As I have written elsewhere, I have been really into some of the writings of Glenn Wallis. He’s a meditation teacher and professor at the University of Georgia. I’ve really connected with his translation of The Dhammapada and his Basic Teachings of the Buddha. I recently emailed him, and he has been very gracious in his responses. His website features some of his other writings. I particularly recommend his article called Touching the Earth. He told me that he was asked to write it by an editor of one of the Buddhist glossies, but then the editor thought it was too “upsetting” to publish. Anyway, I told him I thought it was great. You can find it on the following page. Just look for the link for the title of the piece:
I asked him a few questions about his orientation in Buddhism, and I thought his responses were compelling. Apparently, he had practiced Soto Zen for a number of years, but now focuses completely on the anapanasati tradition. He wrote,
“I had a thriving Soto ground in Old City Philadelphia until several months ago. (We were an affiliate of Atlanta Soto Zen Center.) I considered it part of my own training as a meditation teacher and practitioner. I had to stop the group, though, because it became impossible for me to (1) reconcile Dogen's teachings with Gotama's, and (2) I found all the Japanese and Zen stuff to be a burden to the kind of stripped-down practice that you mention. … I don't consider myself a Buddhist; I consider myself a student of Siddhattha Gotama. He recommends the practice of anapanasati. I have verified the value of that practice in my own life. So, that is enough for me. Anything else -- being Buddhist, chanting, robes, affiliations, etc., etc. -- is superfluous. I would not say that a meditation community is unnecessary, though. Again, I say this out of experience, not theory.”
I wrote him back asking him why he found it impossible to reconcile Dogen’s teachings and Gotama’s. He has yet to respond, but I am wondering if anyone here has some thoughts on this issue. I am interested because some teachers/writers in the Soto school, particularly Nishijima Roshi, seem to say that Dogen taught exactly what Gotama taught. Any thoughts?