I am stunned and amazed by the response to that last post. It proves once again that I have no idea when I’m being controversial and when I’m not. I’ve put posts up here previously that I was certain would set off riots with blood flowing freely through the streets and no one seemed even to have noticed. Then something like my thing about Big Mind™ — which I felt was a pretty minor rant, standard issue for me and a tad boring — doesn’t just get over 140 responses here, but sets off a long, long thread at something called the Buddhist Community E-Sangha (don’t ask me, I never heard of it before someone sent me the link). Maybe it’s cold out in most of the country this time of year and people don’t have much else to do but sit and type on their computers.

I looked at most of the comments. Some were pretty impressive. The one video link someone posted of Ken Wilber wired up to what looks like an Etch-a-Sketch with blinking Christmas tree lights Scotch-taped to it to prove he can go into the most macho deep Samadhi the world has ever known is classic, by the way. Honestly, I cannot even comprehend why anyone would fall for something like that.

The comments about the sixth and seventh precepts deserve a little discussion, though. These are the precepts telling us not to criticize others (or “other Buddhists” as it is sometimes given) or to be proud of ourselves and slander others. One of the great problems I see in Buddhism today is the way these precepts can be twisted to give just about anything deflector shields worthy of a Klingon Bird of Prey against all criticism by anyone involved in Buddhism merely by stating that what one is doing is a form of Buddhist practice. The very worst example of this was in 1995 after the “Buddhist Master” Shoko Asahara used poison gas on the Tokyo subways. My friend Taijun, a Japanese Buddhist nun, paid close attention to the TV, newspaper and magazine coverage of that event in Japan. Though a huge number of Buddhist monks and nuns were interviewed about Asahara, and though all of them condemned the attack, not one of the monks or nuns Taijun saw or read about said that what Asahara taught was not Buddhism. It’s as if they couldn’t bring themselves to cross that line.

Since the Sixties, words like Enlightenment, Awakening, Satori, Kensho and all the rest have entered into our language and popular culture. Lots of people think they want these experiences, but have no idea just what they really are. As long as the deep confusion about these words remains, it’s easy for unscrupulous people to define anything they please as Enlightenment. In the Sixties and Seventies lots of folks in the West thought that the brain damage caused by the use of various psychoactive chemicals was Enlightenment. A few years ago a couple of pinhead burn-outs tried to revive that idea with a popular book and, amazingly, found a large number of supposed “Buddhists” who either supported or were unwilling to criticize their position. Now we have organizations trying to promote the idea that Enlightenment is something that can be had instantly through some special technique that — Surprise! Surprise! —they just happen to hold the patent on.

One of the posters at Suicide Girls pointed out that the purported Buddhist Master I’d criticized there recently was the head of a large and highly respected Buddhist organization. I had actually deliberately left that detail out because, to me, that makes it all the more troubling. So long as no one from that group points out that what this man is selling is clearly unrelated in any way to Buddhism, the rest of us have to assume the organization as a whole supports and agrees with it. And that is a sad state of affairs.

It is very important for those who practice and teach Buddhism to be willing to speak out when some popular trend claiming to be Buddhist is clearly not. That doesn’t always mean shouting from a soapbox. But maintaining noble silence may not be the only alternative. As Buddhism becomes more fashionable and establishes itself as a mainstream philosophy the tendency for all manner of charlatans to latch on to the air of sanctity available to anything that labels itself “Buddhist” will only increase. If we don’t criticize these things because we fear we may violate the precepts we’re doing a terrible disservice to people who want to know what real Buddhism actually is.

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287 Responses

  1. Dan
    Dan March 9, 2007 at 7:40 am |

    and actually, when you say ‘a lot of time’. well, i’ve probably sent about ten emails in total and i’ve asked mike luetchford a few questions in person so i wouldnt say that i was obsessed with it exactly.

  2. gniz
    gniz March 9, 2007 at 7:58 am |

    Dan, you wrote: “the goal of zazen is to sit zazen.
    just do it”
    I think this would have been more clear of you to say:

    “I’m just a student and I am not sure of what I speak. I’m still learning and trying to understand what Zazen is. But it seems to me that the goal of zazen is to sit zazen.”

    This would be more accurate than your initial statement which implied authority based on experience.

  3. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 9, 2007 at 8:00 am |


  4. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 9, 2007 at 8:02 am |

    Somethimes things are very important and it iss ennsebtisnn ddkdj$ 7d8 8hfep pe49h fhout kekjps coming around to the same thing.

  5. Dan
    Dan March 9, 2007 at 8:19 am |

    you’re right gniz but at the same time, my experience of zazen and my experience of learning from people i trust has all concluded that the point (i think point is probably better than goal) of zazen is just the act of zazen itself. what i know is that if you try and think of zazen as a means rather than an end in itself then you will end up dissappointed. the experience of what it’s like to just be able to sit and genuinely relax just, as you would say, pay attention. that experience is good enough for me. i’m not interested in enlightenment or kensho or whatever experiences and all that mystical stuff. i just like to sit for the sake of it.

    the reason why i said ‘just do it’ is because it seems that a whole lot of people on this site have never sat zazen but still profess to be able talk about it cohenrently (obviously not you anon. – the one who’s been sitting for years)

  6. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 9, 2007 at 8:20 am |

    Does anyone get time to sit zazen amidst the pointless shit they’re discussing here?

  7. drunken monkey
    drunken monkey March 9, 2007 at 8:45 am |

    “”Quoting Charlotte Joko Beck: “Eventually you have to learn how to focus.””

    I literally just wrote about this on my blog–funny to see someone posting it here around the same time.”

    You know when I began zazen practice, I was so intense in zazen, that after practice I would go out in the sun and feel absolutely embelished in the moment. It was an amazing experience.

    I really need to find that intensity amidst this busy lifestyle that I have. Its definately worth it.

  8. gniz
    gniz March 9, 2007 at 8:46 am |

    Obviously we cant have time to sit zazen with all this talking.

    We dont even eat or sleep!

    Ummm, btw, there are more than two or three people talking here, sometimes people hop on and off the internet, etc. So what looks like constant posting to you is really just the sum total of a bunch of different people!

  9. drunken monkey
    drunken monkey March 9, 2007 at 8:48 am |

    “i just like to sit for the sake of it. “


    Zazen is basically being in the moment with body and mind. It wouldn’t seem so absurd to someone who has actually practiced zazen with some sincerity.

    That is why I sit to just sit.

  10. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 9, 2007 at 9:28 am |


    one-hunderod und sixtee!

  11. gniz
    gniz March 9, 2007 at 9:57 am |


    one-hunderod und sixtee!”

    God that post just made my day…

  12. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 9, 2007 at 10:06 am |

    :’####:::’##…. ##:’##…. ##:
    :.. ##::: ##::::..::..::::: ##:
    ::: ##::: ########:::’#######::
    ::: ##::: ##…. ##:’##::::::::
    ::: ##::: ##:::: ##: ##::::::::
    :’######:. #######:: #########:

  13. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 9, 2007 at 10:16 am |


  14. gniz
    gniz March 9, 2007 at 10:17 am |

    Lets see if we can get to 200 comments without complete and utter spammage

    or spam away, but thats not as fun!


  15. Brad
    Brad March 9, 2007 at 10:18 am |

    162 and 163 are butt buddies.
    160 is the real number.

  16. Brad
    Brad March 9, 2007 at 10:23 am |

    That’s not me. But I do miss having Mike around and I hope he’s doing well.

  17. gniz
    gniz March 9, 2007 at 10:25 am |

    I’ve got an idea that MIGHT get us to 200 comments.

    Okay, rank these Buddhist masters from most enlightened (#1) to least enlightened (#10).

    Brad Warner
    Gudo Nishijima
    Dennis Genpo Merzel Roshi
    Alan Watts
    Joseph Goldstein
    Chögyam Trungpa
    Ramana Maharshi
    Al Gore

  18. A Fool
    A Fool March 9, 2007 at 10:30 am |

    Ramana Maharshi
    Joseph Goldstein
    Chögyam Trungpa
    Alan Watts
    Gudo Nishijima
    Dennis Genpo Merzel Roshi
    Brad Warner
    Al Gore

  19. gniz
    gniz March 9, 2007 at 10:33 am |

    My list order goes like so:

    1.Ramana (takes it with solitude)
    2.Osho (close behind with the beard)
    3.Gandhi (took a bullet like a man)
    4.J. Goldstein (nice guy)
    5.Brad Warner (brought the punk)
    6.Chogyam (gave us 100 proof enlightenment)
    7.Gudo (best posture)
    8. Genpo Roshi (why not)
    9. Al Gore (enlightened about Global warming)
    10. Alan Watts (tool)

  20. a fool
    a fool March 9, 2007 at 10:53 am |

    should get back to doing work. this not useful & may be harmful.

  21. oxeye
    oxeye March 9, 2007 at 11:21 am |

    hmm.. That is a tough one. I vote for Eden Ahbez.

    Most Enlightened Guy

  22. Jules
    Jules March 9, 2007 at 11:47 am |

    I have an even better idea, gniz. Let’s list the first 10 US Presidents, from least dead to most dead.

  23. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 9, 2007 at 12:19 pm |

    that yogi song is even stickier than brad’s cake song. i’ll never get rid of it now unless i listen to the cake song again. damn..

  24. 174
    174 March 9, 2007 at 12:59 pm |

    I am 174

  25. User 175
    User 175 March 9, 2007 at 1:03 pm |

    and I am 175!

  26. Winged Monkey
    Winged Monkey March 9, 2007 at 1:05 pm |

    and I was the Winged Monkey!

  27. me
    me March 9, 2007 at 1:22 pm |

    Ok I’ll help. Gniz – everyone is enlightened so you must be ranking these folks by some other criteria. Perhaps by how honestly they know they are enlightened?

  28. gniz
    gniz March 9, 2007 at 2:57 pm |

    Despite the fact that i know fuck all about who’s enlightened, i did try to be somewhat accurate with my list. Like, my best guess. But not really.

  29. gniz
    gniz March 9, 2007 at 2:58 pm |

    Jules, the most dead to least dead presidents is easy. Whoever died most recently is least dead, and whoever died long ago is most dead

  30. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 9, 2007 at 3:29 pm |

    I’m eating microwave popcorn.

  31. Jared
    Jared March 9, 2007 at 4:01 pm |

    No way, gniz! If the 9th president was 20 years older than the 10th president and died 10 years sooner, he’d be 10 years his senior in death!


  32. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 9, 2007 at 4:22 pm |

    zen spelled backwards is nez which means nose in french. nose spelled backwards is eson.

  33. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 9, 2007 at 4:25 pm |

    gniz spelled backwards is zing

  34. drunken monkey
    drunken monkey March 9, 2007 at 4:30 pm |

    OMG, check out Wilbers praise of Genpo.

  35. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 9, 2007 at 5:54 pm |


    The goal is to capture more feces than the opponent.

  36. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 9, 2007 at 8:43 pm |

    hey you perfect posture guys:

    take care of your knees.

    i blew out my right knee in a stupid way, and i can’t sit “properly”.

    but i also learned that there are other ways to practice formal zen meditation.

    for example, walking meditation can be very powerful. if you put your heart in it.

    it takes concentration, balance, coming back, and physical effort, all while being relaxed.

    i think it’s a fine training.

    [disclaimer: training leads nowhere. there is nowhere to go. it is more a process of going down dead ends…]

    [personal theoretical disclaimer: …until one day we walk down the final dead end and realize we’re already there and there’s nowhere to go]

  37. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 9, 2007 at 10:40 pm |

    I find it scary, amusing and sad the number of Zen Fundamentalists there are here.

    I hate to break it to you but while Zen is a wonderful path, it does not define all of Buddhism or all of Buddhist practitioners. If you aren’t a Zen practitioner, you may still be a Real Buddhist ™.

    Or do all of you think that the Dalai Lama, to use an obvious example, isn’t a “Real Buddhist” because he doesn’t practice Zen and is a Vajrayana teacher and practitioner?

    Hey, maybe Brad can call him names too?

  38. Ken Wilbur
    Ken Wilbur March 9, 2007 at 11:59 pm |

    You all suck!

  39. Francisca
    Francisca March 10, 2007 at 2:41 am |

    Ok, I am tooo curious…cant stay ignorant for ever I guess…or can I?

    Hmm, well if anyone feels the need to explain to me what “Enlightenment” is, what it feels, smells or looks can comment on my post here;
    ‘What the *bleep* is Enlightenment??’

    Thanks, Francisca.

  40. magik
    magik March 10, 2007 at 5:00 am |

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  41. yudo
    yudo March 10, 2007 at 8:34 am |

    Eardrum wrote:
    “But being politically correct is subscribing to somebody else’s rules. “

    Italian semiologist Umberto Eco wrote at one point that PC is Vaseline language. (Or KY language)…

    It’s like when you keep running away from the word “nigger” which is only latin for “black”. You keep replacing it by other expressions, but since you haven’t purged it from its negative charge, that charge lingers on, and on…

    Anonymous wrote: “in your lineage, the famous Kodo Sawaki”
    Although Sawaki was the “root teacher” of Nishijima roshi, he isn’t in the lineage.

  42. drunken monkey
    drunken monkey March 10, 2007 at 8:41 am |

    The original meaning of pc was compassion and understanding.

    Unfortunately the right wingers have used the word pc as an insult to those on the left.

    I am definately pc. And proud of it, fuckers!

  43. yudo
    yudo March 10, 2007 at 9:05 am |

    By the way gniz, we may not truly know what the Buddha actually did under the bodhi tree, nor whether there was one, but the lenght, constancy and consistency of the tradition gives us a fair indication that this might have actually been the case.

  44. yudo
    yudo March 10, 2007 at 10:29 am |

    Considering some of the posts here, about “true buddhism”, I have thought of forwarding this. Since it comes from a source altogether different, it might reveal itself to be some food for thought. (Sorry, I had to retranslate it from Italian)

    “Mind spends most of its time lost in fantasies and illusions, reliving pleasant or unpleasant experiences and anticipating the future with enthusiasm or fear. While we’re lost in those desires and loathings, we are ignorant of what is happening right now, of what we’re doing right now. And yet, it is sure that this moment, now, is for us the most important. We cannot live in the past: it is gone. Nor can we live in the future: it is forever beyond our reach. We can only live in the present moment. If we are unaware of what we’re doing right now, we are condemned to repeat the mistakes of the past and never succeed into reaching our dreams for the future. But if we succeed into developing the capacity to be aware of the present moment, we can use the past as a guide for putting in order our actions to be, so that we will succeed into our goals”

    (S. N. Goenka)

    Now don’t get me wrong. We ought not have goals in our practice of Buddhism, but our everyday life does need them, I feel.

  45. 195
    195 March 10, 2007 at 10:35 am |


  46. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 10, 2007 at 10:55 am |

    being PC is just going along with whatever the herd thinks or is told to think.

  47. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 10, 2007 at 11:07 am |


  48. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 10, 2007 at 11:07 am |


  49. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 10, 2007 at 11:08 am |


  50. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 10, 2007 at 11:08 am |

    200 – walk away

Comments are closed.