Sunday, February 28, 2010

GOSSIP

Today is the day I start making my epic journey via PT Cruiser across the United States. Most of my stuff has already been sent ahead. I still have to get together the junk that remains in the house and figure out how to shove it all in the car. Suffice it to say, I really, seriously do not have the time today to write a blog post and really, serously should be doing a whole butt-load of other far more pressing things.

BUT there were 279 comments last time I looked under a posting about a couple clips from a movie shot in Akron in the early 80s. Those of you looking at this on Facebook can go to http://hardcorezen.blogspot.com if you want to see what I'm referring to. Personally, I think it's a big waste of time, so I don't recommend bothering with it.

But in the midst of all this, Gniz, a frequent and often contentious contributor to the comments section, asked the following question:

"People like watching the drama, the soap operas (including me, I'm sorry to admit). I would be curious about your take on why we are SO drawn to these things....I've written about it from my perspective, but it might make a good blog post sometime when you get a free minute!"

This is, of course, the real key question. The specifics of the various arguments going on in the comments section are incredibly trivial. I'm not even sure precisely what is under dispute. But, then again, I have not had the time or the inclination to read the comments in detail. I made a single observation somewhere around comment 210 or so that the whole thing was utterly inappropriate for this blog, though it would be very appropriate on a different internet forum where such things are apparently not permissible to discuss. That is all I have to say about the specifics of the arguments.

But gossip itself is very interesting. If I had time I'd go look this up. But I don't, so I won't. But there is a piece of writing by Dogen that I was introduced to very early on in my practice that gives a list of rules for monks. I was fascinated by the fact that one of the rules was not to gossip. This was right up there with don't kill and don't steal and all that -- if memory serves (and it probably does not). (I may even have included this in Sit Down And Shut Up, I can't remember)

I just finished this very interesting book called The Red Queen, all about the evolution of human sexuality. Or, more specifically, how sexuality has influenced our evolution. Among other things, the author postulates that the human brain may have developed in part as a very efficient gossip processing machine. Meaning, there are areas of the brain that may be specifically geared towards receiving and creating gossip.

The reason for this is that we are highly social animals. Our interaction with our society is key to our survival. Those among our ancestors who were among the biggest gossip-mongers left more descendants and we have inherited this. That's why we love all those magazines and TV shows about celebrity scandals, and also why we are such avid consumers of fiction. Fiction satisfies our need for gossip to a great degree (though, obviously not completely).

From a Buddhist standpoint, following various soap operas and what not that involve other people is a terrific way to ignore what's going on within ourselves. We ignore the crucial matter of examining our own shit by examining and commenting upon other people's shit. In terms of practice, this is a shameful waste of precious time and energy, of which we do not have infinite amounts to waste (sorry, bad grammar, writing fast).

Ultimately what all of this gossip is, is just our brains running through their various programs. That's what they're built to do, so it can't really be helped all that much. But we don't need to play with it and wallow in it. To do so is a bit like scratching a wound instead of leaving it alone to heal as it should. This, I suspect, is why Dogen thought it was so important to avoid.

And that's all I got time for. I suspect the drama in the comments section will not subside for a while. But for the time being I am sticking with my policy of not censoring anything or even screening the comments before they go up. You're free to discuss whatever you like in whatever tone you wish. I'll be on the road for the coming week and unable to even look in on them very often even if I were interested.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

CAR CHASE AKRON 1983


If you're viewing on Facebook it's http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPT4eaFuUEc

I just discovered this piece of awesomeness. It's apparently from a very low budget action movie shot in Akron, Ohio in 1980 and released in '83. This is what Akron looked like when Zero Defex was going strong and I was first discovering Zen. How did I ever make it out alive?

And don't forget part two:




The waterfall-like thingy is right around the corner from where I used to live. I spent a lot of time there. Never saw guys karate fighting in the water, though.

For Facebook people the link is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQmQX79HMnQ

Sunday, February 21, 2010

TOURING

My book tour page has been further spiffed up click here to check it out.

You may notice that I have a retreat at the Southern Dharma Retreat Center in Hot Springs, North Carolina (near Asheville) until March 28th followed by a retreat a week later in Brooklyn (starting April 2nd). Then I have nearly a month off before heading to Europe in May.

Currently, the folks in Brooklyn are planning to fly me to their fair city. But it occurred to me that if I drove to Brooklyn from NC, I could do other gigs on the way back down South. Major cities on the route between the two include Trenton, NJ, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC, and Richmond, VA among others.

Anyone on that route who might like to have me come give a talk in their city should write me at spoozilla@gmail.com (Would I get more bites if I changed that email address? I never initially intended to use it for gig getting). There's nearly the whole month of April to work with. So speak up!

Part of my reason for relocating to the East Coast was the notion that if I did so, lots of places I could potentially talk at would be within driving distance. This would allow me to do what I do more cheaply and efficiently, I had hoped. But will the folks on the East Coast fail to speak up and thus prove me wrong?

I know it's the new thing these days to sit behind your laptop and deliver virtual Zen to the virtual masses. But I'm still too set in my ways to believe that's the best way to do things. I much prefer to get out there and meet people face to face. Dokusan via Skype is too much like one of those porno video chat things for me.

My tours have ended up being sort of like the punk rock tours of long ago (or, indeed the punk rock tours of today) where you pack everything you need in a van and head off for parts unknown, hoping that the people who have offered you a floor to sleep on don't have any vicious killer animals or are not themselves vicious killer animals.

I do not have an entourage to surround me as I travel. I do not have "people" to set all this up for me (though my pal Catie is helping out a lot lately). I do not have an "office" you can call up for an appointment. I do not sell myself for $50,000 a pop to the rich and brainless for private consultations.

This means I'm sometimes hard pressed to get back to everyone who writes. Be aware I'm looking for gigs where I can make some money. I ain't getting rich this way. That's for damned sure (another reason for moving away from Los Angeles). But I'm trying not to go broke doing it either. So I'm far more likely to respond to gigs that have a chance of actually paying.

People always write and say, "You could give a talk at Bob's Dog Eared Books in Bloomingfork, Louisiana!" or whatever. And that's nice. I do talks at bookstores a lot. But bookstore talks never pay. The bookstores want authors in so they get some customers to buy books from them -- and not buy books directly from the authors. So I can only afford to travel out of town to do a bookstore gig if there's some kind of paying gig in the area as well.

OK? Good. Well, I'm off to go speak at Noah Levine's place in Hollywood, Against The Stream, at 11 am today. The address is 4300 Melrose (btw Heliotrope and Vermont) Los Angeles, CA 90029. Show up! And see ya there!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

RACE, GENDER, IDENTITY and BUDDHISM

Administrative stuff:

There will be Zazen this Saturday at Hill Street Center and it will be part of Month Long Zen and Sex Month. But it is also our monthly day-long zazen, which goes from 10 am till about 3:30 pm. So please keep that in mind if you choose to come. You don't have to stay all day. But we're staying all day.

If you don't wanna do an all-day Zen but wanna do some Zen anyway this weekend, I'll be hosting things at Against The Stream (aka Dharma Punx) in Hollywood on Sunday beginning at 11 am. The address is 4300 Melrose (btw Heliotrope and Vermont) Los Angeles, CA 90029.

The tattoo shown on today's blog entry comes from James in Kentucky. Cool, huh? As I said the last time someone got this tattooed on their body, Gene Simmons always brags that KISS fans get KISS tattoos making them members of the KISS ARMY for life. Well, IN YOUR FACE, GENE SIMMONS!!!

I got a very interesting question the other day from a friend who is not a Zen practitioner but who is very concerned about matters of race, gender and social privilege. She asked, "Have you ever considered that it may be easier for you to give up attachment to identity because your identities are not problematic, are in fact usually not considered identities at all? I honestly do want to know what your thoughts are about your position in the world, so please tell me."

I don't think I can do justice to this question today while I'm scrambling around packing and stuff. But it's an interesting one to ponder.

I do not think that attachment to identity is something that can be quantified. I don't think it's something some people have more of than others, at least at the outset of practice. Except perhaps in some very rare and extraordinary cases.

For myself, even though I'm a white heterosexual male I've lived probably a third of my life in societies where I was a minority. In Kenya, where I lived as a child, and in Japan, where I spent 11 years of my adult life, being a white person did not mean you were automatically of high social status the way it does in Europe and America. Quite the opposite. And I was also part of the punk scene in which being "alternative" in some way was far cooler than being a plain old white hetero male.

Which doesn't mean I understand every thing that people who live their entire lives as part of a truly put-upon social group have to deal with. After all, I did choose to go to Japan (though not to Kenya) and had the option to leave pretty much whenever I wanted to. But perhaps I do understand more than most American white hetero males. I know what it's like to be refused housing because of my race, or to be followed around in stores because "my kind" is known to steal things, to be able to scare little old ladies just by being who I am, to go for long stretches without seeing people of my own culture, to have every little thing I do be attributed to my race, to not be able to buy the kinds of food I like in the stores and so on and on.

I guess the question is; do things like this cause one to need to hold on tighter to matters of identity? Does one's identity as not a part of the ruling class become something which one must cling to and which is therefore harder to drop when one enters into Buddhist practice?

Since I've lived both as part of the ruling class and not part of the ruling class I guess I ought to be able to say. But I don't think I can, at least not definitively.

I believe that all of us, no matter what our race, sexual orientation, gender, etc., are socialized to cling tightly to individual identity and to believe in it very strongly. This goes far beyond matters of race, sexual orientation, gender, etc. Those aspects of identity are very superficial compared to the much deeper issues of seeing oneself as separate from the rest of humanity and from the Universe itself. So my guess is that maybe someone who has forged a strong identity based on his/her/zher race, culture, sexual orientation etc. might have a tiny fraction of a percent more attachment to identity than someone for whom the questioner says identity is not an issue. Maybe. Maybe. Just a teeeny, weeny, itty bitty bit.

But in terms of what we're dealing with in Buddhist practice this would hardly make any difference at all. In those terms, even for members of the ruling class, identity is a HUGE issue. Perhaps it's even worse for members of the ruling class because they've never seen their identity as an identity, having been able to take so much for granted. I'd say a person who has grown up having to understand their identity as identity actually has a small head start on what Buddhism is dealing with in these areas.

That's just my very quick answer on a Thursday morning with lots and lots and lots to do that prevents me from examining this as carefully as it deserves.

Perhaps in future installments I'll make a stab at doing this question real justice.

Monday, February 15, 2010

SPIFFY NEW PAGES!

The main point of today's entry is to draw your attention to the following:

SPIFFY NEW PAGE ABOUT MY 2010 TOUR

SPIFFY NEW DIMENTIA 13 PAGE

I made these last night. Thanks are due to John Graves for turning me on to the iWeb program I already had in my computer. I never knew what it was for! One of John's compositions was featured in NBC's broadcast of the Winter Olympics. Yay!

By the way the spiffy new DIMENTIA 13 page has a link on it where you can download the complete liner notes for the Disturb The Air album for free. So if you wanna read all about the record and see some reviews and articles that came out at the time of its release, go download the notes!

On Saturday we talked some about love. I quoted from a poem called Be Still And Follow by my first Zen teacher, Tim McCarthy. Here's what I quoted:

God, she said over soup,
cannot add or subtract from who He is
You believe in God then?
He doesn't want me to
knowing,as He does
that God does not exist


All fingers grasp the edge
of this cliff. All other moments
are absent


To experience
is to smother
You cannot breathe
with or within me
You cannot breathe
without or out of me
And there is
only breath

P.S. Bummed out to hear that Doug Fieger of The Knack has died...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

THE END OF SUFFERING IS POSSIBLE FOR YOU

Before we begin, I want to say thanks for the support and stuff regarding my last post. I will set off on February 28th driving Northeast to make a very circuitous journey to Durham, North Carolina via Kansas City, Cedar Rapids and Akron. According to Google Maps I'll be passing through Las Vegas, St. George, Grand Junction and Denver on Interstates 15 and 70 on the way to KC. If anybody on that route wants to save me a night's hotel fees, send me an email to spoozilla@gmail.com. I'm quiet and clean. I'll also be passing through the Chicago area on Interstate 80/90 on my way to Akron. I'm gonna try to get that drive done in a day. But we shall see. So if anyone in Chicagoland wants to offer me space, use the email above.

I'll also be speaking at the Cedar Rapids Zen Center on March 5th (my birthday). Info will be forthcoming soon on that. And remember Kansas City on the 4th.

ANYWAY, I was walking to the post office the other day and I saw this funny notice stuck with masking tape to the light post in front of the Starbuck's on the corner of Hill and Main. It said, "The End of Suffering is Possible For You." I took a photo of it and posted it here so you can see. There's a smiling guy on the flier who is identified as Swami something-or-other. He says he has a technique he can teach you in a one-day seminar that will end all your suffering.

Gosh. Packing up my stuff is a real bummer. I probably ought to sign up.

Seeing this flier got me thinking about a lot of things. My instant gut reaction was that it was a lie. No one can possibly show you the way to end all suffering in an afternoon. Just think about it for a second. If this were really possible would the guy be sticking fliers on lamp posts? Nah. He'd be the richest man in the entire world and justifiably so.

But then I got a little kinder. There is some sense in which I might be able to define the practice of zazen as a way to end all suffering, and I could teach it to anyone who was interested in even less than an afternoon. I could show you all you really need to know in about five minutes.

But you're not gonna get to the end of all suffering in five minutes. You'd have to apply what I taught you in those five minutes for at the very minimum an hour a day for a number of years before you're gonna get anywhere near the end of all suffering. You'd have to dedicate your life to it and you have to be unafraid to abide by the truths the practice shows you. This is a very key element and one that even the most dedicated practitioners have a dickens of a time with — even after decades of practice (Brad points to himself here).

So, "OK," I says to myself, "maybe that's what he means." I kind of suspect it isn't. But I don't know for sure. All I know is that if I advertised what I do that way I'd feel incredibly dirty and dishonest.

I feel like the reason people get away with claims like this is because there is still so very little real understanding of what meditation practice actually is. I've used this metaphor more times than I can keep track of, but I'll keep saying it till someone gets it. If an exercise guy told you that you could go from a Homer Simpson body to an Arnold in Terminator body in a couple hours you'd know he was lying. If a yoga teacher said you could bend your leg around the back of your head after a single class you'd know that was bullshit. Yet people understand so very little about meditation that they imagine all sorts of things that are equally as absurd. My old troll pal Gniz makes a similar point with a great analogy to teaching sports on this post on his blog.

Almost anyone can teach the basics of zazen. And those basics are really all you need to start the practice for yourself. But nobody can teach you the discipline needed to turn that basic practice into something that can change your life in a fundamental and profound way.

Now as to this "end of suffering" business, that's really a tricky issue. The end of suffering requires a kind of diligence and attention that very few people are able to muster. I wouldn't even claim I've been able to muster it. But I have gone through the process enough to see where it's possible and to put it into practice to a degree I never would have thought possible when I began doing this stuff. The end of suffering doesn't mean you don't feel pain when you stub your toe on a rock or that you don't feel sad when your mom dies. But there is a means by which we cease to experience these and other such things as suffering. We do so not by finding a way to not experience them, but by seeing a way to experience them completely.

This much is true. But in order to do this you have to face right into whatever life throws at you without flinching. And that's not easy. You've spent your whole life learning how to avoid experience and shield yourself from pain. Zazen practice is one excellent way — I'd even say the most excellent way — to learn how not to do this. But you don't learn this from anyone but yourself. It's not something anyone can teach you. They can help you learn to find it for yourself. But they can't teach you.

Year ago I saw this movie called The Cube. It wasn't the horror film by that name that came out about five years ago. This was something Jim Henson created before he struck it rich with the Muppets. Amazingly Google video has the entire film at this link here. It's weird, weird movie.

The basic plot is that a guy finds himself living in a white cube. People can come in and out, but he can't escape. Very existential stuff. Whenever someone leaves the guy's cube the guy tries to follow. The person leaving the cube invariably says, "Ah, ah, ah! That's my door!" and closes the door on guy's face at which point the door vanishes.

That's kinda the way it is with the stuff a Zen teacher can teach you. She can show you her way to deal with this stuff and maybe you can learn from that. But ultimately that's her door and you can't go out through it. You need to find your own door.

So anyway, I don't want to scream LIAR! at the guy who posted that flier. I don't really know. But what I do know for absolute certain, without even a hint of a doubt, is that there is nothing anyone can show you in an afternoon that's gonna fix all your problems right then and there.

But the hucksters know there are plenty of suckers and "marks" out there who think maybe they can get this end of suffering stuff over quick and move on to the next thrill. You can go ask James Arthur Ray and his close personal friend Genpo Roshi as well as a long list of other similar con-men and crooks and they'll gladly sell you magic snake oil that'll put right whatever's ailin' you. They'll teach you their special technique and then laugh at you all the way to the bank.

It's really the same with them as it was with the snake oil salesmen of days gone by. Once more people are better educated about this stuff, these guys will naturally become marginalized until only the most gullible are taken in by their claims. Until that happens it may be necessary for those who do know what the deal is to keep plugging away and saying "No, it doesn't work like that."

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

GOING TO KANSAS CITY, SAYING GOODBYE TO HOLLYWOOD

Before we begin, check out this bit of comedic genius.

OK. This just in:

I will be giving a talk at the Unity Temple in Kansas City, Missouri on March 4, 2010 at 7:30 pm. This is sponsored by the Kansas City Zen Center. There's more info on the 2010 Tour link over there to your left. Or, as always, just click on the words "2010 Tour link." See how easy I make things for ya!

Which brings up another point I ought to make. And that point is that as of the end of February I will no longer be a resident of Santa Monica, California. Nor of California at all.

It's a bit complicated, what I'm doing. See, with my tour schedule filling up as it is (see link above) it doesn't make much sense for me to live pretty much anywhere until the touring stops. Last year I stayed a California resident and paid rent on a place here I did not even live in for five months. This, I have decided, is the definition of "clinically insane." So I'm not doing that anymore.

When the dust settles somewhere around late June or even into July, I plan to live in or near Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill, North Carolina. This, I hope, will allow me to take advantage of gig offers I've had East of the Rockies which, up till now, have not worked out due to my living in So Cal. Until then, though, just call me "Homeless Brad-o," for I shall be without an abode.


For those viewing on Facebook, the link to the embedded video I put up is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hl22IHX-3Hc

Sunday, February 07, 2010

ZEN WRAPPED IN KARMA DIPPED IN SEX

Yesterday we had our first Zen and Sex lecture at Hill Street Center. There are three more to come, and everyone is welcome. The info is in the links section over to your left or right here.

Part of the discussion got into some of the matters discussed in my book ZEN WRAPPED IN KARMA DIPPED IN CHOCOLATE. But before we get into the sex talk, I want to share with you an email I got last week regarding that very book. Here goes:

Hey, I just read your Zen Wrapped... book. My name is Jen I am a 37y.o. stay at home mom of 3 girls. I also am a Born-Again Christian who goes on missions trips to Africa and here in the States, to spread and teach the word of Jesus. That being said, my best friend is a practicing Buddhist; we practice yoga and meditate together, and she loaned me your book. I read it in 2 days, don't get too excited though I sat in the dentist office for 3 hrs waiting for my hubby to get 2 root canals.

I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed your book and your honesty, it took great courage and humility to expose yourself the way you did. It's refreshing to have a person in the "Spiritual Teacher" (gosh, I hate that term, it hurts to even type it) role, to tell people that they are just...PEOPLE TOO! So many "religious" people are ridiculously judgmental, Jesus even said that he was not put on the earth to judge. OK, now I'm getting all Christiany-like.

I have not heard of a book in the Christian religion of a minister exposing his/her self as a common sinner (in Christian terms) with dark secrets and sordid indiscretions. I personally know ministers who have made some pretty big mis-steps, but not many people, of any belief or faith, would be so honest.

Well, I've rambled on long enough and I have to put icing on my daughter's cupcakes for her class tomorrow. I thought that you may want to hear from a Born Again Christian Missionary Mom and wife, that I think your book ROCKS! I can't wait for the next one.


Wow. Gosh. I felt really good when I read that one. It's got to be one of the best reviews I've ever read about something I've written. As time goes by I grow ever more certain that publishing that book was the right thing to do, even in spite of the hits I've taken from some quarters for talking about stuff some feel ought not to be discussed.

I think it's really vital to demolish the pop culture's image of the guru or Zen Master as spiritual super being. As plenty of people have pointed out, there are very few folks out there who think of me as such a super being. Thank you, Jesus! But I'd had enough of writers who try and demolish some guru's image by pointing fingers at him and saying how badly he behaved since I think that only tends to reinforce the idea that there are such super beings out there, it's just that whatever guy happens to be under examination is not one of them. It was better to turn the focus on myself and demolish me.

Blah-blah-blah... I've said all this in the book so I don't want to get into it here again.

One of the fascinating things that's happened here in Bloggerland in regard to the sex talk we've been doing is the sudden reappearance of lots of trolls in the comments section. Now, by "trolls" I'm not just referring to anonymous commenters or even just to anonymous commenters who have negative things to say. I'm talking about people who post anonymously or pseudonymously with deliberately hurtful comments that, more often than not, are wildly off topic. For example, in the comments section of my last entry on this blog I had one guy who wanted to spread untrue rumors about the sales figures of my books and the attendance at my talks, and I had another guy who insulted the quality of Dimentia 13's music.

These and other comments along the same lines are not intended to further any sort of debate or even simply criticize what I do here. They appear to me to be the reactions of people who feel they have been deliberately and specifically personally hurt by me and therefore feel justified in trying to personally hurt me back. Please don't take this stuff personally. OK? It ain't about you.

It would appear that the very idea of someone in my position talking about sex is seen as personally hurtful to some. It's difficult for me to comprehend why that would be. But I can only theorize that it's because sex is such a hot button issue in our culture that there are still a lot of people who feel it should absolutely not be talked about. They feel that such talk constitutes a personal attack on them. Perhaps because they hold certain views very, very strongly. If these views come under attack it is as if they, themselves, have been attacked.

That, in itself, brings up one of the reasons that sex had been so highly regulated among Buddhist practitioners. If one can somehow sidestep the entire area of human sexuality by, for example, remaining truly celibate and not engaging in any kind of sexual behavior or discussion, one would avoid getting into this hot button area and thus live a more peaceful and regulated life.

This seems a reasonable theory to me. But it also seems to be so incredibly difficult to put into practice especially in the West in the 21st century that it hardly bears talking about. If you can accomplish such a feat you certainly don't need any advice from me! The next best solution would be to have a stable marriage. Again, this is great if you can manage it. But not all of us are able to (Brad points to himself). What do the rest of us do?

People in the comments section have raised the issue of whether or not I am qualified to talk about sex. I'm not sure what sort of qualifications one needs. I have had sex. I worked in the "porn industry," albeit in a very tangential way in a segment that is arguably not even porn but erotica. Still, I have some contacts there.

But more than that, I encountered Buddhist practice in my late teens. I also had my first sexual relationships at about the same time. So pretty much all of my life as a sexual being has been deeply influenced by Zen practice and philosophy. I've thought a lot about this, talked a lot to my teachers about it, and spent a long time specifically observing how sex affected my practice and vice versa.

Enough from me, though. Here is an interesting post from porn star Nina Hartley (see link to my interview with her to your left) that has a very Buddhist point of view to it. Nina's parents are both Zen monks, so that may account for it. This is pretty dirty, so be careful. Probably NSFW, but there are no dirty images, just dirty talk. The Zen stuff comes up about 1/3 of the way through.

http://www.edenfantasys.com/sexis/sex/tuesdays-nina-cowgirl-0126101/

Monday, February 01, 2010

MONTH-LONG ZEN AND SEX MONTH!

February is the shortest month of the year. It's Black History Month. It's the month when it rains in California. And at Hill Street Center in Santa Monica it's MONTH LONG ZEN AND SEX MONTH!!! (Thanks eMily)

That's right, starting this weekend I will deliver a series of lectures about Zen and sex. These lectures will be a warm up — or perhaps I should say "foreplay" — to the publication of my book SIN SEX AND ZEN in the Autumn of 2010. I've spent the past year writing and researching the matter of Buddhism and its relationship to sex, and vice versa.

There have been books about the subject of Buddhism and sex already. The Red Thread: Buddhist Approaches to Sexuality is a good one, and so is Lust for Enlightenment: Buddhism and Sex. But these books deal only with the history of Buddhism as it relates to matters of sexuality. They go into great and very interesting detail about how Asian Buddhists in the ancient past have dealt with these matters.

It's important to be aware of this. In Buddhism we have great reverence for how wise people in ancient times solved the same problems we face today. Kodo Sawaki often spoke about how he simply followed the path of the ancients.

But, at the same time, we are not Asian Buddhists of the distant past. Even if some of you reading this might be Asian, you're still living in different times. The ancient solutions may indeed be best. But many of us today are unable or simply unwilling to accept them and live our lives accordingly. Are we, then, bad Buddhists? Should we give up the practice entirely, knowing full well we can never be as pure as it seems to require us to be?

In Buddha's time, all monks were supposed to be strictly celibate. Even masturbation was forbidden. Male and female monks lived in separate quarters. And homosexual relationships were strictly forbidden.

And yet none of these restrictions came from the point of view that sex was a sin. There is no concept of sin in Buddhism, no matter how hard many Western Buddhists try to shove it in there. No amount of lube is gonna make that sucker slide in! There simply isn't any way to make the concept of sin compatible with Buddhism.

The restrictions came from the idea that in order to devote oneself fully to the practice one had to avoid sex altogether. It was too distracting.

During the Meiji Restoration the Japanese government declared that Buddhist monks could legally marry. In many ways this just acknowledged what had already been a fact for a very long time. Buddhists monks often had long term relationships and even children. In any case, this touched off a new era in Buddhism and sexuality.

This is especially relevant in the West where so much of our Buddhism has been imported from Japan. And yet we're also seeing Buddhist denominations from other countries coming Westward. These denominations have much less liberal attitudes towards sex than the Japanese. It's all very confusing!



The thing I wanted to know when writing the book is; How can Western Buddhists today deal with sexuality? Most of us have no interest in becoming celibate monks. The general attitude towards sex has changed drastically in the past 2500 years. A truckload of juicy hardcore pornography is only a mouse click away from you right this very minute, all absolutely free of charge. We live in a world of seemingly unrestricted access to all kinds of sexuality.

As Buddhists how do we navigate this? It's all well and good to say, "Just avoid contact, and maintain purity of body and mind." But who among us can really do that?

I don't claim to have the answers. But I do think it's important to open the matter up for discussion.

If you're interested in participating, please come to Hill Street Center for the next four Saturdays and join in. All the info you need is at this link. I hope to see you there!

And if it's any further incentive, this lecture series will be the final chance you'll get to participate in Zen practice and discussion with me at Hill Street Center for a while. Those of you who live in the area but have been saying, "Aw, Brad's always there. I'll just go another time," might want to show up. More on this later. But you can look at my growing slate of gigs for 2010 for a clue.

Oh! And buy the damned Dimentia 13 download dammit!

See ya!

DISTURB THE AIR TOMORROW, 2010 TOUR DATES

Get ready! Tomorrow is the BIG DAY when the download for my band, Dimentia 13's 1989 album DISTURB THE AIR becomes available. There's a link to your left for the Amazon download.

For those who want to hear a free sample of a bit of what the record sounds like click on the link below:

SAMPLER OF THE DISTURB THE AIR ALBUM

I put together a 5 minute MP3 containing samples of all of the songs on the album proper (but not the bonus tracks, which you also get with the full download).

Those of you who have only heard the hardcore punk noise of my other band, Zero Defex, may be surprised at the more psychedlic psounds of Dimentia 13. The idea of Dimentia 13 was to be a recreation of sixties rock but with a contemporary attitude. Psychedelia filtered through punk. My biggest influences were Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd, The Beatles, The Byrds, Zappa's Mothers of Invention and a horde of obscure sixties acts nobody ever heard of such as Chocolate Watchband, Electric Prunes, Strawberry Alarm Clock, 13th Floor Elevators, The Monks, Blue, Cheer and zillions of others that I had been collecting since I was old enough to buy records.

The sampler I put up today also shows off a few of the lyrics that had people guessing what sort of mushrooms I was ingesting when, instead, I was actually ingesting a ton of books about Buddhism. By the time Disturb The Air was recorded I'd had a daily zazen practice for about 4 or 5 years. So I was still a little new to it. But Zen was already a huge part of my life.

I suppose you could say I wasn't quite as committed to it because I wasn't even entertaining the thought of ever teaching Zen. It was just something I did that I mostly kept to myself about. But in another sense I was absolutely as committed as now because I was doing it each and every day and because I was devoting a lot of energy and effort to studying the philosophy.

I feel in a lot of ways that some aspects of Zen can be better expressed through art other than prose. Prose sometimes feels to me like it boxes Zen in a bit too much. Others in the past must have felt the same way. Dogen devoted as much, if not more of his energy into creating poetry as to creating prose. Unfortunately Japanese poetry doesn't translate well into English and so it's probably better to study his prose in translation than to study his poetry in translation.

Which is not to say that I set out to try and describe Zen practice and philosophy musically on the Dimentia 13 albums. I did not. But the practice and philosophy certainly informed my writing and playing in a very profound way.

Here's a bit more press about Dimentia 13, though most of it refers to the earlier albums and not specifically to Disturb The Air.

Also of note: I have updated the tour page! Yep! I'll be on the road again in 2010. Click on the link to your left (or on the words "tour page" in the previous sentence) to see where I'll be. There are only four dates confirmed so far. I'll be in Houston and Austin, Texas and at Southern Dharma Retreat Center in North Carolina in March, then I'll be at the Great Sky Sesshin in August. I am working on lots more dates. And, as usual, if you want me to stop by your area WRITE ME!!!!