I dunno man… I keep trying to get some butts on cushions at the Hill Street Center. But nothing seems to work. When I try being nice on the blog, hardly anyone shows up. When I insult everyone, hardly anybody shows up.

Anyway, in terms of Zen it doesn’t really matter. In fact, I tend to prefer talking to and sitting with small groups. So when four people who are seriously interested in Zazen practice show up, it’s actually very nice. I’m not in this for the money, or even to make a living at it. I’m not in this to get famous. And I really don’t desire to get the “Frampton Comes Alive” Effect happening.

“The Frampton Comes Alive” Effect comes from an interview I once saw with Chuck Klosterman. He didn’t call it that, by the way. He was talking about the fact that, other than Chrissie Hynde and Devo, none of the Akron new-wave bands that were so hyped as the Next Big Thing in the late 70’s ever really made it. He brought up the success of the album “Frampton Comes Alive” (FCA). For those of you young whippersnappers who don’t remember, FCA was one of the world’s first really, really super mega big selling albums. I’m sure other records and CDs have surpassed it by now. But at the time it came out FCA was so unbelievably huge it seemed like there was nowhere you could get away from it. I sometimes wondered if I was the only one in my high school who didn’t have a copy.

What Klosterman said was that, among all those mega-millions of people who bought FCA, only a small percentage really liked the album that much. But, the record itself became such a huge thing that lots and lots and lots of people bought it just because it was the thing you did that year — you bought a copy of “Frampton Comes Alive.” Klosterman’s opinion was that any piece of art only has a certain number of true fans. Once you’ve passed that number, you’re basically selling it to people who don’t really give a shit about it, at least not as art. They’re buying it for other reasons. Maybe to show everyone they’re hip or whatever, or just because it’s expected of them.

Klosterman’s point was that even though Rachel Sweet, The Rubber City Rebels, The Bizarros, Tin Huey and all of the rest of the so-called Akron Sound artists who got snapped up by major labels in the late 70’s never caught on, that wasn’t such a terrible thing. The true fans of these artists remained loyal to them. The fact that the masses never consumed their product was, artistically speaking if not financially speaking, no great loss. In fact it might have saved some of those people from something that could have been actually worse. Look at what sudden fame did for Kurt Cobain. And his is just one very extreme case. There are endless examples of people who became far more miserable after becoming famous than they were when they were unknown.

How this relates to Zen is that real Buddhist practice may not be for everyone. Well, no. I mean, it definitely IS for everyone. But, in terms of what you can sell as a consumable item or a trend, it definitely isn’t. It’s hard work and most people are, forgive me Jesus, lazy and pathetic. They’re looking for the easy way out and Zen is not it. Nothing truly worthwhile is ever easy. Yet people seem to think that real understanding of yourself and the universe you live in ought to be something you don’t really need to invest any time or effort into. Maybe we’ll spend an afternoon trying to get an “opening experience.” But that’s about all we’re willing to put into it. That’s sad. But that’s the way it goes.

For me as a Zen teacher, I’m happier to have a handful of really honest students than to have the Frampton Comes Alive Effect happen and get a whole bunch of people who are just there because being there is the thing to do. When you come to my classes you’re gonna sit and stare at a wall for an hour with no candy ass “guided meditation” talk to relieve the boredom. I’m sure that cuts down its attraction as a hip place to spend a Saturday morning.

But shit man, you’d think in Southern California, with so many people claiming to be “spritually aware” or into all kinds of Eastern philosophies and religions, there’d be more than four people who were truly interested in real Zazen practice…

Maybe not.

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45 Responses

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  1. zenducker
    zenducker October 29, 2006 at 3:54 pm |

    I hated Peter Frampton and never bought the album. I also think it is still the #1 selling live album ever. I agree with you on the effort and lazy people 😉

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous October 29, 2006 at 4:14 pm |

    Same thing with Samuel R. Delany’s amazing novel, Dhalgren. It sold like 1.3 million copies, which is a huge number now and was even huger in 1973, but … man, it’s hard to believe everyone who bought a copy read it. Possibly they bought it for the kinky sex (there is some in there, but it’s not even a tenth of the 800+ pages) and were disappointed by the avant-garde, difficult prose; not many people out there bought it for the kinky sex and stayed for the avant-garde, difficult prose — more’s the pity.

    You don’t even have the kinky sex. But still, it is kind of disheartening that only 4 people show up to sit. I’d love to come sit with you, but I’m in Seattle, so I go somewhere a little closer than LA.

  3. johann
    johann October 29, 2006 at 5:45 pm |

    I love CA, and NYC, and I would sit in either, but alas, I am in Michigan. Yea Tigers.

  4. Lone Wolf
    Lone Wolf October 29, 2006 at 6:29 pm |

    I do like sitting with a group. There is a center in Yellow Springs, which is kind of a all Buddhist style center. Therevada one day, Tibetan another day, a group of Zennies practice on Saturday mornings. I try to attend every now and then, but it’s like an hour drive and starts super early. But when I do sit with a group, it is different. For one thing, I stay still alot more so not to disturb anyone.

    But I will contiue to sit everyday on my own, even if it’s a lazy 5 mins. I would skip days and some time weeks. But since I began sitting everyday,it’s getting to be a pretty natural ordinary thing I do, like taking a dump.

    I was discouraged at one point, but that was because of sublte goals I was wishing my practice of Zazen would create. Once I through all that away (and contiue to through those expectations away) Zazen just becomes Zazen.

    But I do feel more balanced, especially when I am not doing Zazen for balance.

  5. Lone Wolf
    Lone Wolf October 29, 2006 at 6:35 pm |

    LOL! I really need to begin editing what I write before I post. I reread them after posting and realize I don’t make no damn since half the time.

  6. Bob J.
    Bob J. October 29, 2006 at 6:37 pm |

    Dhalgren is one of my favorite books of all time. Peter Frampton was and is, awful. So?

  7. endofthedream
    endofthedream October 29, 2006 at 7:06 pm |

    Brad, for whatever reason(s) the way you “package” the teachings just doesn’t attract many people. (E.g., your comment about Zen being hard work and not being the easy way out…that’s gonna drag them in by the busload! LoL)

    Today’s blog reminded of something mentioned by Charlotte Joko Beck who, in talking about the demands made by a serious Zen practice, noted that Zen practice teaches us “in our guts, not just in in our brain, that a life of joy is not in seeking happiness, but in experiencing and simply being the circumstances of our life as they are; not in fulfilling personal wants, but in fulfilling the needs of life; not in avoiding pain, but in being pain when it is necessary to do so. Too large an order? Too hard? On the contrary, it is the easy way.”

    This too reminds me of roshi Nowick’s words: “Do your best and never mind the results. If things work out it’s very nice. If, in spite of everything, they do not, it’s very nice. Or the other way around. You might say that it’s all wrong and not nice at all. Both conclusions are correct. You can laugh and you can cry, it doesn’t matter at all what you do, but personally I would prefer to laugh. And meanwhile we continue to do our best. For no reason at all. Don’t attach a purpose to it. And go on till you die, or become too old…just do the best you can. The results don’t matter.”

    One other thought. You say that Buddhist practice is definitely IS for everyone. Reality apparently disputes that.

  8. oxeye
    oxeye October 29, 2006 at 7:25 pm |

    Ha! I have been reading your blog pretty regularly so it is pretty hard for me to believe I missed the post where you were nice to everyone.. But I must have missed it cause I sure don’t remember it. But i have a feeling you might only be a text tiger..

  9. Anonymous
    Anonymous October 29, 2006 at 7:40 pm |

    Brad, maybe there were more interested persons at Hastings because there are fewer distractions in Nebraska than in LA.

    Two of the finest teachers and practitioners at our Zen Center entered practice after they totally fried themselves on drugs in the 1970s, went through a few too many scary adventures with crazy people and decided that adventure and danger just were not glamorous anymore.

    They faced that they were drained and burned out and just wanted to get away stare at a wall for awhile. They then found out there was a two thousand year old method of doing exactly that and it was called Soto Zen and this guy named Suzuki Roshi was teaching folks how to do it.

    Problem with LA and places like it is that generates so many new distractions that its hard to arrive at that place of utter, profound boredom & burnout where staring at a wall begins to look like something worth exploring.

  10. door knob
    door knob October 29, 2006 at 8:43 pm |

    Oh yeah, I remember the Frampton live album, but just barely (I was just 10 at the time). The only thing I can really remember is that he had a “talking guitar” and it sounded really cool.

    As for Zen, for me personally, I don’t do Zazen every day, so that pretty much outs me as a “Frampton Effect” Zen guy.

  11. Anonymous
    Anonymous October 29, 2006 at 9:08 pm |

    For me as a Zen teacher, I’m happier to have a handful of really honest students than to have … a whole bunch of people who are just there because being there is th[e] thing to do.

    If I wasn’t here because “being [here] is the thing to do,” where would I be? What would I do?

  12. Anonymous
    Anonymous October 30, 2006 at 3:32 am |

    Brad. Google “los angeles zen center”. Is it still hard to understand why only few people sit with you.

    Serious people find teachers and places to sit. If you have four of them, that is most likely your share of LA.

  13. yudo
    yudo October 30, 2006 at 3:37 am |

    For various reasons, I tend to agree with Nishijima Roshi’s stance that Tibetan Buddhism isn’t really Buddhism, be it only because of the “catholic” tendence they have of downplaying anything which is not vajra as second rate.

    Yet, I get the impression that, when you are able to set up a place where all schools get a chance to teach and learn and practice like the one Lone WOlf alludes to, that may give more people the opportunity of taking a try.

    There are millions of things available through the world, and yet thare are so many times when you can’t get them although you’d need them, jsut because you don’t know where to look for and find them…

  14. Anonymous
    Anonymous October 30, 2006 at 5:48 am |

    Funny post! The tie-in w you and Frampton may be in the lyrics…

    “Who can I believe in,
    I’m kneeling on the floor.
    There has to be a force; who do I phone.
    The stars are out and shining, but all I really want to know.
    Oh won’t you… show me the way.”

  15. Anonymous
    Anonymous October 30, 2006 at 6:45 am |

    Bodhidharma had only three!

  16. Prof Wes
    Prof Wes October 30, 2006 at 6:47 am |

    I’m sure you hear it all the time, but if I lived in LA I’d be there 🙂

    I know it’s frustrating, but if you teach 1 thing to 1 person, isn’t that enough?

  17. Weasel Tracks
    Weasel Tracks October 30, 2006 at 6:48 am |

    I asked why a teacher I know left the Catskills to open a center in Bangor, Maine. The Hudson Valley and Western Massachusetts are getting a bit dense in terms of teachers and centers, he said.

    Can your company open an office in Hastings?

  18. Anonymous
    Anonymous October 30, 2006 at 6:53 am |

    oh man, you’re wimping out…

    Sivananda started with a few guys in a cowshed!

  19. Anonymous
    Anonymous October 30, 2006 at 11:51 am |
  20. Anonymous
    Anonymous October 30, 2006 at 4:11 pm |

    Dude, to get some more students you
    just need a little Hollywood-style
    marketing: First, give your students
    special-secret superhero names.
    Second, give them kickass Ninja training.
    Third, make them wear rubber dinosaur suits (just like their teacher). Fourth, have them raid the camps of your competitors
    — Joshu Sasaki’s lair in the mountains
    and Maezumi’s hideout in the valley.
    When your rivals see those dinosaur suits
    and fancy ninja moves, they’ll fall off their zafus and prostrate themselves before you!
    With this increase in students,
    your dinosaur-suited-ninja-zen army
    will be able to branch out to take
    over other zen centers too. Before you
    know it, world domination will be
    yours! Bwa-ha-ha-ha!


    Oh yeah, and don’t forget to recruit
    some LA celebrities — maybe Henry
    Rollins can give you some Black Flag
    hardcore punk street cred.

    (Note to self: maybe 17 cups of espresso
    in one day is one too many 😉

  21. Gesus
    Gesus October 30, 2006 at 4:42 pm |

    Suppose in a group of four or wot ever, its more of a dialouge. Where the teacher and students interact. Rather than i one sided speech, like a skool teacher or preacher wod do. (that’s if they talk! never been. Live in the arse hole of no where!!)

    In the oc, people claiming to be “spritually aware” Would they already have asumed idea of wot this zen was all about. So why should they go to sit with Brad cause they already know everthing.
    As it was explained to me, this is why zen teachers brought it to the west. Cause they found them to be ’empty’

  22. zogglegrrrl
    zogglegrrrl October 30, 2006 at 5:47 pm |

    Funny, but Brad saying Zen being hard work and not being the easy way out is exactly what drew me to the practice. I live in LA, which as many of you have alluded, is a materialistic and trendy spiritual mecca in the States. After years of trying to find answers by chasing after each new “it” spiritual practice and teacher, I found myself burned out, non-believing, lost and sick to death of the posers. Then along came Brad’s book. He didn’t offer quick fixes, he didn’t offer a sexy practice, he didn’t offer something trendy or candy-coated. In fact, he offered something better than that…honesty. Honesty that zazen is hard work, at times boring and monotonous. Too someone who was fed up with pretentious rockstar “spiritual leaders” with empty promises, Brad’s message makes zazen accessible to the everyday joe by saying it like it is and by not relying on packaging filled with glitter and confetti.

  23. Buddha
    Buddha October 31, 2006 at 11:52 am |

    Perhaps you might have a bigger turnout if you started using a voice-box in your Dharma talks.

  24. earDRUM
    earDRUM October 31, 2006 at 12:40 pm |

    I like zogglegrrl’s post. I found buddhism and zen when I was ready for it… when I was kind of at the end of my rope. I had to get to that point before I was empty enough to let zen inside. Before that, I was intoxicationg myself with every quick-fix pleasure I could find.
    I think that this might be part of the reason for the low attendance in zen sitting groups everywhere. Most of us tend to seek pleasure. After work, we seek food, drink, drug, sex, whatever… we try to immerse ourselves in sensory pleasures. So telling somebody that the best thing that you could possibly do foryourself involves discipline, pain, and possible boredom… well it is a hard sell. It is only when we have seen through the emptiness of sense-pleasures that we can see the wisdom in something like zen.

    To find more local sitters, I would suggest advertising locally, in all of the free newspapers and bulletin boards available. For the resons that I stated above, there will likely only be small percentage of people for whom the time is right for sitting zazen.
    I think it is worth the effort to do this advertising.

    For the record, I live in the middle of North America. That is why I don’t attend the sittings. But I am glad that this blog is here. And I’m glad that you write books, Brad.

    Also for the record, back in 1975 (or whatever) I asked my dad to bring a copy of Frampton Comes Alive home to me in Newfoundland when he went on a business trip to Chicago. I heard “Show Me the Way” on the radio and truly liked the music. I loved that music when I was 15. And I still think that some of it is great music.

  25. Anonymous
    Anonymous October 31, 2006 at 12:48 pm |

    Distance between Santa Monica and Hollywood = 1 hour; 2 at the 5PM slot.

    Sitting Zen + Traffic = sucks.

    Sitting Zen + Traffic + insults = worse.

    Sitting Zen + Traffic + insults + cost of attendance + gas = no show.

    Sam Delaney added to any of the above = horrendous.

    I’ll be there on Saturday for the all day sit. I am so looking forward to not being spiritual.



  26. MikeDoe
    MikeDoe October 31, 2006 at 1:52 pm |


    Why not just let go of the difference between how many people you think ‘should’ attend Zazen and the number of people that actually do?

    If 50 came would you be happy?

    Buddhism is hardly fashionable so anyone who comes really wants to come.

    You might be ‘famous’ but in a very small pond.

    Is the problem that you think you are not famous enough or already too famous?

  27. Anatman
    Anatman October 31, 2006 at 3:32 pm |

    Frampton Comes Alive made a big splash when it first came out, but it had no staying power. In terms of top selling albums of all time, “Frampton Alive” doesn’t even rank in the top 100 (according to The Recording Industry Association of America).

    Here are the top 4, through March, 2006:

    Eagles: Their Greatest Hits, 1971–1975, Eagles (Asylum)

    Thriller, Michael Jackson (Epic)

    Led Zeppelin IV, Led Zeppelin (Atlantic)

    The Wall, Pink Floyd (Columbia)

  28. aumeye
    aumeye October 31, 2006 at 4:04 pm |

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  29. aumeye
    aumeye October 31, 2006 at 8:17 pm |

    Ya know, eardrum, discipline and pain can be pleasurable, too — if done right.

    Seriously, though, I enjoyed Frampton Comes Alive, but three of the four albums (re)listed by Anatman, rock my world, especially Pink Floyd.

    Many show up to sit in the Centers I’ve visited in the City (New York), although I’m certain some of the area Centers are not often well-attended. I’ve discussed Brad with several individuals at these Centers, and there is a general concensus that we’d all be sitting with him if we could.

  30. Anonymous
    Anonymous November 1, 2006 at 2:27 am |

    I have a question. Like many of the other commenters, I live nowhere near L.A. What do you recommend a person do in that situation? If she doesn’t find a teacher in whom she has trust, should she sit with a group that she doesn’t have the same approach as you? Should she sit alone?

  31. Jinzang
    Jinzang November 1, 2006 at 9:30 am |

    I think most people are misunderstanding Brad’s post. He’s not saying he has a problem because people aren’t attending the Hill Street Center. It’s the people who aren’t attending his group or some other group that have a problem. The problem is that some people like to talk about Zen or practice on their own without having a teacher, but both are a waste of time.

  32. Drunken Monkey
    Drunken Monkey November 1, 2006 at 10:32 am |

    Jinzang is right. I thought the point that Brad made was simple enough to understand, but then again I can only speak for myself.

  33. earDRUM
    earDRUM November 1, 2006 at 10:35 am |

    A waste of time jizang? Isn’t that a bit harsh? I would think that for someone out of reach of a teacher, that sitting alone would be better than nothing. It certainly was for me.
    But I agree about zen talk… it’s just talk.

    I think Zenducker said that album was the #1 selling LIVE album.

  34. Anonymous
    Anonymous November 1, 2006 at 12:00 pm |

    BW’s teacher just wrote on his blog that “we should never study Buddhism under a wrong Buddhist teacher.” That it would be a waste of our lives. I think BW wrote once that Mr. Nishijima does not consider Tibetan Buddhism to be Buddhism at all. So a few people here might think that Tibetan buddhist teachers are wrong for teaching real buddhism. It could be there are a lot of people here wasting their time.

  35. me
    me November 1, 2006 at 1:06 pm |

    jinzang, who was Buddha’s teacher?

  36. RepeatDose
    RepeatDose November 1, 2006 at 1:42 pm |

    The buddha studied under a number of ascetics and yogis.

    He had teachers; Buddhism did not emerge from a vacuum.

  37. Jinzang
    Jinzang November 1, 2006 at 5:18 pm |

    I seem to have started a controversy when all I intended was a an off the cuff remark.

    You can study Zen for all sorts of reasons. But if you study Zen fot the reason it was intended for, you need to practice and you need a teacher. If I convince even one person of this, my time on this blog will not have been wasted.

    Having a teacher is very, very helpful. Practicing with a group is very helpful, especially for beginners. No one who is really serious about Zen would pass this help up if there was any way possible for them to get it.

  38. Jinzang
    Jinzang November 1, 2006 at 5:26 pm |

    I think BW wrote once that Mr. Nishijima does not consider Tibetan Buddhism to be Buddhism at all. So a few people here might think that Tibetan buddhist teachers are wrong for teaching real buddhism. It could be there are a lot of people here wasting their time.

    My teacher is the first to say he has no real qualifications to be a teacher. I’m fool enough to think otherwise. If he’s right and I’m wrong or if Brad’s right and I’m wrong, yes, I have wasted my time.

    But don’t you waste your time by making my mistake. Find a genuine teacher, okay?

  39. Ed
    Ed November 1, 2006 at 6:00 pm |

    Okay, I admit it, I owned a copy of Frampton Comes Alive. It was sort of required make-out music in my high school at the time, so what was a perpetually horny 15 year-old to do?

    And we usually have just 2-6 people on Monday nights at our zendo here. The fewer people, the less chance of tripping over them during kinhin, I always say.

  40. sushil yadav
    sushil yadav November 2, 2006 at 1:33 am |

    The link between Mind and Social / Environmental-Issues.

    The fast-paced, consumerist lifestyle of Industrial Society is causing exponential rise in psychological problems besides destroying the environment. All issues are interlinked. Our Minds cannot be peaceful when attention-spans are down to nanoseconds, microseconds and milliseconds. Our Minds cannot be peaceful if we destroy Nature.

    Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment.

    Subject : In a fast society slow emotions become extinct.
    Subject : A thinking mind cannot feel.
    Subject : Scientific/ Industrial/ Financial thinking destroys the planet.
    Subject : Environment can never be saved as long as cities exist.

    Emotion is what we experience during gaps in our thinking.

    If there are no gaps there is no emotion.

    Today people are thinking all the time and are mistaking thought (words/ language) for emotion.

    When society switches-over from physical work (agriculture) to mental work (scientific/ industrial/ financial/ fast visuals/ fast words ) the speed of thinking keeps on accelerating and the gaps between thinking go on decreasing.

    There comes a time when there are almost no gaps.

    People become incapable of experiencing/ tolerating gaps.

    Emotion ends.

    Man becomes machine.

    A society that speeds up mentally experiences every mental slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

    A ( travelling )society that speeds up physically experiences every physical slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

    A society that entertains itself daily experiences every non-entertaining moment as Depression / Anxiety.





    To read the complete article please follow either of these links :




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  45. Anonymous
    Anonymous October 17, 2008 at 10:27 am |

    I found your web site by googling “why was frampton comes alive so big”. This is the first time I’ve heard of the FCA effect. I bought FCA and listened to it until it had become cliche, because I absolutely loved the music. Kind of like Dark Side of the Moon. If there was an effect, perhaps it was because it occurred in a different social circle than I. In 1976, I was 30 years old rather than a high school student.

    In any case, I don’t buy the effect, and I’m still wondering why it was so big.

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