Why All Spiritual Teachers Other Than Me, Nishijima Roshi and Dogen SUCK ASS!!!!


My Facebook page gets all kinds of goofy ads for just about any vaguely “eastern spirituality” related thing that advertises on Facebook. I often wonder how FB knows to target me with these ads. It’s kind of scary. I certainly didn’t call Mark Zuckerbeg and tell him I was into that stuff. The Facebook folks also seem to think I want to date younger women. But that’s a whole other subject.

Lately whenever something particularly silly appears on my page, I take a screen shot of it and post it with a comment. The other day I posted the ad you’re seeing now on this blog with the following comment:

“But can Reggie Ray help me stay in the Alpha state or can Omharmonics help me step more deeply into the river of my life? And can either of them get the gunk off my shoes?”

This upset some of the fans of Reggie Ray who subscribe to my FB page. They thought I was dissing their dude. But actually I had never even heard of Reggie Ray before this ad appeared. The only Reggie I know of is Archie’s rival from the Archie comic books. Maybe he got all spiritual when he grew up.

I really do not follow the Buddhist scene in America, or anywhere else for that matter. That seems to surprise people sometimes. But I honestly have pretty much zero interest in who’s who in the land of famous spiritual masters. Occasionally when some dill weed starts advertising that he can get you enlightened for more money than I’ve made in the past three years combined I might take notice.

But generally I don’t care about any of these people. Some of them are probably nice, well meaning guys. Others are clearly in it for the money. It’s like rock and roll or movies of any other form of mass entertainment. Most of what ends up being big is garbage calculated specifically to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Though on rare occasions something good breaks through. Spirituality in 21st century America is one more form of popular amusement.

In any case, I thought what I said was pretty clearly not a put down of Reggie Ray. It was just a comment on his ad and on the fact that it was paired with an ad for Omharmonics in such a way that they seemed to be competing with each other.

One of my FB friends said I ought to attend one of Reggie’s retreats because “he is a genuine dharma conduit.” Maybe so. But I’m over that stuff. Years ago I kept hearing about this particular Buddhist master who was supposed to be really great. So I went and saw one of his things. I was appalled. The guy was a master all right. A master of working the system. He was playing his followers like they were an accordion and he was Weird Al Yankovic. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

Maybe Reggie Ray isn’t like that. Maybe he really is great. I don’t know and I’m not all that interested in finding out. No disrespect to Mr. Ray intended. It’s just that I have a teacher. I don’t really feel any great need to find someone else or to sample all the flavors out there on the spiritual buffet table. I’m just not into that sort of thing.

One response I got to my FB post was, I think, pretty typical of what happens when I say absolutely anything about any other teacher. It went, “I’m forever grateful to you Brad for writing Hardcore Zen. It brought me to the practise. But you really seem close minded when it comes to any other teacher. Is it because of your dislike of the fakes out there that you’re skeptical? Or is it something else?”

It’s like what happened when I mentioned Thich Naht Hanh (did I get the spelling right this time? I honestly tried!) the other day. I knew that titling the article “Thich Naht Hanh is Wrong” was bound to cause some consternation. But read the article and you’ll see that it’s about a particular statement attributed to TNH and the way that statement was taken out of context and presented. Unfortunately, little soundbytes like that seem to be the way most people approach Buddhism or spirituality in general these days. They’re too busy to go into Buddhism or anything else in any kind of depth. So they look at a couple of Twitter postings and think they’ve got it down.

Be that as it may, I do not think all other spiritual teachers suck ass. On the other hand, I’m generally not terribly impressed with most of the people currently working in the area of “commercial spiritual teacher” — by that I mean spiritual teacher types who write books, who do lecture tours, who get movies made about them etc. like me, for example.

There is a whole other class of spiritual teacher who are entirely different from “commercial spiritual teachers” who I (generally) respect a lot more. These are people who work mostly anonymously, who nobody ever hears of, whose next door neighbors don’t even know what they do — whose next door neighbors are, in fact, many of the people who say, “There are no teachers near me! Why can’t I just do my Zen training on line?”

Anyway, those anonymous people are almost always better than anyone you’ve ever heard of who also does this “spiritual teacher” thing. The supposed superstars of the spiritual world and most especially me — though I’m a C-list spiritual celebrity at best — are no match for most of these anonymous humble teachers.

The idea that people sell spirituality as a commodity bugs me. I don’t mind people who sell books about spirituality. That’s fine. Or books about their own experience of a practice. Also great. But what a lot of these guys are selling is clearly not that. They advertise themselves as being able to grant you enlightenment, realization, peace of mind, or whatever, for a price. But they can’t do that. Nobody can do that. If someone really could, that would be great.

But you cannot buy that kind of thing. Just like you can’t buy genuine love. Even though you can buy a night with a very good prostitute, some of whom are adept at the “girlfriend experience” which means they can simulate genuine love. But that costs you extra. And a lot of what I see advertised sounds to me like a Zen version of the “girlfriend experience.” That’s what Genpo Roshi is selling with his personalized five-day retreats for only five people in a luxury hotel.

Also the idea that we must not question anyone as pure and lovely as Thich Naht Hanh or Reggie Ray or whoever worries me. When we lose our ability to be critical, we’re stepping into a very dangerous area. We’re no longer looking at things in a balanced way. That’s when trouble begins.

152 Responses

  1. Mysterion
    Mysterion March 30, 2012 at 7:48 am | |

    I respect Shiro.

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 30, 2012 at 8:50 am | |

    Moonlight slants
    through

    The vast bamboo grove

    mysterion sucks

  3. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 30, 2012 at 9:50 am | |

    Brad–'more like a C-list celeb?' you? c'mon man, definitely D, mos' def'

  4. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 30, 2012 at 9:57 am | |

    No he's a C-lister, no doubt. He's been in Tricycle Magazine. I don't think he's been in Buddhadharma Magazine. If he was I might bump him to a C+. As far as I know he hasn't been invited to any conferences. I don't think he has an agent either. He's up-and-coming, give him time.

  5. anon #108
    anon #108 March 30, 2012 at 10:57 am | |

    Thanks for Sam Harris on Free Will, 3.27am.

  6. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 30, 2012 at 11:41 am | |

    Time? Brad's pushing 50. Its "hurry up" time!

  7. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 30, 2012 at 11:43 am | |

    Its shit or get off the pot time.

  8. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 30, 2012 at 11:44 am | |

    Its Chambers Brothers "TIME"!

  9. Leni Riefenstahl
    Leni Riefenstahl March 30, 2012 at 11:53 am | |

    Sam Harris on "Triumph Of The Will".

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBfYncHshJc

  10. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 30, 2012 at 12:02 pm | |

    Who is this Brad guy? I bet he smells like cheese.

  11. Mysterion
    Mysterion March 30, 2012 at 3:19 pm | |

    Sam Harris is a neuroscientist. He received a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from Stanford University and Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA (2009). He is a proponent of scientific skepticism and is the author of The End of Faith (2004), Letter to a Christian Nation (2006), The Moral Landscape (2010), and others.

    If he were "East Coast," he would be Dr. Samuel Harris, or Samuel Harris, Ph.D.

    Welcome to the West Coast, where folks are folks and people are people.

    p.s. where DID you all go to grad school?

    just kidding.

  12. Mysterion
    Mysterion March 30, 2012 at 3:22 pm | |

    Brad started out as an orderly in a mental hospital.

    How else would he be able to put up with the peanut gallery?

  13. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 30, 2012 at 3:35 pm | |

    Grad school: for people who don't want to get a job yet. Or maybe ever.

  14. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 30, 2012 at 5:11 pm | |

    The wind in the pines

    An owl calls across the field

    Mysterion sucks

  15. Shiro
    Shiro March 30, 2012 at 5:42 pm | |

    Mysterion: where did you go to grumpy grandpa school?

    Did you eat all the cottage cheese (farts)?

    Again? (farts twice)

  16. Mysterion
    Mysterion March 30, 2012 at 7:45 pm | |

    I went to grad school while I was working full-time. My wife was an undergrad at the time.

    It was painless – no college loans for either of us.

    As for the cottage cheese – no. I got a gallon of the home-made organic stuff and it lasts a full week. That's with 2 growed up people and a 14.5 pound terrier woffin' it down.

    As for grumpy grandpa school, most grandparents are grumpy. They've seen almost every flavor of sheer stupidity – including the reelection of republicans.

    Peace

    Pax und Lux

    don't forget your majik mormon talisman!

    Silver

    Be prepared for your Moronic Angel!

    More Moronic Reading

    And you just KNOW where my vote will be cast… (into the river Jordan). 1963 – when most TV was still black and white.

  17. Pretaville
    Pretaville March 30, 2012 at 9:31 pm | |

    "Would the procedure be to trade some mormons or sunday schoolers for..the cowards posting as Anny? And then like put a bullet in their white trash heads?

    Yes. We were discussing De quincey and Coleridge–Huxley and the Dhammapada. Not Marley and legalization, frat trash."

    Guess who wrote that Zenny hardons..

  18. Guru Schopenhauer
    Guru Schopenhauer March 30, 2012 at 9:35 pm | |

    Pretaville said…

    "inept irony–the sure sign of a white trash morm-xtian invasion.

    when you meet a Romney supporter on the road, carjack it."

    Guess who wrote that Zen Geniuses..

  19. Corpse of L-Bong Ron Hubblard
    Corpse of L-Bong Ron Hubblard March 30, 2012 at 9:43 pm | |

    Does anyone think mysterion isn't a full blown wacko.. What does it mean for him to announce he took two months off from Brad's blog but then to continued on anyway as fill-in-the-blank whoever.. Why did he bother keeping up that charade? He is nutz is the canswer.

  20. Mysterion
    Mysterion March 30, 2012 at 10:14 pm | |

    When I took 2 months off, I did not post.

    As for my perspective, it fails me well.

    Ga-Sho-Nuff

    p.s. No bullets for anyone. no gunpowder, no guns. If they want to engage one another in tribal warfare, let 'em do it in the old fashion barbaric way: Psalm 137:9

    or let them join the 21st century – if they can.

  21. peanut gallery
    peanut gallery March 30, 2012 at 10:25 pm | |

    Ga-Sho-Nuff Brother..

    What-eva-you-say

  22. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote March 30, 2012 at 10:55 pm | |

    Jinzhang said:

    "I have a science background (majored in physics and astronomy) and I don't see the relevance. We're talking on Buddhism about a non-conceptual grasp of reality, while science is entirely conceptual. Moreover, they are directed to different ends. Buddhism is directed towards liberation and science toward strictly utilitarian ends. I wouldn't trust a "scientific Buddhism," it seems a hopeless intellectual muddle to me."

    Mark said:

    "Can we separate out what was the part that is verifiable in the teachings of Gautama? I think we can. Can we present these truths in a way that folks can relate to them even if they are coming from disparate backgrounds?"

    Science to me is the observation of relationships and the description of those relationships in such a way that someone else can understand the description and observe the same relationship. So again, I describe a practice of waking up and falling asleep by saying "when I realize my physical sense of location in space, and realize it as it occurs from one moment to the next, then I wake up or fall asleep as appropriate." A man in New York asks me for a clarification of what I mean by "physical sense of location in space", and I describe our sense of the location of awareness when we fall. He experiences a sense of the location of awareness, and is able to fall back to sleep seven nights in a row through the practice.

    Is this a Buddhist practice? In the Gautamid's description of mindfulness of the body, a monk is described as:

    ""(one) who acts in full awareness when walking, standing, sitting, falling asleep, waking up, talking, and keeping silent." MN 119

    Is that the same practice I'm describing? I think so, and I'm excited to think so, because I have no use for the explanations of mindfulness I have heard so far from Buddhist teachers, and it has been a mystery to me.

  23. ARO
    ARO March 31, 2012 at 4:49 am | |

    Q: I once heard a Buddhist teacher say: “There is no thought in the mind of a Buddha.” How does that equate with the teaching of Dzogchen? There seems to be some contradiction here?

    KD: It’s not really possible to comment on that without knowing the whole context of what was said. However . . . there is no attachment to thought in the Mind of a Buddha. There is also no conceptual limitation in the Mind of a Buddha . . . there are often problems with translation.

    NR: Was this statement made in English?

    Q: No, it was translated.

    KD: So really we have no idea of what was actually said.

    NR: You see . . . the idea that Mind without content is the conclusion of the path is almost like saying: ‘enlightenment is becoming a statue of a Buddha’.

    KD: [laughs] Or the non-existent statue of a Buddha.

    NR: There seems to be the notion among many people that: ‘The longer you sit in the thought-free state, the more enlightened you’ll become’.

    KD: But when asked: ‘What process is at work in this empty-state which leads toward complete enlightenment?’ the answer is usually that: ‘Such things are ineffable and cannot be expressed in words’. It is true that words are limited and that enlightened experience is beyond concept – but if we are speaking of process, that can always be described by someone who experienced that process. Unless your practice continues into the process of integration – you stultify. You need to open yourself to flowing with whatever arises within the empty state we have discovered. Unless we are prepared to engage in that practice you will not evolve into full recognition of what you really are. Without this recognition, the general character of your life-experience will not change much – you will continue to experience unsatisfactoriness, frustration and turmoil.

    —from the book Roaring Silence

  24. john e mumbles
    john e mumbles March 31, 2012 at 8:30 am | |

    “Past humanity is not only implicit in each new man born but is contained in him. Humanity is an ever-widening spiral and life is the beam that plays briefly on each succeeding ring. All humanity from its beginning to its end is already present but the beam has not yet played beyond you.”

    ? Flann O'Brien, The Third Policeman

  25. Mysterion
    Mysterion March 31, 2012 at 8:37 am | |

    scientific Buddhism is called Psychology – clinical psychology.

    When L. Ron was in Oak Knoll, he was in the psych. ward.

    That's why CoS is anti-psych. They fear that which they need most. Poor lost souls*…

    *a ghost with levers? give me a break! these folks are neither lost nor souls. Their thetans just aren't operating, that's all… LOL

  26. chairman wao
    chairman wao March 31, 2012 at 11:12 am | |

    Mc Billy Bob, pinkboy, you're tooo stoopid even for bad Darwinism ala EO. You're no scientist, having flunked the first year of yr LVN studies. You're a…….. scientologist! (and hope yr preacher doesn't catch you posting Darwin! .. .you'd lose yr..firm handshake rights at First Church of the Blessed Yokel).

    Guess who?

  27. Fred
    Fred March 31, 2012 at 11:50 am | |

    "‘Such things are ineffable and cannot be expressed in words’. It is true that words are limited and that enlightened experience is beyond concept – but if we are speaking of process, that can always be described by someone who experienced that process."

    If you drop the body and mind, and
    are transformed into something
    else, do you think that the duality
    can comment?

    The Universe sees Itself through
    the fiction of the ego.

    The enlightenment of an ego is
    fiction too.

  28. Sam Antrabhada
    Sam Antrabhada March 31, 2012 at 5:00 pm | |

    As is an ego "transformed into something else."

  29. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 31, 2012 at 5:41 pm | |

    If you drop the body and mind, and
    are transformed into something
    else, do you think that the duality
    can comment?

    Hmmmm. Don't know. If the chicken vomits at noon will the beagle *finally* shine my shoes?

    The Universe sees Itself through
    the fiction of the ego.

    Hi !!!!

    The enlightenment of an ego is
    fiction too.

    I do enjoy a good read now and then.

  30. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 31, 2012 at 6:04 pm | |

    The beagle will shine your shoes at midnight; take care not to foul them, and bring the falcon with you.

  31. Jinzang
    Jinzang March 31, 2012 at 6:19 pm | |

    Mark Foote wrote:
    Science to me is the observation of relationships and the description of those relationships in such a way that someone else can understand the description and observe the same relationship.

    I'm very tired and will turn in after writing this. So I hope it isn't completely incoherent.

    A couple of posts back Brad wrote about teaching writing. Do you think there is a scientific way to write an article? Or a repeatable way to write clearly? Certainly there are rules for writing. But as someone said (can't remember who) "there is no rule that can't be broken for the sake of more beauty."

    Writing is an art, meaning it is drawing out what is best and unique within you. The art can't be separated from the artist, it is an expression of the artist.

    The same is true of spiritual practice. An analogy I have used here before is that a scientist holds a test tube over a bunsen burner. A spiritual practitioner is in the test tube getting cooked. Meditation is not something you can do at arm's length or with a control group or from a flow chart. It is a living process.

  32. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote March 31, 2012 at 8:55 pm | |

    Jinzang,

    I appreciate your remarks, and I agree that fatigue is a factor here this evening!

    I had the great pleasure of having a professor who was delighted with mathematics, Gerhard Ringel Sr., who has one of the important theorems in combinatorics named after him. What I got from him was that he was an appreciator of natural beauty, first and foremost, and mathematics to him was a way to come to know a particular aspect of the beauty of nature. I guess I've heard Monet described as a painter of light, a similar fascination with a particular aspect of the beauty of nature.

    What I've read in the Pali Canon is not so different, to me. The man is describing a particular aspect of the beauty of nature, having to do with the human experience. He intended his descriptions to be repeated, examined, tested, and verified; he tells us so. He made mistakes, as when he taught the meditation on the unlovely to monks who then committed suicide.

    Gautama said that whatever a person might think the meditative trance state was, it was something other. I would assume that's what you're driving at. Yet I think we can say things in modern language that people can use to discover the natural beauty of the human experience for themselves.

    That's a lot of what spiritual teachers do, they offer folks a glimpse of the natural beauty that they have come to see in the human experience, in each aspect of the human experience. Is it possible to describe how a person can do absolutely nothing, and yet they sit upright, they stand and walk? I think if I can do that in way that people can understand, it's only a matter of time before they begin to experience what they already had, when they weren't thinking too much about it.

  33. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 31, 2012 at 9:07 pm | |

    Lady Gaga
    perfumes wings by floating
    mysterion sucks.

  34. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 31, 2012 at 11:04 pm | |

    Spirituality in 21st century America is one more form of popular amusement.

    It's true. Everyone wants to be different or special, find a cure, find something new to play with, improve their lives… It's the bodies desire.

    I would like to say that meditation will sort everything out but…it never sorted out the kamizake pilots. It never stopped Buddhist wars in the past.

    But, I think that if a person thinks they are doing the right thing(meaning that is all they have to work with at the moment)…then they are doing the right thing. You can't blame them even if you think they are wrong.

  35. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 1, 2012 at 2:35 am | |

    Although, I would add that it's stupid to forfeit your life due too someone elses stupidity.

    jason

  36. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 1, 2012 at 4:28 am | |

    "I often wonder how FB knows to target me with these ads. It's kind of scary. I certainly didn't call Mark Zuckerbeg and tell him I was into that stuff."

    Facebook and also other websites are collecting huge amounts of data, which are not only text but also Images. What they do is called datamining. They train mathematical models which are based on assumptions of the behavior of other Facebook members to predict the interest a visitor of your Facebook-Profile has based on your data. These Pattern-Systems are just a best match by the means of the data which is collected, which doesn't mean it actually fits your interests or reactions. I think these systems have a hard time separating the multidimensional room to find input vector combinations which can be assigned to clusters, when it comes to search for logic in human actions.

  37. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 1, 2012 at 4:28 am | |
  38. Juno
    Juno April 1, 2012 at 5:27 am | |

    What if I'm the bad guy?

    And if I'm the bad guy, who is the good guy? And why does this matter. I think it is not important who is who. But some people think it is and for them it might make sense.
    Buddha thought the middle way which is staying in balance. But what is the balance, is it going with the stream or against it? Fighting is a natural habbit which occures out of hatred against oneself. The fighting is not a bad thing as it gradualy can help to get closer to oneself.

    Kobun: "When all the teachers are gone, who will be your teacher?"
    Student: "Everything!"
    Kobun: – paused -
    Kobun: "No, you."

    How can one be oneselfs teacher? According to buddhist philosophy the universe is god. So god is your teacher, and the life in itself is a teacher. But following the life is not easy sometimes. If we are following the daily life we meet a lot of challenges, day by day. But everyday life is not spiritual, it is just about getting a lot of stuff done. But we can use everyday life to integrate it in our practice, buy just sitting.

    I'm tending to see a lot of spirituality as a kind of entertainment. We pay a lot of money to go to huge events or so called Buddhist masters, so they can help solving our problems. But you can also get hypnotised if you go to a specialist, you probably don't have to pay for it cause normally there is an insurance for this cases.

    People nowadays get way to easy scared, and a lot of other people are using this to take profit out of it.

  39. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 1, 2012 at 5:30 am | |

    Brad loves MINDFULNESS

  40. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 1, 2012 at 10:24 am | |

    hey Mysterion…

    you'll like this video

  41. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 1, 2012 at 11:07 am | |

    Anonymous, thanks for the link. Tried to figure out who the author was, couldn't find a credit!

    The gist:

    "Where the history of sati's translation in the English language is concerned, it has been suggested by Thanissaro Bhikkhu, among others, that the British scholar who coined the term "mindfulness" to translate the word sati "was probably influenced by the Anglican prayer to be ever mindful of the needs of others — in other words, to always keep their needs in mind. But even though the word 'mindful' was probably drawn from a Christian context, the Buddha himself defined sati as the ability to remember…"

    (from The Dharma Overground)

    I believe the translation of "zikir" in the Sufi tradition is also "remember".

    Juno, thanks for the Kobun quote, like that!

    The short version of what gets remembered (in any tradition, I suspect):

    "… making self-surrender (one's) object of thought, (one) lays hold of concentration, lays hold of one-pointedness of mind."

    (SN V 2 , Pali Text Society volume 5 pg 175-176, ©Pali Text Society)

  42. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 1, 2012 at 12:22 pm | |

    Brad, is there any news of Nishijima-sama? I hope he knows the positive effect he has had in my, and many others, lives. I wish him the best.

  43. Mysterion
    Mysterion April 1, 2012 at 2:30 pm | |

    There is a 'slight of hand' in Pat Robertson's comments…

    "every time the liberals pass a bill they (meaning congressional republicans) stick a criminal penalty into it."

    Liberals have been advocates of decriminalizing marijuana since the 1950s. It is the looney-tunes right (and the cotton cartel) that have been behind hemp criminalization. Why? Hemp fiber is an alternative to cotton!

    William F Buckley (another conservative) also wanted to end the 'war' on drugs. The privatization of prisons is a BIG growing industry and congressional republicans are nearly 100% in favor of criminalizing more, not less.

    The "gods, gays, and guns" foggers have led their illiterate supporters down the merry path to hell – toting Fascism wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross.

    Thank whatever gods may be that that Oxycontin cowboy Rush is leading the charge!

  44. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 1, 2012 at 6:15 pm | |

    Mysterion is like the cat who got into the sand box.

    It's just not as much fun to make castles here anymore..

  45. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 1, 2012 at 6:17 pm | |

    BREAKING NEWS:::::

    Ashton Kutcher to play Steve Jobs.

  46. Couldn't Resist
    Couldn't Resist April 1, 2012 at 10:27 pm | |

    Anonymous is like the sandbox under the cat- pissed, for no good reason.

  47. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 2, 2012 at 6:20 am | |

    like is like like

  48. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 2, 2012 at 8:54 am | |

    The only 2 scenes worth watching in a movie that has Ashton Kutcher playing Steve Jobs would be:

    #1 – Ashton Kutcher asking Kobun Chino "Dude, where's my karma?"

    #2 – Ashton Kutcher dying at the end.

  49. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 10, 2012 at 9:43 pm | |

    …too loud Brad. People know ads suck. Teach first! You have a good practice and teacher and nothing to lose by learning from both.

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