[UPDATE: Ted Meissner immediately wrote me to say that it’s a technical problem. I wish I could give him the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately, the post still stands as a general reflection on a real phenomenon in the x-buddhist internet world, including the Secular Buddhist Association. I stand by the post. Also, I want to make it clear that I did NOT receive the usual message you get when a site has trouble loading, the one about technical difficulties. The message I got read:]


That’s the message I get when I try to access the Secular Buddhist site (links at bottom). I checked: it’s a blanket IP ban.  You may wonder: what does it take to get banned from a Buddhist site? I wonder the same thing. After all, aren’t x-buddhists always telling us how they embody compassion, mindfulness, and equanimity? These values, you would think, serve even the most discordant conversations. Couldn’t banning someone just be an admission that your claims to (ostensibly) pro-social dispositions like “non-reactivity” and “non-judgmentalism” are a bit shabby?

Ted Meissner, the founder of the Secular Buddhist Association and its Facebook page, generously sprinkles his sites with words that, I suppose, are designed to signal serious thought and a willingness to engage others with dialogical vigor, words like critical (critical thinking, critical eye, critical examination, etc.) naturalism, pragmatism, science, secularism, evidence, and so forth. Meissner adds to such good habits of thought a rigorous ethics of engagement. We can glean his ethics from such recent Facebook nuggets as the following (Meissner signs all of his sayings “TSB.” TSB = The Secular Buddhist = Ted Meissner. Why does he use quotation marks to quote himself? Does it makes what he says appear more important?):

“I would rather be shown wrong and have the opportunity to correct my understanding, than maintain a comforting delusion.”

“Our practice is neither avoidance nor suppression of suffering, but direct and sincere engagement.”

“Today — respond with a heart of friendliness, rather than react with a knee of jerkiness.”

*Today* — Decide to be an enthusiastic participant in this moment, every moment.

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

*Today* — That lightness of heart you may have after meditation? Bring that with you as you encounter the very next person.

“To question is to demonstrate a desire to find the truth. And that quest can only strengthen *us*, however much it may weaken our cherished *views*.”

Meissner does not practice what he is preaching here. Continue reading “YOU ARE BANNED”

Tweet Your Own Horn: Censorship Western Buddhist Style

censorship3By Patricia Ivan
(Edited and expanded from her Connections blog post “Tweet Your Own Horn.” Links at bottom. SEE UPDATE. 3-21-14])

I’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. Continue reading “Tweet Your Own Horn: Censorship Western Buddhist Style”