Monday, September 29, 2008


The NPR (National Public Radio) thing is here for anyone who wants to listen. As usual when there's a story about Noah Levine and me, they used a picture of Noah. He's more everyone's image of punk rock, I guess (not a "garage band poser from the suburbs" like me ~ you guys are too funny, I like Noah!*). Well, at least they didn't put my name under his photo like someone did a while back. And if Noah put the title of one of his books on one side of his neck and the other on the other side of his neck, what's he gonna do if he writes a third book?

Maybe we shouldn't ask...

I'm bored stiff with the topic of Big Mind™. But there's a guy in the comments section who can't understand the difference between Nishijima Sensei's acceptance of patronage from the Ida Cosmetics company, for whom he also worked as an adviser and financial consultant, and Genpo asking for $50,000 to spend five days at a luxury resort with rich people and give them Enlightenment. Nishijima never promised Mr. Ida he'd get any sort of special experiences or merit for his contributions. If you don't think Genpo is saying the folks who pay him $50,000 are going to get something that people who pay less can't get, you'd better read his pitch again.

Meeting with a real Zen teacher for personal instruction is indeed a rare opportunity. But it can't be bought or sold. Never. When the emperor of China asked Bodhidharma what merit could be got by studying with him, Bodhidharma said, "None at all." The emperor was most certainly asking this to see if he wanted to become Bodhidharma's sugar daddy and give him some cash and a temple and stuff. Had the emperor wanted to study with Bodhidharma anyway in spite of the lack of merit to be gained, I'm sure Bodhidharma would have accepted him as a student. Honesty is the key. Patronage can be accepted when the relationship between teacher and patron is an honest one.

And FYI, ain't nobody offering me $50,000 for a few days in a hotel with them. But if they did I'd send him packing. Homey don't play that. I don't like hotels anyway and it sounds seriously creepy. "Free money" is never free. If, on the other hand, New World Library offered me a $50,000 advance for my next book (Ha! I wish~!) I'd take it in a heartbeat. I prefer to work for the money I get. You always do anyway, even when the money is "free." And when I do real work, I will take as much money as the work is worth. I have no qualms about that at all. Sorry.

As for people traveling long distances to study with me, I always discourage it. A number of people have asked about this and I always say the same thing. There is no reason anyone should spend a lot of money and effort to study with me. I will only disappoint you.

These questions are trivial. The thing that really bugs me is when people (Genpo's people, I assume) start throwing that whole "The precepts say you can't criticize other Buddhists!" stuff around. There is a very dangerous notion growing among Buddhists in the West that if anyone calls himself a "Buddhist" or calls what he's doing "Buddhism," we as Buddhists must not call him on it no matter what it is for fear (and fear is the operative word) we will be breaking the precepts. This is why there is no outcry from American Buddhists against some of the flagrant abuses already present. As Buddhism continues to grow in popularity, the number of people who see it as an easy way to get rich will increase. We cannot be shy about pointing out when transparent scams masquerade as Buddhism. If Buddhists don't speak out, who will? If hucksters know they can get away with anything because Buddhists are afraid to say anything about it there won't be any real Buddhism left before long.

This is a serious matter.

Whether people like what I say or how I present myself or not doesn't matter a whole lot to me. I feel duty bound to say what needs saying in the best way I can.

*Hey! I just found out that Zero Defex's songs "Drop The A-Bomb On Me" and "Better Way" (aka I Bleed USA) (no YouTube link, but go to Nader's official page & it's there)are being used in official commercials by the Ralph Nader campaign! Gosh.


I just saw this in the comments section and I thought it was an interesting observation. Having had some very minor interactions with community the commenter's speaking about, I think this is a very good point. I had considered writing something like this myself, and on the subject of "lifestyle players," which exist in both the BDSM and spiritual communities. I should say, though, I have some deep misgivings about what little I've seen in the consensual BDSM community. I do see some therapeutic usefulness in it. But this may be canceled out by the actual trauma involved. Anyway, I'm no expert & that's about the extent of what I can say on the matter. (I wonder if this is Nina Hartley's post...)

Brad, here is my hunch.

Folks are paying mega bucks to folks like Genpo not just for the verbal teachings.

My hunch, and it is strictly my own opinion, is that a lot of people think they are into being spiritual, but covertly are thrilling to power and to power imbalance.

If they were conscious about this, they'd explore these issues via psychotherapy, or via consensual adult BDSM.

I do not practice BDSM but I am more and more convinced these days that the adult kink community does a far better job than the spiritual seeker's scene, because the kink practitioners are thinking consciously about power, thinking clearly about what they desire, and have learned to communicate, beforehand, what they all want, what the boundaries are.

More than once, Ive been told that there are lots of people who want to be dominated and paddled, but very few who are willing to function as 'tops'--that is, as the dominants who administer the pain.

Why, in the kink scene, are there so few tops, and so many bottoms?

Because in the kink scene, POWER COMES WITH ACCOUNTABILITY. The top has to answer to an ethos of care and pay attention to whether the bottom is signaling for the session to stop. And the top is the one who is answerable if something goes wrong.

But in the spiritual scene, there is no shortage of wanna be gurus/tops. There are lots of bottoms in the spiritual scene, but also plenty of gurus, eager to accept the power offered to them by the bottoms.


Because IMO, in the spiritual scene, its a set up where the guru/top enjoys total power and zero accountability.

If anything goes wrong, in the spiritual kink scene, all the blame is foisted onto the bottom.

And in the spiritual kink scene, people are going around being unconscious. They're obsessed with power, but unconscious of it, and determined to stay unconscious of it, and there is no way to talk consciously about power, about what one desires, and no safe words a bottom can use to signal that he or she is being traumatized instead of challenged and wants to scene to stop.

In fact, in the spiritual kink scene, you have no way to know if you are walking into someone's BDSM dungeon or not.

At least in BDSM the dungeon is clearly designated as such.

Result is, in the world of BDSM kink, people examine and name their desires and set it up so everyone, the top and bottom, exits the scene feeling satisfied.

Which is more than can be said for many sectors of the so called spiritual scene. I suspect many don't feel they are spiritual unless they are thrilling to a power imbalance.

Brad once wrote how someone at his old Japanese company said that their cartoon stories taught children to worship power--that some benevolent being could come to the rescue, every time.

Some worship Ultraman, or the Science Team.

Others worship Genpo Roshi.

And never examine the deep structure of all this.

And if you pay 50,000 USD, you have an incentive NOT to want to examine this, because its too painful to face that you paid 50 grand to fulfill a child's fantasy of rescue.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


It's raining here in Tokyo. In about 2 hours I have another meeting with the folks I work for.

I'll be on an NPR radio show called "Day To Day" that's supposed to air on Monday. I'm told it's on in LA from 9-11am on KPCC 89.3fm (though I don't know where in the show it will be.) That is always subject to change, depending on the day's news. You can go to to find out where it'll be on in your area.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Jesus God Almighty help us all. Someone in the comments section posted a link to Genpo Roshi's Big Heart Circle page. Just when you thought things couldn't get any worse in the world of Buddhism in America along comes a "life changing seminar" with one of the "great awakened masters of our time" for just $50,000! No joke, friends. It'll cost you fifty thousand smackers to sit and sniff the big farts™ of Mr. Genpo in a luxury hotel. This is far beyond the most appalling crap I've ever seen in the name of the Dharma. It really has sunk to a new depth of slime and awfulness. I've canceled my appearance at the Young Buddhists Retreat in Massachusetts (whenever they reschedule it) due to their association with Genpo (which I didn't know about when I said yes to it in the first place, I will do better research in the future).

Someone else sent me this link to a page Sock Monkey put up while I've been away in Japan. I'm going to need to have a long talk with him when I get back to California. Not that I'd recommend either of these seminars, but I think you'd get more out of five days with Sock Monkey than five days with Genpo. I'm serious.

What's even sadder about this is that Genpo didn't invent this kind of scam. Pricey fake enlightenment seminars like this are common practice these days. There must be a thousand of them running any day of the week. There is a whole lot of money to be made in this business. As Joshu Sasaki said way back in 1974 when this stuff was only just getting started, "If you have money to give those guys, give it to me instead!"

And don't think I haven't thought about this myself. Cuz I have. When I lost my regular job, the wheels started rolling in my head about what I could do to make ends meet. My rep as a teacher is such that I could probably make some good green charging the clueless big bucks for a chance at a personal "life changing" meeting with the great and wonderful your's truly. Has Genpo been on CNN? I bet I could get even more suckers than him if I really worked it.

In fact about two or three years ago I was offered a chance to lead a luxury cruise ship retreat to South America. I looked into it and I couldn't stomach the thought. Later on I told this story to a friend who knows this scene very well. The organizers had never talked dollars and cents (or sense) to me. But they did say I'd be paid. My friend said they were probably going to offer in the neighborhood of $10,000. Can you imagine? I coulda made ten thousand samolians to spend a week on a cruise ship! Me! Holy crap! Literally...

All this comes up for me the day after I started negotiating a new contract with the company I've been working for. Here I am about to commit to hard labor in the film business when I could earn three times as much hanging out at luxury hotels hobnobbing with the rich and foolish. What the hell am I thinking?

Now please understand. I'm not trying to tell you what a saint I am. Far from it. It's just that I cannot even picture myself charging money for people to be in my presence. Can you? What kind of arrogance is that? Do people really think they can learn how to dismantle their ego by hanging around with someone whose view of himself is so over inflated he thinks it's reasonable to charge thousands of dollars just to hang out with him? Do these people have the ability to think at all? I just don't get it and I hope I never do.

But I see how it works. Now that I'm getting more well-known I see the way some people's eyes light up when I walk into a room. They get way too excited and it scares me. I don't know who they're seeing when they look in my general direction. But it's not real, and I have to work hard sometimes to convince them of that. The "Enlightened Being" they create in their minds seems to be a much more real thing than the actual human being they're projecting that image upon. I know because I've made that same projection myself more times than I'd like to admit. All guys like Genpo do is milk that stuff for whatever it's worth. That is the very opposite of Buddhism. It's sickening.

The Enlightened Beings Club I mentioned in my latest Suicide Girls piece operates in such a way as to enhance each of its members ability to scam the gullible out of their spare change by constantly beefing up each other's reputations. It works just like celebrity-hood in Hollywood. This stuff is so transparent I don't even know why it takes a dork like me to point it out. But I guess that's my lot in life.

Anyhow, that's my rant for the day. Now I'm gonna go out and scout for cool monster books and toys. Just think of how many more I could buy if I held a couple seminars...

It's tempting, it's tempting...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Lemme see... We had 20 participants at the start of the retreat and 16 at the end. Most of those who left had planned to go home early. One guy came from Europe and the jet lag proved to much for him so he opted out early from total sleep deprivation, which was probably a good idea.

A number of people came from Germany for the retreat. Two from Chile. And one guy from Finland. One from the US. The rest were from Japan, though even these were a mix of Americans, Canadians, English people and Japanese. All of these folks came specifically for the Dogen Sangha retreat and not to see me per se. The DS retreat was an on-going thing for about a decade before I ever even attended one, let alone started leading them. So I feel kind of duty bound to keep it the way Nishijima Sensei set it up.

A few of the people who'd been to other retreats were a little put off by the fact that we don't keep strictly silent. It's more or less standard operating procedure at Zen retreats that there is absolutely no talking. Even eye contact between participants is discouraged if not outright forbidden. The DS retreats have never been like that. It's a bit of a different atmosphere.

One woman who came from Germany said she felt it wasn't quite as deep when you allowed talking. I can see her point. Having done both silent and non-silent retreats, my take on it is that the silent ones do feel somehow deeper. But I'm not sure if they're necessarily actually deeper. What I mean is that I feel like Zazen has its own depth. Whether you notice it or not is something else. In that way maybe it's like sleep. While you're sleeping you're not really aware of the depth of sleep. It's more about what you feel like when you wake up. And my feeling following the DS style mostly, but not totally, silent retreats is a bit more stable than the feeling I have following totally silent retreat. After a silent retreat I feel a bit spaced out and funky. It's a good feeling. But it's a bit like being stoned, and there's a comedown just like when you're coming off some primo weed. I don't get that from retreats where a bit of social interaction is allowed.

Uh... what else? It seemed like I had more to say...

There was a funeral on the last day. So we got to listen to them chanting during our final round of Zazen. There was a lot of rain, though no typhoon. That passed us by the night before the retreat began.

I shot some video, which I'll put up after I get back to California. I didn't have enough tape to record the lectures. Which is probably a good thing. I guess they were OK. Seemed like people liked them. Peter Rocca was taping them on some kind of digital audio recorder. So maybe we can put the files up. I kind of improvised this time. Usually I follow Nishijima Sensei's tradition of doing a lecture on the life of Buddha, one on the life of Dogen and one on some aspect of Shobogenzo. But this time I did one on Fukanzazengi and one on Genjo Koan and then winged the rest.

Got some good shots of one of the gigantic spiders that live in the temple. That should be fun.

Guess that's it.

By the way, I'm starting to read the comments again. Things seem generally OK in there lately. It's always funny to see people make broad sweeping statements about what kind of person I am based on what I write, even though they've never met me. It's cute.

I'm at work. Gotta go do stuff.



I know what I wanted to say. It's related to the above regarding what I'm like (as if that matters anyway, but people seem interested). I observed in my teachers a tendency to keep everything very open. This included being very open about themselves. I don't mean they confessed a lot of sordid details of their pasts. I don't know much about Nishijima's personal history, for example. But they presented themselves very clearly. They were not like the spiritual people I'd encountered before who seemed to hide behind the mask of a generic "spiritual person." They were, instead, very genuine.

My way of imitating that behavior is to be very clear about my own utter lack of holiness. Yeah, I write for a porn site (actually, Suicide Girls is not porn, but so many people say it is). Yeah, I dig Godzilla movies. Yeah, I'm pretty much a stickler for the type of practice I learned and I've got no time for anything else. Yeah, I think certain people are jerks and I enjoy saying so. I also downplay those aspects of my personality that might seem holy. Mostly this is because I've been so burned by "spiritual person" types.

When I was given the task of being a Buddhist teacher, I decided the only way to do it was to be myself. I briefly tried to play the "spiritual person" game, albeit in a very half-assed way. But it didn't work. I don't recommend it at all. It gave me headaches.

Shunryu Suzuki (I think it was him) said it's sometimes helpful to imitate the behavior of saints. I think that's true. But in my own case I've had to try to find a way to do that and still be genuine. That's the tough part.

In any case, it's not about me. I use myself as an example in hopes that might prove useful to others.

Shit. Now I really have to go back to work...

NEW SUICIDE GIRLS ARTICLE (Sept. Something 2008)

I got a new article up on Suicide Girls. Go look.

I got back from the Dogen Sangha annual retreat in Shizuoka, Japan (which is where I am, Japan, I mean, not at the retreat) this afternoon then went around to some fave record stores here in Tokio. Now I'm too bushed to do much more than put a notice up about the new Suicide Girls thing.


More tomorrow.


Friday, September 19, 2008


I just arrived in Tokyo. Too jet-lagged to post. Tomorrow is the start of our annual Dogen Sangha 4-day Zazen retreat at Tokei-in temple in Shizuoka. And a typhoon is bearing down upon us. Will the shinkansen run tomorrow? Who knows? Will we get stopped halfway down there? Don't know. This year's retreat should be interesting.

Those of you who'd like to experience a shorter, typhoon-free Zen retreat in Santa Monica can sign up for the one at Hill Street Center tomorrow. Details are at the link on your left. I won't be there (obviously). But that just makes things better, I hear.

I liked some of the comments regarding the video I put up last time. A few people got it, and that's always nice. As a couple people said, a "real" debate would have been an even bigger joke than the one I staged with Sock Monkey. It could only prove who was a better debater and who could convince more people he was right. I have no doubt whatsoever that Genpo would "win" such a debate hands down. And so what? After all, I'm suggesting real practice that takes hard work with no definable results and he gives you a big ol' brain trip in an afternoon. And more people eat Big Macs than brown rice, too...

There's a truckload of extremely good reasons why you don't want to rip open the doors of your subconscious too quickly. If you're not fully prepared for what's behind those doors, they're better left shut tight until such time as you are. It's a dangerous game to fuck with people's heads.

I'm sure some will say I don't take the dharma seriously enough when the see that video. But to me it's guys like Ken Wilber and Genpo Roshi, along with a couple dozen others I won't name here, who don't take it seriously — at all. It's because I take this stuff so seriously that what they do bugs me so much.

Oh and to those of you who think I have the emotional maturity of a 12-year old I say, "Poopy head! Poopy head!!"

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Brad Debates Genpo Roshi About Big Mind™

My publishers pointed me to this item on the Elephant magazine website. This matter is such ancient history to me that I'd pretty well forgotten about it. It has its origins in this article I wrote for Suicide Girls criticizing Genpo Roshi's Big Mind™ process, which is a very dangerous mind-control game masquerading as a gateway drug to Zen practice. Of course there are a vast number of spiritual scams out there and I don't usually point any of them out specifically. But since Genpo claims his process is related with Soto style Zen practice I wanted to distance myself from it as much as possible.

Anyway, that video of Ken Wilber licking Genpo's privates up there on that site I linked to above made me puke so hard I had to respond. Here is a video I made for that purpose. Enjoy!

Special thanks to John Graves for the music, Leilani Monfort for the superb camera work and, of course, Sock Monkey for a stellar performance.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


I put up a couple more videos.


In HARDCORE ZEN I wrote about some of the punk rock houses I lived in and here's one of them. The editor of that book refused to believe that I lived in a place where there was a hole in the floor of the bathroom through which one could look into the dining room. Here is photographic proof. Check out the hairstyle! Oh the pain...


This is a continuation of the same video, showing what Akron looked like at its worst. It has gotten much better since then. 1990 was probably the absolute bottom of the city's long decline that started in the mid-1970's.

These videos are excerpts from a video letter I made for my friends Monica and Maureen Martinez in Chicago when I moved back to Akron after living in Chicago for three years.


OK. On to another topic. At least five people have independently written e-mails to me in the past few weeks bemoaning the state of the comments section of this blog. One person said, "the comments section in your blog is an almost total cesspit. The information content has gone to near zero." Others have expressed pretty much the same sentiment.

I'd like to close the comments section and replace it with something else. But I need help. What I'd like to have is a forum something like what Noah Levine has on his Dharma Punx site. Membership would be required (but would be free). It would be divided into topics. And it would be monitored. Spam and inappropriate content would be deleted, an administrator would post comments when things were getting strange in there or would close threads that went astray and that sort of thing.

Trouble is, ain't no way I'm gonna monitor the thing! I don't have the patience for it. The Internet just bugs me. Plus my connection speed is like 1995. I log on to a page, go for a pee, get a glass of water, read the complete works of Tolstoy, go on vacation in West Africa, start my own country and conquer the known world and when I come back the page has just... about... finished... loading. I really don't want to be spending my entire day on monitoring a forum. I'd link it to this blog and to my website and I'd stop by occasionally. But that would be about it for my involvement. I think Noah does about the same with his thing.

So is anybody out there computer savvy enough and motivated enough to do this?

Applicants please write to

Monday, September 08, 2008


OK, all you people who subscribe to my YouTube Channel, I've finally put some new stuff up there. I just uploaded a bunch of my old teenage movies. All of these were done on Super 8 film (not video, kids!) around 1979-1980 when I was 15 and 16 years old. The film was silent. The music was dubbed on ten years or so later when I transfered them to video (God, even the video transfers are ancient!). I was the director of all of these masterpieces, although I didn't understand what a director was at the time and thus gave everyone else credit.

My friends and I would get together in the morning and make a vague plan of what the movie was gonna be. Then we'd go out and shoot it. There was no editing because, even though I knew how to edit and had a film editing machine, I was also lazy. Plus it was more fun the way we did it. When we needed a special effects scene I just told the actors to wait and did some "animation" with various toys and models. When the indicator showed we were almost out of film we'd make up an ending.

Here they are:


Note the impressive dinosaur animation effects influenced by the work of Ray Harryhausen and Willis O'Brien!


I apologize to anyone who is offended by the Space Rabbi and his Bar Mitzvah gun. We were teenagers in WASP-y Wadsworth, Ohio. What did we know? Don't miss my cameo as the guy who hands Rocky the Instant Space Rabbi potion!


This parody of the "Airport" films was done long before the movie "Airplane!" So there! I should sue. Sorry you can't read the title cards. They were blurry to begin with and YouTube compressed them to nothingness. Note the magnificent special effects inspired by the work of Irwin Allen!


I didn't know anything about lighting. This was shot on a typical overcast Ohio day and, as a result, it's hard to see what's going on in a good deal of the film. I've tried to correct this a little.


This is the only one of our films with an actual girl in it. Tim Brown knew one and got her to appear. God we were a bunch of nerds! Note my small role as the scientist who comes up with a way to defeat the Janitor People.


My friend Dale Houston and I were the only ones available the day we did this one. So we each operated the camera when the other one was on screen. Note the amazing special effects influenced by the work of Douglas Trumball and John Dykstra. The control panel on the space ship is actually my effects board from my guitar and a Korg synthesizer.


This has nothing to do with the other films. It's my band Dimentia 13 on a public access cable show in Chicago in 1988 called The Friday Club. The song is from our debut album released by Midnight Records in 1985 or '86 ("our" is a misnomer since I played all instruments on that record). Note the dates all you other bands called Dimentia 13 and Dementia 13! (I once had an e-mail exchange with the leader of one of the other Dimentia 13's who told me Francis Ford Copola, director of the film Dementia 13, contacted him because he'd heard about his band. No, he'd heard about my band. We were the ones with 5 albums out, dude.) That shirt was made of polyester and felt awful to wear. That's my real hair, although I didn't usually tease it up like that.

Have fun watching!

Friday, September 05, 2008


Zazen tomorrow at Hill Street Center. Details are in the links to your left. Don't forget to bring a crisp new $5 bill with you. The rent I'm paying to host these things ain't gettin' paid in good vibes!

When I was at the Great Sky Sesshin last month, my friend Greg Fain, from the San Francisco Zen Center, and I got assigned a job during work period to plane off a 1/4 inch of the bottom of a door so it would shut easier. While the two of us were carrying the door down the hill to the workshop, Greg made a mocking show of it being really heavy, which it wasn't. Then he said, "Dogen said we should treat light things as if they're heavy!"

I'm not sure exactly where that quote comes from. But it means to treat everything like it has great value, no matter what it is. When you're carrying a bag of trash out to the dumpster you should treat it like it's full of precious antique china. Don't read the paper while you eat, it's insulting to your food. That attitude. This is Buddhist morality.

I'm working on my book now and I came across the following passage. I don't like quoting myself because that's insufferably pretentious. But since some of you have e-mailed and asked to see previews of the book, I'll offer it for what it's worth:

The Middle Way was not some kind of spiritual path designed to make us all holy with shiny pink haloes on our noggins. It was a way to live a life that wasn’t a piece of shit. It was a way to find happiness and stability in an unhappy and unstable world. That’s really all any of us are looking for, when it comes down to it. The stability of the Middle Way comes in our practice of zazen, which is the actual physical and mental practice of stability and happiness. A bit of zazen in the morning and a bit in the evening radiates throughout the rest of the day and night and makes everything better. That’s all there is to it.

Morality is an important part of finding real happiness because we are all interconnected. I can’t be happy if I make the people around me miserable under the mistaken impression that their misery is not intimately connected with mine. So if I don’t want to be miserable I need to behave morally toward everyone I encounter. In Buddhism behaving morally doesn't mean following some fixed code of conduct. It means being careful.

But another aspect of Buddhist morality is that you have to do your part. You’re not here just for yourself. You’re here for everyone and everything you encounter. Your role is to do and say the things that need to be done and said from your unique perspective. God is too far removed from the universe to see himself clearly without splitting himself into a bazillion eyes and ears that watch over all aspects of himself. Whatever perspective you have is the most valuable thing in the universe. You need to be fully yourself. At the same time, you need to completely forget any idea you have about yourself. Or, if you can’t forget it, at least ignore it, secure in the knowledge that whatever you think you are isn’t what you really are.

Don't really know why but that seemed to resonate this evening.

See you all tomorrow!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

ZEN WRAPPED IN KARMA progress report

Check out this work of genius I scrawled on a Starbucks bag yesterday. I don't know if this gag has been done before. Seems like Gary Larson would have to have thought of it. Or somebody. Maybe this is the most common one-panel dinosaur gag in the history of one-panel dinosaur gags. Anyway here you have my version.

I also have a joke I made up. Here it is:

Q: What do you call someone who has sex exclusively with homeless people?
A: A hobosexual!

Let's see how many people comment about that one.

Anyway, I'm busy at work on the final edit of Zen Wrapped In Karma Dipped In Chocolate, my third book, which comes out from New World Library in February. This is the critical edit, the one I cannot change any further after it's been submitted. So I'm paying careful attention.

Which brings me to another rant I've always wanted to post. People sometimes ask me to make a list of my favorite Buddhist books. Problem is I don't read many Buddhist books. Most of the stuff on the shelves at the Buddhism section of the local Books-R-Us bore me to tears. I have a lot of reference books that I check when I'm writing. But most of those I don't read for fun.

One of the things that irks me about a great number of the books sharing shelf space with mine is that so many of the "authors" there don't actually write anything. They lecture and their students make tapes, then the students transcribe the master's words of wisdom and make them into a book. In some cases this is OK. Like when a teacher dies and students want to commemorate what she said. I also still like all of Shunryu Suzuki's books, which were made in this way. A few good books put together in this manner do manage to slip out. In these cases it's usually stated in the introduction that the book is the transcription of lectures.

But when someone makes a career out of "writing" this way and makes no effort to let folks know he's never actually sat down and written anything in his holy life... Well, let's just say I'm not impressed. These "writers" exist on the same level as airhead starlets who "write" their tell-all autobiographies by sitting next to their swimming pools and babbling into a tape recorder then letting a real writer turn it into something that they can make a zillion dollars on. Feh, I say! Feh!

Maybe I'm just cranky cuz I've been slaving over this thing for so long. And because I've worked so hard at making myself look like a shit-head in this book.

Back to work!

Monday, September 01, 2008

BAD BUDDHISM (part a million)

I was answering some e-mails today from loyal readers of my books and this blog. One guy asked me about the signs that one may be approaching satori or kensho (i.e. Enlightenment).

Y'know when people talk about their Enlightenment experiences or other big deal events in their meditation practice it just sounds to me like someone bragging about their sex life. Sure, on some level I might enjoy hearing it and I might be able to use it as fodder for fantasies. But it really does me no good. Plus the main intention on the part of the speaker is to make you jealous. Exactly the same with Enlightenment stories.

In any case, he pointed me to a website listing what some other Buddhist organization tells their adherents are the signs of progress in the practice. Now folks, I don't give a hoot how ancient and revered and sacred any of this stuff is. It's awful and it's dangerous. Here are a few of the things I found on the site — cut and pasted right from the page itself. Remember these are considered signs of progress.

• At times there are feelings of distress of varying intensity.

• Some meditators may be much disturbed by visions or hallucinations.

• There may be a feeling of coolness or dizziness and the hairs of the body may stand on end.

• There may be violent shaking as if the bed is going to turn upside down.

• Nausea and at times actual vomiting may occur.

• Diarrhea may occur.

• The meditator itches all over his body. He feels as if he has been bitten by ants or small insects, or he feels as though they are climbing on his face and body.

Yikes! Look. This is definitely not the kind of Buddhism I am talking about. If you find any of this stuff occurring during zazen, you need to take a break. At best these are signs of a practice that is too ambitious. At worst they're signs you might want to consult a physician or psychiatrist. If you're seeing a Buddhist teacher who encourages this stuff my recommendation is to run away as fast as you can.

One of the problems with the current state of Buddhism is that all kinds of crazy shit has been mixed together. Buddhists, particularly in the west, are generally so unfamiliar with Buddhism that they imagine all its teachers are one big, happy family. When you take the precepts too literally you can feel like you're not allowed to be critical of any kind of garbage as long as that garbage is labeled as Buddhism. Sorry. It don't work like that.

I get concerned that people read my stuff and then run across crap like this, they don't know the difference and assume I'm pimping for guys who think enlightenment is the same as what happens to the folks on skid row when they shoot up some really bad heroin. So if you take nothing at all else away from this, just know that I, for one, don't consider this kind of stuff a sign of meditative progress.

Have a nice Labor Day!