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What's wrong with Zen?

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By Jon Rappoport

April 5, 2014

Nothing is wrong with Zen, except the people who practice it.

That's a joke. Sort of.

In the modern style, especially in America, Zen is mostly meditation, and more meditation,
and more meditation, and the point of it seems to be to get to a zero point, where
you can watch your own mind, your own thoughts, and finally, without effort, stay
separate from them, separate from all that radio static, and separate also from
your own unbidden parade of emotions that swing by with tooting horns and crashing
symbols and clacking drums and gawking dancing clowns.

A laudable goal.

But on the whole, how many people who do this wind up becoming passive? That's
the thing. People tend to opt for quietness.

Whereas, the whole idea ought to be: launch a tremendous amount of dynamic action
from the platform of zero-stillness.

Because stillness as a way of life sooner or later begins to disintegrate.

In original Zen, there were ordeals. The teacher gave the student things to do,
tasks which eventually became absurd, without discernible purpose. The teacher
spoke to the student in riddles and wisecracks. The teacher drove the student
into a state of desperation, because the student's rational faculties, which were
obsessively involved in systems, couldn't supply answers to questions which defied

The teacher did whatever he had to do to bring the student out over the edge of
the cliff, where in mid-air, there were no foundations...and the student felt terror.
But the teacher persisted.

And then, in one explosive moment, the student found himself floating in the air.
He saw there was no need to explain his existence. There was no need to place
a veil between himself and the present moment. He didn't die. He was, finally,

Who knows how this radical approach actually worked out in the many cloisters and
huts and cottages where it was practiced, where the stories grew and expanded in
their retelling.

But compare the image of silent monks in robes, their heads shaved, gliding through
temples, with this old Zen story about a teacher and a prospective student (from

A soldier named Nobushige came to Hakuin, and asked: "Is there really a paradise
and a hell?"

"Who are you?" inquired Hakuin.

"I am a samurai," the warrior replied.

"You, a soldier!" exclaimed Hakuin. "What kind of ruler would have you as his guard?
Your face looks like that of a beggar."

Nobushige became so angry that he began to draw his sword, but Hakuin continued:
"So you have a sword! Your weapon is probably much too dull to cut off my head."

As Nobushige drew his sword Hakuin remarked: "Here open the gates of hell!"

At these words the samurai, perceiving the master's discipline, sheathed his sword
and bowed.

"Here open the gates of paradise," said Hakuin.

Those old teachers were tough characters. They weren't merely meditation instructors.

There was another aspect of Zen, which survives to this day. It could be summarized
as: "become the other." The archer becomes the target. He becomes the bow, the
arrow, and the target.

The runner becomes the road and the air and the sky and the clouds. The artist
becomes the canvas.

The theater of merging with the other.

And as in any theatrical setting, the actor can, by choice, merge with, and un-merge
from, his role.

But again, in these times, the main thrust of Zen teaching seems to be meditation,
and the culture of stillness, quietude, and passive acceptance.

I'm not saying the meditation is easy to do. It isn't. But somehow, its environment
has become circumscribed.

This is unsurprising in America, where every philosophic and spiritual import from
Asia has been distorted and watered down for the seeker-consumer. The overriding
intent has been to create The Quiet Person.

The world of action has been painted as too disturbing to the "student seeking inner
peace." Therefore, retreat. Therefore, set up a buffer zone within which all is
harmonized and balanced.

Where is the Zen now that sends people out into the world to revolutionize it down
to its core, that stimulates the desire to find and invent a Voice that will shatter
delusions and create new realities that have never been seen before?

If the moment of insight, satori, doesn't instigate this, what good is it?

How can satori be "seeing into one's true nature," if the result is a wan gaze out
on a uniform landscape of soft-boiled bupkis?

The answer is obvious. Breaking apart, exploding the primary illusions and fears
that hold an individual in check is not the goal of most Zen as it is now practiced.
That objective has been replaced with the false promise that some ultimate "ordinary
consciousness" will reconcile the soul with itself.

The way this promise is offered and the way it is taught and the way its surrounding
social culture is embroidered is a dud. Dead on arrival.

It's time for a few new koans.

What is the real sound of David Rockefeller? What does Henry Kissinger say when
somebody finally puts him in a small bottle with a cork on it? How does an android
disguise himself as a human?

If I need a Zen teacher, I'll go to Henny Youngman: "A doctor gave a man six months
to live. The man couldn't pay his bill, so he gave him another six months."

In the beginning, the whole point of Zen was to shake things up, not calm them down.

The master assumed a new student was an annoying clod. But that doesn't comfortably
mesh with today's "tolerant culture." Today, annoying clods are a special interest

Silence, as a key Zen feature, isn't only about a desired inner condition now.
It's about a synthetic attitude. So show me a temple where the meditation room
is outfitted with a few dozen giant TV screens. The students do their meditation
while CNN, Christingle Matthews, Sean Hannity, Oprah, news-boy-on-a bike Brian Williams,
the vampire Scott Pelley, don't-cry-for-me-America Diane Sawyer, Hawaii Five-O,
the Shopping Channel, Pawn Stars, Jimmy Fallon and his screaming pubescent audience,
and four or five Spanish soaps are going full blast.

That would be a start.

Or throw on 20 or 30 TED lectures simultaneously---prancing grasshoppers extolling
the future of technology.

I submit that if the one of the ancient Zen teachers walked into a modern American
Zen cloister today, that's exactly what he'd do. Turn on a few hundred TV sets,
computers, and mobile devices and say, "Okay, try being quiet in the middle of

Another Koan for our times: What did Bill Gates look like before he was Alfred E

Zen is sacred? What? When was it ever sacred? Soft bells, empty halls?

No, you must have Zen confused with a funeral home.

Every age has its massive collection of heavily loaded apple carts, and the job
of Zen is to overturn them. When up is down, and insanity is called normal, that's
where you begin.

Jon Rappoport

Posted on: 2014/5/9 11:42
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Re: What's wrong with Zen?

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Posted on: 2014/5/9 21:18
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