Buddhist Imperfection and the Crazy Wisdom of Zen 

The Buddha never said we’re all perfect, quite the opposite. He said that we are nothing but ‘heaps’ of causes and conditions that he called skandhas. He never even said that he’s perfect. And those imperfections can be the basis for positive change. He DID list change as one of the causes of our suffering, but significantly less than that of the First Noble Truth—craving. Maybe that’s not surprising, from someone who was born into the lap of luxury, since change for someone of destitute poverty might only be for the better.  

But that’s arguable, also, so let’s just split the difference and apply the Buddha’s own Middle Path to conclude that change can go either way, good or bad, which is convenient, since it’s inevitable. The point is that, in its origins, imperfection is at the heart of the Buddha’s vision, though the Zen sect of the Mahayana school would, like some Christian sects (such as Christian Science), reverse that position and argue that manifesting our innate perfection is only right and proper. 

They also said that if you meet the Buddha on the road, then you should kill him. Hmmm. Obviously, there’s a logical explanation to that apparent exhortation to violence, but I won’t go into it. I’ll only say that I prefer a simpler approach to enlightenment. The Zen thing is to show the limits and traps of language, and I agree whole-heartedly with that, but I don’t necessarily agree to a Dadaist approach to it. One of the Christian sideline precepts is to say what you mean and mean what you say, (“Let your yes be yes and your no be no”), and they just might have that right. 

No, I don’t think that anyone has all the answers, and it is to Buddhism’s credit that so much dialogue is allowed, and even encouraged, which promotes a larger dialectic. In fact, this is how the Zen master Hui-Neng upstaged the heir apparent to replace the current master, to whom he was only a rank (in)subordinate. Thus began the line of thought that we are not here to train our minds but to acknowledge the illusion of reality, so something like an alternative Mayanist (haha) school, which thrives to this day as subplot to many more orthodox traditions. We are not perfect, but this is why we practice…