A site for those with an interest in the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives, past or present, and related subjects.
Sex and the Spiritual Teacher
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Join date : 2010-11-13
Age : 66
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|Subject: Sex and the Spiritual Teacher Sat Mar 12, 2011 12:40 am|| |
First topic message reminder :
[Admin] This has been split from 'OBC Experiences / Latest Zen "Scandal" and let's rethink the "master" story......' The Boot and the Door: Preventing Future Scandals
By Scott Edelstein
In 1974, as a 19-year-old student at Oberlin College, I took a class
called Zen Meditation. In an informal discussion with the instructor of
this course, I learned that a prominent Zen teacher named Eido Shimano
had been having sex with his students—as it turned out, for some years. I
figured that if a college sophomore in rural Ohio knew about this
problem, then surely folks in the Zen establishment also knew, and—being
wise and influential—would quickly take the necessary steps to correct
Now, over 36 years later, the Zen establishment—i.e., other Zen
teachers and we Zen students—are still wrestling with the same teacher
and the same problem. Eido himself continues to publicly declare his
innocence. And we are still dealing with the problem in largely the same
way: with admonitions and recommendations and demands, all of them
focused on Eido Shimano.
Folks who have been to Twelve Step meetings can legitimately
characterize our collective behavior as codependence, a spiritual and
mental illness in which we compulsively try to fix someone else instead
of standing up for ourselves and our own best interests.
Paradoxically, codependents’ attempts to fix a person enable addicts
(including sex addicts and power addicts) to stay addicted. Together, an
addict and codependents can keep an addictive system in place for
years, decades, or generations. Codependence also has another essential
feature: the compulsive rejection of reality and the equally compulsive
clinging to hopes and thoughts.
For 40 years, Zen teachers tried to fix Eido. We students tried to
fix Eido. We lectured him, pleaded with him, condemned him, and scolded
him. We obsessively focused on him
We need to do things differently.
Roko Sherry Chayat and the folks in her (formerly Eido’s) sangha
appear to understand this. They have begun the very difficult but
necessary work of collective examination, dissolution, reinvention, and
healing. Chayat and her community have wisely chosen to bring in a
consultant from FaithTrust Institute to help guide this process. It will
likely take years, but it can be done. Two such cases of successful
reinvention in the wake of scandal include San Francisco Zen Center and
Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. (A detailed account of SFZC’s
dissolution and rehabilitation appears in Michael Downing’s book, The Shoes Outside the Door
an account of Kripalu’s scandals, implosion, and reinvention appears at
kripalu.org/about_us/491. Briefer accounts of both organizations’
reinvention appear in my forthcoming book Sex and the Spiritual Teacher
But what about the rest of us Zen students and teachers? What can we do?
We can begin by changing our focus, from Eido to ourselves and our communities.
We can, of course, continue to read Eido’s books, articles,
transcribed talks, etc. and accept the genuine and significant wisdom
many of them offer. Why shouldn’t we? Wisdom isn’t about the mouth, or
pen, or keyboard it comes out of. But for our own sanity, we can stop
throwing our attention and energy in Eido’s direction.
We can also stop imagining that Eido is the rare bad apple in the
Dharma barrel—and that by removing him from the barrel, we’ll have
nothing but pristine, healthy fruit. We can let go of the delusion that
we can reach into the barrel and, without exercising our powers of
observation or discernment, bite safely into anything we pull out.
Since Zen (and Buddhism in general) first sunk roots into American
soil, we students have trusted our teachers to consistently look out for
our best interests and our safety. Most have done so, but many haven’t.
Some still don’t. We need to stop imagining that this state of affairs has changed—or will change someday.
When we suspect
that a teacher has not acted in our best
interests, we need to question them, challenge them, and speak publicly
about them. When we see
that they’ve not acted in our best
interests, we may need to separate from them.
Instead of trying to fix them, we can put on our shoes, walk away, and find another teacher. (We
should also report instances of a teacher’s injustice or exploitation to
people in positions of authority, of course.)
All spiritual teachers teach at our discretion. Without us, they
would have nobody to teach. At every moment, we have the power to
abandon any teacher, simply by turning away. If enough of us do this, we
put a teacher out of business—unless and until they change their ways.
The history of Zen is replete with examples of folks who did just
this. Many of these folks went on to become some of Zen’s greatest
teachers. Your own
history is equally replete with instances in which
you did just this. Think of the relationships with lovers, doctors,
mechanics, teachers, shops, and restaurants that you ended because they
failed to look out for your best interests.
We also need to look closely at ourselves as communities. As Jack Kornfield notes in his book A Path With Heart
“The problems of teachers cannot be easily separated from the
communities around them. A spiritual community will reflect the values
and behavior of its teachers and will participate in the problems as
well. Because spiritual community is so important, only when our
community life is made a conscious part of our practice can our own
heart and spiritual life become integrated and whole.”
The converse is also true: a spiritual teacher needs to reflect the
values and behavior of his or her spiritual community. If our teacher
fails to act according to our values, then we need to meet as a
community to collectively examine and reflect on those values. If we
agree to reaffirm those values, then it is in our best interests to boot
the teacher out. In such cases, this is usually the wisest and most
compassionate thing we can do.Scott Edelstein has practiced Zen since 1974. He is the author of 15 books and has served as editor for two spiritual teachers. This
article is partly adapted from the book Sex and the Spiritual Teacher
: Why It Happens, When It’s a Problem, and What We All Can Do, to be published in March 2011 by Wisdom Publications. His website is sexandthespiritualteacher.com.
Posts : 1614
Join date : 2010-11-13
|Subject: Re: Sex and the Spiritual Teacher Sat Sep 10, 2011 3:29 pm|| |
willful blindness - the exact opposite of seeing things as they are. Also a good example of what happens when people get totally enchanted by an ideal, by a big narrative - it becomes so overwhelming, they live in a kind of trance state -- and reality has no place to enter. In this case, it's the story of the perfectly enlightened Zen master who only acts from a place of awakening -- and with that story, he can do absolutely anything, break any rules or precepts, and it is all perceived as skillful means or brilliant dharma teaching or maybe even "mirroring" of some sort by his enchanted followers. Old story. Same circus, different clowns.
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|Subject: Re: Sex and the Spiritual Teacher Sat Sep 10, 2011 4:19 pm|| |
I think an underlying issue is that the Sanga here have had it instilled in them that they need the teacher. It seems the one thing that was not taught was how to be spiritualy independant, perhaps better mature or adult,as I like the expression no body is an island.
Part of what is conveyed by Eido Roshi is understanding or awakening or realisation is dependant on him.I do not think he ever said that, or even thought of saying thatm it is what is conveyed to me
Posts : 602
Join date : 2010-11-14
|Subject: Re: Sex and the Spiritual Teacher Tue Sep 20, 2011 6:54 am|| |
And on it goes...
Today the BBC reported that the senior Theravadin monk Pahalagama Somaratana Thera, chief monk of Thames Buddhist Vihara, Croydon, near London, has been charged with a rape and three cases of indecent assault in 1977/78 whilst at the London Buddhist Vihara.
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Join date : 2010-11-17
|Subject: Re: Sex and the Spiritual Teacher Tue Sep 20, 2011 7:32 am|| |
How appalling, he was at the Chiswick Vihara, which I visited at this sort of time. It was a Vihara mainly for the Shri Lankan community,but was having more and more English people attending.
Despite being appalled I am still a bit stunned and very saddened by this news.
There are many problems concerning religious teachers ,the main one I think is the problem of abusing the generosity of innocent followers and laity who naturally elevate monks and priests and put them on pedestals, give them respect. Personal pride and egotism creeps in and naughty monks and priests allow this attitude to exist and sometimes even encourage it. You know; walk with an air of enlightenment; hint at ones deep experiences;allow others the privilage of ones wisdom... Oh dear a young person suffers the misery of sexual assaualt, someone that was trusted by themselves and their society violated and penetrated their innocent being , under the disgusie of respect and compassion.
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Join date : 2010-08-16
|Subject: Re: Sex and the Spiritual Teacher Tue Sep 20, 2011 10:11 am|| |
I think you hit a vital point in defining how new practitioners become vulnerable to sexual predation and assault, promoting the idea that dependency on a teacher is a goal and necessity of spiritual practice and attainment. Spiritual maturity, in my view, is defined by the degree of autonomy of practice and ethical behavior, not by a dependence on a sangha or teacher.
I must speak a word about the occurrence of sexual assault on a spiritual practitioner by a teacher. A sexual assault or predation of any sort outside of a spiritual relationship is already a terrible and traumatic occurrence, inflicting immeasurable harm to our psyche. Our sexuality is linked to our vulnerability and sense of inner personhood and identity. When this assault or predation is done by a spiritual teacher, it additionally causes the survivor to develop an aversion and a doubting towards their own interior spirituality and pathway towards realization, hence potentially cutting them off from the very source of healing and well-being in life. Hardly anything could be worse. Anyone who suggests that there can be anything like a volitional, freely consenting sexual union between a spiritual teacher and an active student is not considering the violation of sacred trust and its consequences nor the power differential that makes free consent impossible.
What would help tremendously is deconstructing the power differentials between practitioners and teachers, and deconstructing the mythology of the omniscient teacher and the necessity to have one or depend on one for spiritual attainment. For me the path of meditation, now over 40 years, has helped me claim the reality and authenticity of my own inner light as an autonomous inviolable inheritance and interior refuge, while simultaneously claiming the utter limitlessness of the vulnerability and fallibility of my own humanity, and the need to exercise an ever present vigilance against causing needless harm to myself or others. For me that is a more healthy view of spiritual growth and maturity.
The full integration of every-moment meditation praxis is the spiritual path for me, not forming a dependent relationship or submission to an identified spiritual teacher.
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Join date : 2010-11-17
|Subject: Re: Sex and the Spiritual Teacher Tue Sep 20, 2011 11:12 am|| |
The practice of zazen is so fine so delicate.
One sits, because of a reason ,one of infinite numbers of reasons, the very reason itself, is what keeps one from being united with oneself, with ones inherent nature,The struggles the truamas, the issues.The footsteps of the Ox.The blindness we feel and especially after incidents we are talking about. As Buddhists we believe in the way; here and now; dont go anywhere; dont do anything; sit; be here; be oneself; be united.The present moment can be unbearable,but as a Buddhist I draw strength from belief that there is peace, unity,here, now, amongst the confusion, dispair, and sadness that so often reveals itself to so many people. I respect and fully agree with your post.
Posts : 1614
Join date : 2010-11-13
Age : 66
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|Subject: Re: Sex and the Spiritual Teacher Wed Oct 26, 2011 1:13 am|| |
A cautionary tale - when things go very wrong in a spiritual community - abuse of power, grandiosity, cult of personality, no oversight......
October 24, 2011 - New York Times
Swami Bhaktipada, Ex-Hare Krishna Leader, Dies at 74
By MARGALIT FOX
Swami Bhaktipada, a former leader of the American Hare Krishna movement who built a sprawling golden paradise for his followers in the hills of Appalachia but who later pleaded guilty to federal racketeering charges that included conspiracy to commit the murders-for-hire of two devotees, died on Monday in a hospital near Mumbai, India. He was 74.
The cause was kidney failure, his brother, Gerald Ham, said.
Mr. Bhaktipada, who was released from prison in 2004 after serving eight years of a 12-year sentence, moved to India in 2008.
The son of a Baptist preacher, Mr. Bhaktipada was one of the first Hare Krishna disciples in the United States. He founded, in 1968, what became the largest Hare Krishna community in the country and presided over it until 1994, despite having been excommunicated by the movement’s governing body.
The community he built, New Vrindaban, is nestled in the hills near Moundsville, W.Va., about 70 miles southwest of Pittsburgh. Its conspicuous centerpiece is the Palace of Gold, an Eastern-inspired riot of gold-leafed domes, stained-glass windows, crystal chandeliers, mirrored ceilings, inlaid marble floors, sweeping murals, silk brocade hangings, carved teak pillars and ornate statuary.
New Vrindaban eventually comprised more than 4,000 acres — a “spiritual Disneyland,” its leaders often called it — with a live elephant, terraced gardens, a swan boat and bubbling fountains. A major tourist attraction, it drew hundreds of thousands of visitors in its heyday, in the early 1980s, and substantial annual revenue from ticket sales.
The baroque frenzy of the place stands in vivid contrast to the founding tenets of the Hare Krishna movement. Rooted in ancient Hindu scripture, the movement was begun in New York in the mid-1960s by an Indian immigrant, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. It advocates a spiritual life centered on truth, simplicity and abstinence from drugs, alcohol and extramarital sex.
But by the mid-1980s, New Vrindaban had become the target of local, state and federal investigations that concerned, among other things, the sexual abuse of children by staff members at its school and the murders of two devotees.
The resulting federal charges against Mr. Bhaktipada, a senior spiritual leader of the movement, and the ensuing international publicity did much to contravene the public image of the gentle, saffron-robed acolytes who had long been familiar presences in American airports.
He was the subject of a book, “Monkey on a Stick: Murder, Madness and the Hare Krishnas” (1988), by John Hubner and Lindsey Gruson, a former reporter for The New York Times, and a documentary film, “Holy Cow Swami” (1996), by Jacob Young.
Mr. Bhaktipada, also known as Kirtananda Swami, was born Keith Gordon Ham on Sept. 6, 1937, in Peekskill, N.Y., the youngest of five children of the Rev. Francis Gordon Ham and the former Marjorie Clark.
The elder Mr. Ham was a Baptist minister steeped in old-line tradition, Gerald Ham said.
“My father would fit in very well with some of the evangelical people we have today raising such a ruckus,” Mr. Ham said. “The Bible was inerrant. We were all indoctrinated and baptized and so forth. Keith, too.”
Keith Ham earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Maryville College in Maryville, Tenn., in 1959, graduating first in his class of 118. As a senior, he received a prestigious Woodrow Wilson fellowship for graduate study.
He entered the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to pursue a doctorate in American religious history. But in the early 1960s, his brother said, the university asked him to leave after a love affair he had with a male student came to light. He settled in New York, where he did graduate work in history at Columbia.
Like many young people then, his brother said, Keith Ham became an experimenter and a seeker, dabbling in LSD and above all looking for a spiritual haven. In 1966, after leaving Columbia without a degree, he met Swami Prabhupada, who was running a storefront mission on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. He joined the Hare Krishnas and was initiated as a swami in 1967.
Mr. Bhaktipada rose quickly in the nascent movement. After seeing a notice in an alternative newspaper from a West Virginia man offering land to anyone willing to start an ashram there, he secured the property for New Vrindaban, named after a holy site in India. Work began there in 1968.
New Vrindaban’s initial costs exceeded half a million dollars. The money was raised largely by Mr. Bhaktipada’s followers, who sold caps and bumper stickers adorned with counterfeit team logos and cartoon characters, including Snoopy, at shopping malls and sporting events.
Sales of these products would ultimately generate more than $10 million for the community, according to court documents.
New Vrindaban opened in 1979, and by the 1980s the community had more than 500 members.
Mr. Bhaktipada appeared to have created an earthly paradise at first.
“I think most of the residents found him extremely charismatic, like a loving father,” said Henry Doktorski, who was a member from 1978 to 1994 and who is writing a book about New Vrindaban. “That’s how I saw him, at least until I left. At that point I became convinced that he was not actually what he was claiming to be.”
In the mid-’80s, former members began to accuse Mr. Bhaktipada of running New Vrindaban as a cult of personality. The Hare Krishnas’ governing body excommunicated him in 1987 and New Vrindaban itself the next year. But, proclaiming the community independent of the larger movement, he refused to step down.
In May 1990, a federal grand jury indicted Mr. Bhaktipada on six counts of mail fraud, including using the mail to send followers the counterfeit souvenirs they were to sell, and five counts of racketeering. The most serious racketeering charges centered on the murders of the two devotees: Charles St. Denis, killed in 1983, and Steve Bryant, killed in 1986.
According to court records, Mr. St. Denis was believed to have raped the wife of a New Vrindaban member and to have been killed in retribution. Mr. Bryant, the most vocal critic among the community’s ex-members, had publicly accused Mr. Bhaktipada of condoning the molestation of New Vrindaban’s schoolchildren and of having had sex with under-age boys.
A New Vrindaban member, Thomas Drescher, was convicted of murdering Mr. St. Denis. (Another member, Daniel Reid, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in exchange for testimony against Mr. Drescher.) In a separate trial, Mr. Drescher was convicted of murdering Mr. Bryant.
The indictment against Mr. Bhaktipada charged that he had engaged his followers to commit the murders. At trial, prosecutors argued that he had considered both of the murdered men threats to his multimillion-dollar empire.
In 1991, Mr. Bhaktipada was convicted on all six counts of mail fraud and three of the five counts of racketeering. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
In 1993, an appeals court vacated his convictions and ordered a new trial on the grounds that testimony about child molestation, Mr. Bhaktipada’s homosexuality and his mistreatment of the community’s women had been prejudicial.
In 1996, three days into his second trial, Mr. Bhaktipada accepted a plea bargain under which he pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering — which included mail fraud and conspiracy to commit both murders — while simultaneously denying his involvement in the murders.
He was sentenced to 20 years, later reduced to 12. After his release, Mr. Bhaktipada lived in Manhattan at the headquarters of his splinter group, the Interfaith League of Devotees, before moving to India.
Besides his brother, Gerald, a retired state archivist of Wisconsin, Mr. Bhaktipada is survived by two sisters, Joan Aughinbaugh and Shirley Rogers.
New Vrindaban was accepted back into the Hare Krishna movement in 1998. Today the community endures, though with fewer than 250 members. The elephant is long gone.
Visitors are always welcome, according to the Web site for the Palace of Gold, at $8 for adults and $6 for children. A snack bar serves Indian food, pizza and French fries.
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|Subject: Re: Sex and the Spiritual Teacher Sun Dec 18, 2011 1:18 am|| |
The article below was posted on the Sweeping Zen website. Written by Myoan Grace Schireson, she is addressing the issues at the Zen Studies Society (ZSS) and recommending the book, Special Karma by Merry White Benezra.
December 13, 2011
Please read Special Karma by Merry White Benezra
Posted by: Myoan Grace Schireson
The more I have studied the first-person testimonials, the NYT’s article on Shimano and the ZSS, and Shimano’s own public apology and the retraction of that apology, the more troubled I have become. I have been appalled by the extent of the damage, the lack of sincere leadership, the corruption of the institution, and the chronic harm wrought by Eido Shimano’s untreated addiction– enabled by his community. When I have personally attempted to intervene in the Zen tragedy known as ZSS, I have learned first-hand that facing reality was (tragically) not the main practice. Protecting the teacher, the “Dharma,” and the opportunity to practice in a monastic and city setting were favored at the cost of the sangha’s (community’s) well- being.
Benezra describes the range of attitudes toward the Roshi’s inappropriate behaviors—including her own. True to Benezra’s description of conversations with monastic members, I have learned from former and current ZSS members that some became convinced that they had an opportunity for enlightenment, and the harm being perpetrated on others was of no consequence. Others were manipulated by their own idealism, unmet needs, sleep deprivation and isolation.
The techniques described by Benezra, and also employed by ZSS, bear a startling resemblance to classic cult inductions. Depression and mental instability resulting from ongoing membership, suffered by those who were exposed to this kind of deceptive practice, confirms the potential diagnosis of unwholesome cult-like psychological manipulation. Rather than trying to convince you of this diagnosis, I invite you to study these characteristics as they are outlined on the internet and make up your own mind.
Just as Benezra has enriched the conversation about abusive Zen situations and teachers with her book, a number of Zen teachers have spoken up about the sexually exploitative situation at ZSS. I took the opportunity to write to the ZSS Board of Directors to encourage the organization to remove Eido Shimano from his position and provide authentic healing to all community members harmed by his (apparently) unrelenting sexually predatory behaviors and other unrepentant cruelties. As an empowered Zen teacher of Rinzai koans and Abbess of my own community, I quoted to the ZSS Board of Directors the Japanese expression: “Water drunk by the cow becomes milk; water drunk by the snake becomes venom.” Very much like the Roshi in Special Karma, Eido Shimano is like this metaphorical snake, in effect using ZSS as his breeding grounds and poisoning many well intentioned Zen practitioners with his personal venom—unresolved sexual addiction and predation. Benezra’s book helps us to see just how this happens and helps us to continue a public conversation. I do not believe that keeping this “special karma” a secret has helped Zen in the West. In my opinion, the events, their cover-up, and the continuation of harm at ZSS have tarnished American Zen practice. I congratulate Benezra and her book for bringing more attention to the importance of exposing this kind of harm.
Grace Schireson, Ph.D., Zen Abbess
Author of Zen Women: Beyond Tea Ladies, iron Maidens and Macho Masters
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|Subject: Re: Sex and the Spiritual Teacher Sun Dec 18, 2011 12:46 pm|| |
Striking similarities in behaviour and outcomes to Carol and Amalia's descriptions of Koshin's regime.
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|Subject: Re: Sex and the Spiritual Teacher Sun Dec 18, 2011 1:59 pm|| |
Lord of the flys. The Buddhist edition.
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|Subject: Re: Sex and the Spiritual Teacher Tue Dec 20, 2011 1:45 am|| |
I recently discovered this website - about the FWBO - the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order and Sangharakshita.
I have very little personal experience with this group. I am sure the folks in the UK would have much more insight into this organization. Certainly, I heard rumors over the years.
Because many of the allegations about this group involved sexual exploitation, I posted this connected to the topic Sex and the Spiritual Teacher.
I have no idea what's true or not about this group or the current activities of this organization. It does sound quite cultic........
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|Subject: Re: Sex and the Spiritual Teacher Tue Dec 20, 2011 2:18 am|| |
Author of the following article is Madeleine Bunting.
Originally published "The Guardian" on October 27, 1997
The dark side of enlightenment
This is Matthew, a talented Oxford graduate who rejected careerism in the mid-1980s and joined a controversial Buddhist movement. Seven years ago he killed himself. Now the British-based cult is engulfed in allegations that it manipulated vulnerable young men into becoming homosexual.
In a small network of streets around the old fire station in Bethnal Green, East London, can be found Britain's last revolutionaries. But these are no socialist workers - they are the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order, one of Britain's biggest and fastest growing Buddhist organisations. They believe they are evolving the Higher Individual and the New Society according to the 2,500-year-old principles of the Buddha, as adapted for the late 20th century by their revered leader, Sangharakshita - formerly known as Dennis Lingwood. They might be called the last remnants of sixties' hippie idealism.
Some - and they include many senior Buddhists - watch their success with alarm, and privately accuse them of peddling a quixotic ideology which owes as much to Nietszche and 20th century psycho-therapy as to a highly eclectic pot-pourri of eastern Buddhist traditions.
Even more disturbing, the cases of three vulnerable young men have emerged which detail sexual manipulation and oppressive authoritarian cult behaviour which, in the case of one man, has been cited as a significant factor leading to his suicide
The nerve centre of this now international religious organisation - with bases in Spain, Germany, the US and Australia, as well as in 30 UK locations - is an enormous Victorian house on a leafy street in Moseley, Birmingham. There, Subhuti (formerly Alex Kennedy), widely regarded as Sangharakshita's righthand man, admits with exemplary honesty that he has been waiting for a journalist to stumble on this murky past. "Thank God it's not the News of the World," he comments with characteristic mildness.
Nine years ago, one of the flagship FWBO centres spectacularly imploded in a welter of allegations of homosexual abuse, personality destruction and manipulation. It bore all the characteristics of a cult as Subhuti admits, and it left at least 30 people badly damaged psychologically. "People got caught in a collective delusion, a group psychosis which was very interesting but distressing," Subhuti says. Even now, he adds, he is still learning the full extent of what went on within that tightly-controlled, secretive community.
Such stories are hard to match up with the sincere idealism of many of the 4,000 regular adherents of the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (FWBO). Hard to match up with their benign public image to the 20,000 people who come to their 30 centres around Britain every year to learn the calming and enlightening benefits of meditation. And hard to match up with their rightly recognised work with Buddhist Untouchables in India.
It belies the respectability of the FWBO. Articulate and energetic, its members have established themselves beyond the Buddhist community as an authoritative voice of Buddhism. Some sit on local authority standing advisory committees drawing up religious syllabuses for schools and they offer teachers training in the principles of Buddhism. Some broadcast on the BBC World Service. They have won considerable admiration for their co-operative ethical businesses, which now employ 300 people with a turnover of £7.5 million.
Subhuti insists that the scandal was unique and due to the head of the centre, a follower of Sangharakshita but a manipulative and charismatic individual who subsequently left the movement. It can never be repeated, he emphatically asserts. But there are others who disagree and who argue that Sangharakshita's teachings - which are intensively studied by members - can be used to legitimise sexual and emotional manipulation.
What makes these revelations potentially so damaging to the FWBO is that they implicate its very founder. The 700 Order members and 1,400 mitras (novices) perceive Sangharakshita as a man of great spiritual insight and compassion. But Mark Dunlop tells another story. In 1972, as a 22-year-old curious about Buddhism, he started a FWBO meditation class. Singled out by Sangharakshita, he became his virtually constant companion for years.
"I was very in awe of Sangharakshita," he says. "He represented Buddhist ideals. But he was petulant and controlling. He doesn't boss people about but suggests something isn't spiritually appropriate. I thought he was an important spiritual teacher and I ought to do whatever I could to help him."
Sangarakshita persuaded Mark that in order to develop spiritually he had to get over his anti-homosexual conditioning, which was blocking him from devoting his energies to the spiritual life. He offered to help Mark.
"He would want to have sexual contact about twice a week on average. He usually said something like, 'Let me just lie beside you for a while'. I dreaded hearing this but felt mean and selfish if I thought of refusing. It was distressing, but some of the other Buddhist practices I had recently learned were themselves strange, such as meditation, but there were apparent benefits.
"He would get into my bed and perhaps stroke my chest for a while. Then he would get on top of me and rub himself against my stomach until he had an orgasm. I found the whole business repellent but at least it didn't take very long - only about four or five minutes usually. I was completely passive throughout, just waiting for him to finish.
"I felt on balance I had to take his ideas on anti-homosexual conditioning seriously. If I protested he would admonish me that I should not give into conditioning and allow it to inhibit the development of our 'spiritual friendship'. Giving up the homosexual relationship would be like giving-up Buddhism and the spiritual journey. I kept thinking I would have a breakthrough and would get aroused. I was very embarrassed by the sexual relationship and I saw this as my not being able to accept myself as I was - bisexual. I felt it was my duty to Buddhism and Sangharakshita as the person who was bringing Buddhism to the West.
Eventually, Mark summoned the courage to bring an end to the sexual relationship, and his friendship with Sangharakshita - for whom he had bought a house with an inheritance - then petered out. But Mark remained in the FWBO until 1985, struggling to hold on to Buddhism. When he finally left he felt a great sense of failure and guilt about being heterosexual. He blamed himself and became severely depressed.
Sangharakshita, who officially retired last year, although he continues to be the FWBO's guiding influence, refuses to comment on Dunlop's allegations, which were first made a decade ago. But he has admitted several times that, after his return from India to England in 1967, he broke his monastic vow of celibacy and "experimented with sex" - "I was just exploring certain things for my own benefit, for the satisfaction of my own curiosity."
Subhuti, who knew Dunlop during his "close friendship" with Sangharakshita, insists that Dunlop's account bears no relation to his recollections of a strong-willed, independent young man.
Mark is still, 20 years later, an angry man, but what makes his story particularly disturbing is that it appears to bear characteristics which were echoed over a decade later at another centre with a different FWBO teacher.
By the early eighties, one of Sangharakshita's followers was heading a centre which was strikingly successful in attracting new recruits. One of these was Tim (he does not wish to give his surname), who was trying to throw off drug addiction. Meditation classes became a full-time commitment and, aged 19, he moved into the single-sex community of 27 men. He worked an average of 45 hours a week in the co-operative business for £22 a week.
"I gave up drugs overnight. I was torturing myself - ashamed of having been in drugs. It was like my detox. In the midst of that process of getting well and growing up, I was exposed to the spiritual orientation of the place. The head of the community was a very powerful, intrusive personality and incredibly manipulative. He would intuitively become aware of people's vulnerabilities. The one thing you are when you are withdrawing from drugs is very vulnerable. I must have had that printed all over me.
"He would massage my ego. Suddenly I was no longer a normal kid coming off drugs, I was on the point of enlightenment. He put me on a pedestal. I fell for it. At the time I had no contact with family, friends - I was told not to, because they would drag me back into samsara ("the wheel of suffering"). They said to me to keep away from women and relationships because they are totally neurotic. He abused my family in public. 'Your mum's castrated your father emotionally, and she'll do the same to you', he'd say. The first time it happened I was shocked, but I was intent on getting away from my addictions and I thought 'I just have to go through with this' and I gritted my teeth.
"After six months, I said to a friend in the community that I felt I was losing my marbles. This got back to him. He suggested that the reason was because I was gay and was repressing it. It was all to do with my mother and that was why I had ended up taking drugs. I thought, 'Well, I like my male friends and I'm close to them but I'm not attracted to them'. But I was so confused that I began to doubt everything about myself, including my sexuality. I had put all my eggs in one basket and I'd invested so much in it all - this was the meaning of life and death.
"Then he used to say, 'Can't you feel what's going on between us?' I just didn't know- yes, no, I don't know. I was so done in and the meaning of life had become bound up with my homosexuality and its repression. Gradually he became more and more clear about my homosexuality being directed towards him. He could solve this for me, he used to say. In the end he took me to bed. It happened twice. It couldn't have been much fun for him, it so obviously wasn't where I was at."
Like Mark, Tim blamed himself and remained in the FWBO unhappy and confused. He only finally left six months ago. He emphasises that there are other FWBO members who have always treated him with respect. But he has become bitter about their failure to protect him at a vulnerable stage in his life. In the last couple of months, a senior Order member has apologised to him.
The tightly controlled manipulative environment at this centre which Tim describes also played a major role in the suicide of Matthew (his family does not wish the surname to be used) in 1990. Like Mark and Tim, Matthew started FWBO meditation classes at a vulnerable point in his life. Highly intelligent, he had won a scholarship to Oxford to read law but after coming down had grown increasingly disenchanted with careerism and materialism. He suffered from depression and was attracted to meditation to cope with his emotional problems. He moved into the FWBO centre where he lived from 1984 to 1987, working in the co-operative business as a builder/decorator. While he was there, he cut virtually all his contacts with friends and family.
When he emerged, he was "withdrawn and bleak", according to his mother, Denise. He was unable to hold down a job or start a relationship and was referred to a psychiatrist to be treated for depression. Three years later, he committed suicide.
Some of his diary entries while he was with the FWBO capture his confusion and anguish:
January 1985: I feel more trapped here. Trapped by the ... routine, trapped by the ominous determination of "spiritual friends" to keep me here. I'm losing my will. Panic! I seem to have stumbled in desperate need of shelter into the Tiger's Cave.
February: I feel sometimes that openness to the Order means giving up one's mind, thus becoming merely an adjunct of the Order. Still could be great!
After Matthew's death, his mother found two letters he had written to FWBO members after he left but which he had never sent. In one he wrote: "I have felt manipulated all the way by people who have allowed themselves to be manipulated. I am now out of reach of all that ghastly sales talk ... [it was] a petty totalitarian state, an Orwellian Albania with its own Big Brother." In another, he said: "I could never return to that ghastly concentration camp atmosphere with its force-fed dogma and drip-feed friendships ... where reason and individual experience are crushed by people who expect total submission before any real friendship or recognition is gained."
Matthew was seen for two years by a clinical psychologist, who was in no doubt of the detrimental impact the FWBO had on him. He concluded in his report: "Matthew's problems as to a large part resulted from the traumatic effects of his experiences whilst he had been a member of the FWBO ... talked about them with great bitterness. He told me he had decided shortly after entering the FWBO community that he was unsuited to stay there; however he felt trapped and unable to leave as he had fallen under the influence of his tutor, a man he later came to see as being an exceptionally skilful manipulator of other people.
"Matthew felt that the senior members of the community attempted to deliberately break up his identity, in order to get him to accept the fundamental principles and practices of the community. He tried to resist this process and therefore entered into a prolonged period of psychological conflict with them. He feels the community attempted to alienate him from his family and from women, and that direct attempts were made to encourage him to practise homosexuality. He stated that he did not indulge in homosexual practices, although attempts were made for him to do so both by using inducements and by using threats.
"In my opinion Matthew's three-year residence in the FWBO had extremely harmful psychological effects upon him ... I have no doubt that this inability to cope with rejection [of losing the job shortly before his suicide] from others directly stemmed from the years of psychological abuse and rejection he had experienced whilst he was a member of the Buddhist community."
Senior Buddhists have been worried about the FWBO for many years. While unaware of the scandal in the eighties until now - remarkably, no hint of it appears to have gone beyond the FWBO - they had feared just this eventuality, and believe that Sangharakshita's interpretation of Buddhism can be used to licence sexual and psychological abuse. It is an allegation the FWBO fiercely rejects.
Sangharakshita's and Subhuti's published writings reveal an extraordinary agenda on sex, family and women. A misogynistic biological determinism consigns women to a "Lower Evolution", where their hormonal rhythms and desire for children render them spiritually inferior to men. The biological drive apparently makes women manipulative as they seek to "ensnare" men into providing for them and their offspring. Women as mothers and partners suffocate the development of men's true identity. The heterosexual couple is scorned as "mutually addictive and neurotic" and the family is the "enemy of the spiritual community". Rearing children is dismissed by Sangharakshita in a memorable analogy as being as spiritually significant as a rainy day.
Sangharakshita sees the FWBO as developing a blueprint for a radically new society. Members are encouraged to move into single-sex communities and in their businesses work-teams are also singe-sex; this is regarded as more conducive to the spiritual life. Even husband and wives are encouraged to live separately. It is primarily within same-sex relationships - whether or not they involve sex - that members are expected to discover the full benefits of spiritual friendship. There is no imposition of a vow of celibacy; members are simply advised not to invest too much emotion in their sexual relationships. Subhuti even advocates casual sex as a way of achieving this.
The FWBO emphasises that these teachings are not all put in practice. Most FWBO members are heterosexuals and a large number have families. It says there is considerable debate on some teachings and, given the importance placed on individual judgement, there is plenty of room for people to disagree. It also argues that the movement is evolving and has become much more open to families and heterosexual relationships. It points to a strong, self-confident women's wing - a third of ordained Order members are women - as evidence that there is no structural misogyny.
There are other parts of FWBO teaching which gained currency in the seventies and eighties from which it is now anxious to distance itself. Subhuti argued in an FWBO internal magazine in 1986 that it could be beneficial to change sexual orientation as a way of recognising - and liberating yourself from - your conditioning; and that a teacher/mentor could use sex as a way of opening up communication with their pupil. Homosexual sex was promoted as more conducive to the spiritual life than heterosexual sex. Some members tried to raise the alarm, warning that novices were being damaged by sexually predatory teachers and demanding an end to the "glorification of homoerotic feelings". But it was not until 1988 that the FWBO discovered how such ideas had been implemented at the centre attended by Tim and Matthew.
It is not hard to see how one FWBO centre became a cult. Like any new religious movement, there is a strong tendency to denigrate the outside world in order to strengthen its adherents' commitment to the movement - Sangharakshita reserves his most contemptuous scorn for a host of evils which include "pseudo-liberalism", feminism and Christianity. There is always a danger that this leads to a self-referential introversion in which an unscrupulous, charismatic and sexually manipulative personality can run amok.
This was exactly the outcome Stephen Batchelor, a prominent Buddhist commentator and author of Buddhism without Beliefs had always feared in the FWBO as a "potentially totalitarian system". He says: "They operate as a self-enclosed system and their writings have the predictability of those who believe they have all the answers. They are structured in a rigid hierarchy and do not seem to question the teachings of their leader. As with many new religious movements, their enthusiasm and unconventional convictions have the potential to lead to problems associated with 'cults' and one centre in the eighties does appear to have tipped over into full-blown cultish behaviour, which, to the FWBO's credit, they closed down."
While he describes Sangharakshita as a "very sensitive man", Batchelor finds his views on heterosexual relationships "bizarre" and his views on women "distasteful".
Ken Jones, lecturer and author of several books on Buddhism, believes that the FWBO is now changing but it still has a long way to go before losing its "locker-room" culture of aggressive male bonding akin to public school or the army: "There's a culture of angry young men struggling against women, the family and the state. All of that has nothing to do with Buddhism and a lot to do with Sangharakshita's psychology. In that kind of culture, you can get cult like behaviour and victimisation. It's a deviant form of Buddhism."
A leading Buddhist teacher who did not wish to be named is particularly concerned by the FWBO's belittling of the family and child rearing, which he argues has traditionally been perceived as a enormous valuable "spiritual training ground" within Buddhist tradition. "Amongst other Buddhists, attitudes towards the FWBO range from caution to suspicion," he says, adding that the FWBO is a "Westernised semi-intellectual pot-pourri of Buddhism" conflated with 20th century psychotherapy and Nietszche.
"In the West perhaps people could distinguish between Catholicism and the Moonies but they can't distinguish between types of Buddhism. Not many know very much about Buddhism. Even the well-educated who are attracted to Buddhism are completely credulous when it comes to spiritual things."
While the FWBO's Buddhism may be awry, and some of the fruits of that have been disastrous, there are many sincere Buddhists within the Order who will be profoundly disturbed by this article. The FWBO argues in effect that the day to day activities and friendships within it have little to do with some of the ideas of Sangharakshita and Subhuti. It seems that where the FWBO becomes dangerous is when people begin to apply such teaching literally. Some have done so in the past - with devastating consequences. Could they again?
Sex and the sect.
The heterosexual couple is ... 'neurotically dependent on each other and [the] relationship, therefore, is one of mutual exploitation and mutual addiction' - Sangharakshita.
...'a fragile and unwholesome unit. It offers little real stability and happiness and, by virtue of the clinging and delusion that it embodies, is antithetical to spiritual life' - Subhuti.
'‘Some people might decide to keep clear of unhealthy attachment by happily enjoying a number of different sexual relationships' - Subhuti
'‘If you set up a community, you abolish the family at a stroke...the single-sex community is probably one of our most powerful means of assault on the existing social set-up' - Sangharakshita
'Sexual interest on the part of a male Order member for a male mitra (novice) can create a connection which may allow kalyana mitrata (spiritual friendship) to develop.
‘Some, of course, are predisposed to this attraction, others have deliberately chosen to change their sexual preferences in order to use sex as a medium of kalyana mitrata - and to stay clear of the dangers of male-female relationships without giving up sex' - Subhuti (in 1986)
Posts : 1614
Join date : 2010-11-13
Age : 66
Location : New York, NY
|Subject: Re: Sex and the Spiritual Teacher Tue Dec 20, 2011 6:49 am|| |
Stripping the Guru - by Geoffrey D. Falk
entire book posted on line for free access and downloading
A WILD AND CRAZY WISDOM GUY
CHÖGYAM TRUNGPA, BORN IN 1939, is the first of the “crazy wisdom” masters whose effect on North American spirituality we will be considering.
The night of my conception my mother had a very significant dream that a being had entered her body with a flash of light; that year flowers bloomed in the neighborhood although it was still winter, to the surprise of the inhabitants....
I was born in the cattle byre [shed]; the birth came easily. On that day a rainbow was seen in the village, a pail supposed to contain water was unaccountably found full of milk, while several of my mother’s relations dreamt that a lama was visiting their tents (Trungpa, 1977).
As the eleventh incarnation of the Trungpa Tulku, the milk-fed sage was raised from his childhood to be the supreme abbot of the Surmang monasteries in eastern Tibet.
In Trungpa’s tradition, a tulku is “someone who reincarnates with the memories and values of previous lives intact” (Butterfield, 1994). Of an earlier, fourth incarnation of that same Trungpa Tulku (Trungpa Künga-gyaltzen) in the late fourteenth century, it has been asserted:
[H]e was looked upon as an incarnation of Maitreya Bodhisattva, destined to be the Buddha of the next World Cycle, also of Dombhipa a great Buddhist siddha (adept) and of Milarepa (Trungpa, 1977).
Having been enthroned in Tibet as heir to the lineages of Milarepa and Padmasambhava, Trungpa left the country for India in 1959, fleeing the Chinese Communist takeover. There, by appointment of the Dalai Lama, he served as the spiritual advisor for the Young Lamas Home School in Dalhousie, until 1963 (Shambhala, 2003).
From India Chögyam went to England, studying comparative religion and psychology at Oxford University. (A later student of Trungpa’s, Al Santoli, “suggests that the CIA may have had a hand in getting the eleventh Trungpa into Oxford” [Clark, 1980].) He further caused quite a stir in clashing with another tulku adversary (Akong) of his who, like Trungpa himself, had designs on leading their lineage in the West.
To the amazement of a small circle of local helpers and to the gross embarrassment of the powers that sent them to England, the two honorable tulkus entered into heated arguments and publicly exchanged hateful invectives. In an early edition of his book, Born in Tibet, Trungpa called Akong paranoid and scheming (Lehnert, 1998).
In any case, Trungpa and Akong went on to found the first Western-hemisphere Tibetan Buddhist meditation center, in Scotland, which community was visited by the American poet Robert Bly in 1971.
It was, Trungpa remembers, “a forward step. Nevertheless, it was not entirely satisfying, for the scale of activity was small, and the people who did come to participate seemed to be slightly missing the point” (Fields, 1992).
That same center later became of interest to the police as they investigated allegations of drug abuse there. Trungpa, not himself prone to “missing the point,” avoided that bust by hiding in a stable.
The Buddhist nun Tenzin Palmo (in Mackenzie, 1999) related her own experiences with the young Chögyam in England, upon their first meeting in 1962. There, in finding his attentive hands working their way up her skirt in the middle of afternoon tea and cucumber sandwiches, Trungpa received a stiletto heel to his sandaled holy feet. His later “smooth line” to her, in repeated attempts at seduction beyond that initial meeting/groping, included the claim that Palmo had “swept him off his monastic feet.” That, in spite of the fact that he “had women since [he] was thirteen,” and already had a son.
In 1969 Chögyam experienced a tragic automobile accident which left him paralyzed on the left side of his body. The car had careened into a joke shop (seriously); Trungpa had been driving drunk at the time (Das, 1997), to the point of blacking out at the wheel (Trungpa, 1977).
Note, now, that Trungpa did not depart from Tibet for India until age twenty, and did not leave India for his schooling in England until four years later. Thus, eleven years of his having “had women” were enacted within surrounding traditional Tibetan and northern Indian attitudes toward acceptable behavior (on the part of monks, etc.). Indeed, according to the son referenced above, both his mother and Trungpa were under vows of celibacy, in Tibet, at the time of their union (Dykema, 2003). Of the three hundred monks entrusted to him when he was enthroned as supreme abbot of the Surmang monasteries, Trungpa himself (1977) remarked that
one hundred and seventy were bhikshus (fully ordained monks), the remainder being shramaneras (novices) and young upsaka students who had already taken the vow of celibacy.
Obviously, then, Trungpa’s (Sarvastivadin) tradition was not a “monastic” one without celibacy vows, as is the case with Zen.
Further, Trungpa himself did not formally give up his monastic vows to work as a “lay teacher” until sometime after his car accident in England. This, then, is another clear instance of demonstration that traditional agrarian society places no more iron-clad constraints on the behavior of any “divine sage” than does its postmodern, Western counterpart.
Trungpa may have “partied harder” in Europe and the States, but he was already breaking plenty of rules, without censure, back in Tibet and India. Indeed, one could probably reasonably argue that, proportionately, he broke as many social and cultural rules, with as little censure, in Tibet and India as he later did in America. (For blatant examples of what insignificant discipline is visited upon even violent rule-breakers in Tibetan Buddhist society even today, consult Lehnert’s  Rogues in Robes.) Further, Trungpa (1977) did not begin to act as anyone’s guru until age fourteen, but had women since he was thirteen. He was thus obviously breaking that vow of celibacy with impunity both before and after assuming “God-like” guru status, again in agrarian 1950s Tibet.
In 1970, the recently married Trungpa and his sixteen-year-old, dressage-fancying English wife, Diana, established their permanent residence in the United States. He was soon teaching at the University of Colorado, and in time accumulated around 1500 disciples. Included among those was folksinger Joni Mitchell, who visited the tulku three times, and whose song “Refuge of the Roads” (from the 1976 album Hejira) contains an opening verse about the guru. Contemporary transpersonal psychologist and author John Welwood, member of the Board of Editors of The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, is also a long-time follower of Trungpa.
In 1974, Chögyam founded the accredited Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado—the first tantric university in America. Instructors and guests at Naropa have included psychiatrist R. D. Laing, Gregory Bateson, Ram Dass and Allen Ginsberg—after whom the university library was later named. (Ginsberg had earlier spent time with Swami Muktananda [Miles, 1989].) Also, Marianne Faithfull, avant-garde composer John Cage, and William “Naked Lunch” Burroughs, who had earlier become enchanted (1974, 1995) and then disenchanted with L. Ron Hubbard’s Scientology. Plus, the infinitely tedious Tibetan scholar and translator Herbert V. Guenther, whose writings, even by dry academic standards, could function well as a natural sedative.
Bhagavan Das (1997) related his own, more lively experiences, while teaching Indian music for three months at Naropa in the ’70s:
The party energy around [Trungpa] was compelling. In fact, that’s basically what Naropa was: a huge blowout party, twenty-four hours a day....
I was in a very crazed space and very lost. One day, after having sex with three different women, I couldn’t get out of bed. I was traumatized. It was all too much.
Jack Kornfield offered a less “traumatic” recounting of his own days lecturing there, being invited to teach after he and Trungpa had met at a (where else) cocktail party in 1973:
We all had this romantic, idealistic feeling that we were at the beginning of a consciousness movement that was really going to transform the world (in Schwartz, 1996).
Befitting the leader of such a world-changing effort, in 1974 Trungpa was confirmed as a Vajracarya, or a “spiritual master of the highest level,” by His Holiness the Karmapa Lama, during the latter’s first visit to the West (Trungpa, 1977).
* * *
The practice of “crazy wisdom” itself rests upon the following theory:
[I]f a bodhisattva is completely selfless, a completely open person, then he will act according to openness, will not have to follow rules; he will simply fall into patterns. It is impossible for the bodhisattva to destroy or harm other people, because he embodies transcendental generosity. He has opened himself completely and so does not discriminate between this and that. He just acts in accordance with what is.... [H]is mind is so precise, so accurate that he never makes mistakes [italics added]. He never runs into unexpected problems, never creates chaos in a destructive way (Trungpa, 1973).
[O]nce you receive transmission and form the [guru-disciple] bond of samaya, you have committed yourself to the teacher as guru, and from then on, the guru can do no wrong, no matter what. It follows that if you obey the guru in all things, you can do no wrong either. This is the basis of Osel Tendzin’s [Trungpa’s eventual successor] teaching that “if you keep your samaya, you cannot make a mistake.” He was not deviating into his own megalomania when he said this, but repeating the most essential idea of mainstream Vajrayana [i.e., Tantric Buddhism] (Butterfield, 1994).
Q [student]: What if you feel the necessity for a violent act in order ultimately to do good for a person?
A [Trungpa]: You just do it (Trungpa, 1973).
A perfect example of going with energy, of the positive wild yogi quality, was the actual transmission of enlightenment from Tilopa to [his disciple] Naropa. Tilopa removed his sandal and slapped Naropa in the face (Trungpa, 1973).
We could, of course, have learned as much from the Three Stooges.
Q [student]: Must we have a spiritual friend [e.g., a guru] before we can expose ourselves, or can we just open ourselves to the situations of life?
A [Trungpa]: I think you need someone to watch you do it, because then it will seem more real to you. It is easy to undress in a room with no one else around, but we find it difficult to undress ourselves in a room full of people (Trungpa, 1973).
Yes, there was plenty of undressing. At the Halloween costume party during an annual seminar in the autumn of 1975, for example:
A woman is stripped naked, apparently at Trungpa’s joking command, and hoisted into the air by [his] guards, and passed around—presumably in fun, although the woman does not think so (Marin, 1995).
The pacifist poet William Merwin and his wife, Dana, were attending the same three-month retreat, but made the mistake of keeping to themselves within a crowd mentality where that was viewed as offensive “egotism” on their part. Consequently, their perceived aloofness had been resented all summer by the other community members ... and later categorized as “resistance” by Trungpa himself.
Thus, Merwin and his companion showed up briefly for the aforementioned Halloween party, danced only with each other, and then went back to their room.
Trungpa, however, insisted through a messenger that they return and rejoin the party. In response, William and his wife locked themselves in their room, turned off the lights ... and soon found themselves on the receiving end of a group of angry, drunken spiritual seekers, who proceeded to cut their telephone line, kick in the door (at Trungpa’s command) and break a window (Miles, 1989).
Panicked, but discerning that broken glass is mightier than the pen, the poet defended himself by smashing bottles over several of the attacking disciples, injuring a friend of his. Then, mortified and giving up the struggle, he and his wife were dragged from the room.
[Dana] implored that someone call the police, but to no avail. She was insulted by one of the women in the hallway and a man threw wine in her face (Schumacher, 1992).
And then, at the feet of the wise guru, after Trungpa had “told Merwin that he had heard the poet was making a lot of trouble”:
[Merwin:] I reminded him that we never promised to obey him. He said, “Ah, but you asked to come” (Miles, 1989).
An argument ensued, during which Trungpa insulted Merwin’s Oriental wife with racist remarks [in return for which she called him a “Nazi”] and threw a glass of saké in the poet’s face (Feuerstein, 1992).
Following that noble display of high realization, Trungpa had the couple forcibly stripped by his henchmen—against the protests of both Dana and one of the few courageous onlookers, who was punched in the face and called a “son of a [banned term]” by Trungpa himself for his efforts.
“Guards dragged me off and pinned me to the floor,” [Dana] wrote in her account of the incident.... “I fought and called to friends, men and women whose faces I saw in the crowd, to call the police. No one did.... [One devotee] was stripping me while others held me down. Trungpa was punching [him] in the head, urging him to do it faster. The rest of my clothes were torn off.”
“See?” said Trungpa. “It’s not so bad, is it?” Merwin and Dana stood naked, holding each other, Dana sobbing (Miles, 1989).
Finally, others stripped voluntarily and Trungpa, apparently satisfied, said “Let’s dance” (Marin, 1995). “And so they did.”
And that, kiddies, is what they call “authentic Tibetan Buddhism.”
Don’t let your parents find out: Soon they won’t even let you say your prayers before bedtime, for fear that it might be a “gateway” to the hard-core stuff.
The scandal ensuing from the above humiliation became known as, in all seriousness, “the great Naropa poetry wars.” It was, indeed, commemorated in the identical title of a must-read (though sadly out of print) book by Tom Clark (1980). If you need to be cured of the idea that Trungpa was anything but a “power-hungry ex-monarch” alcoholic fool, that is the book to read. (Interestingly, a poll taken by the Naropa student newspaper in the late ’70s disclosed that nine of twenty-six students at their poetry school regarded Trungpa as being either a “total fraud” or very near to the same.)
For his journalistic efforts, Clark was rewarded with “lots of hang-up phone calls,” presumably as an intimidation tactic on the part of Trungpa’s loyal followers.
And incredibly, even after enduring the above reported abuse, Merwin and Dana chose to remain at the seminary for Trungpa’s subsequent Vajrayana lectures.
At any rate, Chögyam’s own (1977) presentation of the goings-on at his “seminars,” even well after the Merwin incident, predictably paled in comparison to their realities:
I initiated the annual Vajradhatu Seminary, a three-month intensive practice and study retreat for mature students. The first of these seminaries, involving eighty students, took place ... in the autumn of 1973. Periods of all-day sitting meditation alternated with a study programme methodically progressing through the three yanas of Buddhist teaching, Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana.
“Mature, methodical progression,” however, does not quite capture the mood earlier expressed by the traumatized Das or the involuntarily stripped Merwin and his wife.
How then is one to understand Chögyam’s “extra-curricular” activities within the context of such Vajrayana teachings?
The notorious case involving Trungpa ... was given all sorts of high explanations by his followers, none of whom got the correct one: Trungpa made an outrageous, inexcusable, and completely stupid mistake, period (Wilber, 1983).
Trungpa’s own insistence, however, was again always that he and his enlightened ilk “never make mistakes.” (The explicit quote to that effect, above, is from 1973—a full decade prior to Wilber’s attempted, and wholly failed, explanation.) Rather, the day following the Merwin “incident,” Trungpa simply posted an open letter to everyone at the retreat, effectively explaining his previous night’s behavior as part of his “teaching.” No apology was offered by him, and he certainly did not regard himself as having made any “mistake” whatsoever (Marin, 1995).
Even in the late ’70s, when Allen Ginsberg asked Trungpa, “was it a mistake? He said, ‘Nope’” (in Clark, 1980). Ginsberg himself, too, “said Trungpa may have been guilty of indiscretion, but he had not been wrong in the way he had behaved” (Schumacher, 1992). And indeed, any disciple who might ever question the stated infallibility of such a guru would again only be demonstrating his own disloyalty. The only “option” for any obedient follower is then, quite obviously, to find a “high explanation” for the activities.
“I was wrong,” Trungpa might have said. Or, “he was wrong,” his disciples might have said. But they cannot say such things. It would interfere too much with the myth [of Trungpa’s supernatural enlightenment] they have chosen to believe....
I think back to a conversation I recently had with the director of Naropa’s summer academic program.... [W]hen, in the course of the conversation, I asked him whether Trungpa can make a mistake, he answered: “You know, a student has to believe his master can make no mistake. Sometimes Trungpa may do something I don’t understand. But I must believe what he does is always for the best” (Marin, 1995).
In 1978, the emotionally involved Allen Ginsberg was confronted with the suggestion that the obedience of Trungpa’s followers in the “Merwin incident” might be compared to that of participants in the Jonestown mass suicides. He then gave his own heated, and utterly irrational, analysis:
In the middle of that scene, [for Dana] to yell “call the police”—do you realize how vulgar that was? The wisdom of the East being unveiled, and she’s going “call the police!” I mean, [banned term]! [banned term] that [banned term]! Strip ‘em naked, break down the door! Anything—symbolically (in Clark, 1980).
Further, regarding Wilber’s intimation that the guru’s actions were an isolated “mistake”: When a former resident of Trungpa’s community was asked, in 1979, whether the “Merwin incident” was a characteristic happening, or a singular occurrence, she responded (in Clark, 1980):
It is a typical incident, it is not an isolated example. At every seminary, as far as I know, there was a confrontation involving violence.
In any case, the regarding of such actions as Chögyam’s versus Merwin, as being simple “mistakes,” certainly could not explain away the reported premeditated means by which disciples were kept in line within Trungpa’s community:
We were admonished ... not to talk about our practice. “May I shrivel up instantly and rot,” we vowed, “if I ever discuss these teachings with anyone who has not been initiated into them by a qualified master.” As if this were not enough, Trungpa told us that if we ever tried to leave the Vajrayana, we would suffer unbearable, subtle, continuous anguish, and disasters would pursue us like furies....
To be part of Trungpa’s inner circle, you had to take a vow never to reveal or even discuss some of the things he did. This personal secrecy is common with gurus, especially in Vajrayana Buddhism. It is also common in the dysfunctional family systems of alcoholics and sexual abusers. This inner circle secrecy puts up an almost insurmountable barrier to a healthy skeptical mind....
[T]he vow of silence means that you cannot get near him until you have already given up your own perception of enlightenment and committed yourself to his (Butterfield, 1994).
The traditional Vajrayana teachings on the importance of loyalty to the guru are no less categorical:
Breaking tantric samaya [i.e., leaving one’s guru] is more harmful than breaking other vows. It is like falling from an airplane compared to falling from a horse (Tulku Thondup, in [Panchen and Wangyi, 1996]).
In many texts, the consequences of breaking with one’s guru are told in graphic terms, for it is believed that, once having left a guru, a disciple’s spiritual progress “comes to an absolute end” because “he never again meets with a spiritual master,” and he is subject to “endless wandering in the lower realms.” In the case of disrespect for the guru, it is said in the texts that if the disciple “comes to despise his Guru, he encounters many problems in the same life and then experiences a violent death” (Campbell, 1996, quoting from [Dhargyey, 1974]).
Such constraints on the disciple place great power into the hands of the guru-figure—power which Trungpa, like countless others before and after him, was not shy about exercising and preserving.
[Trungpa] was protected by bodyguards known as the Vajra Guard, who wore blue blazers and received specialized training that included haiku composition and flower arranging. On one occasion, to test a student guard’s alertness, Trungpa hurled himself from a staircase, expecting to be caught. The guard was inattentive, and Trungpa landed on his head, requiring a brief visit to the hospital (Miles, 1989).
We could, of course, have learned as much from Inspector Clouseau.
Or, expressed in haiku (if not in flower arranging):
Hopped up on saké
I throw myself down the stairs
No one to catch me
I was scolded by one of his disciples for laughing at Trungpa. He was a nut. But they were very offended....
He had women bodyguards in black dresses and high heels packing automatics standing in a circle around him while they served saké and invited me over for a chat. It was bizarre (Gary Snyder, in [Downing, 2001]).
Interestingly, Trungpa considered the SFZC’s Shunryu Suzuki to be his “spiritual father,” while Suzuki considered the former to be “like my son” (in Chadwick, 1999).
* * *
There is a actually a very easy way to tell whether or not any “sage’s” “crazy wisdom” treatment of others is really a “skillful means,” employed to enlighten the people toward whom it is directed.
Consider that we would not attempt to evaluate whether a person is a hypochondriac, for example, when he is in the hospital, diagnosed with pneumonia or worse, and complaining about that. Rather, hypochondria shows when a person is certified to be perfectly healthy, but still worries neurotically that every little pain may be an indication of a serious illness.
We would likewise not attempt to evaluate any author’s polemics in situations where the “righteous anger” may have been provoked, and may be justifiable as an attempt to “awaken” the people at whom it is directed, or even just to give them a “taste of their own medicine.” If we can find the same polemic being thrown around in contexts where it was clearly unprovoked, however, we may be certain that there is more to the author’s motivations than such claimed high-minded ideals. That is, we may be confident that he is doing it for his own benefit, in blowing off steam, or simply enjoying dissing others whose ideas he finds threatening. In short, such unprovoked polemics would give us strong reason to believe that the author is not being honest with himself regarding the supposedly noble basis of his own anger.
We would not attempt to evaluate the “skillful means” by which any claimed “sage” puts his followers into psychological binds, etc., in their native guru-disciple contexts, where such actions may be justified. Rather, we would instead look at how the guru-figure interacts with others in situations where his hypocritical or allegedly abusive actions cannot be excused as attempts to awaken them. If we find the same reported abusive behaviors in his interactions with non-disciples as we find in his interactions with his close followers, the most generous position is to “subtract” the “baseline” of the non-disciple interactions from the guru-disciple ones. If the alleged “skillful means” (of anger and reported “Rude Boy” abuse) are present equally in both sets, they cancel out, and were thus never “skillful” to begin with. Rather, they were simply the transplanting of pre-existing despicable behaviors into a context in which they may appear to be acceptable.
In the present context, then, since Akong was never one of Trungpa’s disciples, Chögyam’s poor behavior toward the former cannot be excused as any attempted “skillful means” of awakening him. Merwin and his wife were likewise not disciples of Trungpa. Thus, his disciplining of them for not joining the Halloween party arguably provides another example of the guru humiliating others only for his own twisted enjoyment, not for their spiritual good.
We will find good use for this “contextual comparison” method when evaluating the reported behaviors of many other “crazy wisdom” or “Rude Boy” gurus and their supporters, in the coming chapters.
* * *
Allen [Ginsberg] asked Trungpa why he drank so much. Trungpa explained he hoped to determine the illumination of American drunkenness. In the United States, he said, alcohol was the main drug, and he wanted to use his acquired knowledge of drunkenness as a source of wisdom (Schumacher, 1992).
[Trungpa’s] health had begun to fail. He spent nearly a year and a half in a semicoma, nearly dying on a couple of occasions, before finally succumbing to a heart attack (Schumacher, 1992).
Before he died of acute alcoholism in 1987, Trungpa appointed an American acolyte named Thomas Rich, also known as Osel Tendzin, as his successor. Rich, a married father of four, died of AIDS in 1990 amid published reports that he had had unprotected sex with [over a hundred] male and female students without telling them of his illness (Horgan, 2003a).
Tendzin offered to explain his behavior at a meeting which I attended. Like all of his talks, this was considered a teaching of dharma, and donations were solicited and expected (Butterfield, 1994).
Having forked over the requisite $35 “offering,” Butterfield was treated to Tendzin’s dubious explanation:
In response to close questioning by students, he first swore us to secrecy (family secrets again), and then said that Trungpa had requested him to be tested for HIV in the early 1980s and told him to keep quiet about the positive result. Tendzin had asked Trungpa what he should do if students wanted to have sex with him, and Trungpa’s reply was that as long as he did his Vajrayana purification practices, it did not matter, because they would not get the disease. Tendzin’s answer, in short, was that he had obeyed the instructions of his guru. He said we must not get trapped in the dualism of good and evil, there has never been any stain, our anger is the compassion of the guru, and we must purify all obstacles that prevent us from seeing the world as a sacred mandala of buddhas and bodhisattvas.
Yet, in spite of that, and well after all of those serious problems in behavior had become widely known, we still have this untenable belief being voiced, by none other than Ken Wilber (1996):
“Crazy wisdom” occurs in a very strict ethical atmosphere.
If all of the above was occurring within a “very strict ethical atmosphere,” however, one shudders to think of what horrors an unethical atmosphere might unleash. Indeed, speaking of one of the unduly admired individuals whom we shall meet later, an anonymous poster with much more sense rightly made the following self-evident point:
One problem with the whole idea of the “crazy-wise” teacher is that [Adi] Da can claim to embody anyone or anything, engage in any sort of ethical gyration at all, and, regardless of disciples’ reactions, Da can simply claim his action was motivated as “another teaching.” He thus places himself in a position where he is utterly immune from any ethical judgment (in Bob, 2000; italics added).
More plainly, there can obviously be no such thing as a “strict ethical atmosphere” in any “crazy wisdom” environment.
But perhaps Trungpa and Tendzin—a former close disciple of Satchidananda, who was actually in charge of the latter’s Integral Yoga Institute in the early ’70s (Fields, 1992)—had simply corrupted that traditional “atmosphere” for their own uses? Sadly, no:
Certain journalists, quoting teachers from other Buddhist sects, have implied that Trungpa did not teach real Buddhism but a watered-down version for American consumption, or that his teaching was corrupted by his libertine outlook. After doing Vajrayana practices, reading texts on them by Tibetan authorities, and visiting Buddhist centers in the United States and Europe, I was satisfied that this allegation is untrue. The practices taught in Vajradhatu are as genuinely Buddhist as anything in the Buddhist world....
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, after the Tendzin scandal, insisted to Vajradhatu students that Trungpa had given them authentic dharma, and they should continue in it exactly as he had prescribed (Butterfield, 1994; italics added).
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche—“Rinpoche” being a title meaning “Precious One”—was head of the oldest Nyingma or “Ancient Ones” School of Tibetan Buddhism from 1987 until his death in 1991.
Even with all that, Peter Marin (1995)—a non-Buddhist writer who taught for several months at Naropa in 1977—still validly observed that the activities at Naropa were relatively tame, compared to the oppression which could be found in other sects.
In the end, though, Andrew Harvey (2000) put it well:
In general, I think that nearly all of what passes for “crazy wisdom” and is justified as “crazy wisdom” by both master and enraptured disciple is really cruelty and exploitation, not enlightened wisdom at all. In the name of “crazy wisdom” appalling crimes have been rationalized by master and disciple alike, and many lives have been partly or completely devastated.
One is of course still free, even after all that, to respect Trungpa for being up-front about his “drinking and wenching” (in Downing, 2001), rather than hypocritically hiding those indulgences, as many other guru-figures have allegedly done. That meager remainder, however, obviously pales drastically in comparison with what one might have reasonably expected the legacy of any self-proclaimed “incarnation of Maitreya Bodhisattva” to be. Indeed, by that very criterion of non-hypocrisy, one could admire the average pornographer just as much. Sadly, by the end of this book, that point will only have been reinforced, not in the least diminished, by the many individuals whose questionable influence on other people’s lives has merited their inclusion herein. That is so, whatever their individual psychological motivations for the alleged mistreatment of themselves and of others may have been.
To this day, Trungpa is still widely regarded as being “one of the four foremost popularizers of Eastern spirituality” in the West in the twentieth century—the other three being Ram Dass, D. T. Suzuki and Alan Watts (Oldmeadow, 2004). Others such as the Buddhist scholar Kenneth Rexroth (in Miles, 1989), though, have offered a less complimentary perspective:
“Many believe Chögyam Trungpa has unquestionably done more harm to Buddhism in the United States than any man living.”
* * *
Sometimes the entire Institute seems like a great joke played by Trungpa on the world: the attempt of an overgrown child to reconstruct for himself a kingdom according to whim (Marin, 1995).
Through all of that celebrated nonsense “for king/guru and country,” the Naropa Institute/University continues to exist to the present day, replete with its “Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics.” Previous offerings there have included courses in “Investigative Poetry”—though, sadly, no corresponding instruction in “Beat Journalism.” Also, at their annual springtime homecoming/reunion, participation in “contemplative ballroom dancing.” (One assumes that this would involve something like practicing vipassana “mindfulness” meditation while dancing. Or perhaps not. Whatever.)
Indeed, a glance at the Naropa website (www.naropa.edu) and alumni reveals that the ’60s are alive and well, and living in Boulder—albeit with psych/environmental majors, for college credit.
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|Subject: Re: Sex and the Spiritual Teacher Tue Dec 20, 2011 7:46 am|| |
Freedom & Its Discontents: Reflections on Four Decades of American Moral Experience by Peter Marin
Published in 1995, the book contains nine essays written between 1969 and 1994, originally featured in Harper's, The Nation, and Psychology Today.
Although the book is out of print, you can still purchase used copies for only a few dollars from amazon.com.
In terms of this discussion, the original article, SPIRITUAL OBEDIENCE, featured in this anthology, appeared in Harper's Magazine in 1979, and was the first time that any critical analysis of Trungpa, Tibetan Buddhism and the guru scene in America was examined in mainstream media. The essay was brilliant, insightful, and a bombshell at the time - and worth reading in full.
(In addition, there is a related book, also out of print, called THE GREAT NAROPA POETRY WARS by Tom Clark - 1980 - that goes into greater depth about the incident at one of Trungpa's "seminaries" that triggered Marin's article in the first place. THE GREAT NAROPA POETRY WARS is also out of print, but used copies can be found on line.)
The essays Peter Marin collected for this anthology are noteworthy not only for their diversity but for the very high quality of the writing. Marin takes on subjects such as Vietnam films, the Naropa Institute and its founder Chogyam Trungpa, "The New Narcissism," and the dilemma of how people both hate and help the homeless. Marin's writing is not just thoughtful but it's lively, contemplative while never boring.
Welfare mothers. Vietnam vets. Alienated adolescents. Homeless men. Everywhere Marin looks he sees morally confused people. What's more, their confusion defies easy resolution within the ethics Marin espouses. But even when he cannot reach resolution, the author insists on an astonishing honesty and rigor in his moral reflections. Readers will be surprised, for instance, to find a self-described secularist conceding that secularism has helped create a destructive moral vacuum in modern culture. Likewise unexpected is the argument that deification of the self leads to a kind of "soft fascism." Whether visiting a Buddhist school in Colorado or interviewing Esalen enthusiasts in San Francisco, the author has an eye for ugly realities that refuse to fit within political orthodoxy. It is those realities that readers must attend to if they are to accept his invitation to participate in a renewed conversation about moral values. A provocative look at a topic too often reduced to sound bites.
Amazon review by Dean Farwood (San Rafael, California)
The New Narcissism (1975) examines the "trend in therapy toward a deification of the isolated self." In it comedy and pathos share the page: the "ill-taught and ignorant catechism" of EST; a therapist's claim that "we are all entirely responsible for our destinies;..... the Jews must have wanted to be burned by the Germans." Marin suggests that therapeutic self-obsession is an attempt to legitimize our inclination to "smother the tug of conscience" and to defend against the demands of the world.
Spiritual Obedience (1979) is based on Marin's experience teaching for several weeks at the Buddhist school, Naropa Institute, in Boulder, Colorado. Founded by Chogyam Trungpa, a witty, hard drinking forty-year-old believed by his followers to be the incarnation of an earlier Tibetan master, Naropa attracts artists, intellectuals and academicians as both faculty members and adherents. The center point of the essay is the story of the poet, William Merwin, who came to Naropa to teach and met with violent treatment at the direction of Trungpa and to which none of his followers objected.
It is the behavior of the followers and their "immense capacity for passivity and obedience" which Marin explores by relating reason and morality: "It is fashionable these days in intellectual or counter-cultural circles to decry the loss of mysticism, irrationality, and intuition, and to believe that their return would somehow restore the generosity and stability men have lost. But all this is nonsense. The great rationalist dream of the Enlightenment -- that reason might lead men toward justice and lives of conscience -- has never been proved unworthy or false; it has hardly been tried...........
The history of America has in fact had little to do with reason, consisting instead of wave upon wave of zealotry and ideology, and religious excess, generations of superstition and foolish beliefs, and a yearning for salvation and the ceaseless abdication of the stoic virtues necessary to democratic life: independent thought; the acceptance of human weakness; humility in the face of complex truths; the refusal to abjure either choice or responsibility; and the willingness to choose conscience and uncertainty rather than submission and safety."
Two essays, Coming to Terms With Vietnam (1980) and Living in Moral Pain (1981) examine moral questions in the aftermath of the Vietnam war. The insightless Vietnam war films ( for example, Jane Fonda's Coming Home - "simpleminded and reductive in.....pursuit of virtue," Apocalypse Now - "morally stupid") do not acknowledge that actions in the real world can have devastating consequences for others and that the enemy are not symbols but people like ourselves. Marin sees such films as "imperial art.......designed to appeal to the citizens of a powerful but declining empire by allowing us the luxury of 'facing' reality while at the same time denying our role within it. Supposedly challenged, we are secretly soothed." He describes the torment of American Vietnam veterans trying to come to terms with their guilt and instead being pressed by well meaning therapists to participate in an unconscious cover-up by accepting the labels of "impacted grief", "acute combat reaction", or "delayed-stress syndrome" instead of acknowledging that it was the moral choices they had made which contribute substantially to their anguish of horror and guilt.
Easily the most challenging essay for this reader and, I suspect, the author as well, is the final seventy-page Freedom and Its Discontents (1994). In this piece Marin first confesses the unfulfilled promises of the secularist movement of which he is a self-proclaimed member. He was brought up believing that the "sources, ends and means of human meaning and moral value can be derived from and sustained by a purely human frame of reference," that a respect for reason in the interpretation of history, society and human nature is elemental and essential to the freedom which America's founders envisioned, and that "defining good and evil in terms of the will of God [should be viewed with] deep skepticism." He states that the tenets of secularism remain valid but that in America "this presumed force for tolerance, this belief supposedly grounded in reason, this tradition of skepticism, has now become something else altogether, has grown into its near opposite, and it now partakes of precisely the same arrogance, the same irrationality and passion for certainty, the same pretense to unquestioned virtue against which its powers were once arrayed." He goes on: "We bred out of secularism the deep seriousness that once informed it; the senses of tragedy, complexity, and ambiguity which once marked it as a legitimate response to the mindlessness of others have disappeared. And we've picked up along the way the bags and baggage of those mindless others: a passion for totalizing thought; a conviction that we know better than others what is good for them; an increasing reliance on coercion, a readiness to force upon people through law what reason cannot teach them; and a sense of superiority or virtue which makes us contemptuous of others and allows us to sacrifice their freedoms to our ends."
Marin suspects that once Americans achieved freedom we assumed that all the rest would fall into place by some natural and inevitable chain reaction. We would gradually begin to respect each other and ourselves; ethics and morality would flow from our inate, human inclinations; the civil institutions of our democracy would assure the dispensation of fairness and opportunity within a moral framework. But "freedom in itself guarantees nothing; it is merely the beginning of a task; it is itself a question: how shall we live ?" And Marin points out that the current American secular ethic is one in which "duty is conflated with desire, and in which morality is almost entirely identical to will, inclination and ideological preconception.......[that is,] no ethic at all." The closest we've come to establishing a moral framework for individual behavior, according to Marin, is psychology where popular therapies demonstrate our "fuddled attitudes toward responsibility, reciprocity, indebtedness, duty [and] guilt." It is not much to show for all the good intentions of American secularists - a psychology which "has become a scandal and a joke, a form of ritualized ignorance in which almost every human act is shed of genuine moral content."
THE GREAT NAROPA POETRY WARS
This review is from: The great Naropa poetry wars
by Elbert D. Porter "giggle3" (Portland, OR USA) - posted on amazon.com
This slim, hard-to-find polemic is an early source on the infamous and shadowy "Merwin Incident". Clark's primary source of information on the incident itself is the even harder to find "The Party, A Chronological Perspective on a Confrontation at a Buddhist Seminary", written by students in a Naropa class led by Ed Sanders. Clark is out for blood, and delivers in a relentlessly flippant, journalistic style. The more you know about the world Clark is circumscribing, the more quickly you spot errors and distortions, calculated to transmit Clark's disdain for not only Naropa and Vajradhatu (Trungpa's institutions) but the wider world of Tibetan Buddhism. Below, we will see also that Clark's work was calculated to create or exacerbate conflicts in the poetic community. Clark's work stands as a bracing antidote to the Trungpa community's propaganda machine, but Barry Miles' "Ginsberg: a Biography" may be more reliable and certainly appears to be more fair-minded, without shying from telling the story.
The incident took place in Snowmass, Colorado, at the Fall 1975 Seminary, a three month program intended for advanced, committed students of Trungpa. Poet W. S. Merwin and his girlfriend Dana Naone were allowed to join even though they did not have the established student-teacher relationship with Trungpa. This turned out to be a mistake, as the poet and his girlfriend brought with them an independent spirit not suitable for the environment. Two months in, Trungpa hosted a Halloween party, at which he showed up drunk and immediately got naked. Merwin and Naone retreated from the party to their room. Trungpa instructed his "Vajra Guard" to bring them back to the party, by force if necessary. Force was necessary. The Guard broke down the locked door to Merwin's room. Merwin smashed a bottle and used the broken end to fend them off, drawing blood, but ultimately the Guard captured their targets and brought them to the party. Trungpa threw sake in Merwin's face, racially insulted Naone, and demanded they remove their clothes. When they refused, he ordered his Guard to strip them. Naone asked the onlookers to help them or to call the police. Only one made a move in their defense, and got punched by Trungpa for his efforts. Trungpa then began punching the man stripping Naone for being too slow about it, so that man sped up by ripping off the remaining clothing. Then everyone else stripped and began to dance, and Merwin and Naone got back to their room.
That's the core story. The remaining 85 pages of the book describe Trungpa; his institutions, and their attempts to cover up and sanitize the incident; and other reports suggesting that the Merwin incident was not an exception, but rather a salient indicator of the nature of Trungpa's leadership.
There's a fifteen page interview with Allen Ginsberg, in which Ginsberg pathetically attempts to rationalize and excuse Trungpa's abuse. Other sources (including Miles) reveal that the Boulder Monthly removed Ginsberg's more respectful comments about Merwin and kept the less respectful ones. I don't know what Clark's motives were, but they weren't friendly. Keep this in mind as you read.
Appended letters from Ginsberg and from Anne Waldman (who cofounded, with Ginsberg, the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa) show considerable sophistication in their calculated coolness (Waldman) and sweet humility (Ginsberg), but their actions speak louder than words, and even their words do not go far enough, going nowhere near the concept of an authority figure like Trungpa bearing any responsibility for his actions.
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|Subject: Re: Sex and the Spiritual Teacher Tue Dec 20, 2011 9:32 am|| |
Absurdly bad behavior in both stories. In particular, how incredible that women generally and heterosexual relationships could be seen as intrinsically dangerous to a man's spiritual life.
Again there's that pattern that Henry and others have identified elsewhere. The leader's "shadow self," or weaknesses, or preoccupations, are promoted as important teachings. Actually they are important teachings: run away, fast! But the disciples don't seem to have the ability to resist or say "I've had enough" until lots of damage is done. How sad.
Thanks for sharing, Josh.
(Written prior to your latest post.)
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|Subject: Re: Sex and the Spiritual Teacher Tue Dec 20, 2011 4:45 pm|| |
was a hugely popular guru in the 70s and 80s. A so-called "perfect master," he was also accused of being a sexual predator. I counseled dozens of his former disciples, some of whom had been very close to him for many years. There was a groundbreaking story in the New Yorker Magazine, called, "O' Guru, Guru, Guru" about all the scandals that happened after Muktananda died. If you can find it on line, recommend reading that story. I will see if it's posted anywhere.
All of these accounts -- like the ones I posted above -- are living examples of abuse of power and authority and the dangers of blind devotion to a spiritual leader. It is good to be dis-illusioned. I think it's useful to read these accounts - since it shows clearly that much of what went on at Shasta had nothing to do with Zen or Buddhism, but was the expression of Kennett's shadow, group think in operation, cultic dynamics that affect any group of people who isolate themselves and surrender their adulthood.
Also, Muktananda had a similar personality structure as Kennett - both Enneagram 8s, both emotionally abusive, subject to fits of rage; both very possessive and demanded total adoration.
What follows below is from an publication long gone called "CoEvolution Quarterly"
Them are few things sadder than a good guru gone bad. The cynics among us may object that a "good guru" is a contradiction in terms and certainly the spectacle of corrupt and authoritarian cults in recent years has cast a pall over the role of spiritual teachers. Nevertheless I'm willing to maintain that a significant amount of wisdom and compassionate works have proceeded from various gurus and their followers, and I resist the impulse to write off the whole bunch as charlatans and power-trippers
From all indication Swami Muktananda helped thousands of people in his day - a fact that even disillusioned ex-devotees don't dispute. However, the last few years of his life saw a proliferation of abuses which are only now coming to light William Rodarmor; a former lawyer, park ranger, wilderness trip leader and presently a graduate student at the University of California at Berkeley journalism school has spent months interviewing former and current followers of Muktananda for this investigative article. CQ independently contacted his major sources and confirmed the authenticity of their quotes and allegations. -Jay Kinney
The Secret Life of Swami Muktananda
by William Rodarmor
"There is no deity superior to the Guru, no gain better than the Guru's grace ... no state higher than meditation on the Guru." -Muktananda
ON THE American consciousness circuit, Baba Muktananda was known as the "guru’s guru," one of the most respected meditation masters ever to come out of India. Respected, that is, until now.
When Baba Ram Dass introduced him to the U.S. in 1970. Muktananda was still largely unknown. Thanks to Muktananda's spiritual power, his Siddha meditation movement quickly took root in the fertile soil of the American growth movement. By the time he died of heart failure in October 1982, Muktananda's followers had built him 31 ashrams, or meditation centers, around the world. When crowds saw Muktananda step from a black limousine to a waiting Lear jet, it was clear that the diminutive, orange-robed Indian was an American-style success.
At various times, Jerry Brown, Werner Erhard, John Denver, Marsha Mason; James Taylor, Carry Simon, astronaut Edgar Mitchell, and Meg Christian have all been interested in Muktananda's movement. The media coordinator at the large Oakland, California, ashram is former Black Panther leader Erika Huggins.
Baba Muktananda said he was a Siddha, the representative of a centuries-old Hindu lineage. According to his official biography, he wandered across India as a young man, going from teacher to teacher, living the chaste, austere life of a monk. In Ganeshpuri, near Bombay, he became the disciple of Nityananda, a Siddha guru of awesome yogic powers. After years of meditation, Muktananda experienced enlightenment. When Nityananda died in 1960, Muktananda said the guru passed the Siddha mantle to him on his deathbed, though some of Nityananda's followers in India dispute the claim. When Muktananda himself died, a sympathetic press still saw him as a spiritual Mr. Clean, and his two successors, a brother-sister team of swamis, continue to draw thousands of people searching for higher consciousness.
To most of his followers, Muktananda was a great master. But to others, he was a man unable to live up to the high principles of his own teachings. "When we first approach a Guru," Muktananda wrote, "we should carefully examine his qualities and his actions. He should have conquered desire and anger and banished infatuation from his heart." For many, that was a warning that was understood too late.
Some of Muktananda's most important former followers now charge that the guru repeatedly violated his vow of chastity, made millions of dollars from his followers' labors: and allowed guns and violence in his ashrams. The accusations have been denied by the swamis who took over his movement after the master died.
In the course of preparing this story, I talked with 25 present and former devotees; most of the interviews are on tape. Some people would only talk to me if promised anonymity, and some are bitter at what they feel was Muktananda's betrayal of their trust. All agree that Muktananda was a man of unusual power. They differ over the ways he used it.
"I don't have sex for the same reason you do: because it feels so good." -Muktananda
IN HIS teachings Muktananda put a lot of emphasis on sex - most of it negative. Curbing the sex drive released the kundalini energy that led to enlightenment, he said. The swami himself claimed to be completely celibate.
Members of the guru's inner circle, however, say Muktananda regularly had sex with his female devotees. Michael Dinga, an Oakland contractor who was head of construction for the ashram and a trustee of the foundation, said the guru's sexual exploits were common knowledge in the ashram. "It was supposed to be Muktananda's big secret," said Dinga, "but since many of the girls were in their early to middle teens, it was hard to keep it secret."
A young woman I am calling "Mary" said the guru seduced her at the main American ashram at South Fallsburg, New York, in 1981. Mary was in her early twenties at the time. Muktananda was 73.
At South Fallsburg, Muktananda used to stand behind a curtain in the evening, watching the girls coming back to the dormitory. He asked Mary to come to his bedroom several times, and gave her gifts of money and jewelry. Finally, she did. When he then told her to undress, she was shocked, but she obeyed.
"He had a special area which I assume he used for his sexual affairs. It was similar to a gynecologist's table, but without the stirrups." (To his later chagrin, Michael Dinga realized he had built the table himself.) "He didn't have an erection," Mary said, "but he inserted about as much as he could. He was standing up, and his eyes were rolled up to the ceiling. He looked as if he was in some sort of ecstasy." When the session was over, Muktananda ordered the girl to come back the next day, and added, "Don't wear underwear."
On the first night, Muktananda had tried to convince Mary she was being initiated into tantric yoga - the yoga of sex. The next night, he didn't bother. "It was like ‘Okay, you're here, take off your clothes. get on the table and let's do it.' Just very straight, hard, cold sex."
Mary told two people about what had happened to her. Neither was exactly surprised.
Michael's wife Chandra was disturbed. Chandra was probably the most important American in the movement. As head of food services, she saw Muktananda daily, and knew what was going on. "Whoever was in his kitchen was in some way molested," she said. A girl I’ll call "Nina" used to work for Chandra. One day, the guru remarked to her in Hindi, "Sex with Nina is very good." Nina's mother was later made a swami.
Chandra said she had rationalized the guru's having sex in the past, but was dismayed to learn it had happened to her young friend Mary. Aware of Muktananda's power over people who were devoted to him, she saw it as a form of rape.
The other person Mary confided in was Malti, Muktananda's longtime translator.
Mary said Malti wasn't surprised when she told her about being seduced by the aged guru. "She told me people had been coming to her with this for years and years," Mary said. "She was caught in the middle." Malti and her brother, who have taken the names Chidvilasananda and Nityananda, are the movement's new leaders.
Another of Muktananda's victims was a woman I'll call "Jennifer." She says Muktananda raped her at the main Indian ashram at Ganeshpuri in the spring of 1978. He ordered Jennifer to come to his bedroom late one night, and told her to take her clothes off. "I was in shock," she said, "but over the years, I had learned you never say no to anything that he asked you to do...."
Muktananda had intercourse with Jennifer for an hour, she said, and was quite proud of the fact. "He kept saying, ‘Sixty minutes,’" she said. "He claimed he was using the real Indian positions, not the westernized ones used in America." While he had sex, the guru felt like conversing, but Jennifer found she couldn't say a word. "The main thing he wanted to know was how old I was when I first got my period. I answered something, and he said, ‘That’s good, you're a pure girl.’" Devastated by the event, Jennifer made plans to leave the ashram as soon as possible, but Muktananda continued to be interested in her. "He used to watch me getting undressed through the keyhole," she said. She would open the door and see the guru outside "I became rather scared of him, because he kept coming to my room at night."
Both women said the Ganeshpuri ashram was arranged to suit Muktananda's convenience.
"He had a secret passageway from his house to the young girls' dormitory," Mary said. "Whoever he was carrying on with, he had switched to that dorm." The guru often visited the girls' dormitory while they were undressing. "He would come up anytime he wanted to" Jennifer said, "and we would just giggle. In the early days, I never thought of him as having sexual desires. He was the guru..." Mary knew otherwise: she talked with at least eight other young girls who had sex with Muktananda. "I knew that he had girls marching in and out of his bedroom all night long," she said.
While his followers were renovating a Miami hotel in 1979, Muktananda slept on the women's floor, and ordered that the youngest be put in the rooms closest to his, and the older ones down the hall.
"You always knew who he was carrying on with," said Chandra. "They came down the next day with a new gold bracelet or a new pair of earrings." Around the ashram, said Mary, people knew that "anyone who had jewelry was going to his room a lot."
For a time, Muktananda's followers found ways to rationalize his behavior. He wasn't really penetrating his victims, they said. Or he wasn't ejaculating - an important distinction to some, since retaining the semen was supposed to be a way of conserving the kundalini energy.
Ultimately, Chandra felt it didn't make any difference. "If you're going to be celibate, and you're going to preach celibacy, you don't put it in halfway, and then pull it out. You live what you preach..."
After years of repressing their growing doubts about Muktananda, Michael and Chandra finally drew the line when they learned he was molesting a 13-year-old girl. She had been entrusted to the ashram by her parents, and was being cared for by Muktananda's laundress and chauffeur. The laundress "told me Baba was doing things to her," said Chandra. "I think he was probing around in her." The laundress suggested it was only "Baba's way of loving her," but Chandra was appalled.
Charges of sex against Muktananda continued. In 1981, one of Muktananda's swamis, Stan Trout, wrote an open letter accusing his guru of molesting Little girls on the pretext of checking their virginity. The letter caused a stir, but word didn't go beyond the ashram. In a "Memo from Baba," Muktananda merely answered that "devotees should know the truth by their own experience, not by the letters that they receive... You should be happy that I'm still alive and healthy and that they haven't tried to hang me."
"Wretched is he who cannot observe discipline and restraint even in an ashram." -Muktananda
IN THE first of his eight years with Muktananda, Yale dropout Richard Grimes said he was "in a funny kind of grace period, where you're so involved with the beginning of inner Life that you don't really notice what is going on." But then he started seeing things that didn't jibe with his idea of a meditation retreat.
"Muktananda had a ferocious temper," said Grimes, "and would scream or yell at someone for no seeming reason." He saw the guru beating people on many occasions. "In India, if peasants were caught stealing a coconut from his ashram, Muktananda would often beat them," Grimes said. The people in the ashram thought it was a great honor to be beaten by the guru. No one asked the peasants' opinion.
Muktananda's ubiquitous valet, Noni Patel, was a regular target of his master's wrath. While on tour in Denver, Noni came down to the kitchen to be treated for a strange wound in his side. "At first, he wouldn't say how he had gotten it," Grimes' wife Lotte recalled. "Later it came out that Baba had stabbed him with a fork."
When ex-devotees talked about strong-arm tactics against devotees, the names of two people close to Muktananda kept coming up. One was David Lynn, known as Sripati, an ex-Marine Vietnam vet. The other was Joe Don Looney, an ex-football player with a reputation for troublemaking on the five NFL teams he played for, and a criminal record. They were known as the "enforcers"; Muktananda used them to keep people in line.
On the guru's orders, Sripati once picked a public fight with then-swami Stan Trout at the South Fallsburg ashram. He came down from Boston, where Muktananda was staying, and punched Trout to the ground without provocation. Long-time devotee Abed Simli saw the attack, but figured Sripati had just flipped out. Michael Dinga knew otherwise. Muktananda had phoned him the morning before the beating, and told him Trout’s ego was getting too big, and that he was sending Sripati to set him straight. Dinga, a big man, was instructed not to interfere.
In India, Dinga and a man called Peter Polivka witnessed Muktananda’s valet Noni Patel give a particularly brutal beating to a young follower: A German boy in his twenties, whom Dinga described as "obviously in a disturbed state" had started flailing around during a meditation intensive. The German was hauled outside, put under a cold shower, stripped naked, and laid out on a concrete slab behind the ashram. Dinga said the German just sat in a full lotus position, and tried to steel himself against what happened next.
Noni Patel took a rubber hose, a foot-and-a-half long, and beat and questioned the boy for thirty minutes while a large black man called Hanuman held him. "They were full-strength blows," said Dinga, "and they raised horrible welts on the boy's body."
There exists a long tradition in the East of masters beating their students. Tibetan and Zen Buddhist stories are full of sharp blows that stop the students rational minds long enough for them to become enlightened. Couldn't that have been what Muktananda was doing?
"It could be seen that way," said Richard Grimes. "For years we thought that every discrepancy was because he lived outside the laws of morality He could do anything he wanted. That in itself is the biggest danger of having a perfect master lead any kind of group - there's no safeguard."
Chandra Dinga said that as Muktananda's power grew, he ignored normal standards of behavior. "He felt he was above and beyond the law," she said. "It went from roughing people up who didn't do what he wanted, to eventually, at the end, having firearms."
Though the ashrams were meditation centers, a surprising number of people in them had guns. Chandra saw Noni's gun, Muktananda's successor Subash's gun, and the shotgun Muktananda kept in his bedroom. Others saw guns in the hands of "enforcer" Sripati and ashram manager Yogi Ram. The manager of the Indian ashram showed Richard Grimes a pistol that had been smuggled into India for his use. One devotee opened a paper bag in an ashram vehicle in Santa Monica, and found ammunition in it.
A woman who ran the ashram bakery for many years said she knew some people had guns, but that it never bothered her. The Santa Monica ashram, for example, was in a very rough neighborhood, she said, and the guns were strictly for protection.
"In an ashram, one should not fritter one's precious time in a precious place on eating and drinking, sleeping, gossiping and talking idly." -Muktananda
BY ALL accounts, devotees in the ashrams worked hard under trying conditions. In India, they were isolated from their culture. Even in the American ashrams, close friendships were frowned on, and Muktananda strongly discouraged devotees from visiting their families. A woman I'm calling "Sally" used to get up for work at 3:30 a.m. She said her day was spent in work, chanting, meditation, and silence. "Some days, you couldn't talk to anyone all day long. I would get very lonely." Recorded chants were often played over loudspeakers. Even a woman who is still close to the movement admitted that "the long hours were a drag."
Though he was Muktananda's right-hand man for construction, Michael Dinga worked "under incredible schedules with ridiculous budgets," putting in the same hours as his crew. In the six-and-a-half years he was with the ashram, he said he had a total of two weeks off.
As time went on, Dinga came to be bothered by what he saw as exploitation: "I saw the way people were manipulated, how they would work in all sincerity and all devotion [with] no idea that they were being laughed at and taken advantage of."
"Even a penny coming as a gift should be regarded as belonging to God and religion." -Muktananda
MUKTANANDA'S movement was both a spiritual and a financial success. Once Siddha meditation caught on, said Chandra Dinga, "money poured into the ashram." Particularly lucrative were the two-day "meditation intensives" given by Muktananda, and now by his successors. Today, an intensive led by the two new gurus costs $200. (Money orders or cashier's checks only, please. No credit cards or personal checks.) An intensive given in Oakland in May 1983 drew 1200 participants, and people had to be turned away. At $200 a head, Chidvilasananda and Nityananda’s labors earned the ashram nearly a quarter of a million dollars in a single weekend.
There was always a lot of secrecy around ashram affairs, Lotte Grimes remarked. During Muktananda's lifetime, that secrecy applied to money matters with a vengeance.
The number of people who came to intensives, for example, was a secret even from the devotees. Simple multiplication would tell anyone how much money was coming in. And when Richard Grimes set up a restaurant at the Oakland ashram, he said Muktananda "had a fit" when he found out that Grimes had been keeping his own records of the take.
Food services head Chandra Dinga said the restaurants in the various ashrams were always big money-makers, where devotees worked long hours for free. On tour during the summer, she said, they would feed over a thousand people, and bring in three thousand dollars in cash a day. Sally said that a breakfast that sold for two dollars actually cost the ashram about three cents.
Donations further fattened the coffers. if somebody important was coming to the ashram, Chandra’s job was to try and get them to give a feast and to make a large donation. $1500 to $3000 was considered appropriate. "There was just a constant flow of money into his pockets," said Chandra, "it let him get whatever he wanted to get, and let him buy people."
Muktananda himself was said to have been very attached to money. "For years, he catered only to those who were wealthy," said Richard Grimes. "He spent all the time outside of his public performances seeing privately anyone who had a lot of money."
A parade of Mercedes-Benzes used to drive up to the Ganeshpuri ashram with rich visitors, said Grimes. In Oakland, Lotte Grimes saw Malti order a list drawn up of everybody in the ashram who had money, to arrange private interviews with Muktananda, by his orders.
Devotees, on the other hand, had to get by on small stipends, if they got anything. Chandra Dinga, despite her status as head of food services, never got more than $100 a month. Devotees with less prestige were completely dependent on the guru's generosity. Sally once cried for two days when she broke her glasses, knowing she would have to beg Muktananda for another pair.
How much money did Muktananda amass from his efforts? Even the officers of the foundation that ostensibly ran Muktananda's affairs never knew for sure.
Michael Dinga was a foundation trustee, and used to cosign for deposits to the ashram’s Swiss bank accounts, but the amounts on the papers were always left blank. In 1977, however, he got a hint. Ron Friedland, the president of the foundation, told Dinga that Muktananda had 1.3 million dollars in Switzerland. Three years later, Muktananda told Chandra it was more like five million. "And then he laughed, and said, ‘There’s more than that.’"
A woman called Amma, who was Muktananda's companion for more than twenty years, told the Dingas that all the accounts were in the names of Muktananda’s eventual successors, Chidvilasananda and Nityananda.
Michael and Chandra Dinga finally quit the ashram in December 1980. They had served Muktananda for a combined total of sixteen-and-a-half years, and had risen to positions of real importance. Both knew exactly how the ashram operated.
Together, they went to Muktananda to tell him why they wanted to leave. The guru wasn't pleased. To get the Dingas to stay, Muktananda called on everything he thought would stir them. He offered them a car, a house, and money. When that failed, he started to weep. "You're my blood, my family," he said. Then Muktananda abruptly changed tack. "You've come on an inauspicious day," he said. "I can't give you my blessing." Next morning, he called Chandra on the public intercom and said she could leave immediately.
After they left, the Dingas say they were denounced by the guru, and their lives threatened.
"Muktananda claimed he had thrown us out because Chandra was a whore" said Dinga, "that she was having sex with the young boys who worked in the restaurant. Later he said I had a harem. In other words, he was accusing us of all the things he was doing himself." Muktananda also claimed that none of the buildings Michael had built were any good. When one of Michael's crew stood up for him, he was threatened physically.
Leaving all their friends behind in the ashram, the Dingas moved to the San Francisco area, but Muktananda's enmity followed them. Their doorbell and telephone started ringing at odd hours, and Michael saw the "enforcers" running away from their door one night. A cruel hoax was played on Chandra. Someone followed her when she took her cat to the vet, then phoned the vet's office with a message that her husband had been in a bad accident. Chandra waited frantically at Berkeley's Alta Bates Hospital for three quarters of an hour, only to learn that Michael was at work, unhurt.
Death threats started to reach the Dingas toward the end of April 1981, six months after they had left the ashram. On May 7, Sripati and Joe Don Looney visited Lotte Grimes at her job in Emeryville with a frightening piece of information: "Tell Chandra this is a message from Baba: Chandra only has two months to live." Another ex-follower said he got a similar message: If the Dingas didn't keep quiet, acid would be thrown in Chandra's face; Michael would be castrated.
The Grimeses and the Dingas reported the threats to the police. The Dingas hired a lawyer.
The threats stopped soon after Berkeley police officer Clarick Brown called on the Oakland ashram, but Chandra was badly frightened. Some ex-followers still are.
Michael and Chandra's departure sparked a small exodus from the ashram. Some of the ex-followers began to meet and compare notes on their experiences in the ashram. "We were amazed and rejuvenated," said Richard Grimes. "We got more energy from learning he was a con man than we ever did thinking he was a real person."
Just the same, the devotees who left the ashram are still dealing with the damage done to their lives. Michael and Chandra's marriage broke up, as did Sally's. Michael is only now coming out of a period of depression and emptiness. Richard and Lotte Grimes are bitter at having wasted years of their lives in the ashram. Stan Trout still considers Muktananda a great yogi, but a tragically flawed man.
Chandra Dinga has taken years to come to terms with her experience with Muktananda; "Your whole frame of reference becomes askew," she said. "What you would normally think to be right or wrong no longer has any place. The underlying premise is that everything the guru does is for your own good. The guru does no wrong. When I finally realized that everything he did was not for our own good, I had to leave."
Muktananda’s two successors were at the Oakland ashram in May end I asked Swami Chidvilasananda about the accusations against her guru.
To her knowledge, did Muktananda have sex with women in the ashram? "Not as far as I saw," she said carefully. What about the charge that Muktananda had sex with young girls? "Those girls never came to us," Chidvilasananda said. "And we never saw it, we only heard it when Chandra talked to everybody else."
Chidvilasananda also denied that there was a bank account in Switzerland. When asked about the ashram's finances, she said that all income was put back into facilities. "We are a break-even proposition," the new leader said.
As for the alleged beatings, she said that Americans had their own ways of doing things. She said, "You can't blame the guru, because the guru doesn't teach that."
Why then, I asked, do the other ex-devotees I talked with support the Dingas in their charges?
Chidvilasananda replied, "I'm very glad they gave you a very nice story to cover themselves up and I want to tell you I don't want to get into this story because I know their story, too, and I do not want to say anything about it." When I said, "You have a chance to tell us whether or not you think these are accurate charges, falsehoods, or delusions," Malti's answer was: "I’m not going to probe into people's minds and try to find out what the truth is."
Two swamis and a number of present followers also said the charges were not true. Others say they simply don't believe them.
On the subject of money, foundation chief Ed Oliver conceded in an October 1, l983, interview with the Los Angeles Times that there is a Swiss account with 1.5 million dollars in it. And when I repeated Swami Chidvilasananda's denials about women complaining to her, Mary, the woman who says the guru seduced her in South Fallsburg, said, "Well, that's an out-and-out lie."
"The sins committed at any other place are destroyed at a holy centre, but those committed at a holy centre stick tenaciously - it is difficult to wash them away." -Muktananda
THIS IS a story of serious accusations made against a spiritual leader who is still prayed to and revered by thousands. Even his detractors say Muktananda gave them a great deal in the beginning. "He put out a force field around him," said Michael Dinga. "You could palpably feel the force coming off him. It gave me the feeling I had latched onto something that would answer my questions." Former devotees say Muktananda's eyes had a kind of light; when they first met the guru, he radiated love and benevolence. He also had a way of making his devotees feel special.
"I think he liked me so much because I wasn't taken by all the visions and the sounds," said Chandra, "that I understood that having an experience of God was something much more substantial and more ordinary." Chandra still feels that spirituality is the most important thing in her life. She says the gradual unfolding of the dark side of her guru's personality chipped away at her love and respect. "When you have a loved one you never dream that he might hurt you. At the end, I was devastated." Yet despite the unsavory conclusion to her ten years with the swami, Chandra still notes, "if I had it to do over again, I still wouldn't trade the experience for anything in the world."
In a way, the sex, the violence, and the corruption aren't the real point. Muktananda's personal shortcomings were bad enough, explained Michael Dinga, but "the worst of it was that he wasn't who he said he was."
A person can make spiritual progress under a corrupt master, just as placebos can actually make you feel better. But how far can a person really grow spiritually under a master who doesn't himself live the truth? There was a tremendous split between what Muktananda preached and what he did, and his hypocrisy only made it worse. His successors are now in a dilemma: If they admit their guru's sins, Chidvilasananda and Nityananda lose their god-figure, and weaken their claim to a lineage of perfect masters. But if they don't, people who come to them looking for truth are courting disappointment.
Stan Trout, formerly Swami Abhayananda, served Muktananda for ten years as a teacher and ashram director. He left in 1981. "My summary withdrawal from Muktananda’s organization was also a withdrawal from what I had considered my fraternal family, my friends, and able all, my life’s work," he wrote us. He sent this open letter after reading a draft of "The Secret Life of Swami Muktananda," in which he is quoted. - Art Kleiner
Letter From a Former Swami
by Stan Trout
I’d like to add this letter, if possible, as an appendix to the article on Muktananda by William Rodarmor. It is a statement of my thoughts and opinions of Muktananda after two years of deep deliberation following my discovery of his ‘secret life’.
When I left Muktananda’s service, I did so because I had just learned of the threatening action he had taken against some of his long-time devotees who had recently left his service. He had sent two of his body-guards to deliver threats to two young married women who had been speaking to other women who had been speaking to others of Muktananda’s sexual liaisons with a number of young girls in his ashram. It was immediately clear to me that I could not represent a guru who was not only taking sexual advantage of his female devotees but was threatening with bodily harm those who revealed the truth about him. However, after I had left Muktananda and had make the reasons for my departure known to others still in his service, another issue came to light for me, teaching me something not only about Muktananda’s, but about the nature of the organization and all other such organizations in which the leader is regarded as infallible by his followers, and is therefore obeyed implicitly.
When Chandra and Michael Dinga and later myself realized the truth about Muktananda and his secret sex life, there was absolutely no means available to present the evidence for a fair hearing or judgment. There was no recourse but to leave, for the guru was the sole appeal, and he was as accustomed to lying as he was to breathing. Yet his word was regarded by followers as so absolutely final that when each of us left and were branded "demons" by him, not a single soul among those who had been our brother and sister devotees for ten years questioned or objected, but unamimouly rejected us outright as the demented infidels he said we were. One has only to observe the way each of us who discovered the guru’s secret life were treated by our former comrades to understand the power for evil inherent in any relationship based on the infallibility of the leader and the unquestioned obedience of the subjects...
It is clear to me that not only had the girls with whom Muktananda practiced his sexual diversions committed acts to which they had given no moral or rational consent, but so had the men who were ordered to threaten them with violence, and so had I myself when I had followed Muktananda’s orders to express to others opinions which I did not sincerely hold. It is a sad but perennial phenomenon: Out of a love for truth and for those who teach it and appear to embody it, we unwittingly set ourselves up for exploitation and betrayal. Our mistake is to deify another being and attribute perfection to him. From that point on everything is admissible.
I think the lesson to be learned is that we simply cannot afford to relinquish our individual sovereignty - whether it be in a socio-political setting or in a religious congregation. Those who willingly put aside their own autonomy, their own moral judgment, to obey even a Christ, a Buddha, or a Krishna, do so at risk of losing a great deal more than they can hope to gain.
About Muktananda himself I have thought a great deal. There is no doubt in my mind that he was an extraordinarily enlightened, learned, and articulate man who possessed a singular power, a dynamic personal radiance and charisma that drew people to him and inspired them to lay their lives at his feet. Surely such a power is divine; yet there is no way to justify the way in which he used this power. If God himself were to behave in this way, we would have to find him guilty of flagrant disregard for the law of love.
Some may say, ‘He did no worse than any of us have done, or would do if we could.’ And I would answer, ‘No; he did worse than any of use have done or would have done in his place. For, though he was only human like the rest of us, he staged a deliberate campaign of deceit to convince gentle souls that he had transcended the limitations of mankind, that through realizing the eternal Self, he had attained holy "perfection." He planted and nourished false, impossible dreams in the hears of innocent, faithful souls and sacrificed them to his sport. With malicious glee, he cunningly stole from hundreds of trusting souls their hearts and wills, their self-trust, their very sanity, their very lives. No ordinary, good person could do this, no matter how he tried; his heart and conscience would not allow it.
Like all of us, Muktananda was only human. And, like all men who worship power, he was inevitably corrupted and destroyed by it. His power could not save him form the weakness of the flesh, nor from the wickedness and depravity that servitude to it brings. He ended as a feeble-minded sadistic tyrant, luring devout little girls to his bed every night with promises of grace and self-realization.
Muktananda’s claim of "perfection" (Siddha-hood) was based on the notion that a person who has become enlightened has thereby also become "perfect" and absolutely free of human weakness. This is nonsense; it is a myth perpetrated by dishonest men who wish to receive the reverence and adoration due God alone. There is no absolute assurance that enlightenment necessitates the moral virtue of a person. There is no guarantee against the weakness of anger, lust, and greed in the human soul. The enlightened are on an equal footing with the ignorant in the struggle against their own evil - the only difference being that the enlightened person knows the truth, and has no excuse for betraying it.
Throughout history there have been many enlightened souls who have been thought great, who, in the pride of their perfection and freedom, have imagined themselves to be beyond the constraints of God’s laws, and who have thus fallen from love and lost the glory the once had. Those glorious Babes and Bhagwans, thinking to build their kingdom here on earth upon the ruins of the young souls devoted to them, often succeed for a time in fooling many and in gathering a large and festive following, but their deeds also follow them and proclaim their truth long after the paeans of praise have been sung and wafted away on the air. "God is not mocked"; there is no freedom, no liberation, from His law of love, nor from His inescapable justice. It is indeed often those very persons who have thought themselves most perfect, most free and ungoverned, who have fallen most grievously; and their piteous fall is an occasion for great sadness, and should serve as a clear reminder of caution to us all.
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|Subject: Re: Sex and the Spiritual Teacher Tue Dec 20, 2011 4:50 pm|| |
Here is a link to read THE NEW YORKER article on the Siddha Yoga / Muktananda scene. "O, Guru, Guru, Guru."
The website is
You need to click through and find the articles and then scroll down to "O Guru, Guru, Guru"
for some reason there is not a direct link to the article.
I highly recommend reading this piece. Excellent in-depth reporting and insights. Very illuminating with regard to guru-worship and group dynamics.
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|Subject: Re: Sex and the Spiritual Teacher Tue Dec 20, 2011 5:09 pm|| |
On another note, the antics of the so-called, Zen Master Rama:
From an article in the Feb 1, 1988 issue of Newsweek magazine,
"Who Is This Rama? The master of Zen and the Art of Publicity is now having some very serious problems." Excerpts:
"He has been a temple elder in Atlantis, a teacher of the occult in ancient Egypt and a Tibetan lama. In the here and now he is Frederick Lenz, 37, of Malibu, Calif., and Stony Brook, N.Y. Lenz is known to his followers as "Zen Master Rama" and to the public as Oh yeah, that guy--the one who advertises his meditation seminars with stylish two-page ads in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Vanity Fair; the one who plastered his face on giant posters in Times Square last fall, the one who looks like Richard Simmons. A strong believer in Zen and the Art of Publicity, he spent an estimated half-million dollars on advertising in the last six months. ...
"Lenz claims to be one of the 12 truly enlightened beings on the planet.(Obvious question: who are the other 11? 'I'm not at liberty to say.')What he promises is an easy way to Nirvana. Buddhist tradition holds that there are two paths to enlightenment, the fast and the slow -- the slow one takes thousands of lifetimes, while the quick one can lead to enlightenment in just one. Lenz's path, a third, might be called the express lane. He claims techniques so powerful that an hour with him is worth 100 years of traditional meditation." ...
"...A former disciple of Hindu guru Sri Chinmoy, Lenz holds a doctorate in English Literature from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He moved to California from Long Island in 1980, under instructions from Sri Chinmoy to open a laundromat and learn humility. Instead he started his own group, switching from Hindu to Zen doctrine in 1986. Today he rents Goldie Hawn's home in Malibu, owns two Porsches and likes to travel by Lear jet. Most of the money seems to come from his core group of followers, with whom he meets in Palo Alto or Los Angeles; each of the 400 pays $600 for a monthly session. (Rama Seminars Inc. is a for-profit corporation and so pays taxes on its income.) Most recently Rama's traveling seminars have been offered free to the public, although in the past he has charged up to $400 a head for a four-night session. For awhile Lenz had a cash-only policy at the public seminars, and high denominations at that, because smaller bills are "low vibed"; now he also takes credit cards.
"Two ex-followers recently gave reporters their versions of what it was like to study with Lenz. One, a 36-year-old graduate student from Los Angeles named Anny Eastwood, claims that Lenz invited her to Malibu for a 'private meditation.' She was taken aback when he began to ask personal questions. This went on for six hours, she claims, at the end of which time he allegedly waved a loaded pistol and forced her to have sex with him. She stayed with the group for 11 months after the incident. Another, Mercedes Hughes, 24, says she was seduced by Lenz in Los Angeles and became his mistress. He bought her $17,000 worth of clothes and moved her into his New York house, where, she claims, 'he gave me LSD. He said that I had gone over to the dark side and that he was the only one who could save me.' Donald Cole, 23, committed suicide in 1984 because he was disappointed at his progress in the program. He left a note that read,'Bye, Rama, see you next time.'
"Lenz admits that he had affairs with both Eastwood and Hughes, calling them 'voluntary' and adding, 'They wish to discredit me for whatever emotional reasons they might have.' He claims that profit-hungry deprogrammers are behind a campaign to discredit him...."
AP [May 1, 1998] "Frederick Lenz Found Dead off Long Island Home"
Frederick Lenz, guru to up to 5,000, was found deceased April 15th floating in the waters off his Long Island home. Tests found over 150 sedative pills in his body. Lenz's female companion Lacy Brinn and his three dogs had also been drugged, but were alive. According to Brinn, Lenz fell off a dock and could not be rescued. Lenz had long been accused of using mind control on his disciples, pushing his own form of Buddhism. But even over the past year he sought credibility, teaching college Shakespeare courses and launching a Westchester-based software company.
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|Subject: Re: Sex and the Spiritual Teacher Tue Dec 20, 2011 10:07 pm|| |
I can confirm the general tenor of the stories about the FWBO though I was only involved with the organisation early on. Sangharakshita was a good scholar as his 'A Survey of Buddhism' demonstrates. But he never came to terms with his sexuality and this led to the FWBO, which he founded after being thrown out of the Hampsted Buddhist Vihara in London for activities unbecoming a monk, into becoming, at least in parts, a repressive, closed and in places perverse organisation. I am sure Chisan would confirm most of my impressions. I fear another sad case of a flawed individual (but then aren't we all) ultimately corrupted by his flaws and the hero worship of his followers. And then tansmitting the corruption back into his organisation and followers.
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|Subject: Re: Sex and the Spiritual Teacher Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:18 pm|| |
I love it too, isn't it a gem! I have forwarded that link to countless persons, may the karmic consequence affix to Josh rather than myself.
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|Subject: Re: Sex and the Spiritual Teacher Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:48 pm|| |
Hilarious YouTube video. Thanks.
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|Subject: Re: Sex and the Spiritual Teacher Sat Feb 04, 2012 1:57 pm|| |
Just finished reading Shoes Outside the Door: Desire, Devotion, and Excess at the San Francisco Zen Center by Michael Downing. It was a fascinating and disturbing read; especially reading it from a woman's perspective. Check it out if you're interested in the whole Alpha Male dynamic seen in so many religious communities.
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|Subject: Re: Sex and the Spiritual Teacher Wed Feb 08, 2012 1:04 pm|| |
Not sure where to put this article.... It is a very good example of willful blindness and never apologizing.....
February 7, 2012
Cardinal Egan Criticized for Retracting Apology on Sexual Abuse Crisis
By ANDY NEWMAN
In 2002, at the height of the outcry over the sexual abuse of minors by Roman Catholic priests, the Archbishop of New York, Edward M. Egan, issued a letter to be read at Mass. In it, he offered an apology about the church’s handling of sex-abuse cases in New York and in Bridgeport, Conn., where he was previously posted.
“It is clear that today we have a much better understanding of this problem,” he wrote. “If in hindsight we also discover that mistakes may have been made as regards prompt removal of priests and assistance to victims, I am deeply sorry.”
Now, 10 years later and in retirement, Cardinal Egan has taken back his apology. n a interview with Connecticut magazine published on the magazine’s Web site last week, a surprisingly frank Cardinal Egan said of the apology, “I never should have said that,” and added, “I don’t think we did anything wrong.”
He said many more things in the interview, some of them seemingly at odds with the facts. He repeatedly denied that any sex abuse had occurred on his watch in Bridgeport. He said that even now, the church in Connecticut had no obligation to report sexual abuse accusations to the authorities. (A law on the books since the 1970s says otherwise.) And he described the Bridgeport diocese’s handling of sex-abuse cases as “incredibly good.”
All of which has Cardinal Egan, now 79 and living in Manhattan, drawing fire from advocates who say he has reopened old wounds.
“To many victims,” said Paul Mones, a lawyer who represented several victims of sexual abuse in New York, “an apology was critical to their being made whole, to feeling that, yes, the church knows that I was wronged and that this was a problem that was going on for decades. So if the statements are true, for him to come out and say he was wrong for the apology is more than tragic.”
During then-Bishop Egan’s reign in Bridgeport, from 1988 to 2000, dozens of people came forward with claims of sex abuse by priests, some of it having occurred recently. One priest checked himself out of a psychiatric center and continued to receive a stipend from the diocese after he had been accused by a dozen parishioners of abuses involving anal sex and beatings.
In the magazine, Cardinal Egan said, “I never had one of these sex abuse cases.” He added, “If you have another bishop in the United States who has the record I have, I’d be happy to know who he is.”
On Tuesday, as criticism mounted, Cardinal Egan, who retired in 2009, released a statement, reiterating that there had never been “even one known case” of sexual abuse of a minor by a priest in his tenure in Bridgeport or New York. “The suffering and the damage to innocent children and their loved ones that the sexual abuse of minors causes are horrendous beyond all expression,” he wrote.
Cindy L. Robinson, a lawyer whose firm represented more than 90 Bridgeport abuse victims, including ones who said they were abused as minors by priests during Cardinal Egan’s tenure, said she read the cardinal’s comments “with utter disbelief.”
David Clohessy of SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, urged Cardinal Egan’s successors in New York and Bridgeport, Timothy M. Dolan and William E. Lori, to denounce the cardinal’s “extraordinarily hurtful” statements in the magazine.
Archbishop Dolan declined to comment on Cardinal Egan’s comments, but said the cardinal had always “responded appropriately and with rigor” to sex-abuse cases. The Diocese of Bridgeport did not return a call seeking comment
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|Subject: Re: Sex and the Spiritual Teacher Wed Feb 08, 2012 1:59 pm|| |
So many of these church hierarchy are utter phonies. I think it's part of the vetting process, you have to be a deceiver and a con artist to don the red hat. The culture they worship is that of the "divine ecclesia" and their own power. When the scandal broke in the 90s, the present pope, then Cardinal Ratzinger, called it an invention of the American media. In the archdiocese of Portland, Oregon one notorious criminal abuser, Fr. Grammond, had more than 100 victims, at least one of whom had committed suicide, cases which had been covered up by at least three archbishops. In a case of a priest who had victimized me as an adolescent, the then bishop of Eastern Oregon threatened a mother and her victim son with eternal [banned term] if they told anyone. Cardinal Egan is just one more example of the crime of denial and complicity in sexual abuse of children. And because he's retired he now displays his open arrogance and contempt for any accountability and openly admits he was lying when he made the apology. If it weren't for the courts, none of these criminals would have had to explain anything.
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|Subject: Re: Sex and the Spiritual Teacher Mon Aug 20, 2012 5:09 pm|| |
this was recently posted on the Sweeping Zen site. Not sure it should go here, but I couldn't seem to find the discussion on Shimano, so if this should be moved. This post does bring up the whole issue of loyalty and institutional blindness. Sounds like the group can't seem to move on and truly deal with what has happened.
These things get complicated. You can forgive someone who has done great harm and still put them in jail to prevent them from doing more harm. You can forgive someone and still fire them and let people know what happened. There are many spiritual teachers who are called "masters" who can't control themselves-- clearly. So what are they masters of? certainly not himself, not his mind, not his emotions, not his actions. They are masters of none of these. What Zen are they masters of? What is this Zen? Seems like many of these gurus and masters, what they master is the art of saying one thing and doing another, of having two faces, of maintaining power and control, of hiding and secrecy, of self-justification and self-delusion.
Forgiveness by Genjo Joe Marinello
Posted on: Aug 17th, 2012 - posted on Sweeping Zen.......
Recently I was asked about forgiveness as it relates to Eido Shimano Roshi. As I write this post, it is August 12, 2012, and Eido Roshi is scheduled to conduct a special ceremony with honored guests from Japan, to inaugurate the new $100,000+ Samon (Main Temple) Gate to Dai Bosatsu Zendo (DBZ), the Zen Studies Society (ZSS) monastery in the Catskill Mountains of New York. The current abbot of ZSS invited him, Shinge Sherry Chayat Roshi, appointed by Eido Roshi to be his successor. Many former ZSS students, including myself, and some current participants, including some ZSS Board members did not consider this invitation a good idea. In fact it is my recollection that nearly the entire ZSS board, at least when I sat on it, did not intend to invite Eido Roshi to this or any other ceremony on ZSS property, let alone allow him to “conduct” one (see: http://playfulmoon.com/EidoRoshi/segaki2012/SegakiObon2012Email.pdf ).
Personally, I’ve come to forgive Eido Roshi for turning out to be a sexual predator who preyed on the most vulnerable female students under his care, resorting to date rape when he couldn’t get his way, and passing STDs to his students. Perhaps this forgiveness is not mine to give, as I was in no way abused or assaulted by him, but somehow I’ve come to understand that he clearly had no capacity to control his impulses, even though he was confronted about his problem multiple times over the course of decades. I have no desire to see him in prison, even though in many states he would be in prison for having sexual relations with multiple females (often at the same time) in the “congregation.” And from my gratitude to him for serving many others and me in his role as a Zen Master, I even want him to have a decent retirement package, but not what appears to me to be the ridiculously absurd package he is insisting on. However, given the facts of this case, I could only support a retirement package that was contingent on Eido Roshi’s complete retirement from teaching anywhere. You see, though he has my forgiveness and understanding, I do not want more innocent students exposed to his abuses of power and authority.
What I’m not yet able to forgive is that Shinge Roshi and the ZSS board continue to expose the ZSS Sangha to this man that still denies he has a problem, at least not any kind of problem that would require him to work on his culpability. What I also cannot forgive or understand is why they are bankrupting the organization trying to pay him his deferred compensation at the rate of $90,000+ per year in compensation and benefits, even though he continues to teach in New York and elsewhere around the world. (See: http://playfulmoon.com/EidoRoshi/where.html ). Unfortunately, Shinge Roshi has told me he deserves this amount, which is why I think she is unwilling to test the issue in court. Yet, by holding to this position, she and the board are indirectly funding Eido Roshi’s ability to continue to teach, exposing more students to his predations. As many know, ZSS is currently seeking to set up a conservation trust with the Nature Conservancy for about half of the DBZ property, an idea which I support, to fund the Shimanos retirement, which I don’t support or forgive (see: http://www.choboji.org/NC.pdf), as it will continue to fund Eido Roshi’s teaching and predations off property.
Even though I had to leave the ZSS board because I was tired of being asked by Shinge Roshi to cover up for Eido Roshi multiple times (see: http://sweepingzen.com/interview-genjo-marinello-on-eido-shimano-zen-studies-society ), and my temple, Chobo-Ji in Seattle, terminated all affiliation because the Chobo-Ji board recognized that the ZSS was not adequately addressing those directly harmed or alienated, ZSS for better or worse will always be my root temple. Therefore, I am still hoping for its recovery, not its downfall.
However, to my knowledge:
No further exploration or healing with the wider sangha is scheduled.
The current operating ZSS bylaws have not been made public, I’m told because they are being worked on; however, this does not fit with any idea of transparency I’m aware of.
At this point the board is still essentially appointed, not elected, and the bylaw modification process is a board only concern.
The long awaited forensic audit of ZSS books examining other possible abuses of power and authority, promised since the fall of 2010, has no scheduled completion date.
An organizational apology for its part in not better protecting its own sangha over decades of abuse has never been offered and no published ZSS newsletter has ever stated clearly why Eido Roshi resigned as abbot.
Eido Roshi retired in the Fall of 2010, yet his possessions still clutter both temples to such an extent that Shinge Roshi has not even been able to sleep in the abbot’s quarters of either temple. It is as though these rooms have become shrines to him or are awaiting his return.
Many have said to me, “Shinge Roshi is doing the best she can,” but sometimes we must come to recognize “the best we can” just doesn’t cut it, and if we are clear eyed enough to see this we must say so. In my opinion, Shinge Roshi’s loyalty to Eido Roshi is clouding her better judgment and hurting ZSS’s chances of recovery. By supporting only the sangha left standing after another mass exodus, so many are ignored and left out of the process. At least this is how I see it.
In my mind, forgiveness can only come when one can reasonably conclude the abuse has stopped and those who have indirectly supported it have sufficient comprehension of the damage done that they have halted any direct or indirect support. All I can say is Not Yet. For myself, I will concentrate on my own practice with the Seattle Sangha, and I pray this is the last post I will feel compelled to make on this subject.
With palms together,
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|Subject: Re: Sex and the Spiritual Teacher Tue Sep 11, 2012 11:39 am|| |
Note the sentences I have marked in bold. They relate to many religious institutions, systems, hierarchies:
from the NYTimes:
September 10, 2012
Suffer the Children
By FRANK BRUNI
Just how flagrant does a pedophile need to be before the people around him contact the police? Just how far beyond seeming to force himself on a boy in a shower or loading up his laptop with photos of little girls’ crotches does he have to go?
In the first instance I’m referring to Jerry Sandusky, whom Penn State officials allowed to continue working with children even after they were told that something was seriously amiss. In the second I’m referring to the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, a Catholic priest in Missouri whose superiors acted no less despicably.
In May 2010, the principal of a parochial school next door to the parish where Father Ratigan served sent a memorandum to the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, as Laurie Goodstein reported in The Times. It flagged his odd behavior, including his habit of instructing children to reach into his pockets for candy.
In December 2010, hundreds of troubling, furtively taken photographs were found on his laptop, according to court testimony given too long after that fact. One showed a toddler’s genitals.
In what jail or prison cell, you might ask, did Father Ratigan spend the first half of 2011? None.
After the photos were discovered, he attempted suicide, received counseling and was reassigned by Bishop Robert W. Finn, the head of the diocese, to a new post as a chaplain to an order of nuns. There he was allowed to celebrate Mass for youth groups and host an Easter egg hunt, and he was caught taking a photograph under the table, up the skirt of the daughter of parishioners who had invited him into their home.
In May 2011, a diocesan official finally told police about the extent of Father Ratigan’s cache of child pornography. He was convicted of possession of it in August 2011. And last week Bishop Finn was convicted of failing to report him to law enforcement authorities, and got two years of probation.
He’s the first American bishop to be found criminally culpable for his inaction in the face of suspected child abuse. It was a long time coming. Over the last quarter-century there have been hundreds upon hundreds of cases of molestation by Catholic priests. And one of the galling leitmotifs of this crisis, which was the subject of a 1993 book that a colleague and I wrote, has been church leaders’ refusal to treat priests as criminals rather than abashed penitents and to let them be prosecuted in ways that might keep them away from kids.
But I’m less interested in the grim milestone of Bishop Finn’s conviction than in the crucial lessons his story reiterates.
One is that institutions have a potent impulse to avoid public scandal, and do an execrable job of policing themselves. To protect their reputations or simply to avoid conflict, they minimize even the most destructive behavior. They convince themselves that they can handle it on their own. And they persuade themselves that their mission, be it the inculcation of religious faith or the scoring of touchdowns, trumps the law’s mandates.
Another is that for all the lip service that we pay to the preciousness of children and the importance of their futures, they remain the most voiceless members of our society. Many don’t know or understand what their rights are; many don’t have the maturity or mettle to exercise them. They depend on the vigilance and good faith of adults, which is to say they depend, all too often, on a fiction.
And a third is that we’re as likely to turn away from sexual pathology as confront it. It confounds and discomfits us.
These problems transcend the Catholic Church. Penn State is in part the parable of an institution that didn’t want to be distracted or humiliated and traded away the welfare of children, a shortsighted calculation with long-term wreckage.
The Boy Scouts of America covered up sexual abuse in its ranks. A recent Los Angeles Times review of files dating from 1970 to 1991 identified more than 125 cases of alleged molestation by men whom the organization had previously had reason to suspect of abusive behavior. “In some cases,” The Times noted, “officials failed to document reports of abuse in the first place.” In others, it failed to involve the police.
Over the last two decades the Catholic Church has spelled out stricter policies, including the prompt notification of law enforcement officials. And its defenders have complained that newly revealed instances of wrongdoing are usually old cases that predated better awareness of child sexual abuse, better education about it and a toughened resolve.
But the case of Father Ratigan postdates all of that — by many, many years. It suggests the tenacity of willful ignorance and deliberate evasion, even when the price is nothing less than the ravaged psyches of vulnerable children.
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|Subject: Re: Sex and the Spiritual Teacher Tue Sep 11, 2012 1:46 pm|| |
Well posted Josh:
There is so much of this stuff-how do you manage to keep on finding and sending it ?
I am grateful you do,because it is essential work in my view.
I have probably too much personal and professional experience of sexual abuses.It is good for me to sometimes forget.It is good that someone else does the remembering sometimes.
Ikuko (as maisie field)
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|Subject: Re: Sex and the Spiritual Teacher Sat Nov 17, 2012 1:42 am|| |
Everybody Knows – Kyozan Joshu Sasaki Roshi And Rinzai-Ji - from sweepingzen.com
Posted by: Eshu Martin on November 16, 2012
By Eshu Martin
Joshu Sasaki Roshi, the founder and Abbot of Rinzai-ji is now 105 years old, and he has engaged in many forms of inappropriate sexual relationship with those who have come to him as students since his arrival here more than 50 years ago. His career of misconduct has run the gamut from frequent and repeated non-consensual groping of female students during interview, to sexually coercive after hours “tea” meetings, to affairs and sexual interference in the marriages and relationships of his students. Many individuals that have confronted Sasaki and Rinzai-ji about this behaviour have been alienated and eventually excommunicated, or have resigned in frustration when nothing changed; or worst of all, have simply fallen silent and capitulated. For decades, Joshu Roshi’s behaviour has been ignored, hushed up, downplayed, justified, and defended by the monks and students that remain loyal to him.
Based on my own experience as a student and monk in Rinzai-ji from 1995-2008 and many conversations during that time and since, it seems to me that virtually every person who has done significant training with him, the Rinzai-ji board of Directors, and most senior members of the Western Zen community at large know about his misconduct. Yet no one to my knowledge has ever publicly spoken out. Certainly, as an organization, Rinzai-ji has never accepted the responsibility of putting a stop to this abuse, and has never taken any kind of remedial action.
For many years, I have struggled with my own part in this calamity; I have known but have not spoken out. I have watched the situations with Eido Shimano and Genpo Merzel unfold, and I have been overwhelmed by the courage of those brave Zen folk who have stood up to speak the truth, knowing that it would be painful, and would have very real repercussions in their lives, and in the lives of those around them. I have been reminded of the strength and courage that is required to speak the truth when it calls into question an individual of such high standing.
I have decided to come forward now because to allow this kind of abuse to go unacknowledged, when so many of us know it has been happening is, in my opinion, inexcusable. I will not be silent any more. I feel that to ignore the damage caused by Joshu Sasaki and the leaders of Rinzai-ji who allowed it to continue is both a huge disservice to those who have been abused, and a lost opportunity for all of us to learn from our mistakes. I feel obliged to speak the truth about this matter, insofar as I am able to know it. I believe that only by doing so is it possible for any healing to begin. I hope that I may be an example for others, so that they may find the courage to speak out about their experiences with Joshu Sasaki and Rinzai-ji. My hope is that by being accountable to each other, and working together, honestly and transparently, we will all be able to proceed more clearly into the future.
In February of 2011, I contacted several Rinzai-ji Oshos personally and expressed my hope that they would begin to address this issue. I received two responses; the first, from Eshin Godfrey Osho that said, “You ask that I make every effort to address the issue you see of ‘inappropriate conduct of Joshu Sasaki Roshi with female students’. This is exceedingly presumptuous of you… not being in the family I do not see you are in a position to expect it.” The second response was a brief reply from Koshin Cain Osho that promised a later response, which has never come.
My own personal relationship to Rinzai-ji has been rocky to say the least, and I am no longer a member of their organization. It would be easy to turn the spotlight onto my relationship with Rinzai-ji, and I fully expect that will happen. I am prepared to discuss openly what I know, and how I know it as we go forward. This article is an opening statement for what I hope will be a much broader conversation. I would like to keep the primary point in focus. Whatever conclusions are drawn about me, and my history with Rinzai-ji, it in no way changes the facts regarding Joshu Sasaki’s sexual abuse of students these many years. I hope that other more well-established members of the North American Zen community, who have also long known about Sasaki Roshi’s sexual misconduct, will step forward to voice their own concerns, so that I do not remain alone in speaking out.
It is my sincere hope that the Oshos and Directors of Rinzai-ji will talk about this issue publicly and accept responsibility for the personal and organizational shortcomings that have allowed this abuse to go on for so long. My hope is that the healing that has been denied to so many victims can finally begin.
All photos provided by Eshu Martin.
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|Subject: Re: Sex and the Spiritual Teacher Wed Nov 28, 2012 12:21 pm|| |
Buddhism And Sex: The Bigger Picture - from sweepingzen.com
Posted by: Stephen Batchelor on November 28, 2012
By Stephen Batchelor
In the light of the seemingly never-ending controversy around the issue of Buddhist teachers abusing their authority to gain sexual favors from their students, it might be helpful to step back from an analysis of specific cases, and consider elements of the bigger picture in which this kind of abusive behavior manifests.
1. Sexual desire is the most powerful biological drive known to humankind. No matter what vows one has taken to contain it, lust can arise unbidden under any circumstances and lead otherwise responsible and good people to engage in acts they would unhesitatingly deplore in others.
2. Wherever people are in a position of power over other people, it is inevitable that some will use that power to pursue and fulfill their own sexual desires. Irrespective of the reasons and justifications used to legitimate such behavior, the person in power (usually a man) abuses the trust of the one who has no power (usually a woman or, in a monastery, a boy) in order to satisfy either a physical lust or a longing for intimacy.
3. The Buddha himself was accused of having sexual intercourse with the female ascetics Sundari and Cinca. Tradition explains that these accusations were unfounded, and used by those jealous of his success to discredit him. Having sex with one’s students is not a contemporary issue that has only started to rear its head in the simultaneously permissive and puritanical societies of the West. It is simply what human beings in positions of authority are liable to do or be accused of doing.
4. Are there any doctrinal or institutional elements within Buddhist tradition, which would make such behavior more likely to occur? Likewise, can we identify other elements that would work towards making this behavior less likely to happen? I take it as given that no set of rules, however meticulously defined and exactingly applied, is ever going to be foolproof.
5. The root of the power disparity between teacher and student lies in the belief that the former is “enlightened” in some sense, while the latter is not. This reflects the difference between the ariya (noble being) and the puthujjana (ordinary being) that goes back to the earliest texts. This distinction was subsequently given a doctrinal basis when Buddhists adopted the theory of the “Two Truths” as a key tool in their exegetical thinking. While the Buddha never differentiated between “conventional” (samvrti) and “ultimate” (paramartha) truths in the Pali canon, the theory was embraced by all schools, including the Theravada. As well as having a certain didactic value, the Two Truth doctrine reinforces a two-tier model of authority: those who have direct knowledge of the ultimate truth are ariya, while those who do not are mere puthujjana. The teacher’s authority thus acquires a mystical-ontological rather than a merely institutional legitimacy.
6. As the Buddhist tradition developed over time into an organized religion, the gap between the ariya and the puthujjana grew wider and wider. The professionals (i.e. monks, priests and yogins) were invested with ever-greater charismatic authority as “enlightened” ones, while the laity came to play an increasingly deferential and servile role. This culminated in the kind of situation we find in Tibetan Buddhism today where the teacher (lama/guru) is to be seen as a fully awakened Buddha, while the students are expected to surrender their authority to him in order to make any progress on the path, which, so they are told, is only possible through the lama’s “blessings.”
7. If one set out deliberately to imagine a form of Buddhism that would be best suited to provide sexual opportunities for a teacher, one would be hard-pressed to improve on the model that evolved in Tibet. When combined with a feudal conception of absolute power and a belief in tantric sexual practices as a means of attaining enlightenment, one arrives at a ready-made justification for men teachers to take advantage of women students. This situation is much the same in Japanese Zen, where a feudal model likewise prevails, albeit without the use of tantric elements.
8. It is no coincidence that the majority of cases of abuse reported by students come from the Tibetan and Japanese Zen traditions, i.e. those that place greatest emphasis on submission and obedience. This is not to say that such abuse is absent in the Theravada schools – it occurs there too; nor does it imply that there are no teachers in the Tibetan and Zen traditions who behave with ethical integrity – for there are many. While abusive behavior is always an unethical act performed by a particular human being, who needs to be held responsible and accountable for it, we also need to acknowledge that certain doctrinal and institutional contexts facilitate and legitimate this kind of behavior more than others. As long as systemic inequalities of institutional power remain unchallenged, no amount of soul-searching and drafting of ever more detailed moral “guidelines” will succeed in comprehensively tackling the core issue of the abuse of power.
9. According to the earliest texts, the role of the ariya (teacher) is not to make the puthujjana (student) dependent on him, but to enable the person to become “ennobled” by entering the stream (sotapatti) of the eightfold path. Thus the role of the teacher is to help the student to stand on his or own feet as quickly as possible. For with “stream entry” the person becomes autonomous in his or her practice and is no longer dependent on the authority of another person (aparapaccaya) in order to continue on the path. The suttas define stream entry as gaining “lucid confidence in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha” and coming to “cherish the virtues dear to the ariyas.” What changes is one’s heartfelt ethical commitment to the practice. Stream entry has nothing to do with attaining an esoteric “enlightenment,” which then gives one authority to exercise power over others.
10. At the Buddha’s time, stream entry was something that people from all walks of life, irrespective of gender, whether monastic or lay, were invited to enjoy. “Sangha” referred not just to monks, i.e. those in power, but included anyone who had entered the stream of the path – even a person like Sarakani the Sakiyan, a man despised by his peers as the local drunk. By recovering this understanding of stream entry, we recover an inclusive model of community that is comprised of autonomous individuals who work to support and sustain each other’s practice. Some of these individuals may be “saints,” while others may be “sinners.” That is not the issue. Rather than a set of agreed upon beliefs or a shared devotion to a guru, what binds everyone together is a willingness to celebrate each sangha-member’s wisdom while holding him or her equally accountable for their failings.
AND Grace Schireson's comment on the post:
November 28, 2012 at 3:47 pm
Thank you for your post,
There is a virus transmitted from Asia regarding the special status of the Buddhist teacher. Like the Native Americans who had no immunity to the smallpox imported by the European settlers, we have had poor immunity to the idealization that may be transmitted within the medieval system.The conditions for cultivating the virus seem to be produced within residential practice places if we are not careful. In Japan, I noticed that people refer to Zen priests as bald headed rascals. They are guilty unless their action proves them worthwhile. Worthwhile shows up as everyday activity, not great Dharma talks.We need to keep becoming aware of how to practice as ourselves and stop imitating and elevating the exotic forms and structure.
Humans also have a susceptibility to cults. Now that the properties of cults are well understood, we should study this well. It is important to innovate, to build community and to acknowledge that all humans suffer with desire. I think I heard that from someone before. My own teacher, Fukushima Keido, taught: Even the Buddha and Bodhidharma go on practicing. He also taught:” Look under your own feet.” And “You need a friend to watch your back. We all need corrections, teachers even more so. This is why we started Shogaku Zen Institute. We train sangha leaders to become familiar with their blind spots and how to speak up during conflict.
|Subject: Re: Sex and the Spiritual Teacher || |