Sunday, November 28, 2010


Eric asks:
"While you've talked about death in all of your books I can only remember you mentioning the fear of death once and it was to say in effect: Buddhism can't do anything about our fear of death. And wouldn't life kind of suck without it anyway? I disagree. If I could live the rest of my life without the bone-chilling fear of non-existence then I would be MUCH happier. When I read that I supposed that you were referring to the biological fear hard-wired into us by evolution that makes most of us avoid things like playing chicken with trains and drinking Draino on bets with our friends. If that's what you mean I totally agree. But what about the more 'existential' fear-- angst I guess, or Nausea in Sartre's formulation-- that arises upon the contemplation of our death. When I squarely face the fact that my awareness will be annihilated in just a few short decades-- six or seven at the most-- it is enough to 1) keep me from sleeping and 2) make me really depressed. Now, I know that Buddhism says we die all the time. I know that there is no essential self that coheres through the years of a person's life. But it is still scary as hell to contemplate nothingness. So does zazen remedy that? If it does, great. But if it doesn't then why do zazen as opposed to obliterating yourself with video games, wild sex, and booze? Or whatever. Saying the practice is its own reward is all fine and dandy but if it is still going to leave us blanched with terror and sadness at the omnipresence of death then what's the point?"

Brad says:
Zazen will not get rid of your fear of death. Or maybe it will. But booze, wild sex and video games won't. At least not that I've ever heard. Though I've never really played video games and I don't like being drunk* and as for wild sex, I'll leave that to other bloggers to speculate about.

But I'm guessing you mean more generally distractions that help you forget about serious stuff. So maybe in my case it'd be Gamera movies, pad thai and... uh... wild sex (as if...). And you're wondering if Zen practice will blot out your fear of death permanently in a way these temporary fixes do not.

I can't tell you what it will do for you. I won't make any guarantees or even promises. I can only say how it's worked for me.

Like you, I found myself terrified of death. When I was a teenager I realized there was a horrifying hereditary disease in our family that often crippled and/or killed people before they reached the age that I am now. I didn't think I had long to live and I was scared shitless.

But for whatever reasons I didn't do my searching the way most people seem to. I didn't look for an escape from life. When I looked into religions it was all about escape. They offered ways by which they said you could escape from this life into a life in Heaven or Krishna Loka or a variety of other places. They didn't deny death. They were obsessed with death. But they denied life. What they said translated to me as something like, "Trade your life now for a chance at something amazing after you die."

They made the trade sound reasonable. I only get to live in this world a few decades. But the afterlife, they said, is eternal. So I was supposed to live a bland, boring , restricted, white bread and mayonnaise life now in the hopes of a really super terrific future in the afterlife that would last forever.

Problem was, I couldn't believe in the afterlife. The evidence for its existence was not convincing at all.

But I knew I was living this life. So my quest became about how to make this life better. It seems like most people when they search for a way to make this life better turn to the pursuit of hedonistic pleasure. Drugs, sex, money, material goods... these things seem to be the way to Earthly happiness without regard to any belief in life after death.

This didn't work for me either, for much the same reasons. There isn't a whole lot of evidence that money, power, sex and all that really lead to happiness. I was already well aware of the excessive lives of people like Elvis Presley or Howard Hughes who had all they could possibly want and were still miserable. Later on there was Kurt Cobain who did exactly what I'd been hoping I could do, parlay a shitty paying career as an indie rocker into superstardom. What did it get him? Then I started working in the movie industry and routinely associating with famous people who were absolutely loaded with cash and I saw that they were also just as unhappy as anyone else.

Zen practice was all about this life and how to make it better. It didn't offer any magic solutions, which was appealing because I didn't believe in those. It never got into questions of the afterlife, which was great because I didn't believe in that either. It demanded a moderate degree of austerity but not because you were trading austerity today for a future of wonders in Paradise. It recommended a certain degree of austerity because it said that chasing after money, fame, sex, material goods and power just added unnecessary stress to your life that would not be rewarded when you got those things. I knew this was true. I could see it for myself.

But what about the fear of death, then? What of the fear of future oblivion?

I came to understand this fear better through my practice. I began to see that the root of this fear was a projection of myself into an imaginary future. I started seeing it was a fear of things that were not real right here and right now.

This doesn't really erase the fear of death. When I think about the possibility of Brad Warner disappearing forever, I don't really like it. But I also understand that this fear is completely unreasonable. It's as unreasonable as fearing Godzilla or some other imaginary terror.

What I'm about to say might seem like mysticism, but here goes anyhow. Once you start seeing this moment for what this moment really is, you start to understand that you can never really be annihilated in the ways that you previously imagined could happen. What I think of as "Brad Warner" is a construct in my mind. It isn't real. Yet there is a real something upon which that mental construct I've called "Brad Warner" is based. This something can't really die because it was never really born. At least not in the sense we commonly think of things being born and dying. Yes, Brad Warner was born and yes Brad Warner will die. And yet he is not just an individual entity. He is also a temporary manifestation of something vast and unknowable that has no beginning and no end.

Weird shit, huh? Sorry about that.

So OK. I still fear death. But not very much.

I forget if it was Shunryu Suzuki or Dainin Katagiri, but both of these Zen teachers died of cancer. One or the other of them said, toward the end of his life, "I don't want to die."

I've heard that this statement freaked a lot of their followers out. It implied that either a) an Enlightened master still fears death or b) the master was not actually Enlightened because an Enlightened master can't possibly fear death. Neither possibility was very attractive to those who had put their faith in a master they thought was enlightened and therefore would deliver them from the fear of death.

But I don't think the statement implies a fear of death. It implies that the teacher simply would rather have lived longer. That's not really the same thing. And even if it does mean he feared death, what's wrong with that? I fear dentist appointments. But that doesn't mean I'm scared that I will cease to exist after them.

I used to lose sleep over the fear of death. It used to bug the shit out of me. Nowadays death is about as scary as, say, the idea of a a root canal. It's something I don't want to go through, but it doesn't keep me awake nights.

You have to understand, though, that whatever degree I have achieved of overcoming the fear of death I owe to years of often difficult practice. You don't overcome the fear of death by simply deciding you don't want to be afraid of death. It's not that easy. If it was, everyone would do it.

* Am I the only person in the world who finds being drunk a very unpleasant feeling? I don't mind the effect of a glass of wine or a beer, but actually being drunk feels awful to me, like being sick.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving America and Zen That's Not Called Zen

First, the Suicide Girls Radio interview I did is online now. Listen to it by going to:

I feel like it gets better as it goes along, so feel free to skip ahead.

Next, my good friend Marrrrrkus in Finland (home of delicious pippari) told me about a couple articles on li'l ol' me that I had not seen before:

The Brad Warner Paradox

Brad Warner Vs. the Dalai Lama

I don't even know what "Brad Warner Vs. the Dalai Lama" really even has to do with me other than the opening quote. It's mostly a discussion about God.

Then there's Elephant Journal's nice review of my new book. The new book in question is, of course, Sex, Sin, and Zen: A Buddhist Exploration of Sex from Celibacy to Polyamory and Everything in Between. It's selling like hot cakes here in New York City. I wish it was selling like books, though...

So tomorrow is Thanksgiving and my sister is on her way to NYC so we can go watch the Macy's parade. Yoiks! This is my second Thanksgiving this year, since I was up in Canadia last month when they had theirs. I think they add a "u" to the word "Thanksgiving" up there, but I'm not sure.

A guy asked me recently about what he called the "Microsoft-ization of Zen." I'm not exactly sure why he used this term. He meant the way there are lots of people out there hawking products that are essentially Zen, but without actually calling it "Zen." They carefully avoid using words like "Buddhism" or "dharma," even though most of their schtick comes straight out of Zen books. Sometimes straight out of my Zen books!

I've noticed this too and it bugs me. I'm well aware that using words like "Zen" or "Buddhism" or "dharma" will essentially cut your potential audience by at least half. Hell, when I make even the smallest mention of Dogen in these pages I get half a dozen comments about how I'm just promoting the "cult of Dogen" rather than "actual Buddhism." I'm gonna try to address that topic another time, though.

But all these dudes out there hawking Zen but not calling it Zen, why would that bug me? It bugs me because they seem to want to imply that you can just decide to be more "in the moment" and it'll happen. Or they offer some new miracle method to get you there "quickly, easily and effectively" (the verbatim claim of one such method I just came across). Those methods don't work, of course. Though they might provide some kind of short term thrills.

It's like if you woke up one morning and realized you were fat. Not only you. You realized your whole society was made up almost exlusively of people who were at least 200 pounds overweight and that every service, entertainment, occupation, etc. in the entire society was geared toward making already fat people more fat. You couldn't just decide not to be fat in such a society. You'd need to spend a lot of time, effort and energy just figuring out how one could lose weight. Your senses might be so dulled by the environment that you wouldn't even be able to recognize someone of healthy weight. Your friends would all describe such a person as dangerously ill.

Methods like Big Mind® and their ilk strike me as the all-cupcake-diets of this imaginary landscape. Some blubbery guy tells you that the best way to get to a healthy weight is to eat as many cupcakes as possible because what you really want is not to be 200 pounds overweight but three or four-hundred pounds heavier than you are now.

Anyway, yeah, the whole idea of cribbing from Zen without really understanding what it is and hiding the source of your inspiration lest it scare away paying customers irks me. And I'll admit it, one of the reasons it bugs me is because I can't do it myself and therefore I make way less money than the people who do. It would feel far too dishonest. Whatever minor insights I have come through Zen Buddhist practice. If I were to deny that I'd be cheating.

Anyway, plenty of people don't think I have any insights at all. I got an email the other day that said "You are an egoist and have no wisdom to offer!" Gee, thanks. That's sweet.

OK. So whatever.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, America! See you down at the parade!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Border Crossing

So let me tell you about my recent adventures. Last Thursday I packed a PT Cruiser load of stuff into my car and crossed the border from Quebec, Canada into New York, USA. I'd already crossed this border twice during my stay in Montreal when I had some gigs in New York. Those times it was easy-peasy. Even with a carload of stuff the Canadian border guard passed me through. So I didn't expect much of anything when coming back into what is, for better or worse, my own country.

But when I arrived at the DMZ separating the Peoples Republic of Canada from the Vereinigtes Großreich von Amerika I soon found out this was not to be the case. I was singled out for a secondary inspection. This involved getting out of my car, leaving my keys with the border gestapo and being taken into an interrogation center where I had to empty out my pockets and turn them inside out, where the little single serving cheese thingy my friend had given me was sliced open to see if it was drugs, where I was asked a lot of questions about my source of income and so on. Look, guys, I'm a US citizen. Even if I was a vagrant without means of support you couldn't send me back to Canada. I think they were a little confused about how this border stuff works.

I took all of this with good humor. What else can you do? But it was annoying and absolutely without even the smallest degree of sense. What does anyone smuggle in from Canada? Seriously. There aren't even any drugs you can get in Quebec that you can't get more of in New York, and I'm sure they're cheaper too. Everything is cheaper in the USA than in Canada. And that bullshit you've heard that the Sept. 11th hijackers came in through Canada? It's not true.

Feh. So after that I made my way to Brooklyn where, much to my amazement, I secured a parking spot just around the corner from the front door of my building. That was Thursday night and the street was closed to parking from 9:30-11:00 on Friday mornings for cleaning. But I wasn't too worried because I've parked in Brooklyn before and it hasn't been a huge hassle.

What I did not know was that about four blocks of my neighborhood is being resurfaced this week, which means parking has become much more difficult. At nine on Friday morning I started driving around looking for a spot. It took well over an hour, much of which time was spent getting a ticket from the NYPD for allegedly violating a "no right on red" that they say was clearly posted. I went back around to the same corner later specifically looking for the signs they told me were there. I did not see any. They had a line of three or four more cars behind me all getting pulled over for the same violation, they didn't see the alleged signs either. This is the New York City equivalent of a deep south speed trap. I'm gonna go check again, but I'm pretty certain those signs — if they exist at all — are deliberately obscured for the sole purpose of generating highly questionable revenue.

All of this coupled with the usual stresses associated with moving and with not having a reliable source of income (You think authors are rich? Guess again.) and a few other stress producing incidents that I'm not going to make public made for one pretty unhappy Bradley.

It was during this recent period of black pessimism and malaise that I began to reflect again on the whole "that's not very Buddhist of you" business. I'm sure lots of people reading this blog are familiar with it. I wrote an article about this in the March, 2008 issue of Shambhala Sun (it's the issue with the Dalai Lama on the cover. Oh wait! D'oh!).

That's when someone who is a Buddhist gets a bit flustered by whatever and all her friends say, "That's not very Buddhist of you!"

I'll tell you what, though, friends and neighbors, if it weren't for my steady practice I wouldn't be able to get through life at all. Forget about being all wide eyed and Enlightened. I wouldn't even make it through the fucking day. This is one of the thousand million reasons I take issue with all those assholes out there hawking meditation as the way to turn an ordinary human into Super Meditation Man, the guy who never gets his hair (or lack thereof) ruffled no matter what hurricanes life sends his way.

Yeah, yeah. I know. I know. You've seen that guy! He's on YouTube! He's got little videos in which he giggles and smiles and talks in this really sweet soothing voice about how he has found the way to be cool as a cucumber no matter what happens. He's the real deal!

You know what? Go follow that guy if you want. Buy his magic potions. I don't care. Just don't come belly-achin' to me when you realize what a scam it all was. That's all I ask.

Any decent actor can play that role for the ten minutes YouTube allows you, or the hour or two he's on stage, or for a 15 minute personal interview session where he gets to ring a bell and send you away the instant things get tense. It's not even a very impressive trick. Real life, however, is entirely different.

This is one of (again) the bazillion and two reasons I'm dead set against the whole on-line Zen Master thing. It's so easy to play the role of Super Meditation Man in a Skype interview where you can't see the mess the guy's room is just off camera (both concretely and metaphorically), where you don't get to see how your teacher acts after spending two hours in gridlock on the 405 expressway, where you can't smell the garlic on his breath.


Anyway, last night I went out and had Belgian fries in the East Village and everything got a whole lot better.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Here I am at the Philadelphia International Airport with an hour to go before my re-rescheduled flight back to Montreal. I had an extra day in Los Angeles after the first flight I booked got delayed such that my connecting flight wouldn't happen. Now my connecting flight to Montreal today was canceled so I was put on a different one. This is why I need to cut back on travel!

I've been looking at some of the comments, and I'd like to point everyone to a website that's been linked on this blog for ages, but which some of the people who comment on this website seem unaware of:

Lectures and Articles by Nishijima Roshi

One of the comments under the last piece referred obliquely to Nishijima's "very personal and particular interpretation of Dogen." I have to assume he means Nishijima's ideas about the fourfold logical structure of Shobogenzo. This way of reading Dogen isn't simply a personal bias, but the result of decades of working with the text.

Nishijima has written a very detailed explanation of this way of reading Shobogenzo, which is available as a free download at:

Understanding Shobogenzo

Another comment says something about Nishjima being "the ANS/four views crank." Nishijima's ideas about the ANS (autonomic nervous system) are covered in this piece:

Buddhism and the Autonomic Nervous System

I do not find these ideas "cranky" at all. He is trying to use the language of science rather than the language of mysticism to explain the effects of zazen practice. He doesn't claim to be a neurologist or even an expert in the workings of the ANS. This he makes quite explicit in the first paragraph of the piece. But he does find this means of expressing how zazen works far more useful than the older, more mystical sounding language.

It's very easy to condense someone's body of work into a few choice words and thereby dismiss it entirely. D.T. Suzuki did that when he wrote about Dogen. So it happens to the best of us and is often initiated by people with impressive credentials.

I just wanted to give anyone who was interested a chance to check out Nishijima's own words for themselves. Most of the articles on the page linked above are short and easy to read.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

結跏趺坐 or Why The New Shobogenzo is the Second Best Translation

First logistical stuff. If you're in Los Angeles, you still have one more chance to hear me talk. Tomorrow (Sunday Nov. 14, 2010) at 7pm I'll be speaking at the Bodhi Tree bookstore 8585 Melrose Avenue West Hollywood, CA 90069-5199.

Also, the folks from Dogen Sangha Los Angeles have put together some videos of me and stuck them up on the Dogen Sangha Los Angeles YouTube Channel. They'll be adding more soon.

Also, my newest book Sex, Sin, and Zen: A Buddhist Exploration of Sex from Celibacy to Polyamory and Everything in Between has been nominated as the worst religious book cover by a website called Religious Bulletin. Yay! I hope I win because then they can put "Award Winning Author" on my next book.

Also I just put up a new article on the Suicide Girls' Safe For Work Blog. It's called Desire and you can find it by clicking on the word "Desire" in this here sentence right here.

Ans speaking of Suicide Girls, I'll be on their radio show tomorrow night. For more details on that just click right here!


Last weekend I went to the San Francisco Zen Center (SFZC) to participate in an event celebrating the publication of Kazuaki Tanahashi's translation of the complete 95 chapter Shobogenzo.

If you want to see what I said there go to this link and scroll ahead to 36:26 into the piece.

This new English language edition of Shobogenzo is essentially the San Francisco Zen Center edition of Shobogenzo. They own the copyright, they provided the bulk of the funding for the project and 32 priests from SFZC acted as co-translators, the average person working on between one and three chapters.

Naturally, during the celebration this weekend a number of people proclaimed that this was the best English translation of Shobogenzo. And, of course, those of us who worked on or, as in my case, were associated with people who worked on other English translations said that ours were the best. It became a bit of a running gag. If you watch the video of my talk on Saturday you'll see my contribution to the gag. I was the third or forth person that day to make this joke. But it wasn't really a joke.

At one point Kaz said that every translation of Shobogenzo was the best in its own way. Each one provided a unique and valuable perspective. A very diplomatic response! And true. I'm sure he meant it.

I haven't read much of the Tanahashi Shobogenzo yet. I read a few chapters while I was at Tassajara over the Summer and a couple more since I bought a copy for myself ($150, ouch! And that was with a discount!). I am not an expert on it the way I am on the Nishijima/Cross version, which I've read at least four times cover to cover, and have read my favorite bits maybe a dozen times or more and which I produced a book of my own about (see link below). Though I'm still hard pressed to quote chapter and verse even of this version.

Even so, I feel safe saying the Tanahashi Shobogenzo is the second best one available, after the one by Gudo Wafu Nishijima and Chodo Cross, which will always be the best (which is high praise from someone as picky as me, for whatever that's worth) . I'm familiar with the earlier versions of Tanahashi's translations that have appeared in books like Moon In a Dewdrop and Enlightenment Unfolds. During the couple of years when it was tough to track down a copy of the Nishijima/Cross edition, I used to often recommend the Tanahashi books. I felt that they were the closest to the original. Now you can easily find the Nishijima/Cross version on line. (links to follow below)

The main reason the Nishijima/Cross version is best is because it so faithfully replicates the original Japanese Shobogenzo it's almost too much. Even Dogen's odd word order is retained as much as possible. This means it sacrifices a lot in terms of readablity. But then, so does Dogen's original. So that's as it should be. It was never meant to be easy reading.

The other big advantage of the Nishijima/Cross edition are the copious footnotes on every page. All of Dogen's obscure references to ancient Chinese texts are provided. And any time a Japanese word has been translated in a way that might be questionable, the original Japanese wording is also footnoted.

These two factors make for an edition of Shobogenzo that is the closest a person who can read English but can't read Japanese is going to get to discovering a pair of magic glasses that allow them to read the original Japanese. No one is ever going to be able to match it in that way until the day the English language itself changes so much that this version becomes outmoded for that reason. Sorry. It can't be done.

One area in which the Tanahashi version is clearly superior is in terms of poetry. I have to admit, the Nishijima/Cross edition is clunky as hell. It loses a lot of the beauty of the original by trying to stick to a very nuts and bolts literal translation. Tanahashi and his co-translators have done a tremendous job of making an English version that sings like the original.

The reason I feel the Tanahashi edition isn't quite as good overall relates to a lot of the aspects of trying to study something as personal and intimate as Zen in a large institution like SFZC. You can distill the reasons I think this edition is only second best by looking at the way they chose to translate the Japanese compound 結跏趺坐 (kekka fuza).

結跏趺坐 (kekka fuza) has one clear and totally unambiguous meaning in English. It means sitting in the Lotus posture (full, half or quarter). There is no other possible interpretation. So we're not talking here about a word that has nuances a translator could argue about. It's a proper noun with a set English equivalent. The word is used often in Shobogenzo as a synonym for zazen.

During the presentations on Sunday at Green Gulch someone (I think it was Kaz himself, but I'm a little uncertain -- it's probably somewhere in that video feed I linked to above) explained something about how their translation was accomplished using the example of how they had chosen to translate this word.

Apparently they'd originally translated it as "sitting cross legged," which is good. I think that's the phrase the Nishijima/Cross version uses. However, some talk arose around SFZC that certain readers may not be able to do the Lotus posture and would feel put off by such a translation. After some discussion it was decided that 結跏趺坐 (kekka fuza) would be translated as "sitting in meditation" so as to allow those who could not manage to sit in the Lotus posture to feel included in Dogen's message.

I admit this is not a major failing. Really, it's pretty much the same thing. It doesn't drastically alter Dogen's message. But it does alter it nonetheless.

It's not that it alters his message in a minor way that bothers me so much as the reasons why the editors chose to alter Dogen's message.

They altered it because they felt the actual meaning of the phrase might limit the book's appeal. They altered it because of a committee decision.

The matter of the Lotus posture in Dogen's teaching is one that a lot of people love to argue about. But Dogen is pretty uncompromising. In Fukanzazengi (Recommending Zazen for All People) he allows for full Lotus or half Lotus and that's it. My own teacher, Gudo Nishijima, extends the meaning of half Lotus to include what is commonly known as quarter Lotus or "Burmese Posture" in the West these days. But Dogen says nothing about using seiza benches or chairs or sitting in any of the other myriad ways you often encounter in Zen centers in the Americas and Europe these days.

I myself have taken some heat for being a stickler about posture. But here's a little secret. Whenever someone comes to me one-to-one and shows me that they really, honestly cannot do full, half or quarter Lotus (incl. Burmese) I always try to work with them to find another way. I'll bet you dollars to donuts even Master Dogen would have done the same in such a situation. Yet in public I never talk about any other postures.

The reason I don't talk in public about doing zazen in chairs or on seiza benches or what-have-you is that it seems like as soon as you mention the possibility of using these things, immediately half of the able bodied people in the room are rushing to get themselves a chair so they can be more comfortable. But zazen is not about comfort. In fact, without a bit of discomfort it's really not zazen.

Be that as it may, this change is just one of several in the book that reflect this attitude. In another instance Dogen's phrase "the kingly Bodhi Tree" was changed to "the glorious Bodhi tree" so as not to seem so sexist. I'm sure other such changes abound. They don't really alter the fundamental meaning of Dogen's prose, but they do alter it, and for reasons that appear to me to be a bit silly.

This is what happens when committees get involved. Gudo Nishijima and Mike Cross had no such problems. There were only two people involved in the nitty gritty of the translation and three or four others involved in editing.

What happened with this new edition of Shobogezo is also instructive in understanding the difference between studying Zen in a large institution and studying Zen in a smaller setting. I am a big fan of the San Francisco Zen Center. I like what they do and I'm happy to support them. I often recommend people to go to SFZC, Tassajara and Green Gulch. They're good places. They're good people.

But the truth is, if SFZC and institutions like it had been the only places I knew of to study Zen, I'd probably have lasted a year at most. That's not my kind of scene.

Is one way better and the other worse? I can only speak for myself. I feel like the Nishijima/Cross edition of Shobogenzo is the best. This doesn't mean I hate every other edition. But only one edition can be the best. As far as teaching styles go, I went with the form of Zen that suited me. If I didn't feel it was best for me I would have gone somewhere else.

Just to be very clear here, the Kazuaki Tanahashi translation of Shobogenzo is a magnificent achievement. Here's a good article all about how it came to be. It's a really, really tremendous translation. I highly recommend it. I spent $150 on my copy, and I can't really afford to do that kind of stuff these days. I did it because I genuinely like it.

But it still ain't the best!

Sit Down and Shut Up: Punk Rock Commentaries on Buddha, God, Truth, Sex, Death, and Dogen's Treasury of the Right Dharma Eye by Brad Warner
Master Dogen's Shobogenzo Book 1 translated by Gudo Nishijima and Chodo Cross
Master Dogen's Shobogenzo Book 2 translated by Gudo Nishijima and Chodo Cross
Master Dogen's Shobogenzo, Book 3 translated by Gudo Nishijima and Chodo Cross
Master Dogen's Shobogenzo, Book 4 translated by Gudo Nishijima and Chodo Cross
Enlightenment Unfolds by Dogen, translated by Kazuaki Tanahashi
Moon in a Dewdrop: Writings of Zen Master Dogen translated by Kazuaki Tanahashi
Treasury of the True Dharma Eye: Zen Master Dogen's Shobo Genzo translated by Kazuaki Tanahashi
Free digital download of the Nishjima/Cross edition of Shobogenzo in PDF format

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Not Really About Last Night

I'll post something about the Dogen Translation Forum soon. But for now here is a a posting from a very unique and interesting perspective.

Also, the stuff I did yesterday is now or will soon be archived. I'll try and get the URL for that soon.

After San Francisco I'm heading south to Los Angeles where I'm doing a busload of gigs.

•November 9, 2010 (Tues) 7 pm - Hill Street Center 237 Hill St., Santa Monica, CA 90405

•November 10, 2010 (Wed) 7 am (yes that’s 7 in the morning!) Dharma Zen Center 1025 S Cloverdale Ave Los Angeles, CA 90019-6733

•November 10, 2010 (Wed) 7:30 pm - Against The Stream 4300 Melrose Ave. Los Angeles, CA

•November 12 (Fri) - 7pm An Lac Buddhist Temple 901, S.Saticoy Avenue Ventura, CA 93004. $2 Donation.

•November 14, 2010 (Sun) 7pm - Bodhi Tree Bookstore 8585 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA

Next I'm heading south to Los Angeles where I'm doing a busload of gigs.

•November 9, 2010 (Tues) 7 pm - Hill Street Center 237 Hill St., Santa Monica, CA 90405

•November 10, 2010 (Wed) 7 am (yes that’s 7 in the morning!) Dharma Zen Center 1025 S Cloverdale Ave Los Angeles, CA 90019-6733

•November 10, 2010 (Wed) 7:30 pm - Against The Stream 4300 Melrose Ave. Los Angeles, CA

•November 12 (Fri) - 7pm An Lac Buddhist Temple 901, S.Saticoy Avenue Ventura, CA 93004. $2 Donation.

•November 14, 2010 (Sun) 7pm - Bodhi Tree Bookstore 8585 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA

Wednesday, November 03, 2010


This Saturday, November 6th at 4pm Pacific Standard Time (PST) I'll be giving a talk at San Francisco Zen Center's Zen Translation Forum as part of a program titled Dogen: Lost and Found in Translation. The program will be streamed live on the web starting at 2 pm PST with an introduction by Steve Stuckey, Abbot of San Francisco Zen Center.

The URL for the live stream is The live stream will also include presentations by Mel Weitsman, Abbot of Berkeley Zen Center, a panel discussion led by Steven Heine and including William Bodiford, Taigen Dan Leighton and Susan Moon. There will be further presentations by Frederike Bossevain, Gaelyn Godwin of Houston Zen Center, Chozen and Hogen Bays and a live calligraphy auction by Kazuaki Tanahashi.

It should be fun. My presentation is titled "Dogen for Punks." It should stick out like a sore thumb among all the serious, scholarly stuff.

They're going to try and open it up to questions from the on-line audience. So try your luck and see if you can get through. My talk is going to be pretty short. So I suggest you get your comments in early.

After San Francisco I'm heading south to Los Angeles where I'm doing a busload of gigs.

•November 9, 2010 (Tues) 7 pm - Hill Street Center 237 Hill St., Santa Monica, CA 90405

•November 10, 2010 (Wed) 7 am (yes that’s 7 in the morning!) Dharma Zen Center 1025 S Cloverdale Ave Los Angeles, CA 90019-6733

•November 10, 2010 (Wed) 7:30 pm - Against The Stream 4300 Melrose Ave. Los Angeles, CA

•November 12 (Fri) - 7pm An Lac Buddhist Temple 901, S.Saticoy Avenue Ventura, CA 93004. $2 Donation.

•November 14, 2010 (Sun) 7pm - Bodhi Tree Bookstore 8585 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA

Now that you've been told you have no excuse to miss any of them!


A lot of times when I talk about Zen to audiences made up mainly of people who don't know anything at all about Zen, I have to deal with deeply held misconceptions of what Zen is. Just last week I gave a talk in which I didn't even once mention the concept of non-attachment. When I started taking questions a guy said, "You're talking about detachment and I don't agree that people should try to be aloof and detached with no personal relationships. I think personal relationships even of a sexual nature can be very nurturing things that all human beings need, etc., etc."

If you want to know my opinion about this matter, I devote a chapter to it in my new book, Sex, Sin, and Zen: A Buddhist Exploration of Sex from Celibacy to Polyamory and Everything in Between. But any of you who have read anything I've written probably know that I am not sitting here trying to get people to give up all their personal relationships. And if you've even read just the Amazon description of my new book you know for sure I'm not telling people to give up sex!

The point I'm trying to make here is that even though I said nothing at all about having an aloof, detached attitude, this guy had heard a few things about Zen, assumed it was all about being detached, and went after me for what he perceived I was talking about. Although the subject had not come up at all, everything he heard from me was filtered through that lens.

It's interesting how this happens and it will probably be my life's work to untangle all the misconceptions of Zen practice I run into. I came across a book just the other day that said, "Surely the Buddha was right that love is the fountainhead of hurt and misery, suffering and despair. He also taught that life and love were not worth while." Oh boy!

Not that I'm the ace genius who knows the be all and end all of Zen. But some of the misconceptions out there are so vast and deep! Sometimes these misconceptions even lead people to think they can become Enlightened® in an hour...

Here's a song about that:

All Is One

See! I used to know how to program a drum machine!

Just some observations for now. See you this weekend on the Interwebs!

Monday, November 01, 2010


First off, here's a new podcast interview I did:

Find is at

I also have a new thing up on Suicide Girls (SG). It's at It's a review of the new book Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality. I'm going to give the piece a little time there on SG before I comment on it. But there are, I feel, a few other things to say about the book.

The new SG blog site is supposed to be safe for work and it's freely accessible by anyone.

That's it for now. I'll write more on this subject in the next day or two.

OH! And if you're in San Francisco or Los Angeles, I'm gonna be doing a whole busload of talks and things over the next couple weeks. Go to for all the details. See you there!