Thursday, February 22, 2007

Why I Never Became A Zen Master

I’ve already had a few incarnations on this board. First, as a loudmouthed troll, next as a…shit…still a loudmouthed troll.

Whatever, I think full disclosure (as much as possible) is actually important when discussing the realm of the so-called spiritual.

So now you know that I’m full of shit. Not just a little bit, but utterly and entirely full of it.

And of course, I like you to know that I’m full of shit ‘cuz it helps keep me honest.

You think it’s difficult to write some smarmy, half-baked zen parable and make it sound like I’ve been enlightened since birth? Believe me, acting like some blissed-out Buddhist teacher isn’t really all that hard. Once you’ve read a few books and studied the patter, it’s fairly easy. Mind-boggling, really, how easy it is.

A little anecdote along these lines for your reading pleasure:

A couple of years ago, I was talking with a good friend of mine, Jack, who is a little younger than me. We started discussing spiritual stuff and I basically parroted to him what my Guru had been telling me for years. Jack dug the spiritual stuff I told him, most of which I probably butchered, by the way.

Next thing I knew, Jack told me he wanted to have sessions with me and pay me to “teach” him what I knew. I was really flattered and of course I’ve always secretly wanted to be a teacher, to impress others with just how goshdarn smart I am. I’ve wanted to be a famous writer, musician and then I wanted enlightenment. Guess which ranks number one as the MOST full of crap thing you could ever be?

(I’ll give you a hint: Bono aint nearly as full of it as certain people carousing through the spiritual marketplace.)

Anyway, I never took money from Jack and told him I was too crazy to be his teacher, but we still did a “session.” We sat across from one another as I’d done with my Guru in the past, paying attention to the moment and breathing. Jack was getting visibly uncomfortable and so I began telling him a few things, guiding him. It was the weirdest feeling because I have NEVER felt like such a complete turd in all of my life.


Because I KNEW that I had absolutely NO right telling Jack these things. The truth was, I didn’t really understand the practice and was very confused myself. I still am.

Eventually, as we hung out together more, I opened up about things in my own life—times when I was anxious and depressed and frequently I'd ask for Jack’s advise. Sometimes he would ask me stuff too. It was a mutual exchange and over the years, he became more than well aware how much I am consumed by the same problems as him. He no longer asks me to teach him anything.

But believe me, it wouldn’t have been hard to take his money, tell him more stuff I’d read off the internet, and carefully keep all my own doubts and fears and insecurities bottled up inside. And maybe, eventually, he would have told a couple of friends about me…

I believe the only difference between me and 99.9% of these other fake and fraudulent teachers is that I ADMIT how full of crap I am (leaving room for the .1% who might be genuine). Yes, I say it often, but not nearly often enough. And I need to remind myself of it even more.

There’s nothing at all wrong with being a crazy, wacky, insecure, fearful human trying to understand consciousness and the human experience. What’s wrong is lying to yourself and others because you can’t deal with NOT KNOWING ANYTHING.

So, hope everyone has a good day and if you have a session with your esteemed Kung Fu Zen Master tonight, kick him in the balls once for me!


The unsatisfactory use of language and labels

Labeling is the basis of language is the basis of communication between humans.

The label does not describe reality, but rather identifies an element the individual's subjective experience of reality so that it can be referenced when communicating with others. It is a mistake to believe that just because we agree on a word to describe something, that we are speaking about the same experience.

This is a gooey, sticky mess, and I apologize for for my indulgence ;-)

When we both look at a stop sign and we both say, "red," we assume we are experiencing the color in the same way. But we really have no idea if our experience is at all similar. We have simply agreed to each call our own subjective personal experience of that reality, "red."

In Buddhist scripture, we hear of people questioning the Buddha, saying things like, "How can you say you have compassion for all sentient beings, when all is one, so there really are no individual sentient beings?"

And the Buddha would respond with something like, "Look smartass, I know there are no individual sentient beings, and you know there are no individual sentient beings. I use the term 'sentient beings' because I have to use words and labels, otherwise, we would just be sitting here staring at eachother stupidly, hoping for a psychic 'Communion' and you know and I know that shit just aint going to happen. So I use the term 'sentient beings' for the sake of expediency."

Okay, I admit it, I made up that conversation, but the Buddha did like to use the phrase "for the sake of expediency" when explaining his use of admittedly imperfect and inaccurate labels.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Buddha Quote: "This sh*t's depressing!"

Lots of talk about depression and medication on Hardcore Zen, Gangsta Zen, and Suicide Girls. On Suicide Girls, Brad created quite a stir with his comments that were taken to mean that he was anti-medication.

{As an aside, should Brad be surprised that members of a site called "Suicide Girls" would have strong opinions on the topic of depression?}

The discussion of depression and antidepressants is soooo relevant to Buddhism in the modern era.

Folks that are unfamiliar with Buddhism sometimes offer the criticism, "It's so depressing - all that 'life is suffering' stuff."

Well hey, people, life is depressing. Although we translate the Buddha's teaching as "Life is suffering," I think the translation "Life is depressing" may be more accurate.

The Buddha pointed it out thousands of years ago - Sickness, old age, and death are inseparable from life itself, and that is some depressing shit! And really, those basic conditions have not changed since then, have they?

Now, true enough, there is a medical solution (medication) to this unsatisfactory condition. However, there is also an organic solution to this depressing issue of suffering, but it requires some work and some insight.

I think a problem with the medical and psychiatric community is that they consider depression to be abnormal. Puh-leeze! You would have to be crazy, insensitive, or just not paying attention to not experience serious depression at some point in your life!

But by really paying attention, questioning your definitions and values, studying some Dharma, and maybe even meditating a little or a lot, you too just might start to see through the cause of your depression.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Administrative Note

This blog was started back in the day by our friend Jules, as a collaborative forum, with 30 folks signing up as contributors. Since that time, change has proven to be the only constant, and very few of those original 30 still contribute, or even post comments.

Bowing to the impermanent nature of the universe and the principal of dependent origination, I am about to clean out the contributor list.

In the past four months, there have been seven contributors that have posted on the main board: Brad, Oxeye, DB, PA, Dan, Me, Anatman.

If you are not on that list, and you wish to retain contributor status, now is your chance to do so... All you need to do is post some thoughts, ramblings, or whathaveyou on the main board to retain your contributor status.

In two weeks, I will update the contributor list to include only those that have posted to the main board at least once over the past four months... Does this sound fair?

This will then make room for new contributors that would like access to the main board.

So.... If you have posted in the Comments section at some point over the past four months and would like to have access to the main board as a contributor, send your blogger ID and your email address to: flappingmouths[at]yahoo[dotcom], and I will have the admin tool send you an invitation to participate as a contributor.

Make sure to send your information within the next two weeks, as the email address above will self destruct within two weeks, taking out the spam spiders that will have infested it by then.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

All you need is Dharma is all you need

Brad made an interesting post over at Hardcore Zen, in which he stated, "the word Dharma is getting so over-used, it's become almost worthless anymore."

As an aside, he wrote the post "off the cuff" and I really liked the sponteneity of the resulting content, so I'm doing the same - that is, not preparing content in advance and then editing, and not really thinking about the result, but just letting the thoughts flow.

I would agree with Brad that it is useless in a pop culture context, but let's not throw the baby out with the bath water! "Dharma" is really a wonderful, interesting, powerful word, and we can gain much insight into the Buddhist view/path by just looking at the meaning of the word itself.

"Dharma" is Sanscrit. In Pali, it is "Dhamma." The word has various different meanings in various traditions and contexts, but here are a few:
  • Natural Law, or like Brad points out, "The Rule of the Universe"
  • Process, or Method
  • the way things work / the way it is
  • the Tao (okay, I threw that one in as my own association)
  • The teachings of the Buddha... and the Buddha himself!

Break it down, reassemble, and look at the relationships... Far from worthless, 'tis a thing of beauty!