OK. Plugs first. Tomorrow is all-day zazen at Hill Street Center. The schedule is two posts below this one and the info about how to get there is linked to your left. Also, I'll be speaking and leading meditation (zazen) at the Dharma Punx place in Santa Monica on Monday March 2nd at 7:30 PM. That's at 1001 Colorado Ave. Santa Monica, CA 90401. I'll also be at their place in Hollywood on Sunday March 15, 2009 at 11 AM. That's at 4300 Melrose (between Heliotrope and Vermont) Los Angeles, CA 90029. I hear they get like 70 people at these things. That's way too many. So please don't show up!
Also, take a look at the coolest review ever for Zen Wrapped in Karma. I love this one! Thank you, Enlightenment Ward!
And those of you not in NE Ohio can now read the Scene magazine article by clicking the two images I've posted today (you'll see them full sized). I love the cover and the way they refer to me as Zero Defex bassist Brad Warner. That's how it should be!
On to the reason for this post. In spite of my clear instructions that people I like should stop dying, I just got word yesterday that Philip Jose Farmer passed away on Wed. February 25th.
I was (and am) a big fan of Farmer's books. His novels often combined sex, religion and science fiction and were a big influence on my own writing style. He's best known for his Riverworld series, which I liked, but which went downhill steadily from the first book. My favorites were his one-off novels, particularly Jesus On Mars, about an entity that calls itself the reincarnation of Christ appearing to future colonists on Mars, The Unreasoning Mask, about an Islamic starship captain in search of an object that is said to have survived the "Big Crunch" that ended the universe that existed before the one we live in was formed, and Dark Is The Sun, about a far future Earth much different from the world we know. And, of course, his incredible Kurt Vonnegut parody Venus on the Half Shell, originally credited to Vonnegut's fictional sci-fi author Kilgore Trout.
I read a lot of science fiction in my teens and twenties. I don't read much of it now. Sometimes people into Buddhism get the idea that they shouldn't read fiction because fiction isn't true. But I disagree there. I think a lot of so-called non-fiction is less true than lots of fiction. I found Philip Jose Farmer to be an interesting and truthful writer. He was certainly no Dogen! But then who is? If you want Buddhism, read Dogen or Nishijima or Suzuki or Katagiri. If you want good science fiction, Farmer was one of the best. I'll miss his voice.
Finally, I wanted to say something about attachment. I think I may have overstated the case when I said that Buddhism doesn't much value the idea of non-attachment. It does. But there is a problem when you get too attached to words like "non-attachment." What I'm seeing in America is that a lot of folks seem to view the idea of non-attachment as being the same as what we call detachment. They take the view that a good Buddhist should be almost like what they used to call a sociopath. They believe Buddhism asks us to cultivate an attitude of callous indifference and a kind of narcissistic aloofness. Very few people actually do this, of course. But the idea that Buddhism advocates this kind of attitude turns a lot of sensitive people away, and that's a shame.
The e-mail that inspired the initial piece I wrote on the subject was from a guy who wondered if his love for his wife and kid constituted an attachment that he should try to overcome. But Buddhism isn't about not loving your wife and children! The non-attachment we're talking about is a different matter entirely. It's a realistic and balanced understanding that on one hand we are, in fact, very attached to everything. We, ourselves, are not independent at all. We are an expression of the universe. We can't possibly detach ourselves from that which we encounter. At the same time it's the understanding that all we are attached to will one day disappear (like Philip Jose Farmer did the other day). And it's an understanding that our specific attachments and preferences hinder our appreciation of the true nature of our existence.
Oy! I could write a book on this one... (There's an idea!)