- Touching The Earth -
Newsletter for The Detroit Street Zen Center
Zen In America
A big issue in many Zen centers in the United States is the question of the Americanization of Zen i.e. making it relevant to our society and culture. However Dharma, the true authentic transmission of the Buddha is transcendent - it transcends culture and ideation. "Making" something relevant is imposing our way on things not the Buddha Way.
So doing zazen was not a means to an end, but enlightenment itself (the very arising of a "means to" had dropped of completely). So true transmission or Sho, in Japanese, is the complete identity with an object , with all things. It is the realization that things have always been this way; there is no comparison to before or after or the thought "I have done it", but a deep familiar realization, like an old memory, "Oh yes...things have always been this way" - that is all one sees. It is called waking up, it is called "I am enlightened along with all sentient beings". It is completed - gate, gate.... So when the question of using chop sticks in oryoki sets comes up, you aren't caught by throwing out chop sticks because they are Japanese, nor are you caught by hanging on to chop sticks because they are Japanese - it is OK to use chop sticks - it is a gift from the past; students can be given leeway in how they use them. Another example is chanting in Japanese or Korean. As long as the English translation is also present, chanting in these languages is also a gift fro the past. There is something more present than just our not understanding the words - chanting the Heart Sutra in Japanese or Korean is much more pervasive and deep; it comes from a culture steeped in Buddhism for over a thousand years. Our conceptual mind can't see this pervasiveness, these non-conceptual influences or aspects, but they are there. So completely digest the teachings, the Dharma from the culture in which it came, and because you are already American, an evolutionary process occurs organically - very smoothly, almost without thought - just daily processing of life. So when the issue of the Americanization of Zen comes up, this "as a means to end having dropped off mind" or non-conceptual mind, is the mind that can truly transmit, can function the Americanization of Zen.