“The Dude and the Zen Master”


Zen master Bernie Glassman compares Jeff Bridges’s iconic role in The Big Lebowski to a Lamed-Vavnik: one of the men in Jewish mysticism who “are simple and unassuming, and so good that, on account of them, God lets the world go on.” His buddy Jeff puts it another way. The wonderful thing about the Dude, he says, is that he’d always rather hug it out than slug it out.


For more than a decade, Academy Award–winning actor Jeff Bridges and his buddhist teacher, renowned Roshi Bernie Glassman, have been close friends. Inspiring and often hilarious, The Dude and the Zen Master captures their freewheeling dialogue about life, laughter, and the movies with a charm and bonhomie that never fail to enlighten and entertain. Throughout,  their remarkable humanism reminds us of the importance of doing good in a difficult world.


This review is from: The Dude and the Zen Master (Hardcover)

First off… this book is awesome! I think it’s a real life changing book, it’s one of those books you read and few days later you find it positively impacting you.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 review is from: The Dude and the Zen Master (Hardcover)

Odds are if you landed on this page, you want to like this book. I know I did. After all who doesn’t love Zen master and innovative social activist Bernie Glassman or Jeff Bridges, especially in the persona of The Dude (I suppose my one caveat to liking JB is I’m less than fully enamored with him when my wife is swooning over how cute he is). So I did want to like this book–and parts of it are satisfying; and Jeff and Bernie do come off as loveable–but overall I find it problematic as a book, as opposed to, say, a video.


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.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *