|Janwillem van de Wetering|
Van de Wetering was a fascinating character in that he was a pretty much total generalist. He was a beatnick who studied Zen under real masters. He was also a successful businessman. He had a successful career in the police force (in the reserves) where he quickly rose through the ranks. (He joined as a means of dealing with problems he had with his national service requirements----Holland allows someone to do other things besides military service.) And he wrote amazingly good detective novels. I aspire to be as much of a well-rounded guy as him.
If there is an important point that Wetering emphasized in his books on Zen, it was that of what us Daoists would call "the Void". That is, that we live in a world of complete potentiality, or, as the Laozi would say "Being comes from Nothing". With regard to our lived experience, the point is to not hem ourselves in with our own personal descriptions of who we are. We are not fixed in time, prisoners of our past, but rather bubbles of potential that each every moment have the opportunity to engage with the world around us in new and unexpected ways.
|Moy Lin Shin|
That's a pretty important lesson.
In van de Wetering's book his experience with his Japanese teacher was that the trappings of Zen were ruthlessly excised if they were not immediately valuable to his training. This extend to the point where he was strongly discouraged from formally becoming a Buddhist (what's the point?) The only thing that mattered to the teacher was for van de Wetering to "wake up".
I feel pretty much the same way.
I recently had a short conversation in the discussion section of a past post with someone who seemed somewhat disappointed that I haven't been putting a lot of effort into writing about Daoism and being a hermit. I suppose I haven't. Part of that probably involves changes in my interests, but I think that mostly it comes from my increasing comfort with the essence of Daoism to the exclusion of the trappings. I don't offer incense to the land god anymore, but I still keep the altar outside my door. I packed up my internal altars.
I still do taijiquan, and have been teaching myself the Yang spear form to add to my other sets. I don't do any formal meditation practice either. But I do find myself spending a lot of time in self-observation and "holding onto the One" in my day-to-day life.
I suspect that a lof of these changes have come about from my being married. My dear and beloved significant other has become a mirror that reflects back to me many things. She has precious little time for pretense and "flummery", which is probably why I've packed up a lot of the play-acting with funny robes and incense. But she is adamant that I write and do taiji. She also stretches me in very interesting ways.
Yesterday after breakfast she got quite adamant with me about how I was using what she called "white male privilege". What she was referring to was the way a lot of women will defer (actually shut up and not try to argue) to me when I get emotional about an issue. We had a long talk about it, and then our day moved on.
|A Keisaku being applied very mildly|
I was really upset when Misha (my wife) called me to task on "white male privilege", but in retrospect, she is trying to help me see something that I am oblivious to. She was administering a much more accurate and effective Keisaku! The hope is that I will wake up and learn to be more aware of my freedom of action and less trapped by my culture and past personal history.
The problem is, however, that learning to experience "the Void" isn't just a question of being told something. It involves the emotional upset that I felt when she called me to task. It is hard, hard, hard to fight erase the ego and embrace the Void.
|Zen Master with Fly Whisk|
|Daoist Immortal with Fly Whisk|
But still, why write about Zen Buddhism in a Daoist blog? Well, the fact of the matter is that until very recently there were no books available about Daoism outside of the Laozi and Zhuangzi. Even basics like the Liezi were hard to find and the Nei-Yeh was only recently translated into English.
The same situation existed with regard to Zen when van de Wetering first went to Japan, but his book was part of an explosion of publishing that took place in the last decades of the 20th century. A similar explosion is currently taking place now with regards to Daoism, this blog being part of the phenomenon. But if I am going to write about Daoist issues, I have to be part of a cultural context in order to make any sense. If I refuse to make use of available cultural artifacts---like Zen---to explain myself I will be lessening my ability to explain myself.
The point is that what is important is the Void itself, not the shape of the finger that is used to point in its direction.