Touching oozy skin.
Everything escaping me,
only koi don't move.
[Der folgende offene Brief ging bereits im November an das von Kobutsu Malone betriebene Sasaki-Archiv, an den Myoshinji-Tempel in Japan, an die Rinzaiji-Gemeinschaft des verstorbenenen Joshu Sasaki Roshi, an das Magazin Tricycle, die Foren von Dharmawheel und Sweepingzen und an ein weiteres, das als einziges für einige Stunden den Brief online ließ - alle anderen beschlossen, die Angelegenheit sofort totzuschweigen ... (Stand vom 21.11., da ich auch diesen Beitrag im Voraus verfasste). Der Zeitpunkt, offiziell das Dharma-Erbe ausgerechnet von Sasaki zu übernehmen - ohne daran irgendwelche Forderungen, Titel usw. zu knüpfen - ist m.E. ideal gewählt, angesichts der heftigen Diskussionen und Skandalisierungen der vergangenen Monate, die auch in diesem Blog aufgegriffen wurden.]
with this letter I claim dharma-heritage from Joshu Sasaki Roshi. I will see myself as continuing his lineage without any further demands (including robes, titles and the like).
Let me explain my reasons and motivations.
It came to my knowledge weeks after Sasaki Roshi’s parinirvana that a certain night dream coincided exactly with the time of his death (I stayed in Thailand). I had first joked about this dream on a mailing list and forum, not knowing about this highly unlikely coincidence. Never met Joshu Sasaki in person. My links to him could be reduced to admiring the few interviews I knew which led to my very first sesshin with an osho of his sangha (Genro Koudela) – which I aborted immediately after a deep insight – and much later defending Sasaki in public forums as well as writing an entry on my short-lived English blog that could be summed up with the line “Why not give the old man a handjob?” (which I believe I would have done myself).
More than two years have passed since and I came to read Sasaki‘s only official teaching booklet “About Tathagata Zen” twice and finally understood. Recently Shozan Taubner‘s fine book “Single White Monk” convinced me of taking this step and making public what I felt for quite a while.
In the dream Sasaki appeared as an animal.
I now understand this as something that was known in the zen/chan tradition as „remote transmission“ (yaosi). The reasons why Sasaki might have picked me (I will leave that open to interpretation) are obvious to me. One of those: My sex life could easily be criticized, though I have found a better solution for (non-)attachment than he had. Let me first make clear that there will be no four eye sanzen with me, and I do believe that disciples of a zen teacher who wants sex with them (or vice versa) should immediately be referred to another teacher. Any intimate relationship should ideally be free of any hierarchy.
This letter cannot answer all the questions you may have. Allow me to address some of them in advance. You may very well dismiss my claim, especially when you have been training with Sasaki and feel overlooked or think you deserve to be his/her dharma-heir. I totally understand. You may as well insist that formal transmission is needed, at least through a proxy. I will inform Myoshinji, though I do not expect that they are able to handle this adequately. For me, your reactions will not make much of a difference, I only wish that you may not be surprised in the future to hear me quote Sasaki as some of my predecessors. I’d also like to translate his booklet into German, if you agree. It is also important to know that I see myself in other lineages as well, e.g. that of Ikkyu Sojun (one of my main fields of influence is on prostitutes), Yunmen, and Wuzhi (to name some schools that are supposed to be dead). I was once asked by a zen abbot why I don’t establish my own lineage; after the dream I mentioned above I felt that I had to include some responsibility for the Sasaki lineage, too.
If you ask yourself what my teaching then would be – I offer only one koan: It is the koan of your own life. My zen way is an immediate application of zen values and methods to one’s own life – if you want to sit hours in zazen, chant, read sutras, wear rakusu etc., this is totally up to you. I do not offer sesshin or the like yet. My zen teaching, if there is any, is stripped of almost all traditional rituals and skilled means (upaya). There is only one direct way to zen, that is its inclusion in your daily life. I will write more about that in a future blog.
Be aware that I have exposed a lot of frauds in the Buddhist and zen scene worldwide in my old German blog, and I will not go their way of claiming something that I don’t have (e.g. adequate training in Japan, official shiho, inka, or whatever). I strongly believe that we have to get rid of all that status and see through the people who pretend to be your masters. This letter here is the result of what I learnt from them: How not to become a teacher. Many of those frauds will feel uncomfortable after this open letter and appear outrageous to you, although there is not a handful of zen masters in the US who are actually on Joshu’s level. In Germany the situation is worse.
Finally: I urge you to face your sexual demons. The reason why Joshu has not appointed any heir in your sangha might very well be the way how many of you seem to have struggled with your sexuality (this is also obvious thanks to Shozan’s open words in the first half of his new book). It has become apparent to me that the Anglo-American view on sexuality is currently even more disturbed and insecure than ours in Germany. The way people are currently shunned even before there is any trial is a disgrace. Unfortunately, you also don’t seem to have laws against the defamation of the dead.
If you make peace with your erotic needs, you may neither fall for the sexual appetite of so-called zen masters nor for the ideology of conservative anti-sex interest groups anymore. It is important to understand Sasaki Roshi’s and Zen’s main teaching: To accept and embrace the light AND the dark (“thus coming and thus going”)! You will not free yourself unless you learn to drop judgment first, before making clear distinctions from this fresh viewpoint that we may call awakened.
All those who still want to spit in Sasaki’s face: You will have to spit in mine, now!
In gasshô and the hope that my English was good enough,
Guido Keller (born 1964, publisher and translator of Angkor Verlag)