Thursday, February 11, 2010

THE END OF SUFFERING IS POSSIBLE FOR YOU

Before we begin, I want to say thanks for the support and stuff regarding my last post. I will set off on February 28th driving Northeast to make a very circuitous journey to Durham, North Carolina via Kansas City, Cedar Rapids and Akron. According to Google Maps I'll be passing through Las Vegas, St. George, Grand Junction and Denver on Interstates 15 and 70 on the way to KC. If anybody on that route wants to save me a night's hotel fees, send me an email to spoozilla@gmail.com. I'm quiet and clean. I'll also be passing through the Chicago area on Interstate 80/90 on my way to Akron. I'm gonna try to get that drive done in a day. But we shall see. So if anyone in Chicagoland wants to offer me space, use the email above.

I'll also be speaking at the Cedar Rapids Zen Center on March 5th (my birthday). Info will be forthcoming soon on that. And remember Kansas City on the 4th.

ANYWAY, I was walking to the post office the other day and I saw this funny notice stuck with masking tape to the light post in front of the Starbuck's on the corner of Hill and Main. It said, "The End of Suffering is Possible For You." I took a photo of it and posted it here so you can see. There's a smiling guy on the flier who is identified as Swami something-or-other. He says he has a technique he can teach you in a one-day seminar that will end all your suffering.

Gosh. Packing up my stuff is a real bummer. I probably ought to sign up.

Seeing this flier got me thinking about a lot of things. My instant gut reaction was that it was a lie. No one can possibly show you the way to end all suffering in an afternoon. Just think about it for a second. If this were really possible would the guy be sticking fliers on lamp posts? Nah. He'd be the richest man in the entire world and justifiably so.

But then I got a little kinder. There is some sense in which I might be able to define the practice of zazen as a way to end all suffering, and I could teach it to anyone who was interested in even less than an afternoon. I could show you all you really need to know in about five minutes.

But you're not gonna get to the end of all suffering in five minutes. You'd have to apply what I taught you in those five minutes for at the very minimum an hour a day for a number of years before you're gonna get anywhere near the end of all suffering. You'd have to dedicate your life to it and you have to be unafraid to abide by the truths the practice shows you. This is a very key element and one that even the most dedicated practitioners have a dickens of a time with — even after decades of practice (Brad points to himself here).

So, "OK," I says to myself, "maybe that's what he means." I kind of suspect it isn't. But I don't know for sure. All I know is that if I advertised what I do that way I'd feel incredibly dirty and dishonest.

I feel like the reason people get away with claims like this is because there is still so very little real understanding of what meditation practice actually is. I've used this metaphor more times than I can keep track of, but I'll keep saying it till someone gets it. If an exercise guy told you that you could go from a Homer Simpson body to an Arnold in Terminator body in a couple hours you'd know he was lying. If a yoga teacher said you could bend your leg around the back of your head after a single class you'd know that was bullshit. Yet people understand so very little about meditation that they imagine all sorts of things that are equally as absurd. My old troll pal Gniz makes a similar point with a great analogy to teaching sports on this post on his blog.

Almost anyone can teach the basics of zazen. And those basics are really all you need to start the practice for yourself. But nobody can teach you the discipline needed to turn that basic practice into something that can change your life in a fundamental and profound way.

Now as to this "end of suffering" business, that's really a tricky issue. The end of suffering requires a kind of diligence and attention that very few people are able to muster. I wouldn't even claim I've been able to muster it. But I have gone through the process enough to see where it's possible and to put it into practice to a degree I never would have thought possible when I began doing this stuff. The end of suffering doesn't mean you don't feel pain when you stub your toe on a rock or that you don't feel sad when your mom dies. But there is a means by which we cease to experience these and other such things as suffering. We do so not by finding a way to not experience them, but by seeing a way to experience them completely.

This much is true. But in order to do this you have to face right into whatever life throws at you without flinching. And that's not easy. You've spent your whole life learning how to avoid experience and shield yourself from pain. Zazen practice is one excellent way — I'd even say the most excellent way — to learn how not to do this. But you don't learn this from anyone but yourself. It's not something anyone can teach you. They can help you learn to find it for yourself. But they can't teach you.

Year ago I saw this movie called The Cube. It wasn't the horror film by that name that came out about five years ago. This was something Jim Henson created before he struck it rich with the Muppets. Amazingly Google video has the entire film at this link here. It's weird, weird movie.

The basic plot is that a guy finds himself living in a white cube. People can come in and out, but he can't escape. Very existential stuff. Whenever someone leaves the guy's cube the guy tries to follow. The person leaving the cube invariably says, "Ah, ah, ah! That's my door!" and closes the door on guy's face at which point the door vanishes.

That's kinda the way it is with the stuff a Zen teacher can teach you. She can show you her way to deal with this stuff and maybe you can learn from that. But ultimately that's her door and you can't go out through it. You need to find your own door.

So anyway, I don't want to scream LIAR! at the guy who posted that flier. I don't really know. But what I do know for absolute certain, without even a hint of a doubt, is that there is nothing anyone can show you in an afternoon that's gonna fix all your problems right then and there.

But the hucksters know there are plenty of suckers and "marks" out there who think maybe they can get this end of suffering stuff over quick and move on to the next thrill. You can go ask James Arthur Ray and his close personal friend Genpo Roshi as well as a long list of other similar con-men and crooks and they'll gladly sell you magic snake oil that'll put right whatever's ailin' you. They'll teach you their special technique and then laugh at you all the way to the bank.

It's really the same with them as it was with the snake oil salesmen of days gone by. Once more people are better educated about this stuff, these guys will naturally become marginalized until only the most gullible are taken in by their claims. Until that happens it may be necessary for those who do know what the deal is to keep plugging away and saying "No, it doesn't work like that."

114 comments:

anon #108 said...
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anon #108 said...

Acribus initiis, incurioso fine.

UNUS! (Twice)

idv8 said...

Hi Brad! Excellent post (again). My husband and I really enjoy all your books and if ever you make your way again to Montreal we'd love to have you stay with us.

Have fun out on the road!
Danielle

Jinzang said...

I saw The Cube when it was shown on television. Didn't know it was by Jim Henson. If you like it, you may also like the short story Forlesen.

Al said...

Excellent post Brad!

Write more of this stuff.

anon #108 said...
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anon #108 said...

I can hear the choir warming up, ready to deliver a glorious "Hallelujah", so, with apologies to gniz, Brad and those who've read it before, I'm going to re-post a comment I made on gniz's blog last year (edited). Most of you will know that when it comes to matters Genpo et al, Aaron/gniz and Brad sing from the same hymn sheet...


FWIW, IMO, there's no problem. I've no intention of signing up with Genpo or his fellow travellers; I'm happy where I am. I've had a look at his youtube contributions and found them interesting, to a point. I don't find them worrying. Others are free to do what they want: worry/protest/draw attention/expose possible conflicts of interest. In doing so, they shouldn't be surprised if we don't all roll over in shock, swear allegiance and start organising petitions.

Perhaps all those attending bigmind events are being fooled. If they read the exposes here and elsewhere they might be disinclined to get involved. But they might not. They might get involved and be happier for it...there again they might not. That's fine by me - we each make our own choices, no one can make them for us.

There's a danger that people operating in a consensus of righteous indignation become more and more certain of their position. Certainty, of any description, always bothers me, especially from people with no direct experience of what they're condemning.

Brad/gniz - you might be right about that Genpo et al are a bunch of shysters. Clearly, it's not, and most likely never will be, your cup of tea. But some folks do find it their cup of tea, and don't believe they're being conned. Leave them to it. One way or another, they'll find out.

alan said...

Hallelujah, hosanna, praise to the highest.

(Misc. Choir noises)

Oh blinding light, oh light that blinds, I cannot see look out for me.

Follow them for they have shown us the light.

Hand me my flashlight I must find them.

(Choirs swells to an astounding volume)

Hallelujah, hosanna, praise to the highest.

Good enough, Anon #108?

Cheers.

Brad Warner said...

Sure, sure Mr. 108. People are free to do whatever they like.

But I feel like in the world of Buddhism very few people are saying anything about this kind of thing. And maybe I should join them and shut up. Probably I ought to. Yet I don't.

I really feel a lot of people are actually being harmed by these instant enlightenment schemes. It's not good to go through this stuff fast. It can be extremely harmful. Imagine some therapist who promised to expose all your neuroses in a day. No one would go for that. If what these guys who promise enlightenment RIGHT NOW are doing really does anything even remotely like what they claim, it's potentially incredibly psychologically damaging.

Anyway, I feel like I don't do very much damage to these people. They still get huge crowds and make big bucks. It hardly matters what I say. I wouldn't worry too much about Genpo and pals. They'll be just fine.

anon #108 said...

I'm moved , Alan ;-)

Brad, I've had no direct contact with with Bigmind/Inegralists, but from what I've read and seen - pretty much the same stuff as you've read and seen I guess - I'm not so sure they're promising 'enlightenment in an afternoon'. Yes, I know some of the tackier blurbs seem to say so...

I hear these guys making an attempt to redefine terms like 'enlightenment', to demistify them and bring modern scientific/psychological approaches into Buddhism. I'm probably very naive, but I don't see them as criminals. It's certainly not for me...I'm a Dogen Sangha kinda guy (so I'm familiar with the view that sees Gudo as an inflexible revisionist with a cranky obsession with the ANS), but that's neither here nor there.

Did it seem like I was telling you to shut up? Meh...it sounded good at the time. I take it back. Proceed to kick ass as you see fit.

May we live in interesting times.

mtto said...

People died in James Arthur Ray's "sweat lodge". Genpo works with and promotes Mr. Ray's work. In my book, that's a problem. If someone reads one of Brad's anti-Big Mind articles and as a result doesn't die in a fake sweat lodge, that is a good thing.

Mysterion said...
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anon #108 said...

Not every aspirant has the same question(s)...Your answers are your answers and not some guru's answers.

That's the second time I've agreed with you this year, M. I must ask my teacher about this.

Jinzang said...

The problem with the weekend seminar approach to enlightenment is that beginners tend to grab onto random experiences and make a big deal out of them. If the seminar encourages people to take these experiences as a glimpse of enlightenment, that's a problem, They've added one more thing to their already unnatural life that will need to be unlearned. And if they continue to cultivate their experience and regard it as holy, they become unteachable, just like someone holding onto some dogmatic interpretation.

The whole process of practice is one of continual disillusionment, As Trungpa Rinpoche said, "From ego's point of view, enlightenment is the ultimate disappointment." If an experience makes you feel happy and inspired, I'd be wary. If it makes you see what a fool you've always been, it's more likely to be genuine.

Allison said...

Certainly not everyone selling snake-oil fast tracks to enlightenment have altruistic motives. But I think a lot of people engage in enough magical thinking to convince themselves of anything - and this goes for the students and the teachers. I did an MBSR course years ago, and after the first week, where we all did our meditation homework diligently, I was miserable. Sitting with myself was extremely anxiety provoking, and I certainly didn't feel any better. But there were all these people in the class saying things like "I haven't had a panic attack all week - this has cured me" and so on and so forth. I wanted to smack all of them. But I realized that everyone wanted to believe they were better so badly, that they convinced themselves they were. And I think that some of the therapists and meditation teachers teaching some of the more off-the-wall techniques see these people coming back saying "I'm cured", and them they start to believe it too. Just my two cents.

anon #108 said...

Gee Jinz -I agree with you too...and with you, Allison!


For a few years I worked in the law - criminal defence. I always had a hard job convincing the coppers that good lawyers don't defend because they approve of crime. To vigorously defend the accused is essential if -

1) the innocent aren't to be falsely convicted,
2) the guilty are to be convicted for the right reasons,
3) the guilty aren't to be given spurious grounds for appeal.

Mysterion said...
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Khanda6 said...

What is zen?

The Chinese attempted to combine an already defective, degraded form of Buddhism with the pre-existing supernatural beliefs of Taoism and produced the sect known as Zen. This sect tends toward a naturalistic, materialistic interpretation of the Buddha's teachings that border on outright nihilism. There is also a strong quasi-Hindu influence. The Buddha refuted this sort of heresy in his lifetime.

Zen commonly equates nibbana with sangsara asserting their identity. The passions are equated with bodhi. By such teachings as 'everyday mind is the tao or way', Zen further affirms Taoist naturalism. This sort of thinking leads one to believe that anything is permissable, even killing another sentient being, if it is done with the zen no-mindedness. This resulted in the demented samurai culture of Japan. There is the saying "From the very beginning, not a thing is." This is a distortion of the Buddhist teaching of anicca. The saying "If you meet the buddha, kill the buddha."

The belief that the precious experience of enlightenment can be had by anyone in this present lifetime if the person only meditates in the prescribed Zen fashion. In reality, many lifetimes of accumulating merit or good kamma is required. The teaching is simplistic, misleading and results in moral and spiritual apathy.

Given all of this, it isn't surprising that it as well as various Tibetan superstitions have found such appeal in the morally bankrupt western society.

Mysterion said...
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anon #108 said...

Khanda6 said [some very interesting things]. Of course, s/he's wrong. S/he misunderstands and misrepresents Zen. S/he cannot have had direct experience of Zen teaching. Yet Khanda6 knows that we are the deluded ones, and that what we believe and practise is dangerous for us and for others.

Now that's (an aspect of) what I'm talking about!

..Many thanks for your offer of a shiny non-dual trinket, Mysti. If there's a charge, I can't afford luxuries at the moment. If you're offering to send me a gift, I fear my enemies will cite it as evidence that I can be bought.

Anonymous said...

Khanda6:

" In reality, many lifetimes of accumulating merit or good kamma is required. The teaching is simplistic, misleading and results in moral and spiritual apathy"

Do you offer any proof for any of this? It seems like rather a lot of beliefs without foundation.

Let's assume that this is true. What is it that makes you believe that THIS life is not the one that is the result of many previous lifetimes of merit and that THIS lifetime is therefore the one where merit is sufficient to attain enlightenment.

It seems to me from direct experience that Zen offers you the option of doing things in THIS lifetime. So it doesn't have to be incompatible with what you believe.

However it seems that what you want to believe is "I can never be enlightened in THIS life and must wait for some unspecified future life". This seems to me like giving up before you start. Why not just go out and party hard on the grounds that you can sort it out in the next life.

Have you ever interviewed a slug or a crow or a cow or a rabbit to ascertain whether or not they'd been a bad human in a previous life?

I'll worry about living THIS life well and morally and let the past lives take care of themselves (since they are past) and the future lives take care of themselves since the future me is not me and may actually have a body and mind that works better than this one.

THIS is the life that concerns me. Because I think I only have one of them I think I should make the best of it. If in fact I do have multiple lives then making the best of this one is surely the best way to prepare for future lives anyway.

Now it's time for me to go live THIS life TODAY.

Shonin said...

Nice, realistic, balanced post. Thanks

Jeff said...

Is an hour a day a firm recommendation you give people? I started practicing Zazen in 2004 after reading your first book. While I can't honestly say I've had a strict daily practice for all that time In the last year I've finally got down with the daily Zazen. I even started practicing whit a local Sangha once a week.

I'd like to think that the last six years weren't a total waste since if nothing else they got me to my practice as it is today. But I usually can only get in a half hour each day. I've tried getting a half hour in in the morning but for a variety of reasons it hasn't worked out. Of course this is just me grasping at an idea I read in a blog post. So, anyway. An hour a day?

nonsfoca said...

One half hour a day, an hour a day, two hours a day, four hours a day.. Whatever works for you is best. More isn't necessarily better.

Mumon said...

And not only that, you can use this end of suffering to actually help others.

It works wonders in the business world, as I mention in my own niche of the blogosphere today.

Mr. Reee said...

"Seeing this flier got me thinking about a lot of things. My instant gut reaction was that it was a lie. No one can possibly show you the way to end all suffering in an afternoon. Just think about it for a second. If this were really possible would the guy be sticking fliers on lamp posts? Nah. He'd be the richest man in the entire world and justifiably so.

The last sentence poses a very interesting question--what if most people, deep down, don't really want to end their suffering?

Long before I'd heard anything of value about zen, I had a girlfriend who was a self-improvement/workshop junkie. We've all met them.

One week it's crystals, the next it's Kabbalah (sp), then Scientology, then this, then that. She could have started her own religion with all the self-help knowledge she absorbed. She was a sponge.

None of it did any good--in some ways it made it all worse. She couldn't make friends with anyone because she was always becoming someone 'new' each time she took on a another discipline (it didn't help that it was all she could talk about, either.)

It finally dawned on me that the very last thing she wanted to find was 'it'--life, the universe, and everything--because if she did, then the spotlight she kept aimed on her 'quest' (and by extension, herself) would go off--possibly for good.

She was an extreme example, but I think to one extent or another we are all like that. There is a fear--who would we be without our problems? If our problems went away, would we disappear too?

[ ...of course us really smart zennies know there actually is no one having a 'self-help problem' in the first place, so poof! problem solved... ;-) ]

Mr. Reee said...

And to clarify re: "problems"--in my book there's two kinds of problems;
the kind that can potentially be addressed by real actions in a given moment (I'm hungry, I'm cold, I'm tired, etc.) and the kind that are more intellectual in nature, and that appear to require more intellectual activity to "solve" (I'm not popular, my momma doesn't love me, that other person's a jerk and is ruining my day, etc.)

My understanding, in zen, is that 'enlightenment' simply helps us see the difference between these kinds of problems--it doesn't remove them--and we are encouraged to respond appropriately.

Trying to fix the 'self' is a special challenge because there isn't really anything to work on. Like trying to hang a picture on an imaginary wall--you're going to find frustration and endless craving.

Anonymous said...

You'll always be onto a winner if you're telling people things they already believe.

Just out of curiosity, has anyone in these comments come anywhere close to 'the end of all suffering' even after decades of practice?

Simon said...

Thx, Brad. A very good post. I met a lot of so called leaders which knew "the only way" to pure wisdom an freedom, not only of the buddhist way. Good, that I didn't spend money on them and good I met them to get the sight of the reality behind the curtains.
It grows your ability to be not so lighthearted on teachers.

Greetz,

Simon

Mr. Reee said...

"Just out of curiosity, has anyone in these comments come anywhere close to 'the end of all suffering' even after decades of practice?

Nah. Not me (don't have decades of effort behind me either...)



BUT...

Be at these exact coordinates tomorrow at 10 AM PST and I can almost guarantee you will experience instant enlightenment for at least 15 seconds...

**echo on** You WILL know the TRUTH about REALITY **echo off**

N:37°38'81" W:122°38'45"

:)

(Maybe it'll be something like this?)

Ran K. said...
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Ran K. said...

With regard to Khanda6's comment:

(7: 58 pm)


It seems the Sixth Patriarch was faced with similar questions, or views, by Indian monks who had similar opinions.


You can find the questions and answers here (too long to copy, it's a long discourse) under Part 2 – “Doctrines”, then under 5 – "Doctrinal Disputes", - and then under 4 – "the Quietist Controversy".

anon #108 said...

Just out of curiosity, has anyone in these comments come anywhere close to 'the end of all suffering' even after decades of practice?

Yeah, me...after only a few years of practice.

Getting older, stopping certain self-destructive behaviour and living a simple life also has a lot to do with it, I'm sure, but there's no doubt in my mind that daily zazen, the philosophy that goes with it, and a particular moment of (very ordinary) insight has gone a long way to relieve my "suffering".

Of course, life wasn't so bad before zen, but I often didn't realise it. True suffering might show up at any moment and burst my bubble...But am I happier, more content? Yes. Without doubt. I now know there's nowhere else to be, and that I can only ever do the next thing. That'll do me.

Mark Foote said...

Hey to Brad & all,

As you know, Dogen opens "Fukan zazen gi" by wondering why, if the whole being is far beyond defilement, anyone could believe in a method to polish it.

I think you've left that out of your discussion, and that's the hardest part of Buddhism to comprehend, which is why it was Dogen's question on the way to China and the first thing he sought to address when he got back. That is, if the end of suffering is accessible to all and a part of daily life, then why a practice like zazen?

I wrote toward this question in my unauthorized and incomplete guide to zazen, and the answer I found was that our postural activity comes largely out of the stretch of fascia and ligaments, yet the activity out of stretch doesn't begin until the stretch is almost uncomfortable. So if we are averse to the painful (or attached to the pleasant, or ignorant), consciousness no longer takes place spontaneously, no longer occurs where it needs to occur in order for the activity of the body to balance naturally, and we experience a separation from ourselves and everyone else that is suffering. A key point being that everyone can and does witness activity out of the impact of consciousness on stretch, and everyone can and does experience the ability to feel generated by impact, but only those who seek an end to suffering realize the significance of the experience.

yers truly, Mark

Mark Foote said...

a p.s.- if anybody wants to find the "unauthorized and incomplete guide to zazen" and the link above doesn't work, just google "zazen guide" and look for the unauthorized guide. Right now it's on the first page, right under the picture of Brad Warner on You-Tube. I think that's you, Brad!

Mysterion said...
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anon #108 said...
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Ran K. said...
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anon #108 said...

Mysterion wrote: When I isolate myself from the mundane and vastly overpopulated world so that I no longer hear of earthquakes in Haiti, people be swept to sea when the monsoons hit Bangladesh or the hurricanes hit central Mexico, then suffering ceases...If I could but take tea in a hut on a hilltop in a wilderness, all would be well.

Mysterion - So you, like me, are aware of the hell others in this world might suffer. But Chas who lives in the USA is not being swept out to sea. Chas is doing whatever Chas is doing - chatting on the internet...reading Robert Wright. Chas can only ever do the next thing in front of him. He might book a flight to Haiti to help. He might pop some $$$ into an envelope. Or he might put the kettle on for a nice cup of cha. But spending the day picturing himself buried alive in the ruins of an earthquake is no good to man nor beast.

I guess you know this...what's the problem? Is it that you can't help yourself? It's a sincere question.

Ran K. said...
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Ran K. said...

First there is a question nobody seem to have put up: Should we be interested in putting an end to suffering?

I say no.

I think suffering is food for the soul. Same as joy.



I recall the Buddha said - I don't know where: "Suffering I teach and the way out of suffering".


Suffering is not presented in a negative light in the first part of that sentence.


It has long been strange to me, but recently I seem to have noticed suffering is our #1 teacher. (This may be partly due to things Steiner has said about suffering being the only way for mind to appear within matter, - but truly never mind this here.)


This seems to me to be the only way The Buddha could have meant "Suffering I teach".



We are freed of suffering in the end, but it seems like a byproduct to me.


If this is what you're seeking you’re somewhat off the road.


I know other things have been said. But I doubt how beneficial it would have been to present this as it is to the people of India at the time the Buddha was walking around here.

- Had Buddhism been a religion of merely seeking a cease of suffering - I personally would have wished to flee from it.

I may be idealistic – but it seems to be indignity in itself.


Else - mentioning this I would mention that in the three poisons it seems it can only be that essentially it should be hate rather than anger.

(Though I am not relying on my own understanding here. You can check out on the Sixth Patriarch’s first answer on the link in my previous comment where he lists the triple poison as greed, hate and delusion. A Dharma brother of Brad also listed it as hate in 2007. I can’t see any risk of mistake at this point.)

It seems due to the time and place the Buddha chose to present it as he did at the time.


I would also note that in Brad’s last article on SG (the only one I’ve read) when Brad is talking about love and hate he is absolutely right, - only these are not love and hate he is talking about. It is sincerity and external sensitivity. In reverse order of course. I see nothing hateful about being sincere. Further - love can only be as deep as one’s personality is. A rule without an exception. Love has a nature of appearing. Hate has a nature of disappearing. Of course it doesn’t happen in one day. When you truly love the whole universe I don’t think you have to be aware of it more than any of us is aware that he loves himself. I love no one more than myself, but I don’t feel the list bit emotional feeding myself or taking care of any other of my needs. Perhaps I’ve got something wrong here. - This is not out of experience but out of common sense. - But I don’t think so.

Last – since I got into all that – it’d seem a bit strange to me to blame Christ of unbridled desire. He of all men. Though it does have to be balanced. But I don’t think you could call the distortion that would otherwise occur by that word – “love”.



- This is not America.

the reverend nuge said...

I have all the answers...and will give them to the highest bidder - revnuge at ya hoo dot com

Mysterion said...
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Soundpolitic said...

Cool post, Brad. Reminds me of th stuff I'm re-reading in "Hardcore Zen." I plan to re-read "Sit Down and Shut Up" before picking up the new book.

Regarding the "weekend enlightenment" stuff, I hope I don't bring that frame of mind with me to the Brooklyn Zen Center in April...if I get a job in order to afford it! I'll try my best...see my most recent blog post about my newfound approach at finding employment.

Also, regarding the suckers and "marks" you spoke up. A little anecdote from a compassionately aware friend of mine who ran away to join the circus many years ago: The phrase "I Love Robin Marks" in the circus, uh, circle, does not refer to an affinity to any one person. The "Marks" are the real suckers identified by the carnies; they place a black "X" on their back, signaling to their cohorts that their ready to be ripped off. Hence, the true grammatical spelling: "I love robbin' marks!"

Food for thought. See you in NYC (hopefully!) and keep up the good work!

Smoggyrob said...

Hi everyone:

I forgot to mention that Dogen Sangha Los Angeles is staying in LA, and there will still be zazen every Saturday at Hill Street Center in Santa Monica. And now that Brad's leaving we can offer enlightenment before lunch. That's right, come any Saturday and we'll enlighten you straight up. Enlightenment looks an awful lot like people sitting staring at a wall, but still, enlightenment before lunch, guaranteed. $50,000 donations gratefully accepted.

Rob

Mysterion said...
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Mysterion said...
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Mysterion said...
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Kat said...

Thanks for this posting Brad. I've known a few people who've been hurt, or at least left lost and very confused, by quick-fix meditation saviors. A weekend of guided meditation and hyperventilation is probably a really lovely experience filled with what seem like invaluable insights, but so is a weekend with an eight-ball of cocaine. Either way you just end up with a comedown and a crash back into reality---wallpapering the mental box doesn't seem as though it would be of much help in trying to see through the box. I'm not necessarily against either practice if it can be done mindfully (and if anyone figures out how to mindfully engage with a line of cocaine, please let me know).

As for the question posted in the comments about the end of suffering: I've certainly never experienced it for myself, nor have I ever managed to be a non-self (or not be a non-self or whatever), but I know that my practice---my ass on the cushion every morning, my exploration of the teachings, and my active engagement with my sanga---has freed me to act from a self who causes less suffering.

Brad Warner said...

Thanks everyone. This posting is a concrete example of something I often tell people. And that is that I will sometimes post something that I assume will be controversial (like this) and it's not. While other times I'll post something that I think is completely innocuous and fluffy and the comments section goes berzerk over it. I just can't tell.

Anonymous said...

What do you want to happen?

CynicalBoy said...

End of suffering
Sixty minutes every day
Death one hour closer

anon #108 said...

I will sometimes post something that I assume will be controversial (like this) and it's not.

Hey Brad, I tried...

Rich said...

Anon said
Just out of curiosity, has anyone in these comments come anywhere close to 'the end of all suffering' even after decades of practice?

9:24 AM

No, but it is manageable right now (there is always some action to do to change or improve the situation) so we vow to save all beings.


Mysterion said:
In the purest sense, Buddhism has neither love nor hate. Both are extremes. Both love and hate, in the extreme, are born of unbridled desire. Blah, blah, &ct.

BTW, I am having some small 1/2 black (onyx) 1/2 white quartz pendants made (symbolic of "first, reject dualism") in 925 sterling settings. I will send you one - if you so desire ~pun~ later on the back channel. write me at:
chasinca [at] dslextreme [dot] com if you want one - and will go find a chain and periodically wear it.

7:58 PM

Then in the impure sense Buddhism is nothing but love and compassion. I do not reject dualism, I embrace the oneness of dualism, so please send me the pendant.

/Rich

Unibrow said...

Why Durham NC, if you don't mind my asking?

Mark Foote said...

hey, all,

"Anon said
Just out of curiosity, has anyone in these comments come anywhere close to 'the end of all suffering' even after decades of practice?"

My understanding is that the four truths concerning suffering only apply when suffering exists. The Gautamid described suffering as "in short, the five groups of grasping", so when there is suffering, then the origin of suffering is grasping in the five groups, the cessation of ignorance leads to the cessation of grasping, and the path that leads to the cessation of ignorance is the eight-fold path. The point I'm making here is that the expectation is never that suffering goes away altogether, or is overcome. The Gautamid's enlightenment was recognizing suffering, the origin or suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the path, and these truths apply when suffering exists. That's my understanding.

I guess I could cite as evidence the fact that the Gautamid described his practice before and after enlightenment as "the intent concentration on in-breaths and out-breaths" (samyutta nikaya vol 5). He didn't turn a corner and stop practicing, after his enlightenment; he didn't claim to have made an end of suffering at some point in his life. When he brought the five ascetics into the order, he said, "come, live the life of purity to make an end of suffering", so the question is really how you live the life of purity. The three poisons he could dispense with at will, yet he said that after he spoke to his disciples he returned to "that sign of concentration in which I ever abide"; that means he left his sign of concentration when he spoke, and any temporary extinction of suffering he might have attained through concentration. In paranibana sutta he describes his condition in his old age as like a cart, kept rolling through the assistance of rope ties and temporary fixes everywhere, due to its rickety nature. In the sermon on the six-fold sense fields in majjhima nikaya, he states that anyone, knowing and seeing as it really is sense organ, sense object, consciousness out of contact between sense organ and sense object, impact due to consciousness, and feeling associated with impact has already purified action of body, speech, and livelihood, and in such a one the other elements of the eight-fold path and all the factors of enlightenment can be expected to develop and reach fruition. As I wrote somewhere above, everyone realizes consciousness, impact, and feeling with regard to sense as it really is in the course of a day; the significance of the realization is hidden, until an end of suffering is necessary.

Mark

oily rags said...

The guy on the poster is Bodhisattva Shree Swami Premodaya. Premodaya was a disiple of Osho and later Gangaji, who is a a student of Sri H.W.L. Poonja. Premodaya works out of So-Cal.

Anonymous said...

Brad, check out the Stone Circles Group. They're an awesome bunch of folks. It would be worth visiting The Stone House, they have small retreat spaces that you might stay at if you visit.

http://www.stonecircles.org/

If nothing else, it's worth checking out.

-John

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

Anonymous sed:

"Just out of curiosity, has anyone in these comments come anywhere close to 'the end of all suffering' even after decades of practice?"

Yes. And it faded. And then again. And back and forth.

But the end of suffering doesn't seem so important anymore, though that would be nice. Something has my life like a tide, and that's just fine. It's amazing how life can keep unfolding.

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

Hi everyone:

John/mtto just sent me this video of Arj Barker doing a rap called the Sickest Buddhist. It rates "Holy Crap!" on the funny-o-meter. I nailed it in ten.

Rob

Anonymous said...

"Genpo promotes Mr Rays work"
???

Do you have any sources for this statement?

"Genpo and their pals, blablabla"

Warner is the guy that shouldnt be trusted.

Seriously.

Nate said...

Wait a minute... what every happened to "even a lousy 5 minutes"? Now it's a very minimum of an hour a day?

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

Genpo on James Arthur Ray's website

You know, you could try google...

mtto said...

Gniz Settles all doubts about Big Mind

mtto said...

Happy Valentine's Day from Chet

anon #108 said...

Good question, Nate. It sent me to your blog. I very much enjoyed your blog. What you say about your experience of zazen is, I think, honest - and is pretty much my experience of zazen too. Thanks.

I haven't had a dayjob for a while, so shortage of time to sit isn't an issue for me. I think it's true, quite often, that the longer you sit (in both senses?) the better chance you have of settling in what I call the 'word-less place'.

anon #108 said...

...there again, sometimes it goes 'wordless' pretty quickly, and it's all downhill from there...All good.

Thanks for linking to that debate on gniz's site, mtto. It was a good one. There are others leading up to it that were fun too.

floating_abu said...

There is no 'fixed' formula to the cessation of dukkha, but it is possible and for the student of Zen zazen and kindness in life is invaluable. And the Buddha did specifically outline the Eightfold Path.

FWIW

Abu

Soundpolitic said...

Sorry if the comments by Mysterion and Smoggyrob just below my first post weren't directed at me...but if they were, I feel compelled to reply.

Regarding Zen sesshins being available all over the place...this much is true. The closest one to me is Zen Mountain Monastery, a two hour drive. I figure if I'm to make it that far, I might as well continue on down to Brooklyn so I can meet Brad. And as I said, I'll do my best not to bring a mindset that meeting him can somehow make Zen click for me. I don't view him as an Authority Figure...just a guy with interests similar to mine. We both play bass. We both like to write. We both practice Zen. Whether or not he likes signatures in his favorite books, I don't know, but I sure do.

And regarding donations...don't knock them too much until you've had to ask for them yourself is my advice. I ran a write-in campaign for Town Supervisor last year (see my recent Soundpolitic Sundays post) and had to ask people for donations so I could pay for gas and printing materials. To my thankful surprise, some old college professors and friends gave me a respectable budget that was still not big enough to have to deal with New York State filing requirements. While I didn't win, it was nice to just go out and talk to people and raise civic awareness. And remember: everything costs money. A candidate's gotta get from point A to point B and print information for people to consider; and a Zen monk's gotta eat and have a workable place to shit!

Finally, for Brad: if my years of political blogging has taught me anything, it's this:

Don't put too much stock in the comments...just keep up the good work!

Ran K. said...

I haven’t read so much of what you - dear colleagues - have put up recently, - but Mysterion putting up the link for "Life Before Life" [3:37 pm] has made me put up this link I have already thought of putting earlier.

It is no easy read.

But it is sure more serious than the other one.


Else I would mention: with regard to Brad's words - "The end of suffering doesn't mean you don't feel pain when you stub your toe on a rock or that you don't feel sad when your mom dies. But there is a means by which we cease to experience these and other such things as suffering. We do so not by finding a way to not experience them, but by seeing a way to experience them completely." - that actually when one does come to that - he’d actually say - (if he wants to be more exact) that he never had actually been suffering.

It is just part of what those enlightened call delusion.

We only imagine that we are suffering.


I believe Brad will agree.


Suffering doesn’t actually exist in the first place.


[btw – Mysterion’s link on 8:03 pm doesn’t work.]

Ran K. said...

Having put up my last comment it has crossed my mind that that the author had a certain reference to his book into the second part of which my link enters.

His words (in this English translation) Are as follows: "This book cannot be read in the customary manner of the present day. In certain respects every page, and even many sentences, will have to be worked out by the reader. This has been aimed at intentionally because only in this way can the book become to the reader what it ought to be. The one who merely reads it through will not have read it at all. Its truths must be experienced, lived. Only in this sense has spiritual science any value.". (1904, see it as you will.)

Anonymous said...

QUOTE: mtto said...
Genpo on James Arthur Ray's website

You know, you could try google...QUOTE END

Again: can you pleaase finally give me a source where genpo makes advertisement for Ray as it is stated here in the comments section??? The link you posted here is Ray talking about a BM workshop he has been visiting. It is not confirming your statements in this blog at all.

Do you guys really dont care whats going on in the real life?

Same with your storys about him taking money for workshops in his own bag. His is still living in his small flat in SLC& has publicly talked about the money issues quite open. Nothing from this money is wandering in his own bag. You are not even taking note of his denfence to your accusations-just believing what you want to believe. Where is your integrity? Dont care about it?

Please check the facts first. You look like a small club of people with the same opinions. But my question to you would be that one: Are you really concerned about truth??

Think about this

anon #108 said...

Hi Anon @2.05pm -

Thank you for your sincerely held dissenting opinion re Genpo.

I am occasionally piping up about this stuff because I mistrust any righteous consensus that has no direct experience of 'the other side'. You write "You look like a small club of people with the same opinions" - such clubs, right or wrong, can always benefit from a challenge, IME. My effort must be weak and ineffective, as I have no direct experience of Genpo myself.

I'm sure those who condemn Genpo do so sincerely, too, and FWIW, I have to admit that his association with certain other 'new age' spiritual types (if not his overt support of them), and the very large sums of money charged for some of his select only-for-the-very-rich events don't help his cause, IMO.

Bu those who object to him and his approach often insist that it's not the money that bothers them - so much - it's the notion that anyone can experience the benefits of 30 years of Zen meditation in 3 hours; that anyone can realize (even) a 'glimpse of enlightenment' in an afternoon that is the real cause for concern.

I've a suspicion (hope?) that this is an intentionally provocative hook, not deliberately misleading, but not entirely serious either. I'm also open to the idea that 'enlightenment' isn't what most people think it is (mine isn't ;-)...and that we needn't get ouselves into a panic if someone (after 37 years of 'traditional Zen training') suggests they can point to it/demystify it/give a valuable insight in a few hours. I myself find that very difficult to believe, and the very notion of enlightenment as an end to be achieved doesn't sit well with me...but that's just me.

Can you, or anyone else, shed any light?

anon #108 said...

EDIT

...the very notion of enlightenment as an end to be achieved or a state to be experienced doesn't sit well with me...

Anonymous said...

The modern version of "The Cube" is such a shallow farce. Just like the modern version of "Crash." Jim Henson was on to something though, unfortunately we often mistake escape into the larger cube for "freedom"

Anyways, got to go.. somebody is knocking on the door!

Anonymous said...

You will learn who it is that suffers and this will be the end of suffering.

Joe Ratz said...

Suffering is proof of life.

The raptor suffers from hunger and the prey from the kill.

The parishioners are trained to suffer for want of gods' love and fall prey from where they prey. If you go to church at all - remain seated on a wooden bench!

passport said...

Mysterion-Joe Ratz, You are a bigot..

santa maria said...

Mysterion makes the point:
I also think it it lame for phonies with perceived power to abuse that power. If that is the true nature of hell, then we are all Disneyesque gimpy. If they wanna be godz dogs, so be it.

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

Mysterion: I'm sure you are the life of the party. But over the years your posts have taken on a common theme. There is no joke to get.. You are a bigot. The same as any other hater railing against a minority.

mtto said...

The link you posted here is Ray talking about a BM workshop he has been visiting. It is not confirming your statements in this blog at all.

You are half right, half wrong. This link is not Genpo endorsing Ray, it is Genpo being presented by Ray. If that doesn't qualify as Genpo endorsing Ray in your book, my apologies. You are right that the way I worded it was not quite accurate. However, that is Genpo in the video, not Ray. He's talking about Big Mind, not Ray's stuff, but the video starts "James Arthur Ray presents... Genpo Roshi". I doubt Ray would have been able to produced the video without Genpo's OK.

Weasel Tracks said...

Nate said...

Wait a minute... what every happened to, "even a lousy 5 minutes"? Now it's a very minimum of an hour a day?

Well then, you're going to love hearing this.

Although five minutes a day is way better than no minutes, to really make progress in Zen (or any spiritual practice) you need to devote at least two-and-a-half to three hours each day to hard practice like zazen, prostrations, or chanting. YMMV, but this is generally true.

I have trouble finding time to do this, myself, and look forward to collecting a pension, but from experience and reading, I firmly believe this.

So, how much do you want to do Zen?

Anonymous said...

stints

stints said...

Exactly Mystimind.. you're seeing labels rather than people..

Matt Simonsen said...

Hey, Brad. I've really enjoyed two of your books ("Hard Core Zen" and "Zen Wrapped in..."—somehow I skipped over "Sit Down..." but I'm sure I'll get to it someday.) In fact, I had been practicing zazen at Clouds in Water (remember us?) for 8-9 years, and had some disillusionment with a lot of the emphasis on having a "kensho" experience as a prerequisite for becoming a full "priest-in-training," which crept into Dosho's (previous/founding teacher at Clouds) teaching in the last couple years of my practice with him. Then the whole "blow-up" happened with Dosho, and we "gave him the boot," as you, I believe, accurately put it.... I think you know enough of the story (though you may not have known about his increasing emphasis and even pressure to have a "kensho" experience.... I got a lot of priceless direction from Dosho, by the way. He got me sitting zazen, through many very skillful means, and I am eternally grateful to him for that....)

Anywho, I was going through this "profound doubt" (if I may melodramatize my own experience, just for fun...) in zen and in the prospect of "training" with any teacher, in general. Your book "Hard Core Zen," and its pointing to Nishijima (and his emphasis on the ACTION of "just keeping the spine straight"), really helped reconnect me with the basics—and to remember that THE BASICS ARE WHERE "IT'S" AT. In fact, the basics are ALL THERE IS, EVER. As you point out in the post to which I'm commenting (I'm stretching your idea a bit here to fit my own purposes), we have everything we "need" from the moment some schmuck (like you, or Dosho, or Clouds' current teacher, Byakuren—whom I also love, by the way) teaches us these "basics"...it's just that, for almost all of us, it takes a LONG TIME, and doing "the basics" (zazen) a LOT, to fully ACCEPT that this is all there is! And (as I think you've said in one of your books), not only is this all there is, it's absolutely the most stupendous thing we could ever want (BETTER than "stupendous," because "stupendous" is kinduv a trip, and all trips, by nature, end, whereas we never have to worry about THIS going away—we can't even get away from it!)

Anyway, because I thought I should try to give SOME personal air-time to Genpo (I can't at all say "equal" time, because I doubt that I will ever really want to give his stuff as much time as yours...or mine, for that matter), I did follow the link in your post to the blog with the Genpo video (thanks for the link, BTW). I read that author's (I'm trying to find a more neutral word, here, than "blatherings," or "rantings," or "drivel"...)—er, comments on Genpo (didn't watch the video, I admit). Now, as the foregoing sentence may indicate, I was not turned on at all by the author's way of talking-up Genpo. In fairness, this still doesn't tell me anything directly about Genpo, without my listening to the man himself, or reading his own words. Still, I did find it disturbing.

Of course, I could totally be missing something (as could you, Brad, I suppose). I just have to admit, though, that this is definitely, to put it rather mildly, not my cup of tea!

Mark Foote said...

Matt Simonsen said:
"it's just that, for almost all of us, it takes a LONG TIME, and doing "the basics" (zazen) a LOT, to fully ACCEPT that this is all there is!"

I'd like to point out that Shunryu Suzuki said, "only zazen can sit zazen", and Kobun Chino Otogawa said "you know, sometimes zazen gets up and walks around". Yes, the lotus will force a person to recognize the cranial-sacral rhythm at the sacrum, and involuntary action generated by the stretch of ligaments; yes, it's possible to recognize that the location of consciousness affects the posture, and through the posture the ability to feel; nevertheless, there's still nothing that can be done to move a person one iota closer to a witness of how attachment to the pleasant or aversion to the unpleasant conditions the occurrence of consciousness. Fortunately such a witness is an every day thing.

Anonymous said...

Hi Brad. When you'll visit Germany, will you also come to Berlin? Below is a link to "my" Sangha's website. We are a small Soto Zen sitting group in Berlin Kreuzberg.

http://www.jujisan.de/index.html

So if you come to Berlin, you could drop us a mail some time before and we could work something out what to do when you visit, be it dharma talk or a look at some of the overwhelming punk aesthetics heritage here :-)

best wishes
Bastian

Moon Face Buddha said...

I get close to the end of suffering when I sleep (and don't have dreams/nightmares). Unfortunately I think that I wake up each morning.

It occurs to me that the I that goes to sleep each night may not be the same I that wakes up each morning.

If, as Dogen may have said, 'each extraordinary activity is just having rice' then why do I need to buy Brad's books or pay a Guru for a weekend enlightenment seminar?

Anonymous said...

Must say - I'm a bit surprised at the criticism of Genpo here.

Brad, I'm a fan of your work. Please see my criticism as constructive.

I haven't met Genpo. I can't say if he's a nice guy or a snake oil salesman or not. But I have been lucky to meet and practice with some of his successors. Most of those that I have met don't practice big mind directly/themselves, but I've found no discernible difference in their way of teaching whether they do or not - one's very traditional, one's a bit more relaxed, but none of them have ever claimed that Zen is about "easy enlightenment".

My initial thoughts about Big Mind were "who the f..k does this Genpo guy think he is, taking a true tradition and f..king it up". After having seen a bit more of it I'm preprared to alter my judgment. What I can see from it so far is that:
a) the guy is well-grounded in traditional practice. He's worn out more zafu's than I care to count.
b) the practice itself seems like an effective way of bringing some key concepts of zen/buddhism across

When I read your criticism I wondered if you were going after some blog post somewhere or some impression or some book review or something else... because I was wondering if your opinion was negative like I was for the same initial reason (i.e. first knee-jerk response to someone claiming they've *gasp* improved upon Zen by introducing some western concept into it), or because you knew something I didn't (have experience with him and his practice and know they don't work). I couldn't really imagine why you'd paint this guy as a 'snake oil salesman' if it's not one of these two, and if it's the former, I guess I was hoping for you to be different :)

(I also don't think your reaction could be about the money - dude, Thich Nhat Hanh charges more to stay at Plum Village than some luxury resorts, is he a snake oil salesman?)

Anyway. I just felt compelled to speak up; I have benefited from his work (i.e. the teachers he trained) indirectly and was equally critical, before I had a chance to understand more about his Big Mind thing.

Mark Foote said...

I just went to Genpo's site, and I agree that this site is about getting people to pay money for the teaching.

I understand that Genpo himself may be on to something, he may have found a way to communicate the teaching to Westerners more effectively than his predecessors, and there may be those in his entourage who feel that this is the best way to get the word out. Nevertheless, I would say that the fact that he himself learned it in the tradional way puts him at a disadvantage. I have always believed that the only way the dharma would come West is through Westerners who could not succeed in the traditional methods of Zen training discovering the heart of the practice on their own, and developing a vocabulary to describe the practice in Western terms, a vocabulary that would free Westerners to communicate about the practice on their own.

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MeanGirl said...

I don't know much about Zen, but from your post I have learned quite a bit about followers of Zen.

If you haven't ended suffering in your life, what makes You an expert in how it's done? Because you can't do it? Because all those other guys say, "Can't be done."

How do you know it isn't possible to end suffering in a workshop if you didn't go?

I saw the flier. It doesn't say anything about technique. Or enlightenment. It said, "possible for you." Is that what ticked you off? That it might be possible?

I'd get more from your post if you experienced and then trashed, instead of assuming and trashing from afar.

P.S. Brad...did he really promise enlightenment? Come on...Tell the truth.

P.S.S. The guys who say "excellent post"...Do you know how to end suffering? Do you have any idea of what you are talking about?

Isn't it fun to dis when you don't know what you are talking about? It makes you feel so superior, so good about how smart you are. I have heard the word for that...it's Ego.

I don't know much about Zen, but I do know closed, judgmental minds when I see them. I would think you are right: You, Brad, can't achieve anything with a mind that shut.

For a guy who says he doesn't know much, you sure use a lot of words like "snake oil salesmen" and "huckster," and "con man." Here's bad news: Enlightenment comes in a instant. You, Brad, don't know how long it will take or if the end of suffering didn't come to somebody on that afternoon.

I'd think twice about the "I'm clean" assertion.

Mark Foote said...

Mean Girl,

Have you ever had a friend get involved with a cult, and later that friend wondered how they could have wasted so much time believing in a guru (of some kind or another)?

I think that's what Brad is trying to help people avoid when he writes a blog entry like this one. For myself, I would assume like Brad that someone offering an end to suffering in one afternoon is fooling themselves and others. Even Gautama the Buddha spoke of it as possible in one day, for sure in seven days, but not in one afternoon! Ha ha!

the end of suffering you may know, but can you show the way to yourself and others, to guide? I agree that most Zen teachings rely on the negative, rather than the substantive and positive; have you read "Zen Letters; the teachings of Yuanwu", by Cleary? The voice of a literate person with original and substantive things to say, in my opinion.

Mark

MeanGirl said...

Hi Mark,

No body knows how long it takes...no limited human, at least. Even Buddha was a "guy." Could be a fraction of a second, could be eternity...it takes as long as it takes. Period.

To attack a guru (especially one you just saw on a poster) because of your own prejudices, assumptions, and violence is not spiritual. Brad doesn't know this Swami. By his unkindness he could turn a divine curiosity, very delicate and pure, to world-hardened cynicism. Maybe someone would turn away from an enlightening experience.

I call that persuasion a false teaching, a false guru.

And still, I must always assert...it's not the guru--it is the disciple. The guru's job includes presenting you with the worst you can imagine and beyond...before the world does. The guru has compassion and will not eat you...the world will.

No false guru ever killed a true, pure disciple. He just sharpened the d's skill set. That is what the "burning away" is all about. If there is killing, the d kills himself.

Isn't there a Zen story about this? I seem to remember one....I'll look for it.

Maybe I should say thank-you to Brad...he is sharpening my skill set. :)

MeanGirl said...

Hi Mark - One more thing...

I didn't answer your question.

I do have friends who have been abused by untrue gurus. They have told me how painful and humiliating and shocking it can be to trust someone so completely that they gave up their sense of wrong and right, and were used for it.

I can't imagine how that would feel and I'm very lucky not to have experienced it. I'm sure it's so painful that you could easily become cynical and suspicious.

It's true there was no compassion for that condition in my previous posts...and for that I say I'm sorry and Namaste.

It's not for me to say, (I know). I wonder if one who has endured that, in time, can soften enough to open up to the fact that there are true gurus out there with something divine to point you to...people who embody the compassion to care more about you than themselves. I wouldn't be surprised if the answer was no, but it could be yes. Who knows?

Maybe that's what some teachers mean by inquiring?

Just don't assume--it's insulting.

They (those Bodhisattvas) might even include the guy on the poster.

Mark Foote said...

Let me speak in Brad's defense, then (as if he needed it!).

As I see it, Brad is attempting to simultaneously make a living and teach the practice of Soto meditation, primarily in the U.S.A. He recognizes that his experience as a punk rocker in America and his years in Japan gives him a unique perspective on the role of a meditation practice in daily life; he has gone directly for the vein in terms of using his perspective to speak to the issues that concern the members of the counter-culture in America.

He allows himself to take an adversarial stance, because he believes strongly in the utility of practice in the lotus or perhaps half-lotus posture, and he perceives that the hard work of finding a way into these postures is easily shunned in favor of the easy understanding. Brad is at his best when he makes it fun to learn what his practice is all about; he's not too good at taking prisoners along the way.

I might even have to read one of his books; come to think of it, I got a gift certificate to the local bookstore as a gift for my birthday. Think I'll check his books out when I go downtown to busk today!

MeanGirl said...

Swami Premodaya was born a Jewish baby in a Nazi concentration camp. He was beaten, abused, tortured and starved. He was allowed only bread and water for the first few years of life.

If he says suffering can end in his life and that it's possible for you I think that trumps Brad's rock star experience and half lotus positions. What do you think, Mark?

Look into it. I did.

So...not so excellent post (again), Brad. Please know what you are talking about before defaming.

Mark Foote said...

hi, Meangirl,

I took a look at the Swami's page, read the bio and I have to confess I am always suspicious of credentials in the field of spiritual awakening. Brad's, too. My approach has been to teach myself, because no one out there could teach me how to sit the lotus without pain and without numb legs. I'm still working on that. Turns out to be about a lot of things, not the least of which is the movement of breath, the movement of the sacrum in the cranial-sacral rhythm, and the movement of the sense of location as consciousness takes place. I have learned how to speak to myself, mostly in writing, to say things I didn't know before.

the ability to let go of it all depends on the experience of action beyond doubt, for me. Everyone experiences the end of suffering all the time. Selling water by the river, and if we can't teach ourselves and each other without credentials, civilization is in trouble.

yers, Mark

MeanGirl said...

The ability to let go of it all depends on just doing it for me. If I could control stuff, then maybe I'd try to. But I can't, so I may as well let somebody who has the whole picture do it.

Then, first the swami was a "hukster" and a "con man" now he is overqualified? Which way do you want to attack him?

And, we obviously cannot teach each other, with or without credentials. Notice all the people who agreed with the premise that suffering can't end? Especially in (gasp) one workshop? If "people experience end of suffering all the time," why the attack?

Civilization is trouble when people stop thinking for themselves. You have quite a following of those people. (Excellent post Brad! Write more of this stuff.) Poison is so popular!

Haven't heard from Brad on this. Maybe he lost interest.

Mark Foote said...

Hi, MeanGirl,

I know from Brad's comments in his posts in the past that he doesn't always read through the comments. He admonished himself once for this, as his teacher, Gudo Nishijima, always does. You could check Nishijima's blog, if you're interested in Brad's lineage teacher.

I do think that everyone realizes the end of suffering all the time, and that the teachers who inspired me in the past were all keenly aware of this, and of their own inabilities. Like Brad, these were (and are) Soto Zen teachers, for whom the sitting practice is the teaching, in essence.

I think we have a vocabulary now to express the basics of that sitting practice in words, but it's not possible have an understanding substitute for a witness of experience. The end of suffering is the witness of the place of consciousness conditioned by attraction, aversion, or ignorance, and the experience of action out of the free occurrence of consciousness that follows. If I don't experience consciousness taking place, and the involuntary action connected with that experience, then I own my suffering until I do, and prayer in one posture or another is the only approach I know.

How about you?

MeanGirl said...

I know you have asserted that everybody experiences the end of suffering all of the time. I'm not sure I understand that.

Most people that I talk to suffer a lot. And don't mind telling you about it, either. There is nothing wrong in it, it's just the commonplace way of seeing life. The ideas of lack, mistrust, jealousy, fury, and greed (to name a few) make for suffering. To me, any thought or feeling that causes me to ask "why can't it be another way?" or "Can't I just have a little more?" is suffering.

Gratitude, enjoyment, witnessing, detachment, maturity, and love are safeguards against suffering. In the lead, there is trust. Trust that there is a plan and that it is working, no matter what I'm experiencing. Attention to the bigger picture, the whole of life, is the goal. If I live looking through a microscope my life will be much more limited than if I just look up!

Gratitude instead of angst; Love instead of repulsion; Witnessing instead of immersing; Trust instead of mistrust. And if I can't pull any of that off, just a simple recognition that I just have to wait and see, maybe I don't really know how the joke (Why did the chicken cross the road?) is going to end. Realizing that this may be a different joke with a different ending keeps me paying attention.

Gratitude to those who dedicate their lives to helping people is closer to ending suffering than attacking people (even hucksters) , don't you think? (Yeah, I'm still on about that.)

Mark Foote said...

hey, Meangirl,let me say first that's it's delightful talking with you!

I like what you are saying, yet I am one of those whose mother always told him to stand up straight, who carried a brief case to high school, and thought he was pretty smart but knew until he stood up a little straighter he really couldn't say that he knew squat. I mention this because I value the microscope approach as much as the macroscopic one. True, my stoop is magnified when I am lost in concentration, yet I feel we are on the cusp of a new age; we have the science, even if we know from Godel that it will always be incomplete if it is consistent. That's my belief.

You're right, there is practice and verification, yet the only real practice and verification is undefiled? I believe that, and it says to me that we pray. The posture's the thing, in which we catch sight of our wings?

I don't actually know anyone who prays on their knees, but for me it's about the isolation of the motion of the sacrum in whatever posture, and the lotus works well. The mind moves, the place of mind sits (or stands), when it's necessary to the length of the breath in or the breath out we see how the place of mind conditioned by ignorance gives rise to suffering. Nothing can be done, but I can pray, and I can remind myself of the sign last and the cultivation of light. I love the Gautamid's practice:

So he abides fully conscious of what is behind and what is in front.
As (he is conscious of what is) in front, so behind: as behind, so in front;
as below, so above: as above, so below:
as by day, so by night: as by night, so by day.
Thus with wits alert, with wits unhampered, he cultivates his mind to brilliancy.

(Sanyutta-Nikaya, text V 263, Pali Text Society volume 5 pg 235, ©Pali Text Society)

I try to explain it, here: The Gautamid Offers A Practice

gotta go sit up straight!

MeanGirl said...

I've experienced the practice that you call "Gautamid's practice." It's not figurative--it's literal. Front, back, right, left, up, down -- 360 degrees, consciousness of all, at the same time. AND there can also be consciousness of this AND different dimensions at the same time. Expansion of consciousness, past the body you were born into and what that body can see, hear, touch, feel, smell. Not magical...just expanded.

It was an accident, I don't think I earned it--maybe by your practice, you will if you haven't already.

MeanGirl said...

Where did you go?

Mark Foote said...

I'm here, I've been over on the comments to Brad's latest post. He's at Tassajara, and as it turns out this Friday he'll be at my local bookstore, the one my girl gave me a gift certificate to that I haven't used, the one I was busking in front of last Saturday. I think I might buy a book, and ask for an autograph!

Yes, I agree that there is a realm of the infinity of ether and a realm of the infinity of consciousness. There's a sermon where the Gautamid talks about how the extension of the mind of compassion in ten directions is synonymous with the plane of the infinity of ether, and the extension of the mind of sympathetic joy is synonymous with the plane of the infinity of consciousness. He goes on to say that the extension of the mind of equanimity is the plane of no-thing-ness (as it were). My own experience, it's somehow tied in with the way the place of consciousness and the hit of the cranial-sacral rhythm feeds into the movement of breath. The breath moves the body, in concert with things outside the range of the senses, when the hit and the place breathes.

MeanGirl said...

When you see Brad, you can ask for his response to my comments, since this is his site.

Mark Foote said...

I think I will have to let Brad be the star, there at the local bookstore. If you wanted to buy a book, he would probably autograph an answer for you?- but otherwise, I think he will leave us both to stew in our own juices, as he has so many followers on the blog with so many comments, and his own life to sort out. Why does no one come to sit zazen at the Santa Monica zendo when he's there, that was one of the last things I heard him wonder about, before he decided to stop paying rent and hit the lecture circuit full-time.