Monday, January 09, 2006

Dogen Zen and the time Zen was pure

I appreciate the motives that make people strive to recreate a Zen that is pure like it was in Dogen's time. I think it is a little naive to think that only now, only here has a similar effort been made. I know that in Japan I heard the same sort of talk from "noble" efforts being made to return the practice to what is was before it got having to pay for temples, and having been "institutionalized". I am sure one find the same movements in Tibetan Buddhism, even in the Catholic church......there is nothing new or unique about such is only our ego that thinks that this time..when we do it ...will it be successful. Dogen was a revolutionary as well.....history shows us the problem with revolutions is that they inevitably become what they revolted against, or they die before they have the opportunity to. The structures exist for a reason...the Modern Soto Shu is there for a reason, it did not become what it is because everyone in it it is corrupt, it became what is because there was a Soto-shu shaped hole in the universes that needed filling. There are more reformers in Japan than there are in New Mexico, or Texas, or Minnesota.....all wanting to go back to the time when things were pure....the problem is ....there never was a time when things were pure.

The Zen we think of as "Dogen Zen" never existed...even in Dogen's time. There was no group of more noble than other monks huddled in a small group by a fire somewhere..or in a shack...aspiring to a "true" practice...well there was...but they had the same problems that we have today..and only stayed by the fire long enough to find a noble sponser....problems like who is going to pay for the shack?...and where are we going to get food?..How are we going to exist in this time and place? Who is going to cook lunch so we can eat? The lotus only bloomed in muddy water. If one stops by to visit Eihieji today one can still see the monuments to the ones who paid for the building of the temple. Those rich guys ...or rich Old know..the nobles?...the ones who paid for everything?...the ones you had to sell on the idea that building a temple was a good place to spend their money?...the ones who in their grief tried to assure a place in nirvana for themselves and their children, while they were busy lopping of the heads of peasants, and killing themselves with swords? No smart temple priest these days caters to a single donor....because that means the donor wants to be in charge...I am sure things were different in Dogen's day when single donors were all that was available. Not to mention, picking the right donor....because If your donor got his head lopped off.....well unless you were politic enough you were out of the temple when the new noble moved in, replaced by the priest who played the game better than you did, or at least was luckier than you at the track where priests picked out which horse to bet their life and practice on. If you were was all that you carefully tended, and your noble flock of underlings either went with you into obscurity , found a new rich person who wanted to be assured of nirvana, or bowed to the new order.

Well what about Ancient China during the flowering of Buddhism in China? bad or worse.

Well then let us go back to when it all was new.....the time of the living Buddha were a perfect group of Arhats with shining halos about their heads sat in gardens and ate rice begged from the people on the street......No muddy water there...not if we ignore the fact that even if Buddha was liberal enough to let low caste males into his sangha...even he could not bend enough to let women in....until and unless it was understood that the highest ranked woman must bow to the lowest rank man (as the lowest ranked man I can tell you that this idea is not dead in some parts of the world.) The we have the rules about not having sex with trees. Buddha only made the rules as they were we must have had a least one tree fucker mucking up the picture. Then of course, there was Ananda. He had memorized every word of the Buddha, before he played his robes and position into the bed of every woman he could....maybe all those women who were bowing at his feet in the morning, had a little trouble not bowing at night. I am sure there were volunteers(this too is as old as time), some more voluntary then others. Yet none of this was cause for Ananda to be removed from the sangha....that was reserved for those who planned the coup. Ooops....politics in the original Sangha? You are kidding right?

So where is this perfection that we are going to go back to?.where is the mud that is purer than this mud?....The Lotus has always bloomed in muddy water. Perhaps our efforts would be better spent blooming where we are planted, rather than chasing after the myth of a more noble time.