Monday, June 18, 2012

a churlish wet dream

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It was a churlish and inflamed moment, but since it lingers like a receding case of the flu, I guess I will give it a little room to breathe:

Former U.S. President Harry S. Truman was once quoted as saying, "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen." He was referring to political life or perhaps more broadly to any sort of serious endeavor, but the appropriateness of the sentiment -- the pure truth of it -- shines like a beacon.

Yesterday I was caught up in a small tsunami of a similar sort. When it comes to spiritual endeavor -- and most specifically to the Zen Buddhism I have preferred -- I would like it tatooed on the foreheads of all those who lay claim through inka or some similar anointing ...

If you can't do hell, then get the fuck out of the heaven business!

Don't build it up if you can't burn it down!

In support of this crabby thought process, I took a little delicious time to imagine that all the Zen teachers -- I don't care so much about the obvious charlatans, the money mavens and all -- were gathered together for a colloquium of some sort ... some place at a safe distance from workaday folk ... dressed in their raksus and kesas and robes ... holding their sticks and fly whisks ... gathered together to talk things over on behalf of their chosen profession ... smiling and courteous ... dispensing compassionate attainment ... when all of a sudden .... magically ...

Their robes burst into flame.

As I say, this should take place at a safe distance from unanointed folks, the "sangha" these well-appointed nitwits claim to see as an integral part of "the Triple Gem." No sense in injuring those who are seeking a little peace, a little happiness.

With robes on fire, how long would their well-lubricated, risk-averse excuses last ... their smiling mediocrities hiding behind "right speech" or "compassion" or "the unconditional realm" or "healing" or "closure" or "true wisdom" or "noble silence?" How meaningful would their squirming, mewling, self-serving references to Buddhist-this and Buddhist-that be ... clutching the precepts to their breasts like some child with a much-beloved doll ... strolling in a haze of some secretly-exalted good-gooder-goodest?

Burn, baby, burn!

I guess a part of this cranky wet dream stemmed from the fact that over the weekend, the American Zen Teachers Association came together in Shelburne, Vt. I have no way of knowing what they discussed and didn't discuss. I have no way of knowing how honest or dishonest they were. I am sure they all did their best. My peripheral interest in the past depredations of Eido Shimano made me hope they might have addressed the lingering wounds of the unanointed caught up in those depredations ... but that's just an interest of mine. What interests me more broadly is the ability and willingness within the 'heaven' industry to walk without blinkers through the realms of 'hell.'

How useful or true could something like "Buddhism" be if there were no capacity or willingness to burn the damned thing down? "Right speech" MEANS wrong speech, for Christ's sake. (Or, for the translation tap dancers, "complete speech" MEANS incomplete speech, for Christ's sake.) "The middle way" MEANS the extremes. The tomes and tracts and robes and fly whisks MEAN ... poof! and sometimes a painful, hellish poof!

Burn, baby, burn!

Buddhism is not some new and improved version of the Vatican shirking its responsibilities ... only of course, it is ... which is the reason I called this colloquium of Zen masters to this place at a safe distance from those who may yearn for peace. "But we are just trying to help..." and "We're only human..." these artful dodgers will claim. Or, equally artful, they will turn the problem back on the one who is complaining: "This is your view and your problem ... not mine." And of course they are "right." The only problem is, they couldn't be more wrong.

If you can't do hell, get out of the heaven business. Get a job. Flip burgers a McDonald's or something equally honest. Buddhism MEANS burning Buddhism down ... always ... and if you're not up to the job, then get another. Keeping hell at a distance is for sissies, not Buddhists.

Good-gooder-goodest, serene and patient smiles, 'compassion' passing for compassion, keeping a distance from all the 'wrong' things that might stain those flowing robes ....

Here, step closer ... stand together in a loving, tight-knit, photograph-worthy group, prepare to smile ...

And somebody hand me a match.
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