Tuesday, October 23, 2012

furious? you betcha!

It's irrational and impatient and foolish, perhaps, but suddenly I am enraged by my lineage ... the Zen masters and mistresses of the present who lay claim, implicitly and explicitly, to a world of sunshine wonders and yet cower in 'thoughtful' silence or orotund explanation at the first passing of an actual-factual cloud. What a bunch of pussies! What a bunch of self-serving hypocrites!

Yes, it makes me want to invite every one of them outside for a conversation that would involve broken teeth, black eyes and perhaps a well-deserved concussion.

Zen Buddhists, the ones who pat themselves on the back or accede to the pats of others for their straight-forwardness and no-dawdling, lickety-split responses ... yessirreee, they are marvels and models and ... well, horseshit! Take your psycho-babble and in-control serenities and ignoble silences and look in the fucking mirror! Where's the lickety-split, no-doubt-about-it public response?

I'm not pretending that any of this is anything other than irrational, impatient and perhaps foolish. But I am equally unwilling to pretend it is somehow wrong.

Cooler heads may point out that it has only been two days since email conversations between Jeff Shore, a professor at Hanazono University and a 30-year Zen student/teacher, and Sherry Chayat (Shinge 'Roshi'), the overseer of Zen Studies Society, were made public. In them, Shore points out in various ways and Sherry comes close to admitting that the lineage of Eido Tai Shimano (Sherry's one-time teacher and the man who acknowledged her capacities as a Zen teacher) was "null and void." The lineage was a sham that was in no way corroborated in documentation that has acknowledged other teachers in the past.

It has only been two days and yet I have been around the Zen Buddhist block often enough to know that news like this travels quicker than lightning, even without the Internet. If every interested party and his brother hasn't heard about this, well, I'll buy the beer.

The matter of lineage -- the string of Buddhists some may claim reaches all the way back to Gautama Buddha -- is a bright thread in Buddhism. Students are implicitly and explicitly encouraged to see latter-day teachers as the keepers of a bright and wondrous light. Dressed in robes and backed by handsome altars, these expositors are bathed in a Buddhist light. Their excuses that they do not deserve such accolades are no honest excuse. Their explanations do little or nothing to honestly explain. It is a part of their profession to be able to cope with such questions as lineage and yet as professionals -- as people who want to keep their jobs and put spaghetti on the table -- they are proving themselves inept and ill-suited to the positions they hold. Cowardice is not a Zen Buddhist virtue as far as I know.

Not one that I know of has stepped forward to address the matter ... a matter of alleged concern to Buddhists ... as long as the sun shines. No one has asked if Jeff Shore is a lying featherweight. Sherry has made no statement. No one has suggested that Sherry needs to make a statement if, in fact, she wishes to maintain the integrity she (and others) impute to Zen. What kind of professional cannot immediately address a part of the bedrock of his own profession? To date, even those who insist on 'compassion' as a means of cloaking honest discourse

Of course the trouble is as it has always been: By addressing the matter of another's lineage, my own lineage (and hence professional standing and spaghetti on the table) is likewise thrown into question. Remaining silent -- a favored tactic of the past in the Zen establishment -- is to remind one and all of the assertion made, I believe, by Philip Kapleau (Roshi): "Silence is golden and sometimes its color is pure yellow."

Is the matter of lineage confusing and complex? Is it something that is allowed to sparkle on bright days but dive for cover when the rain falls? Does it, in this particular instance, skirt the edges of idle chatter and wrong speech and other bright candles in Buddhism? Sure. And still I think that the professionals need to get off their asses. No more save-my-ass psychobabble or warm-fuzzy Zen nostrums.

What about lineage? What does it mean when lineage is no longer? If you can't handle questions like this, what the fuck good are you in reality? If the best you can do is add self-serving cloaking devices to the issue, what chance is there for anyone to see the truth?

I await your excuses.

And if you can live with them, I suppose I can live with them too.

The K-Y Jelly crowd ... so slick, so smooth, so feel-good, so self-serving ....

Skilful means, my ass!

Just don't expect me to eat this shit and call it filet mignon.

PS. I stand corrected, sort of. There is some discussion of the topic on Zen Forum International.


  1. My favourite example of the perversity to which the party line (i.e. that Shimano is legit despite what the Ryutakuji papers say) leads is that Dennis Kelly has now given dharma transmission to at least three people.

    In other words, even though Kelly's own d.t. from Shimano was revoked, and Shimano himself didn't have it in the first place, Kelly is still grandly declaring on his website that his successors are "84th generation linage holders" in the Hakuin line.

  2. Mixing money, paper titles and Zen practice is hard to do 'well'. Making Zen teaching a profession is dangerous but then it helps to have centers and places to sit with others,especially in the beginning. Professional, papered teachers seem to be a good catalyst for creating centers. Any way, anyone holding a title given by Shimano should give it up.

  3. Gengaku,

    I'm not sure I understand your post. I get that you're angry by reading these emails between Roko and Jeff Shore. But where is your anger directed?

    I too am very disturbed by the emails.

    I was shocked by Shore's abusive and authoritarian tone. Yes, Shinge waivers and is undeniably accommodating.

    But who is Jeff Shore to dictate this investigation (or witch hunt)?

    It sounds like Salem all over again.

  4. Upaya -- Isn't Jeff Shore the person Roko invited into conversation? Isn't a conversation something in which you express your views and I express mine? Is there, in conversation, some predetermined rule that says I must agree with you or you with me?

    Part of what made me suffer from a fit of fury (I've calmed down since) was the fact that this situation has gone on for decades and every Band-Aid that has been brought to bear (Olive Branch, "healing," "compassion," or the resounding silence of the various Buddhist establishments that might have taken a responsible role) simply failed to salve the obvious wounds ... wounds to those who were victimized, wounds to anything that might rightly be called "morality" or "integrity." Instead of an honest attempt to address the issues ignited by what Roko called a "sociopath," the actions within and without were the actions of people anxious to cover their professional asses by proclaiming a deep love of something they referred to as "Zen" or "Buddhism" or something imaginatively similar. And instead of rooting out corruption, those actions simply helped to deepen it and extend its already-extended lineage.

    Any adult who has had a serious problem of any sort knows that if a solution is to be found, the problem must first be addressed openly and, no doubt, with some pain attached. And after that, there is the need to take steps that may be equally painful, that may go against the self-serving grain of the past. It's called, as Roko called it before she began slipping backwards, "integrity."

    Yes, we can dance around the subject by criticizing Jeff Shore's tone of voice, but in the midst of that dance, have you noticed how conveniently the actual issue is skirted, how the actual issue is allowed to fester?

    Well, so-called noble silence (the silence of those unwilling to exercise the straightforwardness for which Zen Buddhism is sometimes known) has been used in the past to skirt the issue.

    I guess this time will not be much different ... at least until the lawsuits are filed and the expose is written.