08 January 2011

A Modest Proposal

My one daughter, when she was nine or so, took it upon herself to clean up the family's speech.  On an 8.5x11 piece of paper she wrote:

Instead of nibble say small bite
Instead of tidy say clean
[there was one more, but I forget it now]

There’s a lot of chatter these days, both in my local sangha and in the wider Buddhist world, about the nature of enlightenment and how supposedly deeply insightful men and women can turn out to be cheats, thieves, abusers and liars.

One can pass all the known koans and capping phrases and still be an asshole. 

One can have mastered all the sutras and still widely miss the mark of common decency.

One can have perfected robe-wearing, Dogen-reading and ceremonial minutiae and still be a slick salesman aiming at nothing so much as parting people from their money.  (“Fridays with Roshi” for $15.00?  The Catholics might as well put a debit card swiper on the confessional box!).

Instead of "enlightenment" how about if we say, "ego-attrition"?  Instead of "kensho" how about if we say, "dropped a big chunk of self"?  Instead of "passed the first (or xth) koan" how about if we say, "got a little more unstuck from one's attachment to self" (and make sure that passing a koan means exactly that and not something like "had a nice chat about what the koan might represent")? 

Might spare many the pitfalls of (self-)congratulation over something that, really, isn't anything at all!

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