Friday, June 30, 2006


I'm in Ohio now & trying to deal with my Saturday Zazen class in Santa Monica from a remote location is proving to be difficult. To those of you who may have looked at the schedule I put up yesterday — please look again, what I put up there was completely wrong! The correct schedule is below:

July 1, 2006 Lecture by KEVIN BORTOLIN
July 8, 2006 ALL-DAY ZAZEN
SUNDAY July 23, 2006 AFTERNOON! (from 1:30 PM)
July 29, 2006

Since I will still be in Ohio on July 1, Kevin Bortolin, a fellow student & Dharma Heir of Gudo Nishijima will do the talk at the end of the sittings. Kevin is a much better speaker than I am, so go see him.

The All Day Zazen this month is on July 8th which is the SECOND Saturday of the month & not the 3rd as we usually do it. So far only one (1) person has signed up. So please feel free to come along! Please.

And if you were not confused enough, the following week's class is on Sunday afternoon rather than on Saturday morning. These two changes are due to the Hill Street Center's big annual yard sale which (I believe) is on Saturday July 22. As a bonus to those (if any) who show up on Sunday, we will go out bowling afterwards.

Again, please don't feel shy or hesitant about coming to these classes. I know everyone thinks I'm a celebrity and I'm full of myself or whatever. But, Honest to Jesus in Heaven, only about 3 people ever show up to these classes. Trust me, I will not bite. Not usually anyway...

For those who are lamenting the loss of the older articles, get a life! NO! NO! NO!! I'm glad you liked that stuff. A few weeks ago I looked at it & decided it was all crap and needed serious rewriting. So far I have not had a free nanosecond to even contemplate actually doing that rewriting. So maybe I'll just put 'em back up again. But, really, honestly, they just were not all that great. Buy Shobogenzo & read some decent writing instead! Or re-read Zen Mind Beginner's Mind. Go to the link to your right and read some of Kobun Chino's lectures. Read Nishijima Sensei's blog (but ignore the comments section, apart from Nishijima's own comments, it's pretty useless).

Sunday, June 25, 2006


Near my apartment there's a New Age bookstore called The Bodhi Tree. Occassionally I'll go in there and brouse the shelves. I've actually found a few decent books there, translations of the old Sutras and such-like. But most of the shelf space is given over to books which recount various authors' encounters with Enlightened Beings. These encounters are always very special and mystical. The author invariably comes away transformed by the Deep Wisdom of these wonderful beings.

Unfortunately, my own encounters with Enlightened Beings have never been quite as pleasant. One particular Enlightened Master* from somewhere in Canada has lately been calling me all sorts of nasty names in postings on various other blogs. Apparently his Enlightenment is of a much higher level than any mere lickspittle such as myself could hope to aspire to. I've observed this guy's behavior over a number of years, though, and if this is how Enlightened Masters act, the world is better off with as few of them as possible. I certainly have no interest in becoming one.

But my encounters with him weren't my first unpleasant brushes with Enlightened Beings, and I doubt they'll be my last. In fact, he's got competition lately from yet another Enlightened Being on the Internet who claims his Enlightenment is also far superior to mine. This other Man of Enlightenment even sends me threats via e-mail. Oh joy....

A couple few years ago when my book was first being considered for publication, a very famous Enlightened Being, author of numerous books about Enlightenment and how to achieve it, expressed grave concerns about its contents and possible effects. My worried prospective publishers even sent the unpublished manuscript — without my permission — to this guy to try and get his blessings. His verdict: There's nothing wrong with Brad that a year in an intensive meditation retreat wouldn't cure. One of his retreats, I assume, where he could teach me the true meaning of Enlightenment. Sir, yes, Sir! I'll be right there! — feh! In the end I chose not to work with these publishers. Yet, I wonder if their interest in my book would have cooled had Mr. Enlightenment pronounced it unworthy.

One more Enlightened Being I met ended up involved in a murder....

As you may imagine, these days I'm not overly impressed with people who claim to have had Enlightenment.

I really cannot understand why these Enlightened Beings feel so threatened by me. Especially since I have never made any claims of Enlightenement for myself. In fact, I've denied the whole idea of Enlightenment. Maybe that's what's threatening. It's like saying the Emperor has no clothes. Anyway, if you're truly Enlightened, why would anything at all be threatening? Why would you need to make claims for your own Enlightenment? Why would you indulge in specualtion about the nature of someone else's Enlightenment or lack thereof? Wouldn't an Enlightened Being be more confident about his Total Understanding of All Things and Phenomena than that? Maybe if I were Enlightened, I'd understand...

Perhaps the Enlightened Beings encountered by those authors are different from the ones I've run into. It's entirely posssible. But it's also entirely possible that many of those who claim to be Enlightened Beings behave quite differently towards those who fawn over them, and sit at their feet absorbing their Wisdom, than they do towards those who are skeptical.

And yet, although I've said, "There's no such thing as Enlightenment," it's not that I don't believe in Enlightenment at all. I know that sounds like a line from Spinal Tap**. But it's not that there is no Enlightenment. It's just that I cannot accept what most people refer to as "Enlightenment" as being in any way, well... enlightening.

Enlightenment is not a state. It's not an experience that happens to you after which everything you say or do is cool because — hey — you're an Enlightened Being, so it must be cool. No. Enlightenment is action. Enlightenment is not something you experience. It's not something you own which other un-enlightened folks don't. Enlightenment is something you do. This is why Dogen said that sitting Zazen is Enlightenment itself. When you behave like a Buddha, that behavior, that action, is Enlightenment. When you behave like an asshole....

*Please note that I haven't identified any of these Enlightened Beings by name. If you must waste time speculating, please don't name names in the comments section. OK? These folks give me enough hassles as it is.

** "We don't actually say, 'Love your neighbor.' We don't actually mean it either. But the message should be clear."
— Nigel Tufnel (Lead Guitar, Spinal Tap)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Long time readers will note that I now have a video on the page. This is the trailer for my movie Cleveland's Screaming. Watch it and make it more popular than that chick who complains about everything...

A couple people have written about the sitting in chairs thing. I probably shouldn't even say this because plenty of able-bodied people will read it and use it as an excuse to be lazy. But here goes anyway. It's been my observation that anyone who's somehow truly physically disabled and absolutely cannot sit on a cushion, will find some way to create a Zazen style that works.

But I've also observed that plenty more people just want to take what is already an easy practice and make it even easier. Like asking if they can listen to New Age music while they sit or what have you. I'm waiting for the day someone asks if it's OK to watch TV while doing Zazen in an easy chair and drinking beer.

So while some people may really need to do it in chairs, chances are that you, dear reader, are not one of those people. And if you aren't, what I said before goes. Doing Zazen in a chair is, for you, like trying to jog while driving in a car. You may cover the same distance. But it won't have the same effect. OK?

Saturday, June 10, 2006


The other day I got an e-mail from someone who wanted to visit my Zen class in Santa Monica (which, by the way, has an average weekly attendance of about 4 people, so please feel free to stop by). She said that when she sits on the floor it is painful and asked me if it was OK to sit in a chair.

I didn't know this person's real situation, so I couldn't give an easy "yes" or "no" answer. But in general, I don't want to encourage people to do Zazen in chairs. If someone really cannot do the practice in any other way, I would not bar them from class. But I've found that most people who ask to do Zazen in chairs, really don't need to.

A couple weeks ago I did a talk in Boston in the meeting room of an office building. The nature of the room was such that we had no choice but to do Zazen in chairs or not do it at all. So I chose to do it in chairs. But I discovered then that Zazen in a chair isn't really Zazen.

Zazen is essentially a balance pose. In Yoga, there are several of these. Probably the most well-known is the tree pose. That's where you stand on one leg with your palms together until, if you're like me, you fall over into a heap on the floor after about twenty seconds. Zazen is in some ways an easier balance pose in and other ways a much more difficult one. When doing the tree pose, you know for certain you've lost balance when you find yourself in a heap on the floor. But in Zazen, the signals are not nearly as obvious. You can carry on for quite a long time completely out of balance without this being evident to any casual observer.

When we did Zazen in chairs that day in Boston, the feeling was entirely different from real Zazen. At best, we were just sitting quietly together. This isn't a bad thing, of course. But it isn't Zazen. The balance aspect of the practice was lacking entirely when doing it on a chair. Try as I might, I couldn't find any way to real Zazen with a chair supporting me.

A lot of people complain about pain in Zazen. It's difficult to assess somebody else's pain. It's very important to be careful not to injure yourself in the practice. If you're not careful, it's possible to do serious damage to your knees, for example. So when people complain about pain, it's hard to know if the pain they're feeling is something serious like what happens when you're stretching your knee ligaments all to Hell, or if it's just the usual discomfort associated with trying to keep still.

Zazen isn't really "built for comfort." It's not supposed to be the easiest thing in the world. If it were, a lot more people would be doing it. A bit of pain in Zazen is normal. In a way it's a type of exercise. To give up doing Zazen because it hurts a little bit would be like giving up jogging because it makes your legs tired.