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Zoketsu Norman Fischer, a senior dharma teacher at the San Francisco Zen Center, has an interesting article in the latest issue of Buddhadharma magazine (a portion of which is available online). In the article he states that as a teacher, he has a “Plan A” approach in which he teaches Soto Zen “with all the usual bells and whistles,” and a “Plan B” approach in which he teaches meditation in secular contexts, such as at Google, with doctors and businesspeople and so forth.

He seems to start to set up oppositions between the two (as his Plan A-B schema suggests) before backing off of them. Usually when I read someone talking about a Plan B, it implies to me they are talking about a contingency plan, what they will do if Plan A doesn’t work out, not something complementary. But it seems that ultimately Fischer does see them as complimentary. Which is cool. I think they are complimentary too.

He also writes “the idea that Buddhism and Buddhist mediation [is] nonreligious  . . is considered completely incorrect by most contemporary Buddhist scholars I know and have read.” I’ve read a lot of academic scholarship on Buddhism myself, and I agree that most would consider Buddhism a religion (because it is one), but I’ve never seen anyone assert that Buddhist mediation can have no role in secular contexts. Fischer asserts “they maintain that whatever good might come from mediation practice as a so-called secular activity is pretty superficial.” I’ve never seen anyone express that opinion–I think at the very least Fischer makes a vast over-generalization.

He seems to be a little spooked by a round table discussion with young Buddhists in which he participated for the same magazine, and about which I blogged earlier. Spooked, that is, about the future of the convert-Buddhist beachheads in the west. Perhaps there is reason to be, and admittedly one of the youngest participants sounded like a dilettante with unreasonable expectactions, if I remember correctly. However, while I don’t think deep practice and study will ever be a big phenomenon, I think there are and will continue to be enough interested parties to sustain it well into the future.

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