Wednesday, August 01, 2007

DON'T VIEW BIG FISH


Some anonymous person left this behind in the comments:

The Fifth Training: Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I vow to cultivate good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking and consuming. I vow to ingest only items that preserve peace, well being, and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant or to ingest foods or other items that contain toxins, such as certain TV programs, magazines, books, films and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body and my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society and future generations. I will work to transform violence, fear, anger and confusion in myself and in society by practicing a diet for myself and for society. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self transformation and the transformation of society

He (or she, but I'll assume he) said it was odd a Zen teacher would encourage this. I guess that means "encourage people to go look at porn." So I thought I ought to clarify a little. But I am well aware that no matter how many times I clarify my statements you can never satisfy everybody. In any case, though, I find this interesting.

First, I'm not encouraging you guys to look at porn. I don't really give a shit whether you do or don't. It's none of my fucking business. I also think maybe I put too much emphasis on the monetary side of what I do for Suicide Girls. Though I could hardly make a living off writing for them or writing books, I have another job, so I ain't poor. Ain't rich either. But I don't write for SG for the cash. I do it mainly to annoy pious Buddhists!

That's a joke. Jesus!

SG provides a forum wherein what I say can reach a tremendous number of people. I could probably make as much, if not more, by taking PayPal donations at this blog. But then I'm just preaching to the choir. I find preaching to the SG readers to be much more of a challenge. It's like a weird little sociological experiement. I've always believed Buddhism was good for anybody anywhere. I'm testing to see if that's true.

But in response to the quote above, this is something I've heard a few variations on. I'm not quite certain who it comes from (though I can make a guess). One thing I do want to point out, in case it's not obvious, is that this is not from any traditional ancient Buddhist source. It is a contemporary interpretation.

I would not go so far as to say it's wrong or to condemn this approach. But it's not the approach in which I was trained, nor is it the approach I want to teach.

Obviously there's a lot of stimulation available in today's culture, which can be highly distracting to practice. When you sit on your cushion all the stuff you've shoved into your brain starts to bubble out. The less stuff you shove in there, the easier it is to reach a calm, nice state in Zazen. However, Dogen cautioned that reaching calm, nice, serene states of mind wasn't really the goal of our practice. It can be a nice side benefit. But it's not why we do it.

I don't condemn the approach our anonymous friend suggests. I mean, eating right is very good. Not spending hours and hours and hours machine gunning virtual bad guys at the video arcade, also good. Being aware how these kinds of stimulation affect body and mind = very, very, very good indeed. Yet it does no good to try and shut reality out, covering our ears and eyes and shouting, "Na! Na! I can't hear you!"

Dogen said, "By eliminating disturbances we redouble the disease... Intellectual excluding now adds to the disease and augments the disease. The very moment itself of eliminating is inevitably disturbance. They are simultaneous and are beyond simultaneousness. Disturbances always include the fact of [trying to] eliminate them.”

This is a key point in the teaching I've learned from Dogen's lineage and that I want to try to convey. How you actually put this into action is up to the individual. I wouldn't go as far as the writer who made up this rule as to try and list "poisonous activities." That seems to be going a bit too far. In indiviual one-to-one talks, I've been known to make suggestions, some of which resemble what he's saying. But it may be more useful to discover how to remain balanced in the face of any kind of stimulation. This is a trickier path to follow. In the end, though, I really think it's the only way that makes sense.

Sorry.

82 comments:

Jules said...

I'm sure you guessed correctly, Brad, but for those who don't recognize that quote, it's from Thich Nhat Hanh's group. Brad's correct, it is a contemporary interpretation of one of the precepts. The exact language was agreed upon by a senior group of TNH's students (reads like it was written by committee, doesn't it?). Really nice people though.

Ron said...

It seems to me that by trying to eliminate all toxins (in the form of "bad" books, films, conversations, et cetera), one is also eliminating--nay, exterminating--the potential for growth. More succinctly: How are we to know, prior to engaging and consequently interacting with something, whether that thing is "good" or "bad"? Whether or not we might learn from it?

If, for example, I declare outright that I will not look at the photos on SG, might I also be eliminating any future growth/contemplation those photos might provoke (on the very subject of morality, et cetera (or whatever we deem objectionable about such stimuli))?

In short, to avoid "bad" stimuli altogether, we must first accept someone else's definition of "bad". And that's an insult to our own intelligence and, what's more, contrary to the teachings of Zen, is it not?

Best wishes,
ron.

Jules said...

ron said: If, for example, I declare outright that I will not look at the photos on SG, might I also be eliminating any future growth/contemplation those photos might provoke

I'll confirm that looking at those photos can provoke growth.

Mysterion said...

Yep... it's long form is HERE.

The short form is HERE.
The Five Mindfulness Trainings
(from “For a Future to Be Possible” by Thich Nhat Hanh, Parallax Press, 1998)

And the ritualized form is PING.

And Mysterion could _never_, even in 10,000 cabbage transmutations, overlook a good scholarly review.

And, the papa burger is 1/2 pound.
The mama burger is 1/3 pound.
The baby burger is 1/4 pound.

(I can't even REMEMBER the last time I consumed a hamburger - it wasn't in THIS decade!)

Ga-sho-nuff

ron said...

Nicely done, Jules. Nicely done. :)

oxeye said...

"By eliminating disturbances we redouble the disease."

Trying to identify and eliminate all mind/body toxins would be a very frustrating exercise..

A little like being told that whatever you do during zazen, DO NOT imagine a pink elephant wearing a tutu.

Anonymous said...

Brad, the last two items you've posted here are indicative of why I read your stuff in preference to nearly anything else written about Zen.

So often I despair of finding anything other than what I call the "peppermint dolphins and new age wonder crystals" crap that passes for Zen Buddhist thought.

And then you toss out a couple of zingers like these last two. Those plus your SG piece on the West Virginia murderer are some of the best writing you've done.

Kudos.

DB

Anonymous said...

I think the whole area of sexuality in particular has snagged many a seeker on the spiritual path and repression of what is a physical expression of a natural biological function in the name of seeking 'higher states' causes more harm than good - because we all know what happens when we repress things- they become all the more difficult to deal with - they shout all the louder.

We're still all people - mammals- after all (as the song goes...)

And we all know the stories and sex scandals that show the other side of the coin when people have tried to shag their way to enlightenment.

(Sighs)......It's just that middle path thing again isn't it?....it always seems to come back to that old one... Siddharta was really onto something there...!

We live in a messy world and after all isn't trying to keep 'all the nasty things out there' what Siddharta's Dad tried to do?

firkle said...

I drink alcohol, eat cheeseburgers, look at porn, and also like to read about Buddhism.

Here's a couple of quotes I really like:

Emerson:
“If I am the Devil's child, I will live then from the Devil. No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature.”

W.C. Fields:
"Be your type! I determined that whatever I was, I'd be that, I wouldn't teeter on the fence."

I will subscribe to SG, read Brad's posts and will definitely be looking at the photos. So sue me.

Mysterion said...
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Mysterion said...
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Jules said...

Mysterion said... Strictly speaking, Viet Nam is Ch'an, not Zen.

Strictly speaking, in Viet Nam it's written Thien when using Roman characters. The official name of Thich Nhat Hanh's lineage is the "Lam Te School of Thien" (you may notice some similarity between "Lam Te" and "Lin Chi" -- there's a good reason for that.)

Ellen said...

I like that part about how "Disturbances always include the fact of [trying to] eliminate them.”

I've heard, from an entirely different non-buddhist source, "Whenever we are disturbed, there is something wrong with us." Which was a slap upside the head. You mean there's something wrong with me cuz I'm disturbed at [insert here - porn, politician, etc.]?!? NO Freakin' way!

But it finally started to dawn on me that it is possible to look at those kind of things with some kind of balance (okay, barely possible in the case of say, Dick Cheney). From a balanced state, I can better act.

Trying to eliminate sources of disturbance - that act of pushing away is an act of aversion. A way of saying "that's NOT me. got nothin' to do w/me! NOPE, not ME."

And that's where the problem is. Makes sense to me.

Mysterion said...
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Mysterion said...
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keishin.ni said...

I'm all for the trickier path.
It's where I live, it's where I sit, it's where I go food shopping, it's where I relax, it's where I get my car serviced, it's where I meet up with my friends, it's where I rub elbows with the rest of humanity.
Sometimes I'm in the thicket of it...but that's the trickier path for you....

Mysterion said...
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Anonymous said...

I'm not positive.. but that guy is way better looking than Brad..

jus kidding sensei. :)

Jiryu02 said...

I see Dogen's "eliminating disturbances" thing a little like this: Zen is not reaching another place nor is it about eliminating bad stimulation. Instead, it has no goal, no end to realize. Therefore, all sounds are still heard but are now one as intelligence recognizes it as separate, and the same with all other perception. So it's not to block it out but to let it be. Don't be tempted, however, don't resist. If one can do this, it seems reality passes right through you.

Jiryu02 said...

Correction, it passes through you because it is of you. But thats not the point, "be indifferent" is what I meant.

Anonymous said...

Brad wrote: "This is a key point in the teaching I've learned from Dogen's lineage and that I want to try to convey...it may be more useful to discover how to remain balanced in the face of any kind of stimulation."

I'd really like to hear more from you along these lines.

DB

maakumaaku said...

Really liked today's article on "eliminating disturbances", but i couldn't help notice that on Nishijima sensei's blog today he quotes the same Dogen passage. Ok, now who didn't do their homework and copied? hah...

Anyway, great stuff and right on point! kind of like the whole painful thing about..well..pain is the resistance to it. I read that before in one's of Brad's books or articles..think its another manifestation of this same idea.

Smoggyrob said...

Hi everyone:

Nice article, that's why I read Brad's stuff. Some have suggested Brad get a donation button. What sort of things would people like to get for their gift? Access to written, audio, or video dharma talks? Membership in Dogen Sangha Los Angeles? Signed posters (-didn't even know her!) of Brad looking dreamy? Limited-distribution articles? World domination secret decoder rings? Teeshirts and a line of underwear? Is it okay to make a buck off the dharma if you spend it on the dharma?
--
Rob

Mysterion said...
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Kozan Bob said...

What on earth is that quote from? I mean, the title "Don't view big fish?" It's right on the tip of my brain.... Someone tell me before it obsesses me all through a sesshin I am about to start....

Lone Wolf said...

I agree with the comment by anonymous on sexuality. My theory is that the Catholic Priests who diddle little boys have tried to supress their sexuality. But by merely suppressing sexuality, it does not go away, most likey it gets pissed off from lack of attention and turns into a out of control monster. You can not get rid of what is part of you. It's always better to face reality than deny it.

On the other hand, just letting your sexuality run a muck causing you to have sex with cantaloupe's and what have you, also causes all sorts of problems.

Suppressing or indulging to much of anything always seems to make you the people around you miserable.

I think that Zazen can naturally help you balance all aspects of your life, whether your hung up on sex, or blogging way to fucking much.

To all the people who are so hung up on Brad teaching "Porn Buddhism", they sort of remind me of that koan where the student (or someone) asks his master who carried the woman across the stream, "Why did you carry that woman across the stream, your a monk?" and the Master replies,"I already forgotten about her. Why are you still carrying her." ...or something like that.

Anonymous said...

I've heard a couple of bad rumors about suicide girls. Then again they were rumors. Also, I had a friend who wrote a column on sexuality and spirituality for a very, very hardcore gay S/M pornsite. I'm a little squishy at the core, not gay, scared of pain, and generally unreceptive to porn. I still looked forward to his columns. He had to give them up because he got a real job.

Gregor said...

Yes, definitely from Thich Nhat Hanh.

I wouldn't say that the quote is condemning any specific activity, it leaves an opening for interpretation as to what and how much of an activity would be toxic.

I don't believe the original intent of the passage was to condemn any behavior, but instead as an aide in making healthy decisions for themselves. Whether it's contemporary or ancient makes little difference -- True when we try to deny something we do give it much more power, but we can choose behaviors according to what we believe is best for our health.

I'm not weighing in pro or con for Porn here in any way. Just trying to point out that each person needs to make their own choices and focus on aligning their actions with their value system.

The point of the "mindfulness training" is not about repressing anything, just embracing habits and lifestyles that are skillful -- be it doing Zazen everyday, ogling SG pics, or doing both --- I've tried both and have decided to refrain from one of them. You be the judge for yourself.

Smoggyrob said...

Hi Kozan Bob:

Brad's written about this before. It's from a list of "shalt nots" Dogen's teacher gave him. In China, having a collection of large fish was a ostentatious sign of wealth. So, "Don't view big fish" means "don't get caught up with material possessions." That, or it was a warning that a fish's hypno power is directly related to its size.

Have a good retreat,

Rob

Kozan Bob said...

Thanks, Smoggyrob, that's what it was! I was thinking it was from some movie or something!

Yudo said...

In Northern America, girl's tits are considered highly provocative, to the point that a woman cannot breast-feed, considered an obscenity.
In Europe, since the '60ies, it is normal practice for women to remain bare breasted at the beach.
Years ago, I had a visit from a niece from Quebec, who was shocked at this, yet wore trousers so transparent that one could see her underwear.
Muslims hold women impure and obscene so they hide them totally. Their societies harbour tremendous proportions of repressed homosexuality.
This obsession with sex is a constant among monotheistic related religions. What was the attitude of the saint, the detachment from sexual attachments, became the universal rule. Hence the American obsession with sex. Why is France considered among anglosaxophones as the country of smut? It's just because the French tend not to fuss about something normal.
Catholic priests used to call women "vocation robbers" and my father's second wife, a devout catholic, seemed to hold it normal that priests should fuck young boys...

All this reminds me of the nudist beach, where you get the dirty old men hiding behind bushes to watch what isn't even hidden, because hiding is such an important part of their obsession.

It is truly a matter of personal responsibility. If, confronted to naked women (or men) gives you such unrest that only the presence of others keeps your from trying to rape the person, I don't think you're to blame them. But it is very frequently the same lame excuse that rapers will submit, in court: "she provoked me" -- "she gave me looks that indicated that she wanted it" and so on.

For all those reasons, I completely dismiss those criticisms.

Yudo said...

In Northern America, girl's tits are considered highly provocative, to the point that a woman cannot breast-feed, considered an obscenity.
In Europe, since the '60ies, it is normal practice for women to remain bare breasted at the beach.
Years ago, I had a visit from a niece from Quebec, who was shocked at this, yet wore trousers so transparent that one could see her underwear.
Muslims hold women impure and obscene so they hide them totally. Their societies harbour tremendous proportions of repressed homosexuality.
This obsession with sex is a constant among monotheistic related religions. What was the attitude of the saint, the detachment from sexual attachments, became the universal rule. Hence the American obsession with sex. Why is France considered among anglosaxophones as the country of smut? It's just because the French tend not to fuss about something normal.
Catholic priests used to call women "vocation robbers" and my father's second wife, a devout catholic, seemed to hold it normal that priests should fuck young boys...

All this reminds me of the nudist beach, where you get the dirty old men hiding behind bushes to watch what isn't even hidden, because hiding is such an important part of their obsession.

It is truly a matter of personal responsibility. If, confronted to naked women (or men) gives you such unrest that only the presence of others keeps your from trying to rape the person, I don't think you're to blame them. But it is very frequently the same lame excuse that rapers will submit, in court: "she provoked me" -- "she gave me looks that indicated that she wanted it" and so on.

For all those reasons, I completely dismiss those criticisms.

karmatah said...

A student told Suzuki Roshi about his inability to stop thinking about sex and asked him if he should stop having sex altogether to achieve more peace of mind.
Roshi answered: "Sex is like brushing your teeth. It's good to do it, but you shouldn't do it all day long".
I love that quote!

MikeDoe said...

I didn't know that in Buddhism you are only supposed to teach to the 'right' kind of people.

I think it's fun that you write for SGs. It's a different audience who would not otherwise read your stuff.

I find it ironic that I go to SG to read your article following the link and then leave. I don't spend time looking at the women. What a waste!

If you bury anything it just grows.

I seem to have a lot of 'sexual' thoughts. They are no different to any other thoughts that I have.
If I was getting laid regularly (or at all) then no doubt I would think of Sex less. As it is a hungry man dreams of food.

Do you blame the man for being hungry, do you blame the hunger or do you just accept what is. When you are hungry you think about food. It's natural - up to a point.

The human body is designed to reproduce and geared towards reproduction. To breed requires no effort. To not breed, to remain celibate requires great effort and will still fail.

It's with great sadness that I note that none of the SGs seem to be willing to come to my house to display their natural beauty despite my invitation. Ah well. Life goes on.

Anonymous said...

the only thing that bothers me about naked women with tattoos is that they never look totally naked (or, if you prefer, nude) to me. while the tattoos are interesting and even sexy for a while, eventually, i find myself wanting her to remove them along with her clothes. i guess i just have a greater appreciation for the uninterrupted beauty of a woman's naked flesh than i do for what sort of art she is adorned with. her curves and skin and natural markings are all the art i want.

Anonymous said...

although i sometimes post here otherwise, i posted the above, again, anonymously, so as to avoid judgment. am i a coward, or what?

Anonymous said...

I really don't mind tattoos.. I kind of like them. but they better be goddam good ones if you are going to get a lifetime picture stuck on your ass or wherever. and they really only look good on a tight body. so you will probably wish you could wash them off when you get to be around mysterion's age.

Mysterion said...
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Jules said...

anonymous wrote: and they really only look good on a tight body. so you will probably wish you could wash them off when you get to be around mysterion's age.

I disagree. I have tattoos and I know I won't want to wash 'em off when I get older. I designed and drew them myself, and a tattoo artist traced my drawings and inked me. They're a form of expression for me and for many people, and the art doesn't get less interesting just because the canvas is wearing a little thin.

Anyway, just because one gets a little older is no reason to let yourself go. I intend to keep exercising and watching what I eat 'till I croak. That's just 'right action'.

Mysterion said...
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Anonymous said...

aesthetically, conversationally, intellectually, artistically . . . in these ways, i appreciate tattoos. sexually, less so.

i understand that, for many, they are a reflection and representation of things and ideas that matter to the person wearing them, which i think is the coolest thing about tattoos. (although i don't think this applies to the masses who have random designs on the lower back or some other area deemed trendy of late.) but, i would rather learn about the person through conversation and art revealed in any of many forms other than on the body. this is because, again, for me, there is nothing that compares to the appeal, excitement, and raw beauty of the naked body.

Anonymous said...

Everyone and his sister has a tattoo nowadays. What kind of personal expression is it when virtually EVERYONE has one? Unimaginative self expression I would say. I saw a girl today without a tattoo on her lower back. It freaked me out a little. She had the balls NOT to be different like everyone else.

Mysterion said...
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Jules said...

Everyone and his sister has a tattoo nowadays. What kind of personal expression is it when virtually EVERYONE has one? Unimaginative self expression I would say.

I hesitate to point out the blindingly obvious, but not all tattoos are the same...

Anonymous said...

The 5th Mindfulness Training from TNH is a modern version of a very old teaching.

The Buddha said...

[i]Whoever lives contemplating pleasant things, with senses unrestrained, in food immoderate, indolent, inactive, him verily Mara overthrows, as the wind (overthrows) a weak tree.

Whoever lives contemplating ``the Impurities'', with senses restrained, in food moderate, full of faith, full of sustained energy, him Mara overthrows not, as the wind (does not overthrow) a rocky mountain.[/i]

vinegar said...

What is it about vows anyway? You either decide to do something or not. A vow, IMO, is like abdicating your personal responsibility to someone else. You try to force or constrain yourself to act by making a sort of promise to someone.

You also constrain your flexibility to act in a given situation as the situation calls for rather than overlaying every situation with some meta-commitment written by someone else.

Anonymous said...

vinegar,

there are 3 gems; buddha, dharma, sangha.

It is tempting to try and separate them, but my experience is that practice is not as effective when one does so.

Vows are either a public or private proclamation. they are, if you will, the compass that guides us on our journey.

Anonymous said...

Blinegar?

dood said...

Brad -

at the end of your post you wrote:

"But it may be more useful to discover how to remain balanced in the face of any kind of stimulation. This is a trickier path to follow. In the end, though, I really think it's the only way that makes sense.

Sorry."

the only parts of this I agree with are "may" and "sorry".

I can only speak of my own experience - but the 5 precepts really do help ME to live weller.

If i know that certain stimuli are going to cause problems for me - then I avoid them.....

Here's the catch - we have an uncanny ability to tell ourselves that these things are good for us - alcohol, drugs, porn, sugar, caffiene, nicotene, etc...

Heck, for the longest time I smoked pot on a daily basis without ever getting caught...tricky, yes? A waste of time, yes?

You can fool everyone but yourself.

Take care,
DO

Brad said...

DOOD,

Yes definitely. Very true. You can tell yourself that absolutely anything at all is OK. Even the administrators of the concentration camps never believed themselves to be doing evil.

It was scary to discover that I myself had exactly the same capacity to do just that. So does everyone reading this. You could all convince yourself that the most "evil" thing on Earth was something you had to or should do. Don't ever believe you lack that ability. This is the tremendous power of thought. This is why we need to see what is beyond our own thoughts entirely. Beyond thought, right and wrong behavior are always perfectly clear.

Anyway, if the vows help, that's wonderful. I've taken them myself (though not with TNH's particular wording). But to me it was more a personal discovery than having a set of rules imposed from someone else. Even the best sets of rules are always in the realm of thought.

Anonymous said...

"Beyond thought, right and wrong behavior are always perfectly clear."

Brad - This is as clear as mud for me.. any chance you could elaborate a little?

Roberto said...

Brad,

Don't feel comfortable supporting your work through SG based on some of the things I've read in the comments & news about how SG is run. I for one, and others I'm sure, would donate $ if you set up some type of pay pal account (as you suggest)to keep funding your work. Keep on writing in SG and elsewhere!

vinegar said...

Blinegar? Hmmm, don't get it.

Who is anonymous anyway. Are all the anonymous comments by the same anonymous or is there more than one anonymous?

If there is more than one how does one know which anonymous is speaking, uh, writing?

As for vows is seems you can do the same with them or without them. Aren't you suppose to be your own light? I'm not disinterested in groups, like Sangha. However, it's easy to abdicate your own responsibility to walk your own path.

Mysterion said...

Jupiter Optimus Maximus was ichiban in the Roman pantheon.

Here's a VOW:

O Jupiter Optimus Maximus, if You allow the emperor and the Fratres Arvales for whom I speak, to live uninjured and keep their homes safe, then come next 3 Jan., voted by the people of Rome, the Quirites, for the benefit of the Republic of the Roman people, the Quirites. Should You preserve today’s emperor and the people in good health from danger, if they remain as they are today as far as possible, and the results are beneficial as I have spoken, and, too, if You will grant to the emperor and this state as they are now or you will preserve them in a better state, thereby making it so, then in the name of the College of the Fratres Arvales I vow to You to sacrifice two bulls with gilded horns in the future.

The College of the 'Fratres Arvales' evolved into the Cardinal's College.

So a vow is tit for tat (pun intended).
tit = this
tat = that
tit for tat = this for that

Mysterion said...
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Mysterion said...

A vow of obedience in a Buddhist setting is (?) odd. A vow is a tit with no tat.

The monastic monks had three vows: obedience, chastity, and poverty.

That was then, this is now. Gautama preached not a religion, but a system devoid of "authority." Think on this...

A leader is a leader and not an authority. The Dalai Lama is just an ordinary monk.

vinegar said...

Yes definitely. Very true. You can tell yourself that absolutely anything at all is OK. Even the administrators of the concentration camps never believed themselves to be doing evil.

It was scary to discover that I myself had exactly the same capacity to do just that. So does everyone reading this. You could all convince yourself that the most "evil" thing on Earth was something you had to or should do. Don't ever believe you lack that ability. This is the tremendous power of thought. This is why we need to see what is beyond our own thoughts entirely. Beyond thought, right and wrong behavior are always perfectly clear.

Anonymous,

I think this is great! I'm not Brad and you didn't ask me but I'll take a shot at what it means to me.

It's about rational (thought) justification of one's actions no matter how horrific they may be. If you think enough you can justify any behavior.

"Even the administrators of the concentration camps never believed themselves to be doing evil.

It was scary to discover that I myself had exactly the same capacity to do just that."

We all have that capacity in spades and one of the most important realizations and acknowledgements it that we DO have that capacity and we USE it. That is the power of THOUGHT.

"You could all convince yourself that the most "evil" thing on Earth was something you had to or should do. Don't ever believe you lack that ability. This is the tremendous power of thought."

So realizing we have that capacity and identifying it in ourselves with brutal honesty, will allow us, if we are willing, to see underneath, beyond, around, on the other side of it and see reality in spite of our justification. We see the justification for what it is, a rational delusion to allow us to do what we want to do not an unbiased analysis of the facts to reach a moral decision.

"This is why we need to see what is beyond our own thoughts entirely. Beyond thought, right and wrong behavior are always perfectly clear."

Brad has said we all know reality. It's not something we need to figure out or reason out. It's the same with what it "right" and "wrong". We know what to do, it's getting to the place we know that we know and do not justify ourselves out of it, then do it.

IMO, that is what he means.

Wolfger said...

"I don't write for SG for the cash. I do it mainly to annoy pious Buddhists!"

Sounds like a good reason to me. :-)
Well, okay, not really... Deliberately annoying people is not good. It can, however, be a pleasant side effect to see somebody get annoyed with something which they should not allow themselves to be annoyed by. Schadenfreude is so hard to escape.

Jinzang said...

Beyond thought, right and wrong behavior are always perfectly clear.

There's some truth to this, but in light of the misconduct of various Zen teachers over the past thirty years, I don't think it's the entire picture. I don't believe we can abandon the guidance of the precepts.

I always like quoting my teacher, so here's what he had to say about proper conduct and mahamudra.

So there is only one kind of conduct to enhance mahamudra, the conduct of Samantabhadra. When you start the path, you practice the preliminaries. The conduct you engage in is focused on motivation. Ensure your motivation for setting out on the path is genuine. It should not be motivated by the eight worldly dharmas and it should be unstained by the ambition to be somebody or gain some position. You should think and behave in such a way that you should never be ashamed of yourself. You should practice to be able to gain liberation for others and not practice for your own sake. You should act so that you never have to ask yourself if you acted properly. In the middle when you perform the main practice and settle in it, continue the conduct of Samantabhadra and drive in all the nails of ambition and intellect with the hammer of good conduct. Resolve all vanity within your mind and see the self-aware nature as the single key point. All learning needs to be directed to that one point.

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Don't View Big Fish

Don't Fish for Big Views: I don't subscribe to SG,
I really don't get it. Mebbe it's just me.
Why fanta supa size?
I mean it's ok for the folks that like and take delight in creating the lighting and the poses and the costumes and all and represent themselves as their (what, what? idealized selves? secret selves? response of eros in the world of technocracy?)
Sure it can go on in the the cyber room next door, but I don't need to go there and hang out. And I don't feel I need to support it's continued existence, and I guess if I had to pay to read Brad's column there, I just wouldn't get to read it--I'd have to pick up some of the Buddhist pinata stuff Brad hangs out from other branches--his blog gets so many 'hits' and what do you know--all the goodies come tumbling down--along with a lot of other sense and nonsense.
I applaud Brad for keeping his day job, and being as versatile a being as he humanly can.
I would rather directly support his endeavors, and get to when I attend his Saturday sits and
zazenkai. Makes sense to me to have a place on the web to make direct contributions.
Or, I guess, he could go a more traditional route and do funeral services...

Anonymous said...

I don't really know how much experience anyone here has with the sex industry. I have some, mainly through friends of mine who have worked in it, and through directly working with some younger women who'd been involved. It's a brutal and domineering field that eats up people, especially aforementioned young women, and vomits them out. It's almost always run by men for men (Suicide Girls certainly is, the odd lesbian subscriber notwithstanding) and it's almost always inexorably run together, i.e., porn is connected to prostitution is connected to stripping, and all are generally connected to drugs and organized crime to some extent (though SG probably has no real connection with the latter). It baffles me that Brad can lash out at the drug trade and Buddhist authors who promote it (which I agree with him on) but insist that porn is some kind of legitimate enterprise. I mean, even if you ignore every thing else about it, I don't think staring at airbrushed pics of models giving beaver shots is a healthier way to look at women simply because they have green dreads or listen to Jets to Brazil. I can't really connect it with any kind of enlightened enterprise (and I mean enlightened in a very loose way,not "spiritually"). If someone wants to make cash writing for a website that uses images of women as cumrags, is owned and operated by a neocon asshole who makes bigoted remarks (especially about arabs) with some regularity, and apparently treats its models badly...Well, I wouldn't condemn them, honestly. Everyone's gotta eat. But dressing it up as a spiritual endeavor? This seems self serving to me. Just my 2 cents.

I do agree that people shouldn't avoid unpleasant stimuli, but there's a difference between that and doing business in an unethical way. I doubt Brad cares about my respect one way or another, but I'll say this; I respect that Brad has some profound ideas and a novel way of presenting them. But I lost some of that respect when he started writing for SG, and more when he started urging people to sign up for SG accounts. Honestly, it kind of reminded me of the people he (rightly) lambasted for making Zig Zag Zen and the doublespeak involved there.

--Dave, http://parallelsidewalk.wordpress.com

gniz said...

The anonymous poster above makes some VERY well thought out points about Brad in relation to Suicide Girls and the porn industry.

In my opinion, there's nobody we can place on a moral pedestal because every single teacher, as great as they may be, is still capable of doing tremendously harmful and stupid things.

And they WILL do it, so need to be dissapointed when it inevitably happens.

Of course, the difference between most Zen masters and us ordinary folk, is they dont every feel the desire to actually admit wrongdoing and apologize.

GNIZ

Anonymous said...

yay! gniz is back.

I totally agree actually. i think this whole 'subscribe to SG' thing is bullshit. writing for them is a grey area. i see brad's point about reaching a wider audience but i'm sure there are better ways to do that than be a writer for a porn site.

dan

earDRUM said...

Brad wrote: "... it may be more useful to discover how to remain balanced in the face of any kind of stimulation. This is a trickier path to follow. In the end, though, I really think it's the only way that makes sense."

I think this is a very important point. And it looks like many of my fellow posters here are missing it. A lot of people seem to be hung up on being disturbed by images of naked people. I know that this is a remnant of Puritanical thinking that was passed on to us from our past. But as followers of zen, I think we need to examine our thoughts about things that disturb us. We can learn so much about ourselves by examining our thoughts.
Zazen allows our autopilot reactionary mind to calm down... which allows us to see things as they are. Then we are able to notice that our reactions are OUR reactions. We need to realize that WE do the reacting. Not somebody else. We make a decision, conscious or not, how we react when we see a naked person.
When we do enough zazen and examination of our own thoughts, the mind clears and we live with intention, rather than reaction.
I think this point is very important.

keishin.ni said...

I don't subscribe to SG but I'd guess that Brad is one of the few, if not the only one who appears there on a regular basis completely naked.
It is refreshing.
And it is refreshing to be around, we who live near enough to get to Santa Monica on Saturdays should take full advantage of the opportunity.
Naked means we get to see everything.
What we see is exactly what it is.
To say that it is beautiful or ugly or overly large or embarassingly small misses it completely.
Naked does not require justification.
And if we get naked too--what happens is: the dharma is our body. The dharma is who we are, what we are, what we are about.
We don't go anywhere without it.
There is no place we aren't safe, there is no place we are safe--that's the trickier road for you.

Jared said...

Not to drag religion into it, but there's truth in the phrase, "preaching to the choir". What use is there in spreading the dharma to people that already practice it? Well, there's a buttload. But there's even more use in spreading it to the people that have never heard of it before aside from the old Kung Fu series and the latest "Zen and the art of _____" book. People seem really hot-to-trot about focusing on WHERE Brad is writing, and not WHAT he is writing.

Jared said...

That is, unless he's naming names about who the latest Buddhist butt-buddies are...


:-D

Otto Kerner said...

I don't know if it was meant to imply anything, but the title of this post is a bit puzzling. "Don't view big fish" was probably good advice at the time. It seems like a silly now, in hindsight, because big fish don't seem very important to most of us. We can go ahead and view big fish all the time and it will be very unlikely to cause disruption. It's a dated reference.

On the other hand, what about the actual subject of the post? Is viewing images of nude women a quaint fixation of earlier days? Are people today likely to look at these pictures without a strong reaction? Sure they are, provided that they not straight men or lesbians.

Anonymous said...

In my mind I thought that the reference of this posts title, 'Dont View Big Fish', was in fact regarding the film Big Fish. The film is very weird and dream like but good and I thought that, as the post was about 'the 5th precept', Brad meant it as a joke not to watch that strange disturbing film?...

Anonymous said...

Gniz- Zen masters never make mistakes. Everything they do that may seem to be a bad idea is actually a way of demonstrating dharma. And zen masters don't have personal opinions, anything they say is just a "teaching". Haven't you figured that out by now?

Eardrum- Those are strawman arguments. I don't think my points are purtianical at all, nor are most others people have raised. I think sex is great and I don't think looking at naked bodies is inherently wrong (though I do think sexually exploitative businesses are wrong, and I don't think staring at decontexualized naked people for sexual pleasure is a healthy habit). Sure we control how we react, but that doesn't make every thing we react to good by default. Actually adress points made if you're going to argue, don't just vaguely philosophize.

Jared- Very slippery slope. I mean, Brad could print little Dharma messages on slips on paper to be sold with ecstasy tabs at raves and you could make the same argument. Also, Brad himself has said that you cannot seperate a teacher's actions from their message (though this apparently only applies to people like Chogyam Trungpa, not the Zen masters who cheerled World War 2), so I think who he attaches a name to IS relevant. While we're on the subject, he's not just writing for Suicide Girls, he urged people to subscribe to it. THAT is what the conversation is mainly about. I probably would not even have commented at all otherwise.

--Dave, http://parallelsidewalk.wordpress.com

Jared said...

Dave,

I agree that in some situations, of course the dharma shouldn't be advertised. I wouldn't go around chopping people up and then writing out the Heart Sutra in their blood as a prime way of spreading the word. The world is never black and white, and there's always situations where one thing is acceptable when it might not be in another situation. It would be different if Brad advocated unhealthy sexual practices, or even encouraged people to look at the nude pictures. But he didn't. He simply suggested that if you want to support Brad's flavor of Buddhism, you might start by supporting SG.

There are a bunch of people here on the blog that seem to be saying that they may go to SG and read the articles, but they won't like it. And they'll purge their browser history right after. Bottom line though, if you want to sit on some sort of moral buddhist high-horse, then don't go to SG at all. Otherwise you're just like those monks who look on the butcher with disdain, yet still buy leather from him for their shoes.

Anonymous said...

"Gniz- Zen masters never make mistakes. Everything they do that may seem to be a bad idea is actually a way of demonstrating dharma. And zen masters don't have personal opinions, anything they say is just a "teaching". Haven't you figured that out by now?"

this may seem dumb of me but just to make sure. you are taking the piss right. it's hard to tell the tone of things when they're written instead of spoken.

Anonymous said...

A donkey with a load of holy books is still a donkey.

Sure, we might be 'zen enough' to view porn without craving.
We might be 'zen enough' to ignore the suffering caused in the making of those images.

This is, imho, a delusion of 'samurai zen', a macho bs form of zen that seems to be quite popular.

Whatever we perceive in the world around us tends to reflect who we are and what we care about most deeply, as in the old saying, "When a thief sees a saint, all he sees are his pockets."

I'm not saying that images of naked men/women is bad, but that we should each look at our reaction to these images and decide if they are the cause of more suffering and craving.

Even as rain penetrates an ill-thatched house, so does lust penetrate an undeveloped mind.

Even as rain does not penetrate a well-thatched house, so does lust not penetrate a well-developed mind.


Maybe there are some fully enlightened buddhists out there who have mastered this stuff, who have such refined development of mind that they no longer suffer from ingesting these poisons, who have no preference between eating chocolate and dog shit...but I doubt any of them post on this blog :)

Fi said...

This is a complicated issue

Repressed sexuality is just fear and aversion and we all know how that ends...

and respect to you Brad for wanting a different audience from the safe and familiar one chosen by so many teachers, I'm sure you're doing something really valuable there.

But I have my reservations about subscribing to suicide girls, not because I have an issue with nudity, or people taking pictures of other people with no clothes on, or kinkiness or whatever, but because of the welfare of the girls concerned.

I'm sure that it's perfectly possible to have your picture on a site like that and be unscathed by the experience,or maybe even empowered by it, but in order to do that you have to be a strong character,know your own mind and not get dragged into the illusion of it all. You have to know who you are, and know where your boundaries are, know what you are comfortable with and feel strong enough to be able to say no when they are being transgressed.
And, the problem is, because the girls on there mostly seem so young (forgive me if they aren't I haven't had a good look )I feel kind of protective towards them because I know, when I was that young I didn't have that kind of strength and self-knowledge - and respect to them if they do, but for me to subscribe, I would need to feel confident that it was a safe place for them, but people being people, I feel there is potential for people getting hurt there.and while there is that potential that's enough to give me doubts about supporting it.

And fair enough, we all know it's a big bad world out there and we have the right to learn from our mistakes, have to learn how to stick up for ourselves etc, but do I want to know I'm part of it?

Beautiful women are a commodity in this society and wherever there is a buck to be made... well we all know the dangers...

To any girls on there who may be reading Brad's blog I salute your beauty and wish you strength and faith in yourself.

Brad if you could reassure me on this one I would be very grateful...

yudo said...

Fl... wrote

"Brad if you could reassure me on this one I would be very grateful... "

I think he has a point...

Blake said...

Great discussion.

Here's what I think of rules and precepts, for what it's worth...

I think that people who have traveled down their paths have discovered a few things about themselves and noticed some changes within. For example, since I have started sitting, my taste for meat has gone away. It just happened, you know? And it's not only my compassion for the animal but the entire rendering process. So rule #1: no meat.

I have also lost my taste for hardcore porn. I look at it and I think "that's someone's daughter." My mind just can't hold on to the fantasy (btw, I can deal with naked chicks, it's just hardcore I can't stomach). So rule #2: no porn.

When I look at such things as the precepts, I simply see a roadmap of what others have gone through and a possible window into what I might run into. But then again, I might not. It's different for everyone.

vinegar said...

It's not enough to try to hold the lid down on a rapidly boiling pot, you have to turn down the heat!

vinegar said...

"I'm sure that it's perfectly possible to have your picture on a site like that and be unscathed by the experience,or maybe even empowered by it, but in order to do that you have to be a strong character,know your own mind and not get dragged into the illusion of it all. You have to know who you are, and know where your boundaries are, know what you are comfortable with and feel strong enough to be able to say no when they are being transgressed."

I don't think there is any way Brad can assure anyone of all of this. I mean it sounds like the only way to be okay with this is if every single girl on the site was uber emotionally healthy and of impeccable psychological fiber.

As long as they are treated well and fairly by the people who run the site and make money from the pictures that is really all you can reasonably ask for.

They are where they are emotionally and psychologically and posing nude for a web site is not necessarily an emotionally and psychologically damaging experience. It almost sounds like the very act is equivalent to rape.

Anonymous said...

blake - good post.

Fi said...

vinegar said:

" As long as they are treated well and fairly by the people who run the site and make money from the pictures that is really all you can reasonably ask for "

THAT is what I wanted the reassurance about

Of course the models' heads are going to be in various states and there is no way to ensure that maybe a girl would pose, feel fine at the time and then regret it later or think it was a bad idea - or maybe decide do it for the wrong reasons(just to piss off an ex or something) but that's just life - we try stuff out sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't - it's par for the course. But the degree of any potential damage is determined by how they are treated during and after the experience

What I'm really getting at is that as much as Suicide Girls presents itself as a hip and intellgent site, the porn aspect of it is basically joining part of a very well-established industry which has a reputation for chewing up young women and spitting them out.

So, Suicide Girls, if it is in the business of empowering women, has to make it its mission to ensure that that part of the business fits in with the intelligent ideals the rest of the site. Porn just HAS that kind of image as a business, and work has to be done if the site wants to change the perception of that. It's just the way it is.

I'm talking about it being a safe place - that's all

I'm not saying that posing per se is a kind of rape, that would mean that the women photographed had no say in it at all.

I'm just trying to look out for my little sisters, raising these points,and as a woman I've probably got a slighlty different perspective from most of the guys on here. I'm just thinking about how I would want to be treated, and how vulnerable I was when I was 18 or 20 even though I thought I knew everything, that I was tough and could look after myself.

I know people who have worked in the sex industry and it's a common theme for people to be treated very much as 'things' their feelings not really considered as they are, mainly a 'product' and that's tough for anyone.

Are the girls on Suicide Girls treated as people? With compassion? As whole, living feeling human beings?

That's what I mean - and if they can do that - and change the image of porn - reclaim it as a celebration of women's sexuality - and make the site somewhere where women can express themselves and be empowered then that is really something quite exciting and amazing.

Is that the case?

Anonymous said...

Hi it's Kyla
I think that it is more challenging and more beneficial to be able to stay calm in any type of stimulating situation but stimulation is not a bad thing either. That's life. If I only surround myself with things that don't stress me out, things that support my way of thinking, things I agree with, then how can I grow? How can I find out who I really am? How can I learn that those things which distract, create anxiety, hurt are not permanent? I follow the teachings of Jesus and practice Zazen. I don't like calling myself a Christian or a Buddhist. For me that means a permanent state, but maybe I've got it wrong, but anyway...
The point is, reality is full of things we can't control and some we can. The metaphor of Jesus walking on water reminds me of my sitting practice. My mind can be in turmoil, thoughts rise and fall, but can a "walk" on it?