RUBBER CITY REBELS TONITE IN FRISCO and BENJAMIN BOGIN CAN BITE ME


First a last minute plug. And not for me this time, either. I just found out last night that my pals The Rubber City Rebels will be playing tonight, June 7th, 2007, at Slim’s in San Francisco at an event called Dirkfest. I just saw the Rebels last night at Safari Sam’s in Hollywood (another last minute show) and they were fan-fuggin’-tastic. So go see ‘em while you still can.

The Rubber City Rebels formed in the mid-Seventies in Akron and put out one smokin’ hot LP on Capitol Records around 1980 before going on a hiatus that lasted over 20 years until their second LP (OK, CD) on Smog Veil Records, Pierce My Brain. Here’s a promo video from that:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzajMDiJ2Lk]

Yesterday my publishers sent me a copy of the latest issue of a rag called Buddhadharma in which there is a negative review of my new book by some blockhead named Benjamin Bogin. Who can bite me, by the way. I suppose I should be happy just to get reviewed at all. But it’s common practice for book reviewers to actually read the books they write about rather than just skim the chapter titles and pick quotes from the press release as Mr. Bogin has done. Whatever.

There are a few things about the new book that seem to be bothering a wide range of people who tend to think of themselves as “into Buddhism.” One is the cover. I find opinion neatly divided. People who love those covers with rippling water and lotuses that decorate every Buddhist book these days just hate, hate, hate the cover of Sit Down and Shut Up! Then there are those who don’t care much about Buddhist books who love it. I love it. So everyone who doesn’t can bite me.

The other thing that bugs people is all the “dude talk.” Yeah. OK. Maybe I should cool it. It just amuses me though to write about Buddhism in a Bevis and Butthead voice. And I write more to amuse myself than anything else. So, again, I cordially invite you to bite me, please.

Seriously, though, I think one of the great tragedies is how Buddhism has become the property of stuffy intellectuals who seem intent upon making it as inaccessible as possible to ordinary dumb people like me. The books they write are so full of obtuse language and labyrinthine arguments as to be utterly incomprehensible to people like myself to whom the lyrics of “God Of Thunder” by KISS seem like a profound commentary on spiriuality (I am being completely serious here, by the way. Listen to it sometime.). I’ve tried reading those books. They bore the shit out of me. And what use is that? I see myself as trying to wrest Buddhism out of the hands of fucking brainiacs who really don’t have any serious interest in it and give it back to the people who might really get something out of it. Or if not anything as heroic as that, at least cutting their ties with a big pair of scissors and squirting seltzer water in their faces. Maybe that’s what got Benji’s knickers in a twist. For which he may, if he so desires, do me the courtesy of biting me.

Another other thing that bugs folks is the way I say stuff like “why should I care about some old dead Japanese dude?” It’s being taken by some as me talking down to the audience or trying to anticipate what they might think. Again, biting me may perhaps be in order here. Because this is really more a reflection of what I thought when I first encountered Dogen. I don’t have a whole lot of reverence for so-called “ancient words of wisdom.” Loads of what’s taken for ancient wisdom in this world strikes me as just old bullshit that’s been repeated so many times it seems wise. My initial take on Dogen was that he was just another one of those guys everybody thought was way cool because he’d been dead so long (like that’s some kind of accomplishment). But I gave him a chance and discovered there really was something to it.

At any rate, everybody can bite me. OK? The line forms to your left.

And don’t forget all the places I’m going to be speaking next week in San Francisco (the list is 2 articles below this one). Ample opportunities abound for you to personally bite me if you wish to do so.

Please feel free the leave dozens of comments that totally miss the satirical tongue-in-cheek nature of this piece. And feel free to bite me if you don’t enjoy sarcasm.

Thanks! ; 0 )

122 Responses

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  1. ursa303
    ursa303 June 10, 2007 at 11:14 am | |

    “LOL. That would be who, the ‘most people’ on the planet who never read a copy of the Dhammapada?”
    Yeh, but even people who have read it still don’t see hat buddhism is really about.

  2. June 10, 2007 at 11:43 am | |

    Since when does Zen Buddhism have anyhing to do with words anyway? Every book on zen should get a horrible review. They all fail. Miserably. The only good dharma book is one that kicks people in the ass to PRACTICE. With a real teacher. With a sangha. To keep pushing the edge of their practice. To not be complacent. On the zafu, off the zafu.

  3. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth June 10, 2007 at 3:01 pm | |

    BW addresses the very issue of words and “seeing the moment of their complete nonnecessity” in one of the last chapters of SD&SU;, which I happened to run across last night when I finished the book. He discusses it in the context of a particular scientist’s critique of Buddhism:

    “John Horgan talks about a Zen teacher who said that ‘language prevents us from seeing the world as it truly is.’ He responds, ‘I thought how tired I was of this Zen cliche. How many millions of words have Zen masters spouted telling us to get beyond words?’

    “The answer is – a whole lot of ‘em, including the ones in this little book. And the reason Buddhists spout so many words telling us to go beyond words is to get us to go beyond words. [Footnote: 'Duh!'] Without hearing that words are unnecessary – spoken in unnecessary words – most of us would never make the effort to see why that might be so … It’s not enough just to hear the words that words are unnecessary. We have to make the real effort to go beyond them.” (pp. 220-221)

    Hence, verbal/written teachings show and tell us how different teachers think we can get to that point, and why. Makes sense to me. If BW’s take on how to get beyond words doesn’t work for you, there are plenty of other teachers out there who might explain it differently. And if you’re so experienced as to be totally over everyone’s teachings (ummm… no comment), then by all means, yes, get off the internet and onto your zafu, and be sure and write a book for the rest of us so we can finally ditch all teachings too.

  4. June 10, 2007 at 4:37 pm | |

    Elizabeth:

    Yes, exactly. Ditch all the teachings. Ditch the Dharma, ditch Buddha, ditch enlightenment, ditch Zen. Ditch the one who ditches and then ditch that. That’s zazen! Ah, now I can really read Dogen. Now, I can really hear the teisho. Now, I can really listen to my child. If I thinking there’s something called enlightenment, I’m in deep shit. Clearly words can be a powerful upaya. But words ain’t it. Even words that say that words ain’t it. Good reviews ain’t it; bad reviews ain’t it. All dharma books fail AND all dharma books are absolutely necessary (well, maybe not ALL). How can I be free from words and free from silence? How can I blog without moving my fingers?

  5. Jinzang
    Jinzang June 10, 2007 at 5:17 pm | |

    Ditch the one who ditches and then ditch that. That’s zazen!

    No, zazen is neither ditching or keeping. Zazen is paying attention.

  6. Anonymous
    Anonymous June 10, 2007 at 7:40 pm | |

    And some of those “stuffy intellectuals”
    *might* be smokin’ crack; here’s one with
    a PhD in Buddhist Studies from Harvard:

    Professor Graeme MacQueen

  7. Imperatrix
    Imperatrix June 10, 2007 at 8:09 pm | |

    Too much thinking.

  8. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth June 10, 2007 at 10:09 pm | |

    I have respect for teachers and texts, and I have respect for my own experience. I’m neither going to overvalue nor completely ditch either one.

    Maybe someone might tell me something that I can then explore and confirm in my own experience. Maybe it’s something I might not consider otherwise…Or maybe they’re full of crap.

    Either way, it’s ultimately direct experience that determines it. For me anyway, teaching is a catalyst towards action and understanding. Or not. Either way it can be valuable.

  9. Anonymous
    Anonymous June 11, 2007 at 3:48 am | |

    I can’t remember who posted it or what they were talking about, but I think a ton of people reading this blog would do well to take the javelin out of their eye before they comment on someone else’s splinter.

    it’s from the bible. matthew 7:3

    and thanks to the guy who pointed out that mental masturbation is not being intellectual even though many people (inlcuding intellectuals unsuprisingly) have trouble distinguiahing between the two.

    also to the guy who started going on about ditching loads of stuff. um, well i sort of see what you mean but it also sounds like you might be one of those ‘no one can teach me anything anymore, i’ve moved ‘beyond’ ordinary understanding’ types.those types of people suck

    dan

  10. Thom
    Thom June 11, 2007 at 7:10 am | |

    There are so many javelins, it’s like 300 in here… except without the 9 foot S&M; freak Persians.

  11. UncaDan
    UncaDan June 11, 2007 at 8:20 am | |

    When I first started my spiritual journey and became a dedicated Christian I believed that after a certain amount of spiritual growth, scriptures would become unnecessary and God would become realized and known. After a few years I found that Christianity doesn’t work like that and left. Even though if you have a red letter bible and just read the words of Jesus you get a completely different impression.

    I looked into other isms and I found the same obstacles of proprietary revelations and “our way or the highway” attitudes, but when I read their source books I could always find a useful nugget to take to heart and move on.

    When I first encountered Buddhism, I bought a copy of the Dhammapada, read it all the way through and enjoyed it very much. The intro explained the 4 noble truths and the 8 fold path nicely. I was struck by Buddha’s words when he said “All effort must be made by you, Buddha’s only show you the way.” Even though it lacked some of the mysticism I was searching for at the time, I felt that it was an important book and held on to it and occasionally would thumb through it.

    When I discovered the Tao Te Ching I was floored. Here was a book that was short, concise and to the point, with just enough mysticism and practical wisdom. It was saying all the things that I was pulling out of all the other isms without demanding my undying devotion to someone else’s vision. The many translations of this book remain a treasured part of my library.

    Later, my wife pointed me to J. Krishnamurti. It was while reading “Think on These Things” that I had my first “mystical experience”. For at least a month after that I could not read anything religious, spiritual or philosophical, just old Charlie Brown and Beetle Baily paperbacks. When I started reading again it was more to put my experience into some kind of perspective so I could move on. That was almost 15 years ago.

    About 6 months ago I picked up Hardcore Zen. This was the first book since the Tao Te Ching that seemed real and understandable. After reading SD&SU; I have been inspired to actually sit zazen. I have always been more of a contemplator than a meditator so this is new to me and I really have to push myself to do it on a consistent basis.

    When I first started reading this blog I really enjoyed it. The comments were insightful and Brad’s posts were entertaining and helpful. Lately, things have changed. I find the arguing about Brad’s language and the debates of who is Buddhist and who is not or what is Buddhist and what is not just as offensive and disturbing as the “I am right, you are wrong” attitudes among the different Christian sects.

    So what I am getting at is don’t get hung up on rules, regulations, precepts, teachers, scriptures, ideas. These are only paths and tools to realize reality. It doesn’t matter what others do, it only matters what you do and everything you do has consequences so be careful. Move past the deceptive duality of perception and let things be what they are.

    -

    Sight obscures.
    Noise deafens.
    Desire messes with your heart.
    Thoughts mess with your mind.

    The Master watches the world
    but keeps focused on what’s real.

    Tao Te Ching Ch. 12
    adapted by Ron Hogan
    http://www.beatrice.com/TAO.html

  12. Anonymous
    Anonymous June 11, 2007 at 8:29 am | |

    “I find the arguing about Brad’s language and the debates of who is Buddhist and who is not or what is Buddhist and what is not just as offensive and disturbing as the “I am right, you are wrong” attitudes among the different Christian sects.

    So what I am getting at is don’t get hung up on rules, regulations, precepts, teachers, scriptures, ideas. These are only paths and tools to realize reality. It doesn’t matter what others do, it only matters what you do and everything you do has consequences so be careful. Move past the deceptive duality of perception and let things be what they are.”

    or.. instead of getting the ‘disturbed’ by the incessant arguing you could relax a bit and join in by calling everyone a fag or something.

    dan

  13. Anonymous
    Anonymous June 11, 2007 at 9:27 am | |

    sorry that was a tad too aggressive. i meant to say that the arguing is by and large, not really serious. i personally dont mind too much if someone totally disagrees with me and i have no problem arguing with people just for the entertainment of it. it’s only a problem if people take it too seriously which no one here really does. except for kouldelka

    psyche

  14. keishin.ni
    keishin.ni June 11, 2007 at 9:35 am | |

    Everyone is our teacher.
    Even children fighting on the playground.

    Open this blog and what do we find?
    What do we come with?
    What do we leave behind?
    What stays with us?

    When I walk along this blog’s shoreline: trash and treasures along the way.
    When I was little, I’d take pretty shells and leave the trash.
    Came a time I’d go pick up trash and leave the pretty things for others.
    Now I realize it can be good to leave both:
    it is really good for us all to see what is here.
    This very life: this very blog.
    Thank you.
    gassho

  15. keishin.ni
    keishin.ni June 11, 2007 at 9:35 am | |

    Everyone is our teacher.
    Even children fighting on the playground.

    Open this blog and what do we find?
    What do we come with?
    What do we leave behind?
    What stays with us?

    When I walk along this blog’s shoreline: trash and treasures along the way.
    When I was little, I’d take pretty shells and leave the trash.
    Came a time I’d go pick up trash and leave the pretty things for others.
    Now I realize it can be good to leave both:
    it is really good for us all to see what is here.
    This very life: this very blog.
    Thank you.
    gassho

  16. nika
    nika June 12, 2007 at 7:48 am | |

    so is this a warner-smrgsbord? Are we allowed to nibble to taste-test or do we have to take a big old full mouth bite?

    I do not have any problem with your anti-orthodoxy, so I wonder if I can still have a bite!

    This might be a good lesson in the reactive mind and not letting the turkeys see you sweat and all that bull.

  17. scooterjonz
    scooterjonz June 12, 2007 at 12:54 pm | |

    WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE THE BITE?

    As a middle-aged former Mod (we got along pretty well with the punks – they just kept borrowing our bikes and not returning them) I like this book just fine, dude. Brad has hit a few things on the nose, the biggest of which is his suspicion of would-be teachers. And he doesn’t set himself up as judge or jury – he simply says, “Go with your gut” or something like that anyway.

    I have run into a lot of teachers whose goal in their followers is more like-mindedness than right-mindedness.

    I expected Brad’s book to suck. The “good old days” are that – old days. I had some too. And true, those portions of the book can bore me. But they also remind me how boring I can be when I dwell on 3D or at Pink Cadillac. (lame personal reference). The rest of the book, however makes some things clear to me. And for that I will wade through what is less desirable.

    Why would you knock someone for making Zen or Buddhism accessible?

    There is something in the Dhammapada about “he who knows many Buddhist sayings but does not live them is lame, but he who knows few but puts them into practice in his daily life will win a guitar or something.

  18. Alan G. Ampolsk
    Alan G. Ampolsk June 12, 2007 at 12:58 pm | |

    Sorry to have missed most of this firefight.

    For what it’s worth, have posted a few comments over at my blog. Am having trouble getting the full link to take in this form, but if you’re interested, head over to http://www.metaphorcountry.com, click over to the religion page, and scroll down.

    Apologies in advance for the shameless (illusory-)self promotion…

  19. Gregor
    Gregor June 14, 2007 at 7:41 pm | |

    Amen Brad.

    Thanks for doing your part to keep Buddhism honest and real.

    Tell Benji he can bite me too.

  20. Jacob
    Jacob June 16, 2007 at 7:11 pm | |

    All of this rebelious and childish “bite me” stuff? I LOVE it. You’re speaking my spiritual language dude.

  21. Mysterion
    Mysterion June 16, 2007 at 7:14 pm | |

    Re: as good as a wink – blind horse
    the Oxford English Dictionary:
    “1794 Godwin Caleb Williams I. viii. 171 A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse “

    Well, 1794 is very recent in OED terms
    - some of its examples come from 800 or so, a mere millennium earlier
    1793 J. RITSON Let. 14 Feb. (1833) II. 11
    “A nod, you know, is as good as a wink to a blind horse.”

    This is not the version I learned just 45 years ago. I suspect my version was adapted from Chinese Chu’an Buddhism:

    “You are what you are…
    …and not what you think.

    To a blinh horse a smile
    is as good as a wink.”

    I enjoyed your ‘lecture’ at SF Zen Center.

  22. Mysterion
    Mysterion June 16, 2007 at 7:24 pm | |

    Natural, reckless, correct skill;

    Yesterday’s clarity is today’s stupidity

    The universe has dark and light,

    entrust oneself to change

    One time, shade the eyes and gaze afar at the road of heaven.

    Ikkyu
    Japanese Poet, Priest – (1394-1481)

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