Thursday, July 23, 2009


...But first a few administrative things.

This Saturday, July 25th 2009, we'll have our monthly all-day zazen thing at Hill Street Center. Info is over there to your left in the links. I am no longer handling the administrative end of these get-togethers so I do not know if there will be an oryoki lunch or not. I'll post the info on that as soon as anyone tells me.

Also, I got a very nice write up on Belief Net! I thought those guys hated me!

OK. Now on to our topic for the day. Someone sent me this link to the funniest spiritual scam I have yet to see on the Internet. Apparently this was actually advertised in one of the Google ads that pop up on this very page!

My God is this thing hilarious! Endorsed by none other than Ken Wilber Himself, it says, "Millions have heard Eckhart Tolle’s story of spontaneous awakening to a super-conscious state – a timeless, transcendental state. Mystics maintain that this 'pure now' moment is the doorway to liberation, and the mystics are right."

Oh my gosh! The mystics! They're right!!

The ad then poses the following questions:

But have you ever wondered:

• What factors cause me to fall “out of the now”?
• How can I access this state more quickly and more consistently?
• What can other world-renowned spiritual leaders offer in addition to Tolle’s recommendations to accelerate my spiritual growth and stabilize my awareness in “the now?”
• Where can I turn to find that wisdom?

Oh dear! What causes me to fall out of the now??? I need to know!!! Please tell me!!! How can I access the state that the mystics have acquired right this second without having to give up my busy schedule of watching reality TV, trolling the Internet and eating junk food? I want wisdom and I want it right now!

A need is created and the fulfillment of that need is offered. Classic advertising technique. Is there really anyone left who doesn't know this?

Anyhow, it turns out that what you really need to be in the now all the time is to spend $199 (That's $50 off the regular price, they say. And just where is it selling for that price?) on a special kit containing 5 DVDs, 2 CDs, 3 booklets, a poster and some of what they call "one-minute modules." Plus, if you act now, you get 7 free gifts (that's right, 7 free gifts -- and this is exactly the way they say it in the ad. They say "7 free gifts" and right afterward in parenthesis it says "that's right, 7 free gifts.") I can just hear the voice of Casey Casem yelling all this at me from a TV left tuned on at 3 in the morning.

And you wonder why I hate the whole spiritual master business so much. If people are falling for bullshit as blatant as this... I don't know. I don't even want to know!

If you think "the now" can be yours for $199 and a few DVDs of a bunch of slime balls talking about spirituality you deserve what you get.


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Anonymous said...

New Page!

gniz said...

interesting convo!

Rich said...

Justin, thank you for sharing your experience.

Stephanie said...

AS far as 'running around with women half his age' Is that a bad?

No, but the point is, what Brad's life and chosen path through it say to those of us who read his writings, especially recently, are that life is about chasing pleasure and indulging the senses, and that when you're down, what you need is wine, women, and song--just replace wine with zazen. This is a very despairing spirituality though Brad cloaks the despair with his cutesy style.

If we are to see attempts to conflate spirituality with the pleasure principle and with consumerism as a "scam" (a position with which I tend to agree), then what is the alternative he proposes? What does Brad do when the chips are down? I don't think Brad has much of an answer to this yet, though he started to formulate one in ZEN WRAPPED IN KARMA.

Brad's basic philosophy seems to be, "Life is beautiful exactly as it is. Enjoy it." I have found this moving at times, but no longer. It is not enough. If the only purpose of zazen is to enhance one's ability to participate in samsara with a more relaxed attitude, then I would suggest it is a waste of time. If when your life gets hard, and you suffer and lose, your only recourse is the usual human solutions--party, seek out novel experiences, sex, drugs, rock and roll--then your spiritual practice seems not to have given you anything worth pursuing IMO.

Most people who write about Zen and spirituality can make beautiful and lucid intellectual arguments about Dharma, but very few actually seem able to show that it has given them another way to live besides the usual human scrambling.

Are we to really feel so superior to the people who treat Zen and spirituality as a drug, as a commodity, when we do not live in any essentially different manner than they do? The only difference is we do not expect Zen to function like a commodity; we still look to commodities to cope with our pain and our boredom. We may have a more sophisticated approach than the "peak seekers" but we are no less in despair, especially not as Kierkegaard would see it, and Kierkegaard was pretty apt about these things.

As for free will and the Buddha's insight into no-self: the way I have come to appreciate the Buddha's discovery is that he saw that it was possible for humans to transcend the mere dictates of biology when it comes to how we live in the world. To deny free will and to live in accord with this belief that we have no free will is to live in what would be in the six realms the animal realm. This is actually what most people do--we live our lives driven by instinct, focused mainly on survival, on sleeping, eating, and fucking, and making money, and impressing other people. Many of us in the modern age justify this with our underlying nihilism that there is nothing more to life than the material and biological.

But what the Buddha saw was that our minds are so powerful that we can override the dictates of instinct. We must do what we must do to keep our physical bodies alive, but we can look to something other than the pleasure principle and biologic reward in how we live. We can give up sex, wealth, social status, all the things most of us spend our lives chasing after. And in so doing, we find great freedom--that our minds can transcend biology and that we can choose not to always follow our animal-side, our instinct.

Justin said...


I'd just like to say that I always appreciate your honest and thoughtful comments (both here and on ZFI).


Rich said...


I'd just like to say that I always appreciate your honest and thoughtful comments (both here and on ZFI)."

I think ZFI is the answer to the question I asked you awhile ago.

When i have a little more time I'd like to comment on your last post, very interesting!

m said...

what's yer point?

alan said...

My take on this kensho stuff, having never experienced anything more than the boredom of zazen (and oh how right Brad is about that) is that Brad is splitting hairs about his non-kensho experience.

I used to read a lot of what I now call enlightenment porn. Its fun to read and like most porn, after while you begin to notice a pattern.

I do believe that words must fail to describe the experience, never the less, words are what people use to describe the experience.

And those words in my opinion, do begin to sound the same. Justin's description of his kensho experience sounds (to me) a hell of a lot like Brad's words describing his "non-kensho" experience.

For a number of good reasons, Brad's teacher is really down on using the term enlightenment.

So naturally Brad is also down on using the term enlightenment. He may be afraid (justifiably in my mind) that people will get all hung up on getting some of that.

And so he claims that he has never been there.

Anonymous said...

humans do not 'transcend' biology

from my own experience I can say it is true 'life is beautiful just the way it is '. Only I wouldn't say 'enjoy it' (although I would understand that moment to moment living life just as it is not as thinking it is or thinking it ought /ought not be is to enjoy: except there is no one to do this enjoying
it's more like 'joy-ing.'
body/mind one thing
this whole shebang enchilada one thing

Buddha didn't teach transcend biology
IMHO but rather suffering, it's cause (desire) and it's cure

pkb said...

Bravo alan. I agree 100%. Brad insists on defining kensho as some altered state or trippy experience. Kensho just means to see into one's see the real nature of things.

Some (especially initial) seeing is very shallow and some deeper. You can have genuine kensho and have no emotional (trippy) reaction at all. Or you can have a great emotional upheavel with tears and laughing with a very shallow kensho.

The point is that the emotional / psychological reaction to what is seen / understood is NOT identical with the insight itself. You can 'solve the big existential problem(s)' without calling it kensho or without having any emotional reaction at all and the understanding is still valid.

To make it into an experience makes it into a memory and something outside or over there. Waiting for kensho or striving to attain it at some future point in time is impossible ...simply because enlightenment is never anytime other than now or anyplace other than here. It's always right now. Making it into an object is a mistake, so is denying it's existence.

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

Shorty said: I used to meditate, but I realized that all it does is reinforce the sense of a seperate self.

Be patient.

floating_abu said...

There will always be scammers and scaremongers.

What matters more though? Whether other people are true, or whether you are truly true. That is called practice, and there are no shortcuts around it.

Mumon said...

Somedays, it's enough to know that this:

was inspired by this:

Anonymous said...

1st Truth: I know the 'Truth'
2nd Truth: You can buy it
3rd Truth: Let's form a cult
4th Truth: Everyone else is wrong


1st Truth: we think (mind)
2nd Truth: we feel (body)
...which gives rise to the 'mind - body' or 'Who am I?' problem. A solution? Practice Zazen and find out who 'you' are. How do we learn the practice of Zazen? We learn from an experienced teacher.

3rd Truth: we act
4th Truth: (in) reality
...which gives rise to the 'What should I do?' problem. A solution? Don't do wrong (well, try hard not to anyway). How do we not do wrong? We try to maintain the precepts as best we can.

I am profoundly grateful to my teacher for demonstrating the practice of Zazen, for giving me the precepts and for discussing Nishijima Roshi's interpretations of the noble truths during lectures. However, I am most grateful that he showed me that being a Buddhist is not an alternative to being a human. He never claimed that I would experience a life free of thought, feeling or action. And, despite my best efforts, I never have.

And now I'm banging at the door of an ivory tower shouting "Fire!" whilst someone is at my window screaming "Inferno!"

It's all very confusing and I feel so hot right now but I guess that it's a very human thing to do...


Anonym: No name
(Anon: nameless person)

Pseudonym: False name
(Pseud: False person)

The Nym: A race of artificial humanoid sentient plants from the Age of Legends in The Wheel of Time fantasy book series

Mysterion said...

Blogger Stephanie said...
"Brad's basic philosophy seems to be, "Life is beautiful exactly as it is. Enjoy it." I have found this moving at times, but no longer. It is not enough."

But it's more acceptable to a younger generation than my philosophy:

1) Birth is suffering
2) Life is suffering
3) Growing old is suffering
4) Dying is suffering

dy·ing, as an adj.
1. About to die: dying patients.
2. Drawing to an end; declining
3. Done or uttered just before death: a dying request.

dying, as a verb
1. occurring at the moment of death: in accordance with his dying wish
2. (of a person or animal) very ill and likely to die soon
3. becoming less important or less current: coal mining is a dying industry

©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Is THAT enough?

'We' don't tell beginners about this...

Warmest regards,

Rich said...

"hat when you're down, what you need is wine, women, and song--just replace wine with zazen. "

That works for me.

"What does Brad do when the chips are down? I "

Writes in his blog for help.

"If the only purpose of zazen is to enhance one's ability to participate in samsara with a more relaxed attitude, then I would suggest it is a waste of time."

Samsara just won't quit, so I gotta do something besides drugs.

"This is actually what most people do--we live our lives driven by instinct, focused mainly on survival, on sleeping, eating, and fucking, and making money, and impressing other people."

Those are all important things to do except the impressing other people. I think instinct and intuition are very closely related and we should rely on them more.

"We can give up sex, wealth, social status, all the things most of us spend our lives chasing after. And in so doing, we find great freedom--that our minds can transcend biology and that we can choose not to always follow our animal-side, our instinct."

It's not that you have to give it up, you just need to let it go. Just accept your situation and condition. The balanced state dows not get upset about the coming and going of stuff, thinking and feeling.

Stephanie said...

Thanks Justin.

I stopped posting to ZFI a while ago because I couldn't deal with the uneven and overzealous moderation style there. It's just no fun any more when you wonder if things that you find important to write are going to get deleted for some arbitrary reason.

I guess I'm still looking for a Buddhist forum open-minded enough for my kind of crazy :P

Rich, I remember now you e-mailed me a while ago and I never got back to you. Sorry for being a flake! But yeah, I'm not sure what exact blog or site I mentioned to you before, it may indeed have been ZFI. I liked it there, for about a minute. lol. But there are a lot of good folks and good conversation over there.

I believe that instinct, intuition, and intellect are all valuable. But I've always found the basic biologic realities of human existence to be tedious. I like instinct-level things like all human animals, but I feel distinctly unfulfilled by that mode of living. The more I withdraw from the world, at least in certain aspects, the happier I find I become.

I'm not saying I think the Buddha taught us to neglect biology or instinct but simply showed that we do not have to live solely by these. What freedom, that we have the creativity and mind-power to dig deeper than just the pleasure principle.

For the hedonists out there, I say more power to ya, but that will probably never be a way of life I could be satisfied by.

Rich said...

I haven't had a chance to check out ZFI yet but I can't imagine anything you say would need to censored. From your writing it is obvious you are genuine and speak from the heart. We are all dealing with and will always be dealing with the same basic issues and sitting just helps to see them better. BTW, I always learn a new word from reading your posts -)

Stephanie said...


Thanks. I appreciate your kind words and pointers. We seem to get in a good groove with Dharma conversation, e-mail me again sometime now that I've been back to Brad's blog and remember who Rich is when I see his name in my e-mail, I promise I'll write back :)

I had multiple posts censored when I was on Treeleaf (more than Jundo will admit) before I was kicked off. One half of the rationale was that I wrote too much--I can't argue that I write a lot, but other members who wrote/write as much as me didn't/don't get censored. The main thing was that my depressive thinking at the time was apparently too intense for people. Jundo worried I could be suicidal although I reassured him and others directly multiple times I was not. I can handle very intense despair and I guess I just never thought that others would not want to hang out in it with me, ha.

At ZFI I had three or four things I tried to post deleted in a row. For one thing, they don't allow you to publicly criticize moderators--this after the forum was made in response to similar behavior from mods at eSangha, from which many ZFI members are expatriates. I recall being censored for other reasons too, but can't recollect what they were.

I think I may just have a strong personality, at least how I come across online. I seem to put some folks off because I ain't afraid to say shit that's on my mind, whether it's my own despairing thoughts or my opinion that people are being hypocritical.

One of the things I love about commenting here at Brad's blog is that people are free to be themselves and discourse openly however they see fit without censorship and without being pressured to conform to some webmaster's big ego-agenda.


Jay said...

I don't mean this as a personal attack, but I think this is a legitimate question.

What makes you, or anyone for that matter, think this 'Zen' blog is any more useful to folks than 'The Funniest Spiritual Scam on the Internet' ?

The Barking Unicorn said...

I work for tips alone.


I find I'm worth twice as much as I used to think I was when I set a price.

Ampersand said...

Have you tried ILP? Have you done Genpo's big mind process? If not then shut the fuck up! There, I am a Zen master too.

james said...

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Jason Gosnell said...

Sorry I missed the a year! I found the power of now book itself by Tolle very helpful. Even one Zen teacher suggested I read it. Anyway, selling it the way they are on the internet may not be so good. But the book was inexpensive and had some useful insights in it. Falling out of the now refers to getting stuck in ego, mind and emotion. Stuck means non-acceptance of what is. Zen teachers discuss this all the time, but use different expressions...maybe following your karmic patterns...or delusions...or the three poisons...or not being mindful...or losing the precepts.

Kind Regards, Jason Gosnell

Anonymous said...

I want to choose the 7 free gifts. Let's see, I choose the DVDs, the CDs, the three books, the one minute cards and one big trash can to put it all in.

Anonymous said...

The biggest loser here posted:

"you have no idea what the integral life practice has to offer. shut the fuck up and go meditate. if you are really a buddhist monk you wouldn't waste your time on a fucking internet forum. don't judge others, judge yourself in meditation. am i to assume that because you don't try to sell your product the same way integral life practice does that your books are not a scam? I don't know what your books are like, and you don't know what integral life practice is like. Shut the fuck up and and work and your own realization."

People like this is why "all life is suffering". People like this are the embodiment of Ego, and little else. People like this become corrupt spiritual teachers.

Haorb said...

The Christian church sold indulgences didn't they?
Same thing in a way.

Velma Lewis said...

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Anonymous said...

WTF and balls and cock are you trying to say?

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