Saturday, January 25, 2014


I find it really easy to look over what some other folks are doing and say "NO THEY'RE WRONG!!!"

It's really  easy.

I see stuff on the 'net... heck this happens all the time if you read stuff on line... that really misapprehend this 公案  (kōan) or that one.  Sometimes with USDA certified "teachers" of Zen.

I see people get stuff wrong all the time...

Some folks approach on-line information and reporting by writing with facts and questions, like in this piece from Justin.  But does that style of communication help things? Mais ces gens-là sont toujours aussi ignorants que les moutons.  Obviously wrong.   Oozing Dunning-Kruger slip-on-a-bannana-peel wrong. 

(This post is not about Justin's post by the way, just in case the casual reader didn't get that. )  It might be about my reaction to a guy like Teacher X, accused and probably guilty about sexual might also be about my reaction to folks who react one way or another to Teacher X.  It might be about my reaction to the long line of hucksters that populate the "spiritual" space...or it may just be all about me - an exercise in narcissism disguised as compassion.  I hope it's not that...but it might be.

I hope it's about the finding what is the best reaction to finding wrong.  The skill in encountering wrongfulness might not be to ask a question only.   But there certainly are questions.  Among them, is, given that we find wrong,  just what do we want to do about it?   It's really easy to be attached to one's moral superiority and do something that makes us feel good or puffs us up but really doesn't address the idea of going beyond the wrongfulness. 

It's freakin' trivially easy  to find wrong in others.  Can we see it in ourselves? Can we do something about it?  Can we get  better at seeing it in ourselves and doing something about it? 

I myself need to continually keep in mind that when "NO THEY'RE WRONG!!!" goes through my mind that it should be a trigger to take a step back, and observe in a relaxed, calm manner. Then consider what,  if anything to do.  Because I'm really not very good at doing that...and I'm often rather  wrongful and wrong.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Online harassment and precepts...

And I thought... how could people be this way?  How ignorant or wounded or what could these people be to stalk someone like this?

And then I thought of the situation of  the inability of people to deal with some of the issues affecting the Buddhist community in their on-line presence; some of these incapable people are said to be teachers of Zen, too! 

I would hope that all beings experience relief and transcendence from any wrongful actions towards them, including wrongful speech.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

"-isms," narratives, and Zen Buddhism

TLDR: Sweeping Zen seems to be more personality driven than teaching and practice driven.  Moreover,  a lot of what's on that blog doesn't even seem to be informed by strong teaching and practice.  One post there by Herb Deer illustrates this, especially compared with what we know from the patriarchs.  I can't justify giving them linkshare, even if a teacher, such as Genjo Marinello might have an article there now and then.

There's been a bit of hubbub lately in the Buddhist blogosphere about the abuse of power sexually with a few zen "teachers," and what this means for "Zen Buddhism" in "the West."  Due to some of this hubbub I've decided to not promote the Sweeping Zen blog, but not for the hubbub that you might think; not for the issues I've alluded to in the past few days, although I think the post today might be identifying more of a root cause of those other posts.

The root cause is that a heck of a lot of people don't seem to be demonstrating in their verbal communication at least what Zen Buddhism is - people who seem to include some signed, sealed, and delivered "authorized" "teachers" of "Zen."  And Sweeping Zen, (a "who's who of Zen") is more personality driven than teaching and practice driven.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

I've updated the list of blogs I follow...

I realize that a couple of the blogs mentioned I wouldn't recommend to the casual visiter to this site.   I've had specific reservations - rather deep reservations about some of the stuff posted on some of the sites on my list.  I've added a couple too.  In case you didn't know, one of the ancestors of my part of the Rinzai school, Soen Shaku, spent a significant portion of time with Theravadin monks; I definitely feel an affinity to a lot of what they put forth (though not everything in all cases).  Soen Shaku, contrary to narratives of Japanese Zen adepts whose heirs and teachers reached the West, namely  Nyogen Senzaki and Ryobo-an Sokatsu  were scandal-free.

I think it's better to not promote those questionable blogs in my own way.   In two cases especially it appeared that what was being promoted was so at variance with Zen Buddhism as I've apprehended it that it's better not to promote it as a blog I recommend, even if listing it only as "one I follow." Barry Ritholtz is a more reliable Zen guide, even if he never blogs about Zen (and I recommend his writings, even when I disagree with them if you're tasked with managing your retirement).   I will probably have a more in-depth post on it later, but to make a long story short (for now), there's a lot of people that want to "make Zen better,"  and they're not doing sentient beings many favors in doing so.

You know, Buddhist blogosphere, there's a bunch of other precepts besides the sex ones...

Sexual harassment and other misuse of sexuality is unacceptable.

Speaking ill of whole classes of people is unacceptable.

In fact wrongful speech is unacceptable.

Not endeavoring to understand is unacceptable.

Misusing intoxicants is unacceptable.

Taking what's not given is unacceptable.

Mindlessly killing is unacceptable.

I haven't gotten into the good having compassion for all beings, cultivating wisdom and generosity, etc.

There's a lot more to Buddhism, and hence Zen Buddhism, than a) sitting on cushions, and b) going into internet outrages over some "reporting."

Monday, January 06, 2014

Is there a fundamental difference between your teacher and Eido Shimano? And what does that mean for our own conduct?

Beyond, of course whether one should be in a position of authority or not.  At least one of the above should not be, that would be at least the latter should not be.  Of course if your teacher by this point is Eido Shimano, you've got  bigger problems than I can address here; I would suggest an alternative.

That's not my point here, or rather everyone stipulates to the point that these sexual abusers don't belong in a position of authority.

My point is that there may be some people who think that beyond the authority question, there is a fundamental difference between Teacher X (insert your teacher here) and Eido Shimano or Sasaki etc.

Or me. Or you.  If someone's Teacher X says they are fundamentally different from Eido Shimano,  I can't imagine who would have authorized them.  If someone's Teacher X says they are not fundamentally different from Eido Shimano, then what does that say about how we conduct ourselves with regard to the wrongful behavior of Shimano?

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Right Speech, Right Livelihood, and the Exploitation of Zen Sexual Abusers for Profit and Leisure

The problem of leisure
What to do for pleasure
Ideal love a new purchase
A market of the senses
Dream of the perfect life
Economic circumstances
The body is good business
Sell out, maintain the interest
Remember Lot's wife
Renounce all sin and vice
Dream of the perfect life
This heaven gives me migraine
The problem of leisure
What to do for pleasure

Coercion of the senses
We are not so gullible
Our great expectations
A future for the good
Fornication makes you happy
No escape from society
Natural is not in it
Your relations are of power
We all have good intentions
But all with strings attached

Repackaged sex keeps your interest
Repackaged sex keeps your interest
Repackaged sex keeps your interest
Repackaged sex keeps your interest
Repackaged sex keeps your interest
Repackaged sex keeps your interest

The problem of leisure
What to do for pleasure
Ideal love a new purchase
A market of the senses
Dream of the perfect life
Economic circumstances
The body is good business
Sell out maintain the interest
Remember Lot's wife
Renounce all sin and vice
Dream of the perfect life
This heaven gives me migraine
This heaven gives me migraine
This heaven gives me migraine
                          - Gang of Four

I had an interesting exchange yesterday  regarding Sweeping Zen and whatever Adam's latest scandal du jour.  They've become Adam's scandals as much as Sasaki's or Shimano's scandals by now, because of his association with his propensity to propagate these stories.  

To what end?

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Hearing the Sutras, Proper Belief...

Nathan quotes  and comments a bit from Chapter 6 of the Diamond Sutra, and I wanted to comment on that as well.

The relevant part of Chapter 6 is:

Subhåti said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, in the future will there be living beings, who, when they hear such phrases spoken will truly believe?"

The Buddha told Subhåti, “do not speak in such a way! After the Tathàgata’s extinction, in the last five hundred years, there will be those who hold the precepts and cultivate blessings who will believe such phrases and accept them as true.

“You should know that such people will have planted good roots with not just one Buddha, two Buddhas, three, four, or five Buddhas, but will have planted good roots with measureless millions of Buddhas. All who hear such phrases and produce even one thought of pure faith are completely known and completely seen by the Tathàgata. Such living beings thus obtain measureless blessings and virtue. And why? Those living beings have no further mark of self, of others, of living beings, or of a life; no mark of dharmas and no mark of no dharmas. If living beings’ hearts grasp at marks, then that is attachment to self, to others, to living beings, and to a life. For that reason you should not grasp at dharmas, nor should you grasp at no dharmas. Regarding that principle, the Tathàgata often says, ‘all you bhikùus should know that the Dharma which I speak is like a raft. Even dharmas should be re- linquished, how much the more so no dharmas.’

The heading of the chapter I'm quoting from says "Proper Belief is Rare."  The thing about Buddhist texts is that they tend to be more mentally challenging than the monotheists' writings; there's more subtlety going on here than might meet the eye at first.  In Subhåti's  question to the Buddha,  "such phrases" mean the teaching of the Diamond Sutra itself.  Like the Lotus Sutra, it's simultaneously self-referential and pointing outside of, that is, beyond the text of the Sutra itself.   As has been commented by others,  this pointing refers to one's appropriation and manifestation of the Dharma (including lack of attachment to it) in one's own life. 

There's one other point I'll make here: the rare "proper belief" is the mindset of not being concerned about any outcome here.   Furthermore the "people who have planted good roots" are those who have belief in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, but that belief is a belief borne of observation having first taken refuge, as can be seen by reading a little further down in text I've not quoted.

But this is way too too much analysis.  It has so much analysis, that in fact what I wrote has nothing whatsoever to do meaningfully with reality.

Let me put it this way.  Consider Case 29 of the Hekigan Roku:

A monk asked Daizui,
"When the great kalpa fire is inflamed, the whole universe1 will be
destroyed. I wonder if 'that' will also be destroyed or not."
Daizui said,
The monk said,
"If so, will 'that' be gone with the other?"2
Daizui said,
"Gone with the other."

This is clearly related to the same thing mentioned in the Diamond Sutra. (For what it's worth, you can read a Sanbo Kyōdan commentary by Yamada Koun here.)

A "proper belief" mindset is one in which belief,  the question of belief,  doubt, and/or lack of doubt just doesn't arise.  It just does not matter in relation to the resolution of the Great Matter. This is not to say that one is not practicing good deeds, nor does one stop practice/refuge.  Of course not.   But this "proper belief" mindset is  not even like  not being aware of being wet when swimming.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Money, Bitcoin, and bad economics

To walk in money through the night crowd, protected by money, lulled by money, dulled by money, the crowd itself a money, the breath money, no least single object anywhere that is not money, money, money everywhere and still not enough, and then no money or a little money or less money or more money, but money, always money, and if you have money or you don't have money it is the money that counts and money makes money, but what makes money make money? - Henry Miller

This post is hopefully an attempt at a well-mannered response to C4Chaos's pro-Bitcoin post here.  I say "hopefuly" an attempt at well-mannered but I'm not especially optimistic, because somewhere percolating through all this Bitcoin ideology is a lot of libertarian junk, and Austrian School libertarian junk at that.  C4Chaos's post featured about 40 minutes worth of video as a response to Paul Krugman, who I'm sure knows better than to respond to that sort of thing.  I, myself, have no patience for video responses on pretty much anything that's not intended at least partially for entertainment (yeah, I include academic lectures as well - they should be entertaining).  Anyway, I replied to C4Chaos by asking for text links which he dutifully supplied...and so here we go...

First of all, let me start out by saying that Ludwig von Mises was worse than a crackpot.  Don't believe me?  Check out the man in his own words.  Von Mises seems to be intimately related to these so-called "Bitcoin theorists," and that should raise a warning flag pretty much immediately.  Von Mises was an apologist for laissez-faire capitalism, funded lock, stock and barrel by the 1%.   Anyone who's had a basic course in Macro-ecomomics  can refute such clap-trap standing on 1 foot. 

The key point I'd like to make, as long as C4Chaos indirectly referenced von Mises in re: Bitcoin, is that one of the von Mises points is that somehow money is  "good money" if people want to hold money "as cash," as a "store" of value. But, given the nature of capitalism to generate more and more goods and services of value, that "store" doesn't remain constant, and so that position is a political position inherently favoring deflation,  And the political position inherently favoring deflation is in fact a position inherently against labor in favor of capital, and in these times such a position is not ethically defensible.

Another class of objects has recently been touted as a "store" of value as well, and that class of objects are precious metals.  Precious medals experienced a very nice bubble in the last decade or so, which popped in 2012.  You can still hear hucksters on AM right-wing talk radio pushing gold as a store of value.  And yes, I made a few bucks on that bubble.  But that doesn't mean that the bubble was good.  But the capitalism in which we currently dwell requires we all participate to some extent in the Prisoner's Dilemma, and hopefully we do that skillfully towards helping people rather than exploiting them

There was yet another class of objects in the last decade that sort of was a "store" of value though that class wasn't touted as a "store" of value.  That store of value was ... drumroll... US government securities, despite (actually due to) the fact that deficit hawks reigned supreme after 2009.

In the case of precious metals  and  Bitcoin, a "store" of value was touted as a bulwark against some perceived "threat" from central banks, yada yada yada, but in the Greater Fool theory fueled speculative bubbles.

Bitcoin will be accepted as a medium of exchange in barter long as people accept it, of course, but Bitcoin will never really be money unless, ironically for Bitcoin believers,  at least one government can mandate settlement of transactions in Bitcoin.  But then the Bitcoin believers tend to be suspicious of governments.  While it is true that governments commit many crimes and atrocities, their existence is still preferable to crimes and atrocities committed in failed states whether you're talking about Somalia or that libertarian paradise of yore, the Roman Republic.

Yeah, C4Chaos is right that Bitcoin is more than an object of "value", it's a protocol, but so what? Really, so what? It's not going to replace commerce that exists now, including internet commerce.  And the end of the day you're going to want to have dollars and yen and krona and euros and pounds and yuan, because that's what the rest of the world will take to buy bread and rice and vegetables.  Moreover,  Bitcoin will almost certainly be exploited maliciously.  Unlike robbing a bank (which compromises the bank, not the medium of exchange), if Bitcoin is compromised it does compromise the medium of exchange.

It's really a tremendous waste of time and energy and labor, in my view.   And not particularly useful from a Buddhist ethics standpoint...