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.

348 comments:

1 – 200 of 348   Newer›   Newest»
Genpo Roshi said...

I'll fight you any day of the week, Warner. Any day, any time.

Name the place and let's do it.

Jack Daw said...

If it is a battle of cash and manipulation then you are completely screwed, Warner. Just look at the marketing team, Genpo has behind him.

Genpo lost his teaching credentials the moment that income became more important than his students' welfare. The teacher/student relationship is a two-way street.


Cheers,
John
www.zendirtzendust.com

Chris said...

The thing that really pisses me off about Genpo Roshi is that he "owns" the Salt Lake Zen Center. I don't have a zendo to go to when I'm visiting my family there, which kind of sucks. I like to get to a zendo at least once a week, just cause it's a nice thing to do. But Utah and Colorado are locked up in the Big Mind (fuck the trademark) scam. Too bad.

Anonymous said...

There was a guy I knew once who, during a Zen retreat, was talking about being Christ and how it is his mission to die for all our sins. He was serious. I myself talked to a wooden floor, during the same retreat, I think ... Zen is an evil and dangerous thing, clearly.

Kate said...

'Back in the day'-- there was EST, doing a version of this same scam. There were the even more florid opportunistic 'gurus' renamed as 'Zen Master Rama' and 'Osho'. Good on you for really getting down to cases as to the the harm being done, Brad.

gniz said...

Good job continuing to talk about the scams that people like Genpo Roshi and his buddies Andrew Cohen and Ken Wilber (along with many others) try to perpetrate on unsuspecting seekers. I talk a lot about these scoundrels in my own blog and the more the better.

I hope that really is Genpo up front you fucking fraud.

Toodles

rebloggingbradwarner.blogspot.com

Glen said...

has anyone read the secret work by Dogen? its similar to being/time but its about Being/cunt.

In reading that, i see the theory in manifestation in Genpo Roshi and his like.

Leaf Dharma said...

All systems of of ownership are merely tools of capitalism. How can one gain Enlightenment when the very system in which we all operate and make our livings is pure delusion? Genpo has nothing to apologize for hes just playing the game better than Brad.

Uku said...

Really great post, Brad! Supporting you 100%.

Yes, Big Mind sucks and that's not a secret anymore.

Ran [...] said...

I know very little of Big Mind. (I understand Brad's been doing it until recently) Perhaps mainly from here.

I will not express an opinion without knowing what it's about. (though my thought is - would those who are doing it do "Zen" otherwise or would they not? Perhaps it's for people who wouldn't do any other better practice anyway. Brad’s shitting about punk also isn’t about the Buddha Dharma. It’s just to attract people. Same is Sawaki Roshi’s manner of speech. Though it’s true it’s altogether a different thing.)

However – forget all that - (mumbles can keep it in mind (big or small) if he got this far)

I just wanted to say the sentence before last does not seem to be in place. ("Our silence allows it to continue"). - I would say "To keep silent wouldn’t be the right thing to do. Even if it would continue anyway".

Only that.


- And again that is not to say Brad is right. I only know what he is saying

Uku said...

Ran wrote:

Brad’s shitting about punk also isn’t about the Buddha Dharma. It’s just to attract people. Same is Sawaki Roshi’s manner of speech. Though it’s true it’s altogether a different thing.)

Ran, have you ever thought a possibility that Brad is speaking like that and Sawaki Roshi spoke like that because that's who they are? I don't know what do you think is "Buddha Dharma talk" but if you think that we all should sing Kumbaya and show peace signs and talk like a gentle enlightened person about how great and subtle Buddha Dharma is and other Buddhist teachings and philosophy are so great and how wonderful it is that every Buddhists are the same and they're all talking Buddha Dharma (tm)... well, good luck. If you haven't realized it, it's IMPOSSIBLE to put everyone in the same box. You can try but that's impossible. Shitting about punk is as real as shitting about Dharma.

Ran [as before (or very similar)] said...

P.S.

I managed to understand very little of what "Big Mind" is from the letter he quoted.

I read Uku's at 2:12 am said...

The funny thing is I think Brad would agree with me.


It was just said btw, don't take it too heavy.


I'm not getting into an argument now. Maybe some other time.


It's true you can't "put everyone in the same box", and the words that "shitting about punk is as real as shitting about Dharma" are also true, - but here only the words.

As I said - no continuance, - Sorry,
Ran.

proulx michel said...

It is easy to advertise "Zen" and attract people. It is, I feel, a duty to say things, and not staying put on the pretense of "not criticising others".

One of the things that Sawaki said was "do not become professional monks". Deshimaru, in France, repeated it. But most of his students have done exactly the opposite a made it a rigid pseudo-Japanese sort of cult, with the intent of gathering as much audience as to afford them a living.

I think it is important that we reinforce not only our sense of criticism, but also that of others.

And as for proprietary dojos and temples, I think it is outright wrong because it negates the need for a given individual to have the opportunity to select the teacher that will suit him/her.

(captcha: dogel!)

Harry said...

I fully agree that the Genpo scene needs to be watched and exposed.

I'd argue though that there are more effective ways of doing this using restraint: Reasonable people are sometimes dissuaded by the unreasonable language of knee-jerk loonies.

Regards,

Harry.

Harry said...

p.s. I'm not saying that Brad is a knee-jerk looney (he's not)... I'm just saying that he's using the language of a knee-jerk looney.

Regards,

Harry.

Shonin said...

It seems to be dabbling in the psyches of hundreds of people without offering them a proper support system. It sounds, at best, horribly reckless with people's sanity.

However, it's far from the only Zen organisation where it's hard to get a private conversation with the teacher.

Lucius said...

Big Mind is just a highly visible example of what can happen when a weak character who posses as a "Master" is approached by people who are willing to hand over responsibility for their lives to someone else. On a smaller scale this happens in a lot of dojos. New practitioners usually show up because they are in a state of being unsecure, searching for help or new solutions. At that moment it is very compeling to take on the role of the wise guy and start telling people what they should do.

In my humble opinion this whole thing provides the basic argument why zen schools or lineages make sense.

They serve as a mean to held up the quality of the teaching by using mechanisms of social control. There are Zen lineages where for example the heads of groups or dojos are requested to visit sesshins at other dojos - in order to make sure they stay "grounded". Or where the elder godos have an eye on new groups and check that new group leaders do not abuse their role.

Throw away the Kesas and ordinations and shihos and you end up with thousands of self-appointed zen teachers preaching nonsense to the masses.

I am by no way a fan of titles and organisations. However, even while not feeling well with most of them I must admit that those lineages seem to work better than the no-lineage alternatives.

@Michel: you wrote about the Deshimaru monks: "But most of his students..." I am not sure it is true for most of them. But even if so - there are also some impressive guys among them who have not joined the dark side yet :) :)

Jody Lee said...

Thanks for writing about this experience with one of that fella's manipulated subjects. I think you did a great service to people out there exploring Buddhism, who might otherwise get caught up in this sensationalistic crap!
Huzzah!

anon #108 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
O. said...

This sounds an awful lot like the Lifespring/Forum/est psych cults of the '80s. Drive someone into an overwhelming emotional experience, and then get them to pay money on an ongoing basis to pick up the pieces (while continuing to convince them that they have more broken pieces waiting to come out).

anon #108 said...

Genpo may be a shyster. Genpo may sincerely believe what he teaches. Genpo may be a shyster who sincerely believes what he teaches. Brad, gniz and others may be performing a great service by drawing attention to what they see as dangerous flim-flam. But if you build it, people will come - and some of them will be happier for it.

Perhaps because I started to practise zazen in my 50s, I've not had any 'disturbing' sitting experiences...yet. Perhaps I'm the kind of guy who wouldn't have had any anyway. But profound experiences of one kind or another seem to be common with some other people, regardless of who they've been listening to or sitting with. Many traditional schools of Buddhism teach methods or techniques which encourage such experiences, whether disturbing or blissful - they're not unique to Genpo.

Whatever, what Genpo Dennis Merzel is, does and teaches includes - some might say is the result of, almost 40 years of pretty orthodox/standard/typical Zen study and practice in a bona fide lineage or three. If he is what Brad and others say he is, what might that say about that?

Anonymous said...

Whatever, what Genpo Dennis Merzel is, does and teaches includes - some might say is the result of, almost 40 years of pretty orthodox/standard/typical Zen study and practice in a bona fide lineage or three. If he is what Brad and others say he is, what might that say about that?

BINGO!

And Ken Wilbur practiced zen for 20years too, much of that time under Katagiri roshi.

anon #108 said...

Glad you liked it, 6.29am - but I was asking a question, not answering one.

Mumon said...

You know, I have two comments:

1. We Rinzai folk are more focused on actively engaging the Mind...shall I say Big Mind?...but we're still quite, quite quite slow compared to Merzel.

2. Merzel better have good attorneys who specialize in the kind of litigation that the Catholic Church is facing, because those guys associated with Lenz's estate probably don't have the right background, and based on that letter the guy sent you Merzel has one foot in Deposition Land and the other on a banana peel. That's just my opinion, and of course I only know what I read on the internets, but yeah, based on my experience as a practitioner of Zen he ain't doin' it.

gniz said...

Anon 108 espoused: "Whatever, what Genpo Dennis Merzel is, does and teaches includes - some might say is the result of, almost 40 years of pretty orthodox/standard/typical Zen study and practice in a bona fide lineage or three. If he is what Brad and others say he is, what might that say about that?"

It says that there are no guarantees in life. Zen does not make you a great person. Zen is a tool. Learning how to use a paintbrush does not make you a nice human being, does it?

Why would you expect anything else? Also, zen and other kinds of meditation techniques are frequently abused by even traditional teachers. Students who crave power rise to the top in most any field, because they want it more. So of course people like Genpo will often become teachers.

He's an alpha male, like any corporate CEO, a guy whose product could be TVs or houses or any currency, but in Genpo's case just happens to be zafus. So what?

Is this really so mysterious that people can't just call a spade a spade? The man is a fraud. And 109, I'm disappointed. I expect more from you.

R [again] said...

One other thing:

It may be here in place to mention a thought I've had with regard to an earlier matter (brought up by Harry) a comment of mine with regard to which seems to have been misunderstood:

There seem to have been the question whether B is a radical or not. - However - my point is whether radicalism (or "conservatism") are right criteria to judge a spiritual practice by.

Changing for the sake of change or maintaining the existing just for the sake of maintainig may be signs of stupidity, secularity and ignorance.

True practice should be [completely] indifferent to radicalism or conservatism.

If one is aware of his own lack of understanding he might rely on that of others which would be conservative. But this is an exception.


However radicalism attracts people; conservatism might attract others. So some would give them the shit (- it’s not necessarily shit, I’m just using the language of a knee-jerk looney, [- others do too] but it might be defined as superfluous perhaps) they want just so they could later find out it’s shit.


(I didn’t mean to get back to this one but the line of thought carried me here.)

anon #108 said...

Hi gniz,

I wasn't 'espousing'. I meant to imply nothing by asking the question I asked...Truly, I wasn't asking a rhetorical question.

Thanks for your answer ;)

me still (I mean before 108's last) said...

I'm not that happy with my last one.

If I had the time I'd write much longer. (I don't want to hear anything about that, mumb.)

But that's what it is. :( [- ;).]

Anonymous said...

What's the best thing to do??

mirror mirror on the wall said...

The man is after publicity and sees you (all) as a way of fueling his act. It's utterly sleazy.

john e mumbles said...

When I first happened across this blog, this was one of the things that puzzled me, how Brad Warner felt there was no double standard in the fact that he markets himself, his books, and -now homeless- tours selling retreats in order to sell books, etc., stating right here that of course he wants to sell books and promote himself as an author, riding on dubious "punk" credentials and seemingly legit (well so is Genpo's) transmission as a Zen master, "king of all dharmas" heading an international (dis) organization.

Any time you buy into a brand name, "Big Mind" or "Hardcore Zen" or "Campbell's Soup" your expectations may clash with what you actually get out of the experience.

I said it before, and will again, it just seems to me that Brad is jealous of the "big boys" club that is the next level of teachers that get paid to publish in Tricycle, Buddhadharma, etc., or get those publication's endorsement as Genpo and so many others have. He makes money from "Zen" just like Genpo does. Just not as much.

So go read my post (just up) on Ramana Maharshi in Buddhist Geeks now: bearing in mind I made no money writing and getting it posted whatsoever, nor do I claim to be a teacher or have any "credentials."
-JEM

Anonymous said...

Great article John. As one who practiced inquiry / koan zen, I found Ramana's writings to be extremely helpful. My zen teachers strongly recommended them. His approach to self-inquiry fits well with Master Bassui's.

My zen practice has been enriched by contact with other meditative traditions and writings over the years. The (christian) Cloud of Unknowing was helpful as well.

Glen said...

it seems to me like brad is too honest for his own good.

And to Harry; dont you think calling people who use certain 'strong' words 'knee jerk loonies' is any better? even if you do cover up yourself with the 'i dont think brad is a loony'...yeh yeh.

I'm Rubber You're Glue said...

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. --- 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?

So your reason, Brad, for blasting that person's e-mail and sexual confession story all over your blog to the world? Even though you were able to get the writer's permission as you say you did, aren't you just as manipulative of the poor person's situation as Genpo for having her confess in a room of people? You now have her story all over the internets!

What follow-up hotline do you offer to the people who show up at your blog for advice on Zazen, some of whom are seemingly sometimes troubled?

If you had a chance to lead a Zazen retreat with 250 people, instead of your usual complaining about nobody showing up, would you turn it down?

Also, your book publisher handles all kinds of weird new age stuff, yet you are happy to ride on their coat tails to sell some books.

Brad Warner said...

John,

I have no problem with Zen teachers making a living and even promoting themselves. Though I'm always quick to point out that I avoid as much as possible promoting myself as a Zen teacher. I promote the hell out of myself as an author. This may be why when I speak as an author it's usually to substantial audiences. Yet when I run a retreat or a Zen sitting I generally have about 5-10 people in attendance.

I make money from Zen in the sense that I write about Zen and make money from my books. I make a wee bit extra from donations when I do a Zen thing. Usually just enough to go out for a burrito afterward. Sometimes even enough for gas money to the next place. It is not my main source of income by any stretch of the imagination.

Yet I have no problem with people who do make their living teaching Zen. I think it's a perfectly legit thing to do. Even if they make a damn good living at it, although I've yet to hear of anybody who made more than a lower middle class earnings from it.

The problems I have with Genpo are not with the fact that he promotes himself (other than his stealing of the term "big mind" from a far more legit teacher). It's the content of his promotion.

He is selling a very dangerous blend of mind-control and hypnosis as Zen practice. He is saying it's the same thing as what Buddha discovered. It is nothing of the sort.

As for my being jealous of the "big boys," look, I would love to be a best selling author. I'd love to have one of my books make the NY Times list. I'd even go on Oprah if she asked. I want to sell a million books. I do not make any bones about this nor am I the least bit ashamed of it.

But do I want to join that crowd of spiritual celebrities like Andrew Cohen, Ken Wilber and Genpo Roshi? Not a fucking chance in hell. They are swine. I want nothing to do with them. I don't call them crap because I want to be like them. I call them crap because they are crap.

As to the dubiousness of my punk credentials, take a look at this from 1983.

I was there, baby.

Harry said...

"And to Harry; dont you think calling people who use certain 'strong' words 'knee jerk loonies' is any better? even if you do cover up yourself with the 'i dont think brad is a loony'...yeh yeh."

Hi,

I actually don't think Brad is a knee-jerk looney, which is why I bothered to make the point: Saying 'knee-jerk' looney things will not sit well with many people while a reasoned argument will. The pointless mouthing off really takes from the valid, reasoned argument against the BigMind roadshow IMO. People will say 'Oh, that's just bad-boy Brad being radical and edgy again' etc etc etc... It seems too easy and indulgent, and the central matter is a serious one.

Regards,

Harry.

Brad Warner said...

Rubber,

I did not identify the writer of that email. I did not ask that person to stand up in front of 250 people and a camera crew and make a confession. The writer is completely anonymous in this context. But yes, I did exploit what was sent to me.

As for a 250 person sesshin, I would refuse it. I would gladly speak to 250 or 300 or 1000 or a million people. When I was on CNN last year I probably reached even more than that.

But a sesshin? No. It would be utterly impossible. It would no longer be a sesshin at that level.

As far as follow-ups, we're not even talking about the same thing at all. It's like asking Ann Landers or Dan Savage if they offers follow-ups. What Genpo does is much more invasive and personal.

Brad Warner said...

Harry,

I appreciate what you're saying. Honestly.

But I have such a fucking hard time trying to write like someone I'm fucking not that I fucking refuse to fucking do it.

Seriously. I did try to write a less impassioned version of this piece. But it sounded stilted and phony. It always does.

I know I alienate some people with my delivery. But I figure those people will find someone else to listen to if they're really interested. Most Zen teachers are far more easy on the ears than me.

Glen said...

Harry, i agree with your sentiments.

But the last blog post Brad did was very to the point, and wasnt at all 'big bad brad' There was a lot to the post, and apart from the 'fuck Genpo' at the end it was a very well reasoned post wasnt it?

gniz said...

"So your reason, Brad, for blasting that person's e-mail and sexual confession story all over your blog to the world?"

I don't know, it seems to me that without a name or face attached (remember Genpo had the person on video), it doesn't seem like such a horrible thing to put that story out there.

And Brad was also very compassionate in that he opened up about his own experiences unearthing certain strange realizations about the depths of his subconscious mind. I think that probably made the aforementioned email writer feel better instead of simply trussing him up and disembowling him/her in front of a live studio audience like Genpo did.

Look, if you can't see the differences between Brad's correspondence and article (which are self-revealing and compassionate) and the poisonous arsenic that Genpo Roshi injects into his subjects--then you've got a lot of learning to do about human psychology...and zen too, for that matter.

Harry said...

Glen,

Yes, but the 'fuck him' thing, and the satanic Genpo picture thing (although sort of funny) let down the reasoning IMO is all. It's a simple point. I'm no prude and I'm not at all offended by any fucker fucking around with any fuck-type fuckery.

Brad, you should write just like you write. It's great. But my point is that a bit of reasoned editting might benefit your argument against Genpo, otherwise it just looks like a bit of a minor celebrity bitching match/ circus.

But maybe that's just me, by all means.

Regards,

Harry.

109.3 said...

Harry: I often have the same feeling reading Brad as you do. But it comes down to what feels right to him. As far as reasoned editing goes.. It's a blog. If he had to reasonably edit everything he wrote he might only post once a month. That would suck.

109.3 said...

Some people are horrified that he writes, "Suck me", and others are put off he doesn't write, "Suck my dick!" But it's his call. He is the writer of Brad Warner's thoughts.

gniz said...

Harry, I just totally disagree with you. What Brad did here was post a very horrific experience someone had and then he went to bat for that person. Put his own name and reputation on the line and basically told Genpo to fuck off on this person's behalf.

He was compassionate and sometimes it's not about writing a doctoral thesis. Plain spoken wisdom can be good, too. The "reasoned argument" is inherent in the sad and pained emails written by a person who was used and discarded by a process meant to suck you dry of emotion and cash and leave you a heap of bones on the street.

Yes, I'm impassioned because what these scoundrels do is protected under religious freedoms, a loophole that allows them to bamboozle and injure people with no consequences.

The least we can do as caring people is support Brad and others who put their rep on the line and stand up to it.

Rinzai gettin a piece of the pie said...

This is a publicity stunt. All this talk is as beneficial to Big Mind as it is to Brad Warner. It's all part of the game. Ask anyone in marketing and they'll say the same thing.

sock said...

I was embarrassed in a somewhat similar fashion, and it appeared in a national magazine, along with my nameless photograph. But I take responsibility for allowing it to happen in the first place. I'm not saying Genpo was right at all here, but the writer of the original email made a critical error in judgement. If he was at Ameland, it meant he knew the kind of situation that event is.

Harry said...

Hi, Gniz.

Brad's motivation was mostly good. I know that.

Because you are convinced and agree with him so much maybe you don't see the simple point I'm making as to the effectiveness of the wordings of parts of his messages. I'm hardly suggesting Brad write a 'doctoral thesis' (and swinging to such extremes to make a point is indicative of the type of argument being promoted here); it's just that 'emotive, caring' people tend to have clouded judgement sometimes which can be whipped up and distort the broader realities of a situation:

http://www.mediaknowall.com/violence/moralpanicnotes.html

Of course, as Buddhist practitioners, we appreciate a responsibility not to be seduced and confused by our very own self created bullshit around such things, don't we? That's how we clarify our intentions and motives.

This Genpo stuff does look dodgy to me.

The money/hype thing looks all wrong.

The fact that it's being sold with a 'Zen/Buddhist' tag in some way attached seems all wrong too.

But, if we can get just a little objective for a moment, what substantial evidence of actual harm caused on a substantial amount of the hundreds of people attending these events do we have?

Is it actaully any more harmful than all the other self-help quackery or cultish Buddhist nonsense? Zen sesshin have had their instances of freakouts and mental breakdowns... is BigMind any more dangerous?

The fact that we don't know is not a reason to presume that it's any more scary and may be just 'the fear of fear itself'.

Regards,

Harry.

Anonymous said...

Release the BARDAN!

Anonymous said...

I have always wondered why ZCLA is silent on this matter.

My guess is they receive Big Money from Big Mind.

That is only my guess.

I attended the celebration commemorating the 40th year since Maezumi Roshi's founding of ZCLA.
Many creative and successful members from all over came to give seminars, lead discussion groups and entertain.
I was curious as to what Big Mind was all about, I was offended at the commercialization of a zen term, but was willing to take a listen for myself;
however there was another dscussion group I was more interested in--sitting groups in New York as I recall and France who wanted to explore how to be more supportive of and retain members. I went to that instead because I wanted to know if they offered child care, which had been an obstacle to my being able to practice on a regular basis...
turned out Big Mind Gempo didn't show as planned, maybe it was too Small Potatoes for him at any rate his presentation didn't happen at that event.
Couple of years later got into a rather lengthy discussion regarding Gempo and his approach.
What did I have against it? Well, I said--it's like taking people out to deep ocean and choppy waves tossing them overboard to teach them to swim.
True, some will swim, but this is hardly the 'best' method to use.
My debator was fascinated I had picked this analogy. I knew nothing about Gempo, but he did, he'd known him over many years. They weren't buddy buddy but he could walk up to him and have conversation, they knew each other. Anyway, turns out Gempo engages in sports activities and ocean swimming is one and it was during a push-yourself-to-the-extreme swimming event that Gempo nearly died in and this resulted in some kind of realization.

There are some people who, for whatever biological reason, 'require' if I can use that term, extremes.

But extreme measures are not a requirement for the marjority of us. Nor should extremes be held in esteem.

Each of us must find our own essential daily need and meet it. Middle path is not too much and not too little, just meeting the need.

Those who need extreme expeirences are their own special category. Maybe they are zen extremists along the spectrum of things. But in my experience, zen has nothing to do with extremes, it is the antithesis of what little I know of zen.

So the question is how do they (people like David Merzel) get by with this stuff?

When I have contemplated this, it is like sitting with my own mind--
Every day I get by with tons of bullsit passing through my mind. I just don't pay attention to most of it, I don't buy into it and I don't base my actions on it. My mind is full of it.

with the right marketing approach, maybe I too could transform the smoke between my ears into money

money and I mutually keep our relationship narrow and brief

but money has a way of clouding things.
I suspect no one from ZCLA publically speaking out has to do with money in some way

just a guess

Our culture likes extremes; extremes are 'sexy' and make for great film, tv, and entertainment. Zen is the great antidote to craving, meaning it is subtle;
subtle is the opposite of extreme

Does one need to use extreme measures to get over the desire/need/craving for extreme measures?
Does one need to give over all one's money to get over thinking you can buy the ineffable with money?


cheadi

DT said...

I'm Rubber blah blah blah...:

Brad clearly states on his blog that he may use any email sent to him in a future post. Quite a while ago I sent Brad a short email - which then ended up as part of a blog post. However, the post was completely scrubbed of ANY identifying information. It appears that Brad has done the same with this post - unless any of us were in the room when this Big Money™ event happened, no one knows anything about the person who sent the original email. Why is this bothering you so much?

Also, you assume the person who wrote this email is a woman - why?

RDeWald said...

I am grateful that I've never heard of this thing called "Big Mind" before Brad mentioned it. There's a lot of this kind of stuff around, and in a dualistic paradigm this kind of nonsense is necessary to make it possible for authentic teachers to arise. So, in some sense, I'm grateful for it, too.

When someone asks me about the credentials or authenticity of this zen teacher or another, I always ask two questions: Do they want anything from you? Have they told you they can teach you anything about zen? If the answer is yes to either of those questions I discourage that choice of teacher.

So, Brad, continue to be an example of what a zen teacher can really look like. All you've ever done is share your impressions of your experience.

Fregas said...

There are two things that disturb me about "Big Mind" without any input from Brad or others:

1) Big Mind is a "Get Rich (Spiritually) Quick Scheme." Anything that sounds too good to be true, usually is. Anything worth having usually requires a lot of work to get. This is true of jobs, arts, science, and spirituality. And many times, "quick fixes" are designed to exploit someone.

2) The fact that he charges exorbitant amounts of money for his retreats and lessons. Want to know where abuse lies? Follow the money.

My own zendo charges very little for retreats or membership and I believe if someone could not afford to go they would find the money for that individual somehow.

Thats all i'm going to say. Be careful people.

gniz said...

Harry,

I sort of agree that we need to be careful about overhyping or getting hysterical.

But when you say "what substantial evidence of actual harm caused on a substantial amount of the hundreds of people attending these events do we have?"

Well, again--you've got to look at the bigger picture. Genpo hangs out with (and endorses) Andrew Cohen and Richard Harris (of Holosync fame). He gives talks with them and pals around with them. These people have been involved with extorting money from their followers, psychologically crippling and damaging people beyond measure.

Do I have proof? Yes. On my site I rigorously dissect and detail Genpo's connections to these snake oil salesmen, and I provide outside corroboration beyond measure. Is that enough for you or anyone else?

I know you don't mean it quite this way, but I've found that many people ask for proof but then say they can't be bothered to take 35 minutes or an hour to read the material provided.

Laziness is no excuse for not seeing the forest for the trees. There is no "gray area" with Genpo Roshi.

Pertinent links:
http://rebloggingbradwarner.blogspot.com/2009/11/big-mind-advisory-board-members.html

http://rebloggingbradwarner.blogspot.com/2009/11/genpo-roshi-and-his-nefarious.html

http://rebloggingbradwarner.blogspot.com/2009/12/deconstructing-big-mind-case-study.html

http://whatenlightenment.blogspot.com/

Also see the books: Mother of God and Enlightenment Blues.

The links between Genpo and Andrew Cohen et al are clear as day. The information about Andrew Cohen is very stark. Also "Rabbi" Marc Gaffni, another "pal" of Genpo's.

If you continue to have questions and want more evidence, try google. it is your friend.

gniz said...

Sorry, it's Bill Harris (of Holosync fame), not Richard Harris that I typed above.

mtto said...

Gniz, you forgot James Arthur Ray. I know he's part of your blog posts, but you didn't mention him in the above comment.

used to be a video of Gempo at Ray's place, here

The video isn't there anymore, unfortunately.

David said...

I don't know the first thing about Genpo Roshi or Brad Warner. I know a little about Buddha-dharma. Seems to me that on one hand there's a kid who thinks its cute to draw horns on some guy's photo, and on the other hand, maybe a huckster-type who wants to fight.

Bart Simpson vs. Bluto! What a match.

Anonymous said...

or Beavis vs Butthead




acstrash

Anonymous said...

some co-workers of mine have done the holosync thing
I have spoken with either one of them about their experience. Just overheard a brief exchange between them--that things go better in their life when they 'do' holosync daily.

Seems holosync is the same as doing an exercise program

like that treadmill you bought and just don't get on like you thought you would

that is what holosync seems to be

the daily practice of zazen is not like an exercise program
it is more like flossing your mind
or evacuating your mental bowels

so it seems to me


gratie

Rinzai till i die said...

What's the big deal? If people want to spend big bucks on enlightenment, more power to them. If it works for some people, great, and if it doesn't, great. There are worse things people could be spending their money on. I don't see what all the hatred is about.

This is merely a difference of philosophy between Brad and Big Mind. Brad doesn't want to acknowledge awakening or enlightment and when he does he says it is "gradual process" which takes years of sitting. Well, that's just nonsense. If one's mind were sufficiently still and receptive, awakening could happen at any moment without any preparation or training.

All it took for the sixth patriarch Huineng to become awakened was hearing the Diamond Sutra being recited by some random person. It can happen any time, anywhere, whether on the cushion, or on the toilet, or even through Big Mind. Shit just happens yo. Ain't nothin gradual about it.

Harry said...

Sorry, Gniz. I've done the google thing, and I've followed your blog, but I fail to see anything more dangerous than a crude and misguided money making scam.

I see you keen to indicate some dubious connections, and I see people willingly paying nicely for something that I think is a load of horseshit (something that religions have been doing and will be doing for centuries... should I be surprised?) but I really don't see any serious harm documented in direct relation to the BigMind thing.

You may well feel that I 'need to look at the bigger picture', but actually I personally merely need solid evidence (i.e. not 'guilt by association' or suggestion) that BigMind are doing anything more harmful than any amount of hawks in Buddhism and other religions, new agey self help groups, and the spiritual misery trades in general.

You may feel you have a good case, but I can tell you from reading your info that it all looks as if you are going after Genpo with no real, strong evidence of him having directly harmed anyone beyond his possibly pulling an age-old spiritual scam... it could also be that the man thinks he's doing the right thing.

Regards,

Harry.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Rinzai till you die:
Do you believe that's how it went down for Heinung? I mean i'm sure there are sources that say that, but really? Are you sure?

--matt

Duff said...

I'm sorry to hear of this person's experience, which sounds like an unpleasant side-effect of the Big Mind retreat they attended. It does sound to me like the Big Mind staff did not respond to this crisis appropriately.

That said, I'm not sure I can conclude from this one example that Big Mind or the structure of Big Mind retreats are dangerous, or how much more dangerous or less dangerous Big Mind retreats are compared to Zen sesshin, 10-day Vipassana courses, group therapy, LSD, Landmark Forum, etc.--all which contain risks that are somewhat difficult to ascertain. I know that people have had similar "spiritual emergencies" from all of the above (and of course lots of folks who have done all of the above safely).

I should say that I am *very* critical of Genpo Roshi's fundraising program 5/5/50 (Big Heart Circle), his views on money, his associates, and his potential conflicts of interest serving on the board of the Lenz Foundation and also receiving grants from the same foundation. I am *very* critical of Large Group Awareness Trainings like Landmark Forum and est, but mostly because they are both dangerous *and* highly litigious.

If people want to do "extreme spirituality" and fully understand the risks, and the customers do not have to waive their legal rights, then I think people should be legally allowed to do stupid shit (although I've done enough that I wouldn't encourage it). The problem is that nobody has any idea what the risks are, and even when we are told we do not believe them due to the fact that psycho-spiritual dangers don't seem as "real" as breaking a leg rock climbing.

The worst thing in this story to me was the simple lack of care and seemingly lack of preparation for when these kinds of things happen. Every meditation center, group therapy weekend workshop, etc. should have a protocol in place to deal with psychosis and spiritual emergency that is based in a rational and responsible paradigm.

Even in very responsible organizations, psychospiritual accidents happen and people are hurt from time to time. The difference is that these organizations take responsibility and try to help--not on camera in front of the group, but one-on-one, knowing that they do not have all the answers and that sometimes emergency psychiatric care is needed, or some other break from the work that caused the abreaction.

Jack Kornfield has an excellent chapter in A Path With Heart that covers many of these kinds of problems. I also recommend Stan Grof's book Spiritual Emergency.

I should also mention that I've done Big Mind with Genpo and with Diane Hamilton and found it to be a useful, although not that powerful process. The fact that someone would have a strong abreaction from Big Mind is surprising to me, but then again that is all the more reason for having adequate safety measures in place for dealing with such circumstances.

gniz said...

Hi Harry. Well, I guess it depends what you mean by strong case. if people trust me and believe in me as a "real certified zen master" and then I recommend they spend time with Andrew Cohen or Bill Harris or James Arthur Ray and they end up fleeced of their life savings or a good chunk of change, maybe some of their sanity, and in the sweatlodge cases--dead--well, I guess that seems like compelling evidence to me.

If I know someone is dumping toxins behind some house and then I sell that house to you and do not disclose such information, that's pretty compelling evidence to me.

On top of that, the kind of emails that you're starting to see hit Brad and other accounts surfacing--these are very real pointers to a very problematic guy who seems more like a cult leader than a zen master (oh whats the difference again?)

Now you might argue that until Genpo is videotaped doing something awful to someone on camera, you don't care, well fine. You draw your line and I draw mine.

I think a willful misrepresentation of the truth, mental coercion, and associating with con artists is a pretty big set of red flags that should be pointed out to unsuspecting travelers.

108 the merciless said...

Harry: Genpo knows Andrew Cohen and Cohen knew James Earl Ray and he knew Richard Harris and he sang McAurthur Park and it's ALL connected.

G said...

Troll much 108?

gniz said...

It's so funny that you so called "Zennies", with all of your talk about seeing reality as it is and not getting caught up in discursive thinking...you're really mostly just blind as bats.
Laughing about "conspiracy theories" and poo-pooing trauma and pain that victims of these con-men experience.
"Oh its just the age old scam, who cares?" What a nice thought from a nice middle-class Buddhist Harry.
So easy to be condescending and glib because you don't have a care in the world and you read Dogen and know how to put your ass on a zafu.
So many buddhists are so willfully stupid when it comes to speaking out. Here Brad does it and gets a bunch of zen bullshit about how we don't really know anything and isn't it all relative anyway, blah blah blah.

Most people do want to be fleeced and lied to and they eat it up with a spoon.

But some of us still care about trying to make sure that innocent people who maybe haven't been around the block spiritually--or perhaps are just fragile--actually get looked out for a little bit.

And yeah, you still are the company you keep. Sorry if that old saw isn't hip enough for the room.

Anonymous said...

arghargh ruffruffruff arrrgh ruff ruff gnawgnaw ruff ruff arrrgghh gnaw gnaw rrrrarrgh ruff arrrgghh!

Harry said...

Hi Gniz,

"Now you might argue that until Genpo is videotaped doing something awful to someone on camera, you don't care, well fine. You draw your line and I draw mine."

You're swinging out to indignant extremes there again, Gniz my man.

I don't like what they do; as I don't like what any number of similar set-ups in the Spiritual Supermarket does. I do care that people fall for it (as they always have and always will). I do think it should be discussed, and discussed well and reasonably *in ways that are most effective*. But I don't need a video tape, I know what they are up to.

Allegations of serious threat to people is different tho, such a claim needs evidence to back it up. A case study here and there could apply to any group where a few people have had a bad time (which IS any group). All I'm saying is it looks shoddy to try and imply things from unsubstantial evidence. It looks like a witch hunt, and doesn't lend to the reasoned argument IMO.

Regards,

Harry.

p.s. the word verification for the post was 'nohell'!

gniz said...

Sorry Harry, I went over the line on that last bit. You might be a nice middle class buddhist, i don't know. But you've been reasonable enough and don't deserve the sarcasm vibe.

Harry said...

No probs. Do what I do: smoke a nice Cuban cigar, listen to some Phil Collins, and then take the Mercedes up to the golf course and pound it out on a few balls.

Regards,

H.

gniz said...

Will do, man, will do.
Thanks for keeping it real with the Benz and all. Osho would be proud! ;)

Anonymous said...

wank wank wank Big Mind's evil wank wank wank I heard Genpo was friends with David Koresh back in the day wank wank wank i heard Genpo drives a Ferrari wank wank wank

Alice Van-Weed said...

interesting read..but perhaps this Genpo guy has a gift..he just got out-shined by the evil glow of money

Anonymous said...

Genpo Merzel Roshi and Bernie Glassman are both Jewish. Is Big Mind secretly fund raising for the Zionist takeover of America? I don't know. You decide.

proulx michel said...

Lucius wrote:
@Michel: you wrote about the Deshimaru monks: "But most of his students..." I am not sure it is true for most of them. But even if so - there are also some impressive guys among them who have not joined the dark side yet :) :)

Names, please...

Recently a friend of mine went to a sesshin directed by one of those guys. Talked about Dogen, said that Dogen was the super-duper big boss in Zen, but that no one could understand him. Friend asks "What do you think of Nishijima's grid of lecture of Dogen?" Answer: "Dogen just can't be understood".

proulx michel said...

Gniz wrote
Learning how to use a paintbrush does not make you a nice human being, does it?
By all means, Beethoven was one of the worst persons one could imagine. Mean, a miser, and totally self obsessed. He even sequestered his sister's son (a lone woman cannot educate a boy, of course...) so much that the boy, as soon as he could, joined the army... His surveillance was among the things that made Beethoven move 80 times in his life...

Uku said...

Harry,

are you really driving MB onto your golf course? And you're driving by yourself? Geez, that's so old fashion... at least latest Lexus it should be, Yoda to speak. MB's can kiss my upper class ass!

But I agree with you, Harry Man. Witch hunt ain't working. Sometimes it's good to use f-words though, I think. And I think revealing Genpo's scam doesn't need any hard evidence. It just needs some noise and sometimes f-words are ok. I think it's impossible to stop Genpo anymore and honestly I don't think it's necessary. If it's actually helping someone, good. And if someone is actually stupid enough to pay for it, good. Still, Big Mind is dangerous, Genpo's associates are dangerous. When most of the people doesn't care anymore and shout "fuck you!", then we're screwed because then it shows that people doesn't care anymore of each others. When we are arguing against shit like Big Mind, world is in peace. Yin Yang and shit. Star Wars can really educate us. Genpo is a great example of how to become Darth Vader!

proulx michel said...

Harry wrote:
smoke a nice Cuban cigar,

Sorry 'arry, me boy, there are things which Ammricans are not yet allowed to do...

Anonymous said...

80!

Hokai said...

Brad, I like your opinion about BM. Stuff like that is a construct of a wired brain and didn't taugth the Buddha the path of no-concepts? On the other hand it seem to me that you and Genpo are the two sides of the same medal, one is healthy, the other isn't. You always found 10 People who are running after every new concept. I think Genpo has become a prisoner of his own concept and hits the end of the road. BM has the power to arouse fanaticism and that's the bad news. But whom you wanna rescue?

Harry said...

Michel,

Yes, freedom has its terrible costs. :-(

Uku, I think there's quite a clear distinction that can be made between reasoning against the unreasonable, and effectively preaching hatred.

Regards,

Harry.

Uku said...

Harry,

yes, I agree.

anon #108 said...

Clearly, some people get very passionate about some things. Others get passionate about other things. Yet others aren't particularly passionate about anything.

To assume that those who don't share your passionate admiration or objections to something or other are simply wrong or "blind" is not right or clear-sighted.

I share Harry's dispassionate request for clear-headed debate supported by evidence - evidence that even the barely interested would find compelling.

anon #108 said...

...can't really 'share' a request, can you? I second it, that's what I do.

Rich said...

Based on the way people have described their Big Mind experiences Genpo and friends might be dropping a little acid in the koolaid. The reason people think it's a big mind is because it takes a long time to digest it.
so take your time, be patient and keep trying.

Rinzai-tastic said...

I only want the evidence and opinions that support my preconceived notions. Everything else will be ignored.

Thankyou very much.

Uku said...

I agree with you anon#108 and Harry but I really think that sometimes passive-aggressive style is useless and sometimes it's much better to say things straight. Although Brad's and Gniz's style of saying things might be different than most of us but they're saying very important things. And they're being honest. So what if they use f-words or their writings are passionate? This is real life, not some movie of being perfect and idealistic Buddhist in the internet. :)

anon #108 said...

For everyone who's had a negative Bigmind experience, I'll wager you'll find others who've had what they consider to be a positive experience - and others who've not had much of an experience at all.

So a dispassionate debate supported by evidence might get no further than Harry and gniz have here.

Anonymous said...

Let's face it, Brad is using Genpo as a cheap tactic to propel his own Hardcore Zen brand. Every brand needs a pagan or two to distinguish itself.

Go Genpo brought another gay out of the closet, big deal! There are enough gays in the closet as it is. Genpo did him a huge favor and he's just too much of a sissy faggot to appreciate it.

Harry said...

Here's something to store in the back of yer noggins, or just throw away, regardless of whether ye are a Warnerist, a Gnizarian, a Genpologist, or just some guy/ gal:

If somebody is trying really hard to get you to believe something... DON'T!

Regards,

Harry.

Hulk Hogan said...

Sissys leave anonymous comments.

Uku said...

Harry,

yep. Trying to get someone to believe... that's not gonna work. Compassionate action is beyond believing.

Bows,
Markus

M said...

I'm sorry Harry, There's absolutely no way you're going to get me to believe that.

Harry said...

Thank the sweet Lord Genpo for that!

Rinzai the one true faith said...

Genpo shall suffer your insults. He suffers for us all.

Anonymous said...

http://www.integralworld.net/scofield1.html

anon #108 said...

I wondered if maybe the anti, and pro, bigmind/integralist thing was felt more keenly in the US, so googled and found this -

from which this is taken:


"I found Big Mind personally insightful and experienced some deeply meditative states of mind. Jon’s a skillful group leader, big hearted and basically a total gem, so give him a shout if you’re interested in Big Mind....Big Mind Big Heart works through talking as different “voices” or aspects” of oneself such at “the controller”, “the prtector” or “the critic”...moving on to “non dual” or “transcendent” voices such as “Non Seeking-Non Grasping Mind”, “Great Mind” or “Great Joy.” I imagine this all sounds kooky as hell, but it’s actually a straight-forward, no belief necessary stuff that didn’t stimulate my BS detector as a psychologist, trainer or meditator...Genpo is coming to London soon and I’m hoping Big Mind takes off in the UK. An event with this price-tag and with TV celebrity Paul McKenna’s endorsements plays into criticisms of zen subversion, over commercialism and “it’s just group hypnosis”, but from my experience it’s good stuff and I’d recommend it."

Oh well.

anon #108 said...

BTW - the word 'criticisms' (in "criticisms of zen subversion" in the quote above) links to a 2007 Siucide Girls post entitled "
Brad Warner's Hardcore Zen: Big Mind is a Big Load of Horse Shit
".

Emma said...

Great post. I wish teachers from all religious practices would speak out more about the charlatans in their tradition. No one likes petty in-fighting – and I think many are afraid of that accusation – but the result is that there is real abuse being perpetrated by Genpo Roshi and the like and very few other teachers are saying jack shit about it.

IMO, there is a significant misconception running around (represented by some of the comments here) that all teachers have different styles and personalities and people like Genpo Roshi are just one more color in the rainbow. But to me that’s like saying, “There’s all different kinds of school teachers, some just emotionally abuse their students and some do not.” As mentioned in the original post, focusing on “Big Wow” kind of moments rips people open in such a way that little real spiritual growth occurs – rather, people are just forced into a super vulnerable state where they are more easily manipulated – and usually manipulated to give more time/money/devotion to the teacher. Taking people and their most sincere desires for personal and spiritual growth and twisting that into some kind tripped-out carnival for a teacher’s personal gain and deification is not just an different teachings style, it is ABUSIVE BULLSHIT. And it's how cults get started.

There has been extensive research done on this subject by psychologists and sociologists studying religious movements and group dynamics (google Janja Lalich for one example), which may satisfy some people's desire for a more empirical, dispassionate take on the matter.

It was nice, but honestly a little surprising, that Brad wrote about this topic. Another area where this kind of manipulation runs amok is in the area of sex between teachers and students, which is why so many sanghas have strict rules against any form of student/teacher sex at all. Brad seemed a little blasé about the potential for things to get really fucked up in this area at the end of Zen Wrapped in Karma… but maybe more is said in the new book? I am curious to see.

DKL said...

While I may be new to Zen and a lot of things that are being talked about in many posts, I understand a few things about business, life and religion. To begin with, let me say this to Genpo Roshi....No offense, but your response to Brad's post was not a good way to get anyone to see your side of things; all it did was to help people like me that are new to this to think that the things being said about you are right; if you had made an intelligent coherent argument about what you stand for it would have been so much better than the middle school thug approach.

The way that I see things is that if you sell a few books to help people understand a religion or philosophy is one thing and ok, but if you are charging people to enter a temple, pray, sit or whatever it may be then you are being a capitalist and no longer a monk or priest depending on what it is you are into. The way that I understand things to this point about Zen and Buddhism in general, is that it is about giving to others and helping them along their path. If you are charging them to enter a temple or to meet you then you have went beyond that.

I must agree with Brad on another point as well, to have Genpo Roshi confront an individual or have them discuss personal concerns in front of a large crowd is very unethical and should never have happened. If that person made the decision to share with the crowd after their personal meeting with the "leader" is a different story. I learned along time ago as a chef and manager that when it is time to discuss a personal concern of an employee or coworker, it is to be done in private so as not to cause other problems between the other employees or workers. Again I as I am new to the whole Zen and Buddhism path, I am trying to learn as much as I can about all aspects of it and to see the talk about Genpo Roshi and his Big Mind(TM) thing i was a little skeptical about it, but after his adolescent, unintelligent, tough-guy response, I have made up my mind that anything he has to say is not worth my thought processes.

Anonymous said...

"...let me say this to Genpo Roshi....No offense, but your response to Brad's post was not a good way to get anyone to see your side of things..."

DKL - I very much doubt that was the man hisself. Very much.

Rinzai representin said...

There's really only one way to resolve this. Brad and Genpo should have themselves a good old fashioned zen sit-off. Fuck the debate.

That's right, you two can sure talk up a storm but let's see who the real man is when you're face-to-face, cushion-to-cushion. First one to move or make a noise forfeits all knowledge of the dharma and vows never to teach or write a book ever again.

Don't talk about it, be about it.

Anonymous said...

There is no money in helping people really solve their problems. Just look at all the poor Zen guys trying todo the right thing.

This guy who wrote the letter also bears some responsibility for simply letting somebody else reprogram him. Even if his naivety seems excessive.

Ranjit Singh - King of Punjab said...

"...let me say this to Genpo Roshi....No offense, but your response to Brad's post was not a good way to get anyone to see your side of things..."

Yes!

That was a terrible response, Genpo Roshi. To think that you hold yourself out as a teacher but would be so easily angered and then try to goad Brad into a schoolyard fight... I'm simply stunned beyond words.

john e mumbles said...

Brad,
What the hell was that clip? Were you in it? Did the bass amp fart? Does anyone really call that "punk?"

As to the Genpobsession, I say go with your girl team and strap one on and prison sex the old man.

Then trademark your own seminars: BIG MIND FUCK. Go Jim Jones on their ass (you can re-use the same strap on:) Herd the fanboys into a black light room and force them to zazen to your ambient albums until they give up their pin #s.

anon #108 said...

Emma wrote ...there is real abuse being perpetrated by Genpo Roshi...

I'm still wating for the evidence, Emma - not evidence of guilt by association, or objections to Genpo's beliefs or methodology; not evidence that abusive hucksters abound (and always have) in 'self-help'/'personal growth' groups of all persuasions, but the personal testimony of a significant number of people who've attended Genpo Dennis Merzel's sesshins and/or events and consider themselves to have been abused. If it's out there - and it may be - point me to it and I'll read it.


I'm happy where I am. What Genpo's offering doesn't appeal to me. As I've no experience of Bigmind I've no interest in defending or condemning it. But some other people believe it's worth every penny - evidenced by the fact that his events are consistently well attended. Yes, those people may be fools; sad, desperate suckers. But everyone who doesn't think how I think is a fool or a sad sucker - I'm surrounded by them, so what's new?

anon #108 said...

I see that gniz has extended an invitation to "those [followers or students of these teachers] who feel I am either misrepresenting or being unfair to Genpo Roshi, Andrew Cohen, Ken Wilber, and others that I have discussed on this blog."

So kudos, gniz. I don't expect a scientifically reliable sample (neither do you), but I'll be checking in.

Char said...

Buddhists must stand up for what is right or Buddhism will be hijacked just like Christianity and Islam have been. People have always used religion for their own agendas and such misuse always causes serious harm. Thanks for speaking out Brad.

Anonymous said...

Better to take the money you saved for your big mind experience and buy a giant bag of drugs.

pinoybuddhist said...

Genpo Roshi said:

"I'll fight you any day of the week, Warner. Any day, any time.

Name the place and let's do it."

The theme from the Rocky movies plays in my mind every time I read this. Go Brad! (Now I'm getting an image of Brad in his robes jogging up those famous steps. And Genpo boxing a huge frozen carcass...)

Rinzai ad campaign said...

I think Brad is more like the Karate Kid takin on the evil Johnny Genpo Lawrence of the Cobra Kai. And there's sensei Andrew Cohen who would be like "Sweep the leg. You gotta problem with that, Genpo." "No sensei." And in the background there's Ken Wilber screaming "Put em in a body bag, Genpo!" Finally, there's Brad's geeky ass standing in the ring trying to balance on one leg so he can do a crane kick, but then he just gives up for some reason and says "Suck it, Genpo!" and walks out of the arena into the sunset.

So many possibilities here.

Anastasia said...

This "Big Mind" thing is right up there with The Secret, and Ramtha, and Lazaris, and all that New Age folderol---an exploitative money grab. I don't believe Brad's jealous; I sure as shit wouldn't want to be standing in Genpo Roshi's Birkenstocks; who the fuck would?

Anonymous said...

"Is it actaully any more harmful than all the other self-help quackery or cultish Buddhist nonsense? Zen sesshin have had their instances of freakouts and mental breakdowns... is BigMind any more dangerous?"
Hi Harry

In my opinion yes it is for the following reasons. If we look at the evolution of BM it is an adaptation of a therapeutic technique. In the UK if someone was using such an intervention within the NHS they go through a rigorous training procedure. They would do so within a huge suppport network of Doctors and other health care professionals. They would be bound by a code of ethics to protect the client, such as confidentiality, which I feel Brad has honoured, to protect the individual from harm and exposure. Even with all this in place things do go wrong and people can in the worst case senario take their own lives. From that point of view if we look at Genpo he is not a qualified therapist, he has no follow up on how the individuals he works with are doing after his sessions, he has no supervision and no medical support in the event of something happening, as it appears to of, in this case. Things don't go wrong with alot of new age interventions simply because they are not effective, tried and tested therapeutic techniques do work hence all the precautions put in place to support people. I am simply stating my concerns because I genuinely believe that taking these types of techniques out of context is dangerous. As for other ethical problems I believe others have stated these amply in both the blog and the posts.

Regards

Steve

Harry said...

Hi Steve,

It seems people jumping into an intensive zazen retreat may bring up the stuff that people are talking about with BM, and zen retreats aren't regulated so the response to an 'emergency' depends on what the individual teacher/ organisors would do in that situation (zen teachers are generally not trained therapists, I remember reading an account of how Deshimaru at a retreat had some big lads just eject a clearly disturbed woman who was being disruptive, I wasn't there, so I don't know what went down, but it springs to mind).

I haven't seen any evidence to make me accept that the BM process itself is any more 'dangerous' to a person with mental health issues than their jumping into an intensive zazen retreat. There just seems to be a lot of smoke and insinuation about BM (which I am inclined to believe and, therefore, am wary of!)

Regards,

Harry.

Anonymous said...

Hi Harry

I agree sesshin can bring up alot of buried material, it certainly has in my case, on occasion. However again for me it's a question of context. On sesshin you have a structure which is supportive, senior practioners, Zendo officers and regular interviews with the teacher, which is not present at a BM event. Also its one thing to deal with one's distress in the silence of the Zendo and ones head, it is, IMHO, a completely different experience to disclose this in front of an audience of 250. The re-traumatizing potential of this is, again in my opnion, exponential. Yes of course people can have psychotic breaks and experience PTSD symptoms in many situations and practise attracts many vulnerable people in search of relief but I feel that one has a duty of care if one is running an event of this type and I am not convinced that BM events are run with this in mind. Also if one was using a voice dialogue technique in therapy with a client this would be done once a week for an hour with a clear beggining, middle and end. Not several hours of exposure for a week to ten days.
As for evidence, I think that was one of my points. As there is no follow up how would anyone know ? I am just concerned that using psycho therapeutic techniques out of context is more dangerous that a traditional sesshin with its inherent checks and balances

Kind regards,

Steve

anon #108 said...

Steve (anon @ 1.49am), having expressed his concerns about Genpo's use of an unsupervised, and therefore dangerous, 'adapted therapeutic technique' (I assume he's refferring to Gestalt voice dialogue) concluded:

As for other ethical problems I believe others have stated these amply in both the blog and the posts.

What other ethical problems are you referring to, Steve?


You state he has no follow up on how the individuals he works with are doing after his sessions, he has no supervision and no medical support in the event of something happening.... You may be right, but I wonder whether you've checked that out and know it to be true, or are you assuming it's the case? Of course, if you're right, that would make Genpo's events no different from most other religious group meetings. And let's not forget - love him or hate him - that Genpo is a transmitted Dharma heir in a mainstream Zen lineage.

No, I don't believe that being a transmitted dharma-heir guarantees superpowers, but it is - at least - a teaching certificate,a and Genpo has taught and supervised groups of students for many years.

The question remains: aside from the passion, insinuation and assumptions of those who, for whatever reason, don't like what he's doing (the vast majority of whom have no direct experience of it), is there any personal testimony from a substantial, significant number of people who say they've been abused or harmed by Genpo's dangerous, unsupervised activities? I would genuinely be interested to read it.


I've just seen your new post, Steve, replying to Harry. Could you tell me what are the "inherent checks and balances" of the traditional sesshin"? What are the medical credentials of the "senior practioners, Zendo officers" you refer to? (BTW, not all sesshin are organised in such a formal, heirarchical way - although I've have a feeling - just a supposition that Genpo's may be).

Mumon said...

OK, I have two more comments, based on what I've read above:

1. There are indeed checks and balances in the average sesshin. They involve the fact that the teacher is, you know, actually with the students. And they're actually sitting! And they're actually practicing zazen, which is gathering/centering to the teacher and students as well as tiring teacher and students. Have you seen a schedule of one of Dennis Merzel's "sessins?" I mean, looking at the Dogen sangha sesshin schedule recently, I thought "Huh. Pretty lax." But Big Mind makes the Dogen Sangha look like Shoin-ji by comparison.

2. Nothing in this "Big Mind" stuff comports very well with what the Buddhists say meditation and enlightenment is or how it should be pursued. No, it's not "skillful means" if people are deluded into thinking this experience is somehow enlightenment, or if they think they can avoid practice in real life with it.

Harry said...

"On sesshin you have a structure which is supportive, senior practioners, Zendo officers and regular interviews with the teacher, which is not present at a BM event."

Hi Steve,

In my experience, sesshin vary greatly in this regard. There is no standard. At sesshin I have been at there are no required interviews with the teacher, and/or the interviews are elective. In a silent retreat this then would be no guarantee of a teacher spotting a student in distress even if the teacher was trained to spot it.

Sesshin seem to range from the structured and very formal to the informal. But a structured model itself does not ensure support from trained professionals in terms of mental health care of course, nor does in ensure much in terms of other support as far as I can see. If any thing it seems to be about removing supports.

Regards,

Harry.

anon #108 said...

Re traditional sesshin checks and balances...

The only sesshins I've attended, Steve, run by Dogen Sangha UK, comprise one teacher and a group of 'students', some of whom have taken precepts and one or two of whom, usually, happen to be teachers. But there is no heirarchy of senior students or zendo officials - I mean many of the participants wouldn't know 'who's who' - no one's 'status' is announced, and there's no obligation to wear your rakusu or kesa, if you have one. And there's no formal dokusan/interview with the teacher.

If someone needs advice, they'll need to ask for it, or hope someone approaches them - which of course happens. If someone were to be in serious physical or mental distress the appropriate response would be "is there a doctor in the house?"/"call an ambulance."

I wonder if voice dialogue is any more inherently dangerous than contemplating the koan "Who am I?", or sitting for long periods in shikantaza, or practising vipassana?

An old school chum of mine became very enthusiatic about the very friendly Friends of the Western Buddhist Order group he encountered. His Buddhist experience culminated in him running naked and screaming through the streets of Hackney, being detained under the Mental Health Act and given repeated Electro-shock Therapy (this was in the very early 70s). He's now a happy Rabbi ;)


Hi Mumon - Just seen your post.

Re 1 - Yes, (see what I'd already written about DS retreats.

Re 2 - That's a very valid objection to what bigmind teaches. (It doesn't answer the "is it dangerous" question, and I'm sure you didn't intend it to). There are plenty of teachings out there that I'm sure are total tosh, and I have every right to say so. I think that's a very different thing from saying that bigmind is a wiked scam.

anon #108 said...

I do apologise Harry,

Not for the first time we seem to be saying the same kinda thing. But I'd already written my bit when I saw yours...and I've got a juicy rabbi story, so I'm gonna publish and be damned.

Mumon said...

Nobody in today's world is going to structure a sesshin and foreswear the use of professionals in a medical emergency.

Except of course, that guy that looks like he might have been in an old Viagra commercial.

anon #108:
Thanks; there are lots of comments here.

Re: scam or not, it'd be hard to tell, except for the money involved and its non-correlation to Buddhism, yet "Buddhist" "branding."

That raises two red flags to me.

Mumon said...

P.S.,

Ditto for Falun Gong on that point, and I recently excorciated none other than Robert Thurman (on Huffy Puffy) for buying into the idea that that they're somehow legit.

anon #108 said...

Re: scam or not, it'd be hard to tell, except for the money involved and its non-correlation to Buddhism, yet "Buddhist" "branding."

That raises two red flags to me.



Likewise to me, Mumon (although the aspect of the branding that sticks with me is "Bigmind!!!", not so much "Buddhism"). There's lots of things I don't like about bigmind; that I find questionable and distasteful, but.....you know - what I said already ;)

DKL said...

Dear Anonymous,
While I do realize that there is a chance that is was not actually Genpo Roshi that made the comment, it does have his name attached to it and as of yet there has been no comment stating that it was not him, or that he was not in agreement with the comment that was put in his name...so we can only guess that maybe he agrees or it was him.

Paris Hilton said...

DKL: I'll fight you any day of the week. Any day, any time.

Name the place and let's do it.

Congressman Barney Frank said...

Paris Hilton,

I'll fight you any day of the week. Any day, any time.

Name the place and let's do it.

Mumon said...

PSS:

Who scrubbed Merzel's Wikipedia entry?

Elton John said...

DKL,

Why are you smelling your finger?

Anonymous said...

So waddya say, DKL?

Genpo, uncharacteristically demeaning his high/big-minded self?

or

Mischievous blogger?

Hmmm...

Rinzai till i die said...

OOH OOH GENPO'S NOT A QUALIFIED THERAPIST! HE SHOULDN'T BE DOING WHAT HE'S DOING!

What is a qualified therapist anyway? Just another schmuck with a title who got a degree and learned all the fancy definitions to apply to people so that he could prescribe drugs for them. A therapist is there to make you feel good, nothing else. He doesn't know anything more about life than the rest of us. Most therapists have never and will never inquire into the nature of their own being beyond their narrow list of psychological definitions, and yet they will be oh so forthcoming with theories on how YOUR mind works and what YOU should be doing with yourself. It's a repulsive profession.

Which isn't to say that Zen masters can help you, because they can't. They know they can't teach you anything, and that is why I prefer them much more than the self-assured therapists with their ready list of pharmaceudicals.

You clinical psychologists can suck it.

Clinical Psychologist said...

I'll fight you any day of the week. Any day, any time.

Name the place and let's do it.

DKL said...

Wow, what a blend of responses. So, let's see so far I have challenged at least twice to fight, one question about smelling my finger and a debate. I first of all do not smell my finger, but maybe that was your passion and just wanted to blame someone else for it. As to the fights...well I guess you all could just meet up and fight each other, and to the debate question...I say mischievous blogger, but then again...does it really matter.

I was trying to have a well thought-out set of comments on here, but am finding that there are a lot of individuals that just like to bash others and their ideas as well ones that just seem to want to cause trouble. I guess that is my fault for expressing my ideas in a public forum though. Shame on me. Thanks to those of you that contributed to the melee of threats, babble, and basically crap thoughts....as a beginner in the learning stages of Zen and Buddhism, I thought I had some understanding of what these entailed, but now I am wondering what aspect of Zen and/or Buddhism you all even represent.

Rocky Marciano said...

I've yet to see Congressman Frank or his staff issue a denial, so I must conclude that it's either him on here challenging Paris Hilton to a fistfight or that he agrees with the sentiments of the person posing as him.

DKL said...

Yes, Rocky...I got the point already. Man this is the last time that I express thoughts in an opinion forum. What is said is that I started reading Brad's blog to learn. and started leaving comments, to try and learn and communicate with intelligent individuals about Zen and Buddhism, but for the most part this has turned into a crap shoot for people that just want to spew crap (my apologies to the few of you that have actually left well thought-out and intelligent responses).

Harry said...

Hi DKL,

I don't think anyone comes here to 'represent Buddhism/Zen'... people just seems to want to chat and goof around. There's plenty of other sites out there where people pretend at being 'Buddhist' and more enlightened than each other and all that.

Don't worry bout it (and, actually, it does look a bit like you're smelling your finger in that photo of you).

Regards,

Harry.

Jinzang said...

What I'm finding is that as meditation becomes more popular, more psychologically damaged people are taking it up, sometimes without telling their meditation teacher of their problems. This is a whole new issue and I don't think Genpo Roshi is the only one who has failed to come to terms with it. I agree that programs that push people, like Big Mind, are more risky, but the risk can't be ignored in more traditional groups.

108 the merciless said...

"now I am wondering what aspect of Zen and/or Buddhism you all even represent."

Most of the comments directed at you were from closet comedians who only have a vague idea of what they are doing. We are only representing themselves and are terrified to even be doing that. Hence all the anonymous comments..

Jinzang said...

Seeing your true nature doesn't help when the person in front of you goes into convulsions. Meditation has its place, so do conventional and alternative medicine. Are we an over-medicated society? Yes, I'd be the last person to argue against that. But does your average Zen teacher know how cold and less food and sleep are going to impact someone on meds? I fear not.

anon #108 said...

Hey DKL -

a "melee of threats, babble, and basically crap thoughts."

Is that all you've seen and read here? I, for one, am offended!


This is an unmoderated blog, so you get all shades and tones of opinion and non-opinion. Sometimes it's stimulating; sometimes enfuriating; often very funny. There is no one aspect of Zen and/or Buddhism all [the posters] even represent.

It only "really matters" that you understand who most likely wrote the genpo Roshi comment as your first contribution on this page was predicated on the assumption that Genpo had written it; that assumption was the basis of your dismissive opinion of him. (There are better reasons to dismiss Genpo).

I can't help thinking you're a little put out that you made a mistake. Perhaps you think others are having a little fun at your expense. Yep. Very likely. We can learn much from our mistakes and from our responses to being corrected.

Ther ya go! Zen teaching - no charge ;) Stick around.

Harry said...

Yeah, Jinz. It MAY be more risky. Also, as can be seen from some of the lashing out at our very own Bradster at times, people are looking for someone to blame... which seems strangely related to the desire in people to 'give themselves completely' and 'selflessly' to the Guru or whatever. That seems to be about a denial of responsibility for ourselves and our actions... a nice way not to do anything substantial and really face up to ourselves.

Regards,

Harry.

Rinzai drugs are bad said...

If you're on any kind of antidepressant or ADHD drug then you shouldn't be in a fuckin zendo. Just my opinion.

DKL said...

anon#108: Thank you for the comments. True, I may have jumped the gun on my original comment, and as for the one that offended you, I apologize, and I though that I made a comment trying to let those of you that leave good posts know that I had not included you within my not-carefully thought out post. I am sure that there are those that are having fun at my expense, oh well, I guess everyone has to get their jollies.

As well, I rushed to add my own retaliatory comments without first thinking about things as they are and pondering what other unwanted comments I would get from my talking without thinking. I do understand that all the posters on here do not represent any one specific aspect of anything and that people are free to leave whatever comments that they desire. I was just premature on my assumption that all would be on topic or something like that.

I understand your comment about me dismissing Genpo immediately within my original post and probably should have thought through that mess as well. Being new to Zen and blogging is my downfall here and I hope that I can continue to learn and progress. Again, thank you for the comments and wisdom.

anon #108 said...

Thank you, DKL.


Here's an excerpt from a talk by Shunryu Suzuki:

Dogen-zenji said, "Shoshaku jushaku." Shaku generally means "mistake" or "wrong." Shoshaku jushaku means "to succeed wrong with wrong," or one continuous mistake. According to Dogen, one continuous mistake can also be Zen. A Zen master's life could be said to be so many years of shoshaku jushaku [mistake after mistake] This means so many years of one single-minded effort."

- and I wasn't really offended. Well, maybe just a little bit ;)

Anonymous said...

Truth be told, you can boil down any religious or spiritual system to be nothing but a scam. This includes Zen itself. The reason why Buddhism is ostensibly different is because although it employs various means, it does not promote attachment to those means. As a consequence, you don't cling on to zazen (for instance) for dear life to solve all of your problems, but neither do you see it as a disposable method to reach some future end. "Practice" fundamentally sits beyond these two viewpoints, or any viewpoint. It's self-fulfilling.

I don't know a lot about Big Mind, but what practice is meant to come from it? Orgies of Big Experiences leave you with what, exactly? This is why it is a very sort of cheap sideshow. It's going to leave people with the impression that Zen is about punctuated spiritual highs between life's doldrums, when actually it's about moment-to-moment practice.

Chris said...

"Truth be told, you can boil down any religious or spiritual system to be nothing but a scam."

Walk me through this boiling down process. Take any religion and show me how it's "nothing but a scam."

Rinzai gotta stay fly said...

No one wants to be told that Big Mind is bad for them. Afterall, zen is experiential, which means some times you have to step in shit to recognize shit in the future. It's all part of the growing process. Or as William Blake once said,

"Let the fool persist in his folly so that he may become wise."

anon #108 said...

I don't know a lot about Big Mind, but what practice is meant to come from it? Orgies of Big Experiences leave you with what, exactly? This is why it is a very sort of cheap sideshow...

Why don't you find out what the big G's answer might be before making assumptions, anon @12.35pm?


"The Big Mind process is one of the three main practices Genpo Roshi teaches, so that people can uncover their real life. An enlightenment experience is just the beginning of understanding and appreciating the precious gift of your human life. In addition to Big Mind, we also teach and practice traditional sitting meditation, and koan study, which is the practice of working with one of our teachers on a list of several hundred Zen stories that help to illuminate the the various aspects of self within the relative, absolute and apex worlds." (from here)


- The Devils' Advocate (cheap rates)

Rinzai droppin a truth bomb said...

Everyone's got religion whether they know it or not, even the so-called objective psychologist. But instead of the gospels and church they have clinical diagnoses and talk therapy, things that they BELIEVE make people better. But most people don't want to get better, they just want to mask over their problems with drugs or have the psychiatrist or priest tell them everything's okay.

Therefore science and medicine won't fix anything, as they're entire goal is keep people healthy for the industrial machine, so that corporations and governments grow wealthier. True rehabilitation has never bee in society's best interest.

anon #108 said...

Rinzai - - -

You fashion concepts into certainties.

Swallow that burning ball of doubt, mate. Get it down ya!

Rinzai righteous to a fault said...

My arguments are unassailable.

Anonymous said...

Rinzai gotta stay fly said...

"No one wants to be told that Big Mind is bad for them."

In fact plenty of people want to be told Big Mind is bad for them. See the comments on this blog, and others.

Jinzang said...

If you're on any kind of antidepressant or ADHD drug then you shouldn't be in a fuckin zendo. Just my opinion.

These drugs are incredibly common, especially in the good old overmedicated USA. I really wish it wasn't so, but that's how it is. I believe meditation can help people with psychological problems, but I believe we're going to have to see a new form of medically supervised meditation,

PhilBob-SquareHead said...

Rinzai droppin a truth bomb said:

"Everyone's got religion whether they know it or not..."

Damn right!
And my religion is Rock n roll.
And my messiah is Elvis.
And he created the duck-tailed rockabillies.
And he parted the poodle skirts.
He saw what he had done and said, "thank ya' vera much".

Rinzai is clean and sober said...

10 percent of Americans are on antidepressants and that number is steadily growing. Honestly, I think Big Pharma is far more terrifying than Big Mind. Big Mind is just small potatoes. If you want to talk about brainwashing and mass hypnosis, look no further than Big Pharma and the army of doctors and specialists who peddle their shit.

"It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society." --J. Krishnamurti

john e mumbles said...

www.BuddhistGeeks.com

Anonymous said...

So why is this crazy Gudo pseudo science bullshit any better then the Genpo bullshit? Brad has yet to address that. Genpo has his own idea and Gudo has his weird ideas. Genpo's idea may not be Buddhism, says Brad, but Gudo's half baked idea doesn't seem like Buddhism either.

I think that even in Theravada Buddhism, if they practice Zazen in their straight posture, they can also enjoy their own balanced state of the autonomic nervous system.

Therefore it is very important point that whether we keep our straight porsture vertically, or not, and if it is impossibl for us to keep the spine straight vertically, it might be impossible for us to keep the autonomic nervous system balanced.

The words of "Shikan Taza" means "just to sit," and so it means that "just sit without consideration, or perception."

During Zazen it is impossible for us to think or perceive. Therefore we should think that Zazen can never be consideration, or perception, but it is just Action to sit.

And if we want to stop thinking and perception, we should stretch the spine straight vertically. It is necessary for us to change consideration or perception into Action to sit.

Of course even in the case of Theravada Buddhism, if they stretch their spine, they can enjoy their balanced autonomic nervous system, and if they do not stretch their spine, it is impossible for them to enjoy the balanced state of their autonomic nervous system sufficiently.

anon #108 said...

BIG difference, 12.43am.

Gudo's idea of the balanced ANS is an explanation, a theory. If he's wrong, it doesn't matter - zazen is still what it is.

The bigmind technique that Genpo teaches is a more than an explanation, a theory - it's a highly directed method of verbal commands and suggestions administered by a teacher.

Of course, Gudo's contribution to Buddhism amounts to much more than 'keep the spine straight' (BTW, a familiar recommendation throughout the history of Soto zen). IMO it's regrettable that he bangs on about that and the ANS so much in his old age. But like I say, it doesn't really matter. You don't have to believe his theory to practice zazen - which is Gudo's one essential verbal direction.

Rich said...

The reason Gudo is better is because he leads one to practice everyday at least morning and evening with correct posture. The practice itself is the big mind. Whereas Gempo seems to think the manipulation of the mind will produce a lasting effect.

anon #108 said...

I hadn't yet checked today's Gudoblog - from where I assumed your quote was taken, anon - so I just did.

Gudo had been asked whether Theravadins sitting with a straight spine get a balanced ANS too...which I hear as "can someone whose practice is supported by a different theoretical system still enjoy the benefits of sitting? This is the last paragraph, completing your quote:


Shikantaza means that Zazen is not consideration, or perception, but Zazen is just Action itself. Therefore if there is no practice, there is no Zazen. Only thinking Zazen can never be Buddhism, and only looking at other's Zazen can never be Zazan, but Zazen is just practice, and so if there is no practice of Zazen by ourselves, there is no Zazen at all.


Gudo's answer is interesting. He's saying, 'zazen is just sitting. It has nothing to do with what you think or feel about it. It's something you do. When you're doing it, it doesn't matter whether you call yourself - or others - "Theravadin" or "Zen".'


...And if you're gonna do it - do it right. Don't slouch.

Anonymous said...

Well, Gudo seems to be saying that one size fits all on his "theory". Whatever your problem, whoever you are, just "straigten your spine" balance the ANS. That is like a doctor who perscibes the same medicine to every patient no matter the ailment. Isn't that even more irresponsible than Genpo? I mean, people write to Gudo's blog with all kinds of questions and all kind of situations, and he presectibes his one medicine without really listening to them. Is that not even worse than Genpo? BALANCE THE ANS and all is well!

The practice itself is the big mind. Whereas Gempo seems to think the manipulation of the mind will produce a lasting effect.

Genpo has said time and again that his little seminar is a small taste of Zen Samadhi for people who do not have such experience. Why do you people keep ignoring that and making it sound like he is saying "take my seminar and you are enlighted being and all finished". As was printed above:

"The Big Mind process is one of the three main practices Genpo Roshi teaches, so that people can uncover their real life. An enlightenment experience is just the beginning of understanding and appreciating the precious gift of your human life. In addition to Big Mind, we also teach and practice traditional sitting meditation, and koan study, which is the practice of working with one of our teachers on a list of several hundred Zen stories that help to illuminate the the various aspects of self within the relative, absolute and apex worlds.

Next, it is not like a taste of Samadhi has nothing to do with Buddhism. Some of you make it sound like what he is teaching has never been heard of in the Buddhist world, when in fact, it is much more "mainstream" Zen and Buddhism to emphasize such states than anything about the ANS. Maybe Genpo is more "old school" than Gudo with his crackpot theory.

Anonymous said...

And by the way, how do wre do that the "Big Mind" that Gudo gets when he straightens his spine for his ANS is not exactly the same BIG MIND that Genpo is pushing. Gudo seems to be getting some "Big Mind" himself which he calls "balance of the ANS"

Maybe they are both teaching the same thing!

anon #108 said...

Hi anon,

[Gudo]presectibes his one medicine without really listening to them

I often hear that in what he writes, too. But having had the benefit of direct teaching from one of his earliest students I know there's much more to Gudo. I can only conclude that, at 90 years of age, he's got a little 'stuck' - it's not uncommon.

Is it irresponsible? I don't see how. "Practice zazen, and when you do, don't slouch" is harmless advice, I think - from a Zen Master. If he didn't answer your question, ask someone else. No harm done.

Why do you people keep ignoring that and making it sound like he is saying "take my seminar and you are enlighted being and all finished"

That gets on my tits, too. I don't think he's saying that (it was me that posted the quote you quoted).

Some of you make it sound like what he is teaching has never been heard of in the Buddhist world...

Yep. And some of you do the same with Gudo.

And by the way, how do wre do that the "Big Mind" that Gudo gets when he straightens his spine for his ANS is not exactly the same BIG MIND that Genpo is pushing.

Does Gudo get a "Big Mind" when he straightens his spine? He might say his ANS becomes balanced - which he might value more. But yeah...maybe it's all the same thing...

I wouldn't get in such a sweat about it. Take your pick.

john e mumbles said...

Good point, what is "Buddhism" anyway? C'mon, Mysterion, this begs for a scholarly, historical approach bifurcating endlessly into new and strange directions that "The Buddha" whoever he was for Christ's (lol) sake (yes I saw the recent PBS bio so don't go there) surely did not intend(?) Is "Zen" actually "Big Mind" in spinal tap clothes? Are either of them "Buddhism?"

Jinzang said...

I'll just repeat what I said about Big Mind bore:

I don't like the seminar style of teaching spiritual practice. Practice is something you do every day, not just on a special weekend.

Beginners tend to latch onto ordinary experiences and blow them up into something wonderful in order to validate their practice. This is an obstacle and not an aid to practice and Big Mind does not help beginners when it introduces them to various "minds."

Enlightenment is not an experience and chasing after experiences is the bane of practice. You don't get a "taste" of enlightenment.

Selling Big Mind as if it will give you what decades of zazen will give you is simply deceitful.

gniz said...

Whatever else Genpo is doing with Big Mind, he endlessly repeats that students are now able to get the same "kensho" or "taste" that used to take fifteen years of intense practice, in just under a few hours of Big Mind.

So, yeah, what Jinzang said.

john e mumbles said...

So BM is fast-food kensho? You could stay home, cut up potatoes, deep fry them, and eventually enjoy french fries, or you can just go through the Genpo drive-through and pay for it through the nose, get a stomach ache and explosive diarrhea?

We want "Enlightenment" and we want it NOW (burp).

Brad Warner said...

Anon at 12:43

I'm not sure Gudo's stuff is really "pseudo science." He never claims to be a scientist. He is using scientific terms to try to explain the effect he feels from practice. He does so in order to avoid being mystical.

If he said "experience the Great Way of Buddha" nobody would get upset. Mainly because they wouldn't know what the hell he was talking about and would make lots of crazy assumptions. But he calls what ancient masters called "the Great Way of Buddha" the "balance of the ANS" to try and bring it down to earth a little.

It's also so different from what Genpo is selling that the two are nearly impossible to compare. It's like comparing watermelons with the Hoover Dam. You really have to stretch to find any basis.

anon #108 said...

Beginners tend to latch onto ordinary experiences and blow them up into something wonderful in order to validate their practice. (Jinz)

Yes, that's true...of many things and practices in life.


he (Genpo) endlessly repeats that students are now able to get the same "kensho" or "taste" that used to take fifteen years of intense practice, in just under a few hours of Big Mind (gniz).

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. There's even the occasional example in Zen literature of non-practicing illiterates 'getting it', or already 'having' it. Perhaps kensho ain't such a big or mysterious deal?

*****************************************

BTW, re Gudo's insistence on a straight spine -

Shunryu Suzuki, generally regarded as an all-round good egg once said:

"When your back gets straight, your mind will become quiet."

(from "To Shine One Corner of the World", reprinted as "Zen Is Right Here")

Zen teachers!
What are they like??!!

anon #108 said...

He (Gudo) is using scientific terms to try to explain the effect he feels from practice. He does so in order to avoid being mystical.

If he said "experience the Great Way of Buddha" nobody would get upset. Mainly because they wouldn't know what the hell he was talking about...



Thank you, Brad.

Ran K. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ran K. said...

Hi Rinzai is clean and sober, - [@ 8:39 pm]

I like the quote and I might need it for some purpose. Where is it from?

john e mumbles said...

Hey 108, go over and look at my comment on Gniz's blog "More Genpo Scummery" at 7:55 AM. Looks like 2 mins later you had the same thought about 3 Pillars. Did we have a mutual universal consciousness big mind kensho gas attack? Or do you also sprinkle acid on your cornflakes?

Anonymous said...

What is the ANS? It sounds like I should know more about it and how it works.

Anonymous said...

175

Anonymous said...

108 said

I often hear that in what he writes, too. But having had the benefit of direct teaching from one of his earliest students I know there's much more to Gudo.

Brad said

I'm not sure Gudo's stuff is really "pseudo science." He never claims to be a scientist. He is using scientific terms to try to explain the effect he feels from practice. He does so in order to avoid being mystical.

If he said "experience the Great Way of Buddha" nobody would get upset. Mainly because they wouldn't know what the hell he was talking about and would make lots of crazy assumptions. But he calls what ancient masters called "the Great Way of Buddha" the "balance of the ANS" to try and bring it down to earth a little.


There certainly seems a tendency among many of Gudo's students to try to explain away or elaborate on Gudo's more peculiar ideas to make the seem more reasonable and less one dimensional. It is natural that his students would want to do that and feel defensive, so I cannot fault them for trying to "explain and explain away" some of his statements.

But I have seen Gudo on his blog recommend his idea to people who were coming to him with serious cases of depression, PTSD, and not recommending any follow-up or that they talk to a real flesh and blood teacher. That is dangerous.

anon #108 said...

Hey jem -

That is well spooky!

Did we have a mutual universal consciousness big mind kensho gas attack? Or do you also sprinkle acid on your cornflakes?

I stay away from cornflakes these days - can't handle the vitamins. Must've been the mutual bigmind kensho thing. Wow...it's all true!!!

anon #108 said...

Hi anon,

So perhaps the old man’s stupid, or deluded. But he’s not a liar. Maybe the same could be said for Genpo - the jury’s still out for some of us.

If your point is that it’s just as easy to misrepresent Gudo as Genpo - good job. Well done. Your point is taken.

Anonymous said...

Marketing Idea!

A series of books with titles like "Bigger Mind", "Even Bigger Mind", "Humongous Mind", etc.

But what would they be about?

Anonymous said...

Gudo has some WACKED OUT ideas. Anyone who is being honest about it has to admit it, rather than try to explain it away.

By way of example, it's sort of like a hypothetical person who writes books and also bills him- or herself as a zen teacher, depending upon the circumstance. When it serves this hypothetical person (even to the sacrifice of the truth), this person will claim "I'm only a writer on this blog so don't consider these words to be those of a zen teacher," and so on.

In other words, the lengths to which Gudo supporters will go to justify his questionable statements are really perplexing.

anon #108 said...

the lengths to which Gudo supporters will go to justify his questionable statements are really perplexing

That's beacuse we're all stupid, deluded, suckered fools. It's true.

Can we move on now?

Anonymous said...

SUCKER ZEN!

What's that book about? Maybe it should be written! (Seriously)

Anonymous said...

"the lengths to which Gudo supporters will go to justify his questionable statements are really perplexing"

Ain't it a bitch when other people don't see everything the way you see it?

Osama Van Halen said...

So many comments! Here's a documentary about scientific research of the "Mystical Brain" that I just started watching. It seems interesting so far, so I thought that I would share the link.
http://www.snagfilms.com/films/title/mystical_brain/

Anonymous said...

"Ain't it a bitch when other people don't see everything the way you see it?"

Not really. That is part of life.

I believe what is being talked about here is something entirely different than that sort of simple-minded attempt at an explanation.

Anonymous said...

Someone asked, so –

The term autonomic nervous system (ANS) refers to collections of motor neurons (ganglia) situated in the head, neck, thorax, abdomen, and pelvis, and to the axonal connections of these neurons (Fig.1). Autonomic pathways, together with somatic motor pathways to skeletal muscle and neuroendocrine pathways, are the means whereby the central nervous system (CNS) sends commands to the rest of the body...

Emotional feeling has traditionally been seen as distinct from rational thought. The brain, locked away in its bony case, was conceived as responsible for rational thought and for ideas that direct behavioral interactions with the external environment. Emotions, visceral rather than rational, were linked with the functions of the internal bodily organs. We have “gut feelings”, the heart is the “seat of love” and we “vent our spleen”. Bichat (1771-1802) divided life into two distinct forms, one (relational life) governed by the brain, and the other (organic, vegetative, life) by the abdominal ganglia. Vegetative life was seen as connected with the passions and independent of education, governed by independently functioning abdominal ganglia, a chain of “little brains”. Phillipe Pinel, one of the founders of psychiatry, and Bichat’s teacher, even considered mental disease to be caused by abnormal function of these ganglia, and modern psychiatry still refers to "vegetative functions".

Langley (1852-1925) coined the term autonomic nervous system...The primacy of integrative brain control of all bodily functions was recognized by Walter Cannon, but his idea that the brain activates sympathetic nerves diffusely and non-specifically during bodily emergencies (“fight or flight reaction”) is an over simplification. Different emergency states require different patterns of autonomic activity, and normal daily life (apart from emergencies) also requires patterned autonomic activity. The individual functions as a whole: there is just one nervous system...


There's more........

Anonymous said...

Visceral afferent neurons can result in sympathetically-mediated responses (eg increased blood pressure), but they also activate somatic motor activity, such as spasm of the facial muscles (grimacing), as well as the abdominal (“doubling over with pain”) and the respiratory muscles (rapid breathing)...

As well as changes in blood pressure and heart rate, responses to low blood oxygen levels include increased breathing, and moving the head and face to clear the airway. Thus medical and nursing staff caring for babies have a rule: “the restless infant is hypoxic until proven otherwise”...

The overall level of illumination is detected by a special set of photosensitive ganglion cells in the retina. Thus a “somatic” stimulus causes an “autonomic response”. If the light is extra bright we may also screw up our eyelids (squint), and this is a “somatic” response...

In a heightened emotional state, or after particular kinds of strokes, we may cry in the absence of any immediate external stimulus. In all of these situations, the increased parasympathetic activity may be accompanied by characteristic patterns of somatic motor activity such as vocalisations (eg wailing) and facial expressions...

if we really do need to raise our body temperature, either because the environment is cold (detected by cutaneous thermoreceptors) or because we have a fever, generated from the thermoregulatory areas of the hypothalamus, we will shiver (a somatic motor response) and reduce blood flow to the skin (a sympathetic response)...

Sexual activity requires coordinated motor activity of parasympathetic, sympathetic and somatic motor pathways. In males, erection is maintained mostly by parasympathetic activity, whilst ejaculation is controlled mostly by sympathetic activity...

One of the best known but most misinterpreted autonomic motor patterns is the response to stress. Typically this involves an increase in sympathetic activity in selected pathways...as well as an increased sympathetic output to the sweat glands, of the face, armpits and hands. This pattern of autonomic output is psychogenic (i.e. “brainogenic”) in origin, even if triggered by visual, auditory or tactile somatic inputs: is that a spider crawling up the back of my neck?...

Autonomic pathways include those regulating contraction and relaxation of the stomach and oesophagus, saliva secretion from the main salivary glands, and probably the cardiovascular system as well. Intriguingly, we can generate the same coordinated set of responses entirely from central pathways, such as when we view and emotionally disgusting event that literally “makes us sick”, or if we are “sick with worry”...


- from http://www.scholarpedia.org/articl/Autonomic_nervous_system


Hmm...it seems that what we call our "mental" or "physical" aspects are just the functioning of one organism, much of which is beyond “conscious control”. Maybe there's something in Gudo's "crackpot theory" after all.

Anonymous said...

That link again.

Alice Van-Weed said...

I hate it too when people cop out with something like "oh well, we all see the world differently." It's like a weak avoidance of discussion and a feeble way out of dealing with the situation at hand. It says nothing at all.

zenmite said...

"Enlightenment is not an experience and chasing after experiences is the bane of practice.

100% agree. Great point.

You don't get a "taste" of enlightenment"

Maybe taste is a misleading word because it involves sense perception. But 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. See the 10 Oxherding pics.

It depends upon how you define enlightenment too. Some teachers regard a small insight into nonduality or emptiness as a valid kensho. You may disagree with this view, jinzang, but it is a valid zen teaching embraced by the majority of (non soto)zen teachers.

anon #108 said...

Hi Alice,

There sometimes comes a point in a discussion when "we see it differently" is all that can usefully be said.

In this case, I replied to Anon's points about Gudo at length, being as honest as I could, and occasionally agreeing with him. Brad too, clarified his opinion. Anon rejected all of it, and could only say in reply "the lengths to which Gudo supporters will go to justify his questionable statements are really perplexing".

Anon seems unwilling to accept that others might genuinely disagree, for sound reasons.

Anon simply sees it differently.

Rinzai till i die said...

Yeah man, it's funny how enlightenment is such a dirty word in the Soto branch, and how quick people are to dismiss it has having no real significance whatsoever.

Perhaps we forget that we wouldn't have Zen at all unless Buddha sat under the Bodhi Tree and had his big awakening. Seriously, would Zen even exist if Buddha just sat and sat and sat having realized nothing at all? Certainly not.

Anonymous said...

The ANS cont.

Of course, if you believe that the body is a piece of machinery which the mind/self inhabits, then you won't see the connection between the state of the body (for ex, in a quiet room, removed from extraneous sensory stimulation, seated, balanced, with the spine normally upright, with the head sitting squarely on the top of the vertebral column minimizing the compression of the nerves of these two systems at the points where the nerves emerge through the vertebrae, ensuring an uninterrupted supply of blood, allowing them to function normally), and the occurence of the phenomena we call "thinking" and "feeling"; and the implications this might have for the subjective experiences some Buddhists call "enlightenment".

Rich said...

"the lengths to which Gudo supporters will go to justify his questionable statements are really perplexing"

I have perfectly understood everything that I have read from Gudo except the Nargarjuna stuff. That's as far as I can go. If you are so perplexed why don't you ask your teacher for clarification.

Anonymous said...

The ANS cont.

...but that's just one way of looking at it.

Gudo says there four (three views and reality itself, beyond views) - and the more usual understanding of "enlightenment" has it's place in the scheme of things, too.

Rinzai yes yes ya'll said...

Can you guys stop disseminating witchcraft on a Zen site? This Gudo cat sounds like an old school Japanese Ken Wilber.

anon #108 said...

witchcraft!

Ha! Yes. That'll be the science, Rinzai.

It is a bit scary, isn't it. That's where Gudo's approach is nice...so please read slowly:

- the objective/scientific view of things, (based on sensory perception of matter) while true, is only one 'truth', he says.

- There's the subjective/idealistic (in the sense of 'ideas'/mental constructs) 'truth' - or rather, view -

- then there's the Buddhist (neither subjective or objective) view of 'action' - the view of things from the perspective that only here and now (the place and time where action, or activity takes place) is real -

All rather cerebral, but the first two views do accurately describe the history of (particularly western) attempts to understand the world through science and philosophy, while the third view is an interesting description of the essence of Buddhist theory and practice, 'the middle way' -

Fortunately and finally, there's reality - beyond any of these views or analyses.

If you put them in the order:

1) Subjective
2) Objective
3) Action
4) Reality

- there are interesting parallels
with the four noble truths. But that's another story.


It's just a useful way of looking at things from different perspectives; we can waste much time arguing that only one or other position is correct. In fact, all are (provisionally) true, but none of the three views can entirely capture or expresses the ineffable nature of reality.

Rinzai rat tat tat tat said...

Gudo's approach is entirely redundant. We already have the Five Skandhas in Buddhism which consist of matter, sensation, perception, thought, and consciousness. Those are good enough for me. They should be good enough for Gudo.

anon #108 said...

I see, rinzai - you're a religious fundamentalist. The book is closed. Fair enough.

Harry said...

Rinzai,

Is the Buddha stuck in the Five Skandhas?

Use that rusty old sword if you mean to, or else just join the Soto Snoozers Club!

Regards,

Harry.

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