Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Two Random Questions and a Plug

I have sat with both Soto and Rinzai teachers and I am still debating about which school is the best for me. I was wondering what I should look for in myself to help me decide which suits me better. I realize you don't know me to answer that question, so any advice on how I should decide would be helpful. I am 28 years old and have practiced (admittedly off and on) for 12 years. I am not sure about the outlook of both of these schools when it comes to women and equal rights, I wouldn't think either are misogynistic, however, I would like to know their differences, due to the fact that I am a woman and such issues matter a great deal to me. Last but not least, your books are great, they are down to earth and a great read. I appreciate your writing style a great deal and your straight up answer.

There really is no answer as to what the views of the Rinzai and Soto schools are in terms of women and equal rights.

As for Rinzai, there is no real school as such. At least as far as I'm aware, there is no central organizational body. So it would be impossible to determine the school's views on anything at all. You might try looking up the words of Master Lin Chi (aka Master Rinzai). But I wouldn't know where to find anything regarding women and equal rights. These were probably not big concerns in medieval China. Besides that, the Rinzai school doesn't necessarily derive from the teachings of Master Lin Chi in the way that Christianity supposedly derives from the teachings of Jesus and Islam from the teachings of Mohammed.

Dogen Zenji is generally considered to be the founder of contemporary Soto Zen. In 1240 he composed a piece called Raihai Tokuzui, which means roughly "Bowing to What (or Who) Has Attained The Marrow (of the Truth)." In this piece he is very clear that women, children and even animals can attain the truth as surely as any man. It appears to have been written to counter what we today would call sexist and racist views among the monks who practiced under his guidance.

Here is an article I found in a very lazy Google search on the subject. I typed in "Dogen women" and this was the first thing that came up.

Here is one translation of Raihai Tokzui. I just skimmed over it, but it seems like a good one. The scholars who made it are pretty reputable.

However, even this isn't really what you might call the view of the Soto School. I doubt that the Soto-shu headquarters in Japan has ever issued anything resembling an official statement on the subject of women and equal rights.

The book Zen Women: Beyond Tea Ladies, Iron Maidens, and Macho Masters might be useful to answer your question more thoroughly. The book The Zen of Meeting Women probably will not.

You describe zazen in the last chapter of Hardcore Zen. In it you say that you don’t need to try and stop your thoughts. You go on to say that straightening your posture should slow your mind. I’m a little confused about this. Is it not a goal of zazen to clear your mind of thoughts?

No. The goal (or even "a goal") of zazen is not to clear your mind of thoughts. There is no goal of zazen.

This is the hardest part of zazen practice; that there is no goal or point to it. You just sit and experience what you experience while sitting. That's it.

If you think a lot, then that is the content of your experience. If you transcend all thought and zone out into pure white light or whatever, then that is the content of your experience. Neither one is better or worse than the other. Our habit of defining certain experiences as better or worse than others is the problem.

Of course it's best not to use your zazen as a time to sit and ponder stuff. You are encouraged to let your thoughts go as soon as they appear. But that's not the same as trying to clear your mind of thoughts. Attempting to clear your mind of thoughts is just another type of goal-oriented intentional activity. Goal-oriented intentional activity is always problematic because it separates you from the real moment of the present.

The folks who are making the film I'm in, are getting down to the wire in their fund raising campaign. Below is a message from the director.

Note that for a donation of $25 you get all kinds of neat stuff including a DVD of the film, a T-shirt and the soundtrack. I don't know how he's doing this. But it's a really good deal if you ask me. $25 is less than you'd pay for all that stuff if you decided to buy it retail after the movie came out.

Take it away, director Pirooz Kaleyah:

"This is our very first fundraising drive for SHOPLIFTING FROM AMERICAN APPAREL and we are aiming to raise $10,000 for production costs. This includes casting, location scouting, art direction, equipment and crew. Any remaining funds from this drive will go straight to post-production. Almost as importantly, other potential donors and investors will use our success at IndieGoGo as a gauge by which to measure the public appeal of our project, so your donation may be worth twice as much!

"Also, be sure to let everyone know that there are all kinds of PERKS for donating depending on how much one donates. For $25 they get a t-shirt, soundtrack, special thanks credit AND a DVD! For $100 they also get a limited edition chapbook of poetry with contributions from all the writers involved in the film and a movie poster, ETC."


Mysterion said...



Mysterion said...

It's not the founder of the sect - soto or Linji - it's about TODAY.

If the 'leader' is lame, then the practice is lame. I think it safe to surmise that SOME of Disrobed Dennis' students derived some benefit from their purchases. However, the man had some issues that will leave a wake in the community. My advice: "You'ld better shop around."

Not as BIG of a wake as brother® camping, but a wake nonetheless.

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Bija Andrew Wright said...

Soto and Rinzai, in my experience, aren't that different, and the variation within one school is bigger than the distinctions between the two schools. That is, there's no personality trait that I could confidently state in sentences like "Most Soto teachers are X, and most Rinzai teachers are not" or "Rinzai communities are more X than Soto communities." There are Rinzai teachers who are very strict and some that are very relaxed. There are both Soto and Rinzai teachers who are misogynistic, and both Soto and Rinzai teachers who are tirelessly dedicated to equality.

Picking a teacher and sangha is not like picking a car, where you might test-drive a few cars then decide on a category before narrowing it down to only those in your category. Picking a teacher and sangha means being present for the community, paying attention to the human being in front of you, not your concepts of what they're supposed to be on the basis of their school.

Anonymous said...

Willie, how / why did zazen damage your knee?

Mike Dolan Fliss said...

Plug +25. Good luck.

I once had a job where I was paid to put things in people's back pockets without them noticing. No joke. Or, to put it another way, I was paid to touch strangers' butts. Got a few weird looks, never directly caught. That's kinda like shoplifting.

And as far as the blurb... I think it comes down to the individual teacher one sits with. There's tons written about the institution's take on women, or people of color, both of which are valuable investigations. And then there's the culture, apart from but related to the institution. But ultimately, a hell of a lot of the daily practice comes down to the quality of the practice of the teacher and their opinion. Unless someone is willing to travel to practice, to me it's a question of "how do you feel about the people practicing/teaching around you?" There are exceptions to most lame-institutions.

It's kind of a funny paradox for me. It's absolutely worth critiquing practice, institutions, even people, and staying open to developing and improving. But if you can't find perfection on the cushion or with a zen teacher, where will you ever find it?


(Not that this person writing you was at all looking for perfection. Just that from a political/systems of oppression lens it's sometimes easy to be perfectionist or effectively hyper-critical for me)

mtto said...

Posture in zazen should not be masochistic. At least not the way Brad teaches it. In my experience this is the predominant view in Soto Zen, although maybe someone, somewhere is forcing people into lotus until their knees explode. There are benefits to sitting in lotus or half-lotus, but it isn't the most important thing. It is more important to aim at the posture than to achieve any particular version of a zazen posture. As a massive generalization, I think it is better for old people who are new to the practice to be very cautious about tying their legs in knots without the benefit of a gentle yoga practice to help them along the way.

Willie, the picture on your profile looks like an old guy, but since this is the internet you might be a 16 year old girl for all I know. Did you do your zazen practice without a teacher?

chairman wao said...

orgasms are better with Soto than Rinzai, reportedly.

Ommmmmmmmmmm, like

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kim said...

"You just sit and experience what you experience while sitting. "
Dear Brad, you are an excellent writer, but I think there is a danger that this makes zazen sound like an exercise in daydreaming. I suggest that developing the ability to observe this busy-ness of mind and letting it be what it is is to put it more precisely. This takes much practice with ,admittedly, no goal. Practicing without a goal is the only way that facilitates the ability to see into the nature of your own mind and it's daydreaming activity. Simple yes. Easy no.

chairman wao said...

Lay-deez, you just need the right Guru, to learn the right position for an authentic, satisfying Satori with a capital S. Contact Chairman Wao, aka Guru BIG.

(no grasshoppahs, no.)

Mysterion said...

Blogger Mike Dolan Fliss said...
"There's tons written about the institution's take on women, or people of color..."

As a long-nosed round-eye hakujin, I experienced that too...

Back in the day, whites were (selectively) NOT allowed in many hot springs in Hakone...

(I never experienced that discrimination although some folks - dangerous New Yorkers - that worked for me did!)

Mysterion said...

re Zazun:

I am no FUNDIE on this. Sit on an over-sized Zafu, a Seiza (bench), a chair, stand or walk. It's not that big of a deal.

Except to Brad:
"The matter of the Lotus posture in Dogen's teaching is one that a lot of people love to argue about. But Dogen is pretty uncompromising. In Fukanzazengi (Recommending Zazen for All People) he allows for full Lotus or half Lotus and that's it. My own teacher, Gudo Nishijima, extends the meaning of half Lotus to include what is commonly known as quarter Lotus or "Burmese Posture" in the West these days. But Dogen says nothing about using seiza benches or chairs or sitting in any of the other myriad ways you often encounter in Zen centers in the Americas and Europe these days." source

Fregas said...

Your first questioner could try our Sanbo-Kyodan school, which mixes both Soto and Rinzai. I know you're not a huge fan, because of books like "Three Pillars of Zen" that emphasize kensho, but not all zendos are like that. Certainly mine is not. We are also very open to women's rights (we have two women teachers) as well as being open to gays, atheists, agnostics, christians and other non-buddhists. Anyway, I dig it.

John said...

"No. The goal (or even "a goal") of zazen is not to clear your mind of thoughts. There is no goal of zazen. You just sit and experience what you experience while sitting. That's it. If you think a lot, then that is the content of your experience."

Brad I really like your books and the stuff you write. But when it comes to some of your comments about Zazen, I think for whatever reason you always try to over-simplify sitting practice. I'm doing zazen for 15 years every day now so I can somehow understand your point. But I think the way you put it is simply a bit one-sided, especially for "beginners".

And since you have Charlotte Becks books in your recommended books list I can hardly believe that this is the whole picture for yourself. Also when I listen to the talks you give, I get a much more different picture from what you think zazen is about then what you continuous write here.

You can sit in the perfect zazen posture and still think about what stocks to buy, problems of your children or whatever for hours. I know that from experience, it's perfectly possible...sure you can do that and have no goal but then you can also go and watch TV without a goal.

Of course you should not try to stop your thoughts or some crap like that. And it doesn't make sense to try to real a goal since you're always already there. But I think you have to be AWARE of what's going on while you sit, right? You have to pay some ATTENTION. And instead of doing what you usually do, that is trusting your thoughts 100% and taking them for "reality" you see them as "just thoughts", "open the hand of thoughts" and let them go. To do this though you have to be aware that you're thinking...otherwise you're daydreaming away.

And I remember tons of times when you say stuff like "if you really pay attention to your thought process..." or the story where you talk about the illness of the nervous system in your family where you started to pay attention to your body etc. And so on...

Now sure somehow it's important to be a zazen-hardliner to make sure noone mixes it up with other styles of "meditation". But hey can't you at least admit that it's importnat to pay attention while sitting. And if you don't, why do you recommend Charlotte Beck's books? You don't even have to use that mindfulness-word, I mean just say paying attention is enough.

And sure when you've done "paying attention" for a few years you automatically do that when you sit down and have no longer to do it intentionally. But for beginners I think it's really dangerous to say "just sit in the posture and whatever you experience is it".

Since zazen is about facing "whatever you experience" instead of getting lost in daydreams as we usual do, issn't it?!

I know this sounds a lot like I want you to say something I think you should say...but it's the easiest way to put it for me so that's what it is :)

Happy Sitting!


Anonymous said...

If the woman on the cover of "The Zen of Meeting Women" sat across from me I would be enlightened in no time!

Anonymous said...

it would be awfully hard for me...

Mysterion said...

The purpose of Zazen is still mind - but not completely still.

Still mind is not empty mind.

Still mind is not no mind.

Still mind is not mind without motion.

A still pond is not completely still.

A dead mind is completely still.

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

Mysterion, you're 70? Same age as Robert Zimmerman!

anon #108 said...

Hi Uncle Willie,

You wrote:
Zazen was not getting me perceptibly closer to my goal of seeing absolute reality as clearly as humanly possible.

Here’s what I think:

By directing your efforts in pursuit of a reality other than this very ordinary reality in front of you right now you create a whole mess of nets, snares, cages and ropes. It’s the belief “THIS can’t be it! There’s got to be something else, some other way of seeing it” that keeps you from seeing it. How many Zen teachers of the past have said ”What are you looking for?”, “Just this”? But no one believes it. It’s far too simple. And that’s what makes it so difficult.

Mind you, plenty other spiritual types have insisted that we can, with practice and effort, get to see and dwell in an “absolute reality” other than the one we ordinarily experience. Maybe they’re right. I doubt it. Let me know when you get there, Willie, or when you meet someone who has. I'll be waiting here, back in 'pretend' reality.

Sorry to hear the knee's still buggered :/

Deep Throat said...

Uncle Willie, who has called himself other names here before, says he's NOT Mysterion, but he may be Charles, LIKE Mysterion.

The story about blowing out his knee is similar to what Mysterion has described in the past as the reason why he now sits zazen in a chair.

Plus they both seem to have unlimited time to comment here like a motherfucker.

Anonymous said...

Rinzai is better. Too many roshis in American Soto. That makes me suspicious of them. Rinzai seems to have higher standards, Eido Shimano's conduct notwithstanding.

Anonymous said...

goddam democrats want to put lithium in our drinking water.


proulx michel said...

I never had the impression that Brad recommended a masochistic version of Zazen (albeit some teachers do, especially here in France). To the contrary, he does recommend a practice of yoga to stretch the limbs, which he himself does everyday (and so do I).

Sitting in chairs is indeed detrimental to our capacity to sit on the floor. Recent medical studies would seem to indicate that sitting in chairs is also hugely detrimental to health (my take being that it is because the spine is slouched). Getting older (I'm nearing 63) doesn't make things any better, and I've thought, more than ten years ago, that if I wanted 1- to go on practicing zazen, and 2- not deteriorate physically too fast, then I had to do something.

Whenever Brad has written "lotus or half-lotus only", it always was accompanied by the caveat that too many people who could, with a little bit of effort, sit on the floor were looking for an excuse.

I believe it is important to warn students about the limbs thing. But even so, I also notice that many are too lazy just to try.

captcha: torequ

Mother Earth said...

In Brad's first book I believe his explanation of "how" to practice zazen was the best piece of teaching I had received and to this day still is.

My big annoying thought while I sit (mostly if I haven't sat for a while) is:

"Why am I dong this? (there must be a reason)?"

Most respected Zen teachers I have read or heard will answer this in general with "sit just to sit". This answer can be frustrating to hear but it is probably the most clear and simple way to answer.

The strange combination of zazen is to hold the body while un-holding the mind.

My experience has been that this strange combination can be a very powerful yet subtle practice that drastically improves the relationships between the hierarchy of mental forces.

However I'm pretty sure this balance will not be achieved by thinking something like: " I'm going to "achieve" some sort of mental balance or clarity by doing zazen today."

There is kind of an accidental achievement?

It's kind of hard to describe and words get all sticky and stupid.

Sit with no thoughts of achievement and you may end up with achievement?

I hope that perhaps this highly edited blurb will be of some help or value.

proulx michel said...

As for the "goal-less" thing, we might as well take it from the point of view of gratuity.
I understand that, in a world dominated for the past 30 years by utilitarian Hobbeseans, the idea of gratuity might be preposterous, yet it is the essence of life in society. Because any person who never does anything if they don't have an interest in it remains stigmatised nonetheless.

In sports, it is often said that a beginner will "have" it right from the start, and lose it from the second try on. It's only because a beginner is not "interested", in other words he doesn't yet have a goal.

We may have a reason for doing something. But that is not yet a goal. A goal is like expecting to find a treasure at the top of a staircase that climbs the flank of a mountain. But since the trick is that you'll get "it" only if you're not looking for it, yet climbing the stairs, it is thus of primary importance to concentrate on the climbing of the stairway (to heavens...)

captcha: versed

Anonymous said...

@ anon #108 4:30pm:

Maybe you're right for yourself. When you get used to zazen you automatically let go of thought afert a while, but not if noone ever tells you and you just get told to sit there. Since then you'll do what you always do and have been training for many many years: you just ponder about stuff.

The thing is that for some reason zen-guys always try to make this something very special by telling students "just sit" or "think the thought of non-thought" or "it's beyond thinking". And so on. I know from myself that this is exactly what many people brings to Zen, it's so special and only zen-nerds know what they're talking about and even the zen-nerds can't really put it into words...it's so cool and special! The normal crowd out there doesn't have a clue!

If zen-teachers just would tell people that it's simply about paying attention to what's going on instead of dozing off or thinking about stuff...where would be the difference to many other schools of "meditation"?

And let's be honest, if you think "I should just sit" while sitting and noticing you're thinking about what your girlfriend might be doing now for 10 minutes...now what happened? You've just become aware that you're not "just sitting", and this is it already. Not necessary to let go off that thought or make it disappear. It's really just about noticing it, being aware...

And then there's the "just sit in the correct posture and have no intention at all" thing. When you become good in that, what you'll end up at any sesshin is that you'll fall asleep after some years of practice. Actually with some practice you can kinda sleep without sleeping by just letting your thoughts and senses work for themself and not interfering with whatever comes up. But that just leads to a dizzy state where you can stagnate forever theoretically...

Well maybe I'm wrong and at the end once you sit, it's completely different anyway each time. But I don't think practice is about just sitting there...

Take care,


Random Question 3 said...


I really enjoy your musical recordings, especially the Dimentia 13 live show.

Has your Zen practice affected your bass playing over the years?

Thanks for hosting this blog!

R said...

As for the views this woman is concerned about, - it seems quite obvious she should inquire at the particular centers she would consider practicing in.

What seems to be the main point - as for the choice she is asking about - [- this is of course about RQ1] is which form of meditation suits her better.

Though if she hasn't made up her mind over twelve years such questioning over the internet really doesn't seem to be likely to be very useful.

- - -

- "As for Rinzai, there is no real school as such. At least as far as I'm aware, there is no central organizational body.".

- !?

Did any of the five schools in China have a "central organizational body"?

- Does it mean they did not exist?

+ see http://zen.rinnou.net/about/index.html.

- "It [Shobogenzo Raihai-tokuzui] appears to have been written to counter what we today would call sexist and racist views among the monks who practiced under his guidance".

- If you read it you see Dogen actually held views Brad would call sexist. - [You might note the word "even" even in Nishijima's introduction to the chapter.] The main point of the piece is the way in which the attainment Dogen is talking about stands beyond everything, - regardless of what may be viewed as differences.

Newbie said...

Hmm okay, so the point of Zazen is to just sit there as you might sit there waiting for a train for example and that's it. If you're thinking about when the train will come, it's fine. If you're dozing a bit, it's fine, too. Sounds like what we do all the time anyway...

But then why do zazen at all?


Anonymous said...
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Soft Troll said...

Radio Willie

"my goal of seeing absolute reality as clearly as humanly possible."

"unfocused daydreaming in a dogmatic, masochistic posture"

"damaged right knee"

inflammatory indeed

Danny said...

Guys...if you've read any of Brads books it's pretty obvious that he doesn't think you should daydream while doing Zazen!

Hardcore-Zen page 192: "Practising Buddhism means being aware of what's here and now."

Or read sit down and shut up, there's a whole chapter about how to be aware of your thoughts, letting them go and notice the "spots in between thoughs". Now if that issn't mindfulness-practice I don't know what is...so daydreaming is not what he's talking about guys!

Mike said...

To John @ 2.15pm,

you have to realise that there's a difference between:

A) Sitting and don't caring about daydreaming or nodding off and therefor doing so.

B) Sitting and watching your "mind" all the time noticing any thought that enters and let them go constantly.

C) Sitting there not caring about thoughts or no thoughts but when you notice that you're daydreaming or nodding off, wake up and straighten your spine.

I don't think Brad advocates A), also not B). But C) ;)

Regarding Joko Beck stuff and Brad recommending her books, for me that's still a puzzle, too. Joko's approach seems completely different to me, especially when it comes to practicing in your daily life.

Here I think Brad's thing is:

- Do zazen twice a day and you're fine, you will act correctly out of the balanced state in an intuitive way. Forget about zen during the rest of the day, don't try to be "zen"!

And Joko Beck is more like:

- Zazen is important but even more important is what you're doing in everyday life. That's where you have to be really aware of what's going on. Just sitting zazen won't help a lot in your daily life, or at least usually it does not if you don't practice awareness in your daily life, too!

Also regarding zazen Joko Beck advocates something much different than brad's "just sit there", here's a quote from everyday day:

Once we have assumed our best posture (which should be balanced,
easy), we just sit there, we do zazen. What do I mean by “just
sit there”? It’s the most demanding of all activities. Usually in meditation we don’t shut our eyes. But right now I’d like you to shut
your eyes and just sit there. What’s going on? All sorts of things. A tiny twitch in your left shoulder; a pressure in your side…Notice your face for a moment. Feel it. Is it tense anywhere? Around the mouth, around the forehead? Now move down a bit. Notice your neck, just feel it. Then your shoulders, your back, chest, abdominal area, your arms, thighs. Keep feeling whatever you find. And feel your breath as it comes and goes. Don’t try to control it, just feel it. Our first instinct is to try to control the breath. Just let your breath be as it is. It may be high in your chest, it may be in the middle, it may be low. It may feel tense. Just experience it as it is. Now just feel all of that. If a car goes by outside, hear it. If a plane flies over, notice that. You might hear a refrigerator going on and off. Just be that. That’s all you have to do, absolutely all you have to do: experience that, and just stay with it.

Mucho differento! :)

anon #108 said...

Uncle Willie:

"I don't think that I'm pursuing "a reality other than this very ordinary reality in front of you right now". I'm just trying to experience this reality as it is, without "me" and "my ideas" causing interference and distortion, which I know that they do."

We can suppose a reality apart from us and our ideas, but how about including "you" and "your ideas", not seeing them as "interference and distortion" to be eliminated/suppressed/avoided - accepting all of it, whatever occurs, as "reality as it is"? In that state of all-inclusive acceptance something might reveal itself/be allowed to occur.

Just posing the question.

Of course, it's not impossible that you're doing something not so different from what I'm talking about...the descriptions can be very misleading. You have my permission to do whatever works for you and to describe it any way you like ;)

mother earth said...

Mike says that Brad and Joko are very different in their teaching of zazen.

I agree that there is a pretty big difference for part of your post mainly I will reiterate here:

Brad: Not so important to consciously bring the "zen stuff" into daily life


Joko: Very important to consciously bring the "zen stuff" into daily life

This difference can definitely be talked about at length but I really wanted to point out that the quote you have put in italics at the bottom of your post is actually very very similar and not different whatsoever to what Brad has described.

Perhaps the difference is that Joko is saying that the listening feeling and other mental sesnsations that happen during zazen should be treated with a sort of profound reverence. Zazen can be reverent like this, but sometimes the listening and feeling can be tremendously boring and inane. And the difference is that Brad is one of the few who will definitely say Zazen is boring, really fucking boring, not only that but that there is no crime in sometimes thinking that it is a really silly, stupid thing to be doing. And he's right! Zazen is not sacred. Sure there are sometimes great peaceful awareness moments or contemplative epiphanies will happen yet also what could be more boring or inane than hearing the refrigerator turn on and off or the theme song to "I dream of Jeannie" repeating over and over in your head?

Mike said...

mother earth: yes you're right it was not the best example, just the first I could find, here's one that's more clear I think:

“there is no mirror-stand, no mirror to polish, and no place where dust can cling…”

Now while the verse of the Sixth Patriarch is the true understanding, the paradox for us is that we have to practice with the verse that was not accepted: we do have to polish the mirror; we do have to be aware of our thoughts and actions; we do have to be aware of our false reactions to life. Only by doing so can we see that from the beginning the bottleneck of fear is an illusion. And it is obvious that we do not have to struggle to rid ourselves of an illusion. But we can’t and won’t know that unless we relentlessly polish the mirror.

Sometimes people say, “Well, there’s nothing that need be done.
No practice (polishing) is necessary. If you see clearly enough, such practice is nonsense.” Ah…but we don’t see clearly enough and, when we fail to see clearly, we create merry mayhem for ourselves and others. We do have to practice, we do have to polish the mirror, until we know in our guts the truth of our life. Then we can see that from the very beginning, nothing was needed. Our life is always open and spacious and fruitful. But let’s not fool ourselves about the amount of sincere practice we must do before we see this as clearly as the nose on our face.

buddy said...

Mike, i think Brad might have a 'D)' option which is closer to Joko's than you might think: to just sit there and be present to whatever is happening, not caring too much about thoughts or no thoughts, and if you do get carried away return to the posture and just sitting there.

Even your last post about polishing the mirror isn't contradictory: we polish the mirror by just sitting. If Brad didn't believe in the necessity of that, why would he sit at all, esp. for long hours at sesshin? The problem is when we sit there with an agenda that we don't question, rather than just sitting.

Also I think his approach to zen in daily life is more like, just do whatever you're doing, and if you get caught in thinking, drop it and return to just doing, which again is pretty much where Joko is at.

Maybe his royal Bradness could weigh in at some point, so we don't just keep re-iterating what we think he thinks?

Mike said...


yes maybe you're right, really I'm not sure at all. I just got the impression from this blog-post he did that it's not necessary for him to be "present" or aware of what's going on or even paying too much attention and instead just let things play out and sit around :)

And there's a big big difference between letting things play out and being aware of them or just sitting there unconscious and thinking about your job or whatever...

Sure it would be cool if Brad could write about what he actually thinks about that stuff to clear up the mess we created here ;)

Anonymous said...

Welcome back, good comments section, Ive missed you.

The trap that we seem to fall into over and over is believing that being "present" is the same thing as "thinking really hard about" and they just aren't. I don't see a contradiction in Joko and Brads words unless i bring one with me.

Like a lot of things in Zazen it is about balancing two seemingly contradictory things at the same time, keeping our posture straight while still relaxed/ letting thoughts go while not actively shoving them away/being present while not thinking "I AM BEING PRESENT NOW" etc. The fact is that we do these things all the time and its only when we try to get our analytical minds around it that we get into trouble.

Ive read that light is both a wave and a particle, while such a thing is not supposed to be physically possible it just is regardless of whether we can "understand" it or not. In the same spirit i feel that Zazen is both action and non-action at the same time even if we cant "wrap our minds" around it.

Anonymous said...

How long does it take
for Zen students to
wake up?

Mysterion said...

goal setting can lead to disappointment. Especially for Zazen, our goals should no be too specific.

In 1968, Team USA assembled a great Judo Team. But, in 1968, Judo would not be included in the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico.

By 1972, a few players passed their prime and the Judo Team came home empty handed [no pun intended].

Gentle Way became Empty Hand, so to speak.

CAPCHA = dersona

mtto said...

Is Soto or Rinzai better? Sounds like a koan.

Anonymous said...

Hey Uncle Willie,

Sorry to hear about your knee.

I too heard a loud POP in my
knee from trying to sit lotus.

Scary stuff. I was unable to
go up stairs without my knee
collapsing from underneath me,
along with terrible pain.

Turned out to be a torn meniscus,
which, through extraordinarily
good luck, was fixed by a good
orthopedic surgeon. The procedure
and technology was developed in
the 80s and is now a pretty
standard bread-and-butter operation
for knee doctors. Just three
tiny pinhole scars -- one for
the bone shaver, one for the
fluid pump or whatever, and
one for the live video camera.
(Before the 80s, they had to
cut open your whole knee and
you were left with a six-inch
scar and a much longer recovery

Ask around. Try to find out who
doctors go to when they
need to have their knees
operated on.

Today I have no knee pain. But
a friend with the same problem
was not so lucky, went to a
different doctor, and now has
what appears to be a permanent
painful limp.

HTH (and hope you have good
health insurance). Good luck.

PS I'm not a doctor, so
triple-fact-check all this

Anonymous said...

Some feel that to make zen non goal oriented you have to just sit and not make any effort.
I don't see goals getting in the way if the practice uses some concentration to watch passing thoughts closely.
As long as when we recognize the mind is drifting, we don't have any other goal than to return to the wall, and we don't force the returning, there should be no problem. There is no room for considering goals when we are sitting, watching and returning.
If a goal appears, let it go and return like any thought.

Anonymous said...

Here's my 2 cents on doing nothing vs being present: I was intially trained to be very actively aware: feel the breath, if you hear a sound really listen to it, if there's pain or tension really feel into it . Which is fine up to a point, then there becomes an awareness of tension caused by this 'I' which is trying to be present, and which is picking and choosing what to be present to. )This is what Joko seems to be advocating in the above quote, but more so as a way into sitting, establishing awareness then just being there.)

A few years ago I swapped out teachers, and the new one said to just sit there and do nothing. It took me about a week before I could even follow that simple advice, without slipping into a more convoluted idea of what that meant. When I finally did just sit there for a few periods, I realized that in the gaps between thinking I was just effortlessly aware of what was going on in body and environment, and also of thoughts arising, with the option to either let them be or entertain them for a while. My practice since then has been to try to let that happen, which as tattoozen says is finding the balance: sometimes the 'positve', being present aspect seems more important, sometimes the 'negative', letting go side is more important.

Dogen said...

Shikantaza: Just sit in the full lotus posture and think the thought of non-thinking, what's that? It's beyond-thinking!

If you guys don't get that, you'll never get it!


uri said...

my zazen is mostly random questions bracketing moments of non-thinking. The non-thinking is real enough but short in length. Often I think I should pursue a thought but understand zazen is not the place for that. Or is it? Sometimes it feels like zazen is an exercise in learning to forget.

No Name said...

"zazen" is a super-imposed conceptual structure. Unlike yoga, which is based on natural body postures, exaggerated for effect perhaps, "zazen" is a goal-in-itself for so-called practitioners of Zen.

Mysterion said...

Of course thoughts ebb and flow.

That's not the point.

If you set a goal: "I will be enlightened by the end of the year..." then at the end of the year, you will be disappointed.

This is especially true because, to begin with, we are usually enlightened beings at birth.

To extinguish that light, we are subjected to all kinds of mind fucks - like overbearing parents, overbearing religions (e.g. Abrahamic), overbearing situations (e.g. a totalitarian government), or overbearing lifestyles (e.g. the military).

So, in a sense, Zazen is escapism. It offers us an opportunity to attenuate the effects of overbearing _______________ (fill in the blank). In the monastic extreme, it replaces one overbearing situation with another one - the Zen equivalent of a twelve-step program.

Anonymous said...

Is that Zen book for players for real? I checked the blog and couldn´t believe it. Perhaps the most hilarious example of how screwed up zen without buddhism turns our

Anonymous said...

No Name, zazen is a yoga posture.

3D Sex & Zen said...

Did Brad's last book already get made into a film?

3D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy


Awakened Yeti said...

Its like, you just, like, sit there. Then, like, you just, like, die.

Anonymous said...


Awakened Yeti said...

Does that make life easier for you to handle?

Anonymous said...

it's rather complicated mysti-yeti-willie. no? you surely can't deny being one can you?

Awakened Yeti said...

Once you find out who you really are, then you can worry about who someone else really is. Until then, there will be no end to your comfortable confusion.

Anonymous said...

California Prison Legislation Is Among The Most Punitive In The Nation.


Zen-Nerd said...

Just wanted to say that the description of Zazen Brad gave here is one of the best I've ever read. Couldn't put it into better words myself!