Here I am in a Starbucks in Berlin using their free WiFi while the muzak plays a jazzy arrangement of “Every Little Breeze Seems to Whisper Louise.” I am not by the wall. I am not five feet ten inches tall. There is no doubonet on ice. But honey, it is paradise. There are two girls across the way speaking Japanese. They have no idea I can understand them.

I talked to a beautiful girl from Stüttgart on the train from Hannover where I had to change trains in order to make it here from Frankfurt. That was nice.

She recommended I go see the Topographies des Terror museum. Which is what I did this afternoon. It is built on the former site of the headquarters of the SS, the Nazi secret police. The exhibits show how the SS gradually took over Germany. Very intense stuff. Whenever I hear people talking about how Barrak Obama or George W. Bush or whoever else is a “Nazi,” I have to wonder if they’ve ever done the least bit of research into what the actual Nazis were like. The actual Nazis were kind of bad. I mean like, really, really horrible.

Look at the cute Nazis smooching in the sand! That’s one of the photos at the museum. Plus photos of Hitler feeding deer in a park. Aw! (I’m being sarcastic. You knew that, though.)

Nazi-ism is the antithesis of Buddhism in a lot of ways. One of the least obvious, though probably the most important is that Nazi-ism was completely goal oriented. The Nazis weren’t evil in the way we like to think of evil people being evil. They weren’t rubbing their hands and cackling, “Ve shall rule ze vorld in ze name of eeeeeeeeeevil!!! Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!”

No. They wanted a better world, a world unified and at peace.

The Nazis set their sites on a goal. And they were willing to do all sorts of nasty things to make that goal happen. The goal was important. What needed to be done to achieve it was secondary. But goals are problematic. They never really turn out the way you imagine them.

Ironically many of the goals the Nazis were trying to accomplish have come to pass, though not in the ways they would have envisioned or  liked. Europe is unified. There is a single currency throughout most of the continent. There is even a common language spoken by people all over Europe. That the language is English and not German, the currency is the Euro and not the Deutsche Mark and the union is presided over from Brussels rather than Berlin might have made them cringe. But many of their major goals have been achieved. That the Nazis themselves had to be destroyed in order that their goals could be achieved probably didn’t fit Hitler’s master plan. But that’s how goal-oriented practice works.

In Zen we have no goals. We may have a general aim for our practice. But we understand that things won’t come out the way we imagine them. The Nazis had to be utterly destroyed for a unified Europe to be born. Likewise, our sense  that our self is a real thing and the core of our being, that sense of self which creates our goals, has to be demolished before we can be unified.

Oh Jesus! What a metaphor.

Please. Just forget I said any of that.

I also saw a mural that said, “How long is now?” That’s a good Zen question. Let’s ponder that one for a while instead of what I just wrote. OK?



These are the remaining dates of my European Tour!

Nov. 14 (Wed) Dharma Buchladen Berlin, Germany

Nov. 16 and 17 (Fri-Sat) Merchant City Yoga Glasgow, Scotland

Nov. 23-25 (Fri-Sun) Weekend Sesshin at Fawcett Mill Fields, Penrith, Lake District  UK Sponsored by Yoga Manchester

Nov. 25 (Sun) Manchester, England Sponsored by Yoga Manchester

Nov. 27-28 (Tues-Wed) Hebden Bridge, UK

Dec. 2 (Sun) London, England, The Vibast Community Centre, 163 Old Street, EC1V 9NH, for info


And, of course, as always, this tour is being financed largely by your donations. Yeah, I’m getting paid at most (not all) of the places I’m speaking. But it’s not enough to pay all my bills back home. So every donation helps! Thanks!!

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58 Responses

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  1. conchis
    conchis November 19, 2012 at 1:57 am |

    Thanks for the Glasgow workshop. During the first part of the talk on ‘Fukanzazengi’ you said that ‘it’ in the translation done by Nishijima & Cross is actually a Chinese character, which means something profound. Can you please let me know what this character actually is?

  2. ichabod801
    ichabod801 November 19, 2012 at 5:52 pm |

    Thanks for the reply Mark, I think I understand what you mean. I would just not use the same words to describe it, but then we are trying to describe something that can’t be described. My attempt would be “In the moment there is action. That is all.”

    And yes, Fred.

  3. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 19, 2012 at 9:56 pm |

    Wow, interesting piece of Brad’s lecture; thanks, Fred. Wish I looked that good when I sit; but really, it’s pretty safe to say the things that Brad says there, and I’m afraid my contention that there are positive and substantive things that can be offered about the practice of zazen has yet to find favor with teachers and students of the same. If I had a credential, people might take me more seriously than they should.

    Thanks for the response, Mr. I. The here and now in zazen has something for everybody. Step up, step up, see the fire-eating dragon, or maybe just the coils of the dragon here and there and moment to moment! I am working on an analogy with juggling, what do you think:

    “Just as a juggler begins to juggle by tossing an object into the air, and continues by finding a rhythm that keeps at least one object up in the air at all times, so too a person begins to practice zazen by experiencing balance and gravity in the free occurrence of awareness, and continues by finding a rhythm of feeling with respect to the movement of breath that permits a free occurrence of awareness at all times. “

  4. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 19, 2012 at 9:59 pm |

    (Not something one can do- kids, don’t try to do something at home, just sit there!)

  5. King Kong
    King Kong November 20, 2012 at 4:39 am |


  6. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 20, 2012 at 7:14 am |

    I’d like to thank everybody for allowing me to dry my underwear in public; I think now that it’s dry and clean I may donate it to the people of Long Island:

    “Just as a juggler depends on gravity and balance to keep each object in the air, so too the practice of zazen depends on a sense of gravity and balance in the occurrence of awareness to permit the feeling necessary to the movement of breath. ”

    sorry to drive you up a tree, Kong.

  7. yesno
    yesno November 21, 2012 at 11:00 am |

    “On the way back they sang a number of tuneful and reflective songs on the subjects of peace, justice, morality, culture, sport, family life and the obliteration of all other life forms.”

    Douglas Adams “Life, the universe and everything” Chapter twelve


Comments are closed.