Friday, June 24, 2011

Huckster James Ray going to jail, I'd bet... now for others


Well, I guess that's where his harmonic wealth got him. And for what? Three  less dead people than the fictional body count (6) in Fargo?

I just don't understand it.

And it's such a beautiful day.

BTW, here's a Time Magazine article on these hucksters I missed when it came out in March

The American obsession with transformation isn't new. It's about as old as the nation. In the 19th century, Ralph Waldo Emerson preached about tapping into the "infinitude of man." In 1879, Mary Baker Eddy founded the religion of Christian Science, premised on the limitless power of faith and mind. Norman Vincent Peale was an early best-selling self-help author with The Power of Positive Thinking in 1952. But it was Werner Erhard, a lean, wolfish former salesman, who created the first modern transformation empire when he founded EST seminars in 1971. His courses were legendarily uncomfortable. He paced and cursed at his students. He had them writhe on the floor and scream out all their anxieties. He challenged participants to control their bladders so they didn't have to leave the long sessions. ("You are not a tube," he preened in the documentary Transformation while sipping water at the end of a seven-hour session. "You have transcended peeing.")


And speaking of speaking of spiritual hucksterism, here's Scientology's version of "We are the world."

Thursday, June 09, 2011

And then there's the Joko Beck angle to all this...or, the confab isn't "old school"

I've got more to say on this subject, including the conflicting things about Roshi Joko Beck, who, despite her being related to some people I could call as teachers of mine, I feel quite conflicted about her relation. Look much of what she said was spot on. No complaints there.  But at least in the incarnation in which I know her school in Portland, it seems that at least her heirs want to fiddle with things associated with the tradition.

I think this is one of the more regrettable things from the Maezumi lineage. ("Big Mind" anyone?)

So, in fact one of the angles which neither Brad nor NellaLou get in their posts on the subject of the confab and the homogenization of "Western Buddhism" is this tendency to throw all kinds of junk into it that wasn't there before 'cause they think they can "improve" the Dharma. 

Folks have been honing this stuff for centuries.  Even when folks said the Dharma was dead in China it was ticking away like the Energizer Bunny.  And folks want to improve on it?

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Class and Buddhism....and conferences and Kung Fu - Updated

I had thought of making a post discussing the recent situation at Shaolin temple and how it has evolved from the birthplace of All that is Cool from the East to the Chinese equivalent of an American inner-city boxing club and that's OK because those students might at some point start asking the Big Questions, somewhat like it appears Bruce Lee was starting to do before his untimely demise. Or something like that.

And I was going to write that you can't really "stop" the dharma, 'cause somebody's going to figure it out anyway.  It's like how to make an atomic bomb.  Once you get the basic principles it becomes a matter of carrying out the steps necessary for making it, if you want to make it.  But humanity can't "un-know" how to make the bomb, and we can't "un-know" how to practice the Way.

Then I read NellaLou's post.  And I read James Ford's reply.  And Brad Warner's comments on Facebook.

So if the "elites" want to  gab about stuff, well, let them gab away. I still agree with about 80% of what NellaLou wrote.  And I disagree a tad with what I wrote in response on Warner's page about how Shotoku might have done X but Rinzai wouldn't do it or such.

The reason I have a different opinion today is simple:  to be of no rank is not to be a carbon copy of any teacher before.  It is also because after a certain age we wear our class like a tattoo.

So...are you keeping score?

  • Tricycle, Shambhala Sun etc. etc. won't define the Way even if they try.
  • Shaolin might provide the way, despite its commercialization.
  • So perhaps even this confab might help define the way, though it won't be the way any more than commercialized Shaolin kung fu is the way.
  • Oh, and Genpo Roshi is still kind of embarrassing to Western Buddhists.
From Ven. Warner's blog,   I see he's also spoken on this issue.   What caught my attention was this bit in his article:

I’ve often said that what first attracted me to Buddhism was that it was the most punk rock thing I’d ever come across. It was far more punk rock than even punk rock itself. By this I mean that Buddhism is a philosophy that doesn’t just question the prevailing view of the mainstream. It openly and often even aggressively questions itself. In punk rock the attitude seemed to me to be, “Question everything… except punk rock.” It was cool not to follow accepted mainstream fashions, just as long as you followed the accepted punk rock fashions. Buddhism, I felt, took the punk rock stance to its ultimate conclusion.
My fear is that Buddhism in America is going exactly the same direction as punk did when it became codified into a single prevailing fashion and sound. There is an accepted group of tastemakers and trendsetters within American Buddhism. They are entrenched as such and seek constantly to reify their positions and to expand their influence.
 There's always going to be elites. I'm a member of an elite - some of the technology you probably use was made that way by things I said or did that were picked up by other elites and was decided - horrors - in meetings with these elites!

Elites don't often go in the direction you want, and as I implied above, and the Dharma will be the Dharma despite the Elite's attempt to pin it down like a butterfly and in the process distort it, all with good intentions.

Here's a secret: sometimes you can get elites to go in the direction you want.  It's politics being the art of the possible, as Bismark put it.

Suppose, I guess, that this confab had invited Brad Warner. He might have less legitimacy, unless he did something like mooned them or something, but that would not be a skillful exercise in the art of the possible.

Oddly enough, perhaps Warner's being on the outside is - at least for now - the most skillful exercise of the art of the possible.   Maybe not. 

Personally, I have a lot more and bigger issues in my life than this.   But if I see Chosen or Hogen Bays maybe I'll bring this up.  Maybe not.

I mean...  I mean... try bringing up a child and being married...

    Monday, June 06, 2011

    Class and Buddhism - it's coming

    But need a bit more time...

    Sunday, June 05, 2011

    Somewhat re-charged blogging batteries...

    Maybe it was going to the Portland Buddhist festival that did it. Yeah, that was likely it. Anyway, there I found out that there's actually a Nichiren sangha in Vancouver WA. (They're the folks who aren't Sōka Gakkai.)

    Anyway, I'm going to be soon posting on how class, and its relative distribution of labor in class, has resulted, in various ways, in the "zenification" or, to put it somewhat differently yet equivalently in another sense, the "kungfuification" of socieities.

    I think, in my view, the pudgy guy making a fortune running Shaolin-si might not come off as bad as Genpo Roshi.

    Wednesday, June 01, 2011

    How do you recharge your dharma batteries?

    So asks Barbara.

    I suspect most of us who have practiced for a few years have gone through times in which practice seemed less of a sharp lancet to pierce delusion and more of a dull slog. This can be discouraging. If the "dog days" drag on very long, some may begin to doubt themselves and the practice (which is another of the hindrances).

    Practice is where you are - and that's where you find it.  Practice is as you find it. In the past,  I often find it particularly hard to keep the rhythm of practice at times near where there is business travel.  That's because of "blind spots" I had had in my own practice. I have other blind spots as well - countless numbers of blind spots.

    As Barbara implies, mindfulness is a good remedy to practice doldrums.  So is breath.

    Right now my blogging is kind of in doldrums, but my practice is not.