My apologies for being away so long. We’ve been having some technical issues with the blog and have been trying our best to get them fixed. They’re still not completely fixed, but the blog ought to be running a little better now than it was before.
I’m leaving today to go see my dad who just had triple by-pass heart surgery. After I hang out with him for a few days I’m off to Europe. The list of places I’m going is at the bottom of this article. There are still a few events that have yet to be finalized, so please check back for those. I may be coming to your neighborhood and I’d like to see you. All of these events are still open to further people, so don’t be shy. Show up!
All the on-going events in Los Angeles will still happen each and every week while I’m away and will be far better because I’m not there to mess them up. So go sit!
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A couple days ago someone sent an email to me asking, “Do you think the personal relationship with a teacher is vital for reaching deeper levels of realization?”
After answering with my usual stuff about why one needs a teacher I said, “Deeper levels of realization are for suckers.” I wasn’t trying to be cute. Well, not entirely anyway. I mean that. There are no deeper levels of realization.
The deepest level of realization you will ever have is the level of realization you have right now. With practice you may be able to gradually come to notice this. But in doing so, you will not deepen your level of realization. You’ll only learn to recognize the level of realization that’s already there.
The reason I say that deeper levels of realization are for suckers is that concepts like “deeper levels,” “higher planes,” “awakening experiences,” “satori,” “kensho” and all the rest are really just marketing tools. These concepts are designed to make you think that certain people have the ability to give you something you don’t already possess. Actually “give” is not the correct word. The correct word is “sell.”
A lot of the time, when somebody enters into a relationship with a Zen teacher or other teacher of what are commonly known as “spiritual practices,” they imagine that the teacher will train them to have special experiences. They further imagine that the teacher will assess their progress and give them a grade. Now, of course, most of us are too hip to accept a common letter grade from our spiritual teachers or take one of those exams where you have to fill in the little multiple choice bubbles with a #2 pencil. But all you have to do is dress those very same things up and give them different names, like calling them the Five Ranks of Realization or inventing a multi-step system of koan-based questions to answer. Suckers love that shit!
Teachers who use systems like this are just playing their students for suckers. Your teacher doesn’t know what rank you’re at or what level you’re on. They just make that shit up on the fly as they go. The ones who are reasonably honest may do this kind of thing as a form of what’s called “skillful means” in order to encourage you in what is a very difficult practice that seems unrewarding because it is. It’s the very embodiment of the concept of “unrewarding.” The bad ones are just taking your money and laughing at you behind your back.
Zen teachers, if they’re decent ones, don’t really teach anything. They work on themselves and kindly allow others to hang around and watch. It’s not like they’ve got a technique they’ve mastered and can now show you how to master it too. Instead, they fail at it over and over and invite you to watch them fail. The only real lesson you learn is how they manage not to throw their hands up in frustration, go “aw fuck it!” and give up.
Actually, if you hang around me long enough you’ll almost certainly see me throw my hands up and go “aw fuck it!” a few times. But you’ll also see how I always seem to go back and start failing at it again.
That’s one of the many reasons it irks me so much to see people campaign for the idea that Zen teachers ought to present ideal role models for their students. I don’t see how you can possibly learn anything at all for someone who spends their energy trying to pretend to be an ideal role model. Except maybe about how to be a total phony. If you want to learn that, there are plenty of much better examples than most Zen teachers to study being a phony with.
So if you want my advice, it’s best to drop the whole idea of deeper levels of realization and just try examining the level of realization you already have right now.
August 14-16, 2015 Munich, Germany 3 DAY ZEN RETREAT
August 19, 2015 Munich, Germany LECTURE
August 24-29, 2015 Felsentor, Switzerland 5-DAY RETREAT AT STIFTUNG FELSENTOR
August 30-September 4, 2015 Holzkirchen, Germany 5-DAY RETREAT AT BENEDIKTUSHOF MONASTERY
September 4, 2015 Hamburg, Germany SCREENING OF HARDCORE ZEN MOVIE WITH TALK
September 6, 2015 Hamburg, Germany ZEN DAY
September 10-13, 2015 Finland 4-DAY RETREAT
September 16-19, 20015 Hebden Bridge, England 4-DAY RETREAT
September 20, 2015 London, England THE ART OF SITTING DOWN & SHUTTING UP
September 21-25, 2015 Belfast, Northern Ireland SPECIFIC DATES TO BE DETERMINED
September 26-27, 2015 Glastonbury, England 2-DAY RETREAT
October 26-27 Cincinnati, Ohio Concert:Nova
November 6-8, 2015 Mt. Baldy, CA 3-DAY RETREAT
April 23, 2016 Long Island, New York Molloy College “Spring Awakening 2016”
Every Monday at 8pm there’s zazen at Silverlake Yoga Studio 2 located at 2810 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90039. All are welcome!
Every Saturday at 9:30 there’s zazen at the Veteran’s Memorial Complex located at 4117 Overland Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230. All are welcome!
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