Tuesday, September 01, 2009

MOI MOI SUOMI, OLI IHAN VITUN SIISTII!


I'm in Munich now. Finland is finished with me. At least for now, although I'm sure I'll be back. The Finnish edition of Zen Wrapped in Karma comes out tomorrow. The Finnish title translates as "Zen with Karma and Chocolate Sauce." Apparently the word for karma sounds like the word for caramel -- as it sorta does in English. It's a good title. The photo I've put up is from a photo session in a park in the center of Helsinki for a mag called Libero.

I hit the cities of Turku, Helsinki, Espoo and Jyvaskyla (sorry, I have no idea how to put the dots above the a's). Did more interviews than I can possibly count. The Zen scene in Finland is young and growing fast. It's definitely a tiny minority, but I feel like it's headed somewhere good.

Of course the usual garbage is already going on there as it seems to go on everywhere. People complaining about too much formality. Other people complaining it's not formal enough. No wonder the Complaints Choir got its start in Helsinki! Which is not to say complaining like this is anything unique to Finland. It's just that I met one of the organizers of the Complaints Choir and thought they were cool, so I wanted to give them a little plug.

The formality vs. informality thing is especially funny for me. I think I come out about even in terms of the number of people who think I'm way too casual and the number of people who think I'm much too formal. This makes me think I'm probably doing it right. Basically I wear the robes and do the services when it seems appropriate to the setting or when I just happen to feel like it. It's a waste of time, effort and energy to worry too much about who likes the way I dress and who doesn't. As the old song goes, "You can't please everyone so you'd better please yourself."

Being famous is also a weird, weird, weird thing. Apparently there are already people going thru my writings to find statements to prove their own ideas about me or even -- please don't laugh -- to hold me up as some kind of an authority. Please don't do that. It's only going to bite you on the ass in the end. I'm not the least bit consistent. And nothing I say has any real bearing on anything at all.

It occurred to me recently why I like to trash my own image. It's because you should never do this Zen practice stuff because you think your teacher or the leader of some group is a Great Person. Of course I entered into this because I trusted and respected Tim and Nishijima. Trust is one thing. But to the extent that I tried to put them on a pedestal as perfect people I suffered. Sometimes a lot. Your practice is your own. It doesn't belong to anyone else. Don't give your own power away by tying your practice to your opinions about other people. It has nothing to do with them.

Thanks to everyone in Finland for making my stay there so incredible. Special thanks go to Markus Laitenen for putting it all together, Ilias Biris for getting it started, Anne Rutanen at Basam Books for getting those books out there and making people buy 'em, Mikko and Sike for filming the whole thing, Susanna Kekkonen for fine photos and Thai soup, the folks at the Espoo Cine Festival for screening Cleveland's Screaming! and bazillions of other people who made the whole thing so great!

A much more complete list of people who need to be thanked can be found here.

I'm wasting all the time I have for seeing Munich typing on the damned Internets, so I'm just gonna leave it at that. You ought to go outside and play too!

I'll be in England next. See the link about my tour schedule over to your left for details. All the talks in the UK are open to anyone who wants to attend. Hope to see you there!

129 comments:

Jamie G. said...

I'm first, you dicks!

Harry said...

Sloppy seconds!

Regards,

Dick.

Anonymous said...

I'm not the least bit consistent. And nothing I say has any real bearing on anything at all.

At least we can agree on that.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for visiting!

I noticed that you've learned some finnish too.

Fucking cool...

Cheers,

Make

Really? said...

So you're not "a Great Person"!???

That's cute. You're funny. I really don't think you need to worry too much that anyone at all thinks you're a Great Person, or a guru, or even a spiritual leader...What you undeniably are is a writer about (zen) Buddhism, with 3 books (2 on the way, including a translation/commentary on the MMK) and a blog, and the "Leader of Dogen Sangha International" (what IS that?); successor to Gudo Wafu Nishijima Roshi, currently on an international book promotion/talk-giving/retreat leading tour. That makes you, at least, a "teacher", in the generally understood Buddhist sense.

You took on this stuff, Brad - no one forced you. You clearly believe you have something to say and that others might benefit from listening to you - unless you're doing it solely for fame and profit. You shouldn't, therefore, be surprised that some folks do, in fact, read what you write, and seek to understand it. In this blog, they debate it. That's all that's going on.

What did you expect?

Jinzang said...

sorry, I have no idea how to put the dots above the a's

Like this Å Å or like this: Å
Å

More funny character codes here.

Rick said...

Wilkommen aus M&ueml;nchen.

proulx michel said...

I think he was rather looking for the umlaut (ä). The A-ring is for Swedish.

Anonymous said...

It is Jyväskylä.

Thank you for visiting. Oli vitun siistii, kun jätkä kävi.

Justin said...

To me there seems to be something fishy about someone who becomes a Zen monk, then a transmitted dharma heir, then 'the leader of Dogen Sangha' and writes books and frequent online articles making bold, broad, often controversial, and/or sensationalist statements about Buddhism, yet who insists again and again that they don't want to be seen as an authority.

You can't have your cake and eat it.

Obviously you do want to be taken as an authority - a Zen teacher backed by the authority of dharma transmission. You took those ordinations. And obviously you think you have something important to tell the world, otherwise you wouldn't write all the books and articles.

In the past you've spoken about those ordinations as if they just happened to you. But these things don't happen by accident, without your consent, and probably took some effort. It seems you are not taking responsibility for your own decisions.

Perhaps you're conflicted - perhaps you believe in 'no authorities' yet you make authoritative statements about it - as an authority. Is it that you have a poorly-thought-out philosophy?

Or perhaps it's a kind of false-modesty?

Being a Zen teacher is a responsibility - one which you have accepted. If you are genuinely uncomfortable with being seen as an authority then you could quit teaching, quit writing and/or quit your kesa.

You could easily practice or teach Zen quietly just like all the other practitioners and teachers around the world if that was what you wanted.

What is it you want?

Katy said...

What is it he wants? Sex. Lots of dirty, kinky sex. And probably cool action figures. Maybe a burrito if it's around lunchtime. I could go for a burrito right about now. How about you? What are you hungry for?

Justin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Justin: Why so negative, hostile and unfriendly. You seem so sad. :(

Anonymous said...

Maybe a burrito would help...

Anonymous said...

Justin needs a hug.

anon #108 said...

Hi anon @ 8.24am -

I've been studing psycho-babble...

"Justin: Why so negative, hostile and unfriendly. You seem so sad. :("

That's passive-aggressive, isn't it?
I'm right, aren't I? :-)

Justin said...

Hi,

I'm not at all sad. I just asked what seemed obvious questions in response to Brad.

As usual, when someone criticises Brad or asks unwelcome questions, some here have tried to make it about some psychological problem with 'the critic'.

Rick said...

Justin said...

You can't have your cake and eat it.

That sucks. Why have the cake in the first place?

Speaking of cake... It's lunch time here.

anon #108 said...

FWIW, Justin, I think you asked some pretty straightforward, relevant questions. You weren't rude, dismissive, arrogant, or a smart-arse - and I'm not one of your fans ;-)

Anonymous said...

Buddhists are their own special variety of assholes. It's annoying until you play along. Cake! Cake? Want some cake?

Rick said...

Justin also said...

"...tried to make it about some psychological problem with 'the critic'."

Does seem to be the case all too often. How is it that someone can gleen that level of mental or emotional information from text on a screen? Hmm...

It's problematic to play the psycho-babble card since it can be turned back on the one playing it.

On another matter, you (and also Really?) do make valid points - in case you haven't heard that yet.

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

Anonymous said...

Buddhists are their own special variety of assholes.

An asshole is an asshole. Washed or unwashed, there's nothing special about our varity, versus yours.

Want some cake?

No, thank you. I'm on a diet. But you go ahead and have a piece.

You can have mine too since I'm not having any of it.

Justin said...

anon #108 said...

"You weren't rude, dismissive, arrogant, or a smart-arse "

Thanks, so I'm making some progress then... :)

Harry said...

Can't Dharma Heirs and teachers be screwed-up, confused and inconsistent people?

Can you show me one who isn't/ wasn't?

I'm wary of people in authority who claim not to be screwed-up, confused and inconsistent people. I'm also wary of people who seem to need Buddhist teachers, or who seem to need any other person, to be something other than what they are. They're probably waiting for a better lion to roar for them... poor them.

The thing of practicing and teaching Buddhism may not be what we think it is at all... it mightn't conform to our simple ideas of what constitutes a real Buddhist Class Act, like HHTDL or Richard Geere... Master Dogen, echoing the description of his Chinese ancestor, said that the real function of Kannon is like a person groping backwards into the darkness for a pillow... pretty impressive, eh?... I look forward to that article in Tricycle magazine (actually, I don't).

Regards,

Harry.

Another Buddhist Asshole said...

(Psst... Careful Harry. Making sense is frowned upon.)

Really? said...

Hi Harry -

"Can't Dharma Heirs and teachers be screwed-up, confused and inconsistent people"

Yes, they can, and are, Harry.

That's why we, their students, can ask them questions, and even dare to point out those confusions and inconsistencies.

Harry said...

Oh, pointing out is GOOD GOOD GOOD... but, there's more going on here that's not just Brad's jolly little foibles. Some more things need pointing out it seems... otherwise we're just bullshitting ourselves and playing an silly inverted version of the 'let's gush about the guru' game.

Regards,

Harry.

Rick said...

Well then, Harry, by all means, point them out. ('Cause right now, I'm a little clueless about your point.)

ellen9 said...

I so love the Complaints Choir. Last year at the Queens Museum I saw an installation of films of four of their choirs.

They do make me think of buddhism -- with a light touch, the choirs are an utterly sincere exploration of suffering and how we experience it.

Very funny, very cool.

Harry said...

Rick,

How do you need Brad Warner, Buddhist Teacher, to behave, and why?

Regards,

Harry.

Anonymous said...

Brad, dude! You've got it backwards! We
don't wanna see girls photographing you;
we wanna see you photographing
GIRLS!

Let's see some of that dirty love!

proulx michel said...

Rick said...

Well then, Harry, by all means, point them out. ('Cause right now, I'm a little clueless about your point.)
I think that Harry didn't say anything else than "Brad, like any other buddhist teacher, is a human being with his foibles and all, and therefore (with Gudo's accent) there's no need to keep trying to point them to him just to show him how useless and inconsistent he may be"

Actually, the good point with Brad is, he knows very well, and doesn't shy from it.

Anonymous said...

hahahaha I love the Iggy Pop, Frank Zappa comment. Perfection.

Anonymous said...

This may be too nerdy even for this blog,
but I hope Brad didn't forget to thank
the Finns for giving us Linus Torvalds.

amanda said...

"Buraddo-san" sounds so much like "Burrito-san" it makes me hungry.

Rick said...

Harry,

I am not concerned with how Brad Warner, Buddhist Teacher, behaves.

I don't need him to behave in any manner, is what I'm saying.

The relevance and substance of the message is what I'm interested in.

But that's how I think it should be for anyone, teacher or student, Guru or supplicant. What is the message, is it relevant to me right now. Does it make sense, or is it complete bullocks. If it is the latter, then, by all means, have at 'em.

I do find it interesting how people are on him regardless of the message. Since I haven't been following this blog for very long, and I only ever read the first book a few years ago, I don't get a good sense of what's what.

Or am I still missing the point?

(P.S. Wasn't critical of what you said earlier, just didn't get the message.)

Rick said...

proulx michel said...

I think that Harry didn't say anything else than...

Is it possible that I am being more than a little dense?

Oui, bien sûr, certainement...

Justin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

To speak to the whole fame thing I would say that once someone becomes famous, and Brad has acquired fame because he has published books. They are the major source of his fame and the accomplishment of getting published is something many people try to achieve. Any kind of books, not only Buddhist books but writing in general. This is viewed as an accomplishment and evokes reactions in people, accomplishments in any field of the arts be it writing, painting, film etc.
I've noticed it with my partner, who is published author and is published regularly. When people don't know that about him they act one way, when they learn of this accomplishment, they act differently. I've witnessed it happen right in front of my eyes. We measure and critique people in light of their accomplishments because we are that kind of society. I think societies are to some extent or another.
With regards to my partner, people will suddenly react as if he is somehow different than them or even attribute a kind of arroganct to him because of these accomplishments. I don't know if this is the case with Brad but it could be in some cases. People can simultaneously loathe and revere people someone who has accomplished something or is perceived to have accomplished something different from the norm. And one enters into a world of real muck and mire when accomplishments seem to involve anything spiritual.
I think Justin makes some good points. As humans we have expectations, questions and criticisms of others.
That being said I can't think of anyone I want to question more than myself.

Her Assholiness Kyla ;)

Steve said...

I so want the action figure.

Anonymous said...

Could you imagine the Brad Action Figure? I actually collect all sorts of action figures. You know you've made it when people have a mini-me of you preserved in it's box.
Actually I don't leave mine in boxes, I'm an amateur Seth Green.
Could you imagine what Robot Chicken could do with a Brad Action Figure!!!

Her Assholiness Kyla

Anonymous said...

(I even have a Seth Green action figure!!)


Her Assholiness

Anonymous said...

I don't expect Justin to ever stop criticizing Brad. I don't think he can. His pointing out that Brad is inconsistent might be another way of showing us who the really consistent folks around here are, the real true Buddhists. I have to admit Justin is consistent. He is a model of that non-virtue.

Anonymous said...

One can only glean so much about a person by way of comments they make. I don't want to assume, although it's easy to do, that I truly know someone from this sort of medium. It's an old cliche but a true one. When I'm pointing one finger at someone, three of my own fingers are pointing at me.
I know, that was really lame but I don't assume to know Justin, Brad or anyone else truly from just the words I read. I don't even know myself.

Her Assholiness Kyla

Anonymous said...

However, I would like to add that Seth Green IS beyond reproach because he's just so darn cool!!!

Her Assholiness once again.

alan said...

Does Her Assholiness Kyla have any Asscolytes?

If not, get cracking. One must strike when the iron is hot : )

Maybe you can borrow some of Brads?

I'm available on the third Tuesday of every month.

Otherwise, I'm all worshiped up.

Harry said...

"What are you gawping at? Don't you see that it's about you?"

Kodo Sawaki.

Justin said...

Anonymous @ 12:27 PM said...

"I don't expect Justin to ever stop criticizing Brad. I don't think he can. "

The implication being...? That I should? Anyway, I tend not to criticise Brad himself, it's just that sometimes I disagree with what he says and sometimes I say so.

"His pointing out that Brad is inconsistent..."

I didn't say Brad was inconsistent. That was Brad himself.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Alan, the third Tuesday of every month is reserved for His Eminence of Parody Seth Green. He brings all his action figures. Get in line. ;)

Her Assholiness Kyla

gniz said...

My wife is also a published author, and fairly popular with a bit of a following. Interestingly, she gets almost NO hateful, spiteful, or otherwise negative reactions despite having a blog, facebook page, webpage and all the rest. I think its clearly because her writing style and her "real world" style is very down to earth and non confrontational.

Being famous or even with a little fame (like my wife) does not=critics coming out of the woodwork.

Just why Brad engenders such fierce (and probably many times undeserved) criticism is for us and him to ponder.

Aaron

Anonymous said...

That's a very good point Aaron. Maybe it's because Brad is writing "Buddhist" books and people have certain expectations of what a buddhist person is supposed to be like. Like Justin says, and it's true, Brad did say it, he is inconsistent. Maybe some people expect he should not be so. I don't know, that could be part of it.

Her Assholiness

Anonymous said...

I think my partner gets the kind of reaction he does because he is covered in tattoos and his hair is down to his butt and people think of someone like that as irresponsible, not able to do what he does, so there are those kind of judgements. Plus he's the most polite soft-spoken person as well as being a literary writer and people don't know what to make of him.
Maybe people don't know what to make of Brad.

Her Assholiness Kyla

gniz said...

I tend to believe, based on my own blog and reactions i get in the real world, that i would also tend to get a lot of negative feedback, even if i didnt sometimes actively pursue it.

In the end, i do think it says something about me...and i think the reaction Brad engenders does say something about him. Not necessarily bad, but it cant be blamed 100 percent on everyone else.

Rich said...

"Being famous is also a weird, weird, weird thing. Apparently there are already people going thru my writings to find statements to prove their own ideas about me or even -- please don't laugh -- to hold me up as some kind of an authority."

I think he means you have to find your own meaning then you become the authority.

" Please don't do that. It's only going to bite you on the ass in the end. I'm not the least bit consistent. And nothing I say has any real bearing on anything at all."

I kind of get that because he is not a part of my everyday life. I think what he means is that being a zen buddhist priest is just one of his roles and that's not who he really is.

Anonymous said...

Hi Aaron. I don't mean to say that my partner gets a lot of negative feedback, he gets more reactions of disbelief or pigeonholing. He's also of mixed race and people hold judgments about visible minorities whether they admit it or not. Plus, people sometimes mistake him for a woman because of how the brain processes info when it can't tell what ethnicity someone is so the brain looks for markers like long hair and no facial hair, but I digress.
Back to poor Brad.
I don't even think it's a matter of blame of Brad or people making judgments or criticisms. People make judgments about everyone they meet, either consciously or unconsciously.
Not everyone is going to click. Different personalities clash but at the same time I have found for myself, the people that rub me the wrong way the most tend to have something to teach me about myself. They challenge me in some way and that's not always a bad thing. And sometimes people just flat out disagree and that's just life.
I was watching "Real Time", Bill Maher's show and he and his guests always make fun of religion and how stupid religious people are and as someone who studies the life of Jesus, it sometimes really bugs me. But I can see a lot of the points made, mind you he never has a smart religious person on like Marcus Borg or Karen Armstrong so...
So I was talking with my partner about why that might be and he said that by and large people aren't interested in nuances of thought. The show usually amounts to people one-upping each other and they may as well be shouting "you suck", "no, YOU suck" back and forth. People tend not to listen and are just calculating their next smart-ass point. But some points are good.
My point after that long speech is that perhaps people either consciously or not prefer to be agreed with and not to be challenged. They prefer to have those around them who buoy up what they already think.
So if what Brad says or how he comes across, partly by choice and partly that's him take it or leave it, it challenges some people and that isn't negative or a bad thing. Disagreeing with him or anyone else is not a bad thing and I think the most important thing is HOW people disagree and it doesn't have to be about blame.
We are all complex people with many roles, as Rich mentions roles in the comment above and we have inner lives no one is privy to so I think judgments should always be made with caution but they will be made nonetheless.

Her Sincerest Assholiness Kyla

alan said...

Damn that Seth Green's eyes. That's the third time this week he's foiled my perfected schemes.

Oh, well, there's always another assholy around the next corner.

I think I can see one winking at me now.....

Anonymous said...

So in conclusion, the most important point for Brad is that at least he's not mistaken for a woman on a regular basis. Although the first picture I ever saw of him is that one of him in that rubber monster suit waving and well I wasn't sure at first...


Her Assholiness ;)

Anonymous said...

How many action figures do YOU have Alan? Hmmm?
Need I say more?

Her Assholiness ;)

alan said...

Oh Beneficent Assholiness,

ALL my figures are action figures!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/8763834@N02/3711752360/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/8763834@N02/3680754610/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/8763834@N02/3524281946/

But Seth, I fear is nowhere here.

But I do have a Gollum in the in- basket.

I love garage sales.

Anonymous said...

Wow you have some beautiful artwork Alan!!

Her Most Sincere of Sincerest Assholiness Kyla

Jinzang said...

To me there seems to be something fishy about someone ... who insists again and again that they don't want to be seen as an authority.

I don't see the contradiction at all. To want to speak out on topics that interest you, even controversial ones, does not equate with wanting to be perceived as an authority. In the first case, you want your ARGUMENTS to be taken seriously. In the second YOU want to be taken seriously. There's a world of difference between the two positions. I think Brad has been pretty consistent over the years with his stated distaste for adulation by adoring students. Maybe he secretly enjoys it and is just putting up a false front. I have no way of knowing. But at least his stated position is not contradictory.

Anonymous said...

Such a good point Jinzang.

Her Assholiness

Jinzang said...

i think the reaction Brad engenders does say something about him.

Not necessarily. Most of the anger in the comments section comes after Brad speaks up on a controversial subject, but so what? The same thing happens to me whenever I talk about homeopathy or rebirth in Buddhism. Some topics are controversial and are going to draw a heated response.

alan said...

I am far from a close FOB (friend of brad) but unless I'm completely misreading him, he has no interest in owning a posse of adoring fanboys.

Or anything close.

As far as fanchicks I have no idea.

I'm pretty sure THAT would be a closer call : )

NellaLou said...

"To want to speak out on topics that interest you, even controversial ones, does not equate with wanting to be perceived as an authority. In the first case, you want your ARGUMENTS to be taken seriously. In the second YOU want to be taken seriously."

Nice distinction Jinzang.

Lauren said...

Good thing Brad has this watering hole in Brad land so that we can all gather and chatter and be seen and be a little famous ourselves.

Really? said...

Justin originally wrote:

"To me there seems to be something fishy about someone who becomes a Zen monk, then a transmitted dharma heir, then 'the leader of Dogen Sangha' and writes books and frequent online articles making bold, broad, often controversial, and/or sensationalist statements about Buddhism, yet who insists again and again that they don't want to be seen as an authority."

Jinzang then (mis)quoted Justin, thus:

"To me there seems to be something fishy about someone ... who insists again and again that they don't want to be seen as an authority."

and then commented on the highly edited quote:

"To want to speak out on topics that interest you, even controversial ones, does not equate with wanting to be perceived as an authority. In the first case, you want your ARGUMENTS to be taken seriously. In the second YOU want to be taken seriously."

Sorry, but To what does "In the first case..." refer? And to what does "in the second..." refer? - given that Justin's point includes references to a number of positions and activities that Brad holds/is engaged in, and jinz's edited comment includes only one ("speaking out on topics...").

Some very selective, I might even suspect disingenuous - if I didn't have more respect for jinzang's integrity - editing here.

Either I've misunderstood, or Jinzazng has been unclear.
Can anybody be bothered, just for the sake of clarity, to explain?

Really? said...

To make my query clearer (say that x4), let me offer my own edited version of Justin's paragraph:

"To me there seems to be something fishy about someone who becomes a Zen monk, then a transmitted dharma heir, then 'the leader of Dogen Sangha' and writes books and frequent online articles...yet who insists again and again that they don't want to be seen as an authority."

Does this still apply:

"In the first case, you want your ARGUMENTS to be taken seriously. In the second YOU want to be taken seriously." ?

I'm not taking sides - I just want to understand the point, seeing that Kyla and Nella-lou thought it was such a good one.

gniz said...

Nice catch, Really, The way Jinzang edited that quote of Justin's did completely change the nature of it. Brad doesn't just "speak up" on topics. He has done a wide variety of things (as Justin pointed out), and if he didn't want to be an authority figure than becoming head of dogen sangha might not be the best activity.

It would be nice if Jinzang would explain his selective editing. I'm guessing he simply took the parts that he thought most applied, but in fact he totally altered the way the sentence read.

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

One thing I will say, is that the fact that Brad allows this very often highly critical comments section open says a lot about him. I think its a positive thing which shows he isnt afraid of unmoderated discussion--many people would have shut this place down long ago.

So for what its worth, kudos Brad.

Anonymous said...

Looooooo

NellaLou said...

"To want to speak out on topics that interest you, even controversial ones, [1st case]does not equate with wanting to be perceived as an authority [2nd case]"

I think that Jinzang was referring to his own example.

Justin said...

Brad could easily have contributed from the sidelines like the rest of us, without the problems of being taken as an authority, if he wanted to. So, why then did he take the path he did?

Ben Newell said...

I Like Turtles

Zayin said...

Wow, I've read some of your blog, homepage and articles. I find what you write very inspiring and interesting. I think trashing your own image is good. It's good to be reminded that the people we admire are not perfect. Please keep writing.

proulx michel said...

Justin said...

Brad could easily have contributed from the sidelines like the rest of us, without the problems of being taken as an authority, if he wanted to. So, why then did he take the path he did?

I have the curious impression that you are more interested in Brad himself and the way he lives than in what he writes...

proulx michel said...

Really? said...

To make my query clearer (say that x4), let me offer my own edited version of Justin's paragraph:

"To me there seems to be something fishy about someone who (...) writes books and frequent online articles...yet who insists again and again that they don't want to be seen as an authority."

Does this still apply:

"In the first case, you want your ARGUMENTS to be taken seriously. In the second YOU want to be taken seriously." ?


Yes. I just think that Jinzang edited the quote badly, but basically his point is that. Brad writes things, which he'd like to be taken seriously. He, for one, though, doesn't want to be taken seriously. That's something else.

An authority is someone who has competence in a given field which others have not. Thus, in a perfectly anarchistic group, people will accept the authority of the competent, in turn, according to the needs. In an authoritarian society, the chief is THE authority, whether he's competent or not. More often not than otherwise.

If you hold someone (Brad, for example) for an authority, you miss the point, because you make that person an authority even in fields where they're not competent.

I once heard a French Zen teacher (third generation descendent of K. Sawaki) reply on the telly to the interviewer who told him "you need to have self-confidence", -- "No! You have no need for self-confidence. What you need is confidence in what you're doing!"

I thinks the point's important.

Matt said...

i've gotten really good at skimming since i started clicking the comments. it's fine to have an opinion and all, but wow, don't you guys have your own blogs?

Really? said...

Hi PM -

Now you've misquoted me* (in your post @ 11.14 - check what I actually wrote @ 6.23pm)!

Never mind, I do get the point you, and NellaLou picked up on. But, as NellaLou said, "...Jinzang was referring to his own example", which while derived from what Justin wrote, did misquote and misrepresent it.

I like to think I'm a little obsessive about accuracy, clarity, honesty, fairness - all that stuff.

Harry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anon #108 said...

proulx-michel said, (to Justin):

"I have the curious impression that you are more interested in Brad himself and the way he lives than in what he writes..."

But Brad very often - usually, even - writes about "the way he lives", and what he thinks about the way he lives. So no one should be surprised when comments about the writing 'stray' into comments about the living.

Jinzang said...

Jinzang then (mis)quoted Justin

I usually provide a quote to let people know what I'm responding to. I edited the quote, rather than quote the entire thing because that's considered good netiquette. Usually I try to get a representative portion, but sometimes that's difficult, as in Justin's comment. My response was intended for his entire post, not just the quoted portion.

Really it comes down to this. People do a lot of stuff in life because the think it need to be done rather than because they picture hosts of adoring fans thanking them for doing it. I don't know what motivates Brad, but the possibility exists that he genuinely doesn't enjoy the adoration.

Really? said...

Fair enough, Jinzang.

Thanks.

Justin said...

Yes - I wouldn't argue with that.

Rick said...

Matt said...

it's fine to have an opinion and all, but wow, don't you guys have your own blogs?

Bloody marvelous... absolutely well put.

Anonymous said...

I think it is good to remember that these forums are an odd way to communicate. I find it hard to know if I am clearly understanding what people are saying.It is different than sitting face to face and having conversations where miscommunication can be more readily corrected. I didn't think that Jinzang intentionally "misquoted" Justin or was trying to deride Justin. I perceived he was making reference to the original comment and then contributing his thought. I find Justin AND Jinzang very well-spoken and clear. It is much harder for me to be so concise and I find these forums an even more difficult venue. It helps me to bear in mind that this is a different form of communication than live talking. I also try to insert a lot of humour as well as being serious because this is a good comments board and I wouldn't want it to deteriorate into mere fighting and I don't see it heading that way. It is freeing not to be jumped on for making jokes and being more light at times. I do it in part because I don't feel as articulate as a Justin or Jinzang and they will often make comments I agree with or make me think more on the topic. And as I think Gniz said, I respect Brad for not shutting this comments board down despite some backlash. If I can presume a little here, I think Brad respects peoples' right to say what they want and have a place to talk to each other (actually, I CAN read Brad's mind) ;).

Once again, Her Assholiness Kyla

Anonymous said...

I'm secretly trying to take over Brad's blog which isn't a very well-kept secret since my comments are so long and rambling. ;)

Her Assholiness

Anonymous said...

"Brad, like any other buddhist teacher, is a human being with his foibles and all, and therefore (with Gudo's accent) there's no need to keep trying to point them to him just to show him how useless and inconsistent he may be"


"Genpo, like any other buddhist teacher, is a human being with his foibles and all, and therefore (with Gudo's accent) there's no need to keep trying to point them to him just to show him how useless and inconsistent he may be"

"Ken Wilbur, like any other buddhist teacher, is a human being with his foibles and all, and therefore (with Gudo's accent) there's no need to keep trying to point them to him just to show him how useless and inconsistent he may be"

Anonymous said...

Someone left a comment on my blog that said 'don't you have anyone else's blog to comment on?'

Anonymous said...

Anon at 6:33Am

that's kinda creepy if someone left that comment on your blog. :(


Her Sincerest Assholiness Kyla

Stephanie said...

I think that looking at the way a teacher lives is very important. It's very easy to write beautiful words about the ideal and correct way to live and practice, but it's another thing to actually live it. In other words, writing it is easy, living it is hard.

I got a crash course in this when I was involved with someone who was a brilliant writer on Buddhism, but whose life was very different from the self-portrait presented in his writings. We often write beautiful things to make us feel better about our existence; there's nothing particularly special about this. What's special is actually being able to live the principles we uphold in speech. This person wrote about humility, but embodied arrogance; he wrote about kindness, but was vindictive and enjoyed shaming and emotionally harming others. In hindsight, I see that this is what his writing always was about--upholding his way as good or better than others and trying to invoke shame in others to the extent they didn't match up to the "correct" vision he presented. It was all about his ego, which he blathered endlessly about having conquered and overcome to anyone who would listen. As Bugs Bunny would say, "What a maroon."

At the end of the day, others' judgments of your 'spiritual correctness' are limited and determined by their own biases and ego-needs. That's why all of the preening and posturing we can do about how great we are and all the finger-pointing we can do about how flawed or incorrect someone else is matters very little. That's all ego, and ego has its functions and merits, but accurate perception of the truth is not one of them.

At the end of the day all we get for meeting others' standards for 'spiritual correctness' is the worldly vanity of feeling admired when we parade ourselves in front of others. It doesn't really mean anything when it comes to 'the matter of life and death.' When we're lying on our deathbeds, or if we're lucky, before, we'll suddenly realize that all this stupid bullshit we've chased our whole lives doesn't mean a damn thing. All that means anything is the 'state of our soul,' which is something no one else can measure or reckon. The spiritual journey is a lonely one for this very reason--it is a journey of 'inwardness' as Kierkegaard put it. It is not a public endeavor and the extent to which we try to make it one is the extent to which we have drifted from what the path actually is about.

Harry said...

"Brad, like any other buddhist teacher, is a human being with his foibles and all, and therefore (with Gudo's accent) there's no need to keep trying to point them to him just to show him how useless and inconsistent he may be"

Yeah, that wasn't my point at all, that's just Mr. P's take on it.

Pointing out people's foibles may indeed be the right thing to do depending on the actual situation. It may also (often) be a self indulgent waste of time where we are merely wallowing in the 'rightness' of our own narrow views and values. The motivation is the difference, and the perspective from which it's done.

Our own Buddhist practice can help us clarify this which, as far as I can see here, may be the emphasis we should consider concentrating on.

Regards,

Harry.

Justin said...

Thanks Stephanie

I enjoyed your contribution very much - as usual.

"What a maroon" Hehe

Anonymous said...

Two very thought-provoking comments Stephanie and Harry.
For me, zazen has helped me, along with other things, overcome the fear of speaking up (eg. on a comments board like this). It's a fear of being attacked and thereby feeling stupid etc. People often attack, I mean a real attack, not debate out of their ego. As Stephanie talks about, to bolster up their persona.
But anyway, for me it goes back to Brad's blog, I am learning to just not give as much of a crap as I used to about what other people might think of me. Zazen practice has helped me do this by helping break down the illusion that the words of others about me are "truth" and the words I say about myself or think about myself are "truth."
I want to stick to my own practice as being the most integral/important thing. Secondary is participating in forums like this. (that was probably very unclear!)

Her Most Confusing Assholiness and Blog-Hijacker, Kyla

Anonymous said...

(but can't we still make fun of Ken Wilbur?) ;)

Her Assholiness

Stephanie said...

Thanks Justin.

One of the things I'm grateful to Brad for is his attempt to wrest spirituality in general and Buddhism in particular away from the sea of bullshit that often invades people's language when talking about these matters. For example, I stumbled across this paragraph recently:

In this impassioned radio show, sacred activist Andrew Harvey offers a lucid, poetic, and unflinching analysis of our current dark night of the collective soul as well as an inspiring vision of what lies on the other side. He discusses the importance of sacred embodiment, the divine feminine and an evolutionary mysticism to help us chart a clear course forward. He shows how mystics have often been addicted to transcendence and activists to worldly shadows in a way that disempowers both. The path forward lies in the marriage of two flames: the mystic's love for God and the activist's love for justice. On this show, you'll hear about how to balance cool, warm, prayer, embodiment, and shadow practices in a way that creates a more integral approach to growth. You'll also hear Andrew discuss how our current economic and political challenges are calling forth "networks of grace" to helps us shed false illusions and reconstruct our world in the divine image.

No offense to Andrew Harvey, whom I suspect means well, but if you took all the bullshit, empty language out of that paragraph you'd have nothing left. And that's the same sort of language that Wilber and Genpo use--that beautiful, la-dee-dah language that tickles our insides but upon closer inspection is pure fluff. We can talk about "energy channels" and "networks of grace" and "being integral" and "aligning our chakras" and "blending cool and warm practices," etc., 'till we're blue in the face. It really doesn't mean jack shit. Think about it, how tragic, all these people that devote their lives to "spirituality" who end up doing nothing but engaging in self-serving empty nonsense their whole lives long. Brad may be imperfect and may sometimes be guilty of his own insincere bullshit language at times but for the most part at least he's trying to be real, direct, and down to earth with folks about the perils and merits of the Zen path.

We often trip out on words and ideas but it's usually just an exercise in self-delusion. Various forms of mental masturbation and circle jerks, is what a lot of the 'product' out there on the spiritual supermarket amounts to.

The only way out of the endless maze of bullshit is to give up completely.

I sometimes wonder how and why people who have not suffered enormously find their way to the spiritual path. If you're generally well-adjusted and have a decent, happy life with your picket fence and golden retriever, why go poking around in the dark woods at night? Why mess with the dragons lurking in the unmapped territories? If you're (un)fortunate enough to capture and sustain the interest of the 'real dragon,' you're done--you can't play both sides of the fence endlessly. You're going to have to give up all the comfort and security you spent so much time amassing. You're going to have to lose everything.

I think most people don't know what they're getting into when they start messing with the spiritual path. I sure didn't.

Anonymous said...

I have come across some real manipulative nutbars out there in the "spiritual" world Stephanie.
Great comment by the way.

Her Sincerest Assholinest Kyla

Anonymous said...

Hi,

I have some attitude problems. Would anyone care to help me with that?

Thanks!

Justin said...

Hi Stephanie,

Yes, there is a lot of fluffy New Age nonsense out there, which isn't to my taste either and it might indeed be a 'hinderance'.

I prefer my Buddhism without that sort of thing too. And I appreciate Brad's efforts to be genuine. In fact, Brad's writing was one of the factors that made Buddhism palatable to me back when I started.

And yes, constructive criticism of that kind of stuff is a healthy thing.

On the other hand, self-deception, delusion and attachment are deep and insidious. So it seems to be a fundamental error to stand smugly mocking others.

It too can easily be "self-serving empty nonsense" or an "exercise in self-delusion. Various forms of mental masturbation and circle jerks". So for me (and I don't claim to always live up to this) we need to be constructive and inquiring in our criticism, genuinely open-minded to truth.

BTW, your spiritual path sounds like it has been a lot more fraught than mine. Best wishes with it.

Sledge said...

I have some attitude problems. Would anyone care to help me with that?

Yes. Just let me go get my sledge hammer...

Stephanie said...

On the other hand, self-deception, delusion and attachment are deep and insidious. So it seems to be a fundamental error to stand smugly mocking others.

My intent is not to stand from a pedestal on high and mock 'others,' but to mock the ego-tendencies every last one of us has. As per what I've said, at the end of the day all that matters is how true I am or am not being. If I start focusing too much on others, life tends to bring me right back face-to-face with my own bullshit, shortcomings, and 'defects of character.' Which is true for all of us.

It takes a sledge hammer (thanks for the image, Sledge) to get through to me, so I try to share in plain and sometimes aggressive language the sorts of statements that might have stopped me in the tracks of some of my useless discursions had someone been so direct with me in the past.

BTW, your spiritual path sounds like it has been a lot more fraught than mine. Best wishes with it.

I've never been good at the 'middle way' between extremes. It's a temperamental thing. So of course it's filtered its way into my spiritual path.

I tend to suspect 'spiritual' folks who are a bit more on the light, carefree side because it's been my experience that some degree of true suffering is required to even begin to 'get' this stuff... to get past the point where it's just words and ideas and where it takes root in the heart and gut. I don't believe it's necessary to wrestle with demons as hefty as mine, but I also don't think that just learning how to more fully appreciate slicing carrots while watching your dog play in the yard (as nice as that is) is really 'it' either. That said, some folks can suffer tremendously their whole lives and end up just as clueless and self-deceived as anyone else. Some humility and surrender has to creep in somewhere... something I still struggle with as I'm not very good at it. I tend to want to fight my battles to the death, to the very bitter end, and I pretty much have to be crushed to relent on some of my more passionate pursuits. And some of those pursuits have been incredibly stupid...

Anonymous said...

Justin said "On the other hand, self-deception, delusion and attachment are deep and insidious. So it seems to be a fundamental error to stand smugly mocking others."
This is SUCH a key point Justin!! I just had to cut and paste it into my own comment so I can sort of take some credit for it. ;)

Her Monopolizing Assholiness Kyla

Anonymous said...

And I'm intending that to anyone in particular, it is just such a good thing for everyone to be reminded of.

Her Assholiness

Anonymous said...

oops!!! I am NOT intending if to be for anyone in particular.

Her Mentally Challenged Assholiness

Eureka said...

"Brad writes things, which he'd like to be taken seriously. He, for one, though, doesn't want to be taken seriously. That's something else."

One should seek a perfection of wisdom. One should also understand that there is no such thing as perfection of wisdom. To accept these two contradictory facts is perfection of wisdom. Or, as close as you can get to it.

Harry said...

Hee hee, that could almost be mistaken for common sense.

The ultimate point of view may be the dropping off of points of view... which has resulted in some very interesting points of view.

Regards,

Harry.

Rich said...

"I sometimes wonder how and why people who have not suffered enormously find their way to the spiritual path."

I suspect that most people have suffered enormously. to just acknowledge your suffering and just continue to practice is the only way out that I can see.

amanda said...

1st: Proulx Michel @ 11:14PM
2nd: Stephanie @ 7:50AM
3rd: Ben Newell @ 10:00PM

Anonymous said...

Brad you have to update us (or me at least if you read this) on whether or not you find more of those Godzilla movies where Godzilla is called Frankenstein.

Her Godzillassholiness Kyla

Anonymous said...

I was wearing my iPod the other day (listening to Once in a Lifetime by the Talking Heads) and as I walked past a church I saw a well dressed woman shouting whilst other church goers looked on. I pulled out an earphone and heard her screaming:

"There is NO middle way. There is ONLY Heaven or Hell. You have a choice - God gave you free will. So follow the righteous path and go to heaven or follow the middle way and BURN IN HELL..."

Like the smug Buddhist bastard that I am I put my earpiece back in, went home and put my shopping away.

Black? White? Gray? Just shades of opinion. And my teacher always cautioned against strong opinions.

Life is a dewdrop on a blade of grass and all that...

earDRUM said...

same as it ever was...
same as it ever was...
same as it ever was...
same as it ever was...

anon #108 said...

amanda gives -

"1st: Proulx Michel @ 11:14PM..."

For what? Completely missing the point? A comment based on a doctored quote! Again!! Benefit of the doubt demands that I assume the error was a mistake, but still...(See Really?'s original comment @ 6.23pm, about half-way down the comments).

I read these things. It's not all I do, but I do read em.

anon #108 said...

...yeah, Ok - he made a point despite the misqoute/misunderstanding -

Give him a special mention, then.

Anonymous said...

lotta freaks..

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

118

what's it all about?

Mr. Reee said...

Asking questions about why someone 'really' does something is pointless.

This is a key point in Zen, if I'm not mistaken--we do not know why we ourselves 'choose' the path we take (who exactly is doing the choosing?) so how is someone else going to figure it out?

Or do we need learned Zen Masters to figure that out for ourselves and and tell us (and everyone else who wants to listen?)

Anonymous said...

I suspect with Andrew Harvey as with others earning their way in the spiritual new age

they are their own hard act to follow

Justin said...

I disagree Mr Reee. By paying attention we can get out of the 'auto-pilot' mode of behaviour where we act and react based on agendas that are hidden even to ourselves. Zen isn't about analysing ourselves and we may not get final answers but we can get clear sight of the conditionings, goals, desires, aversions and so on that drive us.

It's possible to stop blindly identifying with these things and just be.

I think this is very valuable.

Justin said...

However, the 'reason' why anything happens is like a bottomless well.

Justin said...

Stephanie,

My intent is not to stand from a pedestal on high and mock 'others,' but to mock the ego-tendencies every last one of us has. As per what I've said, at the end of the day all that matters is how true I am or am not being. If I start focusing too much on others, life tends to bring me right back face-to-face with my own bullshit, shortcomings, and 'defects of character.' Which is true for all of us.

I agree, although if there is mocking, it is always our own 'ego tendencies' that are doing the mocking. And just to be doubly clear - I wasn't talking about you specifically.

People's practices are different. Some people have big demons and some people have little demons. I don't think there has to be a Biblical struggle for it to be 'real practice'. This Zen practice is just to be present with things just as they are, whether that's slicing carrots on the lawn or being confronted with existential horror.

Anonymous said...

Slicing carrots on the lawn can lead to existential horror if one slices off all one's fingers in the process. :0
(kidding) no really, sometimes I have to joke around about myself since I've experienced a lot of horror and humour helps

Her Assholiness Kyla

Anonymous said...

Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought. – Basho

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

http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/duty_calls.png

Anonymous said...

"Tall trees catch much wind." from the Tao Te Ching

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