Tuesday, December 08, 2009


Here's an audio file of my talk at Dharma Field in Minneapolis last Sunday, December 6, 2009.

12/6/09 Dharma Field

Those of you who've heard my talks before will recognize that the first 15 minutes are a variation on my standard introductory stump speech. This is the autobiographical how-I-got-into-Zen thing I do a lot. But after 15 minutes, the Q&A started and it went in some interesting directions, I think.

I went several of places this time out. I started off in Vancouver, where I did a public talk on the theme of Buddhism and sex. This was my first time doing a talk specifically about that subject. But it came off (heh-heh) pretty well, I thought. The Q&A started right in, within about ten minutes. That's the kind of talk I like. I video taped this one, so maybe when I get my new website together you'll be able to download it.

Next I led, or oversaw, or something-ed an afternoon of Zazen during which the group got treated to some kind of disco music from downstairs for about half the sitting. Then we had a break, went out to eat, and many of the same people returned to the same place to watch Tank Girl and then dance around like crazy. That was fun.

Finally I did an introduction to Zen class at a Yoga studio, which went really well, I thought. I'd like to do more of those. The Yoga folks in Vancouver seemed pretty interested in Zen. Plus, for once, the women outnumbered the men in the room. I want more women to get into Zen, and not for any pervy reason either. There really is too much testosterone in most Zendos and that needs to be rectified.

Then it was on to Victoria. Victoria is near Vancouver, but it's on an island. The island, just to be confusing, is called Vancouver Island even though Vancouver itself is not on the island. The Canadians are a curious race. Their ways are strange, and their customs confusing.

Anyway, over in Victoria I was hosted by the Victoria Zen Centre. They are part of Joshu Sasaki Roshi's lineage. Or maybe they aren't. Apparently there was a split between the folks in Victoria and the head office of Sasaki's group down here in California. But in any case, they are Rinzai style Zen. And, as you know, Brad Warner thinks that Rinzai is evil. I know this about Brad Warner because I have read it on the Internets. And they can't say anything on the Internets unless it's true. Therefore Brad Warner thinks Rinzai s evil.

But I don't think Rinzai is evil, in spite of what that Brad Warner has to say. Screw him! I really enjoyed sitting with this group. I did a Zen talk, a public talk and a one-day sitting. Because they are evil... I mean because they are Rinzai, they did 25 minute sits with fast kinhin in between. They do kinhin outside in the rain in Victoria.

Which brings up another cultural difference. The folks up there apparently don't know enough to use umbrellas when it's raining and will happily walk around uncovered in weather that would have anyone in Southern California ducking for shelter. In fact even a transplanted Ohioan like me was having difficulty adjusting. But I guess if you ran for cover every time it rained up there you'd be running for cover a whole lot.

I did a lot of dokusans with that group, cuz in the Rinzai tradition everyone at a retreat does dokusan, which they call "sanzen" because they are evil. For those of you who don't know what either one is, they are private interviews with the teacher of the retreat. In traditional Rinzai practice sanzen is where you present your understanding of the koan your teacher has assigned to you. But I didn't do any of that stuff. I just chatted with people.

After Victoria I went and visited my dad in the Dallas suburbs for Thanksgiving. My sister, her husband and her kids all were there too. Hence the videos with my nice niece Skylar that I put up a couple entries ago. Here's another one for those who haven't had enough.

Family! Oy vey and gevelt!

After that it was up to Minnesota for a public talk at Macalaster College. This was a lot of fun. Macalester is an interesting place. On the door to the room downstairs from where I gave my talk was a note advertising a "Feminism and Theater of the Oppressed Workshop for female-identified members of the Macalester Community." That kinda says it all. I like places like that and I'm glad they exist, although sometimes I have trouble understanding them.

I led a short retreat there the following day, which was fun. As always, far fewer people showed up for the Zen practice than for the talk. But then again, I did perform "Buddha Was a Good Ol' Boy" on banjo at the talk, but not at the Zen retreat.

Finally, I did a talk at Dharma Field, the place run by Steve Hagen, author of Buddhism Plain and Simple and Buddhism Is Not What You Think: Finding Freedom Beyond Beliefs. That talk is linked at the top of this page if you want to hear it.

I had a very good time everywhere I went. I'll be parked in California for a little while. But I'm already working on more out of town gigs. Looks like I'll be in Houston and Austin, Texas and then at the Southern Dharma Retreat Center in Hot Springs, North Carolina in March. Also working on a gig in New York City in early April. I'll very likely be in Europe after that.

Anyone who wants me to come to their town, please write me at spoozilla@gmail.com and I'll see what I can do!


Anonymous said...


no 1 !!

Anonymous said...

ok so now I read the blog

Canadiennes rock!

and welcome home


Anonymous said...

I didn't even read the post. The photo blew my mind. Brad - you rock.

Cassidy Stock said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
basic bonehead said...

Trip Report

First I listened to some grateful dead on the headset. Then I laughed alot at my nose. Then I surfed some rad waves on my livingroom floor. Then I laughed at my cat. Then I closed my eyes and grooved on some phish. Then my boss called and asked me to come to work. I laughed at him too. Finally I became one with a dustbunny under my couch and it was all cosmic and stuff. I think I'm back now.

And Brad, you're a rock!

Anonymous said...

That's a mighty fine lookin' banjo...

Uku said...

Yes, that's a HUGE banjo. I wish mine would be like that. It would be so nice to play with it.

Great talks, Your Holiness!

P.S. Yes, Rinzai is EVIL!

proulx michel said...

"a gentleman is someone who can play the bagpipes, but won't..."

anon #108 said...

OK, you got the banjo...Now show me your 'access all areas' to the Large Hadron Collider and I'm yours, big boy ;-)

Mumon said...

Well, that was pretty Rinzai of them to let you in.

"Sanzen" incidentally, is literally translated as "reference zen."

Whereas, "dokusan" is "single or spontaneous reference"

Sanzen seems more sensible...

Anonymous said...

Open letter, to Stephanie from a reader.

Stephanie Wrote: "Me humorously calling Brad out on this does not equate to furious anger with men, as I hope is obvious to more astute readers of this thread..."

I don't consider myself one of those 'astute readers'. But I will claim to be reasonably proficient in reading what you write and not what you claim about what you write.

You'll find out, when you stop exceeding your experience and training in both psychoanalysis and zen, why you do that in the first place.

Bargain-bin deserves bargain-bin. I wouldn't want to provide a professional psycho-linguistic analysis of both your posts and your blog entries, as that would be cruel.

It is trite and fashionable to say 'Self-improvement is the antithesis of zen'

'Self-improvement' as is located within contemporary discourse, is to be distinguished from the genuine recognition in a person that they wish to improve their lives and become a better person.

Without this there would likely be no zen and no one would want to sit. I don't think it to be the goal of 'right' practice. Yet realising why one would 'mistakenly' wish to improve on the 'self' or the world, (or one's idea about Brad and what you consistently blind yourself to) becomes part of the on-going practice of our lives, never mind zazen.

As Brad has said, he is cautiously optimistic about the latest end-of-the-world scenario. He has also said how he thinks zazen could be very helpful for a confused world and its current entanglements.

The self can feel very shiny at times, for a time, with the right, on-going effort

Zen is stupid and zazen is shit, thank god.

Yet, it is impossible for me to not bear the benefits of realising how far I've got my head up my own backside. (Nothwithstanding the importance of not investing in whatever one thinks one has realised.)

When I fling crap, I prefer it to be soft and sloppy and know its soft and sloppy.

A small cup of water holds enough energy to boil the seas. So I wouldn't be too quick to under-estimate the energy you, not the other, labelled as 'furious'.

Although 'furious anger with men' is the type of distortion you like to use in attempting to disguise the contradictions in your writing.

As feminist writing has variously and often usefully shown, such disclaimers as 'tongue-in cheek' don't always wash. And 'Humorously'. Let your 'astute' readers be the judge of that.

Hubris is hubris. Is smelly. Smell it? Then part the fucking weeds. Its where I've took a dump.

There is also a crucial difference between the psycho-textual Stephanie and the ineffable referent. Otherwise why are you making your own pronouncements about a 'Brad'. And why would that 'Brad' have to gently and skilfully upbraid you for your misappropriations?

However the world has a dialogue with itself, I don't think it is useful to hide behind notions of an unknowable self or referent. Or other buddhist ideas which can quickly become useless platitudes.

When 'Brad' has commented on how some folk don't know who he really is, as well as on the pitfalls of the internet, I don't read these comments as a cop-out from taking care of the effects of his textual persona(s), but as pointers to remind readers that they bring their own lights to bear on the shifting shapes.

Or in other words whose hubris is it? And where does the typical 'man' reside?

If one is going to use a bit of good old hubris (and it does have its uses) I'd recommend handling it with caution.

Sometimes we should say something, no matter how its going to fall.

Naomi said...

"several of"?

also, our crazy rain-bearing (and baring, come to think of it) ways are indeed born of necessity. though I have now invested in an umbrella whose spokes, it is to be hoped, are all attached to the...err...plastic-y part. so blasphemous lies, the lot of them!

Mr. Reee said...

Q: What do R. Crumb, Steve Martin, Jerry Garcia, and Brad Warner have in common?

A: They all know no one can resist the aura of a man with a properly-tuned banjo.

(Unless they're into accordions. Then they hang out in Cotati, CA.)

FHGDU said...

I am apologizing for my actions and for getting you caught up in this. Sincerely,

"Foolish Hop Gar Douchenozzle Ulysses"

Anonymous said...

proulx michel! I laughed heartily at that. I'd never heard that before LOL thanks! :)

--matt (too lazy to sign in, but not to type this)

Anonymous said...

Interesting open letter to Stephanie. Thanks for that.

"Sometimes the brain just has to dry out a little"
That sounds true to me, Brad.

Stephanie said...

Anon @ 8:44AM

You're writing to tell me that I shouldn't assume I know someone's intentions or who they really are based on my perception of what they write, by assuming you know me and my intentions based on your perception of what I write?

The difference between your statements and mine are that I back mine up with references and explain what I am basing my observations upon. You just say, for example, that I am guilty of 'distortions,' but don't explain what those distortions are. You say I am guilty of 'hubris,' but don't explain how. You throw up a lot of smokescreens and use a lot of hyperbole that distracts from the absolute lack of content to your statements.

Anonymous said...

I liked the open letter

The anon gave examples in the last post and imho your responses aren't doing you a favour

Seems 'bout right to me

Anonymous said...

Steph. I got on my high horse so I could meet you face to face.

Or to bastardise another cliche, I was doing some pointing. People can read what you wrote before and what you will again.

I don't care whether they are 'astute' readers or not. I was glad Brad pointed out Gempo for me to make up my own mind.

You made some waves so expect a few back and in whatever form, when you set yourself up as an expert. I'm not going to have sleepless nights over not having provided some references to support that opinion. One way or another, I'm going to be wrong anyhow.

I gave one example to give you a little hint and told you I wasn't interested in taking your posts to pieces. So I opened things out with my own thoughts, for whoever

But I thought I'd put up a bit of resistance.

Hey on the bright side, maybe you'll get some more attention paid to your blog and other posts. If I'm talking ABSOLUTE crap, then everything's great!

We can just enjoy the intense, messy word game. Yipee.


PS Don't take my hubris to heart (too much)

I'm going to stop taking smelly dumps in these comments sections for a long time now. Brain needs drying.

Ruairi said...

loved the speech..

is there a central hub/location to download recordings of your other speechs?

Anonymous said...

R. Crumb?

It was an R. Crumb cartoon that first
got me started sitting!

Perhaps Brad can get Crumb do the
illustrations for his next book.

Anonymous said...

If R. Crumb does the illustrations for
Brad's next book, does that make him
the Harvey Pekar of Zen?

Anonymous said...

Can't wait to see
Brad Warner the Movie?

Anonymous said...

I love American Splendor.

Anonymous said...

Gassho Fujita-san.

Anonymous said...

Fuck you, Obama-san.

Mr. Reee said...

Off-topic: an interesting read on one monk's struggles in San Francisco:


Mysterion said...

another cultural difference...

almost every difference is a culture-based differences.

without the artificial constraints of culture, we are quite alike.

Mysterion said...

the bagpipes...

the drone of the bagpipe is the fifth string of the banjo.

but we all knew that from music 101
(except for Caribou Barbie who is forever on the mobius loop of ignorance)

another gentleman can play the banjo, but won't...

grisom said...

dokusan vs sanzen: Where I go we're Soto, but we call it sanzen. At least they say it's Soto! Maybe they are only pretending to be Soto so they can transform us into evil Rinzai zombies! CONCERNED.

entol said...

Mysterion: Good to hear your claptrap again.. Where the fuck have you been!


PhilBob-SquareHead said...

Brad, I surly wish I could join ya'll this coming year at the Southern Dharma Retreat in Hot Springs. I lived in that vicinity, Yancey county to be exact, for five years and know the area well. Being that the eagle ain't been flyin' high lately, I'll have to pass once again. We coulda' jammed on some good ol' mountain tunes. You with your banjo, me with my flatop Gibson Dove. Here's a banjo hero who lived in those parts :


Ran K. said...

S. Writes: "You're writing to tell me that I shouldn't assume I know someone's intentions or who they really are based on my perception of what they write, by assuming you know me and my intentions based on your perception of what I write?".

People differ in sincerity and in depth of personality.

Consequently in their abilities.

One may be able to what another is not.

If you ignore that, you might get just as superficial as you might.

I've read almost nothing of what you write and it might be quite easy to get an idea of the sort of person you might be.

I don't even understand part of the English, but I would be happy just not to run across your comments.

Mysterion said...

entol said...
Mysterion: Where the f have you been!


Jinzang said...

Welcome back.

Harry said...

Buddha said that everyone is to watch this masterful Star Trek shred... IMMEDIATELY!




Harry said...

Oh, yeah, the url:



phional said...

Harry: You and me in Japan. Watch me dance!

I could go for some apple juice..

Anonymous said...

fulfillment thats what it is fulfillment isnt a part of desire its what desire hopes to point out and sometimes its as simple as driving to work or washing the car fulfillment is simultaneously fact and creation aka the "now" we are "fulfilled" every moment of every day

Te said...

Ahh, he has the guitar out. Good stuff.

Anonymous said...

A Question - if Brad or others can answer, I'll be grateful.

How important is it to sit for longer continuous periods of time?

Is sitting in blocks of 25 minutes, followed by 5 minutes of walking meditation, followed by other 25 minutes of sitting as acceptable as a 50-minute sitting?

Thank you

alan said...

Anon @ 11:24,

Brad has said (written?) in the past that if you can sit through the time you allotted and remain reasonably still, you have succeeded.

So if you set out to do 50 minutes by whichever method and you make it, I'd say you're doing great.

anon #108 said...

Hi anon @ 11.24am -

I am not a teacher but that's never stopped me -

How long you sit is a matter for you. Both schedules you suggest are perfectly acceptable to me ;-)

Which routine do you find most useful, and easy to maintain regularly? Perhaps you could do both, alternating as and when you feel like it. Most experienced sitters would say that the longer you sit, the more you "settle" (not always!), but don't force yourself to sit for lengthy periods just coz you think you ought, or in an attempt to give yourself a hard time. I tell myself, "at least a half-hour",and often end up sitting longer, sometimes (rarely) as long as an hour. When sitting alone I don't split sessions with walking, but that's just my choice.

Both are "acceptable" - it's your choice. Do what you feel is right for you.

Victoria Zen Centre said...

Supreme master of the Empire of Evil here...

It was great to have you here in Victoria, Brad. Thanks for making the journey!

Be well,

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