Can Zen Sectarianism Continue To Be Taken Seriously?
Despite the enormous advances in Zen and Buddhist scholarship of recent decades, many in the actual community of Zen practitioners continue to be largely guided by the vision of Zen fashioned by pre-modern and modern Japanese institutions, rather than the vision presented by the classic masters. Certain stereotypes about Zen are so entrenched in many contemporary Zen communities that even the most incontrovertible revelations of scholarship continue to be largely dismissed or ignored.
There seem to be a number of various reasons for this, but it seems significant that the probability for a discovery to be dismissed increases in proportion to the extent it is sectarian specific.
For instance, the "less sectarian" disclosure that Zen’s claim of being transmitted through “an unbroken succession from master-to-master” was historically untenable met greater acceptance than the "more sectarian" discovery that Dogen regarded koans to be as essential to Zen as sitting meditation.
In fact, propaganda portraying Dogen as someone that regarded “just sitting” as the only essential element of Zen practice was so effective his actual stance continues to be denied by many in the Soto sect to this day.
Let's consider this further in context of the well documented competition for “superiority” between the two major Zen institutions in Japan (Soto and Rinzai), which largely centered on the role of koans. Briefly, the Soto sect advocated “just sitting” and criticized the Rinzai sect for its “preoccupation” with koans.
Now notice that when it was discovered that the “Soto founder” (Dogen) took the Rinzai sect’s side in regarding koans as essential to Zen practice it not only exposed fallacies of Soto dogma, it revealed a necessity to doubt the credibility of everything the Soto sect asserted concerning Zen; if they were ignorant of Dogen’s actual teachings about koans and zazen, how can we seriously attach any authority to their claim of Dogen as being their “founder”?
Until next time, try not to drown in all the blood...