Monday, November 16, 2009

Dharma Wars and Appolgies to Canada

First off, someone pointed out that Vancouver is in Southwest Canada, not Northwest Canada. True. I was mixing two ideas, one of which was that I'd been trying for ages to set up a Northwest Tour. This would've included Seattle, Portland, Victoria and Vancouver. But only the folks in Victoria, BC, Canada ponied up for plane fare. Thus it became a "Northwest Canada Tour" in my shriveled up, nearly useless mind. By the way, I wish I was Thurston Howell III and could just jet off to different places on my own dime. But I can't. Not enough dimes!

Next up, a lot of people sent me links to this article in Tricycle magazine in which I am quoted, and to this article about that article.

Micahel Headerle, author of the Tricycle piece, called me up many months ago to interview me for his article. I don't really recall the conversation. But he quotes me as saying, “That’s the way you wrote in punk zines, and it was understood within that community that you called a friend a scumbag and everybody would laugh about it” in regard to my comments that Genpo Roshi is a scumbag.

I don't know if that's precisely what I said. But maybe it is. I kinda doubt it though. In any case, in the context of the article it makes it sound like I'm trying to say, "Hey, me and Genpo are buds, so it's cool." Which is not at all what I want anyone to believe. I am not friends with Genpo Roshi. That's for darn sure.

But I do write here and in my books in a style that comes from the way one wrote in punk zines. Within that context it was understood what it meant to call someone a scumbag or suchlike. It was not that one necessarily wished ill or harm upon the sumbag in question or even hated that person. It was that one viewed that person's actions and concluded that they were the actions of a scumbag. One did not hide one's opinions behind well-reasoned arguments. One just said them. Perhaps this is not well understood in Internet Buddhism Land. But I don't really care. Internet Buddhism Land is not a place I wish to be well understood in.

I find a portion later in the piece more interesting. It goes like this:

If someone rejects Buddhism after stumbling across an online debate, “They’re walking away from a fantasy of Buddhism,” he (me, Brad) says. “That’s O.K. They’re not going to find that anyway, so it sort of speeds up the process.” But it is really necessary to drive them away with a stick?

Is it really necessary to drive folks away from Zen with a stick -- in my case through the use of what Headerle calls "outrageous rhetoric?" I have to wonder if Headerle is familiar at all with the history of Zen. Because the entire history of Zen is full of teachers very literally driving students away with sticks. Traditionally, when one wished to enter a Zen monastery that person was told very loudly to, GO AWAY. If they did not go away they were physically chased away from the place, very often by a monk wielding a big stick. Only those who were serious enough about the practice to withstand this treatment got in. Doesn't anyone read those old stories anymore? Maybe you can't find them on the Internet. Go to the library. I guarantee you will find plenty.

The whole "come on in we have puppies and ice cream inside" attitude that seems to have become the norm in some Western Zen organizations is highly un-traditional. I think I am far more approachable than most Zen teachers of the past. Compared to them I am a big ol' softie.

Whatever. As to the notion that the disputes among Buddhists should not be exposed on-line... All's I can say is that's just not gonna happen. It's out there. This kind of stuff did not start on the Internet. But the Internet has amplified it. And until the Internet goes away, the exposure of disputes among Buddhists on the Internet isn't going away either.

It's probably best not to air any more dirty laundry in public than is strictly necessary. But, for my own part, I have no regrets about what I've said regarding Genpo Roshi. It needed saying and nobody else was saying it. At least not that I was aware of at the time. Yeah, I might have bolstered my arguments against the scam that is Big Mind® more if I hadn't used the word scumbag. But what's done is done. What I said served to call attention to a very serious misuse of the Dharma and I'm glad for that. It probably wouldn't have gotten nearly as much coverage had my argument been more well-reasoned.

So there ya go.

Those of you who wish to debate this matter in person should come to Victoria, BC and/or Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota where I'll be giving plenty of talks over the next few weeks. See this link for full details.

You can go here to comment.

OH! And by the way, the monthly all-day Zazen at Hill Street Center in Santa Monica will proceed as usual this coming Saturday (Nov. 21, 2009) even though I will not be there. Kevin Bortolin, a fellow Dharma heir of Gudo Nishijima, will give the talk. He's good. He got lots of "hot chili pepper" recommendations on some website in which university students rate their professors (he teaches at Ventura College). He is, by the accounts of at least three female friends of mine, a "hot guy." Go see him and judge for yourself!

The info about the retreats is in the links section over to your left. Or if you're too lazy to move your eyeballs leftward just click this link.

(Has anyone ever commented how the Internet has made people ridiculously lazy? Like lazy beyond any reasonable definition of laziness?)