Friday, May 26, 2006

Is Zaadz a Den of Rattlesnakes!?

A Blogmandu Special Report, by Tom Armstrong

I found myself in a place where everything was strange ... Colors, spaces, the air itself was different, clumsier, coarser—as if made of heavier molecules. I was now ... an immigrant in an altogether different ... reality. Here everything demanded revision, and I was aware that my senses were being adapted to the chemical or tactile demands of the new place—its atmospheres, its hidden variations had to be absorbed.
– from “I GOT A SCHEME!,” Saul Bellow quoted in the 4/25/05 issue of The New Yorker

Quite a few of the bloggers who blog Buddhism-related blogs that Blogmandu surveys have joined Zaadz, a new uber-positivist social-networking site that features a blog for each of its members. From what I understand -- my sense of it, anyway -- is that these bloggers are continuing their universally-available blogs in the Internet Ocean, while creating new in-group blogs at Zaadz. These bloggers often put up the same posts in both places -- which then generate separate vibrational storms of comments and blog-post spinoffs.

This is a worrisome development, in my opinion. While cloistered blogging encampments are not new, their proliferation could pave the way to the demise of Blog Neutrality and the rich, fully shared egalitarian freedom that blogging offers us as writers and readers in this our post-rich online galaxy of wonders and splendors.

The last thing that blogging needs -- it seems to me -- is more "group separation," which causes people to identify with a "kind" which they see themselves being a part of, in opposition to outsiders.

In David Berreby’s recent book “Us and Them: Understanding Your Tribal Mind” it talks about divisions and divisiveness that occurs in the ways people rather too easily sort themselves. One chapter is devoted to a seminal anthropological study in the mid-50s where twenty-two very-much-alike fifth-grade boys, no two of whom knew each other, were brought to a camp in two separate, arbitrary 11-member groups. Left to their own devises, the two sets of boys immediately organized themselves as hostile to each other, with contrary practices and rituals. One group named itself the Rattlers; the other, the Eagles.

Study of the reactions of the fifth-grade boys and subsequent experiments over the decades have overturned ways that experts [now known as kind-scientists] think of mobs, prejudice and stereotyping. Unhappily, what these experts now know, most of us don’t: the cause of prejudice and discord is not differences in people, it is the banding that people do themselves in creating groups and subgroups. Grouping, itself, creates friction; it is not friction that causes us to band together in groups.

Zaadz reminds me too, too much of some of the Werner Erhardt-founded projects that I bumped into when I lived in San Francisco in the 90s. Once, in response to a job-opportunity ad in the paper, I was interviewed at The Hunger Project, a group, I was told, that would end hunger in the world in two years. It turned out, though, that in ending hunger in the world, they intended to cause me to go hungry since their idea was for me to work fulltime for them for free. Since I was seeking primary employment, to pay for my rent, food, clothing, etc. – and because the people there scared the shit out of me – I declined their ‘employment’ offer, which involved nuzzling up to rich people and extracting money from them to pay for THP’s expensive office space, picture-rich coffeetable books about itself, and an occasional bale of wheat. Surprize, surprize, The Hunger Project did not end world hunger in its allotted time. The Hunger Project still exists today. You can read about the group at wikipedia – and the swirl of controvery that continues to surround it.

A few years later, approx 1995, a boss of mine invited me to go with her to a meeting after work. She knew from books she’d seen on my desk that I was interested in Buddhism. I agreed to go, not having any solid idea where she was taking me.

Turned out it was a meeting of The Forum. [aka, The Landmark Forum. See wikipedia listing.] For the first hour or so, regulars in the group gave testimonials about their efforts in the prior week acting as leaders to make the world a better place. One rather young woman worked at an AIDS hospice. She told us graphic, stirring, heroic details about how she overcame her anxieties and bureaucratic obstacles to make the lives of dying men more comfortable. Other people stood up to talk, giving similar wrenching testament to their heroic deeds to make the world – or San Francisco, anyway – a bit of a better, less-bitter place. After that first hour, the three of us visitors were spirited away to a small room where a man made a pitch to us to join The Forum. I remember he drew some Venn Diagrams, showing the intersection of the known reality, what’s possible and what we know – supposedly demonstrating that we weren’t living up to our potential, somehow. It was impressive, in its way – unless you are of the skeptical sort or are a little spooked by the disingenuous-seeming, cloying sweetness and Maoist earnestness of it all. Save to say, I didn’t join The Forum, which I would later find out was a spinoff of Werner Erhard’s est. [Erhard's reputation was ruined in the 90s, result of a 60 Minutes segment, saying he was a tax evader and child molester. See the Werner Erhard page at wikipedia. Later reporting suggested the 60 Minutes report was significantly wrong, and his reputation has mended, somewhat. Indeed, his IRS problem was resolved with the government paying him $200,000!]

Now, Zaadz isn’t The Hunger Project or The Forum, and has no connections to those organizations or Werner Erhard that I know of. But it does have some of the same feel. It is utopian, earnest and dispiritingly shinny, clean and scrubbed. It is New Agey and gives every indication of being autocratic and intolerant to any who don’t fit in with its ideas of forthright behavior and being always positive and upbeat. It is also completely fuzzy about means to accomplish its pie-in-the-sky goal.

Here are the mission and plan for Zaadz, as explained at the website's homepage:
Our Mission. That's easy. We're gonna change the world. Our math goes like this: you be the change + you follow your bliss + you give your greatest strengths to the world moment to moment to moment + we do everything in our power to help you succeed + you inspire and empower everyone you know to do the same + we team up with millions like us = we just affected billions = we (together) changed the world.

The Plan. Ours involves Capitalism. Spirituality. Enthusiasm. Love. Service. Inspiration. Leaders. People CRAZY enough to think they can change the world. And courageous enough to do something about it. And committed enough to stick to it when they feel like giving up.

The quick version of what we're gonna do: build THE most inspired community of people in the world... Imagine social networking with a purpose, a community of seekers and conscious entrepreneurs circulating wisdom and inspiration and wealth and all that good stuff. Fun fun fun.
The CEO, founder, mainstay, leader and pom-pom weilding cheerleader of Zaadz is Brian Johnson. He is an absolute positivist who is relentlessly chipper and adored from what I saw in 95% of the references to him I found via a Google search. The exceptions come from the aftermath of a purge of Zaadz membership rolls that occured last February.

It seems that by February the membership of Zaadz suddenly doubled, from ~1000 to ~2000, in large part because of immigration from disgruntled members from another social-networking site, Tribe. But Tribe folks were alien; not what Zaadz wanted. Wrote Johnson in his Zaadz blog, "Whereas most social networking sites seem to devolve into a Jerry Springer show, we want to create something that has integrity to its stated purpose. I’m not going to go into the details other than to say that, unfortunately, in the process of trying to communicate our intention to some of these new members, some animosity brewed on their end." So, Johnson put up walls, purged the membership rolls, and set barriers to new membership.

Sfslim writes about the Zaadz CEO in livejournal on Feb 7, after the purge that deleted a central figure, Icky Bob, and, later, his own account:

But sadly, after the deletion of “Icky Bob” and his handling of the subsequent hubbub, Brian Johnson has revealed himself as a rank hypocrite whose only message is “Let's change the world... so long as you all agree to do it my way.” And just like famed social-networking loser Jonathan Abrams [of Friendster which failed in competition with MySpace] before him, Brian's only response to those who deviate from his vision (or even try to discuss the issue) is to remove them, en masse, from “his site.”

Wrote Nerdwagon in the comment section of a post at the blog:
“… as badly as we felt we had it at Tribe, we never had it this bad at Zaadz. What we found were suppression of ideas, especially those that were in conflict with Brian's business plan, threatening (albeit veiled) emails, and accounts arbitrarily deleted (mis-use of the god button). Personally I don't think Brian's crew has the maturity level to handle all the discordant agendas found on the internet today. Control needs to be tempered, with restraint. It's too easy as the owner of an online community to say "I built this, if you disagree with me I will remove you." And I find his behaviour counter to every belief he espouses. They are after all just words, a far better measure of a man is his actions.”
The concensus review of Zaadz at Tribe is a benighted 2 ½ Stars [out of a possible starburst of 5] from 78 members who scored and wrote about the site.

Here are the words of George who gave Zaadz two stars: “You don't change the world by starting off with Capitalism. That what got us eyeball deep in shit in the first place. This site seems like corporate shit trying to hide its true nature behind flowerpower cliches. If you're a yuppie in denial then there's a website for you!”

On the flipside, it is fair to ask What positive, tangible things has Zaadz done in the midst of all this discord? On the ambassadors tab at the Zaadz webspace, members answer the question "How are we going to change the world together?"

The answers don't seem likely to push the globe off its axis. Typical examples:
  • Maria: By integrating sentiments, words and actions within a community sensitive to the power of positive consciousness and dreaming. Anything is possible. We just need to think fantastic thoughts together and… laugh… OFTEN!!!
  • Kate: By taking a stand for kindness, truth telling, compassion, generosity, open-heartedness, and a dang fine time.
  • Moltencuriosity: As complex as our world is, so are all the people on it. By sharing ideas and working together to implement those ideas there is no goal we cannot achieve. We need to set realistic goals that still push the envelope of possibilty; without good positive goals to work towards, all we’re doing here is talking on our pc’s without any chance of ever accomplishing good positive kinetic change.

Meaning no offence, but Buddhism has that beat.

According to Buddha, Nirvana is found in samsara. I don’t think Buddha would be a Zaadzster – but, then, I don’t claim to speak for him.

Allan Bloom, Professor Emeritus, University of Hawaii, writes, “… it is stated in the teaching that Nirvana is in Samsara and Samsara in Nirvana! Buddhism is not about, as mistakenly assumed in many circles, some sort of search for and re-acquaintance with an absolute, Universal Consciousness. That is far too abstract and vague. It is about finding the Unconditioned right in the midst of the conditioned. It doesn't exist anywhere else. In the words of the Heart Sutra: ‘Form is no other than Emptiness, Emptiness no other than Form; Form is only Emptiness, Emptiness only Form.’ Just as, according to Chinese Buddhism, one can only delineate fingers as solid forms because of the spaces between them and the spaces as such because of the co-existing forms of the fingers; one can't have the conditioned without the Unconditioned. So Nirvana in Buddhism is no further away than within your own, everyday, conditioned mind.”

And now I must ask ... What is the deal with Brian Johnson's signature being "13"!? That freaks me. Is it a satanism thing? Is he trying to stare down bad luck? I recognize that most people won't immediately see the "13" in his signature, but YOU KNOW Brian knows about it. Is he tipping his hand that he's really a sociopath?

And how, exactly, does capitalism play into all of this? Uppermost in "The Plan" is Capitalism. How and when is Zaadz going to start making money and off of whom? Is a day of reckoning going to come, once the social-networking site has reached a threshhold of addicted members, when payment will be expected? Is it like the tagline in that old song 'You knew I was a snake when you let me in.'? And now, give me your credit card number.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Roundup for May 14 - 20, 2006

Woe. Blogmandu Reporter has a big red swollen right eye. No, not because someone took a poke at me/him, but because of strain and microbes or bacteria or something. But even with my third eye, I was not able to construct a proper Roundup this week. BUT, there were two subjects I had been following pre-injury/illness that I am able to do a squinting report on. NEXT week I hope to atone with a generous Roundup that will include Buddhoblogosphere posts from this past week as well as next's.

There are two topics, then, in this week's waylaid roundup: The Gafni Imbroglio & The Salzberg Sham.

The Gafni Imbroglio

Controversies stemming from inappropriate sexual conduct by Rabbi Marc Gafni, a charismatic frequent Integral teacher and close personal friend of Ken Wilber, roiled the Integral blogosphere this week.

Ken Wilber, writing on May 15 in the multi-blog, KenWilberBlog at his webspace, offered a sketchy overview of the impropriaties, his thinking, and what he hoped would be the next steps.

Three women at Bayit Chadash, a spiritual community in Israel, founded and headed by Gafni, filed complaints of sexual misconduct with the police. A fourth woman associated with a community where Gafni had previously worked, also put forward testimony of sexual misconduct.

An investigative group at Bayit Chadash was convinced of the veracity and gravity of the complaints and was adamantine that Gafni must sever his association with Bayit Chadash, saying the group members themselves would resign from the organization unless Gafni left voluntarily or was removed.

[Subsequent news reports tell us that Gafni fled Isreal before he could be charged for any crime. He is reported now to be in the Denver area where Wilber resides.]

In his blog post, Wilber offered a ten-point list of his conclusions re the situation. Wilber agreed with Gafni’s self-assessment that he suffers from an illness – or some sort of pathology. Wilber put together a plan for extensive therapeutic work and oversight of this aid to help or cure Gafni. Wilber determined that Gafni should continue to write, but would not be allowed to teach at the Integral Institute “at this time.” Wilber wrote harshly of critics of Gafni and had little to say of the victims of Gafni’s misconduct.

Bill of Integral Options Café was at first persuaded by Wilber’s assessment and plan forward, but by the next day, after reading others’ blogs, his thinking had changed. He wrote, “Matthew Dallman was especially hard on Wilber, and as much as it pains me to say so, I think MD is right to a certain extent.”

Dallman, who blogs The Daily Goose, wrote, “I find [Wilber’s post] neither balanced nor compassionate. I find it obnoxious and a thinly-veiled attempt to cover his ass as well as make him and his outfit [Integral Institute] look better.” And later… “This whole thing reeks of narcissism, self-importance, and grandiosity, typical of 70s-style spiritual/sexual revivalism of the American New Age.” [It should be noted that Dallman is a disgruntled former employee of Integral Institute's Integral University.]

Tuff Ghost of Vomiting Confetti wrote five times on the Gafni situation, and proved to be highly analytical and persuasive with thoughts and commentary that gathered support from others and seemed to reflection the gathering opinion of the Integral blogosphere. He wrote this in reaction to Wilber’s post:
…a lot of the criticism of Gafni (about the initial allegations and otherwise) was made by Jewish sexual abuse support groups and neo-orthodox critics of Jewish renewal (for example, Luke Ford). Hardly the 'mgm' at work. [Wilber wrote that the accusations against Gafni had "caused something of a feeding frenzy for the mean green meme, which is understandable but I believe inexcusable. Frankly, some of these have reached pathetic portions." [The mean green meme ("mgm") is a thinking pattern that is attached to explaining the world as filled with all-good victims pounced upon by completely evil victimizers.] Of course, Wilber could be referring to other reactions, but I've been unable to find anything that looks or smells like an mgm reaction to the charges against Gafni. ... the fact that Gafni has admitted to a problem now doesn't mean that past accusations are true, it does, however, raise plenty of red flags ... I don't even think the most virulent of these responses could be called pathetic, in light of the circumstantial evidence.

... I think there's something problematic about the assertion that whilst Gafni is unfit to teach, he's still fit to continue writing. …The problem with this assertion is that there is such a close connection between the subject of Gafni's writing and the problem he has admitted to. He is known for writing and teaching about divine eroticism, tantra and the like.

[And later in his post, re the expanding discussion of troubled teachers and Wilber’s association with several of them …]

It all seems to be part of a wider problem, the inability to properly assess or deal with charismastic spiritual leaders. There's the whole business with Andrew Cohen [publisher of What is Enlightenment? Magazine] and the way allegations against him have been almost completely ignored … Again, not that I-I [Integral Institute] has to spend every waking minute answering every individual criticism that is posted on the internet (an impossible task) but when the same questions keep coming up, surely it wouldn't take much to properly and thoroughly address them? It's not enough to make reference to the fact that some spiritual teachers are advanced in one area and deficient in another (no shit!), but what does that mean for new spiritual movements in particular? Why is it happening to so many teachers who are familiar with Wilber's work and should be able to click to their own unbalanced psychograph? what other factors are in play? Da, Cohen, Trungpa, Gafni....
ebuddha in his Integral Practices blog wrote to suggest that a formal Code of Ethics be adopted for spiritual teachers, likening it to the Code of Ethics signed off on by therapists. He, then, posted a big chunk of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors Code of Ethics, which calls for integrity by the professional and that he/she maintain a proper relationship with each client.

Following from the idea of a code, Tuff Ghost was particularly praise-giving of a quote ebuddha posted from a book by Geoffry Falk:
Only three things are really needed in order to begin creating a closed, toxic environment—whether that be a “cult,” a bad marriage, a prison or a dictatorship. And those are (i) a significant power differential between the leaders and their followers, (ii) a lack of checks and balances on the leaders to keep them from abusing their existing power and grabbing for more, and (iii) sufficient psychological, financial and/or physical (e.g., locks and bars) constraints to keep the mistreated followers from simply leaving. The increasingly “cult-like” nature of the environment will then follow straightforward, simply via the presence of basic human psychology in both the leaders/guards and their followers/prisoners.
Jay, The Pagan Bodhisattva, demurred from ebuddha's idea, writing, “…the idea of a spiritual teacher bound by a ‘code of ethics’ is about as appealing as an artist whose works conform to a ‘manifesto.’”

But from the comment thread, and in a follow-up post the issue of tying a spiritual teacher to a code as opposed to freeing a teacher to confront and challenge his/her students was explored. Too, the matter of how a teacher without institutional constraints can be restrained from abusing power was examined.

Ryan of Integral Awakening explains why a properly constructed and administered Code of Ethics might be possible. There are some stark abuse-of-power situations that can easily be identified as unethical. However, situations are likely to occur where a teacher believes he is utilizing skillful means that others interpret as abusive. Understanding these gray-area situations through the prism of a rule-riddled code hold the potential of being counterproductive.

ebuddha also posted in Integral Practice more specifically on the Cohen problem/connection which, with its comment thread, is encyclopedic with factoids, observations, interesting connections and prime, reliable gossip.

~C4Chaos, in his eponymous blog, explained his position on Cohen and at the end of his post expressed his agreement with Jay, The Pagan Bodhisattva, on the Gafni imbroglio. In Jay’s words: “My heart goes out for the suffering inflicted on the victims of Gafni’s behavior. But I can’t help but feel Gafni’s suffering as well.”

'polgies that my reporting is deficient here, with the timeline a bit kaflooey and important points and posts left out, but this section does provide a bit of an overview of how the major discussion this week in the Integral blogging world has been flowing.

The Salzberg Sham

In the sole post Sharon Salzberg has put up in her TricycleBlog, dated 4/12/06, she celebrates herself and her achievement in founding the Insight Meditation Society. Her post is titled "Thirty Years and Just a Dream." Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstien who were there, too, don’t get a mention. But who knows, maybe Sharon really did it all herself.

Curious thing. In the Winter 2004 issue of Tricycle there is an article celebrating thirty years of teaching by the troika of Kornfield, Salzberg and Goldstein of IMS. You can barely see on the small picture of the cover that the article is mentioned [the third bulletted item]. The cover blurb reads:
Joseph Goldstein, Sharon Salzberg &
Jack Kornfield on 30 Years of Teaching
It makes you wonder how long Sharon intends to have this 30th Year celebration, or if, perhaps, her blog post is just some old yellow thing she pulled out of the back of her files.

Perhaps the text of her blog post is as old as the picture that accompanies it. We know the picture is old since a more-current picture of her appears in the Winter 2004 Tricycle [page 42], where she is enormous. Perhaps she was ill or just very, very hungry, but she must weigh 250 pounds; she is practically spherical.

Shame, shame, shame on Salzberg and the Tricycle editors for foisting crap on we readers in the form of some old, deficient bit of text. It is not sufficient to differenciate the Winter 04 thirty years as the anniversary when teaching began and the Spring 06 thirtieth anniversary dating from the start of IMS. This is self-congratulation gone amok!

Another thing that is interesting: The first commenter to Salzberg’s post is super kiss-ass. The first line reads, “An evocative, tender, and resonant comment on life, Sharon!” One might suppose that it is written by a bubbly fan. It is signed by Lila and the commenter is identified by Tricycle as LWheeler. It turns out that the name “Kate Lila Wheeler” appears on a class schedule for the Barre Center [IMS] as a new teacher. Funny thing.

Ironic thing: Salzberg is listed on the schedule as teaching a class called The Power of Right Speech.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Roundup for May 7 - 13, 2006

Sexism, the dance of ego and self, dog hair, United 93, a nose, Vesak Day, Big Shots, 10000 hits, and a mind like a king are among the topics that got our attention in the burgeoning Buddhoblogosphere this week.

Is the Buddha a Sexist!?

Nirodha in his Steps Along the Path [link], Kelvin in Salt * Wet * Fish [link], the administrator of the American Buddhist Net blog [link], and Tor in Tor’s Rants [link] posted regarding Mettanando Bhikkhu’s essay, “Was the Lord Buddha a sexist?”, originally posted in The Bangkok Post [on May 8], and picked up by The Buddhist Channel [link to essay in TBC] on May 9.

The bhikkhu quotes controversial and unfortunate sections from the Tripitaka where The Eight Heavy Duties of nuns was written by the Buddha and given to a woman who was both his aunt and stepmother. The diminution of status and importance of women is shocking in this section, yet Mettanando Bhikkhu concludes that Buddha was not sexist -- because of other content in the Tripitaka, where from contadicting statements and proper insights and inferences, Buddha’s true universal compassion shines through.

Tor writes in Tor’s Rants, “Many Americans who fancy themselves Buddhists live under some dangerous misconceptions about Buddhist belief and history. Most of these misconceptions derive from their political leanings (mostly extremely liberal) and wishful thinking. [Note: Tor is himself liberal. The subtitle of his blog is “A Left-Libertarian Buddhist's take on Life (kitty-kats and fixing cars), the Universe (Maine) and Nothing (politics).”] Tor cites historical and current instances of violence relating to Buddhism before getting into the sexism problem that Mettanando Bhikkhu presented.

Kelvin of S*W*F read the article and writes, “It reminds us well that even … the tripitaka … can contain discrepancies or debatable topics. Not because the teachings are inconsistent or incorrect, but [because what gets written can be different from what was] taught.” He tells us we must employ our own wisdom and power of unbiased observation to gather Buddha’s true intentions.

In American Buddhist Net, the essay is presented followed by an assessment that ends, “If Buddhists cannot overcome the ‘subsumed self’ of their castes, groups, genders, or ethnicities, their practice, in my view, cannot be considered to have any measure of real attainment.”

Doe’s Doe-Do Doin’ Great

There have been great posts this week in Mike Doe’s Doe-Do. In one he describes his interesting color-apprehension problem and its connection to Buddhism. In another, there’s a fascinating examination of his meditation regimen and its effects and results and then a general presentation of what meditation can mean. He writes, “Whatever you avoid will haunt you and influence you. Whatever you embrace will not.” And then, piling on more jewels to the bounty that’s there, he polishes off [maybe] his Individuation multi-post series with the fourth and fifth posts. [Here are links to parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5]

Following is the opening to the fifth post, which gives you a sense of the whole of what Mike is presenting in his Individuation series:
In each of the stages to date the objective of individuation is to stop denying that which is actually there and to trust a little more that which arises unseen.

In the Self stage it is all about the unconscious mind becoming the dominant driving force and the Ego taking a step back a little and yielding some control.

There is a dance that must go on where the Ego and the unconscious work out the terms in which they engage. If the Ego is completely overwhelmed by the unconscious then the subconscious would reign supreme and all sorts of wild and wacky megalomaniac-based things could appear. Likewise, if the Ego dominates the unconscious then a large source of intuition and wisdom and power is cut off. Somewhere between these two extremes is a middle way :-)
The Stream

TMcG of the eponymous blog tells us, in a bulletted list, the lengths she'll go to to avoid doing homework. One is that she will pull tufts of hair off the dog.

Sandwiched between a relating of events of his prior day, Shokai of Water Dissolves Water offers his thoughts of the film United 93. “I found the fast editing, the documentary-style hand-held camera shots, and the accumulated sense of dread to be as suspenseful and thrilling (and downright scary) as anything I've seen in film in a while. And most importantly, the movie doesn't demonize the hijackers, nor go out of its way to try and sympathize with them.”

At right we see Clarity [foreground] of Clarity's blog on the streets of New York with Rabbi David A. Cooper. The picture is from Clarity's post this week, "nose," which tells the story of his proboscis and how he lost it.
[Picture posted with permission.]

Kit of Paper Frog wishes us a Happy Vesak! [Vesak falls on May 12 or 13, dependent on which date the moon is full in your section of the planet.] and posts the UN’s Vesak Greetings and that of the Vatican. The UN’s text is nicely titled, “On Buddhist day of Vesak, Annan stresses interdependence of all peoples.” The Pope's words are surprisingly kind and nice, prompting Kit to respond, "Happy Vesak back atcha, Your Holiness."

Ahhhhh. This is SOOOO cute and – seriously – so astonishingly touching and well written. Cliff – er, Mr. Jones – of This is this tells us all the details about his Vesak Day presentation regarding Buddhism to the five-year olds in his daughter’s class. Cliff dazzles his audience with his own kindness on the subjects of kindness and karma and gets back in return a “gleam of perfect and gappy smiles.” Writes Cliff, near the end: “I didn't know it until this morning, but being applauded by a group of five year olds while your kid beams at you is one of the best feelings you can have.”

Gareth of Green Clouds posted "Red Pill/Blue Pill Narcissism," this week, which asks 'What do you do?' after taking the red pill. Writes Gareth, "Inside the question - how can I change the world, lurks a very large I. This narcissism can be immobilising. Too much time spent meditating on the question drives us in a vicious circle, and only increases the grip of an Ego continually throwing up reasons why this choice isn’t the right choice for me."

Big Shots’ Blogs and Comment Streams

ebuddha asks in Integral PracticeSo what's up with the Ken Wilber blog not allowing comments?” and with that opening salvo, initiates the wider discussion of Big Shots’ blogs with their limitted features to keep the stinking masses at bay.

ebuddha also cites Steve Pavlina’s blog for shutting off comments and says other teachers do the same thing. He says there are two reasons for this, both of which demonstrate contempt for the little guy. The teacher wants to control the message and/or thinks the hoi polloi are all idiots.

Jay of The Pagan Bodhisattva doubts that “nefarious intent, and a desire for control” are at the heart of the problem. “Comment administration is a pain in the ass - esp. when your blog starts to get up into thousands or tens of thousands of visitors. … So what if a site doesn’t support comments? That doesn’t prevent people from linking to it and offering up their two cents regardless.” Jay goes on to say, “The real test will be if the KW blog integrates into the blogosphere by linking to other bloggers, or whether it’s a unidirectional announcement board, like the Tricycle blogs are - never linking to other bloggers, never commenting on hot discussions, never even acknowledging that there is a ‘blogosphere’ outside of their privileged opinions.”

One day and a couple of broken fingers later [after a visit from the Denver Mafia, you see], Integral Practice's ebuddha posted again on the topic and seemed to recant. “[I]t doesn't seem that my ‘histrionics with a wink and a smile’ came across correctly in the previous post. So, yes, partly I was definitely kidding,” he wrote. But later in his post, somehow having regained his courage, he returns to his defiant tone, curls what fingers he can, waves an angry fist and asks, “Are the personal growth ‘heavies’ justifiably superior, in a ‘read the f**king manual, and listening to what I'm saying’ way?” The two smiley faces following his question must certainly be an effort to throw off the Mafia and save what healthy digits he has left -- either that, or he's kidding. Oh, all right. He's kidding.

One month into TricycleBlogs and the situation is in meltdown. Sharon Salzberg has written once, a month ago, posting a self-engrandizing paean to her wonderfulness as a founder of the Insight Meditation Institute. Stephen Batchelor speaks from the mountaintop in three posts and, like all the bloggers, does not respond to statements in the comment stream. Pat Enkyo O’Hare Roshi hasn’t shown up; she is still listed as “coming soon.” [Update: Per an email sent to me by her assistant, "Roshi has asked that I let you know that she has been travelling and will get to the blog soon. Please be patient." Yeah. Right. Travel is such a terrible encumberance to blogging in the 21st Century.] Thus, the three star bloggers in the TB quintet have been fizzles.

Kudos and Metrics and Blog Adjustments

Jeb has now pretty much turned off the lights and let out the cat at Wondering on the Way, but happily, he is returning with a new blog, set to launch on “May 15 or so.” “JEB” is really the guy’s initials; he’ll be returning as Jack. Possible titles for the new blog are “Jack Out of the Box, Jack’s Mountain, Mountain Jack, Apple Jack, and Buddhist Jack” He writes, “I intend to focus less on my personal journey, and more on Buddhist things that might be helpful to others.” The new blog’s address will be Another project of his, Buddhist Village, a gathering for ordinary American Buddhists, is expected to officially launch in June, he writes.

Congratulations to Zaadz: There is joy and much excitement in the Integral wing of the Buddhoblogosphere with the news that kindly and uber-non-stop blogger ~C4Chaos, who solo-blogs ~C4Chaos, has a Zaadz blog, and is part of the team that writes KenWilberBlog, will be working for Zaadz, the website that expects to change the world with the ingredients “Capitalism. Spirituality. Enthusiasm. Love. Service. Inspiration. Leaders.” ~C4 will call upon his IT and blogging skills to earn his paycheck. That’s right, among his duties, ~C4 [the blogger formerly known as coolmel, and, possibly Rommel before that] will be paid to blog – the lucky duck.

Chodpa of Luminous Emptiness really is back, with her fourth post this month [and second this week]. In “The Three Types of Suffering,” Chodpa explores the issue of suffering through the teachings of Gampopa.

beesucker of Authentic Personality reaches the milestone of 10,000 visitors in six months and approaches it analytically, pouring over the stats and finding reasons to be concerned. A large number of the visitors fly in and out without becoming regular readers.

On May 13, Internet Options Cafe recorded it's 10,000th hit. Writes Will, " I'm amazed and grateful. When I first began this blog it was getting a few hits a month, maybe thirty or so. I thought that was pretty cool. I now regularly get hits from Togo, India, Sweden, Finland, Portugal, Columbia, Brazil, Japan, Tajikistan, and Romania. [Editor's note: And Sacramento.]

wch ends his post “ONE HUNDRED POSTS (PAYDIRT!)” in the possibility of fire with the sentence “i can die a happy man.” It is a little unclear if his post is the 100th, or if he has read 100 posts, and then some, in his effort to get some sleep. But he found the center of the universe in the only place it could be, in the blogosphere.

The blog Dharmacrank may be well named. Tobe posted for the first time in six months this week, but whether it is just a pass-by or a return to the blogging arts, he doesn’t say. Perhaps it’s significant that a cutting from a quote he drops on us reads, “… The mind is like a king who is able to do whatever he wants …”

Danny Fisher returns! The young American Buddhist Chaplain launches "...the new blog, same as the old blog." His first major post is a review of Spielberg's Munich. He writes, "I think it's the director's career best, a masterpiece, and that it has much to say to those of us trying to understand kleśa and karma."

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Roundup for Apr 30 - May 6, 2006

It seems there are nothing but good weeks of good strong writing and fine reading in the Buddhoblogosphere. This week, polis and the sangha, a circle of friends, the integral approach, “the moose that roared,” a balanced life, JuBus, a very very old text, Meditate and Destroy, no time, red & green, and Net Neutrality are important topics. Whew! Good stuff.

Into the Political and on to the Sangha…

Will Buckingham of thinkBuddha writes about politics, seeing it not as inimical to Buddhism, but very much an integral part, the third jewel.
“Aristotle says that every polis is ‘an association of persons formed with a view to some good purpose.’ This would serve as a good working definition of the Buddhist idea of sangha as well. The question we find ourselves asking is not just how we are to act as individuals, but how we are to act collectively or in relation to collectivities. It seems to me that, taking a view of politics from Aristotle, Buddhism recognises the centrality of politics in our lives.”
In the comment stream, kindly Jayarava of The Jayarava Rave & Bricolage offers words that provide a counterview:
... The Sangha jewel is not the polis of Buddhists, nor the polis of the ordained. Strictly speaking the Sangha Jewel, the Sangha refuge, is the Aryasangha – those who have attained at least the path of stream entry. One cannot really go for refuge to ordinary people, nor to the collective of Buddhists.
The question of “What does ‘sangha’ mean to you?” came up earlier this week in James Ure’s The Buddhist Blog. Quickly the issue becomes one of whether the makeup of the collection of folks and how they come together matters in determining if the group is satisfying the function, and creating the chemistry for a sangha. Writes James:

Traditionally [sangha] has meant the body of monks and not so much the laity. Even today in many eastern countries the laity isn't considered a part of the sangha. Here in the west the laity is a part of the sangha as much as the monk sanghas. Then [too] there are the online sanghas …

[And later…]

How can any of us judge which of the … options (or others not mentioned) is more "Buddhist" or "acceptable" then the other? Isn't the most important thing that people stay connected with other Buddhists and teachers one way or another??

A long comment stream followed. While James finds he prefers an online connection with other Buddhists, Vis Voice finds a tangible community works better for him: “the inflection of a voice, the warmth of seeing a smile, the touch of a hand...” Dharmasattva wrote, “I seldom attend my local ‘physical’ sangha. … if a person can [better understand the dharma] from interacting with other practitioners online …, then one receives the benefits of the three refuges.”

The Stream, Part I

Michael of One foot in front of the other tells us his circle of friends with his rare form of cancer has increased by one member, to a total of three. More than offering camaraderie, the group can help each other in getting correct information about their disease. Michael tells us, “There's a lot of misinformation out there, more than you could ever imagine. In the case of parathyroid cancer, a little-understood disease, this is especially true. A lot of the information on the Internet is woefully outdated and doesn't reflect the latest data on surgical and pharmacological treatments.”

Gareth of Green Clouds cites a good read he found online -- "An Introduction to the Integral Approach." Integral Options Café and ~C4Chaos and Tom of Blogmandu among those who spurred his interest in Integral Psychology which meshes with Buddhism. In the comments thread, William Harryman of IOC has a piece he cites that can be found online about Spiral Dynamics – which is closely associated with the Integral approach.

Last week, B’du mentioned that Moose, The Contemporary Taoist, had an article that was to be published in LivingNow, an important Australian magazine. [A magazine, btw, with 400,000 monthly readers, twice the readership of America’s Tricycle] It seems that LivingNow's editors were so impressed they picked up our Moose as a regular, hardcopy columnist! And the name of the column? "The Contemporary Taoist." Writes Moose, “Needless to say I am quite happy with my lot at the moment. I have had a number of pots on the stove for some time, and despite the odd stretch where my cook-top flames have died down some, little bubbles are now starting to form. Over the next year you will see some significant output: books (I have written one and I am working on two more), new (better) music recordings and more frequent live shows, meditation and personal development classes (starting again in July for those in Melbourne), and some other wacky projects that I don't feel ready to mention yet.”

Zenmar, The Buddhist, writes about living within one’s means and quotes the Vyagghapajja Discourse [q.v., The Tripikata Network] in doing so. He adds, “[W]e shouldn't live beyond our income. The Buddha calls this leading a balanced life in which one avoids the excess of extravagance and poverty.”


Mumon of Notes in Samsara seems right on in a post that questions the journalist skills of ABC's Bill Redecker who reported on JuBus on May 2.

A little history Redecker does get right [B’du confirmed this with wiki.]: “The moniker JuBus [pronounced ‘Jew-Boos’] has been around for a while but was popularized by Roger Kamenetz in his 1994 book, ‘The Jew in the Lotus.’” And from wiki, a definition: “A Jubu is a person with a Jewish ethnic and/or religious background who practices forms of Buddhist meditation and spirituality.” It is not considered to be a derogatory term.

Redecker’s piece is anecdotal, dotty and enriched by next-to-zilch research, based almost entirely on his reading a recent LA Times article by another journalist. Oy vey! Mumon writes, sarcastically, “Hahahahaha...those funny JuBus...don't they know their god is a jealous god? … They don't know "how many" JuBus there this is newsworthy because you found a couple of 'em...?”

Mumon zeroes in. “You would ... think that [Redecker] would have at least gone to the trouble to go to the Tricycle website to find Bernie Glassman and get a quote from him...”

The long 5/2 article “At One with Dual Devotion” by Louis Sahagun, that Redecker misuses, is rigorous and interesting, without pulling a Redecker and bloviating extemporaneously about the whole of the JuBu community/experience/phenomenon. Here’s a quote:

“Suffering is at the heart of the matter,” suggested David Gottlieb, whose autobiographical book “Letters to a Buddhist Jew” examines the life of a “Zen Jew” struggling to resolve his two identities. “Judaism, at its best, embraces suffering and, at its worst, enshrines it. Buddhism explicitly seeks to end suffering, and doesn't look to the past.”
Christopher Baskin of PaperFrog, himself a JuBu, finding his Buddhist Passover piece of last month passed the cultural sensitivity smell test, posted “Sayings of Zen Judaism” this week, which pulls some jokes from the book “Zen Judaism: For You, A Little Enlightenment” by David M. Bader. Funny stuff! Here’s a couple from Baskin’s bounty:

  • If there is no self, whose arthritis is this?
  • Let your mind be as a floating cloud. Let your stillness be as the wooded glen. And sit up straight. You'll never meet the Buddha with such rounded shoulders.

The Stream, Part II

In Dan’s silent water the zen blog, in a post titled “Diamond Sutra online,” we are given links to “one of the oldest known printed texts of mankind [printed in China in 868 A.D.] … viewable online!”

TMcG, of the eponymous blog, practiced last year with Noah Levine – author of Dharma Punx – and is now looking forward to a documentary of his story, coming soon, titled Meditate and Destroy.

The 22-year-old blogger of That Was Zen This Is Tao had a crystalline thought, that there isn’t time. “There's so much I want to do in life before I die, so much I want to see and learn and create and discover, and there's just not enough time for all of it.”

Cliff of This is This begins a post this week, “Both my kids have normal colour vision. They think it's funny that I don't, and I think it's funny that they do, and they totally understand that red and green, to me, are a concept.”

Net Neutrality

Mumon of Notes from Samsara writes about the vital question of Net Neutrality [q.v., wikipedia ] Mumon is siding with The Big Boys (, Google, Yahoo, Intel and Microsoft), for now, at least, to allow them do their things in controlling how we see stuff on the Internet, if and until problems manifest. If I understand Mumon’s bulleted thoughts correctly [it’s a complex, multifaceted topic], he sees as the prime concern clogged pipelines on the Internet that the The Big Boys (possibly with US government envolvement) can address with technology deployment.

Thus, Mumon is an opponent of Net Neutrality since, in his view, it is likely to slow the coming vast and amazing technological future, with its remote disease monitoring and other telemedicine marvels that will save and improve lives and elsewhere bring efficiencies.

~C4Chaos, in his zaadz blog, ~C4Chaos blog, in a post titled “Net Neutrality Loses (for now)” seemed a tad upset that a Democrat House bill failed. But ~C4 may be confused [or I might be], since the bill was supported by The Big Boys and opposed by the libertarian Left and Right for not going “far enough to target possible errant behavior by AT&T, Verizon Communications and other broadband providers.” [quote from a WashPost article] Thus, the moderate-Dem bill was anti-Net Neutrality.

The Integral blog Craig Photography links to a video that explains the need for Net Neutrality.

We are all likely to hear a lot more about this topic and find that decisions made regarding Net Neutrality will be something we bloggers and blog readers will directly feel the effects from.


Technorati Tags: , , , ,

You can contact Blogmandu Reporter at this address: tarmstrong /att\ zenunbound \periedd/ com