How come I end up where I started
How come I end up where I went wrong
I don’t relish some notion of this blog becoming the National Enquirer of the American Zen scene. (One would need phone lines, staff and a whole organization to do that)
However I brought up a situation that has attracted a lot of attention to my surprise and having focused upon it I have to take responsibility for my actions and words. And I have to work to uphold those ethical principles that I so often seem to exhort in these, however insignificant, writings.
On one hand the links one puts in their blogroll are a pretty trivial issue compared to what is going on in the world.
On the other hand, if something is labeled a certain way by enough popular opinion that opinion becomes social truth. And if something or someone is mislabeled or included in a label that is not appropriate and the situation has the potential to cause suffering to others then something has to be changed. I took to heart something Rev. James Ford wrote: “the Dharma is too important to play fast and loose with simple facts”
I had labeled Mr. Dogo Barry Graham a Zen Buddhist teacher. By doing so this indicates my participation in perpetuating a social truth for which I can find no substance.
Rev. James Ford of Monkey Mind blog made a long post called Teaching Credentials in Zen. Using 1)that as my guide and guidelines from the American Zen Teachers Association and 2)research materials that have been used in previous posts on this blog regarding claims that could indicate some problem with a teacher I will give my reasons for deletion from this blogroll. I am calling these 1)Inclusive Criteria and 2)Exclusive Criteria respectively. Anyone named as a teacher in any school in the blogroll here will meet the majority of the criteria as is appropriate for their situation.
The Inclusive Criteria, adapted and somewhat abridged from Rev. Ford’s and the AZTA writings are:
- acknowledgement in a vertical form by a teacher
- acknowledgement of ordination in a recognized lineage
- in lieu of the above, acknowledgement of teaching ability by a group of peers or the organization which they claim to represent
The Exclusive Criteria, abridged from research materials used on previous writings here.
- States his or her own enlightenment
- Is unable to take criticism
- Acts omnipotent with no accountability
- Focuses on enlightenment itself rather than teaching the path leading to it
- If a teacher preaches love and forgiveness, then he should act that way. If he teaches meditation, he should meditate. If he insists that his followers live austerely, so should he.
- Takes credit for a particular meditative or healing technique:
- Lives in total opulence
- Encourages or permits adoration from his followers
- Runs expensive workshops and courses
- Spends time criticizing other schools and teachers without giving particulars.
- Does not give credit to sources of teachings.
- Adopts titles that are not earned.
One of the three Inclusive Criteria must be met. Exclusive Criteria would only be used where Inclusive Criteria could not be established definitively.
In the case of Mr. Graham the Inclusive Criteria cannot be definitively established. Therefore using the Exclusive Criteria for which information is available, that would be numbers 1, 2, 4, 10, 11, 12. Here are a few examples for this reasoning.
1. States his or her own enlightenment (from Mr. Graham’s blog)
- Mar. 28, 2007 “I didn’t suffer”
- Jul. 13, 2007 “Because I don’t suffer.” “Never?” “No, never….so yes – I’m awake like the Buddha”
- Jun.17, 2008 “What comprises me was not created and cannot be destroyed. I was there when the sun caught on fire, there when the first explosion brought the universe into being.”
- Jul. 7, 2008 “I’m also an enlightened being, and so are you”
- Jul. 15, 2008 “Belief and knowledge exist only in the discursive mind, which means that they don’t exist at all. And, if you’re wondering, I don’t believe what I’ve just written. I don’t need to believe it – I experience it, with no separation from it.”
- Aug. 4, 2008 “No ending of pleasure, but no attachment to pleasure, only an abiding joy in it, in everything, the joy of awakening, of arriving where we have always been.”
- Oct. 12, 2008 (title My awakening is your slumber) “My enlightenment is delusion for you. My awakening is darkness for you – because it is not yours. You have to get it from yourself…”
- Dec. 12, 2008 (title Enlightenment Rocks) “The enlightened state is pretty damn wonderful. I can tell you that I never wake up in the morning and say, “I really miss delusion. I really miss suffering. I wish I could return to ignorance and delusion. The enlightened state sucks.”
- Jan. 4, 2009 “When I speak, I’m not in control of anything, or trying to be anything or do anything; I speak with confidence, but that confidence is born of humility, born of willingness to serve, to open to the Dharma, to be the Dharma, to be enlightenment rather than talk about it. The enlightenment that manifests when I speak is not mine – it’s yours, everyone’s, the Buddha’s.”
- Jan. 30, 2009 “I no longer suffer.” This was repeated Feb. 7, 2009
- Feb. 7, 2009 “The one major attachment I have left is that I hate to see people suffer.”
2. Is unable to take criticism
For the purposes of this exercise, it appears that Mr. Graham does not seem to permit critical comments on his blog, as is his right. Criticisms of teaching and queries about credentials are not addressed directly or at all.
4. Focuses on enlightenment itself rather than teaching the path leading to it
- All items in #1 above
- Dec. 13, 2008 People around here who like the sound of this enlightenment thing should come to our meeting…Be there or be unenlightened.
10. Spends time criticizing other schools and teachers without giving particulars.
- Jul. 17, 2008 “In the past, when I’ve written here that the Buddha did not believe in reincarnation, there have been tantrums by western followers of Tibetan Buddhism (often ordained people) whose understanding is so shallow that they don’t realize that their tradition doesn’t have such a belief either.
- Nov. 17, 2008 “There aren’t many teachers I have much regard for; there are many people running around with the title “roshi” whom I wouldn’t hang a student rakusu on”
12. Adopts titles that are not earned.
- On Livejournal 2007/10/13 Mr. Graham cites himself as:”I’m the Guiding Teacher of The Sitting Frog Zen Sangha.”
- Very shortly thereafter he cites himself as:” the Abbot of The Sitting Frog Zen Sangha. “
- cites title as Rev. Dogo Barry Graham Sensei, Phoenix, Arizona, The Buddhist Channel, June 25, 2007Titles such as Abbot, Rev. and Sensei indicate some definitive education and sanction. By who? And how can they be reached for verification? There is no information available.
On the factual matters in this situation, Ven. Kobutsu, who has brought the matter of Mr. Graham’s credentials to attention, has documentary evidence of acknowledgment of his own ordination by his previous teacher as well as acknowledgment of the title Osho by his current teacher. This meets the Inclusive Criteria mentioned above. In the case of Mr. Graham, despite fairly thorough research I can find no other teacher, no acknowledgment that speaks to any ordination, nor any current legitimate teacher willing to give acknowledgment as to his status as teacher.
What I did find in biographies of Mr. Graham was reference to his journalistic ambitions.
Barry Graham is an internationally-acclaimed author and journalist whose work is a unique hybrid of hard reporting and harsh autobiography.
Attending executions was not in the role of a clergy person but as a reporter as Mr. Graham states “He is a lawyer and I am a reporter. A reporter’s job is to find out what happened, from whatever evidence can be found, and to make the information available to anyone who is interested. (reference)
As to the reason a journalist would pose as a Zen teacher there is no information currently available. Maybe there’s a book in it or something. But here is an interesting piece of Buddhist oriented writing by Mr. Graham found on The Buddhist Channel On Making Judgments.
Having never met or personally spoken with any of the parties involved, clearly I have nothing personal against Mr. Graham. Apparently he is a fine writer and has received much acclaim. I wish him well in that career.
With that I want to say I’m not a journalist, lawyer, AZTA member, Dharma teacher or the like. I’m just an Ordinary Buddhist trying to see things as they are. And sharing that struggle on this blog.