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Being a Famous Zen Master


Recently, I’ve been sharing chapters I wrote for a proposed “Zen self help book” that I by no means completed. At the time I uploaded the earlier installment of this weblog, I believed I’d already discovered the entire chapters of my tried “self help book,” however I used to be unsuitable! I discovered this in one other file folder on my laptop computer. I’m not fully positive what I wrote it for. But it suits the “self help book” theme. So I’m presenting it together with these different chapters.

Let me inform you a little about what being a well-known Zen Master is like for me.

The day that a main cable information community despatched a limo to choose me as much as tape a phase for his or her Sunday information present, I knew I’d lastly develop into the factor I most feared I’d develop into, a religious movie star. 

I’m not a main movie star, thoughts you. I hope I by no means attain that degree. But I’m well-known sufficient that it’s beginning to fear me. Spiritual celebrities are the worst. A couple of well-known religious masters have mentioned or executed issues which might be OK, I suppose. But most of what rises to the so-called “top” within the religious instructor recreation is fairly dire. Then there’s the entire matter of fame itself. A Buddhist is meant to shun it. And I’m beginning to perceive why. But it’s not for the explanations I might have anticipated.

Here’s an instance of what it’s been like for me to be well-known — or not less than kind of well-known. A couple of years in the past I’m in the bathroom at Pat’s In The Flats, a gap within the wall bar in Cleveland with a stage in regards to the measurement of a postage stamp. The band I play bass for, Zero Defex (0DFx), was nearly to go on. This man on the urinal subsequent to me begins saying, “You’re Brad Warner aren’t you? You wrote books! You’re famous, huh?” He appears indignant about this. He’s drunk off his butt and I ponder, is mad sufficient to attempt to pee throughout me? Or worse?

The man finishes peeing. Then he sidles up subsequent to me on the sink and presses on, slurring and stumbling. “I should be famous,” he growls. “What’s it like being famous?”

I’m tempted to say that being well-known is like having some drunk come as much as you in the bathroom of a scummy bar in Cleveland and badger you about being well-known. But I sense that he is perhaps a first rate man who’s simply letting his frustrations out as individuals do once they’re drunk — that’s but one more reason I don’t drink. So I attempt to keep good. 

I don’t bear in mind exactly what I mentioned to him. But no matter I mentioned appeared to calm him down, not less than for the second. Later within the evening, although, he took to slamming into me throughout one other band’s set regardless that I used to be clearly standing effectively exterior the socially designated space for moshing. At one level the drunk man who should have been well-known rammed me so arduous that I fell over backwards and knocked down a blonde girl in black knee excessive boots and a tight mini-skirt. When I went to assist her up off the bottom, I acknowledged her. She had launched herself earlier within the evening as a fan of my books and mentioned what an honor it was to satisfy me. I apologized for slamming into her. She mentioned it was OK.

I made it by way of the remainder of the evening unhurt. But ever since then I’ve been serious about what the man in the bathroom requested. What is it wish to be well-known? And moreover what does it imply to be well-known for being a Buddhist instructor when one of many chief tenets of Buddhism is the rejection of fame.

To the extent that I’m well-known I’d say that being well-known largely annoying. Every so typically one thing good occurs, like a somebody saying how a lot she admires my work, or a tiny little examine within the mail for one thing I wrote, or my title on the duvet of a journal that as a rule didn’t pay for the article I wrote for them. But largely being well-known is a ache within the ass. All the stereotypical stuff that occurs to individuals once they get well-known for singing or performing or having large boobs occurs if you get well-known for being a religious instructor too. People get over-excited once they see you. They fawn. They anticipate to be entertained the second you stroll into a room. Your pals get jealous. Your followers get upset if you happen to don’t say or do the issues they suppose it’s best to.

Even my so-called “dharma brothers”  —the individuals who had studied and practiced Buddhism with me earlier than I grew to become well-known — behaved in a different way in the direction of me as soon as I had some books out. One informed me, “I wonder what you have been up to on your tour of TV shows and magazine articles as a minor celebrity over there in the US, sitting around in your bright golden robe and waving your stick around.” Another one mentioned he was going to, “go public, with every resource I have privately and on the Internet to make you a laughing stock, to tell folks what I think of you, to embarrass you. I will speak out, you embarrassment to yourself, our teacher, all of us associated with this.” Thanks. And namaste to you too, brother.

Ironically sufficient I got here to fame solely after I finished searching for it. I had a few bands within the eighties that I actually hoped would hit the massive time, however by no means did. In the nineties I began writing sci-fi novels that I hoped would make me a profession as a paperback author, however nobody ever revealed these. While this was occurring I’d additionally been training Zen, simply as a private curiosity, with no intention of educating it or writing about it. But after my third sci-fi novel failed to seek out a writer, I wrote an autobiographical e-book about my Zen follow with no actual intention of publishing it since I thought of it unpublishable. When I completed that e-book, I despatched it to some publishers on a whim and bizarrely it was that e-book that lastly received me revealed.

On the eve of the e-book’s publication I went to my Zen instructor’s room and mentioned, “If this book sells a lot of copies, I’ll become famous.” I wasn’t excited up about this. I didn’t say it like, “Oh boy! Won’t that be wonderful?” I used to be anxious. Wouldn’t changing into well-known break the vows I’d taken to abstain from such pursuits?

“That is great!” my instructor mentioned, to my astonishment. He inspired me to work arduous to generate as many gross sales as doable. Wouldn’t that be in opposition to the Buddha’s injunctions to not chase after fame, I requested. In reply, my instructor requested me if I had I written the e-book with a view to develop into well-known. No, I hadn’t, I mentioned. I’d written it as an expression of my follow. Then if fame was the end result, my instructor mentioned, that was high quality.

It’s not fame itself that the Buddha warns us in opposition to, my instructor mentioned, however the pursuit of fame. And the explanation the Buddha warned us about pursuing fame wasn’t as a result of he didn’t need us to have the happiness all of us think about fame can deliver. Nor did this warning spring from any mystical perception into some arcane substrata of Reality inaccessible to the unenlightened. The Buddha was a very well-known individual in his time, and he had been rich earlier than he gave up his wealth to develop into a religious seeker. 

He knew from his personal expertise that fame and wealth weren’t worthy targets for any clever individual and he didn’t need his followers to imagine in any other case. Yet he additionally knew that being well-known was a excellent strategy to unfold his message. Certainly that message has typically develop into distorted past recognition. But it couldn’t have survived in any respect for 2500 years had the Buddha not taken upon himself the burden of fame. And so the Buddha wasn’t in opposition to fame in and of itself.

Still, there are good causes many Buddhist academics by way of the ages — a few of whom have been additionally fairly well-known — have all urged us to not attempt to develop into well-known. We’re so conditioned to imagine that cash and fame are the keys to happiness that if we get them it’s almost unattainable to see them for what they are surely. Even when fame and cash clearly don’t equal happiness, it’s straightforward for a well-known or rich individual to imagine that one thing is unsuitable with them for not being proud of their wealth and fame. We see this on a regular basis within the gossip mags. We watch celebrities commit suicide regardless of having every part anybody might probably need. Yet we fail to grasp this for what it’s.

Buddhism isn’t a philosophy that urges poverty for the sake of poverty or one which urges forgoing Earthly pleasures for the rewards of Heaven or the Afterlife. Buddhism is in regards to the pursuit of happiness on this lifetime. The Buddha was a sensible individual. If cash and fame led to happiness, the Buddha would have urged us to pursue them. He didn’t. He warned us in opposition to pursuing fame as a result of he understood clearly the happiness couldn’t end result from such pursuits. He warned us in opposition to pursuing fame as a result of he knew that pursuing fame makes individuals depressing.

But the Buddha was additionally a sensible individual. When he discovered himself in some explicit set of circumstances he acted in accord with them and used these circumstances to attempt to enhance the standard of life for each his college students and for himself. 

Whether or not you hit the massive time with no matter it’s you do is irrelevant. Just preserve doing what you do the most effective you may. If others discover your efforts, high quality. If they don’t, additionally high quality. The universe has its personal agenda and issues hardly ever go the way in which we expect we would like them to. But there’s pleasure in accepting what the universe provides us. Ultimately the pursuit of fame is like every pursuit — it’s an effort to flee from actuality. Fame and wealth are such attractive objects that they’re specified as issues to keep away from pursuing within the Buddhist teachings as a result of almost everybody agrees they should be good issues to have. The message is that even when everybody on this planet agrees that these are the right issues to pursue, we nonetheless shouldn’t pursue them.

For me, the Buddha’s recommendation means to maintain doing what I do with out making an attempt to extend my fame for its personal sake. So when a main cable information community despatched a limo to take me to their studios, I accepted the experience. A few days after that occurred, I led zazen follow for six individuals in the lounge of an outdated home. Truth be informed, I a lot most popular the latter.

But being well-known is a part of the deal if you wish to write professionally. You can’t be a skilled author with out being not less than a little bit well-known. And I like writing. It’s the factor I do finest. I like having a job that I get pleasure from. So fame is one thing I’ve to cope with.

There are good issues about it. It’s good when individuals inform you one thing you wrote meant a lot to them. It’s good to be appreciated. It’s good to receives a commission to do what you want regardless that, in my case, the pay normally isn’t excellent.

I’m happiest once I comply with the Buddha’s recommendation to not pursue wealth and fame.

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