Long recognizing the wisdom of the Dude, Zen teacher Bernie Glassman offers koan study using the Big Lebowski film as source material at The Dude Abides. He posts koans fueled by the film, with comments offered by Bernie and The Dude himself.
Here’s one titled The Gate of Sweet Nectar:
Ryudo’s Social Action Koan:
Rich was given the responsibility of putting together a prisoner re-entry program, knowing that the inmates who would be returning from jail had been treated for drug and alcohol problems prior to release. Rich was trying to determine if it would be better to build a community-based re-entry support program based on the AA model of complete abstinence or whether it would be better to use a harm reduction model which would tolerate some forms of “controlled” drinking. Some of Rich’s staff are heavily in favor of the abstinence model and some favored the harm reduction model. Which way is the true way?
Traditional Case Koan from 101 Zen Stories, Case #13, A Buddha:
In Tokyo in the Meiji era there lived two prominent teachers of opposite characteristics. One, Unsho, an instructor in Shingon, kept Buddha’s precepts scrupulously. He never drank intoxicants, nor did he eat after eleven o’clock in the morning. The other teacher, Tanzan, a professor of philosophy at the Imperial University, never observed the precepts. When he felt like eating, he ate, and when he felt like sleeping in the daytime, he slept. One day Unsho visited Tanzan, who was drinking wine at the time, not even a drop of which is supposed to touch the tongue of a Buddhist.
“Hello, brother,” Tanzan greeted him. “Won’t you have a drink?”
“I never drink!” exclaimed Unsho solemnly.
“One who does not drink is not even human,” said Tanzan.
“Do you mean to call me inhuman just because I do not indulge in intoxicating liquids!” exclaimed Unsho in anger. “Then if I am not human, what am I?”
“A Buddha,” answered Tanzan.
Big Lebowski Commentary:
The Dude: “Hey, hey, hey careful, man! There’s a beverage here!”