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.

*   *   *

Your support for this site really helps. It’ll also help offset the cost of my recent visits to Tennessee and Texas to watch my nephew graduate and help my dad get his house ready to sell. Thanks for your donations!!




Sharing is caring! Tweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponDigg this

330 Responses

  1. HarryB
    HarryB May 19, 2013 at 7:05 pm |

    Whatever happened to dear old Mysterion (who was getting cyber-butchered here back in the day), and Jinzang who used to try and whip our lazy zen asses shipshape with his Tibetan Buddhist stylings? And does Gniz still turn out when some enlightened bozo gets caught with his hand up somebody elses’ kesa?

    Some of the old eclectic sideshow crew seem to have drifted on 🙁

  2. Mumbles
    Mumbles May 19, 2013 at 7:50 pm |

    Mal, your confession of only reading while on the toilet…well, let’s just say with that in mind it will be awhile before I borrow another library book…

    My_name_is_Daniel: I think many folks here have practiced awhile, some of us for years. It may not be apparent, especially in the way I often tend to express myself -if indeed that is criterion for some kind of judgement, but I have meditated seriously for over 40 years, starting with Zen, presently with? Check this out: http://www.buddhistgeeks.com/2010/04/the-shotgun-approach-2/ and that doesn’t cover the past few years, which included a stint with a local Soto sangha, which I still hang with sometimes.

    Harry, it was good to come back after nearly a year away from the wonderful Brad Blog and find you still here, I always find your contributions interesting. I can say the same about Anon 108, Alan, Mark, and others. And yeah, I do miss Mysterion especially…I have seen Jinzang here some, recently even I think, and Gniz is busy writing e-Romance novels for big $, I think.

    My thing is I get attached to this…this discussion…and while I love the interaction, the sharing, the challenge, the frustration, the fun of all of it, I also understand that it is attachment. So, I always wish all of you well, even if I give you hell (&I expect and get it back) if/when I drop in or not. And if “I” am not…well, I know Fred gets it. blessings of peace on y’all.

  3. My_name_is_Daniel
    My_name_is_Daniel May 19, 2013 at 7:51 pm |

    I just noticed the copyright dates! 1997? That takes it back.

  4. My_name_is_Daniel
    My_name_is_Daniel May 19, 2013 at 8:19 pm |

    Mumbles, that’s a hell of a lot of words.. I scanned through it, I assume you wrote it?

    “The attributes of Existence are breathed in, while the Essence of the Absolute is returned to the ineffable with the out-breath. In this way, union, and re-union is established.”

    This reminds me of a practice I came up with… You know the ole’ breath in and breath out exercises, think this on in breath and think that on out., etc. Well, I’ve experimented with some little mental tricks like: think “breathing out” while breathing in and think “breathing in” while breathing out. And what I found to be a more interesting variation of thinking only in or out with each in and out breath.

    It’s a bit like curing an addiction to pie with pie as far as mental forms go during meditation, but it seems to be an effective way to invoke non-dualism. I shared this with Greg Fain, the Tanto at Tassjara and in classic Greg fashion, he suggested avoiding the esoteric as much as possible. Talk about simple, direct practice suggestions!

  5. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote May 19, 2013 at 8:24 pm |

    “the hypnogogic hallucinations approaching and after sleep paralysis can be pretty wild when you are ‘there’ to check them out.”

    yeah, I write about that in my latest; don’t know if you saw that link, Harry. I contend in the piece that the meditative states are hypnogogic states, and while it’s possible to experience them just falling asleep and arrive at a cessation of volitive activity in the body (“sleep paralysis”), it’s also possible to move through states and avoid the hypnic jerk at the moment of the cessation. You could say that what I’m describing is something other than a hypnogogic state and something other than “sleep paralysis”, but I think it’s close enough to use the terms.

    Anyway, the point of my writing is that these things can be and are everyday experiences, when once the shift in the sense of location is experienced. I’ve recounted before how a friend I never met in New York used my description of following the location of awareness in “Waking up and Falling Asleep”, on my site, to fall back to sleep at 4am; he was having trouble getting enough sleep, but he discovered by attending to not the contents but the sense of place associated with awareness he dropped off quickly. He described it as actually a light sleep, from which he awoke feeling refreshed.

    I think practice at 4am when one is awake and has the incentive of wanting to be asleep, while laying down and relaxing, was probably key to his first-time experience. I’m here to tell that such can be done waking up as well as falling asleep, a fact which he also later confirmed.

    I take this as the method by which thought applied and sustained can be abandoned as the controlling faculty of ease gives way to the controlling faculty of happiness in the second meditative state; I talk more about that in my piece.

    My presumption would be that the Gautama described natural experiences that begin with “taking self-surrender as the object of thought” and the “single-pointedness of mind” associated with concentration and include the induction of hypnogogic states almost immediately, even before the cessation of thought applied and sustained. That I have words to describe this for my own benefit, I understand as the greatest blessing of my life.

    Mumbles, your history always fascinates me.

    Daniel, you sound like someone who is looking to take the robe himself, am I wrong?

  6. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote May 19, 2013 at 8:26 pm |

    I think SoF is Mysterion, just that somebody copped Mysterion as the username when Brad moved to the new site.

  7. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote May 19, 2013 at 8:42 pm |

    @my-name-is-Daniel, see your comment on Mumbles piece, I liked that bit too. You might like my piece; if you get far enough into it, I give an explanation of “the intent concentration on in-breaths and out-breaths”, which Gautama said was his own practice of mindfulness before and after enlightenment. He also said this practice constituted one (complete) practice of mindfulness, and that the trance states belonged to mindfulness of the body in particular.

    I know you are keen to see practicing Zen as simple, but it’s only simple in the way it ruins your life.

  8. My_name_is_Daniel
    My_name_is_Daniel May 19, 2013 at 8:45 pm |

    I entertained the idea of ordaining for some time, especially once my home practice really took root, even before I was familiar with the different branches of Buddhism.
    To make a long story short, I eventually did the Summer Work Practice at Tassajara and a practice period to get a taste of what the robed life was really like. Being surrounded by intentional practitioners was really great, but the style/ form, cultural baggage and dogma turned me off, I personally don’t see a need for it..
    However, it was one of the best things I ever did for myself and I am quite thankful for the teachers there. I’ve considered starting my own center of “pure practice”, dropping the labels, names, forms and cultural baggage that you find within these organizations. Something more similar to practice as expressed by Adyashanti (using him here as just a point of reference).
    Thanks for asking!

  9. My_name_is_Daniel
    My_name_is_Daniel May 19, 2013 at 8:47 pm |

    And the practice has enriched my life.. nothing even close to ruining it!

  10. John H
    John H May 19, 2013 at 8:48 pm |

    Funny, when I signed up here I thought this was a blog for Brad Warner’s writing.

    After 40 years of meditation I hope I have a much quieter mind than all of this…

  11. HarryB
    HarryB May 20, 2013 at 5:00 am |

    John H,

    It has been noted by no less than Tricycle magazine and celebrity internet Buddhist Jundo Cohen that this blog comments section is a sort of online Buddhist hell.

    When you get your quiet mind after 40 years, who knows, you might be in a better position to enjoy it!

    Good luck,


  12. My_name_is_Daniel
    My_name_is_Daniel May 20, 2013 at 5:35 am |

    “It has been noted by no less than Tricycle magazine and celebrity internet Buddhist Jundo Cohen that this blog comments section is a sort of online Buddhist hell.”

    Goooo figure!

  13. My_name_is_Daniel
    My_name_is_Daniel May 20, 2013 at 5:36 am |

    Thanks for the reference to your site, it’s on my rotation this morning!

  14. HarryB
    HarryB May 20, 2013 at 7:17 am |

    As boubi seemed to like ‘what Dogen said’ about enlightenment earlier, here’s something else for the gumbo that he said in Genjo-koan. He’s really quite explicit about how he sees it, albeit in accomplished poetic terms (…abstraction from The Absolute! How dare he!), and he wasn’t afraid of his own considerable facility to talk about it:

    “Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water. The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken. Although its light is wide and great, the moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide. The whole moon and the entire sky are reflected in dewdrops on the grass, or even in one drop of water.
    Enlightenment does not divide you, just as the moon does not break the water. You cannot hinder enlightenment, just as a drop of water does not hinder the moon in the sky. The depth of the drop is the height of the moon. Each reflection, however long or short its duration, manifests the vastness of the dewdrop, and realizes the limitlessness of the moonlight in the sky.” (Aitken/Tanahashi trans.)

    …possibly one of the most beautiful and enduring riffs on a similie that Dogen employed.

    There are various translations of it here:




  15. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote May 20, 2013 at 7:19 am |

    Daniel, interesting to hear your history. I think if there is a commonality among the folks who comment here, and in the remarks of Brad himself, which is that we prize the experience of our own spontaneous nature and believe in a practice of some kind yet we are keenly aware of what helps us to experience that spontaneity and what does not.

    We are looking to have fun with it. Also, I think Boubi nailed it when she pointed to Brad’s willingness to give up at least the public aspect of his practice for love; for me as well, the social vision of Gautama the Buddha I consider his own, in spite of his having lumped it in with the teachings regarding human nature. The split of the order over whether or not an arahant could have a wet dream I consider an indicator of Gautama’s failure as a member of the larger community, and I believe he had several failures that grew out of his commitment to teach. He understood himself to be teaching out of compassion; I owe him keen scepticism.

    I look forward to your comments and suggestions, when you get to my rough draft #3.

  16. HarryB
    HarryB May 20, 2013 at 7:28 am |

    BTW, it may be worth saying that, here Dogen is riffing, somewhat subversively, with the enduring image of enlightenment as the full moon.

    A traditional arrangement of it would have that realisation is the full moon itself, while its reflection (representing thoughts and concepts) is a pale imitation, but look what Dogen does with that idea in the quote above: we ourselves are drops of water that contain the whole moon and its reflections, and each reflection itself realises the full extent of moonlight…

    There’s a lot of talk about nonduality these days, but it’s rare to see things like this so well expressed.



  17. My_name_is_Daniel
    My_name_is_Daniel May 20, 2013 at 7:41 am |

    I like fun!

    Anywho, in all honesty, if I never heard “Buddha” or “Buddhism” or “Zen” or whatever again, it would be too soon. That being said, the vocabulary developed to describe the practice and experiences act as fantastic points of reference. I have no hard feelings toward Buddhism, but it’s so easy for myself or others to get caught in the words, same with Guatama.

    I really take the “kill’n the Buddha in the road” thing to heart. Whether he said this or he did that or whats-his/her-face said or did whatever, I border on couldn’t care less. Idolatry with SFZC was sickening at times (and boy, did I stick it to them!).

    No one owns realization..I mean shit.. I even question my own rule over my own perceptions.

    As far as your page goes, it’s a real thinker! and what I did read required me to do a good bit of Google’n. You wouldn’t happen to have a more simple version, would you? Maybe a summary?

  18. John H
    John H May 20, 2013 at 8:46 am |


    Your name-dropping response, as well as your “clever” spin on my statement only further illustrate how completely you miss the point of Zen, and instead spend your time over-intellectualizing and repeating information you’ve read/heard elsewhere in an effort to impress others.

    Give it another 40 years, maybe you’ll get it.

  19. My_name_is_Daniel
    My_name_is_Daniel May 20, 2013 at 9:03 am |


  20. HarryB
    HarryB May 20, 2013 at 9:05 am |

    John H,

    Thanks for the encouragement! I’d be doing very well to thoroughly ‘get it’ in 40 years I think.

    Here’s a question for you (asking sincere questions is a good way to talk IMO, where assumptions tend to lead to dead ends):

    What is the point of Zen?

    Actually, here’s another one:

    What is Zen?

    It’s just that people have all sorts of ideas about ‘Zen’ so that they often don’t seem to talking about the same thing, or things.

    Regards to you and yours,


  21. John H
    John H May 20, 2013 at 9:35 am |


    So, your defense to being accused of over-intellectualizing is to pose the question “What is Zen”?

  22. HarryB
    HarryB May 20, 2013 at 9:41 am |

    Hi, John.

    Well, from my perspective, I don’t feel I’ve done anything wrong with my intellect, so I’m not on the defensive. Just trying to have a bit of a broader natter about things I find interesting, even important.

    If you *think* I’m over-intellectualizing then that’s fine, but clearly we don’t agree on the point.



  23. Anonymous
    Anonymous May 20, 2013 at 10:04 am |

    John H,

    What is the sound of one hand?

    Can God build a spaceship so big that the entire world could fit in the spaceship’s glove compartment?

    Sit with those noodle-scratchers for a bit and then get back with me. I have just appointed myself your teacher.

  24. My_name_is_Daniel
    My_name_is_Daniel May 20, 2013 at 10:07 am |

    You fuckers are something else. Something else and entertaining.

  25. HarryB
    HarryB May 20, 2013 at 10:13 am |


    I sort of doesn’t surprise me that people get uppity when I ask a simple question regard what ‘Zen’ is given the prevalence of all sorts of assumptions people have about ‘it’ (held, seemingly, on their own behalves and on other peoples’)

    John says ‘your “clever” spin on my statement only further illustrate how completely you miss the point of Zen’

    So, that suggests that he has some insight into what constitutes ‘Zen’ on which he is judging me. If he elaborated on what he sees ‘Zen’ being then maybe I could address his statement in a way that doesn’t make assumptions about what he’s saying.

    And, Anon, everyone knows that the sound of one hand clapping is a one-armed man at a Misfits gig; that God is not a sci-fi fan and thinks that such people are geeks; and that noodle-scratching (and tugging) leads to moral depravity and blindness.



  26. John H
    John H May 20, 2013 at 10:16 am |

    Your statement by nature is defensive.
    Intellectualizing blinded you to your obvious contradiction.

  27. Anonymous
    Anonymous May 20, 2013 at 10:16 am |

    You looking for a teacher too, Harry? I’m thinking of starting an online sangha. “Treeleaves Zendo.”

    PS – Someone wrote that Mysterion’s name got snapped up here before he could grab it here at the new site. I think that’s correct. 😉

  28. HarryB
    HarryB May 20, 2013 at 10:22 am |

    Hi, John.

    Yes, I’m used to that sort of response on Buddhist/Zen forums. It all points, IMO, to an inherent weakness in current Zen discourse on the net: People resort to some sort of ‘wooo factor’ when it comes to ‘Zen’, under the assumption that they have it all sussed, but can’t really follow up on their criticisms of the unclean and uninitiated like me with a few clarifying words.

    You are quite entitled to your opinions, but, for the sake of discussion, it would be useful to an over-intellectualising sub-zennist like me if you could elaborate on your position so as to save me from whatever intellectual hell you are imagining me to inhabit.



  29. Mumbles
    Mumbles May 20, 2013 at 10:23 am |

    One thing 40+ years of practice has taught me is to not expect to gain anything from practice.

    Desiring a “quiet mind” is part of the enlightenment con: If you’ll be a good boy and sit quietly in the corner and not play with anything, maybe you’ll get some candy.

  30. HarryB
    HarryB May 20, 2013 at 10:24 am |


    I’m always on the look out for new teachers, and an online zendo sounds like a novel idea.



  31. My_name_is_Daniel
    My_name_is_Daniel May 20, 2013 at 10:29 am |

    Tugging on my noodle has resulted in fantastic results! Seriously..

  32. HarryB
    HarryB May 20, 2013 at 10:34 am |

    I’m holding out for a Second Coming.

  33. My_name_is_Daniel
    My_name_is_Daniel May 20, 2013 at 10:42 am |

    What’s the deal with “Mysterion”? Epic commenter?

  34. John H
    John H May 20, 2013 at 10:43 am |

    You want to discuss Zen using so many words. Look for the flaw in this.

    I appointed Anonymous my teacher long before they knew they could teach.

    40 years of practice, and your “candy” is getting to say that you have practiced for 40 years.

  35. petrichoric
    petrichoric May 20, 2013 at 10:48 am |

    I will hazard a guess and say that I have the least experience with meditation/Buddhism out of all the commenters. Harry says he’s got 40 years of experience; hell, I’ve hardly got 40 days.

    So, yeah, I’m not “learned” enough to debate the finer points of Zen or to say what I think Zen “is”. However, I know what it isn’t, and it isn’t leaving sarcastic comments on a Zen blog criticizing another commenter, John H! What good is all the meditation/philosophy in the world if we cannot fucking at least express a difference of opinion without insulting each other?

    I’m not naive enough to think that Buddhists don’t get angry, or that they shouldn’t express anger. However, being new to Buddhism, I have been wondering what Buddhists do with anger when it arrives, and how Buddhists express anger constructively.

  36. HarryB
    HarryB May 20, 2013 at 10:49 am |

    Hi john,

    What do you see as the flaw in discussing zen using in language; how else do you propose we discuss it here?

    Zen is a tradition that has in no small part been transmitted down through the years using language: Even it’s cautions on the over-reliance on words is transmitted via language. And the whole area of expressing realisation (that so interested our old pal Dogen) is not confined to language of course, but, this being an internet text-based discussion form, we may be limited in how we express ourselves.



  37. HarryB
    HarryB May 20, 2013 at 10:57 am |

    Hi, petrichoric.

    I didn’t say I have 40 yrs experience, and I don’t. I’m just a fool on the fool’s errand of trying to unconvince myself about the nature and certainties about towering monoliths like ‘Zen’, and the self that makes it up as it goes along.

    Your point about what ‘Zen’ is points to maybe the more significant question of ‘what we do with it’. Claiming insights into the nature of reality (be it assuming exclusive knowledge of some, god, gods or sacred principle) is an ancient trap that religious thinking has throw up since time was young. I wonder about the nature of such insights if their function is to condemn our fellow humans to whatever we consider the opposite of legit. If that’s ‘Zen’ i would suggest that it’s an elaborate, and sort of tragic, waste of time.



  38. My_name_is_Daniel
    My_name_is_Daniel May 20, 2013 at 10:58 am |

    When anger arises, a practitioner takes pause (if possible), feels it in the body, observes how their structure or perception of reality changes and allows the anger to go through it’s life cycle of birth and death. Observe it come and go. When you observe this cycle enough you may become more sensitive to what movements of the mind cause you to go into the cycle of anger and what triggers you in particular, you may start to notice what Pema Chodron calls “the hook”. Pema has great material on working with emotions.
    Your emotions are an amazing treasure of insight into the self! Also, one could argue that once a firm familiarization with emotions are established, that person could come into the “hell” that is the hardcorezen.info comments section and have a good time….

  39. John H
    John H May 20, 2013 at 11:07 am |

    For all the words written here about the knowledge of Zen Buddhism, it takes very little in the way of criticism to create a great wave of emotional upset.

    Blood in the water.

  40. HarryB
    HarryB May 20, 2013 at 11:10 am |

    petrichoric, this is what Gudo Nishijima (Brad’s teacher) says on the 9th precept, the one concerning anger…

    “No.9: Don’t become angry. Many of us are prone to become angry. It seems a natural outcome of our personality, but in fact anger is not our natural state. In Buddhism we try to maintain our composure. To be composed is our natural condition. To be natural is the teaching of Gautama Buddha.”

    In my own limited experience it’s about just staying with the physiological feelings that we habitually grasp on to as ‘my anger’ until they lessen and go away. Not always easy off the cushion. Zazen frees up the tendency to automatically act on feelings and ‘go off on one’ according. But, anger can be very strong, like sexual desire, so progress may be slow as such feelings can be overwhelming in the whirl and chaos of daily life.



  41. HarryB
    HarryB May 20, 2013 at 11:19 am |

    “What’s the deal with “Mysterion”? Epic commenter?”

    Mysterion’s many, many posts would certainly constitute an epic! He was a real character who used to throw some bewilderingly curved balls into this peculiar soup.

    I liked him; he was his own person. One (or several) anon posters really went to town on him in terms of vitriol as I was pulling out of Dodge last time.



  42. Brent
    Brent May 20, 2013 at 11:33 am |

    [insert sound of one finger snapping]

  43. My_name_is_Daniel
    My_name_is_Daniel May 20, 2013 at 11:36 am |

    Thanks, H!

  44. Alan Sailer
    Alan Sailer May 20, 2013 at 12:02 pm |


    “I’m not naive enough to think that Buddhists don’t get angry, or that they shouldn’t express anger. However, being new to Buddhism, I have been wondering what Buddhists do with anger when it arrives, and how Buddhists express anger constructively.”

    My limited experience is as follows.

    It took a few years for me to realize that Brad was right when he says that anger is my responsibility.


    I remember that I was kind of sad when I started to see this was true because it meant that I can’t blame my anger on anyone else.

    It is also really useful to notice myself getting angry.

    Sometimes I notice my anger right away, sometimes I notice it as it grows, sometimes only after it’s faded. Sometimes I miss it completely.

    But noticing it is really useful. I can’t explain why, but it is.

    What doesn’t seem to be useful is all the thoughts that I pile on top of noticing, like “Anger is bad, I shouldn’t be doing this….”.

    But you can also notice those thought piling up…it can get kind of meta sometimes.

    In my opinion the most constructive way of expressing anger is….to not express anger.

    Watch the anger, feel the anger, examine the anger.

    For me life seems to go better when I don’t express my anger.

    Does this mean a TrueBuddhist(TM) doesn’t get angry? I sure hope not.

    Even Shunryu Suzuki would yell at his students on occasion. They remarked that he seemed to get over the experience of anger remarkably quickly.

    I think my cat deals with anger really well. If I tease him too much he will hiss and run away, but he never holds a grudge. I can pick him up right away, tickle his fat little belly and all is good again.

    I am not a cat.


  45. My_name_is_Daniel
    My_name_is_Daniel May 20, 2013 at 12:11 pm |


    Interesting story about Suzuki Roshi… he was known to be one of the strictest teachers at the various temples he practiced. I’ve heard many stories of him losing his temper with students and especially with his wife and son, whom he once threw into a pond! He was a feisty ole’ man fo’sho.

    Anywho, Suzuki saw coming to America a means to turn over a new leaf!

  46. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote May 20, 2013 at 4:13 pm |

    There are amazing people who comment here, IMHO. I feel honored and priviledged, and I even sent Brad a few bucks a little while ago. Folks who have no experience manage to entertain, amuse and educate, and folks who have experience refrain from mentioning it, for the most part.

    I was going to mention, Anonymous, that is was Anonymous who stole the username Mysterion, but I was giving caution the benefit of the doubt.

    Daniel, when zazen sits zazen, you are ready to die. How can you live a normal life if zazen gets up and walks around?- your life is ruined for anything except dumb fun on Brad’s blog.

    The short version, which I wrote for a local water conservation- food forest -benefit corporation tribe (too late too publish): Waking Up and Falling Asleep.

    I think anger serves a purpose. It’s not the most pleasant sensation, kind of an adrenaline rush tied to a state of mind that won’t go away. However- if I persist in attending the place of mind associated with the rush, and I’m open to it, I generally find the view point in which the whole thing resolves instantly. Sort of like realizing the karma and the lack of self, exercising forgiveness and moving on but the understanding is crucial for me. The meaning of the energy is I got it wrong, wait for it.

  47. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote May 20, 2013 at 4:13 pm |

    and that maybe I need to move fast, right now, without moving.

  48. My_name_is_Daniel
    My_name_is_Daniel May 20, 2013 at 4:42 pm |

    You can’t sit Zazen! And Zazen can’t sit Zazen, that’s silly. If your Zazen ain’t walk’n and talk’n, it ain’t Zazen!

  49. Mumbles
    Mumbles May 20, 2013 at 4:58 pm |

    You can visit Mysterion anytime over at his blog:


    And Mark, I only mentioned the embarrassing fact of how long one way or another I have continued to sit because My_name_is_Daniel somewhere up there asked if any of us had any experience. I received the equivalent to Zen transmission in Sufi terms years and years ago. I’m not bragging about it, and it does nothing for my rep, I have nothing to prove or claim in order to sell stuff, pontificate, etc.

    This allows me to remain free to be whoever I am at the moment, say whatever I say, and this is probably why he thought I was some immature greenhorn jackass, which, of course, is true, too. HEY! Where’s my candy!!

Comments are closed.