Rubber City Zen Center / Smog City Zen Center (name TBD)

RubberCityZCI have my very tentative schedule for Europe. It is as follows:

Oct. 3-5 (possibly Oct 1-5) Finland all events to be determined

Oct. 8 Lecture in Munich, Germany

Oct. 9-11 Retreat in Munich, Germany

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

Oc 18-20 Possibly in Bonn, Germany (not confirmed)

Oct 24 Lecture in Gronigen, Netherlands

Oct 25 Day-long zazen in Gronigen, Netherlands

Oct 26 Lecture in Eindhoven, Netherlands

Oct 27-30 Amsterdam, Netherlands (exact dates to be determined, but within that week)

Oct 31 Movie screening in Utrecht, Netherlands

Nov 1-2 Retreat in Utrecht, Netherlands

Nov 4-6 (or 3-5 possibly) Retreat in Hebden Bridge, UK

Nov 7-8 Something in Manchester, UK (to be determined)

That’s all I know for now. Only the event in Benediktushof is currently open for registration. You can reserve your spot at this link. Please don’t write me asking for details about the other events because right now this is all I know for certain.

My biggest dilemma in general is that everyone wants to book me on weekends, which leaves me in some strange part of the world on a lot of random Mondays through Thursdays trying to figure out how to pay for being there. If you plot the above dates out on a calendar you can see a few gaps like that are still waiting to be filled in.

This is one of the personal reasons why I have decided to establish some kind of permanent Zen space in Akron, Ohio and another one in Los Angeles, California. Once those are up and running, when people ask if they can be my student or see a talk or whatever, I can just tell them to come to Akron or come to LA. It’s tiring to run all over the world. I truly hate traveling on airplanes and going through customs check-points.

My vision for these places is that they would provide the following to their communities:

– Every Saturday or Sunday morning there would be a long-ish sitting (two 30 or 40 minute periods) followed by a full-scale Zen morning service consisting of chants (Heart Sutra etc.), bows, incense offerings with all the appropriate bells and bonky percussion things, then a lecture/discussion, with maybe tea and snacks at the end.

– One or more weekday evenings each week (Thursdays at 7pm or that sort of thing) there would be a shorter, less formal zazen (one 30 – 40 minute sitting) followed by an informal discussion session (no pre-planned lecture or sermon, no service) with tea and snacks.

– Three days or so per week there would be a morning zazen held at a time such that ordinary working folks who wanted to could sit zazen with the group before going to work. There would be no service, lecture or discussion after this one. It would all be done in silence. Maybe we’d serve coffee.

– Weekly classes in Zen or related topics, such as yoga classes or Japanese lessons or things along those lines.

– Annual multi-day Zen retreats. These could be held at the spaces themselves but more likely would be held at other locations, since I want to establish these places in fairly dense urban areas.

– Monthly day-long micro-retreats. These would be low-intensity affairs lasting from, say, 10am until 3-4pm. Just a lot of sitting and staring at walls together with very little formality.

– Frequent community events. These would not have to be necessarily related to Zen or spirituality. If there’s space we could host things like improv comedy nights, movie screenings, musical performances, art shows, vegetarian cook-outs etc. I’d like for people who are planning their nights out to say, “Let’s see what’s going on at the Zen Center.” Though these events would not have to be “spiritual” in any direct sense, they would all be alcohol and drug free. They’d be fun, social events but all fairly low key, not wild party type things.

– Community artistic projects such as putting together a Zen-oriented zombie movie and filming it. Maybe getting a play together and putting it on.

Although the orientation of our formal services would be Soto-style Zen Buddhism, these centers would be open to anyone of any religious affiliation as well as to atheists, agnostics and everything in between. We would promote interfaith events (and inter non-faith events) and partner up with like-minded churches, synagogues, mosques, atheist clubs and other such organizations who wanted to establish mutual understanding and respect. I want them to be the kind of places where born-again Christian Republicans can hang out with gay atheist cross-dressers and have a good time together.

Although the main events at these places would be quiet and meditative, I want to keep the atmosphere there light and fun and avoid any sense of stodginess or excessive formality. I do not want them to be religious places. I want people to go there because they enjoy and benefit from the practices or just like hanging out in a supportive environment with good people.

It’s a pretty big idea, made even more complex by the fact that I want there to be two of them. But lesser people have had more grandiose plans than this and made them work.

At this point nothing has really been set up except that I have a handful of people in both cities who have committed their support. We’ve established a non-profit in LA and are at work on establishing one in Akron. I’m sure there will be a Kickstarter or Indie Go-Go campaign soon to try and get funding.

I feel like both Akron and Los Angeles need this kind of thing. There is very little of what you might call “alternative spirituality” in Akron. And while there is an over-abundance of alternative spirituality in Los Angeles, too much of it is fluffy rainbow bunny nonsense with very little practical value. LA needs to be more grounded while Akron needs to be a little less tethered to the earth.

I’ve been avoiding doing this kind of thing for years because I didn’t want to create the kind of religious organizations I’d seen before. But now I want to do this thing. As long as I am able, I will work to keep these centers on track and fight the good fight to prevent them becoming cult-like or religious.

*   *   *

That’s what I want for the future. For now I’m just trying to keep the lights on. Your donations help tremendously. Thanks!


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26 Responses

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  1. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon May 29, 2014 at 8:19 am |

    Two historians debate “Was There An Historical Jesus?” (more specifically, was an historical Jesus mythologized or was a mythological Jesus historicized?)

  2. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote May 29, 2014 at 8:42 am |

    Just kidding, Brad! Good luck with your plans, maybe we’ll catch you on the backswing someday in the Bay Area.

    Stuck inside these four walls
    “Sent inside forever
    Never seeing no one nice again like you
    not like you, no

    If I ever get out of here
    Thought of giving it all away
    To a registered charity
    All I need is a pint a day
    If I ever get out of here
    If we ever get out of here”

    (apologies to McCartney)

  3. Wibble
    Wibble May 29, 2014 at 9:21 am |

    Hello Brad I’ve sent you a query for a mid week evening gig in November, coupla hours from Manchester two and a half from Hebden Bridge.
    Transport each way and/or accommodation available.
    Leicester Uni Student Union venue.

  4. Fred
    Fred May 29, 2014 at 9:30 am |

    Let the good times roll
    Keep my Buddha bowl full

  5. sri_barence
    sri_barence May 29, 2014 at 9:56 am |

    I like “Rubber City,” although at first I thought you were going to say that Zen students were a bit nuts. Then I realized that would be redundant, so you probably meant that Akronites were a bit nuts. Now I’m thinking about rubber trees…

  6. mika
    mika May 29, 2014 at 11:27 am |

    So who would be running the day-to-day affairs of these centers, who would give the speeches and lead the sittings etc. since you [Brad] can’t be at two places at once? Or have you mastered that skill? What exactly would your role be in running these places?

  7. Philter
    Philter May 29, 2014 at 2:54 pm |

    What about Philly or Jersey? I thought we were going to get more of the Warner presence on the East Coast.

  8. AnneMH
    AnneMH May 29, 2014 at 7:03 pm |

    Yeah! Super yeah! and I am not in either LA or Akron but I still think this is great. I have been hanging out with the people affiliated with Noah Levine in my area because they are pretty cool people to sit with, and I really have felt like this type of thing is possible without getting onto your own ego trip. Some people tend towards the ‘Noah says’ stuff but most are looking from him to other teachers and how to develop their own practice rather than defer to an authority. And he appears to be reasonably accessible as well. I really hope this gives a more solid base of support overall for you.

  9. Annette
    Annette May 30, 2014 at 5:06 am |

    If anyone likes to join the events in Munich, please contact

  10. jason.preu
    jason.preu May 30, 2014 at 7:27 am |

    +1 to AnneMH. i’m in Kansas City and wish this great success.

  11. Alan Sailer
    Alan Sailer May 30, 2014 at 8:25 am |

    “And while there is an over-abundance of alternative spirituality in Los Angeles, too much of it is fluffy rainbow bunny nonsense with very little practical value”.

    This is just complete speculation, but maybe some of the fluffy rainbow bunny spiritual centers would be open to sharing their space with a real live down to earth hardcore zen type operation.

    It would bolster their street cred…

    In other words, graft the Dogan Sanga organization onto an existing location. It might be easier and cheaper than starting from scratch.


  12. The Idiot
    The Idiot May 31, 2014 at 5:23 am |

    “Fluffy rainbow bunny” sez the dude with the bunny suit icon, ha!

    Maybe hook up with a yoga studio? I see a lot of that happening in my town. That’s where the Dharma Punx show up, for example.

  13. Fred
    Fred May 31, 2014 at 7:56 am |

    It’s all ” fluffy rainbow bunny nonsense” from the non-position of no-self upon
    the Absolute.

  14. The Idiot
    The Idiot May 31, 2014 at 8:20 am |

    Yeah ok, but can you do this ?

    1. Fred
      Fred May 31, 2014 at 9:01 am |

      That is fiction between selves although the movie has a zen flavo(u)r.

      1. The Idiot
        The Idiot May 31, 2014 at 10:48 am |

        No, not the content. I was wondering if you knew how to make a link in HTML?

        So caught up in appearances…

  15. The Idiot
    The Idiot May 31, 2014 at 8:21 am |

    If so, I will walk to your cave, feed you and wash your clothes for the remainder.

  16. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote May 31, 2014 at 9:35 am |

    More Nisargaddata fun! From a correspondence with a friend:

    ‘”The states of waking and sleep are absent in a Jnani. He has no name or form. All these (considerations of states like waking and sleeping, JE note) remain upto Self-knowledge, but not beyond…one has to transcend not only the body, but even one’s consciousness. One goes beyond all knowledge. All these changes happen without any deliberate rejection of the old identities.”

    So what I would say is that he is referring to a constancy in his experience through these states, and in that I think what he’s saying is not so different from what I’m saying (although his experience is clearly more profound than mine, what else is new); I’m not actually talking about waking or sleeping, I’m talking about waking up or falling asleep, the transition between what folks think of as waking and sleeping. And I’m saying the practice is the same, waking up or falling asleep.

    Another part that rings a bell for me is the part about going beyond all knowledge; that I understand as the practice of Right Knowledge and Right Freedom in the ten-fold version of the path that leads to the end of suffering, the adept’s version. Seems to me there is a gradual assimilation of the fact that knowing is an intimate action rooted in the movement of breath, and that the experience of mind moves freely as though in open space with a deliverance from thought without grasping.

    I know, I’m sticking your head in a pot of glue, but it’s great glue.’

  17. Fred
    Fred May 31, 2014 at 12:36 pm |

    “All these (considerations of states like waking and sleeping, JE note) remain upto Self-knowledge, but not beyond…one has to transcend not only the body, but even one’s consciousness. One goes beyond all knowledge. All these changes happen without any deliberate rejection of the old identities”

    One’s consciousness is a particular flavo(u)r of form, the same as anything else.

    The change in transcendence of self may be mediated through the self, but it
    is not the old identity nor any new identity.

  18. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon June 1, 2014 at 7:21 am |

    Speaking of cults…
    The GOASTT (Sean Lennon & Charlotte Kemp Muhl) pay tribute to (spoof?) The Source Family.

    1. The Grand Canyon
      The Grand Canyon June 1, 2014 at 8:11 am |

      …and if you liked that you might also enjoy watching The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger performing a full electric set at Vintage Vinyl Records in Fords, NJ in May 2014.

      1. Fred
        Fred June 1, 2014 at 8:36 am |

        Thanks, sounds like the Beatles after they came back from India.

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