Archive for October, 2008

Dogen said there’d be days like this…

Posted in Asceticism, Beauty, Buddhism, Cults, death, Monasticism, Mysticism, Religion, Ultimate Reality, Wizard Quotes with tags , , , , , , , , on October 27, 2008 by wizardsmoke

The flowers, although we love them
Fade and die;
The weeds, although we hate them
Grow and thrive

Dogen Zenji

As I said the other day, at the end of the path, religions are actually obscuring reality, or keeping us attached to the world of suffering. They become like fences in front of the final destination, fences which we can see through but are encouraged to climb over in order to reach paradise or whatever. Yet if we know what we’re doing, we can see reality without putting up a fence to climb.*

But really, I don’t think religions are so crazy. Because all cults are just manifestations of the desire for concrete meaning, the basic impulse for tangible deep understanding. This cyclical search for meaning is a fundamental, natural occurrence — which makes it some kind of mysterious truth or idea in of itself.

Anyway, some obvious facts that have to be realized with the body in order to mean a thing:

  • what’s happening now telegraphs what is happening in the future
  • people die, get injured, and get sick every moment; eventually it will be your turn
  • the simplest things that we take for granted are also often the most mysterious things in life

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*Wizard Smoke assumes no responsibility whatsoever for potential spiritual damages incurred by his advice

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This is it

Posted in Beauty, Buddhism, Happiness, Monasticism, Mysticism, Philosophy, Religion, Ultimate Reality with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 25, 2008 by wizardsmoke

It can be difficult to see things as they are. Most of us, upon looking at anything within our sensory perceptions, do not actually perceive our environment but only our thoughts about the environment or our perceptions. This kind of thinking surely falls into some form of (post) existentialist philosophy, but what I’m concerned with is how to drop this kind of perception, how to drop this mistaken association with our thoughts and perceptions.

Without lines of thought distracting our awareness, our perceptions become clear and even lucid. The universe is only composed of a handful of ideas and elements. It is not so complex when taken apart. But therein lies the mystery and the beauty — the way these simple ideas evoke so much, cause so much color and experience. The world ripples as foam on the cosmic sea.

You can study biology and medicine, but unless you actually sit and contemplate your body on a regular basis, you will never truly live in your body. “Living in your body” is an interesting concept. It sounds like a Zen mantra (which it kind of is) or maybe a tenet of real martial arts practice. But to live in the body means to intimately know the nature of the body — its impermanence, ability to heal and function; the way it came from the earth and one day will disappear; the way it reacts to emotions and mental phantasms. And what remains after the body passes away?

Zen is interesting as a Buddhist doctrine which (apparently) strove to separate students from attachment to ritual, idolatry and dogma. Which is an admirable goal, though certainly this has led a number of modern Buddhists to disassociate themselves with traditional Buddhist ritual. But the reason I like this “Zen idea,” and surely it has appeared in other religions and sects, is because it reminds us that a religion is just another filter imposed on top of our perceptions. It is another layer of complexity preventing many from seeing reality as it is.

Perhaps many people need religions or ethical philosophies which they can put their efforts into and thus use to achieve a more lucid or painless awareness of the life experience. This I can understand. But many people think religion is some kind of Masonic lodge that can be worked through, or something that has increasing levels of awareness. But the levels of awareness actually work in reverse, stripping one of levels of mental complexity.

Not that a person should no longer think. It’s just that thinking has more to do with the ego’s desire to entertain itself. Thinking is a little fantasy or pleasure we create for ourselves, a ripple of insecurity against the threat of something we don’t want to look at. It’s all very flowery and nice, but ultimately it means very little in terms of actual awareness.

A naturally talented artist or musician or fighter or businessman is able to see things in their fields of ability as they actually are. This is what makes them experts — their amazing ability to see things as they actually exist. But it is not an adult-like, profound, learned expertise. It is seeing the potential of things before they take place, seeing them arise and pass away before they actually do. It is the most unpeeled layer of the mind. I would like to extend this “natural vision” or ability to the root of existence, revealing what things originally are.

Merchant-minded Diligence

Posted in genius, Philosophy, Reality Bites, The Arts, Wizard Quotes with tags , , , , , , , on October 21, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Visits from the muse, constant haranguing by creative forces beyond the senses — these can drive a man to madness as much as toward any heavenly pleasure. Did I not quote Socrates before?

If anyone comes to the gates of poetry and expects to become an adequate poet by acquiring expert knowledge of the subject without the Muses’ madness, he will fail, and his self-controlled verses will be eclipsed by the poetry of men who have been driven out of their minds.

Over the years I’ve had a wide variety of friends. I’ve found as I age (and I’m not old) that friendships based purely on social chemistry no longer are the name of the game. While those are the most exciting, they’re rarely the most convenient. And so camaraderie seems more likely — friendships based on mutual activities and obligations. It brings to mind the importance of religious groups as a social atmosphere for the elderly.

Most people are creative in some way or another. Most people have some level of cleverness or natural artistic ability, and sometimes more strongly in one region of experience than another. Genius is rare, but almost all people fit somewhere on a scale/spectrum of artistic talent. It seems most often to be a catalyst for personal fulfillment.

But then one thing I’ve noticed amongst a few friends is a total lack of artistic integrity; individuals whose talents seem to lie utterly outside the creative sphere. And I do not mean this in any sort of condescending manner, for they have interesting skills and talents in their own right. I mean to say that I have friends who are incredibly smart, focused and logically minded but have limited creative abilities — much less taste — in regards to music, art, literature and so forth. They might be a brilliant mind at running a business or finances or calculating material gains, but they absolutely cannot distinguish the difference between a schlocky vulgar comedy and a brilliant satire; between folk genius and typical indie-rock schmaltz.

But such people are possibly well-poised to succeed financially. Not because artistically creative individuals are doomed to poverty or any such nonsense, but because a logically thinking person — an individual uninterrupted by creative forces of the imagination, is in a good position to address daily needs or financial concerns. The merchant class will always succeed because it is naturally driven by idleness and a naturally deep calculation of (a desire for?) the materialistic world.

But not me. No, I am cursed to wonder eternally, impotent of all merchant-minded diligence. Oh well, I’ll get by somehow. Donations accepted! Haha…

Rungs of Violence

Posted in Buddhism, Cults, Fighting, martial arts, Reality Bites, Uncategorized, World of Emotions with tags , , , , , , , on October 19, 2008 by wizardsmoke

I’ve noticed that a lot of young men waste their time trying to be tough. Yet obsession with fighting and toughness and all that junk is actually holding you back from moving up (or surviving) in modern society. All the time spent learning to fight, all the nightly training — how much better would it be to simply learn some lucrative skill? A rhetorical question, because it would be much better.

Yet those folks who are not inherently aggressive psycho assholes, how could they possibly expect to climb over the mountain of bodies that leads to the ivory tower of success? No, it takes an aggressive character to do that. So those of us who are naturally less aggressive might need some direct exposure violence in order to co-exist with the turbulence caused by ambitious egos. Or to meet our social needs.

At our (MA) school, the sparring situation is a purposefully intense experience. We do a month or so every year of extremely intense, full-contact fighting. To some degree, the most violence me and my classmates will ever experience happens in that class. And compared to other schools we’ve seen or invited to train with us, our training is pretty rough. So it makes me think that this isn’t even just training for a violent confrontation, but that our training itself is a violent confrontation. It isn’t training for the real thing, but it actually is the real thing.* And while that seems insane initially, like we’re just some stupid fight club (and maybe we are!), that’s how all skills should be practiced.

With practicing this stuff, I’ve come to be somewhat skeptical of romantic ideas about martial enlightenment, Budo and so forth. The whole imagery of the valiant samurai and so forth — it’s mostly a romantic fantasy. It’s like talking about policemen or military men romantically. They’re just doing their job and a lot of the time it sucks and they’re just as weak and easily corrupted as any other group of humans. While some people may happen to become “enlightened” by martial arts practice, the martial arts are so easily and constantly perverted by aggressive macho nonsense. You could even say that’s what has propagated the arts. And so it makes me wonder whether I’m not just another nutcase who secretly loves the lifestyle.

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* Yes, I know all about how martial arts don’t prepare you for the street and how it’s a foolish mistake to think the dojo/dojang/daoshang is at all like a real-life confrontation. I’m only illustrating that we take training seriously.

Summer Grass

Posted in Asceticism, Beauty, Buddhism, death, Fighting, martial arts, Monasticism, Poetry, Reality Bites, Religion, The Arts, Ultimate Reality, Wizard Quotes with tags , , , , , , , on October 17, 2008 by wizardsmoke

A good Basho poem, one which Hatsumi is prone to quote (or have translated), goes:

The summer’s grass
all that’s left
of the warriors’ dreams

Which I kind of like. ‘Coz so many people are obsessed with violence and combat to the extent that it holds them back from upward social mobility. And then some people are so obsessed with power that they forget about the world around them. Strange that it is so hard to actually live in the world as it is, even though that’s all we can do.

Like the good quote on Whiskey River the other day:

In the tea ceremony, the expression “once in a lifetime, this one encounter” is often used. The usual way this is interpreted is “a one-and-only encounter.” In Zen, though, we interpret this expression in the following way: In the course of our lifetime, there is one person we must meet. No matter through which grasslands we may walk or which mountains we may climb, we must meet this person. This person is in this world. Who is this person? It is the true self. You must meet the true self. As long as you don’t, it will not be possible to be truly satisfied in the depths of your heart. You will never lose the sense that something is lacking. Nor will you be able to clarify the way things are.

This is the objective of life as well as of the teaching of Buddhism – to meet yourself. –Sekkei Harada

But you know… the quote would have really blown my mind had one line been slightly different: “This person is this world.”

Zen Fiction

Posted in Buddhism, Christianity, Cults, Monasticism, Occult, Religion, Ultimate Reality with tags , , , , , , , on October 14, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Ah, love or hate Brad Warner, the “reform” Zen master, I can give the man props for one primary element of his particular brand of Zen Buddhism: his denial of the existence of an ultimate being/teacher with superpowers. He routinely points out how there is no such thing as a religious superman or infallible leader. I think this is an idea that is overwhelmingly sparse in religion, even amongst Zen Buddhists.

A ha, of course there’s tons of stuff to disagree with Brad Warner about (his Zen Buddhism, like a lot of Zen Buddhism these days, seems watered down — but what do I know?). For example, he claims rebirth does not exist. Which is a major no-no with almost everyone else in Buddhism. And he writes for Suicide Girls, which is questionable, since SG has the potential of being a grimy business scheme.

Still, Brad was only a pretext to discussing religious infallibility, which he has conveniently written about on his most recent post. I know people are afraid of dismissing the idea of a superhuman. The problem is only when people fail to see how “super powers” are only the result of intense practice in any particular thing. It seems the “super” powers of realized minds are actually just the result of incredibly sensitive, mundane mental awareness. I do wish you could protect people from all cults by telling them no person is infallible, there is no superhuman state of existence, etc. But no, everything else sucks people in just as hard: sporting events, politics, romantic relationships, and so on. Still, if Brad is honest, I admire his intention to help people see cults for what they are.

I tend to see “magick” and the traditional occult sciences (astrology/divination, geomancy, Kabbalah, elemental magic) as having been misappropriated by “New Agers.” Most of these practices are considered bunk in the modern scientific world, but they hold esteem– at the very least– as cultural traditions which continue to operate, but as fringe novelty beliefs.

Some hermetic sciences are more like “internal sciences” or “theorems for experimentation with one’s inner mind.” And when people go mad in sorcery, it’s not all that different from a traditional religious teacher going nutso. Sorcerors, like all community leaders and organizers, often fall into the ideas of thinking they’re a god or an excessively powerful person. They think their ability to manipulate people is a sign of their intelligence (the basic tenet of Ayn Rand-ian “philosophy”).

But I think, without all the fancy esoteric dressing, the only honest “answer” to the average human’s need for salvation and deliverance from this world, is one which prescribes that the individual sit and only think of the present moment — the breath. It’s kinda hard to make a cult out of something so simple. Or is it?

Those things I’m wary of: certain kinds of Tibetan Buddhism; martial arts groups like the Bujinkan — I wonder if their dogmas aren’t just intentionally powerful illusions, meant to pull in initiates. Because this stuff totally happens in every religion in the world. So don’t you dare think you have the key while no one else does.

(Twitter Smoke?)

Posted in death, love, Philosophy, sex, sex and violence, Ultimate Reality with tags , , , , , , on October 8, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Time for a (tiny!) new post. Which means WS is going to write about one of two things:

  1. Love (sex)
  2. Death (violence)

Or maybe both. Because all existence is an obsessive dance with this pair. They’re the fundamental principles upon which all drama, all stories, all existence is based. It’s not a huge shocker, so I don’t think it’s worth consciously thinking about or worrying about too much. But it is certainly interesting. How perverse that I would find these concepts almost more alluring than the subjects they point to, eh?

Yeah, sometimes I worry I’ll get to the point where I find sex and violence so boring that I’ll simply forget to exist.