Tweet Your Own Horn: Censorship Western Buddhist Style

By Patricia Ivan

(Edited and expanded from her Connections blog post “Tweet Your Own Horn.” Links at bottom. SEE UPDATE. 3-21-14])

twitterblock.gifI’ve just had a crash course in how networking and self-promotion function in the online Buddhist world. It’s rather simple: tweet your own horn, link to your own work, hook up with friends who flatter you and censor those who don’t.  Above all: control communication, create an image and maintain it diligently.

This may be old hat for people in corporate marketing, but when the product is emptiness and compassion, the result is a new brand of hypocrisy.

On March 4, Ken McLeod retweeted a quote posted by Hokai Sobol on Twitter:

Connecting w/o contact, sharing w/o cost, and participating w/o liability, is not the future of tech, of identity, of culture.

I appreciate that Hokai and Ken felt the need to tweet their concern for human connection, sharing and participation in the online age, but apparently the contact, cost and liability are too much for them and a few of their other cronies from Western Buddhism Incorporated.

It started on January 23 with the following dialogue on Twitter between me and Vincent Horn, host of Buddhist Geeks:

Vincent Horn:  Working on letting negative comparisons drop. The work I’m involved in is not made any better by disparaging others. 🙂
Me:  Does your work spare critical thinking? Please do not disparage that!
Vincent Horn:  Do you see dropping public negative comparisons as the same as dropping critical thinking? I don’t. 🙂
Me:  No, only if you critically examine a public figure and find him/her wanting then censor your views.

The last half of the exchange was censored and, in spite of the smiley faces, I was suddenly unable to tweet with Mr. Horn. Apparently he sensed a painful public comparison and is now doing his critical thinking with the less disparaging in private.

Sometime later I tried to expand a tweet on Ken’s page and discovered that I was “not authorized to look up related results for that tweet.”  Just for fun, I went to Hokai Sobol’s page. Sure enough, I was “not authorized” there too.

Turns out I am not alone in having been de-authorized from the tweets of Ken McLeod. Another former student of Ken’s contacted me to ask “Did Ken kick you off Twitter?  It happened to me.”

How does Ken justify his refusal to dialogue? Of course he doesn’t. But, asked about the roots of a Buddhist ethics, he once explained:

It’s not about being good, obeying some kind of divine law or some set of rules that is being handed to us; it’s about acting in the world in a way that causes no regret or disturbance in ourselves. (Unfettered Question #98; emphasis mine.)

Rules, divine law and “being good” can be safely set aside here, for they have nothing at all to do with Ken’s main assertion. He is saying that the sole criterion for a Buddhist ethos is the degree to which our behavior spares us regret and disturbance so that, as said later in the same podcast, “the mind and the heart are quiet and at peace”. Ken presents as “ethical” what can just as easily be seen as a psychological defence, an egoistic “do not disturb” justified by a thinly veiled metaphysical solipsism.

In a world in which the sole criterion for our behavior is the avoidance of regret and disturbance, the narcissist and sociopath, encumbered by neither, float to the top. Yet the failure to appreciate that something other than our own peace of mind might bear on our responsibilities to others is typical of corporate Buddhist praxis and key to how power is wielded by unfettered minds.

One way to feel no regret or disturbance is simply to ignore anything that is difficult to hear and, in fact, excluding uncomfortable dialogue seems to be a popular way of handling disagreement by Buddhism Incorporated. James Shaheen hasn’t responded to my comment posted on his editorial comment “The Buddha Stain” published by Tricycle last month. Stephen Batchelor has not stooped to respond to the critical comments made by me and others on his post “Buddhism and Sex: the Bigger Picture.” Dennis Hunter, a fan of Ken’s, silently censored my comment on his blog post “A Monk No More.” Then, there is “The Naked Monk,” Stephen Schettini, who contacted me to inquire about my grievance with Ken. When I responded, after a pregnant pause in our email correspondence, he decided to solicit me for his spiritual autonomy counseling services at an affordable hourly rate. Maybe someone warned him of the potential cost and liability of contact.

Sometimes the exercise of power is hidden behind one or another principle of the eightfold path, like “right speech”. In this case, rather than hold oneself alone accountable to this standard, the standard is used to hold others accountable and to justify censoring, muting, ignoring or deleting their voices.  Instead of saying “I am unable to remain present to this dialogue which challenges my peace of mind,” the problem is projected onto one’s interlocutor while the offended party claims the moral high ground, accusing: “you are not speaking nicely and I refuse to engage with your wrong speech.” (Listen to Ted Meissner on Buddhist Geeks from about 30:00). On the one hand, forceful or aggressive criticism is condemned as “clinging” too hard to “our ideas about things” (Vincent Horn, in the same podcast, at 17:35) and, on the other, right speechers like Mr. Meissner cling to the belief that it is okay for Buddhists to play dharma police.

Whether it invokes “right speech” or not, a Buddhist ethics that silences others or uses ignoble silence to exercise personal or corporate power forecloses dialogue and enables passive aggression.

Tricycle recently announced that it will now be featuring a Buddhist Geeks page on their website. “Strategic partnerships” I think they call it. Or is it “geeks tweak each other’s deeks?”

Those authorized to do so can go take a peak.

Originally posted by Patricia Ivan at Connections as “Tweet your own Horn.”

Ted Meissner at Buddhist Geeks.

Stephen Batchelor, “Buddhism and Sex: the Bugger Picture,” at Sweeping Zen.

46 responses to “Tweet Your Own Horn: Censorship Western Buddhist Style”

  1. Craig Avatar

    Are these ‘guys’ sociopaths or do they have awareness of their antics. I can listen to all of them talk and not my head. After thinking about what they’ve said, I’m lost, feeling like I need more and more to really understand the dharma. It’s quite manipulating. Vince Horn is an interesting case. Absolutely toeing the dharma party line while calling it ‘the face of buddhism’ or some shit. Same with Ken and his practical buddhism.

    Recently, I’ve come aware of the Pathos blog which seems like its being critical, but then refuses to critique the dharma.

    Patricia, it’s really sad and creepy that this inner circle of dharma teachers can keep you and others from engaging them.

  2. Glenn Wallis Avatar

    This is a very timely piece, Patricia. Thank you for posting it here.

    I hear increasingly from people who have been banned from western Buddhist sites such as the Secular Buddhist Association and Twitter accounts of Buddhist teachers. I also noticed that the new Secular Buddhism UK has posting guidelines that control the free flow of dialogue. I myself have been banned from commenting on several western Buddhist sites, including the Secular Buddhist Association.

    Speaking of timeliness, shortly after I contacted you about posting here, I sent a message on Twitter asking the “science-minded” Buddhists to comment on Tom Pepper’s Metzinger post. When no one did, I tweeted something to the effect, “yea, just what we expected,” and @ed Ted Meissner and Vincent Horn of Buddhist Geeks. Meissner wrote, “No real interest in the combat forums with pre-determined rules of conquest; I’m with [Buddhist Geeks] on this.” When I went to see the conversation, I got the message: “not authorized to look up related results for that tweet.” I had no idea what that meant, but discovered it meant Meissner had banned me!

    This issue goes beyond the personal. The people who are creating these restrictive policies of communication are beginning to walk in lockstep with one another. The restrictiveness is, in other words, becoming the norm in current western Buddhist public discourse. Others, creating new sites, then begin to mimic both the language and the values of restriction, I see that happening with the burgeoning Secular Buddhist sites in particular, but well beyond it, too. An insidious aspect of this new Buddhist censorship is the coupling of repression with the “spiritual” value of “right speech.”

    Ted, Vince, etc., I challenge you to re-define right speech in a manner that does justice to the modern secular values, such as freedom of expression and open dialogue, that you claim to uphold.

  3. Glenn Wallis Avatar

    I posted this reply to David Chapman elsewhere, but it fits better here.

    David wrote:

    A final process note. I agree strongly with you about the dysfunction of the argumentative style here. I am here as a casual guest, so I hesitate to criticize the venue. However, many people have told me privately that they consider that the nastiness discredits everything that is said here, and that they don’t read the blog for that reason.

    I think that’s a great pity, because this is one of the very few places where there’s serious discussion of the intersection of Western thought and Buddhism. I keep coming back here, despite the poisonous atmosphere, for that reason.

    I replied:

    Are you sure you are not confusing a part with the whole? And if so, which part? Tom, for instance, employs many rhetorical styles and strategies here. So do I. Is the entire style of the blog dysfunctionally argumentative? Be precise, please. And why in the world would you hesitate to criticize?

    This idea that “nastiness discredits everything that is said here” or anywhere else is pure bullshit. And the fact that I expressed that truth in a “nasty” manner does not discredit it one fucking iota. It just presumably makes it more difficult for you to engage it. One person’s nastiness, moreover, is another’s fresh and honest. Our next post will be on the issue of right-speech, so I’ll say more there. But if the “many people” you refer to include among them people like Ted Meissner, Vincent Horn, Stephen Schettini, Kenneth Folk, Justin Whittaker, Hokai Sokal, and Seth Segall, then all I can say is this: You are confusing rhetoric for reality. There are likely many, and quite complex, reasons that these people do not engage us here. (I would bet my left nut, by the way, that every single one of them reads this blog regularly. In fact, I am certain in most cases. I mean, how many readers live in Rijeka, Croatia? But let’s leave that for now.) I don’t want to get into the reasons I suspect your “many people” refuse to engage (and many of those reasons would sound quite unkind to the nicenistas), I will just leave it as a confusion of rhetoric vs. reality and hope that some analysis is forthcoming. That these “many people” make the kinds of choices they do about which blogs merit their participation and which do not is an important datum in itself, and helps to illuminate contemporary western x-buddhism. So, maybe don’t be so quick to think the matter is settled once Papa Ted Meissner renders his judgement on a blog or style of communication. Maybe there are other, more telling but uncomfortable reasons that he does not do so. Remember, these “many people,” without a single exception, are holding themselves up as authorities not only in x-buddhism but in how to live life. And yet they have limits to what they can tolerate?

    May I suggest you go back and read your very own piece on the cult of niceness in x-buddhist circles?

    Finally, has it occurred to you that there might be a direct relationship between the “seriousness” of the discussions here and the “poisonous atmosphere”? Might one of the necessary conditions of a genuinely serious forum with a radical agenda be an atmosphere that must appear noxious to those readers inculcated in the very ideological dupery we are aiming to expose? Buddhist Geeks, The Secular Buddhist Forum, Schettini and all the others are shining examples and perpetuators of the very form of x-buddhist thought that we are trying to render obsolete here. Some day, people will look back on their texts and see what we see when we read the texts of Dale Carnegie, Norman Vincent Peale, or the New Thought “thinkers” of the last two centuries. Why not accelerate that perception?

  4. Craig Avatar

    “Instead of saying “I am unable to remain present to this dialogue which challenges my peace of mind,” the problem is projected onto one’s interlocutor while the offended party claims the moral high ground, accusing: “you are not speaking nicely and I refuse to engage with your wrong speech.”

    This is an excellent observation and something that occurs on SNB. The tone police, as Glenn calls it 🙂

  5. Glenn Wallis Avatar

    Craig (#4). That’s a really interesting point. Maybe someone can explain why the dispositions honed through “mindfulness” and meditation practice are disabled when certain styles of communication are encountered. The dispositions I have in mind are the usual suspects: equanimity, non-reactivity, presence, non-judgementalism, loving kindness, compassion, blah, blah, blah. You are supposed to be able to manifest these qualities in the midst of suffering and the tumult of the world, but not when someone says “fucking this and that” or calls your line of reasoning “stupid”? That sounds like a hollow “mindfulness” indeed.

    There are, of course, other reasons for the refusal to engage. Those reasons have to do with insecurities, fears, personal proclivities, degrees of tolerance, lack of intelligence or knowledge. But remember that these people–the ones mentioned by Patricia–are presenting themselves as possessing crucial answers to life. How can they then say “I don’t engage because it makes me nervous” or “because my feelings get hurt.” Such an admission is not possible for these x-buddhist egos. Remember, they are, at heart, thaumaturges. So, they spiritualize their personal fear or disinclination, and make a universal value out of it.

    Again, what we need is analysis. The particular brand of censorship, tacit and explicit, that we see displayed at the x-buddhist on-line communities is an important datum for critiquing the current state of affairs–the emerging x-buddhist ideology of comfort-food-buddhism.

  6. Shabe Avatar

    Patricia and Glenn.
    I’ve followed (most of) the links on this, and generally agree with your perspectives. Patricia’s final comments to Stephen Batchelor on her Connections blog:”The real enabler of teacher misconduct, Stephen, is not the sacralisation of Buddhism, but the same perverse dynamics that operate in other, secular or religious, institutions when they are spear-headed by a narcissist cosseted by sycophants whose mutually gratifying affiliation blinds them to the harm they are causing. The answer lies not in secularization but quite simply in raising individual awareness about the signs and pitfalls of narcissistic leadership, groupthink and cult behavior” is especially spot on. It is perhaps the primary reason I have moved away from groups, including sangha’s, after observing the impact on vulnerable seekers, both female and male.

    I do think though that there is some over-simplifying commentary about the roles of lust/sex/aggression/violence etc. in sexual exploitation by narcissistic men. It would be too long a post to explore in detail, but I do speak from some experience, having assessed and treated more that two thousand sexual abusers. I’d suggest that Patricia’s comments, quoted above, are sufficiently complete, without getting into the lust/aggression type dichotomies, which distract from the core, which is the exploitation of another’s humanity.

  7. NellaLou Avatar

    I appreciate Patricia Ivan’s contribution here, on her blog and in comments on Sweeping Zen and elsewhere as well. As someone who has been banned from commenting just about everywhere popular x-buddhism is touted, I relate very much to what she and others have written. It is amusing though that while these venues see fit to ban comments, and even go so far as to delete all previous comments by some people, they will also have no qualms about using these very same people in their own blog posts as sources of news and commentary. [Tricycle specifically] Not only is it about control of the message but control of other’s messages as well.

    From one perspective it’s smacks very much of the patriarchal dictum “It’s for your own good.” to the individual as well as the seemingly benign evocation of “building community”. The amount of scapegoating that goes on in the name of “maha-sangha” unity is astonishing. I wrote a post about “emotional policing” and these exhortations to “talk pretty” within the convert Buddhist milieu a while ago on my blog, so I won’t go into it all here, but the crux of the situation IMO comes down to what someone I quoted wrote:

    “Conversely, what shame-based system of domination does not associate its own power with goodness, pride and positivity? Like it or not, the language of positivity is infused with an ideological desire for power-sharing, and not actual divestments of power…positivity is a language of acquisition. It is a language of achievement. It encourages our moral ambivalence toward, and affirmation of, our own acts of conquest. It stops us from seeing how our desires emerge from the dominations of our current contexts. ”

    The message is very much one based on shame rather than liberation. It is the same authoritarian type of obfuscation one gets from politicians and business leaders. Business as usual is green-washed, pink-washed, rainbow-washed and in these Buddhist cases saffron-washed in order to disguise the mechanisms in play.

    I would posit that it goes far beyond tone policing and seeks to render those under the sway of such guru-jis and their organizations emotionally pliable in order to be able to extract maximum profits, to persuade gullible and vulnerable audiences to become dependent upon the proffered messages and to maintain a high level of ego gratification for those dispensing such messages. All of this comes down to a highly lucrative spiritual circle jerk.

  8. jayarava Avatar

    Face it Glenn. Out there in the world nobody cares what you think. You are nothing to the people on Twitter. You’ve got, like, 94 followers (and most of them are probably hookers or spammers), no profile pic and Tweet under “Non-Buddhism Blog”. You’ve posted about 200 Tweets over quite a long time. What you look like is a faceless nobody, aggressively trolling random people. Why should anyone find that interesting?

    The internet, and especially Twitter, is an entertainment medium (it’s the crack cocaine of inane internet communication). If you aren’t entertaining then the audience switches off. Tactless anonymous criticism on the internet is a turn off. It’s no more profound than that. It’s not censorship or anything quite so grandiose. It’s just channel hopping. If you persist the channel get’s switched off. There are millions to choose from.

    Your fan-base are getting pretty exercised about this, but it all looks a bit narcissistic to me.

  9. Glenn Wallis Avatar

    Jayarava (#8). Why not say something to the point? You’re not really so stupid to think that that Non-Buddhism Twitter site is meant to give me some high profile “face,” are you? It’s there mainly to announce new posts. You must be confusing me with you. Do you feel like an unheard nobody, Jayarava, honestly? I think you must.

    So, to the point, how do you see the emerging “rules of engagement” on x-buddhist internet venues? For instance, what you call “aggressively trolling random people” is one way to view an invitation to comment on the blog. But another way of seeing the same thing is that a value system is being constructed such that targeting specific pro-science x-buddhists with, “why don’t you pro-science Buddhists comment” is seen as “aggressively trolling random people.” Do you see my point?.

    Explain what looks narcissistic to you. Are you referring to the fact that people are giving more personal accounts? What? Do you think that just writing the phrase “it all looks a bit narcissistic to me” settles the matter? No, something has to follow.

    I know, from your own admission, that you are a sentimental follower of a conservative, cultish form of x-buddhism. Maybe you can report some of your experience with censorship there.

  10. Patricia Ivan Avatar

    Thanks to everyone for such interesting comments, and thanks to you, Glenn, for posting this.

    Shabe [#6], I agree with you that sexual exploitation is not about lust/sex/aggression. Not sure where you picked that up from me or Glenn. In fact this is one of the things we both criticize Batchelor for. Assuming that exploitation (of any kind) is about an unbridled appetite as opposed to lack of heart is insulting to the lusty among us who are quite capable of satisfying our desires (and even addictions) without victimizing anybody. No, exploitation of any kind is about power, and narcissistic men who sexually exploit women use and then discard them as narcissistic supplies are after power, not sex.

  11. Glenn Wallis Avatar

    David, let’s bring this conversation over here. I wrote:

    Jesus, so take the bad with the good.

    David Chapman said:

    I do. But the point is, much of your potential audience may be less willing. You may consider that they ought not to be offended. But people are as they are, not as they ought to be. Of course, you may not want to be heard by people who are not as you think they ought to be.

    I just remembered that I wrote a piece titled “How not to argue about Buddhism” which may be relevant:

    The first hyperlink in that is to an essay by Paul Graham, “How to disagree”, that I recommend highly.

    Another way of explaining what Patricia has encountered, is that x-buddhists, like you apparently, are subscribing to “disagreement hierarchies” like the one you referred me to. Sometimes those hierarchies are explained in excruciating details, like on the Secular Buddhist Association site. Sometimes less so. I don’t accept any of those hierarchies. I see them, rather, as attempts to stifle and control expression, pure and simple.

    Why do you think the norm on the emerging sites is so flat, such that Patricia’s comment’s, to stay with the post, would disqualify her from further exchange?

    David, you consider yourself a tantric practitioner, right? I would think you’d have a more forceful, lusty, and irreverent approach to dialogue. Why are you so polite and safe? It’s a real question I’ve had for a while about you.

  12. Nathan Avatar

    “We will not prematurely or unnecessarily risk the costs of worldwide nuclear war in which even the fruits of victory would be ashes in our mouth-but neither will we shrink from that risk at any time it must be faced.”

    -John F. Kennedy, Address on the Cuban Crisis October 22, 1962

    “The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy My brothers. And you will know My name is the Lord when I lay My vengeance upon thee.”

    -Jules Winnfield, “Pulp Fiction”

    “When you walk through the garden
    you gotta watch your back
    well I beg your pardon
    walk the straight and narrow track
    if you walk with Jesus
    he’s gonna save your soul
    you gotta keep the devil
    way down in the hole
    he’s got the fire and the fury
    at his command
    well you don’t have to worry
    if you hold on to Jesus hand
    we’ll all be safe from Satan
    when the thunder rolls
    just gotta help me keep the devil
    way down in the hole
    All the angels sing about Jesus’ mighty sword
    and they’ll shield you with their wings
    and keep you close to the lord
    don’t pay heed to temptation
    for his hands are so cold
    you gotta help me keep the devil
    way down in the hole”

    -Tom Waits, “Way Down In The Hole”

    “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.”

    -Jesus Christ, Matthew 10:34

    Thats it, repent and run back into the righteous ‘arms’ of Jesus, you Godless Heathen!

  13. Steve Lee Avatar

    I read David Chapman’s link to the cited “disagreement hierarchy.” I read it differently, more as tool for both analyzing and structuring argument, especially for someone like myself not particularly well-versed in the past-time of argument. I find that when reading–as in life–my ability to ignore tone and focus on content is often driven by habit and preconception. I must often work really hard to get past some tones in some contexts.

    Having said that, tone does often matter, even when I’m generous. For example, some tone–any tone–would be really useful, Glenn Wallis, in deciphering the very last footnote in your “Basic Teachings of the Buddha.” I read that one word aloud to myself in three or four different voices. Cracked me up! Really!?

  14. Glenn Wallis Avatar

    This post to the Secular Buddhist Facebook page didn’t last long. Is it offensive? Merely informative? And to think that it’s on the same page where Ted Meissner, “TSB” (The Secular Buddhist), writes (are these guys really so dense? Don’t ask me what the final phrase means, though.):

    Only a weak faith is intolerant of questioning. A strong faith encourages it, sincerely, without an underlying requirement that you find their own answers. — TSB


  15. Matthias Steingass Avatar

    Generally it’s the same in the german speaking world. Censorship, banning from sites/facebook/twitter, it’s normal. I think Buddhism western style is attracting a certain form of stupidity. Some people realize this, most not.

    I have recently began a series on my blog called “Die Glosse“. A “Glosse” is a kind of commentary. I have put out two pieces challenging certain Buddhists and the central Buddhist Institution DBU. This lead to some interesting discussions but also to the mentioned effects of censorship.

    I am now thinking about openly calling for some kind of protest, resistance or active engagement against German Buddhist institutions. Maybe it’s a bit early in Germany but it might be more timely here.

    The point is, either I have to give up speaking about Buddhism in any way because everything Buddhist is distorted by “repressive tolerance” or I fight this kind of oppression and censorship to clear a space for some other kind of Buddhism which is not a fucking stupidity.

    As I am typically tending towards irony and sarcasm when I detect hubris, I mix this with facts about the case in question in “Die Glosse”. The results are promising. People are attracted when somebody is being chastised (if the noose closes around someones neck people need to see how the delinquent ends), at the same time they cannot ignore the facts which are presented. The facts alone would not attract them.

    It’s a kind of cabaret. People want to laugh. It is relieving. And it’s even more so if at the same time they see the truth in it. Take a look at the latest post of the naked monk Stephen Schettini “Be a Spiritual Outlaw“. It is really exposing and revealing. One can make a joke about every other sentence – from Schettini praising himself for being the “holy terror” of his teachers to implicitly comparing himself to Jesus and Buddha – from the first to the last sentence it is a self-adulation. By openly ridiculing this narcissism and exposing the facts how it works people might become a bit more sensitive about these Buddhist con games.

    The same goes for every other Buddhist bullshit propagator mentioned here. Take the Buddhist Geeks: The word “geek” alone… what a great word to make fun of. They seek enlightenment but what they get is the reek of their own cosmic fart.


    P.S. (1151 a.m.): Some may be interested in this short analysis how these guys transpire a massage which at first looks refreshingly modern but at a second look is revealing itself as just the same age old stale Buddhist rubbish.

  16. jayarava Avatar

    For the record “Glenn” has his Twitter account set to deny any direct responses to his Tweets, and to deny access to any conversations which ensue from his Tweets. One can see his tweets and send tweets to him, but not respond to a tweet.

    Since denying the validity of his righteous indignation he’s been trolling me on Twitter but denying me right of reply.

    How do you spell “hypocrite” again?

  17. Glenn Wallis Avatar

    “Jayarava” (#16). No, it’s not hypocritical. I did it to make a point. Again, you can’t be so dense to think that I’d open myself up to a charge of hypocrisy like that, can you? Think, man! You wrote:

    If you aren’t entertaining then the audience switches off. Tactless anonymous criticism on the internet is a turn off. It’s no more profound than that. It’s not censorship or anything quite so grandiose. It’s just channel hopping. If you persist the channel get’s switched off. There are millions to choose from.

    So, now you know what it feels like to get cut off like that. “Denying [you] right of reply” feels like being censored, doesn’t it?

    Now, why don’t you say something insightful about what you see as the emerging ethos of censorship across the on-line-buddhasphere?

    By the way, putting my name in quotes doesn’t make sense since that is my given name.

  18. Patricia Ivan Avatar

    After reading some of the comments above, two distinct issues emerge: one about what is said, and another about how it’s said.

    A person may exit a conversation because of discomfort with a confrontational “tone” (how it’s said) but, when a conversation is controlled and information is deleted or dialogue preempted, this is about tweaking content (what is said) to maintain (and, in Buddhism Inc, an image.

    In my particular case, I wanted to clarify the following: tweets were censored by Ken, Vincent and Hokai without their having contained anything that could be construed as a personal attack or “dysfunctional argumentation” (as referenced by Glenn in #3 above following his interesting exchange with David Chapman whom I hope will chime in on this blog). In the case of Mr. Sobol, my tweets were in fact muted preemptively! This was surely not about the “tone” of my tweets.

  19. Erik F. Storlie Avatar

    I think what we’re seeing is the devolution of American Buddhism into a Brand, or into several competing, yet mutually supportive Brands (Zen or Tibetan or Theravadan, Coke or Pepsi or Dr. Pepper). Those whose position in a community or whose income or both depends on the Brand will always seek to head off questioning by the consumer (all three, Coke, Pepsi, and Dr. Pepper will do whatever is necessary to attempt to defuse the sugar and obesity issue).

    I think those who care have an obligation to stop buying–and also to broadcast what they know about the ingredients and the marketing techniques.

    Erik F. Storlie

  20. Glenn Wallis Avatar

    Matthias (#15) and Matthew Gioia. I had a similar reaction to Schettini’s post “Be a Spiritual Outlaw.” I even tried to comment, twice. Unfortunately, neither of my comments were approved. I’ll say something more about that in a moment.

    First, I want to remind readers of this blog that it can be quite illuminating to take some of the ideas and tools we are developing here, then visiting x-buddhist sites, and see what you see. For example, why not test the boundaries of what some site accepts as criticism or challenge before you are banned or ignored. I will give my own example. I read Stephen Schettini’s piece mentioned above. Someone who comments here commented there. It’s Matthew Gioia. Scroll down Schettini’s post and have a look. Anyway, I then posted two comments. You tell me how out of place they were for a post that exhibits such braggadocio as

    Entering the stream means exiting your comfort zone


    To be an outlaw you have to be ready to correct the authorities, sometimes with diplomacy, sometime bluntly. The point is to seek fairness and truth while knowing it’s dangerous. Imagine if everyone were willing to step outside their comfort zone.

    We stand alone, are born and die alone. Why would we not make our own decisions? As [my wife] said the other day, “If you don’t have conflict, you’re not alive.”

    So here goes, the comments that even such a swashbuckling spiritual outlaw like Stephen Schettini could not countenance (the terms in quotes are his own):

    Comment 1:


    What would an example of a “hardcore rationalist” be? Can you name one?


    Comment 2.


    A question related to my last one. In your post you say, “if you’re using your wits you won’t believe a thing I say anyway.” Yet in response to Matthew’s question “Why should we not use our wits? Why would that disable us from understanding you? That sounds like something the leader of a cult would say,” you say “You misunderstand: I presume you are using your wits, otherwise you’d have no interest in this blog.”

    This doesn’t add up. Can you clarify? Thanks.

    Any idea why Schettini would just ignore those questions?

  21. Craig Avatar

    I’ve tried to comment on that Outlaw piece too. They never show up. This kind of thing is rampant in Nichiren Buddhism. Veganism too. Lots of self proclaimed gurus with blogs, forums and YouTube channels. I recently got banned from one. All of my posts were deleted.

    I’m most pissed off about ken McLeod! I really thought he was the real deal for a critical person like me. I never even considered practice until I heard him. I devoured his book and podcasts and made monetary donations to him. I evened saved to go to a retreat and meet with him online. It never happened because I never thought my practice was good enough. So many mixed feelings. Herring Patricia’s story has been validating and infuriating. This new low just adds to it. These charlatans need an all out attack of clear critique and complete deflation.

    On a side note, I’ve come to really appreciate the mainline Buddhist groups with trained ministers and more reality based organizations.

  22. Patrick Avatar

    Hello Craig,
    Just something I have been meaning to mention. I have been a practicing vegan for over a year now (mostly because of the influence of my partner who has been a vegetarian most of her life and last year decided to go the whole hog.) I am not surprised about your experience with vegan sites. They are uncannily similar to Buddhist ones. Of course many xbuddhists are also vegans or vegetarians. My partner, although never a Buddhist, is very impressed by the rigorous debates on this site ( she has ambitions to become the Tom Pepper of the online vegan world) and has been looking for something similar on a vegan site but of course nothing shows up but the usual—a veganism based on an individualistic orientated refusal to involve oneself with the harming of animals. This attitude is very close to the xbuddhist idea of right action and is often taken to extremes; for instance an almost paranoid attention to trying to eliminate even the slightest trace of animal product from anything you use—-a sort of quasi-religious obsession with non-contamination.

    What we have found is that the best critique of animal exploitation is on the animal rights blogs, where things seem to have moved on a bit. There are good critiques of the industrial slaughter of animals and the interconnection between industrial slaughter, the mechanized farm sector, and the large retail conglomerates and the fast food sectors.

    What veganism needs is a sustained critique along the lines of the non-buddhism that places the issue of the exploitation of animals alongside the exploitation of humans and shows the interconnections between the two—-for starters the interconnection between the mass killing of animals for profit and the exploitation of child –labour in the third world. These two activities take capitalist exploitation one step further by targeting those who are totally unable to resist. Another important area is the worldwide destruction of traditional farming methods and its affects on rural communities and traditional ways of life. Finaly the affects of all this on the environoment.

    Very little of this shows up on vegan sites and even when it does it is put in a very politically neutral way.Veganism’s smug self-sufficiency, its political correctness, and its overtly individualist orientation make it ripe for a non-vegan critique.

    Maybe we can combine over the next while and try to formulate the beginnings of a critique along the lines of non-buddhism. We have the perfect template here for that work!

  23. jayarava Avatar


    It is hypocrisy to do exactly the thing that you are complaining about, Glenn. That is the definition of hypocrisy. To do it for dramatic effect does not make it any more admirable. It is interesting to see your shadow side coming out. The contrast is quite informative. Thanks.

    “Now, why don’t you say something insightful about what you see as the emerging ethos of censorship across the on-line-buddhasphere?”

    Sorry, I don’t see any such ethos. As I said I see channel hopping entertainment seekers. I see people putting down the phone when you try to harangue them. Happens to me when I’m being an asshole as well. But I chalk it up to experience, try to shrug it off and carry on. Strangers in the night. I don’t make it into a conspiracy.

    For goodness sake, Glenn, someone blocked you on Twitter. It’s hardly the end of the world. It’s just one of those things. If you actually participated in Twitter instead of just using it to promote yourself, you’d know this. This is what happens on Twitter. It is trivial and I don’t see why you’re making such a fucking fuss about it.

    You have not been censored. And your blocking of my responses to your insulting tweets did not equate to censorship. You are free to say what you like. You have continued to bleat on about this and get sycophantic encouragement from your readers, but no one has prevented you from expressing an opinion. Or from trolling on Twitter. What they have done is stop listening to you.

    A better analogy is talking to someone who puts their fingers in their ears and chants “nya nya nya, I’m not listening”. That isn’t censorship. It might not be very sophisticated behaviour, and it might be infuriating, but this is not a free speech issue. No one is bound to *listen* to your opinions. An audience is not guaranteed in the constitution. In fact why should anyone care what you have to say? Who are you anyway?

    It’s like you’ve failed to understand something very basic about people and the conditions under which they will be receptive to criticism. Especially the kind of criticism which seeks to undermine their raison d’etre.

    “By the way, putting my name in quotes doesn’t make sense since that is my given name.”

    It’s petty bullshit to put my name in quotes. I find that people only do it when they want to hurt my feelings or belittle me. My name was given as well. And my mother is content to call me by it. You don’t do use quotes when I agree with you, so why do it now when we disagree? Petty. Bullshit.

    I’m not going to join in your conspiracy theory about Buddhists censoring you. I find I can say what I like, when I like, to whom I like. Mostly I find that people don’t listen to what I have to say, but such is life. Beta males have to get used to that. A lack of influence does not amount to a conspiracy to rob you of your rights.

    Your response to my comment shows that *how* we communicate really does matter. Having upset you, I find I get insults, fingers in ears, and petty bullshit in response. And that is exactly the point that Buddhists make about speech precepts. If I set out to communicate with no regard for the feelings of the person I’m talking to–which, regrettably, I did a few days ago–then what happens is not really communication. People aren’t machines that can just listen or read without reacting emotionally. Having some guidelines for communication is no bad thing. Especially online where conventions seem to go out the window and every other user seems to be a troll.

  24. Patrick Avatar

    In a world in which the sole criterion for our behavior is the avoidance of regret and disturbance, the narcissist and sociopath, encumbered by neither, float to the top. Yet the failure to appreciate that something other than our own peace of mind might bear on our responsibilities to others is typical of corporate Buddhist praxis and key to how power is wielded by unfettered minds.

    Hello Patrica,
    Wish I had written those lines; they say all that needs to be said beautifully.
    I began my involvement with Buddhism with trying to dutifully practice the ‘precepts’. Over the years I have come to the conclusion such practice is mostly a form of internalised self-monitoring that rewards the individual in the same way any form of obsessive behaviour—it creates the comforting illusion of a sanitized inner world. Meanwhile it functions in the world at large as an element within a conformist ideology with the results you describe above. Within ‘westernized’ Buddhism the precepts function like any other religious injunctions. If they are not placed within a context that tries to tease out the collective implications of individual behaviour they become, by default, consolidating supports for power hierarchies. Conversely when collective realities are not seen as conditioning factors in the way religious injunctions are conceptualised and practiced, they take on the aura of injunctions transcendently given, which in turn put refocuses attention on ‘inner’ processes. This is one of the forms of circularity that keeps the xbuddhist caught in the decisional bind.

    I think one of the ways of combating this is to do what you have done and what Matthias suggests in 15, target xbuddhist hierarchies directly with a view to undermining their hold over their followers, and moving discussion off the well-worn conformist track and in a direction that questions basic assumptions. There are ways around crude forms of censorship that use technology abusively by banning and censoring.

  25. Glenn Wallis Avatar

    Jayarava (#23).

    Of course it is not the same thing. Doing something to make a point is not hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is a question of pretense. A recent example of hypocrisy that I mentioned (to stay with the point of Patricia’s post) is this: Stephen Schettini says that he values being thrown out of his “comfort zone” by an interlocutor, and then ignores one who does precisely that. He makes a mere pretense of character, hence is a hypocrite in this case.

    A better analogy is talking to someone who puts their fingers in their ears and chants “nya nya nya, I’m not listening”. That isn’t censorship.

    Why are you caught on this word “censorship”? It prevents you from getting to the matter at hand. In the words of the post, that matter is the new x-buddhist communication MO or ethos:

    tweet your own horn, link to your own work, hook up with friends who flatter you and censor those who don’t. Above all: control communication, create an image and maintain it diligently.

    I really have to wonder: why are you avoiding the issue of censorship and cutting off dialogue in contemporary on-line Buddhist discussion? If you could stop yammering about my having been blocked from Twitter, and get to the point, we might all benefit from what you have to share. I have trouble believing, for instance, that as a follower of a Buddhist group that, over the years, has exhibited many features of cult behavior, you have not seen something like the strict control of dialogue and information. You have obviously strayed from your x-buddhist community’s party line in your writings. How have your sangha members responded?

    It’s like you’ve failed to understand something very basic about people and the conditions under which they will be receptive to criticism. Especially the kind of criticism which seeks to undermine their raison d’etre.

    This is exactly the point. The x-buddhist teachers that Patricia mentions are in the business, ostensibly, of helping us awaken to the “conditions under which” we operate, are receptive. I don’t need to recite the litany of values they claim to subscribe to and preach as requirements for a more awakened way of operating and being receptive. And yet, they operate with the same old knee-jerk aversion that the worst of us do. And then your last line is the real kicker–they do it to protect their raison d’etre. That’s exactly Patricia’s point: it’s a ruse, it’s artifice, it’s phony, it’s the same old corporate strategy that keeps us deaf, dumb, and blind. And you don’t see it happening or think it’s important to name and illuminate? Why not?

    I’m not going to join in your conspiracy theory about Buddhists censoring you. I find I can say what I like, when I like, to whom I like.

    No, you can’t. Not in the world of x-buddhism. Go ahead. Do an experiment. Ask some probing questions at Schettini’s or Meissner’s or a thousand other x-buddhist forums. Watch how quickly you vanish from the comment field. And then report back here whether you stand by you remark that “no one has prevented you from expressing an opinion. Or from trolling on Twitter. What they have done is stop listening to you,” and that that is not an issue worth investigating.

    You must understand that by using words like “troll” or “bleat” and saying that I am banned from commenting because others just don’t listen you are merely skirting the issue. The issue is the one expressed by Patricia. Why don’t you read it again?

    Jayarava, I can’t help but see you as projecting your desire for, yet lack of, your own influence onto me. You threw out some numbers about the Non-Buddhism Blog Twitter account. You seem to think there is some significance in these numbers. For instance, my being “a nobody in the real world” or however you put it exactly, is reflected in the fact that the blog has 90-some followers and I’ve done 200 Tweets. Have you checked your own numbers: Number of Tweets: 3535; followers 112. Again, speak for yourself, not for me. Do you feel unheard, little, and insignificant? I assume that you do. I do not, not in the least. Does the fact of your perceived littleness play a role in your insistence that there is not a censorship issue emerging in x-buddhism on-line communities? That is, have you simply resigned yourself to the fact that no one seems to care what you have to say, and, as a “beta male” just blame yourself for your perceived insignificance? Why not respond to Patricia’s point more generously, and less personally? It’s a real question: why not?

    One last question: why do you refer to other readers on this blog who have experienced what Patricia is reporting as “sycophants”?

  26. Patricia Ivan Avatar

    Dear Craig (#21),

    I share your indignation! I too bought Ken’s counterfeit, felt duped and deceived by what he proffered, and at great personal cost. All those donations from credulous followers go toward an organization that has nearly a million dollars tucked under its belt while its website is run by devout volunteers. It’s really disgraceful.

    Though Ken may be consciously manipulating social media, I think he is unaware that he has in fact bought his own counterfeit. This morning I noticed he tweeted this:

    “Paul Tillich remarked that…the vision of a social democratic utopia has begun to play the role of God. – R. Rorty”

    What does it say about the world of Buddhism Inc. that anything which threatens the projected image of a “swashbuckling spiritual outlaw” (Glenn #20) is perceived as an attempt to undermine (in Jayarava’s words, #23) its very “raison d’ëtre”?

    Is a critic invoking social democratic values the same as someone entertaining a utopic vision and attempting to “play the role of God”?
    Paul Tillich believed in God. What do Ken et al believe in that should replace these social democratic values?

  27. Gwen Avatar

    First of all, this post is why I love the internet. For all of the potentially de-humanizing aspects of digital life, the ability to write about such topics in an open forum allows people to reclaim a certain basic dignity—the right be heard in the public square.

    Following on Patricia’s comment (#18):

    The question that this post and subsequent comments raises for me—that I am struggling with—is what are the basic ground rules for healthy, productive conversation and debate? This is not just a question about online communities. I am so bored with the trope “people say things online that they would never say to your face.” I struggle with this issue irl.

    For example, when I feel angry or hurt, I tend to be able to easily articulate why I am upset. I can also easily generate insults to bite back at the person I feel hurt by. My husband is quite the opposite—when he gets angry, he doesn’t want to talk at all until feelings have had a chance to cool down. He will walk out on me mid-sentence if he feels I am being mean. Over the years, I have learned that insulting my husband during a fight, no matter how clever or right I am, only serves to hurt his feelings and does not help get my point across. And my husband has accepted that I am allowed to get angry about things, and it is his job to hang in there with me, even when the conversation is uncomfortable and embarrassing.

    But this is not intended to be some adorable story about compromise in a marriage. Communication in my relationships is something I imagine I will be working on forever.

    What I really want to know is, where are the communities really struggling to find truth in these most difficult but important areas of life???


    These are the questions I struggle with most in x-buddhist communities.

    There is sort of this ridiculous clichéd excuse that practitioners should not ask their teachers for relationship advice or expect that those same teachers to be good at relationships, because teachers are just there to teach meditation.

    But what is driving most people to the cushion in the first place?? In MANY cases, practitioners are asking how they can become more honest, loving people and have more honest, loving relationships. And they are told quite explicitly that buddhist practice can help with that goal.

    People are certainly told that meditation is effective at changing one’s relationship to the mind and to experience. I want to know what practices are effective at making you a more decent fucking human being. Who will stand up and say that they teach THAT? Because that’s what I want to practice.

    Back to Patricia’s #18 comment, I do think that things like tone, word choice and insults matter in conversations. But what I see happening in a lot of practice communities is a total inability to effectively, responsibly engage with someone who is angry or hurt. So then there is just no engagement at all. That whole area of life, and all the people in it, are denied and repressed. I just don’t see the freedom in that approach.

    People are allowed be angry in public. They just are.

    For myself, I want to get *better* at being angry, and dealing openly and fairly with others when they get angry. I want my words and actions to be more effective in these situations. And I want to know if anyone, anywhere has high quality information about how to do that.

  28. Craig Avatar


    Good group therapy. Seriously. People cannot deal with feelings with out first a corrective, self awareness and then training in real time. You are so right about repression in sanghas. Retreats are the worst. Anger is just sheathing out of people and there is no outlet. From what you say, you seem to already be doing the work. There’s no such thing as hurting another’s feelings though. I’ve always been curious about the counseling type groups that are part of some lotus sutra groups.

  29. Nathan Avatar

    Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth
    Michael Parenti

  30. Glenn Wallis Avatar

    Erik (#19).

    I think you make a very important point. Matthias Steingass has written explicitly on this topic of what you call “branding” on this blog at at Der Unbuddhist (some English pieces). You may find Richard Payne’s recent post “Putting Nothing in Boxes and Selling It” relevant, too.

    I really hope this “Brand” aspect of contemporary x-buddhism receives further critique and analysis. For one thing, it is undeniably the case. Literally everyone that Patricia mentioned in her piece profits off of Buddhism. Some profit financially, some through the establishment of organizations, some in both ways. The particular people Patricia mentions are selling a similar-enough Brand of x-buddhism to form a kind of conglomeration. Their Brand is different enough from traditional forms to create a Brand War.

    It’s also worth exploring how these x-buddhist hucksters are replicating the very state of affairs they apparently find in need of repair. That is, in operating out of 21st-century business models, how are they helping to churn the very ocean of daily suffering that they claim to be offering release from? Isn’t it all, in other words, just more of the samsaric same?

  31. Glenn Wallis Avatar

    Jayarava (#16)

    Re: my putting your Dharma name or whatever it is in quotes, “Jayarava”;

    and your: For the record “Glenn” has his Twitter account set to deny, etc.;

    and my: putting my name in quotes doesn’t make sense since that is my given name;

    I received the follow from an Unnameable:

    maybe jayarava is starting to simply doubt that you even exist…which would be a step in the right direction!

    That’s funny shit, don’t “you” think?

  32. Patricia Ivan Avatar

    re: Glenn’s (#2) reference to Ted Meissner et al, and the refusal to engage in “combat forums with pre-determined rules of conquest”– censorship IS a form of conquest, albeit a covert form of “combat” (i.e. passive aggression)! That is the irony here. Protecting Twitter accounts or blogs from probing or incisive comments or, as in Hokai Sobol’s case, preemptively muting a respondent so she cannot participate in an online exchange, while presented as defensive, is a form of domination. Do not let the holier than thou “right speech” guidelines fool anyone!

    Nella Lou (#7) makes a great point about such forms of domination:
    “Conversely, what shame-based system of domination does not associate its own power with goodness, pride and positivity? Like it or not, the language of positivity is infused with an ideological desire for power-sharing, and not actual divestments of power…positivity is a language of acquisition. It is a language of achievement. It encourages our moral ambivalence toward, and affirmation of, our own acts of conquest. It stops us from seeing how our desires emerge from the dominations of our current contexts. ”

    Another thing i wnated to emphasize was that we have named censorship, but let’s not overlook how silence too is a powerful mode of domination (often masked as “equanimity” by Buddhism Inc.). David Chapman, whom Glenn (#11) quotes but who has opted out of writing anything here, despite his excellent blog piece about “How not to argue about Buddhism”- forgot to mention silence. (BTW, I do wonder why David he has chosen to remain silent in response to Glenn (#3 and #11). I also personally invited him to comment by email. I cannot he would refrain from speaking here when he has been so prolific on the subject elsewhere and hope that it is not to protect his cronies from what he might have to say about their behavior. Is it wrong speech, David, to point out hypocrisy?). Nieztsche’s perceptive description of “the priest” comes to mind here:

    “His soul squints, his mind loves hideouts, secret paths, and back doors; everything that is hidden seems to him his own world, his security, his comfort; he is expert in silence, in long memory, in waiting…” (Genealogy of Morals)

    Beware of the silent priest!

  33. Craig Avatar

    Shame, that’s it! I can only think of one relationship that was not at some point shame based. Another one is getting there. I’ll let you guess what kind.

    Every god damned organization I’ve been a part of has has some element of shame in it. Of course, I have always been right for it given my object relations. Churches are the worst. That’s just one. Zen is another. I wonder what a non-shame based system would look like. The way I’ve dealt with it I. Certain situations is to not play into it, but that’s damn hard work.

    Thanks for bringing this up Patricia. 🙂

  34. Glenn Wallis Avatar

    Patricia (#32). The censorship and silent shunning that you refer to is really an important issue in the development of contemporary western x-buddhism. I hope you will continue to keep an eye on it, and report to the greater community. Doing the former will, of course, be difficult, if not impossible since, I imagine, you have already been cut off by many contemporary figures. I know that I have been. But we need to define the issue of censorship/shunning, see it in action, observe patterns, name these patterns, analyze them, and report our conclusions to others. Please keep it going.

    As I see it (certainly biased and skewed, but also informed), the major internet communities that practice censorship and shunning are as follows:

    The Secular Buddhist Association. This group is spearheaded by Ted Meissner. He strikes me as a cross between a mid-western Baptist minister and a strict daddy figure. Meissner is attempting to create a large internet community centered on his Secular Buddhist Facebook page and Secular Buddhist Association website. He has zero tolerance for anything construed as unfriendly and overtly critical. He and his writers are suspicious of anything intellectually difficult. The SBA is a religiously dogmatic organization that views itself as a paragon of scientific empiricism. One word: DELUDED. Another word: HYPOCRITICAL.

    Buddhist Geeks. Led by Vincent Horn, the Buddhist Geek$ is an unaba$hedly commercial enterpri$e. It i$ true that they ma$k their commerciali$m in piou$ claim$ of x-buddhi$t technological innovation; but only a fellow Geek or bli$$ed-out compa$$ionista could po$$ibly be $nookered by their charade. Vincent Horn cannot abide $corn or critici$m of fellow x-buddhi$t. Why not? $urely the an$wer is obviou$. One word: PHONY. Another word: COMPROMI$ED.

    Stephen Schettini. If a guy in this day and age does not see the problem with calling himself “The Naked Monk,” then for fuck’s sake where do we begin? Schettini–the lover of doubt–should, by all evidence, know better than to practice censorship and shunning. But he does. My impression is that he, like Meissner and Horn, suffers from profound insecurity. One result is that he freezes up when confronted with a difficult critical question. It probably has something to do with his overbearing Italian father (see his memoir; it’s really very good). If only he could have more self-confidence, he would turn his critical abilities on his current x-buddhist allies. But he really needs them. He craves their acceptance. And like Buddhist Geeks, Schettini is trying to make a living off of his exalted wisdom. This is the monk who has abandoned his monkhood, yet displays it all over his website. One word: CONFLICTED. More words: LACKING THE COURAGE OF HIS CONVICTIONS.

    Coming up: Ken McLeod, Hokai Sobol, Sharon Salzberg, and others!

  35. Geoff Avatar

    Glenn #34,

    How about this one…

    Tom Pepper

    Believes our energies should be directed to perfecting (his version of) political theory, for a utopian future that will never eventuate. The compassion of a door knocking Jehovah’s Witness promising worldly paradise.

    One word: EVANGELICAL. Another word: SAVANT

  36. Danny Avatar

    hi Geoff (thunder from down under? ha) re:#35

    I don’t hear Tom Pepper promising anything like “worldly paradise or utopian futures” at all. Where do you get that? Evangelical, really? It’s funny, I see exactly the opposite. This is from his #5 on How To Do Things w/nonbuddhism.

    With so many options to choose from in the effort to cling to delusion and perpetuate oppression, I cannot imagine why so many reactionaries seem to be drawn to this Laruelle-inspired project. Laruelle just isn’t going to be of much use, is in fact going to remain impossibly obscure and incomprehensible, for such reactionary projects.

    So a serious question, Geoff: why are you drawn to this project?


  37. Craig Avatar

    Yesterday I went over to the Secular Buddhist forum and asked what they thought of Tuttji’s satirical spiritual teacher site (link below). One response asked me to use the False Guru test (link below). In response to that I stated that any of the so-called Buddhist teachers meet criteria on the False Guru test, even the Naked Monk, Ken McLeod and Ted Meissner. I also noted that the False Guru test was ultimately a reification of ‘guruism’ and how to market and brand it for profit…precisely what Tuttji is critiquing. Tuttji got on there and took them all to task (in character) and tempers flared. The compassionate Secular Buddhists got pissed that someone was calling them out on claiming wisdom and inability to take feedback. Of course, some drone got on and told us all to remember right speech. Ted denied he was playing guru and I asked him to prove it. Minutes later the thread disappeared and my account was deleted.

    This stuff is so damn predictable! Just a few days ago I noticed Tom Pepper being threatened of sanction over on the Buddhist Peace Fellowship blog. Tom was quite tame over there. I’m sickened by it all. I was so naive to think that Buddhism was the most open to dialogue of all the religions out there. However, if you question any of the sacred cows, these x-buddhists turn into the most fascist drones this side of their off sited Stalin. I’m really at a loss. Why not just ignore rather than delete. The inability to do this really brings into question their entire project…crushing the ego.

    I could go on…

  38. Matthias Steingass Avatar

    Hi Craig.

    Why not just ignore rather than delete.

    We can put this question to ourselves. Why don’t why just ignore x-buddhism? Is it because we loose our beloved target, a sitting lame duck unable to fly? Isn’t the anger we experience about x-buddhism a reflex of our own projection of “Buddhism [as] the most open to dialogue of all the religions”?

  39. Patricia Ivan Avatar

    Craig (#37),

    Thanks for the links and for sharing your experience over at Secular Buddhism. I just had a look at the list of topics under discussion. As you say, fairly predictable. People in groups behave like pack animals. We meet within marked territory and turn around in circles while sniffing each other’s rumps.

    One of my own criticisms of critiques of Buddhism as a cult is that they are too focused on the obvious hallmarks of things like title, apparel and ritual and not enough on the actual personal psychology and dynamics of the leader, group and sycophant. In the case of secular Buddhism (and also secular Yoga practice), this is extremely important! How many middle class atheists have signed up for yoga or meditation classes where nobody is donning robes or claiming special titles and yet all of the ingredients of a cult are there?
    It is for this reason I appreciate Chris Hamacher’s critique in his Zen Has No Morals ; because he details the actual personality traits to watch out for in our leaders.

    Matthias (#38),

    That’s an Interesting reminder. Criticism should look not only look outward in the ten directions.
    Over the weekend I watched a movie called The Master which brilliantly depicts the emotional ties between a master and his new convert. The movie The Dresser , about an aging narcissistic actor and his fawning personal assistant, is also an amazing portrayal of the man, the group and the devotee.

  40. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper

    Of course, they can “ignore” criticism most easily by deleting it. The question is, why can’t they answer it? Why can’t the fully enlightened offer the rest of us a few words of wisdom, and correct our errors?

    As for why we can’t ignore x-buddhism, well, if it was a “lame duck,” we could, or course. But since it is a powerful and growing ideology of capitalism, actively deluding people and causing suffering, we should try to disable its power. The only question is, how? I didn’t originally post a critique on the BPF page, because I was aware that critical thought and actual political engagement is not allowed there–one is meant to only post praise of how kind and oppressed the other members are. There’s no real possibility of helping them, so it isn’t worth the trouble.

    But in the U.S., where “mindful-everything” is the new brand of therapy, and people can be court ordered to become deluded if they have an addiction or attention deficit disorder or get pissed off and punch someone, it is far from a “lame duck” that can be ignored. Enforced delusion is rapidly becoming the only form of therapy allowed for any kind of disorder. In this form, we can’t just ignore x-buddhists and hope they’ll go away.

  41. Craig Avatar


    I could ignore, but I can’t and won’t. Projection is only dangerous when one is unaware of it. X-Buddhism doesn’t seem like a lame duck to me. Institutions causing suffering aren’t lame. These sites seem to vacilate between drama and censorship. Any defense against critique. I’ve asked myself these questions you ask and am curious…not in fight or flight mode.

    What are your answers?

  42. Craig Avatar

    #38 Matthias,

    I felt angry with this post and I’m curious about that. If feelings are unclear thoughts, I’m not sure what it is. Of course, this is my own projection, but to me, your comment seems to dismiss my basic point and then attempts to teach me/us something about self awareness. (Take the log out of your eye…) Again, not sure. The bigger curiosity for me is how can we ever know we’re not speaking from some defensive, deluded position? It’s like two steps forward, five steps back. I want to debate, I don’t want to avoid conflict, but I also don’t want to shut down debate and be an asshole. Or maybe I should?

    People speak with such assertion and confidence here. I’ve tried to do so, but in reality, I’m never really sure. For example, in this case we’re talking about censorship and it’s consequences. However, I can’t help but think that censorship would become a necessary evil in a more peaceful society that we create with our new mind symbols. It’s like a never ending cycle of misery-critique-misery-critique. I’m reminded of the line from the recent Battlestar Galactica series…”This has all happened before and will all happen again”.

    Thanks for indulging me 🙂

  43. Matthias Steingass Avatar

    Patricia, #39.

    I look forward to see The Master. I think we can see some of emotional ties here on this blog too. Not so much ties between certain people but ties to a certain decision. For example the decision Tom is always right.

    Interestingly a German film critique said about The Master that the film is taking a kind of phenomenal view point. Sadly the phenomenal view point is mostly disparaged here at this blog or even denounced as a fucked up romantic flash back of sorts.

    However this may be. Luckily we are still provided with the freedom of speech here, although The Master wants us to think in a certain way.

    Craig, #42. I did not want to teach you. Certainly not the way Tom does. Our styles are totally opposed. Tom is sure that he is right. I am not. If I write, “Isn’t the anger we experience about x-buddhism a reflex of our own projection of Buddhism as the most open to dialogue of all the religions?“, I really mean the “we”. I am also talking about myself. Once I had the fantasy that Buddhism is the most open and dialogical of all religions. I once had the fantasy that the Dalai Lama is a critical thinker because I thought that the Gelugpas really mean it when they talk about a dialectical approach they learn and train. And I really got angry when I began to see the contradiction between the romanticized (this time in the sense Tom means it) picture of the Dalai Lama and a more accurate picture. I was into thaumaturgical refuge. I think nearly everybody here will admit that s/he was or still is.

    re ignoring x-buddhism.

    If I look at the ‘dialog’ over there at the Secular Buddhist’s site with Mark Knicklebine and his reaction to this question I have to ask: For what do we engage with such people?

    At least I would refrain to engage with such people on a personal level. I rather would expose the contradictions on the institutional level. To give an example I know abot about (I don’t know much about the SBA, I am not interested): The Mind and Life Institute. This is, first, a much better target because it is bigger. If it gets hurt, the repercussions are greater. One could, second, expose the possibly capitalist structures of this institutions much better. To do this one could look into the question what kind if science they do there? For example the humanities are absolutely inexistent at the discussions there. That means the very people that could expose the cultural biases in the working of such an institution are excluded. On the other side the institutions which are involved are often those who work with lots of money (and therefore grands) in their research. They are, next point, sided at once by those who want to put the (neurological) research done there to work in education.

    The working hypothesis about the Mind and Life Institute such is: Critical philosophical thinking is excluded. It works mostly in the field of the hype of neurological research. This research (and its results) is biased because grands are given by structures in need of prove of their right to exist (for example money given by a pharmaceutical firm which at the same time needs research for new products it develops). The results at last are feed back into the sociality via education. Such the Mind and Life Institute is an institution in which we have sitting at one table: a) theoretical research (e.g. neuro science), b) product development (e.g. pharmaceutical industry) and c) education (e.g. psychologists, teachers, marketing). Critical examination of the theories used by a) is missing.

    We thus have a perfect example of an institution which is constitutional of The Society of Control.

    To expose this would be an interesting target. The 0.5% or 1% practicing Buddhists in the U.S. I simply would neglect. People like Lodro Rindzler or Mark Knicklebine for example are exceptionally funny but they are not worth the effort… except in the case of satire, sarcasm, and the darkest forms black humor! (I will practice this today again in my monthly comment Die Glosse… this time about how German x-buddhists can effectively argue that being led directly to the gas chamber at the ramp in Auschwitz was the persons own fault because of his/her bad karma.)

    Instead of targeting individual stupid persons the institutions have to be targeted. That’s why I ask adbusters. Tom is right when he says x-buddhism “is a powerful and growing ideology of capitalism“. But this doesn’t become visible on the individual level of Lodro and the devine Levine for example. What becomes visible is how individuals interact in capitalism but not what impact x-buddhism has. This can be seen much better if we take a look into the National Health Statistics Report. There we can see, for example, how deep an impact meditational techniques already have in the over all society. In table 1 we can see that in 2007 roughly 10% of all U.S.citizens have meditated.

    This is of course no number with any qualitative value but it says something about the impact ‘meditation’ has.

    The consequence is, again, the institutions have to be targeted. The SBA as such, the Mind and Life Institute as such, or Tricylce and its structures, the big publishing houses like Snow Lion (what are they publishing, what needs do they serve?)…

  44. Chris Avatar

    Yes! Its the institutions that have to be targeted. I totally agree. I always follow the money now, I look who is on their boards, what are their backgrounds, (usually ex corporate types that have discovered new age buddhism or hinduism in their corporate retreats). The NGO’s are the most interesting. For example, The Global Peace Initiative for Women, is a spin -off NGO of Ruder Finn, number # PR firm of the Fortune 500, who is hired to clean up the messes and represent such stars as tobacco companies , pharmaceuticals, big oil , making them more consumer friendly. The GPIW’s stated mission is to ’empower women” by creating a more ‘feminine” approach to bringing peace to the world, with their new GAIA religion,that incorporates eco sustainability, feminine goddess underpinnings, based on Tibetan Buddhism and Hinduistic Shakti, (talk about a trojan horse for women! to have a model that kept Indian women and tibetan women enslaved at the bottom of the caste system! for over a 1000 years!) Anyway, in the truly psychyopathic way that corporations operate, Ruder Finn just recently was in the international news for being hired to cleani up their tourist industry, after Maldives was in the international news for their state religious policies of imposing a 100 lashes on a 10 year old girl for being raped, blaming the victim. The international media was all over them, and they withdrew the contract with Maldives. These are the kind of insane things that are happening now that these eastern cult religions have been incorporated into the new corporatism that will put the world to sleep and in a permanent state of atrophied critical thinking. But very few are noticing that corporatism is using these eastern religious underpinnings, to promote Quietism..

    The Dalai Lama, and his Free Tibet, movement, supported by the CIA and later NED, for decades, is another one. This multi-million dollar institution, has decided to change their ‘political strategy for their goals of a buddhist lamaist hegemony, and have decided to jump on the bandwagon of corporate sustainability ,i.e. the new green wash with religious undertones. (that was why I made the reference to Eco Fascism: Lessons from the German Experience,all the same ingredients are in place, , obsession with eastern occultism, bodily purity, organic gardening, etc.) so they now have remade their Karmarpa into the Eco-Karmapa, who is chomping at the bit to come to the U.S. (the only country where the dumbed down buddhists are clamoring for him to come and ‘save them.” Too bad the Dalai Lama and his Eco Karmapa didn’t tell all those monks and nuns that are setting themselves on fire for their GodKings and their political causes that the strategy and tactics of this multimillion dollar institutionalized kleptocracy had changed. These ‘compassionate gods” these incarnate dieties, waited months before even saying that self-immolating was wrong ( knowing that it would have stopped immediately because these clerics see the Dalai lama as a living God speaking!) and when they finally did so it was in the most anemic way, still saying that the ‘intention’ is what mattered, and that it could be a bodhisattva act! They are still implying that, and people are still setting themselves on fire for a dead political cause, when the Dalai and company has moved on to the Sustainability band wagon, and Global Warming as their new cause leaving the Free Tibet cause in the dust.. “Save Tibet, Save the World from Catastrophic Global Warming is the new public relations strategy.

    Or the fact that the Dalai Lama , who declares himself a Marxist , is on the Wisdom Council of the Club of Budapest, affiliate of the Malthusian Club of Rome, that club of billionaires , obsessed with population control and their own mortality and keeping the biggest piece of the earth. . I could go on and on. While we are debating minutia of language memes, these institutions and their spin off NGO’s that are multiplying at the speed of light, thanks to the internet , have been very very busy infecting the minds of many people with their clap trap , for one reason and one reason only : , Quietism for the masses, so that that corporations can continue to plunder the earth and the people, The Dalai Lama a Marxist? I have to laugh. Yeh, like Bill Gates is a Marxist. Always follow the money,

  45. Tom Pepper Avatar
    Tom Pepper

    Matthias: “Interestingly a German film critique said about The Master that the film is taking a kind of phenomenal view point. Sadly the phenomenal view point is mostly disparaged here at this blog or even denounced as a fucked up romantic flash back of sorts.”

    This is interesting–can you say more about this? Do you mean phenomenological? How is the movie taking this “view point”? I’m curious how this reviewer you mention understands this film. The American reviewers I’ve read are all completely baffled by the movie–as is the majority of the American public, apparently. They just obsess about the Scientology connection–and I think that is the only thing that has gotten the movie any attention at all. It’s a great movie, but the point is that there is no “master” at all–like your obsessive projection onto me of the role of “subject presumed to know,” the “master” is a non-existent role, and empty subject position.

    The Master is clearly a doppelganger movie about the inevitable failure of the perfect interpellation of any individual into a subject position (Freddy and Dodd are the “same” person, like PItt and Norton in “Fight Club,” and missing this is why most people can’t “get” the movie)–there is always some leftover that cannot be fully or properly contained, excluded, or repressed (Joaquin Pheonix), and this failure leads to the necessity of such strange ideologies as “The Cause.” Or, perhaps, Western Buddhism.

    I’m still baffled by your angry obsession with “the decision that Tom is always right,” on a blog where absolutely nobody ever agrees with my position at all. Why do you “feel” what I say as so oppressive? It’s just incomprehensible to me except as a kind of projection onto me of a father figure you need to be angry at exactly because you think I AM right, and wish I wasn’t. Instead of my being the Hoffman character in the movie, I would say that you are playing that role, desperately wanting approval and agreement, and irrationally angry when someone tries to insist on reason, rationality, and truth. Watch the movie. Maybe it will help you think through this absurd transference.

  46. Matthias Steingass Avatar

    Hi Tom, you are right. Of course. Thanks.

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