JIGSAW ZEN

I’m back now from Ohio. The showing of the rough cut of my documentary went really well. It was held at a bar in Parma, Ohio called the Jigsaw Saloon. I was amazed to see that most of the folks who showed up early for the film, and there were quite a lot of them, actually watched the thing. They seemed to enjoy it a lot and I received a lot of compliments afterwards. While I was in Ohio, I taped a bunch more interviews for inclusion in the final version, which means I’m gonna have to get to work on that pretty soon.

One of the best things about the visit was getting to meet my friend Fraser “Suicyde” Sims again for the first time in 23 years. Fraser was the leader of a band called Starvation Army. I talked to him and his wife and found out they’re both really interested in Buddhism. So, at one point while I was talking to them, Mrs. Suicyde says, “You don’t seem very Zen.”

I took that as a great compliment. I have very little patience with people who seem “Zen.” If the only representatives of Buddhism I’d ever met were “Zen” seeming people, I would certainly never have developed any interest in the philosophy and practice of Buddhism. I’m really thankful I got to meet Tim McCarthy and Gudo Nishijima, neither of whom seem very “Zen” at all.

Basically I hate talking “Zen.” I’d much rather discuss just about anything at all other than Zen. This is because most people who want to talk Zen have no real interest in the subject. They’re not serious at all. They’d never even consider sitting on a cushion for an hour every day facing themselves down the way you’d face down an angry Rottwieller intent on making mincemeat out of your internal organs. I’m not interested in discussing Zen the way you might discuss whether the Lakers are better than the Celtics or whether Emo is cooler than Screamo or whether Elmo is cooler than the Cookie Monster or whatever. On the other hand, if a person is truly serious about the subject, I’m always available.

Screw it anyway. You don’t care…

19 Responses

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  1. oxeye
    oxeye July 3, 2006 at 10:30 am | |

    Brad, glad that your film went over so well.. and it’s cool that suicyde is still among the living. But you seem to be feeling a little sorry for yourself here. You are right that most of your readers are not as serious as you are. For whatever reason most folks are interested but are not yet willing to make the same kind of committment you did. You have to have a little faith if you are going to be be a righteous bodhisattva. Some people do care.. not me of course, but some people really do. if you throw enough shit at the wall, some of it is going stick. remember that. Most of it will slide down onto the floor but just keep throwing, you have to be strong.

  2. Drunken Monkey
    Drunken Monkey July 3, 2006 at 11:34 am | |

    Brad, thanks to your works, I was inspired to practice zazen every day and without fail. It it weren’t for your book and articles, I wouldn’t have even considered practicing zazen.
    Although, I haven’t met you, in some ways your output has become one of the biggest influences of my life. Like Godzilla/beatles was a big influence in your life. So I would just like to say thanks for the continued efforts. They have not gone to waste on me.
    I hope to meet you one day when I visit the states. Cherio.

  3. Lone Wolf
    Lone Wolf July 3, 2006 at 1:53 pm | |

    Congrats on the successful screening of your documentry. Will you be selling it on DVD soon? I hope you left in the part about hiding in the girls bathroom during the Dover Fight. That is awsome.

    Well, I was at a pretty confused state when I came across Hardcore Zen. I had spent 6 years studying Tibetan Buddhism and suddenly felt it was not the way for me. After reading your website and your book, I was inspired by the down to earth- I can just be myself- understanding of Buddhism. I started sitting Zazen and recently everyday. I like spending my time just living my present reality instead of wasting time worrying if there is a future rebirth,or what will enlightment be like once I reach it. I’m enjoying life much more.

    I consider myself pretty serious about Buddhism and Zazen, though I try not to take myself that serious.

    As I said before, I have been sitting alot more consistently and one thing I noticed after sitting is sometimes when I am socializing, I feel dull and a bit out of synch. Is this something to be concerned about? It’s hard to believe I could be doing something wrong while just sitting my ass down on the cushion for a half hour once(or twice) a day. Do you have any input on this Brad?

    Maybe a still have a subtle feeling that Zazen is going to make things better that I need to throw away.

  4. Dan
    Dan July 3, 2006 at 2:01 pm | |

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  5. Dan
    Dan July 3, 2006 at 2:04 pm | |

    your book was the first explanation of what zazen actually was that i came across and like drunken monkey, my exposure to you and gudo are pretty much the direct cause of why i sit zazen everyday. so talking about zen is useful! if your’s and gudo’s words can inspire someone to sit zazen then those words have been worthwile in saying/writing.

    sure there are lots of people who hear your words, think they’re cool from an intellectual perspetive and then just talk and argue about zen for the sake of it without ever actually doing any but i get the impression that they are in the minority out of the people who bother reading your blog (i could be wrong about that)

    i just had an idea. i’m gonna put up a poll on flapping mouths asking everyone whether they sit at all and if they do whether they do it everyday. i’m pretty sure that most will answer that they sit everyday.

  6. PA
    PA July 3, 2006 at 3:08 pm | |

    I remember going to Dogen Sangha in Tokyo 5 years ago and being handed the little book on how to practice Zazen. And from then on I’ve sat regularly. Then reading your articles and your book has spurred me on more and more.
    Thanks m(..)m

  7. door knob
    door knob July 3, 2006 at 4:25 pm | |

    I don’t like talking much about Zen in casual conversation, either. Because I often feel afterwards, “Geez, why did I have to open my big fat mouth?”

    Your intentions are to make things clear, but you often feel that you’ve just messed things up even more. As the years go by, you know very well that anything that you have to say about it misses the mark entirely. Heaven forbid if somebody actually believes that what you have to say about Zen is what Zen is really about.

    I can say without a doubt that I’m deluded, so for me to talk about Zen, it would be like if I were talking about quantum physics or the cafes in Paris (i.e., something that I know nothing about). And I haven’t sat in Zazen since last year. That surely proves that I have nothing of substance to say about it.

    Anybody asking about Zen in casual conversation usually isn’t all that serious about Zen, anyways. So why say anything?

    But since it is so dear to your heart, you usually can’t help yourself and you talk about it, anyways. And the cycle begins again.

    I suspect that Brad might have had similar “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” feelings when he removed his articles from his website.

  8. Waylon
    Waylon July 3, 2006 at 9:16 pm | |

    Brad,

    I was introduced to zen at 15, about 16 years ago and have flirted with it on and off. My father was heavily involved at the Minnesota Zen Center and I avoided it like the plague as a kid. I can safely say that you are the reason that I’ve sat consistantly for the last year or so. Your writing seems to be the only thing that I find worth reading on the subject and through your book and website I look to you as my teacher. (like it or not) I spent the other day at a bookstore reading books on buddhisim and think that I actually threw up in my own mouth a little.

    I’m going to be down for all day zazen one of these days. I’m in Oakland, it’s a six hour (I hear) or so motorcycle trip for me.

    Does anyone that posts here study with Brad in person? Would anyone be willing to put up a weary biker or two (my girlfriend has expressed interest) during seshin?

    Would anyone care to comment on the importance of Sangha or the buddhist community? I’ve been debating wether or not I should get involved here localy.

    Thanks Brad You really have helped me out immensely.

  9. door knob
    door knob July 3, 2006 at 10:10 pm | |

    BTW, in my previous post, by “you,” I didn’t mean anyone in particular. Just wanted to point out the obvious (or maybe not so obvious), since it’s so easy to misunderstand things online.

    I don’t know why, but misunderstandings seem to occur less frequently when you’re reading text on paper, without the harsh glare of the computer screen and without the immediacy of pressing keys on a keyboard.

  10. Josh
    Josh July 4, 2006 at 2:03 am | |

    Though you might reckon they’re rubbish, I got more out of your movie reviews and articles on buying plastic bugs because they were about stuff that’s concrete and trivial, not about ‘Zen’. They’re worth putting back up.

  11. axel
    axel July 4, 2006 at 7:28 am | |

    Brad,

    When I read the title of this post I almost flipped. Could it be? Is Brad his-very-self gonna do some PR for my website? But no, it was just some other stuff… I guess it’s back to doing my jigsaws…

  12. Grim
    Grim July 4, 2006 at 9:43 am | |

    A friend of mine bought Hardcore Zen for me. It was the very first time i’d ever heard of zazen. I had heard the words “full lotus posture” and “half lotus posture” sometime during my lifetme, but until I read that book I never knew what they meant or took them very seriously.

    Sometimes I practice frequently, sometimes not at all. But I like to take my time with this kind of hands-on learning anyway.

  13. BlueWolfNine
    BlueWolfNine July 4, 2006 at 2:23 pm | |

    brad, you rock. like so many others that have posted here, your book has been a breath of fresh air. i tell many of my friends who are interested that it’s one of the very few books worth reading on the subject because of your direct no bullshit approach.(along with zen mind beginner’s mind of course.) thank you for not faking the funk on the whole “enlightenment” thing either and trying to come off as some sort of “perfect, enlightened being”, you’ve definitely been an inspiration. thank you.

  14. earDRUM
    earDRUM July 5, 2006 at 9:55 am | |

    Me too…
    Brad, your online articles (the ones written before the book came out) and then the book itself changed my life. Your writing was the first I had come across that cut to the core clearly, and set it all straight for me.
    Before stumbling upon your writing, Buddhism was a big mess of contradictory writings and teachings (in my head).
    I like the sense of humour in your writing.
    Keep it up. It does make a difference. One mind at a time. Each person that “gets it” can’t help but pass it on to others.

  15. NPovey
    NPovey July 10, 2006 at 8:54 pm | |

    Thanks for the good counsel on just sitting, Gudo makes a good case for it though the precepts have that historical ring of the clarion call of the original. BTW, I listened to the MP3 of your little chat at Clouds in Water. What is the story of your future with them? My very limited contact indicated Rinzai but……..

    _NP

  16. DB
    DB July 11, 2006 at 2:46 am | |

    I’m glad you hate talking about Zen, because the stuff you DO talk about, in your book and in your articles, has done more to convince me of the efficacy of Zen than any Zen writings. It’s safe to say that had I not read your book, I’d not be as serious about practice as I am, serious enough to put up with all the feel-good crap that seems to attach itself to Zen.

  17. r3u4epin
    r3u4epin July 13, 2006 at 9:10 am | |

    They’d never even consider sitting on a cushion for an hour every day facing themselves down …

    “Facing yourself down.” That’s a really cool way of saying it, because if you can’t face yourself down, what else can(‘t) you do?

  18. jlhart7
    jlhart7 July 25, 2006 at 5:55 pm | |

    I’m so glad to read that Brad doesn’t want to seem Zen. Seeming Zen makes Zen seem boring.

  19. Anonymous
    Anonymous February 4, 2007 at 6:21 pm | |

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