UG KRISHNAMURTI, THE SOTO SECT, AND COOL HAIRCUTS


I was kind of bummed to hear recently that U.G. Krishnamurti had died. I canít say I was ever any kind of follower of his. I never read any of his books or attended any of his talks. I only know him from the little sound (video?) bytes you can find on YouTube and the bits and pieces of his talks that appear on the Internet sometimes. It’s always possible he said something really idiotic I don’t know about, so don’t take this as some kind of endorsement. OK?

I first heard about U.G. the way I first heard about Robyn Hitchcock. When I began putting out psychedelic records under the name Dimentia 13, reviewers kept saying they sounded like Robyn Hitchcock or his band the Soft Boys. Iíd never heard either one. But I bought a few and enjoyed them and had to admit that my stuff did sound a little like his. When I first started going on-line as a Buddhist dude people would say I reminded them of U.G. Krishnamurti, who Iíd also never heard of. So I looked him up and I could see the reason for the comparison. I never went on to become a fan of U.G. the way Iím a fan of Robyn Hitchcock (Iíll be at his show at Spaceland tomorrow night, by the way). But I did like what I read and heard of his work.

The only real criticism I have of U.G. is pretty much the same one I have for Jiddu Krishnamurti. I think they may have been just a little too intelligent for their own good. Or, perhaps not for their own good, but maybe for their followersí good. Both men obviously had a grasp of what is true and what is bullshit. But they both completely negated the value of any kind of organization or methodology.

In the intellectual sense, you might be inclined to say that all methodologies are ultimately wrong. Itís obviously true that even people whoíve spent decades practicing Zazen can be complete assholes with absolutely no understanding of reality and nothing at all of any value to say. This happens when people use their time on the cushion to get deeper and deeper into their own delusions and when such delusions are encouraged by poor teachers ó I remained convinced, though, that folks like this are the minority. So you canít even hold up something called Zazen and say, here it is, this will automatically work for everyone every time.

On the other hand, I do say that and I do believe it. Because part of Zazen practice is the cultivation of the proper attitude towards oneís own delusions.

ANYWAY, I think both U.G. and Jiddu Krishnamurti rejected methodologies like Zen a bit too rashly. Still, Iím often tempted to do the same. For example, being part of the Soto stream of Zen Buddhism means that I am seen as one among that group. Outsiders, then, tend to assume that I agree with everything other members of the organization, particularly its supposed leaders, say and do. I mean if I meet a guy who tells me heís in the Ku Klux Klan I tend to assume he hates Blacks, gays and Jews. Maybe there are guys in the KKK who just join so they can go to the barbeques and who donít really care about its political message. Itís possible. Still, I, as an outsider, tend to assume all members must agree with its positions at least a little.

In terms of the Soto organization, I do not care for a lot of what it appears to stand for. Iím not into the whole expensive funeral thing, which seems to have become its major function in Japan. And Iíve already mentioned how Iím not too happy to be associated with what some of its American teachers are doing either. Still, I havenít renounced the Soto sect yet. Gudo Nishijima always makes a distinction between the organization in Japan called Soto-shu and the stream of teachers descended from Master Dogen, who brought the Soto lineage to Japan. But he hasnít resigned his commission with the Soto-shu and I doubt he ever will. Neither have I.

I think itís kind of a matter of taking a practical approach. As part of Soto, I have access to a certain degree of power that comes with membership in any large organization. For example, when I published my first book, my publishers wanted proof that I was a legitimate, recognized teacher in a legit Buddhist lineage. Because I was able to provide that, I got my book published. Of course things are so wild and wooly in America that just about anyone whoís read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance can set himself up as a Zen Master and no one questions it. Still, real lineages are important. There is a growing awareness of this fact even here in America.

Yet just cuz you have transmission from one or even more than one legit teacher in a legit lineage doesnít always mean everythingís A-OK. Even so, I do not deny the power of such lineages or their usefulness. Just getting transmission is the easy part. The hard part is living up to what has been transmitted.

ANYWAY, although I am entirely certain of what I want to convey here, I have no illusions about my own ability to convey it. Plus anything you say can and will be taken the wrong way by people determined to take things the wrong way. So you just say what you say and make it as clear as youíre able to. Then you go finish your taxes, which is what I’m gonna do as soon as I post this.

ANWAY, Iím a little bummed to hear U.G. died. Thatís all. He was an interesting guy with a cool haircut.

62 Responses

Page 1 of 2
  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 11, 2007 at 11:30 am | |

    awesomness

    kidney…

    by the way, starting a non-denominational meditation group at my house.. i think it’s gonna be funded… so maybe you stop by jersey one of these days…

    more info email me… ejkidney33@gmail.com

  2. kavi
    kavi April 11, 2007 at 11:37 am | |

    U.G. seemed like an utterly honest person. Scarily so, sometimes.

  3. Jinzang
    Jinzang April 11, 2007 at 11:58 am | |

    I’ve written about what I think of both Krishnamurtis and other Neo-Advaitin types before. (I don’t agree with them.) Rather than repost what I’ve I’ve written I’ll just link to it.

  4. muddy elephant
    muddy elephant April 11, 2007 at 4:47 pm | |

    It’s been a while since I read the aforementioned ZAMM… definitely due for a re-read.

    “You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow…..When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths, or any other kinds of dogmas or goals, it’s always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt.”

    –Robert M. Pirsig

  5. David
    David April 11, 2007 at 8:17 pm | |

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. David
    David April 11, 2007 at 8:21 pm | |

    A few years back I spent good chunks of my day just reading and reading endlessly on the internet about Zen, about Enlightenment (or lack thereof), etc.

    I immediately hooked into UG Krishnamurti and read a great deal of what he had to say, and I *really* dug the guy.

    I also hooked into you, Brad, around that time.

    Another great (IMO) worthy of mention is Richard Rose. I also really really liked what he had to say.

    All in all, I’d say I felt closest to Richard Rose.

  7. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 11, 2007 at 11:57 pm | |

    …when I published my first book, my publishers wanted proof that I was a legitimate, recognized teacher in a legit Buddhist lineage.

    And WHO “legitimised” the Buddha? Who authorised HIM? Who wrote out HIS certificates and such? What’s a “legit” Buddhist lineage? Who decides what is or is not legit? And who is the “authority” who “recognises” a “legit” Buddhist teacher? How long does a sect have to be in existance and how many members does it need to be “legit.”

    These sorts of things always amuse me.

  8. proulx michel
    proulx michel April 12, 2007 at 4:09 am | |

    Wish I couls sport such a haircut myself…

  9. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 12, 2007 at 4:34 am | |

    And WHO “legitimised” the Buddha? Who authorised HIM?

    no one

    Who wrote out HIS certificates and such?

    no one. his followers wrote about him a lot though

    What’s a “legit” Buddhist lineage?

    one that is in accordance with the buddha’s teachings

    Who decides what is or is not legit?

    someone who’s spent their life studying and practising buddhism under the tutelage of someone who’s spent their whole life studying and practising buddhism under the tutelage of someone who’s spent their whole life studying and practising buddhism under the tutelage of someone etc etc

    And who is the “authority” who “recognises” a “legit” Buddhist teacher?

    someone who’s spent their life studying and practising buddhism

    How long does a sect have to be in existance

    5 minutes and 17 seconds

    and how many members does it need to be “legit.”

    more than one

  10. buddhistbassist
    buddhistbassist April 12, 2007 at 9:16 am | |

    The great Kurt Vonnegut died, too.

  11. ZenManDan
    ZenManDan April 12, 2007 at 10:10 am | |

    anonymous wrote – “How long does a sect have to be in existance?

    5 minutes and 17 seconds”

    hahaha!! Classic!

  12. Matt
    Matt April 12, 2007 at 11:05 am | |

    cool post. I started reading “Shoes Outside the Door” yesterday, incidentally.

    Speaking of “legitimate heirs, transmissions, and etc…”

    peace

  13. Koudelka
    Koudelka April 12, 2007 at 12:34 pm | |

    >>Anonymous
    Who cares about Buddha anyways, find the truth for yourself?

  14. grinner
    grinner April 12, 2007 at 1:36 pm | |

    Jinzang:

    I understand your point about the neo-advaitans making no effort, but I have to say after reading and having an intellectual grasp of “no-self” for YEARS, it was only whilst recently reading about Advaita that the knowleledge i had in my head dropped with a big queasy Clank into a true knowing for me. So, you never know when you’re gonna get truth dropped on ya, and I’ll take it whenever it comes and then keep moving.

  15. Jinzang
    Jinzang April 12, 2007 at 4:29 pm | |

    Gold is where you find it. If you got something of value from reading Advaitin texts, that’s great.

    At times when I read J. Krishnamurti I think that no one can improve on the way he says something. At other times I just find him tedious. Maybe it’s the mood I’m in. But on balance, I don’t think think his approach or the neo-Advaitin approach is helpful.

  16. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 12, 2007 at 5:21 pm | |

    >>Anonymous
    Who cares about Buddha anyways, find the truth for yourself?

    which anonymous are you talking to kouldelka?

    both/all/one/none?

  17. Koudelka
    Koudelka April 12, 2007 at 6:49 pm | |

    >>Anonymous
    All Anonymous who would take Buddha or anyone else as any kind of authority.

  18. Weasel Tracks
    Weasel Tracks April 12, 2007 at 7:33 pm | |

    And WHO “legitimised” the Buddha?

    We did, collectively. His teaching has been around a long time, and many people have examined it. A large number have decided it’s worth something.

    Then various means have been invented to help one ascertain whether someone who claims to be in Buddha’s line is congruent with his teaching. Not surefire, not absolutely, but it helps.

  19. Anatman
    Anatman April 12, 2007 at 9:46 pm | |

    I am also bummed to read about U.G.’s death. I’ve read a few long interviews with him, and found his perspective to be fascinating and refreshing.

    I would have liked to have met him.

    That is why I am bummed.

  20. oxeye
    oxeye April 12, 2007 at 10:27 pm | |

    nothing against U.G.’s haircut but vonnegut had the better barber..

  21. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 13, 2007 at 4:25 am | |

    Satsang on the edge of alternative silence

    http://www.offzen.org

  22. Jinzang
    Jinzang April 13, 2007 at 7:31 am | |

    All who would take Buddha or anyone else as any kind of authority.

    By making this statement without justification you are asking us to take it on authority. So your statement is self-refuting.

  23. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 13, 2007 at 8:02 am | |

    “All who would take Buddha or anyone else as any kind of authority.”

    “By making this statement without justification you are asking us to take it on authority. So your statement is self-refuting.”

    very true jinzang. kouldelka, i get the impression that you take the find the buddha kill the buddha thinking a little too much to heart.

  24. UncaDan
    UncaDan April 13, 2007 at 8:15 am | |

    Just before I checked this blog I glanced over at the few “key” books on my desk. Sitting right next to each other is “Hardcore Zen” and “The Mystique of Enlightenment” by U.G., kind of weird I thought.

    I like what U.G. had to say. Basically, in a nutshell, there is no “enlightenment”, all paths lead you away from what is real, and there is nothing that you can do to attain (reattain?) your “natural state”, it just happens but is available to all.

    I have found similar ideas in Buddhism such as the goal of zazen is to do zazen. Budhism is not something you believe. it is something you do. Thich Nhat Hanh
    saying not to be bound or attached to any doctrine or ideal, even Buddhist ones.

    When it comes down to it, reality is not something you can achieve or perceive, it is something that happens. Like the flow of the Tao, you either flow with it or against it.

    Just my thoughts

  25. Koudelka
    Koudelka April 13, 2007 at 11:33 am | |

    >>jinzang

    Now you’re starting to get it!

    But don’t take my word for it. OR MAYBE YOU SHOULD! DUN DUN DUN!

  26. Koudelka
    Koudelka April 13, 2007 at 11:35 am | |

    >>UncaDan
    Yeah man, I agree.

    “The Path” is just a delusion, I mean.. Who else but you decides when you’re done?

  27. Koudelka
    Koudelka April 13, 2007 at 11:36 am | |

    >>Anonymous

    “i get the impression that you take the find the buddha kill the buddha thinking a little too much to heart.”

    So you don’t take koans to heart? Bummer.

  28. magik
    magik April 13, 2007 at 12:32 pm | |

    Jinzang, shamatha sounds very much like zazen, but vipashyana is somewhat new to me. Is it an exclusively Tibetan practice?

  29. Jules
    Jules April 13, 2007 at 12:48 pm | |

    uncadan wrote: I like what U.G. had to say. Basically, in a nutshell, there is no “enlightenment”, all paths lead you away from what is real…

    I like that too, except I suspect most of us (especially me) spend a lot of time all wrapped up in what is not real. So it’s helpful to have some kind of exercises that help us keep it real. But yeah, calling it a “path” kind of seems to romanticize it, in my opinion. I prefer thinking of zazen as a simple exercise, like jogging. Just do it ™.

    koudelka wrote: “The Path” is just a delusion, I mean.. Who else but you decides when you’re done?

    I sincerely hope that the minute I decide I’m “done,” that I get slapped across the face with the big cold wet fish of reality.

    I forget who came up with that fish thing. Seems I heard it here first, but I’m not sure.

  30. Koudelka
    Koudelka April 13, 2007 at 1:14 pm | |

    >>jules

    Let me rephrase.

    I don’t think I’m done, I realized that there never was a path in the first place, it was just me playing stupid games.

  31. Jules
    Jules April 13, 2007 at 2:22 pm | |

    OK. I mostly just wanted to write “slapped across the face with the big wet fish of reality,” anyway.

  32. Koudelka
    Koudelka April 13, 2007 at 8:16 pm | |

    >>Jules

    I didn’t mean to sound like a dick, I just mean like… have you ever honestly asked yourself when you can be done on the search for truth?

    For me, the answer was “Well, damn, here it is! What the hell was I expecting? Would I want it any differently than straight up? Do I really want to be chasing fantasies of enlightenment all my life, when do I get to *live*?”

    And I guess all of my major conclusions actually came to me when I stopped looking and being “on the path” and all.

  33. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 14, 2007 at 3:43 am | |

    Looking for enlightenment and the desire to “get to live” share the same root. The former is neither worse or better than the latter.

  34. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 14, 2007 at 6:39 am | |

    When your study
    Of Buddhism is through
    You find
    You havenít anything new

    Bankei – Song of Original Mind

  35. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 14, 2007 at 7:30 am | |

    It’s a damn pain, I can’t bring myself to sit longer than 10 minutes nowadays. I catch myself falling back in old destructive ways of wanting to be loved. I’m a loser with a capital L. I’ve never had decent social skills, I find myself unattractive, or I atleast lack the motivation to make an effort out of life, relations and whutnot.
    I have had a few moments of clarity in which I found my insecurity ridiculous and KNEW everything to be fine as it was but I fell in this pit from where there’s no escape, it seems. I have thoughts in which I flirt with being dead(though I have no intention to kill myself), just picturing how there’d be peace and tranquility or just nothingness without this self around.

    Reading the Shobogenzo is a big pain in the ass. Having a master, would apparently help but it’s a bigger problem when you notice there’s something wrong but you don’t have any motivation to get up (or sit down) and do something about it.

    help?

  36. softcore zen
    softcore zen April 14, 2007 at 9:03 am | |

    To anonymous: Be kind to yourself! This is a long process, a long process with many painful periods, but things DO get better, over time. You are building skills in the meditation: skills, like playing a musical instrument, that aren’t developed overnight. Sometimes you DO have to tell yourself encouraging things, reframe your experience (I like to contemplate how, say, many monks in the past have been through much worse than I am going through and have found the resolve to keep going).

    I remember watching a movie–long time ago–where this guy said to this other guy: “You know that little white spot on the top of chickenshit?” “Yes, why?” Well, that little white spot, that’s chickenshit too.” It’s much the same with our lives: this is a process of acceptance, of all the stuff that comes up: so be kind to your anger, be kind to your sadness, try to back away and get a little perspective on it, and realize that, WHATEVER else happens, it will not last forever. There is an arising, a staying, and a passing away. So, even if you can’t see it yet (and you WILL see it, eventually), you are just focused and really hypnotized by the CONTENT of this stuff instead of looking at the PROCESS of it just coming, staying awhile and then going. It’s not you, it’s just stuff arising and then the physical body clenches up, it gets distracting and then we’re off on a storyline, in nevernever land.

    You can also exercise, listen to good music, get involved with others who can help–like you’re doing now, AWESOME!–journal, go for a walk, read amazing literature–many of us here no doubt have MANY suggestions–think about what sort of career you would like–and all sorts of more mundane things that make a real difference in your subjective sense of your suffering. And all of that, well, that’s chickenshit too!

    Do post again! Thanks!

  37. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 14, 2007 at 9:23 am | |

    or you could just go on anti depressants…. joking.

    sort of

  38. softcore zen
    softcore zen April 14, 2007 at 9:46 am | |

    Yes!

    There are times, undoubtedly, when meds can be helpful–they have saved many people from terrible, chronic problems–but another issue that anonymous brought up can be just as helpful: humor!

    Have a sense of humor about this crazy, wacked-out, terrible thing arising in your awareness (and like anonymous brilliantly said, ‘sort of’…we still recognize that it may be truly ‘terrible,’ yes?).

    I remember when my grandmother was going blind she would talk about the amazing ‘crazy light show’ she was enjoying as macular degeneration slowly closed her eyes to the world for the last time.

    Now that’s a hardcore gramma.

    Peace! :)

  39. Koudelka
    Koudelka April 14, 2007 at 4:05 pm | |

    >>softcore zen
    Awesome words man :D

  40. Jinzang
    Jinzang April 14, 2007 at 5:32 pm | |

    Jinzang, shamatha sounds very much like zazen, but vipashyana is somewhat new to me. Is it an exclusively Tibetan practice?

    I wrote an answer to this yesterday, but Blogger wouldn’t let me post it. Rather than lose it, I posted it to my blog. It’s mostly a quote from my teacher.

  41. Jinzang
    Jinzang April 14, 2007 at 5:34 pm | |

    have you ever honestly asked yourself when you can be done on the search for truth?

    We’re not searching for the truth. What we’re searching for is something we have great familiarity with: our own delusions.

  42. Koudelka
    Koudelka April 14, 2007 at 6:41 pm | |

    >>jinzang
    Everything’s relative, find the truth and you find delusion, find delusion and you find the truth. They’re best friends.

  43. Koudelka
    Koudelka April 14, 2007 at 6:50 pm | |

    >>Anonymous
    I’d say that looking for enlightenment is one of the greatest traps ever, or rather, looking for it in anything other than ordinary mind is a trap.

  44. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 15, 2007 at 4:09 am | |

    The same anonymous.
    Nicely said.

  45. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 15, 2007 at 1:37 pm | |

    I think U.G. Krishnamurti represented the very spirit of Zen even though he criticized it.

    However he takes another approach to enlightenment similar to how zen masters don’t like to call it that. Instead of “practice this and that” to let go he says “let go”.

    Zen is like learning to ride a bike with training wheels and U.G. is like trying to ride without them. Eventually you’ll get the hang of it. Don’t take this analogy to seriously now.

  46. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 15, 2007 at 3:00 pm | |

    there is no bike

  47. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 15, 2007 at 3:01 pm | |

    again joking

    sort of

  48. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 15, 2007 at 3:01 pm | |

    ;)

  49. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 15, 2007 at 3:02 pm | |

    “i get the impression that you take the find the buddha kill the buddha thinking a little too much to heart.”

    So you don’t take koans to heart? Bummer.”

    not really no. there just stories and riddles.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.