You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You're on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go.
-- Dr. Seuss
A couple more teaching videos: the first is ZM Bon Soeng from one of our weekly Q&A sessions (Aug '09). The second is a collection of interviews and teaching talks from the founder of the school, Zen Master Seung Sahn (Dae Soen Sa Nim):
Finally, a little Zen talk of my own, from Empty Gate’s first public program of 2009. (Many more Zen videos can be found on the frequently-updated emptygatezen YouTube channel.
More Zen stuff:
My blog includes a series of posts I wrote in 2007 to chronicle my decades of exporation in the spiritual/philosophical realm, focusing on what's led to my facinating with Zen, particularly the experience of my first retreat with this practice in 1988. I've entitled this mini-memoir Autobiography of a Boo Boo
My so-called spiritual life has of course included the obligatory psychedelic experiences, which were helpful in inspiring me to explore formal meditation practice since about age 18. I spent 5 years with the Siddha Yoga (SYDA) organization of guru Swami Muktananda and his successor Gurumayi Chidvilasananda. After leaving that group, I began Zen practice with a week-long sitting retreat at the beginning of 1988.
Here's a wide selection of spiritual and quasi-spiritual sites I've come across. Try whatever you like, as long as you do no harm!
From the Japanese Soto Zen school, I've enjoyed the writings of American Punk rocker/Zen priest Brad "Doubtboy" Warner. His site is Sit Down and Shut Up, and there's a video of him on his blog, Hardcore Zen. More Buddhist blogging is found at Flapping Mouths. BuddhaNet offers Buddhist links and resources. The Wanderling is a Japanese-style Zenist who's created lots of online resources, including a free Dharma course called Awakening 101. Christopher Titmuss teaches the Vipassana style. Buddhism is nothing if not questioning, so Skepticism within Buddhism has many links that examine Buddhism agnostically.
often in the Bay Area, mixing Advaita (non-dualism teachings from India)
with Zen. I like him, even though his "awakening"
poem on the When I Awoke site
uses the word I practically every line! Watch a video of
him teaching. Or read
this cool piece on Spiritual Addiction,
in which he speaks of Zen teaching, and the habit of wanting to get something from meditation.
Adya's students Mokshananda
and Jon Bernie hold regular
satsangs around here.
For more traditional Hindu-style, an online friend recommended Ramana admirer Sadguru Sri Nannagaru. And the Association of Happiness for All Mankind runs Ramana-inspired retreats in North Carolina and India. They've got programs for a price, and a free Ramana book and on-line meditations.
MASTER NOME of Santa Cruz claims to uphold
Ramana's tradition. There are reports of a dark side to
Nome, which perhaps caused his brother and former disciple Russell Smith
to split off into the nearby Way of Sudden
Awakening. I’ve made my
own visits to Nome; the scene is long on beautiful poetry, blissing out,
and amusing goofiness, short on common sense and connecting to ordinary
life functioning. Nome disciple cee has the Present Non-Existence group
in Berkeley, though she herself recently moved to Hawaii.
Poonjaji's original successor, ANDREW COHEN rejected him after a few years. Cohen presents himself in messianic terms ("Very few people like me exist in the world. I can destroy a person’s karma."), which predictably leads to scandals and alienated former followers, including his own mother! Cohen responds by calling his critics spiritual failures; he writes, "As far as I’m concerned, the spiritual life is just like any other endeavor—you can succeed or fail." But success and failure (not to mention spiritual!) are ideas made by thinking; we can question whether Andrew's (or anyone's) ideas should be taken as Truth.
Cohen has teamed up with self-proclaimed philosophical genius KEN WILBER. Many have praised Wilber's Theory of Everything, in spite of its sketchy scientific foundation. Wilber has a history of being dazzled by another authoritarian guru, Adi Da, aka Bubba Free John. It was a red flag when Wilber wrote of his worshipful view of Da, "This is not merely my personal opinion; this is a perfectly obvious fact." Online criticisms include David Lane's critique, Geoffrey Falk's "Norman Einstein," and critical appraisals on the Kheper site. In June 2006 on his blog, Wilber ranted at his critics: "I should mention that I am at the center of the vanguard of the greatest social transformation in the history of humankind..." and "I simply cannot stand this simple criticism of simply anything, let alone 'simply,' so simply suck my dick, whaddaya say?" Integral World does a fine job of rescuing the baby from the bathwater. One of the Integral World contributors has created enlightenment.com.
Recently deceased RICHARD ROSE was a down-home, self-taught, West Virginia farmer, who had a Big Experience in the 30s and finally found some followers in the 60s. His work is carried on by the TAT Foundation and Search Within. His student David Gold offers an online book on Rose's inner teachings, and student Augie Turak created the Self-Knowledge Symposium at a few Southern Colleges. Rose's students use the word Zen a lot, but their teaching is about becoming more enlightened or spiritual, rather than the true Zen style of pointing to the truth that's already appeared in ordinary, everyday life. Rose's teachings are very much like those of Jed McKenna, author of the popular book SPIRITUAL ENLIGHTENMENT: The Damnedest Thing, which I reviewed on amazon. McKenna's actual identity is shrouded in mystery; I'm confident that it's just a pseudonym and McKenna doesn't exist as a flesh-and-blood teacher.
Byron Katie teaches how to examine thoughts to see if they're true and beneficial. She says, When you argue with reality, you lose... but only 100% of the time. Katie has a blog and some videos on Google. Hippie-freedom-style spirituality is offered at Stephen Gaskin's The Farm (High Times made a short film about Gaskins). See Radiant Mind for a course presenting non-dualism in a style more psychological than religious. Michael Hutchison offers an extraordinary story of big awakening in the most difficult of situations. Amigo is an irregularly appearing periodical with lots of articles and talks from a variety of non-dual approaches. And how could you resist the online Church of the Churchless?
Steven Sashen creates the ANTI-GURU BLOG. It isn't guru-bashing; it's about looking to yourself for the answers. Check out his posts on Ramesh Balsekar, I Had a Dream..., and Become a Millionaire Self-Help Guru: "The key here is to engender an AHA! experience ... This is especially easy in a workshop setting where, frankly, if you charge enough money and put a bunch of strangers in an unusual place you’re guaranteed to get 'results.'" He also offers an online Instant Advanced Meditation Course.
Betrayal of the Spirit is a sincere examination of the HARE KRISHNA movement from ex-member Nori Muster. Other thoughtful accounts of leaving the movement include On Leaving ISKCON and I was a Teenage Hare Krishna. The Krishna teaching stresses an absolute duality between pure and impure... and yet in practice, the movement degenerated to the point where gurus valued fund-raising over honesty ("We can do anything in Krsna's service... Krsna is the most expert cheat... It belongs to Krsna anyway.") Since Krishna founder Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada died in '77, the movement remains in disarray, with the original organization ISKCON debating the ISKCON Revival Movement and other independent voices over who the real Spiritual Master should be. The newspaper article Rebuilding its temple suggests that today, the typical Krishnas aren't young Americans renouncing the world for a life of monkish spirituality, but more likely a congregation of expatriate Indian householders. On that page, click the Krishnas Come Home video link to see footage of devotees at the New Vrindaban Krishna farm in 2006. More Krishna-themed videos at the KrishnaTube site. Two stories of my own encounters with the Krishnas are included on my Strange Trips page.
David Lane powerfully argues that special experiences reliably happen to a
percentage of people given simple meditation instruction, but gurus can
con people by claiming to be the source of the experience. He calls his thesis The KIRPAL
STATISTIC (after one such guru, Kirpal Singh). He contends that "Mystical Fireworks are Self-Generated and NOT caused by a GURU." Lane writes,
"...people when given a meditation sitting will report seeing and hearing things... It is the disciple's own brain (or, again, to be generous, their 'Self') which is causing it, but the disciple wrongly believes that
the Guru is doing the transmitting... It is EXACTLY that MIS-taken belief which FUELS the would-be claims
of complete frauds... Kirpal Singh didn't transmit the experience; the disciples GENERATED it. Kirpal Singh simply took credit for that which he did NOT cause. It's an advertising ploy and a deceptive one at that. I have had hundreds of students in my classes see light and hear sounds and see radiant beings and leave their bodies... Did 'I' cause it? NOPE. They did. The difference here, of course, is that I EXPOSED THE SECRET. Kirpal took CREDIT for it and gained 'followers' on just such a