Dogen Sangha International Post Mortem

I’m going to keep posting commercials until everyone in the world buys a copy of the Hardcore Zen audiobook.

This one came out pretty good. This was a surprise because I’m working with iMovie, which is a pain in the butt compared to Final Cut. I used to use Final Cut. But now the program no longer works so I’m stuck with iMovie. iMove is made for dad to edit out the parts where little Molly drools on the dog and then upload it to YouTube and not much else. Bending it to do what I’m doing takes a certain amount of what feels to me like fooling the program into doing things it doesn’t want to do.

Be that as it may. I was talking with Tim McCarthy, my first Zen teacher, yesterday about the demise of Dogen Sangha International (DSI) and about lineages in general. Tim pointed out that the Asian model for passing on lineages in things like Zen, the martial arts, tea ceremony and so on goes something like this. A teacher will often appoint several successors to whom he (or she, but I’ll use he for now) gives his blessing to teach as part of his lineage. When the teacher wishes to retire or feels he’s about to die, he will often single out one of these successors to inherit whatever that teacher has established in the form of a school. There may be property involved, there might be money, there might be a roster of students, teachers and other such members of that school.

In the case of DSI, the school was almost entirely conceptual. There was no property or money passed on to me and not even a list of members. The only property DSI may or may not have held were certain intellectual property items in the form of the copyrights to certain of Nishijima’s written work in English.

I say “may or may not” because even this was never really made clear to me. However, I had long believed that if there was one thing all of Nishijima Roshi’s dharma heirs agreed upon it was that some one person or entity should take charge of Nishijima Roshi’s written work. There has been a hell of a lot of bickering about Nishijima Roshi’s written material in English because he did not produce any of it by himself. He always worked with some native English speaker to turn his ideas into publishable English.

I had believed that all of this had been settled. I was well aware that a number of people were not entirely happy with the way it had been settled. But I had believed at least they accepted things. When I published my last blog I found out immediately that this was not true.

If I felt that Nishijima Roshi’s written legacy in English might disappear unless I entered into the fray and fought for DSI to administer all of this material, I might be inclined to fight about it. But everything is available, even if there are several sources for it. What matters is that it’s out there. Since this is true it doesn’t seem important to me to spend any effort on consolidating things.

What has happened in DSI regarding this material is precisely what always happens when people produce some kind of collaborative piece of art without stipulating one single person or entity as the sole owner of that thing. This is why filmmakers these days are usually very meticulous about having everyone involved sign contracts specifically stating what sort of compensation they will receive and what, if any, rights of ownership they’ll have over the finished product. You don’t want some guy whose only role in Titanic was to go “Arrrrrggghhh!!” and fall off the ship to start saying he now owns the whole movie.

There are currently no legal versions of any of the Ultraman programs made between 1966 and 1974 available outside of Japan because of problems of this nature. Eventually all the animosity involved in this tore the original Tsuburaya Productions apart. None of the Tsuburaya family are involved in the company that now bears their name.

Some of you who like to post in the comments section appear to believe that, as far as spiritual organizations go, this situation is unique to Dogen Sangha. This is because Dogen Sangha is far more open about our own shortcomings than anyone else in this business. We don’t have professional PR people, legal departments and so forth to promote a false image of solidarity like other spiritual organizations do. And trust me folks, they really do. Even the ones headed by those beatifically smiling faces you see on all the covers of the Buddhist mags. Especially them! This is one of the things I like about us. We are honest and open to a fault. It’s one of the reasons Dogen Sangha will never be as “successful” as those other spiritual organizations. But in my way of thinking this is the true success of Dogen Sangha.

The issue of the matter of there being multiple successors with one person being singled out as a kind of special successor, or head successor, or whatever, will always be a problem for organizations like Dogen Sangha. The Western solution in many cases seems to be to either try to create some kind of legal framework around this process or to democratize it or both. That’s how we handle things. That’s how we arrogantly think things must be handled.

But Buddhism isn’t like a government or a corporation. When you try to force it into that mold, it breaks. Lots of people will assure you this is not true. But they’re mistaken.

Typically when one person is singled out as some kind of special successor in cases like these, the older members of the group refuse to accept him, those who joined around the same time as the newly appointed special successor may grudgingly agree to go along, and those who join after the appointment has been made simply accept it. This is precisely what happened with DSI.

I don’t have any interest in trying to convince Nishijima Roshi’s older students to accept me as their new dharma daddy. It’s like asking me to join in a fight over who gets to eat the last chicken leg in the Col. Sanders bucket. I’m a vegetarian. I don’t care who eats it.

I also have no desire to lead Dogen Sangha International. It’s not fun. It doesn’t make money. It doesn’t make me a hit with the ladies. And worse than that it doesn’t even help spread the teachings of Dogen. So why do it? That’s a serious question that I have put to a number of people and I have never heard a single convincing answer.

Once when I was having some trouble with my little band of misfit meditators in Los Angeles, I went to see Mel Weitsman of the Berkeley Zen Center about it. After listening to me whine for a while, he asked, “What’s your bottom line with your group?” I had never thought about it like that. I said that my bottom line was, “I sit zazen ever day. On Saturdays I invite other people to sit with me.” And that was it. That’s what was at the very bottom for me.

In that case if someone were to come on Saturday and start making a lot of fuss and noise, they’d be interfering with my bottom line and I’d ask them to leave. If they refused to go, I’d end the practice of opening my place to strangers.

As far as Dogen Sangha (International or otherwise) is concerned, I feel pretty much the same way. My bottom line is that I sit and you can join me if you want. Anything that interferes with that needs to be stripped away. Dogen Sangha International was interfering with that, and now it’s gone.


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158 Responses

  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 23, 2012 at 5:18 pm |

    Imagine that potato head FUCKING Mysterion in the mouth.

  2. Harry
    Harry April 23, 2012 at 5:21 pm |

    …you have to imagine one of his feet tapping too, for full effect.

    p.s. To whoever: the mysterion baiting has gone from extreme to… whatever's worse than that. Not cool, but you hardly need that pointed out. You could at least include me in a gayporn fiction with him so as to 'spread the love'.

  3. Harry
    Harry April 23, 2012 at 5:26 pm |

    Great, you beat me to it!

  4. Fred
    Fred April 23, 2012 at 5:33 pm |

    There are no curious beliefs Harry.
    All that is can be had right here,
    without beliefs, words, doctrines,
    dogma, philosophical debate.

    You waste your time chasing words
    and ideas.

  5. A
    A April 23, 2012 at 5:39 pm |

    After several moments of silence & tension, Mysterion sat up, pulling the quilt away from him, revealing his surprisingly large cock. It was about 9", around the same size as Warner's.

    Harry then heard the bathroom door open & saw Warner walking in, completely naked & pulling his beautiful cock. Mysterion walked over towards the bed & sat beside Harry, who was now himself jerking off

    Mysterion, now incredibly horny at the sight of these two hot studs, stood in amazement.

  6. Harry
    Harry April 23, 2012 at 5:44 pm |

    Yes, well, that's what a lot of them say, Fred.

    Pretty easy really isn't it. But I'm no longer convinced.

    It's also an attractive assumption I laboured under for a time myself. You're welcome to it, but, if indeed you are able to check, I think you'll find that assuming that it 'the way' for other people is to do with the erroneous function of your very own human mind that you are referring to as 'ego'.

    It's a pretty classic, and tragic, human mistake (if we care to take a look back at the unfortunate history of religious and ideological clashes throughout history).

    At any rate, do what you want, but here's a Dogenesque idea for you to chase: our words are time, our ideas are time. There's nowhere for time to go, if you care to take a look… so why not enjoy it where it all goes down



  7. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 23, 2012 at 5:59 pm |

    Ejo didn't found the Soto-shu. Brad didn't found DSI.

  8. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 23, 2012 at 6:05 pm |

    Mebbe so but I Found Lovin' !!

  9. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 23, 2012 at 6:29 pm |

    *Forces Mysterion to toss my salad, though he warms to the task and licks my shithole clean*

  10. Mysterion
    Mysterion April 23, 2012 at 7:02 pm |

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. Mysterion
    Mysterion April 23, 2012 at 7:07 pm |


    Bathos, from depth is often unintended by the writer. Straining for an elevated effect, the writer overshoots the mark and produces an effect that is ridiculous.

    Personal attacks from an inept scientologist amounts to comedy. Fair gaming worked in the 60s and 70s until too many people caught on.

    The rope you are pissing on is your own leg — Sea Gull Rim Shotie

  12. Rick
    Rick April 23, 2012 at 7:10 pm |

    Once you learn something, it's yours.

  13. kristien
    kristien April 23, 2012 at 7:14 pm |

    Dear Brad,

    Well done! You go to the bottom of it and drop the institutional bullshit. You are in essence a writer, a good one. And I sense, your practice of zen keeps you at the core of what life is about. So, I encourage you to keep on writing, always with that focus, straight and real, going to the bottom of things. It is a process of shedding what is not real. It makes you strong no matter what social contracts are broken. Therefore, your writings will stay interesting to us.
    You said that your book “Zen wrapped in Karma..” is the one you liked the best but was the most difficult to write. Yet it is grasping your audience , because it is raw, the real stuff , recognizable to the being in its essence. Yet, someone felt ‘not at ease’ reading it. Not bad, that is where you may recognize that you are breaking with norms and allow people to feel what is beyond our day to day games we play . When loss and dead is in our face, we can not continue with the mummery.
    I prefer your personal writings above your teaching. But I understand that it is the most difficult one to do because you also have to live the life. What to write next? How many losses and deaths are you willing to encounter in one life? When I meditate, a part of “me” dies. That is where my inspiration and strength comes from to tackle another obstruction that comes my way.. So, it is good to sit each day and die a little more …. Sit… and you will be able to keep your audience interested. Your writing is the real deal… your teaching is what you do to survive… but it is boring to me.
    And then there is “ critique” of others, I do not like that at all. But, hey? Do I want to critique? No, I ‘ll stick to encouragement. Thanks

  14. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 23, 2012 at 10:02 pm |

    "What I find interesting about this list, no latter-day Zen master comes close to these qualities—just read the claptrap they write calling itself Zen, as with Brad Warner.

    If somebody asked me to name a past Japanese Zen master who came closest to meeting all the qualities it would have to be Zen master Bassui. He, unlike, the so-called teachers of today, grasped the notion of pure Mind which is the key to unlocking the mystery of these ten qualities."

    'Suppose I owe Gautama the Buddha everything that is worthwhile in my character.

    When the Gautamid taught the "meditation on the unlovely" and scores of monks a day took the knife, I'll bet everyone of those monks saw those ten qualities in him, and the thirty-six (or however many) marks too. May they rest in peace.

    Real question to me is whether or not we can experience and communicate something that can transform our lives and the lives of people in Western society. That requires that we transcend our teachers, including Gautama the Buddha. Even brilliant practitioners can offer material that is largely irrelevant; it's a common mistake to assume that someone who has mastery of an art or science knows what they are doing and can teach, especially in words.

    Even more common to assume that someone who has none of the ten marks or the qualities cannot teach. Do we want to be like Bassui, do we want to talk about Pure Mind with capitol letters? Ok, fine, we are all waiting for you to actually speak original words about Pure Mind.

  15. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 23, 2012 at 11:26 pm |

    The bottom line that sits on the zafu … it sounds like a steady bottom line. :}

  16. Soft Troll
    Soft Troll April 24, 2012 at 2:07 am |

    Fred wrote:

    You waste your time chasing words
    and ideas.

    Harry wrote:

    …here's a Dogenesque idea for you to chase: our words are time, our ideas are time.

    Elizabeth Bishop wrote, on her birthday:

    Absorbing, rather than being absorbed,
    the water in the bight doesn't wet anything,
    the color of the gas flame turned as low as possible.
    One can smell it turning to gas; if one were Baudelaire
    one could probably hear it turning to marimba music

    – from The Bight

  17. Balshalk
    Balshalk April 24, 2012 at 2:47 am |

    Hey Brad, would you please explain Buddha's "poison arrow" parable. I have a rough Idea. It is something that seems to have an important message to me.( I applied mainly to God.) But what do you think it is about and how can I use its advice? In short Buddha's poison arrow story would be a good post.

  18. Swami Rim Shotie
    Swami Rim Shotie April 24, 2012 at 6:24 am |

    The wicca-hicks aren't exactly defining Baudelaire.

    A Baudelaire:

    Verb –

    When a man wraps his partner's hair around his penis and masturbates.

  19. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 24, 2012 at 6:33 am |

    Balshalk asked…
    "Hey Brad, would you please explain Buddha's "poison arrow" parable."

    Wikipedia has a accurate article regarding it…

    Hey Brad, would you please explain Buddha's "poison arrow" parable.

    "Malunkyaputta is troubled by Gautama Buddha's silence on the fourteen unanswerable questions, which include queries about the nature of the cosmos and life after death. Malunkyaputta then meets with Gautama and asks him for the answers to these questions, he says that if he fails to respond, Malunkya will renounce his teachings. Gautama Buddha responds by first stating that he never promised to reveal ultimate metaphysical truths such as those and then uses the story of a man who has been shot with a poisoned arrow to illustrate that those questions are irrelevant to his teachings."

    It's pretty straightforward really – no intricate interpretations are necessary.

  20. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 24, 2012 at 7:11 am |
  21. anon #108
    anon #108 April 24, 2012 at 7:46 am |

    It seems to me that the poisoned arrow analogy is pretty much ignored by many calling themselves 'Buddhist'. Apparently, many modern 'Buddhists' believe that Buddhism is ALL about believing/experiencing no self, believing reincarnation, avoiding re-birth/entering nirvana by achieving enlightenment and so on and so forth.

    The 14 questions the Buddha insisted were not answerable are:

    Is the world eternal?
    or not?
    or both?
    or neither?

    Is the world finite?
    or not?
    or both?
    or neither?

    Is the self identical with the body?
    or is it different from the body?

    Does the Tathagata exist after death?
    or not?
    or both?
    or neither?

    The Buddha said none of these questions are answerable. More importantly, he said that such metaphysical speculations are irrelevant to addressing the problems we human beings face. I agree with him.

  22. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 24, 2012 at 8:11 am |

    I think they answered all that in the last episode of Lost, didn't they?

  23. f**kface
    f**kface April 24, 2012 at 8:48 am |

    At first Ford had formed a theory to account for this strange behavior. If human beings don't keep exercising their lips, he thought, their mouths probably seize up.
    After a few months' consideration and observation he abandoned this theory in favor of a new one. If they don't keep on exercising their lips, he thought, their brains start working.


  24. Hobgoblin of Small Minds
    Hobgoblin of Small Minds April 24, 2012 at 8:49 am |

    Is the self identical with the body?
    or is it different from the body?

    It seems to me that the possible answers to this question should also include "both" and "neither" even if it's just for the sake of consistency. Two other options that Buddha left out for all of the questions are "indeterminate at this time" and "unknowable".

    The Magic 8 Ball says, "Ask again later".

  25. ZenGirl
    ZenGirl April 24, 2012 at 9:05 am |

    I don't understand what's up with all the sex-related insults that take up roughly 3/4 of these comments. How does writing a bunch of douchey, homophobic insults and fake references to UrbanDictionary contribute to discussion about Zen and institutions vs. practice?

    Oh wait, this comments section is still the same boys' club / Buddhist pissing contest it always was. Go sit, boys, and come back when you have something constructive to say.

  26. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 24, 2012 at 9:37 am |


  27. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 24, 2012 at 9:47 am |

    *Accepts handjob from Mysterion and unleashes a HUGE wad onto his wrist and forearm*

  28. anon #108
    anon #108 April 24, 2012 at 10:24 am |

    Hobgoblin of Small Minds said…

    "Is the self identical with the body?
    or is it different from the body?

    It seems to me that the possible answers to this question should also include "both" and "neither" even if it's just for the sake of consistency…"

    Wiki, from where I got the quote, says "Pali texts omit 'both' and 'neither'" (from the eternal? finite? and after death? questions).

    That makes the questions more consistent, and still does the job, I reckon.

    Applespider, reviewing the Magic 8 ball for Amazon UK notes: "It seems to get 'stuck' on an edge more times than not." Hmm.

  29. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 24, 2012 at 10:38 am |

    Does the body rule the mind
    Or does the mind rule the body ?
    I don´t know…

  30. anon #108
    anon #108 April 24, 2012 at 10:43 am |

    And here's a link to the Cula-Malunkyovada Sutta, the sutta with the poisoned arrow analogy and the questions:

  31. Soft Troll
    Soft Troll April 24, 2012 at 10:48 am |

    To ZenGirl, who wrote:

    come back when you have something constructive to say

    Didn't you know this was a Buddhist Motel?

    There are rules to follow.

    I hear you, but I'm tying my shoe.

  32. Hobgoblin of Small Minds
    Hobgoblin of Small Minds April 24, 2012 at 11:34 am |

    Wiki, from where I got the quote, says "Pali texts omit 'both' and 'neither'" (from the eternal? finite? and after death? questions).

    I think that omitting "or both" and "or neither" from the questions makes them less effective as brain teasers (koans?) and more likely to be answered according to one's unconscious, reflexive, dualistic, logical prejudices. But, after all, answering them isn't really the point. The point is to demonstrate that such questions do not "lead to edification".

    Magic 8 Ball says, "Cannot predict now."

  33. DJ FA
    DJ FA April 24, 2012 at 11:38 am |

    This ain't no party
    This ain't no disco
    This ain't no fooling around!

  34. Kirmet
    Kirmet April 24, 2012 at 12:42 pm |

    Rise and Fall of the Smiths

    as a band, they were bland.

    There was no excuse for them…

    If only they could speak English.

    Oh well.

  35. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 24, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  36. Brad Warner
    Brad Warner April 24, 2012 at 2:34 pm |


  37. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 24, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  38. Bug
    Bug April 24, 2012 at 3:02 pm |

    I don't usually read the comments, and boy was this set of comments a good reminder.

  39. Harry
    Harry April 24, 2012 at 3:04 pm |

    108 started it.

  40. anon #108
    anon #108 April 24, 2012 at 3:44 pm |

    Hee Hee

  41. anon #108
    anon #108 April 24, 2012 at 3:56 pm |

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  42. Harry
    Harry April 24, 2012 at 4:02 pm |

    Now here's an interesting chap (if a dirty Rinzaist!):

    "There is no ice or snow apart from water, and the Buddhahood of ordinary people can be likened to snow and ice melting and becoming water. From the beginning nothing has ever been lost."



  43. Harry
    Harry April 24, 2012 at 4:26 pm |

    Cool, free book.

    "The fourteenth-century Zen master Bassui was recognized as one of the most important Zen teachers of his time. Accessible and eloquent, these teachings cut to the heart of the great matter of Zen, pointing directly to the importance of seeing our own original nature and recognizing it as Buddhahood itself. Bassui is taking familiar concepts in Buddhism and recasting them in an essential Zen light. Though he lived centuries ago in a culture vastly different from our own, Zen Master Bassui speaks with a voice that spans time and space to address our own modern challenges in our life, and in our spiritual practice. Like the revered Master Dogen several generations before him, Bassui was dissatisfied with what passed for Zen training, and taught a radically reenergized form of Zen, emphasizing deep and direct penetration into one's own true nature. And also like Dogen, Bassui uses powerful and often poetic language to take familiar Buddhist concepts and recast them in a radically non-dual Zen light, making ancient doctrines vividly relevant. This edition of "Mud and Water" contains several teachings never before translated."

  44. John Baker
    John Baker April 24, 2012 at 4:34 pm |

    I really don’t expect any of the posters who contribute to these Buddhist blogs to be budding religious geniuses like Gautama the Buddha or Bodhidharma who brought the secret of Zen with him to China, but I do expect a Buddhist blog to be more concerned with a small slice of the sacred world than with the everyday world of the profane.

    Even as a form of escapism, I prefer that these blogs dwell on themes and intriguing stories about great teachers than, for example, dwell on perverse or mundane issues. Seeing Buddhism being presented this way I can see it is not going to last long in our culture.

    Trying to clean the dust off of my general concern, I see an alarming trend in modern Buddhism that finds itself stuck between the sacred and the profane world, leaning more and more heavily in the direction of the profane with each new blog post that comes to the internet. Offhand, if I were to guess just one reason as to why the trend is going this way, I could say, “Blame it on microeconomics.” By that I mean, every financial enterprise, including a Buddhist blogger, has the right to make money, hopefully creating a demand for his product; trying to sell the profane mind on Buddhism because that is where the money is. I guess there are other reasons too, as to why Buddhist blogs, this one in particular, wish to appeal to the profane mind.

  45. Harry
    Harry April 24, 2012 at 4:39 pm |

    Hi there,

    I don't think anyone in this comments section, especially the most gifted profanitarians, claims to be 'presenting buddhism'.



  46. DJ F.A.
    DJ F.A. April 24, 2012 at 5:09 pm |

    …ooohhh nice selection 108!

    I try to make you see the world without you
    That just turned black and white

  47. Soft Troll
    Soft Troll April 24, 2012 at 5:12 pm |

    Sometimes the world makes a curious sex noise (play vid)

    I'm not ashamed to say, I think I made one too, at that moment.


  48. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 24, 2012 at 5:13 pm |

    "I think that omitting "or both" and "or neither" from the questions makes them less effective as brain teasers (koans?) and more likely to be answered according to one's unconscious, reflexive, dualistic, logical prejudices. But, after all, answering them isn't really the point. The point is to demonstrate that such questions do not "lead to edification".

    It was called a Tetralemma
    Fancied by the Greeks in classical logic – adopted by Nagarjuna for use with his Madhyamaka.

    X (affirmation)
    neg X (negation)
    X land neg X (both) equiv.
    neg (X lor neg X) (neither)

  49. The Laughing Baby
    The Laughing Baby April 24, 2012 at 5:29 pm |

    Brad, you ever taken a cock up the ass? I'm no Khru Jr. but I was just wondering in light of the comments that your blog posts inspire.

Comments are closed.