FUCK AUTHORITY and THE REVENGE OF THE DINOSAURS


First and most importantly, I wanted to let you know I put my webpage about old dinosaur books back up. It’s in the links to your right or you can just click the title of this article to get there. I took it down when I switched from gol.com to mac.com and I always intended to revise it because the page design is crap. But I never did revise it, so I finally just made a couple token changes & put the old page back up. There is one new book added & I’ll probably add a few more. You’ll notice some of the links still take you to the defunct gol.com address. Sorry about that. Sometime I’ll fix that…. Uh huh….

So at Zen class this morning I had a long discussion about authority. It’s an interesting subject. As you might have noticed, I’m fairly anti-authoritarian. The bumper stickers they made to promote Hardcore Zen (which I never got any of, by the way) said “Question Authority, Question Reality.” Questioning authority is a big part of Buddhist philosophy. Buddha himself, in the famed Kalama Sutra, even tells his followers to question his (Buddha’s) authority. Buddhism is not about blind acceptance of dogma or tradition.

However, Buddhism is also not about what most people regard as the opposite of that. It is not about taking a hard-assed fuck authority attitude towards everything. The funny thing about all these crazy anti-authoritarian iconoclastic Zen Masters out there is that you’ll notice that they all accept the Zen tradition. As iconoclastic as they may be, they still shave their heads, wear the robes and participate in the various rituals and ceremonies associated with Zen practice. Kodo Sawaki, for one, is always held up as the ultimate rebel monk. Yet look at his picture on the top of this article. There he is with the same robes and skinhead hair-do as any other Zen monk. Why? If he was such an iconoclast why didn’t he just say “screw it!” and grow his hair long and wear bell-bottoms?

I’ve asked myself that many times. In my book I already went into how reluctant I was to accept a position of religious authority. I hate fuckin’ religious authorities. Besides that, I am really half-assed as an authority figure. No one can ever take me seriously. When I was a substitue teacher I once got assigned to a kindergarten and those kids completely took over the place! I had to call the office for help or they would’ve eaten me alive.

But there’s another side to authority and it’s important. Every authority figure is you. Lots of people are really into the whole “all is one” thing in Buddhism. It sounds really lovey-dovey and nice. But, folks, remember that “all is one” means that you are George W. Bush. There is no difference between you at all. George’s power and authority come only from you and you alone.

I’m picking George cuz everyone seems to hate him these days (I don’t hate him or even Ronny Ray-gun, but that’s another story). It doesn’t matter what authority figure you chafe against he (or she, but we’ll just use the male case) is you. The cop who pulls you over cuz he doesn’t like your kind in his neighborhood is you. Your boss with the fishy smelling breath is you. Teachers, critics, everyone who ever stops you from doing what you want is none other than yourself. Im not trying to be cute here. Im not being figurative either. Its all you because it cannot be anyone else.

A lot of people into the whole Zen thing dont want to take it all the way. Theyre in love with the idea of becoming one with the Universe, as long as they can exclude the people and things they dont like. But you cant do that. No exclusions allowed. No substitutions. If you want to be one with everything, you need to be prepared for what that really means. I don’t think most of us are.

When you find yourself faced with unpleasant authority, you need to question it. Thats for sure. But question that authority all the way. This means you must also question your reaction to authority. Question why you chafe against it. That is just as important.

You want discipline. You want restrictions. You want limitations. Its very teenage to rail against everything that ties you down. In the song Teenage Wind, Frank Zappa says Freedom is when you dont have to do nothing or pay for nothing, we want to be free! Its that kind of teenage idea of freedom that a lot of people bring to Zen. But it doesnt fly there. (Not to insult all the teenagers reading this, the kind of “teenage” I’m talking about affects all ages)

Zazen is perfect freedom. But you can only find perfect freedom in what is a very restrictive practice. Its ironic. But it happens to be true. Real freedom has nothing to do with vainly trying to tear down all boundaries and restraints. Real freedom is when you discover that the only person who has ever, or could ever, bind you is you. What appears to you as outside sources or authority do not come from outside.

This is very hard to accept. I know it right down to my toenails and I still have a tremendously difficult time with it. I still fight it every damned day.

Anyway, thats my rant. Hope you enjoyed it. I gotta go do some stuff now.

24 Responses

Page 1 of 1
  1. oxeye
    oxeye August 27, 2006 at 6:26 am | |

    good stuff brad.. thanks

  2. Jinzang
    Jinzang August 27, 2006 at 9:13 am | |

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Lone Wolf
    Lone Wolf August 27, 2006 at 12:02 pm | |

    Brad – are you saying that each thing that happens to me comes from me? If a guy walks up an punches me in the nose, does that come from me?

    Because this sounds just like the teachings on karma I learned in Tibetan Buddhism. They say you can change the reality of your future if you change your negavite thoughts and actions to positive ones. Tibetan teachings have this teaching called Mind Only, where everything you experiece appears from oneself (not out there as if seperate). Mind Only is the school that hints at the truth were Nargajuna’s Madyamika is considered the best teaching on emptiness or truth.

    I’m trying to determie if what you said and this Tibetan Buddhist teaching are the same exact teaching or if there is something diffrent between the two.

  4. door knob
    door knob August 27, 2006 at 3:13 pm | |

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. Jordan & The Tortoise
    Jordan & The Tortoise August 27, 2006 at 3:13 pm | |

    Something stupid about authority and rebellion.

    Brad said “Kodo Sawaki, for one, is always held up as the ultimate rebel monk. Yet look at his picture on the top of this article. There he is with the same robes and skinhead hair-do as any other Zen monk. Why? If he was such an iconoclast why didn’t he just say “screw it!” and grow his hair long and wear bell-bottoms?”

    I am not sure if this was from your book or if it was just singing out in my head while reading it and again in this post. But there was a Sub-humans song called Subverts that is very much related to this post. It has been about 15 years since I herd it but as I recall the song starts out with a “subvert” spray painting fuck the government on a wall and ends with the “subverts” getting the upper hand and “meanwhile back in subvert city someones writing on the wall, fuck the government, spray paint heroes…”

    there is a valuable lesson here that I would like to think our rebellious teacher already knew. If you lead a successful rebellion you will become the authority. So if you make a point those Buddhist teachers can wear whatever thy want and not shave their heads, And you are convincing enough, eventually that will become the standard and then the rebels will be the ones shaving their heads and wearing the traditional robes.

    I for one think that wearing the Buddhas robes and shaving the head for a monk is appropriate, neither for the athority that they represent nor for the tradition. But for the symbolism of “I am wearing Buddhas robe, and I am leaving behind the Secular world”

    Kodo Sawaki most likly knew this intuitivly and worked within the establishment to promote change. I see his efforts as having ben very successful. Dogen Sanga being a good example.

  6. door knob
    door knob August 27, 2006 at 3:19 pm | |

    lone wolf, you said: “Brad – are you saying that each thing that happens to me comes from me? If a guy walks up an punches me in the nose, does that come from me?”

    That rings a few bells. I could’ve swore that Brad wrote an article once about how he and a couple of friends were walking through the “bad” area of some town and he got the crap beat out of him (or something like that). I can’t recall where I read that, though. Perhaps it was a rough copy of one of the chapters from an upcoming book he once had posted on his website.

  7. Rick
    Rick August 27, 2006 at 7:25 pm | |

    I lost my fear of authority when I heard the story of my mother getting into a fistfight with a nun at school when she was 12.

  8. Lone Wolf
    Lone Wolf August 27, 2006 at 7:49 pm | |

    door knob- I remember that story too. It was a teaching on karma from Brad’s past articles. I’m just wondering if the teachings on karma and emptiness “one with all things” teaching is different from the karma teachings that I learned in Tibetan Buddhism.

    So I suppose I’m asking for a more detailed teaching on Karma and Dependent Orgination from Brad?

  9. MikeDoe
    MikeDoe August 28, 2006 at 7:56 am | |

    Good post Brad. This is a bit more of your old style and less winey about how the world is not quite how you would like it to be.

    “If you want to be one with everything, you need to be prepared for what that really means. I don’t think most of us are.”
    I’m not sure if you can or should prepare for such a thing. Maybe it is more a case of willing to accept it for good or for bad when it happens.

    It’s interesting that sometimes rebellion against authority is nothing more than “I do not want to do this because you told me to” and there is a different kind of rebellion which is like a polite indifference.

    Ultimately, the only authority I think anyone has over you is that which you give them. If a policeman pulls a gun and orders you to stop it has not changed his authority at all. It’s just that now one of your actions could result in your death.

    So philosophically and pragmatically I think you are right. Authority and I are not separate, it only exists because I create it by my actions. This is different from the chair on which I sit which exists regardless of whether or not I want it to.

  10. Milan Davidovic
    Milan Davidovic August 29, 2006 at 7:14 am | |

    But, folks, remember that “all is one” means that you are George W. Bush. There is no difference between you at all. George’s power and authority come only from you and you alone.

    l’enfer, c’est les autres, eh?

  11. oxeye
    oxeye August 29, 2006 at 9:35 am | |

    Taking a hard-assed fuck authority attitude might be easily confused with the more beneficial fuck-you attitude of resolve that you wrote of in an earlier post. That is my problem with earthy street vernacular, it is a lot of fun to say but it is sloppy communication and bad habit too. I am not objecting to the word fuck as an obscenity because I do not think it obscene, just messy and non-precise when being expressed for things other than “hitting that shit”.

    I agree with everything you said about outside sources and real freedom and even W.. although I would like to see someone else get the job.

  12. Jinzang
    Jinzang August 29, 2006 at 4:37 pm | |

    Kodo Sawaki, for one, is always held up as the ultimate rebel monk. Yet look at his picture on the top of this article. There he is with the same robes and skinhead hair-do as any other Zen monk.

    Here’s a biography of Kodo Sawaki and a sample of his writing.

  13. Gesus
    Gesus August 29, 2006 at 5:03 pm | |

    Long time reader, first time poster.
    Enjoyed the post brad.

    But surely authority (and its opposite) rebelion and suppose freedom too, are abstract ideas and concepts. Which really doesnt have a whole lot to do with this momment.By thinking about them arn’t we ignore this momment, and going into a different relam, forgeting reality(like a drug or some shite) This keyboard is more real than the idea of freedom.IS it?
    Sorry rambling on, the post made me think. Which makes it good to me. Ta Brad

  14. yudo
    yudo August 30, 2006 at 3:16 am | |

    in my twenties, I met a lot of self styled anti authoritarians, usually maoists and trotskysts and the like. I was quick to understand that their posture was the authority ought to be fought against, because, I need to be the real authority”.
    Of course, they didn’t say so, but it was palpable in their attitude.

    I rather think that authority must needs be something moving. If you are trekking in some mountain and you have one of your group who knows the way, he ought to be the momentary authority. Then when it comes to lighting the fire, if someone else knows best, that person becomes the temporary authority, and so on. It’s ridiculous –though it often happens — for one to want to be THE authority at all costs, even on subjects in which he knows strictly nothing.

    Mxl

  15. yudo
    yudo August 30, 2006 at 3:16 am | |

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  16. Gzeg
    Gzeg August 30, 2006 at 6:43 am | |

    There’s a Sufi saying that goes, “Real freedom means having no choice”.

  17. grisom
    grisom August 30, 2006 at 5:20 pm | |

    First and most importantly, I wanted to let you know I put my webpage about old dinosaur books back up.

    Awesome! I liked that page a lot, I was sad when it disappeared.

    Hey, I was cleaning out my closet and found a dinosaur book from 1992. If Brad or anyone else here wants it, I will happily mail it to you!

  18. Greg H
    Greg H August 30, 2006 at 9:08 pm | |

    It was a nice rant at that!

    The Advanced Soul

  19. kshingo
    kshingo August 31, 2006 at 4:16 pm | |

    I would like to suggest this link to some sayings from Kodo Sawaki:

    http://www.antaiji.dogen.de/eng-kike/kike0.html

    –kshingo

  20. Mike
    Mike September 1, 2006 at 12:42 pm | |

    This is one of the first rants of your ‘rants’ that I have read. Despite seeing your book in my local centre I have not yet bought it or had a cheeky flick through. I actually really enjoyed reading your rant though.

    If I have learnt a single thing over my last few years of studying zen buddhism I would say your rant has something to do with emptiness.

    But you worded it a lot better than I could do.

    Emptiness once really freaked me out. Somebody said that when I am eating my cereal I am eating everything. Then I thought about the poor person who worked the machine and in a way I was sadened. I felt like I was eating him/her.

    I suppose that’s what the production line does to you. You get eaten by vegans for breakfast.

  21. zenducker
    zenducker September 4, 2006 at 5:48 am | |

    HELL is Other People! Someone wrote that in French on here and boy was he right when it comes to GW Bush ehh?? Guess that really gets down to the core of this entire discussion at least for me, because even the mention of “W” gets the whole self-actuated hate thing going for me.

  22. ?? -Satori- ??
    ?? -Satori- ?? October 9, 2006 at 2:52 am | |

    Alot of anger..but that can’t be supressed..Yeah,like the humor. A zen priest,huh..as in Led Zenlin..okay smart ass here- nice post.just rambling fun..no harm..-satori- go gentle into the night………………………………………………………………………………

  23. Emily
    Emily February 16, 2007 at 6:44 pm | |

    So, I happen to be a teenaged Zen student… I’m 17, started formal practice a bit less than two years ago, and plan to live at my home temple next year, before college. I dig what you’re saying, by the way…

    Yeah, I think a lot of people come to the practice expecting some degree of “fuck everything and everyone” and are hit in the face with what they sometimes mispercieve as “don’t question anything”. I think they’re pretty much the same delusion. And I think you know that…

    With that said, I think that the “teenaged mentality” that you speak of springs from a yearning for order and regiment. I realize that (as a teenager) I simultaniously want directions and try to destroy all the pointers that I get. My teacher describes teenagerhood as a time of seperateness, and the angst that typically goes along with teenagerhood as a product of the very (at that time) obvious and clear separation between self and other.

    I don’t know, I just wanted to throw that out there. The whole idea’s really ammusing to me. Thanks!

  24. Anonymous
    Anonymous June 14, 2007 at 2:20 am | |

    Hey, landed on your blog, nice stuff. I found a cool new tool for our blogs… http://www.widgetmate.com It helps get latest news for our keywords directly on to our blog. I added it on mine. Worked like a charm.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.