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Comments on the Stuart Lachs article on the Myth of the Zen Master by Stuart Lachs

From Andrew Main

Re your discussion with Lachs: While I wouldn't do a wholesale revision of ZMBM thirty years later--as you say, it's history, and part of our lives--I felt his points deserved more serious consideration than you gave them. As for Suzuki, of course I never met him, but ... myself the son of a man who was a gifted teacher much loved by his students, but also a terrible, emotionally-abusive father, some of what I heard about Suzuki even then was too familiar to allow me to regard him with unalloyed awe. Nevertheless, he has been an important, and much valued, presence in my life, through both his recorded words and what I've heard and felt about him from and through those who knew him (including yourself).

There really is an elephant in the living room of American Buddhism (perhaps a whole herd); the longer it isn't faced, the more decay will result. As Lachs remarks in another article, Buddhism in America seems to be developing mostly into an "I'm Okay - You're Okay" program, wherein hard truths are increasingly avoided in service to the now-popular ideal of totalitarian "tolerance." To be sure, I suppose we all could use a little kindness in this hard world; but I don't really think that's the solution the Buddha was talking about.

Lately I've been drawn to more reading in the Pali Canon and Shakyamuni's own words (what we may have of them), and find him refreshingly clear and direct. I think it's been said that really, all of Buddhism can be found in the First Noble Truth; once we begin to absorb that, the rest comes almost automatically.

I've been particularly interested to read of the Buddha's reaction when he was asked, shortly before his death, to name a successor as "leader" of the Sangha: he refused to do so, and suggested to his companions that the Dharma, the truth as he had attempted to transmit it, should be their preceptor and guide. Not a bad idea, seems to me, especially given the all-too-obvious results of our all-too-human efforts to designate some among us as superhuman so we can relax and follow them rather than acknowledge our ultimately personal and individual responsibility to, again in Siddhartha's (approximate) words, "work out your own salvation with diligence."

"Every person who allows others to treat him as a spiritual leader has the responsibility to ask himself: Out of all the perceptions available to me in the universe, why am I emphasizing the ignorance of my brothers? What am I doing in a role where this is real? What kind of standards am I conceiving, in which so many people are seen to be in suffering, while I am the enlightened one?" - Thaddeus Golas, The Lazy Man's Guide to Enlightenment <>

In other words, "We're all Bozos on this bus," indeed 

["We're all bozos on this bus" is a quote from Firesign Theater, the name of one of their albums, that I use with the signature on my emails. - DC]

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