Sunday, November 21, 2010

Border Crossing

So let me tell you about my recent adventures. Last Thursday I packed a PT Cruiser load of stuff into my car and crossed the border from Quebec, Canada into New York, USA. I'd already crossed this border twice during my stay in Montreal when I had some gigs in New York. Those times it was easy-peasy. Even with a carload of stuff the Canadian border guard passed me through. So I didn't expect much of anything when coming back into what is, for better or worse, my own country.

But when I arrived at the DMZ separating the Peoples Republic of Canada from the Vereinigtes Großreich von Amerika I soon found out this was not to be the case. I was singled out for a secondary inspection. This involved getting out of my car, leaving my keys with the border gestapo and being taken into an interrogation center where I had to empty out my pockets and turn them inside out, where the little single serving cheese thingy my friend had given me was sliced open to see if it was drugs, where I was asked a lot of questions about my source of income and so on. Look, guys, I'm a US citizen. Even if I was a vagrant without means of support you couldn't send me back to Canada. I think they were a little confused about how this border stuff works.

I took all of this with good humor. What else can you do? But it was annoying and absolutely without even the smallest degree of sense. What does anyone smuggle in from Canada? Seriously. There aren't even any drugs you can get in Quebec that you can't get more of in New York, and I'm sure they're cheaper too. Everything is cheaper in the USA than in Canada. And that bullshit you've heard that the Sept. 11th hijackers came in through Canada? It's not true.

Feh. So after that I made my way to Brooklyn where, much to my amazement, I secured a parking spot just around the corner from the front door of my building. That was Thursday night and the street was closed to parking from 9:30-11:00 on Friday mornings for cleaning. But I wasn't too worried because I've parked in Brooklyn before and it hasn't been a huge hassle.

What I did not know was that about four blocks of my neighborhood is being resurfaced this week, which means parking has become much more difficult. At nine on Friday morning I started driving around looking for a spot. It took well over an hour, much of which time was spent getting a ticket from the NYPD for allegedly violating a "no right on red" that they say was clearly posted. I went back around to the same corner later specifically looking for the signs they told me were there. I did not see any. They had a line of three or four more cars behind me all getting pulled over for the same violation, they didn't see the alleged signs either. This is the New York City equivalent of a deep south speed trap. I'm gonna go check again, but I'm pretty certain those signs — if they exist at all — are deliberately obscured for the sole purpose of generating highly questionable revenue.

All of this coupled with the usual stresses associated with moving and with not having a reliable source of income (You think authors are rich? Guess again.) and a few other stress producing incidents that I'm not going to make public made for one pretty unhappy Bradley.

It was during this recent period of black pessimism and malaise that I began to reflect again on the whole "that's not very Buddhist of you" business. I'm sure lots of people reading this blog are familiar with it. I wrote an article about this in the March, 2008 issue of Shambhala Sun (it's the issue with the Dalai Lama on the cover. Oh wait! D'oh!).

That's when someone who is a Buddhist gets a bit flustered by whatever and all her friends say, "That's not very Buddhist of you!"

I'll tell you what, though, friends and neighbors, if it weren't for my steady practice I wouldn't be able to get through life at all. Forget about being all wide eyed and Enlightened. I wouldn't even make it through the fucking day. This is one of the thousand million reasons I take issue with all those assholes out there hawking meditation as the way to turn an ordinary human into Super Meditation Man, the guy who never gets his hair (or lack thereof) ruffled no matter what hurricanes life sends his way.

Yeah, yeah. I know. I know. You've seen that guy! He's on YouTube! He's got little videos in which he giggles and smiles and talks in this really sweet soothing voice about how he has found the way to be cool as a cucumber no matter what happens. He's the real deal!

You know what? Go follow that guy if you want. Buy his magic potions. I don't care. Just don't come belly-achin' to me when you realize what a scam it all was. That's all I ask.

Any decent actor can play that role for the ten minutes YouTube allows you, or the hour or two he's on stage, or for a 15 minute personal interview session where he gets to ring a bell and send you away the instant things get tense. It's not even a very impressive trick. Real life, however, is entirely different.

This is one of (again) the bazillion and two reasons I'm dead set against the whole on-line Zen Master thing. It's so easy to play the role of Super Meditation Man in a Skype interview where you can't see the mess the guy's room is just off camera (both concretely and metaphorically), where you don't get to see how your teacher acts after spending two hours in gridlock on the 405 expressway, where you can't smell the garlic on his breath.

Bah.

Anyway, last night I went out and had Belgian fries in the East Village and everything got a whole lot better.

119 comments:

Awakened Yeti said...

In soviet russia, buddhism meditates on YOU!

PA said...

I was soooo close to being Juan! Damn it, Awakened Yeti!
Interesting post - timely too as I find myself in a similar position. (Not the traffic violation bit but the no steady income bit :-))

Anonymous said...

Don't you sport a punk mohawk theses days
Wasn't your last several border crossings done with a different 'do'

and no people shouldn't be judged by appearances but authorities just can't help flexing what is within their jurisdiction when someone clearly publically advertises themself as anti-establishment.

You understand this very well so quit your yappin'

You know better than to keep a car in NY right?
It'ts like keeping a pet pony when livin' in the suburbs:
You stable it somewhere and take if out on weekends
stabling is like extra rent...yeah l know, being a householder sucks!
Illegal revenue for the city from cops writing bogus law infraction tickets...everyone everywhere pushin' things sose they can keep on stayin' alive!
And you, sir, are no exception Isn't that why you ended up in NY in the first place?

john e mumbles said...

Ho Ho Ho Fo'

Anonymous said...

"where you can't see the mess the guy's room is just off camera (both concretely and metaphorically), where you don't get to see how your teacher acts after spending two hours in gridlock on the 405 expressway, where you can't smell the garlic on his breath."

And how often does a regular sangha member get to do these things with their teacher, whom they'll probably meet once a week in a formal zazen session, or maybe in a dokusan during a sesshin?

It's not like people attending a modern non-monastic sangha spend lots of time with their teachers during everyday life.

Anonymous said...

-Pot is cheaper in Canada and many things are smuggled back and forth between the two nations.

-I'm not sure right on red is posted anywhere in the city. You learned about no right on red in NYC (the expensive way) and you probably won't make the same mistake again!

-I Don't Matter!

Mumon said...

In NYC there is no right on red by default; signs would only exist to allow what is otherwise prohibited.

Wm J Byatt said...

Anon above pointed out that pit is cheaper in Canada. It's also easier (and cheaper) to get one's hands on vast amounts of ecstasy in Canada (1,000,000 pills for about $100K isn't unheard of). Most of the rolls in New England come through Canada.

G'Dam the Pusher Man said...

Rolls, perhaps, but Brad has a corner on the international troll market right here.

john e mumbles said...

Bright lights, big city!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=giGGK3Fk9co&feature=related

roman said...

Exactly. And I can imagine how messed up my life would be if it wasn't for that 18 year old daily dose of zazen practice. I don't even want to try to imagine. Dogen Sangha guys are just normal people, no idols.

Anonymous said...

A shit load of BC Bud my man... Mary J. Americans keep buying so much of it. Those Dept of Homeland security may have also been checking your person to make sure you weren't importing socialism...

A few week ago they gave my friend the same run-down except tore up his car, ripped out his seats... didn't find shit of course. So they told him to fuck off and sent him on his not so merry way.

Having your single serving of processed cheese sliced open is child's play(though perhaps the irony of "american" cheese beyond cut open at the border is too much)... You know, seriously though, some unlucky guys go to that little room are jumped, cuffed, hooded and then go straight to some bizarre country to be water-boarded. I feel scared just saying this. They'll never come back the same, though you aren't either. Who said bad paper-work isn't dangerous...

Who goes to America nowadays anyways? Terrorists win?

Brad Warner said...

True there's no right on red in Manhattan. But this is Brooklyn. The cop said something about there being signs saying no right on red between 8am and 11 or something.

And yes, I should have worn a hat when going thru Checkpoint Charlie like I did those other times.

Anyway, that's not really the point. I wasn't trying to bitch about my situation. I was trying to give some indication of how I felt when all this was going on.

But Anon at 12:15, there is an infinite amount of information on the actual personality of your teacher available when you can really see her in the flesh even for a few minutes.

Anonymous said...

There used to be a Pommes Frites on 3rd St Santa Monica: paper cones assorted sauces
For vegetarians and hungry folks with not much cash it was great

a foxy young woman from NY who used to babysit for my son got a ticket in Santa Monica for not coming to a full stop before making her right turn onto Main St: right at the Staarbucks corner of Hill St and Main while on her roller blades.
The officer obviously had wanted to talk to her but was not prepared for her New York reponse
She thought she could just not pay the ticket for the traffic violation but it didn't go away and between fines and failures to appear it went to warrants and she just went back to NY
Everyone who heard the story could not believe it
Conclusion: case of RBWC
Roller blading while cute

Rick said...

Whenever I visit our southern neighbor, Canada, I always worry that when I want to come back, the border guard will tell me "sorry, we're full."

Brad Warner said...

I take it back. You can't go right on red in Brooklyn either. Never try to learn traffic laws from a blog about Zen.

Re-thinking what happened, I believe I didn't make a right on red, but a simple right turn on a green light. Apparently there was a sign forbidding right turns of any kind. There was a line of cars pulled over. This was a trap for multiple victims, not a case of a cop just happening to notice me.

Also, re: Canada/US border. It's an absurd situation even if all that stuff about drugs is true. You can cross the Netherlands/Germany border with a carload of legally acquired marijuana and the only thing at the border is a sign saying "Welcome to Germany."

Anyway, whatever. This is all totally not the point. Why am I even writing this?

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

Prescription drugs are 80% cheaper in Canada than they are in the USA.

A $4.72 "Brand-Name®" pill costs 89¢.

An 89¢ generic costs 17¢.

Here's the LEFTIE's View.

America spends 230x as much on welfare for the richest 1,000 as is does for the poorest 100,000!

Sorry, but that's the way it is (double-dippers like me worry less).

Awakened Yeti said...

If wishes were horses, beggars would RIDE THOSE MOTHERFUCKERS INTO THE TECHNICOLOR SUNSET

Anonymous said...

Look at this review of Genpo Roshi's BigMind http://www.zenforuminternational.org/viewtopic.php?f=64&t=5697

Anonymous said...

Enough of Big Mind. Show me your Little Mind!

Anonymous said...

john e mumbles wins the prize for best
hardcorezen post in a while -- the only
way it could have been better is if,
instead of the Jimmy Reed version, he
had posted the version by Them,
which, unfortunately, is nowhere to be
found on the net :(

Anonymous said...

"Re-thinking what happened, I believe I didn't make a right on red, but a simple right turn on a green light. Apparently there was a sign forbidding right turns of any kind. There was a line of cars pulled over. This was a trap for multiple victims, not a case of a cop just happening to notice me."

Jesus Brad.. You used to be cool once. Now you sound just like Zsa Zsa Gabor.

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
john e mumbles said...

The only vinyl I have anymore by Them is Backtrackin' (1974) and it doesn't have Bright Lights Big City. It does have a killer cover of I Put A Spell On You...

You can('t) buy a copy of it here:

http://eil.com/shop/moreinfo.asp?catalogid=344306

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

Here's a good advice for practice;
go into partnership with nature, she does more than half the work and asks none of the fee.

john e mumbles said...

My motto:

Are my pants zipped up?






I often get out the door without even looking in the mirror these days.



Seriously, Mysterion, I get your point, but this was a runaway train (obscure Kurosawa movie reference) way before we boarded...

"I just want to get my kicks before the whole shithouse goes down in flames." -Jim Morrison

"Give me an issue, I'll give you a tissue, you can wipe my ass with it." -Lou Reed

"I wanna play these scratchy records, with more divorce, more disasters, and enjoy my decline."
-Iggy Pop

Wiseass Zen said...

Article from the Baltimore Sun

Method to erase traumatic memories may be on the horizon

http://www.baltimoresun.com/health/bs-hs-erasing-memories-20101122,0,342650.story

opening paragraph says that soldiers haunted by scens of war and wish to wipe those memories away have hope, via john hopkins research..this could be a very interesting post and thread dude..

sea gullible said...

Sea Gull Rim Shotie is now

ersatz Martin H. Fischer

Xemu said...

Blogger Wiseass Zen said...
"opening paragraph says that soldiers haunted by scenes of war and wish to wipe those memories away have hope..."

2006 blast

Maybe LRH Tech & the VA...

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
john e mumbles said...

There's a photo guide somewhere, I think its called Permanent Parisians...

Brad, if you get ridiculously famous, you might consider doing what Freda Lawrence did with her deceased celebrity writer hubby D.H. Fearing that fans would steal his remains, she had him cremated, then mixed the ashes with the mortar they used for the massive altar in his modest mausoleum outside Taos, New Mexico.

Of course, this plan didn't stop one unscrupulous devotee from breaking off a pill-size chunk and swallowing it (ahem... -not proud of that one...).

Anonymous said...

Wow, Seagal Rinpoche took so long to post, I thought he might have actually read Brad's article and had second thoughts about posting his cheezy one-liner of the day. Today's was written by Martin Fischer, by the way. It would probably be less annoying if Seagal wasn't trying to pass it off as his own work.

Mr. Reee said...

"Last Thursday I packed a PT Cruiser load of stuff ... [and] I was singled out for a secondary inspection. This involved getting out of my car, leaving my keys with the border gestapo..."

PTs do carry an air of sedition about them--I can only imagine the horrors your poor car faced while they searched your cheese.

Did they give it back to you OK? I'd check to make sure they didn't mess around with the timing belt. It's an old black-ops trick--nick the belt with a K-Bar and 20,000 miles later your valves do the cha-cha-cha on 580...

anonymous anonymous said...

Anon@939.. Save your annoyance for that dissimulator mysterion.

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

brad said on 05:24 p.m.:
"You can cross the Netherlands/Germany border with a carload of legally acquired marijuana and the only thing at the border is a sign saying "Welcome to Germany.""

both the Netherlands and Germany are schengen-countries, that is there is no longer a real border.

you shouldn´t try doing this between Germany and the Czech Republic ;)

i liked your post. zazen somehow does something that enables me quietly to carry on with my life although it seems wildly absurd to me, and sometimes even to enjoy it (life).

dirty sanchez said...

American border guards can be curt sometimes. You must have provoked them with your courteous manner.. Just be glad they didn't get angry and squeeze all the cheese out of your package.

Mysterion said...

How funny would it have been if Brad had provoked the border guards to the point that they anally raped him, taking turns?

Anonymous said...

Hey Brad,

if you're looking for something to do while in NYC try doing some zazen in the dream house.

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

Faux Mysterion - where's the avatar???

'nuff sed

Anonymous said...

Anon@1130,
Anon@939 here. In spite of the fact that Mysterion's postings typically seem to take up 30% or more of Brad's comment section, somehow that vainglorious windbag doesn't bother me as much as the faux Seagal.

Maybe because he's been around longer, and I've just gotten used to skipping over his posts without reading them.

Or maybe it's that his posts come from a more honest place. I mean, they're loaded with BS, but at least it's mostly his own BS, and if it isn't, he gives credit to whatever nutcase he got it from.

Awakened Yeti said...

A hundred miles an hour through my mind
And there you go
Outta control into the promised land
And down we go

Monkey man
Are we just some weird mutation?
Oh, my mind!
Lead me not into temptation

Like a snake
I will strike without a warning
Holy cow
Someone pinch me, am I dreaming?

anonymous anonymous said...

Anon939: Hysterion loves to play the wise sage even though he is a completely delusional hypocrite. It should be funny but I find him annoying. The nicer people here are good at ignoring him.

Mysterion said...

Wait, and see.

Awakened Yeti said...

put away your lance, sir knight

i am but a lowly windmill

Anonymous said...

"So I didn't expect much of anything when coming back into what is, for better or worse, my own country."

Awareness, Choice, and Consequence

Anonymous said...

stretch and yawn...

Anonymous said...

2010 visit of Stephen and Martine Batchleor

The Secular Buddha - Stephen Batchelor, Byron Bay Community Centre, 22nd October 2010, 52 minutes

http://www.dharma.org.au/Batchelor-talks.html

Anonymous said...

"And how often does a regular sangha member get to do these things with their teacher, whom they'll probably meet once a week in a formal zazen session, or maybe in a dokusan during a sesshin?

It's not like people attending a modern non-monastic sangha spend lots of time with their teachers during everyday life."

Rather often actually. Most Sanghas have some form of social time after talks, long practices or retreats. In fact, in the Kwan Um school, together action outside the Dharma room is considered highly important.

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

I don't think Brad's point is so much about the length of time you spend with a teacher or with members of a sangha, as with the fact that real life experience of a person, however brief and infrequent, is very different to reading the words they've written, looking at the videos they've made, or having a chat with them on the phone - all of which are fine, useful things. But being in the physical presence of another living person is very different.

Things occur in RL interaction and observation that don't occur through 'mediated' communication. Those things are very important to a practice and philosophy that is more than just ideas.

I think that's Brad's point, and I agree with it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your experience. I think it's much more helpful and "enlightening" to hear about what real life rooted in Zen practice is like than creating a giant chimera of what life would be IF ONLY... (you were enlightened, your zazen were better, you found the right ideology, etc.) It's encouraging to know that you are going through these experiences despite all the zazen pracice and still the practice helps, though perhaps not in the way most of us wish it would, that is, to make one happy all the time. These blogs are way more instructive than most of the "spiritual" books that feed our illusion of the big IF ONLY.

piper said...

"What does anyone smuggle in from Canada? Seriously."

Damn Brad.. I know you lead a sheltered life and all but there are nasty people trying to do nasty things to other people nowadays. Dudes have managed to smuggle explosives into the US from Canada before you know. What did you want the guards to do. Give you a pass because you're almost famous? And calling them Border Gestapo? That was stupid. Dudes get checked more than you did going into a rock concert. Sorry you were so inconvenienced Zsa Zsa. I think if they beat the shit out of you next time you cross you can truly say it was because of something you did. Feh.

Anonymous said...

Can you guys watch this video and let me know what you think? I don't think this guy is a good Buddhist teacher, but I'm not sure that it's my place to say.

anon #108 said...

Yes. That guy is one of the very best Buddhist teachers.

I'm available to provide reliable assessments of any other Buddhist teachers about whom you harbour doubts. Just ask.

captcha = mingl

Seagal said...

Don't sport a Mohawk at age 46 unless you want a border guard to cut the cheese.

Anonymous said...

Dan Quinn, like Brad is a teacher. In this video he balances his ANS live on camera.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the feedback, guys.

Dan is really inspirational here. Simply amazing stuff.

JFC said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...
"Dan Quinn..."

certainly deserves to have a follower like you...

papa sanchez said...

Anonymous dirty sanchez said...
"American border guards can be curt sometimes."

'specially when you're smuggling weed for la barbie.

anonymous anonymous said...

Hysterion, are you insinuating that Brad might have been smuggling weed across an international border?

charlie_sheen said...

Just yesterday,

"Witnesses say man screamed: 'Repent! You never accepted Jesus!'
more

Xtians really know how to show mom a good time.

Dan Quinn said...

You guys need to quit fucking with me and get on stevia.

- DAN QUINN

Dan said...

Brea - an aspiring actor who once played a bit part on "Ugly Betty" - angrily screamed at his mother to "repent" before delivering the death blows.

He apparently removed the murder weapon from a Masonic lodge after a meeting Monday night and then used it later on his mother, said the suspect's uncle.

Brea was a low-level Mason who was not cleared to take one of the ceremonial swords - typically stainless steel blades with a short, black grip.

"Something happened that made him do it," said Martial Brea. "The devil entered him."

Well, THAT explains everything!

⊗ yo fren in ΙΧΕμ∑

Mysterion said...

Boys and their toys...

Modern Masons?

Why didn't he (the Jesus crazy) drive over mom in a toy car?

Just asking...

Anonymous said...

"Bright Scope / Long Lab Coat" (Parody of "Short Skirt / Long Jacket" by Cake)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSFsUF67rCQ

Awakened Yeti said...

These blogs are way more instructive than most of the "spiritual" books that feed our illusion of the big IF ONLY.

Unfortunately the illusion of "IF ONLY" doesnt just happen with spiritual things. For example:

Also, re: Canada/US border. It's an absurd situation even if all that stuff about drugs is true. You can cross the Netherlands/Germany border with a carload of legally acquired marijuana and the only thing at the border is a sign saying "Welcome to Germany."

So I find it interesting that the particular illusion to which you refer was actually a major instigator regarding this whole situation on this blog post.

Why is it not seen this way? That is another question with an answer that is more valuable for you to discover yourself rather than just be told outright.

Deep and powerful results require a deep and powerful practice. The rather infantile excuses against it only serve as justification for its lack - not any sort of real explanation.

If one only practices buddhism to accumulate merit, thats fine - but this sort of attitude is not the same as that which leads to "enlightenment", which has now become a dirty word like "god". It has been gaining emotional stigma over the years, and now is a charged term, a "hot button" type of issue.

But such "hot buttons" are involved with core issues of the conditioned mind. That is the point of this practice, to investigate the nature of conditioned mind and uncover its actual essence. To argue and rail against the unconditioned isnt particularly "honest" (or even applicable). Its just another manifestation of the conditioned mind justifying itself. It is very concerned about defining itself and its place in the world, as well as the world itself - as that is its purpose.

Its not that it has no value, because everything has some sort of value. But eventually you have to get real about your actual motivations for practice. The four noble truths are explicitly "buddhism", and their understanding is paramount. It isnt enough to just pay lip service on an occasional basis, and then forget about the actual reality they refer to. It isnt enough to just wallow in the shit and say "oh well!". Maybe its enough for scholars, but not for actual practitioners.

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
john e mumbles said...

"Enlightenment is ego's ultimate disappointment."
— Chögyam Trungpa

Anonymous said...

Here's a fun essay that includes that sentiment exactly. It's written by a 30 year+ meditator who is also a psychotherapist.

"I see the process of meditation as a series of narcissistic injuries. From the beginning right through to the end, it challenges our narcissism at every level. "

Mitt Romney said...

Hopefully we can get this economy turned around after I become President.

Sarah Palin said...

Sorry Mitt, but I will be the next President of the USA.

Lyndon Hermyle LaRouche said...

Palin and Romney can kiss my junk.

I'll win 2012!

Papa Murphy said...

A federal jury in Alexandria convicted political extremist Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr. and six associates yesterday of conspiracy and mail fraud in his group's solicitation of $34 million in loans since 1983.

"The human essence of this matter, is that Christ was born and crucified to redeem all humanity, to the status of a creature made in the image of the Creator of the universe."

Tea, anyone?

http://www.papamurphys.com/

Seagal Rinpoche said...

Enlightenment is ego's ultimate disappointment.

Anonymous said...

How strange.. Trungpa said the very same thing.

SF Gate said...

Seagal Rinpoche is his own ego's ultimate disappointment.

Anonymous said...

Don't fuck with the Seagal.. He will reach into your eye socket and pull out your brain and pooch punt it out the window.

mysterion said...

At least his movies are "4 for $5."

That indicates some degree of success.

Don't knock success.

proulx michel said...

Actually, I was always quite surprised at the strictness of custom officers both in Canada and the US. Always much more than in any European country, even before Schengen.
On the other hand, I remember entering the US on a boat without so much as a minimal control (which I deeply regretted when I had to go back to Montreal from Plattsburgh, because I had forgotten my IDs in Canada...)
But once, coming back to Quebec City, I was so much hassled by the customs officer (Why are you here, what did you came here for, where are you staying, how long, how much money do you have and so on) that I asked her if she feared I would stay. (I'm a Canadian citizen and all my family was in Quebec City...)

anon #108 said...

Hi BIbhatsahimanarabuddha! (Yes, I'm pretty sure that's close enough to a correct rendition of your nick in Sanskrit. Sounds cool. Better than "Awakened Yeti". I digress...)

The four noble truths are explicitly "buddhism", and their understanding is paramount.

There have been diverse takes on the 4 NTs since they were first mentioned. The pali cannon itself reports and dissects them differently. There is general agreement about No 1, which seems pretty straightforward, but 2 and 3...? And one version (in the samyukta agama) doesn't mention 4, the eight-fold path at all. I had my doubts (well before I'd heard of Gudo Nishijima) about their meaning, value - and their authenticity. And you know Dogen? He only wrote only about the eightfold path (in the 37 elements of Bodhi chapter of Shobogenzo), never mentioning the first three, fwiw.

It's true that some philosophies and practices that call themselves "Buddhism" seem to share little with others that claim the title. Twas ever thus. Should they relinquish use of the term? Are you really saying that those of us who have a different understanding of the 4NTs than the mainstream version - or who hardly give them a second thought - are making one big Buddhist mistake, and/or have no right to call ourselves Buddhist if we fancy?

In my very humble and provisional opinion, the 4NTs as generally understood these days are a misreported composite hotch-potch of something Gotama Buddha might have said a very long time ago, and they don't consciously inform my practice. Still worth an occasional ponder, though.

proulx michel said...

One funny aspect of it all is, I was a bit taken aback at first by Nishijima roshi's interpretation of the 4 NTs. Then, I had an exchange with Mike Luetchford about them which solved quite a bit of my reluctances.

But when, years later, I discussed the subject with Nishijima roshi himself, I was quite amused to discover that, in effect, his interpretation follows quite closely the average one, except that it is in no way "gloomy oriented", that is in no way a "life is shit, shit is caused by our desires, let's forgo our desires", but very simply: life sucks because we expect so much and the difference between what we expect and what we get is what it is. Thus, the way to do so that life doesn't suck that much is to take what we have and make do with it.

Actually, I find it much easier to make do with what I have on hand or can obtain readily, that wring my hands over what I haven't and wait till conditions change...

anon #108 said...

Hi pm -

Yes, I wholly agree with you that Nishijima's interpretation of the 4 NTs isn't at all as "revisionist" as some insist.

In extending the meaning of the Sanskrit terms to other aspects of experience I think Gudo has made a very useful contribution to the living Buddhist tradition. It's a shame that some "Buddhists" believe the last word was said long ago.

anon said...

"an experienced con man, a person who had made his living by ripping people off for more than 40 years, once told me, "You can't con anybody unless they want to be conned."

And our ignorance is proof that we want to be conned. We want to be lied to. We don't care about what's really happening. Because, if we cared, this wouldn't be happening to us."

Barry Graham - Tues Nov. 23

Thanksgiving Turkey said...

"Buddhism" is a brand name owned by Ralph Lauren. He is authorized by law to use it for any products in the Ralph Lauren line.

Give me a concept and you can powder puff my ass with it. With a Ralph Lauren powder puff, of course.

anon #108 said...

Thanks TT.

That's that then. Sorted. Thank you Ralph Lauren.

Hysterion said...

Ralph Lauren translated Vasubandhu's commentary on the Pure Land scripture, the Wu-liang-shou ching wu'pi-t'i'ihe yQan-sheng ctueh which ultimately inspired the Pure Land Buddhist movement in East Asia. The greatest Chinese Buddhist translator was HsOan-tsangxtt (600-664), who spent seventeen years in India and brought a number of Polo Ralph Lauren outlets.

Wolfgang said...

I think the worst kind of teacher is a dead teacher. Once a teacher is dead, the students start sanctifying him. All his/her faults are forgotten and only his/her virtues are remembered. I get that sense from the SF zen center. suzuki is slowly being turned into st. suzuki by his former students.
The damage is not to Suzuki. It is to his students who feed their egos with their teacher's imagined star/saint status.
Once the dead teacher has reached saint status, the real live teachers can't measure up and you get a whole lot of disillusioned students.
If we assumed that our teachers are recovering assholes like everyone else and that they have the hots for their students and lust for material things and haven't quite dealt with all their emotional issues yet, we'd all be better off and maybe even pleasantly surprised when one of them rises above the norm.

Moby Gomez said...

Give it a rest, Wolfgang.

Red Hook said...

Moby, I rather enjoyed Wolfy's comments. Are you pre?

anon said...

The Wisdom of a Broken Heart by Susan Piver is a book I can't recommend highly enough. Imagine if Pema Chodron was someone you could meet in a bar and drink margaritas with, and you'll have some idea of the content of this book.

Barry Graham - Tues Nov. 24

anon said...

"I'm planning to celebrate Thanksgiving in the authentic American tradition - I'm going to give my neighbors blankets infected with smallpox, wait for them to die, then move into their houses."

Barry Graham - Wed Nov. 24

Mysterion said...

This book about "Charlie Chan" is my next read.

What do you think?

Mysterion said...

the blankets they give the indians

only make them die

japanese subtitles

Salena Jones (an American) was popular in Denmark, Japan, and her adopted England.

Awakened Yeti said...

It's true that some philosophies and practices that call themselves "Buddhism" seem to share little with others that claim the title. Twas ever thus. Should they relinquish use of the term? Are you really saying that those of us who have a different understanding of the 4NTs than the mainstream version - or who hardly give them a second thought - are making one big Buddhist mistake, and/or have no right to call ourselves Buddhist if we fancy?

Everyone has the "right" to do as they wish. Limitations of peoples "rights" is a human creation called the "legal system". It is based on the understanding that all actions have consequences. Therefore the system was created to promote beneficial consequences over maleficent ones.

Beyond the legal system of your particular local area and culture, there is no definition of "rights" except those imposed by your own subjective morality, a learned response.

I dont care what people call themselves, that is their business. But if a policeman walks into a bar in and shoots an innocent guy in the head for no reason, is he still a policeman? Of course its arguable, but the terminology isnt the point. Its the activity which speaks for itself.


In my very humble and provisional opinion, the 4NTs as generally understood these days are a misreported composite hotch-potch of something Gotama Buddha might have said a very long time ago, and they don't consciously inform my practice. Still worth an occasional ponder, though.

It is interesting (but not surprising) that you find the 4 noble truths to be completely irrelevant to your practice. Personally I have not talked with many people who call themselves "buddhist" but then consider the 4 noble truths not relevant on a practical level. Its a bit of a novelty to me at this point, and yes I do find it amusing.

For the record, I dont call myself a "buddhist"... or anything else for that matter. I have fun with my masks, because I realize they arent my actual face.

Wake the Fuck Up said...

What a strident, pompous ass!

Awakened Yeti said...

buzz! buzz! buzz!

anon #108 said...

Hi AY,

I'm curious - how often do you think about the 4 Noble Truths in a way that impacts your practice? I mean do they pop into your mind while you're meditating, or doing the housework and improve/clarify things? I'm not being facetious; I'm querying the role philosophical formulations/ideas play in what we actually do. I’ve a suspicion that we give far too much credit to the ideas that we believe direct what we do, or motivate us. Is it different for you?

anon #108 said...

”It is interesting (but not surprising) that you find the 4 noble truths to be completely irrelevant to your practice.”

Let me explain.

I'm not saying the 4NTs have no value at all. They're there, I’ve considered them and occasionally consider them again; mainly to ponder what it is I’m missing. I mean, the mainstream interpretation of the 4NTs goes something like this:

1 “There is suffering/dissatisfaction.” Yes, there is. I agree.
[Doubt: A statement of the obvious. Not an original insight, but that’s fine, truths are often obvious, and I guess this first Truth is the basic proposition from which the others derive.]

2 “There is a cause of suffering.” Yes, there must be. And the cause of suffering, says the mainstream reading – although not all versions in the pali canon say so - is desire/attachment. Yes, I can understand that. If I don’t want anything I can’t be disappointed. If I’m not attached to anything, likewise. OK.
[Doubt: I realise that causes weren’t given there due in the Buddha’s time, when events occurred in a seemingly haphazard fashion, at the whim of gods and uncontrollable forces. But we in the modern, rational, scientific world have a different understanding of events. The Buddha was (perhaps the first) rational, scientific humanist so kudos to him, but I don’t need to make any effort to incorporate Truth 2 into my practice. It’s inherent in my world-view. I can’t escape it. As for “The cause of suffering is desire” – that sounds hardly different from what I’ve read in the Bhagavad Gita. (And like the 8-fold path, it’s not mentioned in what may be the earliest written version – in the samyukta agama.)]

3 “(Suffering can be got rid of by) suppressing or destroying (nirodha) desire/attachment”. Yes, I suppose it could.
[Doubt: That’s a big ask, though. And I’m not sure I want to do that. Sounds a lot like asceticism to me. What’s the difference?]

4 “The way. (The 8-fold path)”. These are practical recommendations for how we should live. A kind of 8 commandments. Good advice, for sure - maybe even a path to enlightenment/happiness.
[Doubt: I don’t see how they follow from the first three truths. They don’t seem to be a way of suppressing or eliminating desire/attachment – which I thought was where the first three were leading.]

I've read quite a few commentaries on the NTs. The "Doctor's diagnosis and prescription" comes closest to given the whole thing some coherent logic, but I remain unconvinced that, as we've inherited them, the 4NTs express the great insight the Buddha considered so revolutionary and hard-to-understand that his first thought was not to tell anyone about it.


I’d really like to believe that the Four Noble Truths – as generally understood – “are explicitly "buddhism", and their understanding is paramount,” so that when my friends ask me what Buddhism is about I can give them a short, straight answer, but I don’t. Perhaps you can help. Yet my version of 'Buddhism', despite my confusion over the NTs, has been a great refuge for me in recent years. There again, perhaps - like you - I'm not a Buddhist :)

anon #108 said...

EDIT-

"There again, perhaps - like you - I'm not a Buddhist."

Or rather - like you - I shouldn't call myself a Buddhist...or call anything "Buddhism". Yep. Maybe that's the answer.

Very inconvenient though...

john e mumbles said...

Hey Malcolm, You know for me this is an old saw. Part of my acceptance of myself was the realization that there was no "self" I needed to accept. Consequently, who am I gonna label this or that or the other? "Buddhist" for me would be Very inconvenient, also untrue, as is "human." I just don't need these superficial linguistic confines/boundaries to define what cannot be defined anyway.

anon #108 said...

I hear you John - but I don't quite understand. I'm OK with my "self" as a construct, convenient or inconvenient. And the labels ('Malcolm', 'Buddhist', 'Musician', 'Human'...) I find generally useful as signifiers, memes, elements of social reality, whatever...

Isn't it enough that I know that these terms are just linguistic boundaries/mental formations (they are, but I believe they still have their uses). Are you saying I need to know/experience myself as no-self, and not use them? Or are you just telling me how it is for you?

anon #108 said...

But yeah...

"Buddhism" and "Buddhist", like me, are "empty"...it's been said.

Words, eh? What can you do?

john e mumbles said...

No, I wondered what you meant by "inconvenient?"

Of course it is and it isn't. I am otherwise speaking in a third sense.

And yes, I can only speak from my own experience.

Anyone that wishes to can call themselves whatever they want, for a variety of reasons. In my case, I did so in order to provide some safe place to be, I think. But with deeper realization, that all became so much shifting sand, and finally free of it, there is no need to find anywhere "safe" or otherwise, to stand.

Then anyone can call you (project) whatever they want in order to feel their own safety, and it matters not a whit in any direction. You are a blank screen, or just space (to use some conventional terms after all, heh) with plenty of room to accommodate everything that arises and passes away.

As original nature has been described elsewhere, whatever is left is completely unstained [by the projections.] The movie over, the screen appears blank, just as it always has been.

john e mumbles said...

{P.S. Malcolm: I am knee-deep into Keef's bio "Life" and loving it. Getting ready to put on December's Children (scratchy London label vinyl, 'natch)... Anyway, I highly recommend the book, Great read.

anon #108 said...

Well you're right about the "safe place" thing, John. But I don't think finding refuge in a provisional, conditioned, ultimately empty idea or belief system is necessarily a mistake. Although I am increasingly finding myself frustrated with some of those that do, and trying to stay alert to my own tendencies to subscribe to (for example) 'Buddhism'. So I do know what you mean. There again, some of the fetishistic aspects of religious practice (in Zen: kesas, zafus, Buddha statues...) fulfil a need some of us have to belong to a tradition/community - and can be useful, healthy expressions of our selves too, if dis-invested of "religious" significance (does that make sense?).

We're here on this blog because we share an interest in the ideas that pointed us to the truth (is that ok?) of the situation that you speak of. You often refer to the Sufi tradition that helped you on your way to where you are. Surely it would be 'inconvenient' to forswear all references to Sufism and your Sufi teachers? That's what I meant.

anon #108 said...

You got a Rock n roll record? Oh fuck sorry...put it on and turn it up ;)

john e mumbles said...

It is interesting to note (perhaps) that while I was calling myself a "sufi" and immersed in Sufism and needing this blanket of security for whatever reason my teacher (the late, great Javad Nurbakhsh) always rejected the labels, saying that if anything, we were simply "darvishes" which in Persian is roughly trans. "poor ones," lucky to even have the illusion of a foothold.

What he meant was that if once upon a time there was indeed someone called (what is generally accepted as) a "sufi" the reality of that state is lost.

It was something akin to the idea that the Buddha's (or whoever) teaching unravels over time into such a thin watered down thing that while still illuminating, even in homeopathic doses, is not the overwhelmingly potent thing it was originally. As a result those adhering to the label for the labels sake become self-deluded poseurs...

In other words, it's a cold cruel world way of saying, stop trying to be something you are not: be yourself. Take a long hard look at what motivates you to be something other than what you are naturally, ie; unknowable.

john e mumbles said...

"Surely it would be 'inconvenient' to forswear all references to Sufism and your Sufi teachers? That's what I meant."

Of course you are right. For the sake of comparison in conversation, it is essential.

Awakened Yeti said...

You can always boil it down. As I said before, actions speak for themselves. Its a perspective which says "less talk, more work". And perspective is always key in terms of perception. In terms of debate, there is a more conceptual approach which may or may not be informed by a less conceptual type of perspective. Purely sensory data is not nearly as conceptual as language, its more "energetic" - as are emotions. IMHO there is a great deal of neglect in regards to the raw experience of the moment, which is the totality of perception.. but this is usually the same message which is behind all traditions.

For most modern people, the layer of conceptual abstraction which symbolizes reality often becomes more real than actual "reality" - in the way that a name defines a thing in an absolute sense. People end up eating the menu instead of the actual meal. Its a very basic issue, not a "buddhist" or specifically cultural one.

It is often the unexamined motivations which are the most powerful source of movement. At their source, all wisdom traditions point to a path of sorts - and the PRACTICAL similarities between them are usually in great supply. The theoretical and philosophical and metaphysical aspects may or may not be similar, but the fundamental reality underlying all existence is without bias, without description, and without any signifier which can be proven or disproved conceptually.

However, when the abstractions or symbols are taken for the "real" thing, then obviously there will be confusion, and there will be many other problems. Notably when the idea of self is taken as a "real" or solid thing which exists in and of itself, all manner of suffering will ensue. Its a separation from the totality of reality, which is not actually split into various selves and objects and so forth.

But again, without that "escape valve" of the raw mind which is "unconditioned" - the arguments and debate about "transcendence" or whatever you want to call it can all too easily become an ouroboros of circular logic.

It is not a dearth of ideas or ethics or intellectual dissection which is the issue, but rather a lack of awareness regarding the emotional and physical motivations which drive them. No one will be able to see through the world until they are able to see through their own psychology - and yet that is usually what is the most ignored because it is the most personally intensive aspect. There must be freedom from "internal" conditions before there can be any hope of freedom from "external" conditions.

But people often dont want to do the potentially difficult and uncomfortable work it takes to get there, they just react as they would in any other situation. They just spin their wheels and dream about something else.

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

Thanks, AY. Very well said. (Generally speaking) we agree.

But importantly, as John said, "For the sake of comparison in conversation, [verbal, conceptual abstraction] is essential." Hoping to escape or avoid conceptualisation is a mug's game, surely. When are we not verbally and conceptually "abstracting"? When we are wholeheartedly acting? I think so. And I hear you saying a very similar thing.

I also think that as long as we understand the difference between idea and action, idea and reality; as long as we have "perspective", then we can 'transcend' - or incorporate, or re-define? - our suffering.

It may be that many more of us (than some seem willing to credit) who get involved with Buddhism - and yes, maybe some other 'religions' - get to understand and hopefully to do the same thing - to be a decent, useful, contented person. Our disputes, our conceptual distinctions, about what we we're doing or need to do (the 4 NTs, enlightenment) can merely serve to deflect and entangle us in what I understand you to mean by "the conditioned mind".

Of course those disputes, those attempts to define and understand ourselves and each other, are an essential part of the process, are an aspect of reality, too. It helps to read between the lines.

anon #108 said...

By 'those of us who get involved with Buddhism' I mean those of us who do it. Whatever else that might mean, it certainly means to meditate, daily.

(And to do the rest of the 8-fold path, of course ;))

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