Friday, July 31, 2009

ZEN TOMORROW

Are you tired? Listless? Is life getting you down?

Are the girls running away from you when you try to pick them up?

Are the boys ignoring the handkerchiefs you drop?

Need money? Power? Fame? A nice car?

Then come to Hill Street Center tomorrow morning at 10 AM (details are on the link over to your left <<<) for ZAZEN WITH BRAD™!!!

Zazen with Brad™ is the answer to all your problems!

You will be happy forever! You'll get more high quality ass than you can possibly handle! You'll get a good job with higher pay! Every cake you bake will turn out more tasty than your neighbor's! You'll have massive abs! A tighter, curvier butt! Cuter eyelashes! Your tennis game will improve dramatically! Your ukelele will always be perfectly in tune! Your dog will never poop where he's not supposed to again! You'll see God!

...or not. How the fuck should I know?

But I do know this is the last class at Hill Street Center I'll be attending for the next 2 months. I'll probably skeedaddle right after for the World Guitar Show down the street. But who knows? You may be able to actually speak to Brad Warner himself!

Imagine two full hours at a house by the beach with Zen Master Brad Warner Roshi and just four or five other people (or however many show up). What will happen as you delve deeply into your Self with the help of one of the great Zen masters of our time, allowing you to experience realizations usually requiring years of sitting meditation? How much will your life change with this type of deep and intimate help from a true master? How deep will you go? How deep will Brad go? How much awakening will you experience? How will you feel about your Self after you awaken with Brad?

Direct and extended face-to-face time with an awakened master is an exciting and rare opportunity. Those lucky enough to receive this type of personal attention can experience years, even decades, of progress in just a few days, shedding illusions that have held them back, experiencing deep realizations about their true nature, increasing their wisdom and compassion, and increasing their ability to serve others, making their cocks three inches longer and their nipples so high and hard they can put a man's eye out!

How can you afford to miss out on such an opportunity???

Answer: YOU CAN'T!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

More Ranting

Oh lordy! Over 200 comments! I read a few of them. Skimmed others. Gosh.

BUT FIRST TO ANNOY ALL OF YOU HERE'S THE AD -- The location for my talk in London on Sept. 12th has been confirmed. It will be at Lecture Theatre 2C, King's College London, Strand, London WC2. On Sept. 14th I'll be at the Odd Fellow's Hall in Bristol. Highly appropriate if you ask me!

OK, what can I really say about the ILP? It's a scam not because it costs $200 but because its advertising implies you will be more "in the now" if you spend $200 on it. I have nothing against people making money on stuff. I spent over $200 a few years ago on a copy of the book KISSTORY, the autobiography of KISS created by the band themselves, signed by all four original members of the group (this is not my copy for sale here, I'd never sell it!). I knew the book didn't cost them anywhere near that much to produce. In fact, when I met Gene Simmons sometime later he told me they cost about $60 each to make and bragged about the huge profit margin. And I still didn't feel bad about buying it.

But KISS didn't promise me Enlightenment. They promised me a very cool book of photos and stories from the band's personal collection. That's exactly what I got and I love it.

I have no problem with people making money, even if they're Buddhist teachers and even if they're earning their money by being Buddhist teachers. What I have a problem with is the way Buddhism is being turned into a commodity. Enlightenment is being sold like mouth wash. The girls aren't running after you? Try Enlightenment and you'll never be without a date on Saturday night!

Enlightenment Experiences are crap.

It's not that hard to induce a whizz-bang experience through hypnotism or other means. If you mesmerize someone and feed their ego with the notion that they are Enlightened and that they can speak with the voice of God Himself, that person will have a pretty amazing time. If a genuine Zen Master certifies that experience as Kensho that seals the deal. Also having paid lots of money for the experience makes the person far less likely to want to admit it might not have been all it was supposed to be. This is so fucking obvious I don't even know why anyone has to point it out.

It's been known for thousands of years, long before Buddha's time even, that meditation practice can lead a person to have some pretty nifty experiences. The hallmark of true Zen practice is that it is the only form of meditation I know of that says you need to go beyond even these experiences and that going beyond them means coming right back here.

Real practice is difficult and doesn't always manifest itself in Big Cool Experiences™. In fact, any good teacher will smack those Big Cool Experiences™ right out of you if you bring them to her. Lousy teachers will charge you money to have those experiences and then try to hang on to you for as long as they can milk your wallet. That sucks. I want nothing to do with it.

Real practice saved my life and showed me stuff I could never have seen without it. Crap practice just gets you excited about the next big experience. It leads you away from real life, teaches you to throw away this moment for the moment in the future when you will be "in the now." Cuz you're not "in the now" now! Only when you buy their product can you be "in the now." And it takes 6-8 weeks to arrive. You will not be "in the now" for at least a month and a half!

This doesn't strike anyone as absurd?

Feh, I say! Feh!!

ADDENDUM:

Here's a snip from my upcoming book that addresses this problem. It's from the chapter about Zazen for survivors of childhood sexual abuse.


In spite of all the foregoing cautionary material, I still believe zazen can be a very good thing for survivors of traumatic experiences. Maybe even the best thing. It can put you directly in contact with the source of the trauma itself. By slowly and carefully removing the psychological barriers you’ve erected to protect yourself from these memories you can finally become aware that the memories themselves are just thoughts in your head. No matter what the content of your thoughts are, they are all just thoughts. This is easy to say but very difficult to truly understand because we’ve been taught since birth to believe in our own thoughts.

This is why we practice. Anyone can tell you this stuff and anyone can understand it intellectually. But applying it takes practice. It takes repetition. Sitting there on your cushion you allow stuff to come up over and over and over again and just sit there with it, not running away, not reacting, just sitting. This is how you learn your own way to deal with it. Not someone else’s way, even if that someone else is the Greatest Master Ever Known, because no one else’s way will work for you as well as your own way. By taking it slowly, you first learn to deal with the little things and eventually, when the big stuff hits, you’ve already had loads of experience.

Merely reading about zazen will not help you put its lessons into effect any more than merely reading about baseball will turn you into Major League material.

Misguided practices that encourage you to go for the big experiences as quickly as possible rob you of the ability to learn this process. They excite you and stimulate you, but that excitement and stimulation is ultimately more harmful than helpful.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

THE FUNNIEST "SPIRITUAL" SCAM ON THE INTERNET

...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.

Monday, July 20, 2009

FINLAND, FINLAND, FINLAND and England and Canada and A BETTER WORLD

THIS JUST IN! To see me on the cable TV show A Better World TV tune in tomorrow on-Line or in Manhattan watch it on Ch. 57 (RCN: 84). The show I'm on will be webcast Tuesday July 21, 2009 at 10:30 PM at http://abetterworld.net/tv.htm for if you're in Manhattan and have cable check it out on channel 57/84. This was a fun show. I'm looking forward to seeing it. I taped it in March so I've pretty much forgotten what I said.

I have extensively updated my 2009 Tour Page. It now includes more info on the Finland tour. For even greater detail you can check out the Dogen Sangha Finland page. This also includes the incredibly exciting news that my movie Cleveland's Screaming! will be screened at the Espoo Cine International Film Festival on Wednesday August 26, 2009 at 9 pm. Be there or be an iceberg!

Also note that I have added dates in England Town (or try this link). I will be in Durham on Sept. 11, London Sept. 12 and Bristol Sept. 14. The exact locations have yet to be determined. I'll post them as soon as I know. I am shopping for a bowler hat and umbrella now.

Also notice that I'm trying to set up a Northwest Tour in November. I have tentative bookings in Victoria and Vancouver, BC that month. So I'm trying to set up gigs in Seattle, Portland or elsewhere in the area. A few months ago there were a bunch of people begging me to come to those cities. But since I got word on the Victoria and Vancouver thing and e-mailed those people they all ran away and hid like scared bunnies. They were so enthusiastic before, too. What gives?

If you got some info please write me at spoozilla@gmail.com

I need to make a permanent webpage about this. But for now here's a bit of info on what it takes if you want me to come speak in your city. In no particular order:

• I don't have a manager, booking agency or other intermediary to set this stuff up. I wish I did. But I don't. I also don't have an entourage or roadies or any real organization behind me to speak of.
• I don't have a set fee, but I can no longer afford to do this stuff for free like I used to. We can talk...
• I need transportation, meals and lodging covered for sure. I cannot do anything at all without at least this much.
• Signings at bookstores are fun and nice. But they never pay! So it's never going to be enough just to have one of those.
• Bookstores also don't allow me to sell my own copies of my books. I can make a lot more money selling my own copies.
• If I get a paying gig somewhere I can tag on non-paying gigs in the same city. That's how I usually operate.
• Universities tend to be best because they pay actual money.

Those are the major issues involved. If you think you can solve any or all of them, then I will be happy to come speak in your town.

Friday, July 17, 2009

EGO AND HUBRIS

I received this photo from Ryan MacMicahel who writes a vegetarian themed blog called Veg Blog. It's of his daughter Rasine who spontaneously chose to pick up and read a copy of Hardcore Zen from her dad's bookshelf. Maybe she will learn to be as angry and hateful as I am! Wouldn't that be sweet?

I was reading the comments section of the last post sorta scratching my head about why this whole "Brad is so angry" business had started up again. Then I remembered that I had called Genpo Roshi a scumbag. I guess that makes people think I'm angry at him. I'm not angry at him. I just think he's a scumbag for deliberately lying to people about Zen practice in order to make himself rich, that's all. You don't need to be angry at someone to feel that way about them. Whatever.

Oh and to the commenter who thought the bird in the photo I posted last time was "about to take a shit in that girl's mouth." That's no girl in the picture, it's me! And Sunny was such a cool bird that he would not take a crap on you. He'd fly away somewhere else and do it. We never taught him that, but he somehow worked it out that we didn't like him pooping on us so he stopped.

Oh & before I begin, another reminder that the usual zazen at 10 am this Saturday July 18th at 237 Hill St. Santa Monica 90405 will happen & I'll be there. But don't park in the lot because it's being used that day for some event at the church. This will be a regular sitting not one of the all-day things. The all-day one will be on July 25th. Sunday July 19th at 11am I'll host zazen at Against The Stream, 4300 Melrose Ave LA 90029.

I've been thinking about the subject of ego lately because it keeps coming up in my writing for the new book I'm working on. When Eastern religions, including Buddhism, first started washing up on our shores the buzz on the streets said that meditation was all about giving up, transcending or sometimes even destroying the ego.

There is some truth to that. But a lot of times the word "ego" is used as a synonym for self-esteem. In fact if you look it up using the thesaurus tool on MS Word that's one of the synonyms that comes up. It's often paired with the word hubris, which means excessive pride.

In some of the interviews John Lennon gave in the early Seventies you can see that he, for one, picked up on this meaning of the word ego. So he spent a lot of time cutting himself down, destroying his self-esteem and the natural pride he felt in his work. I'm sure a lot of people did this and probably are still doing it.

This is one reason why I avoid using the word "ego" in this context. It's unhealthy to try and get rid of your self-esteem and there is no sin in pride as long as it doesn't get out of control.

Ego, in the sense that it's used in Buddhism, is not self-esteem. In fact, your ego can often be enriched even better by a negative self image than a positive one. I am worthless, I am ugly, nobody loves me. All of this just builds it up even more.

Also, in a somewhat related topic is the idea of using positive thoughts to try and combat negative ones. This never works either. Because every thought includes its opposite. White is white precisely because it's not black. "I am a good person" is what it is because it contrasts with "I am not a good person." And so on and on and on and on. It's all just more thought.

If you're absolutely drowning in negativity maybe the contrast can lift you up a little. But it's not going to hold for long. The trick is to see that none of the ways you characterize yourself are ultimately any better than any other.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

TWITTER? Didn't even KNOW her!


Elephant Journal named me one of their Top Ten Buddhists to Follow on Twitter. I'm right above that scumbag charlatan Genpo Roshi!

So follow me on Twitter, but just don't get so into my tweets that you end up like girl who died in her bathtub while on Twitter.

If you really must know what I tweeted last it's that I'll be hosting the usual zazen at 10 am this Saturday July 18th at 237 Hill St. Santa Monica 90405. But don't park in the lot because it's being used that day for some event at the church. This will be a regular sitting not one of the all-day things. That will be on July 25th. Sunday July 19th at 11am I'll host zazen at Against The Stream, 4300 Melrose Ave LA 90029.

Some of the people on that top ten list apparently send out "Dharma Tweets," pithy little quotes to help boost your practice or some such thing. Some of Genpo's include, "You have to be willing to face your fear and go through your doubt and let it all go," and "The question is how to listen not with your ears but with your whole being." Awwww. Isn't that sweet? Taken right out of Shunryu Suzuki's books without credit! Just like the name Big Mind®! Lama Surya Das says, "Love is far greater than our likes or dislikes," and "My body is the entire universe, all beings my heart and soul. You are no different." Oh, I feel so Enlightened now!

My most pithy comment so far has been "All poop was once someone's food." Other than that I have revealed on Twitter that I have not one but two (2) Neil Diamond compilations, one of which is a boxed set. I once tweeted that I was at Astro Burger when I learned that my cell phone can access the Internet. But it was such a pain to do it I don't think I'll be doing remote tweets anymore. Anyhow, maybe I should try and come up with something more Zen-y. The marketing thing, y'know. Mainly I just mention where I'll be talking next.

Dharma Tweets are stupid, by the way. They're not honest expressions of anything, just a ploy to keep folks who follow them hanging on and keep the person who posts them's name in the public eye. As if you could put anything worthwhile into 140 characters. Still, I guess I'm gonna have to get with the whole marketing thing if I want to be able to keep eating at Astro Burger following the loss of the Suicide Girls gig.

Monday, July 13, 2009

NEW SG ARTICLE: HUG IS THE DRUG

My new Suicide Girls article is up now. It's all about Amma. Or is it?

This will be my final article for Suicide Girls. The management there have succumbed to the pervasive Fear Of The Economy that's going around these days. I'm not really sure why so many management types think that cutting the services people pay for will make their companies more prosperous. It seems a little counter-intuitive to me. But SG has decided to cut all of their columnists. The lack of content in their newswire section may make it a little more difficult to convince the general public they're more than just a T&A website.

It's been wonderful to write for the site. And I'm really grateful to the folks there for letting me have a space to say what I wanted to say. My editors there have all been terrific. Helen Jupiter, who hired me, Erin Broadley who took over and finally Nicole Powers who looked like she was finally going to get the newswire back to where it once had been. I'm also thankful to Missy and Sean who made the whole thing possible. No one ever censored me there or told me what I could and could not say, which is more than I can say for some other publishers I've worked for in the past.

I'm currently trying to come up with a way to do the same thing I was doing for SG elsewhere. Much as it may seem otherwise, I really did put a lot of time, effort and energy into each of those articles. It was good to actually get paid for working so hard. Anyone who knows a place that may want to be the new home for my stuff, shoot me an e-mail at spoozilla@gmail.com.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Patricia August Laquessa Ryfle, 1931-2009


My friend Steve Ryfle's mom died last weekend. Steve is the author of Japan's Favorite Mon-star (The Unauthorized Biography of Godzilla), one of the best books out there about Godzilla. I wanted to write about her because she was such an amazing woman. But I didn't really know her well enough. Stuart Galbraith IV, author of another amazing book on Japanese monster movies, Monsters Are Attacking Tokyo!: The Incredible World of Japanese Fantasy Films, wrote a much better piece than I ever could (Stuart's latest book is Japanese Cinema). He gave me permission to use it on this page. So here it is:


Steve Ryfle's mother, Pat, died over the weekend. It didn't come as a surprise; she had been in poor health for a long time, and spent the last few weeks at a hospice, gradually fading away.

If writing about somebody else's mother seems unusual - those who were lucky enough to have known Pat will understand. She was like everyone's favorite eccentric aunt, at times a mom-away-from-Mom.

To the envy of many, Pat loved and supported Steve like few moms did, which made his tender caring of her as Pat's health declined all the more touching. She often accompanied Steve to Godzilla movie marathons at the American Cinematheque and in Little Tokyo. She went with him to see Blaxploitation movies, to mainstream movies, to comic book conventions, and helped out with book signings when Steve's Japan's Favorite Mon-Star was published. The funny thing was, she had fun. She actually really, really liked the damndest movies, dating back to when Steve, then just a boy, took his mom to see Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster. When Steve took Pat to the world premiere of one of the recent Godzilla movies in Hollywood, my wife and I were shocked to discover Pat on one of the network news shows here in Japan, being interviewed about the film. Appropriately, her comments were dubbed into Japanese, but Yukiyo remembers her saying "Godzilla's roar is kinda sexy."

Pat was genuinely and justly proud of her writer-son. In her old apartment, Steve's writing was prominently on display. On one wall she kept a Mother's Day tribute column he wrote for her years ago when Steve was writing for a local newspaper. On another she had a framed picture of Steve - it might have been the portrait of him used by the same paper - under which Pat had written, proudly, "My Son, the Author."

Pat was such a constant yet welcome presence that, eventually, Steve's friends often invited Pat as well as Steve and his wife, Joal, to parties and other occasions. (She was there at a 2001 wedding party Yukiyo and I held at Sam Woo's, ahead of our actual wedding in Japan.) Pat was genuinely fun to have around - she was sweetly eccentric, rather like Stan Laurel's childlike screen persona. At one party at Steve and Joal's first house, somebody was making a toast, and Pat noticed the middle-aged man next to her wasn't drinking.

"What's the matter? Are you an alcoholic or something?" she asked, quite innocently.

"Er, uh....well, yes - as a matter of fact, I am," he replied.

"Aw, gee - that's too bad," Pat said, with genuine sadness. "Can't you have just one?"

Another time Pat sent Steve and I to the market down the street to fetch her some "free doughnuts" she had seen. As we walked down the block, we wondered what exactly had she meant by "free doughnuts?" We found the doughnuts, which were selling for whatever the going rate for doughnuts was back then.

When we returned, Steve asked Pat, "What did you mean, "free doughnuts?' They weren't free."

"Oh," she said, "I meant free-standing."

All Steve and I could do was look at one another, nonplussed. But to Pat, it made perfect sense.

Boy, how I miss her.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

July 4th Fireworks


Last night I went with my friend Nina to a 4th of July party at her friend's house. This house happens to be located in an area of Los Angeles that is populated by lots of folks who very much enjoy their illegally obtained fireworks, let me tell you!

As dusk fell, we were assaulted from all sides by a variety of explosions, some of which were strong enough to rock the house. A palm tree about a block away caught fire, its top blazing like some kind of gigantic tropical candle until the LA Fire Dept. arrived to put it out. Even the presence of the fire department and cops didn't deter the neighbors from blasting away with stuff that must have been as powerful as sticks of dynamite.

Nina's friends have four cats, all of whom were in various states of distress throughout the melee. Most of them hid under the bed. But one responded in a weird way by becoming aggressive with those of us who weren't residents in his home.

Later that night I experienced a series of unpleasant dreams. Nina told me later she too had been unable to sleep much of the night. I'm certain the fireworks had a lot to do with this.

Watching the way the cats reacted to the noise and light, and watching my own reactions to it, I started thinking about the way we humans deliberately put ourselves into situations that cause our senses to react in violent ways. Fireworks shows, rock concerts, action movies, sporting events, video games, talk radio and a whole host of common forms of entertainment are geared at over-stimulating our senses. Even driving through a big city like Los Angeles is an exercise in sensory over-stimulation.

I don't think a bit of this kind of thing now and again does much irreparable damage. I believe the human body was designed to be able to handle a certain degree of sensory over-stimulation.

But we have developed a tremendous amount of technology designed to create and sustain a level of excitement we were certainly not designed to handle. We need to be careful with this stuff. It can be incredibly damaging to the nervous system.

So cool it with the boom-booms!

Friday, July 03, 2009

INDEPENDENCE DAY

My friend Nina wants to do Zazen tomorrow morning (July 4, 2009). So I will be at Hill Street Center at 10 AM if anyone else wants to join. Actually, I don't run the thing anymore. So I should consult with the folks who do before unilaterally deciding. But I have now spoken. So that's that! If it's just me & Nina, that's fine. But if anyone else feels like a bit of Zazen before their 4th of July picnic or whatever, please feel free to stop in.

I was a bit surprised at the response in the comments section to that article I linked to last time in which the Christian minister trashed Zen. I would never even have considered writing to the guy or even worrying very much what he had to say. I just thought the piece was amusing.

There's no proselytizing in Zen because there's no sense in trying to get anyone to convert to it. There's also no sense in trying to change the minds of the ignorant. You can put the correct information out there and hope for the best. But there's no sense in getting up in anyone's face. It just makes them harden their own position against yours. Ignorant here is the significant word because folks like that minister deliberately ignore what doesn't fit their worldview.

There's a mountain of wrong information out there about Zen, a lot of it from supposedly "respected authorities." You can't really change that. Just enjoy.