Monday, August 18, 2008

NEW SG ARTICLE and MORE ABOUT GREAT SKY


My newest article for Suicide Girls is up now. It's about non-attachment. I wanted to put one up about Great Sky. But I rightly figured I'd be in no shape to write an article in the 24 hours between my arrival back in Santa Monica and the article's due date. So you get this one instead.

And speaking of the Great Sky sesshin (which we were yesterday), here's a photo the likes of which you won't often see — me in Buddhist robes with bunches of Buddhist priests and such. I've labeled the teachers for the sesshin. Rosan Yoshida, who also taught, isn't in this shot because he took the photo (and sent it to me, thanks!). You'll have to click on the photo to get it to open up bigger so you can read the labels. On my right (left side of the photo) is Greg Fain, treasurer of the San Francisco Zen Center and over on the far right of the photo next to Dokai is Tojun Cobb of the Milwaukee Zen Center who acted as jisha, the person who takes care of the teachers. In my case, he coached me through all the moves needed for ceremonies. Just for the record, and in case you can't tell cuz of the blurry JPEG photo, Dharma names and shaven heads, Zuiko, Tonen and Myoyu are women. The other teachers were men. This gave the sesshin an even balance of male and female teachers, which I thought was pretty neat and very unique. In fact, it's quite unique for a sesshin to have more than one teacher. I imagine Great Sky isn't the only sesshin that's ever done that. But it's a rare thing.

I was thinking about the post I put up yesterday. I hope I didn't give the impression that the only thing that happens at a sesshin is that the theme song from I Dream Of Jeannie plays over and over and over in your head. It's not.

I mean, I could go on about the profound stillness and silence, the sight of a blue footed heron crossing before the full moon, the sky full of bazillions of stars, the cold mornings in the zendo, the stately meal services, the deep chanting, and all the rest. But you can find all that in every other book, magazine article or webpage that's ever published an account of someone's experience at a sesshin. All true. All beautiful. But somebody's gotta talk about bad TV show themes and the way every time we got to the part in chanting Dogen's Fukanzazengi where it says "who could take delight in the spark from a flintsone" I just kept wanting to add, "... meet the Flintstones they're a modern stone age fa-mi-leeeeee!" Balance, baby, balance.

There's a depth to practice you cannot possibly get any other way than by attending a sesshin. I don't care how profound you think your meditating by yourself in your fluffy armchair in the living room with Dark Side of the Moon playing on the headphones and a lid of primo sensie gets, it cannot touch a single period of zazen at even the lamest sesshin. Not a chance. Sorry.

A week in sesshin feels like a month and a half spent doing anything else. Zazen expands time like nothing you can name. A minute in zazen is equal to three hours bullshitting with your buddies. In that sense, zazen can lengthen your life. You might say, "Well, only subjectively speaking!" To which I'd say, "No shit. And no difference either." It literally makes you live longer even if you drop dead the minute the bell rings to end the sitting.

You find out stuff about yourself a decade in therapy couldn't uncover. It changes your entire outlook on everything. On the way back to L.A. I was stuck in a cattle car class plane seat in front of two toddlers who could not stop screaming, kicking my chair and pooping their pants the entire way back. The stench of baby turds was as profound as anything I encountered at the sesshin. Yet I couldn't even find the space in myself to get annoyed.

There's a way a group of dedicated people combine their energies and there's a way the focus on practice come together that no other activity can ever match. I lived a year in Toyama Prefecture in Japan, essentially isolated with a small group of English speaking people, sort of like being stranded on a deserted island with the survivors of a plane crash ala Lost. To me, that was the only experience that's ever come close to what even a short sesshin can reveal. Talk about your Dharma Initiatives!

So I don't want to trivialize the experience. But, at the same time, it's nigh on impossible to write about it coherently. I've tried and failed so many times. It always ends up sounding like the cliches you find in the magazines at your local New Age bookstore. The world has enough of those.

So, what's your point, Brad?

I dunno. Anyway, here's a photo from the sesshin. Enjoy.

46 comments:

Lauren said...

Rebellious Spirits Rising....

Hypocrisy! Contradiction! (or probably more accurately) Nervous sesshin newbie!

Can someone frame for me all the apparent dis-concern Brad has for ceremony and liturgy vs. the nerve rackingly detailed instructions we just got on how to serve food, clean bathrooms, setup zendo cushions, etc.. for the Shizuoka sesshin?

I got no problem with the nature of the request... to do things a particular way. I will do my best to get it right. I just don't get the juxtaposition of apparent laissez-faire toward ceremony and having to hold a rice bowl in my left hand with just 2 fingers and a thumb when/if I'm serving.

Or maybe I do get it and I'm just marveling at it..I don't know.

dr. fun said...

lauren, the purpose is to drive you crazy. perfect action is stillness!

Lone Wolf said...

I know you (Brad) isn't a big fan of the Dalai Lama, but I had a similar experience after attending one day (I think it was the third day) of the Kalachakra Empowerment.

When I arrived, the surroundings made me feel kind of drunk with bliss (yeah, I know that sounds corny). My mom, sis with baby, dropped me off. After it was over and they came back to pick me up. They were yelling and the baby was crying. I was expecting to be annoyed (I ususlly would have been easily) yet it didn't touch me at all, as if their was a long distance between me and the annoyance. I was completely content in the mist of screaming chaos.

I had a similar experience that lasted three days when Penor Rinpoche sighed and blew an indescribable fragrance upon me when I was balling to him and bitching about my problems with one of the other retreat attendes.

This is not a promotion for Tibetan Buddishm, I've made it clear here before that I have some issues with TB. These experiences did happen to me though. Who knows how they fit into the scheme of things. It's best not to get caught up and analyze what is going on when such things happen.

Anonymous said...

Lone Wolf--

I hope you were bawling to the Rinpoche and not balling to him. Big difference.

I once had a friend who said he thought sesshin was the greatest invention of humankind. That sounded ridiculous at first, but the more I've done the more I've thought he was right.

Professordave

Anonymous said...

"There's a depth to practice you cannot possibly get any other way than by attending a sesshin." - Brad Warner

Sesshin is just another Zen boy scout badge. If anybody is worried they won't "get it" because they can't collect the a sesshin badge - don't worry.

Traveling to such events can gain you no merit. Just sit, question it all, you'll understand eventually.

Anonymous said...

can't argue w/ anonywisdom! shove transmission in there along with no merit, nothing special part, except perchance a 1/2 off at pier 1 import:z!

Anonymous said...

"zazen expands time like nothing you can name"
well, anyone who's gone into labor or attended someone in labor knows about the eternity of time moment by moment
I've spent some time with people at the end of their days, and time with someone dying can have that quality of being time outside and beyond time. It is time that won't parse.
I've never had the same experince at sesshins and one day zazenkai I've attended: but there is a point at which I think the whole contrivance of it is bullshit and that we (all of us attending are stupid to continue the charade--especially when there is any kind of pageantry involved (brocade robes, ceremonial hats, shoes)
at the same time there is a part of me which enjoys these aspects of marking an event/ceremony.
I'm glad for the two sides of the coin of experience as well as that place between: the edge.

Anonymous said...

"zazen expands time like nothing you can name"
well, anyone who's gone into labor or attended someone in labor knows about the eternity of time moment by moment
I've spent some time with people at the end of their days, and time with someone dying can have that quality of being time outside and beyond time. It is time that won't parse.
I've never had the same experince at sesshins and one day zazenkai I've attended: but there is a point at which I think the whole contrivance of it is bullshit and that we (all of us attending are stupid to continue the charade--especially when there is any kind of pageantry involved (brocade robes, ceremonial hats, shoes)
at the same time there is a part of me which enjoys these aspects of marking an event/ceremony.
I'm glad for the two sides of the coin of experience as well as that place between: the edge.

Jinzang said...

zazen expands time like nothing you can name

Car crash. That "oh shit!" moment seems an awful long time.

obi zen kenobi said...

Keep attending those real sesshin and you might start to deepen your insight. Good blog entry.

Anonymous said...

I concur here to xcpt don't ask anony where these deep sesshins may be coz evidently he wouldn't know (seeing he thinks this blog entry was great, ergo shallow anony as can be).

Anonymous said...

suicide article was gooder tho...

Lauren said...

Good SG article. Nicely accessible. Made me consider aspects of my past I am sooo attached to, they define me in unpleasant ways. The pangs of despised love, and infidelity from years and years ago that I cling to now as a "victim", shading so many bright things with dis-trust. My experience as a kid with seeing familial elephants but not being able name them or call them out pushes me to silent brooding now, convinced (through attachment to that old pattern) that no-one will listen to pachyderm sightings in the present.

That's one of the great pleasures of blog comments. Responding with what arises now (shielded by some anonymity) and then moving on to the next moment...un-attached (well, kinda).

David D said...

Hmmm...wheres brad's asian 1st name?

Anonymous said...

The SG article link is always appreciated!

From it I gathered that it isn't the attachments which are the problem as much as the attachment to the attachments--
anyway it is good to review the buddhist vocabulary--words have lives of their own

Anonymous said...

lauren said:
"Can someone frame for me all the apparent dis-concern Brad has for ceremony and liturgy vs. the nerve rackingly detailed instructions we just got on how to serve food, clean bathrooms, setup zendo cushions, etc.. for the Shizuoka sesshin?"

It's a little bit like acting. If you play MacBeth you probably won't strive to reign over Scotland I guess.

"Enlightenment" is partly to realize that you fill in some space and do all these crazy things WITHOUT ANY REASON because you do all those allegedly "sensible" things WITHOUT ANY REASON, too. You act like Lauren-in-her-job, you act like Lauren-with-her-friends-out, you act like Lauren-with-her-parents, you act like Lauren-on-her-own-depressed, ...


In Zen you do things the proper way. If you do them in a wrong fashion, it's still correct. But keep trying to do it in the proper way. And there is no need to compare yourself to others. It might be helpful to not give a lot of attention to arising thoughts like "Why does Zen master do this in way XY?" "Why do I always keep holding my bowl the wrong way?"

Enjoy, and dive into practice.

Yours, Staffy

michael bardan said...

Nice article Brad.

Anonymous said...

Jinzang said...

> Dueling videos?
> Here's Joy Division's Isolation,
> to fuck up your next session of zazen.

Gang of Four and Anthrax works even better.

Weasel Tracks said...

This gave the sesshin an even balance of male and female teachers, which I thought was pretty neat and very unique. In fact, it's quite unique for a sesshin to have more than one teacher. I imagine Great Sky isn't the only sesshin that's ever done that. But it's a rare thing.

For the record, Boundless Way Zen sesshins regularly have our three teachers, one of them a woman, co-teaching, here in New England. Mixed lineages, too.

http://www.boundlesswayzen.org/

Dan said...

Gang of Four are wicked. Very underrated.

Anonymous said...

Did someone say "anthrax"?

Anonymous said...

*yawn*

replicant said...

holy crap, thanks for the link to the Gang of Four video .. I have that song on my 12" copy of the Dogs in Space soundtrack :-D

Anonymous said...

"Dogs have become more intelligent, and even learned a sense of right and wrong through spending time with humans, a study (first Canine Science Forum in Budapest, Hungary) shows."

maybe there is hope for z0tl..

Anonymous said...

Nearly one-quarter of babies whose mothers took codeine while breastfeeding showed signs of central nervous system depression, according to a new study, suggesting the drug can transform mother's milk into a troubling brew.

Gosh.

Harry said...

I do wish I'd been there to hear those noble dogs talk about that.

Regards,

H.

Anonymous said...

A dog never says, "I am a dog." You make that. But don't believe my speech. And don't believe the sutras. Sometime you should go ask a dog, "Are you a dog?" Then he will have a good answer for you. He will show you that you make "dog." ---Seung Sahn, The Compass of Zen

cometboy said...

zazen expands time like nothing you can name

This reminds me of Dunbar, the character from Catch 22. He spends his spare time shooting skeet. A quote from the book :

Dunbar loved shooting skeet because he hated every minute of it and the time passed so slowly. He had figured out that a single hour on the skeet-shooting range with people like Havermeyer and Appleby could be worth as much as eleven-times-seventeen years.

I figure for me each minute of sitting zazen is worth five times fourteen minutes.

Or something.

Anonymous said...

wow checkit guys lone wolf is actually michael

bardan

ps: hey asshole are you orgasming now that mikey bee is being investigated over at SDSU?

Anonymous said...

WHAT? you made that up..
what would sds university be doin investigating mikey? get real..

Anonymous said...

how hard is it to call hr@SDSU and ask for a statement?

test your practice, say you are with shambala bee news and want to know how outstanding zazen fairs in the community.

see them sweat it out...

Anonymous said...

on the plus side, you are sure to have a cowardly snitch among your dogen sangha who did keep her or his promise and called in with "vital information" on just how vile and especially racist mikey bee can get in here.

wait until forensic evidence into the matter will be brought to light and then when it turns out "the incriminating" evidence was planted, we'll see just how anonymous your libeling practice really is.

Harry said...

The universe will evetually sue us foe everything we got.

Is this drama for real, or am I about to write a screenplay that someone else will claim royalties on?

Regards,

H.

Anonymous said...

run with it harry but ask yourself where you gonna run with it to?

in other news, braddy-chan may have the skill:z to play probono defense lawyer for michael.

he needs someone with godzillesque abilities.

Harry said...

I'd be happy just to be able to run, but I'm a bit out of shape physically, mentally, Zenilly... a bit of a fuck-up really.

How do you feel you're getting on?

Have you recovered from that bout of satori yet?

Regards,

Harry.

Anonymous said...

harry harry harry at least use your Gaelic properly, you can have kensho bouts, satori tho won't ever let go of I...why do I sound like I am whining? snap out of Dublin depression, it's all peachy, thx 4 "caring."

Harry said...

Its all santa claus to me, Baby.

"Caring", yes, I can see why you'd conclude thus. "Caring" may be the best some of us can hope for.

Ain't in Dublin no more; its the country air, its not used to me.

This blog is one like one continuous state of having-missed-a-few-episodes-of-Dallas: you're always a bit out of sync with who's who (I am at least).

Off to realise some more depression.

Regards,

Harry.

Anonymous said...

falconetti say: more like as the wxrld turn:z!

Anonymous said...

Harry, Carling may be the best some of us can hope for.

Anonymous said...

On a more serious note, I hope Michael is ok. I have grown rather fond of the guy.

Anonymous said...

just left the dinner for parents of incoming freshmen...hard to believe, I blinked and here I am getting ready to walk Haight and turn in: plane leaves at 6:15 am: find car and head to work: children leaving is an ordinary event, over and over they leave us. Arriving to work is an ordinary event over and over there is arriving to work and yet, sitting on the john I am amazed at the functioning of bladder and bowel; the mysteries and intricacies of circulation
all of it amazing beyond amazement.
we have to take things for granted or we wouldn't be able to function yet we can't take anything for granted
Interesting place to be 'one bright pearl' indeed!

Anonymous said...

I don't know whatall is being hinted at here in earlier posts but I share the sentiments expressed above: I hope all is ok with michael b./z0tl/qbitty and who alls

michael bardan said...

this is déjà vue for me and I am really distraught that youse guys think a goddam job situation can hold me down.

Anonymous said...

mikey, don't be distraught. we don't know you from a hole in the ground. you might be a bot for all i know. i know i don't know much.

knorr said...

"A minute in zazen is equal to three hours bullshitting with your buddies. In that sense, zazen can lengthen your life."

Sometimes it seems that the whole point of zen practice is taking things in as agonizingly slow and careful as possible in order to fully experience them. I guess there is some wisdom in that. We could avoid all the things that make time seem to pass rather quickly, the things that we really enjoy, to lengthen out our now boring lives as much as possible.

Mberenis said...

Great blog, thank you for posting!
New Search Engine for Internet Marketing and Local Business Statistics Free Add URL to 4,000+ Websites & 25,000+ Locals!