Practice Past Authenticity

Karen Maezen Miller writes of her Japanese garden as an analogy to the discussion of authenticity and context of American Buddhism:

Shortly after my husband and I moved into our house with its old garden, we invited the experts and academics over tell us what to do. Some would say that our backyard is Southern California’s oldest private Japanese garden, dating from 1916. Some would say that it isn’t; that by virtue of geography, topography, plant selection, and cultural anthropology, it can’t ever be Japanese. We were twisted into a fit by these and other debates about the right way to care for the place. Heaven forbid we make a fraudulent move when we were already paralyzed by ignorance from the get go!

She makes a worthy point that we shouldn’t let ourselves be paralyzed into inaction while we fret over the authenticity of our practice. It’s worth noting that this very same discussion occurs frequently in the Buddhist Asian American community, as I was regretfully honored to be reminded of the other weekend. As Miller writes: Practice is practice. Debates, however, are debates.