Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Just What *Is* Buddhism? Or: Why Conflating Frederick Lenz with Buddhism Reeks of Racism and Worse

If you don't know about the (still extant) Rama Page, it's worth a look to see what this guy Lenz was really about, and why it's quite absurd to conflate what this guy was doing with what the rest of the world regards as Buddhism. Compare, for example, what's written in this book from Sri Lanka on the Eight Fold Path, with what this cult report wrote about Lenz, or with what at least one ex-member said.

Real Buddhists - i.e., ones from around the world, know better, and not only is it a mockery of Buddhism, but it is also ethically questionable that the "Advisory Committee" of The Frederick Lenz Foundation consists of:

* Elizabeth Cecil

* Walter Goodwin

* Joaquin Lievano

* Dana Schwartz

* George (Dai En) Burch
Friends of Zen, Inc., East Brookfield, MA

* Fleet Maull, Sensei in the
Zen Peacemaker Order, Boulder, CO

* Dennis (Genpo) Merzel, Roshi
Kanzeon Zen Center, Salt Lake City, UT

* Gerry (Shishin) Wick, Roshi
Great Mountain Zen Center, Boulder, CO

many of whom appear to be legitimately ordained Buddhists. Now it is true that the official mission of the Foundation:

is dedicated to promoting the benefits of Zen Buddhism, meditation, yoga and related Buddhist practices as a pathway to self-realization and the harmonious blending of the material and spiritual in contemporary American society. The Foundation encourages the study and practice of these disciplines so that Americans with a Western mind set may come to appreciate these ancient gifts of Eastern thought, and utilize them in a way that is relevant to American culture and values.

However, their "Vision" is:

Dr. Frederick P. Lenz, "Rama" to his students and associates, dedicated his life to the proposition that Westerners in a modern, fast-paced America can achieve spiritual enlightenment, without religious ceremony, and better enjoy the benefits of an American lifestyle by embracing and practicing the principles of Zen Buddhism, meditation, yoga and related Buddhist practices. Rama's vision is embodied in the Foundation's core values: to spread as broadly and for so long as possible throughout American society the knowledge and benefits of these disciplines, using where feasible Rama's own writings, tapes and music as an aid. The challenge for those who carry on in Rama's name is to translate this ancient body of wisdom, which includes for example Tantric Buddhism, Vajrayana Buddhism and Tibetan yoga, into a system of practice adapted for Americans so they may more easily share in its benefits. The Foundation seeks partners with which to establish such programs and will make grants to other qualified charitable organizations which share the Foundation's vision, or which offer programs that will promote the Foundation's goals.

"Rama's" vision is embodied in the Foundation's core values: that you can get something called "enlightenment." Now there is such a thing as enlightenment, but when it is dangled out there as something separate and apart from the life you're living, it's not the thing in which Buddhists are actually engaged.

I daresay you'll be hard pressed to find much Buddhism in "Rama's" writings.

And how can this not but look like a joke to Asians, that Americans engaged in this are utter fools?

Lenz only got as far as he did because at the time he did it Buddhism had not penetrated much of American society; Chinese restaurants - think about that. That was Americans' experience with Asia at the time.

Buddhism still has not penetrated much of American society, and the evident lack of obligation some teachers seem to feel towards their ancestral teachers is appalling.

1 comment:

DZen said...

Rama's teachings had a positive effect on his students' lives. That was more important to them than how Rama's teachings appeared to the so-called "mainstream."