Thursday, November 14, 2013

review of "The Zen Predator..."

Here is a review of NYTimes writer Mark Oppenheimer's "The Zen Predator of the Upper East Side" from The Daily Beast.

And here is a follow-up article by Oppenheimer that appears in the Atlantic. This article states what has needed stating for some time: If there was one person who made the revelations about Eido Shimano possible, if there was one person who did this favor for Zen Buddhism in America (whatever that may turn out to be), it was the Rev. Kobutsu Malone and the 6,000-plus-page Shimano Archive he tended beginning in 2008.

For years, Kobutsu endured the taunts and insults and sometimes outright threats that went with his collecting of documents relating to Eido Shimano's malfeasance. And worse, sometimes, than his enemies, were his 'friends' who would dole out an oleaginous good will (often dubbed "compassion") that effectively let Shimano off the hook.

Whether, as Oppenheimer writes, Malone's energies were the result of a simple "grudge" hardly matters in light of the fact that no one else was willing to say and prove that the emperor was not wearing clothes. Was he a saint in all matters? I doubt it. Did he get it right? I think he did.

Whether praised or blamed, Kobutsu Malone did the heavy lifting and I, for one, am grateful.

Make-nice is not make-Zen-Buddhism in any meaningful way.

PS. And just to set the record straight, since the suggested editing has not been done:

1. I am not now, nor ever have been nor have any future desire to become a monk. Twice in Oppenheimer's book, I am referred to as a monk. This simply is not and never was true.

2. Oppenheimer wrote "Yet Fisher remained at Dai Bosatsu. 'I stayed,' he wrote, 'because I was afraid to leave.'" I did stay a couple of months at Dai Bosatsu. I did quit. And I did say "I stayed because I was afraid to leave." But the quotation referred to being afraid to leave the only Zen Buddhist practice I knew at the time. The quote refers to my continued attendance at the Manhattan Zen center, Shobo Ji, which was under the aegis of Zen Studies Society/Eido Shimano. Staying at Dai Bosatsu never entered my mind once I decided to quit. That I kept practicing under the Shimano umbrella was a testament to my ignorance and weakness.


  1. I didn't realize you were involved...
    When are people going to understand that you're not supposed to take refuge in the roshi, the center, the institution?

    A lot of this inside-baseball stuff reminds me of a more amusing tale of rival Santas:

  2. Funny thing about human beings -- they don't always perform as others or even they themselves say they are SUPPOSED to. Things are probably easier when this observation is ingested as a fact, rather than a flaw.

  3. also, here's a sensible perspective by Pema Chodron on a similar situation with Trungpa.

  4. " Sensible " ? Perhaps..But I have seldom seen reference to the fact ( and fact it is ) that many of we early students of Trungpa did NOT react like Pema Chodren..we upped sticks. In numbers.
    A decision that I have never regretted.