Monday, February 14, 2005

postal scrotum: Sperwer writes in

Sperwer writes:


Reread your excellent piece on Grigg's book. Your choice of the passage from Pirsig's Lila as the capstone of your argument is apt:

"you would guess from the literature on Zen ... that it would be intensely anti-ritualistic... But that isn't the case. The Zen monk's daily life is nothing but one ritual after another, hour after hour, day after day, all his life. They don't tell him to shatter those static patterns to discover the unwritten dharma. They want him to get those patterns perfect!"

I think this is true, but it's important to note that "ritual" doesn't HAVE to mean prostrating before graven images; it can mean simply - as Pirsig says, making daily life itself -- eating a meal and taking a shit -- a ritual, i.e., an exercise in mindfulness.

The problem with the religious "institutionalization" (shades of Randle Patrick McMurphy) of zen is that the mindset it engenders -- "get THOSE patterns PERFECT" -- is the same one that drill sergeants try to instill in recruits during bayonet practice. That probably sounds melodramatic, and the easy retort is that there's a big difference between bayonet practice and bowing to a statue of the buddha. But if you read Brian Victoria's expose of the deep links between the Japanese zen establishment and Japanese imperial militarism between the 1880s and 1945, you have to ask if there really is.

That's why the heart of the zen message is to kill the buddha that you meet on the road or better yet wipe your ass with him.


Man-haeng, as the title of Hyeon-gak's book says: the ten thousand (i.e., myriad) ways of practice. Eating, praying, breathing, pooping-- all opportunities for mindful action.


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