Saturday, March 28, 2015

Buddha Bows to Buddha

A fundamental paradox of Buddhism is that, despite the stress that it places upon impermanence, many Buddhists don't want Buddhism to change. We get comfortable in the robes, with the rituals and liturgy, and are leery of introducing new language or insights, for fear that they are, or will be considered, deviations. Less authentic.

But that's what Buddhist history is--a countless series of developments, growths, offshoots, and innovations.

Bankei taught the Unborn, Seung Sahn Don't-know mind. Chinul, the founder of the Korean Chogye Order, is condemned by some modern critics as a heretic for promoting Sudden Enlightenment, Gradual Cultivation. And that's just Zen! Then there's Huayen, Pureland, Vajrayana, and many more schools of Buddhist thought, each with its own emphasis and teachings.

For me, Buddhism is about awakening. I'm not interested in sectarianism or playing by the "Buddhist rules." I don't feel any more affinity for teachers or people because they are Buddhist. There are plenty of Enlightened masters who are not Buddhists. (There are also many spiritual teachers, both Buddhist and non-Buddhist, who are, in my opinion, drastically overrated.)

A future project of mine, which I will hopefully complete in 2015, is a book called Buddha Bows to Buddha. It will explore the overlap of two 20th-century non-Buddhist sages who are commonly recognized as Enlightened. I will try to explain how their experiences can parallel the Buddha's, even though their teachings are radically different.

My personal idiom, which I feel best reflects my personal experiences, is Absolute Nothingness. Non-being, Non-awareness, and Not-knowing. Are these the same as emptiness or sunyata, Buddha Nature, or Tathagatagarbha? I don't know, nor I am not very interested in doctrinal consistency. I can only speak from my own personal experience.

This may sound like a cop out, but the experience of Nirvana is beyond words, so it doesn't really matter what we call it. Words are only words. Yet I cannot dismiss the feeling that it is our responsibility to own our insight. That means finding new and creative ways to express it. We digest our experiences by integrating them into our creative lexicon.

Art, poetry, prose, symbolism, these are all media for us to explore and eventually embody our understanding. I don't like relying on other people's words; I'd rather speak in my own voice and from my own life.

That is bound to draw criticism. I started a new blog, Absolute Nothingness, because these teachings of mine don't immediately fit into the traditional Buddhist rubric. Are they Buddhist? I absolutely believe so, in that they point to the root of the word "Buddha"--to the awakened mind.

I chose the title of my latest book, No-Mind, because the term is so deeply rooted in Zen/Ch'an history. Yet, as I said earlier, my interpretation is very different from the standard understanding (see my last post about this).

I believe that true enlightenment necessarily entails true, authentic expression. That's what I'm trying to do.

Thanks for reading.

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