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            No in-depth disclosure of your friendly tea server would be complete without an investigation into my ideas and practice involving the Buddha-Dharma, or the teachings of the Buddha.  I practice Zen meditation twice a day inspired by the forms of the Soto Zen tradition.  This method was described by Soto’s founder, Eihei Dogen, as "thinking not-thinking."  It is very hard to explain in simple words, and its truths can only truly be ascertained by the actualization of it. 

            Throughout my Buddhist practice, there has been an evolution of sorts, as aspects of Zen in America began to leave an admittedly bitter taste in my mouth.  It seems that doing things for looks, only observing the precepts when convenient, and rather blind reliance on teachers really cast a long shadow on the whole experience, coupled with an ongoing but polite demand for exorbitant amounts of money.  These are not judgments that have come easily for me, but careful observations that have evolved over time and are certainly open to change.  As part of this openness, I founded an email group a couple of years ago to discuss with a group of Soto practitioners problems and issues like the ones mentioned above.  This group has evolved into a meeting ground where many questions can be answered, and true, mature debate can be fostered without all of the bloodthirsty egotistical nonsense I had come to experience in other Internet Communities.  If you are curious, you are certainly invited; just click here.

            Other forums that I have found to be enriching on this subject can be found through any Hotmail account; they are listed under the heading “Web Communities.”  I am a member of the Communities entitled Zen Buddhism, A Zen Community, Confucianism and Taoism, The Three Teachings-Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism, and Taoism.  These can be found through the MSN website ( through clicking on the header entitled “People & Chat” and running the names through an index search for Web Communities.

            One of my initial discoveries as a member of a Soto Zen Temple was the dharma lineage that we chanted together.  All of the names were in Japanese, but as time passed I realized that most of them were actually Chinese Masters who simply had their names respelled in Japanese phonetics.  I had already heard that Dogen had traveled to China to truly engage in what he felt was the real dharma, but I had no previous idea the extent in which Japanese Zen totally relied upon the historical roots of Chinese Chan Buddhism to validate its own tradition.  In addition, no Korean Masters were listed, though their tradition contributed much to the traditions of China and Japan.  Obviously, no culture is perfect; however, the worship and pedestal-placing towards Japan that go on in American Zen are highly detrimental to a teaching that by definition attempts to transcend the boundaries of ethnicity.

            It is my hope that the Buddha-Dharma in America, especially as it pertains to Zen and Chan, can eventually gain its own unique identity free from excessive reliance on other cultures.  Studying sutras without being constrained by them, observing precepts out of awareness instead of obligation, and breaking down former barriers of economy and gender should all be priorities here in America.  Laying off all of the extravagance and frills may be vital also; the clarity and honesty of a battered, empty barn should be embraced, as opposed to the glitz of a shopping mall.



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