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Pay Attention Or Get Pounded--Your Choice
Okay, this subject tends to come up here with painful regularity.
I'll call it the "BSD Zen Pattern". One of many which show up on this forum--initiated by the usual ignorrhoids--that maybe one shouldn't give a **** about, but (maybe it's sleep deprivation) this one just pissed me off at the wrong time.
What's the pattern?
1) Ignorrhoid signs up, spouts some ignorrhoid brilliance (and, really, it could be about anything).
2) Errant, reading aforementioned spouting of genius, replies with a very-justifiable "Shut the **** up" or something similar...and similarly-deserved.
3) Ignorrhoid, reading Errant's tags, responds with a knee-jerk spewing of something like: "How can you call yourself a professional Buddhist and Zen teacher when you've said such mean and hurtful things?"
Why does this pattern manifest itself, time and again?
On every university campus in the Western world, there exists a creature so stereotypical that he's almost a mythic archetype. No name doing this apparition justice, a brief description must suffice:
1) The face is pasty, chinless and unblemished by mark of effort or scar.
2) The expression is a constant, dreamily-beatific gaze into eternity.
3) The pony-tail is a very neat counterbalance to the specs.
4) The neck in front of the pony-tail is much thinner than the pony-tail.
5) Even thinner than the neck are the insect-like arms.
6) They end in smooth, unmarked hands as pasty as the face.
7) The smile is of one who has read all and therefore knows all.
8) He has travelled nowhere, unless there's a nice hotel.
9) He stayed in the hotel, and therefore really didn't travel.
Now this creature has decided that he understands Zen. He imparts his vast knowledge to any and every undergrad who will listen and worship.
All is quiet and mild in Zen, he says. (Undergrads nod placidly.)
No effort is required, as such would Unbalance Things. (The Assembled nod again).
Gentle loving-kindness means that voice and fists are never raised. (Those Present Feel The Peace).
Blah-blah-buddha-blah-blah-karma-blah-blah-enlightenment. (The audience is Ready to Embark on the Docile Journey).
Fucking idiots, one and all. The seller and the buyers both. As soon as I see you, you're headed for the ER. Not because I'm a Zen teacher (I'm not). Not because I'll impart something to you with my battered and scarred knuckles (I won't). It'll be because there's a remote chance you'll sustain enough neural damage that you'll wake up as somebody else...and I owe it to humanity to improve anything--what the ****, who am I kidding?--it'll happen because you pencil-necked little pseudo-Zen hippy-creeps are just asking for it. You know the "protective impulse"? Well, your very presence on this planet triggers the exact opposite. **** you.
Want Zen? Assuming that's not a contradiction, why the **** would you want to learn it from a spaghetti-armed neo-hippy? Go to the source. You'll find, in Japan or anywhere Zen has a history, that what you thought you knew amounts to a steaming pile of matter most vile.
Go. There are lots of temples where you'll get told, served, whacked with sticks, clouted, your ass worked to the bone by monks as callous as they are callused. "You want 'Eastern philosophy'? GET TO WORK!" is what they'll tell you. Your job is to pay attention. Pay attention, pay attention, pay attention...and if it takes a right cross to the jaw to get you there, then that's what you'll get.
For those who have been to such a place (my wife's family has me attend the Soto-Shu temple near their residence every time I go to Japan), the link between Zen and MA is obvious. That's why so many temples have MA as part of their training: nothing gets you to pay attention, nothing keeps you mind from wandering off to la-la land, like an adversary who's intent on laying a beating on your sorry ass. If you can't keep focus, you'll be spitting teeth. The military implications are obvious: who would be easier for an attacker to get the jump on--the sentinel who is always focussed on where he is and what he's doing...or the fucking daydreamer? Right. This principle is transferable to a number of occupations: I can't, for example, afford to let myself be lulled by the hours of ultra-repetitive dance-floor crap that I hear at work. The lighting is poor enough as it is, my eyesight is that of a nearly-fifty-year-old, and the volume of the speakers makes hearing radio-calls dubious enough at the best of times. If I fail to keep focus, something might well get out of hand that I could have prevented with proper vigilance.
As for what Zen teachers are "supposed to do or not do", there are many historical examples of direct-teaching in Zen, if looking things up is what you're into. As Inzan said, centuries ago, about one of his more promising students:
"...there are many gates for her to pass through.
She should receive still more blows from my iron fist".
Why waste time on words if the fist, or the stick, teaches better?
If words are chosen, why waste time being "nice" to a fucking idiot? Just call him a fucking idiot. For the nun Eshun, about to die by her choice on a pyre, the last words to a monk who had asked her if it was "hot in there" was to answer: "Only an idiot like you would concern himself with a question like that." When a daimyo (a feudal lord in Japan) visited two Zen teachers, one called him "wise, with an inborn ability to learn Zen". The other said: "Why do you flatter this imbecile? He's a daimyo--all well and good--but he knows nothing about Zen." This latter became the daimyo's teacher.
So, yeah, Zen teachers may well insult you, work you to the bone, hit you with sticks, shout verbal abuse at you, and punch the **** out of you.
And when the ****'s been punched out of you, you might just find that you're far better-off without it.
Besides, when you're "mindful", you do a much more efficient job of scrunching campus-Zen-flake down to suitable size for the compost-mulcher. He might as well be useful for something...
Last edited by Vieux Normand; 4/04/2009 11:07am at .