Monday, June 29, 2009

FATES WORSE THAN DEATH

There's an interview with me up now on Buddhist Geeks. So go read it. Or listen to it. Or both. Or neither. Or both and neither. Or neither both nor neither.

Also somebody sent me this funny article that reveals the truth about Zen.

I've been thinking more about death. A friend of mine told me his mom is dying of cancer right now. I like his mom. She's very cool.

But after watching what my own mom went through I know there are many fates worse than death. And I don't really think dying is all that bad of a thing just in and of itself. Of course it's best to postpone it as long as feasible. I plan to live as long as I can.

I can't say I have no fear of death. But I no longer have a fear of annihilation. Annihilation goes on all the time. If you're gonna fear annihilation at the moment your body ceases functioning, you might as well fear it right now because the you that started reading this article is utterly gone.

That thing that you call "me" has no limits. Birth and death can't touch it. And yet there will come a day when you'll be gone, daddy, gone. And nothing will bring you back again. What you really are is more real, and more you, than anything you can conceive of.

When death comes naturally, it should be allowed to happen. Sure. Fight it off when you have a fighting chance. But when it's time to go, go in peace knowing there is nowhere to go but here.

57 comments:

Connor Hollenback said...

Wow, is that a real article? That is funny.

DeadBuddha said...

That article is hilarious! It is also sad that some people will read it and believe it. This is not the first article like this that I have read. Go check out Kirk Cameron's funny website and look at the Buddhism link... or not.

DeadBuddha said...

I sent that Church an email. I asked them to correct the article.

Anonymous said...

Lovely article about zen. Just feel the christian love, compassion, and understanding.

Anonymous said...

A dualistic article that ultimately doesn't even exist, and nobody to read it, but funny anyway.

Dean Fearce said...

Reading that "funny article about the truth of Zen" is like watching a drowning person trying to drink a glass of water . . .

Jimmy H.W. said...

I am glad that that article doesn't really exist. I would have given them suggestions to correct it, but I might have been beaten with a stick. Of course, as a nihilist, the cat has never climbed the post, etc, etc.

I enjoy the fact that these Christians have managed to make Zen more difficult to grasp by that explanation.

Rick said...

When you're dead you're dead. It's the people you leave behind that have to pick up the pieces.

Blake said...

The show was Life and it was pretty bad. A cop who was wrongfully imprisoned for 12 years, became a Zen Master in prison (or some such thing).

Anonymous said...

The unfortunate part is these people are out there. They put this false sense of hope and blind unquestioning devotion into their beliefs. Then as the idiots they are attack others and what they believe, even though it harms no one. In the immortal words on a bumper sticker "Jesus save me from your followers", and "Nuke a gay whale for jesus". Hallelujah!

Mumon said...

Have you contacted them? Those Beaverton folks?

I think I will.

It was a big subject of discussion with my wife and I last Sunday, since our son was "invited" to attend an Evangelical Church.

They failed to convert him.

PhillySteveInLA said...

A lot of that stuff about Zen comes from a little book called 'The Evidence Bible', which Evangelicals use as a handy reference for arguments with people of different beliefs.
It's got a quick reference for gays, Buddhists, Atheists, Muhammedans, etc.
It also goes through various groups and "describes" them for Christians and gives them the proper arguments.
I was once accosted by a group of them, and everything they said to me had been pulled from there.
There are some sites with free excerpts, but i don't have any of the addresses handy.

Zenleo said...

I would be interested in seeing the messages that everyone has sent to the Beaver, frankly I'm worried about the Beav. So please post the rebuttals or non-rebuttals.

Mumon said...

My e-mail to them:

Dear Sir:
I am sorry to hear that you are disseminating falsehoods with these articles: http://www.ch-of-christ.beaverton.or.us/Zen.htm and http://www.ch-of-christ.beaverton.or.us/Buddhism.htm.


You can believe whatever you want to believe, but if you say you are telling others what Zen Buddhists think, believe and practice, it would be greatly appreciated if you would adhere to your religion's moral standards, and avoid bearing false witness.


If you wish to actually portray Zen Buddhism honestly, there are many Zen teachers in the Portland area, as well as on line, who could help you in that endeavor.


Cordially,

Anonymous said...

cancertutor.com

Your friend's mother may find this helpful.

Mysterion said...

Geeze... one of my best friends was a minister in a CCC. He retired and became a Zen Buddhist. Through him, I met a retired Lutheran Minister and his wife - who also became Zen Buddhists.

Christianity works O.K. when you are passing the plate or collecting tithes (call it a regular paycheck). But as age advances and death approaches, it's Zen that offers peace. When death comes to your door, greet it with a smile.

Anonymous said...

"Your article on Zen is full of falsehoods and inaccuracies. I hope you are not intentionally misrepresenting Zen. Perhaps you should get in touch with living a Zen teacher or find a reputable website in order to correct your article; if you must have an article. Many times has Christ's word been misrepresented. I do not claim to be an expert on Christ, so I remain silent. If you truly understood Zen you would know that it has in no way any inconsistencies with Christ."

Full Boat said...

From Christian Post

The Southern Baptist Convention and the Roman Catholic Church – the two largest Christian communions in the country – have joined the ranks of mainline denominations in reporting membership losses, the latest church yearbook (2009) shows.

After years of continuous growth, membership in the Roman Catholic Church dropped by 0.59 percent and the Southern Baptist Convention decreased by 0.24 percent, according to the 2009 edition of the Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches, published this week.

Although the percentage losses are small compared to the total membership of the churches, the yearbook pointed out that the two communions had “grown dependably” over the years and “now they join virtually every mainline church in reporting a membership decline.”

Nathan said...

For the record, my e-mail to the church. Thanks to the others for sending theirs.

Dear Mr. Dungan,

I have been a zen practitioner for nearly a decade now. I came across your article about Zen Buddhism in a post on the blog for zen teacher Brad Warner.

It is definitely your right to believe what you wish, including to elevate your spiritual tradition above others. However, you have no idea what the living tradition of zen looks like, and your article spreads falsehoods about our beliefs and how we live as zen practitioners.

Most of your sources are from writers during early days of zen in the West - people like D.T. Suzuki and Alan Watts - who placed a great deal of emphasis on the inherent emptiness (or lack of unchanging qualities) that accompany our lives. This is only part of the story.

We are not nihilistic, nor do we "lack morals" as you suggest. Buddhism has throughout it's history had a strong set of moral/ethical guidelines called the precepts. Again, those early writers rarely talked about the precepts because they were appealing to Westerners who didn't like Christianity anymore, and who wanted to step away from the moral grounding of many Christian institutions. I'm not interested in defending their reasons for running away from Christianity, nor do I care to debate whether they were right or wrong.

"Soikie-an stated: “Though all day long you are speaking, raising your eyebrows, standing, sitting, walking and lying, nevertheless in reality nothing has happened”. If this is true, then there never has been any crime or any good deeds. We have accomplished absolutely nothing. If nothing has really happened, then Zen would have to deny all human suffering, every crime, every war, the holocaust, and so on. What possible comfort does Zen have to offer to the person who has just lost a loved one or has been the victim of a terrible crime?"

Do you really believe that I, and my fellow zen Buddhists, deny human suffering, deny war, deny the Holocaust? How could you possibly say this and keep a straight face? We cry like everyone else. We grieve like everyone else. We suffer, and most definitely recognize that there is suffering, like everyone else. And we find comfort and solace in our teachings, as you do in yours.

My basic goal in writing this letter is to ask that you actually visit a zen temple, actually talk with living teachers and students, actually experience who we are as people. I have no desire to convert you to my beliefs, nor to say that your faith is wrong or lesser than mine, because I don't believe that. But spreading lies about other religious systems to covert people, or to tell people that they are the best, most righteous people, is wrong. And I frankly can't imagine Jesus telling his disciples to spread falsehoods in his name, so that people will drop what they believe, and come to him. In the end, it's just fine with me if you don't feel the tradition I follow is on par with the tradition you follow. That's your right. But for the sake of your church members, and out of respect for being truthful, get a better sense of zen before writing essays to teach others about it.

Sincerely,

Nathan G. Thompson

Anonymous said...

What, me worry?

babbles said...

That was a crazy article. I think it's a nice sentiment to write letters to the webmaster, but in reality I would believe they will be ignored, or even worse posted and used in some negative manner.

Anonymous said...

Well put Nathan!

Swami said...

I'm working on my TV show...

Smoggyrob said...

Hi everyone:

Lay off the Christians guys, really. That's not Right Action, dudes. Think of the Precepts, bro. That's the Three Poisons talkin', man! Besides, who do you think will win a letter-writing war anyway -- Christianity, or the HZ comment section?

Rob

James said...

Rob,

How is that not right action?
How is challenging a church that spreads falsehoods any different from challenging the falsehoods of Big Mind?

Nothing I have seen here has sounded out of order or unfair, in fact I was impressed by the maturity shown by thse emails that have been reproduced here.

Hopefully the minister of that church will read those objections and remove the article.

Mumon said...

Smoggyrob:

I considered for quite a while the koan of "Dropping Ashes on the Buddha" in the fundamentalist Christian paradigm.

It really is a good if all spoke honestly and uphold the precepts, but, despite the existence of their own religious rules, we should not expect fundamentalist Christians to perceive nor practice morality the way we do. Nor should we expect anything else of them. You cannot open another's mind. Period.

However, we can try the example of the father whose children were in a burning building as mentioned in the Lotus Sutra: we can mention there's a better way.

Nothing should be expected as an outcome but we should respectfully point out when falsehoods are being disseminated; that's a tradition of Zen Buddhism going back to the first Christian proselytizers to China and Japan.

Harry said...

The Robster wrote: "Besides, who do you think will win a letter-writing war anyway -- Christianity, or the HZ comment section?"

:-))

My letter to the infidels:

"God is gay!"

Regards,

Harry.

Apuleius Platonicus said...

FYI: Everything at the "cancertutor" website is based on the work of Alan Cantwell, author of "Queer Blood: The Secret AIDS Genocide Plot."

Anonymous said...

"Lay off the Christians guys, really. That's not Right Action, dudes."

Yeah dudes, right action is putting down other buddhist sects and teachers, not christianity. Really, let's stick to how stupid rinzai geeks are to chase trippy experiences, how screwed-up those theravada jerks are and how the tibetan buddhists are superstitious clods and how none of those other sects are real true Buddhism.

leoboiko said...

Bigoted Christians are very funny until they start to beat you up on the street.

Andro said...

Dear Outraged Real Buddhists..

There is no reason to get your panties in a wad until the L.A. Times is writing trash pieces like the "funny article".

The author has little in common with decent Christians of which there are many. He has more in common with you actually.

Klifford T. Kapus DDS, MSD said...

For whatever it's worth I'm the lunkhead who forwarded that article link to Brad in the first place.

The reason I did so was because I thought it eloquently paraphrases the Western/Christian mindset towards Zen Buddhism and illustrates many common misconceptions.

I had briefly toyed with the idea of e-mailing the author but after seriously considering my motivations for doing so I realized it was simply my own ego defending my choice of Zen practice!

We all tend to root for our "team" and sometimes do so for the silliest or reasons (like saying your country is the "best in the world" primarily because you live there!)

But if you stop and think about it then you have an opportunity to be honest with yourself about your intentions. This gives you the room to act without being dragged about by your attachments.

Here's the funny thing: if you really give this your honest, unflinching assessment you will realize that the deacon who wrote this article is simply acting from the same place that the rest of us are, which is to say, passionately devoted to their own way of thinking. Abbot Paul Haller at the SFZC calls this "recognizing that the personal is also trans-personal". Nicely put, really.

What I really want to say is that, while I think some of the e-mails that were sent were very sincere and heartfelt, I'm not sure they will open any ecumenical dialog. What really matters is who you are speaking to and if they are open to your input to begin with.

When I talk with my father (who is a deeply Christian man) we discover all sorts of wonderful common ground between our religious pursuits. There's really some very Zen statements in the Bible if you look! In Phillipians 4:11 the apostle Paul says "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstance." Master Dogen would have nodded in approval, I think.

In the end, what you have here is a "believer" who has shut the door on other religious pursuits. If you check out the website, the Zen article is only one in a series of denigrations of other religions. What we are observing is a deep seated need to rationalize and justify a Christian mindset. "I believe it because I believe it and you can't change my mind because that would be an admission on my part of a lack of 'faith'" (and they say Zen is tautologous!)

So I really like seeing all the passionate dialog from everybody but in the spirit of compassion, I would remind everyone that (a) Deacon Mark is just as human as all of us and subject to his own issues of greed, hatred and ignorance and (b) you're not likely to convince this guy to be open minded!

To quote another nugget of Biblical wisdom, Matthew 7:6 says "Do not give what is holy to dogs and do not cast your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet and tear you to pieces."

Wisdom is wisdom regardless of the source...
-K2

Nathan said...

For what it's worth, the author of the article responded to my e-mail quickly, and sent a calm, respectful response. Who knows if anything else will come of it, but hey, you'll never know what will happen if you don't try.

Anonymous said...

I wrote the church because I disagreed with the information they were presented. That doesn't mean I was caught up in anger or I wasn't paying attention to my motives. I felt something was wrong and I did my little part to make it better. (not that I expect anything from it). I will drop it. Just like I will drop discussing this subject in these comments. Some of you are over-thinking this too much and trying to fit some framework of how a "real" Buddhist would act. I feel sorry for you. I used to waste energy like that... but that was back when I just read Buddhism and didn't sit.

Anonymous said...

If a stranger was spreading false rumours about a friend of yours, is it not proper to approach the stranger, ask them to stop and to direct them to the truth? Is that selfish? I don't think so. I would act to help my friend but also to help the stranger by showing them their error. And then I would move on.

Smoggyrob said...

Hi everyone:

Guys, dudes, bros, mans... I was joking. I could care less if someone I don't know writes an email to someone else I don't know. My sense of humor isn't for everyone, but I like it. Would :) it :) help :) if :) I :) wrote :) my :) comments :) like :) this? :p

Rob

Mysterion said...

Today, I introduced the concepts of:
1) Thou shalt not kill and 2) Absolute right to life.

First, I ask the class, "If religious dogma says we should not kill, where do we draw the line?"

Then I talked about termites. A few years ago, we discovered termites in our house and when the guy with the poison showed up I told him he could NOT spray. I explained that each termite had the right to live a long and happy (id termites can be happy) life. And that nowhere in his religious dogma was their an exception to the rule. Furthermore, if I did not speak for the termite, who would?

Eventually, we decided to treat the walls with orange peel oil so the termites would move out and find better tasting food elsewhere.

So, one cannot arbitrarily draw the line with dogma. It doesn't day "Don't kill people, but cows are o.k. to kill." It says "Don't kill."

Then I asked the class how many cannibals there were (no one spoke up). Eat pork? Beef? Lamb? Camel? Goat? Dog? Cat? Rat?

Food for thought.

As a group, this class drew the line at mammals - no eating of things which produce milk. Too bad for the fish and fowl.

Dean Fearce said...

The ego of no-ego feels near the end of the line . . .

GCU Prosthetic Conscience said...

Death, therefore, the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and, when death is come, we are not.

Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus

proulx michel said...

... therefore, ask not for whom the bell tolls : it tolls for thee.

(Donne)

Mumon said...

Dr. Kapus:

You're right about the mindsets, and I respect what you've said and done or not done. I myself still think it's good to at least acknowledge the "idea" and move on. Think of it as the "Relaxation of Thoughts" sutra applied to behavior.

As I said before, it's what other Zen masters have done with Christian proselytizers misrepresenting Buddhism in the past.

Now I will let go of this. :-)

Pirooz M. Kalayeh said...

Hi Brad!

Anonymous said...

wha happened ?

1. Brad posts link to "Funny Article (FA)"

2. I read FA and laugh.

3. Bloggers get riled and send mail to silly Beaver minister. which I read and makes me laugh more and more...

4. I love this stuff!

Brad - love the new book - I think it blows the other books away! Stick with the new style for future works...

Noefexus said...

Aye. There can be no life without death. No black without white. Everything that we recognize as real, becomes real only when we perceive the phenomenon against a background, relative to something else.

If everything is relative, nothing is real. There is no birth and no death. Everything is an endless cycle of expansion and implosion. And, well, in totality, everything is nothing and otherwise...space. Hmmm...but here again, you cannot have "space" without the concept of a space-filler. OK, that's enough from me!

Mysterion said...

At one level (parables), Christianity IS Buddhist. While the traditional legacy of thought often held that Christianity was the Hellenization of Judahism, more recent studies, especially in the Bactria of Seleukos II, favor that Christianity as being the Hellenization of Buddhism.

THE HOUSE OF SELEUCUS
(published in 1902)

"Menander (reigned c. 150–135 BCE). Legendary for the size of his Kingdom, and his support of the Buddhist faith. It is unclear whether he was related to the other kings, and thus if the dynasty survived further."
source

Menander Soter Dikaios (Milinda in Pali) is an important Western figure in the history of Buddhism.

Mumon said...

Mysterion:

Several of the Christian parables or stories are "repeated" in Buddhist literature; the 2 that come to my mind most easily are:

- The Buddha is asked to raise a girl from the dead; the Buddha tells his supplicant to go find some seeds from 5 houses that had never known death. The girl's parent eventually gets it.

- The Prodigal Son is reproduced in the Lotus Sutra, but it is the Father who recognizes the son, and disguises himself, while the son works to inherit more wealth than he would have achieved if he'd stayed.

In both instances, the Buddhist texts, at least to me anyway, seem to convey a more realistic and useful message, whether it's because they're written later (quite likely not) or because they "learned" from the Christian version (again not likely - these texts are said to pre-date the New Testament) or (IMHO most likely) the Christians ineptly borrowed from the Buddhist texts.

Steve said...

"The Fifth Street Church of Christ claims to be the true Christianity, but since no one can prove what true or original Christianity is, the claim means little. The reason that no one can prove what original Christianity was like, is due to the following factors: 1. The late nature of Christian manuscripts. 2. Their contradictory teachings. 3. Christianity's long-standing emphasis on subjectivism. 4. Christ's mixture of legend and history. In the end the Fifth Street Church of Christ is simply one of innumerable schools of conflicting Christianity."

Need I go on?

Anonymous said...

whats more distubing is a website i saw that spoke of Thomas Merton the Roman Catholic monk who was a pioneer in making inroads to Zen when relatively unknown to the masses. this site spoke with glee almost that he was burning in hell for his ways...he is a good one to look into if you would want to have an interfaith chat

Russ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Russ said...

As I read the first paragraph, the thought that occurred to me was if I were to substitute "the Church of Christ" for "Zen" and "Christianity" for "Buddhism" the paragraph would make just as much sense.

I always find it strange when people feel the need to defend their spiritual point of view by downing others, especially when the proofs offered are so flimsy and subjective.

This applies equally to the system of teaching known as our beloved Zen as much as to any other.

If something's funny, just laugh.

Anonymous said...

It's a good thing that it's not possible to use Christians' actions to paint a skewed picture of their beliefs, and that it's impossible to misinterpret any of their their teachings. There'd be some real good commupance or something.

(I'm sure glad I'm not bound to "judge not." Judging is fun.)

Anonymous said...

"WU?" WTF is "Wu?"

Awesome.

tinyplasticbuddha said...

I like the idea of a religion as rife with make-believe as Christianity having something called "Evidence Bible."

Perhaps if the real Bible were a little less absurd, they wouldn't need to create a second "evidence" Bible. Isn't the Bible itself supposed to be evidence enough?

Or is it just that I'm against stoning harlots for adultery?

Anonymous said...

"Wu" is the Chinese reading of the character you know as "Mu".

Uncle Martha said...

One time, I ate a burrito. It was awesome.

Anonymous said...

That's a super Zen article.
I want to write them and make some requests, I want this kind of informative straightforward breakdown of SO many things, and this writer really gets to the heart of things.
I hope he can do one on:

1) Quantum Mechanics
2) early Vedic teachings
3) Anthroposophy and Theosophy
4) Gurdjieff
5) Capitalism
6) the Mayan long-count calendar

It is so tedious to have to do my own bait & switch research and Bible quoting, I hope this writer keeps it up.....

muebles madrid said...

Quite helpful piece of writing, thank you for this article.