The Blanket Thing

Huckabees

Before I start, anyone interested in having me do a lecture, retreat or other such event within an easy (4 hours or less) drive of Knoxville, TN around (but not on!) May 15th, please write me at bw@hardcorezen.info.

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In the film I HEART HUCKABEES there is a conversation between Dustin Hoffman as Bernard Jaffe (BJ) and Jason Schwartzman as Albert Markovski (AM) that goes like this (I’ve edited it a bit, for the whole thing go here or here):

BJ: Say this blanket represents all the matter and energy in the universe, okay? You, me, everything. Nothing has been left out. Alright? All the particles, everything. OK, let’s just say this is me, and I’m what, 60 odd years old and I’m wearing a grey suit. Blah, blah, blah. And let’s say that over here this is you and, I don’t know, you’re 21, you’ve got dark hair, Etc. And over here this is Vivian, my wife and colleague. And over here, this is the Eiffel Tower, right? It’s Paris! And this is a war. And this is a museum. And this is a disease. And this is an orgasm. And this is a hamburger.
AM: Everything is the same even if it’s different.
BJ: Exactly! But our everyday mind forgets this. We think everything is separate, limited. I’m over here. You’re over there. Which is true, but it’s not the whole truth because we’re all connected. Because we are connected. We need to learn how to see the blanket truth all of the time right in the everyday stuff. And that’s what this is for.
AM: Why do I need to see the blanket thing all of the time in the everyday stuff?
BJ: Well, you wouldn’t want to miss out on the big picture, would you?
AM: Nah uh.
BJ: When you get the blanket thing you can relax because everything you could ever want or be you already have and are. Does that sound pretty good?
AM: That sounds very good!

It’s a nice bit of dialogue and very Buddhist.

But when people hear ideas like this, they tend to think that the ultimate goal of a meditation practice is the experience of oneness, the “blanket thing” as the movie puts it. That being the case, the way to best actualize this goal would be to remain in that state of oneness as long as possible.

Many years ago I read Ram Dass’s book Be Here Now. It’s a very entertaining book. And yet the real world and history have not been terribly kind to it, even though it’s still in print. For example, in the book Ram Dass has lots of words of praise for an American spiritual seeker he met in India who called himself Bhagavan Das. These days Bhagavan Das can be found doling out cosmic wisdom like this, “If I was a twenty year old girl, I would love hanging out with me. What could be more fabulous than having sex with a really spiritual mystical person?”

Another person who gets even higher praise in the book is Neem Karoli Baba. This mystical man is portrayed as being so high on spirituality that all he does is sit under a blanket and twinkle his eyes. People gather around him and bring him food and take care of all his bodily needs while he twinkles away into the cosmos.

There have been allegations that Neem Karoli Baba wasn’t any more what Ram Dass thought he was than Bhagavan Das turned out to be. That’s not really my point. Or maybe, in a way, it kind of is.

I feel like there has long been a pervasive notion within the community of people who are into meditation that the ultimate state of a true meditator ought to be a kind of completely disconnected and permanent high. One would get so into the “blanket thing” that one would cease to have any real concerns about the straight, mundane world.

Bhagavan Das (left) with documentary director Jeff Brown.

Bhagavan Das (left) with documentary director Jeff Brown.

Some people find that highly attractive. Some people find it terrifying and a good reason not to get into meditation at all. Some people make a very good living pretending to be that sort of a person and, apparently, you can be an ugly hairy guy in his sixties and still get lots of young ladies if you can do it convincingly enough.

Sure, I’m jealous. But there’s more to this rant than just that.

My point is that it really isn’t the goal of meditation to get to the “blanket thing” and just stay there. We’re not really made for that. Our real place is right here, in this realm, in the regular old work-a-day world. That’s where our greatest duty lies. That’s where our real job is.

This is one of my problems with lots of spiritual practices, especially those that involve drug use – although it’s certainly not exclusive to spiritual practices involving drugs. There’s a sense in a lot of these practices that the important things are all happening somewhere else. Their practices seem to be geared toward getting folks out of this world and onto some place cooler.

However, I feel like the practice of Zen is about integration. Sure, if you do it long enough, you start to notice there are lots of aspects of the universe that you were not previously aware of. Sometimes it’s really neat-o when you start becoming aware of this stuff. It can seem very attractive to want to get to those “high” places and just stay there.

But you can’t. You have to come back down. And if you’re like me, that come-down experience can be really hard. It can feel like the end of summer vacation did when you were a kid, or that feeling when you have to go back to work after a trip to some exotic country.

That’s not really it, though. Because, in truth, the place you’re meant to be is right here.

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

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Your kind donations help me get by in this work-a-day world. Thank you!

 

 

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156 Responses

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  1. Fred
    Fred February 23, 2015 at 3:25 pm |
  2. justlui
    justlui February 23, 2015 at 4:23 pm |

    Brad, this was a great post.

  3. Yoshiyahu
    Yoshiyahu February 23, 2015 at 5:10 pm |

    All I remember of that movie is the muddy sex in the woods with Isabelle Huppert.

  4. Zafu
    Zafu February 23, 2015 at 7:21 pm |

    Nihilist sex is hot.

  5. minkfoot
    minkfoot February 24, 2015 at 5:30 am |

    SHUT THE FUCK UP!

    Frail hands grasping at sands!

    http://youtu.be/2mOkvJ7RPa4

    1. Zafu
      Zafu February 24, 2015 at 8:46 am |

      Why are Zen people so irritated all the time? They forget to think about their security blankets.

      1. Fred
        Fred February 24, 2015 at 10:23 am |

        Obvious answer. Without the irritation, people who are trolls would not get their jollies, and consequently, their life would lack meaning.

        So the Zen people pretend that they are irritated to promote troll happiness.

        And thinking in general is a security blanket, unless it is thinking non-thinking.

        1. Zafu
          Zafu February 24, 2015 at 11:37 am |

          Zen people pretend that they are irritated to promote troll happiness.

          Indeed, like I’ve been pointing out, religious folk are forced to pretend about a great many things. The cannot afford to be honest.

    2. minkfoot
      minkfoot February 24, 2015 at 12:18 pm |

      Obviously, Zafu, you didn’t follow the link. Nobody here uses ALLCAPS in anger. But of course, “SHUT THE FUCK UP” would have to be addressed to you to fit in your agenda.

      The security blanket Zen “believers” believe in is that there is no security. Past this moment, there is nothing to rely on, so why worry about it? Ever hear of the Five Remembrances?

      1. Zafu
        Zafu February 24, 2015 at 1:04 pm |

        Are you still pretending to be irritated?

      2. minkfoot
        minkfoot February 24, 2015 at 1:45 pm |

        Is that still your perception?

        1. Zafu
          Zafu February 24, 2015 at 2:38 pm |

          It’s Fredy’s perception, apparently.

      3. minkfoot
        minkfoot February 24, 2015 at 4:20 pm |

        How about you? Do you see me as angry?

        1. Zafu
          Zafu February 24, 2015 at 4:27 pm |

          You seem to be very concerned with how you are perceived.

          My advice is to try forgetting what you’re supposed to be like and just be yourself. I know that’s next to impossible for a religious person. It costs a great deal to be honest. More than those with an image to uphold can afford.

        2. minkfoot
          minkfoot February 24, 2015 at 4:39 pm |

          Au contraire! I am more concerned with *your* perceptions. You can think what you like, I’m just wondering how your mind works.

          1. Zafu
            Zafu February 24, 2015 at 5:03 pm |

            Do you see *ME* as angry?
            ~minkfoot

            Relax minkfoot, I image that less than a half dozen people read these comments. Your self-image of a Zenny is safe.

          2. minkfoot
            minkfoot February 24, 2015 at 5:49 pm |

            That’s actually “Do *you* see me as angry?”

            I’m just wondering because there’s more than a whiff of projection about you.

            It doesn’t matter whether other people see this, I’m talking with *you*.

          3. Zafu
            Zafu February 24, 2015 at 8:08 pm |

            I’m whatever you need me to be, minky. Projection? Sure, why not.

  6. Fred
    Fred February 24, 2015 at 6:20 am |

    Sri Niz:

    “All the three states [waking, sleeping, dreaming] are sleep to me. My waking state is beyond them”

  7. Fred
    Fred February 24, 2015 at 11:14 am |

    非思量

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot February 24, 2015 at 12:22 pm |

      I’ll have to think about that.

  8. coburn23
    coburn23 February 24, 2015 at 12:09 pm |

    Come now Warner, you’re “jealous?” Joking, right? I can’t imagine that sex with an innocent 20 year old “seeker,” would leave you feeling so hot. Regardless of how springy her flesh might be. One could pose that question to the Guruji (what’s his name, Bill Smith?) if one cared.
    But you of course make a good point (again) that the words “spiritual, enlightenment, guru” etc. are often marshaled in pursuit of experiences that are nothing of the sort. And I’m glad the the guy made this film. Exposing the “guru’s” predation may save some young people needless grief.

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot February 24, 2015 at 12:25 pm |

      “I can’t imagine that sex with an innocent 20 year old “seeker,” would leave you feeling so hot. ”

      No, but a trashy one might.

  9. ssss681
    ssss681 March 2, 2015 at 4:27 am |

    “However, I feel like the practice of Zen is about integration. Sure, if you do it long enough, you start to notice there are lots of aspects of the universe that you were not previously aware of. Sometimes it’s really neat-o when you start becoming aware of this stuff. It can seem very attractive to want to get to those “high” places and just stay there.

    But you can’t. You have to come back down. And if you’re like me, that come-down experience can be really hard. It can feel like the end of summer vacation did when you were a kid, or that feeling when you have to go back to work after a trip to some exotic country.

    That’s not really it, though. Because, in truth, the place you’re meant to be is right here.”

    That’s why the book was called “Be Here Now”.

Comments are closed.