BORIS YELTSIN, APRIL 28th ZAZEN, OTHER STUFF

First off, in tribute to Russia’s fallen statesman, Boris Yeltsin, I present the following video. Some of you have seen this before. It’s My Niece’s Foot, the band I was in in Japan in 1993-94. The song started off as a weird Russian inflected country hoedown jam by Nick (violin) and Sam (guitar). I started shouting, “Boris Yeltsin! Boris Yeltsin!” in hardcore style and so the song was born. Later on when Emily (vocals, tambourine, Asprin bottle) joined we added the heavy metal bit in the middle. That part began life as a separate song titled “Depressing Zoo,” all about the very depressing little zoo in Takaoka, the town where we lived at the time. Parts of the video come from the gig we did on a moving street car.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3btU9eN0M0]

Also, I’d like to remind everyone that on April 28th we’ll have our monthly one-day retreat at the Hill Street Center. Details are over there in the links on your left. Come along and spend a day staring at walls together with us! I’m still amazed at how few people show up to the Saturday Zen classes. Last week there were 6 of us, including me. When I give a talk lots of people show up. But ask people to try out a little of the practice and they all scatter. I know many of you are nowhere near Santa Monica. But I’m also aware that many of you are very near Santa Monica and still don’t show up. It’s not that scary. OK? I don’t yell and scream. I don’t bite. No one will hit you with a stick. No one will try to make you join the group.

There was other stuff I was gonna say, but now I can’t remember what it was. I gotta go do my real job anyway.

38 Responses

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  1. el duderino
    el duderino April 23, 2007 at 12:42 pm | |

    great song.
    any influence in there from phish, and their “david bowie”?
    and what are your thoughts on phish, or on the psychadelic jamband genre in general?

  2. javajunkee
    javajunkee April 23, 2007 at 4:11 pm | |

    have you tried advertising on craigslist.org? a little announcement on there from time to time might draw a person or two…

  3. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 23, 2007 at 4:45 pm | |

    Maybe you should tell people that you will yell at people and hit them with sticks, people probably will show up for that. In fact, I understand a lot of people get paid good money for that kind of fun.

  4. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 23, 2007 at 6:27 pm | |

    Dude, you’d probably have a much
    better turn-out for zazen if you
    lived in Austin.

  5. DA
    DA April 23, 2007 at 8:05 pm | |

    I’d be more interested if you DID hit peoples with sticks. Know anyone in the US who does?

  6. Gregor
    Gregor April 23, 2007 at 8:47 pm | |

    I’d love to join you for Zazen. However, I’m currently residing in Vermont.

    My father spends a good chunk of his time in Santa Monica, I hope to visit him next time he goes out your way.

    If I make it Santa Monica, I’ll be sure to join in the fun.

    Regards,

    Greg

  7. Chris
    Chris April 23, 2007 at 9:50 pm | |

    You know it’s funny, I just don’t have time to do zazen and go running in the morning. There may be lot’s of super stuff I’m missing with the whole staring-at-the-walls thing, but it’s a choice between that and running to the beach and throwing sticks with my dog down, and farting into a couch cushions just never seems to win that particular battle. Mostly because my dog looks at me like: “Dude: the frikkin’ beach, dude. C’mon!”

    And that’s just it for me I guess. Who cares what’s at the bottom of the whole consciousness thing if you can’t get at it while doing things like chucking a stick with your dog? Do I really, really have to be sitting on my ass to get it? Really? I mean you should see the look my dog gives me: he thinks I am the biggest jackass in the world when I choose between him and the cushion.

    So in all seriousness, why should I?

  8. softcore zen
    softcore zen April 23, 2007 at 10:04 pm | |

    Yes, Chris, my dog always wins, too. There is simply no way to turn her down. And for her, it’s “The Paaaark! Let’s GOOOOOO!! It’s OUTSIDE!!!!”

    And, after, say, 45 seconds of sitting with my eyes closed, I peek and, yep, there she is, staring at me, quaking with anticipation. One simply has no hope of winning against such tactics. :)

    I wonder how many Zen Masters were dog owners?

    :)

    Peace, all

  9. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 24, 2007 at 12:16 am | |

    Your choice.

  10. Infernon
    Infernon April 24, 2007 at 3:25 am | |

    You know, if you live near a Zen teacher or a place of practice, you owe to those of us who don’t to go and sit:P

  11. johnnyBgood
    johnnyBgood April 24, 2007 at 3:41 am | |

    Trust me, I would be there if I could. Just passed on details of your books to our publisher to explore translation into Dutch.

  12. esmerelda_verde
    esmerelda_verde April 24, 2007 at 6:39 am | |

    That was really good! You sound a lot like Gogol Bordello. You did it first. Most people don’t know what a great punk band sound the violin has.

  13. Jared
    Jared April 24, 2007 at 8:27 am | |

    I really like the song, Brad.

    Greg: what part of Vermont do you live in? I’m also in the Green Mountain state, in the Burlington/Williston area.

    Esmerelda: Gogol Bordello is amazing!

  14. UncaDan
    UncaDan April 24, 2007 at 8:42 am | |

    Cool bass, cool video. I’ve noticed on the 0DFX videos Brad plays a Peavy T-40 bass. This was the first decent bass I owned and used for many years before I could afford a decent Fender. My current companion is a ’67 Fender Jazz bass which I have had for about 20 years now and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

    I would like to do zazen, I think I’m ready. My problem is that all the Zen centers in my area are located in the part of the city that is the hardest to get to and the most frustrating to drive around.

    In a city (Milwaukee, WI)where it is possible to drive from one end to the other in less than an hour, a 45 minute drive through the most confusing part of town to sit on a cushion is a bit of a deterrent.

    Now if Brad could do a talk at the Milwaukee Zen Center (mentioned in his previous post) I might be persuaded to at least check things out.

    As for home practice, I would like to get some formal instruction before I try it on my own, just to get the feel.

    Excuses, excuses, excuses.

  15. Jules
    Jules April 24, 2007 at 11:39 am | |

    You know, it doesn’t have to be a choice between the beach/park and zazen. It is possible to, for example, go to the beach for a half-hour, then go home and sit for a half hour in a room with a closed door between you and the now-tired dog. It’s also possible (and pretty nice, really) to sit at a park, though a dog would likely be too much of a distraction there. If your life is really so tightly scheduled that you can’t spare a half hour a day, maybe you could sacrifice something else, like for instance, reading blogs on the Internet.

    These suggestions are pretty obvious, really. Zazen doesn’t sound very appealing, and obviously playing with your dog is a lot more fun. But you might want to ask yourself why you feel the need to post excuses here. If you’re really not interested, stop wasting time reading this and get your ass outside. :-)

  16. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 24, 2007 at 11:59 am | |

    Brad – If you’re not that scary.. Just return the original Jules for the Warner clone. No questions asked..

  17. Jules
    Jules April 24, 2007 at 12:35 pm | |

    I pre-ordered “Sit Down and Shut Up” and I was just notified that it has shipped, and it’s expected delivery date is my birthday. Quelle coincidence!

  18. Ryuei
    Ryuei April 24, 2007 at 1:43 pm | |

    I think I’m beginning to get another idea of why Zhaozhou said “No!” when asked if dogs have Buddha-nature. :)

    Namu Myoho Renge Kyo,
    Ryuei

  19. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 24, 2007 at 5:49 pm | |

    Ucadan,

    Here’s some zazen instruction:

    http://www.dogensangha.org/video.htm

  20. Jinzang
    Jinzang April 24, 2007 at 6:03 pm | |

    A 45 minute drive through the most confusing part of town to sit on a cushion is a bit of a deterrent.

    If you have some spare cash, get a Tom Tom. Seriously. They’re great and unlike some of the competition, they work with Macs. The go to that zendo and park your ass on a cushion. Or drop by the Shambhala Center and say hi to Robin Kornman for me.

  21. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 24, 2007 at 10:30 pm | |

    Jinzang said…

    >> It’s all MYTH. Wake up!
    >

    > For the n-th time: Buddhism isn’t something
    > to BELIEVE. It’s something to PRACTICE.

    OK, but how *much* practice, and for how
    long, before one can conclude that the the
    experiment is worth continuing, or that it
    has succeeded, or that it has failed? Or
    that you are not conducting the experiment
    incorrectly — not following the proper
    procedure, tasty recipe,
    effective algorithm?

    Hmm, sounds like

    “the practice WORKS. There’s 2500 years
    worth of evidence to prove it.”

    could be a belief or delusion or myth too.

    In order to “PRACTICE”, you have to “BELIEVE”
    that this undertaking might be worthwhile.
    And for that, you have to have some trust
    or faith in what longtime practitioners
    claim. (Practitioners of other religions or
    whatever make similar claims — do this and
    get that — and many, if not most, Zen
    “teachers” have proven themselves to be
    extremely untrustworthy.)

    (BTW, to get a PhD, you need at least three
    PhDs on your dissertation committee. How
    come you don’t need at least three “Zen
    Masters” to give you Dharma Transmission?
    You know, like get at least three different
    quotes before you hire a plumber, sort of,
    in a way, kind of.)

    And, unlike a scientific experiment, the
    results are not reproducible every time.

    Here it is straight from the horse’s mouth:

    “Its obviously true that even people
    whove spent decades practicing Zazen can
    be complete assholes with absolutely no
    understanding of reality and nothing at all
    of any value to say. This happens when people
    use their time on the cushion to get deeper
    and deeper into their own delusions and when
    such delusions are encouraged by poor teachers
    I remained convinced, though, that folks
    like this are the minority. So you cant even
    hold up something called Zazen and say, here
    it is, this will automatically work for
    everyone every time.”

    So, if Genpo became Brad’s student, would Brad
    be able to “teach” him. Apparently, even Gudo
    and translating Dogen straight from medieval
    Japanese couldn’t “teach” Mike Cross.

    What good are teachers?
    What is a “good” student?
    Are some people just unteachable?

    Siddhartha Gautama didn’t have no stinkin’ teacher,
    other than reality right-here-and-right-now.

    Damn, whatever point any of this might have
    been approaching seems to be disappearing
    amidst overwhelming sleepiness — voila!
    insomnia defeated!

    Good night, and good luck.

    Oh yeah, here’s the question: At what point
    do I throw in the towel and say “Well, I gave
    it my best shot and zazen just doesn’t seem
    to work, or at least not for me — I guess I
    better go spend that half hour a day some other
    way” ?

    PS Minimum cost of Zen in today’s US dollars:

    ($2.50/day)* x (365 days/year) x (25 years) = $22,812.50

    * ~25 minutes of American minimum wage

    Dang! That could almost pay for a
    Triple Mocha Soy Latte everyday for 25 years,
    or one Big Honkin’ Iraqi-Guzzlin’ Hummer SUV!

    Well, gotta go sit.
    (Or not ;)

  22. gunderloy
    gunderloy April 24, 2007 at 11:01 pm | |

    anon – i think it ultimately comes down to faith. it is the killer irony of our no faith system that the people who believe most deeply, will consequently practice the hardest, and will finally understand the most.

  23. aumeye
    aumeye April 25, 2007 at 1:03 am | |

    Happy (upcoming) Birthday, Jules!

  24. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 25, 2007 at 3:35 am | |

    OK, but how *much* practice, and for how
    long, before one can conclude that the the
    experiment is worth continuing, or that it
    has succeeded, or that it has failed? Or
    that you are not conducting the experiment
    incorrectly — not following the proper
    procedure, tasty recipe,
    effective algorithm?

    think of it like jogging or stretching. it’s good for most. some people have dodgy knees and so jogging is bad for them. but still most people should jog/do some exercies everyday. ignore the ‘spritual’ progress side of it. just do it the way that you would go for a run and don;t worry about whether you’re doing it right too much.

  25. Koudelka
    Koudelka April 25, 2007 at 8:13 am | |

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  26. Brainiac
    Brainiac April 25, 2007 at 8:48 am | |

    Anonymous – I would say don’t expect anything. Success or failure ain’t whats important. Those judgments exist only in your head and the criteria is different for everybody. Sit everyday or dont. Eat meatball subs or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Just dont think about dinner when you’re eating lunch.

  27. Koudelka
    Koudelka April 25, 2007 at 10:08 am | |

    >>long anonymous
    You suck ass man, nobody is trying to convince you of anything. Believe in yourself, if you really find a way of existing in this world beyond all doubt then nobody can take that away from you.

    >>short anonymous
    When you get hungry, eat;
    When you get sleepy, lay down.
    Fools may laugh at me,
    But wise people will know what I mean to say.

    :D

  28. Jinzang
    Jinzang April 25, 2007 at 10:45 am | |

    At what point do I throw in the towel and say “Well, I gave it my best shot and zazen just doesn’t seem to work, or at least not for me — I guess I better go spend that half hour a day some other way?

    “Work” depends on your personal goal. What one person finds satisfying, another may not.

    From what I’ve seen in other practitioners, after several weeks of daily practice you can expect to be a calmer person. There will be a sense of peace after you practice, but it will be easily disrupted by disturbing circumstances.

    That sense of calm will continue to deepen as you practice. According to my teacher, you don’t get recognition of the nature of mind (kensho in Zen) until there are definite periods of no thoughts in your meditation practice. When recognition happens is highly variable: anywhere from one year to thirty years of daily practice. A lot depends on the individual here. Trying to fit your practice into an intellectual box is the usual problem.

    Even after kensho, you can be a total jerk and loser. (Met one or two myself.) The job here is applying the insight one has gained in practice to your behavior. This is the work of a lifetime.

    This is just my observations. Other opinions may differ.

    I’m not saying the effort will be worth it to everyone. If you’d rather spend your time playing Final Fantasy or sucking down a latte, be my guest. But I have no regrets about my practice.

  29. Martin
    Martin April 25, 2007 at 5:32 pm | |

    Brad, (or any of you guys) do you know if/when the Spanish translation of Hardcore Zen is coming out? Or is it out yet?
    Thanks for all the posting.
    Greetings from Madrid.

  30. Chris
    Chris April 25, 2007 at 9:40 pm | |

    “that the people who believe most deeply, will consequently practice the hardest, and will finally understand the most.”

    No, but seriously dude, just go running through the sprinklers with your dog. Fuck this “understanding” bullshit.

  31. magik
    magik April 26, 2007 at 12:57 pm | |

    Nicely put, Jinzang. And thanks for answering my question a few articles back.

    I see zen as a stabilizing force in my life. I sometimes get irritable or annoyed at very trivial matters and so the almost therapeutic calm that comes with zazen is invaluble. I am more aware and in a generally friendly mood if I’ve been doing zazen properly. I am also keen on keeping my apartment clean and tidy when my mind is calm.

    So yea, Zazen is pretty good for my everyday life.

  32. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 26, 2007 at 9:01 pm | |

    Well said koudelka–long anonymous, you do indeed suck ass. :)

  33. Jules
    Jules April 27, 2007 at 11:05 am | |

    Thanks, Aumeye!

  34. Lone Wolf
    Lone Wolf April 27, 2007 at 10:17 pm | |

    I’m on my friends lap top at the Days Inn in Indianapolis. I went to a special event for Kurt Vonnegut Jr., in which his son, Mark, read Kurt’s planned speech. It was amazing, and pretty damn funny too. Afterwards, we went to Borders. I was browsing the Buddhist section and to my suprise(I thought the release date was in May) Sit Down and Shut up was starring me in the face. I would have came right to the hotel and started reading, but we decided to go see HOT FUZZ; the movie was hilarious, I highly recommend it. Well, I’m off to start reading SD&SU.; Looking forward to the conversations that are sparked from the book on here. Later.

  35. e
    e April 28, 2007 at 1:35 pm | |

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  36. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 29, 2007 at 3:38 pm | |

    Brad,
    I just finished reading your 2nd book and in my opinion it’s a classic. It tickles my brain and my guts like the best Zen writing does. Your 1st book was great and your 2nd one is even better. Congratulations and thank you.
    Bill

  37. Jinzang
    Jinzang April 29, 2007 at 5:17 pm | |

    Nicely put, Jinzang. And thanks for answering my question a few articles back.

    Thanks. I hate the cryptic pseudo-Zen style, so I always try to explain things as clearly as I can. But that clarity comes at a certain cost, and that’s distortion. What Zen is pointing at can’t be put into words and trying to do so is like making a flat map of our spherical world.

    From one perspective enlightenment is something you can get by practicing hard. From another perspective, we’re all enlightened already and trying to achieve something through practice is just putting a hat on a donkey. When I write I do it with the intention of helping people. But don’t take what I right too seriously, practice and see for yourself what’s so.

  38. Anonymous
    Anonymous June 12, 2007 at 7:28 am | |

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