Whenever people outside of Los Angeles hear that I want to open a Zen Center in LA they respond by saying things like, “There must be a million Zen places in LA! Why would you want to start another one?”
Curiously enough that is not the case. There is no place in LA right now where you can just walk in and practice Soto style Zen. Rinzai-ji is, as the name implies, a straight-up Rinzai style Zen center. At the Zen Center of Los Angeles they also practice Rinzai style Zen. I know they claim affiliation with the Soto line, but I’ve never understood why. There is also Zenshuji, the Soto-shu’s main temple in the United States. But Zenshuji is designed very much for the immigrant Japanese population who want a temple like they’d find at home. Which means if you want to do zazen there, they send you down to the basement.
There is nothing in Los Angeles even remotely like the San Francisco Zen Center, the Minneapolis Zen Center, the Houston Zen Center or even like the smaller Soto style Zen centers in Milwaukee or Cedar Rapids, Iowa. And for a city this big and this cosmopolitan that’s a real shame.
What there is a whole lot of in LA is phony baloney spirituality. This city was lucky to be the landing place of the late, great Paramahansa Yogananada who started one of the first Indian-style meditation centers in America right down the street from me on Sunset Boulevard, the Self Realization Fellowship. And while the SRF was (and still is) legit, their popularity set off a trend of half-baked imitations.
Pretty soon Los Angeles was full of self-made gurus pandering to the worst in spiritual materialism. This is the home of Power Yoga. Every other block in this city you can find some kind of patchouli-scented oasis selling healing crystals and copies of The Secret. You’ll find a 108 wanna-be Gurus-to-the-Stars all trying to be the next Deepak and pitch their latest bastardization of why quantum mechanics proves the existence of Vishnu on Oprah’s Spiritual Sunday Special. You’ll find Bhagavan Das down in Laguna Beach trying to bed down any cutie in a pair of yoga pants with lines about how wonderful it is to sleep with someone as spiritually advanced as him. And, of course, two Scientology Centers for every Starbucks.
But if you’re really serious about meditation practice it’s like a desert out here.
As I said the last time I posted about this, I’ve come to love Los Angeles. I wasn’t born here, but I feel like I belong here. This is where I want to stay for a while.
But I also want to practice in the traditional Soto style. I’ve been doing that for the past ten years with a dedicated and growing group of people in a series of rented spaces. We’ve been at a few yoga studios and a couple of community centers, and they’ve been OK. But they’re not really dedicated spaces for Zen practice.
If Cedar Rapids, Iowa can have a dedicated Soto style Zen center for ordinary residents, why can’t Los Angeles? Which is not to insult Cedar Rapids. It’s a lovely city and the home of America’s longest standing mosque. But fer-cryin-out-loud the City of Angels needs its own Soto Zen center and if some punk rock kid from Akron, Ohio has gotta be the one to make that happen, then that’s just how it is.
I can’t do this alone, though. Which is why we’ve set up an Indie Go Go campaign to raise funds. In our first couple weeks we managed to take in over $11,000. That’s pretty amazing. I didn’t know if we’d get a dollar. Whatever happens, we’re gonna get some kind of a Zen center going in LA no matter how much we take in. For $11,000 you can rent a bachelor apartment in Hollywood for a year and if that’s what we have to do to make this work, that’s exactly what we will do.
But our goal is $75,000 because we’d like to provide this city and, indeed, the rest of the world with something better than that. This is how much we think it’ll cost to run a substantial center for about a year. You can look at our detailed business plan and see what we intend to do.
This is going to be a place for you.
If we manage to reach our goal this will be the Zen center to end all Zen centers. Those other places I just mentioned will have to close down because ours will be so unbelievably incredible. We’ll have full-on Soto style Zen services with all the incense and bells and bonky wooden things. We’ll have completely secular meditation sessions where nobody is even allowed to so much as think of chanting and no black robes will be tolerated. We’ll have retreats. We’ll have cook-outs. It’ll be a-may-zing.
But nothing will happen at all if you don’t help. So send your nickels, send your dimes, send your Euros and Pounds and Francs and Zlotys! Every contribution makes a difference. Let’s do this thing!
I’ve got a new book coming out soon! Stay up to date on its release schedule, my live appearances and more by signing up for our mailing list on the contact page!
October 26-27 Cincinnati, Ohio Concert:Nova
October 30, 2015 Canton, Ohio ZERO DEFEX at Buzz Bin
November 6-8, 2015 Mt. Baldy, CA 3-DAY RETREAT
April 23, 2016 Long Island, New York Molloy College “Spring Awakening 2016”
October 23-28, 2016 Benediktushof Meditation Centrum (near Würzburg, Germany)5-Day Retreat
Every Monday at 8pm there’s zazen at Silverlake Yoga Studio 2 located at 2810 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90039. Beginners only!
Every Saturday at 9:30 there’s zazen at the Veteran’s Memorial Complex located at 4117 Overland Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230. Beginners only!
Plenty more info is available on the Dogen Sangha Los Angeles website, dsla.info
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Your donations to this blog are still important. I don’t get any of the Angel City Zen Center fundraiser money. I appreciate your on-going support!
LA is no Cedar Rapids. Just sayin’
Zazen down in the basement in the land of milk and honey
Such a great album, attempting to play along here in my basement apartment, hidden land of occasional salvia and meo.
“At the Zen Center of Los Angeles they also practice Rinzai style Zen. I know they claim affiliation with the Soto line, but I’ve never understood why.”
The liturgical form is Soto.
… and they don’t “claim” an affiliation. There is one. Maezumi’s dad was a Soto priest, Baian Hakujun Kuroda, gave Maezumi shiho in 1955.
Do you not know how to wiki…? 😉
“Do you not know how to wiki…? ?”
Sorry! By using the word “claim” I did not mean to imply that they were faking anything.
Oh I know…
But the ZCLA and the other centers in the White Plum *are* Soto.
The transmissions of monastic teachers are registered with the Soto-shu. The zendo etiquette is the same, if you were officiating a service there it would be the same as SFZC. All the turns, and when to bow on the hashiki, same. The lineage of the ancestors, same.
Only 1 teacher got transmitted the Rinzai lines, and that was Tetsugen. (who in turn transmitted to Daido and Merzel)
ZCLA are basically Soto, it’s just that many of them happen to do koans as practiced in the Rinzai school.
Many never take up koans at all, being more suited to shikintaza.
“Only 1 teacher got transmitted the Rinzai lines, and that was Tetsugen. (who in turn transmitted to Daido and Merzel)”
Would that be Dennis Merzel?
is there another Merzel? 😉
“Owning My Responsibility A Personal Statement from Genpo Merzel
I have chosen to disrobe as a Buddhist Priest, and will stop giving Buddhist Precepts or Ordinations, but I will continue teaching Big Mind. I will spend the rest of my life truly integrating the Soto Zen Buddhist Ethics into my life and practice so I can once again regain dignity and respect. My actions have caused a tremendous amount of pain, confusion, and controversy for my wife, family, and Sangha, and for this I am truly sorry and greatly regret. My behavior was not in alignment with the Buddhist Precepts. I feel disrobing is just a small part of an appropriate response.”
I like it when people own it. Drive all blames into one as they say. Sometimes I wonder why people even bother to become students these days, let alone teachers. I’d rather eat my own vomit then get involved in this buddhism racket.
Like the old man said…
Merzel hasn’t owned anything… just another scandal he was the center of. Letters are easy to write, and he’s done this sort of silliness for decades.
Maezumi is Soto but he also studied under a Rinzai instructor and Yasutani who is Sanbokyodan. So he has all three lineages and taught koan as well as shikantaza. Some of his students, such as Daido Loori, followed suit.
Yeah, he’s still being scandalous:
“Until recently I sat cross-legged in a lotus posture with very straight back unsupported. These days my posture is very different, and I am loving sitting more than I ever have before. I sit very relaxed and natural, usually in a chair or sofa, my legs not crossed, feet on the floor, resting my back against the back of the chair or couch, upright but not stiff or rigid in any way. Everything is relaxed and comfortable.” -From bigmind.org
We’ll have completely secular meditation sessions where nobody is even allowed to so much as think of chanting and no black robes will be tolerated. We’ll have retreats. We’ll have cook-outs. It’ll be a-may-zing.
Will you also have retreats “where nobody is even allowed to so much think of chanting and no black robes will be tolerated”? Or is that strictly reserved for local meditation sessions? Too bad you missed Huell by a few years – I’m sure he woulda loved to visit ACZC!
We might. Although retreats are places where a bit of bonding ritual is more important than at an hour long meeting. Still, I’d be interested in seeing what happens.
Any chance of a PayPal address? No debit/credit.
If you donate to my donation page (see link at the top of this page) and send along an email saying that the donation is for the center, I will make the donation on your behalf. That’s the best idea I have at the moment. Maybe someone will chime in with a better idea.
I don’t know if your accountant is going to like that one. Might be taken as “commingling of funds” by The Man.
Make out a check to “Dogen Sangha Los Angeles.” Write “ACZC Indie Go Go” in the memo.
Mail it to:
P.O. Box 29001
Los Angeles, CA 90029
This is better than Paypal, as we would be paying processing fees twice: 1st for Paypal, 2nd for First Giving.
From the business plan…
Brad-san has been teaching in LA for years, and in a city of almost 4 million within driving distance, has had like a dozen regulars?
One hundred regulars paying $50 a month to make rent. Hmm… might have to charge a higher cover on karaoke night.
At an average sitting there are usually between 10 and 20 people. Sometimes more than 20, very rarely less than ten. But those are not always the very same people each time. So the “regulars” — as in people who come again and again — probably number closer to 75-100 people. I can’t even guess how many have come by in the course of the ten years I’ve been in LA. Hundreds? Thousands?
Our biggest problem has been our shifting location and shifting schedule. This makes it extraordinarily difficult to maintain a regular base of attendees. I believe that once we have a single spot and a schedule that includes opportunities for people who just can’t make it at 9:30am on Saturday or 8pm on Monday to sit with us, things will change drastically.
Probably still a good idea to have the dana box prominently displayed on karaoke night. Just a thought.
You could open a really awesome vegan restaurant!
To me, “Angel City” sounds like a strip club or massage parlor, not that I would know about such things anymore. Hand jobs for Hakuin! Success?
As I sit here in my chair McMindfully meditating with my back relaxed, I will spend the rest of my life truly integrating the Soto Zen Buddhist Ethics into my life and practice so I can once again regain dignity and respect.
And once I have regained that dignity and respect, and truly transcended the attachment to morals and ethics, I will make my way down to Angel City for a holy hand job.
“Merzel said his affairs were “not about sex,” but about his feeling of isolation and loneliness as the teacher at the top of an organization. “I’m working on the whole sexual thing, too,” he said.
He and his wife are divorcing.
Merzel accused his critics of envy because of the success of his new way of teaching enlightenment, which he calls Big Mind.”
It’s worth millions, Brad, and all the sex you can handle.
Maybe I should take a training course in Big Mind™ then.
… you sure you got the money for that?
What’s the third precept again? Thou shalt not rub thy naughty bits against thy neighbors ass or something? Don’t think it says anything about a reach around, please correct me if im wrong.
had this at the karioke night just last week:
been a favorite for a long time.
I didn’t realise you were such a dirty dog mark lol, 😉
I don’t ask people to dance, in my experience that is counterproductive; but I have so much fun, people sometimes will dance with me, and the style is freaking:
“When you make the two one, and
when you make the inner as the outer
and the outer as the inner and the above
as the below, and when
you make the male and the female into a single one,
so that the male will not be male and
the female (not) be female, when you make
eyes in the place of an eye, and a hand
in the place of a hand, and a foot in the place
of a foot, (and) an image in the place of an image,
then shall you enter [the freakin’ Kingdom].”
(The Gospel According to Thomas, log. 22)
Yeah Mark, I gave up on asking people to dance a long time ago. I prefer to get freaky by myself.
Like the Gospel songs.
On the blazing surface of the cosmic mirror, Billions of drops of gold amrita coalesce And fall in galaxies of realms, An unceasing rain of all-pervasive radiance; Swirling free in the vastness of space, This rain is mind, is sun and moon, is sky, is mountain, is perfume, Is melody, is sea, is sex, is spice and wine. Its luminosity is co-emergence. Its heat is the union of prana and upaya. Its power is kaya and jnana, Embodiment and wisdom undivided at the core.
Let’s open our arms to happy endings.
This really belongs on the last post’s comment string…
“For to know nothing is nothing, not to want to know anything likewise, but to be beyond knowing anything, to know you are beyond knowing anything, that is when peace enters in, to the soul of the incurious seeker.” -Samuel Beckett, MOLLOY
“Mindfulness is a simple, yet effective form of meditation that enables you to gain control of unruly thoughts and behaviors. People who practice mindfulness are more focused, even when they are not meditating. Mindfulness is an excellent technique to reduce stress because it allows you to stop feeling out of control, to stop jumping from one thought to the next, and to stop ruminating on negative thoughts. Overall, it’s a great way to make it through your busy day in a calm and productive manner.”
(Dr. Travis Bradbury, from here)
Freakin’ at the karioke parlor is a simple, yet effective form of meditation that enables you to gain control of unruly, Beckett-like thoughts and “Waiting for Godot”-ish outbursts of speech and odd behaviors. People who practice freaking are more twisted, more rolled, more pitched to and fro– even when they are only freakin’ with the foaming breakers filling the sky.
“We’ll have completely secular meditation sessions where nobody is even allowed to so much as think of chanting and no black robes will be tolerated. ”
s’funny you should say that!
I’m not good at chanting, and I don’t much care for the ritual bowing either. I can barely sit 40 minutes without shifting around. But I’m freakin’ happy.
Hey, the check’s in the mail to me, and when it arrives, there’ll be one in the mail to the City of Angels Karioke Parlor and Round Cushion Repository!
How much do karaoke machines cost? Maybe should start with singalongs. They can be in Japanese.
“This is the conclusion from an analysis of 47 trials of meditation programs, published last year in JAMA Internal Medicine: “We found no evidence that meditation programs were better than any active treatment (i.e., drugs, exercise and other behavioral therapies).”
…In a nationally representative eight-year study, adults who reported a lot of stress in their lives were more likely to die, but only if they thought stress was harmful.”
Can We End the Meditation Madness?
Meh. Wherever human beings congregate, they will find a way to either “over-hype” something useful or criticize that useful activity by complaining about the over-hypers’ evangelizing.
Besides JAMA is the mouthpiece of the AMA, an organization challenged by the very existence non-allopathic treatments, to say the least.
I’ve got a customized Google News feed by topic and occasionally it turns up interesting contradictions when it comes to announcing the latest scientific study about this or that. I’ve seen articles on the same topic state opposing “scientific” views, because they are citing different studies. The peer-review system is not without flaws.
A blessing. Goodbye meditation.
I never did well with statistics either: “Well, I don’t deserve it but I sure did make it through, what can I do for You?”
I once gave a copy of “Saved” to a born again young woman I was fond of. Looking back it was probably a bit of a Dick move as I was born in March of 82 and she was born on January 3, 1992.
Those Golden Fish nights many Weirdo years ago…
Today I work from 03 to 09 pm NDT
This blog is one of the most fun places on teh Interwebs. I love coming here to bask in the warm friendly atmosphere. You guys are the best!
If the ACZC is anything like this blog, I think it will be a big success. I don’t live in LA (I’m on the East Coast), but I will contribute anyway. Maybe some day I’ll come for a visit.
I saw a long Youtube video of a Big Mind seminar. It was 2 hours, but I watched the whole thing. I think Merzel may actually have discovered something genuinely useful. I don’t think it can replace traditional Zen study (Merzel repeatedly said it was no substitute for daily zazen), but I think something like Big Mind can actually enrich zen practice.
Anyway, I hope the ACZC becomes a reality, and if it does, I may come to visit someday.
The problem with Big Mind is that meditators, especially new meditators, are looking for something to hold onto, something to validate their practice. Most typically it’s some bodily sensation: “I felt a shiver go up my spine while I was sitting last night. What does that mean?” But it can also be some emotion or idea. The teacher’s job is to say, “No, that’s nothing important. Keep on practicing.” Of course, there are more serious questions that need another answer. Giving someone an experience and telling them it’s a taste of enlightenment is not a help, it’s an obstruction, something the meditator will have to drop as they continue to practice. So in my opinion, Big Mind does more harm than good. But I can’t say that absolutely. If some experience inspires you to practice and you would have stopped otherwise, obviously that’s good, even if that experience is ultimately an obstruction.
The point is that no experience is enlightenment, enlightenment is what you are already. It’s what you bring to the meditation cushion, not what you take away from it.
Consciousness, it’s what’s for dinner:
zazen, and calligraphy.
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