corboy is a blessing to this site
Date: September 17, 2003 05:25AM
First, just to let you know, I am not a qualified Zen teacher and have barely managed to begin stablizing a practice.
I think its a matter of discovering the difference between genuine practice vs what some have called 'Black Zen'--where the intellectual part of Zen is used to mind-fuck people.
Someone at our practice center said, 'Its 1950s Zen (Alan Watts Zen) when people talk about it. Its real Zen when you actually have sitting practice.'
The mind-fuck Zen mostly originated with people like Watts who read their way into Zen. Watts himself tried practicing with a Zen master and gave it up in frustration after a few months. He wrote his first book on Zen when he was 19, after reading his way into it. Watts had no emotional maturity and went through a series of wives the way other people tear through a six pack of Coke on a hot day.
You cant do Zen unless in the context of the Zen precepts (ethics) and unless you see your practice as assisting all beings to awaken. You dont do it just for your own pleasure and will never do anything to distract or darken the minds of others.
Zen was an advanced practice for people who grew up in a stable Buddhist culture in which it was assumed that everyone, including monks knew to be ethical and reliable. It was NEVER a license to do your own thing or screw your way through life.
So, if someone uses Zen to manipulate people, its no longer Zen.
It used to be that people were not allowed to join a Zen monastery until they sat outside for days, to prove they were serious. (In old Japan monks were exempt from paying taxes and being drafted, so the monasteries were very tough about screening out people who wanted to use a monastery to escape life's burdens.)
I didnt want anything to do with spirituality after finding out I'd been burned. I was working with a therapist at the time. X has a way of creating a quiet, still atmosphere of mutual respect in his counseling room. It caused me to get in touch with myself and I realized for the first time what it was like to get steady respectful attention from another person. It caused me to begin understanding what I was inside, apart from the usual noise in my head.
One day, I realized that the atmosphere at our Zen Center and another buddhist group I went to resembled the atmosphere in my therapist's office.
It was an atmosphere that supported my own healing, because it supported insight. It was an emotional 'flavor' I'd somehow learned to recognize--something that helped strengthen my gut feelings, and seemed to boost my street smarts, empath and emotional IQ.
As best I can say, the atmosphere of true Zen practice is incompatible with manipulation--it supports your insight and helps you wake up--it wont put you under.
Every time I try to do sitting meditation I am always a little reluctant. I take that as a good sign, because thats how I knew it is challenging me.
If I loved sitting meditation and found it easy and pleasant to do, I would suspect I was using it to hide from my own shit.
Dont know if this helps.
I have not yet begun working consistently with a teacher, so thats another reason why I am not qualified to give advice.
There is one book, very old fashioned, that may help--Hara: The Vital Centre of Man by Karlfried Graf von Durckheim.
Unlike Watts, D studied Zen for 10 years in Japan--sit down practice, the real deal. He ties a basic concept in Zen to Western spiritual vocabulary and ties it also to body work.
Things began making more sense when I understood how to center my breathing in the abdominal core--it literally develops both insight and strengthens one's boundaries. Its a concept so basic to Japanese culture that many teachers omit it because they dont have to think of it any more. So Durckheim may supply a helpful missing link.