Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Nine Full Bows to Flapping Mouths Members

As some of you may have noted. I have deleted one of my posts. Before explaining why, let me first give my heartfelt thanks to all who shared their thoughts with me. Your words helped me to consider the whole premise from a fresh, new perspective.

I have already shared my reasoning concerning my decision via email with another. Part of that email said:

To be honest with you, this whole experience has been very instructive for me. Even when I wrote the original book review (at amazon) some years back, I was acting on a kind of 51 to 49 % feeling about what the proper action should be on my part. 51% saying I needed to do something, 49% saying I had done enough by writing to both authors. Hence, when I did write it, I only hinted at --deleted-- actions saying that he had "borrowed" heavily from --deleted-- book without permission. I did not say he actually "stole" anything, nor did I offer the detailed examples. In the end, I felt I had done my part (though with some doubts still grinding), and after awhile I pretty much forgot all about it.

Then, when I received some email questioning the validity of my "implications" it all came back, and once again I was not certain on if or how to respond. I finally decided to verify my "charges" by providing the examples. Based on my own past experience and the "wise counsel" I sought on this issue, it seemed like the appropriate response. Yet, it still bothered me.

When I decided to post it on the blog, I knew it would be controversial, but I think now it was quite helpful for me because it has allowed me to see it fresh, and from perspectives I had not previously considered. This "newfound" perspective brought me to a decisive resolution on the whole thing (at least for now. Ha!).

It seems that the overall effect of my "action" has done very little good in the practical world of everyday life.

I decided that my time and energy would be much better spent in trying to share what little experience and or insight I might have on pointing out where to step, rather than not where to step.

I am going to delete my posts, and also delete my book review. In my expressions, written or otherwise, I have decided to try to avoid bit**ing about all the BS that might be going on in the name of "Buddhism" and instead, try to stay focused on the "authentic" teachings - whatever that means. If I do think there is some necessity to point out something that may pose a threat to students, I will try to keep it in general terms - that is, I will try to put principles before personalities...

So, once again, thank you all for your guidance on this issue.
Nine full bows,

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Thank You All for your views on Zen teachings/teachers

I would like to thank everyone for posting their views concerning my last post here (--deleted--). Everyone has expressed ideas that have been helpful in seeing the issue with freshness.

Rather than responding to each comment, I would like to just give my own current thoughts on this issue (I say current because it is bound to change-again).

In the early days of my own practice and study, I spent a fair amount of time looking for a teacher, and "tried" a half dozen or so. Eventually, I did find one teacher that "worked" for me (though we "agreeably" disagreed in some areas). I also found a couple of teachers that became friends, rather than "teachers." Others, I came to respect as "authentic" teachers – whatever that means! Some, I found offensive for a number of reasons.

As a merchant marine I had lots of time for reading. I loved the Zen and Buddhist sutras, records, etc. But much of the "contemporary" teachings seemed to say things that directly contradicted the classic translations. Often I read "modern" teachers attributing teachings to the Zen masters like "Rinzai did this…" or "Dogen believed that…" or "Hakuin taught such and such…" And I would think "Where did they say that? I sure did not read it in their records…" Every time I had the chance for dokusan, or in public meetings, I would ask about particular discrepancies. Sometimes I got explanations that cleared things up. Most often, I found that they had no valid explanations.

All in all, I have found it good practice to "question" things I find trouble accepting. Also, I am personally grateful if someone points out a false or questionable teaching or teacher with some argument or evidence as to why I might want to look a little deeper before putting my trust into something.

As most of you know, Dogen’s teachings (or at least those records that are attributed to Dogen) have been especially helpful in my own practice and study on the Zen path. But I do not consider even these to be "authentic" teachings until I have actually "put them to the test" through actual implementation. Once I "try" them, and personally discover whether they "work" then I consider them valid. If not, I do not dismiss them, but they remain in the "possible" zone—perhaps I do not understand them, or the translation is not quite right, or whatever.
One of his teachings has been quite valuable to me in this regard. It has been to at least partially try to "evaluate" teachings by comparing them to the traditional teachings. As you may have seen my posting elsewhere:

Even before Dogen had traveled to China and resolved his quest to accomplish the "task of a lifetime," he realized that the authentic teachings of written texts were more valuable than inauthentic teachings of certified "Dharma heirs." In the Zuimonki Dogen explains how he came to realize this fact when he compared the teachings of his own "distinguished" title holding teachers to those of the "eminent Buddhists" of the past:

…I came to realize that they differed from what my teachers taught. What is more, I realized that thoughts such as mine, according to their treatises and biographies, were loathed by these people. Having contemplated the nature of the matter at last, I thought to myself I should have felt rather humbled by ancient sages and future good men and women instead of elated by the praise of despicable contemporaries… In view of such a realization, the holders of the title of Great Teacher (daishi) in this country seemed to me worthless, like earthen tiles, and my whole life was changed completely.
Zuimonki, V:8

To many people outside of the Buddhist community Dogen’s observation might seem like little more than common sense. Very few people, especially in the West, would even allow someone to repair their car simply because they possessed a certificate or title, much less trust them as their guide on the "great matter of life and death." Yet, I have witnessed many "Zen Centers" are filled with members that never question the credentials of a "Dharma Heir" whose title and/or certificate is granted by a single individual human being in an esoteric ritual of "mind to mind transmission."

The reasons for my "aversion" to some "teachers" is not so much because of "what" they did, but because of what they did and said "in the name of Zen." Like some of the "Christian" leaders, --Falwell, Robertson, Baker, and their ilk—I could care less what they thought, or believed or did in their own personal lives –I am a pretty extreme liberal—it is their "this is what God told me" suggestions, aimed only at exploiting their "followers"? "Students?" or whatever, for their own personal gain or agenda, and all in the name of religion.

People turn to "religion" for many reasons—but a large percentage of them look to religion because of difficulties, suffering, problems, fears, etc that they are experiencing in their lives—this was true in my early days. Hence, many of these people are vulnerable to predators that would exploit their fears, their pain and anguish simply to satisfy their own agendas of politics, prestige, power, money, sex, etc. This is simply one of those things I cannot seem to ignore. I may be overly sensetive to this, but when I smell something with a whiff of "shit" in it, I want to tell my friends, and those that may be suffering and looking for a genuine "way" to approach life, to be careful where they step...

Thanks again for all of your thoughtful comments…
Please take care,

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Not attaining.

Someone wrote something in a way that just did not wash, and so reluctantly I am fighting an aversion I have to writing about this kind of stuff anymore.
Sometimes you just have to say something.

So please forgive me if I may dip into “Yoda~Speak” to attempt to make what can not be clear a bit more digestible.

The E word. Ugh. I make no qualms about not liking the E word. To say one has it and another dose not is a bit of a farce. No, a big huge farce. To say it is “Attained” is not correct either. You do not attain enlightenment. You may realize something, but usually that is not a realization of enlightenment but just delusion about enlightenment.

A fish dose not attain water. Water is just all around a fish. It might jump out of the water for a moment and come to realize that there is something other than water. At that point it may learn to appreciate the water. The chance of a fish appreciating the water without ever leaving the water seems pretty slim. But what do I know, I am not a fish.

The point is that what some people refer to as “enlightenment” is all around. There is nothing to “attain.” Perhaps, call it just being awake. Like a fish realizing the water. That could be pretty traumatic. One might spend the rest of their short life working through that experience. I recommend meditative practice.

I am not so good with words. I invite others to investigate this for themselves.

May you be free from suffering,


Monday, April 07, 2008

Sayings and Doings of Louie Wing

Louie Wing said, "The unnamable transcends explanation, yet explanations are used to guide you to the unnamable. Words do not reach the vast unnamable fathomless void, yet through words it is revealed."
--From the collected Sayings and Doings of Louie Wing

Copyright Ted Biringer 2008

Friday, April 04, 2008

Dogen Blog Announcement and Invitation

In Hee-Jin Kim’s landmark book, Eihei Dogen: Mystical Realist, Dr. Kim caused many of us to reevaluate some basic assumptions about Dogen’s Zen, and even question some of the fundamental assumptions concerning Zen itself—at least as it was represented in the West.

In his most recent book, Dogen on Meditation and Thinking: A Reflection on His View of Zen, Hee-Jin Kim again illumines issues that many teachers, students and scholars have ignored, avoided, or simply missed. These issues merit our utmost attention, for (quoting the ‘grand master’ himself) “an unexamined Zen is not worth living.”

I am taking up some of the topics Kim raises in his books at the Dogen Shobogenzo Blog . There I will attempt to stay focused primarily on Dogen’s teachings as presented in his writings, primarily in his Shobogenzo. My posts on the Flatbed Sutra of Louie Wing, and other topics will continue to be posted here at the Flatbed Sutra Zen Blog as well as the other Blogs I participate in (see my blogroll).

If anyone is interested, please come and check it out. All comments are welcome! If you have any questions, feel free to email me at