So in my post yesterday I gave a little background into my motivations for taking up this Buddhist path. For me, recollecting this was an important part of my current journey. Ever since breaking ties with SGI, I’ve been fine being an “unaffiliated” Buddhist. However, I’ve been realizing more and more that this type of path is so crooked and covered in brambles that I’m never likely to make it far. I know myself enough to know that “loose-knit” just isn’t going to work for me.
On my last post a commenter asked if committing to a particular school was necessary (I go this question on Twitter as well). I don’t think that it is absolutely necessary. However, rather than finding it limiting or too narrow, I find practicing within a framework more liberating. I have no real access to a real life teacher/dharma center/sitting group which makes focus hard enough as it is. Family matters are my primary concern, along with my 40+ hour/week job. So for me, establishing at least some type of framework will be liberating in the sense that I’ll be a little less scattered and a little more focused in my pursuits.
So I’m leaning toward Zen. That’s something I never thought I’d say actually. In the beginning I thought Theravada was the path for me, being as close as one could get to one of the original schools of Buddhism. That was important because at the time I was only really concerned with what The Buddha™ taught. I thought that Zen was so far off from anything the Buddha taught that it shouldn’t really be called Buddhism. I also thought that since the Mahayana sutras were probably not conceived until well after the Buddha died, that made them invalid on some level.
Well that was then and this is now. I’m finding that Zen is a practice that better suits a lay person with my motivations than others I’ve encountered and looked into. I’ve realized that it doesn’t really matter if the Buddha delivered the Mahayana sutras or not, because they and the schools that use them work; for me the proof is in the pudding. I should also state that my decision to pursue Zen didn’t come about because of an aversion to another school. I don’t care about who is right or wrong. Dharma pissing contests are as important to me as Protestants who squabble over whether baptisms should consist of water splashed on the head or being submerged in a Louisiana swamp. I’m choosing this path because it speaks to me, not because all the other ones don’t.
It seems to me that Zen very much focuses on the nature of mind, but brings it down into the dirty marketplace of life. Particularly I have an interest in the Rinzai school and their greater focus on koans (I also so far enjoy Hakuin more than I do Dogen) though as I said without a teacher/center close by it doesn’t really make any sense for me to narrow things down that much. I also understand some of the limitations I’ll face by “going it alone” for the time being, but I’m fine with that. I have much to study, and a meditation practice to integrate more fully with my daily routine. Maybe once things are settled a bit with the baby and I figure out what I’m doing about school in the winter, I’ll drop by a temple in Seattle a few times next year and find out if that’s something I want to pursue with regularity in the future.
So there it is. For now I’ll be using a Zen cage to trap my monkey mind. That doesn’t mean that I’ve suddenly adopted a set of beliefs and now believe in the greater Zen dogma. For me it’s more like a rusty compass to help me get where I’m going.