THE DUDE AND THE ZEN MASTER by Jeff Bridges and Bernie Glassman

dudeYou all know Jeff Bridges, right?  Well, not personally, of course, but you are aware of who he is, possibly best known for playing the Dude in The Big Lebowski.  He is also a musician, songwriter and photographer.  But did you know he is also co-founder of the End Hunger Network and is the national spokesperson for Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign?  Turns out he is also well versed in Buddhism.

Bernie Glassman founded the Zen community of New York, which later became Zen Peacemakers, and international order of social activists.  He was an aeronautical engineer who worked in the 1960s and 1970s on designing manned missions to Mars.  Wow.

If you have seen the movie, The Big Lebowski,  you may have noticed the somewhat Zen quality of the Dude, and in this book, Glassman and Bridges have a conversation about Buddhism and how the Dude can exemplify the tenets of Buddhism.   It is a pleasant, edifying discussion, and one of the themes they talk about is the kids’ round, Row, Row, Row Your Boat,  gently down the stream.  Merrily, merrily, and that Buddhism teaches us to be in the moment, not trying to row like a crazy person trying to get somewhere, to some ideal place we want to reach, because we are already there.  Go with the flow, row gently, enjoy the scenery, be merry.

Robert Johnson wrote that the word happiness comes from ‘to happen’.  Our happiness is what happens.

People talk about being seekers, searching for meaning, happiness, whatever.  I think of myself as a finder, because I find all these things right around me.

Each section is titled with some phrase from the movie.  The Dude abides.  The Dude Is Not In.  New Sh*t Has Come to Light.  You Know, Dude, I Myself Dabbled in Pacifism at One Point.  Not in ‘Nam, Of Course.  And many more.    And each gives them an opportunity to riff on the more metaphysical meanings, and how the Dude’s approach to life is so Zen-ish.

I expected another one of those celebrity me me me it’s all about me and the wonderfulness of me and even when I am pointing out my flaws, I show you just how cute and wonderful I am even in my flawed state kind of things, but it was nothing like that.  I found it to be interesting, and at times quite profound, showing us how we can attempt the walk we talk even as we live our regular non-Buddhist, non-monk lives.

The other thing I like about the Dude is that he doesn’t corner a rat.

You have to leave a way out.  In Zen, don’t they tell you to kill yourself?  I don’t mean that literally, but to kill your ego, kill your identity.  Isn’t that the way out in Zen?

Here’s something interesting:

A440 (Hz) is not just the frequency of the note A but is also the earth’s vibration.  Earth has a basic resonance, and that’s why A became the standard.  He [Chris Pelonis, acoustical designer  and musician] summarized it this way: “The region of 440 is by Supreme design and not arbitrary or coincidental.”


My actions are my only true belongings.  I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.  My actions are the ground upon which I stand.

And I leave you with:

Gate’, Gate’, Paragate’, Parasamgate’.  It’s a mantra at the end of the Heart Sutra.  Gone, gone, completely gone beyond.  It means gone to the other shore.  But again, the other shore is right under our feet, so it’s back to:  Row, row, row your boat.  Merrily.




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