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 Buddhist Geeks Conference starts tonight 8-16 in Boulder

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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Buddhist Geeks Conference starts tonight 8-16 in Boulder   Fri Aug 16, 2013 4:04 pm

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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Reflections on the Buddhist Geeks Conference and the panel   Wed Aug 28, 2013 9:58 am

I was able to watch some of the Buddhist Geeks conference on-line - a few presentations and the panel  - "getting a handle on scandal."  Probably the videos of the panels will eventually be posted, but it may require a membership or fee through Buddhist Geeks or Tricycle to watch them.  Not sure.

I think that BG is a very worthwhile new presence - attracting many sincere and more independent practitioners.  It is not easy creating a movement like this.  And Vince and Emily are emphasizing using on-line teaching and even retreats through the internet.  Others are doing this also, but probably BG is at the forefront. 

Now to the panel - "getting a handle on scandal."  I am attaching here the email I sent afterwards. It mostly sums up my reactions.  Some of this may not make full sense if you didn't see the panel, but you will get the gist of it.  

Here is the email I sent to some of the panelists and a few others who spoke at the conference:


For what it’s worth, here are my reflections on the scandal panel.  I have been intimately involved in this issue since the late 70s.  By the way, a major article / ebook is coming out shortly about the Shimano situation – in-depth. 

Panels at conferences are always mixed bags (which is why TED does not allow panels), but this one, at times went so off track. Diane is clearly a gifted facilitator and I do not doubt everyone’s sincerity and good will.
 
AND --  First point.  Diane and Michael never talked about their own experiences with Genpo. Or what happened with Maezumi – except in the vaguest of  references.  Or Marc Gafni?  Why not?  A strange omission. Maezumi’s sangha has gone through decades of scandal and trauma including allegations that he had sex with the underage daughter of one of his students – a felony.  Tell the story or at least mention it.  Why say nothing at all?   Sofia made mostly no sense to me – sounded like hyper-spiritual babble – and she was a follower of Da Free John, one of the most abusive and grandiose gurus of the century, who had many concubines and wives, and I counseled many former members of his group – some stories extremely bizarre – and of course it was all “crazy wisdom.” 

 
And the table was not set – no one even described what happened with Sasaki  – or mentioned the many other teachers.  Before you can get to any real understanding of what’s going on, you need to specifically get into the weeds, the details of what happened and how it happened, otherwise you race to false forgiveness and easy ignorance and think you’ve processed something.  Right, it was an 90-minute panel, but still – a little specifics would have made the discussion far more down to earth. With Sasaki, Maezum, Genpo, Shimano – we are not talking about a few indiscretions – but decades of predatory behavior.  Not tantra.  Not zen.  Not skillful means. 

On panels like this, everyone mostly agrees with each other – a bad sign, everyone is very spiritual and polite, but it is all pseudo and surface.  No one said to Sofia – “What are you talking about?” or to Shinzen, “Are you kidding me?”  Over the years, I have deeply engaged with hundreds of women and some men who have been sexually abused – and many hundreds of others (no exaggeration) abused verbally and emotionally by gurus/ masters.  Some followers were emotionally tortured.  I know some people who have taken decades to get over their experiences.  The scene is complex and many people have mixed experiences, but it all needs to come into the light. 

Right now, after these recent scandals, is not an evolving moment unless people are truly willing to engage and explore and face this head on, without turning away.  This panel was, to me, mostly turning away, who wants to sleep with their teacher? Referring to these matters as “so-called scandals.”  OK, let’s not call them scandals. What do you call them?  How do you thoroughly face this koan.  To me, Shinzen did not answer the koan by his strange analysis of Sasaki’s behavior.  He sounded ridiculous, confused.  Sasaki coming from absolute emptiness and compassion when he forced women to provide sexual favors in the sanzen room?  On what planet is that compassion?  Emptiness?  Absurd.  Shinzen drank the kool-aid and is probably incurable with regard to Sasaki.  Too bad for him and his students.  More distortion fields.  (just to be clear, I sent Shinzen an email about this and am copying him here.).


In 1981, I counseled a young woman who had been sexually harassed by Sasaki in the sanzen room during her first Zen sesshin.  No emptiness.  No compassion.  This wasn’t any kind of teaching – not to her.  But she answered the koan by spitting in his face and slapping him and running for her life.  Good for her... while the other women in his community remained mute and compliant for 50 years.  What century were they living in?  What game did they think they were playing?  How many got enlightened by serving as the sexual toy of the teacher?

And the issue is not just about sex.  Sex is one symptom – what we see and have seen over and over again is deep abuse of power and authority, planned deceit and scheming, cover-ups, manipulation, suppression of honest communication, humiliation, demand for surrender, vilification of criticism, emotional brutality, institutional blindness and spiritual bypassing.  Patriarchal group dynamics.  Top down distortion fields.  Sometimes there is extreme mental abuse and no physical or sexual issues – and that can be even worse.  Toxic communities do not lead to awakened students, but to more ignorance and suffering.

It would be hopeful to believe that these “scandals” are signs of some great cultural shift, but that will only be true if there is in-depth exploration.  Based on that panel, not much hope.  The only hope in the panel came out of Michael’s points about the legal issues – which is hardly a new thought.  Any non-profit religious organization knows that if their leader engages in sexual harassment, breaks the law, the whole organization can go down – through law suits or arrests or really bad publicity.  If Zen and Buddhism is to survive and thrive in America, it can’t willy nilly abuse women and call it “emptiness” or “crazy wisdom.”  That won’t fly.  Unless you want Buddhism to be seen as something like the radical Mormon cults.

Wisdom 2.0/Mindfulness-lite will thrive precisely because it will be more corporate, less-guru and non-religion based, but even that will have its shadows and future gurus and scandals.  Count on it.  Human nature.  But shadows can be valuable koans and opportunities if we engage them with true open awareness and authentic communication and self-awareness – shadows can be brought to the path, but as you know, not automatically – only when worked with intelligence, critical thinking and honesty.  Otherwise shadows are just shadows which can come to undermine the whole shebang.


And I question the notion that a teacher can be “fabulous” and “fully enlightened” and still be a sexual predator, lie to this students, play power games.  Doesn’t seem like enlightenment to me.   Awakening is about seeing your true face, not having two faces.  The panel never challenged many basic assumptions about masters.  If you are going to call these scandals – “so-called scandals” – why not call these masters – “so-called masters” and their awakening, “so-called enlightenment.”  In addition, from my three decades of experience, I can say that teaching based on humiliation rarely leads to anything positive.  The Buddha never ever humiliated his disciples.  Good teachers, skilled teachers don’t need to.  Humiliation teaches disciples to humiliate others.  Monkey see monkey do.  For every person that has some kind of kensho/satori/breakthrough based on being humiliated, there are a hundred who experience long-term trauma – and need years of therapy or Prozac.  The Andrew Cohen syndrome at work.

I have babbled enough.  I don’t mean to rain on your parade, but sometimes a bit of critical thinking is in order, some outrage, some challenging.


josh
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: Buddhist Geeks Conference starts tonight 8-16 in Boulder   Wed Aug 28, 2013 3:08 pm

I am assuming I am the Michael above. I did not really ever have a contact with Gempo,I am not sure I ever spoke to him, I did not really take to him,but in fairness that does not make him a bad person. This was along time ago he was just Gempo Sensei.
Maezumi was different he was a fun guy although we initially clashed he wanted to know why I was there and why I fell out with Kennett, he assumed I was not facing up to personal difficulties rather than there was something going on with kennett.
 
When I was there I was very friendly with one of his assistants, she told me a lot about what happened behind the scenes and she did not like it. Me writing about it is not so cool as she talked confidentially.  Anyway one night the two of us were alone with Maezumi  and he attacked me saying I was scared it got out of hand, he was drunk and he basically after a bit of bravado  went for it grabbed my adams apple and tried to give me some good news, it was all a bit silly he ended up on the floor and had to get help back to his house. The next day he sort of apologised and we talked about why I left Shasta. Maezumi was a nice guy but his severe drinking got the better of him and he abused his position and other vulnerable people,  he hid behind the screen of intrigue, and pretence of him knowing the answer to some esoteric mystery. This screen which true zazen would rip to pieces was very important to him,he clearly passed this on to some of his disciples rather than a tattered robe of old Shakymuni
 
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: Buddhist Geeks Conference starts tonight 8-16 in Boulder   Wed Aug 28, 2013 3:18 pm

No, you are NOT the Michael mentioned in my posting.  The Michael above was a person on the panel at the Buddhist Geeks conference - he is married to Diane Musho Hamilton and they were both long-timer students of Genpo.  He was a Supreme Court Justice in the State of Utah.  The email account was about the conference.  Nothing to do with you.
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: Buddhist Geeks Conference starts tonight 8-16 in Boulder   Wed Aug 28, 2013 3:32 pm

well you got my two pennies worth..maybe we all experienced the same thing anyway!!
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: Buddhist Geeks Conference starts tonight 8-16 in Boulder   Fri Aug 30, 2013 2:32 pm

jumping back to the Buddhist Geeks panel... and how many practitioners think about what a master or "enlightened" teacher is or isn't. 

This was from an article about the new movie about Steve Jobs.. and it quotes from the mega-biography that came out soon after he died:

"One quote in that book, from one of Jobs’ old girlfriends, pretty much captures the character in the film: “He was an enlightened being who was cruel,” she told Isaacson. “That’s a strange combination.” The movie gives some sense of a man who could be impossibly inspirational — able to get more from people than they’d imagined. And also an irrational boor. Apple insiders famously had a phrase to describe the effect that Jobs could have on people: the “reality distortion field.” Which sounds like the power wielded by a biblical prophet, no?"

So there is this concept that a person can be "enlightened" and still be abusive, mean, cruel, etc.  So enlightenment is seen as something transcendental, but on the mundane everyday level, this enlightenment is not operational.  This "enlightenment" is not connected to everyday life / behavior / how you treat others.  In many ways, this is how many Zen students come to grips with what happened with Maezumi, Shimano, Sasaki, Genpo, and so many others.  Yes, they had to be enlightened / fully enlightened (that can't be questioned) - AND  they were still driven by self-interest, craving, and all the rest and that's just the way it is.  That's how Shinzen can maintain with great sincerity that Sasaki was filled with compassion and acted from pure emptiness in his behavior towards his women devotees - he just had a small problem with empathy.  Shadows - never mentioned.  Lack of enlightenment, unquestioned. 

So Jobs can be described as "enlightened" and cruel. 

It is also interesting to note that around Jobs, his employees referred to a "reality distortion field."  I use the term "distortion field" a lot to describe scenes around strong leaders - gurus, generals, politicians, celebrities, and so on.  Of course, these fields have no actual reality - there is no invisible power field around them.  Such people have developed loud personalities, demand adoration and full attention, and then enforce this dance by intimidation and vengeance.  We saw this with Kennett and with many other religious and corporate characters.  No magic here, but there is skill in keeping your field intact, in being effective at maintaining your power.  And some people are completely seduced by these distortion fields - love being in them - makes them feel special and connected to great power rather than just an intense psychopathology.
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PostSubject: Re: Buddhist Geeks Conference starts tonight 8-16 in Boulder   Fri Aug 30, 2013 3:47 pm

Oh I hate to say this but what a book title,maybe to sell on the geeks website:

Keeping your field intact by Me
It would have the usual clearly stated (divine) path and in order
1 Be nice and inviting to start
2 Hint at their being a secret that is only told to special people
3 From an early time start mention the commitment word
4 Keep talking about inner circles and 
5 Wont bore you with 5 6 and 7
8 I think this is when we got off the bus
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