Thursday, September 03, 2009

ANOTHER DARNED ZEN RETREAT


Today the Zen retreat in Munich begins. Yay?

I got in trouble when I called the retreat in Frankfurt "another darned retreat." Some people who read that statement took offense at what they felt was my disparaging of the event. I didn't mean it that way.

I thought the irony would be obvious. If you look at my schedule (linked to your left) you'll see I do a lot of retreats. Last year I even attended Zen retreats that I did not lead or organize, in which I was a mere rank-and-file grunt rather than the Exalted Master™ (this is also irony, perhaps I should put a little "i" for irony each time I use any). I do Zen retreats because they're good for me and because on some level I actually enjoy them.

But it's also a job. As Johnny Ramone said, "Being a rock and roll guitar player is a good job, but it's still a job and I still hate going to work sometimes." Me too. The fact that you dread going to a retreat is no reason not to go. In fact it might even be very good reason to go.

As whatever the hell I'm doing with my life continues to attract more attention, retreats have begun to take on a different character. Years ago I was just that weird guy in the Godzilla T-shirt who sat at the back. Now I'm the center of attention. This is a tiring thing.

Have you ever noticed how a wild bird reacts when it notices you're making eye contact with it? They usually fly away. Animals are programmed to regard prolonged staring at them as a threat. This is hard-wired into our brains. When I go on stage in front of people that response automatically starts to be generated. I'm used to this to an extent having played in rock bands since my teens. But the synapses still fire every single time. Plus at a retreat, the attention is focused on me for several days at a stretch rather than an hour or so when I play a show or do a book signing. There aren't many places I can run away and escape from it.

Lots of pairs of eyes all looking at me. Should I run? Should I do a strip tease? Should I sing? Should I say something funny? Do I have a booger hanging out of my nose? All this kind of stuff runs thru your mind whether you want it to or not.

It takes a lot to try and keep it together as the leader of a Zen retreat. I'm constantly amazed that anyone can do this job and not go completely insane. How does Joshu Sasaki manage it at 103 years old? As I've said before, I already anticipate a time when I'll have to stop. But not just yet. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'll be able to just keep on keepin' on until I can't keep on no more.

I'm not trying to make this sound like it's tremendously hard. It's not really. But a Zen retreat is a very different thing for the leader from what it is for the participants.

At the end of the retreat in Frankfurt a whole bunch of the participants wanted me to autograph copies of my books or pose for photos with me. That's the first time something like that has happened at a Zen retreat. I'm used to it at book signings, so I just handled it the same way I do there. If it happens again this weekend, it will be just fine. I'm always glad to sign books and pose for photos. When I met Gene Simmons you better believe I got him to sign his book and autograph the current KISS tour program and pose for a photo with me. I have no problem at all with people reacting the same way to me. It's nice to know that what I do has some kind of meaning for people.

I am happy to sign autographs and pose for photos. But it's still a weird thing. In my mind I'm still the guy in the Godzilla T-shirt sitting at the back. I can't understand why this is happening.

I also think it's good to let people know what a Zen retreat is like for the person who leads it. As far as I'm aware of nobody else talks about these things. Maybe they find it distasteful, or maybe they just don't like to talk/write about such matters. It also could be that some folks don't want to break the mystique that comes from not letting anyone in on the pressures and suchlike involved in this job.

OK. A guy in leiderhosen and suspenders with one of those caps with a feather in it just walked into the coffee shop where I'm writing. If that's not a sign from God to wind up this entry, I don't know what is!

I'll be off-line for at least the next four days if not longer.

See you in England!!

163 comments:

Justin said...

I enjoyed that. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

HAHAHAHAHAAA I'M FIRST LOSERS!!!!!

proulx michel said...

Rats! I thought I'd be it, this time...

Anonymous said...

Good advice from a PR advisor. If you keep telling everyone how famous you are, some might start to believe it. Good for book sales too. This post is an example of Brad's habit of that. In the wider world, not famous. In the Zen world, more infamous than famous.

omus_oemebad said...

Hi Brad,

you got to be blessed: even for us germans it's quite disturbing to see a fully fletched bavarian in his 'Lederhosen'. Its nearly autumn - enjoy what's f*****g happening. :)

Greetings

mtk

Anonymous said...

The idea of fame has to be better than the reality of it although it can get you to the front of a line. Henry Kissinger said that the nice thing about being a celebrity is that if you bore people, they think it's their fault.

Café Zen said...

Sesshins are also challenging in different ways for the tanto (monitor) and the jiki (timer, kinhin leader) and the jisha (attendant, dokusan organizer) and of course the tenzo (cook) who are required to practice in a whole different way, ie, they must serve others before themselves. In sesshin this means putting one's own formal practice on the back burner. But it's a different practice and can be truly wonderful and joyful. Of course, if there's a job description/requirement for a Zen teacher, that would probably be it: Must put others before oneself.

Jamie G. said...

Not first, you dicks!

Oh... and good post.

Whiney Baby said...

If you keep telling everyone how famous you are, some might start to believe it. Good for book sales too. This post is an example of Brad's habit of that.

What a jealous little whiney baby.

Rob Lesman said...

'Leider'hosen? lol!
Pun(k) intended? ;)

Lesmanaste,
Rob

Anonymous said...

Ah, yes, that first retreat......
those anticipated expectations--it was going to be peaceful, and quiet...
the reality: my body screaming, screaming in aches and pains with brief periods of relief.

hanging in there and surviving the retreat was the big accomplishment

retreats after that have not been anywhere near as painful, even when I've been in flat out frank pain
Something did happen between my ears, but I don't know what it was

I could easily say 'oh, another darned retreat,' and that would be like saying 'oh, another snot nosed rug rat' when my beloved daughter in law tells me she is pregnant--

Anonymous said...

The problem is Brad, that you still think you are a person living a seperate existence. That is the source of all your anxiety.

When there is no one there, it is realised that an eye is an eye, and fame is an imaginary construct. It happens to no one.

Try reading a little. said...

When there is no one there, it is realised that an eye is an eye, and fame is an imaginary construct. It happens to no one.

Clearly another "new-age Zen Master" who doesn't understand the teachings of the Buddha-Dharma.

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

Have you ever tried reading a little Buddha-Dharma?

Michael Hafner said...

Thanks for repeating this again and again (this is not irony (neither sarcasm))

CHESS FOR ROSHI said...

Suffering does not end when one becomes a teacher. Suffering, in fact, never ends. Only our relationship to suffering can change. Suffering can then become no-suffering. There's no me or I suffering. It's simply intimacy. When dying from cancer, the great Suzuki Roshi said, "If you see me suffering, that's OK. That's just suffering Buddha. No confusion there."

Justin said...

Beautiful, thank you.

amanda said...

Definitely a strip tease.

Earwax said...

You might try cleaning that thing before you use it in a picture.

Gross...

Anonymous said...

Oh Brad...(I should begin each comment that way and be pegged as a fawning female fan!!);)
Oh Brad... this blog made me laugh and today has been a rough day.
Oh Brad...I for one enjoy your ironic/sacrastic sense of humour.
Oh Brad (swoon)...I don't know what it is like to lead retreats and think it is good to talk about your experience.
Oh Brad (I'm near fainting!)...I do agree others may not talk about it in order to maintain their zen "mystique" (good point).
Oh Brad...A big NO as far as the strip tease goes. Perhaps some Leiderhosen?

Her Supreme Doesn't Know How To Insert The Trademark Thingy,
Kyla

Anonymous said...

(oh brad i apologize it this comment appears twice, there was some computer screw-up and i apologize for apologize for apologizing like a good canadian should).

Her Canandian (sorry) Assholiness Kyla

Anonymous said...

hmmm......

™ or
® or
©

Anonymous said...

p.s. loved your post Chess For Roshi

Her Supreme Assholiness

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 8:32AM, working in community service with homeless clients, we don't have up-to-date computers with that capability. no funding for fancy computers. I'm working (and playing) on a dinosaur (Brad should love that!)

Her Assholiness
Kyla
(plus I'm largely computer illiterate)

Anonymous said...

No, eh...

you simply need to type the "&" symbol (Shift 7), then type "trade", then the semi-colon.

"reg" (in place of trade) does the R with circle. and "copy" does the C with circle

Eh?

Anonymous said...

Or... you can do the "&" thingy, plus the "#" thingy (shift 3), and...

8482; for ™ or
174; for ® or
169; for © or

Anonymous said...

Oh Brad... We ♥ you!!!
You are a real ♦ in the rough.
I mean, it's time to call a ♠ a ♠ - you are the master.
♣ are trump, and I have right and left bauers, the ace, and an off-suit king.

∃ ∀ ⊥ ϖ ∃

Anonymous said...

I'm going to have withdawl symptoms if I have to wait four days to tell Brad what a loser he is.

Anonymous said...

Brad, alot of teachers don't talk about their feelings and experiences in teaching because it might make them seem less that superman/woman. Having doubts, anxiety, and other feelings are always given such a bad rap because if you feel such things you must not be an awesome master above it all. Bunch of BS. People are human and feel many things regardless what certification they have. It's what you do with them that really counts and you're doing a great job teaching and living life fully.

Anonymous said...

I know Anon 10:35AM. Having doubts, anxiety and fears is seen as a weakness and admitting to having them, an even further weakness but to risk sounding cliche, I think it takes more honesty and guts to say one has those feelings. As you say, it is what one does with them. It can be easy to believe them as "truth", as permanent, or identify them as the "self" that is having them.

Her Assholiness Kyla

Rick said...

"I got in trouble when I called the retreat in Frankfurt "another darned retreat." Some people who read that statement took offense at what they felt was my disparaging of the event. I didn't mean it that way."

Well, screw 'em. No, seriously, screw 'em! OK... not really serious.

Another example of people being a little too attached maybe, a little clinging? I'm thinking Second Noble Truth here... basic stuff.

Shouldn't we be watching out for that basic stuff? I mean, if we can't even do the basics, what is sitting on a cushion for 9 hours a day for a week at a time going to do (besides give us piles (aka hemorrhoids))? We probably aren't even doing the basics of zazen then.

Just saying...

"Now I'm the center of attention. This is a tiring thing."

Yeah... I know exacly how you feel. I just hate it too. All the adoring fans chasing me everywhere, wanting to have my love child. I can't even run around naked anymore without some paparazzi snapping pics of my Johann-sen (aka schwanz-schnitzel-stucker).

Hokai said...

This comments are so funny, I mean
sometimes over 120 and more.
And if I don't read a comment from Justin or miss-I-want-to-be-famous-but-serious-I-am-Kyla or Rick or Michel or Harry or the whole
anonymous-gang, I worry about them.
We all want to be famous as Brad, but he wrote the damned books, played bass in a forgotten punk-band and lead retreats, were we have to sit on our backs in front of HIM. Gnnnh! (more comments please for angry comic symbols).
If Brad wouldn't share his life with us, nobody of us could comment anything. I wonder how many blogs and links and comments each of you maintain. Lost time.
Cheers to all of you and may you be happy.
To Michel: you are deep. Good practice. Gassho.

Anonymous said...

it's funny someone would think i want to be famous. i try to be funny on here mainly because it amuses me. people probably don't like it. so what. but at least Hokai had a laugh. it helps me to be humourous in my life, and i won't go into the details why because everyone's got a story. so if Hokai wonders about peoples' blogs and comments and links that's his issue but please don't make it mine.

Kyla

Anonymous said...

Besides, who's really losing time if you sit there and READ all this Hokai?

Kyla

Rick said...

Wow... Now I'm one of the gang. Yea!!!!!

Oh... wait... Damn, another attachment I have to shed.

No... we don't ALL want to be as famous as Brad. Some of us are just bored at work, waiting for the weekend.

Oh, and what Kyla said!

amanda said...

Hello all,

I have a bit of a question about love as it relates to materialism/idealism. I just finished reading the "Ethical Slut," the so-called "Bible of Polyamory" (which I mostly think is horseshit).

But I'm confused about a chapter called "Slut Economies," in which the authors argue that love is exempt from the laws of a "starvation economy." That is, there is no limit to the love we can experience in our lives, the more we give the more we get etc.

This seems a pretty popular interpretation of love. Idealism unbounded by materialism, "God is Love," that sort of thing. But I'm beginning to wonder if we can ever really love anything other than our own ideas and fantasies. Even when I think of my mother, I have to admit that the feelings I have for her are not based in reality, but only some idealized maternal collage. And even to say something as simple as "I love nature" is presupposing the existence of a nature which exists seperate from myself.

My social circle is fairly anti-religious, but it seems to me that the idea of love has sort of replaced the idea of God or heaven or "something better, over there."

Specifically, my questions are:

What is the material (form) correlate of the idea (emptiness) of "love" (or any emotion)?

Can love exist in reality (action right now)?

What is love? Baby don't hurt me. Don't hurt me. No more.

Anonymous said...

Gnnnh!

Rich said...

Hi Hokai,
See, the thing is you never know what you are going to get here. sometimes its boring. sometimes entertaining, sometimes 'deep' but you keep coming back because its not lost time but found time. You found the time to be here. With this internet world a lot of people work on computers and its a good break to stop by here once in a awhile. I don't see Kyra as trying to be famous but she is very entertaining. Now, I gotta go and do some walking.

Anonymous said...

I use humour on here mainly to keep myself safe. I haven't been sitting a long time, nor am I an academic in Buddhism so I don't feel I have as much to contribute that way. Most people have been practicing much longer than I and humour is a way for me to perhaps, introduce myself, seem less a target for...guess what? ATTACK. Like I said, I'm laughing while I'm typing my comments because they entertain me. Perhaps others feel they are stupid but I'm learning not to care. Besides, Brad hasn't banned me yet. These internet dialogues are scary and people tend to launch attacks on others they wouldn't do face to face. They see letters not a human. And belive me, one is NEVER going to get famous in the community service field. My job is tough at times and that is part of why I practice Zazen and part of why I read Brad's blog and the interesting comments of others. I have a laugh at times, they make me think of things or realize I'm making assumptions. For me, laughing out loud is good for my mind, body, emotions etc. that crazy old thing we wrestle with called the "self"
So until Brad bans me from his blog, I won't be ran off.
Sorry Amanda that didn't address your question.

Kyla

Anonymous said...

Gmmmh!

alan said...

Amanda,

I don't have anything to say about my own understanding of love.

I will pass on some observations that Charlette Joko Beck has on love.

She maintains that one has to do a lot of sitting before they have a clue of what love is.

She explains that most of what we call love is based on our expectations of what the loved one will do (or be) for us.

Since no-one can live up to our expectations, we inevitably become disappointed and fall out of love.

Her explanations seem (to me) to fit in with the idea of attachment.

Anonymous said...

Hi Alan, great quote. And perhaps then we fall out of what we think was love. Our concept of love is do bound up in attachment/expectations, it is perhaps scary to imagine love as anything else.

(i'm famous for being an Audrey Hepburn look-a-like. seriously. does that count in the fame department. i'm trying to garner some fame here.)

Kyla

Smoggyrob said...

Hi everyone:

If you want some straightforward zazen this Saturday morning (Sep 16), please join Dogen Sangha Los Angeles at HSC in Santa Monica. You couldn't ask for a friendlier group to sit with. Come prepared to practice. We start at 10 AM and sit for thirty minutes, walk for ten minutes, and sit for another thirty minutes. Afterward we have tea and snacks.

This week, with Brad gone, we've been lucky enough to arrange for two guest teachers to sit and talk with us. Steve and his guiding teacher Paul teach over at Dharma Zen Center in Los Angeles. They're part of the Korean Kwan Um School of Zen (Seon). I believe their style includes a talk by Steve and a Q&A with his teacher, Paul. We'll see. I'm looking forward to sitting with them, and with you.

Rob

Smoggyrob said...

Hi everyone:

D'oh! This Saturday, September 5th, 2009.

Rob

Rich said...

"Can love exist in reality (action right now)?

What is love? Baby don't hurt me. Don't hurt me. No more."

Hi Amanda,

When not thinking so much, and seeing what is, I believe compassionate action is possible. so this could be a kind of love action which 'exists in reality'.

I'm still working on this attached and dependent state and the unattached independent state but I think it's a question of balance.

Regardless, it only hurts for a little while.

Anonymous said...

Idealistic love - I love him or her or it
Materialistic love - His or her or its arse stinks the house out
Action - I love him or her or it anyway
Reality? Mmm...

Regina said...

Hi Rob,

I've just read your schedule at HSC. What kind of chanting do you do for 20 minutes?

Regina

Rick said...

I don't know what "love" is.

All I know is, in all you do, just try to do no harm.

Well... try anyway.

Anonymous said...

My feeble 2 cents is that compassion is at the root of love. The old golden rule isn't bad either.

Kyla

Smoggyrob said...

Hi Regina:

Maybe I should click on my own links. That schedule is outdated. This is more like it:

9:55 AM - 10:00 AM Instruction
10:00 AM - 10:30 AM Zazen
10:30 AM - 10:40 AM Kinhin (walking meditation)
10:40-12:00 AM Tea & discussion

We usually run a little late, and some of us go out to lunch afterward.

We tried chanting a while ago (GHoW, 4 Vows, etc.; in Japanese and some English), but it didn't go over well and we stopped. Personally I didn't care for it, though I chant the same stuff (in English) at another place and don't mind it at all. Maybe we'll try it again sometime. Maybe Steve and Paul would like to lead one of their chants, I don't know.

Rob

Zayin said...

Wow, there seems to be a whole community of regular readers here. Huzzah for the sharing of ideas. I don't think there's be any harm in telling a joke or doing a sort of striptease. You could even ask people if you have a booger hanging out of your nose. (I often worry about this phenomena too).

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
L. Espenmiller said...

Absolutely refreshing post. Thanks for your continued candidness, Brad. And, of course, the irony and sarcasm. Both those things keep me reading (this blog & your books)...and laughing. peace.

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

Great post, Brad. I appreciate reading more about your subjective experience of the typical things you do as part of your life and Zen practice.

Re: fame: what sane person would want it? I personally would love to be successful and to do some kind of work or creative enterprise that was appreciated, but to personally be famous? I find the thought abhorrent, hellish even. All these needy people coming up to you wanting you to perform and play a role for them, I would resent the hell out of it. And I'm not a social phobic, but being in the constant "TV Eye" of the wider public would freak me right the fuck out. No thanks.

Also, something interesting I've noted about fame is that it has a corrosive effect on subjectivity and depth. Look at how quickly so many "celebs" flocked to Twitter, where they post inane garbage endlessly, basically "Look at my ass!! WOOO!!!" flashing in lights. Way I see it, the constant social stimulation of fame keeps people from going too deeply into themselves, and so they become less and less interesting the more time they spend in the public spotlight. Not true of all famous folks, but it seems to be true for a fair number of them.

As for love: I do find that love seems to hold a supreme spiritual, personal, ethical, and existential value for me. The line in Patty Griffin's song where she sings, "It's only love we were looking for," at the end gets the tears going for me every time. I don't know if it's something that can be explained, but love both contains and transcends all the petty ego-distorted phenomena that we often associate with the word. Love is what's there at the end of the day when you've lost everything else. That's what makes it spiritual. Love doesn't depend on any outside circumstance, only what's in your heart. Often we don't get this--we only 'love' what fits our preferences, but in my opinion and experience, 'real love' goes beyond preference. Can we still love when all else falls away? Can we still love life when it's not going our way? Can we still love another person when they're not giving us what we want, or even when they're hurting us? Love is an embrace, a "Yes," whether it be an enthusiastic one or a "cold and broken hallelujah."

Smoggyrob said...

Hi everyone:

I'm an idiot, just ask my wife. I corrected a schedule by posting an incorrect schedule. Take three:

9:55 AM - 10:00 AM Instruction
10:00 AM - 10:30 AM Zazen
10:30 AM - 10:40 AM Kinhin (walking meditation)
10:40 AM - 11:10 AM Zazen
11:10 - 12:00 PM Tea & discussion

My favorite bit about love is a card I gave a two-night stand once, in between the two stands. It was one of those little cards you put on a stick in some flowers. This one was for funerals and had "In Loving Memory" pre-printed on it. I scribbled in, "...of some very memorable loving" and thought I was pretty fucking clever. I still do.

Rob

Justin said...

I think it's really possible to cultivate 'spiritual love'/compassion through Buddhist practice. I'm not sure if zazen alone is enough. It seems to be possible to practice it for 20-30 years and are still be as selfish and egotistical as before.

proulx michel said...

Justin said...

I think it's really possible to cultivate 'spiritual love'/compassion through Buddhist practice. I'm not sure if zazen alone is enough. It seems to be possible to practice it for 20-30 years and are still be as selfish and egotistical as before.

I think this is quite true. The AZI in France and elsewhere has set a huge example of this. In the Eastern languages, there is no linguistic difference between study and practice (it's all "gyou") The problem is our habit of taking to the letter the words of, say Sawaki, for example, who say "zen is zazen and nothing else". They probably mean that it's not ceremonies. But zazen is the way to bring the studies into action. Without zazen those studies remain just dead words. Without the study, zazen (or what is given that name) makes for a calcification of the being.

Rich said...

"As for love: I do find that love seems to hold a supreme spiritual, personal, ethical, and existential value for me. The line in Patty Griffin's song where she sings, "It's only love we were looking for," at the end gets the tears going for me every time............Can we still love when all else falls away? Can we still love life when it's not going our way?"

Hi Stephanie
I love what you write because it comes from the heart. It is not always easy to go from the emotion to the correct action. I think feeling unloved is a delusion because we are so dependent and interconnected and have the ability to make love.

Anonymous said...

Spiritual love is one thing but romantic love is another. I think it is a misnomer. Patti Griffin's love song is beautiful but it is all about losing illusions, trying to hold something that doesn't exist. Being deeply in love is all about your own state of mind and only a little about the object of your craving. Essentially, It is a selfish emotion.

Rick said...

As I understand it, all things are empty of inherent nature - including this crazy little thing call love; romantic or spiritual.

Zazen isn't about cultivating things. Zazen isn't about adding anything. It is about taking things away - specifically delusions.

To believe something is supreme, or to believe something can be cultivated - and this includes love or compassion - is delusion.

Nothing is supreme.

Kyla said...

I really like your comment Rick. Very interesting. Nothing is supreme. Good point as I think we tend to hold higher certain idea such as love and compassion. I could be and probably am wrong in saying that in the process, via sitting zazen (and perhaps other ways) one can come to realize (I know, not a good word and words are clumsy and I'm especially clumsy) that we are not these separete "selves" as we think of it and thereby have (that word sucks) compassion as we see we are all part of the same "stuff"
But as you say, to hold any idea up as supreme is delusion and leads to attachment to that ideal.

Kyla

Anonymous said...

Rick wrote "To believe something can be cultivated - and this includes love or compassion - is delusion."

I have no idea if that is true or not but Michel and Justin apparently disagree with you.

Kyla said...

For me, I think one can cultivate compassion because it already is in existence within us, not an external thing. When I read Justin's point, for me it meant stripping away the delusions that blind us to compassion for others.
But this is just my thoughts on it,not from study as I realize many people here are more learned than me ( and i don't mean that sarcasticaly, i mean it sincerely and sometimes it's scary to comment).

Rich said...

Words are a bitch. Zazen is not cultivating anything but all I can think of right now is
"there's something happening here but you don't know what it is, do you mr. jones"

Harry said...

Hi Michel,

You wrote: But zazen is the way to bring the studies into action. Without zazen those studies remain just dead words. Without the study, zazen (or what is given that name) makes for a calcification of the being.

What do you suggest we study, and how should we study it?

Regards,

Harry.

p.s. In relation to the comments on zazen: doesn't zazen cultivate 'the dropping off of body and mind' in the same way that stirring tea cultivates stirred tea?

Kyla said...

Very illuminating point Michel that zazen brings study into action. For me, sitting is not a separate act from the rest of my life.
Thanks for your post. Everyone is giving me more food for thought.

Anonymous said...

I have to believe that when Justin talks about cultivating compassion, what he means is to work on any personal hindrances to his compassion.

Rick said...

Anonymous said...
"I have no idea if that is true or not but Michel and Justin apparently disagree with you."

No one has to agree with me. I checked the union bylaws - it isn't a requirement.

Zazen is the process of seeing who we truely are - right here, right now, in this moment. Not in some future, when we think, "Oh, I'll be more compassionate and more loving because I do Zazen."

Zazen is the process of stripping away the pretenses that a) we can (or even NEED to) somehow make ourselves better; be that more compassionate, more loving, less critical, less obnoxious.

You can't expect to have only downhills by taking away all the uphills. I read that somewhere, David Loy article I think.

A lot of the people comment here - implying that Brad is some kind of charlatan because he isn't fitting into their view of how a Zen Buddhist monk/priest/teacher should be. These people still don't get that it isn't Brad who needs to conform to their views, but they who need to abandon ALL VIEWS.

It's a tall order to abandon the things we cherish, I know. But we need to do more than give it lip service.

Anonymous said...

Rick: You said to abandon all views.. That isn't possible or healthy and besides, it is a view in itself.

Kyla said...

Great points Rick in my opinion. To be mamby-pamby, zazen for me is about sitting and being who/what/where/when I am in that moment and not ascribe it as a "better" person than I was a moment ago.
And the point about people having views of what Brad SHOULD be is so indicative of the danger of the word should itself.

Kyla said...

I think that for sure we have views but often we think of our views as "truths" so to speak and for me it is important to recognize them as views, opinions and judgements and not the truth about something or someone. I don't want to be intent on being right or correct and when I think my view on something is the correct view or a truth about it, then I figure I'm in trouble. But as people of course we have views and opinions.

Rick said...

Kyla said...

"I think one can cultivate compassion because it already is in existence within us..."

I sounds like you are impling that compassion is part of our inherent nature, then?

OK... This is your view. I think a lot of people hold this view. We all want be believe that, deep down inside, we're all really good, loving, compassionate.

Unfortunately, this means that deep down inside we are all really bad, spiteful, hateful too. And that's ugly to believe about ourselves. We aspire for greatness.

Here's my problem with it. And before the Anonymous crew starts in, no one has to agree with me.

One of the more important tenets of Buddhism is, "When this arises, that arises. When this falls away, that falls away." Contingency, dependent origination, conditionality; call it what you like.

What does this mean? It means that the self arises contingent on things, hence the self we take to be concrete - the self we think can cultivate compassion - is not "real." It is like a momentary connection in the space-time continuum that does not exist in and of itself. We know the term; non-self (not not-self).

There's something there, but it isn't fixed, constant, and therefore compassion cannot be inherent in it.

Compassion arises like the self does, from causes and conditions. Nothing more. One minute we may see a dog chasing after a stray cat and feel a lot of anger toward it. A second later, that same dog gets hit by a car (hopefully the cat got away), and we feel overwhelming empathy and compassion toward it.

That's just the way people are. And to suggest that there is something inside of us that can be cultivated, made more whole, or better... well that isn't Zen Buddhism.

But I think nothing less of people who don't agree. We all have to struggle everyday with these questions. We all find our own answers.

Kyla said...

HI Rick. That is a great point that compassion arises from causes and conditions. Like I've said before, I am no expert on Zen Buddhism or much else and am a real newbie who sits. This is why I enjoy these comments. I don't claim to have the knowledge most here do and I know it will result in correction and give me lots of food for thought.
I need to aske in advance then, for peoples' understanding of my newness and ignorance in these matters.

Rick said...

Anonymous said...
"You said to abandon all views.. That isn't possible or healthy and besides, it is a view in itself."

OK... we're both guilty of a little misdirection here. You took what I said in a far too literal manner (maybe for good reason), and I capitalized it for emphasis leading to confusion.

The word abandon, as I mean to use it in this context, is "not to hold as sacred, not to place in an exalted state one view over another."

Yes... even the view of adandoning all views must be abandoned.

And yes, even the view of adandoning the view of adandoning all views must be abandoned.

And yes, even the view of adandoning the view of adandining the view of adandoning the view of adandoning all views must be abandoned.

ad infinitum....

Is that what you're looking for?

Well, until my ultimate enlightenment (which is also a view), I'll stick with the original statement with the caviat on the word abandon. OK?

Rick said...

Kyla,

Beginner's mind, I Dont' Know mind. We all could use a dose of that.

I don't tend to prattle on like an erudite dillitante, but I took today off work, and I'm doing all the housework (I'm in between loads of laundry) so my wife can have a completely free Labor Day weekend - no chores.

I suppose that would be an example of compassion and love arising due to conditions.

Rick said...

So while I was tossing in the last load of laundry, I was struck by where the error lies in the preceding discussion.

I am reminded of the Zen story of Hui-ko's visit to Bodhidharma. Hui-ko asks Bodhidharma to quiet his mind. Bodhidharma tells Hui-ko, "Show me your mind and I'll quiet it." Hui-ko goes off.

Days, weeks, months (who knows) later, Hui-ko returns and tells Bodhidharma, "I looked everywhere for my mind, but I couldn't find it."

Bodhidharma's response was, "There... I have quited it."

Hui-ko was looking for a noun, "the mind that needs quieting." But the mind is not a noun, it is not a thing - it is a process, an action, a verb.

Folks here are looking for "compassion to cultivate." Compassion is not a thing, it is a process, an action, a verb. We "do" verbs....

Or more Zenly accurate... we ARE verbs. We are action, we are a process.

Justin said...

According to Mahayana (and thus Zen) doctrine, all being inherently have Buddha nature. It is the nature of Buddha to be compassionate. From this it may sound like beings have an inherent nature of compassion (and wisdom etc) which just needs to be uncovered. And yet the principle of Anatta/Sunyata is that beings do not have any inherent nature at all.

The way that I see it is that once egotistical attachments and delusions have been softened, seen through and/or stripped away, we have more capacity for empathy for all the other beings around us.

As I see it, Zen practice involves not cultivating anything and perhaps gaining insight into the empty nature of things/distinctions. But this doesn't mean that we are not affected by the practice.

Anonymous said...

brad, you'll like this:

http://www.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/worklife/09/03/mf.famous.ex.teachers/index.html

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

Justin wrote -

"I think it's really possible to cultivate 'spiritual love'/compassion"

"As I see it, Zen practice involves not cultivating anything"

Justin, I think Brad is on it when he says to cultivate zazen and the rest should take care of itself.

Rick said...

Well, I have a problem using something without inherent existence to validate the inherent existence of something.

The really good news is, it doesn't matter which is right in the end; inherent buddha-nature or not inherent.

When I am in doubt, I look to the Pali Canon for guidance, and not the Sanskrit translated into Chinese translated into Japanese or English Mahayana Sutras. There's just too much room for error.

Kung-an 101
Does a dog have buddha-nature?
Wu!

Wu is the Chinese word for not. It's also the sound a dog makes.

Does a dog have buddha-nature?
Woof!

The response is a double-entendre. No, a dog doesn't have buddha-nature... it barks. A verb.

We don't have a buddha-nature... we are a buddha-nature.

Bet even that would be a mistake to attach to, because a buddha-nature is ordinary and nothing special.

Harry said...

Hi,

Compassion, if it is really effectively and substantially compassionate, is not a doctrine, nor an innate state, but a real action... and possibly it can be realised as something much, much broader but just as real.

For a refreshing Mahayana/'Zen' take on compassion check out Shobogenzo Kannon. In it the function of Kannon (the Bodhisattva of Compassion) is presented as something much more fundamental and real than the Buddhist philosophy or idealism confined to the inside of a human head.

Master Joshu (a celebrated Mahayana/'Zen' Master and patriarch) said a dog has buddha nature, then he said it did not, then Dogen said the dog WAS buddha-nature on another day: Buddha-nature is not merely a matter of one point of doctrine at all if Buddhism truly is based on the direct realisation and actualisation of how things exist using our selves (i.e. 'ineffibly' yet 'coming thus' as it's been expressed).

Regards,

Harry.

Harry said...

...Ooops, I cross-posted the Rickster.

To that I'd just add by pointing to the Chinese, Mahayana, 'Zen' teachings about the state of buddha being 'non'. Buddha is presented as a real, dynamic state of conduct of 'non-buddha', or a state arriving and ascending beyond buddha...A state of casting off the shackles of anything like 'buddha-nature', for example.

Terms like 'buddha','buddha-nature' and even 'non' are presented merely as a means to that real, direct state of actual conduct.

Regards,

Harry.

amanda said...

I never had a Barbie dreamhouse growing up, but my best friend Lily did, and I sure loved that thing. I used to bring over the little strips from the sides of printer paper (remember that?)from my brother's computer. I'd roll it up and we'd use it as Barbie toilet paper.

Feminists have argued for decades that Barbie et al. prematurely sexualize young girls, teach them that their worth is in direct proportion to the sweetness of their ass, etc. This isn't a bad argument, but it's not particularly radical.

As a young feminist, the argument was pretty simple: Women deserve to be loved regardless of appearance. The means was reevaluated, the goal (romantic, hetero love) was not.

Nishijima said that Ultraman taught children to believe in power. When I think about my brothers as children, it seems that power was probably one of the bigger themes. For my sister and me, it was undoubtedly love.

It's the same thing though, really. Just fantasy, the hope for salvation. It just happens that we live in a certain imagined hierarchy in which men aren't reciprocally saved by women, so they're saved by superheroes instead.

Or something.

proulx michel said...

Harry wrote:

What do you suggest we study, and how should we study it?

p.s. In relation to the comments on zazen: doesn't zazen cultivate 'the dropping off of body and mind' in the same way that stirring tea cultivates stirred tea?


The Buddhist teachings. Thery're quite to the point. What do you think Sawaki did for three years in solitary retreat with the SBGZ? And Nishijima roshi with his translations?

As for the "dropping off of body and mind", I'd suggest you try stirring tea without tea and see if it works...

earDRUM said...

Interesting topic Amanda.

The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them - Thomas Merton

It is only that flowers, when loved, fall… And weeds, while hated, flourish. - Dogen

gniz said...

Its funny, the idea of cultivating love through Buddhism.
I guess i'm thinking primarily of romantic love now...buddhists like to shit on romantic love. Its selfish, based on getting our ego stroked, our needs met. Horror of horrors!

Romantic love, the love and understanding i've found in my thirties with my wife, has changed the nature of my life more deeply and substantially and for the better...it beats meditation by a mile. By a fucking continent. Not even close.

Nothing wrong with getting needs met. Nothing at all. Romantic love has been, for me, a mixture of being accepted for who I am, and supported and loved, and being able to give the same to someone else.

Eventually it will be taken from us. One of us will die, something will happen. That doesnt change a damn thing about the beauty or truth of it.

I think all love can be like this. Those who attempt to love "without conditions", to love all as yourself...its a nice dream, seems like a dead end to me.

Love is based on conditions. I dont love the person that stabs my brother in the chest. I dont need to.

Finding ways to soothe the pain of loss, the loss of love and the loss of friendship--the pain of not having what one wants, these are surefire ways to miss out on real happiness, which i find exists despite buddhists trying to talk me out of it.

Aaron

gniz said...

And when i speak of "finding ways to soothe the pain of loss", i'm speaking of the intellectual spouting off about how "love is just an illusion created by the ego" bullshit that gets some folks through the day, but ultimately robs them of meaningful, heartfelt relationships i would guess.

Rick said...

It sure is a conumdrum.

Harry said...

Hi Michel,

Re study: Yes, and in you opinion, what should we study and how should we study it? It may have been a more simple question than you took it for.

I never meant to challenge the ancient Buddhist doctrine of 'tea' and 'stirring' :-)

Re 'tea' and 'stirring'... or if I can revert to a more traditional mode: 'a tile' and 'polishing'... surely polishing never negates a tile; if anything it affirms and asserts how it really is.

Regards,

Harry.

Justin said...

I wasn't "using something without inherent existence to validate the inherent existence of something.". That would be a self-contradictory argument.

Buddha nature is a purely provisional concept. The Buddha didn't teach this, he taught that there was no atman (continuous, separate, inherent self or soul). Buddha nature first appeared properly in some of the early Mahayana sutras. Anatta is sometimes misunderstood as a nihilism of self. One of those sutras - the Lankavatara Sutra - explains that many people are frightened by the idea of no-inherent-self and this was another way of teaching it.

However, this Buddha nature teaching is often misunderstood as a sort of inherent nature - an atman.

When Joshu was asked if a dog has Buddha nature, the doctrinally correct answer was 'yes' but he said 'mu' ('wu'). This mu is generally understood as a sort of negation of a question based on false assumptions. In Rinzai Zen this mu became a direct expression of emptiness.

earDRUM said...

i find that i am able to experience unconditional love for all. zazen seems to put me into a state where i experience this. and it seems to be a choice that i make, or somthing i do, rather than something that comes to me from outside.
romantic love though... that is more difficult. it is so hard not to get entangled in attachment and obsession. i seem to get lost in it so easily. it can be very emotionally confusing. but worth it, of course.

Kyla said...

Hi Aaron,I love being in love with my partner and am never going to become detached from loving him!!! I love the posts you made here and agree that over-intellectualizing and as you say "shit on romantic love"
I think that can become a superior i'm-more-buddhist-than-you-i-don't-need-love stance that isn't actually based on reality.
I like your arguments and am so glad you posted such comments.

Justin said...

So the 'mu' was not meant as a bit of philosical cleverness but an invitation to drop the conceptualising and attachment which are obstacles.

As Harry pointed out Dogen said that beings don't have Buddha nature, they ARE buddha nature, which is a nice way to get away from the apparent dualism of the ordinary way it's viewed. I think it's also open to misinterpretation, but these teachings are provisional.

Kyla said...

Thanks again Aaron because sometimes I feel I can't come on here unless i have something "buddhist" to say or that i have to only talk in "buddhistese" (not that everyone does that and Buddhist insights are valuable) for fear of being attacked or looked down upon for speaking about other views on these matters.

(okay i'm a little wound up because i just got chased by one of our clients with a two by four. I'M SERIOUS. how much more in your face reality can i get.)

Justin said...

Thanks Aaron for your sincerity. My loving relationship with my wife is wonderful and transformative too.

Harry said...

Justin wrote: "This mu is generally understood as a sort of negation of a question based on false assumptions. In Rinzai Zen this mu became a direct expression of emptiness."

Yes indeed, what then is there of beings for them to "inherently have buddha-nature"?

They don't 'have emptiness' either.

Regards,

Harry.

Harry said...

...and I don't think the purpose of Joshu's 'Mu' was the 'drop everything' nihilism that has dogged 'Zen' from early on, nor was it intended to render everything provisional, second rate and/or divide everything in some unrealistic, implied conventional/ultimate discriminatory way.

It was a call to directly realise things as they are, as they really exist; not an invitation to imagine them as empty or intellectually negate them.

Master Dogen in particular had a flair for the potentials of words and language. He considered a direct expression of the truth to be the truth itself. In fact he considered that everything (words, blows, raising eyebrows, stone lanterns, pebbles, the finger, the moon etc etc etc) was directly real when it was utylised as such and realised as such.

Regards,

Harry.

Harry said...

One Hundred.

gniz said...

Thanks Justin, Kyla. Well i was kind of laughing to myself re-reading my comments because they seemed a little angry and yet were all about how happily in love i am.

Sometimes i do get irked when i've read some Buddhist writings (postings on websites, etc) about love that always try to minimize it.

There feels like a strain of buddhist psychology (for lack of a better term) that seeks to not only minimize the value of romantic love, but also downplays the horror of staying in unhappy relationships where primary emotional needs arent being met.

I spent about a decade or more in relationships that never quite hit the mark. One relationship i probably would have stayed in for a long time, because i'd gotten into that weird buddhist mindset that all problems were within me, that all of my dissatisfaction came from my own set of unmeetable needs.

Thankfully she was smarter and helped break us up before we could spend too long wasting our time together.

Then I met my wife and she shook me out of my blind, idiotic beliefs about romantic love being an illusion. What she showed me was that its a huge stroke of luck to come into contact with someone that you connect deeply with, and that it also takes work to keep it going strong.

So maybe there is luck involved. It seems to me that most of us are such control freaks that we want to have it all and if something like love is not being found--we want to pretend it just doesnt even exist at all.

Maybe it does. Maybe you're just in a shitty relationship--or an okay relationship. Maybe you need to keep looking.

Maybe your pseudo-intellectual, elitist buddhist bullshit ideas are keeping you from actually engaging another human being fully in the joy and pain of living.

For all the be here now exhortations of the buddhist crowd, there are a lot of buddhists hiding in caves of one sort or another. Hiding from relationships whilst pretending that they've figured something out.

Anyway, thats just my view. Maybe i should drop it....nah.

Kyla said...

aaron i think they were very important an REAL posts. we're always talking about reality here and it's easy to float off into the clouds of that buddhist-psychology. and there is a place to talk about the philosophy and all that too. but there is also the place of being human and loving someone and not having to detach our way out of it.

Kyla said...

unless of course the relationship sucks!! ;)

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

The unhappiness I've seen in relationships seems mostly to stem from people not even willing to see eachother as they are, right now. I had a great professor tell me that he was restless in his marriage until he realized that he "never kisses the same lips twice."

I have polyamorous friends who are constantly searching for someone new to fill some illusory void in their lives, meanwhile they completely miss out on their primary relationships (i.e. their real lives). I must say it gets a little annoying to hear friends who are MARRIED complain that they just can't meet anyone.

I've become pretty disillusioned with the whole poly scene because I've just seen too much of this. People set the happiness bar at some arbitrary height and as soon as they reach it, they set it higher. It's a good way to stay miserable.

But it's been enlightening in that it's shown me that in some ways, we all do this. As a longtime singleton, I sometimes find myself begrudging the fact that I just can't seem to meet the "right" boy. But all this really does is keep me from enjoying the life that's in front of me right now.

I see people stay in unhappy, even abusive relationships because they are attached to the idea that the abuser "really isn't like that." Fantasy.

I see people leave perfectly healthy relationships because they're bored or convinced that there's something better "out there." More fantasy.

Relationships, all of them, have the potential to be transformative and beautiful, I hope that I never implied the contrary. I suppose my point ultimately is that we are always involved in a very intimate relationship with everything in the universe, and I think our ideas about love often keep us from seeing how fucking incredible our lives are.

Justin said...

Harry

I agree.

It's not about clinging to 'drop everything' nihilism, it's about dropping everything and seeing things just as they is. Reality.

And imagining emptiness as a negation or denial of reality is a mistake I'm sure.

Rick said...

Justin said..
"So the 'mu' was not meant as a bit of philosical cleverness but an invitation to drop the conceptualising and attachment which are obstacles."

Wow... dude. Try a little creative imagining once in a while. You sound like a philosophy book.

Kyla said...

Great points Amanda. Thanks

Justin said...

I wasn't trying to be entertaining - you can always watch MTV.

If the Buddhist philosophy bores you - skip over it. There's no need to be rude.

Harry said...

Justin wrote: "I agree."

Careful with that, you'll be getting this place a good reputation :-))

Regards,

Harry.

Justin said...

Heh, not much danger of that.

Jinzang said...

Compassion arises like the self does, from causes and conditions. Nothing more. [...] And to suggest that there is something inside of us that can be cultivated, made more whole, or better... well that isn't Zen Buddhism.

There's relative compassion and then there's ultimate compassion. Relative compassion is partial and temporary, as you say. But it's a feeling that can and should be cultivated, Buddha famously said, "Cease to do evil, learn to do good, and purify the mind." The practice of meditation is only one third of this formula. We also need to avoid unwholesome actions and emotions and cultivate wholesome ones. And love and compassion are chief among them.

You may believe that cultivating love and compassion has no place in Zen. But most Zen centers include such practices as bowing, chanting, and orioki in the belief that these support Zen practice. And they do. But if these relatively superficial practices are beneficial, how much more so cultivating love and compassion, which if practiced sincerely cuts through our egotism?

Beyond relative compassion, there is ultimate compassion. Love and compassion are inseparable from wisdom, just as the warmth of the Sun is inseparable from its light. If you approach Buddhism from an intellectual perspective, this will be missed and wisdom will be seen as a dry intellectual negation. But when you approach Buddhism through practice you see that wisdom without love is only a pretense.

Because ultimate compassion is ultimate, it can't be cultivated, it is already within us and only needs to be discovered. But relative compassion can be cultivated, and because it is concordant with ultimate compassion, it leads to it. You certainly will never find it by being indifferent or hateful.

Jinzang said...

Buddha nature is a purely provisional concept.

Some Buddhists believe the teachings on buddha nature are provisional and others believe it is ultimate. This was a hotly disputed point in Tibet. I incline to the belief that buddha nature is an ultimate truth.

The relation between emptiness and buddha nature can best be understood through the teaching on the three natures; the imagined nature, the dependent nature, and the thoroughly established nature. The dependent nature is empty of the false conceptualizations of the imaginary nature. The thoroughly established nature can be identified with buddha nature, which is also empty of both the imaginary and dependent natures.

Rich said...

For the Buddhist philsophers:
Don't make buddha nature.

For the Buddhist lovers:
Enjoy your buddha nature and love the one you're with.

Smoggyrob said...

Hi everyone:

Pardon one last reminder. Dogen Sangha Los Angeles is hosting two guest teachers from the Dharma Zen Center this morning (Sep 5), after zazen at Hill Street Center. The schedule on the site is outdated. Doors open about 9:30 AM and we start at 10. We do two thirty-minute sits and 10 minutes of walking. Then there's tea, a talk by Steve, and a Q&A by Paul. We wind up by noon.

I look forward to sitting with you.

Rob

proulx michel said...

Harry said...

Re study: Yes, and in you opinion, what should we study and how should we study it?

I think Jinzang answered that question well.

He said:
You may believe that cultivating love and compassion has no place in Zen. But most Zen centers include such practices as bowing, chanting, and orioki in the belief that these support Zen practice. And they do. But if these relatively superficial practices are beneficial, how much more so cultivating love and compassion, which if practiced sincerely cuts through our egotism?

I like a lot the usual Italian expression for "loving". There is, of course, the verb "amare" in Italian, but it's little used and the usual expression is "Ti voglio bene": viz: I want you good.

I have the distinct feeling that wanting good or wishing well for ourselves and others is truly the basis of the teachings. The rest may be psycho-philosophical points relsulting from analysis of how we get into suffering by our own devices, but in the end, as said the old Choka Dorin, "Not doing wrong, doing right" is the essence of the teachings of the Buddha.

Now, it's one thing to say and write it ( any kid could do that) and quite another to put it into practice (even an old fart at 61 can't get himself to do it) but at least I try.

I have found that wishing well to people I profoundly despise (meaning I hope they'll get at least a little bit better) is better for my well being than wishing them hell (which they surely deserve...)

Harry said...

Michel,

I think any action (such as bowing, eating a meal, helping a friend, helping an stranger or an enemy, making our self more comfortable in the night by reaching for a pillow, sitting zazen...) is already a thoroughly compassionate act when it is performed free of any notion of a self who gives and an other who recieves. Essentially then it seems to be not a matter of some idea of 'compassion', but a matter of really doing something substantial and real.

I think this is the gist of the teaching of the Zen Masters.

'Cultivating compassionate states of mind' may (or may not) be a valid approach in other streams of tradition, but mightn't that just be confined to the sphere of our own heads?

I was involved in a Tibetan centre and, if I'm honest, the 'compassion' practices we engaged in there (imagining everybody to be well and happy etc) seemed little more than a type of feelgood mental masterbation for myself. I was also indoctronated into a belief system in which I was expected to hold a very idealistic view of what constituted 'compassion' (among other things).

What need is there to 'cultivate compassionate states of mind' if we can immediately engage in substantial real acts of compassion, and/or something more fundamental and universal than what we generally consider compassion, in everything we do?

Regards,

Harry.

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marriage Doctor said...

"People are getting married less and later. Between 1960 and 1988, first-marriage rates for 20- to 24-year-old women dropped by 63 percent. First-marriage rates of women 25 to 44 years old declined between 1965 and 1975, but have remained stable since. Young men, too, married later. The average age for first-time grooms rose from 24 in 1975 to 27 in 1992."
source

proulx michel said...

Do scriobhaínn Harry:

'Cultivating compassionate states of mind' (...) mightn't that just be confined to the sphere of our own heads?

(...) expected to hold a very idealistic view of what constituted 'compassion' (among other things).

What need is there to 'cultivate compassionate states of mind' if we can immediately engage in substantial real acts of compassion, and/or something more fundamental and universal than what we generally consider compassion, in everything we do?


I quite agree with you on that point, a charadh, but it just seems to me that body and mind aren't two separate things and that what we set in our minds is more likely to inform our actions when we perform them.

I know of people who "engage in substantial real acts" which are not the least bit compassionate, and although these acts will eventually backfire upon them, it might have been better from the start had they not thought them to be clever.

Harry said...

Michel,

Yes, in a real situation though it might be that, due to conditioning and habit, that a person doesn't really register that some act isn't the best way to go. I often find it hard to blame people, or to judge people, in that situation (being far from perfect myself).

One solution might be a big, long list of precepts to self consciously follow and strive to perfect. The risk here is that the precepts become inhibitive and become an abstraction of themselves and the original purpose (using them to beat ourselves up instead of beating other people up for e.g.)

Another might be to constantly weigh things up in our head about our actions... constant consideration, which is inherently, and probably inhibitively dualistic.

Another might be the model of introspection where we dive into the self and lay bare the essential nature our motivations and impulses.

And there may be a middle way which recognises the value of retaining precepts based in a realistic view of how we can keep them and how we can't possibly keep them intact.

Regards,

Harry.

Anonymous said...

If you sit Zazen make sure that you pull your head completely out of your arse at the end of each sitting. Then get on with your dull, ordinary, human life. It's all you've got and the timer's running...

A teacher at my partner's school started the new term on Thursday. She was happy, vibrant and glad to be back at work. On Thursday night she died of a heart attack.

As ever, there is a good deal of pretentious bullshit on this blog. You fornicate with words at your peril. Rome burns...

Harry said...

Isn't fornicating with pretentious bullshit on a web-blog part of our dull, ordinary, human life?

Regards,

Loathsome, Alive & Getting on with It.

Anonymous said...

Fornicating with pretentious bullshit on a web-blog is fornicating with pretentious bullshit on a web-blog.

Although of course keyboard stroking is real...

Harry said...

Oh.

Regards,

Harry.

proulx michel said...

Harry scripsit:
And there may be a middle way which recognises the value of retaining precepts based in a realistic view of how we can keep them and how we can't possibly keep them intact.

That'd suit me better.

Anonymous said...

i like reading this blog backwards

Jinzang said...

I think any action ... is already a thoroughly compassionate act when it is performed free of any notion of a self who gives and an other who recieves. Essentially then it seems to be not a matter of some idea of 'compassion', but a matter of really doing something substantial and real.

Let's not fool ourselves into thinking that someday, somehow, we'll be hit by a lightning bolt and all our egotism and ignorance will be suddenly removed. It requires work, both on and off the cushion. What happens is that as you see your mind more clearly, you also see your faults more clearly and you're more determined to work with them. It's this willingness to work on our problems that cuts through ego and not just sitting on the cushion, though of course, sitting is an important part of the practice. So dealing with our stuff on a relative level is important.

I was involved in a Tibetan centre and ... the 'compassion' practices we engaged in ... seemed little more than a type of feel good mental masterbation for myself.

Practicing compassion doesn't have to be a formal meditation practice, though there are some. The formal practices aren't exclusively Tibetan, they can be found in most schools of Buddhism. But if they don't inspire you, it's more important to apply the paramitas in your daily life.

Anonymous said...

This blog is the best thing going. Really interesting. Brad quit it once. It continued on without him as FLAPPING MOUTHS. Then he restarted HARDCORE ZEN. But FLAPPING MOUTHS didn't die. But finally, Jundo's last self promotion to it might have been it's final nail.

Jundo Fan said...

You mean this Jundo self promotion

http://flappingmouths.blogspot.com/2009/08/announcement-treeleaf-sangha-all-online.html

I am pleased to announce that TREELEAF SANGHA, a Soto Zen Sangha, will soon commence preparations for our

“ALL ONLINE ‘JUKAI’ (Undertaking the Precepts Ceremony)” …

including Precepts Study readings and discussions, and a Rakusu sewing circle, also all fully Online….

Harry said...

"Let's not fool ourselves into thinking that someday, somehow, we'll be hit by a lightning bolt and all our egotism and ignorance will be suddenly removed. It requires work, both on and off the cushion. "

Hi Jinz,

When we perform one simple action sincerely, such as bowing or walking or sitting up straight, then our 'ego' and our ignorance are no longer a hindrance. This has been recognized for centuries in Mahayana Buddhism. No, it's not dramatic, it merely requires a little of the right sort of effort.

The paramitas are not a major concern in my lineage *in that way*. Our own real conduct in the real present moment is the major concern. When we think/discern/discriminate we already miss the moment where we can actually do something real. We address the problem in a different, a more direct and substantial, way.

"What happens is that as you see your mind more clearly, you also see your faults more clearly and you're more determined to work with them."

This psycological model is not really what has been transmitted from the past in Zen lineages. Our conduct is seen as something more real and more fundamental than what we think or percieve. Thinking about thinking, or percieving about thinking in a discriminatory way, is confined to a very small area of the human head. A good action on the other hand happens in the real world and has real immediate effects.

We're not concerned with improving the quality of our own thoughts but with actually doing things... which may, or may not, improve the quality of our thoughts... at any rate it's not directly a matter of just our own psycological redemption.

Regards,

Harry.

Harry said...

"When we perform one simple action sincerely, such as bowing or walking or sitting up straight, then our 'ego' and our ignorance are no longer a hindrance."

I meant to give an example:

We can be dreaming that we are doinking Uma Thurman (or that we are becoming enlightened, or that we will never become enlightened etc etc), and ignorantly not noticing that it's just a dream; but this never hinders our upright sitting, or our tea making, or our walking, or whatever.

When we just come back to carrying out our actions, and stop daydreaming and ignorantly percieving to the contrary, then we are already quite free of ignorance and thinking in both our body and mind.

Regards,

Harry.

Be Real said...

When we perform one simple action sincerely, such as bowing or walking or sitting up straight, then our 'ego' and our ignorance are no longer a hindrance. This has been recognized for centuries in Mahayana Buddhism. No, it's not dramatic, it merely requires a little of the right sort of effort.

The same when we get locked in a concrete block up to our neck. However, to live in this world, Zazen and the practice of the Precepts is necessary.

Hendrik said...

I know of people who "engage in substantial real acts" which are not the least bit compassionate

I wonder if there's some confusion here about "real acts". Action in the ordinary sense of the term is a kind of conceptual aggregate over a period of time, as in "I'm mowing the lawn this morning". Action in the realistic sense - a sincere act as Nishijima calls it - is instantaneous. They are not the same. One might be perceived by an observer (possibly oneself) as mowing the grass vigorously, yet not be doing so sincerely at any point during it.

The "Nishijima Thesis" - as far as I know - is this: A sincere act is a compassionate act.

Zazen helps because one cultivates the habit of sincere action. Still, it is up to the individual to exercise sincere action, on or off the cushion.

cheers,
hendrik

Harry said...

"The same when we get locked in a concrete block up to our neck. However, to live in this world, Zazen and the practice of the Precepts is necessary."

Yes, the Precepts are important but, more importantly, is that we do the right thing in accordance with the real, actual situation here and now, and we know that our actions here and now don't exist as Precepts.

The Buddhist teaching on developing an intuitive recognition/response to what is the right thing to do is explained by the expression of, and development, of prajna.

'Prajna' is sometimes rendered simply as 'knowledge', but I think this might do the intent behind the word a disservice as 'it' is not confined to intellectual knowledge at all. Some teachers suggest that prajna means 'before knowledge' or 'prior to knowledge' i.e. that it's knowing more fundamental than what we might generally consider 'knowing'.

Anyone who's ever learnt a musical instrument, or some complex motion in dance or sport, and who someday finds them asking themselves 'how the hell do I do that?' will be pretty well up on what prajna substantially describes methinks.

Regards,

Harry.

Anonymous said...

The Buddhist teaching on developing an intuitive recognition/response to what is the right thing to do is explained by the expression of, and development, of prajna.

'Prajna' is sometimes rendered simply as 'knowledge', but I think this might do the intent behind the word a disservice as 'it' is not confined to intellectual knowledge at all. Some teachers suggest that prajna means 'before knowledge' or 'prior to knowledge' i.e. that it's knowing more fundamental than what we might generally consider 'knowing'.

Anyone who's ever learnt a musical instrument, or some complex motion in dance or sport, and who someday finds them asking themselves 'how the hell do I do that?' will be pretty well up on what prajna substantially describes methinks.


What if you are wrong, Harry? Did you ever ask yourself, what if you are wrong. What if you are just another guy with a rather personal and unusual take on what prajna is, or enlightenment is, like Gudo with his ideas that no other Zen teachers buy. What if that is not at all what Dogen meant, or the Buddha meant? What if that is not "enlightenment", just what it feels like to blow a saxophone?

If you had it wrong, would you keep the idea anyone just because, like Gudo, it was your own?

Anonymous said...

should read ...

If you had it wrong, would you keep the idea anyway just because, like Gudo, it was your own

Harry said...

Hi Anon,

I think Gudo has his own take, which, yes, sometimes seems pretty different to what Dogen presented.

For instance, Gudo increasingly talks about concentrating on keeping the spine vertical where Master Dogen clearly directs us not to make any such concentrated effort in fukanzazengi.

It seems to me that Master Dogen presented two foci (which aren't seperate things but a negative and positive way of expressing one action) that is: sitting and non-thinking (i.e. not just the physical focus of keeping our back straight).

I'm not sure I understand Gudo's point really in the vertical spine thing, or if he's expressing what he means properly. What seems important (to me) though is that Master Dogen directed us towards sitting/non-thinking and action generally that is not confined by thought and perception, or by a lack of thought and perception; conduct that is just a real 'transcendant' situation already.

Importantly, and this is a point stressed by Dogen which seems (to me) very valid; the standard of this conduct is that, when we do it, we drop off view points; we aren't constructing them, or affirming them, or entertaining them in any other way.

I'm not particularly convinced by this, and certainly don't expect you to be. I hope we both practice the practice of not convincing ourselves (at least) twice daily.

What may seem as a contradiction though is that this conduct of dropping off viewpoints, dropping off body and mind, is the basis of a philosophy and a rationale:

Blowing a saxophone as an exercise in feeling isn't it. Blowing a saxophone dropping off body and mind, dropping off views, dropping off 'blowing' and 'saxophone', and 'me' the blower etc is it.

Now, doesn't that just really blow?

Regards,

Harry.

Harry said...

...Oh and, by the way, I think that if everybody was to curb their efforts for fear of being wrong then we'd be up slack ally in good style altogether.

Another thing Dogen was big on was effort and arousing the Bodhi mind (imperfect as those efforts will surely be).

Please don't wait around for a consensus from others! The Buddha and Master Dogen are both as dead as Queen Anne and will not clarify anything for us either.

Regards,

Harry.

amanda said...

On the importance of being wrong, etc:

Ken Robinson says Schools Kill Creativity

Worth it, I promise.

Rich said...

Harry,
I'm not trying to nit pick but a very important point is that Gudo does not say to concentrate on keeping the spine erect, he says 'And the methods for us to stop thinking and feeling exist in our efforts to keep our spine straight virtically'. I believe this is the same effort that Dogen was 'big on'.

I think culturally in Buddha's and dogen's place and time sitting with correct posture in the full or half lotus was much more natural to them. For Euro-Americans we have to grow into it. I'm happy to say my posture problem is improving. The action of sitting requires effort to keep the spine staight and this posture is natural for many other activities and can be maintained in every day life.

Jinzang said...

When we perform one simple action sincerely, such as bowing or walking or sitting up straight, then our 'ego' and our ignorance are no longer a hindrance.

It seems like we are recapitulating the Samye debate.

A perfectly concentrated, perfectly thought free, perfectly sincere action can still be a deluded action. Although all these great qualities to develop, there is still an element of striving in them and for that reason they are contrived and fall short of the true nature of mind. That nature does not need to be cultivated, it is equally there in a concentrated mind and a distracted mind.

Buddhism is a path to seeing that true nature and it is tempting to think the meditation is all that is necessary because it is in some ways similar to the goal. But Buddhism also includes other practices such as keeping the precepts and developing an altruistic mind, which are equally important even though they are dissimilar to the goal. It's a little paradoxical, but the more tightly you are focussed on the practice of meditation, the more you miss the point of meditation. When you take a wider view, you are closer.

Mysterion said...
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Mysterion said...
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nicole said...

So much angst and 'tude in the blog comments. Hilarious. I always wonder if internet musings are lost on the general public. Are they reading the irony, sarcasm, and hint of a smile?

In an attempt to demonstrate humour, I seem to end up using cheesy winking faces or smilies. I think perhaps it's obnoxious. ;)

Mysterion said...

Blogger nicole said...
"So much angst and 'tude in the blog comments."

Angst translates to fear (while it is, in fact, anxiety).

Attitude is also a rather odd word. Attitude is 'an upright position of the body' or 'a manner of carrying oneself.' He stood in a graceful attitude (as if in a ballet).

Insolent, from Latin ex-solere or 'not customary' might be a better fit.

The insolence expressed in the blogs...

ex-sol (without sun - light)...

and so forth.

Sometimes words have four or five meanings - without translation.

Justin said...

Jinzang said...

A perfectly concentrated, perfectly thought free, perfectly sincere action can still be a deluded action.

I agree. We can be awake to reality deeply or superficially. 'Just eating' or 'just washing up' can be quite superficial. Self-other dualism is the mother of all delusions.

PhillySteveInLA said...

When there is no one there, it is realised that an eye is an eye, and fame is an imaginary construct. It happens to no one.

Sure, sure pretty words. But if I pop you a good one in the nose, is there blood?

Anonymous said...

What is the material (form) correlate of the idea (emptiness) of "love" (or any emotion)?

-Open your eyes

Can love exist in reality (action right now)?

- :*

What is love?

-Baby don't hurt me. Don't hurt me. No more.

PhillySteveInLA said...

Rick

I agree in essence with your statements at 8:28, but what I think you might be overlooking is that in that moment when you feel compassion for the dog, you basically, in the moment, ARE compassion. How could it not be inherent.
It is not a thing, and it is subject to cause and effect, but that doesn't mean it's not real.

)))anony(((MOUSe said...

good job brad warner san! keep up the good werk!

Harry said...

"Although all these great qualities to develop, there is still an element of striving in them and for that reason they are contrived and fall short of the true nature of mind."

Effort is not at all seperate from, or inferior to, realisation in what's called the 'Zen' tradition. This is contained and remembered and transmitted particularly well in the 'tile polishing' koan referred to earlier.

One dude happens upon another sitting zazen: 'Whaddaya doin sitting like that?'

'Trying to make a buddha' says dude no. 1.

Dude number 2 picks up a peice of old tile and starts to rub it with his sleeve.

'What are you doing rubbing that tile with your sleeve?' says zazen guy.

'I'm trying to make a mirror'.

This was widely taken as a statement advocating pure, effortless, 'just sitting' or 'not trying'. 'Not quite so, too obvious, Grasshopper' said Master Dogen. He reckoned that the very activity of polishing the tile is always making a mirror regardless.

The point may be that 'effort' is never seperate from the 'result'. It is a buddha's nature to practice. This may be the substantial content of buddha-nature. Practice is realisation, but that was never intended to negate the full extent of realisation nor devalue the amount of, and the depth/sincerity of, practice.

Repeatedly in the 'Zen' tradition we're reminded that the true nature of mind is not something 'in there' or 'out there' beyond reach, some secret, or spirit, or refined element. This is embodied in such deceptively simple teachings as 'The cyprus tree in the garden' or the lifting of a finger, or the waving of a whisk to demonstrate the 'mystical power' of knowing the minds of others.

Want to know the true nature of mind immediately? Try to walk through the nearest wall. It's a great way to wake up and start the day.

Regards,

Harry.

Really? said...

Justin (agreeing with Jinzang) wrote:

"'Just eating' or 'just washing up' can be quite superficial."

Really? Clearly not, really. Really, an action, any action, occurs in a place that is dimensionally, qualititively different to that of concepts or judgements like "superficial".

An action is a fact. Something real. Reality. But a judgement, assessment or idea about an act is a mental "thing" whose nature, whatever it may be, is surely very different to that of action/activity - and takes place somewhere else entirely.

So, I think, an act is just an act. A fact. It cannot be tainted. In the mental realm, however, we can endlessly consider and speculate about the nature and attributes of the act. Long after that act is history.

Same goes, I believe, for "compassionate" acts.

Harry said...

Hi Rich,

Yes, but Master Nishijima has also said on his blog that keeping the spine straight vertically was a counter to the tendancy to think in zazen where as Master Dogen advocated sitting and non-thinking.

Non-thinking is not countering thinking with anything but is just letting thoughts come and go.

At any rate Master N has had more years practicing than Dogen ever did so I'm inclined to think that he's quite entitled to his opinion and that it's a well informed one.

Regards,

Harry.

Justin said...

Really wrote...

Really? Clearly not, really. Really, an action, any action, occurs in a place that is dimensionally, qualititively different to that of concepts or judgements like "superficial".

Just deciding to 'just act' does not free us from delusion. Delusion runs very deep. Action and inaction alike may be 'tainted' with delusions about self/other, present/past/future.

An action is a fact. Something real. Reality.

A fact is an idea - a piece of information. Reality itself is beyond action and no-action, reality and non-reality. 'Objective' reality cannot be found except as an idea.

But a judgement, assessment or idea about an act is a mental "thing" whose nature, whatever it may be, is surely very different to that of action/activity - and takes place somewhere else entirely.

This seems very dualistic. Mind and matter are not separate.

So, I think, an act is just an act. A fact. It cannot be tainted.

We cannot 'find reality' just be deciding not to have delusions any more.

In the mental realm, however, we can endlessly consider and speculate about the nature and attributes of the act. Long after that act is history.

Yes. And yet the thoughts themselves are completely real thoughts.

Harry said...

There's no such thing as an objective, exterior 'Reality' that exists outside of us. This has been acknowledged, certainly by Master Dogen.

What's more is that we can't really 'get' reality with our thoughts and perceptions even though they're part of it; but that's obvious cos we see things through our human eyes, not directly, and we hear through our human ears, not directly... and so different beings (dogs, ants, dust mites, kids, adults etc etc) will see the same situation completely differently depending on their conditioned circumstances... and all that is included in reality too.

What we can prove as directly substantial is that our actions have real effects, and that we exist here to be able effectively act. The point here, in relation to conduct, is that a real, effective substantial action, such as sitting up straight, need not be prone to a relatively insubstantial thought (such as 'I'd like to be downstairs drinking tea, eating biccies and and watching Dallas as is my habit').

Thoughts can indeed be realised as an aspect of the real situation when we partake in an action that realises them as thus (Dogen said it well when he talked about 'the brightness' of the 'One Bright Pearl' of Reality being the pearl itself... when it is practiced thus). In fact, in that situation, thoughts realise us as we let them go: they're teaching us what they really are. Generally though the situation is that we're 'blown around' by our thoughts, our preferences and aversions, our likes and dislikes; our actions are often irresistably tied up with our thoughts and feelings due to our habitually following them. Zazen frees us of this somewhat; even if we're sitting there thinking our brains out we are already actualising the fact that our thoughts and our actions aren't 'joined-at-the-hip'.

Regards,

Harry.

Really? said...

Hi Justin,

I was seeking to point out the difference between an action and a thought, judgement or assessment of an act. I wasn't seeking to devalue thoughts, jugdements or assessments, but merely to "put them in their place". I think the difference is well woth pointing out - by so doing, our acts, and our thoughts can become more "realistic". That's all.

As soon as we begin to talk about this stuff, there is a very real danger that our conversation gets side-tracked into a debate about what is signified by the terms we're using. Of course.

So I'll leave it there, for the time-being.

Justin said...

Oh Really?

The main point I was trying to make is not-being-deluded is a direction to move in not a final destination we can arrive at through the simple act of 'just sitting' or deciding not to be deluded any more.

And yes, 'reality' is an idea too.

All the best :)

Really? said...

Oh alright then - wouldn't want to disappoint ;-)...

The 'just sitting'/intention/non-thinking/action/delusion/reality debate I think you're having (mainly) with Harry. I didn't intend my comment to relate directly to that discussion. TBH, I have trouble following it.

Perhaps I caused some confusion by taking your remark out of context. I tried to make a very simple observation about the nature of action as opposed to consideration. It may seem obvious (?), but I think its implications are profound.

Justin said...

Ah I see - fair enough.

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The Corey Dude said...

To Brad or Anyone who may be reading...(hopefully someone w/ actual Knowledge on these types of things)

I have dabbled in Zen for over 5 years now. It is the basis and the foundation at which I strive to passionately live life in every moment, every day.
I lived in Japan for 2 years where i began to sincerely study, and ever since I have kept it with me. I am at a point in my life where I have a year or so (hopefully going to grad school) to accomplish anything or go anywhere I please, although I am quite poor to be honest. I know that it is my path to receive some kind of formal training or teaching from an actual zen teacher (as opposed to just a book), and am willing to travel to reach this type of arrangement. Whether its a weekly class, or something more formal and time consuming, I feel i need to make a move to find a teacher.
So my question is...where can i accomplish this? Where are some places that people seeking more sincere studies in Zazen can go? Obviously i can work in the city or place...but what should i do..theres too much information on the internet to sift through.


Cheers!

Mabel said...

Quite useful material, thanks so much for the post.