Ain’t Too Proud To Beg

ultraman3We all beg for a living. Or maybe we don’t.

As I travel the great Northeast of our nation, I have had to end each of my talks with a reminder to the audience that I’m traveling at my own expense (no monetary support from my publishers or my sangha or anyone else), that it’s cost me a lot more than I budgeted for, and asking them to please buy a book or an audio skull and/or leave a donation.

I hate making that speech. It’s truly and deeply humiliating.

See. I grew up mainly in and around Akron, Ohio. Akron is a working class city. You earn your living by doing a job, dammit. And a job means a thing that you wake up for way earlier than you want to five days a week, go to a factory and do for eight hours then come home. A job is something you do not like to do. If you like to do it, it’s not a job. Where I grew up there was jealousy and disdain heaped upon anyone who actually enjoyed whatever it was they did to earn a living. No, a real job is something that you hate and you only do because you need money to survive. You get paid for your job by your boss who gives you a paycheck. The money comes from the company.

When I finally landed the first job I ever actually liked, working for Tsuburaya Productions in Tokyo, I felt guilty about taking money for something I enjoyed doing. It took me a while to figure out why. But even when I did, I still felt guilty.

While working there I was also studying Dogen very intensively. Dogen says somewhere in Shobogenzo that “even working to earn a wage is originally an example of free giving.” Free giving is one of the great virtues in Buddhism. It felt nice to read that. But I wasn’t sure quite what it meant.

I started to think about where the money I got every month in my bank account really came from. It didn’t actually come from the company. The company got that money from lots of people all over Asia who bought Ultraman stuff. Tsuburaya Productions only made the TV shows and movies, not the stuff. Those TV shows and movies usually cost more money to make than they brought in directly through ticket sales or sales to TV networks. We made money by licensing the characters from those shows to companies who made the stuff people bought — toys and video games and T-shirts and novelty condoms and so on. We earned only a few yen from each item sold. But lots of items were sold and thus the company was able to pay all of its 100 or so employees and contracted workers (I was always one of the latter, never an official employee in all 15 years I worked there) a living wage.

Once when I went to one of Nishijima Roshi’s retreats in Shizuoka I took along a children’s book about Ultraman to read. It was a fun way to practice my Japanese. Nishijima saw the book and said, “Those TV shows teach children to believe in power.” I didn’t know what to make of that statement at the time. I didn’t know if it was meant to be disparaging. I didn’t know if he was trying to advise me to find another line of work. I was baffled.

But he was right. Those TV shows do teach children to put their faith in the power of others to rescue them. But perhaps they also teach children to want to be like Ultraman and help others in trouble. I know that the folks at Tsuburaya Productions had a strong sense of morality regarding their shows and the messages they conveyed to children. They were deeply concerned that the shows they produced taught children good things. Although the shows could be extremely violent they always took care to make the violence kind of unrealistic. It took place between the heroes and the monsters and was therefore a kind of abstract violence intended to convey a sense of overcoming adversity rather than a real sense of just duking it out against your opponent.

Whether or not this was conveyed successfully is another matter. In 2001 we introduced a character called Ultraman Cosmos, a gentle-natured Ultraman who was supposed to reason with the monsters rather than hitting them over the heads with locomotives and zapping them with rays. Here is the promo video I wrote and directed about the show. At the time I thought it was a totally wrong-headed idea. It just made Ultraman look timid and ineffectual. By about the tenth episode, the powers-that-be realized their mistake and Ultraman Cosmos started kicking ass just like all the other Ultramen before him.

But I digress.

After Nishijima told me that I started worrying if what I was doing was “right livelihood” or not. But when I asked him if he thought I should quit the company he said, “No. You should continue working for them.” He said that my small influence would make the company and its shows better. I wonder if he was right.

Nowadays, though, I no longer “work for a living” at least in the sense that most people back in Akron would probably understand. I travel the world, which I enjoy, I write books, which I love to do, I don’t have to be at some specific place five days a week, which is wonderful, and I don’t get paid by “the company.” I get paid indirectly by people who buy my books in stores or on line. But I also get paid directly through donations to this blog and by people who come and listen to me talk about my books (which, again, I really like to do).

In a sense, I’m just earning money directly that I used to earn indirectly. When working for Tsuburaya pretty much all my pay came from people who never knew who I was or what I did. They weren’t handing their dollar bills directly to me the way people do now. But they did pay me even though the didn’t know it. Now the connection is much more direct.

Amanda Palmer has talked about how she conceives of what she does in terms of fund-raising as allowing people to contribute to her work rather than begging for hand-outs. I think she’s right. I know that I like contributing to artists whose work I enjoy. I was happy to by Dog Party‘s new record from their mom when I saw them at Old Haunts in Akron. When Robyn Hitchcock plays somewhere nearby, I always make a point of going and buying some kind of merchandise even if it’s something I don’t really need (I buy his albums as soon as they come out and by the time he tours I’ve usually got everything he’s selling already). It feels good to contribute. It feels right.

I think all work is a form of both free giving and of begging. We give our work to the world and the world gives us money to live and to continue our contributions. At least that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Obviously the system breaks down far more often than it should. We beg the world to support us by doing work to contribute to society. We all shake our cup at passers-by and hope they throw a dime in it.

Maybe someday I can be like Amanda Palmer and put aside my Akron roots enough to enjoy the process.

*   *   *

Speaking of which, my friend Pirooz wants me to mention that he’s about halfway to his goal of funding the completion of his movie about me. If you want to contribute, go to this page. It’ll be a very cool movie, unlike any Buddhist movie you’ve ever seen before.

*   *   *

My Northeast Tour still has two more events. Go see me at:

– 28-June    Asbury Park, NJ    7 p.m. Pure Health Bar & Yoga 701 Cookman Ave Asbury Park, NJ

– 29-June    Long Island, NY 7 p.m.  Clear Mountain Zen Center 519 Hempstead Ave., West Hempstead, NY 11553

*   *   *

Go ahead. Throw a dime in my cup!


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111 Responses

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  1. fightclubbuddha
    fightclubbuddha June 28, 2013 at 8:20 am |

    Over at Treeleaf today, we have a thread posted on the movie, and Jundo is encouraging us to help out. So, you can count on another donation from me.

    1. fightclubbuddha
      fightclubbuddha June 28, 2013 at 10:38 am |

      Although, I will note that today’s donation will be to you personally, to help with tour expenses. I will donate to the film next week.


  2. RickMatz
    RickMatz June 28, 2013 at 9:56 am |

    Get a job.

    1. Anonymous
      Anonymous June 28, 2013 at 10:01 am |

      What does your aggressive reply add to this discussion? Is that your idea of humor?

      I’d like to meet you in real life and pound your face in.

  3. Anonymous
    Anonymous June 28, 2013 at 10:00 am |

    I know you wanna leave me,
    but I refuse to let you go
    If I have to beg and plead for your sympathy,
    I don’t mind coz’ you mean that much to me

    Ain’t too proud to beg, sweet darlin
    Please don’t leave me girl, don’t you go
    Ain’t to proud to plead, baby, baby
    Please don’t leave me, girl, don’t you go

    Now I heard a cryin’ man,
    is half a man with no sense of pride
    But if I have to cry to keep you,
    I don’t mind weepin’ if it’ll keep you by my side

    Ain’t to proud to beg, sweet darlin
    Please don’t leave me girl, don’t you go
    Ain’t to proud to plead, baby, baby
    Please don’t leave me girl, don’t you go

    If I have to sleep on your doorstep
    all night and day just to keep you from walkin’ away
    let your friends laugh, even this I can stand
    cause I want to keep you any way I can

    Ain’t too proud to beg, sweet darlin’
    Please don’t leave me girl, don’t you go
    Ain’t to proud to plead, baby, baby
    Please don’t leave me girl, don’t you go

    Now I’ve gotta love so deep in the pit of my heart
    And each day it grows more and more
    I’m not ashamed to come and plead to you baby
    If pleadin’ keeps you from walkin’ out that door

    Ain’t too proud to beg, you know it sweet darlin’
    Please don’t leave me girl, don’t you go
    Ain’t to proud to plead, baby, baby
    Please don’t leave me girl, don’t you go
    Baby, baby, baby, baby (sweet darling)

    1. Harlan
      Harlan June 29, 2013 at 10:22 am |
  4. shade
    shade June 28, 2013 at 11:51 am |

    yeah begging sucks but it beats the alternative – which is prostitution.

    Okay, maybe that’s a little extreme. But then again, maybe not. When we “work” – whether for an hourly wage, a salary, or in more free-lance type capacity – we exchange some part of our selves, body and mind, for little scraps of paper or shiny circular pieces of metal. Besides being sort of inherently slimy it’s also completely ridiculous. Like a interminable pagan ritual to some faceless and parasitic diety.

    Since I was a little kid, I’ve always asked myself – “why”? Like, who started this shit and why does everyone, poor and rich alike, buy into it? What purpose does it serve? What’s keeping us from just chucking the whole absurd mess, which as far as I can tell breeds nothing but misery? Lots of people never take the whole notion of “employment” for granted, never even think to question it’s value or veracity, while many others who do question it get caught in the trap anyway (yes, me too).

    Yet, despite everything, good stuff – whether it be books or paintings or cars or caffeinated beverages – does manage to leak through from time to time. And I have to admit I can become as enamored with the products of consumer culture as anyone. If the money economy vanished would these things vanish as well? Hmm. Well, maybe we’d be better off.

    as a side note – is “unrealistic” violence better than “realistic” violence? Some would argue that a depiction of violence which refrains from exposing all the gory details is more apt to encourage violent acts in the spectator. I suppose I’m undecided on the issue; probably it does make a difference who your intended audience is, i.e. children vs. teenagers vs. “grown-ups”.

  5. RandomStu
    RandomStu June 28, 2013 at 11:53 am |

    Say I choose a job based on trying to create/provide something that others need or want. People will voluntarily buy my product/service because (by their own judgement, not mine) it’s beneficial to them. The more I provide what benefits others, the more they’ll buy, and the more I’ll earn. If the job & earnings are more beneficial than other options (by my own judgement, no one else’s), I’ll continue to do the job.

    On the other hand, if I focus on doing a job that I want to do, it may not be in harmony with the needs and wants and happiness of others. I’ll be at risk that few people will want to voluntarily support what I’m doing.

    It makes a big difference whether I’m doing something that I like, vs doing something that other people find beneficial, vs doing what I think benefits others (even if they don’t think so).

  6. Harlan
    Harlan June 28, 2013 at 12:15 pm |

    I like what Nishijima said about kids and ideas of power. Early ideas about what’s good and what’s bad and why so seem to be particularly um.. sticky.

  7. My_name_is_Daniel
    My_name_is_Daniel June 28, 2013 at 1:59 pm |

    This certainly follows the typical starving artist plot. Luckily, you’re muti talented and can take advantage of the many media venues we enjoy in this day and age. Have you or had you considered doing video blogs in addition to this format? Maybe suggesting one of the buddhist themed or spirituality themed mags to pick you up as an ongoing video blog contributor? You and Pirooz could produce it, adding a little movie magic. I’d totally watch it.

    On a side note..It would be nice to have a place where mature individuals can come together to discuss mutual topics of interest. Please consider either contributing in a positive, thoughtful manner or not post comments at all. Please. One day, you’ll understand.

  8. Harlan
    Harlan June 28, 2013 at 5:47 pm |

    Oh you young kids.. You think this is bad? Why in my day people would come here and say bad words. Ask to see Brad’s junk. Call each other imbeciles. It was real horror show.. Now someone makes a little joke and folks are gasping and falling off their chairs. I think we should lighten it up maybe.

  9. RickMatz
    RickMatz June 28, 2013 at 6:38 pm |

    “What does your aggressive reply add to this discussion? Is that your idea of humor?

    I’d like to meet you in real life and pound your face in.”

    – Anonymus


  10. Harlan
    Harlan June 28, 2013 at 6:52 pm |

    I think anonymous is just trying to keep order. He’s idealistic. He means no harm. It’s just words so far.

  11. My_name_is_Daniel
    My_name_is_Daniel June 28, 2013 at 7:09 pm |

    Well, it pretty much could only be words, unless they somehow meet in person, which I wouldn’t hear about. Anywho, it’s no secret trolls wreak havoc on this site and the internet in general. It would be nice to have a place where we could actually stick to the topic of the original post, a place of no face pounding. I realize Brad’s persona brings in the less than stable, younger types and this sort of thing kinda comes with the territory, but a guy can dream.

    I’ve been close to Brad’s junk and it’s remarkable. Too bad she never took off her bathing suit. hehe. (I’ll never let you forget that, Brad)

  12. Harlan
    Harlan June 28, 2013 at 7:14 pm |

    There is no face pounding. It’s just theater of the mind. Don’t dream about a better world. You only have this one.

  13. My_name_is_Daniel
    My_name_is_Daniel June 28, 2013 at 7:21 pm |

    Yes, yes I’m familiar with the jargon. I’ve spent quite the time in buddhist and non-buddhist communities. If it was all theatre as you say, you would have nothing to say in the first place, no reason to comment. But you do, as do I (for the moment) and in this world of the relative, it gets annoying when you can’t avoid the nonsense.

  14. Harlan
    Harlan June 28, 2013 at 7:27 pm |

    Yes annoying.. I agree

  15. Harlan
    Harlan June 28, 2013 at 7:28 pm |

    I try not to let it upset me. As long as 2 out of three comments are civil it doesn’t.

  16. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon June 29, 2013 at 4:22 am |

    Honestly not trolling, BUT…
    Maybe Brad would be more successful as a “Hardcore” Zen writer and teacher if he actually wrote and taught about Zen.

  17. recurvata
    recurvata June 29, 2013 at 5:12 am |

    Brad, you might want to consider other ways for people to donate. You use Paypal, which I know is popular and common, but for various reasons I won’t use. But I would send a check, or maybe use some alternate method. Just sayin’…

  18. Mumbles
    Mumbles June 29, 2013 at 6:22 am |

    Oh, I missed that, it was the Anony “pound your face in” stab (sorry) at humor that _Daniel was upset about. I thought he was referring to the RickMatz “get a job” comment (stab). Can’t we all just get along! (sob).

    1. My_name_is_Daniel
      My_name_is_Daniel June 29, 2013 at 4:06 pm |

      It isn’t so much that comment, but rather the cumulative value of encountering such stuff just about everywhere. It’s as if these individuals honestly think they have something new or witty or smart to say. Like my parents use to say to us kids, “this is why we can’t have nice things.”

  19. Mumbles
    Mumbles June 29, 2013 at 6:41 am |

    Besides, _Daniel clearly has another agenda, so let’s all play nice and maybe someday he’ll get what he really wants after all. Buddhist up.

    1. My_name_is_Daniel
      My_name_is_Daniel June 29, 2013 at 4:03 pm |

      I’ll bite.. do tell, what is my agenda? I’m curious.

  20. dougleader
    dougleader June 29, 2013 at 9:38 am |

    “Maybe someday I can be like Amanda Palmer…”

    For everyone’s sake, I really hope that doesn’t ever happen…….

  21. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote June 29, 2013 at 2:47 pm |

    ‘Maybe Brad would be more successful as a “Hardcore” Zen writer and teacher if he actually wrote and taught about Zen.’

    That’s the interesting part of being a Soto lineage holder, which Brad claims to be (based on Nishijima being a lineage holder, a fact which I’ll presume is true). Anything you do can be considered a teaching about Zen. Anything you write can be considered a teaching about Zen. Carte blanche.

    ‘But honestly, I rarely write or talk about anything else and you know that.’

    Bradley, you rarely write or talk about anything other than your vision of what Zen is about; regarding the practice of zazen, and the posture you consider an indispensable aid in authentic zazen practice, not much.

    Don’t get me wrong; the reason I am writing here in the comments section of your blog is because I believe your vision of what Zen is about is closer to the reality for Zen practice in the U.S.A. than, say, Grace Schireson’s (although the two of you have a lot of common ground, and I admire Grace for standing up for what she believes in). And the vision of what Zen practice in the U.S.A. is about is crucial to us all in providing the kind of open environment where we can discover the relationships in our experience that are exposed in the practice of zazen, and discover how to describe those relationships so that we ourselves and others can benefit.

    I make descriptions of the relationships in my experience that are exposed in the practice of zazen, and they are useful to me, but most of what I hear from people about my descriptions is that they don’t really understand them. Guess I’m not going to sell books and get donations that way, darn it! Meanwhile, here’s another one of those descriptions, an expansion on an analogy I came up with originally here on Brad’s blog:

    ‘Out in the woods, even if you have no particular goal in mind, you still might use a compass and a map to avoid walking in circles. To be straightforward with suffering, a relationship between where I am and what I feel with the movement of breath is useful.

    I find a description of such a relationship in the teaching of Gautama, although the notion of “where” is only referenced as “single-pointedness of mind” and only clearly expanded on in his analogy for the first meditative state. Teachers like Yuanwu came right out with “Be aware of where you really are twenty-four hours a day. You must be most attentive.” (Zen Letters, pg 53), but Gautama only talked about “single-pointedness of mind” in connection with “making self-surrender the object of thought”. Nevetheless, the emphasis on the movement of breath and on what he perceived to be all of the senses (six) is there in the teachings of Gautama, and you can find references in my article “Letting Go in Action” (along with particulars of three additional senses).

    For me, it helps to recognize that “single-pointedness of mind” is actually a hypnogogic phenomena that is connected with the relaxed movement of breath. That’s why it’s so difficult to talk about.’

    And that’s exactly why you don’t talk about it, Brad, IMHO.

    1. My_name_is_Daniel
      My_name_is_Daniel June 29, 2013 at 4:28 pm |

      Historically a good bit of Zen writing and material is about what Zen is not, rather than what it is. Zen being very simple and the non-practitioner or beginning practitioner having the tendency to overcomplicate it ad nauseam. There is Zen practice and there isn’t Zen practice, which is often overlooked and taken advantage of by those that would rather toss around insults and nonsense then use the documented rogue historical practitioner to justify themselves rather than actually practice. In the end, whether this person is happy and content in life or a mess is the proof in the pudding, which can only be known by the individual practitioner. However, how one expresses themselves is a good hint of where they are.. It may be a shock for them to know that it’s usually blatantly obvious to the experienced practitioner whether they actually practice or not.

      1. Harlan
        Harlan June 29, 2013 at 7:33 pm |

        Maybe an advanced practitioner can divine a person’s motivation and meaning from only a few words of text or maybe he just drank too many cups of coffee.

        1. My_name_is_Daniel
          My_name_is_Daniel June 29, 2013 at 7:43 pm |

          Nah. People by their very nature are similar. The recognition of patterns, once you’ve seen, heard and experienced enough is easy. In fact, it’s the basis for many professions. Also, within the realm of a monastic community or practice center, it’s the responsibility of the teachers and/or transmissioned members to take note of these sort of things in order to act accordingly and move the sincere practitioner forward on the path. It’s not complicated, esoteric nor divine. It’s common sense.

          1. Harlan
            Harlan June 29, 2013 at 9:52 pm |

            Maybe I just like people who are different. If there is one thing about institutionalized Zen that bothers me it is the pressure put on people to conform within it. I guess it’s like any other organization that way, the pressure might be totally self-generated. Brad seemed to go his own way pretty well.


  22. SoF
    SoF June 29, 2013 at 3:47 pm |

    The original “Get a Job.

    The imitation: Sha Na NA.

    As seen on TV!

    Whatta ya think of that, Mr Baseman?

  23. SoF
    SoF June 29, 2013 at 4:09 pm |

    Behind every image, there is a reality.

    And that reality is just another one-hit wonder.

    A real one-hit wonder.

    Brad has a job. He is doing it.

  24. Fred
    Fred June 29, 2013 at 5:06 pm |


  25. Fred
    Fred June 29, 2013 at 5:09 pm |

    If you find this bothers your ego, you might wish to examine your practice.

    1. My_name_is_Daniel
      My_name_is_Daniel June 29, 2013 at 6:35 pm |

      It’s not a matter of “ego”. It’s a matter of function.

      A number of you render the comments section of this site nonfunctional.

      Feeling opposed to someone taking the groceries out of your cart while you stand in line at the store.
      At a press conference, a reporter takes up the limited time by asking irrelevant questions.
      Someone joins a community geared toward traditional Soto Zen practice, but refuses to work nor attend Zazen.

      Rendering the comments section a popular buddhist site into a state that has been described as “hell” by other blogs. It’s a matter of maturity and respect for what is attempting to be accomplished.

      Brad doesn’t have a moderator for the blogs because of the difficulty some of you pose. Moderators have quit. He doesn’t have time to do it himself and he doesn’t condone the comments.

  26. Fred
    Fred June 30, 2013 at 5:36 am |

    Dan, it’s your giant ego that has converted spiritual practice into a trip.

    People posting here had kensho when you had shit in your diapers. Grow up,
    and drop the façade.

    1. My_name_is_Daniel
      My_name_is_Daniel June 30, 2013 at 3:12 pm |

      That really isn’t the case and if you give any precedence to Brad’s take, he basically feels the same. You can ask him.
      As far as kensho goes, anyone can experience it that dedicates a decent amount of time to practice, it’s no biggie, it’s easy. Following precepts or moral living and honest reflection is the challenge.
      You know my age?

  27. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote June 30, 2013 at 10:24 am |

    “Jumping at Shadows”, wow. Thanks, gotta get to the rest later!

    ‘it’s the responsibility of the teachers and/or transmissioned members to take note of these sort of things in order to act accordingly and move the sincere practitioner forward on the path.’ – Dan, you been hangin’ around SFZC too long!

    I remember a one day sitting at Green Gulch, and out in the hall were monitors to make sure the resident students were all in attendance and on time. I realize SFZC has been inundated with young people looking to do what they consider to be the right thing for themselves and hopefully others by realizing their own nature, willing to put their faith and trust in the teachers of SFZC; the folks at SFZC and Green Gulch have responded as best they knew how, faced with all the variations of human behaviour connected with schools. “Boot the sincere practitioner forward on the path…”, I would say was the description appropriate to the situation that day.

    I like that they gave up using the stick at SFZC, realizing that it woke up the practitioner up temporarily but in the end was of no use, as folks went back to drowzing with renewed vigor shortly thereafter.

    Writing and speaking about what Zen is not, I think is only necessary when there is a lack of substantive, positive vocabulary to communicate what Zen is. You might scoff at such a statement, but have a look at the Pali Canon sermon volumes; take a look at most of the teachings of Yuanwu, you will at least find a mix there with some remarkable positive, substantive statements.

    Which folks mostly can’t understand, despite the genius of the physical correlates in his seemingly abstract descriptions. My take is that we are now in a position to resume the positive, substantive discourse that has lain fallow for 2500 years, and we do some of that here on Brad’s blog, as we pirates discuss the weather and have a cup of tea. We should all be brought to justice, is that the contention? No doubt, that’s the way forward!

    1. My_name_is_Daniel
      My_name_is_Daniel June 30, 2013 at 3:46 pm |

      I didn’t spend that much time within SFZC. I went there to entertain the idea of ordaining/ living within that community. I do know what you are referring to with the influx of youngins/ floaters and the challenge they pose. It’s often similar to the challenges I’ve been speaking of..

      I like the stick! But they didn’t stop using it because of that reason, at least it wasn’t the main reason. They stopped using it because the mindset of many of the folks, having experienced abuse or being sensitive to being whacked for whatever reason. It was a PC thing.

      As far as discussing the weather goes, there are forums for that sort of thing. Start one, join one, but be warned that what passes for talk of the weather or practice wouldn’t fly because it’s either irrelevant or offensive. Also, just because a few members spend a substantial amount of time posting for whatever reason, they don’t own the site nor make the call for what the content should be. Things may change here soon, we shall see..

  28. RickMatz
    RickMatz June 30, 2013 at 12:32 pm |

    How is it more noble to ask someone else for their hard earned wages than to earn the money yourself? Brad’s teacher had a day job for crying out loud.

    I am sure it’s appealing to wrap oneself up in the costume of a starving artist, but that is bullshit. Especially by the time you are in your 40’s you ought to be getting your life together.

    I’ve read Brad’s stuff from the very beginning and it’s meant a lotto me. I think among the best. If it is not commercially viable then that just attests to how small the audience really is.

    I just don’t see the difference between Asking for money (although nothing wrong with a donate button either) and sending checks to Tammy Faye Baker.

  29. Fred
    Fred June 30, 2013 at 1:36 pm |

    Brad’s book was at Chapters in a town of 100,000 in Canada, so I would say
    that his work is commercially viable. I bought the book for $17.50 Canadian.

  30. Mumbles
    Mumbles June 30, 2013 at 2:03 pm |

    Well, you can’t donate to Tammy Faye Baker unless you have her address in fake eyelashes heaven, but her punk rock xtian son has made a remarkably similar/parallel career to, oh, hmmm, who resembles him in the buddhist community? Hmmmnn… oh, Noah Levine, I guess. Bet Jim and Tammy’s spawn has a blog somewhere on the interwebs w/a donate button?

  31. shade
    shade June 30, 2013 at 3:20 pm |

    when you “earn a living” you do ask for other people’s hard earned wages – it just gets to you through more indirect channels. If you work for a company or corporation, for example, your work contributes to the manufacture of a product or service which is purchased by consumers out of his own personal assets. The money collected from all these various consumers is then pooled, and it is out of this pool of funds that your paycheck is drawn.

    One could argue that the difference between workers and mendicants is that workers produce things that contribute to the well being of society; but in reality that’s far from the case. There are many people who are “employed” and receive a regular pay check who contribute nothing at all. And even worse, some who produce things which are positively toxic.

    That’s not to say that “begging” is inherently more noble or virtuous than steady employment. A certain amount of labor has to be done in order for people to survive, individually and socially. But the difference between vagrants and “productive members of society” is not as clear cut as most people assume. As for myself, I’ve done some of both, by choice and neccessity.

    Speaking of the spawn of Jim and Tammy Faye, I’m big fan of his work. He is connected to a “church” (which operates out of a bar/bowling alley by the way)
    which does solicite donations but frankly I don’t see how the cat survives. From what I can tell his congregation is miniscule compared to what his parents was in their heyday. He does write books as well though.

    anyway… why is the work we do only considered valuble when we recieve monetary compensation for it?

  32. Fred
    Fred June 30, 2013 at 3:55 pm |

    “Following precepts or moral living and honest reflection is the challenge.”

    So you follow these:

    “All Buddhists live by the Five Moral Precepts which are refraining from:
    -harming living things
    -taking what is not given
    -sexual misconduct
    -lying or gossip
    -taking intoxicating substances eg drugs or drink

    Buddhist monks live by ten precepts. The ten precepts are the five precepts plus refraining from the following:
    -taking substantial food after midday (from noon to dawn)
    -dancing, singing and music
    -use of garlands, perfumes and personal adornment like jewelery
    -use of luxurious beds and seats
    -accepting and holding money, gold or silver”

  33. Fred
    Fred June 30, 2013 at 4:05 pm |

    So you don’t kill mosquitoes, flies, bugs, etc, fornicate with women, lie, gossip about other Buddhists in the sangha or have a beer?

    Pretty much everyone lies and makes jokes at other’s expense.

    And I doubt that many Buddhists walk down the sidewalk carefully without
    stepping upon the smallest insect.

    As for sex, the precepts are a joke.

  34. My_name_is_Daniel
    My_name_is_Daniel June 30, 2013 at 4:25 pm |

    Upon reflection, I naturally follow all of those except 3, those being music, food after midday and holding money. But following them isn’t the important thing per say. What the precepts are in actuality is the conduct an enlightened being does by his/her very nature. Taking a step up into the more mundane, they’re things that help clear the way for progress on the path. One step more and they’re actually codes of conduct within actual monastic communities..well, some. Some would say it’s a combination and rightfully so. These days, outside of the more traditional monastic environs, they aren’t followed to the t. I personally find either application fine. I also think it isn’t a matter of what you do but how you do it. It’s mostly subjective once the practitioner takes matters into their own hands.

  35. My_name_is_Daniel
    My_name_is_Daniel June 30, 2013 at 4:27 pm |

    Then again, I dont consider myself a “buddhist”. I’m just a dude who finds laws, codes of conduct completely useful.

  36. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote June 30, 2013 at 5:07 pm |

    “What the precepts are in actuality is the conduct an enlightened being does by his/her very nature.”

    At the second or third council, I forget which, all the disagreements were resolved except whether or not an arahant can be seduced by a succubus. So the question to Daniel is, do enlightened beings have wet dreams by their very nature, or does that disqualify someone from being considered an enlightened being? Seems that trivia like that can divide an entire religious order into Mahayana and the Way of the Elders, so I would have to say that it’s not at all clear that the precepts as set down in the Canon (and rescinded by the Buddha on his deathbed in favor of the three main precepts that nobody knew what were and were subsequently forsaken in favor of the 270+) are in the nature of enlightened beings.

    Just trying to keep you honest, there, Daniel, until such time as the blog police arrive and remove the scurrilous riff-raff like myself, so that Brad can teach Zen without being associated with the comment section from hell.

  37. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote June 30, 2013 at 5:19 pm |

    Ha ha, I tend to agree that those who are “like wild animals” as the followers of Gautama were once favorably described, have the kindness of nature, which sometimes might not seem kind at all. And the other virtues, which may not seem like virtues from the point of view of those who desire a certain order.

    I never had an easy time with the lotus, and even now it’s a state of mind when I sit without pain. Nevertheless, in moderation I appreciate the stretch. Does me good, and I feel that there are a lot of folks who would agree, if the instruction were more accessible. Sometimes I think there are people out there who see it as an exercise in pain-tolerance, and who feel their discipline is undermined by the failure of others to discipline themselves to it. I look to Kobun, who never had pain or numbness in the lotus, as proof that soft Zen is possible.

  38. My_name_is_Daniel
    My_name_is_Daniel June 30, 2013 at 5:30 pm |

    I’m speaking in very loose terms here and I’m honestly running out of hair to split. I’m sure your’re aware of the twists and turns the “actual” words of the buddha have taken over time. Whether he said this or that or even existed in the first place is of no consequence to me personally.

    I’m not sure how many adults have wet dreams.. regardless I doubt it matters. Plays for power have diluted and simultaneously propelled the teachings through the ages. I don’t care for historical this or that. In fact, depending on what author you want to believe..

    What else I don’t care for is the wabbit hole of religious argument and philosophy, but if asked, I usually answer. My armchair broke years ago. But the fact that I simply suggested we not threaten each other and stay relevant to the original post has spiraled into more familiar nonsensical ground is a testament.

  39. My_name_is_Daniel
    My_name_is_Daniel June 30, 2013 at 5:41 pm |

    …and with that I bow out. Maybe keep in mind the passing warning of sorts if y’all enjoy contributing. Enforcement only becomes an issue when common sense is disregarded. However, I doubt you have anything to be concerned about, Mark. I’m sure the powers that be consider you a fine contributor.

  40. Harlan
    Harlan June 30, 2013 at 5:48 pm |

    “The weight of this sad time we must obey / Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say..”

  41. Stephanie
    Stephanie June 30, 2013 at 6:28 pm |

    Though I continue to sit with a sangha, practice zazen, and sometimes read specifically “Buddhist” literature, I think of myself less and less as a Buddhist. It’s liberating when you can drop all of the mental energy that goes into molding and selling yourself as a member of a group. It amazes me to see how much effort some people put into building a life and practice around maintaining a specific spiritual identity. But then I have to remind myself I once did it too — worked hard to make sure I was doing everything the “right” and “authentic” way. What we don’t see is how inauthentic that is, how it is driven by the ego and its cravings.

    So many people use the precepts as ways to criticize and put down others. An ex of mine wisely used to say that’s not the right use of the precepts. They’re for reflecting on our own activity. I have come to find personally that moralism and guilt are a huge waste of time. A lot of religious people fear what will happen if we don’t believe in the absolute nature of our moral codes and some sort of negative consequence of not defining your life by one. But what I find is that when you see how useless, silly, and anxiety-driven a lot of moral codes are, and become less interested in them, you don’t suddenly start behaving immorally.

    The more I live, the more I come to believe that people have inherent moral goodness that does not require threats of punishment to uphold. I also believe there are people who have become “bad people” — I have dealt with all sorts of antisocial types in my line of work — but I don’t see them as the default. Most “bad” people are weak, desperate, and confused. Of course we’re talking in wide strokes here, of people who steal, cheat, lie, and maybe even kill their way through life, abusing and defrauding others. I have seen how much self-deception and cognitive gyration it requires for most people who live like that to keep living like that. Or the use of something that clouds the mind, like drugs. But you can only hide from your conscience for so long, in most cases.

    I am endlessly amused with the agonies of earnest spiritual practitioners over the most minor of transgressions. Most of us, no matter how little we care for moral codes, would find ourselves robbing grandmothers and abusing children. And for those of us who do find ourselves doing these things, I believe it is due to some wound in us we need to heal – but we’ve got to want to heal it to be able to change. That has to come from the pain we feel as a result of our actions, not someone’s earnest threats or attempts to persuade with logic. You can see how ineffectual moral codes are in dealing with the world’s bad behavior, as some of the worst behaved are fully aware of, and subscribers to, some moral code or another.

    One of the things that comes up for me again and again in my own practice as the root of my own missteps and bad behavior is the consuming power of negativity. I don’t know how to say that in a way that doesn’t sound la-di-da or new age, but that’s not what I mean, that there’s some kind of “negative energy” out there that can get into you if you don’t hold the right crystal, or that all you need to do is think happy thoughts. But there’s a certain kind of compulsive momentum that occurs once you hook into negative, judgmental thoughts. Even as I find the sound of it increasingly silly and idealistic, I understand the precept against praising the self and blaming others increasingly clearly in practice.

    Sitting around judging others is putting yourself into the ultimate trance. It oversimplifies the world and the people in it and divorces you from lived experience. And so much of our culture is about that, from backbiting and gossip at work to vicarious participation in nasty catfighting on reality shows, to sitting in our religious cocoons using our moral codes to judge others. I think the entire concept of hell comes out of this, our own desire to judge and punish others.

    It seems to me that spiritually realized people over the centuries have preached less judgment and more tolerance, while their followers distort that into violently judgmental religions full of war and visions of hell. I think the early pagans had a more accurate view, at least as far as their religious stories – that there are many conflicting forces out there, that you can worship war and battle, or worship sex, or worship reason. Not that there is this one deity that represents total goodness and yet, somehow, condones all of this vicious human stuff we have going on in its name. Though I do think that sense of God as perfectly loving and good more accurately reflects the ground of reality, the Tao – it contains violence but does not condone it, and it’s only when you get still, peaceful, and loving that you can get out of your human, aggressive mindstate and experience it.

    BTW enjoying your new book, Brad! I think God is a word that has value and that can be used to bridge gaps and create interfaith dialogue, and I think grappling with it is of use to those of us on a more nontheistic end of the spectrum. The more I practice and experience, the more I get a sense of something that the word “God” seems to fit rather well – perhaps it is my family and cultural heritage that gives that word power, but that’s exactly the point. Even as I know that some people’s ideas of God are so far removed from mine (man in the sky vs totality of all being), and even as I know I can only do so much to cloak my strongly nontheistic sense of a universe without a plan for me, that it may be beyond bridging the gap in dialogue, I am much more likely to be successful if I can make use of that word than if I can’t.

  42. Low
    Low June 30, 2013 at 6:37 pm |

    Just an observation here. But it appears to me that the strict observance of Buddhist precepts have now become a source of pride for many teachers and students in scandal-ridden Buddhist America. Have you noticed the quality of speech in these teachers and students, the self-congratulatory way in which they set their sangha or school against other schools based on nothing more than a subconscious Judeo-Christian morality?–

    “That kind of misconduct would never be allowed HERE, not at Happy Rainbow Zen Center! No way, Jose!”

    It’s a bit nauseating. If pristine behavior is to be the measure by which we judge a teacher or student then Zen in America is seriously hosed. But I guess that’s what most people want out of a Zen center, a kind of kindegarten for adults where everyone ‘s nice and plays by the rules, where no one is challenged or forced to demonstrate any real Buddhist insight. Why not go to Church then or group therapy? Why go to a Zen center at all if all we’re doing is accumulating morality merit in silly looking Asian clown outfits? No thankyou. I’ll just take my one hour of mass on Sunday and be done with it.

    My point being, there is no pride in observing the precepts and there isn’t necessarily shame in breaking them. Shit happens.

  43. Mumbles
    Mumbles June 30, 2013 at 7:42 pm |

    Good riddance. Empty threats are such a bore.

  44. Fred
    Fred June 30, 2013 at 7:44 pm |

    Dan, at first you say you are challenged to follow the precepts, and then you say
    that they don’t really matter and you’re not a Buddhist anyway.

    If you are Ingram it looks like Bipolar.

  45. Fred
    Fred June 30, 2013 at 7:49 pm |

    Why did the headless bipolar chicken cross the A&P?

    Because he was looking for equanimity

  46. My_name_is_Daniel
    My_name_is_Daniel June 30, 2013 at 8:01 pm |

    Fred, that isn’t what I meant. What my character has to do with this, I’m not sure.
    I’ll break it down a bit.. Not sure where you get me being challenged by the precepts, regardless, I don’t actively follow them. Instead, I’ve found they clearly correlate to my wellbeing as well as others around me. This isn’t some sort of update Buddhist made to the fabric of reality, it’s a pre-existing thing. They’re observations made by humans about the human experience. Anywho, whether you call yourself this or that is the judgement of the individual, which is done for different reasons.

    Mumbles, I’m not threatening anyone, but you should take note.

  47. Mumbles
    Mumbles June 30, 2013 at 8:05 pm |

    Dude, I could not care less what you have to say. Rock on.

    I’ve been there, done that.

    You are but a spot on the windshield.

    For all that you say about people doing this or that, your comments here are clearly the most odious of all.

  48. Mumbles
    Mumbles June 30, 2013 at 8:09 pm |

    What happened to, “…and now I bow out?”

    I’ve heard fireworks outside tonight, I assumed they were celebrating your announcement.

    Be true to your word, friend. Leave and be done with this, you’re clearly out of your league.

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