By Daniel Scharpenburg
Welcome to Far Out Zen.
I gave that name to my teachings a little while ago and I’ve decided to keep it. It comes from the teachings of Ikkyu Sojun, who is one of my heroes.
Far Out Zen almost isn’t Buddhism at all. I call myself a Buddhist but I’m not sure that’s even accurate. I am a spiritual mystic who follows the path that the Buddha laid out as passed through the Zen patriarchs down through the ages.
Far Out Zen is iconoclastic.
Buddhism could be said to be a history of renegades who were willing to challenge the existing systems of authority. The Buddha was an iconoclast who challenged the spiritual norms of his time and created his own path. Systems of authority often do more harm than good and we should challenge them.
Far Out Zen isn’t a school, like some Zen groups. I don’t want to be a teacher—even though that’s what some people expect—I want to be an awakener. I don’t want to be a therapist either. My goal is simply awakening and I want to practice and communicate with those that share that goal. I am devoted to transforming myself through mystical practices.
Far Out Zen is out in the world. I don’t believe we should cloister ourselves in temples, separate from the world. My temples are the streets and campgrounds. Actually, my temple is wherever I am.
I believe we should take our practice into the world, not keep it separate.
Ikkyu was viewed as a renegade because he was a Zen teacher who was willing to go teach in bars and brothels, places other Zen teachers would never go.
Far Out Zen is not monastic. Master Xu Yun, whom my lineage comes from, said that monks and the laity had the equal potential for Enlightenment. He gathered this opinion from several sources including the Vimalakirti Sutra and the Platform Sutra. If we all have Buddha nature, then we can’t really say there’s a difference between one way of life and another as far as awakening is concerned.
Far Out Zen is positive and life affirming. It’s not a negative or pessimistic way of life. Practicing the Dharma and walking the path of awakening is something to get excited about. Our practice shouldn’t be a chore. We are transforming ourselves and the world.
Far Out Zen is based on cultivation of the Six Perfections.
These are: generosity, virtue, patience, diligence, wisdom and concentration. Cultivating these six things is the beginning and end of the path. We have different methods for cultivating these six—especially the last two.
Ikkyu represents everything iconoclastic Zen can be. He rebelled against many of the monks and Zen teachers of his time who had become corrupted by politics and greed. He called out the practice of selling enlightenment certificates, which was common at the time and probably does still happen today. In his view Zen had become political and he didn’t like that.
His teachings weren’t held down by needless structure and tradition.
It was about just this moment, real ultimate reality. Mystical truth; not religion.
He also took Zen teaching to places that had no experience of it. Most of his contemporaries gave teachings only to monks. Ikkyu wasn’t like that. Not content to live in a monastery, he took Zen into the world.
His temple was the street, not a monastery or cave.
And he taught people that monks would never teach; people that had no opportunities to hear the Dharma. He taught Zen practice to prostitutes, artists, homeless people and alcoholics. He brought the Dharma to the misfits and radicals, those who were looked down on by society.
I want to take the Dharma to strange places.
I am bringing the teachings to Poets and Artists, Pagans and Hippies, Radicals and Misfits. I am not content to sit in a Zen temple ‘preaching to the choir,’ talking about Zen with people who are as boring as I am. I’m taking the Dharma to artist collectives and hippie drum circles and naked pagan festivals.
To people who are not ordinary.
Welcome to Far Out Zen.
Editor: Dana Gornall