Does Enlightenment Make You Morally Perfect?

ww_gi_hug-treeHere’s a question I received via Facebook.

QUESTIONER: Hello Mr. Warner. I have a question for you. Even though we are only human, after we get enlightened, is that supposed to change our life? For example, would I still be a Nazi after I get enlightened?

ME: Are you a Nazi now?

QUESTIONER: No, far from it. I tried to give an example. Let me try and reformulate. If a teacher is said to be enlightened but his deeds are … controversial, can we put his enlightenment to doubt? Is his enlightenment manifested in his deeds?

In one form or another, this is a question that has vexed spiritual seekers of every faith for as long as we have had spiritual seekers to be vexed about things.

The simplest answer I can give is that there is no spiritual experience that can zap a jerk and turn him instantly into a nice person. (Since the questioner’s example was male, I’ll continue to use a male example for simplicity’s sake, but what I’ll say here applies to all genders.)

I don’t like bringing Nazis into questions like these. I don’t like bringing Nazis anywhere, in fact. But since our questioner asked I’ll say that it is highly unlikely that one could be a Nazi and at the same time have what is commonly (and mistakenly) called an “enlightenment experience.” This is because being a Nazi requires a person to expend a huge amount of mental energy trying to justify actions that he knows intuitively to be wrong. Because of this, our hypothetical Nazi would almost certainly miss any kind of “enlightenment” that might come his way.

This is because enlightenment is not an experience. It is something we all possess. It is something we all are. Even Nazis. This is where the answer starts to get very tricky.

Meditation is not a technique to bring about the experience of enlightenment. It is something you do to calm and quiet the mind enough that you might eventually, after lots of practice, begin to dimly discern the enlightenment that already exists and has been there since before you were born.

There is nothing intrinsic to so-called “enlightenment experiences” that instantly fixes all the unfortunate shit you’ve ever done in your life, or erases all the unfortunate shit that’s been done to you. There are loads of koan stories about this. The most famous is usually called Hyakujo’s Fox and it is koan #2 in the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate) collection. I wrote about this koan in my book Sit Down and Shut Up.

The moral of this koan is that one is never free from cause and effect, no matter what kind of realization you have. So if you had dendrophilia  – which is a sexual fetish for trees, check the link if you don’t believe me – before realization, due to whatever it is in someone’s personal history that makes them have dendrophilia, you will still have dendrophilia after your experience of realization.

You may have a better understanding of the true nature of your tree fetish and of your relationship to trees. You might come to understand the reasons why it may not be wise to engage in your tree fetish. You may understand the trauma you are causing to those poor trees or whatever. But that will not make your tree fetish magically disappear.

You also will not lose the capacity to mentally shout down your innate sense of ethics. We all have an innate, in-born sense of right and wrong. However, this in-born sense of right and wrong can get messed up in a lot of ways. Sometimes a person gets so damaged that it is much, much more difficult for them to respond to this in-born ethical sense than it is for the rest of us. We have names for people like that, such as “sociopath.” Yet even a person with that kind of damage can still sometimes learn to quiet his mind enough to notice the enlightenment which underlies his existence. It’s uncommon, but it happens.

Another point my questioner raises is the nature of ethical action. He starts off by using the example of a Nazi, who is a person that does terrible things by just about any standard of ethical behavior. But then he asks, “If a teacher is said to be enlightened but his deeds are … controversial, can we put his enlightenment to doubt?”

I’m going to pass over the phrase “said to be enlightened” for the time being. But it’s crucial. Instead, let’s first focus on our hypothetical enlightened person doing deeds that are controversial. This presupposes that ethical behavior will always look to us like ethical behavior. That’s a tough call.

We never know exactly what goes on in someone else’s life. So it’s very difficult to judge the ethics of another person except in extremely broad terms (see the discussion of Nazis above). You can judge whether someone else’s conduct is problematic to the rest of society, though.

Your enlightened master’s dendrophilia is ultimately a matter between him and his chosen sycamore. However, if the sight of him nakedly humping trees outside the temple is disturbing to the community, they may have reason to ask him to stop. Most such controversial behavior works pretty much the same way. To take a more relevant example, if the enlightened master is groping people who do not want to be groped, it is right and proper to tell him to cut it out or, if he won’t cut it out, to tell him you’ll no longer be attending his lectures and retreats.

But even such behavior does not necessarily mean that his experience of realization never happened or that his teachings regarding that aspect of his (and everyone else’s) life are false.

On the other hand, there are people out there who are just plain nuts and somehow manage to convince lots of others that their nuttiness is an example of some kind of “crazy wisdom.” Without closely examining each individual who professes such things, it’s impossible to know for sure one way or the other. And frankly, I haven’t got time for that.

Ultimately, I think what my questioner is asking is whether there is some quick easy way to tell if someone else’s claims of realization are genuine or not. The answer to that is simple; No, there isn’t.

There are a few red flags that clue you in to the possibility that you’re being hoodwinked by a sociopath in pretty robes. Actions that appear to indicate a serious lack of ethics are indicators that maybe your enlightened master isn’t that enlightened after all. But that’s about as far as you can go. There’s no absolute test to see if someone’s supposed “enlightenment” is genuine, not even if he’s kind of an asshole.

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235 Responses

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  1. Andy
    Andy February 18, 2015 at 8:16 am |

    I’m going to bow out of this thread now. But I do hope you respond to my follow up question, Minkfoot.

    1. Andy
      Andy February 18, 2015 at 9:42 am |

      andyandy20152015@hotmail.com – I’ve opened this address for you to contact me in private, Minkfoot, which I’ll leave open for a day or two, if you feel that a brief or longer response is worth your time to my invitation, but do not wish to do it in public. Thanks

  2. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote February 18, 2015 at 9:34 am |

    “The orthodox position also claims that practice and enlightenment are one and so there is no “experience” of enlightenment. This dismisses the truth of immediate experience and the reports of many practitioners ancient and modern, including the likes of not only Shakyamuni Buddha but also Dogen, Ejo, Gikai, Keizan, and Meiho (the first five Soto ancestors in Japan).”

    (Dosho Port)

    “When you find your place where you are, practice occurs, actualizing the fundamental point.”

    (“Genjo Koan” by Eihei Dogen, trans. by Aitken and Tanahashi)

    Dogen very carefully avoids the exercise of volition in his instruction.

    I recall one day at Sonoma Mountain Zen Center, the lecture came around to something like “finding your place where you are”, and I interjected that actually, it’s not possible to be anywhere other than where you are. The response of the teacher on the dais was, “more zazen”.

    I would say we all have buddha nature, because it’s not possible to be anywhere other than where we are, and yet when practice occurs actualizing the fundamental point, that practice is enlightenment.

    How can anyone tell the difference, between practice actualizing the fundamental point and action that is out of place (so to speak)? I don’t think that’s possible at the time, but eventually what is out of place comes back around.

  3. Zafu
    Zafu February 18, 2015 at 10:35 am |

    Shinchan Ohara,

    To your points…

    1) Zafu accuses me of “politically correct bullshit”. In actual fact, he is the one trying to enforce PC language here: telling me I can’t use the term “damage” to describe psychic injury (that could well be the result of physical injury).

    I didn’t say there was anything wrong with being PC, numbnuts. The amusing part is that neither you nor Mr. Warner will admit to being PC. Worse, you won’t admit to what’s behind your use of the term ***damage*** But that’s cool, religious people can’t afford to be honest. They have an image of themselves that they must maintain, at all costs.

    2) … it is reasonable to say that sociopaths are damaged.

    You don’t even know with any certainty what causes sociopathy or what role it may play beyond your narrow view of the world, yet it is reasonable for you to say that sociopaths are damaged. Indeed it is only reasonable within your, and Brad Warners, narrow view of the world.

    3) There are many forms of behaviour or appearance that deviate from the social norm, but don’t intrinsically cause mental or physical suffering: left-handedness; homosexuality…

    Why do sociopaths suffer? You don’t know. Without the burden of a conscience they may suffer less, and as I pointed out earlier, it may be easier for them to quiet their mind and attain the Brad Warner version of “realization.”

    And homosexuals don’t suffer for their sexual preference? Do you live under a rock or something?

    3) Zafu said, “You can only qualify faulty behavioral tendencies of this nature by comparing them to social norms.” That’s simply not true. I don’t think that sociopaths are ‘faulty’, event though I think that ‘damage’ is useful metaphor for how their condition originated.

    So now you’re willing to say that sociopathy is like being damaged but isn’t damaged. What a PC pussy! lol

  4. Zafu
    Zafu February 18, 2015 at 11:00 am |

    The more positions get refined, the less likely they are to be close to anything as it is. It’s especially ironic in the context of Zen, which typically destroys any assertion, and then it’s opposite. ~ minkfoot

    hmm, “typically” but not always.

  5. Andy
    Andy February 18, 2015 at 11:01 am |

    Hi David S,

    I thought I’d put back my bowing out due to your long and friendly response.

    I agree with all you’ve said – I think! My own question was not intended as one about gradual vs immediate etc. It was intended to be about such event ‘experiences’ as the one Brad reported that he had at a certain time and place (Bridge in Japan) which he also described as not an experience. Dosho Port’s words seemed to be at odds with the status of such talk: saying such is ‘not an experience’ is wrong-headed and at odds with some venerable exemplars and experiencers.

    And so I wondered if ‘experience’ could be afforded the status of something like the ‘echo’ (like a ripple) of such a putative ‘event’ and if such a way of thinking of it like this was a useful way to find a frame of understanding for such a point of difference between two teachers who have much tradition in common.

    So, an echo. A bit, like, how we can’t see a black hole, just the starlight distorted by it. To further that analogy, perhaps the ‘actual’ black hole really has no special status or location apart from how we’re seeing the distortion through (as) our temporal apparatus, and that what we might call the heart of that black hole is really the same nothing that everything is really all the time, everywhere. Just this (thank you Justlui) – the echo being one way some people experience an immediate and unforgettable realization of this (and why Gudo preferred to translate it as realization.)

    The analogy above is not intended as a stab at what it all is – just an example to illustrate how an experienced event could also at heart and in substance also not be an event – or at least an unhelpful way of speaking about it all.

    And my curiosity is/was not about how I practice or in giving myself some egoistic delusion to strive for and puff myself up with. It was more boringly about things like sectarian differences and what group and teacher would I choose if I decided to join a group and pick a teacher and so on – and if such differences mattered at all.

    Now for some tea.

  6. Shinchan Ohara
    Shinchan Ohara February 18, 2015 at 11:41 am |

    Zafu, you are clearly just trolling. But lucky for you, I enjoy taking the piss out of moron trolls, so here goes.

    1) You used the term “politically correct bullshit”, but now you claim “I didn’t say there was anything wrong with being PC”. Zafu = Self-contradicting moron.

    2) You say, “Worse, you won’t admit to what’s behind your use of the term ***damage*** But that’s cool, religious people can’t afford to be honest.”

    I am not a religious person. And I’ve repeatedly and clearly explained what I mean by ‘damage’ in this context, and what’s behind my use of the term. Does anybody here apart from Zafu still not get what I mean by damage? No. Zafu = illiterate, bigoted moron.

    3) Your next whopper is “You don’t even know with any certainty what causes sociopathy or what role it may play beyond your narrow view of the world”. haha, that’s fucking ridiculous! Of course nobody knows what causes anything with absolute certainty: that’s life. But my knowledge of the subject is based on three decades of study, including reading loads of peer-reviewed scientific articles. So my knowledge is very much based on evidence, and on considering the opinions of many people who’ve spent their lifetimes studying the topic. You’re just shooting your mouth off. Zafu = an anti-intellectual moron.

    4) Next brainfart from Zafu: “Why do sociopaths suffer? You don’t know. Without the burden of a conscience they may suffer less…” If you think ‘sociopath’ just means someone without a conscience, and that sociopaths may suffer less than others who have a conscience, you clearly are living on a different planet. If you are not a sociopath, try imagining a life without any empathy – it would be unpleasant. If you are a sociopath, have a good think about what you might be missing. I don’t have time to give you a lesson in physiology just now, but there are various biological responses that will scream with pain for a person who can’t interact with others in a way that allows calming, mirroring and soothing. These are objective, measurable effects that make it really sore to be a sociopath. Even if said sociopath is psychotic enough to dissociate completely from this pain, fear and anxiety, the biochemical responses are still there: his/her life will be shorter and less pleasant than the life of a non-sociopath. Instead of basing everything on your armchair thought experiments, you should get an education, fuckwit. Zafu = narrowminded, self-validating moron.

    5) “And homosexuals don’t suffer for their sexual preference? Do you live under a rock or something?” … Wow you really are in your own class of stupid, Zafu. What I said earlier was that there was no known intrinsic reason for homosexuals to suffer. Yes, society is full of bigoted morons like you, Zafu, who make life hard for people whose behaviour is ‘deviant’. But that’s obviously a different thing from saying that certain illnesses like sociopathy are caused by damage. Homosexuality isn’t caused by damage, although some homosexuals suffer damage due to other people’s attitudes. D’oh! Zafu = hard of thinking moron.

    6) And now, the cherry on the stupid cake: “So now you’re willing to say that sociopathy is like being damaged but isn’t damaged. What a PC pussy! lol”

    Zafu, are you autistic? (not that there’s anything ‘faulty’ with you if you are) Because you seem unable to understand metaphor, analogy, and other subtleties and nuances of language. I’d tell you to go fuck yourself, but you’d only damage yourself further in the attempt.

    The saddest thing is that you’ve been telling people here to think for themselves, while simultaneously proving yourself to be incapable of thought. Fucking troll moron.

    1. Fred
      Fred February 18, 2015 at 12:10 pm |

      “Fred: please conduct your pointless conversation with otaku in the right place. I’m trying to have a pointless conversation with Zafu here. Jeesh!”

      Hahaha

    2. mb
      mb February 18, 2015 at 1:08 pm |

      Pointless conversation concluded?

      It seems that Zafu, sometimes Grand Canyon and Samsaric Helicoid (when rattled) like fly off the handle and call other posters insulting names as a putdown. We can all do better than that! Right?

      As to sociopaths, well there’s many shades of gray in the sociopathic “scale”, but generally speaking it involves being so selfish as to have virtually no feeling for others in the pursuit of what the sociopath intends to “gain” from behaving that way. IOW, a sociopath is a clever, and often effictive manipulator. I haven’t seen it yet, but I understand that the movie Night Crawler has an extreme sociopath for its main character.

      I’ve subjected myself to a sociopathic guru (way in the past) and have friends who exhibit touches of sociopathy from time to time. Oh, the humanity of it all…

      1. Zafu
        Zafu February 18, 2015 at 2:53 pm |

        I did refer to Shin as having numb nuts, but truth be told I can’t say with absolute certainty that he’s a dude.

        1. mb
          mb February 18, 2015 at 3:50 pm |

          Well you also called him a “PC Pussy”, so you’ve both your gender bases covered. Anyway it’s obvious you’d rather engage in stating a rigid opinion and then hurl insults afterwards than having an actual conversation – obviously that would be “beneath” you. I would lower Fred’s 7/10 trolling score for you down a notch.

  7. Andy
    Andy February 18, 2015 at 1:52 pm |

    Fred

    Andy, there is no contempt, and I wasn’t picking a fight.

    I didn’t use ‘contempt’ in reference to your words. I didn’t say you were picking a fight. This is reframing to deflect. Game management.

    Open hearted can also mean to just say anything, without weighing whether someone will go off because the statement isn’t p.c.

    More game management. You are really stretching (and twisting) things here, though.

    1. Fred
      Fred February 18, 2015 at 3:05 pm |

      Lets just say we’re from different planets, and communication is impossible.

    2. Fred Jr.
      Fred Jr. February 18, 2015 at 5:36 pm |

      LOL DAD! I’m going to say that to you next time you ask me to shovel the driveway!

  8. Zafu
    Zafu February 18, 2015 at 2:15 pm |

    Jesus Shinchan, you really got your knickers in a twist over this. You’d appear more rational if you could keep your cool. Anyway, to your points…

    1) You used the term “politically correct bullshit”, but now you claim “I didn’t say there was anything wrong with being PC”. Zafu = Self-contradicting moron.

    It’s okay to contradict yourself in Zen. In fact it’s encouraged. I really don’t think being PC is bad, but I do think it’s self delusional when folks can’t admit it.

    2) I’ve repeatedly and clearly explained what I mean by ‘damage’ in this context, and what’s behind my use of the term.

    It’s okay to describe sociopaths as damaged because sociopaths are mean and nasty. Society is okay with saying that they are damaged, so you and Brad are okay with it too. Society is not, however, okay with saying the same about homosexuals, so you and Brad are not also. This is all you need to admit, Shinchan, to yourself.

    3) Of course nobody knows what causes anything with absolute certainty: that’s life.

    Funny I don’t recall using the word “absolute.” It seems your position is so weak that you must invent your own opposition. It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve studied sociopathy, even 30 years [lol], little is known about it, or what causes it. Maybe you’ve been reading the same limited information over and over again for thirty years?

    4) …try imagining a life without any empathy — it would be unpleasant.

    And empathizing with the pain of others is pleasant?

    Let me ask you this. Who do you think would suffer less in war, a sociopath or a very empathetic non-sociopath?

    5) I said earlier was that there was no known intrinsic reason for homosexuals to suffer. Yes, society is full of bigoted morons like you…

    You’re serious? There’s really no way to separate people from the society they live in.

    Homosexuality isn’t caused by damage…

    Are you now claiming there’s no genetic or ‘inherent’ cause for sociopathy?

  9. Fred
    Fred February 18, 2015 at 3:11 pm |

    Zafu, 37 states have gay marriage in the U.S. It’s normal, a part of society. Where do you live, Iraq?

    1. Fred
      Fred February 18, 2015 at 3:12 pm |

      By the way, 7/10 for your troll effort.

    2. Zafu
      Zafu February 18, 2015 at 3:47 pm |

      There are estimates that 4% of the U.S. population is sociopathic. That’s normal too, unfortunately.

  10. minkfoot
    minkfoot February 18, 2015 at 3:16 pm |

    Hey, Andy!

    Between shoveling and stacking firewood, I see I missed the development of some hot threads! In an hour or so, I’ll answer your request as best as I can.

    Meanwhile, I guess I have to explain that my last line was not meant specifically for you. It was intended as an in-joke, though perhaps only with myself, like, “And the ultimate secret to Zen is . . . there is no secret!” Then I saw the ambiguity to it, but decided to post it, anyway, as a Rorschach.

    Your nerves seem a bit raw, buddy. If it helps, I never saw you as offensive and have a hard time imagining so.

    And thanks for the kind words, but I would see myself as a cross between Cassandra and the drunken uncle who snoozes in the corner, mumbling incoherent strings of vaguely English words that occasionally sound like decent scripture.

  11. Shinchan Ohara
    Shinchan Ohara February 18, 2015 at 3:18 pm |

    Zafu, I’m out. Talking with you is like pissing in the wind. I was hoping maybe you had a point, and eventually you’d express it coherently. But nope.

    ‘Zafu’: good choice of moniker. You sure are full of fluff. But I wouldn’t wipe my butt with you, never mind sit on you.

    Have a nice life.

    1. Zafu
      Zafu February 18, 2015 at 3:49 pm |

      Okay bye bye Shin. Sorry I said you’re nuts are numb.

      1. Fred
        Fred February 18, 2015 at 4:04 pm |

        She’s gay, you insensitive dork.

        1. Fred
          Fred February 18, 2015 at 4:08 pm |

          Thanks for posting, Shinchan. I really appreciated and enjoyed all your posts.

          1. Shinchan Ohara
            Shinchan Ohara February 18, 2015 at 4:20 pm |

            Actually my nuts are numb, every since the operation. I keep them in a jar between the oestrogen pills and the tweezers.

  12. Shinchan Ohara
    Shinchan Ohara February 18, 2015 at 5:12 pm |

    otaku00: thanks for your reply @ 1:04am

    I’ve been trapped in the Hell of Gullible Troll-Suckers for a while, will get back to you tomorrow. Cheers

    1. Fred
      Fred February 18, 2015 at 6:19 pm |

      “I came back empty-handed. All I have is this: Eyes horizontal, nose vertical”

      1. Fred
        Fred February 18, 2015 at 6:26 pm |

        ^ ^ ^

        “I was clumsily just referring to the Dosho position, which seems to be that enlightenment is an experience, in contrast to the position others like Brad have expressed or that such an event is not an experience. “

        1. Fred
          Fred February 18, 2015 at 6:44 pm |

          Emerging from the breakers of the void, he pondered the para-phenomenal nature of emergent properties signifying experience/no-experience, and laid on the grass staring at the stars emerging in the night sky.

      2. Shinchan Ohara
        Shinchan Ohara February 18, 2015 at 7:18 pm |

        “I came back empty-handed. All I have is this: Eyes horizontal, nose vertical”

        You expect us to believe that? Cough up some gold statues and sutras or we’ll rearrange those pretty features

  13. minkfoot
    minkfoot February 18, 2015 at 7:01 pm |

    @Andy:

    I more closely read Dosho’s post. It’s late. I have things to say, but I’m tired and I have to take my partner in to an appointment in Middletown tomorrow morning.

    I must say, Dosho’s understanding of Soto’s teaching of Shikan-taza differs from my understanding of it from my Soto teachers.

    Rich topic. I’ll have to delve into it, I see. Nonetheless, You can expect a post tomorrow.

    Are you in England, btw?

  14. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote February 18, 2015 at 9:30 pm |
  15. david s
    david s February 18, 2015 at 10:09 pm |

    Hi Andy. Thanks for the reply.

    Maybe Brad is conflicted in how he speaks of enlightenment given the Soto tradition against doing so, and in this article he reverts to the Soto style discourse.

    I looked over the story you mentioned of Brad on the bridge and the epic cosmic vision too, he wrote of them both as ‘experiences’ in the book. Although, his teacher did the Soto response to the vision by calling it a fantasy. Only the experience of eating the orange did his teacher call ‘enlightenment’.

    In this current article Brad says, “…enlightenment is not an experience. It is something we all possess. It is something we all are.” Sounds more Soto.

    Maybe this relates to how Brad talked about the bridge experience as one in which he was everything in the world, as if looking at himself in a mirror, and that he had “…no doubt that this state was ‘true.’ ”

    So, it looks to me like he might be saying in this article, “…enlightenment is not an experience…”, to point to it being ‘our true nature’ and thus an on-going reality.

    He seems to be switching the manner of how he uses the word experience s well as enlightenment.

    Does this help? I find it all a bit too convoluted myself.

    1. Andy
      Andy February 19, 2015 at 1:23 am |

      @ David,

      Your thoughts are similar to how I’ve thought through Brad’s statements in the past. I wasn’t interested in arriving at some satisfying way of grasping Brad’s account mover the bridge – the bit about the orange always struck me as the most important and most available ‘ultimate’ message in that story. I was interested, as I expressed earlier, in a useful way to frame the contrast, when and where such words like ‘enlightenment’ and ‘kensho’ are being used by two teachers I have some trust in, on what seems an important point of difference, especially when they relate to attitudes to practice and revolve around ‘Shikan-taza’ and ‘koan’.

      To underline: My own convoluted black hole analogy was just a metaphorical illustration I used to model the putative frame I posed in my own clumsy question; and as I’ve said, that was to better understand how Dosho Port’s view, which I’m less used to hearing expressed, relates to Brad’s view, which I’m more used to hearing expressed.

      @Minkfoot,

      Thanks for the more straightforward response. I said I respect your voice, I hope you didn’t think that meant I’d elevated it to more than human! I find that sometimes the visual rorschach analogy, when used as a linguistic strategy, has these pitfalls. I am English, and where I come from ‘you deserve it’ is a loaded expression and difficult to recontextualise, especially when coded language conventions are being applied – even more so when other coders, such as Fred, are wedging their codes and in-jokes in. I understood that you were being ambiguous though, and took the rorschach straight down. This is reflective of my practice for the time being and I expect for a good while too.

      @Fred

      Lets just say we’re from different planets, and communication is impossible.

      Yes, that sort of zenny truism is sometimes worth expressing. If so, it is also worth expressing that I live in the same world as you and Alan Sailer, in which, for example, people brag about how they can get someone to explode if they wanted to, or in which he found himself annoyed that someone had been doing background research on him, in the midst of a point of contention. These and many more iterations lead some people to ask you to politely refrain. This has been done many times. You know better.

      The kind of plausible deniability you sometimes use doesn’t wash with me. You are aware of this. The keyword appears to be ‘contraction’. I notice your sudden conversion to calling someone like Zafu ‘insensitive’ and also the alpha pat on the back to Shinchan. That strategy is not a surprise to me. Like I said, you know better and I believe you are aware of this.

      We can all be dicks with our games, but as I’ve said recently, some people have spent a good time polishing their alibis – one’s that others have a toe in too. But it really shouldn’t be that too much of a problem, if we wind our necks in a little bit and respect other people’s sensitivities and their request that we deal with them accordingly. This seems like a red rag to a bull for you. Which makes it a red flag for me.

      1. Fred Jr.
        Fred Jr. February 19, 2015 at 3:53 am |

        Hi Andy,

        It’s true my Dad can be a dick with his game. But by now I’ve learned that he wins when I don’t want him to win… because I want to win myself!

        What’s the best way to say “Game Over”?

        1. Andy
          Andy February 19, 2015 at 4:26 am |

          What is your real name?

          Or: This world (your latest moniker being one example) is full of games and jockeying for position and status and tears before bedtime. I accept this and often enjoy it and learn from it. Taking care of our selves involves some of the above but is very different in terms of intention and reception, even if this might at times seem the same at first glance, and even if these intentions are not totally free of the other. Some things come to light later rather than sooner. Meanwhile, we can do our best to stand up there, sometimes put our hands up, and sometimes place our heads above the parapet.

          And then move on.

          1. Andy
            Andy February 19, 2015 at 4:30 am |

            By reception, I’m referring to how I apprehend and interpret.

          2. Fred Jr.
            Fred Jr. February 19, 2015 at 4:35 am |

            Yes! My Dad taught me that one can only say Game Over to one’s own game. Hands go to the next actions. The papapet vanishes. No one moves.

      2. Shinchan Ohara
        Shinchan Ohara February 19, 2015 at 4:49 am |

        Hi Andy, I wouldn’t take anything that’s commented here too seriously.This place is like a playground for idiots savants (that’s the charitable way of putting it). There are occasional flashes of wisdom, but mostly we just gibber at cross purposes, and sling mud at no particular target.

        If your looking for an understanding of what enlightenment is, or how it relates to various modes of Zen practice, why don’t you email some teachers from various strands of the tradition directly? Most of them are quite forthcoming when they get a sincere question about practice.

        1. Andy
          Andy February 19, 2015 at 4:54 am |

          That’s good advice. I’ll try that.

        2. Andy
          Andy February 19, 2015 at 5:42 am |

          I was perhaps a little too brief, for your friendly post Shinchan. On the emailing of teachers directly – I’ll try that. As for your first para, that nicely characterizes the state-of-affairs and the attitude I’ve usually tried to adopt on here on and off for the last few years. That way doesn’t always suit the circumstances though, and whether I’m being wrong-headed or not, there are occasions when things are a little different and my response, I feel, should be true to that and to my self. I don’t think my serious hat is so different from your own in your engagement with Zafu.

          1. Shinchan Ohara
            Shinchan Ohara February 19, 2015 at 6:42 am |

            True enough, what I wrote was as much note-to-self as note to Andy.

          2. Zafu
            Zafu February 19, 2015 at 9:47 am |

            It’s curious that you two take this “playground for idiots” so seriously. Who in their right mind would take a playground for idiots seriously?

            Sorry if I’ve pointed out yet another cognitive dissonant note in this silly song.

  16. Michel
    Michel February 18, 2015 at 11:38 pm |

    I don’t think it’s convoluted. I really think he is right in believing that each and every one of us has the inner potential to understand how things are behind the appearances, but that we really like those appearances.

    1. Fred
      Fred February 19, 2015 at 4:43 am |

      “Maybe Brad is conflicted in how he speaks of enlightenment given the Soto tradition against doing so, and in this article he reverts to the Soto style discourse.”

      Brad, are you conflicted?

      1. david s
        david s February 19, 2015 at 9:04 am |

        Brad, “I nearly cried as I read his e-mail to me.” Regarding his teacher’s response to the cosmic vision experience.

        “”…if your experience of enlightenment is real, no one can ever take it from you or deny it.”

        “…enlightenment is not an experience.”

      2. david s
        david s February 19, 2015 at 10:00 am |

        Also it sounds like Nishijima was conflicted too according to what Michel posted earlier in this thread,

        “Few, apart from the Japanese disciples of Old Gudo have official Sotoshu lineage. For the Japanese, it’s some sort of a necessity, but Nishijima had an axe to grind with the Sotoshu and thus didn’t care much that his Western students be registered with them.

        Therefore, neither I nor Brad are “registered masters” in the Sotoshu.”

    2. david s
      david s February 19, 2015 at 8:30 am |

      What is convoluted is the flip-flopping use of terms. Their context isn’t developed.

      1. david s
        david s February 19, 2015 at 10:10 am |

        No, I changed my thought regarding their context not being developed. The meanings of these terms changes with the changing contexts in which Brad uses them. In context they have consistency, but together the terms are not being used consistently at all. I prefer people who understand their own terms thoroughly enough that they can use them consistently.

      2. david s
        david s February 19, 2015 at 10:21 am |

        So Michel, I wasn’t saying anything about Brad’s beliefs, only that his understanding of the terms he speaks of them with are inconsistent, making them convoluted.

        Convoluted:
        adjective
        example: “…his convoluted answers did nothing to help his credibility.”
        Complicated, complex, involved, elaborate, serpentine, labyrinthine, tortuous, tangled, Byzantine; Rube Goldberg; confused, confusing, bewildering, baffling.

  17. Andy
    Andy February 19, 2015 at 4:40 am |

    Papapet is a winner, Junior! Game over.

    1. Fred
      Fred February 19, 2015 at 4:45 am |
  18. Fred
    Fred February 19, 2015 at 4:48 am |
  19. Andy
    Andy February 19, 2015 at 6:00 am |

    As a not unconnected side issue, for which I take my share of responsibility: There are very few females who post on here.

    1. Fred
      Fred February 19, 2015 at 6:23 am |

      “As a not unconnected side issue, for which I take my share of responsibility: There are very few females who post on here.”

      This is bait to elicit a response so that your critical parent can vent. You’re welcome

      1. Fred
        Fred February 19, 2015 at 7:14 am |

        The responsibility part is looking at the conflicted ego shit that you are running off with other people in games, and deciding whether you want to keep doing it, or something else.

      2. Fred Jr.
        Fred Jr. February 19, 2015 at 7:53 am |

        Oh geez Dad, you already parent me. Why are you always telling other people what to do?

        1. justlui
          justlui February 19, 2015 at 12:17 pm |

          Ok, now this is getting weird. . .

  20. Andy
    Andy February 19, 2015 at 8:31 am |

    Not reallyFred. It was a point I had in mind that I was going to make explicitly, when scrolling through and noticing the post by ‘Rose Moon’, (February 15, 2015 at 11:06 pm), on codependency.

    It occurred to me that this poster might very well be female and the issue struck me, then. But I decided instead to offer the point more obliquely as the quote that popped in my head at the time, on February 17, 2015 at 8:57 am:

    “All my teachers have been women. Although several men have
    taken me aside for an hour to tell me things they know.” — Don Paterson

    While considering the games we boys play, it came up again. I was in the mood to move on and widen the discussion and I’d been waiting for minkfoot’s reply and was a bit bored, too.

    This sort of analysis rarely appears to be your strong suit. Your post on open-heartedness above feels like a clue to that, but I’ll let that bubble away. I understand why might wish to backatcha me in those terms and I’m cool with that.

    I’m out of this now. I’ll maybe post again, if minkfoot makes his reply.

    Take care.

    1. Fred
      Fred February 19, 2015 at 9:50 am |

      Your widening the conversation, is hijacking the conversation in order to run off some point which is of interest to your current state of affairs. I believe the last one was about nutrition or vitamins.

      1. Fred
        Fred February 19, 2015 at 9:55 am |


        Rose Moon
        February 15, 2015 at 11:06 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Thanks for this discussion. Early in my spiritual quest I attended an “enlightenment intensive” before I knew what enlightenment was. I was sucked into a cult for 5 years. Red flags went off all the time, but I didn’t see them because I was in a trance. I know lots of people who fell for the same kind of marketing. Enlightened beings are not co-dependent. There is a lot of information about co-dependency. I’d say it’s a pretty good guide. Learning about it will help you stay away from unsavory characters in all walks of life.”

        enlightenment intensive ………. I was in a trance………enlightened beings are not co-dependent

        1. Fred
          Fred February 19, 2015 at 10:04 am |

          It didn’t get any play.

          Wikipedia: ” The language of, symptoms of, and treatment for codependence derive from the medical model suggesting a disease process underlies the behavior. There is no evidence that codependence is caused by a disease process, communicable or otherwise”

          It possibly did not get any play because it’s an old story, ie. spiritual scam, and the word co-dependent wasn’t of relevance to the posters here.

          What was your ” widening ” effort trying to turn it into?

          1. Shinchan Ohara
            Shinchan Ohara February 19, 2015 at 10:24 am |

            wtf! Fred, you think co-dependent people are ***DAMAGED*** ????? ;P

          2. david s
            david s February 19, 2015 at 10:26 am |

            Shinchan, read again…”There is no evidence that codependence is caused by a disease process….”

  21. Fred
    Fred February 19, 2015 at 10:33 am |

    She’s joking David

    1. Fred
      Fred February 19, 2015 at 10:41 am |

      “. I prefer people who understand their own terms thoroughly enough that they can use them consistently.”

      1.It’s not easy because what’s being described is not exactly really describable.
      2. The self, the container of the words is in a state of flux and the terms are shifting in meaning.
      3. If it’s all co-dependent arising, nothing stays the same. Everything is continually being acted upon.

      1. david s
        david s February 19, 2015 at 11:35 am |

        Sure Fred, all those points are generally understandable, but I don’t think this is what is going on. My impression is that it is not their indescribable nature nor fluxing quality, but simply an inconsistent usage.

        I like that Brad talks more from experience and uses terms as he sees fit. It shows a willingness to talk outside of traditional norms that makes sense to me. I also wouldn’t expect complete consistency over time given that one’s overall understanding of how to talk about such things may change how one uses particular terms. I believe Brad has a consistent understanding based upon experience.

        Its the lack of consistency which leads to lack of clarity that I see in those diverging quotes regarding ‘experience of enlightenment’.

      2. Fred Jr.
        Fred Jr. February 19, 2015 at 1:03 pm |

        Including your definitions, Dad! Right?

        1. david s
          david s February 19, 2015 at 1:37 pm |

          My point is so simple. It could be Brad’s definitions, or yours jr, or anyone who is speaking. It is only the lack of consistency which creates so much discussion and speculation, not the ‘what’ of a particular definition.

          Besides, Brad has had no trouble speaking of his experiences and also of how some aspects he can’t speak of. It is not impossible to be consistent.

  22. Fred
    Fred February 19, 2015 at 10:56 am |
  23. justlui
    justlui February 19, 2015 at 12:21 pm |

    I love reading people’s comments on here. I am a slow learner, but I am starting to finally realize that staying out of the conversations and just reading them makes it much more enjoyable spending time with Brad’s blog.

    Brad’s writings are great. I really enjoy reading stuff by Fred, Mark Foote, Shinchan, and few others on here too. Some of you should almost start blogs of your own!

    Keep it up guys, my job is boring, procrastinating at work is awesome!

    1. Fred
      Fred February 19, 2015 at 1:04 pm |

      “Zafu

      It’s curious that you two take this “playground for idiots” so seriously. Who in their right mind would take a playground for idiots seriously?

      Sorry if I’ve pointed out yet another cognitive dissonant note in this silly song.”

      It’s a zen Buddhist blog. Why are you here? Do you practice?

      You seem to want to defend sociopathy. Is that because you recognize those traits in yourself?

      1. Zafu
        Zafu February 19, 2015 at 1:14 pm |

        Shinchan Ohara, with thirty years of study, is the resident expert on sociopathy. He could spot one from a mile away, no doubt.

        While we’re on the subject identifying sociopaths, has anyone here read the http://www.shimanoarchive.com ? I’m no expert like Shin, but that dude seems to fit the bill.

        What does that say about sociopaths and realization? That it makes no difference. It appears that the idiot playground extends far far beyond the comment section of this blog.

        1. Fred
          Fred February 19, 2015 at 1:23 pm |

          You didn’t answer my question. Do you have soiciopathic traits?

          1. Zafu
            Zafu February 19, 2015 at 1:37 pm |

            What are the traits?

        2. Shinchan Ohara
          Shinchan Ohara February 19, 2015 at 6:01 pm |

          My name is shinchan, and I am a sociopath.

          It takes one to know one, bitch. And Zafu, you’ll never make the grade. Your pathetic trolling attempts are way too much of a cry for love and attention, way too co-dependent to ever be made by a good old fashioned sociopath. Much as you’d like to be seen as one to cover up how shit scared you are, I’m ‘fraid it just ain’t so.

          1. Shinchan Ohara
            Shinchan Ohara February 19, 2015 at 6:15 pm |

            But Eido, on the other hand, he’s my pathologic brother from a different mother

          2. Shinchan Ohara
            Shinchan Ohara February 19, 2015 at 6:17 pm |

            But Eido, on the other hand, he’s my pathologic brother from a different mother .

          3. Zafu
            Zafu February 20, 2015 at 9:52 am |

            You’re hilarious, Shinsy.

  24. Fred
    Fred February 19, 2015 at 1:12 pm |
  25. minkfoot
    minkfoot February 19, 2015 at 2:02 pm |

    @Andy

    Well, that was entertaining! I find myself largely agreeing with Jundo in the first comment to Dosho’s recent post. I’ve always held Shikan-taza as a koan, and that’s the way my Soto teachers have all taught it. Though koan Zen is not the same, of course.

    I should disclose that Dosho and I are one degree of separation apart ”’ we have both studied koan Zen from the same teachers. It did him better than it did me, apparently.

    My impression of his “Smoking Gun” is, huh? The only explanation I can think of is that James’ teaching really worked well for him, and it created a bias. But overall, it doesn’t strike me as worth all the words expended so far.

    Now, Andy, my understanding is that you are pursui9ng the possibility of using the way teachers handle terms like “experience” and “enlightenment” as shibboleths to sort and evaluate them in terms of your compatibility? I expect you will correct or refine my take if need be. I might riff a bit too freely for a straight answer; pardon me in advance.

    My immediate answer is “no.” I agree with Fred when he says to David that “It’s not easy because what’s being described is not exactly really describable.” Just as Brad talks about his “experiences” in some places, and says that “enlightenment” (I really don’t like that term) is not an “experience” in others, it may all too well not be likely you know what a teacher means, exactly, until you hear her/him talk/write for a while.

    For that matter, what do you mean by “experience”?

    Is Nirvana an experience? Is it a place, a state, a thought, an entity? Can it be a memory?

    I sympathize with your hermit practice. There were no Dharma centers in Vermont but for Karme Choling and Milarepa Center for thirty years or so, and they were both in Barnet, forty minutes aways. Although I find Vajrayana cool and worth study, I did not want to commit to the practice, as I had and still have basically a Soto heart. So, for many years, I just practiced what I had learned for many years from ol Matsuoka and the others at the Chicago temple, on my own. But I did not feel, after a while, that I was getting anywhere, except at a glacial rate.

    I then lived in the Boston area for several years, caring for elderly parents, and I got involved with the Cambridge Buddhist Association, and with George Bowman, but not to the point of being an actual disciple. I missed the feel of sangha that I had in Chicago so many years before. I also felt I needed to trust my practice to a teacher with whom I was congruent.

    Then I discovered that James Ford had started a group 25 minutes up the road. It was good to spend several years of practice with him and the folks in Newton, but my life drew me elsewhere and I got involved with Dharma Drum, which I found amenable as well. The two styles greatly unfolded each other.

    As I shift northward again, I expect to be involved with Shao Shan, which is just an hour from my place. Plain vanilla Soto. The priest there had spent 19 years in Japanese monasteries, and I expect she can teach me to deepen my practice.

    Over the years, I’ve been lucky to observe a lot of Zen in America. After all, James wrote Zen Master Who? And a lot of top-notch teachers have come by DDRC. I’ve overheard discussions of the current state of affairs with regard to Dharma transmission and the relevant qualifications and abilities of teachers. (Even at their most critical, teachers don’t like to name names, so, sorry I can’t provide a scorecard. You have your own scene in England, anyway.) The feeling is that many teachers give transmission prematurely, for whatever reason. Also, that many teachers take a state of unification of the body/mind as enlightenment, and so can’t really take their students all the way.

    I would avoid teachers who deny the actuality of realization.

    How can a poor schlub of a student tell who has really “seen the Nature”? Perhaps one can’t, but one can still profit simply by turning over one’s heart/mind to a good enough teacher for a while. Submission to a teacher and practice is valuable in itself, so long as one is reasonably cautious of abuse.

    In time, one may feel the shoes are too tight or something. Perceptions will be sharper then; it will be easier to tell a more appropriate teacher. And, believe it or not, but the universe tends to provide what you need.

    So far as sectarian differences, I think a halfway competent and compatible teacher is more important. Personally, I think having faith that one will manifest is very helpful.

    Enough for now. Where have I short-changed your question?

    1. Andy
      Andy February 20, 2015 at 12:47 am |

      Thank you for your time, Minkfoot. My own impression of Dosho Port’s position was also that his koan study might have made him a tad biased, but didn’t feel I had much to go on on that score, and I’m interested to see where Dosho will go with that, because I also get the feeling that something interesting might come out of the direction he seems committed to.

      No short change. The original question came about due to the coincidence of reading Brad’s and Dosho Port’s articles on the same day. The whole teacher/sangha subject, I found tucked in there when explaining my question, and seems more worthwhile to me. I’m at a big juncture now, as my wife, who’s been struggling with some pretty awful things for years, has just started to find some real stability and healing. That had taken up a lot of my own energy and strength. The direction of my own involvement with sanghas and teachers in the future will depend on her progress, but your humbling thoughts over your own experiences with teachers and sanghas have let in some fresh air to my home-hermitage head-space.

      Cheers

  26. Zafu
    Zafu February 19, 2015 at 2:51 pm |

    Submission to a teacher and practice is valuable in itself, so long as one is reasonably cautious of abuse.

    What’s the point of submitting to a religious teacher where you have to be reasonably cautious of abuse. The point is getting meaning in your life. That’s all it’s really about and that’s all that we actually demand of it. Sociopathic teachers? No problemo, we just need meaning.

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot February 19, 2015 at 3:01 pm |

      No. We don’t.

    2. Zafu
      Zafu February 19, 2015 at 3:26 pm |

      Then what is the point of submitting to a religious teacher where you have to be reasonably cautious of abuse?

      And if submission to a teacher is valuable “in itself,” aren’t you denying yourself that value by having to be cautious? Fully submitting would be throwing caution to the wind… and spreading the legs wide.

      1. Shinchan Ohara
        Shinchan Ohara February 19, 2015 at 6:24 pm |

        … which Zafu would know all about. Now, bendowa

  27. minkfoot
    minkfoot February 19, 2015 at 4:21 pm |

    “Then what is the point of submitting to a religious teacher?”

    What, indeed!?

    1. Zafu
      Zafu February 19, 2015 at 4:23 pm |

      Meaning.

      1. Shinchan Ohara
        Shinchan Ohara February 19, 2015 at 6:21 pm |

        Stop looking for meaning Zafu, you religious freak

        1. Zafu
          Zafu February 20, 2015 at 9:50 am |

          Why? I like looking for meaning, it’s so… meaningful.

          Only religious folk have a problem admitting to their desires. Honest people don’t.

  28. otaku00
    otaku00 February 19, 2015 at 9:50 pm |

    Shinchan: By the way, “tomorrow” is gone.

    I handle the comment function in my blog much stricter.
    There are Buddhist forums for extended ego-trips like here.

  29. Andy
    Andy February 20, 2015 at 2:05 am |

    Your widening the conversation, is hijacking the conversation in order to run off some point which is of interest to your current state of affairs. I believe the last one was about nutrition or vitamins.

    Nah, was playing with a straight bat there, Fred – simply a throw away thought on something which occurred to me. Like I said, not your strong suit. But you’re right, I, like many have enjoyed popping in and sharing tangential thoughts that are of current concern or interest to them. But I understand how someone whose MO on here involves sticking their oar into just about every conversation going might use ‘hijacking’ as their backatcha.

    Take care

  30. Daniel
    Daniel February 22, 2015 at 12:27 am |

    How many straw men, armchairs and unaddressed personality issues can fit into a buddhist rabbit hole?

Comments are closed.