Monday, March 16, 2009


I have a new Suicide Girls article up now. It's called "Women, Evolution and Buddhism" and that's what it's about.

And you all should be reading Gudo Nishijima's blog. He's posting new stuff there all the time. In the comments section I learned something I never knew before about vipassana.

The event at the Bodhi Tree went well. A fun time was had by all. So did the talk at Dharma Punx yesterday.

My book tour starts on Wednesday in Oakland and continues forever. See the link to your left for dates, addresses and everything else. See you there!


Flor de Nopal Sangha said...

I am #1! Yay!

Harry said...

I am happy for you... but a little bitter also :-(


Mr. Reee said...

We are all (#) one. And not.

Good luck with the book tour. :)

Stephanie said...

You're gonna be on the road a long time... maybe you should grow some facial hair and bring an acoustic guitar with you? :P

Anonymous said...

Good old prejudice from Brad. Atheism is as bad as azeusism. It is non belief in deities. Why is this so hard to understand by our enlightened being?

I bet Brad is also an azeusist. Atheism and Buddhism are not incompatible. I just have to say it: Stupid Americans, as an American, to all Americans.

Why do I even bother commenting this kind of crap? Because I feel it necessary to fight ignorance everywhere I see it. Except Oklahoma and Alabama.

Anonymous said...

To make things even easier to understand:
Gods atheists don't believe in

Jordan said...

Still not coming to Portland? They have a branch of the Interdependence Project there to ya know. I'd even let you crash on my couch.

alec said...

Brad writes "This is why atheism, as rational and sensible as it is, will never be an adequate substitute for religion..."

In fact, Gregory Paul answers this in his article, The Big Religion Questions Finally Solved.

Money quote: "Religious belief and activity are seen as a superficial coping mechanism that is easily cast off when the majority in a given society enjoy democratic governance and a secure, comfortable middle-class lifestyle."

You can read the article here:

Anonymous said...

Brad writes "This is why atheism, as rational and sensible as it is, will never be an adequate substitute for religion

And Buddhism is not a religion, it is a philosophy.

And now what are we trying to substitute for anyway?
I thought that Soto Zen was simply reality itself? This is exactly Atheism!
Atheism is not a dirty word, or an excuse to be a money grubbing immoral person. It is simply A (non) Theist (believer in Theos or god/sky ferry or whatever)
Actually I believe Brad is one, but he just hasnt realized it yet.


Fada said...

Will you be doing an Exorcism in Oakland?

"Exorcism and the Prayer of Liberation was organized by the Legion of Christ and their school, the Regina Apostolorum, which is Vatican-affiliated." source

Jinzang said...

What Brad said is that the rituals of Buddhism fulfill the same emotional need as all religious rituals do, without carrying the same metaphysical commitments. Which seems about right to me. So you atheists can save your outrage for some other time.

Jinzang said...

I thought that Soto Zen was simply reality itself? This is exactly Atheism!

Reality is not something that can be captured in any creed or philosophy. That includes atheism and Buddhism as well. At best the philosophy can point us in the direction of truth: the old analogy of the finger pointing to the moon.

Jinzang said...

My book tour starts on Wednesday in Oakland and continues forever

I think at the end of this kalpa, when seven suns appear in the sky and this world burns to a cinder, the book tour is effectively over.

Mysterion said...

Swami will be at the big event with his one and only student, David...
(or B squares). The other Sawmi event was moved by the stars, planets, and scheduling folks to the 17th.

And Mysterion will make it to SFZC along with either his wife or his blind horse.

East Bay Zen people who missed a Brad event.

Smoggyrob said...

Hi everyone:

I remember a SD&SU book-signing where Brad was explaining why he did or did not believe in God. He went through it step by step, and at each step I was right there with him, in complete agreement. As he summed up I was thinking, '...and that's why I'm an atheist!' while Brad was saying, '...and that's why I believe in God!'

I am a very religious atheist.


Mysterion said...

Atheism & Buddhism

THIS article sorta misses the point.

You can download this handout as a PDF.

Buddhists are often nontheists rather than atheists. Atheists believe that there is no god - or gods. Buddhists do not believe that the existence or lack of existence of a god or gods has any particular bearing upon how one 'walks the path.' If a god or gods exist, let him/her/them. Regardless of the god(s), one foot still alternately leads the foot that follows.

k said...

You can’t argue with Cornwell’s thesis in her latest piece that women have generally been extremely poorly treated by religion

I can't argue? What if I argue that men have been treated badly, too? I've been studying feminism for a while and I can say that I'm disgusted by your progressive narrow mindedness.

The feminist zeitgeist has infected your head, mr Brad, liking it or not, so why don't you write about this infection, why don't you question before farting your ideas?

If you have a little piece of humility, why don't you, as you yourself have said, just Sit Down and Shut up?

Anya said...

I haven't taken Brad's side much, but if an MRA is challenging him I feel obliged to come to his defense, because MRAs are the gender equivalent of nazi skinheads.

Buddhism still neither posits nor accepts a god or gods though, and so it is atheistic by definition. Sorry.

PKB said...

I liked much of the SG article... But...

Brad doesn't seem to quiet understand what atheism is. He apparently views it as a rival belief system that threatens buddhism. Nor is atheism necessarily a complete rejection of ritual or ceremony. One of the world's foremost atheists, Richard Dawkins (author of The God Delusion) says that he enjoys singing xmas carols and appreciates religious music, art and architecture. Dawkins also makes it very plain in his books that his criticism / skepticism is directed towards the belief in supernatural personal gods and not the use of the word god to mean 'the universe as a whole', the sum laws of the universe or pantheism in general. In other words, he has no problem with Brad's and Nishijimas conception of god. Sam Harris (Dawkins friend and author of 'The End of Faith') practices buddhist meditation, so he presumably isn't against religious 'practices' either.

While Brad is decidedly anti-atheist for some strange reason, atheists are mostly sympathetic to buddhism and see it as a non theistic philosophy that can be practiced without the supernatural myths that have adhered to it over the ages.

Then Brad agrees with Cromwell's assertion that:

"religion serves a need much, much deeper than anything the intellect can ever hope to reach."

This is simply a belief, theory or conclusion based upon personal opinion. I could make the same assertion about murder, rape, gluttony, men's need for multiple sex partners and so on. These are also 'beyond the reach of the intellect'. Remember Brad is talking about the rituals, ceremonies, chanting, bowing and external trappings here, not about zazen, self-inquiry or ethical living.

I have a deep human need to have sex with most women I meet and that need is definitely beyond my intellect. I could use such reasoning to justify most any behaviour I choose. I dispute that humans have a 'need' for such trappings. I see this rather as simply another desire for security. I view the 'need' to worship some deity the same way. Christians and other theists frequently make the same argument as Brad by suggesting that the pervasive belief in deities and worshipping gods and goddesses across many cultures and times reveals our deep human need to worship God and thus is proof of God's existence. That's poppycock too, imo. Brad is just trying to rationalize the religious, ritualistic aspects of Buddhism.

Belief in Gods serves a basic emotional need. Belief in reincarnation serves a basic emotional or psychological need. Belief in magic or the idea that one can influence reality by prayer is also a basic human need that goes beyond the intellect. Such beliefs may be emotionally comforting, offer security or ego gratification. None of this makes them real or true.

These go beyone the intellect because they're irrational, emotional and often subconscious, not because they are truly transcendent. Many of us also have a deep need to follow some leader / guru and invest them with powers and give up our control to them. Nationalism satisfies a human need. So does racism.

"Thus the deep need we all feel to belong to that (religious) kind of an institution is satisfied."

I don't feel such a need. Simply perceiving a deep desire for something does not mean it is necessary or good. I love to listen to zen chanting (though tibetan buddhist is much better imo) and like Dawkins, I enjoy xmas songs, xmas trees, easter egg hunts, etc. even though they have no religious significance to me. I think the chanting, rituals and ceremonies are pretty harmless and entertaining (same is true of Southpark) I just don't see them as necessary or as having anything at all to do with the direct perception of reality.

Anonymous said...

Rather than wasting time on religious rituals,
why not "ritualize" our basic understandings
of how things work in this world -- that is,
math, physics, chemistry, biology, et cetera.

Perhaps it would be a little less difficult to
solve our sustainable energy crisis if, since
we were kids, we could chant all of Euclid's
"Elements" along with the results of all the
reproducible experiments that inform science
since then.

"Minus b plus or minus the square root of
b squared minus four a c all over two a..."

Or, if not science, then at least something
practical: all that time in Church in the
company of nasty nuns and child-molesting
priests could have been spent learning how
to build a house or something useful. (I
hope there's a special place in Hell for
criminally negligent parents :(

Thanks to all those above who stand up for
atheism and its timid sibling agnosticism.

"Science is what we have learned about
how to keep from fooling ourselves".
--Richard P. Feynman

Joshua B. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joshua B. said...

Master Gudo said that Atheism is just as much a religion as Christianity. So is Buddhism. A religion need not have an idealized figure AKA God in order to be a religion. One more thing..
Hey Anon, the first one, what in the HELL are you talking about?

Anonymous said...

The first chapter of Gudo Nishijima's largely excellent book, " To Meet The Real Dragon" (1st ed, 1984), is entitled "What is Religion?". In it he says this:

"I think all religions have...two factors in common, that is, belief in a certain theory or philosophy and actual conduct in accord with that belief."

And so, he concludes, Buddhism is a religion.

That was then. He's changed his mind, and recently on his blog declared Buddhism not to be a religion, but a philosophy.

Rich said...

"Brad doesn't seem to quiet understand what atheism is. He apparently views it as a rival belief system that threatens buddhism"

The purpose of Buddhist thinking and philosophy is to direct one to correct action with sitting as the foundation. While I don't oppose atheistic thinking, I don't hold it or see it as helpful. At primary point all thinking is useless anyway.

Anonymous said...

The "purpose"...???
"Buddhist" thinking..???
To "direct"...???
"Correct" action...???
"Primary point"...???
"Atheistic" thinking...???

"All thinking is useless anyway"...???


Mr. Reee said...

Anon @ 11:55 AM-- So how is the weather in Tulsa today?

My nickel--perhaps it is easier to to say that religion is more of a behavior--an action--it is something one does. Philosophy describes what one thinks.

I suppose that if one is fully present with what one is doing, focused entirely on the moment, then that is an expression of zen, even if it is in a church.

Is that 'good' or 'bad?' 'Right' or 'wrong?' 'Theist' or 'non-theist?'

All labels. All empty.

Rich said...

Anon 7:41 AM

I like your use of questioning -)

Everglade said...

Religion often says that it knows who God is and what it wants from us.

Atheists are often equally certain they know for sure that there is no God.

Both are speculation.
Good article Brad.

Anonymous said...

So, people who claim with no evidence that they know there is a god and they know what that god wants....Are the same as people who simply don't see a point in believing in a being for which one has no evidence? Yeah, that makes sense.

gniz said...

I think Brad and many others don't actually understand the meaning of atheism. As the previous poster stated, atheists do not see any evidence whatsoever to support the notion of a deity, benevolent being, creator of the universe, etc.

As a result, most atheists don't have much use for people who want to talk about why we should be open to the notion of a god, gods, or creator.

Because most religious people are not very logical with their reasoning, atheists tend to lose patience and become arrogant and belittle religious people rather than calmly discuss their position.

BTW I am not an atheist but I think in general well thought out atheists are much more internally consistent than religious folk.

gniz said...

And when I say, atheists dont see evidence for a creator, I mean they say that it's kind of like discussing unicorns or big foot or the flying spaghetti monster. There's been no credible evidence for their existence and so a genuine examination of the topic is pretty silly.

Anonymous said...

Agnostics are fundamentally honest
and say "I don't know." Atheists
are basically agnostics who have
lost their patience with dishonest
religious fucktards and say "You
and your nonexistent God(s) can
kiss my ass!"

Although I sit, I would never call
myself a Zen Buddhist for fear of
being associated with superstitious
(ie, dishonest) assholes like Brad,
who believe in God, Santa Claus,
the Easter Bunny, or God Knows What Else.

BTW, the Flying Spaghetti Monster
is far more real than Brad's God and
currently lives in Germany.

Leigh Anne said...

Fabulous essay. Have you read Perle Besserman's book, A New Zen for Women? Some provocative stuff there, in which she addresses her own experiences, but also the history of women in Buddhism.

Best of luck with the tour. I just discovered your books and blog this year, and they're really kicking my butt. In a good way, of course. :)

mtto said...

gniz @ 1:11

The obvious difference between arguing for a creator and arguing for the existence of unicorns is that most people, even atheists, believe there is a creation and we are all in it. The creation being some sort of evidence.

I myself am not making that argument, though. I don't know what the hell I believe, yet somehow the world continues without me taking a stand one way or the other.

Swami said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...
"Rather than wasting time on religious rituals, why not "ritualize" our basic understandings of how things work in this world -- that is, math, physics, chemistry, biology, et cetera."

Oh, like the New World Order does with Geometry?

Or the Hindu Altar Geometry?

Jinzang said...

The rituals and practices that are performed in a Zen monastery didn't fall out of the sky and weren't prescribed by Buddhist scripture. They were consciously designed by the abbots of the monastery over a period of a thousand years. These men knew what they were doing, that is, those monasteries that developed effective rituals thrived and produced successors and those that did not died out. Think of it as cultural evolution in action.

There are a lot of subtle reasons why monastery life is designed the way it is. Reasons that aren't apparent to a new practitioner. If you don't agree, well, frankly, as a non or new practitioner your opinion isn't worth very much.

That's not to say there's nothing that could be changed or improved upon. When my teacher was asked when we would have an American form of Buddhism, he replied, ""When there are American Buddhas." Today, for better or worse, Zen centers are tossing out what they feel is irrelevant and adding new forms to replace them. In a couple hundred years we'll see who was right and who was not.

Jinzang said...

"All thinking is useless anyway"...???

When you're sitting on the meditation cushion time spent in intellectual pondering is time wasted.

Jinzang said...

atheists do not see any evidence whatsoever to support the notion of a deity, benevolent being, creator of the universe, etc.

The arguments for and against are found between the covers of philosophy texts. If you haven't found them, it's probably because you haven't opened one.

Rich said...

"Primary point"...???

Where the rubber hits the road, the real action of the present moment, dropping of body and mind, don't know...

Joshua B. said...

Hey Anon @1:11pm

Why are you posting all this hateful crap here? Instead of shitting all over other peoples beliefs why don't you take that energy into your practice? I don't believe in an idealized deity, but I don't take shots at those who do. Are you attempting to be ironic and cleaver? Not working out so well there bro. Perhaps you might try to stop hiding behind the false self you present on line and try being real. Good luck to you. Now run along.

Smoggyrob said...

Hi everyone:

Nick Bostrom's argument (see 3.1.1) is that it's far more likely than not that all of us are artificial intelligences living in a simulated reality. Love your avatar as yourself.


Mysterion said...

Blogger Joshua B. said...
"Hey Anon @1:11pm...
Now run along."

Buddhists make some attempt at self control. Most Buddhists make no attempt at the control of others. Many Buddhists "Do not believe."

It's only about individual responsibility and, for some, 'self' control (although there is no self to control).

Replace 'rely not' with 'do not believe...'

In Pali, Buddha's reply is recorded thus:

Ma anussavena: Do not believe something just because it has been passed along and retold for many generations. [Simpler: Do not be led by what you are told.]

Ma paramparaya: Do not believe something merely because it has become a traditional practice. [Do not be led by whatever has been handed down from past generations.]

Ma itikiraya: Do not believe something simply because it is well-known everywhere. [Do not be led by hearsay or common opinion.]

Ma Pitakasampadanena: Do not believe something just because it is cited in a text. [Do not be led by what the scriptures say]

Ma takkahetu: Do not believe something solely on the grounds of logical reasoning. [Do not be led by mere logic.]

Ma nayahetu: Do not believe something merely because it accords with your philosophy. [Do not be led by mere deduction or inference.]

Ma akaraparivitakkena: Do not believe something because it appeals to "common sense". [Do not be led by considering only outward appearance.]

Ma ditthinijjhanakkhantiya: Do not believe something just because you like the idea. [Do not be led by preconceived notions (and the theory reflected as an approval)]

Ma bhabbarupataya: Do not believe something because the speaker seems trustworthy. [Do not be led by what seems acceptable; do not be led by what some seeming believable one says.]

Ma samano no garu ti: Do not believe something thinking, "This is what our teacher says". [Do not be led by what your teacher tells you is so.]

Kalamas, when you yourselves directly know, "This is [these things are] unwholesome, this is blameworthy, this is condemned or censured by the wise, these things when accepted and practiced lead to poverty and harm and suffering," then you should give them up.

Kalamas, when you yourselves directly know, "These things are wholesome, blameless, praised by the wise; when adopted and carried out they lead to well-being, prosperity and happiness," then you should accept and practice them." source

Anonymous said...

hey thanks a bunch for your contribution Mysterion. wow, it gave me a lot to think about. really, thank you for sharing that last bit;)

Muthafuckas!!! said...

i AM number ONe!!!

!!!bUUUrP!!! said...

...drugs & alcohol...


... said...


Anonymous said...

Swami said...
Rather than wasting time on religious rituals, why not "ritualize" our basic understandings of how things work in this world

because ritualized physics continues the trance...

Anonymous said...

Smoggyrob said...
> all of us are artificial intelligences
> living in a simulated reality.

If that's true, then I need a reboot.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the atheists are so cranky
because the Christians-Jews-Muslims
are so bent on taking over government
and forcing their views on everyone.

For all I care, they can believe the
moon is made of green cheese, but if
they try to pass laws and point guns
at me, I ain't gonna be a happy camper.

James Tarzwell said...

Zen Buddhism is about the complete understanding of the indescibable and such beautiful asspects of everything

Inexpressable understanding of the Inexpressable

The truth is that you don't really understand it or anything IN THE CONVENTIONAL/COMMON PERSPECTIVE, but if you are able to do this "understand the inexpressable" u are passed conventional perspective of the world and of everything, that it is possible to do this "understand the inexpressable"

Zen buddhism is also about The undeniable truth of perfect imperfections and its also about ones own enlightenment "to stong of a word it sounds religious but Zen Buddhism is not a religion it is an Athiestic perspective on EVERYTHING" so i will say your own understanding " YOUR O W N UNDERSTANDING" of the world and the connections of everything to everything and everyone. The enlightenment,understanding that there are no words to correctly describe a flower but u can perfectly describe it without saying anything. As i said understanding the Inexpressable and u don't even know what it is that u understand that is Inexpressable BECUASE IT IS INEXPRESSABLE.And through this understanding u can make a connection to the flower that makes it possible to do so

One great thing is that Zen Buhhdism can easaliy coincide with math. I myself am a Athiestical Zen Buddhist Rationalist " Mathmitician". Not only does it coinceide with math but with the paradoxes of math becuase Zen doesn't call for full understanding of the balance, harmoney, and unity of contradictory and paradoxical concepts or variables in the conventional/common perspective but being past that convetionalism, zen buddhists can.

P.S. I'm only 15