Tuesday, December 06, 2011

So much spiritual hucksterism...so little time...

I'm a busy guy of late, what with work, family, and the various practices in which I'm engaged.  So, here's a few quick pointers on the absurdity I read nowadays...

Of course we Mahayana Buddhists vow to save, or help  all sentient beings ourselves, in the sense of the transcendence of suffering.  But in no way is that a function of how much we can pay nor how much abuse we're willing to take, or whether we check our brains at the door when we go for some sort of teaching.  

Also don't believe everything Maurice Shonen Knegtel wrote there at that link, as if I had to write that.  Especially this part is risible:

Teaching, practice and realization took place in everyday activity, like farming, walking through the mountains, drinking tea, cleaning, or just talking. Probably they did not sit that much in formal zazen, and the early Masters rarely talk about sitting practice. Zen was not yet formalized with rituals and ceremonial practices, as it was later in Sung China (Tenth to Fourteenth Century A.D.), Korea, Vietnam and Japan. Early Chan was a living religion, not dependent on forms like teisho (formal teaching), zazen (formal sitting) or daisan (formal interview). Enlightenment was found and expressed in daily activities. And the way of teaching of the old Masters was very similar to that of Gautama the Buddha. Students were led to a place where they are one with the Dharma and express it. Genpo Roshi’s Big Mind process offers the same living religion in a playful game of giving voice to whatever dharma is coming up and by skillfully practicing the same ‘wonder of teaching’ as Gautama the Buddha and early Chan Masters did. 
 It's risible because its Orientalism and revisionism just oozes right through every word, including the instances of "a" and "the."  That Lin Chi didn't depend on his teishos - even if they weren't called that - is absurd.  What the hell does Shonen think he was doing when he ascended the high seat? He wasn't thinking "Gee, this is just like what 'Big' 'Mind" is going to be in a thousand some-odd years." 

And for Void sakes, "Big" "Mind" isn't an "everyday" activity!   There's 8.6% unemployment! Their everyday activity, I assure you, isn't mucking around with "voices."  The "everyday" activity of the working monastics (and laity) consisted of, you know,  activities performed every day. No special process or mind games were needed, playful or not.

These guys have completely forgotten, it seems, what it is to be ordinary.  And, it seems, Shonen might have confused the Dharma with a "conflict of interest," the conflict of interest being his personal investment of time and energy and effort, and I'd bet, gelt, into the Merzel Thing, and, of course, the practice of the Dharma.

All right.  Enough of my rant for today.


Nathan said...

"Early Chan was a living religion, not dependent on forms like teisho (formal teaching), zazen (formal sitting) or daisan (formal interview). Enlightenment was found and expressed in daily activities." There actually may be some truth to this statement, although I'd emphasize some because the author leans too much in the "no forms" direction for my taste.

But it's so totally laughable to equate Big Mind with what was being done back then. It's such an obvious sales tactic being used that you'd wonder how the guy could keep a straight face expressing it.

Mumon K said...


Yeah. The monks' toilet facilities in Tiantung (the "Dogen" temple in China) were among the cleanest I've seen in China.

I don't think "Big Mind" is capable of such results.

Anonymous said...

Nice reply.

I also liked this one:

Vipaka 4:40 pm 12/4/2011
Mr. Horgan, If you’re writing is any indication then your Zen practice was as shallow as your overall understanding of Buddhism. I read “why I gave up on zen” and it astonishes me that you didn’t sit down with the teacher and discuss your misgivings. You talk about being annoyed by the people around you and having all these negative thoughts but then you don’t seem to understand how that is the point of the practice.

You are obviously one of those people who who shows up at the dharma center for a few nights and then quietly disappears never to be heard from again. Which is fine, no one is saying that you have to be a Buddhist. However, you seem to think that makes you competent to critique Buddhism and you don’t see how demeaning it is to people who have dedicated years of their lives to study and practice.

If you’re going to continue bashing Buddhism, do us a favor and at least have a competent understanding of basic concepts like Karma. Wikipedia is your friend.