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. Brent
    Brent May 21, 2013 at 12:17 pm | |

    Yikes! Andy, where do you think I live?

  2. Shodo
    Shodo May 21, 2013 at 1:33 pm | |

    I’ll take a stab at this…

    Boubi asked: “So you expect buddhists to behave according to your idea of what they should be?”

    No. I expect them to: Affirm life, Be giving, Honor the body, Manifest truth, Proceed clearly, See the perfection, Realize self and other as one, Give generously, Actualize harmony and Experience the intimacy of things.
    These are open to lots of interpretation, proportional to time place position and degree.

    I would expect them to NOT: kill, steal, misuse sexuality, lie, gossip, cloud the mind with alcohol and drugs, put themselves on pedestals while tearing others down, be angry, withholding and speak ill of the 3 treasures.
    These are FAR less open to interpretation proportional to time place position and degree.

  3. buddy
    buddy May 21, 2013 at 1:38 pm | |

    If Boubi is indeed a woman, than she has the dubious distinction of out-assholing all the men on this comments section. But just barely. Even the normally Zen-autism Fred and voice-of-reason Andy are joining in on the locker room jocularity.

  4. My_name_is_Daniel
    My_name_is_Daniel May 21, 2013 at 2:15 pm | |

    Thanks for your input, Shodo.

  5. Brent
    Brent May 21, 2013 at 2:17 pm | |

    Shodo, thanks.

  6. boubi
    boubi May 21, 2013 at 2:40 pm | |

    —”If Boubi is indeed a woman, than she has the dubious distinction of out-assholing all the men on this comments section.”—

    Sorry boyz, i’d rather say OUTDICKED by a woman, which is rather a stunning performance even for nowaday standards of masculinity ! LOL

    —”But just barely. Even the normally Zen-autism Fred and voice-of-reason Andy are joining in on the locker room jocularity.”—

    Very good references, indeed LOL

  7. boubi
    boubi May 21, 2013 at 2:50 pm | |

    Dear Shodo

    What do you think of what the lore says about the second patriarch or others of the like of Tsangnyon Heruka, saying notyhing of Ikkyu?

    And what do you mean exactly by “misuse sexuality”? Does it apply to gays, “dykes” and to the other intermediary figures too ?

  8. HarryB
    HarryB May 21, 2013 at 3:11 pm | |

    In any religion you’ll find some sort of passable precedent for any sort of behavior – from the ethnic cleansing of the Old Testament, to raping ‘dikinis’ for bodhi in tantric Tibet, to the mutilation of women based on crazy interpretations of Islam, to refusing a dying woman an abortion that would very likely save her life because ‘this is a Catholic country’.

    Begs the question… long before it gets to the ‘acting it out’ stage, might it all just be a load of crazy old shite?

    Regards,

    Harry.

  9. Shodo
    Shodo May 21, 2013 at 4:04 pm | |

    Boubi said:
    “What do you think of what the lore says about the second patriarch or others of the like of Tsangnyon Heruka, saying nothing of Ikkyu.”

    What I’m more interested in is what *you* think your examples show? Are you under the opinion that “anything goes” because of the deeds of those ancestors?
    As a thought experiment, what do you think the Buddha would have responded to your question if you had asked him instead of me? Can you back up how you answer with Buddhist texts?

    “And what do you mean exactly by “misuse sexuality”?

    Selfish sex. A kind of sexuality that is purely self-centered. Using another as a mean to an end. Others for self-gratification. Others as things.

    Does it apply to gays, “dykes” and to the other intermediary figures too?”

    If they are Buddhist, yes.

  10. Fred
    Fred May 21, 2013 at 4:40 pm | |

    Are you Shodo Spring, activist?

  11. Shodo
    Shodo May 21, 2013 at 4:59 pm | |

    Fred said:
    “Are you Shodo Spring, activist?”

    LoL no!
    I think it’s just a popular dharma name. :)

  12. Fred
    Fred May 21, 2013 at 5:05 pm | |

    If so, how does renunciation and non-doing jibe with attempts to influence a
    world of impermanence?

  13. My_name_is_Daniel
    My_name_is_Daniel May 21, 2013 at 5:14 pm | |

    Thanks for the dharmic fresh air, Shodo! Great points, ones I need to keep in mind myself.

  14. boubi
    boubi May 21, 2013 at 5:38 pm | |

    —”What I’m more interested in is what *you* think your examples show? Are you under the opinion that “anything goes” because of the deeds of those ancestors?”—

    Come on … to answer a question with an question!

    Don’t lower yourself to my level, you are much better than i am ! Please try to keep yourself aloft of the outdicked locker room gang!

    But trying to satisfy you, i invite you to find where i stated that “anything goes” … find it and we’ll talk, OK?

    But do you excomunicate all those guys? They don’t seem at all to match your standard of behaviour.

    —”As a thought experiment, what do you think the Buddha would have responded to your question if you had asked him instead of me? Can you back up how you answer with Buddhist texts?”—

    First i think he would have condemned the fact that Mahayana clergy get married.

    Second he would have condemned any sex that wasn’t “straight”.

    Third he would have condemned any worldly possession, money, land etc by clergy.

    You have to remember that at first he didn’t even want women in the monkhood because women aren’t “good enough” (lascivious etc as in good old middle age and modern other religion of so called peace love tolerance :) ).

    So asking to a high born indian of his time you would have got answers coherent with that time and place “morality”. Of course he didn’t give a shit about caste … after spending all that time starving himself and the vision he got about humanity after the Bodgaya episode he revolutionized the social outlook. Of course he made an historical exploit finding out for himself all alone the way to overcome pain from illness, old age and death. Fuck he was a giant! But still he was a man of his time and place.

    Are you clergy yourself? Do you sit still under a tree waiting for someone to give you some little food with only possession a loin cloth, a bowl and some other things?

    But you would have got very different answers from the chinese influenced mahayana that became chan/zen!

    Maybe asking to Hui Neng or that old guy Lin-chi, you would have received other answers, what do you think?

    About the books … i don’t know anything about all the Pali, triptaka etc etc … do you think he wrote them himself?

    Now in a few lines what, do *you* think the core teaching is ?

    Oh, BTW, that guy, Siddharta was a human being, try not to forget. A giant, a genius but still a guy with all the shortcomings that go with being a mortal being.

    1. boubi
      boubi May 21, 2013 at 5:44 pm | |

      Ah, BTW, as an old saying goes …

      “… if you see a Buddha kill him, if you see a ahrat kill him, if you see a master kill him too.”

      The guy who said this should have been out casted, burned at the stake and excomunicated for good mesure … ;) LOL

    2. Hoetsu
      Hoetsu May 22, 2013 at 8:22 am | |

      boubi, you said,

      “What do you think of what the lore says about the second patriarch or others of the like of Tsangnyon Heruka, saying notyhing of Ikkyu?”

      And Shodo said, ”What I’m more interested in is what *you* think your examples show? Are you under the opinion that “anything goes” because of the deeds of those ancestors?” And you didn’t like that because it was answering a question with a question.

      The problem is that your original question, as asked, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I infer that you are drawing some kind of simplistic distinction between “bad boys” like Ikkyu and “moral” teachers who follow rules. But your examples are of three very different — and largely mythologized — people whose actions took places in multiple contexts and who might be understood as unconventional more than immoral. (In fact, as to the Second Patriarch, I’m not sure what your point it.) You are drawing a distinction that may seem clear to you but is much blurrier to others. Without clarifying what these three people represent to you, it’s impossible to know what you are asking.

  15. boubi
    boubi May 21, 2013 at 5:56 pm | |

    … and for sure he wouldn’t have appreciated interviews with porn stars by clergy and scantily clothed young girls mingling with clergy neither … so you see while his core message is still and always be up to date *maybe* some of his “moral” points of view aren’t anymore.

    If i remember correctly, Gudo Nishijima, criticized some tight assed self righteous guys who condemned from some alleged high moral ground Brad for doing things (publicly) with Suicide Girls … and IMO Siddahrta Gautama would have condemned Brad too … you are the judge here … guilty or innocent ?

  16. boubi
    boubi May 21, 2013 at 6:06 pm | |

    Instead of trying to match man made mental constructs and categorize the noumenal world just watch the dance of the matter, abandon dual perception and rejoice in the pure being

    http://www.dailygalaxy.com/.a/6a00d8341bf7f753ef01910260a3e7970c-800wi

  17. buddy
    buddy May 21, 2013 at 6:21 pm | |

    ‘If so, how does renunciation and non-doing jibe with attempts to influence a
    world of impermanence?’ Because the world is impermanent and subject to the laws of cause and effect, we must try to influence it in the best possible directions. Otherwise non-doing is perverted into Buddhist quietism which has justified practitioners sitting idly by as all sorts of atrocities are committed, sometimes in the name of their beloved tradition.

  18. Shodo
    Shodo May 21, 2013 at 7:32 pm | |

    The reason I asked you what you thought the Buddha would have said was not for you to latch on to some kind of condemnation – it was to admit that he would have had a moral opinion on certain types of behavior.
    Buddhism is deeply moral – but we don’t live in 500bce India.

    Time, place, position, and degree.

    “But trying to satisfy you, i invite you to find where i stated that “anything goes” … find it and we’ll talk, OK?”

    Then answer my question. What do *you* think your examples show?
    You brought up your examples first remember…? I don’t see why my example should rustle your jimmies in the slightest.

    The 3 Pure precepts: Do not create evil. Create good. Actualize good for others.
    The 6 Paramitas: Generosity, Morality, Patience, Diligence, Concentration, Wisdom.

    All these plus the 10 Grave Precepts all add up to a practice that should be deeply concerned with the beings of this world and our environment, what we do for a living, how we make our families and the kind choices that we make in our lives.

    The historical Buddha laid a groundwork for us to be a light unto ourselves – that light will look different today – we traded in a lamp for a lithium flashlight along the way, but the light remains the same.

  19. petrichoric
    petrichoric May 21, 2013 at 8:37 pm | |

    I like your response, Shodo, but what I want to know is *how* Buddhism can teach me to cultivate those things you mentioned: Generosity, Morality, Patience, Diligence, Concentration, Wisdom etc.

    For example, the only reason I haven’t ripped Boubi a new asshole today is because, quite frankly, I’m not going to waste my time getting into a flame war with “her” or anybody else commenting here. Life is too short. I wish I could say it was because my compassion for Boubi helped me restrain myself, but, sadly, it’s not. Try though I might, I just cannot muster up much compassion for “her”. In theory, I know I *should*; but, in practice, I just can’t.

    So, tell me this: how can Buddhism teach me to develop compassion for those I think are absolute eejits? If I meditate enough, will the childish pleasure I get in insulting Boubi online disappear to be replaced by a profound sense of our interconnectedness?

    I know you think I’m joking. But I am, actually, deadly serious.

  20. My_name_is_Daniel
    My_name_is_Daniel May 21, 2013 at 8:54 pm | |

    Petrichoric,
    If I may, I’d like to express appreciation for your honesty. Our emotions are what we have to work with, they are the light that leads the way, whether feelings of joy or hate. A say’n I like, “shit makes good fertilizer” reflects how these difficult emotions are the fuel for growth. “Grist for the mill”, as it were. They show us where work needs to be done so that we may progress on the path of self healing, awareness and realization. Look upon these emotions that cause suffering in a positive light. They are a gift!

    You stated you are a beginner (as we all are in some sense), but I feel as though you have great potential. Suffering is the cause, the fuel for realization.

    I’m sure Shodo can help you out with specifics.

    _/\_ Gassho, with great respect and gratitude for your practice.

  21. buddy
    buddy May 21, 2013 at 9:19 pm | |

    petrichoric, My 2 cents worth is that it’s all about now. If I catch myself being angry, greedy, anxious, etc. I try to let go of the thoughts and harmful behavior I may be indulging in, be present to body and world, and then try to respond in the best manner. To have an overarching program about becoming a better person, whatever that may mean, isn’t necessarily helpful, and to have specific expectations about what practice will do for you and definitely isn’t.

    I personally hope that there is a time when a major shift occurs and my habitual natural inclinations are to be a compassionate person due to my ‘profound sense of our interconnectedness’. In the meantime, I can see that, over the 20 some years I’ve been practicing Zen, my emotional reactions to certain situations are exactly the same as they were before I started. But… whereas then I may have been caught in those reactions for weeks at a time and did ridiculously harmful things out of that, as I’ve practiced the duration of being caught and the degree of stupidity I’ve indulged in have steadily lessoned, to the point where now I usually catch myself after a few minutes or even seconds and only do mildly horrible things, nothing that a quick ‘I’m sorry’ won’t undo. Usually. It’s good to have a proper cockup every once in a while to keep things in perspective.

    One last thing: for the specifics of ‘how can Buddhism teach me to develop compassion for those I think are absolute eejits?’, the thing that usually does it for me is to try to remember that people only act like assholes if they’re suffering deeply, even if it’s buried beneath layers of narcissistic churlishness like in the case of our mutual friend previously mentioned. Usually the best response is to get some distance from people like that, although as Brad has said, sometimes the kindest thing you can do for someone is to tell them they’re being an asshole; just be extra careful when showing that sort of kindness.

  22. Shodo
    Shodo May 21, 2013 at 9:26 pm | |

    petrichoric said:
    “…but what I want to know is *how* Buddhism can teach me to cultivate those things you mentioned: Generosity, Morality, Patience, Diligence, Concentration, Wisdom etc.”

    Really, truly trying to live up to them… while not beating yourself up in the process.
    It’s not magic – It’s with practice.
    I’m deadly serious.

    “For example, the only reason I haven’t ripped Boubi a new asshole today is because, quite frankly, I’m not going to waste my time getting into a flame war with “her” or anybody else commenting here. Life is too short. I wish I could say it was because my compassion for Boubi helped me restrain myself, but, sadly, it’s not. Try though I might, I just cannot muster up much compassion for “her”. In theory, I know I *should*; but, in practice, I just can’t.”

    You’re practicing them now! :)
    Keep trying to do better.

    “So, tell me this: how can Buddhism teach me to develop compassion for those I think are absolute eejits? If I meditate enough, will the childish pleasure I get in insulting Boubi online disappear to be replaced by a profound sense of our interconnectedness?”

    I dunno, I’ll tell you when I no longer need to practice. ;)

  23. Shodo
    Shodo May 21, 2013 at 9:32 pm | |

    petrichoric said:
    “If I meditate enough, will the childish pleasure I get in insulting Boubi online disappear to be replaced by a profound sense of our interconnectedness?”

    Assume that it will never disappear.
    Assume you will never feel that interconnectedness.
    That way you will always practice and try to do better.

  24. petrichoric
    petrichoric May 21, 2013 at 9:59 pm | |

    Thanks, Daniel, Buddy and Shodo. Those comments were helpful.

    One of my biggest fears about getting more “into Buddhism” is that it’s going to turn me into a wuss. I know that’s an irrational fear because developing more compassion for myself and others is a strength, not a weakness.

    But I just don’t know what I’m supposed to do with all this compassion when somebody hurts or offends me out there in the “real world” . When this happens, I *do* try to think “Oh, they’re just doing this because they’re suffering”, but my natural reaction is to want to defend myself, and attack them back. I want them to be punished!

    Curiously, I don’t have a problem experiencing compassion for the “monsters” of this world. For example, I was a bit shocked when Brad wrote that he wanted to rip the Boston bombers to shreds (or words to that effect). When somebody commits such a heinous act, it’s pretty clear that person must be suffering because what normal, healthy person would ever want to blow the arms and legs off of innocents?

    No, it is rather the everyday assholes of this world, with their mundane cruelties, who cause me the most problems. And, to be honest, indulging in my anger towards them is delicious! After the fact, I can see how anger is harmful (to others and myself) but at the time it’s immensely enjoyable to get angry. It’s hard to break that habit.

  25. TheTempleWithin
    TheTempleWithin May 21, 2013 at 11:12 pm | |

    petrichoric said:
    “One of my biggest fears about getting more “into Buddhism” is that it’s going to turn me into a wuss. ”

    It very well might turn you into a wuss. Depends. I’ve read Nishijima likes to say zazen somewhat reflects the state of mind you had as a child. Alot of wussy practitioners would love to hear that, they would think “ooooh yessss, innocence before corruption…yesss…we are all flower children”.
    But it’s not that at all, when you were a kid you were fuckin stoked on life, playing in the sandbox was the BOMB. You didn’t care about that silly stupid flower shit.
    You were too busy conquering your own universe.

    And yeah,
    Alot of practitioners give much importance to overcoming a “self that’s non-compassionate and non-loving /judgemental” by practicing precepts and carrying around mental notes, but what happens is they are only replacing a “bad self” with an “ideal self” created by a mental practice. And as everyone knows its this “self” that’s causing suffering.So if you ever do have a moment in zazen that you TRULY feel those good vibrations you better believe it’s not coming from “you” or from a precept or from something you’ve heard or read, but coming from GOD. This is important, Zazen hasn’t turned me into what you would think of as a “a moral buddhist”, when and if i feel a moment of compassion /lovingness you better believe there is no room in that striking moment for a “moral person/self”. There’s just no room for that stupid silly shit…there’s only room for God. You should definitely continue down the path of Zen,not to become a better person;leave that to the wussies who believe too much and cry about their feelings, but to one day;while doing your laundry, you get a whiff of a bounce sheet, and that bounce sheet is the best thing you’ve ever smelled your entire life, taken by the odour nothing else exists, no pain, no suffering, no one to judge no one to love, no one that hurt you, no one to hurt, no others,no monsters, no stupid silly shit, you don’t have the time or the attention for that,you are too busy being distracted by that the incredible power of that smell, and that smell is GOD. The best Zen and best Zazen isn’t about that stupid silly wussy shit, it’s about eating really tasty popcorn.

  26. Fred
    Fred May 22, 2013 at 4:51 am | |

    The smell of God or the stink of Zen?

    Buddhism won’t turn you into a wuss, because there is no you. Whatever you
    think you are is an impermanent illusion.

    A million ideas rushing through the machinery creates the feeling that something
    solid is there.

    And Boubi isn’t an asshole.

  27. HarryB
    HarryB May 22, 2013 at 5:19 am | |

    Hi petrichoric,

    An aspect of Buddhist practice that can promote many of the qualities that you mention is mettā (often translated as ‘lovingkindness’). It’s also considered to lessen anger and other tough feelings in people.

    It basically involves wishing all people (and animals and other living things if we like) well, even people we disagree with or even consider our enemies. Although it sounds wussy, it is not about completely suspending our values or giving in to any old bullshit (becoming passive): for example, if we’re extending good wishes towards someone who is involved in harming others, or who is indulging their own extreme views, we can extend the wish that that person can come to realise what they are doing is causing suffering and find a more happy life of the sort we would wish for ourselves. Actually, metta practice usually commences with wishing our self well and works out to all others from there.

    Generally the instruction is to visualize people who we are extending the wishes to becoming happy and peaceful. As can be easily understood, its more a practice of addressing our own feelings towards others rather than thinking that our ‘vibes’ are directly affecting those we are ‘transmitting’ to. One old sequence of it is to extend metta to yourself, then to other people you like, then to people you are neutral towards, then to others that you have difficulty with, then to everyone. It’s basically about wishing everyone the happiness that we would wish for ourselves; and I think we’d generally wish for ourselves not to be an asshole (could be wrong; it takes all sorts).

    I do this for about five minutes before zazen and I find that it prepares the body-mind very well for sitting, besides being a good thing to do in its own right.

    Regards,

    Harry.

  28. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon May 22, 2013 at 5:41 am | |

    Who ordered this truckload of dung?

  29. Andy
    Andy May 22, 2013 at 5:56 am | |

    Petrichoric wrote:

    “No, it is rather the everyday assholes of this world, with their mundane cruelties, who cause me the most problems. And, to be honest, indulging in my anger towards them is delicious! After the fact, I can see how anger is harmful (to others and myself) but at the time it’s immensely enjoyable to get angry. It’s hard to break that habit.”

    It’s hard for all the *other* different everyday assholes too, when we’re being assholes. The sameness of assholes. This can make for lots of nice ideas about things like compassion, which can soon turn shitty if nothing is done to establish some on-going, intimate relationship with one’s own asshole, from which regularly emerges the effects of what we once found delicious.

    Indeed, even the idea that the delicious effect and the shitty cause are of a pieces (sic), can break my heart open.

    If I recall, that over-intellectualising bum-boffin Dogen had something to say about the sickness containing its own medicine. (in ‘Kuge’, I think, ‘Flowers in the Sky”).

    Well done, Andy. Have a cream pie.

  30. Andy
    Andy May 22, 2013 at 6:07 am | |

    Brent wrote: “Yikes! Andy, where do you think I live?”

    I don’t think I know. Tony Clifton does my dirty work. :):):):):):):):)

  31. Brent
    Brent May 22, 2013 at 6:54 am | |

    What, does the YouTube link reveal something? I’m so curious. Please type the name of my town so I can have reverence for your skills :)

  32. Brent
    Brent May 22, 2013 at 7:06 am | |

    Actually never mind…

    Have a good one Andy! I like yr writing…

  33. HarryB
    HarryB May 22, 2013 at 7:08 am | |

    Andy: “This can make for lots of nice ideas about things like compassion, which can soon turn shitty if nothing is done to establish some on-going, intimate relationship with one’s own asshole, from which regularly emerges the effects of what we once found delicious.”

    This is very true IMO (if I’m reading it correctly).

    You have to wonder if things like ‘MY realisation’ (versus your crappy realisation) and ‘MY compassion’ (versus your sub-Buddhist efforts) are the works of our dear old asshole. If we don’t get to know, love even, the many tactics of our inner asshole, then how would he know? Without directly knowing the only asshole we can really know directly, we might just be replacing our very own asshole (which, at least, is our own) with a Buddhist asshole.

    Zen (or a cherry picked version of it) does seem to lend itself to a sort of moral and (for want of a better word) ‘spiritually’ and morally selfish libertarianism. However, Zen is and always has been Mahayana Buddhism whose range and aspiration is quite a bit broader than that.

    Regards,

    Harsehole.

  34. Andy
    Andy May 22, 2013 at 7:18 am | |

    I’ve called Tony off, kiddo. A good thing too. He gets… inclined.

  35. Andy
    Andy May 22, 2013 at 8:02 am | |

    Harry wrote: “Without directly knowing the only asshole we can really know directly, we might just be replacing our very own asshole (which, at least, is our own) with a Buddhist asshole.”

    X asshole. A kaleidoscope of roles and play! The X herring goes in at one end and pops out t’other. Even ‘directly’ gets all fishy and gutted. Poor me. Poor Andy.

    Man of Steel!

  36. HarryB
    HarryB May 22, 2013 at 8:18 am | |

    Andy, it seems to me that in a very direct/manifest sense ‘asshole is as asshole does’ (and I should know!); but, yes, it seems the diligent asshole spotter (nothing worse than a spotty asshole) should be prepared for a swift revision of the terms of who is watching what/who, and from where.

    Regards,

    Harry.

  37. Andy
    Andy May 22, 2013 at 9:24 am | |

    “Andy, it seems to me that in a very direct/manifest sense ‘asshole is as asshole does’”

    Like I said, Harry, poor Andrew.

    I’m not only thinking in terms of the terms. I didn’t empty post-modern bowls this morning! But recollecting the haunts of my most practical and honest me’s. All of a pieces. Mortality poo – as we call it in our house.

    Yes, ‘very direct/manifest’. But even this doing gets fishy, gutted. ‘Very direct/manifest’; the very soundness, groundedness – and I do mean for my part – may need some X refreshment. And maybe others too. Something tells me – not so ‘very’, or so ‘directly’ at times.

  38. HarryB
    HarryB May 22, 2013 at 9:48 am | |

    “Yes, ‘very direct/manifest’. But even this doing gets fishy, gutted. ‘Very direct/manifest’; the very soundness, groundedness – and I do mean for my part – may need some X refreshment. And maybe others too. Something tells me – not so ‘very’, or so ‘directly’ at times.”

    Hi Andy,

    Maybe so. I wonder, however, if there is ever a time when we are not expressing something, whether we realise it or not.

    Regards,

    Harry.

  39. Brent
    Brent May 22, 2013 at 9:55 am | |

    Qwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnm1234567890-/:;()$&@”.,?!’

  40. TheTempleWithin
    TheTempleWithin May 22, 2013 at 1:31 pm | |

    Fred said “The smell of God or the stink of Zen?

    Buddhism won’t turn you into a wuss, because there is no you. Whatever you
    think you are is an impermanent illusion.”

    Did you even read what I said Fred? Judging by what your saying Buddhism also doesn’t turn you into a loving compassionate “you” because there is no you.
    Reread what I said brah.
    In this moment once seen, there is possibly no room for a “you”that’s loving and kind and no room for a wussy “you “that’s suffering. All I’m saying is stop being a wussy and sit zazen until theres nothing left of “you”.

    Ya dig?

  41. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote May 22, 2013 at 3:58 pm | |

    Pie fight! Outdicked in the outhouse, can’t relate to joy he tries to speak and can’t begin to say! That last here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hn1BapsppXM

    To my mind, the unique thing about the teaching in the Pali Canon sermons is not the precepts. It has to do with this notion of sitting cross-legged and the experience of the cessation of volitive activity that Gautama identified as a natural consequence of mindfulness connected with the movement of breath. Never heard before in the religious literature of the world, to my knowledge. His teaching regarding the meaning of the experience of cessation in relation to suffering, priceless. What I will receive for identifying the relationships in my practice that he described, something on the bottom of my shoe, most likely…

  42. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote May 22, 2013 at 4:07 pm | |

    I always thought that change in my behaviour and my mental state would be the product of the experience of my own nature. I guess I think that because making myself do things never worked for me; I can change my behaviour for a little while but the stinkin’ mind that goes with it!

  43. TheTempleWithin
    TheTempleWithin May 22, 2013 at 4:25 pm | |

    Mark Foote said:
    I always thought that change in my behaviour and my mental state would be the product of the experience of my own nature. I guess I think that because making myself do things never worked for me; I can change my behaviour for a little while but the stinkin’ mind that goes with it!

    Unless i’m misunderstanding what you said, this ^^ is how i interpret Zen. The change in your behaviour is a natural by-product of zazen, as opposed to a mimicry of the precepts. Like feeling healthy is a by-product of working out. It’s not like a zen master or student who gets zen is “practicing mindfulness” while eating but is simply enjoying the experience of eating so much that he’s doesn’t care of such notions of past and future, or he’s too busy bathing in the enjoyable experience of eating to even care to practice mindfulness. And this is because of Zazen.

  44. buddy
    buddy May 22, 2013 at 5:42 pm | |

    TheTempleWithin, I agree mostly with how you’re presenting things. But one could postulate from what you’re saying that, for example, Sasaki is simply enjoying the sensation of grabbing a student’s boob so much that he doesn’t care of such notions as consent and consequence. Which is why more objective references like the precepts and the feedback of others are helpful along the way.

    An ironic side note: I’ve been re-reading ‘Buddha is the Center of Gravity’, and can’t help chuckling at his preface:

    ‘As a butterfly lost in flowers
    As a child fondling mother’s breast
    As a bird settled on the tree
    Sixty-seven years of this world
    I have played with God.’

  45. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote May 22, 2013 at 5:46 pm | |

    Caution must be exercised when leaving the platform.

    “It’s not like a zen master or student who gets zen is “practicing mindfulness” while eating but is simply enjoying the experience of eating so much that he’s doesn’t care of such notions of past and future, or he’s too busy bathing in the enjoyable experience of eating to even care to practice mindfulness.”

    Beat me, whip me, make me write bad prose!

    Ok, I would say yes and no. As I write in my write elsewhere whose link shall no longer be mentioned but I have to say just one more time it’s here, the induction of a meditative state is an everyday thing, just a sense of place that can shift freely and a feeling of motion and gravity connected with the sense of place in the movement of breath. There’s a kind of funny sequence to states, starting with settling into the stretch and activity in the movement of breath, and possibly progressing with realizing a happiness in the distinction of all nine senses at play with a sensation of “the wits unhampered”. That might be the part you’re talking about. So the first meditative state attended by the faculty of ease, in the classical terminology, and the second, where thought applied and sustained ceases, marked by the faculty of happiness. Now the fun begins; the physical stretch and activity out of stretch (just relaxing here, no doing allowed!) reaches a point where there’s a strenuousness to it, not painful but the previous sensation of ease dissipates; then the mental stretch of distinguishing the senses (just calming and collecting here, no doing allowed!) reaches a point where there’s a kind of acuity to it, and the previous sensation of happiness dissipates. This is where the freedom of the sense of location to move, informed as it is by proprioceptive awareness and the sense of gravity, can precipitate a cessation of volition in the body connected with the movement of breath. What does that feel like? Sort of like falling asleep and you can’t physically move your body but you are breathing. Except in this case your body moves as a function of the breath, instead of you moving your body and the breath follows; your breath might get up and walk around.

    Sleep walkers everywhere, ishinashini (“it’s will-less”, how Sasaki described his hand as it groped ever upward).

    So yes, happiness that continues beyond ease in the distinction of the sight/sound/taste/smell/feeling/perception/weight/placement/equalibrium of the moon with each dew drop, but the distinction of sense may sharpen and happiness fade away.

  46. Fred
    Fred May 22, 2013 at 7:11 pm | |

    “Did you even read what I said Fred?”

    It wasn’t directed @ “You”

  47. TheTempleWithin
    TheTempleWithin May 22, 2013 at 8:08 pm | |

    At Buddy: Sorry, i should of replaced “precepts” with “teachings”, The precepts seem like common sense,even outside of buddhism. What i was referring to was Mark footes and our normal daily negative traits we indulge in/suffer from. I’m sure mark isn’t taking pleasure in taking lives and going on alcoholic/drug binges everyday, atleast i hope not.
    And as far as Sasaki is concerned, could you simultaneously enjoy abusing someone while intuitionally being aware of interconnectedness?
    Hell i find it hard to engage in an simple argument with my wife without laughing because i just sat zazen, Let alone Abuse someone.

    ????

  48. Shodo
    Shodo May 22, 2013 at 8:10 pm | |

    TheTempleWIthin said:
    “The change in your behavior is a natural by-product of zazen, as opposed to a mimicry of the precepts.”

    You mean the “practice” of the precepts.
    If anything the lessons the Genpo’s, Sazaki’s and Eido’s of the world has taught us, you would think that the lesson we would have learned the best would be that you could pass a 1000 koans and *STILL* be a fantastic asshole.

    If mimicry of precepts is the best you can do – then do that.
    Just always try to do better each time.

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