The Dude and the Zen Master Hardcover – Jan 8 2013
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“Mr. Bridges and Mr. Glassman are likable, and smart, and interesting...[The Dude and the Zen Master] includes compelling discussions of Mr. Bridges’s marriage, acting technique and close relationship with his father...you’ll always be grateful for the hang.”
—The New York Times
“[The Dude and the Zen Master] is an odd and wonderful little work that makes use of the transcendentally funny characters and language of [The Big Lebowski] as the starting point for a relaxed philosophical discussion about a wide variety of topics.”—Los Angeles Times
“[A] truly incredible book about two friends talking about the good life.”
“Whether he knows it or not, The Dude’s laissez-faire attitude has become a model for coping with life’s complexities...[in] The Dude and the Zen Master, one gets the impression he or she is eavesdropping on an intimate conversation...It’s more than chicken soup for the soul, [it’s] cacciatore for the spirit, a winner’s guide to optimal living—a manual on how to Dude-ify oneself and just abide, man.”
“The Dude and the Zen Master is an exercise in likeability....[Bridges] is in rare form here....To know the Dude (and, by extension, Bridges’ own meditational endgame) is to love him.”
“[A] good conversation between good friends...One of the unexpected treats of The Dude and the Zen Master is the insights into who Jeff Bridges is behind the Dude persona...touching remembrances of his parents, his reflections on life as a devoted family man, and his behind-the-scenes stories of movies he’s worked on [and] profound little Zen observations and insights sprinkled throughout the book.”
“The Dude and the Zen Master doesn’t read like a traditional book at all—but rather riffs like a jam session....you’ll feel as though you yourself sat in on the sessions with the dude behind the Dude in The Big Lebowski and Buddhist buddy, Bernie....And what’s so cool is that the two of them manage to address many of life’s profundities—relationships, politics, working, aging, living, dying—in this very funny and readable jam session.”
—Rock Cellar Magazine
“The Dude and the Zen Master [is] a wonderful book of conversations...about acting and Zen and the long, fond relationship between these men.”
—Sheila Heti, Financial Times
About the Author
Jeff Bridges is an Oscar-winning actor, performer, songwriter, and photographer. He is a cofounder of the End Hunger Network and the national spokesman for Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign.
Bernie Glassman founded the Zen Community of New York, which later became Zen Peacemakers, an international order of social activists. A longtime Zen teacher, he also founded the Greyston Mandala, a network of for-profits and not-for-profits creating jobs, housing, and programs to support individuals and their families on the path to self-sufficiency.
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The philosophical heart of the book lies in looking at The Dude character as a kind of Zen master. For one example, roshi Glassman says on "The Dude is not in, leave a message": Not being in -- not being attached to Jeff or Bernie or whoever you are -- is the essence of Zen. When we're not attached to our identity, it allows all the messages of the world to come in and be heard. When we're not in, creation can happen." They also consider the expression "The Dude abides" from many different angles.
Some many find this of interest, but I find the notion of The Dude as a bodhisattva to be something of a stretch. Don't get me wrong, I'm a bona fide Big L fan, and rarely does a week go by (okay probably more like a few days) when I don't quote it ("you want a toe, I can get you a toe"), but taking The Dude as some kind of enlightened being seems to be confusing relaxed laziness with awakened awareness and compassion.
I suspect BG and JB don't take the words and thoughts in these pages all that seriously, but have embarked on this conversational book as a fundraiser. In that regard you can feel good about buying it and I bet it will be more satisfying to Jeff Bridges and Big Lebowski fans than it would be to Buddhist practitioners.
1/10/13 Edit: After posting this review, it occurred to me that I Walked to the Moon and Almost Everybody Waved: The Curiously Inspiring Adventures of a Free Spirit Who Changed Lives might be perfect for those interested in The Dude and the Zen Master. It's a nonfiction account of this once combative guy who had a spiritual transformation and spent much of the rest of his life on the road, traveling without money and focused solely on helping others. He's a big, funky guy with some out there beliefs (the outsized big guy aspect is what made me think of it as I could picture Jeff Bridges playing him in a movie), but ultimately he's got a big spirit and reading about his adventures on the road, is surprisingly uplifting.
Now, don't take me wrong. I am not putting the book down. I throughly enjoyed reading it and will pass it around to my friends to read themselves. I am merely sad to read reviews of this book as if it was some self-help or Zen guide, and thus reviewed negatively. It was never marketed as one and never tries to be one. So, I don't understand the confused crossover.
The book is actually a few days of conversations between Jeff and Bernie, on various topics, recorded and the transcript organized into a somewhat coherent structure. You can really see the conversation back and forth in the way the book is formatted with the "Jeff: Jeff's thoughts. Bernie: Bernie's thoughts" sectioning to the chapters.
Each chapter is full of insights from both men, reflections of past experiences such as Jeff training with a master bowler for the role of the Dude, and random thoughts. If you have ever had, or listened to, a conversation between two old friends going on about anything and everything, then you know what is in this book. Two men, with unique lives, tossing around thoughts, over cigars.
An interesting and entertaining read, to say the least. You may be enlightened by the stories and comments within, but don't go into it expecting some kind of Zen-like realization. Don't get wrapped up in expectations, just take it at face value, and the face of the book is a picture of two friends smiling. It is worth a read, worth talking about later, and maybe worth buying a red nose to have in your pocket too.
The first opening sections were Bernie says, "Thinking's not the problem. We freeze up because we expect a certain result or because we want things to be perfect. We can get so fixated that we can't do anything. Goals are fine; what I don't like is getting caught up in expectations or attachments to a final outcome."
This book is not just about the Big Lembowksi that's just a metaphor. This book is about two people, living a good life with compassion, happiness, and most importantly - humor. You don't even have to have seen the Big Lembowski to enjoy this. Jeff explains his fascinating career in the movie and music industry; than explains how he used a non-attachment - just do it attitude. Some days are good; some days are not so good, and it doesn't do any good to get caught up whether it's good or bad.
Then Jeff goes on to explain how he used a non-attachment mind throughout his entire life. Jeff says, "Just do it. Get into the thing, see where it takes you." There's a tremendous amount of incredible wisdom, in here that you couldn't read anywhere else.
You get to peer into the life experiences of two incredible people. Or there's a great part were Jeff is talking about working on a movie with James Fonda and director told them to just do it! There's no need to let your mind wander to thousands of different worries you have -- just do it.
There's a great part were Jeff talks about working with Francis Coppola and how Coppola made him use improvisation on set. He relates these experiences to how to live a good life.
The philosophy in this book is life changing... Most importantly it's done in a humorous way that everyone will laugh. As Alan Watts says, "As they say in Zen, when you attain satori, nothing is left you but to have a good laugh." Jeff talks about how Watt's influenced his life growing up and how he was able to overcome several hardships.
Bernie talks about fear, explaining that the reason people get stuck is because they're afraid to act. They get so attached to some outcome that they made up. In life you go there and do it, you get rejected, you mess up, some days are incredible, and some days are not. The true key is to recognize this and become friends with it.
Bernie uses a great metaphor when he says, "Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily. Life is but a dream."
This book teaches you to enjoy life.
It's not a bad book (if you don't count "Whoa, man, what are you saying" occurring three times in the first few paragraphs as bad). But it's not a very good book either. E.g., it's not the deftly written script for "The Big Lebowski," a minor classic among films. It's just a couple of dudes rapping about the character from the movie. Basically, it's like "My Dinner with Andre" with the angst removed and voluntary munchies added. Or like the early David Letterman show without the band, commercials, and audience, and with munchies added.
It's is funny in places but you wouldn't buy this book just for the occasional humor.
It tells you a little about the film and avid fans might like it as much as they like anything having to do with the film. But you wouldn't buy this book for the film background and analysis.
You might learn something about Zen. After all, if you can find Zen in motorcycle maintenance, you can find it here too, or, for that matter, staring at the wall of a cave. For at least two of these, voluntary munchies will help.
If this book changes your life, you probably need to read more, more of lots of different books. But reading this book won't hurt you more than the price of the book and an hour or two of reading time. I'd recommend seeing "The Big Lebowski" again, and see what that does for you.
The book dips a little into promotional territory for Jeff and Bernie's various charitable causes towards the end, and this is primarily the reason why I would dock a star in my rating. Their plugs are perfectly relevant to the discussion, and not overly intrusive or forced, but it can get a little distracting and may turn other readers off. It actually prompted me to think about my own involvement in charitable foundations and organizations, something I'd like to do more of, so I can't fault Jeff and Bernie for for raising my own awareness.
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