Friday, August 05, 2011

Secure Your Own Mask Before Helping Others


I'm doing three gigs in Sacramento, California this weekend. As usual, complete listings for my live appearances are at this handy link, which is always on the left side of this blog at the very top of the list of links. Here's where I'll be this weekend:

•August 6 (Sat) 9am - 5pm SACRAMENTO BUDDHIST MEDITATION GROUP Sacramento, CA, All Day Zazen

•August 7 (Sun) 3pm TIME TESTED BOOKS 1114 21st St, Sacramento, CA book reading

•August 7 (Sun) 7pm SACRAMENTO BUDDHIST MEDITATION GROUP Sacramento, CA Talk & Discussion

Y'all be there, OK?

A few people have responded to this blog by comparing me to this or that teacher and saying those guys are much better because they encourage their followers to help others. One reader advised me to get over myself and, “learn to live for others.” It’s good advice, to be sure. But what exactly does it mean?

One of the complaints often lodged against Zen is that it’s a selfish philosophy and practice. Spiritual teachers of other schools are always talking about how we should give to others, help those in need, lend a hand to our brothers and so on. But when you take a look at Zen literature there’s not a whole lot of that. Oh, Dogen Zenji talks a bit about compassion and sometimes you hear the Metta Sutra, the Buddha’s words on kindness, chanted at Zen temples in America. Although elsewhere in the world this chant is more associated with the Theravada school than with Zen.

Zen, on the other hand, tends to seem self-centered. Rather that hearing a lot about how we should be of service to others, the standard canonical texts of Zen appear to focus on what we need to do to improve our own situation and state of mind. They do sometimes make reference to helping others and saving all beings. But these references are almost always a bit abstract. They say we need to help others, but don’t go very deeply into how that might be done. This focus on the self is ironic considering that Zen is often portrayed as a practice aimed at eradicating the self.

But have you ever glanced up randomly when you’re on an airplane ignoring the flight attendants safety instructions? When they tell you how to use those oxygen masks they say that you should first secure your own mask before helping others. There’s a good reason for this. If the plane is losing oxygen you’re going to be too woozy to be of service to anyone else until you first get your own stuff together. This is the way it is in life as well.

It sounds really sweet when someone tells you that you ought to be selflessly serving those less fortunate than you. It’s a beautiful and highly attractive idea. There’s no better way to make yourself seem really holy than to advocate selflessness. Religious leaders have known for centuries that the best way to cultivate a devoted following who’ll gratefully fill up the collection plate is to spread the word that a truly holy person gives to others until it hurts.

It’s always comforting to be told that the source of the world's troubles is out there, in other people, in our surroundings and circumstances and not in ourselves. Much of what passes for religion these days takes as its underlying unstated assumption and starting point that we ourselves are OK. It’s those other people that need fixing, not us. It’s painful when that assumption is challenged. I understand that because it was painful to me when I first came across the supposedly selfish aspects of Zen.

The underlying problem is the same as the problem with the emergency oxygen masks on airplanes. In our usual condition we are far too woozy to be of much service to anyone else. When our own condition is all messed up our attempts to be helpful are more likely to make things worse than to improve them.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t do anything when we see someone is in trouble. We always have to act from the state we’re in at this moment. It’s our duty to do what we can with what we have.

One of the greatest and most useful lessons I’ve learned from Zen practice is how not to help. Zen teachers are often seen as cold. Lots of times in this practice when you go to your teacher in times of distress, instead of being met with warm hugs and reassuring words you’re given the cold shoulder. You're told to take care of the problem yourself. This seems mean, heartless, even cruel.

But as Shakespeare and Nick Lowe noticed sometimes you need to be cruel to be kind (in the right measure). The best way to be truly helpful is often to leave things be. I used to find this all the time when I worked for Tsuburaya Productions. It was often best to allow a bad scheme to fail and then fix it. Jumping into the fray and try to fix things before they broke often was the worst idea. Because then the same thing just kept happening over and over. People learn best from their own mistakes and learn nothing when you fix things for them.

This is not always easy. We want to help. Our self-image is tied up in being a good person and a good person is a helpful person. It damages our ego when we have to let things be instead of jumping in to fix them. Sometimes the hardest thing you can do is to not be helpful. People resent it. They label you as a bad person. Because they don’t want to have to deal with their own shit, they want someone else to deal with it for them. They want Superman to rush in and save the day after they’ve messed things up.

On the other hand it’s important to be of service, to “learn to live for others.” We are not independent objects. We are part of an intimately connected network of sentient and non-sentient beings that stretches all the way to the end of the universe. We never really live just for ourselves, even when we try to do so. To try and live for yourself just causes pain. Not just to others, but to ourselves as well.

The problem is not whether we should live for others or not. The problem is how we should live for others. If our efforts to help end up doing more harm than good, then we aren’t truly living for others any more than the most selfish cad among us lives for himself. We’re just feeding our own egos, establishing a clearer and more fixed self image as a good person.

It’s important to discover how to truly help. And sometimes that means not helping.

77 comments:

Phumbling said...

This may appear twice. D'oh. Okay - take 2 - great post thanks! I'm reminded of the difference between "taking care of" and "caring for" someone. Huge difference. I've noticed in the 'helping profession' the best work I've done is caring for others instead of doing for them.

Aaron said...

Great post, Brad. I struggle with this one everyday.

Blake said...

Oh c'mon! Me? First?

Step one: save others from you.

Step two: save the world from themselves.

If you never make it to step two, at least you've done step one.

Anonymous said...

So glad you said this. I sometimes think that the way zen helps is that as we change, things also change around us. Which is not to say we shouldn't also actively put out a fire if something is burning and we have a fire extinguisher.

Anonymous said...

One of your best posts yet. Really helpful to many of us running into this issue as new(er) zen practitioners.

ZenGirl said...

Bahahahaa!!!

Anonymous said...

I feel a lot of love and compassion
on this board. If reality just is,
then there is neither suffering nor
not suffering.

Zentard said...

Right on bro!

Anonymous said...

Brad,
The problem is that we can't be properly sanctimonious if we already have our house in order. How are we supposed to make arrogant claims about the superiority of Our Noble Path if we're not saving all beings and telling them how they should be? If people can't strive to be holier than thou and inflate their egos, then what will motivate self-righteous windbags to take positions of leadership (or at least assistant leadership) in religious organizations? I mean, the self-righteous windbags must be necessary to the functioning of religious organizations, right? 'Cause they're everywhere.

Jeff said...

Well stated. I've long held that one must help themselves before they can help others. This isn't selfishness, it's a matter of practicality. Of what service can you be to others if you yourself are weak from hunger or sickness?
The whole world's got problems and you can't solve them. Fix your own problems. Then help your neighbor with his in whatever way you can. Or if you can't help you neighbor then at least don't step in and make things worse.

doug said...

old sufi saying: Live your life for youself and yourself alone, and there will be those who won't like that. Live your life for others and others alone, and there will be those who won't like that.

Anonymous said...

My experiences and practice have led me to the very conclusions (as it were) that you speak of. The oxygen mask is an example I use myself in conversation. FWIW, it would seem my failed marriage is a prime example of me trying to help someone get their mask on whilst not having my own on. When you hear the cries of others, it's not always time to play firefighter (sometimes, yes) especially if you aren't capable. Great post.

Anonymous said...

First, as far as I can tell, because I'm selfish.

bill said...

Great post, Brad. I've often used this very analogy in an ethics class I teach to describe how Buddhism (at least from one perspective) can be understood by those outside of it - - whatever that means.

Anonymous said...

"It’s important to discover how to truly help. And sometimes that means not helping."

Hi Brad. I wonder how you think this philosophy might translate to politics. To me it sounds like you could be politically conservative, as in the best way to help someone is to create conditions for self-sufficiency and less dependence on government. Or am I comparing apples and oranges?

kimhartinvenice said...

I've also, often thought of the analogy with the inflight safety instructions as being a great analogy for our lives, and as usual, Brad, this is a succinct, clear piece of writing where your thoughts are expressed beautifully.
Thank you for making the effort,
kim

Ghost said...

Excellent post. Brad your pimp hand (Zen hand?) is strong!

Relevant quote: “Oxygen gets you high. In a catastrophic emergency, you're taking giant panicked breaths. Suddenly you become euphoric, docile. You accept your fate. It's all right here. Emergency water landing - 600 miles an hour. Blank faces, calm as Hindu cows.”- Tyler Durden-Fight Club.

Rich said...

first - couldn't resist

Anonymous said...

Speaking of compassion... http://www.hulu.com/watch/265698/compassion-in-emptiness

Anonymous said...

woozy

Stanly said...

Hi Brad,

This is a very insightful blog (post). Thanks.

Stanly

Pete Hoge said...

I learned that I cannot be
compassionate, with intention.

I would rather be selfish as
a default position then a
fake "world saver" all the
time.

Loving kindness and any other
"Brahmavihara" is spontaneous
and rarely gets me into trouble
for sticking my nose where it
does not belong...

I also wait for people to ask
me for help...within reason.

Al said...

Brad- this is a real gem. I think this is the heart of zen.

Anonymous said...

Uh, can you turn off this stupid
moderation stuff now?

How can any of us tell if we've
beat Harry to the first post
or not?

ONE!

(maybe)

robjones said...

I've heard the "Zen is selfish" argument, and it just doesn't add up to me. It appears to me that such things are said by folks who want to view their own "belief system" as superior; one dimensional or otherwise surfacy opions taken as truth make for a great excuse to not investigate further. I'm sure I';ve used that excuse for things in my own life that I am threatened by, or do not care all too much about. Zen, though, is service; and thanks for pointing out that what is service doesn't always appear as such. But it is.

Just like the first great Vow to (in the translation I got to know) deliver innumerable sentient beings; there's also Samantabhadras 10 great vows that deserve our consideration an emulation which are (IMO) service oriented; to site afew:

3. to cultivate the giving of offerings

5. to rejoice in the mrrits of others

9. to always harmonize with sentient beings

10. to transfer all merrits to all others.

Not that I always do a terrific job of it, but I find the more I try to deepen my commitment to dharma practice, the more I need to commit to the genuine service of the beings with whom I get to share this world.

Good times. Hope CA is treating you well!

Anonymous said...

help yourself

Peliens said...

This post was really meaningful to me, and I'm glad you wrote it. I'd like to share my thoughts on the same topic, if you don't mind.

I am currently leaving a job in the helping profession, because I can no longer see myself put in the position of making myself busy fixing other people's problems, when really what they need is a saner society that gives them more time, space and support to solve their own problems.

I suppose a person could work within the system to make it better, but part of my realization here is that I am not that person, and I do not have to be. I am not a social worker; and I can't do my best in a job I don't want to do. And what makes society saner is when everyone takes the risks that allow them to do their best, especially the risk of learning that one's idea of myself as "compassionate" "giving" and "helpful" is not necessarily grounded in reality.

I have a theory that any action grounded in reality is healing, productive, holy, good, awesome, impressive, fun -- that is, any adjective you need to attach to it to make it ideal -- no matter what it is. I think making video games and baking twinkies, if done from a solid grounding in awareness of reality and made with lots of simple pleasure and swimming in honesty, would be vocations a million times more beneficial to society than running a rescue mission with cloudy expectations, high ideals, self-immolation and constant regret and worry (as they often are). Approaching this point of clarity is more important than the task done. In many ways, that's just a detail. Often a glorious or treacherous detail, but a detail.

There are perhaps many ways to reach this place of honesty, but I think it's clear that zen is pretty efficient at it.

Leah McClellan said...

This is great. This is the whole theme of my blog, so of course I feel all validated and whatnot lol (well Ghandi inspired it at first, really--"be the change" and so on).

My thought (which may or may not have anything to do with Zen, I don't know) is that when we take care of ourselves first, our natural compassion can rise up more than it would otherwise, and then the "help others" thing (or loving kindness etc) can happen as needed or when truly appropriate.

Really enjoyed reading this.

Korey said...

Brad: WHy do you perform with Zero Defex wearing your Buddhist robe? Do you think it's cool and fashionable to be a Zen monk?

Anonymous said...

The problem is that by not getting involved in social problems you just leave it to the sociopaths to create the world while you are adjusting yourself to it on your own limited scale and never seeing the bigger view.

Anonymous said...

nice one brad

Brad Warner said...

Korey, I only played with 0DFx in my robe once. That was because the guitarist was dressed as a priest. It was a theme!

Everybody else, thanks!

Anonymous said...

Brad. I only know of you playing with 0DFX in your robes on one occasion--it was for a Kent State commemorative event for the shooting of 5 students.

It was my understanding that the wearing of your robes on that occasion was because it was a memorial service for those who had been killed.

Khru said...

This is probably the worst comment thread I've ever seen on Bradley's blog...

proulx michel said...

Anonymous said...

Hi Brad. I wonder how you think this philosophy might translate to politics. To me it sounds like you could be politically conservative, as in the best way to help someone is to create conditions for self-sufficiency and less dependence on government. Or am I comparing apples and oranges?

You're comparing apples and oranges. A government is the material expression of the necessity of humans to function as a society. A government helping the have nots to have a correct health, and minimum lodgings and food helps them (at least most of them) to self-sufficiency, whereas a society that couldn't care less for the poor and makes them even poorer is just shooting itself a bullet in the foot.

Anonymous said...

hi i am not a buddhist but i like to read this blog. can someone explain the phrase 'non-sentient beings' to me please. thanks!

Anonymous said...

I thought this was a wonderful, real life comment. So often I have had "friends" come to me to help them with their problems. Being the good friend that I was I would do everything I could to help. Money, time, staying up all hours of the night on the phone listening to their whoas. To the point I was empty. I learned two things: one who you loan money to think they should never pay you back and you become the personification of evil because you even think you should be repaid; once you are "empty" there may be no one their to hold you up. YOu then are so "exhausted" that is takes you a while to heal - and it could have been avoided.


So Brad's comments hold much truth. Sometimes people need to be let alone to learn their own lessons, and not have you bail them out. Its what they are here for - to learn THEIR lessons. And if you dont take care of your own oxygen mask it may be too late for you when you need to put it on.

Anonymous said...

Makes zense.
Time to work on my wooziness.

Sogyal Rinpoche said...

How Buddhist Meditation Unlocks Our Natural Wisdom and Compassion

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sogyal-rinpoche/unlocking-our-natural-wisdom-and-compassion_b_919367.html

coburn in Seattle said...

Once again Mr. Warner cuts through the self-congratulatory horse-shit (no diminuation of horses intended)that sometimes disquises as Buddhism. Thank you Brad Warner. I can't fathom why some readers find it so difficult to apprehend that Mr. Warner IS engaged in nearly daily acts of self-lessness simply with his blog. He is as penetrating, simple and fearless as any Buddhist teacher in a long, long time.

Anonymous said...

secure your own mask

Anonymous said...

Secure your own mask before helping
others. Life is a play and we all
wear masks given to us by our
caretakers and culture. Alan
Watts would have said that the way
of Zen is to be in the world but
not of it; ie, transcend our
social fictionalized self. Our
Original Nature exists behind every
mask. How is not possible to love
without conditions.

Nathan said...

There is a balance point on this issue, I believe, that is often lacking in many Zen circles. On the one hand, you have people who are running around trying to "save" everyone and "change the world," having done little self-examination through the practice. On the other hand, you have people who practice 30 or 40 years, and yet believe that since they "still need improvement," they are in no position to serve others, especially within the broader community around them. And these same folks direct their students to do the same thing.

The way I see it, somewhere in the middle of these extremes is a much more appropriate response. And sometimes, I believe that people awaken to parts of themselves in the act of working with, and caring for, others. That's why, for example, there is such a long tradition of students holding temple service positions like the tenzo as part of their training.

Anonymous said...

"The problem is that by not getting involved in social problems you just leave it to the sociopaths to create the world while you are adjusting yourself to it on your own limited scale and never seeing the bigger view."

Gempo Sock Monkey says:

Original Nature is bigger view;
all else is nonsense.

Anonymous said...

Putting on deodorant is selfishly compassionate.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the only problem is we don't know if Gempo Sock Monkey is right or not. It is only faith in the end. Meanwhile it says to the masses, "Do nothing, don't get involved, everything will turn out beautiful in the end. Just sit looking at the wall." Or more disturbingly, "Don't expect others to help you." Who knows, rather than help, a smack over the head might even wake you up to your problems.

The oxygen mask metaphor is a scenario that is an emergency. In an emergency we might indeed have to look after ourselves first. But it suggests we have no say in, for example, emergency procedures in the airplane at all, the construction of the airplane, nor where the pilot is taking us. He could be a suicidal maniac or badly trained.

This type of advice scares me to death. It is ripe for exploitation by an autocratic elite, indeed, we can see how it has been used in Japan to have people concentrate on stuff that only affects them immediately while being indifferent to wider issues that do not, while the elites carry on regardless, unhindered by pesky interferers, otherwise known as an informed electorate.

DB said...

Well written blog post, Brad. This is another one that needs to be saved, maybe reused in a book somewhere sometime.

Anonymous said...

Well put:

"The problem is not whether we should live for others or not. The problem is how we should live for others. If our efforts to help end up doing more harm than good, then we aren’t truly living for others any more than the most selfish cad among us lives for himself. We’re just feeding our own egos, establishing a clearer and more fixed self image as a good person."


Many people have criticized the golden rule; George Bernard Shaw once said that "the golden rule is that there are no golden rules". Shaw suggested an alternative rule: "Do not do unto others as you would that they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same" (Maxims for Revolutionists; 1903). Karl Popper wrote: "The golden rule is a good standard which is further improved by doing unto others, wherever reasonable, as they want to be done by" (The Open Society and Its Enemies, Vol. 2). This concept has recently been called "The Platinum Rule" Philosophers, such as Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Bertrand Russell[citation needed], have objected to the rule on a variety of grounds. The most serious among these is its application. How does one know how others want to be treated? The obvious way is to ask them, but this cannot be done if one assumes they have not reached a particular and relevant understanding.

Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama, c. 563 - c. 483 B.C.) made this principle one of the cornerstones of his ethics in the 5th century BCE. It occurs in many places and in many forms throughout the Tripitaka.

Comparing oneself to others in such terms as "Just as I am so are they, just as they are so am I," he should neither kill nor cause others to kill.
—Sutta Nipata 705

One who, while himself seeking happiness, oppresses with violence other beings who also desire happiness, will not attain happiness hereafter.
—Dhammapada 10. Violence

Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.
—Udanavarga 5:18

Putting oneself in the place of another, one should not kill nor cause another to kill.


Confucius: "Here certainly is the golden maxim: Do not do to others that which we do not want them to do to us."

Zi Gong asked, saying, "Is there one word which may serve as a rule of practice for all one's life?" The Master said, "Is not RECIPROCITY such a word?
—Confucius, Analects XV.24 (tr. Chinese Text Project)

Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.(己所不欲,勿施于人)
—Confucius, Analects XV.24 (tr. David Hinton)

Julie Clark said...

Morning sitting to me is putting on that oxygen mask ready for the day.

Julie Clark said...

Sitting every mornin is like putting that oxygen mask on.

Abby said...

I read that June Carter Cash would ask each morning, "What can I do for you today, John?" We don't have to be perfect to ask others (and ourselves) this question.

Awakened Yeti said...

If you dont give a shit about helping people, then why write books or anything at all? Why have a "dear diary" blog?

Yeh, thats rhetorical.

Brad Warner said...

Anonymous said:
Yeah, the only problem is we don't know if Gempo Sock Monkey is right or not. It is only faith in the end. Meanwhile it says to the masses, "Do nothing, don't get involved, everything will turn out beautiful in the end. Just sit looking at the wall." Or more disturbingly, "Don't expect others to help you." Who knows, rather than help, a smack over the head might even wake you up to your problems.

The oxygen mask metaphor is a scenario that is an emergency. In an emergency we might indeed have to look after ourselves first. But it suggests we have no say in, for example, emergency procedures in the airplane at all, the construction of the airplane, nor where the pilot is taking us. He could be a suicidal maniac or badly trained.

This type of advice scares me to death. It is ripe for exploitation by an autocratic elite, indeed, we can see how it has been used in Japan to have people concentrate on stuff that only affects them immediately while being indifferent to wider issues that do not, while the elites carry on regardless, unhindered by pesky interferers, otherwise known as an informed electorate.


I hear you.

But I've also found that ANY advice can be exploited by the "autocratic elite." It doesn't matter what you say, it can be twisted to mean something else.

I'm not at all saying, "Do nothing, don't get involved, everything will turn out beautiful in the end. Just sit looking at the wall." I'm saying more like, "Stare at the wall and THEN do something." I certainly do not believe we ought to be complacent. I wouldn't do what I do if I advocated complacency.

Anonymous said...

Brad in the Quran:

2:119 Verily We have sent thee in truth as a bearer of glad tidings and a WARNER: But of thee no question shall be asked of the Companions of the Blazing Fire.

5:19 O People of the Book! Now hath come unto you, making (things) clear unto you, Our Messenger, after the break in (the series of) our apostles, lest ye should say: "There came unto us no bringer of glad tidings and no WARNER (from evil)": But now hath come unto you a bringer of glad tidings and a WARNER (from evil). And Allah hath power over all things.

7:184 Do they not reflect? Their companion is not seized with madness: he is but a perspicuous WARNER.

7:188 Say: "I have no power over any good or harm to myself except as Allah willeth. If I had knowledge of the unseen, I should have multiplied all good, and no evil should have touched me: I am but a WARNER, and a bringer of glad tidings to those who have faith."

13:7 And the Unbelievers say: "Why is not a sign sent down to him from his Lord?" But thou art truly a WARNER, and to every people a guide.

25:51 Had it been Our Will, We could have sent a WARNER to every centre of population.

27:92 And to rehearse the Qur'an: and if any accept guidance, they do it for the good of their own souls, and if any stray, say: "I am only a WARNER".

There are about 30 more verses containing "warner" but I won't post them all. You can find the rest, or search for other words, at http://www.islamicity.com/QuranSearch/

I prefer the Abdullah Yusuf Ali translation.

Happy Ramadan everybody!

Anonymous said...

""the moon has no intent to cast
its shadow anywhere,
nor does the pond design to
lodge the moon.
how serene the water of hirosawa!"

Albert said...

OK this is way off topic but I just found out about Genpo ex-Roshi's "disrobing" and wanted to post on a recent blog. Brad, I found your two
columns - here and
here:
http://nhne-pulse.org/genpo-roshi-admits-affair-disrobes-as-buddhist-priest/
right on target, THANKS.

I sat with Genpo Sensei's group in Holland back in the 80's and stopped going when he gave transmission to his wife with whom he had 2 kids and promptly had an affair with a Polish student, after which many students left him-
apparently one affair in a long long list according to info on the internet.

But in fact that wasn't why I stopped going- not morality or something. None of us are saints. No, that was just a symptom of something more deeply disturbing. It was because finally I saw something in him I didn't like, some mixture of selfishness, greed, arrogance, ambition. Right after that I happened to meet Bill Kwong Roshi and the contrast was remarkable. The fake is only seen when you meet the real, and then you know immediately.

One thing interesting is that some have likened Big Mind(TM) to Werner Erhard's est (you did, in pointing out serious dangers). I had 6 years experience in doing all the Erhard courses I could get my hands on, and can testify both to the good stuff and the bad. The good was remarkable. But: in summary, all I can say is: it leaves traces, traces it is very hard to get rid of; and I want to stay a million miles away from that and anything that reeks of it. Big Mind from what I have seen in clips absolutely does reek of that, and it was no surprise to me, since (as Genpo himself told me) he had done both the est training and 6-day course while a monk in LA.

I asked him in dokusan what he thought of it ( he said it's a topic for a long conversation- which we never had) but that he loved the 6-day couse especially; I asked if he would imagine one day combining that with zen, and he said, if he knew how he would. So there you go: with this "voices" stuff he figured out how to do it. But much of what I saw:
the "trainer" up in front of the room, the way the room was set up, the way he worked with people, the way he got people to "share", the way he "shared" about himself so apparently honestly and movingly, some of the choice of language-- was JUST like W.E. and associates. And W.E. may not have had a Harley but he did have a Victorian house in SF, lived on a yacht, had millions coming in, rumors of affairs, had lots of people practically worshipping him, and people sat there with stars in their eyes.

Yes you are right- I am sure BM can get you high, and to experience a type of Kensho- just like I felt in every est/forum course I ever did.
It is fun to get high, but ultimately all it does is tell you there is a door there- which with a lot of discipline you can come back and open up for yourself later on. But I am just as sure that: for some it can be dangerous, and for many others it can be a turn down a false path, led by a false guru, as you depend on him and that method and never really come to grips with this life.


Sit down, and shut up....

or in other words:
what is real
my baby boy
my wife
a tear in the eye
time passing
this moment
breathe
the Real Work, the real world, crying and babbling and laughing by

Anonymous said...

No Kensho? I want my damn money back.

Anonymous said...

i wasn't kidding about talking dirty to you....

Anonymous said...

Brad--Good post thanks:)Question.. I have been wondering about this----in a way-- Recently talked to a friend (whom I'd say is pretty loving/peaceful and clear) after sitting cause my mom-who suffers greatly--had visited and it hurts me because I just wish I could help her out of it--to See that she is not what she believes--I truly deeply want her to be free. My friend said to me "You are only responsible for your own happiness" and I sat there -with my brain trying to agree..but it just did not sit with me... At this point in my practice I know in my gut and heart that my desire/wish for all beings to be free is really the most important thing for me. I'm not making this up-this is only because of what I have experienced and know first-hand. I don't walk around preaching or anything at all--I just truly do want all beings to know peace. I havent had a full realization--and wierdly enough lately I don't know that I feel like I want one anymore.. or need one... I feel strange. I was thinking that maybe this compassion for others to be free just grows as we go along this path. Despite your Zen tendencies--do you feel this as well:)? I mean Zen or Mahayana or whatever--once you know freedom--how could one not want everyone to have that? also ..What if one stays at stage 7 of the Oxheading Pics? How much more helpful is a person whos seen 8? Ok thanks:) Take good care! LSB

Anonymous said...

You protect yourself by protecting others.
You protect others by protecting yourself.

Who said that?

Anonymous said...

I like your reference to the emergency instructions on airplanes. I think another good example of this is being in emergency services. I am a firefighter and have always been taught that personal safety comes first because if I am harmed during the process of helping someone else then how would I be able to help the ones I came to help in the first place (of course, there is a very fine line that prevents us from doing some really dangerous things in order to help others).

Also, we occasionally take the approach of sitting back and not helping when things that, at the time, are just too far beyond our control, until we are able to devise a plan that would allow us to make a successful and positive impact on the situation.

I guess my point is that, hopefully, no one calls a firefighter selfish fo ensuring personal safety in order to effectively help others, so why should someone who is attempting to end personal suffering in order to not inflict negativity upon others be criticized. How many of these critics require a cup of coffee in the morning in order to prevent themselves from being assholes to the first person they come across? I thank them for being a little selfish.

Brad Warner said...

Re: Me in the Koran...

Oh no! You've found me out!

Brad Warner said...

Thanks Albert. Interesting stuff. I don't know much about est. I always get it confused with Eckankar!

Brad Warner said...

LSB, we all want others to be free. Especially those closest to us.

I'm embarrassed to say this. But at one point I harbored a vague hope that my meditation would help me develop miraculous healing powers and that I'd be able to heal the illness that killed my mom. They say Krishnamurti could do it. Why not me? But I never could.

But you can't fix anybody else. You work on yourself and let that project from you. Sometimes it helps. In fact, I'd say it always helps. And sometimes you notice. But often it helps in very subtle ways.

Jeff said...

Someone above mentioned lending money to friends and that problems that can create. My solution is that I never loan money. If a friend comes to me and asks me for money (which, knowing my friends, is probably ether going in a glass of beer or a stripper's g-string), if I can spare it without putting myself out of sorts, I will give them the money, without expectation of ever getting paid back. If they do pay me back, great. If not then I've lost nothing and the friendship won't be strained by something as petty and fleeting as money.

Ran said...

Without reading the post I searched for the appearance of the word “sincerity” (or similar) in the text.

None.

Neal Oldham said...

As I experience life, I believe less and less that I have to help myself before I can help others -- I believe that I help myself BY appreciating and helping others. Some of the best advice and most sincere help I ever received was from some very imperfect people. If you feel like you have to attain some state of (whatever) before you can help others, you'll never get there.

The example of the oxygen masks is pretty trite and overused. Don't overgeneralize and please try harder next time.

Anonymous said...

The same Krishnamurti said :

"Your belief in God is merely an escape from your monotonous, stupid and cruel life."

So whether he could cure someone's
illness or not, his vision of
reality did not tolerate sloth in
dropping ego, culture, habit and
conditioning.

Anonymous said...

Krishnamurti on helping others:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qg0-yK5dJNE

Soo Bok Choi said...

Oak-Jin Oh, NYC Housekeeper, Accuses Buddhist Monk Soo Bok Choi And Family Of Enslaving Her

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/08/housekeeper-slave-oak-jin-oh-buddhist-monk_n_920889.html

john e mumbles said...

Hey Brad, and anyone interested, here's a Hulu link to a 2006 movie about Werner Erhard/EST, well worth a look IMO:

http://www.hulu.com/watch/151134/transformation-the-life-and-legacy-of-werner-erhard

NetLorn said...

Who would have thought that the idea of "self-help", that one needs to improve oneself, is the biggest problem right there --- focusing on others is the cure for many diseases, including depression. Not because altruism is so much better than egoism; both are the same, really. It's about universal compassion, which is nothing lovey-dovey -really not fond of those Buddhists who speak with a soft voice and talk about loving kindness all the time, "lovingkindness" btw... what a gay word if there ever was one - anyway ... compassion ultimately means to be one with reality, not identifying with the abstract ego and interpreting reality through it. Now that is an inner revolution. Thanks for this blog.

Anonymous said...

sometimes indifference is compassion.

Dogen Boy said...

A damn good post, Brad. I struggle with that topic often. I think you addressed it beautifully.

Stinks of Zen said...

"The evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding." Albert Camus

Doug said...

Hi Brad,

Great post (replying late here), which rings familiar as a Pure Land Buddhist. Honen had taught that one should earnestly strive to be reborn in the Pure Land, become a Bodhisattva, and then return to tuis world to help others. The details differ from Zen but I think this is another example of the oxygen-mask analogy. One has to dress their own wounds first before they can really help others. :-)

Zen-nesty International said...

Please excuse (and be honored by) the "Clam Chowder!" nature of my comment (arcane reference to an old Saturday Night Live skit on delayed reactions).

I often find that a good barometer of my Zen-nesty at any given moment is my subconscious and instantaneous ability to connect meaningful, well-intentioned concepts to the LEAST meaningful artifacts of our material world. (See what I did right there with the thinly-veiled Madonna reference?) In that moment, the wisdom is amplified, the profound and the absurd become one, and the I becomes we. Your oxygen mask analogy struck that chord for me. I mean really, who's more woozy than the gum-smacking, overly-scripted flight attendant?

So thank you for the 'one-vibration-in-a-trillion' that prompted an otherwise commentless web-lurker to chime in. I'll end with a couple loosely-related parting thoughts...talk amongst yourselves:

- The next time you're biting your tongue, consider asking your mother/friend/co-worker to put on their own mask first.

- I think we all just need to focus on The Man in the Mirror.

- A favorite lyric of mine is from Sting, "Men go crazy in congregations, they only get better one by one."