Interviews on the question of celibacy in the various eastern and western spiritual traditions.
MASTER LAUGHING CLOUD
NDM: Can you please tell me how you came to write
Master Laughing Cloud
: I came to write Taking The Buddha’s Teaching authored by Master Laughing
Cloud, (I received the Buddhist name Laughing Cloud from my first teacher) after
over 40 years of formal Zen, Chan and finally, Dhyana practice.
landscape of Zen is littered with the train wrecks of imported feudal-style
Buddhism that have themselves been aberrated in recent history before they were
imported, be it Zen, Chan or Tibetan.
book chronicles the events and reasons for one particularly horrific train wreck
that has been cleverly swept under the carpet by “a kinder, gentler”
psychological approach for over twenty years.
book illustrates through example what the causes of these train wrecks really
are and that you can carry on taking The Buddha’s Teaching and come to your own
realization beyond external vindication.
Taking The Buddha’s Teaching shows that external vindication is a great problem
and raises through living example the following questions:
is entitled to give vindication of enlightenment?
those entitled through institutions actually enlightened?
will they do to maintain the appearance of being enlightened?
what they teach The Buddha’s Enlightenment?
the book there are a number of interactions I had with Chan Master Sheng-yen
after I left the teaching line that was more interested in applying an
inch-thick coat of psychology over the results of its not practicing
interactions I recognised were of a far deeper level than anything I had
stressed the importance of Buddhist Concept and an approach to koan or hua-tou
practice in line with this concept.
importantly, he introduced to me the practice of Silent Illumination for which I
am truly grateful.
However, after being encouraged by Master Sheng-yen to write, I got no response
in terms of public recommendation or recognition, even though in private he
concurred with what I said. Furthermore, one or two of his transmitted Western
Dharma Heirs were taking a psychological approach to practice, and teaching
things at odds with The Sutras.
said nothing nor offered any corrections.
later offered me transmission if I wrote a book.
telling him it would be better if he read the book before giving me
transmission, I asked him what it was that was being transmitted.
replied, “It cannot be transmitted.”
veterans whose observations I respect have read my book.
feel I speak in naive glowing terms about Master Sheng-yen, and that what he has
produced in North America borders on a cult based on his personality.
the beginning of my training with Master Sheng-yen, he said, “A koan is alive
surviving an American Zen train wreck, I found myself in the unpleasant
situation of truly living a koan.
koan is still very much alive, its unpleasantness turned to joy.
leave it to the reader to cultivate her or his own interpretation of my teaching
through reading Master Laughing Cloud’s “Taking The Buddha’s Teaching.”
you say “The
heart of this teaching is Dhyana, sometimes called Zen or Chan.” What do you
mean by Dhyana exactly?
Master Laughing Cloud: The word Dhyana is the original Aryan Sanskrit word that over time
became pronounced as Chánnŕ by the Chinese, and then
abbreviated to Chan, which in turn became pronounced as Zen in Japan.
Therefore, the words Chan and Zen are really different pronunciations of the
language is a window of the mind, and Sanskrit is what is called an Indo
European language sharing the same basis as Latin, German and many other
European languages (including English), I feel that it is in harmony with the
European and North American psyche that the original word is used.
“d” dhyana is a realization or actualization of a law or dharma through a
meditative/action practice specific to that law or dharma. Thus the dhyanas of
physics and mathematics are realized through the meditative action practice of
physics and mathematics, the wonderful dhyanas of engineering and creating
through the trades and craftsmanship are realized through meditative action
practices emanating from the dharmas of engineering, trades and craftsmanship,
there are yogic dhyanas realized through the practice of yoga... the list is
of these practices are meditative and active. You cannot be a functioning tool
and die maker if your mind easily wanders from the work in front of you.
cabinet making, you might end up short a finger or two while not focusing on
feeding a board across a jointer table.
Dhyana is the actualization of the Supreme Law or Dharma. Not because it is
better or worse than any other law, but rather all other laws flow from this one
fundamental law. The meditative action practice of seeing this mysterious source
of all dharmas is therefore called Dhyana.
call Dhyana meditation/action because its nature is not dependent on sitting
meditation alone, nor is its truth revealed through action without penetrating
swimming in a sea of delusion (Samsara), this source of Self and Universe can
only be pointed to through words and concepts within an endless maze of
Buddhist practice of walking The Eightfold Noble Path, studying the Sutras and
following The Precepts are still dhyanas unless their mysterious source is
realized by way of Dhyana meditation/action.
this way, Dhyana is the heart of Buddhism.
Dhyana is everyday mind.
itself, it’s really nothing special.
just that the fly paper of interdependent meanings, models and concepts traps us
within an incessant wheel of suffering.
Dhyana relies on very simple methods of practice.
method of practice is what the Chinese call Hua-tou (koan) practice, another is
are sitting meditation practices.
entering into your work transforms a particular dhyana into Dhyana.
the above words might be helpful, but naturally fall short of answering your
How would you say that Dhyana, Chan, or Zen meditation differ from jhana
outlined in the Pali suttas?
Master Laughing Cloud: Good
word, different spelling, different scenery, different practitioner.
didn’t approach Dhyana through the Pali Tradition so I really can’t tell you
much about the differences, except that there are countless ways to realize
Enlightenment. This can and eventually will take the form of what we do within
correct parameters if we don’t let ourselves and others down. Such innumerable
paths and realms of paths are within the Avatamsaka Sutra. These are dhyanas
that lead to Dhyana.
this Dhyana different than jhana?
Mahayana Tradition through which what is commonly understood as Dhyana, Chan,
and Zen emerged, defers entering Nirvana until all other sentient entities are
liberated. This to me is natural because the nature of self and other is in
itself a great question in ever living need of resolution. How can self exist
big focus on certain branches of Zen inherited from Japan is koan practice
worked into a system of approval by a Roshi. This has proven quite shallow at
best and disastrous at worst because the full spectrum of Buddhist Practice that
includes the moral and ethical teachings contained in Buddhist Concept is given
a back seat for the post Meiji Restoration mutation of systemized koans.
the idea of Zen existing as a distinct entity from the study of Sutras is false.
Dhyana or Zen emerges from diligent day to day practice of The Eight Fold Path.
beings naturally cling to wealth, status, position, knowledge and fame.
serious place of practice, these mental operators are very much present, in
fact, with the removal of the wealth component, they’re working overtime.
like a well-shaken can of beans, there naturally comes about a settling of
position, pride of knowledge, and all that goes with it.
is not reaching the other shore but rather stepping into a brimming bedside
chamber pot filled after a Roman banquet.
along comes someone who sees that this is nothing but a necessary, specially
stinking insidious form of Samsara, and kicks the chamber pot over saying, “The
Sutras are only good for wiping up the puss of ulcers” or “The Buddha is a
dried-up, shit-caked outhouse shovel”.
are you left to cling to after that?
Statements like that?
Dhyana or Zen cannot exist without Sutra Study and taking to heart the Precepts
and The Eightfold Noble Path.
a system called “Zen” of going from one koan to the next takes precedence over
the ethical and seemingly mundane day to day workings of Buddhist Practice, the
whole teaching line self-destructs, and is only kept alive by a seething
catheter of sugary political correctness and self study (psychology). An
instance of this is outlined in my book “Taking The Buddha’s Teaching”, authored
by Master Laughing Cloud.
may be called Zen, but it is not Dhyana, Chan (or Zen for that matter).
one Zen the same as another?
Within the wonderful vignette of Japanese Zen, there is Soto and Rinzai, two
forms differing in character like night and day.
People hear the word Zen and a set of images, stories and practices come to
know what Zen is” they might say, and if they can put it down in an essay, might
get an “A” on a university term paper.
me, well, in my 20’s through my 40’s, I used to know what Zen was. Then through
a series of nightmarish events I moved on. When I had no need for what I once
thought I knew, I dropped it. That’s because I worked very hard to get out of
the fish bowl I was in while still in it. I’m still dropping and moving on.
dropping and moving on, in the toughest of times, is a great refuge, and in the
easiest of times, fun. In fact, even tough and easy have lost their grip and all
that is left is, well, fun.
might say that this focused form of practice is based in being ignorant of other
forms of practice.
enter the path best suited for you, you must be open to other forms of practice,
but once you get under way, a specific road must be chosen, otherwise you find
yourself driving down two highways at once.
figure that the more different paths they know of, the wiser they are.
the practice of Dhyana Buddhism, this isn’t much different than intensely
driving from sea to sea on a busy interstate while studying all the wonderful
turns on a road map of North America taped to your steering wheel. Your likely
destination is not the other shore but rather a hospital bed, or a one-time gig
in a funeral home.
You’re only on one attention demanding highway, even though there exists a great
deal more on paper.
one thing to sit down with a cup of coffee and study a map. At the beginning of
a journey, it is essential. Should you become hopelessly lost while underway,
maybe it’s not a bad idea to stop, pull over, sit down and take another long
look. But this is something very different than actively using a map to get to
the other shore.
first is called study and is relatively safe because you aren’t going anywhere.
other is called navigation.
Navigation is practice.
dynamically uses the full spectrum of active awareness to get to the other
shore. Glance at the map, look at the signs, stay on the right side of the road,
monitor speed, engine instruments...because at your back is a tsunami of birth,
sickness, aging and death.
think it’s great to study other traditions but the most important thing is to
choose a road suited to you and stick to staying on it. Then the scenery
automatically changes all on its own.
necessary turns come up, take them, but just don’t sit at home reading map after
map if you want to get to the other shore. It won’t happen.
NDM: When you say that Zen defers entering Nirvana
until all other sentient entities are liberated. Do you mean like the
Master Laughing Cloud: Yes.
This is the Bodhisattva Ideal.
Loosely translated, Nirvana means cessation.
Fundamentally, this is the deeply sought after cessation of the experience of
problem is, how can such a state be experienced while we still manifest through
an affliction body subject and defined by impermanence and suffering?
this “cessation” cannot be phenomena’s opposite or the opposite of phenomena. It
is therefore not the experience of continual bliss in the sense normally
Nirvana is a mental construct based on the senses that manifest through our
a virtual reality until entered into.
might say the same is true of any experience.
is the dream of a Hawaii vacation based on advertisements, and then there is the
actual experience of a Hawaii vacation which is different than the dream and the
of course, there are tourist perceptions versus actually being a tax paying
resident of Hawaii.
Perhaps more to the point is the devout wish for the cessation of suffering and
the taking of drugs to bring about suffering’s opposite.
has, but don’t tell the psych, pharmaceutical and distilling industries that.
don’t want a cure. Bad for business.
and bliss have no definition without affliction and suffering so why go giving
one or the other energy?
Stopping affliction through bliss only strengthens the cycle of bliss and
Intellectual understanding called psychological analysis is no different.
Sometimes great pain needs to be abated with drugs, and sometimes it’s good to
have somebody to talk to. Calmly sitting down and taking a good look at what’s
bothering you is sometimes necessary.
However, these are only shock attenuators of the wave motion of affliction and
joy and in no way are freedom from their hollows and crests.
Nirvana is cessation beyond opposites. It is the direct experience of the nature
of things before during and after their sensory emergence.
true nature of things can be described as “empty”, a loose inadequate term for
the Sanskrit word Sunyatta.
does such a nature begin and where does it end?
Nirvana or The Pure Land always was, always is and always will be right here.
is finding permanence in impermanence.
this fundamental experience, nothing need be changed.
is true unexcelled freedom, its experience inconceivable.
this true nature reveals itself, we are free to follow The Precepts and walk The
Eightfold Noble Path thus living a life in harmony and useful to others.
does not mean we are free to break The Precepts and stagger off The Eightfold
Noble Path. That is not demonstrating freedom, but rather enslavement to desire.
their deeds such celebrated teachers demonstrate that they, despite how they are
marketed or the costumes and haircuts they sport, are not enlightened.
Enlightenment in the Buddhist sense is entering Nirvana.
However, we all experience things through the existence of our affliction body.
affliction body is a function of craving oxygen, food, water ... right up to the
second or third house.
these things are not gotten, then affliction and suffering make sure we at least
attempt to get what we fundamentally crave. When they are gotten, there is
always something more.
here lies the trap.
Seeking enlightenment is a form of craving.
People practice for many years and endure many difficulties in its pursuit.
a teacher tells someone they have realized even a slight enlightenment, this
realization becomes a thing gotten in context of craving.
human, there is a very strong tendency for that person to view the perceptions
and oneness they experience as The Buddha’s Enlightenment.
Enlightenment itself has entered the cycle of having and not having, Enlightened
and not Enlightened.
is grasping a sinking ship’s anchor as a life preserver.
an electrified function of Samsara; electrified in that it seems special and has
currency over those not recognized as enlightened.
is a portal for denizens of attainment to get what they want thereby causing
incalculable pain and suffering of others to placate their lusts and craving,
all in the name of Buddhadharma.
there be anything more insidious?
is a great danger in running to a master and asking, “Am I enlightened?”
is no different than asking, “Am I having fun yet?”
can be very important in the early, middle and late stages of practice to work
with a master.
However, why not ask yourself the question, “Does affliction still have a hold
The Sutras. Are they clear to you?
working with a reputable master, ask about your realization indirectly. By
indirectly I mean that you might present a question about a Sutra, a master’s
statement, or offer an observation and see what happens. If what you see
harmonizes with what she or he says, then you’re on the same path, but don’t get
most importantly, keep in mind whether you yourself are free of affliction and
somebody truly practicing The Way, results ultimately mean nothing.
Results will certainly come to those who continue on, and when they do, it is
inconceivably wonderful yet at the same time nothing special.
is because the nature of this realization is beyond clinging and grasping.
if you have true results, you can drop being a little enlightened or a lot
enlightened, or being enlightened at all.
this way, you are a Bodhisattva, and practicing The Way is Enlightenment.
NDM: What about sex in the Zen tradition.
Can one attain nirvana as a
Bodhisattva and still have sex?
Master Laughing Cloud: This is a topic you don’t see much of in classic Zen literature.
initial institutions transmitting the teaching here originated from the
perspective of being a Buddhist monastic.
Traditional Buddhist monasticism is a life streamlined from the turbulence
surrounding having a wife or husband and resultant family.
However, in Japan this has been subverted.
of the clever ways the power of the Zen institution in Japan was intentionally
disemboweled was by making the real estate (temples) of teaching lines
hereditary. This meant that in order for a specific place to continue as a
serious place of practice containing the essential element of an accomplished
teacher, a master had to get married and have a son, and that son had to want to
be a Zen practitioner to the extent he too would become a Roshi.
that wanting to come to awakening and help others is not hereditary, having a
son that will develop such a drive beyond simply being an effigy is a neat
Because of this, historic places associated with teaching lines became shadows
of what they once were.
Chinese didn’t experience this administrative move, although it can be argued
they suffered far worse with Mao’s Cultural Revolution.
is very powerful.
manifests itself differently in different people. Some have very strong drives,
others not so strong. These varying degrees of intensity have nothing to do with
a potential for results in practice. A strong sexual drive can be used to deepen
practice, so long as it stays within committed boundaries, and is not “free
than other cravings, sex is a portal of attachment with strong karmic inflows
Unlike more fundamental cravings such as food and drink, you can live to a ripe
old age without it.
are two categories of sex, the most fundamental being the creation of little
people who will grow up under the care of a family, and carry on the living
portal of entry into this world in order to come to enlightenment.
second category is sex for pleasure.
course, the second category is deeply enmeshed in the first, except that the
first has a fundamental commitment between male and female that both will stay
together in order to raise the little people. As everyone knows, this outcome of
sexual pleasure in the form of little people becomes, after the undeniable pain
of childbirth, a continuum spanning 20 or so years of care, teaching,
expectations, all of which, wonderful rewards aside, have a component of
suffering either for parents, kids or both, sometimes to an unbearable degree.
of course, perhaps the parents end up not being able to stay with each other,
either through dissonances developed, or the painful incursion of infidelity.
these days of sport sex and the very strong marketing influences providing it
fuel, it’s a miracle that families still exist.
Without parents there is no way to enter Buddhadharma and realize Nirvana.
Implicit with parents is that they must (outside of adoption) practice sex.
Therefore, the practice of sex is essential for the continuation of Buddhadharma.
you can use the inevitable clashes of marriage and raising kids to drive you
deeper into your practice, then sex is a very powerful catalyst for practice. In
fact, if you can use resultant suffering in this way, it’s far more powerful a
tool than a celibate monastic life.
However, that said, it is more difficult to stay on the path while experiencing
lay life because there are so many inherent traps.
for pleasure alone is a portal for suffering.
Undeniably addictive, you can never get enough. It is the quintessential element
against which all things stimulating are judged. It is the essence of naked want
dressing itself with fashion, power and manipulation. Without active commitment
it easily becomes a game of winners and losers.
craving on steroids, and the karmic inflows and outflows can be like torrents
despite the (usually male) stipulation that from the outset, there is no
commitment associated with the act.
do not exclusively take the form of viruses or bacteria. They can be spiritual
the practices of both categories of sex are great teachers of Buddhadharma.
teach that craving causes suffering and fuels the want to go beyond suffering
thus opening the prerequisite power to deeply enter The Great Way and realize
However, a teacher that goes about breaking hearts saying he or she does this to
that end, is not a teacher, nor has any true results from practice, except that
perhaps they sport a shaved head and a wear a robe, can light a stick of incense
and demonstrate and mouth koans, the sayings of great masters and snippets of
Sutras well enough to fool the teacher who gave them transmission in the first
place. Their victims are those practitioners who are serious about reaching the
Because of its addictive nature, sex as a direct method of Buddhist practice is
about as useful as drinking vast amounts of whiskey. You only end up screwing
the predatory, Zen enlightened titles and images such as Sensei, Roshi or Master
are very convenient decoys used to victimize others.
are cordless bungee jumps to hell for such teachers.
North America and Europe have experienced “the sexual revolution”.
of it was long overdue.
dark concepts transmitted by predatory dogmatic religions peculiar to The West,
unbalanced with their strange hybrid form of pseudo male viewing women as
inferior, property, and so on, then incinerating alive any holders of natural
and timeless views balanced by nature, has very rapidly crumbled.
combined with contraceptives has created the current feeding frenzy called
pointed out earlier, sex is about the last place in heaven, earth and hell to
find true freedom.
this sexual revolution natural?
Within the realm of heterosexuality, naturally speaking, the union of a woman in
all her wonderful natural power with a man in all his, without the creation of
kids is a perilous undertaking, amazingly subject to failure.
then, naturally speaking, the woman has a long gestation period wherein the new
addition to humanity develops to about ten percent of her body mass, then has to
pass through a relatively small aperture into this world causing a fairly full
spectrum of pain. And all this followed by at least two years of intensive care,
then another 17 of support within, hopefully, a reasonably balanced family unit.
there is the idea that Buddhism has come to the West as if for the first time,
and what is considered The West is in heat with “the sexual revolution.”
Injected into this Petri dish of stimulus are the monastic-based imports of
Japanese Zen and Chinese Chan coming from very different cultures that have
themselves been brutalized in one way or another.
Buddhism has emerged within Western mind as an import much like a
well-engineered Japanese car.
fact that the fundamental spark of genius that created the automobile, its
difficult prototyping and a continuum of endless engineering modifications had
its source in Europe and North America is largely lost and forgotten.
Language is a mirror of mind.
Sanskrit is an Indo European language spoken by the
Aryan peoples who moved into (invaded) Northern India through Afghanistan well
over three thousand years ago. They also formed much of the population of
Their language emerged from an earlier proto Indo
European language closely resembling Sanskrit that apparently spanned Europe and
India during a long forgotten extended time of peace and civilization.
believe that The West has suffered two horrid dark ages, the first obliterating
any memory of native Buddhism, the second devastating the ancient libraries such
as in Alexandria, and creating religious police states persecuting and
destroying anything called “pagan.”
let’s not think that Buddhism is foreign to our psyche.
are to be useful in the continuation of all humanity, we must practice Buddhism
beyond coming and going, opposites, duality and all that currently plagues our
society and the world.
is the practice of Dhyana and entering Nirvana.
the heat of this “sexual revolution” Dhyana practice illuminates the nature of
sex, while not excluding the practice of sex.
NDM: What about
rebirth. Will one still be reborn if one practices sex?
Master Laughing Cloud: If rebirth is seen as a function of thought and the senses alone, in
other words, if it is seen in the normal way generated by our affliction bodies
and its sense of intellect, the cycle will continue whether you practice sex or
seeing beyond thought and the other senses by realizing Enlightenment (Nirvana),
one has seen beyond clinging to the senses. This process in itself can be said
to be endless because once you think you have realized it and make it into a
thing realized, it’s dead.
Because of this, the idea of attainment is an insidious poison.
Buddha realized Parinirvana.
is the highest form of cessation, or entering Nirvana.
However, in Dhyana or Zen Buddhism, it is said that this Buddha Mind can be
realized in this life because inherently our true nature is no different than
attitude is just asking for trouble, isn’t it?
Buddha is very handy because we can heap all manner of attainment upon him, even
though he was very careful to say that there is no wisdom or any attainment.
you diligently enter Dhyana Practice with a heart of sincerity, and maintain
that heart, sooner or later things thought to be immutable and unquestionable
lose their grip on you.
is not an intellectual process, although the sense of intellect itself is
modified and magnified by it.
is cause for inconceivable joy.
will clearly see the magnitude and grip of the cycle of rebirth, and yet in
seeing this function of Samsara, one becomes less and less concerned with the
reality of one’s own death and rebirth while experiencing the emergence and
falling away of phenomena from day to day, moment to moment.
perception is not being un-concerned about how one will enter one’s own death,
and the chain of karma/rebirth that follows.
never know how you’ll react.
That’s why practice is so important, no matter how diseased you are with the
idea of accomplishment.
just that the grasping fear upon fear of death and rebirth only to result in
death and rebirth has lost its false nature because the events of death and
rebirth have lost their false nature.
is seeing Buddha Mind, the highest of which is inseparable from the lowest,
except for the blinding nature of clinging to the attainment of has and has not.
truth, death and rebirth happen continuously through the continuum of
thought-perception that generates the physical universe.
from point A to point B.
you’re at point B.
being at point B you are definitely not the same as you were at point A.
happened to the person who was at point A?
you’re wearing the same clothes, have the same physical form and set of senses,
but you are not the same as before.
You’re karma projects you through the journey from point A to B and you think
that the manifestations of this karma produces a self that is immutable and
graspable and has moved. This is how we bind ourselves to the wheel of Samsara
through our karma.
the transmission of rebirth.
things appear as coming and going, otherwise they wouldn’t appear.
Rebirth is coming and going.
beyond coming and going shows their true nature and there is no longer coming
is the cessation of rebirth.
Accompanying this realization are the perceptions of time and space, motion and
stillness; the essence of the physical universe.
boundless perception is not a function of duality, nor is it a function of
non-duality. It is the cessation of clinging while swimming in the sea of
clinging called Samsara. In such a way, it is the cessation of all dharmas, thus
it is the cessation of rebirth.
is powerful magic.
through its portal that we come into this realm of rebirth.
craving, sex can become all-consuming.
Craving is the heart of suffering, suffering is the heart of craving.
is the engine of Samsara.
therefore most difficult to not be consumed one way or another by this craving.
That’s why celibate monastic traditions were created in Buddhism.
dharmas or laws surrounding craving and sex were, and still are, well
said, if one maintains a pure heart and diligent practice, then all things, even
sex, will eventually be seen as The Great Stillness or Cessation.
more difficult because of its obvious traps, the power realized in “Lay
Practice” can be very great, so long as the practice of sex is not made a method
of practice, or a means of teaching in the guise of giving and receiving
not commonly considered possible to put out a fire with gasoline.
some teachers, full of attainment (and themselves), call administering sex to
their students a form of Upia.
for whether one will be reborn or not, the definition of rebirth, through the
practice of Dhyana loses its fixed power and grip on you.
the cessation of rebirth, the practice of sex is not the issue.
realization of Enlightenment that illuminates the nature of all dharmas and
dhyanas for all sentience is the absolute imperative.
is Dhyana Buddhist Practice.
END OF INTERVIEW
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