Friday, May 19, 2006

shake, rattle & roll?

In a recent post on his blog, Brad wrote: "This is why I think Buddhism in America desperately needs to be shaken up and radically changed." Huh? I'm not at all sure that's a desperate need at all. Maybe I'm selfish or myopic, but having just recently found a group of Zen practitioners to sit with, it appears to me that the state of Zen Buddhism is fine and dandy.

Brad's assertion, which sorta just hangs there, is one of those enigmatic statements that begs to be explained, and I hope he will, if not on his blog, then in his next book. Buddhism itself has been around long enough that for one person to assert that it needs to be "shaken up and radically changed" seems a bit harsh. I'd love to hear the reasons.

I might agree that there are systems of thought that need to be shaken up, but I'd hope that that shake-up would lead to a serious consideration of Zen Buddhism, as it is, rather than a shake-up of Zen itself.

14 Comments:

At May 19, 2006, Blogger MikeDoe said...

I don't think it needs shaking up.

People are free to believe whatever they want and do whatever they want subject to the laws of whichever country they are in.

If one person believes that another group of people should live or practice in a certain way then really, what business is it of his?

If anything I would suggest that Buddhism has in its nature something that naturally shakes people up and causes them to question everything. Surely that is enough?

It seems quite common with Buddhism that it naturally splinters into myriad flavours based on the 'realisations' of the people involved.

I seem to spend a lot of time on here and on my own blog spouting my viewpoint on all sorts of things because I seem to want to. It does not follow that I expect anyone to take me seriously or to think that I have any answers or that anyone else should do what I do. None of that has anything to do with me.

I attend a Sangha whose traditions and beliefs I respect but do not follow. They in turn do a similar thing with my beliefs and views. We talk as friends, not as competing factions.

I write what I write because I want to. If other people find what I write useful or interesting or helpful in some way then that is fine. If no-one reads it that is also fine.

 
At May 19, 2006, Blogger earDRUM said...

I'm with Brad on this one. I hate it when I see different versions of Buddhism offering easy paths to "enlightenment" and "bliss".
I mean, I really don't care if people want to live in their own little fantasy worlds... feeling all warm and fuzzy about their new, special state of mind. I just hate it when they call that experience "Buddhism", because it doesn't have anything to do with Buddhism.
And I hate it when other people think of this kind of thing when they think of Buddhism. In my mind, almost everyone has a "wrong" idea of what Buddhism is all about. To many of people, Buddhism is the Dalai Lama, and reincarnation, and people sitting cross-legged while humming and praying to a little Buddha statue, and trying to reach some fantastic state of bliss (and get away from this horrible, ordinary world). Many see Buddha as a magical Jesus figure, a god, capable of magic tricks, and so on.
So much of Western "Buddhism" is soft, gentle, quiet, feminine... the kind that some people call "butterfly zen". And hey, I'm all for those things, but they represent only one side of things... not reality. Reality is also ugly, smelly, noisy, and complex.
I think there is a big danger when we start getting dualistic, and trying to see only "good" things... ignoring (or running away from) anything that doesn't fit their perfect enlightened world. Doing this only sets people up for dissapointment and confusion.
To me, Buddhism is about experiencing reality for what it is, warts and all. It is about letting go of our inner chatter, and being here, now. It is about getting beyond dualistic thinking. It is about becoming more present in our present moment... more aware, more alive.
I think that most Buddhist groups are trying to do the right thing. But they aren't willing to go the full path, because it isn't easy or fun. And, many do not go the full path bacause they don't know any better.

 
At May 19, 2006, Blogger DO said...

hmmmph...

If you strive for something (enlightenment, bliss, the void, "special" states, etc..) this is wrong practice.

Maybe people are striving for something in their "buddhist" practice and this makes Brad apprehensive about those who think this is the correct practice.

But those of us who know that this is wrong practice have nothing to fear, we have a better understanding already of true practice.

When you start practice, enlightenment is a special thing to attain, once you have been practicing, you will find it is nothing special...

 
At May 19, 2006, Blogger grisom said...

Brad's assertion, which sorta just hangs there, is one of those enigmatic statements that begs to be explained, and I hope he will, if not on his blog, then in his next book.

I thought he explained it pretty well in that very post:

The Mormon focus on ethics and living a productive life strikes me as way better than the emphasis much of American Buddhism places on achieving "Enlightenment experiences" and finding bliss.

I am not an American, so I don't know how common that sort of thinking actually is down there, or whether it's widespread enough to require radical shake-ups and whatnot. Here in Canada, the Buddhists I've run into seem more interested in making the world a better place than in achieving states of bliss.

So, people: What are your experiences with this in your countries? Are there a lot of people who are in Buddhism to find "Enlightenment experiences"? Is that even a bad thing?

 
At May 19, 2006, Blogger RepeatDose said...

1. 'I hate it when I see different versions of Buddhism offering easy paths to "enlightenment" and "bliss".'

2. 'I think there is a big danger when we start getting dualistic'

Is there a contradiction between these two statements?

 
At May 19, 2006, Blogger karen said...

My experience has been that there are both kinds of groups of Buddhists here in the US. Ones that are very outer directed and trying to smooth the path for others less fortunate. And then there are groups that are very inner directed that focus on the individual. And it is a little like the difference between the Mahayana and the Theravada branches. I don't see a problem with either path or focus because the outcome, if genuine is the same. I think that any group that organizes is going to have some people who have been wrongly or unskillfully directed. These include the warm and fuzzy set and the "militaristic" set. I have been a part of both. Recently I went back to the temple that I had been very involved in and it all came rushing back at me as to why I left in the first place. Too much phony posturing, smiling (not that I'm against that), but it was very forced. People acting like they think Buddhist practitioners are supposed to act. It was too much. And very dramatic. I also belonged to a group that practiced like you were in boot camp. All the way down to getting smacked around. I don't think that either of these ways is genuine. But, the head man in charge can only help others go as far as he himself has gone. And if he isn't the genuine article, no one else will be either. (I'm not talking about newcomers, who are always very enthusiastic, I'm talking about long term members, 18-20 years of practice). In the end I think it is all on your own shoulders. I happen to love the Tibetan group in our town. Very real and funny. I just can't subscribe to visualizing and the other practices they have. But, I really love them. So, what can you do?

 
At May 19, 2006, Blogger MikeDoe said...

Karen:
"I happen to love the Tibetan group in our town. Very real and funny. I just can't subscribe to visualizing and the other practices they have. But, I really love them. So, what can you do? "

I like reading these words. I feel similar things about the group that I attend. They are real and sincere and fun but we disagree on some things. I much prefer that to a bunch of people trying to keep up with an image of what they think Buddhist should be like.

I've written elsewhere on my own blog that sometimes I do the practices that the Sangha does and sometimes not.

For instance, the Sangha has a standard set of prayers that they sing every time. I tend to read the words but not sing them. I don't personally see the point.

Some of the meditations I do and some I do not.

When I first started to think about attending somewhere I was looking at the Dogen Sangha group as a possible group to join. Then the whole Weirdo British Zen Master thing kicked off last year and I thought, maybe not.

I don't know how long I will continue to attend the Sangha for but I will attend for now.

 
At May 20, 2006, Blogger me said...

Anyone here notice that Brad's webpage and blog have changed recently? I'm not seeing the links to the old essays or most of his recent blog posts. I wonder what's up?

 
At May 20, 2006, Blogger MikeDoe said...

me:
I noticed.

I don't know what it means.

If you publish then people will read and critique what you write. It's not within your control to stop it by doing anything other than not publishing.

 
At May 21, 2006, Blogger Drunken Monkey said...

Mikedoe, Lets not jump to conclusions. Im of the persuasion that Brad doesn't care about what you weirdos think.
Thinking ultimately defies truth and I know that Brad knows this too.

 
At May 22, 2006, Blogger flux said...

I'm gonna jump to this conclusion:

Brad hates us. Especially one of us. So he's hiding everything he's ever written. But he's leaving clues on the Internet about how to find it.

Like on the Wayback Machine, which has the history of his old website and his older website.

Alas, it doesn't have anything newer than April 1 2005, or anything from his blog.

 
At May 22, 2006, Blogger Jinzang said...

Brad's not going to shake up anything. All that he's going to do is add one more voice to the chorus of American Zen. The only way he could shake things up is if all the diverse Zen groups listened to what he said and changed their ways accordingly. This seems a pretty unlikely proposition.

 
At May 22, 2006, Blogger Jinzang said...

To many of people, Buddhism is the Dalai Lama, and reincarnation, and people sitting cross-legged while humming and praying to a little Buddha statue, and trying to reach some fantastic state of bliss (and get away from this horrible, ordinary world).

That pretty much sums up my practice.

 
At May 28, 2006, Blogger nan said...

wow! I just found this blog and am so impressed with the collaboration and writing here - thank you too all who contributed so far. I look forward to reading more!

 

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