Saturday, November 1, 2014

Not even the Japanese are Japanese anymore.

In discussing the migration of Soto Zen Buddhism from Japan to San Francisco, I mentioned that Zen came from Korea (or China) and was already transformed by time and culture from the ancient Buddhism of Nepal.

That is to say, we need not worry that Japanese Zen is "pure" and that San Francisco Zen is currupted. Such distinctions add little value to the conversation. What matters, as students, is taking ownership of our OWN research and understanding of the Dharma (or recitations of the Buddha).

San Francisco Zen is no longer Japanese in the same way that not even the Japanese are Japanese anymore.

"A decade ago a new generation emerged in Japan: the shinjinrui, the “new human species.” The term described Japanese who seemed to be a people apart."

I have previously commented about this complex subject of Buddhism crossing cultural boundaries HERE.

So, where do we begin?

One of many places is HERE.

The idea is to translate the archaic Nepali to modern English while maintaining cognitive equivalents.

In other words, where the ancient idea might have been: "While he sat under the tree of enlightenment a sense of understanding emerged..." a rendering of "While seated beneath the Ficus Religiosa, a light turned on in the head of Siddharta Shakyamuni Gautama."

It is NOT the Buddha's head that we should worry about!

Buddha was an early notorious psychologist. He though deeply about the human condition AND he thought deeply about thinking about the human condition. Psychologists call this metacognition - thinking about thinking (or questioning our own biased perceptions).

"Do not go by reports (repeated hearing), by legends, by traditions, by rumours, by scriptures, by surmise, conjecture and axioms, by inference and analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by specious reasoning or bias toward a notion because it has been pondered over, by another's seeming ability, or by the thought, 'This monk (contemplative) is our teacher."

However, Kalamas, when you yourselves know: "Such and such things are unskilful (bad); blameworthy; criticized by the wise; and if adopted and carried out lead to harm and ill and suffering," you need to abandon them."

In Pali, Buddha's reply is recorded thus:

Ma anussavena.
Do not believe something just because it has been passed along and retold for many generations.
[Simpler: Do not be led by what you are told.]

Ma paramparaya.
Do not believe something merely because it has become a traditional practice.
[Do not be led by whatever has been handed down from past generations.]

Ma itikiraya.
Do not believe something simply because it is well-known everywhere.
[Do not be led by hearsay or common opinion.]

Ma Pitakasampadanena.
Do not believe something just because it is cited in a text.
[Do not be led by what the scriptures say]

Ma takkahetu.
Do not believe something solely on the grounds of logical reasoning.
[Do not be led by mere logic.]

Ma nayahetu.
Do not believe something merely because it accords with your philosophy.
[Do not be led by mere deduction or inference.]

Ma akaraparivitakkena.
Do not believe something because it appeals to "common sense".
[Do not be led by considering only outward appearance.]

Ma ditthinijjhanakkhantiya.
Do not believe something just because you like the idea.
[Do not be led by preconceived notions (and the theory reflected as an approval)]

Ma bhabbarupataya.
Do not believe something because the speaker seems trustworthy.
[Do not be led by what seems acceptable; do not be led by what some seeming believable one says.]

Ma samano no garu ti.
Do not believe something thinking, "This is what our teacher says".
[Do not be led by what your teacher tells you is so.]