Stand By Your Man

Dharma Wars revisited is Tricycle’s response to the situation generated by Micheal Haederle’s lame article in it’s most recent issue. I’m kind of done being nice regarding this issue. Yeah if that was nice before then what’s next?  Well, if you don’t like snark then don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.

Let’s dissect this puppy.

In its winter 2009 issue, Tricycle published an article titled “Dharma Wars,” which reported on the Buddhist blogosphere, and described an online exchange among Dogo Barry Graham, Rev. Kobutsu Kevin Malone, and Rev. Gomyo Kevin Seperic.

Well they got some titles in appropriate places if nothing else.

In that article, among other things, Tricycle printed a comment by Mr. Graham that one of his “accusers” had been convicted of assault, and that the other’s teaching credentials had been fabricated. Both accusers remained nameless.

Let’s repeat it one more time. Make sure it is indelibly burnt into the memories of readers. Anything said about those allegations will be mooted by the familiarity of them.

By printing Mr. Graham’s comment, Tricycle merely intended to provide an example of the type of exchange that led the author of the article to become concerned about the sometimes acrimonious online exchanges among Buddhists.

“merely intended”  some illustration that implied criminal activity is more than intended and certainly more than necessary.  An example of acrimonious exchange could easily have been found on Tricycle’s own blog with the two examples of the Shugden affair and the Gandhi cover which I will get to in a bit.  But those seem to involve outsiders meaning Asians, Tibetans and Indian Buddhists respectively.  Better not go there. Foreign territory of which the NYC coterie knows little about.

In addition to ignoring what goes on in it’s own back yard,  we get arrogant little gems such as this on the Tricycle blog from web editor Philip Ryan:

I realize ol’ D.T. Suzuki is way way way out of fashion in contemporary Buddhist thinking, and is so for a lot of reasons, but once upon a time he was one of my — and a lot of other people’s — first glimpses into something new.

And “fashion” is what all of it is about folks.  The fashionable Buddhist just doesn’t wear that kind of thing. [or as others in the NYC crowd have put it “but don’t want to pretend you live in ancient Asia”] WE are soooo beyond the beyond we can now transcend that old stuff and  make up our own consumer dream religion and call it Buddhism. The whole blog is full of these snotty passive-aggressive kinds of comments from the contributors.  The Über-cool put down of all things past or other in favor of some hyped-up facade of pretty wordy-trinket-toting-pseudo-intellectual sublime self-righteousness pasted on nothing of any substance.  Substance and character being very dirty words in this shallow pool.  Somehow they imply ego. For people grasping this desperately to the delusion of cool and exclusivity and leadership in that shallow pond it strikes me as seriously hypocritical at the very least.

The author was  “concerned” that Buddhist people became acrimonious.  Many ill-informed people seem concerned that Buddhist people have feelings other than constant zombie-like serenity.  That they don’t clench up their buttocks and just hold in all the shit while they smile idiotically and fart out subsonic noises that resemble the word metta. There was a brilliant comment left on this blog by Stuart in the post A Comment on Dharma Wars. He wrote

[Suler, the psychologist]“There’s a lot more narcissism in the community than we would expect or hope,” he says. “It’s a bit paradoxical that in a philosophy emphasizing the transcendence of self, some people are very preoccupied with self.”

There’s a lot more sickness in hospitals than we would expect or hope. It’s a bit paradoxical that in a building emphasizing good health, some of the people you find there are really quite ill.

This is so spot on that there is not anything to be added.

Tricycle did not intend to state or imply that either Rev. Kobutsu Kevin Malone or Rev. Gomyo Kevin Seperic had been convicted of assault or had fabricated teaching credentials. Tricycle likewise did not intend to weigh in on the validity of the charges against Mr. Graham.

It is my profound belief that the only reason this “qualification” has been published at all is due to the possibility of legal action.  And let’s repeat those allegations one more time for good measure.  Why Tricycle editors and cohorts wish to invalidate Rev. Kobutsu and Rev. Gomyo by repeating the erroneous allegations twice again is certainly a question begging for an answer.

Anyone with a smattering of understanding of psycholinguistics knows that patterns of language are often taken out of context and those that are repeated enough become known as truth even if they are a lie. Hasn’t anyone ever read 1984? These great liberally educated New York intellectual minds seemed to have missed a few lessons there. Or maybe not?

It was the nature of the exchange that was at issue.

The nature of the exchange between the principles was negligible. It amounted to a total of 5 posts. Everything else was commentary by the peanut gallery which included myself.  There is far more inflammatory dialogue between Ven. Brad Warner and Ven. Jundo Cohen for example on blogs and forums all over the Internet that could have been used as an example much more to the purpose. But Brad’s publishers are advertisers.  Or about people such as Andrew Cohen, Genpo Merzel, Frederick Lenz–oh but they are advertisers, or donors too. One wouldn’t want to alienate that revenue stream.

So let’s pick on some relatively obscure poor people. There’s nothing they can do about it. Just like exploited poor people everywhere.  Pin them up on some public place and throw stuff at them. How medieval can you get?  These “Editors” consider themselves progressive yet behave in the manner of feudal lords with their serfs. If this is the best quality example of  “American Buddhism” available then I’ll take my Asian “religious” Buddhism with all it’s “superstitions” and “blind faiths” any time.  Especially since that is by far not what most Asian Buddhism is about.   [post coming on that soon too]

Rev. Kobutsu and Rev. Gomyo contacted Tricycle and were—and remain—invited to respond, as are any of the parties mentioned in the article.

They had to contact Tricycle because Tricycle and it’s author, once finished using them for cheap points, never bothered to think about them again. I feel so dirty having to write that. I wonder how many conditions were imposed on such a response? How much “editorial direction” would be applied to such responses? And where would these responses appear? Below the ads for John Daido Loori Roshi memorial zafus made by the New Age Craptastic manufacturing company?  Will the Dharma pimping never end?

And what response would be required? The people so egregiously indicted would have to first defend themselves against bogus charges made by a fake priest and self-proclaimed abbot who’s principle interest seems to be sniffing the asses of old Zen teachers to find out how long they’re going to live before claiming some kind of imaginary Dharma inheritance and in the interim swilling beer and pontificating on his own enlightenment and other delusions of grandeur.  And only then would an actual response to the article in question be possible.

It is not unusual for people to vociferously disagree with an author’s point of view, and Tricycle has weathered many such storms in the past, although more often for being controversial

That would be more for co-opting existing controversies such as the Shugden issue and the upsetting some hard-core political factionaries, transplanting a certain brand of Indian sectarianism (and anti-Congress sentiment),  felt because of the Gandhi cover than for actually printing anything controversial or having a readership, so much soothed by the flowery words in most of the articles and the dulcet chimes of their Zen clocks, that barely registers anything as being controversial any more. Ajahn Brahm and others have written some rather controversial items that Tricycle picked up upon occasion but the response seemed to be “Dah doh doh doh” if indeed anyone even bothered to read them. They were actually about Dharma and not about the coolest retreat to buy into.

…than for being a “corporate behemoth.” We are not the latter…

Tricycle in this instance and most certainly in this blog post which was posted by “admin” and signed by “Tricycle editors” without any individual willing to step up and take responsibility most certainly is behaving as a corporate entity which is, “a body of people acting as one individual eg for administration or business purposes” or “United or combined into one body; collective”. Please check your dictionaries before disavowing the definition.

… if we were, we’d be walking a little further downtown, to Goldman Sachs, for our H1N1 flu shots. Alas, we remain among the uninnoculated.

So you be in NYC. Let’s make that very clear. Center of the known intellectual and cultural universe and all that. (snap, snap)

“Uninnoculated” Alas I’m really crying about that sarcastic (did I also mention passive-aggressive, snotty, elitist, arrogant) piece of whining. My neighbors are unninoculated against polio, diphtheria, smallpox and remain subject to dengue fever and malaria, as do most of the world’s population. So a slight chance of swine flu is really rather a pitiable snivel.  Are we all supposed to feel sorry for these neighbors of Goldman Sachs? I think I just vomited a little in my mouth.

Let’s call this then The NYC Big Intellectual Delusion-athon.

Beliefnet now owned by the gigantic conglomerate News Corp founded by the incredibly spiritual Rupert Murdoch is part of this as well in an intellectual hot-house kind of way. Read all the corporate dish here on that piece of work.

I bring up Beliefnet and the OneCity blog in response to the highly uninformed and misguided belief that Buddhists in the West and particularly in America only belong to “… the velvet roped circle of artists and smart people that seem to mostly practice in the West”  as one Jerry Kolber of OneCity likes to envision himself and the rest of the pack of culture-snobs. This is precisely the same attitude The Tricycle Editors take.

So rather than worry about H1N1 perhaps this entire NYC culturally elite crew might worry about the intellectual culture virus of “living in a very small world”. The only inoculation for that seems to be “getting knocked off the self-serving, self-congratulatory pedestal”.

[Yes I am going to take on some of the viewpoints at the OneCity blog one of these days but first I have to brush up on my po-mo philosophical jargon. Words like “signifier” , “deconstruction”, “aesthetic” and “couture-edge”  and a complete cultural understanding of the meaning of the lyrics to Lady Gaga songs are all necessary for such a joust.]

There are many fine NYC people, including some who blog. For example Alice of NOT2WO and Lawrence of The Wheel of Dharma blogs come to mind immediately. So let’s not get into some funk that I’m bashing all the  NYC folks.

To continue with my diatribe, the blog post next states:

We remain open to all points of view.

Subtext=As long as you buy advertising or sponsor a cultural event to which we are invited and featured prominently.

The Editors

The Editors sounds like one of those secret clubs that certain high-profile political types are admitted into during their college years. It beats actually having to study and gain knowledge of the subject matter. The Pahhty of the Puissant.  The Fraternity of the Absolutely Fabulous Dahling.

And notice most of all the author Zenshin Michael Haederle is not even mentioned in the Tricycle blog post.  Talk about duck and cover.

[fade in announcer’s soothing voice]

With a dedication from “The” Tricycle Editors to Zenshin Michael Haederle. “We got your back bro!”  For your listening pleasure Tammy Wynette, wearing the coolest boots since Nancy Sinatra,  singing (through clenched teeth) Stand By Your Man.




And for those po-mo aficionados consider the practice of  culture jamming. The iconoclastic dismantling of sacred exploitative corporate and iconic cows.  Memes of doubt and reason poured into the empire of corporate Buddhist signs and symbols and the monolithic thought processes that reinforce them.  Some people regurgitate the processed pablum spoon fed by the cultural, read corporate elite, since corporate culture is pretty well all America is about in media and elsewhere now. If you aren’t branded you’re stranded. Some people need more. Some people care about depth.  Some people really really really want to be free.


Blog responses to the Tricycle response

Kyle writes Dharma Wars: Tricycle Responds

7 comments on “Stand By Your Man

  1. Another fine entry. You dissect the BS like no one else. Now if only “The Editors” would join you, and cut the crap …

    P.S. The “John Daido Loori memorial zafus” remark was a bit much, IMHO. Too soon …

    P.P.S. Mr. Kolber once called me “smug” for taking him to task on his assumption that people of any religion, other than Buddhism (which isn’t a religion, ’cause religions are, like, bad and stuff) would consider it their religious duty to hoard food and resources from nonbelievers if faced with conditions of intense scarcity. I count his disdain as a compliment … I had to cancel my RSS subscription to One City (even though I thoroughly enjoyed Ethan Nichtern’s book) because all that talk about branding was nauseating.

    • Jaime it was the Tricycle article, published with a very short time of his illness and death, which they reported extensively on the blog, that brought up John Daido Loori Roshi. I used his name as an example of how quickly some folks will try to cash in on the emotional vulnerability of others. How long after Princess Diana died were there memorial t-shirts, mugs and all kinds of stuff on the market. Within 2 days. And the Buddhist realm is not much different.

      • Point understood. It just made me wince, is all. But then, the sort of opportunism you’re lampooning makes me wince even more. Yes, it happens. No argument there.

  2. I almost died myself, laughing when I saw your youtube video of Tammy Wynette. How appropriate!

  3. beautiful. now if only Tricycle would have been this thorough with their editing before the Dharma Wars article ever came out, none of this would have happened.

  4. Great post NellaLou. The more I see around this, the more I see ethical conundra.

    While the fact that Tricycle is riddled with these, it seems, to me another pressing need is the ethical situations of the patrons of Tricycle.

  5. Howdy,

    Jerry Kolber here from the One City blog – great article and well intentioned. Thanks for the mention.

    Our intention at One City is to allow people to see practice in action, rather than some put-on version of “practice perfection” that I’ve run into a lot. Obviously, we know we are going to take our knocks for letting people see process rather than some offered perfect result of overthought processes.

    One thing that gets really messed up a lot in translation is this assumption that because I live in NYC and am smart, I am trying to make Buddhism something for smart people who live in cultural centers.

    This is pretty much backwards. I have been writing about how important it is for us all to stop putting up walls around different religious ideas, because doing so (esp. from a Buddhist perspective) denies the fundamental aspect of that which is us all. No practice I’ve encountered offers a greater opportunity for seeing truth in all people – whether Buddhist, Catholic, or whatever – than Buddhism.

    Some people like to trash the idea that Buddhism could be incredibly useful to everybody, either by suggesting that the so-called “branding” necessary to spread an idea in modern society is distasteful, or that Buddhism is so involved and intricate and weighed down with specific rituals (which vary completely, depending on the particular person making this particular argument) that is inaccessible to anyone but the smartest and most devoted practicioner. That sounds pretty insular to me, and not at all what I practice.

    As I’ve said before, if that’s true – if Buddhism is only accessible to those deemed “buddhist” by a varying set of rituals, gods, and velvet ropes (said ropes of different color depending on whether you are practicing the Buddhism that was changed by exposure to India, Japan, China, Burma, or America) – then what we now call Buddhism has very little to do with what the Buddha taught, and if we love what it teaches us, yet adopt that attitude, we stand in our own way of spreading these ideas. The Interdependence Project is about making Buddhism accessible to people of every background.

    Maybe if I lived in Oklahoma and said the same thing, people wouldn’t be so put off. It’s amazing how much the criticism of One City revolves around the simple fact of where some of us live.

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