The Sasaki Case: Part a Million and Seven

Before my rant, I want to officially announce our upcoming Zen retreat at Mt. Baldy Zen Center April 26-28, 2013. You can sign up here. Yes this is the very place where Joshu Sasaki allegedly fondled so many! But if you want to be fondled by me it will cost you $175 extra, I’m afraid. (I’m here till Tuesday! Don’t forget to tip your bartenders!)


My friend Christine posted this response to my previous blog post:

Hey Brad. So here’s one problem with your argument: it assumes that we can’t hold ordinary, non-perfect, unenlightened people to high standards of common decency and non-abusive behavior. Sure, zen teachers aren’t perfect. But abuse, harassment and unethical conduct is abhorrent in any situation from anyone. This is especially true for people in positions of authority (including ordinary people like professors, doctors, police officers, child caregivers, managers in the workplace and zen teachers). So it seems to me that while they may be provocative, your remarks aren’t really hardcore or subversive or challenging to the status quo. That “old horn dogs” are just boys being boys is the same argument that has justified sexual harassment and violence for ages. It’s the patriarchal party line no matter how you say it. And it’s harmful.

I was scratching my head trying to figure out why I came off sounding like I was saying that “we can’t hold ordinary, non-perfect, unenlightened people to high standards of common decency and non-abusive behavior.” Because I do not believe that at all. Nor do I think Sasaki’s actions are merely just a case of “boys being boys.” It sounds like it goes way beyond that if all the accusations are true, and Rinzai-ji doesn’t seem to be denying them. It appears to have been a whole interlocking system of really reprehensible behavior on the part of a great number of people that went on for a really long time. And that is not good.

All I can think of that might have made my friend believe I was saying this was that the sentence “I suggested that it was natural to expect non-celibate Buddhist teachers to have consensual sexual relations with their so-called ‘congregants’” appears in an article which also talks about Sasaki’s actions. And many are saying that Sasaki’s so-called “victims” gave their consent. So it might appear that when I said “consensual sexual relations with congregants” some people might have thought I was referring to Sasaki’s actions. I was not.

I was referring to what I talked about in an earlier article called “Terrible Nicknames to Earn.” In case you don’t want to follow the link, it’s about what happens if, for example, a single, non-celibate Zen teacher working, for example, in a remote town with a small group of fellow meditators happens to fall in love with some member of that group. If we start equating the very high-profile and very anomalous case of Sasaki Roshi with the much more common cases of people simply falling in love in unusual and difficult circumstances we’re going way too far.

I think what’s missing from a lot of the discussion about this topic is how extremely unusual the Sasaki case and others like it are. I go to a lot of Zen places all around the world to give talks. Most of them are tiny, like the hypothetical place I described above and referred to in an unstated way in that other article. They’re often run out of someone’s house and attract less than twenty people on ordinary days, sometimes far less. They invite me because I can bring in a lot of people who never would show up otherwise. So suddenly there are, like, forty-five people jammed into their tiny living room, or they rent out the local VFW hall and get a hundred.

Rinzai-ji, San Francisco Zen Center, whatever Genpo Roshi calls his thing, and the other Zen places where most (perhaps all) of these sex abuse cases have come up are like mega-churches, at least by Zen standards. They’re much, much bigger, and therefore highly unusual. Some have multiple locations in multiple states or even other countries. I often wonder if it’s the bigness of the places more than anything specifically about Zen as such that causes much of this kind of weirdness.

But look at me, just to take one far more typical example. I can count on one hand the number of times since 2005 when I started holding weekly zazen meetings in Santa Monica that more than twenty people have shown up. And I’d still have three fingers left over. That’s enough fingers left over to fondle someone with! (That’s a JOKE! Calm down!)

What I’m saying is that the scale is vastly different, which means everything else is vastly different.

But let’s change the subject back to her other point, that of holding Zen teachers to high standards. Yes. I think we ought to do that. The problem is when people start believing “Zen Masters” are quasi-divine beings and thus hold them up to standards so high that nobody in the world could ever hope to live up to them. It doesn’t help when you’ve got guys running around pretending to be so divine that merely being in their presence will get you enlightened. That’s one of the reasons I complain about those knuckleheads so often.

One time I visited a small Zen center where a sex scandal had recently happened. I was told that the sexual improprieties of their former leader “threatened to tear apart” the whole place. So I asked what happened. Turns out the ex-leader of the center, who was married, had an affair with someone who came to the center, who was also married. So I’m kind of going, “OK. And…”

And nothing! Alright, there was one more thing. Turns out the couple hid their affair for a while until it became too hard to hide. Like people do when they’re having affairs. But that was it! And I’m kind of like, “That is enough to tear apart this whole community of meditaors?” Maybe I’m weird. But it made no sense to me at all.

Look. One likes to believe that a so-called “Zen Master” would never cheat on his wife or her husband or do anything else that anyone could find fault with. But you know what? “Zen Masters” or not, we’re all just over-developed apes. Shit happens. That doesn’t make it OK. It’s still bad. That doesn’t excuse it. But excuses aren’t necessary. Moving on is what’s necessary.

There is a Truth of the Universe and it can be known by ordinary people, and it can help them tremendously. But it doesn’t change the people who know it from being over-developed apes into angels. That can’t happen. Sorry. It generally makes them better than they were before, though. And that’s important.

Often I think (and this’ll get me in trouble, but I’m on a roll) that some of this “tear the center apart” kind of stuff is just an excuse to avoid practice. The Master is not perfect! So there is no point in practice! Yay! I can quit now! I suspect this because I had these thoughts myself when I started learning how human my teachers really were.

But I didn’t quit. And you can’t quit either. Somewhere hidden in the darkest depths you know that.


I’m not sure why I’m even posting a link to my donations page after that one.



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76 Responses

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  1. HarryB
    HarryB February 15, 2013 at 2:52 pm |

    One!… and now I’ll quit.

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous February 15, 2013 at 2:55 pm |

    Good article.

    I deem you sane.

  3. BobbyByrd
    BobbyByrd February 15, 2013 at 2:59 pm |

    “But I didn’t quit. And you can’t quit either. Somewhere hidden in the darkest depths you know that.”

    Hear! Hear! It’s the same old wall. Every morning. Every evening. It’s nice to have some other folks with you, sitting on zafus, breathing the same air. Somebody to talk to. Somebody to listen to. But it’s not necessary.

  4. boubi
    boubi February 15, 2013 at 3:07 pm |

    Brad you must be desperate, $ 175 ?

    I mean you are a certified lineage holder with books published, conferences all over the world, got in touch with the who’s who of buddhism, translated Nagarjuna … all this for a mere 175$? All dressed up?

    I don’t know, for lack of frequentation, what is that a professional charges, but if you were in some american movie i would put you on the corner of some street and row just beside the garbage bins and old cardboard boxes.

    What all the lineage you recite every morning would think, all that transmission and then Braddy sells all of it for a pitance?

    30 silver coins would be better !

    It would be much more dignified selling a weekend with you (you buy the time, whatever happens there is among adults) for a few thousands box, lectures, wise noddings of the head, a sake and starry night, warm collective bath …

  5. Fred
    Fred February 15, 2013 at 3:15 pm |

    Joshu Sasaki : ” Zen is the practice of manifesting yourself as emptiness. ”

    And knocking the boots. Oops there’s goes the white boy privileged ape talk.

  6. gwinston99
    gwinston99 February 15, 2013 at 4:11 pm |


    At the risk of being sent directly to the hell realm for opening up a bigger box of worms, I’d like to comment on something you said above:

    “it’s about what happens if, for example, a single, non-celibate Zen teacher working, for example, in a remote town with a small group of fellow meditators happens to fall in love with some member of that group.”

    Specifically the “fall in love” part.

    I have certainly had the experience of falling in love in my life, the initial intoxication, the honeymoon period, and the slow inexorable fall back to ordinary life, warts and all.

    As a more mature practitioner who leans toward the Uchiyama Roshi way of things, being just ordinary is fine for me. At this point in my life, falling in love smacks quite a bit of delusion. Suzuki Roshi compares zen practice to eating oatmeal for breakfast – it’s not flashy or special, but it fills you up, warms you, and nourishes you. Long-term relationships are like this too.

    So what are your thoughts vis-a-vis zen and falling in love?


  7. A-Bob
    A-Bob February 15, 2013 at 8:02 pm |

    Being an over-developed ape but an under-developed human, I’m thinking moving on is what apes do. Apes don’t give their actions a second thought. Humans however should face up to what they do and try to explain it as best they can. At least the ones who think of themselves as teachers. The teachers involved in these scandals will never explain why they did what they did. They want to uphold an illusion and seemingly want it all to just go away.. Well it won’t, nor should it..

    And these people who talk about romantic love.. Spare me that superstition. It’s not love we’re talking about.

  8. crankenfurter
    crankenfurter February 15, 2013 at 10:32 pm |

    I’ve been vaguely bothered by this sex in the sangha type behavior but couldn’t quite formulate it and articulate it. I’m a former twelve step practitioner and from day one there was an unwritten step that basically said one should NOT hook up with anyone who is vulnerable in the sense that they lacked clean time and sobriety and recovery, in other words someone who is not a peer. So that’s the same thing that bothers me about Roshis or other leaders having sex or fondling or whatever with members of the sangha.

  9. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel February 16, 2013 at 12:13 am |

    Looks like the “peer” thing is the key.

    If one falls in love with a fellow practicioner, on peer level, that’s one thing. If the teacher falls in love with an apprentice, it’s much harder to be sure of what’s in the mind of the apprentice. And if something happens in matters of sex, the apprenticeship becomes automatically much more difficult.

  10. UweHolst
    UweHolst February 16, 2013 at 3:16 am |

    Hi Brad,

    5 bucks for this article are on their way. Posting the donation link must be rewarded. 🙂

    Regards – Uwe

  11. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote February 16, 2013 at 7:56 am |

    “Truth of the Universe”- 5 cents, please.

  12. Wedged
    Wedged February 16, 2013 at 9:09 am |

    Ahhh Daniel Son, this part is spot on…

    “The Master is not perfect! So there is no point in practice! Yay! I can quit now! I suspect this because I had these thoughts myself when I started learning how human my teachers really were.

    But I didn’t quit. And you can’t quit either. Somewhere hidden in the darkest depths you know that.”

    Know the truth when you hear it!

  13. Khru
    Khru February 16, 2013 at 11:45 am |

    This back-and-forth sniping seems a bit silly.

  14. Khru
    Khru February 16, 2013 at 12:44 pm |

    The word I used: “silly” sounds too condescending. I meant, in essence: “we can do better than this.”

  15. AnneMH
    AnneMH February 16, 2013 at 1:07 pm |

    Another great one, really. I have been reading your writings for some time and I think the last year of this blog is some of your best writing.

    Yeah, I know trying to get out of practice in so many ways. It does not work. It gets stuck in your brain and either you get over the excuses and just do it or you go a little crazy trying to maintain these stories that let you avoid. Have you been in that before? It really does drive you nutty to know deeply that you need to do your practice but to work so hard to avoid it.

    Here is my latest, I think that practice is sitting but can be more than that. So I can see that Brad here tries to get out of the Zen priest thing but he just can’t, all he can do is stand up for what it really should be. I was in a situation where a group fell apart. People who had volunteered time were simply done and needed to do something else. The church that hosts us looked at some money mismanagement and realized no one had asked for rent or dana from this group in years. Well now folks the group is at risk, and no one wants to sit in front. And I am NOT qualified right? I read that in order to be a teacher with this lineage you need a 30 day retreat, or to study with a teacher or something. I am not even sure what lineage I would choose, then I would start from the beginning regardless of my 20+ years, and then, well dang. The last time I did a 3 day retreat the teens at my house left it spotless except for one condom in my bedroom. I am not going anywhere.

    So I get up, sit up front, have an idea that may bring some people in, talk a little about dana too, It goes pretty well. Yet people want to me talk a little more, tell something about how to practice, maybe tell them what the heck is this about. So I sit there, I have sat there 3 weeks now and honestly it scares me to death. I talk a little more each time and send emails with good articles. I go to another group so I can take notes. Iget a homeless guy to join the discussion and sit with us instead of just asking the ‘bouncer’ for the leftover doughnuts. We even had 11 people on SuperBowl Sunday (don’t want to make you jealous with your 6 people Brad). I am still thinking that I am out of my league every time I hear someone else give a dharma talk, but maybe it will stay small and no one will figure me out.

    Then I go to goodwill this morning to find some couch pillows or something so people can sit on the floor (that is the reason groups meet in yoga studios huh, not just cuz they are trendy and close to vegan coffee shops that sell hemp sandals made by impoverished folks in 3rd world countries so we all feel good) and I find 2 totally great, slightly worn, zafus for 50% off. I don’t have any superstitious god complex here, but the feeling I am getting is that this may now be part of my practice. Like any part of practice you can try to run and hide but it is just more painful.

  16. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi February 16, 2013 at 3:43 pm |

    Peers – what’s that? Everyone is a peer, from the Zen Master on his dais, to the lowly girl looking for love.

    I’m pretty much with Brad on the love/sex thing. People meet in all kinds of ways, with all the usual imbalances of status and power, etc. Making rules out of that doesn’t work. Imbalances in nature don’t automatically mean abuse. Nature has a way of creating sparks from high voltage differentials, and people can’t help being attracted. Male and female are themselves examples of this. If we want true peers, we’d all have to be gay socialists. And even then, some would be more equal than others.

    Abuse is important to see and deal with as it is, without pretending it isn’t abuse because someone seems to be more enlightened than someone else. But love and sex will always be with us, leveling our pretensions. I like that zen teachers still get hard ons, and even fall in love. I don’t like it when they abuse their positions, and their sacred relationship to students, by manipulating them for gain, economically or sexually or just out of pride and ego. Teachers don’t need special rules for who they should fuck or fall in love with. They have the same rules we all have, which aren’t written down, but we know when we are acting badly, and others should also, and point it out. Not simple for anyone, of course, so why should it be any simpler for spiritual teachers?

    All of this is just the product of imagining that the enlightened, or even marginally awake, are a different class of person, who need to have a different set of rules. Looser or stricter doesn’t matter, it’s still feeding some crazy notion of a hierarchical human social order that exists only in our minds.

  17. Buddha Buddy-Dude
    Buddha Buddy-Dude February 16, 2013 at 4:54 pm |

    Thank you for clearing that up. At first glance, I thought to myself, “I hope he knows they’re talking about sexual predators and not just some random tryst between a teacher and a student.” I may be weird too because I don’t see a one time affair as a community shattering event. That seems a bit overblown.

    However, I would by no means bring into a conversation about sexual predation the words “ordinary human being.” The reason I wouldn’t is simply because what does it say about the individual, let alone a Zen priest, who can’t live up to simple human elements of decency (i.e., don’t manipulate or coerce people)? I think there needs to be a sharp distinction between having an affair and preying on students. A VERY SHARP ONE!

    Affairs I don’t condone but I’m not at all outraged by them. That’s the business of the people involved, not mine. Sexual predation, on the other hand, is a huge offense.

  18. Hungry Ghost
    Hungry Ghost February 16, 2013 at 9:07 pm |

    My attraction to Buddhism comes from wanting to change for the better, to suffer less and cause less suffering. What discourages me is that Buddhism is a practice with goals, like an exercise program, (I know the degree of accuracy of my comparison can be debated but stay with me). If someone is selling an exercise program, the benefits are going to be quantifiable, the teacher will demonstrate what they are able to do and how they did it, I will put effort into doing the teachings correctly and in all probability get at least a portion of the benefit for my efforts, I may not be as strong or able to run as fast or far as the teacher but if I improve a bit I would be at least somewhat satisfied. What’s happening with me and Buddhism is that not only am I not getting any benefit, in fact I find myself more anxious, more depressed, less able to sleep, less able to take care of the things I need to in life, but I’m becoming increasingly convinced that the teachers don’t know what they’re doing, don’t comprehend the philosophy, and don’t follow or understand why anyone should follow the precepts. The problem may lie with me, but I know my experience isn’t unique. I’m f’d up, depressed, in recovery (for years now), but shouldn’t there have been some benefit to meditation, rather than paradoxical decreases in calm and concentration? Shouldn’t some teachers have answers? I’ve only ever been dismissed and patronized to by people that don’t even have the rudimentary philosophical understanding I do. I hate to embarrass myself and vomit cathartically but I now I’m not alone. If you’re still with me, I guess I’m wondering if “masters” are not special, and in fact are pretty un-special in an ugly way, am I and people struggling in similar ways to me wasting our time? I study sutras, suttas, philosophy and sit painfully everyday because I’m un-special and ugly, not to become that way or remain that way. I already regret typing something so childish and rambling but maybe there’ll be some benefit.

  19. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote February 16, 2013 at 9:19 pm |

    Reading about Sasaki and Mt. Baldy, I am as I always seem to be awed by the discipline of an individual who can survive on a primarily vegetarian diet, get up every morning at some ungodly hour, go to bed late, do dokusan all day, sit on the knees all day, do multiple sesshins. And display Buddha-nature to one and all and even himself or herself.

    I know Kobun used to wear his robes everywhere.

    I excuse myself that I will not spend six months at Eiheiji like Demian Kwong on the premise that anyone who started zazen at 8 years of age had a better shot at adjusting to the posture and the hours.

    I come back to relying on myself, and on the knowledge that there is an inner happiness and a state that I just drop into that teaches me, inspires me, and is amenable to practice. If I get excited sometimes, it’s because the understanding of relationships does make a difference to the practice, and we are at the start of the information age; I know it must be traceless to succeed, and I’m not worried. I think we’ll make it, because we are a community in this. Amen.

  20. SatisfactionJacksom
    SatisfactionJacksom February 16, 2013 at 11:06 pm |

    I have some sympathy for this statement
    However- it is probably only partially true. Why practice anything anyway? Is it “good”?.
    Maybe even Dogen didnt`t nessescarily “wanted” people to practice. It seems to me that “the path” was seen more like a gate for the ones who wanted to walk the way. The opportunity to “buy water at the river”

    On the other hand people who always tell others what is right or wrong suck indead. Especially when it gets too personal. Here Mr Warner and his rants against certain people pops up in my mind too

  21. SatisfactionJacksom
    SatisfactionJacksom February 16, 2013 at 11:08 pm |

    My post was related to this statement:
    “I think (and this’ll get me in trouble, but I’m on a roll) that some of this “tear the center apart” kind of stuff is just an excuse to avoid practice”

  22. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi February 17, 2013 at 12:21 am |

    Hungry Ghost,

    “I may not be as strong or able to run as fast or far as the teacher but if I improve a bit I would be at least somewhat satisfied.”

    This may be the problem right here: you seem to be looking for some kind of satisfaction from Buddhism, when the very basis of the Buddhist view on life is that there is no such thing as lasting satisfaction, and that it’s the search for satisfaction which messes us up.

    So maybe Buddhism isn’t what you ought to be involved in. There are all kinds of things out there, including exercise programs, that promise satisfaction, and that you could fairly judge on the basis of whether you are satisfied with them. But since Buddhism doesn’t promise any kind of satisfaction at all, it doesn’t make sense to judge it based on whether it delivers some kind of satisfaction.

    Buddhism doesn’t pretend to be able to satisfy anyone. Instead, it says it can help you relinquish your craving for satisfaction. But first, you have to understand that this is what Buddhism does for you, and you have to actually want that. If you don’t, it’s not going to happen by accident. You would have to engage Buddhism as an intentional practice of relinquishing your cravings for satisfaction, and be happy with that, rather than engaging it as some super-tricky method for getting the satisfaction you have always craved.

    So if you engaged Buddhism on that understanding, and were in harmony with it, then you could fairly judge Buddhism on the basis of whether it was helping you relinquish your cravings. Or you could judge various Buddhist teachers and methods and so on, on the basis of how well they helped you relinquish your cravings. If they increased your cravings, you could tell something was wrong. And maybe some Buddhist teachers actually do that, which would mean that there’s something wrong with them. But some probably could help you lessen your cravings, and thus lessen your dukkha, if you listened to what they had to say and practiced in that manner. It would at least be worth the experiment, if you were so inclined.

    I just don’t get the sense that you have that sort of inclination. Do you? Or are you just looking for some sort of spiritualized satisfaction through Buddhism? Because if you are, that’s not good either for you, or for Buddhism.

    1. Hungry Ghost
      Hungry Ghost February 17, 2013 at 9:02 am |

      You’re saying exactly what I’m trying to point out. You condescendingly assume I haven’t listened to my teachers, or tried, or that I’m too shallow or unsophisticated, or that really I should be doing yoga to tighten my ass and that a tight ass is really what I’m looking for, or that I’m trying to appropriate the teachings for my own ego inflation. Here’s the short of it, it’s a path, it’s something you do with your life, the only evidence the path goes anywhere is if people change in line with the path. I know I’m shallow, childish, unsophisticated, looking for easy answers, looking for people or systems to shoulder my burden, looking for scapegoats, I’ve known this for decades and haven’t given up, but what does spiritualized satisfaction mean? How ridiculously abstract, and insulting. Who isn’t looking for satisfaction of some sort? Wouldn’t reducing craving itself be satisfying? I like your solution, If I’m looking for satisfaction I should just leave because that’s not what it’s all about, and it’s bad for Buddhism. It’s always the same cultish response; “Hey I’m really trying but this sucks, anyone know what I mean?” “You’re not doing it right, this philosophy in which we vow to liberate all beings just might not be right for you.” I guess I’m an icchantika. I apologize for the lack of civility, but there’s something darkly exclusive about Buddhism, especially the Mahayana anti-rationalistic emphasis on non-conceptual wisdom and ultimate truth. Without question there’s something of value within the big tent of “Buddhism,” but as it’s practiced I smell con and cult and wonder how much of it’s adherents aren’t just experiencing a placebo effect caused by faith in a set of beliefs rather than the benefits of a universally applicable, tried and tested praxis.

  23. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon February 17, 2013 at 4:53 am |

    Instead of posting a link, I am copying this entire post from Sweeping Zen because in the past I have seen them publish articles that disappeared after a day or two:

    “Editorial Responsibility & Censorship

    Posted by: Adam Tebbe on February 16, 2013

    There have been times where something that has been published on Sweeping Zen has offended another person. Since starting this website I have allowed Zen teachers from all traditions to write freely without censorship, a practice I plan to continue implementing as I go forward in my editing responsibilities here. I’ve said this before, but I do see my role as that of a custodian, making sure the website continues operating. At times, like now, I have chosen to write a piece here and there as myself, and I take full responsibility for my own writings.

    There has long been a disclaimer at the bottom of the website that states:

    “The views and opinions expressed by others at this website are not necessarily endorsed by Sweeping Zen.”

    If all views expressed by those who write for us were considered a “Sweeping Zen point-of-view,” then Sweeping Zen as an entity would be entirely inconsistent in its views. The website has no opinion and has no particular view to impose. I personally have opinions and views, just like anyone else who participates on this particular forum – but these are merely drops in a bucket offered to you. And blogs, mind you, are often just that – a piece of opinion writing by someone who wishes to make a point. There is a difference between such writings and news writing.

    I also don’t feel I am responsible for people who are less than skillful coming to the website to comment. I am not them. They represent themselves and their own viewpoints. I’ve always tried my best to avoid censoring comments, and especially lead articles, because then I appoint myself God. I am the all-knowing one who says what is, and is not, a valid point of view or opinion to be expressed. I certainly have found many tactless and objectionable comments rolling through during my time here and, for the most part, I have kept a “hands off” approach. There have been a couple of instances where someone had an online history of trolling and harassment who I stopped approving, and another individual with similar behaviors who suffers from schizophrenia, as well. It’s not an easy role to be in by any stretch, and I do strive to do my best in ascertaining what to do in such instances.

    Sweeping Zen hosts blogs for various teachers, among other things. As a content provider, I don’t decide what various Zen teachers can and cannot say. That’s their responsibility. It’s their words. I have taken the approach which invests a certain level of trust in their intuition in terms of what they should or should not say. They are representatives of this very tradition, and as such I want them each to speak as freely as they can. I personally do not always agree with what others say, and I’m sure every reader has had that exact same experience. We’re endeavoring here to open up dialogues, and to my mind the forum is of no consequence.

    What I stand by as an editor is the ability of Zen teachers to publish freely as themselves. I do not wholesale stand by everything they may write. To me, there is a considerable difference, one I find to be rational and reasonable. I am not presenting this rationale in terms of it being perfect or unassailable, though I did want to present it so people know where I am coming from in terms of editing.”

    1. The Grand Canyon
      The Grand Canyon February 17, 2013 at 5:03 am |

      TL;DR – Adam just maintains the airplane. If someone uses it to smuggle drugs or drop bombs or crash it into a building it’s not his job to stop them or to judge whether their actions are ethical and he bears no responsibility for the consequences.

  24. AnneMH
    AnneMH February 17, 2013 at 7:22 am |

    Hungry Ghost, hmm, It is hard to try and say much over the internet however I can recall feeling those feelings of jumping out of my skin if I understand you right.

    I like what Broken Yogi said, and I can only say what I have had in my own practice. When I have very uncomfortable feelings I sit with those, if I am not sitting I try my best to be with those. So that means when I am sitting I notice anger. I notice my tensions, my physical painful places, my stomach not fully expanding with my breath. I also notice the energy and aliveness in anger, the ability to push past some doubts and act when action is needed. Just all of everything iwthout judgement. It is very important to stop at noticing and not get into the story of it, the story you are telling me is that it should be different. From all your reading and practice you should be different, the experience should be different, the teacher should be different. Aversion in a word.

    I think this does relate to what Brad is saying, although I often go totally off in another direction to hear myself speak. When we are focused on that a teacher SHOULD or SHOULD NOT be or act a way then we are caught up in the story of the teacher. When we are caught up in the story of a teacher we are no longer relating to the teacher but to the story and emotions. Then we react and often reaction causes much more harm such as a witch hunt for all teachers who even smell like they could have a sexual relationship. When we put aside what our mind is trying to do then we act. Act means we follow up on abuse and we protect those who are vulnerable in their practice by showing them the reality of teachers and we listen to people tell their own stories for themselves instead of imposing our story of whether or not they are a victim based on our story.

  25. CosmicBrainz
    CosmicBrainz February 17, 2013 at 8:43 am |

    I’m tired of white privileged Europeans and Americans (i.e., they are one and the same now) debating about the most retarded shit. You hyper-abstract losers can’t ever drop your drama shows you impose onto others. It’s always about “this guy said that”, “that guy believes this”, or whatever. Who the hell cares when you’re shoving shit into your and other people’s mouths (e.g., GMO foods and pesticide ridden crap), working your asses off at menial jobs (e.g., 8 hours a day and a long drive through the hell of rush hour), and so forth? You basically enslave the minorities and children to pretty much “believe” in the same crap you do. I don’t give a fuck that Sasaki molested a woman; I give a fuck that I am being raped by your bullshit country every day to the point I am developing neurological problems! I seriously hate you white privileged ignorant pieces of shit. You act as if you know things, as if you know x, y, z, but you never take a step back to realize just how much you don’t know. Your school systems are inefficient and archaic, yet you have the balls to go around judging other countries based off your inept standards. You guys don’t ever sit down to actually understand something deeply, but you simply continue to perpetuate the cycle of labeling ‘this’ as such and ‘that’ as such. So yeah, judge me for my racism, but it’s becoming increasingly clear we’re going to fall like Rome soon because you morons are directing your energies to retarded shit like this. What about these environmental crises? What about a possible impending illegitimate war with Iran? What about our inept court system and education systems that keep ostracizing talented, creative people? So yeah, you are an idiot, Brad. At least Thich Nhat Hanh was talking about fucking real problems (environmental shit) recently while you keep talking about retarded organizations that do not have a substantial existence.

    Yeah, I’ll shut up and go back to being your slave for your oppressive hegemony while you guys continue fretting over illusory problems. I’ll go back to stressig about real-world shit like “gotta do good in this EXTREMELY expensive, bureaucratic school so I can secure a future of getting fucking BREAD on my table.” There are no Zen organizations to even touch. Like I said, HYPER ABSTRACT. Such a love for -isms and classifying every single damn datum of life!

    1. floating_abu
      floating_abu February 20, 2013 at 6:53 am |

      Zen students, have a chance to contribute more concretely when they (we) mature. Yes, TNH has done a lot. And I am reminded about Ajahn Chah, there was a war and his Western disciples wanted to go and “help” but he taught them they were also doing important work – fighting the defilements and ignorance of the heart. We all try, and may it all lead somewhere fruitful for all. I agree there are a lot of significant problems in the world, but for some, clarifying themself can help them clarify their actions/role of the world..


  26. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote February 17, 2013 at 9:28 am |

    Cosmic, what I did was look for my own personal necessity in college, which I did by becoming a vegetarian (eventually a vegan) and doing my best to consume as little as possible in our consumer society. Eventually I came back to eating pretty much a regular omnivore diet, and I was able to hold meaningful jobs (operations analyst in data processing, for example- after my stint as fast-food employee and janitor).

    As are probably most people on this blog, I’m well aware of Rachel Carson’s work, Dr. John Lee’s work concerning the effect of xenoestrogens on both men and women (your hormone mechanisms were mostly likely damaged when your mom was exposed to pesticides in your suburban neighborhood during her third week of pregnancy), the genocide perpetrated by the CIA in Guatamala, the new coercive capitalism of Monsanto and other companies and the lack of synergistic testing of pesticides and chemicals in the U.S.A.- yes we are the test subjects for capitalism, science, and democracy in the 21st century, and it’s not really about us. “Humanity was my business, human kind was my business”, as Marley wails.

    You could say that’s why I’m here.

    Hungryghost, there is another Buddhism. In the Pali Canon, there is a sermon where Gautama talks about experiencing sense object, sense organ, consciousness, impact, and feeling, and how this causes all the factors of mindfulness and enlightenment to develop and come to fruition; there’s another where he describes comprehensions that take place in connection with inhaling and exhaling as his own practice, before and after enlightenment. There are three senses that were not included in his list of six (his list included the mind): proprioception, equilibrioception, and the sense of gravity or weight. Gautama does speak of “making self-surrender (one’s) object of thought, (one) lays hold of concentration, lays hold of one-pointedness of mind.” He does speak of relaxation, calming and composing the mind.

    You can find self-surrender and one-pointedness of mind just before you fall asleep at night. No special effort required. You can also find it waking up. Helps to include proprioception with “no part of the body left out” (his words, describing the first meditative state); helps me to remember that by the second meditative state, single-pointedness sustains itself, as “thought applied and sustained ceases”, and that by the third meditative state an “equanimity” with respect to the painful, the pleasant, or the neutral of what is felt kicks in.

    The ability to feel to the surface of the skin with a purified equanimity marks the fourth meditative state, which is exactly like the experience of single-pointedness of mind falling asleep, or sometimes like your hair is on fire.

    1. Hungry Ghost
      Hungry Ghost February 17, 2013 at 10:34 am |

      I appreciate the thoughtful response to my tantrum. I’m familiar with Satipatthana, the jhanas, and the objects of meditation as presented in the Culasunnata Sutta (MN 121), I think they’re the formless objects or something like that. There are only Mahayana teachers where I live, and so my frustrations derive from an admittedly limited experience.

  27. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel February 17, 2013 at 9:56 am |

    CosmicBrainz, it DOES seem to me that you condone racism.

    Sorry, but I can’t agree with it.

  28. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi February 17, 2013 at 11:51 am |

    Hungry Ghost,

    I take no offense at your outburst. I’m not singling you out, just responding to you. Even many Buddhists try to avoid the central criticism Buddha made of all human beings, which is that they are craving satisfaction, thinking that’s what will relieve them of their suffering, when that is precisely what they suffer. It creates an endless recursive wheel of always being disatisfied, angry, upset, and reactive towards the present world, always trying to change it and produce the result we want, which is the ephemeral “satisfaction”. He pointed out that this “satisfaction” doesn’t exist, has never existed, and will never be attained by anyone. It’s just a carrot and stick game we play with ourselves that produces endless “dukkha”. It’s a criticism not just directed at you, but at everyone, myself included.

    The problem is that a lot of Buddhist hear this at the beginning, but sooner or later they push it to the side, and try to turn Buddhism itself into another path for seeking the satisfaction of their inner cravings. It’s very easy to do that, and it’s why Buddhism often becomes a cult with all the nasty qualities you mention. Once Buddhism becomes just another way of seeking satisfaction, it’s no different than anything else. It’s only if we grasp the core point of the Four Noble Truths, and accept the world exactly as it is, without demanding satisfaction from it, that we are even beginning to practice Buddhism. And that doesn’t require belonging to any organization or having a teacher. It only requires buddh, the awakened sense of mind that comes from grasping the futility of craving satisfaction.

    That’s a very subtle shift in one’s perspective, not some hallelujah moment of liberation from all that we suffer. In fact, it’s nothing more than a different way of approaching our sufferings and torments, of accepting them as they are, and suffering them as they are, without trying to do anything to them or bring them to an end. Instead, it means just listening to them, observing them, feeling them, and sitting with them. If that seems stupid, it’s because it’s very obviously not a way to cure these problems. It doesn’t even try to. It just sits with them, letting them be whatever they are, listening to them, relating to them without trying to change them. So it doesn’t try to end this immense frustrated feeling we have, it just sits with it. It accepts that we aren’t ever going to achieve the satisfaction we crave. At a certain point, it begins to dawn on us that we don’t have to base our lives on that craving for satisfaction, and be driven by it. We can actually begin to relinquish our cravings.

    That’s not a trick for getting some new, special kind of satisfaction. It really isn’t. That isn’t what happens, ever, even if we think it might. It’s a different way of living, and it still gives no satisfaction. It is empty of satisfaction. Eventually, we may begin to cease craving so much, and that produces a very different state of mind than either satisfaction or dissatisfaction. It’s what Buddhism calls buddh, and why it has that name. Not many people are actually interested in that. They say they are interested in something called “awakened mind”, but what they really means is “satisfied mind”, with a spiritual bent to it. Actual awakened mind is completely unsatisfying.

    Anyway, that seems like something that might bring clarity to your confusion. Maybe not. Feel free to rant on against me if you like.

    1. Hungry Ghost
      Hungry Ghost February 17, 2013 at 5:52 pm |

      You and Anne’s charitable responses to me are appreciated, in spite of how much of a penisaurus I must come off as, my intention is to get to the heart of things and I hope I haven’t been too disrespectful. Part of me grasps what you’re saying, I think, my tortuous and often tragicomic practice hasn’t been without its clarity, it is immeasurably confusing, however, when there’s no real authority, including oneself. When everything’s so abstract there’s no yardstick and that’s what freaks me out. When so many teachers and monks have no standards, there’s no standard by which to appraise them or what they teach. You and I have no way to compare notes or really help each other because your signifier, “awakened mind”, has no real signified for me. I can try to match it to whatever brushes with insight introspection and meditation has afforded me, or assume that the fact that those brushes have not lead to any lasting understanding means I should keep feeling around in the dark with no way of really knowing when I’ve found it. As human beings we’re incredibly susceptible to delusion, I can delude myself into thinking I’m “awake”, I can delude myself into thinking you’re more “awake”, I can delude myself into believing in signifiers like rebirth, karma, enlightenment, dukkha and its cessation, I can delude myself into believing or even experiencing the emptiness of the aforementioned phenomena. The only truly measurable aspect of this whole messy thing is ethics, and the track record of all schools of Buddhism on ethics is depressingly bad. Further, the danger in appraising via ethics is the incompatibility of justice and compassion; if we judge based on strict adherence to the precepts we dehumanize and reduce people to machines, we become self-righteous (like the couple on sweeping zen who treated Brad like a sex offender) and we give up our empathy, which history teaches us is the most dangerous aspect of being human to give up. We also deny the often grey areas within the precepts, there may be times when it’s better to steal, kill, and lie, (although I can’t think of any times when it would be better to sexually molest than to not). So I’m still somewhat confused but I appreciate your willingness to engage me sincerely, thank you.

  29. AnneMH
    AnneMH February 17, 2013 at 12:16 pm |

    Broken Yogi, I appreciated how well you wrote it. Not an easy task.

  30. boubi
    boubi February 17, 2013 at 1:56 pm |

    — “the genocide perpetrated by the CIA in Guatamala, the new coercive capitalism of Monsanto and other companies and the lack of synergistic testing of pesticides and chemicals in the U.S.A.” —

    Bla bla bla

    the freedom to be able to say nearly whatever you want about all this
    the freedom to have or not your own religion
    the freedom to fuck or get fucked with/by whoever you want
    the freedom to vote and try to change things
    the freedom to organize yourself and others

    in short

    the freedom

    by the way are you from some asian slum working 18 hours a day in order to make a cheap mouse, a cheap screen, cheap shoes, cheap life for you?

    Why don’t you have a look backwards and see what your ancestors did to get out of slavery, feudalism, dictatures, religion cohertion, censorship ?

    It seems to me that you have a computer, free time, you are not scavenging for food … to me , you look like a spoiled brat who get upset because life is not what he would like, are you frustrated by not getting what you “deserve”?

    What’s that? Cars, girls, pimp look, being the alpha guy?

    For sure Monsanto and the big companies shit are destroying everything, just take care not to jump into the car of the likes as Iran, Russia, China.

    Civil rights? Democracy? Religious freedom? Freedom? Sexual freedom? Respect for the “little guy”?

    Are from some “occupy whatever”? In that case they are just a bunch of kiddos whose parents are paying for their psychodramas, they should go to the “little guy”, the one who vote republican because democrats look and speak like you.

  31. boubi
    boubi February 17, 2013 at 1:58 pm |

    Disclaimer :
    This is NOT intended to Mark

  32. sri_barence
    sri_barence February 17, 2013 at 2:35 pm |

    AnneMH, I think you’re brilliant. Broken Yogi, Hungry Ghost, etc., you write well, and express some very interesting and complex points to ponder. Mark Foote, what the fuck is with your obsession with equilibrio-whatever and other technicalities? You’re taking all the fun out of it! CosmicBrainz, you seem to have gone round the bend a bit. Maybe more zazen is indicated?

    Brad, that horse has been dead for a long time. Why are you still beating it?

    boubi and Khru, I think…oh, fuck it.

    1. sri_barence
      sri_barence February 17, 2013 at 2:42 pm |

      OK, this was the “clever” post that I though didn’t get sent. Embarrassed now.

  33. sri_barence
    sri_barence February 17, 2013 at 2:40 pm |

    I had a really clever post all written out, and when I clicked ‘post comment,’ my browser froze. So I’m taking that as a sign, and sending this instead. I’ve really appreciated seeing everyone’s arguments about this particular issue. I don’t have a horse in the race, but I’d like to bring up the question of moral and ethical training in Zen. Is there any? I’ve heard my teachers go on about ‘compassionate action,’ but I don’t get the feeling that they say much about morals or ethics.

    CosmicBrainz, the angry tone of your post was quite fine! But it seemed a bit disjointed and scattered, and maybe a bit paranoid. Are you OK?

  34. boubi
    boubi February 17, 2013 at 3:25 pm |

    yes fuck it LOL

  35. Fred
    Fred February 17, 2013 at 5:12 pm |

    “. The problem may lie with me, but I know my experience isn’t unique. I’m f’d up, depressed, in recovery (for years now), but shouldn’t there have been some benefit to meditation, rather than paradoxical decreases in calm and concentration? Shouldn’t some teachers have answers? ”

    You are looking for meditation to solve your problems, to provide a comfort
    zone and protection for you ego.

    But why should or would it. Why wouldn’t it make you jump out of your skin?
    It’s not therapy.

    Yeah, some teachers do have answers. Sit and face your shit for the next 10
    years. Take the right Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor, then face everything about
    yourself head on.

    The fact that you are using ” Hungry Ghost ” a term Broken Yogi used on his blog
    makes me wonder if this is just trolling bullshit.

    1. Hungry Ghost
      Hungry Ghost February 17, 2013 at 5:58 pm |

      I don’t know who Broken Yogi is, I chose Hungry Ghost because of the mythology of ghosts who are always thirsty but can’t satiate their thirst, an appropriate moniker for a jackass like me. I don’t know or care what trolling is, whether my comments are constructive or not I leave to wiser folks to judge.

      1. Andy
        Andy February 18, 2013 at 8:06 am |

        Hi Hungry

        I’ve appreciated your openhearted groan here. An oft undervalued mode methinks. For what it’s worth, I get the feeling that you’re probably getting along much better than you’re letting on to yourself. But then get that feeling about myself too, and am sorely proved wrong with unerring consistency!

        Penisaurus FTW

  36. Zafu
    Zafu February 17, 2013 at 5:50 pm |

    “Often I think (and this’ll get me in trouble, but I’m on a roll) that some of this “tear the center apart” kind of stuff is just an excuse to avoid practice. The Master is not perfect! So there is no point in practice! Yay! I can quit now! I suspect this because I had these thoughts myself when I started learning how human my teachers really were.

    But I didn’t quit. And you can’t quit either. Somewhere hidden in the darkest depths you know that.” – Brad Warner

    We’re not quitting the practice, we’re quitting the so called “Masters.”

    1. floating_abu
      floating_abu February 20, 2013 at 6:55 am |

      If there was still a Master, would you say No? That would seem rather stupid to me, but to each their own, that is for sure.

  37. Fred
    Fred February 17, 2013 at 6:19 pm |

    OK the reference to the Hungry Ghost is Gabor Mate’s book.

    “Only long months of abstinence allow the intrinsic machinery of dopamine
    production to regenerate.”

    Some teachers do have answers. They throw it back in your face, and make you
    find the answer.

    It’s your dys-ease, accept it, take responsibilty for it, own it, love it, be one with it.

    Instead of using a chemical to numb out, you want meditation to shut off the
    source of disequilebrium. You want a guru to provide an answer for your problem.

    Like Anne says, sit with it.

  38. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi February 17, 2013 at 8:50 pm |

    Seconding Fred, yeah, spiritual practice isn’t about getting better. Often, it makes things worse, both objectively and subjectively. That’s not what it’s about. It’s a rather dangerous enterprise, to be honest. That’s why there’s lots of warnings about it traditionally. It’s not just crazy masters and nutty students that are the problem, it’s the crap that resides within us that should give us pause. You really want to face all that garbage in you? If not, fine and well, and I wish you the best. You have to be at least a little bit crazy to want to go down that road. It has its rewards, to be sure, but it also has a steep price.

    As for the nuttiness of teachers and cults, none of that is really necessary, and tends to just distract from our own nuttiness, which is the only thing we really have to deal with.

    1. Hungry Ghost
      Hungry Ghost February 18, 2013 at 9:22 am |

      This dialogue’s been good, for me anyway. The recommendations or advice or whatever people have been offering is strikingly similar to the advice of teachers I’ve rejected, which makes me feel like I may have been unfair to them. I do worry about the toughness current that runs through it all though, especially zen. There’s an implication that if someone can’t thrive or at least function as a meditator that they’re not tough enough to face themselves. The danger here is that then the people who become the teachers and leaders get to those positions because of their resilience and not their insight. Maybe that explains macho molesters like sasaki, bullies like trungpa, fascists like yasutani. If there’s no room for the weak then sticking with it is a sign of strength and not technique. It’s like boxing, the champs are never the best boxers, they’re the guys who can absorb the most damage, and those champs can’t really teach the average guy or gal because they’re not good boxers, they don’t even really know how to box.

  39. Khru
    Khru February 18, 2013 at 12:39 am |

    Hungry Ghost,

    Regarding your statement: “…but I’m becoming increasingly convinced that the teachers don’t know what they’re doing, don’t comprehend the philosophy, and don’t follow or understand why anyone should follow the precepts…”

    I’ve gotten a lot out of my Zen practice over the years but I’ve reached the point where I looked around at long-term Buddhists and teachers I’ve known from several traditions and said to myself, “is this it?” “Is this as good as it gets?”I’ve also recently spent time with some average Christians who have more peace, joyfulness about life, heartfelt love for others, and humility than I’ve seen from most people I’ve known in my Zen practice.

    I don’t necessarily “buy” everything that institutional Christianity sells, but the lives of the Christians I encounter does impress me.

    Please take it easy on me this time, brother Grand Canyon. 🙂

  40. CosmicBrainz
    CosmicBrainz February 18, 2013 at 1:46 am |

    “by the way are you from some asian slum working 18 hours a day in order to make a cheap mouse, a cheap screen, cheap shoes, cheap life for you?”

    First generation Asians are still heavily exploited by the higher-ups in this country. Go look at a nail shop and see how much Vietnamese people have to work in order to support their family. It’s not much better than the working conditions of Russia. It’s a stressful life in America for those who don’t have enough money.

    Maybe we should focus on this crap rather than a monk that raped others?

    And yes, I was being ‘racist’ in the sense I feel as if the White privileged majority in this country are directing their energies at insignificant problems. Just go walk in the slums of downtown to understand the real issues that inflict our society. If you are well off, then there is no excuse not to be somewhat skilled at anthropological analysis.

    1. floating_abu
      floating_abu February 20, 2013 at 6:57 am |

      Point taken in most part but who is not a product of their environment/context. Whinging is a rich mans’ disease, we all know that. At the same time, for many Zen Buddhists, this is probably a big deal. It wasn’t rape by the way.

  41. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel February 18, 2013 at 3:28 am |

    sri_barence wrote

    “I don’t have a horse in the race, but I’d like to bring up the question of moral and ethical training in Zen. Is there any? I’ve heard my teachers go on about ‘compassionate action,’ but I don’t get the feeling that they say much about morals or ethics.”

    I, with Brad and a few others, happen to have a master who said a lot about morals and ethics, but much more so ACTED a lot along morals and ethics. So it’s not that those don’t exist.
    My take is that there ARE, on the other hand, people who need not much of jaw-dropping awe and excessive reverence to start believing that they can get away with some things, and that the game of power is innate to the problem of dukkha. It is one of the clearest cut ways of avidity. So, I do think that teachers ought to be also judged upon their ethics. But, for instance, I know of one self inflated pr**k who can drone for hours on psychobabble and astrobabble and quantobabble, with females disciples jaw dropped before him and how profound and brilliant he is, and so on. That doesn’t keep him, from time to time, from having some profound insights. So, even there, there must be some give and take. I’m nowhere as brilliant and interesting. Probably rather boring in some aspects. But I feel that there are some breaches into ethics which I do not wish to enter.

    CozmicBrains: racism is always irrelevant. It so happens that “whites” in your country tend to be elite and dominant. I suppose, then, that you would classify Condy Rice as “white”? Some potentially rich countries of Africa, such as Congo-Brazzaville, are robbed of their riches by their own elites: should we classify those as “white”? Racism is fundamentally idiotic. What remains is the fight between classes, and as said Warren Buffett, for the moment, the Rich have won it.

  42. anon 108
    anon 108 February 18, 2013 at 4:15 am |

    CosmicBrainz wrote: “Maybe we should focus on this crap rather than…”

    People will focus on whatever takes their fancy; whatever feeds their thirst. Focusing is, for the most part, a harmless way to pass the time.

    But there’s a world of difference between focusing, seeking to establish a correct view, and doing something. Most of us can do very little. Which is just fine. “To shine one corner of the world–that is enough. Not the whole world. Just make it clear where you are.” – S Suzuki.

  43. zacharythax
    zacharythax February 18, 2013 at 5:14 am |

    I had a terrible crush on the young lady who runs the Kadampa center in my town. It was totally inappropriate and strange because she isn’t the slightest bit good-looking or sexy and I’m married, but there’s something about her. It IS that sort of power she has being the one who leads the ceremonies and the helpful nurturing but challenging things she teaches. It think when you’re a zen master it’s one of these lions at the gates.

    That being said, I wouldn’t begrudge my own zen teachers a relationship. Frankly, I get the feeling that these guys NEED to get laid.

    If someday I should receive transmission and become a zen master I’m certainly not going to leave my wife.

    OK enough about all this sex scandal stuff.

  44. Andy
    Andy February 18, 2013 at 8:40 am |

    Proulx Michel wrote:

    “Racism is fundamentally idiotic. What remains is the fight between classes, and as said Warren Buffett, for the moment, the Rich have won it.”

    ‘Race’ – that social and legal construct we’re stuck on, from that erroneous and onerous colonial classification, which perpetually seems to drag things back into the gutter, even when used to identify and correct its ism. Think of the doomed contortions in folk’s attempts to settle on a label for those with parentage of different skin colours.

    We could do with some horny little green hermaphrodites dropping in on this planet with some clean, renewable energy & matter transportation blueprints, a cure for STDs. An almost preternatural instinct for rhythm might help too.

  45. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote February 18, 2013 at 9:52 am |

    “keep feeling around in the dark”- proprioception.

    “If there’s no room for the weak then sticking with it is a sign of strength and not technique.”- love that.

    Cheng Man-Ching’s advice for the novice on how to begin the practice of Tai-Chi:

    “(The practitioner) should relax. The relaxation should be overall, that is, throughout the entire body. And it should be thorough, that is, without the least strain anywhere. The aim is to throw every bone and muscle of the entire body wide open without hindrance or obstruction anywhere. When (one) has done this, (one) will be in a position to talk about ch’i. To start with, (one) should let (the) ch’i sink right down to the “tan t’ien”. To do this (one) should first relax the chest, for the ch’i can only sink freely when the chest is relaxed. Gradually the ch’i will be felt to accumulate.”

    (Cheng Man-ch’ing, T’ai-chi Ch’uan, North Atlantic Books, 1981, pg 7, copyright Juliana T. Cheng- parantheticals paraphrase original)

    Gautama the Buddha’s description of the feeling of the practice of the first meditative state:

    “…as a skilled bath-attendant or (bath-attendant) apprentice, having sprinkled bath-powder into a bronze vessel, might knead it while repeatedly sprinkling it with water until the ball of lather had taken up moisture, was drenched with moisture, suffused with moisture inside and out but without any oozing. Even so… does (a person) saturate, permeate, suffuse this very body with the rapture and joy that are born of aloofness; there is no part of (the) whole body that is not suffused with the rapture and joy born of aloofness. While (such a person) is thus diligent, ardent, self-resolute, those memories and aspirations that are worldly are got rid of; by getting rid of them, the mind is inwardly settled, calmed, focused, concentrated.”

    (MN III 92-93, PTS pg 132-134)

    “Feeling in the dark” informs a singularity of mind realized in the relinquishment of activity through relaxation in the movement of breath. Falling asleep, falling awake.

  46. Steve
    Steve February 19, 2013 at 6:49 am |

    Hungry Ghost: I very often feel I’m not as sophisticated or experienced as most of the people who comment here and generally haunt buddhist blogs. And so maybe they way I see it is too simplistic. And so I risk offending you with my very simple take. But wtf. Here goes. It seems to me that any act you take to overcome the ego is itself an act of ego. Or put another way, anything you try to do to overcome suffering, just puts you on a different path of suffering. Or to put it another way – striving for enlightenment won’t do. But not striving for enlightenment won’t do either.

    From what I’ve been able to piece together, the solution to this paradox lies in staying in doubt. I don’t know how it works. But somehow, the noticing of the grasping, the noticing of the desire, recognizing that I can’t do anything, and staying in that doubt….I don’t know….makes me think that maybe the universe is ambiguous. Everyone comes to zen because of some doubt or question. It might be “am I broken” or it might be “how can I get some frigging peace” or any number of things. But those questions seem like conceptual reflections of a deeper pre-articulate question that can’t be voiced. And when we start practicing that question is front and center. And then maybe we start to feel better and lose the question. Then zen becomes a kind of therapy to help the ego cope. It’s a process for cultivating equinimity. And that kind of approach doesn’t work. Or rather, it doesn’t work for long. Most of the people I’ve met who practice zen and doing exactly that, and spinning loads of theories about it. If Brad’s “truth about the universe” could be stated and understood, I think he would have stated it and we’d all understand it by now.

    Staying in the doubt and just witnessing and releasing the judgments, the desires, the anger, the confusion, and going back to it over and over does something. It makes you accident prone to a flash of understanding. Which at least for me, I then start thinking about and start getting confused all over again. But maybe a little mellower the second time and each time thereafter. Still and all, if that guy from Young Turks keeps poking me with a stick, I’m gonna get upset. But I don’t think that means it’s all bullshit.

    Maybe I’m just kidding myself. But I don’t think so.

  47. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel February 19, 2013 at 7:56 am |

    Steve says

    “Maybe I’m just kidding myself. But I don’t think so.”

    I’d think you’re right.

  48. Fred
    Fred February 19, 2013 at 8:19 am |

    “If Brad’s “truth about the universe” could be stated and understood, I think he would have stated it and we’d all understand it by now. ”

    The truth about the universe is that the ego is an illusion and cannot know the
    truth about the universe.

    The truth about the universe is that you can drop the body-mind and be the

    Loads of theories sustain the conditioned intellectual hungry ghost created by the firing of neurons.

  49. SoF
    SoF February 19, 2013 at 1:52 pm |

    A Zen ‘master’ is kind of like a tour guide along a path that s/he may be slightly or far ahead – or at least seemingly so.

    Let me guess – has a tour guide even stepped on an animal dropping? And a sexual lapse – or relapse – is really no more than an animal dropping – or momentary dropping to our natural ‘animal’ state. We mitigate that animal state with reasoning skills – for the most part. But we ARE part of the animal kingdom and sex is part of the animal kingdom. Without sex, there would BE no animal kingdom.

    Q: Is XYZ coming to the Zen retreat at Mt. Baldy?

    A: I’m not even certain s/he is breathing very rapidly.

  50. Will
    Will February 20, 2013 at 12:31 am |


    All beings by nature are Buddha,
    As ice by nature is water.
    Apart from water there is no ice;
    Apart from beings, no Buddha.

    How sad that people ignore the near
    And search for truth afar:
    Like someone in the midst of water
    Crying out in thirst;
    Like a child of a wealthy home
    Wandering among the poor.

    Lost on dark paths of ignorance,
    We wander through the Six Worlds;
    From dark path to dark path–
    When shall we be freed from birth and death?

    Oh, the zazen of the Mahayana!
    To this the highest praise!
    Devotion, repentance, training,
    The many paramitas–
    All have their source in zazen.

    Those who try zazen even once
    Wipe away beginningless crimes.
    Where are all the dark paths then?
    Tbe Pure Land itself is near.

    Those who hear this truth even once
    And listen with a grateful heart,
    Treasuring it, revering it,
    Gain blessings without end.

    Much more, those who turn about
    And bear witness to self-nature,
    Self-nature that is no-nature,
    Go far beyond mere doctrine.

    Here effect and cause are the same;
    The Way is neither two nor three.
    With form that is no-form,
    Going and coming, we are never astray;
    With thought that is no-thought,
    Singing and dancing are the voice of the Law.

    Boundless and free is the sky of Samadhi!
    Bright the full moon of wisdom!
    Truly, is anything missing now?
    Nirvana is right here, before our eyes;
    This very place is the Lotus Land;
    This very body, the Buddha

    Mind here and now is Buddha. Zazen is good for nothing. All it gets you is sore legs. The goal of Buddhist practice is to be free from ego. Our desire to be free from ego comes out of ego. That is a problem. How we can go beyond this desire even to become Buddha? Penisaurus.

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