Q: Why did you decided to start a blog?
A: Over the years I realized that that long articles and books about Buddhism I was reading, while useful to me, personally, were missing the entire thrust of Buddhism: it aims at the transcendent. Internet discussion groups weren’t cutting it either. They were often contentious and overly moderated. You had Buddhist moderators acting like the Soup Nazi in the sitcom Seinfeld. You could get kicked out for almost anything. The Zen character I created “Zenmar” was blacklisted along with other Buddhists from important discussion groups. When the blogs came on the Internet scene, it was love at first sight. I had a lot to say because there was a lot to correct. Zen Buddhism wasn’t Zen Buddhism. It was just people wearing robes who did a lot of rituals, including ritual sitting, with no real grasp of what Zen is really aiming at—which should be obvious if anyone has bothered to cover the literature.
Q: So what was Zen missing in your estimation?
A: It doesn't understand the importance of pure Mind. With the exception of a few Asian Zen masters, as far as I can tell, I am the only Westerner who understands that Zen koans, for example, are absolutely connected with pure Mind. A person can’t solve a single koan without understanding that koans are mysterious expressions of pure Mind. In my recent blog, Unlocking the mystery of Zen, as briefly as I can I try to get the blog reader to look at koans and meditation from the perspective of pure Mind. I really want the reader to think about what I said—at least have the faith that the answer to koans lies with pure Mind.
Q: I notice that your blog uses a lot of passages from the Pali canon. Why is this?
A: Much of it has to do with the attitude of Western Buddhists who believe that the Pali canon is a truer expression of the Buddha’s teaching and therefore more credible and trustworthy. I want to show them that the Pali canon is very profound and perfectly fits with Zen. Also, it is much easier to see where the Mahayana canon is coming from if one has a good understanding of what the Pali canon is really saying. Over the years I have made a good case that the Pali Sutras don’t deny the self and, in fact, they point to the transcendent which comes through purification of mind. The enlightened Mind is without perturbations (anâsava). On the other hand, mind steeped in ignorance is with perturbations. Nirvana is really the liberation of Mind from the pain of its perturbations. All this falls within Zen.
Q: You seem to repeat a lot of the same passages. Is there any reason for that?
A: The canon of Buddhism employes iteration in a huge way when it comes to various passages. So do I, but not as much. Often in the past, during my own voyages of self-discovery, I had to read passages over and over again before they clicked in my head. For example, in the Samyutta-Nikaya the Buddha is telling his monks that they “should abandon desire for whatever does not belong to self” (S. iii. 78). This is really a killer passage! The Buddha is not only implicitly affirming the self but he is telling his monks to abandon everything that doesn’t belong to the self. Think about that. This includes the psychophysical body and all things. I will probably repeat this passage a number of times.
Q: So what do you see for the future of The Zennist blog?
A: I have a hunch that Asians will find it very useful because the blog has essentially put the pieces of the Buddhist puzzle together which is through the realization of pure Mind. I don’t have much hope for many Western Buddhists. At this point in time, they are too arrogant. They don’t think their shit stinks yet. When I was with Gyatrul Rinpoche, Westerners had zero respect for the Buddhist canon and things the Buddha said. Gyatrul, I remember, one night pointed to the glass bookcase which had the Tibetan canon in it, he told me that this is the most sacred thing in a Buddhist temple. Okay back on track (sorry for the digression)—the future of The Zennist blog as I see it will be, as one reader put it, a reality check. Are you really learing Buddhism or just bullshit?
Q: It seems you are really down on Western Buddhists. Is there any reason for that?
A: I don’t think Westerners have given up their love affair with materialism. They are using Buddhism unknowingly as a way to cope with the negative side effects of materialism. I mean, you can’t devote your whole life to chasing money, owning a big home or two, a couple of cars, and so on, and not except some serious side effects like becoming depressed for no apparent reason. Materialism has to be balanced out with true forms of spirituality like Buddhism. But Western Buddhists psychologize Buddhism too much. You can’t do that. Psychology is not that effective for dealing with the forces of materialism which heavily depend upon desire and sensory gratification. One needs to transcend materialism—see thru it; see it as game of illusion chasing. Even beginner’s Buddhism has to teach this. Buddhism is trying to restore, as much as it can, our real humanness that seeks the ever present transcendent that is hidden from us but which we can uncover, with a lot of hard work.