Tuesday, March 16, 2010

THIS IS AUSTIN NOT L.A.! (Year 2) and ZEN AS ART

I thought I was being sooooo clever using the title "This is Austin Not L.A.!" since I just arrived in Austin. Then I went looking for an image for the piece and found out I'd used that title a year ago, the last time I came to Austin.

Fuck it. What else is there except for maybe an Austin Powers reference? So I'm just recycling the old title. It's good for the environment!

So I gave my talk in Houston, stayed there with the amazing and wonderful Gaelyn Godwin, who runs the show down there, then got driven up here by Vicky from the Zen Center. And now here I am in the Austin Zen Center library typing this for y'all.

But the big news is that a friend of mine got tickets to see MOTORHEAD tonight. Wooo-hoooo! They're here for South By Southwest apparently. I didn't even know there still was a Motorhead. I hope they play Ace of Spades and Iron Fist. Motorhead were the first metal band the punk rockers accepted. Now you can't even tell the difference between the two genres.

So anyway, when I was in Houston the talk I gave was about my growing conviction that Zen teaching should not be seen as a form of religious instruction but as a form of art instruction. I admit it's an uneasy fit. But so is considering it religious instruction.

The general public doesn’t really have a clue as to what a Zen teacher is. So the model they usually chose to base their assumptions about what a Zen teacher ought to be is that of a religious instructor.

And it isn’t just the uninformed masses who do this. A great many Zen teachers conceive of it this way themselves. This is especially true in Japan. The modern Japanese Soto School is essentially an imitation of the Roman Catholic Church. In the Meiji Era, the Japanese looked to the West to provide a framework for understanding the world. They adopted the Western classifications of various forms of knowledge and the divisions thereof, such as science, philosophy and religion.

It’s important to recall that even in our own culture there was a very long time during which there were no such divisions of human knowledge and understanding. There wasn’t really a category of philosophy that was separate from religion. And even aspects of what we now recognize as the scientific view were mixed into a generalized stew of knowledge that included religion and philosophy. Other aspects of human understanding such as mathematics, law, art and a whole lot of other forms of understanding that we now look upon as fundamentally incompatible with each other were also mixed into this stew.

But by the time the Japanese were ready to adopt the Western outlook and way of life, these classifications had already been well established in our culture. These classifications were not, however, nearly so well established in Japan or in the rest of Asia.

So when the Meiji Era Japanese needed a place in which to classify Zen Buddhism, it seemed like the best fit was in the category the Westerners called “religion.”

Once it was decided that Zen was a religion, Japanese scholars and clergy people alike began to look for the commonalities Zen had with Western religions and largely downplay those aspects that did not fit the established Western mold.

And so the idea has come down to us a hundred and some years later that Zen is a religion. I’m aware that there has been considerable debate about this. But mostly the debate has been framed in terms of the question: “Is Zen a religion or a philosophy?” I used to side with the faction that said it was a philosophy. But I’m not so sure this is even the right question anymore.

It has occurred to me lately that Zen is not a religion or a philosophy, but might better be seen as a form of art.

One aspect of religious instruction is that as a representative of some specific religion you usually have an institution behind you. They decide what their reps can and cannot say and how their reps should dress and behave. The institution takes responsibility for the individuals they choose as their representatives. Thus if a parish priest in Des Moines is caught fondling choir boys, the main office in Rome is held responsible.

The Zen model doesn't really function that way except perhaps when it comes to large institutions such as the Soto-shu of Japan and maybe a few others in the West who follow their model -- which, in turn, is based on the Catholic Church, ironically .

Art instruction works differently. I am a competent enough guitarist that I could teach someone the basics of the instrument. I can show you the chords, the blues scale, how to hold your pick real tight and make that squeaky sound like the guy from ZZ Top and so forth. Once I have instructed you, how you use that knowledge isn't really my business. You may choose to use it for good, or you can use what I've taught you for evil purposes, like playing guitar in a Julio Iglesias cover band, for example.

It's really up to you. Furthermore, beyond the basics I teach you, it's up to you to come up with your own style of playing. Your style will be influenced by what I've taught you. But if you're any good at all you'll be able to incorporate those influences into something uniquely your own.

I think that's how good Zen teaching should function as well. Good Zen teachers shouldn't try to unify what they teach any more than poets should try to make their poems all sound the same or novelists should try to write the same book. That would be counter to their art.

As for institutions, I think they kill Zen. Or they can. Which is why Dogen Sangha is such a loose organization (or disorganization) without any of the hallmarks of a religious institution. And I plan on keeping it that way.

Good? OK. Now I gotta go sit some Zen with these Texans and then get ready for MOTORHEAD!

93 comments:

Anonymous said...

WON!

john e mumbles said...

Shit yeah, you know Lemmy, who formed Motorhead, was the bass player for Hawkwind. Oh, will the prog-rock references never end!

But then, no other acidhead space-bassist that I know of went on in the midst of Punk Rock England and made a speed-metal band happen like Lemmy.

Unless you count Bootsy.

Enjoy the show.

Rich said...

From Wiki
"Traditionally, the term art was used to refer to any skill or mastery. This conception changed during the Romantic period, when art came to be seen as "a special faculty of the human mind to be classified with religion and science"

So is 'just sitting', 'just seeing things as they are' a skill to be mastered? I guess you could call it the art of living. but some people may need more than that and some less than that. You'll definitely attract the artsy folks. I don't know, let me think about it.

anon #108 said...

LEMMY?
Did someone say HAWKWIND??

Er...not my cuppa tea, but another name I'm happy to drop...

The very first rock band I ever played in was formed, in '72, by one of Hawkwind's roadies, a public schoolboy called Bruce Welch (not the BW of Cliff Richard's SHADOWS). I was introduced to Bruce by a trumpet player in the London Schools Symphony Orchestra, with whom I played flute. We played a bunch of gigs opening for Hawkwind around that time - just as they were establishing a rep, just after "in Search of Space". We were rubbish. Really. (Don't ask me the band's name; there were as many names as there were gigs).

I was there when Lemmy started playing "Silver Machine" at the gigs, getting up the nose of Dave Brock for having "pop star" aspirations". I was there when Bruce punched Lemmy out for shagging his girlfriend, Alison while Bruce was back at the venue packing up the PA. I was there when Dik Mik and Nick Turner would pass the acid round in a cough sweet tin...(I never inhaled, too young). I was there when Terry Ollis, full of Mandrax, would turn up one hour into the gig - Bruce would sit in on drums till he arrived - and strip ALL his kit off to play the last 15 minutes.

I wish I could say 'What fun we had!'
It's all much better in the re-telling.

anon #108 said...

...I do apologise, but to complete the Hawkwind story, it's essential to mention that years later, in 1999, I played for a few months in a pub band, a kind of Stones/The Band all-covers band, with Mick Slattery, one of the founder members of Hawkwind, and a very good (English) electric blues guitarist. That was good fun, and much more my cuppa tea.

john e mumbles said...

108! (fast emerging as the Zelig of R&R): Dude, Anecdotal! Since its more fun in the re-telling: More Please!!

unblo said...

common 108.. enough with the teasing. give us your name and references. Don't be a twat!

Anonymous said...

"just sitting" is performance art.

In sitting, we perform nothing beyond sitting. That is the ultimate performance - to the point.

anon #108 said...

unblo,

I'm merely one of a very large number of layabout musos who stayed out of full-time employment long enough to have crossed the paths of other layabout musos who got famous. I myself was never famous.

Now I must sleep. I'm all name-dropped out for today, and I've an appointment with my careers advisor later this morning.

Nite nite.

Michael Gibbs said...

Interesting. Last night I was reading Gudo Nishijima's (with Jeffery Bailey) To Meet the Real Dragon, Chapter 8: The Transmission of Truth, in which he states, "People who are members of a religious institution have a tendency to believe that the institution is the religion itself." He later explains that "If our teachings and institutions lose contact with that source of life and vitality, they will become a hindrance rather than a helpful vehicle on the way to the Truth."

Here's another quote, "There are certain dangers which seem to be inherent in the establishment of religious groups or institutions. One of those is that the members of the community are inclined to lose sight of the real nature of their institution. They tend to confuse the external form of the religion with the religion itself. In their eyes, the rules , ceremonies and other visible aspects of the religion take on paramount importance. Gautama Buddha himself never suffered from such delusions. he recognized the real value of the community which had evolved naturally around him. It provided an environment in which people could come into contact with the teachings and, from there, find their way to the Truth. Teaching the truth, showing people how to find the Truth in their own lives through their own efforts was the aim of Gautama Buddha's life."

I like the idea of Buddhism being Art for Art is something one does. I recently returned to kung fu class. In many ways, kung fu could be considered a religion with it's etiquette and philosophy. But it's a martial ART. Something one does, although learning the philosophy and etiquette is important to developing the truth of the Art. I'm guessing the transmission of the martial arts from teacher to disciple is very similar in many ways to the transmission of "True Buddhism" from Zen teacher to disciple.

getupnmove said...

I like the comparison to art and guitar playing. I have no idea how to play but I can understand the art side from a computer programming perspective. There's a science to it. But it doesn't come alive until you make it your own and xpress yourself with it. It's the diff between a code monkey and a passionate developer.

Anonymous said...

Brad, yes, nice metaphor. After hearing a bunch of 'dharma talks' on the same topic, I began to think of the different teachers as being jazz musicians, riffing on the same standard.

Mysterion said...

Teaching is not an art.

Let me put this into words that all herein should easily understand.

Art is the finished form.

Sculpting (stone) is the craft of making a statue (art).

Carpentry is the craft of building a cabin (which is a form of art).

Directing is the craft of building - character - in the actor.

And teaching is the craft of molding the student into mastery of the subject matter - providing that there is 1) ability, 2) opportunity, 3) motivation, and 4) sufficient time-on-task. And, I dare say 1) ability, 2) opportunity, 3) motivation, and 4) dedication on the part of the one charged with teaching (mentoring).

Teaching, unlike art, is a process.

I remember them as prisoners awaiting release, but this may be correct:
"...four of Michelangelo’s unfinished “Slave Sculptures”, which look like giants fighting their way out of the stone blocks—but not yet fully revealed. Michelangelo’s theory of sculpting was that when he saw a block of stone, he would see the figure inside of it, waiting to be released. It was his job, he believed, to chip away the stone and reveal what was already inside."
source

Itinerant Gamer said...

"What is art?"

the question does not fit the case.

all the trolls said...

"It has occurred to me lately that Zen is not a religion or a philosophy, but might better be seen as a form of art."

Hmmm.. This idea sounds more and more like Brad's new favorite toy. I think he sees a book in it.. Gudo's has his "Three Philosophies and One Reality™" shtick and now Brad's has "Zen, not really religion, not really philosophy, but Art.™" Simple yet seemingly profound. Genius!

Petteri Sulonen said...

Who is Art?

proulx michel said...

At chapter 30 of his Lila, Robert Pirsig writes:

The Proto-Indo-European root of aretê was the morpheme "rt". There, besides aretê, was a treasure room of other derived "rt" words: "arithmetic," "aristocrat," "art," "rhetoric," "worth," "rite," "ritual," "wright," "right (handed" and "right (correct)." All of these words except arithmetic seemed to have a vague thesaurus-like similarity to Quality.

And further:

Rta. It was a Sanskrit word, and Phaedrus remembered what it meant: Rta was the "cosmic order of things."

Further still:

The physical order of the universe is also the moral order of the universe. Rta is both.

Still further:

"Rta," Hiriyanna had written, "almost ceased to be used in Snaskrit; but... under the name of dharma, the same idea occupies a very important place int he later Indian views of life also."

______________

I'd also like to point out to Mysterion that the difference between "craft" and "art" is a bit thin. In ancient latin, "ars, artis" very simply means the transforming of rough matter into a finished produce. Up to the end of the 18th Century, the Encyclopédie would talk of "arts mécaniques" and "arts libéraux". Craft (viz its German homophone Kraft, which means strenght) is only a germanic equivalent to the ancient meaning of art.

And, actually, the Greek equivalent of "ars, artis" was "technê".

anonyGHOSTmouse said...

art=many motions acting in harmony as one motion....

anonyghost said...

art is always an unfinished ever changing process

john e mumbles said...

Art is a verb. It happens.

anonyghost is right, for example, in terms that even Mysterion can understand: as long as there is an audience for a so-called "finished" work of art, it is a collaboration between the two to "complete" it anew, over and over again in the appreciation of it.

That Michelangelo quote is hand-me-down bullshit, as were most of Picasso's, designed to lead the audience away from the process rather than into it. As if he had Superman-like powers to gaze into the stone, c'mon.

All Art considered "finished" is excrement, as Artaud said, an afterthought or embarrassment of pride. It ultimately serves no purpose whatsoever other than entertainment.

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

Hi anon at 8.35pm.

...Nice one, Jim ;)

David said...

Well, if you aren't comfortable with the term, I suppose you can take any religion and call it art. Couldn't you call Christianity an art? In fact, I have a book called "The Art of Prayer," an Eastern Orthodox Christian manual that provides instruction in the so-called "Jesus Prayer," a short, mantra like prayer at the root of their contemplative tradition. Liturgy and ritual, in any religious tradition, is certainly a form of art, as is the skillful application of moral principles to the various aspects of life. If these things can become dull and lifeless, fixed and institutionalized, the same can be said about art, which also has its schools and rules and fixed views. I don't know if using the concept of art rather than religion would ultimately make much of a difference in the end.

proulx michel said...

David said:
I don't know if using the concept of art rather than religion would ultimately make much of a difference in the end.
My take is that it's not so much a matter of "saying" as a matter of "doing" and, as I understand it, without its 19th century crap flavour, art is doing, period.

anon #108 said...

These bits - -


"I am a competent enough guitarist that I could teach someone the basics of the instrument...Once I have instructed you, how you use that knowledge isn't really my business....It's really up to you. Furthermore, beyond the basics I teach you, it's up to you to come up with your own style of playing. Your style will be influenced by what I've taught you. But if you're any good at all you'll be able to incorporate those influences into something uniquely your own...

I think that's how good Zen teaching should function as well. Good Zen teachers shouldn't try to unify what they teach any more than poets should try to make their poems all sound the same...That would be counter to their art...

As for institutions, I think they kill Zen."



- - are, for me, the interesting bits of Brad's post. I don't hear him saying that practising zazen is an art-form just like writing a poem; I hear him making a comparison with teaching a free, non-fixed, activity - any creative art-form - and teaching Zen. As such, it is, a more useful and imaginative way of approaching Zen teaching than the usual 'religious instruction' model.

Such a model might help us avoid the "But your teacher/school believes this and that, so you surely must" debates (see last few posts on gniz's re-blog) we sometimes get caught up in.

Works for me.

anon #108 said...

After the MOTORHEAD stuff, Brad introduced the Zen/religion/art topic with this:

"...my growing conviction that Zen teaching should not be seen as a form of religious instruction but as a form of art instruction. I admit it's an uneasy fit. But so is considering it religious instruction.

The general public doesn’t really have a clue as to what a Zen teacher is. So the model they usually chose to base their assumptions about what a Zen teacher ought to be is that of a religious instructor."


Perhaps he went a little too far with the Zen as Art comparison; he admitted the whole analogy is "an uneasy fit." But I think it's clear his intention was to offer a different way of looking at Zen teaching, not the whole kit and kaboodle of Buddhism.

anon #108 said...

Thanks PM, v interesting (Re the root "Rt").

I took a look in the Monier-Williams Sanskrit dictionary. Here's (just a little) of what's there:


Rta, - proper, right, fit, apt, true ...worshipped, respected...

n. fixed or settled order, law, rule (esp. in religion...)

n. sacred or pious action or custom, divine law, faith, divine truth...

n. truth in general, righteousness, right...

n. truth personified (as an object of worship...)

n. truly, sincerely, indeed...


[Whe used in the instrumenal case, as an adverb] right, duly, properly, regularly, lawfully, according to usage or right...


FWIW.

Buddhasbrewing said...

Who would win in a fight Lemmy or God? Tick question: Lemmy is God, dickhead! - Brendan Fraiser in Airheads

Great transcription of your talk in Houston. I really enjoyed it even though the time change killed me and I got there late.

The Q & A was just as good. It was nice to meet you and I was happy to find that you were even more humble, funny, and irreverant in person than in your writing.

Slainte!

The Architect said...

I sat next to Phil from Motorhead at a gig recently. (Not a Motorhead gig - we were both watching somebody else) Nice guy!

anon #108 said...

Etymologist's Corner

...Mind you, the Online Etymological Dictionary has ARTI,(skrt = Rti) not RTA as the proto-indo-european root of ART. The Online ED dictionary gives "manner, mode" as the meaning of the sanskrit word.

Back to the M-W Sanskrit Dictionary...

"Rtis [same as Rti, above] going, motion..." [I guess in the sense of gait = manner, mode of going?]

Take your pick.
Scholarship, eh, mysti?


captcha = faltiv

Mysterion said...

Blogger john e mumbles said...
"All Art considered "finished" is excrement..."

OMG!

you are right!

Art is excrement!

I just had an epi-phony!

I am not golden poop!
not golden, at least

Mysterion said...

re Sanskrit

or Sand Skrit for the RTists here...

Anonymous said...

missing link for excrement above

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/ek20070320wh.html

anon #108 said...

Anecdote Corner

john e mumbles wrote:

It [art] ultimately serves no purpose whatsoever other than entertainment.

Let me see......
Ah! Got it!

In the early 80's, while bass player with The Michael Nyman Band, I was at "Composer's Weekend" hosted by the (now defunct) Society for the Promotion of New Music. We were the 'house band', and Mike was one of the guest composers - along with Vinko Globokar, then Karheinz Stochausen's right hand men.

During a long lecture/discussion between VG and MN about compositional process, I remarked (from the audience) that even VG's complex avant-garde music was ulimately entertainment - just like MN's. Neither of em liked it...

Globokar: "Vot iz he sayink? "Ent..what"? Is he a Cokerny? I'm sorry I can't understand ze kveshtyun".

Chairman: "He's saying 'entertainment', Herr Globokar".

Globokar: "Ah! Entertainment. My musik iz entertainment??! I hope not!"

Nyman: "I'd like to think my music is a lot more than 'entertaining'".


Artists.
Pffft.

proulx michel said...

Actually, one of the difficulties for modern artists in understanding how did musicians like Mozart function is precisely this.

Mozart was, in fact, a freelance author. He needed to sell in order to maintain his living standards which were indeed high: both his daughters went to a private school, he had a big appartment, servants and a coach with horses, all of which were expensive; And he did earn a lot of money. Pity he never put any aside, because when he fell sick, he got in the same situation so many Americans get nowadays: that was the ruin of him.
But aside from that, in order to sell his wares, he had to entertain, even though the word truly pains most modern day artists.

As for Bach, people tend to overlook the fact that, for the last 27 years of his life, Bach was a civil servant, an employee of the City of Leipzig, along with some tedious chores which allowed him some security (of which his widow did not partake, since she ended in mendicity at the door of her husband's former church).

Things changed (but slowly) in the 19th century. Artists slowly ascended from a rather low social position to a prestigious one. Our modern day artists go on living upon that. Hence our blurred notions of art.

Mysterion said...

Blogger proulx michel said...
"Bach's widow ended in mendicity at the door of her husband's former church..."

mendicity = as a begger

So too with the Bowers.

Once worth $150 million, Eilley Orrum Bowers died in poverty.

Great lesson: Suffering.

Anonymous said...

Does Zen pass the duck test of being religious?

Scriptures, concepts like revelation and ultimacy, moral imperatives, experts who look like clergy or shamanists or experts of a kind, mysticism, pilgrimage.

Duck, bill, feathers, waddles. It’s a duck.

Anonymous said...

Not all of us are artists by that I mean I am more of a crafts person.
Not much of that either
a gardener of sorts, but I don't have a yard any more
truth be told these days I am not much of anything
middle aged
I am in the position to be of help
just what is 'helpful'
that seems to be more and more the question


for several months now I have been happier than I have ever experienced in my life that I can remember: now this last week I am in a lot of physical pain, I am not unhappy
from time to time are periods when nothing makes sense
in many ways they make more sense than the periods of time which appear to make sense
moment to moment
too bad I never learned to play an instrument never learned to read music
art of living
philosophy of action

JoSatori said...

Respectfully, Brad, I think institutions have their place (that does, of course, on whether I correctly understand the term "institution"). In fact, institutions can be beneficial. Sometimes it's only an institution that can get something done. As an institution, the Catholic Church (having a great deal of resources and the organization to handle them) has done a great deal of good. The same goes for the Peace Corps, the Salvation Army or any other charitable organization/institution.

I think the point is not to get hung up on the institution. It's better to get to the heart of the matter - i.e. what drives the institution, its heart, its core. It's like the "finger pointing at the moon" saying. If we focus on the finger, we miss what it's pointing at. Similarly, if we focus on the institution and forget the point of its existence, we miss what's really important.

My mother, who's a devout Christian, has never focused on the institution of church. On the contrary, she's always said, "God is not in His church." Rather, He's in your heart. By the same token, however, she'd be the first one to tell you that she probably wouldn't know that fact if it wasn't for the church.

That being said, I think that a truly "spiritual" person - one who truly trust the core of their practice - would mistake the finger for the moon. A true Christian knows that their practice is touch God, not being dedicated to the church. Yet, they will simultaneously acknowledge that the church is what points them in the right direction in their practice.

Mysterion said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...
"Does Zen pass the duck test of being religious?"

No, yes, neither, and both.

"Those who conceive of a Ch'an identity independent of Buddhist teaching do not understand that the scriptures (ching) are the words of the Buddha, and meditation (ch'an) is the thought of the Buddha; there is no discrepancy whatsoever between what the Buddha conceives in his mind and what he utters with his mouth."
*Tsan-ning (919-1001)*

I take Zen as being the religion of no religion. The Deity is the no deity. The Truth is the no truth. The Authority is the no authority.

From its inception in 600 B.C., Buddhism has been a reaction against Brahmanism and the myth of Authority. Buddhism eschews all the elaborate rituals and magic so evident in the metaphysical religious mumbo-jumble. We do not dance with snakes, drink blood, eat bodies, practice mutilation of the genitals.

Dancing with snakes, drinking blood, eating bodies, practicing mutilation of the genitals is what the religious participate in to an almost universal degree.

Buddhism could neither be that primitive not that superstitious.

Anonymous said...

I know. Sick bastards.

anon #108 said...

Hi Anon @ 12.11pm -

Does Zen pass the duck test of being religious?
Scriptures, concepts like revelation and ultimacy, moral imperatives, experts who look like clergy or shamanists or experts of a kind, mysticism, pilgrimage.
Duck, bill, feathers, waddles. It’s a duck.


Quite so, anon.

If Brad/DSI has a 'mission', it might be to drop all that. Gudo's ideas about, and practice of, Buddhism have gone a long way towards it already - as many complain.

dougsamu said...

As an artist, I understand deeply the need to study and learn the rules - of drawing for instance - before you can express that which is essential. Over the years there has always been something that has been noticeably "my style" which is always there, which makes the work "mine." I have never tried to express it, but it's like a jet trail.

You have to learn the structures and forms - the ritual and history, before you can throw them away.

Anonymous said...

.

"A Zen teacher is not a guru."

rest of article here

Apologist said...

Lest anyone skim "sick bastards" and conclude that Jewish circumcision involves sucking blood from baby dicks - it don't. That rare version of the ritual was thought by some Mohels (Rabbis who circumcise) to be an expression of intimacy and love for the newborn child, but - as the Israeli academic article anon linked demonstrates - is, in light of modern HIV research now frowned upon. It was always rare...and they meant well :)

More.

Anonymous said...

What's the difference between working in a NYC circumcision ward and playing an accordion at a Bar/Bat Mitzvah?

In the circumcision ward, you may get some tips.

john e mumbles said...

Blogger-meister Mysterion said:

"Buddhism eschews all the elaborate rituals and magic so evident in the metaphysical religious mumbo-jumble. We"

You don't know much about Vajrayana, eh?

And who is this mysterious "We"?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Apologist said...

"...and they meant well :)"

and THAT's the excuse for injuring a defenseless baby?

WOW!

Anonymous said...

so how were the Texzens?

what were the questzens like?


reati

Apologist said...

and THAT's the excuse for injuring a defenseless baby?

Well...yes. That is the excuse...That's why they did it.

But is it something to be celebrated? No. It was a facetious remark, with a facetious smiley.

(Did you read the links?...It don't matter).

Mysterion said...

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

WAIT! WAIT! WAIT! WAIT!

STOP!

Where are the parents of the baby in this fiasco?

Did they sign a release form for the procedure?

Did that form constitute "informed consent?"

Did the hospitals screen the artists who enacted this sacred (no doubt God-given) ritual?

Did the parents exercise ANY due diligence?

Was anyone thinking?

I do not understand how this level of ignorance (or stupidity) could exist in a medical facility with so many supposedly scientifically trained staff. Where were the infection control people???

Were these for-profit, for-prophet, or foundation hospitals?

This infection of new-borns is inexcusable on three or four levels. Bring in the secular lawyers and sort this bullshit out. With all that bullshit, there has to be a mushroom in there, somewhere.

Rich said...

Brad, maybe you should just say 'I don't know what this is and the way I want to teach that to you is using a style of art instruction as opposed to religious instruction because I don't want to confuse you because you might have some preconceived notions about religion.

Yu can teach with any style that works for you and your students, but you already do that right?

john e mumbles said...

all the trolls up there said:

"Hmmm.. This idea sounds more and more like Brad's new favorite toy. I think he sees a book in it."

Seems reasonable.

Now Zen Art For Now Zen People.

john e mumbles said...

Now That's Entertainment, for author and reader alike: flitting from subject to subject purely on a whim, comparing it to "Zen." Feh.

Anonymous said...

When all else fails, read another book. You might even try effective teaching methods, some day soon.

JoSatori said...

People are so God damn harsh and forceful when the post here. Why?

Smith said...

Blogger JoSatori said...
"People are so God damn harsh and forceful when the post here. Why?"

Sometimes it's the alarm so that you might wake up.

Other times, it's just the clock, to help you can sleep.

Jinzang said...

Furthermore, beyond the basics I teach you, it's up to you to come up with your own style of playing.

What Zen points to is formless and doesn't really have different styles. So I am not understanding this analogy.

Jinzang said...

Why?

Because they enjoy it and there's no one to stop them.

alan said...

Joatori,

"God damn harsh and forceful"

I've got a reputation to uphold as foul mouth spawn of BradSan and his Mutant Godzilla School of Zen(TM).

Any more fucking questions? :-)

Disclaimer: As written attitudes do not always translate well, the above satirizes the attitude of a "typical" BradBlog commenter. Any resemblance to an actual BradBlog commenter and this simulation is strictly coincidental.

Cheers.

Anonymous said...

People are so God damn harsh and forceful when the post here. Why?

There's really no need to blaspheme, Jo.
I'm offended.

anon #108 said...

Brad wrote: "...your own style of playing."

Jinzang queried: "I am not understanding this analogy."


For me, what Brad wrote recalls the very last words of Master Dogen's Fukan-zazengi:


"The treasure-house will open naturally, and you will be free to receive and to use [its contents] as you like."

(Nishijima/Cross translation).

Anonymous said...

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Where I went to college, the catholic church was located at the end of frat row. Walking there on a Sunday one would pass lawns strewn with kegs and empty plastic cups and perhaps a few articles of clothing. It is also true that the road to good intentions is paved with hell!

Mysterion said...

College Fraternities are not hell, nor are they heaven. Most are just a cheap place to live in cramped quarters (frat rats). And hedonism is just small one aspect of the "greeks." Go Greeks at:
University of Pittsburgh
Iowa State University
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Georgia Institute of Technology

The connections you make, now called 'networking' tend to serve you throughout life. TKE brothers help TKE brothers just like Freemasons are said to help other Freemasons.

Party line:
Freemasonry, as a product of the Enlightenment, championed religious freedom, democratic government, public school education and separation of church and state. American colonial Freemasonry provided a system of networking in a society with no communication systems. It played a vital role in the formation of this nation.

Want sinister?
Bush Bonesmen (Skull & Bones)

The catholic church is not hell, nor is it the road to anything special. It is a bunch of odds-and-ends wandering aimlessly in darkness. Pity them.

At least the Mother Church of the West is revealing more about beatification and canonization.

Ran K. said...

To be very short – everything Brad writes about art is right about religion as well.

Brad can surely discern what religion really is and what is its essential nature, which does not require extensive ability or understanding to know, from its degenerated state into which it seems to come, but he seems to choose not to.

I’d quote Kalo on that: “As the great initiates do not reside among the believers, the great religions have a tendency of becoming what may be called by use of an understatement surprising”.

Art – by its very nature – may be the best mean of expression.

Though not always and not in every way – this is surely understood to all – otherwise we’d use nothing else.

As for Nishijima’s statement that Buddhism is a philosophy rather than an art, - I doubt whether this should be taken too seriously. I would say Nishijima does not see much hope that religion will be seen for what it really is, taking the amazing state into which human beings have the tendency to bring it, (recall Christ’s reference to the religious leaders of his time – as “blind managers” - Matthew 15:13-14, 23 in general and particularly 24, and Luke 6:39, - what might he have said about religious establishment since?) and so he prefers to put things as he does.

I would also note that the word “philosophy” in ancient Greece related to a spiritual path. I would say this is what a religion is to be. Religion is not at all defined by whether it does or does not require one to believe in what he might not have reasonable foundation to believe in. We should not believe in what we do not have reasonable foundation to believe in at all. However – the Sex Pistols words – “I don’t know what I want but I know how to get it” – (Anarchy in the U.K. Sutra, Never Mind the Bollocks 1977 collection) could be applied, and sometimes are, intentionally and unintentionally.

Uchiyama Roshi somewhere comments: - “Whenever the word religion is raised some sort of peculiar atmosphere emerges. It has become a sort of a disgusting word. I wish it falls out of use.”. (I have taken some freedom in the above quote off my memory, the spirit – I believe – is maintained) As Nishijima Roshi does not see hope of mending the popular view and sensation of what a religion is and the unpleasant way it feels, - I would say he likes to try and create a better situation without attempting at foundations he does consider conveniently movable.

Art is art. Religion is religion. Science is science.

Art may be a very good mean for religious purposes.

I don’t know how many will take it seriously – but Steiner has it that the Italian 16 century Raphael and an 18 century poet who was using the name of “Novalis” (Friedrich Leopold, Baron Von Hardenberg) were both further reincarnation of John the Baptist whom he says was an incarnation of Elijah. If you believe the facts (and I assume them true) they speak for themselves.

Art is in a way a mean of direct non conceptual communication. You might say it brings the spirit down into the matter. Obviously contemporary science would not be able to investigate such a matter. The analogy to so-called “Zen” may be obvious. However – this does not mean “Zen” is art.

So far this time,
Ran.

Ran K. said...

P.S.

Jinzang @ 5:48 pm: “What Zen points to ... doesn't really have different styles”.

The pointing does.

The hope of all religions is to point at that - one way or the other. Or to get you there. Whether they know it or not.

(Several sects in Judaism are interested in Jinzang in particular. Or they used to be until ’97. The reasons are unclear. Nothing to worry about, though, I believe.)

anon #108 said...

What Zen points to is formless

Perhaps, Jinz (and Ran K...perhaps).

Form may be emptiness, but emptiness is also form.

Ran K. said...

The last bit is from 108.

I'm not into this, really.

And I mentioned a postcard from WLO. (I now have LLZ to help me around.)

He said he wanted to dedicate this song to Nishijima Roshi.

Apparently - Babylon’s all over us.

Otherwise we wouldn't have this stupid discussion, - would we?

Great song, though.

I believe Brad'll like it as well.

His blog profile used to say he likes Alice Cooper – if I remember correctly - but you won't see a connection - I believe.

And one truly last thing:

I like John Lennon (John Lennono actually, he had his name changed to that, I read somewhere) calling the Beatles “the Rolling Stones” (- “me and the Rolling Stones ”, - “when I was traveling with the Rolling Stones”, - etc.) when playing live. - He always does that.

- I doubt to what extent Motorhead are better than Julio Iglesias. Both seem to have their regular pattern to what they do. This isn’t necessarily bad. - The question is to what extent there is something to it.

I used to think metal music was the kind you lose interest in somewhere on changing from a teen to a twenty. Perhaps I was wrong. I might not come to ever find out. But even if you can enjoy three songs, - I doubt whether the fourth would still be interesting.

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

And since 108 has there one already - you sure know you're not the first who said that?

anon #108 said...

I hear that you're "not into this, really", Ran. Nevertheless -

Form may be emptiness, but emptiness is also form.

Actually Ran, I AM the first to have said that.

Others have said "Form is emptiness. Emptiness is form..." And interpreted it as, for example:

"Physical form is without its own separate existence. That which is without its own separate existence is physical form."

I said something a little different, which was intended to address Jinzang's point that Zen, pointing to the formless, seems to contradict Brad's comment that "...beyond the basics I teach you, it's up to you to come up with your own style of playing."

Jinzang wrote: "What Zen points to is formless and doesn't really have different styles."

I'm suggesting that "styles" are "form" - and so styles; expressions; appearances; personalities are not other than, or in conflict with what Zen 'points to'.

Emptiness is form.
Nirvana is samsara.

If your or Jinzang's understanding is different, that itself is a demonstration of what I - and I believe Brad - am talking about: different styles.

I'm off out into the world now. Catch you later.

Ran K. said...

At my first one @ 4:47 am - it should be, of course: - "without attempting at foundations he does not consider conveniently movable".

Blake said...

Brad said: you can use what I've taught you for evil purposes, like playing guitar in a Julio Iglesias cover band, for example.

Fuck you, man! It was a one-time gig, alright?

Personally, I see Zen more as an exercise routine and the teacher as a personal trainer. A personal trainer will show you good form and put you on the path to your goal but at the end of the day, it's up to you to show up and stick to it.

Ran K. said...

to 108 @ 6:48 pm: I've written my "I'm not into this, really" before I read yours @ 5:05 am.

Reread it and see what's it about.

(yours crossed me)


Else - I don't see how what you're trying to say in your last one is relevant to what Jinzang said.

- Mine at 6:00 @ am is irrelevant as well, but so seems to be yours at 5:05. (the aforementioned)

anon #108 said...

Never mind, Ran. I've probably got it all very badly wrong. But what can you do?

Jinzang said...

On the "form is emptiness, emptiness is form" stuff: I've been doing a commentary on the Heart Sutra on my blog.

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

Just read your recent blogging on the Heart Sutra.

A very clear explication of this Mahayana/Madhyamaka gem and its Abhidharma roots.

Good stuff.
I'll be checking in again.

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

FFS!!
3rd time lucky?...


Mind you, Jinz...

"Therefore, in emptiness there is no form, feeling, cognition, formation, or consciousness

This statement contradicts the earlier statement, "emptiness does not differ from form....The earlier statement spoke about form as it actually is: empty. This statement speaks about form as we usually understand it: as independently established."



"Therefore in emptiness" must be a translation of tasmAt...shUnyatAyAm, but it leaves out tarhi ("at that time/at that moment").

ShUnyAtAm IS locative, but with tarhi I read the phrase as "Therefore, at that time; in emptiness...", meaning: in the empty state (while practicing the profound prajna paramita) we experience no form, feeling etc. - a temporal, locative absolute sense. Not: "in emptiness" meaning *from the point of view of...*, or "...as we usually understand it".


And that different reading might lead to a fundamental disagreement!

But I don't know the Chinese - or the Tibetan, and the original's lost, they say, so who knows?

Anyway, fundamental disagreements are empty, so...cool :)

john e mumbles said...

Scholarship, splitting hairs, opinions on the Heart Sutra, or whatever, disagreeing, agreeing... As Nisargadatta Maharaj said so succinctly, it's all simply ENTERTAINMENT. Just like everything else that appears in consciousness. It is fleeting, meaningless. What were the hopes and dreams of your grandparents? You don't know, and if they are dead, you never will. But they thought their thoughts were important and meaningful, too.

anon #108 said...

Just so, john e -

Entertainment; a hobby; an interest; a work-out; good fun; a pass-time; an expression of being human; an activity; ; an enjoyment; a worthwhile pursuit; a game...nothing to get hung about. Something to embrace.

captcha = sturm [und drang, PM?]

anon #108 said...

NOTE, Jinz -

I'm working from one of the slightly longer Sanskrit versions which, translated, starts:

"Homage to the omniscient. Thus was heard by me. At one time, the Revered One was staying at Rajagriha on Vulture Peak mountain...

For the verse I'm discussing, that version has -

tasmAt tarhi sharipUtra ShUnytAyAM na rUpaM na vedanA...

But even those versions which only have ta [??] shUnyatAyAM (or similar) make more sense if the locative is read temporally - there's no "contradiction" then...that I can see.

anon #108 said...

I guess the place for this is on your blog - but I see no comments section, so...

captcha = beduiti.
Not for a while, now, I'm pleased to say.

Rich said...

"Therefore, in emptiness there is no form, feeling, cognition, formation, or consciousness

This statement contradicts the earlier statement, "emptiness does not differ from form....The earlier statement spoke about form as it actually is: empty. This statement speaks about form as we usually understand it: as independently established."


The above is only true if you are not thinking about it or writing about on this blog. That's why Brad is such a great teacher - people need to invest in his books and talks to get his teaching and inspiration to practice. When you make a concrete investment, you tend to value it more. This blog is a sideshow to support that and test out his new ideas.


FWIW

anon #108 said...

Hi Rich - and anyone apart from Jinzang who took any interest in that stuff...

For the record, in case it isn't clear - the 2 paragraphs that you quote are taken from Jinzang's blog on the Heart Sutra - the rest is me taking issue with him.

God forbid anyone gets attributed with thoughts they didn't think, or writings they didn't write!

Rich said...

Hi 108, thanks for clearing that up -). I'll let you know when I can explain form and emptiness in a way that someone else could understand it, but intellectually I'm not the brightest bulb.

D said...

My first time at Hardcore Zen.

I read both of Brad's first two books, and as of a few days ago, I'm sitting zazen.

90% of Hardcore Zen and Sit Down made sense to me, that's pretty darn high, for me... I've read stuff by the Dalai Lama, Suzuki, Alan Watts, and what they're talking about is NOT real, human life. Not something the masses will ever understand or buy to any degree. Not something I'd advocate that the whole world practice, for several reasons. Brad?... he gets much closer.

So?... maybe a radical idea, but I see the potential for a new branch of Zen. One more "real". More about "living" an actual life. A human life.

Just found out today that Brad wrote a third book, just read the reviews on Amazon. It seems we're at a fork in the road. I predict Brad's star will either go up or down from here.

I’ll say again... loved the first two books.

Whether Brad is seen as a two and a half hit wonder, or whether he brings a more real and useful Zen to the world and is still relevant as a Zen master twenty years from now, I’d guess depends on...

- a little snark is okay, but in excess it IS a distraction, and un-Zen.

- the punk and anime references are getting a little stretched... good for two books in that they bring the flavor of real life... but every reader should be looking to grow... and if the real life of the master is still “attached” to punk and anime, then "been there, done that, I need to find a different perspective, this is old" takes over. Brad... your old metaphors have had their use, but it’s starting to get stale except for the punkers, and that’s a pretty small audience. There’s an enormous potential for the “real” approach to “sell” and pay your bills for a while to come… or… not.

As a practical matter re: "art". Stuff like Zen needs masters and protégés… if the master has 20 protégés, and takes the "art" approach... four of those proteges will seem to step it up a notch, seemingly branching and expanding the original "truth"... BUT... it's a simple fact that EVERYTHING decays unless it's rebuilt... enthalpy is inescapable and unavoidable. Traditional, rule bound religions use rules to maintain power, and power to “rebuild”, to ameliorate inevitable decay. But... they usually lose the flavor of the original master pretty quickly... the source book still has the truth... but succeeding generations put enough "spin" in the rules that they miss the point. It happened to Buddhism... then Dogen hit the reset button... but then it happened again... now Brad has hit the reset button once more... And it happened to Christianity... few Christians today live a life that incorporates the REAL philosophy of Jesus... and if they do, it's fighting the tide of the institution. And on, and on, there are many other examples.

BUT...

Without enough structure, the inescapability of enthalpy will corrupt and degrade the message, and ten years from now, Brad will be a footnote, still working a crappy job in B-grade entertainment, and no longer writing (at least not in a way that has an effect beyond the devoted). But he'll still have his zazen. When he could have brought some much needed fresh air to our lives... is that a good outcome? There must be a happy medium in there somewhere. Enough form to keep this thing going, in a world of form... but not so much to hide the real truth, which is not form.

I ran out of tangents...

I'd like to go back and tighten up what I wrote, but I've got other stuff to do, so... a brain dump.

Rich said...

I think what draws me back to this blog is that other peoples' fantasies are so much more interesting than mine.

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LoneRanger said...

Brad says: As for institutions, I think they kill Zen. Or they can. Which is why Dogen Sangha is such a loose organization (or disorganization) without any of the hallmarks of a religious institution. And I plan on keeping it that way.

Brad believes what he thinks?

Sound like lazy practice to me. Sloth.

Self deprecation also involves a big ego.