Dogen’s Circle of the Way

ensoTomorrow begins my retreat at Upaya Zen Center with Kazuaki Tanahashi. The retreat is titled Dogen’s Circle of the Way.

Before Kaz invited me to lead this retreat with him I had not been very familiar with the phrase “Circle of the Way.” I’d probably heard it around Tassajara but I’d never paid the phrase a whole lot of attention. It seemed like one of those catchphrases the San Francisco Zen Center has developed. When you have a small group of people dedicated to a frankly unpopular practice, they tend to create their own shorthand. All subcultures do this. Sometimes it’s a way of establishing a cultural identity that contrasts with the larger culture. Sometimes it’s just because they’re sick of restating the same thing over and over. Most often it’s a bit of both.

Whenever you’re having a bad day at Tassajara someone will tell you, “It’s a practice opportunity!” I just want to smack those people. If you talk about being treated unfairly around anyone there they’ll admonish you by saying, “That’s comparing mind!” That kind of stuff gets real annoying real fast.

And since they read Dogen all the time, they’ve got a lot of shorthand for the things Dogen writes about. Hearing these shorthand renderings of Dogen’s ideas isn’t as annoying as being belittled by clichés when you just need to unload, but I tend to let them go a lot of the time without making any real effort to figure out what they are.

I sometimes have to translate their Dogen shorthand into other Dogen shorthand I’m more familiar with. It turns out that the translation of “Circle of the Way” into Nishijima Roshi’s shorthand for Dogen’s ideas is “Continuous Practice.”

It’s a very essential idea in Dogen’s teaching. It may, in fact, be the thing that makes Dogen’s Zen fundamentally different from almost every other form of meditation practice that I’m aware of, and what makes Dogen’s approach to Zen the most practical way of approaching meditation for contemporary people. Here’s Kaz’s take on it. Now I’ll give you mine.

When I say it’s the thing that makes Dogen’s way the most practical I’m not talking here about matters of posture or about rituals or any of that superficial stuff. Posture is important and rituals are significant. But what Kaz calls the Circle of the Way represents something much more fundamental than that. And it’s applicable to all sorts of activities besides seated meditation.

Until Dogen met his teacher Tendo Nyojo, he had been taught that zazen was a means to an end, a way of attaining a specific goal. You do zazen in order to become enlightened.

That’s the way most meditation is taught. You want stress reduction? Do this! You want peace of mind? Do this!

But it’s not just meditation that’s taught this way. Nearly every activity we do in life is divided into ends and means. You do your job to get a paycheck. You jog to lose weight. You practice violin to play at Carnegie Hall. You write books to become a famous author. The list goes on and on.

The problem is that we often do not attain our goals. Maybe our paycheck is less than we deserve, or we never get to play at Carnegie Hall, or we don’t lose that weight as fast as we want, maybe we become a well-known author but not a famous one and we don’t make any money, etc. This causes us a lot of disappointment. It often is enough to make us give up whatever it is we’re doing well before its benefits become evident.

Many, many people give up meditation practice for this reason. I can’t tell you how many times someone has forwarded me a very eloquently written essay by someone about what an obvious waste of time meditation is. This one by John Horgan is a great example. Horgan was disappointed by Zen practice and he explains why in terms that are very hard to refute. But I’d say he was just doing it for the wrong reasons. And the wrong reasons for doing Zen practice are any reasons for doing Zen practice.

Tendo Nyojo told Dogen that zazen practice is enlightenment itself. There is no separation between the activity and the goal. This doesn’t just go for Zen practice. It goes for everything.

There’s a very good piece by Alan Watts about this idea. He compares the absurd idea of doing something in  order to reach a goal to a composer who creates music that is all about the ending of a performance. The South Park guys did a great animation of it.

The idea of practice/enlightenment isn’t just a thing to make Zennies feel good about how boring and useless our practice usually seems. It’s a revolutionary way of living your life. The notion of goalless practice can be applied to absolutely anything we do in life and will make that thing a whole lot better.

There are lots of ways of phrasing this idea. One of my favorites happens to be a little gross. But because it’s gross it tends to be easy to memorize, and it’s this: You don’t eat in order to take a shit.

We all know that. But in other areas we apply goals to what we’re doing and make ourselves miserable by doing so. We become like men who think sex is all about orgasm so they rush through the good stuff. We miss our lives chasing after the future.

*   *   *

Your local parish minister does what he does for “free” because the church supports him with donations. You get YouTube videos for “free” because they make you sit through ads every third one you click on. This blog is “free” because kind people like you send in donations every so often. Thank you for your support!

You can see the documentary about me,  Brad Warner’s Hardcore Zen, at the following locations (I’ll be at all screenings):

– March 11, 2014 Ithaca, NY

– March 15, 2014 Brooklyn, NY

– April 20, 2014 San Francisco, CA

Sharing is caring! Tweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponDigg this

235 Responses

Page 1 of 3
  1. boubi
    boubi February 17, 2014 at 2:49 pm |

    “makes Dogen’s approach to Zen the most practical way of approaching meditation for contemporary people”

    Could you be a bit more specific, please? Or could you limit yourself to what you know best? Kind of “it’s my favorite/I enjoy it a lot”.

    Unfurtunately yoy don’t seem, at least from what you wrote, know a lot about other traditions.

    Being more specific, the sentence”zazen for the sake of it” works for sure for advanced practitioners, as everything else, swimming, play soccer, chess etc etc.

  2. Daniel
    Daniel February 17, 2014 at 3:07 pm |

    I get that this is important for your religion. This “do it for the sake of doing it” and the term “Zazen” make it special from all other cults/religions.

    At the same time I guess you know that this is the most clumsy argument/belief you can come up with.

    Maybe what you mean is that the goal of sitting in a weird uncomfortable body position for hours is to be able one day doing so without expecting anything anymore. And since there’s hardly anything more sadistic than doing this anything else shitty in life gets easier too.

    If not please explain how I can make myself sitting there without a goal/ambition.

    It’s just weird the whole argument, but that is what makes it a special religion/cult/belief-system, otherwise it would be compatible to science.

    1. mb
      mb February 17, 2014 at 4:18 pm |

      Daniel, I will of course let Brad address your comments directly, and just add in my 2 cents on the subject of goal-less meditation. First of all, this concept is found in many other meditative traditions (Vipassana, various yogic traditions etc.) not just Zen. I think the idea is instead of approaching meditation with a striving/desire-based approach (“I want to get my…satori experience, altered state experiences, peace of mind, increased insight etc). This approach doesn’t work that well and causes frustration! Instead you become willing to sit in an open state and just see what comes up. When the inevitable mind-wandering occurs, you use whatever centering technique is prescribed (breath or physical sensation or whatever) to come back to the open state. After some practice, one begins to notice that the insights and understandings come all of their own, without wanting them, or striving/grasping after them. And this practice can go on forever (or not) as there is no end to deeper insights and further understandings. And the idea of using meditation practice as “preparation” for dealing with real-life situations is not unique to Zen either. In yoga asana practice, a lot of teachers encourage a meditative approach to the asana and then encourage students who begin to understand how this might work to “take the practice off the mat”. Same thing in Zen in taking the meditation “off the cushion”.

      Anyway, my 2 cents are up. Any more than this and it becomes 3 cents. But I think this is what Brad was getting at. If not, the opinions expressed herein are personal and exclusive!

      1. boubi
        boubi February 18, 2014 at 7:42 am |

        “First of all, this concept is found in many other meditative traditions (Vipassana, various yogic traditions etc.) not just Zen. I think the idea is instead of approaching meditation with a striving/desire-based approach (“I want to get my…satori experience, altered state experiences, peace of mind, increased insight etc). This approach doesn’t work that well and causes frustration! “”

        Zen isn’t only Soto/Dogen, let’s start to internalize it. There are other traditions, open the curtains and have a look at the world outside 🙂

        Lin-chi Zen (as of later Rinzai), is using koans, and its a rather “striving” practice. So it’s not “good” “cause frustration” and so on, cause rashes also by chance, anybody wants to elaborate?

        Dogen himself used some (they don’t tell you much about it, no?), but there has been a … “normalisation”/”thought cleaning” soviet style by his second successor … and everybody kept thinking to it as “all original Dogen thought”.
        Dogen himself was rather forgotten until Soto had to resource itself (Meiji revolution etc), went to see the evil bunch (rinzai) in order to straighten itself up (from having become a funeral house) and revisited Dogen’s works for inspiration.

        “And the idea of using meditation practice as “preparation” for dealing with real-life situations is not unique to Zen either. ”
        So you do something with it too?

        1. mb
          mb February 19, 2014 at 11:20 am |

          Lin-chi Zen (as of later Rinzai), is using koans, and its a rather “striving” practice. So it’s not “good” “cause frustration” and so on, cause rashes also by chance, anybody wants to elaborate?
          Well, the use of koans is a different “method” than meditation and I suppose useful for some people. Also well known for sometimes causing frustration, which is a more active method. Each to his own, I say.
          “And the idea of using meditation practice as “preparation” for dealing with real-life situations is not unique to Zen either. ”
          So you do something with it too?
          Ahh, to me it’s more like it does something with you. Like meditation can have a “trickle-up” effect (forgive me Ronald Reagan) in daily life situations, more like osmosis than anything deliberate.

          Not being a Zen person at all, I’m responding to the universality of “goal-less” meditation more than trying to make distinctions between Rinzai and Soto, or making declarations of what might be better or worse.

  3. Fred
    Fred February 17, 2014 at 3:21 pm |

    I don’t post here anymore, but if I did, I would say great thread Brad.

    Yes, make your whole life goaless practice.

    The best thing that you have ever stated.

    1. Daniel
      Daniel February 17, 2014 at 3:30 pm |

      funny isn’t it? it’s the same as other religions that tell you heaven comes in afterlife etc… 😀

      1. Andy
        Andy February 17, 2014 at 5:38 pm |

        Cats, I think there’s a clue to the difference in the ‘after’ part.

        1. Andy
          Andy February 17, 2014 at 5:39 pm |

          …and the heaven bit.

        2. CatsareInfinite
          CatsareInfinite February 17, 2014 at 7:15 pm |


          1. Andy
            Andy February 17, 2014 at 7:22 pm |




            Your choice, Dan

          2. CatsareInfinite
            CatsareInfinite February 18, 2014 at 7:25 am |

            Andy, Daniel’s IP address and my IP address are not the same.

        3. CatsareInfinite
          CatsareInfinite February 17, 2014 at 7:16 pm |

          Our syntax and manner of speaking isn’t even similar.

          I don’t know who Daniel is.

  4. sri_barence
    sri_barence February 17, 2014 at 4:03 pm |

    This is “the most practical approach” because it is the most realistic. It is not possible to get anything from Zen practice, except the experience of practice. So stepping into practice without a goal is the most practical approach. One does not have to be an advanced student to use this approach. Having the intention to practice is enough.

    1. boubi
      boubi February 17, 2014 at 4:38 pm |

      Sorry again.

      “The Most”, fuck !

      Sensation sentences as :
      “It is not possible to get anything from Zen practice, except the experience of practice” make as much sense as “It is not possible to get anything from football/running/fucking/climbing/ravepartying etc etc practice, except the experience of practice”

      What do you think is the goal:
      – Judo, to throw the guy around as if a rag doll, and dislocate some of your joints in the process?
      – Soccer, to run after a ball with a twentysome band of morons?
      – Alpinism, to climb some rock and risk your life in the process?
      – Walk your dog, to have a stroll in the park?
      – Chado, to wisk some powered dried leaves, watch hot water poured into a earthware ….

      “The Most” fuck it again, repeat the process as many times as necessary.

      Anyway you need, for any activity, to have a certain level … before it’s pure and simple jigoku jidai ™ hell time.

      “Hey guys*” let’s get out from your whatever-centered trip, do yourselves a favor.

      What’a next? “There’s no other meditation than Soto and his prophet is Dogen”?

      M.I.B ™ sentence, all rights reserved etc

  5. boubi
    boubi February 17, 2014 at 4:44 pm |

    BTW waht do yo think is the reason for Dogen (or any other person) to have looked for something?

    Why Gautama S. left his family?

    You’re getting delusionals.

    Of course that after mastering it’s just “sitting”, ask a runner he will tell you “it’s just the running”.

    “Just get adicted to the movement” : Nike

  6. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote February 17, 2014 at 6:04 pm |

    Now we’re getting somewhere- zen is not about getting anywhere!

    ‘The “circle of the way” is a translation of the Japanese word dokan, literally meaning “way ring.” Although this word, which Dogen coined, appears only four times in his writing, it may be taken to represent the heart of his teaching. -Kaz

    It’s important to get to the heart of his teaching, speed read if you can (was it something I ate?- what an attitude).

    “When you ride in a boat and watch the shore, you might assume that the shore is moving. But when you keep your eyes closely on the boat, you can see that the boat moves. Similarly, if you examine myriad things with a confused body and mind you might suppose that your mind and nature are permanent. When you practice intimately and return to where you are, it will be clear that nothing at all has unchanging self.

    …Now if a bird or a fish tries to reach the end of its element before moving in it, this bird or this fish will not find its way or or its place. When you find your place where you are, practice occurs, actualizing the fundamental point. When you find your way at this moment, practice occurs, actualizing the fundamental point; for the place, the way, is neither large nor small, neither yours nor others’*. The place, the way, has not carried over from the past, and it is not merely arising now.
    *[Apostrophe added by compiler.]

    …Accordingly, in the practice-enlightenment of the buddha way, to attain one thing is to penetrate one thing; to meet one practice is to sustain one practice.
    Here is the place; here the way unfolds. The boundary of realization is not distinct, for the realization comes forth simultaneously with the mastery of buddha-dharma. Do not suppose that what you realize becomes your knowledge and is grasped by your intellect. Although actualized immediately, the inconceivable may not be apparent. Its appearance is beyond your knowledge.”

    from Genjokoan, or “Actualizing the Fundamental Point”, by Eihei Dogen trans. Aitken & Tanahashi- I’m going to hope the tags work, the emphasis was my addition.

    I come back to being where I am when my breath is cut off.

  7. buddy
    buddy February 17, 2014 at 6:45 pm |

    This is quite long, but one of the better explanations of no gain/no expectation/practice is enlightenment that I’ve seen.

  8. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote February 17, 2014 at 6:57 pm |

    Thanks, buddy, I’ll give that a listen; I’m a fan of Fujita’s.

    Also of Brad’s, I agree with you Fred that this is an interesting blog entry.

    And now an aside: mums (the word), did you see that Donovan interview with Rolling Stone magazine where he claims credit for passing along the technique of finger-picking that enabled John to write “Dear Prudence” and “Julia”, and Paul to write “Blackbird” (and something else- forget what). Donovan continues to believe in the efficacy of TM; I was never able to appreciate his work after he decided he had the truth of the matter, I don’t know why that is.

    1. Mumbles
      Mumbles February 17, 2014 at 7:52 pm |

      Yeah I read that, Mark, and its obvious on the White Album. I was also thinking about some of the great material Donovan produced after his trip to India w/the Beatles. I lost him after the Cosmic Something-er-ether lp….

    2. minkfoot
      minkfoot February 18, 2014 at 10:52 am |

      Still snowing, but I’m safe at a rest area with WiFi.

      Issho-san ran the Pioneer Valley Zendo. Sundays, people could join him for zazen from 4 am to 4 pm. I have a split- bamboo incense holder from him, and the altar at the zendo had a o-juzu I had made and presented him.

      He upheld the “No-toys” tradition of Antai-ji, eschewing even liturgy and the stick. The only ceremonial was the three bows and four vows to finish the day with.

      On the opposite side of the spectrum was old Matsuoka-sensei. He said, “No kyasaku, no Zen!”

      I love and honor them both.

    1. Mumbles
      Mumbles February 17, 2014 at 8:00 pm |

      Dude, I got the mantra…

  9. Andy
    Andy February 17, 2014 at 7:15 pm |

    I come back to being where I am when my breath is cut off.

    This reminded me of something I observed a decade ago when one could still smoke in school staffrooms. It occurred to me that of all the things people identified as aspects of a smokers experience which a smoker would miss, one that was never identified as something to replace when quitting was the moment in the drag where the smoke is held and the breath is stopped for a short while.

    I think this was more pronounced at the school I was working at, because it was, at times, a withering place in which to parse one’s existence – teachers having only a few minutes often at lunch to get away from the intense soul-battering of managing largely feral throngs of brutalised and brutalising teens. Bless.

    We’d suck in the poison as though, or often literally, through gritted teeth, hold nowhere right there, and then release a wizened acceptance into our quorum, and only then an eye-contact full of unspoken understanding for some fellow purgatorialist meeting our gaze.

    And I still wonder if for the many who stopped smoking, that moment of holding the breath was the jewel in the habit they most missed without even realizing it – if for some it had been the invisible glue that had kept them going.

    1. Mumbles
      Mumbles February 17, 2014 at 8:07 pm |

      It was, it was for me, Andy. Well, other than the purchase of the product, tearing the plastic off the top of the package, then the tiny square of tin foil, and the smell of the tobacco…then the orange of the match flashing 3 or so inches from the eyes, the pull on the drag, the inhale, the moment of the holding of the breath filled with smoke, the release, the taste and visual of the smoke escaping lips, the aftertaste, the slight, at first almost imperceptible rush of the nicotine to the (whack!) back of the neck, the relaxation, the composure…the nest drag, the next.

      1. Andy
        Andy February 17, 2014 at 8:48 pm |

        The ‘other than’ are those things I would place in the ‘things people would identify’ category. Indeed that holding the breath period would also be identified as part of that normative category of sensory and psychological phenomena that amount to what supports the habit once the primary 8 day(?) chemical addiction has been seen out, and even after the longer period of adjustment to changes in brain chemistry (3-4weeks?).

        My hypothesis is/was that the stopping of the breath during smoking might have a deeper quality that is not identified and so often not replaced – as all the others would be through the taking up of different activities.

        I experimented with the notion on my wife when she was trying to stop smoking. I suggested to her that when she really wanted a cigarette on her break, with all the other smokers, that she recall that first drag and hold, and instead of enjoying the cig and smoke of that process, she instead ‘smoked’ how fresh the air was and how nice it was to not smoke. She said it helped sometimes, when she’d remember to do it.

        The subject came up at about the same time, when, my sister a non-smoking physio who suffered panic attacks revealed to me that for many years, when upset, she’d find herself holding her breath – but had never mentioned it before because it sounded a bit loopy.

        It occurred to me that it was possible that within many different situations people are in effect trying to meditate without realising it.

        I don’t drink anymore, but what I miss most (apart from the social aspect) of a good whiskey is the nosing, quieting the breath down to the resonance of the fragrance, so that it can dress the flavour in all my pretentious glory!

        I still smoke.

        1. Mumbles
          Mumbles February 18, 2014 at 4:53 am |

          I was attempting to describe The Circle of The Way of Smoking, Andy, not just the semi-orgasmic bottom of the throat breath part. Funny that I remember it at all, I haven’t smoked for almost 30 years. I still enjoy whisky, though, on a limited basis. We’re flipped. Have a smoke and I’ll do a shot! Its all meditation anyway…

          1. Andy
            Andy February 18, 2014 at 5:54 am |

            I’m not sure if you think I was irritated by your response or summut? I wasn’t, your response gave me the opportunity to clarify one aspect I think might be distinct from, if dependent on in smoking, what you call the ‘semi-orgasmic bottom of the throat part.’.

            I think perhaps we latch on to that sensory aspect, while the way the breath is moved/ held for it happen maybe gets ignored.

            If I’m onto something, then perhaps it could be of value to those who are stopping smoking and in other areas. All might very well be ‘meditation’, but my interest is with certain things we or others can do or recognise that might help – whatever we call it.

      2. Andy
        Andy February 17, 2014 at 9:11 pm |

        Forgot to mention about the sister bit. I suggested to her that rather than hold the breath closed, when she got upset, that she breath in like a smoker and hold it open for a short while, and then exhale, like a smoker. She did this at work, and also lay down – which I think added to the effects. Said she cried uncontrollably for five minutes, and so didn’t fancy doing it again. I left it at that because I really didn’t think it was a good idea for me to be suggesting stuff like that on hunches.

  10. Daniel
    Daniel February 18, 2014 at 2:47 am |

    Guys…it all comes down to the same old problem, that is people confusing descriptive with prescriptive. Even Dogen seems to have fallen into that trap later during his teaching years. But then this was hundreds of years ago…so we can’t blame him for that. But we can blame people who still cling to his words as if nothing has changed, as if there’s no progress in science/art/culture and even philosophy.

    Dogen was a very strong seeker like many of you guys. He was so crazy a seeker that he (if the story is true) went from Japan to China which was a really crazy thing to do back then. That’s how much he wanted IT. Then in China after doing a lot of meditation practice, let’s call it Zazen he finally got IT. Like our friend Brad here did when he walked over the bridge. He had a tiny glimpse into what it means to be not. Enlightenment, Satori, whatever you want to call it.

    After this (and this is important, A F T E R) he started to tell people that just sitting in itself is enough, that just Zazen is it. If he truely got it though he must have known that this is not limited to Zazen but to everything. Masturbating is also IT, it just has a different appearance. But anyway…guys listen carefully. This is important and it will clear things up: After Dogen got IT, for him what he said was very true and 100% correct/right: Just sitting is enough. Nothing to achieve, nothing to reach, nothing to avoid, no technique needed, just sitting…is IT. But for you poor seekers out there it’s NOT true. Because you didn’t get IT yet. Maybe one day it will be true for you too and then you’ll also think/know that it has been true all the time already, even while you’ve been desperately seeking. But till then what Dogen and other masters talk about is not true for you. Sorry. Stop lying to yourself.

    You can do what religious people do and that is to simply believe that if Dogen/Brad say that just sitting is enough and be fine with that. If you can numb/hypnotise yourself into this, fine. This might work at least for a few years, especially if you join a group that also shares that belief. But you need to go there regulary and read books about it regulary otherwise you might start losing faith in it.

    To come back to the descriptive/prescriptive thing, for Dogen it’s descriptive. He’s just telling you what it’s like for him sitting there. But you take it as a prescription and try to do the same. This already happened many years before Dogen when Boddhidharma got IT and after this just sat there facing a wall for a long time. People saw this and thought they might get the same when they imitate him….but of course that’s bullshit. He sat there because once you get it (or better put once you disappeared) it’s fucking fascinating to watch a wall, doesn’t even have to be paint drying. It’s just AMAZING, like anything. But for you poor seekers it’s just torture most of the time…it’s almost funny if it wouldn’t be so sad.

    Let’s summarize this! Dogen says just sitting is enough. For him it’s true. For you it’s not. Sorry. Ouch.

  11. Andy
    Andy February 18, 2014 at 5:17 am |

    ‘Do Magic Mushrooms Work Like Meditation’ thread, October 9, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    ‘Daniel’ wrote:

    I’m new here and one of the guys who stumbled on your page via your stuff shared on Facebook.

    Now I don’t know much about Soto-Zen etc. and Buddhism in general. But I’ve read some quotes from Zen-Masters like Dogen who at some point realised that Body and Mind dropped off. Which is something that I resonate with somehow.

    The next month, ‘Dokusan’ thread, November 27, 2012 at 10:40 am

    ‘Daniel’ wrote:

    Brad replied:
    You’ve never been on a Zen retreat, have you?

    Daniel replies:
    I have been to a lot of them, but didn’t count. For about 5 years or so I’ve been to 3-4 day sesshins every month, plus a couple of times each year in another period of about 7 years. But it doesn’t matter for the point of discussion. This can be well understood without any sesshin experience…Zen is nothing to get in and out of. And going to many retreats can actually hide that from you if you make it into something special. You go to a retreat and are Zen for a few days or weeks…and when you leave and go back to your job/family you’re not Zen anymore? Then you’re in a trap that’s difficult to get out of! I’m speaking from my own experience here 🙁

    Catsareinfinite, I would normally ignore a change of name on this thread, couldn’t give two hoots who you really are or whoever you post as on other sites, and would rather address the points expressed, which is by far the most important thing.

    But I chose to point out the Catsareinfinite/Daniel duo on the ‘Buddhist Movie Promotion’ thread that began with CosmicBrainz, after you began supporting your own provocative and often insulting declarations as Catsareinfinite, via ‘Daniel’ at the end of the Creation v. Evolution thread.

    This was because I felt that those who were taking time, sometimes a lot of time, to respond to your words deserved some context, when that context revealed someone being very loose with their claims about practice; claims on which your attacks on the practice and those who do that practice have been based.

    I have no problem with someone attacking Zen or whatever on here, and I doubt that most posters would. In fact, the challenge can be much more interesting, in my opinion.

    But why should folk put the effort in, again, responding to only your points, when the points you make, via various monikers in tandem or alternately, suggest an individual who is doing so primarily to vent their anger and resentment at them and what it is imagined they do and think – and from someone who has dealt in significant fibs and exaggerations already?

    1. CatsareInfinite
      CatsareInfinite February 18, 2014 at 7:34 am |



      I was also made a priest btw.

      1. CatsareInfinite
        CatsareInfinite February 18, 2014 at 7:51 am |

        almost* made*

  12. Brent
    Brent February 18, 2014 at 5:41 am |

    I’m ok with it.

    “deserved” is interesting.

    1. Andy
      Andy February 18, 2014 at 6:07 am |

      ‘Deserved’ is interesting . Not really, just my way of putting it. But for clarification replace with ‘might be aided’ if you feel the wording there reveals something of significance. I’m ok with you being ok with it btw, andIi’m ok with it if you think I’m full of it. Others may not be, especially those who’ve taken time to engage in the discussion.

  13. Daniel
    Daniel February 18, 2014 at 6:07 am |

    Andy look I don’t know Cats, seriously. I’m just a guy who sometimes stumbles in here to give a different perspective on some of the zen-stuff. Just because I feel that Zen isn’t Zen anymore these days…but I’m only 1 person here, really. I don’t know how to prove this but if you have an idea let me know (maybe we all three go on a skype-meeting or something?!) 😀

    1. Andy
      Andy February 18, 2014 at 6:25 am |

      I don’t believe you – and why should I, even if I base that on only the posts I presented at 5.17am above, from ‘Daniel’, and where there is clear evidence of someone presenting two very different backgrounds from which they make their points?

      I might have enjoyed discussing with you your provocative post at 5.17am, if I thought they were sincere. I do not, but this doesn’t annoy me. I find it a little painful to be honest, because I don’t think engaging in this manner is a healthy or pleasant thing for you. I have always been polite and respectful to you, but I’m afraid I won’t be addressing the points you make any more. I could have called you out on it back in 2012, but it’s not something I would usually care to do.

      I no longer wish to feed into your difficulties if I can help it. I appreciate genuine, sincere criticism, not troll feeding – which is what it is starting to look like.

      1. Daniel
        Daniel February 18, 2014 at 6:32 am |

        Andy, as a zen-student you should be more open and relaxed regarding names and persons and their backgrounds…really.

        Anyway I hope I didn’t bring the other guy who you think I am into any trouble here, if so sorry! Besides that I find it really funny that you think we’re the same person…it’s a weird idea 🙂

        1. Andy
          Andy February 18, 2014 at 6:41 am |

          I am open and relaxed about it, or I’d have said so in 2012. I’m also open and relaxed about saying so this time. Your opinions about what zen-students should or should not do are irrelevant to me.

          I never expected you to ‘fess up. I’ll leave you to it, now. Sincerely hope you learn something of value from the process/strategy.

          1. Daniel
            Daniel February 18, 2014 at 6:51 am |

            Would you talk to me on skype or the phone? I’d really feel much better if you’d stop thinking I’m another guy 🙂

          2. CatsareInfinite
            CatsareInfinite February 18, 2014 at 7:43 am |

            I am not Daniel.

            I have been practices Soto Zen for 3-4 years. I’ve never gone to a sesshin. I’ve gone to a couple of Zazenkais. I also used to frequent the center but stopped due to travel expenses.

            Also, my criticisms of Zen are not the same as Daniel’s. I definitely do not agree with him that everything is enlightenment, and I do not think masturbating is enlightenment. IDK what the hell he is on about, but at least he is speaking from experience?

          3. CatsareInfinite
            CatsareInfinite February 18, 2014 at 7:53 am |

            I will not go on Skype. You two can go. I will give a pic of myself to prove I am not Daniel, however, after you two speak over Skype.


            I have a life outside of this bullshit. I am literally DYING from the stress of school. Not a single days goes by that I don’t think about suicide or mass epidemics. I am really, really tired of school. My final semester…

          4. CatsareInfinite
            CatsareInfinite February 18, 2014 at 7:56 am |

            Well, I don’t know… It’s not that bad, I don’t know…

            All I know is Zazen didn’t help with this. I don’t think it was it’s function too. Right now, I think not doing Zazen or worrying about trivial Zen crap is going to help me.

            I’d appreciate it if you don’t mention me again on any Warner discussion, unless I comment on it, you homoerotic bastard.

        2. CatsareInfinite
          CatsareInfinite February 18, 2014 at 7:57 am |

          There needs to be a goddamn edit function.

          its* not it’s*

  14. minkfoot
    minkfoot February 18, 2014 at 6:17 am |

    Let me see if I can summarize the problem and prescription in one cup of coffee, before the snow flies and I regret my foolishness (again).

    First, we are already and in Buddhanature. Mind is naturally clear and functioning perfectly.

    We do not perceive it that way, and suffer endlessly, to greater and lesser extents.

    The reason we do not perceive the natural clarity and bliss of our mind is because craving causes a grasping that obscures its nature.

    We crave that clarity and bliss.

    We go after it, and it recedes.

    From the Buddha to Brad, the suggestion is to stop doing that and do something radically different. Learn to stop doing and learn to relax craving. The natural mind will reveal itself.

    This is best done with stillness and silence. The best way to learn stillness and silence is the yogic posture of sitting meditation. It’s not the only way, but it’s the best way to learn the knack of non-grasping, which then can be used in the rest of life.

    There is an inherent joke in all this, cognate to:
    You can have anything you want, so long as you stop wanting anything.

    1. Andy
      Andy February 18, 2014 at 6:34 am |

      Appreciate the clarity and years of effort that must have gone into it, Minkfoot. Yours is a voice I trust, while still struggling with my asshole practice!

    2. Daniel
      Daniel February 18, 2014 at 6:56 am |

      @Mink: So the goal of Zazen is to stop wanting/craving. Now that makes some sense, and sounds more reasonable/honest/true than “there’s no goal”.

      1. minkfoot
        minkfoot February 18, 2014 at 8:55 am |

        Obviously, you must have a goal to begin with. Goals and striving are part of the problem and have to be left behind in practice.

    3. CatsareInfinite
      CatsareInfinite February 18, 2014 at 7:30 am |

      I wouldn’t say it’s the best way.

      It depends on the individual.

      For some people, simply walking in solitude in natural scenery, sitting down to read some poetry, and etc. is enough. For others, doing a sport or activity is sufficient to “induce” such a state. Honestly, there is no “best”.

      Like I told you, I did Zazen for 3-4 years. There were moments when what you say was true, but there were also moments of a numbing complacency. This complacency was due to people throwing Dogen catch-phrases in a dogmatic way, without understanding its significance, and heralding Zazen as the “best” means and enforcing it in a rigid way. Speaking from one’s own experience is more valuable than terse recitation.

      The whole point of sitting isn’t to accumulate experience – by the way. You have to literally forget (not willfully) all the previous moments of sitting – approaching the zafu like it’s a totally different river and you, yourself, are a totally different man. It is as if you never sat. In deeper Zazen, there is no Yogic posture.

      1. Daniel
        Daniel February 18, 2014 at 7:59 am |

        I agree on this Cats! Also…some guys seem to get VERY attached to ZAZEN. Like guys…try to NOT DO ZAZEN for a year or two…how about that thought? Try to live without a crutch!

        1. CatsareInfinite
          CatsareInfinite February 18, 2014 at 8:35 am |

          Daniel, I think you should try to convince people we’re not the same person, right now.

          I don’t like that. I have a little bit of self-worth… Enough to make me care about stupid accusations.

          I didn’t want to post here until I saw that. If people just stop mentioning me in the discussion portion, I won’t post.

          Ask a mod to ascertain we have different IP addresses, or post a pic of yourself. Idk, I just don’t like people misconstruing me as someone I’m not.

        2. minkfoot
          minkfoot February 18, 2014 at 10:29 am |

          We reveal ourselves with every word we choose. An attentive person, skilled in stillness and able to listen past the mists their own thoughts throw up, can read very deeply into others, simply by noting what they choose to say.

          1. Daniel
            Daniel February 18, 2014 at 11:02 am |

            cool, so am I cats? Or are we two persons?

          2. minkfoot
            minkfoot February 18, 2014 at 11:20 am |

            It’s not important to me. Why is it important to you?

          3. CatsareInfinite
            CatsareInfinite February 18, 2014 at 12:16 pm |

            minkfoot, cut your New Age bullshit. I will come on Skype with Daniel to prove we’re not the same fucking person.

            You piece of shit… I demand an apology after my proof from you imbeciles.

          4. minkfoot
            minkfoot February 18, 2014 at 12:55 pm |

            CAI, I don’t care. It really isn’t important.

          5. CatsareInfinite
            CatsareInfinite February 18, 2014 at 1:12 pm |

            minkfoot, even my sensei told me the Oneness of Zen does not mean we are one undifferentiated blob. Separatedness still exists in nonduality. I am not you, you are not me. I am not Daniel, Daniel is not me. What this “me” refers to, however, is agreed to be a conventional designator and is insubstantial, but it does not mean Daniel and I share the same Karma (note, I mean this in the causal chain sense typically used in Soto Zen Centers). This is what makes Zen more unique than Advaita. It doesn’t give a descriptive answer to what this “stillness” really “means” or what it “is”, and it does not reduce the individual to it.

            I liked my sensei. He really was wise and I learned a lot from him. See, I don’t HATE Soto Zen… I just find it’s over-reliance on Zazen formal posture damaging to my knees. I can sit for 1 hr without pain or problems, but more than that and there are issues. I would like to go more often, but I can’t do it. It really is damaging. Zazenkais were too much for me… Imagine a Sesshin? I am stocky and while I can sit 1-2 hrs non-stop with no pain, I cannot go more than that. If you have pride in your sitting, you are not sitting – it’s my whole point.

            I don’t like being gauged about my “level awareness” based off my capability to sit well. My sensei said there is no good or bad sitting – everyone’s sitting is the same when it is approached without expectations. But I always felt people had a gung-ho attitude about it, and it is difficult to not let it affect oneself.

  15. Andy
    Andy February 18, 2014 at 6:53 am |


    I’d be really interested in what you think of my observations from 7.15pm onwards (including responses to mumbles) about the smoking and breath, etc. You know much more than me on this sort of thing

    1. Fred
      Fred February 18, 2014 at 7:28 am |

      Gudo said just stop the thoughts.

      You can do this between the inbreath and the outbreath.

      1. Andy
        Andy February 18, 2014 at 7:44 am |

        Yes, I agree.

        Do you think that a smoker is drawing on this effect, that can be observed when sitting, when they inhale, hold, exhale?

        Do you agree with my proposition that, while this is done while smoking to nominally provide the best delivery experience for the drug, it also benefits the smoker (in contrast to the obvious negatives) because the technique employed also creates a similar physiological context that produces a genuine effect of well-being that sees the smoker ‘touching base’ ?

        And finally, do you agree that this might be something that a) is generally not recognized by those wishing to quit and those providing advice about quitting, and therefore b) could be something from which a replacement technique might be developed/offered that could help people in their efforts to top?

        1. Andy
          Andy February 18, 2014 at 7:45 am |

          top? – stop

        2. Fred
          Fred February 18, 2014 at 7:55 am |

          There is bliss in the momentary silence of no-self and there is bliss
          in the limbic system downstream from the nicotine receptors.

          The bliss of no-self is probably experienced at a subtle level.

          1. Andy
            Andy February 18, 2014 at 9:22 am |

            [chuckle] I should have expected no more than your usual style, Fred.

            Glad to see your still posting here. You’re my favourite irritant!

      2. Fred
        Fred February 18, 2014 at 7:44 am |


        “Having readied the posture, make one complete exhalation, and sway left and right. Sitting in balance in the mountain-still state, “Think the concrete state of not thinking.” “How can the state of not thinking be thought?” “It is different from thinking.” This is the secret of sitting-Zen.

        What is called sitting-Zen is not learning Zen meditation. It is just a peaceful and effortless gate to reality. It is practice-and-experience which perfectly realizes the Buddha’s enlightenment. The Universe is realized, untouched by restrictions or hindrances. To grasp this meaning is to be like a dragon that has found water, or like a tiger before a mountain stronghold. Remember, true reality is naturally manifesting itself before us, and gloom and distraction vanish at a stroke.”

        1. Andy
          Andy February 18, 2014 at 7:49 am |

          See my response above to your first, which I don’t think you’ve had a chance to read. I’m familiar with the Dogen – my focus is not on zen practioners, but on a general applicability to people, re. smoking and other methods people my find themselves doing that are consonant with what practioners may have themselves already identified.

  16. boubi
    boubi February 18, 2014 at 7:24 am |

    “From the Buddha to Brad, the suggestion is to stop doing that and do something radically different. … it’s the best way to learn the knack of non-grasping ”

    So this excludes all the other (raving/deluded lunatics?) who are not on the sacred lineage Buddha-Brad …. come on …

    There is NOT a BEST way, there are “ways”, as many as human activities.

    – all the Theravadas are wrong (anybody knows what the fuck those folks are practicing by chance?*),
    – all the other Mahayana are wrong (anybody knows what the fuck those folks are practicing by chance?*)
    – all the Vajrayana are wrong (anybody knows what the fuck those folks are practicing by chance?*)

    Not even talking about the non buddhist crowds.

    So all the rest of the unlucky, but stubborn, humanity will miss “the BEST “way” ™ … let us pray for their souls a-men.

    Everyone will tell you his “way” is the best way. Anybody wants to bet on it?

    Most probably one of the first “truth” sotoists have eard is some kind of “in the middle ages the Rinzai sold the result of the koans”, right, which is pure bull, since you cannot, it’s like selling the secret of the sommersault, or of swimming … or going on a byke.

    1. Andy
      Andy February 18, 2014 at 9:28 am |

      The Prodigy Experience (white) Album is the best, don’t you think boubi? Wasn’t into that kind of music until I’d heard it.

    2. minkfoot
      minkfoot February 18, 2014 at 10:32 am |

      Darling boubi–

      No, not at all.

  17. Harlan
    Harlan February 18, 2014 at 10:07 am |

    “the wrong reasons for doing Zen practice are any reasons for doing Zen practice.”

    There is no such thing as goalless practice. Having no goal doesn’t need practice. The fact is the Zazen is best way to be as still as possible without falling asleep. That is it.. Now why would anyone want to remain as still as possible without falling asleep anymore than one time? In that question lies the reason.

    1. Fred
      Fred February 18, 2014 at 10:53 am |

      Andy, I smoked 2 packs a day at 22, so I can relate to what you are saying.

      How would you sell meditation as a way of quitting smoking. You would have
      to lie to them if it was goaless sitting with no payoff. Even if there was a high
      to replace the physiological craving, they would have to drop that too.

      1. minkfoot
        minkfoot February 22, 2014 at 9:51 am |

        Try effortless sitting – it’s an old tradition!
        You can even stop smoking without really trying!

  18. minkfoot
    minkfoot February 18, 2014 at 10:41 am |

    John & Andy–

    I’m very interested in this dialogue. Strikes me as a mite mechanical, but you might have something.

    I was addicted to cigarettes four times. The first two times I quit, it was grim, grit-your-teeth cold turkey.

    Third time I quit, it was after learning both the doctrine and the gut-knowing that the power of thoughts is empty, and the stopping was easy.

    So easy, in fact, that it was easy to start again. After all, I knew I could quit again. And that was true, but the when was not at my demand – I had to wait a year and a half for the right mindset to come around again.

    I’ll not tempt fate further.

    1. Mumbles
      Mumbles February 18, 2014 at 4:06 pm |

      When I finally successfully quit I had to do the opposite of a reduction cure: I started smoking Lucky Strike non-filters. Curious things happened, no one bummed smokes from me anymore, and I began to wake up horribly short of breath, wheezing. Also, I couldn’t bum filter cigs unless I broke the filter off, it seemed like a plug that just accumulated nastiness (strange how as a Marlboro red smoker prior to Luckys it never bothered me at all). After a year of this and a trip to New Orleans where I smoked way too many filter-less Gitane and Gauloise I just quit, and never went back. Actually, I kept a pack of Gauloise in the freezer and once a year for a few years would attempt to smoke one and that would convince me once again that I’d quit for good. Doing that also got me past the fear that if I smoked a cig I’d likely return to it full time. Easily the addiction to tobacco trumped addiction to any other drug I’ve used. Very, very hard to kick.

  19. CatsareInfinite
    CatsareInfinite February 18, 2014 at 12:19 pm |

    Andy and minkfoot, I demand an apology from you imbeciles.

    Daniel what time can you come on Skype? Also what time can Andy or minkfoot come on Skype?

    You fucking idiots are pissing me off. I am offended by the accusation that Daniel and I am the same person. We don’t even have similar criticisms of Soto Zen. I’m like, wtf???? I have a life outside this blog, and I don’t have time to be on it for a long time.

    You fucking pieces of shit have really pissed me off. I demand an apology. If you really think I’m the same person as Daniel, I can definitely prove I am not.

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot February 18, 2014 at 1:08 pm |

      I’m in the middle of a fucking snowstorm with tires that need clear roads, while you worry about some assholes thinking you’re either one or two. Who’s the one with the New Age bullshit?

      1. CatsareInfinite
        CatsareInfinite February 18, 2014 at 1:16 pm |

        Why are you posting here then? You have more important priorities. I don’t post here while in class or doing homework. Those have more priority.

        It’s common sense.

      2. minkfoot
        minkfoot February 18, 2014 at 1:27 pm |

        Passing the time until the roads clear.

        You’re a very interesting person. Why do you worry about what people think? You’ve declared yourself an übermensch, while we are but hoi polloi.

    2. Daniel
      Daniel February 18, 2014 at 2:25 pm |

      Pretty much any time between 11:00-24:00 GMT. maybe not for long though but long enough to say that I am not cats.

      Should be fun 🙂

  20. boubi
    boubi February 18, 2014 at 1:33 pm |

    Birth of a urban legend*

    “when Boddhidharma got IT and after this just sat there facing a wall for a long time. ”

    Says who, your highness?

    Who ever said that Boddhidarma sat there “for a long time” after? Just enjoying the feeling ? Kind of some beer advertising ?

    Boddhidarma sat because he was striving to the point that he even CUT his EYELIDS (according to the lore) , *blip* , don’t tell me that it is an exemple of “aimless practice”.

    * a new sotoistic urban legend?

  21. Alan Sailer
    Alan Sailer February 18, 2014 at 2:20 pm |


    I was struck by the use of the term “aimless practice”.

    At least as far as I am concerned the practice of zazen has the aim of sitting up straight and paying attention. (And hopefully to pay enough attention to realize when I am doing neither).

    These are aims. So I don’t see it as an “aimless practice”.

    A goal, however, is a imagined endpoint, a place I want to get. A place different from where I am at now.

    So I understand that ideally zazen is a goal-less practice.

    When I sit my aim is to notice my goals (ideas about practice), set them aside and go back to just sitting.


    1. Fred
      Fred February 18, 2014 at 3:43 pm |

      A Rinzai Urban Legend

      “Pierced by the shadow of past teachers, self dissolving is all I know.
      Now awakened from this dissolution, Oh where is my true teacher?
      Comings and comings, goings and goings, moving only with perfect silence.
      But even so, I myself have yet to arrive into the silence. Oh what can I do?”

      Joshu Sasaki

  22. boubi
    boubi February 18, 2014 at 3:53 pm |

    Brad :
    “The notion of goalless practice can be …..”

    Boubi :
    “aimless practice”.

    Collin’s : aim
    n ambition, aspiration, course, design, desire, direction, end, goal, Holy Grail (informal) intent, intention, mark, object, objective, plan, purpose, scheme, target, wish

    If there are SUCH BIG differences between the two words, i’m unaware of them.
    Sorry, i can change my wording in :
    “These are goals. So I don’t see it as an “goaless practice”.

    Happy now?

    Do you practice in order to keep your back straight? Funny …

    BTW, about the myth of the “sit just for the sake of it” … anybody remembers the singularity where Dogen “droped body and mind”?

    Was there a “before” and an “after” or was he just sitting to enjoy the pressure of the zafu on his backside, the air flowing, the straightness of his back, the beauty of the wall?

    And why did his teacher gave him the diploma on the spot?

    So, something happened …


  23. boubi
    boubi February 18, 2014 at 4:07 pm |

    … and he said “practice as if your hair were on fire”

    It sounds to me as if there is some striving here.

    This all said, i think that Soto is good, as good as any other honest practice, i just find silly (at least) when people go around stating that “it’s the best”, “the most effective” … you know “the best of the best of the best, yes-sir!”, not even having a faint clue of what others are doing out there … something evil and impure

    And let’s say it aloud, i felt some (?) uneasiness in relation to Rinzai (you know “those” … relatives) practice.
    Some (many) started to practice Soto after reading books relating kensho-shmensho (not my wording, guess whose) experiences but after failing to have one started to denigrate the whole thing (see Freud) .


  24. Daniel
    Daniel February 18, 2014 at 4:15 pm |

    Don’t get attached to Zazen…it’s just the boat to cross the river.

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot February 24, 2014 at 7:41 am |

      Yeah? When does that happen?

      Buried as it is in the earlier part of the thread, this is an experiment to see who it is ever checks out new responses throughout the length and breadth of the conversation. Actually, I dislike the way WP does it, but as it’s not in my power to do anything about it . . .

      To reward any strange person with such obsessive habits, I will tell a Zen blonde joke relevant to the first line above:

      A blonde Zen practitioner was hiking in the Himalayas one fine day, when she discovered that the log bridge across the rushing river that should have let her continue on her path, had washed away in the big thunderstorm she experienced the night before. While puzzling on how to cross the deadly flood, she saw another blonde come to the river’s edge opposite her. With delight, she saw that the other blonde also wore a rakusu, albeit a Soto one. Nonetheless, she anticipated the joy it would be to join with her Dharma sister for tea and talk in the high mountain sun. She called out over the roaring froth:

      “Hey! How can I get to the other side?”

      The blonde in the Soto rakusu stared at her for a few minutes. Then she gathered a few twigs and driftwood the river had thrown onto the bank, and soon had a small fire going. With that, she pulled some cloths from her pack and made a meditation seat. She sat for about an hour. She got up and carefully packed her stuff away. Utterly composed, she cupped her hands and yelled:

      “You are on the other side!”

  25. boubi
    boubi February 18, 2014 at 4:20 pm |

    So instead of helping people in knowing the “true nature of their mind”, liberating them from avydia (avidya?), somehow you tell them that this is THE RIGHT ONE increasing the chasm between thing (don’t know how to say it better), that the rest is “not so right”.

    Instead of letting loose, you separate.

    There is no purity, a piece of shit is as much pure as a flower*, it’s avidya, ignorance, that makes think otherwise.

  26. boubi
    boubi February 18, 2014 at 4:23 pm |

    Practices, schools are just the finger.

    “Mine is bigger” rules among the fingerwatching fools.
    Ancient chinese saying

  27. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote February 18, 2014 at 4:28 pm |

    Myself, I perceive Daniel and Cats to be two different voices. Daniel I can relate to. Cats comes up with genius stuff out of left field, in the midst of his emotional responses, I respect that.

    Andy, I hear what you are saying about the pause a smoker learns to make before exhaling. Fascinating. By the way, when are you going to write a book? I would read it. Your style is so vulnerable and sensitive (except when you’re angry), and I thoroughly enjoy it.

    I also had success, with my friend in New York City falling back to sleep by bringing to mind the sense of place and the freedom of the sense of place to move. He thought I should find a way to share the knowledge with more people. Your cure for smoking I think has a similar usefulness that could use wider dissemination, and it’s not disconnected from the practice of “waking up and falling asleep” I was describing to my friend in New York. Which I believe is what Yuanwu is referring to here:

    “You must strive with all your might to bite through here and cut off conditioned habits of mind. Be like a person who has died the great death: after your breath is cut off, then you come back to life. Only then do you realize that it is as open as empty space. Only then do you reach the point where your feet are walking on the ground of reality.” (Zen Letters, translated by J.C. and Thomas Cleary, pg 84)

    So Yuanwu draws attention to the tactile/proprioceptive/kinesthetic sense (“bite through”) and the sense of location (“here”), as the means by which conditioned habits of mind are cut off. Then he advises self-surrender in the context of the greater good, or at least that’s how I read “be like a person who has died the great death”. At some point, habitual activity in the body entwined with the movement of breath will cease, and a return to the senses is the organism’s response. Is the free movement of the sense of location in a universe as open as empty space?- does the tactile/proprioceptive/kinesthetic sense bring awareness to the legs in support of the movement of breath (as with Fuxi’s “walking along I ride the ox”)?

    There is stretch in the movement of breath. There is effort in the distinction of the senses. Action takes place in the movement of inhalation and exhalation, with relaxation, with calm. Is it necessary to do anything? No. Is it possible to relinquish volition and still realize action of body and mind? Yes, but you have to be falling asleep or waking up right where you are.

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

  28. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote February 18, 2014 at 4:35 pm |

    This sentence:

    ‘Then he advises self-surrender in the context of the greater good, or at least that’s how I read “be like a person who has died the great death”.’

    I had changed, but it got lost when Google’s Chrome resurrected my page after the blue screen of death shut me down. Should be:

    ‘Then he advises a cessation of the exercise of will or volition, to be as one who has died a selfless death (“the great death”).

  29. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote February 18, 2014 at 4:36 pm |

    I am upgrading to Windows 7, if it goes well I’ll be back soon.

    1. Fred
      Fred February 18, 2014 at 4:51 pm |

      The great death is the death of the self, the will and volition of conditioning
      calling the shots.

  30. CatsareInfinite
    CatsareInfinite February 18, 2014 at 5:33 pm |

    Smoking is pretty bad…

    I want to quit too. I think it has something to do with suburban and urban environments that make me want to smoke. When I went WWOOFing, I did not have as strong of a desire to smoke.

  31. Alan Sailer
    Alan Sailer February 18, 2014 at 5:52 pm |


    I was kind of guessing that the conversation would hinge on definitions, I can only give my interpretation of the words.

    For me, absolutely, yes the practice of zazen is driven by goal/aim seeking behavior, I definitely want something from the practice. Which is good, it keeps me practicing.

    And as stupid or funny as it sounds, I do spend time sitting to keep my back straight. It’s something to do when I sit.

    And I have noticed that my back bends when my mind wonders….

    I don’t follow you (or anyone else) closely enough to clearly understand what issues you may be trying to express. It’s too hard for me to keep track. So I hope that your are not too bothered by what Brad is writing on this site.

    I can say from personal experience that when I used to get worked up about what Brad is or isn’t doing here, it was a waste of my time.

    As far as I can tell, he teaches Soto zen because that’s what he knows, not because it is the one true path.


    1. boubi
      boubi February 19, 2014 at 2:46 am |

      “Mahāmati, the Tathagatas do not teach the doctrine that is dependent upon letters. (…). Again, Mahāmati, anyone that discourses on a truth that is dependent on letters is a mere prattler because truth is beyond letters. ”

      For your back try Pilates, Yoga, some work out, swimming, beyond the fact that mind and body are a whole, smash your finger and observe your thoughts to verify


  32. Mumbles
    Mumbles February 18, 2014 at 6:12 pm |

    Andy, way up there @ Andy February 18, 2014 at 5:54 am | Permalink

    “I’m not sure if you think I was irritated by your response or summut?”…

    Course not, in fact I think you are stumbling into a very interesting area indeed.

    Many years ago my Tibetan Buddhist teacher initiated me into the “yoga of the central channel” which becomes very complex, but an aspect of it focuses on the “inner winds” which some Tantric texts simply call the “life-force.” The visualizations get pretty technical but the jist of it is to connect the winds with the “indestructible drop” which is raised up and down the channel through breathing techniques and ultimately lands (resides) in the heart. There is a profound thing that occurs when the drop and winds hit bottom at the Muladhara (root) chakra. This is done while assuming the form of Buddha Heruka (the combination of bliss and emptiness).

    It is a very dangerous practice and not one to be done on your own or simply by reading books. I am only touching on exterior points but wanted you to know that you are intuitively hitting on a most profound truth indeed accepted in some schools of Tantric Buddhism.

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot February 18, 2014 at 7:52 pm |

      Visualization is one thing, but there are actually inner phenomena that feel like “winds” or flows. Sometimes warm, sometimes deliciously cool, usually pleasant.

      I suspect as one continues the practice, proprioception becomes refined into more detail and sensitivity. It may be becoming perceptive of what’s called “chi,” whatever that may be.

      On occasion, I felt energies begin to rise from the region of my tailbone, like I had heard the Kundalini described. Having no subtle energy teacher, nor a desire for one, I don’t pursue these phenomena. One time, though, as I was feeling certain well-defined flows, I suddenly understood why the Shaivite sadhus carry tridents.

      1. Mumbles
        Mumbles February 18, 2014 at 8:25 pm |

        Didn’t mean to say or imply that what I was talking about were entirely “visualizations” as the term is usually expressed/understood…there is nothing really to differentiate what is considered consensual “reality” from “visualization” after a point when doing these practices…Those energies you felt at the Muladhara (tailbone) are very “real” indeed…

        1. minkfoot
          minkfoot February 20, 2014 at 6:40 am |

          Well put.

          Last I know, there is no scientific evidence for “chi,” meaning there is no physical evidence for any detectable “energies” in studies done on such things as acupuncture. (I’ve seen some interesting Kirlian videos that the usual debunking doesn’t seem to cover, but let’s confine it to non-controversial evidence.) Nonetheless, people keep coming up with recognizable patterns of inner phenomena that come with various disciplines. I can easily think of three possibilities:

          Osmotic suggestion through reading, hearing teachings, and social interaction. In other words, hypnotic mass illusion.

          Subtle but physical phenomena which we have not yet developed the means to detect. Think of the discovery of radio in the late 19th century.

          Phenomena outside physicality. The various multilayered body schemes of occult and spiritual systems often posit dynamics that follow laws of non-physical realms, worlds, planes, dimensions, whatever, that have limited (but not necessarily unimportant) interaction with what we call the material world.

          Seems to be a tendency in many people to rush decisions in favor of points one and three. Personally, I lean toward three, seeing no overwhelming confirmation, though. It works best in conveying useful information concerning such phenomena, although I feel it’s best to keep a big fat proviso on your left shoulder, constantly whispering “working hypothesis.”

          And I would be most interested in any new developments in favor of point two.

      1. boubi
        boubi February 19, 2014 at 2:54 am |
        1. Mumbles
          Mumbles February 19, 2014 at 7:35 pm |
          1. minkfoot
            minkfoot February 20, 2014 at 7:17 am |

            Server for Daniel Tarr’s pages seems down. I assume this is similar?
            My partner and I found a nice brass statue about a foot high, sold by an Asian Indian lady in Goshen. We brought it home and put it on the right side of Owlbone’s mantle.

            The Chan/Zen way of working with Samantabhadra Bodhisattva is different from the Tantric, I think, though I am no expert on the latter and just begun the former in the last few years. His energy is aptly described by Koun Franz in “Authentic Practice.” It’s at the point of when you sacrifice your Mara-inspired wishes to quit, to move, to do something other than whole-hearted, one-pointed surrender to practice. A specific energy seems to arise, bringing clarity and ease.

            I think it’s easy to stumble across, hard to sustain.

    2. Andy
      Andy February 20, 2014 at 7:05 am |

      Thanks for getting back on that, Mumbles. I mistook ‘flipped’. The Tibetan stuff’s way out of my frame of understanding/experience. My practice is DIY and I have no recourse to a group/teacher near me, so I’m happy to plod along in the shallow end of such things and try and reign myself in as ultimate goal.

      1. Andy
        Andy February 20, 2014 at 7:09 am |


        1. minkfoot
          minkfoot February 20, 2014 at 7:19 am |

          The other way works, too.

          1. Andy
            Andy February 20, 2014 at 7:21 am |

            I was just thinking that as corrected myself!

  33. Mumbles
    Mumbles February 18, 2014 at 6:16 pm |

    “…hit bottom at the Muladhara (root) chakra”

    The better word would’ve been “pierces” this chakra.

    Mahamudra, baby.

  34. Andy
    Andy February 18, 2014 at 7:19 pm |


    I wasn’t thinking of meditation as a wholesale cure. I think that would do a disservice to the practical medical advice out there to help folk quit, misrepresent a meditation practice that could do without it, and just put folk off. Nevertheless, I think there are connections and insights that could coalesce into some practical augmentations to the already sound advice. My thoughts are very nebulous and fragmented on the subject at the moment, which I suppose isn’t surprising as I still smoke.

    One of the reasons I think there might be a gap in the advice given is that general attitudes to smoking focus on the negatives to be free from or the unwholesome pleasures that need to be replaced with more salubrious ones.

    Other than the above, it is recognized quite shallowly, in my view, how smoking not just relaxes, but offers the smoker a brief, but very mindful and accepting attitude, which I think is quite a relatively healthy thing in certain situations amidst all the other polluting, poisoning and clouding effects. Kind of like the devil’s serenity in which something of value comes at the expense of a more holistically stable clarity, and with illness and unfitness as part of the deal.

    When I first succeeded in quitting smoking, it started quite spontaneously while reading some Thich Nhat Hanh words on habits as a kind of trapped energy. I just decided to be mindful of everything I was doing and experiencing, in and immediately around my smoking. All the details. In doing so it didn’t take long to realize how much longer I could make one cig last, and how the grubby, bitter ashiness and coughing seemed in perfect tension with the positives. That tension felt like a tickle of freedom – a way through, somehow, and I left my cigs at the table and went to town to do some grocery shopping.

    In town, whenever I started to feel the urge, I slowed down, took stock and breathed the fresh air as I would a cig – sometimes even to the point of putting both fingers to my lips etc. I didn’t look back for two weeks, with surprisingly very little cold turkey moments, until a minor family crises gave me an excuse to be a self-pitying weakling!

    I wasn’t able to replicate that situation again. My sneaky self was prepared the next time, but I also started to understand, like Minkfoot, that these opportunities kind of present themselves when and where they want. But the experience left its little eye open to things to do with that, I think.

    For the last 9 months I’ve been stripping back, bit by bit, some of the support habits that prop up my smoking, the big one being cutting out drinking altogether, with stretching and sitting in the morning an already established space that has increasingly extended the time after sitting in which I usually don’t smoke. I try not to fret it, without cuddling up to my not fretting about it.

    It’s the big one for me, and perhaps a little different from other folk, as I wasn’t a smoker until my mid twenties (for fuck sake!). I went through a period of depression after a break-up and unfortunately was prescribed anti-depressants which did me no good at all, and which have since been shown to have the rather nasty effects they had on me. One of those was a sense of being wound up to the hilt, with some psychosis thrown in for good measure, and a nightmare come-down that meant a rocky time coming off the things. My girlfriend at the time passed me one of her cigs and I’d got through three packs by bed-time!
    I reckon there’s a lot of crap that’s going to pour out when I finally bite the bullet and so I think the host’s holding back on that opportunity until it’s safe.

    I suppose at the mo I’ve got some sketchy ideas:

    1) Really smoking i.e mindful smoking when the will to stop smoking starts to ripen

    2) Some kind of focused breathing technique that builds on the already unrecognized ‘meditative’ aspect of smoking’s first cig (after a period without) inhalation/hold/exhalation, structured over time into a more natural breath awareness, and applied to periods of abstinence and then after stopping completely.

    3) A place and posture that does something similar to 2) and is gradually integrated with 2): picking places where one smokes, sitting and standing and walking in which one starts by being aware of the postures one takes in smoking; then gradually opening these postures out without a cig, in order to replace that sweet-spot moment in having a first cig (after a period without) with a sense of relaxed alertness. – this one’s a bit vague, but I’d have to try that out.

    Something like the three above could perhaps work in tandem with the things one is advised already advised to do, but would begin well into smoking and for months afterwards. This wouldn’t need to be framed in any mystical-sounding language – just practical be where and who you are stuff with clear instructions.

  35. SoF
    SoF February 18, 2014 at 9:54 pm |

    So, I’m still around. I looked at the Screening date in SF and will try to make it with a few friends.

    Wait, and see…


  36. SoF
    SoF February 18, 2014 at 9:55 pm |

    missing “R”


  37. Mumbles
    Mumbles February 19, 2014 at 4:39 am |

    Chas! I kid you not I was thinking about you and the old days on this blog about 5 min before I opened it just now! Hope you are well, old friend.

  38. Steve
    Steve February 19, 2014 at 5:56 am |

    Just chiming in my 2 cents here because discussions about goalless practice always drive me up the wall. I agree with Daniel that a goal-less practice occurs after some realization. If you sit with the intention of having no goal, that’s your goal. Is there a difference between sitting zen and sitting and daydreaming? If there is, then there is a goal. Maybe call it effort instead. The goal is not to imagine a thing called enlightenment and then go looking for it. But that doesn’t mean there is no goal. I believe that up until the time of Dogen, the tile polishing koan was always used to make the point that sitting and striving for enlightenment won’t do. Nanyue picks up the tile and polishes it. Mazu asks him what he’s doing. He says he’s making a mirror. Mazu asks how do you make a mirror from polishing a tile. Nanyue responds, “how do you become a buddha by sitting?” But DOGEN rewrote the koan in a way that made both Mazu and Nanyue equally realized zen masters. With the point being that Nanyue is teaching Mazu that striving for enlightenment won’t do. And Mazu teaching Nanyue that not striving for enlightenment won’t do. Striving won’t do. Not striving won’t do. So what to do? That’s the practice koan that needs to be resolved. Resolving it is the goal. Right?

  39. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote February 19, 2014 at 3:31 pm |

    Steve, you fiend…

    A friend posted this as her Facebook status:

    “Six years ago today, at 12:40 PM, A very big 9 lbs. 9 oz. girl was born without a breath in her body. What felt like ages, but less than a minute later a loud cry came out of her and into this world came (my daughter)”

    I agree with Cats’, a person of long experience may express themselves in a way that a person of short experience cannot directly grasp.

    ‘…Nan-yueh replied, “How can you make a Buddha by sitting in meditation?”

    Ta-chi asked, “Then, what is right?”

    Nan-yueh replied, “When a man is driving a cart, if the cart doesn’t go, should he beat the cart or beat the ox?”

    Ta-chi did not reply.

    Nan-yueh went on, “Are you studying seated meditation or are you studying seated Buddha? If you’re studying seated meditation, seated meditation is not sitting still. If you’re studying seated Buddha, Buddha is no fixed mark. If you’re studying seated Buddha, this is killing Buddha. If you grasp the mark of sitting, you’re not reaching its principle.”‘

    (“Dogen’s Manuals of Zen Meditation”, Bielefeldt, co 1988 UC Press pg 193-196)

  40. Mumbles
    Mumbles February 19, 2014 at 3:50 pm |
  41. Steve
    Steve February 20, 2014 at 7:38 am |

    Brad linked the Alan Watts piece about doing something with a goal being likened to a composer who composes to get to the end of the piece. And since you have to post music to be an official member of the hardcorezen comment group, I’d mention that the first time I listened to this, I hated it. I couldn’t believe that 4 great musicians that I admired so much would come up with this. I listened to it several times because it came so highly recommended as a masterpiece, but I thought “well it might be an artistic statement about something or other, but it’s not a beautiful piece of music that I would want to listen to.” It didn’t sound like music at all. To me it was a bunch of effects and soundtrack snippets to cartoons randomly pieced together. I kept putting it away and then taking it out thinking that everyone who went on and on about it must be nuts. Then one day while listening to it, I suddenly got it – that it WAS beautiful music. Now I can listen to it with no goal.

    1. Andy
      Andy February 20, 2014 at 8:00 am |

      And since you have to post music to be an official member of the hardcorezen comment group

      Oh, Man! I think of been swanning around the place here without my papers. So…

      It reminds me of the of wall in the front room where I took down the Rothko print, but never replaced it. I might frame it.

      1. Mumbles
        Mumbles February 20, 2014 at 10:05 am |

        What displeased you about the Rothko print? Is it an actual print, or poster?? If it is a #’d print, is it for sale???

        1. Andy
          Andy February 20, 2014 at 5:12 pm |

          Not displeased, although not my favourite – sometimes I find it a little too anthropomorphic, ( Front room’s got a damp problem I can’t afford to sort yet, so I moved it. The wall’s now a ghost of it when I look, having got sucked into it for so many years.

          I’d love a full size:

          1. Andy
            Andy February 20, 2014 at 5:29 pm |

            Which are your Rothko favs? I like really your painting of the figure with sky wings btw.

          2. Fred
            Fred February 22, 2014 at 5:51 am |

            Tanahashi’s interpretation of Dogen:

            ” This being so, continuous practice is unstained, not forced by you or others. The power of this continuous practice confirms you as well as others. It means your practice affects the entire earth and the entire sky in the ten directions. Although not noticed by others or by yourself, it is so”

            Continuous, goaless practice on the path past the Buddha, and enlightenment
            of/past/through the self not necessarily observed by the self when the self
            is the self.

          3. minkfoot
            minkfoot February 24, 2014 at 8:03 am |

            When is the self the self? When is the self not the self?

            When one thinks of/as the self, self is there. Not-thinking of self, where?

          4. Fred
            Fred February 24, 2014 at 10:10 am |
  42. Steve
    Steve February 20, 2014 at 8:34 am |

    Derivative of the sound of one hand clapping.

    1. Fred
      Fred February 20, 2014 at 9:00 am |

      Frame the wall.

      Take a beating for your art

      1. Mumbles
        Mumbles February 20, 2014 at 10:02 am |

        That was GREAT, Fred!

      2. CatsareInfinite
        CatsareInfinite February 20, 2014 at 3:15 pm |

        You shouldn’t be posting political commentary on other countries when it’s obvious you lack the intellect and awareness to constructively critique your own immediate “community” and country.

    2. Andy
      Andy February 20, 2014 at 9:10 am |

      germane, germane

  43. Andy
    Andy February 20, 2014 at 9:28 am |
  44. SoF
    SoF February 20, 2014 at 3:42 pm |

    Goalless practice…
    Don’t tell the beginners: “The goal is no goal.”

    It’s a bit like saying: “The reason we sit is to sit.”

    Just mention that (disclaimers follow) for many people, in the course of time, the reason to persist in the practice opens – like that entrance to the movie theater you would like to pass through – even WITH the long line in which you must wait some time with patience.

    And for heavens (plural) sake, don’t say that the end, like the beginning, is merely dualistic thinking.

  45. Andy
    Andy February 20, 2014 at 5:45 pm |

    @ Mumbles (February 20, 2014 at 10:05 am).

    [I posted a reply, but I think the two links in it are problematic, so I’ve split it below]

    Not displeased, although not my favourite — sometimes I find it a little too anthropomorphic, ( Front room’s got a damp problem I can’t afford to sort yet, so I moved it. The wall’s now a ghost of it when I look, having got sucked into it for so many years.

    1. Andy
      Andy February 20, 2014 at 5:45 pm |
  46. Mumbles
    Mumbles February 20, 2014 at 6:22 pm |

    Well, hey, thanks Andy. The paintings on my website were all commissioned, but the patron allowed me to make those particular suggestions based on alchemical (and other) engravings and my own hybrid sketches. I have a show of new stuff in April and hope to get images of some of those up on the site asap.

    I have not met a Rothko I did not like. The paintings at the Tate are extraordinary (I believe that’s one of them you linked above at 5:45 pm.)

    Perhaps my favorite one, at least one that I never fail to make pilgrimage to whenever I am in Kansas City, MO is located at the Nelson-Atkins Museum, plum on black. It THROBS. Also at that museum is a wonderful Caravaggio of St. John The Baptist, and a sublime, huge, painted wooden Bodhisattva that has been reproduced in Buddhist magazines over and over… (I’ve kissed her lowered foot many a time…)

  47. Mumbles
    Mumbles February 20, 2014 at 6:35 pm |

    Another favorite is Balthus. About ten years ago I journeyed very far indeed to see some of his paintings.

    Here’s one

    1. Andy
      Andy February 20, 2014 at 8:02 pm |

      I can see why. That really is something. I was about to tuck in, but even on my little screen I’m transfixed. Keep going back to it. Had a quick look at some of his other stuff too – fascinating and inspiring. Thanks.

    2. boubi
      boubi February 21, 2014 at 4:50 am |

      Kind of borderline pedophile don’t you think?

  48. Mumbles
    Mumbles February 20, 2014 at 6:37 pm |

    And, of course Don Van Vliet…….0…1ac.1.35.img..0.8.1065.xjQCYiX9LPc#q=don%20van%20vliet%20paintings&revid=2073101730&tbm=isch

    All of my last three comments have landed above your (Andy’s) 5:29 pm comment BTW.

Comments are closed.