Is This All There Is?

Above is Zen teacher Bomun (a.k.a., George Bowman, successor of Seung Sahn Soen Sa Nim and long-time student of Sasaki Roshi). 
My 14-year-old son just got up for breakfast (at 12:24pm), saw me working on this post and said, “Wow, that’s one bad-ass looking dude.”
Don’t minimize this point. It is a comment from someone who spends a good part of his day in various cyber battles with horrific creatures. Let me emphasize – don’t take his comment lightly! 
It should also be said that the person to his right is his one and only successor. Make what you will out of that. 
Seriously, I knew Bomun for a while in the 90′s and now am delighted to have reconnected with him. He’s really a great guy and, thank buddha, he also has a bad-ass side to him. 
That’s a great virtue for a Zen practitioner.
Yet he pours out his heart in a seemingly uncensored flow of pain and truth both in his dharma talks and in conversation. I find that both touching and admirable.
Recently, in the heart of an extended retreat, a student of Bomun’s asked him in dokusan, “Is this really all there is to it?”
Bomun said, “No.”
Great dharma presentation! 
If there were an applause machine in the dokusan room, it would have kicked in here at 150 decibels.
Now every Zennie knows that “Yes,” is also correct, of course. It is always just this. And yet “Yes” can close down the mind, harden the concepts, calcify the heart.
In my view, American Soto Zen is almost choking to death on the efficaciousless idea of “Just this.”
But I might be wrong.
In this case, “No” brought about a very pregnant pause, according to Bomun.  

For me, “No” is so much more interesting than “Yes.” It sets a limit, vivifies a boundary, offers a shut-the-fuck up point and leads to inquiry. 

“Yes,” can also be nice, of course, so there’s no need to be all doctrinaire about “No.”
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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05378646536761901483 Eric

    Kind of looks like the guy from Breaking Bad to me. Which is all kinds of badass.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10681838598338633662 Zendudest

    "Is this all there is?""this" and the answer is 'No'"this", of course, is self-affirming

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05168631752214481563 Harry

    "Noto Zen".I like it!Too many Yes-men cock sure of themselves with cheesy smiles and those deep, knowing stares that make you want to jump into their lap and pay top dollar for therapy or whatever.The world needs more thorough loosers. 'Yes' can speak for itself IMO.Regards,Harry.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03320860122104064884 James

    Does feel more than a little Mu in that No…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04878684373898294730 Dosho Port

    James,Oh, uhg, you had to go and say so!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09346537348568978154 Desiree

    "Is that all there is?" I just saw a rendition of this song (a Peggy Lee hit) in The Nines sung by Hope Davis. I had never heard the song before. The end of the movie left me singing the same tune.Wondering if there isn't a lot else that could be said to the question (and the students' question to Bomun) besides yes, no, or mu.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04878684373898294730 Dosho Port

    Desiree,I think so too – that's the 84,000 sutras for starters!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08439239379462492311 Larry Anderson

    "You say yes, I say no,You say stop and I say go, go, goOh, no, you say goodbyeAnd I say hello, hello, hello.I don't know why you say goodbyeI say hello…….." (Lennon and McCartney)Without a certain intuitive (prajna) Awareness that is beyond our usual way of reasoning and logical deduction, neither "yes" nor "no" may be a sufficient response.Affirmation and negation arise mutually, each implying the other. To affirm is to negate and vice versa. Then "just this" is just this and also WOW THIS!!!True "just thisness" is not the idea of "just this," but what it points to all around/within you.You ARE just this, just this-ing. Just this is always never quite the same forever. Yes, no……..good bye, hello……..stop, go, go, go…….. It is bigger than big and smaller than small. And here and now, somewhere right in the middle of it ALL, it also comes in medium and extra large tall. So I don't think it will harden your concepts or your arteries or calcify the Heart. I would hope that it will shut up the insatiable, grasping, babbling mind now and then, to allow for total and joyful emersion in this wondrous "just this" awareness.One need be neither "airy-fairy" nor "bad-ass" to participate in "just thisness". Just this: a humble, happy, humorous, imperfect human with a big, compassionate Heart, who knows both joy and grief. Just This………Hello/Good Bye,Your Friend,Lars!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15170037991394359261 Jason Gosnell

    I love Zen, but mostly I loved Suzuki-roshi and Dogen. One interesting thing I noticed is that Zennies tend to stick to the idea of suchness as being the main legitimate experience…probably, for most people, this means the present moment as it is…or the clear space of awareness in which everything unfolds. Something like this. That, and some experience of plunging into the divine darkness…emptiness. One thing I noticed in revisiting Christianity is that the expressions make more use of the "imaginal" level. Then, I realized, Oh, I disowned some of that for the Zen experience! Going further though, I noticed that Dogen made very active use of the poetic and imaginal channels of experience. I don't think that Dogen had limitations on experience the way many Zennies seem to…that is, he seemed open to many kinds of understandings. Why don't we model ourselves a bit more on Dogen? Otherwise, there is actually a hidden rigidity in Zen. In this sense, there is a surpring amount of dogma…that I don't think Dogen had in himself. My guess. And, the same could probably be said for Jesus…judging from some of his apparent expressions, I think he was more of a free spirit than my protestant evangelical friends understand when it came to insight-experience, love, and action. Even the traditional gospels seem to paint this kind of picture? They do it seems to me.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15170037991394359261 Jason Gosnell

    I add Suzuki's "not always so" to this: It may be so…but, it is not always so.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09346537348568978154 Desiree

    Here's hoping its not a race :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03972192713597942794 Unknown

    "Is this all there is?"(SHRUG…I dunno.)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01121405610202720752 Andy

    Hooray for the loose cannons on the deck! Watch out! Watch out!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03119986245812647153 Taiyo

    You mean there's a deck?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08439239379462492311 Larry Anderson

    Hi Again Dosho,Maybe instead of saying, "just this!" we could just say, "THIS! THIS!" It would not so likely be mis-understood as "only this," which is overly reductive and narrow in vision.Little Wren in my back yard garden says “THIS!” better with her song, as does Chickadee, as does big Thunder and wild Wind blowing through the big limbs of huge old Cottonwood Tree, as do Moon and Stars, as does Beaver when he smacks the pond with his tail, as does Coyote yipping and yowling from the woods. More accurately, they ARE what “THIS! THIS!” attempts to point to, speaking for IT-self. Perhaps Dogen’s poetic writings are of that same nature. A realized expression of, rather than a pointing to the Suchness of all Being/Beings. Old Moon herself, rather than the “fickle finger” pointing. And there are many “fickle fingers,” sometimes flippin’ each other off.I love the Peggy Lee song mentioned above, “Is That All There Is?” which was written by Leiber and Stoller. She had such a lovely and sultry voice. In the story told in this song, she sees and experiences much suffering and disappointment in her life, as did the Buddha. She seems disillusioned, as was the Buddha. But her “solution” to remedy her suffering is quite different:“Is that all there is, is that all there is?If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing.Let's break out the booze and have a ball,If that's all there is.”Sounds like fun!!! But it’s not exactly the “Eightfold Noble Path.” I have nothing against a good party of wild celebration, but this suggests more an escape from Life and suffering than a solution. The old classic hedonism: “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die!” As Alan Watts has said, “the last word of that statement is despair.” “If that’s all there is.”So anyway…….it means something quite different than "just this" or "Is that really all there is to it?"Yes? No? Yes AND No? Neither Yes nor No?Well…….This is IT!And that’s that!Stay cool……Lar

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11060132599294814089 Mother Zen

    The student is “here now”. He is “nowhere”. He is gods light radiating out and nothing else. More accurately: there is no “he”. His identity…an illusion. Only God witnessing itself. This this-ing. Infinity radiating outward! Nothingness…The Tao…The Void…Babalon…Shakti…Milk & Honey…Edge City…ALL METAPHORES FOR THE SAME THING! NOTHING! NO “THING” AT ALL! Realize this…and poof…enlightenment. But guess what…it’s no big deal. It was there the whole time…Just this…It was also never there at all…WOW THIS!”Enlightenment”: also an illusion!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08439239379462492311 Larry Anderson

    Hi Wild Fox Mike,and Mother Zentoo,The classic old pun:What’s a meta for?The Moon……..A finger pointingto the Moon……..A finger pointingat the finger pointingto the Moon.Yet a finger pointingcannot point at itself,as the Moon shiningcannot shine on itself,as Awareness seeingthe finger pointing,the Moon illuminingor illusion illudingcannot see itselfseeingThis!!!That!!!or…….the other.Oh well……..Mother saysit’s not politeto point or stare.Probably also betternot to be seen or heard.A Cyber Bowin Full Moon Glowto You,Lars!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04878684373898294730 Dosho Port

    Thanks Lar!


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