Can You Be My Teacher?

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

Can you be my teacher?

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

The short answer is this:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

170 Responses

  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous January 6, 2012 at 6:24 am |

    Blogger Korey said…

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

    Haha.. Korey. Hahahaha… Funny.

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous January 6, 2012 at 6:33 am |

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

  3. Anonymous
    Anonymous January 6, 2012 at 6:52 am |

    I 2nd the ?

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

    How the fuck do you know that Brad?

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

  4. Anonymous
    Anonymous January 6, 2012 at 7:19 am |

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

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

    Enough of this . Next subject. Move on.

  5. Brad Warner
    Brad Warner January 6, 2012 at 7:24 am |

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

  6. peter
    peter January 6, 2012 at 7:27 am |

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

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

    I await your instruction Lord Zen.

    p.s lastest book was a cracker 🙂

  7. Brad Warner
    Brad Warner January 6, 2012 at 7:29 am |

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

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

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

    But, of course, that's just speculation.

  8. Brad Warner
    Brad Warner January 6, 2012 at 7:40 am |

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

    It's hard to say.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  9. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote January 6, 2012 at 9:20 am |

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

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

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

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

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

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

  10. anon #108
    anon #108 January 6, 2012 at 9:56 am |

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

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

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

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

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

  11. Mysterion
    Mysterion January 6, 2012 at 10:07 am |

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. buddy
    buddy January 6, 2012 at 10:43 am |

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

  13. Anonymous
    Anonymous January 6, 2012 at 10:57 am |

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

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

  14. Mysterion
    Mysterion January 6, 2012 at 11:31 am |

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. Corey V.
    Corey V. January 6, 2012 at 11:46 am |

    Mysterion and Korey,

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

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

  16. Anonymous
    Anonymous January 6, 2012 at 11:50 am |

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

  17. Anonymous Bob
    Anonymous Bob January 6, 2012 at 12:41 pm |

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

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

    CAPTCHA : rearsuit : I kid you not

  18. Mysterion
    Mysterion January 6, 2012 at 12:45 pm |

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  19. Anonymous
    Anonymous January 6, 2012 at 1:49 pm |

    Good one!

    Nothing could be more obvious.

  20. Anonymous
    Anonymous January 6, 2012 at 2:58 pm |

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

  21. Anonymous
    Anonymous January 6, 2012 at 2:59 pm |

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

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

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

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

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

    you still teach plenty as you in your current circumstances attest

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

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

  22. Korey
    Korey January 6, 2012 at 3:15 pm |

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  23. Cidercat
    Cidercat January 6, 2012 at 4:55 pm |

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

    Surely life is the best teacher.

  24. Anonymous
    Anonymous January 6, 2012 at 6:10 pm |

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

  25. Mysterion
    Mysterion January 6, 2012 at 6:25 pm |

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  26. Anonymous
    Anonymous January 6, 2012 at 6:32 pm |

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

  27. PhilBob-SquareHead
    PhilBob-SquareHead January 6, 2012 at 6:38 pm |

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

  28. Mysterion
    Mysterion January 6, 2012 at 6:42 pm |

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  29. Helen Brown
    Helen Brown January 6, 2012 at 8:28 pm |

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

  30. Anonymous
    Anonymous January 6, 2012 at 9:42 pm |

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

  31. Anonymous
    Anonymous January 6, 2012 at 9:44 pm |

    some bells helps too…

  32. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote January 7, 2012 at 12:08 am |

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

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

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

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

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

  33. anon #108
    anon #108 January 7, 2012 at 4:34 am |

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  34. anon #108
    anon #108 January 7, 2012 at 4:47 am |

    A small edit to 4.34am –

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

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

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

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

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

    Captcha this time = sidit. Too spooky.

  35. john e mumbles
    john e mumbles January 7, 2012 at 6:51 am |

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

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

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

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

  36. john e mumbles
    john e mumbles January 7, 2012 at 7:17 am |

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

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

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

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

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

  37. anon #108
    anon #108 January 7, 2012 at 7:30 am |

    Hi John,

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

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

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

  38. john e mumbles
    john e mumbles January 7, 2012 at 7:35 am |

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

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

  39. anon #108
    anon #108 January 7, 2012 at 7:39 am |

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  40. john e mumbles
    john e mumbles January 7, 2012 at 7:49 am |

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  41. anon #108
    anon #108 January 7, 2012 at 7:50 am |

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

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

  42. anon #108
    anon #108 January 7, 2012 at 7:52 am |

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

  43. john e mumbles
    john e mumbles January 7, 2012 at 7:55 am |

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

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

  44. Fred
    Fred January 7, 2012 at 7:58 am |

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

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

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

    When the bottom falls out the bottom falls out.

  45. anon #108
    anon #108 January 7, 2012 at 8:07 am |

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

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

    And then to completely let go…

    (Or allow?) Yes.

    Captcha = skating

  46. john e mumbles
    john e mumbles January 7, 2012 at 8:26 am |

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

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

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

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

  47. Mysterion
    Mysterion January 7, 2012 at 9:01 am |

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  48. Anonymous
    Anonymous January 7, 2012 at 9:06 am |

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

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

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

  49. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote January 7, 2012 at 11:05 am |

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  50. Brad Warner
    Brad Warner January 7, 2012 at 3:12 pm |

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

    Oh this shit drives me nuts!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    If any of that helps at all.

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