All the fun and merriment you used to have here has been moved to
Go there and check it out!
Saturday, June 09, 2012
Thursday, May 31, 2012
The map above is the basic route I will be following when I make my journey across these United States. You can click on any of these maps to enlarge them. I will leave Akron on June 15th and arrive in Knoxville later that day where I'll meet up with my dad and my sister. Then my dad and I will head for Dallas a little bit later. Maybe the next day. Maybe two days after. Maybe three. We don't know yet.
In order for me to make it to any venue that might want to have me, the venue would have to be able to schedule the talk for sometime after June 17th and definitely before the first week of July is over. We'd need to coordinate with the people in Las Cruces in case there's any conflict. And you'd have to be somewhere on or at least not too far off the route you see on the map above.
This may not work out at all. The time frame is short. It's really hard to say with these things. But if you're interested in trying, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I'm specifically looking for speaking gigs or one-day retreat type things. I probably can't accept your kind offer to meet up for coffee. I would consider places that might offer me a couch for the night, though we'd have to see if that kind of thing would work out with the schedule and what-not.
People in the comments section seem concerned about the new website, especially its comments section. I'm talking to the guy who is doing all the tech stuff about various options. I do like the free-form feel of the current comments section in principle. But in actual practice, it often just gets screwy in there. What I'm hoping to do is have some kind of free-form area of the new site where people can post whatever they like as well as an area where people who actually want to discuss serious stuff can go. I'm not sure if this will be possible or not. That's what most of the discussion last night was about.
Personally, the comments section can get very taxing for me. I don't think a lot of the commenters understand that I am an actual human being just like them. The mean nasty hurtful stuff does actually hurt me sometimes. If I were Rush Limbaugh or Howard Stern and I got paid big money to be the target of abuse by strangers, that would be a different matter. Or if I felt there was some way in which my being a punching bag helped the dharma somehow, that would also be different. Or even if I were just a guy who enjoys arguing with people... But I am none of these things. And other people get abused in there as well. It's really sad. So the comments section as it stands now often devolves into a big, depressing energy suck that has no value at all for me. Sorry to say this. But it's the truth.
It's not always that way. In fact sometimes it's really good and stimulating. But as it stands now it's just too prone to running itself into spasms of stupidity. I want to find a way to allow a good, stimulating space for real conversations to happen that I can involve myself in, while simultaneously having another section where people can go nuts. I would probably never even set foot in the go-nuts section .
I started moderating the comments section on the last post and all kinds of people are sending in comments screeching about "censorship" and "the truth." Look, folks. It's just the comments section of a blog. There's nothing in the Constitution guaranteeing you the right to vent in there. Please just try to relax a little. Maybe do some zazen instead. Or if you want a blog to vent on, start your own. It's easy and it's free. No one will stop you. No one will censor you or moderate you.
According to Blogger's statistics, over 52,000 comments have appeared on this blog since it started. Fifty two thousand! My God. That's a lot. A lot of people have used this space as a way to broadcast their opinions. And a lot have abused the privilege. The comments section of this blog is so notorious that Tricycle magazine singled it out in a piece called Dharma Wars about the way Buddhist blogging often gets out of hand. And they were right to do so. Some of what's gone on in the comments section of this blog is really shameful and embarrassing.
I have really done a lot to allow for an open forum. And it has come at a cost to me in headaches and heartaches. So please understand why the new website will be different in this regard.
Posted by Brad Warner at 7:53 AM
Monday, May 28, 2012
Go bid on it now. It will be up there for a week. And please, please do not get cheap on me people! This is one of a very small number of things I own that are actually worth something both personally to me and monetarily because of the incredible rarity of the item. Like I said, I designed it. I chose the Ultraman image and the guitar model it would go on, then placed the image where it is, then approved a test version and finally got me a guitar. This is probably my personal favorite image of Ultraman. One reason is because you can actually see a little of the man inside the costume (Bin Furuya) peering out through the mouth of the costume. It looks like maybe Ultraman has a tongue. But that's really Mr. Furuya's chin. It's form the first episode of Ultraman originally broadcast in 1966. The photo used was printed from the original negative from Tsuburaya's archives, not some cheezy JPEG some dude found on the Internet.
I played this quite a bit and recorded with it. But it has never been used on stage. So it's like new, even though it's technically a used instrument.
The money this generates will go to help pay for my upcoming move and for my friend Catie's wedding since Catie has been storing this for a couple of years for me.
The URL of the eBay listing is:
The next bit of news I have to announce is that the blog you're reading will soon vanish! But fear not. I've been working with my good friend Jayce for a few months now to design a brand new website that will be far better and more professional looking than this old blog.
I'll have more specifics in the next couple of days. But I thought I'd give you a heads up now. The new website will go live in June and this one will go dead at about the same time.
Posted by Brad Warner at 11:05 AM
Friday, May 25, 2012
I'm kind of dumb that way. When I read the Bhagavad Gita a long time ago, I thought it was a story about God coming down and helping a guy in a battle. Someone had to tell me that the five horses of Krishna's chariot represent the five senses, that Krishna and Arjuna represent the personal self and the more elevated self riding in the same chariot of the body, and so on. I was too dense to get that on my own. Seems I'm the same way with my own writing.
Our personality, our ego, is like a storage unit in which we keep all the things we don't want to let go of. We know that eventually we'll have to let go of everything. But right now we don't. So we keep it. Some of us are very protective of our storage units. We spend a lot of time organizing the stuff inside, reminding ourselves of what's there, defending it against those who might want to steal it, or just defending it against the unavoidable decay that all things undergo. Others of us are less protective of our stuff. But we keep it anyway and we don't really want to let it go anymore than the more protective folks do.
If you realize that you have to let go of the stuff in the storage unit that is your self, and you know you need help to do that, who would be best to call upon? Going back to my own actual concrete and metal storage unit in Durham, NC, I was very lucky to have my friend Catie help me.
Catie understood very clearly what I was going through last weekend. She has her own stuff. She doesn't care much about Ultraman and Godzilla junk. But she's a huge fan of Morrissey. She's even gone so far as traveling to England or far flung parts of the USA just to attend his concerts. The way she tells it, even waiting in line for tickets to see Morrissey is a magical experience for her. She has, in her apartment (the Lady Cave) what she calls her Shrine to Morrissey. In this shrine is a collection of memorabilia collected during those journeys. She may not understand what I see in a kids' TV superhero show from Japan. But she knows what it's like to have stuff that's important to you and that other people can't really understand the significance of. In the more metaphorical process of cleaning out the self, you need that kind of helper.
A lot of people will reject certain teachers because they believe they are flawed and therefore cannot teach them the perfection that they seek. They search, instead, for teachers who they view as pure and untainted. But what they're seeking when they look for that is someone to help them get rid of the stuff in their storage unit who cannot understand why they're keeping stuff in a storage unit at all. I'm not really sure that would be the best kind of help one could ask for.
Besides that, I think these kinds of "perfected teachers" are mostly the stuff of legend. They're mythical creatures much like the Loch Ness Monster. I use Nessie as my example because I, Brad, the guy writing this, truly wants to believe that the Loch Ness Monster is real. I want to believe that there actually is a living plesiosaurus swimming around in a lake in Scotland. Seriously. But I've looked at the evidence and none of it holds up to careful scrutiny. As much as I wish it were true, I have to admit that it's probably not.
The greatest teachers, in my estimation, are those who understand what it's like to have a storage unit of the self. Oh Jesus what a horrible clunky metaphor! But I'm gonna run with it. My teachers, Tim and Nishijima, are not ego-less "perfected masters." They are, in fact, both people with very strong egos and very clear attachments. My troll Gniz was criticizing me recently for not pointing out the flaws in my own teachers. I refrain from doing so because they're also my friends, and you don't go on the Internet and reveal the hidden flaws of your friends. That's not nice. That's also a good way to lose a friendship.
But suffice it to say, they have flaws. It's not that they have no stuff in their storage units that appeals to me and works for me. Rather it's the way they deal with the stuff they've chosen to keep in there. It's very different from the way that most people deal with it. The differences are subtle, so subtle sometimes that most people would miss them completely. But they are deep and profound. These men have discovered a way to both keep that stuff in their storage unit and not keep it at the same time. It's the kind of trick that I would have thought impossible. And I've spent years and years and years with both of them watching very carefully for signs of sleight of hand. But I've come away convinced that what I'm seeing is actually true. And because it's true it cannot be magic. It must be something that I can do too.
Shunryu Suzuki Roshi said that, in practicing Zen, you have to clean out your room. He followed up by saying that sometimes you'll bring all the stuff back into the room after you've taken it out. But, he said, you have to take it all out first. I would also add here that most people will end up throwing away a lot of things, but still taking back the most important ones. This is precisely like what you do when clearing out an actual storage unit.
If you threw everything away, you'd also throw away those things that make you most effective in helping others clean out their storage units. You'd throw away the attachment to your stuff that makes you a good sympathizer to someone who needs it.
Understand that this stuff doesn't necessarily need to be actual physical stuff. Some people have no possessions at all, yet still manage to cling very hard to their personal stuff anyhow. Sometimes the very fact that they own nothing becomes a huge thing that they own and are completely unwilling or even unable to get rid of.
Anyway, those are the thoughts on this matter that were swimming around in my head and demanding to be written down when Crum the Cat woke me up this morning. I was unable to go back to sleep, even though I seriously needed to, until I typed them out. And so now here they are for you to enjoy.
And with that, I will begin another day of getting rid of stuff. Yesterday I sold six big boxes of books, DVDs and CDs. Today I'm hoping to cut things down even more. I will not get rid of all of it. Not just yet anyway. But the time will come eventually. Do please consider making a donation to help me move the important stuff I have to keep. I hate to say that shit and sound like a damned televangelist. But this move is costing me a god-damned fortune no matter how much junk I unload and my battered PT Cruiser is going to need some upkeep in order to make it out to the West Coast in one piece.
Posted by Brad Warner at 5:18 AM
Thursday, May 24, 2012
I was able to do this because of the cooperation of my good friend Catie Braly. I gave her the authority to tell me to get rid of my stuff. I voluntarily submitted to her. And I paid her for this service. I told her that I'd split whatever I made from selling my stuff and give her half. She probably would have done it for free. But I would've felt shitty about that, especially since she's trying to get money together for her upcoming wedding.
Our arrangement resembled what happens when one hires a personal fitness trainer, a martial arts instructor, or when one works with a Zen teacher. You willingly submit to authority in order to do something that you find yourself unable to do alone.
In my case, I had a strong attachments to what was in that storage unit. It wasn't a lot of stuff compared to what most American males my age own. But it was stuff I'd spent years acquiring through long travels and through personal connections. There were things in that storage unit that certain nerdy people would just about kill for. Some of the items I managed to get my hands on while I worked at Tsuburaya Productions were made available exclusively to employees of the company. They trade for handsome amounts of cash among Japanese collectors.
Now I had to get rid of it and there was really no way to sell it to the people who would actually pay what it was worth. Imagine you have a vintage Mercedes in mint condition, it runs great and there's not even a speck of rust anywhere on it. But you're in a land where nobody drives cars or even knows what one is. So you have no choice but to donate it to an elementary school where they're going to gut it and put it out in the playground for the kids to climb all over. You can tell yourself "at least the kids are going to enjoy playing on it" all you want. Even so, you're still gonna feel kind of bad about it.
But, as anyone who's gotten rid of stuff can tell you, it also feels good to dump your junk — even if it's good junk. If I didn't know I would feel better once this stuff was gone, I wouldn't have enlisted Catie's help to get rid of it.
I asked Catie to be ruthless and she was. Whenever I said, "I want to keep this," she would ask why. When I gave my reasons, she'd ask why again. With her help I was able to get rid of a lot of things I probably would otherwise have kept. We established a safe word — "watermelon" — which could be used if I really couldn't let go of some particular thing. I only remember using it once. That was when I found an old issue of Freakbeat magazine containing an interview with me during the days when I was making the Dimentia 13 albums.
In Zen training, you have to accept a certain amount of authority. I know I've been outspoken in the past about questioning authority. And I stand by what I said. But I feel that the real problem is belief in authority. When you hire a personal trainer, or ask a friend to help you get rid of stuff, you don't usually end up believing that your personal trainer or your friend is some kind of almost divine being who knows all and sees all. You view your trainer or your friend as an equal to whom you have provisionally granted a limited degree of power over you, usually in exchange for something.
Zen teaching relationships can also work the same way. You acknowledge that your teacher has some basis for being able to teach you. He's had training and experience. Perhaps he exhibits some kind of personal charm or charisma that attracted you to him in the first place. That's all fine.
But there is always a mutual exchange going on. Your Zen teacher is also learning from you. He isn't learning the same things as you're learning from him, or learning what he learns in quite the same way. But it's not a one way street. It's not some kind of mystical download from on high.
It's important in these relationships to grant the teacher respect. But you should also expect to be respected in return. Each side of the relationship is different, though, and the ways in which respect is shown and help is offered by each side is also different
For example, last weekend I allowed Catie to be a bit short and curt with me. I needed someone to say a short, sharp "No!" to me. It didn't always feel good to hear that. But it was part of the process. If I'd put forth my personal desires things couldn't work out to my own ultimate benefit. So I had to allow someone else the authority to deny me what I thought I wanted.
In Zen teaching and other spiritual relationships, this aspect of mutual respect often breaks down into a kind of worship. I know there are schools of thought that say this sort of worshipful attitude can be used to benefit students. I don't believe that. That always seems like a perversion of what the relationship ought to be, even when such perversions are enshrined by tradition. It's too easy for this to mess up both the students and the teacher. You end up with a teacher who owns a few houses and a couple dozen Lamborghinis but has lost sight of whatever made him a great teacher to begin with and a bunch of students who think the whole point is to purchase gifts for their beloved master.
Actually, the process last weekend was a lot easier than I'd feared it might be. I found it fairly easy to let stuff go. I guess all that zazen pays off sometimes. Even if it feels like you haven't really grasped its lessons, sometimes things happen and you realize you have.
Just before I left, Blixa brought over a gift he'd made for me as his exchange for the stuff I gave him. It's a picture he drew of Ultraman's goat. I never even knew Ultraman had a goat!
That drawing is priceless! It's one collector's item I'll be holding on to!
Hardcore Zen Strikes Again
In the comments section someone said:
Aside from Baker Roshi... name another zen teacher who lives in opulence from the donations of their students.
It's true that generally speaking Zen is mostly free of masters who live high off the hog from donations. At least in the West.
In Japan things are different. I found that most of my "normal" (ie, not involved in Buddhism) friends had no respect at all for Zen masters. The general feeling seemed to be that Zen masters were lazy rich people, driving around in fancy cars and working only when necessary to do funerals and other such ceremonies. They were seen as taking advantage of the poor and uneducated.
How much of this is actually valid, I do not know. Some of it surely must be true because the stereotype was quite common among people I knew over there. The people I knew who held this stereotype were generally young, educated artistic types. They viewed Zen masters in much the same way that same segment of the US population views televangelists.
I was also obliquely referencing others on the spiritual scene who are not connected with Zen, or who use Zen as just one piece of their smorgasbord. But I find it's best not get too specific. There's no point in riling up the followers of some guru by citing him as an example, especially when the problem is so pervasive. It's not really necessary to name anyone in particular.
Posted by Brad Warner at 7:30 AM
Saturday, May 19, 2012
The reason I have stuff in storage in Durham is because a couple years ago, I decided I had to leave Los Angeles. I was paying a lot of rent on an apartment I wasn't even living in half the year as I traveled around spreading the Good News of Zen to the people of the world. But I wasn't earning as much on these trips as I was paying to rent that place. Something had to give.
I'd heard good things about the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area and had a few friends there. So I decided I'd move to Chapel Hill. I was about to leave for two months in Europe. So I packed up everything and sent it to a storage space in Durham. Then I lived in other people's houses, apartments, closets and floorspace for nearly a year. At the end of that year I decided I didn't want to move to Chapel Hill. After a brief stint in Brooklyn, I ended up living in Akron. But I didn't intend to stay in Akron for the long haul. So I just left my stuff in Durham.
I used to scoff at people who had storage spaces. If you had so much stuff that you needed to put some of it in a place where you couldn't even get to it, then you had too much stuff! And now here I am having to deal with my own stuff...
There's an idea that a good Buddhist should have no stuff at all. She should only own one bowl and two robes. She should live off the good graces of people who respond to her calling to the truth by supplying her with food and shelter.
That's a nice ideal. Buddha's original group of monks and nuns were able, it is said, to live like that in Northern India 2500 years ago. But times have changed. I doubt many people could live like that in Northern India today let alone anywhere else in the world. I also have nagging doubts about Buddha's original monks actually having lived that way even back then. For one thing, to "leave home" in those days meant going a few miles or less away from home. Which meant you could leave your stuff there if you needed to. I'll bet you a case of doughnuts a lot of monks and nuns did just that. Of course, some were probably very strict with themselves about this. I just doubt that all of them were.
There are lots of misconceptions about contemporary Buddhist monks with regards to stuff. For example, one would think that a guy whose nickname was "Homeless Kodo" probably owned nothing but his robes and a change of underwear. In fact, the word yadonashi (宿なし, homeless) that was applied to Kodo Sawaki referred to the fact that he did not have his own home temple like most Zen teachers. He did, in fact, have a home to live in. What's more, his student Kosho Uchiyama complained that as Kodo's attendant he was required to lug mountains of Kodo's books whenever Kodo went out on the road to lead retreats. Homeless Kodo had stuff.
Like Kodo, most of what I own is books. It's probably no shock that most writers are terrible book fanatics. I've got a Kindle and I can see the logic of it. But I'll never get over my affection for actual books on real paper. Which is unfortunate because books take up lots of space and they weigh a ton. They are made of wood!
Every Buddhist monk, male or female, that I've known has owned stuff. Most of them are fairly modest in terms of what "normal" people own. But they all have more than their begging bowls and their robes. Most of them, in fact, suffer from the same book collecting disease as I do. Though most of them have "better" books than me. I have lots more Three Stooges books than any other monk I know.
Stuff is a burden and a responsibility. I wish I had less of it. I understand that my inability to simply get rid of things is a sign of being too attached to them.
But it is much easier to espouse an ideal of living simply than it is to actually throw things away that you put a lot of effort into acquiring. If you've tried it, you'll know exactly what I mean. This weekend I have enlisted the help of my good friend Catie who I have instructed to ignore my pleas when I tell her that I absolutely have to keep certain things. I'm very lucky to have a friend like that. Plus I'm giving her some of my collectibles so she can sell them to pay for her upcoming wedding in exchange for this service.
I always feel unburdened whenever I can get rid of things. And yet, having things is not always bad. It is because some people held on to their stuff and took care of it that we know about our history. My friend Jimi (lead singer of 0DFx) is a pack rat who collects all kinds of stuff related to Northeast Ohio rock and roll history. He'll be exhibiting some of his stuff soon in downtown Akron (I'll have the details when I get them). I'm very grateful for his work. Historians everywhere are grateful for pack rats like Jimi. This includes Buddhist historians. We wouldn't even have some of our most important sutras if it weren't for people who valued their personal stuff and kept it nice. There were times in history where Buddhism was persecuted and most of these precious materials were destroyed. At the time, those who had the few copies left may not have known their real value and may have been inclined to just toss them away and go off wandering. I, for one, am glad they didn't.
Which isn't to say that's the same as me and my Three Stooges books. It's just that to universally condemn the habit of holding on to stuff is a big misunderstanding.
Buddhism is always about doing what is better. It's not about being austere for the sake of being austere as if austerity itself were a virtue in its own right. For some, giving up all possessions, having no job (in the usual sense) and living off the good graces of others is freeing. For some, this would be intolerable. I'm one of the latter. There is too much Midwestern work ethic instilled in me for me to ever be comfortable living that way. So I work in the world and as a consequence of that I have stuff. It's a matter of exchanging one sort of burden for another.
I would not encourage Americans, Canadians and Europeans — or in fact most Asians, Indians, Africans or Inuit — living in the 21st century to try to adopt the ideal lifestyle espoused by the earliest Buddhists. It's too hard to make that sort of thing work anywhere in the world these days. Sure, it was not easy 2500 years ago either. But nowadays it's damn near impossible.
Plus I don't think it really helps others that much. In the society we live in today, it's important for everyone to contribute economically. It's OK to go off on a retreat for a while, maybe even for a few years, to get yourself together and suchlike. But I believe it's also important to be part of the regular world. A retreat is just that. It's a retreat from the world. Sometimes it's necessary and honorable to retreat. But I don't think we should live our entire lives in a state of retreat from the world.
Hey! They just called about my car! Hooray!!!
(The photo I've chosen to illustrate this piece is NOT my stuff, by the way!)
In case you missed them last time, here are the new Zero Defex videos
Posted by Brad Warner at 7:49 AM
Friday, May 18, 2012
Here are two new videos by Zero Defex for songs from our forthcoming album "Caught in a Reflection." The album will be available on CD at our shows at:
May 26, 2012
Now That's Class
1213 Detroit Avenue Cleveland, OH 44102
with Killer of Sheep, Gun Parole and Dead Federation
a record release party for the album by Cleveland punk legends The Guns
June 8, 2012
Old Haunt's Tavern
1527 E. Market St.
with The Vulcanizers
This video features dancers Cherry, Nina Fukuzato and Zingara Amore. The song was brought to the band by drummer Mickey "X-Nelson" Hurray and subsequently pounded into shape by us. Rumor has it Mick wrote the tune on piano! A first for Zero Defex! The video was shot in Wadsworth, Ohio at their public access cable facility. I slaved over a hot laptop for hours making all the weird psychedelic effects.
This song was brought to the group by guitarist Jeff "Ghoul" Hardy who also provided the fine insightful lyrics. Vocalist Jimi Imij mostly edited the video although I got it started. But I didn't have the guts to cut it up as much as Jimi did. The beginning and ending are from a one-of-a-kind record Jimi found at a thrift shop. It was recorded at a school in West Virginia sometime in the 1940s.
I pity the fool who don't get enlightened!
Posted by Brad Warner at 5:24 AM