such paper to hire and are often very disappointed. Schools give out large expensive pieces of paper like candy at a party, with about as much value.

When I meet Micheal Elliston , my spider sense was triggered, it did not take me long to determine he was the real deal. If you rely upon paper to make your decisions concerning a teacher you are giving up your own right and privilege to see and know for yourself.

Seek your teacher with your own perceptions, don't rely on paper, keep you heart and mind open and empty of preconceptions. There are many false teachers in this world and some that you would never suspect of being your true teacher. You may find your teacher at a bus stop or in a sunset, but you will never find a teacher until you open yourself up to knowing when you have found him or her.

I like my degree it hung on my wall for several years, but today I couldn't even tell you were the darn thing is.