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.


158 Responses

  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 24, 2012 at 5:35 pm |

    " 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."

    Expecting anything might be your problem. The everyday world is just that. You see it as profane where someone else obviously dosen't. So who is right and who is wrong?

  2. john e mumbles
    john e mumbles April 24, 2012 at 5:45 pm |

    anon 108 4:46 P.M:

    SO SAY S0

    so say so

    world of light
    its gonna open your eyes up

    (that was one blisterin' jam, thanks. Who's the bass monster -besides Tina Weymouth? That guys thumpin'-I saw Adrain Belew with Frank Zappa I thot around the same time… He wore the same silly pants anyway)

  3. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 24, 2012 at 5:51 pm |

    Mysterion, does cum from a Japanese guy taste different from a guy who is from Ohio?

  4. Mysterion
    Mysterion April 24, 2012 at 5:57 pm |

    Buddhism doesn't have:

    "a small slice of the sacred world."

    And with Zen, THIS MOMENT (whenever it is and wherever it is) is Zen.

    This is Zen.

    But you knew that from the moment of your birth so my bad for typing it.

  5. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 24, 2012 at 6:31 pm |

    Jesus, Brad. Please moderate the comments section or something. This is getting ridiculous. I've no problems with the profanities, it's the sophomoric, irrelevant web-Tourette's postings of the fucktards who haunt this place who take a big dump on the time and effort you put into your posts. There are rules of behavior even in a mosh pit.

  6. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 24, 2012 at 7:02 pm |

    that is *nasty*. please stop writing stuff like that.

    are you angry?

  7. keif
    keif April 24, 2012 at 7:58 pm |

    It's not nasty. It's just words. YOU are nasty. Get over yourself.

  8. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 24, 2012 at 8:32 pm |

    Jesus bleeding Christ Brad. Please don't moderate the comments section. No one is getting harmed here. There are just a few people whose residual Judeo sensibilities are being dick bent. It won't kill them. It's not terminal. Let it go on as always.

  9. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 24, 2012 at 10:59 pm |

    There are generally standards about obscenity and threats on most blog and forum sites. Comments with explicit language and violence are removed. I personally would like to see that made the rule here, but I can't volunteer to moderate for Brad at this time (didn't he have a moderator here for awhile?).

  10. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 24, 2012 at 11:02 pm |

    Unsolicited sexual propositioning is considered a kind of harrasment, is it not, and possibly even an assault? Not clear on that.

  11. James A
    James A April 25, 2012 at 2:20 am |

    I bought it and I'm letting everyone read it over my shoulder so just mellow out.

  12. anon #108
    anon #108 April 25, 2012 at 2:43 am |

    jem – that's Busta Jones on bass alongside Tina Weymouth. Previously unknown to me, I confess.

    And yes, latterly upper case potty mouth. Knock it the fuck off. It ain't big. It ain't clever. It's no longer funny.

  13. Harry
    Harry April 25, 2012 at 3:19 am |

    Hear, hear. I'm all for unmoderated sites… when people can more-or-less moderate themselves. Cruelty ain't good for anyone concerned.



  14. john e mumbles
    john e mumbles April 25, 2012 at 4:18 am |

    Malcolm! That's Busta "Cherry" Jones? He's played with everybody, most recently with The Rolling Stones.

    I've said it before for years now for what its worth, but I am also for a free, autonomous zone here at HC. Don't moderate.

  15. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 25, 2012 at 5:31 am |

    Report a Terms of Service Violation

    One of the hallmarks of Blogger is the importance of freedom of speech. Blogger is a provider of content creation tools, not a mediator of that content. We allow our users to create blogs, but we don't make any claims about the content of these pages, nor do we censor them. However, Blogger has standards and policies in place to protect our users and the Blogger network, as well as to ensure that Blogger is complying with all national, state, international, and local laws.

    Please select the type of violation that you'd like to report:

    Copyright/Piracy issues
    Hate or violence
    Someone is posting my private information
    I think someone else is using my account

  16. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 25, 2012 at 5:37 am |

    Is adult content permitted on Blogger?

    As outlined in the Blogger Content Policy, adult content is permitted on Blogger; however, when adult content is flagged by users, we may show users a content warning page before they view flagged material to prevent people who don't want to see this material from stumbling on it accidentally. We feel that this is the best solution in order to maintain a safe online experience for users of all ages and to be a platform for the personal expression and creativity that has come to characterize Blogger and its users.

    As outlined in the Blogger Content Policy, adult material used for commercial gain is not allowed on Blogger.

  17. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 25, 2012 at 5:44 am |

    Is hateful material permitted on Blogger?

    Blogger strongly believes in freedom of speech. We believe that having a variety of perspectives is an important part of what makes blogs such an exciting and diverse medium. With that said, there are certain types of content that are not allowed on Blogger. While Blogger values and safeguards political and social commentary, material that promotes hatred toward groups based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity is not allowed on Blogger.

  18. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 25, 2012 at 6:14 am |

    Funny that it was absurdest sexual (mental) imagery that tamed the great porno zen master's blog. (Swami thinks the blog will now either be moderated or abandoned.) (No sex please we're British.) It seemed like comedy to some but to others it was pure torture. Which was it?

  19. Bajarlman
    Bajarlman April 25, 2012 at 6:21 am |

    hey; to brad (writer of the blog).

    i am overjoyed to have just discovered this. i discovered some time ago during my getting friendly with the void a part of my self-actualization -which is to start work on a book or project (not sure whether it will be academic in nature or not)about psycho-spiritual development of various of my favorite youth cultures – most importantly the 80's D.C. hardcore, and more specifically it's middle "Rev Summer"….."death of the hypermasculine punk ego" is an academic idea ive been toying around with. I have not yet read your book (am very excited to do so) but basically from what i've heard about it i want to do a very similar thing about stuff i like but through the lense of general non dual self inquiry psycho-spirituality – and specifically relate it to the field of Transpersonal Psychology (ego transcending branch of psychology)
    I was just asking the universe, and am asking you if perhaps we could get in touch and i could really get out some of these ideas to someone interested..hope u see this


    a remainder refusing to be concealed

  20. anon #108
    anon #108 April 25, 2012 at 6:41 am |


    If Dogen Sangha describes anything, it describes the understanding and practice of Zen/Buddhism as taught by Gudo Nishijima and (most of) his Dharma-heirs. Gudo's teaching, representing his understanding and practice of Zen/Buddhism as understood and practised by Ehei Dogen, will continue as long as Gudo's students continue to practice and – in whatever form – teach. So, for me, "Dogen Sangha" has a meaning and a function, whether particular groups choose to use it or not.

    "Dogen Sangha International," however, did not describe anything not already described by Dogen Sangha. And so, as I've said before, it always seemed like one idea too many. Brad killing off DSI signifies nothing more than a recognition of the fact that DSI described nothing real and yet, in the minds of some, created notions and expectations best left unrealised.

    As for any legal/proprietorial problems still to be addressed…none of my business. But clearly they should be addressed by all involved/interested parties. Privately.

  21. Malcolm
    Malcolm April 25, 2012 at 6:59 am |

    108 – A sangha describes a community, not an "understanding and practice…as taught by…"

  22. anon #108
    anon #108 April 25, 2012 at 6:59 am |

    Yes. Good point, M.

  23. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 25, 2012 at 7:16 am |

    Outline of Dogen Sangha International

    The main points of substantial activities of Dogen Sangha International are as follows.
    1) Even after Dogen Sangha International will have started, the former Dogen Sanghas, and their members, will continue their former activities as before, and at the same time they will be included into Dogen Sangha International automatically in the overlapped situations.
    2) The informations of Dogen Sangha International will spread relying upon Dogen Sangha Blog, and so the informations will be identified int one.
    3) Main Contents of Dogen Sangha International activities
    1: Propagation of the true Buddhism, which belongs to the authentic lineage of Gautama Buddha, Master Nagarjuna, Master Bodhidharma, Master Dogen, and so forth.
    2: Daily practices of Zazen, which are the fundamental basis of the authentic Buddhism, should be done.everyday.
    3: Daily continuity of the daily life style of Buddhism, which has been harmonized with the life style of human life in the modern age, should be established.
    4: By accumulating those kinds of efforts in our daily life everyday, we will realize our gorgeous age of Realism, which can throw away the former miserable ages, when we have been suffered so much from the unhappy contradictions of idealism and materialism.
    4) Relying upon those kinds of humanistic efforts, we will present to all human beings the ultimate philosophy of Realism, which makes our daily life follow the truth, minimizes the gap of the rich and the poor, makes our human societies follow the truth, and makes our daily life a little happier day by day.

  24. Roberto Poveda
    Roberto Poveda April 25, 2012 at 8:25 am |

    ¿Hay una versión española de Hardcore Zen? Yo empecé a traducirlo desde el francés, pero quien lo estaba traduciendo del inglés al francés, dejó inesperadamente de remitirme sus traducciones en francés, y no pude seguir. Si existe una traducción en español o en francés, (y alguien sabe español y entiende esta entrada), por favor que me pase la información de cómo conseguirlo. Gracias

  25. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 25, 2012 at 9:07 am |

    Well, now that we've got that clarified and straightened out, as to Blogger rules and the existence or nonexistence of DSI, we can properly address what the UFO's are up to. My personal opinion is that we are talking about time-travel, not space travel, per Godel's reworking of Einstein's relativity theory:

    Disclosure Conference, National Press Club 27 Sept. 2010

    Who but future humans would have any interest in whether or not we blow ourselves to radioactive dust?

  26. REAL practitioner
    REAL practitioner April 25, 2012 at 9:14 am |

    Buddhism is still a new phenomenon in the West. It's only about fifty years old, an infant in religious/historical terms. So it appears that we are still in the marketing phases of this thing, and when it comes to marketing you're going to see a lot of gimmicks, such as people talking about the "propagation of true Buddhism" or establishing an "ultimate philosophy of Realism," or even funnier trying to make "life a little happier day by day." That kind of evangelist-type language has no place in a discussion of zen.

  27. anon #108
    anon #108 April 25, 2012 at 9:27 am |

    Hi Mark,

    Time travel? Alien visitation? Dunno. But from all I've seen and heard on teh internet – from apparently reliable sources – something other than weather balloons appears to have been flying about the sky in a mysterious fashion, and for some time.

  28. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 25, 2012 at 9:50 am |

    A bit shocked by the reaction to the sophomoric posts.

    I'll stop.

    I thought it was really funny.

  29. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 25, 2012 at 9:55 am |

    Oh, and Brad…. I'd like your reaction to this place:

    "Teachers and staff will live on site as members of the intentional community/collective that operates the college. (Potential locations for the college are currently under consideration.) Prospective teachers and staff should meet the following criteria as indicated:

    ?Extensive dharma practice (preferably within Zen Buddhist tradition, though other Buddhist traditions are acceptable), preferably with some degree of realization or awakening (which is more important than longevity of practice)
    ?(Teachers only) A tremendous passion for teaching in your subject area, as well as verifiable teaching experience and the ability to provide positive evaluations and/or recommendations from previous students and colleagues
    ?A heartfelt appreciation and passion for the college’s mission and vision
    ?An extremely high level of expertise and experience in the relevant subject area
    ?A willingness to engage in some physical labor and to work within the college’s future business enterprises in addition to teaching and administrative duties
    ?An extremely high level of emotional and psychological maturity and interpersonal sensitivity
    ?An abiding interest and/or previous experience in living in an income-sharing intentional community/workers’ cooperative
    ?A willingness to work hard for 1-2 years with a community of others in order to launch the college
    ?A willingness to permanently relocate to the college’s chosen location
    ?High-level communication, teamwork, and organizational skills
    ?A passion for lifelong learning"

  30. Brad Warner
    Brad Warner April 25, 2012 at 10:43 am |

    Eco Dharma College, eh? I looked at their website. Where is the place? One would surely want to know that before committing to be a teacher or student there.

    The whole thing seems a bit odd. But not necessarily in a bad way. It doesn't seem like a college in any sense I think of a college.

  31. Brad Warner
    Brad Warner April 25, 2012 at 10:47 am |


    Alguien se está traduciendo el Zen Hardcore libro en español. Pero yo no sé nada acerca de quién lo publicará ni cuándo. No hay traducción de este blog en español.

  32. Brad Warner
    Brad Warner April 25, 2012 at 10:48 am |


  33. Encino Man
    Encino Man April 25, 2012 at 2:21 pm |

    El queso está viejo y pútrido. ¿Dónde está el sanitario?

  34. Cidercat
    Cidercat April 25, 2012 at 3:21 pm |

    Brad, you're posting so much these days I can't keep up! Every time I return there are 3 new blog posts. I hope Crum is well.

  35. Mysterion
    Mysterion April 25, 2012 at 3:58 pm |

    "A final determination of EcoDharma’s legal and organizational status has not been made, but it is currently anticipated that it will be incorporated as a 501(c)(3) or 501(d) nonprofit organization to be located on a separate land trust."

    It's a pike dream…

  36. Harry
    Harry April 25, 2012 at 4:12 pm |

    Can pike remember their dreams?

  37. Jinzang
    Jinzang April 25, 2012 at 4:29 pm |

    It's a pike dream…

    I thought the saying was, "it's a pipe dream." As in opium pipe.

  38. Harry
    Harry April 25, 2012 at 4:29 pm |

    Re UFOs…

    The Shat will sort it all out for us (as so many times before!):;=related

  39. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 25, 2012 at 4:51 pm |

    To be clear, my request for moderation has nothing to do with profanity at all. It is the irrelevance of it all that is such a pain. Cuss, swear, insult away as long as it is related to the post. Otherwise start your own blog. It's like going to hear someone speak and when they open it up for questions a guy steps forward and says, "so I was fucking a dead pig the other day and…". No one in their right mind would tolerate that at any reasonable discussion. So, it's not about some neo-Victorian prudishness, it's about controlling your ADHD meds and staying on something resembling a coherent point. So talk about zen, dickwads!

  40. Mysterion
    Mysterion April 25, 2012 at 4:55 pm |

    Also, it occurred to me – in the shit and shinola department – that some wanna be gay basher doesn't know the difference between "the Castro" and Castro Valley.

    A little HISTORY

    So besides not being part of San Francisco and being south of Oakland and San Leandro – and East of San Lorenzo and Hayward, Castro Valley named after a Spanish Don and is RURAL while "the Castro" is named after a theater and is urban.

    Sorry for givin' ya'all a little fetchin' up, but I s'pose that it was overdue.*


    *I am not responsible for all the other things folks may be wrong about. Ignorance is bliss – folks should naturally follow their bliss.

  41. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 25, 2012 at 5:21 pm |

    mysterion is an expert on the castro. he knows his impacted shite.

  42. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 25, 2012 at 5:33 pm |

    mysti, is that an an albert pike dream…

    what a douche.. and he was teaching your children.

  43. anonymous anonymous
    anonymous anonymous April 25, 2012 at 5:59 pm |

    It's what I always said. mysterion is a liar and a fake. You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

  44. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 25, 2012 at 7:01 pm |

    I don't have to be relevant, Anonymous. This ain't sworn testimony. It's a silly comment section.

    Besides, I'd argue that any post on this comment section (now 144 long for this article) is easily as relevant as one of those self-indulgent Mysterion comments.

  45. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 25, 2012 at 7:49 pm |

    Look, mysterion is less than likeable. We get it. That is a given. You are preaching to the choir. Just shut up about him.

  46. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 25, 2012 at 9:34 pm |

    It's as silly as we make it. Zen exists if we aren't vigilent.

    Tom Sawyer invites us to help Ecodharma get established (after the fence is done); it's still the U.S. of A., land of wonders and snakeoil, just like the rest of the world. I admire the folks who can be positive in the midst of insanity to such a degree that they can sell themselves. I see that I could use more of whatever it is they have. The difficulty for me all along has been reconciling the beliefs I acquired about honesty and love with the institutions that have built the weapons the aliens are concerned to disarm (or in one case, to arm?). To some extent, I distrust institutions, especially those that come to be considered as though they were people.

  47. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 26, 2012 at 1:14 am |



    A Japanese edition no longer exists?

  48. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 26, 2012 at 6:05 am |
  49. ZG
    ZG April 26, 2012 at 8:31 am |

    That was a eyebrow lifting quote by Mr. Lama, "Women are too much trouble and dirty things."

    But let's give Mr. Lama credit. When he's right he's right.

  50. Get It Right
    Get It Right April 26, 2012 at 10:17 am |

    That's not the quote, not what he said. Listen again.

Comments are closed.