Thursday, October 01, 2009

USE YOUR ILLUSIONS

I know I promised an article about jukai, the precepts ceremony. But someone wrote in with this question and I’d like to try and answer it:

How does one reinvigorate one's practice after losing the illusions that brought one to practice in the first place? That's where I'm at now. I originally practiced hoping to get to "some place better than this one," or at least to be able to "have it all figured out"; I now despair of either one and so I ask myself, "Why sit?" I'm slowly finding my way back to practice, and sitting with sanghas is helping, but when it comes to sitting at home, I continue not to do it for one of many months in a row. I figure that this--getting the ass on the cushion day after day--is your area of expertise, so I ask: what's the motivation when the old motivations are gone?


This is a tough one. Illusions are inexhaustible, they say, yet we’re supposed to vow to end them all. Illusions about practice are the worst. What this questioner doesn’t say here, but what I’ve heard from her before is that a lot of her disillusionment stems from seeing her teachers as less than perfect. What she wants, like all of us, is perfection. What she’s seeing from her teachers isn’t perfection. So I’d like to address that question first.

In the old days we didn’t know a whole lot about famous people like kings or poets or great spiritual masters. All we would know about a Zen teacher would be that she lives in a temple up in the mountains. We might hear glorious stories from her students or scandalous rumors from those who had left her monastery. But even this information was scarce and what we did hear didn’t amount to a whole lot.

So we invented their lives in our minds. We imagined what they might be like. But the only way to know what was true was to go to the monastery, sit out on the porch for seven days in the snow and sleet until they let you in, work your way up to the point where you could actually have personal contact with the master and then you’d find out what she was like.

By the time you got through all of that you’d have developed a personal relationship. So when you saw the teacher pick her nose, or smelled the fart she silently let out as she sat on the cushion next to you, you’d already be well familiar with a whole lot of other things about her. You’d already know if she was a good teacher or not, and so whatever faults you discovered would be part of a much larger and richer picture of her.

It’s the same as with any friendship. Bob helped you move out of your house, he was there when your dog died, he sat through your daughter’s awful performance as Tevya in a second grade version of Fiddler on the Roof. So what if he doesn’t trim his nose hairs? And that rake he borrowed seven years ago but never gave back? Big deal.

But nowadays it’s harder for famous people to hide the things they want to hide. In the early sixties it was possible for John Lennon’s marriage to be kept secret from the public. By the end of the sixties no one could keep that kind of thing under wraps anymore. We know Richard Baker, Chogyam Trungpa and Dainin Katagiri were evil! We've read it in books!!! And that Brad Warner! Oh. My. God.

What you know about any given celebrity — spiritual masters and rock stars alike — is mostly bullshit. It’s all how their image has been manipulated — by themselves, by others, by you. It would be possible to construct a biography of Hitler that was 100% factual and made him look like a saint. And you could construct an equally true biography of Gandhi that made him look like the worst louse that ever walked the earth. You’d just have to carefully choose which facts you included and which you left out.

I spent a lot of one-on-one time with my teachers and that’s how I got to know their character — not through books or blog postings or videos on YouTube. Those tell you next to nothing about a person’s true character. No matter how many of them you read or watch. Whatever picture you have in your mind of people you see on your computer screen is false. Absolutely fictitious. You don’t have a clue.

My first Zen teacher used to eat a couple cloves of raw garlic every day. It was something he did for his health. Who knows where he got the idea? But whenever I spoke to him I could smell it oozing from his pores. It wasn’t an unpleasant odor. But to this day I still associate the scent of raw garlic with Zen. You can’t smell a teacher through a computer screen or the pages of a book. A celebrity teacher can’t eat popcorn with you and watch reruns of The Prisoner on a little black and white TV with a 6 inch screen. A teacher in a book doesn’t lean on your shoulder after falling asleep on the Bullet Train home from Shizuoka. The reasons why you can’t learn Zen from books and the Internet are too many to count. You can get introduced to it from books and the Internet. But it's no place to study.

What our questioner today has seen has convinced her that there is nothing to this Zen shit, that even after 20+ years of practice its teachers are still not perfect people. So why bother?

And it seems to go even beyond that for her. She despairs that she will never find the answers she seeks – even if she understands those answers won’t make her a perfect person.

I’ll tell you a story about that. One day, at a retreat in Tokei-in, I was talking to Nishijima Roshi. I can’t remember the whole conversation. But I remember I was coming from a place like our questioner. I’d been sitting every day for at least ten years and yet I had no answers. I was about to give it up completely. And I told Nishijima, “I want to know the source of the Universe!”

I don’t recall what words he used. But he told me something like, “You will.”

So I got back on my cushion and sat some more. And several years later his promise came true.

But what really happened at that moment when he said those words to me? An elderly Japanese man told a 30-something American idiot that he could — even with his own idiotic American mind full of punk rock, science fiction movies, Penthouse centerfolds and all the rest – understand the source of everything. And that American idiot believed the old man.

Why did he believe the old man? I’m not sure. I guess it had to do with trust. I knew the old man wouldn’t steer me wrong. By then I knew full well he was no saint. I saw the old man’s students bickering with each other. I saw the old man himself do things I didn’t entirely approve of. I heard him express opinions I could not agree with. I was there when he burped and when he farted. I knew he sometimes – gasp! — fell asleep on his cushion during early morning zazen.

But I trusted him. I knew that whatever else he did, he always told me the truth. And that’s what counted. I knew him more than as a teacher. I knew him as a friend.

Whatever I can be to people on these pages and in my books and suchlike, I can’t be that kind of friend to everyone who reads what I write. I won’t pretend to even try. I hope people enjoy my work, that it motivates them and makes them laugh. But that's about it.

As far as sitting after having lost your illusions about what sitting will do, there is only one solution. Just sit. That’s all. Use your illusions. Sit with them.

For what it’s worth, I can assure you that if you do this long enough and with sincerity the answers you seek will become abundantly clear.

175 comments:

proulx michel said...

jectiven!!!

proulx michel said...

Actually, it's not a matter of being perfect. That's bullmanure. It's a matter of being honest.Sincere. That's nowhere easy for an ordinary person like me. I don't always succeed. And sometimes, even with being so, I can be pretty clumsy in my ways, so much as to upset people I wouldn't want to upset.
I like Nishijima because he's sincere.
I like Brad for the same reason.
And I like quite a few others for that reason too.
Some talk of trust. But we ought never to trust anyone totally. Nor mistrust totally.
I'f I'm driving and something distracts me, it can be a perfectly sensible thing for my passenger not to totally trust me and tell me I'm goofing something. My worth there will reside in my capacity in thanking him for it.

Ativersi...

alan said...

"Whatever I can be to people on these pages and in my books and suchlike, I can’t be that kind of friend to everyone who reads what I write. I won’t pretend to even try. I hope people enjoy my work, that it motivates them and makes them laugh. But that's about it."

I want to say something about the above statement, because it comes so close to addressing a question that I want answered.

But at this point all I can think about is pounding my head against the wall.

As a metaphor.

Anonymous said...

i love it when you face the tough!

Anonymous said...

way to go, Brad! Many thanks for your genuineness and sincerity. I attended your talk in DC. Not the super star I was expecting, not the enligtened mega Zen Teacher, just a decent real guy. You asked me if you should wear your robes - I turned all shades of red- I told you the flannel shirt and cargo pants was a better draw for the audience.
I don't have a teacher, do it on my own - Hardcore Zen being one of my top 10 books.
Many thanks, again

Kyla said...

Hi Mr. Proulx, I wanted to say I always get a lot out of your comments. They give me real food for thought. When I am less tired I have to read Brad's blog again and comment further.

Zayin said...

Thank you Brad.

Jinzang said...

I also hit the point in my practice where I doubted everything: doubted practice would work, doubted myself for wanting to practice, doubted I could go back to a "normal life" without practice. What kept me going was trust in my teacher. I figured that if practice worked for him, sooner or later it would also work for me. What Brad wrote really hits the mark.

Book Critic said...

Yes, the point about Zen teachers has imperfect human beings sitting with their own shit is true.

But I get the sense Brad, who knows the source of the universe, is just doing his old thing again

f you read "Dipped in Karma" closely, you will find that most every "confession" is really very self serving. In every single case, Brad does not come across as looking so bad, like in the circumstances you mention where he emphasizes that he only cheated when the marriage was already over long over and his wife had cheated on him first. There are dozens of other excuses like that, in which the "sin" he confesses turns out not to be such a sin at all or have a reason about it. It is a "coming clean" where somehow the laundry turns out not to have been so dirty.

Read between the lines of what he writes here and his real intentions.

Michel Proulx

It's a matter of being honest.Sincere.
I like Brad for the same reason.


Are you sure you are not confusing sincerity with a carefully crafted non-confession and "the imperfect Zen master" image? Can you be sure?

As always, it is great that Brad speaks of Zen masters as human. Great, but he does it by covering up the real imperfections.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and probably a subtle slap at Jundo

I spent a lot of one-on-one time with my teachers and that’s how I got to know their character — not through books or blog postings or videos on YouTube. Those tell you next to nothing about a person’s true character. No matter how many of them you read or watch. Whatever picture you have in your mind of people you see on your computer screen is false. Absolutely fictitious. You don’t have a clue.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Book Critic. This was a great article by Brad full of truisms. But...I do think it was transparently self-serving in some ways. Again suggesting that somehow all zen masters are screwed-up (subtext="just like me"). Human yes, with burps, boogers and idiosyncresies. But at some point when saying: "see I'm a zen master but I'm still a really fucked up, neurotic, egocentric asshole"...it becomes...well maybe you are not a zen 'master' at all, just a zen student with much more to learn.

Book Critic said...

Here is actually a very simple test one can do to show a little of this. Go to amazon, find "Zen wrapped in Karma" and search the word "wrong". In the many results that appear, one will find not one that is close to any meaning like "I was wrong" about something Brad did.

http://www.amazon.com/Zen-Wrapped-Karma-Dipped-Chocolate/dp/1577316541/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1254452572&sr=8-1#reader

Same results if you search "sorry" or "apology" / "apologize".

There is one appearance of the word "regret" in the book that is as close as Brad ever comes. Page 130. I later came to really regret getting the piece-o-shit guitar I ended up choosing". That is as close as Brad comes in that book, or in this post, to real inner reflection and confession.

We could make this a game. Anyone want to try to search any other similar words in the book?

"sorrow"? "hurt"? "reflect" "error"?

Another example is how he related the story of having slept with a student, only after first including a chapter about how it is actually not so serious for a teacher to sleep with a student (entitled "The Abuse of Power in Zen, or What Happens When a Zen Master Sleeps with a Student - which actually makes the audacious claim that it is the Student who has the power and may be more at fault for sleeping with the teacher and it is the whole Sangha community to blame. Read page 35) and then that the woman he ended up sleeping with was not really his technically his "student" at the time at all (on page 99 he tries to characterize her as his "Zazen buddy"). Another non-confession about a "non-student", shifting the heavy load of responsibility away from Brad.

On page 85, Brad writes "I think I have given a pretty clear accounting of my own stupidity and mistakes". No he has not, at least not to any mistakes more serious than trying pot without really inhaling.

Nothing in the book. Try it for yourself.

Stephanie said...

Nice post, Brad, thank you.

To clarify--I've not looked for or expected perfection in teachers or anyone else for quite some time, if ever. I like finding people's imperfections; I like finding the skeletons in a teacher's closet because it makes them more real and human to me. It's the same with anyone; it's our demons that make us interesting. A bland Mr. Rogers world where everyone was perfectly well-adjusted and nice would bore me right to death.

However, the paradox for me is, if Zen teachers can remain so blatantly self-unaware on so many levels, what does that say about the value of the practice? If people who go through therapy successfully seem to become more self-aware than Zen students, why practice? If whatever one can come to know on the cushion leaves one as F.I.N.E. (Fucked up, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional) as Brad and Jundo, might one be hard pressed to say what exactly makes it worth doing? How can we know if the "truth" we think we find is anything more than another delusion?

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Jundo, did you catch the sudden Mike Cross-Jundo James Cohen love fest at the end of the last Brad thread. Oh, the world is upside down



Blogger Mike Cross said...

Speaking for myself, I reacted emotionally against James Cohen from the very first word of his that I read. I have never met James Cohen in person. But I formed an image of who he was, an image that gave an external form to my deepest unconscious fears about myself -- for example, being a pretentious fraud -- and I disparaged James Cohen on the basis of my immature emotional reaction. That is something I did, and I regret it. If my disparagement of James Cohen hurt him, I should apologize to him, and I do apologize to him.

This might be as good a place as any to say: I am sorry, James Cohen, that I disparaged you because of deep-seated doubt in myself.

2:38 PM
Comment deleted

This post has been removed by the author.

6:48 PM
Blogger jundo cohen said...

To Ven. Mike Cross,

I apologize for all I ever have done, thought or said to you too.

I will write you. The past is gone.

I am sorry if my words to you in the past contained acid or anger, and caused you to have bad feelings towards me in any way. I am sorry if I hurt you too in any way.

Next year, when I come to the UK, I hope that we can meet for the first time.

Jundo

Mr. Reee said...

That was a very good topic. I had something similar to that (maybe) occur to me.

It was right around the point where I started seeing my illusions for what they are (not claiming they're gone now--just the whole noticing thing) and I thought 'great! now maybe I'll be less inclined to try and fool myself.'

It was right about then that I also found out how much I like my illusions. 'I don't want to give them up! What will I do? Who will I be? How will I act? How can I even plan anything now?!'

All part of passing through a gate, I suppose. But it sounds something like what Brad touched upon in the post--when you become 'aware,' what do you do? Where's my motivation supposed to come from now? Why continue if you intellectually know the 'answer?'

FWIW--it helps to notice that all those thoughts are also just clouds passing across the sky and something else will come.

Zen thoughts are merely thoughts too.

Anonymous said...

Here is actually a very simple test one can do to show a little of this. Go to amazon, find "Zen wrapped in Karma" and search the word "wrong". In the many results that appear, one will find not one that is close to any meaning like "I was wrong" about something Brad did.

We could make this a game. Anyone want to try to search any other similar words in the book?

"sorrow"? "hurt"? "reflect" "error"?


This is truly brilliant. A post with an empirical test attached to confirm the hypothesis.

I tried the word "sad". Nothing.

Regina said...

This post reminds me of an anecdote my 15-year old daughter told me yesterday:
"Mom, imagine there is a duck in a bottle. How can you release it? (like these little sailing-boats in bottles)"
I thought for a while and couldn't get the clue. Then she said: "Remember how I started my question, with 'imagine'. Imagine it outside of the bottle, that's all."
She got this experience from a buddhist camp she attended this summer. And I felt quite a bit ashamed beeing busy with all the daily affairs in my mind that I didn't get the solution first.

A positive imagination of somebody or something will have a positive effect and vice versa. There is a saying: with positive thoughts you can move mountains. So everything is based on how we look at things and phenomena and how our view is obscured by prejudice and ego based motivations.

Dogen wrote that the blue mountains are constantly moving. I like this chapter very much.
The mountains are moving because there is water which runs in rivers and transforms to steam and falls down as raindrops again. He wrote that in every raindrop there is the whole universe.

“It ascends to the sky and forms rain and dew.”“It descends to the earth to form rivers and streams.” Even inside a single drop, countless buddha lands are realized.

And quoting the end of the chapter we can find a motivation for our practice.
An eternal buddha says, “Mountains are mountains. Water is water.” These words do not say that “mountains” are “mountains”; they say that mountains are mountains. This being so, we should master the mountains in practice. When we are mastering the mountains in practice, that is effort “in the mountains.” Mountains and water like this naturally produce sages and produce saints.

But really, do we all want to become sages and saints?

Book Critic said...

This is truly brilliant. A post with an empirical test attached to confirm the hypothesis.

I tried the word "sad". Nothing.


This is right. Now, some might say that being the Zen Master who "knows the source of the universe" (in his words) he is just beyond "sad" or "regret" and that like, which explains it.

But if you do the search of these words, you will find dozens of quotes where he is "sad" or "regrets" etc. hat circumstances life has handed him, or what other people are doing/did to him. Lots of that. But no examples in the book of him expressing being "sad" etc. for his own actions and their effect.

Try the game more, you will see. You will see the game that Brad is playing.

We have to think up a name for the game.

Anonymous said...

I just tried the word "pain" too, like "I caused her pain" or "I am sorry for the pain I caused".

Nothing at all like that in the book.

Anonymous said...

Here are the results. Mostly it is about his pain

page 182 ... You have to do each vow three times, which is a pain in the ass and also …
page 183 ... making me literally wince in pain. I felt like I'd stepped into the th…
page 189 …a headache on the ride in to Grandma's place from the airport. The pain gr…
page 201 …and respond to you, although she couldn't talk. She didn't seem to be in pain.
Back Cover …- help others through hard times when he's dealing with pain of his…
page 24 …becoming fewer and farther between. She never complained of pain …
page 27 I'm not going to name any specifically, because that's just a big pain in the ass…
page 31 ... There are no easy ways to circumvent the pain and difficulty of practice an…
page 85 ... " As for Zeppo and Gummo, they have their own lives and their own pain. It's…
page 119 … pain I thought, "Okay, Zen Stuff I learned, let's see what you're goo…
page 120 …to relate to that. I'm sure they have to deal with a whole big bunch of pain …
page 138 …Someone else asked why Buddha never talked about pain in pract…
page 145 ... The pain in my legs and lower back couldn't possibly stand up to what I'd …

Justin said...

This is my take (uninvited I know, but what the hell).

Illusions are inexhaustible indeed, so if you think you've ended them all, then you are probably in the grip of another illusion. It means you have got attached to a viewpoint. (same applies if you think you know the final 'source of the universe'). Contrary to some misinterpretations, the key illusion addressed by Buddhism is not the idea that Buddhism is a beneficial practice which is likely to bring about positive change (nor is it the idea that Buddhist teachers are perfect). The most fundamental illusions are existential in nature: for example, that we exist as a separate, unchanging and/or continuous essence.

The idea that sitting will do nothing for you is another illusion. This is a point of contention that I have with the way Brad teaches. Brad has described the unrealistic ideals he had in his early practice and how losing those ideals was a breakthrough for him. This is fine as far as it goes, since ideas and wishes for the future can be an obstacle to opening up fully to the reality of the present moment. On the other hand, it may be possible to over-shoot in the other direction into another 'extreme view' - that practice has no point or benefit.

The problem for this view is even more catastrophic that the original 'goal-seeking' attitude it was a remedy for. With this understanding it follows that, since there is no long term or short term benefit (it's usually less fun than playing console games for example) therefore there is no need to make any effort to practice.

This is simply not the case. There are long-term benefits to practicing. And there is a need to make an effort - the right sort of effort.

Buddha certainly taught that effort was necessary and that one desire that was positive was a desire for Nirvana. Soto Zen isn't quite the same as early Buddhism, but still the necessity for dedicated effort and the benefits of practice are taught consitently.

Personally I've been practicing for nearly 8 years now. When I started I was a bit irregular. After about 2 years of this I still wasn't too sure what the point of it was or whether it was doing me good or not. I made a decision to practice consistently (at that time this only meant one sitting per week) for six months and to assess at the end of it whether it was doing me good or not. I decided it was making a difference and I stuck with it. Now I practice virtually every day.

It may be unhelpful to think of gaining something more a process of uncovering or releasing what is already there, but there have certainly been benefits for me. These are the trends I've noticed:

Less defensive
less self-centred
Less attached to opinions
More happy
No depression
More accepting
More 'reality'
More love
More 'personable' (as my wife put it)

Experiences between practitioners may vary, but I suppose it depends on exactly what your practice is and who you are when you start.

Anonymous said...

Actually, what I said is not quite right. There are references to the pain his mother felt when she was sick, the pain in his legs during Zazen, people being a "pain in the ass" to him. Just no reflection on Brad's causing someone pain or being a source of pain or being sorry for pain he caused.

I just tried "responsible" and "responsibility", and nothing. Nothing about Brad being "responsible" for something.

Sabio Lantz said...

You wrote:

“I want to know the source of the Universe!” I don’t recall what words he used. But he told me something like, “You will.”
So I got back on my cushion and sat some more. And several years later his promise came true.


This seems ironic. You comfort someone by saying, "Smell the farts, establish relationships and sit. Drop illusions of finding a better place, and figuring it all out. But, oh yeah, I know the source of the Universe !"

Did anyone else hear the irony?

Vesa said...

In the (nonexistent) absolute terms, nobody is perfect. Nobody is able to reach the whatever ideal is used to determine the level of perfection. That could count as one of the most misleading "illusions".

In real-life terms, everybody is perfect - being themselves (and especially _without_ the products of certain cosmetics company). We are perfectly what we are. And it includes all the human foibles in existence. And all of them exist in the zen masters as well.

It's a matter of accepting reality.

proulx michel said...

The idea that sitting will do nothing for you is another illusion. This is a point of contention that I have with the way Brad teaches. (...) it may be possible to over-shoot in the other direction into another 'extreme view' - that practice has no point or benefit.

The problem for this view is even more catastrophic that the original 'goal-seeking' attitude it was a remedy for. With this understanding it follows that, since there is no long term or short term benefit (it's usually less fun than playing console games for example) therefore there is no need to make any effort to practice.


But you should admit, nevertheless, that this is not what Brad teaches either...

Narcu

Anonymous said...

Hey Book Critic, maybe you could call your game 'The Stupid Game'? x

Sabio Lantz said...

@ michel
But separating illusions of lofty benefits (like "knowing the source of the universe") vs. simple benefits like knowing honestly the habits of ones mind, is important, don't you feel?

Sitting allows us the chance to slow the reflexive mental habit of creating illusion. It does not give us something, it just helps us to slow down the delusion.

Anonymous said...

... or how about 'The I've got far too much time on my hands game' ?

Justin said...

But you should admit, nevertheless, that this is not what Brad teaches either...

To be honest I'm not sure exactly what Brad teaches - I've heard him say different things at different times. That was my own response. Sometimes it seems to me that Brad talks as if Zen doesn't help with anything at all.

'Knowing the source of reality' is besides the point unless it helps with people's suffering.

Also, (although I don't know the background correspondence between Brad and this person) I don't think this is necessarily all about people idealising Zen teachers and wanting to be perfect, rather, as some have already pointed out, it is about genuinely finding better ways of dealing with their own "Fucked up, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional" stuff. In other words, finding some freedom from craving, greed and delusion just as the Buddha taught.

couser said...

Brad: Awfully nice writing.. Made it worth wading through the confusion in comments over the last few days.

Anonymous said...

.. or how about 'The I've got far too much time on my hands game' ?

The game itself is silly. But the point made about Brad's "honesty" and "non-confessions" is true. The book and today's essay just leave the SOB somehow coming clean in a way that is insincere. It is true that the whole book is not a confession as much as an excuse, and all he confesses are things which are very minor or leave him looking like an innocent victim.

Anonymous said...

Michel,

don't always succeed. And sometimes, even with being so, I can be pretty clumsy in my ways, so much as to upset people I wouldn't want to upset.
I like Nishijima because he's sincere.
I like Brad for the same reason.


Just out of curiosity, exactly how much time have you spend in physical proximity to Brad? to Nishijima? Are we talking about days, weeks or months?

Mumon said...

Good advice.




Seriously, it is very important to read what you put on this post.

Rick said...

Steph said...

"where everyone was perfectly well-adjusted and nice would bore me right to death."

Probably not, since you, too, would be well adjusted and nice.

"if Zen teachers can remain so blatantly self-unaware on so many levels, what does that say about the value of the practice?"

What are your expectations for a self-aware zen teacher? What should (s)he look like, and act like?

"If whatever one can come to know on the cushion leaves one as F.I.N.E., might one be hard pressed to say what exactly makes it worth doing?

Zen practice is like doing a detox cleansing (not that I would ever suggest doing one). For the first few days you feel like crap while all the toxins are flushed from your system. After that you feel better - relatively speaking.

But like Jason has alluded to, if a practice doesn't do anything to reduce suffering, then it may not be a valuable practice.

And this includes zazen.

"How can we know if the "truth" we think we find is anything more than another delusion?"

I think what you're really asking is... Kidding.

You can't. Simple answer is that every "truth" you think you find IS another delusion/illusion. Oh, it may be a valuable one if it aids in reducing suffering and reducing egoistic tendencies, but its relative, and therefore transitory.

If you hold hard on to something you think is a "truth", you'll eventually begin to suffer again.

If you think a zen teacher should be some why in particular, you're going to "suffer" when you come across one who doesn't.

My 2 cents anyway.

Anonymous said...

"The book and today's essay just leave the SOB somehow coming clean in a way that is insincere. It is true that the whole book is not a confession as much as an excuse, and all he confesses are things which are very minor or leave him looking like an innocent victim."

The book is what it is... What would you like it to be?

Anonymous said...

The book is what it is... What would you like it to be?

Ah, well, the great "sincere confession" that several people here seem to make it out to be, like today's fluffy post.

Kyla said...

There is a lot of interesting conversation here. I know that i don't sit expecting to become "perfect" and i'm not quite sure what that word means, or what "master" means either. To me everyone always remains a student of life no matter Dharma Transmission, years of sitting, degree on top of degree (whatever you want to pick to describe a "master") because for me words like master or perfection tend to mean one has come to the end of learning and I don't think anyone reaches that point. I don't think Brad postulates that he has become some idyllic master but that is my take on the things he is trying to say. Like any person he can be inconsistent and the point i think he is trying to make is that no matter what, no one "gets there" and we have to look at our own expectations of people and more importantly ourselves. Looking at oneself is harder to do. As for a person being able to understand the nature of the universe i think it was described as, or what the universe means, perhaps one comes to understand that it can never be really known and that is it's nature and the more we look for answers, seek to categorize, seek to master, the more we are holding onto our delusions and conclusions. Nothing is static ( I hope i'm not) and things constantly change. As for all the picking over of Brad's love life. Brad ultimately has to live with choices he made. For me, they are none of my concern. I have to live with my own skeletons and that's enough for me to deal with.

kyla said...

"Less defensive
less self-centred
Less attached to opinions
More happy
No depression
More accepting
More 'reality'
More love
More 'personable' (as my wife put it)"

So well put Justin, although I'd like to add that for me, acceptance of times of depression, riding them out, dealing with them, seems more likely. If i think i'll never get depressed again, Yippee!!!! I know that isn't reality for me. Thanks for your comment.

Justin said...

...is what it is... What would you like it to be?

I'm sorry - if this was a valid justification or argument or defense for anything then it could literally be used for anything.

"My fist hitting you in the face is what it is... What would you like it to be?"

"Me calling you a piece of shit is what it is... What would you like it to be?"

It doesn't add anything to this discussion.

Kyla said...

Great food for thought too Rick with regards to your speaking about "truth"
Also, I was thinking about this whole learning about zen from books, blogs etc. I can see value in it but at the same time nothing perhaps keeps me more present than things like my work. Eg. if i have someone talking about killing themselves, I have to absolutely-in-the-frakking-moment PAY ATTENTION. I have to listen, watch for non-verbals and act accordingly. I think zazen can help a great deal from my experience of sitting in being more present in so-called everyday life. I could also see that it could lead to endless navel-gazing and self-gratification if one is not careful. I have met in person many people ( no one on this blog as we've never met and I'm not talking about Brad ), who brag endlessly about their practice, how spiritual they are, they trundle out all the right esoteric language, quote all the texts but then when I attempt to converse with them, it goes in one ear and out the other. Like others here have said, everyone brings something different to practice.

proulx michel said...

All the real masters I have met in life, including master luthiers, or master tailors, or master ironsmiths, or master goldsmiths were people who'd acknowledge their flaws, never refuse an advise (which is not to say they'd always stick to it) and were always curious of others ways.

To me Nishijima and Brad Warner are among them. I don't always adhere to what they say, but I know they don't pretend to be perfect. I don't either, I know much too well how flawed I am.

But I also know how much more flawed I would be if I had not endeavoured the practice of zazen.

Cuthew

rat said...

"If you think a zen teacher should be some why in particular, you're going to "suffer" when you come across one who doesn't."

This is true of eveyone, not just zen teachers. But it is important to evaluate someone who claims that title or functions in that capacity as to whether and how much they are worth listening to. Zen history is full of students searching for 'keen-eyed zen masters'. All are not equal. Brad & Nishijima strongly acknowledge this in their denunciation of virtually every other buddhist teacher that disagrees with them.

Think of Brad's rants against Genpo. Is this because Brad has certain ideas as to what a zen teacher should be? Absolutely! I don't know how much suffering this causes him, but it apparently does bother him much more than it does you or I.

Brad's image / idea of a zen teacher is one that does not charge exorbitant rates for experiences. Doing that makes them fraudulent scumbags. There seems to be a long list of expectations he has for other zen teachers. He and his followers don't object to this. They only object when people have expectations of Brad. I could argue that Genpo is only human. Greed is a human frailty, so don't expect some perfect zen teacher.

If I encounter a zen teacher who is more deluded than myself, why would I want to listen to them? If I hire a piano teacher and they can't play as well as me, I don't keep them long. I guess you could say 'Your ideas about what a piano teacher should be are just images and they cause you suffering.' No. I think it is important that we try to evaluate any claims by anyone teaching zen. And just because you disagree or find fault with some of their teachings, it does not follow that everything they say or do is faulty.

This is why many of us continue to read Brad's articles and books even when we don't always agree. Many of his followers here object to this, suggesting that unless you accept and agree with Brad 100%, we should "leave", stop commenting here, stop reading Brad's books, etc. and go elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

To me Nishijima and Brad Warner are among them.

But that is the thing. There is no evidence that Brad Warner really admits to any important flaws. By admitting to a few minor and well selected flaws, he is polishing an image as somehow superb for having done so.

It is a little like the used car salesman who wins someone's trust in his honesty by admitting the car he is selling may need new seat covers, while hiding the fact that the transmission is about to go.

Michael, how much time have you spent in physical proximity to Brad? to Nishijima?

Rick Lite™ said...

Stephanie said...

"where everyone was perfectly well-adjusted and nice would bore me right to death."

There's really not much chance of that..

"if Zen teachers can remain so blatantly self-unaware on so many levels, what does that say about the value of the practice?"

You should have seen the messes they were before they started..

"If whatever one can come to know on the cushion leaves one as F.I.N.E., might one be hard pressed to say what exactly makes it worth doing?

Zen practice is like a diet for losing 5 LBS over ten years.. For the first few days you feel great because you imagine how great your going to look. After that reality sinks in, I'm going to have gray hair be the time I lose this weight. - fuck it!

And, If your always in end-gaining mode, zazen might cause you more stress than it's worth.

"How can we know if the "truth" we think we find is anything more than another delusion?"

It's all delusion all the way down.. bottomless.

If you think a real zen teacher is going to be any better than the one you have mentally constructed.. Fugget about it.

Eye witness said...

"The book and today's essay just leave the SOB somehow coming clean in a way that is insincere. It is true that the whole book is not a confession as much as an excuse, and all he confesses are things which are very minor or leave him looking like an innocent victim."

You know, it is more than just that. A few people who lived through those times know that the book contains several actual lies and half lies about events that happened. Half lies mostly, but always in a way to make Brad look not so bad compared to what he would have to really "confess" if the full story came out.

spolomp said...

"You know, it is more than just that. A few people who lived through those times know that the book contains several actual lies and half lies about events that happened. Half lies mostly, but always in a way to make Brad look not so bad compared to what he would have to really "confess" if the full story came out."

It would be easy for you to anonymously name the lies but you can't. You can't because you don't know anything..

Kyla said...

I like your comment Rat. I think it is so important to always bear in mind that disagreeing is not a bad thing. In fact, it cannot be avoided. Nor does it mean one should toss the whole thing out because of some disagreements. It's a mindless cult that expect total, blind agreement. It's dangerous. I also like the analogies you drew such as the piano teacher. In the end it is the individual who must think for themselves. Great observation regarding finding some faults not meaning everything is faulty. But it might be hard to know HOW or in what way is a teacher deluded. How would one judge that? I don't know the answer, and there may be many answers i guess. It may be harder to tell than something more obvious such as the piano teacher.
I don't know much about this Genpo guy, what i did see smacked of some kind of quick fix scam that could lead to taking advantage of people who are in a lot of emotional pain.
When I worked in the holistic health field (rife with scam artists by the way), I knew a "guru" like that. She told people that only she could "heal" them and they had to do only what she said. She took people for a lot of money and she is an osteopath among other things she professed to be of the more "spiritual" bent and these people were in a lot of physical and emotional pain. She carefully convinced them they NEEDED her to heal. It was very calculated and manipulative and she raked in the dough. One could say those people deserve what they get for buying into it but some people are absolute masters of manipulation and prey on peoples' desperation. So, in that case it was more than just her human frailty of greed but i don't know all the details of Genpo's case.

Kyla said...

As an example of disagreeing with Brad's opinion, I don't agree with things he has said regarding the concept of Mindfulness or Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. But, I think he stated it was not the same as zazen practice whereas in some cases, it is being sold as such. So in this case, do I ditch Mindfulness and/or Brad? No, I personally gain from what each has to offer but at the same time, I don't feel the need to go after Brad for his opinion, I just don't have to hold it as my own. Nor does that detract from the things that Brad says that I gain from.

Anonymous said...

It would be easy for you to anonymously name the lies but you can't. You can't because you don't know anything..

Well, I mean, ask Rob for example if he can honestly say that the book told the full story about Brad Warner, Leilani, who she was and how much she participated in the group, and some other sexual things. I mean, maybe Rob will now say that, yes, the book is completely accurate, but Rob is now very protective of Brad.

Rick said...

Rat...

Evaluations happen. Problem is, they happen all to unconsciously.

Don't see the issue with the word "suffer." Had I put dukkha, someone would have undoubtely suggested I was being erudite. Since dukkha means more than "suffering," and is more akin to dissatisfaction, or dis-ease, then perhaps I should have used it anyway.

If Brad "rants" about Genpo, he experiences dukkha, because dukkha is an inescapable factor of existence, along with impermenance and non-self.

If you think that piano teachers should be some way in particular (better at playing the piano than you), you're going to experience dukkha when you come across one who doesn't - proportional to any amount of money you paid for lessons, I'd guess.

Whenever things aren't how we expect them or want them, whenever our evaluations are wrong, dukkha happens.

Now... comes the chorus ...

Anonymous said...

If you sit because you think that you will get something, you will not get that thing.

You sit because you sit.

Thats it.

Delusions are Delusions of Delusions.

Just Sit.

Rick said...

Kyla said...

"...at the same time, I don't feel the need to go after Brad for his opinion..."

Yes and no.

To say "I prefer this method over that one" is an opinion.

When someone states something as a hard and fast, must follow this or you won't get "enlightened" rule, etc, ... that kind of crazy, dangerous talk, then it is important to speak up.

To suggest that only following practice Y, or the teachings of ancestor X is the only true path, is heading down a slipery slope.

We might as well all go drink the purple kool-aid in Jonestown.

Kyla said...

Hi Rick, I appreciate your feedback. There are some dangerous people out there as i've said but i'm not sure Brad ranks with Jonestown. And anyone, including Brad if that be the case, who dangles enlightenment should be questioned at least in one's own mind as to whether they have the proper intentions. If anyone says I have to do what they say or i'll never be "enlightened" that is a red flag. I'm personally not one chasing after enlightenment. Even thinking about that concept or whatever it really is, a temporary state maybe? ( I don't know) is a slippery slope to delusion or just plain running in circles and making oneself miserable. I don't think it is a permanent state one reaches. I don't really know what it is. But i do know that it is a much touted word in general never mind Buddhist circles. It's an overused word especially here in the west as far as i've seen. One can even find organic teas that state they help one be "enlightened." Bizarre.

Anonymous said...

What do I expect of my teachers?

REAL ULTIMATE POWER!!!

Nothing more, nothing less...

Anonymous said...

"Well, I mean, ask Rob for example if he can honestly say that the book told the full story about Brad Warner, Leilani, who she was and how much she participated in the group, and some other sexual things."

Dude, Brad didn't write a fucking Encyclopedia.. He wrote a short book. Rob knows whatever he knows, but you know nothing. You can't give examples of 'lies' because all you have is rumours and gossip.

aborigm

Rick said...

Kyla,

The slippery slope to Jonestown was a Slippery Slope in and of itself.

Just a bad joke I suppose, but it's Friday.

Ah, well, maybe next time.

Kyla said...

HI Rick, I was just thinking about slippery slopes after that. slippery slope comparisons are slippery slopes!! LOL
eg.
heavy metal music and black t-shirts=high school massacres

Obama's healthcare reform=the rise of the next Hitler/communism/whatever they can think of next

and If Brad is planning to brainwash people into killing themselves, he'd better get started as he's been sitting how long now?
Now I'm making back jokes!!!!

so much talk of slippery slopes in the "news" eh, it's affecting our minds!!! ;)

Smoggyrob said...

Hi everyone:

1021, I can honestly say that I don't remember if I thought ZWIKDIC was "completely accurate". I don't remember thinking it was inaccurate. I didn't share his opinions about the situation, but that's not the same as it being inaccurate. Maybe I should read it again. I first read it when I was quite upset with Brad and remember not liking it because Brad didn't apologize to me in it. 8^D I've since stopped giving a fuck about the situation, I've got my own shit to worry about. I did lose respect for Brad when I found out that he cheated on his wife, no matter what his reasons were. It was, IMO, dishonorable. I'm sensitive to that issue, probably because of my father. But it doesn't define Brad. If he made it a habit to hit on every cutie that came through the door I'd be gone, but that's not the case.

I don't know what you mean by "some other sexual things". Honestly, I don't care for people posting anonymous accusations or insinuations of impropriety, that kind of behavior is generally indicative of bullshit.

As for being protective of Brad, I don't feel particularly protective. At least, no more protective than of anyone else I hang out with. I do agree with a lot of what Brad says, and disagree with some of his detractors. When I was the most upset with him, I was still grateful because I established my practice after reading his stuff and sitting with him. If it comes off as protective... uh, whoops?

I am tired of this comment section being more about how some (mostly anonymous) people don't like him. If I was on a basketball blog I wouldn't like it to be about how much basketball sucks. I don't come to your blogs and tell you that you're wrong; why you're wrong; that your teacher sucks; my theories on exactly why your teacher sucks; and what a lying, political, hypocritical bastard your teacher is. I wish others would extend the same courtesy. It's not that I think you have to believe anything the guy says, it's that I don't give a fuck that you don't. I also don't care that you don't like basketball.

By the way, for your amusement and outrage, I took the precepts from Brad last Saturday. I'm glad I did and it was important to me. The precepts do have a place in this practice. I tend to think of them and the study of Buddhism as good things to occupy one's mind with since it's gonna' be thinking about something anyway. Another guy I sit with says that following any thought "all the way" will lead to paradox, and that you need to face this paradox to wake up. Might as well make it a thought about Buddhism.

Rob

Uku said...

Rob wrote: I took the precepts from Brad last Saturday. I'm glad I did and it was important to me. The precepts do have a place in this practice.

Congratulations, Rob, well done!

I agree, the Precepts are very important in this practice, in a way or another; through Jukai or without Jukai. The practice of zazen is based on something and tradition is very important in it. I think it's not matter of something but it's about attaching to this something, it's all about letting go of our deluded thoughts and actions. And the Precepts can really help us in that matter. They're not rules but they are guidelines. We can learn from our mistakes.

Be well, Rob, all the best!

Stuart said...

You're suffering greatly due to thirst. A teacher hands you a glass and tells you it holds a magical spiritual potion. Drink it, and you'll be god-like, never having to suffer thirst again. Due to your trust in him, and the greatness of his promise, you drink.

Later you find that his promise was BS. His so-called magic potion was nothing but water. It didn't make you god-like, it didn't change a thing permanently.

But hey, oh yeah, it did take away your thirst. So what if it wasn't magic; all you really needed was something to quench your thirst. So what if the effect didn't last forever; next time you're thirsty, you can just drink water again.

Regardless of what you think of the teacher, regardless of whether his teachings were true or BS... it all somehow got you have your own undeniable experience of how drinking water takes away thirst. You can, quickly or slowly, discard all of the other fantasies that somehow got entagled with this simple matter.

The ultimate result: you continue to get thirsty every day, and everyday you solve the problem by drinking water. And when you encounter someone else suffering from thirst, you likewise offer water to them.

Stuart
http://stuart-randomthoughts.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

so you took the 3 precepts from brad saturday? congrats...

i'm guessin he could only give you the ones he hasn't broken himself lately... misusing sex and lying.

you fucking prick...

Kyla said...

I don't know you Rob, but congratulations on taking the precepts!! :)
Very thought provoking post stuart. I liked it a lot.

(I wonder if i could write a book using only the bizarre captchas I have to type to make a comment. Hmm...)

Kyla said...

Disagreement, joking and discussion is one thing, but the nastiness on here is really becoming venomous.

(just got me another catchpa word)

Hendrik said...

Brad - an excellent article. Well done.

Rich said...

Brad said:
"I spent a lot of one-on-one time with my teachers and that’s how I got to know their character — not through books or blog postings or videos on YouTube. Those tell you next to nothing about a person’s true character. No matter how many of them you read or watch. Whatever picture you have in your mind of people you see on your computer screen is false. Absolutely fictitious. You don’t have a clue."

That's wonderful that you were able to have a personal relationship with a true teacher but there are others that have not had that opportunity and are learning about a teacher's true character from books, blog interaction and video. I'm not saying its the same but its better than no teaching.

Brad said:
"The reasons why you can’t learn Zen from books and the Internet are too many to count. You can get introduced to it from books and the Internet. But it's no place to study."

So are you saying that without a personal relationship with a true teacher there is no hope for you ever understanding Buddhism. (Huineng, did you hear this?)

Brad said:
"But I remember I was coming from a place like our questioner. I’d been sitting every day for at least ten years and yet I had no answers. I was about to give it up completely. And I told Nishijima, “I want to know the source of the Universe!”

I don’t recall what words he used. But he told me something like, “You will.”

So I got back on my cushion and sat some more. And several years later his promise came true."

So what's the answer? Or did you finally accept the that you have no answers.

Brad said:
"But I trusted him. I knew that whatever else he did, he always told me the truth. And that’s what counted. I knew him more than as a teacher. I knew him as a friend."

That's wonderful, I'm happy for you. And now you are doing the same for others, at least that's what I've heard.

Stephanie said
"If whatever one can come to know on the cushion leaves one as F.I.N.E. (Fucked up, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional) as Brad and Jundo, might one be hard pressed to say what exactly makes it worth doing? How can we know if the "truth" we think we find is anything more than another delusion?"

I have no idea why I have spent a lifetime starting and stopping my search for an answer. But that doesn't matter anymore. I am willing to not know anything. I am willing to be as F.I.N.E. a person as anyone. THE TRUTH IS NOT SOMETHING YOU THINK. So as Brad says, SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP.

alan said...

Anon @ 1:10

Whatever you are trying to accomplish, I'm pretty sure isn't worth the time, effort and anger that you are putting into it.

Kyla said...

"I have no idea why I have spent a lifetime starting and stopping my search for an answer. But that doesn't matter anymore. I am willing to not know anything. I am willing to be as F.I.N.E. a person as anyone. THE TRUTH IS NOT SOMETHING YOU THINK. So as Brad says, SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP."

such a great point Rich has made, well worth repeating even though i ought to shut up now and cook dinner.

(dinatarm) is this what Mr. Proulx has been doing and i'm just too slow to realize it!!?? :)

Kris said...

Great post! Thank you! And you can use your illusions for practice off the cushion too. Did anybody mention that zazen doesn't stop when you get off the cushion?

Hendrik said...

Gudo Nishijima on thinking:
(From a recent blog entry)

"In my case I make my efforts to avoid thinking and feeling in Zazen, and so the cosmic mudra does not have any connection with thinking and feeling."


This seems to be very different from what Brad teaches. Where no effort should be made to stop thoughts and feelings since the thoughts and feelings themselves are zazen.

I suppose you should really put the question to them. Still, maybe I can jump in here at this point, to borrow a phrase from a famous tea specialist.

As I see it they're just using different words to say the same thing. Nishijima Sensei's efforts consist in acting to maintain the posture: straighten and lengthen the spine, crown of the head towards the ceiling, chin down etc. In this manner one "avoids thinking and feeling" by virtue of doing something else, namely sitting.

From my own experience the thoughts and feelings may (or may not) still "be there" but they're not the same as before. The thought and feelings are there but you're not thinking and feeling them. You're sitting. In this sense they are Zazen. You make no (mental) efforts to stop them because that would be pointless: you'd destroy your sitting action. Which I believe is what Brad means.

Jinzang said...

you fucking prick...

I'm baffled by the level of anger that Brad evokes in some people.

Kyla said...

some people are just angry and if it wasn't Brad, it would be somebody else they were screaming at.

Lauren said...

Smoggyrob

Congrats on the precepts.....

Funny, I always have read your name as "Smogrobby".

Cheers,

Anonymous said...

clowns, butt buddies, slimy ilk, dickheads, asswipes, idiots, fraudulent scumbag

I'm baffled by the level of anger some people evoke in Brad.

Jinzang said...

Huineng, did you hear this?

If you've read the Diamond Sutra and haven't understood it's significance, you're not Huineng. So you would be best off finding a teacher who understands what a mind with no support is.

Jinzang said...

The book is what it is... What would you like it to be?

Ah, well, the great "sincere confession" that several people here seem to make it out to be.


I took the point of Brad's book to be that everyone faces problems but an understanding of Zen helps you get through them. It was sort of a confessional, because Brad illustrated the point through his own life, but he didn't write the book as a public mea culpa.

Jinzang said...

I'm baffled by the level of anger some people evoke in Brad.

I think I understand Brad. And I think I understand Jundo and Mike Cross. But, no, I don't understand you. Consider me stumped.

Anonymous said...

Jinz, your comment that Brad somehow evokes anger from his readers is interesting. I want to aurgue that brad cannot be responsible for the acts of others.. But after years of reading this blog, I think you might be right.

Jinzang said...

If I left a comment saying that Zen is not a legitimate form of Buddhism, I'm sure a lot of people would be angry, even though I didn't "make" them angry. So I understand that when Brad criticizes someone, people are angry. But some people here aren't angry at what Brad SAYS, they are angry at Brad. Brad strikes me as a more or less typical American Soto Zen teacher who dresses sloppy. And, no, I don't understand the anger.

Anonymous said...

please do not include those of us who offer hard constructive criticism, calling his writings out, with those who call names and have anger

alan said...

Jinzang,

I can, on some level, understand the anger. I just look at the frequent times that I'm angry and generalize.

I'm just baffled by the pointlessness of some of the anon anger.

Usually, when I find myself angry because I feel powerless to change what is "making" me angry. So I'm angry because I want something else.

The posts where people are expressing anger at Brad without expressing a goal for that anger.

What is the goal?

Public apology by a certain Soto monk?

Spanking of same monk?

Everyone migrate over to Genpos web site?

Mass exodus to Treeleaf?

Collective agreement by all posters that the angry anon is(are?) right?

Just seems like a waste of time to call people bad words without giving us some clue of what the desired behavior is.

Rich said...

Huineng, did you hear this?

"If you've read the Diamond Sutra and haven't understood it's significance, you're not Huineng. So you would be best off finding a teacher who understands what a mind with no support is."

Jinzang, I think you missed my point that Huineng understood without any formal teaching. And I'm certainly not Huineng and I certainly value teachers.

PhilBob-SquareHead said...

The tales of Huineng have always been my favorite in the mythology of Zen. Some people spend years in "spiritual" education/training, never attaining what Huineng was born with; good, common horse-sense. And the "source of the universe".....hehehehe.

Book Critic said...


Are you sure you are not confusing sincerity with a carefully crafted non-confession and "the imperfect Zen master" image? Can you be sure?


I think this about sums the whole thing up, the whole Brad thing in fact. He is marketing a carefully crafted image.

By admitting the Zen masters are imperfect (something that almost no modern Zen teacher denies, by the way, and most emphasize as the down to earthyness of Zen teachings) Brad succeeds in each of (1) excusing his own continued roughness as "good teaching" and even a "plus" (2) raising himself into the same class with all the other Zen teachers who don't find the need to be so, well, Bradish (3) winning brownie points for his apparent "honesty" about being human.

In other words, by "non-confessing" his "faults" (in fact, only any minor ones, and only with a half confession) he somehow leaves himself seeming more profound as a Buddhist teacher than all those "fakes and posers" who don't act Bradish.

It is a brilliant marketing gimick.

You have to compare it to, for example, Noah Levine, maybe Ethan and others who really fell down at times in life, really hurt themselves and others but, more importantly, truly reflected on it all, learned from it, confessed it, and made their falling down the basis of their "stumbling human being" Buddhism. You see it in Christian ministers too who admit to being "sinners", but some are sincere and some seem a little too smooth about it.

I am not saying that Brad is a bad person or a bad Buddhist teacher. Far from it. It is just that he is marketing an image, and it just never rings sincere.

Anonymous said...

This blog is just toxic, Brad's posts included.

Ray Guillette said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
american idiot said...

"As someone having grown in the Rinzai tradition with Joshu Sasaki Roshi - in the many years of listening to his teachings, his teishos, examining Rinzai's writings, traditional koan collections - there was never an inkling or insinuation of any superiority to any other school." (reposted from ZFI)

"As Zen first started to flourish long ago in China five schools or styles developed. The Chinese said 'one Zen, five flavours' and monks were free to travel and study among the styles. What mattered was awakening through finding an effective teacher for ones own character. The variety of styles, methods and teachings that developed then and later should be celebrated as widening the range of skillful means available to us.

Japanese Zen, differing from China Korea and Vietnam, tended to sectarianism due to historical factors. Monks were not so free to study outside their school. It was an aberration that has faded in western Zen. These days there are many, many styles of Zen available to us from many countries, including the western ones.

It's like ice-cream - many flavours but they are all ice-cream. Find what agrees with you (works for you) and give yourself to it fully. If you wish try another flavour at another time do so." (reposted from ZFI)

Smoggyrob said...

Hi everyone:

Book Critic said... what Book Critic said.

What teacher isn't "marketing a carefully crafted image?" Seriously, name one (and then go hang out on their blog 8^D ). Take it farther -- which person isn't "marketing a carefully crafted image"? Are you saying you don't? I say "Bullshit". I say the best you can hope for is noticing yourself doing it, and perhaps doing it less often. Do you think the Buddha never thought about what he did before he did it? That he never got angry, wanted anything, or was wrong?

And if you admit you are "marketing", then what the fuck is your point? You don't like Brad? Thanks for sharing, let me write that down. Book Critic doesn't like Brad. I feel so much better now that I know where you stand on the issue. Tell me more...

Rob

Anonymous said...

" (2) raising himself into the same class with all the other Zen teachers who don't find the need to be so, well, Bradish

A good analysis. Actually, by doing this, Brad somehow sometimes even pulls a hat trick by leaving the impression that he is even somehow more authentic, a truer Zen teacher than all the Zen teachers who don't curse, cuss, criticize and screw a student because he owns up to a few minor blemishes.

I don't know if "marketing" is the right word since he is not making money off of it, but he certainly used this as the springboard for his selling books and the whole "Brad Warner, Punk-Zenster" brand image.

I also don't know any modern Zen masters who insist that they are beyond human fuck up. But the other thing about Brad is that, unlike many Zen teachers, is that he seems to say that it is okay to curse, cuss, criticize and screw a student from time to time. In fact, a "real" Zen teacher will curse, cuss, criticize (and maybe screw a student)

Smoggyrob said...

Hi everyone:

Analysis my ass.

1035 said, "In fact, a "real" Zen teacher will curse, cuss, criticize (and maybe screw a student)".

You mean real teachers like Dainin Katagiri, Gyokujun So-on, Robert Aitken, Taizan Maezumi, or Chogyam Trungpa?

Or do you hang out on their blogs too?

Rob

Anonymous said...

The original question to Brad was:

How does one reinvigorate one's practice after losing the illusions that brought one to practice in the first place?

Why is the question posed to Brad?

Because the questioner suggests that it is Brad's 'area of expertise'.

And Brad recognizes that in suggesting that he is the expert the questioner may not quite have lost all those illusions after all.

And yet we kind of need the illusion of a 'perfect person' in order to trust someone enough to believe that it is worth going through the relentless tedium of years of Zazen for no gain in order to 'know the source of the universe' (i.e. to notice how things really are).

But Brad can't help but be honest and suggest that it is not necessary to find a perfect person. That someone who is imperfect can give us the perfect answers we are seeking.

As others have pointed out here the illusion that we can live without illusion is a problem, perhaps THE problem. So the best we can hope for is that we learn to notice that we are deluded and that Zazen may in some way enable this process.

So we need to find a middle way between 'My teacher is perfect' and 'My teacher is imperfect'.

And just sit.

Of course, we can avoid the whole thing by 'not having a teacher'. But then we wouldn't need to be reading books or looking at websites would we?

PA said...

Brad's post got me thinking - well, reminded me of something I've been thinking about for a while...
How many of you have a practice which enriches your life everyday? How many are just sitting because it feels right and might reveal the answers you seek in the future?

It seems pretty dualistic but to me, my practice is starting to boil down to these 2 types: 1 which really seems to be about making changes, simplifying things, and living a more simple and 'slow' life with a focus on Zazen and living a 'good' life. The other seems to be more 'Zen' in that it's in the midst of the chaos of life, a lot of fun at times, stressful at others, noisy, hectic, and again with an attempt to focus on Zazen and living a 'good' life.
Maybe I'm making a distinction that shouldn't really be made, but it seems to me that this Zen in the midst of life, if it doesn't have constant day to day benefits, it ends up being just a vague hope that things will be better in the future. Whereas a slightly removed form of Zen - at a monastery, in a less fast-paced environment, in a 'slower' environment - brings more of the fruits of Zen on a daily basis...And if zen is about now, the fruits should be here now...and they are when I live more simply.

If anyone who's not slightly annoying has any ideas thoughts on this, it'd be interesting.

Anonymous said...

Dear Stephanie,
You speak favorably of therapy and mention Freud. I hope you are not referring to psychotherapy or even psychoanalysis, both of which are mostly bogus (the latter all) and not grounded in science? ( link link )

Freud may have been influential in the past, but these days most of his ideas have been debunked and - fortunately and rightfully so - forgotten in the field of modern mental sciences.

Anonymous said...

'Zen' is an abbreviated version of 'Zazen' or sitting meditation and the 'Zen' people talk about is an irrelevant and unnecessary idea.

'Zen' is something to seek so that you can 'fix' your life. Zazen is something you can do to challenge your tendency to try to fix your life.

My suggestion is not to worry so much about living a slow/good life or finding 'Zen' in the midst of a chaotic life. As you say, such thinking is dualistic.

We clean our teeth regularly by brushing them. If we look at Zazen as one of those snowstorm ornaments that slowly settles we could say that we clean the mind in Zazen.

But we eat and our teeth get dirty. And we live in the world and this create snowstorms.

We keep eating and cleaning our teeth; we keep settling and unsettling our minds.

We can visit a hygienist occasionally and we can sit more intensively at a Sesshin or at home. But what really matters is that we clean our teeth and sit every day.

Recognize the Middle way.

You want permanently clean teeth? Don't eat. You want healthy teeth? Eat well and look after them. You want unhealthy teeth? Eat what you want and don't brush them.

Clean your teeth because the dentist told you to in the past, clean your teeth for a fresh mouth now and clean your teeth for a healthy mouth in the future.

But above all clean your teeth...

PA said...

Anon at 1:27 AM,

Thanks for the response. All good points. The fact that Zen means sitting is something I kind of forget, I guess. Zen isn't my image of Zen...

At the same time, carrying on the metaphor, brushing your teeth whilst running on a running machine isn't as efficient as brushing them while in a quiet more relaxed environment. And if according to Brad and most Zen literature, there are insights and fruits of this practice, surely these fruits will ripen a lot quicker if your Zazen is 'better'. A lot of people have trouble keeping up a good practice because it's really hard to settle after a day full of staring at a computer, talking, meetings, the radio, TV, Internet, etc. And it seems to me that there's a reason monasteries are away from distractions - you need that distance to focus on your practice.
I don't want 'permanently white teeth'. But I do want to do this practice properly rather than just sitting everyday and hope for the best. Sitting has to flow off the cushion and if it doesn't, changes to lifestyle have to be made, or it's just going to get harder and harder to keep up a regular practice.
I guess in short, 'above all clean your teeth' is what I do. But I think keeping them clean throughout the day is more important - and if that's too difficult then rather than telling yourself, 'it's OK to just sit Zazen daily', something else needs to change.

(Oops, starting to ramble :-))

Anonymous said...

Hi PA
Thanks for your kind words.

Don't look for the insights and fruits of this practice (especially quick ripening ones! You will ALWAYS be disappointed.

Do you really brush your teeth or meditate on a running machine? Do you clean your teeth all day so they never get dirty? I guess the answer is no to both questions and that you generally do these things in a quiet, more relaxed environment at certain times of the day.

You say a lot of people have trouble keeping up a good practice because it's really hard to settle after a day full of staring at a computer, talking, meetings, the radio, TV, Internet, etc.

Firstly, this is absolutely true and that's why we practice in the first place. But at least that stuff distracts us from the almost terminal boredom of Zazen and also gives us stuff to 'work' with. By this I mean stuff like 'Bloody hell, there I go thinking about enlightenment, better posture, a better teacher, a quicker path away from all of this'. And like you said, you don't want 'permanently white teeth'.

Secondly, try the mornings. Call me a hair brained hippie but I've found that there is some qualitative difference in Zazen when practiced at different times of the day. So try another time. Or a smaller amount of time at both ends of the day. Just like you clean your teeth.

Whilst this is probably going to sound all 'Zen', the irony is that when you just DO the practice (which is just sitting everyday and hoping for the best) and stop looking for a short cut then your sitting will, as you say, flow off the cushion.

And the irony is that you will probably notice the difference while you are cleaning your teeth.

So, when sitting just sit and when cleaning your teeth just clean your teeth. This is why the Shobogenzo is full of information about cleaning your teeth, eating and wiping your arse. Because Dogen recognized that these activities ARE our REAL lives.

I'm off to Cardiff now so back in a day or two.

Gassho

:)

Anonymous said...

I suspect Mr Arsewipe to be still hanging around, sometimes...

Anonymous said...

"I'm baffled by the level of anger some people evoke in Brad."

Jinz, I think some people misread the emotions of other people in the comments much like they are drinking alcohol or taking drugs. It is possible that some are impaired but it could be that some of these people just have trouble understanding true intention because of their own emotional issues.

astriev

Anonymous said...

"I am not saying that Brad is a bad person or a bad Buddhist teacher. Far from it. It is just that he is marketing an image, and it just never rings sincere."

Bro, You should qualify the above by saying that it never rings sincere to You. To me Brad seems very sincere.

Anonymous said...

That whole Asswipe thing was not one of Brad's shining moments.. It was a very human moment though.

enerati

Anonymous said...

HUNEY!

Mysterion said...

How does one reinvigorate one's practice?

wow... buzzspeak in zen.

There is no vigor in practice.

There is sitting and then there is...

Ray Guillette said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
hemorrhoid said...

Really? There is no vigor in practice?

The you've never heard of VÄ«ryaparamita? Energy, diligence, effort and vigor?

You've never heard of "Great Faith, Great Doubt, and Great Effort" as the three essentials of realization in Zen?

Why is it that so many here thing that sitting on your asses is the only facet to Zen practice?

This is a friggen joke. Go back and study some more - stop trying to be some mystical teacher.

Anonymous said...

I have sat with a number of senior students who had sitting groups and with teachers and roshis.

Brad is right up there at the top of my list.

I respect him. Totally.

But then, in sitting with other teachers for years long before I ever had heard of the 'Saturday Morning Hill Street Sitting Group,' I had had ample opportunity to get to understand what goes on in my mind when I call someone 'zen teacher.'
Only by sitting for years with someone (i'm slow, I'll admit) do I get to encounter my mental constructios of 'sensei' or 'roshi.'

It has been beneficial for me to sit with different groups. I have benefitted immeasurably by sitting with the Saturday Morning Group at Hill Street.

Maybe if I had embarked on my zen path with Brad at the start and ended up with roshi so and so 20 years later I'd have reached this same place.

Maybe it's none of the teachers and it's all the ripening from just continuing.

There is no way to know.

Brad is the best of the better teachers I have had.
But I needed all of them to appreciate him.

He sure will dispell quickly any notion one might walk in with as to preconceived ideas about a teacher.

I think these 'notions' we 'students' carry ultimately are very hard on teachers. The higher the pedestal, the harder the fall. No pedestal is the best.

At any rate I've said it before, I can never say it enough: gratitude, deep gratitude, to all teachers: past, present and future.

lowle

Anonymous said...

I think I have a way, I think I have a way!

Let's have an egg on a spoon race AND a pie throwing contest at the same time!

We'll hold both races in the same space.

The egg on a spoon race will be about any thread of discussion--you know--zazen practice or the like.
Just try to start something at the top (put the egg on the spoon) and see if you can successfully 'hand it off' to the next person taking up relevance to the end!!!!
As if this weren't challanging enough, dear bloggers, let us simultaneously host a pie throw free for all: that is, others at the same time will be hurling all kinds of snide invectives about Brad or Brad's fanboys etc etc.

The Challenge of it all!
Are we up to IT?
Let the games begin....I mean continue...

striall

PA said...

Thanks "Off to Cardiff" anonymous :-)

(It feels kind of out of place to discuss things properly here, so I'll bugger off now. Been helpful though to get someone else's opinion and what seems like a wise one :-))

Hendrik said...

I thought Cardiff's post was spot on too.

Anonymous said...

Part of the manufacture and manipulation of the image are these "enlightened being" hints that he drops in from time to time, usually one per book. Very subtle, but they appear at regular intervals in his writing.

I told Nishijima, “I want to know the source of the Universe!”

I don’t recall what words he used. But he told me something like, “You will.”

So I got back on my cushion and sat some more. And several years later his promise came true.


On the other hand, when he is pushed on the issue, you end up with something like the recent Buddhist Geeks interview fiasco.

We then ask Brad about an article he wrote called, "Satori Porn", where he argues that descriptions of enlightenment that make it sound like an experience just aren't that helpful for students. Even so, at the end of the episode he tries his best to talk about enlightenment, while not describing it in terms of experience.

http://personallifemedia.com/podcasts/236-buddhist-geeks/episodes/48659-pop-buddhism-satori

Anonymous said...

"This is a friggen joke. Go back and study some more - stop trying to be some mystical teacher."

"It feels kind of out of place to discuss things properly here, so I'll bugger off now. Been helpful though to get someone else's opinion"

Same reference point, different karma..

faiter

Anonymous said...

Here are a few quotes from Brad's blog that I compiled a while ago.

WHAT'S THE POINT?

"I guess all I’m really trying to do is make a public record of my own experience in the hopes that it might be of some use to someone. I’m not trying to win followers or converts to myself or even to Buddhism. That’s a waste of time and effort." 10.2.06

"Don't ever accept crap teaching." 9.8.06

"A loosely defined but generally accepted picture is emerging in the West these days of what is and is not 'Zen.' …If I’ve ever given the impression that the things I say and do are somehow supported by some nebulous thing out there in the ozone called 'Zen,' I apologize. I’ve never deliberately set out to do so. Ain’t no such thang anyhow." 10.17.06

"There is no such thing as a written teaching that means exactly the same thing to whoever reads it no matter how hard you try to preserve the words." 11.19.06

"I can't stop people misinterpreting me unless I just shut up forever. And I'm not gonna do that. So, go ahead and misinterpret away. It's not my problem." 9.20.06

"I’m also trying to ruin the ability of people to run scams like this(spiritual/religious scams) by constantly demonstrating that, in spite of being a Zen Master, I, for one, am still a buffoon. …In the end, though, I do this because, in Katagiri Roshi’s words, 'You have to say something.'" 10.2.06

Anonymous said...

ZAZEN

"It(Buddhism) is not based on thought but upon action. It has nothing to do with belief and everything to do with what you do." 7.31.06

"…you can't just talk and dream about Zen. You've got to actually do it. …Far too many would-be Zen practitioners are waiting for some perfect moment to begin practice. Maybe they're hoping the meet the Zen Master of their dreams, or they're waiting for a chance to attend some hot shit retreat way off in the mountains, or they're saving up for plane fare to Nepal. Anything to put off actually getting down to business. The only ones who ever get it, though, are the ones who just say 'fuck you' and get on with it." 7.18.06

"Zazen is perfect freedom. But you can only find perfect freedom in what is a very restrictive practice. It’s ironic. But it happens to be true. Real freedom has nothing to do with vainly trying to tear down all boundaries and restraints. Real freedom is when you discover that the only person who has ever, or could ever, bind you is you. What appears to you as outside sources or authority do not come from outside. …This is very hard to accept. I know it right down to my toenails and I still have a tremendously difficult time with it. I still fight it every damned day." 8.26.06

"It's not really an appealing practice, when you get right down to it. It wasn't terribly appealing to me. But once I got into it, I could see its practicality and truth. It's like dieting and exercise. Dieting and exercise are hard work. But it's really the only way to lose weight. Other methods may be quicker. But they never really work. We all know this. Yet still we hope there might be an easier solution. There isn't. And there never will be. It's inherent in the problem itself. The human body just works like that. Same deal with Zen, which is very practical and very much physical labor." 8.4.06

"Most people, when they do some kind of meditative practice like Zazen, hope to be successful at it. …It may be that the times you feel least successful in your sittings are the most valuable while the times that Zazen feels successful are times when you've gone wrong in the practice. …What you are doing in Zazen is quietly and carefully studying whatever happens to be going on at the very moment of your practice. And by 'studying' I don’t mean intellectually considering it. You study yourself by allowing yourself to be exactly as you are without any consideration. Consideration can only get in the way. It’s a distraction. Even considering your breath is a distraction from practice. Any effort you make to become calm, clear, Enlightened, Awakened, have an 'Opening experience' or whatever you call it, is just a distraction from real practice." 8.24.06

"We are constantly dumping obscene amounts of toxic garbage into our minds and then we wonder why we're so muddled and unable to stay focused. There's a kind of centeredness you get from Zazen practice that you cannot get anywhere else. And there's a power to practice with a group that cannot be found in any other activity. It is truly an amazing thing our buddy Mr. Gotama discovered all those many years ago. You ought to try it sometime." 10.15.06

"If you cannot find the truth of your life right here, you will not find it anywhere else. There is no anywhere else." 4.20.06

Anonymous said...

THE WORLD


"The person who reacts is responsible for his own actions. No one gets let off the hook. That ain't the way this universe works. …Take some responsibility for the things you have made." 4.22.06

"There are burning issues of international and historical importance that you must take care of right this very second and they are not thousands of miles away. They are right here. It's only when you attend to these matters very close that you can do anything about the ones that are far away." 11.13.06

"The world out there is not something apart from you. When it changes in ways you don’t like, who is responsible? Someone else? Not you? Yeah, right. And when things go the way you want, watch out. See what your own reactions really are. See what they are not." 11.9.06

"Peace is established by and large through the threat of violent retribution towards those who would disturb it. I do not like this fact. But I cannot deny it. This is something which we must certainly change. But we will not change it by refusing to face it, by pretending that the way to peace is all beads and flowers and love-ins, and incense and groovy spirituality. It isn't. The real way to lasting peace is to establish a realistic outlook and stick with it no matter if we like it or not." 9.19.06

"We exist for the people and things we encounter as much as we exist for ourselves." 10.10.06

Anonymous said...

IT'S JUST LIKE THIS

"Basically I hate talking 'Zen.' I'd much rather discuss just about anything at all other than Zen. This is because most people who want to talk Zen have no real interest in the subject. They're not serious at all. They'd never even consider sitting on a cushion for an hour every day facing themselves down the way you'd face down an angry Rottwieller intent on making mincemeat out of your internal organs." 7.3.06

"It's(Buddhism) an understanding arrived at by not thinking about anything. This sounds impossible to most people because we assume that the only way we can understand things is to think about them." 7.26.06

"The reason we do not see the truth for ourselves is only because we are closing our eyes, holding our hands over our ears and shouting, 'Lah! Lah!! Lah!! I can’t hear you!!!!' …The pain we experience in life comes not from the outside world and circumstances beyond our control doing awful things to us. It comes from our constant and entirely futile attempts to shut ourselves off from the reality that is actually the largest part of our true selves and to try and live in an absurd and artificial universe of our own mental creation." 10.2.06

"Buddhism has nothing to do with attaining higher states. Higher states are just a fantasy. You may be able to create a pretty fantasy and devise ways of attaining it. But what you have attained is only the fulfillment of your fantasy. …What is really needed is not the ability to induce temporary lapses into so-called 'higher states,' but the ability to understand thoroughly and exactly what this state we have right here and right now truly is (and is not). This is the key to everything." 8.22.06

"'From birth to death it's just like this' means that this moment, this reality, right now is what is really true. Everything else is bupkiss. All your thoughts, ideas, clever notions, fears about the future, guilt about the past, plans, schemes, and all the rest are just images in your head. Nothing more. The only thing that ever really counts is what's right here, right in front of your nose." 9.30.06

gniz said...

I think in 2006 Brad had not yet gone off his rocker.

Kyla said...

"Great post! Thank you! And you can use your illusions for practice off the cushion too. Did anybody mention that zazen doesn't stop when you get off the cushion?"

I really liked this comment from Kris regarding how zazen doesn't end when one gets up of the cushion. Maybe it's obvious but I think it's worth a look at again.

Kyla said...

Oh my goodness, I don't have time to sniff through Brad's blog and compile all sorts of quotes to some end. That was really something to see. Now back to work. Bye.

(overinvolved) oops, that wasn't my catchpa, just a joke

Kyla said...

See how important you've become Brad? Does this mean that like Michael Jackson, when you die people can auction off your Godzilla t-shirts for sums such as $15, 0000? If so, can I get one from you now ahead of the frenzy?

Anonymous said...

Malicious Gniz.. and unfeeling.

- menlyc

chicken said...

Brad is not off his rocker, he is ON his rocker and off his ass.

PhillySteveInLA said...

Best article of yours I've read yet.
I've spent a few years watching my teachers fart and burp and fight and (gasp!)eat meat! Hell, I've gotten into a few yelling matches with my teachers. But that's life. At the end of the day we all just sit.

Perfection is just a word.

Anonymous said...

"Enlightenment is to turn around and see MY own mistake, Other's mistake is also my mistake. Others are right even if they are wrong. i'm wrong even if i'm right. " -Master Chin Kung

"Don't discuss the faults of others. "Others" are just thoughts in your own head. What you see as a fault in someone else comes from your discriminating mind.
Others' faults are just my own. You should return the light all the time. Shine the light on the projections of the mind and get to work crossing them over."---Master Heng Sure

"If you are a true cultivator,
You see not the faults of the world;
If you see the wrongs of others,
You have fallen into the wrong path.
Others find fault but I do not,
If I find fault then I am at fault;
Only remove this fault finding mind,
And all Kleshas would be broken"--Master Hui neng

Don't keep finding fault in others. It is not they are not up to par; it is you don't have wisdom and cannot overcome your own ignorance that is playing tricks on you. --Elder Master Guang Ching

Do not judge or criticize others. Just be at ease and go on mindlessly
like a simpleton or fool. Or, be like one who is struck deaf and dumb.
Spend your life like you cannot hear a thing or like an infant. Then,
sooner or later, all the delusion will disappear.
-VENERABLE MASTER KYUNG-HO

Better to see one fault in oneself,
Than a thousand faults in others.--- The Buddha

Anonymous said...

Here are a few quotes from Brad's blog that I compiled a while ago.

In the case of anyone who has been as prolific writer as Brad for over a decade, in books and blogs, it is no problem to compile any number of good quotes. What's more, Brad really is a sharp and funny writer, and also often a very talented commentator on Buddhism.

Of course, we could also compile a "best of" list of the BS (Brad-shit) and Bad-Brads and Bradanoia quotes of the same time.

Anonymous said...

Of course, we could also compile a "best of" list of the BS (Brad-shit) and Bad-Brads and Bradanoia quotes of the same time.

Please do! Lots of people are waiting eagerly.

Anonymous said...

"Don't discuss the faults of others. "Others" are just thoughts in your own head. What you see as a fault in someone else comes from your discriminating mind.


This shit is true..

John eberly said...

Jan van de Wetering from The Empty Mirror (p 143:)

"So thats what matters. To do your best and be detached. To come to the point where everything you have been trying to do comes to nothing, and be unmoved. Equanimity."

PhillySteveInLA said...

Hey Rob,
Just saw your post...
Congrats on your precepts! Enjoy the lobster bib!

pemeify said...

I really like Gniz, but I think he is mental..

rat said...

I've been reading some about master Dogen's teacher recently. Here is some of what I've found:

Dogen’s teacher, Tendo Nyojo (Ju ching), recommended the koan (Mu) for achieving cessation. His instruction on how to employ it is nearly identical to Mumon’s. (It is interesting to note that Tendo Nyojo (Ju ching) recommended utilizing this koan while sitting in zazen, which, according to the Soto sect was not true of Dogen).

Dogen's teacher, Tendo Nyojo (Ju Ching) said:

"When thoughts are flying around your mind in confusion, what do you do? “A dog’s Buddha-nature? No.” This word No (Mu) is an iron broom: Where you sweep there is a lot of flying around, and where there is a lot of flying around, you sweep. The more you sweep, the more there is. At this point where it is impossible to sweep, you throw your whole life into sweeping. Keep your spine straight day and night, and do not let your courage flag. All of a sudden you sweep away the totality of space, and all differentiations are clearly penetrated, so the source and its meanings become evident."---Master Ju ching (master Dogen's teacher)
(Translated by Thomas Cleary)

From the book 'Did Dogen go to China? by Steven Heine:

Ju ching trained at and was abbot of several Rinzai (lin chi) temples in his lifetime. At the monastery where Dogen met him, there were both lin chi and tsao tung masters who served as abbot both before and after Ju ching.

The text further states that "Ju ching was by no means a strict adherent to one school of thought and refuter of another."

In his later years Dogen began the practice of denouncing the masters and teachings of the rinzai sect (including Rinzai himself) while only praising the masters of his own (soto / tsao tung) sect.

Dogen scathingly attacked the lin chi master Ta Hui, but 5 years earlier had offered lavish praise for him. Dogen also asserts at some point that 'only those in the Soto lineage can have a genuine (enlightenment) experience.'

Apparently Dogen did not acquire his sectarian views from Ju ching or chinese chan at all, but developed them later in his life as a way to promote the soto sect by harshly criticizing it's competition.

You can read this as a justification for sectarian partisanship, division, comparison and denunciation of those with 'mistaken views' (Dogen did it, so it must be ok) or you can read it as maybe Dogen wasn't all that enlightened himself.

Justin said...

That's some interesting stuff there - I think I'll get that book - thank's for sharing.

It's been clear to me for some time that - however he is now interpreted - Dogen's 'dropping off body and mind' refers to a kensho or satori that he realised under the instruction of Master Nyojo.

Justin said...

It also seems to be that - contrary to the way it is sometimes presented - Dogen held Master Rinzai in great reverence

Great Master Rinzai was a Dharma heir of Obaku... When it comes to the great heroic figures who have inherited the Dharma seat of the First Chinese Ancestor, Rinzai and Tokusan are usually spoken of... Truly, someone like Rinzai is not to be corralled with the herd. Those who have been considered outstanding in recent times cannot even compare with those who were in the herd during Rinzai’s time... his ceaseless practice was outstanding. Were we to try to imagine how many forms and how many ways his ceaseless practice had, none of us could come close to the mark.
- Shobogenzo, Gyoji, Hubert Nearman (highlighted by Ted Biringer at ZFI)

Anonymous said...

"It's been clear to me for some time that - however he is now interpreted - Dogen's 'dropping off body and mind' refers to a kensho or satori that he realised under the instruction of Master Nyojo."

Justin: So you believe Dogon's dropping of body/mind was an event rather than a slowly won realization? Either way it is a realization of non-dual truth.

- harlic

aciestio said...

Justin wrote:

"It's been clear to me for some time that...Dogen's 'dropping off body and mind' refers to a kensho or satori that he realised under the instruction of Master Nyojo."

From the records, it certainly sounds like Dogen had a moment of insight, of understanding, of "Oh! I get it", (of "satori"), on hearing the words "...zazen is dropping off body and mind" from his teacher. Happens all the time, just some such moments we attach greater value to.

From the evidence of Shobogenzo it's indisputable that D had a lot of time for Rinzai. It seems he didn't have the same respect for those who developed a school or sect professing to promulgate Rinzai's teaching (particularly the emphasis on the practice of zazen in order to achieve "enlightenment"). - Check out BUTSUDO, (The Buddhist Truth) Chapter 40 and DAIGO, (Great realisation) chapter 26, of Shobogenzo, here:

http://www.numatacenter.com/digital/dBET_T2582_Shobogenzo3_2008.pdf

And yes, maybe Dogen changed his mind throughout the course of his life. I might be a little concerned if he hadn't. Fortunately we can all think and do as we please, even if we suspect Dogen, or Gotama might not approve.

Kyla said...

Love the hat Justin!!!! is that the same "Justin" (previous picture showing little more than and ear justin?)

Kyla said...

HA!!! I now have a "little head" as my sister calls it! ;)

Justin said...

It seems he didn't have the same respect for those who developed a school or sect professing to promulgate Rinzai's teaching (particularly the emphasis on the practice of zazen in order to achieve "enlightenment"). - Check out BUTSUDO, (The Buddhist Truth) Chapter 40 and DAIGO, (Great realisation)

For those of you who don't know him, Ted Biringer is something of an expert on the Shobogenzo. This is what he said about Daigo (ZFI again):

If you give a closer reading to the fascicle you will see that Dogen's denial that the "authentic teaching was not transmitted through the lineages of Linji and Yunmen" was also asserted for the other three lineages--including Soto. Dogen's whole intention there is to convey his conviction that the Buddha-Dharma is transmitted from Buddha ancestor to Buddha ancestor, not through the lineages of particular teachers.

I'd have to research this myself to confirm it, but Ted's is an opinion I take seriously.

So you believe Dogon's dropping of body/mind was an event rather than a slowly won realization? Either way it is a realization of non-dual truth.

Yes. He described a breakthrough prompted by words that his teacher used during zazen. I think enlightenment is a gradual process sometimes punctuated by breakthroughs. (BTW just to clarify, differences between Rinzai and Soto don't correspond to historical disagreements between the so-called 'Gradual' and 'Sudden' schools of enlightenment as we might assume - both Soto and Rinzai emerged from the 'Sudden' school via Hui-Neng/Eno)

Kyla - Yes I am he-of-the-ear. You have a nice hat too.

Justin said...

Sorry, Linji (Chinese) = Rinzai (Japanese)

Jinzang said...

... or you can read it as maybe Dogen wasn't all that enlightened himself.

If there were a contest between Dogen and Hakuin for cranky zen master prize, Hakuin would definitely win.

Justin said...

I don't doubt that Dogen would criticise the notion of seeking enlightenment as something external to oneself and to *this* as a deluded view. But this is something that all great masters would agree on. According to the Rinzai School and the Soto school alike, enlightenment is something that is 'right under our noses' at all times. And yet we need to practice in order to see this clearly.

rat said...

"If there were a contest between Dogen and Hakuin for cranky zen master prize, Hakuin would definitely win."

That wasn't a sectarian swipe, jinzang. I'm not really enamored of Hakuin either and tend to share some of soto's critiicism of his rigid handling of koans. Having said that, I've read all the works of Hakuin that I'm aware of that have been translated into english and haven't found anywhere that he personally names and disparages other teachers or sects in the way Dogen does. But if I've forgotten or you're aware of instances, I'm always happy to learn.

Hakuin was really against combining zen with other practices (pureland or nicherin) for zen students, but seems to actually advocate pureland and other sects of buddhism for those who may not be ready or willing to do serious zen practice.

This tolerance of other schools of buddhism is pretty common in rinzai zen, especially the chinese chan variety. He also has several positive things to say about Dogen. I just don't get the same sense of sectarian oneupmanship that I do from reading Dogen.

Ta hui does have really harsh criticism of tsao tung practitioners who engage in 'dead sitting and silent illumination' but he doesn't paint the entire sect with that brush.

Both soto and rinzai adherents can go astray in their zazen and I think both Dogen and Hakuin (and Ta hui) do a good job of pointing out how the other sect can go wrong. It's like comparing my best apples to your worst in both cases. All jmo, of course.

And I enjoy reading Ted B's works on Dogen too. I recall a debate between Ted and Jundo on another site about whether Dogen advocated using koans during zazen. Ted seems to think he may have and Jundo emphatically disagrees. From my reading of Dogen, I tend to agree with Jundo on that point, though it seems Dogen's teacher may have judging from the comment above re the mu koan.

Justin said...

As my teacher suggested - both Soto criticisms of Rinzai tendencies and Rinzai criticisms of Soto tendencies may be valid.

aciestio said...

Justin wrote:

"...I'd have to research this myself to confirm it, but Ted's is an opinion I take seriously."

I also have read much of what Ted's written over the years, and what Jundo, and others, have said in reply. All are "experts" in that they've read the SBGZ, practise zazen and have opinions, often at great variance with each other, on what Dogen meant.

There are a lot of experts about. If you've read a lot of the SBGZ and practise zazen you can be an expert too. I'm one. And if you research it yourself, you can be one too.

Jinzang said...

I've read all the works of Hakuin that I'm aware of that have been translated into english and haven't found anywhere that he personally names and disparages other teachers or sects in the way Dogen does.

As I recall, he said that the true practice of Zen had died out in Japan except for his lineage. And he contrasts the sleepy Zen practiced by other teachers with the dynamic Zen he advocates.

rat said...

Jinzang, Hakuin was very cranky as you say. He sharply criticized the general state of zen in japan, just as the old chan masters continually criticized the state of zen in china (like Brad does the state of zen in the u.s. lol) but I can find no reference to 'except for his lineage'. Can you provide a quote or source for this?

He frequently gave instructions to both pureland and nicherin buddhists while relating zen to their own traditons...without insisting they were mistaken, wrong or needed to convert to rinzai zen. Nor did he name individual soto teachers in his criticism and specifically praised Dogen several times.

Anonymous said...

Devote effort to the truth which is directly accessible and straightforward. Revere people who are beyond study and without intention...If you practice the state like this for a long time, you will surely become the state like this itself. The treasure-house will open naturally, and you will be free to receive and to use its contents as you like. Fukan-zazengi

Anonymous said...

We should cease the intellectual work of studying sayings and chasing words. We should learn the backward step of turning light and reflecting. Body and mind will naturally fall away, and the original features will manifest themselves before us. If we want to attain the matter of the ineffable, we should practice the act of the ineffable at once.
Fukan Zazengi

Anonymous said...

Proud of our understanding and richly endowed with realization, we obtain special states of insight; we attain the truth; we clarify the mind; we acquire the zeal that pierces the sky; we ramble through remote intellectual spheres, going in with the head: and yet, we have almost completely lost the vigorous road of getting the body out.
Fukan Zazengi

Anonymous said...

Same as it ever was...

Anonymous said...

Quoting scriptures to admonish against studying scriptures. Interesting.

Same as it ever was indeed.

Anonymous said...

There are many skilled minds that read this blog, and I could use some skilled advice. I have a friend who has been struggling with very bad muscle pains for months. She has a gaggle of doctors and physical therapists tending to her body, but her psyche is taking a beating. She can not even tolerate the question "how are you doing" 'cause she's tired of giving a negative answer, yet again. She has no experience wish Buddhism, and no tolerance for esoteric philosophical arguments. She's just a regular Jane Doe.

What, then, in 20 words or less, does Buddhism have to offer to comfort her?

I've studied Buddhism for a couple years now, and I can't think of a thing that doesn't rely on understanding duhka and desire and how its a problem of picking and choosing. That sort of stuff only comforts extreme cognoscenti. Not "normal, real" people.

Christians have very immediate messages such as "God loves you and is caring for you" which could, I suppose, be argued as Buddhist truth, but is there any true human comfort in the Zen tradition?

mtto said...

3:24 PM,

My wife has pain issues as well. She's read many Buddhist books and she meditates. Still, the last thing she wants to hear from me when her arms are flaring up is any version of "it's going to be alright because God, or Buddha loves you." She also doesn't want to hear about how her pain is all in her head. This is a misunderstanding of dukkha anyway. (Having pain is dukkha, but so is not having pain).

In my experience, what Zen can offer your friend is your presence. Don't try to come up with something special to say, just really be with her. That might mean listening, or telling her jokes to distract from the pain, or just being quiet together or something else. The reason why Buddha and all of the other Buddhist teachers said and wrote so many different things is because Buddhism is partially context-sensitive.

I don't know if you are male or female, but for me my first (male) instinct is to try to fix the problem, like a person was a sink or a car. This doesn't usually work so well for me.

Depending on the nature of the muscle pain, yoga and/or Alexander technique might help her. Don't bring these things up while she is in a lot of pain though!

Mr. Reee said...

If I may be so bold, I'd say Buddhism does not offer comfort of any kind. Not in the comfort business.

A buddhist, however, might say 'go see a doctor' instead of holding a hand or such, because it's all about action and trying to do what needs to be done, without a lot of comment or analysis. In this case, maybe writing down the phone number of a pain specialist might be the way to go?

Explaining the pain in philosophical terms is likely to do little except annoy.

Anonymous said...

Anon@ 3.24
mindfulness based stress reduction
mbsr

Justin said...

Anonymous @ 3:19 PM

but is there any true human comfort in the Zen tradition?

mtto said
In my experience, what Zen can offer your friend is your presence. Don't try to come up with something special to say, just really be with her. That might mean listening, or telling her jokes to distract from the pain, or just being quiet together or something else.

Based on my own experience with a wife with a sensitive nature and an anxiety condition I completely agree. Just be there, just listen, just understand and care.

And yes mindfulness based stress reduction may be suitable

Smoggyrob said...

Hi everyone:

...what Zen can offer your friend is your presence. [snip] ...just really be with her.

Nice.

Rob

hendrik said...

Another thing to look into is food. You may want to experiment a bit, leaving some things out of your diet to see if it makes any difference.

Justin said...

I assume also that she has seen medical professionals about this?

Anonymous said...

All,

Thanks for the suggestions so far.

Do she have doctors? Yes -"She has a gaggle of doctors and physical therapists tending to her body, "

MBSR is not an understandable term. It takes quite a few lectures to get into the meaning of "mindfulness" alone, much less how it might relieve stress. That is a solution not a comfort.

"Just really be with her" may be the only comfort. But that is more an instruction for me than a comfort for her.

Is there nothing to tell her about her situation that is easy to understand and amounts to "good news" if not comfort?

This all seems so cold and sterile. How can I possibly "save all sentient beings" if I can't talk to them in accessible ways that have a positive impact now (rather than after 20+ years of cold sterile practice)?

hendrik said...

This is how Nishijima Roshi sums it up:

(1) Don't have intention to overcome pain.
(2) Don't fear pain emotionally.
(3) Accept pain as it is.
(4) Just endure pain at the present moment.

The article is here.

Zen is not about spirituality; it's about acting realistically.

If your friend has chronic pains despite the attentions of a gaggle of doctors maybe she should look elsewhere.

Justin said...

Is there nothing to tell her about her situation that is easy to understand and amounts to "good news" if not comfort?

I think there is a time for reassurance, but what 'good news' could you give her without lying?

Mindfulness is essentially just paying attention without judgement - if she meditates she'll understand that. But, yes more in-depth work takes some time.

This all seems so cold and sterile. How can I possibly "save all sentient beings" if I can't talk to them in accessible ways that have a positive impact now (rather than after 20+ years of cold sterile practice)?

You cannot instantly magic away other people's pain. Just being there for someone makes a real difference.

In my experience, telling someone to 'just accept it' or coming out with glib Buddhist 'wisdom' can just add anger and frustration to the pain, they may not be in the best state of mind to receive it.

Aaron said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gniz said...

"This all seems so cold and sterile. How can I possibly "save all sentient beings" if I can't talk to them in accessible ways that have a positive impact now (rather than after 20+ years of cold sterile practice)?"

Thats the thing, though. Sometimes, the most helpful thing you can do with someone in pain or suffering is to really be there for them, to kind of suffer along with them. Not like a martyr, but as a good friend. Why do you think there are so many support groups, such as cancer support groups and so forth where people who suffer can come together and share in their similar situations? That is comfort. to know that you arent alone.

Maybe...maybe you can suggest a support group, if there is one that fits the bill--and these days, there probably is.

But your friend might not want to hear anything. Sometimes, saying "I know you'll get through this" helps--but its situational. It depends on where they are at and what they want. Sometimes you can even ask--what can i do that would help you right now?

Anyway, there is no magic bullet answer and buddhism wont give you one either, in my opinion. Some jokers will quote useless scripture cuz thats all they know.

Aaron

gniz said...

Also, in my opinion, where buddhism or meditation comes into play is that hopefully its given you the ability to respond fluidly to situations as they arise, not having rigid preconceived notions about what you should say or not say or what is the "thing to do."

My teacher would respond so fluidly and differently depending on when or how I asked him questions, or came for help...i could never predict his answers or how he might approach a subject.

There is still no substitute for critical thinking, life experience, and kindness.

Anonymous said...

"Some jokers will quote useless scripture cuz thats all they know."

Subtly destructive Gniz.. Work in a few shots under the guise of compassion. You are good.

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

Thanks all for your continued advice. This situation really brings me to wonder how "false" comforting is, or isn't. When I think of all the contemporary Christian services I've attended where very sentimental songs are song. They really do help people feel better. Though they initially may come across as "false" and fairy tales they are no more false, I think, than koans or stories of the Zen patriarchs. To the extent Zen only admits the truth of now experienced without "picking and chosing" it must reject Christian and Zen liturgy equally.

Perhaps the most compassionate thing I could do as a Buddhist, is to be with her in the moment, and take her to an uplifting Christian service. After all, the mind leads the body. If she can feel the joy that Christians seem to have such a good handle on, maybe she will have real relief in her body too.

{The above makes me sound like some sort of Christian mole with an alternate agenda. That is not the case. I have experience in both traditions and am truly striving to understand "right action" etc.... in this case}

Thing 1 said...

Ryokan was cool. He liked to play. I think he knew "joy." I wonder what his advice would be?

Pirooz M. Kalayeh said...

Great post, Brad! Loved it!!

gniz said...

Hey, again just my 2 cents. taking her to a christian service might be great--but in my opinion, you should be cautious about taking someone to something or lecturing them or anything that they dont want to do, simply because you have an agenda of helping them.

I think your heart is in the right place, so ultimately you will do what works--but be careful not to burden your friend with your own psychological needs in this situation.

You need to find out what your friend most needs, wants, it might be something simple from you. Let go of your own ideas about what helping is and discover what your friend's idea of helping is.

It will be different for each person and might surprise you.

Sincerely, Aaron

mtto said...

9:11 AM,

Maybe ask her what she would like to do, instead of deciding for her. One of the difficulties of having medical problems, like chronic pain, is it makes you feel out of control. Trying to fix her like she is a problem will only make it worse. She is not a problem to be solved.

"Would you like to go to a religious service of your choosing?" instead of "I'm taking you to X to make you feel better."

Also, it is not true that Zen rejects Zen liturgy. Have you ever been to a Zen service? A lot of convert Buddhists are hesitant to attend traditional Buddhist services. If you are interested in Buddhism, I highly recommend attending services in whatever tradition interests you. Zen isn't just something you read about.

Plaudertasche said...

"How does one reinvigorate one's practice after losing the illusions that brought one to practice in the first place?"
I love that question! What do you do when you realize this is all an illusion? When our practice got us to realize, there is no Nirvana-Hana baby, right here and now is IT. That sure can be a downer...after all we anticipated some fireworks and fanfares, didn't we?! This is it here, now.I say enjoy it otherwise you miss it(!) Don't sweat to get anywhere...you end up at the same place anyway: here/now. I think the issue is people "sit" "pray" take drugs in order to "get somewhere other then here/now" May be they should asked themselves first of all "what is so wrong with being here and now?"
I say after you realize what IS, keep doing what makes this ride more enjoyable. I think sitting is a big part of that enhanced enjoyment, so keep doing it. If you want to get somewhere else, keep on spinning your wheels.

Jinzang said...

Yes, there's only the here and now. BUT our understanding of the here and now is deficient, clouded over by our false conceptions. Even a couple of years of sitting doesn't change that, it takes time to see through them. We can easily mistake what we understand now to be the end of the path. Ultimately what we understand is that all of samsara and nirvana has a single root.

Yes, enjoy the here and now, BUT how we understand enjoyment changes as we progress on the path. As long as the enjoyer, the enjoyment, and the thing enjoyed are seen as different, we still don't understand enjoyment.

Dan_Brodribb said...

Say what you will about the comments section here, it's a free-flowing range of topics.

Keeps me coming back for more.

Plaudertasche said...

You can make your life experience as complicated or simple as you like.
That is the beauty of your illusion!
Its all in the level of how much fight you put up :)
The more you resist the more complicated it is. The less you resist, the simpler it is. Try sitting for no reason at all, just for the experience of it, see what a shift that brings in you mind.

Lucy said...

Pretty effective data, thank you for this post.