Sex and the Sangha:Forgiveness, Retribution or Justice

The “what should be” never did exist, but people keep trying to live up to it. There is no “what should be,” there is only what is. Lenny Bruce

The subject of Sex and the Sangha has come up again in blog posts and articles (links at the bottom) and on Zen Forum International with regard to Eido Shimano as well as Michael Roach. The latter gets a tangent of his own during the ongoing discussion at ZFI. There have been a lot of further disclosures of the Aitken Roshi papers along with material from the Zen Studies Society itself. These are available in Shimano Archives for your perusal.

And then I read the comments on the various discussions as well. I thought to comment at the forum but with my penchant for thoroughness as well as transgressing forum guidelines wherever I go, this blog is perhaps the  better alternative.

A couple of general things I’ve noted about this and similar situations include:

1) People don’t know how to discuss this sort of thing. There is a lot of evasion/aversion.

2) People who try to discuss it directly get shot down with a lot of indirect, need I say, passive-aggressive comment and innuendo.

3) There are a plethora of responses that are interesting in themselves. Those are what I want to examine here. And in the end to offer a further response that I have not yet seen emerge in these discussions.

Why am I involving myself with this issue in this post?

I don’t know any of the principals involved. Never met them, never studied with them. I owe no allegiances to anyone. I’ve never been coerced by a teacher, anywhere, nor have I coerced anyone in this or any other type of manner that I am aware of. I have nothing to gain and nothing to lose by attempting to delve into the situation and bring up what I think are pertinent points.  And I have the time to do it.

I’m writing about this because I care about the Buddhadharma and it’s implementation in convert communities, because I care about people who have been hurt and still do hurt and because I care about justice. Justice is the one word that has not come up so far in any of these conversations. I will bring it up at length later on.

The events described in the Shimano Archive may have been limited to that corner of the community and they may have occurred some time in the past. They are however part of the history of Zen in America. Zen and Buddhism in America and in general comprise a common interest community. Even if we have not met in the same place at the same time we are all involved in the same endeavor.

This notion of “common interest” is the foundation of our societies, nations, families and other groups. This can even apply to the human community itself: our species. We have at least one common interest with everyone else and that is survival. As we narrow down and differentiate our groups we develop specialized objectives or associations such as religious affiliation. But these sub groupings do not eradicate the larger common interests.

The community is involved with whatever is happening because of the very existence of the community of common interest. The parts are not separable from the whole.

The reactions to this and similar situations vary widely. I’ve scanned the ZFI and other forums as well as blogs, news articles and social media. I don’t want to point to specific comments in any one forum but there are numerous trends that seem to occur. I would like to address these types of responses to the specific situations mentioned as well as others that have occurred and are still contentious. Comments cited are paraphrased or generalized.

Types of Reactions/Responses/Rationalizations

A lot of this is avoidance behavior.

Denial “No way would that happen or did it happen. People aren’t like that.” Whole situations are dismissed as implausible or impossible mostly because one can’t imagine themselves in such a situation. There is an assumption that everyone else thinks and acts the same way we do.

Willful Ignorance “I never saw that therefore it never happened.” This is a bit of a faulty conclusion unless the speaker is omniscient.  The see no evil approach is probably the easiest to take up in the short term. It limits any involvement but is hard to sustain if evidence becomes overwhelming.

Forgetfulness or selective memory “I don’t remember any such thing happening.” This calls into question the veracity of those who do remember or were involved.

Confrontation as a form of retribution “Bring it all out. Video tape the reaction.” Motivations for confrontations often have the purpose to shame/punish which doesn’t really resolve a situation.

Blame the Victim “She shouldn’t have stayed if that was happening.”  “She must have wanted that on some level.” This can get a little complicated. In the section below called Big Daddy Syndrome I go into it more thoroughly.

Blame the Perpetrator “He must have a psychological issue.” “He doesn’t know how to behave in that circumstance.”  These statements  may be true but there are numerous contributing factors in these situations. If the community standards are low or non-existent then a person in power may be operating within those parameters. If someone feels victimized and does not react against their abuser it may be assumed that the behavior is acceptable. Some people are really clueless at reading social cues or empathizing with others. Sometimes they have to be told explicitly.

Idealize “We’re all human. There are no perfect Zen masters any more.” This sets up an illusion of perfection to prove it’s own impossibility thereby in a roundabout way justifying odious behavior. Since a particular standard is impossible, all standards become unattainable.

Personalize “Something like this happened to me. Well not exactly like this but listen…” This is all about me and my issues and derails the discussion into personal history that may or may not be relevant.

Generalize “In our practice we must be mindful of others.” This is spouting platitudes to no useful end.

Idolize Culture “Our Asian teachers should just be left alone.” This kind of worship/aversion distancing which broaches no criticism primarily based on the race of the teacher is both patronizing and a type of avoidance behavior. On the one hand it dismisses the problem and on the other it sometimes assumes an attitude of noblesse oblige that suggests the Asian person must be treated with kid gloves based on race. It suggests a certain “We” who have the power to damage “Them” by dealing with an issue. It’s arrogant, plays into all kinds of racial stereotypes and serves only to reinforce them.

Idolize Gurus “Teachers can do no wrong.” “Anything they do is for our benefit.” This type of response indicates the speaker has abdicated responsibility for their own life and actions. Critical thinking has been suspended and the individual is allowing the guru to do all the work which may or may not be for their benefit. Without critical thinking how would anyone know?  (read this American Guru Andrew Cohen & Allegations of Abuse for an example)

Patronize “Time heals all wounds.” “You’ll get over it.”  These epithets come not from experience but from habits of dismissing other’s experiences as valid.

Transcendentalize “We just have to rise above these incidents.” “We don’t want to stoop to that.”  That works out well if one lives on the moon but glossing over an issue because its a little messy won’t resolve it. It’s a head in the clouds attitude that avoids reality.

Psychologize “Our psyches are this way.” “It’s human nature.” There are many things that comprise human nature. If we dismiss all responsibility for our actions as human nature then the fancy brains we’ve all evolved become fairly useless. Human nature does not equate with animal instinct.

Mystification “These are mystical things.” ” Enlightenment, siddhi powers etc. are beyond our comprehension.” By placing the mystical label on persons or events we are removing them from  on-the-ground reality. These labels presume that we are incapable of understanding therefore to try is futile. It is a superstitious non-rational approach.

Superstition “It will bring bad karma to talk about this.” “There is dark energy in this kind of topic.”  Aside from being a ridiculous misunderstanding of Karma, a fringy New Age kind of assertion and a way to screen out anything we find emotionally uncomfortable it tends to appeal to some kind of atavistic”magic thinking” that would give illusory power to objects, situations and thoughts. “Lord of the Rings” is fiction not documentary.

Sidestepping “This has nothing to do with us.” “It is only the concern of the participants” “MYOB”  If one is an isolated entity living in a vacuum this would be true.

Consign to History “This happened long ago.” “The episode is over.” Well let’s tell that to the Jews, Native Americans, descendents of slaves, Japanese internees, folks at the Reconciliation hearings in South Africa, the International War Crimes Tribunal and see what kind of reaction follows. Vipaka is rarely immediate. Sometimes it takes time for Karma to ripen.

Minimize “There are more important issues to discuss” “What about global warming?” Minimizing the distress of people in a situation by playing on sentiments involving other situations trivializes people’s suffering.

Cheerleading “These points are all valid.” “Everyone’s opinion is great.” By agreeing with most points made, even if they are contradictory one is not really having any opinion at all. Crowd following is one of the more popular approaches.

Silence “I have no opinion on this.” Silence or disengagement from active participation, though not from the spectator role. It may be necessary to lurk in order to become informed enough to have an opinion however it can become voyeuristic to some degree. It may be a manifestation of schadenfreude.

Schadenfreude “I’m just enjoying the spectacle.” Taking pleasure from other people’s difficulties helps some to shore up their own insecurities.

Coercive Silence “We don’t discuss that.” The authoritarian “We” invokes control of the situation and shuts down discussion

Forgiveness “Just forgive and move on.” Forgiveness is a process not a simple statement. This will be addressed further on.

Ad Hominem Dismissal “Somebody has an ax to grind therefore whatever they say is of no consequence.”  We can dredge up all kinds of personal incidents, history or peccadilloes and fling them at those whom we wish to silence. It is coercive and plays to a notion that the speaker is the only one free of such baggage and therefore has the only objective opinion. Objectivity is an illusion.

Textual Insertions “Buddha said…” “Dogen said…” Quotations without explanation appear at random and may or may not be relevant to the discussion. If used to give guidance, further the discussion or clarify a point they may be helpful. But without explanation their utility is often lost.

Animated Emoticons During serious discussions some people are so uncomfortable in their lack of maturity to discuss such topics that they attempt to derail the conversation into a childish playground. There’s a time a place for playfulness. Would you get out a yo-yo at someone’s death penalty being carried out? Maybe some people think this is “Zen” cool. It’s just Stupid! This happens often at ZFI. What are you, 10 years old? [Yes I find these kinds of passive-aggressive things highly irritating!]

Shaming “He should feel ashamed.” These informal emotional expressions of offense are often used to rally spectators to take sides. It can get a little mob-like when that happens. Rational discourse goes out the window.

Guilting “Make him see what he’s done.” “Did you talk to him about it?” Confrontation that attempts to appeal to individual morality and conscience to correct behavior deemed unacceptable is often a suggestion. And often by the time incidents become public knowledge this will have been attempted on numerous occasions.

Analyze and Realize This is what I’m trying to do here with the objective of coming up with a reasonable approach or the beginning of a process of resolution to such problems.

Rationalize This is the putting forth ideas to explain away the behavior rather than deal with it.

The Big Daddy Syndrome Rationalization

[This is a response to the article Women Who Sleep with Their Gurus … and Why They Love It in addition to being one of the responses on the list above.]

There is one reaction that often underlies many of the others. It is embedded in Judeo-Christian culture and generally goes unrecognized. It is a belief that women are by nature dependent upon men in most ways and seek some kind of submissive relationship. It posits women as being weak and inferior as well as conniving and untrustworthy seductresses. Historically, in the sociological context, there is truth to the dependency part. As to whether that is biologically dictated (my position is that it is NOT) is quite another matter. But the rest of this notion is highly contentious. Social mores, religious ideologies and patriarchal structures have long enforced this viewpoint. Enough so that it becomes a bit of “common knowledge” rather than an actual fact. This scenario is played out time and again and is as much of a script as any other of the obedience scripts (scriptures?!) we have learned.

From childhood onward, everyone has a philosophy; everyone cites “scriptures” to defend their beliefs. – Gendun Chöpel

via @tylerdewar on Twitter

The script says women in particular are by nature looking for a Big Daddy to protect them and make them feel secure, special and whole. We allegedly want to stand by our powerful man who is in the spotlight. We wish to bask in the reflected glow. We long to be attached to someone we can worship. We will do whatever is necessary to secure that. Or so Carrie Bradshaw and her ilk would have us believe. But wait! It isn’t only shallow fictional bimbos in designer shoes that purvey this kind of ideal and explanation for women’s behavior. It’s fairly pervasive.

We see versions of it in Hip-Hop and Rock videos, on television, in magazines and on the Internet. In current popular culture it is often labeled as “asserting our femininity”, “reclaiming our sexuality”, “expressing our individuality”, “restoring our power to choose”, “reforming our gender stereotypes”,  “repossessing our images” to make it sell better.  To reclaim or repossess there had to be some point in time when said images and stereotypes were actually under the control of women themselves. I appreciate the irony of manipulating and co-opting gender stereotypes in order to examine their validity or even in service to art but I rather doubt that the majority of instances of these things occurring are ironic. Pole dancing lessons are not usually advertised with the word “irony” attached. The point of this apparently new manifestation of sexual assertion is that it attempts to con women into adopting the very same roles, ideas and social purposes as previously but having them self-police this role in a more active way.

In the past the fear of “losing one’s reputation” or becoming the subject of gossip by both males and females maintained gender role inequity. That process of slut-shaming still occurs however it is gradually being eroded by a more insidious type of loss of reputation. Hyper-sexuality is replacing repressive sexuality but it is as equally role-defined and restrictive. And it equally caters to the male gaze and sexual appetite.  In America this transition is just starting to trend. Sexual power is valued but only in well-defined male-dominated ways. This also informs the Big Daddy/powerful man thesis.

Power, in whatever manifestation, is attractive to some people. Playing power-based games is also attractive to some people. If one goes into a consensual relationship acknowledging that as a factor both to one’s partner and one’s self there’s not much room for a situation to be misconstrued.  However, how many people know exactly why they are in any sort of relationship? How many of us have fully examined the dynamics of our relationship roles? How many of us are that awake? And how many of us would admit being simply a spiritual groupie?

There are numerous accounts of rock star groupies. They get featured in gossip columns, chased by TMZ and even score book deals sometimes. Some are quite proud of their prowess in scoring some big names. Some have even taken plaster casts of body parts as mementos.

What we tend to get on the spiritual side though is quite the opposite. There aren’t any articles that I can come up with, and I do my research, bragging about scoring with 2 Roshis, 1 Sensei and an Abbot over the course of Ango (like Vassa for Zen people) or anything even remotely similar. Instead there have been some woeful accounts of women, and some men, who feel betrayed and hurt by their involvements with their gurus or spiritual teachers.

That is until recently. Jessica Roemischer wrote an article in 2004 in the infamous EnlightenNext magazine about her own spiritual relationship with a past teacher as well as providing some quotations from others who have also participated in these kinds of liaisons.

This article, aside from high irony of it appearing in the Andrew Cohen ego-vehicle EnlightenNext, titled Women Who Sleep with Their Gurus … and Why They Love It,  provides a good deal of background to the arguments of “victimless” situations that come up in comments on the matter of sexual relations between students and teachers. There are many who abide by these arguments whether they are aware of it or not. They can be as outright as “She asked for it” or “There are no innocent victims.” to as subtle as “They are both consenting adults.” There have been controversies around many of Cohen’s friends and associates in the spiritual marketplace including former Rabbi, Marc Gafni who is also affiliated with Integral Zen-a co-production of Big Mind (Genpo) and Integral (Wilber).(More on Gafni here (Wm. Harryman) and here (Integral)) Consider the comments of Nov. 7 2008 on the Integral website. “the dark side of feminine victimology that has raised its ugly head” and “I’ll be looking forward to the “integral feminist” response to the irresponsible paths that Marc’s accusers chose” from Integral insiders.

That is exactly what this article in Cohen’s magazine presupposes.

The article itself is by an elite member of the Integralist/Evolutionary Enlightenment and affiliated communities, which have had numerous very public complaints about abuse of many varieties themselves. The article typifies some of that group’s philosophy, much of which strikes me as borderline sociopathic, which has been co-opted from Buddhism and elsewhere and reprocessed/repackaged and resold under the Integralist/Evolutionary Enlightenment brand. The article goes a long way to try to get perpetrators of abuse off the hook by shifting responsibility from men in powerful positions actively pursuing liaisons to women simply exercising their “power of attraction”. It’s absolutely freaking Biblical in it’s implications. Eve, you bitch it’s all your fault!

Just so you know, I am no fan of the Integralist/Big Mind/Spiral Dynamics/Integral Zen crowd. It strikes me as an expensive charade to present a complicated jargon-laden bundle of rehashed sociological/psychological/religious/marketing/philosophical concepts to a mostly spiritually illiterate crowd expressly for the purpose of filling the bank accounts of it’s elite sales people. So if that gives me an ax to grind well it ought to be sharp enough by now to slice apart some of these fallacious concepts.

The article itself is in part a byproduct of what some label post-feminist or third wave feminism. This was brought to the fore in a big way by Camille Paglia who describes herself as a dissident feminist and by a few others. Now I appreciate Camille’s viewpoint on a number of issues. She’s not a mushy liberal  and doesn’t toe the generic feminist line either. She started several new lines of thinking within the feminist community and shook up a few people outside of it as well. Maybe she touched upon some future feminism that has yet to be realized. Some have called this post-feminism. I disagree. And it sure isn’t feminism if that means more of this shift the blame to the victim thinking.

Post-feminism presupposes that the objectives of first and even second wave feminism have been reached and therefore issues such as inequality and unequal power balances have been addressed. They simply have not on any sort of scale. There may be small individual instances where this is coming true, such as in a college department or some types of small businesses or other fairly closed and controlled environments. But by far the same old issues remain. Maybe they wear new guises, have gone more underground,  but the roots of institutional and systemic gender discrimination have certainly not been eradicated ANYWHERE.

The article about women sleeping with gurus makes many of these presuppositions as well as a few others.

  • It assumes we all know what we are doing and why we are doing it.
  • It assumes we are completely free agents.
  • It assumes we are aware enough to make a fully conscious choice.
  • It assumes we know what we want and why we want it.
  • It assumes we can foresee consequences in their entirety.
  • It assumes our “magic man” also possesses this level of awareness.
  • It assumes the “magic man” can be trusted.
  • It assumes there are no hidden agendas.
  • It assumes everyone is operating on a good faith basis.
  • It assumes sexual relationships are damage free for the most part.
  • It assumes no one has much emotional baggage.
  • It assumes the circumstances support the involvement.
  • It assumes the community will not experience harm by it, although at one point it lauds and glorifies the “special” relationship as a point of causing ego-gratifying envy.
  • It assumes there’s no such thing as jealousy or that cultivating such “special” relationships have no correlation to jealous feelings in others, except in that “good” way of holding the position over everyone else’s head.
  • It assumes we can control circumstances, outcomes and other people.
  • It assumes we operate from a fixed vantage point.
  • It assumes others do as well.
  • It assumes an autonomy that contradicts the reality of interdependence.
  • It assumes we all operate from an orientation of self-centeredness.
  • It assumes all this and more in a fairly naive and idealistic, and egocentric way.

As Andrew Cohen, EnlightenNext founder and current mentor to the author Jessica Roemischer, has stated:

In evolutionary spirituality, we are more interested in the future than we are in the present moment. Why? Because the present moment has already happened, so there is not much that we can do about it. We’ve already arrived there. But the future, which always exists in the next moment, is something we can actually impact. The future is something that we can actually get involved in creating and take responsibility for in the most exciting way possible.

Aside from the strange confusion Andrew Cohen has between the present and the past this statement comes off as highly unrealistic. It contains many of the above assumptions. It views time as a conventional linear reality when linear time itself is a concept simply used to measure change relative to the human scale. Rates of change vary in the universe as do perceptions of time even among human individuals and groups so a single measuring concept is highly unsatisfactory in terms of calibration and usefulness. (I won’t even get into quantum stuff here)

Since the future is only a dream we each have, to maintain such a focus is to let slip the very foundation of our existence. We cannot create in the future, we can only create in the present. To deny the present as valid or useful or consign it to the past leave creative possibility in the dream world.

And we cannot by any means other than some extra-sensory type of cognition predict the outcomes of those creations. By overlooking the present, ignoring the past and living in a dreamlike future we are indulging in utopianism at best or some fancy packaged New Age neo-millinarianism not unlike those awaiting the Rapture.

The article itself, by one of Cohen’s proteges,  seems to be written from this future perspective. Numerous mentions of taking a leap from the past into this new paradigm are present. It doesn’t deal with current reality but with some idealized future in which all of the assumptions have been dealt with. Here is an example of the assumptions dismissed and future orientation:

But many of us women have never been in a better position to make that leap. We have unprecedented freedom to opt for our higher good, for the higher good, having reaped the benefits of the first two stages of feminism—the first of which gave us equal rights, and the second of which gave us a deeper understanding of the truth of women’s victimization at the hands of men. Women now have the freedom to go beyond instinct, beyond social and biological conditioning, a freedom that comes from seeing our deepest drives, motivations, and impulses in a vast anthropological and evolutionary context. (p.5)

What most caught my attention was that the article condemns the viewpoint of women as victim even while mentioning this as in the above quote (in bold). There is the assumption that we have all moved beyond this-a fairly unrealistic assessment of current social conditions, except perhaps for sheltered upper-class white women in America.

This is becoming a popular stance since it lays all the guilt on the women (oh Eve you naughty thing!) and absolves the men of responsibility. It is an abusers dream scenario! This is where I really part ways with the author. One of her interviewees, a semi-anonymous women’s studies professor, “Mary” states:

How can women be victims when we want something?…Enlightenment, security, spiritual power, and affirmation,” she continued. “I mean, sex is a small price to pay. And whatever the extent of the flirtation or sexual involvement, you enter this relationship of intrigue, and you’re the special daughter or the special wife. You experience ‘number one life,’ as they say in the Asian tradition. (p. 2)

Aside from the patronizing racial reference,[What tradition would that be exactly? Charlie Chan?] this basically advocates prostituting for enlightenment. It denigrates women to subordinate beings who do not seem to have enough going for them as individuals and must somehow “pay” a little extra vis a vis men, to obtain the mentioned statuses. And the statuses are always in relation to the powerful status of men. Enlightenment, awakening or whatever you want to call it is not something that can be purchased with money, sex or anything else. And men do not hold all the cards by any means when it comes to wisdom. Although in the majority of cases they do hold the power. That in itself belies the entire argument for the reality of a third wave feminism.

The author then goes on to elaborate:

We women do have a strong and unspoken investment in seeing ourselves as victims,” I observed, “as unsuspecting agents or innocent players in an unfolding event beyond our control.” Mary agreed with me: “And that perspective has, in one form or another, become such a basic tenet of our time and culture, of our postmodern worldview, that we are often unaware of how much it has colored our perceptions at the most fundamental level. But it’s time for women to go beyond that. Because if we are really honest with ourselves, in most cases, there’s a lot more to the picture! (p. 2)

This is both wishful thinking and rationalization. I am not in any way advocating for adopting or maintaining a self-victimizing attitude. Quite the contrary. By the same token I am also not for taking on the guilt trip of lascivious men abusing their positions of power. There is a great deal more to the picture but simplifying it down to some “victim trip” is ridiculously reductionist.

The author and some of her contacts continue by stating:

“You’re seeking to be seen and known to the bottom of your being and to be accepted as you are. And you’re also seeking to transcend who you are as an individual and merge in the only place that true merging is possible, which is in the universal mind, in the universal awareness, where complete intimacy is possible with all things. But we tend to mistake that for the only kind of intimacy we have experienced, which is sexual intimacy.”

The confusion between spiritual aspiration and sexual attraction has a physical origin as well…

“I think spiritual women really need to think about their lives and what’s most important and then take responsibility for everything they do.”

There are biological imperatives at work in terms of reproduction and the evolutionary paradigm, there are physiological changes that appear in both sexual and spiritual endeavors as neurologists have discovered and there is confusion regarding types of intimacy. That is all the more reason not to throw out the victim concept entirely. If someone is confused for whatever reason or not fully knowledgeable of practices and protocols how can they give a truly informed consent to an activity? They are not informed! And where does the responsibility lie to maintain a certain amount of clarity? We each have to ultimately own our portions of any interaction taking into consideration our abilities, power positions, particularly positions of trust and entrustment, knowledge and levels of understanding at such moments. Context and all that implies is crucial to realizing where the balance of power lies.

One other thing that stands out very strongly is that none of the women with the exception of the author apparently wanted to be identified, nor were they identified by name. All spoke under the cloak of anonymity. If the assertions made by the author are valid that should not be necessary. Why not proclaim one’s “accomplishments” from the hilltops? Why feel shame for standing in the vanguard of the new feminism? Even some of the “expert” sources were not named for their alleged opinions given. On the face of it this is highly suspicious. Were 10 women actually interviewed? Are they all really “OK” with their spiritual groupie-ism? Did the named academic and other experts interviewed know for what purpose their quotes were being sought? It is not hard to fashion or influence just about any thesis by juxtaposing quotes.

At other points in the article the author and others quoted discuss the concept of victimization.  The label victim allegedly regresses women to an infantile state, meaning that we are by nature or socialization, helpless beings forever at the mercy of the universe or unscrupulous men. That is taking the victim concept to an absurd level. It is deemed to be playing some “little girl’ role to view one’s self as a victim, yet the author and others quoted advocate instead for a sexualized “little girl” role. There’s not a lot of difference.

People are genuinely hurt in exploitative relationships. Some people are so damaged that they do not recover fully. To ignore that suffering in favor of foisting unwarranted responsibility on to the victim is heartless.

The contrasting theory of women looking for a daddy/big man is far more infantilizing of women than calling predatory sexual activity victimization. And its not only about women. Children and men have been victims in some cases around the world in many religions/philosophical communities as well.

I wrote a bit about the obedience scripts we learn from our cultures a few posts back. The teacher/big man/elder/wise one/leader calls the tune and we have learned the dance steps well during our upbringing. There are those who would exploit that, and I am talking about exploitation not a simple mutual attraction or a consensual conscious relationship.

To use the Eve card as justification for men’s lack of control of their own sexual behavior also puts men into an infantilized state. The poor jerks just can’t keep it zipped apparently. This is as insulting to men on as many levels as it is insulting to women.


The one word that does not seem to emerge in these discussions is the word justice. Justice is about balance. It is about maintaining some kind of social order within a group so that the group can function effectively and fairly.It is the big brother, if you will, of morality, which is an individual inculcation. It is the result of or the action taken when ethics have gone awry in a social context.

Justice always involves more than one person. It is a result of our interconnectedness.

The type of justice most of us are familiar with is retributive justice. This is the “eye for an eye” type of thinking. It is the foundation of the adversarial justice model many American and European and other countries use. It pits two parties in opposition to each other. It was often mentioned in the comments  that these situations are “he said, she said” and that sums up the adversarial system.

Retributive justice and adversarial formats disconnect the effected parties from each other and from the larger community. Yet they are often seen to represent the larger community, particularly the prosecution side of things. Do they really do that? Do you feel any better when prosecutors get convictions? Do you even follow courtroom proceedings? Does it make your community safer, and I don’t just mean feel safer? What are the statistics on it’s effectiveness? Most of us don’t know that but we have a certain amount of blind faith in “The Justice System”. This isn’t just in the fancy buildings, legal jargon or well-educated representatives of that system. It is in the premise of the system itself.

But that system has little room for addressing social healing of common interest groups. And there is no place in it for dealing with emotional pain and social reconciliation.

There are many other models of justice available to address these kinds of situations. The one I’m going to being up is called restorative justice.  The purpose of restorative justice is to address not only an injustice but to allow an offender and victim to be acknowledged by the community, to resolve differences and emotional pain and to provide social healing in the larger context.  This type of approach has a long history.

Consider the practices of reconciliation councils and hearings or aboriginal sentencing circles.

In reflecting on Western justice, James Youngblood Henderson (2004), who is the
research director at the Native Law Center says: “Most aboriginal people have never
understood the exotic passion of Eurocentric society for labeling people criminals and making them suffer.” To indigenous people, our approach to justice is intolerant of human frailties and justifies a theory of social control by violence.

In the Navajo justice making tradition, when there is a dispute, the injured party
approaches the perpetrator to put things right, which means not only material
compensation, but more importantly, relational. A traditional peacemaker, or naat-aanii, is called in. A naata-annii is a well respected figure in the community known for being grounded in wisdom…

Implicit in sentencing circle processes… is a trust in the power of human relatedness and connection — something that is denied in traditional retributive processes.

from On Forgiveness and Social Healing (p.8) by Judith A Thompson (pdf)

For restorative justice to be effective  several things have to happen.

1. Investigation and disclosure-factually identify and acknowledge the injustice

2. Acknowledge the suffering of all individuals involved and the breach caused in the community

3. Acknowledge the responsibility of all parties. All parties must acknowledge their own portion of responsibility. This includes some expression of remorse on the part of the instigator.

4. Mediate-a third party generally will discuss the matters of recompense and restoration with the principal parties.

5. Restoration-amends in an agreed upon format are made

In restorative justice several questions need to be addressed.

…the goals of restorative justice: “1. Do victims experience justice? 2. Do offenders experience justice? (e.g. Are they encouraged to understand and take responsibility for what they have done?) 3. Is the victim-offender relationship addressed? 4. Are community concerns being taken into account? 5. Is the future being addressed?” Because the mediation process applied in restorative justice work requires the consent of both the victim and the offender, it is expected that there will be changes for both parties.

from Before forgiving: cautionary views of forgiveness in psychotherapy (p.96)By Sharon Lamb, Jeffrie G. Murphy


Many of the instances cited have not even gotten past the first issue of investigation and a lot people are calling for forgiveness. This generally can only happen after a process of acknowledgement and restoration.

Forgiveness is the decision to forgo the personal pursuit of punishment for the perpetrator(s) of a perceived injustice, taking action on that decision and experiencing the emotional relief that follows…forgiveness is the process of reacting to an injustice…Forgiveness can be seen as a practical balance between justice and mercy.

from Before forgiving: cautionary views of forgiveness in psychotherapy (p.93)By Sharon Lamb, Jeffrie G. Murphy

Forgiveness is not possible without having wrestled with the justice question. Premature forgiveness is simply repression of events and effects. It is an act to soothe others and does not address the actual suffering involved.

Links to Further Discussions and Information

The Red Thread of Passion: A Few Thoughts on Buddhist Sexuality from Dangerous Harvests

Power Abuse in Spiritual Communities from Dangerous Harvests

The Way, Part Four on Buddhist Precepts from The Order of Clear Mind Zen

Sexual Abuse Isn’t Just a Catholic Issue. from The Buddhist Blog

An Elephant in the Closet of American Zen Buddhism from The Buddhist Channel

Eido Tai Shimano at Genkaku Again

The Shimano Archive at

Eido Tai Shimano Roshi an open letter at Robert Aitken Roshi’s blog

Eido Tai Shimano Wikipedia entry

Stuart Lachs: The Zen Master in America: Dressing the Donkey with Bells and Scarves

Vladimir K. with Stuart Lachs: The Aitken-Shimano Letters

Be Scofield – Integral Abuse: Andrew Cohen and the Culture of Evolutionary Enlightenment from Integral Options Cafe

Disease of Conscience: A Response to Pete Bampton and Andrew Cohen Supporters by Be Scofield on God Bless the Whole World:Spiritual Activism for the 21st Century

What Enlightenment? by William Yenner

On Forgiveness and Social Healing by Judith A Thompson -pdf document


It’s not like sex was invented yesterday.

This post has been reprinted by permission on The Buddhist Channel

July 13,2010

NOTE: There is a major update to the situation described in this post

Digression #3 Attempted Extrapolations as to the State of the Non-Suffering Conscious

Same caveats as the original post and Digression #1 and #2

The title means I do wild speculation upon what it would be like to be enlightened. Or more aptly a short history of said speculations throughout my Buddhist career.

K-PAX– the film. Have you seen it? Kevin Spacey is great as Prot, a guy who is a psych. patient and may believe he is from another planet. He’s all happy and peaceful and helps people with their problems and so forth.

It seems like a good thing until you realize he’s dodging his own psychological reality by this disassociative state. Not consciously, of course and then Jeff Bridges straightens him out on that one and he becomes like a sack of rice being wheeled around. Is his “reality” any better for having been disabused of the happy alien notions? Well now he’s like the rest of us- admitting his damage and therefore normal even if completely catatonic. Is someone suffering if they don’t believe they are suffering?

When I was a kid I used to think that “wise people” or “enlightened” people were like Prot at the beginning of the movie. But you know I hear Mother Teresa had a hell of a temper and was not beyond bullying those around her to get her way. (I know a reporter who used to live in Kolkata at the time and covered her activities a lot) Gandhi was also incredibly stubborn and had some interesting sexual proclivities.

It’s kind of weird how these icons get set up to be viewed as perfect.

A while back I did a post called A Big Mistake and quoted a lot of wise people who cautioned against wanting any sort of glimpses of kensho or whatever you may call it. The consensus seemed to be “It’s not what you think” which could be taken more ways than one.

But I’m going to imagine it anyways. And take into account that everything I’ve ever thought about it has been wrong. And that even this will be wrong.

The Bodhisattva Tangent to the Digression

It strikes me that as Buddhism spread and more people caught onto the thing, that the Bodhisattva practice had to be invented. Image knowing what’s real and pretty much everyone you encounter is suffering from their own self-inflicted dream/drama state. Could be really depressing (or evoke some compassion). Could feel like a heavy burden of responsibility if you’re feeling all non-dual and non-self-ish and so on. So why not invent this Bodhisattva thing so everyone who gets stung by some realization has some place to sort of fit in.

Imagine a bunch of monks just going around helping people, teaching them stuff that lets them live a little more free. In any age that gets demarcated as kind of weird. (even now) The prevailing zeitgeist has been ignorance, anger and greed since long before Buddha’s time and then a bunch come along who don’t go along with that. What the hell do you do with them?

As cultures develop, when a certain element becomes noticeable (reaches a tipping point)  they get incorporated somehow. Same in religions as they are part of culture.

So as more people began to get outside of all the conditioning something had to be done, for the still-relative folks to explain what’s going on. Bodhisattva ideals and practice fit nicely with a lot of cultures and could be wedged into prevailing value systems without too much shoving.

So that’s my theory about the development of the Bodhisattva ideal. Not that it was something to strive for at the time but that it was describing a situation that had already begun. That we may not currently have Bodhisattvas at such a tipping point yet may be the reason why it remains an ideal for the majority of us Mahayana types-though with modern and historical hype mixed into it I think it has become somewhat distorted towards both an unachievable, absolute perfection thing or a mundane aspect with a lot of folks just using it for a label for kindness or general good works.

Back to the Light

It seems I can’t imagine the existence of enlightened folk hence that tangent.

There have been times in my life where I’ve encountered people who may well have been in that category. But I didn’t ask them much about such a thing. It seemed too …. personal.

I’ll give you a couple of examples.

This first one is in part inspired by some things about beginning practice written recently by James Ford Roshi.   Zen 101: Counting One’s Breath  and Zen 101: Just Sitting.  As well memoir class , caught off guard , popping the bubble posts by Genkaku Adam Fisher provided some impetus. The latter are about writing in a memoir class. It was suggested during that class that he writes about that the participants write their own obituary. While I did not attend this class I found that suggestion to be an interesting idea.  Taking a broad view of the whole shebang. But I’m not going to write an obituary.

Additionally in a recent issue of Shambhala Sun (maybe from Sept.09?) on the last page was an autobiographical piece by a woman who was struck with “Dharma Love” (I’ll explain that later) in a fashion similar to the way I was. It was a shock to read it as the experience was so similar.

[This is a little bit of a writing experiment as by recollecting some of this stuff I also want to try to access and convey the particular frame of mind or world view I had at the time. I realize that it has shifted in many ways and by outlining a few of these moments I want to construct what might be the meta-narrative or story arc that I’ve created with this existence thus far. Yeah it’s a bit of a self-indulgent thing but I think there may be some kind of lesson in doing it about how a lifetime is constructed by every one of us consciously or unconsciously. So try to bear with me.]

The Early Years

[That subtitle does not auger well for an abbreviated version of anything.]
About 25 years ago I formally encountered Zen Buddhism after reading about it since high school (Suzuki, Watts, Kapleau, whatever was available).

Some group rented a classroom at the local university for a “Zen Seminar”. Or that’s what I took the description of the event to mean.  Friends I knew at the university pointed out a mimeographed poster to me as they knew my interest. They kind of joked “Going to see the Zen Master-haha?” At the time I was a full-on drugged-out hard-core punk rocker. But I went anyways.  Sober too. It was taking place over a weekend.  I had very little idea really what would be going on but decided to go along with it just to see what happened. And it didn’t have any admission price. Just donations.

There were perhaps 35 people in this class room to attend the first evening’s lecture, or I thought it was a lecture. Some were Japanese folks, a couple more appeared to be professors, the majority were students and some looked like older hippies. The latter may have been local people or may have been part of the group that seemed to be traveling with the Japanese priest. I didn’t ask. I was the only punk, though I really dressed down for the occasion. But purple-ish hair is hard to dress down. Yeah I got some looks. So what!

Friday night was an introductory Buddhist talk by the Japanese priest (robes and all-I was quite impressed with that) who seemed to be in his 30s, but I don’t know for sure, he was just older than me but not too much (no grey hair), with some interpretation by an English-speaking guy who was a tall  American. I knew he was American by his accent, which may have been from anywhere between Maine and Texas,  but in Canada at the time such accents were simply “American”.

This Japanese guy at first got my attention with the robes. I’d never seen any kind of Buddhist robes in real life. And the ones he was wearing were immaculate-they fit him and he wore them like they were part of his skin. He didn’t talk too loud, unlike the “American” who also didn’t exactly yell but did produce some real volume, nor did he get all excited about what he was saying as religious folks in my previous experience had. He half smiled and talked with such patience, calm and enjoyment that I was far more taken with his manner than with the actual words he was saying. [I admit some difficulty with understanding his Japanese-accented English.] He was in as much of a different environment as I was at that moment yet he had no anxiety over it and seemed completely confident in being there, as if there was nowhere else to be at that particular moment.  It was only when the “American” jumped in to re-turn a phrase or clarify some term or to restate something, as the Japanese guy sometimes just said things in Japanese,  that I was brought back to the actual words. Seems the “American” could speak Japanese.

Then we got an introduction, mostly by the “American” on how to do Shikantaza. I had tried this before (from books) but didn’t really get it. It was all about posture and alignment and “clearing the mind” as I vaguely recall. Some of the people left at this point. Those of us who remained then sat on the floor or some in chairs as they were older. It was incredibly uncomfortable. We were told to bring some blanket or whatever to sit on for the next day. We did some bowing as well.

There was a little bit of chanting that I didn’t understand, at the onset of each day but most of the day of Saturday we heard some more talks, mostly about the kind of stuff I had read in those books, and we sat facing the wall 4 or 5 times (I don’t remember exactly how many times) and did kinhin. There was a lot of bowing.  The “American” rang a little bell intermittently which seemed to indicate a change of activity. There were about 20 people in the morning. Participation dropped off during that Saturday, with some leaving at noon, and only about 5 people showed up on Sunday for a couple more rounds of sitting and talking.

I spent a good deal of my time watching the Japanese guy out of the corner of my eye. He just sat there. I was waiting for him to shift around or twitch or something but it didn’t happen. He didn’t move yet didn’t look at all uncomfortable. He sat as if he didn’t care if he was there for 5 minutes or 5 days. His whole attitude impressed me mightily. For me it was difficult as hell. My legs and my back ached (and shoulders and neck). Stubbornness and competitiveness alone got me through most of the last morning. Then it was done. 

3 of us who made it to the end (we’d had lunch together on the Saturday) decided to make our own little group to practice sitting but after the second week the guy quit and I and the other girl decided to just go our own ways too. We had met twice in a park. But I decided to keep on with it alone.

Dharma Love had bitten.

Dharma Love

So for about three years after that I sat for 4-5 times per day (30-45 minutes each time). I was pretty young and agile so worked into lotus posture after the first couple of months. This was despite carrying on with the punk lifestyle. Didn’t matter if I was hung over or whatever. I wanted to be a “Zen” person and if what was required was to sit like that for hours to qualify then that’s what I would do.  I was under the impression that was what was required. I did it alone because there were no Dharma groups of any kind that I knew of in Saskatoon Saskatchewan in the 80’s, and I knew my friends just wouldn’t “get it” so I left them out of it.

The reason I wanted to be a “Zen person” had to do with that Japanese guy. I thought I had some kind of crush on him or whatever and that if I were “Zen” enough perhaps I’d meet up with him again…etc. You know those highly romantic notions of youth where everything is personal and gets you totally swept away in highly dramatic emotions.  The thing is I didn’t even know his name and still don’t. I have no idea who those people were. They may have been introduced on the Friday evening but I don’t remember it. This is what struck me when I read that Shambhala Sun article, since that woman who wrote the article went to a Tibetan Buddhist event and had the same sort of occurrence. She doesn’t remember who it was either only that it affected her for the rest of her life.

But really in my case it was his manner of being that struck me. I didn’t actually want to get with him but to be like him. I wonder if that is what goes on with the Zen groupies and similar situations. A confusion of sexual/personal intimacy with spiritual/dharma intimacy. The way this man presented himself was so totally open, not hiding anything, the kind of presentation one generally reserves for family, lovers or people very emotionally close in life. It felt very intimate even in a group. It was very relaxing since it also conveyed an acceptance of whatever anyone in the room also presented. That just didn’t matter. Something deeper than that was what mattered. A completely accepting, unconditional and totally non-judgmental presence which was something I had never encountered before.

I was not going to bring this up to anyone ever. The only person I ever told about it before was my sister. She just looked at me like she usually does when she’s dealing with a “Marnie’s adventure” type situation. (roll of eyes)  But I got the idea in my head to talk about this a while back when I was doing those transcripts of Shodo Harada Roshi’s film The Man From Cloud Mountain. The way he talked about the man who became his teacher was so similar to my feeling about this person that I met so many years ago. And after the Shambhala Sun article too, it seems that quite a few people get stricken in this way. So I thought why not put it down somewhere?

Many years ago I stopped trying to figure out who he was.  A while after that event I asked around and tried to find out a little about that man or that group but to no avail.  The room had been booked under “Zen Buddhist Group” a friend had discovered (who knew a relative of a friend who worked in the department that did the booking at the university-small town connections!). I don’t know who sponsored it. When I wrote for the university newspaper a few years later I checked archives in the office to see if it was the Student Union that sponsored the event but apparently not. And they hadn’t taken any ad out in the student newspaper since I searched the archives (on microfiche) too. So it could have been a cultural group, religious group or the people themselves who organized the thing. Eventually I just decided there are some things one will just never know. So I dropped the matter.

It was like a candle had been lit on that occasion though. It started some kind of revolution within that has not stopped to this day.

But now I just feel that whoever that man was, I thank him profoundly for his efforts.

This is Enough

Here is another example.

When I was studying Buddhism in Taiwan in 1989 I went to a place called Lion’s Head Mountain. It’s a temple and retreat in the center of the island. It is at the head of a beautiful valley. Here’s a picture and blurb from my travel blog.

Shih Tou Shan Monastery Valley View Shih Tou Shan or Lion’s Head Mountain is a renown Buddhist retreat center in Taiwan. It lies at the head of a valley where hermit monks and nuns go into solitary seclusion in the forest sometimes for their entire lives. Pilgrims come and walk the length of the valley and leave food and other essentials at various shrines along the way for collection by the hermits. Occasionally these recluses will give teachings and even share their food with strangers who make the journey the entire 20 kilometers from end to end. Other hermits simply disappear into the woods and may not be seen again. 

I wasn’t there very long but I did take the entire valley walk on several occasions. There was a remarkable amount of activity going on for a place that was filled with hermits. There were pagodas and other types of shrines being built along the trail, some to commemorate people who had lived there and some sponsored by devotees. Workers who were doing the stone carving for these commemorative structures had set up a camp well into the trail and were working at their carving and casting.

Also along the trail were other sorts of markers, set up by hermits. Sometimes they were just a collection of stones with a small flag or statue and sometimes there were actual small structures of brick or wood. These were places where one would leave their offerings of food or whatever. I always brought fruit with me and left it at the smallest markers since these were usually indicators of people who had little or no contact with anyone else.

Their humbleness struck me rather deeply. They were indicative of simple human need and not any sort of aggrandizement or self-proclamation.

On one particular occasion I was walking along this trail with a professor friend of mine. We were discussing academic sorts of things when he stopped and indicated that someone was in the brush just off to the side of the trail ahead of us.  We slowed our pace and when we reached the spot we saw a somewhat shabby, but very clean man of approximately 60 sitting on a large rock. He was just beaming at us.

He said something like “Oh now you’ve found me” in Chinese as if it was the greatest joke in the world. The professor replied something like “Yes we have.”  Then the man invited us back into the bush for some tea. We walked up to a small shack, or more like a lean-to,  suitable for one person only and were shown a log we could sit on as he put a little bit of kindling into a fire. He made some green tea in a little battered pot and poured us out two small cups. They were somewhat chipped and the decorations were worn off of them.

He didn’t talk a lot but just seemed quite content to have a couple of visitors. We tried to give him some of the rations that we carried but he only took a few things and gave the rest back as he said something like “I am only one of many.”  [These translations were by the professor since I didn’t understand the dialect-definitely not standard Mandarin]

It just struck me at the time that this was possibly the happiest guy in the world. Not giddy-type happy but content or something like it. His whole manner was one of the necessity of the moment and no more. It was an unspoken statement. “This is enough.”

I was thinking about the precariousness of life in that valley afterwards, if the weather got bad or there were some natural disaster,  and I could easily picture in my mind that guy’s moment of death and him just saying of life. “This is enough.”

As an aside I met someone else with a similar attitude near Dharamshala about 4 years ago. I was walking out in a wooded area and a very young Tibetan nun was ahead of me. She slowed her pace and we walked together. She spoke some English and Hindi so we exchanged a few words. After about an hour and a half of nearly silent walking she just said “Here’s my path.” and indicated an overgrown short-cut kind of trail that led up to a building that was mostly hidden by the large oak trees. And she was then gone.

There was nothing asked for and nothing given but a little bit of company on a long walk.

We remember moments like that rather vividly when most of the rest of one’s life is full of demands and urgings and tides that seem to pull around this way and that. It’s like an island.  But when we really stop there we realize that the island is the actual ground we are on, all the way to the bottom of the turbulent ocean.


The meta-narrative of my Buddhist life really began with that first event and has subsequently been to trace back Buddhism to it’s origins. Starting in North America with a Zen guy and a few converts, then visiting and studying in Taiwan and then staying in Thailand for some time. Now I live in India surrounded by a Tibetan refugee colony. I’ve met many Theravada folks, particularly from South India and Sri Lanka, who come and do exchanges with local monasteries here as well as people working in the Ambedkar movement.  I’ve gone to places in the Himalaya where the original teachings have been reported to have taken place and climbed mountain trails and passes that ancient carriers of the Dharma may have also walked on their way to China or Tibet.

So I’ve actually, in broad jumps, followed Buddhism back to where it began in terms of place. And by the studies I’ve undertaken, in terms of theoretical development as well. I am totally astounded sometimes that my life has turned out this way. It was never a plan of mine to do that. But that is what has occurred.

It’s all been about trying to get back to the source.

The exterior form of a life expresses the deepest interior motivations it seems. Sometimes we have to get ourselves out of the way to see what is happening though.

Dharma Love or bodhicitta takes over one’s life like that sometimes before we even know what’s really happening.

Back to Enlightenment

I suspect the two main people I’ve written about had thoroughly realized the ineffable.  Since then I’ve met a number of others with the same or very similar qualities. Not all of them Buddhist either.  Some Hindu, some Muslim, some Jewish, some Christian, some staunchly atheist. I don’t think most or even any of them would necessarily proclaim some kind of enlightenment or even wisdom. The few I’ve actually pressed on such matters get rather vague with statements like “stuff happens and life changes”, “no one is ever ready for what happens to them”, “live and learn”, “there are a lot of things no one can explain”.

Perhaps this hyped up thing with the capital E, Enlightenment or whatever term one uses, isn’t so much about the people it happens to, as it becomes about the people they encounter afterwards.

Certainly true in the Buddha’s case.

Dosho Port had a great post about Dogen’s enlightenment Was Dogen Enlightened? And An Important New Book On Genjokoan.

In that post he wrote:

So … did Dogen have a personal enlightenment? 

Yes, but he didn’t take it personally.

Back to the original post.

A Big Mistake

Indian Crested Porcupine

“Why do you want enlightenment anyway?  You may not like it.”  – Shunryu Suzuki

“I don’t remember making a mistake called enlightenment.”  Ikkyu

“Because enlightenment must not remain, you grind it off completely, until there is not even a speck of enlightenment. When you reach this point of ‘no stink of enlightenment’ where there is no trace, you vow with great determination to let the absence of enlightenment continue long, long, long like a single rail of iron for myriad miles.” Bokusan

“You won’t know how much pain you’re in until you are enlightened.” Katagiri Roshi

Case 11: Unmon’s “Two Diseases”

Great Master Unmon said, “When the light does not penetrate, there are two diseases. Everything is unclear and things hang before you: this is one disease. Even after you have realized the emptiness of all things, somehow you feel as if there were still something there. This shows that the light has not yet penetrated thoroughly.

Also there are two diseases concerning the Dharma-body. You have reached the Dharma-body, but you remain attached to the Dharma and cannot extinguish your own view; therefore you lead a corrupt life around the Dharma-body: this is one disease. Suppose you have truly penetrated to the end, if you give up further efforts, it will not do. You examine yourself minutely and say you have no flaw: this is nothing but a disease.”

from Shoyoroku (Book of Serenity)

In Ch’an literature there is a famous story relating Bodhidharma’s audience with Liang Wu Ti, the devout Buddhist emperor of the Liang Dynasty. Emperor Wu described to Bodhidharma his many projects of charity and support for Buddhism and asked, “What kind of merit have I received from this?”

Bodhidharma replied, “No merit whatsoever.”

A little later Emperor Wu asked Bodhidharma, “How would you characterize true merit?”

Bodhidharma said, “Pure wisdom is marvelous and perfect; its essence is intrinsically empty and quiescent. Such merit is not sought by worldly means.”

To which Emperor Wu queried, “What is the ultimate meaning of the holy truth [of absolute reality]?”

Bodhidharma replied, “Empty and vast — there is no holiness.”

Emperor Wu then said, “Who is this person standing before me?”

Bodhidharma replied, “I do not know.”

Emperor Wu did not grasp Bodhidharma’s meaning. Knowing that the Emperor did not have the capacity to receive the Ch’an teaching, Bodhidharma departed

from Chan Magazine Spring 1997 (Dharma Drum)

Sounds like hella fun!

One would have to be a real fool to have some longing for that kind of thing.

Seems like enlightenment is the biggest obstacle of all to overcome.

Here is something else to do instead of trying to catch that porcupine.

Quiz: Your Enlightenment IQ from Beliefnet


Work is a noun. One of those interesting nouns that can also be a verb. We can say “This is my work” as if it is some kind of object or we can say “I am working”  Show your work to someone. Hand it to them. Not possible  It is a collection of interrelated stuff, both physical and ideational that cohere by a set of processes that are based on believing they do. For example the elements of a particular job

  • -uniform
  • -tools
  • -knowledge of the activity to be performed
  • -procedures for activity
  • -objectives
  • -structure both physical and social within which work is carried out
  • -others doing the same activity and holding the same belief
  • -larger environment which ideologically accepts the validity of the activity

Contrast with the individual

  • -uniform (clothes, decoration etc)
  • -tools (possessions)
  • -knowledge of the activity to be performed (socio-cultural learning)
  • -procedures for activity (given by school, society)
  • -objectives (values)
  • -structure both physical and social within which work is carried out (living arrangements)
  • -others doing the same activity and holding the same belief (small groups such as family)
  • -larger environment which ideologically accepts the validity of the activity (society and culture)

In a non-Buddhist context it is your “job” to be you. The ego is the “activity” or the “work” of constructing and maintaining “you” within an artificial framework.

How’s that workin’ for you?

The Ugly Face of Commercial Pseudo-Buddhist Self-Help

This post would be purely personal opinion of course, but then so is most of what you read, watch and hear so it’s no different than the rest of Samsara.

Pseudo-Buddhist Self-Help marketer Bill Harris, buddy of Genpo, the infamous Big Mind hawker, has issued a cease and desist order against blogger Duff McDuffee of the Beyond Growth blog for criticism of the dubious and outrageously expensive Holosync program that Harris markets under the official sounding Centerpointe Research Institute, which strikes me as the kind of set up K-tel might be interested in investing in since they now sell CD compilations of the worst songs ever recorded. (even worse than Time-Life) It’s a perfect fit. BTW what ever happened to the Pocket Fisherman and Dial-o-matic anyways?

This Holosync program involves listening to a bunch of tones on CDs which have some phrases and the like tracked over them.  Binaural beats, as these tones are called are just contrasting sounds which are “supposed” to meet up in the brain and do a little dance together, called entrainment, (is that like the Locomotion?) and make you a healthy happy wise enlightened super duper Ubermensch, all for the cost of a second mortgage on your home.  Here’s a nice little article on Binaural Beats from the Sceptoid: Critical Analysis of Pop Culture website.  You can even hear what they sound like there and read about what they do and more importantly don’t do. Links to studies done by reputable scientists are provided there as well.

My issue is not with the effectiveness of binaural beats to do much more than give you a headache, the cheesy marketing involved in all that, his association with Genpo (I’ll leave that to Brad Warner here, here and here and gniz here, here and here), his association with James Arthur Ray, the guy who cooked a bunch of people in a fake sweatlodge a while back (criticisms of that relationship here and here -check the blogroll of the latter for more), and not even that he’s waving around cease and desist letters like some kind of demented cheerleader waving fiery pompoms from the Hellish realms.

No what’s stuck in my craw is the way this “Secret” afficianado blathers on about Buddhist terminology and concepts on the pathetically amateur blog he keeps entitled The Blog That Ate Mind Chatter. (from the author of The Program that Eats the User’s Ability to Think)   It’s fairly clear that he gets all these Buddhist buzzwords from Genpo since there is nothing but rabid adulation from the second post onward. And if Holosync is so hot why would Harris bother to try Big Mind? He provides the answer himself:

***Genpo Roshi is a Zen Master, with the largest lineage outside of Japan. Genpo has a process, which you can experience live, or by watching one of his DVDs, called Big Mind/Big Heart. This process (I swear this is true) takes you into states of unity consciousness in less than 3 hours. If you want a taste of what this is like, this is the way to do it. I did this process at the last meeting of the Transformational Leadership Council, and everyone was blissed out for days. Really…Genpo is the real deal, a real enlightened master, but also a real, normal human being.

***Genpo Roshi and I will be doing a killer 2-day workshop in Los Angeles, February 9-10. Stay tuned for more details.

The whole blog is a big shill for Holosync, naturally, but also in a big way for Big Mind, (“I’ve mentioned Genpo Roshi several times in the last few months. Genpo is the highest ranking Zen master in the world outside of Japan, and has become one of my closest friends over the past year.” -pant, pant- Nov. 26 2007) various Ken Wilber Integral confabulations,  the Sedona Method, Anthony Robbins, Marshall Thurber’s Success Secrets of the 21st Century, Eckhart Tolle, Byron Katie, the Biocybernaut Institute (endorsed by James Arthur “Roast em” Ray no less) and a couple dozen other lesser luminaries in the “take the money and run” club.

Couple of things. Largest lineage outside of Japan? Is that supposed to mean number of followers, number of Dharma heirs (until he “disinherits” the next group), number of Dharma siblings (thanks to Bernie Glassman who apparently gives out the titles like gold stars in a kindergarten class), etc.  Harris tries to explain something about Zen and Genpo, stating that Genpo received his inka from Maezumi yet in records kept elsewhere it is stated “On October 10, 1996, Tetsugen Glassman Roshi conferred inka upon Genpo Sensei, thus elevating him to the status of Roshi.” The explanation of things Zen in that and other posts is such a mishmash mix of Big Mind, all these other New Age babblings, old psychological theory and just plain nonsense it would take a lot more time to address than I’m willing to put in. But that he doesn’t even know his (now) teacher’s lineage details gives you some idea of the depth of understanding of anything about it.

Until this partnership with Genpo, Buddhism was relegated to the lists of “dogmatic religions” that Harris would run down on a regular basis in favor of “mystical experience and investigation” via Holosync of course. And most of Harris’s theory was based on the old developmental psychology of Jean Piaget-example.  Sure a lot of people haven’t read 50 year old psychology books so why not base this woo-woo theory on that. But in two short years Piaget has bitten the dust in favor of Buddhist jargon and wonder of wonders Harris declares himself enlightened too. Just like Genpo, Wilber and the rest of the zombie posse.

He starts quoting the Dalai Lama in addition to all the above-mentioned Self-Helping Gurus as if they are somehow in any sort of similar category be that leader, enlightened, compassionate, Nobel Prize material,  etc. Oh please.

All in all this student of Big Mind Commercial Buddhist Showmanship Bullshit Classes and Holosync skull-rattling zombification certainly attempts quite a reach when he talks about Buddhism. He’s almost as out of his depth as the “How to Become a Buddha in 5 Weeks” guy. (my review of that book in the second half of this post)

And Genpo playing fast and loose with the Dharma while he indulges in developing his Inner Swine is not anything anyone should be surprised at considering the company he keeps. It is rather disappointing that Bernie Glassman has joined up but since they’re all a bunch of clowns anyways, entertaining their (sometimes captive) audiences, maybe including someone who at least has actual clowning experience will really add some “authenticity”.

It’s quite a show now this Huckster Circus.

For every critic this “businessman” tries to silence ten more will come up with blog posts and research on their activities.  Such heavy handed tactics as cease and desist letters may scare a few people off from researching and criticizing but all it takes in one who is not afraid of a handful of paper to avail themselves fully of such provisions as “affidavit”, “disclosure”, “subpoena”, “counter-suit”, “class action lawsuit” (any disgruntled Holosync customers out there?) etc. to bring the Real Secret™ of these  money-making schemes fully into the light and onto the public record. And under the scrutiny of the IRS and other agencies as well. And I’m willing to bet that’s the last thing they want “to attract”.

Related “Opinion” Links

The Reformed Buddhist Not to Beat a Dead Horse…

Salty Droid Silencing of the Lambs

Nathan at Dangerous Harvests devotes a paragraph in his latest post to question the attitude of  legal threats in Idealizing the Spiritual Life

Beyond Growth The Secret Fails Harris, Threatens to Sue McDuffee

Notes in Samsara Hollow Sync

Guruphiliac“Holosync” Harris Holohammered On Twitter

Integral Options Cafe Beyond Growth – The Secret Fails Harris, Threatens to Sue McDuffee

Reblogging Brad Warner  The Empire Strikes Back–Holosync Style

McDuffy’s original post on Beyond Growth The Hollow Sink of Push-Button Enlightenment

Mumon of Notes in Samsara has another post about the “technology” of meditation My Last Words on Bill Harris and Holosync™

Mind Tweaks gives us the post How To Trash Your PR At The Touch Of A Button: Of Holosync, Bill Harris, and Silencing Critics

Adam has a new post up called The Secret of The Secret™ wherein he discusses the problems of wanting a quick or easy success with reference to The Secret, Harris and the whole movement.