Friday, April 08, 2011

Zen is Not in the Helping Profession


For the past few years a number of people have been suggesting that I join one or both of the current US-based associations of Zen teachers, the SZBA (Soto Zen Buddhist Association) and the AZTA (American Zen Teachers Association). I’ve hemmed and hawed about this for quite some time. Some of those who belong to or even hold important positions in these organizations are friends of mine. I respect their views on most matters. So when they say I ought to join these groups, I believe their opinion on the matter is worth considering.

Yet for all this time I still haven’t joined either organization. Something about them just didn’t seem right to me. It was never anything I could articulate very well. It was just a feeling I had. It seemed to me that to join one of these organizations would go directly against the most fundamental reasons I got into this whole Zen thing in the first place. Yet for a long time I couldn’t put my finger on why I felt that way.

I’ve finally managed to nail down what it is that troubles me so deeply about these organizations. And it comes down to one single word. That word is “professional,” as well as its grammatical variations (professionalism, profession, etc.).

In the fall out from the sex scandals involving Genpo Roshi, Eido Shimano Roshi, Maezumi Roshi, Baker Roshi and whoever else has been caught with their dick where it wasn’t supposed to be, a lot of people are saying the same thing. They say that Zen teachers are very much like therapists, doctors and lawyers and as such should be required to belong to some kind of organization to police their activities the way these other professionals are.

Let me just spell my position out very clearly here.

Zen teachers are not therapists.

Zen teachers are not doctors.

Zen teachers are not lawyers.

I recently came across a piece on the Internet in which someone lamented the current state of affairs in the Zen world and then asked, “Is Zen not, in it’s deepest sense, in the helping profession?”

I also came across a statement by a member of both SZBA and AZTA stating, “the SZBA and the AZTA hold the premises that Zen teaching is a profession.”

These statements are both entirely incorrect. I know it’s far too bold for me to say such a thing when so many people believe that these statements are correct. But this is my firm position on the matter.

Zen is not in the helping profession. Zen teachers are not professionals.

A Zen teacher is someone who has chosen to do serious work on herself or himself. Our experiences in doing this work on ourselves can be useful to others. Many of us allow other people to join us in this work. Those who join us in this work may very well be helped. And most of us will try our best to help them when we can.

But fundamentally a Zen teacher is not a professional who helps students who are non-professionals in exchange for compensation. The so-called “students” are actually companions in work that is being undertaken by both teacher and student. The only real difference is that the teacher is someone who has done this work for a bit longer than the student. Yet the teacher is no more advanced, because the concept of “advancement” is an illusion.

This is why I refuse to accept students. I do not wish to share my work with anyone who defines herself or himself as my student. That would be unfair to both of us. Such a person is only a hindrance to me. They get in the way of what I need to do. Frankly, students are a nuisance. Furthermore, their attitude of viewing themselves as students is a hindrance to them. It’s such a hindrance that it makes it impossible for me to help them even if I wanted to.

Zen teachers are not in the helping profession. That would imply that we charge money to people who come to us to be helped, the way a professional therapist does. It would imply that we promise to help heal them in exchange for that money, the way professional doctors do. It implies that we promise them concrete results from our paid efforts to help them, the way professional lawyers do. No decent Zen teacher I know of views what he or she does in that way.

In fact, I would be so bold as to further state that the root of many of the problems in Zen right now stem from the fact that too many Zen teachers view themselves as “professionals” or as members of the “helping profession.”

I disagree completely with the position taken by the SZBA and the AZTA. They are dead wrong. Zen teaching is not a profession and must never be a profession. A professional is someone who charges for their services and promises some kind of results, even if not necessarily promising what the client views as success. The moment Zen teachers start looking upon what they do in this way, what they do is no longer Zen teaching at all.

Furthermore, whenever I think about joining one of these organizations I have to ask what such an organization would do for me. If I join the Musicians Union, for example, by paying dues to that organization and abiding by its rules I get some form of compensation. The union engages in collective bargaining so that I can earn a living wage and provides members in good standing with group discounts on medical insurance and so on.

But what does any Zen teacher get from being part of one of these Zen teacher unions? I suppose we get their seal of approval, sort of like the Better Business Bureau. Maybe we get invited to big parties once in a while where we can all hang out with each other, although we have to pay our own way to get there. But we don’t get a whole lot else.

I suppose my position on this may strike some readers as an unforgivably selfish attitude. And it would be, if we were talking about an organization of noble bodhisattvas running around trying to help each other save all beings before saving themselves and asking nothing in return.

But that’s not what is being proposed by these organizations. And we can know this for certain because of their use of the word “professional.” What is being proposed here is a professional organization for professional people who, just like the doctors, lawyers and therapists we’re being categorized with, charge for their services and promise results. People who charge for their services and promise results ought to be held accountable for the results of those services.

I, for one, do not promise any results. Nor do I offer any help. I will let you join me in my work if I feel that you won’t get in the way of what I need to do. Historically this has always been the attitude of Zen teachers. Why else do you think it was so hard for people to become students of the Zen teachers of the past? If they were professionals, their rates would have been posted at the door and anyone who was willing to pay would have been welcome to come on in. That was never the case. Until today.

Unfortunately, the position I am taking here is clearly in the minority. It’s obvious that people like me who do not view Zen teaching as a profession are going to lose this battle. Organizations like SZBA and AZTA will become more and more powerful, and teachers who refuse to classify themselves as members of the helping profession will be marginalized. Those who refuse to join will have red flags stuck all over them and few will attend their Zen groups anymore. Which is fine, actually. The majority will, instead, go to the professionals who charge for services rendered and promise results. Good luck with that.

134 comments:

One said...

Wanna go out?

Chuck said...

Well Said!! Another thing that the "helping professions" have is an agreement by its members to abide by the rules of professional conduct--not that they always do. It doesn't appear that these two Zen related organizations expect any sort of moral behavior by their members. Or is it that they follow the old refrain, "we're all consenting adults"?

gniz said...

Interestingly, I really like what you said here--maybe it's the antisocial rebel in me.

I also like that these professional groups exist.

Some students will be helped by having a large professional organization with standards, that they can then pick a teacher from. This accreditation or policing will benefit some naive types who don't understand what they're getting into.

For those who don't mind being risky and going rogue, they can avail themselves of people like Brad, or a crazy cab driver who might just know more than any of them combined.

My teacher is a random crazy guy with no zen affiliation whatsoever, and I believe he has "helped" me more than any of these traditional zen teachers might have done. I am happy going rogue and hanging with a weirdo outcast.

But I still think having some large zen organization with standards and class is a good thing for most people. There's simply too many charlatans out there not to have this in place.

Haven said...

Interesting. You would think that picketing against, essentially, non-unionized Zen practioners would go against the mindset of someone seeking a harmonious existence within themselves. But what do I know.

James said...

"Zen teachers are not lawyers."

Well aimed Brad. And don't you even try and deny it.

Harry said...

That's a very interesting and valid piece, Brad.

What would be even more interesting, I think, is if the SZBA and the AZTA responded to it. That might be a very insightful dialogue indeed.

Would you consider submitting it to those orgs to this end?

The whole nature of the teacher/student relationship, and old attitudes to 'authority' and 'power', are changing all over the place in the 'post modern era', or whatever you want to call it. Putting a shape on it like this in a dialogue would be good stuff.

Re-imagining this and replacing old style, 'traditional' power relationships with checks and balances, standards, committees, think tanks, and all that sort of thing, may indeed be fraught with all sorts of problems, but it may also protect some people from power abuses... some people, not everyone... it's a very current topic that deserves some attention at least.

Regards,

Harry.

dan said...

I agree with your take on the zen "teacher-student" relationship, although I hadn't seen it put that way before. But I also feel that works better with a smaller zen "teacher"-student ratio.

When you're talking about organizations with more followers, I think it's useful to have some--not oversight exactly--but I've noticed that the worst abuses seem to happen when an organization (or even a two person relationship) is isolated from the rest of the world at large either physically or as an institution. When you're cut off from everyone who isn't part of your group, it's easy both as a leader/teacher or as a follower/student to lose your sense of perspective.

It certainly happened in the organization I belong to and we're still dealing with the fallout.

James said...

I retract what I said earlier. I might have been wrong about that.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. When studying to be a teacher (of the non-Zen variety) it was always stressed to me to remain professional--it didn't have anything to do with services rendered, but more with accountability and personal improvement, and establishing yourself with colleagues, etc...

I agree emphatically that zen teachers are not professionals (one of the most dangerous pieces of advice for anyone is to consult their clergy if they have a serious problem--THEY AREN'T THERAPISTS!)

Brad, what do you think about the idea of a group holding Zen teachers accountable for their practice as teachers? Would you be for joining these organizations at all if their mission statements are different? Do you think these organizations should not exist at all?

Peace,
Matt

Anonymous said...

er, make that "zen teachers are not therapists" I don't know about professionals. Whoops.

--matt

Anonymous said...

GNITZ!

whats up, dude?

Integral Monastery said...

"Organizations like SZBA and AZTA will become more and more powerful, and teachers who refuse to classify themselves as members of the helping profession will be marginalized. Those who refuse to join will have red flags stuck all over them and few will attend their Zen groups anymore. Which is fine, actually. The majority will, instead, go to the professionals who charge for services rendered and promise results."

Reminds me of something the badass Jesus said:

"Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." ~ Matthew 7:13

Anonymous said...

Brad, you had two teachers and seem to value the relationships a great deal. Why?

Lisa

Ladies and Gentleman said...

...The Fabulous Stains!

I remember the mid-1980s when the USA Network showed very cool underground films late at night. That was before they got all "professional".

Anonymous said...

"Zen teachers are not the rapists."

Sometimes they are. That's part of the problem.

Anonymous said...

Barry Graham comments on Brad's post.

http://dogobarrygraham.blogspot.com/2011/04/when-zen-becomes-club.html

Anonymous said...

This is your best post ever
Of all you've written
If I could only have a chance to read and share one with others
This is the one

Anonymous said...

I am so happy to hear that you refuse to accept students.

Renegade said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Genryu said...

Well said Brad. Both of these organizations have done nothing of any real 'help' when it came to people like Genpo and Eido and their attempts to institutionalize Zen is merely making it into a 'old boys club'. As for what Barry Graham has to say, the guy was outed as a complete fake long ago so who cares.

Anonymous said...

Complete fake, or non-professional teacher? Barry is a writer first and a zennist second.

NellaLou said...

There are other definitions of professionalism that can be applied beyond the fact of compensation.

Professionalism often means having some amount of competence at whatever one is doing. I'd hope that whoever is a teacher/guide/spiritual friend or whatever would, by way of experience, have half a clue about what they are doing, why they are doing it and some proven methodology.

Professionalism also often includes an ethical component or something like that which provides boundaries to define the activity in question.

But using profession in terms of being employed I'd agree. In some cases it is used because these individuals run centers or organizations. Why not be employed then as center manager without sticking some Zen label on that? Or at least define that there are multiple roles played.

I think some get confused between the needs of these multiple roles to the detriment of the dharma leadership role. And the more experienced person will be in a leadership role whether they call themselves teacher or not. Many unfortunately become teachers/leaders and find their principle purpose is to fund a center.

That's just dharma pimping.

R [- ohhhhhh (this is tiring)] said...

- 1. - “A Zen teacher is someone who has chosen to do serious work on herself or himself. Our experiences in doing this work on ourselves can be useful to others. Many of us allow other people to join us in this work. Those who join us in this work may very well be helped. And most of us will try our best to help them when we can.

But fundamentally a Zen teacher is not a professional who helps students who are non-professionals in exchange for compensation. The so-called “students” are actually companions in work that is being undertaken by both teacher and student. The only real difference is that the teacher is someone who has done this work for a bit longer than the student. Yet the teacher is no more advanced, because the concept of “advancement” is an illusion.
”.

At first reading at least I found that insincerely disgusting.

+ if you fully examine the message it would correspond no less to any profession then it does to spiritual teaching. [- particularly “Zen” - don’t call it spiritual if you don’t like]

Brad is as if trying to imply the Buddha Dharma is not real.

Which is of course [strictly] untrue.

His argument fundementally amounts to zero.

But then this might somewhat support his claims.


- 2. - My first teacher always used to say about “Zen” teaching - “This is not a profession”, - but I could not comprehend at the time.

Seeing Zen teaching as a profession runs contrary to the Buddha Dharma.

I can’t see how can any person qualified to teach it fail to see that.


- 3. - “People who charge for their services and promise results ought to be held accountable for the results of those services” - this seems to be the heart of Brads arument - but then - what kind of bullshit is that?

Is that where the matter lies?


- 4. - “Why else do you think it was so hard for people to become students of the Zen teachers of the past?” - Because they didn’t want any assholes in their Sangha.

- Simple as that.

- Nothing to do with what Brad is saying.

- Strictly so.


- 5. - Not really relevant to this post:

- punk is stupid.

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
+ said...

But I loved the picture.

It does seem to express the point even if Brad’s analysis (- or pseudo analysis) mainly sucks.


But still - even if teaching the Dharma isn’t a profession, - it still does not follow that one should - or should not - join the [or an] organization.


I think the real question is what these organizations are and what are they doing.


And I wish to remind you that Brad is a member of an organization, - of quite similar purposes, - established by Nishijima Roshi - as far as I remember, - due to a “real situation”.

Lao Vicious said...

When the best student hears punk
He practices it assiduously;
When the average student hears punk
It seems to him one moment there and gone the next;
When the worst student hears punk
He laughs out loud.
If he did not laugh
It would be unworthy of being punk.

Guide for blind men said...

For the original text replace “punk” for “bullshit”.

Anonymous said...

So A professional zen organisation is basically like a union or anarchists or punks then, somewhat oxymoronic.

OTOH professional zen teachers don't seem to suffer from lack of groupies and being a jprofessional would take care of your dating issue in some way...

sapi3n said...

"In a Zen hierarchy, the founder, invariably from Asia, carries the teaching line of previous Zen masters stretching all the way back to the Buddha. Each Zen master appoints a new successor, or several, to continue the line — in the society what amounts to royalty, those that receive transmission and what we have today, the 2nd generation who are trying to receive it. All of the teaching lines were brought over to the West in the last 50 years. The institutions were built up quickly, many teachers and Zen masters appointed, and nearly all the founders gone. Inexplicably, there are very few Asian Zen masters in the world today. We had one shot at it. We have to make the best of it. What we’re grappling with is a number of half–formed, half–baked Zen worthies repeating the words of their founders, struggling to keep their communities afloat, often forced to work for a living, to raise families — obviously fragmented. No time for long retreats or for just being Zen masters.
The next tier, the Zen monk, is ill–adapted to Western materialism. It’s difficult for the communities to support them, as they usually don’t work. Health insurance? Really you need to be independently wealthy to pull this off, or else live in a monastery in a Buddhist country. If the monastic community requires you to work an ordinary job, then it’s little more than a change of clothes. To add to this, there are no monastic role models in our culture, and, personally, I find it abject to adopt another one. As a result there are few monastics, and much fewer lay practitioners now that the founders have gone.
The dynamism here isn’t toward attaining enlightenment or pushing toward long retreats, but more of community building, indoctrination. Some fear that they will become religious organizations with no enlightened masters at all — or completely disappear. The teaching devices aren’t the problem. Zen master Seung Sahn would often say, “I can teach you everything you need to know about Buddhism in ten minutes.” You don’t need a large amount of data for this, just an undying need to penetrate this great matter. If you depend on the communities for your practice, your practice takes on the tenor of the institution. The same problem with all religions — like our political arena, they’re watered down, impersonal, ultimately unsatisfying — and the human mind is not one to remain in a bland state, so the inevitable climb up the ladder by taking precepts, passing koans, becoming firmly established with the teaching society. After a certain point, if there’s no forward movement — if the candidate doesn’t mesh with the teachers, isn’t wealthy enough to be a monastic, has no more easy goals to acquire, then he/she either falls from the ranks or becomes a potted plant. These dynamics don’t make for an enlightened society. I fear it isn’t possible, where we are today. If this is so, then no need to waste time looking to these communities to provide the whole experience. They are like libraries of human books who have information that can’t be recorded otherwise." Field of Weeds - Politics - H. Grevemberg

Anonymous said...

Brad, you're right, but for the wrong reasons. You are not the Organization when you join. The organization is mostly meaningless if you do not allow it to dictate your perspective on matters. There is also the matter of responsibility here, if you want to stay at home and suck your thumb, that is great... but then you should stop being such a loud-mouth about other peoples issues and then complaining about having red flags stuck on you. What right do you have to complain if you will only sit on the sidelines?

alan sailer said...

I can't resist commenting on this topic because each time it comes up I get all riled up.

Which is interesting to observe, by the way.

What I expect from a zen teacher, so far as I can tell, is that he/she metaphorically (or maybe literally) wack me upside the head when I end up going down some blind alley.

I don't want a baby sitter, an enlightened master or anyone to follow.

Just someone who can occasionally point out my missteps, maybe because they, at one time, had made them also.

With Brad, I never got the feeling that he acknowledged me from one meeting to the next.

Maybe that was a teaching, but if so, it never registered on any level.

Probably, I was just a nuisance :-)

I still support Brad on several levels because I think he is trying to do something important.

But I'll be damned if I understand what it is.

Cheers.

Mumon said...

You know, I read the first 3 paragraphs and I'm gonna reply on a blog post of my own. You're right and you're wrong, but that has to go to the whole point of what the heck a "professional" or "profession" is anyway!

Anonymous said...

Profession:

Zen Monk Code of Ethics

A Certified Zen Monk, consistent with their precepts, should promote the understanding of Dharma using every resource at their command.

Certified Zen Monks have an obligation to their profession to uphold the high ideals and level of personal knowledge as evidenced by the Certificate held. They should also encourage the dissemination of knowledge pertaining to the development Zen Monks.

Certified Zen Monks have an obligation to serve the interests of their clients loyally, diligently and honestly.

Certified Zen Monks must not engage in any conduct or commit any act which is a discredit to the reputation or integrity of the Zen Monk profession.

Certified Zen Monks must not imply that the Certificates which they hold are their sole claim to professional competence.

Code of Conduct and Good Practice for Certified Zen Monks (CZMs)

The essential elements relating to conduct that identify a professional activity are:

A high standard of skill and knowledge.

A confidential relationship with people served.

Public reliance upon the standards of conduct and established practice.

The observance of an ethical code, and obey the Scout Law.

See also THIS

If it were only that simple, the world would already be a better place. But, instead, it is a place of suffering, a place of greed, a place of corruption, a place of crouching tigers, a place of hidden dragons.

CAPCHA = witylec

Rick said...

My experience in martial arts has been that nothing good comes from organizations. The best approach in my opinion is one teacher, one school. Once your teacher acknowledges your mastery of the subject, then while you may continue to study with him, you are also free to leave the nest and do what you will with your own knowledge and experience.

john e mumbles said...

Hey alan! Long time!! Well, must be a relief, now you know why Brad doesn't acknowledge anyone, he's doing his own thing alone. Of course "alone" is "along with" everyone else, he's just sayin'...

Getting that transmission thing doesn't do anything but put a new and sharper pain in your ass, it would seem. And its all based on assumptions, hearsay, phantom pedigrees passed along by self-serving, ancient political bs.

Doesn't change anything much for the individual's "path"ology, but it means much to the wannabes. So the lowered expectation of being a "student" of someone sanctioned by the "transmission" with or without an organization behind them somehow puts one in touch with the non-existent lineage.

Big deal.

Ask Brad, its not a big deal, its a career.

beshkno said...

blahblahblah, sit down and shut up.

shits on statues said...

Fuck Brad and his "I'm better than this" attitude!

This is just more of his sanctimonious crap.

Anonymous said...

who cares yes who is it that cares. so what ya what .what was that about ...just goin to keep don,t know ..anyway who cares

Anonymous said...

drunk ass muthafuka

Anonymous said...

the sword of destructions 2 sided blade cuts one into .the sword of dharma life has 2 sides that return to a single point.this swords life is NOT TWO. which are you .who and what are you . 1 or 2

billzant said...

Agreed Zen is not in helping profession. Not therapists, doctors or lawyers. But they are in the teaching profession, and the teaching profession has a clear professional code of conduct which includes not bonking students or disciplies. Isn't the issue that the teacher of spirituality (zen or otherwise) focusses on spirituality and is not drawn into therapy?

Thing 2 said...

A little drunk, listening to the frogs chirp On the Texas coast. Am *I* professional?

Apuleius Platonicus said...

I think it was Ryokan who said: "The two worst things in the world are poetry from a poet, and calligraphy from a calligrapher." That is the ultimate Zen position on all forms of "professionalism".

Poep Sa Frank Jude said...

Excellent and complete in it's integrity. The whole notion of these 'professional' organizations for Zen teachers makes me cringe! It's not much more than an 'old boys and some girls club!'

Nicholas said...

Case
Today I went to visit the Master, a renowned story teller. On the way,in the village at the foot of the mountain, I came upon a funeral procession. I paid little mind and finally reached his ramschackle hut in the clouds. I knocked and knocked. No answer. Worried, I kicked the door in. At the reading of the will I found that I inherited not a single thing.

Commentary
Shattered-Mirror teachers are not fit for funerals where the mourners fart in secret.

or:

Stone buddha, covered in bird shit and crumbling, says, "Don't say Puhua does back-flips for you and I do not."

Anonymous said...

duh! where's the www.do-not-zzz.com site gone?

clyde said...

That was a challenging post to read. I was going to argue how wrong you are. Then I was going to argue how right you are. Instead, I want to note that if all Zen teachers followed your way, teachers wouldn’t have students, there would be no transmission, there would be no traditions and lineages would cease. And that wouldn’t be a beneficial outcome. I’m grateful that there is a Zen tradition and Zen teachers with students, even while I think of myself as a Zen practitioner.

Groucho said...

"Please accept my resignation. I don't want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member."
Groucho Marx Sensei

R said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=JvKIWjnEPNY&vq=medium

David said...

What Clyde said...

Shodhin said...

If Zen teachers give a gift (help) at all, let it be in the spirit of Bodhidharma, who said that bodhisattvas give a gift without the vanity of giver, gift or recipient.

You're dead on, brother. Preach it loudly.

Sean said...

The word I chose was, rather than "Professional" - perhaps not knowing so much of that word, insomuch - rather, "Bureaucracy", in identifying my own sense of aversion towards "Zen organizations".

Enlightenment by Bureaucracy - it just sounds so not.

Anonymous said...

A good zen teacher is like a janitor
that you barely even notice. In fact,
if you're not vaguely aware of seeing
them regularly cleaning toilets, then
flush 'em.

"A day of no work is a day of no food".

alan sailer said...

john e.

Yes, it has been a long time. I gave up reading the posts here because I was getting too worked up about the "entertainment".

And I'll probably stop again.

Before I pop away again, I wanted to post a little thought experiment.

Imagine first that the Buddha was right, that there really is a way to end suffering.

And two, imagine that after sitting zazen for many years your come to the absolute understanding that there is no self and that there is no separation between yourself and all other beings.

Their suffering is your suffering.

If you take these two ideas on faith, then you will immediately see the velvet lined trap at the center of zen.

Once you truly realize these two things, you have no choice. You have to act in a way that serves others.

You,have,no,choice.

I ran this idea past a few long time zen practitioners and they agreed with it completely.

And for one final little thought experiment, imagine that you are an authority distrusting punk rock bassist who has been sitting zazen for many years.....

Cheers Brad.

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
alan sailer said...

Mysti,

Cute word games.

But everytime someone ignores me, it does not constitute a great teaching.

Cheers.

Mr. Reee said...

"duh! where's the www.do-not-zzz.com site gone?"

Tsunami? Just a guess.

A very interesting post--I'm very much inclined to agree with Brad. An association of professional Zen teachers doesn't sound too appealing, for all the reasons cited here.

BUT, I think you could have some kind of "official" association of Zen practitioners, as long as the association did not offer "official" pronouncements of any kind on the subject of Zen. Instead, the association could be oriented around the production of something useful, like meeting up to bake bread or make pancakes.

Some of you may think I'm making fun of Zen here--but I'm hoping others will get what I mean. :)

Screw the talk--serve the pancakes, Mr. Dogen.

Maybe a Zen IHOP?

jarrodhart said...

This issue of the trend towards standardisation and formalisation is not unique to Zen. Indeed many fields of study start up as earnest interest, but soon enough a bunch of people get together, usually with pure motive, to set standards, to sort the good from the bad, to shake out the charlatans. But what inevitable happens is they become dogmatic and inward looking and lose the ability to welcome challenging thought. Think for example of the institution that is a university - a self-arranging grouping of learned folk whose task is to separate those who 'know' from those of us who don't.

Titus said...

It's this kind of thing that separates Brad Warner from Religion. It's a good thing, too many messes are caused by these organizations and I think you hit the nail on the head. You are a zen zarathustra, fuck the people that get in your way, but if they are going the same place, eh, good to have companions on the road.

proulx michel said...

Alan Sailer wrote

Once you truly realize these two things, you have no choice. You have to act in a way that serves others.
You,have,no,choice.
I ran this idea past a few long time zen practitioners and they agreed with it completely.
And for one final little thought experiment, imagine that you are an authority distrusting punk rock bassist who has been sitting zazen for many years.....


Yes, but the Buddha also mentioned the four kind of people, those who couldn't care less about either themselves or others, those who care about others and not about themselves, those who care about themselves and not about others, and those who care both about themselves and about others, the order being from worse to better;

The idea being that, it's useless to try helping others if you haven't helped yourself first. I have met much too many people, especially Xtian minded ones, who belong to the second category (second worst, of course). They often wreak more havoc than any good...

Seagal Rinpoche said...

When the student is ready, the master appears.

Dosho Port said...

I'm a member of both groups - AZTA and SZBA - and signed up before the professionalism thing got going. I sometimes think of dropping out for this reason. I've argued for mostly other reasons within these organizations that the professional model is not well-suited to Zen. Maybe more of an apprenticeship model. And I think Brad is right, that this is a minority view that isn't going to win out in the short term.
I'm not quite as gloomy about it as Brad, though. AZTA is an association of teachers from lots of different lineages and isn't a professional association. People with lots of different views are welcome. Pretty much. Soto Zen Buddhist Association seems to see itself more and more as a professional association and so is slowly putting together the pieces of what's necessary, including an ethics policy that just passed, I think.
Anyway, I'd love it if Brad joined either or both because his views are fun and different than the baby-boomer group-think that often predominates these groups.

Peace out,

Dosho

Anonymous said...

absolutely nuts… every single one.

Von said...

Give me a freaking break, Brad.
This is about the same as that insipid commercial years ago with the basketball player saying, "I am not a role model."
Your sentence here was pretty much the self-serving crux of this blog... you state,
"This is why I refuse to accept students. I do not wish to share my work with anyone who defines herself or himself as my student."

No. You write books. You lecture. You SELL it instead,in small doses and sound bytes, complete with t-shirts and souvenirs, without the inconvenience of a "student" coming back to shatter your ego with the startling news that your advice or teaching just didn't pan out.
This was a bunch of self aggrandizing twaddle... and I think you know it.

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with Brad. A good doctor, lawyer, or therapist, like a good Zen teacher, should never promise results. And as far as the exchange of money, I feel like various spiritual traditions approach this issue more sanely than most of the secular world, by inviting (but not soliciting) offerings to help with various expenses. Those who feel compelled to give should do so, and I think it's a beautiful thing that some spiritual teachers are able to make a living in this way. Why should they go unpayed while the Cheneys and Trumps of the world (who do very little of real value for humanity)live in nauseating luxury?

Manny Furious said...

Brad's dead wrong on this one. And he's a bit of a hypocrite too, because if he really believed what he was preaching in this piece, there'd be no need for him to write books other than pure vanity, which also wouldn't bode well for Brad.

Whether he likes it or not, Zen is a "helping profession", and there is a lot of trust exchanged between those who are considered authorities and those who aren't. Anyway, what's up with the whole "Bodhisattva's Vow", which I imagine isn't something Brad takes too seriously, but which is a fundamental aspect of Mahayana Buddhism as a whole? The whole vow is basically a vow to spend one's life HELPING others. Maybe it's not a profession but it's a way of life.

Again, just another example of Brad shirking any responsibility that he isn't comfortable with. Keep up with the Zazen, bub, it seems to be getting you far....

Manny Furious said...

Although... I do agree with his sentiments on the "Professional" Organizations but some perhaps slightly different reasons. I just think to have a "Zen" professional organization is sort of akin to having "Anarchy" group meetings at a set time and place....it sort of misses the point. Also, I think the onus of responsible practice falls on the student. There're always going to be skeezy teachers who are shit at what they do--the existence of professional organizations or not (a lot of Zen teachers recognized by the orgs in the article, I imagine, aren't all that great). Part of "the search" is learning to recognize genuineness in a teacher. If a teacher is beginning to put the moves on you and/or your wife, you probably should be having doubts about his "insight". Placing the onus on the student also emphasizes the autonomy and responsibility of each individual to live the life they believe is right for them.

Anonymous said...

I dunno Brad.
There was that post on DSLA in which you tried to broker a teaching position with students.
If they ponied up a place for you to live, you'd give 'em a certain number of office hours for meetings with students and you'd run retreats, and you'd be around 6 months out of the year and on tour the rest.

It wasn't all that long ago you presented this offer.
I guess if students were willing to give you enough of what you wanted, what you'd give them in return wouldn't feel like so much of a hindrance.

This post indicates you have revised your position on students and seems more in keeping with your basic DYI approach.

I don't know anyone who doesn't revise their views of different matters.
What matters is that views reflect one's fundamentals.

It strikes me your fundamentals miss something.

Your lack doesn't hinder us, as we supply our own--we know the DYI and the BYO code. It's not a bad approach, all told.

It is not the only approach either.

If this is as far as it goes--this approach of yours, well It is wonderful, and thank you.

Should there be future revisions...(inevitably) betcha they prove to be wonderful too, whatever might be lacking.

No one said a teacher needed to supply everything, indeed, I don't think it possible.

captcha: emesses

Anonymous said...

Well said. Extremely well said. For a blog post, one of the best you've written, cogent, unapologetic and to the point.

mtto said...

Hi Alan,

Long time no see! I hope you are well.

First, I know who you are, I remember things you've said during discussions and I like your photography. But if you had walked into class this morning, I might not have recognize you right away. I don't think you've ever been a regular at Hill Street. I'm not faulting you for it. It's a long drive for you! I very, very rarely make the drive to Ventura. There are a lot of folks who I know have been to class before, but I have a hard time putting the face to the name because it's been months or years in between visits.

Second, (I'm not speaking for Brad, this is just my impression) you come across as a very shy person. My experience with Brad is he isn't going to get all in your face if you are shy. People come to zen for all kinds of personal reasons, and don't need to be pushed around. Brad might remember who you are perfectly well. Also keep in mind that I just meet the people that come to Hill Street (small #), whereas Brad is on the road a lot and is constantly meeting new people.

Or maybe you've had tons of private conversations with Brad and he's been a total dick to you and I don't know what I'm talking about.

mtto said...

Anon 1:05 wrote: This post indicates you have revised your position on students and seems more in keeping with your basic DYI approach. etc. etc.

No, you're missing the point. Brad's proposal to become the teacher at Dogen Sangha Los Angeles is still in the works. Nowhere in the proposal does Brad mention sangha members being his students.

mtto said...

Take a look at this paragraph from this blog post:
But fundamentally a Zen teacher is not a professional who helps students who are non-professionals in exchange for compensation. The so-called “students” are actually companions in work that is being undertaken by both teacher and student. The only real difference is that the teacher is someone who has done this work for a bit longer than the student. Yet the teacher is no more advanced, because the concept of “advancement” is an illusion.

Pinhead said...

Gabba, gabba, we accept, we accept you, one of us. Gabba, gabba, we accept, we accept you, one of us.

Freaks said...

No, no, no. It's "Gooble, gobble. We accept her, one of us."

Anonymous said...

JUNDO SAYS:

Hi,

I think that Brad makes some very good points in his article, but I also thinks he raises a couple of strawmen not really there.

I am a member of both organizations ... as far, anyway, as one could call those loose knit, disorganized groups even "organizations".

But beyond that ... I don't know any member of the SZBA or AZTA who thinks of being a Zen teacher as a "profession" in which, as Brad says, a Zen teacher is someone "who charge[s] money to people who come to us to be helped, the way a professional therapist does." The only exception I can think of are the few members who actually are psychologists and therapists and seek to combine their work, as well as those money grubbers (like Genpo Roshi, not a member of the SZBA or AZTA) who try to turn Buddhist teaching into a business. In fact, the AZTA and SZBA members spend a good portion of their time trying to keep the calling of "Zen Teaching" from becoming that. Most members of these organizations work very hard and receive little if any compensation for it ... often barely able to pay the rent via donations and such.

Furthermore, most members of the SZBA and AZTA that I know are very much opposed to the "teacher" as "guru" thing, and almost all would see a teacher as having a role like an experienced voice sharing the same path ... a friend in this practice ... who offers a helpful word or hand from time to time to someone along the way. Each practitioner on this path must do their own heavy lifting, and the teacher and Sangha are merely there as a support. That, I believe, would be the overwhelmingly prevalent view among the members of those groups I have encountered.

Maybe "calling" is a better word, like for any decent member of the clergy. Whether we want to admit it or not, and whether Brad wants to recognize it or not, people come to us ... ask us for advice ... and we can hurt them if we are insincere or abuse the situation. I have people coming to me at times in their life like divorce, cancer diagnosis, death of a loved one ... and while my role is primarily to direct them to the Zafu, it is simply wrong to believe that I have no ethical standards I need follow in such cases because "it is not my job as a Zen teacher to help people." What is more, if someone is asking me for some guidance on their Zen practice, it is silly to think that there is no relationship between us in which I could do the person harm because they trust me. I often encounter folks who are vulnerable. I do have a position of trust not to hurt people, and groups of teachers like the SZBA and AZTA have some responsibility to see that people do not get hurt by so-called "Buddhist teachers".

Anonymous said...

Jundo says more:

The fact of the matter is that the SZBA and AZTA are loose knit associations of teachers from a variety of Zen traditions, all flavors of Zen ... liberal, conservative, traditional and new fangled. In a way, they are barely more than discussion groups. They have tried to enforce minimal standards for recognizing who are folks coming to teach with some legitimate credentials ... and who are all the con-men and flimflam artists out there, like Barry Graham who claims to be successor to a made up Zen Teacher from a non-existent temple. They have tried to encourage (not even insist on) some minimal standards of training for young priests to make sure that people are not turned out on the world with a title and little more (we are not "professionals", but if you think a Zen teacher cannot do harm to someone's heart as real as an untrained quack heart surgeon with a white coat, a scalpel, and a degree from a fake medical school ... one is naive about the damage we can do to lives.). Many have also wrestled with how to respond to problems of ethics and Sangha members being hurt (you will hear more about that in the coming days), and they are doing their best even without any real police powers except the pen and the wagging finger (because the "organizations" are so disorganized and toothless).

But the SZBA and AZTA are not nefarious groups set on appointing a Pope and turning Zen in the West into a doctrinaire church. Not most of the members I know (maybe a few would like that).

They have given me a bit of a hard time because of our recent "Online Ordinations" and the way we are trying to train our novice priests at Treeleaf through a combination of "at a distance/no near or far" and "under a roof" training.

http://www.treeleaf.org/sit-a-long/with ... eleaf.html

Most of the folks who are members have some concerns about it ... AND THEY ARE RIGHT TO HAVE THOSE CONCERNS! They want to make sure that "Zen Teacher" certificates are not being handed out like diplomas from an online diploma mill. So far, it looks like I am succeeding in slowly winning them over about the seriousness of what we are doing in our Sangha ... but even if I cannot, I do not fault them for trying to have some minimum standards for what it means to be ordained and to train as a priest.

The fact is that both the SZBA and AZTA let me in as a member. That shows that their standards can't be all so high. :?

Gassho, Jundo

The Ramones said...

Hey Daddio, I don't wanna go
down...in the basement
there's somethin' down the
r

Todd Townsend said...

Tell it! This post just makes me want to be your student. In that spanky student/non-student kind of way.

Anonymous said...

I know Brad has been struggling with this for a while,
this teacher/student stuff.

While at Hill St. he came to an understanding that his bottom line was: "I sit at 10:00 am on Saturdays at Hill St and if you want to sit there and then too, ok"
He made himself available to answer questions at the end of sitting. Sometimes he would give a talk and sometimes he'd pass something around of current interest to him: ie godzilla stuff, guitar 'porn' (guitar magazines with guitar centerfolds).

I can only assume from my own struggles and my evolutions of undertandings of them, that Brad over the course of time will share various refinements as they emerge.

This is exciting stuff: the shape that shows itself from the shapeless, the new shape origami-like, as the old one is folded and opened and folded again.

I very much appreciate the approach of collaboration Brad expresses here.

alan sailer said...

mtto,

Hello to you.

Yes I do not come down to Santa Monica much because of the long drive.

I also agree with you calling me a shy person.

Who also tried on several occasions to engage Brad on a "Hi there" level.

With no apparent results.

At no point in my little message above did I say that Brad didn't or wouldn't recognize me.

He just did not (and probably would not) acknowledge me.

I know you have disagreed with me before on this, but Brad did once write that he "hates, hates, hates" holding those little zen sits.

I find that consistent with the person I met.

One final Brad-anecdote.

The last time I met Brad (again unacknowledged)was during his book tour. He visited the An Lac temple in Ventura. During the question session I asked him for his description of the student/teacher relationship.

His reply was to talk about the Aum Shinrikyo sarin attack in Tokyo.

Really?

That a zen teacher should try and keep his or her students from becoming psychopaths seems like a great goal, but it doesn't seem like it would come up too often.

Of course, after reading this latest post, it's pretty clear that Brad doesn't like the word student. Or what the word student means. Or doesn't want to have any students.

In any case, in retrospect, my question was pretty useless.

All this belly-aching aside, I owe Brad a lot. I donate to his little fund on a fairly regular basis.

I wish him good fortune.

Cheers.

Von said...

Anonymous said...
I know Brad has been struggling with this for a while,
this teacher/student stuff.


Tough. Frankly, he IS a teacher whether he wants to be one or not, he makes his money by being one, whether he wants to be "professional" or not, his job IS helping people, whether he wants to or not, and this is all a bunch of pretty posturing and selfish BS to avoid the responsibilities involved with not just teaching, per se, but BEING a teacher. Brad can don all the leather jackets, shocking imagery and iconoclastic attitude he wants. Truth is he IS a teacher and he's hiding from it. (But not from the paychecks or the publicity that generates them. You can even get the t-shirt! Just don't expect your teacher to... you know... BE there.

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Principal said...

Just "in Zen?"

Mysterion said...

The underlying lesson in the final discourse (Kalama Sutta) should be universal. Unfortunately, with so many sects, is is not.

I do not even speak for Zen. I speak only for myself in situations where there is no self.

There is THIS lineage... the Paulism of China.

Kalama Sutta waffle

The Buddha taught:
"My teaching is not a philosophy. It is the result of direct experience... My teaching is a means of practice, not something to hold onto or worship. My teaching is like a raft used to cross the river. Only a fool would carry the raft around after he had already reached the other shore of liberation." source

gniz said...

Interesting blog post, interesting discussion in the comments section.

Coincidence??

Nicholas said...

My previous post in this thread may be considered a circumlocution for the apparent contradiction between the Diamond Sutra and the Bodhisattva Vow.

Or, I was instructed not to slander the Lotus Sutra, but I did not yet know that the Lotus Sutra was unslanderable.

Nicholas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

teach stuff

Jundo said...

Hi,

I think that Brad makes some very good points in his article, but I also thinks he raises a couple of strawmen not really there.

I am a member of both organizations ... as far, anyway, as one could call those loose knit, disorganized groups even "organizations".

But beyond that ... I don't know any member of the SZBA or AZTA who thinks of being a Zen teacher as a "profession" in which, as Brad says, a Zen teacher is someone "who charge[s] money to people who come to us to be helped, the way a professional therapist does." The only exception I can think of are the few members who actually are psychologists and therapists and seek to combine their work, as well as those money grubbers (like Genpo Roshi, not a member of the SZBA or AZTA) who try to turn Buddhist teaching into a business. In fact, the AZTA and SZBA members spend a good portion of their time trying to keep the calling of "Zen Teaching" from becoming that. Most members of these organizations work very hard and receive little if any compensation for it ... often barely able to pay the rent via donations and such.

Furthermore, most members of the SZBA and AZTA that I know are very much opposed to the "teacher" as "guru" thing, and almost all would see a teacher as having a role like an experienced voice sharing the same path ... a friend in this practice ... who offers a helpful word or hand from time to time to someone along the way. Each practitioner on this path must do their own heavy lifting, and the teacher and Sangha are merely there as a support. That, I believe, would be the overwhelmingly prevalent view among the members of those groups I have encountered.

Maybe "calling" is a better word, like for any decent member of the clergy. Whether we want to admit it or not, and whether Brad wants to recognize it or not, people come to us ... ask us for advice ... and we can hurt them if we are insincere or abuse the situation. I have people coming to me at times in their life like divorce, cancer diagnosis, deaths of a loved one ... and while my role is primarily to direct them to the Zafu, it is simply wrong to believe that I have no ethical standards I need follow in such cases because "it is not my job as a Zen teacher to help people." What is more, if someone is asking me for some guidance on their Zen practice, it is silly to think that there is no relationship between us in which I could do the person harm because they trust me. I often encounter folks who are vulnerable. I do have a position of trust not to hurt people, and groups of teachers like the SZBA and AZTA have some responsibility to see that people do not get hurt by so-called "Buddhist teachers".

Jundo says said...

The fact of the matter is that the SZBA and AZTA are loose knit associations of teachers from a variety of Zen traditions, all flavors of Zen ... liberal, conservative, traditional and new fangled. In a way, they are barely more than discussion groups. They have tried to enforce minimal standards for recognizing who are folks coming to teach with some legitimate credentials ... and who are all the con-men and flimflam artists out there, like Barry Graham who claims to be successor to a made up Zen Teacher from a non-existent temple. They have tried to encourage (not even insist on) some minimal standards of training for young priests to make sure that people are not turned out on the world with a title and little more (we are not "professionals", but if you think a Zen teacher cannot do harm to someone's heart as real as an untrained quack heart surgeon with a white coat, a scalpel, and a degree from a fake medical school ... one is naive about the damage we can do to lives.). Many have also wrestled with how to respond to problems of ethics and Sangha members being hurt (you will hear more about that in the coming days), and they are doing their best even without any real police powers except the pen and the wagging finger (because the "organizations" are so disorganized and toothless).

But the SZBA and AZTA are not nefarious groups seeking on appointing a Pope and turning Zen in the West into a doctrinaire church. Not most of the members I know (maybe a few would like that).

They have given me a bit of a hard time because of our recent "Online Ordinations" and the way we are trying to train our novice priests around here. Most of the folks who are members have some concerns about it ... AND THEY ARE RIGHT TO HAVE THOSE CONCERNS! They want to make sure that "Zen Teacher" certificates are not being handed out like diplomas from an online diploma mill. So far, it looks I am succeeding in winning them over about the seriousness of what we are doing here ... but even if I cannot, I do not fault them for trying to have some minimum standards for what it means to be ordained and to train as a priest.

The fact is that both the SZBA and AZTA let me in as a member. That shows that their standards can't be all so high.

Gassho, Jundo

Jundo says said...

Hi Guys,

REQUEST FROM JUNDO:

I will plead "Right Speech" / No Gossip here and say that we should not speculate about Brad and moralize here so easily.

The Genpo and Eido Roshis situations are egregious, long term, involving multiple relationships with students in which some folks were hurt, misuse of the teaching place, and all admitted (for the most part) by the two men involved. As far as I know, Brad (in his book) said that he had a relationship with someone who came to sittings a few times, he does not consider that there was a "student-teacher" relationship, and the relationship developed quite some time after she no longer came to the group when his marriage was ending. So, I feel I may criticize Genpo and Eido for their actions together with other teachers, but I do not want to do so easily in other cases where I do not have so much information, where the situation is much less clear.

Gassho, Jundo

Jundon't said...

Hardee Harr f-in Harr!

Nicholas said...

I was taught with the words, "You know, even in my most fervent dreams I pretend to have not-knowing mind, yet I always wake up to knowing mind."

Thus it is written, "He must even become oblivious to the idea that there is any one to whom the idea of sentient life can become oblivious."

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 1:05

you meant DIY, right? (do it yourself)

or something else? explain please DYI

James said...

I retract my earlier retraction in which I said I retract what I said earlier. I might have been wrong about that.

Anonymous said...

I dunno Brad.

Disingenuous nonsense. If that were the case, then it would suffice to leave it at that.

Anonymous said...

Dosho Port said...

I'm a member of both groups - AZTA and SZBA - and signed up before the professionalism thing got going. I sometimes think of dropping out for this reason.

No, as one of the "good old boys" you're a perfect fit for those organisations.

Gudo Wafu Nishijima said...

In the case of Zazen, it is necessary for everyone to have a Teacher. Therefore I would like to become everyone's teacher.

Will Rogers said...

"I'm not a member of an organized political party. I'm a Democrat."

Groucho Marx said...

“Only one man in a thousand is a leader of men, the other 999 follow women”

Something Brad has not said [#100] said...

A Dharma teacher who acts in fear of union’s regulations is a strange thing. Unlike the case of secular professions perhaps. It seems this is a point Brad missed.

Lawyers, doctors, and whatever professions the contemporary intellectuals might come up with, - may perhaps occasionally suck. Dharma teachers aren’t supposed to. Brad isn’t really anxious to tell the truth it seems. Whatever you may think of Brad’s beloved Genpo, or Eido Shimano, or whoever, - or whatever may be the actual truth regarding them, - as long as their transmission is real, - as long as they actually received it, - they can’t be ranked together with those who have merely completed a number of years of academic study and passed certain exams which fundamentally might require nothing but reasonable intelligence and certain diligence.

If anything is something else, - this is it - but B won’t dare say it. He prefers chanting “Zazen is good for nothing” and appeasing the ignorant.

Let me know if wrong,

R.

something else [#101] said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2DPuZXuAjo

Excalibur said...

102

The original Fake James said...

Hi Fake James @12:30 AM,

The only reason I retracted my comment in the first place was that I examined my motivation for making it and found that while the comment contained a tiny kernel of truth, the truth is never my reason for trolling.

Regards, Fake James @10:04 AM

Anonymous said...

James:

When the mind is in the state of delusion, the Flower of Dharma turns.
When the mind is in the state of realization, we turn the Flower of Dharma.
If perfect realization can be like this,
If perfect realization can be like this,
The Flower of Dharma turns the Flower of Dharma.

Anonymous said...

Now I need to "forget" my previous comment to James and savor the apparent contradiction between the Bodhisattva Vow and the Diamond Sutra.

Anonymous said...

Someone in the hall yelled "Question Everything."

Dogen, said it, Brad has said it, the person in the hall said it, I say it.

Question this too, then question your questioning of it.

But don't take my word for it.

Anonymous said...

and...

108 said...

108 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Jundo, fuck off with your stupid online shit. Your online ordinations are just bollocks. Buddhists all around the world are laughing at ya and yir buttbuddies, "novice priests". Ordinations via Skype and shit? C'mon!

Obi Wan Shinobi said...

I was ordained as a Jedi Knight for just $10.99 and I have the certificate to prove it! Who wants to be my Padawan?

Von said...

Anonymous said...
Jundo, **** off with your stupid online ****.

Ah. So, apparently, in spite of the value of this "teacherless Zen" you're defending, you've missed the incredible irony... even stupidity compounded by hypocrisy, of going online to criticize what happens online, and you're such a brilliant person that in spite of not being anyone's student, (regardless of the fact that the student-teacher relationship is at the heart of the Buddha's teaching... yes, TEACHING,) you've risen to THIS level of civility, dignity and grace. Kudos to you, sir or madam, for demonstrating so clearly what Zen without the teacher/student relationship is really worth.
Bollocks indeed!

Anonymous said...

A riderless horse

and the horseless would-be riders

Anonymous said...

Dear James,

In all seriousness: who gives a fuck?

Von said...

Thank you, Anonymous, for a further illustration of your class and wit. Yes... it's working out great for you!

Mumon said...

I finally got around to that post I wanted to make on this subject here. It may or may not have been worth writing, waiting for, or reading.

Whatever.

Nicholas said...

Von: For what it's worth there were at least two "anonymous" posters at the end of this thread. *I* was one and I was away from the computer where this name automatically is tagged when I post. I was the anonymous who said the following:

James:

When the mind is in the state of delusion, the Flower of Dharma turns.
When the mind is in the state of realization, we turn the Flower of Dharma.
If perfect realization can be like this,
If perfect realization can be like this,
The Flower of Dharma turns the Flower of Dharma.

8:43 AM

Anonymous said...
Now I need to "forget" my previous comment to James and savor the apparent contradiction between the Bodhisattva Vow and the Diamond Sutra.

8:45 AM

Anonymous said...
Someone in the hall yelled "Question Everything."

Dogen, said it, Brad has said it, the person in the hall said it, I say it.

Question this too, then question your questioning of it.

But don't take my word for it.

There were several anonmyous posters

Von said...

I was referring to the "Anonymous" who needs obscenity to make his/her/their point.

Nicholas said...

Understood, I just didn't want *this* anonymous' comments to get lost in the sauce because of him/her.

I don't say I have an ego problem, but rather that I *am* an ego/problem.

James said...

I mean, what I meant to say was that what anonymous posted above was as James was not me, as I posted as Von after that, retracting what I said as anonymous posted in response to what anonymous said while pretending to be Von, which is not me, but James posting as the anonymous who previously posted as Von but then posted as James, so that anonymous would not be confused with James.

Nicholas said...

Thanks for clarifying that.

Nicholas said...

That's rich. I see I am still in the lotus blossom....

Bunkai said...

Thanks for this article Brad.

Roelf Renkema said...

What is 'The Helping Profession.'? Do I need to turn down help if it is not from a 'legitimate' professional. If a nobody Zen teacher who is not in 'The Helping Profession' helps me and asks for a symbolic payment of 1ct, does that bring him into 'The Helping Profession.'? What really is the use of that distinction? When does scrupulous commercialization by so called Professionals stop excluding good and fine people with bags of wind and useless definitions. I wonder? Neither the exchange of money or a institutionalized grade has anything to do with the exchange of love, strength or compassion, goods or work finding place when help is given. Rules and regulations do not benefit this but work as an obstruction and are therefor in no way a merit.

info@guidingshaman.info

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
banshee1305 said...

I applaud you! Before even reading your explanation, I was mentally shouting at my computer screen, the very argument (minus details) that you gave. Chalk up another to the list in the apparent minority. :)

Anonymous said...

of course I ended up here from reading Zen fraud Barry Graham's lauding of this article. Which is telling.
That loser has modeled himself on Brad Warner. And since he's been proven a fraud he's now been frequently championing "lineage-free" Zen.
Once again, Warner just takes his punk-rock Gen X prejudices and sets them up against his Boomer rivals, in so doing missing some obvious things (and I'm younger than any of you.)
Zen is NOT "self-work." So you, Brad Warner, makes as an egregious mistake as anyone you criticize. If perhaps you'd had better teaching, or simply a better understanding of that teaching, you would know that you have been granted the robe, and with it the responsibility to correctly transmit what it represents. You seem to think that Zazen is NOT doing "work on yourself" and loathing organizations.
But fine - don't join any. However Dharmas of all kinds have been spread by people joining into Sanghas with other people - one of those triple treasures, ya know? Someone quoted Seung Sahn. He himself said he was an "organization-style Zen master" as opposed to his teacher who wasn't. And he created vast networks of organizations, with complex rules and heirarchies. THERE IS NO EMPTINESS WITHOUT FORM.
Warner purports to spread Dogen Zen, has been assigned with that clout and responsibility by his teacher, and uses it day in and day out to pedal his books and prop up his platform. Dogen said "In this present-day, degenerate world...some feel no shame for themselves that they lack the genuine Transmission, while others envy or resent those who have received the genuine Transmission. I suspect that these people may well be a gang of hellions. The way things are for them now and the state in which they now dwell have sprung from their previous deeds and are not what is truly real. Were they to turn themselves around and simply respect the genuine Transmission of the Buddha Dharma, then this would be to really take refuge in learning what Buddha is."
He brought authentic Zen teaching to a country who needed to learn some standards of practice. We are not so different. We don't toss over 2500 years of Buddhist teaching because some human beings have human failings. And we take into account the necessities of our own cultural conditions to create a ground for true, noble teaching to spread. In America in 2011, it org's like the AZTA and SZBA, however imperfect and in need of evolution and adjustment, seem like totally decent efforts.
My teacher, who belongs to both and perceives plenty of problems in each, and in American Zen as a whole, is careful not to blast those criticisms to a coterie of cronies online, in a forum like this where little of substance gets worked out. I see these qualities (humility, affection, gentleness, respect) with most wise people who I'd go to for real insight. Little of which I see exemplified here.

sapi3n said...

That was lovely anonymous, whoever you are..

Stuart said...

Maybe the establishment of Zen organizations and empires is often fueled by a teacher ignorantly desiring power and status. Maybe this is necessary: the country functions best when there's a president, anyone who wants to become president has ego issues, and this will always lead to problems. And maybe the whole foolish enterprise (whether in Zen or in politics) can be used in a way to understand ourselves and help others.

In my first formal interview with Zen Master Seung Sahn, he asked me, "How old are you?" I said "28." He said, "I don't believe you."

After a moment of awkward silence, he said, "When you give a good answer, and I don't accept it, then you tell me that I've made a mistake." The whole experience gave me a look at the possibility of believing in my own experience, rather than seeking approval of an authority.

(I was actually 29 at the time, but nervousness had caused me to answer without thinking. Kind of funny in retrospect, though it has nothing to do with the point I'm trying to make.)

Stuart

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