Rock And Roll And The Bodhisattva Vow

190211_rock-sThis weekend, the movie Brad Warner’s Hardcore Zen will play in Boulder (Sat. Jan. 18 at 7:00pm at Muenziger Auditorium at the University of Colorado) and Denver (Sunday Jan. 19 at 1:00pm at Sie Film Center). We’re still several tickets short of our necessary minimum for the Denver screening. So please buy some tickets, Denver people!

My next event after that is a retreat with Kazuaki Tanahashi at Upaya Zen Center Feb 18-23. It’ll be a groovy time, for sure!

I spent a couple hours writing a blog post today that I realized halfway through was a piece of crap. So I deleted it. I still want to post something, but I’ve got stuff to do and have run out of time. So I dug up an article I wrote years ago and never (as far as I remember) put up on the blog. It’s not fantastic. But it’s OK. Here you go!

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A couple weeks ago, the place where I do my regular Zen talks had a fund raising event. Because of my background as a musician, the folks who organized the event asked me to do some kind of a performance there. So I put together a new version of my old band and got together a set. There was another group on the bill that night, a politically concerned all-female ethnic music ensemble. Being the more popular act, they went on first and we were the mop-up act. They didn’t have a P.A. system, so we let ‘em use ours. They didn’t have a set of drums with ‘em, so our drummer let ‘em use his. No biggie. In the old punk rock days we had no choice but to share equipment. It was part of the group ethic that you did not refuse to share.

Between songs, the other band kept talking about big important issues. Awareness was the key word. We all needed to be aware of social problems, aware of injustice, aware of war, aware of poverty, aware of discrimination because of race, gender and sexual orientation. If only we were aware of these things we could begin to make a difference!

Minutes after their set was finished, the members of the first band were nowhere to be found and neither were a single one of their fans. Where was their commitment to social awareness, I wondered, when they weren’t even aware they were breaching one of the cardinal rules of band etiquette? When you play with another group, whether you like them or not, you stay for at least part of their set — especially if you’ve borrowed some of their equipment.

I’m taking this band to task not because I want to hold myself up as an example of good in opposition to their evil. In fact, I know only too well exactly where they’re coming from because I spent so much time there myself. And I fear that much of American Buddhism is also following the same path.

I spoke at Clouds in Water Zen Center in St. Paul, Minnesota a little while ago and someone in the audience asked me about the Bodhisattva Vow — you know, that whole deal about, “Living beings are numberless, I vow to save them all.” Everyone loves that one, and everyone wants you to talk about it. But I wonder how we in America understand the Bodhisattva Vow.

It seems to me that a lot of folks worry that Buddhism is too selfish, it isn’t doing enough to deal with the major issues. How does sitting in one spot solve the problems of global warming and war? How does it end racism, starvation, suicide bombings? These are urgent problems that demand immediate action. I understand that feeling very well. I gave up on Buddhist practice more than once because I felt like it was taking time away that could be spent dealing with more important issues.

We feel guilty about sitting there, doing all this work on ourselves instead of going out in the world and alleviating the suffering of other living beings out there. But I wonder if we can really help anyone else effectively unless we help ourselves first. It’s like what they tell you when you’re on an airplane, put your own oxygen mask on before helping others with theirs. Cuz if you suffocate you won’t be able to do anyone any good.

Sitting in one spot, working on yourself is really the only way to deal with the big issues facing human kind. Remember that idea you always read in Buddhist books about how subject and object are one and the same, how there is no real difference between yourself and the outside world? This wasn’t invented as a clever metaphor. It’s actually a truer and better description of our real situation than the so-called common sense view.

When we, ourselves, become calmer, more rational, more centered, everything we do naturally becomes a fulfillment of the Bodhisattva Vow. When we make efforts to center ourselves, the rest of the world participates in that effort. It sounds weird, I know. But it happens to be true. The real fulfillment of the Bodhisattva Vow rarely manifests itself in big, sweeping acts of heroic service to all mankind. It’s usually something very small.

Smiling at your boss even though he is a smug, self-serving royal pain in the ass is the fulfillment of the Bodhisattva Vow. Shutting up when you spontaneously think of the perfect sarcastic come-back to a rude clerk at the DMV is the fulfillment of the Bodhisattva Vow. Putting the toilet seat down after you’re done so your sister won’t fall in is the fulfillment of the Bodhisattva Vow. Staying behind and watching some of the set by the band who lent you their stuff is the fulfillment of the Bodhisattva Vow.

Your real day-to-day, minute-to-minute activity right here and right now has immeasurable impact upon the entire Universe. Your real action right here and now creates the Universe.

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84 Responses

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  1. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote January 21, 2014 at 10:06 am | |

    Hi, Boubi,

    To my mind, cranial-sacral theory is still the best explanation of how posture and psychic phenomena could be connected.

    However, most people aren’t interested in such a connection, and I’m not much when it comes to psychic ability.

    In my own practice, the way the muscles and tendons inform the sense of equalibrium has come forward, and when I have a sense of equalibrium and gravity in my awareness I feel no pain. I can’t help being drawn to that.

    Sonia the chocolate lab passed away, my sweetheart said it was time for me to move on, and I’m now in sunny Petaluma with a loaner terrier named Shadow sleeping on my bed.

    http://scontent-b-sjc.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-frc3/1609698_628529900547151_1788835751_n.jpg

    Thanks for asking! :)

    1. Fred
      Fred January 21, 2014 at 12:04 pm | |

      Sorry about your chocolate lab, Mark.

  2. navybsn
    navybsn January 21, 2014 at 11:03 am | |

    Things are easy to talk about but hard to actually do.
    Easy to talk about zazen, hard to actually sit on the mat cosistently.
    Easy to say we just need awareness, hard to actually achieve, and even harder to accept that our awareness of a problem doesn’t lead to massive social outcry.

    I think the biggest problem I see on a regular basis is people expect massive change instead of incremental change, whether it be in the health, spiritual life, or with a cause they are pursuing. It always makes me think of my grandparents. They got to where they were in life by working hard, saving money, and devoting themselves to a way of life over a long period of time. They didn’t jump to a new plan because the neighbors were doing it. They were dedicated – long term. Most people these days think long term as a few months, a year max. It takes steadfast dedication to a goal to actually achieve it but talking about something takes almost no effort at all.

  3. boubi
    boubi January 21, 2014 at 12:56 pm | |

    Hi Mark

    My impression is that in some positions the brain needn’t to “think” how to balance the body, there are no/less tensions.
    So whatever else you do with your mind it isn’t hampered, it’s more free to deal with the other task or no task.

    “loaner terrier” ? what’s that? like this http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_CmY0lpCaDKA/RuWuqf_2MvI/AAAAAAAAAJM/Jlcffh2KQ1Y/s400/Jack%2BRussell%2BTerrier.jpg ?

    Never seen a kind of malinois with a tiger/stripped coat?

  4. Mumbles
    Mumbles January 21, 2014 at 6:22 pm | |

    This thread is so fucked up, who knows where this will land, Jesus H Christ Brad/Stonemirror whoever, get this thing together please, or explain to your paying customers (not me, sorry, poor folk like you) why this thing is f-d.

    Mark, if there is a Buddha, you are it, your compassion among just these folk is commendable, an old rasty drunk like me included. Keep on doing whatever your non-self tells you too, you crazy Mahayana diamond!

  5. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote January 21, 2014 at 8:39 pm | |

    Thanks, Fred. Sonia was a loaner dog too. I live in other people’s houses and walk their dogs for fun, lately! I am a lucky guy to be with other people.

    Thanks, John, for high praise. Wish I could join you for that kitchen counter poetry session, we’ll get Andy at the table too.

    Like this guy, boubi?

    http://www.purdue.edu/police/images/k93.jpg

    boubi, what interests me is staying in a position until I find ease in the stretch, then discovering I’m past ease but still into it; likewise, staying with my senses and finding joy in my thoughts, then discovering I’m past that joy but still into all of the senses including thought. I think it doesn’t matter what position you start out in, if you hold that position for 40 minutes there’s some aspect of it that is a stretch in the movement of breath, and I can learn from that.

    Don’t want to be too attached to it, though.

    As to making a plan and sticking with it, somebody on the news the other night was talking about how everybody should expect to have three different careers in their lifetime, these days. Meaning these days careers become obsolete as fast as computer chips, and plans based on stable jobs in stable communities may be a thing of the past.

  6. boubi
    boubi January 22, 2014 at 3:17 am | |

    Yes, that’s the dog, what kind is it?

    Yesterday news was that the 85 richest guys own the same as the 3 bilion poorest, anybody saw “wolfs of wall street” ?

    1. boubi
      boubi January 22, 2014 at 3:24 am | |

      The you see the feds arrassing normal people while the real scum is making billions of dollars

      http://finance.yahoo.com/news/man-interrogated-fbi-wearing-prescription-153924216.html

      The difference is that while the victims of the big scumbags are small fry without a lobby of their own, the big corporations can call the FBI at will. The first crimes are valued in trillions and destroyed the life of billions of people, while the second isn’t even a thousandth of the first.

      You fix the stock exchange or the Libor and you pleabargain, you get strange glasses and you get treated like a criminal.

      You risk life and limbs serving your country and they cut your benefits, while financing bleakwaters companies

  7. mika
    mika January 24, 2014 at 11:04 am | |

    Oh by the way, if you (Brad & Pirooz) haven’t fully researched the online distribution options yet for HCZ the Movie, I recommend these two articles that deal with the subject:
    http://lightsfilmschool.com/blog/how-to-get-your-indie-film-onto-itunes-netflix/1817/
    http://mediakitchenfilms.blogspot.fi/2012/09/how-i-got-my-movie-in-itunes-hulu.html

    Seems like you could raise the required capital from crowdfunding and I would suppose a movie like HCZ (even though I haven’t yet seen it) would stand a chance of breaking even on iTunes and Hulu.

  8. jiesen
    jiesen January 27, 2014 at 7:33 pm | |

    i guess, originally, there weren’t any bodhisattvas or arharts, just brahmin.

    In this story, the being who will become Siddhartha Gautama was born to a Brahmin family during the time of Dipankara Buddha, one of the Buddhas of the remote past. When the Brahmin was a youth he heard of the arrival in his town of Dipankara Buddha, and in his religious fervour rushed out to greet the arriving Buddha. The road into town was in some disrepair and a large muddy patch lay in Dipankara’s way. The Brahmin youth laid down on the ground and draped his long hair over the mud puddle so that Dipankara would not have to step in the mud. At this moment Dipankara recognized the enormous faith of the Brahmin youth and predicted that he would later be reborn as the Buddha Shakyamuni. The prediction of enlightenment and of future Buddhahood is extremely important — all Buddhas must have had a prediction of their enlightenment during one of their previous incarnations.

    http://huntingtonarchive.osu.edu/studypages/internal/dl/SouthAsia/Buddhist/pgs/u5/DL0208m.htm

  9. jiesen
    jiesen January 27, 2014 at 7:41 pm | |

    http://huntingtonarchive.osu.edu/studypages/internal/dl/SouthAsia/Buddhist/pgs/u5/DL0208m.htm

    so really….long haired rock’n'roll and buddhism go hand in hand. you never know when your ganna hav’ta “throw down” ?

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