Thursday, April 9, 2009

Big Mind, Big B.S.

There is someone out there who claims "you will have in one day — before lunch actually — the clarity and experience that a Zen master has. But Zen is seen as the school of sudden enlightenment. And we're just making sure it remains sudden."

I find it troubling that someone can package enlightenment as if it were a lunchtime Botox session, with no down time.

By "sudden enlightenment" I'm sure no one ever meant that sartori should come about without the necessary time spent on a cushion or in a chair meditating. A seed does not produce a tall and steady tree in just a few days—it takes a good deal of time and a confluence of proper conditions ranging from good soil to light and adequate hydration. When and if it does come, I'm told, it can seem quite sudden indeed, but to promise people that your patented "Big Mind" process will provide them with a shortcut to enlightenment is irresponsible and even dangerous.

Anyone can be part of the Big Heart Circle plan and go on a 5 day retreat in Stein Eriksen Lodge Deer Valley, Utah on May 18 for only $100,000! If that's out of your price range another option is to go to Hawaii in June for only $50,000. And for if you can't afford that, you can take advantage of the $10,000 weekend in Utah this July. I'm not joking, you can see all of this HERE.

Just as I was about to publish this piece, I got a spam email from a website with the name "Sartori" in it that peddles psychic readings for up to $7.99 per minute. I'm an astrologer and I'll be the first one to tell you that while a reading can be very helpful and insightful, it isn't going to give you enlightenment. That is something we all have to discover within ourselves after a lot of hard work and time on the cushion.

As our practice matures, we move from a place of wanting to get something out of it to simply doing it. And over time, if we're really practicing well, we aspire to practice so that we can be of better service to others rather than being preoccupied with what practice can do for us. (The JFK speech comes to mind about what we can do for our country vs. what it can do for us.)

So it is very disturbing to hear Genpo Roshi packaging Zen Buddhism as if it were instant oatmeal.

Let's face it, very few things that are lasting and meaningful in life come about without at least some degree of effort and struggle and patience. And those things that do fall onto our laps easily are the very things we end up taking for granted in the long run.

We all want stuff to happen quickly and easily, and promises like these are very tempting. In fact, during my early days of practice I started watching Genpo Roshi clips on Youtube but fortunately something told me I wasn't hearing authentic Zen Buddhism and with very little research was able to see why.

Buyer, beware.


musigny said...

I have an ethical problem with this kind of retreat. Isn't there a vow to relieve the suffering of all beings? Why shouldn't everyday practitioners get the exact same experience? Donations are fine and necessary but I don't believe they should be attached to exclusive elite spiritual experiences that normal practitioners don't have access to.

Victoria Zen Centre said...

This is a great piece. Thanks for writing it.

Kozan Bob said...

On the other hand, I think anyone gullible enought to fall for Genpo's obvious con artist bullshit deserves to be fleeced. More thinning the herd, I guess.

Anonymous said...

....and, last but not least (...), isn t it said, that- especially on reaching a deeper level of consciousness- we should OVERCOME the need of "fast, now and "less than minute"?"...

...isn t that one of the first or biggest things we get to know via Zen/ Zazen?

It brings us back to the level of "reaching, achieving and winning".

Whoever has no time to spend such for Zazen and his consciousness, should do other things better than buying such stuff.


Brian F. said...

Big Mind
Big Heart
Big Dope

Genryu said...

The shame of it is that some years ago, Merzel (AKA Genpo) was one of the clearer Zen teachers around. That all went downhill after he slept with students, took funds from a cult group (Zen Master Rama anyone) that he became himself connected with and started this Big Con nonsense.

I studied with Merzel for over a decade and left when he lost all sense of ethics in the nineties. Merzel's response - to take part in a hate campaign against me and even to try and make out that he hadn't ordained me. The man unfortunatley ceased being a Zen teacher some time ago.

Thanks for this piece. It's about time that people realized what they're getting with people like Merzel who claim to be Zen teachers.

Anonymous said...

Lawrence, have you ever gone to a retreat? They actually have much more affordable ones as well.

Lawrence Grecco said...

Since he's come under fire he has been offering a few less expensive weekends in addition to the others that are still exorbitantly priced. But the point of this posting was more about how troubling it is to peddle around instant enlightenment the way he does.