Friday, February 06, 2009

Rest In Peace, Lux Interior

Man, I'm sick of people I like dying all the time. So stop it, OK? Thanks.

Anyway, yesterday I was pretty sad to hear the news that Lux Interior, lead singer of The Cramps died at age 60. The Cramps were a huge influence on me musically and culturally. I even quoted their song "Garbage Man" in Hardcore Zen ("You ain't no punk, you punk, let's talk about the real junk").

I first heard The Cramps when I was a junior or senior in high school. My friend Dan Gaffney played me the record Psychedelic Jungle and it was a revelation. I never knew anything that scary and cool could exist. Lux's real name was Erik Purkheiser and he was from Stow, a suburb of Akron. His brother Mark played guitar in a band called Johnny Clampett and the Walkers (later re-named The Walking Clampetts) and ran a guitar repair shop across from Luigi's Pizza in downtown Akron.

Lux was one of those people I always figured I'd meet one day. I knew people who knew him and we obviously had a lot of shared interests in rock and roll and horror movies. I'm so sorry it never happened.

I liked Lux's approach of letting people believe he was evil and depraved when the truth was that he was actually pretty normal. My friend Steve used to see Lux and his wife Poison Ivy power walking in the hills of Glendale, a far cry from the image people had of him dwelling in a basement surviving on a diet of heroin and toadstools. It's always made me feel good when I've seen people presenting themselves in that warts and all way. It made me feel like maybe I was OK, that just the fact that I had a darker side didn't mean that's all there was to me. I guess that's a funny thing to take from a band like The Cramps. But there ya go.

There's stuff all over the web about Lux and his life and influence. So I don't need to add any more. I'll just leave you with my favorite video clip of the band on a Chicago-based public access show for kids called Chic A Go Go:

83 comments:

Anonymous said...

And God said:
Let there be Lux.

PhilBob-SquareHead said...

I always liked the cover of "Flame Job". It turned me on. Ummm, Poison Ivy.

rip Lux!!!

Anonymous said...

I didn't like that band. I always wanted Lux to pull up his pants.

Anonymous said...

Brad said:
"Lux was one of those people I always figured I'd meet one day. I knew people who knew him and we obviously had a lot of shared interests in rock and roll and horror movies. I'm so sorry it never happened."


Yeah, that's too bad.

Why don't you pay a visit to Joshu Sasaki
before he croaks?
It'd make a great Suicide Girls interview.

Andrew said...

nostalgia seems such an intrinsic sign of mental decay

rod / theworsthorse.com said...

i've been listening to the Cramps constantly since i heard the news.

but then, i've been listening to them near-constantly for like 20 years.

Anonymous said...

Jeez Andrew Man ... if simply honoring someone who has brought you a sense of "okay-ness", is a sign of mental decay, bring on the disease!

KaliDurga said...

Appetite for Destruction had the same revelatory effect on me. Shame Axl went wacko and will probably never learn to power walk.

"It's always made me feel good when I've seen people presenting themselves in that warts and all way. It made me feel like maybe I was OK, that just the fact that I had a darker side didn't mean that's all there was to me."

Hear, hear. I never did get into The Cramps, but I'm happy to honor anyone who lives their life in such a way.

Lawrence Grecco said...

that sucks--I saw the Cramps at Roseland here in NYC in 2003 and it was a highly memorable evening. Damn.

Andrew said...

anonymous, i didn't say nostalgia wwas wrong, i said its a sign of decay

perhaps you are growing younger?

you seem to have a remarkably ordinary mentality

Bravetart said...

Probably the most notable building along the south side of Loch Ness lies, half hidden behind the trees... is Boleskine House.

Hmmm... is everything connected?

Anonymous said...

Brad, I am reading your new book. Why don't you have yourself made a nice lightweight cotton Zen Master robe? A couple hundred bucks will save you years of pain and misery. Just a suggestion.

Rick said...

Wait until your peers start dropping like flies.

Anonymous said...

I sometimes wonder if it isn't that Jundo would have prefered that Nishijima had named him his successor as leader of Dogen Sangha...

Whatever you say about Jundo, and he can be a pain in the arse sometimes, he is sincere. I am a member of Dogen Sangha who does not want to get involved in this ruck. But I do want to set the historical record straight. I know Jundo, and while we disagree and many things, he deserves respect.


Thursday, October 18, 2007
Announcement regarding 'TREELEAF ZENDO'

Hello All,

Nishijima Roshi has given his permission to my posting the following announcement here. I thank Nishijima Roshi for this idea, and for his recognition of the Treeleaf as its own Lineage. I am hoping that you will join us in celebrating this new birth and potential.

If anyone has any question about this or any matter, please feel free to write me at any time via our online Zendo:

http://treeleafzen.blogspot.com/

Gassho, Jundo Cohen

_______________________________



Hello,

At Nishijima Roshi’s suggestion (I had great resistance to the idea for many months, but I now believe that Roshi’s idea is wise), the “Treeleaf Zendo” through which I teach will be a separate Lineage deriving from Nishijima Roshi. Accordingly, we now withdraw and “go our own way” from Dogen Sangha/Dogen Sangha International, another branch of the tree of which Buddha and Master Dogen are the root, and Master Nishijima the core. All things are change, and this change will have no effect on my relationship with and love for my teacher, my position as the head of Treeleaf Zendo, or the nature of the “Dharma Transmission” bestowed upon me by Nishijima Roshi. I hope that Dogen Sangha International and Treeleaf Zendo will sail as two ships crossing the same vast ocean.

So that the reasons for this are not misunderstood, I would like to offer a brief explanation. I have discussed some of these issues before, but they are worth briefly repeating for the record, so that the situation is clear. They have nothing to do with my respect and love for Ven. Brad, who I think stands as a stimulating and positive presence within the many flavors of Zen Buddhism. I think he is, like many in Dogen Sangha, a superb teacher trying to find his own unique voice, a fine successor to Nishijima Roshi, and that he has potential to be a good President of Dogen Sangha International.

There is no need to repeat in detail my reasons, but my objections originated from concern for the organization itself. For a long time, I and others attempted to express these several concerns from within the organization. However, as the saying goes, “too many cooks spoil the broth”. Thus, Master Nishijima suggested that we could each go our own way and each “do our own thing”. It is a wise thought. It reflects the history of the countless branching lineages of Zen Buddhism over the centuries, the reason why the lineages keep perpetually branching!

As expressed in Brad’s fine letter of yesterday, some of us see Dogen Sangha International as an umbrella body uniting all the various teachers who are Dharma Heirs to Nishijima Roshi (and other students of Nishijima’s teachings) in many separate Sangha, in many countries, all of us upholding his teachings, and possessing love and respect for our teacher. However, some of us in the organization feel that, in the 21st century and after the countless cases of power, financial and other scandal within various Zen and other Buddhist Sangha around the world (please see the following) …

http://www.strippingthegurus.com/stgsamplechapters/zen.asp

… a de minimus degree of checks and balances, and input into decision making, is a fundamental necessity. The idea is now long vanished within almost all Sangha and Buddhist organizations in the West that no system of oversight is required. As a lawyer with quite a bit of experience with Buddhist and other organizations and the problems that can occur within them, I know that there is a middle ground between chaos and disconnection vs. a bureaucratic or rigid organization, and that a certain degree of regular communication and interchange among members should always be encouraged in such a body. To assert otherwise is short-sighted. Decisions should not be rendered on a whim, and especially not on a single person’s whim. Finally, in any Buddhist organization, there should be constant care and attention to the Precepts … they exist for a reason and are not a matter of “do as you feel” or that “the teacher is always right just because he/she is the teacher.” Although I will no long be in a position to say so, I believe that a lack of attention to the meaning of the Precepts within Dogen Sangha, and an over-emphasis on Zazen Practice alone, has been one major cause of various problems that have arisen in the past within the Sangha.

Zen Buddhism is now in a period of rapid change, keeping some traditions while modernizing others. In the views and experience of some members of Dogen Sangha, authoritarian or fuedal thinking on governance needs to be left to the 15th Century. I will not live under such an antiquated system, especially without any checks upon it and without much emphasis on the guidance of the Precepts. For some reason, Dogen Sangha is trying to stay feudal and traditional in its method of governance, but modern, hip, loose and liberal on the issue of standards and the Precepts. The choice should probably be the other way around. In any event, this is just a difference of vision between the new president of DSI and several of its members. While it would have been possible to patch it over, or ignore the issue through silence, the present solution is best.

So, some of us are sailing off under separate sails. Several ships on the same ocean.

Thank you, Roshi. You proposed a very wise plan. I hope to see you again when we are back to Japan, offer bows, and that you will sit again on my daily “Sit-a-Long with Jundo” Zazen netcast.

http://treeleafzen.blogspot.com/2007/08/sit-long-with-gudo-jundo-kashaya.html

Nishijima Roshi wrote me today to say that he will continue to fight for needed reforms in Buddhism as it currently exists in our world, and that "I will do my best until to my death".

I responded:

"I will do my best to help you in your work, as your loyal and loving student. That will never change."


Gassho, Jundo Cohen

posted by jundo cohen | 2:03 PM | 4 Questions & Answers
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Ven J.M.Cohen's proposal

Dear all members of Dogen Sangha International,

Recently I received the following proposal from Ven J.M.Cohen. But I think that the authority of Buddhist organization has been governed by traditional method since Gautama Buddha's generation, and so even in the age of 21st Century it is impossible for me to decide such a kind of traditional position relying upon members' voting. Therefore I am very sorry, but I can not agree with Ven J.M.Cohen's democratic meathod of selecting leader of Dogen Sangha International unfortunately. I think that this point is very important for maintenance of Buddhist tradition, and so I like to proclaim my own opinion rather formally. Thank you very much for your understanding.

Gudo Wafu Nishijima


Dear Roshi,

I look forward to seeing you tomorrow (Friday) at 1pm.

Roshi, I would like to make a formal motion and proposal for your approval regarding your recent announcement regarding Dogen Sangha International.

The title of the position that Brad will take will be changed from "Leader" to "Head Helper".

The reason is that, in a modern democratic organization, we are a union or federation of your Dharma Heirs, brothers and sisters, who must help each other. This is in keeping with the Precepts and the cooperative nature of a Sangha. It is not appropriate (and several members, including myself, do not wish to belong to) any organization that has a "Leader" after you. So, the title "Leader" is fitting, perhaps, to a feudal, Japanese organization, but is not appropriate to the modern, Western Sangha you wish to leave. The duties of the "Head Helper" would not be to "lead" the organization, but to work for out mutual cooperation and to be, not a leader or commander, but the first to offer aid to all others as a brother among brothers.

Furthermore, the "Head Helper" would commit to always act with the dignity of the Sangha, you and his brothers and sisters in mind in his or her conduct.

As a second motion, I would also propose that there be a term limit of 5 years on "Head Helper", at which time other members of the Sangha can be proposed to be "Head Helper" elected by majority vote.

Please consider these idea appropriate for modern democratic societies of the 21st century.

Please indicate your approval by changing your message on your Dogen Sangha blog accordingly.

Gassho, Jundo

posted by GUDO NISHIJIMA | 12:19 PM | 9 Questions & Answers


Stephanie said...

If it weren't for Lux, we wouldn't have such classic koans as,

"Can your pussy do the dog?"

"What's inside a girl?"

and

"How far can too far go?"

R.I.P.

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Gawd Andrew.. You are really mordid. I like that in a person.

Anonymous said...

ack! make that morbid.

Anonymous said...

thank you for your honesty.

Ernst said...

Anonymous said...

Ernst said "I sometimes wonder if it isn't that Jundo would have prefered that Nishijima had named him his successor as leader of Dogen Sangha..."

Whatever you say about Jundo, and he can be a pain in the arse sometimes, he is sincere. I am a member of Dogen Sangha who does not want to get involved in this ruck. But I do want to set the historical record straight. I know Jundo, and while we disagree and many things, he deserves respect.

Sorry. I guess I was a bit annoyed at his constant bickering at Brad.

Rich said...

"we now withdraw and “go our own way” from Dogen Sangha/Dogen Sangha International,
Thursday, July 12, 2007"

that's a great idea, just let it go

rain said...

Each day I arise and constantly I can envision your outcry, as we depart and go our separate ways, I’m left stunned and stare helplessly in a gaze. Yet I cannot burden you with me selfish desire of love, because you are like a perfect angel sent from above. For with you by my side I cannot withstand the rain.

Anonymous said...

After reading Brad's book, couldn't help but think of this;

http://www.theonion.com/content/node/30572

Half Asshole said...

a general discussion of assholes is found here

1/2 @ssh0le, f@rting

Rich said...

Now I get it, Brad is the world's biggest zen asshole.

Rich said...

Ofcause, that doesn't change the FACT THAT i HAVE MY OWN ASSHOLE TO DEAL WITH.

Anonymous said...

Asshole is just one of the endearments we use for Brad

Anonymous said...

Stephanie
I have enjoyed reading your posts and your take on things.
Also: those Lux Interior koans are priceless

Gummo Marx said...

LOL for Brad borrowing "Gummo" in ...Karma, Dipped in Chocolate
(the unknown Marx Bro.)
Milton Marx known as Gummo, was one of the Marx Brothers. He worked with his brothers on Vaudeville, but left the act. Gummo represented his brother Groucho Marx and also represented other onscreen talent and a number of writers. Gummo rarely had contracts, his philosophy being that, if they liked his work, they would continue to use him, and if not, they would seek representation elsewhere.

The four brothers (Groucho, Chico, and Harpo) were given their nicknames during a card game at the Orpheum Theatre in Galesburg, Illinois, and the names stuck for their entire lives.

Anonymous said...

After reading Brad's book, couldn't help but think of this;

http://www.theonion.com/content/node/30572


Gawd. That is Brad's whole book right there. HA!

Chicko Marx said...

a book like this feeds into that as much as two alcoholics in a bar who keep ordering rounds feed their own addiction.

Oh, brilliant Jundo!

That is what this whole "Bradworld" blog is! It is a group of nasty, cursing, jealous, or depressed people some of whom practice Zen looking for confirmation that Zen practice is about being nasty, cursing, jealous or depressed.

They are led my a "teacher" who is nasty, cursing, jealous and sometimes depressed, who now has written a nasty, cursing, jealous and sometimes depressed book. This all serves to further confirm the people here in their nasty, cursing, jealous and depressed ways.

They want to think that, if you are not nasty, cursing, jealous and/or depressed you are practicing a "facade", a fake or "emotionally dead" Buddhism. Brad's book confirm that for them. What a tragedy, and what a lie! This blog, and Brad's book, just feed their habit.

I am a member of Dogen Sangha who has been angry at you about something else a long time ago. I will now write you privately to apologize.

Brilliant posting and review of Brad's book Jundo!

Anonymous said...

Brad's book # 3
Exceptionally exceptional:

livin' a life is mo bedda than livin' a lie

buddism at its core: zen is just your life

for all of us, sitting at home, leading our very own lives, Brad makes it clear: dharma: it's everywhere, it's everywhere

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephanie said...

I can't tell whether your comment is sincere or intended as parody, Chicko, but it gave me a good chuckle either way.

These lyrics seem relevant:

Take a magic carpet to the olden days. To a mythical land where everybody lays around in the clouds in a happy daze in Kizmiaz... Kizmiaz. Flamingos stand easy on bended knees. Palm trees wave over tropical seas of azure waves and lazy breeze in Kizmiaz... Kizmiaz. Over raspberry skies spires of the Shaz point to the heavens that this place has. You would swim all the way from Alcatraz to Kizmiaz...Kizmiaz. It lies on the horizon in a golden haze. No one believes their eyes the legend says. Held hypnotized in a frozen gaze on Kizmiaz... Kizmiaz. The vibrations kiss the ships that pass Kizmiaz... Kizmiaz.

mtto said...

It is a group of nasty, cursing, jealous, or depressed people some of whom practice Zen looking for confirmation that Zen practice is about being nasty, cursing, jealous or depressed.

Ohh!!! That's what's wrong with me! I'm nasty, cursing, jealous and depressed. Thanks for letting me know!

Monstermunch said...

At last, Book finished. Loved it. I agree with Stephanie about embracing the madness as well, because that too, is an expression of reality.

Getting laid by beautiful women/men is true freedom. Getting pissed to the point of nirvana is true bliss.

Anyone who disagrees is lying to themselves.

Andrew said...

true freedom is seeing and feeling absolute reality

sex and drink obscure

who am i writing to?

if you don't know, you don't know and will just make a lot of blustery noise

if you know then you are secure and at rest somewhat tho this does not necessarily equate to feeling or situation

those that don't know will blather, get concered about robes, various teachers, meditation and other idiocies
and "honour" dead rock gimps

yeah pretenders

jamal said...

andrew, you sure do have some strong o-pinions. everybody got em. they're like assholes but less useful.

Mysterion said...

sometimes,

Zazen can be

the sound of a fart

the smell of shit

Live with it.

Anonymous said...

"That's a real supreme asshole move—admitting you're an asshole and not giving a shit...He acted like outing his own assholiness somehow made it our problem, not his. What a dick."

Oh that's funny

Mike H said...

Andrew:

true freedom is seeing and feeling absolute reality

sex and drink obscure


True freedom is not dependent on conditions. If sex and drink can change it then it's not freedom it's an artificial state.

The fourth yoga is called "No more meditation" because there is not a damn thing you can do to make it go away.

Whilst you can choose what you can experience you are not free, you are living a dream.

The tantric practices that emerged out of India were about the fact that in the end drugs and sex are no longer a barrier - you can be involved in them and not be bothered by them.

Freedom incidentally is as much of an illusion as captivity.

You only thing you are free when you are unaware of the conditioning that drives you. You are only captive when you believe that you can be free.

Puking that up has left room for a glass of wine. Cheers!

Andrew said...

yeah, as i said , pretenders

arrogant in your non-seeing

Mysterion said...

Mike H said...
"You are only captive when you believe that you can be free."

I am watching The Prisoner for really the first time. In 1967 and 1968, I was already in college with no time whatsoever for viewing television.

Patrick McGoohan, in leaving The Village, remained the prisoner until his death.

The entire D.T. Suzuki-influenced existential concept of The Village was something that I would have missed back then, anyway. There is so much more going on in The Prisoner than catches the casual eye.

Mike H said...

Andrew:

I miss Classic Gniz.

Andrew said...

i'm not american, i had to look up ginz

i always wondered why people bothered with nonsense but its because you don't see

you are happy and confident in your ignorance and i am happy and confident in my seeing and knowing and since in the end the only point really is that seeing and knowing perhaps this is the end of the dialogue

i have been really suprised not to be kicked off, perhaps brad doesn't read the comments, perhaps he really has an aversion to censoring

i guess this has been productive, but there is a divide and the divide is solitude and experience and time shows what it shows

Andrew said...

the only other forum that i am permitted to post on is the julius it ug krisnamurti forum and that is pretty rabid

its like blogs and messageboards are a zero sum, those that are open enough are rabid, those less rabid censor

if you start to take what i am saying on board its too wrenching to human sensibilities, the only reason i have been tolerated on this blog is you are completely resistant and are not therefore hurt

i can only post here because you are not hurt, but you are not hurt because you are either unable to be hurt or over-armoured

Anonymous said...

Chicko Marx said...
That is what this whole "Bradworld" blog is! It is a group of nasty, cursing, jealous, or depressed people

You must be new here.
Welcome.

Jinzang said...

true freedom is seeing and feeling absolute reality

Anything that can be seen or felt is not absolute reality. Better to ask, who is it who sees?

If sex and drink can change it then it's not freedom it's an artificial state.

Sex and drink don't change the fundamental state, but they can obscure it. It's like the reflection of the moon in water. The moon is always there, but if the surface of the water is not still, the reflection won't be seen. That's why we sit, to still the mind so it can be seen as it is.

The tantric practices that emerged out of India were about the fact that in the end drugs and sex are no longer a barrier

That's a misunderstanding of tantra. Certainly, for someone at the end of the path sex and drugs are not a barrier, because nothing is a barrier. But knowing this doesn't help you and me, who still have to traverse the path. Tantra is about taking the result as the path, seeing ourselves and everyone else as already enlightened, rather than cultivating the causes of enlightenment.

PhilBob-SquareHead said...

Andrew said:
"i have been really surprised not to be kicked off, perhaps brad doesn't read the comments, perhaps he really has an aversion to censoring"

There have been many to come here and profess their great "zen" or "enlightenment" or whatever you want to call it. But they always disappear after failing to ignite some old-fashioned dharma-war koan battle. Brad wouldn't be a true punk if he censored the comments section. I doubt Brad even reads the comments and that's REAL hardcore; making your statement and not giving a shit about the reaction it generates. AND I think that's what B-RAD means by 'being an asshole' in the new book.

MIKE H, take it from a recovering, experienced, chemical mind alterator, any understanding would bring an end to the NEED for sex or alcohol/drugs. If you wanna get fucked up, that's your business, just don't rationalize bullshit and call it a result of spiritual understanding/awakening.

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bucko said...

You are mistaken, Philbob. Brad has mentioned several times that he sometimes reads the comment section or he refers to something someone wrote here explicitly.

Anonymous said...

stephanie,

go over here and read about people who are sitting zazen with real life and death like recurrent cancer and child abuse and alcoholism and stuff and then take your "palm trees in rasberry skies" and shove it up your behind. You do not have a clue about the difference between suffering and sitting with pain.

http://www.treeleaf.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=1388

tell us about who is sitting zazen and buddhism like a bunch of discontent whining pussies

the head pussies mom and grandma died. all our moms and grandmoms die, and relationships end. what is he, a starving child in ethiopia? what's his problem, that he can't get a good seat on the plane back to japan or his underwear pinched him during a retreat? then he got his wick wet.

Anonymous said...

what's his problem, that he can't get a good seat on the plane back to japan or his underwear pinched him during a retreat? then he got his wick wet.

I think it is the overflowing toilet in Chapter 8

Anonymous said...

actually, the part about the toilet was chapter 35.

he's just a pussy with bad plumbing


"... I saw bits of other people's toilet paper - I never use green toilet paper with flower prints - and undigested corn in there."

Anonymous said...

what brad has done and written about from where I sit in my armchair all I can see is that

no buddhists were harmed

and from what I read on the blog

I see that what was 'harmed' is what some people think buddhism is.

That's not a bad thing.

Daddy said...

Everyone! Sit the Fuck Down and ShUT the FUCk uP!!!

Anonymous said...

gotta love the comment pages...

Mike H said...

Philbob:
any understanding would bring an end to the NEED for sex or alcohol/drugs. If you wanna get fucked up, that's your business, just don't rationalize bullshit and call it a result of spiritual understanding/awakening.

There are plenty of documented cases where the need for sex or drugs has not been reduced by an initial understanding.

Andrew having claimed to experience of True Reality™ also claimed that it disappears during sex!!!

My point was that anything that disappears isn't all that real in the first place.

I didn't express a view on use of drugs or sex. Although I did express a view in favour of wine from time to time.

Mike H said...

Jinzang:
Sex and drink don't change the fundamental state, but they can obscure it.

Not so much that, it's the case that we normally actively obscure this 'fundamental state' and sitting allows us to drop this activity.

Something like sex can be quite distracting (my memory is VERY vague on this) and it's not so much that it can obscure but that it can prevent the inhibition of the obscuration.

On the matter of Tantra I have done some detailed research in it (Not pop-tantra) and the path of tantra was in the early stages about being able to maintain a meditative dispassionate state amongst attractive or aversive things.

Higher tantric practices involved the use of sex between two people (who might well not be attracted to each other) as part of a meditatitve practice where the goal was not to be distracted by the sex but to use it as part of the meditation.

Tantra often seemed to be about chasing states of mind even in it's unpolluted form.

Hemingway said...

actually, the part about the toilet was chapter 35.

he's just a pussy with bad plumbing


"... I saw bits of other people's toilet paper - I never use green toilet paper with flower prints - and undigested corn in there."


Yes, it is one of the great overflowing toilet scenes I have read. Such use of allegory and imagery - asshole with an overflowing mouth is shown as an overflowing toilet. Both cannot be shut off and soil the carpets.

Mike H said...

Andrew:

Gniz is a person who has been posting in here recently. We've known each other many years. His posts are different to what they used to be, hence Gniz and Classic Gniz.

i am happy and confident in my seeing and knowing...

It's a strange way to show it! You've been very active here, as if there were something you had to prove. Your claims of 'victory' and evictions elsewhere reinforce this area.

Whist there is someone who sees and knows you haven't even begun!

if you start to take what i am saying on board its too wrenching to human sensibilities, the only reason i have been tolerated on this blog is you are completely resistant and are not therefore hurt. i can only post here because you are not hurt, but you are not hurt because you are either unable to be hurt or over-armoured

That's rather a lot of mind-reading and guessing going on.


I'm reminded of Tozan Stage 1
.
People stuck here can come accross a lot like a drunk zen master in a bar looking for fight to prove themselves.
You have to have a certain amount of insecurity to go and try and prove something.

Mike H said...

Mysterion:

The Prisoner's on my rewatch backlog...

Now I've used up my blog post quota for this month so I'll get to work...

Stephanie said...

Anon,

Talking about this sort of thing on TL was discouraged, or at least simply not done, when I was posting there. I asked many people--including Jundo--to share these sorts of stories, and while some did, many did not. So I'm glad to see that things are changing somewhat. Because IMO this stuff is VERY important--more important than discussions of Dogen or even how to do shikantaza correctly... (I'll get to this in a minute.)

I'm well aware that a lot of people drawn to the Buddhist path are folks who have suffered a lot of trauma and difficulty somewhere along the way. Both parents dying early, abusive fathers, mothers with scary diseases, alcoholic families... people that had to grow up really quickly.

And this is the thing. Buddhist lore explains people being drawn to Buddhism as a function of their past good karma, or as an expression of an innate desire to awaken that is present to some extent in all sentient beings. These theories may or may not be true. But what I have seen so often as to think it may be the majority case, is that people who are drawn to spirituality in a very intense, serious way, are often people who have suffered in exceptional ways.

This is wonderful, because Buddhist practice gives people unparalleled tools for working with suffering. But at the same time, for a lot of folks, it seems the medicine becomes a sickness, or becomes incorporated into part of an already existing sickness.

Suffering and loss cause us to feel a lot of things. They tend to cause us to question what we used to believe, our place in the universe, and so on. The problem is when people use Zen practice or teaching to cover over, deny, rationalize, suppress, etc., these thoughts and feelings, rather than to truly face up to, understand, and work through them.

I don't know what other people at TL do in their personal lives regarding this matter, but I know that I was told by several that what I was feeling and going through was a "problem" that I needed to "fix" in one way or another before I would even be allowed to practice or engage further with the community. I think this is a completely wrong attitude and it was certainly the wrong advice for me, however well intentioned it was or was not. This is why I appreciate Brad's book--not because I think he has suffered more than other Zen practitioners, but because the attitude expressed in the book emphasizes working with these things, practicing in these situations, rather than directing effort into trying to make these feelings or situations go away.

Of course it's natural that religious people judge how others live their lives. I think people's beliefs and expectations about what it means to be Buddhist are often very silly and off-base. And, at times, dangerous or damaging. Because when people believe that the Dharma only looks a certain way, that means that some people feel that they are not even "worthy" to take up a Buddhist practice, while others who do fight themselves and deny their "un-Buddhist" feelings, thoughts, issues, desires, or problems instead of dealing with them in a mature and direct way. This is especially problematic in a tradition centered on discovering the truth. If in order to practice, one has to deny what one feels, or have a punitive attitude toward oneself that one feels or experiences these things, then it becomes the same false, neurotic head-trip that any other religion caught up in ideals of purity becomes. And the bottom line--the real matter--is that the religion becomes a method of denying the truth, rather than drawing closer to it.

Had I taken some of the more impassioned advice I got on TL, it would have prolonged my difficulties and hindered my 'spiritual recovery.' I do not blame people for not knowing what was right for me--their advice may well have been the right advice for another person in a similar situation. What concerns me is that the attitude was so dogmatic.

I made it very clear that I felt that the depression I was going through was directly related to my 'spiritual journey,' a direct outcome of a period of rapid and heavy disillusionment. The attitude at TL was that if you practice, you are naturally more happy and at ease, not less so, and that if you're not happy, well, go fix it first and then practice. I cannot tell you how intensely wrong I think this is. But it is a very common attitude in Buddhist circles.

Sometimes intensified suffering is part of the path. Sometimes it's painful to let go of certain things, but we have to do it anyway. And if we don't honestly work through the emotions that come up around that, they get shunted off and haunt us until we do. Faith comes from living out what one knows to be true for oneself. Blind and false belief comes from accepting the authority of others even when it contradicts what one knows on some level to be true.

I don't mind what others do with their time as long as it makes them happy and does not harm others. If people truly come to happiness through fighting against their emotions, more power to 'em. I mean that sincerely. But I know that approach does not work for me. And I strongly suspect there are many others for whom that approach does not work, who would be much happier and wiser if they stopped trying so hard to make their experience other than what it is. That's why I'm here, writing what I do, and I suspect that's why Brad published this book. If one person out there reads any of this and even just stops for a minute to wonder if it's okay for them not to be perfect, that they can practice anyway and put their own unique experience to work in service of the Dharma, that there may be a 'spiritual value' to even some of the experiences others have told them are 'unspiritual,' it's worth the time and effort I've put into writing this.

Anonymous said...

Stef,

As someone who is/was an active member of TL I can say you've got it all back-asswards. The whole point what both Jundo and Brad are trying to convey - both in their own unique way - is that you should practice with whatever situation and mind you have.

However, when and if your practice causes your mental balance to decrease - like the one unfortunate woman Brad wrote about in his book who took the fast-kensho deal in Japan - you should seriously examine both your practice AND your life in general, because mental illness or the worsening of symptoms of such is NEVER the result or expected nor desired outcome or part of correct practice.

Take a good look at the word correct. This buddhism thing has over two millenia of history with all sorts of folks practicing so there most likely is a preceding case for anything that comes up and history for some solutions having worked and some not.

Are you sure you have read Brad's writings thoroughly - as you like to imply when saying you "get" him unlike someone else. I'm asking this because you speak about spiritualism a lot - have you read Brad's late article at SG called "Buddhism is not Spirituality"? You also use the word "karma" a lot and in a way that resembles the tibetan idea of some holy judge or book-of-your-deeds than the Zen idea of karma meaning just action (at the present moment).

You say you have found a new meaning in meaningless universe - could it be that while you've wandered off from the official sangha (remember what Buddha called the three gems) you have lost your contact with the concepts of authentic Zen practice as well and does that make you more or less likely to "get" what Brad writes than someone who has practiced the same lineage with him for probably longer than you've been alive...

Justin said...

The problem is when people use Zen practice or teaching to cover over, deny, rationalize, suppress, etc., these thoughts and feelings, rather than to truly face up to, understand, and work through them.

True, but there are lots of ways to do zen in an unhelpful way. Are you certain this is what Jundo was really advising? I got the impression he/they were just worried about you. Zen won't sort everything - for a specific problem you may need to see a therapist. I got the impression that this was the judgement call he made about you at that time.

jundo cohen said...

Hi Stephanie,

Well, with love, your comment is bull crackers.

Talking about this sort of thing on TL was discouraged, or at least simply not done, when I was posting there. I asked many people--including Jundo--to share these sorts of stories, and while some did, many did not. So I'm glad to see that things are changing somewhat. Because IMO this stuff is VERY important--more important than discussions of Dogen or even how to do shikantaza correctly...

Discussion of personal trauma and pain have always been a large part of what people talk about in our Forum, since day one. What I discourage, however, is WALLOWING and OBSESSING ON THE PAST and WOW IS ME-ING and ... most importantly ... the refusal of someone to see that the thoughts & emotions in their head are running away like bulls in a stampede.

Our method of Shikantaza involves allowing the thoughts to calm and still. It is not about ignoring pain & trauma, or pushing it under the rug. It is about recognizing pain's existence as just what it is, allowing the pain to be, and moving on with life even if the pain remains.

Suffering and loss cause us to feel a lot of things. They tend to cause us to question what we used to believe, our place in the universe, and so on. The problem is when people use Zen practice or teaching to cover over, deny, rationalize, suppress, etc., these thoughts and feelings, rather than to truly face up to, understand, and work through them.

Our method is never to cover over or deny. It is to allow it all to be, with a mind neither stirred up or resisting. Some folks, Steph, cannot learn how to to that.

I do not think Shikantaza is a panacea for all ills, and some folks need to pursue other methods in parallel (like counseling, in which they can work through issues, or receive other treatments). If you want to "work through" you problems, there are plenty of avenues such as counseling or buying a book by Oprah or whatnot.

But if you want to try "Shikantaza", we do not "work through" We drop from mind, or allow the pain just to be, without resistance.

However, when people come to our Sangha, and simply wish to wallow and relive the past, fixate and moan, blame and spin their mental wheels REFUSING to try to quiet the mind ... refusing to just let things be or let things go ... refusing to drop all that, then I tell them that maybe Shikantaza is not for them (it is not for everybody).

I do not mean you, Stephanie, because (as I recall your posts on our forum) you told me that you just could not find a way to settle your mind. Shikantaza does not work for everyone I suppose.

By the way, yes, I consider my Brother Brad's book to be filled with quite a bit of mental wheel spinning, drama-making, wow-is-me-ing and various other flavors of self-created mental trash that he seems unable, in the book, to clear from his mind. There is not one mention in the book (that I recall) of any of that as the greed, anger and ignorance of the "self" or as a mental created storyline that could be changed or dropped away. I meet victims of physical violence, holocaust survivors, war veterans and the like who are able to do so through their Buddhist practice.

Gassho, Jundo

jundo cohen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jundo cohen said...

...refusing to just let things be or let things go ... refusing to drop all that, then I tell them that maybe Shikantaza is not for them (it is not for everybody).

Before somebody calls me on it, my very bad choice of words here. I should say that "when folks refuse or just are unable to for whatever reason" I advise that they may wish to try some other avenue other than Shikantaza, as it may not be for them (we are not all cut out of the same mold).

I would also like to ask the few Treeleafers who seem to be hanging around here to speak nicely, even in voicing strong opinions. I know how easy it is to get caught up in the 'cussin and fighting tone of this place.

Gassho, J

Jinzang said...

What I discourage, however, is WALLOWING and OBSESSING ON THE PAST and WOW IS ME-ING

When another person has a problem and wants to talk, just let them talk. As long as they want to, if it's about their problem. Listening patiently is the kindest thing you can do. The other person appreciates the kindness and is helped by it.

Everyone is so impatient these days.

Anonymous said...

Jinzang,

You have a point there, but there's also such thing as wallowing too much and indeed in text based internet forums the noise/content ratio to consider.

There are people out there who can literally drown all other conversation with their own voice - either because the love their voice so much or because they simply enjoy causing disruption. In either case it's better for everyone if you tell them to stfu as soon as possible.

gniz said...

Jundo said: "By the way, yes, I consider my Brother Brad's book to be filled with quite a bit of mental wheel spinning..."

Why do you continually pretend that your interest in undermining Brad's book and his credibility as a zen teacher are done out of love and respect? You call him "my brother."

Dude, if my brother acted like you, i'd disown him. Following me around and telling everyone how screwed up I am, but hey, with love...

Jundo, again, why dont you take it up with Brad in private? What is wrong with you? Talk about imbalance. Its completely disrespectful the way you trash him and then act like you have so much love and respect for him.

The two of you are like little kids. It gives your lineage a bad name.

jundo cohen said...

Jundo said: "By the way, yes, I consider my Brother Brad's book to be filled with quite a bit of mental wheel spinning..."

Why do you continually pretend that your interest in undermining Brad's book and his credibility as a zen teacher are done out of love and respect? You call him "my brother."

Dude, if my brother acted like you, i'd disown him. Following me around and telling everyone how screwed up I am, but hey, with love...


Gniz, my brother :-) ... two zen guys arguing doctrine is as old as, well, Zen. What do you think all those old Zen stories are about with this one 'disn that one?

When it comes to doctrine and Zen practice, no secrets and no pulling punches. Brad speaks his mind, I speak my mind.

Gassho, J

Andrew said...

philbob square head

you're calling it and i am calling it to

as i wrote

"you are happy and confident in your ignorance and i am happy and confident in my seeing and knowing and since in the end the only point really is that seeing and knowing this is the end of the dialogue"

that seeing and knowing makes the dribble on this board seem like some tawdry rag

my main interest was to establish that seated mediation causes brain damage and no doubt this blog will drift on in ample demonstration

but in the end if i am so right then why would i be here, so its goodbye, i don't think brad is that clued either, zen masters are a bunch of wankers

Stephanie said...

because mental illness or the worsening of symptoms of such is NEVER the result or expected nor desired outcome or part of correct practice.

Maybe not in the long term, but in the short term, I disagree. When you're looking for the truth, sometimes you run across truths that aren't that pleasant. It sometimes takes a while to... adjust to them. Which might, in some people, exascerbate symptoms of depression. And then, slowly, one recovers.

Are you sure you have read Brad's writings thoroughly - as you like to imply when saying you "get" him unlike someone else.

I don't think I "get" Brad better than everyone else. I spent the past couple of years or so being absolutely irritated with his writing and finding points of disagreement with it in almost every case. I think in many ways I am a very different person than Brad. I do think I understand what he was trying to convey in this book more than a lot of the "haters" on here, though. Maybe I'm wrong and maybe my understanding of what I read is different from the understanding of the writer who wrote it. I do know, however, that I relate strongly to the book that I read according to my own understanding.

You also use the word "karma" a lot and in a way that resembles the tibetan idea of some holy judge

That's not the way I meant it. What I meant when I used the word in the comments above may extend a little beyond the basic / traditional usage of the term, but not in the way you suggest. I was using it to describe the mental conditioning that follows action and experience. For example, to live out my "karma" is to live out the mental experience that follows from my childhood, formative experiences growing up, etc. Nothing supernatural was implied.

does that make you more or less likely to "get" what Brad writes

My Buddhist practice is very traditional. I got the "knack" of the traditional shikantaza approach a couple of years ago and have been sitting zazen for over five years now. I practice with the four immeasurable states of mind (the brahma-viharas) which are the real core of my daily practice. Kannon sits on my altar, not Buddha--I venerate the Buddha and the wisdom he represents, but compassion is the heart of my practice. Anyway, why I think I related to this book in particular has less to do with practice experience and more to do with personality.

Another point I'd like to make here: Bob Thurman has said that a lot of Zen folks make the mistake that just sitting is enough. It's not. You can sit for years and years and learn how to quiet your mind and just let it make you duller and denser. I do value zazen as an excellent, indispensable practice, but what is far more important than the practice of zazen is the activation and application of discriminating wisdom and insight.

It's a sort of inner fire that fuels zazen. You keep questioning, questioning, questioning. I have a Dharma friend I've been talking to who's given me more tools for doing this and an understanding of the simplicity of it. You've really got to have a fundamentally questioning attitude. "Curious" is too mild. You've got to be driven to know. Nishijima Roshi calls it "will to the truth." One can see throughout history that many non-Buddhists have gained tremendous insight into the nature of mind and reality. Sometimes it's due to similar practices but I think it has more to do with the power of deep inquiry. Hui-neng was enlightened simply by hearing a few lines of the Diamond Sutra, had a sudden insight into reality that most likely arose from a mind already established in an inquiring attitude.

And what I've been trying to say here is--Jundo suggests that if I want to "work through" something, I pick up a book by Oprah, as if trying to sort through one's emotional life is a flaky, irrelevant thing to do. But that's the thing--if one truly wants to know reality, one has to become as clear as possible about the filters that affect one's perception. I agree that additional practices, such as psychoanalysis, can be necessary and useful here. I know I need, and want to do, some intensive counseling whenever it's first feasible for me to do so.

Anyway, the point is that it is tremendously easy to have blind spots about why one sees and does things as one does. You can sit zazen, sit shikantaza, develop some insight, but still be coming at things from a skewed angle. Why? Because sitting zazen, while it may give some insight into the mind, does not erase one's "karma"--one's mental conditioning. If you don't get clear about this, you can spend your entire practice life using Zen, using zazen, to do something dysfunctional that is not bringing you any closer to truth or insight at all. Instead it's just shoring and building up your already existing defenses and views.

The one thing that can overcome this is a tremendous, fierce desire to know the truth, to constantly look and question and pick apart. And again, this determination to know can take one to some unpleasant, difficult places. One starts to ask, "Why do I feel this way?" And rather than being some Dharmically irrelevant exercise, this exploration can shed light on why you practice the way you do and how your view of 'spirituality' and reality might not be an expression of wisdom but instead of a deeply entrenched emotional need. If you ever wanna get some perspective on your blind spots and limitations you have to develop this sort of awareness of your psychic structures and patterns, else all you'll do your entire practice life is use that practice to play out shadowy infantile (I use that term in a psychoanalytic, not pejorative way) needs.

I don't understand how anyone can think that digging into a practice that challenges all your most deeply cherished beliefs and dreams, and being willing to face the fact that they're not true, or that the reasons you do what you do aren't so noble, is not something that might freak you out or depress you at points. Of course, ultimately, as one practices, one moves beyond the shock or pain, and realizes one never needed these beliefs or dreams in the first place, but this takes time.

Rimpa said...

Another point I'd like to make here: Bob Thurman has said that a lot of Zen folks make the mistake that just sitting is enough. It's not. You can sit for years and years and learn how to quiet your mind and just let it make you duller and denser.

Bob Thurman is not a Zen Buddhist the last time I checked and is one of the Dalai Lama's buds

Anonymous said...

Stef said,

Another point I'd like to make here: Bob Thurman has said that a lot of Zen folks make the mistake that just sitting is enough. It's not.

And that's where you're wrong and if you really think that you should indeed not be following the Zen lineage that Jundo and Brad teach. Nor any other Zen lineage for that matter.

Contrarily to what you suggest, shikantaza is exactly the thing to work through your mind and conditioning and it's everything but about making you more boring or dull. Obviously you should've sat some more before jumping the wagon, but hey - you say you're not interested in Buddhism anyway!

Because while finding some arbitrary "truth" about reality is a fine goal that many a modern freethinker say they are after, it has nothing to do with Buddhism which is about realizing that we suffer, recognizing why we suffer and figuring out how to end the suffering. After all, there is no Ultimate Truth(tm) to be found - some things will always be left in the mists. Ever heard of the unanswerable questions?

PS. Just like Rimpa said. If the Llama does it for you - more power to you! But don't mix that with Zen!

Justin said...

Zen has never been just about Zazen.

Stephanie said...

Anon-

Just like Jundo (are you Jundo?), you jump to the conclusion that I don't, or have stopped, practicing Zen. That is absolutely incorrect. Just because Zen is my practice doesn't mean I can't find wisdom in other Buddhist schools, and beyond Buddhism altogether.

And if you think that my point about the need for a capacity for insight and an attitude of intense inquiry, not just dead zazen, is a "Tibetan" point and not a "Zen" one you would do well to read up on your Zen history. You can sit on that cushion 'til your ass turns blue and if you don't know where and how to direct your attention while you're doing it all you'll do is just learn how to quiet and calm yourself. Not a bad thing, but certainly not equivalent with wisdom.

Anonymous said...

Stef,

What makes you think all the people who write here under the Anonymous pseudonym are the same person?

As for directing attention, I'd recommend you read Hardcore Zen by one Brad Warner. It has pretty good instructions about how to do zazen and what to do with your mind (or rather, not do) when sitting. His other books are also worth reading as is this blog. Actually several of Brad's blog posts both here and in SG have made the point that it's the physical activity of sitting that is most important - perhaps all important - in shikantaza (you know, the main practice of Zen) and sometimes even suggests that whatever your mind does is completely irrelevant.

If you want to direct your mind towards certain goals or concentrate on something while sitting that's all up to you, but once again - it ain't Nishijima/Warner style shikantaza you're doing then.

Anonymous said...

Hi Brad,

Is your Zen class at Hill St happening this Sat, Feb 14th?

I would like to visit your class, am writing 800 wds on Hill St. due
Mar 1.

Please call me 310 313 9172 or email me. Thank you
Charlotteholtz@yahoo.com

Rich said...

Stephanie,
I think it is very courageous and generous of you to share your experience here. I also feel that
'the will to the truth' by questioning 'what is this?' is an important tool to cut off all thinking and experience what is, even though we 'don't know' what it is. People who think there is a big difference between Gudo/Brad and other practice forms are wrong. Form becomes noform.

Stephanie said...

Thanks Rich (and everyone else who has shared kind / encouraging words with me) :)

Jundo - stop being weird. You're the only person here who calls me "Stef" and you're the only person I know of on the Internet who tells me I should sit zazen and how to sit zazen even after I've said that I sit.

Here's my shikantaza story. When I first started sitting, I alternated between counting the breaths and focusing my attention on the sensation of the breath in the hara (mostly the latter). I did this for a few years, as I had practiced and received instruction in a lineage that taught that the student should practice in this way until developing a certain power of concentration and getting the 'go ahead' from the teacher, and then one would either start working on koans or sitting shikantaza. In this (Maezumi - Loori) lineage, shikantaza was / is considered a subtle practice and one the student needs to develop a certain amount of joriki (concentration power, basically) before being able to do properly. I took all this to heart and persisted in simple breath awareness zazen, which was fine as my mind is rather active and difficult to tame - I had a lot to work with just doing that.

In 2007, I went on a week-long solitary retreat in which I sat 6-8 hours of zazen a day. I spent much of that retreat dealing with "emotional stuff" that came up - wrangling with the hellhound on my trail, basically - but also had a bit of a "breakthrough" in the technique of my sitting practice.

I was reading the Shobogenzo and talks from the book The Art of Just Sitting and something Dogen said struck me really powerfully: his injunctions to "turn the light of the mind inward," "take the backward step," etc., and his elaborations of that such as the Bendowa. I suddenly understood what this instruction meant in practical terms (meditation instruction in Ajahn Brahm's Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond also helped me to understand this): that to quickly settle and clarify the activity of the mind, all one has to do is direct one's attention at the mind. Put the light of mind on the mind. Watching thoughts as they arise with no attempt to stop them, attention directed at 'the place where thought arises' (not that there is really such a "place") tends to make thoughts fall away and lose power like fog dissipating in front of the sun.

Though shikantaza is simple, it is deceptively so. There's an 'extra ingredient' that I found transformed my sitting experience, which was not a goal or a goal directed activity, but a questioning attitude. No particular question. More an ability to look at the mind and wonder what this is. What is this? It's that attitude that allows one to even be able to watch thoughts arise without getting caught in them. It's that attitude that allows one to turn the light of the mind inward. One stops directing all of one's questioning toward the outer world and directs it at the inner, the one experiencing it. This is the heart of any Buddhist practice, it seems to me. But it was (mostly) Zen teaching that helped me develop the right attitude toward my own mind.

I'm far from enlightened. I haven't had any kensho experiences, I don't feel that I know 'the answer' or any number of things I want or would like to know. I'm still sorting through a deep, ancient pile of emotional shit. My sitting practice has been inconsistent since I started grad school and try as I might, I'm having a hard time getting back up to daily sitting again. I sat daily with only rare exceptions for almost two years and now sit 2-4 times a week. I don't know who I am or want to be and am going through all of the usual mid-20s crap, as well as extra crap since I've got some extra baggage, as well as the rubble of spiritual disillusionment. I ain't mastered shit when it comes to Zen, but the one thing I do have some faith in is what I do when I'm on that cushion. A Dharma buddy has only helped me clarify further that the essential ingredient to sitting and everyday life is that fundamental orientation toward one's own mind, of questioning it first, always. I believe that liberation does indeed lie in clarifying the nature of mind because mind creates everything and we tend to take that for granted, that the whole dog and pony show is generated from within.

But the thing is--even I, fucked up as I am and only a few years into my practice, realize that's not enough. It's not enough to see that one's mind creates one's experience like a projector creates a movie. Because one cannot 'opt out' of the experience or turn off the movie. One's life is one's life. And if one doesn't get straight on the fine details of one's particular conditioning, they will inevitably drive one's behavior as a wild, spooked horse drags along a charioteer.

This is why I truly believe in the validity of Western psychoanalytic theory and practice (i.e. therapy) as an excellent, if not necessary, complement to Zen practice. I've seen too much of how people live out their pathologies or strengthen pathological defenses in their spiritual lives. People who learned to survive growing up by cutting off, denying, or dissociating from their emotions tend to love zazen. It becomes like a master class in dissociation.

And y'know... there are worse things. There are worse ways people could cope. But the truth of existence isn't in making oneself into an idealized Dharma paper doll, cutting everything into the perfect shape. A lot of people are very violent toward themselves, and then "Buddhist" practice can just become another form of this violence, of trying to force oneself into this cookie cutter paradigm through denial of one's feelings, desires, and even needs.

A lot of broken people whip and chain themselves with the whips and chains of what they think is Dharma. But it ain't that. Anything that promotes that rigid, suppressing attitude toward oneself is not wisdom. I know that much. Of course, it's ideal if one isn't angry or upset, but if one is, one is, and the best way to honestly and directly deal with that is to be where one is, to sit with it and practice with it and go through it. And then, as with all things, it will pass.

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