May 12, 2019

Kids (goats) and What more is there to learn?

note: The following text was translated from my original Czech article using Google Translate plus my editing.

When I think about what I saw at the sesshin at the farm in Komorce, a week later, it is quite evident that we all very, very often express the true self, Buddha, whatever you call it. All the participants but also Vanda, my brother, dogs, goats, etc. express their true self very often. Of course, goat kids have the least problem with being themselves. We people often have a big problem with it. That's why Buddha Shakyamuni asked - who am I? And he practiced and then one day he found out. He didn't become himself that day, but he understood who he had been so far and most importantly, who he had been essentially, not that he became a new person, a buddha, no, he realized how he had already been buddha before, which is a big difference. He noticed that he often used to cover his true self. Now it was clear to him who he essentially was. So others began to call him Buddha, awakened.

We are often like the goat kids, completely ourselves, at a sesshin. There is no problem expressing our true selves at an event like this. Even if we ask a question, we express ourselves freely as long as  we do not have a shadow of doubt at the same time - am I asking a stupid question? Wouldn't it look stupid if I ask such a question? Or a senior participant may feel very confident... "no need to ask, I know already." A beginner has no problem asking, I mean, the fact that he or she asks a question does not mean the true self is not expressed. Quite the contrary. If a beginner has a single doubt, no problem. He doubts clearly and without a doubt. E.g. she may have a sincere doubt about being a buddha. Am I really a buddha? So she asks the teacher. When she asks clearly and honestly, it is obvious that she is a buddha. But if it is a very complicated question and the student's mind is very complicated at the time of asking, then true self cannot be expressed. As I said, it is easy for a goat kid to be itself, but for an intelligent, well-educated person it can be a big problem.

Frankly, until the beginning of 2017 I was suffering from a major inferiority complex. I had never realized it, I thought it was just me... I didn't even know it was feeling inferior, I just thought some of my colleagues or peers were much better and I underestimated myself and my abilities, obviously, this was just my feeling. It was clearly a mental disorder. When I had to talk to the others, in front of others about something important and everyone was listening, I was very nervous. When somebody criticized me publicly in front of others, I felt like I was being sent directly to hell.  It was a terrible feeling. It was very complicated, so it often interfered with my true self. I remember I wrote an article about Buddha several years ago and Mike wrote something very positive about it. When you have this inferiority complex, and someone you admire praises your work, it is like a junkie getting a dose at last. Aaaah... in heaven again. So just like a junkie you go down to hell and up to heaven over and over again, never realizing what your personal value realistically is.  Zen is a bit cruel to a person who suffers from this complex. Because it keeps telling you, be yourself, find courage, self-esteem, go straight ahead, don't give up, don't worry if others criticize you. But you just can't. And you think it is just not Zen enough... to admire others and look down on yourself or tell others Look, how great I am because I did so and so... you know this is not the way you are trying to follow.

At a sesshin the people may have all kinds of personal problems, who doesn't? But they still most of the time come across as self-confident. Anyway, about two years ago - I really don't know how it happened, but probably twenty five years of every day zazen and regular input from Mike and possibly some kind of success at work and a newly required respect from my colleagues, not sure which of these things or if all of them contributed to overcoming my mental sickness ,but at last I felt free from it. I feel much more relaxed about myself these days, at work and in situations that used to be horrible for me in the past.  So what happened two years ago made my life much easier. At last I feel like I'm a just another guy, just another guy, at times making a mistake, another time succeeding, nothing much better or worse than others. Just another participant at another retreat. Of course, I know I am different, very different, but not much worse or much better than anyone anywhere in this world...  it is still nice when I get a positive feedback and unpleasant when criticized, but I am not a junkie any more. My life doesn't depend on whether someone says I am an idiot or a sage. I'd rather have a nice cup of coffee.

... But back to the true self. Does this mean that when you overcome an inferiority complex, you automatically become your true self? Well, most people do not suffer from this mental disorder, and yet cover their true self with all kinds of ideas, dreams, opinions, attitudes... I don't believe Zen is supposed to work as psychotherapy, but we can't deny that zazen has an impact on our psyche, a big effect, that's for sure. However, the task of zazen is not to cure our mental disorders, but to let the true self appear. In other words, stop obstructing your true self.  When I was suffering from the complex, it didn't mean I was never my true self. For example, when freely swimming in the ocean, there was nothing that would prevent me from expressing myself freely.  And I saw this free expression with all the sesshin participants. You almost always show your true self - if you just do something, or simply ask, or just tell someone that the shower is busy. It is our most ordinary, essential experience that we express in a most essential, ordinary way. In a noble way, it is called the Buddha. Or simply our "everyday experience". But it's the same. Buddha or everyday experience.  So what else should we learn if we express our true selves so often and if it is not important if we sometimes forget who we truly are?

I think that at some stage of our practice it is our primary task to learn to distinguish between what I am essentially and what is my shadow. We can ask sincerely and simply, and not in a complicated way, hiding our true questions. I write long articles about Buddhism. But if they don't point to what is essential, then these articles are useless. If they do not encourage us to let go of complicated ideas and philosophies, they are useless. If they suggest that thinking is more important than acting, they are useless. If they suggest understanding is more important than honest actions, then they are wrong. So the first stage of practice - is it really me? Am I this? Is this my essence? And in the second stage, when we have already clarified what we are essentially, we may wonder how the complications of mind and life prevent us from expressing ourselves completely and truly. And we together with zazen and other people work on this never ending task of everyday life and everyday zazen practice. Then every day is a new task. If possible go to the present moment. If possible. If not, don't worry, try again later. Sometimes angry, sometimes sad, sometimes clear, sometimes cheerful, sometimes mischievous...

Kodo Sawaki said he was deluded and only thanks to zazen he saw his delusions clearly. I am not saying that we should be deluded, I am saying that we should see our weaknesses and delusions. And zazen is a very simple way to see ourselves. The Buddha does not mean you are not ordinary, but damn well you know and practice and realize in your real life that ordinary Buddha. Goat kids do this naturally. But it's amazing that someone like Buddha figured out the key to our original nature. And that although we can't do it all the time, we can often be ourselves. There's always a lot to learn. And when we like to learn and do it honestly, we immediately express our true self. What is that? I want to know! A kid goat. It is running away. It is scared. Running to its Mom.

May 11, 2019

Kůzlata a co se ještě můžeme učit?

Po delší době mám zase jednou chuť psát česky. Na posledním sesshinu vlastně jen dva lidi neuměli česky, lépe řečeno nerozuměli, ale skoro všichni rozumíme česky. Moje čeština je čím dál horší, protože většinu času trávím četbou textů v angličtině. Česky moc nečtu. Ale k věci. Když se tak zamyslím po týdnu nad tím, co jsem viděl na sesshinu na farmě Komorce, tak je zcela evidentní, že všichni velice, velice často vyjadřujeme pravé já, buddhu, jakkoliv to nazvete, true self. Každý účastník sesshinu, plus Vanda, můj bratr, psi, kozy, atd. Samozřejmě kůzlata mají nejmenší problém s tím být sami sebou. My lidé s tím máme často velký problém. A proto se Buddha Šákjamuni ptal - kdo vlastně jsem?  A cvičil a pak na to jednoho dne přišel. Nestal se toho dne sám sebou, ale pochopil, kdo je, což je velký rozdíl. Pochopil, že měl ve zvyku často překrývat svou pravou podstatu. Nyní mu bylo jasné, kdo opravdu je. Tak mu začali říkat Buddha, probuzený.

My na sesshinu jsme často jako ta kůzlata, sami sebou. Není problém vyjádřit sebe sama cele. I když se na něco ptáme, jsme sami sebou, pokud současně s tou otázkou nemáme nějaký stín pochybností - neptám se na blbost? Nebude to vypadat hloupě, když se zeptám? Začátečník nemá problém s tím, že by se musel ptát, chci říct, že to, že se začátečník ptá, nesvědčí o tom, že není sám sebou, ba právě naopak. Pokud začátečník pochybuje o svých otázkách, o sobě, o buddhismu, může tu být jeden druh pochybností a ten je v pořádku. Pochybuje jasně a bez pochybností. Např. může mít upřímné pochybnosti o tom, že je buddhou. Jsem opravdu buddhou? Tak se zeptá učitele. Když se takto jasně a upřímně ptá, je jasné, že je buddhou. Když má ale nějaké postranní úmysly nebo je jeho mysl v okamžiku otázky plná dalších otázek a odpovědí, pak nevyjadřuje své pravé já.  Jak už jsem říkal, pro kůzle je jednoduché být samo sebou, pro inteligentního, vzdělaného člověka to může být velký problém, pokud je jeho mysl plná nejrůznějších komplikací a pochybností. Jedna pochybnost - jeden buddha. Mnoho pochybností, mnoho mraků, které zakrývají slunce pravého já.

Upřímně řečeno, asi do roku 2017 jsem trpěl pocitem méněcennosti. Nikdy jsem si to neuvědomoval, protože jsem to považoval za součást mé osobnosti, nevěděl jsem ani, že to je nějaký pocit méněcennosti, myslel jsem si, že to jsem já. Ale byla to psychická porucha. Když jsem měl mluvit před ostatními, na schůzi, na sesshinu, třásl se mi hlas. Když mě někdo kritizoval před ostatními veřejně, měl jsem pocit, že mě svazují a hážou do pytle a odvezou do pekla. Byl to strašný pocit. Bylo to velmi komplikované, takže moje pravé já byla rdoušeno a nemohlo se uvolnit, projevit. Pamatuju si, jak jsem před lety napsal článek o Buddhovi a Mike mi ten článek pochválil. Když máte pocit méněcennosti, chvála druhých vyvažuje váš strašný pocit vlastní nedostatečnosti a špatnosti. Ano, chvála druhých lidí, kterých jsem si vážil, mi dávala odvahu bojovat s mým životem, který byl poznamenán pocitem méněcennosti.  Jenže to bylo pořád skopce do kopce. Když mě někdo kritizoval, propadal jsem se na dno, když mě někdo pochválil, zase jsem se na chvíli vznesl a mohl dýchat. Čerpal jsem z toho na další aktivity.  Zen je pro člověka, který trpí pocitem méněcennosti, trochu krutý. Protože mu pořád říká, buď sám sebou, najdi odvahu, sebevědomí, jdi pořád rovně, nevytahuj se, ani nepadej pod tíhou kritiky. Vidím na sesshinu lidi, kteří můžou mít nejrůznější osobní problémy, ale působí pořád sebevědomě a klidně. Každopádně jsem asi před dvěma roky - opravdu nevím, jak se to stalo, ale nepochybuju o tom, že to mj. ovlivnila moje dlouholetá praxe zazenu a studium filozofie a živý kontakt s Mikem, prostě ne okamžitě, ale asi během týdne tak nějak odpadlo to břemeno, které jsem nosil možná od pěti let v sobě. Že nejsem hoden... nejsem stejně dobrej jako vy ostatní. A tak mi nezbývá než na sebe upozornit, hele, co jsem napsal, hele, jakou hudbu jsem složil, hele, co jsem namaloval. Když máte pocit méněcennosti, prostě potřebujete, aby si někdo všiml, že se vám něco podařilo. Bez toho nemůžete žít. Takže lidi vás považujou za nezralého. Proč na sebe potřebuje upozornit? A Zen učí, jen seď, jen pracuj, jen do your best...

Co se stalo před dvěma roky mi nesmírně ulehčilo život. Mám pocit, že už jsem normální, chybující součástí společnosti, normální, chybující součástí společenství lidí na sesshinu...  na schůzích v práci mě pořád ještě udivuje, když něco řeknu a pak si uvědomím, že se mi netřásl hlas, že jsem si nepřipravoval svou otázku nebo odpověď pět minut předem... Je to velmi příjemné a většina z vás to má jako přirozenou součást života. Toto adekvátní sebevědomí... Ale zpátky k pravému já.  Znamená to, že když člověk odhodí pocit méněcennosti, stává se automaticky sám sebou? Je už to pravé já, je od té doby buddha? No přece skoro většina lidí netrpí pocitem méněcennosti, ale jejich pravé já je zastíněno jinými problémy a pocity.  Je to zvláštní - nevěřím, že Zen má fungovat jako psychoterapie, ale nemůžeme popřít, že zazen má vliv na naši psychiku, velký vliv, o tom není sporu.  Nicméně úkolem zazenu není upravovat naši psychiku, ale odkrývat pravé já. Když jsem trpěl pocitem méněcennosti, neznamená to, že jsem nikdy nebyl sám sebou. Právě v okamžicích, kdy jsem nebyl pod tlakem společnosti, kolegů, učitele zenu, kamaráda, který mě před ostatními kritizoval, když jsem byl někde sám nebo se cítil přirozeně se svou přítelkyní, zcela jistě jsem byl sám sebou, projevoval pravé já. A to jsem viděl i u všech účastníků sesshinu. Skoro pořád projevujete své pravé já - když prostě něco děláte, nebo se prostě a jednoduše zeptáte, nebo prostě někomu řeknete, že ve sprše je obsazeno. Je to naše nejelementárnější zkušenost, kterou nejelementárněji vyjadřujeme. Elegantně, vznešeně se tomu říká Buddha. Jednoduše se tomu říká každodenní zkušenost. Ale je totéž.  Co se tedy máme ještě učit, pokud jsme každou chvíli sami sebou, když cílem není chovat se jako buddha celé dny, bez přerušení?

Myslím, že v určitém stádiu praxe je naším prvořadým úkolem naučit se rozlišovat mezi tím, co jsem ve své podstatě, a co k té podstatě zbytečně přidávám. Někdo třeba zažije satori a pak chodí a říká, satori jsem zažil, satori jsem zažil, víte co to je satori? Já jo. A postaví na tom kariéru. Ten člověk sám sebe obelhává. Pokud zažil satori, pak ví, že to není nic, na co by se dalo ukázat. Lépe by udělal, kdyby se choval jako obyčejný člověk.  Takže i když někdo dosáhne takové zkušenosti, může se chovat jako pěkný mamlas a vlastně si kálí do pravého já, když mluví o svém satori. Kodo Sawaki tohle hodně kritizoval. Takže v určitém stadiu praxe bychom měli zkoušet rozlišovat, co opravdu jsme a co nejsme. Ptát se upřímně a jednoduše, a ne komplikovaně a s postranními úmysly. Odpovídat jednoduše a upřímně. Já píšu dlouhatánské články o buddhismu. Pokud mezi řádky není naprostá a elementární prostota, pak k čemu takové články? Pokud neukazují k tomu základnímu, je to k ničemu. Ale občas prostě píšu o nějakém složitém problému. Možná to neznamená, že je v tu chvíli moje mysl zmatená. Takže první stádium praxe - jsem to opravdu já? Jsem tohle já? Je tohle moje podstata? A v druhém stádiu, kdy už se ujasnilo, co vlastně jsme, už jen koukáme, jak se nám do té krásné jednoduchosti pletou komplikace mysli a života. Tady není úkolem s tím něco dělat, snažit se takové mraky odstranit, tady je úkolem vracet se do přítomnosti. Co právě teď děláš? Právě teď jsem naštvanej a nemám náladu se s tebou bavit. Pokud je to tak, budiž. To není problém. Dříve nebo později budeme muset jít na záchod a naše pravé já se objeví. Jinak počůráme prkýnko, nebo holky nevím co - co můžou holky počůrat? To není fair. Vím, že v přírodě to maj těžký, ale my to zase máme těžký na WC.

Ještě mě napadá, může vlastně člověk s nějakým komplexem žít probuzený život? Může, ale musí jasně vidět, co je komplex a co je jeho pocit nebo názor. Například si musí uvědomit - teď budu mít trému, ale to je jedno, prostě něco řeknu. To je pravé já. Vím, že komplex je, tak s ním nebojuju. Falešné já znamená - zkusím předstírat, že mám sebevědomí. Kodo Sawaki říkal, že je oklamaný a že díky zazenu si to uvědomuje. Netvrdím, že nemáme být nikdy oklamaní - ale mít ve zvyku své klamy v zazenu odhalovat. Jsme jenom lidé. Buddha neznamená nebýt obyčejným člověkem, ale sakra dobře vědět, v čem ten "obyčejný člověk" spočívá - a zkoušet to praktikovat ve vlastním životě.  Kůzlata to mají jednoduché. My lidi složité. Ale je úžasné, že někdo jako Buddha přišel na to, že tu je klíč k naší původní přirozenosti. A že i když se nám to nemůže dařit neustále, často můžeme být prostě sami sebou. Pořád je co se učit. A když se to učíme rádi a upřímně, sami sebou opravdu jsme.  Kůzlata to tak dělají a dělají ty ráda.

May 8, 2019


A friend of mine is often worried about the injustice of this world. I'll try to have a look at this problem now.

Before the civilized world, was there injustice in the world, in the world of savages and animals? Let's have a look at a familiar scene in wildlife. A lion catches an antelope, or even worse, a baby antelope, and kills it. Is it OK to kill other beings? Or another example, dinosaurs. Dinosaurs disappeared from the world completely. Is that OK? Is that fair? How about various planets, there is no life on Jupiter. If you go there, you will die instantly. It is the most toxic thing ever. Then there is the Sun. Sooner or later, it will explode or whatever it is that it will happen to it. This world is never fair, it seems, everything dies and disappears, sooner or later. And most things or animals have very little power to do something about it. You could say that a lion has a lot of power, but oila, another lion appears and kills the first one. Why? Everything in the world of nature changes, the concept of justice does not exist before the civilization is born.

As the first civilizations were born, there were first ideals. Law, justice, truth, grace, hierarchy, education, culture, beauty... all these things were hitherto unknown in the universe. Civilized people came with these ideals only to destruct them through horrible actions. Injustice was born, born out of hunger for power, for sex, for money, for fame, more land. As soon as people came with the concept of truth, lie was born. As soon as people came up with the concept of justice, injustice came immediately. As soon as there was wealth, poverty appeared next to it. Ugly next to beautiful, success next to failure. Until then, pain was a natural part of a savage's life, but now pain was something to be avoided. Killing and dying was natural, before the fist civilizations, but now killing was established as wrong and dying as terrible. People began to fear pain, death, poverty, failure, shame, suffering. All these things were, up to then, natural part of the life of animals or primitive humans. But now it was clear these things were negative. Philosophy and religion was born. They were born as civilized people wanted to deal with these problems, this suffering, this pain and injustice.  

For example, there was Jesus Christ. And he came up with solutions to these things. And even before Jesus Christ, there was Buddha and he came up with solutions to these things. He talked about suffering and injustice and came up with some ideas and practice. He came up with a philosophical structure and practice of zazen.  But neither Jesus, nor Buddha changed the civilized world. Injustice is still here, suffering is still here, people still kill each other and die. Buddha did not expect to change the world. He maybe hoped people could be wiser and treat each other better. But he did not expect naively that everyone would change and turn into a perfectly wise and compassionate being.

Now we cannot revert to primitive humans and stop worrying about pain, killing and dying. We already are civilized and educated enough that we know it is great that there are laws, medicine, hospitals, charities, etc. We just cannot go back to the jungle. So what can we do about the injustice going on in this world?

There are three ways to deal with it. Objective, subjective and realistic. The objective attitude means that we go and help where we can. We participate in activities that deal with injustice. We can study law, help to point to those who cause injustice, tell the society who is unjust, we can become politicians, detectives, police officers, etc. It is great when people actively help. It is objective help. It is very good to help like this. Then there is subjective method. We focus on transforming our mind. We want to change the way we see this world. So we pray, we meditate, we read the Bible, we hug dogs and cats, we plant trees and play with kids. We decide to stop worrying about the suffering in this world and instead we just focus on our personal, intimately experienced life. We make tea, sip it slowly, close our eyes and go to bed calm. Because the injustice will never stop as long as there is this civilized world. This is a very nice way to deal with injustice, too.  Finally, there is a realistic approach, I am not saying that it is better or worse, just I would call it realistic, based on the teachings of Buddhism. Of course, there is the concept of compassion in Buddhism, and helping others is always great. There is also a concept of focused practice and transforming mind in Buddhism, practicing zazen even alone every day is great. But the most important thing in Buddhism is transcending the objective and subjective view and just do something every day sincerely. It is interesting, but it seems, objectively, living like this does not help the world much. Subjectively, living like this , does not help one much, we may still experience pain and suffering anyway, but realistically, living like this means to wake up over and over and over an over again and wake up together with the whole universe over and over and over again. Like this, living our everyday life, transcending objective and subjective, we transcend just and unjust, right and wrong, and just wake up with the whole world. At the moment of just doing something here and now, the whole universe is just what it is. Neither just, nor unjust, neither good, nor bad. Just what it is. And then, when we, in the world of culture and educated people, we notice something unfair, we cry. Or protest. Or go and help. But even going and helping will be just one action after another, without the concept of unjust.

Just going and helping, no concept, no right and wrong. Just go and help. So the action is important, more important than the concept of right or wrong, or the idea of justice and injustice. The action of here and now means the whole universe is liberated as there is no me or others, no separation between me and others, no separation between here and there, inside and outside. The action of here and now beyond concepts of right and wrong means to liberate and be liberated at the same time, not just one person, not many people, not everyone, not a few, not nobody. It is just liberation and it is just this universe before we think about it.

February 7, 2019

We Are So Stupid, But I Like It, Like It, Yes I Do

I saw my sister a few days ago. She has been living in London for a few years and recently started to teach some kind of spiritual courses. I really don't know what exactly the courses are about but it is something about healing minds. She definitely looked healthy both physically and mentally. She was busy preparing a course in Prague and seemed really satisfied and balanced.

Anyway, we talked about sex for a while, as we usually do, and she mentioned chakras and tantra. And she told me how in the past she had a very primitive understanding of sex whereas now the kind of sex she is able to experience is a different league altogether. She told me that for an advanced spiritual practitioner it is possible to experience a kind of sex in which you connect with the whole universe and it is so powerful that you feel that you could explode in any moment. And she mentioned enlightenment. I told her that Buddhist understanding of enlightenment is a little bit different from that.  

I thought about what my sister had said and came to the conclusion that we Buddhists must be somehow hopelessly stupid compared to tantric masters and people who fly around the universe fuelled by the mere power of their minds. We simpletonic Buddhists sometimes imagine having sex with an attractive person. We sometimes have an ordinary orgasm without having even traveled from the bedroom to the kitchen, let alone a different galaxy.  We seem to be complete amateurs and nobody should listen to our would-be spiritual talking.

I told my sister that when I meditate, which is practicing zazen, to be precise, something Buddha Gautama did more than two thousand years ago, I do not travel to the other side of the universe, but I do let go of my body and mind, which happens by itself, and once body and mind is off, I cannot even say what is going on or where I am as there is no self or no-self that would be or not be anywhere. Basically, when we practice zazen, we become as stupid as a branch lying on the ground in the woods. So we cannot really say what is what and who is who in the state of such stupidity. What is interesting, though, is that this state of stupidity is not something rigid, fixed or stuck. So it is not being stupid in terms of not being to able to answer simple questions or not being able to open our mouth and have a spoon of mashed potatoes. We are spiritually stupid, but not mentally stupid.

Of course, Buddha Gautama seems like one of the most spiritually advanced people  in the history of mankind.  But if you study and practice his teaching honestly, thoroughly and regularly, with a reliable teacher, you sooner or later come to a discovery of something that could be called "a different spirituality". He was called Buddha, awakened, as he woke up to something hitherto unknown to his fellow spiritual practitioners, although they may have experienced the most amazing cosmic things you can dream of. But he discovered something totally different. He discovered the essential quality of things and beings, which has very little to do with mental powers or traveling throughout the universe or having  super advanced sex. He just discovered the untainted quality of what is here and now, even if it is something as plain as a white wall, nevertheless whose here and now quality must not be touched by our mental powers, or spiritual powers, or intellectual powers, must not be touched by magic, tricks, spells, knowledge, wisdom, or dreams, must stay intact and this intact quality must be met directly and without a moment of hesitation. As we cannot really define this quality or state, for it has to be free from language and thought, we may call it, very inaccurately, stupidity. Or simplicity. Or not knowing. Or just acting. Or just sit.  Or The sun has risen. Or Get out of here! Or Sorry, I just have to go to the toilet now.


November 19, 2018

No Room for Love in Zen

Today I am going to use the word Zen instead of Buddhism, because if I say There is no room for love in Buddhism, people will think I am crazy. Of course, there is no room for love in Buddhism, but let's just talk about Zen, by Zen I mean the lineage of Buddhist teachers from Bodhidharma through master Dogen up to contemporary successors in Dogen's lineage.

I can imagine some people would like to argue with me right at the beginning. How can you claim there is no room for love in Zen? And then we would have an argument about the definition of love. But there is no room for argument in Zen either. It seems there is no room for anything in Zen, right?

Exactly, in fact there is no room for anything in Zen. So we can just pack up and go home. Or we can discuss, not argue but question and investigate. What does it mean that there is no room for anything in Zen? That means that we should not attach to anything. There is no room for advise like Look, that is really important, keep that in your mind. In Zen there is nothing we should keep in our mind. And if you say that our mind should be empty, ditch that idea, too. There is no room for empty mind in Zen, there is no room for unempty mind and anything else that looks similar to empty or unempty. Still, there is something in Zen that is important. That important thing is not something in your mind, but something real here and now.

Anyway, what about love. You must have come across the word compassion in connection with Buddhism or even Zen. What is the difference between compassion and love? More or less not much difference. Anyway, before we can express authentic compassion, we have to let go of ideas about compassion. True compassion comes out of our natural action before we think. If you see a blind person trying to cross the street, before you think, you help the person. But if you first think, oh, as a Buddhist... then no compassion follows, it is calculation. Anyway, how come there is no room for love in Buddhism? There is no room for romantic ideas about love.

When it comes to romantic relationships, when a man falls in love with a woman or vice versa or LBGT or what comes relationships, they have no room in Zen. That does not mean that such relationships are not welcome or discouraged. There is just not much comment. Have you ever heard a Zen master discuss tennis? Maybe comparing zazen to the moment before you serve the ball. But do Zen masters discuss the problems and theory of tennis? No. Do Zen masters from Bodhidharma through Dogen and master Sawaki ever discussed how to make a violin? Not likely. Why? Because these are specific fields of human civilized efforts. And so is a romantic love. It seems the relationship we have with our closest friends or parents or children or partners are so important and there must be a way to address these relationship in a Zen way. The relationships are important, of course.  It is important how  we treat our partners or parents or children. But there is no teaching on love in Zen, like how to love or why love somebody or how to express love or compassion. Instead Zen teaches something like: Forget about it, man. Just forget about it. Master Dogen taught that to study our true self, we have to forget ourselves. We have to forget ourselves and all ideas about love and romance and just become completely stupid at this moment. In that moment of perfect stupidity we can see our partner for the first time in our lives. That is a kind of hello moment, a moment of rebirth. In fact we don't even know whether that person is our partner. We have no idea if we love each other. A baby that has just been born does not think I love you, mom. It just acts - without any notions of love or hatred. It sucks completely. It shouts completely. The whole universe breathes in and out.

It seems like this is my instruction or advice on how to love someone. No, no. As I said, Zen has nothing to say about love. It just notices there is a complete action at this  moment when we are completely ourselves. A human love, romantic love is a kind of story, a movie. It may be very dramatic, frustrating, beautiful, sweet, strange, bitter, dark, crazy, passionate, wild, lukewarm, mutual or one-sided. But it is always a kind of story. People call this story love. But zen teaches say that when we let go of our stories, there is something truly brilliant. A monk comes to a master after a few years. He is touched by the moment and expects the master to show some emotions. The master, to the monk's disappointment, shows no trace of warmth. "Why are you so cold, master? We haven't seen each other for such a long time", says the monk. The master says: "There is something very intimate in the moment when we meet here and now." That means that when we truly, completely meet someone, there is more passion than in the wildest sex ever. But please, do not imitate this story. Forget this story and see for yourself what happens when you do not imitate anyone. Be spontaneous.

When I read my first book about Zen, it mentioned an old Chinese master talking about the sound of the creek in the valley. If you go to the valley with your beloved partner, it will be difficult to hear the sound of the creek. But if you say: "Do you mind if I forget about you for a while, I'd like to be quiet for some time..." Sit down, forget yourself and all love stories and koans and books about Zen and just listen to the creek. In that moment, true love will explode through all corners of the universe.

There is no room for love in Zen, but there is room for nature in its original form. I think it is possible to find something a bit deeper than human stories in the nature when it is revealed to us in its original form.

It is very difficult to find freedom and liberation from human delusions in the middle of a romantic relationship. But if you let go for a while, it is possible. There is plenty of room for true love when we dare to let go of everything. True love has no name. It is not a category. It is the original state of things. Nobody has grasped it yet. Nobody has caught and maintaned it. It will always escape. It is perfectly free. No teaching has ever defined it clearly.  Yet, beyond definitions and philosophy, it likes human beings and all creatures and mountains and clouds. It is always ready to dance with you.

October 13, 2018

Deeper, deeper... stop!

Yesterday at the Lotus Centre during my talk we came  across the notion that some people are more enlightened than others. It was just at the end of the talk that kind of got out of control as I didn't check time so you can imagine when a free discussion begins, where it leads to after an hour... I see it is definitely necessary to set a time limit to a talk. Anyway, just when we were about to stop, someone said that some people are more enlightened, or their enlightenment is deeper. And we decided to address this issue next time.

There is no such thing as deep or shallow enlightenment. Well, firstly, let's ditch the expression "enlightenment".  For obvious reasons which I have discussed on my blog a few times already. If we say awakening, there is nothing as being half-awake. Physically speaking, yes, you can be half asleep and half awake. I have experienced this many times. In the morning in my bed or dozing off in my office. Be careful about being half-awake when driving, please! Anyway, awakening in Buddhism is like traffic lights, either the green light is on or it isn't. If you get slapped all of a sudden, I am sure you will be as awake as Buddha was when he saw the Morning Star. Whenever we let our delusions flood our mind, we are not awake and whenever we let go or see clearly how deluded we are, we are awake. If you somehow let your thinking control your body and mind, there is no awakening. If you let go and just return completely to your activity here and now, you are awake.  This is not about beginners and experienced practitioners. This is about a momentary state of body and mind. Ancient zen masters knew nothing other than you already know. But the thing is they knew clearly that they didn't know anything special. They knew clearly that awakening is not something you gradually or suddenly attain to boast that in front of others ever since. There is depth to water or a bowl, but there is no depth to awakening or wisdom, it either appears or doesn't.

Kodo Sawaki said: "Simply the awareness that you are deluded, which comes from practicing zazen, makes you, in reality, a Buddha. It's zazen that teaches us that we are deluded, and hence delivers us from this delusion. When we actually practice zazen, and look carefully at all the deluded ideas that keep popping up, we realize how ordinary we are and how little we have to be proud or brag about; nothing to do other than quietly hide away. Satori is being enlightened to the fact that we are deluded."

By being enlightened to the fact that we are deluded doesn't mean that we have to stop and meditate about our delusions, as that would clearly be just going back to the depth of our delusions, it is rather immediately going back to what we are doing here and now.  What we need to do is just realize how deluded we are and in an instant return to reality here and now. And we have to do this a thousand times a day. Maybe there is a difference between someone who hopes to get rid of delusions and someone who sheds delusions in the middle of everyday action. As we continue our practice and study Buddhist philosophy with a reliable teacher, we learn and get to know different aspects of Buddhism, but this learning is to no avail if we hope to reach the heights of "enlightened masters" or look up to "enlightened masters" or look down to beginners who yet have to reach the spiritual experience we have had. Of course, master Dogen wrote about attaining the truth. It is a serious matter. But it is not about depth, progress or ranks. It is becoming ourselves in the middle of everyday actions, which is not an easy task, if you get entangled in spiritual theories. It is seeing, in theory and practice, how the ordinary person and Buddha are one and the same thing exactly. It is letting go of one and many, awakening and delusions. It is the warm, golden-sunny October Saturday afternoon.  

September 6, 2018

Is Zen Hygge?

This text is based on a Czech text about Zen and hygge, but I made some changes to the contents. Of course, it is basically the same message.  As for using the term Zen, I decided to use this term rather than Buddhism in this text, as the word "Buddhism" means all kinds of things to all kinds of people. Although the word Zen is also quite misleading, I feel it is still a bit closer to the actual meaning of Buddhism or Zen... 

I have recently come across a phenomenon called "hygge". It's basically a Danish lifestyle, which has become popular throughout the West in recent years. Maybe it will be popular in Japan as well, as the Japanese like to copy the West. What is the lifestyle? And why write about it on this blog? I wonder how it relates to Zen and whether it has any value for people who are interested in Zen.

Hygge, pronouncing "hyg", where the "y" sound has no equivalent in English, is a style that the Danes, I do not know when, have developed, in order not to be cold, sad and anxious. Who would  want to be cold, sad and anxious? Take the Italians for example. They also have a very specific lifestyle, but because they live in completely different geographic conditions, they are logically interested in things other than warm socks and a cup of hot chocolate - maybe a parasol and a glass of good wine. Why is Hygge so popular today? As I wrote, the Danes want to be warm, feel nice and not sad. So they need warm, hand-knitted woolen socks, throw blankets, cushions, a lot of cushions and a thick scarf. The Danes probably do not turn up the heating much in the winter, otherwise I cannot fathom why all those thick layers and woolen hats and scarves. Well, ideally, there is a fire place making the room even cozier. You are surrounded by  friends, sipping hot chocolate, if alone, reading a good book - or playing board games with others. If you are talking, you should avoid topics like politics or religion. No zen, then, no matter if you consider Zen a religion or not... See? A conflict already. Definitely don't argue what Zen is... Conversations must be pleasant and easy going. If it is summer, and in Denmark sometimes it is summer, I myself experienced it myself, then it is good to go for a beer with friends, go to a jazz club or a beach. Although the water is so cold that it is not possible to swim in it, you can play games on the beach or read - a real book, not stare at your smartphone screen. What is not Hygge - internet arguments, political demonstrations, your own graffiti on your neighbour's wall, road rage, etc.  If you are a prime minister, you have to treat your subordinates as if they were your best friends -  offer nice tea and cushions. Don't discuss politics!

How does it all relate to Zen?  Because I have decided that since September of this year I will live Hygge. There have been too many arguments about money and politics, and such... Enough cold feet and instant coffee... and enough fast food. I want to talk to people without making them feel uncomfortable... Of course, I am joking, but not completely. I would like to add that Hygge aspect to my everyday life, to my cycling, meeting friends, furnishing my bedroom, talking to my girlfriend and spending time with her. There is no need to add Hygge to zen retreats or weekly practice. There is some Hygge aspect to practicing zazen with others, some Hygge aspect to listening to your teacher's talks, while you are wrapped in a blanket and sipping nice coffee. We used to have retreats at Earth Spirit in England, and that place was very, very Hygge. The style, the furniture, the meals, the cozy atmosphere in the evening -  friends whispering to each other on the sofa, quietly giggling and feeling close. We even had a real saxophone players playing jazz at the end of the retreat - do you know John Hart? We had poets... Ralph? Dancers, forgot their names... all very Hygge.  But we shouldn't expect zen retreats to be Hygge from the beginning to the end. If there are no conflicts, if the teaching is not a bit harsh at times, there is something wrong. Even master Dogen wrote that the teaching must be a bit pushing at times.

Hygge is primarily about feeling good, cozy, comfortable and safe. Zen is primarily about becoming one with what you are doing right now, no matter if it is eating delicious cake or shoveling manure. When you drink tea, there is no difference between you and your tea. When you repair a bicycle, which is also a Hygge thing, if you do it calmly, in Zen it is primarily about being united with your activity. In Hygge you don't care if you are one or not with whatever you are doing, you just want to enjoy what you're doing, that's all.  In Zen this joy is secondary, it comes naturally. Or doesn't. Certainly someone having experienced Hygge may become interested in Zen or vice versa.

As for zazen, you know people like meditation, in general, when it is Hygge - no pain, you are wrapped in  a blanket, no pushing, nobody is telling you how to sit. Zazen is a bit different. There may be some pain or discomfort. But not too much. We should find a posture in which we can sit balanced, balancing right and left, back and forth, so you are looking for the middle, without being stiff. Also, mentally, not trying to feel nirvanic, nor being preoccupied with negative thoughts or anger, you just let these feelings or desire go, over and over again, and return to your posture.  There is no room for human sentiments and opinions in zazen. We can do that after zazen, discuss feelings, pain, opinions, but during zazen, you just sit pretty stupidly.  But when you do this completely, a new kind of freedom appears. Master Dogen wrote: If you continue this something ineffable (practicing zazen without being stiff mentally or physically) the warehouse of treasures will open naturally, and it will become possible to receive and make use of these treasures.

It sounds very grand and mystical, but basically master Dogen means that zazen helps us to be completely one with our coffee and blanket. Sometimes we have to endure a bit of pain in order to get some comfort. Some people have to work hard in the fields and factories so that we can have that delicious hot chocolate and buy that beautiful woolen scarf. Some masters tried extremely hard in severe conditions and the result was the complete freedom master Dogen writes about. Anyway, Hygge is a nice concept and great experience. As for Zen, it is up to you.