Critique: THE ZEN PRACTICE OF KOAN INTROSPECTION
It is fair to say that if you make public statements, then you can expect to be criticized publicly for what you say. Now you may think that the criticism may be unfair or that your credentials prevent you from criticism, this however is only the beliefs of certain segments of our society – those who assume leadership over you.
When it comes to Zen, there are no credentials that makes one a Zen Teacher – it’s either you know the way of Zen or you don’t. There are no number of years at a Dharma center or hours of ‘sitting on a cushion’ or days of sessin meditation that suddenly bestow on you a ‘Zen Knowing’. It would be ridiculous to think this, even more to believe this – yet exactly this is what happens in the Dharma Centers.
My case in point, is the article written by Maureen Weinhardt of the Empty Moon Zen center.
In this article, Maureen attempts to explain the famous Case 32 from the Blue Cliff Record: Elder Ting Stands Motionless. Maureen suggest that the Koan is like Zazen, in where one must “just surrender to it” and quotes her teacher James Ford, “Sit down. Become Buddha.”
If this sounds absurd, it is because it is.
Koans are puzzles to break down conceptualized thought to drive the student to the source of such thought – the Intuitive. How you express that ‘Intuitive’ is always unique and surprising, as demonstrated in Case 32.
Maureen goes on in the article to explain that koans is a way to ‘show how our minds work’ and that a Zen teacher is essential, and praises her teacher Mr. Ford. Clearly, she is driving us to accept Mr. Ford as a teacher.
The article concludes that ‘Practice’ as what Maureen is suggesting what Zen is about, ‘Is to accept our own inadequacies and not get hung up on them.’
Is that really what Practice is? That seems more like psychotherapy, not one of a Liberation ontology.
In Zen, the practice is that of relinquishment and abandonment of conceptualized self, the self that suffers in this phenomenal-material-existant world. The Mahayana teaches that we are already Buddha, it is just that our Spiritual Soul is in this mesmerized state, fixated on the Materialistic arising, and thus in ‘Suffering’. It is only when one relinquishes and abandons this Self that is reflected in the phenomenal-material-existant world does one then ‘is Buddha’, not ‘become Buddha’ that would imply gaining something, in where you already have all that you need.
Though one can simply write-off Maureen article as a ‘Fluff Peace’ for her teacher and advocating his teachings and methods, it is still worth the time to criticize the article if only to inject a conversation.