Blog entry

i'm back...

song of the day: army of me / Bjork
word of the day: clavigerous / keeping keys

i'm back, sorry for the void in blogs this last week. i was on retreat with Genpo Roshi (Zen teacher, Maezumi's line). i highly recommend attending one of Genpo's Big Mind events. i am so taken with this dude i'm seriously considering asking him to be my teacher. that's something i've never considered doing before with any teacher, and i've been at this for almost a decade now. we'll see. gotta wait it out a bit and see how much of this feeling endures after a few weeks. i've only been with Genpo twice, but it's a distinct feeling, one that's hard to misinterpret. i'm not saying that means i'll impulsively jump at it, but what i feel is a deep alignment with this particular teacher, and his particular way of manifesting the Dharma, in this culture, at this time in history, etc. and that's a big deal, perhaps especially in Zen. when Zen made the hop over from Japan to America, of course it had to change. it's changed everytime it's moved from one culture to another. i think it's an awkward time, with some pretty weird discomfort, trying to figure out how to not dilute the teaching or the tradition, and yet have it spontaneously express itself in this moment. Japanese Zen is not going to "work" with Americans, just like Chinese Zen did not work wtih the Japanese, etc. Americans need to discover and strengthen whatever American Zen. the sad thing many Western teachers who are the direct successors of these Japanese lines will tell you that Zen is dying or dead in Japan, that's it's just a museum of forms and that its exuberant, vital heart has nearly passed away there. conversely, Japanese and Americans note how Zen is thriving and doing very well here. i've never really wanted to ask someone to be my teacher because to be honest, i haven't met a Zen teacher that i felt was both a living, breathing Buddha-Mind AND had a clear, creative capacity to really connect and contact the Western student. so many of them are just boring. i don't mean boring like "entertain me now, wacky teacher" i mean boring like they're just regurgitating all the same old forms and teachings- there's no spark. i'm pretty touchy about this, the minute i feel a teacher going through the motions, or just repeating what was repeated to them, and they sort of fall into that comfortable spot of teaching what they've taught a million times, i say who gives a shit? it's a museum. zen is bare awareness, not memorizing and repeating the doctrine. Genpo is probably the greatest example of someone i feel is really in "it", and simply emodies whatever IS as it comes, in our language, in our culture, in this time. he's really as no-nonsense as it gets. his own stories about his often torturous relationship with his own teacher (Maezumi) offer a great deal of insight into what may have been useful and what may have been bullshit about the way the old teacher / student relationship functioned for so long. i asked him about this quite a lot while i was there (and also asked Roshi Halifax, our host) along this lines, some things that have changed as Zen has taken root in the U.S. :

1, increased disclosure from teachers
2, integration of psychology (big mind processs, for example)
3, decreased emphasis on ritual

a lot of people have trust issues around having a teacher, and Genpo's stories of his time with Maezumi, and hundreds of other stories we always hear about what it was like with Trungpa, or Adi Da, and all the sex scandals, alcohol, abuse of power, it makes us wonder why the fuck we should ever trust a teacher again. Genpo says he tells his students not to ask him "if" he's abusing his power, but "how", which i think is a great first step toward a transparency and basic honesty that has been missing for a long time. there is a greater disclosure now among teachers and students, and that i think is a uniquely American addition to the mix. and it's good. all this crud where teachers used to get to do whatever they wanted and not get called on it has got to be put to bed. any integral spirituality will take into account levels, lines, quadrants, states, types. so the teacher might have big watts on the spiritual line, but have a preconventional moral development. that's a serious liability, and has to addressed. it doesn't mean we now expect all teachers to be perfected in all lines, but that both students and teachers should be considering a whole lot more than they used to. psychology has entered in, another American ingredient, and thank God. you can do all the Zazen you want, and you're still going to be an Asshole if you don't get that frontal structure worked on. in fact, you may be an even bigger asshole, cuz now you're a jerk who's tapped into the Causal vein, and drunk on Kosmic ether. the other seemingly American adaptation is a decrease in ritual, and i say RIGHT ON!! i think we look like dorks trying to do Japanese ritual. we're not Japanese. we will NEVER do those rituals like the Japanese, and if we forget it for a half a second they will remind us of it. the Spirit of American Zen will be whatever it will be, with some new rituals, some modified rituals, and some rituals from Japan preserved. of course let's respect and honor our tradition and the lineage, but part of doing that- part of truly practicing Zen is DROPPING whatever is dead and not a true expression now, here, in our country, with our self, culture, and nature, our mind-body-spirit. i really think Genpo is doing this, deeply enrichening and strengthening Zen.

when i got home from the retreat, i started puking. more on that tomorrow....

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