I am totally enamoured with Brad’s style – despite the political issues, his style typified in this post on enlightenment and virginity. In his talk on sin sex and zen in “some Brad stuff” the manner in which he discussed the dharma was human – as opposed to what might be called sanctimonious dogma. OK, that’s an exaggeration, probably unfair, and is against this Dogen Sangha precept:-
but still …. I haven’t retracted it.
This post is going to be too arrogant so I will take my time before putting it up. I have spent my retirement time looking at Theravada, and it has been a great help – no doubts. Coming to terms with all the dogma has helped understanding but of course it has fed my intellect – and I am too intellectual. Too full of ideas, stick too much to idea sets – even sticking to realisation sets that are past their sell-by-date.
In searching for the esoteric I have determined that appears to be an answer. To be fair to my underlying dharma I have spent much of my time with the intellectuals arguing for insight, and have had some nasty encounters with intellectuals because of this. Brad just sits there and says zazen is finding intuition – no mu, no jhanas, just experiences and intuition. Intuition – a fine word by me.
My first monastery attendance amuses me with irony now. I applied to the guest monk who normally asked for a stay of a few days. For some reason I could only stay overnight and he was kind enough. I have no recollection as to why in a Summer break of maybe 6 weeks or more I could only stay one night but that was it. I had a litmus test, and in the middle of the night there they were, the guys, the muse, the visual vibrations that I associated with experience – that I now relate to or the innate dharma from this Dogen quote:-
“Consequently, those who sit in meditation will, beyond doubt, drop off body and mind, and cut themselves free from their previous confused and defiling thoughts and opinions in order to personally realize what the innate Dharma of the Buddha is” Shobogenzo[p35].
In the morning before I left the guest monk asked whether I had got anything, and I was so pleased to tell him that the guys had visited me – and that I had got it. He was polite, I don’t think he’d got the guys, but that monastery was my spiritual home in the UK.
Over the years I associated with Theravada I don’t know how many of the monks got the insight, I think they got the lifestyle. In the lifestyle there was freedom from wage-slavery and steady sustenance, there was study and learning from senior monks, and there was meditation. For many the routine of meditation controlled their lives, gave them insight, but – here comes the arrogance – some might not have realised the importance of insight – maybe it just came with the package. Some monks repeat the dogma, have touched the insight, and gained from it, yet have not released the intellect or the need for faith – continuing to accept the idea set of dogma, maybe seeing this as the source of the insight. Other monks will have got it, the experience, , but they are caught in the lifestyle, the institution, and accept the experiences within those parameters. To be clear the lifestyle can confuse meditation, dogma and insight, how much does this matter? For the monks probably not but for me it is the insight and not the lifestyle that matters, and that insight is not from a lifestyle but from meditation and understanding. When it is confused it allows intellectual proliferation however, something that Theravada has in abundance.
Where in Theravada is ? I cannot answer that except for one person – Buddhadasa.
And here again is his quote from the Ariya Sacca that reinforced my jump to Zen:-
“For example Theravada Buddhism is very straightforward, and is kept within certain fairly strict limits. People who don’t have enough intelligence and wisdom are unable to understand the Theravada teachings properly. Mahayana has tried to open everything up and simplify things so that even foolish people (old grandmothers in the street the ordinary man in the road) can have access to Buddhism with the idea that Mahayana, being the great vehicle, can take even the foolish people along. And then in Zen. Zen knows it’s never going to work, and narrowed it down and made it an exclusive refined teaching for only the most intelligent people. If one isn’t very sharp and clever, one can never figure out Zen Buddhism. It is the most direct teaching but it’s also only for the most intelligent. In Vajrayana, in all those things – tantra and all that, they have kind of packaged the teachings in the most attractive, most colourful, most enticing and interesting way. So you’ve got basic approaches to presenting Buddhism, the direct approach, the big approach, the quick and fast approach and the attractive approach, but even though there are these distinctions, all of these come to the same point – to the same fact, which is “removing attachment from the 5 khandas.” Ariya Sacca.
I so much like Brad’s minimalising of the mu effect – the experience. It reminds me of Jim Carrey’s excess, I hope he is still effusive but I don’t know. The experience does not bring with it sila I am ashamed to admit. It was only when I began meditating regularly that sila was added – and it has been a virtual bone of contention with Openhand – who seem good people to me.
I have a question. Meditating old-style on sila or the 4 brahma-viharas was beneficial, I feel it suffused me with their attributes. Zazen doesn’t do this focus on a “concept” leading to suffusion, do zen monks do this sort of meditation sometimes? Should I introduce it?
I liked Brad’s comparison with virginity, I do not however remember my own the same way. I was young and stupid – and very lucky on that day. After the drunken night when the “loss” happened, the next day I must have been exuding a glow because others spotted the breaking of the duck – I responded with typically chauvinist cameraderie. I am ashamed of the details but I can remember later an encounter with the lady concerned with a new boyfriend – and he glared but was good enough to leave it at that. I apologise to the lady in the comments and all the women who have suffered from the ignorance that is male sexual development in the West. If my then friends were anything to judge by, their own breaking of the duck might also have left other women with regret. I never had serious sila until 20 years or more after my first “bells and banjos”, and I regret this. And there were those with morality I belittled because of arrogance coming with that experience. These belittled probably never had any bells banjoing – still never have, but they do have some sila hard-wired and with whom women never had to hold regret at their losing of virginity.