Doing enlightenment

warnercover I just finished reading Brad Warner‘s Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate. He has an easy, conversational style and I managed to finish it in about a day and a half.

Basically Warner presents a no-nonsense view of life as a Zen teacher and cuts through the hypocrisy of the construction of Zen practice as airy-fairy and lost in the clouds. Using his own experience of death, divorce, punk rock and Japanese monster movies, he takes the reader through a hard-nosed account of how even Zen teachers can have a hard life like everyone else, and struggle with suffering like everyone else. Zen teachers are not above suffering, if anything, they face it even more squarely in the face. The humour and self-deprecation in his account makes it totally believable, and sympathetic, and in many ways a positive reminder that Zen is about doing, as much as it is about being.


I share here an excerpt from the book about Dogen’s view of enlightenment:

Enlightenment is not a cool experience you have, which you then file away with all your cool experiences. It’s not like that acid trip you took at Burning Man five years ago or that really wicked bike ride down an active volcano in Hawaii when you were in college. It’s certainly not something you can buy for less than it costs you to hire a hooker, then clean up and go get lunch. It’s also not something that someone who’s gotten can now give you.

In Dogen’s lineage we talk about two kinds of enlightenment. Dogen famously said that zazen is enlightenment itself. Sitting on your cushion and doing zazen is the actual enlightened activity of the Buddha. So enlightenment for Dogen was not some experience you had. It was an activity you did.

The practice of zazen is unassailable. It doesn’t matter what you think. It doesn’t matter what you feel. It doesn’t matter if you hate it or love it. It doesn’t matter if you think you’re doing it wrong and wasting your time or if you’re all jazzed up about how cool and “Zen” you are. The practice itself transcends all attempts to box it in. (28)

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3 Responses to Doing enlightenment

  1. mm says:

    What a great quote. Thanks for the review, hh. The book is going on my list.

  2. Z says:

    I`ve read Brad`s book ” Sit Down and Shut Up ” in the past….think I`ll haul it out for a re-read……….I need to sit down and shut up myself !

  3. hitchhiker72 says:

    I haven’t read that one yet, but if it’s anything like Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate, I’ll look out for it.

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