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

FLM:Factories of Bliss

[This is another episode of this blog’s occasional column, Fear and Loathing in McBuddhaland ]

Like most of the others, I was a seeker, a mover, a malcontent, and at times a stupid hell-raiser. I was never idle long enough to do much thinking, but I felt somehow that my instincts were right. I shared a vagrant optimism that some of us were making real progress, that we had taken an honest road, and that the best of us would inevitably make it over the top. At the same time, I shared a dark suspicion that the life we were leading was a lost cause, that we were all actors, kidding ourselves along on a senseless odyssey. It was the tension between these two poles – a restless idealism on one hand and a sense of impending doom on the other – that kept me going. Hunter S. Thompson from The Rum Diary


This is a bit of a tangent taken from my last column FLM:Dr. Feel-good and the Medicalization of Buddhism.

As well some time ago I got into what could have been a very heated discussion with one of the scientists at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies regarding the mixing of science and religion. (my blog post on this Science and Religion make a Lousy Cocktail… ) but fortunately civility reigned and we had a nice discussion. The discussions there range from debate over human enhancement with technology to global security and techno-immortality. Interesting subjects in the forums and blogs. This Institute also has something going on called The Cyborg Buddha Project which links a number of scientists, all of whom have Buddhist backgrounds including monastic backgrounds to:

…promote discussion of the impact that neuroscience and emerging neurotechnologies will have on happiness, spirituality, cognitive liberty, moral behavior and the exploration of meditational and ecstatic states of mind.   from the ieet CBP website

These and an email from a friend have prompted further thought. This time about the techno-medical-pharmaceutical-psychological establishment if I can compound all those together into one great Behemoth to tilt at. I like big targets because then I don’t need my glasses.

So get out your God helmet and strap in.

In the Beginning…

…there was the evolving human brain. From this brain came religion to explain the mysteries of existence. Then, after some time there came psychology to explain the mysteries of the brain that invented the notions of religion. Then there came technology to explain the mysteries of psychology. Then there came pharmacology to alter the human brain. Then there came the corporations.

OK maybe it didn’t happen in just that order. Many of these things co-evolved in many cultures. Pharmacology has long been tied to religion and religious experience. And psychology, though not named as such, has a place in many religions. Ethnopsychiatry, an interest of mine,  generally means the indigenous diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. The questions in that discipline revolve around the identification of behavior that is “abnormal” for want of a better term, within a given culture and what is the culture’s response to such behavior.

In academia this has been a fairly scholarly sort of cataloguing endeavor with regard to “other” cultures. The usual ethnographies and texts are written and few bother to read or remember what exactly they were about. And this kind of discipline has extremely limited exposure in the general culture of the Americas or Europe or anywhere else for that matter.  Sociology has sub-disciplines based on medicine and psychology but they too are not generally known.

So it occurs to me why not look at “Western” culture through this kind of lens and get a handle on the patient-culture that North America is becoming. And further why not look at some of the efforts to extend this disease/dissatisfaction-model of human existence into the future.

The Modern “Abnormal” and The Culture of the Damaged Individual

A guy walks into a bar and catches the eye of a beautiful young woman. He walks up to her and says “What’s your diagnosis?” She smiles and they exchange the phone numbers of their respective mental health professionals for screening.

Was viewing some of those self-help program web sites recently and they had a pages of testimonials. Some of the quotations included such phrases as:

  • I attended the … Retreat hoping to find healing, and renewal.
  • … it was deeply healing.
  • I am moving towards wellness again.
  • you saved my life this weekend.
  • You helped me to access my emotions to enable healing to occur
  • I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to heal with you.
  • “Thank you … for seeing my hurt, for calming my fears, for enabling me to get through my pain, fear and anger that has been an anchor in my life for too long.
  • I finally feel as though my cloud of doom has lifted!

There are thousands of such testimonials on every kind of self-help website imaginable. Looking in the mirror it seems all people see reflected is some kind of damage. And on some of these sites it’s almost like a damage sweepstakes and some kind of achievement to have the longest list of emotional and psychological problems, ailments and detrimental beliefs.

Time and time again people invoke some kind of illness or popular psychological jargon in casual conversation. Some of the things I’ve heard include:

  • I’m so neurotic..
  • I have panic attacks all the time.
  • I’m sure I’m bulimic…
  • I think my child has social phobia
  • That time gave me PTSD. I mean I still think about it.
  • He has ADHD for sure…
  • You are sooo OCD…

Yet none of these people had any sort of psychology background nor had they been to any sort of psychotherapist regarding these complaints. Nor had they even seen their family doctor about any problems they were confessing to.  And the last comment was directed at me. Someone said that to me once sarcastically. I asked them to define OCD. They mentioned something about the neatness of my house and that my DVD’s were in alphabetical order.  I am fairly mindful of my surroundings but not in a pathological sense. Neatness is not OCD by a long shot!

Are we all really this fucked up?

Is the “damaged individual” the new archetype? (Consider the celebrity press!)

And are we also demanding that others take on our own versions of perceived illness?

Are we becoming a culture of psychological hypochondriacs and fantasy diagnosis pushers?

Why is it not OK to be OK?

The Big Catalogue of Misery

In an email to me recently Ven.Kobutsu Malone wrote:

The thing about western psychology is that it is solely concerned with 
psychopathology…. it cannot identify one single “healthy” state of 
As for the DSM…. talk about “corporate” influence?  That book was 
created for the insurance industry to enable psych people to fill in 
insurance forms with number codes.

In popular culture the DSM has become something more. The hegemony of psychological ideology into people’s lives particularly in American culture has both enabled corporate profiteering in the health care sector and disabled otherwise healthy individuals with diagnoses that are often overblown and incorrect. The ignorance disguised as scientific authority with which the psychiatric and psychological community continue to practice is almost unbelievable. Ask any of them how ECT (electro-convulsive therapy) actually works or what the exact mechanism of SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors-aka Prozac and it’s relatives) action is on the brain and you’ll get an answer that starts with “We think it does…”  Please read the criticism/controversy/adverse effects sections of the Wiki pages cited for more information on the dubiousness of these treatments. I could also cite many medical studies that run contrary to the corporate funded research that lauds these things so highly. Only for the sake of brevity will I refrain.  [No I am not affiliated in any way with Scientology and their anti-psychiatry campaign!]

What is becoming increasingly popular is the realm of self diagnosis. Any self-help section of a large book store has hundreds of books on subjects taken right out of the DSM. There are such titles as

  • Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder For Dummies
  • The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook
  • Anorexia Nervosa: A Survival Guide For Families, Friends And Sufferers
  • Conquering Math Phobia: A Painless Primer
  • The Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Sourcebook: A Guide to Healing, Recovery, and Growth

It is not that these books are not useful to those that actually may suffer from these conditions. And it is not that the symptoms clusters do not present themselves with some degree of association and regularity. It is that in this instant expert world and especially with everyone believing they are an expert on themselves, self-diagnosis is often mis-diagnosis. If psychologists and psychiatrists, who have actually taken the time to study these behaviors in depth can often be wrong how much more so for people with little or no knowledge of the subject?  Suggestibility is much higher in people than they would like to believe. And in view of marketing campaigns and big bookstore sales tactics that suggestibility is manipulated as much as possible. (Did you know books just below eye level are purchased much more frequently than those lower down? Now you know why they waste space with table displays in book stores instead of all shelving which would be much more sensible and efficient for the housing of books. And these tables are usually dining room sized, which reminds people of food consumption. There’s a lot more that goes into designing the “browsing/buying” experience than most realize.)

These books are well marketed not only to patients but to potential patients. And in the marketing business we are all potential patients. Tell someone they are ill long enough and they might start to believe it. The  classic movie Gaslight reminds us of that. Of course there the woman’s husband was setting her up with the scenario. But it does seem increasingly we are setting  ourselves up for our own “gaslighting” with self-talk, reinforced by strong marketing campaigns relating to our “unwellness”.

So much time and energy is expended on going from one thing to another in an attempt to relieve this “unwellness” this dissatisfaction with self. After a time we start to look for a definitive definition of this vague “unwellness”. The lists of available “ailments”continue to grow. Look through the big book of misery and try on the diagnosis.

I came across an apparently abandoned blog by a young woman who I will not name here, as she may not even remember writing this a couple of years ago. She wrote the following:

The question is not whether I would receive a diagnosis, but what particular diagnosis it would be; it is apparent that the intensity and nature of my inner experiences would not be considered normative or healthy by the majority of people.
A few months ago, it dawned on me that I might “be” bipolar. Looking over the course of my life experiences, and then stripping them of the spiritual or religious meanings I once attributed to them, it is all too apparent that they match a bipolar cycle of uplift and abjection. I ascend the heights and think I have discovered the “truth,” only to turn around and find it all meaningless.

This young woman had taken some psychology training but was not a psychologist. When you are a psychology student you go through a kind of sympathetic symptom syndrome where you start to think anything described in your Abnormal Psychology text is about you. Sort of like men who go through a sympathetic pregnancy (Couvade syndrome) with their wives.

In any case this kind of self-scrutiny is becoming all too common. And the big catalogue of psychological misery known as the DSM-Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association is rapidly becoming popularized. Articles appear in consumer culture magazines such as Redbook and Cosmopolitan with their advice columns which encourage reliance on some outside “authority” for life’s questions and often pull a considerable amount of their data from the authority of the DSM or from those who’s practice involves invoking said manual. Where the advice giver is not an “expert” in the field outside “experts”, usually psychologists are often consulted and quoted.

Romanticizing Psychological Dysfunction

Susan Sontag’s 1978 epic work Illness as Metaphor contains the following:

With the modern diseases … the romantic idea that the disease expresses the character is invariably extended to assert that the character causes the disease – because it has not expressed itself.

I would take up that theme of linking character with disease and expand it to presently include the romanticization of currently popular psychological dysfunction.

In another quote from the anonymous young woman’s blog she states:

So the question is, then, what is illness, and what is Genius? If so many creative individuals have been driven at least in part by what would now be termed “mental illness,” then why is it that the average “sane” person in this world finds so much inspiration in the fruits of their efforts? Might not such creative individuals, through their “dysfunctional” brains, be brought to the threshold of liberating truths and visions capable of filling others with a holy fire? If the hunger for meaning is universal, what then should we make of the fact that we would diagnose those who have provided us with it as “ill”?

In this case the label of mental illness becomes a metaphor for “special”, “creative”, visionary and liberated.  Sontag stated :

Any important disease whose causality is murky, and for which treatment is ineffectual, tends to be awash in significance.

My point is that illness is not a metaphor, and that the most truthful way of regarding illness–and the healthiest way of being ill- is one most purified of, most resistant to metaphorical thinking.

And if illness is not a metaphor then neither is wellness. Increasingly the terms wellness and happiness are becoming interchangeable. We can be wholly well yet unhappy. These are different categories of experience. Happiness is too often synonymous with satisfaction of every goal, craving and whim. The striving for happiness is not unlike trying to dress in smoke. One is covered until a good wind blows. And it is never satisfying.

Kicking It Up To The Nth Degree

The healthy are not healthy enough. The intelligent are not intelligent enough. The insightful are not insightful enough. The visionary are not visionary enough. There is something lacking, something is not satisfied. One may take this lack and perform the metaphorical blessing of the DSM-IV and become one of the romantically liberated, the psychologically significant and the Divinely “touched”.

Sontag again had something to say on the subject of psychology. She called it “a sublimated spiritualism”. That sublimation of spiritualism is taking new turns with the advance of technology.

One may, without recourse to disease models, instead search for relief from the self-perception of ordinariness and inferiority into the technological realm which includes the pharmaceutical.

Spiritual technology in various forms in nothing new. In the Amazon basin rites of passage, which have long been affiliated with shamanism, are marked with an initiation ceremony involving participants receiving bites of “bullet ants” which are large poisonous ants. Here is an additional explanation. And here is a video  from the National Geographic of the ceremony.


Spiritual technology, be it through natural or chemical substances, manipulation of sensory experience through deprivation or bombardment or other alteration, neurosurgery, machinery or technological enhancement has been and will be something that continues along with the developments in human technology. The apparent need for external manipulation of one’s internal condition is not something that is going away any time soon.

There was a series of articles and interviews from Tricycle magazine in 1996 about Psychedelics and Buddhism.  Most of the articles are only subscriber access but one is available The Roundtable: Help or Hindrance with Ram Dass, Joan Halifax, Robert Aitken, Richard Baker. The discussion revolves around the use of drugs and it’s efficacy in the spiritual experience.  This series is taken from  Zig Zag Zen which is one of  the first books to raise some of these issues. The book contains articles and interviews as well as artwork related to the topic. Although most of the material is of a historical perspective questions are asked as to the utility of the drug-induced psychedelic experience in relation to the spiritual. Several excerpts and abstracts are available here.

This is only the tip of the iceberg.  Technoshamanism is a term that has been around for quite some time. In essence it is the melding of technology in service to shamanistic spiritual practices. It was taken up by the Rave culture and many of those that self define as Modern Primitives the latter of which also involves body modification often employing elements of tribal cultures. The use of music with strong rhythms along with the strenuousness of dance and often drugs produces an altered state of consciousness.  Whether this altered state is for the purpose of spiritual discovery or just having a good time depends upon the individual. Steve Mizrach has an interesting article on the Modern Primitives for those interested entitled “Modern Primitives”: The Accelerating Collision of Past and Future in the Postmodern Era .

The inner/outer apparent dichotomy and the manipulation of one to understand deeper truths and possibly effect change is nothing new in the world. It is not even new in the realm of science which is often seen as a bastion against irrational experience or unprovable speculation. Quantum Mysticism with such eminent thinkers as Heisenberg and Bohr pondering the possibilities and it’s critics such as Victor Stenger (Mystical Physics…,, The Myth of Quantum ConscienceQuantum Metaphysics ) bring these questions into the material realm.

What it comes down to is experience, sometimes its a peak experience, an altered experience, a way to understand experience, a search for a new experience, a way to augment our current experience or simply a satisfying way to understand our human experience.

Dissatisfaction with the ordinary perspective on experience drives most human searching behavior, whether one is a scientist or a shaman.

There is no reason why this will not continue. We have seen it in the popular imagination with such films as Johnny Mneumonic including it’s themes of Neurohacking or the imagined reach of technology in Total Recall or Vanilla Sky.

It’s about experience and dissatisfaction

What strikes me is the zeal of the scientific quest. And the willingness of Buddhists to participate in that quest. It is as if Buddhism, unless proven by science is dissatisfactory. And that science will remain unsatisfied unless it can quantify the spiritual experience with some kind of measurement. It will not accept that there may be something beyond it’s reach.

The psychonauts of the Neurotheology movement are just getting started. Buddhists in America and elsewhere have been invited and are all too willing to attend. (Neurophysiology of Meditation, Meditation skills of Buddhist monks yield clues to brain’s regulation of attention, ZEN BRAIN-from Upaya Institute,  Wired 14.02: Buddha on the Brain, etc.)

How long will it be before the Factories of Bliss start to manufacture satisfaction and happiness? That seems to be a promise so many religions have been accused of reneging on. Will science finally make it happen?

It’s about experience and dissatisfaction

Cyborg Buddhas Indeed!


Amerikan Tantriks:The Greedy Teaching the Needy


Here in India there are folks who go around under the guise of religion and bilk the ignorant, poor and often not-so-poor and not-so-ignorant. They are called Tantriks. The newspapers abound with stories of people convinces to do everything from handing over their life savings to sacrificing their neighbors children for some kind of relief of problems or personal gain.

Seems that America is not much different. There have been snake-oil salesman aplenty in American history. The only thing that sets apart the current crop is their brazen audacity , utterly shameless greed and the willingness of individuals to participate in this lunacy.

These new Amerikan Tantriks are often monastery and ashram drop-outs with little else going for them but a driving ambition and a lot of glib talk.  Some have no credential at all except for the ability to mimic what they have seen done at a retreat or two or on the National Geographic channel and call it some new fangled self-help technique. Throw in a lot of scientific or foreign sounding words and you’ve got a money making machine. Or at least one to polish up the  outrageously inflamed ego of the group leader.

Recently a couple of people died in a makeshift moneymaking “sweat lodge” ceremony in Sedona Arizona, not exactly a place known to be a bastion of rational or critical  thought.

There have been apologists all over the place preaching compassion for the group leader James Arthur Ray and condemning any sort of criticism of the event. The guy should be charged with manslaughter at the very least. What the fuck are people thinking? Are they thinking at all? (Yeah and Roman Polanski should face up as well! Rape is rape even if it isn’t in Whoopi Goldberg’s esteemed legal opinion (there’s an oxymoron if I’ve ever encountered one) “rape-rape” .How would she like her grandchildren raped even if it isn’t “rape-rape”???)

As the few who have been reading this blog for a while know, some critical examination of some of the bullshit wearing Buddhist (and other) religious robes is not something I shy away from much. Not that I want to become a basher of anything that doesn’t fit “MY” definition of Buddhism but some shit is just too hurtful and harmful to let pass in silence.

Conscience is at the heart of ethics and yes compassion too. Without a conscience there is no ability to identify suffering or beyond that identify with suffering and experience empathy. Without a conscience we are psychopaths given over only to our own self-gratification. I mentioned this before but consider the words of H.H Dalai Lama who used the Tibetan phrase “shen dug ngal wa la mi so pa” which means “the inability to bear the sight of another’s suffering”. (Dalai Lama in “Ethics for the New Millennium). What is it in us that cannot “bear”?

It is the conscience.


The Unquestioned Gurus of the Religion of the Self -I think Duff’s critical examinations of the guru industry in America are much needed. In this piece he talks about the greedy teaching the needy and an important section on psychopathic spiritual teachers. And there are a few of them in the Buddhist world too!

American False Idols-Brenda P. asks some pertinent questions along this line in the Yoga world. Choice comments too.

James Arthur Ray’s Spiritual Warrior Event Kills 2, Injures 19 in Sweat Lodge Fiasco-Duff has at it again with this tragedy. He has a followup piece as well. The Dark Side of The Secret: Reading James Arthur Ray’s Sweat Lodge Disaster through a Magickal Lens

OneCity picks up the thread  in Ellen’s article Spiritual Warrior Death in Sweat Lodge in Sedona, Arizona It’s a fairly tepid piece, on par with the prevailing Zeitgeist of the Buddhist Blogosphere. (WTF we Buddhists would Neeevvveeeer do anything that silly! Though some of us would follow Michael Roach around for three years without saying a word!  See Could you hack 3 years, 3 months & 3 days of silence? )

From the Pagan blogosphere The New Age Sweat Lodge Death Controversy

New Age Frauds and Plastic Shaman is a new website dedicated to examining these sorts of issues.

At Integral Options Cafe the post An Ethical Code for Spiritual Teachers offers some possibilities in future directions

The Zen Site has a critical Zen section and a recent inclusion is that of The Aitken-Shimano Letters which outlines years of inappropriate behavior by Eido Shimano, who is still the head of Zen Studies Society and Dai-Bosatsu monastery. Why does this continue?

A couple of loosely critical attempts at guru and teacher ratings. Some well known Buddhist affiliates are included:

Self Help Guru Ratings

Sarlo-s Guru Ratings (here’s the Zen teacher’s page)  Here’s a criticism of Sarlo’s pages as well

Here is a great explanation of the psychology behind these kinds of self-help situations by a Marketer-Persuading People To Death – When Self Help Turns Deadly

Aside: While not a nice post there just needs to be a little more examination of some of the things that go on under the rubric of spirituality and this includes Buddhism. Lecture away if you will about right speech. Faking it in the “flowers and rainbows” department is not something my conscience would rest easy with. Oh yeah I killed a furry little mammal the other day too.

How to be an Avant-Garde Buddhist

The Avant-Garde.  Is there anything more heady and enlightened?

The poetry and drama of out of control weirdness is sure to stop all the pretenders cold. The fine line between genius/madness/enlightenment is not to be approached by the less than worthy.

One must succor the innate disconnect between consensual reality and that which you have constructed/perceived with your own trans-inspirational Buddha-nature.

The dialogue between that ever precious mental metal lotus blossoming and the steely refrain of the galvanizing homogenization of the stimulative context in which it flourishes is the refuge and the source of that Nirvana-hum our Bodhicitta was meant to reach towards.

Enjoy the fruition of the moment. And you too can develop the Avant-Garde Buddhist within. It’s not merely a promise of so much more. It is as the Universe.

Here’s my poem for this hour. It is part of an on-going project (a must for the Avant-Garde).

on the bandstand
of life
Slander makes dander

Here’s some links to get started on your new identity as an Avant-Garde Buddhist

The Facebook Fan Page for Bjork’s Swan Dress-contemplate the dissolution of all things as you view the dress or make your own dress to wear as you chant the Heart Sutra but don’t use a real swan either for the dress or the chanting. In the latter case they make you lose your rhythm.


Nam June Paik’s TV Buddha– a video installation

bild-1During the ‘Projekt ‘74′ exhibition in Cologne, Paik took the Buddha’s place in his recent creation, suggesting the implicit antithesis between transcendentalism and technology was equally present in his own personality. From

A couple of sound things from UbuWeb

Tellus #19: New Music China (1988)
Ji Gong – Sings hit TV theme of itinerant Buddhist monk (2:29)
With refrain chant “Nan Wu A Mi Tou Fo” to the Amithaba Buddha. The lead-in lyrics: “My hat, clothes and fan are tattered. You laugh at me and I laugh at you.” Shanghai Record Co

Åke Hodell (1919-2000) 220 Volts Buddha

220 Volt Buddha – Electronic Purgatorium I (21:25)


You might also want to check out this post from the Tricycle blog Nonsense Sharpens the Intellect, says the Times

This and That Blahblahblah


Was just going to leave it at that but perhaps blahblahblah is not sufficient.

Gave myself a couple of weeks holiday from doing much Internet stuff. Nice.

Read a few things that I could have gotten on a soapbox about but decided the climb up there wasn’t worth it at the time. I may revisit some of it later (oops I did later in this post)  if the mood hits or not.

Took an extended stay in Canada this summer and traveled back to India during this hiatus. Nice stay at the Hong Kong airport as a friend happened to be on the way to Bangladesh and we both had a couple of hours to kill, so a good conversation and coffee was had.

Arrived home to find Manoj (who I live with here) has had the whole place painted and a lot of electrical and other problems sorted out nicely.  Am always happy to see his smiling face at the airport at 2AM.  He’s not all that keen to come to Canada. “Maybe one time.” he says.  But he may just be placating me.

Things chug along.

Noticed this blog got listed on the Tricycle website somehow! Gasp. Will I still be able to tear into the Buddhist glossies with the same saber wit as always? (a little dull recently though) Sure why not.

Some want to get into Buddhist branding (OneCity blog) and others want to rewrite the precepts to encompass the brewing of beer-ask the Tibetans about that-they’ve been making Chhaang for years (and having had a taste of it in times gone by it ain’t that bad) or take in the Shambhala training on that and related topics. Something for everyone!

And the usual crews want to step up the SECULAR CRUSADE against religious Buddhism or whatever it is.

In fact, if I do nothing else for the next few months with my space here at Beliefnet other than help clarify that Buddhism is not a religion, I’ll feel that my time was well spent.  Jerry Kolber in comments on the OneCity blog.

Will there be enough interest and entrepreneurial spirit by the great leaders and dharma teachers in the West to forge something new, something that speaks to our culture in a way no other tradition can do? Kyle on Reformed Buddhist blog

Sounds a little “Crusady” to me. So what will be accomplished by all of this thought and effort to “enlighten” us ignorant, superstitious, religious types? Weeellll  I suppose there’s a name in lights somewhere-such things like “The man who brought a religion to it’s knees!!!” or “The man who brought a Diet of Worms to Buddhism!” (did ya get the reference to Martin Luther there?!) YESSS!!! You too will get your own Wikipedia page for the effort in another hundred years or so. It won’t help much in dealing with the Great Matter but who cares about that shit anyways?

There might be a co-authorship with that Hitchens guy or some other famous anti-religious crusading Atheist dude. Could fill the bank account quite nicely. Maybe even a guest spot on some talk show.

And who needs ethical guidelines  (or other “religious” crap like that) to get in the way of a good time anyways! Best to just make it up as we go along. If there’s collateral damage well that’s their karma! My New Age friends told me so.
And of course a few people will be ever grateful for their release from the suffering of repetitive strain injuries caused by having to iron all those stupid robes day and night!

It’s highly unlikely that the BIG NAME dharma teachers are going to throw off their robes and go frolic naked in Times Square in celebration due to this BIG NEWS that Buddhism isn’t a religion. (though wouldn’t that be quite a sight!)

So you know if these folks want to make some kind of secular sect due to their queasiness with anything smacking of belief/religion/tradition who cares? Call it contemplative science or logical enlightenment or or drunken boxing or any sort of brand that comes to mind. I am sure a couple of hundred million religious Buddhists around the world couldn’t give a shit about it and right now neither do I much.

It’s all the fucking politics of semantics anyways.