Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Class and Buddhism....and conferences and Kung Fu - Updated

I had thought of making a post discussing the recent situation at Shaolin temple and how it has evolved from the birthplace of All that is Cool from the East to the Chinese equivalent of an American inner-city boxing club and that's OK because those students might at some point start asking the Big Questions, somewhat like it appears Bruce Lee was starting to do before his untimely demise. Or something like that.

And I was going to write that you can't really "stop" the dharma, 'cause somebody's going to figure it out anyway.  It's like how to make an atomic bomb.  Once you get the basic principles it becomes a matter of carrying out the steps necessary for making it, if you want to make it.  But humanity can't "un-know" how to make the bomb, and we can't "un-know" how to practice the Way.

Then I read NellaLou's post.  And I read James Ford's reply.  And Brad Warner's comments on Facebook.

So if the "elites" want to  gab about stuff, well, let them gab away. I still agree with about 80% of what NellaLou wrote.  And I disagree a tad with what I wrote in response on Warner's page about how Shotoku might have done X but Rinzai wouldn't do it or such.

The reason I have a different opinion today is simple:  to be of no rank is not to be a carbon copy of any teacher before.  It is also because after a certain age we wear our class like a tattoo.

So...are you keeping score?

  • Tricycle, Shambhala Sun etc. etc. won't define the Way even if they try.
  • Shaolin might provide the way, despite its commercialization.
  • So perhaps even this confab might help define the way, though it won't be the way any more than commercialized Shaolin kung fu is the way.
  • Oh, and Genpo Roshi is still kind of embarrassing to Western Buddhists.
From Ven. Warner's blog,   I see he's also spoken on this issue.   What caught my attention was this bit in his article:

I’ve often said that what first attracted me to Buddhism was that it was the most punk rock thing I’d ever come across. It was far more punk rock than even punk rock itself. By this I mean that Buddhism is a philosophy that doesn’t just question the prevailing view of the mainstream. It openly and often even aggressively questions itself. In punk rock the attitude seemed to me to be, “Question everything… except punk rock.” It was cool not to follow accepted mainstream fashions, just as long as you followed the accepted punk rock fashions. Buddhism, I felt, took the punk rock stance to its ultimate conclusion.
My fear is that Buddhism in America is going exactly the same direction as punk did when it became codified into a single prevailing fashion and sound. There is an accepted group of tastemakers and trendsetters within American Buddhism. They are entrenched as such and seek constantly to reify their positions and to expand their influence.
 There's always going to be elites. I'm a member of an elite - some of the technology you probably use was made that way by things I said or did that were picked up by other elites and was decided - horrors - in meetings with these elites!

Elites don't often go in the direction you want, and as I implied above, and the Dharma will be the Dharma despite the Elite's attempt to pin it down like a butterfly and in the process distort it, all with good intentions.

Here's a secret: sometimes you can get elites to go in the direction you want.  It's politics being the art of the possible, as Bismark put it.

Suppose, I guess, that this confab had invited Brad Warner. He might have less legitimacy, unless he did something like mooned them or something, but that would not be a skillful exercise in the art of the possible.

Oddly enough, perhaps Warner's being on the outside is - at least for now - the most skillful exercise of the art of the possible.   Maybe not. 

Personally, I have a lot more and bigger issues in my life than this.   But if I see Chosen or Hogen Bays maybe I'll bring this up.  Maybe not.

I mean...  I mean... try bringing up a child and being married...

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