Friday, December 09, 2011

Reader Questions


Hello, readers. I thought I'd waste your time with a few questions from people who read my stuff along with my answers to them.

Dear Brad,

I have been trying to develop my Zen practice since about a year ago. I looked around for a local group but couldn't find one, and so got some assistance from the internet. But essentially I was practicing on my own.

I kept looking for a local group though, and then suddenly one was started in my home town in July! It is being run by a monk in the Soto tradition who is a great guy, very careful to emphasize that he is not a teacher but leads us after zazen in collective reading of various texts.

Anyway, here is my dilemma. I have been very happy with my involvement with the group and am planning to become more involved, with a Rohatsu overnight sit this week and planning to go on my first sesshin next year. I have discovered a thorny issue though: Genpo Merzel

You see the group that I sit with (about half a dozen of us only at the moment) is part of the XXXX Zen Sangha, which in turn is affiliated to the White Plum Asangha. I suppose my concerns are these:

1. On their website it openly seems to promote the "Big Mind" project, about which I have concerns not least of which after reading some of your blogs

2. The Genpo Merzel issue seems to be absent from mention in anything I have seen so far

3. His name is mentioned affectionately in blogs and notes that do appear, and it seems as if he did good work in this country in the past

4. I do not know him at all and don't want to be doing a disservice by being overly negative about the "issue"

So I suppose before investing a good deal of time and emotion into the group, I suppose I am casting around for information and perspectives. I know that of course I must ultimately make my own mind up about this.

If you are able to give any pointers at all that would be fantastic.


Hm. Well just because these guys know Genpo doesn't mean they're bad. Their promotion of Big Mind™ is a bit iffy, though. Here's why I think so.

My understanding was that Genpo retired his Soto Zen monk status and is now just a Big Mind™ guy. Big Mind™ was probably earning him more money anyhow, so I can't imagine it did him any harm to drop the Zen. All the Zen people did was bug him when he acted like an asshole. Now he's free to do whatever he likes as king of his own kingdom.

So the only thing that sounds iffy to me about your place is that they're calling themselves a Soto place but promoting Big Mind™. These are apparently two different things now.

BUT!! (note the extraneous exclamation points) if you're basically happy with the group, I'd stay with them until such time as you're not happy with them anymore. Perhaps you can get to the point where you can just ask, "Hey what's the deal with the Big Mind™ stuff?" If you like their answer, stay. If you don't, say goodbye.

Hope that helps a little.

Next question:


Hey, how's it going? I've been reading some of your most well known quotes today and it suddenly struck me that I've been practicing sitting for the last few weeks or maybe even months without thinking about it. What I mean is that I've been sitting for 6 months and recently I haven't read about zen nor thought about its ideas, I've just been living life regularly outside of my zen practice. I'm not a Buddhist, I guess, but I don't want to be just someone who sits for no reason. I think having a Buddhist/zen intention while I sit would be a lot more beneficial. Does this make sense, should I stay more in tune with zen if I keep sitting?


Just sit. You don't need a reason. Buddha was not a Buddhist.

Nishijima Roshi always said, "Zazen is a state without intention." So the fact that you lack intention is a plus.

As far as learning about Zen, I may be the wrong person to ask. I generally do not study Buddhism in any serious way. I mean I sit a lot. But as for book learning, I'm pretty much a dunce. I have a load of Buddhist books that I pull out when I need a reference. But I almost never read them otherwise. If that's the sort of thing you want you could try getting a degree in Buddhist studies. Lots of universities offer that now. Or so I'm told. Maybe I should get one.

It doesn't sound to me like you want or need that, though. So just sit.

*****

And here's Zero Defex on the radio in Manchester, England! We're song number 8 on this set. Also the DJs tell you what Brad Warner is "really" like.

34 comments:

john e mumbles said...

Uh huh.

Fred said...

Nice hat.


Coiti. Do you pick these words Brad?

Fred said...

Since you brought up Genpo.

"Often, when we discover a disowned aspect, we’ll say, “I don’t have that that quality. I never get angry.” Or, “I never get jealous, I just never get jealous.” Or, better, “I have no ego, I’m egoless. I’ve been meditating for a long time, I’ve had great enlightenment, and I’m now egoless.” Yeah, right. Those aspects are just disowned or in denial."

So Genpo is saying that
enlightenment is an illusion.
How did he make all that money
as a Zen priest if he was
promoting that dropping the
body-mind is a type of cognitive
splitting? No wonder they kicked
him out.

Anonymous Bob said...

Brad and Zero Defex come on at 29:10. Just sayin..

CAPTCHA : exacti : I kid you not

Fred said...

I guess when Trungpa had a sign up
sheet he called it coiti.

Who do you think had the most sex,
Genpo, Trungpa, Osho, or Baker?

Yep yep said...

Good advice on Genpo Brad.

I'm in the White Plum and I thought that your assessment of:

All the Zen people did was bug him when he acted like an asshole. Now he's free to do whatever he likes as king of his own kingdom.

was spot on! Though it doesn't mean it's a bad sangha, if it's not a huge prominent part of the group no biggie - the sangha the questioner is in it may not be an issue, but Genpo himself seems to have made a wrong turn somewhere imo.

john e mumbles said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anonymous anonymous said...

John, Having sex with yourself doesn't count. :)

john e mumbles said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Noonie said...

I got online to look for solace after finding a Big Mind ad in our local alternative paper. My heart sunk. I thought I'd worked through the pain associated with being one of Dennis Merzel's fall-outs. I have never told anyone "in the fold" that I received Jukai, after traveling half way around the world to Ameland, with a woman now known as one of his affairs... I took my ceremony very seriously. Looking back, knowing that he was boinking the woman I knelt next to, makes me physically sick. And it makes me question where the hell I fit in the Buddhist world... in a lineage?

And now he is back at it? Fur a third time? My heart hurts for people that will surely get hurt.

Any thoughts??

Mysterion said...

All hail your way KEWL guru hat!

LOL

At least you didn't have to do battle for the hat!

(nor I mine...)

Izzos said...

So Brad, did you get your picture with the TARDIS and a dalek or not?

Seagal Rinpoche said...

Set the mind to the attainment of perfect wisdom, believe in the principle of cause and effect, and study and recite the Mahayana doctrine.

Cidercat said...

Does anyone really sit without intention? I mean, I couldn't tell you why I do it any more, after all these years, but I couldn't be quite sure there is no intention there. At least to break the flow of nonsense...?

Just a vague question. Really I am posting because the captcha is 'nogma', which is a great word, no? No dogma, hehe.

Mysterion said...

Now Sea Gullsky has gone "Pure Land" on us...

what next? Short sheet the pope's bed?

BTW "National Treasure: Book of Secrets" is perhaps the WORST film ever made... a ruse to promote a new water ride at Disneyland/World.

Zippy Rinpoche said...

Yes, but will I see the EASTER BUNNY in skintight leather at an IRON MAIDEN concert?

Anonymous said...

No, that's just Eddie.

Captcha - innic. I kid you not.

Khru said...

Thank God for this awesome thread. Reading it has caused me to have a massive and uncontrollable bowel movement.

proulx michel said...

Noonie said...

I got online to look for solace (...). I have never told anyone "in the fold" that I received Jukai, (...). And it makes me question where the hell I fit in the Buddhist world... in a lineage?

Whomever gave you the precepts, YOU are the one who received them. It is a matter of yourself with yourself.

In the Middle Ages, the Cathars had it that the sacraments had to be given by a perfectly pure person (katharos means "pure" in Greek). If not, the whole chain of sacraments was invalidated. So, when it was discovered that a bishop, some 50 years before, had been impure, the whole chain was invalidated and all those who had received sacraments and priesthood from him were invalidated, without regards for their personal attitude. This is stupid, albeit the attitude today of the Sotoshu. Because it confuses a personal dedication with a burocratic stance.

And now he is back at it? Fur a third time? My heart hurts for people that will surely get hurt.

I'm afraid this is none of your business and that you are wringing your hands helplessly. You can, of course, state the truth if the occasion for it comes, but as the Italian say, "la madre dei coglioni รจ sempre incinta" (the mother of fools is always pregnant)

gniz said...

I agree with Michael. You took the precepts and you seem a smart and committed person from what you've written here.

No need to fret about who sat next to you and who was screwing them.

Everyone screws someone in this world and people will let you down. That's a lesson we all learn.

But you carry yourself with integrity, and you move on and you keep trying to find other people who can guide you that also seem to have integrity. But only YOU can be responsible for yourself, you can't be responsible for someone else.

And don't be so surprised the next time someone you admire turns out to be full of it. That's pretty much par for the course in the religious world!

Mumon said...

My understanding was that Genpo retired his Soto Zen monk status and is now just a Big Mind™ guy. Big Mind™ was probably earning him more money anyhow, so I can't imagine it did him any harm to drop the Zen

Ummm...not quite. In fact, as I wrote here, his group is back to claiming to be "teaching Zen.

Because, after all, Merzel thinks "it is important to honor all commitments to the Dharma and to appreciate the complexity of a relationship with me as a vessel for the Buddha Dharma."

Mysterion said...

Big EGO dharma...

you must appreciate Merzel as a vessel of Dharma!

oh well... as long as chemists don't flock to him...

and only $30 a month?

fleece the flock, baby!

Mysterion said...

Here's the latest score:

Copper mining . . . 1
Monastery . . . . . 0

see SOURCE

p.s. It doesn't matter. All things are in flux - changing.

CAPCHA = nosin

Brad Warner said...

Oh my Lord Jesus, Mumon! That membership thing you posted regarding Genpo is just unbelievable.

Do people really fall for this kind of shit?

Gives me some ideas.... (maniacal laugh)

Brad Warner said...

Noonie said:

I got online to look for solace after finding a Big Mind ad in our local alternative paper. My heart sunk. I thought I'd worked through the pain associated with being one of Dennis Merzel's fall-outs. I have never told anyone "in the fold" that I received Jukai, after traveling half way around the world to Ameland, with a woman now known as one of his affairs... I took my ceremony very seriously. Looking back, knowing that he was boinking the woman I knelt next to, makes me physically sick. And it makes me question where the hell I fit in the Buddhist world... in a lineage?

And now he is back at it? Fur a third time? My heart hurts for people that will surely get hurt.


Gniz and Michel have already weighed in on this. But for what it's worth, my opinion is the same.

The precepts are yours no matter who you received them from.

As far as lineage... OK. Here's where my understanding of the way things usually go in the world of Zen may be somewhat lacking.

My feeling is that taking the precepts doesn't necessarily tie you to any specific lineage. I know some people give you what's called a "kechimyaku" that lists the lineage of the teacher from whom you took the precepts. So in some sense you are accepted into that group.

But it doesn't exactly mean you're part of the lineage. You become part of the lineage only when you take dharma transmission and are thus included on the list of teachers.

Or that's been my understanding anyhow. That's how I handle it,

Brad Warner said...

Does anyone really sit without intention? I mean, I couldn't tell you why I do it any more, after all these years, but I couldn't be quite sure there is no intention there. At least to break the flow of nonsense...?

I don't think anyone really achieves intentionless zazen. Or maybe they do. It depends on what you mean.

Everybody has some kind of desire attached to their practice. That's just human nature. You always want something or you wouldn't do it. It's too difficult.

But in the moment of sitting zazen, intention falls away and you're left with your practice.

HUGE MIND zen master said...

Benefits include:
•A 10% discount on all Big Mind/Big Heart Events and all items in the store. (This does not include Facilitator trainings.)
•Access to all video archives and continuously expanding work in video library.
•Direct submission of questions to Roshi via the web blog.
•Contributing through your generosity towards getting the Big Mind Process out into the world and raising global consciousness.

Dana: Minimum donation of $300/yr or $30/month


----NICE!!!! I'll use something like that with my new program: HUGE MIND™.

john e mumbles said...

Of course, this implies an obligation to get back to the student who asks the question in a timely manner, hence the "dana."

Brad, maybe instead of blogging occasional answers to random questions you choose to answer for whatever reason, you could offer to do it for "dana?"

I mean, what the hell, why is that any different than collecting royalties from books?

Anonymous said...

...instead of blogging occasional answers to random questions you choose to answer for whatever reason, you could offer to do it for "dana?"

I mean, what the hell, why is that any different than collecting royalties from books?


"If you pay me, I'll post answers to your questions here."

I don't know. That just sounds shady. Am I right?

Mark Foote said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lyds said...

I don't have any questions to ask you yet, but I'm sure I will once I've finished reading your books, so prepare yourself!! Hehe I read your interview in tricycle which immediately lead me to your blogs and in turn to purchasing all of your books. Which I'm so into I'm sort of reading them at the same time. I just wanted to thank you, your honesty is so refreshing, your humor-healing. As a double divorcee I need it ;) Thank you, you've opened new doors for me...there really aren't words to express my gratitude and how enamored I am with you, your writing and views. You're changing my life, not by changing my views, but by reassuring me despite society's objection at times that it's ok to have them, all of them, because only I can know what's right for me. For this I realize I shouldn't need reassurance, but I'm human and beautifully flawed and sometimes it helps for someone to give you permission to give yourself permission to be ok with your choices. :)

Anonymous said...

Hey Lyds, you just said quite a similar thing to the one which I came here to say myself (and which must have been said for a hundred times on this webside - although I can't find any older posts anywhere).
Here it is - in my own words: Thank you, Brad, for showing me that I'm not alone on my way of "following the dharma". Good luck and my love to you and everybody else!
Gerda (Austria)

mekong46 said...

One of the great gifts of Zen is that point when the realization comes that THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS "ZEN." Period. It don't exist. But, Sitting does. Damn Nice. (And I don't use "Nice" lightly.)

Anonymous said...

You are awesome, Brad. I'm not too happy with a Zen order that has policies about women and GLBT that I can't swallow as a Modern American but you are right - the precepts are mine. What I do with zazen and trying to live a better life with it is mine.