What Is Enlightenment?

WhatIsEnlightenmentOver the past couple of days the question of what constitutes “awakening” has come up a lot in the comments section of this blog. A correspondent called Petrichoric said:

“I don’t think that every single person in a sangha or every zen master is a wonderful, kind person, but, um, they fucking should be or should at least try to be! I started going to the local Zen center because (1) I wanted to stop suffering and (2) I wanted to become a better person. I just don’t understand how a spiritual leader can possibly be so deluded and lacking in self-awareness to take advantage and manipulate others. How can any spiritual awakening they’ve had possibly be genuine? And, yes, the question does remain about whether there is a relation being ‘awakening’ and ‘morality.’ And I still think there is.”

I’m going to present an expanded version of what I wrote back in the comments section. Apologies to those of you who have already read the short version.

The relationship between wakening and morality all depends upon how you define “awakening.”

A lot of people, especially nowadays, define “awakening” as a kind of experience. Much of what I see in contemporary magazines, books, websites and suchlike does. The spiritual master in question has some kind of profound experience that zaps her/his consciousness and then he/she goes out to tell the world about it.

There are plenty of examples of this. Genpo Roshi justifies charging folks $50,000 just to hang out next to him based on a profound awakening he had while on a solo retreat in the Mojave Desert some time in the Seventies. Eckhart Tolle claims to have had a grand awakening that enabled him to write a bazillion selling book and charge tens of thousands of dollars for lecture appearances. Shoko Asahara had a massive download from on high that supposedly made him the new Buddha for the modern age. The list goes on and on.

It all goes back to a certain reading of Buddha’s life story. The most common telling of it has Buddha meditating under a tree for 40 days at the end of which he had a deep awakening experience that turned him in one moment from plain old Siddhartha to the legendary Gautama Buddha. Sort of like how Japanese superheroes like Ultraman and Kamen Rider transform in a flash from regular human beings into giant bug-eyed alien monster fighters.

But experiences like that do not necessarily have any direct one-to-one relationship to any kind of moral maturity or sensibility. They’re just experiences. Like getting into a car crash or seeing a UFO or having a near-death experience. There’s no specific moral content to them.

People tend to forget that Siddhartha engaged in various practices and worked hard on himself for decades before his awakening. It happened in an instant. But the ground had been prepared for a lifetime, dozens of lifetimes if you believe those stories.

On the other hand, “awakening” of the type that occurs as a sudden peak experience, is just the conscious realization of the underlying ground of all of our experiences. It’s not that something new happens. It’s just that we notice what’s really been going on all along.

It is possible to have this kind of experience without properly preparing oneself for it. Sometimes a severe trauma like an accident or illness can do it. Sometimes drugs can induce it. Some so-called “spiritual” practices are designed just to cause these kinds of experiences to happen. Sometimes nothing seems to induce it. It just sort of happens.

In cases like those, the experience is still genuine and can still have value. But there’s no real basis for it, no real ground for it to land on. As I said before, the ego can latch on to absolutely anything — including the realization of its own illusory nature — as a means to enlarge itself.

These so-called “awakenings” do contain a sense that we are all intimately connected, that we are all manifestations of the same underlying reality. But the ego can latch onto that and make it something terribly immoral. It can decide that since I am you and you are me and we are all together, it’s fine if I fuck you over or lie to you or cheat you or steal from you because ultimately I am only doing that to myself. And what’s the problem if you do something to yourself?

It’s dangerous to point this kind of stuff out because there is a whole multi-billion dollar industry based on the notion that these kinds of experiences transform ordinary people into spiritual superheroes. But they don’t. Not in and of themselves. Becoming a moral person is a matter of transforming one’s habits of thinking and behavior. That is not easy to do. It takes time. It cannot possibly happen instantaneously no matter what sort of experience one has. An “awakening experience” can often be helpful in making a person more moral because it provides a new way of understanding yourself and others. But it doesn’t necessarily work that way.

This is why it’s very good to have a teacher who can help you through these kinds of experiences. It’s good to interact with someone else, or if you’re really lucky a number of other people, who have gone through these things. When, on the other hand, people have these experiences and then end up surrounded by admirers who want to gobble up the power such an experience confers the results can be disastrous.

So, yeah, the people you meet at a Zen temple ought to be at least decent people. And most of them are. Cases like that of Joshu Sasaki, Genpo Roshi, Eido Shimano and so forth are exceptional. They’re not the rule. You don’t have to be a genius to spot people like that either. It’s always obvious. Just don’t allow yourself to be blinded by fantasies of magic miracle men.

The foregoing is why Soto style Zen training tends to emphasize moral grounding and balance much more than the gaining of “awakening experiences,” so much so that one is often told it’s not important even to have such experiences at all. Dogen says this many times in his writings. Most teachers who followed in his lineage also say this. Which isn’t to say that Soto is good and everything else is evil. It’s just one of the things that really attracts me to the style I have practiced much more than any of the others out there, even though those others often sound a whole lot sexier.

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330 Responses

  1. recurvata
    recurvata May 18, 2013 at 3:12 am | |

    This might be your best post ever Brad. Thanks.

  2. anon 108
    anon 108 May 18, 2013 at 3:33 am | |

    Inspired by Harry’s Dogen quotes, I re-read the DAI-GO chapter. Here’s another go at explaining what I think he’s saying -

    Enlightenment, or realisation, is not an experience that heralds a state of saintly omniscience. There is no such thing. We live only here, only now. Our apparently ordinary, sometimes deluded moment-by-moment thoughts and actions are our lives. To realise this fact, to allow ourselves to live in harmony with it, is what Dogen calls ‘great realisation’.

  3. HarryB
    HarryB May 18, 2013 at 4:37 am | |

    Hi 108,

    Here’s what I take from it (today):

    If I want to know about realisation, I should rely on a moment of my own realisation – not, for example, on what I’ve heard/read about it; or what I imagine about it; or what the robed chap with his hand on my balls (and another in my wallet) is telling me about it.

    Although realisation isn’t something far away, if I’m not realising it, it doesn’t count for nuts: So ‘having’ a Buddha Nature, or subscribing to the view that ‘I am already inherently enlightened’, or that ‘everything is empty’ or whatever, may be more than useless if I don’t actually realise (i.e. make real) some truth of it.

    Kyozan replied to the question on realisation/enlightenment with a simple, fairly open and practical statement (partly in the form of a question it’s worth noting, I think) on something he had noticed about his own practice-experience.

    Regards,

    Harry.

  4. Fred
    Fred May 18, 2013 at 4:38 am | |

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

    Those who have great realization of delusion are buddhas; those who are greatly deluded about realization are sentient beings. Further, there are those who continue realizing beyond realization, who are in delusion throughout delusion.

    When buddhas are truly buddhas they do not necessarily notice that they are buddhas. However, they are actualized buddhas, who go on actualizing buddhas.”

  5. HarryB
    HarryB May 18, 2013 at 4:53 am | |

    “Further, there are those who continue realizing beyond realization, who are in delusion throughout delusion.”

    What Dogen Zenji is indicating here might be relevant to the whole question of morality in Zen teachers: It suggests someone who has ‘gone beyond’ the state of realisation by completely realising their deluded nature… now, what we do with that realisation?

    Regards,

    Harry.

  6. anon 108
    anon 108 May 18, 2013 at 5:02 am | |

    Hi Harry,

    Yes, we have to realise, actualise, for ourselves or it’s not real. But the words of others who’ve also clarified something real can be a great help – can help us find it, understand it and motivate our efforts to keep it real.

    And yes, we do need to make efforts. I suggested that (Dogen’s) ‘great realisation’ might be “to allow ourselves to live in harmony with [circumstances].” Allowing, of course, is a kind of effort. It’s not always easy. And there will always be questions.

  7. HarryB
    HarryB May 18, 2013 at 5:49 am | |

    “I suggested that (Dogen’s) ‘great realisation’ might be “to allow ourselves to live in harmony with [circumstances].”

    Hi 108,

    I suggest that we cannot know what Dogen’s ‘great realisation’ might be, but there’s a person’s realisation that we can know.

    ‘Right words’ certainly help, and Dogen saw such expression as the real tangible ‘stuff’ of realisation; and there are few who employed words to that end as well as he did IMO.

    Regards,

    Harry.

  8. anon 108
    anon 108 May 18, 2013 at 6:22 am | |

    Harry, by “(Dogen’s) great realisation” I’m not referring to the great realisation of Dogen. I’m referring to the kind of realisation that I understand him to be describing in that chapter – for I do believe he’s trying to describe a kind of something. Of course I might have misunderstood what Dogen is trying to describe, but that’s what his translated words suggested to me. A little earlier on.

  9. My_name_is_Daniel
    My_name_is_Daniel May 18, 2013 at 7:08 am | |

    If I may, I wonder which of the commenters has practiced Zazen and/or Skikantaza extensively? I ask because some of these questions and comments seem to be coming from a place of inexperience with what is a fundamental practice and key to understanding Brad’s post and quotes from Dogen, etc.

    1. anon 108
      anon 108 May 18, 2013 at 7:56 am | |

      Hi Daniel,

      I had a go at understanding a quote from Dogen so I’ll assume you’re asking me.

      I started practising shikantaza/zazen about halfway through 2005. Since then I’ve sat just about every day. That’s almost 8 years of sitting. Not that long, not that extensive.

      Could you tell us what you think is being missed?

    2. drocloc
      drocloc May 18, 2013 at 8:31 am | |

      Practice zazen only now.^^

  10. boubi
    boubi May 18, 2013 at 9:17 am | |

    Hi Brad

    Once you said that you sat and that from time to time “god” was letting you experience (don’t remember your wording), now you seem to say that enlightenment boils down to “Becoming a moral person”.

    Sounds borderline christian to me, i think your upbringing is surfacing and you’re mixing the two things.

  11. My_name_is_Daniel
    My_name_is_Daniel May 18, 2013 at 9:19 am | |

    No no, I wasn’t referring to you, anon! No one in particular, but when terms like “stupid” or just overly critical opinions are expressed, it doesn’t seem like they are coming from a place of experience.

    As far as what I think is missing, I don’t think much if anything is. Dogen’s work speaks for itself, to say the least! Also, take “just wash your bowl”, one could interpret this on many levels, each of which can be genuine, as pertains to the place of the practitioner. One doesn’t reach the top of the mountain in a single step, though it only takes a single step off….

    So, given our own personalities and varying levels of realization, which often fluctuates, what is “true” for an individual may not be so for another, though I feel with experience one respects the place of another, most likely having been in a similar place in the past and maybe an eye for the possibility in the future.

    For me, the key to Zen practice is taking zazen/ shikantaza off the zafu and into daily life. I think this is where issues arise with the seemingly simple yet often perplexing expressions of Zen about life. Without thorough zazen experience (and I don’t think thorough needs to mean years and years of experience), someone may have no idea of what an experienced practitioner is talking about, this is somewhat obvious.

    “It is simply that it has always been inherent in oneself.” – Keizan

    Shitou and the whisk.

    1. anon 108
      anon 108 May 18, 2013 at 10:32 am | |

      “No no, I wasn’t referring to you, anon!”

      Oh you mean Harry?!!! Yeah…kid’s clueless :(

      No, but seriously… we are all very different. And yes, we should try hard to “respect the place of another.” Not our default program, perhaps.

  12. Anonymous
    Anonymous May 18, 2013 at 11:21 am | |

    I don’t know…… it seems pretty hard to me to guess the experience level of people from their posts, but I’m not particularly interested in anyone’s experience level.

  13. Anonymous
    Anonymous May 18, 2013 at 11:23 am | |

    Oh, and Brad: Please urge your publisher to make your upcoming book available on Kindle. Thanks.

  14. Zafu
    Zafu May 18, 2013 at 11:31 am | |

    So, yeah, the people you meet at a Zen temple ought to be at least decent people. And most of them are. Cases like that of Joshu Sasaki, Genpo Roshi, Eido Shimano and so forth are exceptional. They’re not the rule. You don’t have to be a genius to spot people like that either. It’s always obvious. Just don’t allow yourself to be blinded by fantasies of magic miracle men.
    ~ Brad Warner

    As you say, it’s obvious. Yet, such people operate the way they do for decades, right under the noses of all the ostensively “decent people.” As Tom Petty once said, “I can’t tell which is worse.”

  15. My_name_is_Daniel
    My_name_is_Daniel May 18, 2013 at 12:44 pm | |

    Anonymous,
    From my perspective it isn’t about guessing, though that plays a part in some way. It’s more about my familiarity with myself, my encounters with other practitioners and subtleties, intuition. You could call it “reading” someone, which is possible through words because words are a form of expression, obviously, and one’s mental state is often reflected in whatever form of communication is happening at the moment. This wouldn’t be as accurate, as say, the reading of body language during dokusan. But, there is some things going on in whatever communication format.

    That being said, I could be completely wrong.

  16. Mumbles
    Mumbles May 18, 2013 at 1:31 pm | |

    Fred at 2:48 a.m: Trungpa’s asking an unanswerable rhetorical question. He is taking what you said about the “I” as a given.

    HarryB and Anon 108:
    “If I want to know about realisation, I should rely on a moment of my own realisation – not, for example, on what I’ve heard/read about it.”

    OK, so why split hairs and worry about what someone else said in the 13th century under circumstances and conditions we can hardly fathom? You find it applicable to this particular moment of realization? now? And this one?… OK.

    http://foucault.info/documents/whatIsEnlightenment/foucault.whatIsEnlightenment.en.html

  17. HarryB
    HarryB May 18, 2013 at 2:12 pm | |

    Mumbles,

    In my view there certainly are very valid questions as to the merits of any particular translation, and the whole question of differing paradigms across long time intervals (in human terms), before and after we discuss any particular translation of someone like Dogen Zenji who employed language in very subtle and sometimes unusual ways (he was a poet after all).

    But, yes, I have found it applicable to the whole area of my own practice, and it continues to inform my efforts. While Dogen and the traditional koan accounts which he utilized were certainly ‘of their time’, as all of us unavoidably are to varying degrees, they often expound certain truths about any particular moment which seem very valid and relevant. Having read fairly widely in the Zen and wider Buddhist literature I reckon that Dogen was really on to something. He was a sort of genius in contextualizing his realisation in words in a way that could be tried and tested. I don’t have Dogen’s sort of genius so as to arrive at that myself, so I am happy to follow the many leads that he provides that I wouldn’t have come up with on my own (and which are not widely discussed, or discussed at all, in modern Buddhist discourse).

    Not least of these (and this is one that seems pertinent to what you asked) is Dogen’s chapter Uji, which explores the whole notion of time from the perspective of direct experience of it (i.e. time-as-existence, as it can be experienced independent of discursive thought, not just as a continuum implied by our thinking facilities which remember a ‘past’ and imagine a ‘future’).

    As an example of how that might inform my practice, I might drop off body and mind and consider things such as: If, when I ‘drop off body and mind’ I stop thinking about the past and imagining a future, what happens to ‘time’? Is there a time that exists independently of the present moment? If there is time, then where does it come from and where does it go? Who or what is the agent of time? etc etc.

    And before anyone thinks I’m claiming to have achieved the ‘dropping off of body and mind’ as some once-off enlightement scenario, I’m not. Dropping off body and mind is what we do from the start when we just allow thoughts and feelings to come and go and that, generally, stabilizes after twenty or thirty minutes or so into a still state that is not befuddled by the subtle thoughts that we usually grasp on to and run with in the habitual ways… most people who have practiced reasonably seriously for a short time will be familiar with that state, so no big fireworks deal there.

    Regards,

    Harry.

  18. Mumbles
    Mumbles May 18, 2013 at 2:49 pm | |

    IMO “Dropping off body and mind” is the tip of the iceberg of misunderstandings, spurious interpretations, and ultimately perhaps made sense only to Dogen, possibly as a poetic metaphor, or as Fred might say (sorry Fred, for putting words in your mouth, correct me at will), the absence of “Dogen” was also clueless of whatever “Dropping off body and mind” might mean -or not mean at all.

    When something is “timeless” that usually just means it has been better said before, and will be said again, and again…

  19. Mumbles
    Mumbles May 18, 2013 at 3:02 pm | |

    But…I’m glad you have found the writing applicable, Harry. Its all relative, I suppose, what one person gets from here, another gets from over there, here, there, and everywhere. I’ve personally got more out of Flann O’Brien than Dogen…

  20. HarryB
    HarryB May 18, 2013 at 3:05 pm | |

    Well, Mumbles, it’s no secret that Dogen in no small part rehashed existing resources to arrive at his zazen instruction Fukanzazengi where he (re)states quite explicitly (as he does in other places) the nature of what ‘dropping off body and mind is’:

    “You should therefore cease from practice based on intellectual understanding, pursuing words and following after speech, and learn the backward step that turns your light inwardly to illuminate your self. Body and mind of themselves will drop away, and your original face will be manifest. If you want to attain suchness, you should practice suchness without delay.”

    …as he does in other places too. I don’t think it’s an accident that Dogen is considered a major figure in Buddhist philosophy, but I’ll happily take any other material of that breadth and quality and subtlety on board as it comes along.

    His, sometimes radical, treatment of existing Buddhist literature (including koans and the core tenets of Buddhist doctrine) was, and still is, very fresh compared to what’s out there, and certainly compared to what’s being produced these days from within Zen circles.

    Regards,

    Harry.

  21. boubi
    boubi May 18, 2013 at 3:12 pm | |

    — “Dropping off body and mind” might mean -or not mean at all. —

    — Dropping off body and mind is what we do from the start when we just allow thoughts and feelings to come and go and that, generally, stabilizes after twenty or thirty minutes or so into a still state that is not befuddled by the subtle thoughts that we usually grasp on to and run with in the habitual ways —

    So Dogen got his transmission for doing what “we do from the start” or “not mean at all”… a quite interesting point of view

    Anyhow i still don’t understand why, since experiences aren’t important, this mythical moment of “dropping off …” is still venerated after 800 years ? ? ?

    My ignorant point of view is that probably the guy got the “no eye, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no touch” thing, but it mustn’t be like this since none of the Soto folks talked about it.

    But still, despite the enticing title, no definition of enlightenment, beyond identifying it with “being a moral person”, which is not, never heard of such a sutra .

  22. HarryB
    HarryB May 18, 2013 at 3:22 pm | |

    “”So Dogen got his transmission for doing what “we do from the start””

    Hi boubi,

    Well, I think you’ll find I didn’t say that. That account of Dogen’s realization and subsequent transmission alone does not contextualise how Dogen explains ‘dropping off body and mind’ in his zazen instructions. And in his other records realisation to Dogen seems to have been a very broad field encompassing both every moment of practice, and instantaneous realisation events, and the expression of them, and being in accord with the dignified conduct of Buddhist ancestors (correct conduct), and, indeed, the whole natural world itself (“Mountains and waters right now are the actualization of the ancient Buddha way”).

    Regards,

    Harry.

  23. Mumbles
    Mumbles May 18, 2013 at 3:27 pm | |

    “You should therefore cease from practice based on intellectual understanding, pursuing words and following after speech, and learn the backward step that turns your light inwardly to illuminate your self. Body and mind of themselves will drop away, and your original face will be manifest. If you want to attain suchness, you should practice suchness without delay.” -Dogen

    “Your talk,” I said, “is surely the handiwork of wisdom because not one word of it do I understand.” -Flann O’Brien, The Third Policeman

  24. HarryB
    HarryB May 18, 2013 at 3:51 pm | |

    “My ignorant point of view is that probably the guy got the “no eye, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no touch” thing, but it mustn’t be like this since none of the Soto folks talked about it.”

    Now, that’s an interesting point, because the records of Dogen were hidden away for years in dusty old cupboards even though Dogen was considered to be a founder of what came to be ‘Soto Zen’. His records only really came into broad circulation last century. Having a highly literate subtle thinker who talked about koans a lot likely did not often sit well with the latter day construction of Soto Zen as the Buddhism of farmers as opposed to those evil Rinzaists with their insidious intellectual koan-solving ways. :-)

    On the Heart Sutra: One of the unusual things (and possibly the most radical, from a particular perspective) that Dogen did with existing Buddhist material was to offer a rewriting of the Heart Sutra. In it he does not take the standard, established position of just philosophically negating things (no eye, no ears, no nose, no tongue…) but he presents them instead in the affirmative as ‘things as instances of prajna’. This is consistent with his statements on zazen and the nature of realisation such as ‘that myriad things come forth and illuminate the self is awakening.’ (Genjo-Koan).

    This counters the seemly ageless tendency in Buddhism for people to get caught up in philosophically negating everything, sometimes to the point of nihilism (‘shunyata sickness’ as it’s sometimes referred to). He seemed quite concerned with addressing that in many places in Shobogenzo, so he really ‘went beyond’ the bounds of philosophical negation.

    It’s a bold and very interesting take on the Sutra that must still bug the dung out of people who hold such things to be above that sort of creative reworking.

    You can read it here (page 51):

    https://www.bdkamerica.org/digital/dBET_T2582_Shobogenzo1_2009.pdf

    Regards,

    Harry.

  25. Mumbles
    Mumbles May 18, 2013 at 4:08 pm | |

    “In studying or practicing Zen it is of no help to think about Zen. To remain caught up in ideas and words about Zen is, as the old masters say, to ‘stink of Zen.’” -Alan Watts

  26. HarryB
    HarryB May 18, 2013 at 4:16 pm | |

    Ah, Mumbles. That old default recipe for half-assed effort failed to impress me some time ago. I’d be more concerned about the ‘stink of No-Stink Zen’ at this stage. ;-)

    …and, say, didn’t dear old Alan make something of a career out of making philosophical stinks?

    Regards,

    Harry.

  27. Mumbles
    Mumbles May 18, 2013 at 4:51 pm | |

    “…old default recipe for half-assed effort…” Wow, you really ARE an intellectual, Harry. Congratulations.

    Alan did quite alright for himself, I dare say. When you have attained what he did with your studies, let me know.

  28. Brent
    Brent May 18, 2013 at 5:01 pm | |

    At least Harry is alive and practicing!

  29. HarryB
    HarryB May 18, 2013 at 5:04 pm | |

    Well, I’ve great respect for Alan Wallace’s stuff, and he clearly wasn’t in anyway confined to the stricture that you quoted as he very likely understood its context, and he intellectualised to beat the band.

    I have an intellect like everyone else and I don’t see that I, or anyone, should feel bad or guilty or inferior about it if they are cool with it. If you’re going to try to tell me that Alan Wallace himself wasn’t an intellectual (among his many other qualities) then I’ll prepare myself for that strange revelation.

    It ain’t a competition, bro.

    Regards,

    Harry.

  30. HarryB
    HarryB May 18, 2013 at 5:07 pm | |

    Oops, Alan Watts I mean. Old intellect isn’t what it used to be, obviously.

  31. Mumbles
    Mumbles May 18, 2013 at 5:26 pm | |

    “If you’re going to try to tell me that Alan Wallace himself wasn’t an intellectual…”

    I wasn’t. That’s what I meant by “when you have attained…”

    And back to “timelessness:” That “stink of Zen” is not original with Allan Watts, or Alan Wallace, for that matter.

    Another version from the (also) late (sorry Brent!) great Joe Miller [see Great Song - The Life And Teachings of Joe Miller]:

    “If you’re thinkin’ you’re stinkin.’”

    And another one from Joe,

    “It can’t be taught, it has to be caught.”

    Which, unless I read it wrong, goes back to my original comment on your statement, Harry, “If I want to know about realisation, I should rely on a moment of my own realisation – not, for example, on what I’ve heard/read about it.”

  32. Mumbles
    Mumbles May 18, 2013 at 5:27 pm | |

    Which, btw, I completely agree with…

  33. HarryB
    HarryB May 18, 2013 at 5:46 pm | |

    Hi Mumbles,

    I’m not looking to be verified, thanks.

    Well, it seems quite common for us to make assumptions (on our own and other people’s behalves) about what the nature of Zen practice is or should be, particularly in the case of study and exploring Buddhist thought and literature. There will always, it seems, be an acceptable bias against intellectualizing in Zen despite the fact that we are thinking beings. To me, some of the more spurious Zen ideologies and assumptions seem like recipes for self loathing.

    There is a diversity in approaches apparent across many sources, and Dogen’s approach certainly advocated studying and considering and making something real of the Zen and broader Buddhist literature besides practicing zazen (which, obviously, is not about sitting around musing on theories in the usual thinking manner).

    Regards,

    Harry.

  34. Mumbles
    Mumbles May 18, 2013 at 5:55 pm | |

    Sorry, Brent, Marshall McLuhan is dead, too.

  35. HarryB
    HarryB May 18, 2013 at 6:02 pm | |

    You say ‘toe-may-toe’, I say ‘toe-mah-toe’,
    You say ‘poe-tay-toe’, I say ‘poe-tah-toe’,
    You quote Watts, I quote Dogen… let’s call the whole thing off.

    Nice video. He was a dude.

    Regards,

    H.

  36. Brent
    Brent May 18, 2013 at 6:07 pm | |

    Well that makes two of us!

  37. Fred
    Fred May 18, 2013 at 6:12 pm | |

    “Fred at 2:48 a.m: Trungpa’s asking an unanswerable rhetorical question. He is taking what you said about the “I” as a given.”

    It can’t be a given otherwise he would have lived it.

  38. Mumbles
    Mumbles May 18, 2013 at 6:18 pm | |

    BRENT!!! It can’t be. I played sax w/The Embos at their 1989 reunion concert at Big Dog Studios. Then played bass w/Britt and Bill in 626. Are you THAT Brent from Wichita?? Small world, brother.

  39. Mumbles
    Mumbles May 18, 2013 at 6:19 pm | |

    And Fred, I do believe he did live it. Of course, he’s dead, too. You can watch the limp film bio of his life CRAZY WISDOM over on Netflix and see for yourself sort of.

  40. Brent
    Brent May 18, 2013 at 6:27 pm | |

    nnnooooo, sorry Mumbles – wish it could be that Brent – I just read your bio and recognized a band I love and threw in the vid as a perk for you. oddly enough, I then saw the other brent was connected with this band and realized i know him thru other channels. long live 80′s indie rock…

  41. Fred
    Fred May 18, 2013 at 6:49 pm | |

    Crazy Wisdom is an ego’s way of justifying abusive behavior.

    “One of his nursing attendants reports that in his last months, he suffered from the classic symptoms of terminal alcoholism and cirrhosis, yet continued drinking heavily”

  42. Mumbles
    Mumbles May 18, 2013 at 6:52 pm | |

    Huh. I didn’t realize that linked to my website. Well, it doesn’t matter that you’re not that Brent, Brent. Thanks for dropping that video in here, I appreciate you making that connection. And I apologize for giving you shit. That Woody Allen clip was right on. By the way, the Brent from The Embarrassment’s nickname is “Woody” but maybe you knew that?

    And Harry (and Brad earlier in this post) I am just entertaining myself in some dark, creepy way at your expense. Apologies.

    I’ll sit down and shut the fuck up now.

  43. Mumbles
    Mumbles May 18, 2013 at 7:02 pm | |

    After I say this: Fred, WTF? There’s no morality in the Absolute, you know. That’s a filthy dirty concept, like all concepts.

    “Who” “continued drinking heavily.”?

    -He said sipping a Bulliet Rye Old Fashioned. (Yes “I Am”)

    http://www.gurusfeet.com/forum/what-fuck-does-nisargadatta-mean-quot-i-am-quot

  44. Fred
    Fred May 18, 2013 at 7:08 pm | |

    True, there is no morality in the Absolute other than a deep compassion and
    love for all things including the body-mind where the Absolute realized itself.

  45. boubi
    boubi May 18, 2013 at 9:00 pm | |

    —”In it he does not take the standard, established position of just philosophically negating things (no eye, no ears, no nose, no tongue…) but he presents them instead in the affirmative as ‘things as instances of prajna’.”—

    Sorry who says it is a PHILOSOPHICALLY negation ?

    To some it could be an actual description of what happens, that sense cease to be perceived/cease to perceive the usual way.

    I don’t think there is any contradiction with “enlightened by the 10 000 things” when the 10 000 things “cease to be perceived the usual way”.

    Anybody can give his description of this “thing”, refering to sutras allows a common set of reference, unless we start a babel of tongues.

  46. boubi
    boubi May 18, 2013 at 9:05 pm | |

    —”This is consistent with his statements on zazen and the nature of realisation such as ‘that myriad things come forth and illuminate the self is awakening.’ (Genjo-Koan).”—

    That’s interesting, the first definition of “enlightenment” !

    It is Dogen i suppose ?

  47. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote May 18, 2013 at 10:33 pm | |

    “i grew ripe
    when the daydream dieing
    flowered a simple type
    and opened
    into infant eyes”

    Like that!

    “…Be like a person who has died the great death: after your breath is cut off, then you come back to life. Only then do you realize that it is as open as empty space. Only then do you reach the point where your feet are walking on the ground of reality.”

    (Zen Letters, translated by J.C. and Thomas Cleary, pg 84)

    Sorta the same thing.

    The question of what is awakening brings a second question: are there levels of awakening?

    Gautama studied with two teachers, one whose mastery was the mastery of “the state of no-thing”, and one whose mastery was the state that succeeds “the state of no-thing”, which is “the state of neither perception and sensation nor yet not perception and sensation”. Gautama felt that his own experience of “the cessation of perception and sensation”, the state which succeeds “the state of neither perception and sensation nor yet not perception and sensation” set him apart from the two teachers, and he would have sought them out to teach it to them had he not realized that they had already passed on.

    So at least classically there are levels of attainment in awakening. Not mentioned in Chan or Zen.

    It’s my understanding that Gautama came to the insight of the four truths at the time he experienced “the cessation of perception and sensation” (you have to read the right books in the Pali Canon in order to discover that the word “cessation” is short-hand for “cessation of volitive activity”). So as to what enlightenment was for Gautama, as opposed to what his awakening experience was, I wrote this in my recent piece:

    ‘The “beholding stopping” that followed “beholding detachment” in “the intent concentration on in-breaths and out-breaths” concerned a cessation of the exercise of volition in action, in particular the cessation of that exercise of volition that is set in motion through the ignorance of things as they are. Gautama saw ignorance as a source of volitive activity, and volitive activity he saw as the source of an experience of consciousness as stationed or unresponsive. From the experience of consciousness as stationed, he said, a chain of cause and effect is set in motion that leads to the thought “this is mine; this I am; this is my self”. This chain, he said, constituted the genesis of suffering; at the same time, the cessation of ignorance was the cessation of all the elements of the causal chain, and therefore constituted a cessation of suffering. “Beholding stopping” concerned the natural witness of a cessation of the exercise of volition born of ignorance; such a cessation follows from the witness of detachment.’

    Gautama taught that volitive action ceases in the meditative states, and mindfulness of the meditative states he said was a part of mindfulness of the body. In my experience, my sense of where I am in space involves my sense of equalibrium and the subtle feelings of place generated by muscles and tendons throughout the body, and my sense of where I am can shift in the movement of breath and occasion a cessation of volition. With relaxation my sense of place can effect the posture without the exercise of volition; zazen can sit zazen, sometimes past ease, and my wits can become unhampered, sometimes past any happiness of mind.

    We are talking about human nature, a suddenness of here breaking sense into “no tongue, no eye, no ear, no nose, no body, no mind, and no extinction of them”.

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