Wednesday, September 03, 2008


I've been dragging my feet about writing. I have a pattern of procrastination regarding writing that has persisted since my college days: if I don't do one piece that is an obligation, I avoid doing other pieces, as well as it. In college 20 years ago it was letters to my mom. This month it is my papers for my Zen Center's seminary program.

I did finish 2 of them. I have 2 more for classes I participated in ages ago. I've already decided to retake the class on the Wisdom Sutras, as it is happening again this spring. So this leaves a presentation on a Dogen piece to be prepared by September 23.

Here's my paper on Zen's Chinese Heritage. Our assignment was to choose one ancestor from each period that we studied and discuss.

Here is my paper on the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras. Our assignment was to take a section from each one, (the verses, and the 8,000 lines) write about it, and relate it to our Zen heritage and/or Buddhism in general. The complete book is online here.

I have no idea how my papers will be received. It's so long since I participated in the classes I could be told I need to do them all over. I hope they're not too boring for my non-Buddhist readers. Just so you know, these sutras are all about Prajnaparamita, that wisdom without which there could be no Buddhas. I find it fascinating that this evolved into a deity...that historically, we can look back and trace the origins of a divine being. Now, when a Buddhist says that, I have to think it means something different than the godstuff of the West. There seems to be some awareness of it as metaphor, and as essentially empty of a separate nature. I can just imagine though, some 2,000 years ago, those Indian teachers trying to get their horny teenage monks to understand these concepts, and hitting upon this useful teaching tool. "Here! Gaze at this! See this book! This beautiful goddess is the wisdom in this book. Become one with her." And the boy lets himself drift on fantasies of losing himself in wisdom....

She is the mother of the Buddhas, and a Buddha herself, and she is my tattoo.

Now, on to the Dogen. The assignment is to take a chapter that I haven't studied and do a presentation on it. I need to show that I know how to read Dogen. Hoo boy. I've studied Dogen several times over the years, and I have a fondness for the old coot. Usually what happens for me is that an image or phrase or concept tugs at me, relates to something in my own practice, and if I pull on that thread the whole chapter opens up to me. That is in the context of a class series though, and I'm not sure if I will be able to immerse myself in the same way, not having studied Dogen with others recently. The complete Shobogenzo is here. One of the enterprising members of the more recent class shared that he used it to find all mentions of 'snow.' Ah, the benefits of the computer age. I didn't have that when I actually took the class, nor did my instructor.

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