Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Quick Reply to Dosho Port

I'd posted some kind of response to what Dosho wrote here (see comment below) in response to my comment about Dosho answering my questions to Kenneth Folk.   Unfortunately it's not there as of when I last looked, but  did want to make sure my responses were read by others, at least the gist of them.

I'd actually forgotten what the precise reply was in a couple of areas, but I remember the general points:

  • I'm grateful to Dosho for having replied to my questions.
  • On some issues, I think we still differ...
Dosho adheres to the Soto Zen Buddhist  Association's ethics code.  That's good,  I guess, and not unexpected.   Although Brad Warner's made trenchant critiques of  "professional organizations for Buddhist providers" it is undeniable that the idea is not without some merit.  (The problems with the SZBA arise in its consideration of people that instruct others about Zen practice, of the potential homogenization and pasteurization1 of the practice, etc. etc.)  But it's undeniable the idea of the association has some merit.

The notion of what a Buddhist service provider is, I think, differs in what Dosho does, versus, doing what my oshō does or, what Maezumi-roshi did with Daido Loori-roshi (according to what Loori wrote), at least in regard to  kōan practice.  It could be a Soto versus Rinzai thing.

Dosho wrote (quoting me at first):

You write,

“’Spiritual market place?’ Does that connote right livelihood? In a market place there is a buyer and seller. Are we buying and selling here? How much of this buying and selling might depend on the Greater Fool Theory (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G... ) for its consummation?”
The Greater Fool Theory is funny! Almost all of the teachers I know are sincerely devoted to the dharma, having been profoundly impacted by it and are not out to sell bull shit to someone because they bought horse shit. 
Like many services, we’re not buying and selling here. It’s about giving and receiving. 
And yes to “spiritual marketplace” too – the metaphor has some value. Katagiri Roshi liked it a lot. Like a local farmer’s market and not corporate socialism (which granted may be the downfall of us all). 
By spiritual marketplace, I mean spiritual teachers openly displaying their practice and teaching so that people can choose this one or that one. 
And like in other fields but admittedly more so in this one, there are charlatans – like the farmer who puts a few nice green beans on top but the beans on the bottom are rotten. So consumer beware. 

There's a sense where "spiritual marketplace" might make sense but I would still submit, Katagiri-roshi notwithstanding, that the transactional nature of metaphor leaves something to be desired.   If you're walking on a residential street do you walk down a marketplace of gardening and lawn care?  Well, yes, in some cases you do, but the bushes don't care. The flower doesn't have to shout its beauty.

That said, I'm certain  Dosho's right: most of the providers are sincerely devoted to the Dharma.

But my "Greater Fool Theory" was a kind of metaphor.  To unwrap it a little, and keep the metaphor, the seller of the Dharma thinks the buyer of the Dharma lacks something, and if the buyer of the Dharma thinks he lacks something too buyer and seller may try to make a transaction.  Now it is true that traditionally there is a kind of teacher/student recognition procedure in Soto Zen, as I understand it.  But do you see my point? There's an "interbeing" going on, nothing is taught, per se,  only recognition.

And, I might add...look up the definition for huckster...in some cases the word can be really apt, as I would opine  is the case with Kenneth Folk.

Again this is not to say what Dosho or others like him is without merit or value - don't take that away from what I'm writing here. 

Finally, Dosho wrote in regard to my question about a "teacher's" claims of enlightenment:

• How does the client have assurance that your claims of enlightenment are genuine? How can you ensure that these claims have no bearing on any potential exploitation of the relationship between you and your clients?I have received dharma transmission from Katagiri Roshi and am in the end-game of koan introspection – how enlightenment is operationalized in the koan tradition. I’m certainly not completely enlightened; still a ½ baked potato after all these years and lack any magic powers to induce enlightenment or any special states in others. I see myself as a player/coach and still have work to do. 

I'm grateful for the acknowledgment that Dosho's not fully enlightened, but I noted concern that the position of even Team Lead in an organization carries with it a giant megaphone that the provider is often not aware he's using; how much more so it can be for an oshō!  I myself have had difficulty giving feedback to my sifu to help him teach me at times; given the sheer number of students in 詠春 he's had, who am I to judge? But the fact is,  I have had a career myself and I know a little about how to instruct others (just a little).  But position connotes power.

I might add, I've practiced kōans,  that's plural, and I would still have a problem referring to myself as enlightened in the sense of the Buddha's enlightenment were I to complete a  relevant curriculum.  I think implying that would do a disservice to all involved, which includes all beings.  I do not think Dosho is implying this, rather, he is stating his teacher's authentication of him, which I do think counts for something.  I'd also say Dōgen's practice-enlightenement might be viewed similarly - merely because one recognizes one's awakening in day-to-day practice hardly means that one has the same position as Shakyamuni in terms of depth and penetration of awakening.  Again, I think Dosho's on the same page as I am here, more or less.

As I said, I'm glad Dosho replied; I think he's sincere here, as are many practitioners in the field.

There's also a post on this general topic on Sweeping Zen from Herb Eko Deer.  I think it also deserves a reply which I hope to get to later this week.

1. Pasteurization is a good metaphor here: there is the potential for vital components to a life is here, but also the potential for exposure to  unhealthy pathogens.


Algernon said...

Thanks to you and Dosho for having this beneficial discussion.

Mumon K said...

Thanks Algernon; I really appreciate it.

Al said...

I am also happy to see polite and respectful discussion on these issues!

Mumon K said...

It IS possible. That said, regardless of what I wrote about Folk being a "major Western Buddhist teacher," I am actually surprised Folk did not reply (or Mr Ingram.)

They are currently on record as men who did not respond to these questions at present.

The Internet has a long memory.

Al said...

Having met both (in person and sometimes more than once), I think that you're likely running into the situation where a stranger being critical is seen without any need to respond. To them, you're just some blogging guy, right? (I'm not saying this is a right attitude but I understand.)

In Daniel's case, he is not terribly concerned with the wider Buddhist community's thoughts and he works full time as an ER doctor. I don't think he has a lot of energy for arguments on the Internet.

On a personal level, I like both of these guys. I can't verify any levels of attainment or not (how the hell would I know, I'm just a guy who sits a bit and holds a few precepts?). I did really appreciate Daniel's book though.

Mumon K said...


Point taken, OTOH, blogging can't be underestimated. You never know what might result from a blog post.