Q: Have you been kicked out of any Buddhist discussion groups lately? I recall your blog about having been permanently banned from New Buddhist.
A: Well, just recently I was suspended for one week. The global moderator didn’t give me a reason.
Q: Do you mind me asking which discussion group it was?
A: It was Dharma Wheel. It is essentially run like the defunct E-Sangha. If your view of Buddhism is too radical and doesn’t chime with the moderators, out you go.
Q: Why do you think this this happens?
A: I think much of it is about power connected with a very superficial understanding of Buddhism which doesn’t want to be challenged. Having power in the West is a big deal. Look what it did to Richard “Zentatsu” Baker who used to be the Abbot of the Zen Center in San Francisco (SFZC). He was mainly on a power trip. I seriously doubt that he was familiar with the Nikayas or many of the Mahayana Sutras. He was no student of Buddhism who wanted to see what the Buddha saw. When Siddhartha went searching for enlightenment, keep in mind, that he didn’t want to be a king, following in his father’s footsteps. He gave that up before his quest began. If my memory serves correctly, Abraham Lincoln once said that if you want to test the character of a man give him power. So far, it seems true that the character of Zen’s Western teachers has not been all that good. Power is the problem. When it comes to Internet discussion groups, becoming a global moderator is the fastest way to power—and you don’t need to know that much about Buddhism. You get to make up the rules as you go along.
Q: So why do they object to you so much?
A: I think it is because I know the spiritual dimension of Buddhism much better than they do. At an almost unconscious level, they fear pure Mind. This is especially true when it comes to koans. I know how koans work. In each koan the teacher is demonstrating pure Mind. It could be with only one word like, “Mu” or some kind of crazy gesture. It you haven’t beheld Mind, the koan is unsolvable. A curious thing about these discussion forums is they very seldom discuss koans in any real depth if at all. It’s because it’s harder to fake knowledge of a koan since it is based on a realization of pure Mind. You can fake doing seated meditation and have a mental orgy going on or a hate fest, but koans put you on the spot.
Q: Would you say that discussions about the spiritual side of Buddhism is pretty much of a frowned upon subject?
A: I would. If I told someone on a discussion forum it is Mind that creates the Buddha; it is Mind that is the Buddha, I would be speaking in a foreign language to them. It might make them angry. They’ve never been in communion with pure Mind. No one taught them its importance. They don’t realize that this is what, as a Buddhist, you’re supposed to awaken to. It’s not about sitting on one’s samsaric ass—it’s about standing in the presence of pure Mind. The real Buddha. Buddhist Internet discussion groups need to forewarn those who want to become members: real Buddhism will not be discussed here.
Q: So what do people learn by joining Internet Buddhist discussion groups?
A: Generally wrong or uneducated opinions about Buddhism. This is evident when the discussion revolves about the Buddhist doctrine of anâtman which most Buddhist assume amounts to a denial of self or the âtman—it is not. Correctly understood, the doctrine of anâtman or nonself, denies that our psychophysical body, made up of five aggregates, is the self or âtman. In other words, our psychophysical body is not our true self as we imagine it to be. Another wrong or uneducated opinion is the belief that the highest teaching in Buddhism is emptiness. Emptiness is just negation. Dependently originated things, for example, are unreal, hence, they are empty of reality. Or we can say that nirvana is empty. This means that it is empty of conditions being, itself, completely and perfectly unconditioned. These wrong opinions just reinforce our wrong views about Buddhism and the world. Then when someone comes along and says that this is the right view, everyone gets pissed off.
Q: So what should people do who really want to learn about Buddhism?
A: They can read The Zennist blog for starters. The can read The Zen Teaching of Huang Po, translated by John Blofeld; The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma, translated by Red Pine. They can read Arthur Braverman’s book, Mud & Water, which is a translation of the teachings of Zen master Bassui. They can read Thomas Cleary’s great little book, Teachings of Zen. For a history of Buddhism, they can read Hirakawa Akira’s book, A History of Indian Buddhism. They can get Damien Keown’s book, A Dictionary of Buddhism.
Q: What about joining a Zen center or a Dharma group?
A: If all you are going to do is sit and learn about Dogen Zenji, I wouldn’t waste my time or money. The path to enlightenment doesn’t come by prolonged ass-sitting. Start you own Zen center, instead. Discuss the books I just listed. You’d be better off.