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Thread: On Zen and commercialism

  1. #1
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    On Zen and commercialism

    I subscribed to Tricycle magazine a while ago, and got the latest issue yesterday. I find that there's a lot of spiritual materialism in magazines like that, but the occasional nugget of wisdom. One thing I find interesting is all the ads for paraphernalia, books, retreats, etc. Interestingly, very few of these are for Zen; the majority seem to be for Tibetan Buddhism, with Vipassana coming in second.

    When you look at some of the sites that sell books and the like, it's the same; there aren't that many Zen books compared to Tibetan and Vipassana. (The one exception is Thich Nhat Hanh, who is a one-man industry, but I wouldn't exactly call his tradition Zen.) Even more interesting is the fact that, for Tibetan Buddism, there are tons of audio and video recordings, whereas for Zen there are hardly any.

    I've been wondering why this is so. Granted, much of Tibetan Buddhist teachings - at least those that are popular - lean toward the psychological self-help, and Zen doesn't seem to go in that direction. But even though Zen has a good following, there seems to be a very limited amount of content produced.

    I'm not criticizing these things. There are a lot of good recordings out there (I don't know about videos), especially on the Vipassana side. (I especially like the way Jack Kornfield teaches.) I'm just surprised that the Zen teachers don't make more of an effort to communicate.
    Last edited by kirkmc; 08-19-2012 at 06:46 PM.

  2. #2
    Sitting tells it all.

    And Buddhism is a juicy market in America.


    I am just f...... surprised Jundo and Taigu don t charge for what they do...

    Well, there you have your answer: we are not in the Buddhist business. We don t sit half naked in forests and therefore need to find people to support and finance such excenticities, we don t built countless stupa and temples of gold with rippling thanghkas and endless pujas for big guru lamas. We work just like anybody else and offer what is your birth right, no Karmapa controversy here, yes, a few sex scandals here and there, but that s just like round the corner. Zen teachers are ordinary blokes.

    And yes, for us numbers don t really matter. If We can sit and practice with one or two blokes, we are happy.


    Tricyle and all this literature can be thrown away.

    But as long as you think something is missing, you ll find a fine and clever salesman to knock on you door!


    Gassho


    taigu
    Taigu, teacher at Treeleaf Sangha, was born in 1964, started Zazen early and received Shukke Tokudo in 1983 at age 18 from Rev. Mokusho Zeisler of the Deshimaru Lineage. Received Dharma Transmission from Chodo Cross in 2002. Now resides in Osaka, Japan.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu View Post
    Tricyle and all this literature can be thrown away.



    taigu
    LOL

    Don't read this its just that The Message (LOL) has to be at least 10 chars
    _/_
    Rich
    MUHYO
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

  4. #4
    Hi Kirk,

    I know what you are saying and have noted the same. I have been of the opinion that since our practice of sitting requires nothing more, these additions can be a detractor, or at least unnecessary. However, I would also suggest that the dharma is always available, even in these. It's alive and ever-present.

    I used to see the moon as a symbol of enlightenment and the finger the director. Always trying to look beyond, to the moon. However, I'm lately of the opinion that both finger and the moon are enlightenment. There is no gap. I still don't know and somehow suspect that if I did, I'd not be able to explain.

    Gassho,

    Dokan
    We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.
    ~Anas Nin

  5. #5
    I too know what you mean Kirk. I followed the Tibetan tradition for many years and even with all the "stuff", I always felt something was missing. So the point that Taigu made below is so true ... this point was the point I came to realize, that everything is as it is.

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu View Post
    But as long as you think something is missing, you ll find a fine and clever salesman to knock on you door!
    Gassho
    Michael
    真 眼

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  6. #6
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    You are quite right Kirk, but except for a posting in Tricycle some years ago I don't know if I would ever have found Treeleaf. So, yes there are occasionally some nuggets.

    Overall though I agree this is a case where the baby being thrown out with the bathwater is ok.

    Gassho,
    Dosho
    Shudo Dosho - Ordained Priest-in-Training
    With your help and guidance from Jundo & Taigu
    I am learning, but please take what I say with a
    grain of salt, especially in matters of the Dharma.

  7. #7
    Hahahah Taigu I love your post.

    Gassho

    Risho

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu View Post
    But as long as you think something is missing, you ll find a fine and clever salesman to knock on you door!
    That was past. Today even if you know nothing is missing, salesman knock on your door (tv-screen, wherever) and tell you what you are missing over and over again!
    _()_
    Myoku
    Last edited by Myoku; 08-20-2012 at 07:15 AM. Reason: punctuation is difficult

  9. #9
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    One of the reasons I didn't follow the Tibetan tradition back in the day, was precisely the utter commercialism. Not only from them, but from thousands of people who make a business around it.

    Nothing wrong on that front, I suppose. We all need to make a living. The problem is that vendors transform a Buddhism into a show and they develop ways to make you want stuff.

    In zen you just need your mind and your awareness.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    Please remember I am only a priest in training. I could be wrong in everything I say. Slap me if needed.

    The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. Mr. Spock

  10. #10
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    My involvement in the Tibetan tradition began more than 30 years ago, and while there were a fair number of books available at the time, there wasn't the huge amount of paraphenalia that exists now. This was also pre-Internet, so there weren't as many centers advertising for clients. Finding Tibetan centers was difficult, and because of this, attendance was much lower. I'm convinced that the Internet made a big difference in both the diffusion of the dharma in recent decades, but also in the commercial aspects that we see.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Risho View Post
    Hahahah Taigu I love your post.

    Gassho

    Risho
    Me too


    .... I guess all the proliferation gives a new twist to 'back to the market place' .

    Gassho

    Willow

  12. #12
    Well I think Taigu hit the nail on the head. I think the popularity of the Dalai Lama has a lot to do with the prevalence of Tibetan Buddhism in the west as well.
    Gassho,
    Kaishin

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Kaishin View Post
    Well I think Taigu hit the nail on the head. I think the popularity of the Dalai Lama has a lot to do with the prevalence of Tibetan Buddhism in the west as well.
    I agree ... unfortunately a lot of people in society these days are drawn into "what's cool", or the "latest trend", etc. We have seen it in others forms of practice like yoga and the like.

    Gassho
    Michael
    真 眼

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  14. #14
    That's a really good point. My wife is visiting her mom in Chicago... oh sidebar: Now let me tell you guys about this. I don't know if you remember but I asked for Metta because back in May the doctors at one hospital thought she (my mom-in-law) had cancer. She had a football size mass by her kidneys. Nope! Turns out it was an infection. They drained it, put her on hardcore meds, and she actually healed. Mind you this woman was in sepsis, which makes it unlikely she would recover. Add to that she is an insulin-dependent, diabetic. They gave her dialysis, and thought she'd have to be on it the rest of her life. Nope again! She started getting the infection again and they realized the left kidney was bad. They removed it; now the right kidney works and no more need for dialysis. Although she's on insulin again (she has been for 40 odd years), if she eats properly, she doesn't need it. Anyway it's damned amazing. Ok from one side science, the other side amazing. Anyway sorry to digress

    Getting back to this, I'm home with the dogs, so I'm ilke ok I'll pop in a video game. I do enjoy playing, but after a while it gets weird. Overdoing it (like I did when I was a kid) was one thing but this grasping at entertainment, whether it be video games, Facebook (as Kyonin mentioned) or spiritual materialism is not where its at; I think practice has opened that up for me. Honestly, although zazen is useless it's just such an awesome practice. Just sitting there.. no bells and whistles; for something so useless, I think it really is exactly what this culture needs right now.

    I catch myself, and I believe that we all share similar thoughts living in a similar period, so I'm not alone... putting too much feeling into stuff that doesn't matter at all. It's like my viewpoint on things are completely upside down. It's easy to forget about everyone that is living here with us right now and get so narrowly focused on our own comfort or this and that. I'm not saying that that's not important, but it's ilke living with blinders on and suddenly the blinders are removed and what seemed so real really isn't so. Too bad they try to sell Buddhism in that way too; it's not relieving what is the source of suffering. So anyway.. sorry for the rambling.

    Gassho,

    Risho

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Myoku View Post
    That was past. Today even if you know nothing is missing, salesman knock on your door (tv-screen, wherever) and tell you what you are missing over and over again!
    _()_
    Myoku
    Worse yet, look at all the blatant advertisements within TV shows--not just product placement any more, but they even build mentioning the car's features (for instance) into the dialogue! Ughh!! I can't even just zap the commercials anymore! The salesman is everywhere and cannot be avoided except on the cushion? : ) Gassho, Grace.

  16. #16
    Glad to hear your mother-in-law has recovered so well, Risho!

    And I completely get what you're saying re: entertainment. I've had the same type of mental shift.
    Gassho, Kaishin
    Gassho,
    Kaishin

  17. #17
    disastermouse
    Guest
    What if much more of our commercial markets revolved around Buddhist thought? Would it be a net positive or negative? An entire culture that was both modern and democratic that revolved around Buddhist ideas would see a very commercialized Buddhism. Still, would that not be a better focus than our current culture?

    What Zen is will likely always make it a minority niche in Buddhism, or else it might lose what it is that makes it Zen. Still, in a greater Buddhist culture, Zen would likely thrive.

    We can resent "New Age Commercial Buddhism" for watering down and twisting the basic Buddhist message or we can see it as a broader backdrop in which Dogen's distillation of the Buddhist path can better thrive.

    Chet

  18. #18
    disastermouse
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by ecoist View Post
    I agree ... unfortunately a lot of people in society these days are drawn into "what's cool", or the "latest trend", etc. We have seen it in others forms of practice like yoga and the like.

    Gassho
    Michael
    I don't know if that's fair. As ideas again weight in the broader culture, they are by necessity going to gain adherents that are looking for more of a 'Bompu kick' and the market will respond to that. People who do yoga for health reasons (or even just to see girls in tight pants, LOL!) may not have ever been interested in the 'spiritual' aspects.

    Chet

  19. #19

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse View Post
    I don't know if that's fair. As ideas again weight in the broader culture, they are by necessity going to gain adherents that are looking for more of a 'Bompu kick' and the market will respond to that. People who do yoga for health reasons (or even just to see girls in tight pants, LOL!) may not have ever been interested in the 'spiritual' aspects.

    Chet
    Thanks Chet, I do agree with what you are saying as well. My comment was more in relations to the commercialized factor ... ie: yes, you reference to girls in tight pants ... the latest cool wear ... I do yoga cause so and so does yoga ... etc.

    Gassho
    Michael
    真 眼

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

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