The Great Naropa Poetry Wars, by Tom Clark

The impulse to believe the absurd when presented with the unknowable is called religion. Whether this is wise or unwise is the domain of doctrine. Once you understand someone's doctrine, you understand their rationale for believing the absurd. At that point, it may no longer seem absurd. You can get to both sides of this conondrum from here.

Re: The Great Naropa Poetry Wars, by Tom Clark

Postby admin » Fri Aug 02, 2019 5:03 am

Chapter 9

The original Don Siegel picture had long seemed a perfect allegory to fit the Trungpa story. In mid-December, the new version of The Invasion of The Body Snatchers hit the screen of the Village Theatre in Boulder.

By New Years, "pod," a new generic term for the local Buddhists, was sweeping through the non-Buddhist segment of Boulder's population. "Do the pods know what we're up to?" we asked around Boulder Monthly. "What are the pods going to do next?"


In early January, I attended a showing of the rushes of an Italian TV movie that had been filmed at Naropa in the summer of 1978, the summer after Ed Sanders' class had prepared its report. There was nothing about the Sanders Class report in this picture, however; it was a "friendly" documentary. Now it was being edited by the Trungpa braintrust. The viewing room, at a pod-controlled movie company's office contained some 40 well-scrubbed important Pods. In the front row sat Anne Waldman, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs. Their comments -- particularly those of Ginsberg and Waldman -- seemed to be dictating the actual editing of the film.

All went happily for an hour or so, with many in-house Jokes and much bantering over tea and sake. Then Leroi Jones -- Amiri Baraka -- was on the screen, explaining that he was only visiting Naropa because Allen Ginsberg had asked him to come, Allen was his old friend, but really, he didn't agree with Buddhist philosophy at all, because Buddhist philosophy said the world wasn't real, which he -- Baraka -- disagreed with, being, he said, a materialist, especially when it came to politics ...

"Cut that," Ginsberg the producer was saying. He'd been fussing impatiently during the whole Baraka rap. Now he jumped up, proposing heavy editing of this section of the film.


"Communism," croaked Burroughs in his ancient Victor Jory voice, "is an obsolete philosophy."

Baraka's speech was appropriately mutilated. The moment of tension had passed. Onto the screen danced the playful, porky little face of the eleventh Trungpa, smiling, replying indulgently in his Oxford accent to a question about terrorists in Italy -- "Yes, politics, it's all part of the material we work with ... "

In January I overheard Allen talking to some innocent-looking young Naropa students at a party. He was telling them that, yes, it was true that this Merwin thing had taken place, but that individual rights don't apply on a seminary situation, so that Merwin only got what he had coming, and besides, yes, Trungpa was challenging the foundations of American democracy -- but that democracy was anyway a failed experiment, the atom bomb proved that, and now what Trungpa was up to was a whole new . . . a whole new "experiment in monarchy!" The students nodded numbly. What was wrong with an experiment in monarchy? I ground my teeth all the way home.


Two weeks before Boulder distribution, xerox copies of the February Issue of Harper's were making the rounds. That magazine had printed the Naropa diary of Peter Marin, a post-Jonestown conscience-victim who now reported his visit to Trungpa's school a year and a half earlier. "Spiritual Obedience" was Marin's general subject. He paraphrased parts of the Sanders report, for the first time bringing the Merwin affair to public attention on a national scale.

The Boulder Camera went to Vajradhatu for comments on the Marin article. Trungpa could not be reached, but his "Vajra Regent" or dharma heir, Osel Tendzin (aka Robert Rich, son of an Italian golf pro from New Jersey) told the paper that there was no disputing the words in the Sanders class report. "They saw what they saw" said Tendzin.

Will Trungpa change, the paper asked?

"Nothing will change," said Tendzin. "The practice will be carried out in the same way it has been for a thousand years."


A few days later, a strong editorial in the Camera attacked Trungpa for his drinking, his limousines, his use of guards.

"To avoid being called a cult, it might help not to act like one" the editorialist of this normally timid paper wrote. (A few months later the editorial writer confessed to me that attacking Trungpa had been his "toughest assignment in 20 years in this business.")

On January 17, Boulder Monthly made a formal offer to buy onetime rights to The Party at a rate of payment of ten cents a word. Ed Sanders signed the agreement and returned it on January 30, with a new Introduction and a list of corrections to the text.

At this point, and for the next month, no one except the Boulder Monthly staff, their families, the poets Ed Sanders and Ed Dorn and their families, knew that The Party was about to be published.

Allen Ginsberg, for one, most certainly did not know, so that when I approached him in January asking to do an interview about Merwin and poetry/politics/religion, he accepted after expressing only minor reservations, most of which regarded Boulder Monthly. He preferred a more respectable forum, he said, such as Playboy. Fifteen years before, I had interviewed Allen for The Paris Review, in an effort he now regards as "heroic." It was nostalgia about this previous interview, I think, that ultimately convinced him to go ahead and talk with me, despite his reservations.

Ed Dorn and I caught up with Allen one cold night -- January 12 -- when he was coming out of his Naropa class on the prophetic books of Blake. We went with several of Allen's students to the house on Mapleton which Ginsberg was sharing at the time with two of the Orlovsky brothers, Peter and Julius. While Julius roamed the house, Peter sang and washed dishes, and Allen spoke his mind -- with careful orchestration of the tape recorder, which he instructed me to turn off or on every few minutes.

Allen talked softly and at length about the Merwin affair and its ramifications. "With a guru," he said, "you make a contract to give up your privacy ... " Two hours later, when the tapes were filled, it was with a surprisingly dark and apocalyptic tale.


"I accuse myself all the time," Allen immediately admitted, "of seducing the entire poetry scene and Merwin into this impossible submission to some spiritual dictatorship which they'll never get out of again and which will ruin American culture forever. Anything might happen. We might get taken over and eaten by the Tibetan monsters ... All the horrific hallucinations of the Tibetan Book of the Dead are going to come true right now. Right here in Boulder ... The Pandora's Box of the Bardo Thodol has been opened by the arrival in America of one of the masters of the secrets of the Tibetan Book of the Dead."

Allen explained succinctly that the end product of the whole Merwin affair and its aftermath had been "universal paranoia" in the Boulder Buddhist community. But sometimes, he had to admit, such paranoia is justified. "And in the real world, as we know from Guyana, it could be completely justified. Some big guru makes a mistake, and turns out to have been mad all along."

Still, Allen hesitated to criticize his guru, Trungpa. "You know," he said, "you're talking about my love life. My extremely delicate love life, my relations with my teacher ... "


I asked Allen what, if anything, Trungpa had told him about the Merwin story. "He said that he was trying to explain to Dana that she should respect her roots by taking part in a classical experience of the Orient, which she does come from," Allen reported. "What he finally said to me about the whole thing was, 'This is an opportunity to turn poison into nectar."'

No sooner had the tapes been turned off than Allen began to fret over certain remarks he'd made about Merwin, about Trungpa, about Burroughs, about Corso, about Ed Sanders; Allen acts the role of a very worried and weary warrior, these days. I took the tapes home and began to transcribe them.

Allen left on a trip to New York, to receive an award for his poetry. Before leaving, he nervously instructed me to hand over the transcription of our interview to Anne Waldman, for her inspection, before anything was published. I told him I'd see about that; I had a deadline to meet. Distracted by other affairs, Allen settled for this half-agreement, and after another feeble suggestion that we reconsider and send the interview to Playboy, he left town at the end of January.


Allen still didn't know Boulder Monthly was about to publish The Party in its March issue.
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Re: The Great Naropa Poetry Wars, by Tom Clark

Postby admin » Fri Aug 02, 2019 5:33 am

Chapter 10

Why was the publication of The Party kept a secret until the last minute?

There was the consideration of possible sabotage. Some of the pods we at the magazine had encountered had been very intense people, when it came to defending the dharma. Rumor had it that one follower of Trungpa, a man we knew, had recently performed a scalping. Such characters might be capable of anything.

Further, we feared that Allen Ginsberg would find some way to interfere with or prevent the publication. "Watch out for Allen," Ed Sanders had warned us from the beginning. "He'll do anything he can to keep this thing from coming out."


It was becoming too late for anybody to stop our March issue, even Trungpa. We had heard a good deal, lately, about the guru's magical powers. A report was circulating about how Trungpa had recently given a disciple a dirty look for displaying poor table manners at a dinner party. The man had immediately experienced a sharp pain in his abdomen; the pain had lasted two weeks.

If Trungpa could give a guy a long-distance stomach ache, who knew, maybe he could stop a printing press by remote control?

It seemed the best course to keep things quiet right down to the end.

Ed Sanders called one day in early February -- the 4th -- to discuss details of production. I told him about a recent report we'd received from a taxi driver who claimed a woman had flipped out in the back seat of his cab, screaming that "Fascist personalities are taking over the Buddhist School, and they're trying to kill me! Osel Tendzin's behind it all!"

Sanders replied that he thought the best way to resolve all these troubles in Boulder would be for Trungpa to return to Tibet. "If he is really a crown prince who rules by paraphysical fiat in Tibet," Ed suggested, "then he should go back to where his theocratic hegemony lies -- and take Allen and Michael and Anne and everybody with him. He should go back and realize the Shambhala vision of his dream and make a lunge for Karmapa's place. In fact, I think things are already lining up for a return. If he could set up a militant enough group, he could make a lunge for power over there, and make a deal with the Chinese. That way he can achieve a far better gig than soul travel will ever allow him. He can beat out reincarnation, get back there and get that land. If he uses civilized U.S. technology -- transceivers, tanks -- he's got a good shot."


On February 17, Trungpa's 40th birthday was celebrated at the Denver Hilton. Sam Maddox, the editor of Boulder Monthly, paid a pod girlfriend $20 to buy him a ticket. Sam brought his camera. We needed a cover shot for the March issue.

700 followers of Trungpa attended the party. The evening's keynote address was given by David Rome, Trungpa's private secretary. "Let's stay together behind the emperor of sanity," Rome exhorted.

"It was like a mixture of a pep rally and mommy and daddy saying wipe yourself," Sam reported afterwards. "Rome's talk was an allegory of Trungpa's relations with his students. He used the metaphor of a baby growing up. First the students are suckled by the blissful nectar of Rinpoche's wisdom. Next, Rinpoche goes away for a retreat, and the baby acts deprived. Now it's like a summer camp phase of rambunctiousness. The baby is causing trouble."


Trungpa personally supervised his birthday waltz program, guiding the couples, stopping the music, playing the cheerful Tibetan burgermeister.

Disciples were brought forward to bow before the master in rows of four and six. Sam was brought forward, bowed, then stood up straight and made eye contact with Trungpa. Raising his camera, he snapped several quick pictures. Then a large bodyguard advanced to warn him never, never to do that again. "Don't even talk to him," the tuxedoed torpedo told Sam.

We had our cover shot.

On February 15, another obstacle to the publication of The Party was removed when Ed Sanders supplied Boulder Monthly's attorneys with very impressive documentation of his class report -- Ed explained that he had all the tapes, transcripts, everything.

Allen Ginsberg was still in New York. I sent a copy of the Ginsberg-on-Merwin interview transcript to Ed Sanders. Ed phoned immediately -- on February 19 -- disturbed about Allen's remarks in the still-unpublished interview. "Ed's been all his life studying black magic," Allen had said. "I mean, getting into the Manson thing, and then getting into Vajrayana and Trungpa and Merwin, is just sort of made for Ed Sanders."

Kirby had brought in poet and former Fug Ed Sanders from New York to cover the murder trial of Charlie Manson. As soon as he hit the tarmac at LAX, Ed was writing stuff about how the Establishment was railroading this innocent hippie tribe in order to crush the Counterculture.

Charlie and his Family loved the coverage. They loved the paper. They loved Ed. There were more of them on the loose than anybody not at the Freep realized. And as the trial progressed, every stoned-out nut in California seemed to want to join the Manson Family too...

The Mansonoids trusted Ed. They trusted him so much that they told him about all these other neat snuffs they had done that only their good buddies at the Free Press now knew about, hee, hee, hee....

So early on we all knew that Manson & Co. were indeed the crazed killers the wicked Establishment claimed they were, but Kirby had to keep on their good side, such as it was, the Freep had to hew to the Mansonsoid line, print Charlie's poems and manifestos, or the murderous creeps hanging around the paper might not like us any more....

-- Norman Spinrad: Autobiography, by Norman Spinrad


"Allen's trash job on me is exculpatory," Ed complained on the telephone. "I was never a student of black magic. Allen sees visions, you know? Possibly this is a pre-lunar-landing thing. Allen may do a three-and-a-half forward gainer into the Bardo, unless somebody does something."

Allen returned from New York in late February. Sam and I dropped off a copy of the interview at his house.

On March 2, Allen and Peter Orlovsky appeared at Boulder Monthly with Allen's "revised version" of our interview. In our office, they discovered boxes of fresh copies of the March issue, awaiting distribution. Trungpa was on the cover, and The Party, plus Allen's interview -- "When The Party's Over", we'd called it -- were inside.

Allen got very excited -- "I was wrathful," he later apologized -- and spent several hours interrogating me about our foul plot. Who had known? Who were the guilty ones? In Buddhism, It's necessary to isolate the threat, he said, so that the blame can be focused. I guess I'm the one you ought to blame, I said.

During our conference, Ed Dorn came and went, so did Sam Maddox; still Allen fretted and raved, for four or five hours. By now copies of the magazine were on the streets. Midway through the afternoon, in sailed Anne Waldman, mad as a wet hen, waving a copy of the magazine, the red fox tail on her hat swinging in my face as she demanded to know exactly who had been "in on" the guilty action.

"What do you think you are," the author of the only authentic anglo-American shaman-poem, Fast Talking Woman, yelled in my face "some kind of white knight riding in to save us from ourselves?

Anne's righteous anger was even more impressive than Allen's. She seemed almost inspired in her rage, and I thought for a moment she might be going to burst into shamanic prophecy -- but no. There were no Maria Sabina texts laying around for her to crib from, alas.

Both Allen and Anne told me that what made them particularly furious was that they had mistaken me for a poet friend, when in fact I had turned out to be acting with the motives and style of a mere journalist!

At twilight Ginsberg and Waldman repaired to Naropa for an emergency meeting of concerned pods. Pages of a magazine could be heard turning all through the meeting, all over the room, our spies later reported.
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Re: The Great Naropa Poetry Wars, by Tom Clark

Postby admin » Fri Aug 02, 2019 5:59 am

Chapter 11

Two days after the magazine came out, Ed Sanders flew in from California. His arrival and one-night stay were kept a close secret. At least one physical threat against Sanders had been received, and this came from a male pod with an unstable history and a record of violence. Sanders was understandably apprehensive about being in Boulder at all, and slipped out of town in the morning, clutching a brown paper shopping bag full of Boulder Monthlys and looking both ways as he climbed into his ride to the airport.

At my house, the phone kept ringing. We'd pick it up, and no one was at the other end. Made us nervous, yes, but nothing ever happened.

Sam Maddox got a call from the girl who'd brought him to Trungpa's birthday party. Her pod friends were planning to turn on the sprinkler systems in our warehouse, she said, to destroy our whole edition.

It never happened.

What did happen is that the magazine sold like hotcakes all over Boulder. One tobacco shop owner sold 45 copies in one hour, and got the impression that most of them had been bought up by Buddhists in bundles of four and five.


A woman from the American Indian Movement who worked across the hall from our offices appeared at the door to tell us she and her associates had been greatly enlightened by the news about the Buddhists in our March issue. "All free people are grateful for this," she said.

Her testimony was the first, but not the least pleasing, of many we received along the same lines over the next few days.

Allen Ginsberg continued to follow me around with calls and messages, urging me to "sit" with him, to revise the interview, to publish his revised version, to give him the original tapes, to recant -- anything. When I rewarded him with a total cold shoulder, he did not give up, but continued to call, inviting me to meditation sessions, to tea parties, to famous-people dinners and poetry readings at Naropa.

Allen wrote a long letter to W.S. Merwin, apologizing for the Boulder Monthly interview (in which he'd said he didn't like Merwin's poetry) and even inviting Merwin to return to Naropa to teach. (For some reason, Allen sent me a copy.)


Ed Dorn, meanwhile, had used the U.S. mails to smuggle a letter and a copy of Boulder Monthly out to a poet/publisher friend in San Francisco. Dorn described the "ground heat" created by the magazine stories in terms that caused his friend, Bob Callahan, first to reach for his typewriter, then to run to a xerox machine.

"An Open Letter to American Artists," Callahan called his effort. It solicited participation of artists and writers in a boycott of Naropa, and asked for their signatures.

"I sent out a bunch of copies, and got 40-45 signatures," Callahan later told me. "Among poets I sent it to in the Bay Area, there was about a 50-50 split. But around that time I went on a trip to Seattle and Alaska and all the Native Americans I talked to -- Jim Pepper, Leslie Silko, Simon Ortiz -- all signed it. And other Third World people, like Ishmael Reed, Victor Hernandez Cruz, David Henderson, they all Immediately signed it too. But there was a clear party line split. Any poet with any Buddhist associations refused to sign it. They agreed with it privately, but they didn't sign -- and they gave me a whole bushel of reasons. 'Merwin deserved it -- Fuck Merwin,' things like that. I couldn't believe it. I went around with my mouth open for two weeks.

"Michael McClure called me up screaming at one o'clock in the morning. 'Those wimps at Naropa are no threat to you,' he said. 'I've told Allen for years, privately, to get out of that scene. Still, Allen believes in it, it's his family. You can't attack him for It. You re trying to ruin Allen Ginsberg. You can't do that!'

"Michael then organized a counter-campaign, calling up people to talk them out of signing. He did actually talk several people out of it. He called Gary Snyder, who called me and told me, 'Your response isn't generous enough.' I had talked to Gary two weeks earlier, and he had told me then that he had 'grave doubts' about Trungpa's behavior in this Merwin incident. I had asked him if he thought Trungpa's action was out of line, as Buddhism, and he said, 'That's right.' But now, two weeks later, he says, 'Take off my clothes? Sure, I'd do it. It's a big joke to me. Just don't criticize Allen in public.'

"No one defended Trungpa, let me emphasize that. They just won't attack Allen. His friends have very strong feelings about that."


I suggested that the responses of McClure and Snyder in defending their old friend were similar to William Kunstler's recent remark about Joan Baez' criticism of abuses in the current Communist regime in Vietnam: "You shouldn't criticize socialist republics."

"That's exactly how it was with this petition," Callahan replied. "It was a case of party lines, party loyalty, of not losing gigs or giving up a station. Here were poets showing the kind of block mind militancy you'd never expect from them. It disappointed the hell out of me.

"It became a poets' war -- poets at war with one another. That seemed to me wrong. Can't you just say something's wrong, whatever side you're on?"

Callahan's petition evoked an immediate, nasty "letter of correction" (spank-note) from Anne Waldman, who admonished him to "look a little closer before you leap."

"This may be life and death for Naropa Institute," Waldman advised Callahan angrily.
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Re: The Great Naropa Poetry Wars, by Tom Clark

Postby admin » Sat Aug 03, 2019 12:53 am

Chapter 12

At Boulder Monthly, we started to lose ad accounts from local Buddhist businesses, like the Boulder Bookstore, biggest in town. One Naropa faculty member wrote in to accuse us of a "blatant smear." On the other hand, many, many people with axes to grind against Trungpa and the Buddhists began to beat a path to our offices, eager to spill their stories to anyone who would listen.

On March 19, the Naropa poets held a big reading at the University. "Where are Tom Clark and Ed Dorn?" somebody in the audience called out. "Home watching television," sneered Michael Brownstein.

I was asked by the Berkeley Barb to report on the recent Buddhist/poetry doings in Boulder. To my subsequent piece of reportage on the "Buddha-Gate" affair I attached the signature "Robert Woods," which became my byline in the Barb.

Over the next two months, I was interrogated severally by angry pods concerning my role in the writing of this article.

"Who is Robert Woods?" my literary pod acquaintances demanded whenever they saw me. "We know it's you. It is, isn't it? Confess!"

I again began to receive lots of hang-up phone calls.


"Robert Woods" became a formidable figure on his own. I studied his article, searching for the secrets of its inflammatory style so that I might be able to write more just like it.

Allen, in New York, wrote me a "Who is Robert Woods?" postcard, and sent it to Anne Waldman, asking her to send it on to me if she thought that proper. She passed it instead to another faculty poet. When I ran into that poet one day, he mentioned the card, and when I asked him for it, he gave it to me.

"Take it easy!" Allen wrote. "Whaddya want!? The Bardo Thodol ghosts I was talking about seem to be solidified in the anxieties you create for yourself and me & others by the secrecy you prolong by writing pseudonymous articles."


In the letter of protest he was simultaneously writing to the Barb about the Woods article, Allen took a quieter tack. "Chogyam Trungpa has been my meditation teacher since 1972," he said. "I trust his basic sanity, humor and generosity."

In June Ginsberg and Waldman went off on a poetry tour of Europe. In Holland, Ginsberg patiently explained to the young audience ("they're ten years behind the times," he reported later) that sitting meditation had replaced drugs and politics as the biggest thing going among advanced people in America.

In 1969 the noted French political writer Jean-Francois Revel predicted that the United States was about to experience "the second great world revolution" — an upheaval that would complete the first revolution, the rise of democracy in the West. In Without Marx or Jesus he predicted the emergence of homo novus, a new human being. Revel believed that the undercurrent of spiritual concern in the United States, evident in the burgeoning interest in Eastern religions, presaged profound change in the only country on the planet free enough for bloodless revolution.

Revel saw the coming second revolution as an emergent pattern amid the chaos of the 1960s; the social movements, the new mores and fashions, protests and violence. Indeed, many of the activists were turning inward, a direction that seemed heretical to their comrades in the conventional Left. They were saying that they could not change society until they changed themselves. Irving Thomas, a social activist of the 1960s, recalled later:

A funny thing happened on the way to Revolution. There we were, beating our breasts for social change, when it slowly began to dawn on us that our big-deal social-political struggle was only one parochial engagement of a revolution in consciousness so large that it has been hard to bring it into focus within our reality.


And Michael Rossmari, one of the leaders of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, and other leaders of the supposedly alienated campus rebels spoke in low tones of a curious development. In their thrust for change they had begun to experience "the scariness of real choice and possibility. ... There was a sense that the surface of reality had somehow fallen away altogether. Nothing was any longer what it seemed."

Was this what it meant to make the world strange and new again? Creating and naming the movement had "alleviated the responsibility for facing an unsought and terrifyingly wild field of choice in a universe in which somehow anything had become possible." Like the sorcerers in the popular books of Carlos Castaneda, Rossman and his friends had succeeded, however briefly, in "stopping the world." Confrontation was a less and less attractive strategy as it became more and more evident that, as Walt Kelly's cartoon character Pogo once observed, "We have met the enemy and they are us."

When the revolution went inside, television cameras and newspaper reporters could not cover it. It had become, in many ways, invisible.


-- The Aquarian Conspiracy: Personal and Social Transformation in the 1980s, by Marilyn Ferguson


In Italy, Ginsberg was offered $5000 by the organizers of the International Communist Poetry Festival to return in July for a big reading. Allen agreed, stipulating that $2000 of the money must go to Trungpa. After a quick trip back to the States to teach Blake at Naropa, he returned to Rome for the Festival, and when the stage collapsed under him and other poets during a near-riot of 20,000 wild-eyed poetry fans, he calmed the crowd by telling them "sedute, sedute" -- "sit, sit."

I saw him on his second return from Rome. He was pale, shaky, chain-smoking Marlboros, obviously exhausted. Still, he summoned the energy to give me a long speech on how popular sitting is becoming in Europe.

Back at Boulder Monthly, where I'd now replaced Sam as editor, we were bringing out a July follow-up to our March Buddhism issue. This time we had some rubber stamps made for a "suck-egg" Trungpa graphic. We also presented "Twenty Questions for the Himalaya Heads," composed by myself and signed by Sam Maddox, Chairman of the Boulder Society for the Restoration of Mental Competence. Plus a series of letters-to-the-editor on Boulder Buddhism, including a long one from Mary Green, a disaffected pod. And a book excerpt called "Air America," containing information about the CIA's support of the Tibetan Resistance Movement.

Allen Ginsberg wrote to Ed Sanders to complain about our July issue. "Allen feels Boulder Monthly is being unnecessarily cruel," Sanders reported back to me.

In August, we at Boulder Monthly wrote Chogyam Trungpa a letter, requesting an interview. Our letter was returned by the officials at Karme Dzong, marked "not known at this address."

Pursuing a lead on another story (on "Powerful People"), a reporter from our magazine tried to reach Trungpa through his wife and mother-in-law. Several tea parties down the line, the reporter gave up, badly discouraged. The eleventh Trungpa is a very hard man to get an interview with. Maybe that's the source of his very great power, our reporter concluded.

Later in the month, I published a little story called "Buddha With His Hand Out" in Westward, a Denver tabloid. The story presented a few simple facts about Naropa's fundraising methods, such as the practice of asking students to turn over their housing deposit checks and to solicit contributions from their parents. A few days after the story came out, Naropa began bombarding me with all kinds of face-saving financial statements in the mail. My phone was ringing off the hook again with hang-up calls. Then I bumped into Anne Waldman on the Mall one day. She immediately brought up my little Westward piece, stamping her foot and accusing me of "yellow journalism."

"How could you do that?" she demanded, somehow managing to sound shocked.

I've been tempted to ask her the same thing for years.

To poets like Waldman and Ginsberg, journalism of any variety -- black, white, red or yellow -- is a lesser order of expression than poems or prayers. Certainly, it seizes less power. The religious men these poets work for, and who manipulate their lives, are equally uninterested in the free press or its social function. In the kingdom of Shambhala, the rational articulation of knowledge always was passe.

The poets have chosen metaphysics, magic, and the mumbo-jumbo of a spiritual kingdom ruled over by a witty Oriental whose unashamed contempt for democratic institutions is starting to invade their poetics. "Experiment in monarchy," indeed!


He's a smart one, all right, the little king of kindergarten -- he knows his business, and gives you the business, too. "Conmanship" is an old Tibetan teaching method, as Akong Tulku reminded Trungpa back in Scotland, a decade ago.

Is Trungpa a fraud? What's the difference? Nine of 26 Kerouac School students polled this summer by the Naropa Student Newsletter responded that in their view Trungpa was either a "total fraud," or just on the brink of it. Why should they be hit up for money in every class when he rides in a Mercedes and owns a million dollars worth of real estate, the students are wondering.

"The poetics school has a new responsibility," author Ken Kesey suggested on a visit to Naropa this summer. "They have to keep Rinpoche in line and out of trouble."

Kesey's right. But as a disgruntled writer in the Student Newsletter points out, "Mind is your own business." Down the line, you're going to have to make that up for yourself. "Don't follow leaders," Allen Ginsberg's friend Bob Dylan once wrote, "watch the parking meters." But, "You're gonna have to serve somebody," Dylan tells us in a newer song ... it may be Trungpa.
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Re: The Great Naropa Poetry Wars, by Tom Clark

Postby admin » Sat Aug 03, 2019 2:02 am

Appendix

To Avoid the Name, Shed the Disguise
Editorial in Boulder Daily Camera, Jan. 20, 1979


Some of Boulder's Buddhist community was stung this week with the news that Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, was pointed to as an example of a "cult" leader, demanding total submission from his followers. That opinion appears in the February issue of Harper's Magazine.

The Harper's story dredges up an incident that happened at a Halloween party at Snowmass in 1975, an ugly and violent incident no matter who tells the story. The Vajradhatu leader, while drinking, insisted on the stripping of two of his students. Force was used.

It is hard not to inflict your own personal judgment on such an incident. The person writing the Harper's article certainly didn't hold back on the judgment.

We were reminded by Buddhists here that the incident took place within the context of a very serious Buddhist seminary and that no matter how bad it looks now, there was a meaning for it. And because the wronged party has never stepped forward to demand a settling of the score, it is wise not to judge.

The Buddhists, however, believe they were wronged by the "cult" designation. It doesn't follow that a teaching and practice that has gone on much the same for thousands of years is a cult in the People's Temple sense.

The Vajradhatu community within our city has shown itself to be very active in business. Naropa Institute, under an educational foundation linked to Vajradhatu, has become a part of the fabric of our town.

Interesting persons have come here and been available to the whole community because Naropa brought them here. Naropa's ability to attract the interesting people is not equalled, pound for pound, in institutionalized education.

Some Naropa students have used Buddhist discipline to stabilize chaotic lives.

Good works. The interaction with the community doesn't sound like a cult.

But there are things about Rinpoche and his Buddhist followers that do bring the word "cult" to mind. The use of guards to surround Rinpoche resembles the kind of thing a cult leader might do.

Guards bring with them a strange challenge to the general public. They arouse an instinct. They call up the spectre of the late American Nazi Party chief George Lincoln Rockwell.

A successful thug might need to stand behind guards. It shouldn't be necessary for a guru.

Arriving in a big limousine is almost as wasteful as it is egotistical.

And there is the drinking. We all know about alcohol because we use so much of it. Rinpoche drinks to the point where it is obvious to the community. It has figured in several incidents.

"Alcohol is the drug of choice at Naropa," said the Village Voice in an article on the school last fall. "With Alcohol, Rinpoche has said, you relate to the earth." And the Voice added "Or at least the linoleum around the toilet bowl."

We have arrived at a native intelligence about alcohol. We know that it contains a false wisdom.


There was a huge group scene at Tail, but at the house we could get away from it and have time together as a family. Rinpoche was drinking a lot at the talks. One would have to say that his drinking was a regular feature of our lives. At that time, I didn't see it as a problem. Had Rinpoche remained in Tibet or the Tibetan diaspora in India, the ground would have been laid for him to present the Buddhist teachings. There was a traditional format there and a basic understanding to accommodate whatever he might want to present. Instead, he struck out into completely foreign territory. I feel that in presenting the Buddhist teachings in the West, alcohol was one of the vehicles that he employed. He told me that it helped to ground him and allowed him to communicate. Without it, I don't know if he would have taught with such outrageous directness and expansiveness. In tantric Buddhism, amrita, or blessed alcohol, represents turning poison into nectar or inspiration. It is the idea that you do not reject any situation or state of mind in your life, but you use the most extreme or negative things as fuel to transform the ignorance of ego into wakefulness. I think Rinpoche did use his drinking in that way, which I know is a controversial thing to say.2 On the other hand, I certainly acknowledge that, over time, alcohol was very destructive to his body. But that was not a question at that time, and in those days I didn't have an issue with his drinking.

-- Dragon Thunder: My Life with Chogyam Trungpa, by Diana J. Mukpo with Carolyn Rose Gimian


That Buddhism is not a cult is a valid point. But personality worship is. Ego on horseback is. Childishness is. To avoid being called a cult, it might help not to act like one.
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Re: The Great Naropa Poetry Wars, by Tom Clark

Postby admin » Sat Aug 03, 2019 2:20 am

Letter from Sam Maddox, editor of Boulder Monthly, to Ed Sanders
December 19, 1978


Dear Ed,

As you may have heard from Ed Dorn and Tom Clark, we are interested in publishing The Party. It is our understanding that the class has voted in favor of publishing the work, and that you are considering a small press printing in Canada. The material is so obviously important to the people of Boulder that we feel morally bound to make it public.

When the vote of the class was still uncertain regarding publication, our staff writer Clark took the Party and with fictional devices, made it into The Master. The indictment remains the same, only the names have been changed to protect the copyright. A copy of Tom's piece was forwarded to you.

The Trungpa-Merwin episode is loaded with implication, both for the Buddhist community and for the American intellectual community. It is more than a drunken debauch; the seminary violence forces us to face the issue of tyranny and abuse within the blind homage of the enlightenment movement. We would be proud to publish the document.

Please advice us as to your plans with the Party. We feel the facts speak the loudest, but we will print the Master if that is our only alternative.

Thanks, Ed.

Sincerely,
Sam Maddox, Editor
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Re: The Great Naropa Poetry Wars, by Tom Clark

Postby admin » Sat Aug 03, 2019 2:31 am

Letter from Ed Dorn to Bob Callahan
4 March 1979


Roberto: I am sending the enclosed to Richard G. & Terry N. and this will be the extent of my west coast efforts. In that spirit, Grosinnger and the like shld have access to it where otherwise who knows what might happen. I neednt tell you there is a lot of ground heat heabts, Tom Clark being the leading candidate for The Worm In The Apple. I play the part of The Leading Cynic Behind The Badboy. Anyway the heat is considerable from time to time seems real, as in being tailed, & people beating on your door demanding every scrap of paper you've got. Anne [Waldman] anounced threateningly and dwarf grandly that she expected to have the Sanders-Dorn correspondance (as it was called) made available to her Right Away. She wants to know the minute hour & day the printer got the copy, she wants to be presented with all the pieces which will put this conspiracy together. Tom C. laughed in her face, I behind the back of me hand. Ed S. doesnt at all want to meet AM because Ed says that AM is the most violencia prone specimen around. I say to Tom we should distribute the heat as much as possible and Tom says he'd like to take Ed, tie him to a ton of Boulder Monthlys and drop him in the middle of the Maul. It can really get to you. This isn't anywhere near the top of the thermostat. TC says Fuckem to the very end. But this has no extension whatsover. This is like a sealed town, it's the original podsville They are 1500-2000 and they bought probably 75 percent of the edition. They organized in battalians and went around buying them up. So, they've read it. Unless we can extend this someway quick they're gonna move to crush. As Allen told Tom at a meeting I witnessed, the Buddhists have got to Isolate the threat, it has to come down for them to one entity, to which Tom replied If that's your only problem, I'm it. He also offered to write Merwin telling him it was he, Tom, who inserted those remarks from Allen about WS, and from sheer malice. This turned out a little too much for Allen to swallow (altho you cld see he liked the beautiful simplicity), he didn't want that much and besides it was you know a lie. At which point I interjected that I didnt see what difference that made rambling on about function which I'm apt to do. The final form was: By a systematic and aggressive line of questioning Tom had compelled an overreactive mistake on the part of Allen. I thought it was the plea of a goose, but by this time it had got down to argument about pieces of change which were in any case spilled. Ed Arrives in about two hours. It was a beautiful operation. One reporter from the Rocky Mountain News called Tom and asked him How the hell he got to that sect, he said he figured it wld take him 9 weeks and he really knew his way around. Well, if you dont hear from me again, it was nice knowing.

Y'all,
Ed
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Re: The Great Naropa Poetry Wars, by Tom Clark

Postby admin » Sat Aug 03, 2019 2:43 am

Letter from Anne Waldman to Ed Dorn
April 2, 1979


Dear Birthday Boy,

Just to clear up one thing: The day in the Boulder Monthly office when I demanded "dwarf grandly" to see the correspondence between Tom, Ed Sanders etc. it was to point up the facts of everybody's lying to me, personally, about the "status" and imminent publication of excerpts of "The Party" & Al's interview. I'm not interested in any of this from the point of a Buddhist or defender of the faith or some such nonsense -- it's long been my view the sooner the story in some semi-accurate form were out publically the better since I was sick of telling my own hearsay version. So my words that day, tongue in cheek I might add although I was pissed at having been LIED to and consequently "YOUR" dupe and fool etc. (I mean can you dig it??), were referring to the events of those days immediately preceding publication when Tom, Angelica and Jenny gave me the runaround concerning Al's interview which I'd been asked to "oversee" in his absence. I was told no one knew what was happening with the magazine, that it was almost definitely about to fold and that Tom would be out of a job (sob) and that there was no plan at present for The Party & so on. I resent this personally, as if I would try to stop publication, as if I'm the "enemy" -- I'm amazed you didn't get my point that day when I attacked Tom for "lying" to me and I think it's mighty irresponsible of you to give another impression of my "stance" in all of this since you & I have never sat down and discussed any of this one to one at all.

The only other sore point, as I see it, is the survival & continuation of the Kerouac School which I'm still in favor of. Perhaps if I heard from Bill Merwin a stronger indictment of the whole tamale I'd think different. I understand Tom'd like to see Trungpa deported don't know if you care that much, but since there's current petition discouraging poets & artists from taking part in any Kerouac School activities maybe best to get cards on the table?

My paranoia says you just don't want anything to do with me on friendship level and that my overtures to you to visit here, whatever are just plain embarrassing. Makes me sad though maybe I'm slowly outgrowing sentimentally. But all this makes me curious just how you tick. If you're still laughing at me behind the back of your hand guess there's no point. What I always dug about you was poet to poet not some macho bullshit. I'm wondering you think the Merwin Trungpa thing is bigger than both of us?


Meant to deliver this message in person and wish you a happy Bday but snowed in tonight ....

Love,
Anne Waldman
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Re: The Great Naropa Poetry Wars, by Tom Clark

Postby admin » Sat Aug 03, 2019 3:01 am

An Open Letter to American Artists
Bob Callahan's Petition


The following community of American Writers would now like to formally request that all of our colleagues, and fellow artists, temporarily suspend any further participation in the activities of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute in Boulder Colorado until the following steps have been taken:

1) a formal statement of explanation is offered by Naropa authorities on the alleged beating and stripping of Poet WS Merwin and Dana Naone by the students of Naropa, under the guidance of Rinpoche Chogyam Trungpa, on October 31, 1975 in Boulder Colorado.

2) that all, still ongoing, efforts to intimidate, threaten and otherwise harass members of the press and the poetry community from conducting an open investigation of this incident be brought to an immediate halt.

3) that the Naropa in-house police force, commonly called the 'Vajrayana Guard' be immediately disbanded. . ..

4) that institutional efforts be made to prevent the possibility of such an event occuring in the future, and the rights of individuals to dissent according to conscience be at all times respected.


With a sincere yet concerned sense of comradeship,

Bob Callahan
Eileen Callahan
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Re: The Great Naropa Poetry Wars, by Tom Clark

Postby admin » Sat Aug 03, 2019 3:21 am

Letter from Anne Waldman to Bob Callahan
April 2, 1979


Dear Mr. Callahan:

A friend has recently given me a copy of "AN OPEN LETTER TO AMERICAN ARTISTS" authored, I was told, by you. Because the Trungpa-Merwin incident smolders on and seems to trigger acute moral indignation (not surprisingly) in the minds of most who get wind of it (and it's a trick to avoid it these days), I feel impelled to write you, not to offer any "explanation", but only to correct the somewhat glaring errors in the version that reached you.

First, the stripping (there was no beating, that seems to be an embellishment courtesy of Robert Bly, which he publicly recanted at a reading he gave in Boulder -- this is documented in Sanders' The Party, complete version), it occured not in Boulder or as a function of Naropa Institute but in Snowmass, near Aspen, as a function of Trungpa's Vajrayana Seminary. The students there were Vajrayana students (Buddhist students), not Naropa students.

Did somebody come to Dana Naone's assistance?

"I think, well, Ricky (Richard Assally), I think, started to, and then Rinpoche hit him in the face ... Richard Assally, Rinpoche hit him in the face, and said, 'strip her,' -- Oh, maybe he said 'strip her' and then Richard hesitated for a minute. I think he was, I'm pretty sure he was hit, and then he just like, 'snap', and did it. He said it was very 'powerful: like a heavy thing to do, you know, he felt close to her. I mean he was relating with her, and so it was very hard to 'obey' the guru. There was like this twist happening. So at a certain point he just did it, he (Assally) just cut through his own attachment and did it.

-- Interview with Barbara Meier (Faigao) 6/29/77

"So apparently they just grabbed him and the word got back that Rinpoche had sent out the word ... that Merwin was not to be harmed at all, because by then people were getting pissed. And the word was out that no matter what Merwin does to anyone, he is not to be harmed, except for physically subduing him. So, by then the guys charged in -- the story we were getting back was that Merwin, ya know, they got the beer bottle out of his hand, and a bunch of guys grabbed him and did a hammerlock on him. He started ranting and raving that he basically was trying to protect his girl friend, and that became his central theme ..."

-- Interview with Jack Niland (Santoli) 6/23/77

It was at this point that they led my (in fact) friend Loring up in front of me, and I saw that his face had been cut by a bottle at the door, and was streaming blood. At the sight, I suddenly fell helpless, put my arms out, and let them take the bottles. They bent my arms back and piled onto me, and as they did, Dana started to fight. It was she who dealt out the black eye -- or eyes. (We thought there was only one: a tall man named Hirsch. Neither of us remembers that McKeever got one. Oh well.)

-- W.S. Merwin, letter to Pope, Pickering, and Trupp, 7-20-77

Persis McMillen said that Merwin and Dana were definitely dragged down.

-- Interview with Persis McMillen (Santoli) 7/1/77

They piled onto Dana, too, until someone, probably Tom Reikan, told them to lay off, and they let us go. We said we'd go down by ourselves, if they kept their hands off us. Tom told us they would, and we went down. The hall was crowded with onlookers. Dana shouted again. "Why doesn't somebody call the police?" One of the women insulted her, told her to shut up. One of the male disciples threw a glass of wine in her face. I didn't see it, and she said nothing about it until afterwards.....

Trungpa called us to come over in front of him, looked up at me, and said. "I hear you've been making a lot of trouble." Grabbed my free hand to try to force me down, saying, "Sit down." (The other hand had been bleeding a lot and was wrapped in a towel.) When he let go, we sat down on the floor. He said we hadn't accepted his invitation. I said that if we had to accept it it wasn't an invitation. He insisted that it was an invitation. An invitation, I said, allowed the other person the privilege of declining. We pushed that around a bit. The way he saw it, no force seemed to have been used, except by us. I reminded him that we'd never promised to obey him. He said, "Ah, but you asked to come." Then, dramatically, "into the lion's mouth!" I said that they'd developed big corkscrews, new, for forcing coyotes out of their burrows, and that maybe he ought to get one, to do his job more easily. He said he wasn't interested. Cross. That he wanted us to join in his celebration. I said that we'd thought it was lugubrious, and that as I understood it, one couldn't be forced to celebrate, if it was to mean anything. In one of these exchanges he got angry and threw his glass of sake in my face. "That's sake," he told me....

Only two men, Dennis White and Bill King, both of whom were married, with small children there at the seminary, said a word to try to stop it, on Dana's behalf. Trungpa stood up and punched Bill King in the face, called him a son-of-a-bitch, and told him not to interfere. The guards grabbed Bill King and got him out of there. One of the guards who'd stayed out of it, went out and vomited, as we heard later.

-- William S. Merwin letter to Pope, Pickering, and Trupp, 7/20/77

"Trungpa said we were invited to take our clothes off, or have them taken off for us. Neither of us felt it was an invitation, and the guards were ordered to do the job. I tried to hang on to William but we were pulled apart, and I lunged at Trungpa and twisted my fingers in his belt. Guards dragged me off and pinned me to the floor. I could see William struggling a few feet away from me. I fought, and called to friends, men and women, whose faces I saw in the crowd -- to call the police. No one did. Only one man, Bill King, broke through to where I was lying at Trungpa's feet, shouting. "Leave her alone" and "Stop it." Trungpa rose above me, from his chair, and knocked Bill King down with a punch, swearing at him, and ordering that no one interfere. He was dragged away. (Dennis White was the only other person in the crowd who tried to protest: he appealed to Trungpa -- during the argument William and I were having with him -- to leave me out of it, but Trungpa told him to shut up.) Richard Assally was stripping me, while others held me down. Trungpa began punching Assally in the head, and urging him to do it faster. The rest of my clothes were torn off."

-- Dana Naone, letter dated July 25, 1977 to Trupp, Pickering, and Pope

-- Behind the Veil of Boulder Buddhism: Ed Sanders, The Party, by Ed Sanders


Next, a very open and thorough investigation was made of the incident by Ed Sanders and his Investigative Poetics class (Naropa Institute -- summer of 1977). In his introduction to the exerpt of The Party published in March 1979 Boulder Monthly, he says: "It would be proper to say that Naropa was less than eager for the report to be written, but on the other hand at no time, then or now, did anyone try to suppress the investigation, or to harass anyone who was preparing it."

L' affaire Merwin quickly became a hot gossip item on the coast-to-coast literary scene.

Its first effect was to create a wave of poetry-politics backlash against the Kerouac School. Robert Bly, who'd already been quietly criticizing Ginsberg for inviting only his friends to teach poetry at Naropa, now opened fire, discussing the "Merwin episode" (whose facts he had a very fuzzy idea of) in public at every opportunity.

Ginsberg, fearing the loss of a $4000 grant to the Kerouac School from the National Endowment for the Arts, responded by initiating the "Merwin cover-up" (later known as "Buddha-gate"). He contacted both Bly and Merwin and asked them to inform the NEA that there was no connection between Trungpa's alleged misbehavior and Naropa or the Kerouac School.

David Rome, Trungpa's private secretary, now wrote a letter to the Karma Dzong community of Boulder from the Rocky Mountain Dharma Center, where Trungpa was on retreat. According to one source, the letter warned the community against "enemies of the dharma" -- like, by inference, Robert Bly.


Bly returned to Boulder in May, 1977, and in the guise of a poetry reading presented his audience with a long harangue about the Merwin matter.

"I told Allen Ginsberg he is sacrificing the community of poets for his teacher," Bly is reported to have said on this occasion. "This Kerouac School is doomed."

At the intermission of Bly's "reading," a woman student of Trungpa rose and called the poet" not a warrior -- a coward."

Bly left town mumbling about "Buddhist fascism" -- the term, he claimed, which W.S. Merwin was now using to apply to the activities of Chogyam Trungpa.

The Ginsberg/Kerouac School grant application was turned down by the NEA.

Naropa and the Kerouac School had other grants to protect, like a $35,000 bundle from the Rockefeller foundation, and further applications on the fire. In order to seal these important projects off from the corrosive effects of gossip about the Merwin episode, Ginsberg, as principal media spokesman and cultural proselytiser of the Institute, sought to prevent further "leakage" of the story.

This was to prove impossible.
In the summer of 1977, detective-poet Ed (The Family) Sanders was asked by Ginsberg to teach at the Kerouac School. Sanders brought in his doctrine of "Investigative Poetics" (with its motto that "poetry should again assume responsibility for the description of history") and offered his students total freedom in selecting a subject to which to apply it. They selected the Merwin affair. The ensuing class report exhumed the entire matter, sending an odor of raw anxiety through the halls of Naropa.

In the class report, the whole episode was spelled out in cold black-and-white testimony taken from principals and participants -- from everyone, in fact, except the star of the show. The eleventh Trungpa refused to cooperate in any way with the class project. Questions put to him went unanswered.

The class report was quietly circulated in xerox between September, 1977 and August, 1978, principally by the poet Ed Dorn, who distributed about 50 copies in and from Boulder. A copy that had somehow survived for six months in the Naropa Institute Library disappeared mysteriously in the summer of 1978.

There was by now considerable national interest in publishing the class report. Lawrence Ferlinghetti asked Allen Ginsberg for a copy so that he could consider it for publication by City Lights Books. Ginsberg turned down his old friend and publisher's request.


Other publishers and publications were appealing to Sanders for permission to publish. Sanders, who had carefully copyrighted the report (which was titled The Party), had begun to poll the members of his class by mail for their views on the issue of publication.

One of the first serious proposals came in August, 1978, from Boulder Monthly, a Boulder city magazine. As senior writer of the magazine, I made the proposal myself....

At the summer, 1978 session of the Kerouac School, the Merwin episode was constantly under discussion. Few, if any, of the poets on the summer faculty had seen the class report, but all had an opinion. Robert Duncan, for instance, compared the stripped lovers, Merwin and Dana, with Adam and Eve, expelled from the Garden. (Which made Trungpa into -- God?)

Toward the end of that summer there appeared in the Rocky Mountain News a very interesting story about Naropa. Tibetan Brings Buddhism to Boulder, the headline announced. Inside the story, a scene at a Trungpa lecture was described. A student asked a question about why classes already paid for are constantly being interrupted by requests from the administration for more money. Trungpa dismissed the question by telling the student to be patient, then, snapping his fingers for a glass of water, continued to speak, telling his listeners they were "nothings," that their lives were like "flat Coca-Cola -- full of yukiness, and yukiness has no personality."

At the end of the News story, the Naropa/Vajradhatu finance officer was asked some dollar questions.

"It's not so important where we get our money or what we do with it," the finance officer replied. "The important thing is what we are trying to do."

What, I wondered, is that?

I showed the Sanders class report to the publisher and editor of the magazine I worked for. They agreed to publish it. Then I wrote to Ed Sanders.

"The Investigative Poetry class at Naropa, that is, those who wrote The Party," Sanders replied on August 17, "voted by mail earlier this year on whether or not to publish the investigation. There was a majority not to publish."

Ed Sanders bumped into Anne Waldman in New York and mentioned to her that I had written to him. I soon received a phone call from a Naropa faculty poet. Was Boulder Monthly publishing The Party? No, I said. Relieved, the poet -- an old friend, by the way -- then advised me that both Anne and Allen felt any further circulation, distribution, or even mention of the Sanders class report would be "bad for everybody."


"I'm still shooting my mouth off all the time," Allen Ginsberg told a San Francisco Chronicle reporter on August 31.

On September 2, Ed Sanders reported to Ed Dorn that the latest result of the ongoing poll of the group was a 50-50 split on whether or not to print.

That same week, Anne Waldman and another faculty poet, Michael Brownstein, approached Ed Dorn with inquiries about how many xerox copies of The Party he had distributed. Brownstein then "weighed in with a piss-off notice" by way of a letter to Sanders protesting Dorn's circulation of the document.
(Sanders had given Dorn express permission to distribute copies as he saw fit.)....

In early January, I attended a showing of the rushes of an Italian TV movie that had been filmed at Naropa in the summer of 1978, the summer after Ed Sanders' class had prepared its report. There was nothing about the Sanders Class report in this picture, however; it was a "friendly" documentary. Now it was being edited by the Trungpa braintrust. The viewing room, at a pod-controlled movie company's office contained some 40 well-scrubbed important Pods. In the front row sat Anne Waldman, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs. Their comments -- particularly those of Ginsberg and Waldman -- seemed to be dictating the actual editing of the film.

All went happily for an hour or so, with many in-house Jokes and much bantering over tea and sake. Then Leroi Jones -- Amiri Baraka -- was on the screen, explaining that he was only visiting Naropa because Allen Ginsberg had asked him to come, Allen was his old friend, but really, he didn't agree with Buddhist philosophy at all, because Buddhist philosophy said the world wasn't real, which he -- Baraka -- disagreed with, being, he said, a materialist, especially when it came to politics ...

"Cut that," Ginsberg the producer was saying. He'd been fussing impatiently during the whole Baraka rap. Now he jumped up, proposing heavy editing of this section of the film....

Baraka's speech was appropriately mutilated. The moment of tension had passed. Onto the screen danced the playful, porky little face of the eleventh Trungpa, smiling, replying indulgently in his Oxford accent to a question about terrorists in Italy -- "Yes, politics, it's all part of the material we work with ... "

In January I overheard Allen talking to some innocent-looking young Naropa students at a party. He was telling them that, yes, it was true that this Merwin thing had taken place, but that individual rights don't apply on a seminary situation, so that Merwin only got what he had coming, and besides, yes, Trungpa was challenging the foundations of American democracy -- but that democracy was anyway a failed experiment, the atom bomb proved that, and now what Trungpa was up to was a whole new . . . a whole new "experiment in monarchy!" The students nodded numbly. What was wrong with an experiment in monarchy? I ground my teeth all the way home.

Two weeks before Boulder distribution, xerox copies of the February Issue of Harper's were making the rounds. That magazine had printed the Naropa diary of Peter Marin, a post-Jonestown conscience-victim who now reported his visit to Trungpa's school a year and a half earlier. "Spiritual Obedience" was Marin's general subject. He paraphrased parts of the Sanders report, for the first time bringing the Merwin affair to public attention on a national scale.

The Boulder Camera went to Vajradhatu for comments on the Marin article. Trungpa could not be reached, but his "Vajra Regent" or dharma heir, Osel Tendzin (aka Robert Rich, son of an Italian golf pro from New Jersey) told the paper that there was no disputing the words in the Sanders class report. "They saw what they saw" said Tendzin.

Will Trungpa change, the paper asked?

"Nothing will change," said Tendzin. "The practice will be carried out in the same way it has been for a thousand years." ....

Ed Dorn and I caught up with Allen one cold night -- January 12 -- when he was coming out of his Naropa class on the prophetic books of Blake. We went with several of Allen's students to the house on Mapleton which Ginsberg was sharing at the time with two of the Orlovsky brothers, Peter and Julius. While Julius roamed the house, Peter sang and washed dishes, and Allen spoke his mind -- with careful orchestration of the tape recorder, which he instructed me to turn off or on every few minutes.

Allen talked softly and at length about the Merwin affair and its ramifications. "With a guru," he said, "you make a contract to give up your privacy ... " Two hours later, when the tapes were filled, it was with a surprisingly dark and apocalyptic tale.


"I accuse myself all the time," Allen immediately admitted, "of seducing the entire poetry scene and Merwin into this impossible submission to some spiritual dictatorship which they'll never get out of again and which will ruin American culture forever. Anything might happen. We might get taken over and eaten by the Tibetan monsters ... All the horrific hallucinations of the Tibetan Book of the Dead are going to come true right now. Right here in Boulder ... The Pandora's Box of the Bardo Thodol has been opened by the arrival in America of one of the masters of the secrets of the Tibetan Book of the Dead."

Allen explained succinctly that the end product of the whole Merwin affair and its aftermath had been "universal paranoia" in the Boulder Buddhist community. But sometimes, he had to admit, such paranoia is justified. "And in the real world, as we know from Guyana, it could be completely justified. Some big guru makes a mistake, and turns out to have been mad all along."

Still, Allen hesitated to criticize his guru, Trungpa. "You know," he said, "you're talking about my love life. My extremely delicate love life, my relations with my teacher ... "....

No sooner had the tapes been turned off than Allen began to fret over certain remarks he'd made about Merwin, about Trungpa, about Burroughs, about Corso, about Ed Sanders
; Allen acts the role of a very worried and weary warrior, these days. I took the tapes home and began to transcribe them.

Allen left on a trip to New York, to receive an award for his poetry. Before leaving, he nervously instructed me to hand over the transcription of our interview to Anne Waldman, for her inspection, before anything was published. I told him I'd see about that; I had a deadline to meet. Distracted by other affairs, Allen settled for this half-agreement, and after another feeble suggestion that we reconsider and send the interview to Playboy, he left town at the end of January.....

Why was the publication of The Party kept a secret until the last minute?

There was the consideration of possible sabotage. Some of the pods we at the magazine had encountered had been very intense people, when it came to defending the dharma. Rumor had it that one follower of Trungpa, a man we knew, had recently performed a scalping. Such characters might be capable of anything.

Further, we feared that Allen Ginsberg would find some way to interfere with or prevent the publication. "Watch out for Allen," Ed Sanders had warned us from the beginning. "He'll do anything he can to keep this thing from coming out."....

On March 2, Allen and Peter Orlovsky appeared at Boulder Monthly with Allen's "revised version" of our interview. In our office, they discovered boxes of fresh copies of the March issue, awaiting distribution. Trungpa was on the cover, and The Party, plus Allen's interview -- "When The Party's Over", we'd called it -- were inside.

Allen got very excited -- "I was wrathful," he later apologized -- and spent several hours interrogating me about our foul plot. Who had known? Who were the guilty ones? In Buddhism, It's necessary to isolate the threat, he said, so that the blame can be focused. I guess I'm the one you ought to blame, I said.

During our conference, Ed Dorn came and went, so did Sam Maddox; still Allen fretted and raved, for four or five hours. By now copies of the magazine were on the streets. Midway through the afternoon, in sailed Anne Waldman, mad as a wet hen, waving a copy of the magazine, the red fox tail on her hat swinging in my face as she demanded to know exactly who had been "in on" the guilty action.

"What do you think you are," the author of the only authentic anglo-American shaman-poem, Fast Talking Woman, yelled in my face "some kind of white knight riding in to save us from ourselves?

Anne's righteous anger was even more impressive than Allen's. She seemed almost inspired in her rage, and I thought for a moment she might be going to burst into shamanic prophecy -- but no. There were no Maria Sabina texts laying around for her to crib from, alas.

Both Allen and Anne told me that what made them particularly furious was that they had mistaken me for a poet friend, when in fact I had turned out to be acting with the motives and style of a mere journalist!

At twilight Ginsberg and Waldman repaired to Naropa for an emergency meeting of concerned pods. Pages of a magazine could be heard turning all through the meeting, all over the room, our spies later reported.

Two days after the magazine came out, Ed Sanders flew in from California. His arrival and one-night stay were kept a close secret. At least one physical threat against Sanders had been received, and this came from a male pod with an unstable history and a record of violence. Sanders was understandably apprehensive about being in Boulder at all, and slipped out of town in the morning, clutching a brown paper shopping bag full of Boulder Monthlys and looking both ways as he climbed into his ride to the airport.

At my house, the phone kept ringing. We'd pick it up, and no one was at the other end. Made us nervous, yes, but nothing ever happened.

Sam Maddox got a call from the girl who'd brought him to Trungpa's birthday party. Her pod friends were planning to turn on the sprinkler systems in our warehouse, she said, to destroy our whole edition.


It never happened.

What did happen is that the magazine sold like hotcakes all over Boulder. One tobacco shop owner sold 45 copies in one hour, and got the impression that most of them had been bought up by Buddhists in bundles of four and five....

Allen Ginsberg continued to follow me around with calls and messages, urging me to "sit" with him, to revise the interview, to publish his revised version, to give him the original tapes, to recant -- anything. When I rewarded him with a total cold shoulder, he did not give up, but continued to call, inviting me to meditation sessions, to tea parties, to famous-people dinners and poetry readings at Naropa.


Allen wrote a long letter to W.S. Merwin, apologizing for the Boulder Monthly interview (in which he'd said he didn't like Merwin's poetry) and even inviting Merwin to return to Naropa to teach. (For some reason, Allen sent me a copy.)....

"An Open Letter to American Artists," Callahan called his effort. It solicited participation of artists and writers in a boycott of Naropa, and asked for their signatures.

"I sent out a bunch of copies, and got 40-45 signatures," Callahan later told me. "Among poets I sent it to in the Bay Area, there was about a 50-50 split. But around that time I went on a trip to Seattle and Alaska and all the Native Americans I talked to -- Jim Pepper, Leslie Silko, Simon Ortiz -- all signed it. And other Third World people, like Ishmael Reed, Victor Hernandez Cruz, David Henderson, they all Immediately signed it too. But there was a clear party line split. Any poet with any Buddhist associations refused to sign it. They agreed with it privately, but they didn't sign -- and they gave me a whole bushel of reasons. 'Merwin deserved it -- Fuck Merwin,' things like that. I couldn't believe it. I went around with my mouth open for two weeks.

"Michael McClure called me up screaming at one o'clock in the morning. 'Those wimps at Naropa are no threat to you,' he said. 'I've told Allen for years, privately, to get out of that scene. Still, Allen believes in it, it's his family. You can't attack him for It. You re trying to ruin Allen Ginsberg. You can't do that!'

"Michael then organized a counter-campaign, calling up people to talk them out of signing. He did actually talk several people out of it. He called Gary Snyder, who called me and told me, 'Your response isn't generous enough.' I had talked to Gary two weeks earlier, and he had told me then that he had 'grave doubts' about Trungpa's behavior in this Merwin incident. I had asked him if he thought Trungpa's action was out of line, as Buddhism, and he said, 'That's right.' But now, two weeks later, he says, 'Take off my clothes? Sure, I'd do it. It's a big joke to me. Just don't criticize Allen in public.'

"No one defended Trungpa, let me emphasize that. They just won't attack Allen. His friends have very strong feelings about that."....

Callahan replied. "It was a case of party lines, party loyalty, of not losing gigs or giving up a station. Here were poets showing the kind of block mind militancy you'd never expect from them. It disappointed the hell out of me.

"It became a poets' war -- poets at war with one another. That seemed to me wrong. Can't you just say something's wrong, whatever side you're on?"

Callahan's petition evoked an immediate, nasty "letter of correction" (spank-note) from Anne Waldman, who admonished him to "look a little closer before you leap."

"This may be life and death for Naropa Institute," Waldman advised Callahan angrily....

At Boulder Monthly, we started to lose ad accounts from local Buddhist businesses, like the Boulder Bookstore, biggest in town. One Naropa faculty member wrote in to accuse us of a "blatant smear."....

On March 19, the Naropa poets held a big reading at the University. "Where are Tom Clark and Ed Dorn?" somebody in the audience called out. "Home watching television," sneered Michael Brownstein.

I was asked by the Berkeley Barb to report on the recent Buddhist/poetry doings in Boulder. To my subsequent piece of reportage on the "Buddha-Gate" affair I attached the signature "Robert Woods," which became my byline in the Barb.

Over the next two months, I was interrogated severally by angry pods concerning my role in the writing of this article.

"Who is Robert Woods?" my literary pod acquaintances demanded whenever they saw me. "We know it's you. It is, isn't it? Confess!"

I again began to receive lots of hang-up phone calls.....

Allen, in New York, wrote me a "Who is Robert Woods?" postcard, and sent it to Anne Waldman, asking her to send it on to me if she thought that proper. She passed it instead to another faculty poet. When I ran into that poet one day, he mentioned the card, and when I asked him for it, he gave it to me.

"Take it easy!" Allen wrote. "Whaddya want!? The Bardo Thodol ghosts I was talking about seem to be solidified in the anxieties you create for yourself and me & others by the secrecy you prolong by writing pseudonymous articles."...

Allen Ginsberg wrote to Ed Sanders to complain about our July issue. "Allen feels Boulder Monthly is being unnecessarily cruel," Sanders reported back to me.

In August, we at Boulder Monthly wrote Chogyam Trungpa a letter, requesting an interview. Our letter was returned by the officials at Karme Dzong, marked "not known at this address."

Pursuing a lead on another story (on "Powerful People"), a reporter from our magazine tried to reach Trungpa through his wife and mother-in-law. Several tea parties down the line, the reporter gave up, badly discouraged. The eleventh Trungpa is a very hard man to get an interview with. Maybe that's the source of his very great power, our reporter concluded.

Later in the month, I published a little story called "Buddha With His Hand Out" in Westward, a Denver tabloid. The story presented a few simple facts about Naropa's fundraising methods, such as the practice of asking students to turn over their housing deposit checks and to solicit contributions from their parents. A few days after the story came out, Naropa began bombarding me with all kinds of face-saving financial statements in the mail. My phone was ringing off the hook again with hang-up calls. Then I bumped into Anne Waldman on the Mall one day. She immediately brought up my little Westward piece, stamping her foot and accusing me of "yellow journalism."

"How could you do that?" she demanded, somehow managing to sound shocked.

I've been tempted to ask her the same thing for years.....


"I am sending the enclosed to Richard G. & Terry N. and this will be the extent of my west coast efforts. In that spirit, Grosinnger and the like shld have access to it where otherwise who knows what might happen. I neednt tell you there is a lot of ground heat ... the heat is considerable from time to time seems real, as in being tailed, & people beating on your door demanding every scrap of paper you've got. Anne [Waldman] anounced threateningly and dwarf grandly that she expected to have the Sanders-Dorn correspondance (as it was called) made available to her Right Away. She wants to know the minute hour & day the printer got the copy, she wants to be presented with all the pieces which will put this conspiracy together. Tom C. laughed in her face, I behind the back of me hand. Ed S. doesnt at all want to meet AM because Ed says that AM is the most violencia prone specimen around....This is like a sealed town, it's the original podsville They are 1500-2000 and they bought probably 75 percent of the edition. They organized in battalians and went around buying them up. So, they've read it. Unless we can extend this someway quick they're gonna move to crush. As Allen told Tom at a meeting I witnessed, the Buddhists have got to Isolate the threat, it has to come down for them to one entity, to which Tom replied If that's your only problem, I'm it."


"Just to clear up one thing: The day in the Boulder Monthly office when I demanded "dwarf grandly" to see the correspondence between Tom, Ed Sanders etc. it was to point up the facts of everybody's lying to me, personally, about the "status" and imminent publication of excerpts of "The Party" & Al's interview. I'm not interested in any of this from the point of a Buddhist or defender of the faith or some such nonsense -- it's long been my view the sooner the story in some semi-accurate form were out publically the better since I was sick of telling my own hearsay version. So my words that day, tongue in cheek I might add although I was pissed at having been LIED to and consequently "YOUR" dupe and fool etc. (I mean can you dig it??), were referring to the events of those days immediately preceding publication when Tom, Angelica and Jenny gave me the runaround concerning Al's interview which I'd been asked to "oversee" in his absence. I was told no one knew what was happening with the magazine, that it was almost definitely about to fold and that Tom would be out of a job (sob) and that there was no plan at present for The Party & so on. I resent this personally, as if I would try to stop publication, as if I'm the "enemy" -- I'm amazed you didn't get my point that day when I attacked Tom for "lying" to me and I think it's mighty irresponsible of you to give another impression of my "stance" in all of this since you & I have never sat down and discussed any of this one to one at all.

The only other sore point, as I see it, is the survival & continuation of the Kerouac School which I'm still in favor of. Perhaps if I heard from Bill Merwin a stronger indictment of the whole tamale I'd think different. I understand Tom'd like to see Trungpa deported don't know if you care that much, but since there's current petition discouraging poets & artists from taking part in any Kerouac School activities maybe best to get cards on the table?

My paranoia says you just don't want anything to do with me on friendship level and that my overtures to you to visit here, whatever are just plain embarrassing. Makes me sad though maybe I'm slowly outgrowing sentimentally. But all this makes me curious just how you tick. If you're still laughing at me behind the back of your hand guess there's no point. What I always dug about you was poet to poet not some macho bullshit. I'm wondering you think the Merwin Trungpa thing is bigger than both of us?"


I feel impelled to write you, not to offer any "explanation", but only to correct the somewhat glaring errors in the version that reached you.

First, the stripping (there was no beating, that seems to be an embellishment courtesy of Robert Bly, which he publicly recanted at a reading he gave in Boulder...

Next, a very open and thorough investigation was made of the incident by Ed Sanders and his Investigative Poetics class (Naropa Institute -- summer of 1977). In his introduction to the exerpt of The Party published in March 1979 Boulder Monthly, he says: "It would be proper to say that Naropa was less than eager for the report to be written, but on the other hand at no time, then or now, did anyone try to suppress the investigation, or to harass anyone who was preparing it." I don't know what you're refering to in point #2, but perhaps you should check your sources a bit more closely, and if there's really something to this, then state the facts!

There is no "Naropa in-house police force". The 'Vajra' guard is a function of Dharmadhatu, the Buddhist community in Boulder under Trungpa's direction. They have nothing directly to do with Naropa Institute, and Naropa students and teachers need have nothing to do with Dharmadhatu.

It would require little effort to verify any of these corrections to the points you've made in your "Open Letter". Reactions are raw and emotional enough to the "real story". No one needs a misleading and erroneous All Points Bulletin at this stage. I'm amazed you would act so surely on information that could only have come to you as hearsay. Anyway, this may be life and death for the Naropa Institute, so I would appreciate you looking a little closer before you leap.


It brings up to the surface a lot of thoughts that people have had anyway and discussed among themselves, but just didn't discuss publicly: fear of Buddhist fascism, paranoia about submission to a guru, the apparent incomprehensibility of the Merwin thing....It's like reading your marriage troubles in the newspaper...it goes back for centuries and millenia, as far as the structure of Vajrayana goes, and how it works out, and what's the relation between student and teacher....You can interpret it as another kind of metaphor, a marriage metaphor. Or you can interpret it as a metaphor for social paranoia in the barbarous Western mind....the whole question of individual rights -- which [I've] said before really didn't apply in that seminary situation....It doesn't apply on that occasion, as in a sense it doesn't apply in a marriage. Individual rights don't apply there, in the sense that in a marriage you give up some privacy. In some marriages you do. Or in the sense that with a psychiatrist you give up some privacy. Or in the sense that with a guru, very definitely, you make a compact to give up your privacy. That's the purpose of making that relationship, to get rid of privacy. If privacy is defined as egocentricity, selfishness or psychological secrecy. It's really complicated....That idea of privacy, and that idea of relationship between the pupil and the guru, is introduced in a formal way. The way it's done is an old historical technique which is well known, when seen from a distance, but when actually practiced seems monstrously strange theater, to an American mind. Particularly to an American individualistic mind....I hate to discuss it in public, is the problem. Because it's really a private shot....But the very nature of it is personal relations. So if it's discussed, it's got to be done really delicately. And here, I feel too defensive. Like a fairy being asked if he's a fairy. It's right on that level, almost. You know, you're talking about my love life. My extremely delicate love life, my relations with my teacher. It's really complicated. And as all love lives, it's shot through with strange emotions, and self questionings, and paranoias, and impulses. So to reduce it to discussion with reference to cultural artifacts like the Bill of Rights ...Whether his vanity was appealed to, to have them there --- or their vanity was appealed to, to go there. I don't know whose vanity it was....I feel culpable. It's my paranoia that I'm expressing....I accuse myself all the time, of seducing the entire poetry scene and Merwin into this impossible submission to some spiritual dictatorship which they'll never get out of again and which will ruin American culture forever. Anything might happen. We might get taken over and eaten by the Tibetan monsters. All the monsters of the Tibetan Book of the Dead might come out and get everybody to take L.S.D.! Actually that's what's happening. All the horrific hallucinations of the Tibetan Book of the Dead are going to come true now. Right in Boulder! And the face of one of them is Merwin -- you see the face and it goes, graahr! That's one level on which you see what's happening, and I think it's actually true....The Pandora's Box of the Bardo Thodol has been opened by the arrival in America of one of the masters of the secrets of the Tibetan Book of the Dead....Trungpa's putting himself out to the extreme, here, and taking enormous risks: and throwing himself out on the line, throwing his body down for Merwin to walk over....Yeah. For Merwin to walk over him....Most people had gone through it before. They'd gone through the same psychological violence, but within themselves....What we have is, a composite account from gossip....You see, at the seminary there are certain ritual poems that are recited en masse, some of which relate to horrific protective deities just like in the Book of the Dead. Which are very un-American, to say the least. From the point of view of anybody who hasn't been a poet, or something, they're really off the wall....I mean they're poems to these blood-drinking deities!....It bugs everybody. Bugs everybody! It's supposed to; that's what it's there for. To bug you, and make you examine exactly that fear. Precisely. To make you examine that paranoia, which is universal....It might have been a big mistake by Trungpa, to have him there at all....In fact the difficulty with the situation, the Buddhists say, is that anybody can interpret it any way they want. ...You think Trungpa hasn't got enough girls to lay? He just likes to lay people who don't want to lay him? Pretty Oriental girls who don't want to lay him?...I don't want to find out what happened. Partly straight out of fear -- I don't want to open up some horrible yaargh -- I don't want to know about Trungpa. That's one reason. You know, just like you don't want to ask your father about the night he fucked your mother and made you....But I don't actually know, precisely, what happened. But the other day I got so paranoid that I went in to see Trungpa and asked him specifically about the thing that stuck in most people's minds. It didn't bother me too much, but apparently it bugged a lot of other people. Because it sounded like Burroughs talking, actually. "You Oriental slick cunt, 'why are you hanging around with this honky?"....You're not supposed to say things like that. Even if you're supposed to be posing as a Vajrayana teacher, breaking down all privacy and breaking every possible icon in every mental form, and acting like a poet, no less. I mean, you're supposed to out-Gregory Corso Gregory Corso and out-Burroughs Burroughs, if you're a Vajrayana teacher.....And you look real close and it turns out to be a rope! In fact this entire thing is somewhat like that. As the entire world is, the entire world of illusion.....The situation was Halloween, the beginning of Vajrayana teachings. Everybody's supposed to blow their top and get rid of all constraints. There's traditionally a wild party where everybody gets totally bombed. But at the same time, everybody gets totally bombed in a tradition that's conscious-making....See, there's a certain kind of immunity to drinking you can develop. I mean, when you realize -- you've done a lot of sitting for years, so you're conscious of your fullness. At the point where you begin to realize you're getting too drunk to drink more, you stop drinking heavily and you sip very, very slowly. At the Vajrayana banquets and feasts this is what's done. It's very similar to what you read in the books about the Kama Sutra. Not coming, things like that. So now all the training you've had is applied to banqueting. A symposium, a Platonic symposium -- the banquet is supposed to be something like that. It's not just a big dumb slob banquet as such. It's got several thousand years of tradition behind it, and it's got rules and regulations.....If you notice in Trungpa's autobiography, Born in Tibet, he says there that he had to do that with his teacher, take off all his clothes. So he told her about that, how in Tibet it's much more shocking and scandalous to take off all your clothes. Here in America you have naked beaches, and so on. In Tibet, if you take off your clothes, you're violating all sorts of taboos. Here, it's just playful. So he tried to explain that to her, and to explain to her that she should respect her roots by taking part in a classical experience of the Orient, which she does come from....Just as I have begun to appreciate my own roots, as a Jew, or just as an American Indian respects his....His view of what he was saying was something dignified....According to him it had nothing to do with sex. And I doubt if it did have very much to do with sex. Actually I think probably very little. I think that was a paranoiac interpretation put on it later. As far as I can gather, what Trungpa was trying to do was give her a very reasonable common-sense explanation that what was going on here was a traditional Buddhist practice applied in America in as gentle a way as possible. And as funny a way as possible, without even the horrific shock that it might have been in Tibet. An enormous cultural heritage is being brought here, and laid out before them, and opened up....In the middle of that scene, to yell "call the police" -- do you realize how vulgar that was? The Wisdom of the East was being unveiled, and she's going, "call the police!" I mean, shit! Fuck that shit! Strip 'em naked, break down the door! Anything-symbolically. I mentioned privacy before -- the entrance into Vajrayana is the abandonment of all privacy. And the entry onto the Bodhisattva path is totally -- you're saying, "I no longer have any privacy ever again."....he said, I wanted to deal with him by opening myself up to him completely, by putting aside all barriers. "It was a gamble," he said....And Trungpa said, "Well, don't be amazed to find that actually the whole teaching is simply emptiness and meekness."....That's what he said. So you see, it's really complicated....It's very complicated, very complicated. In order to do what Trungpa did, he had to have the approval and backing of his boss, Karmapa Lama, the head of the Karmapa order, the 16th Karmapa in the succession, who lives in Sinkiang. The power of any guru is conferred on him by other lamas -- you have to understand the lineage. Chogyam Trungpa was taught by the fourth Tenzing Rinpoche, who is a descendant of this lineage....Trungpa's image is crazy wisdom. Traditional crazy wisdom -- outrageous behavior, outrageous activity. Total iconoclasm. And there has to be a consensus of lamas to decide the other lamas aren't abusing their scene. With one bad lama, or one fuck-up -- particularly from someone like Trungpa, who's so open -- it could really fuck up their whole scene. Just like, you know, Guyana.... Al Santoli, being one of the most active persons in the preparing of the Sanders report. Al's basic view now is that Vajrayana is so horrible, and so un-American that it should never be taught in America, and that Trungpa is the example of how bad it is, and how totalitarian and undemocratic and creepy it is. And that it is a big cosmic important thing that it be stopped.....I think Trungpa's ten times more interesting than Merwin.....So he didn't like "drink the hot blood of the ego."...You might take it literally. Who knows. If I were Burroughs I would say, "of course it's literal."....I think it's understood by democratic liberal radical minds that in order to take part in shamanistic ceremonies, the new breed of anthropologist takes part, rather than just appearing....I said, "What happens if you ask me to kill Merwin?" That was my idea....It was in my head, so why shouldn't I? I mean, the whole point is that that's precisely what you should consider....When I went to see him I asked him exactly that question. You see, the nature of the teaching and the teaching methods is such that it's very hard. How do you talk about Vajrayana teachings in public? It's very hard to do.....my consideration of it is not so much that Trungpa was wrong, but that he was indiscreet.....As if I haven't had enough with L.S.D. and enough with fag liberation, now I've got to go through Vajrayana, and pretty soon they're going to have articles in Harpers by idiotic poets that I never hired to begin with! About Merwin whose poetry I don't care about anyway!....Ed has a large quotient of paranoia too. Anything that reminds him of secrecy -- he's been all his life studying black magic and Aleister Crowley and playing around with all that on the sidelines. I mean, getting into the Manson thing, and then getting into Vajrayana and Trungpa and Merwin, is just sort of made for Ed Sanders....half the time I think, "maybe Trungpa's the C.I.A., and he's taking over my mind."....The poets have a right to shit on anybody they want to. You know, the poets have got the divine right of poetry. They go around, you know, commit suicide. Burroughs commits murder, Gregory Corso borrows money from everybody and shoots up drugs for twenty years, but he's "divine Gregory." But poor old Trungpa, who's been suffering since he was two years old to teach the dharma, isn't allowed to wave his frankfurter!....And American culture! "How dare you criticize American culture!"...."democracy, shit! What we need is a new Hitler." Democracy, nothing! They exploded the atom bomb without asking us. Everybody's defending American democracy. American democracy's this thing, this Oothoon....everyone wants to go back and say, "Oh, no, we've got it comfortable. Here are these people invading us with their mind control."....So, yes, it is true that Trungpa is questioning the very foundations of American democracy. Absolutely.....Trungpa is asking if there's any deeper axiomatic basis than some creator coming along and guaranteeing his rights....the Bill of Rights. The whole foundation of American democracy is built on that, and it's as full of holes as Swiss cheese.....And one of the things the Buddhists would feel would be an imperfection would be the need to justify....They're not being very equivocal about the absolutism of the Vajra teacher.....However, at the point of ultimate marriage of mind, or transmission of mind between Vajra master and pupil, if anybody makes a mistake, the pupil could kill the Vajra master. Or the Vajra master could go nuts. Or, you know, it could be fatal to both.....As indicated by this very low level beginner's situation with Merwin.....The last defense would be paranoia, and a fear of invasion from alien forces taking over your mind, like the horrors you sometimes sink into when you get on an acid trip. Sometimes it's justified. And in the real world, as we know from Guyana, it could be completely justified. Some big guru makes a big mistake, and turns out to have been mad all along.


-- The Great Naropa Poetry Wars, With a Copious Collection of German Documents Assembled by the Author, by Tom Clark


I don't know what you're refering to in point #2, but perhaps you should check your sources a bit more closely, and if there's really something to this, then state the facts!

There is no "Naropa in-house police force". The 'Vajra' guard is a function of Dharmadhatu, the Buddhist community in Boulder under Trungpa's direction. They have nothing directly to do with Naropa Institute, and Naropa students and teachers need have nothing to do with Dharmadhatu.

It would require little effort to verify any of these corrections to the points you've made in your "Open Letter". Reactions are raw and emotional enough to the "real story". No one needs a misleading and erroneous All Points Bulletin at this stage. I'm amazed you would act so surely on information that could only have come to you as hearsay. Anyway, this may be life and death for the Naropa Institute, so I would appreciate you looking a little closer before you leap.


Thank you,
Anne Waldman
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