Sunday, July 20, 2008

14 DOLLAR (Make Me Holler)

So yesterday we had our usual weekly zazen thing at Hill Street Center in Santa Monica (details at the link on your left). I'd say between 8 and 10 people attended. I really don't know for certain. Coulda been as many as 11. I took the money out of the donation box and counted it later. There was 14 dollars.

It costs $240 per month to rent the meditation room space at Hill Street Center. I spend another $50 to $100 per month on sundries used at exclusively or at least mainly by the group — tea, food for the one-day retreats, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, etc. Even when everyone who attends contributes $5 a person, which is what I ask for on the website, it usually doesn't cover everything. This was not a problem when I was working full time for the film company I still rep for. But I'm no longer full time with them, so they pay me a pittance. I'm sure as hell not getting rich off book sales either. J.K. Rowling or Dean R. Koontz get rich writing books. Guys who write paperbacks about Buddhism don't. I don't have any wealthy sponsors behind the scenes either. What I get in the donation box is it, period.

So if you come to sit at Hill Street Center, please keep this in mind. I don't have any desire to make money off the zazen sittings. But I can't afford to pour my own cash into it either. When I could afford to, I did. Now things are different.

I hate to be a televangelist about all this. And I won't.

The bottom line for me with the Saturday morning things is this: I sit from 10 to noon on Saturdays at HSC and you're welcome to join me. The end. I'm not trying to start a movement or even a sangha. But I can't do this for free. It isn't free for me and it isn't free for the people who come join me.

Now, and this is totally unrelated but I was amazed someone put this on the Internet, listen to The Troggs Tapes.



Anonymous said...

Suggestion: sign on donation box reading "$5 donation is what we need, more if you can, less if you really don't have it."

Anonymous said...

I give $20 at my local. I want it to hurt just a little. That's my boundary at the moment.

babbles said...

I think it is more than fair and reasonable to ask for donations to offset the overhead expenses. On one hand it is great that people come and visit, but on the other it is a shame there seems to be a marginal financial effort to go with the practice.

Chris Bogart said...

At Starbucks you also get to sit for a while for $5, plus they throw in a latte. Have you thought about offering lattes?

(Just kidding-- but I admit I was surprised the first time I was confronted with the notion of paying good cash money to sit in a quiet place for a couple hours. But here's what I decided about it: if impermanence and noise and fuss are the natural order of things, it only makes sense that a place creating a temporarily illusion of calmness and quiet would cost something to maintain. Cleaning and repair people have to keep entropy at bay. Brad's body will disintigrate without a supply of brown rice and bat heads or whatever the hell it is punk zen masters eat. And then there's the seven-headed property tax demons you see in those Tibetan thangka paintings).

Lota Salesman said...

Why not stop buying the tea, food, toilet paper and cleaning supplies to keep costs down? Make the 1-day retreat a day of fasting, too. If they don't eat, they won't poop. Or if they insist on pooping, supply a lota for the bathroom. After the lotus, then the lota. Or maybe your sangha just needs a fusu (treasurer).

Anonymous said...

set up the pipes brad. Make it easier for people to give. Transparency. Print out a list of expenses and put it next to the suggested donations bowl with an amount suggested. Set up a paypal account and a sangha page with a paypal button. I'll kick $10 every now and then and I live on the east coast! You're offering people a chance to practice generosity paramita, right?

Good luck. I would definitely kick $10 now and then to help some people become less stressed.

Mtroll said...

I feel your pain, brad. I ran into something similar in the 70's. People want a place to sit with others but usually aren't willing to pay for it. Rent, electricity, food all cost money even if you don't want to profit from zen.

Strange what you say about paperback books not making you much money though. I guess things have changed. The Rochester Zen center was partially supported for decades from the money made by Roshi Kapleau's The 3 Pillars of Zen.

Anonymous said...

A few weeks ago you were explaining that the few people who did sit with your are real rootin' tootin' Zen students, as opposed to the masses that sit at other centers. Now we see they are a bunch of cheap assholes. Or maybe they know what it is worth.

Anonymous said...

It is an interesting dilemma.

Nishijima Roshi describes zazen someplace as a hobby of his.

It is rare (though not impossible) to find hobbies which pay for themselves.

As a knitter (showed at craft fairs and such) doing some nice pieces of original work, I can tell you it was an art form that didn't make money--and that's not even calculating the hours of time put in to the construction of a piece.

It was just something I thoroughly enjoyed. I liked the problems it gave me and my having to come up with solutions for them--what stitch to use? what weight yarn? what size needle? what color combinations? Etc. etc. Really, is there anything that isn't like this? Having an avocado orchard, having a kennel, having a recording studio, having children--it's the same:
problems and solutions. Problems with the solutions and further solutions. Having a sangha/sitting group is no different. I've sat in two kinds of places with sanghas: those set up legally as a religious group, and those which met informally in people's houses, with a room dedicated as a zendo.

I think it is excellent that you post this perennial problem here.

I don't have any solution to offer other than a bare-bones one: stay at least one month ahead. In other words, this month is paid for: post weekly how much is still needed to pay for next month. Each week as you get donations, subtract them from the total needed. If all is well, you should be in the black by the last week of the month. All those sitting will be able to see what is needed.
From your core of regular sitters, perhaps they can make monthly contributions which take care of the rent. Donations can then be a 'kitty' for funding the other items you mentioned: paper towels, toilet paper, etc.

It is one thing to have a sitting group or zendo to go to. It is something else again to be in charge of one: even if it is only a once a week deal. Do you have others in your group you can have help you? IE you don't have time to pick up the toilet paper/ there someone else who can reliably do these things?

michael bardan said...

braddy-chan, saying i hate to be televangelist and i won't is like maddox saying no pun intended.

get a life. if you're serious about practice, money will come one way or another. if you can't make it, quit the fucking practice.

i am sick and tired of teachers who want to earn a living at teaching the dharma.

either you're so good that fucking tom cruise will give you money (just to prove he's not scientologist to the exclusion of all else) or fuck, hit on richard gere or something, you are cute enough.

stop pestering your sangha for money. if they don't give it, it means they're poor as all fuck, just like you.


proulx michel said...

Dear Brad

some troll wrote:
"stop pestering your sangha for money. if they don't give it, it means they're poor as all fuck, just like you."

That sucks, but a couple other persons gave what I hold to be good advice. I'm holding my once a week sitting in my room, so I don't see any reason to charge for it. But what first, sixth and ninth anonymice said makes a lot of sense. Kicking your sitting mates (not mats) a bit in the arse can be compassion at times, too.


Anonymous said...

what aboot some of that internet money?

Nothing like money to determine your value...

seriously though Brad, try some open accounting; post a budget beside the donation box so people can see where the money is going!

Jinzang said...

I'm sorry to hear you have money problems. I think if you stick with it, things will turn out well.

NellaLou said...

Couple of suggestions:

1. Find a cheaper place to sit
2. Sit more often so those that can't come on Saturdays can come another time.(and pay up)
3. Barter rent (or some of it) for some kind of work (with the help of some of those who show up if they don't have any money)
4. Advertise a little more in the area about the sittings so a few more show up. There's lots of places advertising is free.

One thing that does strike me when you write is a certain amount of indecision about your future direction. You are not trying to "start a movement or a sangha" so what is it about then? Just some friends getting together? Then rotate from one person's place to the next.

Maybe people don't want to invest in something that insecure. I mean either with time or money.

Do you just want to continue writing and not lead a sangha? Do you need the sangha to help you focus your writing? (I am asking that as a writer)Would you rather be doing music? Are you doing it for the sake of your teacher?

From the way the posts have been going this year it seems like circumstances are shifting and you have to make some decisions and commit to them.

But I don't know you so maybe I'm totally assuming things.

Anonymous said...


This is what math is for!

$240 Rent
$100 Sundries

$340 Monthly Expense
/4 weeks =
$85 Weekly Expense
/8 people =
$10 suggested donation

overflow is used for weeks with few people.

if you accumulate a lot of overflow... give some of it back!!! (gasp)

on the paper by the bowl
show the math!
even put receipts there
why not?

this is nothing more than money yoga.

Anonymous said...

public library?

Mysterion said...


I'm still looking for some sponsorship money to redirect your way.

p.s. NORIMITSU ONISHI is known to be biased.

Don't underwrite Zazen... Try to find another spot (free of charge). Consider a public park - seriously.

You might lose $4 per student, but you'll never make it up in volume.



babbles said...

I would imagine that $240 per month for rental space in Santa Monica is pretty darned reasonable. I do think there is something to be said for doing one's practice in the confines of a particular space, a zendo if you will, instead of random places. I know somebody will probably mention that zen should be practiced everywhere all of the time, but for these particular group sittings I think having a sort of zendo is probably more ideal that not having one.

NellaLou said...

You could try local Christian churches. Most have meeting rooms and facilities and can be bargained with.
The Unitarians or the more progressive branches of the Catholics. Find out what Catholic church Martin Sheen goes to and put on your robes and have a meeting with his padre, clergy to clergy. Some of them may well join your group or at least attend once or twice to see what its about.

I've met a number of Christians who meditate in a Christian context and some who have expressed interest in Zen including some fairly stodgy Presbyterians.

Anonymous said...

I go to a Zendo in someone's basement. No fee to keep that one alive, just a very quiet tenant.

Anonymous said...

I agree with a couple of the anon posters. Posting a list of expenses with a breakdown lets people know where the money is going. I would also be willing to make small donations once or twice per month if I knew where to send them - I see this as a bit of gratitude for your blog and articles.

p.s. Ignore the trolls.

michael bardan said...

rocket man awarded genie, your bowl is cracked.

giving something to somebody, helping anybody to obtain or do anything he wants, is gratifying the fictitious self of that person and affirming its power over him. therefore so to do is to render him a disservice.

you can only render a service to somebody, and the only service you can render anybody, is to give him an opportunity of depriving himself of something, and of weakening the stranglehold of his fictitious self thereby.

in the first case the subject will thank you for rendering him a disservice, in the second case he will bear you a grudge for rendering him a service.

unless he happens to understand.

Trolly McTroll said...

"giving something to somebody, helping anybody to obtain or do anything he wants, is gratifying the fictitious self of that person and affirming its power over him. therefore so to do is to render him a disservice.

you can only render a service to somebody, and the only service you can render anybody, is to give him an opportunity of depriving himself of something, and of weakening the stranglehold of his fictitious self thereby."

Michael Bardan Michael BardanMichael Bardan Michael Bardan Michael Bardan.

Go eat a dick

Moon Face Buddha said...

Brad, I agree with what some of the other people here have suggested, you should make a list of expenses so that people can make an informed choice when deciding how much to donate.

My local group has a suggested £5 ($10) donation.

Anonymous said...

Michael B:

First response to Mike_H
oh dear lordy efforts are in vain...

sit tight, master kung fu panda.

& try to observe.


now, here we go, attention in your belly, ouuuuuuuut we go with that outbreath.

and still some more when i tell you there is no blog and no z0tl. there is but this one comment that you happen to read.


finish your outbreath without losing your focus which, as all good kids know, should be in the center of your being, teh hara.

now then, step back a few posts and read everything teh z0tl has ever said and if you can find one place where he has said zazen is bad practice, you can give yourself a brownie.

are you still on the inbreath now?


and if so, are you expanding the belly like it's a cylinder, ie pressing against the back/mingmen with an equal force you press on the 1/2 way between belly button and groin skin/still not hara, but that axis that goes through the tan'tien/hara?


thusly, i lied to you, i still zazen my ass, usually 2 hours a day in the mornings 6am-8am, but i also wu style tai chi / meditate my ass, usually in the pool (like i have told you directly before), during the golden hour, most days, 5:30pm-6:30pm.

don't give up on me now, i'm not as angry as you think i sound ;)


Second Response to Mike H
don't seek any1, they're all in front of me when i need 'em

apologizing to me is on the same plane with insulting me, i'm vulnerable to neither.

carry on everybody/mind.


Another response
you know what bothers me, mike_h-san?

when people who apparently are engaged in [beyond serious] work that transcends the great matter (of life and death) go out there acting all parental guidance and master a la tv portrayals of them, replete with "skilled action" and all.

i've spelled it out clearly for you (& the adhd fruitflies) in this sangha, braddy-chan is a practitioner of snarky zen.

thusly, if 1 is to get through to his enlightened ass, THIS is the way: rip his fucking guts out the way he thinks he shows the zen establishment worldwide the way things are.

it is not an irony that brad is a troll (and btw, can you kindly box us both, him as the Original Troll and my sorry ass as the trollpa ribpoke sorry-self-aggrandizing 1)?

here, please tell us which kinds we are of the 4 your fucks expounded on: the drivel Troll, the destructive Troll, the nasty Troll, the evil and illegal Troll?

once you're comfortable that you've put your chi loaded finger on our being, can you now please proceed to elucidate for yourself which theory needs be used to rid the world of our pestilence?

6.1 The Infant or Attention Seeker theory
6.2 The retired bitter old person theory.
6.3 The insane person theory.
6.4 The just evil theory.
6.5 The sad git theory.
6.6 The loser theory.

ok then, i posted a while back a sad but very true analysis of the homo sapiens species, not written by me, but by a guy labeled as a schizophrenic on alt.zen, who used the user id jod da'ath.

#2 weakness as a species is: always seeking validation in higher or lower forms, but never their own.

when you point out a troll and think you understand supremely their unenlightened actions, you are validating in lower forms.

ie, you think the other is STUPID, thereby you promote your EGO as being wise.

when you point out a teacher who's "got it," that is called validating against a higher form.

both are bullshit.

your inability to pierce the veil of chit-chatter and get to the CRUX of the matter (other than saying so in your post, that masters of the old did employ "troll tactics" in order to wake people up) is a sorry state of affairs.

do something about it, because we're talking life and death here, not fucking dancing moves for the happy happy joy joy hippo out there.

one thing that braddy-chan says in one of his exposes on bad teaching that goes around in zen is that he is sorry he apologized and acted meekly for so long.

walking on fucking eggshells, so the establishment calls you SKILLED.

fuck that shit.

take their guts out.

they do more damage in this world (cloaked under "positive action" and "do good" always compassionate people) than trolls like me who tell you go fuck yourself now before you end up in unspeakable hells of your own making.

The very first response to me - a guy you have never met appears to be both insulting and taking the piss. You seem to continue in this vein. Maybe this was triggered in part by my opening line, maybe not.

I cannot tell from your words whether this is said with humour - like we might in a bar: "Yo Cock-sucker hows it going?" or whether it's said with anger - like a drunk lookng for a fight: "Yo Cock-sucker how's it going".

Based on your previous posts and your claim to want to be recognised as a troll I assumed that this is how you wanted to be treated.

I have no problem at all with your language or how you address me. It's just that if I think all/mostly someone wants to do is insult me and take the piss I feel free to ignore them. There might be some gems buried in the shit but often that is not the case so I prefer not to wade through shit just to be sure.

Anyway, I allowed myself to become a little carried away with things last week.

This week I've got to finish off some sewing (I make skirts for men - so the skirt joke wasn't bullshitting you) and then I've got several days with a client to kick-off a major IT project.

I wanted to show that like harry said you had it within you to be a nice guy - just like I had it within me to be an asshole.

I rather over-did it but then I tend to do that sometimes.

It might be that I dumped some concrete on you but hey; you came around acting all trollish looking for some attention and you got some. Maybe it wasn't the attention you wanted but hey....

I feel I owe you an apology - at least for poor etiquette if nothing else.


michael bardan said...

mike_h, my 1st response to you (disguised in a response to someone else, as always), was the 1 where i said i'd like to do tai-chi in the pool with you, asking about dolphins blowing air rings in a youtube.

please understand, there's no point in sucking up to me or throwing me into mud or keeping it steady on, because i look at them same way.

now: let me take a bite out of that guy's dick for some energy and hit them hells bell:z!

michael bardan said...

*clappers 0ff* & G mournin' 2 U.

as physix says, every action has a reaction, but what they forget to say is: they are 1.

ie, there's no michael getting all asshole without mike_h and there's no mike_h not knowing if michael is serious or kidding without michael.

what's up with the guy running into empty boats "arguing" [actually, i try to discuss, but my skills aren't advanced enough to not come across as i'm insulting your primary intelligence, which, btw, only knows to argue] and getting all up in arms like it's the end of the wxrld as we know it, that's even more puzzling.

anyway, cause-and-effect are 1, ie a doing, which is real, but trying to come up with the cause and the effect in this here "seemingly happening place" can only lead to your suffering.

carry 0n.

Zotl's Mom said...

So basically Zotl, what you're saying is that the cause of you sucking dick is that you suck dick and the effect of you sucking dick is that you suck dick?

Anonymous said...

I feel VERY uncomfortable paying for the Dharma, just as I could not abide country club Judaism or televangical fiduciary fleecing.

However, I'd pay $14 for lunch or another copy of your books. :)

I'd fork over my own personal dollars if you ever came to Austin, hint, hint, hint.


Anonymous said...

Time to read the tea leaves (i.e. dollars) and go into another line of business, Brad.

Blake said...

I like the idea of switching locations to a place that doesn't charge. We use the local Unity Church. They don't charge but ask that we give an offering. The space is large, quiet and since there are other Buddhist groups that meet there, there are already zafus for us to use. And as luck would have it, the best vegetarian food in Kansas City is served downstairs so anyone who would like to partake, can.

michael bardan said...

mom, I suck...

[everything that comes after that is not real, so why get all up in arms about it]

ps: you were way weak in pussy to give birth to such loser I am.

pps: which is the moment, now that I write this OR now that you read it? why bother trying to "seize the moment" then? can't you see it's all bullshit? your sensei knows "being in the moment is bullshit" but he's only understood that intellectually. which isn't bad. it's a PREREQUISITE for the goddam conditioned western mind, b4 it can relax into just fucking being.

babbles said...

michael "The z0tl" bardan said:
"as physix says, every action has a reaction, but what they forget to say is: they are 1."

Your inability to comprehend something should not be used to describe others as "forgetting" that said something. It is not typically mentioned they are one because the definition itself implies they are one.

I do not really have any desire on commenting on your drivel, except for whatever reason this particular item stood out. I suppose what bothers me are people who think they are more "deep" or "clever" than they really are.

f. kwan said...

I feel VERY uncomfortable paying for the Dharma, just as I could not abide country club Judaism or televangical fiduciary fleecing.

I think that is a bit unfair to say you are paying for the Dharma. Practically you are paying for commercial goods and services for your practice. Which I am sure one can say that is all part of the Dharma - but I think that gets into some silliness that is not reasonable or practical.

duh said...

Ask the participants at your zendo to please leave a donation.

michael bardan said...

& your inability to see that "i have no desire" combined with going ahead and satisfying that desire while believing you are beyond it makes up ipso facto that which you call BONDAGE is one of the habits you need to break b4 you actually can use the drivel i give you to build a solid foundation for your practicing self.

you'll then have to demolish it all too, but we're not there yet, bro!

Flor de Nopal Sangha said...

"The bottom line for me with the Saturday morning things is this: I sit from 10 to noon on Saturdays at HSC and you're welcome to join me. The end. I'm not trying to start a movement or even a sangha . But I can't do this for free. It isn't free for me and it isn't free for the people who come join me."

But if people are doing zazen with you on an agreed time and date, then that's a sangha. For better or worse, that's a nascent community. What's at issue here is how much worth e/a of those folks thinks is worth their time in this group. Aside from individual finances, if someone invests only a $1 then they can't expect much beyond that and they don't think their zazen practice is worth the financial sacrifice.

Read "Crooked Cucumber" and you can get an idea of what Suzuki went through to establish a zen center.

michael bardan said...

i don't think, you babbling foo, i use my fingers to insult you.

Anonymous said...

Dana is an interesting problem.

I've been to a couple of non-Zen sanghas in my area - both of which own their own buildings and both of which have a fulltime priesthood.

At one place they charged £5 for a class/meditation+teaching session and at the other place they strongly suggested a £5 donation and gave a little dana lecture.
Both places gave concessions for students and wouldn't be upset if someone couldn't afford to pay.

At one place I know for a fact that the money went into the kitty that pays for the Sangha and its charitable work. The teacher received no money from it.

I guess that Brad is providing a room (which is rented) plus zafus plus coffee plus of course a wall.

As it stands today from what Brad has written - he's shelling out 300 bucks a month or 75 bucks a sitting.

On Saturday he paid 6 bucks per head so that people could sit with him and they paid $1.50 each (average) - which I think is the price of a single-shot expresso at Starbucks

If he'd taken everyone down to Starbucks and ordered Lattes all round then it woulda come to maybe 30-35 bucks so he'd have been better off and would have had free seating as well.

Brad's not trying to make a living out of these sessions he's just trying to cover costs.

Let's say that Brad continues to run sessions at this place. He's giving his time for free and his teaching (or silence) for free and is cutting you a great deal of zafu and wall-rental with a free coffee thhrown in for five bucks.

It might be that Brad can find a cheaper plac to sit and that is ocnvenient for everyone.

Now obviously Brad has not been so clear about the finances in the past (apart from dropping hints that it costs him money).

If the 10 or so people who meet regularly and found and financed a place to sit then clearly Brad wouldn't be getting any cash from it and clearly only a room is being paid for.

If Brad has been shelling out $200-300 bucks a month for years out of his pocket to fund these weekly sittings then that means he's being giving up quite a chunk of lifestyle to fund these things - maybe a decent car and a holiday.

If people really are hooked on the "paying for dharma" issue then let someone else find a room and collect the cash. If there's cash left at the end of the year maybe you could go out for a party or something.

I agree that "paying for dharma" can be a problem and Brad clearly does too. I also agree that "paying to teach" is also a problem.

Can people not just find a middle way?

Colinski said...

I can't fucking believe people don't cough up the $5. I'm sure some people just forget. I don't think I've ever seen you make reference to the donation at the actual sittings. I'm sure it's because you don't want to come off like you're shaking people down, but like you wrote, you can't afford to do it for free. That's all that needs to be said, right as we get up after the talk. Some cheap bastards will still shirk it, but at least you'll remind those who are well-meaning and might just forget.

Getting Zotl excited is too easy said...

Total Zotl Scrotum

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