Zen in the West


I don’t need to go into too much detail for those of you who know the countless scandals and the way the Zen institution works from the inside.  High up leaders have made some pretty big mistakes, the lineages could be considered fiction and the handing out of enlightenment certificates is a joke.  But critiques of Zen teachers and Zen in the West are an utter waste of time.  It’s like complaining that the strip-mall Karate teacher can’t train you to win the UFC championship.  Any serious practitioner should not expect or need their Zen teacher to be Buddha incarnate just as any Christian, Jew or Muslim should be able to clearly see the humanity of their leaders and teachers.

A person stabilized in enlightenment is both rare and obvious.  (Just take a look at Reb Anderson and you’ll see what I mean).  It is an evolutionary feat, not dependent on any ritual or ceremony or title.  From the outside it is a just plain, everyday, obvious and brilliant quality of presence, spiritual intelligence and unflinching awareness.  It happens more outside of Zen centers than inside of them.  Furthermore, it can’t be taught, it can only be facilitated.  If you don’t have the discipline to sit then a Zen center will give you a place and a timer and some people to do it with.  If we find ourselves in a Zen community we should not ask what Zen can do for us but rather what we can do for Zen.  It is a worldly institution just like any other, with its boring and stuffy formalities and its personalities and problems.  Like our strip-mall Karate, or anything for that matter, it is what we make it.

The experience of enlightenment is the farthest thing from any Zen center or book or personality or worldview or belief that you could possibly imagine.  Because it is the farthest thing from a personality it has absolutely nothing to do with a personality and judging someone’s personality or actions really does nothing but create and perpetuate the doubt which has stood in the way of our own enlightenment for so long.  Yes, the personality should improve to a great extent as a result of practice but it is an utter spec in relation to what we truly are.  In truth, there are neither enlightened actions nor unenlightened actions.

So let “Zen” and everything that goes with it pass through just like every other thing that has not been the answer and carry on until there is nowhere left to go but here.

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