Two articles about me have come to my attention recently. They are:
Why Brad Warner Matters
Brad Warner Vs. The Maha Teachers
It's weird to read about yourself. You quickly realize that the "Brad Warner" people write about is not the same guy who does my laundry, stands in line at the DMV for my plates, and eats alone with me at a Taco Bell somewhere off Interstate 35. The "Brad Warner" they write about is some kind of abstraction created by the writers themselves. I have only minimal control over this "Brad Warner."
The fact that I have such little control over "Brad Warner" is the cause of a lot of grief for this Brad Warner. People are constantly nagging me to make that "Brad Warner" more like they think he ought to be. But I can't even make that "Brad Warner" more like what I think he ought to be! I've even seen photos of Noah Levine labeled as "Brad Warner," to give you an idea how little control I have over that "Brad Warner" guy.* Grrr...
Take the those weirdos who chose to write obscene emails to Barry Magid after they read the post I put up a few weeks back. Please! I still don't understand why anyone would do that. It makes no sense at all. Were they trying to be like me? If so, they weren't being like me at all. But possibly they were acting like the "Brad Warner" they had created for themselves. Or, quite possibly, they were people who don't like what I do, who chose to pose as my fans to try and make me look bad. God only knows. I certainly do not.
People constantly demand that I take responsibility for this stuff. But I really can't. It's like saying The Beatles shouldn't have made the White Album because it inspired Charles Manson to kill Sharon Tate. You cannot control the bizarre ways people take what you do. You have a responsibility to present yourself honestly. After that, there's not much else you can do. I'm sorry. There really just is not. I've tried.
In any case, about these new articles. Why Brad Warner Matters is the view of one person schooled in Tibetan Buddhism as to why the "Brad Warner" he has invented for himself matters. It's nice to read what he says. But at the same time, slightly embarrassing to read the quotes he pulls from my books. They're all real quotes. But they certainly aren't the ones I would pull out myself to express what I feel are the core things I wanted to get across in those books. Interesting.
My favorite part of this article is the final line, "I invite you to be like yourself."
The other article, Brad Warner Vs. The Maha Teachers, is about the recent piece I put up regarding the Garrison Institute's Maha Teacher Council.
The most interesting part of this article is not in the article itself but in one of the links it presents to another article by the same writer. This other article is called "Nice" Buddhism. It puts forth the idea that what is being called "Buddhism" in mainstream America these days isn't really Buddhism at all. It's a Buddhist-influenced form of progressive Christianity.
I have long believed this was true. My teacher, Nishijima Roshi, noticed it even more keenly than I did. He used to often lament that what certain Buddhist teachers propagate is not Buddhism at all but a kind of Christianity.
The author likens contemporary American Buddhism to post-hippie politically correct "nice" Christianity. This "Buddhism" ignores the difficult parts of Buddhism and shoehorns the rest into the accepted norms of polite, feel-good Christianity -- but without all that messy Jesus stuff either. So it's neither good Buddhism nor good Christianity, but something that's not quite either one, and above all absolutely inoffensive.
Both of these articles cite my book Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate. The "Brad Warner" people invent as a result of reading that book causes lots of trouble for me. But I think it was really a necessary book.
A couple of points the guy who wrote about "Brad Warner" in Brad Warner Vs The Maha Teachers need qualifying.
He writes, "He has no organization, so he can’t be dismissed as a cult leader." I do have some kind of organization. But it's so disorganized it hardly qualifies. It's true I don't currently have anyone working with me. I read all my own emails, I write all the replies myself, I book all my own speaking events, I don't have a temple of any kind, etc. But some folks out in California are working on setting up a non-profit religious corporation (or whatever you call it) with me as the leader. So maybe I'll develop that into a cult one of these days. (cue laugh track)
He also writes, "He does not charge for teaching, so he can’t be dismissed as a spiritual entrepreneur." This is a tricky point. I do very happily charge for speaking events. That's a perfectly legitimate way for an author to earn a living. I also accept dana (donations) when I speak at Zen centers and lead retreats. I really couldn't do these talks and lead these retreats any other way.
I try to leave monetary considerations out of actual Buddhist teaching as much as possible. That's not because I am so pure and holy. It's because I think that once money gets involved it changes things so radically that Buddhist teaching can't happen. I almost feel like if I could charge money for teaching and still teach I'd probably do it. It's fucking hard work.
Someone asked recently what the difference between Buddhist teaching and therapy is. I said some stuff about the way therapists try to make a person fit in with society, while Buddhists see the value of being able to deal with society. But we question its core values and don't really try to make people fit society's warped mold, only deal with it.
But really, the biggest difference between therapy and Buddhist teaching is that therapists charge for their work. And they should. I wouldn't do that job for free! But this creates certain expectations. When you pay for a service you have a right to demand results. If people start feeling they have the right to demand results from Buddhist teachers, Buddhist teachers can't do their work.
Yet Buddhist teachers have bills to pay just like everyone else. It's hard to figure out where to draw the line. I have not succeeded in finding that just perfect spot to make the division between what I do as a writer/lecturer and what I do as a Buddhist teacher yet. I probably never will. And so the question of whether or not I "charge for teaching" is and will probably always be arguable. Ah well.
Anyway, nice articles.
*The photo of Heaven's Gate cult leader Marshall Applewhite on the top of this article is one of several oddities that came up on a Google image search of "Brad Warner."