Why I Am Still a Buddhist

Sometimes I hate being a Buddhist. Years ago I wrote a blog piece called “Buddhism Sucks.” It was the only piece I ever wrote that my teacher, Nishijima Roshi, specifically commented on. He said that I should never “blame Buddhism.” I’ve often wondered about his use of the English word “blame.” He didn’t exactly mean “criticize.” He knew that word. I think he meant something like I shouldn’t disparage Buddhism. But I still sometimes hate being a Buddhist.

When you call yourself a Buddhist, you invite people to define you according to all their preconceptions and prejudices about Buddhists. Of course this goes for any religion or for any group you choose to identify with. If you call yourself a Christian or a Republican or a Punk or a Polyamorist or any of those things, you’re inviting people to define you in the way they have defined those things in the past. You have to accept at least some aspects of the common definition of those things.

There are benefits to doing this as well as problems. If you want someone to know how you feel on issues like abortion, global warming and military spending without having to waste a lot of time going point-by-point through the issues you might simply say, “I’m a conservative.” If you’re trying to get people to buy your album and you know they’re not going to take the time to listen carefully to every cut, you can categorize it as “hardcore punk” — even if it ends with a nine minute song featuring sitar, sleigh bells and Mellotron like the new Zero Defex album. You also benefit by aligning yourself with a group whose ideals you agree with, or at least mostly agree with simply because there is strength in numbers.

Nobody ever agrees with every stereotype random passers-by might associate with whatever it is they’ve chosen to align themselves with. There are political conservatives who believe in women having the right to abortions. There are Born-Again Christians who vote for Obama. Thereare even Buddhists who supported the bombing of Iraq. People are full of surprises.

At about the 2:50 mark in the video above (part two of Bad News Tour from the DVD set The Comic Strip Presents) the members of the fictional band Bad News argue over whether they are or are not “heavy metal.” The leader of the band insists that they’re more subtle than the label heavy metal implies while the rest of the group is content, even happy with calling themselves heavy metal. For one thing, aligning your band with a specific genre is a good way to get gigs.

So, too, calling myself a Buddhist gets me access to lots of speaking gigs and invitations to lead workshops and suchlike that I wouldn’t have had if I presented myself as some kind of unaffiliated spiritual guy. My first book, Hardcore Zen, came out from Wisdom Publications, a company that specializes in Buddhist books. They don’t publish books by unaffiliated spiritual people like Ekhart Tolle or Jiddu Krishnamurti. They only publish Buddhists. In order to get published by them, you gotta be a Buddhist of some sort.

But I don’t just refer to myself as a Buddhist for such mercenary-like reasons. I call myself Buddhist mainly because I feel like it would be dishonest not to do so. Whatever wisdom I have to offer comes as a result of studying with Buddhist teachers and practicing Buddhist meditation. My main philosophical inspiration is Eihei Dogen who very much identified himself as a Buddhist teacher and clearly thought of his philosophy as an expression of Buddhist understanding.

Still, I do not fit all of the molds people want to squash me into when I say that I’m a Buddhist. I don’t look like a typical monk. I don’t talk in that lilting, soothing voice people have come to expect of Buddhists they’ve seen on TV — usually portrayed by actors who know little about Buddhism. I play bass in a hardcore punk band (but, of course, we’re more subtle than that!) and you don’t see many Buddhists doing that apart from the late lamented MCA of the Beastie Boys. Then again, I’m from the Zen tradition and one of the characteristics of that tradition is a rejection of such stereotypes (see Ikkyu for example).

The name “Buddhism” was invented by Western researchers who thought that they had discovered a religion much like the religions they were already familiar with. They assumed that Buddha was a kind of god who was worshiped by his followers and who promised rewards in the afterlife to those who served him well. Even though Western academics who study religions have known for at least a century that this is not the case, the general public does not. I still run into people who assume I worship Buddha and wonder what Buddhist Heaven is supposed to be like.

If you call yourself a Buddhist a lot of people think they can demand you to behave in the ways they think a Buddhist is supposed to behave. You have to end all of your emails with phrases like “be well” or “gassho.” You have to say only nice things about people. You have to be serene at all times. You can’t curse. You can’t listen to punk rock. You can’t look at dirty pictures. And on and on and on…

Me, I used to listen to those people. But I don’t anymore. They don’t really get what Buddhism is, if you ask me, even if they too define themselves as Buddhists.

Buddhism isn’t a religion or even a philosophy in the usual sense. But it is something true and important. It happens to be saddled with an unfortunate name. But that’s the name it’s got. It’s like the name hippopotamus. It’s clunky and old-fashioned. It doesn’t describe the thing very well. But it’s what everybody calls the thing. So we’re stuck with it. I’m stuck with it.

It’s a tradition started by a man named Siddhartha Gotama. When he attained a certain kind of understanding he said he was awakened. Thus he was called “Buddha.” But it wasn’t that he alone was Buddha in contrast with the rest of us. He said that anyone could be Buddha, could be awakened. So the name Buddhism doesn’t mean what the people who invented it thought it meant. It doesn’t mean “worshipers of Buddha.” It means “those who believe that it is possible to become awakened.” I find that definition agreeable.

I also feel like I agree with most — though definitely not all — of the things most Buddhists believe in. I mean this more in terms of the general thrust of what most Buddhists believe in rather than in the detailed specifics. I think ordinary people can achieve awakening. I think that this world we live in is more important than any sort of other realm we can imagine. I think that the only real time is this moment. All that kind of stuff.

I also accept the basic traditions of the form of Buddhism I studied. I do the chants when it’s time to chant. I wear the robes when it’s appropriate. I go to meditation intensives, spend time at monasteries, argue with my fellow practitioners over what the tradition really means.

I’m very concerned with getting to the heart of what it means to be a Buddhist in this time and place. This is why, for example, I got so pissed at Gempo Roshi and his Big Mind garbage and about the recent “Buddhism and Psychedelics” event in Santa Cruz. If I were not a Buddhist myself, I’d have no business being so critical of that kind of stuff. But I feel like someone has to be.

This gets me in trouble too. Because every time I’m critical of something some other Buddhist does I get called out. See, Buddhists are not supposed to criticize other Buddhists. But the misuse of this precept allows too many people to use it as a shield and just do whatever the hell they want and call it Buddhism. As a Buddhist, I can’t abide by that. Still, it seems like the best some of these folks can do is say, “Hey! You’re not allowed to criticize me!” If that’s all they can offer in their defense, that says a lot right there. Whatever.

I don’t feel like I belong to some big religious institution called Buddhism. I’m not sure institutionalized Buddhism really even is Buddhism at all. But maybe I should save that for another time. There are organized religions out there that use the name Buddhism to describe themselves. But I don’t belong to any of those. It’s not necessary.

Anyhow, I feel like I am a Buddhist now whether I want to be or not. So I’d best be honest about it.

***

Donations to this site will sometimes be spent on Buddhist stuff like maybe some zafus.

***

I’m in Europe now. Check my EVENTS page for all my tour dates.

 

 

57 Responses

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  1. Fred
    Fred October 23, 2012 at 5:38 pm | |

    “. Im not sure institutionalized Buddhism really even is Buddhism at all. There are organized religions out there that use the name Buddhism to describe themselves. But I dont belong to any of those.”

    Yep

  2. jas
    jas October 23, 2012 at 5:39 pm | |

    i really hate the word “ahimsa”, but it really sums things up for me…as tacky as that is…

  3. Serenity
    Serenity October 23, 2012 at 5:59 pm | |

    I know the feeling. But then Buddhist is a label and like any label it comes with all the pros and cons. At this point in my life it’s a label I’m happier with than some I’ve had. I think it must go back to some animal instinct that we establish prejudices and expectations about labels. It expedites our decision making. We don’t have to analyze everything. We just consider what stereotypes go with the label and then we can move on to other things. We don’t get bogged down trying to collect a lot of information. Anyway, I’m babbling. Loved your post.

  4. jas
    jas October 23, 2012 at 6:01 pm | |

    often i go against what i believe in and never even realize it until i am in the process or destroying what i believe in. sometimes i stop, sometimes i keep going for some stupid reason…sometimes i make an apology afterwards(which almost feels pointless, even if sincere.)

  5. Tattoozen
    Tattoozen October 23, 2012 at 6:02 pm | |

    It seems like the biggest problem in buddhism is other folks deciding how everyone else ought to act to be a “real buddhist’. Its like when punk kids first used to get into it they were happy just being a punk like everyone else, but after a while they started feeling the need to decide who was “real” and who was a “posuer”.

  6. jas
    jas October 23, 2012 at 6:06 pm | |

    consider yourself lucky. some of us will never be able to proceed in our lineage in anyway shape or form other then lay practice. or it’ll take so long that when a person becomes fully ordained their so old they might never be able to do anything of value for others.

  7. jas
    jas October 23, 2012 at 6:06 pm | |

    some of us might not even live long enough to become fully ordained l0l!

  8. jas
    jas October 23, 2012 at 6:15 pm | |

    your ikkyu link, is not an ikkyu link. plus, where the hell did you find a mellotron?

  9. Dorg
    Dorg October 23, 2012 at 6:18 pm | |

    “Big mind” sounds like the opposite of “no mind” anyway.

    And if you meet Brad on the road….say hi for me.

  10. sam
    sam October 23, 2012 at 7:04 pm | |

    You say it quite well!

  11. jas
    jas October 23, 2012 at 8:07 pm | |

    “I say the system got you victim to your own mind
    Dreams are hopeless aspirations
    In hopes of comin’ true
    Believe in yourself
    The rest is up to me and you.” Left Eye of TLC., “Waterfalls”.

    ;P

  12. MJGibbs
    MJGibbs October 23, 2012 at 8:45 pm | |

    Three Souls – Trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2ebonmCwMc

    It’s a documentary about Shohaku Okumura and his family.

  13. anon 108
    anon 108 October 24, 2012 at 2:03 am | |

    This is from the Qs and As of a talk Stephen Batchelor gave called Buddhism and the Art of Imagining -

    Questioner: “I don’t like to identify myself as a Buddhist…(paraphrasing) Why not just do the practice/follow the teachings and forget the label?”

    Stephen Batchelor: “I’m often asked this question and I think there’s a lot of people who’d be perfectly happy if I didnt call myself a Buddhist [laughter]. But perhaps because of that, I DO call myself a Buddhist! [more laughter, applause]. I think I would be deeply dishonest if I said I wasnt a Buddhist, because my whole life has been steeped in the Buddhist tradition. [With mock rue] Ive done nothing else.

    That’s what Stephen Batchelor said.

  14. anon 108
    anon 108 October 24, 2012 at 2:18 am | |

    …The talk seems to have gone from the Buddhist Geeks site, who hosted and live-streamed it. But there’s a link to a download in the first post here:

    http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/3432393

    (Session 8)

  15. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon October 24, 2012 at 5:06 am | |

    Some people have criticized Zazen practitioners and called them “Zennists” who are not “real Buddhists.” They claim that Zen Buddhism is not “real Buddhism” but a Chinese misinterpretation of Buddhism filtered through Taoist philosophy. Other people have said that Tibetan Buddhism contains so many elements of Bon religion that it is not “real Buddhism”. Each individual invents his or her own religion or philosophy based on one of the available templates. No two are ever exactly alike. A “real Buddhist” has never existed.

  16. Fred
    Fred October 24, 2012 at 5:35 am | |

    Good point Mr. Canyon. I did state that Tibetan Buddhism is contaminated with
    Bon.

    But from now on I’m going for the secret Tantric deep penetration enlightenment. Wink. Wink. Say no more.

  17. Fred
    Fred October 24, 2012 at 5:58 am | |

    I choose the template of the penetrating poet, Dogen:

    “it is so, a thing of suchness expresses the dream within a dream; a person of suchness expresses the dream within a dream. A thing beyond suchness expresses the dream within a dream; a person beyond suchness expresses the dream within a dream. This understanding has been acknowledged as crystal clear. What is called, talking all day long about a dream within a dream, is no other than the actual expression of the dream within a dream.”

  18. benjhutchison
    benjhutchison October 24, 2012 at 6:34 am | |

    Great post. I really appreciate that you get to the truth beyond definition but don’t hold your position too tightly. The mantle of buddhist can be so heavy and can really define “followers” within a sangha as much as it does to outsiders who most of the time have no idea what they are talking about. The tension from people trying to keep their calm on is palpable at many dharma centers. On the flipside, there are also those “rebels” who define themselves as free from the shackles of the institutions of Buddhism but hold tighter to that stance than the institutionalized buddhist they are rebelling against. So thanks for your levity.

  19. Martina
    Martina October 24, 2012 at 7:04 am | |

    I fully agree with what yout said, Brad. That is just the same experience I’ve made. Lot’s have prejedices and strange expectations, some think one’s a freak. So, for years now I stopped telling people I’m a Buddhist, i.e. except for people I know well.

    Have a good journey. I’m trying to come to the event in Koblenz.

  20. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote October 24, 2012 at 7:21 am | |

    “You have to end all of your emails with phrases like be well or gassho. You have to say only nice things about people. You have to be serene at all times.”

    It’s true that Brad has a sense of humor. I wish he’d make an album with his cousin.

    It’s weird that the folks who are the strictest about adhering to the teachings of the Gautamid recorded in the sutta and vinaya volumes of the Pali Canon cannot speak about the meditative states. Speaking of meditative states, of course, lumps a person in with Bela Lugosi and zombies (as opposed to zombie hunters), but it’s almost Halloween.

    “The lasers are in the lab, the old man dressed in white clothes; everybody says he’s mad- no one knows the things, that he knows”- description of the Gautamid as a lay person?, perhaps, from Neil Young’s “Rust Never Sleeps” album.

    You call yourself a Buddhist!

    Ha ha, isn’t that great, how that accusative tone rings the bones. Kill ‘em, Bill!

    gassho, Mark

  21. AnneMH
    AnneMH October 24, 2012 at 9:20 am | |

    This really hit home (I am avoiding words like ‘resonates’). I have had this come up from a few angles. One is that labels sure make a lot of life easier, however we always have to be careful about falling into a stereotype or predjudice. I have had some pretty funny reactions to being Buddhist in the ‘burbs. I had one person who insisted that I just needed to pray to Buddha about a life issue that came up. No I pretty much needed to do the leg work to handle it. As far as being nice and soft spoken, well I blew that when I responded that Buddha was dead, he told his followers he would be dead and that seemed silly to pray to a dead person who never claimed to be a diety.

    The other is that I have had several people make comments that I couldn’t possibly be Buddhist and when i asked more one responded ‘but you are a good person!’.

    Okay gotta be potentially disrespectful. i went to a retreat and we had the times of sitting and walking meditation. Most people seem to move slower than backwards during walking. I did end up deciding that moving slower helped with getting past the idea you were walking to ‘get somewhere’ however I generally moved much faster. Then the walking would be done and someone would ring a bell and everyone would slowly turn towards the door, then slowly start moving in that direction, and I had to say at least no one was around when i giggled because we really looked like Night of the Living Dead with our comfy clothes and unstyled hair and earth shoes.

    1. sri_barence
      sri_barence October 26, 2012 at 10:05 am | |

      @AnneMH: I went to a retreat once at Providence Zen Center, which I think was lead by George Bowman (a “Zen Master” now, but I don’t know his “Buddhist name”). During walking he would speed up and slow down at random. This made it necessary to pay attention to walking! Sometimes he would say things like, “Calm, smiling, present moment, only moment.” In interviews he would close his eyes, as if accessing some deep feeling or intuition. He was a pretty weird dude. I like that!
      Once during sitting, he noticed some people having a sleepy time, and said, ‘Wake up!’ His voice cut like a knife.
      At my last formal sitting at the Chogye International Zen Center in NY, I was grateful for the slow pace of the walking period. I have trouble with my knees sometimes, and on top of that, my left leg had fallen asleep. Walking was definitely a challenge at that time. In order to walk at all, I had to pour my attention into each step. Later when walking became easier, my mind started to wander a bit more. I think sometimes a difficulty may actually be an opportunity, if we choose to accept it in that way.

      1. Cloud Cave
        Cloud Cave October 26, 2012 at 10:30 am | |

        People get all bent out of shape over walking. Yasutani Roshi had his students walk so quickly it was almost like jogging, boy did he get a lot of complaints.
        Mindfulness is done with the mind, just pay attention fast or slow.

  22. Sai
    Sai October 24, 2012 at 9:47 am | |

    I am not sure why you say Buddhists don’t criticize other buddhists. The Zen lore is full of famous masters saying critical things about others. I remember even Dogen saying that others did not fully understand Zen and attacking the wrong interpretations of other Masters. Hakuin’s writings are full of Venom towards Zen practitioners and recognized Zen Masters who don’t make the right efforts, those who got stuck in the ghost cave or something like that and did not make any effort to get out of it or those who give some stupid interpretation and entangle their students with a conceptual understanding that binds them and traps them.
    Zen was never peaceful anyway, just read about Yun Men, Lin Chi to name a few. It was always supposed to be vigorous and full of energy with shouts, blows, people challenging each other. Even the Tibetans are busy being critical of each other, they have four schools and while they seem to be friendly on surface and may be agree on some basics, they also have lots of differences. Their writings “respectfully” disagree with one another quite often.

  23. Keith
    Keith October 24, 2012 at 11:47 am | |

    Awesome post, Brad. It’s these types of expressions that initially got me jazzed about your writing. I’m so looking forward to your new book.

  24. SoF
    SoF October 24, 2012 at 2:16 pm | |

    Remember the power of SILENCE.

    The goal of life is not a popularity contest. Christianity (to pick a straw man) is not right because it is more popular nor is it right because it may kill everyone who is a non-Christian. Nor is Islam, Judahism, &ct.

    Buddhism is correct because when the harmony of the universe is restored, then nothing material exists. If all Buddhists cease to be then so much the worse for wear. But, since ALL THINGS are destined to decay and ‘die,’ it’s merely a matter of waiting it out (and not weighting it out).

    The Universally Recognized (U.R.) Swami Hoo U. Tinka’s most recent posting pointed out that it is the ERRORS in ‘the Harmony’ which result in the existence of material worlds.

    Eny effort to argue otherwise is a waste of caloric intake.

  25. Fred
    Fred October 24, 2012 at 4:43 pm | |

    Good stuff. The systemic anomaly has been eliminated by a shift in the matrix:

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/90220087/A-Shift-in-the-Matrix

  26. Fred
    Fred October 24, 2012 at 5:47 pm | |

    You split off parts of yourself and criticize in others the stuff you split off.

    That is at the level of ego, because it’s all one anyways.

    I could generate continuous bliss in 1979 – 81, but its nothing to mess around with on your own without training.

    So while I reject Tantric Buddhism, there is a component of mysticism where some of this self lives.

    It’s better to die while facing a wall.

  27. King Kong
    King Kong October 25, 2012 at 6:04 am | |

    TRY FACING THE SKY !!

  28. wiggle87
    wiggle87 October 25, 2012 at 6:27 am | |

    I just recently I changed my car and I probably didn’t need to. In the aftermath I felt like I’d broken some deep religious precept and beat myself up for some days. The stupidity of this approach was caught out in Richard Dawkin’s new documentaries on atheism and morality. Some guy in the US surveyed Christians and non-Chrisitians on their sins. It was found that Christians were no less likely to masterbate or look at porn than anyone else, but they felt far more guilty about it. Observing my bizarre guilt after buying the car was one of the most useful periods in my practise. I’ve certainly begun to realize the difference between Buddhism and the rest.

  29. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote October 25, 2012 at 8:37 am | |

    “So that is our little knife story.”

    I feel a great sadness to read Lama Christie’s story. It’s true that our lives are a mystery; don’t you love the Europeans who treat you like their long lost cousin whom they might not see again, even though they just met you. I remember that, and wonder where it comes from.

    It’s better to let the cushion and the wall breathe one in-breath, breathe one out-breath; gassho to the cushion, gassho to the wall, gassho to the buddha who lives down the hall:

    Darling, I have come to tell you
    Though it almost breaks my heart
    But before the morning darling
    We’ll be many miles apart

    Don’t this road look rough and rocky
    Don’t that sea look wide and deep
    Don’t my baby look the sweetest
    When she’s in my arms asleep

    Can’t you hear the night birds crying
    Far across the deep blue sea
    While of others you are thinking
    Won’t you sometimes think of me

    One more kiss before I leave you
    One more kiss before we part
    You have caused me lots of trouble
    Darling you have broke my heart

    Flatt & Scruggs version of an old road song about karma and deep retreats (isn’t it?…)

  30. Anonymous
    Anonymous October 25, 2012 at 4:13 pm | |

    Ha! I don’t tell anyone that I sit with them crazy zennies and have a teacher and suchlike. Maybe 3-4 of my friends know and none of my co-workers or colleagues, etc.

    And I’m anonymous here. Literally.

    It’s pretty much for the reasons that Brad laid out and some reasonable extrapolations from the things he said.

    I don’t really care what I am. I am what I am.

    Thank you.

  31. Anonymous
    Anonymous October 25, 2012 at 4:18 pm | |

    “Im so looking forward to your new book.”

    Funny you mention this. I was actually thinking about Brad’s books while finishing up on the potty yesterday. I swear. To Buddha. I was thinking about how much I enjoyed some of his books and didn’t enjoy one of them as much, then I started reflecting on how where I am in life, my mood, what’s happening…. all that stuff…. affects how I feel about a book. Had I read the one I didn’t care for as much at a different time, I bet I’d have liked it as much as the rest.

    Then I wiped and left the bathroom and was immediately drawn into a wrestling match with one of my dogs.

  32. Cloud Cave
    Cloud Cave October 26, 2012 at 9:00 am | |

    I like what you said about labeling bands as “Heavy Metal” or whatever. Back in the 60′s Jimi Hendrix was making a ton o’ cash and Miles Davis was was not. When Miles asked his agent why Hendrix was getting air time & gigs and he wasn’t, the agent said “You play jazz, Hendrix plays Acid Rock.” Miles reportedly answered, “Then for f**ks sake let’s call what I do Acid Rock!”
    We all get just too wrapped up in the words rather than what they mean. What is it the Zennists say? A finger pointing at the moon, don’t look at the finger, look at the moon.
    Sometimes it’s just a whole lot easier (and less egoistic) to say I’m a buddhist, rather than “My understanding is inspired by buddhist wisdom and practice but I don’t belong to any established tradition, even though I was thoroughly trained in one, blah, blah, blah…..

  33. deluded
    deluded October 26, 2012 at 4:46 pm | |

    1) zazen (Brads rigid crosslegged) = self-deception, but it keeps you busy, without doing harm

    2) hallucinogenics = self-deception, and do harm

    3) brain damage = self-deception, and do harm
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPMYdalCyA0

    3) suicide = self-deception, but it is useless, you will die anyway soon or later
    Nirvana of Kurt Cobain
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Myth_of_Sisyphus

  34. Fred
    Fred October 27, 2012 at 4:08 am | |

    A Buddha can maintain the open state while interacting with the phenomenal
    world.

    A man/woman can experience the open state while sitting with no purpose.

    What is being deceived when no one is there?

    Great doubt arises along the way.

  35. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon October 27, 2012 at 5:48 am | |

    Deluded said…
    “1) zazen (Brads rigid crosslegged) = self-deception, but it keeps you busy, without doing harm”

    Sitting in half- or full-lotus CAN and DOES cause harm. Sitting in half-lotus damaged my right knee. It took about a year until it was mostly healed but it still isn’t quite right after almost two years. If you insist on sitting in half- or full-lotus, proceed with caution and pay attention to any warning signs before you cause permanent, irreversible damage. Masochistic self-bodily torture in pursuit of enlightenment was explicitly denounced by the Buddha according to the scriptures.

  36. SatisfactionJacksom
    SatisfactionJacksom October 27, 2012 at 6:01 am | |

    So being a Buddhist means protecting the “right teachings” against
    “wrong views” ? Did I get that right?

  37. doc overkill
    doc overkill October 27, 2012 at 6:43 am | |

    This blog reminded me of a recent experience. I was asked if I was “religious.” I wasn’t being singled out. I was just sitting at a table where the conversation became religious criticism. I shrugged my shoulders, not sure what to say. When she began a more specific line of questioning, I simply said, “I practice Buddhism.” OH, well THAT’S DIFFERENT. Okay, cool. No need to talk about it more. I always hesitate to talk about it with people who do not practice…hell, or to talk about it, period, because the more I talk about it, the more I feel I begin to create definitions and ideas that take away from the direct experience. That just feels like regression. There’s another conversation in the punk scene that happens, that is quite similar. It usually starts with, “I am an anarchist.” Heh.

    Also reminds me of my favorite criticism, whenever I get mad or irritated: “That’s not very ZEN of you.”

    Great blog entry!

  38. Alizrin
    Alizrin October 27, 2012 at 8:56 am | |

    Re walking meditation: Anything can drive you crazy when you are at a meditation retreat (or doing any meditation for that matter). I think it is part of attempting to entertaining yourself away from meditating. What I find funny about walking meditation is how people rush out the door instead of walking in the shrine room. Yeah yeah, going to the bathroom, right? Every half hour or so? Boy, buddhists must have super crappy bladders (add that to the list of assumptions). People come up with all sorts of reasons to NOT meditate at meditation centers

    Not sure if this was a joke but someone told me that at the Shambhala center in NYC people actually pass each other during walking meditation, and a slow and fast lane develops. Has to be a joke, right? But really, our assumptions about New Yorkers leads us to absolutely believe it is possible.

  39. Alizrin
    Alizrin October 27, 2012 at 9:09 am | |

    I was called the other day to participate in a LONG survey about some stuff going on around my state. To set up their criteria I was asked what religion I was, and turned out Buddhism was an option, so I figured, okay, sure, I’ll go for that, what difference does it make? Just as good as atheist. Then I was asked how often I participate in the religious services associated with my religion. I thought to myself, well I go and meditate at least once a week, I sometimes show up for things that involve chanting and incense, so I was about to opt for 4-5 times a month, and then I said to myself, WTF? this is not a religion, and so the things we do are not religious events! And I wondered, who develops these surveys and doesn’t even know what is and isn’t a religion?

    I also had a christian men’s book club call me recently, they were reading Without Buddha I Could Not Be A Christian and wanted to come to the Shambhala center where I am a time keeper once a week to participate in one of “our services”. I thought that they are expecting robes and chants and incense and gongs and some kind of entertaining spectacle, and if they come to the Friday night meditation when I am the umdze all they will find is a handful of shlumpy tired after a work week meditators who are probably looking forward to whatever they are going to have for dinner later. I directed them to our center director, I figured he can organize a performance for them so they can feel like they have had an exotic experience. I kind of regret that, they should of just had a chance to see it like it is, at its most ordinary everyday way.

    People think Buddhism is kind of like Catholicism and that the Dalai Lama is our version of the pope.

  40. Fred
    Fred October 27, 2012 at 9:40 am | |

    “So being a Buddhist means protecting the right teachings against
    wrong views ? Did I get that right?”

    “Being a Buddhist”, “right teaching” and “wrong views” are discriminative,
    dualistic concepts.

    “I” is an illusionary locus, and “right” is a position.

    Actualizing the fundamental point, realizing the universe and expressing the
    dream within a dream are metaphors.

  41. Fred
    Fred October 27, 2012 at 9:51 am | |

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

    “i grew ripe” = the universe realizing itself
    “when the daydream dieing” = awakening into now
    “flowered a simple type” = a man of no distinction
    “opened into infant eyes” = dieing each second to yesterday

  42. Fred
    Fred October 27, 2012 at 10:19 am | |

    There is nothing to be and no one to become.

    Gudo says that just sitting itself is enlightenment. Why?

    Because if no one is grasping at anything, there is just this timeless moment.

    No self upon the Absolute is another metaphor.

  43. King Kong
    King Kong October 27, 2012 at 5:53 pm | |

    DOES THIS TIMELESS MOMENT EXIST IF THERE IS NO ONE THERE TO OBSERVE IT ??

  44. SoF
    SoF October 27, 2012 at 7:43 pm | |

    It’s not the wall that you are facing.

    It only seems that way to the casual observer.

  45. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel October 28, 2012 at 1:50 am | |

    Grand Canyon wrote:

    “Sitting in half- or full-lotus CAN and DOES cause harm. Sitting in half-lotus damaged my right knee. ”

    Please see
    http://zenmontpellier.voila.net/eng/lotus/lotuseng.html

  46. boubi
    boubi October 28, 2012 at 6:49 am | |

    King Kong

    “DOES THIS TIMELESS MOMENT EXIST IF THERE IS NO ONE THERE TO OBSERVE IT ??”

    Nice

  47. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon October 28, 2012 at 7:15 am | |

    Proulx Michel wrote…
    “Please see
    http://zenmontpellier.voila.net/eng/lotus/lotuseng.html

    That link contains information that confirms what I wrote before about the potential for the half- and full-lotus positions to cause harm. As I said before, “If you insist on sitting in half- or full-lotus, proceed with caution and pay attention to any warning signs before you cause permanent, irreversible damage.”

    From the link:

    “Never force yourself into Padmasana or the other cross-legged positions. The knee joint is particularly susceptible to injury for a number of reason. First, the knee is one of the most primitive joints in the body and is much weaker than the hip. If you have very tight hips, you may over-stretch the knees without increasing you hip flexibility one iota. The hips, not the knees must be flexible for lotus pose. Second, when fully extended, the knee joint will not rotate. When the joint is bent, however, a slight rotation does come into play, and this rotation can be injurious to the knee, damaging the ligaments, cartilage, and meniscus. The knee is an unforgiving joint; once injure, it may never be the same again.”

    “Those with knee or ankle injuries should be especially cautious here. If your discomfort cannot be alleviated by adjusting your position, you would be wise to seek the help on an experienced teacher. You might also try alternating sitting positions, such as Virasana (Hero Pose) or Siddhasana (Sage Pose) with the buttocks elevated on a firm blanket. These poses are excellent for both meditation and pranayama practice.”

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