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Archive for May, 2009

Mand-B1

Nothing too deep here today — I am pretty burnt-out with all my studies on Dogen and my translating the Dhammapada. However, I wanted to make note of an outreach idea that came to me the other day. This city has a lot of graffiti artists, and I got to witness a bunch of them yesterday working on a city-sponsored mural on a wall outside of town. It was pretty cool — they wound up doing a modern tag version of Where the Wild Things Are.

At the same time, my local sangha had been kicking around some ideas on outreach — I cringe at the word a bit since it brings back connotations of Christian evangelism, but I understand that when these Buddhists are using the word they are not even aware of the bad meanings it brings up in some of our Westerner’s heads. Anyway, the point is that I figured that maybe the sangha could hold some kind of event as well centered around graffiti.

The first, and most basic, concept would be to hold a contest and have local artists submit sketches of their proposed graffiti to the sangha. The piece would have to follow a theme — like Buddha or Buddhism, and each would be voted on. The winner would then win some kind of a prize, get his materials paid for, and then paint the mural on the wall. Second and thrid-place winners would get some-kind of prizes as well. If I had it my way though we would turn the painting-day into an event and have  food, fliers, music, and maybe even an outside dharma talk, an introduction to meditation, and a meditation time — although all happening in the building and not mandatory for those people who are just there to enjoy the other aspects of the event. It speaks higher of you all not to have anything “religious” mandatory, but there is nothing wrong with letting them know that it is offered — especially for those just curious to know what it is that you do there. People though will always wonder what the “catch” is so I strongly recommend never having one — that speaks volumes.

Another idea though that is similar to this, would be to tie-in modern-day art (such as graffiti, but any art would do) with the Tibetan Buddhist tradition of the Sand Mandala. This is taken from Wikipedia,

The sand mandala is a Tibetan Buddhist tradition involving the creation and destruction of mandalas made from colored sand. A sand mandala is ritualistically destroyed once it has been completed and its accompanying ceremonies and viewing are finished to symbolize the Buddhist doctrinal belief in the transitory nature of material life.

In a perfect world I would have some Monks there making a sand mandala at the same time as some modern-artists were making graffiti, paintings, sculptures…

Then we have a celebration to enjoy the beautiful things and the day; then we have a dharma talk on the transitory nature of life and/or meditation; then we ceremoniously destroy them all. This could be something as simple as painting back over the walls that were just graffitied or something to that effect.

This idea could work well for people who did not have a space where they could perminately display a wall of graffiti, or the idea could be tweaked into different forms of art that were even easier to “let go of” when the event is nearing it’s end.

I suppose the event could also work without the sand mandala, but without the juxtaposition we wold have to take more time explaining how the event is “like” the mandala in our fliers, literature, and in the dharma talk given.

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dharma_wheelTonight I gave my first-ever Dharma Talk to my local sangha. It has been a couple years since I had to teach in public, and the first time that it wasn’t a church sermon; however, even with the jitters I believe it went ok. It was more of a wrap-up to a 4-part series lightly touching on The Four Nobel Truths — with an introduction to The Eightfold Path. I have been in “essay mode” for the past 6 months in all my theology classes so I spent the first half of the discussion giving more of a scholastic approach to the topic — followed with something of a more personal nature (reflection and commentary) to end the discussion. I was told that this was the first time someone opted to prepare their own Dharma Talk for the night instead of reading from a book, or playing a recording from another teacher. I hope what I chose to discuss came across OK — I am not against reading another person’s material, but after years of having to prepare my own material each week for my church-groups… this just felt more natural for me. I figured I would post it for you all online here as well. Maybe if I get to do more of these I can oneday look back at the archives and see the stages of progression I have gone through. That may be fun. Enjoy:


The Fourth Nobel Truth:  The Way (Path)

Tonight ends our 4 week series on one of the most fundamental teachings in Buddhism – The 4 Nobel Truths. Although this series has been non-exhaustive, or more introductory, in nature; it is our hope that for those of you familiar with these truths that it served and refresher, a reminder, a guidepost – our proverbial breadcrumbs leading us back home, and for those of you who are new to these concepts – that you would become inspired to learn more.

Tonight is also special because in covering the 4th Nobel Truth we will also be covering another essential teaching of the Buddha – The Eightfold Path, or as some like to call it: The Dharma Wheel (Dharmacakra).

With this being the ending, let us start at the beginning – a brief re-cap of the 4 Nobel Truths… We suffer; suffering is due to attachment; attachment can be overcome; which brings to the 4th truth of: there is a Way (or Path) to accomplishing this.

Many scholars, teachers, monks and practitioners better than I have already made the assessment that the Buddha both diagnosed, then prescribed a remedy to our condition (suffering) with the precision and the pragmatism of a doctor – to which I must agree fully. He stripped down the prognosis and the remedy to its essentials – only concerned with what would alleviate the condition. In his pragmatism he became a rebel – stripping away many (if not all) of the common religious overtones prominent during his day. Removing much of the ceremony, chanting, prayers, gods, worship… and all of its resulting “pomp and circumstance”. However feeling free to keep some of it as well from time to time when necessary to communicate with people, help people understand… reach people with the message. Let this serve us as a reminder then that as Buddhism spread through different cultures, different people groups, and across different time periods; one could, and should, be able to even further strip down the practice of any religious overtones and still be keeping within the intent of the Buddha; and one could add ceremony to the teachings in order to reach people and be within the intent as well. What matters is the cessation of suffering. The problem, the cause, and the cure.

The diagnosis: We Suffer (or that there is suffering in this life)

The cause:  That suffering comes from attachment

Then, before prescribing us our “cure” (or really a regiment to follow to put us on the right path towards the process of wellness) he lets us know that there is hope – that if we follow the regiment it can cease. For without the hope that the regiment will work then why would one submit themselves to the regiment? Just like a cancer patient removing themselves from the chemotherapy process after the doctors inform them that there is no chance for survival.

The hope: That there is a cure for suffering. That it can be overcome.

The cure: The Way (Path)

The regiment: The Eightfold Path – also known as The Dharma Wheel

Why a wheel? Because the eight aspects of the path are not to be understood as a sequence of single steps, instead they are highly interdependent principles that have to be seen in relationship with each other. Although the Four Nobel Truths with the Eightfold Path create the pivotal foundation for Buddhism we will only cover them in-brief tonight, not defining them too closely or with much restriction, but for good reason… which will be explained later on in the discussion.

The Eight are most commonly interpreted today as: Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration; although people’s explanations pertaining to what these Eight will look like when lived-out differs from practice to practice – or even person to person.

Right View or Understanding
Right View is a mental understanding of the Four Nobel Truths coupled with an understanding of oneself as one really is. One may think to themselves, “Well if I had that I wouldn’t need the 7 others now would I!” but we must keep in mind that this knowing is not the knowing that comes from “enlightenment” but this is the knowing that results from our mental discipline. Right View is the cognitive aspect of wisdom – this is your study, your intelligence, your mind being put to good use. It is for this reason that Right View can also refer to scholarship, and lets us know that the Buddha never intended for us to “check our minds at the door” when entering the practice.

Right Intention or Right Thought
While Right View refers to the cognitive aspect of wisdom, Right Intention refers to the volitional aspect, the free will we have as human beings to choose and decide who we want to be and how we want to respond. Or better stated: Since it is impossible to define intention properly instead we focus that fact that Right Intention will eventually result in the mental action of us beginning to cultivate our minds. A common analogy for this aspect it the mind as a garden that can be neglected, polluted, or tended to. There are seeds of suffering that can take root within the mind which we have the ability to disrupt and uproot. We can also choose to cultivate Right Thoughts.

Right View and Right Intention make up the “Wisdom” portion of the Eightfold Path. The following 3 challenge us to strive to live ethically. This is not a diversion or leap in a different direction from the “Wisdom” portion of the Path since ethics in action both result from our mental state, and can help shape or cultivate our mental state.

Right Speech
Right Speech deals with refraining from falsehoods, slandering, harsh words and frivolous talk.

Right Action
Respect life (avoid killing). Earn all that you have (not stealing). Control your desire, rather than allowing desire to control you (chastity). Chastity can be defined as purity in conduct and intention; restraint and simplicity; or personal integrity.

Right Livelihood
Right Livelihood means earring ones living in a way that is not harmful to others and is mindful of the environment. Do we invest in companies that mistreat their workers or oppress others? How do we treat our own laborers? What is our impact on the environment? Are we selling drugs or weapons? Are we causing harm to animals?

Is the thing that I am doing to better my life causing worsening the lives of others?

The last 3 spokes of The Dharma Wheel pertain to our Development, or growing, in the practice.

Right Effort
Without Effort there can be no achievement. If one wants to get to the top of a mountain, just sitting at the foot thinking about it will not bring one there. It is by making the effort of climbing up the mountain, step by step, that one eventually reaches the summit. Thus, no matter how great the Buddha’s achievement may be, or how excellent His Teaching is, one must put the Teaching into practice before one can expect to obtain the desired result.

Right Effort is fourfold, namely:

  1. The effort to discard negativities that have already arisen.
  2. The effort to prevent the arising of further negativities.
  3. The effort to further develop those good things which have already arisen.
  4. The effort to promote that good which has not already arisen.

Right Mindfulness
Right Mindfulness is also fourfold:

  1. Mindfulness with regard to body.
  2. Mindfulness with regard to feeling.
  3. Mindfulness with regard to mind.
  4. Mindfulness with regard to mental objects (contemplation of the phenomena – the seemingly separate and temporal objects around us).

Right Meditation
The Buddhist method of choice to develop right concentration is through the practice of meditation. Since there are so many different forms, theories, benefits, and beliefs on meditation we will not delve into this subject tonight – it being a subject unto itself. However, I believe that we can already safely assume that you know of (or at least suspect) their importance since you are sitting here tonight with us.

In Closing
In closing, I feel the need to state that the topics tonight we purposefully covered liberally – as non-descript as possible while still allowing them to be informative. When one too closely defines what something (like Right Action for example) IS then one becomes in danger of creating rules, or religion – thus limiting the full degree to which the very thing’s real potential, and our own growth.

Is it wrong to eat meat? Can we wear leather? Should I have sex? Should I shop at this store? What is the right way to meditate? Give me the right list of things to do or not do in order to find peace in this world! This is nonsense – this is not the liberating Path.

What do these rules result in? They result in an external religion that never does us any internal good in this world. It creates a false world of action without heart — movement without being moved.

It creates good vs. bad – the sinful and the pious. We create a checklist and then we are able to compare ourselves to the checklist. “I am good today because I did this many of the list”. “He is bad because he did not.” With this we gain our class of the pious – the self-righteous upholders of the list. These fulfillers of the list at times can both fulfill the list and be so very far away from the original intent of the Master’s wishes – of kindness, goodness, awareness, charity.

We were given the task (and right of) self-government but this freedom is actually the harder path – so we look for rules instead. If we do not put a limit on what “kindness” to another is then our kindness becomes limitless.

We know of charity but what does that mean? We then define what charity is, and we set it up as some kind of a goal or checklist. We may decide that charity is giving money, and set a required amount that one must give in order to reach charity status. We may make a rule that in order to be a good follower one must give $10.00 a week to help the poor; thus fulfilling the charity requirement of our faith. Meeting our man-made requirement, but then totally missing the point and all the other opportunities that may present themselves to us.

If told to have kindness towards animals what does that mean? We make rules on what to eat or not eat; on where to buy or not buy, on having pets or not… Can we not safely say though that it would be possible to fulfill all of these things to the “T” but never have any love, or change of heart – any new awareness concerning animals or our roles in this Web of Existence? Could we not also assume that a different individual could potentially break every one of our new “rules” but commit every act with loving-kindness and respect for animals in their hearts?

No. Let us choose to keep our hearts, minds, and definitions limitless and open – wide open, like the vastness found in this very Path we are on.

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checklistIt is pretty evident that in our culture we like our lists of Do’s & Don’ts, right and wrongs, sins and commandments. Disagree all you want, but even when taken away we just go ahead and create for ourselves a whole set of new ones. As much as we seem to buck, kick, and complain about this or that religion, or this or that social institution, placing them upon us – when freed from them we just go ahead and create them for ourselves again anyway (Although maybe in a new form.).

You would think that it would be easier to simply say “Be kind to people”; “Have kindness in your hearts towards animals”; or “Be mindful of how your consumption effects yourself and others”; however, this is not so – there is something in this that our minds just refuses to wrap around. Why is that?

When a Teacher tells us to have a heart that is full of charity what do we tend to do? We define what charity is, and we set it up as some kind of a goal or checklist. We may even decide that charity is giving money, and set a required amount that one must give in order to reach charity status. We make a rule that in order to be a follower of this Teacher one must give $10.00 a week to help the poor; thus fulfilling the charity requirement of our faith.

Give money to the poor this week: CHECK

If told to have kindness towards animals what does that mean? We make rules on what to eat or not eat; on where to buy or not buy, on having pets or not… Can we not safely say though that it would be possible to fulfill all of these things to the “T” but never have any love, or change of heart – any new awareness concerning animals or our roles in this Web of Existence? Could we not also assume that a different individual could potentially break every one of our new “rules” but commit every act with loving-kindness and respect for animals in their hearts?

Didn’t buy those leather shoes: CHECK

Do we make it a rule as a member of our new-found freedom that one must hold open a door for a stranger at least once a day in order to fulfill the neighborly love clause? This is silliness, but this is what we do.

We want to be told what to eat, where to buy it, how much to spend on it… even what foods are good for us or bad for us. We are given the freedom of being asked to just be “mindful” of what we consume, but this freedom seemingly restricts us because we do not want the moral and mental obligations it implies – it implies self-awareness, introspection, and self-control. If being mindful you would then be faced with the task of processing: Am I hungry or Not? Do I really need this? If not hungry then why am I turning to food? Is this food healthy for my body? Is this choice wise with my finances? By buying this item from this establishment am I contributing to (perpetuating) a cycle of violence – such as how they treat their land, workers, farmers, animals, etc?

This amount of real-awareness we really do not want. We do not want the responsibility of it, nor do we have the time for it.

Didn’t eat meat today: CHECK… obligation filled.

We are missing the point.

What do these rules result in? They result in an external religion that never does us any internal good in this world. It creates a false world of action without heart, and movement without being moved.

It also creates good vs. bad – the sinful and the pious. We create a checklist and then we are able to compare ourselves to the checklist. “I am good today because I did this many of the list”. “He is bad because he did not.” With this we gain our class of the pious – the self-righteous upholders of the list. These fulfillers of the list at times can both fulfill the list and be so very far away from the original intent of the Master’s wishes – of kindness, goodness, awareness, charity.

This brings to mind the frustration that Christianities’ Jesus ran into with the Pharisees of his day. Their hearts were full of swelling pride of their exacting, even mechanical, adherences to the religious laws of their days. At the same time they have also taken the time to figure out every “loophole” they possibly could in the law so that they could give without giving, be kind without kindness, and be selfless while maintaining self. Jesus rebuked them all and reminded a new generation of people that what matters is the heart. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Give any teaching enough time though and a religion will eventually come out of it… a checklist will surface.

But that is what we want isn’t it? A checklist so we can do the minimal amount of effort with the least amount of introspection or thought? A way to know we are right and they are wrong? Something to define us as good. A reason to be pious. A reason to hate ourselves, and a reason to justify our hatred and exclusion of others? A way to totally miss the point and still get our “gold star” to place on our fridges.

When I say “give any teaching enough time” I do mean ANY. The same thing happens in Buddhism as well. There are those who want to define what Right Action is; or Right Speech, Intention, Effort… Mindfulness. This is what you can eat. This is where you can shop. This is how you sit. This is the way Buddha would have done it! In fact I can’t even count how many times I have been told already that some certain thing was what Buddha would have (or did) said which totally contradicted another thing someone else swears Buddha would have (or did) say or do. This is nonsense.

We were given the task (and right of) self-government but this freedom is actually the harder path – so we look for rules instead.

If we do not put a limit on what “kindness” to another is then our kindness becomes limitless.

Does this scare us because with no limit too much of ourselves will be lost in the process? Out time, our resources, our needs? With no checklist how do we know when we have made it? How do we know when to stop feeling bad about ourselves and start feeling good? With no list how can we judge others?

There is no “self”. There is no “other”. There is no Great Dharma Checklist.

Let me leave you with verses 19 and 20 from the Dhammapada,

19. The thoughtless man, even if he can recite a large portion (of the law), but is not a doer of it, has no share in the priesthood, but is like a cowherd counting the cows of others.

20. The follower of the law, even if he can recite only a small portion (of the law), but, having forsaken passion and hatred and foolishness, possesses true knowledge and serenity of mind, he, caring for nothing in this world or that to come, has indeed a share in the priesthood.

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manic panicWhen I was a child, no older than 5, my parents took me to the Big City for my first trip to a real bonifideshopping mall. We lived in a small podunk town a few hours away so this was a pretty big freaking deal. Seriously the town was small. Heck a few years back I had the chance to visit it again (for a funeral) and not much had changed. The biggest news was that the town finally got its first electric street light. They had a parade and everything to celebrate the thing — some welcoming of the modern-age I guess. Funny thing is that they didn’t even really need it. There was still no traffic there, but I guess they just really, really wanted one. Why? Well all the other towns had them. Why should they be left behind?

Anyway…

The mall was huge. It was my first trip to Toronto. I remember being in awe looking at all the people rushing about, and at all of the stores and stuff to buy. I held on to my mom’s hand tightly — I did not want to get lost in such a vast sea of people.

Then there she was — this beautiful punk rock chick. I still remember her to this day. She was wearing a leather jacket with some pins and paint-pen graffiti on it; stating names of ideas or bands that I was too young to have been introduced to. Her skin was pale, and her nose was pierced. She had this kick-ass Siouxsie Sioux style haircut, but the outer part of her hair was died blue; while the inner part of her hair was died jet black.

My eyes grew as big as saucers. I had no idea what I was looking at, but I knew that I liked it. I tugged on my moms dress and pointed to the girl as I said “Pretty!”.

My mom and dad carefully explained to me that was not pretty.

“Pretty!”

It has been over 25 years now, and I have got to tell you… I still think that she was pretty. I still think that blue hair is awesome.

Over these years my family has told me that it was not; my school system has told me that it was not; my religious institution has told me that it was not; hell, there were even times where I tried to convince myself that it was not. But you know what!? It is pretty. At least I think so, and there is nothing that can be done about it.

I am who I am. I embrace that now. If you are a Christian and you think that we are all “fearfully and wonderfully made” then I do not understand why my being myself is such a distasteful thing to your God.

If Buddhist — we are all individual expressions of the Divine experiencing itself in new and unique ways through us. This then is life experiencing itself through me at this moment, and at this moment it is really enjoying art, diversity, and kick-ass punk girls with blue hair.

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Just a quick — odd thought. Sure, since we are not standing right next to the guys, we do not know for sure what exactly Buddha or Christ literally said or did not say. I get that.

However, the notion these days is that we assume that anything that we are told that they said that we do not like we then say that we bet that they did not really say. That which we do like, that which agrees with us, we say that we bet they said. Therefore believing that Buddha or Christ were very brilliant men — since they think just as we do, and agree with us on so many things.

We bet that Buddha (the REAL Buddha) would never have really believed in gods, karma, reincarnation, atman.. whatever. We bet this because WE do not think this, and obviously is Buddha was so freaking smart he would agree with me.

If he disagreed with me; with my great intellect, my math, my science, my deep-ass ponderings — then he would just be another superstitious fool. Or so we like to believe.

Is this really it? Do we think so highly of ourselves that we now assume that if there was a Buddha, or a Christ, or any kind of a god that they would obviously agree with us on everything?

Hell we even have monks/priests out there now who have meditated and meditated and meditated — never hitting any real kind of enlightenment; so what do they do? They then say that there is no real nirvana.

Why though? Is that not the same thing as them saying “Well it did not happen to me so I guess it is not real?”

So what then? Since you are so freaking great and it did not happen to you it must not be real? Since it did not happen to you and you are really, really, really great at all this stuff… it must have never happened to Buddha or anyone else?

It is just something I was thinking about today, and it made me laugh. All these religions preach annihilation of self, but then we make the religion fit into out own personal experiences, preferences, and expectations.

Don’t worry, I am not saying that I am excluded from all of this; although if there was a god I bet he’d agree with me:) That was a joke.

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obviousI have a friend who is anorexic. She knows that she is thin. By this I mean that she knows what her clothing size is; what her weight is; her body fat index, and all of that. She knows what the ideal weight for her age and height is, and she knows that she is well under that weight. On top of all of that, she was a psychology major. She knows how she was abused as a child, how it affected her, and the deep-seeded causes behind her condition.

All of this knowledge though, and she is still just as lost as she ever was in the cycle. She “knows” but there is no real “knowing”.

She can weigh herself. She can do experiments. She can read books upon books. She can become an expert on studies on anorexics. However, there is still a disconnect. Obviously, there is a difference between knowing and knowing. Or, to put it better, there is a difference between knowing and enlightenment.

Hopefully one day some flash will go off in her head (or her heart), and she will “know” that she is not fat. Until that happens though, she is going to keep looking in that mirror and will keep on seeing that thing she hates.

Enlightenment is like that though. You can not read it in a book. Hell, even if someone else has found out what the “answer to it all” is — they can not tell you what it is. Even if they told you… you would not “get it”. Sure, you may intellectually get it, but you will not really get it. There is a difference.

No Zen Master, Priest, Monk, Sage… whatever, can really tell you what answer it is that you are looking for. If they told you, you would not really understand it anyway — not until you seek it out and really know it for yourself. That is just the way it is. Until that happens were are just telling the thin girl that she is not fat over and over again.

Every day this past week I have seen people in Q&A sessions with this Zen Priest, asking him “What have you learned?”, “What great question have you found the answer to?”, “What is enlightenment?”… “What is the answer!?”.

He can not give you that answer. Heck if he did then he probably just made it even harder for you to ever find out the answer to that question since now you heard it and it is going to do nothing for you, and so that is going to be the last answer you consider ever considering again during your search.

You have to find it yourself. You have to come to know it yourself.

I watch people get frustrated at his not telling them what they want to hear, but I understand why there is not use to it. It will not do any good. They just need to sit down and shut up and come to find it themselves. One time I saw him get pestered to the point that the told them the answer to what “great revelation” he has had recently… and after he gave it the person only looked disappointed because it seemed meaningless or trivial to them. They simply did not get it.

We are all suffering from various delusions. We would not know the truth even if it came along and bit us on the ass. Hell, even if we did come to a “knowing” based on intellect or books/study — that is not the same thing. We may walk around think we now “know”, but it is not a real knowing. Until it has become real enlightenment… we are just more people, like my friend, suffering from anorexia but knowing that we are thin.

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zen11I wonder if the Buddha had himself a Wingman? It may seem funny to picture such a thing, but in all honesty — it does not seem that unlikely to me.

So, the past week I have had the privilege to get to know a pretty rad person who also happens to be a Soto Zen Priest. He came to town for a week to do various things, and I took the week off to simply go to as many events as I can and see what happens. No, I was not looking for any help, was not looking for any answers, I was not expecting enlightenment; hell I wasn’t looking for anything. I don’t think it works that way, but I did know that this guy has spent over 20 years studying something that I have just now barely begun to scratch the surface of — so hell yes I am going to sit on the ground and stare at a wall for half an hour with the dude.

Zen always kinda pissed me off because it says that there is no soul, no atman, that enlightenment is not what we expect (or want it to be), there no warm fuzzies — no cookie at the end of the tunnel; and I really, really wanted there to be one. This is the Promised Land, this is Hell… it is whatever one you have decided to make it to be.

People just don’t quite seem to get that it seems. In listening to him talk it seems that some people “get” the idea that he is saying that there is none — and they get pissy and leave. Or others understand that he is saying there there is none, but they tell themselves that he is just being really “deep” and that really his point is that we are not supposed to be focusing on the cookie — but really there is a cookie… there has to be right? Nope… there is no freaking cookie.

This Priest also tends to piss off other Priests from time to time. Why? Well, if you ask me it is because he has taken his embrace of reality to such a level of transparency that it makes them uncomfortable. Reality, meaning all of it, the good, the bad, the ugly, the unsettling — even the parts we do not like to talk about, he talks about. This display and embracing of reality smacks them in the face and they see their own flaws and hypocrisiesin him, and they hate that. They want to walk around in nice robes and smile, and answer tough questions in cute little riddles. They want to think that they have their shit together, and more importantly they at least want us all to think that they have their shit together.

Anyway, for some reason or another, I wound up getting to hang out with him a lot; take him around town, and from place to place. It has been a lot of fun, and I consider him a friend now. I learned a lot this week, but not in that weird-ass “teacher-student” kind-of a way; no I just mean as two guys hanging out. Two people hanging out, being real with each-other, and inadvertently coming to know something about them, life, and even yourself.

I had a couple odd comments from some other Zen practitioners who seemed envious that I was here or there with the guy when they weren’t; like I was secretly gathering some pearls of wisdom that were dropping out of his ass while nobody was looking and hording them all to myself. Shit. It is not like that at all, I just have been having a lot of fun enjoying his company, and I also know when to leave people the hell alone and get out of the way.

I don’t want him to autograph my book of his. Actually I don’t have his book, and I am not going to get one until after he takes off so he won’t confuse me for a fan. Sure I want to read what he wrote, but because I got to know him and I like to know what people I know are thinking about and what they have gone through.

I don’t know, if he was the kind of person that was even looking for a person to “pass on the lineage to” I would be down for that. I think that would be cool as hell, and if Soto Zen priests go to hell if they fail to pass it on to a successor — I guess that’s good enough motivation… although I doubt he believes any of that B.S. The issue though would be that I would not trade being cool with the dude as a friend for finding a Guru. I think I (and he) would rather have a peer than a follower. I suck at being a follower anyway. So I guess if there was a way to learn from him without ever confusing the fact that I am more into the idea of being his friend — I would do it. If not… screw it.

Ah, so anyway, about the whole picking up chicks thing…

I learned a bit this week about the history of Zen, and this form of it; I got some new thoughts to debate over here-and-there; and I did get some tips on how to properly do the “form” better of sitting, posture, hand placement, etc. That was all helpful, and I especially like the tips on form because I really do like traditions and keeping up certain things like that.  I learned some things in the various talks given, but nothing that I could not have read in a book or something. Really, my best “Zen Moment” came late one night at a bar.

Yup a bar.

So two Priests are in a bar and a hot chick walks by, and one of them says to the other “Hey check out that girl. She is hot.” and the other says “Humph. I do not notice such things.” What is the difference between the two monks? The difference is that one of them is also a liar.

Here is am with a Zen Priest in a bar (I am having a beer, and he is drinking juice) talking to each other about life, love, hurt, disappointment, pain, joy… all of it. He talks about his divorce, and I open up and tell him about mine. He notices a cute girl that seems interested in him, and I get to be there as he fumbles through hitting on her (like we all do). Is she interested? Am I actually? Is this worth it? Is this going anywhere? All of that. In the end he decides to leave and not take the conversation further. I reassure him that he could have “scored” if he wanted to (and I meant it… he had that one in the bag). He states that there was this other girl he met earlier that had more substance to her, and that he would like to just focus on her instead… she was coming to his talk for sure in a day or two.

When I left that night I was just very peaceful and happy. Happy that I made a friend, that I had a fun night with a cool guy, and also just that I finally realized that I was starting to understand Zen. In seeing his openness, his struggles, his humanity — I realized how there can be and can not be enlightenment at the same time. I understood that there is no escape from suffering, not really, and that is OK! What changes is our perspective on it. We do not stop living though, and with life comes all kinds of ups and downs. This flux at times can be disturbing, but there is a beauty in it all well. It really is a beautiful thing, and not something to be feared.

Tonight he had his talk and the girl showed up. I knew that she was there, and I also knew that after the event there was going to be a kazillion people crowding around the guy asking him questions, and trying to tag along with him wherever he was trying to go next. That must suck. It is like if he wispers to someone “Hey later today can I maybe go to the store” it somehow turns into a group trip.. “Hey everyone the freaking Dali Lamma is going to go to the store — let’s all go too! Group hug!”.

Knowing this I went on the defensive and started telling people not to expect to be hanging out much tonight. I informed people that there was nothing “going on” after the talk and that we were all just calling it a night.

He pulled me aside during the night and mentioned that maybe it would be nice to have some time alone with that person and wondered if I could somehow make sure that others did not get in the way. Before he finished his sentence I smiled and told him that I was already on it.

“You are my Wingman.”

Yes, I got your back.

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