Sit-a-Long with Jundo: Zen Idealists and Imperfect Masters

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This is a special talk for all the Zen idealists out there, looking for perfect Zen teachers without a fault or failing, who think that "Enlightenment" means never making a mistake in the words out of one's mouth, and never having a "bad hair day" again. TIME TO COME DOWN FROM THE CLOUDS! Bring it down to this mud-covered earth which, if we open our eyes, is the "Pure Lotus Land" right here.

I believe that the only "perfect" masters are those that may exist in the the pages of old Zen stories, written when the real folks were long dead, scrubbing them clean of every blemish and failing. In fact, if we might travel back in time to meet these fellows "in the flesh," we would find that each and every one was probably just "people" like you and me, with good points and (likely) a few rough edges and minor bad habits... like all people. Okay, maybe extra-ordinarily Wise and Compassionate and Enlightened, sure ... but people.

Of course, "Enlightenment" is a realization that there is no place to fall, no self to stumble, no "mistake" that can ever be made. That is true. But it is just as true that there is no place to fall, no stumbling or possible mistake... even as we may fall and stumble and make mistakes!

(Click through to watch today's talk, and to "sit-a-long.")

A few days ago, an excellent article by Lewis Richmond appeared here on SunSpace entitled"'What If?' Guidelines for Choosing a Buddhist teacher". I would really like to recommend that article to everyone. If I may add my own "test" for finding a teaching, I would say find a man or woman who sometimes falls down, makes mistakes, makes a donkey's ass of him or herself... and observe closely what happens, watch how he or she does it. Oh, don't get me wrong... probably you do not want as a teacher someone who falls down each and every day, nor someone who falls down too BIG (robbing banks, lying profusely and intentionally starting fires, for example). No, I mean someone who... every so often, now and then, like everyone... makes a fool of him/herself, loses his Zen Master cool, over-indulges, does a real face-flop, says something she regrets, breaks some (hopefully not too big) Precepts in some very human way.

How does this person recover their balance? With what grace do they fall or, at least, get back up on their feetDo they profoundly reflect on their mistakes, learn from them, apologize sincerely to anyone hurt (hopefully not too badly) ... and move on?  As a matter of fact, since this crazy practice is greatly about living with some grace in this imperfect, often disappointing, trap and temptation filled world, a teacher with a couple of serious imperfections may be a good guide on how to avoid, lessen or escape the worst of it!

Oh, I am not trying to excuse any truly heinous abuses or scandals which have been seen among clergy of all traditions, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist no less. NOT AT ALL! I have little tolerance for members of the clergy who abuse their positions of trust and hurt others, sometimes children. But also we must be cautious of anyone who wants to be our teacher by telling us that they arebeyond all failings, never ever break a Precept (not even the small ones), are "Perfectly Enlightened Beings" who never trip and fall down. I'll believe it when I see it!

Certainly, it is true that within Enlightenment, there is no place to fall, nothing which can be a mistake. Yet, in this world of Samsara where we live, I do not think there is anyone who gets away always without cuts and bruises and difficult days. (Anyone who thinks that Zen practice is going to ensure that they never have another "bad day" is in for a bad surprise. Whether we fully "drop good and bad" or not, we must live in a world sometimes real good and real bad.) Sure, this "self" is but an illusion... and so are all the other "selfs" in this world, but we are going to bump and bang into each other sometimes nonetheless. The hole you stumble in may be like a dream, and ultimately there is no place to fall. But fall into that hole and break your imaginary leg, you may!

Zen Practice shows us how to move through life leaving no traces.

Yet is is darn hard to get through this daily life without stirring up some waves, catching some mud, making some sparks. Falling off our bicycle into a ditch.

Today's Sit-A-Long video follows. (Please excuse that the soundtrack and video are not perfectly in sync. PERFECTLY fitting for a talk on imperfection!)Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.

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