Europe 2013 Report

Reading from my new book in a basement in London.

Reading from my new book in a basement in London.

As I write this, I’m on a plane from London bound for Montreal. I arrived in London on a plane from Glasgow. In Montreal I’ll catch another plane to Toronto. And finally from there I’ll get yet another plane to Los Angeles. That’s four airplanes (aeroplanes) in one 20-hour day of travel.

It’s not as bad as taking a horse to London, then a wooden ship to America and then a few stagecoaches across the country and eventually arriving in Los Angeles three years after the start of your journey. But in contemporary first world terms it’s a pretty long haul. My month-long stay in Europe is over. It’s been fun. But it’s been exhausting. I’m fairly certain I’ll go to Europe again. But I’m not doing it the same way next time.

This was my third one-man tour of Europe. I did not undertake this tour – nor have I undertaken any of my tours – with the backing of my publishers or of any religious institution. I have planned and financed them all myself and I have gone alone – just me and my suitcase and my backpack and a big box of books that I attempt to sell to help pay for the trips. For a person as disorganized and averse to planning as I am, this is a major undertaking.

Waiting for the bus at nothing o'clock in the morning somewhere in England.

Waiting for the bus at nothing o’clock in the morning somewhere in England.

I get a lot of help along the way, of course. I can’t afford to stay in hotels, so I mostly stay in people’s apartments, sometimes on fold-out couches in living rooms, sometimes in a room of my own. I hobnob with cats and dogs and newborn babies. I take discount busses leaving at uncomfortable hours with stinky toilets and surly seatmates or make use of local rideshare programs to save on expenses.

This isn’t to say I dislike what I do. It’s fun and interesting. I meet all kinds of odd people and see places I never even knew existed. Most of the people I stay with are incredibly kind, if often eccentric as befitting people who are interested in the kinds of books I write. I like talking about Zen to people, making this practice and philosophy that was so helpful to me available to others. I like sitting with people who want to sit with me. It’s a damned good life.

But man-oh-man, it takes a lot to do the teenage punk rock road trip for a living after playing at being a grown-up for years by working at a “real job” with normal hours and a steady paycheck.

Nor is it possible to keep up with what’s going on back at home when you’re on the go as much as I am and running the whole show as a solo act. While I was away, Southern California Gas saw fit to shut off my gas. Apparently they’d sent a couple of notices about this, which the person looking after my apartment didn’t notice until the hot water stopped working and the stove wouldn’t come on. This will be fixed three or four days after I arrive. Till then I’ll be eating out and going to friends’ places for showers.

England as seen from inside a discount bus.

England as seen from inside a discount bus.

Here are some of the highlights of my trip in no specific order:

– Meeting Wiligus Jager, the head of Benediktushof. Benediktushof is a former Benedictine monastery in rural southern Germany and Wiligis is the Benedictine monk who serves as the spiritual leader. Wiligus is a forward thinking monk in his 80s who managed to piss off the pope, which makes him cool in my book. He practices Zen and now teaches a kind of Zen-inspired mystical Christianity.

– The apfel kruchen (apple pie) at Benediktusfhof’s café. It is heavenly!

– Arriving late one night at the place I was supposed to stay only to find out it had suddenly become unavailable. This forced us to try and scramble something together at the last minute, which actually turned out to be a very nice place. It’s great when people you’ve only just met step up to take care of you in ways far beyond what you’d have any right to expect.

– A long car ride through the wilds of Germany and the Netherlands in a Smart Car with Jannis, a very kind fan of my stuff who lives in Amsterdam. You get to see a whole different side of the countries you visit by traveling this way. How would I ever have stopped in a petrol station in the middle of the night in rural Holland that had just been invaded by a bunch of crazed drunken football fans? How would I have learned all the strange flavorings the Dutch put on potato chips?

– A very interesting discussion about the intricacies of passing on the Buddhist lineage with a group of people whose teacher has recently been accused of being less than clear about how he came by his set of brown Buddhist teacher’s robes. I’m staying out of this particular argument myself since I don’t know what really happened and the group I spoke to seemed very sincere and were very kind. But it was very interesting to see where the discussion went.

– The BDSM couple I stayed with, the male partner of whom showed me a video of one of their public play sessions. I have a pretty high tolerance for such stuff. But I had to ask him to turn it off after a while because it was just too intense for me to take. I didn’t mean to offend him. But he seemed really, really sad when I did that. My sincere apologies.

– Supper at the Three Treasures shop in Bonn, Germany, where every week Patrick, the leader of a Zen group in town, feeds the homeless with delicious meals he cooks from donated vegetables.

– Seeing my old frenemy Michael Leutchford for the first time in many years. Mike had already been one of Nishijima Roshi’s long time students for quite a while when I appeared on the scene. Though Mike has been often harshly critical of what he saw as my lack of commitment to Zen practice, he has also praised my books very highly. I like Mike. Yeah. I’m pretty sure I do.

– Meeting Rachelle Allen, one of my oldest and bestest friends for vegetarian Thai food in London’s Camden Town.

– Cheese pie and chips backstage before the lively on-stage interview with Manchester punk rock legend John Robb.

Guy the transgender poodle!

Guy the transgender poodle!

– Another on-stage interview in Glasgow with TV psychologist Dr Cynthia McVey. Her questions were pointed and difficult, just what I like! I recorded it so maybe we can make a podcast out of that.

– Bailey and Lisa in Glasgow and their fabulous transgender poodle, Guy!

Next up I’m speaking at Ventura College on November 6th. I’m not sure if this is open to the public or not. If it is, I’ll let you know.

Then on November 7th I’m participating in something called The Human Library at Loyola Marymount University. Again, I don’t know if it’s a public even tor not.

But the big event that definitely is open to anyone who wants to participate is the Zen and Yoga Retreat at Mount Baldy Zen Center November 8-10 (1 & 1/2 hours east of Los Angeles). All info is at the link on the words “Mount Baldy Zen Center.” See you there!

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73 Responses

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  1. Fred
    Fred October 30, 2013 at 3:24 pm |

    “The BDSM couple I stayed with, the male partner of whom showed me a video of one of their public play sessions. I have a pretty high tolerance for such stuff. But I had to ask him to turn it off after a while because it was just too intense for me to take. I didn’t mean to offend him. But he seemed really, really sad when I did that. My sincere apologies.”

    There’s nothing like a good whipping after a day of meditation.

  2. Fred
    Fred October 30, 2013 at 4:30 pm |

    So what are you guys doing for kicks later?

    Oh, just hanging around.

  3. Fred
    Fred October 30, 2013 at 4:31 pm |

    The desire for suffering is the root of all suffering.

  4. Fred
    Fred October 30, 2013 at 4:32 pm |

    Welcome home, Brad!

  5. Mumbles
    Mumbles October 30, 2013 at 5:06 pm |

    “I meet all kinds of odd people…”

    Seems like you could just stay in L.A. and do that.

  6. Mumbles
    Mumbles October 30, 2013 at 6:47 pm |

    “I have a pretty high tolerance for such stuff.”

  7. roman
    roman October 31, 2013 at 3:09 am |

    Europe is amazing, especially when you see it from odd places at odd times, as you
    noticed in Holland. I used to hitch-hike around Europe when I was a late teenager and almost broke and saw amazing places far hidden from tourists’ world and met great people.

    As for Mike Luetchford, my teacher and friend, he has always talked very nicely about you and likes what you’re doing as far as I know, and never mentioned any problem with your Zen commitment to me. The only little thing he mentioned was when you had some misunderstanding about you being Dogen Sangha president, but you’ve both already sorted that out. Mike always encourages everyone to find their own life and do whatever they find satisfying.

  8. Fred
    Fred October 31, 2013 at 6:26 am |

    “misunderstanding about you being Dogen Sangha president”

    no,no,no. It’s CEO of Dogen International Incorporated.

    1. Fred
      Fred October 31, 2013 at 6:34 am |

      The traceless state of realization that lives in and through deludedness.

  9. Harlan
    Harlan October 31, 2013 at 10:24 am |

    Brad, Glad you had a good time on your tour.. I noticed that the one picture that wasn’t blurry had you in it. Steady on old boy!

  10. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel October 31, 2013 at 11:02 am |

    “Frenemy” reminded me of French “frères ennemis” (enemy brothers). Coming from a big family (three boys, three girls) we used to say “Un ami, c’est un frère, un frère, c’est un cochon” (a friend is a brother, a brother is a pig).

    But knowing how Mike perceives Brad, plus the unavoidable frictions that happen between brothers (I sure know about these…), I had no problem understanding Brad’s quip.

  11. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel October 31, 2013 at 11:04 am |

    Reading myself, I get that I might be misunderstood


    I know that Mike perceives Brad exactly how Roman has put it.

  12. roman
    roman October 31, 2013 at 2:37 pm |

    Yes, if there is any kind of Dogen Sangha, it’s a group of people who have an argument from time to time only to realize how much they like each other after all.
    Just like a working marriage. The bitter stuff must come up on the surface so it can be identified and cleared. Or plain forgotten.

    1. Fred
      Fred October 31, 2013 at 6:03 pm |

      Yes, I’m sure that Mike Cross shares that very sentiment.

  13. Fred
    Fred October 31, 2013 at 6:30 pm |

    “Though Mike has been often harshly critical of what he saw as my lack of commitment to Zen practice”

    What exactly does this mean? Does it mean that an agent, a doer of things such
    as sitting on a cushion, fails to engage in an activity?

    Cannot ” the traceless state of realization that lives in and through deludedness ”
    appear on its own without the ego-self choosing to sit down.

    Is there no other way for no-self to appear? How do you know that that which
    WAS standing on a bridge over a Japanese River had any connection to
    commitment to Zen practice.

  14. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote October 31, 2013 at 7:40 pm |

    sitting hard versus sitting soft?

    “After I moved to ZCLA in 1976, friends reported that Kobun had given a lecture in which he derided the practice of “sitting hard” (the concentrated, goal-oriented meditation I hoped to do at ZCLA), dismissing it as a misunderstanding of true Zen practice and referring to me by name, and admonished his students to “sit soft”instead.

    … Only years after Kobun and I parted company did I fully appreciate the legacy he had imparted to me. From Kobun I learned the value of finding my own way and trusting my own experience, rather than following someone else’s path and relying on the authority of teachers or tradition.”

    (Stephen Bodian, from “Remembering Kobun”; if yer interested in the book see 2-22-13 entry here)

  15. roman
    roman November 1, 2013 at 3:09 am |

    Mike Cross is someone who helped to translate Shobogenzo and Fukanzazengi. Dedicated to zazen and the philosophy and practice of fukanzazengi, he is beyond human sentiments. On the other hand, he is just an imperfect human being just like anyone. You, or me. Only imperfect people can do excellent things.

    1. Fred
      Fred November 1, 2013 at 2:47 pm |

      Dec 2011 – Mike Cross

      “According to AÅ›vaghoá¹£a, the tree of afflictions is shaken by seeing that the world is empty (śūnya). By “empty” (śūnya)I understand AÅ›vaghoá¹£a to mean that the world is an open system in which nobody is the creator of anything (Saundara-nanda 17.20). I am caused to reflect thus not because my autonomic nervous system is balanced, but because of anger that has not subsided yet, in response to the actions of Gudo Nishijima and various of his dharma-heirs, including you.

      In order to shake the tree of afflictions, like anger, we reflect that the world is empty. That is the fundamental meaning of śūnyatā in the teachings of Āśvaghoá¹£a as I read them.”

      It would appear that he wasn’t beyond human sentiment in 2011 Uji

  16. Mumbles
    Mumbles November 1, 2013 at 4:28 am |

    Can’t y’all pass the mike?

  17. Fred
    Fred November 1, 2013 at 10:13 am |

    i’m sitting hard on my cushion
    waitin’ for the 100 foot wall
    the sh*t that the master is pushin’
    ain’t helping at all.

  18. Fred
    Fred November 1, 2013 at 10:26 am |

    Does the truth set you free? Not the truth of being human, or the truth of being

    “And so in 1998, with Gudo’s blessing and support, Mike enrolled in a Sanskrit course at Harvard University. In contrast, Gudo’s Sanskrit studies continued without academic guidance. Unlike most students of the language, who will work through a variety of texts gradually introducing them to aspects of grammar, syntax and idiomatic convention, the only Sanskrit text that Gudo had ever studied or had wanted to study was Nagarjuna’s MMK. Although aided by a grammar book and a dictionary, Gudo’s Sanskrit translation remained confused, marred by schoolboy errors and wishful thinking. As Mike began to point out the mistakes in Gudo’s Sanskrit, and as Gudo continued stubbornly to insist that his understanding was correct, the translation partnership foundered. Gudo mistakenly came to believe that Mike’s ideas were fundamentally different from his own and insisted that Mike pursue his translation independently. And so in 2002, with the help of friend and fellow Gudo student Jeremy Pearson, Mike published his own book.”

  19. Fred
    Fred November 1, 2013 at 10:32 am |

    I think that you could say that all thinking is wishful.

    Except for the thinking of no-thinking.

  20. Harlan
    Harlan November 1, 2013 at 12:23 pm |

    Roman, To say that anyone is beyond human sentiment is to say they are dead.. Maybe that kind of groundless zennism does more harm than good. However, it was a nice sentiment on your part and sincere I’m sure.

  21. Fred
    Fred November 1, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
  22. Fred
    Fred November 1, 2013 at 1:31 pm |

    “gone just like that” is the state/experience that John will say is not an
    experience. The words do capture realization and have nothing to do with
    what happened to the Buddha after his body died.

    Awakened is living on both sides of the coin at once. So it means both ” thus come ” and ” thus gone “, here and now in this body-self in this world and the
    thus-gone ( John’s ) primordial awareness.

  23. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 1, 2013 at 4:02 pm |

    “‘Tathagata’ is a Sanskrit word which means ‘Buddha’. ‘Tatha’ means ‘here’ or ‘just as it is’. ‘Agata’ means ‘gone’; ‘a’ is a negation; ‘gam’ is the verb ‘to come’, so ‘gata’ is its past participle, i.e. ‘come’ and ‘a-gata’ is ‘gone’. With ‘tatha’ and ‘agata’ the two a’s in the middle become long so Tath-aa-gata.

    So ‘Tatha-agata’ means ‘gone just like that’; it sounds terrible as a translation. But it is used to describe the Buddha and that is the title of the chapter.”

    Why not “here gone”? It took me years to discover equalibrioception and proprioception in my practice, the senses that mostly give us the sense of “here”, but now that I have experienced the necessity of the exercise of these senses in my life reading Luetchford’s literal translation was an “oh!” moment for me.

    Isn’t the wall just the sensation of something tailbone to skull, when the mind settles into pitch, yaw, and roll with a freedom to move?

  24. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 1, 2013 at 4:02 pm |

    inhaling and exhaling?

  25. Fred
    Fred November 1, 2013 at 4:29 pm |

    inhaling and exhaling is the universe

    inhaling and exhaling is the body-self in causality

  26. Mumbles
    Mumbles November 1, 2013 at 8:15 pm |

    don’t cling to convenient explanations or “aha” moments. or any of them. Ck gtr solo at 1:32 for pmdl awrnss:

  27. anon 108
    anon 108 November 2, 2013 at 8:09 am |

    Just a note on tathagata –

    In his answer to a question put (by me) at the sesshin talk Fred linked, quoted by Mark, Mike Luetchford says: “…‘gam’ is the verb ‘to come’, so ‘gata’ is its past participle, i.e. ‘come’.” That’s wrong. ‘Gam’ is a verbal root meaning ‘go’. ‘Gata’ means ‘gone’, ‘a-gata’ means ‘un-‘ or ‘not-gone’ and ‘aa-gata’ means ‘come’.

    Tathagata (written without diacriticals) is a compound of two words, usually read as either tathaa (‘thus’) – gata (‘gone’), or tathaa (‘thus’) -aagata (‘come’). There is a third possibility: tathaa (‘thus) – agata (‘un-gone’), but it’s not considered likely. All three possible combinations result in a similarlty spelled compound: tathaagata, with a long ‘a’ in the middle. Mike’s Sanskrit is a bit rusty these days and he made a mistake…about that bit.

    Hi Brad! Hi Brad’s Hardcorezen blog commenters!

    1. anon 108
      anon 108 November 2, 2013 at 8:18 am |

      Sorry, Mike gave his mistaken grammar break-down before I asked my question. I made a mistake.

  28. anon 108
    anon 108 November 2, 2013 at 8:23 am |

    My reading of tathaagata, based on my understanding of other Sanskrit compounds ending in ‘-gata’ (it’s a common compound ending) is ‘one who is in – that is, ‘gone to’ – a state like this’. FWIW.

    1. anon 108
      anon 108 November 2, 2013 at 8:27 am |

      …’a state like this’ (tathaa) meaning ‘in accord with the way things are’.

  29. Mumbles
    Mumbles November 2, 2013 at 8:40 am |

    Malcolm! That was one looong (long “o” in the middle for infinity) sit!

    Where you been, buddy? Heard of Jake Bugg yet?

    Welcome back.

    1. anon 108
      anon 108 November 2, 2013 at 9:50 am |

      Hi, John.

      I’ve been checking in, but not had much to say.

      Yeah, I like what little I’ve heard of Jake Bugg. My younger mates laugh.

  30. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 2, 2013 at 10:09 am |

    anon 108, tell me: Luetchford gives the literal translation of “Tatha” as “here”. Is that correct?

    Day of the dead, parade at sundown here in Petaluma followed by dancers in the Mexican folk tradition and a craft and food fair. Many altars around town. Lots of depictions of Catrina and other José Guadalupe Posada creations.

    yeah, ok. I think I’ll take a hike; wall-up, here-gone, be done.

  31. anon 108
    anon 108 November 2, 2013 at 10:49 am |

    “Luetchford gives the literal translation of “Tatha” as “here”. Is that correct?”

    Hi, Mark.

    I’d have to say no. If asked to give the Sanskrit for ‘here’ any Sanskrit scholar would first give ‘atra’ (and ‘tatra’ means ‘there’). There is also the word ‘iha’, but that has a more particular meaning and connotation: “in this place, here, to this place”; [often used in the sense of] “in this world” (from the Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary).

    ‘Tathaa’ translates as ‘thus’ pretty literally, with all the extension of meanings ‘thus’ has in English. So Monier-Williams gives:

    ” in that manner, so, thus…” When followed by ‘iti’ [which has the effect of putting quote marks round ‘tathaa’, as if it is being said] “yes, so be it, so it shall be”. Also: “In like manner…”

    And A.A.Macdonell’s Practical Sanskrit Dictionary gives: “thus; that is so, so be it, well, yes; so truly (in oaths), in like manner, likewise…”

    So I’m not sure if Mike made (another) simple mistake or whether he’s arrived at his own understanding of tathaa in the context of tathaagata. My guess: he made a mistake/mis-remembered.

    1. anon 108
      anon 108 November 2, 2013 at 11:02 am |

      Mind you, Mike does say “‘Tatha’ means ‘here’ or ‘just as it is’.” So perhaps ‘here’ it’s not so much a mistake as an interpretation/extension of the significance of ‘tathaa’/’thus’. But it’s a bit of a stretch…certainly not literally correct.

  32. Fred
    Fred November 2, 2013 at 2:06 pm |

    Welcome back Malcolm.

    After riding the ox home, the rider is thus come here in the present moment and
    thus gone to the other side.

    Thus here is embedded in the world of deludedness and daily functioning subject to cause and effect, and
    thus gone to the other side is traceless realization, preconceptual reality.

  33. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 2, 2013 at 2:43 pm |

    Got me going now, Malcolm: from Richard Gombrich:

    “Sanskrit has more phonemes than any naturally occurring form of
    Middle Indo-Aryan, and greater phonetic differentiation eases
    communication. Similarly, Middle Indo-Aryan tended to lose single
    intervocalic consonants and to assimilate consonant clusters, thus
    producing many homonyms. (For instance, in most forms of Middle
    Indo-Aryan k or t between vowels would simply be dropped, while
    the Sanskrit clusters kt, pt, tv and maybe others would all appear
    as tt.) The form of Middle Indo-Aryan closest to Sanskrit in its
    phonetics is Pali; this may well have had survival value for Pali
    and helped to make it an international Buddhist language. There is
    evidence that Pali is not entirely a natural form of Middle
    Indo-Aryan. at a date or dates which we cannot yet determine,
    various words and forms in Pali had their phonetics changed in the
    direction of Sanskrit.’ Pali texts went a small way down the same
    phonetic road and was followed the whole way by texts which ended
    up as Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit.

    Why is it necessary to mention these phonetic subtleties?
    Because when the Buddhists changed the phonetics of their terms to
    make them look more like standard Sanskrit, they made assumptions
    about which Sanskrit words those Middle Indo-Aryan terms
    originally related to when they were first used many centuries
    earlier: and we can see that their assumptions were not always
    correct. Their assumptions were made in the light of the doctrinal
    stance of their day, or perhaps just under the more general
    influence of the cultural environment. Separated from the Buddha
    by something of the order of half a millennium, and lacking the
    kind of historical awareness which modern scholarship has
    painfully acquired in recent times, they were in no position to
    use parallels in brahminical and Jain literature to reconstruct
    what specific terms may have meant to the Buddha or the first
    generations of his followers. So it comes about that the study of
    the history of some Buddhist terms may cast light on how Buddhism
    changed in ancient India.

    …Another relatively uncontroversial example is afforded by a
    well-known designation or epithet of the Buddha. In Pali it
    appears as tadi, which simply means “like that”, i,e.,
    inexpressible. This originally derives, by normal phonetic change,
    from Sanskrit tad~~ (same meaning), In other forms of Middle
    Indo-Aryan this became tai, which would often be pronounced and/or
    written tayi, with a glide y.

    Tayi is re-interpreted in Buddhist Sanskrit as deriving from Lra
    yin, which is clearly related to the Sanskrit root tra and means
    “saviour”. It is not phonetically absurd to derive tayi from tra
    yin; we just happen to know that historically it is incorrect. The
    Buddha was designated a saviour only in the period when Buddhist
    texts were beginning to be Sanskritised. As for the ancient
    meaning, the laconic “like that”, I myself am sure that that is
    also originally the meaning of the word tathagata. Many
    generations of Buddhist exegetes, ancient and modern, have read
    into that term a variety of meanings, some linguistically possible
    and some impossible; but I believe that we have here the use of
    gata at the end of a compound to mean simply “being”, i, e. , in a
    certain condition, and that the Buddha is being described as just
    being tatha, “like that”, This perfectly matches the general
    apophatic tendency of the basic texts: nirvana is described
    negatively, and the Buddha, who has attained it, likewise defies

    Ok, if I’m understanding Gombrich correctly, “tatha” is from “tayi”, and ‘simply means “like that”, i,e., inexpressible’. The use of “gata” at the end of a compound Gombrich takes to mean “being”. Then he drops “being” and says tathagatha means “like that”.

  34. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 2, 2013 at 2:44 pm |

    Sorry about the awful line breaks.

    I can see why the later translators of the Pali Canon left it as “tathagatha”. I liked Mike’s “here” and everybody else’s “gone”, now I just have to like it, like that.

  35. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 2, 2013 at 2:46 pm |

    rereading Gombrich, I get it- he says being like that, in a certain condition.

  36. Mumbles
    Mumbles November 2, 2013 at 5:03 pm |

    Dear Human: You’ve got it all wrong. You didn’t come here to master unconditional love. That is where you came from and where you’ll return. You came here to learn personal love. Messy love. Sweaty love. Crazy love. Broken love. Whole love. Infused with divinity. Lived through the grace of stumbling. Demonstrated through the beauty of messing up. Often. You didn’t come here to be perfect. You already are. You came here to be gorgeously human. Flawed and fabulous. And then to rise again into remembering. Love doesn’t require the condition of perfection. It only asks that you show up. That you stay present and feel fully. And do your best. ~ Courtney Walsh

  37. anon 108
    anon 108 November 2, 2013 at 5:15 pm |

    Thanks for the welcome, Fred.

    Mark – thanks for that from Gombrich. Yes, ‘-gata’/’gone’ at the end of a Sanskrit compound expresses being in a certain condition or state. Expressions which literally translate as ‘happiness-gone’ (for being happy) or ‘misfortune-gone’ (for being in an unfortunate situation) and the like are common. So I’m reassured that Gombrich reads the gata of tathaa-gata as I do. As for the significance of ‘tathaa’/’thus’/’like that’ – the condition that the Buddha is in – I’ll stick with my ‘in accord with the way things are’ for the time being, which I can tell mysef is not so far from Gombrich’s “‘like that’…which defies description,” even if it does risk saying too much.

    1. anon 108
      anon 108 November 2, 2013 at 5:28 pm |


      ‘Like (-gata) that (tathaa)’ is growing on me.

  38. Fred
    Fred November 2, 2013 at 5:28 pm |

    If the Buddha called himself Tathagata he was speaking of the realized,
    inexplicable suchness and not the assembly of molecules, or manifestation of
    shifting conditions and relationships.

  39. Fred
    Fred November 2, 2013 at 7:11 pm |

    You know, the other dance.

  40. Mumbles
    Mumbles November 2, 2013 at 7:50 pm |

    I lived in Topeka in the early ’70’s. And knew well the Menninger Foundation, an absolutely amazing hotbed of interesting phenomena where several friends working and played.

  41. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 3, 2013 at 8:33 am |

    Like that quote from Courtney Walsh!

    Also like ‘in accord with the way things are’- so, ‘in accord with the way things are’ being. I like that, and I agree Gombrich’s literals don’t make a translation, you couldn’t take a passage from the Canon where Gautama refers to the Tathagatha and plug in “like that” or “like that, being”. Doesn’t get the job done. This was a term that the people in Gautama’s day understood, right? What did they understand? Not everybody shares the same context, he traveled a lot and confronted skeptics frequently.

    At least he didn’t say “Son of Man”.

  42. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 3, 2013 at 12:39 pm |

    I got an email with a recommendation for the Lankatavara Sutra today, and a nice quote from the Sutra as well. I don’t have a problem with the descriptions in the Lankavatara, just that the descriptions have never been of any use to me. Maybe that will change someday.

    I wrote a reply to my friend, and although it may seem like I’m repeating myself to some of the stalwarts here, I thought I’d share it. Knowing how we all hate to have to go to someone else’s site to read anything, I’ll just copy it:

    ‘The issue for me is not whether the Lankavatara was a part of the Sixth Patriarch’s enlightenment experience; the issue is the nature of that experience. Here’s something I found under Milton Erickson on Wikipedia the other day, and I think it goes to the heart of the matter:

    “Erickson maintained that it was not possible consciously to instruct the unconscious mind, and that authoritarian suggestions were likely to be met with resistance. The unconscious mind responds to openings, opportunities, metaphors, symbols, and contradictions. Effective hypnotic suggestion, then, should be ‘artfully vague’, leaving space for the subject to fill in the gaps with their own unconscious understandings – even if they do not consciously grasp what is happening. The skilled hypnotherapist constructs these gaps of meaning in a way most suited to the individual subject – in a way which is most likely to produce the desired change.” (from Wikipedia, Milton_H._Erickson)

    Sounds like Zen, doesn’t it? There’s a discussion in the article of using confusion or the interruption of a flow of actions normally executed as a chunk to induce a state of trance, actions like tying one’s shoe lace or shaking hands. Erickson was famous for “handshake induction”.

    If metaphor and symbol combined with the induction of trance is the way Zen is traditionally taught, you may well ask why I am so concerned with particular senses these days; that’s ’cause I can’t breathe sometimes without calling them to mind. It seems I’m developmentally challenged in this regard. I’m know I’m not alone; here are two articles by David Brown about the vestibular sense and proprioception, and their importance in teaching the deaf and blind:

    (links are on my site, just below here)

    It’s not just the deaf and blind; my take is that many people are developmentally challenged with regard to these senses, and that the exercise of these senses comes forward in the practice of zazen of a necessity in the relaxed movement of breath. Observing the role of these senses in zazen only requires a suspension of the exercise of will at the right moment, and that’s where the induction of trance comes in.

    Was it the portion of the Lankavatara Sutra the patriarch overheard in the market place, or was it a state of trance induced by hearing the sutra read in a marketplace that allowed the patriarch to experience his own nature intimately? That’s the issue, to me.’

  43. Fred
    Fred November 3, 2013 at 1:07 pm |

    Wolinsky was the original psychotherapist who wrote Trances People Live.
    He stopped doing therapy and studied Advaita, putting out guru tapes.

    He referred to It as the trance of no trance.

  44. Mumbles
    Mumbles November 3, 2013 at 3:06 pm |

    [I ran across these lines of Rilke’s today in the last of the Sonnets to Orpheus:]

    Whisper to the silent earth: I’m flowing.

    To the flashing water say: I am.

  45. Mumbles
    Mumbles November 3, 2013 at 5:19 pm |

    And, just now, Kabir:

    All know that the drop merges into
    the ocean, but few know that the
    ocean merges into the drop.

  46. Fred
    Fred November 3, 2013 at 5:54 pm |

    the encounter with enlightenment
    however transient
    ocean merging
    in the droplets of this mind
    droplets of self
    flowing universe

  47. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 3, 2013 at 8:23 pm |

    A very cursive reading, but it seems like Erickson’s idea of trance and Wolinsky’s are not the same; gone the unconscious that appreciates metaphor and contradiction and sharpens the senses, and in its place a dark Svengali that contracts the senses and enslaves consciousness.

    Gautama taught happiness through happiness, as opposed to the ascetic path of happiness through unhappiness, and he had a hard time persuading the five ascetics who had followed him back when that a path of happiness through happiness could be. Sitting soft, sitting hard?

    Thanks for the verses, guys!

  48. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel November 4, 2013 at 7:38 am |

    Actually, the Lankavatara was the one that Bodhidharma taught. The one which basically says in part what’s written in Bodhidharma’s quatrain: “A special transmission outside of the scriptures”. Except that the sutra adds : “Which doesn’t mean that scriptures must not be studied. If it were not for them, there would be no transmission”.

    The part which Huineng heard on the marketplace came from the Diamond Sutra. The part which says that one cannot seize the spirit of the past, nor that of the present, nor that of the future”.

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