Friday, November 28, 2008

THANKSGIVING and ZEN THIS SATURDAY (Nov. 29, 2008)

The main purpose of this entry is to let people know that Zazen will happen as usual at the Hill St. Center in Santa Monica this Saturday, Nov. 29, 2008. Details are at the link over there on your left, just below the "picture of the gay vampire" (as one reader called it). OK?

So I spent Thanksgiving at Green Gulch Farm/Green Dragon Zen Temple in Marin County just north of San Francisco. That was my first Thanksgiving at a Zen temple. Pretty neat. Maybe someday I'll write eloquently about it. But I don't have time to do it justice right now. It was a beautiful thing. Thanks to Bryan, Steph and Alec for inviting us up there. The pies were yummy.

Hope everybody out there had a great Thanksgiving and are peacefully digesting today.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Yoga Poses to Help With Doing Zazen


Since I keep getting asked this question I've now added a permanent link to the drawing that Patrick of Yoga Garden in Yokohama drew up for me showing the various yoga poses he recommends for helping people get into full or half lotus posture. It's right there next to this article and it will be forever accessible via a link in the links section over to your left.

Although I do yoga myself, I didn't really personally use these poses to be able to get into full lotus. For reasons I cannot understand, I've always been able to get my legs into the full lotus posture, even back in the days when the rest of my body was so stiff I couldn't even touch my toes. The only problem was I couldn't hold the posture for more than a couple minutes. What I did was just hold the full lotus posture as long as I could and then switch to half lotus. After about six months of doing this twice a day every day I could hold the full lotus for a full 40 minutes.

But that's my story, not yours. These postures have helped yoga people get into the lotus posture for a few thousand years. So maybe you can benefit from them.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

FICTION and LIBRARIES


I've started reading science fiction again lately. I used to read tons of the stuff, all through high school and well into my thirties. About ten years ago I kind of lost interest and haven't read much of it since. But the other day I was in the Iliad used book store in North Hollywood and they had a couple hundred of the kinds of titles I used to devour all for about $2 a piece. So I bought some and took 'em home and started reading. I'd forgotten how fun some of that hogwash can be.

Which brings me to a couple questions that I get asked from time to time. Every so often a writer with aspirations to Buddhist practice will write and ask me if I think it's OK that he (it's always been guys so far) writes fiction. I don't know why they think they need my approval. But I always say it's fine with me. The word "fiction" doesn't mean lying (although I think Robert A. Heinlein in Stranger In A Strange Land has a Martian character who believes that). There are areas of the human condition that are very hard to describe in any other way than in a work of fiction. A work of fiction can often be far more truthful than a work of non-fiction. Shee-oot. I was in a Buddhist book shop the other day and I'd say at least 90% of the books in there weren't just fiction or even science fiction. They were works of pure unadulterated fantasy being pawned off as "spirituality." I'd much rather see truthful fiction than that kind of codswallop.

The other question I get, semi-related to this, is whether I, as a writer, think it's OK to take books out from the library rather than buying them. I take books out of the library all the time myself so I often ponder this one. Yeah, as a writer I'd rather you buy my books. But I know not everyone can afford to buy books and lots of people are far more voracious readers than their wallets could handle if they had to buy everything they wanted to read. Some people, like me, will take books out of the library and, if they like them, buy them even though they've already read them, just to support the writers. So libraries are OK by me. Anyway, libraries buy the books too.

When I lived in Japan libraries weren't really an option. In fact one of the main reasons I learned to read Japanese was because I wanted to stop spending so much money ordering books from Amazon. If I could check the Japanese editions out of the library it'd be so much cheaper.

It's a good thing to support writers you like by buying their books. It's also good to support book stores you like by buying those books from the shops even if it means paying a little more. You're paying that little bit extra to keep that book store open in your community. I don't have anything against Amazon. I like them a lot, in fact. But book stores have it tough these days. I always try and support them when I can.

So write fiction and buy fiction (or non-fiction, or pop-up books, or whatever).

Good? Good.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

SATURDAY NOV. 22, 2008 WILL BE REGULAR ZAZEN AT HILL STREET CENTER, NOT ALL-DAY ZAZEN

Yep. That's right. So y'all come sit. But we'll be done at Noon. K?

Details are in the links section to your left.

Monday, November 17, 2008

NEW SUICIDE GIRLS ARTICLE (FAITH NO MORE)

I got a new article up on Suicide Girls today. No politics this time. It's about faith and getting disappointed in religious authority.

Enjoy.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

YET MORE NEW VIDEOS

I put a couple more videos up on YouTube.

THE SECOND TO LAST SAMURAI
This was a skit I wrote and directed for a company trip in the Spring of 2003 (I think, or it could be 2002 or even '04). There never was a real script as such. I just assembled the cast, gave them the basic storyline and had them make up their own parts. Most of the cast were members of the company's events division and had a lot of experience putting on superhero action shows for children. This was sort of a mix of a MAD magazine type parody of The Last Samurai, Kill Bill and The Matrix mixed with a Japanese superhero action show and my own twisted fantasies. You'll see...

The subtitles are approximates. I couldn't really hear what was being said with the bad audio and besides that a lot of the dialog is in-jokes that nobody outside the company would get. The references to me leaving at 6 o'clock have to do with my American style work habits which don't really match how they do things in Japan. It wasn't entirely true. I did work late lots of nights. Just not every night like most of the rest of the company.

I dearly love all these people.



GHOUL LOOK ALIKE CONTEST
This is my appearance circa 1983 or '84 on The Ghoul show. The Ghoul was a late-night horror movie host in Cleveland and Detroit whose hey-day was a decade before this. He was still cool in the eighties. He was a lot more low key when I watched him as a kid. Back then his show was a revelation.

This is seriously goofy.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

LIKE YOUR BUDDHISM? THANK A VETERAN!

An interesting confluence of things came my way recently. Over the past couple of weeks I received three or four e-mails from people in the military saying how much they’d enjoyed my books. One was reading Hardcore Zen while stationed in Iraq. At just around the same time I received some other e-mails expressing concern over people in the military who practiced Buddhism. These other e-mailers seemed convinced that anyone in the military who got into Buddhist practice and philosophy would immediately be forced to go AWOL and quit the armed services. And here it is, Veteran’s Day, the perfect day to post a piece about the subject.

I feel very honored that people in the armed services are reading my stuff. I sometimes wonder how many other Buddhist authors have fans in the military. I’m sure some do. But a lot of Buddhist writers are so vehemently politicized I’d imagine they turn anyone involved in that line of work away from Buddhism. That’s a shame.

The title of this piece is a play on a bumper sticker you often see in the US that says, “Like your freedom? Thank a veteran!” Buddhism is a practical philosophy and practice for the real world, the one we actually live in, and not an idealistic religion that envisions the fantastic world we wish we lived in. I think we Buddhists ought to thank our veterans too.

You probably wish we lived in a world where our freedom to practice Buddhism was not underwritten by military power. I know I certainly do. But if wishes were tobacco-burst ’57 Gibson Les Paul guitars with coffee and cream PAF pick-ups I’d have a dozen of ‘em. The fact is Buddhism has only ever thrived in nations where the citizens’ right to practice it was guaranteed by a powerful military. The sad examples of Afghanistan and Tibet spring to mind.

I already wrote about this in a Suicide Girls piece called Buddhism Through Violence, so I don’t want to rehash all that here. But I do want to stress again, as I did in that article, that I’m not happy about the fact that our ability to practice Buddhism needs to be protected by violence, or at least the threat of violence. But whether I’m happy with it or not doesn’t change the fact. We can only make a difference in the world after we first come to terms with what kind of world we actually live in.

As for whether a person can continue to serve in the military after she or he starts practicing Buddhism, I don’t see why not. The job these people are doing is a necessary one. As long as the military continues to be necessary I want there to be a military. If military people practice zazen they’ll bring their own individual bodies and minds more into balance and they will do their jobs with greater efficiency and care. The outlook that develops as their practice grows will allow them to use the power we've given them in ways that will be more beneficial to everyone involved. They’ll be more interested in maintaining peace wherever they are and less interested in kicking butt. There will be less random violence, less drug and alcohol abuse and more individual stability in our armed services. This is a great thing.

Is there a chance that military people who practice Buddhism will be moved by its teachings of non-violence to leave the service? Some might. Some might not. But I don’t think it’s the place of those who think they know what Buddhism is all about to say that anyone who truly understands the philosophy of non-violence would certainly leave the military. That is a matter for each individual to decide for themselves. It ain’t up to you, no matter how well you think you understand this Buddhist stuff.

So on Veteran’s Day I’d like to extend my thanks to those who serve in our armed forces.

Monday, November 03, 2008

GUDO NISHIJIMA'S BOOKS

I just put up a page of links to Nishijima Roshi's books. This should eliminate the confusion about where to buy these on Amazon. I know a number of places list Nishijima's books as collectibles and ask for a lot of money for them. But they're all in print. So you don't need to pay that much. Besides, if you buy the current versions Nishijima gets some of that money instead of it going to some book dealer who marks them up. I'll keep that page permanently in the links section of this blog (on your left).