Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Study Hall

This week I have picked up Zen Pivots by Sokei-An. I have long been interested in the earlier zen pioneers in America, particularly Sokei-An and Nyogen Senzaki, and how they tailored their message to a mid-century audience who were much less familiar with Buddhism than even the first disciples of Suzuki Roshi, Maezumi Roshi or Eido Shimano Roshi. This constraint does not cause a dilution of the teaching as far as I can see, but I notice how Christianity is often referred to, as a way to point out differences and similarities in the ways of thinking. Here is a passage that struck me this morning, again using Bodhidharma and Emperor Wu as the starting point:
'So why did Bodhidharma say, "No benefit. There is none"?
Gaining benefit by doing something is an entirely human problem. If I am gaining something from Buddhism, I am not following Buddhism. The idea of benefit is such a small idea. Must there be something to gain from everything you do? Of course, today is a day of utilitarianism, we are utilitarianists.Every moment we are thinking about what we can get. To spend a whole life and in the end gain nothing? A wonderful conclusion to accept and make the basis of human life!'

1 comment:

robertbarrer said...

Ahhh...Sokei-an; reading "Holding the Lotus to the Rock" (a constructed "auto-biography") was a revelation to me. It was very moving to read of his pioneer experience in the U.S., & especially interesting to read about his period of time in the Bay Area. I am still trying to wrap my brain around his essay from "Zen Pivots" on the eighteen shunyatas (& I don't think there will be an end to 'still trying'!).