Friday, April 17, 2009


Here's a Wikipedia entry for those who don't get the reference in the title even after looking at the picture.

Tonight April 17, 2009 (Fri) I'll be at Austin Zen Center 3014 Washington Sq., Austin, Texas 78705. Come at 6 pm for Zazen or at 7 pm for the talk. You can skip the zazen if you want. I'd be more likely to skip the talk! But that's just me. Either way is fine with the folks at the Zen Center.

Tomorrow, April 18, 2009 (Sat), is really busy. I'll be at San Antonio Zen Center, 1442 W Woodlawn Ave. San Antonio, TX 78201. They have 8:45am Zazen and at 10am I'll give a talk. At 11am I'll do a book signing. Come to all or any.

Then the very same day (4/18/09) at 3 pm I'll be at Book People bookstore 603 N. Lamar, Austin, Texas 78703.

The next day, April 19, 2009 (Sun), I'll be at Houston Zen Center 1605 Heights Blvd., Houston, TX 77008. 8:20 am is zazen. 9:45 am I'll do a Dhrama Talk followed by book signing supported by Brazos Bookstore. Both are open to public, and it's OK to attend just the talk if you're lame (or just can't get out of bed that early).

After that I travel to Dallas in time to be at Legacy Books 7300 Dallas Parkway, Plano, Texas 75024 at 7:30 pm on April 21, 2009 (Tues). What do you call a book signing in Plano? Plano book signing!

It's raining like cats and dogs here in Austin! And, just to emphasize things further, the guy I'm staying with, Lauren Crane, has a cat and a dog that constantly stage wrestling matches with each other in the living room. The TV weather people have been advising people to stay home and stay away from windows lest they get klonked on the noggin by hailstones the size of watermelons. So here I am blogging away. Ate a lovely dinner at a vegetarian place called Mother's last night.

I've been reading a neat book called Living And Dying In Zazen: Five Zen Masters Of Modern Japan. Josho at the Chapel Hill Zen Center kindly gave it to me. Thanks! It's got some great stuff about Kodo Sawaki and a bunch of other Zen teachers.

The back cover blurb says, "The deification of Zen teachers by their followers has been a problematic issue in American Zen; this book provides a healthy antidote, presenting four men and one woman who have lived and died in Zen within the rich context of their personal lives and their culture, so that we can fully understand what makes a Zen master in Japan." That's sorta what my new book is about too. Only Arthur Braverman came up with the idea four years ago.

This kind of ties in with something I've been wanting to say about monastic Zen practice. Number one, I don't hate monastic Zen practice! I've been noticing a lot of people think I do. I don't. OK?

But I do think there's been a tendency for people, both here and even more so in Japan, to view monastic Zen as the only authentic Zen practice. And that's just not so.

Buddha himself was not a monastic until after he established his order of monks. And, they say, he established the order of monks somewhat reluctantly because he believed, at first, that the understanding he'd come to couldn't be transmitted to others. They had to find it for themselves. Lots of the greatest Zen teachers were not monastics.

Monastic Zen developed as a way for people who were interested in Zen as a personal matter to practice in groups. All of the rules of monastic Zen are almost purely arbitrary. You turn on your cushion clockwise so you don't bump the person next to you. If it had been established that you turn counter-clockwise that would work just as well. You fold your oryoki napkins in that funky way so that everyone is doing the same thing and gets done at the same time and it looks neat and tidy when they're done (tidiness is very important in communal living). You could just as well fold them up a different way. And so on and on and on for about a zillion more rules.

It's important to note that none of the rules are magic or holy at all. But it's also important when you're in a monastery to follow their traditions and not do things your own way. Because doing it your own way screws it up for everyone else. It's an important reason but that is the only reason it's important.

Monastic practice becomes more complex the more people you have doing it. A single person alone can just as easily set up her own version. This is perfectly legit since all the monastic traditions started from the personal habits of specific teachers.

There is no fundamental reason monastic practice is any more "authentic" than practice by yourself or with a small informal group. Smaller, less structured groups might have a tendency to get a little sloppy. I once sat with an informal group in Japan who had a big beer drinking party after their sittings. I didn't go back. But then again, large monastic institutions have a tendency to focus on keeping their arbitrary rules at the expense of honest and sincere practice. Either way is bad for practice.

OK? Enough for today!


Anonymous said...


A-P said...

For me it was also quite a surprise to find out that many people who practise zazen pretty seriously, could as well get drunk after some zen retreat etc. It just felt quitte strange - little bit like "Well, first we struggle with out minds and try to concentrate in the practise and pacify the mind and develop joriki and whatever - and then when it's over, we just throw it all away at the first evening." That's just stupid. And it proves that zazen doen't remove stupidness from the people, not very easily anyway..

Anonymous said...

The napkins bit reveals a window - for me - on the story of following your own dragon. I had always taken it to be an admonishment against making up your own stuff and calling it practice - which it is, but seeing it in the context of communal living adds a different layer - like "wash your bowl".

Margaret Lolley said...

Hello! My name is Margaret Lolley, and I am a journalism student at the University of Texas at Austin. I was hoping to steal a little bit of your time, maybe tomorrow after your book signing?

Our class was assigned to do a profile, and I would be honored if you would agree to be my subject. I would need to ask you a few questions and could meet you anywhere convenient to you (inside Austin). I would also be willing to do the interview over the phone, if you prefer!

But please let me know; if I do not hear back from you I will see you tonight at the Austin Zen Center and ask you again there!

Margaret Lolley

P.S. If you would like to contact me, my e-mail is and phone is (214) 477 - 8414.
I look forward to hearing from you!

Mumon said...

Braverman...he did my translation of Suzuki Shosan.


Like him.

Mumon said...

Oooh I got another comment:

Not to go Suzuki (Shunryu) on you, but he was right: in monastic practices you have to maintain the form so that everyone doesn't screw up, but you better realize that form is emptiness, because inevitably stuff happens that forces you to improvise within the form.

Good life koan: you're doing the serving thing and inadvertently you spoon into your bowl a piece of plastic that was inadvertently included and cooked into the meal.

What do you do?

It happened to me.

Clockwise said...

Obviously Brad has never read Bendoho, from page 63 here where Dogen tells us to turn right in getting off the Tan

Standing out has no benefit; being different from others is not our conduct. This is the buddhas' and ancestors' skin, flesh, bones, and marrow, and also one's own body and mind dropped off.,M1

nerodha said...

hey broda!!

i'm one of the adoring fans that's coming to see you tomorrow in san antonio.. and you better be feelin real generous with your super-enlightened-shakti-power cuz i'm lookin to get my kundalini hpyer-energized in time for the next lunar eclipse when i'm gonna fuse with the mega universal gigacurrents (i'm running out of cool adjectives here) and... hahaha... well, you get the picture.

but on a more serious note, i am hoping that something will come from meeting you. see, once upon a time, not too long ago, i was on the hot and narrow pursuit of something that i had only recently learned to verbalize as "englightenment." the trip took plenty of unexpected twists and turns, but suddenly something totally unexpected and indescribable happened. i was flabberghasted... i couldn't believe it actually happened, though in a way i'd always known it would.

anyway, turns out it aint anything even close to what i'd expected it to be. much less of a production than i'd expected... no superhero status... and yet indescribably more than i ever could have imagined... but chilled-out style - "no thunder, no earthquakes," as you write.

so why am i writing this? because i want to do what you do; want to use up this energy towards what i feel really matters. got about, say 50, 55 years to go (barring any unforeseen accidents or major catastrophes) and i want to devote what's left to what i am irresistibly compelled to do: be of what assistance i can to others in terms of awakening to non-egoic awareness. i'm just taking baby steps of course, and the time may not be right. so far i blabber about it whenever anyone i know seems interested, and i've also got a blog here on blogspot ( that i share with "spiritually-minded" peeps.

but i figure maybe you can help or give some advice. would be much appreciated.

big hug,


Sarah13 said...

I just came from Book People and saw the sign about your reading/signing tomorrow. I'll def be there, but sadly didn't know about the Zen Center thing today until it was too late (as I just read your blog post about 2 minutes ago).
Thanks for coming to Austin!
And yeah, Mother's rules:-)

One more thing... while I was in Kyoto this last year I went to zazen instruction at the Seitaian Zen Hermitage which is apparently near the site where Braverman had studied. The people there were incredibly welcoming and helpful.

Mysterion said...

The nice thing about monastic Zen is that 'street people' don't bother you (but 'street people' don't bother me, anyway).

Another nice thing about monasticism is no internet, no cell-phones, no door-to-door salesmen, and no JW! And no ads from Flag!

Jinzang said...

Buddha himself was not a monastic until after he established his order of monks. And, they say, he established the order of monks somewhat reluctantly because he believed, at first, that the understanding he'd come to couldn't be transmitted to others.This is a garbled account of Buddha's life. After achieving enlightenment while sitting under the Bodhi tree, Buddha remained there for 49 day, believing what he had understood could not be taught. Then the devas Brahma and Indra appeared to him and asked him to teach for the welfare of the many. He first thought of preaching to his two former teachers, but realized that they had passed away. So he set out to Deer Park to teach the five ascetics who had practiced with him for six years. When he preached a sermon on the four noble truths, they all attained enlightenment. He then called them to follow him, saying "Come, bhikshu." This was the founding of the monastic order and there was no hesitation about it.

For many years all monks were ordained by the Buddha simply by saying "Come bhikshu." Gradually he developed the Vinaya, the monastic code, as the need for each rule arose and gave monks the authority to collectively ordain other monks. In this way the monastic order became self perpetuating.

There was some hesitation for allowing the bhikshuni order to form. Buddha had to be asked three times by Ananda and Buddha placed several additional rules upon the nuns.

All this was a long time before Pai Chang and Dogen.

Jinzang said...

The Houston Chronicle does a short telephone interview with the "blunt monk with the dry wit."

Anonymous said...

Jinzang -
I reckon your correction of Brad's conflated summary of Buddha/monastics would be more welcome if you'd prefaced it with "allegedly". The traditional history all sounds quite likely, but no need to recite it as if the word of god.

Mr. Reee said...

Quote: "Obviously Brad has never read Bendoho, from page 63 here where Dogen tells us to turn right in getting off the Tan"Obviously, neither did Buddha.

Words are empty.

Gustav said...

Hello everyone,

I just thought that maybe some of you would be interested in visiting a blog that I just started writing on related topics:

Mysterion said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...
(to Jinzang) ...prefaced it with "allegedly". need to recite it as if the word of god.

There is only one 'word of god.' The rest are the words of mere mortals. And I don't mean THIS one.

I mean this, and only this, one.

Purana said, "All the rites ordained in the Vedas, the sacrifices to fire, and all sacred purifications, shall pass away, but the word AUM shall never pass away, for it is the symbol of the Lord of all things."

The word has been O'om (sans A), Aom, or AUM. The third form is evidently correct. In the first case, the second letter O'o = U in the Sanskrit alphabet. A is the alpha. 'oM is the omega.

The rest is downstream bathwater.

Anonymous said...

Brad quoted スモッグ怪獣
at Austin Zen Center:

"I vow to save all beings FROM MYSELF."

No, Really? said...

AUM (never sure why that transliteration is 'evidently correct') -

The sound as represented in devanagari script (see Mysterion's link) comprises the letter U - long U, as in "tool" (marked 1-3 in the link),sans the horizontal line usually attached, surmounted by the "yama" sign (4 in the link): indicating a particular nasalisation, usually associated with a consanant 'stop', or 'plosive', which, when followed by a nasal(as in at-ma, or svap-na) is released 'at the root of the nose' (texts say). The yama is the sound made at the point of release of the consonant, just before the '-na or '-ma.

So, try saying "kung", as in kung-fu, and stay on the nasalised "-nggg" sound. Now preceed it with the vowel U, as in "root". Don't close your mouth (the 'M'od aum is misleading).

You end up making the sound used in overtone singing, as popularized in Karlheinz Stockhausen's hit "Stimmung" (check it out). The overtone series, as every schoolboy knows, is The Music of the Spheres.

My theory. No hindoo or pandit was consulted. Cool. huh?


Anonymous said...

Brad quoted Steve Carellat BookPeople:

"That's what she said."

Mysterion said...

No, Really? said...

"AUM (never sure why that transliteration is 'evidently correct') -

The overtone series, as every schoolboy knows, is The Music of the Spheres.

My theory. No hindoo or pandit was consulted. Cool. huh?"

Try: The THIS in this.

No, Really? said...

Hey Chas,

That's HOT!

No, Really? said...

I wrote:
"So, try saying "kung", as in kung-fu, and stay on the nasalised "-nggg" sound. [Now preceed it with the vowel U, as in "root".] Don't close your mouth (the 'M' of aum is misleading)..."

My mistake - you don't need to "preceed it with the vowel U..." Just do the "Kuuung" bit, without the "K". In fact, preceeding THAT sound with a with an "A", or "AU" works very well. Might explain why AUM is the generally accepted transliteration.

Jinzang said...

i figure maybe you can help or give some advice. would be much appreciatedNo disrespect to Brad, but you need to find a teacher and talk to them about your meditation experiences. Brad can't be your teacher unless he moves to Texas. You need someone knows you and whose opinion you trust. Sooner or later everyone is going to have experiences in meditation that are too big for them to handle by themselves. Part of a teacher's job is to help with this stuff, to tell you what to do next. Without this kind of help your practice can go bad pretty quickly and you can wind up in worse shape than if you never practiced. So please take the time to find a center with a teacher who can guide you. I can't emphasize this enough.

Jinzang said...

Traditional Sanskrit grammar says that the vowel u is transformed to o through strengthening (guna), which means adding a short "a." Om is sometimes written as aum because of some fanciful interpretations of its meaning.

nerodha said...

to jinzang:

it's true what you say, and i do have a teacher. we're not in constant contact, but nevertheless i feel she's guided me through the most critical twists and turns and is always available to me for support.

i was asking another kind of advice from brad, since he's publishing books about spirituality and that's something i'd also like to do at some point.

thanks for the advice ;)

Mysterion said...

spirituality is something Brad is approaching... e.g. is consciousness 'our own' individual experience or is consciousness a portion of a larger (~god) experience of which we are but a small part.

According to some Hindu traditions, we are now, and will always be, of one substance. Consciousness is a state in which (as in the ocean) bubbles well up to separate one part of the water from other parts (the separated part being the I as in individuals). When those 'life bubbles' burst, we are all again of one substance (an ocean of ~ water).

This theory works nicely with Planck's Loops in which all of the space-time fabric is a kind of 3D chain mail of interlocking loops. Were the chains to be stretched out in all directions, there would be no perceivable 'mass.' Space-time would exist as large and cold. Were the chain to be compressed into one loop (1 x 10^-33 cm) then 'singularity' would be experienced. Space-time would exist as small and hot.

Like a Slinky, this space-time expands, then shrinks, then expands, then shrinks, forever (without beginning or end).

Thus, concepts like "you and I,' 'us and them,' and 'that and this,' are utterly without any meaning whatsoever.

No, Really? said...

Yep, jinzang- "u" to "o" through "guna"; "o" to "au" through vrddhi, it's true; called the"samprasana" process, used in the declension of nominals and conjugation of verbs. I don't see how that has much relevance here; the "aum" sign is clearly a devanagari "U" (long U) - without the horizontal bar. But you may have a point. I'm just showing off. I don't really know shit. Not Really.

Zipes said...

No, really? did you attend the seminar?

a tausend thanks.

Jinzang said...

You don't need to invoke quantum mechanics to explain non-self. It's very simple. Take something that belongs you. Is there some scientific test of that object's physical properties that would show that its yours? No, because ownership is only a legal concept. That applies to everything, including your physical body. It's not yours in any real sense and if it's not yours how could it be you? So there is no you, your self is nothing but a concept.

Jinzang said...

i was asking another kind of advice from brad,Sorry I jumped to conclusions, I do that often. Here's wishing you and the devoted dharma students of the post-secession Republic of Texas the best of luck in making it a Buddhist Republic.

No, Really? said...


Oh Yeah. "Lexical Constructions: Paradigms and Periphrastic Expression." I remember.

It was ok. BUT...

“… an inflected word’s association with its
morphosyntactic feature specifications is logically
prior to the spelling out of its inflectional markings,
since it is this very association that determines the
sequence of operations by which those markings are
introduced; the realizational approach thus entails a
rejection of the assumption that a word’s
morphosyntactic feature content is built cumulatively
from that of its inflectional `morpheme’ by a
percolation mechanism.” (Stump 1993)

See, I don't reckon that's true. Not always. Not Really. Waddayoofink?

Me, myself and I said...

"...your physical body. It's not yours in any real sense..."

Oooh...I'm no philosopher, but.. I dunno about that, Jinz. I think the "not yours" thing is a fallacious red herring. Whatever my sense of self is, it's surely dependant on my body. The body determines the "self's" location in time and space. The sense of "self" may be nothing other than an expression of the body; of its processes.

I think there are better ways to "explain non-self": Most ppl get that there is (Buddhism says) no seperate, self-existent, essence, spirit, or soul that lives in, and might at death, leave the body. Our sense of "a self" is, in that sense, an illusion. That'll do, won't it?

mtto said...

If my body is mine, how come it gets old and fat and headaches even though I don't want it to do any of those things. If it is mine it should do what I tell it to do. But it doesn't.

If my body is mine, how come when my body dies I don't get to keep it?

Mysterion said...

Blogger Jinzang said...

"You don't need to invoke quantum mechanics..."

No... except it's odd that while things eastern (Jain/Buddha/Hindu) exist in an odd kind of harmony with Quantum Physics (including quantum thermodynamics - e.g. the universe), things western (Judahism/Xtism/Muhhanadism) miss the reality boat entirely.

James A said...


After I saw your title I couldn't resist ... hey, I've set up an archive on yahoo about Barry Graham Roshi ... all the stuff I discovered or received regarding him disproving most any claim he ever made ...

Me, meself and I said...

mtto thats very good what you writ there I supose thats wat Jinz was sayin innit I fink you said it more better did it come from somefing Buhhda said or did you mek it up yoiuself? Nice one.

mtto said...

Maybe Buddha said that. I heard it or read it somewhere, I didn't come up with it myself. I think I've heard that same idea from more than one Buddhist teacher.

Anonymous said...

Anonymi said
"Brad quoted..."


How about modifying the
Bodhisattva Vow to say:

"I vow to save all beings FROM MY BAD JOKES."

Or maybe specifically an 11th Precept saying:

"I undertake the precept to refrain from
That's What She Said jokes."

Jinzang said...

Whatever my sense of self is, it's surely dependant on my body. The body determines the "self's" location in time and space. The sense of "self" may be nothing other than an expression of the body; of its processes.
A set of perceptions has a perspective (i.e, a "location in space and time"), but what makes you assume those perceptions are yours? What makes you assume those perceptions are anybody's?

Me. myself and I said...

Jinzang - I have no answers. I don't believe there are answers to the questions you ask. I understand that you're pointing to the impossibility of locating "I" (the koan "who/what am I?"). But the fact is, I (?) will always feel/perceive that "I am", and that "my" body is just that. Because it works. That's how it is. That's what enables me to interact with the world. Pondering, or even believing that you (?) have experienced, perhaps in meditation, anatta, clearly begs the question who/what is experiencing, or pondering? Very nice. Pretty cosmic. Fascinating and amazing, but pretty useless, I feel.
But I may have misunderstood the point you're trying to make. What is it?

Jinzang said...

But the fact is, I (?) will always feel/perceive that "I am", and that "my" body is just that.

Don't be so sure.

But I may have misunderstood the point you're trying to make. What is it?

The point is that selflessness, or "dropping body and mind," as Dogen calls it, are not just airy ideas but experiences. How can there be experiences without an experiencer? Practice and find out. You don't have to believe this, but don't close your mind to it either.

Rich said...

I think that selflessness, or dropping body and mind, is very overrated here. Just do it and shut up.

Kim said...

Thanks for sitting with us in San Antonio.
As I understand your dharma talk, I will just brush my teeth twice a day and sit after brushing.


Me, myself and I said...

Jinzang -
Please try to avoid condescension ;-) What makes you think I haven't practiced and "found out"? My point: Any and all Kensho/satori experiences (of no experiencer)are super, and I, yes "I" might see the true nature of stuff, but still gotsta carry the firewood and chop the water.
Don't, I respectfully suggest, be caught by thoughts or perceptions YOU believe are better than others.

Joshua B. said...

One of my favorite all time comp. LPs EVER!!!

Harry said...

"The point is that selflessness, or "dropping body and mind," as Dogen calls it, are not just airy ideas but experiences..."

Hi, 'dropping body and mind' as Dogen had it is not really a matter of any notion of self or not-self, nor is it only confined to an experience of body and/or mind... it really is dropping body and mind in that it is a real action... an action is dynamic and flowing, like body/mind.

If anything this does not negate anything but affirms the self. As Sawaki Roshi put it: "The self making the self into the self".

This is quite characteristic of Dogen's Zen in that he emphasized our real affirmative actions and avoided inherently baseless and redundant 'emptiness' philosophies/ viewpoints.



Mike Rock said...

ARRRGH! I skip reading the blog for just a week or two and there Brad goes and shows up mere blocks from my house???!!! and I miss it?? WTF!!

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