[Marxism] Zen Boobism

Ralph Johansen mdriscollrj at charter.net
Thu Feb 14 10:35:33 MST 2013

Louis Proyect wrote


Los Angeles is traditionally where factoids become fables and get passed 
off as philosophy. The true mystical secret of Zen ideas in particular 
is that they're stupid. California is pretty stupid, too---which means 
that warmed-over takeout Zen has done a good business there. Consider, 
just for instance, the success of the Nichiren Sho-shu- sect: Its 
promoters have melded simplistic Zen ideas with materialism, and 
throughout the '80s, suburban Angelenos gathered in living rooms, all 
chanting for happiness and/or a new car. It worked, too: Lots of them 
did eventually get new cars.

There is no LA without the transmutation of the great teachings of 
history into bumper stickers. And, at the top of that society's circle 
of drivers, who, if not actors, will give us spiritual counsel?



Speaking of celebrities and Zen Buddhism, I vaguely recall what Richard 
Alpert wrote about his experiences at the monastery in this story. 
Alpert, (whose father was president of the New York, New Haven and 
Hartford Railroad) was dismissed from the Harvard faculty, charged with 
giving psilocybin to an undergraduate. He, with Timothy Leary and 
*Andrew Weil, had* become notorious for experiments with psychoactive 
drugs while on the faculty at Harvard.

Alpert and Leonard Cohen were part of a group of celebrities invited in 
the early 70s to a retreat at the Mount Baldy Zen Center. He had 
hesitated, but decided why the hell not. When he arrived he was greeted 
by their Japanese host Sasaki Roshi, who ushered them to the cabin where 
he and Cohen were to share a double bunk. The next day they were seated 
on the floor, charged to remain motionless and completely silent. Both 
being ungovernable characters, they kept muttering and cackling to each 
other. A German woman assistant to the abbot would strike them with a 
paper bat whenever they sounded off. They had to remain in this position 
for hours on end. That night in their bunks they sorted out the day, and 
they realized that they were two Jews being hosted by a Japanese abbot 
and a German female assistant who was beating them up on the floor of 
the retreat center; they cracked up.

Leonard Cohen went on to become a fully-ordained ordained Japanese Zen 
Buddhist monk http://www.leonardcohenfiles.com/zenord.html. Richard 
Alpert became Ram Dass, the mystic, who toured with a group of acolytes, 
lighting votive candles around him and tending to his every need. I saw 
his bizarre performance in Phoenix in the mid-70s. Be Here Now, his 1971 
hippie classic which was popular with the young 70s middle class has 
sold over 900,000 copies.

More information about the Marxism mailing list