Saturday, April 10, 2010

NAKED HAPPINESS

Here is actual footage of my book signing the other day in Richmond, Virginia.



OK. Maybe not quite that bad. But these bookstore signings are hit and miss affairs. Sometimes I get a big crowd and sometimes not. The Richmond signing was one of the nots. But for a small group they had tremendous enthusiasm and interest, and that made up for it in a major way. It was an afternoon thing and those are always difficult to pull people in for.

But the evening talk in Ekoji Zen Center, also in Richmond on the same day, was a packed house. Plus I kept running into people over the next couple days in town who said they'd wanted to attend one or both of the talks but hadn't been able to. Can't suit everybody's schedules, I suppose.

ANYWAY, my publishers notified me that I was name-checked by Andrew Sullivan, a popular blogger for Atlantic. You can see the article here at this link. Cool.

Also check out this interview from RVA magazine in Richmond, VA.

Next, my friend Cassandra sent me a link to this really nice article. Go read it first and then come back and we'll talk about it.

OK. You read it? Good.

I really like this article. It says a lot of the same things I've been saying for ages.

I especially like what he has to say about responsibility. I've been feeling lately that time idea of karma, when understood properly, is the ultimate in taking responsibility. You're not just responsible for your own stuff, but for the entire universe.

Too many people misconstrue karma as something that points outward. They hear the idea and go, "Are you saying all those people that died in the tsunami/concentration camps/tragic gardening accidents deserved it??? You fiend!!!"

But it's not like that. Karma points only towards you. Don't worry about other people. See how it works for you. It's the ultimate in taking responsibility for yourself.

There's just one problem with the article. And, unfortunately, it's a pretty big problem, and one that eludes many people.

It's not enough to have this experience just once. Your old, habitual ways of responding to and interacting with the world will reassert themselves very quickly even if you are fully consciously aware that they are bullshit. This is also why garbage like Big Mind® is useless even if it could give you an enlightenment experience in a single day (which it cannot).

Practice is vital. It is the only way to develop new habits. The philosophers this writer cites, such as Krishnamurti and Ekhart Tolle are occasionally really good, but lack the vital component of solid practice. This is why, as brilliant as their philosophies sometimes are, they will never really work. They're beautiful and often true, but ultimately impractical.

Zazen practice is kind of like experiencing this writer's shower moment over and over again, allowing it to become a habit that's ultimately stronger than the older patterns because it's based in reality.

Whatever.

Thus endeth my Spring 2010 Tour of the USA. Next stop France and then on to Poland, Germany, Finland, Ireland and Holland. After that Japan. And then Great Sky in August.

In the Fall I'll have two new books out and it'll start all over again. Hope to see some of you there!

60 comments:

hevindester said...

This blog is a closed fist.

alan sailer said...

I was a good article.

I was glad it was not another profound piece of enlightenment porn, but much more down to earth.

When I was younger and used to read about enlightenment experiences written by both experienced monks/mediators and ordinary shmoes, I used to wonder what the difference was.

They sure read like the same thing.

Now I think that the guy who has some out of the blue mystical experience while standing at a train station has no context that s(he) can use to help integrate the experience.

Maybe just files it under "what the hell" and moves on.

The practice, on the other hand, allows one to (possibly) fit the incident into the larger context of an ongoing life that contains both the mundane and the miraculous.

Cheers.

Anonymous said...

Two new books?

Jinzang said...

You’re not trying to get enlightenment, ... You’re just trying to see who and what you are, exactly, in this moment.

That IS enlightenment.

Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed the link. I think a more down to earth approach, without all the rebirth, karma and shaved heads is more likely to reach and actually help more people in the west. Or so it seems.

Also about Krishnamurti, i personally love the guy, but i do always wonder why he is so resistant in all his talks, to go into zazen, i think it isnt that he doesnt stress the importance of it, but he wants people to look into it for themselves maybe?

perruche-verte said...

Enjoy your European tour! I hope your talks can help the people in Poland. The Poles seem pretty shocked and depressed right now.

Nate said...

That article was sappy as hell.

Nate said...

BTW I could easily see why someone like Krishnamurti would be resistant to Zazen. It is kind of like the ultimate bow to authority. Do you really believe that something special is going to happen to you if you sit there and stare at a wall for an hour a day?

It IS contradictory. If you (and everyone) is already enlightened, why meditate?

Anonymous said...

"Practice is vital. It is the only way to develop new habits. The philosophers this writer cites, such as Krishnamurti and Ekhart Tolle are occasionally really good, but lack the vital component of solid practice. This is why, as brilliant as their philosophies sometimes are, they will never really work. They're beautiful and often true, but ultimately impractical."

When Brad is able to read minds, I'll accept his fascist dogma. Maybe some practice other than zazen creates balance in these philosophers.

Harry said...

Yeah, I have to admit that it doesn't seem neccessary to me for Brad to do that.

If zazen is so shit hot then let people try it and make up their own minds.

If someone is clearly acting the cock and trying to bamboozle people on the other hand, fair enough, but slapping out other people for just 'not doing our thang' seems lame and, well, lazy (barrel, fish, shoot).

'See the perfection' and all that Cornflakes packet stuff.

People are different... which is nice.

Regards,

Harry.

john e mumbles said...

Being #11 is like being #1 but twice as nice. OK, now I'll go read the Blarg.

David Cain said...

Hi Brad,

Thanks for the mention.

I agree with you, without practice, no insight can help a person overcome a lifetime of conditioning.

At a vipassana retreat last fall, my instructor said "No matter what insights you have this week, no matter how special you feel or what you think you've overcome for good, nothing matters more than time on the cushion. Without time on the cushion, you won't get far.

The article is only about the insight that might help somebody recognize the problem that time on the cushion is meant to address. I didn't overlook the role of practice, it is just outside the scope of the piece.

I was not aware of your blog, and I think it's pretty cool. I've subscribed and I'll be reading.

john e mumbles said...

OK, Just got as far as the interview...“the King has no clothes” Jesus Christ, Brad, do you really think your the King of Zen? Wow.

Brad Warner said...

John I am the King of All Dharmas®!!

john e mumbles said...

Dude, the article references a King, too, I see a pattern, and its not baldness!

Brad Warner said...

And David, thanks! I really liked the article.

How'd you ever find my mention of it?

Jinzang said...

But nobody who was actually a monk had ever written a book specifically about sexuality .

In your research, you must have missed this one:Essays on Marriage.

Must be my day to fact check Brad.

alan sailer said...

Nate,

I think you have convinced me.

Zazen is perfectly useless.

So I'll just keep doing it....

Cheers.

Nate said...

Me too Alan. It ain't that bad staring at a wall. I'll give it 20 minutes a day.

Jinzang said...

How'd you ever find my mention of it?

Easy enough to set up a blog search on your name and have Google mail you the results. Checked out "jinzang" and found this old comment of mine:

"Those who can compete, compete. Those who can't, litigate. This is the last cry of the mastodon as it sinks into the La Brea tar pits."

john e mumbles said...

Mastodon is an awesome band...I'm just sayin'

Harry said...

BTW, Alan, what are you doing to your head?

Regards,

H.

john e mumbles said...

Here's Mastodon's THE CZAR...That's "King" in Rooshun...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81WW9-87LrQ

David Cain said...

Brad: I have an app that shows new sources of visitors as they appear. I clicked on the URL and your blog appeared.

alan sailer said...

Harry,

Trying to keep the top of my head from blowing off.

Excess thoughts.....

The real story is that its the only photo that I could find that I was not posing for or taking the picture myself.

A friend was in my office/secret undisclosed location trying out my camera.

On me.

Cheers.

Sebouh said...

Weird, now that I've met you in person certain phrasing that you use seems to start avalanches: "Karma points only towards you."

The thing about insight being contingent on daily practice, like perpetuating the ringing of a bell that is bound to die out, is what tied a lot of loose ends for me.

Ryan McKee said...

Thanks for mentioning the RVAmag article! Glad to hear some folks showed up at the evening event.

Anonymous said...

When Brad is able to read minds, I'll accept his fascist dogma. Maybe some practice other than zazen creates balance in these philosophers.

Krishnamurti suggested spending 2 hours per day, alone practicing (a word he hated) choiceless awareness. He went for long walks most every day where he remained silent. I suspect these walks constituted his primary practice, though I recall he spent 20 years or so doing sitting meditation when he was younger.

I don't think Brad is a fascist, but he is very fanatical about zazen, what is true zen and what is not. He insists zen is the best practice while at the same time admitting he knows very little about other forms of buddhism.

For the vast majority, some form of sitting practice is vital. But brad and his teacher have a very physical / dualist view of sitting, as if the posture itself produces some wonderful awareness or effect. I differ with brad in that real meditation (zazen, if you prefer) can never be a habit. Habit is the opposite of awareness. Awareness is not tied to any posture or practice whatsoever. It is freely available here and now. Most of us must use some form of skillful means to trick ourselves into seeing what is in front of us though. Zazen is great for that. (Before people start assuming all sorts of things...I sit zazen in traditional full-lotus and have for many decades.) But I've also studied other tradtions and forms enough to know there are many approaches to clear awareness and while zazen may be best for some (including myself), other practices or paths may be better suited for others.

Cyril Coombs said...

Brad I really like your books especially the way you cut through the shit. I tend to be one of those that likes to read and read and read and read all of the philosophical stuff which has its place but I was hooked by your directness with Zen and it has really deepened my practice. The factthat you openly admit points in your life that others in such a position would try to do the utmost to hide really says a lot about your character. Ok enuf kissing your ass. lol I hope one of those Sept releases is Re: Nagarjuna.

Anonymous said...

But brad and his teacher have a very physical / dualist view of sitting, as if the posture itself produces some wonderful awareness or effect.

That isn't accurate. Acknowledging that the "body " (posture) "effects " the mind isn't dualistic, it is the opposite. The rest of your post shows that you don't understand Brad and Nishijima's approach to zazen. Which is fine, but why get up on you high and enlightened horse if you don't know what you are talking about?

acincem

Anonymous said...

It's not body and mind, it's bodymind.

Anonymous said...

Just mind, uh, nevermind :)

proulx michel said...

Viz raptitude's paper on nakedness, I remember one winter afternoon, in Quebec City, feeling a bit chilly, I opened my parka and let the cold air (-20°C) in, till I could no longer stand it. Then, I closed it back, and felt warm again.

I never felt so frozen as in my life in Southern France. old appartments were just NOT meant to be heated in winter. For a couple of years, I worked home and would feel totally miserable with cold feet, that I could barely get asleep at night.

Finally, I once decided to remain barefoot in winter. Never more was cold again.

anon #108 said...

""I don't think Brad is a fascist, but he is very fanatical about zazen, what is true zen and what is not. He insists zen is the best practice..."

This is a common criticism of Brad/Gudo/Dogen Sangha. I think some folks misunderstand what Brad, Gudo, or other DS types might mean by "true" in relation to Buddhism.

Google, I believe, searches all (Brad's) online writing. So I googled various combinations of 'Brad Warner' + 'true' + 'zen' + 'Buddhism' and found nothing remotely close to the assertion "my way or the highway", or "everybody else is wrong". Try it yourself. I don't recall any such thing in the books, either.

Yes, Brad practises, teacahes and advocates a particular practice - what teacher doesn't? But if anyone can find a quote in which, in context, Brad asserts that only the way Brad Warner thinks about and practises Zen/Buddhism is the right and true way, I will stand corrected and ashamed.

This might help to clarify what Gudo, Brad, and others mean by 'True Buddhism" (seems pretty much the same advice given by Gotama B in the Kalama sutta).

Harry said...

Hi 108,

It's one thing to say that you're way is right (for you!) and advocate it, it's another thing to say that another person's way is wrong, or lacking, or whatever. There is a clear distinction, or at least there should be.

It's hardly "fascist dogma" that Brad's spouting, but it indicates and egocentric worldview that is not appropriate for any sort of modern organisation as far as I'm concerned (even a very loose 'non' organisation), particularly one which claims to be inclusive.

To say that all other philosophies are lacking because they are not consistent with your own values is highly questionable, and I would be concerned by the leader of any organisation saying that be it the Pope (and, by Christ, he does it often!) or Brad Warner, head of Dogen Sangha International, or a government figure or whatever. It's about respect.

But, there you go. Brad's in a good position because, if a 'member of Dogen Sangha' complains he can just hold his hands up and say 'well, what is Dogen Sangha anyway?'. If I'm a member of Dogen Sangha (and I'm not sure that I am, which doesn't actually bother me) then it should be made clear that Brad doesn't speak for me when he voices his own, narrow religious opinions about other people's values and beliefs.

Maybe a disclaimer on the front of the blog???

Regards,

Harry.

john e mumbles said...

Ah So: Brad Warner is the King of Dogen Sangha International.

anon #108 said...

Hiya Harry,

I'm just out the door. A quick respond:

It's one thing to say that you're way is right (for you!) and advocate it, it's another thing to say that another person's way is wrong, or lacking, or whatever. There is a clear distinction, or at least there should be.

Yes to that and pretty much all wot you wrote.

A fine line there is (for BW) between expressing an opinion and making a policy statement on behalf of Dogen Sangha International - I assume we're talking about "This is why, as brilliant as their philosophies sometimes are, they will never really work. They're beautiful and often true, but ultimately impractical. and (even!) "garbage like Big Mind® is useless" and suchlike.

You say, "Brad doesn't speak for me when he voices his own, narrow religious opinions about other people's values and beliefs." And that goes for me too - I read what what he writes accordingly. But yes, as leader/spokesperson for Dogen Sangha, for that's what he now is, he should perhaps back off the opinionated stuff, or at least throw a few more "IMHO"s in.

anon #108 said...

john e -

Brad king of DSI? Well, yes. And therein lies one of the problems, for me, IMHO, of the whole idea of DSI. What's wrong with individual teachers teaching whoever comes along to do a bit of zazen with them? - A tried and trusted formula.

Jinzang said...

But brad and his teacher have a very physical / dualist view of sitting, as if the posture itself produces some wonderful awareness or effect.

That isn't accurate. Acknowledging that the "body " (posture) "effects " the mind isn't dualistic, it is the opposite.


In neo-advatin groups the term dualism is used in a special sense. To suggest enlightenment has a cause (sitting in a certain posture) is to draw a distinction between enlightened and unenlightened, which neo-advaitins deny. So I think you are talking past each other, which is often the case in philosophical discourse.

Anonymous said...

To say that posture is important for zazen is not the same as saying enlightenment or awareness is caused by zazen.

Brad and Gudo (and Dogen) do NOT say that awareness is caused by zazen.

To paraphrase Dogen, (who is referencing an old Chinese Chan story) you can't polish a tile to make a mirror. You don't sit to make a Buddha.

You don't eat to shit and you don't shit to make manure.

Harry said...

Hi, Anon.

"To paraphrase Dogen, (who is referencing an old Chinese Chan story) you can't polish a tile to make a mirror. You don't sit to make a Buddha."

He said more on the 'polishing a tile' koan than that, including the perspective that polishing IS buddha.

At the same time, people try to 'get' the practice-realisation thing from the point of view of their own thinking, or some simple idea; but practice-enlightenment is not a matter of a nice, tidy little theory/idea and can't be understood in that way at all.

Regards,

Harry.

Harry said...

... In other words, there certainly seems to be a tendency for people to reify sitting/posture and make a crude belief or ideal out of it (e.g. "my sitting in this posture is realisation itself")... But the sitting that Master Dogen proposed was sitting dropping off ideas and crude beliefs about sitting, realisation/enlightenment, or whatever and, indeed, dropping off realisation, buddha, enlightenment, 'practice' as opposed 'not practice' etc etc etc...

Even people who 'get' that don't seem to get it sometimes. Master Dogen noticed that as well. Clever chap.

Regards,

Harry.

Anonymous said...

neo-advatin = non-Buddhist

Wow, Jinz, low blow!

gniz said...

Hey Brad, you can set up a google alert which will tell you when your name is being mentioned on the web. neat, huh?

PhilBob-SquareHead said...

This, just this right now. Everything else is Bullshit.

Anonymous said...

HI GNITZ!! *waves*

Harry said...

Hi PB,

Right now, when we've stopped making bullshit, is there anything else?

Regards,

Harry.

Mysterion said...

"Less resent
Less pain"

I have long advocated the removal of the word "hate" and the concept "hatred" from the lexicon.

You need not love everything. Nor do you need to like everything. It is just that, outside of hatred, everything has its place and purpose.

You might say "I really do not a prefer rare beefsteak with mice rice and vegies."

I would avoid: "I hate beef." I don't hate beef or cows or ranchers. I just choose to avoid beef in general and BGH in particular.

Nor is it up to me (or you) to correct the beef eating habits of someone else.

Your body is the vehicle which might carry you to your own awakening - or not. If you like a big fat SUV, go for it.

As a child, I had a problem with being overweight. Then I cut out ALL pork and beef. Then I had less of a problem with being overweight.

I might say: "No cookies, candies, cakes, ice cream, or soda in the house!"

It falls into the well of silence.

Jinzang said...

Wow, Jinz, low blow!

How is it a low blow if I implied you were neo-advaitin or leaned towards their philosophy? What makes one better and the other worse? Reminds me of when I studied martial arts and a lot of time was spent arguing which style was best.

Jinzang said...

Hey Brad, you can set up a google alert which will tell you when your name is being mentioned.

Not necessarily the exercise in narcissism it sounds like. He's marketing his books and using and responding to the media is a key part of that. I just did a search for "Brad Warner" and found this article about his talk at Ekoji. Brad could follow up by offering to do a phone interview

Jinzang said...

Right now, when we've stopped making bullshit, is there anything else?

Mount Sumeru.

Mysterion said...

mice rice was a type o

my rice

although 30 years ago, we would burn through 20 kilos of rice in a week (in our group) and we did get mice in our rice (but washed the rice, steamed it, and ate it anyway). Now we store rice in steel cans.

The FDA has a specification for the acceptable amount insect parts and rodent hair in commercial food, by the way. (and perhaps rodent fecal matter, too... look it up)

Anonymous said...

LIII

taniv said...

Anon wrote: "Wow, Jinz, low blow!"

Jinzang, perplexed, replied: "How is it a low blow...?"

While I don't know Anon, it's my belief - my hope - that s/he was being sarcastic, as in "could you be any more hurtful than to imply neo-advatin = non-Buddhist?!" For these doctrinal distinctions shouldn't matter.

If I'm wrong, and anon was being humorously serious, then anon may be heaping bullshit on bullshit - and if you and I keep shoveling, Jinz, we'll soon have a pile that may dwarf Sumeru.

PhilBob-SquareHead said...

Mysterion said: "I have long advocated the removal of the word 'hate' and the concept 'hatred' from the lexicon."

Sounds a lot like Alfred Korzybski's "General Semantics" or "E-Prime". Check out Robert Anton Wilson, who was influenced by zen buddhism.

Mysterion said...

Blogger Jinzang said...
"Mount Sumeru."

There is also "Obasuteyama," or "Ubasuteyama," meaning "Mountain for Throwing Away Grandma."

In the 1955 novel "Narayama Bushiko," like the folktale, there is the abandonment on top of a mountain of an ailing grandmother by her son. It was twice made into a movie.

1958 "Narayama Bushiko" and
1983 "The Ballad of Narayama"

Backbone said...

Anonymous said...

To say that posture is important for zazen is not the same as saying enlightenment or awareness is caused by zazen.

Brad and Gudo (and Dogen) do NOT say that awareness is caused by zazen.


Ah, well, maybe you don't know Gudo like some know Gudo.

Download his booklet PDF here and read from page 11 where he describes how the straight spine in the Lotus Posture balances the Autonomic Nervous System

Spine

Then read any of his comments about how enlightenment is merely a balanced Autonomic Nervous System. Like in the first sentences of this section of his MMK translation where he says Nirvana is just a balanced ANS

http://gudoblog-e.blogspot.com/search?q=When+the+Serene+State+of+the+Balanced+Autonomic+Nervous+System+is+this+world+totally%2C

MMK (25) Examination of Nirvana, the free and serene state. (24 verses)

1. When the Serene State of the Balanced Autonomic Nervous System is this world totally,

There might be no appearance actually, and there is no disappearance at all.

Anonymous said...

While I don't know Anon, it's my belief - my hope - that s/he was being sarcastic, as in "could you be any more hurtful than to imply neo-advatin = non-Buddhist?!" For these doctrinal distinctions shouldn't matter.

Yes a joke. But the doctrinal distinctions do matter at a certain point. But that wasn't the point of my joke. The point of my joke was just to be funny. I should know better than to try that on a blog comments section on the internet. (seriously)

Rich said...

To Backbone @6:36

Yes this is true, enlightenment is a balanced ANS.

So anyway me and my dog come home yesterday around 5pm and start noticing some weird shit. golf stick and hockey stick lying on the floor, curtains dangling , dirty windows and walls, and a pile of weird shit on the window sill and floor. The paw prints look pretty big. this is some kind of giant rodent, squirrel or raccoon. My dog is curious and sniffing around but not frightened or anxious. I'm thinking this critter either found a way out or is dead somewhere. move cautiously around the house, more destruction in the back room, upstairs intact. Decide I best clean up the shit before I go sit with my zen group. My dog seems comfortable lying on the couch as I go out the door, so I feel OK leaving. But I know I have to discover how this critter got in the house and how he may have gotten out. During sitting, thoughts keep popping about how I will discover the entry point but considering the circumstances my ANS was 8 or 9 lol. So I head home, dog is AOK normal, eat a little, head cautiously upstairs to continue my investigation . Holy shit, the front panel on the whirlpool tub is popped open and a towel is sticking out of it. How could I have not noticed this earlier. Now answers are appearing - maybe critter gets in from basement crawls up in the plumbing spaces and pops out from the tub. I bang the cover back on but feel a little anxious cause this is not something Mighty Mouse could pop open. All's quiet and I fall to sleep. Don't know what time it was but I'm awake and something is walking around and making scratching sounds in the attic or eaves. I feel pretty confident 'it' won't try to get back to the inside of the house because it must know me and my dog are here, I hope. Anyway my sleep is seriously interrupted. In the morning my mind is pointed in one direction - find the entry point and block it. Hopefully the critter left the building, if not I can put a trap in the attic/eaves. I go outside and whata u know - the gable vent is broken open - Eureka! The handyman comes and seals the vents. I hope the critter left last night so I don't have to do the trap thing. Tonight I will do an all night sitting - just listening for the critter or not.

Brent said...

So how does one practice? Practicing sucks. Any insights into how one can develop habits? How about developing a habit with regards to the article cited in this blog post...=]