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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Dharma for One

Actually, dharma for four, yesterday (not these four; this pic is from the retreat). It's rained here every day for forever here, now - a rare event in recent years -- and I think yesterday most of the little Zennies took it as a good day to sleep in, or whatever it is people do when they're lazy. Personally, that's one vice I don't' have much temptation toward, so it's hard to know. Maybe they lay in bed counting their toes, or other things.

Not that I minded. To be fair, several of our regular sitters were out of town in exotic locations, either because they don't have to work, or their work takes them to such places. Mine, unfortunately, keeps me tethered.

No, the dependable Dharma for One comes on Thursday mornings, at the "Multi-Sangha" sit which was begun for a member of another group who's quit coming, and a member or ours who's done the same. They both have good reasons not to come; I don't, so I do. I actually enjoy that one. And of course my own intentional sitting alone on the other days of the week, at home.

It only concerns me a bit because the reason I do these group (sangha) sittings is, first because I enjoy the company -- a rare thing for me, who would rather be alone most of the time -- and because I want to provide an opportunity for people to sit zazen, and to have enough support to be able to get their own practices going. Not that I would proselytize for zazen. I've realized that most of the people who come to us come already knowing it's what they need to do. The rare ones who come for some other reason usually drift off to an easier, softer practice. There are plenty of people out there who will spoon feed you "Buddhism" if that's what you want. And there are other groups who will make you work, too, don't get me wrong. But there's no reason or purpose trying to convert anyone. As I said, they come.

And to tell the truth, there is a bit of "steering" to be done, if people are to get it right. People come wanting to solve their problems, or to get enlightenment. Or because they want to calm their stresses, or find meaning. All those things can happen, but not if you try for them. And ultimately the only real reason to sit zazen -- well, the real Zen teachers would say, is to sit zazen. I'd say it's to experience what's there, whatever that is, and accept it as it is. To stare at its uninterpreted face, nod, and say, OK. Let's go.

I've been saying for a few years now is that the main reason I thing it's important that people who want this habit, this ability and this perception, to have it, as that there are hard times ahead. For most of us, the end of times. And I don't mean just in the sense that we're all gonna die, eventually. I mean that the survival of the world as it is now, is untenable . The only way that the human race can survive, is that people will die, en masse. The earth will cleanse itself of its excess; either that or the planet, the host itself will die, and we the virus will die with it. I hope the former happens, given the choice. But it won't be pleasant. Could be no one reading this, including me, will be around in ten years, or less. Could happen. I still think pandemic, natural or manufactured, is the mostly likely option. Pick your poison.

I think that zazen will enable you to stare into the face of the most horrible of times, which is not death but the other stuff that happens first, and accept it. Not that you'll like it. You may still scream, and depending, you may still fight. That's good. You'll do what you'll do. But you'll understand what that moment is. And live in it. This I believe. That hasn't changed.

But something else has changed for me, lately. I'm observing that humanity has a habit of surviving when it shouldn't, and that so do its individuals and its cultures. And so I'm thinking that some of us will probably be alive in a few years. Maybe not me, but still us. Under what circumstances, I can't say. I just watched this wonderful German TV mini-series called Dresden. And since I was a child I've had this version of walking through a city in ruins. That, I think, is inevitable for survivors.

Because what I'm pretty sure won't survive, is multiculturalism. I don't mean that only one culture will survive; I certainly hope not, and if I had to make odds on what that would be, I don't like what I see. The world has more than enough Muslims, and they're growing every day. More on that some other day. And maybe not in this blog. But if there's any religion crazier than Christianity, it's Islam. That's just the truth. Deal with it.

I' m not a big fan of multiculturalism, or what's usually referred to as diversity, anyway. I got attacked for this last year, but I still stand up for it. What's commonly seen as diversity, is cultural homogeneity. I love true cultural diversity. I love walking the streets of an alien culture, when it can be done reasonably safely. It's getting harder to do. They've all been blended together, by force of law, and by the machinations of the international consumer machine that reduces Chinese culture to restaurants. We pick and choose here and there. We do it in our religions, too.

And yes, I think that when times get hard, we will break up into groups, and we will fight each other. That's not optimal; it's just inevitable. When times get hard, you will look out for you and your own, whoever you perceive that to be. It's in your genes.

So there really is a point, or two, to all this. More on the other stuff later.

The first is, if one of the motivations I have in encouraging zazen is that it will help people enable hardship, it would first be necessary that the people coming to it, come not for entertainment or out of curiosity, or for that cushy warm glow better supplied by brandy. It would be necessary that they seek it, as the old proverb says, with their hair on fire. Nothing else will get you where you need to be, to get to the bottom. Otherwise I may be enjoying myself and telling myself I'm making a difference, when in fact, I'm just wasting my time. I have to sit with that a bit more and see where it goes.

There's another point, too. It has to do with what you see when you get down to the bottom that you can get to in zazen, where form is emptiness and emptiness is form and yada-yada, and in which you realize that although you don't exist, it's all up to you. And you can build up with there with the values you choose, or which are so ingrained in you that if they're not there, you're not you anyway. And that's where I find my values don't have much to do with the "philosophy" of Zen, which I'm finding is a beast quite different from the practice -- and which I'm finding, to be honest, is neither interesting nor helpful to be at this point. I'm finding those values in quite a different place. Values that can help to rebuild a new world, or to try to preserve what I see to be the best of the old one.

But more of that later. I've pissed off enough PC Buddhists and others already, and this one is getting long (as they do when I don't write for a few weeks). Save your steam, I guarantee I can raise your hackles another time. But maybe not here; I haven't decided. See the previous blog.

Oh, if the title seems familiar; it's not that other multicultural Buddhism I'm referencing; it's this stuff; old school great stuff (you can skip the first 1:28 if you're in a hurry).

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