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The Dude and the Zen Master (book review)

Updated on December 1, 2013

The Dude and the Zen Master is the freewheeling rap session between Jeff Bridges (the dude) and the Zen Master (Bernie Glassman) about life, laughter, and the movies.

The movie, 'The Big Labowski,' (Jeff plays 'the dude') is not only a cult film and favorite for stoners World wide, it is also the 'stand-by' and a simpler introduction to Zen Buddhism. At least that's just my opinion, man.

Whether the makers of the movie, the Cohen Brothers, had any for-thought, or during-thought, that this 'religious birth' might come forth, after their movie was released, is unsure. Maybe it just happened like that, like when the Beatles said that their song, 'Hey Jude' had nothing to do with smoking pot. Maybe it was just the 'outgrowth' of what they were doing at the time. "Let it out and let it in," & "get her under your skin, then you'll begin to make it better."

Like the lyrics of the song, the dialog of the Labowski movie still point in that direction. All one must do is look at the amount of dialog in the Labowski movie that lends itself to Zen Buddhism and one would find their way on their own.There's just too many examples that 'tie the room together.'

From the very first page of 'Jeff's Introduction: buddy Bernie Glassman says to me one day, "Did you know that the Dude in The Big Lebowski is considered by many Buddhists to be a Zen master?"

I said, "What the f*** are you talkin' 'bout, man?"

He said, "Oh yeah."

I said, "You gotta be kidding. We never talked about Zen or Buddhism while we were making Lebowski. The brothers (Ethan and Joel Coen) never said anything about that."

"Yea," laughed Bernie, "just look at their name - the Koan Brothers."

Koans are Zen stories that only make sense if you can see that life and reality are different from your opinions about them. Most of the famous ones were written in China a long time ago.

Bernie went on: "The big Lebowski is filled with Koans, only they're in the 'parlance of our time,' to quote the Dude."

"What are you talkin about, man? What do you mean?" I asked him.

"It's filled with 'em, like 'The Dude abides' - very Zen, man; or 'The Dude is not in' - classic Zen; or 'Donny, you're out of your element,' or 'That rug really tied the room together.' It's loaded with 'em."

~ ~ ~ ~

Hold on if you're thinking that Jeff's and Bernie's 'The Dude and the Zen Master' book is the first 'spinoff' from the Labowski movie's Zen tendencies you'd be wrong. In fact these guys are rather late to appear on the dude's wagon. Funny, one of them is the dude.

Soon after the movie was released these sites and and this page of mine, Granddad into Dudiesm? popped up.

Not only that, there are already books for sale on these sites with the same 'dude way of life' theme. They have cleaver titles like, 'The Abide Guide,' 'The Dude De Ching' and there's tee-shirts with graphics of the dude (Jeff Bridges) on the front dressed like uncle sam, saying, "I want you to take it easy," or one can become ordained with, The Church of the Latter-Day Dude, if they like. There's even a Labowski Fest every year where fans of the movie dress-up like their fave caricature, and the boat rows merrily merrily on and on. But as I said, these other things arn't from the real dude, nor are they endorsed by him. That is why I bought and read this book. That is why I review this book and offer this book here on my page. Why not learn 'zen dudiesm' from the real Dude and from a real Zen Master.


"Row row row your boat gently down the stream, merrily merrily merrily merrily life is but a dream." Remember that little tune? Bet ya never thought it had anything to do with Zen Buddhism. I know I didn't either until I started this book. It can be used like a mantra. And come to think of it that's exactly what it is. Every time I joined in and sang that tune it was times during boredom. And I think all the times I sang it was when I was driving to the beach. Remember thinking, "when the hell am I going to get there," instead of enjoying the moment of driving there. And why would you want to rush getting to the beach anyway? You'll just be closer to your few days there and then to your last day, and then to the time you have to discover that you are not really a beach bum millionaire, and that you have to drive home again. Just chill and dig where you are now, man. Rushing to an outcome is so un-dude. Roll with the strikes and gutters of life and realize your thoughts will change and you'll have another throw of the ball.


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