Thursday, August 31, 2006


I'm in LAX waiting for a flight to Japan to attend the 2006 Zen Retreat in Shizuoka. But I wanted to make a real quick post.

After that last post, I got 2 e-mails from Nishijima Sensei, my Zen teacher, asking me to explain what I wrote (and not in an "Explain yourself!" way, just in an "I didn't understand what you meant" kind of way). That was weird because the guy never responds to the things I write. In fact, I wasn't even aware he read them. Anyhow, it seems like the meaning he got from the article was exactly the opposite of what I intended. Maybe he wasn't alone in that, so I thought I should explain. He thought I was denying the authority of Buddhism in general and of Master Kodo Sawaki specifically. But I'm not.

In fact, I was trying to express that I do respect the authority both of Buddhism and of Master Kodo, very much. In fact, I also respect the authority of cops, lifeguards, the government and even George W. Bush. I probably ought to explain all this in some detail. But I don't have time & it's not likely I will have time till well after the Zen retreat is over. But for now, suffice it to say, if anyone else thought I was giving the finger to Buddha and Kodo, I was most decidedly not.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Hmm... Sorry about the deleted post, I'm currently getting to grips with this site.

So yeah, anyway... My names Jerome, and my friend Pete recently finished reading your book and recommended it to me since I've had an interest in Zen for quite a few years now. I heard you had a blog so I thought I'd check it out.

I read your last post related to authority figures, in it you said:

"Kodo Sawaki, for one, is always held up as the ultimate rebel monk. Yet look at his picture on the top of this article. There he is with the same robes and skinhead hair-do as any other Zen monk. Why? If he was such an iconoclast why didn't he just say "screw it!" and grow his hair long and wear bell-bottoms?
I've asked myself that many times."

It reminded me of a Koan called "Bells & Robes":

"Ummon asked: `The world is such a wide world, why do you answer a bell and don ceremonial robes?'

Mumon's Comment: When one studies Zen one need not follow sound or colour or form. Even though some have attained insight when hearing a voice or seeing a colour or a form, this is a very common way. It is not true Zen. The real Zen student controls sound, colour, form, and actualizes the truth in his everyday life.

Sound comes to the ear, the ear goes to the sound. When you blot out sound and sense, what do you understand? While listening with ears one never can understand. To understand intimately one should see sound.

When you understand, you belong to the family;
When you do not understand, you are a stranger.
Those who do not understand belong to the family,
And when they understand they are strangers."

Jinzang said...

I hope your retreat goes well and you tell us about it when you get back.

oxeye said...

I'm reading master nishijima's "to meet the real dragon" currently. It is so interesting to put that next to the things you write here and compare them. I am not drawing any conclusions, just comparing..

V for Vendetta said...

I dug your last post and even get that Bush is me. Just dont like it yet.

yudo said...

Like I said in a previous comment, authority is more of a thing of the moment. Some people, because they have authority on ONE subject, would want to have authority on all subjects.

But there is also this: if someone or something is to get truly authoritative (which is quite different from "authoritarian"), it has to be subjected to doubt. This is the point of Karl Popper's thing on science. If you can't question it, then it's dogma, not science.

And once you have doubted the Buddha's authority, but did so according to his recipe, you'll just find out that he was just right. If you question MY authority, and I said something quite foolish, you'll just find out that I was no authority at all.

nai wakara said...

made sence to me. except the gov't part needs some clarification. the concepts of respect and unity are true, really need to read zen at's not even long. c'mon.

Jinzang said...

I read Love's Body many years ago. It seems that sort of Freudian analysis of society has gone out of style. (Does anyone remember Marcuse?) But it impressed me at the time. I came away with the idea that the reason people resent authority is that they're not the one in authority. Then they'd be just fine with it,

It's like we've got not just one infallible pope but a whole society of them, each excommunicating each other with pronouncements ex cathedra.

Drunken Monkey said...

The post was clear to me, but I can only speak for myself.
Good luck with your retreat.

zenducker said...

I thought your fuck authority post was completely clear. I can understand why someone translating from English to Japanese may get it confused, but as a native English reader I had no problem with the meaning. Finally found a Zen group in my area... about 20 miles away... just sat around for 1/2 hour

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There are many things within Buddhism that I don't understand. I think it is because they have a specific moment for everything so there are certain things that must remain secret for some time. You had better not ask.

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