Friday, April 03, 2015

Not actually Zen Buddhism...

I haven't had very much to say at all lately on this blog, as is evident.   And, because of the demands of time and life - I hadn't spent much time in the Buddhist blogosphere lately.  Part of it is that some of the old folks who used to blog don't do it so much anymore. 

And part of it is I think much of the Zen Buddhist community in the US is a bit too much, or to put it another way, the practice of Zen in America is not as well reflected in the blogosphere - including this blog - as it should be.  Genjo Marinello is a welcome exception, as is Brad Warner.

But now I have to show other examples, and I think it's relatively easy to discern the difference between them and the aforementioned men.  I had several reactions to a recent blog post by Myoan Grace Schireson:

  • There's less difference between her and her Zen predator bêtes noires than she'd probably like to admit.
  • "How do you do that, and how do you teach people to use the awareness from the cushion to self-reflect, observe, experience and transform their feelings? This is the technology we employ in the SPOT training."  The only other time I see the word "technology" coincident with text speaking about religion - or if you prefer (I don't) "spirituality" is in regard to Scientology.  I leave that with you, as the once-upon-a-time Long Island based "Psychic George" would say.
  • She thinks she's got a cure for something!
  • "SPOT aims to teach sangha leaders, priest or lay, how to trust the Dharma with their most vulnerable secrets and how to rely on the practice during their worst nightmare. When a sangha leader has done this work, the resultant faith in practice is palpable. His or her practice inspires confidence in students entering the sangha."  Because practice alone  is not enough?  Look, I'm all for integrating practice into day-to-day life.

And this is not to minimize the whole Zen predators thing - I'll get to that in a bit.   And I suppose Grace Schireson can offer something useful to people - like Eido Shimano - I'll get to that  in a bit.   But what she's advertising here is a "technology" that really ought to be part of practice itself, and therefore calls into question the quality of her own practice.

I mean, clearly you can kind of sort of see where this might go (but the dog won't hunt): Ms. Abbess Schireson has been creating at least on-line, a persona that is mostly rightly pointing out the issues with Zen "teachers" as "gurus," but then she - and a few others creates another guru, the guru of "certification" of "Zen teachers" by a certification body, or at least "SPOT" (not "Smart Personal Object Technology").  "SPOT" is her guru.

I must admit, it's my 詠春券 training that has started to open up my eyes in this area.  I've been fortunate enough to learn this from people who have had the "real deal" in terms of training.  Part of that real deal is that at least in some groups that study this stuff, there's not uniforms, belts, or ranks.  Really.  You know what your "rank" is because if you stay around and practice  詠春券 for any length of time your rank is the practice of humility.   And in  詠春券, the sifu  I have openly admits he can only take you so far.  He doesn't try to "inspire confidence," rather he tries to teach  詠春券.  He's good at that because he's practiced a very very very long time. 

It's why I tend to vehemently agree with Brad Warner when it comes to this whole certification of "Zen teachers" thing, and I must modestly dissent from Genjo Osho and Myoan Abbess.  Genjo and Myoan are "selling" "Only use certified 'Zen teachers'"  because you might not know what you're getting and it could be dangerous!!!

That brings me to Eido Shimano.  I recently had a good discussion with my Zen Osho, who had attended sesshin under Shimano at Dai Bosatsu.   I had never discussed that topic with him before, because it really wasn't particularly germane to what happened at our little sangha.  But that afternoon, over tea, we discussed various things, and Shimano came up.  He pointed out that, yes, Shimano is a very sick man, and could not explain why Shimano behaved as he did.  But there was useful teaching from Shimano.  I think Genjo Marinello has said similar things too.

That's the point: I, too, obtained useful teaching from Shimano.  However I think part of the reason for that is that I didn't jump in with both feet and go into guru worship or something, and I didn't do that because I'd seen enough cultiness elsewhere, I suppose. 

I suppose that's why some folks still are congregating around Shimano for Zen retreats.  Look at the people in the picture at that link.  What are they thinking about the Shimano situation? What would a conversation like be between one of them and Myoan Grace Schireson Abbess?  And don't get me wrong, I agree with Genjo Osho that Shimano shouldn't be teaching.   But at this point, those who congregate around Shimano can't be completely ignorant of what's gone down with respect to Shimano.   They are obtaining something useful from Shimano, but they have to realize the history of this man now.   And my osho - who as far as I know is not a member of one of those American Zen teachers' societies or what not - could give you at least some of what Shimano had to give, as could I, and I'm not accredited for anything, except as a technology guy who invented a bunch of stuff that people use for mobile phones.

No belts, no ranks. 

One other thing about my conversation with Osho: it raised the question "What does it mean to have compassion for Eido Shimano?"

And is that practice reflected in clumsy zombie metaphors raised in order to sell services?