Category Archives: Education

From the List: Protests or sharing? Servants or owners? By Danilo D’Antonio


This came in through the mailing list. If you would like Comrade D’Antonio to see your comments please sign up for the mailinglist at and reply.


Please, would you be
so kind to consider:

Protests or sharing? Servants or owners?

Everywhere in the world, PROTESTS against something (absence of work/income, for rights, caused by control and surveillance) continue to be done by unsatisfied people who do not succeed to find, anyway, a good progress. Demonstrations after all are expressions of past epochs, when we were living in Countries that were self-declared tyrannical (empires, monarchies) and we were then all subjected to despots. In those times, protests could help, because the subdued servant people had this only chance. In addition to bloody revolutions, naturally.

Demonstrations were SERVILE PETITIONS presented to the bosses, to kings, to emperors.
The bosses gave us ALMS and the Story could continue with UNCHANGED SOCIAL STRUCTURE.

But long time ago our situation indeed changed. We begun living in Countries that self-declared democratic and we become FREE MEN, citizens, PEER to PEER with the STATE, people who do not need demostrations nor revolutions.

… Or at least it should be in this way

In fact our “democratic” societies inherited the traditional organization of the tyrannical State. Public jobs, incomes and powers continued to be assigned life long to a minority which aim was to divide, exclude, separate people from the State. This archaic State setting, instead to disappear when SOVEREIGNTY passed to PEOPLES, was mantained by public careerists. So State men for life, by acting a long ABUSE of POWER, still remain above us.

The democratic fundament (without which democracy does NOT exist!) of the periodical restitution of public powers to people still works only inside our government’s ambits. On the contrary, the largest part of our States (public jobs) is still in the hands of a tyrannical minority that, making peoples powerless, can make its worst.

Let us look it better.

In true democratic Countries citizens do NOT need to demostrate. They participate to all the State concrete activities, to public jobs. By staying inside the State, BY BEING THE STATE, citizens give their genuine imprinting to politics. The same rulers, by having around citizens (careful for common good, not for their career), follow fair policies, commit themselves to do their best. They know otherwise would be put to shame.

Now, after known this UNDUE LINK TO THE PAST, this GLOBAL POLITICAL TRAP, we can choose.

We can:

– continue to protest: in this way we contribute to make live
mankind eternally in a fake, minim, partial, democracy;

– help people to EMANCIPATE: to become aware of what happened,
about things work, how we can build a complete democracy.

We can choose to:

– continue to servilely protest for the problems
inevitably generated by tyrannical States,

– inform world’s peoples (Internet greatly help us)
about the above and all together build NEW STATES.

Indeed the most powerful people of the world are no longer Bilderberg’s, Davos or Wall Street’s tycoons.

The most influent people able to change our world now are us. The world, now, is literally in our hands.

Let us everywhere claim for PUBLIC DEMOCRATIC EMPLOYMENTS, for shared public jobs: assigned tempouraneously among citizens who have the requirements necessary for the role and wish to serve their people. It will become impossible for every clique, elite and mafia even attempt to maneuver our States. THE STATE ARE US! Only servants demonstrate. Legitimate owners, people sovereign on their respective RES PUBLICAs, do not protest.

They, we, pacifically, legally, civilly, go to OCCUPY our LEGITIMATE PLACE in the STATE.

Danilo D’Antonio


everyone’s empowerment

More ramblings on Buddhist Anarcho-Socialism by Joe Ferris


So…I’ve decided that in addition to my blog about music and gigs on my website ( I’m also going to use this blog from to share my thoughts and things I find online relating to the topics of Anarchism, Socialism & Buddhism. These three schools of thought may seem contradictory to you, but I aim to use this blog to show you that they do in fact walk hand in hand. I think if I share with you what I learn about these topics, the relations between them will become fairly self-evident.

It might be handy to start by defining what I mean by some key terms, as well as what I do not mean:

By Anarchy I do not mean to refer to a state of chaos or violence. “Anarchism as a political philosophy has nothing to do with violence” but the belief that a society can have community cohesion without state coercion. To imagine that chaos would result from Anarchism is to assume that the anarchist is opposed to order and organisation, when in fact he only opposes hierarchy and dominance. Organisation and hierarchy are not the same thing. I don’t like taking orders, but that doesn’t mean that my life is without order.
The sentiment of the social anarchist is that people are not the emotionally childish, naturally competitive, violent barbarians that the media conditions us to fear but are in fact naturally co-operative and inclined toward mutuality and reciprocity. The media message becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when we buy into it and allow them to pit us against each other. Inequality and the enforcement of redundant laws are a way to make criminals of us all.
Philosophies like Anarchism are scorned as dangerous, violent and radical ideologies when in fact it is the adherents to the Capitalist economic system that wage wars and make massive profits from their industries of instruments of death. Anarchism is against such violence, promoting pacifism until physical resistance is your only defence left against oppression. It’s not about reverting back to a stone age system by throwing all human advancement onto the scrapheap, but about using that advancement for the benefit of humanity. And recognising that our technological advancement is not a product of Capitalism but of human endeavour. In the same way, the moral advancements we’ve made are not the product of instruction from God/s or law makers but of our own hearts & minds.
We can behave in a manner conducive to common goals without seeking external justification for our feelings towards what is wrong and what is right. Why do you suppose you’ve never murdered your neighbours and stolen their possessions? Because you fear going to hell or prison, or because you recognise that you yourself would not like to be a victim of such immoral behaviour and that it’s more beneficial for you as a social creature to conduct yourself in a way that is sensitive to other people’s needs? We should be able to take pride in our own good conduct but instead we are taught that the credit for our behaving well belongs to the super egoic deities and law enforcers while the responsibility for us behaving badly is solely ours to bear.
I’m almost half-way through a book I’d like to share with you called Reinventing Anarchy: What Are Anarchists Thinking These Days? I think it was published in the ’70s but the ideas all seem to still be relevent. If you’re struggling to reconcile Anarchism and Socialism then this is definitely the book for you. I got my copy in Oxfam but you can read a preview online before deciding whether you’d like to buy it or not
By Buddha I’m not necessarily referring to an historical character, but to the optimum state of consciousness for a human being, the seed of which lives within us all. I have no idea whether the historical Buddha ever existed and I don’t think it’s particularly important. When you receive your mail you tear the envelope open and throw it away don’t you? The existence of the envelope ceases to be of any relevence when you have the message in your hand. Bodhi mind is a potential that we can all reach rather than being the reserve of one super human of the past who may or may not have existed at all.
At the temple I bow before the statue of the Buddha, prostrating and thinking to myself “Buddham saranam gachami, Dhammam saranam gachami, Sanghang saranam gachami”. (I go to the Buddha/Dharma/Sangha for my refuge”. My homage to the Buddha is about a respect for that state of mind. By Dhamma I mean truth and the ability to see things for what they are in that state of mind, the perfect vision. By Sangha I refer to a perfect sense of community that comes from equalising oneself with others through loving kindness meditation as well as an understanding of the interconnectedness of existence.
Here’s a documentary about the story of the life of the Buddha that I enjoyed. I think you’ll agree that it’s a more powerful narrative when you’re open to metaphor and symbolism that we can all relate to rather than taking it literally.

If You Want Peace, Stop Paying For War


Last week, I became a war tax resister. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, and finally this spring my actions aligned with my intentions and I sent the following letter to the Internal Revenue Service:

April 17, 2012

Dear friends at the IRS,

For the past 20 years, I have been a Buddhist. This year I was ordained as a Buddhist chaplain. My religious beliefs include a commitment to follow the precepts as originally taught by Shakyamuni Buddha, the first of which is to not kill and not take life.

I have faithfully paid my federal income taxes for all of my working life.  But this year my conscience will no longer allow me to continue to fund a war machine that is, to my mind, unethical in almost every way.

While I do understand the need for some kind of defense system, what I have seen, particularly over the last decade, is that the use of our military forces and budget goes far beyond any sane definition of “defense.” The money that I have paid in taxes has been used to invade countries that posed no imminent threat to us (case in point: Iraq), to build predatory drones and other weapons that have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians, to support soldiers who impose illegal torture tactics on those in their custody; I can no longer condone these nor other deadly and aggressive military activities through my tax money.

If there were an option to designate that these funds could go toward other much areas of the U.S. budget that invest in the health and wellbeing of our citizens, such as health care or infrastructure development, I would gladly choose that option (which is why I support HR 1191, the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Bill). Given that is not the case, I am withholding $108 from the money that is due for my 2011 tax and am diverting that money to an organization that helps to cultivate peace rather than war.

My sincere wish is that one day we can all work together to lessen the suffering impacted on both our own citizens and soldiers as well as the people of other countries who have been targets of our military actions.

In kindness,

Maia Duerr

cc: President Barack Obama
Senator Jeff Bingaman
Senator Tom Udall
Representative Ben Lujan
National War Tax Resistance Committee

The amount that I withheld does not come close to the amount allocated toward defense spending (take a look at this calculator to see how your taxes get divvied up to the military), but I wanted to start somewhere and $108 felt like an auspicious number.

I don’t know where this path will lead, but I am hoping that my meditation practice will help with readiness for whatever arises.

I have been inspired by a number of people who have gone down this road before me, and in the past week found this article from Jesse Jiryu Davis, member of the Village Zendo in New York City and  a war tax resister since 2006, particularly helpful. These words from Jesse especially moved me:

I think the greatest danger to me is not that I’ll be punished by the government, but that I’ll forget my intention… I have to keep in mind that the reason I decided not to pay my federal taxes in the first place was because I refuse, as a Buddhist, to use violence to achieve my goals. As soon as I make enemies of those with whom I disagree, as soon as I take pleasure in winning a conflict, I’ve already lost. As Zen Master Seng T’san said, “A hair’s breadth difference, and heaven and earth are set apart.”

original post:

Constructing and tearing down your hermitage by Shinkai


“Home is where the heart is”

I would say, however, “Heart is where the home is, and the home is everywhere”

Poets, sages, & monks in ancient times made their hermitages on the sides of mountains, in forests, in jungles. Your hermitage has already sprung up around you. It is apartment walls so thin you can hear your neighbors shouting. It is a backyard fence with dogs barking on the other side. Your hermitage is the bus you ride to work in the morning, rolling across the earth. You have no control over it, you can’t protect it from the weather or the heat, but you can appreciate it.

It is yours, this hermitage, this life. Kodo says “everyone is homeless.” Where does your heart go?

Gassho and thank you for being here.

– Shinkai

Kropotkin and Buddha: Mutual Aid and Loving-Kindness


I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between the life of the world’s foremost anarcho-communist, Peter Kropotkin, with the life of the world’s foremost teacher, Buddha. Both were born as princes, but they both voluntarily gave up their princely titles. The Buddha came from a warrior caste (Kshatriya), and Kropotkin was born to the descendants of both nobility and Russian generals. In fact, Kropotkin entered into a military school at a young age, and his memoirs detailed the hazing and other abuses which lead to the school’s notoriety. They were both also considered to live meritorious, if not near perfect, lives. In his work De Profundis, Oscar Wilde described Peter Kropotkin as “a man with a soul of that beautiful white Christ which seems coming out of Russia” and living one of the “most perfect lives”.

Peter Kropotkin also recognized, in his work Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution, that early Buddhist communities embodied the principle of mutual aid. In this context, mutual aid means voluntary reciprocal exchange of resources and services for mutual benefit. The work itself was to demonstrate that, despite the claims of social Darwinists, “it was an evolutionary emphasis on cooperation instead of competition in the Darwinian sense that made for the success of species, including the human.”

In his work Ethics: Origin and Development, Kropotkin often praised both Christianity and Buddhism for they “gave man a lofty moral lesson.” He also noted that, “The principal point wherein Christianity and Buddhism differed from all preceding religions was in the fact that instead of the cruel, revengeful gods to whose will men had to submit, these two religions brought forward — as an example for men and not to intimidate them — an ideal man-god.” He also further contrasted them from earlier religions, noting that “the point where Christianity and Buddhism did introduce a new principle into the life of humanity was in demanding of man complete forgiveness for the harm inflicted upon him. Up to that time the tribal morality of all peoples demanded revenge, personal or even tribal, for every injury: for murder, for wound, for insult.” Later on, he also noted that “The life of these two teachers was passed, not in temples, not in academies, but among the poor, and from among these poor and not from among the temple-priests came Christ’s apostles. And if at a later date Christianity as well as Buddhism evolved into the ‘Church,’ i.e., the government of the ‘chosen,’ with the inevitable vices of all governments — such development constituted a flagrant deviation from the will of the two founders of religion, notwithstanding all the attempts that were later made to justify this deviation by citing the books written many years after the death of the teachers themselves.”

I have to say that many of my own ideas have been influenced, either directly or indirectly, by both Kropotkin and Buddha. I also cannot help but see a lot of similarities between the two, which is only accentuated by Kropotkin’s own appraisal of Buddha. I just thought I would share this, and ask if anyone else had any thoughts?

Original Post:

This practice is nothing special…..


My brother Yugen posted this today on the forum at Treeleaf. Just thought I’d share.

I don’t as a rule post much or reply a lot on the forum(s) here…. I do visit every day and feel very close to all of you. I just do not feel as facile at commenting or going with the flow of discussion threads. I do, however, increasingly find myself wondering throughout the day how each of you are…. and I think about Eika and his wife, Louis and his sister, Jennifer and her cat, and our sangha mates who experience loss, illness, suffering, and the many occurrences of daily life that we would just rather avoid, ’cause they just hurt too much….

I find that each day I say metta for my friends and a silent prayer. My sittings have grown in length, I chant and say wellness prayers, I read the Heart Sutra, I send time in the morning silently cataloguing the things I have to be grateful for. For me, this is a big deal.

You see, for much of my life I have been a very selfish, self centered individual. I need this practice because without it, I am am not a very nice person. Many vistas have been opened for me since I have been hanging out with you – I cry randomly sometimes when sitting, I think of my friends, and silently breath in and out, sending them warm energy and thoughts. I have also found great joy in snowflakes and monarch butterflies…. In the process, I have found that this practice is nothing that special, because it does not confer any special benefits or powers. It just allows me to be a human being – to feel the joys of sunlight and laughter, to feel the sadness of loss and impermanence, to reach out silently when my friends here go through the ups and downs of life.

So this practice did nothing really special for me today when I got word in the morning that a dear old friend (in the hospital since Friday on a ventilator) had decided to put an end to his suffering – to go off the ventilator and pass on. He announced this to his wife and daughters at 9 AM, and at 2 PM he was gone. He had a mutiple myeloma as well as pneumonia, so the prognosis was not good. He did not want to be a burden to his family… . His wife called me late morning and asked if I would come to the hospital. I went to the hospital and said goodbye to my friend. I saw that he was radiant in the knowledge that he had made a decision after a tiring illness, and I was the one who was a mess – my feelings of loss have more to do with my own resistance to change, with my own struggle with impermanence (which I will lose), and the fact that tonight, I miss my friend. He taught me a great lesson today, even as he had only minutes left on this earth, in this form…. he radiated love and gratitude…. and he taught me something about friendship.

I cried all the way home…. what does Zen have to say about this – “When you feel like crying – cry-” …. I hugged my wife and kids extra hard this evening. I have lit a candle on the kitchen table for my friend, at the place where he used to sit and drink wine while visiting. I will have a small service for him tonight when I sit, and for a my friends here who are experiencing life “as it is”…. regardless of what we want, or desire, or wish to avoid….

This practice has done nothing for me…. so I am able to be just a human being…. the tears flow…. and so does the gratitude…. my time and your time and our time will come but it would not mean anything if we didn’t have only one chance at it. It wouldn’t mean anything if we didn’t have something to be attached to, something to lose, and therefore a practice to help us realize the suffering caused by these attachments and notions of permanence. I need this practice…. every minute of every day. So thank you for practicing with me.

A deep bow,

AHHHH!!!! Real Buddhists!


Utne Reader has a story called Bad Buddhist Vibes: Buddhism is America’s fastest-growing religion, and it’s making some people uncomfortable. The story is as follows:
<blockquote>At least 2 million Buddhists currently practice their religion in the United States, and many of their fellow citizens disapprove. A survey conducted by political scientists Robert Putnam and David Campbell, coauthors of <em>American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us</em> (2010), endeavored to determine how Americans perceive the nation’s major religions and found that Buddhists rank second to last, above only Muslims, writes James Coleman in <strong>Buddhadharma</strong> (Fall 2011). The same survey reports that whereas a large Christian church coming to their neighborhood would be acceptable, a large Buddhist temple would raise objections from one in five Americans.

The negative image seems to stem from a lack of publicity, which has contributed to the sort of ignorance that fuels fear. “Buddhism has remained something of a stealth religion, virtually invisible to most people outside our cosmopolitan coastal enclaves,” explains Coleman, who entreats practitioners to enter the public discourse, especially since the faith has become America’s fastest-growing religion with numbers rivaling those of Mormons, Muslims, Anglicans/Episcopalians, and practicing Jews. Coleman points to His Holiness the Dalai Lama for inspiration, not only because of his peace-loving message, but also because of his carefully crafted public image.

Original Story: <a href=””></a></blockquote&gt;

Awakening From The Illusion Of Our Separateness by David Loy


We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness.
–Thich Nhat Hanh

I came to realize clearly that mind is no other than mountains and rivers and the great wide earth, the sun and the moon and the stars.

Do Buddhist teachings offer a different way of understanding the ecological crisis? Although the Buddha lived a long time ago, there seem to be profound parallels between what he taught about our individual predicament and our collective ecological predicament today. If those parallels are valid, the eco-crisis is not only a technological and economic challenge but also a spiritual one.

In both cases the basic problem is duality: the delusive sense of a separation between myself and other people, between ourselves and the rest of the biosphere.

In contemporary terms, our sense of being separate from others is a psychosocial construct, composed of habitual ways of thinking, feeling and acting. The construction of a “me” inside is also the construction of an external, objective world experienced as outside. This duality is at the root of my suffering, because the supposedly separate self is always insecure. It can never secure itself because there’s nothing substantial that could be secured. But we nonetheless keep trying to secure ourselves, usually by identifying with things “outside” us that (we think) can provide the grounding we crave: money, possessions, reputation, etc. Tragically, such attempts to solve the problem often reinforce the sense that there’s a “me” separate from others.

The Buddhist solution to this predicament is not to get rid of the self, because there is no substantial self to get rid of. I simply need to “wake up” and see through the illusion of separation: I am not inside, peering out at an external world. Rather, “I” am what the whole world is doing, right here and now. This realization frees me to live as I choose, but that will naturally be in a way that contributes to the well-being of the whole, because I don’t feel apart from that whole.

This Buddhist account of our individual predicament corresponds precisely to our collective ecological predicament today:

1. Like the self, human civilization is also a construct that involves separation and suffering. That civilization is our collective construct, which we can and do reconstruct, is obvious to us but was not obvious to most premodern societies, which assumed that their own social structure was just as natural (and therefore inevitable) as their local ecosystems. The distinctions we now make between the natural world, the social order, and religion did not exist for such cultures. Often they believed they served an important function in keeping the cosmos going: for the Aztecs, mass human sacrifice kept the sun-god on his correct course through the heavens.

The important point is that such peoples shared a collective sense of meaning we have lost today. That meaning was built into the cosmos and revealed by their religion, both taken for granted. In contrast, the meaning of our lives and our societies has become something that we have to determine for ourselves in a universe whose meaningfulness (if any) is no longer obvious. The price of the freedoms we cherish today is losing their kind of “social security”: the basic comfort that comes from “knowing” one’s place and role. What sort of world, what kind of society, do we want? If we cannot depend on God or godlike rulers to tell us, we are thrown back upon ourselves, and the lack of any grounding greater than ourselves is a profound source of suffering, collective as well as individual.

2. Our collective response to that alienation and anxiety is making things worse. Just as I try to secure my anxious sense of self “inside” by compulsively identifying with things in the “outside” world, the collective equivalent is our institutionalized obsession with never-ending “progress.” What motivates our attitude towards economic and technological “growthism”? Why do we always need more? Why is more always better if it can never be enough?

Technology and economic growth in themselves may be a good means to accomplish something but they are not good as ends-in-themselves. Since we are not sure what else to value and seek, however, they have become a collective substitute: a kind of secular salvation that we pursue but never quite attain. Lacking the security that comes from “knowing” our role in the cosmos, we have become demonically obsessed with ever-increasing power and control, trying to remold the earth until everything becomes a “resource” to use. Ironically, if predictably, this has not been providing the sense of security and meaning that we seek. Culturally as well as individually, we have become more anxious and confused.

3. Just as there is no need to get rid of the separate self, because it is a delusion, so there is no need to return to nature, because we have never left it. The Earth is not only our home, it is our mother. In fact, our relationship is even more intimate, because we can never cut the umbilical cord. The air, water, and food that pass through us have always been part of a greater holistic system that circulates through us.

If this is an accurate description of our collective situation, the ecological crisis requires more than a technological response. We must recognize that we are an integral part of the natural world and embrace our responsibility for its welfare, for the well-being of the biosphere ultimately cannot be distinguished from our own well-being.

But how does realizing our nonduality with the Earth resolve the basic anxiety that haunts us now, because we must create our own meaning in a world where God has died? Like it or not, today we are called upon to serve a vital function: the long-term task of repairing the rupture between us and Mother Earth. That healing will transform us as much as the biosphere.

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Zen is Not in the Helping Profession by Brad Warner


For the past few years a number of people have been suggesting that I join one or both of the current US-based associations of Zen teachers, the SZBA (Soto Zen Buddhist Association) and the AZTA (American Zen Teachers Association). I’ve hemmed and hawed about this for quite some time. Some of those who belong to or even hold important positions in these organizations are friends of mine. I respect their views on most matters. So when they say I ought to join these groups, I believe their opinion on the matter is worth considering.

Yet for all this time I still haven’t joined either organization. Something about them just Friday, April 08, 2011
Zen is Not in the Helping Profession

For the past few years a number of people have been suggesting that I join one or both of the current US-based associations of Zen teachers, the SZBA (Soto Zen Buddhist Association) and the AZTA (American Zen Teachers Association). I’ve hemmed and hawed about this for quite some time. Some of those who belong to or even hold important positions in these organizations are friends of mine. I respect their views on most matters. So when they say I ought to join these groups, I believe their opinion on the matter is worth considering.

Yet for all this time I still haven’t joined either organization. Something about them just didn’t seem right to me. It was never anything I could articulate very well. It was just a feeling I had. It seemed to me that to join one of these organizations would go directly against the most fundamental reasons I got into this whole Zen thing in the first place. Yet for a long time I couldn’t put my finger on why I felt that way.

I’ve finally managed to nail down what it is that troubles me so deeply about these organizations. And it comes down to one single word. That word is “professional,” as well as its grammatical variations (professionalism, profession, etc.).

In the fall out from the sex scandals involving Genpo Roshi, Eido Shimano Roshi, Maezumi Roshi, Baker Roshi and whoever else has been caught with their dick where it wasn’t supposed to be, a lot of people are saying the same thing. They say that Zen teachers are very much like therapists, doctors and lawyers and as such should be required to belong to some kind of organization to police their activities the way these other professionals are.

Let me just spell my position out very clearly here.

Zen teachers are not therapists.

Zen teachers are not doctors.

Zen teachers are not lawyers.

I recently came across a piece on the Internet in which someone lamented the current state of affairs in the Zen world and then asked, “Is Zen not, in it’s deepest sense, in the helping profession?”

I also came across a statement by a member of both SZBA and AZTA stating, “the SZBA and the AZTA hold the premises that Zen teaching is a profession.”

These statements are both entirely incorrect. I know it’s far too bold for me to say such a thing when so many people believe that these statements are correct. But this is my firm position on the matter.

Zen is not in the helping profession. Zen teachers are not professionals.

A Zen teacher is someone who has chosen to do serious work on herself or himself. Our experiences in doing this work on ourselves can be useful to others. Many of us allow other people to join us in this work. Those who join us in this work may very well be helped. And most of us will try our best to help them when we can.

But fundamentally a Zen teacher is not a professional who helps students who are non-professionals in exchange for compensation. The so-called “students” are actually companions in work that is being undertaken by both teacher and student. The only real difference is that the teacher is someone who has done this work for a bit longer than the student. Yet the teacher is no more advanced, because the concept of “advancement” is an illusion.

This is why I refuse to accept students. I do not wish to share my work with anyone who defines herself or himself as my student. That would be unfair to both of us. Such a person is only a hindrance to me. They get in the way of what I need to do. Frankly, students are a nuisance. Furthermore, their attitude of viewing themselves as students is a hindrance to them. It’s such a hindrance that it makes it impossible for me to help them even if I wanted to.

Zen teachers are not in the helping profession. That would imply that we charge money to people who come to us to be helped, the way a professional therapist does. It would imply that we promise to help heal them in exchange for that money, the way professional doctors do. It implies that we promise them concrete results from our paid efforts to help them, the way professional lawyers do. No decent Zen teacher I know of views what he or she does in that way.

In fact, I would be so bold as to further state that the root of many of the problems in Zen right now stem from the fact that too many Zen teachers view themselves as “professionals” or as members of the “helping profession.”

I disagree completely with the position taken by the SZBA and the AZTA. They are dead wrong. Zen teaching is not a profession and must never be a profession. A professional is someone who charges for their services and promises some kind of results, even if not necessarily promising what the client views as success. The moment Zen teachers start looking upon what they do in this way, what they do is no longer Zen teaching at all.

Furthermore, whenever I think about joining one of these organizations I have to ask what such an organization would do for me. If I join the Musicians Union, for example, by paying dues to that organization and abiding by its rules I get some form of compensation. The union engages in collective bargaining so that I can earn a living wage and provides members in good standing with group discounts on medical insurance and so on.

But what does any Zen teacher get from being part of one of these Zen teacher unions? I suppose we get their seal of approval, sort of like the Better Business Bureau. Maybe we get invited to big parties once in a while where we can all hang out with each other, although we have to pay our own way to get there. But we don’t get a whole lot else.

I suppose my position on this may strike some readers as an unforgivably selfish attitude. And it would be, if we were talking about an organization of noble bodhisattvas running around trying to help each other save all beings before saving themselves and asking nothing in return.

But that’s not what is being proposed by these organizations. And we can know this for certain because of their use of the word “professional.” What is being proposed here is a professional organization for professional people who, just like the doctors, lawyers and therapists we’re being categorized with, charge for their services and promise results. People who charge for their services and promise results ought to be held accountable for the results of those services. I, for one, do not promise any results. Nor do I offer any help. I will let you join me in my work if I feel that you won’t get in the way of what I need to do. Historically this has always been the attitude of Zen teachers. Why else do you think it was so hard for people to become students of the Zen teachers of the past? If they were professionals, their rates would have been posted at the door and anyone who was willing to pay would have been welcome to come on in. That was never the case. Until today.

Unfortunately, the position I am taking here is clearly in the minority. It’s obvious that people like me who do not view Zen teaching as a profession are going to lose this battle. Organizations like SZBA and AZTA will become more and more powerful, and teachers who refuse to classify themselves as members of the helping profession will be marginalized. Those who refuse to join will have red flags stuck all over them and few will attend their Zen groups anymore. Which is fine, actually. The majority will, instead, go to the professionals who charge for services rendered and promise results. Good luck with that.

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Brad Warner is a Zen monk, writer, bass player and film-maker. He wrote the books Sex, Sin and Zen, Hardcore Zen, Sit Down And Shut Up and Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate. He received Dharma Transmission from Gudo Nishijima Roshi, who received his transmission from Rempo Niwa Roshi who was the head of the Soto Sect in Japan. He was also a student of Tim McCarthy, who was a student of Kobun Chino Roshi.

#OccupySamsara: What It Is Right Now by margoshka


Lately it’s been difficult to write about Occupy Wall Street both for lack of time (what with all the marches, rallies, and meetings) and also because there’s so much to say. It’s hard to know where to start. There are a lot of emotions.


So many meetings, so much to do. There’s so much to fix in our society: corruption in politics, financial sector crime, wars for profit, environmental pollution, human rights abuses, access to health care, growing economic disparity, low quality high cost education system, debt-based economy, and vast societal discontent. Those are just some of the large-scale systems that require big changes. The magnitude and breadth of those challenges are overwhelming. The feeling is one of drowning, can’t tell up from down, which way to swim for the surface.


Many people in, and out of, the OWS movement are angry at the state of the world. Some are also angry at each other. From the micro to the macro, from the Kitchen running out of food when it comes to your turn in line to Bloomberg’s “private army” the NYPD evicting the OWS camp from Liberty Plaza in the middle of the night barring the press and arresting over 200 protestors, there’s a lot to be angry about. Anger is fiery and hot. Most o us tend to refuse the emotion, try to push it away. This aversion only serves to give the anger more power. Sometimes by allowing the feeling to be there I find it roars up in my chest, clenches my belly, tightens my hands… and then it dissolves.


It’s a scary world out there where peaceful demonstrators are beaten, sprayed with chemical weapons, arrested and humiliated all in the name of “public health” or “park regulations”. It’s pretty terrifying that the government officials charged with protecting us are working to pass legislation to allow for indefinite detention of civilians without charges right here in the US of A, land of the free. The prison industrial complex is just one example of modern day slavery systematized privatized and legalized by our corporate-backed government. So if you are scared, don’t worry you’re not crazy. Fear in and of itself is not a problem – take it as a sign that you are seeing clearly. Make friends with your Fear, respect it, maybe have a conversation over tea and cookies.


There’s no shortage of passion among the activists at OWS. But passion can feel like a tsunami, sweeping away logic, reason and normalcy. What’s left in its wake is the raw, naked, vulnerable and tender ground. This is the ground of awakening. It also means that everyone is extra touchy and jumpy. We are all a bit raw from the birth pangs of the revolution. It isn’t easy to develop consensus in a group of highly passionate individuals.


We want a better world so badly it’s absolutely maddening. Desire is like a starving coyote gnawing on my viscera. It’s painful, it’s profound, it’s mystical – this driving force is arguably responsible for all advancements in civilization, all forms of our modern creature comforts, all works of art and ingenuity. The desire for improvement is a beautiful human quality. This allows us to have a vision, to set goals, and to work together in accomplishing important tasks. However the Buddha pointed out long ago that the root of all discontent and suffering is desire for things to be other than what they are. In every moment we humans manage to find fault. I’m either hungry, or sleepy, or lovesick, or homesick, or worried about some near or far future. All this looking forward (and back) is actually preventing me from experiencing the real brilliance of this very moment with all its sparkle, erotic charge, freshness and vigor.


Yeah, this one is such a cliche. We hear the word so often. “Oh, I loved that movie!” and “I love turkey burgers,” or “I love my iPad 2.” We know those are mere perversions, misuses of the word “love”. We are limited by language, but real love, or true love, or unconditional love is actually so big that it encompasses, embraces, caresses all the myriad of other human emotions. Love is what creeps in through the empty spaces between thoughts when I look up at the sky. It doesn’t matter if it’s sunny or dark, cloudy or clear, sweltering or frigid. Love is what keeps us coming back to 60 Wall St to attend another slew of meetings after yesterday’s chaos at Spokes Council. Love is what drives the direct actions, the meditation circles, the People’s Library and People’s Kitchen. This love is wide open, universal, unequivocal and unwavering. Sometimes it hurts and we know that is the reality of life.

“If your house falls down, get on top of the ruins and dance.” -Doña Leova

Love is both the light and the dark, the harsh and the soft, the strong and gentle, the light and the shadow. This power of goodness exists not in opposition to bad, instead it envelops all experience. This energy of wakefulness is present even in the deepest sleep. Love is the ground on which we walk, the air we breathe, the smile on a friend’s face, the heat of fire, the coolness of ice. Nature exhibits love in all her glory. What better hope do we have than to follow suit?


#OccupySamsara is a column dedicated to the heartfelt yearning for all sentient beings to be safe, happy, healthy, and free from suffering. Samsara is a Sanskrit word used by Buddhists to describe the cyclical nature of our own and societal suffering and dissatisfaction.

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