Beat Zen, Square Zen, and Zen, by Watts Alan

It is as difficult for Anglo-Saxons as for the Japanese to absorb anything quite so Chinese as Zen. For though the word "Zen" is Japanese and though Japan is now its home, Zen Buddhism is the creation of T'ang dynasty China.

       I do not say this as a prelude to harping upon the incommunicable subtleties of alien cultures.

I think it would be a very fascist world if only Tibetans were allowed to be initiated into Tibetan Buddhism, and only Chinese were allowed to practice Tai Chi, and so on. But, speaking from a Buddhist perspective, where I have had a reasonable amount of experience, and in particular, the Tibetan lineage, certainly, "Westerners" who enter the transmission stream bring a great deal of cultural baggage with them.  Some Westerns wear Tibetan clothes, drink Tibetan tea with rancid yak butter and have fully accoutred Tibetan Shrines and so on. My teacher, Gelongma Palmo, said that this was not the point, that the point is that the Dharma is transmitted. It may also be possible to be a white sangoma, without having to wear the beaded wig and other paraphernalia. I have met TAR initiates in simple suits. To the outer world, they could have been a railway clerk.

Johan chooses to decorate himself in his own version of neo-ethnic, and in this age of uniformity, grunge and designer labels, and bully for him. I do not know the gentleman at all, and have only seen him at Exhibition openings in his bright regalia. Have not seen his work either. Religion and the Military are, as we know, both extremely fond of display, the regalia and accoutrements, the vestments and uniforms. ,

  In Tibetan Buddhism we have someone like the Dalai Lama who works on an international scale, a friend of Archbishop Tutu as well. In South Africa we have Credo Mutwa, discredited by many, venerated by some. Who is to set up the criteria for Traditional African Religion, outside of the academic structures, that is. My own experience indicates that there is a hierarchy in TAR, and that the upper regions are difficult of access to non-initiates.  In academia, I suppose we would look to the History of Religious Studies, Departments of Universities, such as Anthropology, etc.


But history refers to the past; while in Africa we have a living tradition.