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 why is josh posting all these book lists -- has he lost his mind????

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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: why is josh posting all these book lists -- has he lost his mind????   Sat Jan 14, 2012 1:43 pm

Until I bumped into this forum and started sharing my shasta / kennett experiences, i hadn't thought too much about Zen for many years. The last time i had explored Zen history was when I wrote that extended book review of Brian Victoria's Zen at War for Tricycle Magazine in 1998. Writing that essay and visiting Japan, interviewing some key Zen teachers -- that experience showed me was how little I really knew of actual Zen history. Essentially, all my assumptions were simplistic and mythological. What I assumed was history was for the most part idealized stories and pure mythology. What was presented as history was in fact hagiography, myths created over hundreds of years.

We barely learned any Zen history at Shasta when I was there. The only Zen history Kennett knew was the official and sanitized bios of Dogen and Keizan, and that was pretty much it. At Sojiji, they did not share with Kennett in any way the history of the Soto sect, They didn't talk with her about the historical controversies, the schisms, the reformation, the Soto Zen support of of the Imperial war machine. The shadows were kept in the closets. And certainly in the late 60s and early 70s, all the Zen books were mostly filled with the lofty tales of Chinese and Japanese masters, their wild enlightenment stories, and some early koan commentaries - with not much real background or historical context or messy bits. D.T. Suzuki had presented to the West a vision of Zen that was romanticized, idealized and essentially false. He presented a Zen (Rinazi only, he had no interest in Soto Zen) that was a perfect essential philosophy, that was not a religion, that was outside history or politics, had no shadows - that did not exist in any real sense, except in imagination. This was propaganda created to gain praise and acceptance from Western academia - and it worked - and his view dominated the way nearly everyone approached Zen for decades.

So participating in this forum over the last year got me thinking more about the actual history of Zen. When I went on amazon, I discovered a whole new field of Zen books and studies that I had been mostly unaware of -- some of which are usually referred to as critical studies. I also found many in-depth histories of both Chinese and Japanese Zen -- mostly written in the last few decades - based on troves of old texts that had been uncovered. It is interesting to note critical Zen studies originated in Japan at the Soto Zen University - and then spread to the West. And many of these academic are not there to debunk Zen per se, they have great respect for the teachings and insights and writings, but they also felt that much of what was thought to be authentic Zen was fabricated and misunderstood. They were not interested in the self-promotional myths, but in what actually happened and why.

I have always been fascinated by the history of religion and belief. So I started to read some of these books and they were eye openers - to say the least. I admit I have not read all the books I have posted here, but i have read a bunch of them and will hopefully get through many more. Some I will no doubt skim. But I wanted to share this annotated bibliography with the folks on this forum.

No doubt, for many people, these lists of books, the books themselves, all this historical context is way too much information. And for some, they really won't care that Bodhidharma was a fictional character or that Rinzai never said anything attributed to him or that the official Zen lineage that is chanted every morning was fabricated in the 9th century. After all, why should you care what happened thousands of years ago in a far off land? You are sitting on your cushion, focused on your in and out breath, what does the past have to do with that? Nothing at all? Mostly nothing? A great deal? Even if there really wasn't a Sixth Patriarch as described in the mythology, surely the Platform Sutra is a brilliant and inspiring text that has been handed down for generations. Does it matter who wrote or why it was written or changed over the years? Somehow Buddhism / Zen has been passed down since the historical Buddha, does it matter that the transmission lineage was made up as a marketing tool in Tang China?

It does appear -- and i could be wrong on this - since i have certainly not contacted the main western Zen centers to take a survey -- that there is this chasm. On one side are the Zen teachers and practitioners and the other side the academics, historians and proponents of critical studies. It seems that for the most part that the practitioners are not reading these books of critical history and don't want to know, or don't care, about what really happened in the past. To them, Bodhidharma is real - in one way or another -- and they want to keep chanting the names in the lineage. They love the tradition - it works for them -- and questioning or certainly being "critical" is not part of the practice. I totally understand that point of view. And on the other side, are the academics and writers and historians who point out what really happened historically, what is real and what is false, what is mythology or politics, etc. I have read Tricycle Magazine and Shambhala Sun for many years, and neither of those publications have shown the slightest interest in writing about the critical side of things -- except for the occasional book review - i have seen nothing. That being said, some of the key books do have endorsements from some American Zen teachers and John McRae, the author of SEENG THROUGH ZEN presented his insights at some Zen centers including Kyogen's, so please take what I say as very general and based on assumptions. There may be Zen teachers and students who have taken to heart some of the new findings and insights.

Yesterday, I was interviewing a professor of theology at Harvard on a project I am doing. The first thing he said was that most Americans are totally ignorant about the religions that they practice. They know almost nothing of the history, the theology, the teachings of their religion. And most people, he said, don't really want to know. They want to keep things simple and go with the flow. This is certainly true of most American Buddhists who practice Tibetan or Zen or vipasanna. They are interested in the practical aspects, the meditation, the rituals, the basics, and are not looking at where all of this came from, how it changed, and so on.

Last night, I visited one of the grand reformed synagogues of New York - huge and very beautiful. Part of a project I am doing - so i needed to visit a few Jewish temples. So I went to Shabbat services. Incredible woman cantor / singer - terrific music and atmosphere. Warm engaged Rabbis. Very politically progressive -- they were honoring Martin Luther King, Jr - since it's his official holiday on Monday. and the Rabbi talked about his recent visit to Israel where he met with head of the Palestinian authority. The place was packed. But what came across to me was how much the members of the congregation wanted the connection to the tradition, to the rituals, to their roots, to feel connected. I would bet that most of them probably don't believe most of what is written in the bible / torah - but that doesn't matter. The Rabbis still carry around the torah during the service and people reach out with their prayer books touching the scrolls and then kissing their book. But do they believe that the Red Sea parted or that a bush burned in the desert or that God gave Moses ten commandments on tablets of stone. Probably not. And do any of them study the most recent biblical scholarship that proves that Moses is pure mythology and in fact the Jewish tribe was never captive in Egypt. Highly unlikely. The old stories are too good and it doesn't matter to them in any case if it's not totally true. For them, the truth is in the communion, in the connection, in the singing in Hebrew, in the tradition. And it certainly works for them. And that's fine to a point. Then it's not. Where believing myths do not work is seen clearly in the Middle East. When myths like the ones in the holy books are literally believed, you have wars, terrorism, slaughter, chosen people and not chosen people, holy war, crusades, popes and church cover-ups, abuse of women and gays, you have cults of the one true god that fight to the death the other cults of the one true god.

All our friends on this board, each person has their own unique relationship to their Shasta / zen experience and their own unique take aways, practices, and how they digest their experience. Some are well gone from Zen and probably would not want to read any of these books. Others might find reading one or two of interest - because actually what happened in ancient China has quite a lot to do with what happened at Shasta. Quite fascinating really. Quite a mirror.

Enough babbling for now. I will leave it at that.
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Lise
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PostSubject: Re: why is josh posting all these book lists -- has he lost his mind????   Sat Jan 14, 2012 3:31 pm

Please do keep sharing your book lists and the thoughts that go with them.

You may know this already - your posts are contributing to more than one academic project underway amongst our guests/members -
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: why is josh posting all these book lists -- has he lost his mind????   Sat Jan 14, 2012 3:51 pm

academic projects? No, hadn't heard. actually many more books to share. i buy so many books on amazon.com that at one point, the company called to thank me for being such a good customer!!!!
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PostSubject: Re: why is josh posting all these book lists -- has he lost his mind????   Tue Jan 17, 2012 11:47 am

Well, Josh, if you've lost your mind, I want to thank you. These book summaries are certainly an eye opener for me. Once again, I'm left to ponder what is it in me that led me to completely sacrifice my own innate truth; and conversely, what made me say I can't do this anymore. Maybe it's the same thing!

Well, dear friend, thank you for all these postings, and if I find your mind, would you like it sent UPS or FedEx?

mokuan
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PostSubject: Re: why is josh posting all these book lists -- has he lost his mind????   Tue Jan 17, 2012 2:46 pm

I agree with Mokuan. Thanks Josh.

Even when we can't dive in and read every book ourselves, it's good to know that all of this work has been done, and that it's available to us. And the summaries that you're posting are detailed enough to reward careful reading.
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Carol

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PostSubject: Re: why is josh posting all these book lists -- has he lost his mind????   Fri Jan 20, 2012 3:04 am

Thank you, Josh. I always wondered about those guys in the lineage, especially the one who lived under the sea.
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PostSubject: Re: why is josh posting all these book lists -- has he lost his mind????   Mon Jan 23, 2012 6:38 pm

Josh, was that your little mind, or big mind you lost?
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PostSubject: Re: why is josh posting all these book lists -- has he lost his mind????   Mon Jan 23, 2012 9:45 pm

Here's a review of Zen at War that was written by Josh, and that originally appeared in Tricycle:

http://adishakti.org/_/zen_at_war_a_book_review_by_josh_baran.htm

And here's the irritatingly Zenner-Than-Thou reply from some active monk from somewhere:

http://www.ralphmag.org/kigen-zenmonkL.html

Apparently, terrible crimes against humanity should only make you want to sit and contemplate, as if in aesthetic arrest before a landscape.

People like this monk often want to divert attention away from thinking critically about DT Suzuki & Co's full legacy. It's always "yeah but that's not the real story", or it's the unimportant part, or it's old news that all the true Zen sophisticates already knew, or, worst of all, "If you were truly enlightened, then you'd have lost all impulse to judge any action good or bad."

I want to ask them if perhaps there just might be a little bit of self arising in there, all unsuspecting, in that impulse to want to talk about something else.
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PostSubject: Re: why is josh posting all these book lists -- has he lost his mind????   Tue Jan 24, 2012 9:59 pm

Quote :
"If you were truly enlightened, then you'd have lost all impulse to judge any action good or bad."

Which of course is itself is a judgement that anyone who judges is 'bad' and 'unenlightened'. Mmm.. what was it the Buddha is supposed to have said about coming to you own judgements on things - but of course only if they agree with me.
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PostSubject: Re: why is josh posting all these book lists -- has he lost his mind????   Fri Jan 27, 2012 1:35 pm

I remember when I first came on OBCConnect and there would occasionally be a monk that posted. This seemed to me to also be true of the lay folk who defended what the monks would say. The jist of the defense that all these folks posted was essentially that those who pointed to mistakes made were drinking the wine of delusion. Any hurt that was felt could only be felt by self. So to say that I or others were hurt by what Rev. Kennett, Eko, Shasta or the OBC did was merely an indulgences in self. If we understood the truth of no self we would say nothing. Where "Don't let others make a mistake in Buddhism" comes in, I never could quite figure out. Nor could I figure out where "do only good" (helping others see their mistakes) or do good for others (help stop the harm) figures into the equation.

Have all these people gone to "see no evil; hear no evil" university?
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PostSubject: Re: why is josh posting all these book lists -- has he lost his mind????   Fri Jan 27, 2012 1:53 pm

@Henry

I remember that closed system conundrum well. In my days as the most committed lay trainee/minister I never believed in it. Maybe I knew better because of my background. But I was not living in that culture 24/7 and applied a healthy grain of salt or more to any line from JK or seniors at SA. Was there a time as a monk when you swallowed that whole, Henry? The idea that any critical thinking or doubt, any experience of injury is simply delusion? The unraveling of that knot seems crucial to any true spiritual or psychological healing. When it does unravel, then the floodgates open of disowned,denied, and dissociated experience. And that is the beginning of wholeness and true trust in one's inner integrity.
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PostSubject: Re: why is josh posting all these book lists -- has he lost his mind????   Fri Jan 27, 2012 5:47 pm

Bill,

You certainly put me on the spot. It's so much easier to pontificate than look at myself. Let me try and answer that as honestly as I can. I don't think I swallowed it whole, but I don't doubt I sometimes acted as if I did, and perhaps I actually did at times. I can't say for certain. What I think was the prevalent state I existed in for too long was the "put it on the back burner" stage. I saw others being treated harshly and did nothing, but it never sat quite right. I think I more easily justified such techniques when I was the one utilizing them. I had an anger and temper problem to begin with. Now I could spiritualize both to justify my actions.

There was an element of bizareness and cruelty in the way especially Rev. Kennett and Eko went at others that dwarfed how I and others emulated them. I was uncomfortable watching it and I very, perhaps most, often felt it was just wrong. But there was also a very strong element of doubt in my own judgment. And why shouldn't there have been. I had made enough mistakes in my life using my own judgment to make me quite skeptical. I had learned an enormous amount at Shasta and from Rev. Kennett, so why shouldn't I rely on her judgment? And then there was a sense of loyalty along with all the teachings around the master disciple relationship that encouraged one to err on the side of trusting the master. It was a conundrum that ate me up from the inside out over years, getting worse and worse over time. A month or so before I became ill and eventually bedridden from fibromyalgia, I had a clear insight that something was terribly wrong at Shasta and with how Rev. Kennett conducted business. I had a terribly strong urging from within, almost an imperative, to leave Shasta. Needless to say, I didn't listen. Shortly afterwards I started my decline into disability to the point of being unable to function independently. The more disabled I became, the more I became a target of Rev. Kennett and Eko's scorn and anger. Even then, though I believed what they were doing to be terribly wrong, I could not rid myself of doubting myself. I turned 40, after almost 4 years of inability to function physically, and I knew that my life would be over if I stayed at Shasta. Though I was severely disabled and truly wondered how I could ever function outside the monastery with no skill and no degree, I knew with real certainty that I had to leave. I actually finally trusted my own intuition, my own integrity, my own wholeness, my own ability to decide for myself, regardless of what others said.

Sometimes people will tell me that what I did was brave. I have to half sigh, half chuckle within. Look how long it took. Look how long I did not trust myself. Look how long I tacityly supported the system by remaining and not speaking publicly. In the end, I don't think it is about being brave or being weak. Each of our paths to trusting our own integrity and ability to make the right decision, or the wrong decision and accept the consequences, is different. Mine was a long a hard one. Others have it innately without much of a struggle. Each struggle, however, brings its own rewards and strengths, as well as wounds.

I hope my story will encourage others to listen to their own inner compass much sooner than I listened to mine. If you make a mistake and accept the consequences, you will learn and grow nonetheless. And others, if they are true friends or mentors, who are able to see you acted from your best judgment, will let you make those mistakes and help dust you off when you fall. And they will also celebrate your victory when you did what was best.

Hope this answers your question Bill. A little longer and more personal than I thought it would be.
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PostSubject: Re: why is josh posting all these book lists -- has he lost his mind????   Fri Jan 27, 2012 6:27 pm

Henry wrote:
Bill,

I hope my story will encourage others to listen to their own inner compass much sooner than I listened to mine. If you make a mistake and accept the consequences, you will learn and grow nonetheless. And others, if they are true friends or mentors, who are able to see you acted from your best judgment, will let you make those mistakes and help dust you off when you fall. And they will also celebrate your victory when you did what was best.

Hope this answers your question Bill. A little longer and more personal than I thought it would be.

Henry, thank you for reaching deeply to answer this one. It communicates to me how much you have transmuted your own suffering into a reservoir of interior trust in what is deepest and truest in yourself. And along with it hopefully there is a profound compassion for yourself and your own humanity that endured this passage. Before I came to Shasta I had endured a period of abuse in a closed unquestioning religious setting ruled by unquestioned authority. (Perhaps I was inoculated to some degree because of this.) It is a great grace to recognize that we can emerge and find a path to liberation from such things, and to use the pain of it to have a good life and become a resource to others. Like yourself I found my experiences of abuse and the suffering associated with it were a help in my healing work with others as a therapist. Undoubtedly you have found likewise. I have also discovered within myself, a profoundly healing love for myself which extends outward to all other beings.
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PostSubject: Re: why is josh posting all these book lists -- has he lost his mind????   Fri Jan 27, 2012 10:13 pm

Once again, Henry and Bill, I admire your willingness to tell the (subjective, incomplete, beautiful, brave) truth about your lives.

Thank you.

Henry wrote:
Have all these people gone to "see no evil; hear no evil" university?

...Seeems to me like they're advertising a lobotomy, not enlightenment. "You too can feel absolutely nothing but contemplative bliss in face of terrible evil!" Maybe I'll pass, thanks, and recommend that others pass as well. Don't discard your brains along with your shoes outside the temple door.

My (very brief) experiences at Shasta Abbey have me thinking they were teaching something much more substantial, at least when I was there, at least to the laity. But of course I can't, and don't, defend the intentional harming of anyone under the pretense of teaching Zen Buddhism, as skillful means or otherwise.
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PostSubject: Re: why is josh posting all these book lists -- has he lost his mind????   Sat Jan 28, 2012 9:23 pm

Henry wrote:
... there was also a very strong element of doubt in my own judgment. And why shouldn't there have been. I had made enough mistakes in my life using my own judgment to make me quite skeptical. I had learned an enormous amount at Shasta and from Rev. Kennett, so why shouldn't I rely on her judgment? And then there was a sense of loyalty along with all the teachings around the master disciple relationship that encouraged one to err on the side of trusting the master.

Brave and honestly put as usual Henry. I think it probably sums up many peoples experience, it certainly does mine.

Bill, I think that the greatest grace is to fully appreciate others as persons 'in their own right' to quote the Divine Comedy's song 'Mother Dear'. I have come to the view that many of us project the perfection that we would have for ourselves onto the saint, the guru, the teacher or master, the genius, even heaven help us, the politician. Then we abase our selves at the feet of the 'perfect one' and later may even, in arrogance, believe that our own puny progress means we have finally attained the same perfection and that others should treat us in the same way and castigate them for their blindness and impudence when they don't. Of course when we finally see the failings in the perfect one for what they are we are horrified that the person has not lived up to our expectations of them and castigate them as the great devil. Or even worse sometimes we take the failings as 'special' signs of perfection, and copy them ourselves teaching others that they are great strengths, then we are truly lost. No, for me the great grace is to know that we are truly all normal, everyday, frail humans with our own strengths and failings, which we can struggle with and sometimes, but not always, overcome. That we can learn to see more clearly but never 'perfectly'.
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PostSubject: Re: why is josh posting all these book lists -- has he lost his mind????   Sun Jan 29, 2012 12:18 am

@ Mark

What you say in many ways sums up the themes of our shared discourse. I like M. Scott Peck's description of human existence as a school for love, that our purpose here is to liberate, express, and live our full capacity to love, to love all things, all beings as they are, ourselves as we are. Our obsession of hitching our wagon to the "realized ones" comes from a despair that we can ever experience love in the fullness we long for, and our judgments of ourselves and others that incline us to such mistakes arise from this despair. This is the paradigm that I have arrived at here in this stage of the journey.

These ideas and ideals of a wholeness or "perfection" outside of our humanity and our human experience have been created by religion and its agents in large part to justify the domination of others and have done great harm in so doing. The false myth of special people who have what we don't is wrong and creates harm. We do benefit from those teachings that inspire us that the garden of the spirit is in every human heart, and the wellspring of love is there awaiting the receptive awakened trust and consent of each being to flow freely in and through our human life and into the world.
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PostSubject: Re: why is josh posting all these book lists -- has he lost his mind????   Mon Jan 30, 2012 5:23 pm

cmpnwtr wrote:

These ideas and ideals of a wholeness or "perfection" outside of our humanity and our human experience have been created by religion and its agents in large part to justify the domination of others and have done great harm in so doing. The false myth of special people who have what we don't is wrong and creates harm.

I wonder how much of it comes from below? I.e., do those who think they need a guru really take heed when a Reverend Master Soan-Dso says, "Hey, I'm just a monk! I can't necessarily answer all of your questions very well, certainly not in the moment you think of them, and maybe not ever. Go and sit, and then let's talk again."

How much do their expectations of The Perfect Guru shape the assumption of perfection on the part of the guru? I.e., to what extent does the guru grow into the role of spiritual despot by the encouragement and apparent needs of his "flock" (a word that contains nearly all of the sinister baggage all by itself)?

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

I think Dostoevsky made a pretty similar point with his Grand Inquisitor:


(G.I. speaking to Jesus, narrated by Ivan to Alyosha): "But let me tell Thee that now, to-day, people are more persuaded than ever that they have perfect freedom, yet they have brought their freedom to us and laid it humbly at our feet. But that has been our doing. Was this what Thou didst? Was this Thy freedom?'"

"I don't understand again." Alyosha broke in. "Is he ironical, is he jesting?"

(Ivan again:) "Not a bit of it! He claims it as a merit for himself and his Church that at last they have vanquished freedom and have done so to make men happy."

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

I think in Exodus it's the people who go to Aaron to ask him to make an idol for them to worship, as well. Aaron makes the false god for them, but only at their prompting.

Anyway, I would not exonerate SA/OBC, or the Catholic Church, or anyone else, for the harm they cause, even if I could. Just trying to make sense of it all.
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PostSubject: Re: why is josh posting all these book lists -- has he lost his mind????   Mon Jan 30, 2012 6:02 pm

ddolmar wrote:

I wonder how much of it comes from below? I.e., do those who think they need a guru really take heed when a Reverend Master Soan-Dso says, "Hey, I'm just a monk! I can't necessarily answer all of your questions very well, certainly not in the moment you think of them, and maybe not ever. Go and sit, and then let's talk again."
"

Good point! The ideals of gurus, priests, etc. who are invested with special powers and knowledge are certainly created and maintained by institutional religion and its agents who may be lured by the promise of devotees given over to
absolute loyalty and financial support to the representatives of
religion. The impulse to project the fantasies of such power and specialness to these agents, who can claim to be the gateway to the unseen world of spirit, seems to be a product of the human mind enticed by the promises of religion and its agents in our longing for a release from our earthy travails and a consummation of our desire for happiness through "enlightenment", heaven, or whatever. I also believe that each of us longs to be "known" and loved in a profound way that no other human person can truly fulfill. A guru or priest can be the object of that fantasy, and the power of it can be compelling and addictive. (In psychology we call that inclination "transference." In the psychotherapy profession it is an important part of training to recognize that impulse as it arises and assist the client to resolve it in a therapeutic way that allows for a healthy separation and autonomy for the client.)

I would not detract from the valid support and guidance that real spiritual mentors can give, who willingly share what they have learned in the spiritual journey and daily practice without demanding any inordinate loyalty or recognition of position, undue financial compensation, or other forms of deference or personal demand. Such persons in my life have shared what they can out of loving kindness and without expectation for return. They are simply friends who offered me companionship and support along the way for a time because it was in their nature to do so and because I shared an interest in the path they had chosen in their life. The fruit of those friendships has been greater spiritual and psychological autonomy, not less.
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PostSubject: Re: why is josh posting all these book lists -- has he lost his mind????   Mon Jan 30, 2012 6:12 pm

All good thoughts, Bill. And I thought the exchange between you and Mark above was pretty savvy, as well.
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PostSubject: Re: why is josh posting all these book lists -- has he lost his mind????   Mon Jan 30, 2012 6:54 pm

ddolmar wrote:
All good thoughts, Bill. And I thought the exchange between you and Mark above was pretty savvy, as well.

Thank you, also for your contribution and facilitating movement forward in this discussion.
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PostSubject: Re: why is josh posting all these book lists -- has he lost his mind????   Mon Jan 30, 2012 8:19 pm

Thanks to all of you for sharing your insights. In my experience, the process of investing a religious leader with special powers and knowledge happens gradually. Maybe it's like a physical craving that begins slowly and innocently with a drink at a party or a social hit of a drug, then ends up as a crippling addiction.

My willingness to invest the OBC monk (about whom I have spoken endlessly) with those "special" powers began the first evening I attended meditation group and he taught me how to meditate. Sitting cross-legged in that candle-lit room was a balm to me as my day-time life at that time was professionally and personally exhausting. And looking back, I know that that practice of simple meditation was a good thing, at least for me at that time.

As time went on, the monk's teachings continued to make sense, and I continued loyally to follow. Then gradually his teachings and conduct made less and less sense. But by that time, I was "hooked." It took years of growing doubt and the catastrophe with my daughter and interacting with the people on the OBC forum for me to really let go of belief that he was invested with some special powers.

Although my situation was not nearly as extreme as yours was, Henry, since you were a monk and your entire livlihood depended upon the people at Shasta, I can understand why it took you such a long time to listen to that "inner compass" and leave.
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PostSubject: Re: why is josh posting all these book lists -- has he lost his mind????   Mon Jan 30, 2012 10:24 pm

Carol you're right no one has any special powers; any they may appear to have as Bill said so correctly said they get from us through psychological transference. There are no special people really. There maybe people who are special to us; parents children, friends - even dare I say it spiritual advisors, but they are not 'special' just special to us. People may have great skills and ability even to the point of genius but that does not make them 'special' like gods. Even an Einstein or a Gandhi is not 'special' in that sense, they were both very human beings, great perhaps but not 'special' - just human.

In the Tibetan tradition the wheel of life, cycling through gods, hungry ghosts, animals, etc. can only be escaped from when we are human, truly human, truly and simply ourselves; at all other times we are trapped in the constant turn of the wheel. In the Catholic church they only elevate people to sainthood after they are well and truly dead and gone, and have been for some time. We should learn from their embedded wisdom - and sometimes the Catholic church should too!

Yes it takes time and can be difficult and bewildering to sort out what has happened when things go awry; there is a process which an engineer would call hysteresis that takes place To illustrate it, think of someone who walks down a street every day past a buiding site. Suddenly one day it stops being a building site and becomes an unfinished house. Then if they stop building and start tearing the house back down it has to go way past point at which we started to percieve it as a house before we switch back to seeing it as a building site again. Its just the same with 'special' people, and much more difficult, because we have invested them with our faith and belief and made them 'special'. So its very hard and confusing abandon our stongly held beliefs and see that they are not 'special', just human witjt human faults. We hate to be wrong, and hate even more admitting it. At that point we transfer our pain and confusion back onto them, turning the process on its head, and saying that it was all their fault, and that they are devils and everything they did or said was wrong. It takes time and humility to sort the wheat from the chaff and see them as they are neither god nor devil, just an human with good points and bad ones.
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Carol

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PostSubject: Re: why is josh posting all these book lists -- has he lost his mind????   Mon Jan 30, 2012 11:34 pm

Mark says:

"At that point we transfer our pain and confusion back onto them [the formerly "special" people], turning the process on its head, and saying that it was all their fault, and that they are devils and everything they did or said was wrong."

Thank you, Mark. That's the process a lot of us are going through on OBC Connect. Your comment is a good reminder that no one is a god or a devil. It's hard to see that, though, and a lot easier to demonize someone than to look at ourselves and identify the pain and confusion within ourselves.
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mstrathern
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PostSubject: Re: why is josh posting all these book lists -- has he lost his mind????   Tue Jan 31, 2012 8:44 am

Me too, Carol, me too.
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cmpnwtr

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PostSubject: Re: why is josh posting all these book lists -- has he lost his mind????   Tue Jan 31, 2012 1:03 pm

I am the first to affirm the point that each of us must do our own inner work, learn to stand on our own two feet and learn to be the guardian of our own spiritual life, I would just like to add an additional comment that there are indeed real "demons" in the guise of religious teachers and priests. They have used their position and the power of transference to inflict incalculable injury on human beings, the pedophile priests, the sexual abusers and predators, the serial abusers and exploiters of vulnerable people. They seek and maintain power over others for genuinely wicked purposes. They know what they are doing and they choose to do it. Such persons need to be exposed and held accountable.

There is a fundamental inequality of power between the "guru, spiritual teacher, priest" and the follower ( analogous to the therapist and patient/client) that places a greater ethical onus on the one with the power, training, and ethical responsibility. Such ethical violations, especially the grosser and more harmful ones, are inexcusable and cannot be explained away by the spiritual/psychological confusion or dependency of the devotee or client. The responsibility for this harm lies squarely and entirely on the one in the role of spiritual/religious authority. Devotees can certainly learn from their suffering and use it to grow into a greater maturity and autonomy, but they should in no way be held or hold themselves responsible for the abuse that was inflicted upon them.
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PostSubject: Re: why is josh posting all these book lists -- has he lost his mind????   Tue Jan 31, 2012 3:00 pm

I completely agree, Bill. There several groups of questions which can easily be confused (and I may have done so):

1) Predators. How do predatory human beings get into roles of spiritual authority? How do we expose them for what they are so that they cannot harm more people? What role does the religious institution have in rooting out these people?

2) Good gurus gone wrong. How do ordinary, decent human beings in roles of spiritual authority get it wrong? How can they avoid falling prey to spiritual inflation (believing the hype about themselves), even when they've achieved much or have a lot of followers? How do they avoid the false "need" to become the perfect guru?

3) Followers. How do laity and junior monastics protect themselves from 1) and 2)? Is there any way in which they can behave or think differently that would result in fewer abuses? How do they recognize when they are emotionally attached to the guru, and how do they prevent that attachment from being used against their best interests? Why are young adults so particularly vulnerable*?

And there I sill haven't got to the question of children in the care or custody of a religious authority.

But to ask questions related to 3) is, for me, to try to find protection (a spiritual vaccine?) against abuse, rather than to downplay the sometimes very malicious human agency involved in 1), or the fatuous self-regard involved in 2).

You and Carol and Henry and Mark (and many other OBCCers) are especially well-placed to answer questions related to 3). What's more, it's safe to say that the desire to find a Perfect Enlightened One, or however you would frame this impulse, isn't going away from our species anytime soon*. So they seemed worth asking, and did I get some thoughtful responses.

--Dan

*(If I had had access to a Zen Buddhist master when I was 19 or 20, I might have jumped off a cliff with him or her if that's what they wanted.)


Last edited by ddolmar on Tue Jan 31, 2012 4:13 pm; edited 1 time in total
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cmpnwtr

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PostSubject: Re: why is josh posting all these book lists -- has he lost his mind????   Tue Jan 31, 2012 4:11 pm

Those are great questions, Dan. I don't pretend to have the answers. But I do think there needs to be a new spiritual culture informed by an educational process that begins in early life. The traditions I was schooled in, Roman Catholic, from early childhood into adolescence, and Soto Zen (through the auspices of Shasta Abbey and associates) both taught an authoritarian model that disempowered the student/ devotee, and that the priest/monk was the doorway to Enlightenment/Heaven etc. My parents, grandparents and these traditions simply made me a great target for the what was to come. My experiences of being the target of sexual predation by Roman Catholic priests and monks nearly resulted in suicide, but my recovery from that abuse and a well established meditation practice helped me to claim my own spiritual autonomy and not fall victim to what might have occurred through SA. I tried to pass on to my daughter the lessons of my journey and to help her preserve her own private boundaries and trust her inner integrity, which she has learned to do.

I would like to see a more intentional approach of spiritual education, not indoctrination, helping persons from early childhood into adulthood learn about how to protect themselves from harm, and to hold sacred their own interior sacred space, their own bodies, and vulnerable psyches from the abuse, exploitation, and predation of others disguised as spiritual/religious authorities.

Some churches and religious sects have just begun to institute programs of education, primarily directed toward adult ministers about abuse prevention, but very little directed toward children or their parents, and their interior process. I see nothing directed toward a real examination of how the process of interior growth and integration is actually nurtured.

Most importantly from my perspective is that we need a new paradigm of what the spiritual journey is, and non-authoritarian models of mentoring that are respectful, safe, and egalitarian. The present institutional models both East and West lend themselves to the perpetuation of abusive patterns based on the historic cultures from which they arose. They are rooted in a domination paradigm and not a communion paradigm. That must change for any of them to be safe and nurturing to spiritual growth.

My personal view is that I see little hope for redemption in the present models of institutional monasticism, East or West. They are much more part of the problem than the solution.
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PostSubject: Re: why is josh posting all these book lists -- has he lost his mind????   Tue Jan 31, 2012 9:32 pm

Bill - you are right of course. There are those who deliberately set out to pervert positions of power that they have and they should, and in an ideal world would, be held to account. Indeed I would go further and say that all those who are in the kind of power positions we are talking about should be held to account for the damage that they may have done, or are doing, to those in their care. I would go so far as to say that they should be forced to submit to regular independent inspection of their behaviour and the behaviour of their organisations. You may ask how this could be enforced I think that could be done comparatively simply if there is the public will. If the legislature was willing to take it on it would not be difficult to make any tax advantages from being a religious or charitable organisation dependant on getting a regular independent clean bill of behavioural health. The threat of hitting them in the pocket book should work wonders. And any organisation that refused would look pr

I don't see any other way of protecting people than some form of external independent inspection. I don't believe that there can be any form of individual inoculation. However the major organisations that would certainly sign up to an appropriate inspection regime enforced by suitable sanctions would then be in a position to criticise those groups that refused to sign up on grounds of behaviour rather than faith a much easier ground on which to try and curb unacceptable behaviour.
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PostSubject: Re: why is josh posting all these book lists -- has he lost his mind????   Tue Jan 31, 2012 10:35 pm

mstrathern wrote:

I don't see any other way of protecting people than some form of external independent inspection. I don't believe that there can be any form of individual inoculation. However the major organisations that would certainly sign up to an appropriate inspection regime enforced by suitable sanctions would then be in a position to criticise those groups that refused to sign up on grounds of behaviour rather than faith a much easier ground on which to try and curb unacceptable behaviour.

Mark, as a professional in a human service profession I have had to be subjected to scrutiny and oversight, a set of ethical guidelines, and a licensing process. Clearly those who work with the public in the religious realm should be subjected to the same. However, not gonna happen in the U.S. any time soon in the field of religion, and where anyone can hang out a shingle and work their insanity on whoever shows up.

That said I think that a revolution in spiritual culture could provide a degree of inoculation, at least a knowledge and wariness of malpractice and a respect for personal boundaries. And different models of spiritual practice and community with less power differentials could provide less opportunity for abuse to occur. Back in the late 70s and early 80s my primary spiritual community was a small meditation group that alternated meeting place between our home and that of a friend. We set rules of behavior by consensus to make our meetings safe and established a structure of group practice together that offered both safety and support. We had guest presenters by invitation, but the group process made the decisions. It was an egalitarian structure that enhanced the growth of each participant. I don't know why that can't be the experience of every person seeking to have an intentional spiritual practice in their life.

In my experience the most transformative spiritual network of any size in the world is Alcoholics Anonymous. It is completely peer led of small groups and has a structure that, if followed, provides great safety and discipline to its participants. Alcoholics Anonymous saved my father's life and gave him a depth of spiritual growth and understanding he would not otherwise have had. I am not advocating necessarily that approach, but it is an example of a non-authoritarian model of peer led inclusive spiritual community that works for many who follow it.

At this stage of life and spiritual development I am following mostly a hermit mode of practice and don't require the group support that I once sought. At any rate, if I had undergone a different spiritual training/education/formation growing up, into a different spiritual paradigm than that of the Roman Catholic Church and its authoritarianism and reliance on total dependency on a priesthood intermediary, I am sure I would not have had the vulnerability to abuse that I did. Religious/monastic structures and their agents indoctrinate adherents into a life long dependence in order to support the organization, rather than a growing autonomy, independence, and responsibility for one's own spiritual life. This conditioned dependence encourages the possibility and likelihood of abuse of every sort, sexual, emotional, and financial, to transpire.

I am hopeful that humankind is moving toward a different paradigm of the life of the spirit and new strategies to realize that life. I have come to that in my own life and think it can be so for others.
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PostSubject: Re: why is josh posting all these book lists -- has he lost his mind????   Tue Jan 31, 2012 10:41 pm

Addendum:
Regarding newer models of spiritual life and practice, I have had some experience with the mindfulness communities of Thich Nhat Hanh and Vipassana groups connected with the Insight Meditation Society networks. My experience with both was mostly positive and their nonreliance on the authoritarian institutional monastic model, respect for boundaries and individual personhood, most hopeful.
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PostSubject: Re: why is josh posting all these book lists -- has he lost his mind????   Tue Feb 07, 2012 2:25 pm

I've been absent from this forum for quite some time. However, I greatly admire this conversation. Thank you Henry for your willingness to share. As usual this is a thought-provoking discussion. I can't add too much to it except to thank you all for sharing your experience, insights, and hope.

I have been a student of dharma for over thirty- five years. I've met some false teachers as well as authentic ones. It is always a good idea to trust one's gut in life, but since we were all new to Buddhist teachings, we weren't educated in the ways to observe the behavior of "gurus" or "masters" and decide for ourselves if they were worth followiing.

I do believe that Bill is on to something profound and controversial, when he mentions that we need a new model of spiritual friendship and to develop "nonreliance on the authoritarian institutional monastic model." I believe that those of you who are sharing your experiences here on this forum are very encouraging to one who has become disillusioned with this model. I really am only interested in sanghas which adopt an alternative to this model at this point in my life/practice...Thanks for sharing your positive impressions of two groups creating an alternative to this model. I want to thank everyone for sharing your experiences on this forum.

Machik
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PostSubject: Re: why is josh posting all these book lists -- has he lost his mind????   Sat Feb 11, 2012 12:16 pm

Machik wrote:

It is always a good idea to trust one's gut in life, but since we were all new to Buddhist teachings, we weren't educated in the ways to observe the behavior of "gurus" or "masters" and decide for ourselves if they were worth followiing.

In a way, we were educated. We were taught to judge or look at the behavior of others' teachers in order to decide if they were worth following, but we were also taught to observe the behavior of our own teacher only in order to see how their behavior shows us how we ourselves come up short, never ever in order to decide if they are worth continuing to follow.
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