May 27, 2010

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

It's spring and I'm trying to grow growing tomatoes on my balcony. Here's a picture of the plant:

tomato plant

It's in a metal container in about eight inches of dirt ("Organic soil," the plastic bag said). This picture was taken about 7 PM yesterday so the light you see is the evening sun. It doesn't get morning sun. So should I rotate it?  Just off camera is a table that my cat is sitting on. He eats any plant he can reach. (They say it's good for cats to eat grass and things like that but my cat doesn't get to go outside, so he has to content himself with unattended herbs and houseplants.) I feel a little bit like the Little Prince with his sheep—how do I protect the tomato plant? Also, aren't tomato plants poisonous? What's all that deadly nightshade stuff about?

Anyway, it feels good to be growing stuff. Parsley and basil will be next, but they'll be ON the table—much more accessible to the cat. My utter ineptitude at growing anything made this recent New York Times article even more unsettling: It basically says tomatoes are best grown upside-down. Well, gee. That would probably solve the cat problem, if I could figure out what they're talking about. I suppose upside-down growing makes the prospect of farming on spaceships more promising?

Tricycle's longest-running columnist, Wendy Johnson, wrote about the colorfully named Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter Tomatoes, which really exist, in a recent issue of Tricycle. You can buy the seeds online. (I don't know what kind of seeds mine are—they were given to me and I thought it would be rude to ask.) Wendy Johnson knows a lot about growing tomatoes, and so does the blogging monk Daishin, a student of Dogo Barry Graham's, in Phoenix. Daishin's blog, sour wine & tomatoes, sounds like it could be a big help to me—I'm going to need it.

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Shusan's picture

I wish Tricycle would finally square off with the questions surrounding "Zen Master" Dogo Barry Graham, and now his supposed "monk," and end years of validating him and providing endorsement blurb-fodder for his website, at least until the American Sangha gets some answers.

Graham was given the name "Dogo" by his former teacher Kobutsu Kevin Malone - who has since publicly apologized for giving validation to someone he considers a fraud and a thief, and who duped him about ever having been ordained in the first place. He publicly asked Graham to stop using the name Dogo. One wonders why, if Graham was already a transmitted "master", he then needed a new Dharma name; and per Kobutsu’s request why he didn't just go back to either of the two he should have received from "Ando Yamashiro" - unless, as many of Graham's former associates claim, this man is fictional. No one can find any record of him. The list of other potential fictions is long. He did publish a novel (15 years ago), after all. I will not bring up the libelous things Graham went on to say about Malone, as those are elsewhere documented and discussed.

Graham has been giving precepts, and has now even ordained a monk? Those who've received the former were not given any paperwork, but were led to believe it was a Soto jukai. He once claimed to be an ordained Soto priest and teacher, but when the Sotoshu said (after his 'students' asked, wondering if they had valid jukai) there was no evidence of him, his teacher, or his claimed training temple, he removed all mention of the word Soto from his blog - including totally deleting about 9 years of content that would have tracked his claims (9 years of content regularly lauded by Tricycle.) However, older listings for his sangha on other sites still say "Soto Zen." His mantra to inquiries now is "find any written evidence I ever said I was a Soto priest" and just ignore questions saying "then what kind?" Nyah Nyah Nyah. Maybe he has a fox lineage?

He is a relatively young "priest" who's only known teacher has completely and vigorously disavowed him, who has scads of disgruntled former students and colleagues, who has no connection to any larger institution or accountability, and who is now ordaining monks? Where are other teachers on this matter? One (claimed by Graham as a 'friend') told me "that's his business. Mind your own practice." Excuse me? Taking my own Soto lineage seriously, and that of others, and caring for their integrity IS part of practice, as is wondering what kind of damage is being done to those who come to him seeking actual Zen teaching and being lied to and misguided instead. I can write a letter or post a comment and still maintain a sense of inquiry into self nature...

All of this is not to mention his so-called "teachings" - the message of which is neatly summed up by his proposed book title (pulled just before being issued by his publisher when questions about him were raised): "Kill Your Self: Life Beyond Ego." An (at best) juvenile interpretation of the Zen message, completely out of step with Dharma in the 21st century, when our message should be to affirm life, not 'kill' anything, and not think there is any beyond, or any fixed "ego" to transcend. Or murder, for that matter.

So, I am happy they are growing some nice tomatoes down in Arizona. I just wish they would stop promoting it as evidence of their glorious dharma works - at least until there is simply one shred of evidence that Graham is not the complete fraud available information, and his behavior, seem to indicate.

Tricycle » Tomato flowers's picture

[...] growing tomatoes on my balcony. Today I noticed a few auspicious yellow flowers peeking [...]