My friend Tonen O’Connor of the Milwaukee Zen Center took umbrage at some of my comments about the Soto school of Zen in my previous post. So I thought I’d clarify a bit. I love the Soto school! Some of my best friends are part of the Soto school!
But as a comedian in all seriousness, I really don’t have any big problems with the whole of the Soto school. Both of my teachers were (and are) Soto guys. Tonen is part of Soto. Most of the places I go speak are affiliated somehow with Soto. If you’re looking to study Buddhism I still think your best bet is to hook up with a teacher from the Soto lineage (though I should also mention Still Point in Detroit, part of a Korean lineage and a really terrific place).
That being said, there is also a gigantic corporation in Japan called the Soto-shu. As you can see on the Wikipedia entry I referenced above, there are 14,700 Soto temples with 7 million adherents. It’s a pretty big machine. I have very little to do with that machine, although I am a card carrying member. My first teacher’s teacher Kobun Chino resigned from it, I think, though his own brother was the head of the organization for a while (I’m not 100% certain about Kobun’s resignation, if anyone out there knows for sure, please let me know). My teacher, Gudo Nishijima was ordained by the then current head of Soto-shu (not Kobun’s brother, though) but still tends to avoid any involvement with the organization as a whole. Big organizations are all pretty much the same. Obviously some are more evil than others and the Soto-shu does a lot more good stuff than bad. But, like all big organizations, they tend to function like a gigantic machine. I’m not really into bureaucracy.
I don’t really follow the ins and outs of who’s who and what’s what in the Soto organization. So most of my info comes from the same Internet sources everyone else has access to. As I’ve said before, most of the Zen I’ve run across on the World Wide Web is — I was gonna say “crap,” but I stopped myself, see how mature I am! — let’s just say I’m not interested in it. It’s mainly a lot of noise and distortion with very little real substance. But I think that’s because most of the good teachers are not really writers. Why would they be? They have a lot more important work to do than typing stuff onto their laptops and shooting it off into cyberspace.
ANYWAY, I just wanted to make sure nobody thought I hated all the Soto teachers in the world. Though sometimes I wonder why anyone cares what I think. That’s a photo of me at a Suicide Girls party last night. Do you really care what a guy like that has to say about what Buddhist temple you ought to go to? It’s really up to you. Go out, listen to the teachers in your local area and judge for yourself.