Authenticity in Los Angeles


I just got back from Los Angeles and boy are my brains tired.

I always find that shorter distances are more difficult than longer ones when it comes to jet lag. I can usually recover from a trip from LA to Tokyo, with a time difference of ten hours, in a couple days. But it always seems like it takes me a week to recover from the three hour time difference between Ohio and California. So I’m all spaced out right now.

And, of course, as soon as I leave Ohio, the weather gets nice here. I think the temperatures were warmer on average in Akron last week than they were in Los Angeles.

I did two Zen events while in California, one all-day zazen micro-retreat at the Hill Street Center in Santa Monica and a talk at Against The Stream, Noah Levine’s place in Hollywood. I also appeared on Suicide Girls radio with hosts Nicole Powers and Darrah De Jour. The other guests were two women who work at The Dominion, an S&M; club on Venice Blvd. in LA. Snow Mercy was a tall dominant and Koko was a teeny little submissive. It was a pretty interesting chat.

We also filmed some more of the documentary they’re making about me. I’m determined that this will not be the standard type of reverential fluff-piece that usually comes out when people are doing documentaries about so-called “spiritual teachers.” So I’ve been doing my best to try and trash any hint of that. Hopefully the finished product will at least be funny and entertaining. The photos on this post are stills from last week’s shoot.

I think it’s really vital to destroy the image that has been built up of what a “spiritual teacher” is supposed to be. I feel like no good can possibly come of the belief in supposedly perfected beings. They simply do not exist.

On the other hand I have no doubt I’d be far more successful in the way that term is usually defined if I just played the role that’s expected of someone in my position rather than constantly questioning it. I just don’t see that as a way to do anyone any good. And not only that, I wouldn’t enjoy it as much as I enjoy acting like an idiot in front of a camera or an audience.

People in this Eastern spirituality business often talk a lot about something they call “authenticity.” But usually what they call authenticity seems to me more like fitting into a mold of what someone else imagines authenticity ought to look like. I think it’s time someone tried being truly authentic for a change. It’s more fun that way anyhow.

67 Responses

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  1. Mysterion
    Mysterion March 19, 2012 at 2:16 pm | |

    Sea Gull sed:

    "Wisdom is…"

    wisdom is OLD. when confronted with a problem, the people would go ask the old man. perhaps he had seen it before. perhaps he would know what to do.

    it works

    as long as there isn't a tsunami bearing down on your helpless ass…

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 19, 2012 at 3:19 pm | |

    Or the old guy is, well, you know who.

  3. Max Entropy
    Max Entropy March 19, 2012 at 3:20 pm | |

    "That's one word repeated once." – Weasel Tracks

    It really annoys me when someone nitpicks my nitpicking. Especially when I can't think of anything to explain, even in a convoluted, illogical way, that what I wrote was correct. And don't think that I didn't try.

  4. Jinzang
    Jinzang March 19, 2012 at 5:33 pm | |

    Nags method is to deconstruct – but the outcome, whats left, while conceptually empty, is experientially positive.

    Sure, emptiness is only negative in the sense of deconstructing false views. In every other sense it's positive.

  5. Rimshot Seagullski
    Rimshot Seagullski March 19, 2012 at 5:34 pm | |

    Anxiety may be compared with dizziness. He whose eye happens to look down into the yawning abyss becomes dizzy. But what is the reason for this? It is just as much in his own eyes as in the abyss . . . Hence, anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.

  6. Jinzang
    Jinzang March 19, 2012 at 6:00 pm | |

    There's more than one sense of authentic, as in the phrase "an authentic teacher teaching authentic Zen."

    It seems to me that newcomers worry a lot about authenticity because they're afraid of getting sucked into a cult. They're afraid that after the sitting the cups will be handed out and the teacher will pass a pitcher of Kool-Aid around. So the big question becomes is this teacher genuine and how can I tell?

    The answer people usually settle on is to judge by conduct. That's an entirely reasonable answer, but unfortunately the wrong one. And it has a bad effect on the teacher who wishes to impress their students, or at least not disappoint them, who reacts by trying to act better than they actually are. Both sides, student and teacher, are perfectly sincere, but the result is that what is taught is not the dharma, but the eight worldly winds.

    Teachers should be judged on their motivation for teaching and their understanding of what they are trying to teach. They shouldn't try to hide their faults from their students. But this is not the road to success.

    Here's a story about my former martial arts teacher. A prospective student came into the school and spoke to him about joining. After the conversation he decided not to, saying that my teacher didn't look like a martial arts teacher. And he didn't. He looked like a Chinese gentleman rather than the self-important bully the prospective student was expecting.

    So the situation is complicated and the new student's position is difficult.

  7. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote March 19, 2012 at 9:55 pm | |

    "Authenticity in Los Angeles" is an oxymoron.

    An authentic, genuine article, versus the grifter:

    'The snake oil peddler became a stock character in Western movies: a travelling "doctor" with dubious credentials, selling fake medicines with boisterous marketing hype, often supported by pseudo-scientific evidence. To increase sales, an accomplice in the crowd (a shill) would often attest to the value of the product in an effort to provoke buying enthusiasm. The "doctor" would leave town before his customers realized they had been cheated.[1] This practice is also called grifting and its practitioners are called grifters.'

    (from Wikipedia

    In the words of Eustice P. McGargle:

    "And if we should ever separate, my little plum, I want to give you just one bit of fatherly advice: Never give a sucker an even break!"

    I've read one of Brad's books, and as soon as I laid it down I realized there was no more of being Mr. So-and-So for me. I would recommend it to anyone!

    "Just then a bolt of lightning
    Struck the courthouse out of shape
    And while evrybody knelt to pray
    The grifter did escape" (apologies to Bob)

    proving I'm not a robot: terenumb ndKey

  8. Moni
    Moni March 20, 2012 at 2:56 am | |

    Authentic is: you act according to your own principles, and you act more than you talk about it.

  9. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 20, 2012 at 5:08 am | |

    my teacher says brad projects most of the time.

  10. sarwar
    sarwar March 20, 2012 at 7:21 am | |

    nice work keep it up

  11. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote March 20, 2012 at 8:07 am | |

    Brad projects, you say that like it's a bad thing!

    Most teachers project an aura of authenticity and ancestral foundation, don't they? Even math teachers.

    Kind of goes with the territory. Charisma helps to make a great teacher, I guess. Also a great grifter. Just because a teacher doesn't project, doesn't mean they aren't a grifter, right?

  12. proulx michel
    proulx michel March 20, 2012 at 9:08 am | |

    For the Ojibway, the creator god is Nanabush, the Great Hare. He is a trickster, which accounts for the awkwardness of the Creation. Great costume for you, here, Brad!

  13. proulx michel
    proulx michel March 20, 2012 at 9:15 am | |

    I also suspect that Nanabush was the prototype for Bugs Bunny…

  14. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 20, 2012 at 9:19 am | |

    "when confronted with a problem, the people would go ask the old man. perhaps he had seen it before. perhaps he would know what to do."

    Perhaps he would but you never know.

    Perhaps the old man is vain and set in his ways. Perhaps he would proudly insist on doing the one thing which would worsen the problem.

    Perhaps the man only imagines himself to be wise. Perhaps he is so narcistic he can't imagine ever being wrong. Perhaps he decided what was true as a youth. Perhaps the old man stopped learning at such an early age that his unsolicited advice is mostly bad. Perhaps he lost what little wisdom he ever possessed. Perhaps he is so opinionated that imagines he has nothing left to learn. Perhaps his main interest is political polarization and dualistic thinking. Perhaps the old man just likes to hear himself talk.

  15. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 20, 2012 at 9:22 am | |

    Dear Master Seagal,

    I saw a commercial for your new TV show. Looks shitty. Anyway, best wishes. I always enjoy your original insights and points of wisdom here on Brad's blog.

  16. john e mumbles
    john e mumbles March 20, 2012 at 2:44 pm | |

    Seagal was cool in Machette.

    At least he wears an obviously fake-ass rug.

  17. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 20, 2012 at 4:53 pm | |

    mark you said projecting was a bad thing not commenter.

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