There’s a koan that goes like this:
Master Obaku Ki-un asked Master Hyakujo Ekai: When I want to share with others the teachings that you have given us, how should I teach them?
Master Hyakujo Ekai just remained seated on his cushion without saying anything.
Obaku Ki-un said: How can I teach the children and grandchildren of disciples in the future?
Master Hyakujo said: What you have said shows that you are a real person.
I got an email the other day that went like this:
Some folks in my local sangha are very interested in the precepts. Specifically what you “can” and “can’t” do, especially the 5th precept (I vow to refrain from intoxicants).
A few in the local group here seem attached to the old hippie idea that “anything goes” in Buddhism because the precepts are not “thou shalt nots.” One guy in particular is all about psychedelics. He’s convinced that he’s enlightened and that all the other members don’t get it.
Ultimately, if you commit to the precepts, you’re accepting a certain amount of (attempted, anyway) personal responsibility. How can I steer them (esp psychedelic guy) away from bullshit surrounding the precepts without alienating them?
And as I was writing this, I got an email from the LA Weekly announcing that the top story this week is titled, “Is There a Kinder, Gentler Way to Get Anti-Vaxxers to See the Light?”
Human beings appear to have a built-in desire to help each other. This is why Master Hyakujo says, “What you have said shows that you are a real person.”
But you will notice that the koan ends right there. We don’t get any advice from Hyakujo on how to teach future generations. And you’ll notice that when asked how to teach people right now, Hyakujo doesn’t tell him anything either. All he does is sit there doing his own practice.
One of the things that initially attracted me to Zen Buddhism is that it does not proselytize. Nobody goes door-to-door telling random folks the Good News that form is emptiness and emptiness is form. In fact, when someone shows up at a Zen monastery the tradition is to tell them to go away. Only those that prove they’re serious about the practice are allowed in.
This says a lot about the Zen Buddhist attitude toward helping others. To a lot of people, it seems cold and selfish. But it’s really not.
In a way, we’re kind of like those pro-vaccine people in LA Weekly. Vaccination isn’t just something you do for yourself. It’s only when a large enough population is vaccinated that certain very dangerous diseases stop spreading. Similarly, I know that not only is meditation essential for me alone, it is the only thing that can possibly save the human race from destruction. I definitely want as many people as possible to start meditating. Unless that starts happening soon, we’re sunk. I believe that as much as any Jehovah’s Witness believes you’re going to hell because you still have birthday parties.
Normally people who feel this way about something also feel an urgency to go out and convert the world to their way of thinking. So why aren’t we canvassing college campuses like the guy I used to see carrying a giant cross around the student center at Kent State?
It’s not because we don’t care if anyone shows up or not. We really do. Passionately, in fact. But we understand that before anyone can accept help, they have to genuinely want it first.
Take the guy with his psychedelic drugs. All he’s got to do to get Enlightened – according to his definition – is put a tiny piece of LSD-soaked blotter paper on his tongue and wait about an hour for it to kick in. Why would he want to spend years doing something as boring and pointless as staring at a wall every day? Personally, I did LSD four times before I figured out it didn’t work. Smarter people than me don’t need to do it at all. But some people are even less perceptive than I was and it takes them years before they get the message. Some are so dense they’ll never get it. There’s really nothing you can say that will ever get through to someone like that. So you might as well do something else instead.
In the end, all you can really do is go your own way. Let people know that you’re willing to answer questions or teach them what you do. But don’t try too hard to help. If someone needs your assistance, they’ll know where to go. If they say they don’t want your help, then your job is done. You don’t need to offer again. Otherwise you’re like the people in that Suicidal Tendencies song Institutionalized:
It’s like I need time to figure these things out
But there’s always someone there going,
“Hey Mike, you know we’ve been noticing you’ve been having a lot of problems lately
You know, maybe you get away, and like maybe you should talk about it,
You’ll feel a lot better.”
And I go, “No it’s okay, you know I’ll figure it out
Just leave me alone I’ll figure it out
You know I’ll just work it on myself.”
And they go, “Well you know if you want to talk about it I’ll be here, you know
And you’ll probably feel a lot better if you talk about it, so want don’t you talk about it.”
And I go, “No I don’t want to, I’m okay, I’ll figure it out myself.”
And they just keep bugging me and they just keep bugging me
And it builds up inside…
Don’t be like that.
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 LECTURE
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!
Plenty more info is available on the Dogen Sangha Los Angeles website, dsla.info
* * *
You can, however, help me by sending a donation. I appreciate your on-going support!
LoL… Lord knows, if you try to help too much, you may just be called a Scientism loving, atheist-fundamentalist… 😉
I’m just one beggar showing other beggars where to find bread…
Other than that…I ain’t got nothin’
Sometimes all you want is a Pepsi, and they won’t give it to you.
“In the end, all you can really do is go your own way.”
Thanks for a good post. But an issue…
here and elsewhere, you’ve made it clear you have a pretty fundamentalist opinion regards entheogens. I continue to find the stance problematic. You say:
“Take the guy with his psychedelic drugs.”
This presumes, well, a guy for one. It also implies some kind of standard religious belief or faith among everyone who ever took any kind of so-called “psychedelic drug” (whatever that means.)
“All he’s got to do to get Enlightened – according to his definition – is put a tiny piece of LSD-soaked blotter paper on his tongue and wait about an hour for it to kick in.”
First, there are many different psychedelics, or entheogens – and they obviously don’t all behave like LSD. I frankly don’t know any adult person who thinks like that – that taking some substance will provide a permanent shift in awareness that equates to “Enlightenment.” (Hopefully fewer Zen practitioners think zazen will do the same!)I do not doubt that such attitudes may exist or have existed. But I have never once heard such a thing expressed, among many people with whom I have discussed the topic, and who have availed themselves of entheogens (including pretty much every single formal Zen teacher I’ve ever had, all of whom without exception had regularly taken psychedelics at some point on their path).
“Why would he want to spend years doing something as boring and pointless as staring at a wall every day?”
Again, this presumes that taking entheogens precludes or dissuades people from dedicated spiritual discipline. And again, the well-documented, scientific fact is that entheogens have often led to and supported people in contemplative practice, and in developing a more spiritual, compassionate orientation to life; this simply belies your point.
“Personally, I did LSD four times before I figured out it didn’t work.”
So, maybe YOU expected it to save you. Maybe not everyone else suffers from this same idea? Maybe there are other uses, and expectations have to be adjusted to a mature, adult viewpoint. I think this is also true about coffee, fried food, tobacco, milk, and even water – all of which can be abused.
“Smarter people than me don’t need to do it at all.”
Smarter people than me (like say, Carl Sagan, who friends report smoked copious amounts of grass every day for 30 years; and said spiritual teachers) have incorporated entheogenic therapy or practice into their lives to not just neutral, but highly positive effects.
“But some people are even less perceptive than I was and it takes them years before they get the message. Some are so dense they’ll never get it. There’s really nothing you can say that will ever get through to someone like that. So you might as well do something else instead.”
I could say the same about making any sort of comment here, though that seems kind of rude; it does appear you are not to be convinced, even by the science. And in the end, that is what I appeal to. Entheogens can help people heal. The science shows this. It’s not about “enlightenment.” It’s about recovering from trauma, seeing through and beyond fears, and finding more and more effective ways to help people integrate their fragmented modern psyches.
I haven’t taken LSD in decades. But I found healing in it, and even more so in other more natural plant teachers. I could have found even more, had they not been demonized and criminalized and I’d had even more guidance. I do not presume to know more than the Huichol, keepers of the peyote way in Mexico, or the many indigenous people of the Americas who avail themselves of aya and other plant teachers. I do not presume to know more than Ram Dass, who eloquently argues for the capacity of enthoegens to help people gain insight at various stages of the life process – especially combined with spiritual practice. I do not presume to know more than the thousands of vets and trauma survivors and terminally ill cancer patients, whose lives have been and are being transformed in psychedelic studies that are slowly beginning to get funding and come out of the dark. Not to mention the inmates in our corrupt prison system – recidivism, violence, and repeat crimes plummet dramatically among those who have participated in entheogenic therapy studies.
Brad, I wish you could develop some greater gradations on this issue, and ease up on the black-and-white, dated, “real spiritual people don’t need anything but discipline” posture. It is ironically maybe not very “zen.” It supports terribly reactionary views in this culture that have to change; and happily are changing.
With respect, and affection!
“Again, this presumes that taking entheogens precludes or dissuades people from dedicated spiritual discipline. And again, the well-documented, scientific fact is that entheogens have often led to and supported people in contemplative practice, and in developing a more spiritual, compassionate orientation to life; this simply belies your point. ”
So science says that if you drop acid twice a week, you will become a more spiritual person.
Do all the scientism loving reactoids believe this?
“So science says that if you drop acid twice a week, you will become a more spiritual person.”
Who says that? I certainly didn’t.
Then what’s the point of dropping acid in terms of a well-documented scientific fact?
Taking a page from your book, Dad, what’s the point of anything?
Easy answer, Son, there isn’t any point to anything.
And especially to anything involving scientism, and entheogens.
“…there isn’t any point to anything.
And especially to anything involving scientism, and entheogens.” – Fred
Are you just repeating dogma that you don’t understand or did you use your intellect to develop those beliefs and construct or confirm that model of reality?
“… the intellect is the source of the dishonesty. The grasping, the clinging to a model is the source of the dishonesty.” – Fred
Or are you just a dishonest troll?
That’s funny Canyon. You have been trolling this place for months.
Maybe I can clarify what I think is a misunderstanding, though I think you are perhaps not really wanting to get my gist here. Numbers of scientific studies over decades demonstrate that psychedelic/entheogenic drugs, when administered in controlled settings and under protocols, are statistically highly effective in addressing a host of psychological maladies, including depression and PTSD. Numbers of studies also indicate that targeted short term use of psychedelics are statistically shown to lead subjects to make long-lasting positive changes in their lives, often including a shift to a more “spiritual” attitude toward life, and the assumption of meditation practices etc.
My own anecdotal experience is, as I say, one of just about every senior Zen person I’ve ever known having extensive experience with hallucinogens, so-called. The best ones admit it didn’t hurt.
Titus makes good points. There are numerous studies showing that there can be benefit. And some people believing that drugs can be THE ANSWER shouldn’t come into play. Some people ascribe all sorts of silly things to Zazen. It doesn’t taint the practice.
Also, I think it’s problematic to go too far down the drugs-are-bad-and-not-needed path, because you get into anti-depressants and other sorts of drugs (like vaccines, even) where lives can be on the line, and while you may be of the mindset that one just needs certain practices like zazen to deal with things like chronic depression (as many believe), it’s irresponsible to argue this point to people who are in a difficult position and may be helped by the drugs right now, whereas zazen will clearly take time to start helping.
We are not talking about anti depressants, here Yoshiyahu.
Originally the man said that science claims that the use of psychedelic drugs could have ” spiritual ” benefits. Now he’s trying to spin away from that position by bringing up depression and post traumatic stress disorder.
And you are spinning some BS with the zazen and not fixing depression. No one is talking about that.
Spin, spin, spin. Are you the same posters.
Fred, you misunderstand something very basic here.
I wasn’t talking to you.
Further, you are confusing a broadening of the scope of the conversation with ‘spinning away.’ You seem to think you’re engaging in formal debate or a deposition of trial with ground rules about what is admissable and what is not, but you’re not.
Psilocybe semilanceata is an old friend. I also see psychedelics as an important human rights issue, and possibly freedom of religion issue, if you think they can play a role in a religious practice. The issue of the 5th precept is a bit thorny, I’m not sure if taking psychedelics disqualifies one from being a Buddhist…
The science is interesting, but not as interesting as the direct experience itself. Psychedelics are best approached with a certain level of maturity and responsibility, like any powerful tool. It would be naive to expect enlightenment from a temporary fleeting experience, but a certain shift in spiritual orientation is possible, as well as an expanded ecological sensitivity.
“The issue of the 5th precept is a bit thorny, I’m not sure if taking psychedelics disqualifies one from being a Buddhist…”
I don’t think it disqualifies you, it just suggests that if you do take psychedelics or any other intoxicant you are making a mistake, or at the very least wasting your time, which in itself is also a mistake.
Having said that, I don’t agree with their prohibition, largely for the reasons you mention. I had more experience with psychedelics in my younger years than I would care to admit, and I did survive. But in hindsight, I would advise against them to anyone who asked.
I tend to waste far more time sober than I do drunk and stoned. I treasure alot of the times I’ve been high, even when forced to look deeply into myself, which is not always easy or fun nessesarily. It helps if you can completely let go and dissovle the charade that is the self, then its impossible not to wake up.
“Let people know that you’re willing to answer questions or teach them what you do.”
There is a reason there are no teachers in Zen, and no students. There’s a reason that, although my writing is everything to me, my good friend says “I still don’t understand”.
There’s a reason why the ruby red slippers can’t simply be taken off Dorothy’s feet; these things must be done delicately…
Might as well dance while we’re still alive, Dorothy:
Absolute rubbish. Intellectual gobbledygook. Pompous bullshitery.
“Not helping” is just another excuse to be lazy and selfish.
Ever hear of “Great Vows for All?” Something about “The many beings are numberless, I vow to save them…?”
Master Hyakujo is simply making the statement that being a real person consists of caring about the welfare of others. That intention to help is vital but only the beginning. It’s realized when one understands that we’re all part of the same substance, the same nature. And now I think the Ambien is starting to kick in.
Actually, you make an error in your thinking. You take what Brad says and equate it with not helping. That’s not what he is saying.
Similarly, you cannot assume that the Boddhisatva Vow means you go out and try and actively save all beings all the time. Because common sense and experience shows you this doesn’t work. People have to want help, first of all. And second of all, we have limited resources. And third of all, what you think of initially as the best way to help someone may actually not be helpful at all! This is something else that is easily understood through experience. It is harder to do what Brad talks about, and extend an offer to help, and help those who come to you for help, and leave it at that. But that’s what works! It takes time. Traditionally it has been understood to take lifetimes.
One could help without actively planning to help.
Maybe something is just the right thing to do at a certain moment and one might not be even aware of one’s good deed.
Brad, you posted a while ago about imaginary conversations, and it helped me with a relationship problem. This “Don’t try to help”, is just like the conclusion I came to: if people don’t want to discuss – they don’t. That is it for now, but who knows what is going to happen in the future. From a snow flake to an avalanche.
I can wait. I might change while I sit. I might forget.
So, thank you for the blog.
On balance, I reckon LSD did me way less harm than tuning into the likes of Suicidal Tendencies, when I was sixteen.
It must get pretty trippy being a Jehovah’s Witness too. Or being an enlightenment seeker on a cushion.
[off-topic, except from about 24 minutes in]
I lived with someone in 1979 who had just done 2 weeks with Lowen.
It was pretty intense and direct. In the end I left.
60 characters is the number of voices in the human brain.
“Psychedelic drug (also known as a psychedelic substance or simply a psychedelic), a psychoactive drug whose primary action is to alter cognition and perception, such as LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, mescaline or DMT, but sometimes also cannabis and MDMA.
Psychedelic experience, a temporary altered state of consciousness induced by the consumption of psychedelic drugs.”
“Take the guy with his psychedelic drugs. All he’s got to do to get Enlightened – according to his definition – is put a tiny piece of LSD-soaked blotter paper on his tongue and wait about an hour for it to kick in. Why would he want to spend years doing something as boring and pointless as staring at a wall every day? Personally, I did LSD four times before I figured out it didn’t work. Smarter people than me don’t need to do it at all. But some people are even less perceptive than I was and it takes them years before they get the message. Some are so dense they’ll never get it.”
That’s funny, Fred. You have been trolling this place for months.
People don’t actually believe their religious truths. It’s just so much crap to give meaning to their lives.
You’ve really drank the Kool-Aid about meditation though, and it’s good that you realize you’re religious beliefs.
You can’t recover for someone else. — AA Proverb
You yourselves must strive; the Buddhas only point the way. — Dhammapada
“I know that not only is meditation essential for me alone, it is the only thing that can possibly save the human race from destruction. I definitely want as many people as possible to start meditating. Unless that starts happening soon, we’re sunk. I believe that as much as any Jehovah’s Witness believes you’re going to hell because you still have birthday parties.”
I felt the same way for a long time, actually (but “just this” will do, right?).
“Take the guy with his psychedelic drugs. All he’s got to do to get Enlightened – according to his definition – is put a tiny piece of LSD-soaked blotter paper on his tongue and wait about an hour for it to kick in. Why would he want to spend years doing something as boring and pointless as staring at a wall every day? Personally, I did LSD four times before I figured out it didn’t work.”
The implication in the above statement is that spending years staring at a wall does work, and perhaps that it works in the context of becoming enlightened.
You know, I’ve never believed that. I believed and still believe that sitting the lotus for 30 or 40 minutes a day can teach me a few things about my own nature, things I’d like to know before I check out.
Ever since I read Gautama saying that there’s a happiness associated with each of the meditative states he described, I realized that the only way change was going to visit Mark Foote’s way of life was in association with the experience of happiness. If sitting in front of a wall is simply boring and pointless, no happiness to be found, well- I can’t find it in me to make the effort, somehow.
Learning to sit the lotus required that I find happiness along the way in the experience, still requires that I find happiness.
I think it’s a lot like fluid dynamics and chaos, there are certain energy states where fractal patterning takes place, to wit:
the empty hand grasps the hoe handle
walking along, I ride the ox
the ox crosses the wooden bridge
the bridge is flowing, the water is still
Where’s that at, Mark! (thanks, Fuxi; thanks, Gautama…)
Hey, Zafu; how you get that cool giant quote mark, with the small grayed text?
blockquote html tag.
sixty characters went into a bar- stop me if you’ve heard this one before…
Please stop saying “Science says”, people, as if “Science” was an entity by and of itself. The correct phrasing ought to be “Some (scientifical) researchers say…”
“Hey, Zafu; how you get that cool giant quote mark, with the small grayed text?”
Troll school 101
the empty hand grasps the hoe handle
walking along, I ride the ox
the ox crosses the wooden bridge
the bridge is flowing, the water is still
Troll school 201:
Repeat the same misunderstood, ersatz Zen cliches in the comments of every post ad nauseam.
Drink a bowl of tea.
Well, large gaping hole, you would have to have experienced something in order to understand the words, which leaves you out.
Your comments clearly illustrate that you do not understand the meaning of the words that you plagiarize. It sounds like all of your “zen experiences” were derived second-hand from Yoda, fortune cookies, and Mr. Miyagi. Maybe you should seriously reconsider those recommendations about psychedelics. Or find a good teacher. Or actually try meditating once in a while instead of just reading comic books about enlightenment.
Sign me up!
the empty hand grasps the hoe handle
walking along, I ride the ox
the ox crosses the wooden bridge
the bridge is flowing, the water is still
What does it mean Dad??!??
The knowing of non-self that acts anyways…
moves through life in the organism…
the organism experiences transition…
in which the relative is upended by the absolute…
Not trying to help, just a heads-up, Wilco’s excellent new album STAR WARS (dig the Capt. Beefheart instrumental opener) is available for a short time as a free download here: http://wilcoworld.net/
Mumbles: Mumbling away and purposefully not helping anyone since (at least) 1985.
Alternate Link Title
Limited HTML implementation here – most HTML tags don’t work – the 4 illustrated above do.
um-bzzka-zzka-um bazzk zzktee chram.
was wondering how you do italics – thanks!
Mumbles, Thanks I owe you one..
Ahhh! Great FZ vid!! Thanks Harlan!!! I caught him live in Kansas City in the hazy 1970’s when I was young and dumb and still relatively helpful.
&Glad you could use a free Wilco album.
New/old book review up at the Hermetic Library site, check it out (really fun book:)
Also, the latest issue of The Believer is finally out with a good article on Ray Johnson, legendary mail artist.
And…been reading A Brief History of Portable Literature by Enrique Vila-Matas right after reading Nabokov’s little bio of Gogol, and can rec both.
Summer reading fun!
Mumbles, not helping, just rolling with it since (at least) 1993.
Through drugs and science he found a way to transcend them both. Which is to say I don’t know what this is, but there’s no arguing with it.
Zen is difficult for me as I am sure it is for many. Teaching even more so. The future?
staring at walls daily is a drug addiction, plain and simple. That kind of activity releases chemicals in the brain that affect one’s state of mind, and a person can easily become addicted to that. The only question is whether it’s a helpful addiction or a harmful one.
I’d also point out that taking a drug like psilocybin, LSD, peyote, and so on for purposes of inducing a “trip” experience requires what amounts to an overdose of that drug. That overdose has some negative, even harmful effects, most of them fortunately temporary. The same drug can be taken in much smaller amounts that does not produce a trip experience, but instead can produce many beneficial results.
I think there are two discussions happening here. One regarding the alleviation of negative mental states/disorders and the other a positive spiritual grounding.
The therapeutic benefits of psychadelic drugs are coming to light from the scientific community and i don’t think anyone (incl Brad) would dispute their validity.
On the other hand i believe a positive spiritual grounding can only be realized through a practice such as Zen/Buddhism etc. As these practices stress the “whole self” – they avoid the problem of it becoming a “therapy” by denying anything external to this. As much as everyone can enjoy McKenna the reality is that these drug induced experiences do not last, everyone must come back down to earth (and enjoy the possible benefits as discussed earlier) of forever be found wandering in delusion.
Only You are It.
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