Thursday, July 15, 2010

My Trip to Japan

Last night I went out with Hiroshi Maruyama, Takeshi Yagi, Norman England and Jim Ballard. Those of you who don't know your Japanese monster movie stuff will not recognize those names. Which is fine. I don't wish the level of geek-dom required to recognize that list of names on many people.

But if you are geeky enough you might even be impressed. Maruyama designed most of the Ultraman characters and the monsters they fought from 1995 till maybe 2007 or so when he, like me, was fired from Tsuburaya Productions by the new management (who, themselves, have recently quit the company). Yagi was the director and/or producer of numerous episodes of the Ultraman TV shows as well as the oddly titled theatrical film Superior Ultraman 8 Brothers (you can tell the English titles given after I left the company!). Norman England has written more articles about Godzilla than anyone can possibly count. He's been in Japan since forever reporting on the Japanese monster scene for Fangoria, Hobby Japan and others. He's also made his own movies. My favorite is The Idol. Jim Ballard is a writer for the Sci Fi Japan website.

These people are from a part of my life that I don't think the readers of this blog really care a whole lot about. Which, again, is fine. I'm not saying you should. But I talk about it because all of us in this Zen game get here from somewhere. Most Zen teachers don't talk about their personal lives or what they do outside of when they're being Zen teachers. And that too is A-OK by me. There are a lot of perfectly good reasons for a Zen teacher not to talk much about her or his personal life.

But I think that stuff is interesting. Me, I don't so much want to hear my teachers talk about the ultimate level of reality as I want to hear them talk about where they work when they're not gazing at the walls. I feel the same way when I read about some of the rock'n'roll people I like. I mean, I know most of the indie rockers these days can't possibly make a living by music alone. So how do they manage? I remember reading how Wayne Coyne of Flaming Lips kept his job at Long John Silver's even after the band got signed to Warner Brothers. That kind of info turns my crank.


It was cool to geek out with the people I used to work with. I haven't seen most people from Tsuburaya for a long time. And we spent so much time together. I learned a lot of very deep Zen lessons at that little film company in Kinuta. It's gone now. Even the buildings have been razed. There's still a Tsuburaya Productions in name. But it's hardly the same anymore. So sad...

Oh! The photo at the top I snapped yesterday afternoon in Shibuya. Completely unposed. So THIS is where you get Zen from! Genpo Roshi was wrong!

102 comments:

Anonymous said...

1st!
-matt

Anonymous said...

^ HERE COMES A NEW CHALLENGER!

Old Nishijima said...

WELL, THIS SEEMS TO SETTLE THE "OLD NISHIJIMA NEW NISHIJIMA" THING HANDS DOWN. His Bradiness wrote ...

Then someone else said, "That sounds like the Old Nishijima, before the 'all you need is to straighten the spine and balance the Autonomic Nervous System' Nishijima." There is no "all you need is to straighten the spine and balance the Autonomic Nervous System Nishijima." His view on the value of Buddhist philosophy has not changed at all. He busts his ass even at age 90 to try to explain Buddhism in a philosophical way.

So Harry writes today:

Dear Roshi,

I hope you are keeping well.

What is the real meaning of the Buddhist theory of 'shunyata' or 'emptiness'?

I ask because it seems that this theory often leads to philosophical conclusions which are contrary to the intention of Buddhism.

Many thanks,

Harry.


And New Gudo answers


Gudo says that "shyunyata" means the balanced state of the autonomic nervous system. Therefore I think that the expression of "emptines" might be misleading.


CASE CLOSED.

Another fundamental teaching of Mahayana Buddhism reinterpreted by Gudo in his own unique way. It will be interesting to see his new translation of Nagarjuna.


EMPTINES IS MISLEADING

Anonymous said...

"my addictive, infatuated, obsessive, narcissistic, covert aggressive cowardice that I've gone and projected onto someone else by exploiting Brad's open comments section with underhand anon tactics."

this is my truth. I'm sorry for being such a little prick.

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brad Warner said...

I think of the balanced autonomic nervous system stuff as Nishijima's version of "Gutei's finger." He has found the singular explanation that works best for him and it's what he sticks with.

It's his attempt to draw attention away from the so-called "mystical aspects" of (again) so-called "enlightenment" and bring it back down to basic physiological processes.

It forced me to confront just what basic physiological processes actually were. Which is to say that our nuts and bolts reality is, in fact, something very mystical and very profound. We are living in a strange and wondrous universe even when we're sitting in the toilet reading a comic book.

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

I think of the balanced autonomic nervous system stuff as Nishijima's version of "Gutei's finger." He has found the singular explanation that works best for him and it's what he sticks with.

It's his attempt to draw attention away from the so-called "mystical aspects" of (again) so-called "enlightenment" and bring it back down to basic physiological processes.

It forced me to confront just what basic physiological processes actually were. Which is to say that our nuts and bolts reality is, in fact, something very mystical and very profound. We are living in a strange and wondrous universe even when we're sitting in the toilet reading a comic book.


Or maybe he is just an old crackpot who has come to his own eccentric, all purpose, self convineced idea (singular, not plural) about what most of Buddhism is including some pretty twisted interpretations of the Four Noble Truths and Shobogenzo.

Seems like that more than the whole of reality packed in a fingertip of Gutei. Seems like an old gentleman with his one finger up his own asshole.

Anonymous said...

whole pot
cracked pot
same electron?

Anonymous said...

Ultraman is invading Poland, BTW :) I have just seen a stickers with Ultraman (Made in China, of course) in a little shop in Krakow. However I hardly believe anyone knows the story :)

anon #108 said...

Didn't read the new post's comments section before posting this on the old one:


It's the morning , so I gotta be careful. In the morning I'm more excitable. Why is that? Perhaps it's something to do with the way my body works? Nah. Ridiculous.

It's very simple to me: if the Dogen Sangha troll(s) find Nishijima/Brad's/Harry's ideas ridiculous, fine - seek your salvation elsewhere. Or let's have a discussion. If posting on blogs has any value at all, it might be to exchange and clarify views. But you only get exasperated and take the piss. Why? Why so pissed off? If you don't understand it and don't care, go somewhere else. If you'd like to understand it, ask, and you might get an answer. But just venting over what you see as laughable - what's all that about? If you're trying to demonstrate to the people who read this blog, or Dogen Sangha types, how stupid Brad and Gudo are, I doubt if it works.

Yes, I it does bother me - just a tad, now and then - that Gudo often mentions the ANS on his blog these days, writes in poor Jenglish and sometimes misunderstands questions, all perhaps exacerbated by age. But only because people don't get it, and it's an easy thing to not get and so to attack. Not because I think Gudo ideas are ridiculous, or have suddenly become ridiculous. He just doesn't come across well in unedited Jenglish, and I don't like to see the important teaching of a great man ridiculed.

If "empty of true self" (and similar expressions) do it for you, smashing. But like Brad, I wonder what it can possibly mean. Yes, I know what Buddhist philosophy says it means; very interesting idea. Revolutionary in it's time, and still pointing to something deep about the nature of stuff. You might even have a moment of "insight" contemplating it. You might even believe it summarises the essence of Buddhist teaching. Maybe even Gudo has read, contemplated and had insights about svabhava and shunyata! But it's an idea and you can get very lost in ideas. Ideas can take on a life of their own - you can start believing the words, and your insights into them are real. Zen, from the beginning, has been a form of Buddhism which aims to disabuse you of getting hung up on the ideas. To my ears when Gudo's answers with "balanced ANS", he's saying 'forget the speculation, the philosophical debating, DO IT - it's all about the state of your body/mind.' That, I think is what Harry question addressed. And that is what Gudo's answer is about.

PhillySteveInLA said...

Brad- want you to know that you're zenmall pic is now my computer wallpaper/
Mysterion- I always liked Ze Master Seung Sahn's take on it.
"Descartes said, "I think therefore I am ." So I say, when I am not thinking , then what."
Sure there are some basic premise problems between the double translation, but still, a cogent koan if you ask me.

PhillySteveInLA said...

I think this link sums it all up...

http://mojo1000.com/1000cuts/zen-motivational-poster.html

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

and now with a link that works...

Hey Brad @ 10 16pm -

I think so too! In fact I said as much myself, in pretty much them exact same words, on this very blog, not so long ago...

G has been deliberately avoiding metaphysical speculation about "enlightenment" for decades, yet people insist on collaring Zen Masters for clues as to what it is, and how you get it. I hear G's 'ANS' response to decades of "Roshi, what is ultimate, unexelled enlightenment?...What is true Samahdi...?" as his version of Gutei's one finger, or Rinzai's shout; he's saying, "Don't worry yourself about enightenment; it's all just a fact of your bodymind"... I'm a romantic.

Both of us completely brainwashed. Oh well.

[captcha this time = slagov. Come on then! Do your worst.]

Harry said...

Oh no! What's that crazy old man doing to our sweet, sweet philosophy!!! :-)

I like Gudo's answer, (even if the 'balanced ANS' thing is not really my thing) it points out that it's really a matter of our own conduct/practice as opposed, say, trying to convince myself and other people of various nice ideas on Zen Forum international.

I don't expect a lot of people will like theories of pulling the rug out from under their feet, but it's well recorded function of teachers in Zen, and wider Buddhist, history.

Regards,

Harry.

anon #108 said...

Agree, H.

(In fact, "Sky Cake" - the post and the comments section [link in my previous post] - was a darn good discussion; very relevant to this one. Everyone on form, I think, and worth re-reading).

Glen David Naughton said...

Ive never met Gudo Nishijima but to me it's like hes just saying 'without doing zazen and as a result balancing you mind/body, emptyness means nothing' Or maybe not. I dunno.

Gees, people are so quick to jump to conclusions about people they dont know. I mean, i cant even pin 'me' down let alone figure enyone else out.

Seagal Rinpoche said...

One who chases after two hares won't catch even one.

Harry said...

Splitting hares, Rinpoche?

May be safer that cutting cats.

Regards,

H.

Brad Warner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonynous said...

The ANS statement makes me wonder:

What is the ANS?
What are the parts of it that must be balanced?
Why do they become misbalanced?
What are the symptoms, mental and physical, of an unbalanced ANS?
... and of a balanced ANS?

Stuff like that.

Anonymous said...

oh hey brad, so cool about yr ultraman connections. i remember watching the old episodes on creature double feature. definitely remember the one where he pulled out a spoon and talked into it. so funny. i hope those talented folks are still in the art of storytelling.

Time for some Coffee on the roof! said...

Autonomic nervous system
From Wikipedia

The autonomic nervous system (ANS or visceral nervous system) is the part of the peripheral nervous system that acts as a control system functioning largely below the level of consciousness, and controls visceral functions.[1] The ANS affects heart rate, digestion, respiration rate, salivation, perspiration, diameter of the pupils, micturition (urination), and sexual arousal. Whereas most of its actions are involuntary, some, such as breathing, work in tandem with the conscious mind.

It is classically divided into two subsystems: the parasympathetic nervous system and sympathetic nervous system.[1][2] Relatively recently, a third subsystem of neurons that have been named 'non-adrenergic and non-cholinergic' neurons (because they use nitric oxide as a neurotransmitter) have been described and found to be integral in autonomic function, particularly in the gut and the lungs.

With regard to function, the ANS is usually divided into sensory (afferent) and motor (efferent) subsystems. Within these systems, however, there are inhibitory and excitatory synapses between neurones.

The enteric nervous system is sometimes considered part of the autonomic nervous system, and sometimes considered an independent system.

SOURCE

Anonymous said...

Move along.
Move along people.
Nothing to see here.
Pay no attention to that old man behind the curtain.

I am Zen Master the great and powerful!

analogous said...

zipper!

Anonymous said...

hahahahahahahahahahaaaaaaaa :)

Anonymous said...

Mister Rose now lives in a nursing home that specializes in Alzheimer’s patients. The disease has taken his memory and words and personality, and left only the all-compassionate Buddha behind. He smiles and laughs and looks after the other patients, bringing them food or just standing next to them with a hand on their shoulder. Watching, you can almost "see" him using his direct-mind abilities to send silent messages of pure love to the ravaged minds of the others in the home.

It is hard for those of us who know and love him to watch as he slips farther from this world, even though in many ways he has never really been a part of it anyway--in it, but not of it, as the saying goes. But in the end the body betrays us all, and it must inevitably find a way to die. One way is no better or worse than another, I suppose. Still, it is difficult to know how to understand this particular way for Mister Rose, a man who once said that the difference between him and most people was that, "They live to live; I live to think."

What does it mean when an Enlightened man slowly loses his mind? He never spoke of this, and perhaps there is nothing to be said. The death of the body and its manner of leaving have nothing to do with one’s true nature. Mister Rose would probably say that he is dying an ordinary death, as he must, like any other man in this madhouse. The only difference, he might say, is that he knows exactly where he is going afterwards, that this is the great gift of his Enlightenment experience.

john e mumbles said...

Mysterion at 10:08, this sounds alot like Uber-Advaita as per Nisargadatta, and/or Siddha stuff/Kashmir Shaivism ala Rudi/Muktananda/Nityananda but as it is all of the same source, it fits, Nicely, thanks.

and at 10:56, my take was/ has always been:

"I think, therefore I am thinking."

anon #108 said...

The (short) 'Science and Buddhism' chapter of "To Meet the Real Dragon" ($10.75) contains a very good summary of Gudo's theory of the relation of the ANS to our biology and psychology; to feeling and thinking; to body and mind. The Q and A section of that chapter addresses the standard objections to the idea, such as crop up regularly on this blog.

If you're interested in Gudo's approach to Buddhism, you can do no better than read that book.

Like I say...if you're interested.

Anonymous said...

The ANS is such bullshit. We all know that Zen is really about activating the kundalini energy at the base of your spine. The goal of this energy is to make its way up the spinal column to the top of your head, thereby opening up the crown chakra so that the meditator can experience cosmic union.

Anonymous said...

It was "empty of self nature", not empty of true self. I think Brad knows exactly what it means. If not, he's got serious problems as a zen teacher. He was likely just being cute.

You say empty of self / emptiness is an idea. This is like saying ANS is just a series or words or concepts. Duh. Of course emptiness is an idea, lots of varying ideas even. But does it point to more than just an idea? It is easy to get lost in ideas. Including ideas about the autonomic nervous system, posture, Big Mind or whatever. It's like saying the Shobogenzo is only words and it's easy to get lost in words.

If Gudo meant to say 'forget the speculation, the philosophical debating, DO IT...he could have easily said as much instead of saying that emptiness is the balancing of the ANS. If he'd even said that you can realize emptiness by balancing the ANS, that at least would have made some sense...whether you agree or not.

But to answer; 'emptiness is a balanced ANS' is nothing like Gutei's one finger answer at all and insults Gutei as much as if I were to suggest Dogen's dropping of body and mind just means the same thing as Genpo roshi's Big Mind.

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

"But to answer; 'emptiness is a balanced ANS' is nothing like Gutei's one finger answer at all and insults Gutei as much as if I were to suggest Dogen's dropping of body and mind just means the same thing as Genpo roshi's Big Mind."

Well, I suppose it does... if you are getting insulted for a man who has been dead for hundreds of years... or for the glorious Dharma or whatever... 'defending space' as they say.

It is the sad truth that 'emptiness', Gutei's 'one finger' (and this is exactly what the koan is about!) the ANS theory, and, indeed, any theory of sitting as therapy or cure or Enlightenment is already a snare *if we adopt it in our habitual way*. Don't you think?

At the same time, consider the relative merits of these two ideas:

Sitting and letting thoughts and feelings come and go for half an hour each day brings both major systems of our ANS into balance leading to a more balanced and pleasant life...

and

... God lives on Mars and sends messages to us which me must look for in the night sky. He has also put undercover Martian messengers among us who communicate through secret signs (winking, coughing, raising fingers etc etc). We must look for these signs and interpret them to understand God's will.

...Or instead consider something even more 'out there' like Ken Wilber et al's invitation to initiating a spiritual master race.

Regards,

Harry.

Uku said...

Anonymous wrote:

[...]I think Brad knows exactly what it means. If not, he's got serious problems as a zen teacher.

Yeah, it is well known fact that teachers must have certain understanding of certain philosophical things. Yeah, it's all about knowing some things and if a Zen Teacher doesn't know certain things, yeah, he/she got serious problems. Yeah, a Zen teacher must know certain things and it's even better if he/she can talk beautiful things about dead people's teachings.

I love Gudo's teachings because it seems to me he doesn't care about providing beautiful and romantic theories. He's promoting action and concrete experience based on own experiences, not on other's experiences.

Buddha was enlightened? So what. Are you?

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ray Guillette said...

jem, hilarious, I almost typed LOL :)

here's a process poem for you...

repeat the phrase
"what was i thinking"
first without a comma
then with the comma
after the first word,
second word,
etcetera

Lately on the headphones: Aerosmith "Draw the Line", roots!!

Anonymous said...

"Yeah, it is well known fact that teachers must have certain understanding of certain philosophical things. Yeah, it's all about knowing some things and if a Zen Teacher doesn't know certain things, yeah, he/she got serious problems."

Zen teachers should have much more than philosophical undertanding, they should have at least some direct insight into the nature of reality. Otherwise, they are simply teaching what they've heard or read along with posture or mental techniques. Brad has written about solving the big philosophical questions, so I assume he sees this as relevant to zen. I think Brad already understands what emptiness or lack of self-nature means because I recall reading a very good essay he wrote on the subject a few years ago...unless I'm confusing him with someone else.

"Yeah, a Zen teacher must know certain things and it's even better if he/she can talk beautiful things about dead people's teachings."

All the old zen masters, including master Dogen, were able to talk beautiful things about dead people's teachings. Zen is not anti-intellectual or illogical. Master Dogen himself painstakingly copied The Blue Cliff Record and other compilations of koans.

"I love Gudo's teachings because it seems to me he doesn't care about providing beautiful and romantic theories."

His theories may not be beautiful or romantic, but they are still just theories and doctrines.

"He's promoting action and concrete experience based on own experiences, not on other's experiences."

The main action he seems to be promoting is sitting still in his prescribed position. So you believe Gudo is unique in teaching from his personal experience? Amazing.

Do you assume that when a zen teacher talks about some old patriarch's experience it means she has no personal experience of her own? Does Brad talking about Dogen's ideas mean he doesn't have any personal experience of his own and is only relying on Dogen's or Gudo's experience?

Believing we are unique or that our teacher, religion, political party, nation or race is somehow unique and better than the others is very comforting to the ego. You can find this attitude everywhere. Many times hiding beneath the guise of protecting people from believing the wrong thing or succumbing to charlatan preachers.

Uku said...

Hi anon,

yeah, it is pretty amazing that we're all alive right now! I don't know about charlatan preachers but The Charlatans have a few good songs!

john e mumbles said...

Are you talking The Charlatans, or The Charlatans UK?

Or for that matter, The Charlatans UKU?

The Charlatans FDR?

The Charlatans LBJ?

The Charlatans LMFAO?

Anonymous said...

I would wonder where your mind goes to while sitting zazen, is it abiding nowhere or does it consider the pain in your legs?

What are your experiences?

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

Anonymous Anonymous said...
"I would wonder where your mind goes to while sitting zazen, is it abiding nowhere or does it consider the pain in your legs?
What are your experiences?"

If you have pain in your legs or shoulders (or perhaps elsewhere) then you are making an effort.

Your sitting should be effortless - or very nearly so.

Early on, I discovered that elbow placement (closer to my torso) prevented shoulder pain. If you are experiencing leg pain, then you need to work on stretching and flexibility outside of your sitting time. Yoga may help with this. I also found that dropping 16 or 18 pounds helped a lot.

See also, Gudo's comments.

p.s. despite his comments, zazen in a padded armless chair is, in my opinion, almost equally beneficial. Full-Lotus, half-lotus, and Burmese sitting (on a bigger zafu) is easier for orientals than occidentals owing to their cultural usage of sitting on the floor.

(Bigger Zafu 2)

As for you mind, it doesn't go anywhere. It just becomes somewhat less noisy. "Over time, the screen gets wider but the movie is ever so much the more boring."

Mysterion said...

p.s. regarding mind, see Suzuki

My chakras go to 11 said...

On zazen, you must first be aware of the inbreath and outbreath. From there your awareness shifts to bodily sensations, the feeling in your legs whether painful or not. Don't listen to Mysterion, pain does not signify effort or anything at all, it is just pain so just watch it and see what happens. If it gets too unbearable then try different positions. And from there your awareness should shift gradually to whatever bombards your senses i.e. what you see, what you hear, what you smell, weird thoughts that rise, what have you. But don't get involved, just watch and be the pure awareness. And that's an order. This is proper zazen. Anything else is garbage.

Jinzang said...

Zazen instructions, straight from Austin, Tejas

Anus Chakra said...

Since we are diving into this, you want to aspire to the purple flame.

Mysterion said...

Try the dog-gone Dogen from Stanford

[PDF is here]

Jinzang said...

I was going to explain emptiness and all that other shit, but right now my autonomic nervous system is acting up, so I don't have the clarity of mind to do it.

Gonna start my own school of Zen called Rakudo Zen. Looking for a venture capitalist to fund it.

Jinzang said...

Old fashioned Zen is about cutting things off: Gutei's finger, Nansen's cat. My new Rakudo Zen will be about sewing things back on: applique zen!

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

More reading material:

"Introduction to Buddhism and the Practice of Zazen", subtitled "The Teachings of Gudo Nishijima Roshi."

Brief, but comprehensive, and with pictures. Highly recommended to those confused about, or interested in, what the old man's saying.

Anonymous said...

Can I still sit Burmese in your Rakudo Zen or are you a posture fascist like that hard-ass, know- nothing Gudo?

anon #108 said...

"Buddhism thinks that everyone is just the King of the Universe...I think that everyone has his or her perfect freedom to select his or her own way."

- Gudo Nishijima

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
hot squat said...

all reasonable sitting is o.k.

unreasonable sitting is not helpful - but not always harmful either.

The practice of sitting meditation (zazen or shikan taza) while having hemorrhoids can be a challenge.

john e mumbles said...

If you can manage via yoga, chi gong, or Jack Lalane to sit on your own head, eventually the real challenge will be trying to pull it out of your ass.

But the benefits are obvious.

That is motherfucking Zen, motherfucker.

doc. hollywood said...

yeah...

zen is about pulling your hear out of your ass...

The Rinz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
vexes said...

"I would wonder where your mind goes to while sitting zazen, is it abiding nowhere or does it consider the pain in your legs?"

Sadly for me, my mind brings up the various posters on this blog. I think about what they have said. Except for the anons. I still think about Mike Cross and poor Michael. And many others.. I'm fortunate not to experience much physical pain whiles sitting. Sitting is easy for me physically. But still my habit is to put it off.

Tech Support (anon #108, not yet signed in) said...

...If your Adobe Reader, like mine, had trouble with the "Introduction to Buddhism and the Practice of Zazen" booklet I linked to, try re-loading the page once or twice - it worked for me.

RDeWald said...

Thanks for the personal update, Brad. It helps.

Anonymous said...

Dear all,
Thank you so much for your kind information about all the different aspects of zazen practice.
How long does everybody here sit each day? 10, 20, 30 or 40 minutes?
Is there any difference in experience as the time is increased?
Isn't zazen like the affairs of daily activities, where you are healthy when you fully live in a kind of flow? And anytime you're attached to something you're out?

Harry said...

Hi Anon,

"How long does everybody here sit each day? 10, 20, 30 or 40 minutes?"

In 'these here parts' 30 mins twice a day is recommended. Some people sit 40 or 50 mins or more. But usually it's often found to be best to start at 10 mins morning and evening/night and build it up as you get used to it.

"Is there any difference in experience as the time is increased?"

In my own case, yes. Longer sittings generally end up with me feeling more clear and present, but we don't worry about trying to get some such effect as this is contrary to process of sitting directly without our usual mental interference.

"Isn't zazen like the affairs of daily activities, where you are healthy when you fully live in a kind of flow? And anytime you're attached to something you're out?"

Sort of, but in sitting we're advised to not worry about attachment or flow and, if we don't engage in our usual such commentary and evaluation, things find their own place as our act of sitting asserts and clarifies itself without our interfering in that way.

Regards,

Harry.

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

Dear anonymous @6.15am,

How long does everybody here sit each day?

As another everybody, here's my answer -

I'm not sure that it's a good idea to compare your practice to other's, so I won't tell you what I get up to - but here's what my teacher recommends for daily sitting at home. It's essentially the same regime as Harry described.

My teacher recommends: sit 30 minutes in the morning, soon after you wake up, and 30 minutes in the evening, before you go to bed, every day. If you really can't manage 30 minutes - and for 'beginners' that can feel like a very long time - then sit for 20, or 15 minutes; even 5 or 10 minutes is good. You may find you want to sit longer than 30 minutes. If so, sit as long as you like. The important thing is to do it everyday.

Master Dogen wrote, "If you practise the state like this for a long time, you will surely become the state like this itself. The treasure-house will open naturally, and you will be free to receive and to use [its contents] as you like."

That's a nice thought.

john e mumbles said...

Sitting in the same place helps develop the habit to sit as well.

For 20 years every day I sat on a mat or sheepskin while listening to poems by Hafiz, Rumi, and my Sufi teacher, Javad Nurbakhsh chanted or sung with traditional Persian music for anywhere from 45 min to an hour and 1/2. In the Nimatullahi Sufi Order this is typical home practice after initiation into the order in which you are given a mantra (zikr or dhikr) to recite while meditating.

After my teacher died a couple years ago
I have no affiliation with any tradition anymore, but reverted to the form of Zen meditation that I started with prior to becoming involved in Sufism. I typically sit 30 min every morning/some evenings on a zafu w/ zabuton 1/2 lotus style. I used to sit full lotus but its simply more comfortable doing 1/2 these days.

Anonymous Bob said...

mysterion said: "also, in the evening, I don't 'sit' but get the same effect in about five minutes before I digress to sleep."

What effect are you speaking of mysterion? I thought the effect of sitting was sitting. Your method might be marketable. All the effects of a half hour of sitting zazen in 5 minutes of sack time.

CAPTCHA : parria : I kid you not

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

wayne coyne working at long john silvers=hilarious

Uku said...

john e. mumbles wrote:

Are you talking The Charlatans, or The Charlatans UK?

Hi John! Like I wrote, I'm talking about The Charlatans. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uE1CiFsoSFk

UK band is also nice.

Anonymous wrote:

Dear all,
Thank you so much for your kind information about all the different aspects of zazen practice.
How long does everybody here sit each day? 10, 20, 30 or 40 minutes?
Is there any difference in experience as the time is increased?
Isn't zazen like the affairs of daily activities, where you are healthy when you fully live in a kind of flow? And anytime you're attached to something you're out?


Hi anon,

here are excellent zazen instructions: http://www.zen.ie/zazen.html

Peace,
Uku

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I really had the impression that you were only talking, talking and talking about zazen practice but now I'm really amazed how seriously you actually practice. Also thank you for your honest and personal descriptions.

For several years I used to sit twice a day for about 30 mins but now I have reduced it to one time only. The evening sometimes was challenging because I already was tired and sometimes I felt as if newborn, that also was a problem for sleeping afterwards. Sometimes I really didn't realize that 30 mins had been over and I sat a whole lot longer (because I didn't see the alarm....)
I agree that the mindtrash calms down, but I notice that I still have to go through some left trash until I come to the place where I am just in this very moment.
Nowadays I'm truely satisfied with my morning zazen that brings freshness and fills me up with a lot of energy.

Thank you for discussing this matter with me and posting your opinions.

anon #108 said...

I agree that the mindtrash calms down, but I notice that I still have to go through some left trash until I come to the place where I am just in this very moment.

Teach often describes zazen as wobbling - between thoughts and feelings - and sometimes finding yourself in what, when I first realised it, I labelled "the wordless [thoughtless?] place".

I doubt that anyone ever experiences one "state" in zazen, that is, one static, ongoing situation. And so I don't think it's the 'aim' of zazen to aim to be in such a state. But the calm, empty, wordless thing does happen, accidentally - and perhaps increasingly frequently the more you do it. But if it doesn't, it's still all good - whatever it is. Just to sit quietly doing nothing has great benefits, whatever your 'mind' tells 'you' 'your mind' is doing. I think.

Mysterion said...
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john e mumbles said...

...more beer.

I am only here for the beer.

Jinzang said...

Can I still sit Burmese in your Rakudo Zen

In all seriousness, lotus or half lotus is a better position to sit in. But Burmese is fine as long as you sit on a cushion high enough that your knees are on the mat.

The most important points of posture are to keep the back straight, but not tensed, and to lower the gaze slightly.

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brad Warner said...

By the way, did anyone notice that there is a Zen monk standing in front of the Zen Mall in the photo?

He just happened to be walking by when I took the picture. I took about 4 shots trying to get both the monk and the sign that said "Zen Mall" in the shot. The one I put up was the best. He actually looks like he's about the enter the store (alas, he did not). But it doesn't seem like most people can see the monk since nobody mentions him.

anon #108 said...

The most important points of posture are to keep the back straight, but not tensed, and to lower the gaze slightly.

...But not the head. It's very easy to let the neck tilt forwards as you look down. Keeping the head upright, as if balanced on the shoulders, and then lowering the gaze works best - to help keep a straight, but not tensed back, and so to stay alert...and awake! I find.


Yeah! Me Brad! I saw him...the Zen monk! I did.

anon #108 said...

I wrote: "Teach often describes zazen as wobbling - between thoughts and feelings..."

The point about wobbling, says Teach, is that we only ever find 'balance' by wobbling. Like a tightrope walker. It's a good analogy, I think, that illustrates how 'the balanced state' in zazen is not - perhaps cannot be - a state...static.

Anonymous said...

From one anon to another anon, just be aware that you are getting zazen instructions here that tend to be from soto zen and even a subset of soto zen (nishijima's lineage) that may be at slight variance to what you would receive from either a rinzai, chan or sanbo kyodan teacher.

I began sitting about 15 minutes per day in either half or quarter lotus. After a year or so I was able to up that to about 25 minutes per day. After joining a zen group I began sitting 2 hours in the morning 3 times per week with the group and this helped me up my solitary zazen to an hour per day. So don't get discouraged if you find it really hard to get a strong sitting practice established. Just be patient and persistent. Doing all day sittings and sesshin are good but I've found that a consistent daily practice is even better (for me).

There is no hard and fast relationship between how many years you sit or how much you sit per day and how you feel or how much insight you may get but I can give you what I personally experienced in this regard.

Even sitting 15-20 minutes per day made me a little calmer but it took maybe 6 months to notice any effect. Once I upped my sitting to 50 minutes per day there was a noticable change psychologically. I became much more calm and personable (at least according to other (nonzen) people that knew me). There was increased confidence and insights of a personal, psychological nature became a regular occurence.

While I was very grateful for these changes and insights, this was not why I began zen practice. As a young teen, I suffered from intense existential anxiety. I feared death and life and often felt close to madness. Buddhism and Zen in particular seemed to offer, not answers like other religions, but a 'way' to find the answers I sought for myself.

After 10 years of daily zazen I was already sold on it's benefits and I'd experienced moments of 'oneness' or nonduality. My existential anxiety was eased somewhat but I still had no real answers to my burning questions about what I was or what reality was. As a boy of 13 I often sat alone in a dark room asking myself; "What is reality?"...years before I knew of zen.

Finally, after about 14 years of daily practice I began to sit full lotus an hour and half every day consistently. For me, this was the level of heat that I needed to spark a flame. I know it's considered bad form or zen porno here, but one spring afternoon I was siting with my window open and to use Brad's words; all the big philosophical problems were solved. Not gradually, but all at once. It was apparent how the teachings of the Buddha and various old masters all fit together. Answers to many (not all) of the old koans became instantly apparent.

A few weeks later while driving, there was a further deepening and my questions about life and death evaporated. There was no groovy experience, just no more heavy problems. The mundane ones remain though. Most of my sitting consisted of koan zazen (under a teacher) so it may not be considered authentic by some here but that is the zen practice that worked for me. For all of the talk about sitting being the point of sitting, my own urgent need to resolve my fear and suffering is what motivated my practice.

Understand too that for nearly all rinzai or chan buddhists shikantza is a valid, authentic form of zazen that is appropriate for some people or at some phases of practice. When a student completes koan study they usually take up shikantaza. A nonsoto teacher will also assign shikantaza to some students depending upon their aspiration or personality. To me, shikantaza is just the sitting form of J. Krishnamurti's choiceless awareness. Good luck.

Mysterion said...
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Anonymous said...

eh, i didn't see the monk, actually. as an untraveled Midwesterner, I tend to lump japanese icons all together in these photos... funny how that worked visually and not textually.

Have fun!
--matt

Brad Warner said...

Nice anonymous post! I deleted the (I assume accidental) second posting of the same thing.

The only comment I have, based on my experience traveling around and seeing a whole lot of Zen centers, is that every Zen place is a "subset." What I mean by that is that the standards that exist have so many variations it almost seems as if there are no standards at all.

Even lineages as closely related as San Francisco Zen Center and Berkeley Zen Center, started by the same teacher and separated by a 15 minute train ride have some marked differences.

In other words, no Zen teacher teaches Zen in quite the same way. And that is a good thing. Standardization would turn Zen centers around the world into something like McDonald's and I am dead set against that.

Anonymous Bob said...

"The most important points of posture are to keep the back straight, but not tensed, and to lower the gaze slightly.

...But not the head. It's very easy to let the neck tilt forwards as you look down. Keeping the head upright, as if balanced on the shoulders.."

108: I'm not sure this advice is correct but I might be splitting hairs. My understanding and the way I sit is to tuck my chin in slightly thereby straightening the upper spine (neck). That rotation of the head is subtle. The head isn't leaning forward but is not held upright either. It is like the head is being pulled up with an invisible cord at the very back.. so as the back of the head is being pulled up, the chin tucks in and rotates down slightly..

thoughts?

I remember reading Mike Cross complaining of this point in some of his early blog posts. That Gudo would forcibly push his chin in and down which he did not appreciate. I was shown the same thing by one of Gudo's students but was never forced to do this.

anon #108 said...

Hi AB,

I'm trying to describe what works for me, and so what I think might work for others, but finding the right words can be tricky.

Yes, perhaps "upright" is the wrong word. I didn't mean to imply any unnatural tension or rigidity, I was just pointing out something I'd noticed about myself, and others, when I first sat: that as I looked down, my head would tilt down/forward too. I find that causes strain and/or encourages drowsiness. Now, when I sit, once I've crossed my legs, I look straight ahead, and then, making sure I don't change that position, lower my eyes.

As I hear Mike Cross's objections (I've no experience of Alexander Technique at all), tucking/pulling the chin in is a kind of forced, rigid, even militaristic kind of thing and doesn't allow the neck to be "free". Whatever MC means by "letting the neck be free", I've felt what I think he's talking about, and it it doesn't feel 'right' (not one of MC's favourite words) to intentionally pull the chin in...too much...not to me.. There again, letting the chin jut out/forth can encourage the head to fall back - not 'right' either. I have found the 'head being pulled up with an invisible cord at the very back' image helpful - but, again, as long as it isn't forced or strained.

(Have I understood your point?)

I've concluded that there's a middle way with all this stuff that we can only find for ourselves, with our own bodies.

captcha = angimunc. Well I never!

Anonymous said...

When I see the photo of Kodo Sawaki I realize that he is pulling in the chin... maybe that's the way to have a closed position...and nothing can enter your head during meditation ?

Know Your Monks said...

By the way, did anyone notice that there is a Zen monk standing in front of the Zen Mall in the photo?


Ah, probably not a Zen monk from the cut of his robes. Jodo. Small point.

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2587/4110822479_7364f33c2b.jpg

anon #108 said...

"pulling in the chin...maybe that's the way to have a closed position...and nothing can enter your head during meditation ?

Maybe, 8.01am. Try it. Let us know how you get on ;)

Blake said...

I actually prefer hearing about daily life from practitioners. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind hearing about philosophy and such but if someone is going to share quotes and ideas, throw in a little, "Something I was thinking about while taking a dump." This is one of my annoyances with Twitter Buddhists. All Buddhism, no Buddhist.

Jinzang said...

The instructions I have are that you lower the gaze by tucking the chin. It's best to have someone else check your posture, as in yoga and tai chi, it's easy to make a mistake when you are only given a verbal description.

anon #108 said...

Hi Jinzang,

I agree that having a teacher, or someone you trust to understand what they're looking at/for, is extremely helpful - some would say essential - and that verbal descriptions can be misleading.

We may have all been taught something slightly different. But in the end, each of us does our own sitting. Hopefully, we discover our own "mistakes".

Anonymous said...

Why I enjoy this blog: it changes.
Why I post as Anonymous: so do I.

Cyril Coombs said...

ANS or electricity in the mind.... Because it's given words it can seem like it belittles it. It's just a finger ppinting at the amazing moon. But I think it's amazing and wondrous. Seriously, wiggle your toes. However you explain the biology of it it's pretty damned mystical.

Anonymous said...

Ah, probably not a Zen monk from the cut of his robes. Jodo. Small point.

I guess Brad does not know his Buddhist monks. Funny for a guy who says he was trained as a Buddhist monk in Japan. Oh, sure, clothes and sects are not important at all, but makes you wonder what else he doesn't know.

Monk-ey Business said...

That guy is definitely a monk. I don't know what makes you idiots think he's not a monk. I think Brad's seen enough monks in his line of work to recognize one pretty easily. Robes-check, shaved head-check. Pretty goddamn simple if you ask me.

Anonymous said...

"I guess Brad does not know his Buddhist monks. Funny for a guy who says he was trained as a Buddhist monk in Japan."

We know Brad studied with Nishijima, and didn't "train" in any formal temple, like any of the Soto-shu temples. Do you know your Buddhist monks? Are you sure that's not a Zen monk in the picture? Didn't look much like the Jodo monk in the link to me.

"Oh, sure, clothes and sects are not important at all.."

Agree. Then why this:

"but makes you wonder what else he doesn't know."

Nope. Might make you wonder. Don't bother me.

The Rinz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Wow Cyrl,I just wiggled me toes... fun! thank u :)

Brad Warner said...

Yeah. It's definitely possible the monk is Jodo-shu and not Zen. There are certainly more of them, so the statistical likelihood is greater if nothing else. But I wouldn't be able to tell the sects apart by the cut of their clothes. Besides which, Nishijima Roshi, though he is a Soto monk, wears Rinzai robes. Actually, a lot of Soto monks have adopted the Rinzai robes because the sleeves are more sensible. Or so I've heard.

But it's funnier of he's a Zen monk.

Mysterion said...

well... imo Jodo-shu (pure land) is the christinization of buddhism - rebranding nirvana as heaven to compete with the holly and lily crowd.

I've joked before about Jodo Shinshu (New Pure Land) in which we participate locally with the Japanese community (they are well aware of my opinion).

If you have Pure Land

and New Pure Land

then why not New, Improved, Pure Land? It would promote the all mighty Buddha.

seriously NOT. (get it?)

Downstream Buddhism it like downstream water - polluted despite the best intentions.

With enough beer, we can ALL get polluted.

No need for softener.

Mysterion said...

Downstream Buddhism is like downstream water...