CULTURAL CONSIDERATIONS

Where Zen practice comes to roost, cultural differences are bound to appear. Like water whose wetness remains unaffected by added food coloring, Zen dons the trappings of its infinite homes. Indian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and a bit of the West here and there.

Every culture has its own ways and those ways differ from other cultures. Upbringing and diet are different. Thinking is different. Clothing is different. Language is different. Temples are different. Art is different. Philosophy, religion and psychology are different. All of these and more like them offer both barriers and springboards to understanding. But there are those who fret about culture and what it will 'do' to or for Zen. Some worry that when Zen practice moves from one culture to another, what is added on will confuse or send the wrong message in the new environment. Others think that sending the cultural message is not only useful but necessary. And there are even people who will pay money to hear such topics discussed.

Cultures are different, yes. But Zen is not something different. In practice, it is natural that students should employ what is native and honest. Joy and sorrow, altruism and greed, knowledge and ignorance, love and hate. All such matters are a part of practice because they are part of a student's life. Culture is also a part of a student's life. OK.

But what cuts through the issue of cultural add-ons and what settles the matter of philosophy and religion and psychology is zazen, the seated meditation of Zen practice. In Zen Buddhism, zazen might be called the cornerstone, the understanding and practice without which Zen Buddhism becomes just another cultural or intellectual add-on. Zazen in China, zazen in Australia, zazen in Antarctica, zazen in Mongolia, zazen in Kenya ... this does not require or anything different or anything special. And when you truly involve yourself in nothing special, maybe that makes it special indeed.




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