Buddha’s choice

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:00 pm


Reaching enlightenment is hard enough in India: in a culture like the American it is almost impossible. So we need to consider that ‘enlightenment’ should be the normal state for man, and ask what is driving man away from his basic nature?


The issue of celibacy

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:15 am


End of BZ series

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:14 am

I think the BZ series is complete, although the book has more material, mostly on the modern era. I want to leave that out and the basic point of the book is clear now.


Two articles//via marxmail

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:53 am

Feb/Mar 2013
Blissed Out
Choire Sicha

Los Angeles is traditionally where factoids become fables and get passed off as philosophy. The true mystical secret of Zen ideas in particular is that they’re stupid. California is pretty stupid, too—which means that warmed-over takeout Zen has done a good business there. Consider, just for instance, the success of the Nichiren Shōshū sect: Its promoters have melded simplistic Zen ideas with materialism, and throughout the ’80s, suburban Angelenos gathered in living rooms, all chanting for happiness and/or a new car. It worked, too: Lots of them did eventually get new cars.

There is no LA without the transmutation of the great teachings of history into bumper stickers. And, at the top of that society’s circle of drivers, who, if not actors, will give us spiritual counsel?

Jeff Bridges and Bernie Glassman, both Buddhists, are extremely good people, although only one of them has an Oscar. They have devoted substantial effort to ending hunger. Glassman has pioneered the idea of building functional businesses that employ the seemingly unemployable, starting with a bakery in Yonkers—the profits from which went to create housing.

They met, sure, in LA. “I met Bernie at a dinner thrown by a neighbor of mine for him and Ram Dass,” says Bridges, and then much later Bernie thought they should write a book about how Bridges’s character of the Dude, from The Big Lebowski, was a very Buddhist fellow, and Jeff Bridges was like, “OK, great,” and they “went up to my ranch in Montana” and “jammed for five days” while some guy named Alan took photographs of them and recorded their dialogue. Then Bernie’s wife dealt with the transcripts. (So it has ever been.)

The result is The Dude and the Zen Master (Blue Rider Press, $27), a book of “jamming” dialogue, a tremendously harmless, good-natured pile of mindlessness. The good news is that it’s innocuous, unlike works produced by many of the recent capitalist philosophers of Los Angeles, the Louise Hays and the Marianne Williamsons.

The less good news is that it doesn’t really go anywhere. The Big Lebowski is the only Coen brothers movie that I cannot watch and also the only Julianne Moore movie I cannot watch. Those are two of my favorite things—and yet, when this film starts, some sort of horror creeps over me and I have to stop. This book may explain why.

As an item of pop-culture consumption, The Dude and the Zen Master is mildly useful for the Jeff Bridges fan. He discusses working with Sidney Lumet (he wasn’t afraid of rehearsals!) and Francis Ford Coppola (he used improv!). His parents, Lloyd and Dorothy Bridges, were really quite amazing. Burgess Meredith introduced him to John Lilly, “perhaps most famous for his work with dolphins and interspecies communication, as well as experimenting with LSD.” He “got into drugs.” Hal Ashby infuriated producers because his scripts barely indicated the ideas he was seeking to develop into feature-length films.

What else? Bridges sleeps naked. He’s spent nearly as much time with his stand-in, Loyd Catlett, as he has with his wife—sixty films! He makes little sculptures of human heads and gives them to people. When he met his wife, she had a broken nose and two black eyes, and he was a “pouting asshole” for the first three years of their marriage.

Then, as you read along, the metaphors under discussion start to hollow out and magnify, as they would in a hallucination. The 1994 LA earthquake, and how it shattered expectations. How chicks and their mothers peck shells open from the inside and the outside at the same time, allegedly. (“If you’re attuned enough, you can hear the pecking of the universe saying, Peck peck peck peck peck, I want to be born!”) Hotei (also known as Budai), the deity with his bag of tools, is like Jonathan Winters wandering around a pharmacy. Solzhenitsyn. Wavy Gravy. Richard Feynman. Clowns. Santa Claus. Camus. Hitler. Lenny Bruce. 9/11. Primo Levi. The earth vibrates at 440 Hz. (It does no such thing.) The tallest tree gets the most wind.

Bernie does an annual retreat at Auschwitz-Birkenau. He also has pioneered a performative variation of the notion of a meditation retreat by taking to the streets without ID or money. “I always remember Robin Williams, back when he was Mork, saying that reality is a concept,” Bernie says. “Years ago I was watching TV and I heard these doctors talk about rebirthing,” Jeff says. So he sat down with his mother and she told him about his birth.

There are several pages—literally, many pages—that meditate on the song “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” as a teaching.

You have to befriend the self—that’s another teaching. “You’ve got to befriend the fact that Jeff can only do so much,” Bernie says to Jeff. “He does what he does,” Jeff says. “And because he’s famous, he’s overloaded by requests,” Bernie says.

At the end of the book, it’s like a long lost weekend in Los Angeles, and you really do feel like you’ve gone out of your mind. Maybe that’s a good thing—a Buddhist exercise in its own right?

“I remember meeting the artist Mayumi Oda at your Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism,” Jeff says at one point. “I looked at her gorgeous prints and asked her, ‘How do you do this?’ And her answer was, ‘It’s like I’m already dead.’” Yes! That is how I felt after finishing this book.

NY Times February 11, 2013
Zen Groups Distressed by Accusations Against Teacher

Since arriving in Los Angeles from Japan in 1962, the Buddhist teacher Joshu Sasaki, who is 105 years old, has taught thousands of Americans at his two Zen centers in the area and one in New Mexico. He has influenced thousands more enlightenment seekers through a chain of some 30 affiliated Zen centers from the Puget Sound to Princeton to Berlin. And he is known as a Buddhist teacher of Leonard Cohen, the poet and songwriter.

Mr. Sasaki has also, according to an investigation by an independent council of Buddhist leaders, released in January, groped and sexually harassed female students for decades, taking advantage of their loyalty to a famously charismatic roshi, or master.

The allegations against Mr. Sasaki have upset and obsessed Zen Buddhists across the country, who are part of a close-knit world in which many participants seem to know, or at least know of, the principal teachers.

Mr. Sasaki did not respond to requests for interviews made through Paul Karsten, a member of the board of Rinzai-ji, his main center in Los Angeles. Mr. Karsten said that Mr. Sasaki’s senior priests are conducting their own inquiry. And he cautioned that the independent council took the accounts it heard from dozens of students at face value and did not investigate any “for veracity.”

Because Mr. Sasaki has founded or sponsored so many Zen centers, and because he has the prestige of having trained in Japan, the charges that he behaved unethically — and that his supporters looked the other way — have implications for an entire way of life.

Such charges have become more frequent in Zen Buddhism. Several other teachers have been accused of misconduct recently, notably Eido Shimano, who in 2010 was asked to resign from the Zen Studies Society in Manhattan over allegations that he had sex with students. Critics and victims have pointed to a Zen culture of secrecy, patriarchy and sexism, and to the quasi-religious worship of the Zen master, who can easily abuse his status.

Disaffected students wrote letters to the board of one of Mr. Sasaki’s Zen centers as early as 1991. Yet it was only last November, when Eshu Martin, a Zen priest who studied under Mr. Sasaki from 1997 to 2008, posted a letter to SweepingZen.com, a popular Web site, that the wider Zen world noticed.

Mr. Martin, now a Zen abbot in Victoria, British Columbia, accused Mr. Sasaki of a “career of misconduct,” from “frequent and repeated non-consensual groping of female students” to “sexually coercive after-hours ‘tea’ meetings, to affairs,” as well as interfering in his students’ marriages. Soon thereafter, the independent “witnessing council” of noted Zen teachers began interviewing 25 current or former students of Mr. Sasaki.

Some former students are now speaking out, including seven interviewed for this article, and their stories provide insight into the culture of Rinzai-ji and the other places where Mr. Sasaki taught. Women say they were encouraged to believe that being touched by Mr. Sasaki was part of their Zen training.

The Zen group, or sangha, can become one’s close family, and that aspect of Zen may account for why women and men have been reluctant to speak out for so long.

Many women whom Mr. Sasaki touched were resident monks at his centers. One woman who confronted Mr. Sasaki in the 1980s found herself an outcast afterward. The woman, who asked that her name not be used to protect her privacy, said that afterward “hardly anyone in the sangha, whom I had grown up with for 20 years, would have anything to do with us.”

In the council’s report on Jan. 11, the three members wrote of “Sasaki asking women to show him their breasts, as part of ‘answering’ a koan” — a Zen riddle — “or to demonstrate ‘non-attachment.’ ”

When the report was posted to SweepingZen, Mr. Sasaki’s senior priests wrote in a post that their group “has struggled with our teacher Joshu Sasaki Roshi’s sexual misconduct for a significant portion of his career in the United States” — their first such admission.

Among those who spoke to the council and for this article was Nikki Stubbs, who now lives in Vancouver, and who studied and worked at Mount Baldy, Mr. Sasaki’s Zen center 50 miles east of Los Angeles, from 2003 to 2006. During that time, she said, Mr. Sasaki would fondle her breasts during sanzen, or private meeting; he also asked her to massage his penis. She would wonder, she said, “Was this teaching?”

One monk, whom Ms. Stubbs said she told about the touching, was unsympathetic. “He believed in Roshi’s style, that sexualizing was teaching for particular women,” Ms. Stubbs said. The monk’s theory, common in Mr. Sasaki’s circle, was that such physicality could check a woman’s overly strong ego.

A former student of Mr. Sasaki’s now living in the San Francisco area, who asked that her name be withheld to protect her privacy, said that at Mount Baldy in the late 1990s, “the monks confronted Roshi and said, ‘This behavior is unacceptable and has to stop.’ ” However, she said, “nothing changed.” After a time, Mr. Sasaki used Zen teaching to justify touching her, too.

“He would say something like, ‘True love is giving yourself to everything,’ ” she explained. At Mount Baldy, the isolation could hamper one’s judgment. “It can sound trite, but you’re in this extreme state of consciousness,” she said — living at a monastery in the mountains, sitting in silence for many hours a day — “where boundaries fall away.”

Joe Marinello is a Zen teacher in Seattle who served on the board of the Zen Studies Society in New York. He has been openly critical of Mr. Shimano, the former abbot who was asked to resign from the society. Asked about teachers who say that sexual touch is an appropriate teaching technique, he was dismissive.

“In my opinion,” Mr. Marinello said in an e-mail, “it’s just their cultural and personal distortion to justify their predations.”

But in Zen Buddhism, students often overlook their teachers’ failings, participants say. Some Buddhists define their philosophy in contrast to Western religion: Buddhism, they believe, does not have Christian-style preoccupations about things like sex. And Zen exalts the relationship between a student and a teacher, who can come to seem irreplaceable.

“Outside the sexual things that happened,” the woman now in San Francisco said, “my relationship with him was one of the most important I have had with anyone.”

Several women said that Zen can foster an atmosphere of overt sexism. Jessica Kramer, a doula in Los Angeles, was Mr. Sasaki’s personal attendant in 2002. She said that he would reach into her robe and that she always resisted his advances. Surrounded almost entirely by men, she said she got very little sympathy. “I’d talk about it with people who’d say, ‘Why not just let him touch your breasts if he wants to touch your breasts?’ ”

Susanna Stewart began studying with Mr. Sasaki about 40 years ago. Within six months, she said, Mr. Sasaki began to touch her during sanzen. This sexualizing of their relationship “led to years of confusion and pain,” Ms. Stewart said, “eventually resulting in my becoming unable to practice Zen.” And when she married one of his priests, Mr. Sasaki tried to break them up, she said, even encouraging her husband to have an affair.

In 1992, Ms. Stewart’s husband disaffiliated himself and his North Carolina Zen Center from Mr. Sasaki. Years later, his wife said, he received hate mail from members of his old Zen group.

The witnessing council, which wrote the report, has no official authority. Its members belong to the American Zen Teachers Association but collected stories on their own initiative, although with a statement of support from 45 other teachers and priests. One of its authors, Grace Schireson, said that Zen Buddhists in the United States have misinterpreted a Japanese philosophy.

“Because of their long history with Zen practice, people in Japan have some skepticism about priests,” Ms. Schireson said. But in the United States many proponents have a “devotion to the guru or the teacher in a way that could repress our common sense and emotional intelligence.”

Last Thursday morning, at Rinzai-ji on Cimarron Street in Los Angeles, Bob Mammoser, a resident monk, said that Mr. Sasaki’s “health is quite frail” and that he has “basically withdrawn from any active teaching.” Mr. Mammoser said there is talk of a meeting at the center to discuss what, if any, action to take.

Mr. Mammoser said he first became aware of allegations against Mr. Sasaki in the 1980s. “There have been efforts in the past to address this with him,” Mr. Mammoser said. “Basically, they haven’t been able to go anywhere.”

He added: “What’s important and is overlooked is that, besides this aspect, Roshi was a commanding and inspiring figure using Buddhist practice to help thousands find more peace, clarity and happiness in their own lives. It seems to be the kind of thing that, you get the person as a whole, good and bad, just like you marry somebody and you get their strengths and wonderful qualities as well as their weaknesses.”


BZ text Chap 23: Emergence of Hinduism

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:04 pm

23 Emergence of Hinduism

NOTHING succeeds like success. To the amazement of
orthodox Brahmins who compelled Sri Krishna and Arjuna
to virtually disclaim their authorship of the Bhagavad-Gita and
to produce Anu-Gita, while the former poem with all its
demerits went from strength to strength, the latter though
applauded, was cast into oblivion by indifference of the thought-
ful Indians. Shrewd as ever, the Brahmins lost no time in
utilizing the popularity of the Bhagavad-Gita to their advantage.
They began to discover that the core of Brahminism, the basic
.tenets of Vedic religion, the profundities of Upanishadic
philosophy and the cardinal .principles of dharmashastras were
incorporated in the Gita philosophy. The poem could effectively
deal with the opposition and best serve their purpose. It was
therefore, accorded the dignity and sanctity of a scripture.
Being handy, brief and lucid, the Gita soon excelled other
sacred texts and occupied an unequalled position in the Indian
religious lore. It became the manual of neo-Brahminism which
gradually assumed the shape of what is now known as
Hinduism.! Read the rest of this entry »