The NPR (National Public Radio) thing is here for anyone who wants to listen. As usual when there's a story about Noah Levine and me, they used a picture of Noah. He's more everyone's image of punk rock, I guess (not a "garage band poser from the suburbs" like me ~ you guys are too funny, I like Noah!*). Well, at least they didn't put my name under his photo like someone did a while back. And if Noah put the title of one of his books on one side of his neck and the other on the other side of his neck, what's he gonna do if he writes a third book?
Maybe we shouldn't ask...
I'm bored stiff with the topic of Big Mind™. But there's a guy in the comments section who can't understand the difference between Nishijima Sensei's acceptance of patronage from the Ida Cosmetics company, for whom he also worked as an adviser and financial consultant, and Genpo asking for $50,000 to spend five days at a luxury resort with rich people and give them Enlightenment. Nishijima never promised Mr. Ida he'd get any sort of special experiences or merit for his contributions. If you don't think Genpo is saying the folks who pay him $50,000 are going to get something that people who pay less can't get, you'd better read his pitch again.
Meeting with a real Zen teacher for personal instruction is indeed a rare opportunity. But it can't be bought or sold. Never. When the emperor of China asked Bodhidharma what merit could be got by studying with him, Bodhidharma said, "None at all." The emperor was most certainly asking this to see if he wanted to become Bodhidharma's sugar daddy and give him some cash and a temple and stuff. Had the emperor wanted to study with Bodhidharma anyway in spite of the lack of merit to be gained, I'm sure Bodhidharma would have accepted him as a student. Honesty is the key. Patronage can be accepted when the relationship between teacher and patron is an honest one.
And FYI, ain't nobody offering me $50,000 for a few days in a hotel with them. But if they did I'd send him packing. Homey don't play that. I don't like hotels anyway and it sounds seriously creepy. "Free money" is never free. If, on the other hand, New World Library offered me a $50,000 advance for my next book (Ha! I wish~!) I'd take it in a heartbeat. I prefer to work for the money I get. You always do anyway, even when the money is "free." And when I do real work, I will take as much money as the work is worth. I have no qualms about that at all. Sorry.
As for people traveling long distances to study with me, I always discourage it. A number of people have asked about this and I always say the same thing. There is no reason anyone should spend a lot of money and effort to study with me. I will only disappoint you.
These questions are trivial. The thing that really bugs me is when people (Genpo's people, I assume) start throwing that whole "The precepts say you can't criticize other Buddhists!" stuff around. There is a very dangerous notion growing among Buddhists in the West that if anyone calls himself a "Buddhist" or calls what he's doing "Buddhism," we as Buddhists must not call him on it no matter what it is for fear (and fear is the operative word) we will be breaking the precepts. This is why there is no outcry from American Buddhists against some of the flagrant abuses already present. As Buddhism continues to grow in popularity, the number of people who see it as an easy way to get rich will increase. We cannot be shy about pointing out when transparent scams masquerade as Buddhism. If Buddhists don't speak out, who will? If hucksters know they can get away with anything because Buddhists are afraid to say anything about it there won't be any real Buddhism left before long.
This is a serious matter.
Whether people like what I say or how I present myself or not doesn't matter a whole lot to me. I feel duty bound to say what needs saying in the best way I can.
*Hey! I just found out that Zero Defex's songs "Drop The A-Bomb On Me" and "Better Way" (aka I Bleed USA) (no YouTube link, but go to Nader's official page & it's there)are being used in official commercials by the Ralph Nader campaign! Gosh.
I just saw this in the comments section and I thought it was an interesting observation. Having had some very minor interactions with community the commenter's speaking about, I think this is a very good point. I had considered writing something like this myself, and on the subject of "lifestyle players," which exist in both the BDSM and spiritual communities. I should say, though, I have some deep misgivings about what little I've seen in the consensual BDSM community. I do see some therapeutic usefulness in it. But this may be canceled out by the actual trauma involved. Anyway, I'm no expert & that's about the extent of what I can say on the matter. (I wonder if this is Nina Hartley's post...)
Brad, here is my hunch.
Folks are paying mega bucks to folks like Genpo not just for the verbal teachings.
My hunch, and it is strictly my own opinion, is that a lot of people think they are into being spiritual, but covertly are thrilling to power and to power imbalance.
If they were conscious about this, they'd explore these issues via psychotherapy, or via consensual adult BDSM.
I do not practice BDSM but I am more and more convinced these days that the adult kink community does a far better job than the spiritual seeker's scene, because the kink practitioners are thinking consciously about power, thinking clearly about what they desire, and have learned to communicate, beforehand, what they all want, what the boundaries are.
More than once, Ive been told that there are lots of people who want to be dominated and paddled, but very few who are willing to function as 'tops'--that is, as the dominants who administer the pain.
Why, in the kink scene, are there so few tops, and so many bottoms?
Because in the kink scene, POWER COMES WITH ACCOUNTABILITY. The top has to answer to an ethos of care and pay attention to whether the bottom is signaling for the session to stop. And the top is the one who is answerable if something goes wrong.
But in the spiritual scene, there is no shortage of wanna be gurus/tops. There are lots of bottoms in the spiritual scene, but also plenty of gurus, eager to accept the power offered to them by the bottoms.
Because IMO, in the spiritual scene, its a set up where the guru/top enjoys total power and zero accountability.
If anything goes wrong, in the spiritual kink scene, all the blame is foisted onto the bottom.
And in the spiritual kink scene, people are going around being unconscious. They're obsessed with power, but unconscious of it, and determined to stay unconscious of it, and there is no way to talk consciously about power, about what one desires, and no safe words a bottom can use to signal that he or she is being traumatized instead of challenged and wants to scene to stop.
In fact, in the spiritual kink scene, you have no way to know if you are walking into someone's BDSM dungeon or not.
At least in BDSM the dungeon is clearly designated as such.
Result is, in the world of BDSM kink, people examine and name their desires and set it up so everyone, the top and bottom, exits the scene feeling satisfied.
Which is more than can be said for many sectors of the so called spiritual scene. I suspect many don't feel they are spiritual unless they are thrilling to a power imbalance.
Brad once wrote how someone at his old Japanese company said that their cartoon stories taught children to worship power--that some benevolent being could come to the rescue, every time.
Some worship Ultraman, or the Science Team.
Others worship Genpo Roshi.
And never examine the deep structure of all this.
And if you pay 50,000 USD, you have an incentive NOT to want to examine this, because its too painful to face that you paid 50 grand to fulfill a child's fantasy of rescue.