That The Dharma Should Be Given Freely Does Not Mean It Should Be Taken Freely

Buddha-money1First there will be no zazen tonight at Yogavidala and no zazen meeting on Saturday at Hill Street Center in Santa Monica.

This is because I will be leading a retreat this weekend at Mount Baldy. Amazingly, you can still sign up for it. But you’d better do it quick because as of tomorrow morning nobody will be available to register you.

Next up, I am trying to find places in the US, Canada and Europe to speak at and lead retreats and stuff at this Summer. I’ll be on the road promoting my forthcoming book There Is No God And He Is Always With You. I’d love to come to your town. So hit me up!

That being said, the US federal government defines “poverty” in terms of a single person household as those who make less than $11,490 in a year. In 2011 that’s just a little less than what I made before deductions like travel expenses to go give talks all over the place. After travel and other expenses I made well under half that amount. 2012 brought me just out of poverty range (before expenses) because I got a  little extra as an advance on my next book. That’s money I get early and means I don’t start earning anything at all on the book until that advance is met.

I’m managing because I worked for a decade at a job that paid well and I saved that money. I decided to invest that savings in my career as a teacher and writer. I’m starting to wonder if that was a good investment! My nest egg keeps getting smaller and smaller. But for now, I’m all right. I won’t be tossed out on the street any time soon. I was very lucky I had that job. I could not be doing what I do now if I hadn’t worked for Tsuburaya Productions. Ultraman is paying for the Buddhist teaching I do now. Seriously!

This raises a ton of issues. One of the biggest is the idea that Zen teaching (the Dharma) is to be given freely. That’s true. But just because the Dharma is to be given freely does not mean it is to be taken freely.

I have a lot of friends who teach Yoga and it’s interesting to note the differences in what happens with them compared to what happens with me and to others in the world of Buddhism and meditation teaching in general. Folks even in the rust belt of Ohio have no qualms with paying $10-$20 for a 60-90 minute Yoga class and much more for a retreat. Yet folks in Zen or other Buddhist centers often gripe at being asked to support the place. Nobody ever says out loud, “Hey! It’s supposed to be free!” But it’s obvious some of them are thinking that.

I get it. I’ve been there. I’ve been that guy who puts a dollar in the dana bowl. I’ve been that guy who takes the free books and food from the Hare Krishnas and doesn’t put anything in the bucket when he leaves. So maybe in a sense it’s my karma coming back to bite me on the ass. Still, maybe that karma is also driving me to try to put some things right for all of us out there attempting to teach this stuff.

So if you’d like me to come to your town, also please think about how that’s going to work out financially. I’m not looking to get rich here. But running around doing retreats and stuff is my job. If I choose to do this with my time it means I really can’t go get a “real job” somewhere else.

I know this sounds whiny. But it’s not really as much of a complaint as it sounds like. I love what I do. I am so happy with my life right now I could just pop! I am eternally grateful that I can do this stuff. I want to continue. Yet I’m starting to feel like once my nest-egg from working in the film business is exhausted, that’s gonna be pretty much it for my speaking/writing/retreat-running career.

Maybe that’s OK. Maybe that’s how it’s gotta be. If it is, then I’ll have to accept it. I could do translation work, maybe get back into some aspect of the film industry again, maybe return to Japan and see if they’ll have me back at Tsuburaya. It’ll be fine. I’ll still do my practice on the side just like I did before. There are other teachers out there with Zen centers and stuff. They’ll write books, run retreats and give talks. People can go to those instead. Everything will be groovy.

But I also feel like what I do is unique and valuable. I hate to sound like I’m bragging. I feel like I can say this objectively, or at least semi-objectively. I feel like I can look at “Brad Warner’s” books and talks and stuff almost as if they’re not really mine.

For example, I just got done recording the audiobook version of Sit Down And Shut Up. It’s been six years since I last read that book. I’d forgotten a lot of what’s inside. As I was reading I kept thinking, “This is pretty good. This is actually kind of deep. Not many people write books like this.” It was almost as if it was somebody else’s book and I liked it.

And my forthcoming book is even better. Far better. It makes Sit Down and Shut Up looks like kid’s stuff!

But maybe I’m one of those guys who doesn’t get noticed in his lifetime. Philip K Dick couldn’t even get his agent to return his calls until the last couple years of his life. And now his books have become the basis for a string of top-grossing movies. Amazing. Maybe that’ll be my story.

We’ll see.

For now I am happy, content and extremely grateful to be exactly where I am. It’s fun, even if it isn’t really paying the bills.

*   *   *

This is where I usually mention my donation page. But instead I’ll just thank you kind people who do support it for your help. It really matters!

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111 Responses

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  1. boubi
    boubi April 25, 2013 at 6:37 pm |

    Do you understand better the “funeral corporation” of Soto Shu?

    This doesn’t condone abandoning meditation.

    I have a friend tibetan teacher, they have the advantage they have “something” to teach, mantra, practice, movements, higher stuff, whatever … watching a wall … is a bit less marketable.

    Problem is people like to have reinforcement experiences, they like to hear what they already think is the “right” thing, just look people just repeating “wise” quote and exchanging “deep” thoughts as if repeating them made anybody any better.

    “This is actually kind of deep. Not many people write books like this.”
    They don’t want anything deep, they just want something that doesn’t disrupt they oversweet shit.

    They want the smiling, meek, shaven, phoney “monk” that reflect what they believe being a “monk” in order to feel they add a “true spiritual experience” … what you keep saying.

    You could try, hunger dictates, to make one of those mellowing books with pics of kittens, flowers, whatever else with quotes from wise men of yore, with a pic of you smiling inside.

    So pal, go on producing outrageously nonsense geeky nerdy books, this being the same as that … a big body is not a big body, that’s why it’s called a big body … and it’s funny 🙂

  2. boubi
    boubi April 25, 2013 at 6:39 pm |

    Or better a book with pics of punk and SG and quotes from Lin-Chi 🙂

  3. PatchworkMan
    PatchworkMan April 25, 2013 at 6:41 pm |

    So… about that giving the dharma freely thing? Stop me if I’m wrong but you seem to charge money for your retreats and books… Maybe we have different definitions of what free means?

    Don’t get me wrong. I get that there’s all kinds of financial anxiety that goes along with being a dharma teacher. Given the topic of the article though, it seems like an odd oversight not to even mention it. One of my many pet peeves about zen is the seemingly uncritical assumption that the dharma CANNOT be freely given.

  4. Darkgod
    Darkgod April 25, 2013 at 7:14 pm |

    How long until the audio of Sit Down comes out?

  5. Mumbles
    Mumbles April 25, 2013 at 7:40 pm |

    The Pythian Oracle (Oracle of Delphi) reportedly answered the question of “who is the wisest man of Greece?” with “Socrates!” Socrates defends this verdict in his Apology to the effect that he, at least, knows that he knows nothing. As is evident in Plato’s portrayals of Socrates, this does not mean Socrates’ wisdom was the same as knowing nothing; but rather that his skepticism towards his own self-made constructions of knowledge left him free to receive true Wisdom as a spontaneous insight or inspiration. This contrasted with the attitude of contemporaneous Greek Sophists, who claimed to be wise and offered to teach wisdom for pay. -(within the wiki entry for Sophia)

  6. mtto
    mtto April 25, 2013 at 8:30 pm |

    Hi PatchworkMan,

    Brad teaches zen classes in Los Angeles twice a week. Sometimes three times a week. All classes are donation-based, or “free”. The regular classes cost Dogen Sangha Los Angeles money to rent the space, and rent comes before offering Dana to the teacher.

    Most of the money from the retreat fees goes to pay to rent the Mount Baldy Zen Center. Some of the money will probably go to Brad; I’m still figuring out how much money will be left after expenses. This is the first retreat Dogen Sangha Los Angeles has offered, so I do not have experience with what all the expenses will be when we close the books.

    I hope that answers your question.

  7. Khru
    Khru April 25, 2013 at 9:23 pm |

    If they give, accept. No shame in that.

  8. Catwriter
    Catwriter April 25, 2013 at 10:22 pm |

    Dear Brad, on your post about dana, yes.
    And also yes, that many people, perhaps many thousands of people, would like to be out on the road leading retreats and doing talks because they feel that is their job or calling, and yet many have responsibilities, such as sons and daughters to care for or elderly parents to care for, and so they need to work the kind of jobs you you used to work, and many more undoubtedly toil in much more menial labor. So, if you need to get a real job and do maybe half as many retreats, perhaps that is just how it is and maybe that is okay in the sense of equanimity. Things are as they are. No reason to remind you of the millions upon millions of poor in the world, the millions toiling for minimum wage, some no doubt with decades of meditation experience, or the garment workers in foreign countries making 10 cents an hour so we can wear clothes they make, and on and on. I’m surmising you made the choice to leave your well-paying job, and so you will be living with that choice, however it goes for you, or you can make another choice to supplement your retreat and book income with another job. It is wonderful that you do what you do, and some people do not feel they can risk to lose their home or their retirement to go out and follow their bliss, as Joseph Campbell says, to the same full extent, yet I’m sure you know it would be okay if you did something else for a living part of the time, too. Mindfulness and Buddhism are spreading, and universities and meditation centers and Zen centers and Against the Stream and Spirit Rock and so forth are all training hundreds of teachers and leaders who will be out on retreats and day-long meditations and weekly classes and so forth, doing the kind of work and service you are doing. So it is what it is! All blessings to you, and I hope it all works out!

    1. dganiel73
      dganiel73 April 26, 2013 at 8:21 am |

      You freaking nailed it!!!!

  9. PatchworkMan
    PatchworkMan April 25, 2013 at 10:56 pm |

    As far as I know the Buddha never turned away students because of an inability to pay retreat fees. Goenka tells the story of Anãthapindika, who as a rich man generously supported the sangha with gifts, and as a pauper generously supported the sangha with two handfuls of soil.

    There are dharma centers that provide retreats on a purely donation basis. There are teachers who give out all of their teachings for free (including their books). I’m not accusing Brad of trying to get rich off the dharma, but I think his claim that he’s freely giving away the dharma is dishonest.

  10. JonW
    JonW April 26, 2013 at 12:02 am |

    A European tour would be feasible as I see it so long as you choose your towns and cities carefully. Here in Brighton (UK) I’m sure you’d get a warm welcome for a speaking engagement and there’s plenty of good retreat options in the vicinity. So long as it’s all priced reasonably I’m sure you could make it work financially. No-one would expect you to do it for free. Save on hotel costs by getting friends you’ve yet to meet by putting you up for a few nights. My sofa is comfortable and I knock up a mean vegetarian breakfast. Plan it like you would if you were a solo rock’n’roll artist on the road. I look forward to seeing you in town. Peace, JonW

  11. roman
    roman April 26, 2013 at 12:40 am |

    I really appreciate Brad’s honesty and realism as for his own work. We sometimes think that Buddhists should be humble and never say anything positive about their own efforts. But BUddhism is not trying to fit an image, but see the truth and the truth is that Brad’s work, teaching, books are fine and unique and explain Buddhism honestly and clearly.

    I also sometimes think when I read my old articles long forgotten, hey, this is not bad, did I write this stuff? But unlike Brad, I am not bold enough to claim that. But it is not necessary to hide something – if people appreciate what we do, we can just say so from time to time.

    If Brad runs out of money, we will see if people are realistic and active enough to be willing to pay for his travel, food, accommodation and have the chance to practice with him and learn from him.

    I think we should only worry about Brad’s efforts to make some money as a Buddhist teacher when he starts buying luxury houses and luxury boats and have twelve half-naked young female servants in his bedroom 24/7. Then we should riot and say, hey, Brad, you are going too far, mate.

    Myself, I am not running out of money yet, but I am writing , so “prepare to want one” such a book.

  12. mtto
    mtto April 26, 2013 at 1:07 am |


    Maybe re-read my response. Brad gives away the dharma several times a week. That isn’t my opinion, it is a fact.

    As you noted, the tradition is for the rich to give more so the poor can have access to the teachings without paying. In the Buddha’s time, there was already a tradition of renunciates living off of donations. We do not have that tradition, so the economics get confusing to some people, maybe most of us. Anãthapindika gave a whole forest to be used as a retreat center. So far, our little sangha in LA hasn’t found our Anãthapindika.

  13. PatchworkMan
    PatchworkMan April 26, 2013 at 1:47 am |

    I get the sense that Brad spends more time writing books and leading retreats than he does teaching free classes, though I could be wrong. So I suppose maybe he sells dharma as a profession and gives it away as a hobby?

    And still, despite the fact that our culture lacks a tradition of supporting renunciates, places survive that DO give everything away freely. And really, I think there’s something to that outrageous trust and generosity. When I’ve paid for a retreat, there’s often a feeling of entitlement that comes with it. When I’ve been given one, it creates a deep feeling of gratitude, which is fertile soil for generosity to arise.

    I also wish more zen teachers would release free digital versions of their books.

    Again, this isn’t really a criticism of Brad, so much as (American?) zen. If you feel that old model for teaching the dharma won’t work in today’s culture, at least change the rhetoric to reflect that.

    1. Kman
      Kman April 26, 2013 at 5:26 am |

      Where is this mystical place that doesn’t have to pay rent or utility bills? That doesn’t get its support from *somewhere*? And, frankly, Brad’s only written a handful of books, and his cut from each book purchased is most likely a tiny, tiny portion. It’s almost giving it away for free, especially considering the amount of work that goes into it.

      I don’t know if it’s at all realistic to teach the dharma full-time and not wind up broke really quickly. You either have to charge for what you do, or have an alternate source of income. Good will and selflessness just don’t buy groceries like they used to – certainly not in the US. I’m not sure why this is such a difficult concept to grasp.

      Perhaps an Anãthapindika will appear.

  14. King Kong
    King Kong April 26, 2013 at 5:20 am |


  15. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel April 26, 2013 at 5:41 am |

    Mumbles writes:

    “Greek Sophists, who claimed to be wise and offered to teach wisdom for pay. ”
    If anyone has read Pirsig, they’ll know that the Sophists didn’t teach wisdom (albeit Sophia) but the technique for expressing oneself efficiently. Knowing one’s own language not only offers you the means of expressing yourself correctly and efficiently, it also allows you to more efficiency in thinking, categorising and classifying what you are thinking about.

    People with little vocabulary are not very efficient at creating their world…

  16. blake
    blake April 26, 2013 at 7:28 am |

    We would love to have you come back to the Kansas City/Lawrence area. I have like four email addresses for you. Which do I choose? Hell, maybe I’ll just text you.

  17. ch
    ch April 26, 2013 at 7:33 am |

    I just finished Sit Down and Shut Up! I got it from a used book store and figured you didn’t get a dime from it, so I tossed something in the donation basket. Keep up the good work.

    Side note, forgive me if this is stated somewhere on the site, but is there any chance of the podcasts coming back?

  18. PatchworkMan
    PatchworkMan April 26, 2013 at 8:04 am |

    “Where is this mystical place that doesn’t have to pay rent or utility bills? That doesn’t get its support from *somewhere*?”
    I never claimed there were places that survive without support from somewhere. I just stated that there are places that survive completely on the VOLUNTARY donations of the community (not retreat or teaching fees disgustingly relabeled as “dana”). Check out the Goenka network of Vipassana centers, the Insight Retreat Center, Wat Metta, Abhayagiri, Bhavana Society or Birken (though I’ll admit that Birken is in Canada, where they might be a little bit better culturally about supporting renunciates).

    “And, frankly, Brad’s only written a handful of books, and his cut from each book purchased is most likely a tiny, tiny portion. It’s almost giving it away for free, especially considering the amount of work that goes into it.”
    Ah, then I appreciate Brad’s great generosity in selflessly supporting the publishing industry by choosing not to release his books as free ebooks.

  19. Terrytrueman
    Terrytrueman April 26, 2013 at 8:14 am |

    Okay Brad, I just did what I threatened I’d NEVER do which is make a donation to, well, YOU. It wasn’t much, only $50 but I intend to purchase a number if not all of yer books soon too. What convinced me to bite the bullet and send you some $$ is yer candor and honesty about the life/earning etc of a working author/speaker/teacher. I have earned my livlihood in a very similiar manner for the last decade and it’s refreshing to have another guy who can walk into Barnes and Noble and find a shelf with his name on the spines of books, step up and tell the truth about how limited that reality translates to earning enough $$ to live on. Even my editor at HarperCollins in NYC semed to think it was not that big a deal for me to pay HC back $54K, the first half of an advance for a 3 book deal that I could see wasn’t going to work out–this editor, who I absolutely love, seemed to think that my speaking fees and travel etc had made/were making me uber-wealthy. If she didn’t know better, no one does but guys like us who are actually doing this thing.

    Okay, regarding inviting you to come to Spokane and work yer gig here. I’d love to see that happen and I’m the last person in the world willing or able to give the blood, sweat and tears required of someone who stands behind every successful event–but I’ll keep my eyes/ears open and see if I can’t spot just such a saintly person for you.

  20. Terrytrueman
    Terrytrueman April 26, 2013 at 8:17 am |

    ps. I loved ch sharing that he’d bought yer book at a used book store in re to yer blurb. I suppose zen is filled with apparent paradox and contradiction including a guy heading out to promo a book titled THERE IS NO GOD AND HE IS ALWAYS WITH YOU. LOL what brilliant fucking title/concept. Besty of luck with all.

    1. The Grand Canyon
      The Grand Canyon April 26, 2013 at 11:59 am |

      If you like “There is no god and he is always with you,” then you will love these deepities:

      “No sense makes sense.”

      “Look down at me and you see a fool;
      look up at me and you see a god;
      look straight at me and you see yourself.”

      “You know, a long time ago being crazy meant something. Nowadays everybody’s crazy.”

      Those are quotes from the infamous jailhouse philosopher Charlie Manson.

  21. whiskey
    whiskey April 26, 2013 at 12:10 pm |

    I’ve paid for three of your books and I’ve my path ever crosses yours I’d gladly give whatever you needed of what I had. As I would with anyone. Although I should say that after reading your books, along with many others, I made a decision to quit my job, give away all my possessions, and become a poor transient in order to find my path. It’s been four years since that decision and I’ve realized that I was on my path all along. So maybe you should donate something to me. (this was an attempt at humor. On a serious note your writings enriched my life more than words can give justice.) I’d gladly support and will when I’m able, any of your endeavors. You are the bees knees brad warner.

  22. Fred
    Fred April 26, 2013 at 12:15 pm |

    Birken (though I’ll admit that Birken is in Canada, where they might be a little bit better culturally about supporting renunciates).

    I doubt that

  23. SyrtisMajor
    SyrtisMajor April 26, 2013 at 12:45 pm |

    This is my first time responding to your blog, and I have only recently been introduced to your work and Zen in general. Last Sunday, I heard you speak at Against the Stream (my first time there as well) and was inspired by your down-to-earth approach to Zen and meditation. Before you, Zen was in the category of “Yeah, that’s nice.” You honestly motivated me to spend a good part of my week researching Zen, and I’d like to visit one your Dogen Sangha groups soon. So in a spirit of appreciation, I have given you a small donation and hope to contribute more in the future.

    Your plight is so similar to that of many people in the healing/creative/artistic professions – giving out much needed advice, knowledge, services, products, etc. for free or for very little renumeration. But you do it because you love it and it helps people. Many people are spiritually starved and looking for some kind of fulfillment and are perhaps not even aware that they need to give back. When you feed a ravenous dog he eats quickly and without any thoughts of thankfulness, and he may even bite your hand. It may take the dog some time to heal before he can be thankful and loving for his food and this can happen only if he eats on a regular basis.

    I find myself in the ironic position of paying to give out free advice in the form of an astrology blog on facebook. When people tell me they love my blog and want a reading, I almost never hear back from them once I tell them I charge a fee! I’ve decided that even if the fb blog doesn’t pay off monetarily, I will continue to do it because I enjoy it and so do my readers. I have a day job so I can do this, but this prospect does not thrill me because I know I have something valuable to offer (much more so than pushing papers).

    I think there needs to be a wider discussion of how resources are shared and how communal ideals need a place back in society. With shrinking economic resources and a shakey job market, it often feels that the only way to have long-term success in unconventional vocations is to have like-minded individuals create some kind of cohesive sustainable group where resources/time/energy/services are shared. Anyway, that’s my two cents on the matter.

    Now back to you Brad. If it wasn’t for your talk this week at ATS, I would never have come across this gem of book in the library, “Two Zen Classics: Mumonkan and Hekiganroku.” When I took it off the shelf, the book opened to this page: Case 31 – Mayoku Comes to Shokei. “With subconscious stirring, images appear; with awareness, ice forms. Even if there is no stirring and no awareness, you have not yet escaped from the confinement of the fox’s hole. If you truly penetrate in your practice and become master of it, you will experience not a trace of obstruction. You will be like a dragon supported by deep waters, like a tiger that commands its mountain retreat. Then, if you let go, even tiles and pebbles become illuminating; if you hold fast, even pure gold loses its luster. And the koans of the old masters will become tedious.”

    I don’t even really know what this means yet, but I like it! So keep on trucking!

  24. Muddy Elephant
    Muddy Elephant April 26, 2013 at 2:55 pm |


    I feel that Brad’s occasional solicitations are very respectful of the tradition of Dana. (Pretty sure some would disagree)Yet I feel some sort of form is in order.

    Someone a while ago mentioned charging a few cents per comment. A good example of bringing some form. I think it should be somehow keep the “spirit” of Dana, and not morph into full-fledged fundraising or peer pressured charity.

    My idea of form is to simply give $1 for certain blog posts. Keep a tally of the posts you feel are worthwhile and donate every month.

    I’m pretty poor myself but I think that as long as I am receiving some value or “quality” a la Pirsig that I may take some minimal pride in choosing how I spend my dollars. Not very Buddhist, pride and all, but than again perhaps it is characterizing and defining, the picking and choosing of pride as not Buddhist which is the obstacle.

    I would hardly characterize myself as an Objectivist, yet here is a quote I can’t resist citing.

    ” Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value.” –AR

    Any other suggestions?

  25. boubi
    boubi April 26, 2013 at 4:44 pm |


    Hi pal

    >>> ” When I took it off the shelf, the book opened to this page: Case 31 — Mayoku Comes to Shokei. “With subconscious stirring, images appear; with awareness, ice forms. Even if there is no stirring and no awareness, you have not yet escaped from the confinement of the fox’s hole. If you truly penetrate in your practice and become master of it, you will experience not a trace of obstruction. <<<<

    It's a collection of koans. *

    The beauty of it is that it looks to me (maybe wrongly) that they "behaved" as books of divination.

    Jung would be charmed.

    Again 🙂

    * to use them you have to follow some particular procedures of the Lin-chi school

  26. boubi
    boubi April 26, 2013 at 4:50 pm |


    >>>You will be like a dragon supported by deep waters, like a tiger that commands its mountain retreat. Then, if you let go, even tiles and pebbles become illuminating; if you hold fast, even pure gold loses its luster. And the koans of the old masters will become tedious.”<> And the koans of the old masters will become tedious.”<<

    WOW 🙂

    Wish for you to become true


    1. SyrtisMajor
      SyrtisMajor April 27, 2013 at 4:30 pm |

      Thank you and wishing good for you as well. That is a beautiful set of verses you shared. The line “a single lamp dispels the darkness of a thousand aeons” reminds me very much of the Hermit card in the Rider-Waite tarot deck.

  27. boubi
    boubi April 26, 2013 at 4:56 pm |

    “Mahamudra cannot be taught. But most intelligent Naropa,
    Since you have undergone rigorous austerity,
    With forbearance in suffering and with devotion to your Guru,
    Blessed One, take this secret instruction to heart. …

    The mind’s original nature is like space;
    It pervades and embraces all things under the sun.
    Be still and stay relaxed in genuine ease,
    Be quiet and let sound reverberate as an echo,
    Keep your mind silent and watch the ending of all worlds.

    A single lamp dispels the darkness of a thousand aeons;
    Likewise, a single flash of the mind’s clear light
    Erases aeons of karmic conditioning and spiritual blindness.

    KYE HO! Listen with joy!

    Then gaining long-life and eternal youth, waxing like the moon,
    Radiant and clear, with the strength of a lion,
    You will quickly gain mundane power and supreme enlightenment.”

  28. Mumbles
    Mumbles April 26, 2013 at 5:12 pm |

    Pirsig looks for definitive answers to life’s meaning in questioning the Ancient Greeks. He undertakes to ‘”kill” Aristotle to earn his doctorate in philosophy by taking on the Aristotelians at the University of Chicago. His thesis is that an indefinable Quality (areté) of the pre-Socratic Greeks best exemplifies that past world in an age of heroes whose deeds were exemplary. He thinks he has found a third way between Plato’s rationalism (and his Theory of Forms) and Aristotle’s empiricism with its study of particulars. Aristotle, in his Lyceum, created the various disciplines that to this day provide the templates for the modern university. Pirsig felt that Aristotle was responsible for alienating students from the pursuit and love of wisdom because overall education was teleological, designed to make its participants mere job holders who do not ask the big questions. Unfortunately, he cannot define his intuitive ideas before the doctoral committee, who determine his thesis not acceptable. Aristotle “kills'” Pirsig during the doctoral defense because Pirsig did not adhere to standards of justification and verification of values and facts. Pirsig subsumes facts under his values, although he is not clear in his definitions. In short, the committee believed he did not know what he was talking about.

    1. Muddy Elephant
      Muddy Elephant April 27, 2013 at 3:30 pm |

      Thanks for this Mumbles,

      Still working my way through Pirsig’s analysis and/or rebellion against the status quo academic corpus. Must admit I had to look up “teleological” and “subsumes”. I feel there is much insight to be gleaned from the intuitive and the “not acceptable”. Or maybe that is just my arrogance at work–wanting to be iconoclastic…

  29. Fred
    Fred April 26, 2013 at 5:59 pm |

    Driving pilings into quicksand, humans believe that words, theories, and
    suppositions have a tangible, rock solid reality to create the perception of
    “standards of justification and verification of values and facts”

    A house of cards built on illusions.

    Flux and decay

  30. Mumbles
    Mumbles April 26, 2013 at 6:49 pm |

    “humans”? “concepts”??

    Believe not to believe.

  31. Alexander
    Alexander April 26, 2013 at 9:32 pm |

    I will confess to supporting Brad with regular donations.

    I’m not a Buddhist. I’ve never met Brad, or even been present at a talk or sitting session. There is no way in heck I’d go on a retreat where I had to get up before 6 a.m.

    But I recognize that I have a lot to learn from Buddhist life and practice, and I find Brad entertaining, and also, through his book and podcasts, a teacher about more than just zazen. Brad and I are both of the same generation, and both middle Americans who grew up with Godzilla and punk rock. One thing I do know, since I once had dreams of becoming a famous writer, is that almost nobody makes money writing (not about one subject, anyway).

    Brad grew up in very different circumstances than I did, in terms of family and experiences. His perspective on life is different, insightful, and to me, valuable. The way he expresses himself is refreshing. And, I admit, I like his challenges to the status quo both inside and outside of Zen Buddhism. If all we had around were the more well known Zen teachers, I doubt I’d have bothered learning more than I already knew, which wasn’t much. And, as I said, he’s entertaining. Even his book covers are entertaining. Yes, it’s entirely possible I’m so moved by Hotei riding Godzilla that I can’t help but send a little dana Brad’s way on a regular basis.

  32. AnneMH
    AnneMH April 27, 2013 at 10:06 am |

    This is one of those posts where I feel like I should just make us all a cup of tea and sit down and chat. The commute is a bit far so I will stick with finding locals but I have read pretty much everything (and bought them so hopefully 50 cents went to Brad) that Brad has written.

    I think this is a very important point to make here. That even though teachers do not charge directly, or otherwise offer scholarships or understand being poor, that does not mean that we can casually walk away after a meditation and not contribute what we can. I realize that my $5 may not be much, but there are times I cannot afford the gas or the time to get to a sit. I deal with people much worse off than me, and so most of the time I feel grateful, but I also know that I earn almost nothing. When lawyers who deal with bankruptcy and settlements of debts tell you that you earn nothing you gotta take it serious. So like Brad I love what I do, I try not to get caught up in saving the world, but when you can help one family it is pretty cool.

    BTW I can’t wait for this book, I have really been looking forward to it. I wonder if it will be on the Nook since I live in a very small space, but I would buy the book anyway. I am just stepping my toes out into sanghas here in Colorado so I don’t have too many contacts, but if someone here on the blog wants to work on getting Brad out this way I will contribute some support (maybe even get a young adult or two moved out so there is space at my house).

  33. AnneMH
    AnneMH April 27, 2013 at 10:12 am |

    Oh yeah, forgot my smart sounding point! This is another area where you have to take a LOT of responsibility for yourself. I think that is the theme I liked in punk and is a consistent theme in Brad’s writing. There is no one telling you that a tithe is a certain percent and then to pray so God will take care of it. I know of one church that tells people to tithe 10% and then helps those families with food assistance. I can’t totally criticize that, i think it is so important to realize no matter how little you have that you still have something to offer. But we cannot put off the responsibility to support our teachers to some higher authority, we cannot ask someone else to make the decision for us to set an amount, decide if that coffee drink was really worth the cost compared to your teacher paying rent of getting to the DR. It is easy when you have a teacher sitting in front of you who needs dinner, it is harder and takes trust to put cash in a bucket and know they will use it to continue teaching.

  34. bookofzero
    bookofzero April 27, 2013 at 11:09 am |

    Please allow me to present this for consideration:

    There is a girl I read about a while ago. She makes $100K+/year selling her stories through Amazon as Kindle ebooks. It’s not that the stories are necessarily great stories, but she prices them cheaply enough and has developed a following.

    It boils down to a simple analysis. Would Brad be better off foregoing physical media to sell his books directly? That depends on how much he gets per book. If he publishes directly and opts for the 70% royalty offered by Amazon*, he could make up to $1.40 on a $2 sale ($3.50 on a $5 sale). The question then becomes one of existing contractual obligations and/or whether Brad has enough of a following that would be willing to part with a few dollars for a digital book. Enough sales of the digital edition could provide enough extra to cover the cost of a small physical run at a slightly higher markup later. I believe it is something he should consider.

    * Based on the current numbers, the publishers of Hardcore Zen make $6.15 for every $8.79 Kindle version sold. I’m sure Brad gets a significantly smaller cut of that amount – 8-12% seems to be the typical royalty scheme.

    1. Terrytrueman
      Terrytrueman April 27, 2013 at 11:24 am |

      The “girl I read about a while ago” making $100K per yr on Amazon ebook sales is either imaginary, well hooked into a popular genre, like Romance or Suspense or something in vogue, and in any event she’s an extreme outlier, being in that tiny part of a percentage that is having that kind of success. I am launching a book/series of ebooks on Amazon myself starting next week. And even with my high numbers of google hits, my half a million or so books sold worldwide, cumulatively, all the research I’ve done suggests that it’s gonna take time, a bit of luck and a lot of patience to build a following adequate to earn much $$ via this path if it ever happens at all. I like Brad’s work, value his impact on my and apparently many people’s lives, but truthfully there is no reliable shortcut or even long path to any guaranteed finacial success in books/writing/etc. Just my view.

  35. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel April 27, 2013 at 12:11 pm |

    Mumbles writes:

    “Pirsig looks for definitive answers…”

    It is important, I think, to read Lila, where Pirsig hones his first intuitions. Funnily, they also amount to a four tiered method, quite similar to that of the Scholastics (mentioned by Dante) and that evidenced by Nishijima.

    As for earning one’s life with writing, there are people who do manage it without being best sellers. Those people write in magazines, etc., and more often than not, act as ghost writers.

  36. Dorg
    Dorg April 27, 2013 at 12:40 pm |

    Brad – I think you are making great contributions to the dharma. So, have you considered setting up a paypal recurring payment scheme? I’m one of those people that doesn’t mind sending a small payment every month for a worthwhile cause if I don’t have to remember to do it.

  37. AnneMH
    AnneMH April 27, 2013 at 2:36 pm |

    Good idea Dorg, I saw one other online buddhist or spiritual journal that did that. It is like buying a subscription to a magazine. It could be optional so that those who cannot afford it still have access, but I would do that. I know churches really like a commitment so they can decide what to offer, this would support Brad in planning speaking trips or retreats to know he had some basic income while he needed to be gone for a period of time.

  38. jordandossett
    jordandossett April 27, 2013 at 8:07 pm |

    Well, I would love for you to come to DC/Maryland/VA. I can give you a safe and comfy place to stay in Maryland no stress and no strings. As for 2 cents which oddly so many of us seem to be giving here but not when joining you for meditating…

    Yoga has become Westernized. They pay for it. It is a class. Something that happens at the gym. You can’t go into the local gym take a 90 min yoga class and optionally not pay. You either are a monthly member or you pay for the class before they even let you in. When it comes to meditation, short or full day retreats you should be charging for anything over 90 minutes, and I mean full on charging. I pay $600 – $800 to go and spend a week learning with Jack Kornfield at kripalu or at the Faces conference and I have no qualms or questions that I am putting out either 1) for the retreat or 2) for the conference and hotel. Now, you are right though when I go to a local meditation at the center or a church, if dana is just implied or not even mentioned I tend to forget. But when it is mentioned just gracefully at the end I remember and I am happy to pitch in $2-$3 up to $20 depending on my financial well being.

    Oh joy 🙂

  39. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel April 28, 2013 at 10:42 am |

    Anyway, the main problem with “taking the Dharma freely” is that, by giving nothing in exchange, you just tell your own brain that what you heard has no value whatsoever.

    Of course, if you’re really broke, you can vow to give something later, and not necessarily to whom gave you the Dharma, as long as you hold the gratitude for what was given to you.

    But that’s yet something else.

  40. Mumbles
    Mumbles April 28, 2013 at 11:39 am |

    Its relative what is being given and received and by whom exactly. If you need a t-shirt, or a cd, or a book, and of necessity it requires recompense, that is appropriate. Otherwise, it is entirely up to you what you think you are getting here and what it is worth.

    However, if the motivation for “dana” revolves around the real or imagined jostling for position around a “master,” this is dangerous delusion indeed.

  41. boubi
    boubi April 28, 2013 at 5:22 pm |

    Hi Brad

    But in the end all this leads to what?

    Do we need all this to get to know ourselves? All “no self, not no self”? To get rid of all the bullshit we keep piling up?

    You see the void, lose forms, and then what? See more of it?

    Just read,_No_one_and_One_Hundred_Thousand
    and you get a couple of sutras, at least.

    OK, when you don’t seat you don’t feel good, but in the end the guy that’s used to seat every day on that bench at noon, having lunch in the park, feels bad if it’s busy, or another if he cannot train every second day, having done it for some 20 years, or another if the table isn’t set the way it’s “always” been.

    It’s called reinforcement, kind of Pavlov you know? Could be called attachment … circuits in the brain, being activated over and over again, till they become a “path”, like in woods.

    And then? Do we get wiser? or whatever … maybe just whatever!

    Some kind of brain game? Reprogramming the machine? Tinkering a bit?

  42. boubi
    boubi April 28, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
  43. Tutteji
    Tutteji April 28, 2013 at 10:19 pm |

    I really don’t understand this poverty trip that so many Buddhist teachers seem to enjoy in some perverse way. How do you expect potential students to respect a master who earns less than $15.000 a year? Where is your dignity?

    As a fairly successfull integral spiritual teacher and mindfulness instructor, I travel all over the world, making something close to $500.000 last year. And, tell you what, my students respect me for that. What’s more: my obvious success is proof of my effectiveness as a teacher, and that in itself attracts even more students.

    Isn’t it time that spiritual teachers realize that they’re agents on the same market as the rest of world?

  44. buddy
    buddy April 28, 2013 at 11:24 pm |

    Tutteji: Ha, that’s a funny post, pretending to be some kind of Genpo-style spiritual huckster. You had me fooled, I thought you were serious for a second there.

  45. Fred
    Fred April 29, 2013 at 4:56 am |

    “The Big Bucks Processâ„¢ is revolutionizing not only timeless Eastern wisdom teachings, but also the way we approach real estate, financial investments, and business management. The Big Bucks Processâ„¢ also offers new, evolutionary perspectives on and practices of psychotherapy, law, medicine, meditation, the arts, physical therapy, chaplaincy, yoga, business, athletics, social work, family therapy, primary through higher education and spiritual practices with prison inmates, hospital patients, and the dying.”

    Maybe you can get a job working for Tutteji.

  46. Fred
    Fred April 29, 2013 at 4:58 am |

    I’m starting a company called The BIG Fucks Program TM.

  47. Padma@MyBuddhistLife
    Padma@MyBuddhistLife April 29, 2013 at 5:03 am |

    During the time of the Buddha in India, a kingdom’s wealth was partly based on the number of spiritual seekers (sadhus) living within it. At its height, 1 in 3 people were living as sadhus. The economy supported that because people thought it was worth it.

    In traditional Buddhist countries today, the laity believe that they accumulate merit by donating to the monastic community. It’s in their interest to cough up.

    These kinds of beliefs keep people fed. And not just that, they get magnificent temples built.

    In the west, we don’t have such beliefs.

    We live in a capitalist economy. We’re used to equating price with worth. And we like a bargain.

    There’s always a bunch of goods and services competing for our disposable income. It’s easy for us to feel like we can’t really afford to put ten bucks in a dana bowl. And we can’t really afford to pay for an album we can download just as easily for free. After all, we’ll probably only listen to it once or twice.

    The current financial model for dharma teaching simply doesn’t work – just like the current music industry model.

    We try to transplant old ways into a new set of conditions. It takes some time for our minds and attitudes to recalibrate.

    In a capitalist society, personally I think the dharma should be both free *and* expensive. It should run on both a charitable *and* a business model.

    The Dharma changes your life. People pay loads for stuff that does that!

    If Brad changed his title from ‘Dharma teacher’ to ‘life coach’ the world would be fine with him changing $200 for an hour of his time, or $2000 for a week of residential retreat. We’d assume that this meant he was really good.

    As it is, we somehow think he should not demand a decent standard of living – despite having undertaken decades of training and authored a bunch of books. If he magically gets supported out of the generosity of the world, fine. But he shouldn’t demand it before being willing to turn up. Why not?

    I’m fine with Dharma teachers charging. If they’re no good, no one will come, and they’ll have to go do something else. If they’re good, they’ll arrive at the zendo in a ferrari and retire at 50. Of course they’ll be ‘beyond such things’. The ferrari will be skilful means, designed to snap you out of your delusion 😉

  48. anon 108
    anon 108 April 29, 2013 at 5:23 am |

    As Brad knows better than I, Gudo Nishijima taught that Buddhist teachers should not earn their daily bread by teaching Buddhism. (But Nishijima, born into money, was never financially insecure.)

    Brad, who was not born into money, tries to earn a living writing about Buddhism and finds it doesn’t pay. So Brad, despite being “so happy with my life right now I could just pop,” has a kind of problem.

    Is Brad’s problem a problem for anyone else?

    Mumbles says “it is entirely up to you what you think you are getting here and what it is worth.” How can anyone disagree?

  49. boubi
    boubi April 29, 2013 at 5:59 am |

    Hi Brad

    A thought that nagged me for some time.

    All this “samsara turning into nirvana” isn’t it some brain reprogramming*, you stop expecting things to be the way you want them to be (thus disappointing you and making you suffer), you live now (and don’t worry about what comes next because it isn’t worth the pain**) , you realize you are not a one-piece psychic entity but there is also something keeping track of all this (no self, and not no self) …

    Someone some time ago said that the (i imagine some of them) church going people he met were, usually, happier than the dharma folks.
    For one, the dharma folk is not satisfied of his life, something is gnarling at it, he sees suffering and look for a solution (remember some Gautama Siddharta guy of yore?).
    While the other bunch of people COULD be without those existential anxieties, and live normally.
    Could be that dharma people are passing through some “no satisfaction” selectgion, not the dharma is cause of anxiety, just for the sake of clarity.

    And then seeing the true nature of your mind … so what and then what?

    I really don’t know, and even this doesn’t rejoice me anymore
    *ok, in the end is everything
    ** if you’ve done what you had to do

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