Bad Day? Here’s a reminder not to take yourself too seriously.

Via on Dec 21, 2009

rod stewart sexy

Our capacity to take ourself seriously is nearly limitless. You want proof?

Picture 454

If Rod can sing and gyrate about how sexxxy he is with…that hair…those pants…hey.

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The cosmic joke, as Chogyam Trungpa put it, is on all of us. Life is suffering. It’s also a dream.

So, smile.

cosmic joke trungpa

Or, as Longchenpa, another great Buddhist teacher put it…well, the quote’s on the back of my stickard:

longchenpa

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58 Responses to “Bad Day? Here’s a reminder not to take yourself too seriously.”

  1. You see, there it is again–that gaping difference between Buddhism and Yoga, which I keep trying so hard to explain and study away. In spite of their common roots and overwhelming similarities:

    Buddhism concludes we are nothing, a cosmic joke.

    Yoga concludes we are everything, that we are the cosmos itself.

    (Do you think I possibly missed your point of not taking ourselves too seriously?)

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

    • stevenmoses says:

      I think that language can carry tricky connotations. [I am sure this is not your intent] but by pitting conclusions of these traditions at polar ends of a spectrum an implication of dualism enters in which yoga offers connection with the universe and buddhism offers separateness. And in that context a cosmic joke becomes nihilism instead of a sense of humor at our constant identification and attachment. Regardless of gaping differences, each tradition and the traditions that follow those attempt to form a path to liberation. same-same :D

      • Thanks, stevenmoses. I'm sure you speak the ultimate truth!

        In the meantime, I'm enjoying the discussion and the learning. It's what I like to do. And it's the way I like to develop my spirit!

        • Remember, it's a joke! That's not nothing, that's fun. Read the Heart Sutra: emptiness is fullness, et vice versa. Buddhism rejects nihilism as being one extreme. http://www.elephantjournal.com/2009/08/the-heart-

          The stereotype of Buddhism's view of reality as being cold, dark, harsh, all suffering…is just that, a stereotype. Reality isn't theory, it's reality. Meditate, practice, and what you see won't be Buddhist or yoga reality, it'll just be your ordinary, extraordinary life.

          Shambhala Training was actually formed to address this difficulty in presenting Buddhadharma to Westerners…we're an optimistic lot. Read Shambhala: Sacred Path of the Warrior. Same root as Buddhism, but instead of starting with Four Noble Truths (Suffering and the way out of suffering) it starts with Basic Goodness. Shambhala Training weekends involve a lot of meditation, some lectures and discussion groups, and a reception. Reasonably fun, totally fulfilling and for me, hugely life-changing. http://sti.shambhala.org/

    • LindaSama says:

      In nothing there is everything.

      I had the same discussion with Mark Whitwell where I told him that I was sorry that the Buddhists he knows are such life denyers, which is basically what you are saying, Bob. Emptiness is not nothingness and once I truly got that, it was liberation. I think the Buddhist concept of emptiness is the most misunderstood and gives Buddhism its nihilistic label.

      I think this is one of the best sites I have found for explanations:
      http://www.thebigview.com/buddhism/emptiness.html

    • yoga good, BUddhism bad? Can they both be OK? ;)

    • trishalotzer says:

      Often we jnana yogis can get way too caught up in knowledge and words and looking for the ultimate answer. Then, like trying too hard to achieve a perfect pose in asana practice, we miss the point.

  2. kia says:

    Hey Bob. I am not a scholar in these matters but do have an opinion. For me they are reconciled in non-permanence and our views on attachment. We are only here in this moment as this self, it is fleeting and will change moment to moment so I need to let go to that attachment to a permanent idea of myself because I am always changing. In yoga that fleeting moment is only captured in an asana practice (as a type of yoga example) when that asana is being enacted, and even then there are opportunities to alter it in those 90 seconds or whatever. Enact in your asana practice with heart because you will improve in that "union" that is the ultimate goal in yoga, but even if you think you have achieved your goal the achievement it is fleeting.

    If you are a more goal-oriented yogi then you can graph your goal on a timeline with some measure of your performance but expect to find oscillations along the trend you are seeking… and even if you are rocking your practice something can happen and a trend can collapse to zero in no time… you just don't know. It is not worth building up our ego, or basing our identity around how attached we are to a practice. Practice with heart/integrity, just don't let it be the basis of your identity.

  3. Thanks, Matt.

    (Before I say anything, let me clearly state that I'm raising these issues to help me learn more about Buddhism, and for no other purpose. I'm amazed at my chutzpa raising questions about Buddhism here in this cyber-temple of Buddhism. What am I, nuts? I'm doing it only so I can learn from everyone here, and I enjoy provoking interesting discussions to that end. I hope no one takes offense. I realize I don't know much yet.)

    Your reply is very helpful, but it does reinforce my feelings about the differences between Buddhism and Yoga.

    (continued below)

  4. I don't think of Bhuddism as negative, just kind of limiting, precisely for the reason you cite above–a disinclination to engage in the larger ineffable, but to me totally convincing, truths of metaphysics–an insistence on bringing us all down to earth instead of letting our spirits soar, which Yoga seems to encourage and Buddhism seems to consider just another illusion of the ego.

    Yoga solves the problem of fuzzy metaphysics not by avoiding it, but by embracing the infinite wonder of the unknowable as the central tenant of Yoga philosophy. We don't know exactly what the life-force of the universe is, but we know it's infinitely wondrous, and that we are an integral part of that wondrousness.

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

  5. Matt says:

    Svasti, true there are many schools of Buddhism and yoga, but I don't see Shambhala (Trungpa) or any of the Buddhist schools listed which conclude that "we are nothing." Most schools use emptiness or sunyata as a teaching tool (rather than a fixed concept), but this is merely a means of showing that the skandhas are empty. That's not to say the skandhas are all bad–we need them to function in our practical, day-to-day lives, after all. It simply ends in suffering to *identify* and overzealously attach to them–or worse yet, to not see the attachment at all.

  6. Svasti.

    Very good points! Even with my very limited knowledge, I'm fully aware that both Yoga and Buddhism cover a vast array of philosophical schools, so much so that one easily can find Yoga that's just like Buddhism and Buddhism that's just like Yoga.

    So anything I say about Yoga and Buddhism needs to be preceded by "in general as they are presented by the majority of their current devotees".

    I'm not particularly "worried about reconciling" them, as you say. It's just that I'm a strong Jnana (Yoga of knowledge and study) personality. So discussion and debate are how I like to learn things.

    Thanks for your help.

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

  7. Thanks, Matt.

    Just so no one thinks you were quoting me, I never in a million years would say something like "I don't need no stinkin' Buddhism"! And I still consider Buddhism and Yoga to be closely related spiritual traditions, not a situation where I embrace one and reject the other.

    I think you are are vastly underestimating Yoga's depth in handling the issue of suffering. In this aspect, Yoga is pretty much like Buddhism. Most of the Yoga Sutra reads almost exactly like any Buddhist text. It's the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads that are so dramatically different than, say, the Dhammapada.

    Like you, I'm assuming I want to know a lot about both. That's why I'm asking all these questions! And the conversation so far hasn't certainly not disappointed.

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

    • Melissa says:

      I personally believe that Buddhism, Zen or any other spiritual traditions are practiced by Westerners in the hope of being connected with their higher Self or God or spirit..,.whereas Yoga practice brings us peace, clarity and in some cases Self-realization. I am walking on the yogic path, (haven´t read those original scriptures of Yoga yet, still learning). Thank you for sharing those different theories.

  8. Very interesting twist, Matt. Thanks.

    Yeah, both Yoga and Buddhism see the futility of trying to define the infinite unknowable life-force of the universe. Buddhism largely solves this by just avoiding the subject and focusing on the workings of our mind. Yoga, by contrast, largely solves it by worshiping the very concept of infinite unknowability.

    Anybody follow that? Then please explain it to me!

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

    • John says:

      Hey Bob,

      So the conversation is that Buddhism is far too grounded while yoga soars with spirituality. I think the comments already state alot of what Buddhism is about and how varied the practice is. For example both zazen meditation and yoga practice can lead to realization. Will the yoga feel more euphoric? Yes, I think by the nature of that practice, it will. Many Buddhists also incorporate an element of yoga (sometimes a large element) into their practice.

      "Yeah, both Yoga and Buddhism see the futility of trying to define the infinite unknowable life-force of the universe. Buddhism largely solves this by just avoiding the subject and focusing on the workings of our mind"

      Sorta False – Every Buddhist practice is an effort to focus our minds to come to connent with this "one-ness". They do focus on the mind as a locus for realization. The workings of the mind is usually what limits our ability "understand" this universality. I do agree that Buddhism does not focus exclusively on worship especially in the West but many Esoteric schools do just that.

    • John says:

      Check out that Buddhist Yoga link under the resources on my blog. It may meld the two concepts together. The Yogacara School of Buddhism may be more to your liking. I personally think that is what you are looking for but it just never had much popularity in the West.

      Cheers,

      John
      http://www.zendirtzendust.com

  9. But most importantly, click the sexxxy link above and watch the video! Impossible to take yourself seriously watching that thing.

  10. Actually John, what initially inspired my puzzlement about Buddhism was your recent article "The Zen of a Good Sh*t" http://bit.ly/8kmsgU in which you explained in some detail, seriously as far as I could tell, why Buddhism was like taking a shit.

    I really expected a lot of Boulder Buddhaphiles to jump in and say, "No, John, that's not what Buddhism is like at all."

    But much to my surprise, none of them did! In fact they all wrote in and said, "That's beautiful, John. Buddhism really is exactly like taking a shit."

    That's when I started to get confused.

    Thanks again to everyone who joined in here. It's been a great discussion–fun and informative.

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

  11. integralhack says:

    Bob,

    I don't think it is a good metaphor either and not all Buddhists see meditating–satisfying or not–as the end goal. But I suspect John didn't expect this particular metaphor to become representative of his practice. ;)

    I did like John's second reference to shit–in that we all have our own shit (particularly putrid skandhas) that we need to deal with. That's where the metaphor has more punch. Buddhism has a great tradition of via negativa dialectic for exposing our own shit and transcending it. Nagarjuna made it a high art.

    It is indicative that as soon as you seek to describe something spiritual, you lose it. Language helps us along, but ultimately we have to make the journey ourselves.

    • John says:

      part 2

      I thought to myself "maybe I need to take a step back away from the ethereal and start focusing on the mundane" when I did I saw my practice soar.

      ____No expectation, no goal. Just doing what needs to be done. I'm not the first to make this connection and I by no means put myself in the "enlightened" category but it was a big step for me.____cont….

      But if one thing applies to both Buddhist practice and yoga. Talking about it only gets you so far. One has to experience and experiment with it to get a feel for what it is….

      I would have a very hard time describing yoga w/o practicing it and even after practicing it my experience could be vastly different from the dude next to me. We each bring in our baggage in our practice and that tempers our experience. The trick is figuring out that baggage.

      Although I liken yoga to taking a shower. It cleanses but grime will still build up. Zen is like shitting. A necessary act but one that needs to be done regularly (lol…regular).

      Cheers,

      John

  12. Brothers and Sisters, All:

    Namaste! Having the privilege (some might say "misfortune"!) of having been ordained as a monk in the Advaita (yogic) tradition, the feral wisdom (Tibetan) Buddhist tradition and as a nontheistic (retired) Catholic monastic and former bishop, I hope I can bring a little more clarity to what seems to be one of the great stumbling blocks of the Western culture, trying to get their arms around the Dharma.

    Buddhism is not and never was a nihilistic philosophy. It is best to understand the concept of Sunyata not by simply focusing on the idea that all phenomena share the same "empty" nature, and therefore are unreal in the "Absolute Reality", but rather to view sunyata as an ocean, which viewed from one shore appears to be nothing, and on the other shore appears to be all things.

    Where we get caught up is, I believe, in not taking the last step. Yes, the phenomenal world is "real" in our subjective reality. And yes, the subjective world is emptiness in the Absolute Reality, but there is one further step — the numenal reality, in which all these concepts themselves dissolve, and all that is realised is Oneness.

    Yoga seeks to explore and experience the Oneness in a way that is, at its core, tantric. Kundalini rising can accelerate the awareness of the ultimate (numenal) reality for the yogic adept. The Buddhist path had many approaches, all of which still lead to that ultimate awareness as well. Some quicker. Some not. Karma ripens at the rate at which it ripens.

    In the end, it is not a pissing contest, although many Westerners attempt to make it so. And that's where they get lost. Neither Yoga nor Buddhism will be an effective path, when the mind is twisted and attached to such dualistic ideas as "this vs. that".

    Both are ultimately expressions of Advaita philosophy, although the semantics may vary from culture to culture.

    We can discover nothing in either path, until we still and quiet the ego-mind, so that it becomes free to soar.

    Peace!

    – dharmacharya gurudas sunyatananda
    The Contemplative Monks of the Eightfold Path

  13. integralhack says:

    Gurudas,

    Beautiful description of Sunyata and Oneness and I like the Advaita summary! I'm thankful that you accepted my invitation to jump into this conversation.

    -Matt (@integralhack on Twitter)

  14. LindaSama says:

    I agree also — on everything said.

  15. Thanks, Tobye! This is an astounding conclusion to a great conversation. (Well, maybe not the conclusion quite yet.)

    Your wonderful and eloquent summary takes us right back to where we started. Everything that you write above about the universe being a single energy with many different forms could have come right out of the Upanishads or the Bhagavad Gita, WITH ONE ENORMOUS EXCEPTION.

    Instead of concluding that "we don't exist" because we are all one energy, the ancient Yoga texts conclude that we all exist in an infinitely more wondrous form called Brahman that is way beyond our ability to fully understand or comprehend.

    In other words, instead of us being nothing as you say, each of us is the infinitely-wondrous, blindingly-amazing life-force of the universe itself. Instead of being nothing we are everything.

    While this sounds "high-falutin" on the surface, as some have written above, to me it makes perfect sense because it acknowledges that even though we can understand that we are all just energy, we aren't even close to understanding the ultimate source of that energy and its wondrous manifestations.

    That's what Yoga and some schools of Buddhism call God. It's not really a deity, but an acknowledgement of the infinite, awesome, very real but ultimately unknowable, wonder of the universe.

    You know what? In spite of this apparent big difference in point of view, I think we are actually looking at two sides of the very same coin, my friend!

    Thanks again for your excellent comment.

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

  16. Thanks, Tobye! This is an astounding conclusion to a great conversation. (Well, maybe not the conclusion quite yet.)

    Your wonderful and eloquent summary takes us right back to where we started. Everything that you write above about the universe being a single energy with many different forms could have come right out of the Upanishads or the Bhagavad Gita, WITH ONE ENORMOUS EXCEPTION.

    Instead of concluding that "we don't exist" because we are all one energy, the ancient Yoga texts conclude that we all exist in an infinitely more wondrous form called Brahman that is way beyond our ability to fully understand or comprehend.

    In other words, instead of us being nothing as you say, each of us is the infinitely-wondrous, blindingly-amazing life-force of the universe itself. Instead of being nothing we are everything.

    While this sounds "high-falutin" on the surface, as some have written above, to me it makes perfect sense because it acknowledges that even though we can understand that we are all just energy, we aren't even close to understanding the ultimate source of that energy and its wondrous manifestations.

    That's what Yoga and some schools of Buddhism call God. It's not really a deity, but an acknowledgement of the infinite, awesome, very real but ultimately unknowable, wonder of the universe.

    You know what? In spite of this apparent big difference in point of view, I think we are actually looking at two sides of the very same coin, my friend!

    Thanks again for your excellent comment.

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

  17. integralhack says:

    Just a little clarification: Buddhists–at least Buddhists that have their view on straight–don't conclude that "we don't exist." My reference to "high falutin" was just a joke aimed at those (not necessarily those in this discussion) who reference nirvana or enlightenment as an attainment (and therefore an attachment).

  18. Thanks, Matt. I appreciate the clarification.

    I think I knew your use of high falutin' was somewhat in gest, but it captured the idea that others expressed that Yoga is sort of ethereal and in-the-clouds compared to good old down-to-earth Buddhism, which doesn't engage in that sort of fantasy.

    I don't see this as a right or wrong, myself, just a personal preference. Some people are more into down-to-earthness and some people are more into infinite-wonder-of-the-universe.

    Thanks again for helping make this such a fascinating discussion with all your comments.

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

  19. intergralhack.

    I was just thinking some more about your reference in your last comment to "those…who reference nirvana or enlightenment as a attainment (and therefore an attachment)".

    What spiritual discipline doesn't see some sort of happiness as the result of practice? Even the Dalai Lama himself says the purpose of life is to find happiness.

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

  20. David says:

    Since we are nothing, we are everything.

  21. Greg says:

    Wonderful dialogue. Was disappointed I found it so late in the thread.

    Love the clarification (by a number of posters) regarding Buddhism not being nihilism. In years past, I made the mistake of spending too much time debating nihilistic Buddhists and decided to leave the task to others. Was happy to see so many who were conversant and eloquent on the topic.

    The easiest way I found to dissipate the confusion regarding nothing was to rephrase to No Thing. In other words, we find the Self to be that which IS but which is No Thing. Being without Thing-ness. A Buddha transcends the phenomenal nature of the skandhas. The skandhas are that which is Not Self.

    I believe the Oneness concept creates as much confusion. It tends to result in identification with all phenomena (I am all Things) rather than recognizing Being that is No Thing — not phenomenal in nature.

    Oneness may lead to the idea that "Since we are nothing, we are everything" as opposed to "Since we are not phenomena we are No Thing, not one thing or many things or all things. Rather we are No Thingness.)

    The difference that came with Buddhism perhaps can best be explained as going beyond the All One of phenomena to that Self which is No Thing and thus beyond all identification.

    In Yoga practice (as well as other mystical practices) one may encounter an All One universe of light but from the Buddha's view (and from the practice) this universe of light, where all appears One, is itself a fabrication and thus not fundamental or Absolute.

    In a sense I guess one could say that zero and one are fabrications and thus one goes "beyond" to a state where zero and one do not have meaning as we understand it when we think in phenomenal or relative terms.

    Anyway, risking being too serious, I will leave those thoughts and move on…

  22. Hi, Greg. Your input is warmly welcome. Thanks for taking the time to write such an interesting and insightful comment.

    We devotees of "Radical Traditional Yoga" have another whole approach to the conundrum of "what are we exactly?" that you so precisely analyse above. But instead of trying to figure it out, we just surrender to the awesome, unfathomable, unknowable, infinite wonder of it all.

    To be conscious of the wonder of the universe, of which we are clearly an integral part, blows us away, to the extent that logical niceties don't seem to matter much anymore.

    (continued below)

  23. It's all in the Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita, but it becomes overwhelmingly meaningful only because to us it is the most absolute reality of all reality, and not the semi-hallucinatory state that many more down-to-earth Buddhist thinkers see in Yoga.

    After all these excellent discussions, I still fee this is a major difference between core Yoga and core Buddhism. It's the difference between the Upanishads and the Dhammapada. And it's not right or wrong, good or bad. It is, like I wrote earlier, and you wrote in your comment, just two sides of the same coin.

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

  24. Ramesh says:

    I find the neti aspect of non-dualism perhaps very similar in spirit to the 'cosmic joke'.

  25. Tim says:

    Think of reality as nothing but pure light or energy. This can be described as emptiness or non-emptiness, but the enlightened will realize that there is no sense in this dualistic conception.

  26. Jennifer says:

    Now here are people who are really good at making two out of one.

  27. ARCreated says:

    my brain just melted. Thanks :)

  28. Eric says:

    Since we are everything, we are nothing.

  29. [...] Longchenpa Spirituality, meditation, enlightenment isn’t serious stuff. If you’re overly serious ab…. For many years, this beautifully-calligraphed quote hung in Marpa House. Not sure where it hangs, [...]

  30. John says:

    Wonderful! I love that Bob is asking so many questions. I think about bowing and prostrating when Bob asks this stuff. Do I bow and prostrate because I feel beat down by the pessimistic aspect of Buddhist practice. No, it is an act of humility. I am raising the Buddha's teachings and the Dharma above myself and my self. I bow to the archtypes that the Bodhisattvas and myriad of deities represent. I bow b/c there things much greater and larger than me in the universe but I am connected to it while being small myself.

    There is a tendency in the west to not align Buddhist practice with this but it is still alive and well.

    Thanks for the book recommendations! I actually never read TNH but maybe I'll give "Understanding Our Mind" a shot.

    Cheers,

    John

  31. "Cosmic joke" is a direct quote from Trungpa above.

    My understanding of Yoga comes directly from the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita.

    In any case, I hope it's obvious from everything else I've written below that I don't think Buddhism is nihilistic.

    Bob

  32. In my Buddhist community, I was taught that the bow was not a case of higher lower, but of mutual respect and vision, mission: to be of benefit. We have to be careful about that theism stuff, is all.

  33. Thanks for the suggestions, Linda.

    I don't see many things as either/or or black & white, and certainly not Yoga and Buddhism. As I already wrote below a few comments down:

    "I'm fully aware that both Yoga and Buddhism cover a vast array of philosophical schools, so much so that one easily can find Yoga that's just like Buddhism and Buddhism that's just like Yoga."

    My opening comment above was meant to be provocative and a little tongue-in-cheek. It was meant to generate discussion so I could learn more about Buddhism. I guess it worked! (If I didn't already like Buddhism I wouldn't have bothered.)

    Thanks again for your help.

  34. LindaSama says:

    I actually used your statement "Buddhism concludes we are nothing" in my dharma talk last night, Bob. I asked my students how can we be nothing when we have buddhanature? and then we went on to talk about anatta….

    so thanks!

  35. Marc Pi says:

    Matt – Thank you for the correction. I was just getting ready to reply to Bob's comment when I saw you already had.

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