Wednesday, January 23, 2008

BULL'S EYE

Vince Anilla of Still Point Zen Center in Detroit sent me this nice story about Kobun Chino, teacher of my first Zen teacher.

As a master of Zen archery, Kobun was asked to teach a course at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. The target was set up on a beautiful grassy area on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Kobun took his bow, notched the arrow, took careful aim, and shot. The arrow sailed high over the target, went past the railing, beyond the cliff, only to plunge into the ocean far below. Kobun looked happily at the shocked students and shouted, "Bull's eye!!"

That's the fundamental attitude in Zen. It's important to take careful aim. But you can't ever know where your practice will lead. Don't get all flamboozled if it flies over the cliff and lands in the ocean.

As I get deeper and deeper into it, I find that Buddhism is nothing at all like what I expected it to be. And it's sure as hell nothing like all of our great pop culture pundits of Buddhism say it is. It might be that Buddhism is the act of aiming the arrow that is your life.

Life lands you in all kinds of funky-ass situations. You have to act out of where you really are, not out of some ideal of where you think you ought to be. That whole "ought to" business is just a waste of time anyway. It's never what it ought to be. You can't do what you ought to do.

In 2007 my whole life was turned upside down and shaken thoroughly. Yet here I am, living on the beach in California in a lovely and peaceful old house among surroundings so beautiful and idyllic they make me want to weep. I'm not who I ought to be. I don't do what I ought to do. I don't even know what I ought to do anymore. I don't care.

Occasionally someone sends me an e-mail or posts something to this blog about what I ought to be, or say, or do. I used to care. Isn't that funny? Caring about what people think I ought to be, say or do has never led to anything but misery.

But I do care deeply about taking aim.

Expose your life to public scrutiny and everyone will nitpick and chime in with some half-baked opinion. Fuck 'em.

Take aim carefully and let your arrow-life fly.

Wheeeeeeeeeeee!

73 comments:

PhilBob-SquareHead said...

2007 was one of the worse years I've had as an adult, also.

Thanks Brad for this uplifting blog.

-Phil

laustin texas said...

Is it possible that the goal the students set for Kobun was not the goal he chose to attain? As "a master of Zen archery" "taking careful aim" one could assume that Kobun was aiming for the ocean. Then again, maybe he just let the arrow fly .....

Thanks for the cool story though!

Peace

Tom said...

"As I get deeper and deeper into it, I find that Buddhism is nothing at all like what I expected it to be."

Definitely.

In my experience, I would expand upon that and say that as I get deeper into the Buddhist practice, I find that my life/consciousness/place in the universe is nothing like I used to think it was. Reality is nothing like what I expected it to be.

Anonymous said...

Brad,
what a perfect blog to send me to sleep with.
your writing just gets more and more colorless, odorless and tasteless
it sparkles, it shines, it perfumes the trash container called my mind
no sugary aftertaste
no residue.

please sir, can I have some more? looking forward to a new year full of hcz blog!

You are so gifted--when does that spanking new book come out?

Anonymous said...

targets are for amateurs, don't hesitate, take aim!

friendly neighborhood yadda yadda said...

once again, you blow my mind. or perhaps i just couldnt put it any better.

thanks for the post.
and all the other posts.

--(A)-nonyMouse--

Mighty (anony)Mouse said...

by the way, the beauty of posting anonymously or under a nickname is that you cant delete your post.

so all you motherfuckers who get on people posting anonymously, post wisely!

kiss my ass.
the line starts at to the left....

^_~

roosta said...

Between this entry and the previous one (on karma) I'm getting a nice fresh perspective on the idea of action and how you can only really effect change where you are right now, to keep your mind focussed on what is immediately around you.

Its nice to pick up nuggets like this whilst having my pre-breakfast browse. Keep it up, Brad

icebucket said...

Brad, the ads on your site are getting weirder and weirder (yes, I do know you don't select them):

The American Monk

"Zen for the Western SOUL"

Yeah right, and meat for the California vegetarian?

"He [Burt Goldman] claims that he has learnt to focus his mind in such a way, that he's able to slow down aging, pick up new skills at will, and maintain perfect health."

Oh THAT kind of Zen! Immortality is in the package, too!

See, that's the easy way of getting your rent paid, Brad, try this one:

"He [Brad Warner] claims that he has learnt to focus his mind in such a way, that he's able to slow down national debt, pick up punk rock groupies at will, and maintain a perfect collection of 1970s Godzilla action figures."

Hmm, needs improvement.

--IceBucket

the lanai guy said...

well said. well received.

TheLoneRanger said...

I can take aim okay. It's the pulling of the bow string back is what I have problems with. More Zazen.
Half a great day everyone!

Anonymous said...

Vince Anilla?

Isn't that almost an anagram of Vanilla Ice?

Anonymous said...

This is such a sweet blog post.

Rock on...

SirTe said...

meh

mysteriondan said...

it's all about meh

Brian Jones said...

This is my first time leaving a comment but I felt compelled to do so today.

Home run Brad!

Brian

Mysterion said...

Well said, 'it's the initial path of the arrow and not the destination' or for California pop psychobabble, "Zen is a process and not a product".

dooder said...

You could see plain as day they was chasing something.

U.S. navy boys fess up!

Rich said...

There is just something about the ocean - its fresh salty air, its tremendous energy, its expansiveness - that just takes you away from your small I into the big universe and makes you want to cry. I am grateful for that and happy for you.

Blake said...

I find that Buddhism is nothing at all like what I expected it to be. And it's sure as hell nothing like all of our great pop culture pundits of Buddhism say it is.

Amen, Brother.

DB said...

Once again, Brad, you've said exactly the right thing at exactly the right time I needed to hear it. It reminds me of something George Sheehan wrote and I'll sort of paraphrase: "If you think that life has passed you by, or even worse, that you are living someone else's life, you can still prove the experts wrong...If you are seeking the the solutions for the Great Whys of your creation, you will have to start with the Little Hows of your day-to-day living. If you are looking for the answers to the Big Questions about your soul, you'd best begin with the Little Answers about your body...How many of us see that we are letting someone else sest the rhythm of our lives...?"

Charley D said...

Actually, aren't you, in fact, already (technically) "ENLIGHTENED" if you no longer believe that mice spontaneously generate frome old rags, Black Cats cause THE PLAGUE, and Scary Old Ladies are a cheapand entertaining source of fuel?

Charley D said...

Seriously, though I do need to thank you again for clearing up a buncha misconceptions (about Zen, etc.) I'd gotten over the years--many of which were quite disheartening. I'd read a lot of the books with the BIG FLASH HOOH-HAH! and re-incarno-go-round, and while I felt drawn to Buddism on an intuitive level, what I was reading just really discouraged me. I've begun doing zazen (By alone--Northern MN) as per your best instructions, and the difference is already starting to show. I was doing a self cobbled deep-relax thingy, often with music, and was sceptical (sp?) about the difference--BUT THERE IS QUITE A DIFFERENCE! Ah well, still learning. (I hope). ALSO VERY IMPORTANT the real meaning of "emptiness" and several other things you made clear. Bjought the books--thanks. You're helping on this rock Burrado-San!

girls_4_sale said...

Trouble brewing in Story County.

Mark Twain lived in Virginia City - Story County, Nevada during the American Civil War (avoiding the draft).

David said...

Brad, as a composer and musician, I am feelin this statement in a major way:

"Expose your life to public scrutiny and everyone will nitpick and chime in with some half-baked opinion. Fuck 'em."


pouring my lifeblood into a composition and then someone saying "oh that was interesting" or "i like it", is actually crushing.

no composer wants people to just like their music. we want people to love our music, or hate our music... just something other than "eh".

Mediocre receptions make you think people perceive your piece as mediocre. It does strive to make you do better, but not as much as if people hated it... or loved it. That would be more encouraging.

There's a pretty random ramble. Sorry! :-)

Allison said...

In gassho?

Kyusako up side your head!

Smoggyrob said...

Hi Brad:

Life kicking you in the teeth seems to make for some great blog posts.

Rob eyes his boot and thinks about your next dharma talk

Hmmmm...

Rob

PhilBob-SquareHead said...

Although I am technically a liberal politically, I still bet that Ted Nugent hits the target he aims for!

God bless the Nuge for standing up for the politically incorrect Buddhists!

Markus "Uku" Laitinen said...

This is THE first post I'd like to comment during these years reading your blog because now you wrote something so interesting that is worth of comments. Or is it?

Anyway, I like it. That's all. You're absolutely right. Big up!

That's all. No need to write some bs in these comment sections. Instead of it, I sit down.

Peace.

Insomnius said...

Pow! Awesome.

laserjack said...

A friend always says: "If you really wouldn't care, you wouldn't say that you don't care. You only wish that you couldn't care as long as you exclaim it."

LaserJack

kob said...

That is a great story.. zen buddhism is full of them. I think they only get to that great point after they have been retold a few times. But the literal truth has never been the point with a great story anyway. Great stories are all about what the truth ought to be.

Jinzang said...

God bless the Nuge for standing up for the politically incorrect Buddhists!

Some news I missed? I went googling and all I found was this:

"Ted Nugent denied both poking his erect penis through a map of West Virginia and urinating on a nun."

mysteriondan said...

"I used to care. Isn't that funny?"

I will believe you no longer care about what other people think when you are no longer reacting emotionally to what they say.

Maybe you should just get used to being miserable.

mysteriondan said...

Two Buddhists were sworn in for the 110th congress.

Representative-elect Hank Johnson, a Georgia Democrat became a Buddhist decades ago, plans to use a Bible during his swearing in ceremony, citing tradition.

Representative-elect Mazie Hirono, a Hawaii Democrat said she probably would not use a book.

Thanks to jinzang harper's link..

Anonymous said...

"Occasionally someone sends me an e-mail or posts something to this blog about what I ought to be, or say, or do. I used to care. Isn't that funny? Caring about what people think I ought to be, say or do has never led to anything but misery."

I should, however, be able to critically receive and learn from criticism by others. "Not caring" is just as bad as "caring".

icebucket said...

(Not) Caring... what was this "middle way" story about originally?

Neither grasping nor rejecting.

--IceBucket

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

Human Beans like to occupy their lifetime with telling others what to do and think. In fact they think they know what the world should be and not be. Amusing.
And all so they can avoid to face the real and only thing which will bring lasting and real change: facing oneself.
Gandi said it perfectly: "you need to be the change you want to see in the world" If every single human bean would take that at heart they wouldn't have time to look at others, in fact they wouldn't feel the need to do so in the first place. PeS

Jinzang said...

"Not caring" is just as bad as "caring".

There's more than one sense of the word caring, or maybe just different degrees of caring. If your shoelace is untied, you tie it. You care that it's untied, but you don't get bent out of shape about it the way you might if someone called you an asswipe. So you care, but not so much.

Too much time is spent discussing this and similar points in Buddhist forums.

Jules said...

Too much time is spent in Buddhist forums.

Anonymous said...

Too much time is spent criticizing other people for sharing their ideas in Buddhist forums.

Funny how loud you claim to be quiet.

ANoN X

Rich said...

I think Zen is an obsessive-compulsive disorder and the only cure is to sit and let it run its course until you are better. That's why Zen Masters have such a difficult job, they are dealing with sick people.

Anonymous said...

well said wise jules, venerable HZ contributer and founding father of flapping mouths blog along with your own personal blogs and guest to as many other forums as you can manage..

I get your point and you are correct, but I like to read blogs.

courtesy flush said...

solid post, Brad!

Mysterion said...

Anonymous Plaudertasche sed...
"Human Beans like to occupy their lifetime with telling others what to do and think."

That would be fundies like Aimee, or Ayatoila, or Pat, or Robert.

Anonymous said...

"It's important to take careful aim."

begs the question

careful aim at what?

Jinzang said...

Funny how loud you claim to be quiet.

We should all be kinder to one another. I'll try to remember myself. That's the real mark of an accomplished practitioner, how kind they are.

Rich said...

"That's the real mark of an accomplished practitioner, how kind they are."

This is true. Living in harmony with kindness for others is very important. We have been given so much it's the least we can do.

no one in this blog has been unkind to me for the views I've expressed and I appeciate that.

By the way, my last post was tongue in cheek with a little truth mixed in -)

Smoggyrob said...

Hi everyone:

I don't know if there's any space left (and RSVPs are required), but we're doing the all-day sit tomorrow (Sat 26 Jan 2008) at Hill Street Center. Friendly people, good oryoki, and boring zazen. Email Brad if you're interested.

Rob

Ocean Dribble said...

When a wise man lies on the beach, when is the beach?

Mysterion said...

Is this Karma?

According to 'The Bush Tragedy', a new book by Jacob Weisberg, there is an anecdote about a painting that Bush put up in his office when he was governor of Texas. Weisberg writes:

"In an April 1995 memo, Bush invited his staff to come to his office to look at a painting. … The picture is a Western scene of a cowboy riding up a craggy hill, with two other riders following behind him. Bush told visitors—who often noted his resemblance to the rider in front—that it was called A Charge To Keep and that it was based on his favorite Methodist hymn of that title, written in the eighteenth century by Charles Wesley. As Bush noted in the memo, which he quoted in his autobiography of the same title: “I thought I would share with you a recent bit of Texas history which epitomizes our mission. When you come into my office, please take a look at the beautiful painting of a horseman determinedly charging up what appears to be a steep and rough trail. This is us. What adds complete life to the painting for me is the message of Charles Wesley that we serve One greater than ourselves.” Bush identified with the lead rider, whom he took to be a kind of Christian cowboy, an embodiment of indomitable vigor, courage, and moral clarity.

Bush subsequently took the painting to Washington, hung it in the Oval Office, and continued to tell the painting’s inspiring story.

"He came to believe that the picture depicted the circuit-riders who spread Methodism across the Alleghenies in the nineteenth century. In other words, the cowboy who looked like Bush was a missionary of his own denomination."

Only that is not the title, message, or meaning of the painting. The artist, W.H.D. Koerner, executed it to illustrate a Western short story entitled “The Slipper Tongue,” published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1916. The story is about a smooth-talking horse thief who is caught, and then escapes a lynch mob in the Sand Hills of Nebraska. The illustration depicts the thief fleeing his captors. In the magazine, the illustration bears the caption: “Had His Start Been Fifteen Minutes Longer He Would Not Have Been Caught.”

gunderloy said...

"I think Zen is an obsessive-compulsive disorder and the only cure is to sit and let it run its course until you are better."

Rich - That might have been tongue in cheek but it was also very perceptive..

Anonymous said...

"Britney Spears went out shopping last night and when photographers trailing her every move asked how she felt about actor Heath Ledger’s death, the pop star put on her British accent and said, “He’s still here. Oh, yes. No one ever really dies. No one.” - USA Today

esmerelda_verde said...

Rich I think you are exactly right.

Mysteron: thanks for the post about Bush's art collection. I don't know if its Karma but its a perfect story.

Brad: hang on, bad years happen, and then they are gone. Same with good years. In 10 years time you will not know which was which.

the ocean said...

I think this is it.

So now. Move on!!!

Leave this bow behind. It has done its work.

Brad Brad Brad...

the waves said...

Don't forget to write a graphic novel or three.

b RAD!!!

the dolphins said...

Mysterion needs to shut up more.

the whales said...

Jinzang needs to have tea with Mysterion

the snails said...

shut up all of you.

Anonymous said...

hey brad, i'm sorry to hear that your year was so rotten. best of luck in 2008.

z said...

"You have to act out of where you really are, not out of some ideal of where you think you ought to be. That whole "ought to" business is just a waste of time anyway. It's never what it ought to be. You can't do what you ought to do."

It's never what it ought to be, indeed. Isn't that the heart of the 2nd noble truth? Good post. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

it's all happenning here:

http://tinyurl.com/yovbgw

where is this?

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

Japan to California?

You have stories. The fact that you take the time to share them in this this blog is something. Who knows what anyway. Who cares?

roman said...

and my take on Bull's Eye is called Bull's Eye - My Take and you will find it at my blog

PhilBob-SquareHead said...

Lets all figure out a spot and a time to meet together with B-RAD for a Zen summit.
But I tell ya'll right now, I ain't goin' over 4 states! (fr: NC)

- Philip

roman said...

I have just found out that a round trip ticket from NYC to Los Angeles
costs around 300 dollars. I pay about the same for a round trip ticket from Prague to Bristol or Glasgow when I fly to a retreat with my teacher. Then he flies to the Czech Republic once a year so I have three retreats a year with him - it is great. Is it expensive for most Americans to fly over the continent to a retreat?
Just curious.

Anonymous said...

This is the secret to Zen that attracted me from the start. Reality is only what each of us makes it. Who can question anyone whether they "Hit the bulls eye" or not?, especially when everyone has their own bulls eye.

Anonymous said...

why worry about some guys arrow in the ocean or on target..........pick up your own bow...PC...DVD and do your practice, live live live live and then live some more, that way when you die, you will die living not wondering what the fuck was going on over there in his shoes, he is in his shoes. he dosent want you there. What a joker that guy was...i bet he laughed at the onlookers, gave them a comedy moment, they laughed, they realised no mind no self, without realising they did, and went on mingling with the dust.

Just as it is, all are perfectly enlightened, even in our illusions

and if you listen to this youve misunderstood once again agree or disagree and your just plain stupid

as am I

as are all

thats it

Stupidity is pure enlightenment

even in deepest zazen I am a dumb fuck

and satori is for loosers period
only the really stupid dont know it

Koudelka said...

Can anyone tell me what a buddhist is? I'm new at this and really confused.

Rich said...

Thank you Brad, thank you everyone.
Nobody can tell me anything, I have to figure it all out for myself. Or not figure it out.

So Brad, if our paths ever cross and we disagree on God or whatever and you tell me I'm full of shit, that would be the funniest thing that could happen.

I hope uou work things out with your brothers.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, looks like the comments for the most current topic exploded, only error messages.

Hacked?