Thursday, January 05, 2012

Can You Be My Teacher?


I feel like it might be time once again to address one the most frequent questions that comes to me:

Can you be my teacher?

I have addressed this before. I'm not even sure how many times. Maybe I should make it an annual thing. Or, given how often I'm asked, maybe I should just make one definitive post and put it up every three months.

The short answer is this:

No.

But if I left it at that I'd just sound mean. I don't intend this in a mean way at all. It's more like you're asking me if I can make monkeys fly out of my butt. The answer to that is, unfortunately, also no. Like making monkeys fly out of my butt, my becoming your teacher is something I cannot possibly do even if I wanted to.

If you live in Northeast Ohio, or if you want to brave the snow and ice and come here, I will be starting a regular zazen class on Sunday evenings at 7pm at the Akron Shambhala Meditation Center at 133 Portage Trail in Cuyahoga Falls. This will begin on January 15th. If you show up, we can sit together and maybe talk a little bit. I'm also working on setting up a religious nonprofit in Los Angeles. The group I started there still meets every Saturday morning at 10 AM at 237 Hill Street in Santa Monica. You can find out about them by going to dogensanghalosangeles.org. Chances are good I will be attending the regular sittings there starting in the Spring. If I can get it together, that is. Meanwhile they still go on without me each and every week without fail.

But most of the people who ask me about my becoming their teacher live in places far from me. So I really have no idea what they imagine would happen if I said "yes." Perhaps they imagine I have a center somewhere that they can run off to and escape their dreary humdrum lives into a world of beautiful Zen.

I understand that dream very well because I had that dream myself for a long time. I used to imagine that there were places out there somewhere -- if I could only find them -- where I could run away from all my troubles and just immerse myself in the wondrous dharma. But there are no such places anywhere.

Tassajara Zen Mountain Monastery is about the closest thing I've ever seen to what I used to dream about. It's beautiful, it's isolated, it's dedicated to Zen practice, it's not a brainwashing cult. Tassajara is nice. But it's also not a place you can run away to in order to escape your real life. Real life will hunt you down and find you even there. Some people try to escape their real lives by going way, way far away like to India or Japan. But real life always catches them. It caught me even in the mountainous wilds of Toyama Prefecture, Japan.

What I wanted when I dreamed of those places was really just to return to childhood. I wanted to have a new mommy and daddy who would look after me and deal with all the serious shit while I got to play. But, see, even my actual childhood wasn't like that. My actual childhood was pretty miserable in a lot of ways. I was bullied and hassled and bored. So even saying that I dreamed of returning to childhood isn't right. I dreamed of going to a dreamland that never existed because it couldn't possibly exist.

I imagine some people out there who ask me about me becoming their teacher are offering themselves as submissives. They want to submit to me so I can be their master and they my slave. If you want that you can go to Genpo Roshi or Andrew Cohen. They take on submissives, I hear. Me, I wouldn't get into a van with either of those guys. I don't want any submissives. Not as Zen students anyhow.

Maybe the folks who ask about me becoming their teacher imagine we can create some kind of on-line teaching relationship. There are Zen teachers these days who take students on-line. To me that sounds like pure nonsense. But rather than speak in generalities about the concept of Zen teaching on-line, I'll just tell you why I, Brad, do not do it.

I don't do on-line Zen teaching because I really don't like the on-line experience that much. I'm not that into sitting in front of computers typing things. And yet I've fallen into a line of work in which I am constantly sitting in front of a damned computer. It's rare that I spend any less than four to six hours a day in front of this god forsaken machine. That's pretty much the minimum requirement in terms of keeping up with my own books and other writing projects. Then I also have to answer emails from people I know personally, answer emails from people I don't know from Adam who write to me, keep up the correspondence necessary to get speaking gigs and things and find cute animal videos on YouTube.

If I were to try to develop any on-line teaching relationships that would add at least another six hours a day of staring at a computer screen on top of what I do already. Plus I really have a bad memory in general. I have a hard time even recognizing people I know when I see them. People I know well are fine, but I'm constantly embarrassed when people I know just a little bit come up and start talking to me and I can't recall who they are to save my life.

When it comes to people I know only as names on the top of email messages I am totally hopeless. I'd have to work out some kind of weird organization system just to keep up with who was who and what they said to me last time and what I replied. Just getting that together would be a couple hours a day. And would I get paid for any of that? Nope. So when am I going to be able to do the things I need to do to earn a living?

It's just not gonna happen. I'm sorry. I know you've got serious issues and I know you like my books. I appreciate that you read what I write. I'd like to help. But I just can't.

Then there's all the issues I have in general with the whole notion of teachers and students. It isn't always an abusive relationship of the type that Genpo Roshi and Andrew Cohen advocate in the link I provided above. But it's so easy for it to devolve into that sort of thing. And this isn't just because evil manipulative teachers evilly manipulate their innocent students into becoming mindless slave zombies while they sit back and go "Mwah-ha-ha-ha-HAAAAA!"

In fact, there is a whole great class of people out there who desperately want to be turned into mindless slave zombies. Anyone who takes on the role of a spiritual teacher has to invest tremendous time, effort and energy in dealing with these kinds of people. Some of them will insist upon becoming mindless slave zombies no matter how hard you try to tell them not to. Here is a perfect example of how that works:



I can't tell you how many times I've felt just like Brian in this scene from Life of Brian. There are people out there who are exactly like the mob that follows him. And no matter how often you tell them not to follow you, they so desperately want to be led that they'll follow you anyway. It can be really stressful. I actually admire the honest people out there who take on the role of the teacher because I know what they have to deal with. All the people who want to be turned into mindless slave zombies think they're being very sincere and devoted. Which just makes it that much worse.

Watch that clip from Life of Brian again and pay close attention to the character played by John Cleese. He's the guy up front who says, "I should know (you're the messiah)! I've followed a few!" He takes on the guise of a follower. But he's really not. He wants to lead the movement. But he hasn't got the right sort of personality or charisma or whatever magic it takes to actually have people consider him to be the messiah. So he latches on to someone who has a following and offers to help that person maximize his potential.

This is very tempting because guys who do the sorts of things that get them followings are usually not really good at management type stuff. Plus it's a lot of work to have students. This means it's nearly impossible to take on students and have a normal paying job. So guys in Brian's position who want to try to be teachers need to find someone to help them get butts in seats and keep the donations rolling in and so on. So people like the character John Cleese portrays here can be very attractive.

But those guys will destroy everything. And they're everywhere. Almost all of them think they mean well. Some are very convincing. Oy! The stories I could tell you...

Anyway, this desire people have to be led is a really tremendous and very basic problem for humanity in general. This desire ends up causing all sorts of terrible tragedies like Naziism, Terrorism and the phenomenon of lousy boy bands and hair metal acts.

So that's why I can't be your teacher.

It's not that I don't like you or that I don't think your problems are serious. It's just that I can't do it. I'm flattered that you asked. But you're asking for something impossible, so I have to refuse.

******

Here's an interview I just did. Maybe you'll like it.

Oh! And my friend David Sango Angstead designed a new T-shirt/Hoodie/Bumper sticker etc. for me that you can get on my Red Bubble page. It's a very cool design. I need to order one for myself!


170 comments:

Fred said...

But Brad a beautiful mystical
world is all around us.

Mumon said...

But you're teaching.

OK, that's been done in the Blue Cliff Record, and while it may be an oldie, it's still a goodie.

Seriously, though, I know what you mean, & you're largely right, but your problem is you're quite legit, overall.

Terry said...

If you don't want to teach, why start a new group? Why not just sit with your old pals a few miles down the road in Kent?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you should put up some kind of Hardcore Zen FAQ which addresses these frequent questions you get, like being a teacher or shooting monkeys out of your ass?

I’m thinking like a page, with a link to it at a very noticeable place in the site, which addresses every question in a few sentences and then links to a blog post which explores the issue and your answer in detail.

As for the "being a teacher to someone who doesn’t live close by", what do you think of the long distance teacher-student relationship in general? Like there isn’t a qualified soto zen teacher in a thousand miles from where I live (I know, I’ve checked). But I hear there are some groups who sit together and some of whom are students of a teacher who lives in another country.

Boris said...

Never heard of Andrew Cohen, so I checked his wiki page. It says his freaking mother left his organization and wrote a book against him. Yikes! Funny, as in the video he sounds (just a little bit) more reasonable than Gempo.

Anonymous said...

It may not be all about power dynamics, though. Take your average Midwestern teen/adult who is sick of church, hates pretension, and still wants to find a way in this old world. They hear about Buddhism and, hell yeah!, it sounds awesome. Then they find most of the books are written by weepy new agers and feel disillusioned until Brad comes along with his books and blog. They know they need a teacher plus they definitely want to avoid the dullards on the one hand and the manipulative pricks on the other. Ergo, they send emails to Brad because there's no one else (they think).

In the end, I doubt craven self-loathing has much to do with it, though of course there is some of that too. It's probably the growing pains of a new generation of zen practitioners who want to be challenged rather than coddled.

Dennis said...

Brad,
Will you please be my teacher?
xoxox

Andrew Cohen said...

Brad,
I am having an identity crisis. Can you please tell me if I am actually John Stossel?

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

Anonymous said:
In the end, I doubt craven self-loathing has much to do with it, though of course there is some of that too. It's probably the growing pains of a new generation of zen practitioners who want to be challenged rather than coddled.

I didn't realize what I wrote could be taken that way. I didn't mean it as an insult. I was just trying to convey some of the stuff that goes thru my mind when people ask me this.

Anonymous said...

"So many unfortunates want to "turn their lives over to some authority" and then not have any remaining responsibility for their own lives. Sorry, but many/most republicans are like that."

Sorry mysterion, The truth is that Republicans tend to want less government control in their lives, while Democrats want more and more government involvement, i.e. a big Daddy to look after their needs. I have no use for either party but you have it ass-backwards.

Brad Warner said...

Another Anonymous said:
As for the "being a teacher to someone who doesn’t live close by", what do you think of the long distance teacher-student relationship in general? Like there isn’t a qualified soto zen teacher in a thousand miles from where I live (I know, I’ve checked). But I hear there are some groups who sit together and some of whom are students of a teacher who lives in another country.

There are long distance teacher/student relationships in Zen. There's a longstanding tradition, in fact. Dogen's famous Genjo Koan was originally written as a letter to a student who lived far away.

I think it's fine if the relationship is established somehow in person and then continues long-distance. Sometimes it can work out if the teacher & student have never met.

But a long-distance Zen relationship may be even more challenging and difficult than a long-distance lover relationship.

The other thing is that the Internet has made this far too easy. Whereas Dogen may have had a handful of long-distance students, it's now possible for an on-line teacher to have hundreds or thousands and to acquire new ones nearly every day. There is no way such relationships can have the kind of depth that the traditional type of long-distance teacher/student relationships did.

Brad Warner said...

Oh and as for groups established by teachers who live elsewhere...

This also goes on a lot and is perfectly legit. Usually such teachers visit their students on a regular basis. It's not necessary to see the teacher all the time.

Brad Warner said...

If you don't want to teach, why start a new group? Why not just sit with your old pals a few miles down the road in Kent?

I still sit with them whenever they're in session. But lately they haven't been meeting very often.

Corbie said...

Anonymous said, "The truth is that Republicans tend to want less government control in their lives, while Democrats want more and more government involvement, i.e. a big Daddy to look after their needs."

Except that the Republicans want to be in every bedroom. Some freedom, that.


And... Andrew Cohen needs to google "porn stache". (shudder)

Michael T. Girardi said...

This is an off-topic comment, to be sure, but how else could I share it with you?
I'm an art student, and last semester an assignment was to do a book cover, so I chose your first book Hardcore Zen If you're curious, you can take a look here:
http://michaeltgirardi.blogspot.com/2012/01/book-cover.html

Cheers!

Mark Foote said...

I think there's also some professionalism in folks wanting to become a student of a verifiable lineage holder. A verified lineage holder can, after all, confirm the understanding of the student and authorize them to teach, and that person authorized to teach can claim authority based on the lineage transmission.


You do leave the door open to persons accessing your wisdom when they belong to the same sitting group as you for an indeterminate period.

I think it's not required that a teacher pass along the authorization to teach to anyone, but it would have been a great loss to the Zen community on the West Coast if Hoitsu Suzuki had not seen fit to give transmission to Shunryu Suzuki's students. And on the other hand, I know that at one time if not at the present, Kobun's principal dharma heir Vanja Palmers gave up being a Zen teacher. I suspect that simply means Rev. Palmers felt himself called to do other things.

I, too, feel a deep sense of gratitude to the Zen teachers who came to this country, and to some of the teachers who became authorized to teach here and have kept the practice going for anyone who is interested. The real question is how do we inspire ourselves to sit the cross-legged pose for thirty minutes or forty, once or twice or several times a day? I guess one way that it's been done in the past, intentionally or not, is with the promise of the respect and authority of the title of lineage holder, and unless you can communicate very clearly why anybody would want to practice, this will be your problem.

On the other hand, if you can communicate very clearly, maybe nobody would listen unless you had the title and authority. But then, if you were really trying mostly to communicate to yourself, it probably wouldn't matter. ta-dah!

Anonymous said...

Would you be mine...
Could you be mine...
I have always wanted to have a teacher just like you
I have always wanted to live in a sangha with you.

Won't you please, won't you please, be my teacher and/or dom.

All my internet friends are in my head.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate what you do, dude. That said, all I want to know is, who in their right mind would ask you of all people to be their teacher? Whoa...

Pjotr said...

Hello,

I think a person becomes your teacher, when you make that person your teacher.
When you attend a retreat with some teacher, and you feel you can work with that person, he or she might become your teacher.
After also attending activities with other teacher's to experience the difference between teachers. When you find yourself coming back to one particular teacher
Maybe only once or twice a year. And you also started a lively e-mail based relation, this person can be considered your teacher. But this is an organic natural development. In a way the teacher does not know I am his student, I made him my teacher, because somehow he appeals to ME I made him my teacher whether he likes it or not : ) And when I get to attached to his guidance he just reacts a little harsh or even tells me to grow up.

Anonymous said...

Is "eye science" contagious ? Like syphilis?

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

Mysterion do you do zazen? lol

buddy said...

Hey Brad, what about teaching by phone? I've been conversing in such manner with a teacher (whom I've never met in person, long story) for about 12 years, and it works just fine. I call less than I probably should, every month or so, usually when I'm particularly lost about something. At this point I pretty much know what he'll say, I just appreciate the support and challenge.

Shojin B said...

Brad, I was wonder what the helper types, the John Cleese supporter folks, have spun out that you feel is such a problem? I'd like to know more, because I'm trying to hold open a sitting space, not trying to keep students, and I've found, without some sort of crowdsourcing, that the workload for lay practicioners is really rough, if you don't crowdsource some of it. I'd assume, with your schedule, there is someone serving as Ino in your absence at the groups you lead. Where is the line?

Anonymous said...

Dead teachers and teachers on the other side of the globe are the best. They never can have any real insight into what is going on and are therefore a great way to make sure your practice remains nonthreatening and neutral.

Zippy Rinpoche said...

I could teach a course in, like, Advanced Sandwich Preparation... or Great T-shirts of th' Western World..

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

uh oh, don't let gene see that t-shirt design!

john e mumbles said...

IMO this is the most responsible, well writ screed you've almost every come up with, Brad. Bravo. Well put.

Fundgi said...

Damn, Mysterion, you better sit yourself some zazen awhile longer, if that's example of your sharp wit, it must have been one short ass log!

Brad Warner said...

Shojin said:
Brad, I was wonder what the helper types, the John Cleese supporter folks, have spun out that you feel is such a problem? I'd like to know more, because I'm trying to hold open a sitting space, not trying to keep students, and I've found, without some sort of crowdsourcing, that the workload for lay practicioners is really rough, if you don't crowdsource some of it. I'd assume, with your schedule, there is someone serving as Ino in your absence at the groups you lead. Where is the line?

What is "crowdsourcing"?

At Hill Street Center a guy named John Graves is leading up the group now. I don't know if you'd call him an "ino" really.

I hate to name names about who I feel caused problems. But maybe if I stick with one everybody knows that'll work.

Richard Baker did lots and lots of good things for Suzuki Roshi's organization. He may not be precisely the type of person John Cleese portrays in the clip. I wasn't there, so I don't know. But I suspect he had some commonalities with that kind of character.

He was a much more effective organizer than Suzuki. Suzuki wanted Tassajara. But Baker figured out how to actually get it. Suzuki couldn't have accomplished that. This is just one example.

But Baker also turned SFZC into something very very big, whereas what Suzuki had going was very small. Perhaps this was Suzuki's wish and the reason he picked Baker as his successor. But most of SFZC's problems stemmed from the fact that they grew very big very fast.

That's the sort of thing I was talking about.

Brad Warner said...

Oh! Shojin I reread the last part of your question. Now I get it.

I don't have any full time group. So nobody leads anything in my absence.

Brad Warner said...

Buddy said:
Hey Brad, what about teaching by phone? I've been conversing in such manner with a teacher (whom I've never met in person, long story) for about 12 years, and it works just fine. I call less than I probably should, every month or so, usually when I'm particularly lost about something. At this point I pretty much know what he'll say, I just appreciate the support and challenge.

If this works for you, then fine. Why ask me?

Jiden Lynne said...

Reading this, I realize once again how incredibly lucky I have been to meet and practice with Tenshin Reb Anderson, Rev. Shohaku Okumura, and Edward Espe Brown. And to sew my rakusu with Zenkei Blanche Hartmann. It all seems so improbable that I would even meet them, living as I do here in the Great Lakes region. Thanks, Brad, for the reminder.

anonymous anonymous said...

mysterion said, "I think Zazen sharpens my wit by keeping me in the moment."

Can you even imagine it.. Can you imagine how miserably dull mysterion's wit must have been before Zazen?

It boggles the mind.

Mark Foote said...

Mysterion, were you practicing judo in the Bay Area, then? I was one of Moon Watanabe's students at the Menlo Park Rec Center in the late 60's, though I didn't come to zazen that way. That was a friend who loaned me Three Pillars of Zen, so I learned zazen out of a book. God it was hard to sit ten minutes with my legs crossed, when I started out. I recall one of Kapleau's successors I exchanged correspondence with, assuring me that Kapleau never intended that anyone should think they could learn zazen out of a book, and then another on the web spoke up and said, "yes he did!". Life.

Jiden Lynne, you did have some wonderful teachers, I think. Anderson and Brown have been inspirations to me, Hartman too. Never met Okumura, but I have read some of his translations, very fine I think. Up on Sonoma Mountain Bill Kwong and Laura Kwong are amazing inspirations to me as well.

Hard to be where we are, sometimes. Tempting to think we're somewhere else, or should be. Thanks for the conversation, all- thanks, Brad, for writing cogently and inviting us all to sit, even if it's without a teacher.

Korey said...

Hey Brad,

If extensive Zen practice allows a person to shed attachments, and gain awareness and insight towards approaching shit more wisely, why do you think that Allan Watts remained an alcoholic until he died despite decades of sitting zazen?

Korey said...

Hey Mysterion,

You mean to tell me you've been sitting for 52 bloody years? Got dayum...

I know everyone's gonna tease me and laugh at me for this question, but... are you... enlightened? lol

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

Why do you do Zen? And cut the silly-talk please. I DESPISE silly-talk.

buddy said...

Brad said 'If this works for you, then fine. Why ask me? '

Geez, defensive much?
Just a helpful suggestion, an option that hasn't been mentioned.

proulx michel said...

anonymous anonymous wrote:

Can you even imagine it.. Can you imagine how miserably dull mysterion's wit must have been before Zazen?

It boggles the mind.


When asked what Zazen had done for him, Nishijima replied "It has made me a little bit better".

A friend of mine once said "You know, you're a bit less annoying since you've been practicing zazen."

So, what Mysterion writes is quite acceptable.

proulx michel said...

Korey said...

Hey Brad,

If extensive Zen practice allows a person to shed attachments, and gain awareness and insight towards approaching shit more wisely, why do you think that Allan Watts remained an alcoholic until he died despite decades of sitting zazen?


But Watts considered that sitting Zazen was perfectly useless!

Anonymous said...

Brad,

I might have read a couple of your books and like the way you think, but that doesn't mean that I'd follow you blindly. I just want to boot some head too.

Unwise

Seagal Rinpoche said...

With the abandoning of pleasure and pain, one remains in the fourth jnana: purity of equanimity and mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain.

anon #108 said...


Brad said, 'If this works for you, then fine. Why ask me?'
And buddy said, 'Geez, defensive much? Just a helpful suggestion, an option that hasn't been mentioned.'


Hi buddy,

It's short, isn't it - the answer? But that doesn't necessarily mean it's defensive, or unhelpful.

I've analysed: The first part of the answer can easily be read as an encouraging confirmation of your situation. The second part of the answer strikes me as a pretty good question - if you pause to think about it, instead of reacting defensively, as I most likely would...at first.

There again, Bradley might have been in petulant mood, misread your helpful suggestion, your option that hasn't been mentioned, and decided you weren't worth a moment of his valuable time. Grr.

How I take what someone else says to me is more usefully considered as an indication of my state than as an indication of the state and intention of whoever wrote it. Hardly a novel observation, and not so easy to do, but one worth bearing in mind, I think.

...And, I guess, this is just the kind of reply you might get from Brad if he taught via skype. Hey! It is exactly the kind of answer you DID get from Brad, 'teaching' via his blog!

Beavis said...

...well there we are then. What does a Zen teacher teach to begin with! Posture? Zazen instructions? How to sew an old robe? What's a Zen teacher good for?

Anonymous said...

Brad said, "Suzuki couldn't have accomplished that."

How the fuck do you know that Brad?

Anonymous said...

Blogger Korey said...

I know everyone's gonna tease me and laugh at me for this question, but... are you... enlightened? lol"

Haha.. Korey. Hahahaha... Funny.

Anonymous said...

6:02: That's BLASPHEMY!! Suzuki could have walked thru WALLS if He wanted to!

Anonymous said...

I 2nd the ?

Brad said, "Suzuki couldn't have accomplished that."

How the fuck do you know that Brad?

please answer . Brad are you Omniscient ? Or is Ahmniscient?

Anonymous said...

Brad can tell the future only in reverse and then brad inverts that and then he puts it through a dual microscopic sensor that behaves like a bee when stinging.

That is how he knows that Suzuki could not have done that.

Enough of this . Next subject. Move on.

Brad Warner said...

Sorry Buddy. I just meant the question literally. Why are you asking me? It doesn't seem like my opinion is very relevant.

peter said...

I've seen people do the John Cleese thing at meditation groups. I think these types generally have a tendancy to be bullys as well...

Brad...I live in London. You live in America. I require a zen master. I figure this should be no obstacle to a holy zen master.

I await your instruction Lord Zen.

p.s lastest book was a cracker :)

Brad Warner said...

As for how I know Suzuki couldn't have accomplished the purchase of Tassajara, I suppose I don't.

But I have talked to a lot of people who knew Suzuki and Baker. I've spent a lot of time at Tassajara, much of it looking at the books they have there about the history of the place. I've read Shoes Outside The Door, which gives details about the extremely complicated negotiations and financing that was necessary for SFZC, who didn't have much money, to purchase the place. They even had to negotiate with the government because it's located in the middle of a National Forest.

My assumption after gathering all that information is that an elderly Japanese immigrant whose English was a bit clumsy and who had no experience with real estate and suchlike could not have bought Tassajara by himself.

But, of course, that's just speculation.

Brad Warner said...

Korey said:
If extensive Zen practice allows a person to shed attachments, and gain awareness and insight towards approaching shit more wisely, why do you think that Allan Watts remained an alcoholic until he died despite decades of sitting zazen?

It's hard to say.

Like Michel said, Nishijima's line was always, "Zazen has made me a little better." I would assume that whatever Watts' was like, he would have been significantly worse without the practice.

Also, some habits are very difficult to break. Alcoholism tends to be one of those.

Nishijima credits zazen with helping him stop smoking. He just applied his zazen attitude to the task. He simply quit, he says. Just one day, he stopped.

I would assume, given what I've heard from smokers, that it wasn't quite as easy as Nishijima likes to describe it. I'm sure there was a period of physical withdrawal and so-on.

I can't speculate on Alan Watts. Well, I could. But it wouldn't mean much.

I've given up some of my own addictions by using Nishijima's method. It wasn't easy. But I applied myself to the task minute-by-minute. Sort of the way AA advises people to do. I didn't look at the long term. I focused only on very short term goals. Just get through this day, this hour, this minute, this second. After a while you develop new habits, and hopefully those are better than the old habits.

But there's still lots of other bad habits to be worked through. My guess is that Alan Watts dealt with some of his own bad habits but not all of them.

Mark Foote said...

There's a sermon in the Pali Canon, I don't have the reference at the moment, where the Ananda asks the Gautamid about the rebirth of a gentleman who left the order and was a confirmed alcoholic of the village. The Gautamid replied that the guy died a once-returner or never-returner, something like that, indicating that the gentleman was established in the ten-fold path of the adept (I suppose). At this Ananda and many of the disciples were surprised and confounded, but the Gautamid affirmed what he had said.

Sort of like confirming that there's a happiness associated with the cessation of perception and sensation- how can there be happiness if sensation and perception have ceased- and the Gautamid affirmed that followers of other sects would question it, but he said it is nevertheless true. Likewise, if morality is essential to enter the path, how can an alcoholic be a stream-winner?- but apparently, he or she can.

I once asked Watts about what a person should do about pain, following up on another question from the audience at Crown College (Santa Cruz)- the answer was, "sometimes you just have to stop thinking", with which the lecture and the question and answer period was over.

Another favorite speech of mine by the Gautamid is the one where he describes a second method of setting up mindfulness, and that is making some pleasant object of thought the subject, after which he said one discovers that one's mindfulness is already set up. I'm not saying that there's no such thing as "not thinking", as Dogen described it, but I am saying that "not thinking" is not attained through not thinking, at least for me.

None of the Zen teachers I ever knew could have been enlightened by the Gautamid's standards, since they were all married. I think there's a reason why the issue of whether or not an arahant could have a wet dream became the issue that split the order, and that would be that the Gautamid's understanding of morality was imperfect, like his understanding of the social order. In China, they very quickly abandoned his rules about not working, and eating once a day before noon, and yet it is through China that I feel the heart of Gautama's teaching has survived.

Whatever it is, it's bigger than the teachers, and less. My opinion, of course.

anon #108 said...

...I'm not saying that there's no such thing as "not thinking", as Dogen described it, but I am saying that "not thinking" is not attained through not thinking, at least for me

I don't think Dogen ever did describe it as "not-thinking," Mark.

Whatever, this is from a reply Mike Cross recently made to a comment of mine on his blog:

"There's trying to be mindful, and there's mindfulness of trying."

- which may or may not be relevant to one or other of your points, but is worth a plug.

Mysterion said...
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buddy said...

Brad, I was asking you, not for affirmation of my experience as you seemed to think, but just as an option to consider for yourself. You seem to be uninterested generally in taking on students, but I was just throwing it out there as a way to maintain a long distance interaction that's much more 'real' than the internet.

Anonymous said...

How is "by phone" in any way more real than - say - Skype or other such video conference system where you can both hear and see the other person in real time?

I hope nobody, Brad included, imagined "internet communication" means email and blogs only?

Mysterion said...
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Corey V. said...

Mysterion and Korey,

Watts indeed considered himself an entertainer (I would call him a philosopher, guys like cornel west and slavoj zizek are just as entertaining), and used words like always and never in order to intentionally provoke/entertain the audience. He admitted to doing this several times. I disagree that he was shallow, he just had different points to make than a dharma teacher.

Watts also wasn't a disciplined meditator. He meditated and even had seminars and recordings that taught how to meditate, but he never had a formal teacher, and basically thought that becoming a serious student would take the fun out of it. He justified his drinking and smoking by quoting freud: "As to your injunction to give up smoking, I have decided not to comply. Do you think it such a good thing to live a long and miserable life?"

Anonymous said...

Ooooh, so you are imitating Alan Watt's shallowness, Mysterion, and here all along we thought it was simply your own shallowness.

Anonymous Bob said...

Brad said: "After a while you develop new habits, and hopefully those are better than the old habits."

Hopefully.. But like a band that is capable of making only variations on a single pattern, a person who is looking for a leader or a mate will seldom break away from the memes that attracted them to that person in the first place. They want something that they think they need but they don't need it because they already have it.

CAPTCHA : rearsuit : I kid you not

Mysterion said...
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Anonymous said...

Good one!

Nothing could be more obvious.

Anonymous said...

We are Anonymous.
We are Legion.
We do not forgive.
We do not forget.
Expect us.

Anonymous said...

I know you're a big DIY guy but you haven't done anything without the help of others, not one thing, ever

you teach plenty all the time by example in everything you do

I admire your honesty in stating the obvious: that you are not in a position to formally take on a student.

just like dating and having sexual partners isn't marriage
just like babysitting or a stint as counselor at a summer camp isn't parenthood

it is understandable that you/your circumstances aren't in a position to be a formal teacher

you still teach plenty as you in your current circumstances attest

besides, I think marriage, parenthood and the formal zen 'my teacher' relationships are all over mythologized and get crushed by the weight of the impossible expectations the myth puts on them
such a shame! if only folks could just be what they are in the midst of what things is!

anywho, it'll be good to see you in Southern California again come Spring

Korey said...
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Cidercat said...

I love that nonchalant cat in the clip, and also that poor docile dog! Great amusement.

Surely life is the best teacher.

Anonymous said...

Are you taking any new students, Seagal Rinpoche? You always say a bunch of smart shit. I'll follow you to the end of the world.

Mysterion said...
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Anonymous said...

There hasn't been enough talk about Zizek recently. Can someone please write something intelligent about Slavoj Zizek!?!

PhilBob-SquareHead said...

Don't let Gene Simmons see that t-shirt...can you say "lawsuit"?

Mysterion said...
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Helen Brown said...

Slavoj Žižek has got an opinion on every subject from decaffeinated coffee to sex, from seagulls and swearing to the end of the world.

Anonymous said...

http://dogobarrygraham.blogspot.com/2011/02/love-dharma-talk-for-valentines-day.html

sitting cross-legged, using robes helps to get disciples, if you want followers...

Anonymous said...

some bells helps too...

Mark Foote said...

Bielefeldt describes it as "nonthinking", and says "whatever the exact sense of Dogen's recommendation here to stop thinking, we should probably not understand this passage as teaching a technique of meditation in which the mind is brought to a halt". ("Dogen's Manuals of Zen Meditation", pg 118).

Ok, nonthinking. Sometimes I would say I am incorporating the feeling I get for the activity of my mind in my sense of location, that's about as close as I get. Is that what Watts had in mind, I don't think so.

My issue with Watts' teaching was simply that understanding what he had to say changed nothing for me, even though it felt like a big deal at the time. At this point the lotus is my teacher, and what I understand when I sit I carry over into my day or night, even without trying. That makes a difference to me.

I had to let the lotus teach me, I'm no master; the lotus is not done with me yet. Some people seem to have a knack for it, and some of them are Zen teachers, but mostly Zen teachers don't teach the lotus. That seems funny to me, especially if a teacher corrects people's posture in the lotus, but can't say how to sit (without pain or numbness). I think it seems funny to the Zen teachers who think about it too.

When I heard Kobun say "take your time with the lotus", I wonder was he thinking about the things I had to learn to be able to sit the posture? I guess so. That particular piece of advice I think was geared toward Westerners, and was not about just getting limber.

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

A small edit to 4.34am -

Bielefeldt describes it as "nonthinking", and says "whatever the exact sense of Dogen's recommendation here to stop thinking...

I don't mean to be picky just for the sake of it, Mark, and I know you've done and thought about this a lot. And I'm certainly no expert on what Dogen meant. But I do think there's a lot of unhelpful confusion around zazen as 'not'- or 'non'-thinking, stemming from the usual translation of the two characters hi- shiryo as 'non-thinking' in the koan story Dogen features in the meditation manual Fukanzazengi and in the Shobogenzo chapter Zazenshin:

"When the physical state is already settled, make one complete exhalation and sway left to right. Sitting immovably in the mountain-still state, "Think about this concrete state beyond thinking ." "How can the state beyond thinking be thought about?" "It is different from thinking [hi-shiryo]." This is just the pivot of zazen."

- From ‘Fukanzazengi’ as translated in an appendix to the Nishijima/Cross Shobogenzo.

To my ears, and those of many others it seems, 'non-thinking' suggests some special and rare state which is neither thinking nor not-thinking - but is still somehow related to, or a variety of, thinking. 'Different from thinking' suggests that the aspect of zazen being described here (other aspects are discussed elsewhere) is not concerned with 'thinking' one way or the other; not concerned with whether thinking is to be done or not done, and is, for me, a more helpful translation.


Captcha this time = sidit. Too spooky.

john e mumbles said...

Well, I'm dull as a chalkboard, but my paltry understanding is pretty close to what you so eloquently say here, Malcolm. Well, maybe.

Neither this nor that, instead positing a possible "third" thing/ no-thing, not "beyond" -as that concept will lead us down another path entirely in our thinking- but alongside, with, or inherent within thinking-not thinking that cannot be conceptualized, that naturally confounds reason, and cannot be thought of in the typical sense of how we think.

A kind of springboard that begins with thought process, confounds the process, and leaps somewhere unexpected or not thought of, in fact, unthinkable,

This takes into account the whole spectrum, I think, or don't think, or...

john e mumbles said...

(Further, an example from literature:) Hart Crane, in his "General Aims and Theories":

"As to technical considerations: the motivation of the poem must be derived from the implicit emotional dynamics of the materials used, and the terms of expression employed are often selected less for their logical (literal) significance than for their associational meanings. Via this and their metaphorical inter-relationships, the entire construction of the poem is raised on the organic principle of a 'logic of metaphor,' which antedates our so-called pure logic, and which is the genetic basis of all speech, hence consciousness and thought-extension."

In other "words," when normal thinking is reduced to its symbolic underpinnings, it can become "poetic" -regardless, we recognize a difference, however subtle. But we also intrinsically understand another quality, one that is also present, possibly prescient.

It is probably always present, even necessary to thought and speech, but seems absent from both, and as such is not readily recognizable.

Or it is "covered up" by thought and speech and is more apparent in a meditative "at rest" state where thought-speech-action is present but not required.

anon #108 said...

Hi John,

Gudo might suggest that the "third thing...that cannot be thought of in the typical sense of how we think" is action or doing, as in 'just do it'; just sit.

But, as Mike Cross is at pains to point out these days, such a view neglects to recognise the reality of thinking/intention in just sitting. And Dogen had a lot to say about intention/non-intention as part of sitting in Shobogenzo Zazenshin...

FWIW, I think all questions about the what and the how of zazen are only ever answered in the doing of it, by each of us that does it, in our own way. It does seem clear though, that Dogen's recommendation is not intentionally to engage in thinking/consideration about this or that, and to 'Wake up when a thought arises' (from an earlier version of Fukanzazengi).

john e mumbles said...

I have little doubt that I would've "noticed" anything like I crudely have tried to describe here without "just sitting" with it.

I confess I have read little of Dogen or Nishijima, and have struggled with Nagarjuna, so, as you say, it has been far more important for me to "see for myself."

anon #108 said...
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john e mumbles said...
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anon #108 said...

That's a very interesting perspective on a certain type of mental activity, john e.

...Interesting that Dogen left out "When a thought arises, wake up" from the later 'popular version' of Fukanzazengi. Maybe he realised that the moment a thought is noticed and the moment of waking up might be the same moment. Or perhaps that's just me.

anon #108 said...

(Sorry, John, just crossed yours @7.49am with my small edit to mine @7.39am)

john e mumbles said...

Here, then, in the interest of linear logical blog commentary thinking!....

In my experience the only way to notice the difference -or the sameness, is to refine, refine, refine the mental awareness of basic objectivity, through detailed noting practice within just sitting. And then to completely let go...

Fred said...

Think about this concrete state beyond thinking ." "How can the state beyond thinking be thought about?" "It is different from thinking [hi-shiryo]." This is just the pivot of zazen."

The state beyond thinking.
When the ego is looking at the
state beyond thinking, it is
thinking.

The ego can not see the state
beyond thinking, but the state
beyond thinking can see past and
through the ego. It sees itself
and there is nothing to denote.

When the bottom falls out the bottom falls out.

anon #108 said...

In my experience the only way to notice the difference -or the sameness, is to refine, refine, refine the mental awareness of basic objectivity, through detailed noting practice within just sitting.

I was never taught, and so don't do any kind of intentional 'noting practice' - noticing happens anyway, whether I make a point of doing it or not. But perhaps we're just describing a similar thing differently...

And then to completely let go...

(Or allow?) Yes.

Captcha = skating

john e mumbles said...

IMO it does come down to the same thing, however you get to it.

I like what Fred said about the bottom, in the sense that there is that directionless, where am I, am "I" even, presence that has no identification "with" anymore, as if you were always there anyway, without yourself, and you will stay forever...

Often after sitting anymore I get up with no idea at all how much time has passed, where I have been, etc. How nice!

Carrying this stateless state into consensus reality has its advantages, in that things generally seem not to possess the heavy aforethought conceptual baggage, and when whatever arises,it just arises.

Mysterion said...
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Anonymous said...

re: Slavoj Zizek - he has some unmistakably interesting things to say, but it's all just so much unbroken thinking thinking thinking. Have you watched him talk? It's nerve wracking. Highly neurotic - he twitches and pulls his shirt and touches his nose, in this repetitive constant pattern, like he has Tourettes (not to mention he seems not to bathe.)

There's no sense of any awareness of any background of quiet, of silence. It's just a relentless gush of opinions. Which include a stated desire to see the complete destruction of the natural world in favor of the artificial, and a total dismissal of meditation and contemplative traditions, including Buddhism and every other religion. Freud is his religion.

To paraphrase that zinger about Newt Gingrich, Zizek is what a genius looks like to people who play video games all day.

Mark Foote said...

Marvelous, to hear the voices and get the flavors of everybody's practices!

I agree there is a setting up of mindfulness for me in sitting, and yet as the ancestor said "it's not that there's no practice, it's that practice is undefiled", meaning to me the real thing defies intention.

I am stuck on Gautamid's lecture on the "six-fold sense sphere", wherein he describes seeing as it really is sense object, sense organ, consciousness as a result of contact, impact, and feeling. And when I sit, I realize now that the painful feelings feed into the occurrence of consciousness, but so do the pleasant, which are actually about the various stretches and consequent activity going on and are located more at a particular location in empty space than in a particular place in my anatomy. But not always; chi circulates, then gathers at the tan-t'ien, is a description of sense object, sense organ, consciousness, impact, and feeling, or as Shunryu Suzuki put it:

Sometimes when you think that you are doing zazen with an imperturbable mind, you ignore the body, but it is also necessary to have the opposite understanding at the same time. Your body is practicing zazen in imperturbability while your mind is moving.

(Shunryu Suzuki, "Whole-Body Zazen", June 18, 1970, edited by Bill Redican)

As to non-thinking, I appreciate the points of view, does sound like more or less the same thing on everybody's mind in this respect. Dogen spoke of waking up, and probably removed that because the way he said it made it sound like waking up is something a person can do. I think of waking up as basically the same practice as falling asleep, like this:

"There’s really nothing I can do to practice waking up and falling asleep, other than to accept being where I find myself at the moment. The beautiful part of it is, that’s exactly the practice of waking up and falling asleep."

Brad Warner said...

"Think about this concrete state beyond thinking (不思慮 fu-shiryo)." "How can the state beyond thinking be thought about?" "It is different from thinking (非思慮 hi-shiryo)." This is just the pivot of zazen."

Oh this shit drives me nuts!

Pirate walks into a bar with a steering wheel sticking out of his pants. The bartender says, "Hey pirate! Why you got a steering wheel sticking out of your pants?"

The pirate says, "Arrrrrr! It's drivin' me nuts!"

As does discussion about fu-shiryo and hi-shiryo. I wrote about it in Sit Down & Shut Up. I learned the word 思慮 (shiryo) as consideration. But when I looked it up just now the on-line dictionary at Google told me "discretion." But it told me that both 不思慮 (fu-shiryo) 非思慮 (hi-shiryo) and mean "non-understanding."

And if Google can't be trusted who can you trust?

The point I'm trying to make is that digging into this stuff linguistically doesn't really get you very far.

不 (fu) is a rather weak and common sort of negation. While 非 (hi) implies a much stronger sort of negation as in something that's very much NOT the thing in question. It appears in the Japanese words for immoral and illegal.

思慮 (shiryo) is less what we mean when we say "thinking" and more like what we mean with more specific words like "discretion," "understanding" or "consideration." It's less like thoughts just bubbling up by themselves and more a sense of manipulating thoughts deliberately.

If any of that helps at all.

Anonymous said...

Helps who?

Anonymous said...

Are you TEACHING, Brad? This comment seems very INSTRUCTIVE.

Does Hardcore Zen blog count now as an online sangha?

Thank you, Sensai Warner!

(paid for by Anonymous International, a momentary sub-division of DSI, or not)

Brad Warner said...

Helps the pirate of course! Duh!

anon #108 said...

Thanks Brad. That's kinda what I'd gathered from here and there. I still haven't got Sit Down and Shut Up, although I liked the bits I read on Google books some time ago.

Seeing as how you know Japanese and that, how's this as a translation of the bit that's caused all the fuss and bother:

Monk 1: ‘What are you thinking about, sitting there doing nothing?’

Monk 2: ‘I’m thinking about not thinking.’

Monk 1: ‘How can you think about not thinking?!’

Monk 2: ‘Well…it’s altogether different from thinking.’


If that doesn't quite hit the mark, how would you translate it? I'd like to know, sincerely.

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

...coz as I hear it, translating shiryo as 'thinking' is not so much the problem (you can't say 'I'm considering not considering ' can you?), it's making plain, ordinary sense of the fu and the hi - that's the thing that needs doing.

gniz said...

" I still haven't got Sit Down and Shut Up, although I liked the bits I read on Google books some time ago."

You seriously mean to tell me after all this time on Brad's blog, you can't be bothered to buy one single book and read it? It's a good book man. Buy it already.

I anxiously await the next one Brad.

anon #108 said...

...coz Brad, like it or not, unless you 'dig into this stuff linguistically' you can't translate it right. You might be able to do it, but you can't translate it. And some things need translating.


gniz - I'm still not working, mate. I've already got plenty of books I haven't read and can't afford any more...priorities n so forth. Seriously.

gniz said...

gotcha anon. sorry to bust your chops then.

john e mumbles said...

Malcolm, you're still playing with the same band, though, yes? I know it doesn't pay much, though...

Just picked this up tonight, getting ready to watch:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1478964/

Looks promising. My brother-in-law in Hong Kong rec. it.

anon #108 said...

That's quite alright, g. A little helpful chop-busting might get me back to work one day!


Yes, still playing with the band, John (new recordings will be uploaded v soon) but the gigs are still absolutely unpaid - that's the way it is in London for 'original' bands without a deal these days - and I have to find a few quid every week to chip in for rehearsals.

I'll check the link tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

I like all of Brad's book except his latest one, which was not so hot. Haven't seen his recent mashup with his teacher, the one about the fundamental wisdom of the middle way.

Anyway, the latest solo effort by Brad wasn't up to snuff (in a keep-the-reader-interested sense). Not horrible, mind you, but I suspect the old boy's run his course.

Actually, just kidding. He hasn't run his course and I don't even know what that means. I think that I am probably in a different time and place than I was when I read his first three books, and so I have a different take on the latest one. I was just being jerkish when I blamed it on Brad.

I'll happily continue to buy Brad's solo books. I'm a fan and admirer.

Mark Foote said...

Thanks, Brad, for the translation.

It's a puzzler, that Dogen would call "non-thinking" the pivot of zazen. Yes, ok, maybe he's referring to the state of mind, and the hypnogogic aspect of practice.

I have tried for years to explain (to myself, mostly) how zazen gets up and walks around. I think it's sort of the same thing as what Kobun described as "people who are moving around outside all sit with you", that is, there's almost a "sixth-sense" aspect of the mind that comes into sitting. This I think is also why the first of the arupa jhanas concerns the "infinity of ether", oftentimes in zazen I feel like my ability to breathe depends on the inclusiveness of my awareness. Another way to say that is, the ability of my mind to move, or the ability of the location of my awareness to move.

What's essential to zazen getting up and walking around is the ability to observe activity caused by the location of mind when people who are moving around outside are a part of that location of mind. This happens in hypnogogic states.

I like the monk who when asked what he was doing, replied he was doing nothing. When his questioner said that was idleness, the monk replied that if he were doing something, that would be idleness.

Mysterion said...
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Mysterion said...
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Anonymous said...

"Can LSD be my teacher?"

Two students of Kobun Chino on acid:
Steve Jobs and Vanja Palmers.

How does a pirate smuggle drugs across the border?
Arrrrrrrgh, Matey! He hides them in his booty!
P-)

anon #108 said...

Mysti wrote: However, Japanese is a high context language so just WHAT 思慮 actually means (in terms of cognitive content) depends upon the CONTEXT in which it is being used. Archaic Japanese compounds the problem.

From what I've heard and understood, Chas, that's very true. For those of us who aren't 13th century Japanese speakers, translation is all we've got. (I'd still like to see Brad's version of the "What [are you] think[ing]?" dialogue).

Like I said, I don't think the confusion and fancy theories surrounding that passage are caused so much by what 'thinking' is as by what what 'non-thinking' might be. I'm suggesting that, in this context, hi-shiryo means something like 'different from thinking' or 'nothing to do with thinking' - and is not a description of some special kind of mental activity.

anon #108 said...

Here's a link to some 13th century Japanese-English character-by-character translation work, which, in addition to lots of other useful things, shows how much has to be surmised/filled in to render what's there into readable English:

http://www.the-middle-way.org/subpage8.html (part 1)

http://www.the-middle-way.org/subpage9.html (part 2)


And here's a section-by-section comparison of the two versions of Fukanzazengi:

http://www.dharmafield.org/coursehandouts/fukanzazengi/Comparison.pdf

- from which can be seen that the original version doesn't include the "What [are you] think[ing]"? dialogue. Instead - or at about the same place - it has:

(Original version) "Having brought the physical form to stillness, let the breathing also be regulated. When an idea arises, just wake up. Just in the waking up to it, it ceases to exist. Taking plenty of time, forget all involvements and you will spontaneously become all of a piece. This is the vital art of sittingzen."

[Later version: "Once you have adjusted your posture, take a deep breath, inhale and exhale, rock your body right and left and settle into a steady, immobile sitting position. Think of not-thinking. How do you think of not thinking? Non-thinking. This in itself is the essential art of zazen."]

The translator is not credited.

gniz said...

"Having brought the physical form to stillness, let the breathing also be regulated. When an idea arises, just wake up. Just in the waking up to it, it ceases to exist. Taking plenty of time, forget all involvements and you will spontaneously become all of a piece. This is the vital art of sittingzen."

Interesting translation, personally I respond more to this version. Imagine how people's efforts vary based on whether or not they come across certain translations, etc.

I think what this shows me is that the variations are endless and it really is how we decide to implement any particular practice that counts. In the end, we make the decisions for ourselves, no matter how much we try to walk in the footsteps of our teachers.

Brook Panneck said...

I loved the video :D This reminds me of a time when I asked someone to be my teacher. In my mind they were the most "enlightened" person I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. Even if I did end up becoming some type of "apprentice" or whatever, by all the "positive" judgements, I would have set myself up for failure. Anyway, the answer he gave was simple. "I will not do the work for you. I recommend doing what I did, find the answers you need within yourself and be your own teacher".

This I believe is one of the reasons people so desperately want a "teacher"- because they don't want to do their own work, they want someone to do it for them, to provide all the answers and hold their hand along the way. We can be our own teachers. It simply requires us to truly listen...

anon #108 said...

In case there's any confusion, gniz, those two translations are translations of two different texts, not different translations of the same text. Dogen wrote two versions of Fukanzazengi.

BTW, that first link - "to some 13th century Japanese-English character-by-character translation work" - takes you to the original version of Fukanzazengi, which was written only using Chinese characters. Both versions of Fukanzazengi were written like that, unlike the Shobogenzo, which was written using Chinese kanji pictographs/ideographs and Japanese kana phonetics...it says here. Anyway, you can tell by looking at it.

I read somewhere that writing in Chinese only - for Dogen - might have been rather like a medieval European monk writing in Latin. If that's true, perhaps he wanted to give his "Universal Guide to the Standard Method of Zazen" the look and feel of an authoritative document; a classic (I've read that there were other, earlier Zazen instructional guides,'Zazengi', which Dogen must have read, presumably in China, and from which he quoted when he came to write his own).

In the end, we make the decisions for ourselves, no matter how much we try to walk in the footsteps of our teachers.

Can't argue with that.

john e mumbles said...

Following that last quote (excellent), that is exactly what I was trying to say yesterday:

I have little doubt that I would've "noticed" anything like I crudely have tried to describe here without "just sitting" with it.

As far as I can see it, this is where the conclusions which result in the texts come from in the first place: practice. Find out what they mean in your own life. Otherwise, what good are they?

Upon meeting him, Rumi's teacher, Shams e-Tabrizi reportedly threw all his books in a well.

I am also reminded of the old alchemical maxim, ora et labora.

john e mumbles said...

I very much like this one, too:

"When you find a place
Where you are
Practice begins." -Dogen

john e mumbles said...

...or maybe he didn't exactly say that, or mean it the way it is translated here and as I understand it, but I have incorporated it into my own impetus to do something, and that something is "practice."

nemisisx said...

Hi Brad (and anyone else who cares to answer) This is way off topic but it is a real question. Is there any kindness in zen, heart, that is, hardcore = hardheart ?

In stripping everything down to what is "real" is the emotional being of human denied, it seems to have an immaturity to it a lack of wholeness (inclusive of the whole being), a coldness to it.

It does not seem that different to the purely secular mind with perhaps a rather hypocritical couple of "robes" thrown in, to at least have the pretense of something Transcending about it.

Just an observation of how it appears to me, all the best.

Anonymous said...

nemisisx: This depends entirely upon your definition of the term "zen" -which seems cursory and shallow at this point.

What are you basing this opinion on?

If you have waded through the 1,000's and 1,000's of pages of drivel Adi Da produced you can surely do a bit of research before making broad pronouncements on something you obviously know nothing about.

Oli said...

That Andrew Cohen video made me queezy!

Brad Warner said...

Anon #108 said:

If that doesn't quite hit the mark, how would you translate it? I'd like to know, sincerely.

Your translation is good. "Altogether different from thinking" is pretty close. The best would be if you could somehow make an "i" prefix word like "illegal" or "immoral" out of the word "thinking." But you can't. That would get you close to the pun Dogen is making. Dogen is difficult to translate for a lot of reasons, one of which is that he uses tons of puns.

It's funny to me because after living in Japan as long as I did and speaking the language, I can now get the pun in its linguistic context. Yet I can't explain it very well. English just won't bend that way.

Still, like I've said before, I think Japanese probably often felt inadequate to Dogen the same as English often feels inadequate to us. So just to know precisely what he's doing linguistically doesn't necessarily get you any closer to what he actually meant. It could very well be that if Dogen had spoken English he might have found a way to express this idea better in English. We'll never know.

anon #108 said...

Thanks, Brad. That’s given me a much better idea of the flavour of hi-shiryo.

One thing though. The "What are you thinking in the still-still state" story is a conversation between Master Yakusan Igen (745 – 828) and a monk, and is included in the Shinji Shobogenzo and the Keitoku-dento-roku (says so in a footnote to Zazenshin in the N/C Shobogenzo). So I assume Dogen didn't make the pun himself, but was quoting the old record when he used it in Fukanzazengi (and Zazenshin). Mind you, whether or not Dogen takes credit for inventing “hi-shiryo” is hardly the point. Thanks again for the reply.

Anonymous said...

"Still, like I've said before, I think Japanese probably often felt inadequate to Dogen the same as English often feels inadequate to us. So just to know precisely what he's doing linguistically doesn't necessarily get you any closer to what he actually meant. "

So. We come full circle. Better just to sit down and shut up.

Mysterion said...
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Mark Foote said...

The pivot of zazen, that doesn't sound like a pun, even if nonthinking is- sure wish you could explain that one just a little, Brad, but I'll forgive you if you don't!

Mysterion, thanks for the links, interesting read about Steve Jobs, and refreshing to read Vanja's words. He is nothing if not straightforward, and I value that.

Nemisisx, I think you are right in that most Zen teachers teach by negation, and emphasis a practice that is painful to most Westerners. So on the surface it's a long way from, say, Sufism and Rumi. Even Brad is usually at a loss for words to describe exactly why he feels sitting zazen is a beneficial practice, as though it were some kind of strange Japanese pun (ha ha!).

My premise has always been that without the happiness the Gautama the Buddha described as inherent in each of the meditative states (trance states in some translations), there was no way I was going to learn to sit the lotus. And even now, this is where I'm coming from: I'm looking for fun, when I sit. And this is what I find: when the pleasant as well as the unpleasant feeds back into my sense of place, and I open my ability to feel toward the skin and hair, I can wake up to the same experience I was just having without any doer, or I can fall asleep to the experience I was having in the midst of the act. Let me say it again, I can wake up or fall asleep right where I am.

nemisisx said...

Mark Foot said

Nemisisx, I think you are right in that most Zen teachers teach by negation, and emphasis a practice that is painful to most Westerners. So on the surface it's a long way from, say, Sufism and Rumi. Even Brad is usually at a loss for words to describe exactly why he feels sitting zazen is a beneficial practice, as though it were some kind of strange Japanese pun (ha ha!).

Thanks for the reply Mark, zen has always been a mystery to me, in that it does seem the most harsh of the Buddhist disciplines, if it is reduced merely to zazen or sitting as I understand it. Do most teachers suggest a social discipline of kindness and co-operation with others, or is the sitting seen as an growth practice that would produce similar results.

Mr. Cobra Bubbles said...

Where would I find more info about the Sunday night zazen class in the Falls? I looked at the link you provided, and they have no info. Thanks.

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stalin rules in Israel said...

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/151269

Anonymous said...

"a "quietness" within which is neither happy nor sad, angry nor fearful, anxious nor depressed... that CENTER from which ever smaller ripples emanate."

This is kind of like what Tim Tebow has. When he is asked about teammates, he praises them. When he is asked about his coaches, he praises them. When he is asked about himself, he praises God.

Rev. Gudo said...

Praise the Lord! And pass the collection bowl for Bradley, please.

Soft Troll said...

John Keats wrote:

I had not a dispute but a disquisition with Dilke, upon various subjects; several things dove-tailed in my mind, and at once it struck me what quality went to form a Man of Achievement, especially in Literature, and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously - I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason - Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half-knowledge. This pursued through volumes would perhaps take us no further than this, that with a great poet the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates all consideration.

I've always found that this resonates with my mis-,not and non-understanding of such things as Dogen's words on not/non/thinking.

I often feel the impluse to re-read Ode On A Grecian Urn when reading Uji.

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

Pray, expand Mystie-Pie - beyond man-handled Virginia - if you would.

Anonymous said...

Jesus H. Kringle...

proulx michel said...

Soft troll wrote:

I often feel the impluse to re-read Ode On A Grecian Urn when reading Uji.

How much does a Grecian Urn?

nemesisx said...

Let me solve all of your dilemmas, folks. Let us all bow before the God Man Adi Da, as he commands:

"Let us submit to the terrible ordeal that will serve all humanity, all five billion of those slugs who know nothing of me and who must find me out, who must find me out - they must find me. I Am the One Who has been expected. They must find me out. They must. They must...I am here in my lifetime to change the course of human history, and I want to see some evidence of it. No one on Earth compares to me. No one on Earth has this Mission, this Intention. No one! I am here to do it and I am here to see it, and now I am going to call you on it...I came at the beginning of World War II to keep you from getting involved in World War III.  I am here to do my thing.  You prayed for this.  Mark my words.  All this is prophecy...Drop everything and cling to me. Be fitted to the overwhelming heart-Purpose that is attracted to Me, committed to Me, will give up everything to be with Me and to Realize Me.

Worship Me by surrendering your separate self to Me. Surrender to Me in order to forget and transcend your separate self in Me.

I Am the Sign and the Revelation and the Proof of God in the world. I am the Way up from the pond...I Am the Way up from the pond. I Am the Way out. This is My Message."

There ya go? All problems solved.

Nemisisx said...

Just for the record that is not me, (obviously), above, just someone targeting me -nemisisx

Nemisisx said...

To (Fred, or who ever left that comment above) I won't post here any more brother, so you can have it to yourself, just don't use my handle in that manner, if you don't mind, bit of a low act in fact.

You have it ass up, the paradoxes of the Guru are not the point, Realization comes from the top down, in other words, Enlightenment comes first, everything passed that point no matter how weird or contradictory it seems, does not take away or effect that Realization. It's got nothing to do with so called objective reality because you are effectively in a dream bardo here.

What I mean by that is when you dream things, they are sort of half made, when the Guru appears in any time or place he is an extremely odd guy, full of paradoxes because he is just Non-Conditional Reality touching up against what is a "realm" (rather than how it is seen generally as merely solid and secular)

Unconditional Reality brushes against this place and you get the strange shape of a True Master, very, very rare.

They don't make sense and they scare the shit out of ego's because you are actually looking at the Divine Reality in a dreamscape situation. This whole realm is held together by fear.

If you just maintain an objective subjective convectional mind set, you can never make sense of it.

john e mumbles said...

Nemisisx, as a commentator who has been around here a few years, I have some advice: don't let the trolls win.

Stick around and stick it out. If you want to find out more about Soto Zen, plus a mixed bag of other topics, and let your freak flag fly where it will (as in just about any ideas and opinions are accepted, but don't necessarily expect respect) this is the place for you.

Sometimes it seems more like Raging Id than Hardcore Zen, but nevertheless, it is rarely boring. Its a place for free play, a TAZ (Temporary Autonomous Zone) and is a hell of alot of fun.

But you have to have a thick skin, and simply stand up for yourself as you are if somebody's playing with you as it appears they are stealing your name, etc.

I think you have some useful things to share, and would like you to continue to do so... just my two cents. Peace.

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

Thanks Mysterion, after folks get over the Adi Da subject, happy to talk about other subjects. I will get a real username.

The subject is a little bit reminiscent of the "sheep shagger" joke ( which I may tell another time.) But even more so the vegan joke, which only really makes sense if you are or have been a vegetarian

Q"How many vegans does it take to change a light bulb?"A: "Don't know but where do they get their protein?" all the best.

blemishishq said...

Nemisisx says: "They don't make sense and they scare the shit out of ego's because you are actually looking at the Divine Reality in a dreamscape situation. This whole realm is held together by fear.

If you just maintain an objective subjective convectional mind set, you can never make sense of it." etc.

this is utter and complete nonsense - at least in the way you use such arguments to justify yourself, and Franklin Jones. In an "absolute" sense, of course everything, for everyone, is fine, no problems, ever. That is the promise and actuality of our original liberated state, that in grace we can experience.

However, Buddha, and the subsequent traditions based on his teachings, all without question emphasize precepts, ie conduct in the world of causality in which we have to do business while we're here. Adi Da's generation of self-declared "gurus" included a lot of charismatic maniacs like him who considered themselves free from causality, espousing this kind of heretical nonsense you toss around here, belying all common sense. That was Da's playbook, and how he kept em in the fold. That IS cultism; that is how you brainwash ("up is down, left is right, only I get it, you are deluded, now bend over.")

The difference between Adi Da and someone who truly practiced 'crazy wisdom' like Trungpa was that the latter always emphasized precepts and lineage, and never declared himself the most enlightened being ever. He showed devotion himself, to his teachers, and traditions. And people didn't feel used and abused in their wake (as nearly every close devotee to Jones ended up.)

Adi Da/Jones didn't belong to any tradition. He called his teacher a 'black magician', having only spent a matter of days in his actual presence. He accepted no peers, and called himself greater than any other human ever. He collected Mickey Mouse paraphernalia. And sex toys.

If you simply state that anyone who ever criticizes your particular sacred cows no matter how ridiculous just "doesn't get it" because said cows are "beyond reason", you not only cut off the roots of possible development, you disavow any personal responsibility or native intelligence. It's like plucking out your eyes and stuffing your ears with wax.

Luckily, an American sangha is beginning to develop that are much less likely to be deluded by such stupidities. There are many great, non-charismatic, dedicated, gentle tillers of Dharma out there who don't need pictures of some toga-clad, cheetah-print-speedo wearing, long-haired messiah to bow, grovel, and weep before.

Dogen said it: practice IS enlightenment. There is enlightenment after enlightenment, forever. Precepts are a central expression in the world of enlightened mind/heart. When in doubt, look to precepts, in teachers behavior, and in your own.

Anonymous said...

"ye shall know them by their works"
consider the legacies of, say, a Suzuki roshi, a Trungpa rinpoche, a Jack Kornfield, a Ram Dass...

Adi Da? gee, he sure self-published a lot of books...

Jones is barely a footnote now; let's check on this in another fifty years.

Nemisisx said...

Very odd I actually only came here to talk about other matters, but people only want to hang it on you know who, and that makes me a target.Do I want to be endlessly berated by unfriendly characters? Ask yourselves why the outrage? If he is as you describe, forget it. As you say a very small event in the history of spiritual experiments. Be at peace and show a bit of ordinary maturity.

Hello Fred? It's me nemisisx. said...

You have it ass up, the paradoxes of the Fred are not the point, Realization comes from the Fred down, in other words, Fred comes first, everything passed that point no matter how weird or contradictory it seems, does not take away or effect the Realization of Fred. It's got nothing to do with so called objective reality or being endlessly berated by unfriendly characters, because you are effectively in a dream bardo here, dude.

What I mean by that is when you dream things, they are sort of half made, when the Fred appears in any time or place he is an extremely odd Fred, full of paradoxes because he is just Non-Conditional Fred touching up against what is a "realm" (rather than how it is seen generally as merely a very small event in the history of spiritual experiments.)

Unconditional Fred brushes against this special, special place and you get the strange shape of a True long, hard Fred, which is very, very rare. Ok, not that rare, but still.

Freds don't make sense and they scare the shit out of non-Freds because you are actually looking at the Divine Fred in a dreamscape situation. This whole realm is held together by fear of Fred.

If you just maintain an objective subjective convectional microwave mind set, you can never make sense of it. It's all Freds, all the way down.

So turn off your mind and bend over. Here comes Fred.

nemisisx said...

blemishishq said...

Your reply is very fundamentalist, and full of idealistic naivety, Buddhism is "just another religion" that promotes a useful quietism in some, it has had a long time to show it's value and other than a certain peacefulness and social order (which I agree is very useful) it has come up very short, that is my personal opinion from observation.

meme a la sis xxx said...

you only further demonstrate your complete ignorance about Zen (and possibly Fred). Precepts are not commandments. They are working guidelines for life in a complex world where human beings are prone to get confused.

And Zazen is not "quietism." That is mistake number one. Nor is it a technique for self-improvement, or to attain any special state. It is the self expressing itself as the self. No big self, small stuff nonsense either.

"The precepts are inexhaustible mindfulness practices. They are also lifetime koans. Our approach to the precepts is warm and down-to-earth, but also spacious and insightful. They help us to apply the vivid moment-to-moment awareness of our zazen practice in our daily life of work, family and relationships."

THE SIXTEEN BODHISATTVA PRECEPTS
(a standard American Soto version)

The Threefold Refuges

I take refuge in Buddha (the principle of enlightenment within).

I take refuge in dharma (the enlightened way of understanding and living).

I take refuge in sangha (the community of beings).

Pure Precepts

I vow to avoid all action that creates suffering

I vow to do all action that creates true happiness.

I vow to act with others always in mind.

Grave Precepts

Not to kill but to nurture life.

Not to steal but to receive what is offered as a gift.

Not to misuse sexuality but to be caring and faithful in intimate relationships.

Not to lie but to be truthful.

Not to intoxicate with substances or doctrines but to promote clarity and awareness.

Not to speak of others’ faults but to speak out of loving-kindness.

Not to praise self at the expense of others but to be modest.

Not to be possessive of anything but to be generous.

Not to harbor anger but to forgive.

Not to do anything to diminish the Triple Treasure but to support and nurture it.

nemisisx said...

"Not to speak of others’ faults but to speak out of loving-kindness"

"Not to harbor anger but to forgive."

Well you could demonstrate those 2 to begin with, that would make a difference.

Anonymous said...

@nemisisx:
speaking of fundamentalism, how come you still never have addressed the issue of Adi Da's unequivocal claim that the ONLY path toward "enlightenment" (which he claimed was a special, constant emotional bliss state that only he had ever fully experienced - which is a profoundly idiotic stance in itself)

COULD ONLY BE ACCESSED BY ANYONE ELSE - FOR EVERMORE - BY DEVOTIONAL COMMITMENT AND WORSHIP OF IMAGES OF HIM. PERIOD.

He didn't leave an out. It's him, or nothing. Sorry, but isn't that the definition of fundamentalism? I really want to hear you take this on. And if you say he didn't say this, you are a bad Daist, and I'm prepared with a shitstorm of quotes...

Anonymous said...

"nemisisx said...

"Not to speak of others’ faults but to speak out of loving-kindness"

"Not to harbor anger but to forgive."

Well you could demonstrate those 2 to begin with, that would make a difference."

It's crazy wisdom, sugar. You are feeling the fire of my love.

Gempo said...

If you won't be my teacher how about being my baby mama?

scmgeek said...

Didn't ask ya to be :P

But seriously I do believe that seeking a teacher (or more precisely a guide) can be good, bad, or both. Bad if you're looking for somebody to solve your problems for you.

Bad if you're looking for somebody else to take responsibility. Bad if you submit.

Maybe not so good if you just parrot something you've read in somebody else's book (oh heck, I may be doing just that, ok my bad).

Good if you've done some serious reflection and some just sitting. Good when you realize some things and that there is a responsible choice that needs to be made: nihilism or take responsibility and seek out somebody who's been down this part of the road before. I'll bet a lot of us have had that day when we kind of got it, or got something, and started laughing our heads off. That can be the blinding “Aha!” for the discoverer. It can also be the “yeah, all new students do that” from the point of view of the Guide. The Guide has seen this before. There's value there.

The same kind of person who's willing to shill out big bucks to be the Big Swindle Buddha Nerd Minion is in some serious danger. He was probably in danger regardless of who he sought out. It could just as easily have been a timeshare scam or Jim Jones.

Jempo said...

Do not drink the Kool-Aid folks. It's cool and all, in fact it's uber-cool! but it is also fattening. Just check out his waistline...

scmgeek said...

I've been thinking about your Tassajara comment. There's just no such thing as “Getting away from it all.” I mean you're still somewhere and that somewhere is always right here. (uh oh, deep thought, my bad). Tassajara is remote, and I mean really freaking remote (I'm still picking dirt out of my sneakers). But even if you ditched everything to be there and immerse yourself in That Neato Place – you're still somewhere. There are still things to deal with. Somebody's got to gather stuff from the garden. Somebody's got to work in the kitchen. Somebody’s running the intro to zazen class. Somebody's got to clean the pool. Somebody's got to pick up that thing that that dude who nobody seems like really like left right there for the umpteenth time. So no, release from problems and responsibility doesn't happen, and I don't think it's supposed to. You mind them less.

If you did manage to isolate yourself then what good is that? You'd become so badly out of touch with The Other Humans that your impact would be nil.

Not arguing with you here, in fact I believe I'm absolutely agreeing with you.

Pigasus said...

Please don't say you've spent a lot of time at Tassajara. Some people actually have. Stick to "punk rock," monster movies, and porn.

Cidercat said...

" Q"How many vegans does it take to change a light bulb?"A: "Don't know but where do they get their protein?" all the best. "

Love it!! :)

Mempo said...

I've gotta pee.

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Paul Young said...

but Brad, only the true messiah denies his divinity.

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