"Vision of A New Culture"
The Great Learning

Recent Q&A

See: MatriTalks 9
I am a Buddhist 1

See: MatriTalks 59
I am a Buddhist 2

From an old file
(Will be continued soon)

"Living Zen"

Q. As a universal teacher you represent a different view on how Zen should be. Could you comment on that?

A. Whether you practice Zen, TM or "who am I" your deepest motivation is decisive. Traditionally this motivation is to escape from suffering, to reject the body and to transcend the world. I call those traditions "patriarchal spirituality". Trying "to escape from birth, life, death and rebirth" - the core of the efforts - means rejecting life. It is e.g. caused by fear for life, the world, relationship, commitment, women, the body, sex and nature.

Q. Do you mean that everything is based on denial and rejection?

A. Patriarchal spirituality is based on a dual attitude in which "the world" is excluded in favor of the non-worldly, the spirit, the Light. Subsequently this non-worldly realm is pursued as the non-dual.

Q. But isn't it Zen saying that it is simply about becoming aware and nothing else?

A. To become aware usually serves a personal goal, while I advocate the practice of no-self right from the beginning. Moreover, even considering that Zen has been changing since it came to the West, it is still a fact that for most teachers "becoming aware" automatically presupposes a hierarchy of values: e.g. spirit over matter.         

Q. That means?

A. That means that before starting practicing a strong mindset has - consciously or unconsciously - occupied your mind. It says that the current situation - entangled as you are in the sea of samsara - means suffering and that you therefore should seek liberation. However subtle it may be, there is always a purpose, a goal behind. This ambition has been always "to overcome desire, suffering and the world" and to become Enlightened. Spiritual desire simply replaces worldly ones. While in sitting the body is used as a tool to achieve liberation. There is a subtle! utilitarian attitude behind it.  

Q. So the motivation behind determines everything?

A. That is exactly what I try to say here. Even if the outcome of your practice would be liberation, the underlying schizophrenia will be still there. Everything becomes a confirmation of your preconceived ideas: that only by rejecting the world true liberation is possible. The notion that you don't have to become liberated any way doesn't occur to you. You don't have to reject this in order to realize that. You don't have to reject the body, the senses, desires or the world in order to become Enlightened.

Q. Are you denying the traditional aim of Buddhism, namely liberation?

A. Since the days of the Buddha, the cultural context has changed drastically. In a time in which "personal freedom" has become an excrescence, the motor behind growth, profit, accumulation and exploitation, "liberation" appears to serve different aims. Rather than seeking liberation from greed (or the identification with it), liberation itself has become an object of desire. Good things have become bad things nowadays. I am here to help you re-think.

Q. A Zen master has written: "experiencing Ultimate Perfection, the apple tree will disclose its perfect Wholeness to you". Isn't this a prove that Zen embraces common reality as it is?

A. What your Zen master and many others with him have written is certainly beautiful. It describes how reality is once you have attained (Enlightenment). I know by Experience that it is true what they are saying. But yet...it may sound strange to you, reality should not be looked at from the perspective of Enlightenment. Common reality should not be compared with perfection and thus be "denunciated". This cannot be justified by "once you are Enlightened...then you may see the apple tree how he really is". Not "perfection" should be taken as a reference, but the common reality as it is. No comparison whatsoever should be made. And the reality is, that people are disconnected both from their deeper Self and from the world. The tree should not be revered only for its essence, but for its simple appearance to start with. The body is not a means in order to attain something else, but revered as a value in itself. In sitting I love and celebrate the body, connecting to it joyfully, rather than using it for my spiritual goals...And the miracle is this: by fully becoming the body suddenly the transcendence is there. It is not an achievement, it is a gift.

Q. It thus depends how you analyze the situation people are in?

A. Compassion doesn't mean "seeing the ignorance" (of not being Enlightened) of other people, but to connect to their situation as it is, not from your perspective, but from theirs. Then you see that people don't have contact with the apple tree even on a very basic level: on the level of the senses for instance. The first step is to connect with the tree on the level of its appearance, rather than its "higher Reality" (which in a very subtle way denounces the tree in its earthly aspect...). Seeing,  feeling and touching the tree in the first place, that is where it is all about. Now, in order to feel the tree you don't have to become Enlightened first. You simply should see, feel and touch him. But because "feelings" and "senses" are considered inferior (and dangerous!) by patriarchal spirituality, people are misguided and don't see the point. Their "simple", but o so important first awakening is sacrificed on the altar of perfection.

Q. Does that explain the life-denunciating attitude of traditional Japanese Zen?

A. Immediately from the start (1974) I have seen the underlying attitude of traditional Zen. Like all patriarchal religions there has been a glorifying of the Transcendence, while (secretly) rejecting common life. Against the context of a militant society excesses were hardly avoidable, e.g. those Japanese Zen masters supporting war and killing. Hence, my efforts to transform traditional Zen into a life affirming practice. Ever since, my whole life's work is to overcome this dualism. It has not been very much understood though. Hopefully this scandal contributes to the insight that apologizing is not enough. The underlying principles have to be reconsidered. 

Q. What are you suggesting then?

A. The purity of intention is decisive. To me siting is not trying to get anywhere, but simply to relax in what I am already, to restore contact with those "parts" from which I am disconnected: both awareness and the body. The longing behind is not to attain something, but as a part to fit in into the Whole. It is a longing for homecoming. This reconnecting is achieved through watching and feeling, feeling and watching. They appear to have a positive feedback towards each other. By feeling the sensations of my foot, my awareness gains in clarity, by becoming more aware the sensations become more intense. It is reflecting the basic Law of the Universe: Emptiness (awareness) is form (energy) and voiceovers. It is the first time in history that "theory and practice" are one. Hence, "feeling awareness" is the key of Living Zen.

Q. Did your view on reality has changed through your practice?

A. Very much so. First you should take the actual situation as a starting point: man alienated from his/her deeper Self and isolated from the body and from nature. Spiritual practice should connect to this reality. Only true compassion is able to see the actual suffering, rather than referring people to some idea of perfection, which isn't compassion at all. Once you see this, you start to adjust your teaching, even if it has to go against many centuries of accumulated wisdom. The outcome is this. What is most needed - both individually and culturally - is that we as mankind have to become part of the Whole again. Our extreme individualism - including our personal desire for Enlightenment, which is only a part of it - has to be overcome. That is the meaning of the global crisis. Spirituality should be vertical and horizontal, transcendental and ecological, both. All paths that reject the body, feelings, women, sex and nature, belong to an old paradigm, something that should be abandoned. The discriminating and exploiting attitude of patriarchy has to be given up. If you discover that (bodily) feelings and awareness are not opposites, but rather stimulate each other, then you know reality as it really is. Feelings are part of you and awareness appears to be all embracing.

Q. What is crucial in your teaching?

A. In a time in which everything has become part of a personal enterprise – including liberation – suffering has to be re-defined. In order for Buddhism "to save all sentient and non-sentient beings", Buddhism itself has to be saved first. It then appears, that the core suffering of modern people is alienation and isolation, the loss of contact, both with their "inner Self" as well as with their environment. To restore contact with reality is where it is all about.

Q. You have said, that the "Great Mother has appeared at the right time". What do you mean by that?

A. Because Buddhahood has become the object of greed, fuelling personal ambition rather than cutting it, Buddhism will not be able to play the role it wants to play. It has become counterproductive. Just like the rest of society it has become victim of (spiritual) materialism. The Great Mother, representing the Law of Destruction and Rebirth is the only One who can save here. Only She can strip you of your layers, bringing you back to your original innocence, making you a "looser" again. To fit in into Her Law without the prospect of "gaining something from it" will be the test of true spirituality, of your purity of intention. The shift is from personal ambition to becoming part of the Whole again. The latter is not possible without letting go of all your excesses on all levels.

Q. Is the Great Mother part of the spiritual-feminist movement?

A. The Great Mother confronts Buddhism with its own principles. She - as the Vacuum - reveals the limitations of the "law of impermanence" as it is "commonly" understood. Because of Her, not only the relative world, but all levels of existence are bottomless, including Buddhahood. Not the Light, but the unattainable Void appears to be the Ultimate Reality.

Q. But isn't Nirvana or Emptiness beyond Emptiness the core teaching of Buddhism? I cannot see what is new about your insight.

A. Very much so. To understand this we have to go back to the beginning of patriarchal religion in which the Vacuum was stripped of Her dynamic aspects: death, permanence and rebirth. It was the aim of Buddhism to eliminate it, in its effort to "overcome the cycle of birth and death". What remained was an abstract concept: "Nirvana". The consequences were manifold. Because the loss of Her dynamic aspect, the relationship between "Nirvana" and other Planes of Consciousness was lost e.g. Enlightenment "born out" of Nirvana. The notion, that "Light is (continuously) born out of Darkness" was forgotten. Hence, Enlightenment did not derive its status from Its Beyond anymore, but exclusively from itself: Buddhahood as the highest Realization. Of course, this outcome was exactly what the patriarchs wanted for themselves: the power of supreme authority.

Q. What are the consequences?

A. The consequences are far reaching. The concept of "Nirvana" is not adding anything to our understanding of the Cosmos. The Vacuum on the other hand reveals the "Law of the Universe", something to which our lives should accommodate. Living according Her Law our life will be in perfect balance. Secondly, with Buddhahood born out of the Womb* - as "secondary reality" - no identity can be derived from it. The lineage of patriarchs and (male) masters have thus no justification for dominance anymore. Ambition proves to be futile. Their claims have lost their absolute authority. Like everybody else, they also have to prostrate themselves to the Great Unknown.

Q. Are you against patriarchy?

A. The feminist movement, in its turn identifying with the "Great Mother" as a counterbalance to patriarchal religion, should be aware of the same trap. If the greed for power is behind it, it will equally become corrupted from the very start. Of course the female lineage should take refuge in the Great Mother. The Great Mother is the Ultimate Reality in which everything dies naturally - according to the universal Law of Destruction, Preservation and Rebirth - and is born out of it. We cannot claim, possess or use Her, just revere, worship and celebrate.

* It is continuously dying in the Void, while in the selfsame Eternal Moment being reborn, hence it is called the Unborn, the Unchanging, the Absolute.

Q. Isn't there anything positive in developing a feminine lineage?

A. To search for accounts of enlightened females in Buddhism is tremendously important. What is of concern here is, that it should not be "designed and promoted" in competition with the masculine system, but rather finds its home in the Great Mother. Instead of being "constructed" by your own (mind) effort, the feminine lineage should be reconnected to its Original Source again. It is the Source that will then give it all the power, renewal, inspiration, realization, radiance and compassion it needs. In Great Mother Buddhism spiritual guidance should be in the hands of women: at least for the coming decades. Those who would like to become initiated or ordained may wish to first receive a basic training. To make it very clear: my role will only be that of a mediator, a bridge between the old and the new era.    

Q. How to understand in this respect the emphasis on the coming of Maitreya Buddha?

A. We have entered a new era, in which a totally new approach is required. The old dharma has to be put in a new context. The recognition of the Great Mother is putting an end to patriarchal hierarchy. Furthermore, the crisis in the outer world reflects our inner situation of which Buddhism also is a part. You cannot work with the tools that have caused the trouble. The sooner people realize this, the better. A fresh wave has to clean up attachments, lift the hearts and bring new insights, while finding a new balance. We have to put the HereNow in the service of the future. The next Buddha - Maitreya - acknowledges his descent from the Mother's Womb. As a Son/Daughter of the Great Mother he/she is embodying a new era, advocating a "feminine" world view, thus saving all sentient and non-sentient beings.

Q. Is this a concrete person?

A. He/she could be a woman (smiling). The answer is this: Emptiness contains all forms. Hence, the seed of Maitreya is in everybody: men and women. To develop your Maitreya Mind, that which is letting his old self "die" in order to be reborn, bringing renewal and regeneration "to all directions", is the challenge we are facing. It is an invitation to all of us.

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Last revising: 04/04/05