Thursday, September 27, 2007

ASSWIPE Part 2

First off, a new podcast of an interview with me is up. Click here to listen. Same old stuff from me again…

Also, if you haven't, please read part one of this article below, or at least just the quote from Dogen. It's a good one (the quote, I mean).

The guy who ran away from our retreat wrote me yesterday. He was upset I called him an asswipe on this blog. I’m sorry about that. I thought it was obviously a joke. I didn’t identify him in any way, so it was clearly not a personal attack. My intention was more to make the point that running away from a Zen retreat without notice is not proper behavior. I hoped that by saying so I might make future attendees — not just of our retreats but of Zen retreats in general — aware of this fact. A Zen retreat is not a visit to Disneyland or Club Med. You are not a customer or a guest. It is not the job of the organizers to serve you or cater to you. You are a functioning participant who is expected to work with the rest of the group to make the retreat happen. Leaving without notice is like deserting your job without notice. Everyone else has to take up your slack and that’s a problem.

According to him, “My reason for leaving was simple: It was your attitude. You come off as a self-centered, know-it-all prick in robes – with your conception of Zazen being the only one that matters.” He complained about, “the completely impersonal, mindless format of the retreat itself,” and said, “perhaps if we had been given more time to talk with and get to know each other personally, that wouldn’t have been a problem.”

These are points I think need addressing not just to him but to everyone who reads this page since some of you may be considering attending one of our retreats or attending Zen or Buddhist retreats held by other teachers.

If you attend a Dogen Sangha Zazen retreat it means you are agreeing to spend the time doing Dogen Sangha style Zen under a Dogen Sangha teacher’s instructions. This is the same with any retreat. If I go to an Ashtanga Yoga retreat, I expect to do Ashtanga Yoga and I can’t complain that it’s not Iyengar Yoga. I guarantee you that every decent Zen teacher believes that his or her conception of Zazen is the only one that matters. In fact I’d even say that if you find a teacher who does not appear to believe that you should stay away from that person. That’s one of the clearest telltale signs of a teacher who’s no good and will probably rip you off. All my teachers have been self-centered know-it-all pricks.

As far as the impersonal, mindless form of the retreat, our retreats are probably the warmest, fuzziest, most get-to-know-each-other retreats in the Zen business. From what I’ve heard when you attend a retreat by this fellow’s hero Mr. Thich Nhat Hahn not only can you not talk to the other participants, apparently you can’t even look them in the eye. I’m not sure it’s TNH who does this actually (I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong), but I know it’s the case in a great many retreats. The dude in question wanted to know if he could hold his arms a different way from everyone else because he wasn’t familiar with our form. I encouraged him to do it our way. Shit, if you tried doing it a different way from everybody else in some retreats they’d scream and then whack you with a great big stick! No exaggeration. Sometimes I think we’re just way too fucking nice. Actually we expect our attendees to be a bit more mature than to need to be hit with sticks.

But the point isn’t whether our retreats are warm and fuzzy or not. The point is that you really ought to do some research before you sign up for a Zen retreat. Not just the guy in question, but you out there reading this. Not just our retreats either, but any Zen retreat. Or any other meditation or Yoga retreat. Every time someone gets disgruntled about our retreats it’s because they haven’t got the vaguest clue what to expect. I imagine this is not a problem confined solely to our retreats.

Before I went on my first Zen retreat I'd already read as much as I could about Zen retreats in general so I’d have some idea what to expect. And kids, this was in the days before teh internets so it wasn’t like I could just Google “Zen retreat” and get a million people’s diaries of their retreat experiences. Shit, you were lucky if you could find three books on the shelves of the Akron Public Library about Buddhism. And those were all written in 1874. I’m not just trying to give you the old “I used to walk ten miles through the snow to school” thing here. It’s just that I really can’t excuse anyone in the year twenty-ought-seven for not making the tiny bit of effort it takes to find these things out. Our retreats are basically like a nicer, easier version of whatever you find described elsewhere.

In any case, before next year’s retreat I’ll be making some kind of a guide book or something I’ll put on-line to let people know what they should expect from our retreats.

So sorry again to you, Mr. Wipe. Nothing personal. But thanks for the opportunity to make these points. And again, please understand this is not directed at you alone (I wouldn't waste the two hours plus it took me to compose this just to get back at some specific person). It’s really a much more general and widespread problem.

Over and out.

ADDENDUM:
Just to be clear, it is always perfectly acceptable to leave a Zen retreat at any time for any reason. But when doing so you need to tell one of the organizers directly. This goes across the board for all retreats in all traditions.

210 comments:

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Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

wipes, patient, await
moment of action appears
and there you have it

Ordinary Extraordinary said...

Again and again this sort of thing happens with Brad.

People are attracted to his sensationalist style. I used to really like him myself, but he clearly has some anger/attitude problems and there's no sign that his practice is addressing that. He seems to be setting a bad example for others and confusing people with his ideas about Zen.

I practice with a group closely related to Nishijima in lineage, through Deshimaru who was a student of Kodo Sawaki. The Zen which is taught to the more than 2000 members gives great importance to morality, the opening of heart and mind and love...yes Brad, love...as was taught by Shakyamuni Buddha and every school of Buddhism I know of. Zen is not Buddhism for egoists or nihilists.

One thing I have learned is that having some ideas and opinions about Zen is definately not Zen. More than once in the past I've made that mistake and my teacher (the Abbott of Kanshoji) has told me that Zen is opening the heart and living with an attitude of kindness towards all.

I recognise the insincere-warm-and- -fuzzy-delusion - I came across it a couple of times in the early days with other Buddhist groups. However, it is just one of the many potential pitfalls of practice. It doesn't mean that Buddhism is not about loving kindness, it means that genuine loving kindness isn't always easy to find, it means we can easily fool ourselves and it means that genuine love is not always the same as 'being nice'.

cometboy said...

Interesting to read, but left me feeling uncomfortable.

Part of it is that I want Mr. Warner to be more like what I want him to be. Tough for me, I'd say.

The only concrete observation I have to make is Brad labeling the asswipe moniker as an obvious joke.

Ann Coulter does that, give someone a hard time and then when confronted, says it was only a joke, jeez, where is your sense of humour? So the poor sucker gets it twice, not only an asswipe, but a humourless asswipe.

Mr. Wipe said...

Cometboy, "The only concrete observation I have to make is Brad labeling the asswipe moniker as an obvious joke.

Ann Coulter does that, give someone a hard time and then when confronted, says it was only a joke, jeez, where is your sense of humour? So the poor sucker gets it twice, not only an asswipe, but a humourless asswipe."

Compared to Ann Coulter... Ouch!

Mr. Wipe

PS: Ordinary Extraordinary's comments were right on the money.

Anonymous said...

Yep, Ordinary Extraordinary has hit the target.

There is a middle way between Warm-And-Fuzzy Buddhism and Hardcore Fuck-You-Asswipe Buddhism.

When challenged about his behaviour, Brad and his fans usually offer one of two defences:

1. Your expectations concerning the 'proper behaviour' of a Zen Master are completely out of whack. Brad is just a normal human being, not an enlightened saint.

2. He's just calling you an asswipe to give you a reality check/ be humourous/ confound your expectations/clear your delusions.

Neither of these defences take into account the simple mechanism of cause and effect:

1.Brad calls someone an asswipe.

2.They are hurt by this insult and react in kind.

If Brad was really unaware of the inevitability of (2) following as a result of (1) then one wonders what he has to teach about cause and effect, one of the central principles in Dogen's Shobogenzo, the main text of his lineage.

If he was aware, then it follows that the insult was, on some level, a conscious effort to cause suffering on the part of another.

Anonymous said...

someone anonymous said:

"1.Brad calls someone an asswipe.

2.They are hurt by this insult and react in kind.

If Brad was really unaware of the inevitability of (2) following as a result of (1) then one wonders what he has to teach about cause and effect, one of the central principles in Dogen's Shobogenzo, the main text of his lineage.

If he was aware, then it follows that the insult was, on some level, a conscious effort to cause suffering on the part of another."

Suffering?? Are you kidding? That Asswipe has had the time of his life with this. It's probably the best thing that's happened to him in years, getting to act all self-righteous and hurt. I don't believe a word of it.

Brad said...

This thread is now closed. It's my blog. I can do that. Anyone wanting to comment on the matter may open their own blog and do so freely.

Anonymous said...

To Asswipe:

(Not having read any of the comments) I'd completely turn the thing around. I'd be happy that Brad cares so much about you as to spend so much energy on yoo. You can also return the favour and tell him the famous story of the shit-stick, which is of course true.

Success!

JdR

Anonymous said...

First of all, happy 2014, everyone! I presume you are all still alive and healthy. If not, good luck to you on the other shore.

A lot has changed since I last wrote here. I'm now married and have 2 children - with a third on the way. I still live in the countryside of Japan, though, where I teach and grow rice.

(Unfortunately?) I didn't end up sticking with zazen, but I still read Buddhist books and articles from time to time, which is how I found this thread. Apparently, I had bookmarked it under Buddhism, and then forgotten all about it. What a thrill it was to reread the entire thing 7 years later! It felt like I had dug up a time capsule!

I vaguely recall Brad shutting down the comments on this thread back in 2007. Thankfully, they appear to be fully operational again.

Anyway, I would express my deepest gratitude to everyone who participated in this discussion. It was a nice little catharsis for me, both then and now.

Sincerely,

Mr. Wipe

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