a zen buddhist monk's blog about things almost zen and telling it the way it is - zen or not (yet)

March 20, 2010

pass me my sunglasses please

I just read the most incredible blog/rant against Japan! What's incredible about it is the length and the depth of negativity - even I can't rant that well.

What it made me aware of was that old sales pitch about so many people can't be wrong, you know; "20 billion people can't be wrong - eat red meat!" or this one about bowling.

So, this guy has been living in Japan for years and now hates so many things about it that he felt the necessity to vent his frustration and dislike (well done for doing it in writing and not any other way) - but what about the other 120+ million people who live there? The majority, I imagine, love it with the same fervour - just take a moment to check out my favourite Japanese bloggers Muza-chan - asia images - Gaijin Life

I understand him though, I really do; I had fantasized for 20 years about living in Italy; I loved everything Italian - the food, the language; the clothes; streetside cafés - you get the picture. Anyway, a few years ago my wife and I made the dream come true and for the first six months I thought I was in heaven on earth. The following six months; a hell I couldn't wait to leave!

What happened?

My mind came back from vacation, that's what happened!

Dreams and fantasies are just that; dreams and fantasies - the mind's way of going on vacation - taking a break from all the "real" stuff. Vacations/breaks are very important as anyone who never gets the chance to have one will tell you. It's that time when you can leave the stresses of your job behind; eat whatever you fancy; sleep as late as you want; forget about that neighbour who's always nagging at you. But for many, this only happens in their minds. For many, when they physically go on vacation their mind is on vacation somewhere else!

The reality of what's actually happening around us is sometimes less exotic than the place our mind can take us to. The sunglasses our mind packed are so dark that we don't see what's really happening around us. We don't notice that the people living in our vacation spot DO have to cope with the stresses of their jobs, CANNOT sleep late and DO have nagging neighbours! We don't mind so much that the line in the post office is so slow we could have done the grocery shopping in the time it takes to get to the window. We've got time and our sunglasses are so cool! How many vacations have you been on when you've thought how wonderful it would be to live there all the time?

Well, all the time is a different story if your not a native and have generations of built in sun-block! I love Japan and each time I've been there I've wanted to stay forever - but whilst I think the article I read was rather harsh, I understand where the emotions came from (I've seen the ticket stubs). That's not to say that we can't ever adapt to our new environment because some of us can, in some environments; we've just got to find the one we really feel at home in. Remember the story of the monk who searched everywhere for the truth of zen only to return, after years of searching, to the place where he started!

- seiun hosei joza

March 17, 2010

So righteous; so wrong, us!

It's so easy to be righteous, isn't it?

Someone says something about someone that somehow makes us angry... or sad, or embarrassed or etc. etc., so we slam them in our gossiping at the water cooler, or in emails to the boss or...

Our feelings about the "something", someone said are just that; our feelings. No-one forced them upon us, no-one makes us feel the way we feel; it's entirely our doing! So we should look at ourselves first when we feel affronted. Admittedly, without this social construct we would fall irrevocably into chaos, but, perhaps we could try a little harder to make sure that our feelings are not for nothing! We all feel terrible about what happened in Tahiti and the like, and that's good because we leap into a collective action to help! BUT, there is of course the downside.

This "someone" posts "something" on the net; a blog, a tweet; and we jump into action to criticise, to condemn, to attack! OK so there are two sides to every story and everyone has the right to be "right" n'est ce pas? But why is it that negativity is so much more appealing to us? The story of a famous couple splitting, or a man's indiscretions, or a film failing at the Oscars, or someone's opinion that doesn't tally with ours?

There's someone I know who scours the net for information about his work colleagues so that he can use it against them to advance his sorry little life. Just another free-loader sucking on the breast of society's inexorable thirst for negativity; a low life that only exists through others' hard work and dedication and waits for them to make a mistake; a self-centred little parrasite that needs validation - I hope he's reading this! I know who you are and your worm friends who propigate your negativity. Take a close look inside and think about what values you bring to the world; this world that's falling apart around our ears - Oh! And don't forget your fiddle!

- seiun hosei joza

March 14, 2010

who moved my zafu 座蒲 ?

Oh how we hang on to things - talk about "who moved my cheese" - indeed. 

So many people I've worked with or studied with, desperately try to protect and hide what they have or know and they get terribly jealous if someone else has a similar idea/plan/goal/ etc. etc. "Incredible" you cry out, justifiably, "isn't buddhism about letting go?". Oh yes - it is, but how few of the practitioners of today actually achieve this. How few can truly drop off body and mind (shinjin datsuraku) ; detach themselves from possession - and remember, thoughts are possessions also. 

Why oh why, do so many people feel the need to hide what they've gathered or only share it with a chosen few? Instead of hanging on to stuff, what if we let it go?' Once we've attained something, it has been attained. Why then, do we insist on hanging on to it? Maybe someone else out there would like to have a go!

Joshu was asked,
"When a man comes to you with nothing, what do you say to him?"
Joshu replied, "Throw it away!"

A close friend and mentor told me; when you catch the fish, throw away the net; when you've understood the sense, throw away the words!

晴 雲 法 声 seiun hosei _/|\_

February 03, 2010

If ifs and ands...

Understanding people and why they do certain things is, I admit, not easy. Sometimes we think we've figured it out and then Bam! the world turns upside down and we're not sure anymore. If we put a positive bent on this, it might be to say that the unpredictability of people is what makes life so interesting! If! But, if ifs and ands were pots and pans there'd be no work for tinkers..right?

I've recently heard of a number of cases were the human behaviour demonstrated by work colleagues, has left me scratching my head. Did we, my contemporaries and I, behave this way when we were 25/30? Did our work colleagues scratch their heads at our Shenanigans? I hear myself, it's true, saying things in discussions with friends, and I hear my father! So, it must be a thing of generations and their differences no? But even if it were, because I'm still not fully convinced, is that an excuse? Why do we have to accept that "she does things that way" or "he's just like that" or " don't sweat it, all kids are like that these days". Ok! but WHY are they like that these days? Are we so wrapped up in ourselves and our 180cm-plasma worlds that we can't smell the roses anymore? And who the heck started this trend that you can't tell someone that they're not doing a good job? Good heavens people, where did your values disappear to? When did we lose the plot? There's no deadman's handle on this train!

It's much easier isn't it, to just lock ourselves up in our cocoons and do whatever possible to not allow the outside world in. To not rock the boat; make waves; waken the sleeping dog! We've become so distanced from our values that we can't see them anymore and have replaced them with lethargy and a cathartic numbness to what's happening around us. I'm always reminded of the story of the frog in a pan of water that is gradually heated...if you don't know it, it's worth a read.

Well, I'm sorry, I don't agree with this "never say no" attitude and I don't want to accept that "that's just the way it is"!

On our travels, we have experienced peoples and places that are so vastly diverse and culturally contradictory that we are in wonderment at the complexity of the human being. What makes one country and its people more respectful of elders than others for example? What is it that gives certain peoples the belief that they, and only they, have understood how things should be and that they are justified in punishing those who have not, for another? What indeed?!

I'm not going to bore you, and probably myself, with a list of what's "not right" with the world today; our polititians do that for us everytime they open their mouths, no, but I am going to say, that if you have similar feelings of frustration and forboding, there is a Shangri-La out there...


...and if you find it, would you be kind enough to let me know where it is?

 晴 雲 法 声 seiun hosei _/|\_

January 26, 2010

agreeing disagreeing being being

Watching some YouTube this morning, I did something I haven't done before and read some of the comments under the videos. What astounded me was the diversity of the comments, ranging from "awesome" to "this sucks" and worse. Ecstatically for and fanatically against - the same clip!

What struck me immediately was that no matter how popular someone or something is, there are as many people who will hate it, and hate it with a vehemence! My wife and I are on opposite sides of this fence concerning certain films... Why though, I wonder, if we don't agree with someone's opinion or ideas do we have to resort to insults, shouting, and threats? I guess that's just the way we are. If someone says they agree with us, we feel validated. Our opinion or belief is obviously right/correct because there is someone else who feels the same - very nice, yeah? Buuuut..., what about when someone doesn't agree with us? Well that's when we lose control and even feel the need to hurt; verbally and/or physically.

There will always be people who don't like us, no matter how hard we try to please them - this goes for family, friends, and colleagues as well as people who've never even met us. We can't change them, we can't reason with them, as much as we may try, so the only way to deal with this situation is to accept that we will never please everyone and be happy with the ones we do.

Accept that everyone has the right to their own beliefs and opinions and that if they shout and scream at us it's not personal - Oh! they'll try and make it personal if we continue to disagree and especially if we argue back, but we all have the option to walk away.

晴 雲 法 声 seiun hosei

January 20, 2010

...just before we froze to death!

December 2009, somewhere in Europe.

We sat in a cold cold hall, waiting, waiting, endlessly waiting for "him".

In the meantime, Heidi and Friedric (not their real names), showed us videos of previous retreats and spoke to us in hushed tones about how fabulous it was to be there and how incredible it would be when "he" arrived.

(video of "him"): "Did I tell you the story of when I was on the Concord?"

We suffered this drivel and poor quality videos for almost 2 freezing days with all the doors and windows open (we had paid to listen to his teachings from day one, not, from day 3)! "He likes it to be cool" gushed Friederick. OK, but "he" is not even here and this is definately not cool; you could conserve your milk and butter in here!

"When will he arrive?" I temerously asked one of the "badged" helpers. "It could be in 20 minutes, or 3 hours or tomorrow; we never know." he answered as if this added to the mysticism. I looked closely at his eyes but couldn't see the wool.

FINALLY after 2 freezing days and a fire in the hotel, "he" appeared. "I'm not really here" he jested, "I'm only an illusion" he jested. Is he actually a jester? Have I booked us into the wrong gig? "But I may come tomorrow" WHAT? We have to wait again, and you MAY come? "In the meantime, did I tell you the story of when I was on the Concord?"

The next day, after my wife and I had a lovely walk in the surrounding forrest rather that sit freezing our butts off in the main hall listening to the droning platitudes and mindnumbingly brainwashed adulation of our two inductees, there was word that "he" would appear! Yay! So we put on a third layer of clothes, our hats and gloves, and then barefooted, took our places on the pre-frozen plastic chairs.

"Precious one" drooled Heidi, "Martin from xxx just wanted to say that your arrival yesterday made him feel that the universe was finally at peace" Oh-oh! "Suzy from yyy said that just your presence made her reach enlightenment!" NO! Please!

"Did I tell you the story of when I was on the Concord?"

Time to leave...

晴 雲 法 声 seiun hosei

Master? Of what?

"Zen Master"

This expression surely conjures up an image in our minds; probably an image influenced by Hollywood and the popular press! One of a mystical figure, all-knowledgeable, all-understanding; a being who has transcended our worldly shackles and has the answers to everything!

Well ... that's Hollywood!

The real reality in my experience is quite different. These people (men & women) calling themselves "master" are far from being mystical, and far from being masters of anything other perhaps than deception (their own as well as ours). They are for the best part just as deeply routed in jealousy, hatred and greed as the rest of us mortals. What's that? You don't want to read that? Then please stop reading and leave.

I have seen numerous people who, admittedly, don't say out loud "I'm a zen master" but they do all give themselves the title "Master" or " Mâitre". There are also a plethora of them on the Internet writing all kinds of rubbish about what they are doing and what books they have sold recently or in what country they have just been giving groups of innocent people a "talk" about some subject or other. Not yet "zen" all that.

Some, openly criticize and bicker with each other on the Internet in their blogs or on their websites! (links to this are somewhere on this blog site) Not yet "zen" all that.

But then I'm sure it's me who has misunderstood, after all I'm NOT a master: I think zen (soto) is a branch of Buddhism were one uses seated meditation as a means to hopefully attain elightenment gradually. "Not so" they seem to be saying! Zen seems to be about having more followers than the other guy, or having more TV appearances or even, more books published than the other guy. On a smaller scale, zen is about isolating themselves and their little sanghas from the other little sanghas in the area and not communicating with each other. It's about complaining that the people in the sangha down the road have stolen their ideas or followers! About who THEY studied with and why the guy the others studied with is not worthy.

Does all of this sound like something we know? Yes, that's right folks; this is business as usual in the world of phenomena; this is exactly what we are trying to free ourselves from. This is the same crap we are fed every evening on our TV in the insidiously mind-numbing reality shows and soporific weekly series we follow avidely because something "juicy" might happen.

The image of a mystical all-knowing sage is just that - an image. It has been conjured up by the media to sell stuff. We are intrigued by people who have "powers" and real or false we don't seem to care. The Uri Gellers of the world have and will always exist to enthrall and entertain us, as will the George Bush's of the world; people who are so obviously inept and preposterous BUT we follow them anyway! What's that all about? Are we so lethargic that we would rather have a "fake" making our decisions than have to do it ourselves?

Come on people, snap out of it for goodness sake. Wake up! We only have one go at this! Don't let these charlatains and snake-oil salesmen run our dojos and sell us their books of platitudes and regurgitated new-wave babbling! Remember the old adedge; "Those who are not good at it, talk about it. Those who are good at it, don't talk about it!"

There are some really great teachers out there (somewhere) but most of them have passed and those still alive don't write books or appear on TV - our legacy is their teachings recorded and published for us in book format, but actually getting to sit with one...

晴 雲 法 声 seiun hosei

January 19, 2010

No more Mr. nice monk

Is it right that we have to lower our expectations to zero? Do you all think it's OK that people attain their level of incompetance?

In the restaurant at lunchtime today, the surly waiter spoke to us as if we had just stomped in from the farm still with manure on our shoes. The service continued at this lofty altitude until the final insult of an inflated bill and his fawning profuse thankyous as he drooled honey on us hoping for a tip! You've gotta be kinding me!

In the supermarket afterwards the check out girl spat venom at me because I hadn't put that little divider thingy in front of my lettuce and carrots. I understand that their job is a highly complex mixture of mathmatics and motor-muscular dexterity so it must be almost impossible to push that heavy aluminium divider the entire 30cm-length of the checkout so that a customer can use it!

Last week I had asked my website hosting company to cancel 3 of the 4 email addresses we have with them; both in writing and then by phone when they called to asked me to confirm what I had written. So far so good you're thinking, well not so fast there! This morning they emailed me to say that as per my email and our phone conversation they had cancelled 1 email address and had left the other 3! I'm not kidding!

I called the developer of the salary program we use to pay our teachers. The program crashes each time we send a PDF salary sheet to a teacher. "Oh! That's not right." (ya think?) "I'll look into it." that was 4 months ago and I still have to relaunch the programme after each PDF sent because they've done NOTHING!

There is a saying (as they say) "remain zen". Well I am zen, I'm an ordained zen monk. I have sat on my zafu for hours everyday for the last 20 years and I will remain ... Zen, BUT ... why do we have to accept the incompetance and downright I-don't-give-a-shit-ness of the plethora of idiots around us? With global unemoyment reaching the heights it has, why are these people not fired, (or better still made to endure the experience of being their own customer)? There are literally millions of people who are desperate for a job and who do have professional integrity and we have to put up with these idiots? Don't tell me to stay zen (reston zen), get off your over-fed, over-indulged fat asses and do a decent days work for the first time in your life or we'll give your job to someone else!

I think that my inner calm and beliefs should not stop me from saying things the way I see them, so, from now on - I will.

晴 雲 法 声 seiun hosei