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masters and substances

To: alt.magick.tyagi,talk.religion.buddhism,alt.zen
From: tyagI@houseofkaos.Abyss.coM (Hsi Wang Mu)
Subject: Re: masters and substances
Date: 49941129

Quoting: | (Barbara O'Brien) 

|> some one who is enlightened capable of being a nicotine addict?  
|> ...Use drugs as needed, but do not abuse them.

Use is not necessarily abuse.  Persistent activity is not necessarily 

|...not to cling to ideas of perfection.... 

Exactly.  We gradually learn not to cling to anything, including ideas
of perfect or imperfection.

|The subject of vices and teachers is a serious one.... 

It is indeed.  The issues are what constitutes a vice, why it might be
warned against (e.g. moralism or pragmatism), how we shall treat those 
who continue such activities, whether we might consider them as our
teacher and what they might have to teach us.

|Various American Zen teachers have had problems with alcholism 

Meaning, I suppose, that they drank alot of hooch.  In a country
founded on puritanism, this is considered to be 'a disease' in
itself.  Reputable psychologists, however, classify addiction as
a certain *type* of relationship with substances, not the use of
them or a certain volume of use.

|and have also had extramarital affairs with female students. 

Normal human behavior, though to the puritanical and ascetic it would
of course be seen as a travesty.  If there was, as is hinted at here,
deception in some contracted monogamy, then this indicates that the
particular teacher had difficulties reconciling the principles of hir
tradition with hir life (his, I guess in this case).  Beyond this it
is none of our business.

|The Vajrayana teachers Osel Tenzin continued to have sexual relations 
|with several of his students after he had learned he was HIV-positive. 
|It's mind-boggling. 

Did the students know that the teacher had received this information?
If so, then hir sexual relations are again none of our business.

|I would like to discuss this issue, if we can all take off our Puritan 
|hats and judges' robes first.

Now that makes a great deal of sense.  Part of the problem is my culture 
(the US -- and any institutions which make it up, including its variant of 
Zen Buddhism) instills this kind of puritanism.  Society trains for it, 
as it disempowers us and leaves us ready to be 'productive cogs'.

Since the issue is 'vices' and teachers we have two elements to analyse:

1) Behaviors (some called 'vices')

Society calls some behaviors 'vices' when it impedes its goals and its
values in some fashion.  Buddhists call some behaviors 'risky' rather 
than 'vices' because our objective is to identify tricks and traps along 
the way to awakening, not prescribe or proscribe.  

Those who study consciousness and its unfoldment come to study addiction
and substances eventually if our review is to be complete.  There are very 
many substances which do not induce a physical dependence and the 
conditioning of most cultures is toward dependency-relationships with all 
entities, including those with plants and their derivatives (e.g. cane, 
bean and leaf).  

Part of the benefit of effective zazen is the dissolution of our need to 
find ourselves within relationships which are not conducive to our 
awakening, and this is why it is important that our teacher share a value
in promoting this dissolution.

What are called 'addictions' by those who study it are behaviors (ANY)
which are *repeated as they debilitate the life of the individual*.  That
is, just because I may sniff glue or cocaine, this is not an addiction
until it impacts my life in a debilitating manner.  I may well continue
to shoot heroin for 50 years and yet if the rest of my life is not in some
way impacted by this then it is not an 'addiction'.

Therefore if I began to sit still more and more every day and it began to
debilitate me in that I lost my job, place of employment, friends, health, 
etc., it would, by the judgement of many reputable psychologists, be 'an 
addiction to sitting still'.  It is not an addiction until our life is 
severely impacted.

Yet the central issue is AWAKENING, not whether life is seen to be impacted 
in various ways by specific behavior, repeated or otherwise.  There are 
certain behaviors which are warned against by some Buddhists, and I contend 
that these are warning signs about those activities which may be quite 
difficult to engage while attempting to move into nonattachment (due
to their influence upon the elements of the psyche).  

'Sex and drugs' (what about rock-n-roll?? :>) are akin to Ramakrishna's
pair (woman and gold) in that they are said to contain very potent catalysts
for delusion.  What most masters don't mention is that the behaviors them-
selves don't contain the mechanism of our delusion -- this mechanism is
given to us by our culture and contained within our very biology (in the
way that the media inflames these, the government and social institutions
harness the anxiety produced and our natural inclination is to dive into
them headlong).

In regards sex and the general desire to engage nonordinary states of
consciousness, we are naturally predisposed to it, and, given the puritanical
restrictions that most cultures level upon their citizens, it is not 
surprising that masters of nonattachment would warn students away from
the more potent behaviors that can also bring with them consequences
(children, social condemnation, in some cases imprisonment) that would
be difficult to bear unless adept at such things.  That is, they are
protecting us from difficult paths.
2. Teachers (and the special relationship of sensei)

When it comes to teachers (I'm not exactly sure how a 'sensei' might differ
from a sheikh, rabbi, priest or some other guide to the Way), the discussion 
becomes a little more complex.  There are very many aspects to the student-
teacher relationship, and each of these can be impacted if a teacher engages
an addictive behavior (whether or not this involves substances).

The most important and obvious impact would be upon the teacher hirself, 
and it would vary depending on the role that the teacher had in society 
and whether or not she was intentionally choosing the addiction or was 
not indeed a master, falling prey to hir weaknesses.  Rather than deny
her addiction and lack of mastery, the teacher who indulges this addiction
may be learning a very valuable lesson, not only about the extremes of
experience but also about weakness.  Such a person is capable of great
compassion and wisdom.

A teacher indulging an addictive behavior would likely be seen as someone
to avoid in society, given that the emphasis within the traditional
institutions is upon stability, reliability and responsibility.  Changing
hir relationship with that society in an egregious manner would likely be
condemned and castigated, a 'trouble-maker', perhaps regardless of hir 
mastery or awakening.  There are countless stories of buddhas who trespass
the laws of the state and engage in all manner of what would be considered
'horrible' behaviors, and there is no reason that this might not include
addictive behaviors also.

Students approaching a teacher who appears to be engaging a truly addictive
behavior (not just someone who smokes or who often sits) would be taking
a great risk in engaging hir in a student-teacher relationship.  However,
perhaps the teacher will learn something from the student also, and this
should not be forgotten.

When we begin to consider that a teacher may or may not be a master, it
will then become imperative what ability we may have to determine whether
another is awakened or if they are pretending to that state.  Without long
and determined shared experience it is difficult, especially for the novice,
to assess this, and for this reason it would likely be best to sample the
zendo of a traditional and 'clean' master before becoming overly enmeshed
in a relationship as serious and profound as that with a sensei.

Ultimately we cannot be sure of another's progress along the path.  Indeed,
the notion of 'progress' is questionable itself, and many teachers within
and without the Zen Buddhist tradition argue against an attempt to find
such a chimera, let alone that of the fantasy called 'nirvana'.

Hsi Wang Mu 

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