Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Zen Masters: Dressing the Donkey with Bells and Scarves ... d-scarves/

Long-time American Zen practitioner Stuart Lachs has spent some 40 years practicing Zen. First with Suzuki Roshi at the Tassajara Monastery in California and then with Eido Shimano Roshi, Walter Nowick, and finally with Ch'an Master Sheng-yen. In all of these communities Stuart ran up against strange and unfortunate dynamics playing out between the Zen Master and their communities. After getting heavily involved with the academic and sociological study of Zen, Stuart began seeing some of the cultural (and invisible) reasons that these communities would falter, whether from sexual scandals, the intense vanity of the teacher, or worse.

In this episode he shares with us some of the ways that the legitimacy, authority & power of the Zen Master are spread through the Zen institution, and how these sometimes ridiculous ideals are accepted without questions from many intelligent, well-meaning, people. If you're a Buddhist practitioner of any sort, you won't want to miss this conversation!

The second part of the podcast is entitled "The Darker Side of Zen: Institutions Defining Reality": ... g-reality/

Scandals follow Thailand’s monks

Posted by admin on September 30, 2011 0 Comment Friday, 24 November , 2000 Reporter: Geoff Thompson
COMPERE: Phone sex, real sex, dressing up in military uniforms, rape, murder and being murdered. These are just some of the scandals that Thailand’s Buddhist Monks have been embroiled in recently. South East Asia correspondent, Geoff Thompson, reports.
GEOFF THOMPSON: Spirits are high at the Tar Chang Temple near Bangkok. It’s the end of the rainy season and time for the Monks to receive new robes from the community. People are dancing and faces are smiling, and if one didn’t know better one may believe all was well in this Buddhist community. But there was a dark secret here that recently became very public indeed. This Temple’s Abbot was caught by local TV cameras sneaking out to late night trysts with women in breach of his vows of celibacy.
In the morning, Abbot Oneshy Unsap, emerged not as a Monk but meticulously disguised in the full regalia of an Army Colonel, before driving off in a shiny black Mercedes. All that was too much for Thailand’s police. The Abbot was roughly arrested and now faces five years in jail. Abbot Oneshy was still wearing his Monk’s robes under the military uniform because, he says, inside he is still a Monk. The Abbot’s Deputy at the Tah Chang Temple, Isfang Mutavow [phonetic].
Nowadays, he says, some Senior Monks are not disciplined so the monastic institution is declining. In the past Monks followed the rules, but now men’s minds are weak. Some Monks go to prostitutes, he says, drink alcohol and take drugs. It didn’t happen in the past, but now they don’t follow the rules. Professor Chatsuman Kappel Singh [phonetic] is a Buddhism scholar at Bangkok’s Tamisat University. CHATSUMAN KAPPEL SINGH: You will not forget that the Monks are also part of the larger population. When the larger population is being swept away by materialism and consumerism, the Monks who are not well practised, not [inaudible] in the Buddhist teaching, can also get swept away by materialism and by consumerism which is the strong characteristic of the modern age.
GEOFF THOMPSON: It’s been a particularly rough trough for Thailand’s Monks recently. Apart from Abbot Oneshy’s scandal, other Monks have been exposed for donning wigs and attending karaoke bars. Another Deputy Abbot was recorded engaging in phone sex with women. One has been accused of rape, another has been charged with drug dealing – another still with killing a woman and dumping her in a septic tank. Professor Kappel Singh says the very existence of a Monkhood known here as the Sangha is under threat. CHATSUMAN KAPPEL SINGH: They say themselves they are Monks but they are not practising but they are doing something else then the lay people will lose respect – will lose respect. And if the Monks are not aware of this, they are going to become the rare specie that is going to be extinct. The Sangha and the Cabinet of the Supreme [inaudible] need to set this, priorities it as one of the most important issue that they need to meet.
GEOFF THOMPSON: But back at Tar Chang Temple the disgraced Abbot still has his defenders. This woman says she has served as the Temple’s cook for 10 years. The Abbot had some good points, she says. Though he had affairs with women, it’s his own business. He didn’t have sex in the Monastery, she says, and we can’t be fully confident he had sex in other places. If he really did, they should have filmed it, then I would believe.
Professor Kappel Singh believes the mixture of Monk’s mischief and modern media means the bad deeds of a few bring down the reputation of the Sangha as a whole that is causing a crisis of faith for some believers.
CHATSUMAN KAPPEL SINGH: The majority of them are very unhappy. The majority of them – some of them would go to the extent of saying that oh now I may lose faith in the Monks because you cannot question which one is what. You know, some of them might go to that extent. GEOFF THOMPSON: But for now, at least, the numbers are on the side of the Monks. Thailand has 300,000 Monks. Only 200 a year are declared guilty of breaking their vows. This is Geoff Thompson is Bangkok for PM.

Terrible and Traumatic Experience at Goenka Retreat

On a Goenka Vipassana discussion board called, a participant named Tristan writes:
I wish I could say wonderful things about my experience but I can't. I stayed the full ten days, many of them filled with incredible hallucinations, from being inside an egg, to being a bird-like animal with broken wings, to following tunnels through my brain, to feeling completely connected to the universe. No problem, I told myself, it's just sensation. I'm perfectly safe. On the last day of the retreat, listening to the last lecture, I let out a huge scream and fell down.
Tristan says he became psychotic and ended up in a psychiatric hospital for several weeks.
With Goenka's courses there have been a number of failed suicide attempts in India, including one that resulted in a broken spine and another in which the survivor suffered a ruptured lung and a fractured skull. Researchers at Goenka's headquarters at Igatpuri looked at cases concerning nine persons who'd harmed themselves after a course, and they found all had either practiced other forms of meditation, used healing techniques, or used drugs prior to doing a course. They consequently attributed the serious mental disturbances following the retreat not as side effects of the meditation technique, but to the practice or use of these other things.
But a woman who recently contacted me said her son did a Vipassana course in January in New Zealand, found it to be a very positive experience that produced many good feelings of love and so forth, but that within a few days of his return he'd had a "psychotic episode." He was committed to a mental hospital where he responded well to medication and is now on antidepressants. Her son had no history of mental instability, nor was there any such history in the family. He had never tried meditation before nor had he taken drugs.
Geoffrey Dawson, a Sydney-based Zen meditation teacher and psychotherapist, has come across twenty people who had mentally distressing experiences as a result of attending courses at the Goenka Vipassana Retreat Center in Blackheath (located in the Blue Mountains of Australia). Dawson says these meditators became fragmented rather than integrated and their experiences included panic attacks, depressive episodes, or both that in most cases persisted months after the retreat ended. There were also some manic episodes, one of which later became diagnosed and treated as a bipolar disorder. Dawson was also contacted by a woman whose daughter had been to a retreat. Her friends and family noticed she became withdrawn and obsessive afterwards. Her psychological condition deteriorated and some months later she became psychotic. Within eighteen months she was hospitalized and committed suicide.
Dawson maintains it is of utmost importance to give people a gradual introduction to meditation retreats, something that is lacking in Goenka's [and others] approach. Dawson is highly selective about who can do his retreats. He starts people on regular daily meditation along with one group meditation per week, then introduces them to one or two day retreats and gradually introduces them to a longer retreat.
Dawson suggests that "if a gradual approach to meditation retreats is adopted, supportive processes are put in place during retreats, and follow-up care is provided," while it's not guaranteed participants won't have adverse experiences, "it can certainly help prevent and minimize the development of mental disorders.
" Colorado-based clinical psychologist Dr. Lois Vanderkooi, who has written on meditation-related psychosis, points out that screening is important when intensive meditation is involved and suggests that it can be done easily with a questionnaire that asks about psychiatric history.
Questionnaires are now used for Goenka's retreats. He says retreats aren't recommended for people with serious psychiatric disorders as it is unrealistic to expect that Vipassana will cure or alleviate mental problems. Application forms have questions such as, "Do you have, or have you ever had, any mental health problems such as significant depression or anxiety, panic attacks, manic depression, schizophrenia?" There is also a question, "Have you had any previous experience with meditation techniques, therapies, or healing practices?" This particular question allows Goenka to screen out people who practice a spiritual therapy called Reiki. He says there were many cases around the world where mixing Reiki and Vipassana meditation harmed Reiki practitioners to the extent that some of them became mentally imbalanced. Goenka argues that such practices "attempt to alter reality by means of calling on some external force or autosuggestion (such as self-hypnosis). This prevents the practitioner from observing the truth as it is."
But are questionnaires enough? They can hardly screen those people who have undiagnosed psychiatric disorders. They also rely on people telling the truth. People may feel reluctant to fill them out honestly in case they are barred from participating in a retreat. The Icarus Project, a web community supporting those with mental illnesses, regards questionnaires as "arbitrary, intrusive, and discriminatory" and claims that retreat applicants "simply hide their psychiatric history on the application to avoid stigmatization." They also write that people with schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, or bipolar disorder have not only completed meditation retreats, but discovered that meditation is a valuable recovery tool.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Shen-Yen Lu on How to Kill a Person

He (Sheng-Yen Lu) gives a speech to the members present on how to kill a person:
The only way to treat a stubborn or a hopeless person is to kill. If you love someone and have mercy and want to send one to heaven, you must first take his life and then expiate the sins of the dead. This is the 2nd greatest charm of the religion. He continue saying;- if there is no other way that could assist one, then the only way is to kill. Giving mercy or influence or wisdom and still not way out, then the only way is to kill.
"Diamond spell" could make disappear one person. Then take his soul and send to "Buddha country". Firstly, create the shape of a man (or human being), then put the man’s shape under one’ s seating pad. (Or if you exert the spell, you put the man under your pad.)
To cast the spell, you must first concentrate, think and imagine the person you target; - then his two eyes will move to the back of the brain, his nose move to the top of his head,his two ears move to his nose,his tongue twists back in the mouth, the tongue tip is inside the mouth while the back tongue faces to the front.
According to Tantric (Religion), all the organs on his face are all moved. When you succeed in doing this, this person does no longer exist. When his (the one being cursed) tongue is twisted, he cannot talk. But according to this spell/curse, it is the charm of killing others.
Once, my grand master taught me to learn and practice Buddha’s Diamond Peg. (When you practice and pray with this peg, it will give you power) The priest gave me the peg, and told me if I met some bad and evil person, you pray using the Diamond spell. I did not practice; and I told him I would not practice it. Whether I will practice or not in the future, I will decide it later.
In the preaching, Lu further told the followers (attendees) that: When I put "you" under my seat and twisted all your facial organs (eyes, ears, mouth, nose), I pray using the Diamond spell, using the Diamond blaze along with the Diamond club, I can draw your soul to my front, and watching your head coming off, blood are black in color, flowing out. I can see all your internal organs decaying, some hell workers coming to grab your intestines, grab your liver, grab your heart, grab your stomach, and then tear them into pieces. Although it is a fierce killing spell (charm), but if I really do it this way on to you in the future, I guarantee that I will lead you to Buddhist’s Kingdom (the peace and eternal land).
When "Horse Head King" (a Buddha) descends from the sky, or the entire Diamond gods descend into your body, you will exhibit the Diamond face (image). When you have the Diamond face (image), you (start to cast the prayers), by holding the Diamond peg, and all other spell-casting devices. You can exert your killing command when you hold these devices. With the killing command, the command uses the Diamond fire, burns your target (the person you want to kill)away, burns him to ashes. Uses wind to blow all ashes away, grab your soul, and then send you to the West Happiest land of the Buddha Kingdom. All the Buddha attendants, Diamond gods come and press you on the ground, press your heart and don’t let it beat, tear your intestines, liver, stomach, kidney into pieces, chop your head out and black blood flow out. Make all your facial organs twisted (ear, mouth…..etc). (The Horse Head King spell-HHK).
In this way, I can teach you another method (spell). You let (make) him sick. It is good to make him sick, make him sick. When you pray to "HHK" and ask him to make that person sick.
If you want this person to get well, it is easy. You recite the "HHK" curse 100,000 times, no need to be 100,000 time, it’s OK to recite 10,000 times. When you recite 10,000 times, the power of the prayer transfer to this person, then he will get well. This is a kind of punishment too.
Just like you make this person sick first, then he will regret and admit his fault. When he admits his wrong doing and correct himself, you have to recite 10,000 times the "HHK" charm towards him, to make him come back (return to this world). When he gets sick, he become dumb and cannot speak, you watch his tongue (with your mind concentrated on his tongue), and recite 10,000 the HHK curse, the curse resonance (exert spell) to this person, then he will get well.
(Refer: - Mar11, 2000 videotape of speech recorded.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

In the Name of Enlightenment

By Debi Goodwin 


Martine Batchelor teaches Buddhism and leads retreats worldwide. She is the author of several books, including "Women On The Buddhist Path", "Meditation For Life", and, most recently, "The Spirit Of The Buddha".

Like many in the West I always considered Buddhism as a philosophy, a religion, that offered insights into how to live a more fulfilling life in a very secular, competitive world. My impression had a lot to do with the saintly image of the Dalai Lama, the Buddhists I encountered, and the words associated with the religion: compassion, the path, right action, awareness and enlightenment.

So my first reaction when I started researching Buddhism in the West was shock at discovering the numbers of Buddhist masters – particularly in the Zen and Tibetan traditions – who have taken advantages of their disciples by being unethical with money, by abusing their power and, yes, by taking sexual advantage of those who came seeking support, comfort and something Buddhism promises: an end to their suffering. As one man, a former Buddhist told me, sometimes we forget that masters are men first and men want power, money and sex.

I'm not the only person to react with surprise. When I describe to friends, family and colleagues the documentary I am working on and the direction it is going, the response more often than not is: "Oh, no. Not Buddhism. I thought it was the good one." People, it seemed, have as much naivety about Buddhism as they do skepticism toward Catholicism.

Yet, some of the stories about scandals in Buddhism in the West date back to the '70s, when Westerners turned to the East for spiritual answers. In the 2001 book, Shoes Outside the Door: Desire, Devotion and Excess at San Francisco Zen Centre described the already known sex scandals surrounding Richard Baker, the centre’s abbot in the ‘70s and ‘80s who was forced to resign. Rumors about another Zen leader, Eido Shimano Roshi have been circulating for decades and came to wider attention in a New York Times story this summer. We have also had a very public scandal in Canada. The Western Buddhist leader Osel Tenzin was at the centre of the scandal in Halifax, a scandal reported throughout North America and listed in Wikipedia. Tenzin was bisexual and promiscuous. A diagnosis of AIDS didn’t stop him from multiple relations. Before he died he had fatally infected another man.

Stephen Batchelor is a former Buddhist monk who teaches and leads Buddhist retreats around the world. He is the author of "The Awakening of the West" and "Confessions Of A Buddhist Atheist".

Stories of abuse in the West were so well known among Buddhists that several leading thinkers met with the Dalai Lama in 1993. The result was an open letter, which the Dalai Lama did not sign in the end, calling on students to confront unethical teachers and, if that doesn’t work, to go public. But they hardly ever do.

Victims don’t want to come forward because the chances of succeeding of bringing down a master are low and the personal costs are high. I talked to several women who have not told their full stories before. They told me that getting out from under a master’s control to confront him is easier said than done. I spoke to one woman who became a sexual partner to a celebrated Zen master in the United States. It took her decades to speak to outsiders about this because the master was so well regarded, because when she did tell her story to people she knew they didn’t want to hear it. Eventually, she took a writing course to figure out a way to get it all out. She shared her writing with me confidentially. It’s a painful account of how a hurt woman got pulled in by a powerful roshi. No journal has ever published her writing. The risks of lawsuits are high for those who do. And there is a sense that those who profit from Buddhism in the West and those who fight for the cause of Tibet liberation do not want to hear anything that will tarnish their image. I spoke with another women who told part of her story years ago of how a Tibetan Buddhist lama had taken sexual advantage of her. She received death threats then. But she has now decided to speak up because she is ill and does not want to leave this unsaid. People tell her that if she speaks against an enlightened master she will go to hell. She has decided that not telling the truth is what will send her there.

The fear of speaking out is real. I heard repeatedly about similar threats. One woman was told that her karma, and the karma of all her family, would be destroyed forever. And ostracism happens. Several people I spoke to pointed to author June Campbell who wrote about being sexually abused by her master and was condemned roundly by Buddhists.
It is not just fear that stops women. Many question their own part in the affairs or know others will. The victims are often vulnerable women who have lost parents or been sexually abused before. They are confused young disciples who sometimes find the only comfort they have known in years in a Buddhist centre or in a master, women who have grown up without figures they could trust in their lives. When relationships became sexual they feel unsure of what to do. Two women who wanted to confront the master who had used them sexually were told by a leading Buddhist thinker to “get over it.” One woman told me that if any other “guy” had jumped her, she would have known what to do. But when a Tibetan, supposed to be a reincarnation of a lama, did, she found herself questioning whether accepting this was part of her path to enlightenment. Another woman describes herself as being so worn out from all the work she had to do in service to the master she was unable to reflect on the sexual relationship once it started.

When I spoke to women on the telephone they seemed relieved that they were finally talking. For all of them, the events had happened years ago and they wanted to see them as something that was behind them. But doing an interview to be televised was another matter. One woman, who was eager to get her story out, took days to respond to my specific request to interview her on a certain day. She told me later that the reality of it hit her very hard and she really had to rethink if she wanted this out there. Another woman, once she finished her interview was filled with doubt and the realization that it was hard to open wounds she believed were healing.

The women I have encountered have lost so much and have fought so hard for their equilibrium. Trying to recover from pasts by following a spiritual path, they were betrayed by the very masters who pretended to offer them hope.

A video to watch by Maritime Batchelor:

This post came from this website:

Note: You can actually buy the documentaries off this website.

Buddhist sex hut:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Why I Ditched Buddhism

Buddhist Retreat

Why I gave up on finding my religion.

For a 2,500-year-old religion, Buddhism seems remarkably compatible with our scientifically oriented culture, which may explain its surging popularity here in America. Over the last 15 years, the number of Buddhist centers in the United States has more than doubled, to well over 1,000. As many as 4 million Americans now practice Buddhism, surpassing the total of Episcopalians. Of these Buddhists, half have post-graduate degrees, according to one survey. Recently, convergences between science and Buddhism have been explored in a slew of books—including Zen and the Brain and The Psychology of Awakening—and scholarly meetings. Next fall Harvard will host a colloquium titled "Investigating the Mind," where leading cognitive scientists will swap theories with the Dalai Lama. Just the other week the New York Times hailed the "rapprochement between modern science and ancient [Buddhist] wisdom."

Four years ago, I joined a Buddhist meditation class and began talking to (and reading books by) intellectuals sympathetic to Buddhism. Eventually, and regretfully, I concluded that Buddhism is not much more rational than the Catholicism I lapsed from in my youth; Buddhism's moral and metaphysical worldview cannot easily be reconciled with science—or, more generally, with modern humanistic values.

For many, a chief selling point of Buddhism is its supposed de-emphasis of supernatural notions such as immortal souls and God. Buddhism "rejects the theological impulse," the philosopher Owen Flanagan declares approvingly in The Problem of the Soul. Actually, Buddhism is functionally theistic, even if it avoids the "G" word. Like its parent religion Hinduism, Buddhism espouses reincarnation, which holds that after death our souls are re-instantiated in new bodies, and karma, the law of moral cause and effect. Together, these tenets imply the existence of some cosmic judge who, like Santa Claus, tallies up our naughtiness and niceness before rewarding us with rebirth as a cockroach or as a saintly lama.

Western Buddhists usually downplay these supernatural elements, insisting that Buddhism isn't so much a religion as a practical method for achieving happiness. They depict Buddha as a pragmatist who eschewed metaphysical speculation and focused on reducing human suffering. As the Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman put it, Buddhism is an "inner science," an empirical discipline for fulfilling our minds' potential. The ultimate goal is the state of preternatural bliss, wisdom, and moral grace sometimes called enlightenment—Buddhism's version of heaven, except that you don't have to die to get there.

The major vehicle for achieving enlightenment is meditation, touted by both Buddhists and alternative-medicine gurus as a potent way to calm and comprehend our minds. The trouble is, decades of research have shown meditation's effects to be highly unreliable, as James Austin, a neurologist and Zen Buddhist, points out in Zen and Brain. Yes, it can reduce stress, but, as it turns out, no more so than simply sitting still does. Meditation can even exacerbate depression, anxiety, and other negative emotions in certain people.

The insights imputed to meditation are questionable, too. Meditation, the brain researcher Francisco Varela told me before he died in 2001, confirms the Buddhist doctrine of anatta, which holds that the self is an illusion. Varela contended that anatta has also been corroborated by cognitive science, which has discovered that our perception of our minds as discrete, unified entities is an illusion foisted upon us by our clever brains. In fact, all that cognitive science has revealed is that the mind is an emergent phenomenon, which is difficult to explain or predict in terms of its parts; few scientists would equate the property of emergence with nonexistence, as anatta does.

Much more dubious is Buddhism's claim that perceiving yourself as in some sense unreal will make you happier and more compassionate. Ideally, as the British psychologist and Zen practitioner Susan Blackmore writes in The Meme Machine, when you embrace your essential selflessness, "guilt, shame, embarrassment, self-doubt, and fear of failure ebb away and you become, contrary to expectation, a better neighbor." But most people are distressed by sensations of unreality, which are quite common and can be induced by drugs, fatigue, trauma, and mental illness as well as by meditation.

Even if you achieve a blissful acceptance of the illusory nature of your self, this perspective may not transform you into a saintly bodhisattva, brimming with love and compassion for all other creatures. Far from it—and this is where the distance between certain humanistic values and Buddhism becomes most apparent. To someone who sees himself and others as unreal, human suffering and death may appear laughably trivial. This may explain why some Buddhist masters have behaved more like nihilists than saints. Chogyam Trungpa, who helped introduce Tibetan Buddhism to the United States in the 1970s, was a promiscuous drunk and bully, and he died of alcohol-related illness in 1987. Zen lore celebrates the sadistic or masochistic behavior of sages such as Bodhidharma, who is said to have sat in meditation for so long that his legs became gangrenous.

What's worse, Buddhism holds that enlightenment makes you morally infallible—like the pope, but more so. Even the otherwise sensible James Austin perpetuates this insidious notion. " 'Wrong' actions won't arise," he writes, "when a brain continues truly to express the self-nature intrinsic to its [transcendent] experiences." Buddhists infected with this belief can easily excuse their teachers' abusive acts as hallmarks of a "crazy wisdom" that the unenlightened cannot fathom.

But what troubles me most about Buddhism is its implication that detachment from ordinary life is the surest route to salvation. Buddha's first step toward enlightenment was his abandonment of his wife and child, and Buddhism (like Catholicism) still exalts male monasticism as the epitome of spirituality. It seems legitimate to ask whether a path that turns away from aspects of life as essential as sexuality and parenthood is truly spiritual. From this perspective, the very concept of enlightenment begins to look anti-spiritual: It suggests that life is a problem that can be solved, a cul-de-sac that can be, and should be, escaped.

Some Western Buddhists have argued that principles such as reincarnation, anatta, and enlightenment are not essential to Buddhism. In Buddhism Without Beliefs and The Faith To Doubt, the British teacher Stephen Batchelor eloquently describes his practice as a method for confronting—rather than transcending—the often painful mystery of life. But Batchelor seems to have arrived at what he calls an "agnostic" perspective in spite of his Buddhist training—not because of it. When I asked him why he didn't just call himself an agnostic, Batchelor shrugged and said he sometimes wondered himself.

All religions, including Buddhism, stem from our narcissistic wish to believe that the universe was created for our benefit, as a stage for our spiritual quests. In contrast, science tells us that we are incidental, accidental. Far from being the raison d'être of the universe, we appeared through sheer happenstance, and we could vanish in the same way. This is not a comforting viewpoint, but science, unlike religion, seeks truth regardless of how it makes us feel. Buddhism raises radical questions about our inner and outer reality, but it is finally not radical enough to accommodate science's disturbing perspective. The remaining question is whether any form of spirituality can.

by Josey

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Buddha Myth 2

Pagan Christs, by John M. Robertson, [1911], at

p. 258

§ 13. The Buddha Myth.

In the introduction to M. Senart's Essai sur la légende de Buddha, the most comprehensive and scientific attempt of the kind yet made, the central problem is thus posited:—

"Either the historical data are the primary nucleus and as it were the central source, the legendary elements representing an ulterior action, in part accessory, without necessary cohesion; or, inversely, the mythological traits form a whole connected by a higher and anterior unity with the personage on whom they are here grafted, the historical data, if there are really any, being associated with them only in virtue of a secondary adaptation. It is at the first point of view that the inquiry has stood up to the present time. There has been drawn the practical conclusion that it suffices to suppress all the incredible details, what is left being taken for accredited history. I seek to show that for this first point of view we ought decidedly to substitute the second." 1

The conclusion to which the present argument points is exactly this, adhered to, however, more strictly than is the case in M. Senart's admirably learned treatise. For while he thus seems to imply that the supernatural element is the beginning of Buddhism as such, he finally assumes that there actually was a "founder." Certainly he sufficiently attenuates his conception:—

"A sect has a founder, Buddhism like every other. I do not pretend to demonstrate that Sakyamuni never existed. The question is perfectly distinct from the object of this treatise, It follows, certainly, from the foregoing researches that hitherto the sacred personage has been given too much historical consistence, that the tissue of fables grouped around his name has been too facilely transformed, by arbitrary piecings, into a species of more or less unplausible history. Scepticism acquires from our analyses, in some regards, a greater precision: still, it does not follow that we should indefinitely extend its limits. In this epic and dogmatic biography, indeed, there remain very few elements which sustain a close examination; but to say this is not to say that among them there has not entered some authentic reminiscence. The distinction is certainly very difficult. Where we are not in a position to show for a tradition its exact counterpart in other cycles, a decision is an extremely delicate process. All that is suspicious ought not necessarily to be eliminated: it is right that whatever is rigorously admissible ought to be retained. There is no alleged deity—not Vishnu, or Krishna, or Herakles—for whom we might not

p. 259

construct a sufficiently reasonable biography by proceeding as has hitherto been done in regard to the legend of Buddha.

"Under these reserves, I willingly recognise that there remain a certain number of elements which we have no absolute reason for thinking apocryphal: they may represent real historical reminiscences: to that, for my part, I have no objection. It is possible that the founder of Buddhism may have come from a tribe of Sakyas, though the pretended history of that race is certainly quite fictitious. It is possible that he may have come of a royal line, that he may have been born in a city called Kapilavastu, though this name arouses grave suspicions, opening the door to either mythological or allegorical interpretations, and the existence of such a town is very feebly certified. The name Gotama is certainly historic and well-known, but it is a borrowed name which tells us little. Much trouble has been taken to explain how this strictly Brahmanic patronymic might have passed to a family of Kshatriyas [the warrior caste] . Apart from Buddha, it is above all closely associated with his supposed aunt, the legendary Prajápati......I do not speak of his genealogy: it has certainly no value, being borrowed whole from epic heroes, in particular from Rama. On the other hand, it may well be that the teacher of the Buddhists entered on his religious career at the age of thirty-nine 1......"

[paragraph continues] And so on. Let us pause at the last clause to remember how the Jesus of the gospels "began to be about thirty years of age" when he began his teaching career, and to ask on what rational ground we can suppose such a detail to have been biographically preserved when the surrounding narrative yields no sign of biography whatever? There is in fact no single detail in the legend that has any claim to critical acceptance; and the position of the latest conservatives, as Oldenberg, is finally only a general petitio principii. India, admits that candid scholar, always was, as it is, "a land of types," wherein the lack of freedom stunts the free growth of individuality; and in the portraits of the Buddha and all his leading disciples we have simply the same type repeated. Yet, he contends, "a figure such as his certainly has not been fundamentally misconceived (fundamental missverstanden worden ist eine Gestalt wie die seine gewiss nicht)." 2 Critical logic will not permit such an A, priori reinstatement of a conception in which every element has given way before analysis. It is but an unconscious resort to the old fallacy of meeting the indictment of a spurious document with the formula, "Who else could have written it?" 3

p. 260

We recur to the old issue—the thesis that "every sect must have had a founder." Such was the unhesitating assumption of Minayeff, who did so much to bring historic clearness into early Buddhist history. "It is beyond doubt that at the origin of great historic movements always and everywhere appear important and historic personalities. It was so, certainly, in the history of Buddhism, and its development unquestionably commenced in the work of the founder." 1 Here we have something more than the proposition of M. Senart—we have a doctrine which would ascribe to definite founders the cults of Herakles and Dionysos and Aphroditê, the worship of fire, and the institution of human sacrifice. Dismissing such a generalisation as the extravagance of a scholar without sociology, 2 we bring the issue to a point in the formula of M. Senart. Plainly that is significant in the sense only that someone must have begun the formation of any given group. It is clearly not true in the sense that every sect originates in the new teaching of a remarkable personage. And we have seen reason to infer that there was a group of heretical or deviating Brahmanists, for whom "a Buddha" was "an enlightened one," one of many, before the quasi-historical Buddha had even so far emerged into personality as the slain Jesus of the Pauline epistles. Brahmanic doctrine, Brahmanic asceticism and vows, and Brahmanic mendicancy—these are the foundations of the Order: the personal giver of that rule and teaching, the Teaching God, comes later, even as the Jesus who institutes the Holy Supper comes after the eucharist is an established rite. Every critical scholar, without exception, admits that a vast amount of doctrine ascribed to Buddha was concocted long after his alleged period. It cannot then be proved that any part of the doctrine is not a fictitious ascription; and there is not a single tenable test whereby any can be discriminated as genuine. In the words of Kuenen, "we are not free to explain Buddhism from the person of the founder." 3 Nor is there any more psychological difficulty in supposing the whole to be doctrinal myth than in conceiving how the later Brahmanists could put their discourses in the mouth of Krishna.

The recent attempts to establish the historicity of Gotama Buddha by excavated tomb-remains 4—a kind of evidence which obviously could prove nothing as to the achievements or teaching

p. 261

of the person interred—have broken down on their merits. Dr. Fleet's claim to date an inscribed vase before Asoka's time on the strength of its letter-forms is peremptorily rejected; 1 and Professor Davids’ theory that the remains found under one stupa are those of Buddha has to compete with the theory of Dr. Fleet that they are those of massacred Buddhana Sakiya = "kinsmen of Buddha," which in turn is rejected by M. Barth as an impossible interpretation. On such lines there can be no establishment of any relevant historic facts; and we are left to the decision that "No extant inscription, either in the north or south, can be referred with confidence to a date earlier than that of Asoka. 2

Professor Kern, coming to conclusions substantially identical with those of M. Senart, posits for us finally an ancient Order of monks, absorbing an ancient popular religion, and developing for people of the middle and lower classes the ideals of a spiritual life current in the schools of the Brahmans and the ascetics. "It is very possible," he goes on, "that the Order had been founded—whatever be the precise sense which we attach to that word—by a single man peculiarly gifted, even as, for example, it is possible that Freemasonry may have been so founded. We may even, by an effort of imagination, adorn this founder with all sorts of good qualities; but we have no right to say that the amiability of the Buddha of the legend has any other origin than the antique belief according to which the Buddha, in his quality of cherishing sun, is manno miltisto" 3—the kindest of men, in the words applied by an old German prayer-chant to the deity.

This is the warranted attitude of scientific criticism; and the mere "may-be" as to the possible Founder is exclusive of any Evemeristic solution. M. Senart's necessary founder, and Professor Kern's possible founder, are wholly remote from the Buddha alike of the Buddhist and of the rationalising scholar, bent on saving a personality out of a myth. On the face of the case, there is a presumption that, while there may easily have been, "about 500 B.C., a man who by his wisdom and his devotion to the spiritual interests of his kind made such an impression that contemporaries compared him to a pre-existing ideal of wisdom and goodness, and that posterity completely identified him with this ideal," 4 the Order was not founded by any such person. No Buddha made the Buddhists—the Buddhists made the Buddha. 5

p. 262

An obviously sufficient conceptual nucleus for "the" Buddha lay in the admittedly general Brahmanic notion of "Buddhas." There is even a tradition that at the time when Sakyamuni came many men ran through the world saying "I am Buddha! I am Buddha!" 1 This may be either a Buddhist way of putting aside the claims of other Buddhas or a simple avowal of their commonness. But a real Buddha would be a much less likely "founder" than one found solely in tradition. Any fabulous Buddha as such could figure for any group as its founder to begin with: to him would be ascribed the common ethical code and rules of the group: the clothing of the phantom with the mythic history of Vishnu-Purusha or Krishna, the "Bhagavat" of earlier creeds, followed as a matter of course, on the usual lines. M. Senart "holds it for established that the legend as a whole was fixed as early as the time of Asoka." 2 Some of the latest surveys of the problem end in an inference that the oldest elements in the legend consist of fragments of an ancient poem or poems embedded in the Pitakas. 3 The quasi-biographical colour further given to mythical details is on all fours with that of the legends of Joseph, Moses, Joshua, and Jesus, all late products of secondary mythology, in periods which systematically reduced God-legends to the biographic level. As we have seen, the fabrication of narrative-frames for the teachings ascribed to the Buddha was early an established Buddhist exercise. And this accumulation of quasi-biographical detail, as we have also seen, goes on long after the whole cycle of prior supernaturalist myth has been embodied. It is after Jesus has been deified that he is provided with a mother and a putative father and brothers; and it is in the latest gospel of all that we have some of the most circumstantial details of his life and deportment. There is even a case for the thesis that some of the characteristics of the Buddha are derived from sculptures which followed Greek models. 4

On these grounds, then, it is here submitted that the traditional figure of the Buddha, in its most plausibly rationalised form, is as unhistoric as the figure of the Gospel Jesus has been separately shown to be. Each figure simply stands for the mythopœic action of the religious mind in a period in which Primary-God-making had given way to Secondary-God-making, and in particular to the craving for a Teaching God who should originate religious and moral ideas

p. 263

as the other Gods had been held to originate agriculture, art, medicine, normal law, and civilisation. And if by many the thought be still found disenchanting, they might do well to reflect that there is a side to the conception that is not devoid of comfort.

Buddhism, like Christianity, is from the point of view of its traditional origins a "failure." Buddhism, indeed, notably in the case of Burmah, has done more to mould the life of a whole people towards its ostensibly highest ethic than Christianity ever did; but Buddhism, being at best a gospel of monasticism, quietism, and mechanical routine, collapsed utterly in India, the land of its rise; and its normal practice savours little of moral or intellectual superiority to any of the creeds around it. 1 Brahmanism, which seems to have ultimately wrought its overthrow, set up in its place a revived and developed popular polytheism, on the plane of the most ignorant demotic life. Christianity, in turn, professedly the religion of peace and love, is as a system utterly without influence in suppressing war, or inter-racial malignity, or even social division. The vital curative forces as against those evils are visibly independent of Christianity. And here emerges the element of comfort.

On our Naturalistic view of the rise of the religions of the Secondary or Teaching Gods, it is sheer human aspiration that has shaped all the Christs and all their doctrines; and one of the very causes of the total miscarriage is just that persistence in crediting the human aspiration to Gods and Demigods, and representing as superhuman oracles the words of human reason. Unobtrusive men took that course hoping for the best, seeking a short cut to moral influence; but they erred grievously. So to disguise and denaturalise wise thoughts and humane principles was to keep undeveloped the very reasoning faculty which could best appreciate them. Men taught to bow ethically to a Divine Teacher are not taught ethically to think: any aspiration so evoked in them is factitious, vestural, verbal, or at best emotionally superinduced, not reached by authentic thought and experience. When, haply, the nameless thinkers who in all ages have realised and distilled the wisdom or unwisdom given out as divine are recognised in their work for what they were, and their successors succeed in persuading the many to realise for them- selves the humanness of all doctrine, the nations may perchance become capable of working out for themselves better gospels than the best of those which turned to naught in their hands while they held them as revelations from the skies.


258:1 É. Senart, Essai sur la légende de Buddha, 2e édit. 1882, pp. xi-xii.

259:1 Id. pp. 441-3.

259:2 Der Buddha, 3te Aufl. pp. 159-160, 180.

259:3 Cp. Baur's answer to Rückert, Paulus, Kap. iv, note 2 (p. 417). And now Baur's own assumptions as to Paul are rejected by the school of van Manen.

260:1 I. p. Minayeff, Recherches sur le Bouddhisme, trad. fr. 1894, p. 2.

260:2 Cp. Oldenberg's strictures on Minayeff, "Buddhistische Studien," in Z. D. M. G.. vol. lii, 1898.

260:3 Hib. Lect. p. 264.

260:4 Davids, Early Buddhism, 1908, pp. 29, 49; Buddhist India, p. 17; H. Hackmann, Buddhism as a Religion, 1909; Dr. Fleet, Journ. Roy. Asiat. Soc., 1906.

261:1 By M. Barth in the Journ. des Savants, October, 1906.

261:2 Vincent Smith, Early History of India, 1908, p. 14.

261:3 Histoire du Bouddhisme dans l’Inde, 1901, i, 263-4; cp. p. 241.

261:4 Kern, i, 264.

261:5 Cp. I. p. Minayeff, Recherches sur le Bouddhisme, trad. fr. 1894, pp. 157-180.

262:1 Senart, Essai, p. 448.

262:2 Essai, Introd. pp. xxii-xxiii and p. 451.

262:3 Bishop Copleston, Buddhism Primitive and Present, ed. 1905, p. 53; Geiger, Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa, 1905, p. 11.

262:4 Bloch, "Einfluss der altbuddhistischen Kunst auf die Buddha-Legende." in Z. D. M. G., 1908, Heft 2, pp. 370-1.

263:1 Cp. Koeppen, Die Religion des Buddha, i, 565; Davids, Buddhism, pp. 210, 246-250.

The Buddha Myth

by JM Robertson

(Editor's Note: Athough it is widely believed that "the Buddha" was a real person who lived about 2600 years ago, it can be demonstrated that, as he is portrayed within orthodox Buddhism, Buddha is legendary and mythical. As concerns the supposed historicity of Buddha, the following are excerpts from the excellent book Pagan Christs by JM Robertson. Robertson was a true scholar, and he provided invaluable and sound research. More information regarding the mythical nature of Buddha and the solar origins of Buddhism can be found in Suns of God: Buddha, Krishna and Christ Unveiled.)

According to tradition, the founder of Buddhism was a Hindu named Siddhattha, son of the rajah of the Sakyan clan which dwelt in the foothills of the Himalayas. He is sometimes referred to as a Sakyamuni (muni meaning Sage), sometimes as Tathagata (literally "One who has come, or gone, This Far"), more usually as Gotama Buddha. The term Buddha is a title, not a personal name. Gotama is referred to as the Buddha after his Enlightenment, which is reputed to have occurred in 528 B.C. in Bihar. Thereafter he abandoned family life and promulgated his doctrine of deliverance from suffering and attainment of ultimate peace, Nirvana.

His teaching is called the Dhamma (Sanskrit Dharma), and is summed up in the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path....

There were many sects and sages in India 2500 years ago, but their teachings were transmitted orally. The Buddhist Dhamma was not written down for centuries after it had been first enunciated. The various Sanskrit and Pali texts which purport to contain the original teachings are therefore the product of evolution, and it is impossible to say which of the divergent interpretations, if any, represents the pristine form. What is quite certain is that the underlying philosophy had a great deal in common with ideas prevalent at the time. It bears some resemblance to the contemporary Jainist movement.

The breakaway from Hindu ritualism was not a unique innovation; neither was there anything new in the founding of an order of monks. Various sects were already organized as mendicant monks, and it was an established custom for them to meet periodically and proclaim their teaching in public. The early Buddhists followed this familiar pattern. They made modifications, of course, and one feature was the rejection of the severe austerities which were practiced by some of the sects.

The Series of Buddha

Not only have we no six-century record of the rules of the Buddhist Sangha, as the order was called, but it did not claim to be a new teaching. The tradition holds that it had been promulgated many times before—that Gotama was only one of a long series of Buddhas who arise at intervals and who all teach the same doctrine. The names of twenty-four of such Buddhas who appeared before Gotama have been recorded. The number and names may well be late inventions, but there can be no question about the belief in their existence. It was held that after the death of each Buddha, his religion flourishes for a time and then decays. After it is forgotten, a new Buddha emerges and preaches the lost Dhamma, or Truth. In the fourth century A.D., a sect of Buddhists rejected Gotama and venerated instead the three previous Buddhas. They especially reverenced one of them, Kasyapa, and were actually joined in by the orthodox in worship as his tomb.

It seems quite probable in the light of these facts that any number of teachings attributed to "the Buddha" may have been in existence either before or at the time when Gotama was believed to have lived. They might all have been attributed to a sage with the title of "the Blessed One." They might include teachings that were ascribed later to Gotama.

The name Gotama is a common one; it is also full of mythological associations. There was admittedly another Gotama known to the early Buddhists, who founded an order. So what proof is there that the sayings and doings of different Gotamas may not have been ascribed to one person?...

The Documentary Evidence

...Looking then, for a foothold among the shifting sands of Buddhist tradition we note the following clashing records:

(1) The Buddha is represented in ostensibly early and late tradition as speaking of the Gods with full belief in their existence.

(2) He is represented on the one hand as discouraging sacrifices, and on the other as prescribing for a whole tribe a strict adherence to ancient rites.

(3) King Asoka, who figured as a good Buddhist in the early vigor of the movement, about 250 B.C., habitually called himself "the delight of the Gods" as did his contemporary, the pious Buddhist king of Ceylon.

(4) The Buddha is represented as throwing his Order open to all classes and at the same time making the name "Brahmin" a term of honor for his Arahats and saints. Brahmins were among the most distinguished disciples.

(5) On the principle that Buddha delivered the whole cannon, much teaching that certainly did not come from him is ascribed to him.

(6) Much of the philosophy set forth as his teaching is identical with the Sankhya system, germs of which are admittedly pre-Buddhistic.

What doctrines, it must now be asked, were special to Buddhism? Not Karma, that was common property which Buddhism shared. Not in asserting that a right mind was superior to sacrifice, that was a primary doctrine of the Jains, and pre-Buddhistic, both within and without the pale of Brahmanism. Not in seeking a way to salvation independently of the Vedas, that had been done by many teachers in various sects. Not in the doctrine that defilement comes not from unclean meats but from evil deeds and words and thoughts; Buddhist writers themselves say that is derived from previous Buddhas. Not in the search for peace through self-control and renunciation; that was the quest of a myriad recluses and all previous Buddhas. Not in the view that there is a higher wisdom than that attained by austerities; that, too, is pre-Buddhistic. Not in the doctrine that non-Brahmans could join an Order and attain religious blessedness; other orders were open to men of low social status and even to slaves. Indeed, the rigid separation of caste was not yet established in the early days of Buddhism. Brahmin claims were exorbitantly high, but many Brahmins waived them and they did not apply to ascetics. Early Buddhists, like the early Christians, did not admit runaway slaves to the Order.

The admission of women was not an innovation as it was practiced by the Jains, and even the tradition makes the Buddha accept it reluctantly in the twenty-fifth year of his preaching. There seems, in short, to be nothing on the face of the doctrine to account for the expansion of the Buddhist movement....

Buddha as a Secondary God

We can now make a critical assessment of Buddhist origins. The Teaching Buddha, considered as the wondrous sage who established a great Order in his lifetime, shrinks to vanishing point. The suspicion that Sakyamuni is an unreal being is finally justified. The Order probably originated among ascetic Brahmins who may have been led to rationalism as a result of renouncing the Vedas....

Objections Answered

It is reasonable to wonder why so many scholars, while admitting the tissue of fable and unplausible history surrounding the origins of Buddhism, nevertheless still believe that Sakyamuni actually existed. They usually justify their attitude by the argument that every sect must have had a founder. This assumption can be allowed if it is merely taken to mean that someone must have begun the formation of any given group. It is clearly not true in the sense that every sect originates in the new teaching of a remarkable personage.

As we have seen, there was in all probability a group of heretical Brahmanists for whom a Buddha signified "the enlightened one." Even so, there were many Buddhas before the quasi-historical Buddha had acquired a personality, like the slain Jesus of the Pauline Epistles....

A sufficient nucleus for the Buddha lay in the general Brahmanic concept of "Buddhas." There is even a tradition that at the time when Sakyamuni came, many men ran about saying "I am the Buddha."...

On these grounds it is submitted that the figure of the Buddha, in its most plausibly rationalized form, is as unhistorical as that of the gospel Jesus. Each figure shows how the religious mind manufactured a myth in a period in which the making of primary Gods had given way to the making of Secondary-gods. The mythopoeic process satisfied the craving for a Teacher-god who should originate religious and moral ideas as the earlier gods had been held to originate agriculture, art, medicine, law and civilization.

Buddhism, like Christianity, is a "failure" from the point of view of its traditional origins. In the case of Burma it admittedly did more to mold the life of the whole people towards its highest ethic than Christianity ever did; but in India, where it arose, it collapsed utterly. It was overthrown by Brahmanism which set up in its place a revived polytheism.

On our naturalistic view of the rise of the Teaching-gods, it is sheer human aspiration that has shaped all the Christs and their doctrines. One reason why the original teachings fail is that men persisted in crediting purely human aspiration to supernatural beings. Men who are taught to bow ethically to a divine Teacher are not taught ethically to think. Any aspiration so evoked is factitious, verbal, emotional, not reached by authentic thought and experience. When the wisdom or unwisdom of the nameless thinkers in all ages is recognized for what it is—as human and not divine—the nations may become capable of working out for themselves better gospels than the best of those which turned to naught in their hands while they held them as revelations from the skies.

For more information concerning the Buddha myth, please see "The Origins of Christianity" as well as The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold and Suns of God: Krishna, Buddha and Christ Unveiled. Also, see "Is Buddhism All It's Cracked Up to Be?"

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Rumors of vice rattle China's Shaolin monastery and the home of kung fu

Shi Yongxin, abbot of China's Shaolin monastery, where kung fu and Zen Buddhism were born, has been attacked by Internet rumors alleging improper behavior. The abbot has long been a controversial figure in China.

By Peter FordStaff writer / October 14, 2011

The abbot of Shaolin monastery, the home of kung fu, is in trouble again, beset by renewed online rumors that he lives a less than pure life.

The latest rumors spreading on China’s lively and not always reliable Internet accuse the abbot of maintaining a mistress and son in Germany, and of holding huge sums of money in foreign bank accounts.

The monastery issued a statement Thursday denying the stories as “vicious lies woven from nothing but causing great damage to the abbot Shi Yongxin and the Buddhist temple itself.” It gave an email address and phone number for the 1,500 year old monastery, “inviting anyone who has any evidence” of his eminence’s alleged misdeeds “to report directly.”

 Only last May, abbot Shi was shaking off rumors that he had been caught visiting a prostitute during an anti-vice sweep by police in the province of Henan, where the Shaolin temple is located.
Shi, the 30th abbot of the temple where Zen Buddhism was born, has attracted a good deal of criticism in China for the manner in which he has commercialized his shrine. Aside from sending teams of kung fu monks on international tours, Shi - who earned an MBA and is known as “the CEO monk” - has franchised a chain of Shaolin-run monasteries, licensed the Shaolin name to films and cartoon shows and gone into online sales.

He has brushed off criticism of such moves, once telling the official Xinhua news agency that “commercialization…is a path leading up to the truth of Zen.”

Letter from Roshi Joan regarding Eido Shimano by Joan Halifax

on Friday, December 31, 2010 at 7:31 am

"I am Founding Abbot of Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a woman, a Zen practitioner since 1965, and someone who was sexually assaulted by one of her Buddhist teachers years ago. I have been following the discussion on the AZTA listserv for many months about the Eido Shimano "case". I use the term "case" not to mean koan, but in a legalistic sense. For just as the former Israeli president has just been convicted in a court of law of rape and sexual harassment, so also is Eido Shimano vulnerable to such an indictment.

For many years, I have heard about the sexual behavior of Eido Shimano toward his female students; there has long been talk about many of the Buddhist teachers who have violated sexual boundaries with their students. Sadly, the list of Buddhist teachers who have had intercourse with their students is not short. We have also been aware of not only of teachers having sex in the dokusan room but of teachers engaging in sexual violence toward their students as well.

For those of us who are not only teachers but women, the misogyny that we have encountered when we have brought these violations to the attention of others has been often concerning. For like many rape victims, we have been seen as somehow culpable, have been ignored, criticized, or shunned.

I want to say that I am grateful and am relieved that Eido Shimano has resigned from his abbacy and the Zen Center Board, and that you have identified good, strong leaders to take over your center. We live in a time when there should be zero tolerance of the violation of professional boundaries, and most particularly sexual abuse on the part of leaders, whether they be a president of a country, a prime minister, or a minister, whether psychologist or social worker, whether monk or manager."


"Many of us have experienced being under the spell of a teacher or person of authority. Some of us have seen our own students caught in the trance of positive projections. But our practice is about waking up and ending suffering, being real and being courageous in dealing with mara, and actualizing compassion, even a compassion that might seem ruthless. We have to realize that the three-fold training is clear on the matter of sex and ethics, physical abuse and sangha relationships, and the role of wisdom and compassion in relation to the three jewels. And we have to see our teachers in a totally realistic light, including their feet of clay.

I also want to say that it is not that Eido Shimano is a scapegoat for all other spiritual teachers who have violated sexual boundaries and engaging in sexually abusive (and probably addictive) behavior. I hope that by bringing this situation to the world's attention through Aitken's now-public archive, the NYTimes article, and the increasing storm of emails, blogposts, and communiques (including facebook), the sexual abuse of women by Buddhist teachers will diminish, if not end, through strong negative sanctions of those who have engaged in activities such as this."


"The sexual abuse of women is no small matter globally. It takes profound commitment to deal with this issue. Humbly, i feel that we as Buddhists need to clean up the scene in our own backyard, and clean it up now. We all share this karma, and we must share the correction process as well. Compassion tells us that, and we have to not only listen but as well to act. Thus these letters you are currently receiving....... Please heed them, and heed them well.

I do feel deeply about this issue since so many women have passed through my zendo diminished and damaged as a result of having been subjected to sexual boundary violations by their teachers; some have been physically abused; others have been psychologically intimidated and then forced into sex. Some women were plainly deluded and hungry for acknowledgment, and in some way, power; others were coerced, shamed, and some were threatened; others were entranced and tricked. In the end, after all is said and done, most have wanted to abandon their Buddhist practice, finding Buddhism too passive and uncaring, if not dangerous.

As a result of what I have borne witness to in others and myself, as well as bearing witness to women who have been raped in the context of war or extreme family abuse, I would suggest here that we need to actualize a compassion that is more skillful and much braver at this time. I hope you will consider that standing aside might not be the best route in terms of this situation with Eido Shimano. I hope you will be courageous and forthright and not take the road of compromise. For it has been compromise, I believe, and lack of ethical resolve that has given rise to our collective suffering in this situation, the individual suffering of the women who have been subjected to this abuse, and to the deep suffering in your sangha."

Joan Halifax
Founding Abbot
Upaya Zen Center

Here is an excerpt from another letter by Halifax Roshi about misogyny in Buddhism and religion in general.

"Why Buddhism? Violations of Trust In The Sexual Sphere"

"We all know that rape as a weapon of war has been used against women and nations for thousands of years. Rape, forcible seduction, seduction through trickery, power and domination, [...] have also been part of most, if not all religions. ... If you want to deepen the shadow of any religion, turn wisdom and compassion into hypocrisy, and stand by, conflict-averse, as its male clergy disrespects women, has sex with female congregants, dominates women, abuses women, degrades or rapes them.

But as a Zen priest, as a woman, I have to ask: why my religion? Why Buddhism? This is not what the Buddha taught. But for too long in the West, and I'm sure in the East, gross misogyny has existed in the Buddhist world, a misogyny so deep that it has allowed the abuse of women and nuns in our own time, not only [historically] or in Asia. The misogyny is well-expressed through mistreatment of women, through sexual boundary violations of women and the psychological abuse of women."

We can post on the internet, write letters, and discuss all we want, but the question is, what can be done on a practical level to stop this scourge? How do we cut through the denial of the seriousness of this problem on the part of practitioners, to start with. And how can we demand that ethical standards be adhered to? Sanghas must draw up ethics contracts for their teachers to sign. Breach of contract should result in expulsion. What else can we do to liberate Buddhism from this blight? A global effort is needed, so that women can feel safe and secure in their chosen sangha, wherever it may be, and whatever the tradition they choose.

It is said that Mara made the Buddha cry by telling him that the day will come when the enemies of the Dharma will dress as monks, and act to destroy the Dharma. It looks like that time is upon us.

--Dharma Protector.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Child ordinations and the rights of children

by Gananath Obeyesekere

Recent newspaper articles, photographs and reports in our newspapers have given prominence to massive campaigns to recruit thousands of children to the Buddhist order with the Prime Minister himself urging the recruitment of two thousand children as novices. He also urged the poor to multiply and bring forth children to bless the Sangha with new recruits and to serve in what he no doubt perceives as an endless war. My concern here is with the whole problem of child monks because this seems to be a violation of both the letter and the spirit of the Theravada Vinaya, the authoritative source of rules for monks. One newspaper photograph shows a child of about eight years wearing yellow robes and greeted by his smiling sister. The boy was not smiling; I am not surprised because joining a mendicant order is an awesome experience even for adults. One has therefore to ask whether little children are capable of making this kind of decision. Let me therefore address some of the issues that seem to me to be relevant for public consideration.

This Samanera is one of 150 boys ordained last week at the Dimbulagala Aranya Senasana. Immediately after he was ordained his two younger sisters ran to him and peeped into his pathther to see what was in it - (Picture by nihal Chandra kumara

1. The recruitment thrust has the blessings of politicians and the officials of the Buddha Sasana Ministry. I presume that in order to set an example to others the officials promoting the campaign have ordained, or will ordain in the near future, their own children or grandchildren. Outside of the offspring of these idealistically motivated officials, most of the child recruits must surely come from the poorest of the poor and also, nowadays, from those families who have been dispossessed or have suffered from the current war. One might make a case that monastic recruitment is a good thing because it provides homes and basic care for poor children. Yet, most of these children have had more than one meal a day, have had playmates and the support of family and kin folk. How would they fare with no solid food after the noon meal, without playmates and kin support? Moreover, if Buddhists are concerned about the welfare of poor children ought they not to develop alternative provisions, such as homes and orphanages, provision of food and education for destitute families - all of which are in keeping with the spirit of the religion.

2. The more serious problem is that of sexual abuse notoriously associated with all forms of institutionalized monasticism, witness the recent cases of abuse of children put in their pastoral care even by high prelates of the Catholic Church. But Catholics have no system of child ordination and therefore the possibility of abuse of children confined to Buddhist monasteries must be faced honestly and squarely.

Over the last five or six years I have visited many Buddhist monasteries trying to locate two rare palm leaf manuscripts and I believe that in general village monks are morally responsible human beings. Yet, it is foolish to believe that abuse of children does not take place in larger monasteries, in urban settings and among the more worldly monks. The rules of the Vinaya themselves were formulated when specific acts of immorality had taken place in monasteries and among these are unlawful homoerotic activities, generally among consenting adults. In our own troubled times, monks are provided with plenty of sexual stimuli: in TV and in coeducational interactions in campuses and other arenas. Yet the rules do not provide them with heterosexual outlets. One would imagine, therefore, that in our modern context the possibility of child abuse is certainly there and one ought to have institutional safeguards for that purpose. Urban monasteries today provide no serious monastic education because modern monks want to sit for secular government exams and go to secular universities. It is in the rare instance that monks study Pali or Sanskrit and have first hand knowledge of the doctrinal tradition. Many drop out of the monkhood after some time though exact statistics are not available. If I am even partially right then the real issue is to provide incentives for monks to study Buddhism seriously, engage in meditative exercises, and for the laity to provide support and encouragement for adult monks to remain in the order. When masses of children are to be ordained it is likely that most of them will follow the now popular pattern of secular education and many will end up disrobing. If so, what good will child recruitment do for the order?

3. Unlike adult monks children have little chance of resisting sexual advances. They are much more vulnerable; the cultural and familial pressures are so strong that they cannot run away to their own homes and, as far as I know, there is no satisfactory way in which they can protest to the monastic authorities. The new ordinations require, I am told, a guardian who will act in the interests of the child. But how does the guardian inquire into such possibilities when the mere talk of homoerotic practices is taboo? And how does a guardian set about his task? Are there rules and institutional procedures laid out? Perhaps one solution would be to have professionally trained child care workers among Buddhist monks who would then have the legal and moral right to inquire into problems of child abuse. But I doubt that this has even been considered by our pious officials and politicians.
4. What are the rules of the order regarding child ordination? The classic rule which officials and monks go by is formulated in the Mahavagga 1, 53-54 of the Vinaya Pitake . In it the Buddha ordained his only son Rahula but, owing to strong protests by his own father, the sage formulated the following rule: "Monks, a child who has not his parent’s consent should not be let to go forth [that is, ordained as a novice]." But well-meaning Buddhists are unaware that this rule was qualified by another sensible rule: "Monks, a boy of less than fifteen years of age should not be let to go forth. Whoever should let (one such) go forth, there is an offence of wrong-doing." (Mahavagga, 1.50) Because sixteen years is the permitted age of marriage for Buddhists at that time one would expect a fifteen year old youth to be fully mature.

Nevertheless, this is further qualified by another rule which unlike the previous one is so vague that it simply cannot be applied to our time. It says: "I allow you, monks, to let a youth of less than fifteen years of age and who is scarer of crows go forth." (ibid,. 1,51) This qualification, however, is nothing to crow about. It is not a general rule but an exception to the former one. And it has been interpreted by later traditions to mean references to a muscular youth capable of scaring crows (who in Buddhist texts are hardy creatures classed with vultures and living on carrion) by throwing a clod of earth at them with the left hand! Simply stated the rule implies that one can qualify the fifteen year norm if the youth (not child) is physically tough and up to the rigours of monastic life. Thus, it seems to me that the Theravada Buddhist rules of recruitment for novices are quite sensible: one must have parental consent; one must be fifteen years old; if not, one must be a youth with the physical maturity of a fifteen year old. There is no space for child ordination according to the Buddha-word which means that in these matters ignorance is our worst enemy.

5. I for one agree that monks have a vital religion~ role in our society officiating in temple rituals and sermons and they are absolutely indispensible for death rituals, especially the pansakula and the remembrance of the dead (mataka dana). Hence, some form of recruitment is vital to the perpetuation of lived Buddhism. If monks, politicians and government officials declare that more monks are needed then they should also ask the question, how many monks does the nation require? Or, is one good monk worth the many who openly flout the rules of the order?

I have no answers to these questions but if more monks are needed there remains a very simple solution to the problem, and that is the recruitment of older folk. Many older people are increasingly given to meditation (of various types, some deep some shallow) and they are nowadays educated, often with a good knowledge of the dhamma. They have more or less retired from work and worldly life and form an ideal recruiting ground for both novices and fully ordained monks (and nuns). Many of them have meagre pensions; therefore free monastic board and lodging would be added incentives. And given the imbalances in our population more and more older people (age fifty and over) will be available for recruitment. They have already enjoyed (or put up with) domestic life and are ready for the life after. They may not be as glamorous as child monks but they could well be the rock on which a solid foundation for the future of the sasana could be erected. It seems that the sensible thing to do is for the Buddha Sasana officials to promote this form of recruitment rather than the Orwellian scenario proposed by the Prime Minister.

(The writer is Professor of Anthropology, Emeritus, of Princeton University, New Jersey, USA)

The Buddhist organisations that are thriving during the debt crisis by Mary Finnigan in The Guardian

In times of financial hardship, meditators are still willing to pay large fees to hear the teachings of high-profile Buddhists

Friday 18 November 2011

Here we are stuck in an economic downturn, with the threat of a financial tsunami gathering momentum in the eurozone and with pundits telling us it can only get worse. You might expect people to be careful about their budget priorities – and that nonessential expenditure like spiritual teachings would be put on hold.

Evidence suggests, however, that the opposite is true – especially if you happen to be Buddhist. It seems that in this period of acute financial stress, Buddhists are still willing to part with their pounds, dollars, roubles and rupees in order to sustain their meditation practice. Because meditation calms the mind and generates insight, this is a predictable response – but what does come as a surprise is the amounts of money involved.

Take the 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje, for example. A young, high-profile Tibetan Buddhist lama with a romantic history of escape from Tibet after dodging Chinese security. Confined for several years under conditions resembling house arrest in India, he eventually managed to visit the United States for the first time in 2008. About 2,000 people gathered at a monastery in Woodstock to catch a glimpse of him. They paid $200 each. Roughly $400,000 (£250,000) hit the coffers and after expenses, the monastery had enough left over to embark on an extensive building project.

Then there’s Sogyal Rinpoche – credited as author of the bestseller The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. A recent feature in the French news magazine Marianne revealed that the cheapest tariff for a week’s teachings with him at his centre Lerab Ling in France was €500 (£425) – which entitled participants to pitch a tent and eat vegetarian food. Five hundred people attended the retreat, including reporter Elodie Emery – which means that Sogyal attracted more than €250,000 on one occasion.

Emery estimates that Lerab Ling pulls in €1m to €1.5m annually in retreat fees alone – in addition to shop sales and donations. Sogyal’s global organisation, Rigpa, has websites that include multiple income streams. One of them, the Tertön Sogyal foundation, targets will bequests. Board members include Pedro Beroy, the managing director of the investment banking division of Credit Suisse.

In October this year, 1,500 people flew to Tenerife for three days of teachings with Choegyal Namkhai Norbu, one of the few remaining Tibetan lamas still active who was trained in pre-Chinese Tibet. A widely respected master of the Dzogchen tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, Namkhai Norbu attracts capacity audiences wherever he goes. In Tenerife the cost was €150, excluding flights, accommodation and subsistence.

In common with pop musicians, footballers and corporate CEOs, it is the superstar Buddhist teachers who generate big money. Without them, many centres around the world would be hard pressed to make ends meet. As the older ones fade away, a new generation including the 17th Karmapa, is being groomed to take their place. These include the reincarnations of the late Ling Rinpoche, Kalu Rinpoche and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. (Rinpoche means “precious one”).

But if all this sounds like quality Buddhist teachings are beyond the reach of middle- to low-income neophytes – there is good news. In the UK, several Buddhist organisations offer meditation instruction at moderate prices. The Dechen community led by Lama Jampa Thaye offers one-day courses for £17.50, rising to £20 next year. A two- or three-day event with the high-profile lama Sakya Trizin costs £20-25 per day. Beginners classes are around £4 per session.

Gaia House in Devon has a programme of residential courses with visiting teachers, with cost on a sliding scale from £118 to £59 depending on means. Director Andy Power says there’s an “element of trust” involved in this. The fees for a Zen retreat with senior teachers Stephen and Martine Batchelor range from £363 to £76.

The Theravada Buddhist organisation, The Samatha Trust, relies on voluntary donations for teachings and retreats. “The exception to this,” says the treasurer, Anne Schellizi, “is that we charge beginners a flat £50 for a weekend at our centre.”

When the Thai meditation master Nai Boonman visits, Anne says retreatants are “spontaneously” generous. The trust covers its overheads on an annual income of £35,000, but runs appeals for projects like new buildings.

An Indian prince, 2,500 years ago, brought up in the lap of luxury renounced all worldly possessions to become the Buddha. His example led to the foundation of an order of mendicant monks and nuns who rely on the generosity of local communities for their survival.

“The basis of monasteries is not economic production,” says Rupert Gethin, professor of Buddhist studies at Bristol University, “but there’s a form of social contract – if you want monks and nuns in your society you have to support them. Monastic institutions can accept financial donations and some of them do become quite wealthy.”

Clearly many organisations are making healthy profits from running Buddhist events, although it is a recognised principle that the teachings are not for sale. Whether this state of affairs is corrupt – or simply a 21st century fact of life is open to debate.

Sex Scandal Has American Buddhists Looking Within

By MARK OPPENHEIMER Published: August 20, 2010

Sooner or later, every traditional faith has to confront sexual impropriety by its spiritual leaders: extramarital sex, or sex with the wrong people (members of the congregation, minors) or, for supposedly celibate clergy, any sex at all.

But there are great differences in how religions handle these transgressions. For Jews and many Protestants, it is the local congregation that decides what sins are too great to countenance, and what kind of discipline is needed. For Roman Catholics, a worldwide hierarchy decides, depending on reports from local representatives. And for Buddhists — well, the answer is not so clear. The root of the problem, some experts say, is that the teacher/student relationship in Buddhism has no obvious Western analogy. Priests and rabbis know the boundaries, even if some do not always respect them. Doctors, too, have ethical canons they are supposed to honor. A spiritual figure like a priest, an authority figure like a teacher, a therapeutic figure like an analyst — the Buddhist teacher may be all of those, but is not really like any one of them. Even sanghas, or Buddhist communities, that discourage such relationships often have no process for enforcing a ban, and as one Zen society in New York is learning, that can lead to problems.

Since 1965, Eido Shimano, now 77, has been the abbot, or head spiritual teacher, of the Zen Studies Society, a Japanese Buddhist community with headquarters on East 67th Street in Manhattan and a 1,400-acre monastery in the Catskills. For much of that time, there have been rumors about the married abbot’s sexual liaisons, with his students and with other women. Such rumors could no longer be ignored when, in 2008, the University of Hawaii at Manoa unsealed some papers donated by Robert Aitken, a leading American Buddhist and founder of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship.

The papers included files about Mr. Shimano that Mr. Aitken kept from 1964 to 2003. Mr. Aitken, who died Aug. 5, met Mr. Shimano when both men worked in Hawaii in the 1960s, and for more than 40 years he kept notes on his colleague’s liaisons, based on conversations with women who had confided in him.

In a 1995 letter to the president of the Zen Studies Society’s board, Mr. Aitken wrote: “Over the past three decades, we have interviewed many former students of Shimano Roshi. Their stories are consistent: trust placed in an apparently wise and compassionate teacher, only to have that trust manipulated in the form of his sexual misconduct and abuse.” (“Roshi,” or teacher, is a Japanese honorific that goes after the name.)

The Aitken papers were soon circulating on the Internet. On June 15, Mr. Shimano’s board of directors, which exercises ultimate authority in the society, met to discuss the allegations. Mr. Shimano, who was then on the board, was not present, but most board members concurred that the charges most likely had some validity.

“I thought the sources were varied enough” to seem valid, said one board member, who asked not to be named. “I certainly didn’t think it was all a fraud.”

At that meeting, the board members began writing a new set of ethical guidelines for the society. In the text, they included an acknowledgment of past indiscretions by Mr. Shimano. Chris Phelan, another board member, said that Mr. Shimano saw the text of the statement and approved of it. “He didn’t step forward and say he was being libeled,” Mr. Phelan said.

Nonetheless, several board members told The New York Times that they believed that Mr. Shimano’s relations with students had ended long ago, and they saw no reason that Mr. Shimano could not continue teaching.

“As far as I knew, there had been a hiatus of 15 years,” said Joe Marinello, a board member who is the abbot of the Seattle Zen Temple.

But then, on July 19, the board announced that Mr. Shimano had resigned from the board after being confronted with allegations of “clergy misconduct.” The statement was sent in response to inquiries from Tricycle, a magazine about Buddhism. Since that time, the board has said that Mr. Shimano will continue as abbot until 2012, but a vice abbot has been appointed and Mr. Shimano will not be taking new students.

So what had changed?

A week after beginning work on new ethical guidelines — which in their final form forbid “sexual advances or liaisons” between teachers and sangha members — the board was confronted with a new revelation.

In interviews over the past two weeks, four board members, including Mr. Marinello, said that on June 21 a woman — whose name he would not reveal — stood up during dinner at the Catskills monastery and announced that for the past two years she had had a consensual affair with Mr. Shimano, who was at the dinner. Several board members have said that Mr. Shimano later admitted the affair in conversations with them. On Wednesday, the society issued a statement acknowledging that “in June of this year, a woman revealed that there was an inappropriate relationship between herself and Eido Roshi." Mr. Shimano did not return several phone calls.

In two ways, this small, symbolic statement — Mr. Shimano’s resigning from his own board — reflects how American religion has changed in the last 15 years.


This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: August 24, 2010

The Beliefs column on Saturday, about Buddhist leaders who addressed a sex scandal, referred incorrectly to a 1990 article by Katy Butler, a journalist, titled “Encountering the Shadow in Buddhist America.” Ms. Butler did not describe Richard Baker, the abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center during the 1970s and 1980, as an alcoholic. She was comparing patterns of behavior by his followers to patterns of enabling behavior of relatives of alcoholics. A version of this article appeared in print on August 21, 2010, on page A13 of the New York edition.