Monday, June 15, 2009

NEW SUICIDE GIRLS ARTICLE

I got a new article up on Suicide Girls today. Hope y'all enjoy it.

Also, thanks to everyone who responded about my video tape problem (below). I'm going to sift through all of the suggestions I've received and get back to everyone who wrote in sometime this week.

Rock on!

103 comments:

alan said...

No more female convicts for me, you betcha!

pkb said...

"A lot of the pain we face in life comes down to wanting what we don’t have. Maybe even all of it."

Good to see that you agree with the Buddha on this, Brad. That is tanha, selfish craving. It is the cause of suffering. It's usually just translated as 'desire'. But desire doesn't do it justice. Your description fits perfectly.


"The identical sort of interaction happens between same-sex couples and in multi-partner situations as well, of course. This sort of thing should not be approached casually"

Good advice;) I'll give lots of care and attention when I plan our next orgy. Group sex is ok, just not 'casual' group sex. Got it.

Overall, a good article.

rgn said...

I bid your blog farewell. I guess Suzuki has spoiled me.

Anonymous said...

Shunryu Suzuki... said, “It’s all right to have as many sex partners as you like, as long as you can remember all of their names.”


Is it OK if we only remember each other's
porn names?

Jinzang said...

"Tantric sex" is such a big misunderstanding of what tantra is that it's hard to know where to start. Yes, there are tantric practices that involve sex, but they're a tiny part of tantra. There are more tantric practices that require celibacy than use sex and in other tantric practices it doesn't matter if you're celibate or not, they have nothing to do with sex.

Uku said...

Hahhaa, kick ass post! Thanks, Brad!

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

I'm all for people from these different traditions discussing their viewpoints on this topic.

Vigorous and penetrative sectual intercourse seems increasingly important in these trying times of rampant idealism and stark division.

Regards,

Harry.

Jinzang said...

I can't give a course in Tantric Buddhism in this comment box, but if your idea of tantra is that it involves sex, you've got it wrong. The goal of tantra is the same as the goal of zen, both are based on the core of mahayana buddhism. If you'd like to understand tantra better, I'd recommend the Dalai Lama's book, The World of Tibetan Buddhism.

Smoggyrob said...

Hi everyone:

Harry, I disagree. Who wants to talk? I prefer to just jump in, ram my opinion down everyone's throat until I'm satisfied, then leave and don't call. In and out.

Rob

Justin said...

Personally I've never come across any Buddhist (even a beginner) who used mindfulness to mean “thinking about stuff a whole lot.” Mindfulness is used consistently across most branches of Buddhism (plus the Insight Meditation movement and mindfulness based therapeutic methods) to mean 'intentional awareness'. It forms the basis of both Vipassana and Zazen - which are very closely related.

Harry said...

Hi,

'Intentional awareness' is just volitional, discriminatory thinking (thinking/percieving/discerning one thing as opposed another). If you're doing that for long periods then it could with great validity be described as 'thinking a lot'... this is very important, especially if you think you're something other than intentionally thinking about something.

This discriminatory thinking may well be a valid aspect of some types of Buddhist training, but it's still volitional thinking.

'Intentional awareness' may well be an aspect of how some teachers teach zazen, but it is not Master Dogen's method where we 'don't entangle [our]self in delusive relationships. Just leave such things to themselves. Don't think about good or bad, right or wrong. Don't give rise to the mind's common concepts, the judging of thoughts and observations. Don't sit to become an Awakened One because you can't fabricate a Buddha out of sitting or lying down.'

It's laid out quite clearly in Fukanzazengi.

Brad is likely coming from this perspective. It is effectively quite a different perspective.

Regards,

Harry.

Justin said...

"'Intentional awareness' is just volitional, discriminatory thinking (thinking/percieving/discerning one thing as opposed another). If you're doing that for long periods then it could with great validity be described as 'thinking a lot'... this is very important, especially if you think you're something other than intentionally thinking about something."

Focussed awareness on something eg. the breath, sensations, sounds or even the arising and passing of thoughts, is not at all the same as 'thinking a lot'. In ordinary thinking we are absorbed by the virtual reality of thoughts - we forget that they are thoughts and instead tend to see them as facts and as ourselves. Awareness is just seeing phenomena arise and pass without getting attached to or identifying with them. It is possible to judge, discrimate and think about what is going on but this is not the mindfulness practice.

In mindfulness, when attention wanders from the object (usually into thinking) it is gently and nonjudgementally brought back to mindfulness. Noticing that it has wandered is in itself becoming mindful.

Unlike mindfulness, zazen has no object of awareness. Awareness is of whatever arises. Where zazen differs from ordinary discursive consciousness is that when we notice that the attention is caught up in thinking we gently bring it back to awareness.

The only significant difference between them is that this type of mindfulness includes a narrower focussing of attention. Both are goal-less practices and both yet include some direction of the attention. Mindfulness practice also includes 'choiceless awareness' where - like zazen - there is no object of awareness.

"This discriminatory thinking may well be a valid aspect of some types of Buddhist training, but it's still volitional thinking."

You're clearly not speaking from experience Harry. That is not what Mindfulness is about.

"It's laid out quite clearly in Fukanzazengi."

It's all very well saying "Don't think about right and wrong". Achieving this is an another matter. If we could decide to 'just sit' then we wouldn't need zazen, we could just take a bus ride. Zazen is a method.

When your mind gets caught in discursive thought do you

A: Let it?
(if so this is no different from the ordinary discursive mind of an ordinary person sitting on a bus)
B: Stop it?
(if so you are practicing suppression and trying to beat mind with mind)
C: Notice it? Bringing the attention back to the the present moment (allowing thoughts to rise and pass in awareness) and/or to the breath or posture.
(if so this is the same as mindfulness)

I don't know about you but C is the zazen I was taught.

If your mind never gets caught in discursive thought you don't need zazen.

There are some Zen people with a sectarian attitude who like to idealise their practice and raise it above the practices of other Buddhists (and as taught by Shakyamuni Buddha). It is a form of self-flattery to convince yourself that you are one of only a few who practice the 'True Way'.

Fortunately, the practice of zazen is true to the original vipassana teachings of the Buddha, which is where it has it's roots.

Justin said...

* clarification
The only significant difference between MINDFULNESS AND ZAZEN is that MANY types of mindfulness include a narrower focussing of attention.

Harry said...

Hi Justin,

"In mindfulness, when attention wanders from the object (usually into thinking) it is gently and nonjudgementally brought back to mindfulness. Noticing that it has wandered is in itself becoming mindful."

I saw through the practice of 'mindfulness' that is widely being touted so, no, I longer practice it. It doesn't make sense because it is just it's own sort of what it claims to stop.

'Brought back to mindfulness' where does this mindfulness reside? Where is the object if not where 'mindfulness' resides? Where is the mind to be lost? Where is the object to be found? It all seems very limited/ limiting.

How many ways are we carving up what is not in the least bit separate already?

Stopping doing something (i.e. thinking, discriminating, whatever) need not be case of intentionally doing something else at all. It is just stopping intentionally doing something and does not require further fabrication or some constructed alternative. Reality does not depend on our 'awareness' of one or two things.

And so there need not be a need for a discursive thought/ mindfulness dichotomy and the inevitable resulting discriminative volitional action/thinking.

Not thinking is not a doing but a not-doing which is often, in practice, the result of a non-doing. 'Doing' something is always a doing.

Importantly, Master Dogen realised that zazen was not just a matter of what we might generally consider 'thinking', he accorded with the view of 'dropping body and mind', that is, dropping our thoughts AND our bodily perceptions. So, that means that, while there may be thoughts and sensations (breathing, hearing, seeing), they are let come and go and do not result in the volitional action of us making a 'breather', a 'hearer', a 'see-er' either by attaching to those perceptions (via 'mindfulness' or 'attention' or whatever) or rejecting them (in favour of 'mindfulness' or 'attention' to/of something).

'Mindfulness' is fine if that's what you're into but, Master Dogen and the Chinese patriarchs were directly pointing a little bit further.

As I've said before, 'True Buddhism' is simply where we no longer fool ourselves. 'Mindfulness' might constitute a great recipe for fooling ourselves blind.

You'll recall that I merely wanted to point to the fact that this is distinct from what you are touting as 'mindfulness', not that it is superior or 'truer'. So, I'd appreciate if you could refrain from the personal slurs which, if they are the product of a 'mindful' person, hardly sell the notion.

Regards,

Harry.

Justin said...

I saw through the practice of 'mindfulness' that is widely being touted so, no, I longer practice it. It doesn't make sense because it is just it's own sort of what it claims to stop.

'I saw through' just means you came to a new opinion about.

It is being used successfully as a treatment for depression, stress, OCD and anxiety.

'Brought back to mindfulness' where does this mindfulness reside? Where is the object if not where 'mindfulness' resides? Where is the mind to be lost? Where is the object to be found? It all seems very limited/ limiting.

Ordinary attention is usually distracted by discursive thought, judgement etc. Mindfulness brings awareness back to the space within which everything arises, allowing us to see thoughts as thoughts, judgements and judgements, feelings as feelings. It also allows us to be more clearly aware of how we are feeling and reacting. When awareness is focussed on something such as sound this is something that requires concentration but is not an activity of the discriminating mind. Intentionality is abandoned in both practices.

The only essential difference from zazen is that some Mindfulness practices cultivate focussed awareness while zazen only cultivates open/broad awareness.

"How many ways are we carving up what is not in the least bit separate already?"

LOL. You're the one who's trying to make a big distinction between Zazen and mindfulness!

Stopping doing something (i.e. thinking, discriminating, whatever) need not be case of intentionally doing something else at all. It is just stopping intentionally doing something and does not require further fabrication or some constructed alternative.

Given that we are hard-wired and conditioned to desire for things to be different from how they are and to discriminate and to seek to change reality through intentionality, it seems rather unrealistic to expect people to be able to just decide to stop doing that and instead to be completely content with how things are. As I said people can't 'just sit' - it takes a practice like zazen.

Reality does not depend on our 'awareness' of one or two things.
I'm interested in the experienced reality of the practice primarily not so much in ontological/philosophical theories.

And so there need not be a need for a discursive thought/ mindfulness dichotomy and the inevitable resulting discriminative volitional action/thinking.

I didn't say there was a need for it. I used such a concept as a means of communication. You appear to have an aversion to discrimination and to volition. They are real. The question is how to live skillfully with them.

'dropping body and mind', that is, dropping our thoughts AND our bodily perceptions.

That is, dropping identification with and attachment to them.
It's exactly the same with mindfulness.

Justin said...

So, that means that, while there may be thoughts and sensations (breathing, hearing, seeing), they are let come and go and do not result in the volitional action of us making a 'breather', a 'hearer', a 'see-er' either by attaching to those perceptions (via 'mindfulness' or 'attention' or whatever) or rejecting them (in favour of 'mindfulness' or 'attention' to/of something).

Awareness of something - even focusseed awareness - is not attachment. Attachment is craving and aversion. True awareness is seeing without a seer. True awareness is being rather than doing. Awareness is the alternative to attachment.

'Mindfulness' is fine if that's what you're into but, Master Dogen and the Chinese patriarchs were directly pointing a little bit further.

I agree that open, minimally directed awareness is important in Zen and in Buddhism in general. But focussed awareness is probably better at dealing with specific issues. I don't agree that there is such a fundamental distinction as you are presenting. The difference is that in focussed mindfulness awareness is narrow and in choiceless/objectless mindfulness/zazen awareness is broad and open. When the mind wanders it still has to be released from entrapment in discursive thoughts and fantasies.

'Mindfulness' might constitute a great recipe for fooling ourselves blind.

And sometimes Zen and 'true Buddhism' are even better recipes.

You'll recall that I merely wanted to point to the fact that this is distinct from what you are touting as 'mindfulness', not that it is superior or 'truer'.

I think that plenty of what you've said paints mindfulness as a second class practice. For example:
- "'Mindfulness' might constitute a great recipe for fooling ourselves blind."
- "I saw through the practice of 'mindfulness' that is widely being touted so, no, I longer practice it. It doesn't make sense because it is just it's own sort of what it claims to stop."
- "'Mindfulness' is fine if that's what you're into but, Master Dogen and the Chinese patriarchs were directly pointing a little bit further"

You've also misrepresented mindfulness in various ways as I've already pointed out.

So, I'd appreciate if you could refrain from the personal slurs which, if they are the product of a 'mindful' person, hardly sell the notion.

I was honestly pointing out a genuine tendency I've seen in a few Zen people. I wasn't talking about you personally. And it wasn't an unneccessary comment.

Also, you have not answered my question - what do you do when you notice that your mind has wandered into discursive thinking?

Justin said...

One day a man of the people said to the Zen master Ikkyu: “Master,will you please write for me some maxims of the highest wisdom?”
Ikkyu immediately took his brush and wrote the word “Attention.”
“Is that all?” asked the man. “Will you not add something more?”
Ikkyu then wrote twice running: “Attention. Attention.”
“Well,” remarked the man rather irritably, “I really don’t see much depth or subtlety in what you have just written.”
Then Ikkyu wrote the same word three times running: “Attention. Attention. Attention.”
Half angered, the man declared: “What does that word attention mean anyway?”
And Ikkyu answered, gently: “Attention means attention.”

Harry said...

Hi, Justin.

Good luck with really working that koan. If we actualise just what the 'attention' referred to is, or can be, then we might have more interesting opinions about the relationship between what attends and what is attended to and the originally ineffable act of attending.

If the 'attention' in that koan is limited by our own clumsy attempts to fabricate 'enlightenment', 'awareness', 'mindfulness' or whatever then it is not the teaching, nor the realisation, of a Buddhist patriarch.

What we think 'mindfulness' and 'awareness' are may not be the same as the 'attention' being pointed to in the koan at all.

Our own self-created 'mindfulness' and 'awareness' are far far less than secondary when it come to the zazen of buddhas and Buddhist patriarchs.

When the koan drops us we might understand.

Regards,

Harry.

Justin said...

Harry,

Good luck with really working that koan. If we actualise just what the 'attention' referred to is, or can be, then we might have more interesting opinions about the relationship between what attends and what is attended to and the originally ineffable act of attending.

Master Ikkyu has already answered the koan.

“What does that word attention mean anyway?” (This is what you are asking Harry)
Ikkyu says: “Attention means attention.”

The layman wants something 'deep' his discursive mind can wrap itself around. But Ikkyu doesn't give him what he wants - attention just means attention. The discursiveness is silenced, awareness opens up.

Justin said...
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Harry said...

Hee hee. Putting words into other people's mounths and answering koans for Zen Masters...

The tango ends here, My Dear.

Like I said... good luck with it.

Regards,

Harry.

Justin said...

It's a shame you don't want to continue to engage about this interesting topic. Good luck to you too Harry.

Justin said...
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Justin said...
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Justin said...

Here is Jon Kabat-Zinn - the creator of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction - talking to Google about mindfulness.

Note the emphasis on no-gaining-idea.

Is this really so different from Zen? For me, this is almost indistinguishable from a Zen teaching - if I close my eyes.

pkb said...

One day a man of the people said to the Zen master Ikkyu: “Master,will you please write for me some maxims of the highest wisdom?”
Ikkyu immediately took his brush and wrote the word “Attention.”
“Is that all?” asked the man. “Will you not add something more?”
Ikkyu then wrote twice running: “Attention. Attention.”
“Well,” remarked the man rather irritably, “I really don’t see much depth or subtlety in what you have just written.”
Then Ikkyu wrote the same word three times running: “Attention. Attention. Attention.”
Half angered, the man declared: “What does that word attention mean anyway?”
And Ikkyu answered, gently: “Attention means attention.


Attention is mindfulness. It has nothing to do with thinking alot about stuff. Attention is choiceless awareness. Attention is smriti. Ikkyu wrote this because it is the very foundation of Buddhism and Zen. It is true that many beginners mistakenly think mindfulness means thinking about what you are doing or holding some special "aware" mindstate or concept (I think this is what Brad is directing his critique of mindfulness towards) while others think it means inhibiting thought. It is neither.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Justin, I see you posted the same Ikkyu story.

Anonymous said...

Interesting discussion between Harry and Justin. Thanks to you both.

MomZombie said...

Brad, you rock. That's all I'm going to say.

Justin said...

On reflection, it occurs to me what the flaw in Harry's position is, as I see it.

Yes, in practicing we can fall into a kind of 'wrong effort' where try to force the mind into a state of perfect concentration, not thinking, peacefulness, relaxation and so on. This is essentially turning the mind against itself. But this applies to zazen as much as mindfulness and I suspect we've all been there, or maybe still are.

Yet, going to the opposite extreme is a mistake too - the idea that no effort or intentionality is ever required and is always 'wrong' and that instead we should just 'not have discursive thoughts' or just 'stop judging'. This is an idealised view of practice and of the mind. The mind is not under 'our' control, it is complex, multi-layered and can easily fool itself, so a simple decision for it to stop doing something isn't enough. Our attachments and our discursive thinking are not things that we consciously choose. I don't get up in the morning and decide that I'm going to do some discursive thinking and some craving. Therefore it isn't a simple matter of just suddenly not doing it any more. I don't think this is the reality of anyone's practice. If it was that simple, anyone would become fully awakened simply by deciding to stop being deluded and attached. But our attachment and delusion have been conditioned since birth or are in-born. It takes decades to develop a mature practice.

How can we "use the mind yet be free from any attachment" ? I'd say that part of the answer is 'right effort' meaning that while we shouldn't chase ideals nevertheless sometimes we have to slap ourselves to practice or to wake up. Otherwise we would carry on dreaming. Instead we need to see our distractions within awareness. To be wakeful is itself to let go of attachments. And this habit of awareness is something to be cultivated instead of unaware reactivity and/or abstraction.

Mumon said...

Speaking of which, did you know that preachign the Lotus Sutra possessed qualities not unlike Enzyte?


Sorry to ref my blog, but it does sort of go with the post.

hendrik said...

Harry and Justin

Thanks for your interesting dialogue.

Also, you have not answered my question - what do you do when you notice that your mind has wandered into discursive thinking?

You maintain your posture, just the same as when your mind does not wander into discursive thinking.

Your take on Zazen is different from Nishijima-sensei's, as I understand it. The instruction "to just sit" should be interpreted realistically. It means you are acting to sit in the correct posture, in real time, throughout the sitting. As Master Dogen said: "Sit like your hair is on fire." It is an action, not a state of being, and hence is not identical to awareness if, as you say, awareness is a state of being.

A materialistic reading of "to just sit" is something else entirely, and arguably includes riding on a bus.

I would say your sitting action has an awareness quality to it, but you're not acting to cultivate it.

hendrik

Justin said...

Thanks for the response.

Yes this is different to Nishijioma's interpretation, but his interpretation is different to that of most Zen teachers in my experience.

I would say your sitting action has an awareness quality to it, but you're not acting to cultivate it.

Sitting on a bus has an awareness quality to it (without cultivation). Perhaps you can explain what the difference between zazen and sitting on a bus. If the answer is only posture, then this is indeed a purely materialist interpretation of Buddhism.

As I've said before - and I've been sitting in lotus posture for 7 years - without paying attention I could sit daydreaming in the lotus posture all day. Daydreaming in the lotus posture is not awakening, Buddhahood or correct Zen practice.

hendrik said...

Sitting on a bus has an awareness quality to it (without cultivation). Perhaps you can explain what the difference between zazen and sitting on a bus. If the answer is only posture, then this is indeed a purely materialist interpretation of Buddhism.

As I've said before - and I've been sitting in lotus posture for 7 years - without paying attention I could sit daydreaming in the lotus posture all day. Daydreaming in the lotus posture is not awakening, Buddhahood or correct Zen practice.


I just did explain exactly that.

Riding on a bus and daydreaming in lotus may well conform to a materialistic reading of Zazen instructions - in the sense that you sit in lotus as perceived by an observer (possibly yourself). This is entirely different from a realistic reading, which requires sitting action, in real time.

Justin said...

When the old master Hyakujo was asked what Zen is, he said "when hungry, eat. When tired, sleep." His questioner countered "Well isn't that what everybody does? Aren't you just like ordinary people?" "Oh no," he said, "they don't do anything of the kind. When they are hungry they don't just eat, they think of all sorts of things. "
(from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones)

The instruction to 'just sit' isn't a purely physical instruction that no matter what happens we must not move.

It is about doing what we do wholeheartedly:
When we eat we just eat, when we walk we just walk, when we rest we just rest, when we sit we just sit. It means that when we are sitting the mind is not wandering off thinking about the past or future - the mind is completely present with the present moment that is sitting. That way the mind and body are in harmony, are one.

hendrik said...

Justin, you're mistaking realism for materialism. From that quote old Master Hyakujo is a realist, down to his toenails.

Harry said...

"Yet, going to the opposite extreme is a mistake too - the idea that no effort or intentionality is ever required and is always 'wrong' and that instead we should just 'not have discursive thoughts' or just 'stop judging'."

Hi Justin,

I hope this didn't ruin your day or interfere with your keeping your koan, but I quite agree that life demands all sorts of action: conscious thinking, mental effort and discipline and all that jazz...

What sets Buddhist practice, and the Buddhist practitioner, apart from this, and what sets authenticating zazen apart from it, is the additional realisation of the ceasing of such volitional thinking/perceiving via non-thinking. In this way we can come to realise the nature of our life free from the confines of our own attempts to manipulate it (i.e. being 'aware' as opposed to thinking, being 'mindful' as opposed to distracted, being whatever as opposed to whatever, trying to cultivate whatever,...)

In case you missed the point earlier: not-thinking is a 'not-doing', it cannot be realised by a further, extraneous 'doing' but, as the buddhas and patriarchs realise, it can be realised via 'non-doing' which, effectively, is stopping thinking when you notice it. If you haven't noticed it then you can't stop doing it so, in terms of the present moment (the only moment that counts for anything in zazen ...see below...), that's not an issue because "Oh, I'm thinking and I should stop it and be mindful or aware or whatever" has overshot the pier already.

It's a pretty fair assumption to say that there is an effect of zazen which is gradual, but, in terms of our actions, this present moment is completely cut off from the past or the future (which actually only 'exist' as our thoughts/assumptions of 'past' and 'future' in the present moment). This instantaneous view of things is realised in Buddhist practice, so, while we may presume that practice will lead to something like 'better awareness', that is actually only a thought in the present moment: that 'better awareness' exists nowhere else, and the awareness that we are told will develop if we keep practicing exists nowhere else except as a thought in the present moment.

The Buddha's enlightenment is actually realised nowhere else other than where we realise it. When we thoroughly stop trying to do it it's not at all hindered by a thought, or by any feeling of inferiority or superiority or immanent enlightenment or improving this or that or all the rest...

'Mindfulness' as a type of self improvement or therapy may bring people mental comfort and/or mental clarity or whatever, but zazen is not about cultivating states of mind and that was not the buddha's purpose...those things didn't satisfy him, he went further... it's about really actualizing the full, inclusive nature or self (which is quite inclusive of our silly little human thoughts).

The more astute Masters point/pointed to the fact that the 'Buddha-nature as an inner potential' idea is always just an idea because, at the present moment (being the only moment we ever really inhabit seeing as the past and future are just our ideas in the present moment) there is nothing which really exists as a potential anywhere... there is only what there actually is.

This explains the emphasis on the non-gradual, instantaneous view in Dogen's Zen: in reality the present is not something which need be defined by our ideas of the past or the present or the future. It's quite free and independent of them already.

Regards,

Harry.

Justin said...

Yes Master Hyakujo is a realist who talks about both the mental and physical aspects of a person. The interpretation you gave seems to refer exclusively to the physical posture (as if what the mind was doing was irrelevant) - although you later added this:

This is entirely different from a realistic reading, which requires sitting action, in real time.

Both sitting on a bus and daydreaming in lotus occur in real time of course. Can this sitting action be described purely in physical terms? No. This action includes intentionality and presence of mind. Sitting action is just sitting with mind and body in harmony. That is body is sitting, mind is sitting, with no sense of separation. The body is in sitting posture and there is awareness of this present moment. Thoughts arise and pass. There is no substantial difference from objectless mindfulness practice, even if some people would like there to be.

Anonymous said...

Wow. So much theory and argument. Why sit for so long and then waste your time? :)

Justin said...

What sets Buddhist practice, and the Buddhist practitioner, apart from this, and what sets authenticating zazen apart from it, is the additional realisation of the ceasing of such volitional thinking/perceiving via non-thinking. In this way we can come to realise the nature of our life free from the confines of our own attempts to manipulate it (i.e. being 'aware' as opposed to thinking, being 'mindful' as opposed to distracted, being whatever as opposed to whatever, trying to cultivate whatever,...)

Or non-thinking as opposed to thinking or non-doing as opposed to doing.

Both Zen and mindfulness practice emphasise non-doing. And both will slip into 'doing' (trying to make things different from how they are) or 'not doing' (clinging to non-intentionality). The only way we can know that this has happened is through mindfulness ie awareness.

In case you missed the point earlier: not-thinking is a 'not-doing', it cannot be realised by a further, extraneous 'doing'

I didn't miss the point. I made the same one as did Jon K-Z several times in his video.

but, as the buddhas and patriarchs realise, it can be realised via 'non-doing' which, effectively, is stopping thinking when you notice it.

None of the 3 zen masters or other zen teacher I practice with has ever told me to 'stop thinking'. In fact they have stressewd that this is a beginners misunderstanding of Zen - rather we encourage the mind to move freely - thoughts arise without obstruction and pass without clinging, leaving no trace like birds crossing a clear sky. (The sky of course being mind).

If you haven't noticed it then you can't stop doing it

Yes - and this noticing is aka mindfulness.

so, in terms of the present moment (the only moment that counts for anything in zazen ...see below...), that's not an issue because "Oh, I'm thinking and I should stop it and be mindful or aware or whatever" has overshot the pier already.

Right. But if you are suggesting that the latter is what mindfulness is then you are attacking a straw man.

while we may presume that practice will lead to something like 'better awareness', that is actually only a thought in the present moment: that 'better awareness' exists nowhere else, and the awareness that we are told will develop if we keep practicing exists nowhere else except as a thought in the present moment.

The Buddha's enlightenment is actually realised nowhere else other than where we realise it. When we thoroughly stop trying to do it it's not at all hindered by a thought, or by any feeling of inferiority or superiority or immanent enlightenment or improving this or that or all the rest...


I agree. As I'm sure Jon K-Z would.

'Mindfulness' as a type of self improvement or therapy may bring people mental comfort and/or mental clarity or whatever, but zazen is not about cultivating states of mind and that was not the buddha's purpose...those things didn't satisfy him, he went further...

As I already said, both Zen and mindfulness stress no-gaining-idea or non-doing. And yet both can be used consciously or subliminally to try to get something. I'm sure most Zen practitioners are trying to get something most of the time - such as tranquility or stopping trying to get something. Don't idealise Zen.

it's about really actualizing the full, inclusive nature or self (which is quite inclusive of our silly little human thoughts).

Yes - which is why we don't try to stop thoughts - see above.

there is nothing which really exists as a potential anywhere... there is only what there actually is.

I agree. And what is is empty of separate-nature (or essence) which is why we already ARE Buddha Nature. But I think this is another topic.

Justin said...

As soon as you notice that you are thinking - or whatever - that in itself is mindfulness. There is no need to stop the thinking or to do anything. However without an intent to pay attention we probably wouldn't notice that we weren't and even if we did the mind would immediately drift back into discursive thinking just as with an ordinary person sitting on a bus.

There is an acceptance of things just as they are but also an intention to pay attention. When we see that the mind has wandered we gently and non-judgementally become aware that this is what has happened and remain aware for what happens next. This is not a 'doing'.

hendrik said...

Justin, you're still confusing realism and materialism; physics is a materialistic theory.

In realism the only time is now, and reality is your act, now. You can think of your present act as "possessing" subjective and objective qualities, if you like. For example Brad often talks about the present moment being a kind of fusion of thoughts and perceptions. And in fact Nishijima-sensei does something similar when he relates realism to materialism and idealism.

But, as far as realistic instructions of Zazen practice go, one treats actions in real time as primitive concepts - you don't ascribe some kind of internal structure to them (such as thoughts and perceptions). It seems to me that realism, in this sense, accounts for Zazen practice very nicely: your sitting act at this moment is just reality itself. This may seem circular, but actual Zazen practice, in my experience, resolves the circularity.

Anyway, the person you should be talking to about this is Nishijima-sensei. He's a very generous person.

Harry said...

"Or non-thinking as opposed to thinking or non-doing as opposed to doing."

Hi Justin,

This is a very good point that we have to clarify in real, direct blood and bones practice I think. Trying to, or thinking, 'non-thinking' or 'not thinking' as opposed to actually doing it, or getting caught up in the frustrations of constant arising thoughts or whatever is a big reality for practitioners of zazen at the start and throughout it seems.

"Both Zen and mindfulness practice emphasise non-doing. And both will slip into 'doing' (trying to make things different from how they are) or 'not doing' (clinging to non-intentionality). The only way we can know that this has happened is through mindfulness ie awareness. "

Yes, I think that's reasonable to say.

"I didn't miss the point. I made the same one as did Jon K-Z several times in his video."

Didn't watch it. Too busy with stuff I want to study. Life is short.

"None of the 3 zen masters or other zen teacher I practice with has ever told me to 'stop thinking'."

When we let thoughts just come and go we are not 'thinking on thoughts' and so are not making extra 'thoughts from thoughts' as we generally habitually do (running off with 'em). The 'not result' of this is that we are 'not thinking'/ not making thoughts. Being a 'not thing' it can't be a 'thing' we do.

"Yes - and this noticing is aka mindfulness."

That may be a fair description to someone who has done this with their blood and bones, but the term 'midfulness' suggests that it is just something to do with the mind which, I think, is not helpful or accurate. 'Awareness' seems a bit better.

"Right. But if you are suggesting that the latter is what mindfulness is then you are attacking a straw man."

That's what I have been 'attacking" from the start, as has the Warnster I believe.

"As I already said, both Zen and mindfulness stress no-gaining-idea or non-doing. And yet both can be used consciously or subliminally to try to get something. I'm sure most Zen practitioners are trying to get something most of the time - such as tranquility or stopping trying to get something. Don't idealise Zen."

Oh, if Zen practice doesn't make us aware of how subtly (and blatantly) we try to get things then we're not doing it right. But I'm not idealising Zen. I'm merely pointing out the fact that it requires, that it is, just stopping such volitional action when we realise we are doing it. If we don't realise we are doing it then stopping it is not an issue.

In my earlier posts I was responding to terms you used like 'intentional awareness' in relation to zazen. I was responding to the idea that zazen is used to 'cultivate mindfulness' or states of mind, and that it was something to do with "focusing attention", 'bringing it back to mindfulness' etc which are just not 'it' where shikantaza is concerned. It may be the biz in other camps (in fact I know it is, and some of 'em call it 'shikantaza'), but shikantaza ala Dogen is just a different sort of action/practice was just my point there.

Regards,

Harry.

Homeo Joe said...

The FDA said Zicam Cold Remedy was never formally approved because it is part of a small group of remedies that are not required to undergo federal review before launching. Known as homeopathic products

Harry said...

p.s. "Yes - and this noticing is aka mindfulness."

And, I meant to say (before you think we agree :-)), that "dropping body and mind" must obviously include dropping such 'mindfulness' and any such self consciousness... when we realise that we are doing it.

Regards,

Harry.

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

Justin, you're still confusing realism and materialism; physics is a materialistic theory.

Physics is modelling of the physical world. I'm asking you to clarify what you mean.

In realism the only time is now, and reality is your act, now. You can think of your present act as "possessing" subjective and objective qualities, if you like. For example Brad often talks about the present moment being a kind of fusion of thoughts and perceptions.

OK, but this doesn't support the sort of posture-only description of zazen you were giving earlier. Nor is it a perspective unique to zen.

But, as far as realistic instructions of Zazen practice go, one treats actions in real time as primitive concepts - you don't ascribe some kind of internal structure to them (such as thoughts and perceptions).

By that presumably you mean you don't add the thought 'this is a thought', 'this is a perception'. Well, I didn't say you did and this is not something you would do in mindfulness either.

It seems to me that realism, in this sense, accounts for Zazen practice very nicely: your sitting act at this moment is just reality itself. This may seem circular, but actual Zazen practice, in my experience, resolves the circularity.

OK. And the mindfulness practice I have described is no different. But I'm not sure why you're making this point.

It doesn't support your earlier claim that all you had to do when the mind wandered into discursive thought was "You maintain your posture, just the same as when your mind does not wander into discursive thinking."

The sitting act isn't something done only with the body, it is done with body and mind. The way that this is achieved is that the mind is fully present to the reality of the moment aka mindfulness.

Anyway, the person you should be talking to about this is Nishijima-sensei. He's a very generous person.

I've spoken to him and read him many times before. His interpretation of Buddhism is interesting and often quite idiosyncratic.

Really said...

Justin, some time ago, wrote this, describing, I assume, his view of fruitful, or useful, zen practice:

"...when we are sitting the mind is not wandering off thinking about the past or future - the mind is completely present with the present moment that is sitting."

My experience is that the effort to prevent the mind from wandering off can lead to an attachment to, a fixation on, a desperation to stay "with the present moment" that leads to anything but being in the moment; to fighting off of thoughts and 'distractions'. Better, IME, to let go.

Letting go means letting go of any notion or intention to remain mindful, or present; it means forgetting about thinking, or not-thinking. I believe it's also been caled 'dropping off body and mind'.

It just happens. It's accidental. By it's nature, we cannot make it happen with our minds. It's not posssible.

And so, inevitably, we'll sometimes think, daydream, drift off, be brought back (bring ourselves back?) and sometimes find ourselves in that wordless state which is perhaps only so directly experienced in zazen. Just allow it all. Whatever state your mind is in - just let it be.

Hence. we're left with 'just sitting'. Yes, just staying in the same posture for while. Don't underestimate it. That's what I've been doing, and it works for me. You do what works for you.

Will said...

Thank you for being an idiot!

Justin said...

All this has been covered already.

My experience is that the effort to prevent the mind from wandering off can lead to an attachment to, a fixation on, a desperation to stay "with the present moment" that leads to anything but being in the moment; to fighting off of thoughts and 'distractions'. Better, IME, to let go.

Letting go means letting go of any notion or intention to remain mindful, or present; it means forgetting about thinking, or not-thinking. I believe it's also been caled 'dropping off body and mind'.


Yes. But as I keep saying, the actual practice in real life is essentially the same for both. The way we might describe non-doing or letting go might vary, (I've heard a hundred subtle variant expressions of 'how to zazen') but one thing is clear - it is the same practice of non-doing in all of them. Like zazen, mindfulness is not about chasing any particular state such as 'not thinking', 'mindfulness' or whatever - not trying to change anything. Just seeing the mind just as it is. As soon as we notice the mind is caught in discursive thought, seeing it directly, at that moment we are already mindful and thus we stop reacting and adding judgements to the fire. We let go rather than react. We accept things just as they are rather than adding more judgement, or thinking to the mix. In both practices - as I have been taught them - there may be an additional gentle redirection of the mind to the breath, posture, present moment or open awareness. I believe that a subtle intentionality is involved. I'm not 100% certain about that, but whatever the answer is, it's the same for both - it's clear to me that when it comes to the actual practice there is no essential difference (obviously I'm referring to choiceless/objectless awareness here). Any insight into the subtleties of non-doing applies to both.

And so, inevitably, we'll sometimes think, daydream, drift off, be brought back (bring ourselves back?) and sometimes find ourselves in that wordless state which is perhaps only so directly experienced in zazen. Just allow it all. Whatever state your mind is in - just let it be.

It's just the same with mindfulness.

What happens when you notice the mind is in discursive thought?
- Continue with the discursive 'doing'? Then this is no different from daydreaming, sitting on a bus etc.
- Stop it? Then this is suppression.
- Allow the mind to be just as it is? This is the same as mindfulness
- Gently and consciously 'let go' or bring the mind back to open awareness, breath or posture? This is something that is sometimes used in each.

The language may differ, but the actual practice on the ground is just the same. This is because they have the same origins in the teachings of Buddha and because all over the world and at all times, human nature is the same. The practice works.

On the other hand it is also human nature to want to belong to something special - to idealise our 'side' and diminish the others. To wish to believe that we're doing something 'special'. I've seen this sort of 'spiritual snobbery' pop-up in many places - in Zen, in Vajrayana, in Mahayana, in Theravada. Some come up with a special name for the inferior practice such as 'Hinayana', all the while claiming to not have preferences. Zen is not an esoteric or sectarian movement.

On the other hand there are also many teachers and practitioners who express the spirit of openness, awareness and compassion finding 'zen' and common ground everywhere.

Justin said...

Hi Harry,

Thanks for your patience. It seems we're reaching a better mutual understanding.

This is a very good point that we have to clarify in real, direct blood and bones practice I think. Trying to, or thinking, 'non-thinking' or 'not thinking' as opposed to actually doing it, or getting caught up in the frustrations of constant arising thoughts or whatever is a big reality for practitioners of zazen at the start and throughout it seems.

Yes. Attachment to an idealised version of the practice has the potential to fan the flames as it were.

Didn't watch it. Too busy with stuff I want to study. Life is short.

Fair enough. And I don't want to come across as condescending - but in my experience it can be very fruitful to study widely. What I mean is, don't just study Dogen and Dogen-ists. Even Dogen himself (let alone Dharma) can't be fully understood out of context - that is without understanding Tendai, Hui-Neng, Zen's roots in China, Yogacara, Nagarjuna, the Pali Caonon and perhaps Taoism. Psychology and neuroscience are relevant to too.

I'm finding myself in a very interesting position right now, with a solid Soto Zen practice, some experience of traditional Vipassana, koan practice with a Rinzai teacher and training to teach Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy/Stress Reduction. This isn't a brag. But it does inform my practice (and my understanding of Soto) with some fertile and interesting perspectives.

When we let thoughts just come and go we are not 'thinking on thoughts' and so are not making extra 'thoughts from thoughts' as we generally habitually do (running off with 'em). The 'not result' of this is that we are 'not thinking'/ not making thoughts. Being a 'not thing' it can't be a 'thing' we do.

I see. Yes this sounds about right and could be said to apply equally to both practices.

That may be a fair description to someone who has done this with their blood and bones, but the term 'midfulness' suggests that it is just something to do with the mind which, I think, is not helpful or accurate. 'Awareness' seems a bit better.

That's a reasonable suggestion. The language we use can obviously skew things. And perhaps the 'focussed mindfulness' methods do involve a greater level of 'doing' or intentionality. However, in my experience, in spite of the fact that 'non-doing', 'radical acceptance', (whatever you want to call it), are stressed from the start, our deeply ingrained habits of 'doing' mean that we tend to interpret it as a new 'doing' - we cling to ideas of emptiness, we crave freedom from craving, we hate aversion, we judge judgement, we pursue tranquility, we think about non-thinking and so on. And this is something that affects both practices. I was practicing zazen for about 4 years before this really died down for me and I'm sure are still be traces of this 'doing' in my practice now.

That's what I have been 'attacking" from the start, as has the Warnster I believe.

In that case, would you like to borrow my lighter? - straw men burn well. ;)

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

Oh, if Zen practice doesn't make us aware of how subtly (and blatantly) we try to get things then we're not doing it right. But I'm not idealising Zen. I'm merely pointing out the fact that it requires, that it is, just stopping such volitional action when we realise we are doing it. If we don't realise we are doing it then stopping it is not an issue.

If we don't see we are doing it, stopping won't be a possibility, but it might still be an issue if such rumination is suffering. And how do we stop? I think seeing is often enough, but some gentle direction of attention is sometimes recommended for persistent thinking in both practices in my experience. Otherwise I agree. Zen practice is seeing our conditioning, seeing our mind. If we are not 'just sitting', we need to see that. It isn't just a body practice.

In my earlier posts I was responding to terms you used like 'intentional awareness' in relation to zazen. I was responding to the idea that zazen is used to 'cultivate mindfulness' or states of mind, and that it was something to do with "focusing attention", 'bringing it back to mindfulness' etc which are just not 'it' where shikantaza is concerned. It may be the biz in other camps (in fact I know it is, and some of 'em call it 'shikantaza'), but shikantaza ala Dogen is just a different sort of action/practice was just my point there.

I see where you're coming from and perhaps that term is misleading. And as I said before some (introductory in the course I'm doing) mindfulness practices focus on particular phenomena. On the other hand, if we are not encouraging the the habit of becoming 'aware of reality' (intentional awareness) then we can only rely on 'accidental awareness' and this would be a practice which is indistinguishable from daydreaming or sleeping on the cushion. Zen teachers frequently encourage me to bring my mind back to the present when it wanders and I find this helpful.

A firm, upright posture (not stiff or sloppy) can help and the way I see it, the mind needs some firmness of tone too: attentive and open rather than dreamy or craving for things to be other than they are. This (plus possible gentle redirection) is all I mean by 'intentional awareness'. It is an attitude of welcoming phenomena just as they are - including the reality that we may not be mindful at all. We just notice that too.

And, I meant to say (before you think we agree :-)), that "dropping body and mind" must obviously include dropping such 'mindfulness' and any such self consciousness... when we realise that we are doing it.

Yes. Interesting point. I think this was covered in the point I just made. Mindfulness is not something to be desired. And in my experience the practice leads to a sense of wholeness not a sense of duality. Enlightenment is dropped, tranquility is dropped, zen is dropped, oneness is dropped, emptiness is dropped, even dropping is dropped. Until things are just as they are.

Here are some other observations from personal experience for anyone who's interested:
- sitting in an upright, dignified posture seems to make a difference
- whether my legs are in lotus, half-lotus, seiza or I'm sitting on a chair seems to make no difference although it is important to have upright posture and to be present with the posture whatever it is. Lotus tend to cause numb legs and eventually mid-back pain.
- if I close my eyes I'm more likely to get lost in thinking or even nod off
- if I practice lying down with eyes closed the chance of falling asleep is significant
- any kind of labeling practice tends to lead into discursive thinking, in fact conception of what I'm doing/experiencing of any kind is a common starting point for a chain of discursive thinking (generally occurring without awareness)

Oh and BTW if anyone else says to me 'but mindfulness is about trying to be mindful while zen is about non-doing' I will 'do' them!

;) All the best

Justin

Justin said...

Soto Zen doesn't have a monopoly on non-doing - it goes back at least as far as Lao Tzu who lived around 1500 years before Dogen.

Harry said...

"However, in my experience, in spite of the fact that 'non-doing', 'radical acceptance', (whatever you want to call it), are stressed from the start..."

Hi Justin,

This sums up exactly the straw man I'm poking at. Shikantaza, as transmitted in China to Dogen (a very astute man who was not satisfied to just swallow the vast majority of Buddhist teachings of his day including those which he found in China and many of the records of the chinese masters) is essentially not about our own acceptance of it or anything, it is the actual realisation of a fact existing prior to anything like our acceptance or our ideas of what constitutes our self.

It is not merely some latter day psychological exercise to feel better about our life but is the realisation and actualisation of the state of how things, all things, actually are (possible because we are already a part of the Big Gumbo regardless of what we think).

To say that shikantaza relies on our own acceptance, awareness, or some other idea, is like saying that the sun shines becasue we think to get out of bed in the morning. At least a term like 'non-doing' emphasises that it is a real conduct beyond some thinking process where there is a self thinking of things to accept or be aware of etc.

Psychology and science are the mythology of our age. Where Dogen saw 'demons' we see persoanlity disorders, neuroticism and phobias etc. There will likely always be some better current explanation for these things, for all things, but the fact that we are here and are as we are and can directly realise ourselves as we are will be a constant existing prior to every thought. To 'psychologicalise' shikantaza is to limit it and limit ourself. Shikantaza is a realisation already not limited to what we think we are.

I have read Zen texts fairly widely and, after reading Dogen, can clearly see why he found them lacking because he reasons why very well, he does not just say things like 'it is only a finger pointing at the moon' or 'you should become more stupid' in response to things which did not make sense to him. He explains things and tries to express them.

In many ways his approach was quite scientific (it was certainly rational and methodical), but he realised the nature of limited/limiting human ideas of what reality is and what our part in it is. He also realised the potential of human thinking as a means of realisation, as realisation itself (when realised as such), and as a wonderful 'thing' generally.

Regards,

Harry.

Really said...

Thanks for your response, Justin.

"...as I keep saying, the actual practice in real life is essentially the same for both."

"The language may differ, but the actual practice on the ground is just the same."

Just so.

I think there's a gap as wide as that between heaven and earth between what we do and what we think we do.

I'm glad that my idiotic post (perhaps you weren't talking to me, Will) arrives at the point where consensus is emerging (I'm sure I speak too soon. That's what I sought to encourage.



Just one thing...even when I "drift off" into discursive thought/daydreaming during zazen, it never feels the same - when I 'come back' and can therefore notice it - as sitting on a bus. And I've a sneeking suspicion it isn't the same; to think so would be to regard zazen as a purely mental activity. Of course it isn't. So whatever state "my mind" appears to be in, "my body" is doing a very particular and special thing, by remaining still and quiet in the balanced posture. IF we agree that that in itself has great value, then I dare to suggest the debate is over. For a few minutes.

And yes, Justin - I'm sure all this has been covered already, too. Very many times ;-)

Really said...

Just a thought:

I think I'd be right in concluding that Justin, Harry, Hendrik, I, and many others who read this blog sit still in the lotus posture for a while every day.

During this 'zazen', J,H,H,I and others experience physical and mental phenomena. Some of these phenomena we may attribute to our own conscious efforts, others we may perceive as non-volitional.

Our experience of this practice is unique and incommunicable. We all find it very valuable.

We then come to compare notes, to clarify and, hopefully, confirm our experience and understanding with each other. We are often surprised and disturbed by how wrong some of us are. How some of us so completely misundersand what we're doing; are doing the wrong thing, completely missing the target. We should put them right; show them the error of their ways; of their thinking and their doing.

Then, perhaps having only fuelled our frustration, or perhaps having reached an accommodation with an adversary, we return to our own unique, incommunicable, ineffable, valuable practice. How can it be wrong?

proulx michel said...

Justin writes

'dropping body and mind', that is, dropping our thoughts AND our bodily perceptions.

That is, dropping identification with and attachment to them.
It's exactly the same with mindfulness.

I'm afraid that, IMHO, this would show that you have never really experienced 'dropping body and mind', or that, if you did, you didn't recognize it as such...

Justin said...

Shikantaza, ... is essentially not about our own acceptance of it or anything, it is the actual realisation of a fact existing prior to anything like our acceptance or our ideas of what constitutes our self.

This exactly what I was referring to with 'radical acceptance', which is a word I borrowed from Brad and I'm sure he meant to use it in the same way. I like it because it is distinct from ordinary (let's call it egotistical) acceptance. Radical acceptance is seeing things just as they are. I really think you are looking for distinctions where there are none.

It is not merely some latter day psychological exercise to feel better about our life

Never said it was - which is not to say that people don't use it to gain something as I said before. This is normal, but we agree that this is in a pure sense 'incorrect'.

but is the realisation and actualisation of the state of how things, all things, actually are (possible because we are already a part of the Big Gumbo regardless of what we think).

To say that shikantaza relies on our own acceptance, awareness, or some other idea, is like saying that the sun shines becasue we think to get out of bed in the morning. At least a term like 'non-doing' emphasises that it is a real conduct beyond some thinking process where there is a self thinking of things to accept or be aware of etc.

Yes but this 'fact' (of reality just as it is) alone is not enough. If it were enough then Zen practice would be unnecessary. Practice is needed. And Dogen taught this too. We also have to realise it, which is why we practice. Perhaps ultimately the practice of realisation is a non-doing and perhaps at that level we can also say that reality is realising itself, yet in the real flesh and blood practice of our actual experienced lives, we have to find ways to end all of the doing, because it doesn't end of its own accord. And that comes back to - what is the practice? What are the practice instructions? And the answer to that question has to be something that differentiates between daydreaming or sitting on a bus and actual practice. That difference, I would say, can be expressed in a multitude of ways - as expressed in by the many Buddhas, Patriarchs and teachers. Dogen is just one example. Any authentic Zen teacher (Soto or Rinzai) will with emphasise that enlightenment is not something that is gained or constructed but is something omnipresent that we just have to see.

I have read Zen texts fairly widely and, after reading Dogen, can clearly see why he found them lacking...

Dogen did not invent or discover the dharma on his own - what he did was import the teachings of the Cao-Dong school and express them through his own understandings. He did not reject the history of Zen. And he's not unique: many influential Zen teachers have reformed or re-emphasised aspects of the practice.

Psychology and science are the mythology of our age. Where Dogen saw 'demons' we see persoanlity disorders, neuroticism and phobias etc.

Yes - different models or 'paradigms' that's all.

To 'psychologicalise' shikantaza is to limit it and limit ourself. Shikantaza is a realisation already not limited to what we think we are.

It can be expressed in many different ways - in psychological terms or in Dogen's terms - it is only a limitation if we fixate on the formulation rather than the reality it indicates. I won't mention fingers or moons at this point because I know you don't like them. :)

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

I'm afraid that, IMHO, this would show that you have never really experienced 'dropping body and mind', or that, if you did, you didn't recognize it as such...

Well I don't claim to be certain what Dogen experienced that prompted him to use that phrase. My comment was a footnote on Harry's interpretation which I went along with. If dropping means letting go then it, in my experience, it must include letting go of identification (eg. with thoughts as self or facts) and it cannot mean obstructing because that is not letting go.

Previously I had supposed that 'dropping body and mind' referred to a dropping away of all dualities - most notably between mind/body, self/other, which is something I do experience sometimes in zazen.

What do you think it means Mr Proulx?

Mumon said...

It's amazing how many words can be written or spoken for something that really, truly is beyond words and letters.

"Dropping body and mind" is not dropping body and mind if there is discrimination of body and mind.

Thoughts are "dropped" in the sense that as there's no chasing after them (or suppression of them) in favor or against the myriad things.

Thoughts and perceptions and bodily sensations going to come no matter what, unless you spend several years in solitary confinement or as a hermit or get brain surgery.

Anonymous said...

well said, Really. but I'm not sure who's listening. they all enjoying themselves - I mean themSELVES too much.
justin, harry,..and proulx, I mean some of it's interesting, but just what is it ur tryin to prove - and to who?

Justin said...

Thoughts and perceptions and bodily sensations going to come no matter what, unless you spend several years in solitary confinement or as a hermit or get brain surgery.

Exactly. But that doesn't stop people from misunderstanding Zen and fight themselves, trying to not have thoughts. Its possibly the single biggest misunderstanding of Zen. Granted conceiving that it might be possible to stop sensations might be less likely.

Justin said...

I used to think that debates like this were "un-zen", but actually they can really help to clarify things.

Anonymous said...

Do you got grammar, Brad?

gniz said...

As usual, I find myself agreeing with Justin.

I always get weirded out when people seem to try so hard to put down a kind of practice and "prove" its inferiority to another kind of practice.

Most of these practices really do have a lot in common. I am sure that as you get deeper and deeper and study more, you find that you particular "specialty"; mindfulness, shikantaza, etc. have details and important nooks and crannies that other "specialties" don't seem to have....but its hard to know this for sure without DEEPLY immersing yourself in multiple disciplines, which is hard to do in one lifetime.

gniz said...

By the way, for those complaining that these kinds of discussions are "useless" or silly, try comparing them to the usual flamewars that happen on this blog.

I think this conversation has been a vast improvement over the usual round of insults and innuendos (most of which I engaged in wholeheartedly)....

Anonymous said...

yeah, yeah. There are words that Brad has issues with like atheist and mindfulness.

Just because most people in the Western world understand atheist to mean someone who doesn't believe in the Abrahamic God, Brad still claims that Buddhists are not atheists. (Of course, you also have to realize that when Brad says "Buddhism" he might mean what Nishijima's Soto Zen, Soto Zen, or Zen...he almost never actually means "common to all sects of Buddhism" because he doesn't appear to know a lot (anything?) about other sects of Buddhism.)

Similarly, mindfulness seems to mean a singularly peculiar thing to Brad, a meaning, in fact, that I have never heard anyone intend to give to the word. This definition may be confined to the Brad's local area, an area perhaps as small as 1/2 meter.

While the article is not necessarily one of his best, I find it a bit disingenuous but hardly surprising that the best he could come up with in his research on the role of sex in supposedly Tantric or Vajrayana Buddhism was to quote a heavily Hindu-based description of tantric sex rites on Wikipedia.

pkb said...

"I have read Zen texts fairly widely and, after reading Dogen, can clearly see why he found them lacking"

Harry, I'm also enjoying the discussion between you and justin (& others). Would you mind listing the Zen texts that you've read other than Dogen? I'm curious. tia

Justin said...

This definition may be confined to the Brad's local area, an area perhaps as small as 1/2 meter.

Now that was funny - slightly rude - but funny.

Harry said...

"Dogen did not invent or discover the dharma on his own - what he did was import the teachings of the Cao-Dong school and express them through his own understandings. He did not reject the history of Zen. And he's not unique: many influential Zen teachers have reformed or re-emphasised aspects of the practice."

Hi Justin,

I think you'll find many unique aspects of Dogen's approach if you compare it to the records of other Masters. In particular the extent to which he used language to interrogate koans and record explanations of reality is really quite special.

I think all the masters had unique qualities, but Master Dogen had a flair for words and so he was able to express and record his realisation (and he felt this was an important mission given the degenerate state of Buddhist practice in both China and Japan at the time).

This went far beyond merely expressing the teachings of one school. He was keen to point out that there is only Buddhism, not various schools... but this was based on his realistic and inclusive rationale which is not just solely idealistic.

Regards,

Harry.

Jinzang said...

a small group of remedies that are not required to undergo federal review before launching. Known as homeopathic products

Big Pharma has a long running disinformation campaign against homeopathy, I call it a disinformation campaign because the people running it quite deliberately lie.
Part of this claim is that homeopathic medicines are not regulated, when they are regulated by the FDA, though in a different manner than allopathic medicines. No amount of premarket testing would have caught the problem with Zicam. We are talking about 130 adverse effects in millions of doses and catching the problem before market would have required an impossibly large sample size. That is why the FDA conducts aftermarket surveillance, which caught this problem. Please note that acetiminophen is much more toxic and has beeen known to be so for decades, but the usual critics are silent about this problem.

Jinzang said...

I think there's a little confusion here between mindfulness as a mental factor present in meditation and mindfulness as the name of a specific meditation technique. The mental factors of mindfulness and awareness are present in all authentic meditation. Mindfulness attends to whatever the practice is and awareness notices when the attention has wandered.

Mindfulness and shikantaza are both instances of a type of meditation technique where the practice is attending to the present moment. The technique which anchors us to the present moment may be coarse, as in counting the breath, or fine, as in shikantaza, but both are essentially the same practice.

Genuine shikantaza is only possible when you sees that your mind is actually the buddha mind. Without seeing that, you are only practicing a semblance of shikantaza, though it still is useful. If you see that your mind is the budha mind, practicing a coarser technique would be a fault. But if not, practicing shikantaza is only an expedient means, which may or may not be appropriate for the student.

There is a tendency for persons holding a high view to spout jargon and look down on people practicing according to a lesser view, but a conceptual understanding of a high view does not make one superior, it's only realizing the high view that makes one superior. Which practice is most appropriate, high or low, depends upon the person.

Harry said...

Hi, Jinz.

Shikantaza, as Master Dogen taught and explained it, is not about 'seeing your mind' as anything at all.

He clearly pointed to that practice/experience that shikantaza is as state of activity which 'ascends', which becomes real and manifest, before anything like 'buddha' and that 'buddha' and even terms like 'non-buddha' (which he used to describe someone in the real 'ascendant state') were only means of explanation and can't really touch our actually doing it: given that it's a real action in the present moment our thoughts can't grasp it, our perceptions can't perceive it.

There is never any 'buddha' for our mind to 'get', thoroughly realising it is to be the homeless beggar at home in everything and clothed in the riches of sweet bugger everything.

I agree that it's really a matter of what people themselves are suited to doing, what they want to do, but describing shikantaza as merely some belief-based, or assumption based, wishy-washy form of thinking really warrants addressing.

A lot of things are being confused here including, unfortunately, the rather special act of direct Buddhist realisation.

Regards,

Harry.

Jinzang said...

Harry, what you're expressing here is a view, even if you might want to call it the view of non-view. There are high views and low views, views that are only believed, views that are intellectually understood, and views that are directly seen. But they're all only views and it's impossible to escape having one.

Harry said...

Jinz,

That is generally very true. I never claimed that it was anything other than a view and I am always clear to point out that I'm talking about shikantaza as taught and explained by Master Dogen.

But I also think that to suggest it is impossible not to bound by a view may deny the full extent of the Buddha's realisation. The present moment is not bound by our views in any substantial or inhibitive way beyond our own volitional thoughts/ habitual reactions.

When we drop body and mind we no longer have a view as there is no mind to construct one and no body to percieve one. Even while 'views' based on our thoughts & perceptions are arising, if we just let them go, we are already realising not 'having' them. This is about actually not doing them, not just a matter of 'seeing' or percieving.

For what it's worth, I still quite agree with the old Tibetan teacher of mine who taught that samatha meditation naturally shades into vipasina if approached correctly (i.e. dropping the object when it is no longer necessary).

Regards,

Harry.

gniz said...

It's interesting, Harry, in that I find both your and Mike Cross's writings to be some of the MOST cerebral and difficult stuff to fathom.

I'm not sure if it's just me, maybe I'm dumb. But its funny to me that you talk a lot about "non-doing" and non-thinking and so forth, but the way you discuss it is some of the most elaborate and dense writing I've ever laid eyes on.

What does that tell me? I don't know, maybe nothing. But it makes me feel like you of all people are overcomplicating matters and almost making a class distinction between those who have the desire to penetrate and comprehend these sorts of intellectual circle-jerks, and those who don't.

Maybe I'm just not that bright but after literally years of reading Mike Cross and others discuss Dogen, I can't say any of it makes an ounce of sense to me.

Aaron

hendrik said...

Justin, you're still confusing realism and materialism; physics is a materialistic theory.

Physics is modelling of the physical world. I'm asking you to clarify what you mean.

You said I formulate Zazen instructions in physical terms, to the exclusion of the mental. I did not. I said (several times now) to read the instruction "to just sit" realistically, not materialistically; ditto "maintain the posture". Hence my perception that you confuse the two.

But, as far as realistic instructions of Zazen practice go, one treats actions in real time as primitive concepts - you don't ascribe some kind of internal structure to them (such as thoughts and perceptions).

By that presumably you mean you don't add the thought 'this is a thought', 'this is a perception'. Well, I didn't say you did and this is not something you would do in mindfulness either.

No, that is not what I say, nor what I mean. In the sentence you quote I'm not talking about actual practice - I'm talking about the philosophy of realism, and its merits as an explanation for Zazen practice.

Actions as realistic concepts are lacking in internal structure because real actions are empty. The former are theoretical entities - inhabitants of Nishijima's third philosophy; the latter are reality itself (his fourth "philosophy"). It explains Zazen practice nicely because during a sitting one is constantly acting to "just sit". One sits, wholly and emptily. As soon as you start discerning structure you are no longer "just sitting" and no longer in reality.

It seems to me that realism, in this sense, accounts for Zazen practice very nicely: your sitting act at this moment is just reality itself. This may seem circular, but actual Zazen practice, in my experience, resolves the circularity.

OK. And the mindfulness practice I have described is no different. But I'm not sure why you're making this point.

In that last sentence I meant to say that although all this theory may seem a bit circular and self-referential, it really is not. As one's Zazen practice continues its use as an explanatory device improves.

It doesn't support your earlier claim that all you had to do when the mind wandered into discursive thought was "You maintain your posture, just the same as when your mind does not wander into discursive thinking."

I agree, in the sense that you cannot derive Zazen instructions as some inevitable conclusion from realism. But realism does clarify. The reason for the claim is just that it works. You just "maintain the posture" - realistically speaking of course!

cheers,
hendrik

Harry said...

Hi Aaron,

Hee hee, maybe it's just not for you, and that's cool by me.

Effort is certainly more important than ability... the right sort of effort, that is.

In some Zen circles I see ability put down and effort promoted as some sort of philsophy of uniformed homogeneous mush. What a boring world it would be if we were all exactly the same!

Regards,

Harry.

Anonymous said...

Non-thinking is so fucking last year, Harry.

Really said...

Hendrik -

A tiny correction, which may save further confusion (I very much doubt it):

RE Nishijima's 3 philosophies and one reality -

Reality, the 4th aspect/view of his 4-fold analysis is not a philosophy, but ineffable reality itself. The first 3 aspects ARE philosophies: Idealism, Materialism and the Philosophy of Action ( = Buddhism, says N).

I think you know this - you just slipped up ;-)

You all write beautifully.
But the words...as great as the gap between heaven and earth...as great as the gap between you and me...and so forth.

proulx michel said...

Justin said
Previously I had supposed that 'dropping body and mind' referred to a dropping away of all dualities - most notably between mind/body, self/other, which is something I do experience sometimes in zazen.

What do you think it means Mr Proulx?


Just something that happens all the time to those who are doing (I mean actually doing) something and only that, nothing else. Brad has often alluded to it in his books. If one's a musician, he/she'll know for sure.

If one's a mechanic or a piano tuner or various such trades, they'll know.

hendrik said...

Really,

Thanks for your post.
Actually I wrote fourth "philosophy" - in quotes - the convention being that it's not a philosophy at all, but reality itself - as you point out. I don't think this terminology originates with me; I seem to remember Nishijima-sensei referring to the "Four Philosophies".

cheers,
h

Justin said...

What you are talking about is sometimes called Samadhi - a falling away of separateness. Yes - this is what I thought Dogen meant.

Harry said...

Justin,

Still no cigar, mate.

If Master Dogen was merely talking about the falling away of some notion of separateness then he really would not have been the remarkable teacher that he was/is.

Do you really think that a real action substantially constitutes merely the falling away of some notion?

That's just a point of view from the perspective of thinking.

I recall the 4-fold start of Genjo Koan:

There is a subjective viewpoint.

There is an objective viewpoint.

There is Buddhist practice which is 'transcendant' or really manifesting.

There is reality which is not an idea nor a philosophy (nor the negation of one) but which perfectly contains and allows for anything we can throw at it.

Regards,

Harry.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to see this discussion coming to an end. Many of these ideas had come up in my own practice, but in a less articulate way. So this was nice.

Justin said...

Still no cigar, mate.

I'm commenting on Mr Proulx's interpretation. I already said I can't be certain what Dogen is referring to. Also, let me be clear that I don't regard you as having the authority to be handing out and withholding 'cigars'.

Do you really think that a real action substantially constitutes merely the falling away of some notion?

The falling away of delusion is fundamental to Buddhism. Existential duality - our alienation from the rest of the universe - is not just some intellectual notion. It is the prime delusion.

That's just a point of view from the perspective of thinking.

No - it's the end of thinking. It is reality itself. It is something that has to be experienced not just thought about as you are doing. Are you speaking from experience or speaking from poring over Dogen's books?

I recall the 4-fold start of Genjo Koan:

There is a subjective viewpoint.
There is an objective viewpoint.
There is Buddhist practice which is 'transcendant' or really manifesting.
There is reality which is not an idea nor a philosophy (nor the negation of one) but which perfectly contains and allows for anything we can throw at it.


Isn't it weird how Dogen was writing about Nishijima's Three Philosophies, One Reality theory a thousand years before he came up with it? Dogen is usually ambiguous but this is not how I would interpret it.

I interpret it according to the Two Truths doctrine, which was invented by the Mahayana predecessors of Zen (and Tibetan Buddhism) and is found again and again in Buddhist literature :

- Conventional (conceptual) Truth
- Ultimate Truth (emptiness)
- Reality (form and emptiness are not separate)

Harry said...

Hi, Justin.

I don't really subscribe to the Zen authority fetish. My highest value is reasoning, but not just intellectual/philosophical reasoning. So, if your reasoning was sound I'd applaud it and venerate it. The truth doesn't hang around waiting for people.

Delusion has nowhere to fall away to and is not at all separate from realisation. It's just that delusion is effectively one type of action while realisation is effectively another.

Your interpretation of Buddhist practice as a philosophy of 'form and emptiness as one', or as any philosophy, is why you aren't grabbing you're own cigar.

Nishijam Roshi actually interprets those four views as Idealism, Materialism, Action & Reality which, although very valid and interesting, may suggest to those that aren't familiar with the real nature of action that the four are some way conflicting and so such people may 'split heaven and earth' four ways instead of just the usual two with, for example, a doctrine of 'relative/ultimate reality' as a mere human philosophy.

I'd give you your cigar if I could.

Regards,

Harry.

Harry said...

p.s.

Please try to 'play nice', it's not my fault you're big on your doctrines of reality.

Maybe try reasoning them (defending them if you must) from the point of view of our own direct practice (surely the highest value in Buddhism?) and maybe we can have a more in-depth and interesting conversation?

Regards,

Harry.

Justin said...

My highest value is reasoning, but not just intellectual/philosophical reasoning. So, if your reasoning was sound I'd applaud it and venerate it. The truth doesn't hang around waiting for people.

Assuming you were able to recognise sound reasoning that is. And assuming that the truth of Zen can be grasped with reasoning (it can't).

Delusion has nowhere to fall away to and is not at all separate from realisation. It's just that delusion is effectively one type of action while realisation is effectively another.

And genuinely realising this is sometimes called 'ending delusion'. I'm not really very interested in word-games and one-upmanship.

Your interpretation of Buddhist practice as a philosophy of 'form and emptiness as one', or as any philosophy, is why you aren't grabbing you're own cigar.

Once more you have not understood. Buddhist practice is not philosophy it is direct realisation. Philosophy is sometimes used. But without realisation we can talk about enlightenment and delusion til the cows come home and it will help no one.

I don't claim to have all the answers - there are a number of ways to interpret the Genjokoan - I keep my mind open for growth.

Nishijam Roshi actually interprets those four views as Idealism, Materialism, Action & Reality which, although very valid and interesting, may suggest to those that aren't familiar with the real nature of action that the four are some way conflicting and so such people may 'split heaven and earth' four ways instead of just the usual two with, for example, a doctrine of 'relative/ultimate reality' as a mere human philosophy.

You're right. All the Buddhas, Patriarchs and masters were merely clutching vainly at 'mere human philosophies'. Only Nishijima and his students are actualising the Buddha way through Nishijima's not-philosophy-but-reality-itself theory of 3 truths, 1 Reality which was miraculously and transmitted from Dogen exclusively to Nishijima via the esoteric method of Reading-Between-Lines.

Excuse the sarcasm but such arrogance...

Real Zen is always about reality.

As I said before - I recommend you read more widely than Nishijima and his translations.

That's all from me for now.

Harry said...

"And assuming that the truth of Zen can be grasped with reasoning (it can't)."

Hi Justin,

If sitting dropping body and mind is beyond reasoning then where did Buddhist philosophy come from and on what is it based? 'Heaven and Earth' scenario?

"Once more you have not understood. Buddhist practice is not philosophy it is direct realisation."

Direct realisation of what, realisation where, realisation when? ...You haven't said yet other than 'form and emptiness are not separate'... is that it? Seems like no cigar realisation to me.

"I keep my mind open for growth."

Dogen's reasoning was based on dropping it. Now that may be 'growth' that we could do with.

"Excuse the sarcasm but such arrogance..."

Interestingly I didn't bring up Nishijima Roshi. But his reasoning is pretty good. Maybe you'd like to criticise it in a substantial, and reasoned, way and we could have a proper discussion on that?

Don't run away from your religion, Justin. We have a bit to do yet. Be brave, spit it up, Old Stick.

Oh, I'm arrogant alright. Are you ever arrogant, Justin? Are you running away from my arrogance, or back to your own... or both?

If you can play nice we can keep doing our arrogant tango til its done.

Regards,

Harry.

gniz said...

Harry said: "If sitting dropping body and mind is beyond reasoning then where did Buddhist philosophy come from and on what is it based?"

My first answer would be "experience."

If you experience something, whether or not it seems reasonable or rational, it becomes your understanding. Afterwards, perhaps you attempt to put words to the experience and explain it to others (usually failing at such attempts).

I think the explanations of reality that many Buddhists have written or spoken of, serve a useful purpose...and of course, people can also abuse such texts and get into pissing contests about who has a better understanding of lingo and so forth...

gniz said...

Examples of experience first, reasoning second:

Newton and the apple.

As a child, realizing it feels better to be hugged then it does to be slapped.

Eating things that taste good and avoiding things which taste bad.

Do we need logic and reasoning to avoid eating dog-shit, Harry?

Harry said...

Hi Aaron,

Yes, we just don't eat dog pooh. But deluded activity certainly isn't always as obvious as that. If it was, we'd likely 'greatly realise' it much easier and there wouldn't be the need for all the practice. We do delusion in very subtle ways and it is a very ingrained activity which requires a special activity to stop doing it to any great extent.

Also, being reasoning beings, most, if not all, of us do need some theoretical rationale to start doing something as out of whack with our habitual modes of behavior as sitting zazen.

A pissing contest just about lingo may certainly be a waste of time. A pissing contest about the nature of actually stopping being deluded may be worth a few tuppences to those interested.

Also, certain Masters, Dogen one of them, noted that we may not be aware of our own realisation. This refers to the fact that there is a discrepancy, a lag, between what we are actually doing and what we are thinking/ perceiving/experiencing. Reality exists as a fact before our thoughts and perceptions.

'Experience' if it is just our habitual reaction to thoughts/perceptions is not Buddhist realisation. That would be closer to the view of naturalism as preached by the ancient Indian 'non-Buddhist heretic' Senika whose ass Buddhist philosophers were fond of a-whippin' back in the day.

And yet, what are our thoughts and perceptions if not part of the big gumbo itself created and supported by it/us? While it's necessary to allow thoughts and perceptions to come and go in practice, if we did that exclusively in the real world, we mightn't be much use to anyone and so nice people like the Buddha tried to express what realisation is and how it's done.

Regards,

Harry.

gniz said...

Essentially though, theory and reasoning is kind of useless if you can't put it into practice and experience it.

The question is, a) do you NEED the theory in order to do the practice? Clearly not. Dogen wrote his theories AFTER he realized through practice, not before (as far as we know).

If we don't NEED the theory or reasoning behind a practice in order to reap the benefits, then I think we need to be careful about judging someone for not theorizing the way we'd like to hear them theorize.

At the end of the day, practice and experience count for a lot more than the ability to "sound knowledgeable."

So although it's nice to be able to reason through your experiences, its not necessarily a precursor to understanding, in my opinion. I especially dont think that using the correct terms in the correct ways necessarily means jack squat.

My brother, btw, is much more buddhist in behavior and actualization then myself and many other buddhists I've known. He doesnt know anything about the practice, but he actually seems to live it in terms of his way of relating to others.

Kind of like how a lot of those old jazz musicians couldnt read music and didnt know music theory--they still made great jazz...some were also well-schooled and made great music.

Theory and experience are not mutually exclusive. And the ability to regurgitate theory proves little in the way of true understanding of any subject.

gniz said...

BTW, Harry, you make my point here when you state: "Reality exists as a fact before our thoughts and perceptions."

I'm not sure if this is true, but it seems to be (based on my perceptions-ha!).

Since that is probably the case, perhaps not all of us feel the need to memorize long passages of Dogen in order to describe reality or our understanding of it.

Harry said...

Aaron,

Have a point if it makes you feel better, but I can't remember my own home phone number never mind obscure philosophical texts.

That reality exists as a fact before our thoughts and perceptions is hardly a case for saying, well, best not consider that then seems a bit of a cop-out. It's quite a feature of Zen literature, so people have been pointing to it and trying to express it poetically for centuries. I'm glad they tried.

"Theory and experience are not mutually exclusive. And the ability to regurgitate theory proves little in the way of true understanding of any subject."

I broadly agree. But we are having a discussion about terms and Buddhist theory and, I think, we are trying to express things with words.

I agree totally that the ability to regurgitate something we've read is not an indication of much other than what we've read.

"The question is, a) do you NEED the theory in order to do the practice? Clearly not. Dogen wrote his theories AFTER he realized through practice, not before (as far as we know)."

Dogen went through years of monastic training and study prior to his confidence in the practice/realisation he arrived at. He wasn't satisfied with what he was hearing as a monk in Japan and so he found a teacher in China and that teacher instructed him in the practice that he realised and adopted as his standard. The teacher certainly used words and Dogen recorded some of 'em. Dogen was big on the teacher/student relationship and the verification of experience with words and reasoning.

And, I'll save you a bit of trouble here, I'm not realised at all. I've merely determined that I have a lot of delusion to work with.

Regards,

Harry.

gniz said...

Harry, I agree with you that words are needed to discuss these things and that words can be important, and philosophy can be quite helpful for understanding. So can instruction.

But in discussing these points with Justin (and others) I've seen you try to be the arbiter of what words or phrasing indicates "real understanding" or who gets a cigar and who doesn't. You are certainly not the first nor will you be the last bloke on the internet to try and determine the degree of someone else's realization based on their words.

But I think you and I need to be careful about diminishing the practice and lineage of people who have spent a lot of time on the zafu, bus, or wherever else they practice. I'm not advocating some touchy feely bullshit, but a little respect about the probably substantial amount of insight Justin, Jinzang, Brad, and yourself have spent studying and trying to apply these techniques and teachings.

Nobody has cornered the market on truth here, as far as I can tell. But maybe I'm wrong and Dogen and Nishijima are the only ones who "get it." I used to think that about my own teacher but no longer.

Harry, at the end of your last post, you said "I'll save you a bit of trouble here, I'm not realised at all. I've merely determined that I have a lot of delusion to work with."

Maybe you should think twice about whether or not you really know who gets a cigar, then, eh Harry?

Harry said...

But Aaron, that's my cigar.

One Hundred and One.

Regards,

Harry.

gniz said...

My best to you as well Harry. Sincerely.

Scott said...

Great article, very interesting perspective :-D