Sunday, January 22, 2012

Zen Outreach in Kenya

I would like to reignite a discussion I started a long time ago. It concerns the degree to which Zen should or should not be an evangelising religion. (Let's just call it a religion for now - one variable at a time, please!)

I have just completed a weekend near Lake Victoria, Kenya, haivng been invited by Spencer (pictured below)

to assist in a Zen teaching session, right in the middle of nowhere.  It was a somewhat "samurai" experience as, this being something of a blind date, I was invited as much to bring along my machete as my satori. Fortunately the natives were friendly and so the steel stayed sheathed.

We appear to have been invited on account of a perceived inability of Christianity to keep its promises. I'm not agreeing or disagreeing, merely reporting that our host who has formed the Zen group pictured, having until recently been a Christian preacher, said, "The Pentecostalists said there would be miracles, so people came and prayed for miracles - but I never saw a single one!"

Thus he investigated an alternative and asked Spencer, who facilitates "Zen Kenya," to provide instruction. He only discovered that such tuition was available because Zen Kenya had gone to the trouble of making its existence and teaching role known.

My point is that if Zen Kenya had been terribly Zen, terribly self-effacing, then the excellent practice of anapanasati, as very clearly taught by Spencer, would be a gift ungiven - and the Africans pictured would be bereft of something beautiful.

I'm not saying we should copy Jehova's team (put on a suit, grab a child, go ringing doorbells.)
However, I feel we are breaking our Bodhisattva vows if we do not quietly and respectfully use all skillful means available to make the practice and fruits of meditation available to as many people as possible.