Taking Zen to the Laundry Mat
by Scott Bradley
by Scott Bradley
I would like to take Zen to the laundry mat, throw it into one of those big industrial-sized machines with lots of (biodegradable) detergent and cleanse it of all its religious jargon and paraphernalia. No more Buddha! No more bodhisattvas, Kannon, devas, demons, kalapas, hells, Universal Mind, holy sutras, sangha, blah, blah, blah...
It's not like Zen doesn't sometimes try to launder itself. "Kill the Buddha" is just such an awareness of the distraction of religious fixation. But it never really succeeds, at least externally. I suspect that this is the case because those within the tradition do not have my hang-ups (and I recognize them as such); they are comfortable with all this mythological blabber (just as I am comfortable with my own).
What makes matters worse, in my opinion, is that those of my own cultural context who become conversant in Zen also become enamored of all this religious and culturally dependent paraphernalia. Irrespective of meaning, there is great profundity in 32 letter Sanskrit words full of unpronounceable (for the uninitiated) multi-consonants and numerous diacritical marks. What to wear? A black robe, of course! Or make that orange, if you're a Hare Krishna. Or red, if you're a sanyasin. Or white, if you're a Sikh-guru-wannabe. And don't forget the other accouterments — the tuft of hair, the turban, the beads, the serious mien, the slow movements...
At least Zen has no special day. Could the economy withstand another holy day? Already the Jews have Saturday, the Christians Sunday, and the Muslims Friday. One more, and we'd never get anything done.
I understand that identifying with the religious-culture of an adopted religion helps one to immerse within it. Only, for some reason, I would have hoped more of Zen — perhaps because I suspect it has indeed found a relatively honest and effective path.
Okay, the final spin cycle's finished; let's see what we have. Gee, all the essentials are still there! So there is possibly awakening without belief and mythology!
You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.