KRON INTERVIEW and DETROIT ROCK CITY

Here at last, the interview from KRON-TV San Francisco’s morning show:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eak3DCgocM8]

Henry Tenenbaum is a fave of 0DFx guitarist Tommy Strange. Who is the ugly-looking hairy guy in the weird-ass Halloween witch costume, though?

And don’t forget on Wednesday July 18 at 7PM, I’ll be at Still Point Center 4347 Trumbull Ave. (South of Warren Ave. on the corner of Canfield and Trumbull) Detroit, MI 48208 Phone: 313-831-1005

100 Responses

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  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous July 11, 2007 at 12:04 pm | |

    why are you holding that stick and wearing those clothes? i thought you were only supposed to wear that stuff when you were actually sitting zazen.

    wearing that stuff on tv gives the false impression that that’s how you dress in you day to day life. did the tv people make you do it?

    dan

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous July 11, 2007 at 12:07 pm | |

    also something that i’ve been wondering for a while. both you and jundo both have facial hair and you have long hair. in the shobogenzo it specifically states that buddhist priests should not grow their hair long or sport facial hair. just wondering why you ignore that bit.

    and before anyone brings up wiping your urethra with little balls of clay, the part about shaving your head is much stronger than that part in its wording. it basically says that priests who have long hair are not real priests.

  3. Jules
    Jules July 11, 2007 at 12:18 pm | |

    Hi Brad,
    You’ve said before that you’re uncomfortable wearing the robes, and now I can see why… it sounded kinda funny to hear you saying that “Buddhism was about dealing with reality” while you’re wearing a costume.

    All the same, great interview.

  4. Anonymous
    Anonymous July 11, 2007 at 12:21 pm | |

    found it:

    “those who do not understand [the importance of shaving the head] are not secular people and not monks; they are just animals. since ancient times, was there any buddhist patriartch who did not shave the head? those who do not understand [the importance of) shaving the head are truly animals.” p.59 of the nishijima cross version of shobogenzo

  5. Anonymous
    Anonymous July 11, 2007 at 12:21 pm | |

    Good interview Brad!

    I thought it was interesting that the interviewer called punk “nihilistic” and you managed to counter that point without it taking away from what you were saying about zen and your story. I liked that you pointed out that the things that went wrong with the punk movement were the same things that were wrong about society at large.

    You avoided the spin he was trying to give to your story skillfully :-) Sounded like he was going to try to turn it into a “punk boy finds God” story or something.

    I probably would’ve gotten pissed off at the dude’s statement that punk was nihilistic. Such the “mainstream” stereotype!

    I appreciate your integrity.

    – Zen Jawa

  6. 'drew
    'drew July 11, 2007 at 12:34 pm | |

    In response to Dan’s comment: “supposed to” is a tricky phrase. Who supposes? Who dictates the rules? I’m not sure if anyone in Nishijima’s tradition has made particular rules about when lay priests may wear robes, but in general, it’s not about when you’re “supposed to” wear robes as when it is right and helpful.

    The Vinaya code does state when bikkhus should wear robes: always. But we’re at a strange time in history when there is more in-between space between lay patrons of the Dharma and celibate monastics. Plus, there are further questions posed by mass media, which Buddha of course did not address directly because television hadn’t been invented.

    So, at this point in history, lay Dharma teachers have to choose skillfully how to appear in order to help other beings understand the Dharma. Sometimes they feel it is skillful to wear robes. Other times they feel it is skillful to wear street clothes. Lama Surya Das appeared on The Colbert Report wearing a business suit, for instance. You may be right that it would have been more skillful for Brad to appear on KRON wearing something else, or you may not be, but in the end, it’s his decision to make. And any outfit is, in some sense, a costume.

  7. Mysterion
    Mysterion July 11, 2007 at 12:52 pm | |

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Anonymous
    Anonymous July 11, 2007 at 12:58 pm | |

    who gives a shit what he’s wearing

  9. Anonymous
    Anonymous July 11, 2007 at 1:04 pm | |

    i do. he looks silly

  10. Anonymous
    Anonymous July 11, 2007 at 1:07 pm | |

    to anonymous above –

    you are petty

  11. Brad
    Brad July 11, 2007 at 1:09 pm | |

    This should answer the question about why I grew my hair back. Things have relaxed somewhat in the past 800 years. Plus everybody shaves their head these days so the symbolic meaning is pretty much lost. As for robes, Nishijima encourages his students to wear them whenever it’s appropriate. The TV producers wanted it. I felt silly.

    This is really me this time, by the way. Not sure if I’m gonna make a habit of commenting in my own blog.

  12. Imperatrix
    Imperatrix July 11, 2007 at 1:20 pm | |

    Brad, thanks for posting.

  13. dan
    dan July 11, 2007 at 1:21 pm | |

    i knew the tv guys wanted it.

    “it’s not about when you’re “supposed to” wear robes as when it is right and helpful.”

    that’s surely the same thing drew:

    how about ‘ you’re supposed to wear them when it’s right and helpful’

    i would argue that the only time its right and helpful to wear robes is in the zazen hall.

    my personal theory about why robes are right and helpful is purely the practical reasons that when you are sitting with your eyes open, if your body is covered with a big black cloth then this helps get rid of the feeling of an individual. you cant see your clothes and body so you tend to think of your ‘self’ less if you see what i mean. that’s the only reason i wear a robe when i sit and mines not even a proper kesa i just use a big black dressing gown or a blanket if its cold.

    from my perspective of the only reason to wear the kesa being the practical one i just mentioned, to me it seems taht wearing your robes outside of that situation is akin to a boxer coming on to that tv show in shorts and boxing gloves or a surfer coming on wearing a wetsuit. out of the practical function those outfits serve it just looks silly to wear them.

    i know i have a tendency to be a bit of a fanboy too, but this whole ‘as soon as someone says anything that is even slightly off from ‘you’re great brad, i friggin love everything about you!’ they get slated by everyone; well it’s just getting a bit ridculous. it is OK to criticise brad you know. you dont have to assume that everything he does is right. sheesh.

  14. dan
    dan July 11, 2007 at 1:26 pm | |

    “Plus everybody shaves their head these days so the symbolic meaning is pretty much lost.”

    you see again tho i would say that the reason to keep the hair short is a practical one rather than a symbolic one. i once saw this documentary about burmese monks and this monk said the reason why they shave their heads and faces is purely because it is easy to become attached to your hairstyle. he said something about young’uns getting too obsessed with combing and styling their hair which wasn;t a very helpful thing to focus on so for this reason they encouraged thema ll to keep their hair short.

  15. 'drew
    'drew July 11, 2007 at 1:49 pm | |

    Dan, it may be a question of semantics, but I think there’s a difference between “supposed to” and “helpful.” If someone says, for instance, “I know I’m supposed to brush my teeth every day,” it sounds like brushing is something done to live up to a certain standard, rather than a chosen habit based in dedication to dental health. If someone says, “You’re not supposed to wear blue jeans to church,” it suggests the same appeal to authority. So whether it’s skillful to wear robes in a public appearance… is open to debate.

  16. Anonymous
    Anonymous July 11, 2007 at 1:52 pm | |

    thanks for sharing brad!!!

  17. Mysterion
    Mysterion July 11, 2007 at 1:56 pm | |

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  18. PA
    PA July 11, 2007 at 2:24 pm | |

    Yeah, the robes shocked me at the start and then I just listened to what you were saying and it didn’t really bother me that much…
    I enjoyed it muchly, thanks!

  19. Blake
    Blake July 11, 2007 at 4:17 pm | |

    Brad should have dressed up as Godzilla. A Godzilla with long hair and a goatee.

  20. Jordan & The Tortoise
    Jordan & The Tortoise July 11, 2007 at 4:51 pm | |

    I think the Shaved head pic looks good.
    Thanks for sharing it, I am going to put it up on my alter next to Dogen’s picture!

  21. Anonymous
    Anonymous July 11, 2007 at 5:09 pm | |

    shaved head doesn’t look that bad
    shaved head doesn’t look that brad, either

  22. Jules
    Jules July 11, 2007 at 5:37 pm | |

    I like the shaved pic too. If the robes makes you feel silly, there’s probably a good reason… like, you kinda look silly wearing them. Sorry.

    ‘drew said: And any outfit is, in some sense, a costume.

    Ordinary clothes in modern US society don’t really qualify as costume in my opinion, as the word is commonly used in the US today. Yes, if you want to go strictly by the dictionary definition of costume I think any clothes pretty much fit, but that’s not the way most people use the word ‘costume’ today.

    The word costume implies unusual, even fanciful dress, to most English speakers. And I think the impression the average Joe has of Buddhist robes definitely falls into ‘costume’.

    Usually a costume worn by people with a somewhat tenuous connection to reality, who spend their time hanging out in airports giving away flowers. At least, that’s what a lot of people in the US think of when they see Buddhist robes, thanks to the Krishnas.

    It shouldn’t matter what you wear. But if you’re making the time and effort to do TV interviews, then you must have something you want to communicate with people. If a significant chunk of your target audience stops listening when they see a hippy-dippy costume, then you are not communicating as effectively as you could be.

    For example, say I really liked wearing a cat-in-the-hat top hat and wore it all the time. I want to warn people about the dangers of the chemicals in fast food, and I manage to score a TV interview. Should I wear my hat to the interview? Or should I make a little sacrifice, in the name of getting ordinary people to take me seriously, and put the hat away for the day?

    I think Buddhist robes are more culturally recognized in Japan than they are in the US… people are more familiar with them. They probably don’t look so silly to people over there.

  23. Jinzang
    Jinzang July 11, 2007 at 5:43 pm | |

    If Brad’s not going to keep the monastic vow of celibacy, one of the four root vows in the Vinaya, it seems silly to quible about wearing or not wearing robes or long hair. Very few monks in Japan observe the Vinaya and I don’t know how Buddhist monasticism is undertood in modern Japan.

  24. Jinzang
    Jinzang July 11, 2007 at 5:47 pm | |

    Incidentally, the four root vows in the Vinaya are not to kill, not to steal, not to engage in sex, and not to lie about one’s spiritual attainments. If the root vows are broken, you’re no longer a monk or nun.

  25. Jared
    Jared July 11, 2007 at 6:50 pm | |

    Well Brad isn’t a nun anymore, that’s for sure.

  26. Mysterion
    Mysterion July 11, 2007 at 7:14 pm | |

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  27. 'drew
    'drew July 11, 2007 at 7:23 pm | |

    Jules writes: Ordinary clothes in modern US society don’t really qualify as costume in my opinion, as the word is commonly used in the US today.

    What is “ordinary”? To call a certain outfit ordinary is to suggest that there’s a natural, ordinary state of self, and that there is a particular kind of clothing that is ordinary for that self. But that’s not true. I have a set of clothes that I consider ordinary for running daily errands. I have a set of clothes that I consider ordinary for work. I have a set of clothes–robes–that I consider ordinary for the temple. And I have clothes that I consider ordinary for bed. Wearing any one set of clothes for the wrong “performance” would be unusual. It would feel kind of like a costume if I wore my Saturday clothes on a Tuesday, even though those clothes feel most comfortable.

    So what’s “ordinary” to wear for a TV appearance? Most men appearing on a TV interview would wear a tie. If Brad went on a TV interview wearing a tie, that would be unusual for him. If he went on wearing a faded concert t-shirt, that would be unusual for the show. The clothes he chooses represent which “Brad Warner” was showing up for the interview.

    The Buddhist teaching of anatta means that there is no inherent self. Every expression of self is a choice, and every expression of self is temporary. We’re all wearing costumes.

  28. Anonymous
    Anonymous July 11, 2007 at 9:49 pm | |

    Nice job. You ought to see if you can get on something with higher-quality interviewers, though. Fresh Air; Diane Rehm, etc.

  29. Lone Wolf
    Lone Wolf July 11, 2007 at 10:26 pm | |

    Nice! I myspaced the interview.

    If I was a Punk Zen Priest and people made assumptions and expected me to not wear robes, I would throw on the robes just to piss everybody off lol…. no, to break people from the attatchment to whether I wear robes or a Godzilla shirt or whatever.

    Brad, can you post the dates of when you’ll be visiting Akron? I still want to see if I can set something up down here in SW Ohio.

  30. magik
    magik July 12, 2007 at 12:24 am | |

    “If Brad’s not going to keep the monastic vow of celibacy, one of the four root vows in the Vinaya, it seems silly to quible about wearing or not wearing robes or long hair. Very few monks in Japan observe the Vinaya and I don’t know how Buddhist monasticism is undertood in modern Japan.”

    Maybe its about time to change the vows a little. Namely the celibacy part.

  31. Anonymous
    Anonymous July 12, 2007 at 2:18 am | |

    Enjoyed the interview Brad and I’m currently enjoying sit down and shut up too, nice one.

    My understanding of the shaven head things is the detachment from self i.e . vanity but I’m sure it served a practical purpose too re head lice et. Working in a primary school makes me whant to sahve my head for that reason LOL!

    Robes did seem a bit odd for the first second.

    As regards celibacy the soto monks at Throssel Hole over here in the UK are not allowed to marry and presumably must be celibate. Apparently they used to be able to marry until Rev. Master Jiyu Kennett changed her mind about it. Don’t know the reasons why but I know it did cause some upset, particularly for the monks who were married and from what I have been told had to separate or leave the order.

  32. Anonymous
    Anonymous July 12, 2007 at 2:42 am | |

    tradition with its heavy rites and symbolism has its place but then again everything should be optional or it is far to dogmatic in my opinion.

    its like culture in general: honor the culture, honor the history, honor the ancients.

    if you really read all buddhist rules from all schools you *might* end up totally confused which rules to obey and which to skip.

    many old school rules of pali canon origin are actually utterly stupid and bizarre. its been a long time…

  33. David
    David July 12, 2007 at 4:00 am | |

    brad

    may i compliment you how well you handled the interview? so calm, patient, attentive, and polite.

    i learned a lot. thanks.

  34. Anonymous
    Anonymous July 12, 2007 at 6:50 am | |

    I guess some people expect the “Zen stare” and not Brad’s eye-rolling and stuff – which I find natural and very human!.
    Brad, you appear much more like a serious human than a serious zen teacher.

    I recall being “impressed” seing a great Zen teacher just sneezing his nose. What did he do so special? NOTHING AT ALL, and that was actually the point.

    –IceBucket

  35. Anonymous
    Anonymous July 12, 2007 at 6:58 am | |

    Commander!

  36. Anonymous
    Anonymous July 12, 2007 at 7:20 am | |

    Regarding clothes and what to wear, at our Zen Center, during retreats, you are not necessarily required to wear robes unless on priest ordination track.

    But as a nonresidential member I can report that the basic rules are practical: wear dark colors, no scent, no jewelry, no watches.

    I found this helps support the retreat.I once was at another Buddhist retreat and found it painfully distracting when some people wore T shirts with loud graphics on them.

    Its interesting to be in a group where the clothing is itself ‘silent’–no text or logos.

    As the days passed, despite the seeming uniformity of the clothes, people’s individuality surfaced, but in subtler ways. I became sensitized to body language, saw how a particular individual tilted his or her or neck when walking or sitting.

    Its fun to see the astonishing variation in people’s bare feet, the ways unadorned hannds move and pause when holding bowls and serving food during the meals.

    But it may be many of these rules had quite practical origins and acquired symbolic meaning later.

    In old days when it was laborious to cut firewood and then heat up bath water for an entire community, it was much easier for people to stay clean if they shaved their heads. It was probably also easier to cut down on lice infestations too–an important consideration in the days before DEET was available.

    And, clothing had to be modified for climate. Monks had feweer items of clothing in Southern India and south Asia, then added more and more layers of robes as the practice migrated north.

    Chinese and Japanese monks who lived at monasteries where farmwork had to be done required an additional set of day labor work clothes,along with formal robes.

    Id say first things started for reasons of practicality then layers of symbology were added.

  37. yudo
    yudo July 12, 2007 at 8:27 am | |

    since I’m bald, and also a buddhist “priest” (the word, by the way, means “elder”, in ancient Greek), I’ve decided to shave them according to the vinaya, although I don’t feel compelled by it: that is at most at the full moon and at the new moon. That’s enough. That way, I don’t feel I look like one of the crowd, and especially the Deshimarist zen crowd.

    I know some of them who shave almost everyday, and yet sport earrings, even lipstick for the girls, and so on. Makes no sense.

  38. yudo
    yudo July 12, 2007 at 8:30 am | |

    And by the way, as regards distractions, I once heard a vipassana teacher, Martin Aylward, state that the fun with this practice is that no one can disturb us…

  39. Anonymous
    Anonymous July 12, 2007 at 10:36 am | |

    ” What is “ordinary”? “

    come on drew, now you’re just being disingenous. i hate it when people bring ‘but first lets analyse the definitions of the words we’re using in the debate’ type tactics. its bullshit and only done by people who have no idea what they’retalking about. e.g.
    me: killing people is bad
    some dickhead: ah but what is ‘bad’? and how can we define it when blah blah blah blah.

    lame.

    dan

  40. Anonymous
    Anonymous July 12, 2007 at 10:38 am | |

    in other news the word ‘crunk’ has just been added to the dictionary.

    http://jumpoff.tv/newsstory.php?id=550

  41. Professor
    Professor July 12, 2007 at 11:18 am | |

    Tee hee hee… I like the salad tosser you hold on to.

  42. 'drew
    'drew July 12, 2007 at 12:20 pm | |

    Dan, my point was not to quibble over the definition of “ordinary” but to discuss what fits in the category. If you made a simplistic statement like “killing people is bad” then yes, I’d agree with it but wonder what your point was. But if you said, “People who do bad things shouldn’t be allowed on airplanes,” I’d wonder exactly what kind of bad things you were talking about, and exactly where we draw the line. I’d agree that people who do certain bad things should be banned from airplanes. But are you talking about people who kill flight attendants, or people who drink too much coffee?

    So I know what “ordinary” means, and I am not disputing it. But I also know that my ordinary clothes would be rather unusual for someone else. So if Buddhists should only appear on TV wearing ordinary clothes… well, what counts as ordinary?

    And do we want to be ordinary? Do we want people who see Buddhists on TV to be impressed by just how ordinary we are? Is being ordinary the only way to be skillful?

  43. Anonymous
    Anonymous July 12, 2007 at 12:37 pm | |

    On a less intellectual level I add this: I’m kinda crushin’ on Brad after watching that clip. Love the robe, the hair (head and face), and the patient, calm demeanor.

    However, because I’m afraid of you people, I’m posting this anonymously.

  44. Jules
    Jules July 12, 2007 at 1:32 pm | |

    ‘drew: You are putting words in my mouth. I never suggested we should try to be ordinary as a goal in itself, or that Buddhists in general should dress in any particular way. I would feel kinda silly wearing them myself, and I think Brad looks a little silly in them, but I don’t think the Dalai Lama would look right without them… of course, he’s from Tibet, so robes don’t make him look like a fantasy role-playing convention refugee.

    All I was saying is that if one wears an unusual costume, one should expect that the message the costume sends may be heard louder than anything one says by most people. That doesn’t mean one should never dress up. It just means that we should be aware of the impression our appearance gives other people, if we want to communicate effectively. OK?

  45. Anonymous
    Anonymous July 12, 2007 at 1:39 pm | |

    good interview
    I think you are more naked wearing the robe
    than if you hadn’t
    with each point your interviewer was aiming for controversy, you succinctly set it straight, set it straight, set it straight.

    Hair today, gone tomorrow…
    You didn’t shave it as a punker, you did for ordination…now the hair is back…
    gone yesterday, hair today

    sitting quietly, the grass grows by itself
    very ordinary, this practice

    You embody it, IT embodies you!

  46. Jinzang
    Jinzang July 12, 2007 at 1:41 pm | |

    That’s EXACTLY why Ikkyu is THE dude when it comes to understanding Japanese Buddhism. The monks I know are all married or have significant others. The influence of Ikkyu is very great (though not widely publicized).

    I think the example of Shinran was much more influential than that of Ikkyu. Of course, the proximate cause of Japanese monks getting married was the Meiji era edict saying it was no longer a crime for monks to marry.

  47. Jinzang
    Jinzang July 12, 2007 at 1:43 pm | |

    Nice interview, Brad. But you need to learn the first rule of television appearances: look at the camera and not the interviewer.

  48. Anonymous
    Anonymous July 12, 2007 at 1:47 pm | |

    ” ‘drew: You are putting words in my mouth. I never suggested we should try to be ordinary as a goal in itself, or that Buddhists in general should dress in any particular way. I would feel kinda silly wearing them myself, and I think Brad looks a little silly in them, but I don’t think the Dalai Lama would look right without them… of course, he’s from Tibet, so robes don’t make him look like a fantasy role-playing convention refugee.

    All I was saying is that if one wears an unusual costume, one should expect that the message the costume sends may be heard louder than anything one says by most people. That doesn’t mean one should never dress up. It just means that we should be aware of the impression our appearance gives other people, if we want to communicate effectively. OK? “

    word.

    dan

  49. 'drew
    'drew July 12, 2007 at 2:07 pm | |

    Jules writes: “It just means that we should be aware of the impression our appearance gives other people, if we want to communicate effectively. OK?”

    Yes. And that is what I meant when I said that any clothing is a costume. Anything we choose to wear will give an impression to other people. That impression is always, in some manner or another, artificial. The Dalai Lama looks normal in his costume because you see him in it all the time. Boy George looks normal in his costume. Dolly Parton looks normal in her costume.

  50. aumeye
    aumeye July 12, 2007 at 3:38 pm | |

    Just a thought . . . I am guessing that many, if not most, of the viewers of that program, are much less familiar with Brad than we are. To them, he likely appeared quite normal in his robes. We have preconceived notions of how Brad does/should dress, based on what we know of his personality and on how we’ve seen him dress until now.

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