15 Reasons The Dude Is A Zen Master

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The Dude, in “The Big Lebowski”, doesn’t feel the urge to strive for affluence.


He doesn’t care about bones or clams (money) and has a kind of non-attachment attitude in life. The White Russian-drinking, pot-smoking, pacifist bowler enjoys the simple indulgences.

He loves listening to whale songs while smoking a jay in bath, listening to recordings of old bowling tournaments while lying on his rug and hanging out with his friends.

His laissez-faire attitude has spawned its own subculture including a religion called Dudeism, the multicity festival Lebowski Fest, and college-level courses. World’s largest cult film following, that even has its own documentary titled The Achievers: The Story of the Lebowski Fans, sees the Dude as a hero.

“I think he’s a hero because he’s so different from what you see in the world as a hero,’’ says Will Russell one of the originators of Lebowski Fest.

“He’s the opposite of society’s idea of achievement. He doesn’t have a career, a nice car, a wife and kids. He has nothing going on, but he seems genuinely content.’’

Which is exactly why the Dude appeals to so many in our age of infantile consumerism and obsessive career disorder (“Times like these call for a Big Lebowski”).

Even though the Koan brothers Coen brothers never mentioned anything about zen, Buddhism or spirituality the movie’s protagonist is perceived as a zen master in Buddhist circles. He’s been likened to Jesus too. (Jesus Christ that is, not the purple-suited pederast) and he uses koans.

Zen master Bernie Glassman says:

“Well the movie is full of koans. The Coen brothers of course wrote the dialogue, and they did not come from the perspective of Zen. But my looking at it, a lot of the dialogue could be used as koans. I finished koan work a long time ago, but I created a koan system out of that movie.”


15 Reasons The Dude Is A Zen Master


1. He practices Taoist exercises



Wearing professional martial arts shoes, the Dude indulges in Tai Chi, the ancient Chinese tradition of graceful exercises, described to manifest Tao (Tao is the fundamental nature or primordial essence of the universe).


2. He is aware that opinions don’t matter



As the Japanese Zen masters say, “Don’t seek the truth; just drop your opinions.”  Giving up our own viewpoints and preconceived ideas can enlighten you.


3. He is focused on what truly matters


Even under grim circumstances the Dude knows to keep that elusive balance between what really matters and what doesn’t.


4. He knows how to be here now and chill



One of the pillars in zen teachings: the way to prevent stress and find happiness is by living in the moment, a.k.a. mindfulness. “Be here now” as Baba Ram Dass so famously says.


5. He lives in the moment, free from the limiting strains of time



According to zen, time is not an absolute ‘thing’. Time is an illusion, a hallucination. In reality there is only today and there never will be anything except today. Zen’s “awakening to the instant” seems to manifest as almost a permanent state of being in the Dude.


6. He is a complete non-conformist with a disregard for status and authority



The Dude’s lifestyle mirrors that of various Eastern sages, he is not swayed by societal rules or norms. The highest wisdom lies in detachment, or, in the words of Chung-Tzu, “The perfect man employs his mind as a mirror; it grasps nothing; it refuses nothing; it receives, but does not keep.”


7. He uses zen humor



The Zen way of seeing things is non-conceptual. In response to the goon picking up a bowling ball and asking “What the fuck is this?”, the Dude jokingly refers to the futility and absurdity of attempting to classify reality into categories.


8. When necessary, he draws a ‘Taoist line’ in the sand



The Dude says what comes to mind at the moment but is aware that aggression only begets more aggression. The Tao recommends that one lives in harmony with the world, to “go with the flow” yet not to be a pushover.

In the Tao Te Ching chapter 64 we get “Tackle things before they have appeared. Cultivate peace and order before confusion and disorder have set in.”


9. He has retained his childlike wonder



The childlike mind is highly touted in zen teachings as well as in the Bible. Childlike spontaneity, childlike experiences of wonder and acceptance, of carefree immediacy, are closer to our true nature than wallowing in the self-obsessed mind.


10. He relishes the simple things in life




El Duderino cherishes the sanctity of the small things. Sipping a White Russian, smoking a spliff while listening to Creedence on a lazy afternoon drive he seems to be in nirvana.


11. He knows how to deal with setbacks



His Dudeness realizes all is temporary. Panta rhei, everything is transitory. He’s aware that in the grand scheme of things, fretting is not worth it. Duder expresses his enlightened view with phrases like, “Bummer man. That’s a bummer”, “Strikes and gutters, ups and downs” and, “Fuck it, man. Lets go bowling”.


12. He’s aware worrying is pointless



According to zen tradition, worrying has no use and the Dude lives by it. The zen saying goes:  “If the problem has a solution, worrying is pointless, in the end the problem will be solved. If the problem has no solution, there is no reason to worry, because it can’t be solved.” The Dude says: “I can’t be worried about that shit, life goes on man.”


14. Zen masters make mistakes too



Nothing is permanent, so neither is enlightenment or a perpetual state of spiritual bliss. El Duderino experiences this due to attachment to the Persian rug that really tied the room together. The Buddha said, “According to the seed that is sown, So is the fruit you reap.” 


13. He’s aware that karma is a bitch



Karma refers to action leading to future consequences. During Dude’s quest to get his rug back he experiences suffering. At some point the Dude loses his zen state of mind, “Shit, Walter, you fuck, you fucked it up! You fucked it up! Her life was in our hands, man”. To which Walter replies, “Nothing is fucked here, Dude. Come on, you’re being very un-Dude. They’ll call back”. Walter’s reaction indicates that this sort worrying is very a-typical behavior for the Dude.


15. The Dude abides



The Dude abides means he does not resist the flow, he does not take unnecessary action, thus honoring the The zen proverb “Practice not-doing and everything will fall into place.” — Lao Tzu.

The Dude may have been very un-Dude for a while but eventually he’s back at his natural zen-like calm. “Takin’ ‘er easy”, which is comforting to all of us sinners.


What’s your opinion man? Is the Dude a Zen master?

Or are we gonna split hairs here?


You may be interested in these 11 popular movies you didn’t know are Buddhist too.


While you’re at it, don’t forget to check out the top 10 best Buddhist books for children.




Check out these far out Big Lebowski gifts

From the dude’s pajama’s, a board game, vinyl figures, costumes, to the famous Man of the Year mirror and more.

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