Q: What is your main complaint with the West’s handling of Buddhism?
A: My sense is that Westerners have made themselves the main arbiters of what passes as orthodox Buddhism. There is a kind of “Buddhist correctness” out there which you are not supposed to trespass.
Q: Could you give me an example?
A: The obvious and most important one is the denial of self doctrine. This doctrine, which is only a theory, helps to push Buddhism towards nihilism and Western materialism. We are supposed to believe that anattâ means there is categorically no self. That is dead wrong. Anattâ is most always used with the Five Aggregates which make up the psychophysical body. For example, material shape is said by the Buddha to be anattâ or not my self. The real no-self doctrine, simply stated, is this: We are not to regard the Five Aggregates or the same, our psychophysical body, as our self. This implies that our real self is transcendent. The Theravadins have turned the anattâ doctrine on its head not understanding that we are to deny what is not the self rather than the self. They’ve made the anattâ doctrine into the categorical denial of self doctrine. Now we are to believe that we are just a changing bundle of transitory elements which arise and disappear which implies that nirvana is annihilation. You can see where nihilism comes into the picture. All is for nothing, which subsequently glorified by latter day Buddhists as emptiness or shunyata. Another example is rebirth. Modern Buddhist correctness wants you to believe rebirth is not real since there is no self which transmigrates. This is hogwash. It is to be rejected. What transmigrates is not the self but, instead, consciousness. Consciousness is the subject/object mode—nama-rupa. You are the subject, here is your object, a body through which a world is perceived, a world only relative to this human body. When you crap out—you—the subject, immediately has another object-body. It could be a hell being or a ghost body. This consciousness rebirth goes on forever until we figure out out to escape.
Q: How do you stop Westerners from being the main arbiters?
A: I think it is important for those in academia to examine, and if needs be, challenge so-called mainstream Buddhist assumptions. Even if it means having to debate with one’s colleagues. The public should not be left with the impression that scholars agree on what the Buddha taught because, as a matter of fact, they don’t. Why, for example, should a well read Buddhist scholar believe all of what Steven Collins says, in his book, Selfless Persons? Collins is not writing about what the Buddha may have taught. He is writing about the Theravada account of what the Buddha may have taught which is somewhat the brain child of Buddhaghosa (circa 5th-c C.E.) who, incidentally, burned the Sinhalese Buddhist canon after he translated it into Pali (cp. Dutt, Buddhist Monks and Monasteries of India, p. 253). Least of all does pop Buddhism have the answer to what the Buddha taught. Most of their ideas about Buddhism are not grounded on any solid evidence. The public needs to know this. Also they need to learn to be skeptical of who teaches them Buddhism. This is why I rail against Stephen Batchelor and those who support secularizing Buddhism.
Q: What about Zen—Zen in the West?
A: It is still fishing for what Zen is really all about. It hasn’t dawned on enough Western Zennists that an intuition of pure Mind is absolutely required. Failing this, they then confuse pure Mind with awareness which is crazy. The two are not the same. Being aware of slicing an onion is not Buddhahood, or being intensely aware of doing zazen. The goal of Zen is to see our true nature which is pure Mind. Pure Mind is an essence or substance—not something psychological like awareness.
Q: What do you recommend be done to correct Zen?
A: Get away from Dogen. There is only one way, as I see it, to really study Zen. Study the old Chinese Zen masters and the Korean Zen masters like Chinul, and forget Dogen. Of course feel free to study Dogen—but forget Zen. Remember, it was Dogen who said of Zen that it comes from the pretensions of bald headed little beasts! Why read Dogen’s strange spin when it is better and easier to read the Chinese Zen masters who made Zen essentially what it is. Read the creators—not the student.
Q: Are you against seated meditation?
A: Only Dogen’s idea of it which means to be solely engrossed in sitting. That is the way I read his shikan-taza. Sitting is only a means of freeing the mind from the demands of the body so it can uncover pure Mind which, although, right in front of the adept’s nose, is not recognized by him. We need Zen teachers who teach pure Mind night and day; who ask their students when they are clearing away brush, for example, “Where is pure Mind right now?” If this is not done, what is the point of Zen? Of course this means the Zen master wouldn’t have any students left! They would be angry and almost terrified to be pushed like this, especially by somebody who has seen, firsthand, pure Mind.
Q: If Westerners are going to be main arbiters of what passes as Buddhism and Zen, is there any hope left for Buddhism in the West?
A: I still believe there is. Although The Zennist has its enemies, I know there are a lot of Westerners who would “get Zen” fairly fast if they were taught by someone who has had a glimpse into pure Mind. At least they would get empowered and sense some light. I started this blog believing that some Westerners are turned off by pop Buddhism but would be turned on to know that Buddhism is really a form of Asian gnosticism or if you like, Indian gnosticism.