Sunday, February 10, 2013

Humble, But Not A Doormat

D.T Suzuki's Dharma name, Daisetsu,  means "Great Humility." I just had to say something, as I read in a blog that had to say something. I invite any feedback for my response, as I'm trying to refine humility from doormat, and expression from aggression (even assertion), practice right blogging, and connect with our huge sangha of way seeking minds.

Oh, and I like this blog, Original Mind, very much! Very worthwhile practice to surround yourself with so many people you respect, and then disagree with, even when you don't want to.

 Of course, I maybe wrong; who isn't when perception is deception?

Dear Doshin,

I respectfully disagree.

 I'd like to address this statement: "Part of this, at least in the Zen community, is attributable to D.T. Suzuki and his mythologizing Zen and Japanese culture."

First, my experience with D.T Suzuki is a very no-nonsense approach to dharma, delving into and translating sutras like the Lankavatara which hadn't been touched by anyone -Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Tibetian, in hundreds of years. His explications of texts often travel over several centuries, several languages, hundreds of miles of dirt and myth, pointedly the questionable 18th century transliterated Sanskrit versions of Chinese origin.  This is my perception of D.T's work, who markedly never ordained, despite the bulk of ordained scholars working by his side at Otani University, Living married, parallel lives, filling their coffers (not to mention the Soto-shu and Rinzai-shu coffers) with Sangha money, while D.T survived as just a scholar, lecturer, and professor.

And Allen Watts is unknown to me, accept I put on a tyvek suit, clear the trail to his grave of poison oak, and neatly arrange the liquor on his huge granite rock that came from Tassajara. The place is intimate, hidden, and less visited than I expect it to be. But I feel a kinship on our behalf; maybe I should read one of his books.

This is important to me. The comment above mine says, "Right on, brother!" I'm saying to you, "Maybe not always so, brother!" as we wear the Buddha's robe together (mine is lay, and blue,and small, but I am no householder and also, of no rank).

This is important to me because D.T went out of his way to not mystify western Buddhists; He was raised Jodo Shinshu, and lectured on it in Japan, but refrained from doing so in the west, as he felt it was too esoteric and that Zen was more appropriate, though he said it was the, "most remarkable development of Mahayana Buddhism ever achieved in East Asia"

Finally, my frustration is that we are not Japanese enough when Japanese people come here and see our very clean, spartan, and naturally wood grained statures, floors, walls in our zendo/Buddha hall, where we do nine prostrations instead of three by request of our founder (who was Japanese, but the practice is our practice, which is not Japanese).

I wish I could show you my wool v-neck sweater and black long johns under my Juban and Kimono (Japanese), Sitting robe (Chinese) and 5 paneled kayasa (the Indian, small, Buddha's robe). All but the sweater and long Johns were worn in Japan, and that is our contribution to the tradition of about 800 years of "Japanese" practice (where the first 400 years, most sutras were recorded in Chinese, and in China, they worked hard to produce/locate Indian sanskrit and poly versions).

My question is what stereotypes does cultural appropriation rely on: If we seem Japanese, wouldn't that require Japanese to be something other than what it really is, which is empty, which is a compassionate understanding that Japanese is completely free from whatever we think it is, and so are you, and so am I.

Bowing the best I can,



  1. I just reread David Sedaris essay on quitting smoking, which he did by moving to Tokyo for several months. He comments in a sort of daily journal on how vending machines stand right out on the sidewalks, unprotected, and no one ever tags them or breaks into them. How it is legal to smoke standing outside, but not to walk with a cigarette, which might brush against a child. No one does it.

    I thought, This is the culture from which we incorporated Japanese Zen. It made me realize how very different American culture is. This is not just style, but values and ideas of behavior.

    If I have a point to make it is that we are always in danger of being in love with the forms of a religion, and practicing them in order to be a perfect someone else.

  2. I can always tell when you're fired up because your responses are a bit chaotic. I can just imagine you at the computer, typing furiously, trying to empty the contents of your brain. Thanks for the passion!!!