Dokusan

Before I get started, I still have three more events in the UK. The Hebden Bridge thing is actually two events, a lecture on Tuesday evening and a full day of zazen on  Wednesday. Write to them for details. There is still space left at all three of the events below:

Nov. 27-28 (Tues and Wed) Hebden Bridge Zen Group, UK contact Rebecca at rebeccahabs@googlemail.com

Dec. 2 (Sun) London, England, The Vibast Community Centre, 163 Old Street, EC1V 9NH, for info sacredalchemyevents@hotmail.com

***

This past weekend I was at a place called Fawcett Mill Fields in the Lake District of the UK. That’s a photo of the place at the top of this page. There I led a kind of “lite retreat.” It’s a new thing I’m experimenting with. Here’s why.

A few years ago I led a retreat at the Southern Dharma Retreat Center, an organization that used to like me and invite me to do things but seems to have changed its collective mind about me for reasons I have yet to learn. It was a standard Zen retreat in which participants pretty did pretty much nothing but zazen for the entire weekend. There were no fun activities planned, no sight-seeing, no games, no workshops, no team building exercises, etc. Just a lot of sitting and staring at the wall punctuated by a few talks by me.

One women who showed up took a look at the schedule and said, “I gave up tickets to see the Dalai Lama for THIS??” Then stormed out, got in her SUV and sped off down the road in a shower of gravel, never to be seen again. To her, the schedule sounded like a big rip-off. And I began to think, “Am I ripping people off? Am I being lazy, not preparing all sorts of fun and frolic for people who come to my retreats? Other teachers do that. They come up with ‘workshops’ and little get-together thingies and suchlike.”

Then I thought, no. That’s not really it. The thing about a Zen retreat is that it gives you the opportunity to go very deeply into practice. And the only way to do that is to do the practice continuously over an extended period of time. Whenever you interrupt that flow, you interrupt the participant’s ability to really go as deeply as they can into the practice. There’s no way around it.

On the other hand, not everyone is ready for four hours of zazen at a time. An easier schedule might be more attractive to them. And it’s better to sit for an hour or two a day than not to sit at all. So I’m trying to introduce retreats that are more user-friendly.

What I’ve found, though, is that my audience is divided between people who are pretty experienced with Zen and people who are new to it. The experienced people who come to one of these “lite retreats” are disappointed because it’s not a real Zen retreat. And the ones who are completely new to it are disappointed because there’s too much sitting and staring at walls for them. I have come up with a way to disappoint everyone! Hooray!

That being said, the retreat went pretty nicely, I think. No one stormed off in a huff at least. As is typical these days, I did not spend much time doing zazen. Instead, I was stuck in a little room most of the time chatting with people. This is a tradition called “dokusan.”

In Zen we understand that every person’s experience of the practice is a little different. So while there are generalized lectures and instructions given to the group, the real meat of the teaching goes on behind closed doors in a one-to-one setting. What gets said in that little room is often completely inappropriate for public consumption, much the way that what gets said in a doctor’s office is not appropriate for public consumption. Although Zen teachers are not doctors, nor is dokusan a kind of psychotherapy session.

My own experience of dokusan is interesting to me. I stay as fully present as I possibly can with the person I’m speaking to. And I try to drop myself completely and act as a conduit for whatever needs to be spoken in that room. I know that sounds a bit spooky. But it’s not. It’s still me sitting there talking. I’m not channeling anyone or any thing. And yet I try to step aside and let things just come forth as they do rather than putting my personal sense of self into it.

As a result I find I have a bit of amnesia. I can’t actually remember what was just said even if I try to jot down a few notes right afterward. I did that once, thinking maybe it could be useful in a book (after changing the names and eliminating anything too intensely personal or useful in trying to identify the person I was speaking with). But I couldn’t really do it. A few of those notes formed the basis for part of Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate. But even there, I had to resort to generalizing because I simply couldn’t remember the actual details.

It’s odd I can’t recall these conversations. I can recall most of my conversations with friends. But when I’m talking with friends I’m doing something a bit different.

Fred posted an interesting video about Joshu Sasaki in the comments section of the previous piece. In the video a guy named Shinzen talks about his experiences in sanzen, which is what people in the Rinzai sect call dokusan, with Joshu Sasaki Roshi. It’s pretty neat. What he experienced with Sasaki is much like what I experienced in dokusan with Nishijima Roshi and with Tim. (This has nothing to do with the issue of Sasaki’s supposed sexual harassment, by the way.)

And yet now that I sit on the other side of the room I sometimes wonder what people experience when they talk to me. Surely it can’t be anything like what Shinzen describes. After all, it’s just me they’re talking to!

***

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60 Responses

Page 1 of 2
  1. Daniel
    Daniel November 26, 2012 at 4:21 am | |

    From my understanding your comment

    “The thing about a Zen retreat is that it gives you the opportunity to go very deeply into practice. And the only way to do that is to do the practice continuously over an extended period of time. Whenever you interrupt that flow, you interrupt the participant’s ability to really go as deeply as they can into the practice. There’s no way around it.”

    completely goes against what zen is actually all about. You can’t go deeply in or out of “Zen”. You cannot even get away from Zen if you take an LSD trip or whatever. There’s no escape. As there is no escape there’s no way to get “into” it, and for sure it can’t be interrupted when you do a workshop. If that’s your understanding of Zen, that it’s a state you get in and out of and that should not be interrupted then it’s a very shallow one Brad. And to be honest from reading your books I wonder if that’s really what you wanted to express…maybe I just got it wrong.

  2. Fred
    Fred November 26, 2012 at 5:56 am | |

    A conduit to the Void, Daniel, with ever increasing deeper levels of realization.

    There is delusion at every turn, and even speaking of Zen is delusion.

    What does the self that re-arises constantly know? It knows nothing.

    The Void meeting the Void through the Void is dokusan.

    1. fightclubbuddha
      fightclubbuddha November 26, 2012 at 11:12 am | |

      And yet the void, being void, can neither meet nor pass through anything. The void is like that passage in the Tibetan Book of the Dead, where you whisper into the left ear of a dying person “…the clear light, and you are about to experience it in all it’s reality, wherein all things are like the void and cloudless sky, and the naked, spotless intellect is like a transparent vacuum, without circumference or center.”

      However, it is certainly possible for the void itself to be a conduit for the passage of energy of all sorts. While nature abhors a vacuum, quantum physics requires one.

  3. Fred
    Fred November 26, 2012 at 6:35 am | |

    Edji:
    “The other thing to remember is that you would never experience any of this if it were not for the body. The body has the states of consciousness, waking, dream and deep sleep as part of its imaginal existence. However, the waking consciousness is almost trivial, yet it is an expansion or triumph of the waking state that the ego wants to or thinks it will experience in enlightenment. But, the waking mind state is transient and unreal, as is dream and deep sleep. You are beyond that.”

    Beyond the dream within a dream, contraction and expansion, the self and no-self.

  4. Daniel
    Daniel November 26, 2012 at 7:02 am | |

    Hi Fred,

    “A conduit to the Void, Daniel, with ever increasing deeper levels of realization.
    There is delusion at every turn, and even speaking of Zen is delusion.
    What does the self that re-arises constantly know? It knows nothing.
    The Void meeting the Void through the Void is dokusan.”

    Hmmm while it’s always hard to tell what you mean with “void”, I’ll make an asumption here that you mean the same thing/no-thing what is called emptiness as in the heart-sutra form – empty, empty – form.

    If you did then there’s no delusion and also no realisation. Emptiness is always realised, whatever you think about it or not or if there’s an understanding of this or not. And while of course “void meeting void through the void is dokusan” might be right, it’s also true for “void meeting void through the void is drinking vodka while beating your wife and masturbating” (which is an extreme example but anyway just to make it clear). See it’s not that void has some special preference for Brad in Dokusans :)

  5. NellaLou
    NellaLou November 26, 2012 at 7:37 am | |

    We should start reviewing Zen teachers on Yelp. Do they give good “guru zap”? How good on a scale of 1-10?

  6. Mettai
    Mettai November 26, 2012 at 9:03 am | |

    I wouldn’t write off the value of both sorts of retreats for folks of any length of experience. If you have a nice natural setting and good weather to enjoy it, being outdoors in the daytime can make the morning and evening zazen deeper. However, learning to sit through the constant zazen and flow deeper with it is valuable, especially when it is raining.

    We should not fail to remember that most enlightenment stories did not occur during zazen.

    We also should not fail to get enough sleep!

  7. King Kong
    King Kong November 26, 2012 at 5:39 pm | |

    OMG !!!! THE LOGIC ON THIS PAGE IS SOOOOOOO AWESUM THAT I JUST VOIDED MYSELF !!!! : : ) )

  8. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 26, 2012 at 8:55 pm | |

    Tell no tales, I will; yet, a whisper in my ear speaks of the time when, not long ago, there was another on these comment threads who did similarly find the contents particularly moving. favorable to health and regularity- you wouldn’t, perhaps, know this individual, Khong?

    Guru zap, 1-10; I like that. Awesome thread.

    Fred, I thought that was interesting too, about contraction and expansion. Like Yuanwu’s “rolling out and rolling up”:

    “They rolled out and rolled up, they released and they captured.” (Zen Letters translated Cleary brothers pg 91-92).

    Maybe not quite the same, I think Yuanwu’s remarks were in the context of teaching.

    “Whenever you interrupt that flow, you interrupt the participant’s ability to really go as deeply as they can into the practice.”

    “If that’s your understanding of Zen, that it’s a state you get in and out of and that should not be interrupted then it’s a very shallow one Brad.”

    Wait, you’re both right! ha ha!

  9. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 26, 2012 at 9:07 pm | |

    not far so I’ll go on, apologies Khru. I mean action through the feeling engendered by the sense of place in response to the necessity of breath, this action is witnessed in a hypnogogic state, but this action still happens whether or not a hypnogogic state exists to allow it to occur sans volition. There’s suffering involved in the exercise of volition. The hypnogogic state is actually induced through the necessity of breath, but calm and relaxation sufficient to the experience can be a practice. A practice of necessity, or it’s not Zen.

    A setting where calm and relaxation sufficient to the experience of action without volition through the necessity of breath is rare, it’s everyday. It’s both!

  10. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 26, 2012 at 9:11 pm | |

    A setting where calm and relaxation sufficient to the experience of action without volition through the necessity of breath exists, is rare, it’s everyday.

  11. King Kong
    King Kong November 27, 2012 at 4:04 am | |

    ZEN = MEDITATION ??

  12. Fred
    Fred November 27, 2012 at 7:23 am | |

    ZEN=?, MEDITATION=?, ZAZEN=ZAZEN

  13. Fred
    Fred November 27, 2012 at 7:31 am | |

    “void meeting void through the void is drinking vodka while beating your wife and masturbating”

    The Void may include these things, but beating your meat while beating your wife is not the Void.

    Nor is fucking your student while creating suffering for your wife and children.

  14. Fred
    Fred November 27, 2012 at 7:39 am | |

    “We should start reviewing Zen teachers on Yelp. Do they give good “guru zap”? How good on a scale of 1-10?”

    It depends on whether you are zap-worthy or not.

    (And not a prospect for “horizontal transmission.” )

  15. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 27, 2012 at 7:50 am | |

    ZEN = MEDITATION ?? Kong, you big ape- what are you saying!

    ZEN=?, MEDITATION=?, ZAZEN=ZAZEN

    ok.

    Zen is in retreat. Voiding ourselves while drinking vodka? Zapzen, he’s sitting zapzen in dokusan; lost his mind, going deeply into the vodka outhouse of Zen, back in brilliant water in his old age; too bad about the caboose and the carousel, hello moose and squirrel!

  16. Daniel
    Daniel November 27, 2012 at 10:40 am | |

    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 :(

  17. Daniel
    Daniel November 27, 2012 at 10:50 am | |

    “The Void may include these things, but beating your meat while beating your wife is not the Void.

    Nor is fucking your student while creating suffering for your wife and children.”

    @Fred: So void is an entity that makes a moral choice what it is and is not? Or is it a cool spiritual thing that only manifests in spiritual beings doing their spiritual stuff? Sweet :)

  18. HarryB
    HarryB November 27, 2012 at 12:53 pm | |

    Hi Daniel,

    I think you have a point; but I also think Brad does.

    Sesshin are indeed (in my experience) great for really tucking into the practices in a way that is quite different from less intensive day-to-day home practice. They can really ‘work the edge’ of certain things that can inform the day-to-day practices.

    At the same time, I think that it is dubious to reify ‘shunyata’ or ‘emptiness’ or (Brad’s favourite) ‘Big Mind’, or whatever, into some sort of metaphysical woo-woo twilight zone that is in some way different or ‘removed’ from our everyday selves and experiences and general stuff.

    The idea that there is something like that that enlightened masters ‘get’ is part of the faulty narrative that contributes to these sect ‘sexual irregularity’ shitstorms that we (allegedly) see. At the same time, practice does have a real effects… and I think we can see from various examples of dubious practices and tainted effort that it may not be as clean-cut as what the gushing aspirants often expect.

    … But maybe I’ve missed your point entirely!

    Regards,

    Harry.

  19. Fred
    Fred November 27, 2012 at 2:16 pm | |

    “@Fred: So void is an entity that makes a moral choice what it is and is not? Or is it a cool spiritual thing that only manifests in spiritual beings doing their spiritual stuff? Sweet ”

    “If prajna is to see that ‘form is void’, karuna is to see that ‘void is form’. It is therefore an affirmation of the everyday world in all its ‘suchness’ [tathata].” Watts

    Compassion is not manifested in beating your meat while beating your wife. Nor does it manifest by creating suffering through attachment to sexual pleasure.

  20. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 27, 2012 at 3:20 pm | |

    I am addicted to the vodka in this outhouse, underneath the framed portrait of Abe Lincoln.

    Daniel, I tried to put in words my understanding the other night, and I’m afraid it came out as garbled as my outhouse remarks today. To me, this is the struggle: can we express the heart of the practice of zazen in words that communicate to each other, to our friends and community members, words that are positive and substantive, and words that are intended for ourselves as much as anyone else?

    Harry, the difficulty is that Zen is about hypnogogic states, and these states are a part of everyday life that nobody recognizes. A stream of thought, a concentrated effort, falling asleep: hypnogogia reigns. The question is how these states are entered as a matter of course, and my answer is that they are entered out of necessity in the movement of breath, as the sense of place and the ability to feel respond.

    Does this deepen in retreat. Well, in the cross-legged posture we put ourselves in a position where the sense of location and the ability to feel must respond to the necessity of breath (sooner or later). In fact, the sense of location and the ability to feel engendered through the necessity of breath can get up and walk around. Once that happens, who will sit back down to zazen? Who will walk out the door at the end of the retreat? And if the necessity is falling asleep, why would anyone drink a red bull to deepen an ease of posture in the cross legged position when their necessity is otherwise, or otherwise pursue anything other than where they are right now and what they feel in the movement of breath?

    “Good morning, where am I”- Sasaki at Cobb mountain last spring.

  21. HarryB
    HarryB November 27, 2012 at 3:26 pm | |

    ‘Hypnogogia’ could be the baddie beast from one of Brad’s beloved monster flicks.

    Regards,

    H.

  22. sri_barence
    sri_barence November 27, 2012 at 4:07 pm | |

    If we say that “Zen is everything,” then if course it is impossible to step in and out of Zen. But we should not get stuck on this point. Zen practice is an activity, and we may certainly step into and out of it.
    Personally I prefer the standard kind of Zen retreat. I think I would find workshops and suchlike to be disruptive. Too much taking and thinking. But I might like to meet Brad in dokusan. That might be interesting.
    I’ve never gotten a “guru zap” from any of the Zen teachers I’ve met. They all seemed like ordinary people to me.

  23. Fred
    Fred November 27, 2012 at 5:25 pm | |

    The zap might just be the energy that the self in a mezmerized state is projecting
    onto the teacher, and that the teacher as a blank screen of no self, no-identification is reflecting back at the student.

  24. Fred
    Fred November 27, 2012 at 5:28 pm | |

    “. I stay as fully present as I possibly can with the person I’m speaking to. And I try to drop myself completely and act as a conduit for whatever needs to be spoken in that room. I know that sounds a bit spooky. But it’s not. It’s still me sitting there talking. I’m not channeling anyone or any thing. And yet I try to step aside and let things just come forth as they do rather than putting my personal sense of self into it.”

    What is hard about understanding or aceepting that. It seems very clear.

  25. Khru
    Khru November 27, 2012 at 8:33 pm | |

    “Let me please speak to the voice of the one who is fully present.”

  26. PhilBob-SquareHead
    PhilBob-SquareHead November 27, 2012 at 9:33 pm | |

    Brad.
    Quit crying. I lived among those peeps in WNC for several years.

    YOU ARE TOO BORING.

    You haven’t even finished your own spiritual travel.

    Write a goofy book like Mr. Advaita Master Jeff Foster. And then you’ll have more friends. (rolling eyes)

    Go play punk…..Your best bet

    PhilBob-SquareHead
    336-420-4526
    G’boro NC, USA

  27. AnneMH
    AnneMH November 27, 2012 at 9:43 pm | |

    Hmm, deep thoughts here.

    In my limited retreat experience it seems that not everyone gets the same thing from a retreat, even sitting next to another person for hours a day does not mean you get the same thing. I went on a retreat for 2 days and sat next to a person who had been meditating for something like a month, and another person who was over 30 years. Who knows what they got out of that particular retreat, however I would argue that deepening practice is certainly within the normal realm of expectations (that we are of course not attached to).

    So how do you judge if a retreat is an escapist opportunity or a hard won chance to deepen practice? I would say you could look at how many dishes you left behind for someone else to do (take that metaphorically if all you needed was a cat sitter to go on retreat)? Honestly we do not know this about someone else, and it is not all one or the other. I will admit to wanting to run away from my regular life as part of the attraction of retreat, however I primarily want to see what happens to my practice when I get to focus on that instead of spending 30 minutes and then running to the store.

    Specifically to Brad for the focus of retreats and reasonably profitability (like you can pick up one of those vegie burgers at Burger King on the way to the airport after a retreat). I trade off leading meditation with this group of lay people. I was doing more of the basic set it up and sit without any frills. The minister at the church we used said she felt let down when there was not a focus to the meditation and that is what others were saying as well. So on my turns about once a month I started doing a basic guided process. I am not a teacher but I usually talk about 5 minutes on something and then guide a little on that. We get average 10 people and this is an ‘interspiritual service’ that was one of the first in Denver. As I see it as a self proclaimed sangha hopper you can build a strong community to grow a meditation group, offer more guided and subject focused meditations or become the sex guru. I see nothing wrong with offering some guidance with possibly a focus on metta or compassion to a regular group. The funny thing is that I have been doing this on my turns and we had some students who attended because a college class made them research other religions. They keep coming back and this last Sunday they sat down and asked me a lot of questions. Turns out they really are questioning many of the Judeo/Christian assumptions so this is a good place for them. I don’t find myself watering down my personal experience of Buddhism but offering the guided meditation has opened that door. I hope that helps you explore ways to grow your home group, it is a challenge. My real life job is creating programs that people want to come to, especially middle school age. There are so many reasons people do not attend and it is best to not take it personally. Cookies help, at least with young people

  28. Daniel
    Daniel November 28, 2012 at 3:04 am | |

    Hi guys,

    lots of stuff has been written and while I read and appreciate all of it I don’t want to reply to each one…

    But it looks like you got my point. Sure from the perspective of a zen-student who is on the search for whatever…let’s not take the big one, “enlightenment” here but instead the goal to get into a continuous state of zen-flow, go deep into practice…there is something you might label as a zen-state you can get in and out of.

    But once it’s seen that there’s noone to get in or out of a state in the first place and that the idea of a better or worse state is not only bullshit but is the very thing that keeps most “zen-students” from seeing this…it gets clear that the idea of deepening practice is just a funny idea. Just think about it…who’s gonna judge if your zen-state is “deep” now or not? It’s the same old game guys! Don’t fool yourself…

    Now I know that this view is very popular these days even in Zen-circles. It’s become more like a thing you do to therapy yourself, feel better or learn to concentrate like a samurai so you can make a better career. Then “Zen” is just one of those things you can do…like Yoga, Tai-Chi, Mindfulness-Meditation, whatever. And that is perfectly fine, really. I mean why not? And now…from this perspective all what Brad said is perfectly fine.

    For me Zen goes way beyond self-improvement, improving “your practice”, “deepening your practice” and so on. If you get stuck here you’ll always stay in that trap where a zen-sesshin will be very different from your everyday life in a big city for example. Does that mean I don’t “practice” anymore? In a certain way, yes. But I enjoy sitting quietly for a while so I still do that almost every day. Do I get in or out of any states? Sure, it can happen! Is what happens while sitting essentially any different from when I’m watching TV or my boss yells at me? Not at all.

  29. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon November 28, 2012 at 3:09 am | |

    “Don’t (Zen) retreat. Instead, (Zen) RELOAD!” Sarah Palin Sensei

  30. Daniel
    Daniel November 28, 2012 at 3:18 am | |

    Uh I forgot about the sunyata/emptiness/void stuff… ;)

    @Harry:
    “At the same time, I think that it is dubious to reify ‘shunyata’ or ‘emptiness’ or (Brad’s favourite) ‘Big Mind’, or whatever, into some sort of metaphysical woo-woo twilight zone that is in some way different or ‘removed’ from our everyday selves and experiences and general stuff.”

    I don’t do that and if I did so I used the wrong words. There is no emptiness as a “sort of metaphysical woo-woo twilight zone that is in some way different or ‘removed’ from our everyday selves and experiences and general stuff.”. Quite the opposite! The everyday selves and experiences and general stuff ARE nothing but emptiness. You can’t miss emptiness, it’s impossible. And it’s not a special state of mind zen-masters have that can “see emptiness” or some weird stuff. Everyone who can see, sees nothing but emptiness. Now…if there’s a guru who claims to see into emptiness or whatever and let’s say he really sees some metaphysical void like on a LSD trip or whatever…the funny thing is that he doesn’t even lie if he says he sees emptiness :)

    @Fred:
    “If prajna is to see that ‘form is void’, karuna is to see that ‘void is form’. It is therefore an affirmation of the everyday world in all its ‘suchness’ [tathata].” Watts.
    Compassion is not manifested in beating your meat while beating your wife. Nor does it manifest by creating suffering through attachment to sexual pleasure.

    Hi Fred. Well for me void/emptiness/sunyata is not the same as “compassion” (at least not exclusively, so of course compassion is also emptiness but then hate is also emptiness). To be honest I don’t even understand how that association emptiness=compassion could come up. Also not by looking at what Watts wrote, I don’t see the link. So it looks like for you void means something very different than for me. If for you void is compassion (and not also hate for example) then I fully agree with you here, because for me beating your wife (most of the time at least) is not compassion.

  31. HarryB
    HarryB November 28, 2012 at 3:49 am | |

    Hi Daniel,

    I didn’t mean to accuse you of anything there, but was agreeing on your point of us not being able to get ‘in to’ and ‘out of’ zen or practice in a sense, because a simple action is not some remote or cut-off metaphysical zone or whatever.

    Regards,

    H.

  32. kigen01
    kigen01 November 28, 2012 at 4:23 am | |

    Hi Daniel,
    Some interesting points you make. I think your understanding of practice is different than mine.

    You say:

    “let’s not take the big one, “enlightenment” here but instead the goal to get into a continuous state of zen-flow, go deep into practice…there is something you might label as a zen-state you can get in and out of.
    But once it’s seen that there’s no one to get in or out of a state in the first place and that the idea of a better or worse state is not only bullshit but is the very thing that keeps most “zen-students” from seeing this…it gets clear that the idea of deepening practice is just a funny idea.”

    It’s not that there is a “special” state. However, there is a “usual” perspective from which most of us operate in the daily world which is based on selfishness.

    It is by clinging to and not addressing this mistaken perspective that suffering arises.

    The purpose of formal Zen practice is merely to afford us a simplified environment with which to learn to integrate our fundamentally “empty” nature into our (relatively) complicated activities as human beings by way of “giving”. The only thing we can ever truly “give” is our bodies and minds. This is the true practice and meaning of the word “dana”.

    We start with one of the easiest actions we can do (and still be awake): sitting and breathing.

    The realization that the world and everything we do is fundamentally “empty” is just an intellectual beginning. Sure, selfish acts are all “empty” and it may relieve you of a certain degree of guilt for the stupid, selfish things we do and allow to accept the same in others…but, in my opinion, that is not really what Buddhism is all about.

    One must strive diligently in order to break our self-centered way of acting (guiltless or not). It takes hard work bring this realization into actuality through the way you manifest your life…and we will never finish this task…but we continue no the less as it is our only true way to satisfaction for ourselves and for peace in the world.

    um…i think .
    ha.

  33. AnneMH
    AnneMH November 28, 2012 at 5:29 am | |

    Okay a quick point, whether we agree on the idea of deepening practice for me the retreats make it easier and me more aware of bringing that into my everyday life. A long time without practice for even a good reason (such as caring for someone who is ill) can make it harder to keep that up. Not really a deep mystical idea, I see this as more practical

  34. Noah
    Noah November 28, 2012 at 6:22 am | |

    Connecting the two ongoing conversations in this thread – One thing that hasn’t been said in favor of “lite” retreats is that the structured interactions that talks/workshops/discussion groups provide can act as a kind of intermediate space to incorporate the insights of practice into normal life/interactions. A kind of training ground for acting from the space of ultimate truth in the relative world.

    I know Brad is about as “sitting Zazen is the practice” as they come, but since most of us can’t typically spend hours a day sitting, isn’t there some value in training in maintaining presence in life’s daily interactions. Not the scholar some of you are, but isn’t there some Zen saying or Sutra or something about you don’t need to sit to get enlightened, just do the dishes when you do the dishes?

    The point being, I guess, that we don’t live on retreat, so there might be some value to making the retreat experience of bringing presence more like life – not as a free for all, but instead with structure provided by teachers to try and ensure that it remains a space for off-the-cushion practice. I’ve said it before, but I feel this is the thought behind TNH retreats, which I find to be especially powerful (and not just during the retreat, but in terms of bringing that insight and practice back into daily life).

    In that way maybe we can consider these types of retreats more a Mahayana or even Vajrayana practice? (taking a dive on that one)

    Which isn’t to say that an intensive retreat of just sitting doesn’t have its place. Just that maybe practice can be more encompassing than that?

    But I echo Kigen (whose post I think was well said in its entirety).
    “Um… I think”

  35. Fred
    Fred November 28, 2012 at 7:11 am | |

    @Khru
    “Let me please speak to the voice of the one who is fully present”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6D7rWLzloOI

  36. J-Ro
    J-Ro November 28, 2012 at 7:24 am | |

    Hey Brad
    Off topic, but what do you think of the Bad Brains? They have a new album that is great! They are playing in Hollywood on Sat night, can’t wait.
    They’ve always had such positive lyrics, do you got your PMA?

  37. Daniel
    Daniel November 28, 2012 at 8:31 am | |

    Hi Kigen,

    I see your point but I can’t agree…

    It’s not that there is a “special” state. However, there is a “usual” perspective from which most of us operate in the daily world which is based on selfishness.

    It is by clinging to and not addressing this mistaken perspective that suffering arises.

    No, suffering arises because there is a “self” that has a consciousness and can address a mistaken perspective for example as you said. Once it’s realized (by no-one) that there is no self, there is no one suffering (but still depression, pain, anger etc) any more. And then the whole idea of correcting a perspective is completely gone too because it’s also seen that there are no other “selfs”.

    “The purpose of formal Zen practice is merely to afford us a simplified environment with which to learn to integrate our fundamentally “empty” nature into our (relatively) complicated activities as human beings by way of “giving”. The only thing we can ever truly “give” is our bodies and minds. This is the true practice and meaning of the word “dana”.

    Again I can’t agree. The idea that there is someone in the first place who has a body/mind that the person could “give” is again the very illusion that causes suffering in the first place. There is no one and once that’s seen it’s clear there never was anyone and never will be. Of course then you can’t “give your body and mind” – doesn’t matter as spiritual advanced and nice that might sound…

    1. kigen01
      kigen01 November 29, 2012 at 1:46 am | |

      Hi Daniel,
      If you are right, then all we need to do is to realize that there is no one doing anything and nothing being done…then we will all be happy together….the poor can (and should) find contentment in being poor, and the rich in being rich. Where and what you are is just the luck of the draw and our REAL job is to find contentment in our born place because actually, there really is no self to improve…or to even be happy or sad…right?

      Doesn’t that sound familiar? Sure, its the justification for the Hindu based caste-system. This general position also comes through in certain popular, Hindu-based, forms of Dharma study i’ll lump under the term Non-duality practices…which your position seems to echo quite strongly.

      In my opinion, the practice of Zen is different: it neither affirms nor negates the existence of a self. It does, however, recognize the “experience” of selfhood as part of the Dharma activity, and teaches a way to understand and USE that precious (and easily misused) “experience” in a way that is most in accord with the positive, continuous evolution of time and space.
      …or something like that.

  38. Fred
    Fred November 28, 2012 at 11:37 am | |

    Allowing all things to be as they are without judgement, one is awake in each
    moment.

    To be awake in each moment is to see desire and decay as it is.

    What is this Zen state you are talking about?

  39. Fred
    Fred November 28, 2012 at 1:10 pm | |

    Oops.

    “Alone among the original teachers who brought Zen to America, Sasaki Roshi has held out in naming anyone to lead his lineage after he has gone. Is it because no one meets his standards, or because, to use Seiju’s words, he doesn’t want to lose the chance to “relentlessly push” his primary disciples “to deeper and deeper insight”?
    When I ask Koyo Engennach, leader of the University Zen Center in Boulder, Colorado, and Sasaki Roshi’s student since 1973, whether any American has completely grasped Sasaki Roshi’s dharma, he tells me, “It remains to be seen.”

    Why, I ask Koyo, have so many senior monks stayed with Sasaki Roshi for so long, through such a difficult practice? “Because he has such a deep reach into the human condition. He’s always offering a little bit more—always drawing up a deeper and broader understanding. It doesn’t grow old.”

  40. Daniel
    Daniel November 29, 2012 at 4:50 am | |

    Hi Kigen,

    well we could go on like that forever…but I think we both made our points and I think I understand your point of view.

  41. kigen01
    kigen01 November 29, 2012 at 6:10 am | |

    Daniel-san,
    Yup, and i think i see where you are coming from. Guess we’re even-Steven.
    Bows,
    K.

  42. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 29, 2012 at 7:34 am | |

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPn5S6HspGY

    Ain’t it hard to stumble
    And land in some funny lagoon ?
    Ain’t it hard to stumble
    And land in some muddy lagoon ?
    Especially when it’s nine below zero
    And three o’clock in the afternoon.

  43. boubi
    boubi November 29, 2012 at 3:16 pm | |

    She’s a very good looking, yummy girl.
    She’s giving off a lot of sexual availability gesture like a real groupie, with the little appreciative sounds doubling as pleasure sounds.
    She produces a body language meaning she’s knowledgeable of what she ears, in way to gratificate the other and receive back a recognition of being too an elevated being.

    While the guy is very sincere.

  44. boubi
    boubi November 29, 2012 at 3:19 pm | |

    A true dharma bimbo as we’ve seen a lot around LOL

  45. boubi
    boubi November 29, 2012 at 3:29 pm | |

    In the end the guy smiles widely, with a shining in his eyes, maybe he’ll fuck her? Good for him :) groupies are usually a good fuck. It must be some kind of natural selection.

    While explaining he was explaining, while “listening” she was doing something else.

    She was phony and acting, he wasn’t, he was living his experience again and trying to transmit it to others.

    His interview could be used paired with some of G%$@#& roshi.

  46. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 30, 2012 at 6:56 am | |

    Wow, Boubi. My first thought is that the forces of attraction (and repulsion) are pretty much natural, even if there is a certain desire for security on the part of a woman and desire for physical gratification on the part of a man (and vice versa, ha ha!). We all do what we can, right, and then we pick up the pieces. Does he get it, that he’s helpless; does she get it, that he can’t be her life? Am I oversimplifying, am I having fun?

    Returning for a moment to the lack of conversation about dokusan, I think I only did a dokusan twice, so far. The first was with Reb Anderson, where he just had everybody address the same question when they came to meet with him, “what is your ultimate intent?”. The second was with Vanja Palmers, who said he preferred to think of himself as a fellow traveler rather than a teacher- sort of the way Brad regards himself, or at least the way he used to regard himself.

    My hat is off to Reb Anderson. Also to Brad.

  47. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 30, 2012 at 6:57 am | |

    Did I mention Vanja?

  48. boubi
    boubi November 30, 2012 at 8:28 am | |

    @ Mark Foote

    Pleaaaase, she’s an expert in this game, that’s why she’s there. She’s just another (dharma) bimbo.

    I REALLY don’t have ANYTHING against people having fun (good), neither ANY moralism, it’s just that she’s fake and he’s real. That’s the first think i personally saw in the video.

    For what i care they could be both naked on a beach but have a normal behaviour and i wouldn’t have anything to say.

    I just found hilarious her way of interacting, the only way she seems to have.

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