On the Missouri - Gateway to Purgatory

On the Missouri - Gateway to Purgatory


I am a Zen Buddhist practitioner from the humble stretches of the South Jersey lowlands who is now an expatriate to the Great Plains of South Dakota – Buddhist Purgatory.  In reality, Purgatory isn’t all that bad.  I strive in my practice from day-to-day.  Some days it is a success and other days it is a failure.  The best days, though, is when isn’t viewed as either good or bad.  Like a wave ~ I crash on the shore, roll back and build momentum for another attempt.  

I suppose that this blog expresses that oscillating practice.  Sometimes it is pretty and inspiring, spreading warm feelings, sunflowers and free puppies, and at times it is the exact opposite, ugly, biting and cold.  Oh, well that is life – random and impermanent – Beautiful and Ugly.  I rant and sometimes I think I may inspire but for the most part I just talk too much.  

I am not a monk, lay-ordained, or even affiliated in any way.  I am not even a particularly good Buddhist but I strive.  And in that striving I walk the path.  And that path is taking me through this life fairly well.  Any of these posts that I make here are my opinions on people, religion, belief and the Dharma.  The last thing I want you to think is that I am trying to convert you.  I honestly don’t care what you are or what you practice – as long as you take a moment to stop and think.  

Although when asked for a quick two-line bio from a friend this is what I received – John is a failing and stumbling Zen asshole that drinks far too much, engages in pagan rituals, reads the Necronomicon (in the original Arabic), yells at Jehovah’s Witnesses and spends too much time on dharma-drama and on his stupid blog.  He is a dipshit and you should tell him so at admin[at]zendirtzendust[dot]com.   

I think that sums it up well enough.  




38 thoughts on “Me

  1. oh my gosh, i am so happy i read your post on shambhala sun and then found your blog! i feel like we are ‘unaffiliated’ sangha mates LOL. I was feeling pretty lonely about the whole thing until i saw that new discussion topic.

    i am putting you in my google reader so i can keep up with you and i would love to keep in regular touch.

    as i said in my post on shambhala sun (and it echoes your thoughts as well) sangha is a verb…a very rich verb that cannot be limited to one place and one set of four walls.

    again i’m grateful to have come across you in the cyber world.

    deep bow buddy!

    • Hey zenfant! Nice to meet you. I hope you enjoy the blog and you join our unaffiliated “ungroup”. There are plenty of us out there.

      Deep bows in return,


  2. Hi, John.

    If you would like to simplify your web address to


    you can do so for about $20 a year by clicking on “Domains” under “Settings” on your dashboard and following the directions there. I think this works better in a signature line.

    You can also use this feature to create any other available name you’d like to link to your site.

    As you probably already know, you can also capitalize letters to make them more readable without affecting the address, as in:

    Bob W.

  3. Thanks for your input on Twitter! I deleted my account and moved on, its ‘On To the Next One’. I hope you enjoy the ‘Old Path White Clouds’ book! You can still catch up me with on my blog. Many Blessings!

  4. Dig your blawg. I put yours on my “Friends and Folks You Might Dig” list of blogs. Maybe I can be on your blogroll? Together, we can take over the dharma-internet. Don’t worry. My blog is pretty boring, so I doubt folks will stop reading yours in order to spend more time on mine.
    All the best,

    • No worries, brother! Always looking for another Dharma brat to wreck up the Buddhobloggosphere! I am surprised at how many practitioners that I know in Texas now! I will have to swing by next time I am down that way.



  5. omg trevor, you are spittin distance from me. i’m near houston. i saw your pic in one of the dharma mags recently. welcome to texas…i mean sorry it had to be texas but i’m sure you brighten the place up a bit. i’m headed over to your blog now.


  6. Pingback: Lego Practice ~ Guest Post by Buddhasbrewing « Sweep the dust, Push the dirt

  7. yo — you wanted to know about mujaku. check out the Dark Zen website. :::::smile:::::

    a dead turkey wing flaps in the silent breeze 🙂

  8. John, I have enjoyed becoming acquainted with your website and learning about your way of being a Buddhist. I have a friend who calls himself the nonBuddhist Buddhist–for some of the same reasons that I see in your website/blog.

    I am writing to you today in response to your essay about Buddhist magazines, which I encountered in the I have been one of the co-editors of Buddhism Today for five years now, so I was most interested in your comments re it and the other Buddhist magazines.

    Buddhism Today is a “creative” blend of magazine, being for the “intelligent and fresh minds of nonBuddhists” even as it is focused on bringing teachings and informatioin and stories about Diamond Way Buddhism, under the leadership of Lama Ole Nydahl and within the Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. Being both of these at once has led me to joyfully pull my hairs out, more than once.

    I would also say that, whereas much of what appears in Buddhism Today is lineage-specific, much of that same material is quite valued by the more general reader. The test of validity and value rests in whether what is said mirrors the way things are in our experience, critically appraised. The last three issues of BT have presented a 3-part series by H.H. the 17th Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje, his commentary on “The 37 Practices of Bodhisattvas by Gyelsay Togmay Sangpo” from the 13th century.

    The teachings in this commentary transcend the 17th Karmapa controversy as well as Tibetan versus Zen Buddhism, for example.

    Just to give you some information about Buddhism Today. If you email me directly, I can see to it that you receive a complimentary copy of the latest issue.

    Wishing you all good things,

  9. Appreciated the video about Seung Sahn —one of my early mentors. Good blog.

    If it’s ok with you I’ll add a link to your site to my dharma page.

    keep saving us all.

    fa guang, OHY

    • Hi Frank,

      Thanks for the kind words. I am so jealous of those that say “Oh yeah, Seung Sahn was one of my *early* teachers.” I would be so lucky to simply have one teacher.

      Cheers and feel free to link to me anytime.


    • My strong response was that your article sucked and didn’t even come close to explaining the differences between Tibetan and Chinese Buddhism. I sent it to plenty of readers (all of them Buddhist) and they all said the same thing…


      Good luck next time. Find better writers and do, at least, a small amount of research.



  10. Great minds think alike. After reading about your own practice I realize I’m not the only dysfunctional “Buddhist” on the block.

    Here’s the thing. The Buddha figured out something rather extraordinary. He recognized the inherent unsatisfactoriness of temporal existence and offered a way to “numb the pain” as we soldier on towards our eventual “nibbana” (best translated as “an extinguishing” such as when a candle flame is blown out rather than a metaphysical state of existance as it is so often misconstrued to mean).

    He realized there was no magic mantra/prayer/spell that would make all life’s ugliness go away. Life is suffering, he said. And, as if that wasn’t depressing enough, he continued, it gets worse. You grow old. You get sick. And then you die. The Buddha was obviously a man who didn’t mince words or beat around the bush.

    Of course, when he said this he was preaching to the choir, as only the most Panglossian of us fail to recognize that life is indeed a bitch and then you die. No great revelation there. But a lot of folks in his time as in our own have difficulties accepting this undeniably self-evident observation.

    Granted, Some people try to hide these cold hard facts behind a veil of warm and fuzzy magical thinking, telling folks: Wait!, there’s still hope! There IS an afterlife! (Or reincarnation, if that floats your ethnocentric canoe.) Yes! We can still party hardy! Just give me 10% of your earnings and don’t covet your neighbor’s ass and I’ll save a place for you at the table. Amen!

    If only it were so. But if wishes were horses we’d be standing neck-deep in horseshit. Wait a minute…

    Regardless, the Buddha hit the existential nail on its angst-ridden head: Life was no trip to Disneyland. (Which is a good thing because we’d all have killed ourselves by now if it was.) Still, life wasn’t all bad. And the Buddha recognized this fact too. Not only did he recognize it, he offered a way to soften life’s unavoidable aches and pains by simply accepting the truth and learning to live a more moral and fulfilling life by following a simple set code of behavior and respecting the right of all living creatures to live in peace and dignity. That’s it.

    Notice, I said nothing about chanting mantras or burning incense or buying buddha statues or taking vows or participating in rituals or dressing in lovely robes or going on pilgrimages to distant lands or shaving your head or calling yourself another name or yada yada yada. And do you know why I didn’t mention that stuff? Because that’s not what the Buddha taught. The Buddha, after all, was not a “Buddhist”. He was simply a man who found a way to awaken from a lifelong dream. A man who found a way to live life as if each day were his last until, finally, one of them was. He was, in a word, simply human. Just like us. And when you forget that, you forget every thing he ever taught.

    _/|\_ Gassho

  11. Neat site John. And lots of good links and others participating. Consider me another practitioner and friend.

    This is it! This is it!


    This is still it!

    We aren’t going anywhere here, are we?

  12. This is a great website!! Much fun and alot of good info.
    Thank you!

    and as for this:

    “John is a failing and stumbling Zen asshole that drinks far too much, engages in pagan rituals, reads the Necronomicon (in the original Arabic), yells at Jehovah’s Witnesses and spends too much time on dharma-drama and on his stupid blog. He is a dipshit and you should tell him so.”

    Sounds like you’re a Celtic Buddhist!! Seriously!
    We’re in Vermont. If you ever are in the area, stop by- we have a nice stone circle, a Ma Cailleach shrine and whiskey!
    We’ll get you drunk and paint you blue.

    • Sweet! I may take you up on that offer next time I am in upstate NY. Check out some of the early guest posts from an Asatruar friend of mine comparing some the concepts of Buddhism to his own practice. It is quite an adventure when we have mixed (hindu, asatruar, buddhism and wiccan) fire ceremonies. Great fun.


  13. I love this blog! I find a kindred spirit in you John. Love your thoughts on Zen / life. So down to earth and true! Keep up the good work!

    I am an ordained Soto Zen, Lay, Atheist, fucked up Buddhist. Lost like most of us.
    Hope you continue your musings on Buddhism for many years to come my friend. I look forward to your new postings.

    _/|\_ in gassho, with deep bow, from Buddhist purgatory here in Ohio,

    Ronin Michael


  14. It is when we realized that truth can’t be spoken that we get it. But we can’t find that out without speaking about it.
    Most treat zen like a relgion and fall back on dogma, you do not. You continue to question, you demonstrate some understanding of the on gong dialog between teacher and student. If Zen must be described as a thing it could only be a dialog. Your blog is a nice metaphor for this.
    Carry on John, you’ve come a long way.

    • Thank you, Deepbevel. I appreciate your support. Until I find the right teacher, I think this dialog amongst friends, not-so-much friends and practitioners has been a great boon to my practice.


  15. Hey! I do wish you would properly attribute the Deh Chun piece. *I* am the author of that material, nearly word-for-word, which first appeared in Tricycle in 1996/1997. Sean Murphy lazily plagiarized the material, without attribution, then contacted me for permission when the book was ready to go to press. I got a weak thanks in the foreword, which is still somewhat less than satisfying, but I didn’t want to put the kibosh on the entire book. For all I know, the rest of the material was collected the same way.

    For those who still read this kind of stuff, I am finishing a book containing numerous encounter dialogues with Deh Chun ( Dá Zōng / 達 宗 )

    See this:

    with a recent afterword by me.


    Michael Sierchio

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