There will be Zazen this Saturday at Hill Street Center and it will be part of Month Long Zen and Sex Month. But it is also our monthly day-long zazen, which goes from 10 am till about 3:30 pm. So please keep that in mind if you choose to come. You don't have to stay all day. But we're staying all day.
If you don't wanna do an all-day Zen but wanna do some Zen anyway this weekend, I'll be hosting things at Against The Stream (aka Dharma Punx) in Hollywood on Sunday beginning at 11 am. The address is 4300 Melrose (btw Heliotrope and Vermont) Los Angeles, CA 90029.
The tattoo shown on today's blog entry comes from James in Kentucky. Cool, huh? As I said the last time someone got this tattooed on their body, Gene Simmons always brags that KISS fans get KISS tattoos making them members of the KISS ARMY for life. Well, IN YOUR FACE, GENE SIMMONS!!!
I got a very interesting question the other day from a friend who is not a Zen practitioner but who is very concerned about matters of race, gender and social privilege. She asked, "Have you ever considered that it may be easier for you to give up attachment to identity because your identities are not problematic, are in fact usually not considered identities at all? I honestly do want to know what your thoughts are about your position in the world, so please tell me."
I don't think I can do justice to this question today while I'm scrambling around packing and stuff. But it's an interesting one to ponder.
I do not think that attachment to identity is something that can be quantified. I don't think it's something some people have more of than others, at least at the outset of practice. Except perhaps in some very rare and extraordinary cases.
For myself, even though I'm a white heterosexual male I've lived probably a third of my life in societies where I was a minority. In Kenya, where I lived as a child, and in Japan, where I spent 11 years of my adult life, being a white person did not mean you were automatically of high social status the way it does in Europe and America. Quite the opposite. And I was also part of the punk scene in which being "alternative" in some way was far cooler than being a plain old white hetero male.
Which doesn't mean I understand every thing that people who live their entire lives as part of a truly put-upon social group have to deal with. After all, I did choose to go to Japan (though not to Kenya) and had the option to leave pretty much whenever I wanted to. But perhaps I do understand more than most American white hetero males. I know what it's like to be refused housing because of my race, or to be followed around in stores because "my kind" is known to steal things, to be able to scare little old ladies just by being who I am, to go for long stretches without seeing people of my own culture, to have every little thing I do be attributed to my race, to not be able to buy the kinds of food I like in the stores and so on and on.
I guess the question is; do things like this cause one to need to hold on tighter to matters of identity? Does one's identity as not a part of the ruling class become something which one must cling to and which is therefore harder to drop when one enters into Buddhist practice?
Since I've lived both as part of the ruling class and not part of the ruling class I guess I ought to be able to say. But I don't think I can, at least not definitively.
I believe that all of us, no matter what our race, sexual orientation, gender, etc., are socialized to cling tightly to individual identity and to believe in it very strongly. This goes far beyond matters of race, sexual orientation, gender, etc. Those aspects of identity are very superficial compared to the much deeper issues of seeing oneself as separate from the rest of humanity and from the Universe itself. So my guess is that maybe someone who has forged a strong identity based on his/her/zher race, culture, sexual orientation etc. might have a tiny fraction of a percent more attachment to identity than someone for whom the questioner says identity is not an issue. Maybe. Maybe. Just a teeeny, weeny, itty bitty bit.
But in terms of what we're dealing with in Buddhist practice this would hardly make any difference at all. In those terms, even for members of the ruling class, identity is a HUGE issue. Perhaps it's even worse for members of the ruling class because they've never seen their identity as an identity, having been able to take so much for granted. I'd say a person who has grown up having to understand their identity as identity actually has a small head start on what Buddhism is dealing with in these areas.
That's just my very quick answer on a Thursday morning with lots and lots and lots to do that prevents me from examining this as carefully as it deserves.
Perhaps in future installments I'll make a stab at doing this question real justice.
Thursday, February 18, 2010