Thursday, March 26, 2009


That's the first line of the Frank Sinatra song "New York, New York." Actually, I'm sure Frank didn't write it.

Tonight (March 26, 2009 Thurs) at 7 I'll be at East/West Books, 78 5th Avenue (at 14th St.) New York, NY 10011. You better be there, or else!

Tomorrow is Monmouth College in West Long Branch NJ at 6 pm, the next day is the Brooklyn Zen Center at 11 am, and Sunday is at the Traditional Chinese Cultural Center in Washington DC at 10 am. Attendance at all functions is mandatory. You will not be released from the cycle of birth and death unless you're there! All the info you need is linked on the very first link over there to your left<<<<<<<<

Last night at the Interdependence Project was cool and groovey. That's one of my favorite venues. Friendly folks and great questions. Sold a couple-few books too, which is nice.

New York City is fun. It's cloudy outside today! After living so long on the West Coast that seems almost exotic. Last night I was introduced as being from the West Coast, which I almost resented seeing as I grew up mostly in Ohio. But maybe it's the tan. I don't sun myself. But it's sunny there and I spend a lot of time outside so to people "back east" I look all toasty.

I did an interview for a local public access TV show called A Better World and the interviewer asked, "Why Buddhism?" Why don't I just get rid of the silly robes and the other trappings and just teach, y'know, awakening and stuff (actually he didn't talk that way, I just can't recall what he said exactly).

I've thought about this a lot. In many ways I'm very much inclined to do just that, to ditch the whole Buddhism thing and go off on my own. To disrobe (heh-heh) as they say. But I feel that wouldn't be entirely honest. I know that one woman whose name I can never recall, the former student of Kapleau... dammit. People have told me her name at least half a dozen times and it instantly leaves my memory banks. Anyway I know she famously did that, got rid of all the Buddhist stuff and just teaches. And what I've seen of her work is very good (you can tell I've read a lot of it, can't you?).

But for me, it wouldn't work. I am a Buddhist. I accepted Dharma Transmission from a Buddhist Master and if I were to deny that I accepted that I'd be lying. People sometimes think I'm bragging when I say this. But really I'm almost embarrassed that I did this. It is very much out of character. I didn't ask for it. In fact I took a year or so to finally accept it when it was offered. But I did it and now I have to face the consequences.

It's an honor, sure. But it's also a burden. For better or worse I am part of something, a movement maybe, or a sub culture... I don't know for sure. Not a religion. But something else. And it doesn't belong to me.

By the way, I just got some terrible news. They've announced the cast for the Three Stooges Movie that's to begin shooting this year or next. Sean Penn will play Larry Fine, Jim Carrey will be Curly Howard and Moe will be played by Benicio Del Toro. It will not be a biopic, but will be a comedy with those three essaying the roles of the Stooges. I'm not making this up.

Please God, no!!!!!!!!

Whatever. I gotta get out of this dog goned hotel room. See ya tonight!


gniz said...

I think the 3 Stooges Cast sounds pretty darn good actually

Anonymous said...

It's Toni Packer.

Anonymous said...

OK OK...let's calm down, M.

You and I may both know stuff, from different primary sources, about the DS goings-on. That's nice for us. We can go onto Buddhist blogs and talk like we know shit. What got me in a dither about your post was that you presumed to know the motives of people you don't know. I know you don't know them. Coz they don't know you.

To reduce the whole, real, complex, lengthy business of Gudo's relationship with his dharma-heirs to greed, to lust for the title and privilege "Leader of DSI, Successor to Gudo Nishijima Roshi" is one great, simplistic insult to those who spent decades working with and for the man. Such problems as exist have their origin WAY before Gudo suddenly announced DSI and Brad as its leader. Once done, there may've been an element of jealousy - we're children, but to say that's what it's all about is...silly. In my very little-minded anonymous opinion.

Anonymous said...


"I suspect YOU were not there, then or now."

How DARE you cast doubt on my enlightenment!, you!!

Derrick said...

man i just read that three stooges news as well.not a huge fan of them, but the choices could be interesting.

Even though you said you could not do it, i like your thoughts on going off into your own. I have thought about doing something similar. I am by no means a buddhist teacher, or priest, or anything close to it. But i have thoughts on whether zen is really what i am looking for or if its just the ideas themselves that attract me.

Anonymous said...

Brad said...
"For better or worse I am part of something, a movement maybe, or a sub culture... I don't know for sure."

Holy crap! All this time I thought
that you were a stand-up comic
whose "schtick" was "zen" (like
"respect" was for Rodney Dangerfield).
Now I'm beginning to think that
you actually believe this shit.

Anonymous said...

nope, not a stand-up comic and
"not your fucking therapist"

Anonymous said...

I think there's a difference between disowning "Buddhism" and chosing not to wear robes, ditching the statues and stuff.

Those of us who came to this teaching through hearing/reading about Buddhism, like Brad, couldn't ignore the 'Buddhist' basis of our practice and (perhaps) belief if we wanted to. It's done. And labelling it might be useful; providing a signpost for others.

Far as the robes go, of course no one has to wear them. But by doing it the way it's been done by our ancestors for generations, there's maybe less chance the ideas and practice will dissipate and disappear. Not sure.

Me - I don't like the rakusu much. Too specifically Japanese and like a membership certificate you wear (which is, of course, what it is). I'm suspicious of organisational memebership. And I don't like that it hangs down at the front, but there's nothing at the back! I DO like the Kesa/Kashaya, though. Sewing one, as recommended by Kodo, is, I'm sure, a nice thing to do. Wearing it looks cosy, too. I might have a go one day.

Mr. Reee said...

I'm pretty sure I'll never become a 'zen' anything. I do like the art, philosophy, and history--but I don't identify with it. Of course when you get right down to it, you don't have to (and probably shouldn't) identify with anything anyway in order to act 'congruently' with reality. It simply helps point the way to a potentially useful perspective and one that helps free one from confusion.

BUT--and a big but it is--if I ever got it in my head to set myself up as some kind of expert on Zen (capital Z Zen) then I most certainly would join a school and 'practice.'

There's a distinction between zen as an everyday practice that benefits all, and *Zen* as an institution with a long history and belief system.

Maybe there should be another word for folks who just want the practice and understanding, without all the emphasis on the institutional aspects? I'm thinking that's how an 'Americanized' version of zen will prosper and become something more than a boutique philosophy.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Reee said:

"Maybe there should be another word for folks who just want the practice and understanding, without all the emphasis on the institutional aspects? I'm thinking that's how an 'Americanized' version of zen will prosper and become something more than a boutique philosophy."

And what would you call it? Coz I think sooner or later it's inevitable that a particular practice and understanding would get a name. If it had minimal institutional aspects, very little reliance on, or obligation to perform rituals or wear outfits, it might be called Dogen Sangha.

See what I did there?

Anonymous said...

And just a very small bone to pick, Mr Reee -

What's all this "Americanized"...?
I doubt that the British, or French, German, Czech.... version will turn out much different to yours. I think maybe you meant "modern, westernised...".

Do correct me if I'm wrong.

Mr. Reee said...

Westernized is better. Certainly not something that reflects a particular nationality or creed.

"Dogen Sangha" sounds cool. Very zen sounding. However, that's an institution, and individuals always try to control institutions.

What I was thinking of was more along the lines of "life" or "gravity" or "surfing" or? Something that doesn't belong to anyone yet reflects real action in the real world.

Maybe there is no such word? Maybe we don't need a word?

And yes, I did see what you did there. :)

Anonymous said...

Mr. Reee said...
Maybe there should be another word for folks who just want the practice and understanding, without all the emphasis on the institutional aspects?"

Um, how about calling it "sitting"?

Anonymous said...

Yes indeed, Mr Reee,

There may be no need for names at all for the things we do to balance ourselves, or to enjoy a happy, healthy life. There again, some folks find the shared experience of group membership valuable, or reassuring, confirmatory (wow!) even.

So I guess it'll come down to horses for courses. Plus ca change.

Mr. Reee said...

Anonymous said @ 11:22 AM, yes!

Sitting. That's all.

Anonymous said...

re: Toni Packer. Yes, I can tell you haven't read much of her work. Toni received permission to teach from Philip Kapleau and was asked to take on full teaching duties at the Rochester Zen Center while Kapleau roshi went to teach elsewhere. After much reflection she decided she could not do so unless she could do it her own way...without chanting, rituals, beliefs (such as literal rebirth, literal 6 realms, literal bodhisattvas...all of which the RZC fully embraced.) She and many of her students left RZC (on very amicable terms, the RZC provided her with a temporary place to meet and sit) and later formed the Genesee Valley Zen Center.

When some people began to complain that what she was teaching was 'not real zen', (sound familiar?) she changed the name to Springwater Center for Meditative Inquiry and stopped calling her work 'zen', though there is still sitting, meetings with teachers, retreats and teisho.

Toni suffers from severe arthritis and has been unable to sit any form of lotus for decades (if ever). She places no importance upon posture other than an erect back. I highly recommend her as a teacher and author(there are several books of her talks). I was her student (when she had formal students) for over a decade.

ellen9 said...

"Sean Penn will play Larry Fine, Jim Carrey will be Curly Howard and Moe will be played by Benicio Del Toro."

Soitenly NOT! My husband and I wrote a biography of the Three Stooges, many years ago, published by Chelsea House. This gives me authority, if not a steady stream of income. And I MOST strongly object to this cast. Strongly. I shudder. Jim Carrey? wtf.

Thanks for the kind words about the Interdependence Project. Always happy to host you in NYC, and sorry about that West Coast/Ohio thing.

(gotta remember: like the guy who joined Mike Watt after the Minutemen: fROMOHIO.)

The podcast of the IDP lecture will be up soon, too.

Anonymous said...

In case you tire of "sitting",
there is always "balldropping."

Mr. Reee said...

Bruce Willis does an excellent Curly, IMHO. Why didn't they call him?

But yeah--who would be a good pick to play The 3 Stooges?

My vote:

Donald Trump for Moe
Bobby Jindal for Larry
Richard Simmons for Curly (though he's probably a better 'Curly Joe')

The hapless blond could be Ann Coulter.

Anonymous said...

Re: Toni Packer -

I did a quick scout around after PKB's post, and she sounds v interesting. But maybe the fact that after 4 decades of fluctuating interest in Buddhism/meditation I'd not heard of Toni Packer, and Brad couldn't recall her name, is a clue to the possible disadvantage of completely independant practice, away from a 'traditional sangha.'

That said, The West will likely develop a form of 'Buddhism' that combines 'sitting', with buddhist philosophy, and uses very little, if any, ritual or robes. Dogen Sangha is pretty close to that already. I think its unlikely to become the dominant form - most will still come to Buddhism expecting, and wanting a 'religion', with all the trappings.

Anonymous said...

"balldropping" is boring...

dream big...


Luscious Homesteading Co. said...

That can't be for real about the Three Stooges...someone's gotta to be pulling your leg!

Brittny said...

You should come to Boulder, CO! Thank you for your refreshing perspective on Buddhism. I am a graduate student at Naropa University and the general take on Buddhism there can be extremely heavy and way too conceptual (even though they all say that it is supposedly beyond concept). Reading Hardcore Zen was a breath of fresh air. In fact, I give a class presentation on your book in two weeks. Come Zen Buddhism class would LOVE it! Oh, and GO OHIO...I'm from Columbus.

Anonymous said...


Another reason not to drop "zen" or "buddhism" is that your books would then end up in the New Age section (or worse, "Gurus") and a lot of smart people would no longer find them.

BTW, I saw you at the Green Apple event. Thanks for doing these.

Jinzang said...

Brad gets interviewed by Violet Blue in her Open Source Sex column. (I'm not sure what "open source sex" is.) Anyway, most of the interview is on Brad's take on the Buddhist attitude on sexual morality. Violet calls Brad "an internationally respected Zen Master." I hadn't noticed the respect, maybe he gets some offline.

Jinzang said...

The standard explanation of what it means to be a Buddhist is that you take refuge in the Buddha. And what that means is that you acknowledge your problems are due to your own confusion and that Buddha was able to see through his own and as a result was able to show others how to see through theirs. And what Buddhism is is not primarily funny robes and chants, but 2500 years of one person showing another how to overcome confusion. Makes sense to me, which is why I call myself a Buddhist.

Anonymous said...

That's clear as far as it goes, Jinz, but does that method of overcoming confusion require paricular behaviours, coz it sounds like you're saying that you're a Buddhist if you merely agree with the theories of Gautama B? I don't think you mean that, do you?

Chance said...

Anon said...
There again, some folks find the shared experience of group membership valuable, or reassuring, confirmatory (wow!) even.

Isn't this just feeding the illusion? Following instead of being?

Mysterion said...

I know Brad and cats do not always get along...

Anonymous said...

Chance -

Yeah, I said that.

No, chance - imo, such group activity is fundamentaly human. It does, of course, give rise to it's own particular problems. But everything does.

I'm not sure what "illusion" you're referring to. And we can't help "being"; it's what we do.

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

Illusion in the sense of creating what we wish to see and not what is truly there.
I do realize that being is what we do, but many times that being is colored by the influences of our egos getting in the way. A room full of egos is a lot to wade through.

Anonymous said...

Chance -

Our egos are part of our being, of course. I really don't understand this getting rid of, or overcoming the ego stuff. I think it's impossible. But I hear you. If you don't like practicing with others, that's fine. I only get together with about 12 other folks once a month. Half the time we're sitting, the rest of the time we're listening to a dharma talk and asking/discussing. It gives me a different perspective. If annything it draws my attention to my "ego"; I question how I behave in social situations. And that's very useful. And the social thing I enjoy. I certainly wouldn't want to do it all the time.

And what are we doing now if not "wading through the shared experience of group membership"?

Chance said...

Group interaction can give an opportunity for mental exercise that you may not gain on your own, I think that is what draws us here. What I was not expressing very well, was the difficulty of having a balance of ego within a group. People tend to gravitate to an ideal and an individual who creates that ideal for them. Many times being led instead of being equal. Ultimately, I believe, we are all part of one and the same.

Anonymous said...

Good morning, Chance (11am in the U of K),

Certainly there's a "leader", an ego with a strong gravitational pull in our group, who is our teacher/zen master. But I'm not worried by that, cos he's a decent, honest bloke who devotes much of his time to destroying our ideals. He knows wherof he speaks, I feel, and I trust him. He's a good thing.

Some groups, notoriously, have leaders who do indeed 'lead', and demand that they are followed, however subtly. I agree with you that that's not a good thing. I, like you, am not interested in being a part of such groups. I think we can tell the difference. Let them who need to blindly follow seek them out. I fear they always will, and there's not a lot we can do about it.

Chance said...

and a Good Evening to you-

Whatever makes it work for you, as long as it isn't harming anyone, is a good deal. Bantering keeps a brain from getting sluggish and no one idea is any better than another, two opposing thoughts after smashing into one another create something new to ponder. Ultimately though it all comes back to ourselves I believe to find that clear view, otherwise it's like looking through someone else's glasses, what you see is always a bit off.

Anonymous said...

My only worry for the stooges movie is Sean Penn.

Sean Penn?

Anonymous said...