Sunday, November 21, 2010
Much Ado About Nothing
So I've mentioned the blog Buddhism Sucks, and, happily, the author has returned and put up new posts. He has gained numerous new followers, who are excited that someone is critically examining Buddhism. I would imagine those same folks would enjoy reading this blog, which I like to think does the same thing. I'm sure many people would accuse me of simply ranting against that which I don't agree with, but...wait, there is no but. That's what I'm doing.
However, this isn't simply a knee-jerk response on my part. I haven't solidified in my mind exactly what I think Buddhism is, because once that happens, your mind closes and won't open again. However, I DO know what Buddhism AIN'T, and will happily combat those ideas any time they arise.
People seem to think that if you attack a staid concept, especially if you use words like "fuck" and "shit" when you do it, that you're being provocative or iconoclastic. I don't see myself, or John at Buddhism Sucks, that way. I don't see Brad Warner that way, or Noah Levine or any of the other folks that have decided to strip away the detritus and try to see Buddhism as it really is. I don't think it's rebellious or provocative to get sick of bullshit and refuse to accept it anymore. It's not like we're proposing a crazy new solution or calling for the wholesale destruction of what we oppose. We're pointing out that Buddhism, in the West specifically but also in the East, has degenerated into a rotten gumbo of of thrown-together ingredients that have little to do with the original recipe. Shunryu Suzuki, who helped establish Zen in this country, told his American students that they would have to be responsible for re-establishing Zen in Japan because it had fallen into such disrepair. A Japanese Zen monk, who had received a classic education at the hands of Japanese Zen masters in Zen monasteries in motherfucking Japan, where Zen originated, told his dumb-ass, whitebread students that they would have to fix Zen. In Japan.
And why? Because Zen in Japan had turned into a worthless pile of shit. Parents sent their sons to monasteries so they would emerge a few years later as Zen priests. Then they could eventually take over as head of a temple, which came with a lot of respect, not to mention cash, land and tons of other goodies. While these inchoate priests were in training, they were required to sit zazen, which is the only thing in Zen that really matters. But once they graduated and moved on to a temple of their own, they usually didn't do it anymore. They became funeral directors, marriage officiators, and local politicians. They abandoned zazen because no one was forcing them to do it anymore, and, frankly, that shit is kinda boring and weak anyway. It's like a Marine going through boot camp, and then deciding that everything he did there wasn't really important to being a Marine after all. He didn't need to keep doing push ups and sit ups and daily runs and weapons training anymore because he'd already done it. Now it's over. You do all that stuff to BECOME a Marine, not to STAY a Marine.
Of course, that's ridiculous. Staying fit and strong and being able to shoot straight are all central to being a Marine. And zazen is central to the practice of Zen. But Japan had lost touch with that and Suzuki thought his Western students could help with this problem because they were so enthusiastic about zazen.
But that was the 60s. Since then, Buddhism has become exotic but mainstream, foreign but comforting, abstruse but simple. Everyone thinks they know what it's about because everyone has seen the Dalai Lama, or read a Kerouac book or listened to a fucking Beastie Boys album. It's like learning to play poker by watching the movie Rounders.
I am not trying to tear Buddhism down. I'm trying to destroy the ridiculous shell around it. But people who have grown accustomed to what they believe Buddhism is will always resist.