Three Categories of Big Name Spiritual Teachers

ramazenThis is another of my many articles about questions I receive on a regular basis. The last time I did this, the guy whose email I used as a jumping off point to address a question I get constantly from many people took the whole thing very personally. I hope that the person who wrote the emails that inspired this piece will not do the same. It’s not about you!

In any case, the person who wrote (let’s make them female, though I can’t recall even the person’s name) sent me some information about a teacher she thought sounded very cool. She wanted to know what I thought of the teacher. Like many people who ask me to assess various teachers for them, she sent a link to some videos of the teacher. In response I said something like the following:

There was a time when I was interested in people like this. 30 years ago I’d have been checking out his videos (if there’d been YouTube then) and hundreds of others like them. But these days I don’t have even enough interest to click through to see most of the spiritual masters people send me videos of. Here’s why. I know that these kinds of people always fall into just three categories.

These are sincere people who have actually realized some kind of deep truth and want to help others find it for themselves.

You only really need one of these kinds of people in your life. In fact, you’re very fortunate/have great karma if you manage to meet and form a relationship with just one person like this. I was absurdly lucky enough to meet and form relationships with two of these kinds of people. I’m not looking for anyone else like this for myself.

Even more relevant, though, I can’t be of much use advising others about someone like this to get involved with. It’s a bit like falling in love. It’s not just a matter of whether the person is “enlightened” or not. It depends even more on a kind of personal connection. There are enlightened people out there who I could never form a relationship with, the same as there are lots of extremely beautiful, intelligent women who I could never fall in love with. The same is true of teacher/student relationships. They often fail even when the student and teacher are both completely sincere, just because the chemistry isn’t right.

These dipshits haven’t realized anything at all except the fact that there is a lot of money to be made by fooling people into thinking they’ve actually got something to offer.

People worry a lot about these folks. But you really don’t need to. These people are probably even rarer than those who fall into category 1. The good news is they are also completely obvious to anyone other than people who are just as greedy and unscrupulous as they are. If you find yourself following someone like this, it’s a good lesson. Accept what you’ve learned and leave.


These are sincere people who have practiced some kind of meditation and have realized a partial truth that they have deluded themselves into believing is The Big Answer to Everything.

These folks are more difficult to spot than category 2 because they are not deliberately trying to cheat anyone. They actually believe they’ve discovered something. And maybe they have. A little bit, at least.

The ego can latch on to anything — including the understanding that the ego is unreal — and use it to make itself seem more important. So the actual experience of what some people call “enlightenment” can be used by the personal ego as another cool possession it owns.

People in category 3 can be very attractive because they often have extreme confidence. They also may have a genuine desire to help others achieve what they have achieved.

I wish I could tell you a foolproof way to spot someone like this. But I can’t. I know them when I see them. But I don’t really know how I know. I can just tell.

I have the advantage of having gone through the phase that most category 3 people are stuck in. It’s very easy to get extremely full of yourself when you start having genuine spiritual experiences. Many people argue that I’m still far too arrogant. But you should have seen me before my teachers burst my bubble!

There were several points along my trajectory in Zen at which I felt that I was better than everyone who ever had any kind of “enlightenment,” that mine was the Supreme-est of all Supremes. It was only because of my strong relationships with Tim and with Nishijima Roshi that they were able to reach me at all during this phase.

Many people have these kinds of spiritual experiences either without any relationship to a teacher or with a shaky relationship to one. If you don’t completely trust your teacher then when she tells you you’re not as enlightened as you think you are, you can easily convince yourself that your teacher is the unenlightened one. This happens a lot. Which is why I’m always initially skeptical of anyone who makes great claims and who has broken from their teacher. Sometimes it’s reasonable to break from one’s teacher. But more often than not, it indicates that one’s ego has gotten the best of them.

The person who wrote me then responded that the teacher she was interested in had a very large following, a massive ashram, and a lot of what she called “commercial ventures” such as videos for sale and the usual spiritual lifestyle enhancement paraphernalia.  Here’s what I said to that (though very much modified for this blog post):

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with doing commercial ventures, videos etc. I do them myself. It’s tough to make a living as a spiritual teacher! Especially these days when people don’t give donations the way they used to. You gotta sell them product. It’s not inherently evil to do so.

The problem is that when you get really big the way the person you’re describing has, there is absolutely no possible way to have intimate personal contact with all of those who want to have such contact with you. There are not enough hours in the day for anyone to do that.

So, you can deal with this either a) honestly by delegating others to act on your authority by ordaining priests and teachers or something along those lines or b) dishonestly by pretending that momentary fleeting contact with someone as spiritually advanced as you has some kind of magical effect. Most massively popular spiritual teacher types do a bit of both.

If you sign up for a retreat at Deer Park along with 1,387 other people, you are never going to get a private audience with Thich Naht Hanh. The best you can hope for is to elbow your way up to the front during lecture time and maybe catch his eye for a couple seconds. It will mean nothing to him. He catches a few hundred people’s eyes every single day. But maybe you can invent a fantasy in your head in which you’re just like Mahakashyapa catching Buddha’s eye, exactly like all those little girls get their panties wet thinking Justin Bieber is in love with only them.

No matter how deeply enlightened one of these big time spiritual masters is, you’re not likely to ever get close to one of them unless you are prepared to put in a lot of effort. That would probably mean ordaining in the order and doing the political maneuvers necessary to get into the inner circle. Don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s all going to be about your big deal teacher spontaneously noticing how amazingly spiritually endowed you are. He’s got four dozen other spiritually endowed people vying for his attention every minute of the day. And some of them may be a lot better at playing the shmoozing game than you’ll ever be.

This is why you always get people airing their sour grapes about how this or that big name teacher is really just a total phony. Obviously he is! Because he didn’t recognize how wonderful the person telling the story was!

My advice for anyone thinking about taking up with a big name spiritual teacher is to be realistic about it.

*   *   *

Waylon from Elephant Journal interviewed me and Pirooz Kalayeh, the director of Brad Warner’s Hardcore ZenThe link to the archived video is here.

The screening of Brad Warner’s Hardcore Zen in Boulder on January 18th has still not sold enough  tickets!  The screening will not happen if we don’t sell the required number of tickets on-line. Please, people. I already invested in plane tickets out there. We’re also playing it the following day (January 19) in Denver.

For those of you asking about a DVD of the movie or a Netflix release, here’s a chance to make your voices heard! We’ve put the film up on a site called Filmbreak. If you go there and “hype” the film (their term) they will pick it up for distribution and get it on all the downloading sites (iTunes, Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, etc.). So go and make some noise!

February 18-23 I will co-lead a sesshin at Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico with Kazuaki Tanahashi entitled Dogen’s Circle of the Way. Kaz Tanahashi is a brilliant caligrapher and Dogen scholar, co-translator of numerous books about Dogen including the recently published complete Shobogenzo from Shambhala Publications, which I rate as the second best Shobogenzo translation after the Nishijima/Cross version.

*   *   *

As always, your donations to this blog help tremendously! May car was broken into on Christmas Day. It cost $250 to repair the damage to the window (which will never roll up right again, I’m told) and the radio they stole will cost about that much more to get replaced. I haven’t replaced it because I just don’t have the funds. Christmas was a very expensive holiday for me this year. Not that any of you are responsible for this (if you are, give me my stuff back!). It’s just that donations to this blog are the bulk of my income lately and it’s been really meager for the past few months. So this hit me very hard.

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87 Responses

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  1. sri_barence
    sri_barence January 8, 2014 at 1:34 pm |

    Stephen Gaskin called them the “do-gooders,” the “do-badders,” and the “well-meaners.” He said the “well-meaners” were the dangerous ones.

    Dogen spends an awful lot of time criticizing other teachers and traditions in his Shobogenzo. He seems adamant that sincere practitioners steer clear of those who haven’t understood the Buddha’s truth “even in a dream.” Apparently this is important.

    So it seems like this is not a new problem, but it may be one that is unfamiliar in the West.

  2. minkfoot
    minkfoot January 9, 2014 at 4:51 am |

    While checking up on James Ford’s blog, I noticed in the side bar a notice that someone had commented on a post from 2009, titled “The Trickster Guru,” by Alan Watts. I couldn’t wriggle off of *that* hook.

    Seems Watts thinks the Trickster is more common than she or he is. They’re a combination of the first and second categories, with the sincerity and insight of the first, and the wiles and ways of the second. Watts posited, in many of his works, that any bona fide teacher strings the student along with high-sounding bullshit until the student catches on. There are some names that might fit well, like Gurdjieff or Crowley, but I think the best example is Watts himself.

    This post’s poster boy ended his life in a manner which made me think would disillusion (in all senses of the word) his followers, but I should have known better. The official line is that his suicide was his last teaching, a joke of the world. One could almost buy it. There may be a trickster here but I don’t think the “Zen master” was it. Intended or not, he does a service for us. Read his quotes. As the inimitable Zenmar once said on usenet, long, long ago, “I come not to show you what Dharma is, but what it is *not*!”

    1. fightclubbuddha
      fightclubbuddha January 10, 2014 at 8:31 am |

      This is, for lack of a better word, ridiculous.

      Alan Watts was not a “spiritual teacher.” He was an academic who admitted publicly, on many occasions, that he was nothing more than an entertainer. He did not teach, counsel or minister to individual students. He did not promise enlightenment to anyone. He did not even sit Zazen, and often minimized its importance in public presentations.

      Did he make money writing books and giving lectures? Certainly. But, that is what academics and entertainers do for a living. In the process, he exposed the American public to basic ideas about Zen and Buddhism. That was a good thing.

      Watts was criticized by both Robert Aitken and D.T. Suzuki for his misunderstandings of elements of Zen practice. But, he was called a great Bodhisattva by Shunryu Suzuki.

      He was, in no way, a trickster.

      1. minkfoot
        minkfoot January 11, 2014 at 5:42 pm |

        Sure fooled you, eh?

  3. Brent
    Brent January 9, 2014 at 6:58 am |

    What the the categories for small name spiritual teachers?

    What is the connection between fame and categorization?

  4. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel January 9, 2014 at 9:15 am |

    Brent asks:

    “What is the connection between fame and categorization?”

    Fame is the characteristic shared by all three groups. I thought this was quite obvious…

  5. Brent
    Brent January 9, 2014 at 9:20 am |

    I was wondering about the connection between fame/categories and non-fame/no-categories. Useless, sorry.

  6. Fred
    Fred January 9, 2014 at 11:00 am |

    “I was wondering about the connection between fame/categories and non-fame/no-categories. Useless, sorry.”

    A “realized” authentic master doesn’t give a shit about fame or categories.

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot January 9, 2014 at 11:05 am |

      Yeah, but try to find one with no fame.

  7. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote January 9, 2014 at 11:05 am |

    Anyone who thought the discussion of broken knees in practice was over when this post was made was mistaken. There’s an interesting addition from mb, and a response from catsareinfinite which includes the following:

    ‘I guess I’ll just leave it at “that I don’t like Soto Zen and view it as fundamentally flawed”. People who practice it are either deluded or Japanophiles. They don’t have much insightful things to add besides regurgitating poorly translated Dogen quotes as a way to justify the physical illnesses brought by excessive rigidity. They act as if they are open-minded, but they are generally not well-read and unaware of social and environmental injustices. They don’t care to do anything productive besides giving endless rubbish about the sanctity of sitting in a paradoxical, bullshit kind of way.’

    I will not address Brad’s post directly here, but fundamentally the issue would seem to be whether or not the practice of zazen can be taught in a way that doesn’t require an act of faith on the part of the student, and in my mind this goes to the core of the question concerning the evaluation of teachers.

    Catsareinfinite, have you read “How Everyday Products Make People Sick”, by Paul Blanc? The backstory to “Silent Spring” (speaking of “social and environmental injustices”). Watched the story of the Ethyl corporation on PBS’s “The Poisoners” the other night; in Blanc’s book, I learned that the Ethyl Corp. has renamed itself to Afton Corp., and is now poisoning the people of Canada with a manganese substitute for lead.

    You say: ‘Maybe, if my left knee weren’t messed up from endless Zazen, I would be a bit more “warm”.’

    You may have a problem taking me seriously because I don’t have lineage. So far I don’t feel I’m up to pursuing it; I’m still working on my lotus. Hopefully you won’t dismiss my remarks simply because after 40 years I have found a way to sit the lotus, and you have decided that it has cost you the health of your knees to try and that it’s unnecessary.

    Right, I agree it’s unnecessary. However, a posture that requires stretch is necessary. Sitting in a chair works, if you sit forward on the chair with the back unsupported so that part of the weight and balance is still in the feet. At least for me it does.

    I’d like to note that it is the left knee for me as well that is particularly tricky. And that Dogen prescribed left leg on top, and I have read that in some zendos the teacher’s permission is required to sit half-lotus with the right leg on top instead of the left.

    I’ll tell you what is working for me; doesn’t matter if you’re in a chair, or walking around (or sitting lotus). There is a relationship between three senses: the sense of balance or equalibrioception (based in the vestibular organ), proprioception, and the sense of gravity (based in the otoliths and closely associated with the vestibular organ).

    What the hell is that you say. Heck, Nisargadatta just “attended to the sense ‘I am'” (Wikipedia) and he arrived at the other shore, so to speak.

    I would ask you, then, is “attending to the sense ‘I am'” different from discerning the sense of self that is equalibrioception informed by proprioception and the sense of gravity? If you get up on a tightrope, is “attending to the sense ‘I am'” still different from that discernment?

    I’ve quoted Olaf Blanke’s research here before; I summarize it here. In particular:

    “…In summary: A conflict between tactil/proprioceptive/kinesthetic and visual information coupled with a conflict between visual and vestibular information can, in some cases, give rise to a feeling that the self is in two places simultaneously, which can result in suicidal tendencies in the individual as they attempt to re-establish a unitary self at all cost.”

    Now the eyes are open in zazen, as opposed to many other seated meditation traditions; I would suggest that the eyes are open for their influence in resetting the vestibular sense and providing a continuity in the sense of location, yet in zazen the proprioceptive sense must be allowed to influence the sense of location almost as though the eyes are closed. It’s a trick, a lot like falling asleep with your eyes open.

    The other trick is that you have to free the mind to move, and then let the action of the posture follow from the location of mind; the mind moves when the exercise of volition ceases to influence the movement of inhalation and exhalation (check “Waking up and Falling Asleep”, you’ll have to google as two links requires moderation here). You could say it’s a matter of inhalation and exhalation, informed by all the senses, with relaxation and calm.

    A matter of inhalation and exhalation, informed by all the senses, with relaxation and calm; no “z” words anywhere.

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot January 9, 2014 at 2:05 pm |

      That’s OK, Mark. I just sacrificed a frog to zazen for you.

  8. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote January 9, 2014 at 3:15 pm |

    Thanks, Minkfoot.

    I transcribe my remarks above to my own site, and wrote this in conclusion:

    “For me, inhalation and exhalation is the practice, and every posture or carriage is a stretch. The senses are called to mind as necessary to the movement of breath in the posture, and the senses Blanke describes are for me particularly called to mind in the movement of breath in the cross-legged posture.”

    So there I am, Brad, backing you up, and all you’ve got to say is “take one from category 1, sprinkle on TNH with TLC, and be happy”!? ok, put me down for a dozen of those, and a couple of the maple bars and old fashioneds, too…

  9. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote January 9, 2014 at 3:35 pm |

    And IN CASE YOU HADN”T SEEN IT, BRAD, happiness (in males) is not the way to happiness:

    Happy Guys Finish Last: The Impact of Emotion Expressions on Sexual Attraction

    “This research examined the relative sexual attractiveness of individuals showing emotion expressions of happiness, pride, and shame compared with a neutral control. Across two studies using different images and samples ranging broadly in age (total N  1041), a large gender difference emerged in the sexual attractiveness of happy displays: happiness was the most attractive female emotion expression, and one of the least attractive in males. In contrast, pride showed the reverse pattern; it was the most attractive male expression, and one of the least attractive in women. Shame displays were relatively attractive in both genders, and, among younger adult women viewers, male shame was more attractive than male happiness, and not substantially less than male pride. Effects were largely consistent with evolutionary and socio-cultural-norm accounts. Overall, this research provides the first evidence that distinct emotion expressions have divergent effects on sexual attractiveness, which vary by gender but largely hold across age.”

    That’s from here.

  10. Fred
    Fred January 9, 2014 at 4:52 pm |

    “. I am taking the mask off and reflecting everyone’s insecure search for freedom in an obviously bullshit practice that leads people to a ghost cave of physical illness (i.e., cartilage damage to the knee and other issues associated with too much sitting) and false conviction in an restrictive philosophical blobject, ala existence monism.”

    A bunch of words and thoughts in your brain that you identify with, while making assumptions about others.

    A cat chasing its own tail and biting it.

  11. onecomment
    onecomment January 9, 2014 at 11:49 pm |

    Hi, you did a pretty good job of answering that question in my book, there is one more aspect I think its worth raising- that is- many people requiring this information I would imagine are either very young or possibly dont have a lot of assertiveness or confidence- so from what happened with various ashrams and western equivalents in the seventies and eighties there is a fairly clear point of view nowadays that teachers promoting sex as part of an ashrams structure or functioning with themselves or amongst their adherents is always a negative, also when large amounts of money are involved there should be a particularly cautious approach-if there is drug use it should be very qualified and not at all recreational and should be thoughtfully investigated if you are inexperienced in such things, (there are south american groups using drugs fairly legitimately from what I can gather). Sex-money and drugs and or very controlling imposed social structures are more often than not signs of a lack of health. cheers Guy

  12. K Grey
    K Grey January 10, 2014 at 9:52 am |

    “I wish I could tell you a foolproof way to spot someone like this. ”

    Fools cannot be foolproofed!

    That said, I foolishly offer these questions for reflection (please excuse the redundant/repetitive nature of the following – the individual questions aren’t important):

    Do they show you things, or help you see?

    Are their pointers always pointed?

    Is their form of expression pointing to a form of understanding?

    Is there a suggestion of a need to suppress/stop something to reveal something else?

    Is there an emphasis on self-benefit?

    Is there intention [karma] in their expression, and/or expectation [suffering] of some efficacy? (The ‘good intentions’ business/busyness)

  13. Wedged
    Wedged January 10, 2014 at 10:10 am |

    I thought the picture at the top was a joke…i’ve never heard of this guy. Damn 80’s…even made a joke out of Zen Masters. But, who could have known perms would go out of style.

    1. mb
      mb January 10, 2014 at 11:43 am |

      “Zen Master Rama”, aka Frederick Lenz. When he committed suicide in 1998 via drug overdose, his higher-level followers (aka those with business acumen) were actively recruited by Adi Da to join his community and have “instant access” without having to social-climb to reach his inner circle. And many of them actually did so.

  14. Mumbles
    Mumbles January 10, 2014 at 6:08 pm |
  15. Kogen
    Kogen January 10, 2014 at 7:10 pm |

    On TNH meeting the eyes of some practitioner: “It will mean nothing to him.”

    What do you mean by this? How do you know the causes and conditions of affinity?

    And what category does Brad Warner fit in?

    As you’ve heard, some of us vow to taste the truth of the Tathagata’s words; that’s on us and our eyeballs, ears, nose, tongue, warm hands, and mind. Never mind the interview or lack of interview. Because Emperor Wu didn’t see Bodhidharma doesn’t mean Bodhidharma isn’t Bodhidharma. What’s important is Bodhidharma sees Bodhidharma.

    How do you know it takes more than eye contact? If me and you talk and shake hands until we’re blue in the face, does that mean we’ve been met?

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot January 11, 2014 at 9:45 am |

      And what category does Brad Warner fit in?

      I think he tries his honest best for people who think he’s in the first column.

      ‘Course, my mother could be jivin’, too.

      What’s important is Bodhidharma sees Bodhidharma.


  16. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote January 10, 2014 at 10:02 pm |

    Thanks for Jicks, John- like that.

  17. Fred
    Fred January 11, 2014 at 10:50 am |

    Q” If me and you talk and shake hands until we’re blue in the face, does that mean we’ve been met?”

    A”To carry yourself forward and experience myriad things is delusion. That myriad things come forth and experience themselves is awakening.”

  18. Brent
    Brent January 11, 2014 at 11:56 am |

    Hi Fred 🙂

  19. Fred
    Fred January 11, 2014 at 2:26 pm |

    Hi Brent


    This human body truly is the entire cosmos
    Each breath of mine, is equally one of yours, my darling
    This tender abiding in “my” life
    Is the fierce glowing fire of inner earth
    Linking with all pre-phenomena
    Flashing to the distant horizon
    From “right here now” to “just this”
    Now the horizon itself
    Drops away–


  20. Mumbles
    Mumbles January 11, 2014 at 8:17 pm |

    Hey Grand Canyon, have you checked this out?

    Pretty nice postscript.

  21. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote January 11, 2014 at 8:48 pm |

    Thanks for sharing that, Fred.

    I wonder if “from ‘right here now’ to ‘just this’ describes Steve Stuckey’s personal life trail, from hippy days to Zen years.

    “Now the horizon itself drops away-” the horizon is the edge of what can be seen. What can be seen gives way, to everything and nothing.

    “What I wonder’s will a matchbox hold my clothes; I ain’t got any matches, but I sure got a long way to go.”

    Rest in peace, Steve Stuckey.

  22. Shodo
    Shodo January 12, 2014 at 8:35 am |

    I hope you told the questioner that “Zen Master Rama” was solidly in category 2.

    The great tragedy is that many leaders in American Zen sell his books, talks and other crap in order to get to that sweet sweet grant money… including Tricycle Magazine.

    Grant Policy (notice the second to last bullet point)

    The Big names taking the money.

  23. Shodo
    Shodo January 12, 2014 at 9:06 am |

    I have a question Brad that I hope you can answer:
    What is the criteria to be able to tell the difference between the three catergories of teacher that you defined? And most especially, what is the criteria to tell the 1st category…? How can one dicern the genuine article?

    1. boubi
      boubi January 15, 2014 at 3:08 pm |

      It’s a matter of wisdom, wether you have it or not …

  24. Brent
    Brent January 12, 2014 at 10:37 am |

    +1 on Shodo’s question…

    The only historical precedent in this area that I’m aware of is:

    1. Shodo
      Shodo January 14, 2014 at 7:30 am |

      That link was excellent… it also shows the litmus to differentiate between the three categories, I believe.

      The Precepts. 😉

  25. Alan Sailer
    Alan Sailer January 12, 2014 at 1:45 pm |

    Brent & Shodo,

    Wouldn’t the usefulness of the answer depend on which category Brad is in?

    I’m smiling right now….dreaming of an infinite regression of teachers advising an infinite number of students on the suitability of an infinite regression of other teachers.


  26. Brent
    Brent January 12, 2014 at 2:30 pm |

    Hmmm… I think (as goes for anyone) Brad’s answer could be evaluated for its content, or it could be evaluated for the impression it creates about Brad.

  27. boubi
    boubi January 12, 2014 at 4:16 pm |

    Megatraum is a Martian feeding off weed and cash
    I dash for my shipment of Roswell crash
    You smash when you dash with the clashing ox
    Saw you in half without a fucking magical box

    Wet pussy always seems to splash my cock
    I’m dead they just didn’t leave the casket locked
    Pass my block I let shots drill in your spleen
    We’re I’ll marines with hand held killing machines
    Steal dreams with the armored steel
    Guard your grill

  28. boubi
    boubi January 12, 2014 at 4:19 pm |

    “I have a question Brad that I hope you can answer:
    What is the criteria to be able to tell the difference between the three catergories of teacher that you defined? And most especially, what is the criteria to tell the 1st category…? How can one dicern the genuine article?”

    “As for me, what I want to point out to you is that you must not accept
    the deluding views of others. If you want to act, then act. Don’t hesitate.” (Discourse X)

  29. Mumbles
    Mumbles January 12, 2014 at 6:10 pm |

    I don’t know why anyone would ever want to be a guru or sensei or whatever you want to call it, no matter if they are a 1. a 2, or a 3. (I sound like Lawrence Welk!)

    Playing with that much assumption of responsibility / power is a dangerous path.

    Most realized teachers seem puzzled that people flock to them for “instruction.”

    For the rest it just seems like an extension of a pre-existing ego-trip & there is no shortage of wanna be followers out there if you want to lead them, as evidenced here by what Brad has said, or, go watch Kumare again.

    It doesn’t take intuition to wake up and know when you’ve been had.

    You’re already there, already “perfect.” You don’t need anyone to tell you that, or to “lead” you through Zen or any other practices to get it. You Are It.

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot January 12, 2014 at 6:33 pm |

      Good to see the Universe still has power to gast my flabbers.

      1. Fred
        Fred January 13, 2014 at 5:03 pm |

        Yep, the ongoing Shimano and Sasaki soap operas are gasting the
        Universe’s flabbers.

        It’s enough to make a man turn to Hare Krishna.

  30. Fred
    Fred January 12, 2014 at 6:39 pm |

    Dogen said that those who are enlightened are nevertheless deluded, that
    deludedness and enlightenment go hand in hand, intertwining and inter-
    penetrating each other.

    To say that one teacher is better than another, itself lies in deludedness.
    Deludedness is the garden where enlightenment blooms. It is the ground
    where realization is born.

    What a man or woman thinks has nothing to do with awakening. This
    consciousness is where it is ongoing, but not it. The moon is reflected in the

  31. Alan Sailer
    Alan Sailer January 13, 2014 at 5:08 pm |


    Sorry if my answer sounded like I was demeaning your question. It wasn’t intended that way.

    I just flashed on the silly idea of how a teacher could answer your question without you knowing if he was a valid teacher.


  32. Brent
    Brent January 13, 2014 at 5:53 pm |

    Alan, not at all- language and zen together make a bubble bath. Peace

  33. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote January 13, 2014 at 7:55 pm |

    Lauren Bacall tests Bogart:

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot January 14, 2014 at 3:54 am |

      I would fail. Happily.

  34. Zafu
    Zafu January 14, 2014 at 8:21 am |

    I like the title of the article, it’s honest. Big brand competition must be tough.

  35. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote January 14, 2014 at 10:00 am |

    chills, darn that Emmylou!

  36. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote January 14, 2014 at 10:33 am |

    “…the issue would seem to be whether or not the practice of zazen can be taught in a way that doesn’t require an act of faith on the part of the student.”

    In the selection of teachers, Brad says, “It’s a matter of intuition.” Not a matter of reason.

    Now I am asserting that a student can look at the way a Zen teacher teaches zazen, and if they have experience with teachers as a student they can decide whether or not their association with that teacher will benefit them. In particular, what is the basic instruction in the Zendo given to the beginner, and who gives this instruction?

    And you might say: “but Mark- you’ve never entered into a formal relationship with a Zen teacher to study Zen. How would you know!”

    Right, but I’ve had a couple of teachers who inspired me to study, for life. As to Zen, I understood that teaching to be that I should take my time with the lotus, on my own, and that the difficulty in bringing Zen to America is getting Americans to allow zazen to get up and walk around. They’re so intent on enlightenment, as the big cosmic fart.

  37. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote January 14, 2014 at 10:42 am |

    My concern is actually for myself, in the reconciliation I need of the experience of zazen getting up and walking around with life in American society, and for others, who will eventually discover that zazen gets up and walks around and might save themselves some time by the record of my trails.

    Maybe I’m imagining things, thinking that such a day will come. But folks, seriously, I agree with other voices here, you are ultimately responsible for your own education.

  38. boubi
    boubi January 14, 2014 at 1:00 pm |
  39. boubi
    boubi January 14, 2014 at 1:04 pm |

    How can i put an avatar?

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot January 14, 2014 at 5:57 pm |

      Get a Gravatar account.

    2. minkfoot
      minkfoot January 14, 2014 at 5:59 pm |

      Damn! I forgot angle braces make urls invisible in these replies

  40. Mumbles
    Mumbles January 14, 2014 at 5:11 pm |

    boubi, That’s pretty good, I love the picture of the guy sitting on a rock in the woods, a silent pond in front of him, blissful, serene. As if it makes any difference where you are sitting with your eyes closed!

    I think of one of Swami Muktananda’s gurus, a great Siddha, an advadhuta called Zipruanna. He liked to meditate naked on top of piles of excrement.

    This is an extreme example of course. When I had just started meditating, a neighbor’s dog, almost on cue would commence non-stop barking. I thought the environment had to be peaceful, and I struggled with that for a long time until I finally realized the barking dog WAS my meditation.

    I don’t do much formal sitting meditation anymore, but before I let it go I understood that anything, anywhere, any time would serve nicely for meditation.

    Haven’t actually sat on top of a pile of poop, though, and to be fair, the guy at Esalen or wherever it was in your link may be sitting on a big old chunk of coprolite…

  41. navybsn
    navybsn January 15, 2014 at 10:40 am |

    Spiritual teaching, like produce, should probably be something you secure locally. That way you can verify the source a little better. It’s easy to get fooled when you can’t look someone in the eye or question them in person.

    1. navybsn
      navybsn January 15, 2014 at 10:47 am |

      sorry, meant to say something you SHOULD secure locally.

  42. boubi
    boubi January 15, 2014 at 3:11 pm |

    Drop external teachers

  43. boubi
    boubi January 15, 2014 at 3:18 pm |

    Don’t recall.
    Don’t imagine.
    Don’t think.
    Don’t examine.
    Don’t control.

  44. CatsareInfinite
    CatsareInfinite January 15, 2014 at 3:33 pm |

    Simple-minded people need a teacher because they are too lazy and stupid to read poetry of the greats themselves, or to engage in an act of artistic creation. Just go fucking sit or walk in natural scenery, in solitude. Every culture from the Persians to the Chinese to the North Americans or whatever, has had people like this.

    You imbeciles, including Brad Warners, just want to make a bunch of drama in your lives! You can take your Zazen and other forms of meditations and shove them up your asses.

    Here, let me break it down for you guys. It’s a spectrum, not a goddamn hierarchical, categorical thing. The spectrum represent probability of glimpses into infinity occurring:

    (Left of spectrum, enlightenment) The person who is keen, sharp, and healthy living in seclusion while reading great poetry and remaining celibate. He, too, writes his own poetry and/or engages in other artistic crafts, such as painting. The truth is, the spectrum fluctuates within every individual.

    – (SPECTRUM)

    (Right of spectrum, delusion) The person who is not keen, not sharp, and not healthy while not living in seclusion. Avoids great poetry and has a strong sex drive. He, too, does not write his own poetry or engages in any artistic craft. Typical hedonistic American teenager. They have no Buddha nature in this state.

    The four things best for enlightenment:
    1. Having a proper diet. No grains. Eat grass-fed offal, for example.
    2. Daily solitude in natural scenery. Immensely important. Check Youtube link.
    3. Read poetry of the greats.
    4. Write your own poetry in a serene, reverie like that.

    1. Fred
      Fred January 15, 2014 at 4:28 pm |

      Hi An3drew.

    2. minkfoot
      minkfoot January 15, 2014 at 4:56 pm |

      Welcome back, CatsareInfinite! I had a bit of concern that you might be gone for good.

      Ah, a poem, eh?

      Real Men (and Real Women, too!)
      Often don’t listen to what someone says
      Real Men (or Real Women) really do

      Like a young man off the rez
      Or a farm girl lost within the city,
      So is such a one who’s less than blest,

      Whose situation ain’t nary pretty,
      When along comes someone with many words
      To straighten up a life that’s gone all shitty

      Using mouthfuls of blame to spit on the herd,
      With a face and a speaking much like you,
      And hands who hoped for a rose, a turd

  45. Brent
    Brent January 15, 2014 at 4:12 pm |

    Don’t move.
    Don’t talk out of time.
    Don’t think.
    Don’t worry.
    Everything’s just fine.
    Just fine.

Comments are closed.