Monday, July 09, 2012

"Zen" "has" no morals?

Via NellaLou, and Wonderwheel,  I am informed of yet another critique of Zen Buddhism based on the behavior of Eido Shimano and one Klaus Zernickow.  My first reaction though was basically a consideration of what it might possibly mean that "Zen" "has" no morals: does the universe have morals?  Does a dog have Buddha-nature?

Missing from the discussion overall, I feel (though NellaLou and Wonderwheel go in the direction) is that the sangha has a responsibility to act to see that no one is harmed (and in fact, much, much more than that - to see that the suffering of all beings is transcended).  That's your "morality" of "Zen" right there.

Wonderwheel writes of the critique, by one Christopher Hammacher:

In Section 4, Hammacher suggests six potential causes leading to the phenomenon of otherwise intelligent or reasonable Zen students accepting such flagrant misconduct: a) Lack of morality; b) Japanese authoritarianism; c) Impossible ideals; d) The Absolute vs. the Relative; e) The institution of dharma transmission; f) Emphasis on enlightenment; and g) Cultic tendencies.  Hammacher discussion of these six points is conclusory and based on superficial presumptions and analysis.  
Wonderwheel does a good job of discussing these items, though when it comes to "Japanese authoritarianism," well, I haven't read Hammacher's paper, but I'd suspect that he hasn't actually been that exposed to Japanese culture as some of us - and I frankly don't have time to delve into a detailed rebuttal other than to say anyone that doesn't get the concept of wa (和) was it relates to Japanese organizational dynamics won't be a big hit in the Japanese business world, let alone a Japanese-descended sangha. Finally, yes, I suppose "Zen" does lack a "morality," in the sense of a lack of monotheistic notions of "sin."  But that's a feature, not a bug: its purpose is to avoid moral failures by attachment to one's falling short of ideal behavior.

I repeat: I did not read the article in question.  Enough at this point is being said and done re: Eido Shimano, at the very least, not to mention Genpo Merzel et al.  But to take these institutional failures and then claim "Zen" has a "lack of morality" is based on an ignorance of what Zen Buddhist practice actually is.

I've been very lucky, perhaps, to have had guides who were upstanding in their treatment of me, and because of that, it's easy to see what they did right when others did not do right.  It could, of course, also be related to the fact that I've advocated a "kick the tires" approach to selecting and interacting with a potential "teacher."

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