Thursday, November 26, 2009

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

OK. My sister and her kids are due here any minute. So this will very likely be my last post for a while.

So far, so good on the first 20 hrs. or so of having the comments section back. I was intrigued by one of the first ones to appear. An anonymous commenter said:

Brad, good to see you Back.

Still seems like you carry a lot of grudges and revenge about a lot of stuff for someone who is supposed to have been practicing Zen.

I guess you don't seem like someone to respect or look up to. Isn't that kind of the least you would want in any kind of Buddhist teacher?


It's an interesting question. I'm not sure if I "carry a lot of grudges and revenge." I honestly don't think I have any at all. If I seem to it's probably because I'm still poor at communicating what I really think and feel.

But that's not the point I'm interested in. It's the idea that I don't seem like someone to respect or look up to, and of this being what one would want from a Buddhist teacher.

I don't think so.

I mean, I suppose I do respect Tim and Nishijima Roshi. But I can't say I ever looked up to them. At least not in the usual sense. I didn't consider them as role models. Not exactly.

I could see that they had found a way to negotiate this life for themselves that was uniquely their own. They had a rare sort of balance that was often demonstrated in ways that surprised me. I remember seeing Nishijima Roshi get boiling mad at someone who lived in his dojo, and yet he did it in a completely balanced way.

But remember I knew these men personally. I sat with them. I ate lunch with them. I watched bad TV shows with them (well, at least with Tim). They were not known to me as a series of sentences typed on a computer screen or videos on YouTube.

You don't get me in my role as a Buddhist teacher here on this blog or in my books. You get me writing about that role. And that's a whole different thing.

Be that as it may, this question seems to relate to the old saw: "How can I recognize a real teacher?" I've been trying to find a way to answer this one forever. I'm not even trying to claim I am the embodiment of a "real teacher." I can't recognize myself as that. I have no idea if I am or not. I never will. Because it's impossible for anyone to make that judgment about themselves.

But I can say with absolute certainty that my teachers were the real deal. And I seem to have recognized that. But how? It was a feeling more than any line of intellectual reasoning that could be explained. I'll keep working on this and maybe I'll be able to say one of these days.

****

I had a funny dream last night. In it, it seemed that my unconscious mind was trying to explain to my conscious mind how it saw Zen practice. Weird, huh? Anyway, the one thing I recall my unconscious mind saying was, "Sometimes the brain just has to dry out a little." Meaning, I guess, that thoughts were like a contamination in the brain and that doing zazen allowed them to sort of "dry up" and cease to be a problem.

Gotta go now!

47 comments:

Harry said...

One, one, ONE!!!!

Mumon said...

Two.

Mumon said...

I could see that they had found a way to negotiate this life for themselves that was uniquely their own. They had a rare sort of balance that was often demonstrated in ways that surprised me. I remember seeing Nishijima Roshi get boiling mad at someone who lived in his dojo, and yet he did it in a completely balanced way.

Some people seem to expect that as we practice we don't get angry; it is of course highly unrealistic to the point of that person completely misunderstanding the goals and result of practice.

But, yeah, once you're more "you" you see eye-to-eye with your teacher, which is literally what respect is.

It's not about being on a pedestal

Unhinged said...

I could see that they had found a way to negotiate this life for themselves that was uniquely their own. They had a rare sort of balance that was often demonstrated in ways that surprised me. I remember seeing Nishijima Roshi get boiling mad at someone who lived in his dojo, and yet he did it in a completely balanced way.

But remember I knew these men personally. I sat with them. I ate lunch with them. I watched bad TV shows with them (well, at least with Tim). They were not known to me as a series of sentences typed on a computer screen or videos on YouTube.


This is brilliant. Brad shows little evidence in his postings of having such unique balance. Yet the reason is because he is a bad communicator and the internet hides his true balance.

Anyway, the whole thing is another snide remark about Jundo's teleSangha. Brad seems pretty obsessed with that these days.

Kyla said...

I think when you "look up to someone" that is literally what you are doing, assuming they are above you and you below. Sure, there are people we meet who we admire and respect but to look to someone to take responsibility for directing our thoughts and behaviours seems the wrong way to go about things for me. I've learned more from making my own huge, screwed up mistakes then anyone telling me what not to do or do.

Lauren said...

Happy Thanksgiving, Brad.

I wish Dallas was closer to Austin. "Thanks for your efforts."

Cheers -

Uku said...

Hi Brad and Lauren and everybody else too,

Happy Thanksgiving. We don't have Thanksgiving day in Finland so actually I don't know what it is but in the movies you eat a lot of turkey and spend your time with your family and get very drunk or hi and in the end of the night you're all banging each others and eating pipari or you have passed out or you're in jail. I think it's also possible to combine all of those (I know it is). Cool. Or maybe I have seen wrong movies?

Happy Thanksgiving or something like that!

Yours,
Marrrrrrrrrrrrkus

P.S. Word verification for this post was bagmeat.

aumeye said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mike d said...

Hey,
I guess I'm just begining this Bhuddist thing. I have read your first two books and is currently reading your last book. I find it strange that anyone looks up to a spacific teacher. I have never put anyone I tried to fallow on a pedistal. It seems if you do that it would just cloud your judgment.

Anonymous said...

Type "dallas zen" into Google
and press "I'm Feeling Lucky"
and you get:

Maria Kannon Zen Center

So, Brad, is that a good place
to learn how to practice Zen?

Jinzang said...

This question seems to relate to the old saw: "How can I recognize a real teacher?" I've been trying to find a way to answer this one forever.

The question seems to make a bunch of people nervous. My guess it's what's behind a lot of the criticism here.

You can't judge another person until you know what they know. There's no way around it and it applies to every kind of activity. Most of the time we don't need to judge others, so no problem. But when we're looking for a teacher that truth bites down hard.

I suppose we could use the Google metric and judge Zen teachers by how much they're quoted by other teachers. Though by the time a teacher is widely quoted, they're probably dead. Good luck taking Dogen as a teacher.

I say you should look for a person who's kind and honest, who seems to have an intellectual understanding of Zen and can convey it to you. At least you won't get swindled, all you'll learn something.

anon #108 said...

Unhinged believes:

"...the whole thing [Brad's post] is another snide remark about Jundo's teleSangha. Brad seems pretty obsessed with that these days."

Nah. Pretty silly to read every comment Brad makes about the diff between RL interaction and internet communication in that way. Seems you might be just a little obsessed yourself, un. Just a thought.

"Brad shows little evidence in his postings of having such unique balance. Yet the reason is... "

Brad didn't say he had "such unique balance", so...no "reason".

I get the impression Brad's trying to be (a little more) honest, with the comments re-instatement n all, but some folks just won't give ya a break. There again - call it as you see it.

Brad Warner said...

Good point Kyla! I never thought of "looking up" literally. I think the fact is my teachers did not allow me to look up to them and that was a great thing.

Believe me, I tried...

Brad Warner said...

And Uku, that's exactly what Thanksgiving is! A pippari party!!

Nathan B. said...

New to the blog, hi all. I wanted to throw in my own perspective regarding teachers, and how to recognize one.

What seems to me to be missing from what's been said so far, is the state and needs of the would-be student. One person's perfect teacher could be a horrible choice for someone else.

Over-simplified example: a kindergarten teacher. The best. Every kid he teaches, walks out understanding everything on the lesson plan. Their hand-tracing turkeys are flawless, and they mumble 2+2=4 in their sleep. If you're 5, he's the best teacher you could ever hope to find.

But if you're not 5...perhaps not so great of a choice.

Maybe Brad's teachers came to be recognized by him as good teachers specifically because their words or deeds bounced around in Brad's head in a way that made a noticeable impact that Brad perceived as positive. Nishijima Roshi showed anger in a way that taught Brad a new way of dealing with or expressing anger, and he liked the new way better than his own. But he couldn't know Nishijima Roshi was a good teacher for him until that kind of interaction played out. Maybe it was subtle and took a while, or maybe it walked right up and kicked him in the nuts. Brad would have to answer that.

Point is, a teacher isn't a teacher without a student. It's a relationship between two or more people, not a state of being an individual can reach by themselves. So recognizing someone as a good teacher is less a judgment of the other person, and more an evaluation of the relationship you have with them. Or to take it a step further: does spending time with this person change you in some way, and do you like the change?

alan said...

Seems darn near impossible not to "look up to" a zen teacher in some respects.

If what you are trying to do is learn about zen, a teacher pretty much has to have more experience both on the cushion and in the books. So in that respect, some pedestal placement seems pretty much inevitable.

Also, since many of the zen stories I read seem to involve the teacher pulling the rug out from under the student, some amount of illusionment/disillusionment looks to be a useful part of the relationship between the two.

Zayin said...

Awesome, it's back :)

Kee Kee said...

Brad,

Today I give thanks for your willingness to share your unique and honest expression of your perspective, your entertaining refusal to compromise your beliefs, your sage words, and for your friendship.

Happy T-giving. --Christine.

Kate said...

My 'home tradition' is Vajrayana, not Zen, but the principle in identifying a teacher is the same: it is for the student to say that someone is, or is not, his or her teacher. The recognition is an important part of being a student. And respecting the teacher is an important part of respecting oneself. But this is one of those things to be discovered in actual practice, rather than sitting on the sidelines making judgements in the mode of either 'fan' or 'critic.' Having a teacher is a practice, like the rest of Zen or Vajrayana. It is also an amazing opportunity for anyone up to the challenge.

Patrick Smith said...

Heh - this is why I don't teach: people keep expecting you to be a teacher. I've barely got a grip on being me.

Are you swinging past Austin anytime?

Best wishes, and happy day of the giving of thanks.

noshimonoriku said...

Thank you for putting up your comments section. I can only speak for myself, but your three books are extremely awesome and they have changed my life. I have always struggled with an extreme anger issue, and my last relationship was ended by me saying that I didn't want her to take her anger out on me anymore. I plan on reading through your books again, and this time taking extensive notes for further practice. No matter what anyone says, please know that I am a much more calmer individual that now practices Zazen regularly and my life is much more peaceful and "Zen" if you will. Thank so much Brad!

Petteri Sulonen said...

While I'm sure it's very hard to know if a teacher is legit, I think it ought to be relatively easy to know if s/he's obviously not legit.

Where does the money come from? Where does it go?

Does the teacher regularly bang his students? If so, are we talking consensual long-term monogamous relationships, wild sex parties, or something in between? Is there coercion or manipulation involved?

Does the teacher claim some unique spiritual demigod-like status? Does the teacher claim to have discovered some new, unique, special type of teaching? How do the students feel about the teacher -- affectionate and respectful, or awed and reverent? How would the students feel about studying with some completely different teacher?

I figure that any legit teacher ought to come up with a mostly clean bill of health on this type of checklist, whereas most scary cult types or people who are only in it for the money would raise more than one red flag.

Uku said...

And Uku, that's exactly what Thanksgiving is! A pippari party!!

Brad, I knew it! I have seen right movies after all!

proulx michel said...

An anonymous commenter said:

Still seems like you carry a lot of grudges and revenge about a lot of stuff for someone who is supposed to have been practicing Zen.

There's a child's saying in French that goes "He who says it IS it"

Anonymice remain faithful to their coward selves.

Anonymous said...

Michel, There is a similar saying in Pennsylvania.. Ours is "He that smelt it dealt it.."

subtu

HG said...

I can only lookup and respect somebody of my own height. "Real" communication only works between equals. But maybe that’s just works for me.

Take care & greetings from Hamburg
Hanz

anon #108 said...

PM wrote (after having made a good point, I think):

"Anonymice remain faithful to their coward selves."

I've never understood this distinction between "us" (names=better) and "them" (no names=lesser), and the righteously indignant cheap shots that get thrown at 'them'. Isn't the point that someone out there is expressing an opinion - does it make any difference at all to the value of that opinion if we don't have an image/name/virtual id to accompany our reaction?

And if so, why?

Harry said...

Who was on the grassy knoll that day?

Regards,

Harry.

Anonymous said...

yes

that grassy knoll

Admiral L. Fletcher Prouty has said quite a bit about it

wish I knew how to posts those links....



pordism

RDeWald said...

After about 30 years of having to change teachers (mostly because I moved) I have a rule of thumb for recognizing the real thing--a real teacher doesn't offer you anything and doesn't ask anything from you. Anytime a teacher did either one of those things to/with me it didn't turn out well.

Is Brad the real thing? I have no idea because I've never met him (and I'm not sure I'd know even if I did meet him). I've read his books and I keep up with this blog. I like to read his writing, but I don't learn anything about zen here, except what one guy that seems to have a genuine practice writes and does on-line. Sometimes that helps me get on the cushion in the morning when I don't want to.

anonymous said...

Yeah, you go prouix michel! Damned cowardly anonymice ruin this blog. Us pretty blue names rule! A blue name assures you are really who you say you are.

I am so f*cking brave!

P.S.
Tell Batman I am escaping Arkham tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Who was on the grassy knoll that day..

Dennis Merzel?

milici

Mr. Reee said...

It is a little-known fact that the tryptophan in turkey meat, when consumed in large enough quantities, can lead to an enlightenment experience.

It usually occurs the next day, when you realize you ate waaay too much turkey the night before. And yet, you begin to crave a turkey sandwich shortly thereafter.

What does it all mean? Only you and the turkey will know.

anon #108 said...

Re anon posting:

I've been having a look back over some of the more extensive comments marathons, and great entertainment they are too...

I noticed one significant, recurring thing: how often posts (usually by two or three particular regulars) which weren't deleted at the time have since been deleted. It seems clear from the context of these deleted comments that the posters, also looking back over their work, have been embarrased by something they've written and decided, rather than be seen warts and all, to protect their reputations. Of course, posts can only be deleted by 'non-anons'.

If I were looking to point a righteous finger at 'cowards'...

pepe la pew said...

There's a child's saying in French that goes "He who says it IS it"

I like that.
I guess this means Brad is a fraudulent scumbag, dickhead, asswipe, buttbuddy......

So much for French children's wisdom.

anon #108 said...

In case there's any doubt, I post (semi)anonymously because I am a coward.

Does it matter? That's my point. It's my business - I don't see why it should bother anyone else.

Ok. Enough, already.

Daniel @ Garanhuns said...

happy thanksgiving dude.. i guess as long as they are talking about you its good, right? thanks for your work..

Zen Gardner said...

I had a funny dream last night. In it, it seemed that my unconscious mind was trying to explain to my conscious mind how it saw Zen practice.

Not too weird. Happens to me in those moments between awake and asleep. Almost seems as if someone "in there" knows what's really going on.

Zen Gardner said...

...for your willingness to share your unique and honest expression of your perspective, your entertaining refusal to compromise your beliefs, your sage words, and for your friendship...

Oh my god this gave me such wood.

*°º¤♥-=|F®äñ|=-♥*°º¤ said...

ADORABLE BLOG...CONGRATS! =D

demo said...

Dear Brad,

I've been amazed by the amount of douche-baggery in your comment section. I think you were right to shut it down. I would argue that it is not an innate feature of cyber-sanghas to have such idle chatter, but more likely a confluence of separate factors that conspired to create a particular culture.
Best wishes in all your future endeavours.

douche-bag #108,000 said...

demo -

So you're amazed at the douche-baggery here? That's a pretty sweeping, unhelpful, meaningless remark. Perhaps, when you have a little more time, you could clarify.

So it was so right of Brad to shut this comments section down. So why do think he opened it up again?

So you think this is a cyber-sangha? Whatever a cyber-sangha is - this ain't it. As BW has made very clear, repeatedly.

So "You would argue..." That might be interesting. Why not make a start? Your "confluence of seperate factors" thesis sounded promising.

Perhaps if you hadn't kicked off with the name-calling...In my book it's the sign of a...

But thanks anyway for your insightful "everyone else is a douche-bag (yeah yeah, you didn't quite say "everyone" did you?), I got nothing much to say - all the best" insights. We could do with a lot more of that sort of thing. It puts douche-bags like me in our place.

Kyla said...

I know, how many times has Brad said this is not meant as a teaching forum but a blog where zazen and buddhism are some of the many topics. He's bee quite clear on his views of cyber-sanghas and not wanted people looking for that here or for him to be his virtual teacher.

gniz said...

I like that Brad's been active in his comments section here. I believe that if he continues to put time and effort into engaging with people's comments, things will be a lot more even-keeled around here.

minxjet said...

Doesn't everyone teach you something, so in that sense....everyone is a real teacher!

lottastrom said...

I've been home sick for a couple of days, and decided to re-read Sit down and shut up! Yeah I know, I'm a dork and it's a crutch and whatever.

Anyway, first: thank you for helping me sticking with my sitting. Reading your books and blogs is a good reminder as to why I'm doing it. Thank you.

Second, somewhere in Sit down... you write "you already know these words, so why are you reading them" or words to that effect. And I've been thinking about that, and my answer is: I may know the words, but I don't know how *you* combine them. And that's what makes it interesting.

Thanks, and peace.

katty said...

I love when my husband and i pass time together specially when we are with all the family celebrating the thanksgiving. Is sure this year we´ll be happy all of us together and enjoying. But i am thankful because my husband buy viagra and he has more self-steem.I am really happy.