Wednesday, June 16, 2010

GREETINGS FROM THE "BAD BOY OF ZEN"

Here I am, in beautiful Belfast, Northern Ireland! Yesterday's Belfast Telegraph had an article about me titled Meet Brad, the Bad Boy of Zen. I'm also called an enfant terrible, which I don't even know how to pronounce. I think that's a type of suppository.

I had my first talk here yesterday at the Black Mountain Zen Center downtown. It went swimmingly. It was kind of trippy to speak to a native English-speaking audience for the first time in two months. When I lived in Japan and worked with mainly people from other Asian countries who spoke English as a second language I got used to having to speak to people in ways that could be easily translated. That is to say, I knew that the things I said were being translated into Chinese or Korean or Thai or Japanese in their minds, so I had to phrase things in a way that would make sense when transferred into another language -- usually a language I did not know at all myself (other than Japanese).

I'm still doing that even in Northern Ireland. So I probably sounds like a kindergarten teacher.

Yesterday I led off my talk with a discussion of attachment. The discussion was based on an email I wrote to a friend of mine who has been having some rocky times with her boyfriend. She asked me if I could say something about attachment. So I wrote the following (I hate quoting myself, but I'm also lazy. Suck it.):

Basically the Buddhist view of a person is not that each of us is a fixed object. A person is a set of general tendencies. And those tendencies change.

Attachment is when you start to believe that things can or should remain one way forever. That way you always relate to the same "person" as time passes.

But the people you relate to change, as you change. So your relationship with them changes. And this is never easy. But if everyone involved can accept the fact that these changes are occurring, the transitions can be easier.

Sometimes it's irreconcilable. But I think in most cases you can somehow accommodate or acclimate to the changes and carry on.

So it's not that you are attached to Allan. The "Allan" to which you are attached doesn't exist. That "Allan" is a figment of your imagination. It's an image in your mind based on past experiences and filled in with your own inventions (assumptions like "if his expression in like this he must be sad" etc.). These accumulate over time and form a picture that is easier to relate to than the real person is.

It's not easy to drop this stuff because you've been conditioned to do this. This is how you navigate your way thru the world. The brain has evolved specifically to do this kind of thing. So it's not just like you can say "I now drop this" and be done with it.

But at each moment, when an idea appears of how things "should be," you can remind yourself that this is just an idea and not necessarily a fact.


Ugh. What a pretentious wanker I am as a friend!

I raised a stink on this blog a while back with my ideas about attachment. So maybe people will get upset with me again. But I really feel this idea is deeply misunderstood. The word "attachment" is particularly loaded and prone to misunderstanding. I really hate the way lots of people who are "into Buddhism" these days make great efforts to be as aloof and "detached" as possible in order to fulfill what they see as Buddhism's demands for "non-attachment."

Anyway, blah-blah-blah....

It's a sunny day in Belfast and I ain't gonna waste it on the Internet! Neither should you, wherever you are and whatever the weather is like there!

Tonight June 16, 2010 (Wed) from 6.30-8.30pm I'm at Bookfinders Bookshop and Cafe in Belfast near the university. See you there, I hope!

Bye!

46 comments:

Harry said...

Top o tha marnin to ya!

ONE.

Regards,

Oirish.

Brad Warner said...

Is that a shalelie in your pocket, Harry, or are you just glad that I'm in (Northern) Ireland?

Chris from Berlin said...

Enfant Terrible = Maverick!

O.K., fits I guess?

Regards, Chris

Harry said...

You better hope it's a shaleighly(sp?), Pretty Boy.

Seriously tho, I see by the photo that they took you to all the nice places first.

Regards,

Harry.

Uku said...

Uih, The Bad Boy of Zen! Geez, now you definitely need an underwear collection and other stuff like P. Diddy Bad Boy has!

Mumon said...

I hadn't realized you had said something against the reincarnation of - and I'm shocked to evan have to say it! - the Dalai Lama!

Don't you realize all of Tibetan culture will collapse - and the Chinese will take over the world - if the Tibetans aren't encouraged to play make the little boy into the dead tulku?

Anyway, thanks for letting me vent.

Rich said...

"It's not easy to drop this stuff because you've been conditioned to do this. This is how you navigate your way thru the world. The brain has evolved specifically to do this kind of thing. So it's not just like you can say "I now drop this" and be done with it."

Right, especially if you believe your life depends on it. It's truth (grasping at straws or in this case ideas or feelings about a relationship) but best to put it all down at least for a moment.

"But at each moment, when an idea appears of how things "should be," you can remind yourself that this is just an idea and not necessarily a fact.""

I've heard this somewhere before. A good way to at least intellectually unhook from your ideas and create some space between them and the fact of the present moment which is empty and/or quickly filled with more of the same ideas.

It's nice that you are traveling around teaching and eccouraging people to practice.

john e mumbles said...

Is your finger loaded or are you just trying to get someone to take your picture?

anon #108 said...

It's nice that you are traveling around teaching and eccouraging people to practice.

Yep :)

Anonymous Bob said...

"the Buddhist view of a person is not that each of us is a fixed object. A person is a set of general tendencies. And those tendencies change."

We also have some tendencies that either don't change or are very resistant to change. It is always amazing when you run into someone you knew from years before and they are very much as you remembered them. That is probably because some tendencies are primarily genetic. We do not know how much of who we are is determined by our DNA and how much by our life experience. But we do know that a person is conditioned by more than just their attachments.

CAPTCHA : readeat : I kid you not

Seagal Rinpoche said...

We live in illusion and the appearance of things. There is a reality. We are that reality. When you understand this, you see that you are nothing, and being nothing, you are everything. That is all.

element said...

"So it's not that you are attached to Allan. The "Allan" to which you are attached doesn't exist. That "Allan" is a figment of your imagination. It's an image in your mind based on past experiences and filled in with your own inventions (assumptions like "if his expression in like this he must be sad" etc.). These accumulate over time and form a picture that is easier to relate to than the real person is."

Thats excactly what Krishnamurti says, for me one the biggest bad boys of "spiritual" life.

Very helpful post!

Anonymous said...

Brad, you did not raise a stink on this blog with your "ideas about attachment". You stated that nonattachment had nothing to do with Buddhism. You were just wrong. Then you backtracked and / or explained that you really meant it had nothing to do with removing objects of attachment or behaving with an aloof, detached attitude. Nice that you cleared that up. But to be honest I think your comparing your views to ...all these people into buddhism that try to act all detached...is just a strawman you've set up in your mind. I haven't met many buddhists that act like you say. At least not in decades. Maybe they act that way in California or something, I don't know. Having said that, this was a very good post on nonattachment. You should maybe read more J. Krishnamurti and less U.G. or Dogen.

ginger said...

ah, forget about it if they can't take your views on non-attachment. it's their fault if they can't get past what they believe to listen to what someone else does....they can always get their own blog to get their point across if it's that important to them.

Uku said...

Anonymous (10:55PM) wrote:

I haven't met many buddhists that act like you say. At least not in decades. Maybe they act that way in California or something, I don't know.

Hi Anon, welcome to, welcome to, welcome to Finland! Joojoojojoojojoo...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUih1dZvQZY

Jman said...

Very cool post. I just finished reading your books back to back to back and its this concept that has stuck with me the most. I'm not really Buddhist...I'm not really anything to be honest but this concept & a feeble attempt at zazen has shown me the....possibilities of the religion/spirituality/philosophy of Buddhism. Anything that makes us pause amd think is good by me. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

hey, there's a mashup:
pride in the name of bad

Anonymous said...

I am a French girl living in Belfast, I just read the article in the Belfast telegraph yesterday !
i think you should pronounce "en-fan tay-ree-blo" !
I will keep your blog, pretty interesting.
I hope you loved Northern Ireland, it's my new home and a place where I feel happy.
xxx

V

Anonymous said...

What the hell is "CAPTCHA?"

I agree w/ Brad on the idea of non-attatchment. Right on. I hope your letter to your friend include more comforting words than that though. It is good to explain the 'Buddhist' view, but I think the reality is...she was looking for some sympathy. Iduno...honestly, it's pretty impossible for me to know eh. Just guessing.

Jules said...

AHN-fahnt ter-REEB-luh

keepsentryhillgreen said...

Thank you Brad for the talk tonight. Just want to say Harry that those are the nice bits of Belfast, trust me I could take you to the shitholes. And he aint seen Ballymena yet ;P

Hokai said...

Brad, thanx for the Wuppertal-talks. I never met a teacher who've said "this was pretty horrible" after Zazen if it was like that. Imo you were right and makes me agreat fan of yours.
Have a great time in Northern-Ireland.
@ Harry: on this post you are
An Taoiseach
I'm very happy for you.
Beir bua agus beannacht.

_/\_

Gerald

Anonymous said...

attachment

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

Attachment is when you start to believe that things can or should remain one way forever.

Belief that a thing will remain the same is a form of ignorance, not attachment. It's a failure to see subtle impermanence, how an object is not the same even for a moment. Attachment arises out of this ignorance, but so does aversion for things we dislike. Your hated enemy is swathed in delusion just as much as your loved ones.

Harry said...

@ Harry: on this post you are
An Taoiseach


Thanks for the promotion, G (I think).

It's about time that An Taoiseach got something right.

In Ireland he's commonly referred to as 'BIFFO' (Big Ignorant Fucker From Offaly)... and not without some rationale.

Regards,

H...iffo.

Anonymous said...

Jundo has a pretty good talk on no self today

LINK

Anonymous said...

Jundo? Good talk? He usually waits for one of Brad's posts and then talks about it.

He said...

So Brad deviated from the text book, Jinz? It's still clear what he means, isn't it?

6.25pm - Shall we let sleeping dogs lie? We'll all be happier.

108 from Belfast said...

"Belief that a thing will remain the same is a form of ignorance, not attachment."

Jinz it is both.

john e mumbles said...

"Your hated enemy is swathed in delusion just as much as your loved ones."

Just like your precious "self."

Anonymous said...

By posting here I finally realize I am a total nutjob!

We gotta know!

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Moon Face Buddha said...

Master Bankei wrote (in his 'Song Of Original Mind');

Attached to this
Ephemeral burning house
You yourselves light the fire, kindle the flames
In which you’re consumed

Keep your mind as it was
When you came into the world
And instantly this very self
Is a living "thus-come" one

Ideas of
What’s good , what’s bad
All due to
This self of yours

In winter, a bonfire
Spells delight
But when summertime arrives
What a nuisance it becomes!

And the breezes
You loved in summer
Even before the autumn’s gone
Already have become a bother

Hokai said...

Attachment? If it comes from a woman like this, you won't leave it.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zA3Np9CvcBA&feature=related

Shave on,
Gerald

Jinzang said...

So Brad deviated from the text book, Jinz? It's still clear what he means, isn't it?

Clearly wrong.

He said...

Don't be that way, Jinz - What's "wrong" ? My comment, or Brad's? The words he's using, or the point he's making? It's perfectly clear to me what Brad's talking about - and I'm pretty well-versed in Buddhist theory. It's very easy to get hung up on orthodox nomenclature, terminology and classifications.

Anonymous said...

"Attachment is when you start to believe that things can or should remain one way forever"

Brad and Jinz are both right.
When you believe things 'can' remain the same...that is ignorance, not attachment just as jinzang says. When you start to believe they 'should' remain the same....that is attachment. I think Brad understands but didn't express himself that clearly here. Most of us got the point anyway.

He said...

Well put, anon.

"Wrong" just ain't right.

Jinzang said...

When you start to believe they 'should' remain the same....that is attachment. I think Brad understands but didn't express himself that clearly here. Most of us got the point anyway.

Sorry, but that still doesn't make sense. You can be attached to things that haven't yet happened, like winning the lottery or becoming a doctor. In that case you HOPE things will change. You can be attached to impossible things, such as proving pi is a rational number. In that case things never have been as you wish and never will be. So even if you read what Brad said charitably, it doesn't serve as a definition of attachment.

He said...

Fair enough, Jinz - as a definition it was lazy, and so perhaps wrong. But as a general point made in an email to a friend, copied into what is a casual (albeit 'Buddhist') blog...?

But fair enough.

Jinzang said...

Brad wrote something and I didn't think it was quite right, so I made a comment. No big deal. It's not like I think it proves Brad is a fraud as a Zen teacher. And maybe it wasn't worth everyone's time. But considering what else gets posted in the comments, it surely wasn't the greatest waste of time.

Practice Makes Perfect said...

"But considering what else gets posted in the comments, it surely wasn't the greatest waste of time".

Give it a second shot, Jing.

Anonymous said...

i equate attachment with ignorance. am i wrong? i don't think so.