Zen Self Inquiry

Modern Zen: Comforting, Palpable and Rife with Scandals

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It is human nature to make things more comfortable and understandable to ourselves. We like things to ‘make sense’ to us. I often hear people say when they like a belief system, “it makes sense to me, I understand it”. I think that, in this vein, Zen teaching has gone this path and given up its core. It is something palpable and understandable, the way it is presented now. There’s lots of grinning and ‘aha’ moments, and it has a comfort zone; the ‘masters’ are inviting and engaging. Again I ask that you look at the long history of the depictions of Zen masters: do they in any way resemble these modern teachers?  The Zen quest is not comfortable; it is extremely challenging and ultimately existentially rewarding. Again, when Bodhidharma initially speaks to Hui ke he says, “The way is long and difficult”. He does not fill him with platitudes and grins but places the heart of the matter in front of him. In essence, ‘hand me the problem’. Zen does not placate the mind; it exposes it to reveal the core.

Scandals Everywhere

In recent years myriad scandals from sexual antics to horrid behavior have arisen in many Zen monasteries throughout the US.  Some of these that have recently come to light but have been going on for years and well known in the Zen community.  The idolization of the Roshi, Abbot, monk or whatever has always mystified me along with the sangha allowing bad behavior to continue.  When years ago I brought this to one monk’s attention about his Roshi his reply was “well….he’s got the Direct Transmission we can’t question him”.  I was stunned by this response, it’s really immature thinking and places no culpability on anyone.  This is the problem with the ritualization of Zen and relying on the other to lead you.  I find this no different than what has gone on in the Catholic Church and the empowerment of the priest over the layperson.  There should be no rationalization of this in Zen yet over and over it happens.  This also points to the problem of believing in the ‘direct transmission’ and the magical power it presumes.  If there were any truth to this than I would have to say that any ‘master’ that has the ability to bestow this wondrous state is horribly selfish and corrupt not to do so for all humanity.  It doesn’t happen because it’s not real.  I did ask the head of a major monastery who had ‘received’ the direct transmission why they didn’t spread it around and the response?  “Well they are not ready for it”.  But of course, it’s their fault.

One more thing on this topic.  If as a priest or Zen monk you’ve come to some spiritual awakening why do you need to coerce sex or anything else?  If there is a true transformation of the self into the ‘True Self’ why is there this need to deceive and exploit?  I would say because the self has not transformed; they are following religious protocol but have not had true religious/spiritual awakening. When you realize self as other then true compassion arises.  The placation of your desires has no priority, though existent they are evanescent and do not effect the root of your being.

Get rid of Zen and the teachers and go at it yourself, deeply and directly.



Shin ichi Hisamatsu Caligraphy

Enough of Buddhism, let’s get to the heart of the matter, that which is the problem, you yourself!



Zen Scandals in the US:





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