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 Religious Fundamentalism: A Lack of Emotional Intelligence

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Henry

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PostSubject: Religious Fundamentalism: A Lack of Emotional Intelligence   Sun Feb 26, 2012 5:15 pm

(This thread was started in response to a point made by Christopher Hammacher in the Some Fundamental Problems with Zen thread in In Theory and Practice. I thought it might be interesting to have a discussion on this particular line of thought as a response to Christopher's point that Zen has a peculiar and unique defense to abusing others, which is that when one understands no self then there is no self that can be hurt and therefore no harm is done. I would like to tie that in to emotional intelligence and my growing sense that those who employ this strategy have simply fallen into the religious fundamentalism trap)

Christopher,

It is a widespread phenomena that people rationalize and justify away the pain they cause others. It is a widespread phenomena that there are those who recognize the pain and injustice and those that can't comprehend what the problem is. Happens daily in my office. However, when it comes to religions, we expect that they would be more on the side of those who recognize. Actually, religions are excellent at recognizing when others cause pain and injustice, and can actually be excellent, reliable advocates. Unfortunately, it is not so when it comes to looking at themselves as institutions. They are notoriously horrible at it.

While all religions do this, you make an excellent point that Zen has its own quite entrenched and, from the perspective of those who adhere to it, unassailable methodology for armoring itself against those it causes pain and suffering. You described the phenomena quite well. Let's call it the "no self defense." By strategically placing the hyphen where it suits you, a quite plausible justification for harm can be posited.

If you've read some of the threads on this site, you have no doubt come across this defense widely used by current OBC monks who previously were on this site along with some in the laity that have also accepted it. I was fascinated to read that this defense is not at all peculiar to the OBC, but is widespread in the Zen community. Also, someone I know, who is something of a diletante in the spiritual realm, and who has no connection to Zen, also used this as a self-evident truth. Lovely. Zen is perneating the New Age realm with its own brand of delusion.

What is the flaw in this fortress of delusitude is the implicit notion that no-self is devoid of emotional intelligence. What a curious notion that is. No-self is supposed to be the enlightened state. The ego drops away and one can no longer distinguish what was previously thought of as oneself from the rest of the universe. Or perhaps it is more correct to say that one can distinguish, but what was oneself is not identified with any more than what was once considered outside oneself.

My question is: Why does one have to look outside of no-self to find emotional intelligence? My contention is that
1. if one truly resided within no-self, there wouldn't be a need to go to therapy school to learn about emotional intelligence,
2. the fact that the OBC and so many other Zen school adherents cannot see the obvious (be it Shimano, Eko, Rev. Kennett, or whoever), shows a remarkable lack of emotional intelligence,
3. the cultivation of emotional intelligence so that abuses are minimized appears to be a radical departure from traditional practice,
simply demonstrates that these so called masters likely reside substantially more in the realm of ego than that of no self, even perhaps compared to mere mortals such as ourselves. This in and of itself is not a problem for me. We are all bozos on the bus of life. The problem for me is that these Zen institutions don't even know how to follow their own roadsigns. They often seem oblivious to the emotional intelligence inherent in no-self. They are headed north while whistling Dixie. But while Zen has its own flavor in regard to justification and rationalization of abusive behaviors, I think in the end, Zen institutions have more in common with their fellow institutional abusers than they have unique to themselves.

What I would like to put forward for discussion is my belief that religious fundamentalism, no matter of what faith, has a commonality of a lack of emotional intelligence. Perhaps even, this lack of emotional intelligence is one of the core functions that makes a religion fundamentalist. When I entered Shasta Abbey, I would never in a million years have thought of it as fundamentalist. And while no one has strapped on a suicide bomb, some of the abuses discussed on this forum are something that would have made many (hopefully most) of us hesitate to join if we would have known of them prior to having become so entrenched in the system. That these abuses were systemic and even converted to enlightened action in the minds of the monks (many posts on this topic also) demonstrates the instituionalized convoluted thinking that developed and became gospel.

The average adherent to any fundamentalist religion I don't think necessarily lacks emotional intelligence. They are often good people with good intentions. But they invariably defer judgment to the church heirarchy which sanctions hatred, prejudice, and abuses of all sorts in the name of serving their God. In fact, a trait of fundamentalism is that regardless of how one personally feels, one feels compelled to defer judgment or else one is judged oneself. One is allowed to feel bad, but one must set aside those feelings to follow the church dogma. That in Zen these abuses are to precipitate the experience of no-self is a slight of hand, to me, with no real substance. It is a universal fundamentalist mentality that allows, or more acurately requires, all this to occur. First the abuses start small. Then within time emotional rages, excessive control coming from insecurity and desire for power, inability to perceive others' emotional states and thereby trample on them, and sexual indiscretions all follow suit. Meian had said last year that everything Rev. Kennett did was for the good of others. Really? Did she convert all those emotional outbursts into enlightened actions? Her words indicate so.

Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Islamic and Hindu fundamentalism all share a glaring lack of emotional intelligence. Harm is not harm. It is always for the greater good. That anyone outside that particular enclave of fundamentalism can plainly see the egregious nature of the insensitivity and harm is always because they just don't understand that normal rules of decency don't apply to them when they are leading their flock to God. Excuse me: no-self.

In a way it is a leap for me to see the OBC as a fundamentalist religion, as no doubt it would be for the Shimano followers to see theirs in this light. But what is the difference really when those who remain have so separated themselves from norms of decency and an inabililty to see their leaders actions and flaws for what they are that they must deify cruelty. I am not naive. Sometimes people need a push and it's not always pretty. But when such actions are institutionalized to the point that common sense and clear perceptions of human flaws have to be supressed then problems are inevitable. When emotional intelligence is seen as against God or as a love and light heresy that blocks one's path to no-self, it seems to me that this an essential feature of fundamentalism. From the Catholic Inquisitions, to the fundamentalist Christians (who hate first blacks, then atheists, then gays, then commies, then liberals) to the sexual and power abuses in Zen today--the denial and minimizing of others' emotional pain is a prerequisite, along with a token, "gosh it's too bad we have to do that, but we have to lead them to God." Excuse me: no-self.
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cmpnwtr

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PostSubject: Re: Religious Fundamentalism: A Lack of Emotional Intelligence   Sun Feb 26, 2012 8:32 pm

Excellent essay, Henry. The ideology of the fundamentalism of no-self is an excellent formulation of what went sour at SA/OBC and relating it to the various formulations of fundamentalism in institutional religion/monasticism in other traditions is well taken. Fundamentalism can be textual(scriptural), institutional, or assume any number of forms. The nature of it is that it is a closed system, the foundational myth is beyond question and new evidence, new experiences, and new information cannot be allowed to challenge or change it.

I made a comment on another thread about the need of human beings to use story or narrative as a way of making meaning of events and actions (and all too often that meaning may be about justifications for actions). That narrative can be institutionalized within groups, especially with institutional religion, becoming a mythology to justify a whole range of particular cultural imperatives (i.e. patriarchy, hierarchy, claims to power and truth, and so on) around which an individual and group identity and the imperatives of that identity are formed. And those identities become reinforced and rigidified over time, hence the uniforms of monks, masters, and their various ranks. I can recall myself giving close attention to what color robe and rakusu the monks at SA had attained each time I was on retreat and inwardly checking with the corresponding deference that should be given.

The particular narrative or myth here is that of the state of "no-self" which the "enlightened masters" in their special state are able to appropriate, and in and from this state are able to be liberated from the "emotional intelligence" that is dismissed as conventional morality or as the products of socialization that are no longer needed by someone possessing this special state. In one of my conversations with Doug (Daizui) MacPhillamay he reported that this dismissal of accountability around so-called conventional morality or "emotional intelligence" was a real danger for those who might be in Zen training for longer periods of time. Oddly he, himself, readily dismissed the outrages committed by his personal teacher, JK, injuries that would not be accepted from another. A case in point, in the middle of a conversation with me he got a phone call from JK, during which the angry, abusive nature and volume of her voice was so elevated that I could hear with some discomfort and concern, and notice that he had to hold the phone some inches away from his ear because it was so loud and out of control. He shrugged his shoulder afterward, in response to behavior he would never have accepted from someone else, but which clearly had a distressing and hurtful impact on him. And of course all of us have heard the dismissal and justification, "where there is hurt, there is self." Those who have appropriated "no-self" are beyond reproach and beyond hurt and injury. So you must either deny the nature of the injury, or admit because you experience injury that you are of a lesser spiritual state and can only bow in feigned gratitude to the enlightened one who inflicted it.

Disrespect and abuse are okay from the enlightened master because they have appropriated "no-self." Such is the nature of this form of fundamentalism. The mythology that supports it is beyond question. Being a recovering Roman Catholic, I am well aware of the kind of dismissals that happen in the more egregious historical cases of murder, torture, and abuse by the Roman inquisition, whose historical crimes include such acts as the Albigensian Crusades where an estimated two million people, whole villages and towns in Northern Spain and Southern France, of women, children, and men were murdered for the sake of the "purity" of the Roman Catholic religion and its absolute claim on Divine revelation. In comparison with that horrific justification to defend the myth of exclusive ownership of the truth, the defense of harboring pedophiles over the protection of children for fear of public scandal may seem like small potatoes to the ecclesiastical authorities.

The myth or narrative that is beyond reproach and questioning in institutional Zen monasticism is the myth of the "enlightened master" and his/her acquisition of the state of "no-self." I have noted with some shock the defense of this on this very forum by a former monk who dropped in to say hello, complaining about the "whiners" on this site who were unwilling to undergo the divestment of their egos courtesy of JK.
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Christopher Hamacher



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PostSubject: Re: Religious Fundamentalism: A Lack of Emotional Intelligence   Mon Feb 27, 2012 7:24 am

Hi Henry,

Thanks for your thoughts. I agree completely, though I had never put it together as "emotional intelligence" before, but rather just as intelligence, or even just common sense. For example, I think that any normal person could have seen that what Shimano was doing was wrong, just based on what they learned in kindergarten. Yet the adoption of the Zen “story”, to use Bill's term, blocks this ability somehow. And once they've bought the story, only very few people are able to mentally step back from the groupthink and rely on their good old common sense: something is very wrong here and it's time to leave. So much for "enlightened action", as you say. Zen apparently makes you even blinder!

I think your fundamentalism description also is a good one. Another aspect that was evident at the ZSS, and which I have also been observing lately on Zen Forum International (if you've never heard of ZFI that's fine - I don't recommend it) is rigidity in defining what constitutes Zen and what doesn't. It's an attitude whereby the student's happiness is less important than the correct application of the accepted practices of such-and-such Zen school: “this is the way we do things here - if you don't like it you can get out!” At a real-life practice centre/monastery like the ZSS or the OBC, this attitude is of course understandable to a degree, but on a Buddhist discussion board? That is fundamentalism, not open-minded inquiry into what is the best way for the student to live her life. Again, another exposure of the big lie that Zen is undogmatic, non-religious, free of beliefs, etc.

I liked the comparison made elsewhere on this board (possibly by jack?) that OBC was stuck at spiritual third grade. I see that attitude on ZFI as well, and it's fundamentalism: they are unable to see that the way they do things is not the be-all-and-end-all of spiritual practice. They lose sight of the ultimate goal, i.e. happiness in this life, at the expense of continuing to follow the rules of third grade: precisely where to put their pencils and glue sticks, how to use their safety scissors, etc.
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sandokai



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PostSubject: Re: Religious Fundamentalism: A Lack of Emotional Intelligence   Thu Mar 01, 2012 6:24 pm

It sounds like what you're describing, Henry, is a normal human reaction for reducing cognitive dissonance only it's being...amplified by the group where both leaders and followers have a vested interested in not seeing what's going on.

How do those of us who are part of the group stay free of that? Or at least be aware that it might be happening and remembering to take a look in the mirror every once and a while.
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cmpnwtr

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PostSubject: Re: Religious Fundamentalism: A Lack of Emotional Intelligence   Thu Mar 01, 2012 6:54 pm

sandokai wrote:
It sounds like what you're describing, Henry, is a normal human reaction for reducing cognitive dissonance only it's being...amplified by the group where both leaders and followers have a vested interested in not seeing what's going on.

How do those of us who are part of the group stay free of that? Or at least be aware that it might be happening and remembering to take a look in the mirror every once and a while.

Indeed, but it becomes a pathological human reaction when it's institutionalized in an ideology to maintain and enhance loyalty and deflect any individual discernment or critical thinking .

When the face in the mirror reflects back ideological thinking and is dissuading any critical independent thinking or judgment, then that is the time to take stock and consider whether you have "drunk your share of the koolaid" and are party to tribal groupthink and possibly get out while you still can.

Speaking of "kool aid" a young couple who were friends of mine many years ago in the 70s told me about this cool commune they were joining in Guayana, led by a charismatic leader who preached brotherhood, egalitarianism, peace, love, all those good things. Just before the catastrophe happened at Jonestown I saw them again. They had borrowed money from another friend of mine to get out of there ASAP. The groupthink and the authoritarianism were getting too weird for them. They had decided to not speak to anyone else, to pretend they were leaving to visit family. And they got out just in time, weeks before the mass murder/suicide happened.

Anyone can get sucked in, and suffer the consequences of fundamentalist authoritarianism. And there is always another step to justifying it. When I told both my parents, when I was in my 50s and they were in their 70s about the abuse I had suffered from the parish priest, an abuse covered up by the supervising monsignor and the diocesan bishop. They didn't want to hear about it, they didn't want to talk about it to any other Catholics, and they took great pains to make it an aberrant exception. You see, they had bought into the magic, and they didn't want to give it up, even if it was their own child who had been harmed. They were afraid of meeting life without their magic.

Today I know people still involved with the OBC who are friends, but who don't want to know about my shunning experiences, or any of the other authoritarian abuses that occurred, don't want to talk about it, and who like some, would marginalize me, and invalidate the reports by referring to it as a misunderstanding or an aberrant exception. Yes, that is human nature, but it is pathological and injurious and must be confronted when we find it, and we need to confront what is avoidant and fearful in ourselves, and keeps us from confronting it.

Currently when I may read about Pema Chodron's excuses and minimalizing of the harm that her teacher, Chogyam Trungpa did, I am very sad, and think there is something fundamentally lacking in her spiritual practice and insight and her teaching of others, that she justifies and enables abuse and injury. And of course we have all been schooled in the fundamentalism of "no-mind" and the false myth of the "enlightened master" and are told not to judge, because any judgment is coming from "self." And if you listen to that, and see it in the mirror, and do nothing, you have become an enabler and participant in the pathology and its continuation.
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Carol

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PostSubject: Re: Religious Fundamentalism: A Lack of Emotional Intelligence   Mon Mar 05, 2012 11:46 am

Sandokai says "How do those of us who are part of the group stay free of that? Or at least be aware that it might be happening and remembering to take a look in the mirror every once and a while."

I agree with Bill's response to this comment and would like to add that the person who sees the danger of group- think in the OBC or any other organization is helping not only herself but others by leaving. The OBC generally maintains silence about monks or lay people who leave - we never find out why and there is little or no contact with the departees. Perhaps if people knew their reasons for leaving, they would be able to look into the mirror with more discernment and question for themselves the teachings and practices they see going on inside the OBC.

OBC Connect serves this purpose admirably, and I hope that monks and laity still inside the OBC have the chance to read the experiences of those who write on the forum and perhaps they will ponder the wisdom of continuing to accept the party line. The doctrine of "No-self" is not an excuse for "see no evil, hear no evil, think no evil."
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PostSubject: Re: Religious Fundamentalism: A Lack of Emotional Intelligence   Mon Mar 05, 2012 12:24 pm

Carol wrote:
Sandokai says "
The OBC generally maintains silence about monks or lay people who leave - we never find out why and there is little or no contact with the departees. Perhaps if people knew their reasons for leaving, they would be able to look into the mirror with more discernment and question for themselves the teachings and practices they see going on inside the OBC.
The doctrine of "No-self" is not an excuse for "see no evil, hear no evil, think no evil."

Thank you, Carol. I had been very cognizant of my own reasons for leaving in the 80s. Because of shunning and isolation I never knew about others. It has been extraordinarily healing to hear from others and their reasons. Your own painful experience with the pathologies of groupthink and the delusion of the enlightened master who has attained "no-mind" has been a great contribution to me and to the rest of us here. Hearing the experiences of others is a validation to find what is most trustworthy in yourself in the deep heart and in your own rational faculties and build your life on that. The great gift of the Buddhist wisdom tradition is that of true nature and that this wisdom there is something totally trustworthy within us. Again and again I am reminded of the cautionary note of the historical Buddha that comes to us from the Dhammapada scripture:
"Do not believe in anything simply because you have
heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is the opinion
of many. Do not believe in anything because it is found written in your
religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of
your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have
been handed down for many generations. But after observation and
analysis, when you find anything that agrees with reason and is
conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and
live up to it." (Buddha, 'Dhammapada')

For me the gift of Zen Buddhism and contemplative practice has been spiritual self reliance, to awaken to the Light within and bring it forth in my life, and not seek some kind of "power glide" in life by relying on "enlightened masters" and their communities.
"Be a light unto yourself." Buddha
"The Kingdom of heaven is within you." Yeshua of Nazareth
"This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine......" children's song
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Carol

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PostSubject: Re: Religious Fundamentalism: A Lack of Emotional Intelligence   Mon Mar 05, 2012 12:56 pm

Beautifully stated, Bill. Thank you!
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PostSubject: Re: Religious Fundamentalism: A Lack of Emotional Intelligence   Mon Mar 05, 2012 2:24 pm

Same from me, to Carol, Bill and all on this thread - thank you.

Sandokai, I think your willingness to read this forum and other info sources will only strengthen and protect you from group-think and fundamentalism.

You'll see it going on and straight away it doesn't look or feel right. You won't be able to accept it mentally even if you aren't in a position to say something or otherwise make your objection visible. You have a right to keep training in the midst of it anyway, if you feel that setting is helping you, and you can look at exploring other practises too, anytime. Choice abounds.
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cmpnwtr

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PostSubject: Re: Religious Fundamentalism: A Lack of Emotional Intelligence   Mon Mar 05, 2012 3:41 pm

Again, returning to the false myth of "enlightenment" and the appropriation of a state called "no-self." This is a scam that has come to us from the East, and we in the West were all too ready to buy into it.

In my many conversations with Daizui (Doug) MacPhillamay, who was my colleague in the psychological profession as well as a sometime spiritual mentor for a number of years, we both agreed that there was no such thing as an ongoing state of "no-self". At best there are moments when the solidity of egoic consciousness is lessened or momentarily drops away. But the truth is that a person cannot exist, cannot function in a psychosocial existence in the world without an ego. We also agreed that the effect of any kensho experience and life-long spiritual practice is to have a growing experience of relativizing the ego with a proportionate growing sense of one's identity being rooted in a deeper source of unconditioned being. Hence the ego is not transcended nor does it disappear. It is rather befriended and understood as the necessary suit of clothing we must wear in order to make our passage in this life, but in the deepest sense it is not who we are nor the source of our truest identity.

A strong and healthy ego is an essential requirement for our passage in this life. And there is no one, no one at all, who is in the world with no ego, or who has appropriated an imagined state of "no-self" as their permanent abode in human life. Hence there is no basis for the elevation of the "enlightened master" as a source of unchallenged spiritual or moral authority. Such claims are bogus and fraudulent, and should not be allowed to assume power in a spiritual community. ( I might add that there are many good practicing Buddhists who have come to a similar conclusion.) I recall reading a very fine article published in Tricycle Journal by a practicing Zen Buddhist back in the 80s, calling into question the false mythology about enlightenment claims and "no-self", to the point of pointing out evidence of the flaws in the historical buddha's own character and understanding of things, including his misogynist attitudes, which didn't seem to have disappeared post-enlightenment. Hence kensho experience does not confer any kind of omniscience nor should it confer any kind of special authority, moral or spiritual. The people I know along the way of diverse traditions, who have had solid contemplative practice for decades of life, at best will say like Dogen, "Sometimes I lift the eyebrows of Shakyamuni, and sometimes I don't." Sometimes our egoic attachments have us by the throat, and sometimes we are able to be free enough to bring forth loving kindness from a place within that is deeper.

To their credit my good friends, Kyogen Carlson and his wife Gyokuko, have stayed far away from making such "no-self" authority claims in the leadership of Dharma Rain Zen Center, and, in fact, early on discarded the term "roshi" in favor of "sensei" (teacher) so as to clarify they make no such claims of authority or "specialness." Students, members of the sangha, and friends address them by their names and without title. That helps keep things healthy and real but doesn't eliminate respect.
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