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.

“There’s a Zen saying: The lotus that blossoms in the pool is swept away in the first fire. But the lotus that blossoms in the fire lasts forever.” Leonard Cohen On The Rigors Of His Life At The Zen Monastery

From Leonard Cohen Mixes Movie-Making And Zen by Paul King. The Gazette, July 16, 1983. Photo of Mt Baldy Zen Center by Cynthia Krause from Whittier, California – Flickr, CC BY 2.0, via Wikipedia Commons. Originally posted July 13, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“You realize that the person you think you are is an elaborate scenario you expend most of your energy maintaining… a personality you generally dislike.” Leonard Cohen On The Process Of Zazen

 

What goes through your mind [during the hours of silent meditation at Mt Baldy Zen Center]

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You run through just about everything. You become familiar – and often depressingly so – with the general scenarios you maintain in your life. And after a while you become very tired … weary of them. You realize that the person you think you are is an elaborate scenario you expend most of your energy maintaining. Upon closer examination you find it’s a personality you generally dislike. And the reason you don’t like this person is because it’s not who you really are. Then, if you become sufficiently bored and appalled by this personality, you spontaneously allow it to dissolve. And then, if you’re lucky, you may experience yourself without the distortion of this personality. And that, in essence, is the process of zazen – Roshi’s philosophy. That’s what the training is for. It’s not to create monks.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

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

“What happened to me was not that I got any answers, but that the questions dissolved.” Leonard Cohen On His Time With Ramesh Balsekar

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He spent a year studying with Balsekar

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The model I finally understood suggested that there really is no fixed self. The conventional therapeutic wisdom today encourages the sufferer to get in touch with his inner feelings – as if there were an inner self, a true self, the real self that we have glimmerings of in dreams and insights. . . . There is no real inner self to command your loyalty and the tyranny of your investigation. What happened to me was not that I got any answers, but that the questions dissolved. As one of Balsekar’s students said, ‘I believe in cause and effect, but I don’t know which is which.’quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

Also see

Quotation from Leonard Cohen: Remembering the Life and Legacy of the Poet of Brokenness by Mikal Gilmore (Rolling Stone: 30 November 2016) The entire article – an excellent read – is available at the link. Photo by Herry Lawford

A Leonard Cohen Koan: The Sound Of Two Zen Monks Hearing Ten New Songs

How do you feel your experience of Buddhism has influenced you and why is your experience of meditation not reflected more in your songs?

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A while ago I played the record [Ten New Songs] for two Zen monks. When it was finished they were silent for some time. Then one of them said, ‘That was as good as two weeks of session’ (an intensive meditation retreat). The other monk kept his eyes closed and only opened them when I filled his glass. Then we kept on drinking.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Online Web Chat October 16, 2001

“‘I don’t trust my inner feelings / Inner feelings come and go’… I think that is my favorite line” Leonard Cohen On The Benefit Of Surrender

What’s a special day like in the monastery?

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There are no special days. The whole idea is that nothing and everything is special at the same time. There is only the routine to which you surrender. If you can’t do that, you become very unhappy. Everything is arranged to happen by the sound of bells or clapping. If you feel defiance every time you hear these signals, which mark that you have to do something particular, you become very unhappy after a while. That happens to some people and therefore they leave… You have to surrender in order to stay there. You follow the routine no matter how you feel, and this has the advantage that you stop being dependent on how you feel. As it says in one of the songs: ‘I don’t trust my inner feelings / Inner feelings come and go.’… I think that is my favorite line.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Leonard Cohen Gave Me 200 Franc by Martin Oestergaard (Euroman, Denmark September 2001).

Note: The referenced lyrics, “I don’t trust my inner feelings / Inner feelings come and go,” are from That Don’t Make It Junk.