Random Moats

Sometimes I feel like Howard the Duck:

In recent months, Buddhists of all persuasions have been speaking out against Dennis Merzel, who as an ordained Zen teacher (and a married man) had sex with some of his female students. What’s more, he runs a business that promises folks they can become enlightened in just a few hours, for a whole lot of money of course. He’s been thoroughly denounced and condemned by all.

At the same time, many of these same folks sing the praises and quote the words of Chogyam Trungpa, a guy who was just as bad if not worse. Trungpa, who died in 1987, was a so-called “master” in several Tibetan traditions who had sex with his female students, drank like a fish, allegedly used cocaine, and at times, behaved horribly.

I don’t get it. One guy is condemned and the other guy is lauded. And they’re both birds of the same feather.

I must have missed this. According to msnbc.com,a couple of years ago, the world’s most useless machine, a small electronic box that turns itself off whenever you try to turn it on, hit it big on the Internet.

Now, a hacker dude named Danukeru has developed version 2.0, and it’s even more useless. However, there is a twist. In the new version after you try turning it on enough times, it “flips out in a fit of rage.”

You can get your very own useless machine (sorry, version 1.1 only) right here.

A study by Oxford University has just been released in which researchers have concluded that the human psyche “seems to be rooted to religious concepts”. Their definition of religious concepts is belief in the “existence of supernatural agents or gods, and the possibility of an afterlife or pre-life.”

This is my kind of theism.

The Oxford researchers reached their conclusion based on the result of tests with young children around the age of five. The tests revealed that kids that age sort of naturally believe in supernatural stuff. I am not sure what that proves. Kids believe in magic and all kinds of things. I used to believe I had an friend named “Baa.” He was imaginary. I grew out of it by the time I was six, if not earlier.

The point is, as you grown up, you stop believing in magic and the supernatural, or you should. I am not so sure we are hardwired with a “God gene.” But I do think it is rather difficult for some people to cast off certain beliefs instilled in them at a very early age.

That is why I think people keep trying to drag God and Jesus into Buddhism. I say leave those guys alone, especially Jesus, the poor man has suffered enough already.

Speaking of religion, from the Telegraph.co.uk, here are five really weird ones:

1. The Prince Philip movement: “The Yaohnanen tribe on the southern island of Tanna in Vanuatu worship Prince Philip as a god . . .”

2. The Jon Frum movement: “Also on the island of Tanna is another cult which holds America in god-like esteem. The Jon Frum movement, which has been active since the 1930s believes an American man named Jon Frum will bring wealth to those who follow him. He is sometimes portrayed as black, sometimes as white.”

3. Jedi-ism: Yes, Star Wars is officially a religion. “In 2009, Daniel Jones, founder of the Jedi church in Holyhead was banned from a Tesco supermarket in Bangor for refusing to remove his hood for religious reasons.”

4. Raelism: “Founded by a French racecar driver named Claude Vorilhons, who renamed himself Rael, the Raelians believe that humans were created in an alien laboratory 25,000 years ago, that the aliens will be arriving in Jerusalem in 2025, and that Rael teaches peace and ‘sensual meditation’.”

5. The Church of All Worlds: “A neo-pagan religion founded in 1962 by Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and his wife Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart. It was inspired by a fictional religion of the same name in Stranger in a Strange Land, a novel by Robert A. Heinlein.” Now, that I can grok.


4 thoughts on “Random Moats

  1. I think part of the issue with Trungpa is that what happened with him is history, whereas with Genpo, it’s current. Even though the seeds from Trungpa’s lousy behavior are still flowering, it’s easier to disconnect that from the teachings he offered. He’s dead. His sangha has moved on. And what we have are his books and images of him that seem to fit the “crazy wisdom” narrative around some historical Buddhist teachers.
    With Genpo, you have a guy who’s still around, still trying to spin his image, and is doing so in an era where more practitioners are paying attention to ethics in communities.

    I, personally, feel that there are things Trungpa said in his writings that are very profound. And yet, there’s no way, with the history I have experienced in my own sangha, that I can ignore the shadow side with him. People have twisted some of his destructive behavior into deliberate dharma teachings, and that needs to be called out. Just as with those who are twisting Genpo’s destructive behavior.

    But I think there’s a difference when working with someone who is still alive, still teaching, still influencing. That some of the speaking out about Genpo might be beneficial right now, for his students, or even for himself if he’d listen. Whereas with Trungpa, it’s more about presenting an honest picture of him as a teacher with plenty of wisdom to share, but who’s life was at times, a hell of a mess, and who caused a lot of trouble that is still being addressed.

    1. You make a couple of good points there, Nathan. I hadn’t thought about it from that angle. Now that I have, it also occurs to me that Trungpa benefited from some celebrity endorsements, so to speak, and became somewhat of a celeb himself. And having artists, especially a couple of Beat Generation icons, behind him gave his crazy wisdom an aura of legitimacy. Merzel may have some celebrities too, I don’t know. Never heard of him until the sex scandal broke.

      I don’t know all the details of the scandal as I have had only tangential interest. I do think if he wants to keep teaching that it’s his business more or less. Now that folks know what he’s about, let the buyer beware.

      As far profundity goes, like beauty, it is often in the eyes of the beholder.

    1. Reincarnation yes. Rebirth not necessarily. Here is a short answer from an old post:

      Reincarnation is not a Buddhist concept.

      Reincarnation is the idea that the same soul or same person is reborn in successive bodies. Buddhism rejects the notion of a soul or a self that is permanent. You will never be reborn as the same person ever again.

      What Buddhism teaches is rebirth, the cycle of birth and death. You may carry over into your next life karma, or traces, of your former lives, but you will be a new, unique person with no real memory of the past. According to Buddha-dharma, it’s very rare to remember a past life.

      The concept of reincarnation found its way into Buddhism through the assimilation of folklore and native beliefs; strictly speaking, it is not part of the Dharma or teachings.

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