I started this blog five years ago, when I visited my friends and colleagues at Tohoku University in Sendai a few weeks after the horrible earthquake and tsunami. It was intended as a kind of public yet personal travel diary, which somehow survived and turned into an ongoing project. Said that, even five years and over 200 posts later, I am not sure if writing this Zen-blog isn’t a complete waste of time.
Recently I was asked why I write this blog in such a personal style, with so many “I”s and “me”s, instead of spreading the Dharma in a way which makes much better use of the classical literature. Well, with a few exceptions, I prefer to leave the exegesis of ancient Chinese and Japanese texts to the academic experts who have more background, time and skills to explain in modern language what some scholar wrote down one or two millennia ago. Yet, the many “I”s and “me”s deserve some more words …
One and a half decade ago the Japanese IT-Company I worked for promoted their revolutionary new mobile-phone with the slogan “I, Me and Myself”. I was put off by so much “selfishness” (as well as by the many “unnecessary” features which made more than five years later the first iPhone so popular). That was at a time nobody had any idea of smart-phones and only eccentrics were taking a “selfie”, a time hardly anyone was able to “post” something on the WorldWideWeb.
When our late Shakuhachi teacher asked all of his students to contribute to his organisation’s annual newsletter, he explicitly wanted us to write some personal account related to our practice. I felt ready to write up some clever seminal paper concerning, say, “Zen and the Shakuhachi” or alternatively to provide some calligraphic artwork. But a personal account of my struggles with that damn bamboo-stick, about my inability and frustration to produce anything coming close to “Music on the Japanese Bamboo Flute” after years of practice? Who could be interested to read that?
At this time I did not understand that Zen is about meeting myself. Not “MYSELF”, that big imagined “I”, a great fantasy about myself, playing someone I want to be in my or other’s eyes … but just meeting and befriending the ever-changing person I am. That is not a selfie-centred “I, Me, and Myself”. It is more a
Sorry, that’s just me … maybe not the “Zen-Master” you expected to meet?
Giving a personal account of my praxis (which I invite others to join at my Dojo) requires in the English language a frequent use of “I” and “me”.
Actually, I’d prefer to write such text in Japanese language, where instead of frequently using “I” and “me” the humble verb-form would indicate to the reader that I speak of my own insignificant actions and experiences. “坐禅修行をいただく参りました。” sounds incredibly more polite and adequate than the potentially boasting English equivalent “I came here to study Zazen.”, and the Japanese sentence is complete without any first person pronoun.
Maybe, when reading this blog, you just want to ignore all the “I” and “me”, as if they were nothing but a mere grammatical necessity of the English language?