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            A recent interest of mine as been involving historiography, especially the research being done in the context of the period of Chinese Dynastic history that gave rise to Chan.  Other issues come up along the way, as I study about the whole history of how this dharma came to Japan, and then later to the West.  A pattern of cultural influence emerges as I carefully attempt to separate cultural baggage from the practice while attempting to preserve its sincerity.

            I have already spoken of the possible limitations of the Zen Buddha-dharma in a Japanese, and then in an American, context.  But there is also an important teaching that can be learned through the horrors of WWII.  The former adulation of Chinese culture on the part of the Japanese gave way to a virulent ethnic hatred, one that was so inhuman that even the Nazis protested it.  In addition, the formal schools of Zen Buddhism at the time had an active role to play in the war effort.  The bushido tendency in the Japanese mentality left its mark on a Buddhism seething with a willingness to kill and die for a cause of domination and imperialism.  Mnay of the Sanbo Kyodan teachers who migrated to America after the war actually played a role in it, going against all the fundamentals of Buddhist teachings.

            We cannot bury this, deny it, or forget it; while the Japanese have conspicuously attempted to accomplish all three of these goals.  We also cannot deny the implications this has for our token, ingrained definition of what it means to be Enlightened.  The responses of leading American Zen Buddhists when confronted with these uncomfortable truths have involved a policy of apology and rationalization.  And still there is an insistence on a definitive lineage, even if there is blood spilled on it.

            To disavow Japanese Buddhism altogether would be a gross oversimplification.  And yet, we must look at what is truly in front of us, because it is part of our practice as Buddhists.  Perhaps this entails that the adulation, the worship even, of the Japanese way of expressing Chan traditions, must be rethought and reevaluated.

            This brings an end to this short index of introductory essays.  Yet, they may not end for a very long while, because as I type things that I missed keep springing up in my mind.  I hope that whatever comments the reader wishes to share may appear in my Guestbook, for I have found that the inclusion and input of other perspectives is vital to the growth and widening of my own.



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