Wednesday, March 18, 2009

FRISCO & c.


Here I am once again in San Francisco. I have not eaten any rice-a-roni yet. But they tell me it is delicious.

Those of you in the Bay Area will have loads of opportunities to hear my words of Deep Cosmic Wisdom™. Or at least a few bad jokes. And I will draw stegosauruses on your books for you.

The dates are over on the link to your left. Or, if you can't be bothered with that much dragging of a heavy mouse and clicking with your sore, tired, old finger, here they are:

TODAY March 18, 2009 (Wed), 7 pm - Diesel Bookstore 5433 College Avenue Oakland, CA 94618 events@dieselbookstore.com
•March 20, 2009 (Fri), 6:30-9 pm - San Francisco Zen Center Dinner & Talk - 300 Page St. San Francisco, CA 94102
•March 21, 2009 (Sat), 4 pm - Green Apple Books 506 Clement St. at 6th Ave. San Francisco, CA 94118 kpr@greenapplebooks.com
•March 22, 2009 (Sun), 1:30 pm Copperfield's Books 140 Kentucky Street Petaluma, CA sdeignan@copperbook.com

(note that the scheduled gig in Petaluma on Thursday night has been canceled)

I'll also be on Pirate Cat Radio 87.9 on your FM dial (I hear FM radio is in stereo!) at around 2 PM on Thursday March 19th.

Also, Uku Leitinen has put up a whole bunch of very new audio files of his talks with Nishijima roshi on his blog. These were recorded just a couple weeks ago. Listen while they're hot!

Also, also, the folks at the Interdependence Project in New York City wanted me to remind you that I'll be speaking there on Wednesday March 25th at 7 PM. Last time I was there it was a sell-out crowd. So they wanted me to mention here that if you're planning to go, please reserve yourself a spot now before they're gone. That's at 302 Bowery (Buzzer #2), New York, NY 10012.

I've been thinking a lot about institutional Zen and its position in the world of Buddhist practice. I do this every time I'm at San Francisco Zen Center. I'm not a member of the place, nor is it my lineage. But I have a lot of friends here.

If institutional Zen were the only type of Zen there was I would never have bothered with Zen at all. Yet I'm not against it, really. I'm happy that places like SFZC and even the dreaded Soto-shu exist. But it's hard for real practice to survive at a place like this. Hard, but not impossible.

Of course, it's hard anywhere (that's what she said!). What may make it worse at a Zen institution is the illusion that it's not hard there, that it is provided for you at a place like that. Practice is never provided for you. No matter where you are, you gotta do it. Just because a pretty space is offered and there's a schedule with the requisite mean looking people to enforce it doesn't mean you don't have to put just as much into it.

Nor are the big institutions the only place where practice can happen. I get a sense from some of the mail I've received that some people may think so. But that's like thinking you can only be a good Catholic at the Vatican.

My computer is being a little poopy to me today, which is making it rather difficult to type this out. So I'll take that as a sign from God (or whoever) that I've said enough.

Maybe more later...

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

1.
That wasn't nearly as fulfilling as y'all make it seem :(

Flor de Nopal Sangha said...

Silver!

Mr. Reee said...

Congrats--the SFZC Sangha-e newsletter just went out and your book and talk is front and center. I guess they still like you, even though you want to "institutionalize" them. :D

BTW--please don't cancel the Sunday read at Copperfield's in Petaluma. It's easier to get to than the SFZC.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
"That wasn't nearly as fulfilling as y'all make it seem"

That's what she said.

Mysterion said...

The "San Francisco Treat" jingle (an adaptation of the 1920s "Barney Google" melody) read: "Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco Treat/ Rice-A-Roni, the flavor can't be beat..." The ad campaign was produced for the Golden Grain Macaroni Company of San Leandro, California.

Deception, such a wonderful thing. Some religions have been using it for centuries. Thank god(s) Buddhism is NOT a religion.

This, I have heard...

Jinzang said...

I'm happy that places like SFZC and even the dreaded Soto-shu exist. But it's hard for real practice to survive at a place like this.

I don't understand this at all. Most people do better with group practice, especially if they are new. A bigger, more organized group means more opportunities for group practice. It also means having a resident teacher. The bigger the group, the more politics, but I don't think this outweighs the advantages.

Anonymous said...

"I'm happy that places like SFZC and even the dreaded Soto-shu exist. But it's hard for real practice to survive at a place like this."


What's...."real"...practice? S***, I don't think Brad would have survived Suzuki's sesshins.

Anonymous said...

jinz, the reason you don't get is is because.. oh forget it!

Rick said...

I think the practice that matters most is the one you carry out daily at your own home.

Anonymous said...

Jinzan...

I think all that Brad means is that in such groups, an intimacy required for "real practice" can be forgotten. This is a danger in any large organization.

Is this really news?

Chance said...

The teaching is already within. Isn't that what it's really all about?

Mysterion said...

•March 18, 2009 (Wed), 7 pm - Diesel Bookstore 5433 College Avenue Oakland, CA 94618•

This event was well attended. I think they put out 25 chairs and about 35 people showed up. Brad talked for over an hour but avoided "reading" from his book. I suspect there is some level of discomfort in doing so...

My friend David 'got it.' I took him along to be a butt in a chair (to prevent the turnout from being 'small').

Brad's talk was kind of an intro and overview, no Evelyn Wood satori experiences for the newbies. Even as David was dozing off (or in-and-out of 'being there) he enjoyed the talk. Let's 'think the good thoughts' (that the momentum is maintained for the entire tour).

reporting for the sangha,
Mysterion

Mysterion said...

Blogger Jinzang said...
""I'm happy that places like SFZC and even the dreaded Soto-shu exist. But it's hard for real practice to survive at a place like this.""

"I don't understand this at all."

Not putting words in Brad's mouth, I think Brad prefers that 'Zen Monks' have a profession that is NOT huxtering Buddhism to the innocent for fame and profit. In other words, if you are a full-time farmer that also happens to be a Zen Monk, that's fine. If you happen to be an accountant and a Zen Monk, that's fine. If you happen to be a worker for a Sci-Fi Film Co and a Zen Monk (as Brad was before being cast adrift), that's fine too.

But if your primary goal in life is to make a living off of being a "Zen Monk," then there is the ever present danger of the impure entering into your being.

Brad might see himself as a "writer" who happens to be a Zen Monk. He has written a couple of Sci-Fi books that didn't sell. He has written a couple of Zen Buddhist related books that did sell. Yes, he sees the conflict in it. Thus Brad is not 'fine' with where he is at the moment - and doesn't go about hiding it.

As for the Dharma-heir, there is an element of Nishijima handing off the torch and saying: "Here, carry this."

(If Brad bothered to asked 'where,' I suspect he got no more than: "where you are going.")

Sorry to trash the blog, but blah, blah, blah, blah, blah...

Moon Face Buddha said...

"But it's hard for real practice to survive at a place like this."

Fnord.

Jack Daw said...

As a practicing buddhist from a landlocked semi-populated state (ie. South Dakota), I was very happy to find a small group with which to practice. It kept me on target and overall is very helpful but I do understand the issue with "institutionalizing" one's practice.

Since our group has grown much in the past months (15-20) some are considering incorporating our small group into a larger regional Zen center. Which, for me, has removed much of the intimacy and enjoyment of the practice in general. This is especially true when suddenly our sutra translations were not good enough any more or we have to subscribe to different forms of practice solely because the larger center subscribes to them.

I definitely see the benefit of a larger group but the increased hierarchy is not so appealing to me.

As far as *real* practice. It is all just tools, what is important is what you bring into it. You work with what you got.


Cheers.

Mysterion said...

Blogger Rick said...
"I think the practice that matters most is the one you carry out daily at your own home."

exactly

for Zen to be 'what you are,' Zazen must be a constant in 'what you do.'

Very well stated, Rick.

b said...

I'll be there, Brad, I'll be there to beat the crap outta ya. You watch your back, flyboy.

Stephanie said...

Organizations keep a tradition alive, give people support in their practice, and give people with these sorts of questions a place to go explore them. I think that the tradition of transmission in Zen is a very good one--it's imperfect; just because someone's been transmitted doesn't necessarily mean they're a good teacher or even a clear-eyed person, but there is at least some systematic form of 'quality control' when it comes to teachers in the Zen tradition based on the high expectations of training in Zen. There's too many self-appointed gurus out there in the world; I think it's good that aspiring Zen students have something to go on in looking for a teacher beyond just charisma, which is so often misleading.

The problem in a religion that has been systematized is that the true spark that gave birth to the religion can be lost as people get caught up in the surface aspects of the religion and fail to connect with that original source that is beyond concept and ritual.

The problem with un-systematized religion is that spontaneously arising spiritual cults, to the extent they generate a following, tend to be based on the charisma of the leader. Of course, many of the world's major religious traditions originated in the same way--Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism were founded by one powerful, charismatic teacher; they were all originally 'cults' in the non-pejorative sense of the term.

For all we know, any number of modern-day New Age cults could be a more vital expression of awakening than our age-old religions. There may be some new religion just emerging today that will be practiced 1000 years from now based on the profundity of its original vision. But how do we know? The capacity to deceive ourselves is endless, especially when it comes to something as subjective as religion. In a religion based on hundreds of years of tradition, there is more for the aspiring convert to go on besides pure emotional or intuitive appeal, including the documents and stories of people who have followed that path over the long sweep of history. If one is led astray by a bad teacher within a well-established tradition, one can fall back on other teachers and sources; if one is led astray by a bad teacher in a new religious cult, one has no such recourse; one has nothing against which to test what the teacher is saying other than one's own best guesses and judgment, which can be faulty even in the most cautious individuals.

Rich said...

Hey b, did you know that Brad has some Ninjas on the payroll.

Stephanie, Would you like to join my cult? The main doctrine is reliance on perception and the teachers are mostly retail store clerks.

floating_abu said...

I'm happy that places like SFZC and even the dreaded Soto-shu exist. But it's hard for real practice to survive at a place like this.

What an odd statement.

It reminds me of the rebellious mould who all mould together forming their own rules and cliches - all the whilst pointing out the conformity of society.

floating_abu said...

But if your primary goal in life is to make a living off of being a "Zen Monk," then there is the ever present danger of the impure entering into your being.

If you think there is a division, find it and let me know.

No-one can say what is what and only this way works. Even Gautama Buddha who in his wisdom neither proferred the only and absolute way but unceasingly encouraged his students to find the true taste of practice through his teachings. Ergo, the encouragement of any great teacher is to practice, not to incite controversy or way lay students with narrow opinions. Brad Warner likes to shake it up but marketing never tasted so good, I guess.

Incidentally the Buddha is the one who established Sangha. And not withstanding other interpretations it is undoubted that the monastic order was the own hand of Gautama Buddha, our teacher. The fact that the Buddha had countless students is a wisdom I would not override, unlike Err Brad, who perhaps thinks he now knows better and knows where and how 'real practice' (another questionable term) can flourish.

I wouldn't lay claim to either and would say - everyone no matter what they believe or who they sympathise with, what argument they prefer - still has to find out for themself.

And this was the Buddha's encouragement. Take the Dhamma as your guide, and the Triple Gem as your refuge. When you find it you will have no doubts left.

Don't just assume, find out for yourself. All round.

Best wishes.

A-P said...

What may make it worse at a Zen institution is the illusion that it's not hard there, that it is provided for you at a place like that. Practice is never provided for you. No matter where you are, you gotta do it. Just because a pretty space is offered and there's a schedule with the requisite mean looking people to enforce it doesn't mean you don't have to put just as much into it.

Actually I see strong analogy here to "zazen posture". How could practice be easier in some posture than in another?

If you believe a posture can help you to be more present, then I think you have to believe that some institution for the practice will make it easier also.. Right?