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17. Cave Dwelling Dudes

Updated: Jan 16

image - the Caves of Daoist Longmen Hermits (

One of the first things that you might notice about the above image is that the caves are damned difficult to get to. There's a reason for this...



The hermits living there don't want you to be able to get to them.  They don't wish to be disturbed.


They left the city and went as far away up the mountain as possible to get away from it all.  And if we can know why, we might get closer to what it means to be a Dude.

"China has a long history of people popping off to live in the mountains when they've had a belly full of crap from the city."

The Old Master

Lao Tzu (Old Master/s) wrote the Dao de Jing around 2,500 years ago.  It's the Chinese classic on Daoism, and Dudeists have their version of it called the Dude de Jing, which kinda rocks for the modern-day dude.


Lao Tzu had had enough of society and was leaving his home and his life behind to escape to the mountains.  And the story goes that a state guard asked this elderly Dude to write down his wisdom before disappearing off on a cloud.  81 verses later and it's done.


In this book, Lao Tzu refers to the ancient masters who were also following the Dao.  Right...


The point here is that there has been a long history (in China) of people popping off to live in the mountains when they've had a belly full of crap from the city. 

Yes, sure, some of them head up there in search of enlightenment - to them, the mountain is like the rug that ties everything together.  Another point worth mentioning, the regular Joes and Janes of Chinese society revere those hermits because they are symbols of something deeper than the regular government control and pressures of humanity.

Can Dudeists also represent this without needing caves?

Mountains are Mountains, Rugs are Rugs

So, folks are heading to the hills to get away from the stresses and turmoil of life, to dwell in the peaceful quiet of mountainous peaks.  They expect and have also learned from past masters, that the quiet of the mountains is the healing bandage from the wounds caused by the stresses of society.  It's their rug, man, and they don't want you and I coming to them and pissing all over it.


However, looking at the above picture, we can see that it doesn't look too quiet there, as there are three or four hermitages in a small space, and boy, do they make a lot of effort to get away.  And you may know, that people who want to find a hermit can be pretty determined to find them.  


So, we have a bunch of people wanting to get away from society, another bunch wanting to chase after enlightenment (or hermits), who are followed by other members of that society who wish to glean from them the secrets of life.


But really, what is it that everyone wishes to get away from because I suspect it is not just noise and turmoil, and what is it that we wish to draw closer to?


Mountains are not Mountains, Rugs are not Rugs

There is also another saying in China that the cave hermit who attains the Dao (experiences enlightenment) returns to the city to help others. They leave the cold harshness of mountain life to teach in the city where there is central heating, memory foam mattresses, and the thrill of game shows. Before enlightenment chop wood carry water. After enlightenment, turn up the gas and have a hot shower.

I know where I would be.

It appears that the calm sanctuary of quiet simple life in the mountains being, largely undisturbed by humanity, is no longer needed.


So, all that effort to then return.  What is it about enlightenment that means the mountains are no longer needed and the city is no longer stressful?


In The Big Lebowski movie, are we seeing hints of these answers in the Dude, and could it be these points that drove the Dudely Lama, Oliver Benjamin, to create Dudeism?

The Dude had quite a simple life. He had his apartment with some kind of Chinese things in there. He had his bowling buddies, and he liked soaking in a bath while listening to whale music. His little sanctuary of holiness.


In the book, The Dude & the Zen Master, Bernie Glassman explains to Jeff Bridges (if you don't know the movie, Jeff played the Dude) that he believes enlightenment is the experience that all is One; and that the seer is no different from the seen.



The mountain was seen as a mountain.  The rug was seen as a rug.  Then following enlightenment, all is viewed as One; the mountain is no longer a mountain, but is the One appearing as a mountain.  The rug is no longer a rug but is the One appearing as a rug, and the Dude is the same One appearing as a Dude. Wherever one looks, the One is seen. 

What it is about the experience of enlightenment that means the noisy city is no longer stressful and the quiet mountains are no longer required?


Mountains are Mountains, and Rugs are Rugs Again

A hermit lives on a mountain peak and stays there until one day some serious new shit comes to light (enlightenment), then he or she realises that everything is the same One, so they don't need to be in the mountains anymore, and they head back down to the city to teach the Truth.

Well, they don't need to be there either, and perhaps some cave-dwelling dudes don't bother to return. If all is One, who is there to listen to a teacher blathering? And where is the teacher?

Deep shit, man. Can you dig it?

They have learned that the idea to get away was just that, an idea. 

They were trapped by thoughts, and they reacted to the stresses of life through the lens of the self.  The self that believes it is unique, the self that must be defended, the self that reinforces itself. 

And all that can make a person seriously un-Dude. 

But seeing through the self to know that it never existed, means that all the uniqueness, all the defending, the reinforcing, the fighting, the needing, and so on, all that stuff that was attached to the self, doesn't exist either.


And the Dude, the one who has awakened, knows that the idea of the One is also an idea. 

To be looking at a mountain and thinking "I am seeing the One" is attached to a concept. 

A wild deer doesn't have this concept.  So, this is also dropped to be completely in the natural state.  But the deer isn't dropping anything. A mind without concepts, a mind that just looks out at the world, is in complete quietude.

The quietude of wild mountain living isn't needed so much when a person is rooted in and looks from, an empty silent mind to a landscape of untamed Oneness.


Yes, there is a mountain, if you call it a mountain (or the One), you are still naming it.  The mountain is just what it is.  The rug is just what it is. And what it is, is naming itself.


And the Dude is also just what it is. He likes his little sanctuary, his simple living, and his largely untroubled life. Like the deer, he probably doesn't have much going on in his head to disturb his peace. It's only when his rug gets pissed on that his bowling buddies convince him to fight for recompense that trouble begins.

The 10th Oxherding Picture

The person who leaves the hermitage does so because they now understand that there is an endless peace, a calm into which thought appears, and from where their "self" disappears. They wish to help the world to experience this while knowing that the "world" is also their Self, the One. 

The Dude (in the movie) listens to the space and not so much to thoughts, because his sense of ego is already very small.


In Zen, there are the 10 Oxherding Pictures and the final one shows the enlightened Dude returning to the marketplace he once left to help others. He has an easygoing carefree smile that is hard to ignore. Remind you of anyone Mr Lebowski?


The ego (self) believed it needed the calm of mountains.  It believed it experienced trouble in the city. The ego believed it needed enlightenment.  And once that occurred, the ego was seen through as having never existed and consequently, all the crap that was attached to that sense of self begins to unravel, and what remains is an untroubled presence of peace.


The real Dude comes from that space of untroubled peace and that's why he is considerably calmer than most of us. And it is this stillness that we miss, that is hidden under our needs, that we wish to return to yet have never left.


And Lao Tzu, why did he leave the city if he had already experienced awakening? 

By all accounts, he was tired of trying to help people see through their ego, and being at the sharp end of life, he wanted to create some extra space between him and uptight reactionaries. 



Peace out.

Rev. Thomo.


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