Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Genzo-e retreat - Day 5 - Anticlimax.

The last day of the retreat was remarkable only in it's unremarkableness. We had to rush a little bit to finish up the text, but then again, the last part of the text is also a summing up, so it was okay to go a little faster.

These chapters in Dogen's "Treasury of the True Dharma Eye" were teaching aids for him, essentially his lesson plan for his students, and it is unlikely he intended that they be reviewed as we are reviewing them now. It is not the text of a speech,and these are probably just outlines and reminders about what he intended to say during the lesson.

It is important to remember that and not turn these into Holy relics.

However, I have further come to understand that Dogen is undergoing a bit of a revival now, and why. Zen Buddhism has become religious, overly so in Japan for some time now, and now that it is taking root in the US it is also beginning to veer in the direction. Shaved heads, robes, dharma-names, etc., these are all the trappings of setting up an separately-existing individually-identifiable group called "Zen Buddhists." Just as the greed, hatred and ignorance displayed by modern Christianity marks its break with the message of Jesus Christ, Zen Buddhism is making the same mistake by trying to be something special and separate.

The shaving of heads originally was done so that zen monks could travel in openly barbaric lands without being attacked. It identified them as NOT being soldiers, or any other kind of threat. Now, it is a seen as a mark of devotion to the rejection of seeking after beauty/virility, at best. It has nothing to do with the techings.

Dogen's teachings, if brought into full flower in modernity, could be an opposing force to all this religiosity in zen. I am not the only student similarly concerned, in fact, this is something like the groundswell that swept Obama into office. Zen's organizational leadership in the US seems sort of oblivious to the fact that a large number of zen students reject their emphasis on being grim, and formal, and Japanese. I think that is part of the reason that people are attracted to Dogen, he definitely rejects all that while vigorously making a case for the foundations of practice--sitting zazen, being generous, being kind, cultivating wisdom. He is to zen what Mother Teresa is to Christianity.

The drive back to Indianapolis was pleasant--nice weather, lots of wildflowers. My companion got on a flight that left as soon as we arrived, I flew standby on a flight that left about an hour and a half after that, which was 2 hours late itself. My flight didn't leave Indianapolis until I was already back in Harlem, and my bags were on that flight. Yay, air travel!

I am now enjoying my last down-day before returning to work. Zen retreat is done, back to practice. Thanks for reading.