Saturday, September 26, 2009

Benevolence, Pride & Fear

Benevolence
I learned yesterday that the intention for my Dharma name was Blazing Turtle Bringing Benevolence. I haven't gotten to the bottom of the mystery yet. I don't know if 労連 (which appears in most dictionaries as meaning Labor Union, but the Kanji can be more casually read as Work Group) is a compound that can *also* mean "Bringing Benevolence", or if two different characters meaning "Bringing Benevolence" that can also be pronounced "rou-ren" should have been used. I've sort of become fond of "Blazing Turtle Work Group" even though it lacks a certain Buddhist poesy. Bringing Benevolence seems to set an expectation higher than what I am comfortable with.

Fear & Pride (or do I mean Vanity?)
I've been contemplating visiting TLZC (the local Zen center) to sit. As I do this, I find I am overwhelmed by fear that I will get something wrong. I'll enter the Zendo with the wrong foot. I'll gassho instead of shashu. I'll go to pee at the start of kinhin instead of the end. I'll say Chodia Kesa no Ge outloud and with the "wrong" English translation instead of silently to myself. I will screw up, and the people of TLZC, the ones in the know around me, will sigh heavily and give me that look of "okay, I guess I'll have to take time out of my pefection to tell you what to do," and I will feel miserable.....and what is really ringin my bell is all of that is freaking fiction. Let me say that again...there is nothing in my actual experience with actual real live buddhists at Zen centers I have met that come even close to that sort of attitude.

Where the hell is that stuff coming from?

I'm not talking nervous here. I'm talking down right, can't take a next step fearful. I actually found some petty excuses bail on my plan and did not to go to TLZC this morning because I was dreading it, and anxious, and then I pulled the bow and shot the "second arrow" into myself and started getting on my on case for being anxious and for not doing what I should because I can't keep on not going and meeting real Buddhist people face to face because just being a digital Buddhist is not really "it" I mean all those cool old stories and koan are from real people talking to each other so there's no way I can even think of myself as a Buddhist if I don't get my ass down to temple, and pronto! {big breath after manic tirade}

Well, I know part of that is old old karma that I haven't worked with yet. What I'm trying to say is it's childhood shite but I hate how that sounds like it's someone else's responsibility. It's all mine now, but its tuff work as many of you certainly know.

A big part of it is also my pride and vanity. I really am too young a buddhist (not my *age*, but my time in buddhism) to be wearing a rakusu. I whipped that puppy out and did it the *real authenic* way with rags I sewed together. I didn't mumble special words while I stitched 'cause I was on a schedule. But I did it so quick 'cause I wanted to get a pretty famous Zen preist to do jukai for me. What a score that was, eh? Not your run of the mill, local Zazenkai guy who would probably make me wait and sit for a while before I did it. Not some place where I would have to "sew under" the guidance of someone. I was completely off teacher-grid and I got it anyway ha-ha "system" take that!

That's not the complete picture of my jukai experience, of course. Many of my sincere values are manifest in that ole rakusu. It was important to me that old times (e.g. Dogen) said a kesa should come from "rags" and, to the best of my ability, mine did. I think Buddhism should be poor, and "common." I am very glad I painted a picture of Buddha for my Jukai instead of buying one. I had to think alot about the dude and the meaning of bowing to a picture of him, in the process of painting, and I think that was valuable. And most of all, the support I recieved from my brothers and sisters in the digital dharma was extremely "real" and important to me.

But even though I thought I was keeping a tight watch on myself, I think now, in retrospect, I way over did the pride and fame bit by having my Jukai with Brad. He did his darndest to say no, but I insisted. My bad, of course, not his.

So I have a nice rakusu that I really think has some good vibes in it. But though I've proudly expounded Chodai Kesa no Ge, I really don't understand it, or believe it. I don't really experience "formless field of happiness" yet. I don't see myself as *devoutly* wearing the Tathagata's teachings. To tell the truth, I don't even know exactly what they are. I maybe know some of the basics, but not ALL of them. And I really don't understand my role in saving all living beings.

So maybe I'm projecting all this scorn onto TLZC because I think much of my Buddhist practice is a sham. That seems about right.

There's also this apparently sadistic side of Zen lore that scares the kid in me I think (resonance with childhood woes). I say 'apparently' cause maybe its really okay and its just my prejudice mis-interpreting. We've all heard of the stuff of students being told to put up with discomfort if they want to "get anywhere" with Buddhism. I was in the San Jose Kinokuniya bookstore the other day and picked up a recent book written by a Japanses dude who spent a few months in Eiheiji. The page I landed on was him telling of a new monk in there who had broken a leg as a kid and so was having trouble with full lotus. One of the head guys said he better tie his legs together in full lotus to get it right. Full lotus is the ONLY right way. That crap makes me mad, and scares me. Where's the compassion? Where's the spirit of gentle Ryokan (a hero of mine long before I new anything about Buddhism)? No wonder so many monks run off to hermitages to do their zazen. All that socio-political no pain no gain zen bullshit is absent when you're by yourself (unless you bring it with you in your head, like I often do).

So I've got a ton to work with here. My own crap...and the institutional zen crap.

I'll let myself engage TLZC a bit more slowly. Maybe join them for their Buddha-flix tonight. Less formal, less pressure (I put on myself), and I'll get to experience real people, more than likely being genuinely friendly and compasionate.

Bottom line...this is all mine. I rushed in too quick. I got tangled in pride. I will relax into a "turning step". With thanks to all you...the Sangha that supports me.

4 comments:

Jeremy said...

This will definitely help others to keep themselves in check...including myself! It seems sometimes "social proof" & hearing it from others..... is the only thing that gets us to recognize things we [think or do or say] that might get in our own way. Great post! Thanks for posting!

Jordan said...

Hey Lauren, I liked work gang too. Oh well.

I think we all can get that fear of being found to be frauds. Even if we're practicing with a flesh and blood sangha. But if we hold onto some fixed idea, than yeah, were a fraud. But being a fraud and knowing it is a whole lot better than being a fraud and not knowing it. Still, when your sitting, thats real and cant be faked. The rest is just avoiding doing evil and doing the many good things.

Al Baxter said...

Hey Lauren, so much of your post resonated with me. You put into words a lot of the things I feel. I constantly feel this pull to attend Austin Zen Center but I'm worried about not fitting in there. I also love Ryokan. :) I see you're in Texas so if you ever want to sit sometime, let me know.

http://www.dharmacore.com

Lauren said...

Jeremy,
"keep themselves in check" might be a little harsh. How about "interested in how you work"?

Jordan
"Just avoiding doing evil..." Yeah, like the better doctors we should all strive to first do no harm.

Al,
Thanks for stopping by. See my later post. Go easy on yourself. Don't go to AZC for the full formal sit right off the bat. Maybe ease into their informal evening sits, or their beginners intro, or their casual events like "buddha flix." They are really easy going people despite the fears I paint them with.

I'll keep the sit invite in mind, thanks.