Sunday, May 15, 2016

見性,臥龍, and how to talk about something you might not want to talk about. Oh, and Buddhist Ethics, too!

The more I think about it, the more I think about how the ethos of the hidden master - the "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" ethos (or more Japanese-y 臥龍, (がりゅう, garyū), hidden talent, literally "reclining dragon") permeates Zen practice.  Or perhaps it ought to do so.

Maybe Philip Kapleau was too clever when he would not answer as to whether or not he was "enlightened." (I prefer to use the term awakened; it's more accurate as a translation, and really has a bit more of a pedestrian hint to it, in my humble opinion.)  Maybe not.  But at any rate it appeared to be that he was upholding a longstanding protocol in Zen circles that one does not talk about one's awakening, and doing so by noting that there's no separate "self" that gets awakened.

Regardless, if  one has thought they had such an experience, and if one were to think the experience were deeply important, deeply personal, and regardless of the depth of experience, if one thought that experience was to be respected, one might think that a practice of absolute humility in considering the experience, and conveying those considerations of the experience  would be called for.   

Part of the reason I write this is there are some people who call themselves Buddhist teachers - or at least Western Convert Buddhist Authorities - that say the idea of reporting one's 見性 to the world is a taboo that's not useful.

I beg to differ.

Whatever anyone has experienced, to put it into words would trivialize it, regardless of whether or not it has an official seal of approval or what-not.

James Ford writes about the kenshō experience here. And it was said, admittedly by Eido Shimano, that according to Hakuin, paraphrasing,   if you did this practice with enough ardor and duration that you would not fail to have a  kenshō experience even if you could not get out of bed. 

While I have much to agree with in James Ford's post, I can't, as they might say in certain telecommunications standards bodies, endorse it.  Which is another way of saying, I would not have written about kenshō that way.   Mostly because of the things I wrote above.

That said,  among other things, yeah,  reports pretty much universally confirm that nothing changes, so it's not surprising to see certain oshos get into spats with each other.   And among the things that might cause these spats are what seems on some level to be a rather silly dispute, although the reasoning behind it is largely well intentioned.  The dispute centers around which "teachers" of Zen are "teachers." 

Now there are levels of recognition in Japanese Zen Buddhism, and to some extent they've evidently filtered their way over here.  There are in Rinzai-shu,  kōan curricula.  There are probably other requirements too.  Sōtō folks don't all do  kōan practice, so what seems to be the case is that there is a set number of hours you have to clock in, and bam! - you get some kind of title or recognition.

This is where the reclining dragon comes in.  Regarding on who's got what position in Zen and what that position is or is not called, it's been generally recognized that there's clergy and there's laity more or less. These relationships between clergy and laity have changed over the years and will probably continue to change in the future.   Sōtō-shu  doesn't have a monopoly or didn't even start new models for laity/clergy relationships. Despite what's written in Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, new models for laity/clergy were not started via Shunryu Suzuki in the 1960s.  It didn't even start with Sokei An.  It started with Imakita Kosen in Japan in the 19th century.   (There's an imperfect Wikipedia article about it.)

My point is that there seems to be a heck of a lot more attachment to titles than there ought to be.  I think I've said that before,  but I think it bears repeating every now and then.

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