Thursday, December 31, 2009

HAPPY NEW YEAR and "HARDCORE ZEN TOUR: The Movie" Saturday at Hill St. Center

Happy New Year!

Hope your year is wonderful. I'm busy doing a half-assed version of 大掃除, which is pronounced "oh-so-ji"and means "big cleaning." It's something you do on New Year's in Japan. You clean up every damn thing in the house. I'm not going quite that far, but I'm doing some special cleaning tonight. Which is why this is gonna be short.

Today I finally watched Sike Sillanpää's film "Hardcore Zen Tour," a 30 minute documentary about my tour of Finland this summer. I'm really impressed. Sike followed me around almost 24/7 while I was in Finland this August filming every damned thing I did. He cut the footage into a 30 minute piece that he is trying to get exhibited in Finnish TV and elsewhere. I really love it.

For those of you who wondered, we will have our regular Zazen thing at Hill Street Center on Saturday, January 2nd starting at 10 am. The complete info on how to get there and all that is at the link over to your left that says Weekly Zazen Classes on Saturday Mornings (or just click on those very words in this very sentence).

I'm guessing we won't have a lot of people this coming Saturday. But for those of you who do show up, as a special treat I will show the movie! So be there if you wanna see it.

OK. Gotta go now.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

MEXICO TRIP REPORT

I am sitting in the Plaza de Armas using the free wi-fi kindly provided by the city of Queretaro, Mexico to write this message to you out there in Blogger Land. My dad, sitting right next to me and using a Windows based computer (an Acer, it seems) can't pick up the signal that I'm getting. Computers are mysterious.

The photos on this page are from the nearby Plaza Zenea, where they have very cool displays of the Garden of Eden and Hell. I mentioned this last time, but now I've got photos to prove it! You can click on the photos to see them bigger if you want, by the way.

Also in the photos you can see a little friend I picked up at a toy stall here. I am calling him Gayzilla because he is so very festive and pink. I find pink festiveness to be very gay and happy, full of light-heartedness and merriment. Of course, as my friend Leilani pointed out, he may be a she (or perhaps trans-gendered! Don't want to leave anyone out!). But that doesn't make her (zir?) any less full of light-heartedness and merriment, so the name sticks!

What can I tell you about Mexico? I don't really have anything at all to report about the Zen scene here. I don't even know if there is one. But I didn't come here for the Zen. I came here to hang out with my dad, who is down here (see first paragraph).

The Hell display is intriguing. It gets a lot more traffic than the Eden display next to it. I've noticed that the rock scene in this city seems to be very oriented towards metal, the more satanic the better. Maybe there's a connection. The city's seemingly lone record store -- called Rockland, I believe -- seems stocked mainly with metal. Though they do have a healthy selection of punk and prog rock.

I also saw some metal/punk bands playing outdoors on the town square last night. One band played Judas Priest's "Breakin' The Law" and the old Them chestnut (via The Doors, I'm guessing from the singer's Doors T-shirt) "Gloria" with lyrics in Spanish. Another band played the Pistols' version of Eddie Cochran's "Something Else," also with Spanish lyrics. Those guys had two foot tall mohawks all around. At one point I caught a whiff of something that smelled like modeling glue and realized it was coming from one of those guys' hair! My friend Mike Mohawk used to use shellac to keep his mohawk up. So maybe glue works too.

This is a very religious country. Or at least a country in which the outward displays of religious-ness are highly valued. The place we're staying is decorated with crosses everywhere you look. The taxi drivers display pictures of Jesus on their dashboard. Both the friendly guy who drove us to the local Wal Mart (ugh! not my idea!) at a normal pace and the surly guy who drove us back to town like a deranged maniac had Jesus on display.

I don't really know what to make of it all. I can't speak enough Spanish to get any sense at all of what this stuff means to anyone here. The presence of so much satanic metal imagery along side all the religious stuff gives me some kind of hint. It seems like the younger people take pleasure in flaunting their irreverence for what the priests have taught them. I wonder if they ever have religious folk protesting the metal shows the way we do up North.

All right. My dad wandered off so I better go fetch him.

See ya!

Friday, December 25, 2009

FELIZ NAVIDAD

FORGOT TO MENTION IT IN THE FIRST EDITION OF THIS POSTING, BUT THERE WILL BE ZAZEN AT HILL ST. CENTER TODAY (Dec. 26, 2009) EVEN THOUGH IT'S BOXING DAY. DETAILS, AS ALWAYS, ARE ON THE LINK TO YOUR LEFT.

Feliz Navidad and Merry Kwanza from the city of Queretaro, Mexico. I'm down here with my dad who has been looking into places in Mexico to retire for the past 15 years or so. This is the fourth of these exploratory journeys I've made with him. The first was to Valladolid and Merida in the Yucatan, the second was to Guadalajara, and the third was to Puerto Vallarta to check out some city north of there. So even though I've been to Mexico a few times I still can't speak much Spanish beyond "donde es el bano?" and "soy vegitariano." But that's all you really need.

This time it's Christmas. That's a first for me and it's been kind of fun. Down in the town square they have a display of various Biblical events in papier mache. They have a little Garden of Eden with happy animals and Adam and Eve with big ol' fig leaves covering the naughty bits. There's also Hell, which was very cool. Much cooler than Eden, if you ask me!

Last night there was a big-ass Christmas parade with floats depicting Bible scenes. They had "El triumfo de Judith," "El sacraficio de Isaac," "El Becerrode Oro," and many more. They also had booths where you could get your picture taken with the Three Wise Men or Santa Claus.

I like Christmas. It could be all the collective effervescence as my friend Jamie says. Or maybe it's the music. I love Christmas music even more this year than I did in the past thanks to a couple of people who know who they are. Maybe it's just the lights and decorations and stuff. I have a lot of "alternative" type friends who hate Christmas seemingly just because everyone else seems to enjoy it. But I like it.

I stopped by a Catholic mass with my dad and we peeked in. Couldn't tell much of what was happening. Spanish, though, always sounds a lot more holy somehow than English. It's impossible to imagine what the rituals and whatnot mean to those who participate in them.As a kid I remember feeling a little left out when my Catholic friends, like the Kashingakis in Nairobi, used to get to do all those cool rituals and I didn't.

I think rituals are important for human beings. It seems like we need some kind of rituals to keep us happy and contented. I like the Zen way of dealing with rituals by doing them but not really believing in them. It seems like a rational solution to the problem.

OK. My dad's talking to me so I'm gonna go.

Merry Christmas to all!

(By the way I am still on the look out for a car...)

Monday, December 21, 2009

CAN ANYONE OUT THERE RENT, LEND OR SELL ME A DECENT CAR?

It's a long story, which I'm tired of telling. But the end of it is that I do not have a viable vehicle. And I need one starting on December 29th.

Anyone got a car they wanna get rid of?

Contact me at spoozilla@gmail.com.

Thanks! And Happy Winter Whatever!!

Friday, December 18, 2009

HOW AMC’S REMAKE OF THE PRISONER EXPLAINS WHY I WILL NEVER HAVE A DHARMA HEIR

I recently watched most of episode one of AMC’s remake of the classic Sixties TV show The Prisoner over at my friend Nina’s house. She has cable and TiVo and I have neither. Unfortunately her TiVo thought the episode was an hour long when it was actually longer than that. So it cut off before the finish.

In any case, I wasn’t too upset. The show was good enough that I’d like to have seen the ending. But not so compelling that I can even recall now exactly where things were when the TiVo decided to stop recording.

I don’t think I could have been anything but disappointed in any remake of The Prisoner. The original show was a big part of my education as a young man. I first watched it with my first Zen teacher, Tim, on his little black and white portable TV set in his basement apartment in Kent, Ohio. Tim didn’t have cable then either (probably still doesn’t) and it was on a UHF station. So the reception was always lousy. And yet the show was so amazing that its power came through in spite of only barely being able to tell what was going on half the time.

The show was the creation of its star, the late lamented Patrick McGoohan. It was a profound meditation on the individual and his place and role in society, about personal freedom vs. one’s responsibility to one's fellow human, about the very nature of existence itself. And this was a TV show, for God’s sake! Not even some highbrow PBS thing either. It was made for commercial television, for mass audience consumption.

The problem with the remake is that the producers just don’t seem to get what The Prisoner was about. They seem to have a vague comprehension that the show was cool and mysterious. But they either don’t understand the underlying message or they don’t care. There is no burning desire here to say something heartfelt. At best, the folks who made the remake seem only to desire to make something weird. And while the original was indeed weird, it was much more than that. What we get in the remake is more like a low rent knock-off of LOST. It's certainly not the worst thing on TV. But it could have been so much better.

I suspect the problem is that while the original series was completely the brainchild of one single individual, the new one seems to have been made by a committee. Of course Patrick McGoohan didn’t make The Prisoner all by himself. He had writers, directors, actors and a whole lot of other people involved. But he did personally oversee every aspect of the show. It’s obvious that the new series has no such guiding hand. And it suffers for that, as does all art created by committee. This is also why most Hollywood movies are so incredibly bad – they are made by committee.

Good Zen teaching doesn't happen by committee any more than good art can be made by committee. This is why the Soto-shu, the organization that's supposed to represent Dogen's teachings in the modern world, can't ever hope to succeed in doing so. This is why most teachers name a single successor, not a board of directors.

Only Patrick McGoohan could make The Prisoner correctly. No one else could ever make The Prisoner the right way. They could certainly make their own show, which embodied the same attitude as The Prisoner. But they could not make The Prisoner.

Watching the remake made me think of the teachings of Buddha, Bodhidharma, Dogen, and all the rest of those guys. What’s interesting about really good teaching or really good art is that it bypasses the individual who expresses it and enters into a whole ‘nother realm. The Buddha’s teachings are not unique to the man Gautama Buddha. They are something universal that Gautama Buddha was able to express. This is why you don’t necessarily need to study what Gautama Buddha said in order to understand it.

Gautama Buddha expressed that stuff in a way that was uniquely his own, that came from his distinctive personality. So did Dogen and Bodhidharma and Gudo Nishijima and Dainin Katagiri and all the rest of them. Yet in a very real sense the greatest thing any of these guys did was develop the ability to step aside and allow the universal teaching to flow through them.

Yet that they let it flow though them is the key. They expressed this universal something in their own way. They did not immitate anyone else. They didn't do a bad remake of their teachers. They were not tribute bands. The old koan about Gutei’s finger expresses this very well.

Whenever Gutei was asked to express Buddhism he held up one finger. Guetei had a student. And whenever that student was asked about Buddhism, he imitated Gutei by holding up one finger. When Gutei heard about this he called the student to his room and asked him to say something about Buddhism. The student held up one finger. Gutei took out a knife and sliced the student’s finger off. The student was bawling his eyes out when Gutei said, “Hey kid!” The student looked up. Gutei held up one finger. At that moment the student got it.

Any truly great work of art expresses something universal that goes beyond that piece of art itself. The Prisoner expressed something essential and true. That’s why it still haunts those of us who watched it. The folks who remade the show were unable to catch on to what the show was expressing. Same with the guys who remade Godzilla. Same with almost any remake of anything. The rare cases where remakes work only occur when the people doing the remake either get what the original was about or when they use the original as a template to express something they themselves feel passionately about.

I’m not nearly old enough for anyone to start concerning themselves with whether I’ll leave a dharma heir or not. And yet a couple of people have already expressed worry about that to me. But I’ve already decided I will never name any dharma heir or successor. That would just encourage someone to do a poor remake of me, which would be truly awful. I’ve seen some poor remakes of great teachers already and they’re just as bad as AMC’s version of The Prisoner. Not that I’m a great teacher by any stretch of the imagination. Which makes it even more urgent that I leave no successors. Imagine a bad AMC remake of Petticoat Junction or That Girl or some other show like that. A dharma heir of me would be even worse.

What does that mean for my own dharma reception (reception being the other side of transmission)? I don’t know. Nishijima Roshi seems convinced I have manifested something of the attitude he received from his teachers. I can’t possibly judge if he’s correct or not. I suppose if I ever did see something like what I’ve grokked from my teachers in someone who sat with me I might be inclined to make some kind of formal recognition of that. But I think I’d probably keep it on the down low even if that happened.

Remakes suck anyway.

Monday, December 14, 2009

War Is Bad, Death Row Tull, Top 15 Books for the Holiday Season, Tiger Woods

Lots of little things this time...

First check out this link:

Elephant Journal's Top 15 Books to Give as Holiday Gifts

Yep! Elephant Journal sez to give your loved ones a little Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate for Hanukkah, Kwanza, Rohatsu or Christmas this year! They'll love you so much they'll lick you on the ears for it! Thanks Waylon!

Also, here's a little holiday gift from me to you. Can't remember if I put this up once before. But I don't think I did. Check out:

Black Sabbath by Death Row Tull

Death Row Tull was a concept for a band that never came to be. This was one of several demos I did that were intended to set out what the band was going to be like. That's me on guitar, bass and Mellotron. Bret Johnson did the drums and engineered the recording. My friend Leilani did the vocals. The idea was to have her, a five foot tall Filipino girl, front the loudest band in the world. I had her sing this as "cute" as possible (listen to the "Is this the end my friend" bit). I was real happy with the ultra-fuzzy guitar tone. Turn it up to eleven!

Couple of things in the news caught my eye. Last Friday the LA Times had a headline that said, "Some wars keep peace, Obama says." He is quoted as saying, "Part of our challenge is reconciling these two seemingly irreconcilable truths -- that war is sometimes necessary and war is at some level an expression of human beings."

I really liked that statement. Out here in Santa Monica it seems like every third car has a bumper sticker that says, "War is NOT the answer." But the sad fact is that those bumper stickers are not true. War is very often the best solution to complex human difficulties. That is the problem!

If you say that war is never the answer, you're just hiding from the facts. And hiding from the facts isn't going to solve anything. First start from the understanding that -- horrible as it is -- war is the answer many times, then try and figure out why that is and what can be done about it. After we come to truly understand why war works so damn well we can start to build a world where your bumper sticker is true. Wishing everyone could just join hands and sing Kumbaya won't fix a damned thing.

Too many people equate Buddhism with naive pacifism. Of course, Buddhism is all about trying to move humanity toward a more stable and peaceful situation. But it's also about facing the true facts as they are. War is bad. No doubt about it. But if you want to do something to end all war you need to acknowledge that, as things stand right now, wars are all too often necessary.

I wish war would go away too. But wishing ain't gonna cut it.

The other thing I've been looking at in the news is all this fuss about Tiger Woods. Twitter contributor Shit My Dad Says quotes his 73 year old dad saying, "I like See's candy. Put me in a See's store, I'm eating candy. The whole world is Tiger's See's store, and the candy is vagina."

The plain fact is that no matter what he did or who he fucked it's really none of our God damned business. He's a golfer, for Christ's sake! What does any of this have to do with golf?

Feh. People are so fuckin' dumb sometimes.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

TRIP REPORT

Here's an audio file of my talk at Dharma Field in Minneapolis last Sunday, December 6, 2009.

12/6/09 Dharma Field

Those of you who've heard my talks before will recognize that the first 15 minutes are a variation on my standard introductory stump speech. This is the autobiographical how-I-got-into-Zen thing I do a lot. But after 15 minutes, the Q&A started and it went in some interesting directions, I think.

I went several of places this time out. I started off in Vancouver, where I did a public talk on the theme of Buddhism and sex. This was my first time doing a talk specifically about that subject. But it came off (heh-heh) pretty well, I thought. The Q&A started right in, within about ten minutes. That's the kind of talk I like. I video taped this one, so maybe when I get my new website together you'll be able to download it.

Next I led, or oversaw, or something-ed an afternoon of Zazen during which the group got treated to some kind of disco music from downstairs for about half the sitting. Then we had a break, went out to eat, and many of the same people returned to the same place to watch Tank Girl and then dance around like crazy. That was fun.

Finally I did an introduction to Zen class at a Yoga studio, which went really well, I thought. I'd like to do more of those. The Yoga folks in Vancouver seemed pretty interested in Zen. Plus, for once, the women outnumbered the men in the room. I want more women to get into Zen, and not for any pervy reason either. There really is too much testosterone in most Zendos and that needs to be rectified.

Then it was on to Victoria. Victoria is near Vancouver, but it's on an island. The island, just to be confusing, is called Vancouver Island even though Vancouver itself is not on the island. The Canadians are a curious race. Their ways are strange, and their customs confusing.

Anyway, over in Victoria I was hosted by the Victoria Zen Centre. They are part of Joshu Sasaki Roshi's lineage. Or maybe they aren't. Apparently there was a split between the folks in Victoria and the head office of Sasaki's group down here in California. But in any case, they are Rinzai style Zen. And, as you know, Brad Warner thinks that Rinzai is evil. I know this about Brad Warner because I have read it on the Internets. And they can't say anything on the Internets unless it's true. Therefore Brad Warner thinks Rinzai s evil.

But I don't think Rinzai is evil, in spite of what that Brad Warner has to say. Screw him! I really enjoyed sitting with this group. I did a Zen talk, a public talk and a one-day sitting. Because they are evil... I mean because they are Rinzai, they did 25 minute sits with fast kinhin in between. They do kinhin outside in the rain in Victoria.

Which brings up another cultural difference. The folks up there apparently don't know enough to use umbrellas when it's raining and will happily walk around uncovered in weather that would have anyone in Southern California ducking for shelter. In fact even a transplanted Ohioan like me was having difficulty adjusting. But I guess if you ran for cover every time it rained up there you'd be running for cover a whole lot.

I did a lot of dokusans with that group, cuz in the Rinzai tradition everyone at a retreat does dokusan, which they call "sanzen" because they are evil. For those of you who don't know what either one is, they are private interviews with the teacher of the retreat. In traditional Rinzai practice sanzen is where you present your understanding of the koan your teacher has assigned to you. But I didn't do any of that stuff. I just chatted with people.

After Victoria I went and visited my dad in the Dallas suburbs for Thanksgiving. My sister, her husband and her kids all were there too. Hence the videos with my nice niece Skylar that I put up a couple entries ago. Here's another one for those who haven't had enough.

Family! Oy vey and gevelt!

After that it was up to Minnesota for a public talk at Macalaster College. This was a lot of fun. Macalester is an interesting place. On the door to the room downstairs from where I gave my talk was a note advertising a "Feminism and Theater of the Oppressed Workshop for female-identified members of the Macalester Community." That kinda says it all. I like places like that and I'm glad they exist, although sometimes I have trouble understanding them.

I led a short retreat there the following day, which was fun. As always, far fewer people showed up for the Zen practice than for the talk. But then again, I did perform "Buddha Was a Good Ol' Boy" on banjo at the talk, but not at the Zen retreat.

Finally, I did a talk at Dharma Field, the place run by Steve Hagen, author of Buddhism Plain and Simple and Buddhism Is Not What You Think: Finding Freedom Beyond Beliefs. That talk is linked at the top of this page if you want to hear it.

I had a very good time everywhere I went. I'll be parked in California for a little while. But I'm already working on more out of town gigs. Looks like I'll be in Houston and Austin, Texas and then at the Southern Dharma Retreat Center in Hot Springs, North Carolina in March. Also working on a gig in New York City in early April. I'll very likely be in Europe after that.

Anyone who wants me to come to their town, please write me at spoozilla@gmail.com and I'll see what I can do!

Friday, December 04, 2009

Happy B-day, Nishijima Roshi & Macalester College Today at 4:45

Nishijima Roshi turned 90 on November 29th! The photo to your left is from the party held for him by students of Dogen Sangha in Tokyo, who meet each Saturday at Tokyo University's Young Buddhists Association. I guess 90 is pretty young! At the bottom of this post is a video made for his b-day by one of the Dogen Sangha groups in Frankfurt, Germany.

I'm in St. Paul today enjoying their double good hospitality and warmth. I sat in on a poetry reading at Macalester College last night, which was a lot of fun. Especially the poem about burgers! In just a few hours I'll be speaking at the college.

I'm kinda nervous as I always am before these talks. This will be my second talk about Buddhism and sex. It's the subject of my forthcoming book from New World Library. The book isn't due out until next Fall. But it's mostly finished at this point. Still, everything I write is a work in progress as far as I'm concerned -- even after it's already on sale in the stores.

What I've tried to do in the book is take a personal view of Buddhism and sexuality as it has developed for me. It wasn't until I started writing the book that I realized I lost my virginity and began my Zen practice at roughly the same time. So almost all of my life as a sexual being has been affected by Zen practice and Zen philosophy. Whether I am a shining example of how to reconcile the two remains to be seen. I think I'm a little better at it than a few and a lot worse than others. In short, I handle it about as well as can be expected.

But I really believe that the Buddhist approach has been invaluable in allowing me to have a pretty happy sex life without a lot of the intensity and weirdness I've seen a many of my friends deal with. Sure I've had some heartbreak. I break pretty hard when I break. I've done a few things I shouldn't have. But overall, I feel like it's been mostly really, really good -- even when it's been bad. That's probably the part where the Zen stuff helps the most. It's a way of maintaining some kind of balance even when you're freaking the fuck out.

Anyway, as usual I have no clue just what I'm gonna say to the students of Macalester. But I got a few notes written down on a little notepad in my pocket. So I can always whip that out if I completely lose track.

Hope to see you there!

All times, dates, locations and suchlike are AT THIS LINK.

And remember I'm leading a half-day sit at Macalester tomorrow (Saturday) and doing the Dharma Talk at Dharma Field in Minneapolis on Sunday. The info about those is also at the link above (or just click here, lazy-pants!).

And, and, and, as usual zazen at Hill Street Center in Santa Monica is ON this Saturday in spite of the fact I won't be there.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

JUKAI and Why I No Longer Do It...

I promised an piece about jukai, so here it is. I've written extensively about jukai in all of my books. The longest bits about it are in Hardcore Zen, in which I talk about the jukai ceremonies I went through (three of them!) and in Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate, where I talk about the jukai ceremonies I've performed.

For those who don't know, jukai is the traditional Buddhist ceremony of receiving the precepts. A person publicly vows to honor the Three Devotions, and uphold the Three Universal Precepts and the Ten Fundamental Precepts. The Three Devotions are to Buddha, Dharma (Buddhist teachings) and Sangha (Buddhist community). The Three Universal Precepts are 1) to observe social rules, 2) observe the universal rules of morality and 3) work for the salvation of all beings. The Ten Fundamental Precepts are 1) not to destroy lie 2) not to steal 3) not to have excessive desires 4) not to lie 5) not to live by selling liquor (didn't even know her) 6) not to discuss the failures of Buddhist priests and laypeople 7) not to praise oneself or berate others 8) not to begrudge the sharing of Buddhist teachings or other things but give them freely (or give them to Ace Frehley, I can never remember) 9) not to become angry and 10) not to abuse the three treasures; Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

Nishijima Roshi says, "The precepts are not rules. They are the common habits of Buddhists." He likes to quote an old Buddhist saying that, "No rule is our rule." Furthermore, the Buddhist precepts apply only to yourself. They are never, ever, ever to be used as a means of judging other people's behavior. You can never say that someone else is breaking the precepts because you cannot know what the precepts mean to anyone else. You can only know what they mean to you.

People often ask me if they should take jukai themselves. The answer is always the same; I have no idea whether you should take jukai or not. If you have to ask a complete stranger, the answer may be that you're not ready. But that's about as much as I can say.

Recently a very close friend of mine took jukai at Green Gulch Zen Farm (where they farm Zen) in Northern California. For her it was a wonderful and moving ceremony. She benefited greatly from it. She took a long time deciding if she wanted to do this. She made the decision when she knew it was her own will to do this thing. Then she went straight ahead without hesitation.

I'm suspicious of teachers who encourage their students too strongly to take jukai and offer it too easily. I always wonder if it's a strategy to increase their market share. Pushing people to take jukai feels wrong. The decision to go through the ceremony has to come from the student, not the teacher.

I've decided to stop performing and officiating jukai ceremonies myself. I'm not saying I'll never do one again. But for now I am no longer offering them to anyone. I made this decision because I found that I am highly uncomfortable with the expectations that often come up from people who have taken the ceremony. I'm not interested in being anyone's "spiritual daddy," and that often seems to be what people are looking for when they ask to take the ceremony. I find that, for me, jukai tends to interfere with the kind of practice I wish to participate in. In my case, for reasons I can't quite understand, juaki tends to encourage dependence rather than independence. So I've decided to drop it. For now.

I'm not doing this as any kind of official stance as head of Dogen Sangha. Other Dogen Sangha teachers can decide for themselves if they want to perform jukai or not. I've chosen not to on my own, for my own personal reasons. Other DS teachers are encouraged to approach the matter in whatever way they are comfortable with.

So there ya go. The jukai article!

Here are the talks I gave recently in Victoria, BC:

Nov. 17th Talk
Nov. 17th Q&A
Nov. 19th Public Talk
Nov. 22nd Zazenkai Talk

Remember I'm giving talks and leading sitting practice in St. Paul and Minneapolis starting Friday. Details are AT THIS LINK.

And the Zazen at Hill Street Center will be held as usual this Saturday even though I won't be there. The meetings are much better when I'm not around, they tell me.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

NEW VIDEOS WITH SKYLAR!


You asked for it! You got it! New videos of the comedy team of Brad and Skylar!

For those of you who don't tune in regularly, Skylar is my niece, the daughter of my younger sister. A couple years ago Skylar did an interview with me that she posted on YouTube, which still gets more hits than anything but my interview with Sock Monkey. High brow entertainment is my middle name!

The one posted on top was just improvised. The "Pickle Monster" thing below was conceived by Skylar. I'm not sure why the sound on that one doesn't synch up with the video. But given the nature of the piece it kind of works better that way.

Skyy, for that is how she spells it, created these and had them up on YouTube within seconds, as only a 13 year old is able. There are a few more up there if you're into that kind of thing. But these are the ones that turned out the best.

All of you in the Midwest are hereby ordered to attend my upcoming gigs in St. Paul and Minneapolis starting this coming Friday. The dates and locations are at this link (click here). If you live within a ten hour drive of the Twin Cities and you fail to show up you will be re-born as a slug for 10,000 lifetimes. Are you prepared to take that risk?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

OK. My sister and her kids are due here any minute. So this will very likely be my last post for a while.

So far, so good on the first 20 hrs. or so of having the comments section back. I was intrigued by one of the first ones to appear. An anonymous commenter said:

Brad, good to see you Back.

Still seems like you carry a lot of grudges and revenge about a lot of stuff for someone who is supposed to have been practicing Zen.

I guess you don't seem like someone to respect or look up to. Isn't that kind of the least you would want in any kind of Buddhist teacher?


It's an interesting question. I'm not sure if I "carry a lot of grudges and revenge." I honestly don't think I have any at all. If I seem to it's probably because I'm still poor at communicating what I really think and feel.

But that's not the point I'm interested in. It's the idea that I don't seem like someone to respect or look up to, and of this being what one would want from a Buddhist teacher.

I don't think so.

I mean, I suppose I do respect Tim and Nishijima Roshi. But I can't say I ever looked up to them. At least not in the usual sense. I didn't consider them as role models. Not exactly.

I could see that they had found a way to negotiate this life for themselves that was uniquely their own. They had a rare sort of balance that was often demonstrated in ways that surprised me. I remember seeing Nishijima Roshi get boiling mad at someone who lived in his dojo, and yet he did it in a completely balanced way.

But remember I knew these men personally. I sat with them. I ate lunch with them. I watched bad TV shows with them (well, at least with Tim). They were not known to me as a series of sentences typed on a computer screen or videos on YouTube.

You don't get me in my role as a Buddhist teacher here on this blog or in my books. You get me writing about that role. And that's a whole different thing.

Be that as it may, this question seems to relate to the old saw: "How can I recognize a real teacher?" I've been trying to find a way to answer this one forever. I'm not even trying to claim I am the embodiment of a "real teacher." I can't recognize myself as that. I have no idea if I am or not. I never will. Because it's impossible for anyone to make that judgment about themselves.

But I can say with absolute certainty that my teachers were the real deal. And I seem to have recognized that. But how? It was a feeling more than any line of intellectual reasoning that could be explained. I'll keep working on this and maybe I'll be able to say one of these days.

****

I had a funny dream last night. In it, it seemed that my unconscious mind was trying to explain to my conscious mind how it saw Zen practice. Weird, huh? Anyway, the one thing I recall my unconscious mind saying was, "Sometimes the brain just has to dry out a little." Meaning, I guess, that thoughts were like a contamination in the brain and that doing zazen allowed them to sort of "dry up" and cease to be a problem.

Gotta go now!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

SCREEN TIME, MY MAD CHAMBER OF HORRORS and OTHER DELIGHTS

OK. I've turned commenting back on. For now...

I've been enjoying Gniz's recent lambasting of Genpo Roshi and Big Mind® over on the Reblogging Brad Warner blog. It's good to see this stuff getting a public airing. But I've never felt the need to dig as deeply as Gniz has. The fact that Big Mind® is bullshit is overwhelmingly evident just by watching videos of it.

In any case, the fact that Gniz has chosen to write these pieces means that his blog is no longer really functioning as a place to comment on this one. So I suppose I'd better reinstate the comments section.

Those of you who assume I have done this because I saw a decrease in traffic to this site when I removed the comments are assuming I am a whole lot more together on stuff like that than I really am. The truth is I have no clue how many people look at this thing even though I have a subscription to a service that's supposed to tell me.

I'm going to try to look at the comments and even chime in on occasion. But I make no promises. The fact is, the Internet bores me to tears. I can't stand being on-line any longer than I absolutely have to. And because of my work I absolutely have to be on-line way longer every day than I can stand without adding any more "screen time" to my life.

I should explain "screen time." I stayed in Victoria, BC last week with a guy named Sei-in. Sei-in has three kids. The kids are given a specific allotment of what Sei-in calls "screen time" each week. They can spend this time watching TV or being on the Internet or playing video games or doing other things that involve looking at screens. I think he gives them about 5-6 hours per week (that's per week, kids, not per day). He says their behavior (or behaviour since they're Canadian) has improved markedly since he introduced this system. Time spent in front of screens seems to make the kids jumpier, more nervous, more angry, more prone to get in fights, etc. than time spent with friends or books or in doing real activities rather than virtual ones.

This is a lesson we should all pay attention to.

And it's another reason I don't believe in on-line sanghas.

So... while I will be monitoring the comments more than before, don't expect a whole lot. Even Gniz's site contained anonymous commenters making oblique references to my "mad chamber of horrors" where I perform "experiments labeled as Zen." What this chamber is and what those experiments are is anybody's guess. But what's not a matter of guessing is that weenies like whoever left that comment will have their say in the new comments section.

But so will intelligent people. And I hope those people will feel free to ignore the weirdos or knock them down when they pop up. I myself probably won't bother with that stuff except perhaps to make fun of it as I'm doing now.

ANYWAY, I'm celebrating Thanksgiving with my family in the suburbs of Dallas this week. Next week I'm off to St. Paul and Minneapolis for more speaking gigs. Details are at this link.

The regular zazen at Hill Street Center in Santa Monica is on this coming Saturday even though I will not be there. So go sit if you wanna sit.

Now leave your comments! But be sure not to exceed your allotted "screen time!" I know I will not exceed mine.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

My Home Town and Bullshit Sexism in Buddhism


I'm thinking about reinstating the comments section. But I'm gonna need to consult with Aaron now that he's involved.

Anyway, I've occasionally seen debates crop up over whether or not Brad Warner is really "street" or, in fact, secretly did not grow up in the alleys of the inner city, but (~gasp!~) in a quiet suburb. I think this comes from people who read Noah Levine's PR, confuse it with me and then accuse me of being a fake because I'm not what they imagine Noah is (which isn't what Noah is either). Anyone who really wants to know where I grew up can click on this slightly weird video I found last night, which gives you a quick tour of the whole town. Yes, folks, I grew up not on the mean streets of the city but in the lamest white bread suburb in the universe. Or at least in Ohio.

Trivia buffs: The Strand Theater, which shows up early in the video on the right side of the street (and on the photo I posted), was the site of a planned gig by Black Flag in 1982. Black Flag's van broke down and Zero Defex headlined that night.

And here is an article written by my friend Darrah du Jour about freedom from religion, which I thoroughly enjoyed and thought I'd like to share.

And here is an article that I found very interesting. My host in Vancouver, Kyira Korrigan, pointed this controversy out to me. I had no idea. For millions more links to other stuff about the subject go here.

I have some strong opinions about this. But I've decided that for now this blog is probably not the best place to air them. Maybe in a little while. But not yet. I will only say that bullshit sexism is not Buddhism. If it were I'd drop Buddhism like a hot potato in a second. Yay Ajahn Brahm! You go! Stick it to The Man, I say!

Tonight at 7pm I will be at the University of Victoria Interfaith Chapel (that's in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), Lot #6 UVic Ring Road. Contact office@zenwest.ca for more info.

More info about my upcoming gigs in Victoria and in Minneapolis/St. Paul is here.

As I mentioned before, the monthly all-day Zazen at Hill Street Center in Santa Monica will proceed as usual this coming Saturday (Nov. 21, 2009) even though I will not be there. Kevin Bortolin, a fellow Dharma heir of Gudo Nishijima, will give the talk.

The info about the day-long retreats at Hill St. Center is at this link.

You can leave comments here.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

BC Report & c.


I did my first talk in Victoria, BC last night. It was very nice. There's a photo of the event to your left. It was Rinzai style Zen in the tradition of Joshu Sasaki Roshi.

A couple days before that I gave a talk at another temple in the Sasaki tradition, Vancouver Zen Centre (they don't know how to spell the word "center" in Canada). That also went swimmingly. The talk was styled as a dialogue between me and Eshin, the head of the centre there. That was a good way to do things, I thought.

On the same day I gave a talk in Vancouver at a place called Yoga For The People. Can you get more hippy-dippy than that for a name? No. You cannot. But it was a very good talk. Got some nice questions.

I also sat at a place called Dharma Lab. The main thing I recall about that was the music from downstairs. I think it was Paula Abdul. No, not her. One of those people. Janet Jackson? I don't know. Who's the one with the butt? I also remember they showed Tank Girl and had a dance party afterward. That was fun.

The only talk I gave in Vancouver that I managed to video tape was the first one, at the Centre for Peace. I'll try and get some of that up on YouTube before the world freezes over, or burns to a crisp, or whatever it's supposed to do.

Which brings me to the one question I can clearly recall from last night. Someone asked whether it was truly "Zen" to worry about global climate change.

Whenever I get asked questions about that latest of the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it scares, I think about my teenage years. When I read books like The Penultimate Truth by Philip K. Dick, or watched films like The Day After (not to be confused with The Day After Tomorrow), or listened to songs like Electric Funeral by Black Sabbath or Missile Destroyed Civilization by MDC, I believed whole-heartedly and without any shred of doubt that these were predictions of an unavoidable future, that before the 80s were over the entire world would be destroyed by nuclear bombs. With Reagan in office I was absolutely certain it was going to happen.

And then it didn't.

So when I see people getting scared shitless of the inevitable global environmental melt-down I have to take it with a grain of sustainably harvested sea salt. BUT just as songs, books and films like the ones I mentioned above played a role in ending the threat of total nuclear annihilation, so too do the works of art warning us of environmental disaster help in educating people about how to divert that. At least I hope so.

In any case, I've noticed that among people who are concerned about the environment there is a culture of worry. It's as if worry itself is seen as a way to do something about the problems we're facing. If you're not dreadfully worried about this stuff, some seem to believe you're totally unconcerned. But I think it's not quite so black and white. There are lots of shades between worried to death and SUV-driving litterbug.

Worry itself doesn't do a whole lot of good. You do what you can, and when you're done doing what you can you do something else. Constantly wringing your hands about the problem is not a constructive way of addressing it.

It's also important to get yourself together so that you can face these problems with the kind of balance needed to really work on them. This is where practice is beneficial.

And speaking of important problems facing humanity, here's a website I've been enjoying: William Shatner's Toupee.

I'm still on tour with 2 more gigs in Victoria and three more in St. Paul and Minneapolis. Click here to see the full schedule.

You can comment here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dharma Wars and Appolgies to Canada

First off, someone pointed out that Vancouver is in Southwest Canada, not Northwest Canada. True. I was mixing two ideas, one of which was that I'd been trying for ages to set up a Northwest Tour. This would've included Seattle, Portland, Victoria and Vancouver. But only the folks in Victoria, BC, Canada ponied up for plane fare. Thus it became a "Northwest Canada Tour" in my shriveled up, nearly useless mind. By the way, I wish I was Thurston Howell III and could just jet off to different places on my own dime. But I can't. Not enough dimes!

Next up, a lot of people sent me links to this article in Tricycle magazine in which I am quoted, and to this article about that article.

Micahel Headerle, author of the Tricycle piece, called me up many months ago to interview me for his article. I don't really recall the conversation. But he quotes me as saying, “That’s the way you wrote in punk zines, and it was understood within that community that you called a friend a scumbag and everybody would laugh about it” in regard to my comments that Genpo Roshi is a scumbag.

I don't know if that's precisely what I said. But maybe it is. I kinda doubt it though. In any case, in the context of the article it makes it sound like I'm trying to say, "Hey, me and Genpo are buds, so it's cool." Which is not at all what I want anyone to believe. I am not friends with Genpo Roshi. That's for darn sure.

But I do write here and in my books in a style that comes from the way one wrote in punk zines. Within that context it was understood what it meant to call someone a scumbag or suchlike. It was not that one necessarily wished ill or harm upon the sumbag in question or even hated that person. It was that one viewed that person's actions and concluded that they were the actions of a scumbag. One did not hide one's opinions behind well-reasoned arguments. One just said them. Perhaps this is not well understood in Internet Buddhism Land. But I don't really care. Internet Buddhism Land is not a place I wish to be well understood in.

I find a portion later in the piece more interesting. It goes like this:


If someone rejects Buddhism after stumbling across an online debate, “They’re walking away from a fantasy of Buddhism,” he (me, Brad) says. “That’s O.K. They’re not going to find that anyway, so it sort of speeds up the process.” But it is really necessary to drive them away with a stick?


Is it really necessary to drive folks away from Zen with a stick -- in my case through the use of what Headerle calls "outrageous rhetoric?" I have to wonder if Headerle is familiar at all with the history of Zen. Because the entire history of Zen is full of teachers very literally driving students away with sticks. Traditionally, when one wished to enter a Zen monastery that person was told very loudly to, GO AWAY. If they did not go away they were physically chased away from the place, very often by a monk wielding a big stick. Only those who were serious enough about the practice to withstand this treatment got in. Doesn't anyone read those old stories anymore? Maybe you can't find them on the Internet. Go to the library. I guarantee you will find plenty.

The whole "come on in we have puppies and ice cream inside" attitude that seems to have become the norm in some Western Zen organizations is highly un-traditional. I think I am far more approachable than most Zen teachers of the past. Compared to them I am a big ol' softie.

Whatever. As to the notion that the disputes among Buddhists should not be exposed on-line... All's I can say is that's just not gonna happen. It's out there. This kind of stuff did not start on the Internet. But the Internet has amplified it. And until the Internet goes away, the exposure of disputes among Buddhists on the Internet isn't going away either.

It's probably best not to air any more dirty laundry in public than is strictly necessary. But, for my own part, I have no regrets about what I've said regarding Genpo Roshi. It needed saying and nobody else was saying it. At least not that I was aware of at the time. Yeah, I might have bolstered my arguments against the scam that is Big Mind® more if I hadn't used the word scumbag. But what's done is done. What I said served to call attention to a very serious misuse of the Dharma and I'm glad for that. It probably wouldn't have gotten nearly as much coverage had my argument been more well-reasoned.

So there ya go.

Those of you who wish to debate this matter in person should come to Victoria, BC and/or Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota where I'll be giving plenty of talks over the next few weeks. See this link for full details.

You can go here to comment.

OH! And by the way, the monthly all-day Zazen at Hill Street Center in Santa Monica will proceed as usual this coming Saturday (Nov. 21, 2009) even though I will not be there. Kevin Bortolin, a fellow Dharma heir of Gudo Nishijima, will give the talk. He's good. He got lots of "hot chili pepper" recommendations on some website in which university students rate their professors (he teaches at Ventura College). He is, by the accounts of at least three female friends of mine, a "hot guy." Go see him and judge for yourself!

The info about the retreats is in the links section over to your left. Or if you're too lazy to move your eyeballs leftward just click this link.

(Has anyone ever commented how the Internet has made people ridiculously lazy? Like lazy beyond any reasonable definition of laziness?)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

NORTHWEST CANADA REPORT

So I'm sitting on a sofa looking out at a lovely view of the city of Vancouver and its surrounding mountains. Low clouds, gray skies, leaves of red and gold. The bay, the buildings, the docks. I gave my first talk last night. It was really cool. Thanks to everyone who attended.

I have another sitting + talk this afternoon and yet another one of those tomorrow. Then it's on to Victoria. The full schedule is available at this link.

Last night was the second attempt at what I foresee as an ongoing series of talks about sex and Buddhism. I did my first at the Against The Stream group in Hollywood (Noah Levine's organization, which is waaaaay more organized than my own disorganization).

It's an interesting topic, and it's the theme of the book I just turned in to New World Library for publication by them in 2010, "Sin, Sex and Zen." I got a lot of really good questions, too. I like answering questions from the audience because I feel like that's where I can get some connection to what people actually want to talk about.

I'm not good at recalling my own talks, which is why I've been video taping most of them lately. The last question was interesting, though. A guy asked how had sex helped my Buddhist practice. It was interesting because until he'd asked that I'd always thought of the flow going in only the opposite direction, how Buddhism had been useful in my own dealings regarding sexuality.

My sex life and my Buddhist life began at more or less the same time. So nearly all of my sexual relationships have been affected by my practice. It's clear that this philosophy and practice have had an impact on how sex has worked out for me. But as for how sex has benefited my practice... that's another question.

I am not celibate. I can see the potential benefits of celibacy. But I can also see a lot of potential problems. And as far as my own life is concerned, the problems of celibacy appear to outweigh its potential benefits. I feel like I, personally, would be less peaceful and more unbalanced as a celibate. Though I could be wrong. I've never tried celibacy. At least not by choice.

As a vegetarian, I do not campaign for people to give up meat because, unless you're really committed to giving up meat, becoming a vegetarian can lead to a lot of cognitive dissonance and general weirdness. Mad craving for meat coupled with a hard attitude of suppressing your desires tends to make a person neurotic and outweighs the general feeling of well-being that many vegetarians -- me included -- get from their dietary choice. I feel like it's the same with celibacy. It can only work for a person who is truly committed to being celibate. And I am not.

So my approach has been to have a sex life, but to approach sex in as careful a manner as I can. It's a powerful thing, the sex drive. This video tells it like it is in a very witty but very true way. I do not in any way try to hold myself out as the most exemplary model of how this ought to be done. But I do think that most of us are not prepared for celibacy, so we had better try and find a way to deal with our own sex drives in the least harmful way possible for us. That's important.

So I suppose sex has been beneficial to my practice in that having a sex life keeps me sane enough to do the practice. I also feel that there is a depth of relationship with other people that only occurs when one crosses that last boundary and has sex with the person. That connection can be very meaningful and you can discover a lot that way.

Finally, I feel there ought to be people who have a Buddhist practice and a sex life who are willing to share what that means to them because Buddhism in the West is mainly non-celibate and these questions arise. I'm probably a lousy example. But I feel like sharing what I have discovered might have some value.

Or not.

Go here to comment.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Interview With DEVO


The Interview with Mark Mothersbaugh of DEVO I recently did for Suicide Girls is now on-line. Go check it out!

And remember to come see the talks I'm doing in Canada and Minnesota. All the info you need is at this link.

You can comment about it here (but it's better to comment on the actual interview page if you can -- I think maybe only SG members are allowed to leave comments).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

More Ranting About "Cyber Sanghas"

My God! Someone else noticed how intensely weird that recent Marmaduke strip was. Thank you Colin for sending this to me!

I'm about to leave for my mini-tour of British Columbia and Minnesota. Click here for details about where I'll be and when. And remember severe punishment awaits anyone who is anywhere near these gigs and fails to show up. I wouldn't risk it if I were you!

I just finished reading Chuck Klosterman's new book Eating The Dinosaur. Towards the end of the book he puts forth an interesting argument. He points out that human beings have been on Earth for around 130,000 years and that the first ever commercial film, The Great Train Robbery, was made in 1903. He says, "For roughly 129,900 years any moving object a human saw was actually real. It was there in front of you. If a man in 1850 saw a train chugging toward his face, it was an actual train." He argues that visceral, real understanding of these manipulated images lags way behind our intellectual understanding of them. "Intellectually we know the difference between a real person and a Facebook profile... but is there any possible way 129,900 years of psychological evolution can be altered within the span of a single century?"

I think this is an extremely important point. I will be the first to admit that even I sometimes -- no, make that often -- respond to manipulated fake images, particularly on the Internet, as if they were real things. It is very confusing and disorienting. Which is why I spend as little time on the Internet as I can. And given my current job, I have to be on here a lot more than I really want to be. I'd probably be far more successful if I were on the Internet more. But it gets to me after a while and I need to run away.

I know I've been harping on my antipathy towards so-called "cyber-sanghas" way too much. But that's because what I do here is so often confused with that concept, in both overt and subtle ways. It's also why I refuse to get involved with any cyber-sanghas. The experience is not at all the same as dealing with real human beings face to face. No more so than cyber-sex is the same as real sex.

You can get very lost in the twisty twirly world of Internet communication and easily lose sight of what's real and what's not. These days I often hear people say,"I was talking with my friend..." And I'll ask, "Were you actually talking with that person or were you chatting online?" Often it's the latter. There is an enormous difference between these two activities. Yet many people these days seem to regard them as being essentially the same thing.

I'm keenly aware of this because so much of what I do is in the form of written communication either here on this blog, in my books or thru a million emails I have to write each day. Often when I meet people who only know me through these forms of communication are really surprised when they encounter me in person. I am not at all what they expected.

You don't get the tone of voice I would say these words in. You don't get my facial expression. You don't get the smell of my breath. You don't get the subtle electrical energy that human beings exchange when they're near each other. There are far more missing elements than I can possibly list. All of these things matter a lot. To dismiss them as if they were nothing very important is a terrible thing. The difference is the same as the difference between seeing a real train speeding towards you and seeing film of a train speeding towards a camera.

Whatever.

Anyway, Klosterman also says about an article on the NY Times website, "When the article was posted online, dozens of people hurled childish, ad hominem insults against the writer in the comments section -- a phenomenon that now happens when almost anything interesting is published in public." Yeah! So maybe this blog isn't so unique. Still, I'm gonna keep commenting switched off for now.

OK. Well, I'm off for the Great White North. I'll try and post updates as the tour progresses.

See you in Canada!

You can comment here

Sunday, November 08, 2009

ST. PAUL DATES ADDED and (nothing about) JUKAI


Got some new info about the upcoming tour. As always, the full schedule is over there to your left at the top of the LINKS section at the link titled Brad's Book Tour Dates.

I'll be in St. Paul the following dates:
• December 4, 2009 (Fri) 4:45pm Macalester College, 1600 Grand Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55105 at JBD Lecture Hall
Buddhism and Sex (lecture)

• December 5, 2009 (Sat) 9am - 1 pm Macalester College, 1600 Grand Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55105 USA
Half-day Zazen sitting at the Macalester College Chapel with Dharma Talk

• December 6, 2009 (Sun) 10 a.m., Dharma Field, 3118 W 49th St, Minneapolis, MN 55410, (corner of 49th and York)
Dharma talk by Brad Warner, Suggested donation $15.
Zazen: 8:00 a.m., 8:40 a.m., 9:30 a.m.
www.dharmafield.org
contact Bev Forsman, bev.forsman@dharmafield.org

Also, one more date has been added to Vancouver:
• November 15, 2009 (Sun) 1:00pm - 3:00pm Yoga for the People, #201-150 W. Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC
Introduction to Zen Buddhism with Brad Warner

And remember there are further gigs in Vancouver on November 13th and 14th, and in Victoria, BC November 17th, 19th and 22nd. Further info on these and other dates on the tour is on THIS LINK. Look at it. It was a pain in the ass to put together. AND BE THERE!

I have just spent the entire morning and quite a bit of the afternoon attempting to write what I really think of Jukai. I FAILED MISERABLY and just trashed everything that I wrote. This is my second attempt. The first one a few weeks ago ended in a similar tragedy of wasted time and effort. So the Jukai article will have to wait.

And can someone explain the Marmaduke cartoon I have posted? Even the Marmaduke Explained website hasn't touched this one, it's so surreal. Is it supposed to be surreal? I just don't know. It's like a koan...

Go here to comment.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Vanouver? Didn't Even KNOW Her!

OK. I got the skinny on the Vancouver gigs and here it is:

• November 13, 2009 7 PM, Vancouver, BC, Centre for Peace, 1825 West 16
Avenue, Vancouver, B.C. contact kyira@diydharma.org for more info

• November 14, 2009 1 PM Meditation with Brad Warner, Vancouver, BC, Dharmalab, 202-1814 Pandora St., Vancouver, B.C.
$15-$25 sliding scale but no one will be turned away solely for lack of funds
contact kyira@diydharma.org or 604-505-7547 for more info

And in nearby Victoria, BC:

•November 17, 2009 7pm, Victoria, BC Canada, University of Victoria Interfaith Chapel, Lot #6 UVic Ring Road, Tuesday Zen Open House, Zen meditation and Q&A;, contact office@zenwest.ca for more info
They run a beginner’s group each week. 3x15 minute sits with a talk in the second one (just 15 minutes). Afterward there is tea, introductions, and a period of question and response.

• November 19, 2009 7pm, Victoria, BC Canada, University of Victoria Interfaith Chapel, Lot #6 UVic Ring Road, Public talk, contact office@zenwest.ca for more info
This will be my main talk, your standard issue ask the zen guy questions. Books will be for sale. Fun will be had by all.

More info about Victoria gigs is on this blog.

And here's a clip from the Montreal-based web series Watch Mojo. This was taped when I was up there earlier this year:



Go here to comment

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

SASSIFIED!

I thought this cartoon sort of explained what was the problem with the comments section of this blog pretty succinctly. I'm still on the fence about the comments section. I am working on a all new website right now that I intend to take the place of this blog anyhow. I'll still blog over there. But the whole layout and suchlike will be far more sensible. There will probably be some kind of forum for members like what Noah Levine has. So just hold tight and comment in Gniz's Reblogging Brad Warner site for now.

The folks in Victoria, BC have put up this blog about my upcoming talks and stuff there. If you are in the area I expect to see you there. If you are anywhere near Victoria and do not show up for the talks, there will be serious repercussions. You may be reborn in a really nasty place!

And remember I'll be in Vancouver as well on November 13th for sure and probably some other days. Details are coming soon.

Also if you want to know what the sesshin I led in Frankfurt a couple months ago was like read this.

The other day my friend Christine arranged for me to interview Mark Mothersbaugh of DEVO for an upcoming piece that will appear on Suicide Girls. Then my friend Mary Grace arranged for me to attend the final rehearsal for the band's upcoming tour to promote the deluxe remastered versions of their first and third albums. Nice friends!

It just so happened that at the same time I was doing the interview I've been reading Chuck Klosterman's new book Eating The Dinosaur. Klosterman spent much of his career as a journalist doing interviews. Now as a celebrity writer he conducts fewer interviews, but is, himself, interviewed a lot. It's a situation I can relate to now that I'm getting interviewed all the time as well as conducting interviews myself.

Klosterman's book poses some interesting questions about the process of interviewing and being interviewed. These relate very much to Zen practice. Klosterman says that we tend to assume that we all have privileged access to the contents of our own minds. We imagine that we could ask ourselves any question to which we knew the answer and get that answer or even ask ourselves our opinions and feelings about something and get the answer to that. However, the process of interviewing people and being interviewed has led him to question that assumption. There may be questions we cannot answer until someone else asks us.

This is really insightful (and Klosterman is a big fan of KISS). I kind of knew this intuitively but had never seen it spelled out clearly. It explains why I structure my lectures the way I do. I don't really enjoy standing up in front of a group of strangers and telling my life's story. I do that at the beginning of many talks just to warm up the crowd to start asking questions. That's how I find out a lot of things. I've said stuff in Q&A sessions that I truly did not know until they popped out of my mouth.

It also explains the importance of having a sangha and having a teacher. I'm not a real social person. But sangha practice has been part of my Zen life right from the beginning. There are things you can't find out about yourself unless you're seeing them reflected in others.

I recently saw some guy on the internet (see cartoon above) bitching that, "Brad doesn't care about folks who don't have access to a teacher." As if it's my job to minister to everyone out there who is too lazy to go look for a place to practice communally. OK maybe some of the folks who moan like this legitimately don't have access to a teacher. But, y'know, out here in LA LA Land I hear complaints all the time from people who say they just can't deal with driving 20 minutes from Silver Lake out to Santa Monica on a Saturday morning to sit (see details on link to your left, we'll be at the Hill St. Center this Saturday Nov. 7th at 10 AM as usual -- plus it's way nicer in Santa Monica than it is inland so why the fuck can't you get out here just for the beach?) and why can't I run a class out there too, and 10 miles north and 10 miles south... So I take a lot of what I hear along those lines with a big ol' lump of salt.

Anyway, it doesn't matter of it's The Greatest Sangha In The World or The Bestest Zen Teacher Ever. Just get a little sitting group together if you can. Part of communal practice is the fact that you probably won't like everyone in the group, you'll probably have to do a bit of traveling, the teacher may say things you don't like or be not very good, etc. Just do it. As I've said before, I really don't believe Internet-based communities of any kind (not just Zen) are the same as real face-to-face groups. For one thing you do not have the option of just logging out if you get annoyed. That alone makes a huge difference.

Wow. That rambled on far longer than I meant it to. I got work to do!

Finally I want to leave you with my new favorite song in the world:


And remember, you can leave comments at Reblogging Brad Warner

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

DEATH TO ALL MONSTERS!

So... what do you wanna know?

I see people are speculating on why I closed the comments section.

There were a lot of reasons. There were definitely good things about it. Some of the regular commenters were friendly, sometimes insightful. I liked reading Jinzang's postings, for example and even some of the trolls were at least entertaining.

It was also the free-est Buddhist themed discussion group on the 'net. A guy I know tried to sign up for one of the other on-line Buddhist groups and got the third degree from the owner before he was even allowed to join, let alone post anything (which would have been censored according to the owner's ideas of what was and wasn't "right speech"). And I was letting anybody post anything they wanted.

But I got sick of handing over a free platform to weenies with axes to grind, usually against me. People can say whatever the hell they want. But I didn't see any reason I had to give them space to do it. So now they have to denounce me on their own damned blogs. Or at least over on Aaron's blog where I don't have to look at it (see below). Plus I started seeing lots of things attributed to me that I hadn't said. They were from the comments section! People get confused sometimes...

I've been motorin' away lately on Nishijima Roshi's translation of Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamikakarika. Lots of folks have asked me about the release date that's been announced on Amazon. I think they have it coming out on November 3rd? Something like that. Well, I'll be amazed if I'm even done with the first round of editing by November 3rd. The publishers have told me it'll be out in Spring.

Lots of things happening in Spring! At least that's the promises I've been hearing. Hardcore Zen is set to come out in German, Polish and Greek editions in Spring. And it's likely I'll be touring in Europe behind those releases. Yay! I'm still waiting to hear word back on where I'll be and when.

My next mainstream book is due out in Autumn of 2010. So far the provisional title is SIN, SEX AND ZEN. New World Library likes the title. So unless I or they come up with something better over the next few months, that title will probably stick. As the title suggests, the book will be about sin and about sex and about Zen. Three topics near and dear to my heart!

I've also started re-working a novel I wrote in the mid-late 90's. At the time it was called DESTROY ALL SPACEMEN. But if I finish it I'm gonna re-title it DEATH TO ALL MONSTERS! (with the exclamation point). It's a novel about an American guy who works in Tokyo for a company that produces Japanese monster films. It turns out one of the movies his company made may or may not contain footage of an actual UFO shot down by the Japanese military near the end of World War II as well as scenes of its living occupant. The film was pulled off of distribution in the 60s and no one's seen a copy since. Our hero, rabid fanboy that he is, just wants to have a peak at the film, which he finds deep in the company vaults. But when he does all hell breaks loose.

The story is a fictionalization of my real life at Tsuburaya Productions. There really is an episode of the giant monster vs. giant superhero TV series Ultra Seven that hasn't been seen since the early 70s. Or at least it wasn't seen between then and circa 1998 when I allowed a copy to be broadcast on the Turner Broadcasting Network in the USA. They showed it at like 4 am one morning as a filler. Management wasn't happy with me about that. The fanboys went nutzo when it came out. So did a lot of very weird "business people" in SE Asia.

The book is also about what life was like in Japan at the time, the people I knew there, the things we did. Nishijima Roshi is even a character. I like the book a lot. But it needs some fixing up before I send it anywhere. I could use someone who's an expert on Japan in WWII if anyone's interested in advising me on a few areas. Particularly the Japanese occupation of Manchuria (so-called "Manchukuo"). Write me at spoozilla@gmail.com.

And speaking of Amazon.com (which we were a while back), could a few of you who actually liked ZEN WRAPPED IN KARMA go over there and put some decent reviews of the thing up? Last I looked the top review was by some weasel who wanted to comment about his uninformed opinions on my marriage. It's interesting that so many people like to natter about the sex stuff in that book. But nobody likes to say anything about the disease and death stuff, which is far more important if you ask me. But who asks me? Nobody! That's who!

OK. Whatever. Come see me in Canada (dates below):

• November 13, 2009 - I will be in Vancouver BC speaking at the local Dharma Punx chapter on November 13th. Details are coming soon. Probably another gig will happen the following day. The gig on the 13th will be a talk and the one on the 14th will likely be several rounds of zazen followed by discussion.

•November 17, 2009 7pm, Victoria, BC Canada, University of Victoria Interfaith Chapel, Lot #6 UVic Ring Road, Tuesday Zen Open House, Zen meditation and Q&A;, contact office@zenwest.ca for more info
They run a beginner’s group each week. 3x15 minute sits with a talk in the second one (just 15 minutes). Afterward there is tea, introductions, and a period of question and response.

• November 19, 2009 7pm, Victoria, BC Canada, University of Victoria Interfaith Chapel, Lot #6 UVic Ring Road, Public talk, contact office@zenwest.ca for more info
This will be my main talk, your standard issue ask the zen guy questions. Books will be for sale. Fun will be had by all.

Want to comment? Go to: rebloggingbradwarner.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

BUDDHIST BEACH VOLLEYBALL

Next Saturday, Oct. 31st, 2009, Halloween, we'll not be having our usual zazen at Hill Street Center. Instead a bunch of people from the group are participating in a Buddhist Beach Volleyball Tournament on nearby Santa Monica Beach.

Here is the schedule and other details from the website linked above:

9:30 - 9:50am Sitting meditation
9:50 - 10:30am Mindful Beach Clean Up (bring your own bags if you remember and gloves if you want them)
10:30 - 10:50am Twenty minutes of walking meditation in the sand
10:50 - 11:00am Closing and transitioning to traditional fun at the beach!
11:00 - 12:00 Warming up on the Volleyball court and sharing food!
12:00 - 2:00 THE LA BUDDHIST VOLLEYBALL TOURNAMENT!
2:00 - 4:00 practicing nothing to do... no where to go... unless of course you have somewhere to go.

During the tournament, you can play on the team that is keeping score for victory or defeat, cheer on your team or all the teams, or play some relaxed just for fun volleyball in the other courts.

Where: If you can do Google maps the address is: 14782 Pacific Coast Hwy, Los Angeles, CA, United States. If you are using a map, it is at the intersection of Entrada and the PCH, on the north side of Santa Monica. We will meet out near the life guard station #18.

Parking: There is a small lot right at Entrada & PCH. It is $10 for the day. There is some street parking on Entrada and there is a pedestrian pass under the PCH.


The location is not too far from Hill Street Center. If you think you might want to park at HSC and walk, please contact me at spoozilla@gmail.com and I'll see if I can arrange it (no promises!).

Also those of you in British Columbia don't forget the dates I'll be there in November. They're on the post below this one.

Post your comments to:

http://rebloggingbradwarner.blogspot.com/

Sunday, October 25, 2009

VICTORIA, VANCOUVER and NEW PLACE TO COMMENT

• November 13, 2009 - I will be in Vancouver BC speaking at the local Dharma Punx chapter on November 13th. Details are coming soon. Probably another gig will happen the following day. The gig on the 13th will be a talk and the one on the 14th will likely be several rounds of zazen followed by discussion.

•November 17, 2009 7pm, Victoria, BC Canada, University of Victoria Interfaith Chapel, Lot #6 UVic Ring Road, Tuesday Zen Open House, Zen meditation and Q&A, contact office@zenwest.ca for more info
They run a beginner’s group each week. 3x15 minute sits with a talk in the second one (just 15 minutes). Afterwards there is tea, introductions, and a period of question and response. I’ll do a short talk and field questions.

• November 19, 2009 7pm, Victoria, BC Canada, University of Victoria Interfaith Chapel, Lot #6 UVic Ring Road, Public talk, contact office@zenwest.ca for more info
This will be my main talk, your standard issue ask the zen guy questions. Books will be for sale. Fun will be had by all.

And for those of you who wish to comment about this page, Aaron, the infamous troll from the old comments section here known as Gniz, has opened a page. It's here:

http://rebloggingbradwarner.blogspot.com/

I can't think of anyone better to host such a page than one of my comments section's most notorious naysayers! Have fun!!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I'm So Narcissistic I'm In An Article About Narcissism And I'm Narcissistically Posting About It!

Yep! Elizabeth Bromstein up in the wilds of Toronto has quoted me in an article about narcissism for NOW! magazine. The link is here:

When Self Love Sucks

She did this interview with me by telephone the day I was writing the posts about conscientious selfishness. So the quote she used has a bit of that notion in there.

I'll try another way to express this: The reason you don't hurt others as a Buddhist is not because you're trying to be a kind, loving, beautiful, spiritual person who would never hurt anyone. It's because you realize that hurting someone else is exactly the same as hurting yourself. This is a much more powerful and much purer motivation.

A person who throws an empty Starbucks cup out of his SUV thinks that there is a difference between littering his SUV and littering the road. He thinks someone else will clean up his mess. A Buddhist doesn't perceive that difference. And he knows that there is no one else "out there" to clean up his mess. No matter where he throws his mess, he knows he will still be the one who cleans it up.

OK. So lately I've been hacking away at the manuscript for the English translation of Nagarjuna's Fundamental Song of the Middle Way and I've come up with some bits from the commentaries that I kind of like. Here they are:

We tend to make the mistake of dividing the function of seeing into two, and imagining that there is a seer who sees things. But this thing we call the seer is actually just the functioning of the sense center as a sense organ. Någårjuna expresses this by saying that the function of seeing produces one’s own mind. In Buddhist philosophy, consciousness is not an entity in and of itself. Consciousness is produced when the external and internal worlds interact. Therefore the function of seeing is just a simple fact at the present moment and not evidence for the existence of something we can call a “self” which sees. It is impossible, Någårjuna says, for the function of seeing to look at one’s own mind. We can never see our own eyes, the closest we can come is seeing their reflection in a mirror. In the same way, our mind can’t perceive itself. This is one of the reasons we say a Buddhist student must have a teacher. In the final analysis, the functioning of our senses is just as it is. There is no separate entity behind our sense functions that performs them.

Were it not for our ability to consider things, we could not speak of any ability to see, or for that matter any other sensory ability. The sensory abilities we attribute to ourselves are matters of consideration only. We imagine that we are a thing that somehow owns these abilities. But this concept may be an illusion. Furthermore, our own perceptions cannot be perceived by others. We are fooled by our excellent ability to communicate with one another into believing we are actually conveying such experiences. But this is never really the case.

Even though the function of seeing has limitations, we should never hold it in low esteem. This is because the attitude that esteems things as higher or lower can be called a kind of interpretation. So the fact that someone esteems something as lower might suggest that that person is insisting on some kind of personal view. Master Någårjuna points this out because many idealistic philosophers of his day really did hold the sense functions in low esteem, as many Indian idealistic philosophers still do today. The fact that we are seeing something and the fact that something is being seen is the fusion of 1) seeing something and 2) something being seen. In Buddhist philosophy, we do not accept the division of the observer and what is observed. The combination of these two is the back and the face of one single undivided fact at the present moment. Still, the action of seeing is real. We see here that Master Någårjuna’s philosophy does not negate the reality we experience. It is not nihilism.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

DHARMA PUNX TOMORROW & DICKIE PETERSON

I totally forgot to post that I will be speaking at the Dharma Punx/Against The Stream center in Hollywood tomorrow at 11 AM (Sunday October 18, 2009). Tha address is 4300 Melrose (btw Heliotrope and Vermont), Los Angeles, CA 90029. All are welcome, no experience necessary.

I just found out only moments ago that Dickie Peterson, bassist and leader of the legendary heavy metal pioneers BLUE CHEER died on Monday. The official obituary is here. My friend John Battles said there's an obit out there somewhere by the NY Times or someone like that, that references John's own interview with Dickie. That would be worth checking out. John's the consummate Blue Cheer fan and I'm sure it's a great interview.

I first read about Blue Cheer in the dog-eared copy of the 1969 edition of Lillian Roxon's Rock Encyclopedia -- it was the most up-to-date book about rock and roll in the Wadsworth High School library circa 1979 or so (that book was like The Bible to me for a couple years). According to the book Blue Cheer's sound on their first album, Vinecbus Eruptum, was so loud it "turned the air into cottage cheese." I knew I had to find that album! But, alas, at the time it was long out of print.

I finally located a copy at a flea market held at the school's football stadium. The record was so badly warped it looked like a giant pepperoni. You could have eaten cereal out of that thing! Yet amazingly it still played. And, indeed, it was the loudest thing I'd ever heard. Even at low volume that record screamed.

That album was a huge influence on my own musical life. I must have listened to it hundreds of times. Or at least it seemed so.

I never knew Dickie or even got to see the band during their recent reformation, which I've heard was even better than their classic year. Such a shame. Now I never will get to see the mighty Blue Cheer in person and I'm sad.