And about that discussion. It's unfolding so much like the others. Lots of fluffy Zen talk amongst those who wish to defend the teacher. Lots of hell and damnation talk from those who are outraged at the teacher's alleged conduct. More than a little bit of puritanical talk about sexuality. Accompanied by some good ole boy "guys will be guys" nonsense from others. Finger pointing is commonplace. Calls for greater oversight at a level higher than the individual sangha continue to ring loud, if not hollow.
I used to love to dissect all this kind of stuff. It felt very important, vital really - having been from a sangha that went through it's own teacher scandal several years back.
Now. I don't know. We seem terribly muddled about both the power of sexuality, and the nature and forms of power itself. There's a lot of abuse of power, and seemingly endless numbers of people writing about it, trying to figure it all out. Perhaps most humans in general, but American Zen in particular, since that's the focus here. And for all the muck brought to the surface, and revelations that seem to be made, the heavy muddled quality remains.
When you think about it, the intersections of sex, money, and power - the three biggies in nearly all of these Zen teacher scandals - are perfect koans for Americans. We think we understand them, have penetrated their depths, but I doubt many of us do. I sure as hell haven't at this point in my life. In the absolute sense, they're empty of inherent nature, right? But in the relative world, each of them has a myriad of forms that baffle and shift, stick and cause us to stumble.
Yes. Sasaki, like Suzuki, Katagiri, and other founding convert Zen teachers, weren't born in the U.S. However, it seems to me that they plugged right into the particular matrix we have here around the big three. The odd mixture of puritanical views coupled with provocativeness when it comes to sexuality. The curious blend of anti-authority individualism mixed with obsession with heroes and guru figures. The heightened tension between viewing voluntary poverty as a sign of divinity, and the desire for more, more, more than drives the capitalist machine. None of these founding teachers really exhibited all three entry points in the way many American born Zen teachers in scandals have, but they've still be in the matrix all the same.
Will this matrix that's causing so much suffering change, and for the better? I don't know. I'd like to hope so, but that's just hoping, something I don't put much faith in these days. I do think, however, that cracking the koan nut of this matrix - or set of matrices - may be the key to truly establishing a living Zen tradition in this country. As opposed to a struggling copy. Or a lot of "not bad" institutions that are helpful to people's lives, but ultimately fail to foster enlightenment.
Fellow Zen blogger Algernon has a cantankerous post up right now in which he offers the following:
What happens when you have an elaborate ecclesiastical structure meant to support and inspire dharma practice, but the dharma practice is shallow or, worse, pretend? What happens when you have temple full of people who have robes and know a lot about ceremonies and ritual, but they can't function spontaneously and ethically? Well, what you are left with is a dead religion. And when you have dead religion, there is nothing left to do except fight over the property and the money and the social position. This is not unfamiliar in human history, is it? Indeed, many of the teachers who brought their zen to the United States in the 20th century said they did so because this is what happened to zen in their homelands. They wanted to work with hippies who could jump into practice with a fresh perspective. My generation, on the other hand, is a generation of experts. Generation X and Generation Y zenboos organize big, fancy conferences for people in their thirties and forties who have become "Buddhist leaders." So much expertise. And yet. Hmmm.
I have a sickening feeling that a lot of zen in my country is a bad play. A play of the sacred. The stink of zen.
How to stay fresh, responding with right now mind, even when what we are responding to is great suffering? I'm not sure questions like this are being asked enough, especially during "dark times," such as the unraveling of a teacher scandal.