Thursday, April 29, 2010

Big Mind™ Sucks (Part A Million)

I got an email the other day that I think really shows what is wrong with Genpo Roshi’s Big Mind™ scam. With the writer’s permission I’d like to share it with you:

Hello Brad,

Just wanted to say its nice to read your stuff and it was nice to read about opposing opinions on the issues of Big Mind™, whether it is right or wrong.

I have experienced Big Mind™ on two occasions, once in a small setting with close friends, and I must admit I enjoyed it and I agree I did have a wow kind of experience, experienced some trippy stuff, you could say experienced oneness of some sort.

My second time was on the island of Ameland and this time with Genpo Roshi on a nine-day retreat. Zen in the morning and Big Mind™ in the afternoon.

Overall I had an unpleasant and at times quite frightening experience and I have been trying to get to grips with it since.

The main issues were what I believed to be repressed sexual abuse, as there is a history of abuse running through our family, and also a running theme of confusion over sexual identity.

When I was unable to deal with what was coming up for me (this included thinking I was the voice of the devil or emptiness unowned) I asked to speak to a zen teacher I know. He suggested I speak to Genpo Roshi about it, not privately but in the group settings with about 250 people plus camera crew. Again I managed to do this after three days and felt it seemed right but I also think after it that I was in a state of shock.

It felt like at times that Genpo Roshi was in my head but maybe this was my delusional paranoia or another voice.

I’m not too sure what I am saying. Only that the retreat left me feeling pretty shocked, like I had taken an acid trip and very fearful of touching it again. My thoughts were wholly suicidal and I was glad to have my girlfriend and someone to talk to when I got back.

I’m left feeling very confused as if I shouldn't question Genpo, as if he knew better than me, like he said at the end of the last session, "I have you exactly where I want you." The final voice he requested was that of the voice of Vairocana Buddha. For me this felt like I was having heart palpitations. And then after a friend of mine dropped semi dead on the floor after he asked him to show him 'mu' dead. I stood and said, “I am gay.” But I didn’t mean it like that. I thought I was responding to what he wanted.

I’m not sure if you can make sense of this or offer me anything but it would be nice if there was further material on Buddhist practice and sufferers of abuse. Just wanted to know your thoughts were. Part of me thinks I should get a good therapist the other thinks fuck this shit I have had enough.

Thanks for your time

Here is my reply:

Thank you for writing. This is exactly why I think Big Mind™ is such a horrible thing.

One of the things that really bothers me is that Genpo wanted to talk to you not in private, but in front of 250 people and a camera crew. That is just rotten. Really, truly rotten. These things he is running are far too big. A sesshin with 250 people is no longer a sesshin, it's a circus. And even if all 250 were not at the sesshin proper, allowing that many outsiders to attend even part of it turns it into a circus. The man is after publicity and sees you as a way of fueling his act. It's utterly sleazy.

Sorry for the rant. As far as the specifics you're taking about... It's quite normal during Zen practice for hidden stuff to come up. Much of this can be sexual in nature. I've known a lot of people who report memories of childhood abuse or who find themselves questioning their sexual orientation. I've never experienced the former personally. But I have had a bit of experience with the latter.

I think the general norm as far as sexual orientation is concerned is to be either mostly heterosexual or mostly homosexual. You can be exclusively one or the other in terms of action. But in terms of thoughts and desires most of us have a bit of the "other team" within us. I certainly do. Since zazen brings up everything, that stuff's gonna come up as well.

The problem with Big Mind™ is that it's so focused on those Big Wow® moments that it forces you to go through this kind of stuff much, much too fast. If you go into it slowly the things you uncover have a bit of time to get processed. You're like a paleontologist gradually brushing away the dirt until after a month or so you reveal the entire tyrannosaurus skull. If you were to just pull it out in one movement, the sight of it (let's imagine you're the very first human to see one) would be shocking and horrifying. If you uncover it slowly, you have a chance to get used to it before revealing the whole thing.

This is very important. Without this slow process, you can't possibly come to terms with what you discover. All you get is a big nasty shock with no context. Or a big blissful shock with no context. Same thing.

I hope you don't drop your Buddhist practice entirely. But I would very highly recommend staying as far away as possible from Genpo Roshi and anyone associated with him. He knows nothing. He isn't in your head. He only has you where he wants you in terms of abusing you for his own greedy ends. The man wouldn't know Buddhism if it sat on his on his face and wiggled.

A friend of mine recently told me that she thought it seemed like I had a vendetta against Big Mind™. I think that’s true. This is serious business. Big Mind™ is irresponsible and dangerous.

But there is a lot of irresponsible and dangerous stuff going on in the world of this type of cheesy vaguely Eastern feel-good-now spirituality. The reason I have focused so much attention on Genpo Roshi’s rotten Big Mind™ scam is because it pretends to be related to Zen. Not only to Zen, but to the Soto tradition of Master Dogen. Genpo has even stolen Suzuki Roshi’s phrase “big mind” — first used in his book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind — and trademarked it for himself (SFZC really should make a legal complaint about that, since they own the copyright to Suzuki’s works). But Big Mind™ has nothing whatsoever in common with real Zen practice.

It’s not related to real Zen practice because Big Mind™ is focused on having some kind of special experience, a massive and exciting moment of spiritual orgasm. Zen practice has no relation to these moments. They are not the goal, just a distracting side road.

After that first exchange the guy wrote me another email that said, “I don’t want to appear hateful. My overall concern with these big experience as you say is that they put the experience over and above the welfare of the individual. This seems to show little concern for what happens after. I mean shouldn’t it carry a danger warning, or have therapists on standby or a hotline to call afterwards? You are just stripped clean then sent on your way.”

My sentiments exactly! It’s not nice to mess with people’s heads this way. And Genpo Roshi and his team are not nice people. They’re charging big money for a very dangerous experience without taking even the least degree of responsibility for the damage they do. Even traveling carnivals have more concern over safety.

There is no sense in me trying to convince anyone else to believe what I believe about this Big Mind™ horseshit. Nor can I stop anyone from trying it, no matter how much I wish I could.

I can’t convince you to accept my opinion. But I can make it very clear what my opinion is. And I hope that by doing so I might encourage others, particularly other Zen teachers, to speak out against this abuse of Buddhism.

Some people think it's a violation of the Buddhist precepts to point out garbage like this for what it is. Genpo and his buddies count on this mistaken interpretation of the precepts to intimidate those who ought to speak out against what so many of us can see clearly is abusive and harmful. I don't agree with that interpretation. This is some very nasty shit. And all of us who teach Zen are implicated in it by association. Our silence allows it to continue.

Fuck you Genpo Roshi.


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anon #108 said...

BTW Rinz - have you checked out the scriptures of the ancient heretic Nagarjuna on the skandhas, dhatus, and so forth - they're all empty...apparently. Perhaps he's not on the Rinzai reading list?

Anyway, who said anything about the bloody skandhas??

I despair!

anon #108 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rinzai Allahu Akbar said...

Yeah, well, we'll see what happens to you Soto guys when the Rapture comes. I'm sure Gudo's four representations of reality will work wonders against the wrath of Satan's army. Good luck.

Harry said...

Go to Hakuin with yer Skandhas and see if you fare any better!

Pah! They told me you guys/gal were tough...



Jinzang said...

Phillip Kapleau, in 'The Three Pillars of Zen', reports people experiencing kensho or (even) attaining satori within a few days of practice on a sesshin. The idea is not a revolutionary, or heretical one.

First, kensho is not the be all and end all of Zen. Post kensho practice is even more important. Kensho can happen any time, but typically requires some years of dedicated practice. What sometimes happens is that you "get it" and then either doubt what you see or try to hang onto it. In this case it becomes just another experience. This is more likely to happen when you are new to practice.

I feel really silly explaining kensho to Zen Buddhists.

Jinzang said...

The point is, I really doubt that Genpo Roshi has developed a method to give people kensho in a weekend. The people taking his seminar are not in a position to know or not, so their testimony isn't relevant.

Just because a few people have gotten kensho with little practice doesn't mean that this can be made the norm or that Genpo Roshi has figured out a way to do it. I'd be delighted to be wrong , but remain skeptical.

Jinzang said...

ut the teaching that you can get a mere glimpse of your True Nature (a mild kensho) or a partial awakening is a standard teaching in most (non soto) zen lineages.

Sure, the initial experience is often partial and then deepens. No disagreement.

What I don't like in the metaphor "taste of enlightenment" is that it creates the dualism of taster and that which is tasted. This is very misleading.

Signing off from the great Big Mind controversy for now,

Nate said...

If anything, now I want to try this "Big Mind" crap. Too much too soon? Feh! I've had enough bad trips to learn how to cope with the devil and stuff. Bring it on, I say. Right here, right now. Do your worst God, I will beat your ass.

Anonymous said...

Don't assume all anonymous are the same anonymous.

So here's Brad dispensing advice on Zazen on the internets to folks with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. All he says is "if you have a teacher", go talk to the teacher. No suggestion that you need to talk to someone about the issues if some things surface, let alone any mention by Brad that the person should seek out a professional if there is an attack during Zazen. How dangerous is that to just say "In spite of all the foregoing cautionary material, I still believe zazen can be a very good thing for survivors of traumatic experiences. Maybe even the best thing. It can put you directly in contact with the source of the trauma itself."

How irresponsible is it to hand out advice like this to strangers over the net?

As NellaLou wrote when Brad did this same thing another time

What qualifies Brad Warner to counsel survivors of trauma of any kind? He has a degree in history and has not undertaken study in chaplaincy as far as his public details go. He is not a psychologist and is not a trauma survivor or trauma counselor, or any sort of counselor as far as his own admissions demonstrate.

I know some people in his family died and he had some difficult times, as most people do, but this is a far cry from experience with treating possible PTSD and the like.

People with PTSD and the like are all too much in touch with the sources of their trauma-day and night-volitionally or not. And these things do "come up over and over and over again and [you]just sit there with it, not running away, not reacting, just sitting" Zazen isn't at all necessary to bring up these experiences. It is unavoidable and debilitating for many people-not reacting is impossible for some people.

His tone is dismissive and completely lacks understanding of what the survivors of trauma actually experience.

This type of pseudo-psychological "expertise" is a cause for concern.

I do think Brad has some good intentions and a certain amount of compassion but that is no substitute for experience and knowledge of a particular subject.

What qualifies Brad Warner to counsel survivors of trauma of any kind? He has a degree in history and has not undertaken study in chaplaincy as far as his public details go. He is not a psychologist and is not a trauma survivor or trauma counselor, or any sort of counselor as far as his own admissions demonstrate.

I know some people in his family died and he had some difficult times, as most people do, but this is a far cry from experience with treating possible PTSD and the like.

People with PTSD and the like are all too much in touch with the sources of their trauma-day and night-volitionally or not. And these things do "come up over and over and over again and [you]just sit there with it, not running away, not reacting, just sitting" Zazen isn't at all necessary to bring up these experiences. It is unavoidable and debilitating for many people-not reacting is impossible for some people.

His tone is dismissive and completely lacks understanding of what the survivors of trauma actually experience.

This type of pseudo-psychological "expertise" is a cause for concern.

I do think Brad has some good intentions and a certain amount of compassion but that is no substitute for experience and knowledge of a particular subject.

Rinzai till i die said...

Very good, Nate. That is the Rinzai spirit. Go Captain Ahab on that bitch.

Anonymous said...

Anon #108: What does 'empty' mean to you, subjectively of course :)

G said...

As I recall, I also took Brad to task on that post where he talked about zen and PTSD. And so I still believe that anybody--I don't care if it's Brad or Genpo or zen master down the street--who counsels people with massive psychological trauma, should try to get some training that balances out the raw Zen or meditation expertise.

But that's just my opinion, man. However, even if Brad was or is naive about how far his zen training can go in certain cases, he "seems" like basically a good guy who is fairly compassionate and so forth. Genpo is clearly a money grubbing opportunist scumbag that befriends the bottom of the barrel (like Andrew Cohen and Wilber) in order to get what he wants. He doesn't strike me as authentic or compassionate, he's a businessman trafficking in people's religious desires.

Different problems, imo.

-Aaron/Gniz (writing under different ID cuz i'm too lazy to sign out and back in again)

Anonymous said...

salesmen, sheesh. when can you do, eh?

proulx michel said...

I have a student who has severe ptsd symptoms and came to me to get some relief. I have never hinted that Zazen would cure him. But he has found it by himself that it has helped him a lot. So...

Anonymous said...

Anon @7:39

I've written extensively about mixing Zazen/Mindfulness with meditation. In fact I did write it in response to Brad's article.

Hardcore Zazen

Mindfulness and Zazen is used a lot by people dealing with trauma and PTSD. In the open and closed forums you will see it being suggested.

The "tought it out" approach will not work and being able to stop is important but beyond that.

The heart of PTSD is about a bunch of physiology that gets friend and a non-acceptance of a new fucked-up reality.

Zazen is about learning to accept reality as it is and yourself as you are in that moment.

After several years of doing mindfulness and Zazen a lot in private I realized with shock that some people actually enjoy Zazen. I guessed mine was different!

Professional Help is often pretty useless and you can research that for yourself. Instead many people find a zen-like approach of deep genuine acceptance of the situation together with other work to be helpful.

Heal My PTSD is written by a person who dealt with PTSD and is now a trained professional. You can google lots of references to meditation and outbound links to various news articles.

Mixing Zen and PTSD is never going to be be fun but it's a lot less unfun than letting PTSD run riot in your life.

Many who read my blog are dealing with PTSD in their everyday lives and I interact with people putting Zen into a PTSD context.

Brad's post on SG was reasonable for someone writing as a third party.

Moon Face Buddha said...

Has Brad any personal experience of Big Mind seminars?

No. (based on information he has previously provided here)

Does Brad know how many people have attended Big Mind seminars?

Probably not.

Does Brad know how many people who have attended Big Mind seminars have experienced issues similar to the one detailed in the email sent to him by Mr X?

I doubt it.

Does Brad have any basis upon which to assert that Big Mind is any more 'dangerous' than 'normal' Zen practice?

Not really.

Other than that, great post Brad.

anon #108 said...

Hi 8.39pm,

What does emptiness mean to me - subjectively?

Seems like straight question. I'll have a go.

It means: got nuthin in it.

If you examine anything, whether an idea or an object, you find that it's 'nature', it's 'essence', the characteristics by which we define it, seem to disappear, leaving you with something that only exists dependent on something else, and ultimately on everything else - it has no innate or inherent existence; no 'self-being' ("svabhava").

For example: A (wooden) table is the name we give to a thing with a top and four legs that we use to place things on. Take it apart and it it's a flat piece of wood and four wooden sticks. It's no longer a table. Take those apart, and you have a pile of bits of wood. Keep going and you get sawdust...and so on. So what we call a 'table' is a particular coming together of certain stuff at a particular time; it's existence as a thing with it's own nature depends on other things and circumstances - it is 'dependently arisen' (pratitya samutpada) - it has no independant, permanent nature or 'essence', and is therefore 'empty' (Shunya).

This is quite easy to see with material forms, but the same goes for concepts: "Consciouness" - what is it? Look for it and you can't find it. It's a name we give to a bunch of other ideas - it's empty of any real, substantial, nature or essence of it's own, even as an idea:

All form is comparable to foam; all feelings to bubbles; all sensations are mirage-like; dispositions are like the plantain trunk; consciousness is but an illusion: so did the Buddha illustrate [the nature of the aggegates] (from S 3.142 in the tipitaka).

And BTW, re the five skandhas (from wiki on Skandha):

In the early texts, the scheme of the five aggregates is not meant to be an exhaustive classification of the human being: rather it describes various aspects of the way an individual manifests.

- so just convenient labels for aspects of our experience...subjective, of course :)

Best I can do at the moment - the effort of a deluded late-learner. But that's how I see it.


Gumbo Roshi said...

“Dada means nothing. We want to change the world with nothing.”

- Buddada

anon #108 said...

Hi Moon Face Buddha - all the way from Zen Forum International!

Have you attended a bigmind seminar or sesshin? I'm not being snarky - I'd be interested to hear from someone who has; who is aware of the objections to it (that encouraging or inducing a 'kensho' experience via voice dialogue, in an afternoon, gives a false idea of what practice, and Buddhism is about), but found it useful, and can address the objections.


Rich said...

Thanks 108 for your explanation of Gudo 101 and emptiness. Rinzai - the model of conception that you adopt (the one or many) is what will motivate you to practice or not - so choose carefully because its the practice that matters most. BTW I am a big fan of What is this?

Enlightenment is much too strong a term for me and i think most everyone has experienced awakening if only for a moment, so it is not special and only by practice can it become a dominant state of being. I wonder of the hundreds or thousands of people who have attended Big Mind, how many are still practicing in the Genpo style?

Anonymous said...

Nice blog you got here... Just droppin' by to say hi!

Mumon said...


The point is, I really doubt that Genpo Roshi has developed a method to give people kensho in a weekend. The people taking his seminar are not in a position to know or not, so their testimony isn't relevant.

That's right, from a Buddhist perspective. From a Buddhist perspective, there's a history and written record that delineates what these states are, what their importance or lack thereof is, and how its approached.

From that record we could say, in Brad Warner's tradition, kensho and satori are somewhat deemphasized. In the Rinzai tradition, they're somewhat more emphasized. In either tradition, at least by example, if not by outright tests, criteria are given for determining the validity of one's experience. (You could take Dogen's experience of "dropping body and mind" in one tradition and "understanding the death of Nan-ch'uan" in the other.

And in no way, according to those criteria can "Big Mind" be said to be a substitute for these things. I don't see anyone being given any kind of authority to teach or anything from any other Zen teacher not affiliated with Merzel for "doing Big Mind."

Of course, I have my own biases, perspectives and opinions about this. I personally think that Mr. Warner, as well as most modern Zen teachers would do well to speak more on the old texts and sutras - it actually buttresses their legitimacy. But that's just me. Mr. Warner's doing fine, I think, without my advice anyway.

Mumon said...


There are enlightenments that are much, much longer than momentary and consequently profoundly deep as well.

They're also not exceedingly rare either; it's just that the key to doing it is to consciously continue practice off the cushion as well as on, throughout the day, throughout the night.

And that key takes a bit of effort. But then again, if your practice isn't leading you in that direction (i.e., transformation of your life), where is it going?

Anonymous said...

Mindfulness and Zazen is used a lot by people dealing with trauma and PTSD. In the open and closed forums you will see it being suggested.

I think you misunderstand the issue. It is not whether PTSD will or will not be helped by Zazen (I probably will). It is Brad's passing out advice over the internet pulled out of his ass on serious trauma issues with little training. He accuses Genpo of playing with people's heads, but if the advice is wrong Brad is playing with fire. As Brad wrote in his own post, This seems to show little concern for what happens after. I mean shouldn’t it carry a danger warning, or have therapists on standby or a hotline to call afterwards?

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:14

"It is Brad's passing out advice over the internet pulled out of his ass on serious trauma issues with little training. He accuses Genpo of playing with people's heads, but if the advice is wrong Brad is playing with fire"

First of all unless you've dealt with trauma/PTSD yourself or are a trained professional or have had other direct personal experience you are not really qualified to say what is and is not appropriate.

People who are dealing with trauma/PTSD are quite used to receiving useless advice from all sources and since Brad is wearing a "Zen Teacher" hat I doubt if people with trauma will take him seriously on this. I certainly don't. He's not a trained therapist 'though he has dealt with his own heavy shit from what he's written; his SG article says as much. People offer me useless advice every week; it goes with the territory.

The problem with the Big Mind setup is that it's a large public thing and that of itself is a stressful environment for a trauma victim; it would take real balls to turn up to such a thing. I certainly avoided Zendoes for many years. To be asked to go on camera to talk about trauma issues is bizarre. If I was refused a private audience I'd get the hell away from the place.

On a practical point you have to understand that people who are dealing with trauma know they are dealing with trauma. If they hit symptoms it's not a shock; it's normal. A private conversation could have resolved the issue quite easily without specialist training. "Don't do any more sessions" would take care of most things.

At the end of the day Genpo/Brad cannot be 100% responsible for anyone who walks through their door; only 50%. He or Genpo can provide a space that recognizes the humanity and adulthood of their attendees but beyond that I don't know.

I'm struggling for words but I think it comes down to whether Brad/Genpo see a revenue stream or people.

And if I had a penny for every time a "Zen Teacher" talked out of their ass....

Anonymous said...

"Big Mind" was a really clever way for Genpo to take all his zen training and turn it into a proprietary business that he could make a profit from. And build an organization with.
It must be frustrating when a zen guy feels they are at the peak of that world and has to stay the "modest buddhist" monk. Now, my opinion is that he should have used his leadership and mental skills to develop a regular business or go to school and learn a trade or profession and just be really good a regular job like the rest of us. What's wrong with that?

Stephanie said...


What concerns me most about this post and discussion is that people are making the same mistake they critique Genpo Merzel for making, which is assuming that a temporary state forever after characterizes a person, whether that be ‘enlightened’ or ‘mentally ill.’

I've seen many Zen teachers in addition to Zenternet commenters say that people with certain psychological issues shouldn't practice zazen or Zen until they're stabilized (possibly on meds), while others say that people on meds shouldn't practice Zen.

There is a lot of assumption going on here about what 'mental illness' is, and most of it is ignorant. Almost fanciful.

I like what one of my professors said, which is that we all have moments in time when we are 'borderline' or 'schizoid,' it's just that people who meet the criteria to be diagnosed as such spend more time in a state that could be labelled that way.

Some of the most grounded and wise Zen practitioners I've met have either been diagnosed with some 'mental disorder' or could be. Being a little bit 'crazy' keeps you from thinking you're a superior enlightened sage. It helps you realize that this idea that we can control and maintain a certain state of mind 24/7 is a false idea. What our minds do or tell us at any given moment isn't the point.

There's not some category of 'scary crazy people' who shouldn't be in zendos. A person with schizophrenia might be able to comfortably have a zazen practice without having a 'breakdown' while someone who's never thought of themselves as 'psychologically vulnerable' might flip out on the zafu.

Of course a person with unmedicated schizophrenia is going to have a higher risk of having a psychological break, but is the conclusion then that because of probabilities, these people shouldn't practice Zen? Because they might have an unpleasant psychological experience as a result (which they might also have as a result of someone saying the wrong thing to them on the bus)?

My Zen practice broke me down and threw me into the most intense depression I've ever experienced. I definitely met the criteria for 'Major Depressive Disorder' for that period (2008, pretty much). I also had many symptoms that go along with personality disorders, such as an unstable sense of identity and a feeling of bleak emptiness at my core, though I didn't meet the criteria for any particular PD. The person who helped me find my way out of the haunted house of my depressed mental constructions and reconnect with practice in a more grounded way--the person who helped me reclaim my sanity--is someone who has been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and ADHD. Thank goodness I don't put much stock in these notions that realization and practice are not accessible to 'teh crazies.'

Ultimately, my depression was something I had to go through to get to the other side of it. Maybe the person who had this experience at Big Mind needed to have that experience, or something like it. Or at least, perhaps it's not a grave tragedy that it occurred. As others have pointed out here, the same sort of thing has happened many times over at traditional intensive Zen sesshins.

The beauty of Zen, and Soto Zen in particular, is that it allows us to see the perfection of this moment. Scratch that; it is the perfection of this moment. Not 'this moment after I feel a little better' or 'this moment after I meet someone else's arbitary criteria for 'psychological stability'.' This moment. The one that is maybe sort of scary and unhinged. And as I start to relax and stop fighting my experience, and stop identifying with it, the worst of it will pass away. Because, as with anything, it was all 'in my head' all along. That’s true of all of us, regardless of diagnosis, or lack thereof. As the Cheshire Cat said, ‘We’re all mad here.’

Stephanie said...


I agree that there are certain criteria that indicate that someone needs to address their psychological symptoms before going any further with a spiritual practice. Mostly out of safety concerns (you can’t practice if you’re dead). The criteria I would use are the standard (1) is the person a danger to him/herself or others, and (2) is the person maintaining a level of functioning with which there is no immediate risk. But that's all. If a person isn't suicidal or homicidal or about to suffer some consequences of neglect or bizarre behavior that they are unable to forsee, recognize, and accept, they I say, go right ahead and sit zazen with whatever your mind is throwing at you. If doing so brings you to (1) or (2), seek professional help. Repeat. Otherwise, don't worry about it. Sincere practice will press you to drop the delusions eventually anyway.

And think, what if we applied our psychological framework to the ancient teachers we respect? The Buddha arguably met the criteria not only for some kind of psychological disorder, but also met (1) and (2). During his period of fasting, he was actively harming himself and at risk of death. When he left his home and family to pursue practice, he was leaving a stable situation, losing his livelihood, abandoning his family. No doubt, had the Buddha done something similar today, we would have either suggested he go on meds or at the very least have rolled our eyes and said, 'another guy with a mid-life crisis.' And Dogen, forget about it. Someone without a Zen practice might very well label The Shobogenzo as a sort of masterpiece of schizophrenic or autistic glossolalia.

Are you afraid of going crazy? You already are crazy. You believe in insane abstractions constructed from the conversations you have with yourself. Your experience of reality is completely fabricated. You don't think of the voices in your head as voices, you think of them as 'Me.' Maybe more socially functional, but no less ontologically twisted, than the person who doesn’t label the voices as ‘Me.’

Here's the scary thing that some may not realize: mental health professionals can't be guaranteed to save you from yourself any more than spiritual teachers. We're human beings who make mistakes as often as any other type of professional. Even scarier: it's the same with doctors. You might die on the operating table because your surgeon has a really bad hangover. You might end up involuntarily committed and/or not receive the proper mental health care you need because your social worker, psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor, etc., can't fit your behavior in his/her paradigm.

We are a society of children who want all the goodies without any risks, who want safety bars on everything and yet resent those bars, we want to be free but we're afraid of the consequences of freedom. We don't want to do things that we might die from, or that might make us crazy, or that might rip our pants or embarrass us in front of our peers. And at the same time we want to do those things. Or rather, we want to be able to brag to others that we’ve done these things without having done the hard work, or having had the courage to do them.

M said...

It is almost as if Genpo after 40 years of Buddhist training, decided it was just idealist bullshit and he had better cash in his chips now if he was to get anything at all out of those wasted years. He wouldn't be the first Buddhist to call for a Priest on his deathbed.. So to speak.

Moon Face Buddha said...

Hello anon108.

No, my experience of Big Mind is exactly the same as Brad's.

It may be a bunko act. It may be an effective method of personal/spiritual growth. I cannot say either way, and my point is that neither can Brad.

By all means he has this blog to put forth his ideas and beliefs. I just think it may be worthwhile pointing out that what he asserts as 'fact' is just his personal opinion.

I have practiced with some folks from the FWBO. I was aware that the order has had some problems in the past, and did research before attending their sessions. I found them to be quite nice people, and not at all like the mind-control cult some of the information online would have us believe. On the other hand that is not to say that other groups in other places, or other individuals within the order that I have not met are not a bit dodgy.

If Brad was able to provide a reasoned arguement against Big Mind I would be interested to read it. Carping on and on from his blog, claiming that whatever does not fit into his belief of what is 'valid zen practice', is only reinforcing his own dogma.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:14 wrote:
As Brad wrote in his own post, This seems to show little concern for what happens after. I mean shouldn’t it carry a danger warning, or have therapists on standby or a hotline to call afterwards?

Those aren't Brad's words. They're the words of the anonymous emailer who had a bad experience at a Big Mind seminar.

Stephanie said...


I, like many, am suspicious of Big Mind, but it is not because it is "dangerous!!!111!" People do more dangerous stuff with their minds all the time, like take drugs, or go to Tea Party rallies, or take psychiatric medication prescribed to them because it's the psychiatric trend at the moment, not because any of the researchers or psychiatrists understand exactly what it does to the brain or why.

Big Mind seems to be a form of hypnotism. I don't understand how it could lead to awakening. Someone suggests you are speaking with the voice of Vairocana Buddha, or Big Mind, but those are just characters. Whatever you experience is whatever you're scripted to experience. You're having the experience suggested to you by the hypnotist. Which might be really cool, or trippy, but that's all it is: a cool, trippy experience. That people pay to have. Spiritual entertainment.

Unlike Brad, I don't think there should be a crusade to protect deluded fools from themselves. I don’t think there should be watchdogs to protect people from losing their money to spiritual scams. It's our responsibility to wake up and see how others are fooling us and how we are fooling ourselves. That's practice. That's the path. That’s life. We have all been deluded fools at one time or another, and we will be deluded fools again. All that saves us is our self-honesty and will to the truth. Not some spiritual Don Quixote who is going to vanquish all the spiritual windbags for us. That just infantilizes people.

Perhaps Genpo is performing a valuable service. People are going to have an experience and then they will realize that it's just another experience and it hasn't changed anything. Whereas people might spend decades in traditional Zen training chasing after some ideal of enlightenment before realizing it's just a phantom.

The path is self-correcting as long as we are wiling to look honestly at ourselves. We won't see ourselves clearly at first, of course, but over time, our defenses will chip and crumble and we'll see how desperately we've been trying to believe in something that we really can't believe. We will see how desperate we are to do anything other than be in this moment. We want something better, grander, shinier, more noble, more dignified. We don't want to have to do laundry any more, or deal with our bosses. We want to float on a blissful cloud of serenity and... get paid to float around looking all spiritual and noble and wise. Like someone else said--who would want to be Genpo Merzel? Who would want to live with the burden of playing a role, living a life where you're paid to pretend that wearing a robe and living at a Zen Center solves all your problems?

Punk, like hip-hop, was/is about being respected for being authentic and real, even though your 'authentic realness' is just another pose, another role. That’s how Brad and Genpo are each the same: selling a spiritual brand, pose, identity. But Reality is Reality, we're all in it, and we can all experience it at any time, no matter what our delusions or identities or roles or foibles or psychiatric symptoms may be.

But that's exactly what we don't want to believe, because that would mean accepting that our special identities and insights and street cred and indie cred and Buddhist cred don't mean shit, that no matter what we get or do or accomplish we're still fundamentally the same. It would mean having to accept we don't get to transcend the crap we thought we would get to transcend if we had some kind of blowout spiritual experience. We don't get to stay stuck forever in some spiritually ideal state untouched by the crap of life. No amount of zazen will make us a Buddha, no matter how straight our spines are; no amount of Big Mind retreats will cause us to levitate two inches off the ground. And most of us won't get to charge gullible rich idiots $10,000 to sit with our stinking holy asses for an hour, and thank Buddha for that.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:14

Stephanie has made a lot of points much better than I can today - I'm rather tired again!!!!

From what I can see in the PTSD community at the moment the number one issue is that these so-called professionals can mess up people more thoroughly than you could possibly imagine. There are several links from my blog to people who have had MAJOR issues as a consequence of seeking professional help - and often mis-diagnosis is the least of it.

A lot of effort is currently going into re-education for empowering people to move into directing and understanding the nature of whatever it is they have to deal with and then working out their own healing programs perhaps with some guidance.

We all assume that there is some right way to perceive reality and to perceive your mind and that is naive unscientific nonsense. I've now been through enough to not treat any particular mental state as either permanent or a sign of illness. Once you no longer worry about how your mind "should" be a lot of illusionary problems disappear.

As for this Buddha guy. Well, referring to yourself in the third person all the time (Diamond Sutra ISTR) is hardly a suggestor of mental health

Rinzai very nice guy said...

Stephanie, I love you. It's getting much harder everyday for people to step outside the societal paradigms in which we live. True self-inquiry has always been a lonely venture, and most people can't handle being alone. The risk of alienating friends and love one's to pursue something that is outside the "American Dream" is far too great for most individuals.

Just look at the football player Ricky Williams who abandoned pro football years ago to go do yoga and smoke pot. People completely vilified him, called him selfish and crazy, psychologists diagnosed him with narcissistic/avoidant personality disorder all because he didn't buy into our prevailing culture of fame and fortune. Dude just wanted to figure out who he was and find his own meaning in life, and the press and the fans hated him for it.

Other people's opinions have always been gigantic hurdle to one's spiritual well-being. And that is why very few people even try to make the attempt at self-realization. It is much easier to just be a cog in the machine and let yourself be grinded away.

Mr. Reee said...

"What is a qualified therapist anyway?"

Someone who can be insured against malpractice, perhaps?

It's all do do...MON-HAY!

108 Adams said...

to Anon #108: do you think Gudo roshi ever heard about Phenomenology and Edmund Husserl?

Anonymous said...

Why do people keep saying drugs are dangerous?

Some drugs are potentially dangerous some of the time.

All drugs are not dangerous all of the time.

CynicalBoy said...

Pointless sitting down
And nothing gained by standing
Just breath until death

CynicalBoy said...

It's pointless sitting
And standing brings you nothing
Just breath until death

gniz said...

Well I still think posters like Stephanie (whom I usually agree with) and Anon 108 and even Mike Hinsley (whose opinion on PTSD in particular is much more educated than mine) are missing the point.

When Stephanie says, "the path is self correcting" and "we don't need watchdogs" to point out problematic teachers, these are really impractical and idealistic notions.

Forget Zen. Just pretend we're talking about a medical doctor, an auto mechanic, or a dentist--even a hotel for god's sake. Wouldn't you like to be able to go online and read some reviews about that person or service and get an idea if maybe there are red flags?

I sure would. We provide a service by doing this, by asking hard questions and demanding answers from people who are claiming to provide a service that is perhaps not accurate to what they're actually doing.

It's not my final decision or anyone's decision whether Genpo or Andrew Cohen or any of these guys ultimately are good or bad. Just like you can't ultimately say the motel 6 on route 4 in Worcester MA is a good or bad hotel. All you can do is give an opinion and collect evidence and hopefully shed some light on the risks associated with these things.

Some hotels and some dentists have hundreds of five star reviews by happy customers. Some have mediocre reviews. These things don't absolutely define anyone, but they provide clues. The material that has come to light about Genpo Roshi might help a seeker or two go to a less risky teacher and they might avoid some pitfalls.

Or maybe they won't--I don't care, as long as the information is out there for all to see.

Acting as though a good zen teacher is different than finding a good TV or a good primary care physician--well I disagree. It's practical, nuts and bolts stuff like anything else in life.

Anonymous said...


anon #108 said...

Hi 108 Adams,

I really don't know. It's not impossible - Gudo's been a student of Western philosophy for some time. In "To Meet the Real Dragon" he briefly surveys the history of western philosophy from Plato, Aquinas, through Locke, Berkeley and Hume to Kant, Hegel and Marx, and on to Kierkegaard, Heidegger and Sartre - but no mention of Husserl specifically.

I don't know enough about philosophy or Gudo to have an opinion on the extent to which his ideas might be influenced by the philosophy he's read. Whether he's familiar with Husserl or not, Gudo's study of Dogen (and Nagarjuna) has led him to conclusions that some might say have a good deal in common with Husserl and phenomenology.

Gudo, I think, would say he's simply a Buddhist ;)

anon #108 said...

..Gudo says of the modern philosophers:

"..they have all made efforts to resolve the conflict between idealism and materialism. Their thought is still very young and immature, but I think their theories are very important. I think they contain the seeds of eventual liberation from the chaos of modern life....[But] theory alone cannot save us..."

captcha = faster...?

Anonymous said...


Maybe I haven't made myself clear.

I think fundamentally that some things cannot be delegated.

The people who turn up to these things also have a duty of care to themselves. Reading a review is fine but it's not always helpful.

I recently stayed in a budget hotel and it was tired but fine. Someone else in the same hotel found it to be unpleasant. It was the same hotel and we were both right.

No-one has the job of protecting other people from themselves. That's not something that can be delegated - hence the Darwin Awards.

Everyone who walks into a Big Mind seminar is free to walk out at any point.

We can all express views as to why we think Big Mind is an expensive misleading waste of time but they are just views.

Why should anyone listen. What right do we have to tell anyone how to live their lives.

How much mess is caused by people proseltysing "You should live how I tell you to"?

Hell, the Brad and Jundo show is all about two middle-aged men telling each other how they should live their lives.

You maybe disagree with me on some points and Stephanie on some points and I might disagree with Stephanie on some points - although I'm not certain.

But "Do not go to the Genpo show because I think it is bad for you and I know what is right for your life" is most definitely where the line is crossed. I'm personally pretty sick of Zen people telling me how to live my life and as you know Stephanie's been on the receiving end of harsher stuff than me. And how has that all worked out exactly?

Meanwhile you've become Gniz the Crusader who wants everyone to rally around whatever flag you are carrying today. It's all very well but there is no reason why your voice is more important than anyone elses.

If people want to spend a few hunderd bucks on the Genpo Trip Experience then really it's their business. If it goes badly that's also their business. Genpo has some responsibility but so do they.

We can give grounds for why the Genpo Trip Experience might not be a productive way to spend a few hundred bucks since Vegas exists but beyond that, what

gniz said...

Well Mike, I don't really get your point. Your reasoning that two different people stay at the same hotel and have two different experiences actually makes my point for me. The thing is, over time, the numbers may add up one way or the other and evidence mounts.

At some point, there might be an internet page that has fifty seven poor reviews and only fifteen positive ones. I think that's very helpful. Does it mean that it's impossible to have a a pleasant experience at that hotel? Of course not, but some of us like to have information when we make decisions.

Reviews and opinions, even those that diverge from one another, help to inform someone who may not have the experience or wherewithal to have their own very informed opinion.

I personally love using reviews, especially those compiled from many sources, in order to help decide whether certain products or services are worth the risk. Sometimes I might take a chance anyway, even in the face of poor or mixed reviews.

But in this day and age when we have the ability to get our opinions and views out there, and some people may appreciate or find it helpful, why not?

It seems to me that some of you would like to put zen teachers in a different category than anything else in life--this attitude is part of why so many shitty teachers continue to exploit students. It's idealistic and a little naive.

I don't know for a FACT that Genpo is a piece of crap teacher, but the preponderance of the evidence tells me he is. Others don't have to agree with me, but you won't convince me that talking about it is a waste of time and that newbies and interested seekers should just "find out the hard way."

gniz said...

Basically, I'm saying that it doesn't matter to me if my so-called crusade helps anybody or not.

I would want to know these things if I were out and about trying to find a teacher. I would like to be able to do some research and not simply have to depend on stylish marketing and the words of sycophants and PR people.

So I think for a few people it might be helpful or informative to realize that Genpo and others are controversial and have some red flags.

Other than that, I could really give a shit. If nobody cares at the end of the day, so be it. No skin off my nose.

Anonymous said...


Rinzai rube said...

Instead of marketing a taste of kensho, which is kind of cheesy, Genpo should offer the exact opposite, i.e. a short, intense glimpse of unimaginable hell. I would sign up for that shit in a heartbeat.

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PhillySteveInLA said...

I was recently talking to some people and I said that any teacher is a good teacher, because even from a bad teacher, you can learn what not to do...It was a little more detailed, but I don't want this post to be too long...Then I changed my opinion that there are no bad teachers, but there are bad leaders, and if we practice, it becomes clearer who's example to follow and who's not to. And I stand by that.
After reading this post and some of the comments, I realized there are, however, some things I never took into consideration.
First of all there are those who are prone to giving up decision making to others. They don't really desire to look deeply(and the author of the e-mail is NOT one of these. He saw the danger and decided to keep away from here out)into their leader, they just seek a strong personality. Genpo, like all cult leaders, preys on these people and collects them to prop him up. They have a big experience and decide this man, or at least his system, has power and follows it.
But more importantly, THE ACTUAL PRACTICE IS NOT ENCOURAGED. Without sitting, without looking deeply, and more often not so deeply, into the rise and fall of things, the clarity we need to distinguish doesn't come. Our experienced is pushed into one extreme without the necessary balance that comes from steady practice.
When you combine this disregard for practice and balance with a personality prone to follow, you get a dangerous mix.
It's very easy for me to make a bad teacher a good teacher when looking from the outside, but even among the most strong willed of us if someone gives a life shattering moment(for good or for ill) to us through his own "power", we just might listen.
How many Jedi have fallen to the Sith for just that reason? When this idea we hold of the experience we think we should have is dangled in front of us, how can we easily turn away from grabbing and feeling gratitude to the one who gave it to us.
In summation, fuck Genpo. He's a bad teacher and a dangerous leader.

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LUKE said...


Aaron Sweater? said...


PhillySteveInLA said...

I also wanted to say something about how the e-mail writer's experience was handled.
I noticed a lot of comments to the effect that most Zen centers don't have therapists on-hand or are not counsellors and things to that nature. It's true.
It's also true that many people coming to Zen are looking for something and are 'damaged' in some way.Some of them have mental problems, including psychosis, which can lead to these big experiences, collapses, breakthroughs, what have you. Any teacher worth their salt will know that- to use a real life example- if someone comes to the Zen center and claims they discovered in meditation that they are the new Christ and doesn't make it clear that's more of a metaphor real quick, that this person needs help. and promptly sends them to a psychologist. This happened at my Zen center!
Zen is about balance, and if there is a chemical imbalance, no Zen, or Big Mind or vitamin regimen will fix that. You need the proper help for the proper problem.
Every Zen center should have(and many I've been to, including the one I live at, do)a number for an emergency mental health hotline.
You can get information about these programs from your local police and most hospitals.
People who leave the traditions they grew up with are always, at least at first, looking for something, and many of them are hurting. That's why we seek out these 'systems'(yes, Zen is a 'system). And it's good that they bring our problems to the surface so we can see them for what they are. But most times, we need a slow exposure because we lose the details in such a huge picture. It's like those hidden pictures from highlights. You'll never see the boot in the plant if you're just paying attention to what a lovely kitchen it is.


I can't get free!!!

Anonymous said...

Genpo has said "kensho is the end of the way"? where? when? i also dont get why he should is named a "cult leader". because he is not fitting the concepts of a few poor guys who think they know what zen is?

transmission has done no good to brad warner. genpo is right in pointing out that some of the narrowst people are the spiritual ones.

Darth V: Personification of Evil said...

Please let me die; I'm not really evil.

Anonymous said...

How to tell whether Big Mind is different from traditional Zen

Ask former participants if they were required as a condition of participation to sign paperwork that looks at all similar to examples from James Ray, Landmark Education, School for the Work (Byron Katie), PSI Seminars

These are from entities claiming we must take responsibility for ourselves, but that do not take any responsibility for their own role as fiduciaries. If you feel good, credit goes to them, and if you get in trouble, its all YOUR fault and you’ve signed away your rights as a citizen to sue or mediate for damages.

Real licensed therapists have an ethos of care and they are the ones who carry malpractice insurance, and do not require prospective clients to sign this kind of paperwork.

**So lets find out if BM participants must sign this kind of paperwork or not. If so, this is enough to reveal the cover the ass commercialist mentality behind BM.

Find out whether participants in BM (trademark) must sign a release of liability form
that looks anything like these. I have attended several sesshins and vipassana retreats and
have never in all my years, ever had to sign anything like this.

James Rays Release of Liablity Form---The Anticult October 10, 2009 5:31 PM,77450,77484#msg-77484

Byron Katies release of Liability form

From Garden of Even, February 14, 2009,12906,65871#msg-65871

(note this is a discussion of Byron Katie, but you can substitute the name of any other entity using a form resembling the one her org (also tradmarked to death) uses)

(quote)the buzz-word that they use for all of these techniques. VOLUNTARY. That is the same buzz-word they used when the details first came out about what went on in these seminars.
No one is saying people are being forced a gunpoint to do anything. Its all about very sophisticated PERSUASION, much of it unconscious. There is social pressure, emotional pressure, philosophical pressures (unquote)

(A tiny excerpt from a longer analysis of the Work release of liablity by The Anticult, given February the entire thing)

Landmark Education’s liability release by vlinden February 3rd 2008,52634

PSI Seminars Waiver
steve989 –January 3rd 2009,36040,64258#msg-64258

Finally there is a difference between licensed therapists and trademarked, for profit entities such as these--which latch themselves onto legitimate dharma the way barnacles latch onto ship's hulks. Unless a ship is periodically dry docked and the parasitic crap scraped off, the ship slows down or at worst, the hull gets rotten and the ship, orginally good, is sunk by the accumulation of critters hitching onto it for a free ride.

Buddhism is a reliable vehicle.

But these other entities, with trademarks, release of liability forms, cattle call events, high costs and intellectual property attorneys on the leaders' speed dials--these are the barnacles that could sink the Dharma in the West--unless we have the guts to dry dock the Good Ship Dharma and scrape the hull now and then.

Barnacles are fine if they stick to wharf pilings and rocks. But they iterfere with the function of a sea going ship.

And a true ships captain will not allow his or her Zen craft to become a vehicle onto which for profit barnacles can cluster and claim their calcium weight is part of the ship.

Millenium Falcon said...

The craft I see Zen as is the Millenium Falcon.

Big Mind is but a mere Tie Fighter of the kind that were distroyed in their scores by the Millenium Falcon in the memorable space battle of episode one of the original trilogy.

Embarrassed White Plum student said...

I'm a student of a White Plum teacher. Not one who's part of Genpo's line, thankfully, but part of Glassman's, whom I regard to be a far superior and authentic teacher. Anyway, I feel like Genpo is an embarrassment to all of us, even though few speak out (and I can't for the life of me understand why). Maezumi was a brilliant teacher and Genpo is just dragging his name through the mud.

Brad, please debate Genpo. I know you said you wouldn't. But somebody needs to confront him directly, not just through angry blog posts, and I'm sad to say that nobody in the White Plum Asanga is going to do it. Since debate is the way such disputes have traditionally been handled in Zen, I can't see how it wouldn't be appropriate here.

Derek Evans said...

Let's be perfectly honest with ourselves here. Brad won't and can't debate Genpo because he'd be smashed. Brad is sort of this strange secular humanist/Buddhist combination that sort of has this strange, unworkable mishmash system of beliefs.

It's tough to blame him. He's gone all in on this crap his teacher spews and it's helped make a living. The guy is much more interested in his own selfish needs than working to a deeper understanding of the darma.

As for Genpo, say what you will, and it's probably all true, but the guy exists on a deeper plane than Brad. Brad is sort of a Buddhism-lite poster boy of sorts, wide hips and all.

Jinzang said...

Why do people keep saying drugs are dangerous?

Because they kill people? Your breakfast muffin is not dangerous. Psychiatric meds are.

Jinzang said...

Brad is sort of this strange secular humanist/Buddhist combination that sort of has this strange, unworkable mishmash system of beliefs.

Brad's views are not untypical for American Soto Zen and he seems to get along well with other teachers.

The guy is much more interested in his own selfish needs than working to a deeper understanding of the darma.

His "selfish needs" mostly revolve around making a living from his writing. And he's very upfront about that.

Rich said...

Stephanie rules. Thanks for sharing your experience.
there is something transmitted in that.

Mumon, I agree that practicing all the time is wonderful. The effort or trying is enough.

Anonymous said...

here's some Big Mind stuff...

what do you think? how strange is this?

(to me it just looks like another framework for awareness for the 3/4 khandas)

Anonymous said...

hope things go well for you today.

Anonymous said...

"Someone without a Zen practice might very well label The Shobogenzo as a sort of masterpiece of schizophrenic or autistic glossolalia."

Stephanie! This made me laugh!

I love the idea of Zen centers having a mental help hotline number available. Good way to own up to it!


Ran K. said...

Embarrassed White Plum student, - [6:00 pm]

I read very little of this endless what-ever-it-is, (who would?) I find it very difficult to find out who's right, - I suppose it'd still be so if I read it all, (mainly perhaps since most of the commentators may not so much know what they are talking about) but anyway - what I wanted to say - is - that in a debate not necessarily the right one is the one who "wins", but many times perhaps the one better at "debating".

So an exchange of articles or assays may actually be more serious than meeting face to face and pleasing the masses as if something meaningful has been done.

[had this not been true 108 might have been twice unemployed ;) ask his colleagues, though a reasonable man wouldn’t take their word :( [NWIM]]

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:55:

"I love the idea of Zen centers having a mental help hotline number available. Good way to own up to it!"

But it may well be the 'sick' people telling the 'healthy' ones to 'make that call'.

Stephanie said...


I think you misunderstand.

The only practical way to help people avoid, or at least find their way out of, spiritual scams, is to teach them to think for themselves. To be critical. To question. To be honest with themselves when something feels 'off.'

There are always going to be 'off-the-radar' spiritual hucksters and gurus, most far, far worse than Genpo.

And being drawn to a spiritual teacher is different from evaluating whether to stay in a hotel. It tends not to be a rational sort of thing. It's more along the lines of a person entering into a romantic relationship, falling in love, etc. Have you ever tried to tell someone in love that they were in love with, well, a douchebag? It usually doesn't work that well, does it? You have to be patient and wait for them to wake up to the fact they're with a douchebag. Often, the more you criticize who they're with, the more they want to be with them.

I'm all for publishing concrete information if some sort of financial scam, etc. is uncovered. But I don't think we have anything like that. It's more a vague sense of 'there's something hokey about this.' Writing essays about how hokey Big Mind is, is not something I think is going to make that much of an impact.

I can tell you over the years I've believed in some pretty stupid shit. And the only thing that ever got me to stop believing in it was never what someone else said, but my own experience that it wasn't true. Over and over again: wait, this isn't true. That's practice.


Stephanie said...

Anon 8:55:

"I love the idea of Zen centers having a mental help hotline number available. Good way to own up to it!"

But it may well be the 'sick' people telling the 'healthy' ones to 'make that call'.

Yes!! Exactly.

gniz said...

Hey Stephanie,

I'm hoping to get people some info before they reach the "falling in love" stage. Maybe when they're just thinking of joining Genpo on one of his retreats--maybe all they know is some cool Genpo article they read in Tricycle--they do a little googlin' and see some of this discussion, read my blog or Brad's. Then maybe they have a second thought about that particular retreat and instead go to their local zen group down the street.

Like I said, if someone has the info and decides to join up with Genpo or Andrew or anyone else--far be it from me to stop them from whatever journey they need to take.

Anonymous said...

Your breakfast muffin is not dangerous.

Tell that to the 3000 people a year who choke to death on food.

Anonymous said...

Repeat...lets find out if the Big Mind (tm) set up requires that subjects not only fork over $$$ but also requires that they sign paperwork releasing BM from all liability and renouncing their rights as citizens to sue or mediate for damages.

NO licensed therapist or physician requires us to sign that same kind of paperwork. That paperwork is the way to tell if BM is nothing more than another EST style large Group awareness training that happens to dress itself up in Zen costume.

Here are examples of what these release forms issued by other LGATs look like.

Find out from former BM participants if they have ever seen or signed this kind of paperwork.

**So lets find out if BM participants must sign this kind of paperwork or not. If so, this is enough to reveal the cover the ass commercialist mentality behind BM.

Find out whether participants in BM (trademark) must sign a release of liability form
that looks anything like these. I have attended several sesshins and vipassana retreats and
have never in all my years, ever had to sign anything like this.

James Rays Release of Liablity Form---The Anticult October 10, 2009 5:31 PM,77450,77484#msg-77484

Byron Katies release of Liability form

From Garden of Even, February 14, 2009,12906,65871#msg-65871

(note this is a discussion of Byron Katie, but you can substitute the name of any other entity using a form resembling the one her org (also tradmarked to death) uses)

(quote)the buzz-word that they use for all of these techniques. VOLUNTARY. That is the same buzz-word they used when the details first came out about what went on in these seminars.
No one is saying people are being forced a gunpoint to do anything. Its all about very sophisticated PERSUASION, much of it unconscious. There is social pressure, emotional pressure, philosophical pressures (unquote)

(A tiny excerpt from a longer analysis of the Work release of liablity by The Anticult, given February the entire thing)

Landmark Education’s liability release by vlinden February 3rd 2008,52634

PSI Seminars Waiver
steve989 –January 3rd 2009,36040,64258#msg-64258

Put your hopes in the practice not in a famous teacher.

Bernie Glassman does mean well but his face shows up in adverts along with Ken Wilber and Genpo and Kenny not yet repudiated Andrew Cohen. And theres the Gafni matter.

He's done great work, but he needs

Anonymous said...

I have been meditating since I was 14, I am 63 now, I have studied with Genpo for 9 years. I have found that I have more awareness of my mind because of Big Mind. I don’t buy into the automatic responses to life’s little dramas . I see “oh yea there the voice of the hurt child, or the insecure disowned ego”. There are endless voices to be looked at. This is all supplemental to Zen practice, Big Mind isn’t a stand alone process, without meditation it is just a interesting experience. What Genpo does is provide a way for people to look at what they don’t want to look at, and by owning it, by getting a handle on it, those voices don’t run their life. The transcendent voices ”Big Mind” “ Big Heart” “ The Way” are the result of getting past the blocks to experience them. It isn’t Enlightenment, it is more like a flight simulator, creating a environment for the mind to move freely through space in any direction or time.
The sesshins I’ve attended aren’t that expensive, for Zen retreats, the people there are most aware, sincere people with strong integrity, and belief that Big Mind will be a catalyst for awakening humanity. An boy does humanity need to awaken quickly.
I ve never seen anyone get neglected or not given great attention if they need it, on any level.
The kind of thinking that the person who had a bad experience, sounds like they would have had a similar experience at any long retreat. Usually there are so many
licensed therapist at his events its hard to tell who isn’t one.

Charlton said...

Okay, there are 305 comments and I can't find the damn article that got it all started. could someone more savvy than me post a link the the shitstorm starter? thanks.

okay, I think Brad and this dude Genpo Roshi should get into a Rock 'em Sock 'em robot debate. It might be a bit beneath Genpo, but from what I've read I think Brad would dig it. Perhaps a game of Ginip Gonop (is that the right spelling)? what about a bowling, bocce, or curling tournament.


Brad i appreciate your commitment not to tell anyone what to do, or how to do it.

"Alas, nothing is sacred except the integrity of your own mind." Probably fucked up the quote from Emerson. Sorry if I did.

I like the warning I once read "beware of psychological acrobatics" or something like that from Ernest Holmes.

Peace. Keep those lovely comments coming.

Charlton said...

hey, I just looked out my back door and it's time to pick up dog shit. Hmmm. i think that sounds kinda zen. What do you think Genpo Roshi would charge for me to pick up his dog's shit? Should i charge someone for the "opportunity" to have a pure being moment in my own back yard. hell, I might be able to pay some bills.

What's the going rate for picking up dog shit as an "enlightenment" experience?

Charlton said...

hey, I've just picked up dog shit in my back yard. I had an "AH HA" moment. Can I make the same kind of money offering that as "an experience" that Genpo Roshi makes doing his thing? I actually think that the dog shit thing is on par with the thingy thing he does...didn't want to mention names lest that get you in more trouble...and I can't find the TM or R marks for ancient wisdom...oh well.

Brad, I think you could and should challenge him to a game of Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots, followed by a monster movie trivia showdown, a game of bowling. That would be cool.


Anonymous said...

Wow, uhm I don't want to be anonymous but I don't really feel the necessity of creating an account. Suffice it to say that my name is rob and i'm from nova scotia.

I've struggled with this idea about the honesty of Brad's self projection before this came up, actually before I read this blog.

I think the idea of Brad using his punk roots as a means of attracting people is utterly ridiculous given the extreme minority of people who still do or ever gave two shits about hardcore punk.

That being said, it is what first attracted me to his literature after I heard him on CBC's radio show Tapestry with Mary Heines. Like Brad I have been and still am in to hardcore punk rock, but I definitely feel like a minority, amongst people my age, in this regard. If it is trying to be said that he's attempting to be some kind of look at how unique and separate I am from the other teachers so buy my shit, I can't really believe that this is the case either.

Back to my original thought... I have read Brad's first three books and I simply enjoy them because I can somewhat relate to his search for honest material and a path with integrity. I try to learn from him but I already knew for myself that if I want what he's got I'm gonna have to sit on my cushion and have someone on hand to show me how to do so until I'm comfortable with it myself. My message...? I guess is just that Brad's integrity is not a reflection of my own and therefor not worth worrying about.

Thanks for the books Brad, there are no Zen people in my neck of the woods so I will be sitting alone for the time being.

Oh and to the person who was shitting on therapists... uhm bud? They're just people you know? Like if you wanted to research literature, I'd hope you'd ask a librarian before you asked a twelve year old. People have to learn their disciplines, and the people who seek advice from professionals are responsible for their own seeking. Don't be such a jack ass.

Anonymous said...

Rob again, from Nova Scotia. Maybe I'm wrong here but I don't think so... A lot of you people seem way too obsessed with what teachers are responsible for. Trust me, it's a lot more relaxing, after a while, toworry about your own responsibility and forget that of others.

Charlton said...

okay, I suck. I wanted to post and I've been having trouble. I think Genpo Roshi should drink more tequila and Brad should challenge him to a Rock 'em Sock 'em Robot challenge.

life is too serious to be short....or something like that. J. krishnamurti emplored everyone to be light to themselves...and we all have the potential to defer. Oh well.

I picked up dog shit today. that's Zen to me. Can I charge to share that's like little Tommy Sawyer fucking with his friends to get those schmucks to do his work. Brilliant. fucking brilliant. Oh, fuck....I've been cursing a lot for some douche bag that reads Zen and still listens to punk motherfuckers crank out tunes. i'm a generation past Minor Threat and Fugazi, lean towards bouncing souls, No use for a name and Dropkick Murphy's ... awww fuck it..

A wise motherfucker i knew once told me to shut the fuck up and listen...his words not mind. I did. It worked.

my rant is done and I am now off to watch another episode of Lost...yes reruns...I know...does it shit last for a long, long time....

oh's Cinqo de Mayo on the buddhist calender as well...

fuck. I hope this posts...the magic words that are blurred and squiggled look like "poronasshole" but I can't be sure until I type it in the 'word verification' box...and when i say "world verification" i hear the voice of Eddy Murphy (a Rinzai Buddhist) saying, "I'm not gonna fall for the banana in the tail pipe trick -his white voice...

happy cinqo

Anonymous said...

Again, could someone who has been through Big Mind report on whether they were or were not asked to sign paperwork in which they waived/surrendered any right to mediate or litigate for damages in case they incurred harm during a Big Mind event?

No therapist ever asks us to sign such stuff. Also therapists and health care providers must follow legally mandated guidelines to protect patient or client confidentiality/privacy.

You are told in advance whether you may be photographed or recorded and given time to refuse.

When I was at a gym and two different zendos, we were told a photographer might be there and were told in advance, in case any of us did not want to be part of the film or still photos.

Never mind what you subjectively experienced at the event, by way of breaktthroughs or enlightenment.

Just tell us details about the paperwork.

This question is still pending.

Connie said...

My BM experience is a totally different one. I've been on Ameland twice. I consider Big Mind as a valuable extra skillful means which enhances my sitting - to study the buddha...etcetera....And no, it is not about having a great big spiritual orgasm. So maybe, instead of judging, you should simply try it and then decide if it's for you. Or not.
Love from Amsterdam...

Anonymous said...

I am a Soto zen buddhist and I have never felt comfortable with "Big Mind" or thought that it was buddhist. I have experienced a more traditional Japanese training and training from an American lineage that has created it's own style and practices. I am often thinking about both and the evolution of zen in America. I wonder how it will change in the next 100 years..

Renegade said...

For the person who asked basically why isn't Merzel being this space. He is going to be sued and I have also been contacted by the UK Charities Commission concerning potentially fraudulent practices by him and his organization in the UK and that would be a criminal, not a civil matter.

Stuart said...

anon #108 said...
In fact, all are (provisionally) true, but none of the three views can entirely capture or expresses the ineffable nature of reality.

Example: when you're hungry, it's generally irrelevant whether you entirely capture or express the ineffable nature of reality. When you're hungry, you eat.


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Anonymous said...

Look what it says about Genpo on Wikipedia:,
"In 1990 Merzel was accused of sexual misconduct by his students at the Kanzeon Zen Center in Bar Harbor Maine, where he was abbot, and asked to leave, which he did. The center subsequently closed; Merzel and his wife divorced."
Looks like Big Mind is just a new way for Genpo to screw students.

Ian said...

There is a fine Buddhist practice, it's called 'loving-kindness'. There is, sad to say, little evidence of it on this blog.

It seems to me no matter how one views 'Big Mind' Genpo Roshi is no tyro. He is steeped in the Zen tradion, is bona fide lineage holder and his numerous successors are, as far as I know, fine teachers in their own right. What then is the problem? No one is being forced to go and study with Genpo, they will either benefit from it or not, in which case they are free to look elsewhere. I see no problem with this.

I can't help but wonder why you, Brad, are so stuck on this issue. Perhaps you should go to a 'Big Mind' retreat and see if it's really the evil thing you believe it to be? In any event, time to let it go maybe? It must be causing you no end of suffering.

Sheryl Lee said...

I was at BMWZ today, with my stepdaughter for whom it was a first experience of "Buddhism."

Your post clarified my misgivings perfectly. I kept asking myself, "Is this really Buddhism?", and because I originally took refuge in a Tibetan tradition, I held my reservations in check. Maybe, I thought, I just don't know what Zen's all about.

But the Big Wow thing is right on the mark, and entirely antithetical to any Buddhism I've ever encountered.

I need to find a group to sit with in Salt Lake City, as I live here now. I wasn't impressed with the Tibetan temple, but maybe I'll give it another go.

Thanks for your post.

David Savage said...

Here's some more fuel for your fire, Brad (as if you need any):

I'm reading the book Gnarl!, a collection of science fiction short stories by Rudy Rucker (Sr.) The first story, "Jumpin' Jack Flash," was written in 1976 and first published in 1983. The story contains the phrase "Big Mind," which I think is used in the story in the same way that Genpo Roshi uses it. So I think Rudy Rucker used the term before Genpo Roshi did.

Oh, after doing a web search I learned that Suzuki Roshi used the term, although not with initial caps, in a talk on August 12, 1971 (two days from now it will be exactly 39 years since he used the term). See

Oh, and "big mind" is also mentioned in the Vedas according to I think that definitely predates Genpo Roshi's use of it. Unless we are living through Groundhog Day over and over again.


Evan said...

Were any of you at the event?

Have any of you done the Big mind process?

Do any of you understand Ken Wilber's Integral Theory?

Have any of you done Andrew Cohen's evolutionary enlightenment process?

This Buddha says (since ya'll so value the punk aesthetic) SHUT THE FUCK UP!

Deep bow

Renegade said...

Yes Evan, some of us have tried this Big Con nonsense and speak from experience. I also trained with Genpo for over a decade and saw first hand how he slept with students, tried to rebrand a questionable therapeutic technique as a shortcut to enlightenment and took money from a cult group that he was on the board of. The argument that one has to experience a questionable practice in order to know that it's questionable is not valid by the way since the very assumptions behind the process are directly contradictory to Buddhism and Zen in particular. Just because a million flies might do it, you don't have to eat crap in order to know it's not healthy.

Michael Ortiz Hill said...

Well gee --- as a long time Zen practitioner (over thirty years, two years as a hermit) I have foung Genpo quite helpful. I stumbled onto a DVD of the Big Mind process halfway through a 2 month solitary retreat and it was most useful in cutting through worlds of striving. Confess I cant relate to the complaint and bitchiness. I certainly know what it is to be overwhelmed by the demons of a violent childhood, etc, in zazen but such is the path of surrender.
May we all sustain each other cause its damn hard this PRECIOUS human birth.

tomak said...

Genpo Roshi OK

Anonymous said...

most of these words read like 'the pot calling the kettle black'.

It is my observation that if Genpo Roshi was not making money and was not connected to a few certain people, most of you would not have anything to write. What does that say about you? Shouldn't you be more interested in why you care so much about what Genpo is doing, if you call yourself a buddhist?

Anonymous said...

Thank you Brad for saving me! I've almost fall in a trap of "Big Mind". Guess that I'll stick with Shunryu Suzuki and Thich Nhat Hanh books.


shurim said...

Hey peeps. I recently stumbled across this blog page. It was the first negative criticism of "Big Mind" I'd seen. So I checked it out. I had no idea there was such a deluge of passionate rejection of Genpo Roshi's ideas. I found some of the comments somewhat childish, but many not so. It seems that some believe Big Mind to be dangerous and ineffective. I'm no expert, but I do know that Voice Dialogue [that constitutes the backbone of big mind] has never shown any signs of being dangerous and is extremely effective. The fact that Genpo is an accomplished traditional Zen master would seem add weight to his ideas. Also the fact that they are so highly acclaimed by Hal and Sidra Stone, Ken wilber and many such accomplished people makes words like "scam" hard for me to swallow. I'm sorry to say I had never heard of Brad Warner before either. That siad, I'm writing out of a genuine desire to understand your arguments. So please address the concerns I mentioned above, if you feel so inclined. Thanks

Renegade said...

Shurim, please educate yourself. Big mind is nothing but a nonsense therapy renamed and sold as a shortcut to awakening. Add to that Merzel's abuse of students, his working with people like James Arthur Ray and his taking money from cult groups, not to mention him sleeping with students and engaging in hate campaigns and you have a snake oil salesman, not a Zen master, let alone a Zen teacher. The guy is a fraud, a criminal and a liar.

Anonymous said...

I stumbled onto this blog and what an eye opener it's turned out to be. In my encounters with Buddhists face to face they have almost always been thoughtful and courteous people, and yet here there is so much hatred and poison! Some of the writers in particular seem so vicious it is shocking. Renegade in particular seems to have some serious problems to work through. The whole blog is so sad, I won't be visiting again.

Anonymous said...

Dennis "Genpo" Merzel recently admitted to a multiyear affair with one of his students and most recent successor KC "Kyozen Sato" Gerpheide for several years.

Anonymous said...

This is only the latest affair. Genpo was thrown out of Bar Harbor for one back in the nineties with Shozen Macnamara. It's amazing how doing that is seen as fine but talking about what these charlatans do is somehow 'poisonous' or those who are exposing these people are labelled as having issues lol.

Anonymous said...

On January 20th, 2011 Merzel admitted to a multiyear affair with KC "Kyozen Sato" Gerpheide one of his students and successors during his annual retreat in Ameland, Holland. During the time in question Gerpheide received Dharma Transmission in the Soto Zen lineage from Merzel. Merzel and his current wife Stephanie Young Merzel are separated and seeking divorce.

Anonymous said...

Somehow this Genpo Roshi thing doesn't surprise me that much. I never believed in, or supported his so called Zen Mind (TM) thingy. He strikes me as dull and not too Zen minded.

But now he is even free-er to cash in on the cow.

How interesting.

Alexs said...

Well, everyone, there are many viewpoints here. Being conscious of and responsible for our shadows is a tough job..and one which may require lifetimes of regular diligent, vigilant practice...we all have our blind spots and the world around us shows us these. Hence it is equally part of our own practice to take this presentation on board. We can hurl abuse at Genpo, for what is inappropriate unethical behaviour but really we should sit more deeply and reach inside for what reflection he shows of ourselves. The greater our reaction the more resonant within our own being his behaviour is illustrating our own blind spots. All is zen...transform this 'defilement' and everyone is transformed, the world is transformed. Continue the duality and segregation of mind and being and this too shall continue. Its a choice and practice we each have. Thank you for your voices. With all good blessings. Alexsandra in London

Alexs said...

I should also add, I'm no fan of any of these 'hollywood' buddhist approaches. We have all had experiences of enlightenment...its the true reality. Assisting others to experience enlightenment, even briefly, though attractive to those dipping their toes in on their path, it may also have its consequences without awareness of its responsibility. Responsibility meaning very specifically: having the ability to respond.

Anonymous said...

I practised with Genpo for a few years, and the present scandal comes as no surprise at all. I left because I realised he was an irresponsible individual with deep psychological problems which he absolutely refused to deal with. Actually, he even refused to look at them. Reading in his statement: 'With great humility I will continue to work on my own shadows and deeply rooted patterns...' implies that he worked on himself before which is something I never ever saw. Humility is also something I do not associate with him at all.
But it is not only a question about Genpo, but about the whole Buddhist system. How come somebody like him is supported by the whole system? How come the system does not have a way of verifying what teachers do to their students?
Cases like those of Genpo show perhaps a need of introducing some kind of verification of teachers' activities, in a similar way as a system of supervision operates in psychoanalysis.

Harriet said...

Part 1 of a long commentary.
For those of us ancient enough to remember--Dennis Merkel, aka Genpo Rotshi, is nothing less and nothing more than the reincarnation of Werner Erhard--the used car salesman turned new age “guru” and founder of EST or Erhard Seminar Training. He locked hundreds of people in hotel ballrooms for up to 14-16 hours, withheld food or any access to bathrooms and berated them until they “got it”. Whatever “it” was. And all for the now seemingly low cost of $350/weekend. Dennis Rotshi is just Werner Erhard on steroids.

Of course, now, “Werner” is living in exile in Europe to avoid charges of tax evasion and after having been accused of incest by one or more of his daughters.

Being a woman, I find it interesting that except for Brad Warner’s subtle allusions, no one seems to assign any responsibility to the women involved with Dennis. Are we deemed too frail or too simple minded to assume responsibility for our own actions? I never hear anything about these women having been raped by Dennis (or having been raped by Dick Backer in his hay day either).

There are many women (and men are not exempt either) who attach their wagon to a “powerful”, “interesting” star rather than create their own interesting, strong life. That, I think, is the real seduction, not the actual sex which is easily obtainable almost anywhere. Are these women too insecure or too weak to create their own powerful lives?

And for men like Dennis and Dick, the real issue is also not sex. Again, that is easily obtainable almost anywhere. These are men who strike me always as being deeply insecure within themselves. It would also not surprise me if they actually suffered from clinical, non situational depression. Too bad that they don’t find a more constructive way to deal their insecurities and depression other than serial seductions and other various and assorted power trips and the acquisition of various power trappings such as houses and cars all in the name of lofty spiritualism.

The women involved with these men are not really a vehicle for sex, but for power. I have known Dick Baker since 1969. What struck me about him immediately, and for years after, was his deep seated, insatiable desire for power. In fact, Dick is quoted, I believe perhaps in “Shoes Outside the Door” as saying that he had to have the luxurious car and other material trappings of a “powerful” (my quotes) man in order to “keep up” (no sexual pun intended) with Chogyam Trungpa Rimpoche and with Werner Eerhard. It is the most telling and revealing of quotes attributed to Dick.

Harriet said...

Part 2 of long commentary.
Brad does get it right when he writes in his books and on his blog about the importance of everyone assuming personal responsibility for their own desires and resultant behaviors.

I was interested to read a counterpoint to this view on the blog attributed to Suzuki Sensei. (Please can we stop calling him roshi??? He was too young to be a roshi and he was definitely not at all respected in his home country, Japan). Roshi, as my Japanese Soto Zen Buddhist husband told me, is a term used in Japan for quite elderly, very respected Zen monks. The term “hojo sama”--respected head priest--would be much more appropriate for Shunryu Suzuki. The simple “sensei” is also an appropriate title.

In Crooked Cucumber somewhere Shunryu suzuki said, in response to his students opposing some of Chogyam Trungpa's teaching (drinking) methods, that (as students) they were simply not in a position to judge.

I think that a statement such as this needs to be looked at in two ways.

The first facet of this comment is its obvious cultural slant. Shunryu Suzuki was a product of Japanese culture and this statement by him came straight out of Japanese culture, and Japanese society. The Japanese society that Suzuki grew up in, and even Japanese society today, is, in comparison to our society in the United States, an extremely rigid, hierarchical society. In Japanese society, authority and authority figures are simply not questioned. You do as you are told by those considered your “superiors”. The social codes and social strata in Japan are nearly as rigid as the caste system in India. Everyone has his assigned place, and everyone knows his place in relationship to everyone else within the society.

The entire cultural and social discourse of our society is built around the need to question everything individually and then make informed choices. People who do not apply this critical thinking every moment in their lives end up drinking strychnine in the Guyana jungle with 900 other lost souls who didn’t bother to think critically either. What I am saying here is that none of us need Les Kaye or some Zen organization to look critically at a man like Dennis or Dick and to turn away from such leaders.

And so, the second facet of Suzuki’s statement that needs examining is his admonition to students not to question or judge a spiritual “teacher”. Well, the followers of Jim Jones didn’t question their leader and we all saw where and how that ended. People in Germany didn’t question Hitler and the Nazi party and we all saw where that ended too.

In contrast, I believe that one of the most important and necessary aspects of interacting with a teacher is to constantly question everything about him and everything he teaches. I have never believed in “blind faith” and never will. To do so, as Brad has written, is to give up one’s own individual responsibility and become the “bottom” in a pas de deux of spiritual domination and submission.

The temptations of submission are seductive. Submission allows our inner child to overwhelm the adult part of our personality thereby providing an escape route from the responsibilities of adulthood.

But again, in the end, it is you and no one but you who is responsible for your own physical, emotional, and spiritual well being. People like Dennis and Dick are merely men with both acute and chronic emotional needs that they fulfill through the creation of power trips and power structures meant only to prop up their own disheveled and bereaved egos. They will not be of any real assistance to any one else.

All in all, the whole flap reminds me of the puritan excitement regarding Bill Clinton’s sexual escapades. At least Billy Boy didn’t also go around pretending to be an enlightened spiritual master. Too bad that Dennis and Dick did.

Belladonna said...

I live in Salt Lake City and was looking for a local Zen Center to join. I found Genpo Roshi's center and went to an open meditation class. I left with three distinct impressions: First, what the hell did this have to do with Zen. Two, this is a bunch of manipulative bullshit. Three, this is nothing more than a cash-generating scam. I was so disappointed, because they miss-represent themselves as a Soto-based Zen center. I couldn't agree with you more Brad! I'm glad that someone is telling the truth about this center. They should not be allowed to get away with marketing themselves a legitimate zen school.

Ron said...

I first entered the Kanzeon Zen Center in 1997, and I instantly felt that I was home. After 25 years of searching through various spiritual paths, this felt right to me. It still does (the path, not that particular Zen center). I consider myself more of the Zen path than anything else.

But, it wasn't too long afterwards when I became aware of Genpo's push of the "Big Mind" process. This had the opposite feeling, I never would attend anything related to it. A few years later, I noticed there was an audio of a sample "Big Mind" session on his site. I listened to it, and it confirmed my fears. It was just plain self delusional bullshit. The idea that, if you attend a Big Mind workshop, you'll be able to answer the koans, which would take years through traditional practice, is utter nonsense. The reason that you can answer the koans after a single Big Mind workshop is because he tells you what to say. If you follow the dialogue, the Q&A interactions, it's obvious to the most obtuse that Genpo is outright giving the student the answer of what he will accept as the correct answer to koans such as the "Mu" koan.

Since Genpo is a student of psychology, I'm surprised that he does not understand the concept of a "secondary payback". This became obvious to me after a private interview with Genpo wherein I was asked about my understanding of the "Mu" koan. He didn't like my answer, saying, "Well, if only you had attended a Big Mind workshop, I'm sure you'd have gotten it right." Oddly, I later was chatting with one of his senior students, and related to him my exact same answer to the Mu koan, to which he responded, "That's exactly right." So, I had to ask myself, "Is there a secondary payback mechanism going on with Genpo? Does he refuse a correct koan answer because he's trying to push traditional students into the Big Mind process? Is the rejection of the answer a kind of reaffirmation that only his Big Mind method can bring any sort of ahaaa moment?"

While promoting his own invention (Big Mind), I wonder if he can be fair and objective to the traditional students? I doubt it. I believe he's lost that ability. He believes Big Mind is the greatest contribution in centuries.

Ah, too bad, Guatama. If only you had the keen insight of Genpo. The entire world would have awakened by now, rather than relegating it to the few monks to whom you imparted it. Oh, but wait, maybe Genpo is the second coming of Guatama, come back to impart what he should have millenia ago.

Yes, I'm being facetious. But, that is the level of arrogance with which I feel the Big Mind process is being promoted.

I recall Genpo saying one time, during a Sunday morning gathering, that he wasn't sure if he was creating proper Buddhas or monster Buddhas with the Big Mind process. Well, in my view, it is the latter.

It is a shame that, whenever something sacred is given to the West, we become dilettantes, thinking we are smarter than our ancestors, who held to a tradition over centuries.

I guess we should be thankful that Zen came to the West so one of our own can set all the previous Zen masters right.

Niks said...

'Zen' is not about the master - teacher relationship. Everyone learns by himself and for himself, not from someone else. Everyone must be a light on himself. Otherwise he becomes a puppet, a follower without a backbone and can easily be used.

Sandra Starflower said...

Zen Master Linji said, "If you meet the Buddha on the path kill him." If you have a certain concept of what Buddhism is, "kill it", IT'S WRONG! Continue to practice with open mind. There is no prize or goal to attain. Just "be with what is in the present moment."

Sandra Starflower said...

Zen Master Linji siad, "If you meet the Buddha on the path, kill him." If you have some concept of what you think enlightenment is, IT'S WRONG! Keep practicing with an open mind. Accept things as they are, and just "BE" in the present moment.

Renegade said...

"'Zen' is not about the master - teacher relationship."

Only someone with no real experience of Zen would say such a thing. Much as you might not like the idea, Zen is entirely something that requires contact with a teacher. It's not just a buzzword that one learns about from books.

Michael Johnson said...

Rev Jisho (sp?) at Shasta Abbey said: "Death can teach us a lot." Reading the comments regarding "Big Mind" leads me to think that our reactions to 'what is' can also teach us a lot - if we are willing to look at what we think,what we say, and what motivates us.
Comments on both sides are signposts that we can look at and learn from.
A chasm of division so wide hands cannot yet reach to touch.

Anonymous said...

"So yeah, I violated the Buddhist precepts, so I'm going to disrobe so I'm not held accountable to those precepts anymore. Meanwhile, I'm going to continue to use my dharma name and capitalize on the buddhadharma with my controversial for-profit version of Zen and completely embrace my life as a self-help huckster."

Anonymous said...

This is my first post on this topic to differentiate me from other "Anonymous" posters.

I have been using Genpo's Big Mind DVDs as a supplement to my own Zen practice. I already meet with a teacher (roshi) regularly and have a daily sitting practice. I am also following the traditional koan curriculum.

I have actually noticed the Big Mind process has been a very good supplement to my practice. Watching the DVDs has helped solidify and open new areas of awareness, particularly about how to live the insights I experience. Its also been great to "become" the koan when done self-directed by myself. I can also address when I'm grasping or attached to something very quickly by voicing the resistance or grasping.

I think the issue isn't with the Big Mind process. To me it sounds like the questionable things that happen in a growth phase of any new school of practice. Inviting open discussion when people may be experiencing repressed material is usually dealt with in private during Zen retreats, and usually results in the recommendation of a good trauma psychologist for support to their Zen practice. Unfortunately it seems that through the growth phase of this practice its finding its way through a lot of problems which really need to be addressed better by Genpo and their policies.

The issue of clergy misconduct is not unique to Genpo, Zen or religions full stop in the West. I can see how the Big Mind process can start to address this issues in the people who are "well on their way" following one of these practices, and are at risk of suppressing their less desirable emotions and urges. Suppression just tends to make them stronger, so a way to safely voice parts of the self, expose them to your awareness, and then transcend them, to me is a great beacon of hope as something that may be able to address this longstanding issue.

All I am trying to highlight is that from my perspective the Big Mind process is not the problem. The implementation and policies around it are, and it needs to learn and adapt from this to avoid causing harm. This is their responsibility to address as they arise.

Mokusui said...

I don't wish anyone an experience with your Big Ego sanga, Dennis. You've unfortunately created a tribe where egos thrive and sincere seekers are at risk of drowning. Bigger is not better when it comes to the mind, my dear sir. Even less does enlightenment need a trademark. I hope you stop hurting people in this lifetime. Namaste.

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