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Let me explain why and what is happening.
I have been getting a lot of emails complaining about what's happening in the Zen forums.
The straw that broke the camel's back was this one:
"the level of macho posturing, bullshit, etc. is probably turning people away from the forum. When I ask my students if they get on the forum, they either say they don't have time for all the bullshit or they say they occasionally get on for the amusement of watching a train wreck. Several of them are longtime Buddhist practitioners, ALL of them would love a place to simply get solid shakuhachi information without the other runaway crap.
A lot of people try to get the feel of an online resource by checking out the latest posts first, and looked at this way the forum often does NOT give the impression that it's a useful resource for those starting shakuhachi. It is at its best, I think, when it sticks to simple useful info: teachers available, flutes for sale, upcoming workshops, etc. As for the Buddhist stuff, I don't think a pipe organ forum would dedicate whole sections to discussions of Catholic theology."
I thought about it and decided this was valid. If I was coming to shakuhachi as a beginner or coming to the forum as an experienced player I would not think most of the chatter on the forum was useful for developing my practice.
One of the problems with shakuhachi is that it attracts the Zen minded. That's not the problem. The problem is that instead of practicing honkyoku and absorbing the Zen that way they feel the need to talk and argue about it.
The MAIN reason Ken and I put together this forum was to gather, organize and archive information helpful to the spread of shakuhachi worldwide and to create a virtual dojo for people in far flung places to get a sense of shakuhachi community. Anything that becomes a turn off and distracts people from these basic tenets is superfluous.
The analogy to pipe organ is appropriate. I love pipe organ. I have a pipe organ in my home. I don't belong to a pipe organ forum. However if I did, posts about Messaien's Catholic faith informing his organ compositions might interest me. On the other hand bickering about "how many angels dance on the head of a pin" or "The Pope IS infallible, fuckface!" "Is not!" "Is!" etc. would make me flee, because in the end that has nothing to do with organ music. We have entered the equivalent territory.
Originally we had a "Zen" forum which got dumb because people seldom talked about shakuhachi or even any valid Buddhist or Zen ideas there. So we brought in Gishin as a moderator and created a "Zen and Shakuhachi" forum and a "random Zen". Unfortunately most of the posts there veer off into directions that have nothing to do with shakuhachi, even if they start out on topic. So now instead of one on topic and one off topic forum we have two which are off topic. That's unacceptable. Thanks to Gishin for his efforts, but it seems to be par for the course that things go off on weird tangents.
I'm a practicing Buddhist, albeit not a particularly educated one. It's just part of my daily life because of shakuhachi and because of family reasons. I want to further the cause of shakuhachi and I'm also in favor of Buddhism. I don't think the recent discourse helps either.
We'll convene a meeting of the shakuhachi forum brain trust to decide what to do about it in the future. In the meantime "not enough religion" is better than "too much religion" on a musical forum. Maybe the people who are mostly interested in religious arguments should go to one of the Zen forums on the internet and persuade them to add a "shakuhachi" topic rather than the other way around. In the end the overall tenor of the forum reflects mainly upon me and Ken. We've discussed it and don't like the way it has developed. We'd like to get back to the original purpose of the forum. Shakuhachi.
We tried having a simple Zen forum on our shakuhachi forum and most of that was nonsense.
We tried having moderated and unmoderated Zen forums which looked like it might have worked but eventually became silly.
Some people have tried to blame Gishin, and it's true that he was unnecessarily harsh sometimes. But the Zen topic was stupid before he even joined the forum, that's why he was brought in to moderate. It's the chicken and the egg.
Now we'll try another way which is to force people to make RELEVANT posts by the discipline of fitting the posts into existing forums such as "Ask the Pro" or "History". Clearly a question about the difference between honkyoku blowing and blowing for entertainment can fit into "Ask the Pro". Or "What did the komuso eat for breakfast?" can fit into history. No need to segregate them into a special Zen forum. We'll leave those old forums there as archives.
On the other hand "My zen is better than your zen" and "Zen is flowers and Jesus" does not fit into any existing categories, save your drama for your mama!
Chris Moran mentioned on his blog that even Buddhist professionals such as Tricycle magazine were not able to run a forum due to sectarianism and BS. Ken and I are definitely not up to the task because we keep our Buddhism pretty much to ourselves.
My personal opinion is that the best thing we can do for Buddhism as shakuhachi players is to create things of beauty in the form of honkyoku, so that when people hear them they are transported. It's the equivalent of making great Buddhist sculptures or sand mandalas. When people hear a beautifully rendered honkyoku it does not inspire them to argue. So kids.........practice