Wednesday, August 18, 2010

imperial/blue collar Zen

I sort of know what they mean -- or anyway I imagine I do: "Imperial Zen" and "blue-collar Zen."

Imperial Zen is full of cultured brocade and the next cookie is delicious in the same way the one before it was. Imperial Zen follows a path that is sometimes said to be "2,500 years old." As in a scavenger hunt, it digs up bits of treasure marked upon ancient maps.

Blue collar Zen is as homey as folk art -- lovingly created and chiseled and yet not quite smooth around the edges. Blue collar Zen's simplicity is obvious and its beauty is mysterious. Sometimes blue collar Zen means Zen for Americans, something that reaches beyond "a bunch of smart white guys." It is for everyone.

As I say, I sort of know what these bits of terminology mean, what they're pointing at, what dangers and delights are implied.

But outside a little social conversation, I don't like either one of them. Something inside just cringes -- seriously cringes. It's not as if imperial Zen or blue-collar Zen were wrong.

They're just wrong.

Someone else will probably have a more nuanced and educated point of view.


  1. Genkaku wrote:

    "imperial/blue collar Zen

    "But outside a little social conversation, I don't like either one of them. Something inside just cringes -- seriously cringes. It's not as if imperial Zen or blue-collar Zen were wrong.

    "They're just wrong."

    *** Like a fish; he bites down on the bait and is caught on the hook. Now he struggles. Finally, he gets away! :-) ***

    Of course they are "They're _just_wrong_!" It's just like "We are all blind!" or "OK? Do you understand?"

    But this isn't a teisho this is a blog, so ... let's chew on this a bit. Not in a scholarly, erudite fashion (which actually would be great), but just some common sense...

    Isn't "Imperial Zen" the stereotype that used to be (and quite possibly still is promulgated by Shimano and others in Camp Rinzai? isn't "Blue Collar Zen" almost the opposite, proposed by some who found Shimano's training lacking in so many elements?

    This is almost a real life deju-vu!

    This is sort of a self aware rerun the of classic saying " 'Rinzai Zen' is for the Shogunate and 'Soto Zen' is for the farmers.'" Perhaps that saying was an marketing tool first spun some centuries ago, or perhaps it was just an accurate observation at some point in time.

    Personally, I wonder about the overall quality of a practice that is or was *aimed* specifically at a class of people. But that's all -- a wondering. If it's not so exclusive and self conscious it might not be bad, it might even do some good. But I am sure there are some who would say this is terrible; and it could be, if taken to an extreme.

    Nevertheless if we set aside marketing, stereotypes and extreme polarities, there is something to be said for approach, style and sangha. Isn't it true that when we first come to a center we are attracted, or not, by the style, the approach and our sense of the members? In this sense then, the approach, the style and the existing sangha is Extremely Important. Therefore, it is not fair to say, "They are just wrong" without much in the way of clarification.

    To make it even clearer in Buddhism there are different groupings Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana. Zen is just one Mahayana school. A given person can still be on the "Path" and yet practice differently. This is not to mention other spiritua paths like some spiritual schools of Yoga, etc.

    The point is that the real "work" of the practice must be done.
    If the work isn't being done, then we might be cringing.
    But not just cringing but then analyzing, clarifying and remedying.

    Now, let me go back and continue swimming in this nice clear lake in the mountains. I have to avoid these hanging worms, they must all belong to the "Lazy Fisherman."

  2. just typing, because abit demoralised to work but my blue-collared newspaper's horoscope says that by right today should be a busy and successful day for me.

    just two days ago my office celebrated birthday for a lady colleague. She was a good-looker so to say the least. But in the middle of my mind, a paradox appeared.

    Not to say that paradoxes are right, if they are right then reality should not exist, but still, I speak humbly to all.

    This colleague reminded me of a girl I liked back in university. Her name was amusing, "yue" which was a chinese character for "moon". As you may recall, the Buddha said something about his finger pointing at the moon, and if you look at this finger, you are missing the beauty of that moon.

    So when I was glancing at the female colleague, reminiscent of my ex-crush, I felt like life is a dream, like a puddle of water. And this colleague is not even a fish swimming in the water that could be hooked by a bait. She was literally a reflection of the moon I once knew in still water. If my emotions went riot, the image of the reflection will be just as distorted. But right now I am still, and she looked beautiful.

    But still, a reflection in the water. How to bait this reflection even though I am the most busiest fisherman alive?

    But still, in the presence of a good sangha, a good audience, we say that when there's opportunities to do something, let's do something. When nothing to do, then maybe I should just sit still, like what I am posting at this blog yet doing nothing in a office that's like a mirage.

    And I am wrong, I always knew I am wrong ever since I met Zen.


  3. I am still keen to leave this blog and also my present job. Having practised 'weird' things like Vajrayana last time, when I was promised Buddhahood in a lifetime, I found that the greatest Buddhas, like I posted before, was my spiritual teachers who pointed me the paths and cared for my intellect, and my parents and relations who gave birth and cared for my body.

    When I am done with the learning here at genkaku's blog and my stupid office, may I be free to move on for the next round of 'buddshit'....

    take care and see you in awhile :)

    always say sorries and be humble -- my self-reminder

  4. yawn...

    Genkaku, you probably want to take care of those good students of yours who seem to have gotten everything right.

    conceit is to be gotten rid of. the guy who has gotten everything right has got too much goodness to be gotten rid of.


  5. Sirs,

    Does the Thus Come One ever retrench people who do their job properly, in accordance with his directions and teachings? If the Thus Come One retrenches me due to restructuring, must I convert to another religion?

    Or must I wait for another gazillion years to meet the same Thus Come One, under another name, only then can I get employment? Or am I already servicing you to my best of efforts, the all Thus Come?

    I do get paid right? One more days' worth of life.

    It is enough Sirs, this is enough =) I am already delighted with my contentment.

    Hee hee.

  6. Rice bowl,

    Did you say you are in Singapore? Given you close affinity to rice, so you think rice comes out better when using a Rice Cooker. If so please recommend a good one that should work on the American electrical system. Thanks in advance.

    In difficult times many are turning to providing services. A young college graduate I know has decided that he needs to do volunteer work in his field for his resume and work part tine as a waiter. He has an outgoing personality so if he can get into a well run restaurant and gets his orders straight, he will make excellent tips. Another you friend is working as a apprentice mechanic and taking courses on-line towards a masters.

    Good luck finding a new job.