Enlightenment and Losing Your Virginity

virginityOn Sunday I led a workshop at the Austin Zen Center. I had a swell time. During the workshop the group and I became involved in an interesting discussion about enlightenment. I didn’t record my talk. I never record the best ones. But I’m going to try to write from memory some of what I think I might have said.

There’s a phenomenon that lots of people call “enlightenment experiences,” or “satori” or “kensho,” or “awakening,” or “opening,” or whatever. My teacher used to call that phenomenon “solving philosophical problems.”

It’s a moment when you see with perfect clarity that all that stuff about you being one with the entire cosmos, about the individual self being identical with the Great Self of the Universe, about there being no real difference/separation between subject and object, and all of that isn’t merely an abstraction or a philosophical position. It’s actually a better description for how things really are than the story you’ve been told by pretty much everyone who ever taught you anything, the story you have believed in absolutely and unquestioningly for most of your life.

That’s an important moment. It’s profound and significant. It’ll turn your head around. It’s a big deal.

But in a lot of ways it’s sort of like losing your virginity. You can only lose your virginity once. And no matter what kind of sex you have after that, your first time is something you’ll always remember.

Because you’ve crossed a boundary. Before you have sex for the first time, sex is an abstraction. You may have read about it, watched videos of it, imagined what it would feel like, etc. But once you actually do it you discover tons of things about sex that no video could ever show you, that no piece of writing could adequately explain, that were not part of your imaginary version of the activity. Oh! That’s what it smells like!

One of our problems as Westerners who are just now being introduced to a tradition in which such experiences are even regarded as possible, is that we have a tendency to get far too impressed by those who have had them. For example, we’ll say that a person who has had one of these experiences is now Enlightened and we’ll go on to create all kinds of mythology around what that means.

This is not confined to the West either. In Asia there’s also a strong tendency to attach a lot of weird unrealistic stuff to someone who has had such an experience. Often it’s even worse over there because they’ve had a lot more time to develop these myths.

But it’s kind of like when you’re a teenager and that one person in your little group of nerds who hang out by the front door of the school before the bell rings manages to get some for the first time. He becomes a bit of a celebrity. He’s the guy in the know. Like the Fonz. And everybody wants to ask him what it’s really like and hear the juicy stories.

The thing is, though, just because you’ve had sex once doesn’t make you an expert in All Things Sexy. In fact, you’re probably kind of a dunce about it. But your friends don’t know that. They’re still terribly impressed.

And just like there’s nothing about losing your virginity that suddenly makes you an expert at navigating all the ethical implications of having sex, there is nothing in a so-called “enlightenment experience” that teaches you all about ethical behavior as a whole. Seeing clearly that you are literally one with everyone and everything can impart to you the understanding of why you ought to be ethical. You see clearly that hurting someone else, or stealing from someone else, or whatever other bad thing you might do to anyone or anything is just something unpleasant you’re doing to yourself. And vice-versa.

But this doesn’t mean you won’t do those bad things or that you’ll always do right. The habits you formed when you didn’t see this for yourself are still very strong. You still have all the dark urges and screwed up personal history that you had before your “awakening.” All you’ve really got now is a new perspective on your neuroses. That doesn’t make them go away.

In fact it might make things worse. If you suddenly become aware that it’s all me, me, me as far as the eye can see, you might conclude that anything you do to anyone else is OK because — hey! — it’s all just me and I can handle it! I see lots of so-called “enlightened people” who appear to me to be acting as if that’s the way they think things are. But they’re not.

This is where the precepts come in. In the San Francisco Zen Center version of the precepts ceremony you’re asked, “Can you keep these precepts from now on, even after attaining enlightenment?” I like that. It’s a damned good question. But you’re not supposed to answer, “That’s a damned good question.” You’re supposed to answer, “Yes!”

At the workshop on Sunday a guy asked me, “Are you enlightened?” It’s a fair question, I suppose. I wrote about my loss-of-virginity experience in two books, Hardcore Zen and There Is No God And He Is Always With You. I did my best to try to convey what it was like, though I feel I did a hatchet job both times.

I know there are people running around on the spiritual circuit who’ve had experiences similar to my loss of virginity and will boldly claim that they are Enlightened. But I wonder what that means. What does it mean to them and to the people they say that to? Does it imply that they’ve crossed some kind of spiritual finishing line? Because I don’t feel like I have or ever will. So from that standpoint I am not enlightened and I can’t imagine I ever will be.

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83 Responses

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  1. shade
    shade March 7, 2016 at 7:10 pm |

    Hm. As a member of the female contingent who isn’t a virgin but with no experience of enlightenment or satori or “whatever”… I’m sort of wondering if this analogy doesn’t work a lot better for the boys than it does for the ladies. In spite of the snappy picture.

    Also – “solving philosophic problems”? That sounds real sexy. Can’t see how that didn’t catch on.

    1. Kyla
      Kyla March 8, 2016 at 6:21 am |

      Yeah, young women certainly aren’t usually seen as heroes for losing their virginity, not even in this day and age.

  2. Wedged
    Wedged March 7, 2016 at 7:13 pm |

    Best…post…ever. My wife isn’t into this stuff too much but she has to read this one.

    There’s a level of trust for us regular Joe’s who may see what u saw and others have seen. I’m sure I could find the same “I saw the ultimate truth and the Bible is right!!!!!” bullshit on a quick Google search. And by not trying to sell it, by insisting it can’t be sold, that it doesn’t mean shit, for people like me who are seeking that “can’t be sold truth”, it creates a market for those who reject the mainstream truth, which could just as easily be bullshit. he saw it, I may see it, and if I do…it won’t mean shit, but it’ll confirm all the hours I’ve spent reading about how it doesn’t mean shit. Honestly, this subject is like nails on a chalkboard…who asks about this? Who cares? Yet, Brad was able to blow my mind on something I could give a fuck about.

  3. SeanHolland
    SeanHolland March 7, 2016 at 7:56 pm |

    As a Talmudic scholar once said, “Enlightenment, enschmightenment.”

  4. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote March 7, 2016 at 9:25 pm |

    “For Buddhists, religion is purely a matter of understanding and practising the Dhamma, understanding and practice which constitute progress towards salvation. They conceive salvation – or liberation, to use a more Indian term – as the total eradication of greed, hatred and delusion. To attain it is open to any human being, and it is ultimately the only thing worth attaining, for it is the only happiness which is not transient. A person who has attained it will live on so long as his body keeps going, but thereafter not be reborn. Thus he will never have to su?er or die again. For Buddhists, religion is what is relevant to this quest for salvation, and nothing else.”

    Gombrich, here.

    “The total eradication of greed, hatred and delusion”- no mention of “something peaceful and choice, something perfect in itself, and a pleasant way of living too”.

    The happiness that is present when habitual activity in perception and sensation ceases, even that is transient; Gautama said that he could cause the asavas to cease, not that they never recurred to him.

    The pleasant way of living, Buddhists don’t believe that there’s perfection in thinking this or that while breathing in or breathing out, do they?

    1. DontQuoteScriptureAtMe
      DontQuoteScriptureAtMe March 7, 2016 at 10:19 pm |

      The fact that Gombrich feels able to speak for “Buddhists” should ring some kind of an alarm bell. I think he may have had the kind of buddhists in mind who swarm over at the Buddhism sub-reddit. The kind who take Gautama’s words as gospel and superior to the words of any other living being that came before or after. Theravadan buddhists (and other strains) seem to really embrace that religious vibe and like scriptures, gods, priests, teachings, behaviours etc.

      “Buddhists” believe lots of different, often contradictory things. This “buddhist”, for example, finds some things pleasant. And finds that things that are pleasant are also perfect. This realisation is only slightly spoiled by the fact that unpleasant things are also perfect. I also have very little time or use for scriptures, gods, priests, teachings, behaviours etc.

  5. french-roast
    french-roast March 8, 2016 at 2:44 am |

    Good post Brad,

    I would think that there is a difference between ‘Satori’ and ‘Kensho’.

    Satori is something which is quite common to all of us, and very similar to ‘solving philosophic or pragmatic problems’, or any kind of problems which were of deep concern to us. It is the well know ‘ah, I have got it’. Like Kensho, it does comes in a flash, something is being seen into, it is a creative insight. You are stuck with a problem and suddenly, you get the solution to this problem. Poincare, Archimedes, Mach, Descartes and many others have written about this. It has a something, an answer, something is being seen into. The sense of freedom, joy, etc. comes from the release of the tension related to the more or less intense seeking. This release varies considerably with the investment you made in attempting to solve that problem. A problem which takes you 5 minutes to solve and a problem which takes you 10 years will not have the same impact. Many students and teachers confuse satori and Kensho.

    Kensho is boring, again, the same tension, the same ‘itch’, but no solution, no seeing into something, nothing is being seen into. You could say that the seeing into is being seen into, and since this seeing into is empty, nothing is being seen or experience. There is quite often a burst of laughter, but no reason or object associated with this sudden burst. There is no ‘solution’ for it is the problem/itching itself that dissolved, and thus no need to seek endlessly for a solution to an imaginary non existent problem.
    As an example, you struggle to find the wholeness that you already are, you spend years sitting on your ass staring at a wall, looking for that wholeness, you invest your whole life into it, all your spare time, etc… Was there a solution? A way out ? Shit happens, the whole thing just drop away in a flash. Oh, boy, was I stupid, what a shame, it took me all those years to see that I had nothing to do at all to be what I already was. It is that stupid! But it may take years of dedicated effort to realize this. The wholeness that we are is not strictly a philosophical problem, it is also a matter of life and death. Another example, a more recent one; I struggle for years to articulate the absolute (unbounded) realms with the relative (bounded), and could not find any satisfying solution to this ‘existential/philosophical/conceptual problem’, and then, one day as I was having a glass of red wine, it came as a flash, completely unexpected; there is no relative world, no boundaries whatsoever, and once more ‘how stupid I was.’ I was creating a problem/way of looking at the world , where there was none. That flash was not conceptual or philosophical in any way, nor was it an answer. In Kensho, it is your sight (sightseeing) itself that is being changed.

    The real work in my mind has to do with eroding this sense of self, before and after ‘whatever’, Kensho, or so call spiritual experience. This work is without end.

  6. mika
    mika March 8, 2016 at 4:15 am |

    How do you feel about the value of regular therapy for practicing buddhists – as some commenters in the past have vouched for – based on this: “All you’ve really got now is a new perspective on your neuroses. That doesn’t make them go away. In fact it might make things worse.”?

    I recall there was one who used to say therapy was even better (or more important) than zazen!

    1. french-roast
      french-roast March 9, 2016 at 1:29 am |

      With populations growing in numbers, we had to create totally useless jobs. A friend once told me that the company he works for got the marketing contract of Mcdonald’s ‘french fries’ for the whole north American market. He was so excited, so happy, ‘finally we made it to the top.’ I remember asking him ‘how can you feel happy doing such a useless job?’

      As our societies increased in numbers, we had to create completely non-essential jobs, that is the real success and creativity of our societies, to be able to endlessly create completely non-essential job. Is promoting McDonald’s french fries all over the world essential? If you really look at it this way, you will see that there might be 85% of the work force that does completely non-essential work in our societies; politicians, financiers, accountant lawyers, military jobs, priest, McMindfulness teacher, etc.. the list is quite extensive. We need those useless jobs in order not to increase the number of people on welfare.

      Therapist, psychologist dates back to the 19th century, which tells me that it was one of the first totally useless jobs to be created whose sole function is to try to convince other equally non-essential work force, that they are useful, that they have value and have some worth, purpose in life, that it is a good thing to increase your self esteem. Societies itself requires that you hide to yourself and others, your own and very personal abyssal unworthiness, and quite real unusefulness. When that ghost comes around to haunt you, who do you call? You call the ghost-buster; Hey Doc, I need some more of those yellow pills, or I need to sit on your couch once a week for a few years in order to rebuild my self esteem.

      Zen has been under severe threats since the last 40-60 years, it has been very badly and heavily infiltrated by those same totally insane therapist.

      Please, do not insult Zen by comparing it to therapy.

      1. Used-rugs
        Used-rugs March 9, 2016 at 10:29 am |

        Well, there is that dumb platitude “Buddha was the first psychologist” which almost robotically falls out of the mouth of every Zen teacher when he/she is asked about therapy. That might be one reason for all the confusion and stupidity.

        1. french-roast
          french-roast March 10, 2016 at 1:00 am |

          One is obsessed with maintaining, feeding and re-building the poison.

          The other attempts at eradicating it.

          1. Used-rugs
            Used-rugs March 10, 2016 at 8:28 am |

            There is no “eradicating” the poison there is only seeing through the poison, and then reformulating that poison as a tool for good in this world.

          2. french-roast
            french-roast March 11, 2016 at 12:27 am |

            You are right, ‘eradicating’ isn’t the proper word, I should have said ‘eroding’, ‘progressively eroding’.

            As for ‘seeing trough’, like ‘ seeing trough no-self?’ You can’t, because there is no-one to see trough no self to start with. That is one of the problem, who or what sees trough ‘no-self’? Because it is indeed seen trough at one time or the other during practice, but what is it that is aware of this? I would think that it is this very same awareness of; the grasping aspect of the mind, in fact the conceptual grasping aspect, of which conceptual self was part of and now introduce another conceptual ‘clown’ which it calls ‘no-self’. With the consequence that we now have a much bigger problem, we now have to erode both the sense of self and sense of no-self.

      2. Sean Rafferty
        Sean Rafferty March 9, 2016 at 1:41 pm |

        Hi french-roast. What do you recommend as a useful endeavour on this earth?

        1. french-roast
          french-roast March 10, 2016 at 12:55 am |

          What a strange question! Truly, I do not know what to answer.

          A useful endeavor? On this earth? Recommendation?

          No what by which to recommend anything at all.

      3. senorchupacabra
        senorchupacabra March 13, 2016 at 8:51 pm |

        This is so ignorant. Of course psychotherapy as we know it began in the 19th century but there has almost certainly always been counselors/therapists in existence. People used to go to their priests or shamans or Brahmin or rabbi or whatever for help with life’s problems. On ancient Greece and Rome the whole idea behind philosophy was therapeutic, an attempt to soothe man’s suffering and citizens sought out the council of highly regarded philosophers.

        However, as life became more specialized the need for such counseling remained and eventually the job that used to be done by religious and spiritual leaders became its own profession without all the religious baggage attached.

        This is not necessarily a defense of contemporary psychotherapy which tends to be practiced by distinctly unphilosopnhical, spiritually dead, smug, self-satisfied blowhards. Instead it’s an acknowledgement that there probably is a legitimate need for such a craft and that there has been since the advent of civilization.

        1. french-roast
          french-roast March 14, 2016 at 5:02 am |

          Senor Chupacabra is being blamed for a series of “gruesome and savage murders” of 19 Ducks And 12 Geese in San Juan. The attacks have all allegedly coincided with local UFO sightings which has lead some locals to believe El Chupacabra is actually an alien lifeform.

          What would an alien blood sucker lifeform know about human psychology? 🙂


  7. Kyla
    Kyla March 8, 2016 at 6:23 am |

    Really liked this blog post!! With regards to zazen and therapy, I would so zazen is zazen and therapy is therapy. Zazen just might give you better insight into what you might want to work on in therapy.
    Myself, I’ve never really cared about “enlightenment”. I don’t think it’s something you become or attain/gain. Certainly not from external means. I see it as seeing glimpses of your true nature underneath all the crap we’ve piled on ourselves and had piled on us.

  8. Shodo
    Shodo March 8, 2016 at 6:28 am |

    Good Post Brad.
    I’ve been saying it for years… the “enlightenment” bit is nothing, it’s the precepts where practice actually occurs.

    A teacher is only as enlightened as their perfection of the sila, you can’t ignore sila and claim to have deep enlightenment… it just isn’t possible. The two are integrally linked.

    That’s why teachers like Shimano and Sazaki are/were charlatans.

    1. Kyla
      Kyla March 8, 2016 at 6:41 am |

      That’s it exactly Shodo, it’s not some altered state of consciousness but rather what you do/how you behave.

    2. Cygni
      Cygni March 8, 2016 at 8:14 am |

      Interesting Shodo,

      Also of interest – apparently “Hermaphrodites are not allowed by the Vinaya”.


      1. Cygni
        Cygni March 8, 2016 at 5:44 pm |

        The two are now made one (integrally linked)


          1. Shodo
            Shodo March 10, 2016 at 11:33 am |

            First link: lucky for us, the Sila is changeable relative to time place position and degree and not a bunch of commandments, (at least how Mahayana/Zen folks see it.) 😉

            Second link: love me some Genesis with Peter Gabriel. 😉

            Third link: Yawn, couldn’t even get past the third paragraph. I’ll take your word for it that it is awesome however. 😉

  9. Used-rugs
    Used-rugs March 8, 2016 at 7:18 am |

    Brad could you please stop with the “aw shucks I’m just a regular guy trying to make it in Buddhism and I’m not really enlightened” thing? I didn’t buy all your books, build a shrine in my basement and masturbate to your visage because you’re just a regular guy. I do this because you’re a bright shining Buddha. If I wanted wisdom from a regular guy I could just hang out with my pothead neighbor who likes to wash his car at 2am every other night. So either rise to the occasion or get off the stage, Coltrane!

    1. sri_barence
      sri_barence March 8, 2016 at 8:39 am |

      Erm. Although, “…rise to the occasion…” Not bad. Hee hee.

  10. sri_barence
    sri_barence March 8, 2016 at 8:47 am |

    I’ve never had a ‘big deal enlightenment experience.” But I have had those sudden insights where something that was incomprehensible to me suddenly became clear. I had always wondered about the line from Genjokoan that goes like, “To forget the self is to be experienced by the myriad dharmas.” I just didn’t get that, except as an abstraction. Then one evening I mentioned this to one of the teachers during interviews. He said that the line is sometimes translated as “…confirmed by the myriad dharmas.” Suddenly I felt a great shock, and tears streamed down my face. I count this as one of the many “A-ha!” experiences I’ve had. Maybe not such a big deal, but it really brought something home to me.

    Anyway, good post, and wonderful follow-ups too. Thank you.

  11. tuberrose
    tuberrose March 8, 2016 at 8:52 am |

    Interesting post although I’m not seeking enlightenment. All I know about it is what I’ve been told and what I’ve read and it does sound much like being Born Again or being Saved. Don’t have any personal experience with that, either. The difference seems to be that Enlightenment only comes once but anyone can be saved multiple times.
    Still, it’s an extreme emotional experience, so how do you trust it?

  12. Jinzang
    Jinzang March 8, 2016 at 9:31 am |

    Enlightenment is a lot like losing your virginity because it’s usually a big disappointment.

  13. Dogen
    Dogen March 8, 2016 at 11:02 am |

    I know there are people running around on the spiritual circuit who’ve had experiences similar to my loss of virginity and will boldly claim that they are Enlightened. But I wonder what that means. What does it mean to them and to the people they say that to? Does it imply that they’ve crossed some kind of spiritual finishing line? Because I don’t feel like I have or ever will. So from that standpoint I am not enlightened and I can’t imagine I ever will be.

    For your dharma bro Jundo, who had the same teacher as you, it means that he no longer suffers, or so he claims, and has in his cherished possession the much acclaimed “viewless view.”

    So I guess my question is, why does losing ones virginity turn some people into moronic asshats? Is it a hormonal thing?

    1. Jundotreeleaf
      Jundotreeleaf March 9, 2016 at 2:34 am |

      Oye, I suffer, I suffer! It is my Jewish roots … “I suffer, therefore I am.” When I read posts by Shel/Boda, I mean “Dogen,” boy do I suffer! 🙂

      It is just that, if one has walked this Way for awhile, one does find in the bones and out a “viewless view” which does not suffer, never has and never will … a “never suffers” right at the heart of all my suffering. Then, much of this Practice is finding out how it all works together.

      Thank you for briefly suffering my presence.

      Gassho, Jundo

      PS – Brad’s new book: I am 1/3 through, and it is great. Nobody can do that kind of writing better.

      1. Dogen
        Dogen March 9, 2016 at 8:04 am |

        Suffer you, Mr treeleaf? You’re the funniest toy in the toy box.

        1. Doge
          Doge March 9, 2016 at 1:23 pm |

          very winner
          much metaphor


          1. Dogen
            Dogen March 9, 2016 at 5:49 pm |

            I lost my virginless virginity to an older english bird, if you must know.


          2. Doge
            Doge March 10, 2016 at 3:17 am |


            so help

          3. Dogen
            Dogen March 10, 2016 at 2:58 pm |

            It wasn’t like “wow” for me, but it was climactic, for what that’s worth.

            Not sure if this helps.

          4. Doge
            Doge March 10, 2016 at 4:56 pm |

            very help

            much worthwhile

          5. Doge
            Doge March 11, 2016 at 4:45 am |

            Dogen, let’s be friends. Can I be your Doge?

          6. Dogen
            Dogen March 12, 2016 at 5:54 pm |

            I suppose you’ll whine if I say no.

          7. Doge
            Doge March 12, 2016 at 5:58 pm |

            And thus begins the epic tale of Dogen and his Doge…


          8. Dogen
            Dogen March 14, 2016 at 11:28 am |

            You still haven’t told the tale of your lost virginless virginity. I imagine it was some slobbering bitch in a field somewhere?

          9. Doge
            Doge March 14, 2016 at 12:09 pm |

            I’m a meme…

            such conception
            much immaculate


          10. Dogen
            Dogen March 14, 2016 at 12:34 pm |

            Pup memes? That’s adorable.

          11. Dogen
            Dogen March 16, 2016 at 12:29 pm |

            So getting back to the subject, what’d ya think about J’s online buffoonery, lil pup?

          12. Doge
            Doge March 16, 2016 at 2:18 pm |

            I’ve never met him. I only know my reactions to what I read. I’m not so proud of those reactions.

            I’ve been thinking a lot about the thousand armed Avalokitesvara lately. That and chanting the 6 syllable mantra a lot.

            Walking home from work I was watching cars drive and runners run and thinking about “this place” and why I’m here.

            What if everyone here is very very lost and confused, including myself. What if the safest think to do is to consider this as a dangerous place and try to think constantly of how I can be of assistance to others.

            Really, that’s where my thoughts have been. So this part wishes J peace and perseverance in his work. Many people are a part of his community and they benefit from it as far as I can tell. I’m wrong to criticize that. Same with Brad.

            eating such crow

          13. Brent
            Brent March 16, 2016 at 2:25 pm |

            I am Doge.

          14. Fred Jr.
            Fred Jr. March 16, 2016 at 2:26 pm |

            I am Doge.

          15. Dogen
            Dogen March 16, 2016 at 2:42 pm |

            Benefit how, lil pup?

        2. Doge
          Doge March 16, 2016 at 3:52 pm |

          I have no idea!

          Good luck Dogen Zafu. My dog life is over. Thanks for the Socrates 😉

          1. Dogen
            Dogen March 16, 2016 at 4:54 pm |

            Okay, come along now little doggie.


    2. french-roast
      french-roast March 9, 2016 at 5:05 am |

      It is like carrying a back pack full of heavy stone. As you practice, you get rid of some of the unnecessary weight. You feel lighter, but there is still a lot of that weight to get rid of. I do not think that it is possible to get rid of it all. The amazing thing, is that it is always felt as if you get rid of unnecessary weight, by this I mean that nothing is really gain, you are simply loosing some of that extra weight.

      Viewless view is only a ‘con’ phrase in order to impress a few beginners on the way.

      I find it truly sad that Jundo seems to enjoy your book Brad, are your writing skills got so low as even him could enjoy reading it? 🙂

      1. Shinchan Ohara
        Shinchan Ohara March 9, 2016 at 2:01 pm |

        The concept of a ‘viewless view’ is a standard trope of mahayana buddhism. Do you think buddhist language is all just a ‘con’?

        If he were claiming that the ‘viewless view’ completely eliminated the usual ‘viewish’ views, I might call BS on that.

        1. french-roast
          french-roast March 10, 2016 at 1:43 am |

          As far as it is concept, of course it is a con! A con and a spell. I make use of the rhetorical device ‘sightseeing a seer and a seen’, is it really better than the other one? No, it ain’t, both are concepts, but I am entirely free of the spell. Those can be seen as useful within a context, take away the context, of what use is it? What does those mean without contexts? Absolutely nothing at all! We all know that meaning is related to context, but do not know that both meaning and context are two different ways of talking about the exact same thing. And so, what is it that we are actually taking about when talking or writing? The viewpoint by which viewless view actually means something has equal value and status with the viewpoint that says that it actually means nothing at all. That’s what Buddha meant by having false views. Both are false views, but they are views, because both rest on viewpoints.
          I sincerely hope that I made myself clear this time. 🙂

          1. Shinchan Ohara
            Shinchan Ohara March 10, 2016 at 6:14 am |

            So, you’re saying it’s like carrying a back pack full of heavy stone?

          2. Shinchan Ohara
            Shinchan Ohara March 11, 2016 at 4:49 am |


  14. Khru 2.0
    Khru 2.0 March 8, 2016 at 3:18 pm |

    “Can I please speak to the voice of Big Mind?”

  15. Mumbles
    Mumbles March 8, 2016 at 5:05 pm |

    I gotcha enlightenment right here…


    1. Khru 2.0
      Khru 2.0 March 8, 2016 at 6:02 pm |

      “Whisky and pie. Now get that damn microphone outta my face.”

      1. Mark Foote
        Mark Foote March 8, 2016 at 9:55 pm |

        “Them good old boys, sluggin’ whisky and pie, singing this must be enlightenment’s thigh… ”


        1. Shinchan Ohara
          Shinchan Ohara March 9, 2016 at 3:00 am |

          I saw Bert live a couple of times before his passing. He was as phlegmatic as Flossie. Played the same perfect set as every night for 40 years – then walked right offstage – no banter, now bow, no encore, no fuss.

        2. minkfoot
          minkfoot March 9, 2016 at 6:21 am |

          “The Blues ain’t nothin’ but the [Four Noble] Truth[s]!”

        3. The Grand Canyon
          The Grand Canyon March 9, 2016 at 9:14 am |

          Well… there’s a puppy in the parlor
          And a skillet on the stove
          And a smelly old blanket
          That a Navajo wove.
          There’s a chicken on the table
          But you gotta say grace.
          There’s always something cooking at
          Old Joe’s Place

          1. Kyla
            Kyla March 9, 2016 at 12:15 pm |

            Christopher Guest is genius!! 🙂

  16. Cygni
    Cygni March 10, 2016 at 7:39 am |
  17. Topherwallace
    Topherwallace March 10, 2016 at 4:53 pm |

    I was there and I thought the talk was amazing!

    I actually thought a lot about what you said about enlightenment experiences and their relationship with Buddhist ethics. Buddhist ethics are probably my favorite part of Buddhism when logically rationalizing the differences between it and other religions. During the talk you said something along the lines that “Karma is not a retaliatory punishment like Christianity’s view of sin and retribution. If I slap someone, that does not mean ten years later I am going to be slapped by a stranger. If I slap someone it’s like I’m slapping myself and the oneness you feel during enlightenment experiences illustrates that for you.”

    I like that line a lot because when I explain why I like Karma better than the Heaven/Hell Sin/Righteousness model as a basis for moral and ethical thought I always say something similar but don’t take it as far as you did. I would always explain if I slap someone, that does not mean that 10 years later I am going to be slapped by a stranger, it means I just slapped someone! I might get slapped back! At the very least, I have a slap victim on my hands and I’m the one who did it! I’m going to have to answer for that.

    That explanation always satisfied the logical part of my brain that struggled to rationalize Karma. But I always felt like it wasn’t the whole story. There is one parable about how the Buddha walked into a village where pirates had recently raided and killed a large number of people. He was overtaken by the suffering he saw around him and when his monks asked him who their prayers and thoughts should go out to, he replied that they should feel compassion for the victims, their families and the pirates. When asked why they should be compassionate to the pirates, the buddha replied that the hate and lack of empathy that lives in their hearts must be a great burden and they must suffer so.

    I always didn’t understand that story as I always asked why feel compassion for murders and I always felt like it was also kind of an underhanded insult. “Feel compassionate for them as they are such horrible people that it must really suck being them.” Although even with that said, to be compassionate to those who would kill in order to steal ultimately for me strikes against a sense of justice that seems to be necessary for a fair society and social cohesion . This story is always one I have struggled with.

    But you are right, the relationship between Karma, enlightened states and ethics is deeper than justice scales. I, like you, and like how I interpret most of the zen writing I have encountered try to not put too much emphasis on enlightenment experiences as the be all, end all goal of Buddhism and really like the combined idea that we are already enlightened but are too confused to realize it and that Zazen itself is enlightenment. With that said, I once had an experience where for lack of a better way to describe it I felt like every atom in the universe loved every other atom. I felt like everything was perfect and always would be as that love was more powerful than the laws dictating the atoms.

    I’ve been struggling with my old ways of thinking of ethics since that experience because it made me profoundly concerned for the suffering of others in a way I never had before. And your statement, “When I slap him, I am actually slapping myself” is becoming truer for me because in a ethically practical sense to be a slapper means you have hate and a lack of empathy in your heart that is a great burden. But in a more real metaphysical sense, there is no difference between the other person and I; no difference between my hand and his face. In a very real way, we share our suffering which makes the whole slap far more wrong and immoral than just “You did this wrong thing to another person” ethics.

    I always liked the bit about how Buddhism helped you not say the perfect quip you had on the tip of your tongue when in the middle of an argument. That powerfully resonated with me and what I feel like I’m practicing meditation for. To be mindful and compassionate even when not meditating as there are a million quips I have thought of myself that I wish I had the frame of mind to have not said them. From this perspective enlightenment experiences almost distracts from this effort. I find it telling that in our culture we use the phrase “it just happened in the heat of the moment” to describe some of our most thoughtless actions. We were in the heat of the moment but if we were actually in the real moment, we probably wouldn’t have done the wrong, hurtful thing.

    But enlightenment doesn’t distract from that but instead “solves the philosophical problems” presented by ethics. Enlightenment kinda slaps you in the face with really good reasons to not be a jerk. 🙂

  18. jason farrow
    jason farrow March 12, 2016 at 9:14 am |

    yeah, there is NoThing to be enlightened to.

    gradual enlightenment, in one lifetime, is as a result of sudden enlightenment.

    what’a drag eh?

  19. jason farrow
    jason farrow March 12, 2016 at 9:20 am |

    i think the crapy’est thing about it all is; it should. once should be enough. but we are just that dense.

  20. jason farrow
    jason farrow March 12, 2016 at 9:26 am |

    and it’s almost like the person’s world has to come to an end. “the end of kalpa of chaos.” like, almost to point where even killing yourself is pointless; just to get an interview with bhagava. it’s almost like you have to put a gun to a guy’s head and say, “tell me where the brains is, or i’ll blow your money out!”

  21. jason farrow
    jason farrow March 12, 2016 at 9:29 am |

    it really should not be like high-school over and over again…and yet it is. just like work. work really doesn’t need to be this full of bullshit; and yet there seems to be no end to it. everyone should just be allowed to do their job and go home content, and yet, everyone has to shit in everyone else’s cornflakes; endlessly.

    i really hate the three poisons.

    hajima! hajima! hajima!

  22. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote March 12, 2016 at 4:20 pm |

    “It’s possible to experience support from the “fluid ball” (of pressure in the abdomen) exactly as a sensation or perception that sustains the “fluid ball” takes place. In fact, I would say such a simultaneity is a normal part of everyday life, and underlies any induction of concentration. The simultaneity feeds on itself when the circumstances are appropriate, and exercises in the distinction of the senses and the recall of signs are really only intended to allow an openness to such a simultaneity.”

    Simultaneity of Things

  23. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote March 12, 2016 at 7:35 pm |

    Betts: Duane was a very, very wise man for 22, 23 years old. It was really easy to talk sense with him about what we were trying to do. Let’s say we were riding from Georgia down to Florida where our folks lived and stuff, and we’d be drinking a little bit and having these long conversations about things like the Zen aspect of it all. Finding that innocence of mind, or what athletes call “getting in the zone.” You just get free and let things happen rather than make things happen.

    Allman Brothers Band’s Legendary 1971 Fillmore East Run: An Oral History

    Trucks: [The record company] did not want to put it out. They fought with us and fought with us and fought with us… “You gotta get Gregg out from behind that keyboard, stick a salami down his pants, and make him jump around onstage like Robert Plant, then maybe you got a chance.” Basically we just said, “Fuck you!” We had tried that kind of shit before and not only did we hate it, we hadn’t made a plug fucking nickel, much less become big rock stars. We decided that the music we were playing was much more important than becoming rock stars. …I remember Duane walking in front of me, dragging his guitar while I was just sitting there completely burned, and he said, “Damn, it’s just like leaving church.”

    (TNH has a salami in his robes?…)

    1. Mumbles
      Mumbles March 14, 2016 at 7:27 pm |

      One of my favorites, thanks.

  24. Mumbles
    Mumbles March 14, 2016 at 7:24 pm |
  25. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote March 14, 2016 at 8:08 pm |

    Enjoyed that, especially the close. Recent, too.

    back in the day:


  26. Shinchan Ohara
    Shinchan Ohara March 15, 2016 at 8:09 pm |

    Breaking News: Zen proved wrong by Mathematicians. the nature of the wind is that it DOESN’T blow everywhere, apparently.


    1. Mark Foote
      Mark Foote March 16, 2016 at 9:05 am |

      That’s wonderful, thanks Shinchan!

      “A curious meteorological application of this theorem involves considering the wind as a vector defined at every point continuously over the surface of a planet with an atmosphere. As an idealisation, take wind to be a two-dimensional vector: suppose that relative to the planetary diameter of the Earth, its vertical (i.e., non-tangential) motion is negligible.

      One scenario, in which there is absolutely no wind (air movement), corresponds to a field of zero-vectors. This scenario is uninteresting from the point of view of this theorem, and physically unrealistic (there will always be wind). In the case where there is at least some wind, the Hairy Ball Theorem dictates that at all times there must be at least one point on a planet with no wind at all and therefore a tuft. This corresponds to the above statement that there will always be p such that f(p) = 0.

      In a physical sense, this zero-wind point will be the eye of a cyclone or anticyclone. (Like the swirled hairs on the tennis ball, the wind will spiral around this zero-wind point – under our assumptions it cannot flow into or out of the point.) In brief, then, the Hairy Ball Theorem dictates that, given at least some wind on Earth, there must at all times be a cyclone somewhere. Note that the eye can be arbitrarily large or small and the magnitude of the wind surrounding it is irrelevant.”

      from Wikipedia, The Hairy Ball Theorem.

      So, yes, if you want to consider that the eye of the hurricane does exist, then there’s a place with no wind.

  27. Cygni
    Cygni March 16, 2016 at 6:42 am |

    Jijuyu Zanmai

    1. Cygni
      Cygni March 16, 2016 at 8:57 am |

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