Sunday, May 03, 2009


I'm running out of rock songs about Detroit for the title of posts here. My gigs in Detroit are done. So here's your update.

Friday May 1st
ZERO DEFEX with Amino Acids and U.D.I. at the Comet Club

The last time Zero Defex played was on May 4th 2008 in Kent, Ohio. Jeffro Smull, our guitarist, arranged this gig through his friend, Scott, drummer for the legendary and awesome Amino Acids. I met Scott a couple years ago at Still Point Zen Abbey in Detroit where he regularly attends zazen stuff.

It was a primo gig. But we knew going into it that there was no possible way we could rehearse with the full band before the show. The rest of the group practiced together in Akron and we hoped for the best. I wasn't even able to locate a guitar to run through the songs on except once in North Carolina and again in Montreal. But for all that it came together pretty well. We've played tighter shows before, for sure. But we still rocked the house. Singer Jimi Imij flailed like a madman, Mickey X-Nelson ripped up his drum kit, Jeffro strangled the strings of his SG guitar and I held my own amidst the chaos.

We got a terrific response from the natives. Far better than our last gig in Detroit circa 1983. Though I remember the Detroit crowd being far kinder than the one in Toledo, which was pure hell. In fact maybe it was The Necros in Toledo who bumped us off way late on the bill and not NA in Detroit. I don't know anymore. Anyway, this was a major fun gig.

Jeffro and Jimi high tailed it back to Akron that very night. Mickey stayed at a hotel and went home the next morning. I got back to Still Point Zen Abbey around 2:30 AM. Then I had to get up at the butt crack of dawn to lead a half day retreat the following day. Actually they generously let me sleep until the luxuriously late hour of 8 AM.

Zen Retreat at Still Point and Book Signing
May 2, 2009

We sat three and a half periods of zazen after which I did a Dharma Talk. This was actually one of my better talks, I thought. As usual, when I give a good talk nobody records it. My best talks are kind of like the Loch Ness Monster -- a few dubious "eye-witnesses" and no hard evidence! Maybe it was the fact I was still a little punchy from the night before, but I felt like I said things a little straighter than usual.

At 6 PM the same night we did a less formal book signing and talk. That was taped. It was OK. The audience was far smaller, which surprised me.

Sunday Service at Still Point
May 3, 2009

The following day I presided over Still Point's regular Sunday service. Again it wasn't taped and again I did a better talk. Such is life, I suppose. I wish I could remember some of the questions. One was about goal seeking behavior in Zen practice. Maybe someone else who was there can recall the others...

Still Point is in the Korean Zen tradition. I know they use koans sometimes. But I try not to hold it against them. I'm kind of curious to see how they use them. I know it's optional and I get the impression they don't approach the matter the rather cartoonish way it's often portrayed. They chant melodies, not monotone like in Japanese Zen. That's also kind of interesting. If you don't know the tunes it's a little rough. But I faked my way thru it.

Tomorrow it's on to Saskatoon. I updated the tour dates a little regarding the Saskatoon stuff. See the link to your left. I just listed the major events. Their Facebook page (also linked on the tour dates page) has some other stuff. I hope to see some folks there. I have no clue what to expect in the Canadian frontier! But I got a red hoodie with a maple leaf on the breast in Montreal (did I say this already?). So I should be fine.


Anonymous said...

I am number one. Huzzah!

Rick said...

I wish I could have made it. Maybe next time.

Apuleius Platonicus said...

As you must be aware Brad, monotone chanting isn't "Japanese", its just the half-assed way Americans who practice Japanese Zen chant. Zen Master Seung Sahn taught his western students how to chant properly, that's all. Chanting is singing - always has been.

Matt said...

^ huh... well then! lol

Still Point Abbey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Still Point Abbey said...


Just wanted to say the Zero Defex gig was fun as hell, and it's been altogether nice having you here. We always appreciate your down-to-earth approach to the whole thing: sorry, though, on not getting you out to Ann Arbor, if you know what I mean.

As for the previous comment: ZM Seung Sahn really has nothing to do with it. Chanting is not necessarily singing, and Koreans tend toward sing-songy while in Japan more monotone. That's just how things shake out, entirely culturally. (& either way is fine if you throw yourself into it.)

Koans, by the way, rock. If, that is, you don't get hung up on 'em (either way).


Anonymous said...

I don't know how you always manage to be #1 Jundo but I'm getting tired of it..

door knob said...

Brad, in Saskatoon, refer to your hoodie as a "bunny hug" and see what happens. The locals will either say nothing since it's a common regional colloquialism, or they will be amazed that you heard of the term and you'll earn some easy brownie points.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 8.41pm -

That's "Huzzah!", not "Chuzzah", you pig.

No, I am not Jundo. I AM NUMBER ONE. Just for today.

-Yet another jubu.

Yes, Really. said...

Hi Apuleius Platonicus -

I've heard japanese (zen) chanting, in recordings from Eiheiji, for example, and from elsewhere in Japan. It is pretty undeniably monotonal. One usually very low pitch is repeated, generally one syllable per very regular beat, without variation, throughout the chant. Tempos very, and some traditions employ a slow accelerando in some chants (notably the heart sutra). But I've yet to hear a japanese zen chant that uses a melody. Can you direct me to one?

Chanting is singing? Hmm...I know what you mean, but perhaps better to say chanting is a form of singing. There's a reason why there are two different words: they're two different things. Certainly when the 'singing' is monotonal and more declamatory the Harvard Dictionary of Music's definition of "chant" would apply:
" sing a single pitch or a limited range of pitches repetitively".

Anonymous said...

Good Luck with the tour, Brad.

Anon @ 8.41pm said...

Sorry gniz..

Patrick Smith said...


They really aren't optional at Still Point - like mom's brownies when you visit your parents, theoretically you could refuse... No one ever has.

They were kind of weird - one of the most frightening experiences in my life was standing at the bottom of the stairs waiting for the bell to ring to call me to interview. It's stupid - it's not like P'arang was waiting with a gun. Still, it was pure terror. And I went anyway.

I suppose the use I see in it is to train a person in having Samadhi under different circumstances (I'm using that word because I need to use a word. I think you'll know the experience I'm talking about.)

I learned to meditate on the cushion, and that was great. Some where in there I wrapped my bodymind around walking meditation, which meant it was available to me when I'm out strolling the town.

Koan practice offers the opportunity to practice hitting Samdhi in _response_ to a question or challenge. So, in addition to having it on the cushion, maybe I can touch a little of that buddha nature when I'm driving in the middle of the night and some one runs out in the road and I have to decide to stop or not and my wife and child are in the car but this person may need help or be a trap (ask Vince about this story some time).

Jinzang said...

Koan practice strikes me as a little odd, but it works for some people and as the saying goes, you can't argue with success. I feel more comfortable with shikantaza, because when you account for the cultural difference it's pretty close to sutra mahamudra. But to each his own.

Apuleius Platonicus said...

"I've yet to hear a japanese zen chant that uses a melody." Well, here is an mp3 of some Japanese nuns chanting the Heart Sutra, and they are really rockin'!: This recording has been around at least since the early 90's. I think it was recorded in Kyoto. Pali chanting is also very tuneful, and so is traditional chanting in Chinese Buddhism.

David said...

I lived in a Japanese Zen monastery for a year and almost all of the chanting was done in a monotone. There were a few exceptions: the head monk would chant the evening exhortation to maintain diligent practice through the night in a melodic style, as were the introductions to the meal chants. There were also some chants intoned by the Roshi or lead chanter during special ceremonies that used a melodic style, but these were exceptional. The melodic style in Japanese chanting is called "shomyo" and comes from the Tendai and Shingon traditions.

Mysterion said...

the point being...

Westerners are not attuned to Eastern Melodies.

Let's call it cultural (although considerable cognition and divergent brain evolution may be involved).

jamal said...

"divergent brain evolution.." You're not euphemising on us are you Mr. Mysterion?

Apuleius Platonicus said...

I'm trying to give Japanese Buddhism the benefit of the doubt - but if those awful droning sounds that one hears emanating from groups of Americans who practice Japanese Zen are really "authentic" Japanese style Buddhist chanting, well, then my condolences.

Yes, Really said...

Thanks for the link, Apuleius Platonicus. Indeed the chanting nuns are truly funky - and more melodic than the entirely monotonal soto chants I've heard, and chanted - which I guess are the ones prevalent in the soto lineages in the USA, and Europe. Thanks for the info, David. So there are clearly different traditions within Japanese Buddhism - it ain't the fault of the North Americans! (I'm British myself). Do you know what branch/school/lineage the nuns are from?

Mysterious man - it may be that "Westerners are not [born] attuned to Eastern Melodies", although it's not so difficult to learn the language/adjust to the tonality, but that is not "the point", IMO. A monotone is a monotone and a melody - or melodic line if you prefer - is a melodic line anywhere in the world.

Mysterion said...

jamal said...
"divergent brain evolution.." You're not euphemising on us are you Mr. Mysterion?

No. I am not using euphemistic language. I mean that people are evolving in different directions in different parts of the world. In America, I suspect many are evolving in retrograde.

"A euphemism is used as an alternative to a less preferred expression, in order to avoid possible loss of face: either one's own face or, through giving offense, that of the audience, or of some third party." - Allan & Burridge

Divergent brain evolution moves either toward growth in the belief structure or toward atrophy through disuse (of the 'god spot.')

In short, the Abrahamic traditions have moved backwards toward stricter and more narrowly defined norms (e.g. fundamentalism, Wahhabi-like thinking, and Militant movements in general).

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 8.41pm -
"Sorry gniz.." ?

Wrong again!

Many are called, but few are CHOSEN ;-)

Jinzang said...

I wish I could remember some of the questions. One was about goal seeking behavior in Zen practice.Seems to be a popular question. Maybe it should be the topic of your next book, "Tying Yourself in Knots: Making Goallessness Your Goal".

Smoggyrob said...

Hi everyone:

I love coming up with names for Brad's next book. How about:

GOAL!!! (How Playing Futbol Will Land You In Buddhist Hell)


Illuminatus said...

huzzah, huz·zah also huz·za (h-zä)
Used to express joy, encouragement, or triumph.
1. A shout of "huzzah."
2. A cheer.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2003. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Mysterion said...

Brad's next book should be:

"Taking the duh out of Buddha"What? There is no duh in Buddha? I was misinformed.

Or perhaps: "Now and Zen: Sit, still."


Anonymous said...

Thank you Illuminatus...and to clear up any confusion the goyim may be experiencing -

Chuzzah,Chuzzer or even (incorrectly imo) Huzzah - noun,Yiddish,often used pejoratively: PIG.

PA said...

I think Brad's next book should be titled, "In case you've forgotten, sit down and shut up!"

Jinzang: So, is the heart of Tibetan Buddhism similar to Shikantaza? I always equated Tibetan Buddhism with something a little more flowery...

Anonymous said...

"Godzilla ate my hamster: Punk Rock Lessons in Impermanence"

"I came, I saw, I sat"

"Dude, where's my zafu?"

"I went to Nirvana and all I got was this lousy T-Shirt!"

Royalty Payments to:

Alexander N. Onymous
??? Invisible Way
Ghost Town

Still Point Abbey said...

To clarify an earlier comment: dealing with koans at Still Point actually IS optional. Unlike some places I've heard of, no one will pull you kicking and screaming from your cushion to the interview room -- you can simply choose not to go up and no one cares at all.

The only people for whom it ain't optional are folks in Still Point's seminary who are training to be Dharma teachers.


mtto said...

Mysterion said "I mean that people are evolving in different directions in different parts of the world. In America, I suspect many are evolving in retrograde."If you mean evolution in the Darwinian sense, your statement is false AND makes no sense. There is no "forward" or "retrograde" to evolution, just surviving and passing on genes... or not. Evolution does not have a "goal" other than that. That's part of what makes Ken Wilbur's thing such nonsense to me: it stinks of social Darwinism.

Plus, the idea that humans would evolve differently around the world at this point in history makes even less sense, since we are much more mobile than ever before, allowing us to mate across borders much more easily.

Jinzang said...

So, is the heart of Tibetan Buddhism similar to Shikantaza?

Yes, Tibetan Buddhism has both form and formless practices, as a part of every practice session as a matter of fact. You build up the visualization and then dissolve it and rest in that,

Really? said...

"You build up the visualization and then dissolve it and rest in that"

'Build up', 'dissolve', 'rest' ? - doesn't sound like 'just sit' to me. I guess, Jinz, you mean the last bit; the resting, "formless" bit, is like shikantaza. Maybe - if you drop any ideas of resting in anything you've just dissolved into formlessness.

Godzilla said...

Must be a flashback from the LSD.

As I was sitting Zazen this weekend with a group, It occurred to me that, through mutual silence, the entire space is seemingly occupied by just one. This makes the one rather small and the space rather large (especially when it is rather large).

Mysterion said...

mtto said...
"Plus, the idea that humans would evolve differently around the world at this point in history makes even less sense..."

Yes, but thank whatever gods may be* that sense is often errant while research is often repeatable.

*If I shave my head and it rains, my hair still gets wet. The fact that you do not see my (very short) hair does not prevent it from getting wet.

Likewise, the fact that you do not see the many gods does not prevent them from existing out of your view and perception.

The very question: Do gods exist (does a god exist) is outside of the realm of Zen Buddhist concern. (For Jodo Shu and Jodo Shinshu the question is of some concern - to some.)

Mysterion said...

Brad did NOT make the list. He is not behaving 'badly' enough - except in what's his mane's eyes.

"Hamas lawmaker Yunis Al-Astal, Jewish extremist Mike Guzovsky, former Ku Klux Klan leader Stephen Donald Black and neo-Nazi Erich Gliebe are also on the list, as is controversial radio host Michael Alan Weiner, also known as Michael Savage."

Smoggyrob said...

Hi everyone:

I just clicked on a link over my Gmail inbox, and registered to take a free online course about the work of Eckhart Tolle called, "Mastering the Power of Now."

It features teachings by Byron Katie (The Work), Genpo Roshi (Big Mind), Ken Wilber (Integral Institute), Diane Hamilton (?), Saniel Bonder and Linda Groves-Bonder (?), Sally Kempton (Yoga Journal), and Bill Harris (Holosync).



Mysterion said...

Eckhart Tolle...

Diane Hamilton is in Utah.

Along with the Waking Down in Mutuality community Saniel has founded, we are a husband-wife team of spiritual teachers, awakeners, and destiny-empowerment specialists.

All they need to bring it back to earth (with a thud) is the Universally Recognized (U.R.) Swami Hoo U. Tinka, U.R. His gratis advice is worth EXACTLY what you pay for it and there is no interest attached, either.

Anonymous said...

mysterion, thanks for sharing that
kenji kawai piece. stunning!

i'll be looking for that.


Anonymous said...

Apuleius Platonicus said...
"here is an mp3 of some Japanese nuns chanting the Heart Sutra, and they are really rockin'!"

Silly Apuleius! Those "nuns" aren't from Japan.
They're from New Orleans!

Why do I even bother? said...

wait, did everybody just ignore that explanation of retrograde evolution bit?

First off, Mysterion, be careful with your labels. Plenty of folks in Abrahamic traditions would never call themselves "Western." Where do the Catholics in East Timor fit in your evolutionary sliding scale?

How about this one: if my parents were born in Kenya but I was born in the US, what does that make my brain? Is my brain devolved compared to my parents'? Do I have a superior brain to the kids next door whose grandparents are from Japan? Are their brains more advanced than those of Mark Twain's great-great-great-grandchildren?

But then again, that's the whole point of Zen, isn't it? Because I'm different from you, and you're different from me, and we're all waaaay different from those devolved people who follow Abrahamic traditions. The poor things.

Anyway, if you know the professor whose website hosts that "god spot" link, then ask him to review the March 9, 2009 issue of the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."

There's an article called "Cognitive and neural foundations of religious belief" (lead author named Kapogiannis) that's representative of more recent findings. Spoiler alert: the myth of a "god spot" is a gross oversimplification that makes neurologists cringe.

Otherwise, it just sounds to all of us who aren't attuned properly that you're just picking and choosing bad science to support racism.

Anonymous said...

WDIEB.. We don't hear too much about that "divergent brain evolution" shit nowadays.. A person gets old enough an they start saying what they use to just think.

Mysterion said...

You must be correct. These days you don't hear much about brain evolution in humans. We Buddhists all know humans are exactly the same today as when god created them 6,013 years back. It certainly is not cultural.

By the way, what is Irish and lays around in the back yard all winter?

Patty O'Funtiture

Patty O'Funtiture said...

Jesus.. Mysterion is a frigging red hot Republican under the skin. I always figured as much..

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

The link to "Cognitive and neural foundations of religious belief" (Kapogiannis, et. al.) is HEREThe punch line: (under Discussion)

"The MDS results confirmed the validity of the proposed psychological structure of religious belief. The 2 psychological processes previously implicated in religious belief, assessment of God’s level of involvement and God’s level of anger (11), as well as the hypothesized doctrinal to experiential continuum for religious knowledge, were identifiable dimensions in our MDS analysis. In addition, the neural correlates of these psychological dimensions were revealed to be well-known brain networks, mediating evolutionary adaptive cognitive functions."

Not Really said...

It seems that using the latest, or preferred, scientific research to support the latest, or preferred view one has chosen to adopt to explain one's emotional reaction to the world one finds oneself in, may be an unreliable method.

The dharma, says Nagarjuna, is taught for the purpose of relinquishing all views. Not of course easy, or even possible, to do during the course of a day - but an appreciation of the emptiness of all categories and terms of analysis may be a useful (non-) reference point when we find ourselves tempted to nail our colours to a particular mast.

Barry Graham said...

May 5, celebrated here as Cinco de Mayo, was also the birthday of a writer whose words I've always paid attention to - Karl Marx.

In spite of his popular condemnation of religion as "the opiate of the masses," Marx's model of a just society as being one in which each person gives according to their means, and receives according to their need, seems to me to a perfect distillation of Buddhist and Christian ethics. Thomas Merton actually quoted this in his last talk, given hours before he died. Merton also observed, in New Seeds of Contemplation, that Christianity and communism are the same thing.

Mysterion said...

Not Really said...
"to explain one's emotional reaction..."

?While I maintain subdued 'emotion,' I have no emotional reactions to anything. What I have is a reasoned reaction based on cause and effect. For example, overpopulation is a cause of shortages and deprivation (starvation) therefore those who teach that "there are plenty of fish in the sea" are speaking fraudulent words. The truth evades their emotional attachment to birthing.

Myth 1:
"Recently on NPR a young man said he left his parents’ Christianity become a Buddhist. Wow. Why would anyone abandon Joy and devote so much sweat to reach a state of emptiness–emotionless–like Buddhism teaches? He never found Joy in his parent’s Church."

One cannot replace bliss with hysteria (well, Pentecostals can).

Myth 2:

"The highest achievement, the loftiest summit of the Buddhist way is a state in which all joy and every emotion of the heart have long been overcome and cast aside, leaving nothing but emotionless, joyless, frozen "emptiness of the spirit."


The Buddhist peaceful and emotionless state of nirvana is characterized as not belonging to the realm of the "changeable." sourceWhen you get a clue, share it...

Not Really said...

Mysterion -

You misunderstand - and assume too much. So what's new?

Not Really said...

Mysti - "I have no emotional reactions to anything."

Well that's just silly. I don't believe you meant it.

Why are you interested in certain ("cause and effect") explanations of certain issues and phenomena? It's the stimulus for seeking such explanations of such issues that is, in the first instance, emotional, I suggest. We are all children.

BTW, I've noticed that when you feel challenged you resort to put-downs like "When you get a clue, share it..." Ignoble and unbecoming. We're just chewin the fat, bro.

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Rica said...

HAHA! What caught my attention were the comments!