Thursday, April 16, 2009

unpleasant flounderings

A note this morning asked why I no longer participated at the Internet bulletin board e-sangha. The question left me with the same slightly-floundering feeling I would get when someone would ask why I had quit the first formal Zen center I ever attended. The truth is I'm not really sure; the truth is I dislike simplistic answers; the truth is that I don't like anchovies; the truth is that it was just a choice. Now ... what is the truth?

I wrote back to the note-sender and said that too many nasty things were happening to many people who participated in e-sangha ... that the over-arching feel of the place had turned to one of policy-wonk Buddhism ... faultless administrative 'goodness' passing for goodness. Of all the insidious things in the world, what passes for goodness may be the worst. Since I have exercised the same failing, I feel I get to say that. The cries of the world are not some joke or boo-boo that the exalted can offer the 'right' answer to. But that's not the sort of observation you can offer to those in the throes of 'goodness.'

Last night, I got an email from a woman who had come to the zendo here. Not very often, but a few times before she moved away. She was dismayed, she said, because she found that as she continued her at-home practice, unpleasant realities had come calling. Was there some approach that would help her cope and not feel overwhelmed?

Naturally, she was not specific: People love to be secretive about their tender places ... as if there were some secret. I wrote back the best approaches I could think of while making it clear they were just the best approaches I could think of. I too have had secrets and tender wounds, so ... why wouldn't I say what I thought had helped? But will it help? I haven't got a clue. Which is more important? -- something called "Buddhism," some gift-wrapped package of advice that I have found helpful, or something that will actually help? Maybe "Buddhism" is just the ticket. Maybe a tin of anchovies would be better. It's the help that matters, not the goodness.

On the surface, I left the first Zen center I ever attended because I was tired of the teacher's sexual antics with his students -- the Fuck Follies, as some of us came to call them wryly. Zen Studies Society was a two-pronged entity comprised of a center in New York City, Sho Bo Ji, and a monastery in the Catskills, Dai Bosatsu Zendo. Eido Shimano headed up, and continues to head up, Zen Studies Society. He knew and taught the trappings, but even today, the occasional brochures I see from ZSS are rife with self-serving accolades. From my point of view, he never learned to give it away and as a result, all he taught was how to keep it... and many good people got hurt. But this is just my point of view, my choice. The line that comes to mind is, "If you find no equal or better in life, go alone./ Loneliness is preferable to the company of fools." I am not as content with my foolishness as others may be with theirs.

But honestly, I don't know. I know I don't like anchovies, so I don't eat them if I can help it. I know I like the goodness of which people are capable, but I dislike the dangers that 'goodness' can pose. I know I feel uncomfortable putting unpleasant matters on paper ... as if uncomfortable matters could somehow honestly be delineated or resolved with the written word... or pleasant matters either, for that matter.

Floundering: In order to flounder, there would have to be someone to flounder and some medium to flounder in, wouldn't there?

Poor, floundering sod. :)

1 comment:

  1. I followed your blog from e-sangha to here, because I appreciated your direct answers to people’s posts on e-sanga and found your responses stood out to me in being sincere and helpful to my own practice (and hopefully others).

    I have been the moderator of several forums and know how hard it is and how many compromises you have to make in order to serve the greater good. But all forums are cyclical in nature and members come and go. That is just the way it is.

    But I LOVE anchovies, so screw you blasphemer ;)