The Grand Canyon Sucks!

My dad and I went to see the Grand Canyon yesterday. But the photo on top of this article isn’t from there. It’s from the day before when we went to see Canyon de Chelly. The lady at the Welcome to Arizona place told us there were some cave dwellings there. So we went up to see those first.

Unfortunately Arizona weather is freaky. As soon as we got there all these bizarre rain storms started happening. It seemed like it would rain over an area about half a mile across and kick up a big dust storm and then move on a couple minutes later. We didn’t want to hike an hour down to the cave dwellings and then get stuck there. So we just looked at the canyon from the rim. Anyway,we never got any photos together at the Grand Canyon itself. So I’m using this one for the top photo.

We looked at the Canyon De Chilly for a while and ate at the local Burger King, which was one of about four restaurants in the town of Chinle, Arizona deep inside the Navajo Reservation. Then we drove across the Hopi Reservation, which is inside the Navajo Reservation, to the town of Tuba City where we were told we could find a hotel to stay at so that we could proceed to the Grand Canyon the following day. The Hopi Reservation has its own radio station that plays songs that go “Hi-ya Hey-ya Oh-ya Hi-ya.” Some of them also have funny interesting lyrics in English as well. One went, “How come every time I think I find Mr. Right he turns out to be Mr. Five Kids on the Side?” These lyrics are chanted to the same melody as the “Hi-ya Hey-ya Oh-ya” parts. It was interesting.

Tuba City was a mystery to me. We found four hotels there. Two were sold out completely. One had only one room left but they wanted $162 for it. Finally we discovered a hostel called the Grey Hill Inn who charged us $65 for a room with two beds but no bathroom. The shared bathroom was down the hall. And it was decent. I’ve stayed in hostels lots before so it was no big deal. I thought it was nice. Though I am baffled that a town miles away from anything would 1) have four hotels, 2) be able to charge such high prices and 3) be full up even given points one and two. Tuba City is about two hours drive from the Grand Canyon and you can get expensive hotels right by the canyon itself if you want, so that can’t be the reason. It’s no closer than Williams or Flagstaff, both of which are way cheaper to stay in and have lots more stuff.

Anyway, we went to the Grand Canyon the day after our stay in Tuba City. It was cool. It was a big-ass hole in the ground. It was either shaped by erosion over the course of six million years or created just as it is today by God roughly four thousand years ago. Take your pick.

I have to say, though, that I am just not the kind of person whose breath gets taken away by amazing sights. I don’t know if this is a Zen thing or not. I think it might be. But I find pretty much every sight I see pretty amazing, even if it’s a Wal Mart where I’m trying to find something healthy to snack on in the produce section instead of eating Fritos from a gas station. The Grand Canyon is a lot prettier, for sure. And there’s something to be said for that. I’m just not one of those people who pees themselves with delight upon seeing that sort of thing.

This doesn’t mean I regret going. I’m really glad I went. I’d hate to miss out on something as cool as seeing the Grand Canyon, especially when it was pretty much on my way out to California anyhow. And being with my dad was really nice. The title of this article isn’t really my opinion. The Grand Canyon does not suck. It rules. Allow me to attempt to explain.

It’s interesting what happens when you stop dividing life into that which you consider mundane and which takes up about 98% of your experience and that which you consider either bitchen cool or incredibly horrible, which takes up about 2% of your life. It doesn’t make the spectacular stuff like the Grand Canyon any less spectacular. Instead it makes everything you encounter spectacular.

Yet to the untrained eye, it might seem like you’re unimpressed, like you think, for example, that the Grand Canyon sucks (hence the title of this piece). It’s not that I’m unimpressed by the Grand Canyon. It’s just that if I went “OMYGOD!! LOOK AT HOW GREAT THAT IS!!!!!” every time I felt like that about something, they’d cart me away to the Happy Home.


I will be speaking at Empty Sky Zen Center near Phoenix, Arizona on tonight, Friday June 29th at 7pm. The address is 5246 E McDonald Dr., Paradise Valley, AZ 85253. If you’re not a regular there and wish to attend please send an email to Ann Baker at They just need to get a head count. Newcomers are very welcome. This is not an “advanced” sitting.

107 Responses

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  1. airbusguy2000
    airbusguy2000 June 29, 2012 at 2:02 pm |

    Brad, that was a great post. I like how you remind us that 98% of life (like me sitting here right now typing) is ordinary, and it behooves us to find the incredible in the mundane as well.

    I have plans for tonght in Phoenix, but I know you will have a good talk.

  2. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote June 29, 2012 at 3:16 pm |

    You write a great travelogue, Brad, complete with insights that are more or less common sense but which for lack of a better descriptor are now the teachings of the Zen master Brad Warner- ha ha!

    By any chance, is gambling legal in Tuba?

  3. Alan Sailer
    Alan Sailer June 29, 2012 at 4:10 pm |

    “It was either shaped by erosion over the course of six million years or created just as it is today by God roughly four thousand years ago. Take your pick.”

    There is a “C” pick which is more fun than either.

    Paul Bunyan and his buddy Babe the Blue Ox plowed it one slow afternoon.

    This version gives my imagination more exercise 🙂


  4. Brad Smith
    Brad Smith June 29, 2012 at 7:49 pm |

    You forget “pick” D. My brother-inlaw carved it out with his power washer.

    Brad, I feel the same way I just don’t feel in awe of things I am supposed to. There was some zen master who lived under the shadow of Fuji, but never looked up to see it. He knew it was there. Was it there yesterday? Is there today? Will it be there tomorrow? Pehaps the Grand Canyon should have been in awe of you.

    Do you like your first name? I ask from one Brad to another (actually, it’s Bradley). I’m still on the fence, and I’m 53. >_<

  5. Khru
    Khru June 29, 2012 at 10:56 pm |

    Good God…what has happened to this place…?

    1. Geoff
      Geoff June 30, 2012 at 11:10 am |

      Oh Mysterion, where art thou?

      Yeah, it’s all gone quite horribly anodyne if you ask me…..mind you, of course I’m just one of the looky-loos who used to drop by and giggle at the freakshow, so my opinion matters not one bean. Hope the redesign is turning out how Brad wanted it.

      I believe I’m actually missing An3drew….must go sandpaper my brain. Immediately!

  6. buddy
    buddy June 30, 2012 at 2:37 pm |

    Just out of curiosity, is this new site being moderated, or is the simple act of having to sign in keeping the trolls and wingnuts at bay?

    1. Khru
      Khru June 30, 2012 at 3:06 pm |

      Dealing with so-called “trolls and wingnuts” as you say, could be a positive thing for your practice: get you a little out of your comfort zone…help you see other points-of-view…even ones from some folks who could be considered a tad “unstable”.

      God bless.

  7. Khru
    Khru June 30, 2012 at 3:12 pm |

    …but without any personal attacks on Bradley.

  8. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote June 30, 2012 at 7:57 pm |

    I am discovering that the WordPress blog Brad is using holds some comments for moderation, I believe anything with a link. I thought at first it was just the links added with html tags, but it turns out that the blog identifies link URLs even without the html tags, and those are also held for moderation. I suppose the logic is that there are entrepreneurial souls out there who put up links to sites they have a share in anywhere they can (and there’s no other way to weed them out).

    Ok, so folks will have to add the usual suspects in front of this (or not, it’s a wonderful age) to get to wikipedia’s notes on Tuba city, nice pics:,_Arizona

    In the words of Iris DeMent, “I think I’ll let the mystery be”… more or less.

  9. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote July 1, 2012 at 12:11 am |

    “If there is a ‘whole point of Buddhism’ it may be to achieve a degree of contentment by gaining insight into the causes of dissatisfaction. Some people feel a need to penetrate apparent mysteries of existence – such as the nature of conscious awareness or the true nature of self – in order to find peace. Others don’t.” -Anon 108, I think

    I had to reflect today on the bit about realizing that the signless state is effected, thought out, constructed, and anything that is constructed is impermanent.

    My take would be that when the Gautamid spoke of sense organ, sense object, consciousness, impact, and feeling, and equanimity with respect to impact and feeling, he meant the bottom drops out of the barrel, not something exotic that is only seen under the influence of DMT or LSD or after three years of retreat by a seasoned initiate. The body physically as though falling, the mind no longer stationary; like falling asleep where nothing is held, cessation of action is called for, and consciousness shifts from place to place.

    The bottom drops out of its own accord, all the time, for anything that experiences consciousness.

    The description is only useful if the experience of consciousness that is described has to do with the cessation of suffering. Really, what other point is there to knowledge?

  10. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote July 1, 2012 at 12:28 am |

    Interesting, the comment I just made is only visible to me when I’m logged in. Brad, I wish you would tell us how your blog works!

  11. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon July 1, 2012 at 8:31 am |

    The Brad Warner sucks.

    He’s a big ass hole in ground.

    Shoe, meet other foot.

  12. Mysterion
    Mysterion July 1, 2012 at 3:07 pm |

    This new site sucks!

    Really am enjoying still posting at the old blog site.

    1. Geoff
      Geoff July 1, 2012 at 4:28 pm |

      I hazard, Sir, that you are not Mysterion.

  13. buddy
    buddy July 1, 2012 at 7:00 pm |

    ugh, I made the mistake of viewing ongoing comments on the old site. Andr3w is probably the most obnoxious troll I’ve ever encountered.

  14. anon 108
    anon 108 July 1, 2012 at 7:36 pm |

    “As a Chinese poem says, “I went and I returned. It was nothing special. Rozan famous for its misty mountains; Sekko for its water.” People think it must be wonderful to see the famous range of mountains covered by mists, and the water said to cover all the earth. But if you go there you will just see water and mountains. Nothing special.”

    – from the “Nothing Special” chapter of Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind – S. Suzuki.

    A few years ago I went to the seaside with a couple of friends. I told them that although the beach-scape were very nice, it was nothing special. I told them that’s how I usually reacted to sight-seeing excursions and quoted what I remembered of that Suzuki passage. One of my friends was horrified: “Is THAT Zen? Everything’s boring!?” I had to think quick. “Not at all. It’s just that when everything’s special, nothing’s special,” is what I said. I may even have meant it.

  15. anon 108
    anon 108 July 1, 2012 at 7:45 pm |

    …Just like what Brad said.

    Perhaps it’s a Zen thing. Perhaps it’s just what some people are like.

  16. Senjo
    Senjo July 2, 2012 at 4:49 am |

    Hey Brad. Can we get some new podcasts? It’s been a long time since the last one….

  17. Leo
    Leo July 2, 2012 at 9:44 am |

    I stand corrected, but Zen doesn’t consider everything to be boring, but everything to be wonderfull. It’s not that difficult to admire something that’s supposed to be beautiful, such as the Grand Canyon. But it is a merit if you can appreciate the beauty of something that´s considered ugly by everyone, e.g. a garbage dump or such stuff.
    I do share Brads opinion that the Grand Canyon is not that amazing. Maybe also it´s the fact that I saw too many pictures of it on beforehand, thus blocking the opportunity to really look at it with an open mind.

  18. anon 108
    anon 108 July 2, 2012 at 10:22 am |

    I flew over some canyon or other while touring the US with a pop group in 1974/5. It couldn’t have been the Grand Canyon, we didn’t go to the west coast. Wherever and whatever it was, it was awesome. Proper impressed I was.

  19. Fred
    Fred July 2, 2012 at 12:19 pm |

    “ugh, I made the mistake of viewing ongoing comments on the old site. Andr3w is probably the most obnoxious troll I’ve ever encountered.”

    He has Asperger’s/Autism Spectrum and that’s how it comes out. His brain
    is uniquely wired differently than your’s.

    If we don’t cling to our opinions, cultural conditioning and rules of
    communicating, it’s neither bad nor good, neither special nor ordinary.

  20. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi July 2, 2012 at 5:06 pm |

    ““If there is a ‘whole point of Buddhism’ it may be to achieve a degree of contentment by gaining insight into the causes of dissatisfaction. Some people feel a need to penetrate apparent mysteries of existence – such as the nature of conscious awareness or the true nature of self – in order to find peace. Others don’t.” -Anon 108, I think”

    Let’s go back to the First Noble Truth: life is unsatisfying.

    This doesn’t mean that there is actually some secret way to be satisfied, that Buddhists are privy to. There isn’t. Buddha was not satisfied. Buddhism isn’t about achieving contentment either. That’s another illusory goal. Penetrating the mysteries of existence means penetrating this illusion that life will EVER be satisfying or that we will EVER achieve contentment. The peace that one does achieve by penetrating this illusion is not a form of satisfaction or contentment. It is empty of that. It can be called “peace” because it ceases to engage in the struggle to find contentment or satisfaction.

    The reason to observe and discover the nature of conscious awareness is part and parcel of this simple project: to see that at the core of our very nature, there is no contentment or satisfaction, and that pursuing these is not only futile, but makes us suffer an unnecessary and counter-productive struggle. We are empty, and cannot be filled. Better to simply renounce that struggle and live in peace with oneself. If you observe yourself as you are, this becomes apparent. If you struggle to achieve satisfaction, you won’t. It’s that simple.

  21. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi July 2, 2012 at 5:13 pm |

    As for the Grand Canyon. I had the opposite experience. I had all my life heard how great it was, and automatically assumed it was a lot of hype. But while hitchiking cross country at the age of seventeen, I had plenty of time on my hands, and I decided to stop in there and do some hiking. Came up from Flagstaff on the Arizona side. Man, it was utterly overwhelming, beyond all the hype I’d heard. Maybe if I was some jaded old guy like I am now, I’d have a different experience of it. But I don’t think that’s a spiritual net-positive. If you can’t be amazed by the amazing, what chance do you really have of being amazed by the ordinary?

  22. Ted
    Ted July 2, 2012 at 5:49 pm |

    Buddha wasn’t satisfied? [citation needed]

  23. anon 108
    anon 108 July 2, 2012 at 7:05 pm |

    BY – We can be at peace only when we realise we can’t be content? That’s a pretty spurious semantic distinction, isn’t it? Whatever, I wholeheartedly agree that struggling to achieve satisfaction, wanting things to be other than are, is the primary, perhaps sole, cause of dissatisfaction. Understanding and realising that truth would be “gaining insight into the causes of dissatisfaction.” As for the Buddha’s mood swings…I wouldn’t dare to presume.

  24. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi July 2, 2012 at 7:25 pm |

    “Buddha wasn’t satisfied? [citation needed]”

    When did Buddha ever say he was satisfied? When did he ever say it was even possible to be satisfied?

    As far as I know, he never walked back the First Noble Truth. Unless he did, I think the burden of proof is on you.

  25. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi July 2, 2012 at 7:31 pm |

    “BY – We can be at peace only when we realise we can’t be content? ”

    Not exactly – we are at peace only when we stop trying to satisfy ourselves or attain contentment. If you realize you can’t be content, but still go on craving it, you shoot yourself in the foot. You actually have to stop pursuing contentment.

    Peace is possible only as long as you understand that being “at peace” isn’t a state of some kind. It’s just the absence of craving for satisfaction. Nirvana, in other words. It’s not the peace we imagine we get when our desires are finally at long last satisfied and we are content. It comes from knowing that we will never be content no matter what we do, and then no longer pursuing contentment in any form whatsoever. Radical.

  26. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi July 2, 2012 at 7:33 pm |

    Also, satisfaction and dissatisfaction are two sides of the same coin. We are unsatisfied when we crave satisfaction, and fail to achieve it. But when we don’t crave satisfaction, we cannot be dissatisfied in not achieving satisfaction. The whole issue becomes irrelevant to us.

  27. anon 108
    anon 108 July 2, 2012 at 7:42 pm |

    Ok. I rest content.

  28. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi July 2, 2012 at 9:10 pm |

    If only.

  29. Ted
    Ted July 2, 2012 at 9:30 pm |

    Wow, if you think Nirvana isn’t satisfying, why would you want it?

  30. Ted
    Ted July 2, 2012 at 9:31 pm |

    Also, can you recite the other three truths, or only the first?

  31. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi July 2, 2012 at 10:07 pm |

    “Wow, if you think Nirvana isn’t satisfying, why would you want it?”

    Exactly. Which is why almost no one wants it. We are addicted to the craving for satisfaction, and can’t imagine living any other way. It sounds like hell. It takes some real balls (and intelligence) to give up on satisfaction and just live in a satisfaction-free, craving-free reality.

  32. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi July 2, 2012 at 10:09 pm |

    “Also, can you recite the other three truths, or only the first?”

    The other three are all implied in the First. They are all about recognizing the craving for satisfaction as our suffering, and giving up on all the habits and efforts that we have devised, consciously and unconsciously, to gain satisfaction.

    What, you thought they would end up achieving satisfaction by some back-door trick?

  33. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote July 2, 2012 at 11:21 pm |

    “… if we neither will, nor intend to do, nor are occupied about something, there is no becoming of an object for the persistence of consciousness. The object being absent, there comes to be no station of consciousness. Consciousness not being stationed nor growing, no rebirth of renewed existence takes place in the future, and herefrom birth, decay-and-death, grief, lamenting, suffering, sorrow, and despair cease. Such is the ceasing of this entire mass of ill.” (SN II 65, Pali Text Society volume 2 pg 45)

    An interesting sermon, for me. Also, in several places in the Canon, Gautama notes that birth, decay-and-death, grief, lamenting, suffering, sorrow, and despair is identically grasping after self with respect to form, with respect to feeling, mind, habitual tendency, or consciousness. He also speaks of the happiness of the meditative states, a happiness apart from the sensual pleasures of the world.

    I would agree with BY that the states in which volitive activity ceases involve letting go, even of the happiness associated with the states in which volitive activity ceases. However, my take is that the four truths are like the axioms of geometry: if you find you are in a Euclidean universe, then the Euclidean description of the relationships of geometry is predictive and consistent. There are other geometries that are also predictive and consistent, but which are not consistent with Euclidean geometry. The truth of what’s known about geometric relationships cannot be describe from one set of axioms without contradiction. The relationships that apply to the human condition cannot be described from one set of four truths, but if suffering exists, then the Gautama’s description applies (if suffering doesn’t exist, then the four truths no longer describe the relationships at play).

    The path leading to the cessation of suffering, did the Gautamid experience the development and fruition of that path that he taught?

  34. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote July 2, 2012 at 11:32 pm |

    “I ain’t askin’ ya ain’t ya is, I’m askin’ ya ain’t ya ain’t, is ya?”

    Occurs to me immediately that the Gautamid taught that the eight-fold path was a ten-fold path for the adept, which implies that enlightened individuals suffer and recognize the four truths.

    Knowledge and freedom were the ninth and tenth aspects of the path leading to the end of suffering.

    I would contend that there is a cessation of suffering in this life, at which moment of consciousness the four truths no longer apply.

  35. Ted
    Ted July 3, 2012 at 1:43 am |

    The truths:

    1. The truth of suffering
    2. The truth of the cause
    3. The truth of the cessation
    4. The truth of the path

    Suppose that you think that there are no future lives. Well then in that case there is no need to pursue nirvana, because when you die, you will have it: since nothing comes after, there are no mental afflictions, no craving, and hence no suffering that craving might lead to.

    Suppose you think that there are future lives. In that case, why play so coy? The reason to pursue nirvana is that it is the _permanent_ cessation of mental afflictions like desire and aversion. That permanent cessation eliminates the causes for suffering, and in eliminating those causes, ultimately eliminates suffering as well, freeing us from the cycle of rebirth.

    I don’t know which position you take, but what you seem to be espousing is something that Buddhists often call “buddhism lite,” which is a philosophy that denies future lives, karma, and the rest of those icky religious concepts, and restates the Buddha’s words in a sort of pseudo-psychology which, as it happens, is not much different than the ancient philosophy of Stoicism.

    There’s nothing wrong with this, and you can call it Buddhism if you want, but you really are throwing the four noble truths out the window if you espouse this philosophy, because the truth of the cessation simply doesn’t make sense in this context.

  36. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi July 3, 2012 at 2:02 am |

    Yes, it’s important to note that Gautama did not mean to imply that, just because there is no satisfaction of desire and craving, that there is no happiness in Nirvana. Quite to the contrary. It is only that the happiness of Nirvana is quite different than the happiness we associate with satisfaction, contentment, or fulfillment of our desires and cravings. It is empty of satisfaction and contentment. And yet, also happy.

    I think a better word for that happiness is “freedom”. To Gautama, the fleeting satisfactions and contentment that we experience in association with desire and craving are merely another form of bondage. Whereas to be free of the craving for satisfaction is simply freedom, and the true form of happiness.

    As he once said:

    No earthly pleasure
    No heavenly bliss
    Is equal to one infinitesimal part
    Of the bliss of the cessation of craving.

  37. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi July 3, 2012 at 2:09 am |

    As to whether the Four Noble Truths at some point cease to be true, that would make them conditional truths, and thus, not really true, but dependent on conditions for their truth. Even dependent on the illusion of samsara to be true. Which really means, false.

    I suppose one ought to fulfill them first, and then see if they become obsolete. My sense for the Buddha’s teaching, and that of the tradition, is that they remain true even in Nirvana. But I suppose I won’t really know for sure until then.

    I’m not really sure why one would think that they have to become obsolete, unless one thinks that there’s some kind of special “satisfaction” to be found in Nirvana. I don’t think that’s necessary. One can simply posit that true freedom from craving is both unconditionally happy, and not satisfying to one’s cravings. And why should it be satisfying, if one is no longer craving satisfaction? Freedom from craving is perhaps its own reward, and need not fulfill some other, conditional criteria.

  38. anon 108
    anon 108 July 3, 2012 at 6:39 am |

    Brad/Jayce – Can’t you get a different worpress theme, one more like the old HCZ blog? I don’t like this one. Get one with smaller font=more comments per page and more colour contrast. I’ve a notion that’s what keeping the funny, stimulating registered ex-regulars away.

    Old HCZ regulars: Come back pussies.

  39. anon 108
    anon 108 July 3, 2012 at 7:04 am |

    Dust be Diamonds, Water be Wine,
    Happy Happy Happy all the Time, Time, Time!!!

  40. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon July 3, 2012 at 10:13 am |

    Anon 108,

    I got yer pussies right here!

    Wait, that came out wrong.

  41. anon 108
    anon 108 July 3, 2012 at 10:36 am |

    The Grand,

    The online Urban Dictionary confirms that “I got yer pussies right here!” is a contemporary urban expression. I am amused. Please keep them coming [:/]

  42. Ted
    Ted July 3, 2012 at 11:27 am |

    If you take the truth of suffering to mean that all beings, including those in Nirvana, continue to suffer, then you have to take the truth of the cessation as not true, because what ceases is suffering.

    Fortunately, the truth of the cause invites us to reconsider: if you do this, you will suffer; if you stop doing this, your suffering will cease. This doesn’t make the truth of suffering untrue. It just puts it in context. There is a _reason_ we suffer, and if we stop doing the thing that leads to suffering, the suffering too will eventually stop.

    Nirvana is the state of mind in which we can no longer do the thing that leads to suffering. In my tradition we are encouraged to meditate on the idea of nirvana, and what it would be like: what it would like to never again be upset by anything that happens. It is easy to believe the Buddha’s words on the topic, if we can just step back a few paces and get a glimpse of what our mind is doing all the time, every moment of every day.

    And of course, this is what sitting is all about, at least to a first degree of approximation…

  43. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi July 3, 2012 at 12:33 pm |

    Ted, as you say, the First Noble Truth states that suffering is not inherent, but caused. That truth doesn’t change in Nirvana. Craving will still produce suffering, and if somehow someone in Nirvana begins to crave again, they will no longer be in Nirvana, but in suffering.

    Nirvana is not a state of some kind, it is merely the cessation of craving (by definition). It is redundant to say that in Nirvana we can’t crave. It would be like saying that on a rainless day, it cannot rain. True, but that’s a definitional matter. It’s not that there’s some inherent power in rainless days that keeps the rain away. In Nirvana, there is no magic power that keeps us from craving. It is merely that we have understood the causes of suffering, and thus stand free of craving because we know that it would lead to bondage and suffering. Once you have knowingly been burned by fire, you stop putting your hand in the flames.

    Of course, you can imagine what it would be like to cease craving, but since the conceptual mind is the primary instrument of craving, this too is just craving, and the image one gets is going to be shaped by the illusions of craving. One has to put aside these concepts and imaginings to actually know the life that is free of craving. It is perhaps nothing like one imagines it to be.

  44. Ted
    Ted July 3, 2012 at 3:03 pm |

    You are of course entitled to your opinion about what nirvana is, but the definition that we go by is “the permanent cessation of mental afflictions.” It’s permanent because you have eliminated the thing that causes mental afflictions: ignorance. You can get a temporary cessation of mental afflictions without reaching nirvana, but it doesn’t last because you haven’t eliminated their cause.

    Imagining what it is like to cease craving is an exercise of approximation: of eliminating what the cessation of craving is not. The point is not that you somehow experience the cessation of craving (although perhaps ultimately you do) but that over and over again you eliminate mistaken ideas about what the cessation of craving is, through analysis.

    Anyway, I don’t think we are really disagreeing about this—we’re just describing something that can’t be described, and the terms we are using to describe it come from two different lineages with two different ways of saying the same word. Plus, at least in my case, I’m describing something I haven’t experienced, so my description is more intended to denote a large circle somewhere within which the concept I am trying to describe may or may not rest, rather than trying to describe the Eiffel tower, which I have seen, to someone who has not seen it.

    But lest you claim that such an exercise must fail, I should point out that at least in my lineage, and in many others, we understand that while we may not hold the object we seek in our mind, we can still talk about what it is, and what it is not, and there is value in doing so. Ultimately what we want is to see it, but we can’t ever find it if we don’t know what we are not looking for.

  45. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi July 3, 2012 at 3:59 pm |

    I don’t have a problem with your definition of Nirvana as “the permanent cessation of mental afflictions,” as long as we equate “mental afflictions” with “tanha and its results, such as samskaras and vasanas”. I don’t think our definitions differ in any real sense. My only objection is your reference to Nirvana as a state of mind, rather than the reality that is beyond the afflicted mind.

    And you are right that temporary cessation of these, such as in satori/kensho, is not quite the same thing as Nirvana. A partial glimpse, perhaps. It gives us some clue as to the nature of what survives/follows the cessation of mental afflictions, but if it passes, it was obviously not the result of true knowledge or the dispelling of ignorance. And thus, even after satori we can be filled with all kinds of delusional notion about nirvana. Even worse if we have only read about these things.

    I’m not saying it’s wrong to talk about this stuff. Or to think or imagine about it. We just have to recognize that our conceptual and imaginative minds are part of the problem, and to be rightly suspicious of them for that reason. To use them as aids is a tricky matter, since the whole purpose of practice is to transcend them.

    One way to undermine the mind is to hold before us the contradictory nature of the goal. It is not even a goal, or an object, after all. It is not a state the mind can attain, but what is found when the mind is seen to be empty. The reason koans can be useful is precisely this: to keep us always aware that whatever we think Nirvana to be, it is not. And to know that nirvana is not to be achieved by the mind’s seeking for it, except in the utter frustration of that impulse.

  46. buddy
    buddy July 3, 2012 at 4:30 pm |

    I thought this was a zen blog. What’s with all the hinayana sophistry clogging the posts??

  47. Khru
    Khru July 3, 2012 at 8:49 pm |

    Lots of words…lots of words…

  48. buddy
    buddy July 3, 2012 at 11:16 pm |

    …words revealing the Small Vehicle obsession with personal liberation, rather than throwing oneself into the world, manifesting joy and compassion.

  49. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote July 4, 2012 at 2:57 am |

    “As to whether the Four Noble Truths at some point cease to be true, that would make them conditional truths, and thus, not really true, but dependent on conditions for their truth.”

    The truths about suffering aren’t really useful to someone who has ceased to suffer, and I don’t believe they can be retained in mind in such a circumstance.

    Is the cessation of suffering anything but a temporary condition?- how could it be otherwise, if the adept has a ten-fold path. I was reading Chadwick’s interview with Katherine Thanas, who just passed away, and she said that she compared notes with Shunryu Suzuki and they both had enlightenment experiences that lasted about two weeks ( .

    I’ve always thought it was curious that Gautama’s enlightenment was associated both with the four truths and with the attainment of a cessation of habitual activity in perception and sensation.

    Is there such a thing as “the permanent cessation of mental afflictions”, I wonder. What does it mean when individuals can impress us so with their presence, their words and the timeliness of their actions, that we are willing to believe they gained something they cannot lose (enlightenment), or that they lost something permanently (mental afflictions)? My beliefs become my actions, that’s been my experience, and although I am skeptical of permanent gain and permanent loss I have spent most of my adult life learning the practice of zazen, probably because of things I read and my esteem for Kobun Otogawa.

    I can say I don’t seek permanent gain or permanent loss.

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