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

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