Thursday, December 1, 2016

SF Chronicle Features: Kogen the Dreg Slurper

Huangbo said to the assembly, "You people are all slurpers of dregs. If you travel like this, where will you have today? Do you know that in all of China there are no teachers of Chan?"
At that point a monk came forward and said, "What about those who guide followers and lead groups in various places?"
Huangbo said, "I don't say there's no Chan, just that there are no teachers."

I'm no teacher.

I was recently interviewed for the SF Chronicle and almost died upon reading it. I was quoted twice and what was quoted were the dregs of what I stole from teachers or one writer in particular, Colleen Morton Busch. 
She wrote on page 104 of her book Fire Monks something about non attachment and when interviewed I regurgitated some version of her metaphor and didn't cite her. Nor did I cite Suzuki Roshi or Seung Sahn when talking about Don't Know mind or Beginners Mind. This all passed for personal insight and was published. 
How did this happen? How did I become a slurper of Dregs? When did this over take my aspiration to be a person of true color?
I felt horrible, though it's passing. And I learned something: slow down when you feel the need to explain yourself. My teacher just the other day reminded me, when put to it, humans have the capacity to slaughter their own mothers. And that's a hyperbolic expression, but if you're a writer and you've misstepped like this I think you know what I mean. 
Granted, I wasn't writing, but having a conversation, trying to say something about non attachment and reaching for metaphors to do so.  I forgot I was being interviewed. This was my first interview. 
It seems Dogen forgot all his parenthetical references and I'm looking for scape goat. But I need to acknowledge my ambition to become a great teacher and how I think it's led to this incident. I've contacted Colleen and await a response. 
I may be over reacting here, which yet another form of self absorption. But the article is about our temple and I don't want people patting me on the back. 
As painful as it is, do feel the gravity of words, which has been ongoing as I write less and less here in search of something genuine to say. 
Well this the best I can do at this moment. 
(Written on town trip, bending the shingi to bend back what is crooked)


3 comments:

  1. Please be kind(er) to yourself. You didn't do anything wrong, so far as I can see. "Regurgitating" what we learned from our teachers is exactly the warm hand tradition of Zen. And feeling like an idiot when you read the article is what's called "being in the newspaper."

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  2. I agree with "da kutch" that it's usually terrible to see yourself in print. Everyone in Fire Monks was especially kind to me in that regard, very forgiving of my missteps in portraying them and interpreting their words and patiently clarifying for me. I appreciate your sensitivity, Kogen--there's too little of it in the world these days, and too little accountability--but I also hope you can be kinder to yourself, as I tried to convey in my reply to your email. TZMC ango is hard enough.
    And I was influenced by all the ancestors on every singe page of Fire Monks--my own cup full of dreg overfloweth!

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