Berlin

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?

Thanks!

***

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 sacredalchemyevents@hotmail.com

***

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!!

58 Responses

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  1. chiba13
    chiba13 November 13, 2012 at 4:45 am | |

    Glad you’re having fun on your European jaunt!

    Technically, the Gestapo were the secret police. Geheime Staatspolizei = secret state police :) The higher-ups of the Gestapo did tend to be SS officers, though.

    The SS were the militarized branch of the Nazi party – the real true believers & hard-chargers of the movement. Scary bunch.

    Great analogies … awesome insight. THis might be my favorite blog post of yours, ever.

  2. Fred
    Fred November 13, 2012 at 4:50 am | |

    “Before I had studied Zen for thirty years, I saw mountains as mountains, and waters as waters. When I arrived at a more intimate knowledge, I came to the point where I saw that mountains are not mountains, and waters are not waters. But now that I have got its very substance I am at rest. For it’s just that I see mountains once again as mountains, and waters once again as waters”

  3. fightclubbuddha
    fightclubbuddha November 13, 2012 at 5:42 am | |

    Yes, and when you go to Manchester, the question will change to “How Soon is Now?”

  4. Fred
    Fred November 13, 2012 at 6:42 am | |

    Now is forever was.

  5. blake
    blake November 13, 2012 at 7:06 am | |

    KATZ!

  6. Johnny Tet
    Johnny Tet November 13, 2012 at 8:55 am | |

    Cafe’ life in Berlin. Chatting with girls on trains. European sensibilities.
    Good times.
    Texas – where Your-a-pee’n ain’t where yer from, it’s what yer doin.
    Good times.

  7. A-Bob
    A-Bob November 13, 2012 at 10:27 am | |

    There is very little interest in Zen in Greece today. On the other hand Nazism is resurgent there. Nazism will never be utterly destroyed as long as people imagine they are blameless.

  8. boubi
    boubi November 13, 2012 at 2:11 pm | |

    Hi Brad

    I really hope you were joking when you stated:
    – “No. They wanted a better world, a world unified and at peace.”
    – “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.”
    – “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.”

    They didn’t want a better world they wanted a hell on earth were all non aryan people were slaves alive untill able to work for free for the “herenvolk”, then it was just death like cattle.

    The same way as the vision of the world of the imperial japan. For Japan just have a look at wikipedia atJapanese_war_crimes and Nanjing_Massacre

    For the nazi one i think that any grown up person should know what they did and why.

    Sorry Brad the goals of the european union are NOT the ones of the nazis, i don’t know what they teach in the States, but if i were you i would have a second read of your last article.

    I repeat, nazi’s goal was to exterminate the “untermenschen” (below human) or use them as animals to fulfill their domination goals. Thanks also to some of your ancestors (i think) they have been stoped, if not the KKK would have looked as a benign sunday school association. Please read your history.

  9. boubi
    boubi November 13, 2012 at 2:12 pm | |

    For the nazi one i think that any grown up person should know what they did and why. Just have a look here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ra2m7gNMOw

  10. shade
    shade November 13, 2012 at 2:50 pm | |

    Weird, weird weird picture

    Just to throw my two cents in, I think their should be a moratorium on comparing anyone to Hitler just because you’re opposed to their politics, ideology, personality, whatever. People on both sides (or all sides?) of the fence do it, and it’s getting pretty tedious. Barack Obama, George Bush, Donald Trump, The CEO of Chick Fillet, the guy sitting behind you at the movies who gave you a nasty look…. all Hitler. apparently.

    And here’s a troubling question… is there such a thing as a “good” Nazi? I mean literally, and I’m not just trying to be provocative or offensive. Oscar Schindler was, technically speaking, a Nazi, and hung out with members of the SS. And I’ve heard stories from my grandmother, who was a Hungarian Jew, about Nazi officers who helped Jews and other persecuted persons emigrate. This is no doubt the exception to the rule, but such realities should be acknowledged however the complicate our perceptions.

    Around the time I was thirteen I came to the realization that my existence was contingent upon the Nazis and their evil schemes. Had the Germans not invaded Hungary in WW2, my grandmother and her family would never have come to the U.S., my grandmother would never have met my grandfather, my mom would never have been born… ect., ect. Of course this is true of many people in the United States, Canada and other places. A disturbing notion and the source of many existential quandries, without a doubt. If I owe my life to the actions of monsters, does that make my existence monsterous?

  11. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 13, 2012 at 7:58 pm | |

    But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane [you aren't alone]
    In proving foresight may be vain:
    The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
    Gang aft a-gley, [often go awry]
    An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
    For promised joy.

    Robert Burns

  12. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 13, 2012 at 8:07 pm | |

    Review: A Century of Dishonor: A Sketch of the United States Government’s Dealings with some of the Indian Tribes
    User Review – Francine Fontana – Goodreads
    Think you know something about history? Not until you read this. Bone chilling truth about what our government allowed to happen to the American Indian Tribes.

    A Century of Dishonor, by Helen Jackson, originally published 1889

  13. A-Bob
    A-Bob November 13, 2012 at 9:00 pm | |

    Brad: German Fascists (Nazis) actually thought war to be a useful and good thing for real humans. They thought that was how nature separated sub-humans from super-humans. That’s how they justified what they did. One less Jew is a good thing. It’s supernatural. I’m not sure how you define evil, but that philosophy is close enough for me.

  14. Dorg
    Dorg November 13, 2012 at 10:35 pm | |

    The ends don’t justify the means – this really needs to be printed on billboards and buses everywhere, because it’s is the root of most human misery and foolishness — the idea that you can ignore the clear immorality of your current actions because all that matters is the impossible world you’ve created in your head where your “self” will finally, FINALLY be safe and happy and protected from all the bad thoughts.

    boubi’s comment above about how non-aryans were considered non-human is the crux of the nazi/imperial Japan/North Korea problem to me. “Racial purity” is one of the most dangerous ideas humans have ever had about themselves. It turns otherwise normal, gentle people into cold-blooded killers. And talk about not understanding dependent origination…

  15. Khru
    Khru November 13, 2012 at 11:18 pm | |

    But seriously, magic mushrooms do work like meditation.

  16. Andy
    Andy November 14, 2012 at 6:57 am | |

    “It turns otherwise normal, gentle people into cold-blooded killers.”

    We’re somewhat responsible for our normality, gentleness, cold-bloodedness and homicidal impulses and what not – as well as our beliefs.

    Although only Nazis are Nazis, they provide us with examples that reveal our own potential as human beings to follow certain paths. It’s easiy to separate them out as some totemic, repugnant other; it’s painful to see what we have in common.

    How do I project an other as a way to seek some control, protect myself; vent the demons of past actions and injury; find validation in agreement, common cause or gripe – feel at peace with the world in other words?

  17. anon1253
    anon1253 November 14, 2012 at 6:09 pm | |
  18. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 14, 2012 at 10:17 pm | |

    A new study suggests that a single dose of psilocybin — the active ingredient in “Magic Mushrooms” — can result in improved personality traits over the long term.

    Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found that individuals who received the drug once in a clinical setting reported a greater sense of “openness” that often lasted 14 months or longer, according to study published this week in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

    The study defined openness as a personality trait that “encompasses aesthetic appreciation and sensitivity, imagination and fantasy, and broad-minded tolerance of others’ viewpoints and values.” It is one of five main personality traits that are shared among all cultures worldwide. (here)

  19. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 14, 2012 at 10:24 pm | |

    does meditation “develop and bring to fruition” a greater sense of openness, as some would seem to claim in stating that ‘shrooms work like meditation ?

    “…the impossible world you’ve created in your head where your “self” will finally, FINALLY be safe and happy and protected from all the bad thoughts”– ENLIGHTENMENT! Bodhi Svaha, we are cookin’ with shizzle now!

  20. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel November 15, 2012 at 2:31 am | |

    anon1253 wrote
    “How about Obama as Mussolini?”

    He’d need to get fatter, shorter, and balder… And act in a ridiculously theatrical way.

    Boubi: it is always a temptation to deprive the Nazis from their humanity. It helps us to “know” that we shall never be like them. But that’s not true. It is a gruesome potentiality of all humanity to do the worst evil, with the justification that it is indeed “good”.
    Look for instance in the Bible:
    Numbers, 31, 1-19 & 33, 50-56
    Deuteronomy, 2, 31- 36 ; 3, 1-8 ; 7, 1-5 ; 7, 16, 20-25 ; 9, 1-4 & 6-17
    Joshua 6 & 7

    and remember that these passages were the religious justification for the atrocities committed by the Americans against the American First Nations.

  21. AnneMH
    AnneMH November 15, 2012 at 6:01 am | |

    I get what you are trying to say and I have thought about it a lot. I think it is hard to look at things this way since it is often misunderstood that maybe it is excusing or justifying what horrible things have happened. Things like Israel happened, and today I was thinking that anti-semitism was all over Europe for as long as i know. It was not invented by the nazis to purge out an entire town or displace people. However after WWII it feels to me that now anti-semitism is no longer tolerated for the most part. Overall as a world culture it is not longer acceptable to just hate people. Of course I am not naive, but it is movement.

    Okay, thinking these are the conversations that are not as easy on the internet

  22. AnneMH
    AnneMH November 15, 2012 at 6:02 am | |

    PS if you are in the US the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC does a good job of showing the smaller steps the built up to the power of the Nazi party, at least I think so. Not an easy museum however very good to understand history

  23. lubob
    lubob November 15, 2012 at 8:16 am | |

    Brad wrote “Please. Just forget I said any of that.”

    No, no, I think you hit the nail on the head. It is so easy to paint the Nazis as pure evil. But that would be a naive, simple perspective. The really horrofying point is indeed, that they were not.

    Germany at the beginning of the last century was a great country with a long and deep history, great culture, great science and art… , a role model for many people all over Europe. And then the crisis came and the lost 1st World War and the dark times. And then those people started to look out for a solution for bringing back light and happiness.

    I remember very well how one day I found an old newspaper from the 1940something and read the opinion column on page one. The editor in chief was completely shoked about the decisions of the English goverment and why England did not join Germany in this epic crusade. The English were Arians as the Germans were, natural brother in arms. Why don’t they join the movement fighting the jews and creating the eternal paradise on earth…

    As long as we do not understand that the true horror is always rootet in best intentions, we’ll be doomed. Painting THEM as evil, as some kind of aliens is the same de-humazing mechanism all politicians and militaries always use in order to make people believe that it is ok to kill another human being. I am deeply convinced that if we don’t recognize ourself in the Nazis, as long as we don’t see how their evildom reflects the all too human fears and aspirations, we don’t understand our self.

  24. boubi
    boubi November 15, 2012 at 2:44 pm | |

    @ Michel

    “Boubi: it is always a temptation to deprive the Nazis from their humanity. It helps us to “know” that we shall never be like them. But that’s not true. It is a gruesome potentiality of all humanity to do the worst evil,”

    So what now? Since it’s in the potentiality to be a monster let’s not talk about monsters?

    We, at least i, refrain from our darkest “potentialities”, we take care not to loose control, and we strive to be better persons. Isn’t it the subject (to be a better person) of a few articles?

    We don’t beat old people and children in the street for the feeling of being stronger, we don’t discriminate minorities for the feeling of being superior, we don’t ransack immigrant’s shop and properties in order to take revenge that they own something and we didn’t care to work for it. WE DON’T PLAN TO EXTERMINATE ENTIRE POPULATIONS OF HUMAN BEING FOR THE SAKE OF IT, BECAUSE THEY ARE ALLEGEDLY “INFERIOR BEINGS”.

    NAZIS WERE EVIL, while we could be evil but we don’t want to be, WE CHOOSE not to.

    THAT’S THE DIFFERENCE.

    I’m really sorry that Brad came with such a truckload of conneries, i really like him and appreciate what he does and says most of the time, but this is one more proof that receiving transmission doesn’t make you anything special beyond mastering meditation.

    Beyond the single nazis, what is meant when we speak of nazis is nazism as an ideology which is undefendable. Maybe it introduced payed holidays, summer camps for kids? So what! Colombian drug lord build zoos, schools, hospitals, it doesn’t change the fact that they killed thousands of people just to sell poison with more profit.

    This said can you defend the allegation that european union has the same objectives than nazism?
    Can you say that nazism had PEACE as a goal?

    Faut pas déconner, y a une limite.

  25. boubi
    boubi November 15, 2012 at 2:59 pm | |

    @ lubob AKA ib8ungenrv

    Here it comes!

    “And then those people started to look out for a solution for bringing back light and happiness. ”

    Which is what the revisionists want to feed people, that nazism was a quest for “light and happiness. ”

    “The English were Arians as the Germans were, natural brother in arms. Why don’t they join the movement fighting the jews and creating the eternal paradise on earth…”

    Use some propaganda @&$%# for a fight against “jews” in order to create “the eternal paradise on earth” just fits idiots/ignorants or neo-nazis

    BTW what means “ib8ungenrv”? Some shorthanded nazi talk, with 8 in it as in the tatoos with 8 instead of hitler “?

    Look the worms getting out from the woodwork

    “I am deeply convinced that if we don’t recognize ourself in the Nazis,” bla bla bla

    No, i don’t recognise myself in someone wo go to fight “the jews” in order to create some “paradise” on earth.

    Ask the jews, the slaves, the blacks, the gays, the communists, the liberals, the socialists, the sicks, all and everybody who was not “aryan” and nazi, all had to die in order for some psycopath hallucination of a “paradise” could exist.

    I don’t recognize myself with this horror, nor with Merah which is another kind of believer in some kind of “paradise”, or with the Youtube’s beheaders.

  26. boubi
    boubi November 15, 2012 at 3:04 pm | |

    When i wrote “we don’t discriminate minorities for the feeling of being superior” i should have written “we don’t EXTERMINATE minorities for the feeling of being superior”

  27. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi November 15, 2012 at 6:05 pm | |

    Great post.

    There’s a book I want to write someday, with the title:

    “If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, Any Road Will Take You There”

    Reminds me of your take on Zen.

  28. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 15, 2012 at 10:06 pm | |

    ’50 On the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho the Lord said to Moses, 51 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, 52 drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places. 53 Take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given you the land to possess. 54 Distribute the land by lot, according to your clans. To a larger group give a larger inheritance, and to a smaller group a smaller one. Whatever falls to them by lot will be theirs. Distribute it according to your ancestral tribes.

    55 “‘But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. 56 And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them.’”’

    I’m thinkin’ that’s the part you were referring to, Proulx Michel, with regard to the indigent peoples of the Americas. I’ve never read these passages in the Bible before; seems like the god of the Jews only cared for Jewish people in these passages, the rest of humanity deserved to be slain, their children slain, and their women who had known a man slain (but the rest spared). Makes me think unkind thoughts about the people who did these things in the world of the old testament, and guilt for what my ancestors I’m sure were a part of on this continent. Eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind, that’s all.

  29. lubob
    lubob November 15, 2012 at 10:47 pm | |

    @boubi

    You don’t get the point. No one here claims that the Nazis were doing any good. I guess 99,999% of the readers of this blog have a sound distance to any form of racism and other concepts of Uebermenschentum.

    The point is, that the Nazis themself considered their own actions as something done out of best intentions – by which they gave themself permission to do all the things we consider as being “evil”.

    You wrote: “We don’t beat old people and children in the street for the feeling of being stronger, we don’t discriminate minorities for the feeling of being superior”

    Ah no? There are many people in the world who think we Western are doing exactly this, pushing them around because we think our values are the right values. Which country invaded Iraq without reason, which country invaded Afganisthan, killing probably houndred of thousands of people just for hunting down a bunch of terrorists? And guess what: Those whom we call terrorists are acting out of intentions the perceive as being truly good. Those who crashed the planes into the World Trade Center were even willing to give their lives for this.

    Don’t you see the pattern?

  30. boubi
    boubi November 15, 2012 at 11:05 pm | |

    “Strangely” every time someone talks about nazis another comes up with jews.

    Weird.

    If people knew their history they should know that what the Assyrian invaders did was the same, kill, loot, destroy, and the Hittites, the Vandals, Goths, Mongols and so on.

    It just happens that the bibble was preserved while the others weren’t, and people should know that the book was edited and reedited and partly written way after the (alleged) events.

    About the “eye for eye” you’ll find it in the Hamurabi’s laws, it was the region standard compensation law.

    And frankly i don’t give a damn about what was written 3000 years ago, do you? What i care is what i do nowaday, what i choose to do.

    Almost everybody here would have voted for Obama but “let’s recognize we have the same potentiality of the nazis so don’t throw the stone on them” astonishes me coming from people who reject republican’s politics.

  31. Uku
    Uku November 15, 2012 at 11:37 pm | |

    Nazis, fuck off.

  32. boubi
    boubi November 16, 2012 at 5:38 am | |

    @ lubob AKA ib8ungenrv

    “because we think our values are the right values”

    Yes, exactly, and Bush acted AGAINST those values ! I think that another president would have done different.

    Strangely you forgot to mention the rest of the sentence which was the central point “WE DON’T PLAN TO EXTERMINATE ENTIRE POPULATIONS OF HUMAN BEING FOR THE SAKE OF IT, BECAUSE THEY ARE ALLEGEDLY “INFERIOR BEINGS””

    Our civilisation doesn’t live to it’s own values? Sadly it’s so.

    So let’s unleash the dogs of hell and throw everything down the drain, in order “to have a true paradise on earth” with the hitler, Polpot, Ahmadinejad, mollah Omar and so on?

    Our civilisation has been the ONLY one to have abolished slavery (find me another one), the only one to have created civil rights (find me another one), the only one to have developed some sense of self-criticism (find me another one).

    So based on some cultural relativism let’s “recognize” that all those lunatics, wanting to be kind, are working for “some good” and let’s not be too harsh on them?

    Al Capone too wanted “some good” for himself, but who would be apologetic to his behavior? Please stand up.

    “which country invaded Afganisthan” the first one to do it? URSS, boy, but nobody wants to admit, or even has the knowledge of it, let’s throw everything on top of dear west, right? URSS did things that wouldn’t be allowed to show in an horror movie.

    Iraq you say? Have a look at the massacre Saddam did himself, have a look at the savageries his sons did, Jack the ripper would look like a child killing ants in comparison.

    You just make me sick, boy.

  33. Andy
    Andy November 16, 2012 at 5:50 am | |

    “…but “let’s recognize we have the same potentiality of the nazis so don’t throw the stone on them” astonishes me…”

    boubi, no one wrote what you have written between those quotation marks. I don’t think anyone is suggesting that we shouldn’t ‘throw the stone’ at what the Nazis did, or what they stood for.

    For my part, when I talk about ‘the same potential,’ I am simply saying that the Nazis were human beings too. Human beings have done, are doing, and will do such things again.

    How do we work to prevent such things from happening again, if we don’t attempt to understand how human beings can turn to such acts? How can we spot these things from arising before they manifest into such extreme behaviours, on individual and collective levels, if we don’t see the very human reasons of such phenomena? And how can we see what is very human in others, if we can’t or won’t see what it is within ourselves from which such a ‘monstrous’ humanity can come to be expressed?

    Realizing that I have many qualities and tendencies in common with the human beings we understand as Nazis doesn’t diminish my sense of how utterly terrible the things they did were or prevent me from condemning such things outright. It wouldn’t prevent me from viewing such human phenomena as ‘republican politics’ as being characterized by similar human qualities and tendencies either. What might prevent me is the assumption of evil divorced of the attempt to understand why such human beings sign up to such things. It might even lead me to give some troubling Democrats or Democratic policies as easier ride than I would otherwise.

    The danger for me is when we stray into thinking that bifurcates and reifies evil apart from human intentions, acts, and expressions. One isn’t being a Nazi when one dehumanises a dehumaniser, but one is encouraging one’s own capacity to dehumanise.

    “No, i don’t recognise myself in someone wo go to fight “the jews” in order to create some “paradise” on earth.”

    The point is not to recognise oneself in such a way. If I am not a Nazi, I am not the same as someone who thought of myself different from the Jews, dehumanised and labelled them as an evil to be expunged from the world and acted upon those beliefs and the impulses which fired them into terrible individual and collective acts.

    The point is to realise how I distinguish myself from others; how I, in subtle and no so subtle ways, can dehumanise and have dehumanised other individuals and groups, and how I can cause harm and have caused harm to myself and others in allowing myself to act from and through such a state of affairs – and how these have drawn on and encouraged certain shared assumptions, beliefs and views I was often unaware of. And may still be.

    In realising how I do this, I can see and have seen how my own views and actions have and can lead down a path of extremity – and sometimes from experiences of others doing clearly nasty things. I cannot say that if my Mother had given birth to the exact same configuration of genes as I hold within me, but in a certain town in Germany at a certain year in the early C20th, that that child would not have grown into the sort of person whose actions and beliefs I find repugnant.

    What makes the difference? Try asking, never mind answering, that question without assuming something common in human beings.

    Indeed, my feelings of revulsion and the impulse to expel and separate myself from the object of that revulsion describes to me a basic human condition. But that doesn’t change the fact that whatever ‘out there’ induced such feelings and reactions, they are still my feelings and reactions. And how I objectify what induced such can lead me to transfer those same feelings and reactions to other situations, to other things, events and people.

    In shaping ourselves against very real evil acts, I think its crucially important to also guard against taking their shape.

  34. Andy
    Andy November 16, 2012 at 7:09 am | |

    “So based on some cultural relativism let’s “recognize” that all those lunatics, wanting to be kind, are working for “some good” and let’s not be too harsh on them?”

    It is not a case of seeing them or us as “working” for some good. It’s a case of seeing them and us as folk who can act, have acted, and might well be acting under that assumption. And how we can often focus on the assumed or actual ‘evils’ of others as a way to distract ourselves from our own.

    Based on understanding how designations such as good and evil are relative designations we avoid cultural relativism and misplaced usages of “cultural relativism”, and can free ourselves up to recognise and deal more effectively with lunacies at home and abroad, as well as to continually reassess and evolve the values we act from and through.

    Being “harsh” on others shouldn’t stop us being “harsh” on ourselves. Being “harsh” on ourselves doesn’t diminish what is worthwhile about ourselves, and neither is reason to stop checking to see where our assumptions about our values might be leading us.

  35. lubob
    lubob November 16, 2012 at 7:44 am | |

    @boubi

    “Iraq you say? Have a look at the massacre Saddam did himself”

    Ok, and how many other countries would you like to see invated? Any more countries and cultures you like to educate or teach a lesson?

  36. AnneMH
    AnneMH November 16, 2012 at 8:02 am | |

    Okay, argh. the written word. At least pretty much we have stayed away from any discussion of drug use in meditation!

    Here is what has developed out of my practice, I see the value in seeing the humanity in the worst situations, both the victims and the perpetrators. Some of the perpetrators I admit I cannot do this with. However I also go to work daily to stop these things from continuing to happen. As soon as I see the actions that i work against coming from someone who has nothing in common with me or humanity then I am less effective. I don’t work against huge issue of war and peace, but I do work with children at risk. I have many times found a parent who we wanted to write off as neglectful or uncooperative as someone who was struggling. And some I still have not made that connection with.

    Here is what I have experienced, Sitting dissolves a lot of what is an illusion, or at least taken more seriously than it should be. We live day to day with these illusions but we sit and they are seen for what they are. The experience of sitting for a long time makes it really really hard to keep up those illusions. Then you get into the issue of how to move along in the world while knowing this and still functioning (monasteries sound pretty good in a way). One of those illusions is duality, you can talk about it for ages and study the books but until you sit a really long time duality exists, then sometimes it is seen for what it is.

    Another general thing we live with is the idea of linear progress and stability of things like our personality. So yeah, you may disagree and see a fixed idea of what a dharma teacher is supposed to be like but that is not what is always.

  37. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 16, 2012 at 9:07 am | |

    “How do we work to prevent such things from happening again, if we don’t attempt to understand how human beings can turn to such acts? ”

    I’ve read that what was unique about the political experiment that is the U.S.A. was the separation of church and state. Democracy had been done before in other parts of the world, and we got it from the Iroquois in the New World anyway. I think the separation of religious belief from governance is the critical thing in avoiding the rationalization of behaviour on the basis of the goal, as a state and as a people. And I see how few people in the U.S.A. actually accept the separation of church and state as a founding principal of our democracy.

    “until you sit a really long time duality exists, then sometimes it is seen for what it is”- not sure I agree with this, Anne. Personally, I’m convinced that realizing action out of relaxation and calm in the hypnogogic state is the demonstration of something beyond duality, beyond doubt, yet when the hypnogogic state dissolves, there is the world of judgement. Seeing is one thing, deliverance from thought without grasping relies on the sound of bamboo or the sight of peach blossoms, as it were. How’s that.

    “the idea of linear progress and stability of things like our personality”- did you see the article on Yahoo this morning about science explaining why people stick with a partner who is a “bad boy” or “bad girl”? Seems that when the good times are unpredictable in their occurrence, dopamines are released in anticipation that heighten the pleasure of the “reward” experience. We are all twisted; also rolled, rocked, and shout-happy.

    Love the child, hate the behaviour; that’s another of my guiding lights, that I hope I come back to when I need.

  38. MasterGoodwrench
    MasterGoodwrench November 17, 2012 at 8:16 am | |

    Hi Brad-

    Enjoy your books and site. (Actually bought some of the books!)

    I think in this thread you forgot about the “argumentum ad Hitlerum” effect:
    mention Hitler or the Nazis and your comment thread goes to hell.

    Cheers,
    -David

  39. Alexander
    Alexander November 17, 2012 at 9:26 am | |

    I was in Berlin for New Year’s a couple years ago. Really enjoyed it. Especially the fact that you can both buy and drink beer on the subways. Less flippantly, it is the site of great struggles, great art, great violence, great humanitas. In one of the parks, there is an outdoor museum of gaslamps from cities all over Germany. Wonderful to visit at night in the middle of winter. The people in the department store were willing to let me try my clumsy German on them, instead of switching to English, which I deeply appreciated. There was a Los Angeles Platz not far from my hotel, which I’m still trying to figure out (although we are sister cities, but we don’t have a Plaza de Berlin). And I made a pilgrimage to the building in which V.V. Nabokov lived and wrote some of his early novels. Not accomplished (it was pretty cold while I was there, and southern California has spoiled me) was a pilgrimage to Rosa Luxembourg’s grave. Given Brad’s reflections above, it has to be admitted that had things gone the Spartacists’ way in 1919, their goals of worldwide peace and liberty probably would not have gone as hoped. Even if they managed to establish an alternate and democratic communism to compete with Lenin’s dictatorship, human nature tends to eat goals for breakfast. This annoys me no end. Goals are what I thought life was all about.

  40. ichabod801
    ichabod801 November 17, 2012 at 10:09 am | |

    If I can talk about something besides Nazis for a moment, I really have to disagree with all this “goalless Zen” stuff. We have goals for our Zen practice. They are what drive us to practice. This is not a problem. The problem is clinging to those goals. To me, that’s what you’re saying with “general aims for our Zen practice.” Those are goals that we’re just not clinging to.

    This letting go is important, because we cannot practice Zen without letting go of them. Our goals are about the future, and when we are in the moment they are necessarily gone. And when we come out on the other side, where things aren’t what we expected, we don’t freak out that our goals haven’t been met, because we’re not clinging to them.

    It seems to me to be a lot like desire. It’s not that I try to get rid of all desire, I don’t think that’s possible. I just try not to cling to my desires. I think that saying that Zen is about getting rid of all desire is what feeds the view that Buddhism is some nihilistic philosophy where no one cares about anything.

    Now you’re not saying get rid of all desire, but when you say that “in Zen we have no goals,” it sounds like the same thing. Maybe that’s why you told me to ignore what you said.

  41. King Kong
    King Kong November 17, 2012 at 8:23 pm | |

    IS THE GOAL OPERATIONAL ??

  42. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 17, 2012 at 8:55 pm | |

    “We have goals for our Zen practice. They are what drive us to practice.”

    I have a necessity from one moment to the next, and that is what drives me to practice. True, I learned to practice believing it could help me sit up straight and pay attention. I was wrong about that. I thought maybe if I found what was really necessary to my life, then I could get on from there. I didn’t realize that there isn’t an “on” from there.

    I hear you about coming in with goals and going out with goals and something happens in the middle, yet my fascination is with waking up or falling asleep in the sense of location I feel with the movement of breath. And when the breath stops, the necessity is there, can you feel it.

  43. ichabod801
    ichabod801 November 18, 2012 at 7:49 am | |

    I don’t understand what you mean Mark. When I am in the moment there is no necessity. A necessity would seem to imply something outside the moment.

  44. Katageek
    Katageek November 18, 2012 at 1:33 pm | |

    Brad,

    Why, OH WHY, can we not get Nishijima’s version of “Shobogenzo” on iBooks or Amazon?

    Any news on this?

  45. Alizrin
    Alizrin November 18, 2012 at 2:39 pm | |

    Okay, I will admit it . . . I have been known to get into a rant where I put on a pretty good persuasive argument for how Shambhala is akin to Nazism…. (Well, pretty good in my estimation at the time when I get into the rant, which seems so clever and new at the time.)

    I’ve been to the Topography of Terror and it is a well done and powerful examination of the rise of German fascism. There are lessons in it that we all could use.

    And as far as Shambhala goes, just today I was debating with a friend about whether institutions have egos, and if it is the institution’s ego that leads to the flaws and rigidity of an institution. In Shambhala’s case I would say that the combination of the demands of the institution, the mistake in setting up a governance that mirrors Tibetan monarchy, and the encouragement of cults of personality, viewing Chogyam Trungpa as a god king and the sakyong as a petit prince, lead to a rather flawed institution that serves itself and its leaders rather than its members.

    But then again, instead of worrying about all that, I should just meditate.

  46. Fred
    Fred November 18, 2012 at 2:43 pm | |

    There is no I to be in the moment. Reality is realizing itself.

    Practice with a goal, even without attachment, still creates an I. Someone is doing
    something to get somewhere.

    If Zazen does Zazen, no I is necessary.

    And some masters say that Zazen is itself enlightenment.

  47. Fred
    Fred November 18, 2012 at 2:49 pm | |

    “Thus the self setting itself out in array sees itself.

    This is the understanding that the self is time”

  48. King Kong
    King Kong November 18, 2012 at 6:38 pm | |

    HOW DO YOU UNDERSTAND “”IS”” ??

  49. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 18, 2012 at 7:38 pm | |

    “I don’t understand what you mean Mark. When I am in the moment there is no necessity. A necessity would seem to imply something outside the moment.”

    “There is no I to be in the moment.”

    The great matter is life and death; fundamentally this is a choiceless proposition, a matter of necessity, and the question would be how does action take place out of necessity rather than choice? I am saying that when I am where I am and what I feel enters into where I am, where I am allows me to feel what is necessary in the movement of breath at the moment, and this is how waking up and falling asleep takes place. All I can do is relax and calm down.

    In my experience, what I truly believe does enter into it. That’s probably that strangeness in hypnotic suggestion where a person under suggestion won’t do anything they believe is morally wrong; they will cluck like a chicken and walk like a duck but they won’t commit murder. In waking up and falling asleep where I am, action can come out of what I believe, without the exercise of volition.

    Clear as mud, thick as a brick, now where getting somewhere- “is”!

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