Sunday, May 1, 2011

the "Eido Roku"

I arrived at the morning-ritual email space to find that the Shimano Archive had been granted a new and appropriate subtitle: "Eido Roku (Trademark): The Sayings and Doings of Eido Shimano."

I am not sure of the exact meaning of "roku," but perhaps "compilation" is close. Generally I associate the word with collections of words/descriptions by great Zen Buddhist teachers. In this sense, the word has always carried a positive spin in my mind ... something along the lines of "wisdom" and, from my point of view as a Zen student, wisdom worth considering. Rinzai, Dogen, Huang Po, Hui Neng ... all these and more are people worth listening to, if not always easy to hear. So I have listened to them from afar, on a printed or electronic page, and been grateful for compilations of their instructions and observations.

As seen in the Shimano Archive, Eido Shimano's adventures carry a distinctly negative spin. He has proven himself capable of great self-promotion and self-indulgence. He has brought harm to others. Whatever good he may have accomplished has come with a dark shadow that no "self-hagiography" (as a friend puts it) can dispel. And the Shimano Archive depicts that shadow and, by implication, offers a good lesson to all those whose adoration can overshadow their understandable yearning and common sense.

The trade mark is a wonderful addition as well. If I were in a barroom among friends, I would call it an admirable rat-fuck. Any revisionist history in the future that attempts to re-see Shimano's activities in the United States will be forced to find another title or risk trade mark infringement, an actionable offense. The hagiography (defined in part as "a book about a person’s life that deliberately includes only good things about them") will not be able to employ the "roku" designator ... and thus place it in the same league with the great Zen teachers of the past.

The outraged and sorrowful fires of the past are dwindling now. Eido Shimano has stepped aside from his leadership role at the centers he helped to establish -- Sho Bo Ji in New York City and Dai Bosatsu monastery in Livingston Manor, N.Y. Or, if he has not stepped aside, he is at least keeping a low, low profile. Those whom he harmed or angered are less voluble. Their ammunition is running low, even if the scars remain and the flames leap up from time to time. All that is left is history, a history that, for other teachers, may still shine bright and instructive for students of Zen. Their "roku" nourishes and encourages, even if such tales are iced with a kind of dehumanizing wonder. There is nothing like being dead to elevate your stock.

The Eido Roku too has an encouraging tale to tell to serious Zen students -- a realistic and unpleasant tale, a tale whose tag line might be something as simple as, "Don't YOU do that!"

 On an associative note, I see that "more than a million" gathered in Rome today for the beatification (one of the steps on the path to "sainthood") of Pope John Paul II, who died April 2, 2005. John Paul was a popular pope, even among those who are not Catholics. And who among us does not try to create a saint or two? It is a human pastime and one that deserves better than scoffing. But it is interesting, if understandable, that it is the dead who receive such accolades. One thing you can say for the dead ... they don't/can't talk back. It seems a pity and unfair, but there it is.

1 comment:

  1. …”And who among us does not try to create a saint or two? It is a human pastime and one that deserves better than scoffing.”
    I agree we are all entitled to our personal creations misguided or otherwise, in this case the formal canonization of a person who assisted for decades in the systematic cover-up of the rampant abuse of children at the hands of the clergy is mind-boggling(see the numerous Irish reports)! It proves without much doubt that the Vatican doesn’t give a toss what has been exposed in so many Catholic communities throughout the world. You also mentioned….. “One thing you can say for the dead ... they don't/can't talk back.” …..Mores the pity as those living daily with the trauma of abuse at the hands of the clergy have wanted answers for so long, and the men at the top just don’t talk, be they living or dead!

    Tullik (A Recovering Catholic)