what we’re debating here

Do we accept that anyone who wants to master a wisdom tradition must study under a lineage master? That’s what we’re debating here, to my way of thinking.

People are writing and speaking about the wisdom traditions. The more I read what the real scholars have to say, the more I realize how much was borrowed, how much was improvised, how much missed the mark in what the masters had to say.

The Gautamid taught the meditation on the unlovely, and scores of monks a day “took the knife” while he was on retreat; does that sound like his teaching was on the mark from the day of his enlightenment? (Pali Text Society, “Samyutta Nikaya”, Volume 5, Chapter on In-Breathing and Out-Breathing).

Dogen borrowed most of his meditation manual “Fukanzazenji” from a Chinese manual, and rewrote it something like 40 times; did he feel it was important, and imperfect? (thanks, Carl Bielefeldt, “Dogen’s Manuals of Zen Meditation”, from the Koroku Fukan zazen gi; pg 175, copyright 1988 Regents of the University of California)

Have the words evolved over the years? I would say; the writings of Yuanwu and Foyan in 12th century China are particular favorites of mine.

The master-disciple relationship that characterizes Eastern wisdom-tradition training has little to do with the forms that are taught, or the scriptures that are passed down, or the rituals associated with the tradition. The Eastern traditions generally teach the form as the embodiment of the tradition, and then they go on to claim that there is something outside the form that must be transmitted from master to disciple. For example, in the Soto tradition they teach the posture and form of zazen and commend everyone to shikantaza as the way (see “Shobogenzo-zuimonki”, sayings recorded by Koun Ejo, translated by Shohaku Okumura, 2-26, pg 107-108, copyright 2004 Sotoshu Shumucho), and then they state that Zen Buddhism cannot be mastered without a master-disciple relationship with a lineage teacher.

The difficulty is in the description of shikantaza, in teaching the posture and form of zazen as the movement of mind, as Shunryu Suzuki alluded to when he said:

“Sometimes when you think that you are doing zazen with an imperturbable mind, you ignore the body, but it is also necessary to have the opposite understanding at the same time. Your body is practicing zazen in imperturbability while your mind is moving.” (Tassajara, Sunday June 28 1970, from www.cuke.com “Whole-Body Zazen)

My contention is that we can teach the fundamentals of the movement of mind, it’s the same as waking up and falling asleep, and that with a little help from the peculiarly American discipline of cranial-sacral osteopathy we can teach the meaning of “pure hit-sit” (literal translation of shikantaza). As Issho Fujita says, we sometimes assume particular poses and postures as a reflection of our state of mind; what, then, is the state of mind that is inherent in the lotus posture? Or any other posture we find ourselves in?

I don’t know if I’m the only one in the U.S.A. who had to teach himself how to sit the lotus. Sometimes I think that; folks I know either could sit the posture, or gave up on it, but nobody actually learned it. It’s not perfect, my lotus, but I like doing it for 30 or 40 minutes in the morning. I like doing it because I understand there’s really nothing to do, as I said in “Waking Up and Falling Asleep” (see “The Mudra of Zen”, bottom of page):

“There’s really nothing I can do to practice waking up and falling asleep, other than to accept being where I find myself at the moment. The beautiful part of it is, that’s exactly the practice of waking up and falling asleep.”

Is waking up and falling asleep zazen? If so, do we need a lineage holder to teach us how to wake up and fall asleep? If not, then where will you find it (this zazen)?

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