Authentic Life


Two years after I wrote this blog article I received an email from a former member of the Source Family who says the documentary I talk about in this article is entirely misleading. Here is her blog about what she says really went on.

Before I start I want to thank all my regular donors for donating. THANK YOU!

I have now added a MICRO SUBSCRIPTION BUTTON. I get a lot of hits on this blog and if a significant number of you nice folks pitched in as little as a dollar or two a month it would make a huge difference. So please take a look at that.

You’ll probably get a scary warning about the security certificate for this blog. It means nothing. It seems like the only way to remedy the problem is to move the blog somewhere else, which I don’t like doing but I’m going to have to. Anyway, PAYPAL is still as secure as it ever was and that’s where the donations go. Thanks for your understanding!

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The other day I re-watched the movie THE SOURCE FAMILY and started thinking about authentic ways of life.

The Source Family is a documentary about the most quintessential seventies California sex-drugs-rock’n’roll and spiritual goopty-goo cult you could possibly imagine. Led by a charismatic millionaire, health food advocate, martial arts master and wanna-be yogi who called himself alternately Father Yod or Yo Ho Wah, they advocated marijuana, meditation, tantric sex and alfalfa sprouts as a way to transcend the restrictions of the straight world.

What struck me most was how many of the people who joined Father Yod in his crazy quest were fairly sane and intelligent people. I got the impression that few of them actually bought into most of the cobbled-together spirituality but were willing to go along with it because it seemed like a better alternative to how normal people live their lives. You only have this life. Why not do something outrageous and fun with it?

All of us are looking for an authentic way to live. Mainstream society presents us with a model that is quite clearly broken and inefficient. But it sorta-kinda works, so most of us just go along with it to some degree. We go to school, maybe go to college, get jobs, get 401K plans, do the things that other people do to make their way through life and then when the time comes we drop dead like everybody else. We work hard at jobs we hate and look for pleasure when we can afford it.

People in power  — or those who’d like to be in power — create fantasy scenarios to try to get us to happily do the things that keep them in power (or the things they hope will put them in power). The dominant Western paradigm these days says that consumption is good and that money will buy you happiness (at least temporarily). This enables Wal Mart and Mercedes Benz and the Bank of America and all the rest to stay in the business of selling you stuff.

If you’re reading this blog I’ll assume you’ve already decided that’s all bullshit. I did a long time ago. But you’re still probably wondering what you can do to live a life that is real, that has some sort of value and that will make you reasonably happy or at least content most of the time.

When I see people who join religious cults I don’t think they’re idiots. Some of them probably are. But I generally think, “There’s someone who is trying to find a way to live an authentic life.” They’re intelligent enough to see through the dominant paradigm and bold enough to do something decisive about it rather than just letting it grind away at them until they can’t be ground away at anymore.

And I look at myself and think, “Here I am, a representative of one of those kooky religious orders that tries to offer people a different way to live.” I don’t think Zen is religious. But for the sake of discussion I’ll call it that since that’s how people see it.

Like any other kooky religious order out there, Zen is built upon a foundation of actual insight into how things are and a whole lot of trial-and-error as to what ought to be done about it.

I think the best way to pick what kooky alternative lifestyle you’re going to choose to follow is to try to determine how much real insight there is at its core, how much time they’ve had to work on the trial-and-error aspect, whether the other people involved in it seem happy and connected to reality, and whether it just plain makes any sense or not.

When I look at the Source Family I can see a lot of things that would have made it attractive to me had I been old enough to be interested when it was active. You’ve got healthy food, lots of sex, a sense of purpose, a strong community. But on the other hand, if I’d looked into the insights of its leadership I’d probably have thought the same things I thought when I looked into the Hare Krishnas. It’s all very beautiful but it ultimately doesn’t make any sense. There’s insight involved, but it’s pretty shallow.

I think some people are willing to overlook that aspect if the other parts of the lifestyle in question are attractive enough. Or maybe they just take it all in and hope that eventually it will make some sense. Perhaps they work very hard to convince themselves they believe in it when they actually don’t. And, of course, there are some folks who actually do believe in those shallow insights or fail to see how limited they are. But I think you have to start off with a lot of ignorance or at least naivety and then, as new information becomes available you have to work hard to either avoid it or strengthen your denial mechanisms.

I couldn’t do that. So I never joined the Hare Krishnas. The punk rockers made more sense. But they hadn’t had time to work on the trial-and-error aspects of their movement. It has outlasted the hippies and beatniks because it learned from their mistakes. But it still only goes so far.

Zen made perfect sense to me. It was completely reasonable, completely rational. It didn’t try to fight against science. It had worked on the trial-and-error aspects for 2500 years and gotten a lot of the bugs out.

I couldn’t buy into the Zen monastic thing, but I didn’t have to. I think it works brilliantly for certain people, yet I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. Luckily, people who came along way before me had already figured that out so there was an established place for those who wanted to work on the practice but couldn’t see the sense in committing to the monastic life, at least for themselves.

I still struggle sometimes with this question of how to live an authentic life. I think you have to have doubts. My first Zen teacher said that this practice required both doubt and faith. That balance is what keeps you from losing the truth.

But I no longer look at folks like the Source Family or their current equivalents and wonder if maybe they’re right. Sure, other alternative lifestyles might look more fun. I went to a big SoCal polyamorist gathering when I was working on Sex Sin and Zen. Those people got to have loads of wild sex. But I could see that it was making them kind of crazy. It looked like fun, but it lacked any kind of stable foundation. The Hare Krishnas still have way better food than the Zennies (although the bread at Tassajara is fantastic). But as long as they keep putting out books saying that evolution is wrong, I’m not going to join.

I know I made the correct choice. There are variations I could try. Sometimes I think it’s possible I should go freeze my ass off in some mountain monastery and submit to getting bossed around by jerks in brown robes for a while just to see what it’s really like. Maybe I will. But the particular variation on the theme of how-to-be-Zen that I’ve been following for the past few decades has worked out mostly OK.

For now, I’ll just keep on keeping on.

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The audiobook of Hardcore Zen is now available from Amazon and Get yours today!

*   *   *

Here’s my 2014 European Tour as it stands:

Oct. 3-5 Helsinki, Finland all events to be determined

Oct. 6 Movie Screening in Espoo, Finland

Oct. 8 Lecture in Munich, Germany

Oct. 9-11 Retreat in Munich, Germany

Oct. 12-17 Retreat at Benediktushof near Würzburg, Germany

Oct 18-19 Possibly in Bonn, Germany (not confirmed)

Oct 20 Hamburg, Germany (probably)

Oct 24 Lecture in Groningen, Netherlands

Oct 25 Day-long zazen in Groningen, Netherlands

Oct 26 Lecture in Eindhoven, Netherlands

Oct 27-30 Amsterdam, Netherlands (exact dates to be determined, but within that week)

Oct 31 Movie screening in Utrecht, Netherlands

Nov 1-2 Retreat in Utrecht, Netherlands

Nov 4-6 (or 3-5 possibly) Retreat in Hebden Bridge, UK

Nov 7-8 Something in Manchester, UK (to be determined)

That’s all I know for now. Only the event in Benediktushof is currently open for registration. You can reserve your spot at this link. Please don’t write me asking for details about the other events because right now this is all I know for certain.

95 Responses

Page 1 of 2
  1. The Idiot
    The Idiot June 10, 2014 at 11:46 am |

    … and avoid hang gliders!

  2. blake
    blake June 10, 2014 at 12:32 pm |

    We got to see The Source Family before its release at a film festival near Columbia, MO. It involved a long bike ride to a winery where they served food and wine and projected it onto a giant out door screen. A couple of the original members were there to answer questions.

    I could see myself having joined something like this back in my late-teens.

  3. minkfoot
    minkfoot June 10, 2014 at 3:57 pm |

    The punk rockers made more sense. But they hadn’t had time to work on the trial-and-error aspects of their movement. It has outlasted the hippies and beatniks because it learned from their mistakes.

    Implying the hippy thing is over? Sure a lot of folks in Vermont and elsewhere be surprised to hear that.

    Actually, there’s a continuous lineage of the counter-culture, a bohemian subculture that ebbs and grows throughout history. I bet there were hippies in Ancient Rome and beatniks in Babylon. Complex societies need that sort of psychological safety valve, and it’s also a source of innovation. Not to mention fun.

    Father Yod seemed to know a bit about the kundalini. Would have been interesting had he lived longer and got the Family stable economically again. As a long time observer-participant of the commune movement, I’ve theorized that communal stability really needs at least two things: a shared worldview, and a common means of support. Like a monastery, say.

  4. Wibble
    Wibble June 10, 2014 at 4:17 pm |

    For sure.
    Without a basic discipline or some guru type to rally around then intentional communities tend to be either very short lived or to churn membership.
    Nice places to visit are monasteries but I’d not want to live in one full time.
    Ashram type places or New Agey type communities I’d not go near but for those who like them then that is what they like.

  5. sri_barence
    sri_barence June 10, 2014 at 4:30 pm |

    Wait! Sex, drugs, AND good food? Throw in some rock’n’roll, and I’m in!!

    Seriously, Zen could use a little sexing up, don’t you think? I mean, there are hardly any hot babes in our local sangha. OK, there are some good looking guys, but I don’t bend all the way in that direction.

    So the question is, how do we get the really cute girls to join?

    “Let’s all grow beards, get weird, and disappear into the mountains. Nothing but clowns down here.” — Eminem

    1. Mumbles
      Mumbles June 10, 2014 at 6:17 pm |

      Oh they had rock and roll, too, like 11 albums or more, as YaHoWha 13:

      One of the late disciples was Sky Saxon of The Seeds. Doesn’t get more rock and roll than Pushin’ Too Hard!

    2. minkfoot
      minkfoot June 10, 2014 at 7:28 pm |

      Zen Mountain Monastery is where all the best babes go. But to be in residence there, you have to abide by the rule of one partner at a time.

      1. Shodo
        Shodo June 11, 2014 at 12:35 pm |
      2. Musashi
        Musashi August 28, 2014 at 7:11 pm |

        Emotionally crippled babes might be there, yeah, but no strong women who trust themselves. Its too much of a “Daddy knows best and your questioning of Daddy is your ego, and Daddy’s need to be obeyed is not His ego, its his way of showing you the dharma” sort of cult. You dont see it as a student or a visitor, you have to live there for a few years. Then it hits you in technicolor. Made me wanna barf, BUT its a very clever use of the dharma to enslave the girls. However, I prefer amazons to brainwashed obedient servant girls. But hey, to each his own.

  6. shade
    shade June 10, 2014 at 5:02 pm |

    I went through something of a hippie stage when I was a teenager, when the whole notion of the commune, detached from “straight” society and that represented, was very appealing to me. This didn’t last very long, for two reasons. First, the aesthetics of the thing didn’t do much for me. And second, in time the “authenticity” espoused by that subculture started to strike me as just as false and vacant as the dominant culture values it so stridently protested. Like, rejecting the metaphoric intoxicants of conformity, wealth, prestige and success in favor well, literal intoxicants seemed a little absurd. I was interested in booze and drugs, but not for that reason (the rampant polyamoury was patently revolting).

    This was also part of the draw of punk rock to me… it just struck me as less bullshitty. Of course the punks are just about as prone to heavy drinking, hard drug use and sexual promiscuity as the flower children (aside from the straight-edge contingent) but at least they never pretended such behavior led to any sort of spiritual epiphanies. In time, though, their ideology started to wear a little thin too… or at least some cracks started to appear. I began to suspect the “reality” punks were so obsessed with was just the other side of the coin to the hippies “authenticity”. The side that had landed in the mud, I guess. The hippies thought life was fundamentally beautiful, whereas the punks thought it was fundamentally shit. In the end, I couldn’t get on board with either assessment.

    I’m at a point in my life where I’m still very concerned with the notions of reality, authenticity, illusion, disillusion and all that. Really more than ever. At the same time I’m very, very wary of anyone who claims to have a clear and complete notion of just what these entail, especially those who are itching to proclaim that notion to all and sundry, and especially when that notion is attached to a distinct philosophical, political and religious program. And the biggest red flag comes when some starts referring to the “truth”… that particular word is associated with some of the craziest, and most frightening and fanatical theories I’ve ever heard.

    Which is sad because I still believe that truth is what lies at the heart of the matter, the endless human quest to break the chains of deception. The mistake the hippies made, most often, is expecting that quest to be quick and easy, to take whatever path appears to be the most fun. The mistake the punks make (I hope) is in thinking the path leads nowhere, so you might as well just plant your ass in the ugliest part of the road and write a song about it.

    That being said – “Pretty Vacant” is still a way better number than “Sugar Magnolia”.

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot June 10, 2014 at 7:36 pm |

      Well, the truth is, life *is* beautiful. Really. Oh, it’s ugly, too, but in a strange way, that’s part of its beauty. This is always there when you open to it, or maybe need it.

      So, we weren’t all that far off from the truth.

  7. Mumbles
    Mumbles June 10, 2014 at 6:19 pm |

    “I know there’s an ultimate truth.”

    If yer tellin’, yer smellin’.

  8. The Idiot
    The Idiot June 10, 2014 at 7:24 pm |

    It is a good line and I, for one, agree with it.

    For fun, I would recommend delivering that line to yourself in the bathroom mirror while smiling and eye-locking on one of your pupils. See if you can get into that space where you feel like you are the reflection and the face in the mirror is real.

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot June 10, 2014 at 7:37 pm |

      Whoa! Like, heavy, man!

  9. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote June 10, 2014 at 8:18 pm |

    Last night, my housemate and I watched Michael Palin visit some of the indigenous peoples of Brazil, deep in the Amazon. Amazing how much the photo of Father Yod and the women in the pool resembled Michael Palin with the women of the jungle. I found myself reckoning with my cultural conditioning for a bit there, when it came to the bare-breasted women-folk of Brazil’s back woods, and then everything was normal again.

    “You just admire the place where you are and be with it, and that place is the place to meet with your teacher. It doesn’t need to be some special kind of place. ”

    -Kobun, from the link Brad gave.

    Honesty and presence, hippies, beats, punks– and it is interesting to reflect on the back to the land, return to the city, permaculture in the neighborhood evolution of counterculture in America.

    Pretty rigorous schedule you have there in the fall, Mr. Warner!

    Seems like not knowing is the hardest thing about the direction I’m taking, I have to have 100% faith and confidence in the part I know to step into the fog, as it were. Kobun talks about this:

    “It looks like you can do it by yourself, without others, but actually, by yourself alone you cannot discover that origin. Reaching that point, you never believe, “This is it.”

    That is most of why I write; what I write comes back to me, like that echo off the distant mountain that surprises and dignifies the cursing drunk punk asshole.


    1. Fred
      Fred June 11, 2014 at 3:54 am |

      ““I know there’s an ultimate truth.”

      “If yer tellin’, yer smellin’.”

      If yer thinkin, yer stinkin.

  10. The Idiot
    The Idiot June 11, 2014 at 5:10 am |

    Haha :0) but seriously, try it minkfoot!

  11. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote June 11, 2014 at 9:12 am |

    Ah, the ruhaniat! V. cool about Joe Miller!

    “You can get more stinkin’ from thinkin’ than you can from drinkin,’ but to feel is for real! And I Mean Really Feel!”

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot June 11, 2014 at 9:42 am |

      The things you can learn here! I’m surprised the Millers were beneath my radar until now.

  12. sakurararara
    sakurararara June 11, 2014 at 8:55 pm |

    your begging bowl is full of shit.

  13. Hungry Ghost
    Hungry Ghost June 11, 2014 at 9:43 pm |

    The problem with punk rock is the same thing that keeps me peripherally connected to it as a grown-up-ish person: it’s a place where very damaged and rejected people congregate, which is beautiful in a way, but, it also creates spaces and social groups where people can drag each other down. I think Buddhism sometimes suffers from the same thing – I went to see a Tibetan guy talk recently and I dragged my not-interested-in-Buddhism girlfriend to the thing. Afterwards she was bothered by how smug and self-congratulatory and unnaturally smiley all the attendees were. We were both particularly struck by the crowd on the one hand laughing with smug superiority at a story the Tibetan guy told about a girl requesting a love spell from him, and then subsequently chanting sanskrit nonsense at the closing of the talk enthusiastically, and without any sense of irony. I don’t think that kind of feeding off each other is a good thing. It’s probably not as harmful as the rampant drugs and violence of the punk scene, but it’s creepy and un-compassionate. Why all the smiling and laughing? Went to see my friends band later that night in a basement bar – ciders and decibels and some silly d-bag giving me the finger for no reason and trying to start a fight, drunks asleep on people’s stairs outside, insecure girls trying to be noticed, insecure guys trying not to be noticed – at least punk rockers get the first noble truth.

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot June 12, 2014 at 8:39 am |

      Why all the smiling and laughing?

      1. Because they think, as Buddhists, they’re supposed to act like they’ve seen through the emptiness of their suffering.

      2. Because they’ve seen through the emptiness of their suffering.

      1. sri_barence
        sri_barence June 13, 2014 at 9:19 am |

        Because they have completely seen through smiling and laughing.

  14. Mumbles
    Mumbles June 12, 2014 at 4:54 am |

    “I have now added a MICRO SUBSCRIPTION BUTTON. ”

    Jesus, Brad, have you considered stealing other people’s tips off their tables at restaurants?

    Seriously, sell ads. I bet Tricycle, Buddhadharma, Viagra, etc. would bite.

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot June 12, 2014 at 8:32 am |

      He really needs to make Enlightenators.

  15. Wibble
    Wibble June 12, 2014 at 8:38 am |

    Guy gotta eat.

  16. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote June 12, 2014 at 9:04 am |

    I agree with John E., why not go with Google AdSense ads? Ok, I don’t know a lot about it, but you have continuous new content and I think you can narrow the list on what kind of ads you want on your site.

    Looking at the plugins, this one makes the most sense to me (something for StoneMirror, perhaps):

    Adam Tebbe has certainly done this, and he still appeals for donations (and presumably receives them). Not the be-all, end-all, but it might help. Might bring more people to your site, for that glossy veneer of material integration!

  17. The Idiot
    The Idiot June 12, 2014 at 9:05 am |

    Micro Subscription is a good idea but I agree with Mumbles, ads are the way to go. If you can demonstrate consistent traffic levels, then you have leverage to ask for something for an ad. But this is blogging 101 right? Check in with

    1. Fred
      Fred June 12, 2014 at 11:29 am |

      Suffering is an illusion as well.

      There’s no where to go, and nothing to become.

      ” Why all the smiling and laughing?” Why not?

      1. Hungry Ghost
        Hungry Ghost June 12, 2014 at 9:01 pm |

        Because only their mouths are smiling and their laughing from tight throats and tight guts and their eyes look like those of cornered animals – I’m sympathetic, I’m fake and desperate too, it’s just an odd feeling to go to a place where reality and truth are payed so much lip service – reminds me of my experiences of church where everyone gathers together and fuels each other’s hatred in the name of love

        1. minkfoot
          minkfoot June 13, 2014 at 4:58 am |

          The only way to really know whether a smile is fake or not is by the reality crucible. You can guess all you want about self-professed heroes or obvious wimps, but until the moment of truth, the crux of the shit-flung fan, you will not know how an individual will act. War is full of surprise acts of grace and betrayal.

          My immediate and pure conscious reaction to social stress is to smile and laugh. No doubt a genetic adaption to centuries of czarist aristocratic abuse. It’s gotten me in trouble with people who think I mock them in times of their distress.

          A complicating factor is that groups with a spiritual focus deal with psychological forces that tend to make one feel rather good, if not downright giddy. How does one distinguish between such a smile and one created to respond to peer pressure?

          All I know of you is from what you write here, which is inadequate to judge your perspicacity in judging smilers for their sincerity or otherwise, although I basically accept your truthfulness. Maybe you could tell us more about why you and your girl friend felt these people had hollow cheer?

          1. Hungry Ghost
            Hungry Ghost June 14, 2014 at 9:56 am |

            I have no metric with which to establish the accuracy of my observation

  18. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote June 12, 2014 at 3:34 pm |

    I don’t know enough about AdSense to advise. I believe it’s based on click-throughs, so unless you have significant traffic to the website to begin with, it might not be worth your while.

    Nobody here but us chickens.

  19. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon June 12, 2014 at 4:01 pm |

    Speaking of cults and making money…
    Anyone with ambitions of starting a cult (or a opening a Zen center) would benefit from reading Margaret Thaler Singer’s “Cults In Our Midst.” It is so detailed that it could easily be used as a blueprint and a business model. “In this newly revised edition of her definitive work on cults, Singer reveals what cults really are and how they work, focusing specifically on the coercive persuasion techniques of charismatic leaders seeking money and power.”

    It is also available from Amazon, but fuck Amazon. Unless you just want to read the table of contents and the introduction.

  20. Fred
    Fred June 12, 2014 at 4:23 pm |

    “She categorizes the “three thousand to five thousand cults in the United States” as belonging to one of two categories: groups that use organized psychological and social persuasion policies to promote attitudinal change and establish long-term control of recruits and commercially sold “self- improvement” organizations that use similar persuasion processes, but do not intend long-term control”

    Like all the crap on TV isn’t continuous brain washing by corporate media and
    government scammers.

    Sit in a monastery and break the chains of conditioned salivation.

  21. Alan Sailer
    Alan Sailer June 12, 2014 at 4:52 pm |


    “Sit in a monastery and break the chains of conditioned salivation.”

    You misspelled “drool”.

    As in “Life is droolkkha”..


  22. stonemirror
    stonemirror June 12, 2014 at 9:04 pm |

    It’s Brad’s call, and I don’t like ads myself, for whatever that’s worth. I’m just the technical dude.

    Putting on my stern look, I am not personally much impressed with those who would foist their karmic duty to support the Dharma and the Sangha off onto Google. Lack of imagination on my part, most likely.

    (Also, Adam Tebbe’s doing something is not a fabulous endorsement: Adam also raised a bunch of cash for film equipment and such which he’s now learning how to use, I guess. That said, if anyone wants to lay 25 grand on me, Brad, and Pirooz to make movies, I Swear With The Greatest Sincerity that we will put it to Extremely Excellent use.)

    If anyone happened to notice that the buttons weren’t quite working right – I know that at least one person did – they’re fixed now.

    Donate freely, send us all your dead Presidents, rest assured they’ll be put to the very best of uses.

  23. Harlan
    Harlan June 13, 2014 at 12:19 am |

    “Donate freely, send us all your dead Presidents, rest assured they’ll be put to the very best of uses.”

    Well maybe. Maybe the best of uses would be to send them to Fred, or Mumbles or 108 or whomever. Or maybe even better, because I work hard for my money, I should spend what little I have on my family and me. Not that I don’t love and appreciate Brad and his message, but he is rather low on the scrotum pole.

    1. stonemirror
      stonemirror June 13, 2014 at 9:49 am |

      Everybody’s got priorities, certainly.

      My main point is that in order for you to love and appreciate Brad and his message in this form, a number of things are required, or at least highly desirable, to make that possible:

      1. registered domain(s)
      2. valid SSL certificates
      3. hosting
      4. connectivity to the Internet
      5. shelter, food, water, etc.

      In this Imperfect World, all of these devolve into a need for actual cash at some point. Sorry, man, I didn’t do it.

      1. Harlan
        Harlan June 14, 2014 at 1:30 am |

        No it’s cool.
        Truth is I don’t love Brad. I like Brad.
        I know he isn’t rich but
        no way will I give money to someone who collects rubber monsters and has cable, not that there is anything wrong with cable..
        I buy his books.

  24. AnneMH
    AnneMH June 13, 2014 at 6:26 am |

    Thank you for the subscription choice! I tend to forget quite a bit and this will help , I feel strongly about supporting our teachers. I have had teachers that straight up say they need support and are willing to share how many hours they spend working on sharing what they have to offer. In Buddhism some teachers such as monastics are not allowed to ask for donations, however American society doesn’t really get it like they understand donations to church. When a local nun visits our group one of us facilitators gives the dana talk.

    I get frustrated with hippies, and it probably is largely my own issues being a Gen X and feeling that we kinda got skipped in the economic boon and then blamed for things like not working hard enough. yeah personal shit, but as punks we watched the world changing ideas not live up to the ideals. plus if you know history then you realize there has always been a counter culture, a set of people who can’t quite fit in, and try to question the dominant culture. We need that, every generation, to keep us from stagnant. I have actually many times wished I could just change this, but most of the time I really like being this way.

    And I can’t stand John Lennon’s Imagine.

  25. The Idiot
    The Idiot June 13, 2014 at 7:31 am |

    “Let us not forget that the boys who wrote ‘All You Need Is Love’ had an awful lot of money.”

    ~ Steve Martin

  26. Steve
    Steve June 13, 2014 at 8:47 am |

    @AnneMH – I can’t stand “Imagine” by John Lennon either. It seems like just a really weak rip-off of the great “Let It Be”. Both the music, but also the lyrics. Except that Let It Be is far deeper. Instead of acknowledging that he might be part of the problem, Lennon stands above it in his typically adolescent way. “Come join me and the world will live as one! Cause I’m already good! No hour of darkness for me! No finding myself in times of trouble. I’m the solution here.” i could go on and on with reasons why i don’t like the song. sometimes i feel like the only person in the world who doesn’t like it.

  27. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote June 13, 2014 at 5:07 pm |

    Marblehead, you are probably right, on the dana dana ding dong thing.

    Those good-for-nothing hippies.

    Have a seat, won’t you, I’ll be right back.

    1. Mark Foote
      Mark Foote June 13, 2014 at 10:31 pm |

      (urk!) Stone Mirror, not Marblehead. ‘Pardons, Stone Mirror.

  28. Mumbles
    Mumbles June 13, 2014 at 5:23 pm |

    “At one point we had felt like misfits or we had felt like ‘others,’” Carrie Brownstein recently said of the time she shared with Phair–in her case, in her own indie-rock community, in Olympia, Washington. “It was supposed to be come one, come all, you know? Freaks gather round and we’ll provide you with shelter. And you get in these scenes and you realize, no, I’ve gone from one set of rules and regulations and codifications of how you should dress and what you should know to another… What should have been inclusive felt very exclusive… there were times when I felt very flummoxed by the rules, very alienated, and I was trying way too hard to figure out not just what band to like, but am I liking the right album from that band. And then, am I liking the right band member in that band? Am I liking the right song on the right record? Have I picked the right year to stop liking the band?”

    1. Mumbles
      Mumbles June 13, 2014 at 5:25 pm |

      -From an article on Liz Phair in: Real Life Rock Top Ten
      A Monthly Column of Everyday Culture and Found Objects
      by Greil Marcus in the June 2014 issue of The Believer

      1. Fred
        Fred June 13, 2014 at 5:49 pm |

        The counter-culture always gets absorbed into the mainstream culture, and
        becomes trendy and cool.

        Except for Texas, where cowboys ride around on horses and shoot hippies.

        In Ontario, Canada, the hippy values from 40 years ago, are taught as curriculum
        in grade school.

        Life is a joke.

  29. The Idiot
    The Idiot June 13, 2014 at 6:18 pm |

    What about the counter-culture of low income fast food restaurant employees?

  30. IuseComputers
    IuseComputers June 13, 2014 at 6:37 pm |

    Some good points in the comments above summarizing some issues with punk scenes and hippy circles. People reject straight society for many reasons and when they come together in alternative societies one predictable result is that the roles of regular society are resumed. There are leaders, followers, rebels, jokers, horn dogs and people like myself (somewhat introverted). It would be amazing to find a place where all agendas were dropped. But of course we all have them and that will most likely never happen.

    The most comical counter culture experience I ever had was an anarchist meeting outside of Tucson, AZ. Punks, desert folks, militia types, intellectuals…and they all had different ideas of what anarchy is or should be. So there was really no way to move forward in the conversation. Any sort of system anyone tried to implement to even move the conversation along was the very sort of thing that hardly anyone there had any patience for!

  31. Jinzang
    Jinzang June 13, 2014 at 6:59 pm |

    ” We were both particularly struck by the crowd on the one hand laughing with smug superiority at a story the Tibetan guy told about a girl requesting a love spell from him, and then subsequently chanting sanskrit nonsense at the closing of the talk enthusiastically, and without any sense of irony.”

    They laughed because going to a Tibetan lama to request a love spell is silly, on par with going to a Zen teacher and asking for martial arts techniques. Having been to my fair share of talks, I’ll bet what came next was an explanation of what the point of Tibetan practice really is. I think it would have been wiser to give greater weight to what was said then than to this story and people’s reaction to it. The closing chants were probably in Tibetan, not Sanskrit. Many Buddhist groups continue the practice of reciting prayers in foreign languages: Theravadins in Pali, Zen Buddhist in Japanese, and so on. Other groups stick strictly to Western languages.. Though you and your girlfriend may find chanting in a foreign language equally as silly as aking for love spells, logically they are two different and distinct things and one can criticize the first and praise the second without contradiction.

    1. Hungry Ghost
      Hungry Ghost June 14, 2014 at 10:21 am |

      To me chanting a mantra (and it was Sanskrit, not Tibetan) is basically the same as casting a spell – they seem equally irrational to me, and so from my perspective people were exhibiting a lack of awareness of their own irrationality by laughing condescendingly at another person’s irrationality, which I found uncompassionate – a love ritual and an enlightenment ritual seem logically identical to me, maybe one is philosophically more sophisticated in its goal, but they’re both illogical rituals.
      But, here I have to criticise myself – I’m irrational and condescending quite often, in spite of my best efforts, and as Minkfoot pointed out above, there are other plausible interpretations of the group’s laughter that I didn’t consider when I made my kneejerk contribution to the comments here.
      That admission aside, how would you gauge which ritual behaviours are illogical and which aren’t? Which rituals are worthy of ridicule and which aren’t?

  32. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote June 13, 2014 at 10:03 pm |

    Not sure, not sure. Couldn’t say. Give up? Ok.

    What’s the use, of a revolution without general copulation? Or is that borderline personality disorder writ large?

    Here’s the deal; deuces high, aces low. Chant if you like, try not to spit on the brocade.

    “F*@!k everybody is my policy, but the theory is you just don’t know what’s waiting for you around that corner…” Warren Zevon, live in Cleveland

    1. Fred
      Fred June 14, 2014 at 6:49 am |

      True, the monkeys have got to copulate.

      1. Fred
        Fred June 14, 2014 at 10:44 am |

        “That admission aside, how would you gauge which ritual behaviours are illogical and which aren’t? Which rituals are worthy of ridicule and which aren’t?”

        Thought is a human representation of something, but not necessarily that which

        And logic is a type of thought processing, but not necessarily related to the
        direct understanding of insight.

        Having gained insight, is it necessary to ridicule anything?

  33. Jinzang
    Jinzang June 14, 2014 at 12:08 pm |

    “how would you gauge which ritual behaviours are illogical and which aren’t? Which rituals are worthy of ridicule and which aren’t?”

    Simple answer. Any practice is irrational if the cost outweighs the benefits. The cost of a ritual is easy to measure – the time and effort spent doing it. The benefit is harder to judge.

    Many people (maybe not you, but many) are attracted to meditation but want nothing to do with the rest of Buddhism – the statues on the altar, the chants, the bowing, and in the case of Tibetan Buddhism, sadhana practice and recitation of mantras. The point being, all that stuff is done for a reason. But if I tell you the reason, your greedy little mind will seize on it and that will reduce the power of the practice. Your teacher, if you have one, does not tell you everything. You have to have the trust that what he tells you to do is beneficial. Some people can’t do that, and that’s a pity.

    Point is, one of the obstacles to our practice is a subtle greed. That greed is always asking what’s in it for me? Doing something the bores you out of your skull (meditation), seems completely ridiculous (100,000 prostrations) or is mind numbingly repetitive (a million mantras) is one way of working with that greed. Really, Buddhism is set up to bore you silly.

  34. Jinzang
    Jinzang June 14, 2014 at 12:25 pm |

    A bit of serendipity. I wa sjust browsing Facebook and read a quote by one of my teachers, Khenpo Tsultrim Tenzin, from a talk he gave in a bookstore in Asheville:

    “Lots of Buddhism, especially Tibetan Buddhism, … always [has] a sense of wanting to get something, become something, build something, and Buddha will give something, … and from the Dharma, you’ll get some power … always wishing to receive something. We don’t need to [receive anything].

    “My understanding of Buddhism is [similar] to that reality TV show ‘Biggest Loser’: The more you lose, the more you win. We don’t need to gain anything. The nature of wisdom — enlightenment — is already there. The only problem is … we have defilement. The problem is our nature is covered by … afflictive emotions, [by] delusion. Because of that, we cannot see. So we have to lose [the] delusions. And, the more we lose those delusions, the more we become free.”

    1. Alan Sailer
      Alan Sailer June 15, 2014 at 11:47 am |


      Joko Beck frequently makes the point that practice is an endless accumulation of losses.

      When I first read that I thought she was wrong…


  35. shade
    shade June 14, 2014 at 12:30 pm |

    “…how would you gauge which ritual behaviors are illogical and which aren’t? Which rituals are worthy of ridicule and which aren’t?”

    To apply standards of logic and rational thinking to ritual… ah, the question itself is sort of odd. Isn’t ritual by definition irrational? Perhaps it depends on the end to which a given ritual is performed. If one chants or prays or participates in some sort of liturgical rite in order to achieve a given end, whether worldly or divine (enlightenment, salvation, international disarmament, a shiny new car…), then yes, the whole thing smacks of paganism and sorcery. But I’m not certain that that’s what’s going on. Nor the use of an obscure “dead language” necessarily a sign that the practitioners are engaging in some sort of cultish elitism. I mean I don’t know, I wasn’t there, and certainly that sort of thing goes down in religious communities the world over… but I think one should be careful about disdaining a given practice just because it’s foreign to one’s sensibilities (I have to admit though, I’ve always found the Tibetan branch of Buddhism rather suspect).

    But actually this kind of reminds me of the complicated history of Latin in the Christian church. I’m in no position to criticize, having no official ties to that community either, but I think it’s kind of shame liturgical Latin has gone out of fashion in the last half century or so, simply because I think those old hymns are beautiful. Maybe something similar could be said for Sanskrit… but then, there’s nothing logical or rational about beauty either.

    You can make fun of anything you want. But be mindful, because your ridicule may blind you to something worth genuine respect, even reverence. (Assuming you don’t have utter contempt for such a notion in the first place. But then why would one waste a moment of one’s time listening to some “Tibetan guy”?)

  36. Mumbles
    Mumbles June 14, 2014 at 12:43 pm |

    “Lose you delusions” that was G&R, right? Never been a fan. Well, not after “Welcome to the Jugular.”

    “Many people (maybe not you, but many) are attracted to meditation but want nothing to do with the rest of Buddhism…”

    I think that’s quite true, Jinzang, and for good reason; most come from stultifyingly boring Christian ritual traditions, with their statues and prayers and bowing and prostrations and horrible songs and chanting and want something different.

  37. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote June 14, 2014 at 3:16 pm |

    C’mon, Brad– admit it, you love the clothes and the rituals! The statues and prayers and bowing and prostrations and (lovely little metta) songs and chanting… you know.

    Found a copy of Blue Cliff Record Volume 2 today, translated by Cleary and Cleary (the guys in the Muppet Christmas Carol):

    “One day Ch’ang Sha went wandering in the mountains. Upon returning, when he got to the gate(1), the head monk asked, ‘Where are you coming from, Master?'(2)

    Sha said, ‘From wandering in the mountains.’ (3)

    The head monk asked, ‘Where did you go?’ (4)

    Sha said, ‘First I went pursuing the fragrant grasses, then I returned following the falling flowers.” (5)

    The head monk said, ‘How very much like the sense of springtime.’ (6)

    Sha said, ‘It even surpasses the autumn dew dripping on the lotuses’ (7). Hsueh Tou added the remark, ‘Thanks for your reply’. (8)

    1) Today, one day. He has only fallen into the weeds, at first he was falling into the weeds, later he was still falling into the weeds.
    2) He still wants to try this old fellow. The arrow has flown past Korea.
    3) Don’t fall into the weeds. He’s suffered quite a loss. A man in the weeds.
    4) A thrust. If he had gone anywhere, he couldn’t avoid falling into the weeds. They drag each other into a pit of fire.
    5) He’s let slip quite a bit. From the beginning he’s just been sitting in a forest of thorns.
    6) He comes following along, adding error to error; one hand uplifts, one hand presses down.
    7) He adds mud to dirt. The first arrow was light; the second arrow was deep. What end will there ever be?
    8) A group of fellows playing with a mud ball. The three have their crimes listed on the same indictment.” (pg 269, here, in this 2nd volume 1977 edition)

    Commentary by Yuanwu. From the introduction to volume 1:

    “‘The Blue Cliff Record’ gained great popularity in a short time, so much so that Ta Hui, an influential successor of Yuanwu… destroyed the printing blocks because he observed that enthusiasm for eloquence and beauty of expression was hindering people from directly experiencing enlightenment on their own.”

  38. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote June 14, 2014 at 3:19 pm |

    Meaning 1-8 commentary by Yuanwu, and in the introduction to volume 1 we learn of someone else who should have his crimes listed on the same indictment, the influential successor of Yuanwu.

  39. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote June 14, 2014 at 3:22 pm |

    From Wikipedia:

    “Another key legend regards Dogen Zenji (道元禅師; 1200 — 1253), who brought the Soto Zen sect to Japan: After an extended visit to China for the purpose of studying Zen, on the night before his planned return to Japan, Dogen saw the Bìyán Lù for the first time, and stayed up all night making a handwritten copy of the book. Given the size of the book, this story is most likely apocryphal.”

    Dogen did, however, use thirty koans from Biyan Lu in one of his collections.

  40. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote June 14, 2014 at 4:53 pm |

    “if you go to a Japanese style, you are expressing a Japanese style– you are not expressing yourself. … ‘well, two hundred years ago I am taught like this’, therefore you maintain that type of attitude.” Style tends to separate man, because you have your own doctrine, that becomes the gospel truth, that you cannot change. But if you do not have style, if you just say, well, here I am, as a human being; how can I express myself totally and completely? That way you won’t create a style, because style is a crystallization.”

  41. The Idiot
    The Idiot June 14, 2014 at 5:57 pm |
  42. Mumbles
    Mumbles June 14, 2014 at 9:40 pm |



  43. The Idiot
    The Idiot June 15, 2014 at 6:48 am |

    Haha, thanks Mumbles 🙂

  44. minkfoot
    minkfoot June 15, 2014 at 8:37 am |

    If ritual is undesirable because it is not rational, what about music?

    Paganism and sorcery are bad by definition, right?

    Somebody pointed out that losing allegiance to Abrahamism doesn’t necessarily meaning leaving its framework, especially the WASPy form, where one condemns animistic ritual as ranker superstition than enlightened, civilized Christian forms. Of course, one’s own rituals always have legitimate purpose and meaning to them, and superstition is what the other fellow believes.

    There is a difference between a love spell, meant for individual gain, and a mantra making merit for the benefit of universal liberation. It’s not the *spell* part that was objectionable. But laughing at someone else’s foibles as a means to assert one’s superiority is even more objectionable.

    When one takes up a religious practice, should one not accept the traditional forms until one is deeply familiar enough to judge whether they have value or not? For example, sutra-chanting: it took a while to realize that there is a direct transformative effect on the consciousness that bypasses thinking. And isn’t an ability to whole-heartedly prostrate to the objects of gratitude a type of handicap?

    Levels of paradigms to transcend,
    layers of the rotting onion.

    1. Alan Sailer
      Alan Sailer June 15, 2014 at 11:43 am |

      “For example, sutra-chanting: it took a while to realize that there is a direct transformative effect on the consciousness that bypasses thinking.”

      Thank you Minkfoot. That was very helpful.


  45. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote June 15, 2014 at 9:52 am |

    “it took a while to realize that there is a direct transformative effect on the consciousness that bypasses thinking.”–

    Madison Avenue, look out!

    1. Jinzang
      Jinzang June 15, 2014 at 3:24 pm |

      “Madison Avenue, look out!”

      Madison Avenue already knows this.

  46. Fred
    Fred June 15, 2014 at 4:15 pm |

    How would chanting sutras have a direct transformative effect on the consciousness that bypasses thinking?

    Words link to other words and thoughts that lead to identification with the

    The unsupported has no legs – Jinzang posted this.

Comments are closed.