Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Dharma does not need a defender

"Zen is trans-confessional by nature. Therefore, there is no teaching about Zen -also no Buddhist teaching. It is a transmission outside of the sciptures. Master Yuansou correctly maintained:

'There is no teaching for you to chew on or upon which you can squat. If you do not believe in yourself, take your bundle and make the rounds to other people's houses in the search for Zen and the Tao. You are looking for mysteries, for wonders, for Buddhas, for Zen masters and teachers. You believe that is the search for the highest truth and you make that to your religion, but that is like running eastwards in order to find something that lies in the West.'


Zen is indeed strongly associated with the Buddhist religion, but it trancends this and every religion. Every truly esoteric path, be it Raja-Yoga, Patanjali, Vipassana, Sufism or Comtemplation, leads above and out the confession. It deals with that "Sophia perennis", the eternal wisdom, which is lived today by only a minority, which however will be recognized some day as the true goal of every religion. The people in the future will be "awakened". Religions will have then transformed themselves into paths leading to an experience of the one reality. Zen can play an important part in this change because of its trans-confessional nature. Thus, there are also neither Christian Zen masters or Buddhist Zen masters. If Zen can not be attributed to any religion, then there is no Christian Zen and no Buddhist Zen, but rather only Zen.

Only the "bare" Zen has a chance in the West. As a religion in the West, Buddhism can scarely be expected to grow in influence; Zen will in all probability. But Zen will have to enculturate itself. Much of the monastical form which has developed in the Zen monasteries in the East will fall off. It will develop to a "Layperson's Zen". Up until now, too much of the smell of "convert" has been attached itself to Zen. Rituals, clothing, acoustical instruments which were introduced into the monasteries during the course of history all play an important roll and often conceal the essentials. Buddhist monastical raiments (genuine or imitated), the style of a Sesshin, sticks of incense, (even as far as the shaving of heads) are held to be very important in many groups. The affinity towards external forms is a sickness common among beginners. "Bare Zen", however, is an immutable stream which will change its external structure in the West, just as it changed as it encountered Taoism in China. It will not be possible to falsify its essence. A Zen truism says: "The Dharma does not need a defender."

Excerped from one of Willigis Jaeger's sermons and lectures, entitled "Zen in the West". If you want to read more about his point of view, click here.

Willigis Jaeger is a German Benedictine monk and a Roshi. He lived many years in Japan practicing with Harada Roshi.

He wrote several books, among them "Search for the Meaning of Life -Essays and Reflections on the Mystical Experience". To know more about him and be connected with his website, click here.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

"By oneself alone is evil done,

By oneself is one defiled.

By oneself is evil avoided,

By oneself alone is one purified.

Purity and impurity depend on oneself,

No one can purify another."

The Buddha