Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I've made some changes to the Saturday morning zazen schedule at Hill Street Center. These are posted on a link that's over there to your left.

I'm trying a little experiment. For the next few weeks we will do one 40 minute period of zazen followed by a short chanting service. I want to see how that works out. If it's a bust, we'll go back to two periods of zazen with no chanting.

Last Sunday a few of us made a field trip to Zenshuji in Los Angeles' Little Tokyo district. Zenshuji is the Soto-shu's official temple here in LA and their practice is closer to what you'd find at a Soto temple in Japan. The zendo there is in a basement and the zazen meetings are at 8 AM on Sundays so there's very little noise -- unlike Hill Street Center where you always hear traffic and people and sometimes huge hordes of children in the playground next door. It's also set up like a real zendo, which gives it a very nice atmosphere, whereas HSC is basically a reconverted living room. They do a brief chanting ceremony, much like most Zen temples. I enjoyed it, so I thought I'd try one at our place.

I've been to chanting ceremonies at other places before, like San Francisco Zen Center, Tassajara and other places I've visited. But mostly these are crowded church-like affairs that sort of give me the willies sometimes. Zenshuji did the same kind of services I'd seen elsewhere, but with a much smaller group. I think there were 7 or 8 of us down there. It was nice. I recalled the chanting services Nishijima Sensei used to do once a week at his place in Chiba Prefecture (the first Dogen Sangha). I thought it'd be kind of nice to do this and see what happens.

I also know some people are intimidated at the prospect of doing a whole hour of zazen. But since zazen is the key to the practice, I'm only cutting it down by 20 minutes. A compromise.

I think it's good to visit a number of practice spaces if you can. I've noticed that people who attend just a single teacher's practice often develop a slightly warped attitude (and this includes people who attend only mine, maybe it goes especially for people who attend only mine). I'm not a fan of the practice of running around from meditation center to meditation center picking and choosing the parts you like of each one's practice and rejecting anything that bothers you. I know a lot of teachers out there make a good living offering such cobbled together practices. But I've never seen one of those that had the least bit of value. They're always very nice and completely undemanding. Sweet and useless, like high fructose corn syrup.

On the other hand, it's traditional to visit as many teachers as you like until you find one that suits you. Dogen did this as did a lot of the great teachers of the past. Once you find the right teacher it's best to stick with that teacher even if you don't like everything she or he does or says. The one that suits you won't always be the one you like best. Naturally if they start mixing up cyanide flavored Kool Aid it's probably time to go. But it's not good to jump ship just because certain things bug you. It's good to get bugged sometimes. Often that's exactly what you need. Remember the thing that bugs you is never solely "out there" in your teacher. In a very profound way these are things you create yourself even when they appear to be coming from someone else.

So anyway, it's good to check out other ways of practice and see how they really do things. You'll always be surprised. I know I always am.

Speaking of which, on Sunday Feb. 1st 2009 I will be giving the Dharma Talk at Dharma Zen Center at 1025 S. Cloverdale Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90019. The schedule is as follows:

10am- Morning Bell Chant
10:25am- Sitting
10:55am-short break
(between)11am-11:05am- Talk

This is a Korean style Zen temple and they do things a little differently from how we do them at HSC. Come along and check it out.

Last things: I'll have copies of my new book Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate for sale at Hill Street Center on Saturdays. So if you want one, you can buy it direct.

I've heard that the book is now selling some places. Somebody said they got theirs from Amazon and somebody else told me she bought one in New York City. So go look for 'em!


I just saw that Zen Wrapped in (etc.) is #1 in Amazon's category of Dharma and #3 in Zen (just after Thich Nhat Hahn and Shunryu Suzuki).


Allison said...

Amazon said they shipped my copy, but I've yet to receive it. Hopefully it will be waiting for me when I get home. :-) See you in Asheville!!

PA said...

Mine was shipped on the 25th of Jan and the delivery estimate is March 11th!!
Where do these Amazon ships go, I wonder...

Blake said...

I sit with a Korean Zen group (Kwan Um School). I dig it. The cushions are arranged in a square and people sit facing each other. The lights are dimmed and the chanting is is Korean and English (with some Sanskrit tossed in for good measure).

Don't let chanting scare you! There's always a book and the "tunes" are easy to go along with.

Blake said...

Same group as the Dharma Center, started by Seung Sahn. His books are great, by the way.


Mysterion said...
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Jinzang said...

Buddha says:

Actually Buddha says nothing in the Heart Sutra until the end (and only in the longer, Tibetan version) He enters samadhi and lets Avalokiteshvara do the talking.

"Therefore, O Sariputra, this is the only thing that is worth knowing."

That's a very free translation. One translation from the Tibetan (and I'm inclined to trust it more, because it hasn't been tortured to make it easier to chant) has:

"Therefore, one should know that the mantra of the perfection of wisdom - the mantra of great knowledge, the precious mantra, the unexcelled mantra, the mantra equal to the unequalled, the mantra that quells all suffering - is true because it is not deceptive."

A translation from the Chinese has:

"Therefore know the Prashna Paramita is the great transcendent mantra, is the great bright mantra, is the utmost mantra, is the supreme mantra which is able to release all suffering and pain"

Jinzang said...

This is from my notes:

The text refers to "the mantra of transcendent knowledge, of deep insight, the unsurpassed mantra, the unequalled mantra." This mantra is free of the three faults. Unequalled refers to enlightenment, because nothing is its equal. The mantra calms all suffering, which refers to the suffering of cyclic existence. By means of the practice of the perfection of wisdom, one achieves Buddhahood. The text says that it "Should be known as truth, since there is no deception." The mantra is non-deceptive, because if you practice the perfection of wisdom it will not deceive you.

"Tadyatha" means "as such" and refers to all the trainings of the Buddha. The syllable "om" has many meanings, but generally it begins mantras. "Gate gate" means gone, gone. "Paragate" means gone beyond. "Parasamgate" means perfectly gone beyond. "Gate" refers to the path of accumulation. This path can be divided into three parts. Anyone who achieves enlightenment must go through the five paths. The second "gate" refers to the second path, the path of preparation, which has four levels. "Paragate" refers to the path of seeing "Parasamgate" refers to the fourth path, the path of meditation. "Bodhi svaha" refers to the fifth path, the path of no more practice. The text continues "This is how a bodhisattva should learn profound transcendent knowledge."

babbles said...

Today (01/27/09) I picked up a copy of it at my local Barnes and Noble here in Central PA.

Anonymous said...

bullshit bullshit

when i see guys as clueless as yourselves, even by zen standards you are clueless and i am not a fan of zen

there's no experience of solitude

you just don't get it at all, even slighly

not a tiny tiny tiny bit, just amazing


Anonymous said...

Just finished ZWIKDIC and must say
I got a few laughs out of it.
Thanks for writing it.

Besides the crazed mountain gorilla
sex, the thing I remember most is
the spinning upside-down bicycle wheels.

Scott said...

They still haven't got the new book in stock at Borders or Barnes & Noble here in SF.

You shouldn't sound so surprised, Brad that the books are a hit. They're good. They speak in a unique voice about a topic that's often very dry. Keep up the good work.

Mumon said...

Good for you. Very menschy advice.

Kwan Um is sort of Korean Linji (Rinzai), and evidently they have some interesting ethical structures in place.

Jinzang said...

there's no experience of solitude

WTF does that mean?

奈良へ said...

Brad, Sometimes, even at the company the bread and the cake and the jelly etc it has with the mountain gorilla insertion, but
Everything of those which it made it is left with the your book, it is surprise truly.

Jinzang said...

there's no experience of solitude

It occurred to me that what you meant to say is that "there's no experience of samadhi." I don't know what you understand by the term, but according to the Abhidharmakosha, which is the go to book for defining this kind of stuff, samadhi is a meditation that sees the three characteristics of phenomena. And these are: emptiness, wishlessness, and the absence of characteristics. Explaining what that means would take quite a lot, and probably is irrelevant to the point you were trying to make. Whatever that might be.

Mark said...

Amazon is going to ship it today, will get here next week.

Have you considered looking into letting Amazon sell it as a Kindle book?

Anonymous said...

Always liked Jellyfish. Never understood why they never got bigger.

Rich said...

Brad, I think it's very ecumenical of you to visit all the different zen centers, I kind of realized how the zazen core is most important when relating to different centers, schools. I just read the first 15 pages of your new book and it seems pretty honest and real. I like the way you turn a zen master into a regular human being who deals with the same shit as the rest of us.
Good comments on right livelihood and working - we are probably going to need some of those Buddhist funeral directors.
more later.

Anonymous said...


why would i write solitude if i meant samadhi

samadhi is an nonsense word anyway

look you seem to be able to quote the stuff saying emptiness is a real experience

since it is real what is it?

when you know you are confident and don't need the religious verbal and other crap

solitude cultivates that sense if you are interested and 99.99999% aren't

i don't think zazen or any meditation is particularly effective in my observation and in fact usually is counterproductive

does a little chink in your armour ever let in that light that says, well i might be wrong and this guy could know what he talking about ever peer through?

it doesn't does it?


zensquared said...

I also belong to a Kwan Um Zen sangha. Our typical evening practice is about 30 minutes of chanting, followed by 30 minutes sitting zazen, then 10 minutes walking meditation, and then another 30 minutes sitting. I'm not a big fan of the walking meditation, but it does make it easier to sit for the second 30 minutes. The chanting doesn't suit everyone, but I've grown to like it.

Jinzang said...

[If] emptiness is a real experience ... what is it?

Emptiness is the unfindability of an object when searched for. For example, look for your mind and tell me when you find it.

when you know you are confident and don't need the religious verbal and other crap

It's quite possible to be quite confident and quite wrong. What makes you so sure that you are right?

i don't think zazen or any meditation is particularly effective in my observation and in fact usually is counterproductive

The don't do it. Zen is not for everyone. But I personally have found meditation quite helpful and I think others will as well, if they give it a decent trial, say half an hour a day for a month. It's like running. After your first run, you;ll feel wretched. And probably after the first week. But if you keep running, it will prove its value.

does a little chink in your armour ever let in that light that says, well i might be wrong and this guy could know what he talking about ever peer through?

I'm willing to listen to a decent argument that I am, but so far you haven't supplied one.

Jinzang said...

Tibetan Buddhism is nothing but chanting, interrupted by ringing bells and banging drums. But I'm weird that way.

Anonymous said...

Got the saleslady at Barnes and Noble to go back in the storeroom and find the NEW book for me this morning.

Jellyfish fits into that odd rock'n roll category of bands with singing drummers: Grand Funk, The Band, The Eagles, Kiss, Beat Farmers........

Anonymous said...


emptiness as relevant to us is the identity of the absolute and relative so to speak

what that is, is the work of a lifetime and as you you can't seem to manage five or even one minute............

and it has to be in part a gift given young

its not weird for you to be attracted to the chanting and ringing bells and banging drums because traditionally tibetan monasticism has been a holding house for the developmentally disordered .... autism, aspergers syndrome, adhd and retardation

the participants on this board are the same including myself and yourself and actually most of the younger generation in america now, the footprint of damage from excessive and malign vaccination is so large

well you have at least been polite and not abusive so i am not feeling unfriendly but one thing i have learnt with the web and messageboards and blogs is they can suck time too little effect and if our conversation has passed the point of utility i hope you not be offended if i desist



Anonymous said...

"Emptiness is the unfindability of an object when searched for. For example, look for your mind and tell me when you find it."

thats not actually emptiness, it's recursion

"your mind" is also a construct of mind if you see what i mean

it points to emmptiness, but perhaps what you have just said is the most common mistake, some pointer taken for emptiness itself


Smoggyrob said...

Hi everyone:

Brad's book arrived yesterday, but I didn't get home till 10:00, so I had to wait to read it until after I got off work today. It's good. Brad is an honest writer and I appreciate his directness. There are laugh-out-loud parts, and parts that make you think. There's a lot of interesting details (i.e., salacious gossip). I think some of it is full of shit, but then I'm mostly full of shit, so who am I to say anything?

Brad, thanks for a good read. You said people would write you telling how you should have written it differently. Let me be the first -- you missed one "ch-ching".


Anonymous said...

"the participants on this board are the same including myself and yourself and actually most of the younger generation in america now, the footprint of damage from excessive and malign vaccination is so large"

Where's your scientific evidence?

J Cret said...

I picked up a copy yesterday at the Virginia Beach, VA Barnes and Noble-
and there were at least two more on the shelf!
that's gotta be good, right?

thanks for writing.

Anonymous said...

"Where's your scientific evidence?"

unfortunately this has come to mean "where is the triple blind throughly distorted study that means i can keep in denial"

keep your eyes closed, don't ever look at a child or go into a special needs classroom

why do you think one of the first acts of the obama administration was to sack Julie Gerberding, director of the CDC?

WW1 is a picnic compared to this self inflicted injury


Jason said...

The customer service guy at Borders had to go in the back and pull it out of a box, but I got mine on Friday. It's been a really enjoyable read.

The three most memorable parts for me were 1. just like the person mentioned above, the idea of spinning bicycle wheels, 2. the green peppers on pizza footnote on the first page of chapter 9, and 3. the 64 perception moments per snap of fingers. That last one was actually the most memorable part of Hardcore Zen for me, but seeing it again in this book was refreshing.

Thanks for writing another inspiring book. I think I'm going to go back and read Hardcore Zen now.

shinn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
shinn said...

At first glance, I thought this was an analysis on zen... nevermind. Nice post by the way!

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