The "Question of Lay Zen" which has been the concern of our recent issues is a burning one. The majority of Buddhists in this country are lay practitioners so that the means of training available to them and their affiliations to training institutions become of paramount importance in the transmission of Buddhism from the Orient to the West.
However there are many ways in which training institutions might mistakenly provide inauthentic Buddhism. Yet, within so rich a tradition as the Dharma, it is difficult to define what authenticity may be. The recent mistakes in transmissions of authority to teach to persons who subsequently became faulty exemplars makes this issue important. Within our tradition of Ch'an (Zen) one fundamental perspective must never be laid aside:
"Followers of the Way! There is talk of the Way to be practised and the Dharma to be realised....Young students, not understanding anything, put their faith in wild fox sprites and so become entangled in their random talk and fancies......You say that everywhere there is training and there is realisation. Do not be deceived. Though something can be attained by training it only creates the karma of birth and death....I am afraid those teachers are like newlywed brides, uneasy and worried about being chased out of their homes and starving to death....When the sword of wisdom flashes there is nothing at all. Even before the light shines darkness is already bright. Because of this an old master said "The ordinary heart is the way". (Lin Chi. 9th Century).1
Lin chi, like the Buddha before him, emphasised individual attainment, searching out one's salvation through diligence, depending neither on words alone nor on institutions, nor the personal guru. A true teacher is a facilitator of such individual understanding and not an authority purveying a dogma to be believed.
Some developments in British Buddhism are a cause for concern to those who see Lin Chi, that profound iconoclast and personal facilitator, as representing the Buddha's own perspective. The growth of cult-like mega institutions focused on deviant teachings of modern charismatics is highly suspect. There is more than a hint of fascistic self-promotion in these closed systems, which bodes ill for the future of open Buddhism. I have recently apprehended what Stephen Batchelor meant when, in conversation at Sharpham, he once suggested to me that "the Golden Age of Buddhism in the West may already be over!" For these reasons I am most grateful to Ken Jones for his precise delineation of the problem in this issue.
My own perspective is quite clear. I am a child of the Western Enlightenment, that rationality that since the 17th century has thrown out the superstitions of the churches and given rise to science, the rights of man, social democracy and all those ethical attitudes we may perhaps take too much for granted in our post-modern scepticism. Of course all this history, despite (or perhaps because of) its emphasis on individual freedoms, has also provoked the serious problems of our time. However a regression to an age of authoritarian superstition is no answer. I stand for the integration of the Buddha's Enlightenment with that of the modern Western Enlightenment perspective. Bringing these enlightenments together is the function of my exploratory role as teacher and will always be so. Only in this way do I believe that Buddhism can flourish in the West in a manner that can fulfil its soteriological2 role in our time. The Buddha as the great doctor needs a hearing. Yet the one who is healed in the end does it from within.
What then is authenticity in training? This issue is devoted to this question. We hope it will stimulate debate and we welcome your comments and discussion of what we are presenting. Our views have no authority, we play here as fox sprites but in a world of hungry ghosts they too must have their say and work their passage to understanding. We can only do it together. Let us have your views. Do not sit around in a passive hobbyism. Please write.
1 Selected from Schloegl, I.1976 The Zen Teaching of Rinzai. Shambala. Berkeley.
2 Soteriological: Doctrine pertaining to salvation.
The authority of experience depends upon authenticity. If we base our action or feeling inauthentic experience it can only lead to play acting or pretence with potentially catastrophic consequences. Sadly, many of our justifications for action rest on the outcomes of past personal, familial and social tensions that have remained unresolved and which distort our perception of ourselves and other people. They lead to a biased repression of emotion and a ritualisation of personal behaviour into rigid moulds that may later produce an inability to recover the repressed experiences in understanding. Such "stuckness" commonly leads to damaged lives inhabited by persons in permanent low level stress and whose behaviour is often socially damaging. Such a condition is widely prevalent, almost a norm in human society1 and some have argued that it amounts to a disease.
Buddhist thought has accepted this position for some 2,500 years arguing that the human mind is normally in a state of delusion from which it is difficult to recover2. The Buddha has often been called the great doctor and the task of Buddhism as soteriology is to replace illusion by clarity and this process is what is meant by "enlightenment"3. Yet so normal is the state of illusion that Buddhist institutions and teachers are by no means immune from it and there are those who would argue for the necessity of a constant and watchful cultivation4. Such a viewpoint is often ignored especially in heady periods of Buddhist history when the Dharma is expanding rapidly into new cultural settings. Since Buddhism and especially Zen claims to restore authenticity to consciousness we need to ask how successful it is or whether the teachings and teaching personalities hold us in some illusory thrall.
Today there are strong reasons for pressing such an enquiry. The behaviour of teachers, both Oriental and Western, participating in the dramatic spread of Zen and Tibetan institutions in America has often fallen severely short of the ethical ideal. Stuart Lachs5 has recently reviewed developments that reveal widespread lapses in conventional morality. The causes for this are not solely due to an irresponsibility attributable to teachers, their followers have also been severely at fault. The context of such problems lies in the almost desperate Western need for personal meaning in a world which lacks the old certainties of Christianity and Humanism. The post-modern context is ruled by a relativity of values at all levels. Out of the plethora of religious and ethical possibilities, Celtic traditions, the nostrums of Merlin, orthodox faiths, unorthodox creeds or North American native practices, which one gives a meaning to me?
In spite of the democratic tradition in the West a prime problem in the arrival of Buddhism in the USA has been that the authoritarian attitudes natural to traditional Eastern cultures have been passed from Eastern teachers to those they appointed as first generation Western "masters". Their conferred infallibility as an "enlightened" person was often uncritically accepted by naive westerners desperate to believe in a human representation of the sublime but who, in the course of time, only discovered the ridiculous. Some such teachers came to dominate the institutions they led establishing neither democratic means for self-criticism nor advisory boards to provide feedback. In many sad cases the result has been the sexual exploitation of naive young followers of both genders and severe financial irregularity. Furthermore, some Oriental teachers themselves, succumbing to the permissiveness of the West they failed to properly understand, also revealed comparable faults. Clearly when such behaviour is revealed not only is the validity of the transmission to teach called into question but the whole system and the texts that sustain it become suspect. Finally, not only have many men and women become disoriented and distressed by the deceits practised upon them but authentic teachers truly worthy of their titles are smeared by gossip, suspicion and doubts.
"Authenticity" has a range of overlapping meanings. The Oxford English Dictionary gives:
-real, actual or genuine as opposed to pretended;
-original as opposed to copied;
-proceeding from its reputed source or author;
-of established credit and genuineness;
-in accordance with or as stating fact;
-having legal validity, authoritative.
There is also a usage in music meaning a sound or note belonging appropriately to a scale, mode or melody. This meaning may be extended to appropriateness of a verbal expression within a form of discourse. An authentic statement is one that comes from the "heart" expressing a genuinely held, unambivalent belief or undistorted feeling.
Experiences that lack such characteristics are questionable, one may doubt their validity and suspect that they stand in for something else, a hidden agenda, motivation or bias. Yet how can one be sure that an experience is genuine? Most experiences are representations of internal and external circumstances in complex relations that may easily be mistaken or incorrectly perceived. How can we know that we know? Furthermore, how can we know when others, especially teachers and guides of all kinds, are authentic in their accounts of their experiences and practices? In what can we trust? In attempting to define ways of life appropriate to the problems of these millennial years an understanding of what is and what is not authentic is critical.
In the practice of psychotherapy the importance of the "unconscious" and the power of repressed experience to modify thought, behaviour and action has been well attested since Freud's original work. Studies by Winnicot, Guntrip, Miller and many others of the "object relations" school6 have shown how negative experiences in childhood create buried scenarios that fester in repression creating attitudes, failures in self-knowledge and behaviour severely debilitating to the practitioner and harmful to his or her relationships in adult life.
The humanistic orientation in psychology emphasises the existential realities of personal lives. In particular this view focuses on the need to develop awareness, expression of feeling, capacities for choice and relating all of which are seen as essential for effective self-development in the expression of human potential. "A person is authentic in that degree to which his being in the world is unqualifiedly in accord with the given-ness of his own nature and of the world. Authenticity is the primary good or value of the existential viewpoint."7 This perspective argues that authenticity entails a way of being in the world in which the person is in harmony with himself, others and the world. Inauthenticity means conflict within self, with others and the world. Yet here the idealisation of the term in language may become a danger. Authenticity is no mere adaptation or some mystical transcendence. Rather, we are concerned with a direct facing of the immediate realities of life with a willed affirmation of difficulties, an acceptance of them and their past origins and a letting go into a pro-active acceptance of change. It is not inauthentic to be faced with problems of ambivalence and paradox, indeed these are the very food of life. Modern therapy is essentially any effective interpersonal process that aids this process of comprehension and personal change.
The living circumstances into which human beings are thrown have been described in terms of four main issues; finiteness, potential to act, capacity to choose, and the realisation of existential aloneness.8 We only have finite, limited understanding of ourselves and the world and such understanding as we do have is contingent upon circumstance, the availability of others, health and wellbeing, none of which can be taken for granted and none of which are permanently available. We are subject to the "fate" into which we are born and realise ourselves only briefly before death. Yet we have a capacity for action and gradually realise our responsibility for action in the world. No action can be perfect so we are faced by the risk of condemnation and anxiety generated by guilt or shame. We can only act within that context. So we have to choose a path and in such choice we experience autonomy. Yet within that very autonomy we experience our finite limitations and may thus be faced by a sense of meaninglessness. Seeking a meaning beyond our finite worlds we may get lost and experience such emptiness as a great fear. Yet, even while we experience our loneliness we discover we are not alone. We are "alone with others", as Steven Batchelor puts it.9 In this, however, there remains the threat of the disappearance of the other or withdrawal from us leaving us in total isolation. Such anxiety is terrifying and the terror genuine.
The life task of every human individual is inevitably to confront these uncomfortable truths of existence and to find the way through the givens of personal limitation in a manner that evades pretence, avoidance of difficulty and uncomplimentary truth to create an authenticity of being and expression that is both accepting and open. Perhaps that is what creativity is. The same task faces all those would-be carers in the helping professions and to this we must pay particular attention.
Therapeutic models and processes have struggled to find ways to alleviate the difficulties individuals face in coming to terms with these irreducible facts of life. Many have become caught in behaviourist, cognitivist or other reductionist fallacies that fail to meet the existential realities of human being.10 Some therapies of dubious or partial validity impose years of expensive time consuming work often with little deep consequence. The burgeoning market place of therapy has encouraged careerists who, in inventing new glosses on old Freudian insights, often benefit their pockets more than their clients. The creation of ever new therapeutic and counselling methods all in competition with one another has created a commercial world in which the selling of new dependencies flourishes.
In spite of the genuine concern, expertise and courageous dedication of many therapists there is also emerging a puzzling inauthenticity within the whole "business" that only occasionally receives a degree of exposure. A skilled therapist may have a good idea, start to promote it in a small way only to find that his/her clients begin to develop wants to become therapists themselves. In such contexts the cryptic power of the therapist's role and the issues of transference may not have been adequately addressed. There thus develops the temptation to start a school for therapists who may well have been the sponsors' own clients. Such developments cannot but be viewed with suspicion. What has been going on here?
There has been a search for more direct methods less dependent on long term therapist-client relationships and centred on self-help often in group contexts. In this area work on chemical dependency (alcohol and drug addiction) has begun to turn up valuable insights of wide social application.
In working with addicts and their families it became apparent that family members who look after, treat, placate or otherwise manage the addicted person commonly show psychological symptoms of excessive caring for others, reduced independence, fixated referencing to family issues, depression and cagey if not dishonest behaviour, lying about the family etc., which do not necessarily improve when the alcoholic improves. The syndrome has become known as co-dependence - the individual being dependent on the addiction indirectly by way of a fixation on the addicted. There is often a mutual or co-dependence between them.
It is now suspected that such a syndrome occurs widely in society and not only in relation to chemical dependency. Anne Wilson Schaef11 considers it to be an aspect of a hydra-headed personality disorder produced by addictive processes widespread in society. Co-dependents have been defined as all persons in close emotional relationships with alcoholics or who have alcoholic parents or grandparents or who grow up in emotionally repressive families.12 Co-dependency has also been described as an emotional, psychological and behavioural condition developing from prolonged exposure to a set of oppressive rules determined by social situations or family members which prevent the expression of natural feelings as well as the discussion of personal family or group problems.13 It arises, therefore, as a set of coping skills under an enforced restriction of emotional expression.
Others have argued that co-dependence operates not only in families but in communities, businesses and institutions. Alcoholism thus begins to look like a response to this condition, as an especially negative coping skill in relation to forbidden or unexpressed distress, rather than as an essential determinant of co-dependence. If co-dependence is prior and as widespread as Whitfield14 and Schaef believe then I prefer to refer to it as emotional dependence, a personality disorder that produces distortions in social perception, behaviour and feeling in others as well as the prime sufferer. It is socially infectious and socially tolerated. Its presence in a group commonly remains unidentified. The problem begins to emerge as truly vast.
Such distortions preclude an open awareness of personal problems because these are filtered through a wide range of unconscious pretences developed to prevent pain and distress. The individual becomes addicted to these responses and the object relations within which they occur due to the temporary and illusory relief they provide. The repeated performance of these patterns provides an illusory security as when someone who has lived for years with an anxious mother comes to placate and attempt to relieve the tension of significant others in life. With the mother such behaviour may have been essential for the child to have survived at all but, in adult life, the addiction to such a habit of security creation becomes destructive of straightforward relationship.
Schaef's list of personal traits achieving such ends is formidable. Emotional dependants are so focused on the activities of others (which may include their health, their approval, their withdrawal of control or punishment etc.) that they feel their own being to have little or no meaning. The meaning of their lives comes from outside and their intentionality is entirely determined by this. Relationships tend to conform to a pattern in which the clinging cannot be free from the clung. Personal boundaries are then so weak that psychological invasion is inevitable, the emotionally dependent quickly taking on the moods and responses of others. To sustain their dependent relationships they are forever trying to manage the impressions they make on others and are excessively and cleverly sensitive to another's moods and adapt to meet them. The insecurity and low self-esteem associated with such responses leads to depression and the consequent induction of further dependence in others who respond as carers. Caring for others is in this context not a valuable and helpful trait, rather it is a protective obsession designed to control the very one cared for and on whom meaning has become dependent. Self-martyrdom and seeming indispensability are actively cultivated to obsessive and overworked degrees. To sustain this picture, dishonesty of self-expression including active lying may become habitual - it becoming quite impossible for such persons to say how it is for them. The actual state of their distressed feelings is no longer available for expression in any direct way and referencing all activities on others becomes a form of endless self-concern.
These symptoms may appear in mild to severe forms of neuroticism. In particular the widespread distribution of the milder versions suggests that most carers may be suspected of being to a degree emotionally dependent and caught in the very addictive process they attempt to cure in others. Therapists, counsellors, ministers, therapeutic colleagues may all be affected unknowingly thereby basing their views of themselves on entirely inauthentic grounds. Whitfield indeed argues that the "untreated professional" virtually characterises the staff of caring institutions and may be sustaining the malfunctioning of those they treat. Recent dramatic examples may include the problems of responsibility in some cases of False Memory Syndrome where the recall by adult children of sexual abuse by parents has sometimes been shown to be due to an induction of such belief by involvement with the therapist. Much further research on this topic is essential.
We have reached a point where we are suggesting a condition of society whereby individual and social malfunctioning is widespread. While emotional repression and the disguising of motivation may have had some functional value in the social environment of human origins15 we must suspect that in the developed societies of modern civilisations it can constitute a maladaptation through informational distortion of a serious kind. We may therefore be facing a "design fault" in our mode of social being that has been present for millennia and to which we have yet to construct an adequate remedy.16 Certainly this appears to have been the view of the Buddha 2500 years ago and to this we must now turn.
The Buddha was a man with vast experience of the yogic psychologies and philosophies of his time which were both rich in content and in debate. His personal search culminated in experiences which, as in an experiment, confirmed the views he was developing. In his very first sermon he argued that life was characterised by suffering, that suffering was due to craving, wanting or, in other words, addiction, and that it was possible to go beyond addiction by following a careful path. This looks very relevant to our discussion above.
His model of mind was essentially dynamic in spite of the rather static way in which the abhidharma expresses it. Sensation, perception and cognition build up the roots of conscious experience and inference about the world. In addition however, and crucially important, ongoing experience produces attempted solutions to problems that become relatively fixed patterns of response. These samskara are thus both the root of personal idiosyncrasy and also the source of change. In that they are essentially volitional they are both the repository of past karma and again the process wherein karma projecting into the future can change.
We can see here a close similarity to the discussion of dependency above. Karma distorts the appreciation of the present through inducing habitual, biased prejudicial or destructive modes of being that may have been valuable once as a response to a situation but which, at a present moment, may be distorting, unrelated to what is and thus illusory. The task therefore is to establish the mind in the present actuality and penetrate the snares of karma so as to go beyond them.
The discourses of the Buddha and subsequent Mahayana literature and commentaries are all essentially discussions of this endeavour. Sometimes leading into abstract phenomenological and metaphysical philosophies the core remains a practice. Buddhist thought is soteriological, designed to save; the take-home message is to penetrate illusion wherever it arises for illusion is considered widespread.
The main task advocated by the Buddha was to live "rightly" according to the Eightfold Way and the means to doing this was through the cultivation of awareness. The Maha Satipatthana Sutta17 gives very precise instructions which focus on meditative attentiveness to the body, to the environment and eventually to the way of life itself. It is clearly proposed that attentive awareness is a tool with which to penetrate illusion.18 It is essential first to calm the mind and then to gain insight into its process so as to distinguish the prejudiced from the authentic. From Satipatthana to Mahamudra, to the Silent Illumination of Ch'an and the Koan practice of the Japanese the essential quest is the same.
In Ch'an it is pointed out that attachment to quiet sitting, however agreeable it may be, is a "cave of demons", an addiction to tranquillity that must be broken up. The essential task of awareness is not trance or samadhic states but the perception of actuality directly. This means that in meditation one faces in various ways the actuality of existence. Contemplating the koans is one way of doing this.
The koans are paradoxical questions which cannot be answered but which can be resolved. The most basic are the Who questions." Who am I?" Of course at one level one knows exactly who one is but, at another, one realises much is hidden from one. There are several contrasting ways of using Koans but the modern method developed by Charles Berner and known as the "communication exercise" is especially valuable for beginning Westerners and I use it as an introduction to Ch'an (Zen) in Western Zen Retreats at my centre in Wales.19 It leads through a vigorous examination of personal illusions to an exhaustion of opinion and language in an immediate apprehension of "just being." Finding this essential base line of existence throws all other concerns into a realm of mere relativity and the grip they have on one's life relaxes. Recalibration of a practitioner's attitudes and action in life then becomes possible from a phenomenological base that lies outside opinion. Since it cannot come from another it is also a rediscovery of an essential self and the basis for renewed autonomy.
The communication exercise is done in groups that divide into couples, dyads, who sit together. Over a 30-40 minute period a bell is rung every five minutes. In each five minute period one of the partners asks the other his or her question which may be; " Tell me who you are?"; "Tell me what life is?"; "Tell me what love is?'";"Tell me what another is?; "Who is dragging this old corpse along?"; " What was your face like before your parents were born?"etc. Most beginners and many others use the "Who am I?" formulation. It is basic. The practitioner works with his or her question throughout the retreat unless a resolution appears. After each period the partners change over. The rules are that the one who is questioning never says anything other than the question, only asks it a few times and maintains an open, interested demeanour without expressions of encouragement or scepticism. The one who answers is encouraged to respond in whatever way most truly expresses his or her state of mind. This need not be by words alone. The answerer is however asked to sustain contact with the partner through frequent eye contact. The five minute alternation imposes emotional discipline as each partner occupies in turn the complimentary role to the other. The exercise is repeated over a period of at least three days which, in the case of the Western Zen Retreat (5 days) also includes exercise, meditative sitting (zazen), meals, walks and periods in which the group process is reviewed.
Individuals usually spend many hours describing their various roles in life and their experiences in these roles. They then begin to express their feelings under a range of remembered conditions until some feeling is actually engendered in the present moment. To express that feeling, sadness, tears, joy, anguish, self-doubt directly is to give one self unreservedly to the other in trust. This is especially difficult when feelings of guilt or shame are around and a practitioner may spend many hours fearfully and cunningly editing his responses to the question. Finally, unless the practitioner is severely blocked, he trusts enough to share. Such sharing rapidly becomes mutual and personal secrets of a lifetime’s duration may be shared for the very first time with accompanying emotion.
It is a fact that the rehearsal of the past within the session does not have to be repeated once full expression has been given to it. It is as if the latent energy locked up in an issue has been released. The consequence is a sensation of increasing freedom and openness both of which probably relate to the rising levels of trust in the group. Often, however, the flow of expression finally dries up and there is a silence but no feeling of having resolved the question. This is called "crossing the desert". It requires sensitive reappraisal of all that has been said and maybe just silent musing and waiting. The role of the retreat director or "master" is to interview practitioners and to interact with them in such a way as to facilitate their process. Naturally this requires considerable skill and imagination. The role cannot be undertaken by an untrained or an inappropriately trained person.
When the practitioner is fortunate, has managed to focus the question well and penetrated blockages the result is a gradual or sudden awareness that he or she is everything that has been said and, since the negative energies associated with the themes of life have been ex-pressed, there is a glowing sense that what one is is indeed alright after all. There is a moment of relief and acceptance in which the question drops away. One "knows" who one is in the same way that one "knows" water only when she tastes it. Such a person may be very joyful and experience a number of states of consciousness that may be entirely new - a spacious clarity, bliss, love, emptiness; words which in truth have meaning only for those who have been to the same spaces.
Most of these experiences are moments of personal integration around a sense of total oneness with what one is. In Zen this is called the "one man."20 Such work facilitates but cannot in itself produce the experience known as satori or kensho in which self-reference itself disappears so that, "empty headed", one simply regards the world as it is, unfiltered, all personal bias gone. Such an experience, usually felt to be of inestimable value, may be said to arise through "grace" since any egoistic quest for it is bound to fail.
The ego cannot lose itself, it sometimes just gets lost. The practitioner is overcome by emptiness in much the way one may suppose that a blackbird is overcome by its song. Such rare moments are known as "enlightenment experiences". Because the texts consider these events desirable, practitioners naturally but mistakenly make a great effort to attain them: with the result that many such claims may be invalid. Most such experiences are probably of the "one man" type.
I believe this is also true of the results of the other meditation methods in Zen. Master Sheng Yen doubts, for example, whether many of the so called satoris in Japanese Rinzai Zen retreats are really such. In discussing the effects of the "Enlightenment Intensive" of Charles Berner, which uses the Communication Exercise exclusively, Roshi Kennet felt that most of them would have been" satori orgasms" - that is to say emotionally induced experiences. In both cases it seems likely that most such outcomes are likely to be experiences of the "one man" type induced by the stresses of such retreats. Some masters may collude in passing responses to koans as successes.
In fact all notion of success or failure in relation to kensho is illusory. Such events may occur spontaneously as the natural mysticism described in the writings of Walt Whitman, Richard Jefferies and Krishnamurti attests. Indeed many people may have had such an experience without being able to perceive its nature or its value. This is perhaps likely to be particularly true of those whose work in the country involves manual labour of skills requiring high present attention - rustic sages as it were.21 Training is thus significant after all and Master Sheng Yen argues that for an experience to merit the label "kensho" it needs to occur with reference to a Zen perspective, otherwise the conceptual frame of the event is insufficient.22
The process of Zen training appears to involve a number of steps:
1) Direct acknowledgement of how one is, however negative that maybe. One simply says "Yes" to the negativity and holds it in the frame of meditative focus.
2) When the matter is sufficiently explored, the negative emotional energies tend to resolve themselves and die down as the practitioner penetrates their meaning in an acceptance of personal inadequacy. This of course does not mean approval of oneself.
3) Once this acceptance is total then, in a natural humility, the practitioner simply knows who and what he is. In such acceptance, energy (chi or prana) flows free and a positive yet curiously apophatic23 self-affirmation arises. In time one can then face another question, "How is life fulfilled?"
Needless to say the habits of a lifetime are unlikely to be totally removed in one go and repeated training and the development of day to day mindfulness are also required. Those who think an experience of the type described is sufficient to break their habitual illusions are deluding themselves. To realise that Zen means long term cultivation is for practitioners in a hurry an unwelcome surprise. Furthermore, the very texts and ritualistic imagery of traditional Buddhism may need challenging in the way the ancient masters have always told practitioners to do.
It looks nonetheless as if the practise of Buddhist meditation when skilfully taught and directed24 may have a considerable effect in breaking up the social addictions that are the cause of so much misery. The stages of acknowledgement, acceptance, realisation in humility and self-affirmation have much in common with the Twelve Steps recommended as training in recovery from emotional dependency.25 These include: admitting that life has become unmanageable; making a fearless inventory of oneself, acceptance of one's negativities and awareness of their powerfully addictive nature; continual cultivation of such awareness, direct attempts to make amends in life and the placing of the whole endeavour within a spiritual context believing in the possibility of higher power and its influence for good. Here the Christian would refer to God, the Buddhist to the Three Refuges. These parallels suggest an important convergence between contemporary psychotherapeutic insight into the social processes of our time and the ancient wisdom of Buddhism. On this basis much could be built.
The pervasiveness of emotional dependency is no new thing. It invades the practice of spirituality at all levels. As Christians might say - the devil is cunning indeed. The sensationalism of the modern media and the gossipy desire for the exposure of fault at all levels in society - so characteristic of the mediocre attempting to justify themselves - lead to endless accounts of inauthenticity in church and state. A reading of Chaucer shows such faults to be no new thing but the modern addiction to journalistic social pornography has produced a debilitating and depressive process in which the potential for good in anything is undermined by its inevitable lack of perfection. Yet the press performs a valuable function. We cannot pretend to ourselves for long and the appearance of iniquities among Buddhist lamas and masters who should be the exemplars of their tradition has been a shock to many. We need to examine it critically.
In the Mahayana tradition the lama or master, the guru, was to be treated with total devotion as an infallible teacher. This was conceivable because such a one had attained enlightenment through his or her practice and received a transmission to teach from his own teacher, a person of the same quality. That which was to be transmitted was nothing less than the enlightenment of Buddha himself coming down through the ages. From this notion came the significance of lineage and the vital importance of ensuring the purity of transmission.
We have here at least the scriptural tradition. Individual teachers were often much more reticent, being aware of their faults and showing a genuine humility. Indeed it was this humility and personal discipline through loyalty to the terms of practice inherent in transmission that preserved the idea as valid in the training of others.
Clearly the validity of this viewpoint could only be maintained if the behaviour of lamas and masters was indeed inspiring and irreproachable. The Rimpoche, precious jewel, really had to be above the common herd if he was to function as the tradition demanded. Doubtless falls from grace were commonly observed but the institutional framework of peer supervision among monastics usually corrected or managed these faults and the regard with which common people treated their teachers suggests this was usually both successful and authentic.26
The arrival of such teachers in the West gave rise to problems. The fantasy world of the hippy generation, courageous and searching as it was, needed holy teachers to represent the sublime. There was a need for such a person to combat the horrors of our time and the post-modern shift in the Euro-American scene with its rampant scepticism and subscription to ethical relativity. There was need for spiritual dependency.
Tibetan and Japanese teachers came from a monastic world, highly disciplined, authoritarian, with supervision from peers and teachers alike and little opportunity to know the world outside the walls. The monasteries were supported by the local population and by land owners or nobility through social subscription, gifts of land, service to monks of many kinds and unquestioning faith.27 In the West such teachers found a questioning faith, multiple ethical and religious positions, no authority apart from self yet great dependency need. They themselves were usually cut off from both their own teachers and from their peers and the walls were paper thin. Furthermore, the most usual centres in which they worked were not monasteries. For the most part they were centres offering meditation instruction to lay people of varying ability, understanding and degrees of social neuroticism sustained by fluctuating and uncertain sources of finance much subject to shifts in fashion.
James Low and I once interviewed Zhabdrung Rimpoche in his north Indian home. Unlike many of the traditional Tibetans with whom we had been working, this Bhutanese lama, the reincarnation of former religious rulers of Bhutan, had led a troubled life of political exile for many years under risk of assassination. He was fluent in English and knew the West well. He was extremely critical of his fellow lamas who taught in the West. He argued that the tendency to create large organisations with a high profile lama as guru was typically Western and detrimental to true understanding. Such lamas become figures of fame, spiritual celebrities who jet set around the world from one idolising centre to another, spending little time in each and knowing their many followers only in occasional brief encounters.
"The true guru-pupil relationship is between two people who get to know one another intimately. The disciple can then be of value to the guru through reflecting the latter's faults. It is important that the disciple should be free to be critical from his side within his devotion and to share his feelings with his teacher. In this way a teacher keeps in touch with his own defects. Where a teacher retains a footing in his tradition his fellow monks will keep him in order. Where teachers in the West have cut this connection and gone flying off on their own they can substitute fluency in Western culture for an in depth understanding of their own original practice. Although a lama may have received initiation for personal practices unless he maintains them he can lose contact with their meaning. Such a person's spiritual growth has become superficial and lacking in comprehension of some of the difficulties involved in transmission. Initiations he gives may then have little power and may open their recipient to delusion."28
Much the same can be said of Zen masters coming from Japan. It is significant that so far Western Theravada monks have been immune from these criticisms. This is because they have established genuine disciplined monasteries in the West with tough old abbots well able to keep order and respect so that a deviant simply opts to disrobe. From this comparison there is perhaps much to be learnt.
From 1975 a series of scandals has erupted in both Zen and Tibetan institutions in America and to a lesser extent (there are fewer of them) in this country (UK).The details of these are mostly well known now and need not be reviewed except in outline here. The Western teachers had all received transmission from Japanese or Tibetan masters and therefore held the lineages they represented. Their followers, imbued with devotion, allowed these men to become authoritarian rulers, real bosses, of the institutions they ran. They received little feedback or criticism and were treated as beyond reproach. Soon covert sexual liaisons with students were revealed, relationships, literally cases of spiritual incest, commonly deeply disturbing and damaging to the young people involved. The extent of sexual predation by some of these teachers was extraordinary. Such activities became associated with lying and the misuse of funds. Once the scandal broke their institutions became divided by factionalism concerning the best course of action to take. Some individuals whose faith had been broken in this way became severely distressed not knowing where to turn. Sometimes elaborate cover ups were engaged upon, the teachers not being reprimanded or corrected by their own teachers or monastic order. Some Oriental teachers themselves also committed similar misdemeanours causing comparable anguish.29
A major puzzle revolves around the question how can it be that a person who has received from a master a recognition of his or her "enlightenment" and transmission to teach within a lineage behaves in this way? There seems to be no reason to doubt the original insight of such a person nor the fact that this was recognised by an Eastern teacher in eye to eye contact. The error lies in the supposition that past karma is wiped out by such an event. Zen scriptures are sometimes unclear on this issue but early Buddhism makes a clear distinction. Enlightenment is indeed a breakthrough beyond the self but afterwards the karmic traces reassert themselves and need constant attention. It is said that even the Buddha spent his life following enlightenment working through the traces of his former karma. A person who has had deep experience in Buddhism may remain problematic in his or her ethical dimension. Eastern masters have perhaps paid insufficient attention to the vital importance of precepts, personal values and vows in transmitting Zen in America. A brilliant insightful pupil may be ethically unsound in everyday life especially when subject to the stress of becoming a master without local supervision.
Master Sheng Yen distinguishes clearly between the recognition of kensho and the transmission to teach. The former confers no authority- it is simply a mutual understanding between master and disciple. The giving of transmission does not depend on this alone but also upon the moral character of the practitioner, his/her continued training, capacity to teach and opportunity to do so in terms of pupils being available and willing and the existence of material circumstances within which teaching may occur.30
The answer to these problems clearly lies in a radical overhaul of the structure of Western institutions led by teaching masters. Democratic criticism, the formation of advisory boards, open discussion of personal matters and careful auditing of finance are all obvious remedies. As important however, as Lachs has pointed out, is a critical appraisal of key themes in Mahayana Buddhism. What exactly does Master or Lama mean? What is a monk? Should the rules for monks and nuns be the same or different? What is transmission? What indeed is enlightenment?
Current Western scholarship, developing biblical criticism in the Buddhist context and in detailed study of history through ancient textual material, is revealing how the meaning of such terms has varied through the long Buddhist history thus raising questions as to the best way to interpret and use them today. Such scholarship is to be welcomed although the danger of developing an arid understanding without a life of devotion has to be avoided. Reducing bibles to "texts" can take the life out of them.
I cannot finish this section without an appreciation of those many outstanding teachers, Eastern and Western, men and women, who in their authenticity have brought and continue to bring the wisdom of Buddhism to our shores. This very critique of developments that many of them could not have suspected is a tribute to their success.
Although the Buddha left teachings for the laity he clearly focused primarily on the training of the Sangha, the body of monks or "left-home-ones." To become a monk one forsakes all the activities and relationships of lay life - celibacy, no companionship with the opposite sex, no drinks, perfumes, high beds, dancing etc. and etc. into a great list of restrictions. From a lay perspective the precepts of a monk appear to be highly onerous yet their intention is to give the practitioner an especial freedom - freedom from the addictions of lay life.
Yet joining the Sangha could never be the path for everyone because somebody had to provide support for it, this had to come from the donations of laity. Somebody had to procreate, have babies, run businesses, rule the country, provide food. None of this was the business of the Sangha. Yet the relationship was not intended to be one-sided. The Sangha in its turn benefited the laity through providing them with opportunities for earning merit through supplying monks and monasteries with the wherewithal of daily life, through giving sons to monasteries as novices, through financing long liturgies. Merit was a means whereby individuals could ensure a higher rebirth - and that usually meant birth into a higher caste. The old Indian system was still very much alive although the Buddha was clearly not one of its supporters and the Sangha was in principle at least open to all castes.
Was there a deeper meaning to "merit"? Did the selfless behaviour and psychological wisdom of the monks provide insight, peace of mind and education to the laity? Plausibly yes, although the scriptures do not emphasise this point. In traditional Ladakh monks often function as shaman in ceremonies to control weather, benefit crops, effect cures. The wisdom of Rimpoches is sought in the selection of lha-bas, the healer oracles who operate in trance, and many matters of local ethics and social valuation are settled in conference with monks. They are ethical arbiters within the society.
Yet, in contemporary Ladakhi villages monks are also judged for their goodness. False monks who sell monastery property, defraud their clients or behave excessively in any way are treated with scorn and disrespected. Maintenance of an authentic role is essential.
In Zen, monks work their own lands and do their own labour. It was this that allowed the Ch'an sects to survive various holocausts in China when other orders dependent on the receipt of gifts went under. Zen scriptures use labour as a motif in teaching. Dogen, who brought Soto Zen to Japan, learnt much from cooks whom he met in China. The way a monk worked illustrated his capacity for mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the means whereby monks sustain their discipline. As in the corrective training of the army "glasshouse" attention to detail is the focus of the disciplinary regime. Why should anyone find the monkish life attractive? It seems to be fact that many young monks coming from lowly families, as indeed did the Dalai Lama, suffer no harm from being reared after infancy by men alone. They often turn out to be remarkable meditators, scholars, teachers, friends with a surety of self-possession that most would admire. It is the motherliness of these mindful monks free from the daily anxieties of village mothers that perhaps plays a key role in achieving this.
The practice of meditative mindfulness within the freedom of sustained discipline takes a monk through the stages we have discussed above. He thus comes to know blissful states of conscious awareness that are rare among the laity. The disciplined freedom from social addiction allows a relative "enlightenment" that gives them an unique charisma and beneficial social influence in a strife torn world.
Modern Western Buddhists rarely contemplate becoming monks nor as yet are there many suitable institutions to receive them. Only the Theravada goes quite vigorously down this path. Western practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism and Zen are predominantly members of the laity.
What is Lay Zen?31 A lay practitioner has not given up the pursuit of material delights and continues to "keep up with the Jones" in a social competitiveness that may creep into his Dharma expression. Yet he or she pretends to follow scriptures and practises clearly designed for "left- home-ones". It is little wonder that they may find the practices unrewarding or difficult when the rest of life is devoted to work, play, arguing with the wife or worrying about the children. Such practitioners may become "hobbyist" Buddhists32 who may soon depart to investigate some more promising path enhancing in some subtle way their spiritual egoism.
The dependency of the Western laity on their teachers is understandable since they give themselves so little opportunity to actually experience Dharma practice. For a lay person the only way to approximate to monastic training and hence gain some of the insights available to monastics is through intensive retreat, not once but many times. They then find that change becomes apparent. Not only do they begin to " taste the chocolate", as Lama Thubten Yeshe used to say, that is benefit from conscious states of joy and peace, but they begin to recalibrate their lives quite naturally around actions beneficial to themselves and, crucially, also to others. Life gets happier whatever falling aside may also from time to time occur. The vows begin to take on meaning as progressive change becomes apparent. The illusion of chasing enlightenment experiences or expecting spiritual rewards and the favours of charismatic masters subsides in a realisation that the grind of cultivation is essential. In such authentic practice monk and layman become indistinguishable in the perspective of Zen.
Many of those who attend meditation classes at Buddhist centres are coming to benefit themselves through improving their self-image. To assume an identity as a Buddhist makes one feel better as a member of a positive group in the swim of the current "turn on". Unaware of Buddhist teaching they do not see this as merely another form of the addiction to self-interest.
Others come for their health or to reduce mental stress. Certainly meditation is relaxing, may save one from a heart attack, and gives one a new perspective on life. And none of this lacks merit. These are sound things to do - but they are not Buddhism - and in particular they are not Zen.
Even those who practice intensively and come on difficult retreats requiring will power and disciplined determination may not yet have any insight into the teachings. It is thus vital that anyone training in Zen quickly attempts to gain some insight into the message of the Buddhas. Basic Buddhism is fortunately expressed in a number of relatively simple and memorable formulae- the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Way, the Four Vows, the Ten Precepts, the Principle of Interdependent Causation. These need digestion and contemplation. From here topics such as Impermanence, Emptiness, and the meaning of meditative practice may be entered from a firm base.
The Dharma never constitutes dogma in the way that the Bible or the Koran is often used. Buddhist teachings are suggestions, signposts for those who wish to test them out. The Buddha's last injunction was not to follow his teachings mindlessly but to "work out your own salvation with diligence". The practice gradually becomes more meaningful and one can test it out in day to day living. Although reading books and scholarship can be helpful, we are in the West today beyond the book addiction phase of development. Opportunities for real practice and receiving sound teaching are now available in most cities of the realm and there are a range of teachers to evaluate. Hobbyism does not express authentic interest for it is merely playing games with spiritual ambitions.
At a weekly meeting someone comes up to me and says something like-"I'm sorry John I have not been able to do my evening half hour all week!" Others may only attend retreats when a famous or charismatic Eastern master is running it. Needless to say such persons find retreat more difficult than they need. Someone else may object -" People have troublesome enough lives as it is – why make retreats so difficult for them. We could get up at 6 am rather than 4. You could attract more participants that way!"
All such attitudes miss the point of Zen. The ego craves self-esteem. We want to do things that make us feel well regarded. When one friend found that he was not going to become a Zen rabbi quickly on retreat he gave it all up. The toughness of Zen is deliberate for it provides in microcosm those confrontations to self that are always with us - but gives us them in a context where they demand recognition and reflective management through insight Little things like worrying about the place one will get at the meal table: Did I have enough to eat? Am I going to have time for a shower? Do I have time for a banana before Shi fu closes the meal? Can I have a pee within the next half hour? Can I stand this aching knee for another ten minutes? Oh Oh When will the bell go? Poor me, I am such a noble sitter. Such questions are not nonsensical but the way they invade the mind shames one into a recognition of their addictive nature. The training is to "let through, let be, let go". Negativity arises, it is comprehended, it is released. Meditation continues. Not at all easy. The mill wheel of the addicted mind spins on taking its time to come to rest. One begins to learn patience- with oneself.
Such training in self-recognition not only reveals gradually the benefits of intensive practice but can also be transferred into everyday circumstances - shopping, washing up, going to work, whatever it may be. And it is for this reason that on retreat one is told to be "present" not only on one's cushion but when cutting carrots or filling oil lamps. I was once reminded that in washing up the enormous pots and pans in Throssel Hole Priory kitchen that I should do it as if I was arranging an altar. The mind should never be somewhere else. When no-one is cutting carrots yet carrot cutting is happening in clarity and with precision one is making progress. The rest is idle self- concerned chatter. If one does these things insights sometimes come quite suddenly, surprising one with joy.
Success is not success. Failure is not failure. Someone who has experiences on retreat that are deeply rewarding is often at great risk. Self-congratulation sets in, followed perhaps by comparison with those others struggling away not knowing who they are and then by a subtle pride that immediately denies itself. Master Sheng Yen says that pride and low self-esteem are the opposite ends of the same road - the road of ego involvement. To get off that road altogether is often difficult for the successful practitioner. Perhaps fortunately, good experiences are commonly followed by bad ones. A wonderful insight-yielding retreat may be followed by a gloomy depressive one. The practitioner simply has to learn, often painfully, that that's the way things are - not only in Buddhism but in everyday life. As is said Zen is no different from everyday life. It is the attitude that counts.
There was once an individual who had a profound experience which he decided was enlightenment. He therefore proclaimed himself a Zen master and began to run workshops. These were powerful events for he indeed had talents as a group facilitator. I was phoned by one of his adherents asking did I want to meet a real Zen Master. I found this man to have experienced no training under a qualified Zen master, to have never attended retreat, to have no respect for lineage or tradition and to be touchy when faced with searching questions. Such a person is like someone who awards himself a cap after playing a practice game.
Another individual who had trained well with the Tibetans and who had undoubted attainments both in meditative skill and teaching ability suddenly began to promote himself through various assumed titles right up to Rimpoche. Since he actually had some wisdom- why these games? Here an addiction to personal image would seem to be rampantly in play. The inauthenticity is damaging to the lineage in which he works.
A fine Tibetan teacher, trained in Lhasa, has reputedly taken to having himself described as a Buddha. Need I say more. When such affectations can overcome even the great and good it behoves us lesser mortals to take care. Self-deluding teachers, self-deluding helpers, self-deluding pupils are all caught up in a linked set of difficulties.
Authentic self-acceptance has nothing to do with either pride or self-reproach. It is the straightforward recognition of how things are. The practitioner simply moves along as best he or she can with whatever presents itself. Occupying the present with such presence is authentic being.
Buddhist practice begins and ends with honesty, but this honesty is not easy to achieve. There is ordinary honesty and insightful honesty. The latter arises when through some form of training the illusions that bedevil one's life have at least to a degree been recognised and some progress in relieving them achieved. We have argued that much of human behaviour is inauthentic in the sense that insightful honesty is not available. In Buddhism this is the state of "not seeing" or ignorance. In both Buddhism and within the modern concern at the state of society, individuals are seen to be often addicted to patterns of thought, feeling and behaviour that have arisen in some familial or social circumstance in the past, patterns the Buddhists refer to as karma. The pain involved in coming to self-recognition often seems extraordinary and working with it may remain problematic.
The attempt to reach the "enlightenment" of a straightforward relationship with the world involves practice on a hard path full of illusory successes and failures. Sometimes whatever a practitioner does it seems to fail or to have no effect. Sometimes success leads to another experience of failure. The mind is extremely tricky - a maddened monkey as some have said. Whether one is attempting to work with oneself or with others it is never possible to be sure that the path taken is the right one. One time, walking in those wonderful hills above Green Gulch Farm north of San Francisco, I was discussing how to teach Zen with the Abbot of the monastery there, Reb Anderson. He remarked that he had found that if you say one thing it is bound to be wrong and if you say its opposite you will find that is wrong too. Whatever you say is likely to be wrong. To be silent may be no help either. One simply goes ahead in trust as best one may. Here is the fundamental honesty of the Zen position. You try it and see - in a trust that knows you may be wrong. Only the authentic self can do that in the faith that has lasted two thousand five hundred years. As some master said in defining Zen-"One great mistake after another."
1 Scheaf, A.W. 1985. Co-dependence: -Misunderstood -Mistreated. Understanding and healing the addictive process. Harper. San Francisco.
2 See Low J, 1990. Buddhist developmental psychology. In: Crook, J. H. and D. Fontana (eds) Space in Mind: East-West psychology and Contemporary Buddhism. Element Books. Warminster. (Distributed by Penguin. London)
3 See discussions in Crook, J.H. and J, Low. 1996 in press. The Yogins of Ladakh. Motilal Banarsidass. Delhi.
4 See discussion in Buswell, R. E.1983. The Korean Approach to Zen: The collected works of Chinul. University of Hawaii Press. Honolulu.
5 Lachs, S. 1994. A slice of Zen in America. New Ch'an Forum Issue 10. 1994.
6 Winnicot, D. W. 1988. Human Nature. Free Association Books. London
Winnicot. D. W. 1990.The Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment. Karnac books. London.
Guntrip, H. 1983. Schizoid phenomena, object relations and the self. Hogarth Press. London.
Miller, Alice. 1990. The Untouched key. Tracing childhood trauma in creativity and destructiveness. Virago. London.
For a wider ranging anthropologically oriented discussion on the nature of the self see Carrithers, M. Collins, S and S. Lukes. The Category of the Person. Cambridge U.P. Cambridge.
7 Bugenthal, J. F. T. 1965. The search for Authenticity: An existential-analytic approach to Psychotherapy. Holt, Rinehart and Winston. New York. p32.
8 Bugenthal, see note 7 above.
9 Batchelor, S. 1983. Alone with Others: An existential approach to Buddhism. Grove. New York.
10 Harré, R and G. Gillett. 1994. The Discursive Mind. Sage. London
11 Schaef. A. W. loc cit.
12 Wegscheider Cruse, S. 1984. Co-dependency-the therapeutic void. In: Co-dependency - an emerging issue. Health Communications. Pompano Beach. Florida.
13 See discussions by R. Subby and others in Co-dependency - an emerging issue. Health Communications. Pompano Beach. Florida.
14 Whitfield, C.1984. Co-dependency -an emerging issue among professionals. In: Co-dependency- an emerging issue. Health Communications. Pompano beach. Florida.
15 See for discussion: Trivers, R 1971. The Evolution of Reciprocal Altruism. Q. Rev. Biol. 46.35-57.
Trivers, R.1985.Social evolution. Benjamin/Cummings. Menlo Park Ca.
Byrne, R.W and A. Whiten. 1988. Machiavellian Intelligence. Social expertise and the evolution of intellect in Monkeys, Apes and Humans. Clarendon. Oxford.
16 Crook, J. H. 1995. Psychological Processes in Cultural and Genetic Coevolution. In: Jones, E and V. Reynolds. (Eds) Survival and Religion: Biological Evolution and Cultural Change. Wiley. London. For a wide ranging discussion see Berman, M. 1989 Coming to our senses; body and spirit in the hidden history of the West. Unwin. London.
17 See Ling, T.1981.The Buddha's Philosophy of Man Early Indian Buddhist Dialogues. Dent. London pp71-85 (translation)
18 For a contemporary exploration of this viewpoint see Blackmore, S. 1995. Paying attention. New Ch'an Forum. Issue 12.
19 Berner created this approach through comparing the practice of zen interview with a master with co-counselling. He invented a group workshop called the "Enlightenment Intensive" which uses this method exclusively. I was taught this method and to run intensives by Jeff Love in the 1970s. Berner has made some revisions to it since and such events are still offered from time to time. Berner has provided a manual for those directing such events.
20 The "True man of the Way." See Schloegl I. 1975. The Zen Teaching of Rinzai. Shambala. Berkeley.
21 Crowden, J. 1996. Mind in Agriculture. New Ch'an Forum. Issue 12. The term 'rustic sages' I owe to John Clark's 1983 A Map of Mental States. Routledge and Kegan Paul.
22 Master Sheng Yen is the director of the Institute of Chung Hwa Buddhist Culture in New York and Taipei. He leads retreats in New York and has done so three times at my centre in Wales. I have participated in ten of his training retreats and continue to work with him. He has published many books on Ch'an.
23 Apophatic: Stating things negatively as in "no-mind" or "emptiness."
24 This caveat requires close examination as the next section of this article will make clear.
25 Schaef, A. W. loc cit p 30
26 Shengpen Hookham writes to me (in litt) that any qualified lama (guru), whether a recognised incarnate "tulku" or not, can use the title "rimpoche" but, although there are no hard and fast rules, this usage is normally bestowed only on a high ranking teacher. Peer pressure means that teachers would not normally adopt such a title unless they felt their peers would support it. Peer pressure is probably mostly indirect. Lamas do tend to behave in more culturally subscribed ways in the company of other Tibetans. There is much more direct supervision among Tibetan yogins. "Yogis seem to recognise each other on a deeply intuitive level and advise each other from that standpoint." Yogis of high reputation are known and sought out for instruction. Among yogis the title "rimpoche" is rarely used and "tulkus" as such are of little interest to them because the latter have not often received yogic training.
27 For examples and review see the chapters on monastic life in Crook, J. H. and H. Osmaston (Eds). 1994. Himalayan Buddhist Villages. Bristol University and Motilal Banarsidass. Delhi.
28 Crook, J.H. and J. Low.1996. In press. The Yogins of Ladakh. Motilal Banarsidass. Delhi. p 248.
29 See Lachs, S. 1994. loc cit.
30 See Sheng Yen, Master.1994. Transmitting the Lamp. New Ch'an Forum. Issue 9.
31 Over the last year the Bristol Ch'an Group has been asking this question and members are attempting tentative answers. Some American masters and their followers have also addressed this issue. See New Ch'an Forum, Issues 10, 11,12. Also: Abe, M. 1985. Zen and Western thought. MacMillian. London Kraft, K.1988. Zen: tradition and transition - an overview of Zen in the modern world. Rider London. Tworkov, H. 1989. Zen in America; profiles of five teachers. North Point Press. San Francisco.
32 A term used by Simon Child in his article above. New Ch'an Forum Issue 13.
I am grateful to all those who have helped me realise the extent of my own emotional dependencies and led me to sustain continuing work on such vexation. Carol Evans introduced me to the current literature on co- dependence and additionally Ken Jones, Peter Reason, S. K. Hookham and John Pickering have commented helpfully on the text. My understanding of Zen, such as it is, owes much to Master Sheng Yen whose exemplary personal stance and masterly teachings are an inspiration in these troubled times. An especial debt is owed to all those hard working practitioners who attend the demanding retreats at the Maenllwyd and whose resilience and authenticity command my respect and appreciation. To work with you all is an inspiration in an often difficult task.
Grey stone mountain
and the gathering fogs
Drip drip the gutters
and the gurgling stream.
Two ravens out of the mirk
strut about warily
not seeing the face behind the window,
deftly grabbing a wad of rice
fly off into cloud.
Dark light at noon
no sign of sun,
full moon falteringly filtering
through the dismal night.
Warm and muggy
washing itself away.
Not very good weather we're having!
Better 'an snow tho.
Not so sure
Cold's a better time
ice and hoar frost
S'long as you're not driving isn't it?
Can't expect much else, mind you
the time of the year.
I always say!
Damp's no good for the feet like
but woolly coats does 'em fine.
Look cheerful enough don't ey?
Up on your tod then - nobody with you?
Meditation is it?
Ah - wri-ting too then. Well
quiet enough up here
Time to get on with it-
up the hill for a look round.
Missus'l be waiting for her tea.
Til next time then - is it.
day barely day
cold wind slicing the grasses
puddles iced, walking with caution
ears and fingers freeze.
I puff on my hands.
clings to the hill side trees,
no sky at all, dull light
draining colour from the land.
Deep in their roots
bare twigs clutching at the wind.
Hull down in hollows
sheep are motionless,
backs to breeze
shrammed heifers stand like statues,
where no sun rises
hoar frost lies on the land.
Down a hedgerow
evening Blackbird squawks
Crows pass lolling on the wind
A time for ghosts
howling down the whitened hills
maddened in the grey freeze.
Deep in my hearth now
frosty fire tongues leap
at the coming night.
John Crook 1993-1996