Monday, May 05, 2008


We did our show last night at Kent Stage in Kent, Ohio in honor of the four students killed by the Ohio National Guard on May 4, 1970 and it was the best show Zero Defex has ever done. Incredibly, there was actually a very good sound mix on stage and I could hear everything. That is the first time that's happened. The Beachland Ballroom also provided good sound, so I shouldn't slight them. But the sound at the Kent Stage was exceedingly well done. The show as also a lot of fun. The Screaming Smoldering Butt Bitches were in fine form, especially on their song "Zero Defex Eat My Ass, Zero Defex Don't Eat My Ass." You'll have to ask them what that one is about. I wore my Buddhist robes on stage. I'll put up a photo as soon as I get one. That should make plenty of people mad.

The previous night we played Pat's in the Flats, again with the Butt Bitches as well as This Moment in Black History and The Unholy Two. That was also a fun, fun, fun show. Word to the wise, if you play at Pat's do not use the drum riser. We were similarly warned, but we used it anyway and we paid the price. If you use the riser the drummer can't hear anything the rest of the band does and the sound of the drums just goes rattling around the room like a big clatter that the rest of the band can't possibly decipher.

On Sunday morning I sat with my first teacher, Tim. That was a lot of fun. Tim shares my concern that the current movement to standardize Soto Zen practice in the USA could result in a lot of good teachers being declared "inauthentic" because they didn't jump through the proper hoops. Even if this happens I'm not sure how much it will matter. I agree we have to guard against just anyone who feels the urge being able to declare themselves a Zen Master. But I'm a little concerned about the direction the drive for "authenticity" seems to be taking.

I'm not being terribly coherent here, I know. If you'd like a more coherent statement of this concern go to this page about Kobun Chino and click on "Letter from Angie Boissevain." This is a serious issue that needs to be raised and looked at carefully.

Here's the remaining gigs:

On Friday May 10th Zero Defex will play an in-store show at Square Records in Akron's Highland Square with The Horns. Starts at 7:00.

Saturday May 10th at 7 PM I'll do a book signing and talk at Visible Voice Books in Cleveland, Ohio’s Tremont neighborhood.

On May 17th and 18th I'll lead a 2-day retreat at the Milwaukee Zen Center.

I'll be one of the teachers at this year's Great Sky Zen Sesshin August 9-16. Check out their webpage for details.

The annual Dogen Sangha retreat in Shizuoka, Japan will be September 20-23.


grisom said...

There's a movement to standardize Soto Zen practice in the USA?

buddha-builder said...

It seems to be a part of our human nature, to standardize -- even among Zen folk!

But can you imagine the standardization of art?

Seems to me that it's quite a task, to keep on the pivotal, improvisational point -- hence the zen training that continues for 10,000 years non-stop...

yoyo said...

Zen establishment. Great. Yet another club.

distian said... must be a smallville, right?

Andy said...

Could you say more when you have a chance about this standardization movement, what's being proposed, etc.?

Blake said...

Played in your robes? You are asking for trouble, aren't you? Good for you!

Anonymous said...


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

I second blake's comment. A punk bass player in a kesa... hot.

Mettai Cherry said...

My opinions are mine and mine alone. They represent my ego and no organization to which I belong or represent. I'm still likely to be in trouble.

The distressing nature of this movement to standardize is even more pronounced when viewed from the inside of a zendo which is becoming standardized. The Buddha taught the "Middle Way" as I recall. It is very important to safeguard students from harm from unscrupulous teachers, but we all know about the shoes, so it's hard to see how standardization of protocols, numbers of angos, etc. will help.

I chose to be a formal student of my teacher based on spending enough time with him and his other students to trust his genuineness as a teacher. The presence or absence of a kesa was irrelevant and still is. I have met people in kesa's whose practice and opinion I respect and the other way. In some ways I think that by having an establishment and authorizing body we may be enticing people to trust teachers without getting to know their practice first, which would be a step backwards.

On the other hand, there are some traditional protocols and practices that been handed down to us and we shouldn't be too eager to get rid of them. We also shouldn't be so attached to their being exactly proper that we deny the experience to junior students and newcomers.

Anarchy is not always what it's cracked-up to be. Whenever you have more than one person involved, someone needs to lead and the others need to follow. If, for instance, we each decide what direction to walk during kinhin, we'd spend more effort avoiding each other than walking.

In the end, each of us is independently responsible for what happens when our butts are on our cushions (I liked the SG article about that), and the zen mirror points only to ourselves.

Anonymous said...

It is possible to come to seeing things just as they are--even under the guidance of a 'poser,' sometimes it happens like that. It is also possible to end up misguided
even though working with a real deal teacher.
How does this happen? In brief encounters.
When you take on 'slow cooked' zen the process never ends realization is continuous teachers become firewood, sanghas become kilns until the point each breath is firewood, each thought is firewood the body is the kiln

Anonymous said...

Reg. restriction on Zen Master.
May be this is the time we need to split up from old traditions and start jet another tradition, the Punk-Zen Tradition.
Hey everything else just a version of the original as well, so may be the time has come that the "old" is not covering the current Zeitgeist, which is needed to move on :) I am all for it.

Nude Emperor said...

The majority of North American Sōtō priests joined together in 1996 to form the Soto Zen Buddhist Association. It is institutionally independent of the Japanese Sōtōshū, but is also a kind of self-policing organization. WHY?

Anonymous said...


Rōren - no, that's not my real name, but my 'real' name is not my reality either. said...

I wish the Jack Sparrow rules of pirates applied here. Instead of 'parle' I'd cry "dokusan!"

But it's just one Unsui clapping.

berto said...

I've seen this site There are lots of heavy construction equipment and machineries. Caterpillar, Volvo, bulldozer, mobile excavators, Liebherr, and more. Other heavy equipment companies worldwide advertise there.

lucky said...

Ive read this topic for some blogs. But I think this is more informative.

Brian Dean said...

I used to be a student of Tim McCarthy too (way back in the 80s). I think that genuine spirituality has nothing at all to do with "rules" whether they be Buddhist rules or Christian rules. Too many people get caught up into leaving Christian bullshit only to find that they are replacing it with Buddhist bullshit.

I think an even better article (or in this case a FAQ) that addresses some of these issues can be found here:

You have to subscribe to "American Buddha" to read it, but it's free. And that one FAQ all by itself is worth it.

Anonymous said...

Idea for a new song: "I declare myself a fuckin Zen Master"