I'm back from Hamburg. Eberhard Kuegler took me on a tour of the Reepabahn where we found a whole bunch of famous Beatle sites. It was the 49th anniversary of the day The Beatles played their first ever show in Hamburg at the Indra club. The Indra is still there, but was closed that day. Still I got a photo of the plaque commemorating the event. In spite of the date stamp which I can't figure out how to turn off that says every photo was taken on Oct. 1, 2003, the photo was taken on Aug. 17th.
We also visited the former site of the Star Club (now torn down), the Kaiserkeller, the church behind which the Beatles reportedly pissed because the Kaiserkeller's toilets were so foul, a pub where Paul McCartney had a tab from 1962 that he finally paid off in 1989, and an abstract statue of the late Stu Sutcliffe, the Beatles' original bassist. We looked for the Bambi Kino, where The Beatles slept and burned a condom stuck on the wall, but we couldn't find it. All this stuff is within a couple blocks.
I also discovered Pranke, the world's coolest monster movie mag! Gosh!
So I was thinking about how to describe this whole "avoid preferences" thing. I think most people, when they first hear it, think of it the way I did when I first heard it. You think, "Oh my God! I like vanilla better than chocolate! I like The Ramones better than Air Supply! I like laying on the beach better than getting hit in the face with a 2x4! What am I going to do???"
In other words you think, like I did, that preferences are a solid thing that must be gotten rid of. You imagine that there must be some kind of bizarre mental gymnastics involved in forever ridding yourself of all like and dislike so that someday when you go to Ben & Jerry's and they ask you what flavor you want you'll just smile beatifically and say, "Give me whatever you like, for lo, I am free from preferences."
But it's much more immediate and direct than that. It's also the answer to one of my most frequently asked questions -- the one that goes, "My brain is all clogged up and scattered when I do Zazen. Am I doing it wrong?"
The answer to that question is directly related with the matter of preferences. Your brain is all cloudy but you'd prefer that it not be. The difference between what you are and what you think you ought to be causes your imagination to leap wildly. You try to go from where you are to this idealized state. But it's a losing battle because the attempt to change from what you are to what you think you should be is the very problem itself.
The solution is to simply forgo preferences. Don't make any effort to be what you're not. Just allow what you are to fully manifest. Keep your posture and stay still. Sit with it. Don't go against it.
On a completely unrelated topic, since I'm going to be speaking to lots of Dogen Sangha folks on this Euro trip, I've been thinking a lot about what Dogen Sangha ought to be.
Truth be told, I'd like nothing better than to give up Dogen Sangha entirely. I am not interested in being the head of an organization at all. I don't like institutions. I don't like clubs. I am not a group joiner and I don't even have the slightest interest in being the leader of one.
I'm not really certain what Dogen Sangha should be. But I know what I don't want it to be. It can never become an institution along the lines one of those giant soul-killing religious machines. I won't name names because that just makes people mad. But there are dozens of these monsters roaming the world eating up people and turning them into mindless clones who only seek to extend the size and power of the institution.
Institutions like these develop something like a mind and will of their own. It's hard to say just how this happens. But I've been watching this work over the past few months in a couple of places and it's very, very scary. Individuals begin to bend their own will to the will of the institution and are very quickly turned into its pawns. They have no idea this is happening. They'll even claim to be going against the will of the machine while simultaneously doing exactly what it wants. Even the leaders of these institutions are powerless against their institution's will.
I want nothing at all to do with anything like that and I will walk away from Dogen Sangha if it ever begins to function in that manner. At any given moment I'm about a half second from cutting all ties with Dogen Sangha and this will probably remain the case until the day I finally get totally fed up and do so. If that becomes necessary. I hope it doesn't. I think it probably will...
The only aim of Dogen Sangha is to make Dogen's philosophy and the practice of zazen available. That's it. The organization should remain very loose, a vague affiliation of like-minded people. I'm not going to keep a roster of members or make pronouncements about what the members of the group should and should not believe or do. I don't really care, actually. I can't be bothered to spend any effort worrying about that kind of thing.
In the event someone should start doing something truly bizarre in the name of Dogen Sangha, then I might have to take some action. Until such time each local group should just carry on doing whatever it is they do.
That's all for today. Maybe I'll come up with some other stuff later.