Thursday, February 10, 2011

持久 (じきゅう) : More on Genpo Merzel: Sympathy and Criticism and Caveat Emptor

Once, when my son was younger, he took Tai Kwon Do lessons at the local martial arts school, and once we had a birthday party for him there.   Or perhaps it was the opening of their new dojo; I don't know which.  At any rate, at some point the instructors asked me to break a board - me, who knew jack about such things.

Within a few minutes of trying I had broken a board 1 inch think. It was pine. I'm glad it wasn't oak.

On the larger piece of the broken board I later painted 持久 - pronounced in Japanese "jikyuu" - which means "persistence" or "endurance."   It's there to remind me to be persistent and to endure.

And everyone around me knows I have to keep persisting and enduring.

I bring that up by way of explaining more my sentiments regarding Genpo Merzel.  I think it's too trite - way- to trite, to go into unmitigated condemnation of the man, though you can be sure he had it coming.  There's more to see here than that in us. 

"Genpo Roshi" had built himself into a brand, following all the bromides of current American capitalism in decline: It doesn't matter what the brand is trying to sell; the brand's the thing.  You can see that on his Twitter account, or by going to Google images and searching him.  To some extent we can't help but "brand" ourselves one way or the other, but like that Magritte painting of a pipe with "This is not a pipe" in French written under it, the brand is not the person or thing.  

Anybody and his brother can be trained to hold a Large Group Awareness Training (LGAT) meeting and pretend to be a Guy Who Knows His Stuff.  Anybody and his brother can get a photographer to propagate a "look" that one wants to be known by; Charlie Manson did it.

It takes 持久と仕事 - persistence and work - to actually live a life authentically, oddly enough. It's not enough to boast to people how you don't care about what people think because umm... you care deeply about all sentient beings. Walking the walk is the hard part.

Genpo Merzel is us: He's fallen seven times.  We're all falling seven hundred times.  He wasn't my teacher; we wouldn't have had each other in a teacher student relationship, and he's deeply hurt many people and completely trashed his own brand all by himself, without any help from his blogosphere critics or Brad Warner or anyone.  I still think what many of his critics wrote was true: "Big Mind" was and is a load of horse hockey.  But to think that your Zen practice or other Buddhist or "spiritual" practices - or lack thereof - insures you against the type of crap Genpo stepped into is also horse hockey.

Work and persist to be what you can and should. Caveat emptor.

That's all.


john e mumbles said...

Are you simply saying that Dennis Genpo Merzel followed the American enterprising way and made himself a marketable entity (okay), BUT, otherwise he's just like everyone else and beware those that throw stones at glass Big Mind etc, castles...OR, do you mean that he's wrong for the above but in his Zen practice he's just like the rest of us in that at any time we are all potentially subject to a fall or 2 or 7?

john e mumbles said...

Ahh. I think I know now. S. Suzuki said:

"Everything you do is right, nothing you do is wrong, yet you must still make ceaseless effort."

Mumon said...

I'm simply saying that a) Genpo Roshi was a huckster, b) his ethical failings did him in, and c) we must be careful about our own ethical failings, and consider them in our desire to condemn him.