Tuesday, January 08, 2008

FREE SPEECH ABOUT BERKELEY


This morning I got to visit and sit with the folks at the Berkley Zen Center across the Bay Bridge. I also had the great honor to have breakfast with Mel "Sojun Roshi" Weitsman, one of the first whiteys in this country to take up the Soto style of Zen practice. How did I get so lucky in this lifetime? Plus the breakfast was really good. As soon as I get back to Los Angeles I'm never eating again. I've had enough delicious eats for a lifetime.

They do things differently at Berkeley even from the way they do them at SFZC, which surprised me. Apparently the style at Berkley is closer to what Suzuki Roshi did with his first students. It's just little things. The verse for putting on your robe is a different translation, and they don't do kinhin (walking zen) but instead make a little "clunk" on the big bell at which time people readjust their positions or leave if they have somewhere to go. A couple other things were different.

It's good to see these variations, especially in two temples that are very closely connected. There needs to be a lot of variety in Zen practice. But that doesn't mean that each teacher should not insist upon his or her own way. I don't think a lot of people get that. I mean when I instruct people on shikantaza and say that's the only true way to do zazen, it does not follow that I want to send everyone who doesn't do shikantaza to the gas chambers. It may be that because of the terrible things committed in the names of our Western religions in their quest to destroy all unbelievers, we Westerners tend to read intolerance where it does not exist. It is important for a teacher to be strongly committed to his or her own way. Teachers that try to be too P.C. do their students a great disservice. Insist upon your way and let the students decide if that's the way they want to pursue or not. But always insist.

In the Lotus Sutra the Buddha gives a talk and a bunch of people who don't like what he's saying turn and walk out on him. Somebody, I think it's Ananda, says, "Hey Buddha, everybody's walking out on you!"

Buddha says, "That they leave is also good."

If you leave my place and I think you're a butt-face for doing so, ask yourself why you even care if a guy whose teaching you don't like thinks you're a butt-face. It's an important question. If you don't care, fine. If you do care, maybe there's a reason for that. As there was a reason I cared about Nishijima even though I hated his teaching when I first encountered it. As Shunryu Suzuki once said, "Any teaching that doesn't seem to be forcing itself on you is not good teaching."

Just some thoughts for the day. Now I'm gonna go write that book some more.

34 comments:

dave said...

Well said! Thank you. What's that saying about digging a lot of shallow wells versus one deep one? Anyway, once again it reminds me of Karate and how a lot of people get all bent out of shape over bowing, Japanese terminology, and even being told there's a right way and a wrong way to punch. I think we get so tied up in consumerism that we expect everyone and everything to cater to what we think we want all the time--so much so that we start telling our teachers how and what to teach! On the other hand, if you put aside your expectations and ideas of what it's supposed to be and just practice Karate (or whatever) the way your teacher asks, it becomes part of your nature. Don't get me wrong--there is absolutely a time and place for critical thinking and challenging authority (eg if your teacher says "beat on the newbies"), but there is also a time and place to...well, sit down and shut up!

Jules said...

Sometimes teachings that seem to be forcing themselves on you are bad teachings. It's easier to spot those though, since they're usually taught by people on a power trip.

And I think sometimes a teaching seems to be forcing itself on you simply because the teaching's not right for you. But if you're not sure, it might be good for you to try it out for a while. Look closely to see why you resist it. You might learn something. Or it might be an exercise in discipline. Or it might just be a waste of time.

Mysterion said...

Time and content.

What you may have to say may take more time (e.g. 1/2 hour) than the time remaining for you to say it.

Therefore what seems forceful is no more so than stuffing ten ounces of tea into a five ounce vessel. The observer sees conflict between size of the vessel and the weight of the tea. However neither tea nor vessel have feelings.

Blake said...

If you thought I were a butt-head for leaving, wouldn't that mean you care? Because that would warm to cockles of my heart!

Anonymous said...

Silly whitey.

anony"brad warner fanboy"mouse said...

yes, get back to finishing up that 3rd book brad!! ^____^

-anonymouse

mysteriondan said...

"This morning I got to visit and sit with the folks at the Berkley Zen Center across the Bay Bridge. I also had the great honor to have breakfast with Mel "Sojun Roshi" Weitsman, one of the first whiteys in this country to take up the Soto style of Zen practice. How did I get so lucky in this lifetime?"

Am I imagining things or did I detect some sarcastic language that is intended to make Mel Weitsman the butt of contempt or ridicule here?

Brad said...

Am I imagining things or did I detect some sarcastic language that is intended to make Mel Weitsman the butt of contempt or ridicule here?

Imagining things. Mel's a great guy.

Mysterion said...

Perhaps 'whitey' isn't the best term for an occidental. Consider 'round eye' or gaijin ("outsider"), or the p.c. term Gaikokujin.


mata ne?
mondaiji

Smoggyrob said...

Hi everyone:

As a whitey, I vastly prefer whitey to cracka' ass bitch, ghost-face muthafucka' and caucasian, but that's just me. If your mileage doesn't vary, check your odometer.

Rob

Mayo-mo-san-shi said...

well THIS helps explain my expression: "To understand Japanese is to BE Japanese."

mysteriondan said...

my imagination is a burden sometimes.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you're enjoying your stays in SF and Bezerkely, it's a real treat to come here and see all the freshly baked blog goodies for us to enjoy!
We sure benefit from your ending-the-book-procrastination.
Did you get post-partum type stuff when you finished the two other books?
Hows translation coming along for the book you are doing with Nishijima Roshi?
I understand the plugs for you to come to Vancouver.
And you may yet...anywhere you end up, will be benefited by your being there.
Can't the same thing be said for each of us?

Anonymous said...

Free Speech in US?

Maybe.

Free Press in the US?

Not so.

You'd think that a verifiable story about
nuclear weapons treason committed
by US government officials might be
important news to the American people.

But no...

In case anyone is awake, here are
some of the accused.

Once again, in a nutshell, from
yet another brad blog...

Anonymous said...

Rob,
What is the difference between those words and the other ones you used?

Perhaps "ghost faced mutha fucka" is a more honest phrase than "whitey"; at least we can cut through that PC BS.

To borrow a phrase,
"Don't mistake the finger pointing to the moon for the moon itself" what i'm trying to convey is that, it doesn't matter which words you pick up to denote race, they're all inherently racist in the end.

Anonymous said...

Damn! Sibel Edmonds is hot!
She can be my dharma-babe any day!

dood said...

"...ask yourself why you even care if a guy whose teaching you don't like thinks you're a butt-face. It's an important question. If you don't care, fine. If you do care, maybe there's a reason for that."

maybe i don't know where i am and no longer care...

maybe i don't know where i am and do care...

or maybe i know where i am and care but don't drink...

ponderocity!
dood

courtesy flush said...

dood, that is a post of extraordinary magnitude. You have our gratitude.

get over it said...

Einstein was asked which weapons would be used in World War Three.

"I don't know," he said. "But I will tell you what weapons will be used in World War Four -- sticks and stones."

Gerry Gomez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gerry Gomez said...

Whitey don't play that.......

http://www.jbhe.com/obama1.html

Mysterion said...

right click on that photo and "view image."

Check out the Suits and Ties! In '68, students at Berkeley wore Suits and Ties! Chico State gave up on that corporate sh*t in the 50s.

dood said...

that post was forged in the tradition of our ancestors...

do

courtesy flush said...

Film at 11.

Mysterion said...

Courtesy Flush...

how could you NOT link to either this or this?

dan said...

"Courtesy Flush...

how could you NOT link to either this or this?"

Because you're the only one here who seems to be obsessed with golden poo mate.

courtesy flush said...

I don't know how to set up links within these posts.

I don't like to admit I don't know about IT stuff because someone always threatens to teach me.

It's fine if somebody says "if you want to learn about hyperlinks, then this is the best way and here's why."

But most of the time, it's just some jackass on a power trip who makes it his mission to set me straight.

Yeah, that was a clumsy little metaphor. Do I get partial credit for trying to keep it on topic?

I'll try again, with feeling.

Blake said...

First student protest in the US?

Harvard, 1766.

The protest was over the quality of butter being served to the students.

"Behold, our butter stinketh!"

Lead by Asa Dunbar, Henry David Thoreau's grandfather.

dood said...

i couldn't say that i'm not obsessed with golden poop...

at least poop that perfectly formed into a spiral mound, if i could only accomplish that in my useless western style commode...

oh well - i'll just keep trying!

take care,
doooooody
dan

courtesy flush said...

seriously! If I could extrude perfect little mounds like that, I would crap on the street just to show off.

Ya know, if the whole reincarnation thing turns out to be true, then after my recent posts there's a good chance I will return as a mound of poo.

(Then again, some would argue that I already did. Film at 11.)

Doug said...

The "little things" that vary from place to place don't matter too much, in my opinion. It's beneficial for those little things remain relatively constant at a given place, so that people practicing there can focus on the practice as opposed to the perpetually changing rule list. But it seems highly unlikely to me that it's important for good Zazen whether you sit facing toward or away from the wall, whether you bow at the door or at your mat or both, bla bla bla.

As for the more significant aspects of practice, much depends on the teacher. You [Brad] know that shikantaza is a clear path to awakening because you (presumably) have tread that path yourself. Why would you teach others any different than what you know? Other teachers have had great success using skikantaza, koan practice, breath practice, or combinations thereof. A skillful teacher picks the method he thinks will benefit a particular student the most, and he has only his own experience as a guide.

I heard once that the word "sensei" can be translated literally to "one who walks ahead." The benefit of working with a teacher who's been down the path ahead of you is that he can point out the pitfalls and help to avoid getting lost; but you've still got to walk the path yourself.

In summary: just agreeing and commenting. I enjoy your posts Brad.

- Doug

Anonymous said...

So I'm in a bookstore in Kaiserslautern, Germany the other day and a book catches my eye for some reason. I look at it and lo and behold there's a picture of Brad Warner inside the cover. How ya been ol' boy?

Dan Robinson (Wadsworth, '83)

Manikandan said...

Hi .nice blog.I need free job posts website.can anybody help me....

tienda muebles madrid said...

Thanks for this post, pretty effective piece of writing.