Brad Warner on Zen Buddhism as a communal practice

I finished Brad Warner’s Don’t Be A Jerk today for the second time, in preparation for reading his follow-up, It Came From Beyond Zen! Don’t Be A Jerk is described as a “radical but reverent paraphrasing of Dogen’s Treasury of the True Dharma Eye.” That pretty much sums it up. Warner goes through chapters from Dogen’s 800-year-old Zen classic and tries to put them into accessible modern language while not diluting their meaning or impact. You can hear me interview him about this book in the video below:

I thoroughly enjoyed Warner’s paraphrasing of Dogen, but on my second reading I found myself most moved by the final chapter, “Dogen’s Zen In The Twenty-First Century,” in which Warner not only brings Dogen into the present, but also movingly depicts his own current view of Zen after several decades of practice. Rather than paraphrase Warner’s writing, I thought I’d just quote him. (I’ve skipped some bits. Missing bits are replaced by an ellipsis. Also note that “zazen” is seated silent meditation.)

“To me Zen is communal practice of individual deep inquiry. … Throughout human history people have been concerned about the deeper meaning of existence. They wanted to understand who and what they actually were and how they fit into the world. … Among those seekers, there is a certain class of people who try to understand the human condition by sitting very quietly and simply observing themselves in action (even sitting still for long periods is a kind of action; try it sometime if you have any doubts). … Buddhism started not when Shakyamuni had his great revelation by himself. Lots of people had done that before. It began when he made his first efforts to transform that into a communal practice. Although you can – and I think you should – do zazen by yourself, that larger thing we call Zen Buddhism is not something you do by yourself. You can do zazen by yourself. You do Zen Buddhism with other people.”

I think that’s one of the most beautiful summations of Zen Buddhism I’ve read. As someone whose practice has primarily been solitary, it also served as the kick in the pants I needed to find some other folks to sit with. Read the book. You won’t be disappointed.

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POEM: the bodhisattva of Prospect Ave (all praise to Jah)

Photo by Jason Crane

the bodhisattva of Hamilton Ave (all praise to Jah)*

briskly walking (trying to get back
in some sort of shape) I spotted
the bodhisattva beneath a bush

the moss covering him like a robe
the leaves surrounding him
like an offering

at this point in the poem, I very much
want to tell you that I’m listening
to a killer Desmond Dekker track

“Rudie Got Soul” doesn’t have much
to do with a lone bodhisattva
forgotten under a bush

then again, maybe they have
everything
to do with one another

/ / /

Jason Crane
16 February 2018
State College PA

*As you can see from the title of this post, rather than the title of the poem, I had mistakenly placed this statue on Prospect Ave, rather on its true home, Hamilton Ave. Also, in the days since I wrote the poem, someone smashed the statue.

Posted in Buddhism, Music, My poems, Poetry | 1 Comment

Anarchist? Anarcho-curious? Check out these podcasts

I’m an anarchist living in a conservative area. I work as a union organizer for a mainstream union and travel constantly. To maintain a sense of community, especially given how few anarchists I personally run into, one of the places I turn is the world of podcasting. Here are my four favorites. Whether you’re an anarchist or just want to hear views that aren’t covered in the mainstream media, these are all worth checking out.

It’s Going Down

It’s Going Down is a podcast and a robust website. I’ll let them describe themselves: “It’s Going Down is a digital community center from anarchist, anti-fascist, autonomous anti-capitalist and anti-colonial movements. Our mission is to provide a resilient platform to publicize and promote revolutionary theory and action.” Looking for a place to start? I found the audio documentary on San Diego’s Chicano Park very inspiring. Make sure you stay till the song at the end.

The Final Straw Radio

The Final Straw is a weekly radio show produced in Asheville, NC, but covering a range of primarily national and international topics. Each episode is available as a podcast. The interviews are always smart and engaging. I also enjoy the weekly audio column by anarchist prisoner Sean Swain. Looking for a place to start? I enjoyed their recent interview about mutual aid in Puerto Rico.

The Ex-Worker

The Ex-Worker was the first anarchist podcast I listened to. It’s always passionate and well-informed, and often focuses on big-picture ideas that help me as I continue to shape my thoughts on my own approach to anarchism. The Ex-Worker is produced by the folks at CrimethInc., who also put out books, pamphlets, posters, stickers, and a very rich and useful website. Looking for a place to start? Check out their three-part review (1, 2, 3) of 2017. You won’t believe how much stuff happened that you never heard about.

The Hotwire

You’ll notice that The Hotwire has a very similar logo to The Ex-Worker, and that’s not a coincidence. It’s also produced my CrimethInc. Unlike its older sibling, The Hotwire is primarily an anarchist news podcast. It features a round-up of news from around the world with an anarchist bent, and also helps you take action with detailed show notes. Looking for a place to start? Try the most recent episode.

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POEM: types of showers

types of showers

type #45: after you work up a sweat at the gym

type #7: on a cold winter morning when the fire has died down

type #86: with your lover, in which you wash each other

type #86b: with your lover, in which you never get around to washing

type #17: sitting on the toilet, holding a crying baby as the air fills with steam

type #63: after a long walk in the woods on a hot summer day

type #6: following a slip in the mud

type #38: as the last hope to cure a stuffy nose

type #91: in which the running water obscures your tears

type #22: where your mom yells at you to get out before you use up all the hot water

type #4: teaching your young son how to scrub up

type #99: the one that goes long because you’re listening to Star Wars Minute

type #84: the brief one after the hot water has run out

type #32: the one that kills time in the hotel

type #13: when your housemate flushes the toilet and you scream

/ / /

Jason Crane
13 February 2018
Pittsburgh PA

Posted in My poems, Poetry | Leave a comment

POEM: particle & wave

particle & wave

peel back the flesh over the sternum, then slowly separate the ribs
there in the center is the light, both particle & wave
the light will spill into the room, but that’s to be expected
reach your hands into the chest cavity
it’s often best to do this part with your eyes closed
the fingertips are more sensitive than sight
as you press your fingers inward, you should feel
the hard edge of a jewel, concealed there in the light
were your eyes open you’d be unable to see it
your fingers, though, find it easily, willingly, hungrily
withdraw this jewel from the cavity & open your eyes
in the facets of the jewel there are universes reflected
some are worlds like this one, but with subtle changes
others are strange lands unlike any conceived of by the human mind
behind these worlds, at the very center of the jewel
is the home of the light; it sits in a perfectly spherical room
never flickering, never dimming, both particle & wave
knowing this is inside of you, what is beyond your grasp?

/ / /

Jason Crane
6 February 2018
Pittsburgh PA

Posted in Buddhism, My poems, Poetry, Religion, Science | Leave a comment

POEM: “we have the permission of the hunger of the people”

“we have the permission of the hunger of the people”

we began to prepare food in this neglected building
the work of our hands in service of the people we love

the wind had left us little, carried away so much
its violence only the latest example of the lash on our backs

we don’t believe in waiting for The Great White Father to come
we are not subjects or vassals or servants or serfs; we are el pueblo

soon after we started, the police came to visit our kitchen
they told us we had no right to ease the pain of the community

we said: “we have the permission of the hunger of the people”
nobody is coming to save us but ourselves

a little while later the air-conditioned woman arrived with her charm
she negotiated as if we were two equal parties

but we are not two equal parties; one of us is everyone, the other is a fiction
an idea propped up by the belief of those who’ve yet to break their chains

the hot food leaves the stoves, the ovens, and travels to the hearts of our people
we bend with the wind, then rise up again

/ / /

Jason Crane
1 February 2018
State College PA

This poem was inspired by an interview on The Final Straw Radio with organizers from the Centro de Apoyo Mutuo (Mutual Aid Center) in Caguas, Puerto Rico.

Posted in My poems, Poetry, Politics & Activism | Leave a comment