Joshu Sasaki

Roshi-in-the-mirror-1003x1024I heard this morning that Joshu Sasaki Roshi, founder of the Mt. Baldy Zen Center, passed away on Sunday July 27th at the age of 107. I found this out just a few hours after I arrived in Portland to visit my friend Logan who has stage four esophageal cancer.

I decided I should post something about Sasaki’s death to my Facebook page. So I said what I thought was just about the most neutral thing possible. I said, “One of the greats. Whatever else you might say about him…”

This elicited what, in retrospect, was a predictable series of comments. One said I was obligated to say what I meant by “one of the greats.” One wished for the desecration of his body. One said that his case proved that “MOST (in all caps) spiritual teachers are all sexual predators.” Hitler was invoked. It just keeps on coming.

A few said he was not one of the greats. But that’s wrong. If he were not one of the greats, there would be no conversation to be had. He made an impact on a lot of lives. No one can deny that.

But y’know what? I’m not in the mood right now to engage in any conversation or debate on the matter. I’m here in Portland to hang out with a very sick friend. Here is where you can go to donate to help him deal with the horrendous expenses of being ill in the USA.

The last time this “conversation” got started, it quickly turned very ugly and shrill. I was attacked for not joining in the chorus of accusations and character assassination against Sasaki and found myself being labeled as a “psychotic sexual predator” for that. Forgive me for not wanting to engage again right now.

But if you’d like to speak to me in person about this topic or any other, there’s a list below of where I’ll be.

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Visiting sick friends on the other side of the country is expensive! Your donations help a lot! Thank you!

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My on-line retreat at is still happening. Check it out!

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Here’s my upcoming touring schedule:

Aug. 2 9:30 AM — 3:00 PM Half Day Zazen at Dogen Sangha Los Angeles in the Veteran’s Memorial Building 4117 Overland Blvd. Culver City, CA 90230

Aug. 16 9:30 AM — Noon at Dogen Sangha Los Angeles in the Veteran’s Memorial Building 4117 Overland Blvd. Culver City, CA 90230

Sept. 6 Houston Zen Center All Day Zazen

Sept. 9 Austin Zen Center

Oct. 1 Turku Panimoravintola Koulu, Finland– Movie screening

Oct. 2 Helsinki, Finland — Lecture Event

Oct. 3-5 Helsinki, Finland Zen retreat at Helsinki Zen Center

Oct. 6 Movie Screening in Espoo, Finland

Oct. 8 Lecture in Munich, Germany

Oct. 10-11 Retreat in Munich, Germany

Oct. 12-17 Retreat at Benediktushof near Würzburg, Germany

Oct 18-19 Retreat in Bonn, Germany

Oct 20 Hamburg, Germany

Oct 24: Lecture in Groningen, Netherlands

Oct 25: Day-long zazen in Groningen, Netherlands

Oct 26: Movie screening in Eindhoven, Netherlands at Natlab

Oct 27: Evening zazen in Eindhoven, Netherlands

Oct 28: Evening zazen in Nijmegen, Netherlands

Oct 29: Lecture in Amsterdam, Netherlands  at “De Roos” bookstore from 19.00-21.00  (P Cornelisz Hooftstr 183)

Oct 30: Lecture in Utrecht, Netherlands at “De wijze kater” bookstore from 19.00-21.00 ( Mariaplaats 1,  Utrecht)

Nov 1-2: Retreat in Utrecht, Netherlands

Nov. 2: Movie screening in Utrecht, Netherlands at ACU

Nov 6-8: Retreat in Hebden Bridge, UK

Nov 9: Noon — 5pm  Manchester, UK

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69 Responses

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  1. A beginner in Texas
    A beginner in Texas July 28, 2014 at 11:39 am |

    I don’t know that much about Sasaki and I don’t understand why others are so eager to force you to carry their psychological water.

    You have enough on your plate. Take care of your friend and your self.

  2. Aurelian
    Aurelian July 28, 2014 at 12:46 pm |

    I appreciate your comments re: Sasaki Roshi. I never knew him. People often are quick to judge others for their opinions, especially on the internet. Whatever Sasaki Roshi did or did not do, there is no denying his teaching and life of training had a beneficial impact on many. I personally know one of his chief disciples, a priest in Vancouver, whose training I have a great deal of respect for.

  3. dougleader
    dougleader July 28, 2014 at 1:35 pm |

    Brad, you’re a damn good teacher and a genuinely good guy. I seriously question the mental well-being of many of the internet trolls that seem to come after you time and again, both here and elsewhere. Their tone & behavior is quite baffling and repeatedly out of proportion with any discussion at hand. Kudos to you for handling it with aplomb.

    1. Fred
      Fred July 28, 2014 at 6:35 pm |

      “Beth Israel Hospital or The Grail Retreat Center, both offer the opportunity to realize oneself. Can I stay present moment by moment to Christopher who is dying with AIDS and whose legs are oozing puss and whose teeth are rotten from years of drug abuse and self neglect, in the same way I stay present to the sound of the cicadas or the crickets? When do I separate from the world I am in right now? When do you? How can we all, like a drop of dew, find, our true home right where we are? No matter where we are.”

  4. Bernie
    Bernie July 28, 2014 at 7:39 pm |

    To say he was and is one of the greats, is a huge understatement.

    There are no words for his level of contribution, commitment to truth and teaching for all his students.

    Even to the end, he held the world with peace. The tabloid, Sweeping Zen, was useful for Eshu but it was not a mark on the true Roshi and all those he helped. Be in peace, Roshi, yet again.

  5. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote July 28, 2014 at 9:02 pm |

    ‘Roshi arrived in Los Angeles more than 50 years ago and was among a wave of Japanese teachers to tailor Zen Buddhism teachings to westerners. He once pledged to students that he would not die “until Zen is born in America.”’ (from here.

    mtto, thanks for the article about Ghandaran scrolls. The dates of 1st century c.e., that would be about when the Pali was written down in Ceylon (I think it was the son of king Asoka who took the teaching to Ceylon, as part of the necessary 5 monks to be able to ordain and so establish the teaching there). From what I’ve read, Pali was not the language Gautama spoke, just the language the teaching arrived to Ceylon in.

    Thing about the Pali, if you can ever get a copy of the first four Nikayas and skim through them, the details and consistency in the descriptions of practice are what sets the teaching there apart. There’s nothing I’ve read that is like it. I think the author of the article you linked to on the scrolls likes the idea that there is no teaching that can really be ascribed to Gautama; myself, I have to agree with the scholar in wikipedia who said, there seems to be a single genius behind much of what is in the Pali Canon.

    I practice on account of my own experience of suffering, and the words recorded in the first four Pali Nikayas occasionally speak to that. I seem to need an entire village, actually, but the translations of the Pali Text Society are wonderful if you ever come across them.

  6. jason farrow
    jason farrow July 28, 2014 at 9:46 pm |

    I think there is difference between being a sexual person, and being a sexual predator, or even a dirty old man.

    I work within the hospital system, and I know that as people age, the mind ages with them. As mental illness sets in with old age, they lose control over things like decision making behaviours. Like groping, leering, talking suggestively….

    And it’s not just “dirty old men.” I’ve had my ass groped by a few “dirty old women” too. Such as helping them to stand while I wash the urine and feces off them and change their attends(diaper.) I’ve had little old ladies grab my ass,kiss my cheek, and say “Oh your such a sweetie…I’m going to take you home with me!” It’s only dirty because we perceive it that way. Otherwise it just the Mind exposing itself for your enlightenment. Really, anyway you cut it; this body is greedy pig. Even greedy for enlightenment.

    There are two aspects of it. One is that they are “dirty old people” in that typically what comes out is their closeted predator sexuality. The other issue is that the patient is losing their ability of “executive decision making facilities.” It’s much like attention deficit disorder where the person makes poor decisions, and has bad judgement in things like repercussions and time management. The hospital system I work in, we actually give a lot of elder patients isomers of Ritalin. It does wonders for them. Gives them back a huge quality of life. They come in “demented”, and with “failure to thrive.” Give’em a little chemical speed and suddenly they up’n’at’em all on their own. Dressed and ready to go home to meet up with their friend for dinner parties. It’s miraculous l0l!

    Two other interesting aspects of this conversation to me, with the little info I have on the situation is…

    1)If the teacher has the ability to attain Prajna, and is qualified to teach it too others; there should be no issues of sexual abuse. Basic human issues like the inability to hold ones tongue at the right time is understandable…But, I cannot imagine having a student, and grabbing their ass without the forethought that a)This could ruin my credibility, thus ability, to offer Prajna/Dharma/the Absolute opportunity to other people. So, even taking advantage of a clearly offered opportunity, could very well swing back around and kick me in the face. Obstructing my ability to help others gain the Tao. Thus, it would be an completely selfish act on my part. b)How could I be “enlightened”, and grope a chicks ass without her consent/advancement?

    Personally, from my experience with geriatric patients; the last thing to die is one’s sexuality. As a man, I can be washing feces off of the genitals of an 80 year old man who is probity straight as an arrow, and he can go so semi-erect. This isn’t his fault. This isn’t my fault. It’s not the poop or the diapers fault…this is the nature of the body. The very thing that is Mind, is also not mind. Honestly, I get it. But I do not get it.

    Like,really…I have had many an opportunity to sexually assault many defenseless elderly patients, but I have not. And I am just a working Joe. I’m not an “Enlightened Rinzai Master.” Like, if I have a patient who has gotten fecal matter into the vagina, and it has become a situation of dis-impacting the impacted stool out of the vagina…I advise the female patient of the situation, and after a few attempts, if the stool is still within the vagina cavity(it may be that there is lesion between the bowel and vaginal cavity)., or even if it has caked on the vulva/labia/mon pubis or even clitoris…I go find a female co-worker to complete the job. This only makes common sense. Where is the common sense of these various “Masters” to not grope/advance on female students without invitation? Or psychologically manipulate them for their own physical desires?

    An too, I am not talking about making an invitation. Making an invitation is perfectly well within human nature. Capitalizing upon another is not. Being suggestive is human. Grabbing another’s ass or breast without permission is not.

    2) The other interesting aspect of this situation with Sasaki, is that apparently at some point, Sasaki admitted his transgressions against the Triple Jewel, apologized, and stopped making advances!!! I think this is just as astounding as why these “Masters” have not gained “Mastery over their selves. (And like, I’m not talking about masturbating to porn. I’m talking about not having overcome their ability to overcome sexually assaulting their students l0l!)

    Now…one other rather touchy issue is something that could be viewed as racism on my part. But, I will tell you, it is not racism if I am speaking common knowledge. Even though stereotyping cannot be helped….

    An issue no one else has brought up is Japanese society. At least the last two Rinzai “Masters” that have been held up to scrutiny on this blog have been older Japanese men. They come from a society where traditionally the treatment of Japanese women has been very poor. This is a society where men read sexually graphic comic books on public transit about little children. And where the iconic and sexually romanticized little Japanese school girls are groped on public transit on their way home by old Japanese men. How???

    On the other side of the coin…it may be that I am very ignorant of things of my own society and personal behaviours as well.

    This is partly a cultural issue. Ever watch Japanese porn l0l!? Japanese women are taught, and teach each other, to be demure and childish in their sexuality. It (traditionally, like with many other societies) Japan is a male dominated society. Why is it that Japanese men want to watch pornography where it is like the woman is screaming like she is a child being raped? That is perversion based upon the non-perverted want of a man to hear his sexual partner scream in ecstasy. Like they are insane with pleasure. Pleasure, and to some minor degree pain, both play a role in human intercourse. Just like it does with cats.

    Sometimes I feel that Feminism, takes on a different role with men. It becomes Humanism. It becomes gender neutral. Feminism has an even greater aspect of equality to it when practiced by men. It’s very promising. I have noticed odd situation too while working in a largely female dominated work environment like a hospital ward. Male care givers, can be far more understanding and compassionate. It’s an odd phenomenon to me.

    Pain/pleasure. Delusion/Enlightenment. Happiness/Sorrow, gain/loss, pride/low-self esteem…these are two things that become divided as if tight rope walking on the edge of a razor blade. However, if they remain as one on the edge of a razor blade, and there is no division between subject and object. There is no devision of Dharma/Truth/Prajna/Samadhi/Wisdom etc, or even the Absolute. With no divison, the person is whole, and the person entres a state where emptiness of mind and form of body meet in balance and harmony with Reality. At this point there is no division between self and others/things/environment. Prajna become doorknob to the PureLand of a PureMind. And all things attain the Buddha way regardless of their realization of it or not. Or even the “attainment” of the one who turns the knob and entres Heaven where the purity/impurity of all things is irrelevant. It must be a very slippery slope, because I do not know why people off of the Mind Ground so easily. I do not know why the 8th level of attainment is so easily lost. How one so easily digresses back to the 10th level? And the 1st level?(One very obvious flaw is the stupidity of intellectual thinking and the ignorance there of within the idea of “Attainment.” How is that one minute a person is accomplishing the impossible and bestowed with extreme wealth, and the next minute they are starving ghost? I don’t get this. It’s like the enlightenment destroys them? idk man…please edify if anyone knows. i will listen.

    One interesting idea to me is that reality is not reality. What we are culturally conditioned too, is not reality. But because we do not know any better, we fall victim too it? Perhaps reality can be the Absolute, and sexual assault at the same time? Is that possible?

    I had an Indian friend who was raised Hindu. He said it was fairly common that ta Brahman could rape a girl and sort of spin it off as her lesson. He could do whatever Brahman sees fit because Brahman is Divine. And then again, Shakyamuni was a Divine Brahman who did what he saw fit. (I pass on the opportunity to doubt the matter. What good is that?)
    While Buddhist Masters are human, it is not my impression that they are Gods. However, like the Bravacakra, they many view themselves as Gods…But the Gods are not yet liberated. Or are they? How does a liberated person go from great wealth to poverty in seconds? idk man…honestly, i do not understand.

    How do we know if a “Master” is liberated or not? Or is liberation only a kalpa that comes to a close with chaos, and then liberation? Only to re-entre the cyclic nature of suffering? I don’t understand this.

    The only thing I can assume is that liberation is Cessation. The liberation of Cessation unfolds the Eightfold path without complications.

    Why the hell am I still stuck here in LeggoLand? Has anyone got enough sense to turn a freakin’ light switch on that will just stay the f*** on? SERIOUSLY! IT’S LIKE A BUNCH OF TAPE WORMS DRUNK ON SHIT! AND I’VE GOT THE FATTEST BELLY OF THEM ALL! WTF?




    i’d slash my wrists to escape leggoland…but what value in that? all i can do i watch the ground move by as feet move through the mundane world due too necessity. i cannot blame anyone else for my poor situation. all i can do is flounder though as victim and personal assailant. i am the slave and the master at the same time? a slave can never be liberated, master can never liberate a slave? and this can continue on within on one body indefinitely? i do not understand???

    it’s like i am already dead.

  7. jason farrow
    jason farrow July 28, 2014 at 10:02 pm |

    i am ignoring eshu martin.

  8. jason farrow
    jason farrow July 28, 2014 at 10:04 pm |

    @Brad. I hope you and your friend pull through unscathed.

  9. Shodo
    Shodo July 29, 2014 at 3:45 am |

    Brad said:
    “A few said he was not one of the greats. But that’s wrong. If he were not one of the greats, there would be no conversation to be had. He made an impact on a lot of lives. No one can deny that.”

    This statement is wrong.
    By such criteria, Adam Lanza, the shooter at Sandy Hook also made an impact on a lot of lives… but he’s not great.
    Neither is Sazaki.

    The myth-making machine is hard at work, now that the man is dead.

    1. Andy
      Andy July 29, 2014 at 7:24 am |

      To say that a person is ‘one of the greats’ is different from saying ‘he’s not great’.

      Someone can be considered a great, even if some of the things they did were wrong.

      The former, which Brad used, indicates the magnitude of significance ascribed to a person’s place within a history or tradition – the when, where and in what way of such a person’s positive impact. This doesn’t mean that such a person won’t have had some negative effects or traits of significance and magnitude too.

      The second, which you used, is more of a personal value judgement – and in this instance, a judgment based on the negative aspects.

      I don’t have much to good say about Margaret Thatcher and the effects of her policies on British society. But it would be difficult to deny that she was one of the great British prime ministers.

      In another possible world: If Adam Lanza had served in the military with an honour and courage of such significance and magnitude, on many occasions, but had later gone loopy and did what he did at Sandy Hook, he could be still considered one of the greats in terms of military history, despite many people not considering him a great human being due to his murders. Indeed, there might be many people who would say that he was a great soldier and a great guy for most of his life until things went very wrong.

      The Adam Lanza we know of cannot be considered ‘a great’ because he didn’t do anything that can be considered to have had a positive impact of significance and magnitude in the way that Sazaki is considered to have had. Indeed, he died before he’d given himself or many of his victims a chance to to do anything of such positive significance and magnitude.

      Some extremely wrong-headed people might consider Adam Lanza one of ‘the greats’ in terms of the history of teenage multiple murderers. These people would not be incorrect, though, in using the word ‘great’ in that way, because the wrong-headed-ness would be in the framing of such things as having positive value in the first place. Within that frame, though, they would be using the phrase ‘a great’ correctly.

      The issue perhaps is if Brad is using a wrong-headed framework in saying Sazaki is a great. As it stands, the conventional framework for locutions such as ‘one of the greats’ allows for a person’s reputation to include bad things, sometimes very bad things. Because of this, it would be difficult to deny that he was a great, without fudging the conventional usage or appealing for a different frame and different definitions – both of which will constitute some aspects of the ‘conversation’ that Brad is referring to, and which you and others have entered into.

      We’re all part of the ‘myth making machine’, whether it be through negative, positive, constructive or deconstructive interpolations.

      What if it was discovered that Gotama had developed a penchant for young children in his later years, of which there were incidents when he was a rich prince (maybe indulged with such). I’m pretty certain many people would drop their Buddhist practice for good in disgust, but many would not. I can sympathize with both possible reactions and responses, but the reasons given on either side could be very flawed and indicative of their own personal outlook, which might change. But it would be extremely difficult for either to argue he is not ‘one of the greats’.

      1. Shodo
        Shodo July 29, 2014 at 7:52 am |

        Andy said:
        “In another possible world: If Adam Lanza had served in the military with an honour and courage of such significance and magnitude, on many occasions, but had later gone loopy and did what he did at Sandy Hook, he could be still considered one of the greats in terms of military history, despite many people not considering him a great human being due to his murders.”

        Do you think I was saying something along the lines of a mass murderer could not be good at something other than mass murders, that’s not the point I was making – Adam Lanza was “great” at first person shooter video games…
        Then to narrow the scope of things that Sazaki was “great” at… As far as Sazaki was a religious teacher of Buddhism, he was not great. Neither “skilled at” nor “significant in” in my opinion.

        And if the Buddha had a penchant for young children while preaching celibacy for all his monastics, then Buddhism would not have survived 10 years, much less 2500.

        1. Andy
          Andy July 29, 2014 at 9:16 am |

          –“Do you think I was saying something along the lines of a mass murderer could not be good at something other than mass murders, that’s not the point I was making.”–

          I didn’t suggest that at all and it is not supported by what I have written. I contrasted a possible Adam Lanza with the one we know of, in order to show how even mass murderer’s can be considered ‘one of the greats’ and as a part of showing why your comparison of Lanza with Sazaki, in terms of ‘criteria’ is flawed. Apples and oranges, etc.

          –“Adam Lanza was “great” at first person shooter video games…
          Then to narrow the scope of things that Sazaki was “great” at… As far as Sazaki was a religious teacher of Buddhism, he was not great.”–

          Again, each of your uses of ‘great’ here can be contrasted with ‘great’ when used as ‘one of the greats’/ ‘ a great’, in the way Brad used it.

          It is one thing for you to have the opinion that someone’s shooting or teaching was great/not great. You might be right or wrong.

          But when you contest a phrase like ‘one of the greats’/ ‘not one of the greats’, you are intersecting with more than just your own personal response. The criteria for assessing whether someone’s assertion to that effect (“he is one of the greats”) is right or not has to take into consideration other peoples views on Sazaki and his teachings in person and through his words over his whole career; it should also take into consideration the quality of the witnesses and the assessors of his teachings – again both in written form and in person. This is not to say I believe that those who have negative views from experiences with Sazaki and/or his written teachings are wrong.

          But if you are going to dismiss the accounts and views of people who see things differently, in order to fit your own personal frame and definition of ‘one of the greats’, then you have an enormous amount of work to do and some respected teachers and practitioners to grapple with.

          It’s a bit like my teacher once said about the poet, Philip Larkin: ” He’s one of the greats – not in our house, though.”

          –“Neither “skilled at” nor “significant in” in my opinion.”–

          Well, the first (“skilled”) is in the realm of your and others’ contrasting opinions, which I have no problems with. “significant” on the other hand is, again, not something you can project your own opinion about successfully. Sazaki’s readership is/was ‘significant’ in the sense that he has made a ‘significant’ (large and meaningful) contribution to how many people understand Zen Buddhism. He might have been full of shit but it is significant shit.

          –“And if the Buddha had a penchant for young children while preaching celibacy for all his monastics, then Buddhism would not have survived 10 years, much less 2500.” —

          You might well be right. My thought experiment included such wrong-doing as by young Prince and then in his later years. I’m not so sure if what was established in the decades in between would have withered away, if we consider the history of what many religious adherents do when they are faced with such things – especially those with the potential cop-out/understanding that comes with notions such as the discontinuity/illusive nature of the self.

          But that was a side-step. My thought-experiment was about a contemporary revelation and how that would be received.

          I have no problems with your moral repugnance at Sazaki. That’s your business.

          1. Shodo
            Shodo July 29, 2014 at 10:31 am |

            Andy said:
            “I have no problems with your moral repugnance at Sazaki. That’s your business.”

            Understood – these are all just my opinions. 😉

  10. AnneMH
    AnneMH July 29, 2014 at 5:41 am |

    Hey Brad, I agree with the poster who said you are a genuinely good person. I think that matters in teaching within Buddhism. I have no clue why people are so harsh and mean and suck. You would think at least on something related to Buddhism that there would be an effort to be aware of your own crap. But then again on our local sangha site we continually have people trying to sell shoes until they are blocked.

    I feel for your friend Logan and his wife. It is not as well known but cancer costs a LOT of money. I have one friend not continuing treatment for a slow growing cancer and many people think she is just not trying, it is really hard especially when your brain is working so hard to just not be sick. I do know that having friends around is huge so even though it is hard I am glad you are able to pull off going.

  11. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote July 29, 2014 at 11:29 am |

    AnneMH, that reminds me of something I came across the other day when a friend of mine starting using a progesterone skin cream, and I was looking for the correct amount to use. It’s from a review of a pamphlet entitled “Hormone Balance for Men”, but I would call your attention to the mention that progesterone “promotes the p53 gene which allows for normal cell death”:

    “Progesterone is a forgotten hormone in men. Dr. Lee writes that progesterone is a 5 alpha reductase inhibitor and thus helps manage the conversion of testosterone to DHT. Progesterone has anabolic or energy raising qualities and like testosterone promotes the p53 gene which allows for normal cell death. This is important for cancer prevention. He recommends that men use 5 to 8 mg per day.” from here.

    The benefit of natural progesterone, as opposed to the progestins, for women is something Dr. Lee wrote about a long time ago now (see “What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause”). You might think more doctors would prescribe an over-the-counter cream available at your local Whole Foods containing a substance with no known side effects (so far as I know), but it turns out the definition of malpractice is not doing what all the other doctors are doing, it has nothing to do with the accuracy of the science. Dr. Lee was going around the country in his retirement (after 30 years of family practice in Marin, CA) lecturing to groups of women, he said he would educate the women and they would educate their doctors. There’s never been a national test with natural progesterone (it’s synthesized, but molecularly identical to human progesterone, unlike the progestins which have been altered by a molecule or two)– unlike the progestins, natural progesterone can’t be patented, and you know what that means in our society as far as research and what gets prescribed.

    The most difficult thing in recommending progesterone to people, in my experience, is to overcome the tendency of most people to regard their doctors as infallible, and uncorruptable. As I think about it, there’s a strong parallel with the way people view their Zen teachers; the notion that you really do have to do some studying yourself and make your own decisions is uncomfortable to the point of repulsive to many people. The idea that teachers or doctors could be overlooking something obvious and readily available and that they might have financial or other incentives to do so is just unacceptable in the minds of many.

    The vendors of snake oil and the consequences of untested compounds currently on the market are everywhere, so people are right to be cautious, but with progesterone in a skin cream we are talking about something with a lot of history.

    And, oh, the warning from the state of california about what’s in the tube causing cancer is the state of california’s way to telling us all that the doctors in charge here don’t know the difference between progesterone, which is what’s in the tube, and progestins. That lack of understanding is what you will likely get from your own doctor, if you ask, but the difference in the listed side effects in the physicians desk reference is quite telling, according to Dr. Lee.

  12. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote July 29, 2014 at 11:32 am |

    Dr. Lee was advising the use of progesterone and the avoidance of estrogen in the late 1980’s and 1990’s, about ten years before the medical profession discovered the damage that they were doing in prescribing HRT (estrogen/progestin hormone replacement therapy).

  13. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote July 29, 2014 at 11:42 am |

    Jason Farrow, thanks for that. I feel better about approaching my senior years now.

    Do I sit because I’m a challenged individual in several respects, or because I’m so behaviorally dysfunctional that I have to give myself a time-out at regular intervals in order to stay presentable the rest of the time?

    Or is it just like Andrew Weil put it in “Natural Mind”, we all need a way to alter consciousness, regularly, and meditation is the healthiest of the alternatives?

    I get high sometimes, yes, just sitting there. Worse, it spills over into standing around, taking a hike, drinking my tea. I’m grateful to be alive, and to be able to take care of myself; I’m grateful to you, Jason, for doing the job that you do. I’ve cleaned some sump traps, but they couldn’t grab my ass while I was doing it; my heavens.

    1. jason farrow
      jason farrow July 29, 2014 at 1:08 pm |

      no need to thank me.

      on one hand, i do not expect the same care in return.
      but, on a more unfortunate scale of things, i am forced to do it for a pay cheque.
      but, as a lay-man, i try to make both ends meet by doing a job of proper livelihood. it’s not a glamorous job l0l! i get very little respect. but, when i get respect from my patients it’s very humbling. some of my co-workers get very “huggy-huggy” with patients…i often feel like it is the right thing to do, esp for the pateint…but i am also aware that things can really change on a dime and get pretty ugly fast. i never try to play the part of a family member.

      often geriatric patients(the ones who are really suffering the effects of old age), would often say to me, “don’t get old! it’s horrible!” i would always reply with a kind smile, “how do i do that?” i’ve never had anyone laugh as a response. and it was never received as an insult. but it always sort of brought things back into focus.

  14. Alan Sailer
    Alan Sailer July 29, 2014 at 12:36 pm |

    I was in our small library at work during lunch and saw that they had a rather lengthy obituary of Sasaki. This kind of surprised me, I wouldn’t expect a 1/4 page remembrance of a zen teacher.

    The writing was a mixture of the good and bad parts of his life, sprinkled with a seasoning of oblique zen anecdotes.

    I was also amused by Brad’s observation that someone demonstrated the truth of Godwin’s Law in the course of the Sasaki debate.

    Since I have attended several retreats up at Sasaki’s Mount Baldy Zen Center, I guess this makes me some sort of minor league Nazi at this point.


  15. jason farrow
    jason farrow July 29, 2014 at 12:56 pm |

    “A boy asks his mother a question, a wonderful question,’Mum, Dad, this flower opened, but disappeared this morning. Where did it go? Where did it disappear? Where did this flower go? It disappeared.’

    Mother, how do you answer your children?”
    -Joshu Sasaki Roshi

    1. Fred
      Fred July 29, 2014 at 1:12 pm |

      ” He might have been full of shit but it is significant shit.”

      Nah, it’s just shit.

      A trance induced in willing subjects with the need to escape the vagaries of life.

      Keep secreting.

      1. Andy
        Andy July 30, 2014 at 1:06 am |

        I’m not sure what you point is, Fred.

        After all, the very fact of a number of “willing subjects” makes the shit more significant, surely – and in every possible sense of the word?

        1. Fred
          Fred July 30, 2014 at 8:17 am |

          Yes, let me finger your vagina with magical fairy dust and you will
          see through the veils of maya.

          1. Andy
            Andy July 30, 2014 at 9:19 am |

            good for you

  16. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel July 29, 2014 at 11:47 pm |

    “Great/ not great”
    That reminds me of Beethoven.
    I sometimes like Beethoven’s music, though not all the time. I’m more a 17th C music fan.

    But who would dream of saying that Beethoven was not one of the greats? And yet, he seems to have been one of the worst persons you could ever imagine. He sued his sister so as to get his hands over her son (“a single woman cannot possibly raise correctly a boy, you know!”). And then he rented the appartment in front of the gate to the high school where he’d send him. The boy felt so squeezed that he always managed to get thrown out of the school. So Uncle Ludwig would send him to another school and move in front of the gate. Which accounts for Beethoven moving 80 times in his life. EIGHTY frigging times!
    No surprise the boy, as soon as he was old enough, enlisted in the army and was never seen again.
    Then, old Ludwig was a miser. Always complaining how poor he was, how miserable, that music didn’t earn him a living, that nobody understood his art, and so on. But actually, he was stinking rich. Just a bit of a scrooge, up to counting how many grains of coffee his servant put in the mill for his coffee!

    Well, if you startmaking the list of his flaws, does that change anything to his music?

  17. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote July 30, 2014 at 9:57 am |

    Fascinating. The woman who is putting me up (& putting up with me) was raised in Germany and is very careful with measurements too– but that’s because she likes her coffee just so.

    But I take your point, about Ludwig being a tad eccentric, maybe his adopted son would say twisted, yet undeniably one of the greats.

    It’s curious that Sasaki never did give any of his students permission to teach (am I right about that?). Wonder what would have happened if one of them had groped him, ishinashini– clearly the will-less hand was something above and beyond, in his opinion (see giko david ruben on sweeping zen about that)– maybe that’s what he was waiting for?

    Just kidding, Joshu!

    But it does seem a little odd to me that he didn’t give the nod, and I have to wonder if he was concerned that he might get the ouster sooner rather than later if he did. If Richard Baker had not given Reb Anderson permission to teach, would the folks at the Zen Center have proceeded quite as they did? He swore not to die until Zen was born in America, but he had no successor.

    What will they do now for a teacher, I wonder, at Mt. Baldy?

  18. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote July 30, 2014 at 10:01 am |

    and yes, the music I linked is from that other century.

  19. SamsaricHelicoid
    SamsaricHelicoid July 30, 2014 at 11:42 am |

    Reading all of your comments makes me thankful I abandoned my Soto Zen Sangha after years of practice…

    None of you really know what you’re talking about. Idolizing a man just because of his popularity. A man who was hypocritical while molesting other students… when he claimed to be spreading the “Dharma”.

    If popularity is all it takes to be considered a good teacher, then I feel right in leaving the Sangha.

    Everyone deserves to be listened too. Sometimes the “trolls” have even better things to say than the “Masters” you hold in higher-esteem. If you’re going to ignore someone just because you view them as mentally ill, you have no place to talk down to others.

    I will listen to both the Sasakis and trolls, and ultimately, I will come back to myself and my own experiences when ascertaining the validity. Neither are higher than the other.

  20. Alan Sailer
    Alan Sailer July 30, 2014 at 2:09 pm |


    There was a person that went by the name CosmicBrainz who used to post here. He would comment about how he used to practice zazen but he ruined his knee(s) and was glad that he had given up the whole Soto Zen thing.

    I used to wonder why he would bother hanging around a scene that he had decided wasn’t for him. Strange…


    1. SamsaricHelicoid
      SamsaricHelicoid July 30, 2014 at 2:52 pm |

      Alan, that is me!

      I don’t hide anything. I thought it was obvious based off my syntax and manner of typing. I still stand by the fact that Daniel and I are not the same people though.

      I realized why I’ve been acting like that. Part of me wants to leave Soto while another part of me doesn’t want to. I recently started reading Stonehouse (Shiwu) very deeply. I would be lying if I said the Dharma did not matter to me. It’s the most important thing to me in life, but I do not want to destroy my knee in the process. I tried doing Tai Chi recently and the throbbing pain came.

      I am okay with Zazen, but there needs to be more diverse activities I feel, such as strolls in nature-esque settings in solitude. I am looking into monasteries with no avail. Antaiji sounds pretty bad and rigid in my opinion.

      I do not like people quoting Dogen in a stilted manner without relying on personal experience and one’s own creative expression. I’m trying to find a school that is more dynamic and all-encompassing in its approach. I would be lying if I said I think Soto is downright bad because I feel it is very good for the Way. The best thing about Soto is how it teaches the perspective of gain and loss, of getting “somewhere”, is flawed.

      1. Alan Sailer
        Alan Sailer July 31, 2014 at 6:44 am |


        Oh. I am pretty dumb on the ways of the internet, if someone posts with a different name on this forum I assume that it is a different person.

        Once again I’m sorry that working with a previous group hurt your knee. I sometimes wonder if my own knee pains are just a sign of age or because of sitting zazen. Maybe I should swallow my pride and sit on a chair for a while to see what happens…

        I also agree about people quoting Dogen without understanding him. I made a promise to myself that I would not do that because it felt so pretentious. I think I have pretty much kept that promise.

        Good luck with your search. Just keep in mind that the search for some sort of perfect path is part of the whole problem that we (as humans) are fighting in the the first place.


  21. Daniel CosmicBrainz
    Daniel CosmicBrainz July 30, 2014 at 3:12 pm |

    It’s true. We are not the same people.

    1. Fred
      Fred July 30, 2014 at 5:54 pm |
    2. SamsaricHelicoid
      SamsaricHelicoid July 30, 2014 at 7:13 pm |

      Stop mocking me.

      I meant ‘person’.

      You know very well what I meant. If there was an edit button I would fix that typo.

      I type fast without proofreading on forums.

  22. Daniel CosmicBrainz
    Daniel CosmicBrainz July 30, 2014 at 6:17 pm |

    U know it Freddy!
    Clap your hands…

  23. The Idiot
    The Idiot July 30, 2014 at 6:27 pm |

    Vintage awesome…

    What will they think of him, in 3000 years?


  24. Mumbles
    Mumbles July 30, 2014 at 8:03 pm |

    We were all Young once…

  25. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote July 30, 2014 at 10:25 pm |

    SamsaricHelicoid, walking is good- I’ve read (in Rhys David’s book?) that Gautama walked twenty miles regularly, at least until his following became huge– maybe between the villages where he made his begging rounds. I know there’s a sermon where he’s quoted as saying he liked being on the highway with no one in front or behind, quite a bit.

    Everyday I do stretches, that make me realize how tentative my left knee is. I sympathize.

    Bach gone bad:

  26. The Idiot
    The Idiot July 31, 2014 at 4:31 am |

    This blog is like that old tv show cheers. Every post is a new episode and the comment section inevitably devolves to the regulars jovially ‘mumbling’ to each other. Where evrybody knows yr name….

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot July 31, 2014 at 6:28 am |

      Social lubricant. Assures people you disagree with of your underlying respect and benevolence.

      Thus freeing ourselves to act like assholes when conditions call for it.

      1. The Idiot
        The Idiot July 31, 2014 at 4:04 pm |

        Ok Minkfoot – you’re Fraiser then. Mumbles, Norm’s all yours. I just float on the edges here and take occasional potshots so I’d say I’m just an extra.

        Brad, of course, is both Sam and Diane and the contradictory nature of their relationship, which keeps us all coming back week after week. When will they get together!?

  27. SamsaricHelicoid
    SamsaricHelicoid July 31, 2014 at 6:35 am |

    I like this guy’s criticisms of Soto Zen:

    I think the hua-tou/hwadu approach beats the Just Sitting approach.

  28. SamsaricHelicoid
    SamsaricHelicoid July 31, 2014 at 6:40 am |
  29. Steve
    Steve July 31, 2014 at 8:06 am |


    I actually enjoy reading the zennist. But talk about someone quoting Dogen who doesn’t understand it! He definitely makes a valid criticism of the way modern zen operates. Which is that many people look to zen as a form of therapy to help the ego cope and are not aware or interested in anything else. And there are plenty of zen teachers who treat it as such. There are plenty of zen teachers with little depth, medium depth, and great depth, just as there are practioners who attain to all different levels. I personally think he WAY overstates and over-generalizes the state of zen teaching in the US. But I do think it’s an important point to keep in mind.

    But what he does is confuse a common misunderstanding of Dogen’s work with Dogen’s actual work. He offers some useful insight into sutras and other topics. But he also believes he is the only person in the western world who understands koans. Don’t close off the idea that there is what Dogen wrote and there is what the Zennist thinks Dogen wrote.

    1. SamsaricHelicoid
      SamsaricHelicoid July 31, 2014 at 8:15 am |

      Steve, I’ve read a significant amount of Dogen in Brad Warner’s Sit Down and Shut Up, Shohaku Okumura’s Realizing Genjokoan, Moon in a Dewdrop, and Matsuoka’s texts.

      I feel as if Japanese Zen lost the heart of Ch’an. I will explain in a long post. I would like people’s heartfelt responses, and maybe then I may stick with Soto?

      I realized how rigid they are with Shikantaza (i.e., a kind of Zazen that is instructionless and involves ‘just sitting’ with moment-to-moment non-judgmental awareness that lets thoughts come and ago without grasping). They emphasized too much on the formal requirements of posture, and I know many people who had to get knee surgery from sitting in half or full lotus too much. While sitting in half lotus is fine for 1-2 hr a day, in Sesshins people sit for 9-12 hr at a time in half-lotus, burmese, full-lotus, or seiza postures. I do not think this is ultimately very good on the knees, and it can lead to circulation and knee issues (bow legged). Research backs up the circulation issues it can cause… Do you know if early Chinese Ch’an emphasized heavily on “proper physical posture” such as erect perfectly spine during Silent Illumination?

      I liked the rituals of chanting the Sutras, washing dishes, bowing to the statue, cleaning the Sangha, and etc. However, I did not like how they idolized the Zazen posture. Dogen basically says Shikantaza “in proper posture” is enlightenment-in-action, and many Sanghas seem to elevate Zazen as if it’s the “be end to end all”.

      What I like about earlier Ch’an is figures like Stonehouse (Shiwu) and Cold Mountain (Han Shan) received a lot of solitude within natural scenery, and they creatively manifested their own understanding through artwork. Those two aspects seem very important in early Ch’an, if I’m not mistaken? I think Japanese Zen kind of lost that. There was a kind of creative fluidity to earlier Ch’an, Korean Zen, and Vietnamese Thien that was lost in its transition to Japan. I think reading some koans in the Blue Cliff Record seems to point to how one has to actualize understanding through their own life and not imitation.

      Early Ch’an Buddhists also did more diverse practices such as qigong exercises like throat singing. They also had more knowledge on self-sustainable practices such as chopping wood, carrying water, planting crops, foraging, and etc. Stonehouse’s poetry seems to point this permaculture-like aspect.
      As it stands, I do not really like what Japan did to Zen. I like Ryokan and Kodo Sawaki a lot, but in modern Japanese Zen, there is almost a militant fixation on having proper posture even if it induces pain… My sensei would give mental strategies to cope with such pain, saying it is could help with letting thoughts come and go during Shikantaza.

  30. Alan Sailer
    Alan Sailer July 31, 2014 at 9:33 am |


    I have read you above post several times and it seems that your argument with zen centers around two issues.

    1) Zazen and damaged knees.

    2) There are more ways to reach understanding than through zen.

    As to the first point, your original teacher was dead wrong when he encouraged you to sit through what sounds like really intense knee pain. Both of the teachers I have studied with (Brad and Kevin) were very careful to note that knee pain is not good. It’s really a shame your teacher was not so understanding, but dismissing zen on the basis of one overzealous teacher doesn’t make sense.

    As far as the second point, zen is very clear that there is much more to practice than sitting zazen. Hiking, reading, cooking, permaculture, Christianity, even watching Tarkovsky are all completely allowed in zen practice.

    People who have never sat a day in their lives have seen the true nature of reality while waiting at a train station. So it can and does happen on a completely random basis.

    As far as I see, zen (as well as many other traditions) believe that following certain practices makes it a little more likely that such a lightning bolt of understanding will strike.

    I’d be very suspicious of a zen teacher who claimed zen was the only path worth following. Personally, I’d also avoid a zen teacher who didn’t feel zen was the very best of all possible paths.


    1. Fred
      Fred July 31, 2014 at 9:38 am |

      Contraction and expansion at the center of gravity.

    2. SamsaricHelicoid
      SamsaricHelicoid July 31, 2014 at 12:10 pm |

      Hey Alan, thanks for your response.

      Your second point is a misinterpretation of what I’m saying: “2) There are more ways to reach understanding than through zen.”

      If you change that to “2) There needs to be more diversity in practices to reach understanding in Soto Zen without placing Shikantaza on a pedestal,” then that would be correct.

      Many schools of Ch’an originally did more diverse practices than just Silent Illumination or seated meditation, and even the ones that emphasized on Silent Illumination (such as Caodong) did not seem to place heavy emphasis on “proper posture” or treat it like its holy (i.e., place it on a pedestal).

      Throat singing (a qiqong exercise) was a part of Stonehouse (Shiwu)’s daily regimen, and he did many diverse activities. Sitting was not the focal point of his practice, but rather, creative expression and frequent solitude in natural scenery had more precedence.

      I think Antaiji and Soto Zen have it all wrong. I am still a Zen/Ch’an Buddhist, but I am starting to look more into Korean Zen such as Kusan Sunim and older Ch’an schools, and I like them a bit more. Kwan Um seems nice, but I’m not sure because I have not practiced it within a school, none near me. My criticisms are exclusive only to Soto. Heck, I don’t even know anything about Rinzai, so maybe if I just tried that out, it would be better?

      1. Alan Sailer
        Alan Sailer July 31, 2014 at 12:53 pm |


        “If you change that to “2) There needs to be more diversity in practices to reach understanding in Soto Zen without placing Shikantaza on a pedestal,” then that would be correct”.

        Fair enough.

        I’d change a few words, though. From “There needs to be more diversity..” to “You need more diversity…”.

        For me the complete simplicity of Soto Zen was the point. I’d add zazen to my life and see what happens.

        So I have no problem with the Soto Zen emphasis on Shikantaza. When Brad first added chanting to his sesshins I was appalled. (A statement Minkfoot made here a few months ago helped mollify my discomfort.)

        I personally have no problem with your dislike of zen. I’m still puzzled why you bother posting that you dislike zen on the comments section of a Soto zen teacher.

        Have fun.

        1. SamsaricHelicoid
          SamsaricHelicoid July 31, 2014 at 1:03 pm |

          I’m trying to figure out whether I should stick with Soto or just move on to other things?

          1. Alan Sailer
            Alan Sailer July 31, 2014 at 1:36 pm |


            “…should I stick with Soto…”

            It’s a good question. I used to ask it a lot myself. (I also have a sinking feeling that at some point I’ll be asking it again.)

            Soto zen is a very undramatic practice. I don’t know much about you other than the tone of what you have posted here in the past, some of it has been pretty intense. You may be looking for a practice that gives you something more to take hold of.

            Fortunately, you are the only person who can decide if you need something other than Soto zen. I couldn’t possibly know. Soto zen has a long tradition of not proselytizing and I think this makes sense.

            I will (once again) point out that zen has no problem mixing with other traditions. Think of it, you can both stick with zen and move on.


          2. SamsaricHelicoid
            SamsaricHelicoid July 31, 2014 at 4:12 pm |

            I’ll make my own school of Zen and spread the true Dharma that Hui Neng, Stonehouse (Shiwu), Cold Mountain (Han Shan), and etc. espoused after I deepen my enlightenment.

            I am the Saoshyant and will mix elements of Zoroastrianism with the new school of Zen. I will call it “Zenorastriand”

  31. Mumbles
    Mumbles July 31, 2014 at 9:57 am |

    Anybody notice two of my comments at approx 4:45 a.m. this morning disappear? WTF??

    1. Fred
      Fred July 31, 2014 at 11:55 am |

      4:45 AM Wichita time? I was in the foaming breakers of the Void then.

      1. The Idiot
        The Idiot July 31, 2014 at 4:59 pm |
  32. Mumbles
    Mumbles July 31, 2014 at 4:43 pm |

    No, 4:45 this blog-time. Are you perchance in Wichita, Fred?

    1. Fred
      Fred July 31, 2014 at 5:06 pm |

      No John, I’m in the matrix.

      1. Mumbles
        Mumbles July 31, 2014 at 6:24 pm |

        Too bad, I would’ve invited you to come out & hear our band a couple weeks ago>

        Turned out to be a great crowd.

        1. Mumbles
          Mumbles July 31, 2014 at 6:33 pm |

          Maybe you can still make it! Time travel much?

  33. Fred
    Fred July 31, 2014 at 5:09 pm |
  34. The Idiot
    The Idiot July 31, 2014 at 5:29 pm |

    “Just before we left to our retreat place in the sky, my Love and I sat on the side of a craggy hill, tucked away in our sleeping bag, gazing out over the retreat valley and wondering what will happen.”

    sad 🙁

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot August 1, 2014 at 8:27 am |

      Spiritual shit is dangerous.

  35. otaku00
    otaku00 August 7, 2014 at 2:36 am |

    According to one of Sasaki’s disciples, it was well known for a very long time what female students would experience being alone with him, known to everyone who joined his sangha. Therefore we should not believe that his age and a sort of dementia contributed to it, rather that a certain dementia of his accusers contributed to forgetting their inital willingness to become his disciples.

  36. otaku00
    otaku00 August 7, 2014 at 2:40 am |

    “Visiting sick friends on the other side of the country is expensive! Your donations help a lot! Thank you!”

    This goes too far. You want to be paid for visiting a friend, if sick or not. That’s lame.

  37. SamsaricHelicoid
    SamsaricHelicoid August 24, 2014 at 3:50 pm |

    I’ve been reading a book by Hsu Yun, and I like his approach to Ch’an/Zen a lot.

    I’ve also been reading Nan Huai-Chin…

    There is SOMETHING about Chinese Ch’an and Korean Zen that the Japanese lost. I can’t quite put my finger on it. If I knew Mandarin, I would try to find a teacher in the Zhongnan Mountains or something.

Comments are closed.