Friday, April 13, 2012


The Hardcore Zen audiobook has arrived! You can get it at CD Baby by following the link below:

Don't risk damaging your eyes and your brain doing old-fashioned style reading just like your grandma did back during the Gold Rush while sucking down a sarsparilla! Get with the times! Download the audiobook like a real 21st Century citizen.

People have been talking about an audiobook version of Hardcore Zen since 2003. But nobody did anything. Last year Smog Veil Records said they wanted to do it. So I went to Wisdom Publications and they said, "No. We want to do it!" So I waited around for like six months. After hearing nothing, I contacted Wisdom and they were like, "Oh we don't want to do it anymore." So I told them thanks for letting me know and said I was gonna do it myself and now HERE IT IS!

This is a real DIY piece of work. But for all that, it came out pretty good. That's because the quality you can get with cheap equipment at home is like twice as good as what you could get using a professional studio twenty or even ten years ago. Pirooz Kaleyah, director of Shoplifting from American Apparel, donated a Snowball microphone made by a company called Blue. I plugged that into my MacBook, opened up Garage Band and started reading the book.

I haven't read Hardcore Zen even silently to myself since before it was published. The last time I read it all the way through was when I had to proofread the final copy edited version just before it went to press. I've read bits and pieces of it since then. But not the whole book.

I still have mixed feelings about that book. It's OK. It might even be good. But it's not the book I wanted it to be.

I wanted Hardcore Zen to be an example of what it was about. I wanted it to be a punk rock book about punk rock. As it stands it's sort of a self-help book about punk rock.

As a punk rock book about punk rock it would have been rougher, less professional, and far less formulaic. It was intended to have digressive passages that just wandered off into nowhere for no discernible reason. I wanted it to meander> I wanted readers to be like, "what the fuck just happened?" Only one of those digressions actually made the cut.

In that particular digression, I wanted to describe some of the interesting things that have come up from my practice. Nishijima Roshi always said, "When you do zazen, you come back to your childhood." This is really true. At one point I kept getting flooded with memories of things that had happened very long ago. I started to understand that the way I had perceived and conceived of the world when I was two or three years old was more correct than the way I had learned to perceive and conceive of it as an adult.

One of those memories involved being in the back of an old VW bug, probably my grandmother's. Those cars had this weird storage space right behind the back seat, between the seat and the window. A little tiny kid could fit in there. And my memory was of being in there and looking out at the sky through the little oval back window. That space is so small there's no way I could have been more than three years old. Probably less. But something about the way things had looked to me that day came rushing back all at once.

So I wrote it down. But instead of telling the story in the first person, I told it in second person (i.e. "You are sitting in a VW bug" or whatever I said). Josh Bartok, my editor, really wanted to cut that out. But I held fast. He cut out a lot of other good stuff. But I wasn't going to let him take that one away. Still, he did move it to the end of a chapter where its placement was a little more "user friendly" and normal. Ah well...

My version of the book wouldn't have sold nearly as well. So it's fine.

I also realized, while reading the book aloud, why that book has sold so much better than my others. Recently I was told by somebody who is supposed to know about such things that my books would sell better if they were more "prescriptive."

I was like, "More what?"

Apparently that means you have to give life lessons. People love life lessons. This person told me that I should write out my stories of things that happened to me and then follow those up with, like, a little capsule lesson to take away from it. I went to the library and took out a bunch of books by the likes of Deepak Choprah, Joel Osteen and even our old buddy Thich Naht Hanh. Choprah and Osteen follow that formula to the letter. Every single chapter is set up exactly like that. First the story, then the life lesson. They even put the thing you're supposed to learn from this story in big bold letters so you can't possibly miss it. TNH's books don't follow the formula quite so closely, but it's in there with his writing as well.

As I read the book aloud I realized that in editing my manuscript, Josh Bartok had done precisely the same thing. He didn't change too much of what I wrote. He just moved the sentences and paragraphs around such that it went Story, Life Lesson, Story, Life Lesson etc. It follows the Joel Osteen, Deepak Choprah formula very closely.

This doesn't make it a bad book. It's fine. But it makes it a lot like a pretty standard self-help book. Except that it's not really a self-help book at all. It's way more practical than anything Osteen or Choprah ever wrote, and far more real. Deepak Choprah and Joel Osteen can eat my shorts. After they finish polishing the Mercedeses and winding their Rolexes. They're rich, but they suck. I'm poor as shit, but at least I don't suck.

The only parts of the book that made me squirmy were the little cheerleading style bits near the end. Basically the entire epilogue kind of made me want to barf a little bit. The book was meant to end with the story of eating the tangerine. It was supposed to stop right there. But instead, I was encouraged to write that little cheerleader section that ends it. And I did. So I can't blame anyone else for that. Maybe it's OK. Maybe people need that kind of thing.

All that being said, I still feel like it's a worthy book. It's a very polished, refined version of what I really wanted to say. The rough edges were sanded down and made pretty. But it's still mostly there.

I didn't change anything as I was reading. I feel like it should stand as it actually is. I hated what George Lucas did to the Star Wars movies and I don't even want to see how he messed up THX 1138. Those movies should stand as what they actually were. And so should Hardcore Zen.

Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate is still a far superior book. I'm not sure if I could do an audiobook of that one, though. It's too intense. It's too personal. I might try it sometime. If I succeed, I'll let you know.


Anonymous said...


Harry said...

I've working on an audiobook of me saying "2".

Harry said...

...there will be spelling mistakes.

Mysterion said...

yep... maybe it's o.k.

hardcore zen is the only book you penned that I did NOT read.

I started with "Sit Down and Shut Up."

That title alone is prescriptive.

A-Bob said...

Well the nice thing about self-publishing is that you can wander off into nowhere for no discernible reason just because you feel like it..

You could do a "Things Brad left out of the original HCZ book book." You could do a large volume of Deepak Choprah and Joel Osteen eating your shorts cartoons. You could do one of Master Crumb interviewing Sock Monkey.. It's wide open man!

CAPTCHA : reehash ualki : I kid you not

Harry said...

Yeah, Hardcore Zen Uncut... interesting idea, although the publishing house may have thoughts about the contractual legality of it :-(



A-Bob said...

Hi Harry. It would be weird if Brad's publisher retained rights to portions of the book they culled out or never received.. If Brad was able to put HCZ out as an audio book without problem, I imagine he is safe doing Hardcore Zen, The Lost Chapters..

CAPTCHA : charmme adhow : I kid you not

Anonymous said...

how about an "unplugged" audio book:

"Zen: unplugged"

Khru Jr. said...


Anonymous said...

Khru Jr,

How about an audiobook of Brad's penis interviewing your mom?

Anonymous said...

Stop it.

Just stop it.

Anonymous said...

Why should you take two Southern Baptists with you when you go fishing?

Because if you only take one, he'll drink all of your beer.

Ghost said...

Hardcore Zen is a great book! I like how it looks next to all the other flowery bullshit at the bookstore. All creative types are critical of their past works, it keeps the new creations fresh.

an3drew said...

yeah you've got something right there brad, brillant ad as well !

there's always hope isn't there
: o )

an3drew said...

brad, you really have a talent with these ad's, they are REALLY REALLY good!

why not do a few more or make one that has the potential to go viral?

what would that take, a nice looking woman it it, some sexual suggestion, i don't know

an3drew said...

oprah buttfucking crumb?







board !

Jason Crane | The Jazz Session said...

I haven't read the book, but I just bought the audio copy and so will be introduced to it that way. Thanks for making it happen!


an3drew said...

"My version of the book wouldn't have sold nearly as well. So it's fine."

maybe that's not true, they could have killed and prevented the book from becoming a best seller

my experience of editors is that they aren't simply clueless, but wrong minded !

alpha and beta readers work better !

Cidercat said...

Strewth, these comments. It's a madhouse. Liked that cheeky picture of Crum down there though. Are you going to be keeping him now?

Khru said...

Hi Brad,

I've received your many voice messages these last few days and the answer is still an emphatic "No", I will not be your Zen teacher, no matter how much money you try to throw at me.

My decision is made in light of our one passionate weekend in Tulsa a while back (with those two cowboys we met at the airport bar). I'm also starting to think that they were not real cowboys after all (I think you know what I'm referring to).

Warmest regards,

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
an3drew said...

hard core zen viral video

opening scene

oprah upper torso and head shot morphing to brad warner morphing to crum who then morphs to nishijima sitting in zazen but with pendulous breasts overflowing the robe and hanging down to the floor................

then maybe we could have multiple dogen ghouls in the air around like disembodied ghosts

morphing to decomposing corpses

then maybe nishijima morphing to a rather spectacular flower which then morphs to an immature young woman say just on puberty and then she morphs to a good looking well built young woman, attractive but not ornamental and then brad materialises and moves towrds her and reaches out to her but she fades transiting back through the flower which then fades and there is just a pile of fine glass where she was

Jinzang said...

Hardcore Zen is a great book! I like how it looks next to all the other flowery bullshit at the bookstore.

It's called market positioning and it shows that Brad has a fine talent for marketing. It's too bad his former employer didn't appreciate his talents more. I hope he finds someone who does.

Khru Jr. said...


Billy said...

I bought the audio book yesterday and am enjoying it. One bit of criticism, on the chapter with the Heart Sutra, there is a portion of the recording where you are echoing, It starts at 11 min, 28 sec and continues until 15 min, 02 sec.

Mark Foote said...

Puts me in mind to purchase another of your books, Brad, reading your opinions about them.

Anonymous said...


Your Mom scratches her balls and sniffs her fingers. It runs in the family.

an3drew said...


Steve said...

"I'm poor as shit, but at least I don't suck." An excellent mantra...

john e mumbles said...

Brad, I've only read your 2nd and 3rd books and enjoyed them both for vastly different reasons.

Don't think I've ever "read" (heard? grokked?? assimilated???) an audio book, so think I'll just buy your HCZ book and read it aloud if I want that experience.

Or not.

I thought once about purchasing Willim Gass's audio book version (also read by the author, some 90 hours or some such nonsense) of THE TUNNEL.

If you can't hear the author's voice in your head while reading a book, its likely plagiarism. If you can, then it's a true collaboration...or schizophrenia.

All these stories, this information sharing..Why do we do this anyway? What's it all about?? Could it be so simple...

Mark Foote said...


or at least, a previous comments thread.

Occurs to me this morning that we can discuss why the lotus or half-lotus in terms of practice and verification:

"The Patriarch asked, "Where do you come from?" Nan-yueh answered, "From Mt. Sung". The Patriarch said, "What is it that comes like this?" Nan-yueh replied, "To say anything would be wrong". The Patriarch said, "Then is it contingent on practice and verification?" Nan-yueh said, "Practice and verification are not nonexistent, they are not to be defiled."

Practice is something I do out of necessity, in seated meditation out of the necessity of breath and posture. Verification is something that I don't do, something that happens without volition, that turns out to be the same as practice. That's the way I experience practice and verification.

In the lotus, I am forced to realize the necessity of the movement of inhalation and exhalation and the posture, and in particular the location of mind that includes contact in the senses before comprehension from one instant to the next. Verification comes in as the location of mind sits the posture in an inhalation or exhalation.

In the half-lotus, I am forced to realize the necessity as in the lotus, but guess what!- it's not as urgent.

Sitting in a chair, I am forced to realize the necessity, but usually without much urgency at all. Unless perhaps I have injuries that make such realization of necessity urgent in any posture.

"Me help you, Kimosabe", as Jay Silverheels so brilliantly etched in my memory.

Anonymous said...

If you are quoting the Patriarch, maybe you'd better ask him (An3drew) first.

"Practice and verification" He may have been talking about koans.

Harry said...

Hi Mark,

Dogen offered some interesting foci in this regard in Shobogenzo Zanmai-o-zanmai:

'...there is sitting with the mind, which is not the same as sitting with the body. There is sitting with the body, which is not the same as sitting with the mind. And there is sitting absent of body and mind which is not the same as "sitting dropped through the bodymind." Being like this already brings together the practice and realization of the Buddhas and Ancestors. Continually and brightly investigate this thought, this mind, will, consciousness.'

I like this translation (see link below) which has "sitting dropped through the bodymind". It is my experience that any posture which seeks to be upright conducive with freeing the hips from being melded to the lower spine, thus promoting a sound structure holding its own weight fairly well, is conducive to 'sitting dropping through body and mind'.

Ongoing investigation of the nature of that 'thought, that mind, that will, that consciousness' on the basis of that 'thought, mind, will, consciousness' expressed in the posture is more the nature of the practice than achieving any specific 'ideal' posture IMO.




Mysterion said...

Life is just life.

We just f*cking get over it...

sooner or later.

It's biological.

Nothing spiritual about it

(except the grand mall epilepsy)

Take off the bag - set down the baggage - release your attachments - smell the flowers (in the intervals between farts).

Mysterion said...

The Lankavatara Sutra (A Mahayana Text)

Translated from the original Sanskrit by Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki

Harry said...

Hi Mysterion,

Seems like a sort of materialist denial of a great part of our existence.

Buddhism has often swung that way it seems, to an extreme which constitutes a sort of cold, inherently inhuman philosophy. So you'd get plenty of pats on the back there if religion is your poison.



PhilBob-SquareHead said...

Hey, I like Joel Osteen.

Brad Warner said...

Thanks Billy! I have made a replacement version. Send me an email at and let me know where I can send the replacement version. It's about 39 megabytes.

Fred said...

Between exhalation and the next
inhalation is the absence of body
and mind.

Pooka said...

Glory be, I'd wondered where I went during that brief discontinuous interval!

Mysterion said...

Greetings Harry:

The best Zen Masters (does anyone really master Zen???) I have encountered are real 'in your face' challengers to the thinking - or worse beliefs - in which we attempt to find comfort. (or seek refuge?)


Because, if our thinking withstands the test of critical examination, then we can proceed along that path. So much of what I assumed to be true over the last 51 years has turned out to be no more than the contrivance of yet another huxter out to scam fools. That's not BAD, it's just a part of the experience we label "life."

And we should EXPERIENCE life - but not get attached to it (life). By attaching our selfless selves to life, we condemn our selfless selves to yet another rebirth - something Brad doesn't buy (and which I am not selling). It's a possibility as much as it is not a possibility.

In classical Buddhism, rebirth is the ultimate punishment (with rebirth into a lower form being punishment in spades). Stand Buddhism on it's head and you get the Xtian reward of being born again. (And born yet again in the sky with wings and a harp - like Apollo).

In our discussion Wednesday evening I posed the question of nihilism to the group. The answer is NOT a popularity contest but the older men in the room felt Buddhism is, at its core, nihilistic. The younger man did not wish to feel that way as they has passed only from idealism to materialism on their way to realism.


Harry said...

"...but the older men in the room felt Buddhism is, at its core, nihilistic."

Hi Mysterion,

In that case I would seriously question their methods, and what exactly it is that they are examining/considering as 'Buddhism'. If they really are old then I sincerely hope they don't waste any more time on such dry philosophical questions and rather can clarify the matter directly for themselves, using ALL their considerable freedoms and faculties.



Anonymous said...

Dalai Lama live in Hawaii.


Harry said...

BTW, this gem from last shooting match is still lingering:

"As for the Dogen in Dogen Sangha, I might as well be frank here.

Nishijima Roshi does not believe the Soto-shu as it exists today represents Master Dogen's true intent. It was his dream that a new school of Buddhist thought be established based on Dogen's teaching.

Very ambitious. Very arrogant. Quite dangerous."

Strikes me as one of the more intriguing things Brad has announced in a while... wish he would flesh it out a bit.

When conservative religious types start telling me that things are 'dangerous' (e.g. seeing things differently from the established cult, innovating, thinking in other ways, being 'ambitious', believing other things...) then big loud alarm bells start to go off is all...

Pray elucidate, dear Bradster.



john e mumbles said...

If you looked at the next comment after the one you quote from last time, you'll see that I asked him to elucidate the "dangerous" part following that reply to my question about the "Dogen" part of the DS and DSI brands...

Also see the link from my comment here at 8:35 a.m.

Harry said...

John e, no offence, but TED seems to be an exercise in stretching one or two good points (but not neccesarily good) out into 15, 30, 40 or more minutes... what's he sayin? 'Don't trust our stories'?



john e mumbles said...

No "offense" taken,Harry.. Cowen's talking about critical thinking. And it's the most entertaining 16 minutes or so I've run across lately. Just trying to share a grin or two. Something we all need from time to time :)...

Harry said...

Cool, will check it out.

capthcha: kingdope operitse

Savage Lotus said...

ROFL @ "I don't have to use my eyes OR my brain"...Love it!

Anonymous said...

everyone is entitled to an opinion...

even red-neck racist tea-baggers in SUVs.

or tea-baggers in general

TN Man Enraged By Obama Sticker Slams SUV Into Car With 10 Year Old Child Inside

Tell me that these 'baggers' are not insane - with a straight face.

Anonymous said...

Smells like teen mysterion..

Mark Foote said...

"Ongoing investigation of the nature of that 'thought, that mind, that will, that consciousness' on the basis of that 'thought, mind, will, consciousness' expressed in the posture is more the nature of the practice than achieving any specific 'ideal' posture IMO." -Harry

I agree. What I mean by practice is the thing I find myself doing without meaning to, just to be where I am. This is not the thing I thought would be my practice, usually, but something actually unique to my accumulated experience and my situation at the moment.

The question for me is, how do I experience the necessity that's built into my human condition, such that practice is there and the pivot of zazen is required? At least, that's the question right now.

"Between exhalation and the next
inhalation is the absence of body
and mind." - Fred

Almost like I can't turn the breath, but the place of mind can, live in three directions. I have to be waking up or falling asleep to observe the place of mind in action, that's all I'm saying.

an3drew said...

john fumbles link on  stories

'yeah mental laziness'
















reveals !

Anonymous said...

Kevin Bortolin requires that all students read Hardcore Zen for his Zen Buddhism class at Ventura College. The other day I was at the local bookstore in Ventura - and there were so many copies of Hardore Zen available - that they were about to fall off the shelf. I would bet that out of the whole book store - Hardcore Zen takes up the most space...Pretty cool.

anon #108 said...

“A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”

― James Joyce, Dubliners

anon #108 said...

“...Yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will yes.”

― James Joyce, Ulysses

anon #108 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anon #108 said...


john e mumbles said...

Thank you Anon 108. Love those quotes and the Youtube recitation (but why, he asked, did you go to the trouble??)

I've been on an Irish lit kick, having just roared through Flann 'OBrien's wonderful AT SWIM-TWO-BIRDS, Beckett's MURPHY, & ENDGAME, and a hilarious short story titled "That's My Bike!" by Paul Murray (whose two novels I'll soon seek out) in the Winter 2011 Paris Review.

The Beckett has me reading Genet's plays now and studying Martin Esslin's THEATER OF THE ABSURD, but your DUBLINER'S quote reminds me I have not read that one and

Mark Foote said...

Thanks, anon#108, I might pick up "Dubliners". Beautiful prose.

Maybe someday I'll appreciate his stream of consciousness writing, like the bit from Ulysses; I thought all of his writing was like that, so I left him on the shelf, illiterate wretch that I am!

Mysterion said...

anon #108

when it comes to Ulysses, what is the answer?

and yes anon, that was teen mystie waiting for Santa Clause to deliver the Easter Bunny to the music of Clapton.

your point being???

Mark Foote said...

I am definitely fond of "the pursuit of that stretching for what it reveals".

"If everyone realizes selfless activity as a part of their daily lives, then what’s the point of practice?

The stretch that is already in existence as consciousness takes place registers the shift in balance occasioned by a contact of sense or mind as an impact; the feeling that occurs in connection with that impact informs the sense of location in consciousness. The stretch that is in existence as consciousness takes place is a stretch of fascia and ligaments, and these tissues stretch and resume shape with our movement and rest. In particular, as we sleep, these tissues tend to resume a shape without stretch."

My answer to the question Dogen went to China for, and maybe an explanation of why masters like to sleep less and sleep sitting up, sometimes. Not me though.

anon #108 said...

John - If I have a favourite book, Ulysees is it. A friend to whom I'd recommended Ulysees visited yesterday. He's reading it now. Not understanding it, he says, but loving it. And so I was reminded and wanted to share. And as the written/spoken word is on-topic...

Mark - Ulysees isn't everybody's cuppa for sure, but imo, it's one of the most brilliantly profound, funny, moving books ever written. A shame to have lived and missed it. There again, some folks will say the same about KISS :)

anon #108 said...

...Beats me, Chas.

Harry said...

Roddie Doyle fell foul of Joyce's challenge to tidy literary reason. He reckons Ulysses 'needs a good editor':

...maybe so he can formulate it so as to knock out a slew of copycat potboilers that'll spin him a few bucks (arf arf!)

It's a book to challenge how we read books, and what we expect to get out of it IMO (...wonder if the guy who was talking about our predilection for 'stories' over on TED has read it? He should).

Joyce wrote a book designed to send you off to the library or the mug's guide. "I've put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that's the only way of ensuring immortality," he said.

Canny boy our Jimmy. Take note, Brad.



john e mumbles said...

My good friend and mentor Tim Saska back in the 1970's did a monumental series of paintings based on ULYSSES that toured with the Fiona Flannagan play based on the book...Yes, that IS the book, isn't it?

Fionna's nude bed scene will always remain in my teenage mind's eye...

But who of you has read the mighty Flann O'Brien? If not, You MUST.

john e mumbles said...

AT SWIM-TWO-BIRDS arrived the same year as FINNEGAN'S WAKE, and although ASTB was not only reputed to be the last novel Joyce ever read, but praised highly by JJ as well, O'Brien's response from having been eclipsed by the far more famous author was:

" I swear to God if I hear that name Joyce one more time I am surely to froth at the gob!"

john e mumbles said...

Whoops, meant to add this to that last bit:

Mario said...

Hey guys, did you notice that in a talk gave that's on his podcast he says that he "returns to the breath" when he gets lost in thoughts? Does this mean brad practices mindfulnes of breathing?

Take care,


Harry said...

The breath is the work of the devil!

Khru Jr. said...

My earlier post was removed. I'm sure it was an accident.

Let me re-post it:


Fred said...

Yes, Brad has a point about

A fiction that wishes to one up
itself performs a technique in
order to attain a higher state.

When all that is necessary is to
see that the dream within a dream
should relax and let the breath
blow out the candle flame.

Harry said...

Yeah, the truth blows.

Mysterion said...

I think almost all of us start out with some wanderings and lack of focus and eventually find a way to where we are (and rarely 'where we are going).

I throw this out to make a point. Brad did not start out with the goal of making an audio book before he embarked to Japan with JET.


As long as you avoid the top 1/3 on Honshu, I still recommend JET for recent college graduates (English majors preferred). For a time, JET favored Western States Americans over the Brits but, owing to the contamination of Northern Japan, all applicants have a fair chance of success.

Japan is no more deadly than Iraq or Afghanistan for the average visitor.

Oz said...

Great blog, congratulations from:

Mark Foote said...

The critical part of the "intent contemplation on in-breathing and out-breathing", which was Gautama's practice before and after enlightenment (SN V X, volume 5 pg 280 & 289, ©Pali Text Society), is the very first instruction after "(one) breathes in mindfully and mindfully breathes out":

"As (one) draws in a long breath (one) knows: a long breath I draw in. As (one) breathes out a long breath (one) knows: I breath out a long breath. As (one) draws in a short breath (one) knows: a short breath I draw in. As (one) breathes out a short breath (one) knows: I breath out a short breath." (Ibid)

Zen master Dogen's teacher Tientong (Rujing) had this to say about the length of in-breaths and out-breaths:

"Breath enters and reaches the tanden, and yet there is no place from which it comes. Therefore it is neither long nor short. Breath emerges from the tanden, and yet there is nowhere it goes. Therefore it is neither short nor long."

("Dogen's Extensive Record: A Translation of the Eihei Koroku", by Dan Leighton, Shohaku Okumura, Steven Heine, and John Daido Loori, pg 349)

So there's a problem for most people in following the Gautamid's instructions for setting up remembrance (setting up mindfulness), right there (more).

Uku said...

Hi Mark Foote,

I'm curious about how you write Gautama, Gautam or Gotama as "Gautamid". Can you explain why, what's the etymology?


Reggae Buddha

Soft Troll said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Soft Troll said...

Joyce wrote a book designed to send you off to the library or the mug's guide. "I've put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that's the only way of ensuring immortality," he said.

A brave and remarkably gifted writer. Like those other Modernist heavy weights, Pound and Eliot, he tore into the staid clutches of the C19th zeitgeist with an intellectual hubris that was most likely necessary at the time.

An intellectual hubris which, it seems to me, has often attracted that self-same strain, whether it be in starry-lobed professors, students or others lured by the distractions of proving themselves equal to the giddy heights of artistic genius.

More so, perhaps, if the artist in His and our complicity is bathed in the heroic musk of some bruising radicalism, so that our own pretensions can muscle up.

Tongue-in-cheek or not, Joyce was off the mark in that quote. Artists, Professors and their troupe change their clothes and get wise to some of the neurotic games and foibles to which they, their predecessor and their subjects were and are inevitably subject. And to which their works - be they artistic or critical - can often be burdened by.

Literary 'immortality' (sic) relies on the quality of the work(s) in its first and last breath, even if it is swollen or infused by other concerns and interests - whether they be of a predominantly historical, political, or biographical nature.

Broadly speaking, I think there are two kinds of 'difficulty' with regards to such 'enigmas and puzzles' writers such as Joyce present a reader. The kind Joyce presents us in the quote above, as he often does in works such as FW and U, betray that very Modernist obsession with the monolithic daddy of 'tradition' and its high-minded intellectual guardians.

Games meant for members of the club become redundant when the club opens its doors to the rest, or gets disbanded. And what once seemed 'canny' starts to show like dead wood on the tree immortal. And yet this still sometimes leads people to feel shut out or not literary enough (or sadly not clever enough) to tackle such a work.

The other kind challenges in all sorts of ways (as has already been mentioned), as well as inspiring and enabling (as Joyce et al certainly has) new shoots and fresh approaches. But how many have given up on the one kind of challenge, being put off by the other?

And how many refer to such writers' greatness without having really challenged themselves to really find their own handle on the work - the ones who are mostly recycling what the essay, the introduction, or the prof, told them, having agonised for longer over the copious notes at the back every page or so, so they can wear that masterpiece like some stamp of (self) approval?

Did we laugh at those Shakespeare jokes too?

Many writers who learned valuable lessons from the early C20th Modernists saw how arbitrary these preoccupations with high cultural tricks, puzzles or allusions were, and either left that aspect out of their works, or reveled in that arbitrary aspect, yet turning it on its head, often reading Joyce or Eliot's work as playful post-modernist texts, regardless of whatever authorial intention.

Perhaps such writers just enjoyed the punky fun of what writing can offer.

It was intended to have digressive passages that just wandered off into nowhere for no discernible reason. I wanted it to meander> I wanted readers to be like, "what the fuck just happened?" Only one of those digressions actually made the cut.

john e mumbles said...

Before it just disappeared, Soft Troll's criticism of Modernism was most astute, I think. Pity.

IMO Joyce, Elliot, Pound, et al were waving through the flames with the signs of the quick decline of the Western Canon, and with it, hope for the future of literature and culture, ...(and along came existentialism) Of course, its still with us, it simply remains unnoticed due to the dumbing down of the post-war generations.

Their work is cabalistic, requiring certain keys and strong determination to find what they were on about, yet it preserves within it the canon itself,in the way Notre Dame contains the keys to the philosopher's stone.

This is a HUGE oversimplification of course, crucify me gently...

john e mumbles said...

Oh, by the time I posted it was back, thanks ST!

anon #108 said...

Hi ST,

Intellectual hubris. OK. That's the down-side of being a clever-dick. But there's an upside too.

For me, the genius of Ulysees and Finnegans Wake is that they are both books about stuff - the richness of stuff - not merely an assemblage of cryptic puzzles arbitrarily hung on a story, designed to massage the egos of the few clever-dicks who might identify the allusions/solve the puzzles. Joyce's literary devices and stylistic tricks are always used to say something *more* about the thing he's describing.

And yes, I'm pretty sure that JJ's immortality comment was toungue-in-cheek.

anon #108 said...

Hi John,

You wrote: Their work is cabalistic, requiring certain keys and strong determination to find what they were on about...

I find that's true for Ezra Pound, and to a lesser extent for TS Eliot, but not nearly so much for JJ. I don't know much, and I knew even less when I first made it all the way through Ulysees, but I still found it a profoundly moving and funny book.

john e mumbles said...

Yes, I deleted "sometimes" before the "...requiring certain keys.." bit but should've left that alone, I suppose.

There's a lot to say about this, and backing it up on topic I for one was appalled at Brad's description of the formulaic editorial critique of HCZ. Thank Jah my editors at Sophia Perennis let al Kimia's lengthy digressions stand! (He mumbled w/ tongue lolling in cheek).

Soft Troll said...

To #108

Yes, I did spend more time on the downside. For certain, FW and U are not merely 'cryptic puzzles arbitrarily hung on a story'. If they were they'd have been old hat in the literary world at the time of writing and not game changing works.

I agree about the 'richness of stuff' bit and I would go even further with FW and say that it goes beyond the richness of stuff 'out there' in the world as reified and represented, to a playfulness that incorporates such worldly functions as 'error' into the stuffness of language. The form starts to acknowledge its emptiness, so to speak, in quite a thrilling way at times, and helps to enrich 'out there'.

As I pointed out, I think there are two kinds of 'difficulty' or challenge that such a writer presents. I don't think that puzzles etc are doomed to be in one or the other, or mistaken per se.

I do think, though, that Joyce for all his remarkable innovations and successes, and just good old fashioned great writing, was a writer of his time and milieu.

I don't think one can downplay how a kind of elitist, high-art intellectual hubris burdens that very broad though challenging playfulness.

In short, modernism can often be exclusive in unnecessary ways, without which there would still be that richness and depth and challenge.

Everyone in some way is excluded until they have developed, to use John's word, the 'keys' to understanding how to approach challenging literary texts.

Modernists often fall into inviting the reader, either consciously or unconsciously to feel they should have a certain set of 'keys' that really are the concerns of the intellectuals of the day and what they thought were important and immersed themselves in. Modernist writing can sometimes end up feeding the clever-dick more than the intelligent and curious.

For me this isn't a case of 'a few
clever-dicks' but a case of how the whole game for so long has played in part to the clever-dick gallery in everyone, so that less folk get to enjoy and be enriched by the works you and I have. To feel okay about that 'difficulty' and to see genius in the language and not just the person.

Take my old fav John Ashbery, another playful, prodigious cultural antenna. In 'Daffy Duck Goes To Hollywood' for example, the multiplicty of allusions, puzzles, enigmas, voices and styles are so broad, that the work starts to unmoor itself from an invitation to unlock clues so as to enter the cabal of an exclusive club: his work invites us to let go or puzzle at will, to feel as much at ease or unease with what we don't know or understand, as with what we 'get' or feel we should.

Soft Troll said...

I think with JJ there is still some unease with a truly democratic and open way of approaching the relationship between the so-called high and low aspects of human cultural life, still that desire to play into a monolithic, canonistic tradition or mind-set with its elite clever-dicks. Even though his radicalism, as much as any lauded writer, did much to reconfigure that relationship.

I think the innovations of later writers allow us, in fact, to read modernists in that more democratic and open way, and without having to look down on those who love their secret doors and passageways, their halls of mirrors and their rarefied intellectual game or their concerns with what they saw often as a world coming apart at the seams, rather than lots of patches coming together in a wonderful babel.

Yet wonderfully in modernists some of that babel is still there to revel in, no matter how they shape or obscure it to their professors.

Tongue-in-cheek or not Ashbery said that he wanted "to produce a poem that the critic cannot even talk about." I'm not sure I fully get that, and I don't feel I have to - any more than I have to get a leaf or its cell structure (or convince myself that somehow I have).

For me, one doesn't have an Ashbery without a Joyce coming first, and a Joyce becomes richer because of an Ashbery.

Soft Troll said...

Typo: the Ashbery poem is 'Daffy Duck in Hollywood' not 'Daffy Duck goes to Hollywood

Harry said...

Funnily enough, Joyce also said he wrote Ulysses for the people of Dublin (all of 'em presumably).

Don't think he said that quite so tongue-in-cheek.



anon #108 said...

Points taken, ST.


In short, modernism can often be exclusive in unnecessary ways, without which there would still be that richness and depth and challenge.

describes well one of my reasons - or rather, justifications - for abandoning experimental/avant-garde music in favour of 'popular' music. Still, I'm grateful, as I imagine you are, that artistic expressions of revolutionary times, places and attitudes are available to us to revisit if and when we fancy.

Yes, Harry. JJ, it seems, was a genuine, inclusive regular bloke whose writing transcends 'modernism' - a label he despised. That doesn't make him any easier for most folks to read, but what the hey.

john e mumbles said...

I have an unbridled LOVE of the arcane, the obscure, the patently bizarre, and anything "experimental/avant-garde" but feel like it is an acquired taste.

Probably one needs a solid footing in the classics to understand "modernity" in order to appreciate "post-modernism" for example, but I agree (with someone above) that art that is good enough will stand the test of time with or without the (marketing) labels.

Just like everything else, like "Buddhism" for example...

Anonymous said...

Hi Brad,

when I buy your Audiobook from amazon, where I already have an account, will you get the same provision?


Julie said...

Hey Brad. Here are a couple of reasons I enjoyed Hardcore Zen: I don't want formulaic. I don't want the thing I'm supposed to learn in big bold letters. I just want to read a dude (or dudette) talking about doing this thing called life. Heck, I'd be happy to read the rougher-around-the-edges version of Hardcore Zen. Are you allowed to release that as an ebook, or a massive PDF?

Chelsea said...

Hardcore Zen was the first zen book I'd ever read. I like that it's softer hardcore, ya know, more user friendly. It opened a door for me and I explicitly remember my mind being blown. I remember looking up and thinking "whoa." I don't think it needed to be any more hardcore than it is, and I like that you kept it as it.

I want to write. I have stopped writing because I re-read my old writings and I disliked them. I remember reading something (I think in HCZ Strikes Again) that you were talking about how you dislike reading things you wrote in the past. I loved that. It was really encouraging to me. It's not a bad thing to change and grow and be different than you were in the past. I knew that but I never really applied it to my writing until then. So thank you.

Also, the pursuit of not sucking is difficult. I think when people pursue money over sucking they lose a little bit of the enjoyment of writing, and whatever ownership is left after the editing process. Keep not sucking, please. I will keep supporting you as much as I can, and others will too, I'm sure. People like you specifically because you don't suck, at least I think.

So, Thank you. Thank you. Seriously, Thank you.