Buddhism, Psychotherapy and a Little Bit of Woo

Some time ago I wrote a couple of posts about Buddhism and psychotherapy as well as some of the woo out there that some folks wish to append to the Buddhadharma. (here, here) And it is something that I’ve wanted to post about again particularly with regard to psychotherapists as Dharma teachers and introducing alternative methods to dharma practice. There have been numerous recent blog posts related to this topic as well. (links at the bottom for more discussion)

Further to that, someone sent me an email with their perspective on this topic and they’ve allowed me to share it here under agreement of confidentiality.

Dear Nella,

I have been concerned about this matter. I am a layperson, not a professional.

This matter warrants concern. I used to attend a meditation group led by someone who teaches in the vipassana tradition. This person had a list of Vipassana Therapists for members to consult, most of whom were affiliated with the same retreat center on which this teacher was part of the teaching council.

This particular meditation center is supposed to be Buddhist but is also a hub for some non buddhist and rather questionable methods that use…[specifics redacted]. On long and silent retreats one becomes tender and receptive and it can be very easy to accept recommendations from a friend or teacher one has come to feel close to.

I know of just one Buddhist Center (I think it is Berkeley Zen Center in Berkeley California, with Mel Weiztman as abbot, where they had posted an ethics section on their bulletin board.

You can read this excellent list here.

http://www.berkeleyzencenter.org/EARguidelines.pdf  [I’ve used a shorter link than the one that accompanied the email]

Psychotherapists who understand boundary issues know that there is a great hazard, both morally and legally in what is termed a ‘dual relationship’–that is to say when a therapist tries to combine roles of teacher, friend, business associate. It is considered the safest course for a therapist NOT to be one’s friend, ones guru, ones practice teacher, and therapists should operate on a clean, fee for service arrangement and avoid unnecessary socializing outside of the sessions with clients.

Another matter that is often not understood is that if a therapist becomes famous and in demand as a dharma teacher, he or she acquires a public persona, and that interferes with the creation of a therapeutic alliance in which the two parties are to interact as human beings, without masks.

Two, if a therapist becomes famous as a dharma teacher, all too often that means he or she risks being seduced onto the Dharma Celebrity Circuit. The person is out of town for retreats, for conferences, and that interferes with being available to clients. There are only 24 hours in a day, and something has to give.

Finally, one is often flattered and deferred to as a Dharma teacher/Dharma celebrity, which can provide a great deal of flattery. A client may risk being subconsciously drawn into nurturing the therapist/gurus public persona and, disastrously, in the guise of therapy, re-enact the kinds of early childhood relationship traumas that made therapy necessary in the first place.

Finally if a client is troubled, where can he or she go? That client may risk having to leave the sangha of which the therapist is head, or an honored senior member. That troubled client may lose friends who continue to venerate the therapist as a guru.

The only way I could solve my issue was go to my Zen Center, but consult a therapist who practices in another city, is very well informed in Buddhadharma, but who himself practices in another tradition entirely. I would refuse to seek therapy from anyone affiliated with the network of Zen Centers of which mine is a part.

To illustrate the hazards, here is what happened in California when some therapists were besotted with an unlicensed guru and recruited their clients into a group. One client who expressed misgivings was brutally rejected by her therapist. But..she was lucky. She was less damaged and had the energy to bring a lawsuit.

http://www.rickross.com/reference/general/general82.html

The author sent a few related follow up comments as well:

… some Buddhists mix in a strange stew of techniques that are, IMO ‘bells and whistles’ and not part of the heartwood of the Dharma…

Buddha supposedly stated that he had not held anything back and had passed on all that was needed. So one need not fret that some hidden teaching has to be found on a cave wall, or [elsewhere].

Feel free to use whatever you suspect may be useful to readers. I am not a well traveled Buddhist, so I have no idea whether the Berkeley Zen Center is the only place that has seen fit to mention that association in the sangha is never to be for personal gain, and that professionals must beware of the temptation of dual relationships.

And sangha by extension is not supposed to be used as a marketing node or ‘point of recruitment’.

There are quite a number of issues apparent in this communication. The ones I would like to address are:

  1. Sangha codes of ethics
  2. Dharma stew-mixing untested, unscientific, psychologically manipulative techniques into Dharma practice without outlining potential dangers to Sangha members. Informed consent at the very least should be sought before such techniques are introduced.
  3. Vulnerability
  4. Marketing of services by Sangha members and leaders
  5. Fishing for psychotherapy clients in the Sangha pool
  6. Dharma fame
  7. Dual relationship
  8. Boundary issues

1. Sangha codes of ethics.

There are now numerous groups that are publicly placing codes of ethics or similar documents in their policies. Here are a few more examples:

Berkeley Zen Center

FWBO has an ethics page on their main website and outlines it’s application to members

San Francisco Zen Center has quite a number of pages under it’s Ethics heading on their website

Spirit Rock, Insight Meditation Society, and Gaia House have a joint document on ethical guidelines for teachers including a procedure for grievance redress. (could be posted a bit more prominently on the website though-took some digging to find it)

Zen Center of Denver has the Diamond Sangha Teacher’s Ethics Agreement posted

2. Dharma stew and 3. Vulnerability

There are a  lot of things one could call skillful means. That is those things which help students to gain understanding, deepen their practice or clarify and relieve passing issues such as anxiety and lack of concentration as well as assist others in these endeavors.  Many, such as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction for example, which serves to teach people:

…how to use their innate resources and abilities to respond more effectively to stress, pain, and illness. The central focus of the Clinic is intensive training in mindfulness meditation and its integration into the challenges/adventures of everyday life.

and we might also cite something like Upaya’s Being with the Dying programs which:

…addresses the need for healthcare providers to develop knowledge and skills in the psycho-social, ethical, and spiritual aspects of dying: an approach to caregiving that is relationship-centered, including community development and cross-cultural issues; the development of skills related to care of the caregiver; and the means to implement these skills in traditional medical settings. Much of this content is not addressed in the current training of physicians, nurses, psychologists, social workers, and other healthcare providers, and is essential in the care of dying people.

as examples which integrate science, psychology, medicine and other disciplines with a Buddhist methodology or techniques in a legitimate way. Their aims, curriculum and related information are easily available and participants are informed about the purposes of any accompanying activities. They are not experiments by untrained or unethical or self-serving individuals conducted at the expense of naive participants, particularly for personal profit.

These have been developed in controlled settings and backed up by open and qualified research. There are adequate safeguards in place and backup techniques should a participant experience psychological difficulty while undertaking these methods or courses.  Significant training on the part of teachers and leaders is involved in order to provide these services.

Some techniques may be rather benign and others rather powerful. If there is readily available information about them, then students can do a little research and discover what their purposes are and how they work. Any reason for using adjunct measures in a Sangha context should be explained fully and justified. Ideally any group leader will provide this information or at least sources for further study. Those employing such techniques should be properly trained in their use and be able to recognize any arising difficulties. A procedure should be in place for such difficulties. Providing references to co-facilitator’s psychotherapeutic practices should not be part of the procedure.

But that is not what is meant by Dharma stew.  The types of things being talked about include, but are not limited to:

Dharma teachers pushing their pet theories, employing alternative methods or deciding who needs this kind of “help” without considering the ethical ramifications are abusing their positions of trust as well as compromising (read watering-down) the power of the dharma itself.

Sure, they may think they’re a good person who only wants to help the people they practice with. All these “tools” are often methods to display some kind of fake expertise when actual dharma training and knowledge is lacking. It’s easy to become a past-life regression therapist (16 days) or a Reiki master-teacher. I know because I did the latter, from start to finish, in less than a month. (It was fairly entertaining and not completely without benefit. I’ll make a post about it some time-apparently I was spiritually precocious! Ha.) 

But thorough grounding in the Buddhadharma takes years if not decades of both study and practice. Sometimes though, even those who have gotten the grounding succumb to the temptation of offering quick results to make a fast buck. This rather mystifies me. What would cause someone, who had spent decades in study and practice, to just say “Fuck it! Gimme the money.” and then proceed to bilk hundreds of people? Did they run out of patience? Did they go off on a tangent and attempt to rectify that mistake by turning it into a corporation? Did they not get the results they had anticipated with practice? Were they disappointed to find their results were “nothing special” after all?

It just strikes me as a really cynical thing to do.  And actually I feel a certain amount of compassion for that because of the shallowness of it. When someone, after years of practice decides to only chase after the riches of materialism and celebrity, basking in large, almost captive audiences while sitting under a spotlight on a stage, especially when it’s at the expense of others who would place their trust in that teacher, because they have not fully realized the riches of the Buddhadharma, then it’s a painful situation all around.

Most people don’t know much if anything about the Buddhadharma when they walk into a practice group. They are curious and receptive. And because it is purported to be a nice religion run by such nice people as HH Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh, and followed by such other nice people as Richard Gere and Goldie Hawn, they are preternaturally trusting.

Abusing that trust in this way can only be called spiritual vampirism.

4. Marketing.

Is it a Sangha or a swap meet? At the link for the Berkeley Zen Center mentioned in the email author’s communication.  It states:

Therapists and Helping Professionals
Sangha members are discouraged from using the community as a source of
business or professional clients. We request that BZC teachers and sangha
members who work as psychotherapists, physicians or attorneys avoid entering
into professional relationships with sangha members. Others in the helping
professions are asked to be sensitive to the delicate balance between worker
and client, and the possible complexity of dual relationships when both parties
practice at the same dharma center.

While I’ll take up the issue of dual relationships in another section, this is exactly the type of complicated situation that can be foreseen in any group setting. And one that a group can be prepared for.

Simple transactions between people will naturally occur in any group setting, particularly as people get to know each other. Someone is selling their old aquarium or looking to find a music instructor for their child or wants a companion to join them at a used book sale. These are incidental occurrences that don’t necessarily involve an ongoing relationship, divulging of personal information, or legal and ethical matters to any great degree.

On the other hand, I certainly would not want my divorce lawyer meditating next to me and involved with my Buddhist practice, nor my doctor who gave me a pap test (or for the guys your prostate exam), nor a therapist who knew all the details of my family history. Way too close for comfort. And if the professional relationship goes awry it’s rather difficult to disguise that. The ramifications affect the entire sangha when members have internal problems with each other enough. Adding outside and unknown relationship problems compounds the issue as well as leads to gossip.  It becomes everyone’s problem.

5. Fishing

Using the sangha as a fishing pond for clients is as uncomfortable as the situation of those who bring their creations for their Ebay store to work every Monday and try to sell them to workmates. You may be deft with the old wood-burning set but, NO, I don’t need a piece of toast with the shape of Manjushri burnt onto it. [Save it for the Rocky Horror Picture Show revival] 

There’s a time and a place for such things. Forcing these issues can violate people’s comfort zones [not always a bad thing] and cause confusion as to the purpose of a group activity.  It’s awkward, there’s a sense of false obligation and it risks alienating people and setting up a scenario of resentment.

It leads others to believe that they too should be doing business in the sangha which sets up all sorts of conditions for competition, disappointment, wounded feelings and territoriality. [“My clients”, “My products”, “My services”, “My methods”]

And if it’s the dharma teacher doing it that compounds the discomfort. Why even go there?

6. Dharma fame

Some people become well known and start to believe their own hype. We see it in the tabloids all the time with Hollywood types. If someone is not fairly grounded in reality there is a lot of temptation to revel in the attention, praise, importance, material benefits, sycophancy and power that comes along with celebrity.

Everyone around a celebrity wants advice, time, a share of the spotlight, material benefit, intimate knowledge and connections from the famous and soon the illusion of celebrity is leading and controlling the person’s life rather than the other way around. And the scope of acceptable, allowable behavior becomes larger as the spotlight becomes brighter or larger. People don’t say no to celebrities often. In fact people will encourage even more outrageous behavior if it is possibly to their benefit. And if the celebrity can’t say no to themselves first when necessary, as well as to others then consequences  are often disastrous.

This is the situation in the lives of all people who accrue power or fame in any realm. The dharma celebrity is no different.

7. Dual or multiple relationships and 8. Boundary issues

In the American Psychological Association’s Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct  states:

(a) A multiple relationship occurs when a psychologist is in a professional role with a person and (1) at the same time is in another role with the same person, (2) at the same time is in a relationship with a person closely associated with or related to the person with whom the psychologist has the professional relationship, or (3) promises to enter into another relationship in the future with the person or a person closely associated with or related to the person. section 3.05

It would not be out of line to question someone from your sangha who seems to insist on acting on your behalf in a personal matter, or who insists on asking for professional opinions repeatedly. In the first instance if you had sought their opinion on a particular matter, due to their expertise, and whether they provided an answer or not, this does not obligate you or them to develop an ongoing professional relationship.  Likewise if someone asks for an opinion, the professional should feel perfectly free to cite conflict of interest or other professional ethical codes and decline. Neither party should push the matter nor feel resentful.

From a piece by Lorne Ladner Taking a Stand-The importance of healthy boundaries

This is precisely the way to go about setting healthy boundaries. You begin by correcting the person, telling the other how you wish to be treated, or stating what you are or are not willing to do. It can be difficult in the short run to set a clear boundary with someone you care about, but not doing so often leads to many more difficulties over a much longer period of time.

Boundaries provide a framework for relationship.  Without them, without some critical judgement, questioning, and decision making all manner of activities become acceptable. No one takes the time to really examine their limits of acceptability. Such things are forgotten and anything goes. It reminds me of the old phrase “Those who stand for nothing will fall for anything.”

The Dharmic Conclusion

Shodo Harada Roshi said in this video:

When in the past we each could just consider our own needs and be aware of what the small world around us was requiring, we are now approaching a time when we can’t do that any more. The world is just too connected, just too full of things that are connecting all of us. For example the amount of information that comes into everybody. It gives us the sense of not needing to judge things for ourselves any more. We’re always being told what to do, what to wear, how things should happen.

People’s lives have really taken on a sense of isolation without any way to express how miserable that makes them feel. And along with all that comes all the business of life because of all the media, because of all the information, because of the pace of things happening right now. In the middle of this isolated, uncomfortable mind we are walking around a world that is so busy we can’t even find time to find out what it is in our mind that is making us so discontent and unhappy. And in order to somehow assuage that feeling we go into entertainment that has so much stimulation that we are just kind of numbing ourselves to all of that. Or we become intoxicated on things like drugs or alcohol. Or a hobby that takes us away from thinking about how unhappy we are inside. Our world has become a place where we are always avoiding facing the core issue and dealing with what’s really really our true nature. Instead we try to find some satisfaction in an external world outside of ourselves.

The whole series of talks he gives are eye-opening.

The sangha, retreat or other place of refuge and teaching, when fraught with “the business of life”, ceases to function for it’s allotted purpose.  It becomes another place to which we must numb ourselves rather than free ourselves.

The need to recover a sense of autonomy within the Buddhist path is necessary. Yet so is the need to examine whatever sense of autonomy that is currently present and insure that it’s direction is in accord with the Dharma if we call ourselves Buddhist and wish to have the benefits of the Buddhist path. It is with some trepidation that I would cite the Kalama Sutta here because that has been over used and abused too many times.

Unfortunately, what I see  happening in some cases is a rejection of the Buddhist path in favor of personal opinion or wishful thinking. One small section of the Sutta is often cited, though more often paraphrased, without reference to the context, to justify this rejection:

Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another’s seeming ability; nor upon the consideration, ‘The monk is our teacher.’

This is not a blank check to use to fulfill every whim we have. Nor is it license to throw Buddhadharma out the window and substitute a bunch of woo. Particularly related to the teachings themselves,  rejection is very popular. There may be several reasons for this.

There is a strong anti-intellectual tendency in popular Buddhism globally. To some degree that is even reinforced by some of the hierarchical structures within the Buddhist establishment. So it is quite understandable that a knowledge approach would seem rather unattractive compared to an intuitive or “organic” approach. But both are necessary.

As well rejection is often confused with judgement. Rejection and judgement are not the same thing. Rejection or acceptance are decisions made after investigation and analysis. They are results of judgment which is a result of analysis which is a result of investigation. There is a whole chain of events that precedes rejection.  This is the meaning and method of free inquiry that is encapsulated in the Kalama Sutta.

The criteria for judgement are laid out plainly in the Sutta. They immediately follow the above quote. On the subject of rejection it is stated:

Kalamas, when you yourselves know: ‘These things are bad; these things are blamable; these things are censured by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill,’ abandon them.

And similarly for acceptance:

Kalamas, when you yourselves know: ‘These things are good; these things are not blamable; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness,’ enter on and abide in them.

These are the criteria for wise decision making. We cannot accept or reject until we know what it is that is being dealt with. Just because somebody on Twitter says “Buddha said to reject texts, or precepts, or teacher’s opinions, or our own ideas.”  do we blindly accept that opinion? It’s tempting to do so because it gives us license to do whatever we want. Without references to any alternative, since we have rejected them, we are left to fall back on our own greed, delusion and desire. Acceptance and rejection are conditional upon knowledge and experience of the subject. A priori rejection [the blank check] is not included in this approach.

Yes we need to maintain a critical eye towards what is and isn’t beneficial. But beneficial in the relative sense of the ego and beneficial in a much larger sense are two very different things.

There may come a time for rejecting. When one has digested and benefited from their study then particulars fall by the wayside. The raft is left behind as it were. This seems to be the emerging trend and that is not a problem for mature practitioners. However, for those who have not yet benefited from the raft, its disposal may be a little premature leaving them lost on the little island of I.  (Yes I am referring to Batchelor’s latest work but that’s for another post)

Setting boundaries, making informed decisions, questioning methods, using sound judgement, asking for proof, abandoning the harmful, accepting the beneficial, knowing what we are accepting and rejecting intimately are all part of the process. 

But most importantly these criteria are also to be applied to ourselves. We have to look within and monitor our own actions and reactions. The Buddhadharma as a whole is not only some kind of lens with which to examine and judge that which is deemed outer to ourselves. That sets up our egos to be the ultimate arbiters of everything. We remain in the same position as always and are essentially running in place.

While it can certainly be useful for the purpose of external observation, it is a mirror with which we are to view ourselves as well. Buddhism as an external thing, a refuge outside of ourselves is ineffective. It is like a medicine in that sense.  To be taken not merely looked at or displayed. It is only a costume if we do not apply the same scrutiny and criteria within as without.

So when it comes to teachers, students, methods, “tools”, relationships, ideas, occupations and ethics, a rigorousness and universality needs to be applied in approaches to the Buddhadharma.

Links

On a few blogs,related topics have come up and comments were quite interesting. Check these posts for more:

Dying of New Age on Petteri’s blog Come to Think of It…  on New Age “woolly-headedness”

Caution: Meditation May Lead to Brainwashing from Gniz at Reblogging Brad Warner blog followed by Cautions about Meditation and “Brainwashing” Revisited

Big Mind, Big B.S.  Nosan Lawrence Grecco on The Wheel of Dharma blog discusses …”packaging Zen Buddhism as if it were instant oatmeal.”

The inimitable Brad Warner of Hard Core Zen has been into similar subjects for quite some time. One of his more recent posts is THE END OF SUFFERING IS POSSIBLE FOR YOU

Semi-Related Videos in a Somewhat Comedic Vein

more from Supreme Mistress Looprah Woo 

(she reminds me of the Phoebe character on Friends in that last video!)

She also has a Facebook Fan page and a Twitter account

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17 comments on “Buddhism, Psychotherapy and a Little Bit of Woo

  1. An excellent article. Thank you, NellaLou.

    Many of these issues are very, very tricky. Take dual relationships, for example. Most people in Boulder, CO where I live are in training for some sort of meditation, healing, massage, therapy, acupuncture, or alternative healing or spiritual modality. Boulder is a relatively small college town, so this means pretty much every client of every practitioner is in a dual relationship as defined by the APA (especially that bit about being 2 degrees of separation from the client). The therapeutic and spiritual communities in Boulder are notoriously incestuous–in more ways than one.

    I’ve talked to multiple psychotherapists, coaches, and healers in Boulder about what makes for a successful private practice, and how to ethically market one’s self to get clients. As it turns out, every successful private practice recommends some marketing technique that violates one or more of the ethical guidelines of the APA or ACA, usually in some minor but significant way. Professional psychotherapists and counselors are told to not seek clients within their social networks nor online, nor can they post flyers or take out advertisements, etc. Yet these are the very places people find a therapist or healer (or doctor or lawyer for that matter)–usually through word of mouth, aka friend of a friend within their social circle.

    So healers and therapists are faced with a double-bind–those who are successful in private practice break the official ethical rules, but do so in a non-obnoxious way that people willingly overlook–at least as long as it doesn’t cross some invisible line of “dual relationship.” This basically means that you aren’t being unethical as long as nobody gets too angry at you!

    Established practitioners can succeed in this way, since they already have word of mouth, and likely established their practice back when ethics were looser (in Boulder in the 70’s for example, when Trungpa Rinpoche was sleeping with all his students…but so was everybody). New, ethical practitioners are screwed, for on the one hand you have ruthless New Wagers who care nothing for ethics, dual relationships, and countertransference, and on the other hand you have these established (and apparently ethical) practitioners who got there by breaking the rules before there were many rules. So you end up with many legit, skilled, ethical young therapists working unrelated meanial jobs with $90,000 in student loans, or instead working for $9-12/hour with impossible cases in government organizations, mostly pushing paper and fighting bureaucracy. Meanwhile there are plenty of people who still can’t find a decent therapist, even in this town. It’s a horribly inefficient system.

    The other double-bind is that people learn to be ethical by doing things that put them in situations that test their ethics. You cannot be ethical by reasoning about ethics, you must do something and stick to your principles when tempted. This is a process that usually involves swinging back and forth between poles before finding a middle ground. But with no real options for new therapists to work these things out and get paid a reasonable salary, many therapists join LGAT weekend workshop training companies putting on “change your life in a weekend” expensive seminars, or join cultish spiritual organizations. Again, it’s a mess!

    I suppose the best we can do is continue to muddle through and have public conversations about the issues to try and draw out dialogue.

    • This is a difficult situation for these folks. A suggestion might be to organize. That is start a broad group of these practitioners specifically for the purposes of both getting their names out there and avoiding these conflicts of interest. A simple website with listings of their areas of expertise, short bios as well as affiliations etc. could make it easier on everyone. People would then have an idea where to find help and the professionals could then have an option that was not available before. It seems to me that the problem is networking and within most problems lies some sort of solution. So using networking to bring about a solution might help.

      As well though, people who are seeking some help need to realize that they have options and don’t have to get stuck in any particular situation. It is not that hard to phone around, even from the telephone listings, or check the Internet and see if people have some presence there which could indicate if they are potentially compatible.

      If people go into a situation being knowledgeable of details of degrees of separation and ethical considerations and still decide to partake then that is thoroughly informed consent. I don’t see that as much of a problem if people behave like adults. Or at least try to.

      Testing ethics is the make or break moment in a lot of situations. We can idealize how we would behave in any hypothetical situation but when it comes down to it that can change. A lot of times I think it is the result of a lack of forethought on the subject of ethics themselves. When we idealize a situation it is the situation dictating behavior. But if we have thought about where we stand personally on the acceptable and unacceptable continuum beforehand there is more of a chance to assert an ethical stance. For example we might say I won’t divulge any information about a client ever or even reveal a psychotherapeutic or similar relationship. That’s pretty absolute and quite likely not going to be followed. If said client is threatening a psychotherapist would the police not be contacted? Or if said client has not showed up for an appointment and there is some concern for their well-being would not some phone calls be made to inquire? By the fact that these broad issues such as confidentiality, dual-relationships etc have been examined there is at least a base line from which to make decisions rather than a totally relativistic even whimsical decision making process.

      I think what is the most important issue is making these processes conscious rather than relying on what has been done historically, or is popular (everyone else is doing it!) etc. because that strikes me as a bit of a cop out. Basically if people really think about what they are doing in any circumstance and the potential ramifications, most of the problems that crop up would either be minimal or wouldn’t happen.

      That’s a bit idealistic too I know and not how things generally happen. But then again I tend to operate under the naive assumption that people usually interact in good faith rather than blatant self-interest. That is despite a lot of evidence to the contrary. (I think of them as exceptions so as not to shatter my illusions too much)

  2. Also, as far as the specific “woo” things mentioned in your article…

    * I think the Enneagram is useful for appreciating different personality types and approaches to the path (similar to the Five Buddha Families in Vajrayana, basically a system of archetypes). Having some “types” theory, when used wisely, can prevent dogmatism and encourage skillful means based on individual differences. When used unwisely it can lead to putting people in boxes and marginalizing their perspectives (“oh, that’s just what a ‘5’ would say…”).

    * I’m an NLPer and think NLP has some great distinctions for practical psychology and communication (although the field is almost entirely corrupt and fractured except for a few rare, kind and humble folks).

    * I’ve done Big Mind and it’s a decent transpersonal psychotherapeutic technique–a variation of Voice Dialogue from Hal and Sidra Stone (although I’m highly critical of Dennis Merzel and his 5/5/50 fundraising plan, as well as his friends Bill Harris and James Arthur Ray). The marketing overpromises to the extreme and totally distorts what the technique does and the purpose of Zen.

    * I’ve never done Katie’s “work” but it seems like simple reframing (which can be useful), made into a rigid and dogmatic ideology sold at high prices, combined with systematic lying (“I never feel anger anymore” says Katie–her former staff disagrees…) and intensive LGAT techniques that break you down and get you to give Katie more money and stuff.

    * I’ve experimented with binaural beats but found them alternatively useless, too experimental, dangerous, and distracting from cultivating a conscious relationship to experience, depending on the specific protocol. They also bypass the cultivation of any paramitas/virtues, which is probably why we see certain behaviors in their proponents that one wouldn’t exactly call enlightened (e.g. threatening to sue former customers/non-profit bloggers). On the other hand, there are some folks who use brain entrainment techniques (light and sound, biofeedback, etc.) to help people reduce anxiety, cope with ADHD, and other things in an intelligent and responsible manner.

    * I’ve always wanted to try a flotation tank. :)

    * I’m not into psychedelics/entheogens myself, but I’m open to the fact that people have found much insight and healing from going on various trips throughout human history. At the very least, some great art and music has been drug-inspired! The dangers (psychologically and legally) of entheogen use should be abundantly obvious. Not to mention again that they also don’t develop paramitas/virtues, and people often obsess about and annoy others with tales of their strange experiences. A trip is just a trip people.

    * I don’t know anything about deep psychological tests.

    * EST/Forum/Landmark has a long, shady past that I will not write about here due to fears of their aggressive litigiousness. That said, I don’t have a good alternative recommendation for learning to confront one’s psychological problems and adopt bold, courageous communication skills. I still would not recommend Landmark Education.

    * I’m a fan of hypnosis and hypnotherapy, which I consider the essence of psychological healing, but the field is *very* flaky in general, and corrupt in many instances.

    * I’m agnostic about past-life regression, but if it’s already part of someone’s belief system, a therapist may as well utilize this to facilitate healing. Most therapists feel that attempting to change a clients beliefs and values about such things is intrusive and unethical, whether or not there is evidence to support such beliefs (which are also in many strands of Buddhist doctrine as well).

    • It is good to get the perspective of those personally involved. Thanks.

      There may be some use in some of these things. I do find Reiki to be useful for certain things, particularly related to focus and the scatter-brainedness that comes with anxiety, but it isn’t going to cure cancer or give anyone a satori experience.

      What occurs in some Buddhist groups is that these things are introduced as part of the Buddhist methodology and participants are not told about that nor are they given any information about these things. Not where they came from, what their purpose is or what the potential side effects can be. That’s just plain dishonest.

      I tried to listen to some binaural beats when I was writing a blog post about them and they were so annoying I ended up grinding my teeth throughout. It was similar to a constant hum from a broken florescent light. (they were relaxation beats to boot!)

      I am looking forward to one day taking a Big Mind seminar taught by Merzel for the purposes of reporting my results on the Internet. If I’m ever near a city where that’s happening I intend to do it. And I’ll even attempt to keep an open mind-but will also take notes or even record it at the same time.

      The biggest accusation against critics is that they’ve not partaken in some of this stuff so maybe it’s time some of us do that a little more and reset the critical analysis meter. That’s why I did the Reiki workshops-some friends were getting scarily over-enthusiastic about it. So much so that they were endangering their health.

      I wish people who have had these experiences and particularly those who’ve had a bad time with them would be more forthcoming with that. It is coming slowly in some realms but it can save some people a lot of heartache if they can hear the side of the story that is not driven by advertising, connections, money and sycophancy. At least they can get some idea of what they are getting into.

      Deep psychological tests can be used to “type” people too. But they can also be used to discern certain personality traits that can be manipulated. For example if someone is strong in the conformist category they are much easier to persuade than someone who has an anti-social tendency. They may have also had overbearing parental figures which is a position that can be exploited by having them fall into the child role in a relationship. Couple that with a perfectionist streak and you’ve got a more-than-devoted follower. It can be quite revealing.

      A lot of these fields are ripe for exploitation. And as Buddhism becomes more well known and mixed up with them it too will experience an increase in this kind of activity. Not that there hasn’t been a lot of that already. But now it will become much more purposeful and aggressive rather than just incidental and as an afterthought. (That’s a prediction! The number to my psychic hotline is…)

      Duff you’re sensible skepticism is the kind of attitude that is called for in the spiritual supermarket. I appreciate what you do.

  3. Deep psychological tests can be used to “type” people too. But they can also be used to discern certain personality traits that can be manipulated.

    I totally agree. Folks like James Arthur Ray do inventories of seminar participants major wounds and life traumas, ostensibly in the name of healing, but then utilize this information to push people’s deep, deep buttons to get them to conform–and especially to sign up for more outrageously priced workshops.

    It’s not necessarily harder to get non-conformists or anti-social people to conform. Manipulators simply use “reverse psychology” as it’s commonly known. “Be unconventional, just like me” is the rhetoric of those who would lead the self-proclaimed rebels.

    Reiki seems mildly useful , sometimes surprising, and often has no effect at all–same as most energy work.

    I would add that Buddhism itself is not free from its own controversies and corruption. This is yet another reason to keep our eyes open and our minds sharp. We must be willing to discuss the difficult and muddle through the ethical challenges of spirituality and therapy if we wish to engage in anything resembling maturity or wisdom.

  4. Ive noticed that a number of purportedly Buddhist teachers and therapists mention studying both Advaita and Buddhadharma
    on their resumes.

    I dont get it. In Advaita Vedanta, it is postulated that there is an inherantly-separately-existing Absolute or Brahman
    with which we are in union but unconscious of that unity, and the goal of moksha/release from suffering is to break
    through the ego constructed personality and play of delusions, realize that essential unity with the Absolute.

    But in Buddhadharma there is nothing inherantly-separately-existing, with which to merge.

    So, it puzzles me that many renowned Buddhist teachers include Advaita in their resumes and foster the confusion
    that all forms of nondual practice are the same, when the basic premises are different.

    Agehananda Bharati, an Shankara monk whose own doctrinal commitment was to advaita vedanta taught with and alongside
    Buddhist monks and spent some time at a teaching assignment in Thailand, giving a survey course on religions
    to students who were Theravedan monastics. He made this observation:

    ‘When teaching Siamese Buddhist brother monks,’ Bharati wrote ‘ I encountered a difficulty which I had anticipated only in theory,
    but which is of enormous systematic importance. I found that it is virtually impossible to covey to them the notion of a Being, of a static universe, of a ‘Thing-in-itself’ in the philosophical sense, and a fortieri of a Supreme Being, God. They (the Siamese monks in the 1950s when Bharati was teaching there), had never heard anything but the pristine, austere, strictly essenceless views of the Buddhist teachers.

    ‘The Buddha broke down the Brahminical notion of a ‘Thing’, a Being, a God, but he and his Indian followers were always surrounded by thousands who held theistic and absolutist views–they could compare and exhange notes. Not so the Siamese, Buremese, and other South East Asian Theraveda Buddhists. For many generations they have heard nothing but the non
    essentialist views of primitive Buddhism, and there was no one around them who held other views.’

    ”I believe that (my students), brilliant Buddhist monks*, who knew pretty well what it was that the teacher of their Master (Buddha) had opposed: teh Brahmin notion of a Being, of a cosmic entity, of the Brahman, and of the related or ideational Self. I do not think that the Siamese Buddhists mean the same as Indian students of religion when they use the term, anatmavada i.e. the doctrine of non-self, which is the key doctrine of Theravada Buddhism.

    The Hindu –when he hears the term ‘non-self’ immediately thinks of the Absolute with which the Self is identified. Not so the Siamese–for he has never really heard about an Absolute. For him, anatmavada simply means ‘doctrine of non-self’, where atma (self) refers solely to his own ego, his particular individuality, which Buddhism denies as a fiction.

    ‘The facile manner in which Hindu and Buddhist scholars aver a mutual understanding of the key-term anatmavada misleads them:
    the term ‘self’ atman, is a loaded term for the Indian but a very simple one for the Siamese, and probably for all other Theraveda
    Buddhists. This seems a case where intelligent and even erudite people have been using the same words, the same idioms, but with totally different meanings of which they are mutually unaware.’

    Agehananda Bharati, The Ochre Robe, pagee 259-260, 1980 edition.

  5. And since personality is inherantly non existent and there is no such thing as inherantly existent essence in Theravedan Buddhism, its puzzling that some make room for adding the enneagram or modalities aimed at developing ‘essence’ to their practice of Buddhadharma..especialy those who trace their commitment to the form of Buddhism resting on the Pali canons.

    If there is no such thing as inherantly existence essence as far as Buddhism is concerned and no such thing as inherantly existing personality, time and money spent on any gadget (enneagram or anything else) or additional practices aimed at developing essence or typing personality would,from a Theravedan Buddhist standpoint, be time and money wasted.

    And we dont know how much time we have left to live and be conscious so we must be very careful not to be lured into seductive and time wasting bypaths.

    If youre not a Buddhist practitioner, then this doesnt apply. But if one knowledgably practices Buddhism, the actual tradition lays out which areas are profitable for practice, and which areas lead into dead ends.

    • Most therapists are not philosophers, nor scholars of Buddhism or Advaita Vedanta. Very few Western practitioners even have any idea that the Buddhist doctrine of anatman could conflict with the Advaita doctrine of Atman/Brahman.

      It’s also not the case that all Buddhists reject Atman. There’s a guy I follow on Twitter (can’t find him right now unfortunately) who’s main schtick is to argue that the Buddha did not in fact reject Atman. He quotes several sutras as support for this position.

      I do not think that it follows that if there is no such thing as inherently existing personality in an ultimate sense, therefore models of personality lack usefulness in bringing about mental health. Isn’t it the case that Buddhist doctrine concludes that all thoughts lack inherent, permanent existence? And also the physical body? Yet we still spend many years and thousands of dollars on education and health care.

  6. In place of ‘scholar’ lets substitute right understanding, or ‘commitment to study’

    Bhikku Bodhi gave an interview well worth reading in its entirety.

    Here he speaks of recommendations for lay persons–not meditation teachers, but lay persons.
    Climbing to the Top of the Mountain: An interview with Bhikkhu Bodhi

    http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:LrY5sDhU4SIJ:http://www.dharma.org/ij/archives/2002b/bhikkhu_bodhi.htm+%27bhikku+bodhi%22+ecumenism&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&strip=1

    “The fourth quality of the earnest layperson is learning or study. This entails an effort to acquire – and I’ll use that expression again – a clear conceptual understanding of the Dhamma, at least of its basic framework. Even if one isn’t ready to study the texts in detail, one should remember that the Buddhist understanding of existence underlies the practice of meditation, and thus that systematic study can contribute to the fulfillment of one’s practice.”

    Earlier he writes:

    (inteviewer)”How did you become a scholar of Buddhism?

    Bhikku Bodhi:

    I never intended to become a Buddhist scholar or a translator of Pali texts; in fact, I do not consider myself a serious scholar of Buddhism even now. I was initially attracted to Buddhism through the practice of meditation. It was my first teacher, Ven. Giac Duc, who impressed on me the need for systematic study of the Dhamma to serve as a proper foundation for both meditation practice and for teaching the Dhamma in the West.”

    When asked if he recommends study for all meditators, Bhikkhu Bodhi replied

    “I wouldn’t say that one needs a thorough knowledge of the texts before one can start to practice meditation. As with most Buddhist practitioners today, I entered the Buddhist path through meditation. But I believe that for the practice of meditation to fulfill the purpose entrusted to it by the Buddha, it must be strongly supported by other factors, which nurture the practice and direct it towards its proper goal. These factors include faith, in the sense of trusting confidence in the Triple Gem – the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha; right view, a clear understanding of the basic principles of the teaching; and virtue, the observance of Buddhist ethics, not as a mere code of rules but as a dedicated effort to radically transform one’s conduct and character. ”

    What I find perplexing here is the use of vipassana [insight] meditation as a method in its own right, severed from the broader context of the Dhamma. In the way that I was taught and trained, vipassana meditation is the crown jewel of the Dhamma, but like any crown jewel it should be embedded in the appropriate crown. Traditionally this is the framework made up of faith in the Triple Gem, a clear conceptual understanding of the Dhamma, and an aspiration to realize the aim the Buddha holds up as the goal of his teaching. Upon this basis, one undertakes the practice of meditation to attain direct insight into the principles of the teaching. Then proper wisdom—the wisdom that conforms to the Buddha’s intention—naturally arises and leads to the realization of the goal.

    What do you make of the fact that Buddhism is becoming so popular in this country?
    It is not difficult to understand why Buddhism should appeal to Americans at this particular juncture of our history. Theistic religions have lost their hold on the minds of many educated Americans, and this has opened up a deep spiritual vacuum that needs to be filled. For many, materialistic values are profoundly unsatisfying, and Buddhism offers a spiritual teaching that fits the bill. It is rational, experiential, practical, and personally verifiable; it brings concrete benefits that can be realized in one’s own life; it propounds lofty ethics and an intellectually cogent philosophy. Also, less auspiciously, it has an exotic air that attracts those fascinated by the mystical and esoteric.

    The big question we face is whether and to what extent Buddhism should be refashioned to conform to the particular exigencies imposed by American culture. Throughout history Buddhism has generally adjusted its forms to enable it to adapt to the indigenous cultures and thought-worlds in which it has taken root. Yet beneath these modifications, which allowed it to thrive in different cultural contexts, it has usually remained faithful to its essential insights. This may be the biggest challenge facing Buddhism in America, where the intellectual milieu is so different from anything Buddhism has ever previously encountered that in our haste to effect the necessary adaptations we may be unwittingly diluting or even expurgating principles fundamental to the Dhamma. I believe we need to be very cautious if we are to find a successful middle way between too rigid adherence to traditional Asiatic forms and excessive accommodation to contemporary Western—and specifically American—intellectual, social, and cultural pressures.

    It might be counterproductive to attempt to import into America a version of Theravada Buddhism that retains all the customs and mores of Southeast Asia. But I believe it is essential to preserve those principles that lie at the very heart of the Dhamma, and to clearly articulate the proper purpose for which the practice of the Dhamma is undertaken. If we tamper with these, we risk losing the essence along with the extrinsic accretions. In our current situation, I think the main danger is not inflexible adherence to established Buddhist forms, but excessive accommodation to the pressures of the American mind-set. In many of the Buddhist publications I have seen, I have detected signs of a widespread program, regarded almost as obligatory, to extract Buddhist practices from their grounding in Buddhist faith and doctrine and transplant them into a basically secular agenda whose parameters are defined by Western humanism, particularly humanistic and transpersonal psychology.

    Can you point to ways this might be happening?
    I think we see examples of this in the use of vipassana meditation as an adjunct or companion to Western psychotherapy. Actually, I’m not overly worried about psychologists using Buddhist techniques to promote psychological healing. If Buddhist meditation can help people feel more comfortable about themselves, or to live with greater awareness and equanimity, this is good. If psychotherapists can use Buddhist meditation as a tool of inner healing, I would say more power to them. After all, “the Tathagata does not have the closed fist of a teacher,” and we should let others take from the Dhamma what they can effectively use for beneficial ends.

    What I am concerned about is the trend, common among present-day Buddhist teachers, of recasting the core principles of the Buddha’s teachings into largely psychological terms and then saying, “This is Dhamma.” When this is done we may never get to see that the real purpose of the teaching, in its own framework, is not to induce “healing” or “wholeness” or “self-acceptance,” but to propel the mind in the direction of deliverance – and to do so by attenuating, and finally extricating, all those mental factors responsible for our bondage and suffering. We should remember that the Buddha did not teach the Dhamma as an “art of living” – though it includes that – but above all as a path to deliverance, a path to final liberation and enlightenment. And what the Buddha means by enlightenment is not a celebration of the limitations of the human condition, not a passive submission to our frailties, but an overcoming of those limitations by making a radical, revolutionary breakthrough to an altogether different dimension of being.

    This is what I find most gripping about the Dhamma: its culmination in a transcendent dimension in which we overcome all the flaws and vulnerabilities of the human condition, including our bondage to death itself. The aim of the Buddhist path is not living and dying with mindfulness (though these are, of course, worthy achievements), but transcending life and death entirely to arrive at the Deathless, at the Immeasurable, at Nirvana. This is the goal the Buddha sought for himself during his own quest for enlightenment, and it is this attainment that his enlightenment made available to the world. This is the end at which the proper practice of Dhamma points, the end for which the practice is undertaken in its original framework.

    This end, however, is lost to view when insight meditation is taught as just a way to live mindfully, to wash dishes and change baby’s diapers with awareness and tranquility. When the transcendent dimension of the Dhamma, its very raison d’etre, is expunged, what we are left with is, in my view, an eviscerated, enfeebled version of the teaching that can no longer function as a vehicle to deliverance. Though correctly practiced, the Dhamma does bring abundant happiness within the world, ultimately the teaching is not about living happily in the world but about reaching “the end of the world”—an end that is to be found not in the far regions of outer space but within this fathom-long body with its senses and consciousness.

    So you do not think Dhamma is being taught as a path of deliverance?
    The impression I get from what I’ve read in contemporary American Buddhist publications is that this aspect of Buddhist practice is receiving little emphasis. I hear of students being taught to accept themselves; to live in the present from moment to moment without attachment and clinging; to enjoy, honor and celebrate their vulnerability. Again, I don’t want to underestimate the importance of approaching the practice with a healthy psychological attitude. For a person troubled by self-condemnation, who is always dejected and miserable, the practice of intensive meditation is more likely to be harmful than beneficial. The same might be said of a person who lacks a strong center of psychological integration or of one who tries to deny his weaknesses and vulnerabilities by presenting a façade of strength and self-confidence.

    But I have to emphasize that the training that accords with the Buddha’s own clear intentions presupposes that we are prepared to adopt a critical stance towards the ordinary functioning of our mind. This involves seeing our vulnerabilities, i.e., our mental defilements, not as something to be celebrated but as a liability, as a symptom of our “fallen” condition. It also presupposes that we are determined to transform ourselves, both in the immediate moment-to-moment functioning of our miminds and in their more stable and persistent extension over time.

    To take up the Buddha’s training is thus to draw a distinction, even a sharp distinction, between our characters (proclivities, dispositions, habits, etc.) as they are now, and the ideals to which we should aspire and seek to embody by our practice of the Buddhist path. The mental dispositions we must acknowledge and seek to rectify are our kilesas, the defilements or afflictions: the three root-defilements of greed, aversion and delusion, and their many offshoots such as anger, obstinacy, arrogance, vanity, jealousy, selfishness, hypocrisy, etc.

    So the great affirmation to which the Buddhist path points us is not the wonders of our “ordinary mind,” but of the mind that has been illuminated by true wisdom, the mind that has been purified of all taints and corruptions, the mind that has been liberated from all bonds and fetters and has become suffused with a universal love and compassion that spring from the depth and clarity of understanding. The practice of the Buddhist path is the systematic way to close the gap between our ordinary unenlightened mind and the enlightened, liberated state towards which we aspire, a state which rises to and merges with the Deathless……”

    And distinction betweeen Buddhist vs Hindu understanding of rebirth

    BUDDHISM AND HINDUISM COMPARED
    The word “Samsara” means literally “continuing on”, “wandering on”. It signifies the repetitive cycle of birth, ageing, death and rebirth.

    Now though Buddhism and Hinduism share the concept of rebirth, the Buddhist concept differs in details from the Hindu doctrine. The doctrine of rebirth as understood in Hinduism involves a permanent soul, a conscious entity which transmigrates from one body to another. The soul inhabits a given body and at death, the soul casts that body off and goes on to assume another body. The famous Hindu classic, the Bhagavad Gita, compares this to a man who might take off one suit of clothing and put on another. The man remains the same but the suits of clothing are different. In the same way the soul remains the same but the psycho-physical organism it takes up differs from life to life.

    The Buddhist term for rebirth in Pali is “punabbhava” which means “again existence”. Buddhism sees rebirth not as the transmigration of a conscious entity but as the repeated occurrence of the process of existence. There is a continuity, a transmission of influence, a causal connection between one life and another. But there is no soul, no permanent entity which transmigrates from one life to another.

    REBIRTH WITHOUT A TRANSMIGRATING SOUL
    The concept of rebirth without a transmigrating soul commonly raises the question: How can we speak of ourselves as having lived past lives if there is no soul, no single life going through these many lives? To answer this we have to understand the nature of individual identity in a single lifetime. The Buddha explains that what we really are is a functionally unified combination of five aggregates. The five aggregates fall into two groups. First there is a material process, which is a current of material energy. Then there is a mental process, a current of mental happenings. Both these currents consist of factors that are subject to momentary arising and passing away. The mind is a series of mental acts made up of feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousnes. These mental acts are called in Pali “cittas”. Each citta arises, breaks up and passes away. When it breaks up it does not leave any traces behind. It does not have any core or inner essence that remains. But as soon as the citta breaks up, immediately afterwards there arises another citta. Thus we find the mind as a succession of cittas, or series of momentary acts of consciousness.

    Now when each citta falls away it transmits to its successor whatever impression has been recorded on itself, whatever experience it has undergone. Its perceptions, emotions and volitional force are passed on to the next citta, and thus all experiences we undergo leave their imprint on the onward flow of consciousness, on the “cittasantana”, the continuum of mind. This transmission of influence, this causal continuity, gives us our continued identity. We remain the same person through the whole lifetime because of this continuity.

    So dedicating huge amounts of effort to typing ones personality or finding ones essence may make sense if one is consciously practicing within an Hindu or Theistic framework.

    but Buddhadharma, properly understood, calls this into question.

    So, there is a role for ‘scholarship’ or, shall we say, a commitment to continuing education, even for lay persons.

    “Buddhism in the West has historically been rather anti-intellectual, and it seems only recently that meditators are turning more to study of the tradition.
    I see the anti-intellectual bias of American Buddhism as a natural reaction to the overemphasis on conceptual study typical of Western education, which promotes learning for its own sake or for vocational ends, without concern for the values by which we live. The rejection of intellectualism also has roots in romanticism and surrealism, two revolts against the presumptions of disengaged rationality. Indeed, the beats and the hippies, who were in some respects the forerunners of the Buddhist movement in America, were essentially heirs to the romantic rejection of disengaged rationality.

    The program of study articulated in the classical Buddhist tradition is, however, quite different from that employed by Western academia. Here one uses conceptual understanding as a springboard to direct personal experience. The program begins by listening to “those teachings (dhammas) that are good in the beginning, the middle and the end.” After listening, one bears in mind what one has heard, preserving it in memory. (Remember, this comes from a time when written texts were not available, so to “bear something in mind” meant that one must memorize the teachings that are to guide one’s practice.) Then one verbally recites the teachings in order to imprint them more firmly upon the mind. Next, one has to examine them intellectually, to discern the meaning being conveyed by the words, to reflect on how the Dhamma applies to one’s own experience. But one is not to remain content with conceptually comprehending the meaning—finally, one has to penetrate it thoroughly by view, by insight. This brings direct penetration of the teaching with wisdom, based on the practice of meditation. ”

    http://www.dharma.org/ij/archives/2002b/bhikkhu_bodhi.htm

    http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:I3qoh0Usj-cJ:http://www.viet.net/~anson/ebud/ebdha058.htm+'bhikku+bodhi%22+essence&hl=en&ct=clnk

    Likewise, Dharma teachers are in a position of trust. Plenty of material is compatible with Buddhadharma but plenty of material is not.

    • Regarding the first long quotation, the author quoted seems to be constructing an argument against shallowness that I’m certain most therapists would almost entirely agree with. But it is a straw man argument to claim that a majority of practitioners of intensive Vipassana meditation who are also therapists and thus utilize other therapeutic models are necessarily espousing such shallow views as embracing one’s neurosis without any attempt at change!

      Conversely, show me a man (and it’s usually men, isn’t it) who claims to have a mind “purified of all taints and corruptions, the mind that has been liberated from all bonds and fetters and has become suffused with a universal love and compassion that spring from the depth and clarity of understanding” and I will show you a con man and a liar. While it is the case that meditation does purify our minds and sometimes uproots certain behaviors and emotional patterns, it is idealistic dogmatic nonsense and a misleading ideal to promote these claims for meditation.

      As far as the second quotation goes, it begins with a massive error by overgeneralizing the categories of “Buddhism” and “Hinduism,” especially with the latter which was a term created by non-“Hindu’s” to amalgamate the enormous variety of doctrines, practices, rites, rituals, gods and goddesses of the thousands of years of Indian religions into a single term. There is no singular “Hinduism” to speak of, nor is there a mythical “Buddhism” that all practitioners and scholars, householders and meditators agree to. The Wikipedia page for Sunyata contains many of the same debates, and this falls entirely within the label “Buddhism”:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%9A%C5%ABnyat%C4%81

      While you may disagree with the doctrine of some Buddhist teachers, it doesn’t mean they are inauthentic, falsifying the dharma, or anything else.

  7. I have nothing to sell except my ability to do research.

    And took lay ordination vows which obligate me to look after the three jewels–the integrity of Buddhist teaching, which in its original purity, never referred to money making toys like the like the enneagram which strengthen the ego while purporting to help lossen it up.

    Stuff like that just distracts us from the brutal truth that all of us will one day die and may go through a painful period of needing someone to roll us to prevent bedsores and look after our pee bags and catheters.

    And if you desire wealth, do be careful. First the metta sutra warns us to beware of accumulating riches, even to on behalf of our families.

    Two if you do get as rich as you so desire, you risk getting associates who pretend to be your friends but only want access to your money and your valuable social connections.

    And who may not be forthcoming about their own resumes.

    • You simply do not understand the Enneagram, IMHO. Psychological well-being is not anti-dharma any more than physical health is anti-dharma. I don’t know anyone who’s gotten rich on the Enneagram.

      I do not wish to get rich–at least not anymore. I prefer that you would ask me directly what I want and don’t want instead of making assumptions based on (an incomplete) Google-stalking. Perhaps you’d like to read my current blog http://beyondgrowth.net where I ruthlessly deconstruct wealth seeking?

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