Is “Good Greed” Good?

richierichNear the beginning of the  Metta Sutra it says, “Let one not take upon oneself the burden of riches” and three lines later it says, “Let one not desire great possessions even for one’s own family.”

I had a conversation recently with a guy I’ve known for a while but don’t see very often. He’s very excited about these folks he’s working with now and thought maybe I could work with them. They are, he said, interested in creating positive change in the world. They’re working on all sorts of green products. They’re interested in people who teach self-improvement and mindfulness. But they’re also very ambitious. They want to improve the world and they want to get rich doing so. They will use their riches for good things, he told me.

Anyhow, he’s giving me this whole pitch about the company and finally he comes to the part where he says, “If you’re not interested in making a lot of money, then this is probably not the company for you!”

At that point I understood that what I was supposed to say was, “Oh yeah! I’m interested in making a lot of money.” Then he could go on with the rest of his pitch.

But I stopped him there and said, “Well, maybe that’s where we part ways. I’m not really very interested in making a lot of money.”

I don’t think he really understood that. I mean, doesn’t everyone want to make a lot of money?

Now look. I don’t walk the earth like Caine from Kung Fu with only my robe and my begging bowl. I like my guitars. I like my books and my music collection. I like having my own apartment. I get paid when I run retreats. I get paid for my books. It’s not a lot, but I do not do this stuff for free. I can’t afford to!

I wouldn’t mind making a bit more money. In fact, that’s going to be necessary if I’m to continue living and working in Los Angeles. Right now, the only way I can afford my rent is to keep drawing out of the money I put away when I was working for Tsuburaya Productions. But that’s a finite and dwindling resource. What I take in from book sales and my annual trips to Europe and suchlike (see below) doesn’t cover my current expenses. So I get it. I really do.

When I say I’m not interested in getting rich, it’s not because I’m trying to out-holy everybody else. It’s a matter of common sense. Actually, maybe it’s not so common. But it’s on that level. It’s like understanding that you shouldn’t stick your head in a drill press if you don’t want to get a headache.

I was once at a Zen retreat where one of the teachers – I think maybe it was Tonen O’Connor – said, “There’s no such thing as just a little greed.”

deepakMy friend was arguing with me that greed was OK as long as your intention was to use your wealth to do good things, to spread love. Guys like Ekhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra might be kind of cheezeballs, he said, but they’ve helped open a large conversation about mindfulness, about being present in the moment, about peace and positive energy. And isn’t that a great thing? And the fact that Deepak has a thousand pairs of shoes and diamond studded glasses because of his good work, well, what’s wrong with that?

Honestly, I don’t know quite how to express what’s wrong with that, but I can feel it. In any case, I can’t speak for others. I don’t know their minds or their circumstances. But I can speak a little bit for myself.

In order for me to become wealthy doing what I do, I would have to become more famous. But right now, today, I have exactly as much fame as I will ever need. I get recognized now and then in random places. Every once in a while someone stops me on the street or at a bookstore and says, “I’ve read all your books!” It’s nice.

But I wouldn’t want that to happen all the time. Last year I was doing a lecture in Germany and I arrived at the venue about an hour before I was supposed to talk. As is often the case, there was nowhere for me to wait where I was not in full view of everyone who came in. As the audience started to build up, people kept looking over at me. I could feel that, “Is that him?” vibe, that “maybe I should say something to him but I’m scared” sort of weird nervousness. It’s very uncomfortable to be the the center of that. I have a lot of sympathy for zoo animals these days…

If that became the way it was every day of my life, sheesh! I don’t know what I’d do. I fully understand why celebrities buy big mansions with gates and fences around them, and why they don’t hang around with anyone except other celebrities. I’m light-years from that myself, but I can very clearly see how it goes.

So back to my friend and his pitch. After I said some of this he said something like, “Well if you don’t know what you want…” This struck me as both very weird and yet totally expected. The fact is I do know what I want. It’s just that in a world where wealth and fame is the highest object of desire, the idea of someone not wanting that sounds the same as not knowing what you want. If you knew what you wanted you would understand that what you want is wealth and fame.

I really feel like all that stuff about embracing poverty and avoiding greed that the Buddhists talk about isn’t just something that’s supposed to make a person all pure and holy. It’s actually advice on how to live a better life. The more you demand from society in terms of wealth, the more society demands from you. If you don’t deliver, you suffer. Oh you can buy nice things, but you’re hated. You’re a parasite. Or else you become the object of someone else’s greed and envy, and again you are hated.

The big money only comes to those who can play the game, or to those who through fate and karma just happen to land in it. I am neither of those. I’ve seen money make even very well-meaning people crazy. It seems unavoidable.

So yeah, you will start to see me doing a lot of stuff in the next few months intended to raise money for the center we’re starting in Los Angeles, as well as just to generally make it possible for me to live here at all. If it ever spirals into something that makes the really big bucks, well, I’ll worry about that then. Until that happens, though, I’m setting my sights pretty low.

 

UPCOMING EVENTS

April 3, 2015 Pomona, CA Open Door 2 Yoga

April 24-26, 2015 Mt. Baldy, CA 3-DAY ZEN & YOGA RETREAT

July 8-12, 2015 Vancouver, BC Canada 5-DAY RETREAT at HOLLYHOCK RETREAT CENTER

August 14-16, 2015 Munich, Germany 3 DAY ZEN RETREAT

August 19, 2015 Munich, Germany LECTURE

August 24-29, 2015 Felsentor, Switzerland 5-DAY RETREAT AT STIFTUNG FELSENTOR 

August 30-September 4, 2015 Holzkirchen, Germany 5-DAY RETREAT AT BENEDIKTUSHOF MONASTERY

September 10-13, 2015 Finland 4-DAY RETREAT

 ONGOING EVENTS

Every Monday at 8pm I lead zazen at Silverlake Yoga Studio 2 located at 2810 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90039. All are welcome!

Every Saturday at 9:30 am I lead zazen at the Veteran’s Memorial Complex located at 4117 Overland Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230. All are welcome!

Registration is now open for our 3-day Zen & Yoga Retreat at Mt. Baldy Zen Center April 24-26, 2015. CLICK HERE for more info!

Plenty more info is available on the Dogen Sangha Los Angeles website, dsla.info

*   *   *

Your kind donations are how I make most of my living these days. Thank you!

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

170 Responses

Page 2 of 2
  1. woken
    woken February 27, 2015 at 2:34 pm |

    This is a great post. Maybe the best Brad has posted.

    One of the things that has kept me reading this blog is that Brad has had an authentic “spiritual” (for want of a better word) apprenticeship and training, and thus has something of real value and benefit to offer.

    The struggle has been: how does one offer spiritual training and insight n our culture without commodifying it? Once something is commodified, it is longer valued on its intrinsic worth. This is bad enough for most traditional systems such as yoga, martial arts etc, but for purely spiritual systems such as zazen, this renders them utterly worthless.Hence, you have complete charlatans such as the “mindfulness” selling palatable versions of spirituality that will keep one serving and successful within this post capitalist system.

    Brad has made his choice and will thus transmit the true dharma/tao, through his integrity to future generations, while the market continues to scream. Hopefully, in the future, we will once again have a society that values this ancient knowledge, but until then, we have to put up with this appalling post capitalist empire, playact in the whole bourgeouis delusion and preserve teachings of real value so that they can be passed on.

    1. Fred
      Fred February 27, 2015 at 4:44 pm |

      “He left out all the stuff I go into in “Fuxi’s Poem” and most of my other writing; funny thing how nobody wants to hear about stretch and resile and coming to one’s senses except me!”

      Stretch and resile, Mark. The stretch is the elongated illusion of duality from dependent origination, and resile is the snap back to original state.

      Da says that you can’t get there from here, ie., seeking a special state in duality. But the market will try to sell it to you. Fifty thousand for enlightenment now.

      The empty hand grasps the hoe handle.

  2. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote February 27, 2015 at 5:22 pm |

    I think Da’s sorta right: you can’t get here from there.

    Here’s what Brad’s talkin’ about, at 3:55: “there are people in this room who are going to make an ungodly sum of money” (selling Advair). Gotta hand it to John Oliver.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQZ2UeOTO3I

  3. SamsaricHelicoid
    SamsaricHelicoid February 27, 2015 at 8:15 pm |

    ” A free market in religion and spirituality does make for a messy religious culture, and it definitely allows grifters and their like to ply their trade, but it also allows genuine spiritual practice to flower and spread under a thousand different guises and forms and variants. ”

    I disagree because all of the good ones distance themselves from working within the free market otherwise they become superficial and shallow. They can be a part of it without melding into it, but the whole point is once they meld into it, it’s all gone for good.

  4. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote February 27, 2015 at 11:52 pm |

    ‘One time Huike climbed up Few Houses Peak with Bodhidharma. Bodhidharma asked, “Where are we going?” Huike said, “Please go right ahead– that’s it.” Bodhidharma said, “If you go right ahead, you cannot move a step.”‘

    (Transmission of Light, 30 Huike, trans Thomas Cleary pg 111)

    If you go right ahead, and the action is out of place, it comes back around- you haven’t moved a step.

    1. Fred
      Fred February 28, 2015 at 7:10 am |

      When the I disappears, there is no one to move a step, and you are everything that is there.

  5. Conrad
    Conrad February 28, 2015 at 2:51 am |

    I’m sorry, I should have made it clear that when I speak of the “free market” in religion and spirituality, I don’t mean the economic markets, but the marketplace of ideas and the freedom of religion that goes with it. They do become combined naturally, to the extent that they get into money at all, which is of course necessary to some degree, though it’s not necessary to make a commodity of it. But I think it’s the overall cultural attitude that people can choose what religious or spiritual path they feel is best for them, rather than just be shoehorned into the religious culture’s dominant mode of the time and place, that makes the capitalist environment suitable for spiritual growth. Plus, the wealth it creates that gives so many ordinary people the chance to pursue spirituality with some measure of ease and freedom. Plus, all the dukkha and tanha on display that helps people quickly see that such material wealth as only dreamed of by royalty in times past doesn’t satisfy. Capitalism thus becomes excellent fertilizer for the Dharma.

  6. shade
    shade February 28, 2015 at 7:27 am |

    “Plus, the wealth it creates that gives so many ordinary people the chance to pursue spirituality with some measure of ease and freedom.”

    This argument only holds water in so far as one regards “spirituality” as completely separate from one’s ordinary day to day existence, and most especially one’s work. Almost as if they take place in parallel universes, perhaps with some obscure influence on one another but still essentially distinct. Which is, of course, how many people of all religious affiliations approach spirituality. An approach I personally consider immature and superficial at best.

    “Pursue spirituality” – that phrase seems, to me, to frame spirituality as some sort of leisure activity or hobby. This approach is becoming more and more prevalent as fewer and fewer people are being compelled by some authority figure to affiliate with a specific denomination or adhere a specific creed. And while I certainly don’t support state sponsored religion, I have a problem with the leisure-time mentality as well. Because it’s a mentality that has little or nothing to do with morality, ethics, justice or truth… one simply chooses or invents whatever spiritual path most appeals to ones egoistic impulses, whether emotional, intellectual, aesthetic or whatever. And that kind of spirituality – which, in my opinion, is outright counterfeit – is precisely the kind that is most easily commodified and exploited for material profit and public acclaim.

    1. Fred
      Fred February 28, 2015 at 8:26 am |

      “And while I certainly don’t support state sponsored religion, I have a problem with the leisure-time mentality as well. Because it’s a mentality that has little or nothing to do with morality, ethics, justice or truth… one simply chooses or invents whatever spiritual path most appeals to ones egoistic impulses, whether emotional, intellectual, aesthetic or whatever. And that kind of spirituality — which, in my opinion, is outright counterfeit — is precisely the kind that is most easily commodified and exploited for material profit and public acclaim.”

      An inauthentic existence in pursuit of superficial goals buttressed by a bogus spirituality based on shallow clichés.

      1. Fred
        Fred February 28, 2015 at 8:29 am |

        An inauthentic existence in pursuit of superficial goals buttressed by a bogus spirituality based on shallow clichés.

        I have to look at my life and see if I fit that description.

        1. Mumbles
          Mumbles February 28, 2015 at 9:28 am |

          What could possibly constitute an “inauthentic existence”?

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

          1. Fred Jr.
            Fred Jr. February 28, 2015 at 9:40 am |

            Sum’n like this?

          2. Fred
            Fred February 28, 2015 at 10:12 am |

            Wikipedia:

            “For this reason among others, authenticity is often “at the limits” of language; it is described as the negative space around inauthenticity, with reference to examples of inauthentic living.[1] Sartre’s novels are perhaps the easiest access to this mode of describing authenticity: they often contain characters and antiheroes who base their actions on external pressures–the pressure to appear to be a certain kind of person, the pressure to adopt a particular mode of living, the pressure to ignore one’s own moral and aesthetic objections in order to have a more comfortable existence. His work also includes characters who do not understand their own reasons for acting, or who ignore crucial facts about their own lives in order to avoid uncomfortable truths; this connects his work with the philosophical tradition.”

          3. Fred Jr.
            Fred Jr. February 28, 2015 at 11:35 am |

            yeah! what he said

  7. Michel
    Michel February 28, 2015 at 8:35 am |

    Conrad wrote:

    “Look at Zen in Japan. If that was how it worked here, there’s be no room for Brad at all. Or only a very conformist Brad.”

    More probably, a Brad that would have learned to comply with the formal requisites before doing anything anti conformist.
    That’s what Sawaki or Nishijima did. Very anticonformists, but well withing the formal limits of their school. That is, as long as you pay lip service to the hierarchy, pay your annual fees, and abide by their more fundamental rules, they let you do what you want.
    We are at times (I feel) much more maximalist.

    1. shade
      shade February 28, 2015 at 11:20 am |

      wait a second… didn’t Brad live in Japan while practicing Zen for, like, a long-ish time? I seem to remember reading something like that in one of his books.

  8. SamsaricHelicoid
    SamsaricHelicoid February 28, 2015 at 9:20 am |

    I agree with Shade more. It’s why I sympathize with the traditionalists.

    Have you noticed the best societies in mankind didn’t separate religion from state? The religion of course didn’t suck, such as Gandharan civilization, Europe during renaissance (e.g., Brunelleschi’s masterful architecture), Tang & Yuan Dynasty of China, Achaeminid Persia, Persia before Mongol invasion, and etc.

    ttp://youtu.be/WGy45U0mamc?t=1h18m12s

    The failure of post-industrial capitalism is proportional to the amount of happiness depicted in this video at 1h18m12s. I don’t care if people consider me crazy. I’m all about not separating religion and state. Modifying the religion to positively influence the state is better (e.g., by making it more panentheistic and more all-embracing and based off gnosis).

    Whenever people attempt to separate the religion or ethos of their country from the way of life in the name of “freedom”, then in truth more damage is caused. That’s why the modernized, industrialized way of living is Kali Yuga. It is hegemonizing and leads to a Marquis de Sade kind of intellectuals like Houellebecq… I predicted something like Houellebecq would arise “as an intellectual” 2 yrs ago because this is the natural progression of post-industrial capitalism. Just read his Platform.

    1. SamsaricHelicoid
      SamsaricHelicoid February 28, 2015 at 9:21 am |

      I also think it’s interesting how traditional societies tend to have a lot of fractal architecture or artwork. I think this is because people’s minds are more in tune with the Sacred, which is non-dual in nature:

      https://alevelreblog.wordpress.com/2013/09/17/escher-meets-islamic-art/1

      1. SamsaricHelicoid
        SamsaricHelicoid February 28, 2015 at 9:22 am |

        Most of us all want the same thing:

        a happy, communitarian town like Harvest Moon, where everyone is brought together by a common ethos. In the case of Harvest Moon, people are brought together for their worship of the Harvest Goddess, for She represents fidelity, goodwill, harmony with nature, and so forth. People in such a community realize how there is something intrinsically special and ‘holy’ about all life…

        However, imagine if the established harmony is threatened by external influence that introduces hedonism, infidelity, exploitation of natural resources, and so forth. This is similar to volume 6 of Hi no Tori / Phoenix (Nostalgia) by Osamu Tezuka. Sadly, She then becomes a kind of w****. People view life more as something to be manipulated for their own selfish greed then… and people cling to their self-image as if it is absolute.

        It is better to preserve the original “inner light” of the ethos from external influence:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNvrE-Eusmk

        Caring about the community, something this present society sucks at. How can people who constantly argue and debate about what the intrinsic nature of the Harvest Goddess and what she represents, and come together for a common cause? Mankind is not moving towards something “greater”. This is a naive view rooted in people’s faith in modernity and multiculturalism’s presumed longevity. In truth, history’s movement is more of a matter of troughs and peaks, and not a progress towards some pinnacle of achievement.

      2. minkfoot
        minkfoot February 28, 2015 at 10:03 am |

        What is “w****”?

        1. mb
          mb February 28, 2015 at 10:07 am |

          “*itch”?

          1. Fred
            Fred February 28, 2015 at 10:17 am |

            what if much of an itch of a witch

            “what if a much of a which of a wind
            gives the truth to summer’s lie;
            bloodies with dizzying leaves the sun
            and yanks immortal stars awry?
            Blow king to beggar and queen to seam
            (blow friend to fiend: blow space to time)
            –when skies are hanged and oceans drowned,
            the single secret will still be man”

        2. SamsaricHelicoid
          SamsaricHelicoid February 28, 2015 at 10:13 am |

          whore

        3. Mumbles
          Mumbles February 28, 2015 at 10:58 am |

          woody

  9. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote February 28, 2015 at 10:16 am |

    Separation of church and state is the great American experiment, not democracy.

    And how’s that working out for us. Well, like our economic system it’s lousy, but it’s better than the rest; IMHO.

    The Maximalist Soto School!– just kidding, Michel.

    Shinzen Young avoids the senses like a surgeon scrubbing before the cut. How does an empty hand grasp the hoe-handle, except by the sensation of an empty hand and the sensation of a grip on a long staff at the same time?

    Riding backwards on the ox while playing a flute, the breath in the flute, the sensation of riding without seeing to orient oneself– this is the encounter with the foaming breakers on level ground.

    From “Exploratorium Magazine”, here:

    “To Do and Notice

    1) Close your eyes and raise both hands above your head. Keep the fingers of your left hand totally still (no wiggling!).

    2) Touch the tip of your right index finger to the tip of your nose, then quickly use the same finger to try to touch the tip of your left thumb. Keep your left hand still. Even if you “miss,” go on quickly to the next step.

    3) Again touch your right index finger to the tip of your nose and immediately use the same finger to try to touch the tip of your left index finger.

    4) Repeat the process three more times, each time trying to touch a different finger on your left hand. Keep track of how many times you succeed in touching the tip of the correct finger. How successful were you at finding each fingertip? Did your performance improve with time?

    5) Now repeat the activity, but this time gently wiggle the fingers of the hand you hold in the air. Are you more successful in touching the designated fingertip?
    Most people are surprised to find out that they have a difficult time touching their fingertips precisely–they come close but don’t make contact. Success usually improves when the fingers of the target hand are wiggled slightly.

    What’s Going On?

    Even with your eyes closed, you have a sense of body position–where your arms and legs are, what direction you turn your head. This sense of body position comes primarily from information sent to your brain by proprioceptors, tiny sensors in your muscles, tendons, joints, and inner ear. Proprioceptors detect stretching, elongation, and other changes; this information is used by your brain to create an unconscious picture of your body and its parts in three-dimensional space. Since most of us are highly dependent on visual cues for judging distances and positions, proprioception alone is not enough to give our brains the finely detailed information needed to touch a distant body part with great accuracy. Wiggling the fingers of the target hand increases the success rate of finding the fingers because it causes elongations, contractions, and tension changes that are detected by the proprioceptors there. With this additional information, the brain is better able to picture the location of the target hand in space.”

  10. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote February 28, 2015 at 10:20 am |

    Things start to move when we don’t do anything; the secret to the empty hand that grasps the hoe handle.

    1. Mumbles
      Mumbles February 28, 2015 at 11:04 am |

      Is there a single inert thing?

      1. Fred
        Fred February 28, 2015 at 2:40 pm |

        Yes.

        1. Mumbles
          Mumbles February 28, 2015 at 3:58 pm |

          What?

          1. Fred
            Fred February 28, 2015 at 5:57 pm |

            If we see through this thought,
            We see through the thinker of it

          2. Fred Jr.
            Fred Jr. March 2, 2015 at 5:00 am |

            An American guy was vacationing in France and rented a car to drive from Marseilles to Paris. While cruising through the countryside he pulled over to pick up a hitchhiker. He leaned over and rolled down the window, asking “Hey mister, would you like a ride?” The Frenchman replied, “Oui! Oui!” Disgusted, the American muttered, “Not in my car you don’t!” and drove off.

  11. Conrad
    Conrad February 28, 2015 at 11:46 am |

    Shade,

    You’re of course free to hold the opinion that some people’s spiritual pursuits are inauthentic, while yours are authentic. Because we live in a capitalist culture that thrives on that kind of individual judgment and choice. If we didn’t, you wouldn’t be free to have that kind of opinion and pursue your own brand of “authentic” spirituality. You are free to individualize your view and choices as narrowly or broadly as you wish – again, because we live in a modern capitalist culture that values such an approach. It’s not even inconsistent to criticize the hell out of your rivals and those you deem fraudulent. That too is a good part of how the free exercise of religion in a capitalist culture works. It’s just ironic that you blame capitalism for those “inauthentic” spiritual pursuits and attitudes, but don’t praise it for allowing you the freedom to cultivate your own “authentic” spiritual pursuits.

    As for “leisure” time, I think it’s easily demonstrated that people who are simply struggling to survive don’t have the time or free attention to get into esoteric or “authentic” religion. If they get into religion at all, it’s purely as something to help them survive. And that often produces the desperate sort of magical thinking religion that is just praying to God for something that will help them survive. So no, that’s not the route to “authenticity”. In fact, it’s an even worse form of spiritual corruption in the overall cultural sense.

    So esoteric religion requires some basic ability to handle basic needs of life. And as I’ve pointed out, no economic system does a better job of handling those basic needs than capitalism. Sure, it also can provide hugely distracting amounts of wealth, but for those not so inclined, such as Brad, it also provides a lot of opportunities to get by on quite a lot less, without backbreaking labor. Brad is out there selling his religion and somehow managing to make enough to get by on, precisely because we live in such a wealthy capitalist society that he can do that without starving to death. He wouldn’t be able to teach without the kind of spiritual marketplace out there that can support him. He wouldn’t be able to travel cheaply all over the world and use the Internet to support himself. He might not even have ever heard of Buddhism in the first place, much less been able to go to Japan to study it for years and support himself in the process through his jobs there. And no, he didn’t teach Zen in Japan. I don’t think he could have made a go of it within Japanese culture, not with his personality and viewpoint and so on. He’d have had to conform to things he has no interest in conforming to. So in his free-market manner, he went to the places where there’s a demand for Zen teachers like Brad – the United States and Europe.

    Btw, I’m not trying to argue that traditional culture is bad, and modern capitalist culture is good. They both have their positives and negatives, and both actually learn how to change and adapt over time to changes in the environment. But I would suggest that since we live in a modern capitalist culture, that we make the best of it, and not develop self-righteous attitudes of superiority to it that simply reflect a failure to appreciate what is before us now, and wish instead for something that isn’t.

  12. Conrad
    Conrad February 28, 2015 at 11:58 am |

    Michel,

    More probably, a Brad that would have learned to comply with the formal requisites before doing anything anti conformist.
    That’s what Sawaki or Nishijima did. Very anticonformists, but well withing the formal limits of their school. That is, as long as you pay lip service to the hierarchy, pay your annual fees, and abide by their more fundamental rules, they let you do what you want.
    We are at times (I feel) much more maximalist.

    You have a point, but isn’t that allowance for some non-conformity in modern Japanese Zen itself a relatively recent development, at least in part due to Japan becoming a highly capitalist country in this century? A lot of Japan is no longer “traditional”. Even so, I don’t think Brad would have been able to fit in. It’s one thing for some like like Sawaki or Nishijima to be a bit non-conformist. It’s quite another thing to expect Japanese Zen to accept a punk rocker with all the unconventional attitudes and near-rejection of most traditional roles for Zen monks, like Brad. In any case, isn’t it obvious that Brad already looked at these options, and made his choice? He chose the modern, western free market road, and that is itself an affirmation of western capitalism whether he knows it or not. The point of this article is that not everyone living in western free market capitalist culture has to make the pursuit of wealth their primary objective. Because more than enough people are already doing that, other have the leisure to make other choices. Which is one of the very good things about capitalism that ought to be appreciated.

  13. Conrad
    Conrad February 28, 2015 at 12:14 pm |

    SamsaricHelicoid,

    Yeah, I can understand the nostalgic appreciation for a mythical “golden age” before the modern era ruined everything, where everyone was happy and carefree living in their little villages and cooperating like bees in a hive. Problem is, that time never existed. Bigger problem is that what did exist, would not have tolerated someone like Brad, or me, or you.

    I’m really not sure it counts against the modern era that it produces people like Houellebecq, or that it doesn’t produce adults who are as happy as children. What I do find odd is that a Buddhist would somehow be promoting the idea that dukkha isn’t universal, but is somehow confined to modern western life, and if we all just lived as peasants in a traditional society, all would be well. One of the benefits of modern society is that it freely allows all sorts of critiques of modern society. Does traditional society allow that of itself?

    I suppose to a degree it did, in that a whole lot of people seem to have made a criticism of traditional society that was persuasive enough to let go of it, and build something else. And yet also to let people stay traditional if that’s what they want. I mean, you can actually choose to move to one of those villages if you like, you know, because capitalism. That you don’t means you are already voting in the great election taking place everywhere around the world. And honestly, not everyone has to choose the modern capitalist world. Or if they do, they can choose their own version of it. Or their village’s version of it. If they can resist the temptations of modernism. Which few can, because so much of it is actually preferable to the real world alternatives.

  14. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote February 28, 2015 at 3:42 pm |

    The weather outside is frightful, but capitalism is so delightful
    And since we’ve no place to go, money sow, money sow, money sow…

    And now for something completely different:

    what if a much of a which of a wind

    by
    e e cummings

    what if a much of a which of a wind
    gives the truth to summer’s lie;
    bloodies with dizzying leaves the sun
    and yanks immortal stars awry?
    Blow king to beggar and queen to seam
    (blow friend to fiend: blow space to time)
    –when skies are hanged and oceans drowned,
    the single secret will still be man

    what if a keen of a lean wind flays
    screaming hills with sleet and snow:
    strangles valleys by ropes of thing
    and stifles forests in white ago?
    Blow hope to terror; blow seeing to blind
    (blow pity to envy and soul to mind)
    –whose hearts are mountains, roots are trees,
    it’s they shall cry hello to the spring

    what if a dawn of a doom of a dream
    bites this universe in two,
    peels forever out of his grave
    and sprinkles nowhere with me and you?
    Blow soon to never and never to twice
    (blow life to isn’t: blow death to was)
    –all nothing’s only our hugest home;
    the most who die, the more we live.

    (thanks, Fred!)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pR–nDR88b0

  15. SamsaricHelicoid
    SamsaricHelicoid February 28, 2015 at 5:56 pm |

    Conrad,

    Those traditional societies are being destroyed by the hegemonizing spread of post-industrial capitalism. For example, Trans Pacific Partnership threatens the ethnic diversity of Vietnam. Moreover, I’m not sure if this is a good book but it gets into this topic:

    http://www.amazon.com/Crazy-Like-Us-Globalization-American/dp/1416587098/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

    However, you are correct, it is not a problem exclusive to the West or anywhere else. Many people seem to openly accept it. For example, the government of Thailand openly accepts it and internally destroys its traditional culture.

    I’m just not a fan of industrialization. I see more harm out of it, in truth. I’ll write more on it later.

    1. Fred
      Fred February 28, 2015 at 6:06 pm |

      Mark, when I was between dreaming and awake this morning, a time when clear understanding often occurs, I saw how much that I love duality and that enlightenment is a sham.

      Fuck enlightenment.

    2. Mumbles
      Mumbles February 28, 2015 at 7:02 pm |

      Hey Sam Hel, before you judge Houellebeqc so quickly based on a novel (Platform) that he also thinks is crap (see his interview with the Paris Review) you might check out his book H.P. Lovecraft Against The World, Against Life. If you’re a Lovecraft fan as you claim, I’m sure you would like it. Maybe love it.

      Probably (if you actually read it) you disagreed with the character in Platform who called Islam the “dumbest religion” after Islamic terrorists kill his girlfriend. Gee, I guess nowadays a fictional character can’t express opinions, huh? Especially if they can be interpreted as inflammatory (they were, Houellebeqc was tried and acquitted for it in France at the time the novel came out). Jesus H. Christ. It’s fiction. Satire. Relax.

      Maybe you’ll like this better one instead? I did.
      http://www.amazon.com/Butterfly-Stories-William-T-Vollmann/dp/0802134009/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1425178128&sr=1-1&keywords=vollmann+butterfly

      And btw, I’ve always been a fan of the Marquis de Sade, and if you’ve read him, you wouldn’t lump him together with Houellebeqc, there are no similarities other than they are both French and tend to piss people off.

      Oh yeah! Is that it?

      1. SamsaricHelicoid
        SamsaricHelicoid March 1, 2015 at 9:24 am |

        I don’t care about Islam.

        What bothers me about Platform is how it openly approves sex tourism is Thailand. Yeah…

        I don’t really get along with Marquis de Sade fans…

        There’s a reason why Artaud didn’t indulge in sensual pleasures and tended to find it reprehensible. I would look into that if I were you.

        1. Mumbles
          Mumbles March 1, 2015 at 11:15 am |

          If I were you I would stop assuming things, as if I have not “looked into that” concerning Artaud, for example. You don’t know me. And no one cares whether you “get along” with Marquis de Sade fans, or fans of soccer, for that matter. You have a very exaggerated sense of high self esteem mirrored by self-professed suicidal bullshit tendencies. Maybe YOU SHOULD try to balance these and see what happens. Possibly people would see value in your knowledge, for what its worth rather than dismissing you as a crank.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W39kJeyJJnU

          1. SamsaricHelicoid
            SamsaricHelicoid March 1, 2015 at 11:49 am |

            Wait, so you support Houellebeqc’s approval of sex tourism in Thailand? Read the post on March 1, 2015 at 9:54 am.

            It seems I pulled one of your funny bones with a short post. Could it be that you’re supportive of the spread of Western hegemonies? I prefer you respond to my other post below if you want to discuss this.

          2. SamsaricHelicoid
            SamsaricHelicoid March 1, 2015 at 11:57 am |

            Also, there are things worse than suicide such as degrading another human being’s dignity, such as through the promotion of sex tourism through strategic Western hegemony, which is what Houellebeqc does. Unless you’re supportive of sex tourism in foreign countries, yourself, there’s no reason to find appeal in Platform.

  16. Anonymous
    Anonymous February 28, 2015 at 7:02 pm |

    Dan Quinn.

    1. Fred
      Fred March 1, 2015 at 8:42 am |
  17. minkfoot
    minkfoot February 28, 2015 at 7:08 pm |

    Hey, Mark!

    Shinzen definitely talks about body senses. He has a practice manual available for free online called “Five Ways to Know Yourself.”

  18. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote February 28, 2015 at 9:36 pm |

    Thanks for pointing that out, minkfoot.

    Not exactly what I was talking about; he describes a practice of noting, in that PDF. You have this experience; you note it, or acknowledge it.

    I’m talking about something like “walking along, I ride the ox”, the line from Fuxi’s poem, or the ox-herding picture where the guy is riding backwards while playing the flute. The feeling for activity coordinated by the plunk of awareness, through inhaling and exhaling. What’s it got to do with consciousness? It is unconscious consciousness.

    I get a happiness in plunk; f#ck enlightenment.

    1. Fred
      Fred March 1, 2015 at 8:36 am |

      Shinzen talks about the witness observing all the various states of this self, as
      mindfulness. At some point the witness is dropped and there is just the universe observing itself, or just this action occurring in the universe.

      F*ck enlightenment.

  19. SamsaricHelicoid
    SamsaricHelicoid March 1, 2015 at 9:54 am |

    Also I find it offensive you assume the reason I didn’t like Houellebecq’s Platform to be because of its criticisms towards Islam. I don’t really care about that. What bothered me about Platform was how it approved sex tourism in Thailand because it defends the actions on account the prostitutes are paid. Therefore, in Houellebecq’s views, it’s okay for a tourist agency to promote sex tourism because it spreads commerce.

    This is one of the negative effects of the spread of Western strategic hegemony. Western strategic hegemony is intimately tied to making other countries capitalistic and then trading with them. Countries, like Thailand, come to imitate the Western models and Western criteria in education, the arts, and culture; through the transformation of such countries into post-indutrial capitalim, the turn into a passive market for Western goods and a pawn in Western geopolitics, hence why sex tourism is viewed positively by Houellebecq. It strengthens the dollar and the West at the expense of the dignity of other countries. Persian intellectuals, even before the 1979 revolution, call it “Westoxification” (Gharbzadegi). It will eventually come to an end though.

    I predicted an asshole like Houellebecq would emerge who uses doublespeak as a way to implicitly defend his desire for Western hegemony.

    1. Mumbles
      Mumbles March 1, 2015 at 12:55 pm |

      I predict Michel Houellebeqc will go down in history as an important and necessary satirist and you will be remembered, if at all, as just another crank taking ineffectual potshots at ideas and people you do not understand.

      1. SamsaricHelicoid
        SamsaricHelicoid March 1, 2015 at 1:09 pm |

        Mumbles, first off, I doubt mankind will survive long enough in order for Michel Houellebeqc to be remembered. Moreover, Houellebeqc is more Emil Cioran, who was actually an intelligent satirist.

        Second off, I do not care if I remembered. I do not consider myself anyone. Who you interpret me to be is equally as false as who I interpret myself to be. No one can grasp “who” I am. Even a thousand article dissecting me can never touch me, for there is one absolute fact in this world: we are absolute alone. When I babble to you, who is it that I babble to, for when you speak, my mind always interprets it never taking a stride “outside” to “you”. In this sense, schizophrenia is more of a spectrum with everyone hearing voices in their “head”, so to speak.

        Third off, I have read Houllebeqc’s ideas. He is supportive of sex tourism on account the women are paid. To him this is a “beautiful thing”. I can find the interview again. The book is meant to be supportive of sex tourism, and it indirectly supports Western strategic hegemonies and the commercialization of stuff like sex. Platform is about a travel agency using sex tourism as a way to get more to join its flight trip.

        Fourth, you are being infantile, making things personal. Even if you were to confront me in real life, it is nothing more than an appearance, like a fleeting dream that cannot be grasped. Even if you were to choke me, it’s not as if the person you view is dying, since you never knew me. However, the karma (i.e., the accumulative causes and effects) of such actions does exist, like a rippling ocean or the irradiant surface of a mirror that seems to blur or something like that. Sex tourism is a negative action because it undermines people’s dignity.

        1. SamsaricHelicoid
          SamsaricHelicoid March 1, 2015 at 1:10 pm |

          typo: “Moreover, Houellebeqc is nothing compared to Emil Cioran, who was actually an intelligent satirist.”

          Also, I want to emphasize ” doubt mankind will survive long enough in order for Michel Houellebeqc to be remembered.”

        2. SamsaricHelicoid
          SamsaricHelicoid March 1, 2015 at 1:11 pm |

          Just ignore my typos, I have a lot. I wish there was an edit function.

  20. SamsaricHelicoid
    SamsaricHelicoid March 1, 2015 at 1:18 pm |

    The novel puts forward the argument that sex tourism in the Third World provides the solution for the West’s social problems.

  21. Mumbles
    Mumbles March 1, 2015 at 1:20 pm |

    Here’s one: I’m done with this waste of my time.

    1. SamsaricHelicoid
      SamsaricHelicoid March 1, 2015 at 1:29 pm |

      I find it interesting you did not respond directly to my criticism about “how novel puts forward the argument that sex tourism in the lower developed countries (LDCs) provides the solution for the West’s social problems.”

      Could it be, perhaps, you’re into sex tourism yourself?

      1. SamsaricHelicoid
        SamsaricHelicoid March 1, 2015 at 1:29 pm |

        how the novel*

        1. Fred
          Fred March 1, 2015 at 1:55 pm |

          now the hovel*

  22. SamsaricHelicoid
    SamsaricHelicoid March 1, 2015 at 1:37 pm |

    Also, I find it amusing and hypocritical you accuse me of having an exaggerated sense of high self esteem, yet you’re quick to say this discussion is a waste of your time, as if I’m supposed to give a fuck about what you do with your ‘precious’ time.

    1. Fred
      Fred March 1, 2015 at 1:54 pm |

      Sammy, Mumbles is here for the entertainment, but winding you up and pressing
      your buttons isn’t his cup of tea.

      1. SamsaricHelicoid
        SamsaricHelicoid March 1, 2015 at 2:00 pm |

        I don’t see how talking *about* Zen is entertaining.

        1. Fred
          Fred March 1, 2015 at 2:02 pm |

          Well, that’s your problem, Sammy.

  23. SamsaricHelicoid
    SamsaricHelicoid March 1, 2015 at 2:22 pm |

    All I’m saying is Mumbles should be careful from not choking on Michel Houellebeqc’s dick while deep-throating it.

    I mean, consider how he dismissed all of my criticisms on account of Houellebeqc going “down in history as an important and necessary satirist”. I’m pretty sure there’s a pretty strong homoerotic undertone here.

    Everything I have to say is worthless because I’m ultimately a “crank taking ineffectual potshots at ideas and people [that I] do not understand”. That’s a perfectly sensible reason to discredit *everything* I’m saying, huh? Your poorly rated book on Islamic alchemy speaks a lot about your prowess, Mumbles, so I bow to your incompetence and arrogance.

    I’m pretty sure Mumbles likes to have fun with ladyboys in Thailand on account of him not taking seriously how Houellebeqc’s novel puts forward the argument that sex tourism in lower developed countries (LDC) provides the solution for the West’s social problems. He must have a heap of his own social problems, considering he dismissed everything I say outright on account of me “being a crank”. I mean, Houellebeqc is a genius so giving thematic criticism is only what cranks do! Marquis de Sade was also great, as Mumbles pointed out, so I’d better watch out in pointing out hypocrisies or genuine craziness since that makes me a crank.

    Seriously though, I’m a better intellectual than either you or Houellebeqc, Mumbles, and I’m younger too.

    1. mb
      mb March 1, 2015 at 2:38 pm |

      being “a better intellectual” + $1 might buy you a cup of coffee (if you’re lucky)

      1. SamsaricHelicoid
        SamsaricHelicoid March 1, 2015 at 3:01 pm |

        mb, that coffee is extraordinary. It was from the slave labor of people in Venezuela. So much damage to the environment in the form of natural resources used in transportation and so forth was done so I can get the coffee in my hand. Someone broke his back while growing this coffee, just so I can drink it to continue my meaningless life of working in a cubicle 5 days/week. This coffee is one of blood.

        Mumbles, handed it to me btw. He’s working at Starbucks.

        1. mb
          mb March 1, 2015 at 3:43 pm |

          See where being a “better intellectual” gets you? You got served blood coffee. Don’t get me started on cubicles.

    2. Fred
      Fred March 1, 2015 at 2:39 pm |

      And now we return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

      “The empty hand grasps the hoe handle
      Walking along, I ride the ox
      The ox crosses the wooden bridge
      The bridge is flowing, the water is still”

      1. Fred
        Fred March 1, 2015 at 2:47 pm |
        1. Fred Jr.
          Fred Jr. March 1, 2015 at 4:20 pm |
        2. Mark Foote
          Mark Foote March 1, 2015 at 10:51 pm |

          made me laugh, and I spilt the whole thing…

        3. Fred Jr.
          Fred Jr. March 2, 2015 at 3:20 am |
          1. Fred
            Fred March 2, 2015 at 12:16 pm |
  24. Conrad
    Conrad March 1, 2015 at 11:59 pm |

    SamsaricHelicoid,

    Yeah, the destruction of traditional cultures is certainly tragic. But that’s impermanence for you. Buddhism predicted this long ago, by pointing out that everything changes, nothing is permanent, nothing lasts, and satisfaction will never be achieved. If one holds onto anything, tragedy is sure to ensue. The odd thing about traditional Buddhism is precisely this: the idea that even Buddhism and Buddhist culture will never change, but endure in some traditional manner forever, is itself inimical to Buddhism.

    And that sex tourism shit is really fucked up. Thailand is a wonderful place, and it can survive capitalism and whatever the tourists inflict upon it, but that’s the sort of change that really doesn’t need to happen, and yet it still happens. Dukkha is like that. Funny thing is, a lot of those girls actually like it better than the traditional life. Dukkha is like that too.

    1. SamsaricHelicoid
      SamsaricHelicoid March 2, 2015 at 10:05 am |

      Conrad,

      Watch the film Bird People in China. It’s good.

      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0142181/

      1. Fred
        Fred March 2, 2015 at 10:59 am |
  25. Conrad
    Conrad March 2, 2015 at 11:01 am |

    Looks good.

    Here’s a song of impermanence for you:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3aF9AJm0RFc

  26. otaku00
    otaku00 March 2, 2015 at 12:12 pm |

    Brad wrote: “I don’t know quite how to express what’s wrong with that”. I think I know. It is not wrong to become rich but to stay rich. Because the suffering of others can be eased by sharing your money or investing it in poor areas of this world. It will no longer feel wrong to be/stay rich when all people in the world can fulfill their basic needs.

    Wise spending or sharing is not an easy task at all. But to overlook the begging bowls of those who aren’t monks, who aren’t beggars or do not even have such a bowl could be considered the failure of a bodhisattva.

  27. otaku00
    otaku00 March 2, 2015 at 12:20 pm |

    “And that sex tourism shit is really fucked up.”

    Yeah, Conrad, sex is really fucked up!

    It was once estimated that – including all the more or less regular money donations from foreigners to bank accounts of Thai prostitutes – the sex industry over there makes up 20 % of the GNP.

    The word “greed” was invented in Thailand, by locals.

  28. otaku00
    otaku00 March 2, 2015 at 12:35 pm |

    Samsaric: “The novel puts forward the argument that sex tourism in the Third World provides the solution for the West’s social problems.”

    Houllebecq’s “Platform”: No, for the West’s SEXUAL problems. And Thailand is not Third World, by the way. They are at least Second and predicted to be First in 10 years. In Third World countries of this SEA-region like Myanmar, Laos and even Cambodia you will have trouble to find what Thailand offers in terms of sex.

    Houllebecq has been in Pattaya himself, so he knows what he is writing about. I bet he will be back.

    He is right. I know from experience. (You probably hoped to scare away people who would state that.) But the word “sex tourism” is inadequate. What’s going on there is part of their culture anyway, locals just prefer Karaoke bars and even pay more than “tourists” in many cases. So it doesn’t change if you’re a tourist, a local (they have the Chinese tradition of the concubine who becomes the “mia noi”, the little wife, there) or a retired expat – sex is available as food is, and many women are just “naturals”. A lot of the sex relationships of foreigners (by the way, most of the tourists there come from Asia and now Russia, not from “the” West) resemble those to girlfriends anyway. That’s why a new scientific study had them titled “Professional Girlfriends”.

  29. otaku00
    otaku00 March 2, 2015 at 12:45 pm |

    Samsaric: “Countries, like Thailand, come to imitate the Western models and Western criteria in education, the arts, and culture”

    You really missed a lot of news. They do exactly the opposite right now. Democracy only comes with a law majeste (a satirical play about the King just got a young couple a two and a half years jail sentence). Languages are taught the parrot-way: Teacher speaks, pupils repeat. And popular music resembles mainstream Eastasian pop more than ours. Actually, youth is looking much more at the East art-wise, that’s what I feel. You will also get medicine here that is not prescribed or permitted at home. If you want to find a country that is not primarily imitating the West, come to Thailand! And respect the King!

  30. Conrad
    Conrad March 2, 2015 at 3:17 pm |

    “Yeah, Conrad, sex is really fucked up!”

    I see what you did there.

  31. SamsaricHelicoid
    SamsaricHelicoid March 3, 2015 at 9:46 am |

    Never listen to a greasy, neckbeard otaku.

  32. SamsaricHelicoid
    SamsaricHelicoid March 3, 2015 at 10:13 am |

    Why does everyone want to be remembered? There is beauty in being forgotten, like a beautiful dream that can never recollected or grasped. There have been plenty of Arhats whom have been forgotten: leaving behind this miserable world of suffering.

    1. SamsaricHelicoid
      SamsaricHelicoid March 3, 2015 at 10:14 am |

      Besides, all that’s ever remembered is a projected image, a spurious dream never real in itself.

  33. Money | Hardcore Zen April 17, 2015 at 3:59 pm |

Comments are closed.