I’m not a Buddhist so much as a spiritual mystic who happens to follow the path described by the Buddha, as passed through the Zen patriarchs down through the ages.
The Buddhism I practice is disorganized. I am in contact with several Buddhist organizations, but I’m not truly tied to any one organization in any permanent way. When a religion becomes too heavily institutionalized, it can become about protecting and expanding the institution as much as, or more, than engaging the Dharma.
This is something that happens often in other religions as well and it is unacceptable to me. I have some Buddhist teachers I am learning from and that’s what it should be about—just students and teachers.
The Buddhism I practice is iconoclastic. My Zen heroes are Ikkyu Sojun and Layman Pang, reformers who were willing to challenge the existing systems of authority. Systems of authority often do more harm than good. We should question and challenge them at every opportunity. They were radical Zen teachers and I like to think of myself as one as well.
The Buddhism I practice is egalitarian. I don’t believe that monks and lamas and masters are superior to other practitioners. When we elevate people this can cause problems. Obviously we should learn from those who know more than us, and everyone has something to teach, but putting someone up on a pedestal is dangerous.
The Buddhism I practice is goal oriented. I am devoted to transforming myself through mystical practices. Some say being goal oriented is dangerous, that it can lead to attachment to goals and take away from the practice itself. That is true, but at the same time, let’s not lose sight of the fact that we’re doing this for a reason. We aren’t practicing Buddhism just because we like it or because we were told to do it.
The Buddhism I practice is positive and life affirming. It’s not a negative way of life. I am excited to practice the Dharma and I think others should be as well. Buddhist practice isn’t a chore. Transforming the self and transforming the world is something to get excited about.
The Buddhism I practice is meditative. There are other forms of Buddhism that have other primary forms of practice and I don’t seek to denigrate those, but my primary practice is Silent Illumination. Other aspects of the path are secondary.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Pixoto/Hnin Htet Aung