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Zen Buddhism


3 Nov 2002
This thread was created for any who might be interested in discussing topics directly related to Zen Buddhism.

To get the ball rolling, you can click on the following hyperlink to check out a really cool Zen Multimedia Website:


p.s. make sure you have your speakers on, and do a lot of clicking around with your mouse.[/colour]
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This site is beautiful. Sorry for using this word, but it's true. It's quite entertaining. I was just wondering why it says that, when meditating, you should listen to sounds you don't usually hear (and close your eyes, like the monk on the picture, I guess). Does Zen Buddhism privilege hearing overseeing? Why is that so?

NB: When the fly came on the head of the monk, I waited and waited, but it seems that it has been programmed in a linear way, so that you can't continue to the next page if you don't click on it (or anywhere on the screen). I felt cheated, as I had no way of "winning" ("be right"). That presupposed that nobody visiting this site knows about meditation, or could endure the virtual fly bothering.

Originally posted by Maciamo

Does Zen Buddhism privilege hearing overseeing? Why is that so?

Because when we practise Zen, we are actually sitting in Zazen with our eyes focused three feet in front of us. The eyes lose focus while in Zazen, which causes the sense of hearing to become incredibly vibrant.

Originally posted by Maciamo

NB: When the fly came on the head of the monk, I waited and waited, but it seems that it has been programmed linearly, so that you can't continue to the next page if you don't click on it (or anywhere on the screen). I felt cheated, as I had no way of "winning" ("be right"). That presupposed that nobody visiting this site knows about meditation, or could endure the virtual fly bothering.

The fact that you felt cheated suggests that there is an incredibly huge ego that needs awareness of. This Multimedia website intends to offer you a basic understanding of this fact. This site presupposes that the vast majority of those who come to Zen through a Multimedia site have absolutely no clue what our practice is about.

Were you bored when the fly was upon the head of the master? Were you trying to get something more out of it? If you had just sat there for hours watching the fly on the sensei's head... what then?

I would love to explain the basics of Japanese Zen to any interested, but I can assure you that there will be a lot of the same sort of exercise involved. Zen is one of the most boring things that anyone could think of. Are you sure you want to know more about it, Maciamo?
A Message from Brad Warner Sensei


Let's face it. Zen is boring. You couldn't find a duller, more tedious practice than Zazen. The philosophy is dry and unexciting. It's amazing to me anyone reads this page at all. Don't you people know you could be playing Tetris, right now? That there are a million free porno sites out there? Get a life, why don't you?!

Joshu Sasaki, a Zen teacher from the Rinzai Sect, once said that Buddhist teachers always try to make students long for the Buddha World, but that if they knew how really dry and tasteless the Buddha World actually was, they'd never want to go. He's right. Look at Zen teachers. Not a one of them has any sense of fashion. They sit around staring at blank walls. Ask them about levitation; they won't tell you. Ask them about life after death; they change the subject. Ask them about miracles, and they start spouting nonsense about carrying buckets of water and chopping up firewood. They go to bed early and wake up early. Zen is a philosophy for nerds.

Boredom is important. Most of your life is dull, tasteless and boring. If you practice Zazen, you learn a lot about boredom. I remember the first time I sat Zazen; I was really excited. I figured I'd be seeing visions of four-armed Krishnas descending from the Heavens, or I'd be fading into The Void just like the old Beatles song, or reach Nirvana (whatever that was) or some great wonderful thing. But the clock just ticked away, my legs started aching, and stupid thoughts kept drifting by. Maybe I wasn't doing it right, I thought. But no, year after year it was the same. Boring, boring, boring. After almost 20 years it's still boring as Hell.

People hate their ordinary lives. We want something better. This, our day to day life of drudgery and work, is boring, dull and ordinary, we think. But someday, someday... There's an episode of The Monkees* where Mike Nesmith says that when he was in high school, he used to walk out on the school's empty stage with a guitar in his hands thinking "Someday, someday." Then he said that now (now being 1967, at the height of the Monkees fame) he walks out on stage in front of thousands of fans and thinks "Someday, someday." That's the way life is. It's never going to be perfect. Whatever "someday" you imagine, it will ever come. Never. No matter what it is. No matter how well you build your fantasy or how carefully you follow all the steps necessary to achieve it. Even if it comes true exactly the way you planned, you'll end up just like Mike Nesmith. Someday, someday... I guarantee you.

Your life will change. That's for sure. But it won't get any better, and it won't get any worse. How can you compare now to the past? What do you know about the past? You don't have a clue! You have no idea at all what yesterday was really like, let alone last week or ten years ago. The future? Forget about it...

People long for big thrills. Peak experiences. Some people come to Zen, expecting that Enlightenment will be the Ultimate Peak Experience. The Mother of All Peak Experiences. But real enlightenment is the most ordinary of the ordinary. Once I had an amazing vision. I saw myself transported through time and space. Millions, no, billions, trillions, Godzillions of years passed. Not figuratively, but literally. Whizzed by. I found myself at the very rim of time and space, a vast giant being composed of the living minds and bodies of everything that ever was. It was an incredibly moving experience. Exhilarating. I was high for weeks. Finally, I told Nishijima Sensei about it. He said it was nonsense—just my imagination. I can't tell you how that made me feel. Imagination? This was as real an experience as any I've ever had. I just about cried. Later on that day, I was eating a tangerine. I noticed how adorable a thing it was. So delicate. So amazingly orange. So very tasty. So I told Nishijima about that. That experience, he said, was enlightenment.

It would help if you had a teacher like that. The world needs lots more teachers like that. Countless teachers would have interpreted my experience as a merging of my Atman with God, as a portent of great and wonderful things, would have praised my spiritual growth and given me pointers on how to go even further. And I would have been suckered right into that, let me tell you! Woulda fallen for it hook line and sinker, boy howdy. If a teacher doesn't shatter your illusions, he's doing you no favours at all.

Boredom is what you need. Merging with the Mind of God at the Edge of the Universe, that's excitement. That's what we're all into this Zen thing for. Eating tangerines? Come on, dude! What could be more boring than eating a tangerine?

Some years ago, some psychologists did a study in which they sat some Buddhists monks and some regular folks in a room and wired them up to EEG machines to record their brain activity. They told everyone to relax, then introduced a repetitive stimulus, a loudly ticking clock, into the room. The normal folks' EEG showed that their brains stopped reacting the stimulus after a few seconds. But the Buddhists just kept on mentally registering the tick every time it happened. Psychologists and journalists never quite know how to interpret that finding, though it's often cited. It's a simple matter. Buddhists pay attention to their lives. Ordinary folks figure they have better things to think about.

If you really take a look at your ordinary boring life, you'll discover something truly wonderful. Our regular old pointless lives are incredibly joyful -- amazingly, astoundingly, relentlessly, mercilessly joyful. You don't need to do a damned thing to experience such joy either. People think they need big experiences, interesting experiences. Indeed, gigantic, traumatic experiences sometimes bring people, for a fleeting moment, into a kind of enlightened state. That's why such experiences are so desired. But it wears off fast, and you're right back out there looking for the next thrill. You don't need to take drugs, blow up buildings, win the Indy 500 or walk on the moon. You don't need to go hang-gliding over the Himalayas; you don't need to screw your luscious and oh-so-willing secretary or party all night with the beautiful people. You don't need visions of merging with the totality of the Universe. Just be what you are, where you are. Clean the toilet. Walk the dog. Do your work. That's the most magical thing there is. If you really want to merge with God, that's the way to do it. This moment. You sitting there with your hand in your underwear and potato chip crumbs on your chin, scrolling down your computer screen thinking "This guy's out of his mind." This very moment is Enlightenment. This moment has never come before, and once it's gone, it's gone forever. You are at this moment. This moment is you. This very moment is you merging with the total Universe, with God Himself.

The life you're living right now has joys; even God will never know.


*For those of you not up on old US pop culture, The Monkees was a TV comedy show about a rock and roll band that ran from 1967-68 and was rerun throughout the 70s. The Monkees were supposed to be just like The Beatles. Mike Nesmith was the "leader" of the band, the John Lennon character. To everyone's surprise, when The Monkees, a fake rock band, went on tour they attracted almost as many squealing teenage fans as The Beatles had a few years before.

Source: Zen is Boring!
I think you have the wrong person. I wasn't bored when the fly flew around. I am rarely bored because if nothing happens, I still have too many things to think about or relax (what you call meditation). I have tried many things in my life, and I know very well that extreme situations or material possessions don't bring you happiness; it depends on your state of mind. I have been 5 months in India, living with the minimum necessary, but I was happier than when I was a child getting anything I wanted when I wanted. I sometimes despise some people I know very well (I won't tell more) for being too materialistic (though I also was when I was little). Some people think they can only be happy if they buy brand clothes, go on holiday to a luxury resort in Hawaii, buy the newest technologies when they are released, eat at expensive restaurants... you get the picture. Actually, it never shocked me as much as in Japan. Japanese people seem so spiritually deprived that the only thing they understand is money (my wife, and it's no need to change her). That's why it makes me laugh to hear Westerners believing that Japanese (or Chinese as well) are Buddhist. Who knows, there might be a higher proportion of Buddhist-minded people in Western countries than in Japan.

If enjoying the taste of tangerine is a form of enlightenment, then I am an accomplished Buddhist without knowing it.

I am interested in Buddhism, but I am not looking for "peak experiences, amazing visions or nirvana", neither to become a better person (better for whom, with which criteria ?). I don't even care about doctrine and rules. I am a "spiritual" atheist, and I didn't like hearing "God" in Brad Warner's passage. Buddhist is pantheistic, but I'd rather call the "whole" either the Universe or Nature (and without "mother").
The following is another link to a pretty cool (yet boring) Multimedia website produced by Kodaiji Temple in Kyoto:


You must have mistaken me for someone who could have mistaken you as being the wrong person. I, too, have travelled extensively around the world, and many things I had encountered on my travels were quite interesting at first, but soon lost their appeal and became downright boring. Interestingly, you had mentioned Hawaii. I lived for eight years in Hawaii. At first, I simply could not get enough of surfing, snorkelling and hiking... in fact, they seemed very zen-like to me in their not needing me to think... experience the moment. Yet, like everything else, they became boring to me after a while, and I just lost interest. So I moved on to other pursuits. It's fascinating when you live in a place like Hawaii for so long that you realize that you have actually begun to take it for granted.

As I had written in a post on another thread here at the Japan Forum, I know that Buddhism plays a relatively small role in present-day Japan. For the most part, Buddhist funerals and cultural festivals are the only involvement that the average Japanese person has with the religion. Most Japanese don't attend weekly services like you might find Western Buddhists doing. The thing is that there are many cultural things of Japanese society that have their roots in Buddhist philosophy. Most don't think about festivals like Obon and Hanamatsuri as having Buddhist affiliation, but they do. Many of the ancient arts still practised in Japan also have a Buddhist influence. Zen Masters have been quite famous for their poetry, calligraphy, tea ceremony and archery throughout several hundreds of years in Japanese history. And even cartoons like "Ikkyu san" have filtered some Buddhist humour and wisdom into mainstream society.

Regardless, the national poll shows that of those who claim a religion in Japan, the vast majority claim to be Buddhist. My understanding is that while Shinto pre-dates Buddhism, and is more spiritual in its pantheistic approach to daily life, Buddhism is quite agnostic and has in recent times taken a back seat to daily life applications. You mentioned that "Japanese people seem so spiritually deprived that the only thing they understand is money" and I have also witnessed this. While the Kami shrine of Daigoku-Sama appears to be incredibly popular in Japan, only a relatively small and elite group of Japanese scholars attend lectures on the Buddha's teachings.

The attempt to attain "peak experiences" or have "amazing visions" is not Buddhism, and "nirvana" is nothing more than your own awareness of enjoying the tangerine. It's very ordinary, contrary to popular belief. And when Brad Roshi uses the term "god," you have to understand that his primary audiences are theists of some form or the other. As Buddhists, most don't have an opinion on if "god" does or does not exist, nor is it an issue for us... that is until someone makes it an issue. Brad Roshi obviously knows his audience because he gets tons of email about his website.

I should probably make one thing lucidly clear here, Maciamo. Buddhism accepts both atheist and theist my friend, yet the key is seeing beyond all dualistic designations, including better/worse and atheist/theist.

How do you do that?

Well... I can assure you that it's very boring. :eek:
Hmm, that was on the same site as the other clip.

Could you maybe explain the concept of the site? What is the point of the "can you see it" or "listen" part? My wife happened to see the part with the kind of spheres we could zoom in. I was trying to guess what they were (pralines ?), but her instant reaction was: "Kimochi warui, Kimochi warui, you yamete yo !".

Quite funny to see how differently we perceive things. To the question "where are you ?", I answered the same as the Chinese guy: "here !" Of course, I am not in the computer, not in this movie, just watching it from outside. I am maybe to down-to-earth for this kind of riddles.
The thing is that Japanese society has many cultural things that have their roots in Buddhist philosophy. Most don't think about festivals like Obon and Hanamatsuri as having Buddhist affiliation, but they do. Many of the ancient arts still practised in Japan also have a Buddhist influence.

Everything depends on what you call Buddhism. For me, Buddhism is the teachings of Gautama, and that's all. Like Christianity, people have added and arranged the original concepts with their own beliefs and political reasons. Christians have Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, Coptics, Armenians, etc. Muslims have Sunni and Shi'ite. Buddhist have too many sects to name here. Some are radically different. Nichiren is intolerant and wants the annihilation of other sects. That's almost anti-Buddhist in itself.

As for Obon, its origins are probably more animist than Buddhist, as it is the cult of the ancestry, something that might have come straight from China. I have never heard of such a thing in India or Tibet. I don't think that Gautama (a Hindu) would have been in favour of ancestors worshipping.

Hanamatsuri? Is that "Hina Matsuri"?

Zen Masters have been quite famous for their poetry, calligraphy, tea ceremony and archery throughout several hundreds of years in Japanese history.

Well, this has nothing to do with Buddhism itself. Ask a Thai or Tibetan monk about tea ceremony or archery... You are saying that many Japanese cultural things have their roots in Buddhism, but really show that its (Japanese) Buddhism has been influenced by Japanese culture.

Regardless, the national poll shows that of those who claim a religion in Japan, the vast majority claim to be Buddhist.

Maybe, but when I ask most people a few questions about Buddhism, they are completely at a loss. I hear things like "we go to the Buddhist temple on New year's day" when they really mean the "Shinto shrine". Where I live, nobody can tell me for sure if the "fudousan" is Buddhist or Shinto (well, it is Buddhist). If I speak of Shingon or Soto and Rinzai Zen, 95% of the people have either never heard of it or know what it is. We somebody tells me they are Buddhist in their family, I ask which sect they are not even sure. The funniest thing is that a year ago, I didn't know anything about Japanese Buddhism - so I am not at all a specialist, but I know more than the so-called "native" Buddhist, which is really alarming.

yet the key is in seeing beyond all dualistic designations including better/worse and atheist/theist.

I don't usually make dual oppositions. There are myriads of religious/spiritual perspective; some have been called or grouped under such names as monotheism, polytheism, animism, agnosticism, deism, atheism, pantheism... Of course, this is a very simplified view. Among polytheist, you have the one believing in natural gods (sun, sky, fertility, thunder, etc.) and other in "human gods" (wisdom, art, beauty, love, war, hunting, king of the gods, etc.) or even mix of both. Some atheists don't care about religion (like most Japanese people), while others are atheist for philosophical reasons (like me). Contrarily to most people, I don't have a dualistic view of the world, but rather gradualistic or plural. It is no good nor bad for me. All depends on the point of view, the situation and the system of values itself.
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Originally posted by Maciamo

Hmm, that was on the same site as the other clip.

Could you maybe explain the concept of this site? What is the point of the "can you see it" or "listen" part?

Yes... Kodaiji is the only Zen Buddhist organization that has attempted such multimedia pieces. It's kind of like sitting in a park watching the bird窶冱 fly, the wind in the trees, a dog trotting by, etc. Instead of thinking bird, wind, tree, dog... sometimes we take it all in without separating things conceptually into dualistic designations. This website is supposed to inspire a similar awakenedness. But then at the end, it suddenly asks, "where are you?", as if to point out that during the process of going through the motions of this multimedia piece the "you" "I" or "me" was not present. There was only the experience, without the need to separate self from other. Then you might have noticed that all the words posted on the message board by people who had had the same experience, were suddenly thrown up into your face (to cover your entire monitor screen eventually), and this was obviously added to drive the point home. Our minds are so full of thoughts, multitasking almost ceaselessly. In the peace of experiencing the moment without a dichotomous rational fueling our fire, we may actually awaken to nirvana. True... we can't stay there, but knowing there is a tremendous leap in the right direction (IMHO).

Let me first say how grateful I am to have met someone as kind and congenial to dialogue on such challenging topics as yourself.

I am cool with your definition of what Buddhism is. The Buddha-dharma (teachings) is definitely the heart of the proverbial artichoke. Yet I never said that certain festivals like Obon had their origins in Buddhist thought, just an enhancing affiliation with it. As Buddhism moved from India down into SE Asia and up through the silk route to China and then on to Korea and Japan, it took on the facade of the many different cultures it came into contact with. While Buddha had taken a rather proactive stance against certain aspects of Hinduism (i.e. the caste system and the concept of a permanent and independent "self"), Buddhism has, for the most part, absorbed mainstream spiritualities of every country it has come into contact with, and this is exactly why traditions like Zen had absorbed Taoist concepts in China and Shinto concepts in Japan. BTW Hanamatsuri is a Japanese festival held all over the world in celebration of the Buddha's birth.

This being said... I think you are simply nit-picking regarding the archery issue, and you know full well what I am speaking about here. There are a lot of cultural aspects of Japanese society that have an application of Buddhist philosophy.

Your comments on the naivetテゥ of the vast majority of Japanese people, which I have also experienced, regarding recognizing the different sects of Japanese Buddhism, are a quite well-founded good friend. Designations like Soto-shu, Rinzai-shu, Obaku-shu, Kegon-shu, Tendai-shu, Nichiren-shu, Jodo-shu and even Jodo Shin-shu appear to be quite foreign to many Nihonjin. While living in Japan, I learned to ask about the founder's names instead. If you ask if they have ever heard of "Shinran Shonen" (for example) you may meet a few that will respond apparently knowingly of the teachings of that particular Daishonin.

Don't be alarmed that you think you "know more" about Buddhism than the majority of people you might meet in Japan. And that whole "Native Buddhist" conceptuality should be abandoned ASAP. You have spent much energy here attempting to debate the fact that Nihinjin is not Buddhist... from where does this "Native Buddhist" notion come? Buddhism is not JUST Japanese. It has moved through Japanese history as an integral part, yet is global at this point. I would suggest that anyone who takes the "Triple Gems" is in fact, a "Native Buddhist." Some need to dig more into the esoteric teachings of my religion than others, and after having been there and done that, I find myself a bit envious of those who practice in freedom from many of these concepts.

You stated, "It is no good nor bad for me. All depends on the point of view, the situation and the system of values itself." and I couldn窶冲 have said it better myself.

In deep appreciation and gratitude 🙂
I hate to intrude but what you two have been talking about sounds so fascinating to me. I'm a straightforward person, and even the smallest things make me happy. However, I find it hard to fit in with my age group (I'm 19) because I don't like to drink and party, I don't feel the NEED to do drugs or have a constant boyfriend.
So far I really like the sound of Zen, it actually sounds interesting to me (like I said I'm a simple person)
I love photography and working outdoors; I'm in school right now to be a Fish and Wildlife Technician, making me happy. Being outside and helping nature is what I really like.
Hi, Kakuzen, Maciamo.

Kakuzen said;
>There are a lot of cultural aspects of Japanese society
>that have an application of Buddhist philosophy.

In public school, we never learn about the principle of Buddhism.
Only we learn when Buddha began to preach in India.
On the other hand, our teachers used to say that when we learned American or European culture, we had to learn Christianity.
They said it was a common-sense for learners.

Buddhism for Japanese is the same as Christianity for
Americans or Europeans?... I am not sure,
though I know some of our culture or events issued from Buddhism.

At any rate, I have to learn about Buddhism to talk with you.*S*
Welcome and yoroshiku!

@ Buddhahood

Great Thread. I've been itching for a level of dialogue for a while now. I bought a feng shui (fu sui) book to keep myself occupied in the meantime.

I wish I had the time to have a few beers with the local monks, roll around and jolly it up.

I really need the practice to train my mind, myself, and remember that I'm already a buddha. Gee, I forget such a simple thing all the time, and it pisses me off actually, which is a problem. So, here I am a dog chasing his own tail when he should know that dang tail is his own and shouldn't be chasing it. But, the dogs didn't chase their tails we wouldn't have zen or any of the other offshoots of Buddhism ... hehe, I wish I could write *nix to denote a flavour of UNIX.

@ joke-hood
I have 2 of the gems in my trunks ;)

@ ewww
Moyashi is a lewd buddha.


Cheers !!
Thank you Kakuzen 🙂
if I was living in my old city, I could go to Hamilton, but unfortunately, I moved 8.5 hrs away from Toronto to practically the middle of nowhere! (I'm right beside Sault Michigan) HAHA no not the middle of nowhere but definitely not anywhere near any of those locations :)
thanx anyway ^_^
Originally posted by Anastasia

if I was living in my old city, I could go to Hamilton, but unfortunately, I moved 8.5 hrs away from Toronto to practically the middle of nowhere!

In that case, I suggest you visit the following web page, and read starting with the lectures given by Taitaku Pat Phelan:


Please let me know if I might be of any further assistance. 🙂
Hmmm, OK, I admit I have my faults and sometimes come across aa being a jerk and various other wonderful pleasantries. Still, I think we have a small misunderstanding here largely on my part; my wording didn't come over as I had expected it would.

I've been technically a Buddhist since 1991 or so. I don't go around telling people since the sect that I'm technically still listed in isn't thought well of in Japan. I did have problems with that sect's organization and recruiting techniques in the States, and I do make comments about how they spend money in Japan, but I have never complained about the teachings they follow.

I pray at the family butsudan every OBON at the temple where the ancestor's bones and ashes are kept. I admit that I enjoy this occasion quite a bit since I enjoy the tranquillity of the place? The praying? Whatever the feeling I have when I go round praying at the family graves and temple located family butsudan is just so ... speechless.

I have also read several different books on Zen, Buddhism, synchronicity, and Buddhism. At the time, Amazon wasn't yet on the net and books to be found in Japan where at a premium so my choices may have been bad. I also am very fond of Taoism. I have a strange sense of religion and have found myself corrected by friends, especially Catholicism.

So, sorry if you possibly took offence at my try at zen wit. It was just that after reading 2 years ago about zen and the many quizzes (err forgot the actual term), I was really excited to see a person here on the boards who is actually an apparent practitioner and was hoping to have found guidance.
After reading this most recent post from Moyashi, you could have knocked me over with a feather (in a good way). Thomas suggested that I should "cross swords" with you. So my most recent post (which was later deleted by Thomas) was a calling you out on comments you had made both here and on the following thread.

Well... censorship has its pros and cons. Regardless... I must say that if you are sincere in your most recent post to this thread, then you quite obviously are not a Buddhist-basher. You're just someone with an odd sense of humour that will probably take me some time to catch on to.

I assume you are a member of the SGI, due to your obscure references to the sect.

And in that case:

Namu Myoho Renge Kyo!!! 🙂
Just to avoid public confusion: I regard this issue as peacefully resolved.

Love & peace.
SGI, yeah, that's the sect.

A bit difficult to explain back in college, I was recruited by a high school friend's mom. At the time, I had given it a go and later ended up quitting after bumping into an area manager. I couldn't withdraw my name from the list because of my high school friend's mother and the respect and thanks I had for her. The funny thing was that about 2 months after the incident, the US's guidelines were changed and the area manager got horizontally transferred to a non-important post.

I must admit that I was happy to have had the chance to go through such an interesting experience while living in the States.

I like forward to reading more from you!
Multimedia of the Zen Tradition

Thanks, Moyashi...

This thread was actually started in response to a couple of multimedia pages that the good people at Kodaiji had launched on the web.

Did you get a chance to check them out?


Ugh ... I walked into the fly thing. I should've been more on my toes.

I liked them.
Too bad I'm the type that doesn't have time to kick back and enjoy things more.
Woah there are female Buddhist??? neat I didn't think females could be Buddist. As you can see my knowledge on Buddism is VERY limited 😊 , but I am willing to learn in my free time away from the heavy loads of school work :) (gotta keep my grades up!)
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