The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life
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Sunday, February 27, 2011
Religion ... Spirituality ...

I had a nice enough morning doing “zazen” with my local Zen group (i.e., our weekly 2-hour meditation and chanting service). During the usual coffee hour that follows, one member was lamenting the loss of his family dog, a 9-year old Boxer. Another member was talking about his new family member, a 2 month old German Shepard. Sunrise, sunset . . . the cycle of life in the canine world, just as in the human.

We also heard about the recent “disrobement” of a prominent Zen priest out in Salt Lake City, Genpo Roshi, because of a sex scandal. Yes, another Zen teacher taking advantage of the sweet and vulnerable young things that look up to a wise man in uniform (the black robes affected by some American Zen teachers, following Japanese tradition). Turns out that “Genpo” (really, Dennis Merzel, born in Brooklyn) was a big-wig in the “White Plum Lineage”; hey, that’s my sangha’s lineage! That’s why our local “sensei” was a bit upset about it.

As far as I’m concerned, this is not terribly surprising. America has suffered a flood of Zen teachers over the past 50 years, some imported from Japan and some home-grown. Right from the get-go of the American Zen wave, various “teachers” got into trouble. Some died of alcoholism (e.g., Roshi Mazeumi from Los Angles and Trungpa Rinpoche in Colorado), and others got caught making whoopee with the pretty, young students (e.g., Eido Roshi, Richard Baker and now Merzel). Just because a group of old Zen teachers decide that a person is “enlightened” does not guarantee true mastery of the body and soul. (And too bad if Zen teachers deny that there is any “soul”; maybe if they’d recognize it, they could keep their zippers closed when they need to).

Following the Buddha or following the Christ — it doesn’t make much difference. Men entrusted with the Sacred Teaching still fall back into the mud. (And those responsible for their entrustment too often work to cover it up and hide it from the public; both in the Catholic Church and in the Zen community). In the end, we all must stand or fall on our own legs, whoever our priests and teachers are and whatever they taught us. The Apostle’s Creed, the Heart Sutra – not much different from toilet paper. If we do manage to find and hold on to integrity in our lives, it’s probably because of our own inner core (yes, our “soul”), our own “direct line” to the transcendent.

If you can find a Zen teacher with a soul, a Zen teacher who shows you that you too have such a “direct line” (and maybe your pet dog does too!), then consider her or him the pearl of great price. (As to Carl, our own local sensei – I have hopes for him, but stay tuned for further developments).

◊   posted by Jim G @ 2:47 pm      

  1. Jim, What can one say about the clay feet of so many “holy” people–or people who are supposed to be “holy”?

    I’m currently reading Kathleen Norris’ Amazing Grace where she says that we tend to mythologize the people who are supposed to be leaders of religions (or philosophies or whatever Buddhism wants to call itself). In fact, she calls making a myth of such people a kind of “idolatry” because the fact of the matter is that those so “set aside” as holy are only too human.

    I remember reading some place (I forget where and who wrote it) a story about a young boy who was in grade school in 1934. (I remember the date as it’s the year of my birth.) He came home one day and told his parents that Father so-and-so at church was putting his hands where they didn’t belong. He got punished by his parents for speaking so wickedly of the priest. So, it seems the aspect of being only too human has been around for a very long time.

    I tend to like very much Norris’ idea that mythologizing anybody at all is a kind of idolatry. (In fact, in our culture we tend to idolize celebrities too–the Oscars last night being a prime example.) I tend to consider that a good think about idolatry as Norris describes it would not hurt in so many areas of our lives. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — February 28, 2011 @ 3:23 pm

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    Comment by Ianes Weathers — July 30, 2011 @ 10:00 am

  3. Sure, sounds good. Permission granted! Jim

    Comment by Jim G — July 31, 2011 @ 3:52 pm

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