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July 15, 2008 2:31 PM   Subscribe

Coen Kōans: A koan study in the wisdom of The Big Lebowski.
posted by carsonb (36 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
The Lebowski stuff is funny, but I don't get the weird "social action" stuff.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:44 PM on July 15, 2008


Dude. Like, dude.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:02 PM on July 15, 2008


The Lebowski stuff is funny, but I don't get the weird "social action" stuff.

Yeah, well, thats just, like, your opinion dude.
posted by rokusan at 3:05 PM on July 15, 2008


V.I. Lenin! Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov!

(sorry, I've just been wanting to shout that for a while, and I couldn't contain myself anymore. Carry on...)
posted by rollbiz at 3:08 PM on July 15, 2008


That's just like, her opinion, man.
posted by starman at 3:11 PM on July 15, 2008



The Lebowski stuff is funny, but I don't get the weird "social action" stuff.


The social action stuff really ties the room together.
posted by Shepherd at 3:15 PM on July 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


Careful, man - there's a beverage here!
posted by porn in the woods at 3:15 PM on July 15, 2008


This is not 'Nam, there are rules!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:17 PM on July 15, 2008


Thankie. . . Just one thing, Carsonb. D'ya have to use s'many cuss words?

(Don't forget Lebowskifest is in SF this year!)
posted by eclectist at 3:39 PM on July 15, 2008


The fuck you talking about, man?
posted by carsonb at 3:42 PM on July 15, 2008


But what should I do if I find a stranger in the Alps?
posted by Parasite Unseen at 3:48 PM on July 15, 2008


The Lebowski stuff is funny, but I don't get the weird "social action" stuff.

Obviously, you're not a golfer.
posted by Mikey-San at 4:22 PM on July 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Buddhists! Fuck me. I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:24 PM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Buddha. The Buddha. El Buddherino, if you're not into the whole "brevity" thing.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 4:43 PM on July 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


He fixes the TV?
posted by anthill at 5:11 PM on July 15, 2008


New shit has come to light, man.
posted by wabbittwax at 5:28 PM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Afroblanco: The koans site is done by the Zen Peacemaker Sangha, a community of Zen practitioners who practice socially-engaged Buddhism. ("Bernie" in the koan link is the founder of that sangha, Roshi Bernie Glassman.)

Jim Ryudo Bastien is a senior trainee at the zendo at which the Sangha is based. His background is social work, and his social action koans are situations from his social work experience paired with traditional Zen koans.

The idea, I believe, is to take the essence of the centuries-old traditional koan, which was meant to enlighten contemporaries, and combine it with something that modern us could relate to directly, which is also what that blog's doing by matching traditional koans with The Dude.

I suppose it's kind of like the Zen equivalent of a modern-language translation of the Bible, in concept at least.
posted by mendel at 6:03 PM on July 15, 2008


It's mediated, neutered wisdom. Maybe studying true Zen Buddhism is too hard for the dipshits and douchebags who quote movies like this one.
posted by TurkeyMustard at 6:04 PM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Maybe studying true Zen Buddhism is too hard for the dipshits and douchebags who quote movies like this one.

You're being very un-Dude.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:22 PM on July 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


mendel - thanks for the explanation.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:44 PM on July 15, 2008


Big Lebowski = highly overrated
posted by sharksandwich at 7:52 PM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's mediated, neutered wisdom. Maybe studying true Zen Buddhism is too hard for the dipshits and douchebags who quote movies like this one.

Bernie Glassman inspires me, so my immediate reaction is to tell you off, but what I really mean is that I think his intentions are good. Other things he's done doesn't tell us anything about whether or not he's right this time, but some history about the sangha might at least draw a better picture of his intentions.

I think it's more that he's having some fun with it, using it to give the people who think the Dude is Zen a taste of real Zen while showing them that they're onto something at the same time.

(And I came in here from my RSS reader at first to see what people had confused for Zen too!)
posted by mendel at 8:38 PM on July 15, 2008


Forget it, sharksandwich, you're out of your element.
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 9:03 PM on July 15, 2008


Is this the thread where all the Big Lebowski fans quote their favorite lines?

Oh, okay.
posted by yhbc at 9:08 PM on July 15, 2008


TurkeyMustard, how very detached of you.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:39 AM on July 16, 2008


Also, the dude is way too impassioned to be a zen master.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:40 AM on July 16, 2008


It's mediated, neutered wisdom. Maybe studying true Zen Buddhism is too hard for the dipshits and douchebags who quote movies like this one.

Ah, yes. TRUE Zen Buddhism. Would that be Soto, Rinzai or Obaku? Chan or Zen or Thiền or Seon? Should there be chanting or repetition or just sitting or koans or tao?

The buddha may be a stick of dried dung, but TurkeyMustard, by any other name, would still smell sweet.
posted by Sparx at 3:13 AM on July 16, 2008


Big Lebowski = highly overrated
posted by sharksandwich at 10:52 PM on July 15


More like shit sandwich.
posted by grubi at 6:31 AM on July 16, 2008 [4 favorites]


Ah, yes. TRUE Zen Buddhism. Would that be Soto, Rinzai or Obaku? Chan or Zen or Thiền or Seon? Should there be chanting or repetition or just sitting or koans or tao?

Splitter!

(There. That's two movie references in a row in a thread referencing a movie. My work is done.)
posted by grubi at 6:32 AM on July 16, 2008


It's mediated, neutered wisdom. Maybe studying true Zen Buddhism is too hard for the dipshits and douchebags who quote movies like this one.

And are the traditional koans included in almost every post, being presented by a teacher with full transmission in the Soto lineage, also mediated and neutered?

Where can true Zen Buddhism be found? Say it quickly!
posted by dixie flatline at 8:04 AM on July 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Where can true Zen Buddhism be found? Say it quickly!

You might think it was "in my pants", but I'm just pleased to see you.
posted by Sparx at 9:34 AM on July 16, 2008


You might think it was "in my pants", but I'm just pleased to see you.

Nope, still 'mediated and neutered'...
posted by dixie flatline at 9:50 AM on July 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


/shakes fist impotently at dixie flatline

/ends derail and goes to pub.
posted by Sparx at 9:58 AM on July 16, 2008


I always had the impression that koans were inherently meaningless devices whose purpose was to provide some token scripture for a Buddhist sect which had no written works and wholeheartedly emphasized sitting meditation over all else. I got the impression from this:
Curiously, the Mongols, though Buddhist, did not really support or patronize Buddhism, which was largely left to its own devices. They favored Tibetan Buddhism but really did not financially support the monasteries. When the Mongol rulers decided that too many Buddhists were escaping military service, they instituted a literacy test on Buddhist scriptures. Anyone who couldn't demonstrate literacy in the scriptures lost their military exemption. This put the Mongol rulers in direct conflict with the major Buddhist masters; the central school of Buddhism was Ch'an, or "Meditation" Buddhism. It stressed the primacy of the master over scripture and the silent transmission of religious truth. For that reason, Ch'an Buddhism had no written doctrine. Under pressure from the Mongols, the Ch'an Buddhists began to record their doctrine in a series formulations called kung-an or, in Japanese, the koan.
posted by mullingitover at 11:10 AM on July 16, 2008


Ok - a history lesson could be useful here.

That said - mullingitover presents an excellent question.

First off, on the internet does not make it true.

Second - buddhism has always had the tripitaka - the three baskets of wisdom (also the name of the priest in the show Monkey). These are Indian works and "written wisdom".

Second, Buddhism has always been interesting in that it takes on board local customs and relates those to bhodisattva ideals.

Finally - mongol inability to take on board the finer points of buddhism is equal to the japanese warriors that used to kill in the name of buddhism. Way to miss the point, guys.
posted by Sparx at 3:45 PM on July 16, 2008


(in response to mullingitover) I think that is a common Western misunderstanding. There is a big difference between the koans and sheer random statements. The koans point at specific, although nonconceptual, truths. When a teacher engages in koan study with a student, he is expecting the student to demonstrate a particular understanding when the koan is penetrated. However, that can't simply be a certain conceptual analysis repeated by rote; it needs to be clear that the understanding comes from the student's own direct experience.

There is a reason the Zen traditions, such as the Soto tradition referred to here, still have their students spend countless hours meditating on these koans, and then having their understanding questioned by their teachers over and over again until the teacher is satisfied that the koan is understood. You couldn't just replace the Blue Cliff Record with some random dadaist nonsense and form a thousand-year-old tradition around it.

I think the Wikipedia entry describes it pretty well. (I don't know if you share the "everything in Wikipedia is BS" mentality that some do.)

The koan tradition is primarily oral, not written, and it is still a kind of "direct transmission" because it depends on the teacher to recognize the difference between a student's actual understanding and just repeating something from a book, etc. You couldn't gain much from the koans from reading alone. As for the story about the Mongols, I have no idea whether it's true, but it sounds kind of sketchy.

The roshi who's presenting this blog spent years studying the traditional koans with a teacher from the lineage, the same way they have been passed on for countless generations, which is why I think it's silly to criticize him for not being authentic. If he's not authentic enough, I hope you have a time machine ready to go back and meet Dogen himself.

The Big Lebowski stuff may be kind of a silly exercise to spice up the teaching a bit, but that doesn't mean the teacher and the teaching itself isn't authentic.
posted by dixie flatline at 4:04 PM on July 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


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