I've made some changes on the page about the Saturday zazen things in Santa Monica. I've revised the starting time to 9:45 for instructions and 10 for the beginning of zazen. We've been doing it that way for a year or more. But I just never got around to changing the webpage. Also I added these lines:
On Saturdays I do my daily zazen practice at the Hill Street Center and I open the doors to allow others to join me. I am not trying to recruit followers or build up a large organization. This isn't like a church or even a typical Zen center. You're joining my personal practice. Be respectful and do not expect to be catered to. On days when I can't be at Hill Street I usually have someone there to open the door and continue the practice as I do.
I thought it was necessary to make this clear. I know it doesn't sound particularly inviting. But I don't really care. I'm as nice as I can possibly be when people arrive at these Saturday things. But I'm really not a very gregarious, sociable person by nature. I won't be mean to you. But don't expect me to be all huggy and sweet because that's not how I am.
I will not attend the sittings on August 9th or 16th since I'll be at the Great Sky Zen sesshin. I won't be there on the 30th either because I'll be attending the Maezumi Institute Young Buddhists Retreat (I'll be at the Hill St. Center on the 23rd, though). But someone will be at Hill Street Center on those days to open the doors and instruct new people on what they need to do. If you're inclined to do zazen with a group and you're in So Cal you should come to these sittings regardless of whether I'm there or not. I do not matter. I'm just some jerk who writes books and says boring stuff at the end of the sitting. Zazen is yours. I cannot help you with it at all.
Going to the Hare Krishna thing last week got me looking into the history of the organization. Chris Chapple lent me a book called Hare Krishna Transformed that goes into some of the scandals that have plagued the movement since the death of its founder in 1977. I also found this YouTube documentary on the subject. It's way too damn long and obviously the director has an agenda. But it's about as thorough as you'd ever want to get and contains some amazing footage of some of the stuff the narrator talks about actually happening.
I've always been very concerned with the matter of cults. There is a pattern to how new religious movements grow.
STEP 1: A charismatic leader, usually from a foreign country, starts the group.
STEP 2: He (or she, but I'll stick with he) names his successor.
STEP 3: He dies.
STEP 4: The successor gets accused of doing bad things.
STEP 5: The successor is ousted.
STEP 6: A committee is formed to carry on the "true teachings."
STEP 7: Everything becomes very corporate, stale and pretty much useless.
In the case of the Krishnas, it's pretty clear that Keith "Kirtanananda Swami" Ham actually did do some pretty heinous things. But jealousy and greed for power among those who feel they ought to have been the rightful successor is so strong that I'm not sure actual wrong doing is even required for step 4.
Anyway, if you're lucky maybe something gets preserved and passed on in this process. But I don't think the organization is ever really responsible for this except that maybe they act to preserve the records of what happened. Like the Soto-shu preserving Dogen's writings even though they really didn't look at them for the first 600 years or so of their existence.
I think the rewriting and editing done to Hardcore Zen gives people the mistaken impression I want to start a movement of some kind. I really don't. I'm not interested at all in promoting myself as a Zen teacher or enlarging my group. I do not want to have any followers. Not a single one.
On the other hand, I don't mind promoting myself as a writer, and I write mainly about Zen. So I understand why there's some confusion. But here I am, once again trying to clear that up. I'll be trying to clear that up till I die, I think. But that's fine.
In any case, I'm thinking hard about all this and how it applies to this nebulous something that may or may not exist but has been given the provisional designation "Dogen Sangha." It may be simpler than I think it is. Because in a very real sense there is a nebulous something which may or may not exist but has been given the provisional designation "Brad Warner" and I deal with that all the time.
If I manage to reach some conclusion, I'll let you know.