Hello, readers. I thought I'd waste your time with a few questions from people who read my stuff along with my answers to them.
I have been trying to develop my Zen practice since about a year ago. I looked around for a local group but couldn't find one, and so got some assistance from the internet. But essentially I was practicing on my own.
I kept looking for a local group though, and then suddenly one was started in my home town in July! It is being run by a monk in the Soto tradition who is a great guy, very careful to emphasize that he is not a teacher but leads us after zazen in collective reading of various texts.
Anyway, here is my dilemma. I have been very happy with my involvement with the group and am planning to become more involved, with a Rohatsu overnight sit this week and planning to go on my first sesshin next year. I have discovered a thorny issue though: Genpo Merzel
You see the group that I sit with (about half a dozen of us only at the moment) is part of the XXXX Zen Sangha, which in turn is affiliated to the White Plum Asangha. I suppose my concerns are these:
1. On their website it openly seems to promote the "Big Mind" project, about which I have concerns not least of which after reading some of your blogs
2. The Genpo Merzel issue seems to be absent from mention in anything I have seen so far
3. His name is mentioned affectionately in blogs and notes that do appear, and it seems as if he did good work in this country in the past
4. I do not know him at all and don't want to be doing a disservice by being overly negative about the "issue"
So I suppose before investing a good deal of time and emotion into the group, I suppose I am casting around for information and perspectives. I know that of course I must ultimately make my own mind up about this.
If you are able to give any pointers at all that would be fantastic.
Hm. Well just because these guys know Genpo doesn't mean they're bad. Their promotion of Big Mind™ is a bit iffy, though. Here's why I think so.
My understanding was that Genpo retired his Soto Zen monk status and is now just a Big Mind™ guy. Big Mind™ was probably earning him more money anyhow, so I can't imagine it did him any harm to drop the Zen. All the Zen people did was bug him when he acted like an asshole. Now he's free to do whatever he likes as king of his own kingdom.
So the only thing that sounds iffy to me about your place is that they're calling themselves a Soto place but promoting Big Mind™. These are apparently two different things now.
BUT!! (note the extraneous exclamation points) if you're basically happy with the group, I'd stay with them until such time as you're not happy with them anymore. Perhaps you can get to the point where you can just ask, "Hey what's the deal with the Big Mind™ stuff?" If you like their answer, stay. If you don't, say goodbye.
Hope that helps a little.
Hey, how's it going? I've been reading some of your most well known quotes today and it suddenly struck me that I've been practicing sitting for the last few weeks or maybe even months without thinking about it. What I mean is that I've been sitting for 6 months and recently I haven't read about zen nor thought about its ideas, I've just been living life regularly outside of my zen practice. I'm not a Buddhist, I guess, but I don't want to be just someone who sits for no reason. I think having a Buddhist/zen intention while I sit would be a lot more beneficial. Does this make sense, should I stay more in tune with zen if I keep sitting?
Just sit. You don't need a reason. Buddha was not a Buddhist.
Nishijima Roshi always said, "Zazen is a state without intention." So the fact that you lack intention is a plus.
As far as learning about Zen, I may be the wrong person to ask. I generally do not study Buddhism in any serious way. I mean I sit a lot. But as for book learning, I'm pretty much a dunce. I have a load of Buddhist books that I pull out when I need a reference. But I almost never read them otherwise. If that's the sort of thing you want you could try getting a degree in Buddhist studies. Lots of universities offer that now. Or so I'm told. Maybe I should get one.
It doesn't sound to me like you want or need that, though. So just sit.
And here's Zero Defex on the radio in Manchester, England! We're song number 8 on this set. Also the DJs tell you what Brad Warner is "really" like.