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September 11, 2013


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Well, I think you and I are here in CA and practicing Zen, but in other areas of the USA Buddhism is still a small minority religion. I was entirely clueless about Buddhism until college. And after becoming a "Zen-dropout" for 25 years I came back and got many errors straightened out by using your method--systematic study.

It's unbelievably difficult for us Americans to walk in the dark; to become unattached to all we believe and have learned (even the self-image) and do this with a guarantee of...absolutely nothing. It's always easier to become a "religious Buddhist" or a "practicing Buddhist" in the ordinary sense: You take refuges or vows, and instead of a cross you start wearing a bead bracelet! Instead of celebrating Christmas, you sit in retreat for the last week of the year. (Our schedule) But that's not IT...and it's not ultimately satisfying to just become a religious minority. I often feel I am walking a razor's edge--and the key to staying on that edge (where I know instinctively that I belong right now) is scrupulous honesty. The koans activated your desire, my bafflement with identity activates mine, others are intrigued by that term "enlightenment." Pure Zen can and must exist in the West. Otherwise, why bother? And it will fall by the wayside, swept into the dust bin of history.

Susan: If we imagine the words Mind, One Mind, Suchness, Buddha-nature, etc. were just the English word cherry, Western Zennists, including Buddhists, would almost never hear a word about cherries! For me this is profoundly disturbing.

You write--with your characteristic cheerfulness...

"As far as Zen is concerned one might have to go to either China, Taiwan or South Korea to find something like traditional Zen in which the notion of One Mind is still alive. I never cease being amazed by the fact that Chinese Buddhism, which includes Zen, is a perfect example of Asian mysticism which, in a number of ways, seems to go beyond anything the West offers—and, remarkably, doesn’t require a God. While Western mysticism is for the most part to be found in library bookshelves, Buddhist mysticism, especially as found in Zen, it still alive, although on its deathbed in the West. In this regard, when Zen came to the West, Westerners had no idea what was being handed to them. In the Buddha’s words, “Those who are afflicted with passion will not see it (i.e., the Way); they are enveloped by a heavy darkness” (Catusparisat Sutra 8:12)."

I'd say just look hard, and you will find Chinese Zen on this side of the Pacific! (I did.) And you are right--it is neither dark nor nihilistic. Yes, there are Chinese people there who insist on speaking their own first language with one another, but they will teach you the Sutras in your own language. And, with the general Chinese spirit of mateyness, feed you & help you with the chanting too.

I thirst for mysticism. But most Westerners distrust it, since you can't express it in words and that makes them feel really, really inadequate and uncomfortable. (I know I am really, really inadequate & uncomfortable, but I've learned to live with it!)

Zen is dying because stupid ass Zennists don't read sutras.

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