Thursday, April 29, 2010

Big Mind™ Sucks (Part A Million)

I got an email the other day that I think really shows what is wrong with Genpo Roshi’s Big Mind™ scam. With the writer’s permission I’d like to share it with you:

Hello Brad,

Just wanted to say its nice to read your stuff and it was nice to read about opposing opinions on the issues of Big Mind™, whether it is right or wrong.

I have experienced Big Mind™ on two occasions, once in a small setting with close friends, and I must admit I enjoyed it and I agree I did have a wow kind of experience, experienced some trippy stuff, you could say experienced oneness of some sort.

My second time was on the island of Ameland and this time with Genpo Roshi on a nine-day retreat. Zen in the morning and Big Mind™ in the afternoon.

Overall I had an unpleasant and at times quite frightening experience and I have been trying to get to grips with it since.

The main issues were what I believed to be repressed sexual abuse, as there is a history of abuse running through our family, and also a running theme of confusion over sexual identity.

When I was unable to deal with what was coming up for me (this included thinking I was the voice of the devil or emptiness unowned) I asked to speak to a zen teacher I know. He suggested I speak to Genpo Roshi about it, not privately but in the group settings with about 250 people plus camera crew. Again I managed to do this after three days and felt it seemed right but I also think after it that I was in a state of shock.

It felt like at times that Genpo Roshi was in my head but maybe this was my delusional paranoia or another voice.

I’m not too sure what I am saying. Only that the retreat left me feeling pretty shocked, like I had taken an acid trip and very fearful of touching it again. My thoughts were wholly suicidal and I was glad to have my girlfriend and someone to talk to when I got back.

I’m left feeling very confused as if I shouldn't question Genpo, as if he knew better than me, like he said at the end of the last session, "I have you exactly where I want you." The final voice he requested was that of the voice of Vairocana Buddha. For me this felt like I was having heart palpitations. And then after a friend of mine dropped semi dead on the floor after he asked him to show him 'mu' dead. I stood and said, “I am gay.” But I didn’t mean it like that. I thought I was responding to what he wanted.

I’m not sure if you can make sense of this or offer me anything but it would be nice if there was further material on Buddhist practice and sufferers of abuse. Just wanted to know your thoughts were. Part of me thinks I should get a good therapist the other thinks fuck this shit I have had enough.

Thanks for your time


Here is my reply:

Thank you for writing. This is exactly why I think Big Mind™ is such a horrible thing.

One of the things that really bothers me is that Genpo wanted to talk to you not in private, but in front of 250 people and a camera crew. That is just rotten. Really, truly rotten. These things he is running are far too big. A sesshin with 250 people is no longer a sesshin, it's a circus. And even if all 250 were not at the sesshin proper, allowing that many outsiders to attend even part of it turns it into a circus. The man is after publicity and sees you as a way of fueling his act. It's utterly sleazy.

Sorry for the rant. As far as the specifics you're taking about... It's quite normal during Zen practice for hidden stuff to come up. Much of this can be sexual in nature. I've known a lot of people who report memories of childhood abuse or who find themselves questioning their sexual orientation. I've never experienced the former personally. But I have had a bit of experience with the latter.

I think the general norm as far as sexual orientation is concerned is to be either mostly heterosexual or mostly homosexual. You can be exclusively one or the other in terms of action. But in terms of thoughts and desires most of us have a bit of the "other team" within us. I certainly do. Since zazen brings up everything, that stuff's gonna come up as well.

The problem with Big Mind™ is that it's so focused on those Big Wow® moments that it forces you to go through this kind of stuff much, much too fast. If you go into it slowly the things you uncover have a bit of time to get processed. You're like a paleontologist gradually brushing away the dirt until after a month or so you reveal the entire tyrannosaurus skull. If you were to just pull it out in one movement, the sight of it (let's imagine you're the very first human to see one) would be shocking and horrifying. If you uncover it slowly, you have a chance to get used to it before revealing the whole thing.

This is very important. Without this slow process, you can't possibly come to terms with what you discover. All you get is a big nasty shock with no context. Or a big blissful shock with no context. Same thing.

I hope you don't drop your Buddhist practice entirely. But I would very highly recommend staying as far away as possible from Genpo Roshi and anyone associated with him. He knows nothing. He isn't in your head. He only has you where he wants you in terms of abusing you for his own greedy ends. The man wouldn't know Buddhism if it sat on his on his face and wiggled.


A friend of mine recently told me that she thought it seemed like I had a vendetta against Big Mind™. I think that’s true. This is serious business. Big Mind™ is irresponsible and dangerous.

But there is a lot of irresponsible and dangerous stuff going on in the world of this type of cheesy vaguely Eastern feel-good-now spirituality. The reason I have focused so much attention on Genpo Roshi’s rotten Big Mind™ scam is because it pretends to be related to Zen. Not only to Zen, but to the Soto tradition of Master Dogen. Genpo has even stolen Suzuki Roshi’s phrase “big mind” — first used in his book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind — and trademarked it for himself (SFZC really should make a legal complaint about that, since they own the copyright to Suzuki’s works). But Big Mind™ has nothing whatsoever in common with real Zen practice.

It’s not related to real Zen practice because Big Mind™ is focused on having some kind of special experience, a massive and exciting moment of spiritual orgasm. Zen practice has no relation to these moments. They are not the goal, just a distracting side road.

After that first exchange the guy wrote me another email that said, “I don’t want to appear hateful. My overall concern with these big experience as you say is that they put the experience over and above the welfare of the individual. This seems to show little concern for what happens after. I mean shouldn’t it carry a danger warning, or have therapists on standby or a hotline to call afterwards? You are just stripped clean then sent on your way.”

My sentiments exactly! It’s not nice to mess with people’s heads this way. And Genpo Roshi and his team are not nice people. They’re charging big money for a very dangerous experience without taking even the least degree of responsibility for the damage they do. Even traveling carnivals have more concern over safety.

There is no sense in me trying to convince anyone else to believe what I believe about this Big Mind™ horseshit. Nor can I stop anyone from trying it, no matter how much I wish I could.

I can’t convince you to accept my opinion. But I can make it very clear what my opinion is. And I hope that by doing so I might encourage others, particularly other Zen teachers, to speak out against this abuse of Buddhism.

Some people think it's a violation of the Buddhist precepts to point out garbage like this for what it is. Genpo and his buddies count on this mistaken interpretation of the precepts to intimidate those who ought to speak out against what so many of us can see clearly is abusive and harmful. I don't agree with that interpretation. This is some very nasty shit. And all of us who teach Zen are implicated in it by association. Our silence allows it to continue.

Fuck you Genpo Roshi.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

CHEESE, PARENTING, HORNINESS AND OTHER DELIGHTS

In response to the last post Stephanie said, "I find this kind of motivational cheese off-putting because it's great for those of us who have had the luck and ability to pursue and realize our dreams, but not so great for the people who did not. A lot of it is out of our control and I think the notion that people who don't realize their dreams simply did not believe in themselves enough is feel-good yuppie fluff that isn't true. Life is hard and some people do the right thing and still suffer.

"I've learned a lot from my mother, who has suffered many disappointments, lost a lot, and has many dreams that were unfulfilled. She works a job she doesn't like and that holds no meaning for her, but for many reasons has no options but to continue. But she has grown in wisdom throughout her life and not always getting what she wants or realizing her dreams is part of what has made her wise. The beauty of Zen: we are liberated from 'what we want' and no longer have to be yoked to its tyranny."

Good points. I'm sorry the post came off a bit like one of those cheezy "reach for your dreams" things. But it wasn't so much about going for your dreams as about not letting others define for you what you should be. It sounds like Stephanie's mom has managed to avoid letting others define who she should be. Good. And by the way, I never said anything like, "people who don't realize their dreams simply did not believe in themselves enough." Just FYI.

It's been amazing to me to see that even getting exactly what you want is never really getting exactly what you want. Like Johnny Ramone said, "Being a rock and roll guitar player is a great job. But in the end, it's still a job and I still hate it." Disappointments come from both not realizing your dreams and from realizing them. Disappointment may have very little to do with either. I've gotten exactly what I wanted many times and been deeply disappointed.

Yet, on the other hand, there is something to be said for the old "reach for your dreams" nonsense. I think we all know innately what the universe wants us to do. And yet we are easily deterred by society that has its own often deeply confused and wrong-headed demands. Those dreams you have may or may not be narcissistic desire for grandeur. They may, instead, come from your connection with the whole of society and the whole of reality and a clear vision of what it is you need to do in the world. You may be sensing what society actually wants rather than what it thinks it wants.

In that sense of it, letting others convince you that you can't do those things does as much of a disservice to them as it does to you. Going for your dreams may be the best thing you can do not just for you, but for everyone.

Still, what you really want may be, in fact, to be a garbageman and not a movie star. There is dignity and worthiness in any occupation or station in life. It's society's confusion that tells you othewise, tells you that what you have now is unworthy. Disappointment may be the difference between what you actually want and what you think you want.

I'd say the beauty of Zen is to be liberated from what we think we want and to find out what we actually want.

Oh and good luck, Philbob! Maybe this blog will replace OK Cupid!

Now onto some questions from my bulging ... uh ... mailbox. That's it. Mailbox!

I'm a dad of two young ones, 2.5 and 0.5 years old to be exact. I'm finally getting around to reading Zen Dipped in Karma and in it you have an aside where you mention that from our childhood we've had this idea of self drilled into us by our parents, and that it is not our parents fault but that we need to work through zazen to untangle all of this. However, we also need to teach our kids how to "play the game" of society that everyone buys into so they can be successful as they travel through it. I'm coming to accept the world as contradiction but it is hard to instill this idea of contradiction into kids. It is hard enough to instill the idea of eating with utensils (however I have instilled a deep love of The Clash and John Lee Hooker into my daughter, And Bad Brains. She loves Bad Brains.) So how do you think this would be done? I feel that I have this great opportunity to perhaps point them in a direction where they will already be that much farther along when they do get older.

Ho boy. I have no children (that I know of!*) so I am supremely unqualified to give parenting advice. But here are my thoughts on the matter anyway.

It is absolutely necessary for children to be raised with an understanding of how most people understand the world. They can't survive without that. And I understand that even managing that much is a huge amount of work for any parent. You mentioned eating with utensils and that's just a small part of teaching children how the greater society works and how to interact with it.

As far as the other stuff goes, I think you demonstrate more than teach. Kids will pick up on the fact that you don't really buy into society's bullshit without being told. And they're being conditioned by more than just you, anyway. So you don't have much hope if you try to fight all of society by yourself. No matter how hard people try to be the one sole influence on a kid's life it never really works.

I've been a horn-ball since I was a kid, and sexual tension keeps coming up as a distraction in all kinds of situations. How do I keep it in check? Sex has some kind of weird truth to it that comes in and smacks me on the face when I think I'm all balanced. The only sensible way I've come up with to incorporate it into my practice is to think of everything as sex.

In "Sit Down and Shut Up" you talk about how a friend of yours was looking at a hot girl and said she was out of his league. Your perspective was that just by looking at her she has already given something to you. When I apply that sort of gratitude to actual sex it actually gets a lot better. Any thoughts on how that fits in with zazen? By the way, when I do zazen at night and I get sleepy, sometimes sexual thoughts come in and wake me up and I let them, and sometimes if I don't hold onto them they seem to help the zazen.


Oh lord. I do know what you mean. I've often felt like the only guy in the zendo with a sex drive. I know now this is not true. And I suspected it even way back when.

When I started out I was almost always the youngest guy in the room at any Zen place. Usually by at least 10 years, most often more. This tended to accentuate my isolation in the sense of feeling like the only guy who ever got horny. Plus there's an unhealthy pretentiousness that develops in Zen places. It's not cool to admit you have a sex drive, so everyone pretends they don't.

But sexual thoughts are just one category of stuff that comes up. Like other thoughts they'll pass if you don't feed them. But it's often really hard to resist. Sometimes zazen brings up deeper stuff. And the sex fantasies that can be released can be much hotter than the ones you'd consciously create.

Thoughts don't really need to be kept in check. Actions certainly do. Thoughts can be very free. You can't control what comes up. The best you can do is learn to let it go.

I like the idea of thinking of everything as sex. For lots of people, sex is the one area of life in which they're truly participating 100% without holding anything back. Learning to approach the whole of life the way we approach sex might have some real value.

* Actually I've been very careful throughout my sex life, so definitely I have no children.

Friday, April 23, 2010

GUTS IT BABY

First off I have updated my book tour page again. Some of the specific locations for European gigs that have lacked them are now filled in, particularly in France.

I have also added info about the annual Dogen Sangha Zen retreat in Shizuoka. Since my new book is coming out in September, the organizers have moved the retreat to July. In past years people from overseas have been attending the retreats in Shizuoka. You're always welcome to attend. It's a good retreat. But contact the folks in Dogen Sangha Tokyo about it, not me. The contact info's on their website.

Also, John Graves, who is now the president of Dogen Sangha Los Angeles, made this neat Sit Down and Shut Up/Shobogenzo Index. Check it out. He found all the references to specific parts of Shobogenzo in the book Sit Down And Shut Up and cross-referenced them so you could look 'em up if you wanted to. Why didn't I do this myself? Because I am lazy, that's why! But John did it and it is full of awesome. I've added it to the links section on the left as well.

I was chatting today via Skype to a friend of mine who is 21 years old. I seem to have a lot of friends considerably younger than me these days. But, then again, I never saw Nishijima interact with anyone less than twenty years his junior. Most people he hung out with were closer to forty years younger than him. Maybe it goes with the territory.

Anyway she's got a whole lot of choices to make in life, as you do when you're 21. And as you do when you're 46 too. So I wrote her this:

"You have to decide what you love the most, I think. And go for that. And don't believe people who say you can't do it. I semi-believed those people and it really held me back. It turns out they were wrong. They're still telling me I can't do it even while I am actually actively doing it! This is kind of comical."

It's funny the things you say in response to people. I teach myself a lot that way, which is why I like doing Q&A sessions and interviews. But it's really true. There seem to always be naysayers who delight in cutting you down and trying to make you feel like you're not capable. It's important to know how to tell those people to go fuck themselves. Sometimes you have to say it politely. Sometimes you have to say it only to yourself. But it's important to be able to say it.

Chuck Schodowski was a popular horror movie host in Cleveland, half of the teams Hoolihan and Big Chuck and later Big Chuck and Little John. He inherited his position from the great Ernie"Ghoulardi" Anderson (director Paul Thomas Anderson's dad) who preceded him. Chuck took a lot of shit when he started because his style was very different from Ghoulardi's.

In his book, Chuck talks about a letter he got from Ernie Anderson when this was going on. If the book wasn't in storage I'd quote it directly instead of from my poor memory. But Ernie Anderson said something like, "If the people who are telling you you're doing it wrong could do it themselves, they'd be doing it themselves. Guts it, baby, guts it!"

It's good advice. We all have a role to play and there are always those around you who'll stupidly envy you and think they could do whatever it is you do better, if only. I used to hear this kind of shit from lots of folks when I worked at Tsuburaya Productions, guys who knew that if they just got out of mom's basement they'd do so much better marketing Ultraman than I was doing. Now I hear it from people who'd be so much better Buddhist writers if only someone would give them a book deal. But there's a reason you're in the position you are and those guys are not. So they can all suck it.

As for the wide world of choices... it never ends. When I was 21 I woulda figured that by age 46 I'd either have had everything worked out or I'd be dead. As it turns out neither option panned out. These days my best advice to myself is to do what I love the most, to the best of my ability to do so. Sometimes your own karma places you into a position where it seems like you have no options. But I've stopped believing that. There's always some way to make whatever situation you find yourself in into a place you want to be. I've even managed to do this in endless traffic jams on the Los Angeles freeway system, or in a hospital bed with kidney stones so bad I thought the pain alone might kill me.

I made a lot of mistakes because I half-believed those who said I couldn't ever accomplish the things I truly wanted to do. I majored in history in college not because I liked it that much, but because I believed those who told me I'd never be able to land a career in the film business. Much less in the film business in Japan making giant monster movies. That I'd have far better of a chance getting a job teaching history in high school. All those people can suck it.

And still there they are! Look in the comments section of this very blog and you'll still find people telling me I can't do what I am already doing. They're clever enough not to put it in those words. But that's the message. They can suck it too.

When they tell you the same thing, just remember they can suck yours as well.

Guts it, baby.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

FAME! I WANNA LIVE FOREVER!


I told the story of this in Hardcore Zen. Now you can see the video of me filming my bit in Ultraman Tiga episode 51 in 1997. I originally taped this on a VHS camcorder (remember those?). I transferred it to DVD later. Then I used the clip as a way to test out a software program that rips video from DVDs. Which is why it's watermarked. Now I don't know where the DVD is. I'm sure it's still somewhere in all my stuff, packed away.

Well, today I officially turned in the final edits of both Sin Sex And Zen and Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way: Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika. Editing a book is a multi-part procedure. I turned in my "final" versions of both books months ago. Then they came back to me with editor's comments. Then I fixed it again. They they come back to me with a second round of fixing. And now I've sent those back as well. I'll get one more look-see at the books before they go to the printers. But at that point I'm only allowed to make the most minor corrections. This is because by then the typesetting is being done and if I make anything but the very most minor corrections it throws the page numbering off and all kinds of hell breaks loose.

So at this point they are both pretty well done. If you click on those Amazon links I provided you'll see place-holder covers that will not bear much resemblance to the real covers. At least that goes for Sin Sex And Zen whose cover is being drawn even as you read this by the magnificent Mr. Alex Wald. It'll be a whole lot better than what they sent to Amazon to hang out there till Alex finishes. I'm not sure if Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way will be changed or not.

Fundamental Wisdom will be released first, in August, followed by Sin Sex And Zen in September.

For now I'm just hanging out at an undisclosed underground facility in the back hills of North Carolina until I jet off to Europe on May 2nd. This just in, it looks like I will also be be doing a gig or two in Israel this summer. That's pretty exciting.

As the books get more popular, my life gets continuously weirder. I'm still not getting rich. But I am getting noticed. I think I mentioned here how two different people spotted me in random locations in Austin a couple months back. That happened to me once in Saint Paul -- at a party of all things -- and once in Los Angeles. It's not, by any means, a regular event. But it is a very odd thing when strangers stop you on the street and know your name as well as significant details of your personal life.

I sort of hate it.

I understand this goes along with the territory. I am in complete agreement with Dogen's view that one shouldn't pursue fame and profit. But when Hardcore Zen was about to be issued I had a long talk with Nishijima Roshi about it. I knew that putting a book out would lead to a certain degree of fame (though the profit, as I said, has been very slow in coming, which is why I'm couch surfing these days). He said that this was all right. In his view it was a completely different matter. I wasn't writing books in order to become famous. I wrote because that's what I like to do. And fame sometimes follows if people like what you do. The same thing, he said, happened to Dogen. He got famous even though he did not pursue fame.

To a certain degree, in order to make a living at any kind of artistic endeavor, you need to be famous. It's part of the job. I find it alternately fascinating, bizarre and scary. I like doing interviews. I like getting to travel around and be a performing circus monkey for people. I'm fascinated by the mechanics of the industry.

It's bizarre, though, how people sometimes interact with me these days. I don't get it when they get all excited just to talk to me. I can't understand it. I mean, intellectually I can. I'll admit to nearly peeing myself when I got to actually hang out with Gene Simmons and Alex Cox. But to have someone react that way to me is just weird. I don't know how to respond. Which is why, if you act that way around me I tend to look funny at you.

Scary is encountering people who don't understand that just because they know the parts of my life I've chosen to reveal in books that they are not actually my buddy. This doesn't happen much, but it has happened a couple times. I always try to duck out as quickly as I can when I meet someone like that.

I was in a threeway Skype chat the other day with two friends. One had seen me at talks a few times, while the other had only seen it once. So I got to listen as they compared notes about how weird it was to watch total strangers react so strongly to the presence of someone (me) that they just knew as their friend.

From here on in I'm only gonna get more of this stuff, not less. The only way to stop the snowball I started rolling would be to quit writing and go live as a recluse. But I have no plans for that. I'm just gonna keep on doing this stuff for a while. So suck it.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

EUROPE and POSTURE

The German edition of Hardcore Zen is out now. I think. Or at least it's very close to being available. And I have updated my European tour schedule. There are still a lot of dates where the specific location is pending. But at least the cities in which I'll be talking are mostly set. So you can plan your European vacations accordingly. Follow me around like a Deadhead or a Phish-phan.

Down at the bottom of the page is the cover for the Polish edition of Hardcore Zen. It took me a while to figure out what the image was. Gross!

I have yet to see what the Greek version looks like. I'm not sure if that's out yet or not. I haven't heard from those guys for a while. But last I knew they were planning one for Spring 2010.

Meanwhile, the Finns have a version of Zen Wrapped in Karma our already. I don't have a scan of that one. But it's pretty much the same cover as the English version but with Finnish words on it.

So, I've been looking over some of the stuff people have been writing in the comments about how horribly dogmatic I am about zazen posture. Aw.

Lately when I give instructions in zazen I've taken to describing what I do as being like a yoga class in which there is only one asana and you hold it for-fucking-ever.

I think this explanation might help folks understand my so-called dogmatism. If you went to a yoga class and the teacher told you there was only one way to do downward-facing dog and then had the gall to correct you when you did it differently, you probably would not accuse her of dogmatism. In fact, you would expect any decent yoga teacher to be pretty dogmatic about downward-facing dog. I personally wouldn't trust any yoga teacher who wasn't.

Same with zen. Like a decent yoga teacher, a good zen teacher can help you find modifications to the posture if she determines that you really can't do it. But she'll also gently push you into doing it right if she thinks you're just being lazy and actually can do it. Or if she feels you just need a little bit of stretching before you can do it right.

The posture in zazen is not arbitrary. I think this might be the source of much of the confusion. I say this over & over & over, but zazen is not some random pose you take in order to work on your spiritual/mental stuff. It's a physical practice.

As to whether or not other stuff is just as good as zazen... Look. I gotta be honest with you. I really don't think it is. If I did think there was something better, I'd be doing that better thing. If I thought all other practices were equal, I'd be varying my own practice accordingly.

But that doesn't mean I want to run out and set fire to every Vipassana center I see or torture TM practitioners with thumb screws until they switch to Zen. I don't really care what other people do. And I know Zen isn't for everyone, so maybe those other practices do their adherents good. They certainly seem to. So yay meditation! Of all kinds! Yay! Hooray!

Except for damaging garbage like Big Mind®. Oh! You don't like that I said that? Aw. How sad. I'm weeping for you.

But I'm not changing my tune. And, by the way, I'm delighted every time I see a Big Mind® ad on this blog. Yeah, Gempo! Send me your money to have me trash your shitty scam! I bet I've made like twelve and a half cents from you!

Today is Record Store Day, my favorite holiday of all. So I'm gonna go out and see what the record stores around here have on tap for the day.

See ya later!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

SKY CAKE

Some of you who came to see my talks over the past month have heard me reference this brilliant routine by Patton Oswalt that says a lot of true things about religion. I found it today on YouTube. Here it is.


SKY CAKE by Patton Oswalt

Saturday, April 10, 2010

NAKED HAPPINESS

Here is actual footage of my book signing the other day in Richmond, Virginia.



OK. Maybe not quite that bad. But these bookstore signings are hit and miss affairs. Sometimes I get a big crowd and sometimes not. The Richmond signing was one of the nots. But for a small group they had tremendous enthusiasm and interest, and that made up for it in a major way. It was an afternoon thing and those are always difficult to pull people in for.

But the evening talk in Ekoji Zen Center, also in Richmond on the same day, was a packed house. Plus I kept running into people over the next couple days in town who said they'd wanted to attend one or both of the talks but hadn't been able to. Can't suit everybody's schedules, I suppose.

ANYWAY, my publishers notified me that I was name-checked by Andrew Sullivan, a popular blogger for Atlantic. You can see the article here at this link. Cool.

Also check out this interview from RVA magazine in Richmond, VA.

Next, my friend Cassandra sent me a link to this really nice article. Go read it first and then come back and we'll talk about it.

OK. You read it? Good.

I really like this article. It says a lot of the same things I've been saying for ages.

I especially like what he has to say about responsibility. I've been feeling lately that time idea of karma, when understood properly, is the ultimate in taking responsibility. You're not just responsible for your own stuff, but for the entire universe.

Too many people misconstrue karma as something that points outward. They hear the idea and go, "Are you saying all those people that died in the tsunami/concentration camps/tragic gardening accidents deserved it??? You fiend!!!"

But it's not like that. Karma points only towards you. Don't worry about other people. See how it works for you. It's the ultimate in taking responsibility for yourself.

There's just one problem with the article. And, unfortunately, it's a pretty big problem, and one that eludes many people.

It's not enough to have this experience just once. Your old, habitual ways of responding to and interacting with the world will reassert themselves very quickly even if you are fully consciously aware that they are bullshit. This is also why garbage like Big Mind® is useless even if it could give you an enlightenment experience in a single day (which it cannot).

Practice is vital. It is the only way to develop new habits. The philosophers this writer cites, such as Krishnamurti and Ekhart Tolle are occasionally really good, but lack the vital component of solid practice. This is why, as brilliant as their philosophies sometimes are, they will never really work. They're beautiful and often true, but ultimately impractical.

Zazen practice is kind of like experiencing this writer's shower moment over and over again, allowing it to become a habit that's ultimately stronger than the older patterns because it's based in reality.

Whatever.

Thus endeth my Spring 2010 Tour of the USA. Next stop France and then on to Poland, Germany, Finland, Ireland and Holland. After that Japan. And then Great Sky in August.

In the Fall I'll have two new books out and it'll start all over again. Hope to see some of you there!

Friday, April 09, 2010

NO SLEEP TIL BROOKLYN... I MEAN BALTIMORE

Your trusted reporter, reporting today from a bagel shop in Brooklyn where he has just finished a pumpernickel bagel with butter and a too expensive cup of orange juice.

The place I slept last night was not fit for human habitation. That's not a judgment call, or even my personal opinion. I was actually OK with the place. But it was inside a disused factory and definitely not up to code. Someone had carved out a living place in what had probably once been a storage room or something on the top floor. You had to go in through the industrial doors at the back by the loading dock and walk up like seven flights of wrought iron industrial stairs probably constructed around the beginning of the 20th century. Once you got up to the top it opened up into a giant room that had been divided by all kinds of plywood structures and lofts. It was actually pretty cool. The guys who lived there took me to see some interesting bands and then put on Pee Wee's Big Adventure, which I slept through most of.

When I do these tours I take pretty much whatever I can get as far as living situations go. Mostly it works out well. On this trip to New York I spent the first few days in the swank Soho apartment of Jacopo Buora, the guy who set up the retreat I did last weekend at the Brooklyn Zen Center. Then my good friend Suicide Girl Bee Jellyfish offered me a spot on her couch in Brooklyn. Sweet! I got lots of pussy there! Yep. Cuz they had not one but two cute little kitty cats! What did you think I meant, pervert?

Problem was Bee forgot that one of her other roommates had promised the couch to someone else last night. So Bee very kindly put calls out to a bunch of her friends asking if anyone would be willing to lend a sleeping space to a wandering Zen monk and writer of bad books. The rest of the story is as described above.

The retreat in Brooklyn was very cool. But I mentioned that earlier. I also did an interesting gig at an animation studio called Asterisk in Manhattan. That was fun. I'd read about authors doing talks in unusual venues, like people's apartments and stuff. So I asked my friend Marc Catapano if he knew of any place I could do something like that in New York while I was there. He set up the thing at Asterisk and it was a lot of fun. Just a little room full of people interested in Zen. Nice. Anyone else who wants to suggest some kind of similar gigs, please feel free to get in touch.

There has been some talk in the comments section about Dogen Sangha. So I said: "I feel that Dogen Sangha should not be an institution of any kind. It should be a loose affiliation of like-minded people. Like an association of artists.

Maybe it could be like an association of painters who had the same art professor. These painters would not have to share the same style. Nor would they need to compare notes and align their techniques with each other. In fact, it would make them lesser artists if they did. They wouldn't necessarily have to even like each other or each others' work.

But they could acknowledge their common roots by being part of the association and benefit from the existence of that association. They could do gallery openings as a group or something.

It's not a perfect analogy. But it's a far better analogy than thinking of Dogen Sangha as a not very good (lazy) version of the Catholic church or the Soto-shu."

I think there are already far too many religious institutions in the world. If people want a Zen version of the Catholic church they can join Soto-shu. The existing associations in the US sort of scare me the way they seem to want to imitate the Soto-shu and foster standardization among the Buddhists of America.

It worries me to see them trying to set up standards of accreditation for Buddhist teachers. I understand the reason for this. It's too easy to just call yourself a Roshi without any real training, look at Zen Master Rama and a few others.

But trying to standardize what steps one must have completed before one calls oneself a Zen teacher would eliminate a lot of very good Zen teachers whose own teachers did not require them to jump through these hoops. And most of the hoops we're talking about here are pretty arbitrary and ridiculous institutional games that have nothing to do with anything. It may indicate a certain level of commitment if, for example, you've spent a whole truckload of money and time to go to Eiheiji and serve as abbot for a day -- paying the requisite hefty fees to Soto-shu, of course. But in the end, does stuff like that really make much difference in day-to-day practice?

I don't want Dogen Sangha to turn into an institution because institutions always have to justify their existence by being busybodies and getting up in people's faces about nonsense like this.

I've got some more thoughts on this that I'll eventually put together in some coherent form. In case anyone hasn't noticed, this blog is mainly just for off-the-cuff commentary from the road rather than well-reasoned position statements. So that is decidedly not what I'm offering here.

So, OK. Next stop is Baltimore on April 10, 2010 at 7-9 pm at the Baltimore Zen Center 913 Reece Road Severn, MD 21144 for info contact contact@BaltimoreZen.org. Then I got 2 gigs on the same day in Richmond, Virginia as follows:

• April 12, 2010 1 pm Barnes & Noble VCU store 1111 West Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23284

• April 12, 2010 7-9pm, Ekoji Buddhist Sangha 3411 Grove Avenue Richmond, Virginia 23221

Full info and links are at this link. So click it and be there!!!

After that I'll see all y'all in Europe!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

NEW YORK MINI REPORT

This just in:

Tonight (Tuesday April 6, 2010) I will be speaking at the following location at 7:30 pm

Asterisk
134 W26th St #603
NY, NY 10001

This is an animation company. I just found out that anyone who wants to can attend. I had thought it was an "invitation only" type deal. So if you're in NY and want to attend, please stop by.

Also, the first DIMENTIA 13 album is now available for downloading. Everything you need to know to get it is at this link right here. Or you can just look it up on iTunes and get it from them. You can download a PDF file all about the album at this link.

The Brooklyn retreat was great. Not a big attendance, that's for sure. There's a tremendous difference between how many people will come hear a talk about Zen and how many will actually do Zazen. But those who attended had the energy and sincerity to make up for it. It was one of the best retreats I've ever led.

I'm here in the Big Apple, NYC, for a few more days. Then it's on to Baltimore and Richmond, VA. Everything you need to know about those gigs is at this link right here. So check it out and show up!