Tuesday, September 29, 2009

TRANSMISSION and HAYATA

Man! I woke up at ten o'clock this morning. I don't think I've woken up that late since I was like 25. I used to be a late sleeper when I was a rock musician. You have to be when you get back at 4 AM from a gig. But these days even on the rare occasions I actually do get back from a gig at 4 AM I still wake up by seven. This is one of the many reasons I can't do those kinds of gigs anymore. I guess I must be really jet-lagged from all that travel!

Anyway, this girl named Sarah was minding my apartment while I was away (after the magnificent Teresa Hurray got done with her turn there, during which she completely overhauled the place and made it much more livable). Sarah's a big Beatle geek. And I have two copies of the Beatles Anthology book. One was given to me by the folks at Chronicle Books when I was working on the book about Eiji Tsuburaya I did for them. So I decided to give one of those copies to Sarah.

But inside the book were two very interesting photos that I've posted here today and that I wanted to write about. The first one is there on top. It shows, from left to right, Peter Rocca, Nishijima Roshi, me and Taijun Saito. It is the only photo I have taken on the day of my Dharma Transmission ceremony.

Peter also received the Dharma that day. In the first draft of Hardcore Zen I mentioned this. But my editor thought that if I included Peter he would become a character in the book and would draw the reader into another story that wasn't really the one we were trying to tell. So Peter ended up on the cutting room floor and I've always felt bad about that. But here now is the evidence! Sorry Peter!

Taijun was Nishijima Roshi's jisha (assistant) at the time. She had coached me on how to wear my kesa (Buddhist robe) for hours and hours and yet it still kept falling off. Here she is adjusting it for the umpteenth time that evening. Before she fell in with Nishijima Roshi, Taijun had trained in a temple where they take these kinds of things very seriously. The photo was taken by Yuka, who always liked taking photos of me when I was looking especially stupid.

The other photo must have been taken around the same time. It shows me with actor Susumu Kurobe. Kurobe played Hayata, the guy who transforms into Ultraman in the original 1966 TV series. In order to transform into the towering 120 foot tall superhero, Hayata always raised a thing called the Beta Capsule into the air. There'd be a blinding flash of light and Ultraman would appear.

In one famous episode, Hayata accidentally raised a spoon into the air (he'd been having lunch when disaster struck in the form of a marauding monster). This episode actually caused a huge stir at the network. Apparently they couldn't abide by the idea of the hero of the show making a mistake. But Tsuburaya Productions rallied around director Akio Jissoji and insisted the scene stay in the show.

ANYWAY I was out to dinner with Kurobe-san and prevailed upon him to recreate that scene with me in front of the restaurant. Cool, huh?

The reason I was having dinner with Kurobe-san that night was somehow related to a legal case we were pursuing in Southeast Asia at the time. A film producer in one of those countries had appeared on our doorstep sometime in the mid-1990's with what he claimed was a "contract" entitling him to all overseas sales rights to Ultraman.

The document itself (we never called it a contract at the office) was highly dubious. It got the names of the shows wrong, it contained no mention of any sort of remuneration, parts of the document seemed to have been typed in at different times like someone had fed it thru a typewriter after it had been initially created trying to add new lines in but make them look like they'd been there from the beginning. Furthermore, the "contract" was supposed to have been signed in 1974, yet the man who possessed it had taken 21 years to claim the rights it had allegedly given him.

In short, he had a very weak case. But he somehow convinced the president of our company to sign a letter of apology for having violated these rights. He was making a big pest of himself and implied that he would go away happily if only we just apologized in a friendly and gentlemanly fashion.

Amazingly, the president of our company gave him the letter of apology he demanded. From then on the Southeast Asian movie producer used this letter of apology as evidence that the dubious "contract" was, in fact, legitimate. He was able to drag the case through the courts for ages.

The moral of the story is, if someone has a very weak -- or, as in this case, pretty much non-existent -- case against you, never apologize for something you didn't do, especially on paper. It will haunt you forever. They're still fighting this in the courts, though thankfully I no longer have to work on it.

It was such a slimy thing to do, demanding the letter of apology when he knew full well he had no case at all without it. I'm still amazed that it worked. Only someone truly naive would sign such a thing. But, my God, what kind of lousy, amoral sleezebag asks for a letter of apology when he knows full well he only intends to use that against the person he gets the apology from? It's truly sad. (Oh sorry, commenters! I know I'm only supposed to give beautiful Buddha blessings to everyone in the world... Feh!)

I've written up this story about three dozen times on behalf of the company when I worked for them and it always made me mad. Now it just seems sad. At least I know that if I'm ever asked for a letter of apology over something I didn't do I ain't signing it! And let that be a word of advise to all of you. Don't say you never learned nothin' from this blog!

I'm sorry. You guys wanted some "dharma" didn't you? OK. I was gonna write a piece about jukai, the precepts ceremony. I performed a jukai ceremony last week and one the week before that. I don't do them very often. Lots of Buddhist teachers do them constantly. I was gonna try and write out my own personal philosophy about jukai and why I so rarely do it. But I'll save that for next time when I'm not all jet-lagged and full of nostalgia. OK?

See ya soon!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

I HAVE NOT RESIGNED AS PRESIDENT OF DOGEN SANGHA

As I’m certain most readers of this blog are aware, Mr. James Cohen (aka Jundo), President of Treeleaf Zendo, has recently uploaded a number of comments to this blog regarding my status as president of Dogen Sangha International. These comments appear in the post below this one entitled “Bye Bye Tokio.” There are only two people who can erase any of these comments, me and Mr. Cohen. I have chosen to allow them to stay up permanently. If you check and they have been removed, this is the work of Mr. Cohen. I am keeping this material in the form of a PDF file in case the original versions are altered later.

First of all, allow me to assure everyone that I have not resigned as president of Dogen Sangha International. In fact, just the opposite has happened. On Friday September 25, 2009 at around 11:00 AM Japan Time I made a personal promise to Nishijima Roshi that I would remain president of Dogen Sangha International (DSI) at least until Nishijima Roshi’s death. Putting aside, for a moment, exactly what it means to be president of DSI, I intend to honor my promise to my teacher.

I must say that I was quite shocked to see Mr. Cohen’s comments on my blog. The emails between me and Nishijima Roshi that he posted appeared to me to be quite clearly sent to Mr. Cohen in error. Remember that Nishijima Roshi is now 90 years old. Even I have sometimes forgotten that an email from someone else was appended to one I was sending to a different person. And I was far less than 75 years old when I first began using email technology!

Furthermore, even if Mr. Cohen would have us believe that he did not know these emails were sent to him in error, I believe they were absolutely unambiguously and unquestionably private emails that were never intended for public consumption. I believe there can be no doubt at all about this fact.

This extreme breach of privacy is the most utterly inappropriate thing I have ever seen carried out in the name of Buddhism.

I have no idea why the president of one Buddhist organization would feel it necessary to make public such private correspondence concerning the president of another Buddhist organization. I can think of no reasonable cause to do so. This seems to me to be a highly unethical and immoral act.

Mr. Cohen is not a member of Dogen Sangha International and has no authority to make public statements on behalf of the organization. He certainly has no authorization at all to make public statements on my behalf.

For the record, the private email from me to Nishijima Roshi that Mr. Cohen made public was part of a much larger discussion between myself and Nishijima Roshi that Mr. Cohen was not privy to, and which I do not find any compelling reason to explain here.

Furthermore, I have not spoken to or communicated with Mr. Cohen except in a few very brief emails for the past two years. I chose to break off my relationship with him at that time because it became clear that every interaction between us always went very badly. There are times in life when the only thing you can do with certain relationships is put a stop to them. Sometimes, if the people involved stay away from each other for a while, they can resume some sort of relationship later on. In my own life I’ve recently been able to reconnect with an ex-girlfriend with whom I’ve had a rather stormy relationship for the past 15 or so years. We’re friends again now and it’s nice. But we would not be friends now if we had not stayed away from each other completely for several years.

In that case, she and I were once very close. We went through a lot together including an attack on the streets of Akron by a pair of men who seemed intent on killing me for no apparent reason (they appeared to be high on some kind of drug -- drugs suck). In the case of Mr. Cohen and myself, we were never anywhere near that close. I can clearly recall meeting him only three times. Once at a Nepalese restaurant in Tokyo called Mt. Fishtail, once at an Indian restaurant in Tokyo called Raj Mahal and once at an overnight trip to Tokei-in Temple in Shizuoka. I suspect we must have met a handful of times other than this, but I do not clearly remember those meetings. It is entirely possible he came to some of Nishijima Roshi’s talks at Tokyo University. But I do not recall seeing him there. As far as I can recall he was not one of regulars who came every week. Be aware that my memory is pretty dodgy. But this is my honest recollection. In any case, we were never friends.

When Mr. Cohen left Dogen Sangha International in 2007, I sensed that the time was right to end the relationship between us. As I said, it never seemed to go very well and once he was no longer part of the organization I could see no compelling reason to keep up what I found to be an utterly fruitless relationship with him.

And, yes folks, I did once send Mr. Cohen an email that said, "Go fuck yourself." But this was not a hastily scrawled missive sent in anger. In fact I first wrote him what I believed to be a very reasonable email stating why I no longer wished to carry on our relationship. But then I reflected on the fact that I'd sent him what I believed to be very reasonable emails before and they never seemed to work. I thought that one very rude statement might convey what I wanted to say far more effectively. So I scrapped my longer email and just sent one sentence. I reasoned that most people who received an email saying "Go fuck yourself" would sense that the person who sent that email no longer wished to carry on communicating with them.

Personally I’d prefer to cease all communications with Mr. Cohen for a period of five years. If, sometime in September of 2014, it seems that we might be able to have a reasonable conversation with each other, I’d be willing to do so. I think it will take at least that long for the current series of emails to become mere “water under the bridge” for me (you are only seeing the very tip of the iceberg here, there must be a couple dozen emails from Mr. Cohen similar to the ones he posted on this blog sitting in my inbox).

The thing that worries me most about this situation is the effect it is having on the health and well-being of Nishijima Roshi. I firmly believe there is only one person who can put an end to all of this, and I believe that person is Mr. Cohen. All he needs to do, I think, is to keep “Noble Silence” on the various issues that seem to be bothering him. I really hope he chooses to do so for Nishijima Roshi’s sake. Nishijima Roshi is a very old man and when I visited him last week I could see the visible toll all of this was taking on him. It was the cause of the only argument I have ever had with Nishijima Roshi in the many years I have known him.

This post is not intended as the beginning of a discussion with Mr. Cohen or anyone else on this matter. It is my final word on the subject. I am going to be quite stubborn over the next few weeks about this. Even if the comments section of every article I put up is filled with nothing but hundreds of postings about the supposed “Jundo vs. Brad War,” I will steadfastly ignore them. I’ve just traveled all the way around the world and had a lot of really interesting adventures I’d rather talk about.

But there is one last thing I would like to add. I have noticed a few comments over the past weeks from someone who identifies him/herself as “another DS guy on the outs.” I have no idea who this person might be. I would very much appreciate it if he or she would send a brief email to me at brad.warner@mac.com so we can discuss whatever the issues he/she has with Dogen Sangha and see if some solution can be worked out.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

BYE BYE TOKIO!

My World Domination Tour 2009 is officially done (though it looks like I'll have some Canadian dates to announce in November). The retreat at Tokei-in temple in Shizuoka, Japan ended yesterday. It was real and it was fun and it was real fun. We had 14 people at the beginning and ended with 16. This is a reverse of the usual order of things, in which someone always runs away from the retreat before it's done. We actually gained in numbers this time! How about that?

About my only complaint was that it was yet again another sausage fest. The ratio would have been a bit better but for the fact that two of the women who signed up had to cancel out before the retreat began due to personal matters. Even so, the ratio would have been still way too man heavy.

It's not always like this. The retreat I led at Southern Dharma Retreat Center earlier this year had more women than men, and the one I led near Munich was even-steven with five of each. But the general trend tends to be more male dominated. I've mentioned this before and I still don't have a good reason for it. Such is life, I suppose.

This trip has been a great opportunity to meet a lot of the other Dogen Sangha people. I spent a couple nights with Mike Leutchford, met Jeremy Pearson, had lunch with Richard Morrisey, got shown around London by Rachelle Allen, sat sesshins with Michele Proulx, Gabrielle Linnebach and Gerhard Wolfram, saw all of Finland with Markus Laitenen, made some really nice connections with Jurgen Seggelke, Gustav Ericsson, Nicole de Merkline and Kevin Bortolin, and even had some very friendly contact with Mike Cross. I'm starting to think this Dogen Sangha thing just might work after all.

In mere hours I'll be winging my way back to the USA where I'll stay for at least a couple of days (sorry, I couldn't resist). Well until I go to Canada anyway.

And, HEY MEXICO, my dad's moving to your country (he says) and wants me to come visit in December. So if anyone down South of the Border wants me to come speak there, shoot me an email (spoozilla@gmail.com). But don't actually shoot me, OK?

All right. I gotta go. I promise a real Zen article some time after I get back.

Rock on, world!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

日本に帰りました!


Yep, that's right cats and kittens, I'm back in Japan! And boy are my arms tired.

The flight I was on was full of junior high students so I got bumped up to business class. Classy!

Actually I've always had complete contempt for people who ride first or business class*. It just seems to wasteful and elitist. Yet there I was, up front with all the wasteful elitists. They even close off the doors between the two classes so those of us in business don't have to be bothered by seeing the suffering of the riff-raff in back of the plane. I did an interview in Montreal once where I was asked, "They say the Dalai Lama does meditation when he flies on planes. Do you do that?"

To which I answered, "The Dalai Lama probably flies first class. There's room to do meditation in those seats. I'm always in coach!"

But no, I did not do zazen in my giant wasteful seat. Couldn't have if I'd tried! The "full bed" function on those is better than you get in cattle car class, but not all that great. It's sorta tilted forward so you're always just about to slide out.

Anyway, that'll probably be my last chance to fly business class unless I get another plane full of pre-teens someday.

My European Tour of 2009 is now over. But it looks like there may be another in 2010. I'll keep you posted as news develops.


*Oh stop getting your panties in a twist! I don't really hate those people. It's just a reaction I have that goes way back. It's hard to get rid of these things.

Monday, September 14, 2009

THE BRISTOL STOMP!


I'm in Bristol now. Here's the info on the talk I'm giving tonight:

• September 14, 2009 (Mon) 7 PM Oddfellows Hall, West Park, Cliffton, Bristol for details contact awarenessworks@btconnect.com

I rode the train here last night with Mike Leutchford, an old friend and one of Nishijima Roshi's Dharma Heirs. At train stations all over England there are posters for some insurance company featuring either Iggy Pop or someone who looks just like Iggy Pop. I've put a photo of one on the top of this article. Anyone know about this? And why would you choose Iggy to advertise insurance?

Oh! And I have a big beef with Britain! When I was a child in Kenya I used to read British comic books obsessively. My favourites were "Shiver and Shake," "Whizzer and Chips," "Cor!!" and "Knockout." So I went to a lot of comic book shops (see photo below) searching for old issues of these or reprints. NOTHING! The comic book shops in England carry only American and Japanese comics. There are hardly any English comic books at all in England except for "2000 AD Featuring Judge Dread," which, to me, looks like an American comic anyway. You had such a rich comic book culture here and you surrendered it all! The only evidence that anyone even remembers the great age of British comics is a book called Great British Comics: Celebrating a Century of Ripping Yarns and Wizard Wheezes. And even that is hard to find over here! Oh the shame...

But I was glad to find The Goodies on DVD. Hoo-ray! And yum yum...

It's fun being here because I'm such a nerd for English rock music. All my top favourite bands are English, The Who, The Beatles, Robyn Hitchcock, The Kinks, Syd's Pink Floyd, The Yardbirds, The Sex Pistols, PiL, The Clash... It's amazing to go through train stations like Sheppard's Bush (home of The Who) and (No Sleep Til) Hammersmith. Yesterday I walked down Denmark Street and went, "Gawsh! This is where the Sex Pistols first rehearsed!"

Yesterday in London, the group I sat with got to talking about this blog. One guy said it's great that I allow anyone to comment here because it's one of the few places on the web where people can discuss Buddhism in a totally free and unrestricted way. I guess it's true. The other Buddhist forums are all heavily monitored and people are routinely booted off for expressing the wrong views. Whereas here, even assholes masquerading as my ex-wife are allowed to say whatever idiotic things they please (Yuka never read these posts even when we were together and she certainly would never comment on them -- We communicate with each other quite frequently if you must know -- Her mom was in the hospital having a clogged artery repaired when that post showed up here, so I can guarantee you she was in no mood to be on blogs that day!). And a few people say good things too.

I replied by agreeing it was nice, I suppose. But Zen seems like another thing for nerds to latch on to. I see the same things happening here that I used to see in chat forums related to Godzilla and Ultraman that I monitored for my old job. When I read the posts here I often imagine the same kinds of nerdy guys in their parents' basements spending way too much time munching potato crisps and surfing the 'net as who post on the Godzilla forums. Perhaps I'm wrong.

I also started talking about how Dogen Sangha may be a group for people who hate being in groups but still want to be in a group. I'd like to keep it that way, which is why it will always remain horribly unstructured and rule-free.

Alas, though, tonight is my last gig in the U.K. I shall shortly bid your Isles goodbye until next time. When "next time" will be is anybody's guess. So if you want to see me on my Euro Tour today's the last chance for the foreseeable future ("War is unforeseeable" -- a line from a great English film called "In The Loop").

Friday, September 11, 2009

DURHAM DONE, NEXT STOPS LONDON & BRISTOL

My first talk in Great Britain went swimmingly. I managed to answer questions asked in deep Geordie dialect with not too much difficulty. Sold some Zero Defex CDs as well!

Tomorrow at 2pm I'll be speaking at King's College. Lots of people have already confirmed but there are still spaces available. So be there.

Then on Monday I'll be in Bristol where the kids are sharp as a pistol when they do the Bristol stomp. Does anybody remember that song? Also open to all comers. So come, you comers!

Anyway here's where I'll be and how to get info:

• September 12, 2009 (Sat) 2 PM King's College London, Strand, London WC2 in Lecture Theatre 2C for details contact apdeakin@gmail.com
• September 14, 2009 (Mon) 7 PM Oddfellows Hall, West Park, Cliffton, Bristol for details contact awarenessworks@btconnect.com

Good night!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

DON'T WANT TO BE IN YOUR LONDON DUNGEON


They called us walking corpses
Unholy living dead
They had to lock us up
Put us in their British hell

Make sure your face is clean now
Can't have no dirty dead
All the corpses here are clean, boy
All the yanks in British hell

I don't wanna be here in your London dungeon
I don't wanna be here in your British hell
Ain't no mystery why I'm in misery in hell
Here's hoping you're swell

- The Misfits "London Dungeon"

It wasn't a London dungeon I visited yesterday but the House of Commons. Thanks to the wonderful Miss Emma of Dogen Sangha London I was treated to a full tour of the British government's most secret chambers. Well, maybe not so secret. There were tours of school kids in there as well. But they didn't get a personal escort! So there, you school kids! HA! Did you know they have a gigantic statue of Margret Thatcher in there?

I also had the opportunity to meet Morrisey. Uh, Richard Morrisey, that is. Another of Nishijima Roshi's Dhrama Heirs. Nice guy. He has nine kids! And yet he still seems sane.

And the most patient and tolerant Henrick and Janna took me around to find the famous zebra crossing in front of famous Abbey Road studios where The Beatles shot the famous photo that graces their famous final album. Our shot doesn't look quite as nice. But we had to work quickly since there were about 20 other groups of tourists trying to get the same photo.

And then, to round out a very long day I sat Zazen with Dogen Sangha London in the flat they use for their weekly sittings (which I've been using for my nightly sleepings). A very nice group. We talked and talked and talked and talked some more.

Today I'm headed off to Durham, where I have a public talk on Friday. The full info about the time and location and suchlike is in the link over there to your left that says "Brad's 2009 Tour Dates" or something like that.

The retreat last week at Haus Hornberg near Munich was also a lovely thing, as you can see from the smiling faces of all who attended as seen in the photo over there on your left. It was great to see Gabrielle Linebach, a long time student and Dharma Heir of Nishijima Roshi who translated the complete Shobogenzo into German. Gabrielle was one of the group who I first sat with at Nishijima's Saturday afternoon talks about a million years ago. We haven't seen each other in maybe 15 years. Her style of presenting Dogen's teachings is very different from mine. And yet I feel the basic core philosophy and practice is almost exactly the same. She said that she felt the so too. Weird, huh?

Good? Good! Now I have to go get showered and try to find the station where I pick up the train to Durham. And remember I'll be back in London on Saturday for a public talk at King's College and then in Bristol for another public talk a few days later. Details, as always, are in the link over there to your left.

See ya later, skaters!

Monday, September 07, 2009

(INNER) ANARCHY IN THE U.K.

I'm in London now! No time to post. See the schedule over to your left for where I'm gonna be talking and suchlike.

Now I'm off to find Forbidden Planet.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

ANOTHER DARNED ZEN RETREAT


Today the Zen retreat in Munich begins. Yay?

I got in trouble when I called the retreat in Frankfurt "another darned retreat." Some people who read that statement took offense at what they felt was my disparaging of the event. I didn't mean it that way.

I thought the irony would be obvious. If you look at my schedule (linked to your left) you'll see I do a lot of retreats. Last year I even attended Zen retreats that I did not lead or organize, in which I was a mere rank-and-file grunt rather than the Exalted Master™ (this is also irony, perhaps I should put a little "i" for irony each time I use any). I do Zen retreats because they're good for me and because on some level I actually enjoy them.

But it's also a job. As Johnny Ramone said, "Being a rock and roll guitar player is a good job, but it's still a job and I still hate going to work sometimes." Me too. The fact that you dread going to a retreat is no reason not to go. In fact it might even be very good reason to go.

As whatever the hell I'm doing with my life continues to attract more attention, retreats have begun to take on a different character. Years ago I was just that weird guy in the Godzilla T-shirt who sat at the back. Now I'm the center of attention. This is a tiring thing.

Have you ever noticed how a wild bird reacts when it notices you're making eye contact with it? They usually fly away. Animals are programmed to regard prolonged staring at them as a threat. This is hard-wired into our brains. When I go on stage in front of people that response automatically starts to be generated. I'm used to this to an extent having played in rock bands since my teens. But the synapses still fire every single time. Plus at a retreat, the attention is focused on me for several days at a stretch rather than an hour or so when I play a show or do a book signing. There aren't many places I can run away and escape from it.

Lots of pairs of eyes all looking at me. Should I run? Should I do a strip tease? Should I sing? Should I say something funny? Do I have a booger hanging out of my nose? All this kind of stuff runs thru your mind whether you want it to or not.

It takes a lot to try and keep it together as the leader of a Zen retreat. I'm constantly amazed that anyone can do this job and not go completely insane. How does Joshu Sasaki manage it at 103 years old? As I've said before, I already anticipate a time when I'll have to stop. But not just yet. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'll be able to just keep on keepin' on until I can't keep on no more.

I'm not trying to make this sound like it's tremendously hard. It's not really. But a Zen retreat is a very different thing for the leader from what it is for the participants.

At the end of the retreat in Frankfurt a whole bunch of the participants wanted me to autograph copies of my books or pose for photos with me. That's the first time something like that has happened at a Zen retreat. I'm used to it at book signings, so I just handled it the same way I do there. If it happens again this weekend, it will be just fine. I'm always glad to sign books and pose for photos. When I met Gene Simmons you better believe I got him to sign his book and autograph the current KISS tour program and pose for a photo with me. I have no problem at all with people reacting the same way to me. It's nice to know that what I do has some kind of meaning for people.

I am happy to sign autographs and pose for photos. But it's still a weird thing. In my mind I'm still the guy in the Godzilla T-shirt sitting at the back. I can't understand why this is happening.

I also think it's good to let people know what a Zen retreat is like for the person who leads it. As far as I'm aware of nobody else talks about these things. Maybe they find it distasteful, or maybe they just don't like to talk/write about such matters. It also could be that some folks don't want to break the mystique that comes from not letting anyone in on the pressures and suchlike involved in this job.

OK. A guy in leiderhosen and suspenders with one of those caps with a feather in it just walked into the coffee shop where I'm writing. If that's not a sign from God to wind up this entry, I don't know what is!

I'll be off-line for at least the next four days if not longer.

See you in England!!

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!