First off, tomorrow, Saturday August 4, 2012, at 9:50 AM I will be hosting zazen at Hill Street Center 237 Hill St., Santa Monica, CA 90405. Beginners are welcome. I’ve been making this announcement here every week for the past month and not one single person has shown up because of it. The same six people come every time. Of course, it’s fine to have such a small group. There are a lot of benefits to it actually. It’s just that I don’t think I’ll ever understand why so few people come to these things. Is zazen that scary? Or maybe Santa Monica is scary.

Also, a couple of nice reviews have appeared on the Internets. First up is one for my new book Hardcore Zen Strikes Again. It’s from Punk Globe. And here, my friends, is a new review of my book Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate, a book that was published way back in the year of our lord twenty-ought-eight!

And if you buy the audiobook version of Hardcore Zen before midnight tonight (Aug. 3, 2012) the folks at CDBaby will give me the full purchase price you pay instead of taking their usual cut. Which doesn’t save you anything, but it earns me more. It’s kind of a weird promotion strategy they’re doing over there. But whatever. It’s good for me.


Over here in the land of America, everybody seems to be talking about Chick-Fil-A. For those of you in other parts of the world, Chick-Fil-A is an awful fast food place that specializes in fried chicken sandwiches. I have been horrified by the implications of their advertising campaigns for years. These ads always depict cows encouraging people to “eat mor chikin.” Because, you see, cows can’t spell very well. And these cows figure they might not get slaughtered if people ate chicken more often. Here is the company’s official explanation. So these cows are encouraging people to kill chickens instead of killing them. But if cows could spell even as poorly as the ones in these ads do, wouldn’t it be a crime to kill them? And if cows can spell in the Chick-Fil-A universe (even if their spelling is bad), what about chickens? Maybe they’re self-aware as well. So should we even eat animals at all? It’s a very twisted ad campaign. Anyone who finds it funny or cute can’t possibly have thought it through. Which makes it all the more horrifying. The very fact that these advertisements even exist and are apparently highly successful kind of makes me scared for the human race.

But the reason people are talking so much about Chick-Fil-A is because its CEO, Dan Cathy, says he is against gay marriage. He said, “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.’ I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.”

This statement has lead to a storm of protests all across the USA as well as tons of commentary. Church groups are banding together to support Chick-Fil-A while gay rights groups are picketing their restaurants — the photo on top is of some friends of mine protesting outside a Chick-Fil-A in Akron. The city of Boston has banned them. Now there are even gay activists supporting Mr. Cathy’s right to speak his mind.

And all I can do is sit here and think, “Really? This is what we get worked up about in America these days? This is what’s important to us?” I have never eaten at a Chick-Fil-A in my life and I doubt I ever will. This has nothing to do with their stance on gay rights. I became a vegetarian before they opened any in Northeast Ohio, where I lived way back then. I am not a fan of fast food chains. I eat at them only when there is no other choice. And since most fast food chains don’t offer anything to people like me who don’t eat dead animals, it’s very rare that I go to one. When I’m traveling across the US I end up at Subway fairly often because they have a vegetarian sandwich that actually has recognizable vegetables on it. Late one night last week I ate at In-N-Out Burger because it was the only thing open and they too actually have something I can eat (grilled cheese animal style, it’s on their “secret menu”).

On the other hand, I can see the protesters’ point. Moving back to Akron, Ohio for a year made me very aware just how pervasive chain restaurants and chain stores in general are throughout most of the country. For years I’ve lived in big cities where independent stores and restaurants still exist. In smaller cities like Akron and in the suburbs, it’s hard to find any place to eat or even to buy anything that isn’t part of some gigantic corporate chain. Thus, the opinions expressed by the owner of a fast food chain have political relevance in these here United States.

Also, these corporate chains are able to buy their raw materials in such bulk that they can afford to sell their wares at prices lower than any independent can possibly match. This makes them very attractive, especially to poor people. The downside, of course, is that everything these corporations produce is awful. It’s all pitched at the lowest possible common denominator. Fast food is just a bunch of salt and sugar and fat. It ain’t good for you!

When people talk about Buddhism and meditation in general they don’t usually say that much about nutrition. I think this is because most people assume that Buddhism is a mental thing whereas nutrition is physical. But good nutrition is important to our practice. I’m far from the best when it comes to feeding myself, although I am getting better. My friend Patrick in Yokohama is the real deal when it comes to being serious about food. He’s one of those guys who does almost all of his own cooking, eats a sensible amount of carbohydrates and fats, uses pretty much exclusively fresh vegetables, you know the drill. This is what we’re supposed to eat and our bodies function best on the fuel that nature intended. No matter how much we’d rather be eating the garbage they serve at places like Chick-Fil-A.

If you are doing zen practice it’s important to maintain your body. You need to eat good food, exercise frequently, get enough sleep and all the rest of that. This is crucial to the practice itself. It’s not enough to work on your mind without involving your body too. Body and mind are one and the same. As much as American Buddhists worry about what movies we watch or music we listen to, we ought to pay at least as much attention to the things we eat.

So, as a Buddhist, I would urge you to eat les fast fud, even if it iz chikin.


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59 Responses

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  1. akikaze
    akikaze August 3, 2012 at 12:10 pm |

    Thank you for your spot-on post. When I hear everyone talking about the “chick-fil-gay” news all I can say is “Really? Rome is burning and THIS is what we are getting upset about?” Pretty much what you said…

  2. travismd
    travismd August 3, 2012 at 12:19 pm |

    Hey Brad– big fan and gay buddhist since… a long time
    Anyway it’s not one man’s opinion that’s really problem. It’s all the money that’s being used to actually lobby and fight against the rights of americans in this country. That’s the reason for the boycott. It’s really very similar to our history of civil rights. In 1960 Woolworth’s refused to integrate it’s lunch counter– a matter of store policy that was allegedly to ‘conform to local custom’. Finally the local government, and most importantly, a LOT of regular folks, decided to make this a big deal and use peacful, nonviolent protest in the form of boycotting to draw national attention to this issue. And then finally things started to change. I’m not buying the ‘don’t we have something better to worry about’ argument that I keep hearing. This is about human rights, gay rights, my rights. Kids are still killing themselves every day because of a society and government that perpetuates an attitude that there’s something wrong with them just because they’re gay. People are being beaten on the streets of America. And on and on. Chick-fil-a is a big deal now for the same reason that Woolworth’s was a big deal back then– because a large group of people are being treated as second class citizens. The next chapter in American civil rights history is being written today. It’s time to speak up. Thanks for listening.

  3. senamegan
    senamegan August 3, 2012 at 1:03 pm |

    Thank you for writing this blog Brad. It’s great to bring awareness to it. I have to point out though that the issue is not with the opinion about marriage, it is about the millions of dollars donated toward gay hate groups and other affiliates. Also the fact that gay people have been supporting that stupid Chikin hole for a lot of years and we now found out our money was put to use against us. They also discriminate against having openly gay employees. The Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day they did on Wednesday was them rallying against gay marriage which was not necessary. These so called “good Christians” carried a lot of hate in that day. This entire public display against gay rights is showing us that there are plenty more battles ahead for gay Americans toward obtaining full equality. ~Megan

  4. senamegan
    senamegan August 3, 2012 at 1:55 pm |

    Thanks Brad. I love that you used that picture too!! Take care bro!

  5. LyriaCascade
    LyriaCascade August 3, 2012 at 2:33 pm |

    Dear Bread, at first, thank you for this article. It made me move my brain today No, suprise, your books did just the same. Your books inspired me a lot. But for now, I just hope my English is good enough to explain my opinion.

    Well, I really must try to calm down about the sentence, …” we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage”
    Gay marriage is allowed in Germany and was discussed as well.
    I’m hetero myself (and had a catholic eduction) but
    to comment Dan Cathy in detail: I deny believing that “God” is a “He” and that whateverisitis want us to be unhappy for his sake. Who said so?
    It can’t be true, that anyone still believes that God is a stern old man and busy in roaming around and staring into our beds. What a poor and insecure guy this CEO must be … omg.

    To my opinion, it is really unimportant which meat we prefer to eat or leave aside – even a carrot has the 5 signs of life, so where is the border? It seems to be an endless discussion to me so I just try to be more reasonable and as responsible with my shopping for nutrition as it is possible nowadays. We don’t have this chain of restaurants here, but I avoid big M and BK and I hate Subw. (well, I dont like spiceless sandwiches at all btw)

    Her in Germany, an “artist” threw a cow out of a helicopter and it fell on Berlin. He called it art but many people showed up and try to name this performance “an act of prosest” Animal rescuers protestet, the nature foundations were embarrassed and people talked and argued, the press pushed it … well, the cow was dead anyhow.

    So, perhaps Dan Cathy has a strange sence of humor as well? No – I think we do exactly what he wants us to do. We talk about him and his company. 😉

    Sleep well (it’s 23.35 pM over here)


  6. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon August 3, 2012 at 3:03 pm |

    Stephen Colbert: USDA Meatless Mondays and Plant Communication.

  7. Zenleo
    Zenleo August 3, 2012 at 3:39 pm |

    “It’s just that I don’t think I’ll ever understand why so few people come to these things. Is zazen that scary? Or maybe Santa Monica is scary.”

    Hi Brad, it would be great to “show up” cause I think I slouch whilst sitting, however I have never been further West than Minneapolis.

    Whenever I read Santa Monica all I think of is that Cheryl Crow song.


    1. Zenleo
      Zenleo August 3, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
  8. boubi
    boubi August 3, 2012 at 4:05 pm |

    1 – Cows seem to me to be more “sentient” than chicken, hence the preference

    2 – I found the ad funny

    3 – I’m for gay (everybody’s) right to do what they want

    4 – I’m against discrimination

    This said, let’s remember that while that anal retentive CEO and his like minded fellows endanger Jefferson’s (and other’s) legacy there are places were being gay means to be beaten, jailed and finally stoned or hanged like here×359.jpg?w=590

    So while condemning those western *#+@#* let’s not throw the baby with the dirty water and condemn also all of western civilization which brought us today to recognize minority’s rights, it took us 500 years at least to do it.

    BTW have a walk in some places in Europe and to be gayish, woman in short skirt or trousers, guy with long hair mean to be at least verbally aggressed when not literally assaulted, and this not by some western fascist but from some “young” fascist of “alien descendant”

  9. boubi
    boubi August 3, 2012 at 4:16 pm |

    Why i found the ad funny and well done.

    Because like Molière said cry pass through your heart, while laugh pass through your brain.

    And this ad made me laugh.

    To imagine (quite illiterate) cows inviting us to eat more of something else than themselves while we “know” they can’t think so much (?), reminds us (me) of situations where children come up with some “smart explanation” to get some more cookies or TV. This ad is so much layered we could go on finding meanings.

    Now that fast food chains are bad and this CEO is even worse is something else.

    BTW this ad didn’t invite people to be anti-gay.

  10. Jinzang
    Jinzang August 3, 2012 at 6:31 pm |

    I’m all for people eating healthy food. But Buddha’s diet before he got enlightened was hardly healthy. He almost died from malnutrition. Also Milarepa, who survived on nettles. And the food traditionally served at Japanese Zen monasteries is reportedly unhealthy. So while I think there is a connection between eating well and good meditation, I would be hard put to prove it.

  11. minkfoot
    minkfoot August 4, 2012 at 6:00 am |

    Many diners and restaurants feature marquees with logos of cows, pigs, and chickens in chef hats, brandishing knives and forks with a countenance of gluttonous zeal. We’re so used to seeing such things, we hardly reflect on the odious nature of such signs, somewhat akin to the insult of making a person dig their own grave.

    A headless turkey provokes appetite, a headless human incites nightmares.

    See afresh.

  12. Kman
    Kman August 4, 2012 at 9:18 am |

    Boubi: “Someone else is even worse” is not a valid excuse for being an asshole. However, I admit, it’s a great excuse for bullying other countries, using both economic and military means, especially when we find their current regimes inconvenient.

    We do have bigger things to worry about. I have bigger things to worry about. However, this isn’t unimportant. Dan Cathy’s right to make such statements doesn’t protect him from my right to call him a dick because of it, and I’ll certainly choose to vote with my wallet – cheap, crappy chicken sandwiches aren’t exactly hard to come by elsewhere.

    And Brad, don’t take the no-show thing personally. Too many time zones away to show up for zazen. But, perhaps one day. If I’m ever in the neighbourhood.

  13. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote August 4, 2012 at 11:53 am |

    That no one shows up at the Santa Monica zendo in spite of repeated invitations, I think reflects the way most people feel about sitting cross-legged. They don’t see the fun in it. Is there fun in it? How does one express what sitting cross-legged is about, in a way that makes people want to come sit for thirty or forty minutes?

    Me, I learned how to sit zazen out of the descriptions in the back of the Three Pillars of Zen. I couldn’t sit the way the pictures showed, but I figured any real change would have to come from the inside out anyway. Kobun just reinforced that, although I enjoyed his corrections to my posture, when he did them.

    I made it to the sesshin in memory of the tenth anniversary of Kobun’s passing, down in the Santa Cruz mountains last weekend. The zendo was full and overflowing, more people than they had ever seen for a sesshin at Jikoji in Kobun’s lifetime.

  14. Fred
    Fred August 4, 2012 at 2:29 pm |

    You mean I have to sit cross-legged for 30 years to reach nirvana? What kind of
    crap is that?

    Genpo says that I can get enlightened right away. You musn’t be doing it right.

  15. Fred
    Fred August 4, 2012 at 2:42 pm |

    Only $99.95. Get your discount Kensho here. $99.95 at Earl Sheib.

    “It often takes five years or more of extremely difficult practice (I know, I’ve done it) in order for a profound satori to occur. With the Big Mind™ Process, a genuine kensho can occur in about an hour—seriously.`

    And we`ll dry clean your chlothes for you while you`re working on that Big

  16. Ted
    Ted August 4, 2012 at 3:18 pm |

    Santa Monica is kind of a schlep for me or I’d drop by… 🙂

    The Buddha’s diet before his enlightenment was no food other than the food of concentration. This is what sustained him for that last sit. This is clearly not a healthy diet for someone who depends on food for sustenance, but what it definitely lacks is any negativity: no plants or animals were harmed in the making.

  17. Jinzang
    Jinzang August 4, 2012 at 5:50 pm |

    “You mean I have to sit cross-legged for 30 years to reach nirvana? What kind of
    crap is that?”

    Actually, it takes three kalpas to attain nirvana. Unless you’re the bodhisattva in the 9th case of the Gateless Gate.

  18. SoF
    SoF August 4, 2012 at 8:02 pm |

    First – don’t sweat Hill Street Center. You once ‘abandoned’ these folks and it will take a time for them to overcome their pain and angst, return, and bring a friend. Perhaps this time they will not project their expectations upon you. Wait and see.

    I feel their pain. (O.K., so I lied)

    As for flesh foods, I advocate sustainable agriculture. And cows trampling mother earth for the sake of expanding deserts isn’t it. Neither is antibiotic tainted fowl food.

    What do you call a Chic-fil-A advocate? A Chic-fil-A hole. And there are almost enough A holes to go around.

    the real Mysterion.

  19. Fred
    Fred August 5, 2012 at 2:48 am |

    Smoothlessly sifting through the Gateless Gate.

    It must be some kind of trick; it looks the same.

  20. Fred
    Fred August 5, 2012 at 3:01 am |

    Wiki says there are 480,000 Buddhists in Southern California. It would be
    a good market for an outrageous Hard Core Zen T-shirt.

  21. Fred
    Fred August 5, 2012 at 8:06 am |

    Jinzang said “Actually, it takes three kalpas to attain nirvana. Unless you’re the bodhisattva in the 9th case of the Gateless Gate.”

    “You may know the Old Indian, but you are not allowed to have an understanding of Him. If an ordinary man attains enlightenment, he is a sage. When the sage is concerned about an understanding, he is only an ordinary man.”

  22. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote August 5, 2012 at 9:11 am |

    “The Buddha’s diet before his enlightenment was no food other than the food of concentration.”-

    I thought he gave up the starvation diet, ate the milk and rice gruel, and regained his strength before his big push- ?

    “You mean I have to sit cross-legged for 30 years to reach nirvana? What kind of
    crap is that?”

    The Gautamid said that one of two fruits was to be expected for anyone who developed the four applications of mindfulness for seven days; either profound knowledge here-now, or, if there were any residue remaining, the state of non-returning.

    My practice since the three-day sesshin has been more difficult than usual; maybe it was something I ate or didn’t eat, or maybe my mind shrunk instead of becoming engorged (big?).

    If I understand the Gautamid correctly, profound knowledge is not necessary to non-returning. I guess this means that the Stooges could have completed a seven-day mindfulness and be non-returners, even though they don’t exhibit the charisma of persons like the Gautamid with profound knowledge here-now. We could be surrounded by non-returners and never know it?!?

  23. CPW
    CPW August 5, 2012 at 9:41 am |

    Is a half lotus and a waffle ‘doing zazen’?

  24. Ted
    Ted August 5, 2012 at 10:02 am |

    It may take three kalpas to reach enlightenment, but if you don’t remember your past lives, how do you know when you started trying?

  25. Fred
    Fred August 5, 2012 at 12:03 pm |

    “In Hinduism, a kalpa is equal to 4.32 billion years, a “day (day only) of Brahma” or one thousand mahayugas, measuring the duration of the world.”

  26. King Kong
    King Kong August 5, 2012 at 3:57 pm |

    What if time is without beginning and reincarnation is true? Then we’ve all been each other’s Mothers, many, many times. Sit up straight and eat your vegetables.

  27. Ted
    Ted August 5, 2012 at 4:02 pm |

    The Buddha did indeed give up asceticism before his long pre-enlightenment sit, but as far as I understand it once he started sitting, he took no additional food. Of course, as far as I know I wasn’t there, so this is all many-third-hand.

  28. Jinzang
    Jinzang August 5, 2012 at 5:15 pm |

    “The Gautamid said that one of two fruits was to be expected for anyone who developed the four applications of mindfulness for seven days; either profound knowledge here-now, or, if there were any residue remaining, the state of non-returning.”

    Regardless of what it says in the sutras, I never heard of anyone attaining the complete enlightenment of a buddha after a single seven day retreat. This just fails the reality test.

  29. Ted
    Ted August 5, 2012 at 6:45 pm |

    The Buddha attained enlightenment after a forty-day retreat. So sure, maybe nine days is too short, but isn’t forty enough?


  30. Khru
    Khru August 5, 2012 at 7:09 pm |

    Absolute bullshit.

  31. Khru
    Khru August 5, 2012 at 7:53 pm |

    Why did you gun down those six innocent Sikhs?

  32. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote August 5, 2012 at 10:18 pm |

    So, Jinzang, what about sudden enlightenment? I think I read Merzel saying Zen is a school of sudden enlightenment, and that’s the way I’ve always understood it.

    At least it’s absolute. America, land of the spree?

  33. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote August 5, 2012 at 10:19 pm |

    ‘From your relaxed meditation position, ask the Controller, “May I please speak to the Non-seeking Non-grasping Mind?” Then identify as the Controller by saying, “Yes, I am the Controller, and you may now speak to the Non-seeking Non-grasping Mind. OK, now, sit as the Non-seeking Non-grasping Mind.”

    by Zen Master D. Genpo Merzel’ — seven days of that and I would be– coming in for a landing…

  34. boubi
    boubi August 6, 2012 at 4:51 am |

    Sudden enlightenment doesn’t mean it’s instant, like some soup, open the bag pour hot liquid, get a soup.

    Sudden means that it’s more of a flash (eureka) than a slow dawning, sort of speaking. Sudden means there is a before “without” and there is an after “with it”, most probably you’re supposed to found out that it has always been “with it”.

    Sudden could be compared to jump from an airplane, then when the “handle is found” suddenly the chute opens ( hopefully : ) )

    Anyhow to get the sudden or the (how do you say?) slow variety of enlightenment you are supposed to work hard and for a long time.

    These are my two cents of avidya, if it can help some more lost than me, it’s ok for me.

  35. Ted
    Ted August 6, 2012 at 5:33 am |

    Of course, I’ve always taken the Zen term “sudden enlightenment” to refer to the realization of suchness anyway, which is not the same thing as nirvana.

  36. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon August 6, 2012 at 7:12 am |

    …and then Captain Kirk asked, “What does God need with a starship?”

  37. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon August 6, 2012 at 7:41 am |

    Guns don’t kill people, punk rock kills people.
    Wade Michael Page: Oak Creek Wisconsin Gurdwara shooter, lead singer and guitarist for End Apathy.

  38. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote August 6, 2012 at 10:20 am |

    ‘Sudden could be compared to jump from an airplane, then when the “handle is found” suddenly the chute opens ( hopefully : ) )’- maybe that’s why nobody shows up in Santa Monica, they know that Brad will say something like “just sit” and “nothing special” and they will be falling without a clue about where the ripcord is.

    Of course, they are anyway.

    ‘I’ve always taken the Zen term “sudden enlightenment” to refer to the realization of suchness anyway, which is not the same thing as nirvana.’ (Ted my hat is off to the author of the ISC DHCP- only a vague idea what it is, but kudos!- studying Angularjs today, my agenda). That’s a curious statement, but I will give full points to your intuition, for the moment. My experience is that suchness refers to a witness, yet it is the peculiar witness which can be continued as action takes place, or the lack of action takes place; that is to say, it’s like falling asleep without the hypnic jerk. It’s a hypnogogic state, and psychic experience is commonly associated with hypnogogic states; it is real-time dream-stuff, and the sense of past, present, and future is strangely mixed. No “I am the doer”, “mine is the doer” with regard to this consciousness-informed body- that’s an experience of suchness, to me.

    Enlightenment, that would be the perfect wisdom by which one sees form, sensation, perception, habitual tendency, and consciousness as it really is. If I attain to never returning, I am presumably lacking enlightenment but established in suchness?

  39. boubi
    boubi August 6, 2012 at 11:34 am |

    To my knowledge Brad’s lineage isn’t of the “sudden” variety, so don’t get mad with him for lack of it.

    My former teacher (from the evil bunch, Rinzai you know) told me that in the end Soto and Rinzai get to the same point, it’s a matter of flavor (my saying).

    Beyond this, sorry Mark, but i can’t get any bloody meaning of your talking, sorry my fault, i get overwhelmed by waves of concepts of which i can’t find any relation within my limited experience.

    Ask someone else, like the owner of the site for instance.

  40. boubi
    boubi August 6, 2012 at 11:35 am |

    I think it’s mad AT and not , mad WITH, any suggestion?

  41. boubi
    boubi August 6, 2012 at 11:36 am |

    A suggestion Mark?

    Just jump.

  42. Ted
    Ted August 6, 2012 at 12:30 pm |

    Suchness is the lack of a self. This is explained in many different ways by the many different lineages. Some say it is the simple fact that things change—that nothing is ultimately as it appears to be because it appears to be fixed and stable, but is neither. Some say it is the lack of an essential self who is in control of “me” and can decide to be nice or mean, and to be successful or poor. Some say it is the lack of an definitive meaning to the label we apply to what we see. Some say it is the lack of duality between subject and object—that subject and object come from the same seed, and are therefore essentially one. Some say it is the lack of a thing that is unaffected by the perceiver. Some say it is the lack of any essential thing at all that could exist independently of the perceiver. But all of these people will then go on to say “oh, but it isn’t really that—it is beyond all thoughts to imagine, and all words to describe.”

    This suchness is what I think is perceived in the moment of sudden enlightenment, because that moment is, as several have demonstrated, described in exactly the same way as the direct perception of emptiness is described in the Tibetan schools.

    What happens after you perceive this suchness is that you continue to go about your life just as you did before, except that you no longer believe the illusion, and no longer doubt the path you are on. And because of these two things, you reach the status of once-returner quickly, and the status of nirvana or total enlightenment quickly as well (in the Tibetan tradition, “quickly” means within about a dozen lifetimes).

    But no, this realization itself doesn’t make you a once-returner.

  43. bookofzero
    bookofzero August 7, 2012 at 4:47 pm |


    I would attend but for the fact that I am several days’ drive. Any thoughts for one in my situation?

  44. VickyPryor
    VickyPryor August 8, 2012 at 11:44 am |

    Group meditation is scary. I’m curious if it is better in some way than private meditation or if it is just that an organized group sitting gives people space and time to practise (proper Canadian spelling 🙂 that the home environment doesn’t.

  45. Ted
    Ted August 8, 2012 at 1:50 pm |

    I think the biggest win of group meditation is the peer pressure that helps us to overcome the obstacle of simply not sitting. I also love it at the SFZC when they ring the big gongs at the beginning in their special pattern, and the bell at the end, and then chant that bit about the robe of enlightenment—I always get chills.

    Of course, the downside is all the noise people make, but supposedly that’s helpful for reaching single-pointedness.

    But if you can sit reliably in private, and you practice the antidotes to the obstacles, then that’s probably better. Of course, there is this theory of quantum bleed-through that I find interesting, but I’ve never heard anything about it in Buddhist scripture. (If you’re curious what I mean, read Anathem and then ask me).

    1. VickyPryor
      VickyPryor August 8, 2012 at 3:08 pm |

      I’m a secular meditator and ignorant of ‘the antidotes to the obstacles’, but I’d be happy to hear what they are. As for reading Anathem, I have! But I can’t specifically relate social sitting with the ideas in the book. I’d definitely like to hear your thoughts. Besides Brad’s I’m also a reader of Sam Harris’s blog and find both of them equally insightful, if that gives you an idea of where I’m coming from.

  46. Ted
    Ted August 8, 2012 at 6:39 pm |

    In Anathem, Stephenson alludes to but never really describes a theory of mind that is quantum in nature. The notion is that our consciousness partakes of the consciousnesses of our dopplegängers in every one of the many worlds of the many worlds hypothesis. If this were true, then the question might arise: if I sit close to someone who is a great meditator, isn’t it likely that in some of the many worlds, I will be sharing her space, and perhaps her state of mind might bleed over into mine? This would be a good reason to seek out people with calm minds full of kindness, and avoid spending time in the company of those whose minds are full of anger, if our own minds are not yet calm and full of kindness.

    The obstacles are not sitting, not holding the object, not having clarity on the object, agitation, and overcorrection. The antidotes are many; a few of them are remembering what attracted you to meditation, keeping a steady practice time, getting enough sleep, being watchful (so that you notice when your mind wanders off of whatever it is that you are meditating about), avoiding the ten non-virtues (so that your mind isn’t disturbed because of your negative actions), and so on. It’s really more than can be covered in a comment on Brad’s blog, and I’m hardly the most qualified person you’re likely to find to teach it anyway, but there’s no shortage of presentations on the topic. Master Kamalashila’s short, middle-length and long books on meditation are good, although you may find them too non-secular (or you may not—they’re really quite technical). I think Suzuki-Roshi covered the obstacles in Zen Mind, Beginner Mind, although he didn’t tell you he was covering them.

    1. VickyPryor
      VickyPryor August 9, 2012 at 10:21 pm |

      I think the idea that we share mindspace with our dopplegangers is compelling, but I don’t think it makes sense that it would bleed from others to us. But I do think we may pick up the equanimity of meditators around us through our senses, so that does seem like a good reason to sit in a gang.

      Thanks for the info on the obstacles and antidotes, and for suggesting where to go to delve deeper into the subject. And thanks very much for the last bit; I’m glad to know I’ve been learning about them already. I’m nearing the end of the third time through that beautiful little book. I got it from Brad’s “Zen books that don’t suck” list a couple of years ago and love the wisdom and insight therein.

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