The Path of Wisdom…over tea

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Sometimes the Wisdom Path goes in opposite directions

I met up with a fellow home-practitioner in Rapid City last night.  We sat down for some tea at Bully Blends and talked a little Dharma.  We come from two different venues of Buddhist practice.  He affiliated with a large temple and practiced there for a number years in the Vajrayana tradition.  I, however, began my practice with small, grass-roots groups with a largely agnostic bend which incorporated practical blends (read: non-esoteric) of Buddhist teachings.  From that I moved to the a traditional Soto Zen practice.

Now sitting across from each other, I realize that we have each gone 180 degree from where we both started.  He is now searching for root teachings (similar to the Stephen Batchelor’s book Buddhism Without Beliefs) that exist across most of the traditions and I am looking at incorporating more tantric and esoteric elements into my daily practice (which has been incorporating more ritualized elements from practicing Zen but still rather…bland).

So why the change to the exact opposite from where we each started?  From my point of view Buddhism and home-practice (or practice in general) was never meant to stay static.  We are not static people.  We change from year-to-year, day-to-day and moment-to-moment.  What and how we exist now is not what we were before and there is no reason that this diversity of change cannot be exemplified in our practice.

In a recent post, The Zennist talks about his past practice and study…

On this note, I am certainly reminded of my own ignorance over forty years ago when as a young worldling monk I thought I had Buddhism figured out.  To be honest, about 98 percent of what I read back in those dark days I didn’t understand—not in the slightest.  But I could sure pretend, pridefully, that I knew a lot…

Presently, I enjoy reading the Sutras.  They are like old friends.  But again looking back to when I was a young Buddhist whippersnapper I can’t help but laugh at that struggling guy.  The only thing he did right was to persevere and keep an open mind.  And this is what we all must do, even monks and Buddhist scholars.  You may debate the issues until the cows come home, but until you have awakened the Mind (bodhicitta) you’re guessing, it is Buddhism by opinion some of which might be educated, some not.

I rarely agree with The Zennist but always appreciate and respect his comments.  In this case I completely agree.  An open and compassionate mind is essential to our practice.  Otherwise we just trade attachments for attachments and our practice will stagnate over time rather than grow.  Another point that is brought up is that of process – the process of awakening the mind (to paraphrase the Zennist) which we are all on.

Back to the point – It was a good talk.  While I find it humurous that we are walking in opposite directions from each other in relation to our practice and its evolution, it is important to note that directions in practice are hardly ever linear.  One way does not lead to “good” and the opposite to “bad”.  The path we walk leads to the same goal even when it seems that the practices are diametrically opposed.

It was nice to be able to wave at each other from the path, stop a bit and shake some pebbles from our shoes.

Cheers,

John

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5 thoughts on “The Path of Wisdom…over tea

  1. Great post.

    If you don’t mind, I’d like to hear about your disagreement with the Zennist. The reason being is that I’ve been really digging his writings as of late, going back from the beginning and reading all of his archived work. I’m not big on his Dark Zen website, but his blog is fantastic, I think. So, in keeping an open mind, I was just curious to hear from you, you know, as a balance to my fascination for his blog.

    Keep up the good work.

    • Well, first off, I follow the Zennist on Twitter – @mujaku. I usually refer to him as Mujaku or Gary Busey but that is only because of a passing (in my mind resemblance).

      Mujaku is a great writer and his posts always get me thinking so I read his stuff. That said, I don’t always agree on his view of Western Buddhism. It does get alittle tiring when his posts end with a tirade on how poor the state of Western Zen (or Buddhism in general).

      I also am not keen on the Dark Zen website and his blog is FAR better as are his comments on Twitter. That, plus the fact that he responds to questions and will give advise in a humorous fashion, leads me to place him in my top ten Buddhists to follow.

      So, while I do disagree with him from time to time and believe that he can fall back to “sutra-slinging” and “scripture-thumping”, he brings much knowledge to my practice. Often I take his advise to examine certain sutras/books/websites and walk away satisfied.

      I hope that cleared it up. The man is knowledgable but can get a bit preachy. Either way, I love having him as a member of my iSangha!

      Cheers,

      John

  2. I guess I should clarify… as I was saying over at the Dangerous Harvests blog, I have shied away from Soto, especially because of the glorification of Dogen and seemingly overemphasis on zazen. I’ve been having a deep interest in the root writings of early Zen/Chan masters, especially from China. I’m really feeling that something is there that I need to be taking a hard look at.

    Of course, I started out in the Theravadan/Insight Meditation crowd as modernist skeptic, so I was looking for the root teachings of the Buddha with modern practical implications without all the religious fluff and devotionalism.

    But look at me now.

    • Oh then he is the one for you. He knows him some Ch’an masters! And the Zennist has been posting on the “Dogenites” as he calls them.

      I agree with the overemphasis on zazen. I like sitting and it is a strong part of my practice but I get tired of it always being the answer to everything. Jeez! If I have to hear “Just Sit” one more time!

      Hey we all change in our practice over time. I started as “root” and now Zen and may in the future be tantric. Who knows!?

      Cheers,

      John

  3. @mujaku aka the Zennist is an interesting character. I’ve always likened his style to the Twitter-equivalent of a keisaku. The best way to enjoy his style is to read his quotes, his definitions and calmly contemplate them within the context of whatever Buddhist tradition you follow. Learn to be aware of when his words strike a particular chord in your observation.

    Ask yourself, ‘why did this disturb my mind?’ and use contemplation meditation to examine the different causes that might arise in the mind. Work through it with a sense of logic, pure academia, .

    Keep asking ‘why did I react to this statement?’. Sometimes he’s quite entertaining with an off-the-wall tweet but keep a feel out for when his words literally ‘strike’ a spot in your mind that causes a reaction. It might be a topic or particular subject that he’s on about, that will make you stop and think–if you are aware.

    He’s the only other person I know that has read the Surangamasamadjisutra and also has the rare physical, red-colored book in his collection. He knows his Mahayana sutras, which are a particular favorite of mine, the more ‘out there’ and abstractly escoteric the sutra, the better. I love ’em. 🙂

    You just have to be open enough to listen and be aware of where that keisaku is hitting. 🙂

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