I can see why those Speculative Non-Buddhists don't think Justin's being completely nonpartisan in their critique of folks like Folk:
Really? Kenneth Folk is a major Western Buddhist teacher?
From Mr. Folk's site:
Now I'd be curious as to why Justin would characterize Mr. Folk as a major Buddhist teacher. OK, the Buddhist part, I get, because anyone who self-identifies as a Buddhist, yada yada yada. And I kind of agree with that. But a major teacher? Because he got a write up in Wired and was on Buddhist Geeks (see "Spy Magazine" and "Logrolling in Our Time.")
Let me not go at this from a Marxist angle, but rather from the angle of the consumer who has choices about what he can buy.
Kenneth Folk is selling meditation coaching, which you probably don't need because you can learn how to meditate from any number of other sources. On the other hand, if you do feel the need to have some kind of teacher of meditation, a Buddhist teacher of Buddhist meditation, you'd come out far ahead by swinging by your local Buddhist temple. The local Chinese Buddhist temples here, even those that are Pure Land focused, generally have literature that teaches some basics of Cha'an meditation (and in fact one head monk at a nominally Pure Land temple in the Portland OR area is trained in the Cha'an tradition).
Did I mention he was from Taiwan?
Is Kenneth folk a major Western Buddhist teacher because he's not from Taiwan?
Is that a selling point?
Kenneth Folk charges $125 ($100 with coupon!) for a 45 minute session.
- My son's violin teacher is Concertmaster - a real master - of the Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra. She gets $80 for at least an hour. She's the real deal; you can see her play. And she's also a wonderful teacher, who teaches kids something tangible.
Sorry Kenneth, she's not taking on any new students.
- My Wing Chun sifu gets $100 per month. He trained under Jiu Wan, who was a close associate if not exactly a descendent of Ip Man, who trained Bruce Freakin' Lee. He tells us that he trained 4 hours a day, every day, back when Kenneth Folk and I were dealing with acne. Trust me, my sifu sells tangibly beneficial training you cannot get elsewhere within hundreds of miles (unless you manage to find his students, who charge about the same, from what I've gathered).
- The Osho in my local very small Rinzai sangha is a direct 8th, 9th, or 10th - I forget which - descendent of Hakuin himself. He's a 3rd generation descendant of Soyen Shaku, the first guy to bring Zen to America. He doesn't charge anything but accepts donations.
You've never heard of these people (or anyone like them) unless you've went out of your way to find them. Those are among the best teachers in the way we have them in the United States. There's probably people like this all over the place in the US, except, perhaps, in some parts of Alaska. There's certainly such folks in and around Silicon Valley. They may not have good PR, but that's not where their interest lies.
And heck I could show you the basics of Zen meditation gratis. But I ain't no teacher.
I've already written about my grave reservations about the ethical propriety of teaching meditation for money here, and the liability of the mystification of experience that can result therein, especially from some snake-oil salesman who claims to be enlightened. That's got ethical warning lights flashing red, as far as I'm concerned, and in most Buddhist traditions, Western or Eastern, it'd be an ethical warning sign, as far as I am aware.
It's understandable why Folk is engaged in this schtick; like Genpo Merzel, there's things that have to be bought, and the advance of age is inescapable.
So, what else could make him a major Western Buddhist teacher? Market share? Really? I don't think so, and I doubt he has any significant market share amongst Western Buddhists, let alone Buddhists who practice in America in Asian sanghas.
Thus it is my considered opinion that Kenneth Folk is not a "major Western Buddhist teacher," but rather a low-rent Genpo Merzel with good PR.
Justin, feel free to do some 'splaining.