Monday, May 26, 2008

NEW SUICIDE GIRLS ARTICLE (May, 2008) and more on MINDLESS MINDFULNESS

Got a new SuicideGirls article up now. Yet another one about porn. I swear I'm gonna stop writing this article over & over one of these days. Maybe when people stop asking me to.

I just woke up, so I'm not gonna try and expound anymore about mindfulness until maybe later. The thing with most words used in Buddhism is that once the general public latches onto them and defines them in their own way they're dead. I think it's time to bury the word "mindfulness." It's just a cliche anymore. And, as I said (see below), seems to indicate in practice a state of fuzzy headed thinking and thinking and thinking and thinking while congratulating yourself on how mindful you're being. Lock the God damned doors and close the windows when you leave somebody else's house!

In the only place I know of where Dogen uses the word mindfulness he goes, "Mindfulness is the donkey looking at the well. It is the well looking at the donkey. It is the donkey looking at the donkey. It is the well looking at the well." He also says, "Without knowing who taught you, you think that mind is a function of the brain. When I say that mind is grass and trees you don't believe it." And, of course, Dogen did not use the word "mindfulness" at all. Neither did Buddha. The word did not even exist during their lifetimes. The English language itself didn't even exist in Buddha's day. Later on I'll go look up the Japanese word Dogen used that's translated here as "mindfulness" by Nishijima/Cross*.

Thing is, though, the "mindfulness" being taught nowadays seems to imply that we need to be mindful. As if we could somehow enact mindfulness. Nope. Can't be done. Mindfulness is occurring always. We need to get out of its way.



* It looks like I was wrong! First time in my whole life (hi, trolls)! I'd always thought the donkey-well line was about mindfulness. I even put it in my book Sit Down And Shut Up that way. Which goes to show you can never trust what's written in books! Shameful!!

In fact, the donkey-well stuff occurs in the chapter titled "Not Doing Wrongs" (諸悪莫作 SHOAKU MAKUSA, chapter 10 in book one of the Nishijima/Cross translation of Shobogenzo) and says, "[The relation between] wrongs and not committing is not only a well looking at a donkey; it is the well looking at the well, the donkey looking at the donkey, a human being looking at a human being, and a mountain looking at a mountain." Nishijima explains this chapter on his blog right here. Although he makes a spelling mistake and keeps using the word "will" instead of "well" at one point (I gotta go fix that).

This is a reference to a koan that appears in Eihei Zenji Goroku (永平禅師語録 The Recorded Sayings of Eihei Zenji, a.k.a. Dogen). The koan goes, "Master Sozan once asked a monk, 'How is it when the dharma body of reality is manifesting form in accordance with beings, like the moon reflected in the water?' The monk said, 'It's like a donkey looking at a well.' Sozan said, 'You have said quite a lot, but you have only said eighty percent of it.' The monk then asked, 'What do you say, teacher?' Sozan answered, 'It's like the well looking at the donkey.'"

The only instance I can find where Dogen uses anything like the word "mindful" occurs in a piece he wrote called Zazengi(坐禅儀), or "Method for Zazen Practice." In Kazuaki Tanahashi's translation, which appears in Moon In A Dewdrop it says, "be mindful of passing time." I checked it out and the actual line is: 光陰を護惜べし. Carl Bielefeldt translates this as, "hold dear the passing days and nights." Both the words 光陰 and 護惜 are no longer in common use. 光陰 means roughly "light and darkness." And, by the way, for those of you who think of me as a smutty minded perv, I happen to know the character 陰 from the word 陰毛 which means "pubic hair" or, literally, "hair in darkness." The word 護惜 is a combo of two characters that mean "protect" (護) and "dearly" (惜). That's the word Tanahashi translates as "mindful." It's not as much of a stretch as Brian Victoria translating Kodo Sawaki's statement meaning "we were fed up with killing" as "we gorged ourselves on killing." But it is a slight, though perfectly acceptable, stretch to use the word "mindful" here.

Be careful not to get stuck on words (says a guy who just devoted a couple hours of his holiday morning to looking up some words). Don't say I never looked up nuthin' for you!

48 comments:

Anonymous said...

So what do you think about the "mindful parenting" discussed by Jon Kabat-Zinn? As a new dad, I find it really helpful.

Chris Austin-Lane said...

the JKZ book is pretty good but the book that should have been written and which you should also read is "Momma Zen" by an iconoclastic Soto priest who is also a mother (her daughter is now 8, but the book is mostly about the early years, and what they teach the parents). I loved loved the two stories in JKZ's book: "Tatter hood" and the loathely woman. On the other hand, the rest of the book suffered I found because a) JKZ was away from home so much, so he can't really bring the sitting practice to the people with the hardest job, being at home with the kids day after day, and b) it's sort of preachy without being preachy. Momma Zen on the other hand, kept me laughing and crying at how painfully, wonderfully honest it was, and how open to life kids allow us to be. Caveat: I am a stay at home parent.

I had someone in the grocery store say how she finds it to be important to be mindful when shopping for fish, but she meant "informed." Knowing that we are hunting Tuna to extirpation is indeed useful information when trying to buy food for your family. Being mindful when buying fish is more like not cutting in front of someone when you carry your fish to the checkout line, and if you find the greedy desire to eat tasty tasty tuna rising up, you are able to not panic and waste effort feeling like a bad person for wanting to eat a species that is in danger of becoming extinct.

Kids offer many many opportunities to study yourself and to forget yourself, and they provide the motivation to do so. It's not just cosleeping with a baby, it's learning how to pause while anger sweeps through your mind, recovering a more open & balanced state before responding to the defiant three year old (who just broke something that belonged to your father). Kids also can offer a captive audience for your anger, greed, and selfishness, of course. But they mirror your flaws with such joy and newness in life that I find that I'm able to be more flexible as I need to be.

Momma Zen's blog is at:

http://mommazen.blogspot.com/

--Chris

Anonymous said...

Very thoughtful article on SG.
You present the issues to consider well.
I appreciate your patience in responding yet one more time to these questions.

I have more to say of a personal nature, but I think I'll put that on the PORNO BUDDHIST blog.

Mysterion said...

"be mindful of passing time."

Pay attention as time passes...

I brought up the issue of cognitive equivalence last year (or two years ago) with Ven. Gudo Nishijima. (go research it for yourself).

To understand the scripture is to have the mind of he who composed the scripture - satori.

The POINT is that some people want to take some literal view of the English, Japanese, of Sanskrit when, in fact the Buddhist scriptures were composed in none of them. Then too, people want to take some literal meaning out of the words of Buddha when, in fact, nothing exists that Buddha wrote - if indeed he did write any of his teachings down. Furthermore, there are no translations of extant scriptures.

This I have heard

This I have heard. At one time the Sublime One dwelt at Savatthi...

Most translations give no adequate idea at all of Buddhist scriptures'

Let go of those things that you never held.

Mysterion said...

Once again, Ven. Brad masterfully strikes the nail...

"But pornographers are rank amateurs compared to the folks who make TV shows and commercials when it comes to stoking desires that can’t and probably shouldn’t be fulfilled."

Four Arguments For The Elimination Of Television. by , Mander Jerry HERE

The effect of television on people’s attitudes and beliefs is a serious matter. And your beliefs and attitudes are being manipulated by the masters of the craft. see

As a friend of pastafarians, I'll say RAMEN to that.

DB said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rōren - no, that's not my real name, but my 'real' name is not my reality either. said...

Brad....

A typo, I think.

'..."public hair" or, literally, "hair in darkness."...'

Should be '..."pubic hair" or, literally, "hair in darkness."...'

Rōren - no, that's not my real name, but my 'real' name is not my reality either. said...

So, looking at Brad's and Nishijima-sensei's posts...

"I think that the word "mindfulness" means the state of our mind, which is very careful to mental function."

and

"Mindfulness is occurring always. We need to get out of its way."

'Mindfulness' is a non-concept (a western latch-on) and all that was ever meant by the words that are ascribed as meaning 'mindfulness' is to stay open to here-now and do the right thing for the situation at hand (i.e. lock the doors, straighten the chairs, feed the cat)?

[I hope I'm not just describing someone's finger]

Anonymous said...

I would never say you never looked up nuthin' for me/us.
Already the blog has changed from since I first came across it this morning with the added corrections and new vocabulary words and a glimpse into the fine art of translation...

OK time to go out and play Brad-san!

Bike ride, body surfing (a bit chilly, the wind today),
While doing laundry at the laundromat last night, someone had left a small plastic bag for Record Surplus "the last record store" 11609 W. Pico Blvd. Closer than Amoeba, don't know what they're like.
Have you been there yet?

Dosho Port said...

Brad,

another place that Dogen talks about mindfulness (aka, remembering the dharma) is in 37 Practices of Bodhisattva. D-z begins by rocking "mindfulness" off its rocker. thanks for your post!

Dosho

Anonymous said...

Brad said:

"But if you’re too God damned horny to think straight then perhaps the best way to avoid misusing sex is to log on to SuicideGirls, masturbate furiously, be done with it, and then go out into the world more mellow, less sex crazed and less likely to misuse sex in a far more damaging way."

Amen, brother!

"a lot of those models find themselves in a very bad way when they discover that some people do consider it a very big deal indeed."

If everyone appeared naked on
the Internet, then it would no longer
be a big deal and we would no longer
be subject to the intolerant views
of asshole fundamentalists --
whether Buddhist, Christian, Jewish,
Muslim, Zoroastrian, or whatever.

(So, Brad, why don't you take the lead
and appear naked on the Internet, and
then we'll all follow your example ;)

Jinzang said...

I don't know about Dogen, but mindfulness (smrti in Sanskrit) is definitely part of Buddhism. It's one of the wholesome mental factors in abhidharma. The point, though, is that the meaning of the term has taken a different flavor since it's been appropriated by the Insight Meditation folks. What they teach is fine and good for the most part, but I do have a concern or two. The point is that any meditation technique you may use, like watching the breath, is only a temporary crutch. As you become more experienced the technique should fade away. And if you're cultivating mindfulness in daily life, that could be a problem. You're cultivating a habit that may cause more problems for you down the road. How and when will you let go of it? Someone who got perfectly skilled at this sort of mindfulness wouldn't be enlightened, they'd be a monster. My opinion is mindfulness should be limited to watching your conduct, that is, noticing when you're angry, or in the grip of greed, or jealousy, with an aim of dealing with these problems.

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

"Mindfulness is occurring always. We need to get out of its way."

Great point. It's lines like this that remind me that no matter how much I may disagree with Brad at times, his insight is real. Even if it often gets buried under blankets of dogma or ego delusion.

If any sutras seem to contradict Brad's teachings or Dogen, it seems someone always brings up the 'who knows what buddha really said' argument. I don't think the point is really that the words were officially spoken by Mr. Buddha himself, rather that whoever wrote / spoke those words had extremely deep insight. Nearly every classic zen master read and revered the mahayana sutras. Apparently these are supposed to be disregarded by DS members, especially if they contradict Dogen.

For some reason the japanese have a tendency to see their own teachers and patriarchs as being superior to everything that preceded them. Japanese zen is regarded as the pinnacle of zen. In this, j. zen is similar to the nicherin sects. SGI and Nichiren followers tend to revere the writings of Nicherin above those of the early patriarchs and even more than the words (or supposed words) of the Buddha himself. And like Brad's variety of zen, Nicherin tends to put down all other sects and regard itself as superior.

It would be as if Americans were to place the writings of Brad or Robert Aitken roshi above those of Dogen, Lin chi or the Buddha and insist their insight was deeper. Afterall who knows if Dogen really wrote all that shobogenzo stuff? We know Brad's stuff is genuine, right?

Honestly sounds like garden variety ethnocentrism to me. Just like the insistence on soto sect superiority or exclusivism is best explained as simple ego-identification / tribalism.

Another great comment Jinzang. Only quibble I have is that real mindfulness (attention, smrti, awareness or whichever word is politically correct here in bradland)can never be made into a habit at all. As I see it, actual mindfulness (as opposed to mindfulness as ideology) is the direct opposite of habit.

And Brad, are trolls only those that disagree with what you say? Are those that always say; 'attaboy brad' trolls too? And again, most of us are anonymous here...unless your names really are 'babbles' or 'mysterion',etc.

Lone Wolf said...

Enjoyed the new Suicide Girls post. Maybe you should write a book about sex and Buddhism that would put all the questions about it to rest. Actually, you would probably get more questions about it.

Anonymous said...

Truth or Consequences.
Pay very close attention.

Will you side with
Galileo*
or with the current incarnation of
The Inquisition?

*If you're short on time, just watch
one minute from 18:15 to 19:15 --
thanks and happy memorial day.

PhilBob-SquareHead said...

We've all been following this blog for a long time. I think it is time we put our previous philosophies(Tibetan, western nihilism, Freudism, Rinzai, etc.) aside. What is, ...IS.
I get exactly what Nishijima Sensei is saying. "Mindfulness" is an idealistic thought process.

Soto zen, in the Dogen path is ZAZEN only.

Let's all just sit.

PhilBob-SquareHead said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mindless Troll said...

Atta boy Bradley!

Anonymous said...

There is an article on mindfulness in the new york times, 27 May that would probably drive you nuts.

Anonymous said...

Good luck everyone!
Be well,
Anonymous

Anonymous said...

"Lesbian Spank Inferno"?

H. Gunaratana Mahathera said...

Mindfulness is the English translation of the Pali word Sati. Sati is an activity. What exactly is that? There can be no precise answer, at least not in words. Words are devised by the symbolic levels of the mind and they describe those realities with which symbolic thinking deals. Mindfulness is pre-symbolic. It is not shackled to logic. Nevertheless, Mindfulness can be experienced -- rather easily -- and it can be described, as long as you keep in mind that the words are only fingers pointing at the moon. They are not the thing itself. The actual experience lies beyond the words and above the symbols. Mindfulness could be describes in completely different terms than will be used here and each description could still be correct.

Mindfulness is a subtle process that you are using at this very moment. The fact that this process lies above and beyond words does not make it unreal--quite the reverse. Mindfulness is the reality which gives rise to words--the words that follow are simply pale shadows of reality. So, it is important to understand that everything that follows here is analogy. It is not going to make perfect sense. It will always remain beyond verbal logic. But you can experience it.

Blake said...

Chris said: I had someone in the grocery store say how she finds it to be important to be mindful when shopping for fish, but she meant "informed." Knowing that we are hunting Tuna to extirpation is indeed useful information when trying to buy food for your family. Being mindful when buying fish is more like not cutting in front of someone when you carry your fish to the checkout line, and if you find the greedy desire to eat tasty tasty tuna rising up, you are able to not panic and waste effort feeling like a bad person for wanting to eat a species that is in danger of becoming extinct.

Right on.

Roman g said...

Really nice piece Brad. I love you.

Anonymous said...

Chris, thx for the link to mommazen. I will definitely check out her site.

anon 8:57am

amazed said...

WOW, Brad does it scholar style. Get your Unicode ready, punk heads!!!

Urban Bodhisattva said...

Why not describe what 'mindfulness' really refers to Brad, instead of bitching about 'other Buddhists'? Personally I've not come across the misconception that you're criticising. Nice description from H. Gunaratana Mahathera.

Mysterion said...

I think, but do not know, that Brad was saying MINDFULNESS may not be what you were led to believe.

I think modern scholars can agree that the old translation of samma sati as 'right mindfulness' represents distortion in the channel of communication which really hides the cognitive concept of "perfect attention."

When, through your Zazen training, you learn to live in this exact moment, then you have developed perfect attention... born of understanding (satori).

If you live in the past, you may develop depression. If you live in the future, you may develop anxiety. If you live in the moment, you may develop bliss.

my 2¢

Anonymous said...

where are you living when you recall were you were living when you wrote that?

Anonymous said...

where are you living when you decide whether or not to respond to this question?

Urban Bodhisattva said...

To think you can ;live in the future or the past is a delusion. There is only one moment - this one.

Harry said...

To think you can live in this moment is just as much a delusion. Hence Nishijima Roshi's message.

Regards,

Harry.

goofie said...

If you obsess on the past, you may very well develop depression. If you obsess on the future, you may very well develop anxiety. If you obsess on the moment, you may very well become a disciple of Eckhart Tollie.

not to be outdone by isness

Anonymous said...

"To think you can live in this moment is just as much a delusion."

To think you can live in this moment is a thought.

To be aware of that thought and not identify with it is mindfulness.

Jinzang said...

Why not describe what 'mindfulness' really refers to Brad, instead of bitching about 'other Buddhists'?

Maybe Brad has discovered bitching gets him more page views?

Nice description from H. Gunaratana Mahathera.

This is the sort of thing thing that makes me bitch. Mindfulness has a very clear definition in abhidharma and it's not what Gunaratna says. Mindfulness means paying attention and is always directed to some specific object. If your meditation has some specific object, mindfulness is obviously important. There are objectless meditations as well, where the practice of mindfulness is a little more tricky. But there's been a lot of blather about mindfulness and Gunaratna's quote is a good example. There's nothing wrong with what he says, it's just not about mindfulness.

Cutting through the blather is how I understood Brad's post. YMMV.

Urban Bodhisattva said...

Harry,

To think you can live in this moment is just as much a delusion.

I don't think Nishijima said that anywhere and I think you misunderstood me. The present moment is just the actual reality of what is at any particular moment. This includes imaginings about the past, the future and other places, but it doesn't include actual time-travel or teleportation. The present moment, the here and now is utterly inescapable. The delusion is to suppose that we can do other than be that moment.

Urban Bodhisattva said...

Maybe Brad has discovered bitching gets him more page views?

Brad discovered that a long time ago - he has made a career out of it. I think he even imagines it validates his opinions.

This is the sort of thing thing that makes me bitch. Mindfulness has a very clear definition in abhidharma and it's not what Gunaratna says. Mindfulness means paying attention and is always directed to some specific object. If your meditation has some specific object, mindfulness is obviously important. There are objectless meditations as well, where the practice of mindfulness is a little more tricky. But there's been a lot of blather about mindfulness and Gunaratna's quote is a good example. There's nothing wrong with what he says, it's just not about mindfulness.
The practices of attention described in the Pali Canon are descriptions of Vipassana meditation which is not generally directed a single object. The Zen practice is more diffuse in that it is attention of the whole situation rather than individual details.
HGM was using 'mindfulness' in a broader sense to talk about consciousness.

Urban Bodhisattva said...

If you obsess on the past, you may very well develop depression. If you obsess on the future, you may very well develop anxiety. If you obsess on the moment, you may very well become a disciple of Eckhart Tollie.

Don't obsess about anything. But anyone who doesn't undertand the importance of present moment awareness doesn't understand the fundamental principles of Zen. I think Tolle understands this very well although he is too New Age for my taste.

Ted Biringer said...

I am certainly no “Zen Priest” much less a “Zen Master,” but, Dogen’s teachings in the Shobogenzo concerning the meaning and significance of mindfulness don't seem all that complicated. In fact, they seem pretty straightforward in comparison with many of his other teachings. Perhaps I am just too deluded to see it, but Dogen’s teachings on mindfulness do not appear to be any different than those of most other Buddhist teachers.

For example, in the chapter of Shobogenzo that deals with the “37 Practices” of bodhisattvas he writes:

In the section on: The Five Roots

“‘The root of mindfulness’ is the circle of those withered trees of living flesh, for what we call the circle of those of living flesh are as withered trees. Withered trees are the root of mindfulness. When we ourselves are groping about trying to hit the mark, this is mindfulness. There is the mindfulness when we have a body, as well as the mindfulness when our mind is free of attachments. There is the mindfulness of an involved mind, and there is the mindfulness when we go beyond body. The root of life of all humans on this great earth is the root of mindfulness, and the root of life of all the Buddhas in the ten quarters is the root of mindfulness. There are many people in one moment of mindfulness and there are many moments of mindfulness within one person. Even so, there are those who have mindfulness and those who lack mindfulness. It is not a matter of human beings always having mindfulness, nor is it a matter of mindfulness always being associated with human beings. Even though this is so, there is inexhaustible merit in being able to observe and thoroughly investigate this topic of mindfulness.”

And in the section on: The Five Strengths

“‘The strength of mindfulness’ is the great slayer pulling someone by the nose. Thus, it was the Nose pulling the person. The strength of mindfulness is also our relinquishing the jewel and redeeming the jewel, and it is also our relinquishing a tile and redeeming a tile. Further, it also means thirty blows for not having relinquished them. No matter how much we human beings may make use of the strength of our mindfulness, it will never erode.”

And in the section on: The Eightfold Path

“Remember, ‘You have gotten what my Skin and Flesh, Bones and Marrow are’ is Right Mindfulness.”

In the chapter of the Shobogenzo on the “108 Gates of Dharma” Dogen seems to find a number of good qualities in mindfulness. For instance, Dogen writes:

“What lies at the root of our mindfulness is a gate to what the Dharma illumines, for by means of it we easily perform various positive deeds.”

“The power of mindfulness is a gate to what the Dharma illumines, for by means of it we will not blindly follow others.”

“Mindfulness, which is a characteristic of enlightenment, is a gate to what the Dharma illumines, for it is like the wisdom inherent in all thoughts and things.”

“Right mindfulness is a gate to what the Dharma illumines, for by means of it we do not intellectualize all thoughts and things.”

In the Shobogenzo chapter on the “Eight Realizations” Dogen writes of the “Fifth” realization, augmenting his teaching with quotes from the Buddha:

“The fifth is ‘not neglecting mindfulness’. He also called it ‘keeping to Right Mindfulness.’ What He called ‘keeping to the Dharma without losing sight of It’ means keeping to Right Mindfulness. It is also called ‘not forgetting to be mindful.’” (After writing this, Dogen offers a lengthy quote of the Buddha preaching on the merits of mindfulness.)

In the Shobogenzo chapter on the rules for the “Cloud Hall” Dogen seems to imply that a “lack of mindfulness” might make us more prone to making mistakes:
“You should not enter the Hall in a drunken state. Should you make such a mistake out of a lack of mindfulness, you should bow down and....”

Perhaps the best affirmation of mindfulness by Dogen is his citation of Joshu’s verse in the “Cypress Trees” chapter of Shobogenzo which laments the fact that:

“Periods of mindfulness are few, bemoanings all too frequent”

None of this seems very “esoteric” or “dangerous” to me. Of course I am no expert but I always thought that it was "attachment to" teachings or "aversion for" teachings that could be dangerous, not the teachings themselves, all of which ultimately fail to hit the mark anyway.

For what it's worth...

Take care,
Ted

Harry said...

Yes, delusion is nothing other than mindfulness, or the present moment.

"one bright pearl".

Can we realize this by intellectually fiddling with ourselves? No, that's the nature of the problem, which is just the present moment of course.

Regards,

Harry.

Anonymous said...

"Even though this is so, there is inexhaustible merit in being able to observe and thoroughly investigate this topic of mindfulness."

yay Ted!

Anonymous said...

the present moment is really crowded. delusion, attention, even the kitchen sink is in the present moment.

Anonymous said...

“The power of mindfulness is a gate to what the Dharma illumines, for by means of it we will not blindly follow others.”


Jeesh. No wonder master brad dislikes minfulness so much.

Jinzang said...

Brad discovered that a long time ago - he has made a career out of it.

Don't knock it. Who heard of Zed Shaw before he trashed Ruby on Rails?

Urban Bodhisattva said...

Harry,

'One bright pearl' Yes! I'm sure that's what this is about. And it goes further than 'the present moment'. Nice. I think this is an answer which might have earned Tokusan a rice-cake.

Urban Bodhisattva said...

Don't knock it. Who heard of Zed Shaw before he trashed Ruby on Rails?

Who?

tablet pc tienda said...

It can't have effect in fact, that is exactly what I suppose.