A Sticky Wicket for Zen Buddhism

I’ve been reading the Buddhist blogs that come up in my Twitter feed over coffee while my wife, Gigi, gets ready for work in the morning.

Today Brad Warner’s “Everybody Knows?” on his Hardcore Zen caught my eye.

Are Zen Buddhists more grabby than Tibetan Buddhists? I very much doubt it. How we respond to allegations of sexual misconduct are markedly different though. Zen Buddhists globalize. Tibetan Buddhists compartmentalize.

Tibetan Buddhism is a highly compartmentalized religion. You always need to know who’s who with us. What is expected of you depends on who you are. This doesn’t seem to be the case with Zen.

Tibetan Buddhists are hierarchical. Zen Buddhists are egalitarian. Tibetan Buddhism doesn’t like messy. Zen Buddhism doesn’t seem to mind so much. I don’t know if this is true but it’s one way to think about it.

If I had to hazard a guess, and I’m climbing out on a limb here to entertain my readers and nothing more, Zen Buddhism comes down to individuals while Tibetan Buddhism comes down to institutions when it comes to such scandals.

When an individual Zen Buddhist is outed for being a perv everyone has to get in on their shaming. These outings have become part of Zen Buddhist collective life it seems. It has come to be expected in Zen Buddhism.

As a Tibetan Buddhist I just tune this aspect of Zen Buddhism out. It does nothing for me. I know Zen Buddhists are trying to fix this problem, but as Brad Warner noted it doesn’t seem to be working unfortunately.

There will always be bad apples. As his blog suggests an examination of what makes someone a bad apple to Zen Buddhism, how Zen Buddhist arrive at the judgement that someone is a bad apple, examining this process is clearly in order.

I had my Bodhisattva Brunch with my friend, John Christensen earlier. He noted that this week has been quieter than previous weeks on Twitter regarding the subject of yours truly. I saw the uptick in traffic here but otherwise I don’t get to see most of it.

The subject of Tibetans setting themselves on fire was today’s topic of discussion for us. There isn’t much discussion of it on Twitter or in the Buddhist blogs. We discussed possible approaches to the subject.

I can’t write about the subject myself. When I think of blogging it I can’t get past the line, “Those Amazing Combustible Tibetans.” When I told John this he gave me a look that only confirmed that I should not attempt to blog about it.

There is nothing funny about what is happening. It’s horrible. I wish it would stop. As a Buddhist my gut reaction is that suicide is wrong. These are more than mere personal tragedies. I agree with John that it would be a good thing if we could discuss it as Buddhists.

Well, on that note, enough blah, blah, blah for me today. I have to get cracking on my afternoon ngondro or I won’t finish in time to watch the CBS Evening News which will throw off my evening routine. Later.


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