“A monastery is rehab for people who have been traumatized, hurt, destroyed, maimed by daily life that they simply couldn’t master.” Leonard Cohen

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[The other monks are] not saints, and you aren’t either. A monastery is rehab for people who have been traumatized, hurt, destroyed, maimed by daily life that they simply couldn’t master. I had been studying with Roshi for thirty or forty years, but when I actually decided to live with him and really commit myself to the daily life—I always did that for several months of every year—but when I decided to do it full-time, I had just come off a tour in 1993, and yes, I felt dislocated. I had been drinking tremendous amounts on the road and my health was shot.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From He Has Tried in His Way to Be Free by Sarah Hampson (Lion’s Roar: Nov 1, 2007).

Much of the time, Roshi and I were two buddies drinking. He likes sake, I tried to convert him to French wine, but he was very resistant. But we both agree about Cognac and Scotch.

From I Never Discuss My Mistresses Or My Tailors by Nick Paton Walsh. The Observer, October 14, 2001

Also see

“He tells me ‘Do you know the difference between a Rémy Martin cognac and a Courvoisier?’ ‘I do not know,’ I tell him. I try it… Remy Martin may have a more feminine taste? That’s the kind of conversation we have.” Leonard Cohen Talks About Roshi


When did you first come into contact with Buddhism and Zen?

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I never came into contact with them directly, they didn’t interest me. But I met a man twenty years ago, whom I enjoyed very much. He was older than me, and he seemed to know more than me. One of the things he knew was how to drink. I learned from him how to drink. It turns out he was an old Zen monk. And as he told me a few years ago: ‘Leonard, I’ve known you for eighteen years and I’ve never tried to give you my religion. I’m just using sake.’ This is what my relationship with Buddhism has been, I have no interest in Buddhism, no interest in Zen. What interests me is drinking with my old friend and to be in his company. I enjoy sitting in the meditation room because there is no phone, the incense is sweet, it’s very quiet and I can hang on my piece of wood very well when I sit there in the morning. You have the opportunity to study your self, how it rises and how it falls. But what the Buddhist theologians have to say on the issue does not interest me much.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

What are you talking about with this monk?

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Well, he does not speak English, so it is very difficult to discuss theology with him. He tells me ‘Do you know the difference between a Rémy Martin cognac and a Courvoisier?’ ‘I do not know,’ I tell him. I try it. Hum… He tastes. Hum… Remy Martin may have a more feminine taste? That’s the kind of conversation we have. He has a tendency not to particularly like religion. It is difficult not to have an aversion toward religion when you see what it does to people, at what point they become satisfied with themselves, to what point it separates themselves from others. Generally speaking religion has a pretty disagreeable odor. The love of God, that’s a different story. At least two times a year I go to Mount Baldy. It looks like a monastery; it is a very intensive center for Zen training. The days are filled with meditation and manual labor. In the kitchen, in the garden, we dig, we paint. I like being part of a community once in awhile. There is nothing extra, you live the day, no theology, no dogma. You live a religious life on the inside, not on the outside. You get up at three in the morning, you sit for two hours in the meditation room, you prepare breakfast, you clean, you polish, you garden, then you meditate again. And you study yourself in your own way with the help of a teacher but not one of theology.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Comme Un Guerrier by Christian Fevret (Les Inrocks: Aug 21, 1991). Via Google Translate.

Leonard Cohen Identifies Himself As “One Of The First Punks,” Tells Bovine Sex Joke, Talks About Roshi, Nick Cave, Jennifer Warnes, Dominique Issermann, & More – 1988 Video Interview

Topics Covered In Interview With Christian Eckert (Munich 1988):

  • Leonard Cohen’s I’m Your Man album
  • Post-Modernist Disco
  • Leonard as one of earliest Punk Rockers
  • His young bull/old bull joke
  • Book of Mercy
  • “I don’t have time to think about politics”
  • How Jennifer Warnes’ Famous Blue Raincoat rehabilitated him
  • Leonard’s attitude covers of his work
  • Nick Cave rescuing his song “to let it fall apart again”
  • His computer
  • Living in a Portuguese section of Montreal\
  • Roshi
  • Gap between public and private life
  • Critics being on trial
  • Concerns about next tour
  • Dominique Issermann’s direction of First We Take Manhattan video

View video on YouTube

Leonard Cohen Talks About “Learning What The Inside Of A Religious Tradition Is” From His Work With Roshi (And How His Yoga Injury Leads Him To “Start Studying Judaism”)

Interviewer

Leonard Cohen

Excerpt from Leonard Cohen of Montreal: Interview by Michael Benazon. Matrix: Fall, 1986.

DrHGuy Note: This was not Leonard’s only injury secondary to his embracement of a hallowed ritual. A month before the scheduled March, 2010  start of his European tour, he announced that those shows would be delayed while he underwent a four to six month course of physical therapy for a compression injury in his lower back suffered during a Pilates session.

Leonard Cohen & Roshi Compare Their Cricket Poems

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We were sitting in a little cabin on Mount Baldy one night, listening to the crickets and drinking cognac. Then, Roshi said, ‘Cohen, you should write cricket poem.’ I said, ‘I already wrote one: Silence / and then a deeper silence / when the crickets hesitate.’ Roshi only grunted. So I said, ‘OK, Roshi, what’s your idea of a cricket poem?’ And he said, ‘Dark night / Cricket sound break out / Cricket girlfriend listening.’ I said, ‘That’s good.’ Then a long time went by and he said, ‘Cohen, you should sing more sad.’quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Cohen Mixes Movie-Making And Zen by Paul King. The Gazette, July 16, 1983.

DrHGuy Note: Leonard also told another version of how Roshi advised him to “sing more sad.” See Leonard Cohen Describes How Roshi Gave Him “The Best [Musical] Advice I Ever Got”

“Home Sweet Home. Roshi said you never lose your home. He also said that home is not an object.” Leonard Cohen On The Idea Of Home In His Work

Your music and words resonate with a place I call home, your latest work even more deeply so. Is it possible to share with us in this format some of the recent discoveries you’ve made about “home” and how these discoveries continue to shape your songs and life?

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Thank you so much for this observation. Home Sweet Home. Roshi said you never lose your home. He also said that home is not an object. It is not fixed. Any perspective you have on your home is the distance you are from it. Being at home is the activity of not needing to look for a home, and not needing to abandon a home. The mirrors are clear, the shadows are past, the wandering heart is homeless at last. I spent a lot of time at Roshi’s home. Hospitality. Drinking cognac with the old man – his exquisite hospitality in the shack by the river – that is, no hospitality just emptying the bottle into my glass and filling my plate and falling asleep when it was time to go.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Online Web Chat October 16, 2001. Photo by Lilian Graziani.