Saturday, March 16, 2019

More Thoughts on Other Religions, Their Relations with Buddhism and Hurt People

It's an interesting confluence of things these days; I'm reading more about the anti-12 Step movement on line, and the more I read, the more I'm appalled.  I'm appalled not simply because 12 Step treatment for compulsive behaviors is so prevalent in the US and so ineffective, but also because the adherents of 12 Step groups - which are legally and in every other way religions - tend not to look on other religions as on a par with their 12 Step practices.

You can see this by looking, for example, how Buddhism is occasionally represented on a site like, or my current bête noire,  one Ms. "InkyMama,"  who claims to be a "Buddhist" "meditation teacher" who is  "currently working on a forthcoming collection of meditations on the 12 Steps, the 4 Noble Truths, and the Eightfold Path." Despite her claims of being a "teacher," I haven't been able to verify that she has any credentials from anywhere to teach whatsoever. 

Some of her bilge has already been published on as so-called "guided meditations;" and basically her schtick is basically pulling out some aspect of Buddhism; and some aspect of 12 Step religions, and making an absurd claim that there's correspondence between these two different aspects of two different religions.   Now maybe in some varieties of Buddhism guided meditations have a place; but in the Zen school, it's almost entirely unheard of in my experience, at least, in terms of more authentic teaching, and Brad Warner explains why.   Although I've cheerfully upbraided Ven. Warner on some of his political meanderings and his super reliance on Dōgen, his commitment to authentic practice seems very strong.   I'll still continue cheerfully upbraiding though when the situation seems to warrant it. 

I've debunked her stuff chapter and verse elsewhere, but suffice to say here, anyone who's serious about Buddhist practice and has been in contact with 12 Step spiritual religious practices will eventually realize:

  • We Buddhists don't really have a "higher power."
  • We don't really have "character defects;" in fact the opposite is more true.
  • There's no "we" who are "powerless."
  • Buddhism can't really be warped into a 12 Step religious framework.
I could go on, but as I wrote elsewhere, maybe her cultural appropriation of Buddhism is good in the way that maybe Frederick Lenz's cultural appropriation might have been good in that it will spur people on to look for the real thing.  I hope so, because there is so much misinformation about Buddhism in 12 Step circles, and a growing realization that even Refuge Recovery is tainted with 12 Step - inherited Christian moralism and dualism.

Also though the confluence of this 12 Step distortion of Buddhism happened, it's not the only place where religious principles alien to Buddhism rub elbows with Buddhism.  I'm not going to delve into whether Roman Catholic priests should study or teach Zen - although I wouldn't be a student of such a teacher, preferring the original flavor to the Western appropriation.  But I would like to go back to the issue of Adam Tebbe, which I think hasn't gotten nearly the shrift it merited. 

Adam Tebbe was for a few years heavily associated with a kind of American Sōtō Zen Buddhism qua Tricycle qua TMZ.  There were, for a while a few teachers with whom he was associated, and indeed they blogged on his site.  Jundo Cohen gives him credit for propagating information about predatory teachers, although I think what Tebbe was really doing was becoming absorbed in the scandal, that is scandal blogging, as opposed to ferreting out new information, i.e., journalism.  I think it's sad that Tebbe was more or less unconciously aided and abetted by a couple of teachers here and there who I think didn't see a couple of warning signs which were more or less evident to anyone who questioned why the main focus of a site purporting to be an encyclopedic resource for "Zen" was so focused on what to me was scandal blogging.  Adam Tebbe was - probably still is - a hurting person, and somewhere along the way,  if his "testimony" is accurate - he seems to have had a psychotic break, or at least the language he's using to describe his experience is not inconsistent with having such a break.

How do we respond to such a person?  Right now the response of most of the on-line Buddhist media and what's left of the Buddhist blogosphere has been mostly silence.  When the subject has come up, the response has tended toward "I hope he finds peace in his path," and though I've said this too, I would also add that I'd wish he'd stop denigrating Buddhism in his pushing of Christianity, especially since it comes across with a certain "Raymond Shaw is the kindest, warmest, bravest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life" quality to it.  I do think though it's incumbent on the Buddhist blogosphere - and especially those teachers that were formerly close to Tebbe - to make some kind of statement, to pay some attention to the fact that this happened, as I titled an earlier blog post on this subject.

Two or three years ago I was having a beer with my teacher (yes, this happens), and the subject of Eido Shimano came up.  We both agreed that from our standpoints it was impossible to explain Shimano's predatory behavior; my teacher opined that Shimano must have been really mentally troubled.

So it is - and ironically so - with Tebbe.  I can't explain or know what he went through, the pain and troubles he's had that would have related to a psychotic break.   I can't explain why at this stage of his life, he has to deprecate the Dharma, but I will certainly remonstrate against that. 

But one thing I have learned deeper since the time I've spoken with my teacher.  We're not kidding around at all, it's not just a pep talk, to say that we're inherently  Buddhas, inherently capable of transcending suffering.   I don't know why some folks suffer profoundly in ways I can't understand, but I can attest that suffering can be transcended, and you don't need another religious or "spiritual" path to do that.  And this fact that we are inherently Buddhas has profound implications about how other religions are in relation to Buddhism.  It's not something to be erased, papered over, swept under the rug or otherwise ignored.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Engaging Buddhist Practice

Sometimes, you wake up and find out that you've got to help a lot more people a lot more deeply than you've been doing.

That's a good thing.

Monday, March 04, 2019

Well, this happened...

I hadn't thought much about severely disturbed people and the practice of Zen, but Adam Tebbe clearly had problems beyond what he thought his practice could address.  But it seems we should have a protocol for such things.

I can't begrudge those who, after practicing Zen Buddhism for a while decide on another path; as others have put it before, they're practicing whether they know it or not.  What does concern me, though is that Mr. Tebbe is still deeply, deeply hurting, and it's unconscionable for there to be somewhere "Christian" people and clergy looking to "benefit" in some way from Mr. Tebbe's troubles.

I put the word "benefit" in quotes because while one might feel they have "won one for the Kingdom" or "been able to reach more souls" or whatever, of course, this is more about their own perceived gain, their own "getting something."

I'm sure he's been told this already, but for Mr. Tebbe and those who are with him, I wish them peace.