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. King Kong
    King Kong December 14, 2012 at 1:10 pm |


  2. stonemirror
    stonemirror December 14, 2012 at 1:15 pm |

    I still like you, Brad.

    For the record, “Chicks really dig zen” is something I’ve said not even once, ever.

  3. Fred
    Fred December 14, 2012 at 1:22 pm |

    I ready every word over there for entertainment.

    Are there any hot chicks on ZenMasterDate.com?

  4. fightclubbuddha
    fightclubbuddha December 14, 2012 at 1:24 pm |

    We certainly have a lot of the trappings of a religion, with our Buddha statues and incense and candles on the altar. Nonetheless, I am inclined to agree that Zen is not a religion – nor is Buddhism in general. The western mind needs desperately to label things and place them into categories it already understands and feels comfortable with. Hence, the need to place Buddhism, which has no real concern with a creator God or a creation myth, into the religion category based on the presence of monks, nuns, rituals and “scripture.”

    That being the case, however, we are still left with the dilemma of the student/teacher dynamic, which may be a thornier issue. Again, I am inclined to agree that, in your case, you have been miscast and defamed. A consensual relationship with a single adult student that arises out of non-predatory circumstances is hardly sexual misconduct.

    I am glad that you are trying not to watch this ongoing train wreck. Clear your mind and know that your books and articles mean a great deal to a great many of us. And when you feel up to it, head on over to Tricycle and answer my question about my cats disrupting my meditation. Namaste.

  5. Dave Samsara
    Dave Samsara December 14, 2012 at 1:40 pm |

    As a Forest Tradition practitioner who doen’t aggree with some of the issues you have raised in the past and commented such, Ive struggled with some of the unskillful dialog on the comments section and been hurt by a number of exchanges, so have actively avoided commenting for some time.

    However, Brad – you have my full support. Having read your work and followed your blog for a number of years I believe you are a rare individual who says it the way it is, sticks his kneck out and comments honestly on a number of difficult issues others would not dare to post about for fear of bad press.

    Well, I guess this time it’s got deep and personal and the unskilful and blindly dogmatic fundamentalist attitude shown by a number of narrow thinking self righteous religious types can only show them up for being a zen wing of american protestant intollerance.

    Keep up the good work Brad, Buddhism and Zen needs guys like you.

  6. Sai
    Sai December 14, 2012 at 1:48 pm |

    Very well expressed, What you say makes perfect sense.

  7. Balshalk
    Balshalk December 14, 2012 at 2:00 pm |

    I like your it is what it is. I’m a human to. Go find out for yourself teaching style. It is what made me stay and Drink your Kool-aid. This is the flavor it is, You can drink it if you like. You give samples and let the people decide if they like it. Thanks for not Funneling your Kool-aid down my throat. You help me realize It is ok to have doubts. I think I doubt too much. but thanks.

  8. fregas
    fregas December 14, 2012 at 2:04 pm |


    My teacher is married to another teacher at the same zendo. I don’t know if he ever was her teacher for a while but I think he was. They met when they first started studying zen, he became a zen teacher and then they got married shortly after I think. In any case, i don’t see anything “abusive” in the relationship. It CAN be problematic, but thats life.

    I was inclined to disagree with you on this one as I do on some other issues, but my experience with my teacher and zen in general is that this type of relationship is not abuse. I think part of the issue here is the comparison to christian churches and clergy. First, not all zendos are like protestant churches. We’re not living in the 1600’s when zen priests beat their students with sticks. Zen isn’t as authoritarian as it is used to be especially here in the states. I remember in one of your books you said that every time you tried to give authority over your life to you teacher, he would throw it back at you. My experience has been the same. I asked my teacher about vegetarianism, smoking, drinking, etc. and rather than take a hard stand either way, he said “you should do what is healthy and balanced for you.”

    In christian churches, its a lot more authoritarian. Christian pastors are even compared to shepherds leading sheep, some of the dumbest and most dependent animals alive. I’m not saying all christian churches are like this, but many more are then in zen. I think thats the mistake.

    I would just ignore what they are saying about you. You won’t convince them.

  9. Will
    Will December 14, 2012 at 2:50 pm |

    Pretty sure at least 80 percent of the clergy in this state is married to someone who is a member of their flock.

  10. minkfoot
    minkfoot December 14, 2012 at 3:03 pm |

    For the record, “Chicks really dig zen” is something I’ve said not even once, ever.

    Not quite true, anymore, though.

  11. stonemirror
    stonemirror December 14, 2012 at 3:43 pm |

    Oh, you know what I meant.

  12. recurvata
    recurvata December 14, 2012 at 3:55 pm |

    Who gives a crap about what other consenting adults choose to do with each other? Spouses and significant others are the only ones who really get to weigh in. Sure there can be abusive and/or coercive relationships, in any type of relationship, but that speaks to the nature of the relationship, not the type.

    If the parties don’t label it abusive or coercive, what gives someone else the right to do so? Especially someone whose only involvement is as outside commentariat. Maybe one or more people in the relationship are deluding themselves about it, but again, that’s their call. You can point out that some types of relationships may be more susceptible to abusive/coercive tendencies, but that says nothing about any individual relationship.

    FWIW, I’d never heard of Sweeping Zen before. Not a swipe at the site, more my own ever growing list of ‘things I don’t know’. But maybe this is kind of a tempest in a teapot kind of thing. Someone disagrees with me about something? Pretty sure there are, and will always be, plenty of those someones. Some may be mean or jerks about it? Plenty of them too. Sometimes that jerk is me (no, really, it can happen). Sometimes the other jerk is right. Either way, rarely worth getting worked up about. Easier said than done sometimes, but it’s something I hope to cultivate in my practice.

  13. stonemirror
    stonemirror December 14, 2012 at 4:08 pm |

    It’s interesting the way people can pick and choose the stuff they get upset about. I feel as though I’m the only one who remembers having heard “Refrain from lying, gossiping, slander, and spreading false rumors” at one point or another…

  14. Gregory Wonderwheel
    Gregory Wonderwheel December 14, 2012 at 4:45 pm |

    LOL! I loved the views until I got to the last paragraph! But that’s for another story.

    For now, just reject pricking and coozing.

    Case 2 from the Blue Cliff Record:

    Zhaozhou, instructing the assembly, said, “‘The Far-reaching Way is without difficulty, only reject picking and choosing.’ Only when there is language is there choosing or is there clarity. This old monk does not exist within clarity. Are you still fond of taking sides or not?”
    At that time a monk had a question: “Since one does not exist within clarity, what part of taking of sides is there to be fond of?”
    Zhou said, “I too do not know.”
    The monk said, “Venerable, since you do not know, why do you yet say you ‘do not exist within clarity’?”
    Zhou said, “By asking, you are able to draw near the matter; complete the ceremonial bowing and withdraw.”

  15. Dorg
    Dorg December 14, 2012 at 4:52 pm |

    It’s an old Sufi observation that a teacher with no enemies is probably a fraud.

  16. stonemirror
    stonemirror December 14, 2012 at 5:40 pm |

    “It’s an old Sufi observation that a teacher with no enemies is probably a fraud.”

    Necessary, perhaps not sufficient.

    At one time there was a great acharya who lived atop a virtually inaccessible mountain. His reputation was so great that, despite the difficulty, several times a year prospective deshi would make their way to his cave and present themselves. Every time, he would turn them away.

    Occasionally, one would appear who refused to be dissuaded this easily. If a would-be deshi showed sufficient determination, the acharya would motion him over and ask whether, should he agree to instruct him, the student would instantly follow his every command, without a moment’s hesitation. Should the aspirant agree, the acharya would say, “Fine. Run off that cliff there.”

    After a time, noting a decline in the numbers of prospective deshi, the other spiritual teachers in that place sent a delegation to talk with the acharya. After struggling up the mountain, they approached him, paid their respects and asked, “Why do you give deshi this teaching?”

    “Who wants a stupid deshi?” replied the acharya.

  17. Fred
    Fred December 14, 2012 at 5:45 pm |

    “In my tradition Kensho is not emphasized as an important goal in practice. This end-gaining idea, chasing after eternal bliss and ultimate salvation, can be a major obstacle. Dogen said practice is enlightenment, enlightenment is practice. As you sit down on the Zafu and just sit as if nothing is lacking, without trying to attain something, that is enlightened action, Buddha sitting. The realization, the confidence, the trust, comes gradually for some and suddenly for others. I’m not sure it’s necessary to go through all the frustration, suffering and despair that Harada Roshi is describing above.


    This sounds like Mike C. paraphrasing what he learned from Gudo.

  18. Ileadwithmyownlantern
    Ileadwithmyownlantern December 14, 2012 at 5:48 pm |

    So there are crazy people that go to schools full of innocent children and proceed to shoot them all (as of today), yet some “clergymen” choose to call a rational guy that writes a blog psychotic. Yeah, that makes sense, complete sense.

    These people that are calling you “things” obviously have no idea what “compassion” means being that they are “slandering” someone’s character under false pretense, which is by the way “illicit”. Compassion being the only true value that unites all “religions”.

    A zen master say’s to a carpenter, “I am a high priest in the clergy of zen buddhism and you should bow before me.”
    The carpenter replied, “Go fuck yourself. Build your own temple if you’re so high and mighty.”

    p.s. I used to work at naropa. They don’t call it “groping” there, they call it “orgies”. With drugs, they like drugs there. It was weird, really weird and I preferred to not partake. So what you’re talking about seems pretty normal compared to trying to walk into a meditation room to “sit” and find a crazy orgy going on. At a “buddhist” university. It was weird. Really weird.

  19. stonemirror
    stonemirror December 14, 2012 at 6:04 pm |

    I lost respect for Naropa when they started taking money from the Frederick “Zen Master Rama” Lenz Foundation…

  20. gw
    gw December 14, 2012 at 6:28 pm |


    What a bunch of Zen clowns you all are. Why don’t you just throw that bullshit away once and for all? On the other hand, Zen theater, like Theater of the Absurd or Theater of Cruelty, can be pretty damn entertaining. So, thanks, I guess!

  21. Hungry Ghost
    Hungry Ghost December 14, 2012 at 6:53 pm |

    I quit drugs, quit playing music, quit drinking and got into Buddhism. I thought I’d get away from the crazy, the infighting, the paranoia, hatred and self-destruction. I had no idea. Not even the tattoo-faced lunasaurs I used to hang out with would throw an accusation like that around arbitrarily. Sorry to see how far this has all gone.

  22. minkfoot
    minkfoot December 14, 2012 at 7:25 pm |

    “Sorry to see how far this has all gone.”

    Maybe it hasn’t gone far enough. Lots of masks are slipping. Lots of self-examination and rethinking of undisputed allegiances.

    Why are people being disillusioned? They have illusions! Big surprise!

    Bodhisattvas are helping us.

  23. Sageor
    Sageor December 14, 2012 at 8:29 pm |

    I hope this does not discourage you. You are in teh limelight. And are subject to gossip to a relative degree as any celebrity. Look what happened with John Travolta. Just to bring an example off the top of my mind without analogizing. I say bend with it. Zen Prick? I don’t find, out of context, that, for some nameless Zen Master to be too terrible. I won’t say it could be worse cause it may not feel like that but it could be worse. Take consolation: no one in there right mind would recite that (clever yet) awfully banal rhyme to your face. So I say the history of a nickname does not really proscribe much of anything. It is a story told like any other story in innumerable ways. Even just by teh pronouncing of the name. Only text makes it glaring [heroic/tragic].

  24. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote December 14, 2012 at 9:17 pm |

    I leaned over to pick something up this morning and experienced a back spasm on the left side.

    “Oh what fun it is to writhe…”

    When I read the recent articles and comments on Sweeping Zen, I am struck by the seriousness of the contributors. Grace Schireson in particular impresses me with her dedication to exploring the issues of men and women practicing, living, and working together as community. I think Ms. Schireson is very perceptive (I’m not sure which title from her degrees is most appropriate here, and I hope she’ll forgive me), and I think she’s very concerned to get it right with regard to teachers and students and sexual relationships.

    The glue that binds Zen communities together is a deep respect and appreciation for the teaching of Gautama who was called the Buddha as it has been handed down through the tradition. That his vision of the social order commensurate with teaching was not accepted in China, has been further eroded by the government of Japan, and is now producing co-ed practice centers in this country is hard to reconcile with the usual notion of his enlightenment and what that should mean about his vision of social reality (this, in spite of his advice to be a lamp onto oneself, etc.).

    I’m having a hard time writing straight tonight, I seem to be tilting off a lot (to the left?)!

    Anyway, a lot of things become law, that doesn’t mean they should be. Grace sites laws about clergy and congregants, but she doesn’t talk about what the facts and the arguments were around the passage of those laws.

    My feeling, and the feeling of many of the commentators on that site, is that until we can clarify the practice of zazen, develop an open-source teaching of the practice of zazen as it were, there will be problems concerning the notion of transmission and authority in communities dedicated to the practice of zazen. Imagine a college without science, and you have the Catholic church, is it not so?

  25. SoF
    SoF December 14, 2012 at 9:42 pm |


    Of the “rich and famous” part, you have achieved “famous*.”

    Now, on to the rich.

    Sweeping Zen is becoming a parody of itself. ROFLMAO!

    Not the “Most Trusted Name in News,” or “Fair and Balanced,” SZ is apparently neither news nor balanced. But they have become real laffs to read!

    * I am uncertain the SZ counts for much, really…

  26. billzant
    billzant December 14, 2012 at 10:21 pm |

    Personally Brad from what little I know of your conduct it does not merit such criticism. But in this world there are always people willing to condemn. As a teacher once the teaching situation includes sexual activity you are open to criticism, that’s just a fact of life.

    The real problem with the sexual activity is that it diverts attention from the spiritual path. Once the dick is dipped that becomes the focus.

    In this scenario are we thinking of our meditation?

  27. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel December 14, 2012 at 11:38 pm |

    There was this story about this Japanese monk who was accused of having fathered a child to some maid, because the latter didn’t want her lover to be hassled.
    The parents of the maid took the child to the monk and told him to care for it, since it was (purportedly) his. He took the child saying “Is that so?”

    And, despite the gossip, he took care of the child for quite some time. Then the girl and her lover were finally able to marry, so they went to reclaim the child. The monk gave it to them, saying, “Is that so?”

    I don’t agree with Mark Foote (except for the “fun in writhing”…) Grace Shireson may be moved by some genuine concern, but she is acting as a Zen cunt byt spreading slander and defamation about someone who is not a quarter of a tenth of what she accuses him to be. And her own husband is even much more of a Zen prick.

  28. An apology to Brad Warner | Sweeping Zen December 15, 2012 at 1:26 am |
  29. boubi
    boubi December 15, 2012 at 2:18 am |

    Sue them

  30. Jundo Cohen
    Jundo Cohen December 15, 2012 at 5:20 am |

    Well Michel,

    I can safely say that you have topped the most over the top words that the Shireson’s ever used or that were used in comments to their posts. If Brad tolerates posts like this on his blog as he historically has, but wags a finger when someone calls him some name which Adam failed to censor, is that now not a bit like the pot calling the kettle a prick?

    Grace Shireson may be moved by some genuine concern, but she is acting as a Zen cunt … And her own husband is even much more of a Zen prick.

    Gassho, J

  31. King Kong
    King Kong December 15, 2012 at 5:27 am |


  32. Muddy Elephant
    Muddy Elephant December 15, 2012 at 5:33 am |

    You certainly do make a good and valid point with your question and humorous answers:

    “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?”

    However, why can’t a teacher somehow put aside the hot sexiness of his/her own students go to someone else’s zen meetings as “just another student”? Why not ZenMasterDate.com? Why not the frozen food aisle? Is the intense study and practice of zen really so limiting that there are no options at all other than a teacher’s own students?

    Love you Brad, though your argument here just seems a bit too facile.

    Though, I must admit, all in all your argument in this case is a sparkling fucking gem when compared to the self-oblivious sarcasm, obviously repressed sexuality, and narrow-minded-holier-than-thou-ness of the characterizations leveled upon you.

  33. minkfoot
    minkfoot December 15, 2012 at 6:10 am |

    “Anyway, a lot of things become law, that doesn’t mean they should be. Grace sites laws about clergy and congregants, but she doesn’t talk about what the facts and the arguments were around the passage of those laws.” — Mark Foote

    When I first came across this, a flag went up in the back of my mind. Everyone seems to accept this on its face. Now that you mention it again, it came forward and I see what troubled my subconscious. 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?

    Seems to me that states would be reluctant to interfere in the inner workings of religious groups, not to even mention constitutional issues.

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

  34. Stephanie
    Stephanie December 15, 2012 at 6:42 am |

    As much as I hate to agree with Jundo, I do agree that name calling does not help the situation any. However, I do believe there is a difference between regular old name calling and slander – calling someone a “sexual predator” is a league apart from calling them an asshole.

    All that said – let us all look at ourselves. At how much we love getting in the middle of stuff like this, and calling names, and picking sides. Why is it that controversial, shit-stirring posts always get WAY more replies than anything else you see on a blog or forum? The answer, my friends, is EGO. Now, ego is insidious. We easily see it when people are puffing out their chests and saying LOOK AT ME, I AM SO GREAT, I HAVE THIS AND THAT CREDENTIAL AND I AM MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOU. But ego also manifests in more subtle ways. When we try to act out of an idea of who we think we are or who we want to be, even if that is a “nice person,” that is ego. When we defend people or groups with whom we are associated – even if only in our own minds – that is ego. Even if what we’re saying is morally right / defensible. I think all of the hand-wringing and efforts over how to regulate Zen are very ego-driven. People crave institutions, as much as they may elsewhere bemoan them. People want things to have been checked and approved by the FDA, AMA, APA, whatever. We want security. We want some measurable way to feel right. To lay our doubts at ease. But what I have learned – with such gratitude – is that is not the way of Zen! The Way of Zen is to be able to live in doubt and without a sense of security and to realize the freedom of not needing either. Most of those drawn to Zen will never taste that freedom as organizations like these Soto teacher groups look to play to their own and others’ ego-driven cravings for certainty, ease, social acceptability. The true path is one that won’t win you an iota of respect because as the Buddha taught it goes against the stream of the world. The Buddha taught that there will also always be praise and blame. Winning the most praise is certainly no test of how true, awake, or even good you are. There will always be those ready to praise ignorance if it affirms their own preferences, and those ready to condemn wisdom if it isn’t what they want to hear. Anyone who thinks any of these dramas, or the consensus or plans or strategies or policies that come out of them, has anything to do with Zen, has been dragged into the morass of ego. It is my sincere wish that all people who truly want to wake up can remember to turn the light inward and look at themselves, and realize that looking at or to others, while sometimes fun and sometimes useful, will never have anything to do with waking up.

    1. hrtbeat7
      hrtbeat7 December 15, 2012 at 9:19 am |

      Your aim is true, Sister!

  35. Pat from Iowa
    Pat from Iowa December 15, 2012 at 6:44 am |

    Anyway, how about this as the guideline: You can be lovers. You can be teacher and student. You can’t be both at the same time.

    So the person initiating says, “I am your teacher/student, but I am so drawn to you that I propose we end the student/teacher relationship and begin again in a different register.” That way both parties have a clear choice.

    One thing we’re not talking about is whether or not romantic relationships between student and teacher are fair to people beyond the two parties. They usually aren’t. There are other students to be considered, and the sangha as a whole. Here is where secrecy is more damaging than the relationship in and of itself, IMO.

    I say this as someone who teaches at a university, where the lines are brighter, and there are in fact laws, but also as someone who thinks Brad is largely in the right here.

  36. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel December 15, 2012 at 6:45 am |

    Well, Jundo, it is one thing to say, right or wrong, that such and such behaviour is correct or not.
    It is quite another one to say, as has Shireson’s husband, what he has, which matches nothing in the reality. That is, I see that both sell around the idea that Brad is a womaniser and that he advocates chasing around his flock for prey. You know that is outright false, which means slander and defamation, and more precisely, the latin word “calumnia”: propagating lies against someone. (The Norman deformation of that word gave the English “challenge”, by the way).

  37. Fred
    Fred December 15, 2012 at 7:44 am |

    That can’t be possible. Buddhists never propagate lies.

  38. DysfunktionJunktion
    DysfunktionJunktion December 15, 2012 at 7:51 am |

    Interesting that a guy like Warner who publicly claimed on his blog that Genpo Roshi and his wife were “swingers” fells now so totally “hurt”. More than a cntradiction I think

  39. Fred
    Fred December 15, 2012 at 7:58 am |

    No, he did not say that. You are twisting it.

    “This is why these sex-related allegations against Genpo mean nothing at all to me. For all I know maybe Genpo and his wife were swingers and the affair was not nearly so hurtful as he’s making it out to be. He could just be too ashamed to admit it and is taking this public stance as a way of avoiding doing so. I don’t know and I don’t care very much. I don’t even understand why everyone else seems so overwrought about it.”

  40. anon 108
    anon 108 December 15, 2012 at 8:04 am |

    Brad Warner is a Dharma-heir of Gudo Nishijima Roshi. My teacher is too. I’m supposing that Brad’s approach to his sangha may differ here and there in detail from how things are done in my sangha but that it is informed by the same approach – Gudo Nishijima’s approach – to Zen/Buddhism. Here’s how things go in my sangha –

    There is a teacher (who’s attendance at sangha meetings/sittings used to be regular but lately has become less so). There is no formal heirarchy of students – no novice/senior monk delineation.
    There is no course of study, list of required reading or graded koan curriculum leading to precept -taking, ‘ordination,’ or Dharma transmission.
    There is no assumption, and no pressure, that students will want to , or should sew and wear a rakusu or kesa, or take the precepts. Those that want to do so, may.
    Kesas and rakusus can be of any colour. The colour of your kesa or rakusu does not indicate your ‘level of spiritual attainment’ or formal status within the group. Muted colours are preferred, advised – there is no rule.
    There is no dokusan – no formal one-to-one meeting with the teacher. If you want a private chat, ask for one.
    There may come a time when you want to teach, or a time when your teacher thinks you should teach – you and your teacher may agree that you will undergo a Dharma transmission ceremony.

    My sangha – and, I imagine, Brad’s – is thus a very different kind of group, with a very different group dynamic, to the highly heirarchical, church-modelled sangha that, it seems, most Zen practitioners are familiar with.

    I point out these substantial differences in the Nishijima/Dogen Sangha approach to the group practice of Zen Buddhism to suggest that without the heirarchically formalised, institutionalised premise that Zen Buddhism is concerned with revelation of an ultimate truth towards which a student must be guided and graded by a enlightened spritual Master, many of the opportunites for abuse of the teacher-student relationship do not arise. When Brad talks of being (or not) a teacher; of having (or not) students, the king of teaching – and the kind of student-teacher relationship – that he’s talking about has little in common with what most of those who are taking issue with him probably assume it to be.

  41. Hugh1
    Hugh1 December 15, 2012 at 8:20 am |

    I’ll add some comments here. Apologies if these are similar to those of others. I have not looked through that much of the material, but I do want to say something supportive of you Brad as I enjoy your books and blog, and I don’t like to see you being scapegoated. May the Snow Bunny Bodhisattva of immeasurable clarity protect you from over-reactivity!

    As I understand it, rules are only effective if people understand the reasoning behind them. If people don’t get the reasoning, they are likely to break them. This is particularly true in rules (actual or assumed) concerning sexual misconduct. Any rules concerning sexual misconduct are there as much for the protection of the teacher/ therapist/ authority as for the student/ client/ junior. Those in authority are also vulnerable in these relationships, for instance to being admired, idolised, projected upon, and can easily get themselves into all kinds of personal chaos, even though they’re supposed to be older, wiser etc. Relationships that start from a position of inequality are not best aspected to grow, and the more vulnerable, whether student or teacher, are likely to be hurt, perhaps badly. The onus is of course on the older, “more responsible”, party to be better informed on the possible consequences to themselves and others for their behaviours, but however old or experienced people are they are still very capable of behaving stupidly and chaotically, particularly if the wind is from the East and Neptune is transiting Pluto (this last bit is meant as a joke).

  42. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote December 15, 2012 at 8:35 am |

    Wow, anon108, good shot.

    I was looking at a Wikipedia article about Kodo Sawaki the other day, and reflecting on the fact that this is Brad’s lineage, and that the teacher I met and revered (I admit it) sat with Sawaki when he was a high school student (this is Kobun I’m referring to, of course) and was very impressed. Kobun was Tim’s teacher, that was Brad’s introduction to Zen.

    I very much enjoyed Bielefeldt’s “Dogen’s Meditation Manuals”. I was surprised to learn that he spent a year at Antaiji, the temple that Sawaki called home (eventually?), but that makes sense too, since he basically demonstrates that Dogen borrowed enormously from other sources and revised continuously. These are things which I don’t think were common knowledge before his book, and which maybe were iconoclastic with regard to the founder of Soto Zen.

    Returning now to the days of yesteryear, the fiery hooves, the mighty “high-o, silver”… and Stephanie, I get your drift and yes people seek order and stability in their lives, especially around raising children, and where the Zen center is a community with families and children there will be a desire not to experience crazy wisdom up close and personal- isn’t it so?

    My experience is that my beliefs do come into my actions, whether I want that to be the case or not, and because I value the action which takes place in the absence of volition I have to treat my beliefs as though they were going to become my actions (because they are). In other words, like it or not, I have to get it as right as I can make it, with regard to what I think.

    That to me is why we take the opportunity and spend the time to reflect on an issue of great importance to the practice community, namely why we rely on the authority of transmission and the charisma of our leaders to inspire our practice. Notice that I see a different crux of the matter than Grace sees, at least in the article at issue. My answer would be that we don’t have a working understanding of what the experiential practice is, and so we rely on getting it by intuition and close proximity to someone who is certified to be an adept at the practice.

    Think about it, what advice do they give to the first-time student who shows up off the street at your local zendo? Sit comfortably and attend to your breathing, maybe count your breaths for awhile? I think Reb doesn’t even talk about the breath anymore, or didn’t for awhile, he found it counterproductive I believe. Can we say something more? If we do, and we don’t have certification as an adept, will folks see the end of their nose or look past it?

  43. Andy
    Andy December 15, 2012 at 8:37 am |

    Jundo Cohen:

    “I can safely say that you have topped the most over the top words that the Shireson’s ever used or that were used in comments to their posts. If Brad tolerates posts like this on his blog as he historically has, but wags a finger when someone calls him some name which Adam failed to censor, is that now not a bit like the pot calling the kettle a prick?”

    I understand your concern at Michel’s choice of words. But I don’t think it’s really about those kind of editorial choices.

    From an editorial perspective, as I see it, it wasn’t that the Alain poster said what he said, nor that it was allowed. It was that Mr Tebbe’s choice to allow the Schireson’s articles was one which allowed for lies to be told, and in a quite nasty, bullying manner. Very wrong opinions were formed as a consequence and the harmful misinformation cranked up, until we get people like the Alain poster spreading the muck? Calling someone an ass, for example, is different to suggesting that someone will exploit your respect for them as a teacher in order to get some.

    Also, the impact of the Schireson’s double-punch, relating as they did so, too, to comment posts on SZ, meant that the real issues that SZ is responsible for channeling and focussing on, became sidelined, to the detriment of the baby much in its care – and to some minds to the detriment of its reputation as a publication to be trusted in such matters.

    Moreover, Mr Tebbe’s decision to justify the Schireson’s posts and articles, both directly and implicity on SZ and elsewhere damaged claims of impartiality it might have, and which SZ needs to have in order to uphold the sort of standards it claims for itself – if it is to be respected as a publication which seeks to bring together diverse voices and a variety of opinions about serious matters, as well as being an open and balanced place for dialogue. Brad’s personal blog is of a very different nature, doesn’t make the same claims about itself, and certainly isn’t in the business of re-presenting a community.

    An editor with more stature and courage might have been able to have a word with the be-robed Schiresons before the articles were published, to help everyone to keep their eye on the ball. But there was clearly a one-eyed bias involved. In the comments section where Alain made his post, SZ intervened at first to deny that anyone had called Brad a ‘sexual predator’ and then, when this was pointed out to be wrong, back-tracked by merely asserting that neither SZ not Grace had said it. No request that this false assertion was incorrect.

    And let’s not forget, it appears that the Schireson’s articles place of origin appears to be SZ, whereas Brad’s has been republished with permission from his own site.

    People might correctly or incorrectly take to task what Brad allows to get through moderation, and the same goes for SZ. And if Brad wrote next to Michel’s post above, “I appreciate your direct response”, I can’t see anything wrong with anyone anywhere questioning why a writer and practitioner on Zen would do so. But this would be about his views and himself as a person, and not his editorial choices.

    @Michel, I felt some dismay at the language. Alongside the sexist stench of the words, I think they just play into the the ever decreasing circles of Adam Tebbe’s self-justifications. I’ve had to deal with a good few spats between older teenagers over the years. His way of dealing with things and the apparently one-eyed, highly selective, passive-aggressive style of argumentation and plea-bargaining is quite redolent. Or is your ploy to induce Tebbe et al to batten themselves down further through more harmful flushes of self-aggrandisement and self-righteousness?

  44. Hungry Ghost
    Hungry Ghost December 15, 2012 at 9:20 am |

    I love how bizarrely christian this all is. The fanatical believers in the letter of the law crucifying the believer in the spirit of it.

  45. Christina Perez
    Christina Perez December 15, 2012 at 9:20 am |

    Hey Brad,
    I’ve been really enjoying your thoughtful reflections to date. Please don’t get pulled into he emotional state as per SweepingZen. There are a lot of loud people in this world who feel empowered with their rants on others. being fanned by a noisy group in similar states of mind. Promise you, that stuff dies out. The majority is silent and rolling their eyeballs. Don’t get sucked in.

  46. Khru
    Khru December 15, 2012 at 9:39 am |

    I don’t know.

    But I’m almost 100% certain that you don’t know either.

  47. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel December 15, 2012 at 9:49 am |


    You’re probably right. I got incensed by their fundamentalist delirium.
    However, there was no sexism in what I wrote, even though it may sound so.

  48. Christina Perez
    Christina Perez December 15, 2012 at 9:59 am |

    If possible( I think) you should reverse the order in which posts are displayed, allowing the latest to be at the top. Scrolling through 100 posts sometimes to view replies discourages continuing the conversation.

  49. Andy
    Andy December 15, 2012 at 10:14 am |


    Re. Our discussion on the last thread. Apparently it’s you Adam Tebbe fears. He posted this on the Sweeping Zen facebook page, where he accused someone of being you, who offered him some advice.

    “Yes, I am afraid for my safety, particularly in regards to David Lefty Schlesinger, aka Stone Mirror, a said member of Aleister Crowley’s Ordo Templi Orientis.”

    This is starting to look like the opening chapter in a Dan Brown Novel.

    You’re not scary are you?

  50. minkfoot
    minkfoot December 15, 2012 at 11:20 am |

    “Yes, I am afraid for my safety, particularly in regards to David Lefty Schlesinger, aka Stone Mirror, a said member of Aleister Crowley’s Ordo Templi Orientis.”

    This is starting to look like the opening chapter in a Dan Brown Novel.

    You’re not scary are you?


    Some of my best friends are Thelemites.

    Some people fear Buddhists. (Do we really know what they plot in those temples?)

    Some people add an Outer Head to an inner one of paranoia.

    Some people know all about the plot to brainwash American women and ban Christianity, despite our Snakescript Codes.

    Crowley! Fu Manchu! Manson! Ooga! Booga!

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