Monday, April 02, 2012

Spiritual Tourism and Spiritual Journalism


I'm almost done with an e-book that will be titled Hardcore Zen Strikes Again! and will consist mainly of articles I wrote back in the early 2000's for my first website. Most of these articles haven't been available since around 2003 when I took them off the web in anticipation of the release of my book Hardcore Zen. I've added new introductions and afterwords to each of the articles as well as a new introduction and afterword to the book as a whole. Plus I've also included a chapter that was cut out of Hardcore Zen and an article I wrote for a magazine I'll bet none of you out there has ever even heard of.

And there'll be another new item soon too. People started talking about an audio book version of Hardcore Zen almost as soon as the book was released. But nobody ever did anything. Around a year and a half a go a small record label approached me with a concrete offer to do the audio book. When I mentioned this to the publishers of the printed book, they were like, "Don't do it with them! We'll do an audio book!" OK, said I, let's do it.

Then I waited, and waited, and waited some more. After about six months of this I asked the publishers what was going on. "We don't wanna do it anymore," they said.

Oh. OK. Thanks for letting me know, I replied.

So I decided to do it myself. My friend Pirooz Kaleyah, director of Shoplifting from American Apparel, gave me a microphone. I plugged it into my MacBook, opened up Garage Band and started reading the book out loud. It's a pretty D.I.Y. thing, but it sounds good. Almost professional!

I added some of the actual music I talk about in the text and a few other surprises to try to give a bit of extra value to people who've already read the book. I'll be plugging both of these like mad here once they're done.

***

OK. So what about the subject of "spiritual tourism" and "spiritual journalism" mentioned in the title of this piece?

The response my last blog posting got me started thinking about the difference between what I think of as spiritual tourism and spiritual journalism and actual Buddhist practice. I need to be clear from the outset: Spiritual tourism and journalism are not bad things. In fact I appreciate them. Especially some of the journalism that's being produced these days. But I think a lot of people are getting confused and think that they're the same thing as Buddhist practice. Or they appear to think that Buddhist practice in the 21st century ought to resemble spiritual tourism and journalism more.

Spiritual tourism and journalism both involve going out into the big wide world and sampling a little bit of a lot of different types of spiritual practices. In the case of spiritual journalism it's essential to do this. A person who wishes to write about a wide variety of spiritual practices needs to know about a wide variety of spiritual practices. She needs to read about them and to experience them. She needs to know the differences between them and the historical reasons for those differences.

In the case of spiritual tourism, it's perfectly acceptable to go around to various spiritual centers and suchlike and see what's out there.

But in doing either of these activities, it is impossible to get any real depth of experience in any of the the spiritual practices you sample. You cannot get deeply and fully into a practice that takes decades to develop by taking a weekend retreat or a week-long retreat or a month-long retreat. You sure can't get that by stopping by for the Saturday morning service a few times.


In my case, I chose a different path. But this is kind of the way I like to do things. For example, ever since I was a little kid I wanted to go to Japan. When I became an adult I figured it was at last possible for me to really go there. But I didn't want to experience Japan as a tourist. I didn't want to run over there and spend a week gawking at the sights in various cities. I wanted to deeply experience Japan. And to do that I had to live there, full time, for at least a year, I figured.


I found a way to do that by joining the JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) program. And after that I really immersed myself by getting a job at Tsuburaya Productions, a company one could argue is an important producer of Japanese culture. I lived in a Japanese house, married a Japanese woman, and I spoke and read Japanese every single day for eleven years. It was about the Japanese-est Japan experience one could have.

I took this even further by limiting my Japan focus even more narrowly. In my decade-plus of living in Japan I rarely left Tokyo and its suburbs. I loved Tokyo and wanted to thoroughly experience just that one city. In order to do so, I had to limit my experience of the rest of Japan. I visited Osaka and Kyoto and Sapporo and a few other cities. But those were tourist excursions. I lived in Tokyo.

I'm not trying to say I'm a better person than someone who just visits Japan, or that I'm harder or tougher or whatever. But I am saying that my experience of Japan was almost entirely different from the kind of experience you get as a tourist.

In terms of Buddhist practice, you really need this kind of immersion. You have to pick one teacher and stick with that teacher for a long time. In doing so, you learn your teacher's ways very thoroughly. But you necessarily miss out on having what one might call a "well-rounded understanding" of Buddhism as a whole.

I've taken some flak from people who think it's a terrible thing that I don't know much about Buddhism beyond what I learned from my two teachers. And if I were trying to be a spiritual journalist, maybe they'd have a point. But I'm not. I realize that by writing a blog I tend to invite people to think of me that way. I believe I've made it clear on a number of occasions that I'm not a journalist. But I don't expect every one to read every last bit of writing I put up on the Interwebs.

That doesn't mean I have no right to talk about the other things I see going on out there. It's just that my perspective is that of a practitioner, not that of a journalist.

The fact that I have such a narrow focus in terms of Buddhism does not make me unique at all. It makes me an oddity to those who mistake me for a spiritual journalist. But among Buddhists, it's perfectly normal. In fact, when I go to places like Tassajara I see it even more clearly. A student of San Francisco Zen Center teacher Norman Fischer, for example, will often be almost completely ignorant of the teachings of San Francisco Zen Center teachers Steve Stuckey or Reb Anderson. The focus is that narrow, even though they often live right next to each other in the same gosh darned temple. This is very typical of the way things are done in Zen practice, as well as in all other forms of Buddhism.

I've actually got a more well-rounded understanding of Buddhism than most Buddhists I know since I travel so much. I often end up telling people at the Zen centers I visit about how their practices differ from what folks do a couple towns away -- often even when the temples in question are in the very same lineage.

There is nothing wrong with being a journalist or tourist who has had a tongue tip taste of all the things on offer from the vast smorgasbord of spiritual practices available these days. It's fine. But their bellies are so full after all that sampling that they usually don't have room to enjoy a full meal of just one dish. And that is a very different experience.

140 comments:

Senshin_dk said...

I find that many are affraid to commit them self to only one teacher, because they say it limits their "freedom" I often think it has to do with the fear of truly letting go of your self and trust that someone knows better.

Having one teacher is freedom. It gives me focus. I don't have to run around wasting time on sorting through which teachings I like or don't like. That would be cheating myself!

I appreciate this post.
And having ADHD I look forward to your book as audio.

Thank you.
-S

Anonymous said...

I agree that having just one teacher and one practice is important. But I also happen to be interested in a lot of things. I read other teachers and in other traditions because they interest me. That seems natural. I'm not varying from the essential teaching of Soto Zen (which I also practice, as you do). I just read other things.

In that way it was unfortunate that you picked on Reggie Ray in your last post. Although he teaches a kind of Tibetan Buddhism, his teaching is very body focused, and in that way very much like Soto Zen. I thought his latest book, Touching Enlightenment with the Body, was fascinating, and most helpful. Anyone who practices zazen would profit from it.

BillZ said...

Spiritual journalism allows for eclecticism but for those on the Path sampling and tasting from all and sundry can lead to a journey on the surface rather than a journey deep inside.

Bodhidharma's Beard said...
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Bodhidharma's Beard said...
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MarkS said...

Saw this on the Shambala site and had to share. http://www.tbds.org/thich-nhat-hanh-collection-1.html After looking at Thich Nhat Hanh's jewelry collection, I'm thinking about a line of sandals.

Anonymous said...

It's all about the extra value!

Anonymous said...

Could you clarify the new book thing a little, is this some "remake" of Hardcore Zen or a new book altogether? A hollywood style reboot of the series? :)

Mysterion said...
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pattern recognition said...

Go home mentally ill white trash gaywad.

????

PhilBob-SquareHead said...

"I" would like to present this to all of you:

Your diploma

Khru said...

The further one goes,
the less one knows.

Mysterion said...
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Daniel said...

It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that reading about and talking about meditation was not the same thing as actually doing the practice. So I switched to podcasts. By the way I have gone through all of them. Do you have anymore to put up?

mtto said...
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mtto said...

Hi Daniel,

I'm the editor of the podcast. Glad you like it. Brad gave me tons of talks and there are a lot of good ones. There are two limiting factors: 1) my time and 2) the monthly upload size limit given our small budget. Every time someone mentions that they like the podcast on here it lights a fire under my ass to put out another episode, so I'll try to get one out in the next week or two. A review on iTunes would be much appreciated!

mtto said...

Hardcore Zen Podcast for those who don't know what we're talking about.

john e mumbles said...

I think the new e-book and audio HCZ projects sound great, Brad! Exciting news and I look forward to hearing more as it develops.

As to spiritual tourism/journalism, I am reminded of the old Sufi saying,

Dig lots of shallow holes and find nothing, dig deeply in one place and find water.

Somehow, I have had the best of both worlds in that for twenty years I dug deeply indeed with the same teacher in Sufism, a complex, complicated path, who understood that I was a dedicated practitioner with an inquiring mind who naturally explored all kinds -as many as possible, in fact- of spiritual paths not only for their own sake, but also in an attempt to better understand Sufism.

I cannot imagine taking one approach to spirituality out of the greater context of all world religions/paths/practices. I just don't think it is possible. If you don't have black to compare it with, how can you know "white?"

Anyone interested in something I wrote for Buddhist Geeks a couple years ago on this subject are referred to: http://www.buddhistgeeks.com/2010/04/the-shotgun-approach-2/

My teacher died a few years ago and his son became the head dog. It became a strange proposition to feature him in this new role, pretty much a peer of mine when his father was alive. So while I hold the principals of Sufism in the highest regard, I floundered awhile and eventually came back to what I had found fulfilling prior to finding Sufism in the first place: Zen.* And I found this blog and Brad. And it made me very happy indeed.

So as far as having one teacher and one practice goes, I know enough about that. It has its merits. But there are those of us with the need to also explore and involve ourselves if we choose to in any/all of the rich traditions the world has to offer, with as many teachers as we want.

And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

May all beings find peace.

*(However, presently I feel no need to adhere to any particular spiritual label at all)

Daniel said...

Mtto:
Great job with those podcasts man. They are fantastic! My iTunes review was titled something like : so good I can't believe it's free. Anyways no rush, I understand the time constraints all too well. Again thanks for your efforts in getting some awesome material out there for the rest of us to devour.

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

How do you Zen Buddhist's feel about MLM marketing? It's the only way I know how to make money. If I didn't do this I would be homeless.

Anony002 said...

Anony001 sed:

"How do you Zen Buddhist's feel..."

they don't.

element said...

Why buddhism...

why not drop that, and study the truth

Isn't your own personality enough, if its clear

Teacher - a person above me.
Only when he teaches without beeing a teacher

Zazen - a practice isolated from life, in front of a wall.
How can zazen help one in the midst of life, with ones neurotic, sick, conditioned setup that is making people and society sicker everyday. How can I be free from the past, bear pain...??? Zazen?

"Nothing" should get between me and reality, you said about the bite of TNH, for example mindfullness gets in the way of the sunrise. What about zazen gets in the way of whatever.

Nothing should get in the way

I think you could profit a bit by refreshing your lecture of J. Krishnamurti...

Uku said...

John E Mumbles wrote

Dig lots of shallow holes and find nothing, dig deeply in one place and find water.

Yes! That's the spirit! It's totally different to stay in one lineage, rely on one teacher and one tradition than hassle around as a tourist. But I have ranted about this enough in the previous comment section, but I'd like to say it again as my personal statement: Buddhism is not about tourism. One teacher, one lineage, one tradition.

Anonymous said...

Mysterion,
What do you mean by "authentically" Japanese?
I live in Tokyo, and remember walking with my Israeli friend through Ebisu when he talked about seeing the "real Japan" in the homeless area of Ueno.
I don't get people who talk about Kamakura, Nara etc as being "real" or "authentic" Japan rather than more modernized parts of Tokyo for example. The "reality" is that the contemporary Tokyo salaryman who drives a VW, listens to the Beatles, and eats pizza is more "Japanese" than the fetishist gaijin dressing in robes and eating natto.
I think it's really insulting to Tokyoites to imply that somehow they are not "authentic" Japanese because they don't conform to your (nostalgic? fantasy?) ideas of what "real" Japan is (like my Israeli friend).
Tokyo is Japan.
Best,
Paul

Harry said...

Brad: "In terms of Buddhist practice, you really need this kind of immersion. You have to pick one teacher and stick with that teacher for a long time. In doing so, you learn your teacher's ways very thoroughly. But you necessarily miss out on having what one might call a "well-rounded understanding" of Buddhism as a whole."

I don't think that this is neccesarily true if we keep an open mind and are prepaired to read and otherwise learn a bit about Buddhism. We can do that while remaining true to our own practices and observances.

Where the above starts to change is where a person makies the ancient 'religious' blunder of not being able to distinguish what is right for him/her with what should be right for everyone else.

If Buddhism is a recipe for reinforcing or celebrating that very heightened (and costly) form of human ignorance then, put simply, it ain't working.

Regards,

Harry.

Fred said...

"Once upon a time, I, Chuang Chou, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Chou. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man. Between a man and a butterfly there is necessarily a distinction. The transition is called the transformation of material things."

Fred said...

A man dreaming about different
spiritual practices could still be
a butterfly dreaming it was tasting
all the flowers.

Anonymous said...

...or commenting on the blog.

Harry said...

Anyone else detect more than a touch of 'black and white thinking' in what his Royal Bradsterness says?

Looks like a conservative quagmire to me... someone reverting to magical/wooly religious thinking to justify a propped up nonsense. Poorly reasoned, poorly practiced, and without any sound basis in the realities of people's lives besides offering the very cold comfort of some sense of being a 'Buddhist'.

Hardcore my ass.

Reghardcores,

Harry.

gniz said...

I don't think there's anything wrong with sticking with a good teacher/lineage if you find one that suits you.

I've basically been with the same teacher for over a decade, and haven't found much reason to go elsewhere either...

That said, I don't see why people constantly attack those who are searching. The search is part of it too. Is there spiritual tourism? Sure there is.

But some people are also just not willing to learn from just any ol' teacher and I can see why. There is some luck in finding the right one.

It would be like me making fun of Brad for not having settled down with one woman yet. He tried but it didn't work out. Do I give him a hard time for that? Do I accuse him of being a relationship tourist if he dates a few women over the course of a few years?

Do I say that he can't have any insights into love or relationships because he's only dating?

The point is that, yes, it's nice to settle down with one person/teacher/lineage. But attacking those who have not and insinuating that they can't have real insight is a little bit unfair, imo.

Jinzang said...

Why buddhism...why not drop that, and study the truth

Buddhism is not the truth. Buddhism is a path to the truth. The truth cannot be studied, for the same reason that it cannot be taught. The best one can do is show the path to the truth.

Isn't your own personality enough, if its clear

If you have clarity, simply remaining in that clarity is enough. The clarity will clarify itself. But since most only have a conceptual understanding of clarity, we need a path.

Teacher - a person above me. Only when he teaches without being a teacher

Anyone who teaches is by definition a teacher. The teacher is "above" you only in the sense of having more knowledge or experience. Else why listen to them?

Zazen - a practice isolated from life, in front of a wall. How can zazen help one in the midst of life, with ones neurotic, sick, conditioned setup that is making people and society sicker everyday. How can I be free from the past, bear pain...??? Zazen?

To remain free of attachment to the past, present, and future is the whole practice of zazen.

"Nothing" should get between me and reality, you said about the bite of TNH, for example mindfullness gets in the way of the sunrise. What about zazen gets in the way of whatever. Nothing should get in the way.

It's your concept of reality that stands between you and it, not some practice.

I think you could profit a bit by refreshing your lecture of J. Krishnamurti...

Oh, forget get everything I said. Someone who has glommed onto Krishnamurti is pretty much hopless.

Jessica said...

The whole concept of "spiritual tourism" seems a little absurd to me, at least from a zen buddhist perspective. I was under the impression that the notion that one location, be it a shrine, grave, monument, natural formation, whatever, might be more 'spiritual' than another was considered bunk by zen buddhists. This is what spiritual tourism - actually all forms of tourism - thrives on, no? The idea that you really need to see this particular thing because it's way cooler than what you've got at home. Or like -
that seeing this or that statue of this or that saint or sage is far more edifying than organizing your record collection or feeding the cat.

Anonymous said...

good point. searching for a resource is different than searching for amusement.

element said...

Jinzang

nothing against Zazen, but it is not enough, thats what I wanted to say.

There is something missing in Brads teaching. For me Krishnamurti fills that missing piece.

Anonymous said...

mysterion said, "
I also found Kamakura, Kyoto, Fujisawa, and a half dozen other places to be much more authentically Japanese."

How is that even possible? Because they are more like Japan of old? That is very conservative thinking. You are stuck on an idea you have of Japan. Things always change. Japan embraces change even if you do not.

Anonymous said...

concerning embracing, what exactly is 'japan'?

Weasel Tracks said...

Jessica--

Pilgrimage is a useful practice. Seen in one way, nothing and no one is better or worse than another. Seen a different way, shit is great for a fly, not so much so for a human.

I would rather go to a Zen service led by Ven. Brad than one held by Zen Master Rama.

I went to see the Buddha Relics Tour because I read in some Suttas that it's good to make offerings to Buddhas, and in lieu of a living Buddha, to the Bo tree, to relics, to images, to sangha, etc. Wasn't really expecting much, but my heart/mind got so blown, I went to see them twice more over the decade.

And, of course, you don't have to leave your own back yard to have Nirvana find you.

Mysterion said...
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Mysterion said...
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Mysterion said...
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john e mumbles said...

Yes, I am sure you could say more about that, Chas, as I did years ago in an article writ for the Philosophers of Nature's journal The Stone titled "Santiago de Compostella - An Inner Journey" examining the alchemical symbolism buried in the concept, as well as the model par excellence for Xtian "spiritual tourism" to follow. I'll send it to you when I find it again.

Meanwhile, it is also interesting perhaps to note Sufi mystic/martyr Mansur al-Hallaj's suggestion to circumambulate the "kaaba of the heart" essentially negating the need for the traditional Haaj, or pilgrimage to Mecca.

Among other reasons this got him drawn and quartered by the Ulema, the 12th century mainstream Islamic clerics.

No doubt this idea would get virtually the same response today.

john e mumbles said...

As to Leadbetter, that old pedophile, finding a guru in a 14 year old boy... Really? Ya think?!

Anonymous said...

Alain de Botton, "Religion for Atheists: A Non-Believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion,"

http://www.booktv.org/Program/13254/After+Words+Alain+de+Botton+Religion+for+Atheists+A+NonBelievers+Guide+to+the+Uses+of+Religion+hosted+by+Chris+Hedges.aspx

Anonymous said...

"I am interested in working through the jhanas. Is this typically done by practitioners without the guidance of a teacher? Would it be possible for you to make suggestions on helpful web-based guidance on entering and working through the jhanas?"

Reply by Discussion Leader Brad Warner on February 20, 2012, 11:34 am:

'Someone on Twitter warned folks that my advice was good, but to remember that "it is ZEN advice."

If you brought this question to a Zen teacher, she or he would most likely respond by being very dismissive, perhaps telling you to ignore these states and they'll go away. When you receive an answer like this — and I have on numerous occasions — it can feel cold and unhelpful. I often felt angry and resentful when hearing answers like this to what seemed to me to be profound and serious questions.

The thing is, though, that when you talk about special states of consciousness and what to do with them, what you're bringing to the teacher is not your state at the present moment. What you're describing is your memory of a past state and your plans for what to do if that state should occur again in the future. And this itself is the root of our real problems, our tendency to regard the past and future as more important than this moment.

You are certainly free to try using the absorptive states to deepen insight. But I feel like you'd be cheating yourself out of the opportunity to use the whole of your life to deepen insight. You'd start to regard these rare and unusual states as more important than the ones that occur most of the time. Then 5% of your day might begin to take over 95% of your life. I'd say that if such states occur, it's OK to enjoy them while they last. But do so very carefully.

Sometimes such states are just another clever trick of the mind to move you away from what's really important. I'm not sure, for example, I'd want to ride in a car being driven by someone in a "deep absorptive state" unless, of course, they were deeply absorbed in the act of driving a car. When viewing a basketball game with your family, perhaps a more important task is to be with your family than to attend to your state of mind.'

"...what's..." said...

"...what's really important." ???

Anonymous said...

Hey check it out! Brad was writing about TNH 6 years ago and could spell his name correctly!

Anonymous said...

off topic question...

Does Brad really think that unless one is sitting in full lotus or half lotus it is not zazen?

Because if he does, then that's a load of bullshit.

mtto said...

off topic question:

The answer to your question is in the last chapter of "Sex Sin and Zen".

Thick Knot Hung said...

Anony @ 3:52 and the "Way Back machine": the real kicker here is that they had porn 800 years ago in China!

Anonymous said...

to mtto...

I didn't read "Sex Sin and Zen" - care to share?

Anonymous said...

though i must admit... I cant see how a chapter entitled "Happy Ending, Buddhist Style" will answer the question any better than google searching Hardcore Zen and having a blog posting called "Sitting in a Chair is not Zazen".:P

Zenleo said...

Wow! Big Mind is closer to me than I thought:

http://www.marshfieldclinic.org/giving/?page=giving_benchmarks-winter-2011-spotlight

No wonder I have been getting head-aches, it's that big mind only 40 miles away!

Cheers!

mtto said...

The last chapter of "Sex Sin and Zen" is just about zazen and fukanzazengi, not sex. It really has nothing to do with the rest of the book and can be read on its own. His discussion is nuanced. If you don't care enough to read the chapter next time you walk by a Barnes and Noble, then you must not care that much.

Anonymous said...

The last chapter of "Sex Sin and Zen" is just about zazen and fukanzazengi, not sex. It really has nothing to do with the rest of the book and can be read on its own. His discussion is nuanced. If you don't care enough to read the chapter next time you walk by a Barnes and Noble, then you must not care that much.

Thanks for the help...
Is Brad's view more nuanced than his own words from here:

http://hardcorezen.blogspot.com/2011/11/sitting-in-chairs-is-not-zazen-part-one.html

Where he says:

"But I did tell them that sitting in chairs was not zazen. Zazen is a physical practice. To sit in a chair and call it zazen is incorrect. It's not that sitting on a chair will lead you to Satan and cause your eternal soul to burn forever in Hell. It's not evil. It's just not zazen."

That's straight bullshit.

Anonymous said...

So you say, care to elaborate? Have you your own definition and/or cite a different authority? Back up your bullshit claim, please.

Anonymous said...

Brad is the only teacher I have hear that says such a thing.

EVERY other teacher says that the postures are only for stability - lotus being most stable and working down to chair being least stable. But zazen is what one does with the mind - you can do it on a bus, you can do it lying down.

Even the Fukanzazenji doesn't say that if you sit in a chair it's not zazen.

Anonymous said...

A quick Wiki look yielded this (note last sentence):

* Kekkafuza (full-lotus)
* Hankafuza (half-lotus)
* Burmese (a cross-legged posture in which the ankles are placed together in front of the sitter)
* Seiza (a kneeling posture using a bench or zafu)

In addition, it is not uncommon for modern practitioners to sit zazen in a chair, often with a wedge/cushion on top of the chair seat so that one is sitting on an incline, or by placing a wedge behind the lower back to help maintain the natural curve of the spine.

While each of these styles are commonly taught today, Master Dogen recommended only Kekkafuza and Hankafuza.

Anonymous said...

*recommended* is the key word...
... he didn't say that sitting in a chair was *NOT* zazen... and neither does any teacher but Brad.

Mysterion said...
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Anonymous said...

Gudo Nishijima said this on your link Mysterion.

"Even though in Soto Sect recently they sometimes recommend for secular practioners to use chairs for Zazen, but I think that such a kind of idea might be serious rebellion against Gautama Buddhas' teachings."

He is wrong.
Gudo Nishijima is dead wrong.

Weasel Tracks said...

Those that have not been on pilgrimage have no say in what it's like.

Mysterion said...
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Khru said...

Blogger Mysterion said...

***"The further one goes,
the less one knows."

I agree...

In fact, the further one goes, the more one realizes how little they ever knew to begin with.***

Holy shit, man, you done did it in only three (3) sentences after all!

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

Hi Anonymous with the lotus sitting comments,

Sometimes I sit in full lotus and sometimes I sit in half lotus. I don't sit any other way. For me to sit any other way would be dead wrong.

But you, if you want to sit, can sit any way you like. For you - as Gudo Nishijima says - are King of the Universe. And about that he is dead right.

Anonymous said...

I'll take it one step beyond Gudo:

If you don't sit full lotus, you're a failure in life, destined for miserable, painful and possibly humiliating death.

proulx michel said...

Anonymous said...

I'll take it one step beyond Gudo:

If you don't sit full lotus, you're a failure in life, destined for miserable, painful and possibly humiliating death.


If you don't sit full lotus while you could, provided some little effort, then you are "a failure in life, destined for miserable, painful and possibly humiliating death."

Anonymous said...

miserable, painful and possibly humiliating death.

whatever. it gets worse, it gets better. the drama loses its appeal. you grow weary of the suffering. you sit.

anon #108 said...

What's your point, anonymous with the Gudo/lotus objections?

Is it that Brad Warner, Gudo Nishijima and many earlier Zen/Buddhist practitioners and teachers like Dogen and Gautama are wrong to recommend the lotus asana? Well ok, you think they're wrong.

If, as you say you believe, zazen is something you do with your mind - a mind that does it's valuable business regardless of what the separate, less valuable, less relevant body is doing - then of course it doesn't matter whether you sit in lotus, sit in a deckchair or suspend yourself from the ceiling while doing your valuable mental thing with your separate mind. But if you believe, or have found it to be the case that body and mind are not such clearly defined, separate 'things' you may feel differently about mind/body/zazen.

All I have ever heard Brad and Gudo say about lotus is that there's a reason for it. If you've never tried it you'll never know whether that's true for you or not. If you can't do it, fine. If you don't want to do it, fine. You'll not be a failure at anything other than sitting in lotus. But there is a reason it's been practised and recommended for thousands of years.

There agian, if you just wanted to say "Gudo Nishijima is wrong" and watch a couple of Gudo fans to come rushing to his defence then job done, I'd say.

gniz said...

I think people miss the point.

Maybe sitting in a chair isn't zazen.

But that doesn't mean it isn't very useful.

Daniel said...

Is riding a bike the same as driving a car? Nope
But riding a bike is still a form of transportation.
While reclining on the sofa with a clear mind may be meditation, it just isn't zazen. How I understand zazen is that it is as much a posture as a state of mind.
And I would not be taking offense if while riding my bike someone said I wasn't driving a car.

Weasel Tracks said...

And that is assuming that the pilgrims are free from mental disorders - a rather questionable assumption, in my opinion.

One can say the same of anyone in the class defined by interest in any spiritual practice. But, surely, you are not assuming that one can assume that pilgrims are less free from mental disorders than the general population?

Anyway, so what? Discussion of the value of pilgrimage by non-pilgrims is theoretical. Discussion of the value of pilgrimage by pilgrims is biased. Same could be said of zazen.

Anonymous said...

to anon 108:

"What's your point, anonymous with the Gudo/lotus objections?"

My point *isn't* that Brad/Gudo/Dogen or Buddha were wrong to recommend lotus - it's that Brad and Gudo are dead wrong to say that sitting in a chair is not zazen. If they base what they teach on Dogen's Fukanzazenji well, Dogen never says sitting in a chair is not zazen, and neither does the Soto-shu.

There is nothing magical about the lotus other than it is the most stable of the zazen positions. That's it.

What Brad and Gudo are suggesting is that the enlightenment of Shakyamuni Buddha was dependent on being able to sit in a "magical pose" - which is ridiculous on it's face.

anon #108 said...

What Brad and Gudo are suggesting is that the enlightenment of Shakyamuni Buddha was dependent on being able to sit in a "magical pose" - which is ridiculous on it's face.

If that's what they were suggesting, I'd agree with you. But I don't believe they are.

Standing On His Head said...

Zazen is defined as,

* Kekkafuza (full-lotus)
* Hankafuza (half-lotus)
* Burmese (a cross-legged posture in which the ankles are placed together in front of the sitter)
* Seiza (a kneeling posture using a bench or zafu)

Sitting in a chair is defined as,

*sitting in a chair

Anonymous said...

Mysterion said "blah, blah, blah." Again.

Anonymous said...

Anon 108 sed:

"If that's what they were suggesting, I'd agree with you. But I don't believe they are."

Well... as I quoted Brad earlier:

""But I did tell them that sitting in chairs was not zazen. Zazen is a physical practice. To sit in a chair and call it zazen is incorrect. It's not that sitting on a chair will lead you to Satan and cause your eternal soul to burn forever in Hell. It's not evil. It's just not zazen."

And if zazen = enlightenment, as Dogen teaches...
And if sitting in a chair is *NOT* zazen...

...then what Brad and Gudo are totally suggesting is that the enlightenment of Shakyamuni Buddha *IS* dependent on being able to sit in a "magical pose".

anon #108 said...

gniz wrote: "I think people miss the point.
Maybe sitting in a chair isn't zazen.
But that doesn't mean it isn't very useful."

I'm not sure if that's the point, g, but it is a very good point. As is Daniel's. As is Weasel Tracks'. Anonymous - I don't think yours is such a good point coz how you hear what Brad et al say about lotus/zazen isn't how I hear it. Which doesn't tell us much, I guess, except that different people hear things differently.

Anonymous said...

Anon 108 sed:
"I don't think yours is such a good point coz how you hear what Brad et al say about lotus/zazen isn't how I hear it. Which doesn't tell us much, I guess, except that different people hear things differently."

Ok...
How do you hear what Gudo said here:

""Even though in Soto Sect recently they sometimes recommend for secular practitioners to use chairs for Zazen, but I think that such a kind of idea might be serious rebellion against Gautama Buddhas' teachings."

And pair that with Brad saying that sitting in a chair is *NOT* zazen...
How do you interpret what they are trying to say?

anon #108 said...

This is pretty much how I hear what Brad and Gudo are saying:


"There is nothing magical about the lotus other than it is the most stable of the zazen positions. That's it."

I'd add "...and balanced".

anon #108 said...

...And I'd add that stability and balance aren't incidental aids to 'meditation'.

Anonymous said...

then anon 108, you are correct - we don't interpret what Brad and Gudo are saying in the same way.

If Brad and Gudo are willing to tersely state that "sitting in a chair is not zazen", only to back off to "sitting in a chair is the least stable of zazen positions" when pressed, then Brad and Gudo have a piss-poor way of expressing their thoughts in a clear way.

gniz said...

Brad has said he thinks that sitting full lotus adds stability and that something's a bit "off" with his sitting when he uses a chair or some other position.

Fine. Fine.

I don't agree with the way Brad stresses certain aspects of zazen and discounts other things like mindfulness, makes them seem "less than." However it's his experience and his opinion.

My teacher has sometimes questioned the effectiveness of meditation that doesn't use breath as a focus. That's been his experience, he likes using the breath as an object of meditation, as do I.

Each of us will find our own method that works for us. We don't need Brad's stamp of approval or anyone else's. I listen to my teacher because I like the way he teaches and I am at home with learning from him, just as Brad is with Gudo.

If someone tried to tell me that focusing on labeling thoughts was "breath meditation" I wouldn't agree. I think that's what Brad is saying about sitting meditation done in a chair. He's saying it's not zazen because zazen refers specifically to the lotus position, just as downward dog refers to a particular yoga posture.

That's totally agreeable. There are lots of yoga postures to choose from.

The fact that Brad only does downward dog and finds that sufficient and wonderful is perfectly okay with me.

anon #108 said...

(Added to 6.58am)...not in zazen as practised and taught by Dogen.

May have finished adding.

Anonymous, time for Brad to clarify what he's saying is he fancies. I know what works for me.

Brad Warner said...

...then what Brad and Gudo are totally suggesting is that the enlightenment of Shakyamuni Buddha *IS* dependent on being able to sit in a "magical pose".

and

If Brad and Gudo are willing to tersely state that "sitting in a chair is not zazen", only to back off to "sitting in a chair is the least stable of zazen positions" when pressed, then Brad and Gudo have a piss-poor way of expressing their thoughts in a clear way.

So you think there's something called Enlightenment and you think I've got it and you think I can show you the way to get it for yourself? And maybe you're mad because you'd rather sit in a chair?

Or perhaps you think it is important that I must say things that are agreeable to everyone in the world? That I am offering salvation and I ought to make that salvation open to all?

Or perhaps you've never sat a bit of zazen in your life and you just want to argue about things?

I'm not certain who I am responding to.

I must have said this a zillion times but if it is absolutely utterly and completely impossible for you to sit on a cushion and if you really want to do zazen anyhow, then you will find some way that works for you.

If you don't want to do zazen, don't do it.

If you want to lazily plop yourself on a chair and call that "zazen," it's fine with me. You won't get my endorsement, though.

Here's what Gilles Farcet says in his book The Anti-Wisdom Manual: A Practical Guide To Spiritual Bankruptcy in the voice of the "spiritual enemy" who wants to help people ruin their spiritual practice:

Remembering the importance of poor posture begin by pretending to meditate without seriously worrying about posture. Used to holding your body any which way, do not seize the opportunity of an initiation to meditation in order to change your habits. Have the incoherence to approach the exercise often called “sitting” without taking the trouble to learn how to sit. Decide right away that the proposed posture, generally with the buttocks on a cushion, crossed legs touching the floor, is “too hard for you.” Feebly attempt it once, just to say you have tried for appearances sake, then give up at the first twinge of pain. Justify your inability to be asked to make the slightest effort with an argument that stresses the necessity to not abuse oneself, and the absurdity of suffering. Confuse goodwill with complacency, exigency with mistreatment.

Never take into consideration, even for an instant, that generations of meditators have, for millenniums, taken the trouble to accustom themselves to a traditional posture in order to later reap its benefits. In brief, don’t give yourself the slightest chance to find yourself one day at ease in a posture which in itself is a teaching.

Anonymous said...

time for Brad to clarify

and then he does!

Anon 108 is Brad-man's Bruce Wayne!

Jinzang said...

I've been meditating for over thirty years and tried every posture in that time: chair sitting, kneeling, standing, taylor's burmese, half lotus, and lotus. Lotus is the best position, hands down, *if* you can manage it without a lot of pain. Why would I lie to you? I've got nothing to sell. Don't believe me? Fine, go and do what you want. Just don't slander generations of practitioners who made the effort that you are to lazy to make yourself by accusing them of magical thinking.

Anonymous said...

Are you saying Brad (aka Dick Grayson) is Robin to Anon 108's Batman?

Go sit in a chair and shut up.

Anonymous said...

What I think is hilarious is how everyone seems to assume That I cannot sit in lotus because "im lazy" or that it's "too hard" or because I am pressing Brad/Gudo on this point - well I *can* sit in lotus and I *do* sit in lotus (though for sesshins, I sit half-lotus alternating legs between each period.)


But sadly Brad, you clarified nothing by posting. All you did was throw a bunch of questions at me without even addressing my questions.

Is doing "zazen" dependent on being able to sit in a particular position?
Yes or No.

Is sitting zazen equal to "enlightenment" as Dogen teaches?
Yes or No.

Is sitting in a chair "zazen"?
Yes or No.

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

uoting Brad's Quote from Reference:

Never take into consideration, even for an instant, that generations of meditators have, for millenniums, taken the trouble to accustom themselves to a traditional posture in order to later reap its benefits

Okay I do not have a problem mostly sitting 1/2 Lotus, and I really am not concerned about using a kneeling bench, never have but considered it after some surgery where losing my balance could be disastrous. That being said my only concern about the above quote is:

Reap it's Benefits?!

So ultimately Zen is just like any other religion, you do it to obtain although you are constantly told if you are trying to become something or gain something that is not "right thought." All these arguments I read here and elsewhere make me believe that Zen is nothing more than Hippie Catholicism and Brad is the Radical Priest and Mysterion is the Jesuit Priest.
I think I've heard it referred to as "Stinking of Zen"
The answer of course is to stop reading this crap, but I want to write a book, what is everyone else's excuse?
Cheers!
Dale

Karuna from The Gathering said...

Wow! I haven't read all the comments -just the last several and it seems to me quite funny that there is such controversy as to the seated position one takes while meditating! What difference does it make?! It's almost like saying my spirituality is better than yours! Childish!
I believe if someone is dedicated to their practice, they are receiving benefits from it.

Brad Warner said...

But sadly Brad, you clarified nothing by posting. All you did was throw a bunch of questions at me without even addressing my questions.

Is doing "zazen" dependent on being able to sit in a particular position?
Yes or No.

Is sitting zazen equal to "enlightenment" as Dogen teaches?
Yes or No.

Is sitting in a chair "zazen"?
Yes or No.


Who is asking?

Hint: The answer to that question is the answer to the ones you've posed. Unfortunately I cannot supply it, nor can it be limited to yes or no.

Anonymous said...

Who is asking?

Somebody who has no trouble whatsoever sitting a period of zazen in full lotus.

The answer to that question is the answer to the ones you've posed. Unfortunately I cannot supply it, nor can it be limited to yes or no.

I believe in ballet, what you have just done is called a "pirouette".

Look, you had no trouble making a blog posting titled "Sitting in Chairs is Not Zazen, Part One Million and Seven"... you say things like "But I did tell them that sitting in chairs was not zazen. Zazen is a physical practice. To sit in a chair and call it zazen is incorrect. It's not that sitting on a chair will lead you to Satan and cause your eternal soul to burn forever in Hell. It's not evil. It's just not zazen."

Either stand by what you have said or back away from it - you have been perfectly clear up until now.

Kurd said...

Smells Like Teen Jundo

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

Karuna from The Gathering said...
Wow! I haven't read all the comments -just the last several and it seems to me quite funny that there is such controversy as to the seated position one takes while meditating! What difference does it make?!...I believe if someone is dedicated to their practice, they are receiving benefits from it.

That's it right there, in bold - the controversy. Read back a little further in the comments.

anon #108 said...

...I mean read this bit:

If, as you say you believe, zazen is something you do with your mind - a mind that does it's valuable business regardless of what the separate, less valuable, less relevant body is doing - then of course it doesn't matter whether you sit in lotus, sit in a deckchair or suspend yourself from the ceiling while doing your valuable mental thing with your separate mind. But if you believe, or have found it to be the case that body and mind are not such clearly defined, separate 'things' your approach to mind/body in zazen may be different.

Anonymous said...

Is that Batman or Robin talkin?

anon #108 said...

I think you'll find the analogy was between Batman and Bruce Wayne. That's the way I read it.

Sleepy said...

Where the hell is mark foote with his convoluted hypotheses on posture and how it affects and defines zazen when we need him?

Anonymous said...

Mystery revealed: Aha! Brad and Anon 108 are ONE AND THE SAME PERSON!

Anonymous said...

you're drifting off the mark Anon 108...

The issue is, whether or not sitting in a chair (not "plopped" as Brad described it, but with the spine erect, as described here: http://www.bisbeelotussangha.org/sittingpostures.htm) is still zazen.

Personally I don't see why Brad is evading answering something he has addressed many times...

anon #108 said...

you're drifting off the mark Anon 108...

Don't think so. Was addressing a particular point made by another person. Not your point. Not your controversy.

Sits On His Hands said...

"controversy" Hahahahahahahaha!!!!!

Didn't someone awhile back note that back in the day only kings had "chairs" and everybody else just sort of sat around wherever they could find a spot not covered in animal droppings? And to this day in most 3rd world countries people similarly squat where they can, meditating, eating, pooping (yes, after all a toilet is a "throne," too!)commiserating, whatever, including just being tired of standing around despite whether Brad says they can or not.

anon #108 said...

Do you mean this discussion, Sit On His Hands? -

http://hardcorezen.blogspot.co.uk/2010/12/podcast-often-awesome-urban-zen-and.html

I'm not sure anyone noted quite what you say they noted.

I noted, by linking to a book all about old India, that the Indians of Gautama's time were very familiar with chairs of all sorts and that, according to the book, much of Northern India at that time was quite prosperous. So the truth-seekers' choice to sit cross-legged had everything to do with what had been learned from yogic practice and very little to do with cultural/regional/economic factors.

It was a good discussion.

Weasel Tracks said...

Reap it's Benefits?!

So ultimately Zen is just like any other religion, you do it to obtain although you are constantly told if you are trying to become something or gain something that is not "right thought."


Yeah! Ain't that a kick?

You don't take up Buddhism without an intention, usually fueled by the suffering you feel and you see. But the methods of Zen and other sects require you to get beyond intention, which is replaced by the direction and momentum of your practice.

All these arguments I read here and elsewhere make me believe that Zen is nothing more than Hippie Catholicism

Busted!

Brad is the Radical Priest and Mysterion is the Jesuit Priest.

Well, Brad is a priest. I have no idea what Mysterion is, but Jesuits tend to be a bit clearer.

I think I've heard it referred to as "Stinking of Zen"

Pee-yoo!

anon #108 said...

Or perhaps you mean this discusiion, SOHH -

http://hardcorezen.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/sitting-in-chairs-is-not-zazen-part-one.html

In which John e did say "I may just be sleepy but traditionally weren't the only dudes who could afford a chair kings or judges or something?"...

Whichever, my guess about that stuff is, FWIW, as above.

Jinzang said...

Who is asking?

Somebody who has no trouble whatsoever sitting a period of zazen in full lotus.


I think Brad is being a little arch and "Zenny" here. The point is that there are three questions: "Who am I?", "What is zazan?", and "What is Zen?". If you understand the answer to any one of them, you understand the answer to the other two.

Anonymous said...

Yo, Bernie, Everybody knows Who's on first.

Anonymous said...

Yes but who's on third?

Anonymous said...

What's on second. Can't remember 3rd baseman's name. Oh Mysteeeeeerion!!! (he'll know)

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

Brad said:
"People sitting on chairs will be welcome to be with us and share in the experience in their own way.

But they won't be doing zazen.

Not a big deal. It just isn't zazen if you sit on a chair, unless there really honestly is no other way you can do it. That's all."


It's pretty obvious that Brad thinks Zazen is dependent on a particular position.

Anonymous said...

...and your point is...?

john e mumbles said...

Hmmmnn. I thought "Mysterion" was Ed's idea:

http://www.mrgasser.com/mysterion.htm

Anonymous said...

I don't know.

Anonymous said...

"Mysterion" was also the superhero alter ego of one of the characters on South Park.

http://www.southparkstudios.com/full-episodes/s13e02-the-coon

http://www.southparkstudios.com/full-episodes/s14e11-coon-2-hindsight

http://www.southparkstudios.com/full-episodes/s14e12-mysterion-rises

http://www.southparkstudios.com/full-episodes/s14e13-coon-vs-coon-friends

Anonymous said...

Anon sed:
"...and your point is...?

The point is that Brad is back-assward wrong.

Weasel Tracks said...

john e mumbles said...
Hmmmnn. I thought "Mysterion" was Ed's idea:

http://www.mrgasser.com/mysterion.htm


Is he still alive!? Groovy!

He (Mysterion) may be one of the 96 mysterians, or even a mysterianist, but, mostly, it's Greek to me.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 4:20 PM said...

Anon sed:
"...and your point is...?

The point is that Brad is back-assward wrong.





So you think Brad is wrong, so what?

Anonymous said...

"So you think Brad is wrong, so what?"

If you don't care then don't expect me to give you a reason to care.

Butt Buddy said...

Anon, zazen is between a man and a woman. No other combination can be called zazen.

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

Hey Weasel Tracks the comments were much appreciated, thanks! I like especially this one:

But the methods of Zen and other sects require you to get beyond intention, which is replaced by the direction and momentum of your practice.
..So can I practice CW (morse code) and make that the momentum builder? For instance I've heard of people using Art, Math, whatever as a form of practice...ahhh but it is not sitting lotus... or Burmese ...


Cheers!

Dale

Mark Foote said...

Walking around tonight, a little bit. I've read that the Gautamid probably walked twenty miles regularly, as he traveled between villages. One of my favorite quotes from the Pali Canon, that he liked being on the highway with no one in front or behind, sometimes more than answering the calls of nature. Believe he traveled in the rainy season as well; monks only started taking up residency in the rainy season when there were so many of them that their movements in the rainy season were a problem. Something like that.

Reading something Pat Phelan said today, too:

"Once we are no longer thinking, the tendency is to zone out or fall asleep. I think letting go of objects of mind while staying awake and present, with bare bones consciousness, is like walking on a tight rope, trying not to tip and fall into thinking on one side or fall into sleeping on the other."

from Chapel Hill Zen Center site, here

I am drawn to the sense of place that precedes absorption, the absorption of thought, of concentration, of ease. The tight rope draws me.

Issho Fujita spoke of finding the mind of the posture of zazen, when he spoke at Sonoma Mountain. I recently wrote this, to the friend in New York who said that when he practice what I describe in "Waking Up and Falling Asleep" he never found his mind below his waist:

"There is a relationship for me between the movement of breath, posture or carriage, and the place of occurrence of consciousness. That's a restatement of something of mine you quoted me, without cranial-sacral theory; either way, I don't experience this activity unless I am "waking up or falling asleep", and the initiation of action is a result of the place of occurrence of consciousness rather than my habitual activity of posture."

I find today as I am walking that Khru is probably right, but more to the point that I like cranial-sacral theory, because it says that flexion and extension at the sacrum affects flexion and extension at the sphenoid and occiput; the pineal in the center of the sphenoid is involved in waking up and falling asleep. So the posture relates to our ability to relax into the place of occurrence of consciousness, the sense of location in space that I find synonymous with waking up and falling asleep. It's delightful to find oneself on the tightrope before absorption, provided one never got on the tightrope to begin with, and it's not necessary.

I also wrote that the ability of the sacrum to pivot is the limiting factor in the flexibility at the hips and the knees in sitting the lotus- and this:

'Moshe Feldenkrais wrote about finding support for the lower spine so that the breath could be continued through shifts in posture. To that end, he recommended exercises to experience the basic motions of pitch, yaw, and roll while sitting on a chair. Hypnic phenomena connected with the place of occurrence of consciousness can initiate all three of these basic motions, as necessary for the support of the lower spine in the movement of breath- and do so solely as a result of the place of occurrence of consciousness from moment to moment.'

"... making self-surrender (one's) object of thought, (one) lays hold of concentration, lays hold of one-pointedness of mind." (SN V 2 , Pali Text Society volume 5 pg 175-176, ©Pali Text Society)'

Sitting the lotus or half-lotus, one inevitably finds a sense of the location of mind associated with the movement of breath and the cranial-sacral rhythm. Kind of forced to, but since there are few ways to wake up or fall asleep to this in the course of civilized life, I think the posture and the mind of the posture can become an acquired taste.

I think Uchiyama used three shots of whiskey to get the feeling back in his legs at night. Sasaki sits in a chair to lecture, at 105.

Jinzang said...

Yo, Bernie, Everybody knows Who's on first.

Sorry, sometimes I let my ego run away with me and it's not a very pretty sight.

Anonymous said...

Ok... I guess my point was made.

When Brad was asked direct questions about his statements regarding practitioners who sit in a chair... (statements that he has made perfectly clear in previous postings) he refused to answer or defend those views.

All he did was give the "Zenny" response:

The answer to that question is the answer to the ones you've posed. Unfortunately I cannot supply it, nor can it be limited to yes or no.

Whew! Lucky for you there are folks out there who think you actually addressed my questions responding in such a ridiculous fashion.

Brad Warner said...

When Brad was asked direct questions about his statements regarding practitioners who sit in a chair... (statements that he has made perfectly clear in previous postings) he refused to answer or defend those views.

All he did was give the "Zenny" response:

The answer to that question is the answer to the ones you've posed. Unfortunately I cannot supply it, nor can it be limited to yes or no.

Whew! Lucky for you there are folks out there who think you actually addressed my questions responding in such a ridiculous fashion.


You really seem to care about my opinions on these matters. But you've said you already know what they are. Now you want me to defend them.

I don't get this at all.

I'm trying to answer you, not provide a Grand Statement for All People. But it's impossible to do that without knowing who is asking the question and why.

If you just want my public policy on the matter, it's on record. And, yes, it is inconsistent. It is deliberately inconsistent. That's because different people (singular & plural) require different answers at different times and because I am a different person at different times. If you want consistency, this is not where you will find it.

Anonymous said...

Flux...

everything is in a state of flux...

except nothing

nothing from nothing...

Anonymous said...

Brad sed:
"You really seem to care about my opinions on these matters. But you've said you already know what they are. Now you want me to defend them.

I don't get this at all.


Of course I know your view!
You stated it in previous blog postings!
It's titled Sitting in Chairs is Not Zazen
You told people in sitting group that:

"In other words, I wasn't about to go in as a guest and tell a group who'd been practicing in some way that they couldn't do the thing they do the way they'd been doing it for years.

But I did tell them that sitting in chairs was not zazen. Zazen is a physical practice. To sit in a chair and call it zazen is incorrect. It's not that sitting on a chair will lead you to Satan and cause your eternal soul to burn forever in Hell. It's not evil. It's just not zazen."


And...

So this weekend in Antwerp and next weekend in Manchester, England I will be allowing people to sit in chairs if they insist upon it.

I'll be glad to have their participation.

I won't be mean to them or shout at them or tell them they're doing something wrong.

I don't bite.

I always allow people to do what they want as long as it doesn't disrupt others.

People sitting on chairs will be welcome to be with us and share in the experience in their own way.

But they won't be doing zazen.

Not a big deal. It just isn't zazen if you sit on a chair, unless there really honestly is no other way you can do it. That's all."


You are 100% crystal clear up until the end... It just isn't zazen if you sit on a chair, unless there really honestly is no other way you can do it. That's all."
So if you sit in a chair, not plopped, but with both feet planted and back erect, but there is some way you could conceivably sit on the floor - that is not zazen... unless there is just no possible way one can sit on the floor at all... then it is zazen??

You define zazen completely and utterly thru body position.

I'm trying to answer you, not provide a Grand Statement for All People. But it's impossible to do that without knowing who is asking the question and why.

I am somebody who has been a practicing Buddhist for over 20 years. I can sit in the lotus if I desire with no problems. I am asking all this because I find your opinion... and your teachers opinion... nonsensical. You and your teacher Gudo Nishijima are the only ones who say that "Sitting in chairs is not zazen" No other zen teachers outside of your lineage say such a thing...

Not even Dogen says it!

It is very disturbing and confusing to me. Here is your chance to clarify.

If you just want my public policy on the matter, it's on record.

YES!
I KNOW!
I have been trying to get you to defend your publicly stated view for some time now, but you won't... which then therefore makes me suspect that you can't!

And, yes, it is inconsistent. It is deliberately inconsistent. That's because different people (singular & plural) require different answers at different times and because I am a different person at different times. If you want consistency, this is not where you will find it.

All that means is that there are times and peoples who you would say that sitting in a chair IS zazen... and if that is the case, then why go through all the trouble putting out a publicly stated opinion that is contrary to it in the first place?

Brad Warner said...

No other zen teachers outside of your lineage say such a thing... (that siting on chairs is not zazen)

You're joking here, right? There are places even in the USA where they will send you home of you can't sit on a cushion.

The rest of your questions I have now answered very thoroughly on a new blog post. See how nice I am?

Mark Foote said...

@anonymous,

your question I think could be reframed: why do they make a person sit 10 days or more of tangaryo at places like Eiheji if they show up to sit in half-lotus, instead of one week if they sit the lotus?

I don't know, has anyone shown up there to do tangaryo sitting in a chair?

Why do they do that?

Why can't they explain why they do that? The Japanese seem to delight in making no attempt to come to Western terms with their traditional practice.

Kobun said he never had pain or numbness when he sat in the lotus. I have some numbness, almost daily. I don't think I'm going to learn to pretzel without numbness by stretching more, or by sitting more. I do look forward to sitting at Jikoji for 3 days or so this summer, but I don't expect to be without numbness by the time I get there. I think sitting the lotus without numbness is a matter of following my pre-bliss, as it were; just to experience the well-being of the spontaneous occurrence of consciousness is enough. The spontaneous occurrence of consciousness takes place now here, now there, as contact is made in the senses. The ability to feel informs the place of occurrence of consciousness, and the impact of the occurrence of consciousness generates an ability to feel.

So he abides fully conscious of what is behind and what is in front.
As (he is conscious of what is) in front, so behind: as behind, so in front;
as below, so above: as above, so below:
as by day, so by night: as by night, so by day.
Thus with wits alert, with wits unhampered, he cultivates his mind to brilliancy.

(Sanyutta-Nikaya, text V 263, Pali Text Society volume 5 pg 235, ©Pali Text Society)

“An empty hand grasps the hoe handle
Walking along, I ride the ox
The ox crosses the wooden bridge
The bridge is flowing, the water is still.”

(“Zen’s Chinese Heritage”, Andy Ferguson, pg 2, ©2000 Andrew Ferguson)

Anonymous said...

Brad sed:

You're joking here, right? There are places even in the USA where they will send you home of you can't sit on a cushion.

There is...?
Where?

Brad Warner said...

A woman I met was sent out of a zendo in NYC because she couldn't sit on a cushion due to being pregnant.

I've heard other similar tales here & there.

In SFZC there are chairs but not in the zendo, in the outer area. In Tassajara they will allow people to sit in chairs but only after special consultation. Chairs are not available unless you go ask for one.

In Japan, it is rare to be allowed to sit in a chair in a zendo. The very idea of bringing a chair into such a space would seem weird. You do not put chairs on tatami mats in general.

Anonymous said...

Well...
Those cases seem to be more about accommodations and not about "sitting in chairs means one isn't doing zazen".
Accomidations or lack thereof is a different argument imo.

AccordingtoAndrew said...

Wow! Delighted to read this blog. I first read Hardcore Zen when I was living at Yokoji Zen Mountain Center in California. My Roshi is (still, even unto this day) Charles Tenshin Fletcher. I don't know what his opinion on your writings (I have read all of your books, and yes, I do read voraciously so I do read "other" material as well), but I have appreciated your directness from the beginning. As a yogasana teacher (influenced by Anusara) and leader of a small mediation group I get all kinds of weird questions and opinions. Just saying, thanks for what you bring and the clarity of what you provide, even when you must yell over the internet.