Wednesday, February 01, 2012


So I'm digging through my DVDs the other day and I discover a copy of a movie called Buddhist Life. The director was a guy named Luis Carapeto. He was Portuguese. I remember him coming to a number of Nishijima Roshi's talks and retreats. Then he went back to Portugal. Later on he returned to Japan with a couple of people and a bunch of video equipment to make a movie about Nishijima.

He gave Nishijima a copy on VHS, which I then copied for myself and later transferred to a DVD-R. Then, as far as I knew, the movie just vanished. IMDB doesn't list it. I checked around the interwebs and the only reference I can find is this listing from a film festival in Amsterdam. It gives the year of production as 2003. I think the movie may be a couple years older than that. But my memory is not so reliable. Amazon has a listing for it. Though the DVD appears to be out of print. So buy the download because maybe Luis is getting some money from those sales. And I'm sure it'll look and sound a lot better than this third generation copy.

The synopsis on that Dutch film festival's website says:

"I live my Buddhist life from day to day, from moment to moment sometimes in my office, sometimes in my home, sometimes in a temple. In every situation there was just my Buddhist life." Gudo Wafu Nishijima was born in Yokohama, Japan. With a new and fresh approach to the Buddhist view of reality and the sense of balance to the philosophical and scientific investigations from last decades, Master Nishijima gives us the coordinates to start to understand Buddhism with our own method of thinking. He wants to pass the teachings of Buddhism to people all over the world who are searching for "Truth". "We have to say that we live in a succession of moments rather like the frames of a film." In these frames, from the present moment, the documentary is about Master Nishijima´s daily life that is all ready a Buddhist life.

I uploaded the whole thing onto YouTube this morning. Luis, if you're out there and you want me to remove it I will. I'm under the impression that Luis and the others who made the movie have kind of forgotten about it at this point. I'm hoping maybe this blog posting might spark some renewed interest in it. I say again unto thee, buy the download! It's only two dollars, ya cheapskates!

Watching it again I'd forgotten how good it was. It gives you a very honest look at who Nishijima Roshi was when the film was made. It shows him leading one of his annual retreats in Shizuoka for foreigners. It shows him in Europe giving talks and running a sesshin. It shows him talking to students of his from Israel and Ireland. There's also a wonderful scene of him dragging his suitcase through Tokyo Station. He always insisted on carrying his own stuff when he went on retreats. If you wanted to help him out with his bags you'd have to kind of trick him by grabbing them before he noticed. But he was always very quick.

In one of the scenes Nishijima is in his office at the Ida Soap and Cosmetics Company working on the translation of Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika, although the book itself isn't mentioned. This would have been a couple years before I got involved with it. He was working on that thing for ages.

The opening scenes were shot one morning at Nishijima's dojo in Chiba prefecture. It was a thoroughly urban Buddhist living space. At one time it had been Ida's company dormitory back in the days when Japanese companies made new workers live together in dorms. After they stopped using it they gave it to Nishijima to run as a dojo. Then when Mr. Ida died his son decided to take it back and sell the property. Residents were required to sit two periods of zazen each day. Nishijima himself rang a bell at 5:30 every morning to signal the start of the first period. Residents weren't required to attend that one. But the bell was there to offer encouragement to do so. I never lived in the dojo myself.

I appear at about 2:55 into part two sitting next to Nishijima in the zendo at Tokei-in temple in Shizuoka. I think maybe you can hear my voice as one of the people asking questions in one of the lectures too. But I'm not sure if it's me or not.

I have to warn you, though. The movie is painfully slow. If I would've edited it I would've made it a lot speedier. But I think Luis wanted to give viewers a sense of Nishijima's lifestyle. He seems to be attempting to recreate the feeling of sitting zazen in the form of a cinematic experience. You'll have to judge for yourself if he was successful or not.




*At the time I posted this, part 3 was still loading up. So you may have to sit some zazen till it becomes available.


Jake Ritter said...

this is really cool, he's kind of hard to understand by my standards but it's really cool to view someone I've only read about.

also, when i was 15 (I'm 22 now) i searched for hardcore punk in my school library, the only return was hardcore zen. i always had a curiosity about Buddhism, but reincarnation and a few other idea's threw me off, when i read that book it flipped my whole world upside down. I've never been able to sit though, zazen was always just "too hard". I've gone through a lot of emotional pain this past year and the only thing i could possibly think to do was zazen, and to start re-studying zen. I've been sitting a half hour everyday for a month and a half, and i can't think of anything that would have done what the practice has done even in that short time, and I am looking for a group in the frosty north of Maine(not really a hot bed).

if it wasn't for the way you write, and put the philosophy into context i would have never found even the beginning of the path.

basically, I'm assuming you look through comments, and thanks to the awesome power of the internet, i want to sincerely say thank you for the work you do.

so, thank you so much.

Roni said...

Thanks, Brad.

I think the 3rd video is not available. Or is the problem on my side?


Anonymous said...

this is really nice, thanks.

mtto said...

Cool! Now I have something to watch on my long flight to the Middle East. It's $9.99 to buy the download, $1.99 to rent. I bought it since I'm sure I'll watch it more than once and share it.

proulx michel said...

At the beginning of the 3rd part are images of the Brussels sesshin: that was 2003. I'm the one translating. Fortunately, you don't see me.

Kyle said...

Thank you very much for sharing these!

skatemurai said...

Cool video! Thanks!

proulx michel: Do you know Kaisen Sangha? Did you ever practiced with master Kaisen?

Anonymous said...

Love the crow and the sound of wooden sandals!

Brad Warner said...

Wow. That is your voice, Michel!

Oddly my memory places this film as being made in the late 90s. Shows you what my memory is good for!

Brad Warner said...

Thanks Jake! Your high school library had Hardcore Zen? What are our schools coming to these days?

Seagal Rinpoche said...

Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn't more complicated that that. It is opening to or recieving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is,
without either clinging to it or rejecting it.

Khru said...

I wholeheartedly agree.

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

Hey Mysterion,

Your posts here probably help you from shooting up a post office or something, but I'm willing to make the tradeoff.

Please stop posting here.

mysterion said...

Tatoo sed:
"While there are millions of individual reasons we suffer, they can generally be put into the broad categories of Greed, Aversion, and Ignorance."

Do you have an aversion to my posting here?

Do you wish to forever remain in ignorance regarding so many things?

Really! It's o.k. by me.


A progressive High School Library would shelf Hardcore Zen.

Jake said it best:
"Thank you for the work you do."

Jacques said...

I thought I caught sight of Jundo Cohen helping to carry a chalkboard in the video? He was a rather thinner version of the corpulent Jundo but I think it might have been him nonetheless.. He is seen smiling evilly at the camera plotting to dispose of Brad so he could become head of DSI.

anonymous anonymous said...

mysterion asked TZ:

"Do you have an aversion to my posting here?

Do you wish to forever remain in ignorance regarding so many things?"

mysterion, those two questions have no relationship to each other.. You are the only person who would think so. Your comments help anyone who reads them become more stupid almost immediately.

For example you said Northern Japan is now destroyed? How is that typical bit of twaddle helping anyone?

The answer is it's not.

Mark Foote said...

Thanks, Mysterion, I cancelled my trip to northern Japan...

Ha ha, Khru, you make me laugh allatime! Thanks for the work you do!

Saint Brad, I like that.

Harry said...


anon #108 said...

Thanks for posting the film, Brad. I feel I've been losing touch with what's real lately. A picture of a rice-cake cannot satisfy hunger, but...we'll see.

anon #108 said...

Here's a link to recent recordings of three pop songs by the pop group I play bass in (It says Jan '12 but in fact recorded Sep '11. Two of the tracks are new versions of older songs):

Inappropriate, off-topic and ego-driven? I guess so, but I would like to know what folks think of them...good or bad.

A-Bob said...

Hi Brad, I really liked watching the vid thanks. I can't help but wonder what other treasures you have stashed away in your moving boxes.. I never saw your teacher at such length before. He seems very charming and a little amused at being filmed. Too bad he's no longer answering questions on his blog. I'd would have liked to ask him about a couple of things he said.. One being that Buddhists believe in God.. I never quite understood what he is going on about there. Care to weigh in on what he might be trying to say?

CAPTCHA : preligin : I kid you not

Blake said...

Very cool. Thanks for sharing.

A-Bob said...

108, I just now listened to the new songs along with some older ones.
I like how you came in on "Jessica for Breakfast". Very nice!

Oh, and "Country Music" reminded me a bit of Wilco.. I liked it. heh

CAPTCHA : wheav : I kid you not

anon #108 said...

Perhaps my response to the film @ 4.02am was a bit cryptic. I had watched it and found it kinda what I was trying to say, amongst other things.


Thanks A-Bob. Much appreciated. (Lots of things on the older demos I'd now do differently...but the Jessica bit's not one of them :))

Brad Warner said...


I'm writing a whole book about why I think Buddhists believe in God.

The short answer is that I think God is the most obvious thing. The existence of God is not distant and mysterious. It's the one thing we can rely on without even investigating any further. People who search for God in far away places or in distant times are looking straight past God and into the contents of their own brains.

john e mumbles said...

Just past the 2:55 point in pt 2 where Brad appears, Nishijima talks about Master Dogen's dropping body and mind as our "original state," this is what I was talking about a blog post commentary or two back as "raw awareness" prior to the thinking/conceptualizing.

Nishijima answers a question in the affirmative as to whether or not this "state" remains, or can remain outside zazen.

The moments before going to sleep and waking up are opportunities to "catch" this original state/raw awareness when first looking for it, unless you have noticed it already in zazen (or otherwise).

And again, Anon 108, there is nothing "special" about the original state, there are no bells or whistles, "enlightenment" etc., and that is why it is typically overlooked and undervalued.

The Alchemists in their writings constantly speak of "the first matter" (primum materia) that is essential to transmutation as something that is found everywhere, so basic and common that it is usually discarded or ignored.

john e mumbles said...

Oh hey Malcolm! Just saw the link, great tunes!! Thanks!

I found a used (cheap) cd copy of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars the other day and have been freaking out in a moonage daydream ever since in the car, watching pink monkey birds flying past. Oh, and this just in: we've got five years.

Rock on, brother.

anon #108 said...

Understood, John.
Can't argue with that :)

anon #108 said...

...I meant @7.14am - but yeah! All of it!

A-Bob said...


My first thought is that anything said by naming God can be said more clearly by leaving the word shelved.. It can mean almost anything and using it causes confusion imo. Nishijima said in the vid that it is important to think about good and bad. I think God talk is usually not good.. but I'm looking forward to your take.

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

Thanks, Brad, for posting the video. Thanks to Luis Carapeto and crew, I think it has a wonderful feel to it. I especially like the bullet train segue to rustic temple, complete with god-knows-what kind of bird expressing oneness (not) with the han.

Thanks to Gudo Nishijima, for putting it on the line and in the frame.

I was struck by Gudo's description of an awareness of the back of the neck and head, and a stretch that is engaged when the chin comes down and in. The stretch, Gudo said, is at the back of the head, and is critical to dropping mind and body. Am I remembering that right?

Now from my research into cranial-sacral osteopathic theory, the stretch he's referring to is not only from the extensors along the back of the spine and neck to the mandibular bones of the skull (behind the jaw), and thence to the temporal bones, parietals, and occiput, but also to the sphenoid from the same base as the occiput but running forward and upward in the center of the skull finishing as outer portions of the eye sockets. The occiput and the sphenoid flex and extend as the volume of fluid surrounding the brain and the spinal cord (down to the tailbone) changes, ten to fourteen times a minute. Now the key point is how a stretch from the tailbone to the top of the head (one of Chen Man-ch'ing's three preliminary relaxations, by the by) facilitates dropping body and mind.

I would say that this is connected to the fact that the pineal gland sits in the center of the sphenoid, and the pineal is the source of melatonin, affecting the rhythm of sleeping and waking. As John mentioned, there's a moment when we are falling asleep or when we are waking up when consciousness takes place freely with an equanimous response to sensation. Emphasis on place, there's a moment consciousness takes place.

The practice I came up with for balancing the two respirations is really a practice connected with the cranial-sacral rhythm, but it's not possible to realize a hypnogogic state without allowing consciousness to be placed by both respirations. My practice, necessitated by the cross-legged posture, is to set up mindfulness of pitch, roll, and yaw wherever consciousness takes place, allow the weight of the body to rest on the ligaments and fascia that connect the sacrum to the pelvis, and realize activity and feeling out of the place of occurrence of consciousness. The movement of breath comes in because there's a moment where the breath ceases unless consciousness is allowed place in conjunction with both respirations.

Comes a moment when I notice my state of mind, and I think I will explore "before and behind" with respect to the stretch and activity at the chin (and sphenoid) and at the occiput when the opportunity presents itself. Thanks, Roshi!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Excellent video(s) in spite of the several mentions of the unsubstantiated, or undersubstantiated, pseudoscience that zazen balances the autonomic nervous system.

Is god the universe or is the universe god?
I say "No".
The universe is the universe. Labeling the universe as "god", or anything other than "the universe", is not accurate and usually only results in a misunderstanding rather than a better understanding of the universe.
It seems to me that "gods" are simply masks, usually anthropomorphic, that people hang on the universe, or parts of the universe, because they find it difficult or impossible to relate to a complex and impersonal universe. The "god" mask is an illusion and the universe is the reality behind the illusion. All other explanations seem to be just rationalizations for irrational beliefs.

Mr. Furious said...

After seeing some of the posts, I think it's a good thing you're writing an entire book about "God" and "Zen," because there is no two or three or four paragraph response that it going to satisfy a certain segment of the population.

Hell, a long-ass book wouldn't either, but at least you'd have an opportunity to really try to explain what is unexplainable. Or, rather, point to what is unexplainable.

I think the biggest challenge is getting people to understand that our typical idea of "rationality" is limited as well as limiting. If we keep thinking in terms of "the universe is or isn't god" or that "people have trouble coping with the amoral impersonal reality of the universe" or whatever else gets tossed out there by the "rational" types, communication is going to be quite difficult.

I agree with you that the existence of "God" is the most obvious thing in the world. I've thought so since I was a teenager. But it's something that's extraordinarily difficult to communicate with someone who has attached a lot of baggage to the ultimately meaningless word "god."

Broken Yogi said...

From my earliest religious experience, God was "self-evident". Meaning, that the mere fact of noticing that we are conscious makes God obvious - if one takes that noticing seriously and directly.

God is in the "self-position", not "out there".

As for the existence of Gods and Goddesses and so on, we have to look at these the way we look at our own personal existence. We see our conscious self through a huge collection of cells functioning in ways quite autonomous from "us". And yet this functional body and brain obviously see their own consciousness as a "person", and even function in that manner. Why shouldn't the greater (and lesser) patterns of the universe also see themselves as "persons" of a greater (or lesser) nature?

Buddha criticizes this "self" or "person" as an emergent illusion of these elemental patterns, and this is quite true. One could say that the universe and everything in it is conscious and aware, so that what is emergent is not "consciousness", but self-ness. We experience this self-ness ourselves in the emergence of a self-aware "person" from our bodily elements, so why shouldn't the larger archetypal patterns of the universe also emerge as God-like persons?

I'd suggest they do, and that while one can analyze the universe in strictly material terms of functionality so as to eliminate the existence of the Gods, we really could do the same with ourselves. People who say the personal Gods are an illusion, but at the same time presume themselves to be real persons, are engaging in the reverse of anthropomorphism. I think what we have to realize is that the universe is self-aware, and that even if that limited self is an emergent illusion, it is also a universal one, applicable to everything, not just human beings. Learning how to relate to the Gods is just as important as learning how to relate to one's own body.

boubi said...

Brad Warner said...

The short answer is that I think God is the most obvious thing.

Like a super Santa Claus?

“To study the Buddha Way is to study the self, to study the self is to forget the self, and to forget the self is to be enlightened by the ten thousand things.”


Can the enlightenment by the 10000 things be confused with a Santa's tree? Or with some superior being's presence?

Or does a newborn baby, or a flower need to get another layer to acquire more "meaning", more "presence"?

I remember a story (true?) about a passing merchant seeing Siddharta already buddha and asking if the where gods, the answer was that none had been seen.

Brad, i really mean no disrespect, and i like what you saym and how you say it.
But from my point of view "it" is.

And it's not any god.

But i don't have your realization, so that's maybe why.

Anonymous said...

A word of caution that some people here may be using the logical fallacy of "defining god into existence."

A-Bob said...

Gads.. Saying that if we don't 'see' the obviousness of "God" it is because we have attached a lot of baggage to the word seems backwards. Non-believers are not usually the ones attaching things to the word. What I am saying is that I don't believe in God period. I am not saying that I believe there is no God. I am open to anyone's thoughts on the matter up to a point. Believers are the ones who have decided and attached meaning. And obviously I'm not going to accept anyone's word on this unless they tell me wtf they mean when they say it because people mean all kinds of different things when they start up with this God talk. Now if you tell me "God is the Universe", or "God is Love", or "God is a concept by which we measure our pain."© I'm down with all that. But if someone tells me that the existence of God is obvious, that they've known it ever since they were a teenager.. uh.. No. There is a very good reason why it is difficult for believers to communicate this obvious idea. It is only obvious to them.

CAPTCHA : furever : I kid you not

buddy said...

I was pleasantly surprised when Nishijima says that zazen is not the only way to achieve the balanced state, or even the best, but simply the easiest. Takes away a lot of the sectarian posturing (pun intended) that occurs here and elsewhere.

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

Amen, A-Bob.

Nice nod to John Lennon, too.

Mr. Furious said...

Rev Uncle Willie--

I don't immediately see anyone right off to be making the fallacy of "defining god into existence." If anything, ironically, I think some people run the risk of defining god out of existence. The god of zen experience is not YHWH, or Krishna, or Zeus or Allah or any other typical idea of what "God" is. There is nothing in science that runs counter to the idea of god as I believe Brad and others have experienced it. It has nothing to do with soothing the idea of death or soothing any existential struggles, and in fact such assertions betray a sense of self-satisfaction and smugness--as if the person making the assertion is the only one--or one of the few-- who can "face the brutal truths of reality".

Cundo Johen said...

"Brother Brad" puts up wonderful video!

Anonymous said...

Zen Safety Tip of the Day:

If you want to be an
ordinary zen superhero,


Kobun Chino would have made
it back to the surface if he
hadn't been held underwater
by his FUCKING ROBES !!!

So remember, kids, No Robes.

Or, as Edna 'E' Mode, says...


Anonymous said...

Rick Santorum for President!

(paid for by the
Assholes of Amerika
Super-PAC to elect
Santorum, Romney,
Perry, Gingrich,
Cain, or any other
puppet douchebag,
but NOT
you know who ;)

I kid you not!

Unknown said...

Thanks for a good video, yes I think it does an adequate job of describing zazen on film. It's tough to tell people about it since it must be experienced to understand, and even that doesn't describe it if there is no practice. Anyhow thanks again. By the way have you ever noticed that people who say there is no God talk about God the most?

Anonymous said...

Re-elect Obama!

Mr. Furious said...

A-bob, you're the one still making a distinction between "believers" and, obviously, non-believers. I don't "believe" in anything. The "god" of which I speak is not the "god" that you speak of.

The reason why it's so difficult to communicate is that to that "god" is so obvious that it's like asking the eye to see itself or the ear to hear itself or the tongue to taste itself. The tongue cannot taste itself because it is the one doing the tasting and the same concept applies to "god". It's only difficult to know "god" because "god" is the one doing the knowing. If it were easy to explain to people, it would've been explained a long time ago and we wouldn't even be having this conversation.

Again, I would argue it's people like you with the baggage. It's not a matter of belief or non-belief. You're the one perusing a Zen buddhist site. What do you think all those old buddhist masters were talking about when they spoke about "knowing your true Self"? In a lot of ways, they were the smart ones because they didn't use the word "god" and therefore, they didn't have to deal with all the baggage that comes with using such a term.

Zafu Frog, Japan said...

I tried to buy it from Japan, but it won't allow it. I suppose I'll just have to watch it on YouTube and buy it some time in the future if I can. Thanks for the upload.

A-Bob said...

Manny, You might be right..

CAPTCHA : shiv : I kid you not

Anonymous said...

From what I have read about "those old Buddhist masters" that you mentioned, I'm fairly certain that if you had said to any of them that "the true Self" is "god" he would have hit you hard enough to break bones.
Saying that "the true Self" is "god" is also a prime example of trying to define god into existence and it doesn't explain anything meaningful about either "true Self" or "god". It conveys no information at all.

anon #108 said...

I vote for the Reverend Uncle on the "defining things into existence" thing and on the "doesn't explain anything meaningful"/"conveys no information" thing.

Got anything else, God people? If not, I'll carry on making do with "Universe" and/or "the ineffable (small 'i')".

Anonymous said...

I owned a copy of Buddhist Life that Jim Cohen gave me a number of years ago. I really enjoyed it. Thanks for bringing it back, Brad.

Also, I'm really looking forward to your book on God, Brad. Sounds great.

Anonymous said...

Anon #108,
Here are two of my favorite quotes regarding the "ineffable":

"Let us think the unthinkable, let us do the undoable, let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all." - from Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams

"I'm in the business of effing the ineffable." - Alan Watts

anon #108 said...


Anonymous said...

In western culture, God is always the Abrahamic god. This is the god against which the atheists rail as superstitious nonsense. Time and again, the atheist writers have said their beef is with belief in a supreme being that intervenes directly in the world and keeps a tally of your right and wrong doings. There are certainly ways in which these beliefs can be cast as metaphor as many Buddhist groups have done with reincarnation and the six realms. There are mystical traditions in these religions. But they are marginalized and do not represent the "view from the pews".

My experience with Christians has been that if you mention God, no matter how nuanced your definition, they believe it justifies their belief. And It is only a short jump from the ineffable to accepting Jesus Christ as your lord and savior, and that is the only way to Nirvana. (I wonder how Buddhists feel about the Christian interpretation of Buddhist terms, it seems fair if everything is up for grabs).

One of the problems is that people without the baggage of being raised Catholic, for example, have no idea how much baggage there is. It's offering an orange to someone who was assaulted by a crate of oranges. We have no context for their fear. Something similar happens when Buddhist teachers mention god. Either the listener is turned off or they believe they have found a way to have their God and not go to hell. The Dalai Lama has gone so far as to say that people should probably not convert to Buddhism but be better Christians.

So this is a long way of saying I have no use for the word "god" and fail to see where it is helpful in Buddhist discourse especially among westerners.

Moni said...

It was really nice to watch this video. Somehow people like him have this "harmonic power" in and around them which is really nice to watch and calming.

Harmonic Howard said...

Phil: I’m a god.
Rita: You’re God?
Phil: I’m a god. I’m not the God. (pause) I don’t think..

Shodo said...


2 questions...

1 - Are you a theist?

2 - How are you defining "god"?

proulx michel said...

It seems to me that one of the main problems here is the discrepancy between American culture and general European culture.
Europe is vastly de-christianised. Most of the European christians are so for mostly "community" purposes. They go to church essentially for baptisms, marriages and funerals. The attendance to the churches demonstrates it. Civil liberties in Europe have been generally won against the Church, particularly in France, where the latter waged a fierce combat against civil liberties (and still does, albeit with much lesser impact than before the War).
Even where Christianity keeps a large attendance, as in Italy and parts of Germany, people don't care too much about doctrinal squabbles, and the only thing that will make them pur forth their christianity is the onslaught of Islam which is becoming ever more arrogant in its demands, asking for things that are denied to Christianity.

The USA seem to be a quite different landscape, where it is socially dangerous to be tagged as an atheist or even a "tepid" Christian, whence, perhaps, this urge to give the word "god" a different meaning than it has in the Abrahamic religions (that is a male god, omnipotent and omniscient "father," with his whims and dictates, just like in any dysfunctionally patriarchal family, and the maker and owner of creation.

Such a "God" as mentions Nishijima is anathema to Abrahamic religions, because being all, it is nowhere, and we are not separate from it, which would be deemed sacrilegious by those orthodoxies.

This identification may seem almost a necessity in an American context, but tends to be felt as quite useless in our cultural landscape.

captcha: "ables"

Hrundi said...

Oh my goodness, I have a doubt.

Tell me, how are you are going to manage a book on a subject that you have so far only flitted around in the vaguest of ways?

Vill you be giving us an excerpt on this very blog Sir?

Anonymous said...

John E. Mumbles,

Your comments on this article and the previous one about "raw awareness" reminded me of something that I read a while ago about "the first nen". I finally found the reference that I was thinking of in a footnote in "Two Zen Classics: The Gateless Gate and The Blue Cliff Records" translated with commentaries by Katsuki Sekida.

"The word nen, which has no equivalent in English, means either a unit of thought or a steadily willed activity of mind. Zen theory sees the activity of consciousness as a continuous interplay between a sequence of nen. Thus, the first nen always acts intuitively and performs a direct, pure cognition of the object. The second nen immediately follows the first and makes the first its object of reflection. By this means, one becomes conscious of one's own thoughts. The successively appearing secondary nen integrate and synthesize preceding nen into a continuous stream of thought. It is these nen which are the basis of self-consciousness and ego-activity. The integrating, synthesizing action of consciousness is the third nen. Reasoning, introspection, and so forth come from the third nen. But this third nen, clouded by its ego-centered activity, often argues falsely and draws mistaken conclusions. This delusive thinking in turn interferes with the pure cognition of the first nen. Zazen practice, when it leads to absolute samadhi, cuts off delusive thoughts. The activity of the second and third nen ceases, and gradually, through constant practice, the first nen is freed to perform its inherently pure and direct cognition."

Mr. Furious said...

Rev Uncle--

You're stuck on the word "God." For the sake of what some are saying, you can call it "zork" or "mifflebridge" or "plunka." Personally I like the word "Tao" but then I sound like a New Age-y type and my ego still clings to the notion of not being a "new age-y type."

For me, Bankei said it best, "It is that which cannot hear, but which allows the ear to hear. It is that which cannot taste, but allows the tongue to taste."

It can be referred to as "god" because without it, nothing exists. It is at one highly impersonal (it probably has not vested interest in whether you or I am considered the victor of this discussion, for example, and it almost certainly doesn't care if Tim Tebow wins football games,etc.) and yet the most personal thing in existence.

jamal said...

Sorry to interject comedy into this interesting discussion but I just had to share this video of my personal savior.

Shodo said...

People really really REALLY need to define the term "god" before engaging in these sorts of discussions... Without doing so is almost being deliberately controversial.

In our culture, the word "god" has some specific characteristics (Judeo/Christian) that make saying things like "Buddhists believe in god" confusing - you need to really unpack the term before arguing your point.

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


Rev nailed it with his "it doesn't explain anything meaningful"/"conveys no information".

God is an archaic term that has lost whatever meaning it might have once had. All it does is muddy up any chance of clarity. Unless you're willing to brave a definition you might as well use another word.

anon #108 said...

I've been surfing earlier HCZ comment sections. I came across this, written by Brad in a post about death:

"What I'm about to say might seem like mysticism, but here goes anyhow...What I think of as "Brad Warner" is a construct in my mind. It isn't real. Yet there is a real something upon which that mental construct I've called "Brad Warner" is based. This something can't really die because it was never really born...Yes, Brad Warner was born and yes Brad Warner will die. And yet he is not just an individual entity. He is also a temporary manifestation of something vast and unknowable that has no beginning and no end."

From here:

And I commented. From my comment:

"To me, that's what the Buddhist term punarbhava, "again-becoming" means (a different thing from 're-incarnation'). Thanks for saying it in a way that was anything but "mystical". In fact, put like that, it's bloody obvious that's what happens if you ask me."

Brad didn’t reply to me then, but I imagine he might have said: "That’s not quite what I meant. What is it that keeps 'again-becoming’? What is it that can't die because it was never born? What is the ‘something vast and unknowable’ that everything is a temporary manifestation of…and that you say is ‘bloody obvious’? That's God. That's what I mean by the word 'God'."

Then I'd be like: "Well, ok. But what do you achieve by re-introducing the word "God" into the Buddhist vocabulary? Is it so that we non-theists and non-deists can say to the believers "Yes, I believe in God, too. Let’s all hug”? Coz that only confuses the deists and theists who think that, like them, you’re talking about something outside of/separate from the Universe that either made it and abandoned it, or made it and looks after it."

Then he'd be like: "No. I don’t care about what other people think “God” means or what “God” is. I use the word because there's no other word for what I’m talking about that works for me. 'Universe' is way too materialistic and impersonal. 'The ineffable' is maybe a little better but it's still impersonal, and it kinda skirts the issue. It's just a word that says 'there's no word'. So ‘God’ is the only appropriate word I can find in the language for what I’m talking about.”

And I'm like: "Ok. I believe in God, too."

But that conversation never happened.

anon #108 said...

(10.48am is just a slightly edited version of deleted 10.25am. Apologies to anon @10.28am.)

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

If your definition of "god" is different from the generally accepted definition of "god" and closer to the generally accepted definition of "Tao" then you could probably communicate more effectively by using the word "Tao". Don't worry about sounding "New Age-y". Just try to express your thoughts as accurately as you can. With that in mind, I would advise you against using the words "zork", "mifflebridge" or "plunka". :)

Harry said...

Re: definitions.

It's true that 'god' actually does suggest specific things in context. In the English language 'God' or even 'god' is strongly suggestive of a *male* deity (not just some unifying truth or principle), and, in the case of the former (capital 'G'), the 'supreme being'.

Nishijima Roshi's use of the word 'God/god' might be understood by people who more-or-less share his values and point of view, and it would resonate with some experiences from the 'mystical' side of Christianity, but I would suggest that it is contrary to the standard western understanding of the word and so I'd question the use of it in saying what I think he means.

The fact that the word is gendered seems particularly loaded, unhelpful and inapropriate.



A-Bob said...

Harry, The problem is that God is telling Brad one thing, Me another and you something else.

I think she thinks it's funny..

CAPTCHA : hedlore : I kid you not

Harry said...

A-Bob, I'm hoping that some day She's gonna let the pope in on the joke.



Anonymous said...

Those were the days!

john e mumbles said...

Rev. Uncle Willie, thank you for the passage on the first nen. There is a similar one somewhere in the corpus of talks by Nisargadatta that I will quote here when I find it.

IMO most often conjecture -splitting hairs over differences between traditions, semantics, etc.- takes precedence over looking at the very basic fundamental common ground of all of it.

Closet MIA Fan said...

"Live fast, die young, bad girls do it well."

For best results, watch full screen with headphones turned up LOUD! Repeat as needed.

john e mumbles said...

I suppose that should be:
-unfortunately takes precedence...

Sorry, Long day.

anon #108 said...

Willie and John,

The three nen also sounds very similar (I guess may even be the same idea) to the Indian Buddhist, Dignaga's (c 480-540 CE) idea of (raw) perception and subsequesnt inference - likely to be a variation or development of the earlier sarvastivadin idea of three kinds of constructive thought:

"Pure perception is free from preconception of any kind and is therefore unconnected with name, genus, species and conceptualization. This suggests that most of what is ordinarily called perception is in fact tainted by the mental constructs and habits which mediate and obscure the function of the senses...Dignaga's conception of perception is the epistemological correlate of chittamatra, Mind-only. Those pairs of opposites which give value and tone to perceptions – pleasure and pain, for example – are not objects of knowledge but rather colorations of consciousness...Anumana, inference, is of two kinds: svarthanumana and pararthanumana, inference for oneself and inference for another. Inference for oneself is knowledge of a thing derived from its distinctive marks or characteristics...Pararthanumana, inference for the sake of others, is more complex, for it is concerned with what one can demonstrate to another on the basis of what one can infer for oneself. In addition to the inference, one must show its validity by some parallel example to another."

- from

- also see "Buddhist Logic," Theodore Stcherbatsky, Part one, 1930

I've rushed the explanation and no doubt got details wrong - and there are plenty more details - but in common with the three nen, as I read it, seems to be the notion of an initial direct, pure perception, subsequently coloured by the intellect which reflects (recognises and attributes characteristics) and then compares (integrates into social reality?).

- I really haven't got more than the faintest clue of what I'm talking about. Can you tell?

Lone Wolf said...

Thanks for uploading this film, Brad!

anon #108 said...

...Actually, I used to know all there is to be known about perception, but I've forgotten most of it. It's a wonder I get by at all.

Lone Wolf said...

I really like when Nishijima says, "God is the Universe, the Universe is God." It's seems to be another way of saying body and mind drop off, because they are the same not two.

I also like the Joshu Sasaki quote that Brad likes to mention that goes something like "There is no God, and He is your creator."

I'm looking forward to reading the next book.

Sift Trill said...

I think that folk feel too often these days that they have to find new words for ideas because of the cultural baggage.

In many cases this might be for very practical reasons. For example, if one's aim is to want to help people understand what a teaching is really getting at - like 'enlightenment' - you might want to use a different word to avoid the usual cultural associations that could get some barking up the wrong tree.

Yet words are constantly shifting in meaning due to changes in social and individual contexts. The word 'God' has meant different things to me over the years and different things throughout history within a particular social group or religious tradition - never mind it's wider general usage in the English speaking world.

We're always renegotiating what things mean, shaping the life of language whilst it shapes how we live.

In English, God could end up suggesting something feminine - as 'feminine' also could end up suggesting something relatively different to what it does now.

Folk having different meanings for a word that represents something important to them can make for dialogue; it can encourage people to look again at their notions or assumptions, breathing new life into their habits of thought and how they relate to others coming from different angles.

Sometimes giving an old word its saddle back kicks up valuable notions that have been left out to pasture, and can lead someone to a watering hole they thought was meant only for others, was not really there, or whose legend nagged secretly at them as something real they felt foolish to go seek out.

I think there's a strain in the 'progressive' mind set that's fatalistic in it's aversion to words it feels are tainted by historical association; and whilst it appropriates postmodern notions in terms of change it can also forget how postmodernism re-invites us to play - with our longstanding narratives and traditions and their dusty old artifacts (some of which are the creaking beams that nevertheless keep the cold out).

Let's not just throw out what a word represents or what we associate it with: why not also really re-present and re-associate ourselves with what we carry forward (god barked). God barked. Barking.

Barking? that too.

Pjotr said...


I have a burning question
Why do some people mention the word-verification
at the end of their message?
I just don't get it.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Anon #108,

It seems to me that you, John E and I recognize that we are referring to the same activities of consciousness and/or states of being using very similar terminology with only minor variations and some "foreign" words (which we define in context) where English cannot quite convey the subtlety of an unfamiliar concept. This clearly demonstrates the importance and vast potential of precise communication.
Just imagine the possibilities if more people would stop writing vague, meaningless and logically flawed assertions such as "God is the most obvious thing". :)

john e mumbles said...

Right on, Rev. Uncle Wille, &Thanks Anon 108, this passage you quote says it very well, I'll still look around for the various stages of perception which Nisargadatta walks through somewhere. Perhaps more directly related to the obviously confusing topic of "God," on the way I found the following passages, apparently from I Am That, here (lots more for those so inclined to take a longer look.)

As I understand it, at the point of perception of a separate self there is the very first thought that "I am" or I exist, [indeed now that I think about it (drum roll, badda bing badda boom) as Descarte said it so well!] and the rest of the conceptual misunderstandings resulting in a "world" comes rushing in, so consequently Nisargadatta says we must go back to the "I Am" like a mantra, as the gatekeeper of the state we glimpse and assume is "reality" (Plato's cave wall comes to mind) so it follows that this first thought of our existence is given a most reverent "name" ie; God amongst our inherited grab bag of concepts.

Cause and effect (as are all conceptualizations as they begin in Oneness and branch out in all directions from it) are inextricably linked, cause has no purpose without its effect, and effect, once self-evident through knowledge of its own effectiveness, naturally seeks its cause outside & inside of itself as evidence of its purpose. Once there, we eventually realize there is something prior to this that has no name or concept whatsoever (for convenience sake here below he calls it the "silent watcher" in Sufism it is simply called the "witness" but the name is superfluous, that we realize its presence is the importance of it, the complete "coming home" finally of it, like prodigal sons and daughters all, home from the wars of conceptual foolishness)

Nisargadatta: Whatever happens it happens to you. What you do, the doer is in you. Find the subject of all that you are as a person.

Questioner: What else can I be?

Nisargadatta: Find out. Even if I tell you that you are the witness, the silent watcher, it will mean nothing to you, unless you find the way to your own being.

Questioner: My question is: How to find the way to one's own being?

Nisargadatta: Give up all questions except one: 'Who am I?' After all, the only fact you are sure of is that you are. The 'I am' is certain. The 'I am this' is not. Struggle to find out what you are in reality. (more:)

john e mumbles said...

'I am' itself is God. The seeking itself is God. In seeking you discover that you are neither the body nor the mind, and the love of the self in you is for the self in all. The two are one. The consciousness in you and the consciousness in me, apparently two, really one, seek unity and that is love.

Questioner: How am I to find that love?

Nisargadatta: What do you love now? The 'I am'. Give your heart and mind to it, think of nothing else.

Anonymous said...

Edit to my previous post:

Please replace the phrase "activities of consciousness" with "mental activities".

Just picking my own nits but WORDS MATTER, DAMMIT!

boubi said...

Rev. Uncle Willie said...


Just imagine the possibilities if more people would stop writing vague, meaningless and logically flawed assertions such as "God is the most obvious thing". :)

Hi Rev.

Just one for setting things right, from my point of view.

I don't think that stating that "God is the most obvious thing" is neither vague, meaningless nor is a logically flawed assertions.

It's not vague, it is a statement as precise as saying that aplles fall because it is their nature to fall.

It is not meaningless, it is full of meaning, it can change all the paradigms of our existence, all of them.

It is not logically flawed, all depends on the subjacent logic, furthermore the one who wrote it was going beyond logic.

I maintain that it is a wrong interpretation based on different existential experiences and needs, which is different from bashing this statement.

Now it is my business to argue it with the writer, and i think i did it already a bit.

Shodo said...

boubi said...
"I don't think that stating that "God is the most obvious thing" is neither vague, meaningless nor is a logically flawed assertions."

Yes it is - without defining the term that statement could mean almost anything to anyone.

"It's not vague, it is a statement as precise as saying that apples fall because it is their nature to fall."

It's not an apple's nature to fall...:/ It's just something that happens when you let go of one.

Actually, saying "God is the most obvious thing" is totally vague.... until you define what you mean then people will misunderstand what you are saying.
(as an aside... what is a apple's "nature" anyway?)

It is not meaningless, it is full of meaning, it can change all the paradigms of our existence, all of them.

Yes it IS full of meaning, so full in fact that it's meaningless... But feel free to describe what you are talking about...
I am always down for a paradigm shift after a morning cup of coffee.:3

Anonymous said...

I've long suspected that language actually dumbs down pure thought. Because when you're really working it, words just get in the way. I think it is the most obvious thing. Thank you.

boubi said...

to Shodo

"The nature of apples is to fall" is what was believed before the scientific revolution of Galileo, Copernic, Lord Newton among other.

It is not a vague statement, it is a very precise wrong statement.

I won't dwelve on the rest of the post.

Is that you "that" Shodo?

Shodo said...

""The nature of apples is to fall" is what was believed before the scientific revolution of Galileo, Copernic, Lord Newton among other.

It is not a vague statement, it is a very precise wrong statement."

But the context of the above statement was that God as the most obvious thing was as precise and non-vague as saying that an apples nature is to fall... something that is now a "very precise wrong statement.".

So what are you saying about god here...?

"Is that you "that" Shodo?"

I dunno... what Shodo are you talking about?

boubi said...

But the context of the above statement was that God as the most obvious thing was as precise and non-vague as saying that an apples nature is to fall... something that is now a "very precise wrong statement.".

Sorry to tell you, but you are wrong again.

Read what i wrote, it's in plain simple english, please respect punctuation, like in "read and comprehension" of olds. You can try again if it fancies you.



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

boubi said...
"Sorry to tell you, but you are wrong again.

Read what i wrote, it's in plain simple english, please respect punctuation, like in "read and comprehension" of olds. You can try again if it fancies you.


Woooooah 9 bows to you....! that's some powerful condescending mojo you're wielding there.

How 'bout this... why don't you explain what your point was instead of having me guess.:3

Anonymous said...

OK girls, play nice.

Think, What would the Buddha do?

Shodo said...

"Think, What would the Buddha do?"

Who knows...
I would just like to know what boubi's point actually was, since i seem to be too dim to figure it out.

Jiminy Cricket said...

ROFL. This discussion reminds me of the Futurama Episode, "Godfellas":

Monk leader: A member of our brotherhood sits at these controls, every hour, every day, scanning the heavens for God.

Monk at controls: There he is. No, no wait, no.

Leela: How long have you been at it?

Monk leader: 700 years. We've not yet examined one/ten millionth of the sky, but we will go on until we find the Almighty, even if it takes to the end of time.

Fry: And then what?

Monk leader: Then we utter unto him a short prayer. You see, the telescope is also an amplifying transmitter.

Leela: Sort of like a giant karaoke machine?

Monk leader: Not really. Would you like to see our giant karaoke machine?

Leela: Not really.

Fry: [places arm over Monk leader's back, hand on Monk leader's shoulder] Hmmm, finding God. That's important, yeah. But you know what might be a treat for everyone? If you let me use the telescope to find my lost friend Bender.

Monk leader: I, I don't know what to say other than, absolutely not. Your loss is a tragedy but our work ...

Fry: Ah, come on. You guys have forever to look for God. All I'm asking is one measly lifetime to find my friend.

Monk at controls: He speaks out of love for his friend. Perhaps that love in his heart *is* God.

Monk leader: Oh, how convenient. A theory about God that doesn't require looking through a telescope. Get back to work!

I've never found the use of the word "God" helpful in any explanation or illustration of Buddhism, Zen or otherwise.

Pine Oak Ee Oh said...

A Child' Guide To Hardcore Zen anonymous entries on the blogsphere:


These text-message pop cultural artifacts are only used by the slow-on-the-up-take: Mysterion.

Hate to give this away, it has been a useful tool when looking at his "anonymous" posts for quite some time now. Oh well, he will continue since old habits are hard to break, like this God talk.

anonymous anonymous said...

Have some respect Pine. Mysterion was the first person to type out ROFLMAO on the interenet. In 1985 he invented the Yo-Mamma Joke. He has surfed the Web from one end to the other and has now started over.

Anonymous said...

next is...

Anonymous said...

108 !

john e mumbles said...

What do we all want, what do we really need? What is the essential quality of our existential despair that only a certain mercy will repair?

We want to be understood. We want someone to say "yes, that's right," to agree with us, to validate our opinions, to say "yes, it will be alright now." Looking around, honestly, we see there is no one to do this, that our truth is singular, our understanding unique. Isolated, alone... "I was a treasure who wished to be known" (Allah in a hadith qudsi to Muhammed), alone with The Alone, the All One... turned to our only salvation, the ultimate unknown, never to be known outside a desperate collaboration.

This imagined solace, sacred space of faith in things unseen, becomes belief, lest we "believe not to believe" (Austin Osman Spare) in a meaning, The Meaning: to live a meaningful life happily ever after.

"We shall live for no reason. Then die and be done with it. What a recognition! Who shall save us? Only the knowledge we have lived without illusion, not excluding the illusion that something will save us. For the temple of our pretenses shall come down in the end in a murderous fall of its stones..."

-William H. Gass A TEMPLE OF TEXTS p 191

boubi said...

Shodo said...

Woooooah 9 bows to you....! that's some powerful condescending mojo you're wielding there.

How 'bout this... why don't you explain what your point was instead of having me guess.:3

Yeah, OK, 9 would be enough, but not for me, just the way the tantrics do it, just do it for you, for the sake of doing it.

Anyhow don't give up, just some more effort should do it, it just won't work if you don't do it by yourself ... sorry it the way it is, you have to find it out by yourself, "the old fashioned way".

By the way what do you mean with "Sodo"?

Truly yours



keep the good stuff coming!

Shodo said...

Stop pretending to have some hidden point... we both know you got talked into a corner.

If I am wrong however, feel feel to prove my assertion wrong.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree. On the face of it, there is nothing to prove that you know what the hell you're talking about, boubi.

You're all bluff.

SoloZen said...

Excellent - thanks very much for this.

Anonymous said...

Mysterion, for what its worth that wasnt me commenting at 6:30pm. the fact is that I almost never comment here uness the moderation is in effect. and when I do it is never directed at a specific person.

I have a feeling that one of Brads "enemies" percieves that I have some form of "power" and by co-opting my name will feel

Tattoozen said...

powerful themselves.

I wish their mom and dad had told them they loved them more as a child and they wouldnt need to troll the internet for self verification.

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