Friday, February 25, 2011

How To Make a Zen Monster

Tonight February 26, 2011 (Sat) 7 PM I'm speaking at Missouri Zen Center, 220 Spring Ave., Webster Groves, MO 63119

I have a new piece up on the SuicideGirls safe-for-work blog. this is the link. Or just cut & paste:

It starts off the same as the Elephant Journal article from a little while back, but then veers off into different territory after about the second paragraph. I didn't want to presume the readers at Suicide Girls knew anything about Dennis Roshi.

You'll note that I provided a link to Dennis' upcoming Big Mind® retreat in Maui with Jack "Chicken Soup for the Soul" Canfield. It's a bargain at $15,000. Only 20 lucky people will be selected to join, it says.

Like I said before, I'm as sick of writing about Dennis Roshi as everyone is sick of reading about him. But I submit to you that this new piece on SuicideGirls is not about Dennis Roshi at all. It's about an all-too-common phenomenon of which he is just the latest example. It didn't start with him and it won't end with him. He's not even the only guy out there right now doing this.

It's hard for me to feel too much grief for people who can blow $15,000 on a rip-off like this. But it does worry me that there are people in this world who can afford to do that. It means something very bad is going on with our economic system.

Think about it. It's not just that there are a few stupid rich people who can spend $15,000 to hang out with fake "spiritual masters." Only 20 of the applicants will be selected for the honor. That means there are a lot of stupid rich people out there. And Dennis Roshi isn't even like an A-List fake spiritual master. He's probably a B or C list guy. And not only that, he's a B or C list guy who is currently going through a major sex scandal. Yet he can still pull in these kinds of numbers.

That means there are not just a lot people out there who can afford to blow $15,000 on a rip-off fake spiritual master with a ridiculously transparent scam. There are a whole fuck of a lot of these people.

Dig these lines pulled straight from their own pitch, "When you’re immersed in a relaxed setting surrounded by confident 'players' who are comfortable with their immense success, there’s no doubt you’ll emerge with the same abundant mindset! This program is designed to give you private time with proven professionals—who will work on your personal goals and address your unique needs." It also says, "They (Dennis Roshi and his slimy cronies) are all successful, and comfortable with their achievements. They know how to get things done. To them, most dreams are easy to accomplish. In fact, it’s what they do every day. And it’s one reason why working with mentors at their level will catapult you further—faster—than virtually any other approach."

There are also vague lines about Genpo's Big Mind® House in Maui. I assume this is one of the three the submissive people he has surrounded himself with bought him. According to the pitch $15,000 is about 1/5th what you'd (who'd?) expect to pay for the privilege of hanging out with people of Dennis Roshi's caliber. Don't even get me started on what caliber of person I think that scumbag is. This, then, implies further that there is a whole tier -- perhaps several tiers -- of even more expensive rip-offs than this one.

If there are this many people with this kind of money to blow on something as immensely frivolous and decadent as this, why, then, is there any poverty at all in the world?

This kind of thing makes me angry. It used to make me red faced, smoke-coming-out-of-my-ears angry. Now it just makes me plain old angry. If this makes me angry, as a person who has spent decades working on the problem of anger, think how it makes people who have not spent any time at all working on their anger issues feel.

This is a dangerous situation. This is a fucking powder keg just waiting to go off.

Thanks Dennis Roshi. Thanks a whole lot.


Don't forget that the following events are coming up and you are required to attend. If not, your grade point average could be affected!

THIS WEEKEND: February 26, 2011 (Sat) 7 PM I'm at Missouri Zen Center, 220 Spring Ave., Webster Groves, MO 63119

On March 5, 2011 (Sat) I'll be in Cocoa, FL, Zazenkai from 9 AM, Talk at 2 PM Brevard Zen Center 1261 Range Road Cocoa, FL

From March 16-20 I'll be in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in the Great White North! I'll post a schedule of events soon. There are several planned.

Oh! And don't miss the article below this one about Shoplifting From American Apparel.

(I’m still taking a break from reading the comments section of this blog. If you have something you feel you must say to me in response to this, write me an email at If you just post something in the comments section, I will not see it.)

Thursday, February 24, 2011


I'm going to be in a movie. And not a documentary either. I'm acting. The film is called Shoplifting From American Apparel and it is based on Tao Lin's novella, Shoplifting From American Apparel. I'm playing the character of Brad Warner who has been been given the role of Tao Lin in spite of sharing absolutely no physical similarities with the actual Tao Lin.

We started filming a couple weeks ago in Solon, Ohio at the home of Jordan Castro who is also acting in the film. It's a low budget indie movie and they're trying to raise the funds for the rest of the film even as I type this. On March 1st a trailer is going to be released and accompanied with a bunch of shots of us actors begging people to invest.

I own the book. But I left my copy behind at Jordan's house when it was needed as a prop. So I haven't read it all the way through yet, but I liked the first part. It's kind of a strange book where nothing much happens except that the protagonist gets arrested for shoplifting from American Apparel. The director, Pirooz Kaleyah has taken a cue from films like Adaptation and American Splendor in that the script is not an attempt to visualize the book. Rather it uses the book as a launching point for something that feels like the book but only very vaguely follows its narrative. I like it a lot. It's weird and surreal.

But making a movie is kind of boring. We shot for two days in Ohio and mostly I just sat around waiting for the cameras and microphones to get set up. I only have a couple of lines in the scenes we shot. I seem to be sort of a Peter Tork character in this. I'm kind of the dummie. I just go along with what's happening. But I'm writing a scene for myself in which I get to break out of that. Once the film is done I'll let everybody else guess which scene I wrote (assuming mine makes the final cut).

Today I went to Webster Groves High School where I spoke to Mr Kirschman's World Religions and Philosophy classes. It's always interesting to speak at high schools. I haven't done a lot of that. But it feels completely different from the usual speaking gigs I do. For one thing, the classes take place early in the day. And the students aren't really there by choice. Maybe they signed up for that particular class. But they have to be in school. So you get a mix of people who are really interested in what you have to say, and people who just want to go to sleep.

Luckily as a guest speaker, I'm sort of like that day's filmstrip on the life cycle of the monarch butterfly. I'm a break from the usual academic stuff they're forced to memorize. So I don't get too many used heroin needles thrown at me. Which is always good.

Tomorrow I'm back at the school again, after I help a guy with his graduate thesis on the transformative aspects of punkrock (I kid you not).

Don't forget that the following events are coming up and you are required to attend. If not, your grade point average could be affected!

THIS WEEKEND: February 26, 2011 (Sat) 7 PM I'm at Missouri Zen Center, 220 Spring Ave., Webster Groves, MO 63119

On March 5, 2011 (Sat) I'll be in Cocoa, FL, Zazenkai from 9 AM, Talk at 2 PM Brevard Zen Center 1261 Range Road Cocoa, FL

From March 16-20 I'll be in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in the Great White North! I'll post a schedule of events soon. There are several planned.

(I’m still taking a break from reading the comments section of this blog. If you have something you feel you must say to me in response to this, write me an email at If you just post something in the comments section, I will not see it.)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Spirit of St Louis

I'm more sick of writing about Genpo Roshi than you are of reading about him. And I have totally neglected plugging my tour here. I've been putting updates on Facebook and Twitter. But not here. So here's the latest updates:

TONIGHT: February 22, 2011 (Tue) 7 PM I'm at Seki’s Japanese Restaurant 6335 Delmar Blvd., St. Louis, MO (door open 6:30)

THIS WEEKEND: February 26, 2011 (Sat) 7 PM I'm at Missouri Zen Center, 220 Spring Ave., Webster Groves, MO 63119

On March 5, 2011 (Sat) I'll be in Cocoa, FL, Zazenkai from 9 AM, Talk at 2 PM Brevard Zen Center 1261 Range Road Cocoa, FL

From March 16-20 I'll be in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in the Great White North! I'll post a schedule of events soon. There are several planned.

The tour has been going really well. I just spent several days with the indomitable Zuiko Redding, head of the Cedar Rapids Zen Center. Last Sunday I was the doshi (practice leader) at their all-day zazenkai where I also gave the dharma talk. I love the word zazenkai because to me it means "zazen party." People who aren't familiar with Japanese probably hear it differently. But the suffix "-kai" usually refers to some kind of gathering and is the common way to refer to a party for a given occasion. Zazenkai is a legitimate Japanese word, not an American invention. Still, I always hear it as "zazen party."

It was a cool zazen party. And Zuiko is one of the coolest Zen teachers in the US if you ask me. She went to high school with Janis Joplin in Port Arthur, Texas and settled in Cedar Rapids some years ago. She was a university professor and world traveler. In many ways she's kind of the opposite of me. She's very well-spoken and polite, but she can be quite strict in some areas of practice where I am very lacking and loose. She has a three-legged cat named Sanbon (Japanese for "three legs").

Before that I was hosted in Lawrence, Kansas by Judy Roitman and her husband Stan Lombardo. I gave talks at Judy's place, the Kansas Zen Center in Lawrence, Kansas as well as at the Unity Temple in Kansas City, Missouri a gig that was set up by my pal Blake Wilson, a writer over at Elephant Journal.

Judy is a teacher in the Kwan Um School, a Korean Zen order. I've done talks at a number of Korean Zen places and it's always really interesting. They do things a bit differently. They have certain services that involve enormously long periods of chanting, sometimes over an hour, and lots of prostrations (108 in a row each morning at some temples). The chanting always makes me think things like, "Y'know Inna Gadda Da Vida feels like it goes on forever but it's barely half as long as this and far less repetitive." Also, when I go from a Korean Zen place to a Japanese style one I always feel like I'll never complain about the length of services again.

Still, I really like the Korean Zen lineage teachers I've met and when it comes time for the zazen, we pretty much do the same thing. Judy is one of the best teachers I've met. If you're out in Kansas you should go see her.

The Zero Defex show at the Matinee was a hoot! Randy Blythe of Lamb of God guested on two songs, which was amazingly amazing. It's not often we get a guy whose band can sell out stadiums all over the world and regularly tours with Metallica to join us on stage. If you missed that show you can see us on April 9th at the Grog Shop in Cleveland Heights, Ohio supporting MDC and The Subhumans. We used to play shows with MDC back in the 80s. At one point we were supposed to do a split EP with them. The master and cover were prepared, but the record never happened. Sad.

I'm talking to a number of people about possible talks in Europe this Autumn. I learned that calling that season "Fall" is an American thing and not understood by some people over there, so Autumn it is. It looks pretty definite that I'll be hitting Germany, Holland, Finland, France and England this time out. Anyone who has any good ideas for other places I can talk can write me at

My talks on this tour have been split into two topics. One is the Sex, Sin and Zen talk, where I talk about sex, sin and zen. The others have been talks about zen practice, particularly why zen practice is pointless and must be pointless. Any time you introduce a goal into zen practice you ruin it.

OK. Now I gotta go write a piece that the magazine Zen Monster has been asking me about for ages.

See you in St. Louis!

(I’m still taking a break from reading the comments section of this blog. If you have something you feel you must say to me in response to this, write me an email at If you just post something in the comments section, I will not see it.)

Thursday, February 17, 2011


No one commits suicide for a single reason. No one. Never.

In my book Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate I wrote about my friend Robert “Iggy” Morningstar committing suicide. Iggy’s girlfriend had just broken up with him. She did it as much for Iggy’s good as for her own. I was sharing a place with them at the time and she was absolutely justified in what she did. Iggy was making a mess of his life and hers as well.

When Iggy killed himself he did the deed in such a way as to ensure that his girlfriend would be the one who found him and that it would appear as though he killed himself because she broke up with him. In the weeks that followed those of us who were around Iggy’s girlfriend had to constantly assure her that she bore no guilt in the matter. Perhaps the break up was a factor in Iggy’s suicide. But it was not the only factor or even the decisive one.

On February 14th, 2011, Dosho Port put a letter written by Les Kaye of the American Zen Teachers Association (AZTA) to the board of directors at Kanzeon, Genpo Roshi’s temple, on his blog. You can find that post here. This same letter from Les Kaye also appears here on the Sweeping Zen website.

Les Kaye’s letter was written in response to accusations by some people at Kanzeon that AZTA had failed to respond when they knew that Genpo Roshi was having sex with his students and misappropriating funds. Les Kaye points out in the letter that AZTA had been trying to get Genpo’s authorization to teach Zen revoked at least since 1992.

I understand Les Kaye’s desire to clear AZTA’s good name. But one section of his letter strikes me as perhaps the most irresponsible thing I’ve seen come out of this whole mess. It makes me very angry to see this.

In his letter, Les Kaye reveals the story of a woman who was allegedly seduced by Genpo Roshi. Kaye says that she “had been abused by her father as a child, which left her extremely vulnerable and confused.” She attended a meeting organized by AZTA about Genpo’s transgressions in which “she described how she had been seduced by Genpo numerous times and the pain of betrayal that she felt.” Kaye directly follows this with a sentence that reads in full, “Several months after the meeting, she took her own life.”

Although he uses the proper somber, sepia colored tones of heartrending melodrama approved by contemporary American Buddhists, Mr. Kaye appears to me to be accusing Genpo Roshi of causing this poor woman to kill herself. Please see the opening two paragraphs of this article for my opinion on that. I know that the effect of what Mr. Kaye wrote is to make people think that Genpo’s sexual behavior caused a suicide because that is precisely how it was defined to me by two people who emailed me about these articles.

I don’t like Genpo Roshi. I’ve made no attempt to hide that fact. But accusing him of causing someone to commit suicide is taking things much too far. We do not know what really transpired between Genpo and that unfortunate woman. I’m going to say that again and I’m going to be a little firmer this time. You -- and I mean you dear reader, whoever you are -- do not know what happened between Genpo and that unfortunate woman. If Genpo is reading this (which I doubt) maybe he has some clue. But even he doesn’t know all of it. The rest of us only know what we’ve read about it. And that is not very much.*

Am I trying to say that it’s fine that Genpo seduced some poor woman who’d been abused by her father? No. No, I am not saying that. No. OK? Not at all. No.

I’m saying that we do not even know that’s what really happened. Maybe it did. Maybe it didn’t. We don’t even know what that woman actually said at the meeting. All we have is someone’s paraphrase of what he thought he heard her say 18 years ago.

Which is also not to say it did not happen or that I don’t believe what she said. I don’t know what she said. So I cannot either believe or disbelieve it. But I do know what Les Kaye said because it’s there on the Internets for all to see.

There is no reason to add this to the piles of accusations that have already been hurled at Genpo. Believe me, I am not someone who would easily stand up in Genpo Roshi’s defense. But this is too much to ignore.

Why is it all about sex? Why do we have to wait until Genpo is caught with his pants down and his dick where it shouldn’t be before we can say anything about the much more serious and far-reaching abuses he was involved in?

As far as I’m concerned, nearly all of this current stuff about Genpo is entirely missing the point. All of these AZTA people are getting upset about absolutely the wrong things. They should have been publicly stating that Big Mind® was not Zen Buddhism years ago. The hidden details of Genpo’s sex life had nothing at all to do with any of that.

The things that Genpo was doing that made me so pissed off were not concealed in any way. They were right out in the open. He explicitly advertised that he was selling enlightenment experiences for $50,000**. He clearly said in his promotion material for Big Mind® that it could give you a glimpse of Buddha’s realization in a couple of hours with no prior experience. This was no shocking revelation discovered by someone finding secret messages on Genpo’s Blackberry. This was stuff you could see for yourself by looking at Genpo’s own website. Where was everyone’s righteous indignation three years ago?

The AZTA has written a letter to Kanzeon, Genpo's group, recommending what they think Genpo ought to do to cure his sex problem. You can see that here just under Les Kaye’s letter, at the bottom of the page. My friend Zuiko, one of the signees, told me the letter is "simply a recommendation to Kanzeon and a sign of support for whatever they do. Their sangha is free to do whatever they wish, but some of us felt that we needed to let them know that we are out here and we agree that this is not good behavior.” OK. I accept that Zuiko contributed to the letter in this spirit. To me it all sounds a bit sanctimonious.

Hey Genpo, here are my recommendations, which stand just as much chance of being read and followed by you as AZTA’s. I have a lot of trouble with phrases like “sex addiction.” Though there may be a few cases that could qualify as true addiction, I believe that for the most part it’s just that some people are simply hornier than others. When an individual has a different sexual orientation from mainstream society, there are two main ways to deal with it. The individual can adjust to mainstream society, usually with unhappy results for the individual. Or the individual can seek out others who share their orientation and they can play together. (There is, of course, also the traditional religious response of learning to deny your sexual desires entirely. But few people are able to accomplish this. And sometimes when they fail at denying their desires the outcome is even worse than if they had not tried at all.)

Luckily for you, you live in the Western world in the early 21st century where the option of seeking like-minded play friends is available to you. It is far easier than it ever has been for so-called “sex addicts” to find each other. You don’t need to do your students. Just sign up for a membership in one of the many sex-oriented dating sites, particularly the ones with a fetishist bent. Those women will fall all over themselves to bed a kind-hearted dominant man with a lot of money and a position of institutional power, particularly one with a religious aspect. Fortunately for you that particular kink is very widespread and common.

(You learn a few things when researching a book about sex!)

*It was subsequently revealed by a friend of the woman in question that her suicide occurred quite a long time after the meeting and was probably completely unrelated to what transpired with Genpo.

**The fee for Genpo's Big Heart Circle retreats subsequently dropped to $25,000 and these days it’s hard to find any of the material he originally posted about these high priced retreats. Here is a blog which quotes most of Genpo’s now-vanished sales pitch for the Big Heart Circle retreats. The standard price for Big Mind® appears to range between $150 and $1000.

(I’m still taking a break from reading the comments section of this blog. If you have something you feel you must say to me in response to this, write me an email at If you just post something in the comments section, I will not see it.)

P.S. The broken links are now fixed. Thanks for the email, Spice!

Monday, February 14, 2011


A lot has been going on for me lately in the real world. A couple weeks ago I realized rather abruptly but very decisively that Brooklyn was the wrong place for me to live. There were loads of reasons and I just don’t feel like enumerating them right now. But they all came crashing together at once and it was clear that the only appropriate action was to move. I was utterly unprepared to move. I was about to embark on a six-week tour of the Midwest and Florida (this is what happens when you schedule your own tours and you’re kind of stupid). I’d only just moved a carload of stuff out of storage into my Brooklyn place making it so that I now had more things in there than could possibly fit in my PT Cruiser. I had a whole line-up of stuff planned that was based upon my being in New York. But the situation dictated action and I had to do what was necessary. So I did.

The rest of the world paid no attention to my need for it to slow down while I took care of all this. So I was madly scrambling to find a place to live, rehearse and play a Zero Defex gig, be in a documentary about my life, act in a film a friend was making and which I’d agreed to appear in, re-arrange my tour to accommodate traveling from Akron rather than from New York, make arrangements so I could get to each of the places on the tour in time with places to stay and such like, write a new book, write a couple articles I’d been asked to do (unpaid, of course, grumble)… You get the picture, I hope. In short, I was “hell busy” as my Chinese co-worker at Tsuburaya Productions used to say.

Just to make life more interesting, as I was traveling to my first engagement in Lawrence, Kansas, I noticed my radiator was leaking like a sieve and the power steering fluid was disappearing as well. I spent a couple hours in the town of Plainfield, Indiana waiting for a tow truck from Triple-A. When the truck I arrived I chatted with the driver about what to do next and decided that I might just be able to make it to the Missouri Zen Center in St Louis if I stopped frequently to refill the radiator. This would be more economical than spending the weekend in a Motel 6 in Plainfield waiting for a repair shop to open on Monday morning, and then staying in Plainfield for however long it took them to get around to my car.

I made it to St Louis well after midnight without over-heating the engine, though I came close toward the end. Sunday morning I was up at dawn to sit with the group here, who were very kind and accommodating. They even took me out to Vintage Vinyl Records, the local hip record shop and provided delicious home-made curry.

With all of this massive turmoil going on in the real world, I kept finding myself descending into cyberspace. So in addition to the dozens of real life relationships, problems and joys I was juggling, I was also juggling a number of virtual things, some related to this blog and some not. The difference between the real world stuff I was dealing with and the virtual stuff was that there was an illusion of control involved in the virtual stuff. While I had no choice, or not much choice, of what I could deal with in my actual life, I appeared to have some choice of what to attend to in the virtual universe of on line interactions. That is to say, it felt like I could dip into that world (this world!) when I wanted to and also leave when I pleased. That felt like kind of a relief compared to the rest of the stuff I could not control so easily.

I found myself getting uncharacteristically drawn into certain aspects of virtual world communications and miscommunications. This is not the first time something like this has happened. In fact it’s a pattern that has persisted pretty much ever since I started getting involved in on-line stuff. It took a while to notice it, and it seems a bit subtle (or perhaps I’m a little slow) so that I often find myself lured into this pattern before I see what’s happening.

When my mom was dying of Huntington’s Disease, my dad spent a lot of time on his computer chatting, arguing, playing games and otherwise interacting with a host of people he had never seen in the flesh. Whenever I’d visit I made it my mission to get him away from the computer. He was following exactly the same pattern as I’d seen in myself many times. He was escaping from a painful, uncontrollable real world situation into a more seemingly controllable virtual realm.

The real tip-off that I was currently being drawn too deeply into cyberspace came this morning during another crack-of-dawn zazen here at the Missouri Zen Center. My mind kept drifting off, as one might expect given the number of real world things I’ve been dealing with. But it wasn’t any of the real world stuff that my brain kept coughing up at me this morning. It wasn’t about my car repair, or whether I’d make it to my first talk tomorrow, or the apartment I’m trying to rent in Akron, or the various interactions I needed to work out to make this stuff happen. Instead, it was all a bunch of virtual world interactions that, frankly, are not really very necessary.

Sometimes when one is at a loss as to what one should do, one can speak to friends about it and see what they think. Sometimes your friends are dead wrong. But even that can be useful to hear. But interactions with people are very dependent upon the situations in which you have those interactions. People who you interact with only or primarily in cyberspace want to keep you there. They are depending on you to provide them with an escape from their real worlds as you depend on them for an escape from yours.

I’ve noticed that these days a lot of people use the word “talk” to refer to on-line interactions. When they say they talked to someone, what it often means is that they emailed, texted or chatted on-line with that person. That isn’t really the same as talking. There is a lot missing when conversations are conducted exclusively with words.

People who know each other only from on line interactions will tend to reinforce a set of values derived from on line communications with others who spend far too much time on line. In other words, these people will never, ever, in a million years tell you that maybe part of what’s wrong is you’re spending too much time on line. They are probably unaware of the problem themselves. Also, someone who has seldom or perhaps never seen you in the flesh doesn’t really know you no matter how skillful they may be at making it appear that they do when they interact with you on line. In my own case, a lot of people read me a little too closely and invent an imaginary world in which I am their very close friend. Yet I don’t know them at all.

When I see someone getting far more emotional than is necessary over something on-line my first guess is that there is something unpleasant happening in their actual lives. When I see two or more people engaging in some kind of heated banter on-line I assume they are both using it as an escape from a painful reality into a more seemingly manageable on-line world. After all, to escape an on-line conflict all you need to do is flip a switch. The real world does not operate that way. Conflicts on-line then become a form of "escapist entertainment" -- to create a new meaning for that tired phrase. A juicier type of video game.

Whenever I say anything about the matter of people spending too much time in cyberspace the comments section of this blog goes apeshit with people defending their own desires to escape into virtual reality. Because most of these people are very clever and good with words, they are quite creative in arguing their cases. If you’re interested in seeing some of this at work I suggest clicking on the comments button below this piece (for those reading on Facebook, go to the original blog at I can almost guarantee you’ll find a number of people who have worked hard at coming up with quite eloquent and skilled defenses of spending too much time in the on line realm. I’ve added this very paragraph you’re reading right now just to set up a fun challenge for those people. I’m sure they’ll find impressive ways to rise to it. (Stay away from badly paraphrasing me, though. That’s really getting old. Thanks.)

But me, I’m going to step back from the on line world for a little while. I’m just stepping back, not stepping out. I’ll still keep posting my usual piece here every three days or so, as I have been. But I won’t be looking in on the comments section or responding to what’s said there for a time. If you have something you really feel you must say to me, you can reach me via email at Eventually, once things settle out a little, I’ll be back there. I’m sure the spammers and trolls will get a little rambunctious. Just remember, they’re probably dealing with some heavy shit at home. So play nice.

I think it’s really important to watch this kind of thing carefully. Remember that human beings lived for a long time with absolutely no interaction over the Internets. There is nothing really urgent in any chat room, or blog comments section, or on Facebook, or in Second Life, or in any of those places (which aren’t really places at all) that truly needs your attention. It’s just a sophisticated form of entertainment. It may be interactive, but it’s not real interaction. Nothing said there actually matters much. You can live without it. Anybody who absolutely needs to communicate with you will find some means other than on the comments section of some blog or via an on-line chat service.

The car is in the shop right now. The estimated bill is $400 and the repair time is three hours. So I’ll make it to the talk in Lawrence tomorrow. Since that gig and most of the others on this your are for donations without a guarantee, I’m hoping that I end up coming out slightly ahead even with the repair bill. I probably will. But then again maybe I really should look into selling enlightenment experiences for $50,000 each.

Friday, February 11, 2011


I got a little annoyed at the way you couldn't access the Elephant Journal site more than three times. So here is the full text of my article that's currently up there. Enjoy.

Famous Zen Master Genpo Roshi has announced that he is disrobing. For those not acquainted with obscure Buddhist twists on familiar phraseology, to “disrobe” as a Buddhist monk means that you formally quit the Buddhist order and give up your status as a priest and/or monk. Ironically, it was disrobing that got him into trouble in the first place. It seems that Genpo, who is married, had an affair with the woman he was grooming to be his successor.

Genpo Roshi put a short essay explaining his side of the story entitled “Owning My Responsibility” on his website. It said in part, “I have chosen to disrobe as a Buddhist Priest, and will stop giving Buddhist Precepts or Ordinations, but I will continue teaching Big Mind®. I will spend the rest of my life truly integrating the Soto Zen Buddhist Ethics into my life and practice so I can once again regain dignity and respect. I will not give up on, and will still continue to be available for people who wish to continue studying with me as just an ordinary human being who is working on his own shadows and deeply rooted patterns… that have led me to miss the mark of being a moral and ethical person and a decent human being. Experiencing the pain and suffering that I have caused has truly touched my heart and been the greatest teacher. It has helped open my eyes and given me greater clarity around my own dishonest, hurtful behavior as well as my sexual misconduct. I am in deep pain over the suffering I have caused my wife, children, students, successors and Sangha.”

It’s signed “With Sadness and Love.” Isn’t that just the most precious and special thing you’ve ever read in your entire life? Feh.*

Some of you reading this probably already know that I have been highly critical of Genpo Roshi for a number of years. In March of 2007 I published an essay on the Suicide Girls website titled Big Mind® is a Big Load® of Horseshit. In that essay I took Genpo to task for teaching a ridiculous technique that he claimed in his literature at the time could give a person a true Buddhist enlightenment experience in just a few hours. Not long after that Genpo introduced a new, extra special version of the Big Mind® seminars for which he charged $50,000 per person. I spoke out about that as well. In 2008, the folks in Genpo’s organization came after me for daring to criticize their teacher in the comments section of this Elephant Journal piece.

Now Genpo’s sexual misconduct has been found out and he’s all contrite and lovingly sad about it. Yet he promises he will still continue teaching Big Mind® and he will truly integrate Soto Zen Buddhist Ethics into his life. There is something seriously wrong with this picture. Deeply, deeply wrong.

Maybe I’m just weird. But Genpo’s affair seems like a pretty minor thing. Which is not to say I think it’s fine and dandy. But it’s a matter between him and his wife and his lover. I’ve come to believe quite strongly that monogamy is not at all the natural condition of human beings, despite what we’ve been told for so many years. For some people it comes effortlessly. For others it is absolutely impossible. I think for most of us it is possible, but extremely difficult. When I hear that someone has failed at it I am never shocked or surprised.

I understand that Genpo presented himself as a happily monogamously married family man and that these new revelations have shown this to have been a lie. I can see why people are upset at finding out that a man they trusted to lead them to the Ultimate Truth could not even tell the conventional/relative truth about his marital situation. Even so, the man’s sexual infidelities and his dishonesty about them, as bad as they are, are not even close to what I perceive as his most damaging misconduct.

People are falling all over themselves to congratulate Genpo for disrobing and “doing the right thing.” I don’t see it that way at all. Doing the right thing would have been remaining as a monk and ending the whole Big Mind® program. By leaving the Buddhist community, Genpo has now put himself beyond the reach of the only people who could legitimately criticize Big Mind®. I expect to see Big Mind® get even bigger and cause more destruction. Even absent the Big Mind® nonsense, remaining in the Buddhist order would have been the best way to address the other matters. Now that he’s on his own, Genpo has no one to answer to and can become as big of a cult leader as he pleases. That’s what typcially happens in cases like this.

As usual when a sex scandal hits the news, this one has been accompanied by a whole series of other revelations. A former insider in Genpo’s organization stated on Facebook that Genpo’s community “has given him (Genpo) enough money to have three houses, two new cars and a Harley Davidson, not to mention a couple hundred thou a year salary and all expenses.” Yikes!

This all just has me scratching my head and furrowing my brow. Maybe I simply do not comprehend how normal people think. Because very little of this makes any sense to me at all. I get that the whole love affair thing was hidden. I get that people didn’t know about it till now. But this financial stuff had to have been all right out in the open. Genpo’s community didn’t know he had three houses, two new cars and a Harley? Really? Even I have seen photos of him on the Harley. And yet nobody noticed any problem with this? Seriously? That’s your story?

Look. I am not insisting all Zen monks take a vow of absolute poverty and live on just what they can carry in a knapsack slung over their backs like the monks in ancient China did. I know we’re living in a completely different society than they were. I own three bass guitars, a used PT Cruiser, and a ten-speed bike. I wouldn’t want to have to stuff those in a knapsack. But three houses? For the love of God, who needs three houses? I don’t even have one!**

Genpo made no secret that he was charging $50,000 a person for his instant enlightenment seminars. Didn’t anyone think that was just a tad excessive? It doesn’t sound like Genpo has any intention of not doing that anymore. He’s just going to be a little more careful about where he puts his penis.

I don’t care where he puts his penis! I’m sorry for the pain and suffering his wife and kids and his girlfriend had to endure. And it does show a lack of judgment and honesty that could reflect on other areas of his life and teaching. But it is so completely removed from the more truly damaging stuff he’s been doing, and apparently intends to go right on doing, that it hardly even registers as far as I’m concerned.

Sexual misconduct is a serious matter in Buddhist practice. It is one of the top ten things we vow not to do when we declare to the world our intention of following the Buddha Way. Long ago the Buddhist order tried to specifically define what is and is not sexual misconduct. But many centuries before any of us were born they realized that what constitutes sexual misconduct is very much tied to the society you live in and the attitudes of the people you interact with. There can never be any universal definition of sexual misconduct. Nevertheless there is still a universal thing that we can call “sexual misconduct” in spite of the fact that the specifics of what it is are so variable. Therefore we vow not to conduct ourselves wrongly in the area of sexuality. Then we have to figure out for ourselves what precisely that means in our own lives and in the lives of those we interact with.

It sounds to me like Genpo probably did engage in sexual misconduct. He clearly defines his behavior as such. In another instance having sex with someone other than the person you married would not be sexual misconduct. There are many married couples who do not feel that extra-marital sex is sexual misconduct. There are even entire societies who do not feel sex outside of marriage is anything to get too worked up about.

This is why these sex-related allegations against Genpo mean nothing at all to me. For all I know maybe Genpo and his wife were swingers and the affair was not nearly so hurtful as he’s making it out to be. He could just be too ashamed to admit it and is taking this public stance as a way of avoiding doing so. I don’t know and I don’t care very much. I don’t even understand why everyone else seems so overwrought about it.

There is another issue, though, that I am personally concerned about regarding this scandal. Some people have misread my book Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate as containing the revelation that I had an affair with one of my Zen students. Some have even so deeply misconstrued the book as to believe it says I had two affairs with two students. In fact, I fell in love with a woman who had come to a handful of the Zen classes I taught and then stopped attending them a few months before we got together. The other woman mentioned in the book was not only not a Zen student, she had not even the slightest interest in Buddhism. Neither of them ever entered into anything like a formal teacher/student relationship with me. In Zen, the teacher/student relationship is a clearly defined thing that involves a specific public declaration and ceremony.

Even so, this experience led me to understand how and why teacher/student love affairs develop so frequently in the Zen community as well as in other spiritual communities. Most of them are nothing at all like what happened with Genpo. There is no deception, no cheating on spouses, and no abuse of power going on in the majority of these relationships.

They are simply cases of people finding mutual attraction based on a deeply held interest that precious few people can even understand let alone share. Where else would an un-partnered Zen teacher be most likely to encounter a person like that other than among her students? Sure there are six billion other people on the planet, as one guy pointed out on Facebook regarding Genpo. But how many of them are committed practitioners of the thing that un-partnered teacher has dedicated her life to?

Unfortunately for these lucky people who have been able to find their so-called “soul mates,” the Genpo case may very well be absorbed into the psyches of the rest of their community and lead them to believe that something terrible is going on when really nothing could be further from the truth. Besides the whole Big Mind® mess, this is what saddens me most about the Genpo Roshi affair.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Big Mind® is a deeply hurtful and dangerous technique that goes absolutely against the real teachings of Soto style Zen Buddhism. It is far more unethical and immoral to run a Big Mind® seminar than it is to cheat on your spouse. The potential damage far surpasses anything a love affair could produce. I’ve written more extensively about this on my blog.

Buddhist style “enlightenment experiences” (I despise this term, but it’s in common use, so I’m stuck with it) are not something one should take lightly. There’s a very good reason why Zen teachers for thousands of years have cautioned their students to go very slowly and cautiously along the path. These sudden breakthroughs can seem very thrilling when they happen. People might even pay good money for them. But they can also mess your mind up in a very big way if you go into them unprepared. Yet here’s old loving Genpo making it so you can walk in off the street and have one in a couple hours. That’s about like giving random people massive doses of LSD and saying, “Here! It’s fun! Now you’re going to see God and love everyone in the world!”

And Genpo has vowed to keep right on doing it. Wonderful. Just wonderful.

* And poor Ken Wilber! He’s up there on YouTube from a couple years ago telling the world, “Isn’t Genpo Roshi about the most amazing thing you’ve ever seen? It’s not just Genpo as a human being and as an Enlightened human being. He’s a deeply, deeply decent human being. Which is much harder than being enlightened, incidentally.”

**Hey former Genpo followers! I’m struggling to find a way to pay the rent on a cheap apartment in one of the most rundown communities in America. If you really want to stick it to Genpo, why not take away one of his houses, sell it, and give the money to his worst arch-enemy and nemesis — me? Then I’ll buy myself one house and it’ll all be even steven. Hit me up. We’ll talk.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Here is my response to the Genpo Roshi affair.

Or cut and paste:

Tuesday, February 08, 2011


I got a new article up on Suicide Girls' safe-for-work blog. I keep forgetting to plug it here.

It's called The Human Potential Movement Can Suck My Ass. I'm getting away from titles like that lately. But this one has been sitting around for a little while waiting to find a home. Now it has.

Go read it.

People are waiting for me to comment on the latest Genpo Roshi stuff. I'm working on it!

But for now here's Ken Wilber saying Genpo is a "deeply, deeply decent human being, which is much harder than being enlightened, incidentally." And Ken would know!

Here's Zero Defex jamming with D. Randall Blythe of Lamb of God. Will he do it again at our show tomorrow night at the Matinee 812 W. Market, Akron, OH 9pm? Be there & see!

Sunday, February 06, 2011


Zero Defex sounded great in rehearsal the other night. We're doing it again tonight. Our show at the Matinee is Wednesday. Be there! The new Precision bass sounds incredibly awesome. How did I play anything else up till now?

My close friends banded together to get me out of a jam by getting my car unstuck from the ice two nights ago. It took four of us about an hour and a half to get it free. Even the biting cold here in Ohio feels bracing. I’m writing more and better than ever before in my life. The burger shop down the street has delicious veggie burgers. Things are extraordinarily good.

I still have not found a place to live in Akron. But I was really concerned. See, the last time I lived in Akron was 1992. Maybe a bit of '93. Anyway, at the time I was suicidal. I wanted out. Out of Akron or out of life. I opted for out of Akron. A good choice, I think.

Akron has changed and I have changed. I'm no longer trapped here like I was back then. I'm here by choice. Well, by some degree of choice anyhow. This is a much cheaper place to live than Los Angeles or New York. I am part of this community, whether I want to be or not.

Kurt Vonnegut said he chose to live in New York rather than move back to Indianapolis because people in Indianapolis don't have any respect for the life of an artist or writer. They consider anyone who makes their living that way to be a lazy leech. Akron's kind of the same. But we shall see.

People say I'm taking a step back or downgrading. But it's hard to see it that way at the moment. The photo I posted is the blimp USS Akron floating high above New York City. That's how I'm feeling today.

I'm cautiously optimistic. That's my nature. I'm cautious about anything that seems really good. But right now, today, here at the Angel Falls Coffee Shop in Highland Square, I am cheerful.

I've been catching up on emails sent me by readers/fans today. I've been reading a book about how to make a living as a writer. In the chapter about emails from fans the author is like, "You can be a good author and reply to fans' emails the day you get them. Or you can be an aloof, inaccessible author and reply a week later." And I'm like, shit! I have emails from 2003 I haven't gotten to yet!

I'm really sorry. But I have a low tolerance for being on line. I have to use the computer to write. And when I'm done for the day I prefer to put it away. Sometimes, though, I am on the damned thing all freaking day just doing what needs doing to keep up with everything. So emails from readers get a low priority. And I'm sorry if I appear rude.

Thursday, February 03, 2011


Here I am again in Akron, Ohio, USA. My first Zen teacher used to say that Northeast Ohio was like a black hole. No matter how far away you get from it, it sucks you back in.

It's freezing cold outside. Intensely, unbelievably cold. But the sky is blue and the sun is shining. I can even hear a few birds. Are there birds insane enough to stay this far north at this time of year? I guess there are. Someone is even colder than me.

This is the start of my Massive Midwest Tour. The dates are as follows:

• February 9, 2011 (Wed) 10 PM Akron, OH: Zero Defex at The Matinee 812 W. Market St. Akron, OH
• February 15, 2011 (Tues) 7:30 PM Lawrence, KS: Kansas Zen Center 423 New York St, Lawrence, KS 66044
• February 17, 2011 (Thu) 7:30 PM Kansas City, MO: Unity Temple on the Plaza, 707 W. 47th St., Kansas City, MO 64112
• February 20, 2011 (Sun) 9:50 AM Cedar Rapids, IA: Cedar Rapids Zen Center 1618 Bever Ave SE, Cedar Rapids, IA (All Day Zazen, begins at 9 AM, talk at 9:50, come for the zazen, the talk or both)
• February 22, 2011 (Tue) 7:00 pm (doors open 6:30) St Louis, MO: Seki’s Japanese Restaurant 6335 Delmar Blvd., St. Louis, MO
• February 26, 2011 (Sat) 7:00 PM St Louis, MO: Missouri Zen Center, 220 Spring Ave., Webster Groves, MO 63119

If you're anywhere near any of these places and you miss any of these talks/retreats, you will suffer.

I've moved out of Brooklyn. I've heard enough people say "I told you so." If you want to add your restatement of the same sentiment, be my guest. But the truth is, I already knew so when I went into it. I just thought maybe it could work. And maybe it will at some point. I just saw a video in which Akron-native Chrissy Hynde says about Akron, "I can't stay here for long. I can't live my life in a car." I have the same problem. I like to walk and if I can't walk places, I get too sad. So I'm gonna see if I can make this work. Akron will be my base of operations at least until all the Midwest stuff is done.

It's always intriguing to see what gets people going as far as my writing is concerned. Saying anything against reincarnation is sure to cause an uproar (see below). Same with anything I say knocking koan practice or Zen on the Internet. What's the common ground?

I don't know. But I think it has to do with investing a lot of your sense of self into a specific idea. When that idea is challenged, you have a tendency to want to fight back. For example, I've noticed that if I say anything negative about what some call "koan introspection practice" I get comments here that express personal anger. It's as if I have directly insulted the commenters and they want to insult me back. From this I can guess that these commenters have made the practice such a part of their ego structure that anything negative said about it feels like a personal attack.

The comments I made about Zen in Second Life have caused some ruckus, I hear. That's also interesting. I think perhaps some have assumed wrongly when I say bad things about the Internet. They think I'm saying, "Look at me! I'm not on the Internet like you nerds! You should be a cool guy like me! Not an Internet-bound dweeb!"

But this is not the case. I tend to believe that's glaringly obvious. But perhaps it's not. So for the record, I'm on the god damned Internet all the time! I can see what a time suck it is because IT SUCKS MY TIME. I am precisely the type for it. I'm generally anti-social. I'm not a "people person" at all. I know it's easy to hide here in cyberspace BECAUSE I DO IT.

I also know it's the wrong way to live. It's terribly damaging. I can see how it fosters a lot of the kind of behavior that makes me miserable. I can see how hard it is to break those habits. I can see how attractive the Internet can be. It can seem like a friend, a companion. I know you can mistake chats and Skype conversations for real conversations because I do it myself. This is all from personal experience.

When I tell all you nerds to go outside and play, I am telling myself to go outside and play. Talk to real people right in front of you. Don't hide here.

Which I shall now do, in spite of the bone numbing cold. I need to go deliver some books to Square Records so they can sell them on consignment for me.