Wednesday, January 31, 2018

old friends, old news

Spent a pleasant half hour on the phone with an old friend, Stuart Lachs, last night. It has been a while. Stuart was good enough, at one time, to take me along to a maximum security prison where some of the inmates were interested in Zen meditation and he was encouraging them. That barred and barbed-wire environment may have been the best temple I ever visited and I have always been grateful to Stuart.

In the past, Stuart has been one of the bad boys of Buddhism, a serious student with SERIOUS questions about knee-jerk hagiography in Zen and other Buddhist slants. Many have wriggled and squirmed under his search-light questioning of such well-springs as "lineage."

But as we chatted on the phone, I realized that time has passed and those people and propositions that once inspired rip-roaring dissection and muck-raking ... well, we're old now and so is the research. Stuart and I were both born in 1940. We and our arguments, while true enough in their time and investigation, are brand new to a brand new crop of people who may become interested in Buddhism. It does not matter what Stuart or Brian Victoria or Kobutsu Malone or other researchers may adduce by way of pointing to falsehood and fabrication. The fact is that newcomers have not felt the personal lash that inspired the original research. As a result, they are inclined to overlook corruption and lies ... it's probably just sour grapes, right? ... Buddhism is wonderful and wonderfully-crafted and magical in its ranging wisdoms.

It's no good whining about the fact that new-comers cannot be adequately forewarned. It is the nature of the beast, I think. It used to be said that "forewarned is forearmed." I think it is probably better to relax -- "forewarned is still largely UN-armed."

Three guys are brought up short in front of a pile of dog shit on the sidewalk. One bends over and looks: "Sure does look like dog shit," he opines. The next man takes a sniff: "Sure does smell like dog shit." The third man uses and index finger to pick up a little and pop it in his mouth: "Sure does taste like dog shit ... damned glad we didn't step in it."


  1. Some folks need to be true believers come hell or high water. Some folks need to doubt and parse their way through life. Wheat from chaff, baby and bathwater, folks will do what they do until they decide to do differently. I don't think we can take much responsibility for that. All we can do is pass along what we think we know, and hope it's more helpful than harmful. But the quality of our seeds and the quality of their soil are just the conditions of the moment. Plant or don't plant, some fertilizer will still come along.

  2. The opposite is true too. The researchers amplified the messages of bad teachers’ misdeeds. The message was received.

    Those particular bad boys are old and dying out. Yet disaffected practitioners abound and serve as reminders to others in groups they may have connected with.

    Be advised: Not everyone responds according to the way you think they should. I have come to further understand people who don’t wholeheartedly embrace their practice as well as those who do. If your going to judge set aside you prejudices.

    Further, not every practitioner or would be practitioner is naive and gullible.

    Many Buddhist groups have embraced ethical statements and standards.

    Also, I must protest your implication of pervasive corruption witin Buddhism. Provide your evidence.

    Lastly, your dog shit commentary on spiritual aspirants is over the top. Show some compassion. I’d think most aspirants are sincere and most groups weren’t and aren’t domains of pure corruption and debauchery even if bad teachers hid in groups formed by well intended indupividuals. However, I do believe you missed a group worth some compassionate criticism — the enablers.