Friday, April 01, 2011

Why I don't have a top ten list of "Spiritual Teachers"

The older I get, the more I realize the wisdom of my teacher's line about "There is no teacher." Seriously. "Teacher" is still kind of an odd term to apply to him, but given that I'm pressed for time this morning, I'll go with it.  "Dude" doesn't seem to cut it as an appellation, and 親分 (oyabun), well, I'll be posting about that later, I suppose, but that term doesn't apply either.

There was some buzz in Twitter about "Spiritual Teachers" possibly instigated by this post over at, uh, yeah, Tricycle.  But of course I've said enough about Tricycle for a week or so (until of course they do something else blog-worthy, I suppose).  But via Twitter I cam across this odd post by Diane Musho Hamilton.  She's a bit more poetic I think that the average Integralian - you know, they always say, "integral this" and "integral that." "Integral Cheerios," for example, would not be out of character.

In her response to a Watkins Review article  on a "top 100" "Spiritual Teachers"  she lists her own, though not in much of an articulated order.  Can you see where this post is going yet?

Watkins included Wayne Dyer and Louise Hay, and I listed Genpo Roshi and Choygam Trungpa Rinpoche. Ken Wilber made their list at number nine, just before Rhonda Byrne—but for me, Ken comes in third, just after His Holiness and Oprah. Why? Because he has had more influence in my life that almost any other single writer or spiritual teacher.

Ken doesn’t claim to be a teacher. We all know that. True, he does not fulfill the role of guru, but a substantial number of people around the globe have discovered boundless perfection while sitting alone at night reading his books. Not only has reading Ken’s work opened their minds, but his writing evokes a deep, abiding compassion by helping his readers embrace the complexity-of-the-world-as-it-is through the door of their cognitive understanding. It is a bit of a quandary how one of the world’s most cutting edge thinkers also has the simultaneous capacity for opening the heart. But isn’t that what good theory does?  Help us turn towards the real? And isn’t Ken’s genius precisely for showing us that mind and heart are one—that truth and compassion are the same thing?

Ken’s writing throws nothing out—not evolution, neuroscience or biochemistry, not history, political theory, or social engagement. And certainly not the great spiritual traditions. He is able to bridge meditative insight from the East with the Western mystical traditions, and presence the latest and greatest innovations of science and psychology in our contemplation. And without the pretense of spiritual guidance, he implicitly encourages his readers to be free to grow and to awaken, participating in the magnificence of evolution, and trusting their unique moment of now in the coursing of history. And what a talent that is.

I wanted to include a bit of  the Wilber bit because - well, it's fawning.  And even though I have a low opinion of Wilber's work - who clearly is inferior as a philosopher to those who actually profess the subject - no matter what their particular specialty  biases or what-not- this post is not about Wilber.  Much.  

No, it's that first sentence in the quote - of this post of March 29 - that grabbed my attention. On the exact same day as that post by Adam Tebbe comes out about how Genpo Merzel is doing a "disrobing do-over" - on the exact same day - Diane Musho Hamilton publishes a "list" of "spiritual teachers" that includes him.

Merzel is below Oprah Winfrey, to be sure...but I digress. 

Merzel?  Ms. Hamilton should read all of NellaLou's post on the subject of "Sex and the Sangha."  Admittedly, Musho is a "student" of Genpo Merzel, but as I continually tell my guys, if the student cannot teach the teacher now and then, the teacher is a horrible teacher.  And this was a perfect opportunity for Musho to teach something to her teacher.

 On the Zen Forum International site in an area discussing recent issues with Eido Shimano, one "sweepingzen" (Tebbe?) wrote, "I would also like to state that it's getting very old hearing people trying to save Shimano's reputation.'Eido Roshi’s uncompromising and penetrating Dharma Eye, which reveals directly the luminous power of the unconditioned mind.'  If Roko Chayat believes that then perhaps she is too close to the matters at hand to see the situation clearly."

The exact  thing applies to Musho Hamilton re: Genpo Merzel.  If she think's he's a "top ten" "spiritual teacher,"  then she's way too close to the situation to have any kind of clear viewpoint of such matters. Genpo Merzel has done great harm to the reputation of Zen practice.  Holding him up as some kind of ideal is an insult to those who are struggling with their own practices, not to mention those who have been immediately harmed by his behavior.
Of course, if you poke enough, you could say that about all the people on her list.  I don't have the  time or space to go through every last one of them, but the point is, by holding people up to some kind of ideal as a "great" spiritual teacher,  they are pointing away from The Matter at Hand. 

And they totally don't get nonduality. The preceding sentence intentionally self-referential , referential to myself and my own practice and self-contradictory - go read that last sentence again.  But the reality is, people just starting out in this practice aren't going to get the subtlety of all that.  And holding up Genpo Merzel or any of these other folk are setting up a stumbling block for the inexperienced practitioner, and it's not even a good stumbling block - the kind that is intentionally placed there to improve the practice!

So I think it's best not to have a "spiritual teachers" list.  There is no teacher.

Now go figure it out.  Pay attention.

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