Terrible Nicknames to Earn!

Someone forwarded me this exchange that appeared on the Sweeping Zen website:

Alain: “What we have here is a Zen prick (sorry I cannot call him a priest or teacher) that confuses his dick with a teaching stick. It is quite obvious to me that this Brad guy should not be a teacher, I simply cannot understand why he is a teacher in the first place. He seems to be more of the kind of a psychotic sexual predator who is desperately in need of help.”

Grace Schireson: “Yes, something is definitely amiss with advocating this kind of self-indulgence as a Zen teacher. We are all struggling to express this as skillfully as we can. I appreciate your direct approach.”

For the record the views that I expressed which have earned me these nicknames are as follows:

1) I believe that the recent allegations about Joshu Sasaki are serious and merit investigation. I am pleased that his organization Rinzai-ji are doing that. I’m glad that someone associated with that organization (Eshu Martin) has finally addressed the matter publicly.

However, I do not know what actually went on in Sasaki’s sanzen room. I have been in communication with one woman who says that she doesn’t feel that what she experienced with Sasaki ought to be called “abuse” and that it was not even sexual in nature. I believe that she has every right to characterize her experience the way she wants to. I believe it is a kind of subtle sexism to try and tell her that she is wrong.

That doesn’t mean I think it’s OK for Zen teachers to grope Zen students in the sanzen room. I was abundantly and unmistakably clear about that point already.

2) Grace Schireson expressed the opinion that all romantic involvement between anyone who can be defined as a “member of clergy” and anyone who can be defined as a “congregant” is unethical and ought to be illegal. I said this was absolutely wrong (yes, I did use the word “kuso” [shit] to describe her views, but only after Grace had used the word “kuso” to describe my views, I should have refrained from re-using her rude word).

Apparently there are folks who believe that the only reason I could hold views like these is because I want the freedom to use my position as a Zen teacher to get as much tail as possible. In fact, I never even thought of that as a reason to hold such views. If I had, I might have added something addressing that issue. It makes no sense to me that someone would believe that could be the only reason I’d think that way. It’s weird.

For the record, I hold my views about the Sasaki case because I was not there. That’s it. End of story.

My views about romance between so-called “clergy” and so-called “congregant” are somewhat more complex. I hold these views because if you have a religion in which the ordained “clergy” is not bound by a vow of celibacy then romances between “clergy” and “congregant” are inevitable. They will happen. Because this is a fact, I believe we need a realistic approach.

Jundo Cohen pointed out that a number of members of the American Zen Teachers Association (AZTA) are happily married to spouses they met when those spouses-to-be were their students. I personally know a few people who met their spouses under similar circumstances. It happens. It’s been happening in Japan since the Meiji Restoration in 1868 when the requirement for celibacy among Japanese Zen teachers was removed. It happend a lot even before, in fact, though it was seldom openly acknowledged until then.

It’s really very simple. Take an unmarried non-celibate male Zen teacher, just for an example, though a female teacher might also experience the same thing. He is so dedicated to Zen that he has devoted his life to it. Maybe he has never married or even had a serious romantic relationship because he’s been so deeply involved in practice. But, like most people, he is lonely. Like most people, he would rather not sleep by himself every night. Like most people, he has a heart and can fall in love. And love tends not to obey the rules. Where is this teacher likely to meet a person who has anything close to the same level of interest in the one thing that is more important to him than anything else in the world?

a) At a bar

b) On ZenMasterDate.com

c) Among the people he teaches Zen to

Perhaps he would have some luck at this bar I spotted on Denmark St. in London.

Indeed there are people who take advantage of their position as a “member of clergy” and do bad things. I do not deny that. It’s serious. But to say that all romantic involvement between “member of clergy” and “congregant” is by definition “sexual abuse” is absurd. It’s the kind of view that will cause a world of hurt and pain for people who legitimately fall in love under difficult circumstances.

I have spoken to a number of protestant ministers and a few rabbis about this subject. Their religions have had to deal with this matter for hundreds of years, thousands in the case of Judaism. The consensus seems to be that such romances are strongly discouraged. In seminary, ministers in training are generally taught to avoid them. That’s not because they are by definition “abusive.” It’s because they are almost always problematic for the couple and for the congregation.

However, for the reasons I have outlined above, it is acknowledged that these things sometimes happen and that they will continue to happen so long as the clergy is non-celibate. When they do happen, the matter has to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, not with a blanket rule that assumes the clergy member must, by definition, be a “psychotic sexual predator” or something of the sort. Dealing with things case-by-case is the realistic way to handle it. Zen prides itself on being realistic and in dealing with pretty much everything on a case-by-case basis. I believe we should follow the very logical and sensible approach to the matter that has already worked for other religions with non-celibate clergy.

I am at a loss to understand why the fact that I believe these things means I am a “Zen prick” and a “psychotic sexual predator.”

I’m averting my eyes from Sweeping Zen these days. But apparently everybody over there has an opinion about me. Someone told me there are at least five articles up there right now about this horrible Brad Warner pervert and perhaps hundreds of comments.

I find it interesting to observe my own reaction. If I were not me I would assume that Brad Warner would have a very hard time not looking at all this nonsense. But here in Brad Warner’s skin, I find that I have only a very minor interest in the matter. People keep forwarding things to me (that’s how I got the quote that leads off this article). But I feel no compulsion at all to go over there and read it for myself. Maybe one day I will. Who knows? For now it just doesn’t feel very compelling. It all seems kind of stupid. Although I will admit, it does make me angry when I do see it.

By the way, I’ve been classifying Zen as a “religion” and its teachers as “clergy” in this article. I’m doing that for rhetorical purposes. I believe very strongly that Zen is not a religion nor are its teachers “members of clergy.” But I prefer to save that for another time.


Help Brad feel that some people still like him by sending him money to pay his rent.


Be sure and get psychotically sexually abused by me tomorrow at Hill Street Center 237 Hill St. Santa Monica CA 90405 from 9:50 AM till Noon! It’s our weekly Zen meeting. Or as I call it, “Groping time!”

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98 Responses

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  1. Andy
    Andy December 15, 2012 at 11:29 am |

    The ‘scary’ bit was a joke minkfoot – I hope that’s how you read that!

  2. minkfoot
    minkfoot December 15, 2012 at 12:02 pm |

    “Scary” *is* a joke, so I responded with jocularity, though not aimed at you.

    Perhaps, I later reflected, one should not add fuel to paranoia.

    At any rate, “Novus Ordo Sæculorum!”

  3. stonemirror
    stonemirror December 15, 2012 at 12:24 pm |

    “You’re not scary are you?”

    Not in my own experience, certainly.

    Adam seems to have discovered an archived copy — how it wound up there, I have no idea — of a decade-old Livejournal profile page of mine. (I haven’t been on Livejournal since 2006, more or less.)

    Among the things on this page is a Thelemic version of the old Discordian “pope card” gag, something I put together in 2004 or 2005 for a prank on some of my friends who do happen to be interested in Crowley.

    I wish he’d actually read what it said before he went apeshit: “The Bearer of This Card is an Authentic and Authorized Outer Head of the Ordo Templi Orientis, so PLEASE treat him right!”

    Apparently, this has led Adam to conclude that I’m some sort of Satanist bent on sticking pins into voodoo dolls of him or something. Dunno what details he has in mind here, but he seems to have an active enough imagination.

    I sent Adam a message, advising him as clearly as I can that I have no interest or intention of doing him any sort of harm, but that if he feels I’ve threatened him, he should certainly go to his local police department and file a complaint against me. I’ve strongly suggested that, contrary to his apparent feelings, he _does_ need “mental help”, in my opinion and should get some, sooner rather than later.

    Adam’s now deleted the posting which contained these accusations on Facebook. I’m washing my hands of this.

  4. stonemirror
    stonemirror December 15, 2012 at 12:27 pm |

    (Of course, it does seem that there are folks out there who find other people who

    a) have opinions,
    b) know why they have them, and
    c) can back up those opinions with evidence and reason

    to be “scary”. I can’t really be held responsible for that.)

  5. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi December 15, 2012 at 12:54 pm |

    I meant to post this on this thread, but somehow put in on an older one:

    All of this is one more sign of the coming Mayan apocalypse.

    I don’t know much about Zen, but isn’t it defined as “transmission outside the scriptures?” I take this to mean “transmission outside any organized religious medium” as well. It is simply a direct, person-to-person relationship, not mediated by an organization or a body of clergy, or any set dogma or rules and so on. People seem to forget that a lot, or don’t even think that’s what it means. And maybe I’m entirely wrong. I just think that whenever people get overly organized and go around creating these sorts of official groups with all their politics and infighting, they are not practicing or teaching Zen. In my brief exposure to the Shiresons, they seem unqualified to teach Zen as Zen. I’m not sure what they are actually teaching, but it seems like some sort of religion that they like to associate with Zen, because that gives it some credibility in their eyes, and many others. But it seems like a therapeutic religion, and they like this therapeutic religion so much that they are willing to dispense with actual Zen in order to keep it that way. Because Zen is kind of dangerous and uncontrollable and not organized in the safe way they would like it to be. They think it needs people like them to make it a right religious path. And in some ways they are right, in that what they want isn’t compatible with Zen, so they try to eliminate Zen from their path. And maybe the whole tradition has tended to be corrupted by the religious impulse in a similar manner. Though maybe not by the therapeutic tendency, but by some other cultural religious inclination suited to past cultures. It’s pretty hard for Zen to survive most anywhere, because human beings like to make religions out of anything real and true. In the process, they tend to destroy that one true thing, however. We all do. So it’s hard. Just like love is.

    1. hrtbeat7
      hrtbeat7 December 15, 2012 at 1:26 pm |

      Agreed, BY, and as mentioned in the previous thread, this is what I was pointing out as the new “Church of Zen”.

  6. Omoi otoshi
    Omoi otoshi December 15, 2012 at 12:57 pm |

    Fred wrote:
    “This sounds like Mike C. paraphrasing what he learned from Gudo.”

    Hi Fred,
    Thanks for the feedback on a post I wrote on ZFI nine months ago!
    Did you wake up this morning with this realization?
    And why did you feel it fit into this thread?
    What is the purpose of the comment?
    Just curious!

    Sometimes in delusion buddhas are sentient beings. We all stumble and fall sometimes. It seems the Schiresons had a very confused day and fell hard. Perhaps many confused days? When, in enlightenment, these two particular sentient beings are buddhas once more, perhaps they will acknowledge the harm done. If they do, it would fitting for them to offer Brad their sincerest apologies. Somehow I doubt that they will. Even Zen teachers hate losing face.


  7. King Kong
    King Kong December 15, 2012 at 1:06 pm |


  8. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi December 15, 2012 at 1:21 pm |

    I just wrote this response to “On Reflection by Kuzan Peter Schireson” at Sweeping Zen. I duplicate the post here because I don’t know if they will publish the comment or not.


    It seems that the Zen approach often goes out the window when it comes to sex. It’s one thing to be detached and observant of oneself while sitting in zazen, it’s another to do that in the midst of life, and especially in the midst of one’s sexual life. My sense is that the Shiresons and others like them simply don’t know how to practice Zen in relation to their own sexuality, so instead they have created a set of absolute rules and ideas which put a wall between Zen and sex, precisely so that they don’t have to deal with it. I think this is a mistake. A Zen teacher has a natural sexual life, and to practice Zen in relation to it, it has to be allowed to be natural. It’s one thing to just indulge oneself, or to justify one’s indulgences under the rubric of authority and privilege, it’s another thing to bring awareness and clarity to one’s sexual desirings and relationships.

    I think it’s clear that the Shiresons simply don’t know how to resort to Zen when certain aspects of sexuality arise. So they resort to rules to protect them from these aspects of sexuality, not just personally, but within the entire Zen community. This seems like a mistake, an attempt to make the whole of the Zen community conform to their own inadequacy in the practice of Zen when it comes to the volatile issues of human sexuality. How is anyone ever to become sexually mature, if they can’t bring the genuine Zen approach to these kinds of sexual matters? I don’t think it can happen, and thus, the route the Shiresons are advocating simply guarantee that Zen teachers and students will always be stuck in their sexual immaturity, uninspected, without real awareness brought to it. That would be a very bad outcome for Zen as a whole, as well as for students of Zen who buy into this walling off approach.

    1. hrtbeat7
      hrtbeat7 December 15, 2012 at 1:53 pm |

      Very astute observations, though likely to be quickly dismissed by the grandstanding “clergy” at the Church of Zen. Any call to seriously inspect the core emotional/sexual contraction will always get ignored in the uproar by those who want to regulate, moralize, and punish as a way of avoiding the scary parts of their own being.
      There’s an interesting parallel in the current gun debate, synchronistically enough, in which grandstanding politicians are demanding more and more (futile) gun regulations, while local, state, and federal budgets continue to whittle down allocations for mental health treatment programs.

      And the beat goes on . . .

  9. warriortwo
    warriortwo December 15, 2012 at 7:16 pm |

    More like “Sweeping Zeneralizations”!

    Ba dum bump.

  10. warriortwo
    warriortwo December 15, 2012 at 7:26 pm |

    Whoa, and then I read that guy’s attempt at “apology” and “putting things right”. Gee whiz. Lash out much? In his reply I read denial, entitlement issues, perhaps a sting of jealousy?

    Or, as the kids call it now, butthurt.

  11. stonemirror
    stonemirror December 15, 2012 at 8:21 pm |

    All that, and a bag of chips.

  12. Gundoc7519
    Gundoc7519 December 15, 2012 at 8:57 pm |

    I was at the sitting today at the hill street center and I am sad that I did not get sexually abused while I was there.

  13. Dr.J
    Dr.J December 15, 2012 at 11:05 pm |

    One of the rules of the internet is if you acknowledge the trolls they win. Stop poking the trolls and they will stop winning…or at least having fodder to talk about.

  14. Livkai
    Livkai December 15, 2012 at 11:10 pm |

    A young lady asked Suzuki Roshi” Roshi, when I’m serving you soup, what’s it like for you??” he said ” it’s like you are serving your whole being to me in this bowl”

    One day he told us ” when you say sex, then everything is sex”

    And when Tim exclaimed that there is a lot of power in this practice, he said
    ” Don’t use it”

  15. lex
    lex December 16, 2012 at 1:16 am |


    “Does it strike anybody else as weird that there should be laws about this? A Protestant minister is forbidden by law to court or marry a member of their congregation? What are these laws, exactly? Where?”

    “Anyone shed some light on this? I hesitate to ask over at SZ with the temperature so high at the moment.”

    I’ve actually looked at the link that Zen Dolores Umbridge cites, and found (surprise!) that the laws don’t say what she says they do.

    Here’s the link: http://www.adultsabusedbyclergy.org/statelaws.html

    Now, here’s the very first quote that page includes from a study:

    “Only thirteen states and the District of Columbia have penal statutes that, in at least some circumstances, support the criminal prosecution of clergypersons engaged in sexual misconduct with congregants or parishioners.”

    “These statutes, enacted by Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Dakota, Texas, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia turn on various linguistic formulations, including, most commonly, the specification that the misconduct occur within the confines of the counseling relationship.”

    Note the “at least some circumstances” and “turn on various linguistic formulations”. Saying that sex between ‘clergy’ and ‘congregant’ is illegal in thirteen states is like saying that drinking beer is illegal in all fifty. Yes, you can certainly get thrown in jail for drinking in all of them; all you need is the keys to an automobile. But just plain illegal, period, full stop–that’s just not true.

    Looking at the laws that are cited on that web page confirms that conclusion. It cites nine statutes and includes quotes from five-and-a-half (the quote from Iowa’s is just a phrase.) The relevant section from Texas is this:

    (b) A sexual assault under Subsection (a)(1) is without the consent of the other person if:

    10) the actor is a clergyman who causes the other person to submit or participate by exploiting the other person’s emotional dependency on the clergyman …

    We have some pretty powerful qualifiers here: “exploiting…emotional dependency” and “in the clergyman’s professional character as spiritual adviser”. It’s hardly the only one. Arkansas requires that the “member of the clergy” be one who “in a position of trust or authority over the victim and uses the position of trust or authority to engage in sexual intercourse or deviate sexual activity.”

    I haven’t looked up all of these, but I can say I’m pretty sure Brad’s not going to jail under any of them.

  16. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel December 16, 2012 at 1:54 am |

    lex’s mention of
    “that Zen Dolores Umbridge”

    ROLFMAO! (for those who don’t know, that’s a Harry Potter character…)

  17. boubi
    boubi December 16, 2012 at 5:02 am |

    >>>Gundoc7519 December 15, 2012 at 8:57 pm | Permalink | Log in to reply.

    I was at the sitting today at the hill street center and I am sad that I did not get sexually abused while I was there.

    You're too hugly

  18. minkfoot
    minkfoot December 16, 2012 at 5:19 am |

    Thanks for indulging my laziness, lex. I forgot she had a link.

  19. minkfoot
    minkfoot December 16, 2012 at 6:01 am |

    “I’ve actually looked at the link that Zen Dolores Umbridge cites” sez lex.

    Talk about Terrible Nicknames!

    That’s pretty funny and rather delicious! However, I think Ven. Grace isn’t that bad. We all have blind spots — well, many of us.

    Fearing that I’d become my enemy in the instant that I preach, I’ll just let Bob finish it off:

    Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threats
    Too noble to neglect
    Deceived me into thinking
    I had something to protect
    Good and bad, I define these terms
    Quite clear, no doubt, somehow.
    Ah, but I was so much older then,
    I’m younger than that now.

  20. Fred
    Fred December 16, 2012 at 8:19 am |

    Where are the gray areas in this:

    “•Minnesota. Chapter 609 Criminal Code. (609.344)
    609.344. Criminal sexual conduct in the third degree.

    Subdivision 1. Crime defined. A person who engages in sexual penetration with another person is guilty of criminal sexual conduct in the third degree if any of the following circumstances exists:

    (1) the actor is or purports to be a member of the clergy, the complainant is not married to the actor, and:

    (ii) the sexual penetration occurred during a period of time in which the complainant was meeting on an ongoing basis with the actor to seek or receive religious or spiritual advice, aid, or comfort in private. Consent by the complainant is not a defense”

  21. Fred
    Fred December 16, 2012 at 8:55 am |

    Purported : alleged; supposed; rumoured

    If you offer spiritual advice to someone because you have been meditating for
    30 years and have some insights, are you purporting to be a member of some
    type of clergy?

    If that person seduces you, are you going to jail?

  22. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote December 16, 2012 at 9:49 am |

    “meeting on an ongoing basis with the actor to seek or receive religious or spiritual advice, aid, or comfort in private.”

    A jury of Brad’s peers is never going to convict him. They might well convict Grace or her husband in similar circustances, however; the reason for that would be that Brad doesn’t believe he is offering spiritual anything, and they do.

    Brad’s just offering advice, aid, or comfort, in the practice of zazen. His authority to teach comes apparently from Sawaki (through Nishijima), and Sawaki declared that he himself was not holy (as previously quoted).

    In Japan, I guess it’s mostly weddings and funerals, and not many people sit zazen. I think that’s true here in the U.S.A., as far as not many people sitting zazen, although the number is growing. Part of the reason it’s growing is the eagerness of American Zen teachers to take on weddings and funerals and to encourage a sense of “holiness”; I can’t entirely blame the teachers, as they are responding to a very human desire for suffocation in their flock. Er, I mean, spirituality!

  23. King Kong
    King Kong December 16, 2012 at 10:35 am |


  24. King Kong
    King Kong December 16, 2012 at 10:38 am |



  25. Fred
    Fred December 16, 2012 at 11:08 am |

    “the reason for that would be that Brad doesn’t believe he is offering spiritual anything, and they do.”

    I wasn’t talking about Brad; I was talking about anyone. Even saying you aren’t
    offering spiritual can be construed as you are acting at a deeper level by not
    giving it a name. The direct transmission of nothing is something.

    “Your honor, Zen Buddhists believe in Nothingness and while the accused says
    that he was offering nothing in terms of acting as a spiritual counsellor, this is
    in fact a key concept in their religion.”

    “The court rejects the accused’s defence that it was just entertainment, and
    finds the accused guilty of being seduced while practicing Nothing.”

  26. anon 108
    anon 108 December 16, 2012 at 11:35 am |

    If we’re looking for more appropriate nicknames for non-clerical Buddhist guides/teachers like Brad Warner, how about considering the Buddha’s own preferred term: ‘kaly??a-mitta (Skt. -mitra)’: ‘good, fortunate or beneficial friend/companion’? Doesn’t have quite the ring of ‘Zen Prick’ or ‘Stud-muffin,’ but does have the merit of being authentic.


  27. anon 108
    anon 108 December 16, 2012 at 11:37 am |

    Oh. No diacriticals…

    – That’s ‘kalyana-mitta’ (Skt. ‘kalyana-mitra’).

  28. anon 108
    anon 108 December 16, 2012 at 11:48 am |


    The opening words of the wiki article are –

    “Kaly??a-mittat? (Pali; Skt.: -mitrat?) is a Buddhist concept of “spiritual friendship”…”

    Although ‘spiritual’ is a common translation of the word kalyana in this context, there is nothing about the word as used in other contexts that relates to ‘spirituality’: ‘Beautiful , agreeable, illustrious, noble, generous, excellent, virtuous, good (“good sir/lady”), beneficial, salutary, auspicious, happy, prosperous, fortunate, lucky, well…’

    – but nowhere ever ‘spiritual’.

  29. Anonymous
    Anonymous December 16, 2012 at 2:47 pm |

    I gotta take a little time
    A little time to think things over
    I better read between the lines
    In case I need it when I’m older
    Aaaah woah-ah-aah

    Now this mountain I must climb
    Feels like a world upon my shoulders
    And through the clouds I see love shine
    It keeps me warm as life grows colder

    In my life there’s been heartache and pain
    I don’t know if I can face it again
    Can’t stop now, I’ve traveled so far
    To change this lonely life

    I wanna know what love is
    I want you to show me
    I wanna feel what love is
    I know you can show me
    Aaaah woah-oh-ooh

    I’m gonna take a little time
    A little time to look around me, oooh ooh-ooh ooh-ooh oooh
    I’ve got nowhere left to hide
    It looks like love has finally found me

    In my life there’s been heartache and pain
    I don’t know if I can face it again
    I can’t stop now, I’ve traveled so far
    To change this lonely life

    I wanna know what love is
    I want you to show me
    I wanna feel what love is
    I know you can show me
    I wanna know what love is
    I want you to show me
    And I wanna feel, I want to feel what love is
    And I know, I know you can show me.

  30. stonemirror
    stonemirror December 16, 2012 at 3:51 pm |

    I was inspired by this entire fracas, I guess. Every cloud has a silver lining. Anyway, enjoy.

    “The Streets of Kyoto”

    As I walked out in the streets of Kyoto,
    As I walked out in Kyoto one day,
    I spied an old roshi all dressed in a kesa,
    All dressed in a kesa, with plenty to say.

    “I see by your outfit that you are a deshi!
    Come sit in my zendo, for I am the best!
    I’ll have you enlightened by nine pm Friday,
    Just make a donation and put me to a test!”

    “My lineage goes right straight back to Daruma!
    I sit like a mountain and stand like a tree!
    I chant like a foghorn and what’s even better,
    For a very small down payment, you can be just like me!”

    I left that old roshi right there in Kyoto,
    But a wonderful thing had transpired that day:
    That wily old rascal had opened my eyes up!
    I had a great kensho, and was One with The Way!

    I hurried on down to the shops of Kyoto
    And found a good robe store and paid them their price.
    And now I am wearing this fine set of new robes,
    And I am a roshi! See? Don’t I look nice?

  31. CosmicBrainz
    CosmicBrainz December 16, 2012 at 4:29 pm |

    I’m not good in bed. The biomechanics of sex is complicated, and I don’t really enjoy it. I’m not well-endowed.

    I don’t like human beings much. I wish I was a big cosmic super-intelligent Lovecraftian entity.

  32. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote December 16, 2012 at 7:44 pm |

    From Esquire April 2012, by Chris Jones:

    On the spectrum of male lovers, I believe I would fall somewhere between “not totally unpleasant, but not totally pleasant, either” and “adequate.” I have a lothario friend, well endowed and blessed with an almost sociopathic stamina, and I know the women who crowd around his door like cats leave more satisfied than I’ve left women even in my dreams. I know that because I’ve literally heard the words “Let’s get this over with.”

    And yet I can still say with confidence that there are women who are worse in the sack than me…”

  33. SoF
    SoF December 16, 2012 at 7:57 pm |


    See page 33 of
    Extremes: Living the Contradictions of Contemporary Japan
    By G. M. Thomas

    Weddings are Shinto and Mock Christian.

    Funerals are Buddhist – the Sect being determined by juxtoposition of the neighborhood temple.

    Nishijima calls them a “guild of funeral directors” and this seems a reasonable assessment to me.”

    And it is reasonable. I’ve done a Buddhist funeral (for a rather famous lady!).

    That’s the ONLY bragging rite of my entire career and it is far MORE than enough!

    The whole Buddhist scene in San Fran was the Beats, Poets, and Hippies (with a few druggies thrown in for effect). “Shoes Outside the Door” does a decent job of describing that…

    I still $upport SFZC but very seldom attend. It shoulda, coulda, woulda… but if we project our expectations, we walk away in disappointment.

    If there is such a thing as enlightenment, then mine is:

    In a Kesa
    On a Zafu
    How much Zazen
    Ia a Nafu?

    That poem of mine has been published a few times in recent years.

    The robe, the cushon, and the sitting. The robe is highly optional (and, in the West, egotistical).

    If someone askes: “Can you teach me Zen?”

    I answer: “Can you teach me to pee?”

    In running away from the war machine of the 60s and 70s, some ran into the Great American Zen Machine… And others just ran through it.

    But, unlike War, Zen is beneficial.

    1. joezen
      joezen February 28, 2013 at 6:06 am |

      Exactly how is wearing a kesa egotistical? I gather your talking about the bib-like garment we wear over our necks, yes?

  34. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote December 16, 2012 at 8:22 pm |

    In juggling, the juggler realizes the momentum and weight of each object as a contribution to their own sense of physical location, in order to relax the activity of throwing and catching; in practicing zazan, the sitter experiences the orientation and weight of any body part that crosses the mind as a contribution to the overall sense of a location of awareness in three-dimensional space, and by virtue of a sense of location of awareness the stretch and activity necessary to the relaxed movement of breath engages in all three dimensions.

    “…as a skilled bath-attendant or (bath-attendant) apprentice, having sprinkled bath-powder into a bronze vessel, might knead it while repeatedly sprinkling it with water until the ball of lather had taken up moisture, was drenched with moisture, suffused with moisture inside and out but without any oozing. Even so… does (a person) saturate, permeate, suffuse this very body with the rapture and joy that are born of aloofness; there is no part of (the) whole body that is not suffused with the rapture and joy born of aloofness. While (such a person) is thus diligent, ardent, self-resolute, those memories and aspirations that are worldly are got rid of; by getting rid of them, the mind is inwardly settled, calmed, focused, concentrated.” (MN III 92-93, PTS pg 132-134)

    The lather-ball is an analogy Gautama provided for the feeling of what he described as the first meditative state.

    The practice he described as his own before and after enlightenment began with the comprehension of the in-breath as the in-breath and the out-breath as the out-breath; pretty dull stuff, eh?

  35. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote December 16, 2012 at 8:24 pm |

    “in all three dimensions”- make that, “in all three directions”

  36. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote December 16, 2012 at 8:25 pm |

    roar for me, Kong!

  37. SoF
    SoF December 16, 2012 at 11:06 pm |

    You can paint “clergy” and “congregant” with rather broad brushes. I would suggest that Brad has no congregation in the clerical context. But then I do not consider transients to be congregants. Congregants walk the walk, talk the talk, and poly up into the collection. Stick around 1,000 days – THEN you are a congregant.

    There is a simple answer – invariably a wrong answer – to every ‘problem’

    The problem is that not every ‘problem’ is a problem. It’s just a problem to some people (failed perception?) .

    I wish you had allowed my comment about behavior in context. But alas, the moment has passed (Isn’t that what the girl said at the picnic?).

    A lot of people seeking alternate spirituality, after a bum experience in typical Abrahamic Traditions wander into Zen thinking that it’s the “Buddhist Religion.”

    Again, as a Theravada Traditionalist, I don’t think of Zen as a religion at all. It is a rather loose philosophy based on the liberal idea that even a cabbage can achieve enlightenment if it just sits in the patch long enough. As a cabbage eventually rots away, so do we. But I don’t think cabbages get cramps. They have that distinct advantage over us. Aspire to be a cabbage.

  38. stonemirror
    stonemirror December 17, 2012 at 12:45 am |

    I’m curious whether you think of “Theravada Traditionalism” as a “religion”. Why or why not?

  39. King Kong
    King Kong December 17, 2012 at 4:19 am |


  40. Hungry Ghost
    Hungry Ghost December 17, 2012 at 9:37 am |

    There’s a lot of discussion about secular laws and therapeutic science, and many people trying to define what a zen teacher is, really trying to define what Brad is, isn’t, or should or shouldn’t be, maybe it’s constructive, I don’t know. Tripped over this Shobogenzo passage in a section called “the conduct of zen monks”:

    “Please try releasing your hold, and releasing your hold, observe: What is body-and-mind? What is conduct? What is birth-and-death? What is buddha-dharma? What are the laws of the world? What, in the end, are mountains, rivers, earth, human beings, animals, and houses? When you observe thoroughly, it follows that the two aspects of motion and stillness do not arise at all. Though motion and stillness do not arise, things are not fixed. People do not realize this; those who lose track of it are many. You who study the way will come to awakening in the course of study . Even when you complete the way, you should not stop. This is my prayer indeed.”

    Some of this is superfluous to my point but I didn’t want to chop up the quote.

    I’ve seen some comments about you “disrobing” (heh heh) or not self-identifying as a monk/priest/teacher or whatever anymore. If that’s true I think it’s a mistake. I don’t want therapy zen or puritan zen ossifying our understanding of what makes a monk/priest/teacher qualified to claim that title. That sounds like lifeless zen. I need more “What is conduct?” zen, not THIS is conduct zen, more “What are the laws of the world?” zen, not THESE are the laws of the world zen.

    Does this make sense?

  41. SoF
    SoF December 17, 2012 at 2:58 pm |

    “Theravada Traditionalism” may, at times, be to Buddhism what Presbyterianism seems to be to Christianity. That is a structural government of elders [read Old Farts].

    That would be a bunch of Old Farts sitting around worrying that SOMEWHERE somebody is having a good time!

    REAL “Theravada Traditionalism” places emphasis on the Tripitaka and nothing else. I call it Hinduism without reading ALL those books!

    As you know, Buddhism is a reaction to, and a rejection of, Brahmanism. Now I, for one, enjoyed reading “The Song of God” but do not take it too seriously.

    But I do rather favor the Tripitaka over the 1,200+ subsequent scriptural writings of the lineages.

    Real Buddhism® is about controlling yourself – not somebody else.

    And, in Real Buddhism®, there is no higher authority than an ordinary monk. A Brad, or a Dennis, or a Richard, or a Mel, or a Les. Thus, throughout his career, the Dali Lama refereed to himself as “an ordinary monk.”

    And, indeed, he is just that and nothing more.

    What they do which is beneficial you are to emulate. What they do that is harmful, you are to avoid doing yourself. YOU are the authority that decides. And, if you don’t like your teacher for any reason, find another one! [That is the guilt at SFZC – you don’t send away the teacher (e.g. Baker-roshi), you go away yourself. But the ATTACHMENT people had to the PLACE – e.g. Page Street – overcame their Buddhist nature.]

    It isn’t about me and you at all*, it’s only about YOU.

    And that is not selfish – it is only self control.

    *Or a student and Richard, or a student and Dennis, or a student and Brad…

    Sweeping Zen doesn’t get it. And that’s FUNNY.

  42. qilin
    qilin December 30, 2012 at 12:12 am |

    Hi Brad – these days one buddy mentioned he’d contribute something to Sweeping Zen, so I looked there, found those threads about you, and a link to here. And your view is consistent methinks. ‘Members of clergy’ *do* fall in love with ‘congregants’ all the time (and the other way round) – regardless of their being celibate or not (it’s only more hushed up in the latter case). It’s strongly discouraged OK, because it’s a tricky business – but there’s no law against it AFAIK. It’s up to the couple what they make of it. As far as I remember (I did a zazenkai with you couple of years ago, in Bavaria) you don’t resemble a predator very much – but, thinking of the movie, maybe you should try that mask sometime… 😉

    () qilin

  43. Pistil Pete
    Pistil Pete January 1, 2013 at 8:16 am |

    Everyone wants to be a cop….

  44. chasrmartin
    chasrmartin January 2, 2013 at 7:19 am |

    You know, when I was a kid, before I read the Four Great Truths in Lobsang Rampa, my folks took me to a Southern Baptist church.

    Boy, would these folks fit right in.

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