Wednesday, January 20, 2010

INVITING THE BELL

Before we begin today, I gotta show you something cool. This is the cover of the German edition of Hardcore Zen that will come out in March, 2010 fro Aurum Books. Neat, huh? I’m looking forward to doing some live gigs in Deutschland this year to promote this thing. Been listening to the German versions of the old Kraftwek albums (kindly provided by Christine – thanks!) to try and get a little of the language under my belt before I go.

OK. Now on to today’s rant.

So the other day we’re about to start sitting Zazen. And I say something like, “OK, let’s hit the bell and begin.” And somebody else mentions that in another Zen group they sat with you don’t say “hit” or “strike” the bell because those words are too violent. Rather, you “invite the bell to sound.”

And I said, “What if the bell likes to be hit?” I mean maybe the bell is really into being struck hard and begs you for it. It seems unkind in such a case to deny the bell what it most deeply wants.

Not everyone wants the same things out of life that you do. Those who want something different from what you want, or from what the majority of people want, are not necessarily sick and wrong and in need of changing by you into something that more resembles what you call "normal."

This, I think, should be obvious, especially to Western people interested in co-called “Eastern spiritual practices.” We are already minority members. So we should understand the difficulties involved in being interested in something that most people we encounter cannot understand.

And yet at Buddhist centers you often encounter these kinds of deeply held prejudices and deeply held compulsions to try to transform the people we meet into something more like ourselves rather than allowing them to be exactly who they are. In fact this tendency is often even stronger in people who are into very niche type things, such as Zen for example, than it is in the mainstream population.

In folks who are into Zen and stuff like that, this compulsion is often buried under layers and layers of unacknowledged self-righteousness. Of course if you’re into Zen you can’t possibly be interested in anything the rest of us who are into Zen would consider weird or (gasp!) kinky.

Much of what I see going on in the world of American Zen comes from a place of deep self-righteousness. It’s that same stifling group-mind that says, “Join us, be one with us, do what we say to do, be the kind of person we want you to be, if you conform to our ideals you will be rewarded with a sense of belonging. But don’t stray from what we consider correct or this will be taken away from you.”

But here’s the deal. If you join, say, a sesshin, in which a group of people decide to practice zazen together for several days living in close quarters, there have to be fairly rigid rules of conduct. This is something that’s atarimae (当たり前)to use a Japanese phrase. It’s something so obvious it feels stupid to even say it.

However, it does not follow that the people who attend such events must try and mold themselves into the kind of ideal person that the lowest common denominator of the group has envisioned.

To me, a bell is something that enjoys being hit. When a bell is struck it is able to manifest itself as a bell. If you fail to strike it, the bell cannot do what it needs to do.

If you try and mask the fact that you are hitting the bell by burying that action under some pretentious euphemism you’re not being honest with yourself or with the bell.

You have a responsibility to play your part. Sometimes you encounter a bell that needs to be struck in order to manifest itself as a bell. If you are too wrapped up in a carefully cultivated image of yourself as a person who would never strike anything, even a bell, then you may ultimately cause greater harm by not taking the action that is necessary.

Current popular culture has created an image of the ideal Buddhist as a timid person who fears causing harm so much that he cannot act when it’s necessary to do so. See this fine example:



It’s funny, I’ll grant you. And I am not at all offended by this ad. The problem is that you meet lots and lots and lots of people who consider themselves to be actual Buddhists who view Buddhism pretty much the same way as the people who put together this ad. People who try and pattern their lives after the caricatures of Buddhists they’ve seen on TV commercials and bad Hollywood movies.

Then the same thing happens as happens with any religion. In order to strengthen your resolve to be whatever thing it is you’re trying to be, you need other people to try and be that thing too. And so the group puts pressure on all of its members to conform. Those who do not conform are ostracized. And everyone left behind feels good cuz they’re surrounded only by like-minded people.

But the real world is not made up of people who think just like you do, or who, to be more honest, pretend to think like they imagine you think so as to win the approval of you and the rest of the group. If that’s what we’re cultivating in our sanghas, we’re not doing anyone any good at all.

Even more slippery than the compulsion to transform others into what we think they ought to be is the compulsion to transform ourselves into our own ideals. But those ideals are always based on the same greed, anger, and delusion we’re trying to uproot in our practice. This is why Zen is aimed at nothing at all except allowing what’s actually present to manifest clearly. Paradoxically, when we do this we can start to see what actually needs changing in our own lives and see clearly what must be done right here and right now to make that happen.

Kodo Sawaki tells a story in which he likens becoming a Buddha to becoming a thief. In order to become a thief you don’t have to practice for years and years to make yourself into the ideal thief. You simply walk into Amoeba Records, shove that new Metallica CD into your pocket and walk out. You’ll probably get caught by the big burly guys at the door. Or maybe you’ll make it. In either case, instantly you are a thief.

Same with Buddhist practice. You become a Buddha by doing zazen. The moment you take the position, you are a Buddha. No need to compel yourself or those around you into transforming into whatever confused ideals you have about what Buddhists ought to be.

This compulsion to change others and ourselves into our ideals is a significant problem, and one that I don’t believe gets very much attention. It’s the outward manifestation of a very deep misunderstanding of Buddhism that actually drives a lot of what passes for Buddhism these days.

If you’re going to say you accept everything, then, dammit, accept every-fucking-thing. Not just those things you find acceptable.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of things that truly need to be changed. But the things that really, seriously need changing are usually pretty obvious.

Buddhism isn’t about a retreat from reality into a kinder gentler world created in your own mind. It’s about making this world a better place by seeing it for what it is and doing what you truly need to do.

161 comments:

Uku said...

Really nice post, Brad. Buddhism is simple, life is simple although our mind ain't making it simple.

Oh, NUMBER F*CKIN ONE! (Was that good Harry?)

Bows,
Marrrrrrrrrkus

Jason said...

I really enjoyed this post. I've been going to SGI meetings lately and during a post chanting meeting, where I've noticed people to be very non-judgmental and open, we started talking about zen. Most of those guys knew nothing about zen and I was introducing the concept of sitting zazen to some of them for the first time. After I finished describing what zazen was, the first thing someone said was, "that's stupid." He then climbed atop his soapbox and proceeded to tell me why chanting is the only way to practice buddhism, and how it has been so important to his life and blah blah blah. I don't think it would have been possible for him to say a better statement to convince me that chanting HASN'T worked for this guy.

But maybe that's too judgmental of me. Just like the bell may like to be struck, maybe this guy likes to be a closed-minded sheep.

Regardless, I think I'll print this article off and bring it to the next SGI meeting.

NellaLou said...

This agrees with the icon I hold in my mind therefore I will accept it without criticism or much thought. hahahahahahahaha. Ohhh I just fell off my cushion. Thump!

T.V.S. said...

Yeah, I'm interested to see how much of this book is a shocked reaction against the idea that "Buddhists aren't supposed to do X, Y, or Z!"

David said...

SGI? You won't get too far promoting zazen among them, I'm afraid. Whoever is in charge will likely show you the door. Nichiren advocated that Zen and Pure Land temples should be burned to the ground and their priests beheaded, and that Zen was the work of the devil. Read more here: http://www.sgilibrary.org/view?page=579

Trevor said...

Brad,
A new book about Buddhism and war deals with some of the same issues that you are talking about. Here's an article about the book that you might find interesting.

http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/religionandtheology/2158/monks_with_guns%3A_discovering_buddhist_violence/

Basically, the author says that Buddhists engage in violence just like any other folks, and that the presentation of Buddhism/ists as peaceful other-worldly folks denies their full humanity and normality.

Hugs,
Trevor.

PS- Have you seen how kick ass my blog is these days?

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

It won't take the link here for some reason.

Go to:

www.religiondispatches.org/search/

and search the archives for "Monks with Guns," and it will pop right up.

Harry said...

Uku,

You got into the spirit, but your bad word made Baby Buddha cry... :-(

That Kleenex monk is clearly in the wrong club, it's the Jains he wants to be a-hangin with.

Regards,

H.

marty said...

great, great post. Needs to be shouted from the mountaintops.

Rick said...

"Invite the bell to sound?" Political correctness blows.

Chris said...

thanks again!
much needed

PhilBob-SquareHead said...

great post

anon #108 said...

With this I agree:

"Not everyone wants the same things out of life that you do. Those who want something different from what you want, or from what the majority of people want, are not necessarily sick and wrong and in need of changing by you into something that more resembles what you call "normal.""

...like Kleenex Buddhists, who don't want exactly what you want out of life, or Buddhism, Brad.

I mean, my kinda Buddhism is very much like yours - Dogen/Kodo/Gudo kinda Buddhism. But those who prefer to "invite the bell to sound" aren't necessarily, as you say, "sick and wrong". We have to allow people "to be exactly who they are". Otherwise we're in danger of burying "those who want something different from what you (and I) want ""under layers and layers of unacknowledged self-righteousness".

If that's what you're saying - I agree.

As if that matters!

Emile Sorger said...

Some bells like to be struck, some people like to complain about words... so where is the problem?

anon #108 said...

I mean -

"Really nice post, Brad. Buddhism is... "

"...maybe this guy likes to be a closed-minded sheep."

"great, great post. Needs to be shouted from the mountaintops."

""Invite the bell to sound?" Political correctness blows."


...All sounds to me like expressions of "deeply held compulsions to try to transform the people we meet into something more like ourselves rather than allowing them to be exactly who they are."


Tricky aintit!

Captcha - hylow. Yep. All depends on your point of view.

Publicus said...

I thought this was your best piece of writing so far. I think you are right about the tendency for any group to pressure potential members into an 'acceptable' person. It sucks and it's true. Thanks.

Jinzang said...

And I said, “What if the bell likes to be hit?” I mean maybe the bell is really into being struck hard and begs you for it.

This is the pathetic fallacy.

Somebody else mentions that in another Zen group they sat with you don’t say “hit” or “strike” the bell because those words are too violent.

Isn't this Zen, where the monitors sneak up behind you and smack you with a stick if you're slumping? How did these gentle souls get involved with such a violent religion?

Zayin said...

Nice post. I dig it.

Jomsviking said...

Hey Brad, I was just wondering if you know if there's any non-sheisty Buddhist groups in Florida. >.> It's a long shot, but I figured I'd ask. So far the cheapest sittings I've found to attend in a group come for the low karmic price of $35 a month. Is it standard practice to charge money for sitting a regular session that's not the whole weekend sesshin thing? Thanks.

Jamie said...

You say pathetic fallacy, I say touch of animism.

On the whole, this exchange reminds me very strongly of similar difficult conversations I have had hundreds of times with fellow sociology majors. Should there be limits to cultural relativism? Does agency exist? Is alienation a fact of life in capitalism which is impossible to prove or disprove since most everyone carries around false consciousness?

Absolutisms absolutely don't work.

;P

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

Sociology - the study of group behavior.

One does not a group make.

Buddhism - the study of oneness.

Charlotte in Charlotte said...

I'm so glad you're out there. As a 40-something librarian black belt Buddhist living in the south, I'm not fitting in anyone's box, including my own. Thanks for the upper!

Harry said...

I can't believe that Jinzang said that Brad has a pathetic phallus. This place is really getting to him.

Regards,

Harry.

Anonymous said...

that's not a phallus, Harry

it's a striker to ring those belles

Anonymous said...

p.s.

only the belles who really wish to be rung

belles have their way to wring things too, you know..but that's another post of another stripe altogether

Ben Newell said...

I like turtles.

floss said...

Jinz: Don't be so frigging literal.. Brad is close to revealing what turns him on sexually. No one besides you thinks he is talking about a bell.

Pausha said...

I like this post. I thought of something along the same lines myself, not so long ago:
http://godpsychology.org/be-good/

Anonymous said...

Uku said...

Really nice post, Brad.


Oh Uku. You are such a bloody ass kissing group conformist!

And I said, “What if the bell likes to be hit?”

Ya know, I have always wondered when reading this shit, and the Suicide Girls and the bondage stuff. Maybe little Brad is hinting that he likes to be spanked or do the whip thing?

No problem.

Mysterion said...

Twisted Xtian take on the Boxer Rebellion.

"British merchants - especially the East India Company - saw their chance in the import of opium. As the import of opium had been prohibited by the Chinese government during the 18th century, the only way to make profit by selling Indian opium was the smuggling business. During the 1830es, the British merchants systematically built up their opium import system and thereby met the huge demand of Chinese opium consumers and addicted people." source

When Buddhist Monks saw the systematic destruction of the Chinese culture by the Brits, they fought the Brit. Army with their bare hands - thus being called "boxers."

"The so-called "Boxer Uprising" (Yihetuan 義和團 "Group for Justice and Peace" or Yihequan 義和拳 "Fists...") in 1900 originally was only a peasant uprisings. The was the puppet government of China, the Manchu, and only later it redirected against foreigners. The "fist fighters" (Buddhist Monks) occupied Beijing and Tianjin where they killed corrupt Europeans and the Christians who supported them. An international "Joint Army of the Eight Powers" Baguo Lianjun 八國聯軍 relieved Beijing. The Boxer Protocol (Xinchou Tiaoyue 辛丑條約 *Xinchou is the year) imposed a heavy burden upon the Qing government." ibid.

The U.S.A. and others saved the Brits. The subsequent treaty stated that the Brits could sell opium where ever they wanted when ever they wanted to whoever they wanted. Thus opium became "the China Trade." The U.S.A. came to the rescue of drug dealers - hardly the first or last time...

BTW, check THIS out.

Mysterion said...

omitted word

The TARGET was the puppet government of China, the Manchu,

Anonymous said...

Hey Brad, I am curious about something that to me feels a related to this post. It seems that if you compare the Zen versus the Tibetan traditions, you find a lot more exercises geared towards training some particular aspect of one's personality (for instance, the ability to feel compassion or to counteract feelings of jealousy) in the Tibetan tradition. I realize that sometimes compassion is not the stereotypical version that people have in mind, but can involve a lot of force. However, what is the reason Zen does not seem to have these kinds of exercises? Do you view them as some sort of self-improvement, self-help stuff that is not what Buddhism really is about at the core? Or does cultivating insight through sitting zazen ultimately lead to a more compassionate attitude too? Some people make a distinction between wisdom and compassion here and say that both are needed. I would appreciate your thoughts! Thanks!

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

'And somebody else mentions that in another Zen group they sat with you don’t say “hit” or “strike” the bell because those words are too violent. Rather, you “invite the bell to sound.”'

This reminds me of fluffy new agey aikido-bunnies who think Aikido is not a martial art. I can just imagine them saying: "Don't say, 'throw your opponent' rather 'invite him/her to the ground.'" I say: dump them on their ass as fast as I hit this bell. Oops! Did I say hit? I meant, invite to sound. DONG! SPLAT!

Anonymous said...

Throw the bell at their goddamn head. It sounds, they wake up, everyone's in the moment and reality is experienced.

Trappings. God save us.

Kevin said...

Brad:

"It’s the outward manifestation of a very deep misunderstanding of Buddhism that actually drives a lot of what passes for Buddhism these days."

The same can be said for people like Brit Hume or Pat Robertson. Perhaps all religions have people who get it and people who don't.

Anonymous said...

A number of goody two shoes type folks want to do things the 'right' way and they look to someone in authority to tell them

The fact is lost that whatever might be considered 'right' is a singularity arising from the situation/circumstance/participants etc. which comprise NOW out of which what one is to do arises.

People want a cookbook, they want to follow receipes

they want commandments, precepts

but if you know how to cook, you don't need a cookbook,

it isn't the precepts that get followed, it is something else: the law of the universe, or something like that

Brad's zazen is a DIY cook school: no receipes

The first time I heard the phrase 'invite the bell to ring' I was charmed by the phrase which grew too precious with use, the overuse of which makes it a smarmy 'and butter wouldn't melt in her mouth' type of phrase.

The person who originally said it, perhaps not even a native English speaker, might have been trying to convey their own relationship to the object 'bell'
this would have been their relationship
and describing it might have been helpful to the rest of us

Sit around a number of people in charge of striking the gong or bell or han, or whathaveyou and you will learn a great deal about them: we can not help reveal who we are in everything we do--every little thing.
We reveal ourselves all the time: Nishijima Roshi says zen is a philosophy of action and it is quite true that what a person does--what they actually do--reveals their beliefs more than anything they might say.
In fact, the surest way to know someone's philosophy is to watch what they do, how they do it...
The bell: what the bell gets out of me in that brief encounter is as revealing as the sound it makes
At least this is how I see it

cholatm

PhillySteveInLA said...

Seems like everybody needs euphemisms these days. Softening language. It merely obscures the point and brings us farther from immediate reality.
Every morning(okay, almost every morning) I get up at 4:30 and shortly after that begin to lead the Morning Bell Chant.
In the evenings, though less often due to my work schedule, I lead the Evening Bell Chant.
Not once have I invited the bell to sound, or sent it any formal notification of any sort. I sit down there and hit the crap outta that sucker. The bell hasn't complained yet.
Like Zen teaching, the sounding of the bell should be a direct strike.

Ran K. said...

(I have got a lot to write. Perhaps I will write to Brad by mail. - However: -)

I think the bottom line is that people like you (i.e. - Brad, - in case it's not understood) should say to people who don’t have real understanding of Buddhism that they don’t.

At their own center I mean – people they know personally.

Don’t be nice.

People own ignorance should be clearly and straightforwardly presented – or if impossible – declared - to them, - and then these things won’t happen.

People often believe they acquire “Zen” understanding far before they do, westerners more than Japanese, and I might imagine Americans more than others, - and the teacher is the one to be held responsible for it and to tell them it is not so if necessary.

He is the one to correct it and I believe this is the point where the phenomena Brad is talking about could be corrected.



I have always liked heartlessness.

anon #108 said...

UNBELIEVABLE!

Perhaps my first couple of comments were too subtle. Most of you are still happily accepting what you hear Brad saying - as NellaLou wrote - without criticism or much thought because it agrees with the icon you hold in your mind. Unbelievable!

I think the bell needs a bloody great battering.

It seems the majority of you agree with Brad that "invite the bell..."/Kleenex Buddhists have got it ALL WRONG. They're laughable! They invite derision. They just don't get what we all get. They need a good shake up.

ARE YOU ALL STUPID?

Brad wrote: "Not everyone wants the same things out of life that you do. Those who want something different from what you want, or from what the majority of people want, are not necessarily sick and wrong..."

DO YOU GET THAT?

Brad wrote: "...at Buddhist centers you often encounter these kinds of deeply held prejudices and deeply held compulsions to try to transform the people we meet into something more like ourselves rather than allowing them to be exactly who they are."

DO YOU HEAR THAT?

Or are you so stupid and buried "under layers and layers of unacknowledged self-righteousness" you think it doesn't apply to YOU?

Brad wrote: "But the real world is not made up of people who think just like you do".

DO YOU UNDERSTAND THAT?

Brad wrote: "[the] stifling group-mind that says, “Join us, be one with us, do what we say to do, be the kind of person we want you to be, if you conform to our ideals you will be rewarded with a sense of belonging."

So true. THAT is EXACTLY what's going on with THEM. But not with ME. Not with US. Why? Coz we're immune to stifling group mind. Anyway, we got it right, and they got it wrong. They're only doing it the wrong way coz they're not immune to group mind...If I wasn't so pissed off at them, I'd be full of compassionate loving-kindness for the sad deluded fools.



Look, I happen to share Brad's frustration with these poor deluded souls who don't get what I get; who don't do it my way; who want everybody to do it their way - but I'm not so deluded that I don't see exactly the same attitude in myself; exactly the same "compulsions to try to transform the people [I] meet into something more like [myseslf]".

Brad wrote: "No need to compel yourself or those around you into transforming into whatever confused ideals you have about what Buddhists ought to be."

Well, no harm trying. We should say what we sincerely believe to be true. We should engage in debate. But, FUKSACHE! - don't feed the delusion that you're somehow different. Somehow RIGHT.


Layers and layers of deep self-righteousness...Thank God I'm not like that.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm missing something, but isn't Brad trying to make the guy who wanted to "invite the bell to be struck" (or whatever the exact words were) to be just like him? Why not just accept him as he is?

I mean, doesn't this work both ways?

atb,
Flarg the Gerbil of Death

Anonymous said...

Brad, write more like this or write some more about this. It's posts like this one that keep me reading you. Damn fine stuff.

word verification = glyrap (which sounds violent too)

The Barking Unicorn said...

LMAO! Brad, you wrote a beautiful post about not forcing others to conform to your ideals and killed it with one sentence:

"You become a Buddha by doing zazen."

That's not the only Way, of course.

anon #108 said...

Well spotted, Flarg the Gerbil of Death!


Yes, it does work both ways. Or rather it should - sad fact is it very rarely does.
Thanks for putting it succintly. I prefer to rant self-righteously.

Anonymous said...

I came to believe that people turn everything "buddhism-/zen-related" into something so complicated - I sure as hell turned into something complicated my first few years of practice.
But nowadays I have to admit that there's a high probability that it's really just way too simple.
Perhaps people should throw in a couple of therapy sessions with a good shrink to get a better understanding of how the mind works (still practicing zazen of course ;) )
But I'd basically say: jeez people, don't take yourself so seriously...

The Barking Unicorn said...

1. Every honest, true thing is simple.

2. Every apparently simple thing is not honest or true, necessarily.

3. The more complex a thing is made, the less likely it is to remain honest or true.

4. If you can't identify the simple, honest truth in a thing, avoid it.

Works for everything from toilet paper to metaphysics.

jithip said...

Hey anon at 4.10 am,
Why on earth would I go see a shrink if I didn't take myself "seriously"?

Jeez.

and to Barking Unicorn,
You're one of those "invite the bell/Kleenex" Buddhists, right? No? Whatever. What you wrote is way over my head. Try saying it simply.

anon #108 said...

Hi anon @ 4.10 -

I don't see anyone taking themselves "too seriously". Seems just about right to me - a little debate, a little humour, a little ranting.

Even you chipped in.

Rich said...

Words are problematic because they mean so many different things to so many different people. The important point is the action of ringing the bell and the action of hearing the sound of the bell are the same for all.

Happy Ringing! It's time for me to get a bell.

amanda said...

If you believe in freedom of speech, you believe in freedom of speech for views you don't like. Goebbels was in favor of freedom of speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you're in favor of freedom of speech, that means you're in favor of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise. -Noam Chomsky

Or, more precisely:
If we don't believe in free expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all. -Ibid.

Great post Brad.

anon #108 said...

Amanda -

I hope Brad extends that freedom of speech and expression to the Buddhists who prefer to "invite the bell to ring". I think he does, even though he thinks they're WRONG. But he didn't say so.

That's why I don't think it was such a great post.

Anonymous said...

.


Bah!! May you all be reincarnated as bells in your next life!

Mr. Reee said...

How does one 'invite' a bell to ring anyway? Do you tickle it under the chin or something?

Cootchie-cootchie-coo...

Nope. Didn't work.


Ooh--cool... the captcha is 'xeding'

Ding.

Anonymous said...

a bell is not a bell until you ring it....


in a pinch mine could serve as tea cup


I guess it could be a metal helmet for my cat...if I had one

the discussion was not about the bell, a bell

it was about a phrase used to describe the interaction with it

Sometimes when I drive down the road, it is my car wheels spinning and the road is lying still
sometimes when I drive down the road, the road and the earth under it spin away like a treadmill and my car and me are just carried along

'invite' is actually a lovely verb
on occasion it might even be accurate

I think the original speaker who said 'invite the bell' may actually have had something to say

I think someone who hits the bell and then talks about inviting the bell is full of it

It really is best, when speaking of things, to speak from one's own experience, or to quote or give credit to the original speaker if the concept/words are not your own or do not convey your own experience

In a particular sitting group, the leader there seemed to bring self-consciousness to everything, even commenting in group about the quality of bows different people made in front of the butsudan...

self consciousness is a type of awareness, but it is an awareness which misses the point

I invite you all to sound off making your own particular noises just as I have

Mumon said...

Holy crap, business-speak has infested the zendo! To "invite the bell to sound" is about as sensible as "taking an idea shower" instead of brainstorming, also, presumably, because it's "too violent."

The Barking Unicorn said...

Rich said, "is the action of ringing the bell and the action of hearing the sound of the bell are the same for all."

Unless you're paraplegic, or deaf. Not everyone experiences this t-shirt the same way, either :-)

http://is.gd/6JX8N

Mumon said...

P.S.
Thanks for the Kanji; 当たり前 is a great word.

Yeah, some of us don't like granola, and the idea of herbal tea for sarei, especially during sesshin sort of misses the point.

Anonymous said...

ding dong

Kevin said...

Anyone here ever read "When will Jesus bring the pork chops?" by George Carlin? He addresses this whole sissy-fied euphamistic language thing pretty accurately.

Blake said...

My Zen group sends e-vites to the bell and hopes it responds.

Great post, by the way. I would like to point out, also, that there are people "out there" who think that since you are part of a regular Sangha that you have to be a zombie and so they preach against it. Definitely not the case.

Jacob Thomas said...

Great post Brad... very well spoken. It's amazing how many times you hear "well! that's not very Buddhist now is it!"

wtf?

Fugen said...

Hi.

Great post.
Thanks.

Mtfbwy
Fugen

anon #108 said...

Well, perhaps this genteel Buddhistic pussy-footing is more prevalent across the pond.

If so, mebbe I should hush ma mouth.

BUT NO! -There's room in my parking lot for genteel pussies too. Even if they do get on my tits.

I mean...wtf?!

mineon said...

"Not everyone wants the same things out of life that you do. Those who want something different from what you want, or from what the majority of people want, are not necessarily sick and wrong and in need of changing by you into something that more resembles what you call "normal."

Are you talking about the Taliban? I know they like to strike their belles..

Brad Warner said...

Jomsviking, $35/month sounds pretty reasonable to me if it's a center and they gotta keep the heat and lights running. We don't charge a regular fee like that. But I've often considered doing so because of the many times I've had to cover rent etc. from my own money.

Anonymous 7:13, I am pretty much always spanker not spankee.

Anonymous 8:32, in Zen we generally don't have such practices. Some Zen Centers in the West have incorporated them from other Buddhist traditions. I think they're kinda missing the point of Zen if they do that, though.

Anon #108 & 3:35 AM, you're obviously not as Supremely Enlightened as me!

Brad Warner said...

P.S. Nice people are OK.

dcs said...

I've never commented here before, but I wanted to chime in on a pet peeve of mine: you should write "try to" instead of "try and." It's grammatically debatable whether "try and" is ever acceptable, but to my ears, it's grating, and it's all over this otherwise lovely blog post!

I guess I can't help but to try to mold others to my way of thinking...

P.S. what's with the stink of zen in these comments? :-/

anon #108 said...

dcs inquired:

"what's with the stink of zen in these comments? :-/"

That'll be the stink of zen.
Try and ignore it.

Anonymous said...

Acceptance? Approval?
From self or from others?
So should I ding or dong?
Do right and don't do wrong!

#108 said...

Hi! I'm anon #108 and I am sooooooo right! I want to obsessively leave more comments on this internet blog to make sure that you all know how STUPID and DELUDED you are... and how I'm sorta deluded too, but my delusions are better than your delusions because I told you about them first, and you can't call into question how I act upon my delusions because I've already admitted I have delusions. Oh, and my delusions lead me to yell at everyone and tell them they're stupid, and that's better than your delusions where you think it's a good idea to let people to be themselves and not feel pressured to fulfill this sometimes bullshit image of the good practitioner.

Blah blah blah blah blah.

anon #8 said...

By the way....my real name is Juan Kerr!

anon #8 said...

I lost 100 places because of my unenlightenment.

Ran K. said...

to dcs at 8:43 AM:

I think you're a great example to what Brad was talking about.

You're just wrong.

Language has a spirit. "Try to" has its spirit and "try and" has its spirit.

"Try and" implies an assumption of a possibility of success.

If you understand the spirit of "try and" you know its grammatical acceptance is never debatable.

I went all over his post and in each place "t.t." was in a place of "t.t." and "t.a." was in a place of "t.a.".

It takes a sort of sensitivity to sense the true spirit of a language.

This too comes with practice.

No offence,
Ran (and I am an ESL)

anon #108 said...

Hi #108 -

Here's my obsessive comment/reply; the one you've been expecting:

You're right, I can be a silly sod - who thinks he's right. Does that never happen to you? But no, it doesn't make my delusions better than yours. And it doesn't make me right. That was my point.

Yes, I am aware of my shortcomings. Some of them. Sometimes. What you gonna do? That's a good thing.

But you do seem to badly misunderstand my intent. In my comments on this post I've been trying to point out that it's far too easy to call other people STUPID and DELUDED (as I thought to an extent Brad had done) - for they, as you demonstrate, will think just the same about him/us/me.

I guess it was the post at 3.17aM, the one with all the shouting, which really annoyed you. I'm afraid it was an attempt at satire. A kind of joke. I think they it call ironic hyperbole. Well I do. Never mind. I don't usually write that way. I did it to make a point, which it seems was completely lost on you.

So clearly I've failed - with you. Now you don't like me. Can't win em all. I blame myself. You should blame yourself ;-)

anon #108 said...

Yes #8. I am a wanker. I enjoy writing stuff and seeing it in print. Makes me feel important and clever.

Ha! What a prick!

Michael James Gibbs said...

Great post! I've recently experienced how being "kind" and avoiding conflict can lead to some serious problems for myself and others. Everytime I have fallen into such ideological Buddhism the universe has destroyed it. It's like putting ideas into a box and labeling it truth. But the universe doesn't give a shit about what my ideas of truth is. It hurts like a sonofabitch each time this box is smashed to smithereens. However, it allows me to wake up (after the shock and confusion settle) to reality. At least for a moment, until I build another box and the process repeats. I recently had my truth (or faith) box smashed, but the confusion is starting to settle and I'm seeing more clearly.

cactub said...

Is there more than one #108 or is it only him having some fun with us?

anon #108 said...

All the "anon #108" posts are me: anon #108

I am not "#108" (at 10.12am) - although that would've been cool, but s/he beat me to it.

I am not "#8" (@ 10.40 and 10.41), so I don't know if s/he/they are the same as "#108", or each other.

Honest.

"old dog" said...

I was taught that the dhyani mudra, hand-within-hand when meditating, was a reminder of Compassion and Wisdom together. Wisdom without compassion is an evil genius, compassion without wisdom is a doormat.

I sit with a Thich Nhat Han group. They invite the bell to ring. It seems to be part of an overall anti-violence theme withing his teachings.

Your mileage may vary.

I have a bell in my workshop, made of a pipe that used to be part of a crummy band saw before I invited it to be recycled. I strike that bell very very hard at the beginning and end of a workday. The noise wakes up the rest of the tools and reminds them that inferior tools get no compassion.

I try to be compassionate with animals, within reason. I apologize to spiders and say "sorry, better luck next time" as I squish them in a non-antimicrobial store-brand tissue.

We exterminate microbes by the trillions so that we can shit into drinking water.

Smack or invite the bell, then shut up and sit still.

Anonymous said...

"Buddhism isn’t about a retreat from reality into a kinder gentler world created in your own mind. It’s about making this world a better place by seeing it for what it is and doing what you truly need to do."

Many American Buddhists want to practice the compassion of watering the flowers, but not many seem to want to practice the compassion of pulling weeds.

shibes said...

Brad: can you talk a little about your interest in S&M? I was under the impression that this type of fantasy play was at odds with be-here-now type Buddhist teachings.

Rich said...

The Barking Unicorn said...
Rich said, "is the action of ringing the bell and the action of hearing the sound of the bell are the same for all."
" Unless you're paraplegic, or deaf. Not everyone experiences this t-shirt the same way, either :-)

http://is.gd/6JX8N "

They feel the vibrations - you just need a really big bell -)
I can ring a bell holding a pencil in my mouth. -) I love that T shirt, but why discriminate -)

Matt said...

I'm trying to imagine a way that Brad could have talked about this without "inviting" (seriously!) the obvious counter-point of "hey don't be like them" is a form of indoctrination.

Again, I think that's being taken to a not-very-useful extreme. I think we all know what Mr. Warner here means.

Seth said...

Good Post, well said

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

Esmeralda!

Fat Ass Buddha said...

"Before we begin today..."

is beginning

LOL

anon #108 said...

Hi Matt -

"I'm trying to imagine a way that Brad could have talked about this without "inviting" (seriously!) the obvious counter-point of "hey don't be like them" is a form of indoctrination."

If I understand you...

Brad could have said something - just once - like "Of course, that goes for me and my 'zen Buddhism' too" . The fact that he didn't made me query whether he realised how every very good point he made about other's "deeply held prejudices" applies equally to him/all of us.

I thought that was worth pointing out. But you're right - whenever there's an opportunity to be devils' advocate or defend the underdog, I do get a bit "extreme".

Jinzang said...

Brad said:
Much of what I see going on in the world of American Zen comes from a place of deep self-righteousness. It’s that same stifling group-mind that says, “Join us, be one with us, do what we say to do ..."

And anon#108 responded:

... made me query whether he realised how every very good point he made about other's "deeply held prejudices" applies equally to him/all of us.

Surely Zen is not a free for all where every idea and approach is good as another. There is delusion and there is enlightenment. It's the job of a Zen teacher to distinguish the one from another. If we're upset with conformity, we're upset with foolish conformity that doesn't make the distinction properly. It's no fault to point out the truth.

Spanky said...

brad said Anonymous 7:13, I am pretty much always spanker not spankee.

I don't think he's kidding.

You ever notice how the punks or the hippies were all rebels against the system, but dressed pretty much alike.

anon #108 said...

That's not exactly a fair edit, Jinz. Brad said much more than that, as did I. The response you quote was made to Matt's point, not that point of Brad. But still...

Yes, we must call it as we see it. But I suggest we have to be careful when we feel sure that our way is the right way. And we all do feel that, (almost?) all the time.

"Surely Zen is not a free for all where every idea and approach is good as another."

Well... for someone, somewhere, some idea and approach other than our own is not only just as good - it's even better! That's why not all zen Buddhists have the same ideas and approach. It's why one zen Buddhist doesn't have the same ideas and approach as the guy sitting next to him.

Is that simply coz one or other of them is deluded?

"It's no fault to point out the truth." That's a big ask. I'd rather say "...express an honest opinion".

I agreed with every point Brad made, Jinz (see my rants above). I only wished to point out, as Brad expressed so well:

"Not everyone wants the same things out of life that you do. Those who want something different from what you want, or from what the majority of people want, are not necessarily sick and wrong and in need of changing by you..."

I feel pretty much the same way about the kind of ideas and approaches Brad critiques as he does. That's why I sit with a Dogen Sangha group, and not an "invite the bell" group, or a Tibetan Group. I couldn't have it another way. Those guys piss me off. I've a feeling I'd piss them off too. Thank god I'm on the side of truth.

THOMAS AMUNDSEN said...

"You become a Buddha by doing zazen. The moment you take the position, you are a Buddha."

I don't take that teaching literally.

anon #108 said...

Mr Amundsen, sir -

You don't get it.
You are deluded.

Anonymous said...

Who doesn't love a good spanking every once and awhile? It's like spicy food. Hurts so good!

Also anon #108, please knock it off. Would you be this rude if we were all in person?

anon #108 said...

Knock it off? Stop talkin to me then!

And Rude?
RUDE?

Please tell me you realize my comment to Tom Amundsen was sarcastic.

But your ok cos I'm going to bed now.

Nite all. Big hugs.

dingsi said...

6.28pm:

Whatever you think of anon 108 (used to be "Really" and "some brit" Im pretty sure) he's been posting for a while on this blog and I dont think you can accuse him of rudeness. Maybe you got a bit fed up with all theposts, so didnt read them properly. But he does have a point you know.

anon #108 said...

When I discovered my homosexual leanings in the monastic world, I left the Sangha for Key West FL, USA.

I wish I was Brad so people would respect me.
But alas.....I'm not. I shall continue to live in my Grandmother's basement, praying that Harry will pay attention to my posts.

anon #108 said...

I like pickles. They're OK!

rhyllers said...

Anon #108.. You shouldn't worry so much about people respecting your opinions.. You should worry more about being #1.

dersoutf said...

Original anon #108 went to bed @6.41pm (that'd be well after midnight in the uk). Since then some kid's been playing at 108 in his Granma's basement.

Really? said...

I do not think dersoutf is anon #108..

anon #108 said...

Hi Really? -
You couldn't be more wrong.

Really? said...

Anon #108 is a real person with real feelings. He is not a computer game.

Anonymous said...

You gonna keep this up all night Harry?

Anonymous said...

Esmeralda!

! said...

:-)

Anonymous said...

hey nony anony
108 comments and counting

strike one

strike two

strike three

you're now sitting for 30 minutes of zazen!

ibblen

Brad Warner said...

Gosh. This has gotten freaky. There seem to be a number of Anon. #108s. So I have no idea how to respond anymore. Anyway, it's nice to have contributions and I appreciate what some of him (since there appear to be multiples) have said.

As for the comment (not from #108, I think)about punks dressing alike, this is a criticism you hear a lot. And there certainly is conformity in the scene and was at the time I was part of it.

But I think lots of the criticism along these lines comes from people who weren't really part of the scene, but went by the media image of it. The mainstream media always depicted punks with a uniform of the leather motorcycle jacket, army boots and mohawk.

Yet if you actually attended shows, those guys were the minority and there was actually quite a lot of variation. The mainstream media needed an image that viewers would instantly recognize as "a punk" and that's the one they chose, among the many other available.

anon #108 never said...

Note my comment as "Brad Warner" (12:26 PM) under "War Is Bad, Death Row Tull, Top 15 Books for the Holiday Season, Tiger Woods".

Harry said...

Hey, I wasn't impersonating anyone.

Regards,

Harry.

Brad Warner said...

To whom ever you may not be: (at 2:29 AM)

I might suggest the various anon #108s could use “anon #108 #1”, “anon #108 #2”, “anon #108 #3” and so on.

This may be what “Yet another anon again” (over there) at 9:27 AM meant in the first place.



P.S.

Harry alway gets in the way.

Brad Warner #2 said...

I think you better just cut off the comment section again.



P.S. - I got there before Harry this time.

Anonymous said...

Jinzang:

"There is delusion and enlightenment"

and then the Heart Sutra goes on to say there is no delusion and no enlightenment....

Minor quibble I know but you're not a n00b.

anon #108 said...

OK?

anon #108 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anon #108 said...

So, sports fans, herewith the facts and figures:

Upto and including (the most recent) 6.41pm post - the "Nite all. Big hugs" post - there has only ever been one of me throughout the history of this blog.

I was foully usurped, impersonated and defamed by an ersatz "anon #108" at 7.24pm, and from then on all bets were off.

In a rare spirit of careless abandon I joined the fray, until 9.02pm, when I really did go to bed. (After 5 o clock in the bloody morning here in the UK - but it was my birthday :))

I enjoyed it all. And apologise if I upset anyone by not being funny when I intended to be.

anon #108 said...

Hi 3.21 -

What's your point? The joke's getting old.

anon #108 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Voton said...

Wahrhiet, wahreit uber alles/
Uber alles in die Welt...

Brad Warner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anon #108 said...

For my really keen fans - I now have a profile, complete with my very own unique avatar.

Perhaps you can do that too, "anon #108"? I don't know much about these things. Go on - have a go.

BTW, "I can do that too, man, -that won't save you." was a bit of a give-away, no?

And so I've been forced to conform by zen Buddhists trolls. I've been forced "to change by you into something that more resembles what you call "normal."" I despair.

Ran K. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anon #108 said...

But you are funny, 108 troll, whoever you are. In other circumstances we might have made something beautiful together.

Ran K. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anon #108 said...

Ok, Ran K - I'll believe you. You are a very naughty boy!

In fact, "Mr. Amundsen, sir -" at 5:49 PM was me. After all, it was a follow up to: "Is that simply coz one or other of them is deluded?" in my previous post @ 5.27pm

Perhaps I should publish an annotated collection of my work...

Nah. I should move away from this fckukin computer is what I should do.

Laters!

Ran K. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anon #108 again never said...

I think you should only fear on birthdays.

achthirsch said...

Hi Brad, thanks for the post - I'm really looking forward your germany visit.

greets

achthirsch

Chris said...

Brad - "This compulsion to change others and ourselves into our ideals is a significant problem, and one that I don’t believe gets very much attention."

I agree 100%. It's a compulsion I struggle with every day...hopefully one day I can let it go and find acceptance.

Anonymous said...

when I sit and sit alone and I dont use a bell..sometimes just cut a big fart first.

anonymous said...

anon#108, you piece of shit copycat! I had the idea first! You must fight the urge to conform better.

I'm still trying to square bradster's article with his claim that his zen is authentic vs all those inauthentic imposter zens.

anon #108 said...

My Dearest anonymous,

I fear it is now too late. I have acted.

With each passing year I feel the urge to fight conformity weakening.

I can only hang my head in shame, offer my condolences, and wish you all the best in your future endeavours :(

Anonymous said...

Hit the bell...
You may be soft or you may be hard
If you are soft the hit may be soft
If you are hard the hit may be hard
If you are soft the hit may be hard
If you are hard the hit may be soft

Or don't hit the bell...

It doesn't really matter
It's all bullshit
Like kesas and candles
Incense and sutras
Lineage and enlightenment
Bollocks and bullshit

Invite the bell?
WTF? It's meditation not a dinner party!

Sit down and shut the fuck up!
MEDITATE!
The rest is superfluous
Just a convenient way of not sitting
And feeling that you are doing something more important

When you're done meditating forget it - there is no-thing to be gained

But where's the kudos in that?

genuine and true anon #108 said...

Oh well.

I'll be 102 from now on.

Ran K.'s got the 107 and some funny guys got the 105-106.

Uku's #1 and Harry approving of that shamelessly.

No one gonna change my world.

Ran K. said...

What does "Inviting the Bell" make you think of?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewcWHlwPLsE

I couldn't think of better than that.

Anonymous said...

I can:
http://www.northern.ac.uk/learning/NCMaterial/Psychology/lifespan%20folder/PAVLOV.gif
The bell just conditions you to feel all spiritual
See also:
http://9.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_krxzsoULGU1qzp3ido1_500.jpg
andhttp://brandingadvice.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/pavlovsbeagle.jpg

anon #108 said...

Harry says "not me"...

Ran K has voluntarily confessed to some recent fcuking about...

But the as-yet-unmasked and dangerously funny still-trolling 108? Hmmm...


GNIZ!???

emicrist said...

Anon #108:

You are going to be happier now. But please don't say that zen buddhist trolls forced you to do anything. There is no such things as a zen buddhist troll and no one can be forced to do anything they don't want to.

Anonymous said...

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_Q2U5uycu3Uk/Rmbew94Zc8I/AAAAAAAAAUo/Ok-oa67Qvpk/s400/pavlov.gif

buddy said...

Since buddhism is supposed to be about the middle way, how about a good old fashioned 'ring the bell'?

anon #108 said...

Thank you emicrist. It's good to know that I'll be happier now.

Are you serious???

Simon said...

Great gig, that those guys translated your book to German. I think there might be some people looking forward to it. I had to work me through the original stuff an it was hard work sometime.
It would be cool if there will be some seshin so there is a possibility to sit with you.

Greetz from Munich ,

Simon

Big Brother said...

#108: I meant you will be happier conforming. Every is.

#108 said...

I'm the troll who started off all this madness!!! I'm actually strangely proud of myself. I would take a bow for it, but I did plenty of those before zazen this morning.

Now, quick, quick! What Buddhist lesson did you learn from this experience??

I got a non-self going once! Going twice!

anon #108 said...

Nope. Seems no one's learnt a damn thing, #108. Never mind.

EXCITING NEWS:
I've added to my profile. For an insight into my particular non-self, click immediately.

If that was all you last night, #108 (incl 'rhyllers'/'Really?'/'anonymous') - you funny. Get a proper ID. You'll be happier.

L. Espenmiller said...

Thank you for this post, Brad. Exactly what I needed today. Right. On.

Bobby Byrd said...

Yeah, a few years ago in a Sangha where I was practicing, it became a popular notion of “inviting the bell to ring” as opposed to whacking it one (of course, hitting one of those big bells with too big a whack can cost you a few hundred bucks and create all sorts of un-Zen like emotions one to another). This “inviting the bell” really irritated me, but I kept my mouth shut. At home I “hit” the bell and at the Zendo if those folks wanted to “invite” the bell. I could live with it. I enjoyed the sitting. Once the bell was hit and everybody bowed it didn’t make any difference. I was staring at the wall, my posture was good, my breathing was good, the energy of folks all sitting in silence was good. And the dharma talks gave me some food to take home for another week of my own practice. Oh, yes. It was all good, as they say. Well, years passed and one morning I was sitting down to practice in my own office all by my lonesome and it occurred to me, “Well, Bobby, invite the bell to ring.” And so I did. It was a nice feeling. That bell had that sound inside it and it wanted me to allow it to ring. Strange. So I “invited” the bell to ring. It sounded just like it sounded when I hit it. But I was able to throw some of the trash out of my heart.

Harry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Harry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jinzang #108 said...

Tibetans have more fun!!!!

Anonymous said...

Trust him. He knows when something wants to be hit.

the reverend nuge said...

smack the shit outta that bell!

the reverend nuge said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
threepoundsflax said...

I think one point missed by some of the commenters here is that language, something already removed from reality by at least one dimension, becomes an even weaker tool when words are distorted and people use a term too loosely, or use euphemisms to avoid accurately describing an action or event. Zen, for instance, is a word used to specify a particular religious tradition with a particular set of practices. Certainly, there have been disagreements and splits within that long tradition, but what's important, and what allows the word zen to have any meaning at all, is that it points to the things all those or at least the vast majority of the practitioners within that tradition had in common. So, first and foremost, zen means zazen. If you aren't doing zazen you can't call it zen. But there are other things too, and one of the things, which actually drew many of us to this particular religious tradition, is that zen has never been a tradition of political correctness or sugar coating reality. It hasn't traditionally been a soft and cuddly, warm-fuzzies kind of tradition. And we like it that way. Soft and cuddly type of people are certainly welcome to participate in the tradition, but should recognize that the soft and cuddly aspect is themselves, not the tradition, per se. Or, someone who wants to start a new tradition, a soft and cuddly tradition, that brings elements of Zen into it, like the practice of zazen, etc. That's fine too, just don't call your new tradition Zen. If any and everything gets called Zen, Zen disappears. So, sure, that soft and cuddly person is welcome to "invite the bell to sound" or whatever else makes their warm-n-fuzzy heart melt with glee, but to show up as a visitor in a sangha and correct the teacher there, that's just wrong, and it is very different from what Brad was doing in his blog. Brad was drawing attention to a certain misperception common here in the West that weakens our language and our tradition by calling a set of behaviors which simply are not part of the long tradition of Zen, Zen. This is not the same thing as someone actively trying to nudge other people to conform. Brad wasn't trying to tell the soft and cuddly people they can't be soft and cuddly, he was just saying that soft and cuddly isn't part of the tradition they are taking part in, and they can accept that, or they can do something else, but they don't have the right to expect the whole tradition to do things their way, when that isn't how the tradition has been practiced, traditionally.

Moon Face Buddha said...

"f you try and mask the fact that you are hitting the bell by burying that action under some pretentious euphemism you’re not being honest with yourself or with the bell. "

On the other hand by 'inviting the bell to sound' one is manifesting a different state of mind/thinking, which is not necessarily "pretentious" but instead less dualistic. The ideas of 'bell' and 'me' are less rigid when one thinks in this way possibly.

It all works for some folks and not others, so as ever one has to find a group and a practice that feels right.

Moon Face Buddha said...

And I meant to write that 'inviting the bell to sound' is (if my memory is correct) something practiced in groups associated with Ven Thich Nhat Hanh's 'Plum Village' sangha.

I also eem to recall that Brad has admitted not having studied that form of Zen practice.

Therefore whilst I 'get' where Brad is coming from in his post, it may be worth bearing in mind that this is just one part of the practice and as such taking it out of context and using it to make a wider point is a bit unfair.

If one reads a few of TNH's books it becomes clear how this fits into the big picture.

Anonymous said...

Whats brown and sounds like a bell ?

Dung

frankie deny said...

Best post in the last months I think. Hits the spot for sure!

Mark Foote said...

I read your posts, Brad, and I enjoy them. You know how to bring in your own sense of conflict, and where you feel it most in your practice, and you are alive to it; ain't it so.

I'd like to say that in my experience, there are many different faiths that bring people to grace. Many if not all of them have a core experience, and an understanding of that core experience that constitutes the teaching. Zen is no different in that regard than many other religions.

Oftentimes people rely on faith alone; their faith somehow works for them, at a level that is deeper than they understand (and they often assume that's how it is for everyone). Zen is a little different, in the emphasis on posture; other faiths have prayer practices too, but they are not always front and center the way Zen is. Nevertheless, ask a Zen teacher how to sit the lotus without pain, and you will mostly get garbage; a study of South Pacific navigators revealed they could navigate over the horizon at night in a fog between islands, but their explanation of how they did it was garbage too. The genius of western and eastern civilization, in my opinion, is in the description of the essential relationships that underlie our reality; these descriptions require the use of both the right brain and the left brain, linear analysis as well as holistic incorporation (if I may describe right-brain activity with such a phrase). So how do I sit the lotus without pain, and what does the action of Zen have to do with posture; these are the questions I feel I must answer for myself and for others, in the language of the underlying relationships of the human experience.