Man, Dogen sure likes him a 90 practice period. Was interesting to have a look at this collection of Dogen talks and commentaries. The practical “this...moreMan, Dogen sure likes him a 90 practice period. Was interesting to have a look at this collection of Dogen talks and commentaries. The practical “this is how you live together as a Zen community” stuff was pretty accessible/logical. And the rest of it? Well, Zen-speak. Maybe at some point in the future I can get more value out of it. For now, it's just a blur, “what?”. That said, I'm very disrespectfully (?) using this as light airplane reading… and maybe if you make an effort when you read it, it's a different story.(less)
Eh, not quite SMBC-level, I think. Bit juvenile (but boringly so). Neat idea, though, got some entertainment value from it (in iOS app form). OK but n...moreEh, not quite SMBC-level, I think. Bit juvenile (but boringly so). Neat idea, though, got some entertainment value from it (in iOS app form). OK but not really worth the trouble.(less)
Meh. Bit of a letdown, but dunno what exactly I was expecting. Maybe I'm just a bit tired of the pop-cogsci-hey-look-at-me-challenge-conventional-wisd...moreMeh. Bit of a letdown, but dunno what exactly I was expecting. Maybe I'm just a bit tired of the pop-cogsci-hey-look-at-me-challenge-conventional-wisdom genre (do we have a name for this yet?). I guess I shouldn't really complain about the topics covered here being old news since it's not that I know them all that well anyway. I guess maybe since I would be seeing these again I would have wanted something to make the presentation stand out, eg. some really exquisite/sticky examples.
On the other hand, it is quite handy to have a collection like this, all in one place, with short digestable chunks that I can flip through like the cognitive equivalent of a car mechanic (categories would be cool). And there are some of the effects which (for me) were not familiar/beaten to death: ch27 selling out to ch29, The Spotlight Effect and bits and pieces after that.
The writing got a bit on my nerves. I'm all for informality and all, but somehow in this book, it felt a little jarring. Kind of suspect it may be a US book that was clumsily ported to UK English with UK examples, but can't say for sure. The use of language kind of felt like being in a pub with your overenthusiastic nerd friend that thinks they know what makes people tick because they read an article or two on Wikipedia and Reddit. It's a pity. Douchebag is a perfectly fine word to use, but feels like the sort of thing that needs to be used just right or else, well. Irritating.
Disappointment aside, I am overall glad to have read this and will be glad I have a copy that I can look through later(less)
Short, fast read. Had rather a lot of jargon, which may make it a but tricky if you've not been exposed (6 realms, etc). Despite jargon, there's a kin...moreShort, fast read. Had rather a lot of jargon, which may make it a but tricky if you've not been exposed (6 realms, etc). Despite jargon, there's a kind of reassuring relative clarity about this (eg found it less of struggle than the Huangbo one).
Now maybe I'm being one of those superficial people Bodhidharma rails against, but it almost sounds like "you're doing it wrong" and "FFS, he didn't mean it literally, gah!"(less)
This was good. There's an intro/dreamlike sequence that I didn't find very engaging and which almost put me off from reading this, but once you power...moreThis was good. There's an intro/dreamlike sequence that I didn't find very engaging and which almost put me off from reading this, but once you power through it, it gets to be quite good (and the intro sequence sort of fits in).(less)
Feels a bit dated, but still quite interesting. Flashback to Theory of Knowledge. Good sense of warmth here, feeling for idea that you can reduce peop...moreFeels a bit dated, but still quite interesting. Flashback to Theory of Knowledge. Good sense of warmth here, feeling for idea that you can reduce people to individual components, bit of that holistic touch.(less)
Gotta say, the book overall had a weirdly gloomy and lonely feel… The atmosphere reminded me of that Philip K. Dick novel with that slightly-broken kid on Mars that could see everybody through time. So pretty traumatising for him because every time he looked a a guy, he basically saw a walking corpse. The book kind of felt like that. I mean, there were some human connection and warmth scenes, but somehow it all seemed a bit disconnected…(less)
I kinda feel I may be more a Katagiri guy than a (S) Suzuki guy (gasp! preferences!). A friend mentioned his playing second fiddle to Suzuk...moreGood stuff.
I kinda feel I may be more a Katagiri guy than a (S) Suzuki guy (gasp! preferences!). A friend mentioned his playing second fiddle to Suzuki as being quite appealing, and I gotta say, that does also please me too. This seems a bit more concrete/direct or maybe contemporary, references to things I can maybe relate to better, (eg. sudden astonishment of “wow! a moose!” — must be a Minnesota thing). Then again, I've heard that Katagiri can be a bit “cosmic” in places.
Could also be a time/place thing. Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind was a good while back, maybe worth reading after a bit more practice.
Found the clarification between habit and vow, as well as commentary on unwholesome ways of doing zazen.(less)
Eh, this was an OK read for me. The same thing happened to me with this book as pretty much every Zen book I read. In one ear, out the other, nothing...moreEh, this was an OK read for me. The same thing happened to me with this book as pretty much every Zen book I read. In one ear, out the other, nothing sticky.
I was a bit irked by some of the medical/health claims in the book, like the idea that monks only need a thousand kilocalories a day in monastic settings because their early bedtimes lead to more correct energy usage (or something of that sort), along with the usual ki and reflexology stuff (actually as a former Aikido practitioner, I guess I'm somewhat a bit less hostile to the idea of ki, although I'd tend to see it as just a convenient model/simplification around a bunch of more mundane things). Also find it interesting that it's not just Nishijima that talks about this idea of zazen balancing the autonomic system (between the sympathetic and the parasympathetic).
To be clear, I'm not asserting that these claims are false — what do I know? — they just made me nervous. But then I don't go to Zen teachers for medical advice, and as was helpfully pointed out to me, “ehhh.. he was an old japanese man and it was the 70's - just nod and grin.” . So I'll be nodding and grinning away.
(I subscribe very much to the Zen-Masters-as-Human-Beings model, which includes things like believing silly things, and their believing in silly things not particularly delegitimising their Zen master status. Likewise, I don't find it particularly controversial to entertain the idea that the Buddha, as a 5th century BCE guy probably believed a bunch of silly things too…)
Some bits I liked:
“Do not be narrowminded, always looking for rules and recipes. Every situation requires its own reaction.”
““Every gesture is important. How we eat, how we put on our clothes, how we wash ourselves, how we go to the toilet, how we put things away, how we act with other people, family, wife, how we work — how we are: totally, in every single gesture.”
Not that they are particularly memorable or unique among Zen book messages. I just like the various ways people say this sort of thing.(less)
Eh well, I feel compelled to say I only got this because it was cheap from the local used book store (sorry, Ego doesn't want to see me caught dead wi...moreEh well, I feel compelled to say I only got this because it was cheap from the local used book store (sorry, Ego doesn't want to see me caught dead with this sort of thing)
I guess on the one hand, it was interesting to see what (one strand of) contemporary Chinese Zen is like (note the infusion of Pure Land stuff; wonder if they put a Zen spin on it, like the Pure Land is right here right now kind of deal), and heartwarming to see examples of human kindness.
On the other hand, I found the sentimentalism a bit hard to stomach, was also irked by how some of the stories came across as “look at what a nice guy I am!” or “if you're nice to people, you will be rewarded!” The devotional choice of words was rather discomfort-provoking, “belief in Buddhism”, “Buddha's Light Mountain”, etc, too
So not really my cup of tea.
(I hope this isn't coming across as being critical of this strand of Zen practice in 20th century Taiwan; it could be that this is basically where you gotta meet people if you're practicing in a culture with widespread pop-acceptance of Buddhism but in a very religious churchy way. Sort of a working with what ya got kind of thing)(less)
Interesting. Funny/exotic to read a bit from the other sides of the spectrums, someone a bit from the DT Suzuki era, a bit from the koan-y part of zen...more
Interesting. Funny/exotic to read a bit from the other sides of the spectrums, someone a bit from the DT Suzuki era, a bit from the koan-y part of zen, and also more believing in the importance of adapting to local culture.
At the risk of being conceited and disrespectful, I had a really hard time with the beginning and the end of the book. Kapleau tends to invoke energies and vibrations and use things like Law of Conservation of Energy to justify things, which as a sort of dry materialist kinda guy, find really really really off putting. Similarly with the karmic retribution stuff, although its interesting to hear that it's not just Westerners that seem to conceive of it in this way.
So yeah, too much Vibe and Energy for me in the beginning, too much Karma at the end, but in the middle... Well! That was something else, somethings in there that seemed to really speak to me, sort of a sense of yep, this is zen teaching, yep this is good. Don't mean to pick and choose, of course. Likewise, the account of his life. Man, one of the American zen pioneers. (less)
This is good. It could be worthwhile to read this if you've heard of Zen from say, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance or some Alan Watts books,...moreThis is good. It could be worthwhile to read this if you've heard of Zen from say, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance or some Alan Watts books, because this book can help to capture some aspects of Zen practice that you may have missed reading that sort of stuff alone. Maybe dispel a few Pop Zen misconceptions. This feels like the real deal. Nothing wrong with ZAMM or Watts, just that there's potentially more to Zen than that.
I worry that I only think it's a good book and that it's the Real Deal because people I admire in Zen seem to think highly of the author. So be warned, this could just be praise by imitation. To be honest, I think I only understood about 30% of the book. A lot of the Zen way of talking (the donkey looking at well, well looking at donkey etc) just plain flies over my head. The koans likewise, zoom zoom, Loori asks us questions about them and I just stare back eyes glazed over. The things I react to are literal, like his speculation on how the Wild Fox koan came to be (his take: Baizhang is having a walk one day, notices a fox carcass and seizes upon the opportunity to make a teaching of it (hides it in some cave for later)). So maybe it's just truthiness I'm reacting to. Or maybe I'm just reacting to the sound of Loori's voice (if you've listened to some WZEN podcasts, his voice is sticky, deep with a sense of authority and urgency).
Oh maybe I should stick this on a shelf and come back read it again in 5 years, see if I understand it better. Is it wrong to walk away inspired a book you don't actually understand? To say “this has deepened my commitment to the Path”, when most if flew straight over your head?
Some things I found useful from this book: the concept of “buji Zen” (the mistaken “anything goes” attitude that comes from superficial/intellectual encounter with Zen); the idea that greed/compassion, anger/wisdom, delusion/enlightenment are all two sides of the same coins, differentiated only by the sense of separation between self and other. I also found it helpful that Loori tied these dusty old koans to modern dilemmas; that American Buddhist teacher that infected a bunch of people with HIV by having unprotected sex because he thought he was free from cause-and-effect (Bam! reincarnated as a fox), the Mount Tremper vs. the New York Dept of Environmental Conservation thing, etc. Still alive, these stories.
One thing which resonated with me from this is what I like to call “strict morality; flexible behaviour”. Context is everything in the precepts. The outward manifestation of the precepts varies from context to context to context, but you must preserve them. There's no rulebook, no commandments; but you have to figure it out for yourself in your own life. The emphasis on non-separation of self and other also hit home. It's probably optimistic to say that Zen is without dogma, but come on, if “self and other are not separate” is what we've got for dogma, I'd say we're doing pretty good.
One thing which deeply irritated me is using the Precept about not misusing sexuality as an argument against genetic engineering. That annoys this geek.
But overall, the book feels “right”. It's a reminder to practice. Moment to moment, context after context, breath after breath, returning to the practice. Remind me to read this again in 2017. Maybe I'll understand things differently?(less)
Eh, well, it was *OK*. I found the yay Internet! breathlessness a bit annoying (OMG this is going to change the way we do science!). But it was useful...moreEh, well, it was *OK*. I found the yay Internet! breathlessness a bit annoying (OMG this is going to change the way we do science!). But it was useful for me to learn about initiatives like the Polymath project and the Galaxy Zoo; and it was interesting to hear the thinking about where and where this sort of massive collaboration could work (and where it might fail). The notion of a shared praxis is one potentially useful takeaway. Some hopeful notes for the future, nothing too surprising if you're already steeped in digital culture and if things like open access journals are already an obvious good thing.(less)
I don't know. On the one hand, Blessed are the Grumpy. It's nice to see somebody shaking a curmudgeonly...moreGood, but not great. Worth reading, but meh :-)
I don't know. On the one hand, Blessed are the Grumpy. It's nice to see somebody shaking a curmudgeonly fist at society and with a bit of style. And it's nice to see a book and ties together a lot of different sources of ideas from Buddhism, literature, philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, etc; especially if you have exposure to a subset of the stuff (for example Buddhism and some of the pop psych stuff like the “hedonic treadmill“ from the Paradox of Choice). Book probably deserves an extra star for making me want to read some Marcel Proust sometime.
It all starts out well for me when it stays in the abstract, the general big picture. There, the book works as a fairly good antidote, a good way to get over myself a bit. It's good to hear words like “entitlement“ and “self-justification” and have them hit home a little. Then the author starts to get to the specifics in Part II and up, and the sighs start. Because you realise that while a lot of the book is about recognising the absurdities of the modern age, some of it is actually just random nostalgic nonsense.
Sometimes what you sense is that no matter how widely read, educated, insightful and educated the grumpy are, sometimes books like this are just about people being from a different era and not having a clue how the current one works. It's perfectly normal. That's why you need to read across generations to help reduce the probability that you wind up doing the same thing. But I suspect that's why much of modernity seems absurd, not so much because it is absurd, although a good massive chunk of it is, but because it's just bewildering and you don't Get It unless you've been steeped in it, and even then it's unlikely that you will. That's why Foley stumbles through the 21st century with a sense that you can no longer satirise contemporary society, that Reality and articles from The Onion have become indistinguishable from each other.
There's good shit in here.
There's also opinionated ignorance. Smart, erudite ignorance, but ignorance nonetheless.
(Although note that I'm probably just a bit ticked off by his portrayal of the modern Conditions and Disabilities culture in the chapter “The Undermining of Responsibility“ because of my present life circumstances, and that's coloured my view of the rest of the book. So take me with salt)(less)