Meditation for Success?

ZenEdgeMany of the most successful CEOs in the world use meditation to give them an edge. That’s what the card that appears at the beginning of a Huffington Post video/article on meditation titled Top CEOs Reveal The Most Important Habit For Success tells me. “Russell Simmons calls meditation ‘the core of my existence’,” it whispers to me under that. And Russell Simmons has a net worth of $325 million!

Then why, after 30 years of this meditation shit, am I still not a success?

I know, I know. There are different ways of defining “success.” But let’s not kid ourselves. The kind of success this article is promoting isn’t some abstract sort of “success of not wanting success” Zen bullshit. They’re talking about real success, baby! The kind that Donald J. Trump has! The kind you get when you’re using meditation to give you an edge over the competition. Boom! Smoked you! Cuz I meditate, bee-otch!

Looked at it that way you could never consider me to be a success. I’m a 52 year old man who has never owned a house, doesn’t own a car and never had one that wasn’t a beater, doesn’t have a steady income, and has no real prospects for ever obtaining any of this stuff.

Success depends on measurement and comparison. On the one hand, I am successful because I have six books out, all of which are still in print including the first one I published over ten years ago. I don’t have to punch a clock every day. I’m my own boss. I earn enough to pay my rent and my bills and have some left over to buy old records over at the Goodwill.

On the other hand, I am unsuccessful because none of my books has ever won a literary prize. They don’t sell as well as those by many other writers in my field. I’ve never been reviewed in the New York Times and no doubt never will. I’ll never be on Oprah’s Super Spiritual Sunday. NPR routinely ignores every book I put out. Bill Maher doesn’t want me on his show even though every other person who writes a book about religion gets on. I was once told by someone who deals with the big names on the spiritual scene that I am “not even on the radar” when it comes to the real stars of the meditation world. My retreats don’t pack ‘em in like those run by the big boys in the scene.

It depends on what you compare yourself to. That’s what success is all about —  comparison.

The samurai in medieval Japan understood that meditation could give them a competitive edge. They used zazen practice as a way to “strengthen their skills” and “strengthen their ability to focus” to paraphrase the HufPo video.

“Different parts of the brain, especially located in the prefrontal cortex and parts of the brain such as the amygdala which respond to fear seem to be strengthened through meditation so you can assess the situation a little more calmly with a little more objectivity,” says the presenter over some Discovery Channel footage of animations of the inside of the brain. “I meditate and think about the goals I want to achieve that day,” says Paolo Moya, CEO of Marshall Moya Design. Then up comes a card that says, “meditation is an effective tool for success.”

It sure is! If you want to slice off the head of your archenemy from the Miyamoto Clan or just destroy the careers of your economic rivals, meditation can definitely help.

And that is a problem.

Selling meditation as a key to success destroys meditation. If your meditation is directed at achieving goals, you’re only strengthening that part of you which is forever unsatisfied, forever seeking outside approval, forever chasing after money and power. You’ve discovered an even more effective way to ensure that you’ll never be happy, never be balanced, never have any kind of peace.

There’s a damned good reason the early Buddhists taught ethical precepts along with meditation. They understood right from the start that meditation without ethics can be a very bad thing indeed. For the meditator as much as for anyone else. But now we have to make our meditation courses completely secular. So a whole generation is learning to meditate without any training in ethics to go along with it.

DreamItA friend of mine posted one of those little affirmational memes the other day. It said, “Dream It, Believe It, Achieve It.” I posted a comment that said, “I want to achieve the ability to be unconcerned about achievement.”

Even though I want that, it’s probably not in the nature of things to ever be completely unconcerned about achievement. It may be hardwired into us as animals to compete with each other for resources. And even if it isn’t hardwired, we live in a society that measures success in very specific ways and rewards those who appear to achieve it while punishing those of us who do not.

But although we may never be completely free from the desire to achieve, we might be able to learn to see that desire for exactly what it really is. Just another thought inside our heads. No better or worse than any other random firing of neurons. Nothing to get excited about. Nothing that requires any response.

Maybe that’s another way to define “success.”

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Check out my podcast with Pirooz Kalayeh, ONCE AGAIN ZEN!

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July 1, 2016 Cleveland, Ohio Zero Defex at Now That’s Class!

July 4, 2016 Cleveland, Ohio Zero Defex TBA

July 8, 2016 Seattle, Washington EastWest Bookshop 7:30pm Talk & Book Signing

July 9, 2016 Seattle, Washington EastWest Bookshop 10am-3pm Workshop

September 10-11, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland 2-Day Retreat

September 14, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland Zazen and Discussion

September 16-17, 2016 Dublin, Ireland 3-Day Retreat

September 22-25, 2016 Hebden Bridge, England, 4-Day Retreat

September 27, 2016 – Wimbledon, London, England – Talk and Q&A

September 29-October 2, 2016 Helsinki, Finland, 4-Day Retreat

October 3, 2016 Turku, Finland, Talk at the University

October 4-5, Stockholm, Sweden, Talk and 1-Day-Retreat

October 7, 2016 Berlin, Germany Zenlab

October 14, 2016 Munich, Germany, Lecture

October 15-16, 2016 Munich, Germany, 2-Day Retreat

October 23-28, 2016 Benediktushof Meditation Centrum (near Würzburg, Germany) 5-Day Retreat



Every Monday at 8pm there’s zazen at Silverlake Yoga Studio 2 located at 2810 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90039. Beginners only!

Every Saturday at 10:00 am (NEW TIME!) there’s zazen at the Veteran’s Memorial Complex located at 4117 Overland Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230. Beginners only!

These on-going events happen every week even if I am away from Los Angeles. Plenty more info is available on the Dogen Sangha Los Angeles website,

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Your donations to this blog help me in my non-achievement of non-success. I won’t get any of the recent Angel City Zen Center fundraiser money. I appreciate your on-going support!

72 Responses

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  1. Alan Sailer
    Alan Sailer May 5, 2016 at 3:11 pm |

    “There’s a damned good reason the early Buddhists taught ethical precepts along with meditation. They understood right from the start that meditation without ethics can be a very bad thing indeed. For the meditator as much as for anyone else. But now we have to make our meditation courses completely secular. So a whole generation is learning to meditate without any training in ethics to go along with it.”

    I’m not trying to be a pain but I don’t remember either Kevin or you giving a single dharma talk related to ethics. And I’ve listened to a fair number at this point. Or is the ethics training hidden in between the words?

    Am I missing something or am I destined to turn into an immoral money grubbing success monster by practicing zen?


    1. Zafu
      Zafu May 5, 2016 at 3:40 pm |

      There’s a damn good reason he never taught ya the ethicals. He don’t got none to teach.

      I want to achieve the ability to be unconcerned about achievement.

      See here, he says it himself, he’s unconcerned about achieving the ethicals.

  2. Khru 2.0
    Khru 2.0 May 5, 2016 at 5:43 pm |

    Without gazing out a window,
    the way of the world can be seen.
    Without stepping beyond a door,
    the way of the Tao can be followed.

    The Way does not get closer
    by searching farther.

    The sage keeps to the beginning
    to discover the end.

    And finds without seeking;
    Arrives without leaving;
    Does without doing;

    And knows without understanding.


  3. tysondav
    tysondav May 5, 2016 at 6:14 pm |

    Really good post Brad. And (I’m being serious here) I bet you that this subject could get you on all those shows you just mentioned. The points you have made need to be put into any article or show talking about “mindfulness”.

    And to Alan’s point, unfortunately most Zen teachers don’t talk about ethics and compassion enough.

  4. Mumbles
    Mumbles May 5, 2016 at 6:15 pm |


    Here too. Here as at the other edge
    Of the hemisphere, an endless plain
    Where a man’s cry dies a lonely death . . .
    Here too the never understood,
    Anxious, and brief affair that is life.

    –Jorge Luis Borges

  5. SeanHolland
    SeanHolland May 5, 2016 at 6:19 pm |

    A friend of mine at work wrote a novel. She self-published. She is hoping some people will read her novel and maybe even buy it as a physical thing or an e-book. We were talking about how little money most authors make. I mentioned that I know this guy (I met him once, he played my guitar at a thing in Victoria, and I have had random momentary connections with him on the internet) who has had six books published, each of which you can still find in bookstores, but he doesn’t make “real” money from it. I mentioned that he writes about Buddhism with a bit of punk edge and so on. I mentioned his name. A stranger who happened to be sitting nearby said, “Oh yeah. I’ve heard of that guy.”
    I’ve heard of that guy! Some random dude in a teacher’s lounge in Canada has heard of that guy. Gee, random dudes in teacher’s lounges in random places in North America haven’t heard of me! “That guy” is a “success”! (Being heard of = success. I’m not sure I can support that proposition with anything logical, but let’s just let it sit there for a while anyway.) I said to the random dude, “Buy his books.” I don’t know if this will have any effect.

    1. DontQuoteScriptureAtMe
      DontQuoteScriptureAtMe May 5, 2016 at 9:06 pm |

      Shit, man! *I’ve* heard of that guy too!

      I drop him a meagre £5 a month. The thing I like most about Christianity is the story of the widow’s mite.

  6. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote May 5, 2016 at 9:16 pm |

    Thank you, Khru.

    “There’s a damned good reason the early Buddhists taught ethical precepts along with meditation.”

    Putting it that way makes it sound like there definitely was a reason; more, that it should not be questioned that there was a reason.

    “They understood right from the start that meditation without ethics can be a very bad thing indeed. ”

    Like they say in Wikipedia, “references are needed”.

    I think in the Pali Canon, “they” can be said to be “he”, and Gautama does definitely say that upright behavior is a prerequisite of meditative attainment. However, Soto Zen does not accord any special status to meditative attainment, but rather looks to actualization as a way of living.

    Gautama spoke of a way of living that involved mindfulness of particulars in inhalation and exhalation, and the words “[one] trains [oneself] thinking” imply that he applied and sustained thought much of the time. This would identify his way of life as belonging largely to what he identified as the first meditative state.

    To what extent is upright behavior necessary to the induction of the first meditative state? To what extent can we say that “mindful, (we) breathe in”, or “mindful, (we) breathe out”?

    “Making self-surrender the object of thought, one lays hold of concentration, one lays hold of one-pointedness of mind”–to what extent is upright behavior necessary to making self-surrender the object of thought?

    Gautama recalled the happiness he felt as a young boy, sitting meditating under a tree while his father plowed a field (that’s in the Canon, though I have to wonder why a king would be plowing-?!). When he recalled this, he thought to himself, could this be a way, and he answered himself something like, “this is indeed the way”. Had he concerned himself with upright behavior, prior to sitting under the tree?

    Was Angulimala the murderer unable to experience happiness in the way of living of a monk because of his prior conduct?

    Most of the Vinaya rules of conduct were established as a result of particular incidents; we know this because the incidents are cited as well. In the end, Gautama said “just keep the main three rules”, but nobody knew which three he was referring to.

    Gautama spoke of five hindrances to the religious life: they were coveting, ill will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and worry, and doubt. He prescribed particular remedies for each of these hindrances, and for doubt he spoke of being unperplexed about the states that are skilled.

    If you can overcome doubt, you can experience the states that are skilled and be unperplexed about them, but if you haven’t experienced the states that are skilled, you can’t be unperplexed about them so as to overcome doubt.

    Do I have to hold still, or do I have to let go?

    “The sage keeps to the beginning
    to discover the end.

    And finds without seeking;
    Arrives without leaving;
    Does without doing;

    And knows without understanding.”

  7. Sue
    Sue May 6, 2016 at 12:11 am |

    Here’s an article on the same train of thoughts that I find in your’s quite often, which is the reason I like your writing so much:
    Maybe the non-authentic of the success-stuff and the damaging potential of it scares me so much…but to do about it?

  8. vtstev
    vtstev May 6, 2016 at 5:12 am |

    I’m nobody! Who are you?
    Are you nobody, too?
    Then there’s a pair of us -don’t tell!
    They’d banish us, you know.

    How dreary to be somebody!
    How public, like a frog
    To tell your name the livelong day
    To an admiring bog! – Emily Dickinson

  9. Mumon
    Mumon May 6, 2016 at 7:42 am |

    To be fair, you did get to be on CNN once.

    Anyway, thanks for this post. It gave me impetus for a response over at my place, re: my sangha.

  10. mika
    mika May 6, 2016 at 10:34 am |

    1. of or relating to worldly things or to things that are not regarded as religious, spiritual, or sacred; temporal: secular interests.
    2. not pertaining to or connected with religion (opposed to sacred)”

    Notice how this is not a synonym for no-ethics? Please try to keep this in mind in the future when you want to rant against meditation without religion. If you want to write about things that don’t have ethical teachings embedded don’t use the word secular to describe them as it has nothing to do with the issue.

    For further reference:

  11. sri_barence
    sri_barence May 6, 2016 at 11:27 am |

    I think Buddhism could be considered a religion, in that we believe in the doctrine of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, of which keeping the precepts is a significant part. So dispensing with those aspects of Buddhism which are normally kept within the scope of Zen training and practice, would indeed be ‘secularising’ our practice.

    I don’t recall any specific Dharma talks or interactions with the Zen teachers in the Kwan Um school with regard to ethics, but the focus of the teaching has always been, “How can I help you?” The school’s mantra, The Great Dharani, is chanted twice every day during regular practice, and three times every day on retreats, along with the Heart Sutra. The Great Dharani is an excerpt from the Thousand-Hands-and-Eyes Sutra, which is about great compassion. Maybe this counts as ethical instruction.

    But that is just, like, my opinion, man.

    1. Khru 2.0
      Khru 2.0 May 6, 2016 at 8:29 pm |

      I applaud the Big Lebowski reference.

  12. rhastak
    rhastak May 6, 2016 at 12:17 pm |

    Thank you Brad!!

    1. Fred
      Fred May 6, 2016 at 1:59 pm |

      “Making self-surrender the object of thought, one lays hold of concentration, one lays hold of one-pointedness of mind”–to what extent is upright behavior necessary to making self-surrender the object of thought?”

      Self-surrender is surrendering the self, and one-pointedness of mind is the universe realizing itself.

      Whether the everyday self that is shaped by family, school and culture should have need of some ethical proscription, is nonsense. This self isn’t it. Fuck the self. Drop the self. Drop the body-mind.

      1. Mark Foote
        Mark Foote May 6, 2016 at 4:33 pm |

        Maybe my upbringing was too liberal; I have trouble relating to good reasons and very bad things.

        The emphasis on happiness, that has appeal for me. Beholding “this self it isn’t” has appeal for me.

        If ethics are so important, why is it that Gautama declared a person “defeated” if they engaged in intercourse, and most Japanese Zen teachers are married? The first schism in the order concerned whether or not an arahant could have a wet dream, and things have snow-balled from there, but it seems very apparent to me that it’s not necessary to have the same ethics as Gautama the Buddha to be considered enlightened enough to teach Zen these days.


        My personal opinion, as long as householders can’t find a way to live the way of life that makes someone qualified to teach Zen, a sustainable world economy will not be realized.

  13. BrotherNihil
    BrotherNihil May 7, 2016 at 12:15 am |

    My guess is one reason you haven’t enjoyed more success in the Amerikan cultural matrix is that you aren’t (correct me if I’m wrong) one of the Tribe or one of their favored goyim demographics. Your demographic is being slowly being culturally deprecated and purged according to a diabolical tribal strategy (hence the Trump phenomenon). You will probably deny this, but if you reflect upon it honestly, you will surely perceive that this is a huge factor in determining who succeeds and who doesn’t in Amerikan mainstream media-driven culture, which is so dominated by one particular group with such an openly hostile and radical tribal agenda.

    1. The Grand Canyon
      The Grand Canyon May 7, 2016 at 3:00 am |

      Are you seriously suggesting that it is the Jews’ fault that Brad is such a loser?

  14. Nicole
    Nicole May 7, 2016 at 6:55 am |

    I don’t know, for me success is more like a drug. You get high so you can forget how miserable you feel about yourself. And zazen is a way for me to see there’s no reason to be miserable in the first place, so no more need for those highs. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy when things work out, it’s just that the urgency is gone, and you’re happy about things working out rather than having shown again how great you are.

    I also think that you can screw up pretty much everything in life, including mindfulness. We’ve just been openly plagiarized by a guy who claims that he is not only a genius and a true polymath, but also a ‘mindfulness teacher’. Frankly, I don’t see how this can work, being mindful, and screwing other people, because if you were truly mindful, you’d be so disgusted by yourself that you probably wouldn’t do this. He’s just turning himself into a hoax rather than take his own chance to realize his own unique potential, and on top of this, his paper sucks, even for a copy. Nothing of this strikes me as particularly mindful.

    Maybe mindfulness is such a hot thing for some people right now, that they’re willing to focus on their breath, listen to sounds, or even stare at a white wall for hours without end, without ever figuring out what it is all about. You just can’t become mindful without letting go just a little bit in the first place. We always claim that ‘zazen does the work’, but I think you also have to be willing to let it happen. Perhaps that’s the true difference between ‘religious’ zazen and ‘secular’ meditation, it’s this little extra bit of humility you feel when you’re on the zafu, acknowledging that you’re not the greatest guy in the world, but just a part of something greater.

    If it wasn’t to avoid this feeling, there’d be no point in making meditation ‘secular’ in the first place, because why bother about this talk of Buddha, then? The guy’s been dead for over 2500 years. He’s not telling you any odd stories you’re forced to believe against your own better judgment, and most of his teachings are pretty obvious ethical rules that my grandmother could’ve told me as well. He never even mentioned a cross. So why avoid him? Actually, my grandmother was way more rigid than Gautama. Anyway, for a true secular, I see no need to avoid ‘religious’ meditation. You can just grab a zafu, enjoy the nice smell of whatever people are burning on that little table behind your back in front of that funny statue, chant the sutras as a respiration exercise, and enjoy those lovely, old stories for their poetic beauty if you absolutely can’t avoid them. So, if people go at lengths to avoid ‘religious’ meditation, what are they really avoiding? I think it’s right this letting go of ego without which mindfulness is just not possible. Maybe there’s people who find other ways of doing this, but I’d bet these wouldn’t be the people putting a strong emphasis on ‘secular’ vs. ‘religious’ meditation in the first place.

    1. Kyla
      Kyla May 7, 2016 at 7:21 am |

      “That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy when things work out, it’s just that the urgency is gone”—great point!!

    2. Zafu
      Zafu May 7, 2016 at 8:32 am |

      if you were truly mindful, you’d be so disgusted by yourself that you probably wouldn’t do this.

      We do stuff all the time that we know isn’t the best thing to do, out of habit or whatever. If we are mindful, in a secular sense, we stand a better chance of breaking such habits, I believe . Religious mindfulness, on the other hand, is more like what you describe, with the odd narrative about egolessness and the inability to do anything ‘wrong’.

      1. Nicole
        Nicole May 10, 2016 at 4:22 pm |

        It’s not about what’s right or wrong (not sure what that would be in zen, anyway), it’s about the ability to deceive yourself. Either you want to see reality for what it is or you don’t. You just can’t mindfully believe in your own lies.

        To the extent that everybody shares the experience of not being able to grasp his own ego at a certain stage of his practice, I also don’t think you need a narrative to reach egolessness, it simply becomes an observational fact. So there is no need for any religious narrative or dogma. I also don’t quite see how ‘religious’ mindfulness would be a different thing from ‘secular’ mindfulness, for me it’s just the same thing thought all the way through. Look at it that way: Just because you can hit a few keys on a piano doesn’t mean you’re Mozart. You can either follow a few rules about when to hit a given key on a piano, or you can express yourself fully through the music. Hitting the right key requires concentration, being Mozart means you’re letting yourself be penetrated completely by the technique. You forget yourself. You just can’t have the one (minfulness) without the other (egolessness), because both mean ultimately the same thing.

    3. xyzzy
      xyzzy May 7, 2016 at 4:02 pm |

      I can only speak for me, and I’m an odd duck… I got here recently by way of “secular” mindfulness because, ironically, its proponents try to convert people to it (isn’t that what we all love to hate about door-to-door religions?) And they are successful at converting people, because they kept enough of the stuff that works if you try it out.

      It is like eating toast with the crust cut off. Eventually a few people, who were picky eaters, get desperate enough and figure out that crust is an integral part of toast and that it will not kill them to eat it. Actually toast is better with crust. Anyway, I was curious, and also desperate (does anyone opt to sit and stare at walls who is not desperate?), so eventually read enough about where they cribbed everything from.

      But since I got here from already having a religion (still have it) I was already a huge fan of having ethics and have a high tolerance for apparent silliness (as long as it doesn’t immediately conflict with the apparent silliness I already have) so all people really had to point out was: 1. Buddha was just a guy not a deity, 2. literally no one cares if you don’t believe in rebirth 3. “no self” does not mean what pop culture thinks it means (I don’t know what the heck it does mean but that was good enough). I didn’t really need it to be *secular*, just needed to be better informed.

  15. Kyla
    Kyla May 7, 2016 at 7:21 am |

    Great blog and very thought-provoking comments. I’ve known many competitive ‘meditators’ over the years during my practice: for them it is all about bragging rights of how “spiritual” or “enlightened” they are, how many expensive/exotic retreats in far away places they been on etc.
    I am fortunate in my Sangha that there seems to be very few, if any people like this.
    I’ve seen that even in the Zen world (if I can call it that), there is competition and a craving for success in the practice. It’s kind of funny in some ways but I think it is part of human nature.

  16. Kyla
    Kyla May 7, 2016 at 7:25 am |

    P.S. I know someone who went on Oprah years ago. It was supposedly a show about people tackling addiction. My friend had worked the streets to feed her habit (she is in recovery now). They and the other guests were told they were going to talk about overcoming addiction.
    Oprah would not even say hello or talk to these people before the cameras rolled even though she was standing right next to them at many times. When the cameras did roll, Oprah acted like they had all chatted like old friends or something and then Oprah just launched into how they had been ‘prostitutes’ once they were filming. Nothing about the strengths they had in overcoming addiction. Oprah is a total jerk and hypocrite as far as I am concerned.

    1. Fred
      Fred May 7, 2016 at 1:44 pm |

      This fits right in with whoring for money to buy drugs.

      Supposedly the Buddha said:

      “‘Worthless man, haven’t I taught the Dhamma in many ways for the fading of passion, the sobering of intoxication, the subduing of thirst, the destruction of attachment, the severing of the round, the ending of craving, dispassion, cessation, unbinding? Haven’t I in many ways advocated abandoning sensual pleasures, comprehending sensual perceptions, subduing sensual thirst, destroying sensual thoughts, calming sensual fevers? Worthless man, it would be better that your penis be stuck into the mouth of a poisonous snake than into a woman’s vagina. It would be better that your penis be stuck into the mouth of a black viper than into a woman’s vagina. It would be better that your penis be stuck into a pit of burning embers, blazing and glowing, than into a woman’s vagina.”

      Based on this, if you engage in sexual intercourse, isn’t your practice unethical?

      1. Mumbles
        Mumbles May 7, 2016 at 3:47 pm |

        No, Buddha obviously wanted all the chicks for himself. You know those horny guru-types, insatiable.

      2. Mark Foote
        Mark Foote May 7, 2016 at 7:29 pm |

        Gautama didn’t mess around, in his characterization of the act that brought him into this world.

        The things he spoke of seem to me as almost miraculous attainments:

        “… the fading of passion, the sobering of intoxication, the subduing of thirst, the destruction of attachment, the severing of the round, the ending of craving, dispassion, cessation, unbinding? Haven’t I in many ways advocated abandoning sensual pleasures, comprehending sensual perceptions, subduing sensual thirst, destroying sensual thoughts, calming sensual fevers?”

        Yet as to how he arrived at these attainments, he described a happiness in sitting under a tree watching his father plow, he described a happiness in each of the meditative states including the cessation of habitual activity in perception and sensation, and he described his failure on the path of aceticism.

        Zen guys can be remarkable, but one of the big lessons of Zen in the West seems to be that amazing presence and concentration can exist without the necessity to observe the moral and even legal standards of the community.

        Gautama emphasized his way of living, a mindfulness connected with in-breathing and out-breathing, and described it as a thing perfect in itself. He said that a cessation of habitual activity in inhalation and exhalation coincides with the experience of a happiness that does not exist apart from equanimity, and what I’m experiencing is that a rhythm of mindfulness in connection with in-breathing and out-breathing requires mindfulness of cessation in connection with in-breathing and out-breathing as well.

        And that for me is more a matter of happiness than of attainments and moral proscriptions. I see Gautama’s teaching of a way of living “perfect in itself” as a confession on his part that his emphasis on attainment and on meditation on the unlovely was harmful to his followers, and I have to believe that his teachings about what a monk might as well have inserted his penis into occurred before he acceded to Ananda’s third request and allowed an order of nuns. I have to believe he watched his mouth a little more after his aunt began the order of nuns, and maybe his remarks about “a woman will try to lead a man astray even on her deathbed” ceased then too.

        In short, I don’t think he himself was perfect, even if he could describe a way of living for the rainy season that was “perfect in itself”.

      3. Kyla
        Kyla May 8, 2016 at 4:11 am |

        I never meant my post to lead to my friend being reduced to just a whore. Sometimes this blog comments section is one big sausage fest. It doesn’t feel like a good place for women much of the time. That is too bad because I like Brad’s blog. There are circumstances in some people’s childhood that lead them to living on the streets. People who have had more sheltered, easy lives don’t get that. And they don’t get that people can overcome that life and do positive and meaningful things in the world.
        It’s too bad people can’t actually discuss things that don’t just have to do with them and there opinions and views.

        1. Zafu
          Zafu May 8, 2016 at 9:55 pm |


          1. Kyla
            Kyla May 9, 2016 at 6:39 am |

            Oh I see my stalker is back. I’m sorry this is the only way you can talk with a beautiful, successful woman “Zafu”–by hiding behind some stupid name on a blog. I truly am. You’ll never know true love or happiness (things I have in my life). Don’t worry, you still own this blog. It’s not worth my hanging around to be in some cliquey comments section. Unfortunately, people like you turn this blog into a piece of shit because you’re the baggage. I’m not going to be some woman who needs to stick around and prove assholes didn’t run me off. Good bye, have a nice life, well have a so-called life anyways.

          2. Zafu
            Zafu May 9, 2016 at 9:01 am |


          3. o
            o May 9, 2016 at 3:28 pm |


          4. Zafu
            Zafu May 9, 2016 at 5:03 pm |

            The problem with feeding a troll, o, is… well, you’ll get it some day.

      4. Cygni
        Cygni May 9, 2016 at 11:55 am |
        1. Zafu
          Zafu May 9, 2016 at 12:27 pm |


          1. Cygni
            Cygni May 9, 2016 at 3:41 pm |
    2. Cygni
      Cygni May 7, 2016 at 8:41 pm |

      It’s Mahàmaya Day

    3. senorchupacabra
      senorchupacabra May 8, 2016 at 6:34 pm |

      You probably have already observed this, but the whole appeal of the Oprah “spiritual” stuff is that it’s a competition. It’s right there in the “branding,” hence the title “SUPER Soul Sunday.” It’s not just “Soul Sundays” or “Soulful Sundays” or whatever. It’s “Super.” People who tune in are “Super” soulful or whatever.

      The irony being, of course, being that such an implicit message exacerbates the illusory aspects of the ego and feeds the ego-monster, as exhibited by the rather egocentric and megalomaniac Oprah Winfrey, as well as the vast majority of her SSS guests.

      1. Zafu
        Zafu May 9, 2016 at 3:40 pm |

        Racist and anti-feminist, a winning combination!

  17. Michel
    Michel May 8, 2016 at 1:48 am |

    Mark Foote wrote:
    “Was Angulimala the murderer unable to experience happiness in the way of living of a monk because of his prior conduct?”
    I don’t think so, but I don’t think he had it easy either. At one point where he returns from his alms errand bruised and bloody because people had recognised him, he says so to the Buddha who replies that it’s a bit normal…

    “Most of the Vinaya rules of conduct were established as a result of particular incidents; we know this because the incidents are cited as well. In the end, Gautama said “just keep the main three rules”, but nobody knew which three he was referring to. ”
    I’d bet these were the “don’t kill, don’t steal, and don’t lie” precepts…

  18. Michel
    Michel May 8, 2016 at 1:53 am |

    Personally, I’m more than a bit tired of hearing “zennists” blabber about the samurai and such. A samurai is a military man, thus not someone who deals in general social ethics, even though he will have his own sort of samurai ethics (which can be somewhat devastating sometimes in a larger context…).

    All this fascination with the war thing has led too many zennists to be harsh, unforgiving, unsympathetic and boorish. And when you tell them of Master Dogen’s four virtues of a bodhisattva, they don’t even know what you’re talking about (but, of course, “Master Dogen is important but as you can’t understand him, you don’t need to read him”…).

    This is at least the French Zen landscape. And it’s particularly dreary…

  19. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon May 8, 2016 at 3:09 am |

    Religion does not put morality into people.
    People put morality into religion.

    1. Zafu
      Zafu May 8, 2016 at 10:02 pm |

      Morality puts people religion into.
      Into puts religion people morality.

      1. Doge
        Doge May 9, 2016 at 3:18 am |

        very genius

  20. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote May 8, 2016 at 7:23 pm |

    Michel, I’m thinking it was maybe intended as more general right action of speech, body, and livelihood.


    “She and her colleagues are testing a relaxation technique called mindfulness-based stress reduction to influence the microbiome. In people with gut pain and discomfort, the meditation-based practice reduced symptoms and changed their brains in clinically interesting ways, according to unpublished work. The researchers suspect that the microbiome was also altered by the meditation. They are testing that hypothesis now.”

    From here.

    “Clinically interesting ways”; Warner, bring your brain in here, we’d like to test your microbiome…

    1. Mark Foote
      Mark Foote May 9, 2016 at 8:29 pm |

      “right action of speech, body, and livelihood” as the three to be observed–I think somehow I’m drawing that from the lecture on “the great six-fold (sense-) field”, which is odd, because what Gautama says there is:

      “(Anyone)…knowing and seeing eye as it really is, knowing and seeing material shapes… visual consciousness… impact on the eye as it really is, and knowing, seeing as it really is the experience, whether pleasant, painful, or neither painful nor pleasant, that arises conditioned by impact on the eye, is not attached to the eye nor to material shapes nor to visual consciousness nor to impact on the eye; and that experience, whether pleasant, painful, or neither painful nor pleasant, that arises conditioned by impact on the eye—neither to that is (such a one) attached. …(Such a one’s) physical anxieties decrease, and mental anxieties decrease, and bodily torments… and mental torments… and bodily fevers decrease, and mental fevers decrease. (Such a one) experiences happiness of body and happiness of mind. (repeated for ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind).

      Whatever is the view of what really is, that for (such a one) is right view; whatever is aspiration for what really is, that for (such a one) is right aspiration; whatever is endeavour for what really is, that is for (such a one) right endeavour; whatever is mindfulness of what really is, that is for (such a one) right mindfulness; whatever is concentration on what really is, that is for (such a one) right concentration. And (such a one’s) past acts of body, acts of speech, and mode of livelihood have been well purified.”

      (Majjhima-Nikaya, Pali Text Society volume 3 pg 337-338)

      So I’m thinking that observing right action of speech, of body, and of livelihood are the three rules Gautama spoke of as the only three that really had to be observed, yet it would seem that the way to observe these “rules” is knowing and seeing as it really is with regard to the (sense-) fields, and then you will only know that your past acts of speech, body, and livelihood have been “well purified”–not how to observe right action of speech, of body, or of livelihood in the present.

      My ancient and twisted karma, I do now fully embrace.

  21. Cygni
    Cygni May 9, 2016 at 9:20 pm |
  22. french-roast
    french-roast May 10, 2016 at 1:15 am |

    The road to success! ‘I’

  23. french-roast
    french-roast May 10, 2016 at 1:21 am |

    This one is for Zafu, many thanks for all your insightful comments.

  24. Shinchan Ohara
    Shinchan Ohara May 10, 2016 at 8:16 am |

    What’s a sausage fest?

    1. Shinchan Ohara
      Shinchan Ohara May 10, 2016 at 4:21 pm |

      nevermind, I googled

      …Crowd surfing, moshing, crowd circles and throwing objects are dangerous and can cause serious injury. This behaviour is not permitted and we reserve the right to remove offenders from the Event. Sliding in mud can cause serious illness.

      Please respect the local residents when travelling to and from the Event and keep noise to a minimum as you leave the site.


      Dogs are welcome at the event as long as they are kept on a lead at all times and any mess is picked up and placed in a bin in a bag. Any dog owners caught not picking up after their animals may be removed from the Event…

  25. Zafu
    Zafu May 10, 2016 at 8:48 am |

    You’re more than welcome, Mr. Roast.

    Bye the way, Brad wrote to me again about my behavior here. He’s been pretty tolerant in the past but now more than ever, for some reason that he didn’t share with me, he’d like to “transform the environment” of the blog. He writes:

    … and in the place that they conventionally call a “comment section” I want to manifest a spaceless space without boundaries where spiritual seekers can share their insights and experiences with me in sacred communion.

    I was like, wow, that is different. He went on to say:

    Spiritual seekers come here looking for an authentic paternal figure to connect with, because they’ve never had that in their lives and it’s something that we all need. Psychologist call this “transference,” but that’s a cold description for such a beautiful and precious thing. I can be that for them. I want to be that for them. I need to be that for them.

    He went on, and on, and on… finally asking for my help in what he’s trying to do here. I said that I would try.

    1. Bubba
      Bubba May 10, 2016 at 4:56 pm |


      I think that’s been done before.

      1. mb
        mb May 10, 2016 at 8:53 pm |

        Gurdjieff had a troll on his payroll ?!

  26. french-roast
    french-roast May 11, 2016 at 2:29 am |

    Brad a paternal figure?, I would not have thought about that one. And I would not push that metaphor to far either. But, I must admit that after reading what zafu wrote, I seriously ask myself if in some mysterious way I too was in search for a connection with a father that I never had on this blog. It took me a few hours to ponder on this before I could definitively say no. It is of some interest to me because in some way, that is exactly the role which my teacher wanted me to play. I have always refuse categorically and quite explicitly to play that game. I do not have this in me. I would think that the paternal (or maternal) figure metaphor stands for being look at as a caring, valid (authentic) orienting center. I do feel that is what some people are desperately looking for; some kind of orienting center which is above themselves and to whom you kind of bend your own ‘authority/center’ to. To some extent, I do feel that this has some value within the context of a spiritual practice, but within limits. This allows the yielding of one’s rigid center to ‘something’ ‘greater’ than oneself. The value resides in the yielding itself, one yield, but does not yield to someone or something. And that is also the danger! Because both disciple and teacher might no see clearly on these matter. The disciple yield its own ‘center’ to, and may come to think that the teacher is kind of the absolute center to which it yields to. Some teachers unfortunately do not have the necessary maturity to comprehend what is going on and profit from the situation by establishing themselves as the ‘center’, truth itself. There seems to be a ‘natural’ tendency in human being to yield there own center to another ‘center’; Alcoholic Anonymous, new born Christian, Hitler, etc. We all have/are a center, but we are not The Center, nor is anything or anyone The Center. We think that this center is an absolute, that it is unique, distinct and highly important. It is this ‘belief’ that is the cause of a lot of suffering in the world, and in ourselves. I would think that the way to go is to yield to, but not yield to something or someone, including our own self! We must yield our own center, but not to another center, we must yield to the very idea of centers.

    1. Shinchan Ohara
      Shinchan Ohara May 11, 2016 at 9:33 am |

      That sounds about right to me, but I’m not sure that anybody fully yields “the very idea of centers”. Even Buddha touches the earth for support, from time to time.

      It’s completely OK that people sometimes give authority to a therapist or roshi, (or to a God of AA or Born-Again)… accepting an external locus of control. When it becomes apparent that the ego can’t be trusted, we naturally seek a transitional object, to provide sufficient sense of safety to make change possible.

      People usually drop that kind of dependent state, eventually – in christian terms,god the father transforms into ” a circle whose center is everywhere and its circumference is nowhere”. I guess this is similar to the “dhyana with suchness as its object” in the lankavatara sutra.

      Of course in Zen we want to burst the bubble of “suchness as object” too … but after it’s burst, a crutch is just a crutch, a pacifier is just a pacifier, a teacher is just a teacher, and a center is just a center – we can play freely with all of them.

      1. Shinchan Ohara
        Shinchan Ohara May 11, 2016 at 9:49 am |
      2. Andy
        Andy May 11, 2016 at 10:09 am |


  27. skatemurai
    skatemurai May 11, 2016 at 4:42 am |

    Is aversion to success automatically fear of it? I don’t want to stress myself unnecessarily, and wanting to suceed does exactly that.

  28. Khru 2.0
    Khru 2.0 May 11, 2016 at 8:38 am |

    “The more we’re attached to our opinions, the more we suffer.” etc etc.

    “We are simply ghosts driving skin-bags,” etc etc.

    “Opinions are like belly buttons,” etc etc.

Comments are closed.