Sunday, July 1, 2012

No Logo Zen

Last week marked the beginning of my summer vacation. (I know at least one person is mentally snarling, Those darn teachers with their summers off!) Along with spending time with my kids, prepping the Ma-tsu course I'm teaching at the College of Zen Buddhist Studies, I'm also writing the first draft of my book, Brand Name Zen.

As I wrote a few posts back, BNZ explores the branded lifestyle that modern Western Zen sells us. It's promoted in magazines, websites, and much of the Zen literature published today. I define BNZ (or Zen, Inc.) as the lifestyle obsession that many people experience when they identify themselves as Zen Buddhists. And with that comes all of the Buddhist accoutrements: hip Buddhist lingo (sesshin and metta); subscriptions to all of the Buddhist magazines; staying current on who's who in the Zen world; buying cool Asian eating ware, chopsticks and all, and of course, Buddha statues; and so on.

The way I see it, these are fine endeavors as long as two things don't happen. 1.) We don't get attached to them, as often is the case. We begin to thrive off of the celebrity Zen gossip and make something special out of our practice, zazen and all. We identify ourselves as Zen Buddhists, and while on the train we think, "I'm practicing right now." That's not practicing Zen; that's thinking about practicing Zen.

And 2.), we don't confuse any of that with Zen itself. Zen, as I see it, is about waking up, and staying awake, moment after moment. Most of that other stuff is just decoration; the rest is upaya, skillful means to help us awaken.

Lately, I've been reading Naomi Klein's No Logo, the ultimate anti-consumerist manifesto. It's awesome, I highly recommend it. Although Klein's book focuses more upon corporate and cultural exploitation, it still has influenced my own book, especially in understanding that a brand is more than a name. It's a personality that a company aspires to create, which eventually transcends the product entirely, to the point where it's literally the brand that is sold, not the product.

So that's what Brand Name Zen is about. I'm moving faster than I anticipated, chewing up my material like a lawnmower. I was hoping for the final copy to be book length, in the events that I could get it published, but it might fall short of the required length--usually, 50k+ words. Self-published Epub might be the more realistic route.

Anyway, it's all good. My goal is to help people identify where they're "stuck," so they can then relinquish their attachments to Zen itself. If the book reaches and resonates with at least one person, then it was time well spent.

Have a great summer, everyone. Americans, have a wonderful, and safe, 4th of July. Bows to all.

Photo borrowed from Creative Commons flickr user: Davide Schiano.

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