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 » Sat Aug 03, 2019 6:53 am

When the Party's Over
An Interview with Alan Ginsberg

February, 1979

"What Trungpa finally said to me about the Merwin thing was, 'This is an opportunity to turn poison into nectar.'"

-- A.G.


Allen Ginsberg was interviewed in his Mapleton Street apartment by Boulder Monthly writer Tom Clark in February, 1979. The subject of the interview was Ed Sanders' report on the Merwin incident. Present were several of Ginsberg's students and poet Ed Dorn who asked three or four of the questions.

Q. What's been the effect of the Harpers article, Peter Marin's "Spiritual Obedience", on you and on the Buddhist community?

A. Universal paranoia, I think. And also some clarification of complexities that everybody feels, within the Buddhist community. 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. So it raises all of the fears, doubts, paranoias that were otherwise in the community, and puts them solidified in public form. It's like reading your marriage troubles in the newspaper.

Q. You mentioned when we spoke earlier that you thought this might fit into the historical context of Buddhism as an opportunity for reaction in some kind of intelligent way that would be positive. I wondered if anything like that was being generated. When you say clarification, do you mean honesty?

A. It may take decades. The whole thing is like a very long historical situation. You know, it's right here and now in America. But 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.

Q. The incident that generates this whole thing, and that's at the center of the Sanders report, is a weird kind of litmus test. Because it's a political metaphor.

A. If you interpret it as such. 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.

Q. Well, let's say it's been taken as a political metaphor because of the whole question of individual rights -- which you've said before really didn't apply in that seminary situation.

A. 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.


Q. You're not talking about just at the seminary?

A. Well, the seminary is a situation where the whole idea is introduced. 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 know that, but I'm frightened to say it and make it sound even more monstrous.

Q. But this power to abrogate privacy, does it exist over persons who don't confer it? I mean, it takes two to tango. If you don't grant this fief of obedience to someone, and then they take it --

A. I hate to discuss it in public, is the problem. Because it's really a private shot. That's the real delicacy. Oh, you can discuss it in public, to a certain extent. 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 ...

Q. That's just it. You're talking about your religious feelings. I'm talking about politics, frankly.

A. Yes!

Q. And that's why I take an interest in this affair.

A. It's the separation of Church and State--

Q. But that's what I want to talk about--

A. Well, we'll talk about it.

Q. Do you think Dana and Merwin knew what they were getting into when they decided to go to the seminary?

A. I don't know to what extent they knew what they were getting into, and to what extent, if they knew, they understood it in their hearts. Or to what extent Trungpa knew what he was getting into. 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.

Q. Robert Duncan has proposed that the central image here, of the stripped heterosexual couple, is a common image of resistance to authority. To the state, or--

A. Or God. Or Jehovah.

Q. Duncan wasn't just saying "Adam and Eve," because the implication seemed wider than that. And possibly inside this story there are a whole lot of other reverberating metaphors that aren't accusative of anybody as much as they are illustrative of something inside American culture. Now maybe this is an event inside the history of Buddhism as well, but that's something different.

A. Right. It has a lot to do with American culture, I admit.

Q. And Sanders' whole interest in it, it seems to me, is along the lines of a phenomenon occurring within American culture. Something is being studied, rather than any one person being accused. Because if you turn this around and say it takes two to make a master, you're not necessarily saying that one side or the other's culpable.

A. I feel culpable. It's my paranoia that I'm expressing.

Q. I don't think that you personally were ever accused by anybody of anything in this regard.

A. 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.


Q. Is that right?

A. On a poetic level, yes.

Q. You're talking about apocalyptic hallucinations?

A. No, no, not apocalyptic. 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.


Q. And those secrets are his best recruiting tools.

A. See, it's funny. Always poets have had the claim or the ambition of being spiritual. I as a poet have. You know, mysticism, in one refined form or another has always attracted poets -- even T.S. Eliot. So all of a sudden poets are now confronted by the guys who've got the secrets of the Himalayas! Before, the poets used to deal with Madame Blavatsky, and the Society of the Golden Dawn, and William Butler Yeats, and swami so-and-so who comes over from India. But now the guys who come over are the lamas themselves. This kind of wisdom was always supposed to be hidden in the monasteries, it was all supposed to be secret. Nobody was supposed to know about it except the gurus and masters of the world, who were ruling everything from the top of the Himalayas. Madame David-Neel and so on. And now it s all right here to be confronted. The Tibetan diaspora has opened up all that legendary or mythic information, and made it available. And in Boulder now there are probably more people doing advanced Tantric meditation than anywhere on the planet -- anywhere in the last century or two.

Q. Getting back to this report, the suggestion is that Merwin wasn't really far enough advanced in Buddhist practices to be at the Vajrayana Seminary In the first place. He didn't have the knowledge.

A. Vajrayana is not an intellectual thing. It's something you don't get into until you've known your teacher for a long, long time.

Q. So then for Merwin to be at the seminary without that long relation with his teacher, he's automatically an intruder?

A. No, not quite. I think Trungpa's thing here is he wanted to work with Merwin, and thought there was the possibility of working with him: 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.

Q. That was his risk?

A. Yeah. For Merwin to walk over him. And then Merwin could reject him.

Q. And that was the risk he took.

A. So Trungpa's situation was risky. Just as Merwin was taking a risk by going there. Putting himself in that situation. Which is risky in the sense that I don't know how much Merwin knew in advance what the psychological situation was supposed to be when he got there. But what goes on in those seminaries is there's a three month period: one month exposition in detail of Hinayana Buddhism, one month exposition of Mahayana Buddhism, and then the third month exposition of Vajrayana Buddhism. And in the entry period into the third month of practice and teaching, everybody who doesn't want to enter into Vajrayana has to leave.

Q. So this episode occurred at that junction?

A. Yes.

Q. You'd been there for the seminary the previous year?

A. No, but I've been there other years. We'd been there the first year the whole thing ever happened, in 1973.

Q. Was there any similar crisis when you were there?

A. Yes. Exactly the same, with everybody, except internally. Naturally. This episode with Merwin just externalizes the paranoia, the dilemma, the interesting situation that everybody has all the time. You just work through it. It's part of the whole thing.

Q. So maybe everybody else passed through this difficult period vicariously, through what happened to Merwin?

A. No. Most people had gone through it before. They'd gone through the same psychological violence, but within themselves.

Q. But there's a certain way in which these two people seem to have been selected out by the group as transference figures, or targets. It looks like a lot was loaded on them.

A. This is exactly the area that I think -- I wasn't at the seminary, nor were you. What we have is, a composite account from gossip, and also a written account of Sanders' from testimony of people who were around. Written by Sanders and the students in his Naropa class -- who weren't there either, who've never been involved in that situation. Most of whom don't sit to begin with. And many of whom are pissed off at and resentful of the entire Buddhist bureaucracy, hierarchy, and so forth. And that's their interpretation of the whole scene. We have a time-track from Sanders of what happened. But having been to the seminary before and after -- see, Peter and I also went the next year -- I don't think it's really necessary to think they were singled out. 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.

Q. And to somebody like Merwin, who's been a pacifist all of his life--

A. Yeah, well, I mean they're poems to these blood-drinking deities!

Q. Did that ever bug you?

A. Oh, sure. 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. So, when Merwin went there, apparently he didn't want to recite those things. Which means that from the very beginning there must have been some problem. Because I haven't ever heard of anybody going there who didn't want to recite those poems. But I still don't want to criticize Merwin, because I wasn't there, I don't know what he was going through. It might have been a big mistake by Trungpa, to have him there at all.

Q. Granted the layers of possible inaccuracy in the transfer of the evidence down through various channels, it does seem that these two people were put in a special position -- by his resistance to or refusal to perform these chants and certain other forms of devotion. Where he just said, "Hey, hold it, I can't cross that line, I grew up a different way."

A. Does that mean that they put him in a funny position, or that he set up a situation.

Q. No, this is his problem, let's say. He individuated himself in that way, and secondly, by his insistence on a type of sexual exclusivity which was apparently resented. At least the testimony was that it seemed to be resented by the group. And possibly by Rinpoche. The implication is--

A. You're getting too speedy now. It's too delicate for you to be this speedy.

Q. What I'm trying to pursue--

A. It's not an argument, there's nothing to pursue. You can't pursue an argument here in this situation.

Q. Okay, I'm trying to refer to, in fact, this moment that we talked about yesterday. Where you have Rinpoche himself, in conversation with Dana, suggesting that he himself has motives in her regard. If so, it would indicate that Merwin and she weren't paranoid. That in fact not only the other people there, but Rinpoche himself, had motives toward them that individuated them.

A. This reduces it all to stereotype.

Q. I'm just reading the document, like you're reading your Blake to the students in your Naropa class. I'm reading this text as someone will a hundred years from now, if there's a world. It's part of literature too. So I'm just looking at it as objectively as I can.

A. Don't you see that you have the problem here of being like Harold Bloom. Sure, you can do it. You can do it, you can be Harold Bloom if you want. And you can take any interpretation you want. In fact the difficulty with the situation, the Buddhists say, is that anybody can interpret it any way they want. The Buddhists on the inside can interpret it one way, the people on the outside can interpret it another way, the people on the inside can also interpret it the way the people on the outside do ... any way they want to do it.

Q. I like to think, though--

A. That there's a reality and there's a--

Q. --that there's a real world!

A. Well, that is the whole point! Maybe you can't. See, that's the whole point. Maybe you can't. However, you might ask Merwin and Dana, if possible, what their interpretation would be, too, instead of assuming an ordinary newspaper interpretation. Which I would say to some extent you're doing. Freudian. Rose Franzblau. I mean, it's strictly Rose Franzblau. 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?

Q. Trungpa said to you that in this racial conversation with Dana he was referring to her, uh, roots?

A. Well, see, I haven't gone over it with him detail by detail, blow by blow, phrase by phrase, through the whole report, much less talked to the people who were there, to get their version. For a lot of reasons. Partly out of fear -- 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. Something like that. And there's also another element of, "it's an endless morass." And there's also another element of, "Oh God, somebody's going to do it sooner or later." Which is Sanders' noble motive. But I'll probably have to be the one sooner or later to go into the middle of the whole fucking thing and find out what who said, who did what -- "but he said, you said, he said, the Sanders report said this, but Dana said that ... " So that's the last thing I want to do. But I'm the head of the Poetics Department, so that's going to be my role. And I've been avoiding it for years. I hoped Sanders would take care of it. So okay, that's that.

"You Oriental slick cunt, 'why are you hanging around with this honky?"


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?" So I was looking at it sort of as Burroughs-type humor, rather than anything else. Or something in that line, whereas everybody else was, you know, getting very self-righteous about it -- "how dare he approach her sexually!" Or for him to say that she's hanging around with this white guy -- but still, that's the common libertarian view. 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. But everybody's objecting at great length to this. "He's gone too far again!" Okay, he's gone too far. They say, "You've gone too far. You made some sexual suggestion to her which involved racism?"

So, okay. What I said to him was, "You made some sexual statement to her, about how she shouldn't be hanging around with this honky or something? Or about why was she going on being supportive of him when she should be abandoning him?"

So his answer to me was actually kind of funny, and reminded me of the traditional Buddhist image of the snake and the rope.

Q. Where you think you see a snake coiled in a barrel--

A. 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. So his explanation was -- and I don't know if I should be telling his explanation on paper in the Boulder Monthly. But he was saying to her -- the situation was, he'd asked everybody to get naked. 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. This is probably something I shouldn't talk about. I feel at this point that these are professional matters, so I don't know where I should stop. I don't know what's--

Q. Classified?

A. I don't know how much is classified, from the point of view of people saying, "Oh, I'm going to do conscious drinking, because now I know the secrets of the East." 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.


Q. So, what was Trungpa's reply to your question, anyway?

A. What Trungpa told me he was saying to her was this. He was telling her, "Look, I've become very far out in working with the American style. I've scandalized a lot of my fellow lamas by being so open to the Americans." He said, "I've come very far into the American style, and it's made me realize my own roots and appreciate my own culture." 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.

Q. By taking off her clothes, she'd respect her roots?

A. Just as I have begun to appreciate my own roots, as a Jew, or just as an American Indian respects his.


Q. Trungpa's claim is that he had no sexual motive at all?

A. He said he was just talking to her about roots. "That's what I was addressing myself to," he said. His view of what he was saying was something dignified.

Q. Not seductive.

A. 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.

Now whether he had sexual innuendo, I wasn't there, I don't know. I think that may possibly be the entire Sanders mind-bias, right there. Or the students'. Or Merwin and Dana's. I don't know, I have no idea, I wasn't there. And I haven't seen the Sanders report lately, or re-read it. I thought I better go back finally and get a blow-by-blow account from Trungpa. So I said to him, you realize what's happening, everybody's interpreting this in every projected way they want, whatever way their mind goes. And nobody's ever had any concrete explanation, nobody who was there's been able to, nobody's really had the time or wanted to go into this.

Q. But again, as inaccurate as this report might be--

A. It may not be inaccurate. It may be perfectly accurate.

Q. Whether it is or not, you're being given this sort of Marcel Duchamp, Nude Descending A Staircase series of angles on the thing which accumulate to suggest--

A. Like Rashomon--

Q. Yeah, like Rashomon. You're getting so much information on this thing that it all accumulates to form a phenomenological sense of reality. This or that detail might be wrong, but the whole thing feels pretty actual. And if you separate the events there from poetry, and from us really, and try to apply this story to what it's like to be alive now inside this country -- some of the things that are going on in there seem to reverberate socially in the country at large. After Jonestown, it's natural to consider this. Particularly the feeling we get that this one large group of people here was condoning what appears to be the subjection to a lot of discomfort of these other two people. And appeals were made to the group by this woman, to the other women there--

A. "Call the police!"

Q. Right. That kind of thing.

A. 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."

Q. But you only make that sacrifice if you want to.

A. Only if you want to.

Q. What if they didn't want to?

A. Then what were they doing at this Vajrayana seminary?

Q. Okay, but what if he says, "I don't want to go to the party tonight, I've got a cold."

A. He didn't say, "I've got a cold." He said, "I don't like this slobbish drunken orgy. I didn't want to go to it with my girlfriend."

Q. And I have a cold.

A. Oh, and I have a cold. But that's not it. What if Trungpa said, "I've got a cold, I don't want to teach tonight?"

Q. But you do say things like that if you don't want to do something. You know, "I've got a headache, I don't want to go."

A. Then Trungpa could say, "Oh, well, I won't teach them tonight, even though it's Halloween and this is the inauguration of the Vajrayana that I've grown up since I was two years old just to teach."

Halloween or Hallowe'en (a contraction of Hallows' Even or Hallows' Evening), also known as Allhalloween, All Hallows' Eve, or All Saints' Eve, is a celebration observed in several countries on 31 October, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows' Day. It begins the three-day observance of Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed.

It is widely believed that many Halloween traditions originated from ancient Celtic harvest festivals, particularly the Gaelic festival Samhain; that such festivals may have had pagan roots; and that Samhain itself was Christianized as Halloween by the early Church.
Some believe, however, that Halloween began solely as a Christian holiday, separate from ancient festivals like Samhain.

Halloween activities include trick-or-treating (or the related guising and souling), attending Halloween costume parties, carving pumpkins into jack-o'-lanterns, lighting bonfires, apple bobbing, divination games, playing pranks, visiting haunted attractions, telling scary stories, as well as watching horror films. In many parts of the world, the Christian religious observances of All Hallows' Eve, including attending church services and lighting candles on the graves of the dead, remain popular, although elsewhere it is a more commercial and secular celebration. Some Christians historically abstained from meat on All Hallows' Eve, a tradition reflected in the eating of certain vegetarian foods on this vigil day, including apples, potato pancakes, and soul cakes.

-- Halloween, by Wikipedia


Q. In other words you're saying, once you're in Vajrayana seminary, you can't quit. It's just like being at Parris Island in the Marines. Merwin couldn't say, "Hey, I want to see my mama, I'm going home."

A. Oh, he can quit, he can quit. Or he could just leave, or whatever. Or on the other hand, Trungpa could make a decision -- "Well, I better just turn off." You know, "No, I can't teach you now." I once asked him what made him go through all this with Merwin. I thought, "This is ridiculous." He said, well, the problem with Merwin -- this was several years ago -- 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. So I said, was it a mistake? He said, "Nope." So then I thought, if it was a gamble that didn't work, why wasn't it a mistake? Well, now all the students have to think about it -- so it serves as an example, and a terror. But then I said, "What if the outside world hears about this, won't there be a big scandal?" And Trungpa said, "Well, don't be amazed to find that actually the whole teaching is simply emptiness and meekness."

Q. Emptiness and meekness?

A. That's what he said. So you see, it's really complicated.


Q. Getting back to the question of the group being so passive during this episode, what Ed Sanders said to me in a conversation recently was something like this. What blows my mind, he said, was that you have this group of a hundred people, and in any other similar scene -- I don't care, Synanon, Scientology -- these two people are singled out, and they say, "Hey, colleagues, come to our aid. We're being harassed here, these guards, they're pushing us around."

A. Fellow students, not guards.

Q. Fellow students, guards, whatever. No one responds. So Sanders said, even in Scientology, someone would have got up. He said, that's what blows my mind about this. These people are so very obedient. And what I'm wondering is, how and why? How do you get that power? Is it magic, or what is it? Personal vibrations?

A. "Personal vibrations," that's a very vulgar way of speaking about someone's relationship with his teacher.

Q. I thought that's what you've been saying.

A. It's vulgar. "Personal vibrations with your wife" -- is that nice?

Q. Well, what is it then?

A. What it boils down to is whether or not you respect your teacher.

Q. If it was Steve Gaskin, somebody would have got up.

A. But Steve Gaskin doesn't come from Tibet. He hasn't gone through this same teaching himself. He hasn't worked through this whole group of fears. 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.

Q. How was he picked out to be taught?

A. Well, it's complicated. There's an old myth ...

Q. Somebody walks into the hut when he's two years old, and says, "You're it"?

A. No, what they do is, they walk into the hut. Suppose they're trying to find Ginsberg the Second. So they show the baby a picture of me, and if he goes, yaagh I -- then they know he's not it. They find a kid who doesn't shit at the sight of the old guy's robes and beads and appurtenances, and takes to them pleasurably, and gets along with them.

Image


Q. So how would they know to go to this particular hut to look?

A. You go to Paterson, New Jersey, the East Side, near the Passaic River, and you find a school teacher who's got a one-and-a-half year old baby, and you show him Howl and Kaddish and give him my pants and my shoes. If he takes a friendly attitude, check out his I.Q. and see if his parents are willing and if he's got all his teeth and all of his hair and all of his bones. And if he hasn't got six toes or anything, you just try him out.

Q. And then he's taken away from home and specially trained?

A. From two years old he's educated and trained.

Q. Doesn't each guru have a special emblem, some special teaching he develops?

A. 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.

Q. According to some of his critics, Trungpa's already doing that. Al Santoli, who was formerly a disciple of his, has a lot to say about this.

A. 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. Before it's too late, and it takes over. Or something like that -- I'm just quoting him.

Q. You've said recently that there's been a great trembling and gnashing of teeth among the disciples over this report. Do you mean around here?

A. Right here. Oh, they're all discussing it.

Q. Really?

A. Oh yeah, they're all discussing it. They've all got their own versions of it.

Q. In the last month or so? Or going back for years?

A. For years. It's like a Koan, in Zen.

Q. So it's been bubbling along all this time?

A. Oh, yeah. It's haunted everyone, certainly.

Q. You mean the validity of the teaching method's been discussed?

A. Oh, sure! A lot.

Q. With some division of opinion?

A. Well, some. I'm generally one of the most rambunctious.

Q. Do you get in trouble for that?

A. Well, I could make enough rambunctiousness that I could say, "I don't want to listen to any more teaching. I don't want to hear your story any more."

Q. But you don't feel that way, obviously.

A. No. You know, it depends what you -- I think Trungpa is a better poet than Merwin, for one thing. On the simplest level. But that's sort of like my own. . . If you want to know what I think, way back in my closet, well, I wouldn't want to say. I just don't want to -- I want privacy in my belief. But I think Trungpa's ten times more interesting than Merwin. Than Merwin's idea of what he was supposed to be doing there at the seminary. However that's not anything that's my business.

Q. But it wasn't really a contest, exactly, as to who's a better poet.

A. Well, I don't know what the whole story was. See, I don't want to talk for Merwin. This is Trungpa's version I've been talking about, but I don't really want to talk for him either.

Q. Well, he won't talk for himself.

A. Well, then turn the tape off. He's got his right to privacy, he's a teacher.


Q. You read for us some of the poems to the aggressive deities, the ones Merwin didn't like. They had lines like, "as night falls, you cut the aorta of the perverter of the teachings," and "you enjoy drinking the hot blood of the ego."

A. Right. So he didn't like "drink the hot blood of the ego."

Q. Or, "cut the aorta of the perverter of the teachings"?

A. That would be Chogyam Trungpa if he was perverting the teachings.

Q. Trungpa would get his aorta cut?

A. Well, the aorta's the life-blood.

Q. So that's just metaphorical?

A. Oh, I suppose so. You might take it literally. Who knows. If I were Burroughs I would say, "of course it's literal."


Q. Are those poems chanted in Tibetan?

A. No, English.

Q. You've compared Merwin to an anthropologist, saying he should have taken part in these ceremonies simply because he was there.

A. I was making a parallel. 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.

Q. That of course assumes that Merwin's position was that of an anthropologist.

A. Well no, I'm saying that the difficulty from the point of view of the practitioner or the teacher is that it's like an anthropologist who doesn't want to participate. He may be a little uneasy about going through their ritual, or whatever.

Q. You've said you've lately been pretty upset over this whole issue. Did you go to see Trungpa specifically because of this?

A. Well, I was blowing my top a few weeks ago, so I went to see him. I said, "What happens if you ask me to kill Merwin?" That was my idea.

Q. You shouldn't put ideas in his head.

A. It was in my head, so why shouldn't I? I mean, the whole point is that that's precisely what you should consider.


Q. If you make a test out of it--

A. Ah.

Q. Was he reassuring?

A. Yeah. Well, he was somewhat reassuring. He was sitting there really sweet, actually. I'd gone to see this monster.

Q. This what?

A. Well, I'd built up this monster in my head. And he explained what -- "I was just talking about my roots, with Dana." But I'd built up this monster. That was my paranoia, the kind that builds up in precisely this kind of situation.

Q. So rather than dispel that situation by making a clear statement on it to his disciples, he feels that they should just work their way through it by themselves?

A. No. 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.
And it's made even more difficult by the American situation, where everything is slowly coming out anyway.

Q. Undoubtedly all this is coming out.

A. The point I guess that most struck me was -- you see, Merwin was free to leave or free to stay. Trungpa encouraged him to stay, and went out of his way to put himself in danger, in a sense. So I don't know what the rights and wrongs of it are, but I find more and more my consideration of it is not so much that Trungpa was wrong, but that he was indiscreet. So I say to myself, he was indiscreet. And then I realize what a shitty viewpoint that is. You know, that's a political viewpoint. And you know, the worst charge I have against him is he was indiscreet, and put me in a situation where I have to be here and explain it and go through all of this scandal. 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! With Ed Sanders freaking out and saying it's another Manson case! Because Ed's paranoia, actually -- 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. And all of Ed's paranoia. And it's made for my paranoia, because half the time I think, "maybe Trungpa's the C.I.A., and he's taking over my mind." Much less all the poets, who want the supreme egotism of poetry -- that poetry should be the supreme individualistic reference point, that nobody should be above the poets, and that if anybody is they'll get the American Civil liberties Union after them! 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 if he does, the poets get real mad that their territory is being invaded!

And then I'm supposed to be like the diplomat poet, defending poetry against those horrible alien gooks with their weird Himalayan practices. And American culture! "How dare you criticize American culture!" Everybody's been criticizing it for twenty years, prophesizing the doom of America, how rotten America is. And Burroughs is talking about, "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. The last civilized refuge of the world -- after twenty years of denouncing it as the pits! You know, so now it's the 1970's, everyone wants to go back and say, "Oh, no, we've got it comfortable. Here are these people invading us with their mind control."

And particularly, most particularly, people who suck up to Castro and Mao Tse-Tung. That's the funniest part. All the people, even myself who'd had all sorts of hideous experiences with Marxism. Or who put up with Leroi Jones. It's never questioned, you'd never publicly question that -- write an article about Leroi Jones in Harpers! You know, pointing out the contradictions in his democratic thought. Or anybody's, for that matter.

So, yes, it is true that Trungpa is questioning the very foundations of American democracy. Absolutely. And pointing out that the whole -- for one thing, he's an atheist. So he's pointing out that "In God we trust" is printed on the money. And that "we were endowed with certain inalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." That Merwin has been endowed by his creator with certain inalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Trungpa is asking if there's any deeper axiomatic basis than some creator coming along and guaranteeing his rights.

Because one of the interesting things that the Buddhists point out is that there's always a sneaking God around somewhere, putting down these inalienable rights. Urizen is around somewhere. And they're having to deal not only with the Communists, and the fascists, and the capitalists, they also have to deal with the whole notion of God, which is built right into the Bill of Rights. The whole foundation of American democracy is built on that, and it's as full of holes as Swiss cheese.

Q. Well, Trungpa himself claims inalienable rights, doesn't he?

A. But the Vajrayana thing wouldn't have the shadow of trying to justify. It's like action painting -- without casting a shadow. And one of the things the Buddhists would feel would be an imperfection would be the need to justify. From that particular point of view in Dostoevsky, where ego is egotism trying to make a shadow of itself, trying to excuse its presence. So that makes it even more ambiguous, because here there's no attempt to justify. There's no attempt to justify it out of guilt, or out of hyprocrisy. They're not being very equivocal about the absolutism of the Vajra teacher. The fact is there's a mythological claim that the Vajrayana master can't make any mistakes. So for years everybody's been saying, "what if he made a mistake, then how could he be a Vajra master?"

Q. Don't Catholics say that about the Pope, too, that he can't make mistakes?

A. Yes, but the Pope gets his thing from the divine, from God. But Trungpa doesn't get it from God. He just asserts it. On his own. He takes responsibility for the assertion.

Q. Not bad!

A. Not bad, as long as you take the consequences. When Sanders was here doing his class, that was the big argument. It's sort of like papal infallibility. How could people be perfect? If the Vajra master can't make any mistakes, how could he have made this big mistake?

Q. Therefore it can't be a mistake?

A. Yeah, therefore it can't be a mistake. Or therefore he's not a real Vajra master. He's a charlatan, or -- you know, the regents sit around in New York, and Osel Tendzin says, "Sure, we made a mistake to invite Merwin to the seminary." 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. When they get that far advanced, after many, many years together, when there's been a sort of final mind-schlup -- if an ego mistake is made there, with any kind of attachment, any passion, any grasping, then it can be very dangerous. As indicated by this very low level beginner's situation with Merwin. If somebody thinks that the guru is an ego trying to take over his mind, you can get paranoid -- you know, you feel it's a threat to the universe. Because the whole point is that the Vajra master has to work with, precisely, paranoia. Which is the ultimate, ultimate sort of consciousness-defense. If there is such a thing as dissolution of the ego. Maybe there is just a slow, gradual wearing-away, which is more like it, actually. A slow, gradual wearing-away until it becomes boring. 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.

On the way home Allen says the bodyguards don't carry guns, but they are trained in tai-chi and art of flower arrangement. "They are experts," he says, "but their jobs are very complicated. Trungpa is gravely, maybe fatally ill, he's an alcoholic megalomaniac and he can't keep his hands off the girls. Some time ago we invited a Tibetan lama to check out Trungpa and give us his opinion about the state he is in. The lama concluded that wisdom might still reside in him, but that his body is sick and polluted. Indeed, we sometimes see a glimpse of his enlightened being, but mostly he's a pain in the ass. His guards are very tense, because he's so unpredictable and does weird things. A few months ago, he suddenly threw himself backward down the stairs, to test if the guards were alert. They were not and Trungpa had a heavy concussion. We try to restrict his obsessions as much as possible, but it's a heavy task. After all, what do you do when the king has gone mad? You shield him off from the outside world, praying for a rapid and worthy demise."

It's good to hear Allen talk so openly about this. He says he doesn't feel insulted by Campert's remarks about the mafia. "There are more poets at Naropa who feel that way and I think it's all right. Crazy wisdom wants no followers."


-- Milk, Volume One, by Hans Plomp
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Re: The Great Naropa Poetry Wars, by Tom Clark

Postby admin » Sun Aug 04, 2019 5:26 am

Letter from Allen Ginsberg to WS Merwin
March 10, 1979


Dear Bill and Dana:

As you may know an article appeared in Harpers lately "Spiritual Obedience" discussing Trungpa Naropa Vajrayana and in disguised form using odd initials your disagreement with Trungpa at the 75 Seminary. It drew on the Sanders class report. Following that an article in Boulder Camera appeared using your names, rebuking Trungpa for public drunkeness. Several weeks ago Tom Clark -- who had made a kind of heroic interview with me in Paris Review thirteen years ago -- asked me to sit with him for an interview on the subject -- "the Merwin incident" and the Harpers piece. I was hesitant since I've tried to avoid talking publicly on the whole matter for many reasons including my own paranoia, the delicacy of the subject, divided loyalties, unwillingness to subject either Trungpa or yourself to the vulgarity of my own loudmouth on the situation whereat I wasn't present & was still uncertain as to the details and their significance. However Tom is an old friend and poet, he came with Ed Dorn whom I've known since 1955, and whatever might be done as an interview, I would have felt like a creep not talking to them as poet companions, since we never discussed the matter at intimate length and they were troubled by it and probably by my ambiguous attitude. I said I thought the matter was too delicate to deal with except very gently, should be done with long consideration, and in any case, since the Harpers article used odd initials, we should follow the same format, and also not rush it into print, -- I was leaving for a week in NY & wanted a chance to read and correct transcription. Tom said his magazine was in a Rush, I said this shouldnt be treated so hastily; if he found himself pressured, at least show the text to Anne Waldman. However I basically trusted his judgement & that of Ed Dorn, so we talked for several hours, recording probably 2/3 the conversation.

I later became apprehensive & spooked when I returned from NY, since I learned that the Boulder magazine was going to print my conversation/interview with Tom & Ed Dorn along with a chapter of the Sanders Report, and I couldn't reach Tom Clark to get a copy of the transcript, and it hadn't been shown to Anne. A copy was finally delivered to my door, I reedited it & corrected transcript, & brought it back in a day to the Boulder Magazine office with a note saying that I thought you should be consulted before your name was bandied about so in public, I wasn't sure the magazine, or Sanders, had checked with you as to your wishes before publishing their 'investigation'. Al Santoli had been canvassing the class in vote on publication and I'd asked him to contact you for your own permission or advice before proceeding.

When I finally met Tom at the Boulder Magazine office I found printed copies of the magazine with portions of Sanders report and my own text printed, already in distribution. I was freaked out & yelled at Tom, thinking he'd betrayed my trust & purposely got me in hot water. My main worry was that indiscreet put downs of your poetry, hyperbolic fantasies of Buddhist fascism, low grade gossippy opinions about scenes where I wasn't present, distorted paraphrases of conversations with Trungpa, inaccurate conversational references to Burroughs as murderer & Corso as total dope fiend, on top of mis-transcriptions of phrase would not only reveal my own basic hypocracy but also confuse the public issue (if there was one) with my unedited private & hysteric or irritable conversation with friends; I'd thought I'd have a chance to correct the interview or Clark have the friendly common sense to edit it & clean up my solecisms.

Tom didn't edit it all himself nor transcribe everything I thought significant, so there may be some additional disproportion added to my original inanities & ill-willing frankness. Remarks comparing your poetry to Trungpa's were left in adding insult to injury to your person, & a paragraph of appreciation of your character & sensitive behavior was edited out.


I stopped yelling at Tom when I realized it was a fait-accompli irreversable, & that he thought he was doing it (aside from pressure from the magazine) as the rare bold action of an honest reporter, and that my yelling was only making the situation worse by solidifying my own and Tom's self-righteousness. I also breathed a sigh of relief, that I had hit bottom, and my own hypocracies were unmasked to fellow poets & fellow Buddhists, & that was almost a service rather than a stumbling block.

Please accept my apologies for my objectionable remarks about your writing -- ill considered even for private yatter among friends, some kind of vanity got into me there, which is not my whole mind, an irritable & nasty arrogance in me which I can't disown since I spoke it, except to acknowledge it as bad character on my part and ask your forgiveness.

I'll send under separate cover a copy of the Boulder Magazine, as well as a copy of the interview as I edited it & brought Tom Clark at his office before I knew it had been published, i.e. as I would have had the text, had it been given to me to publish as an edited revised perfected statement of my opinions. I've marked the paragraphs edited out of the published version by Tom & his editor, including the one appreciative of your public relation to Trungpa (and my own School scene.)

I also enclose a Xerox of the note I'd brought along with my edited copy to the Magazine, suggesting they consult you before publishing all that gossip. I'm still not sure whether Sanders -- who is privately publishing his book in about 1500 copies -- ever did contact you for advice, i.e. whether or not to do it & in what form and with what discretion.

My main shame is in having discussed your situation in public (re the Seminary conflict) when you've had the delicacy to leave the situation ripen on its own without aggression on your part. Of all people, I certainly owed you equal courtesy, and am humiliated to find my own vanity and meanness in print, a situation somewhat of my own making since I did sit down to talk with Tom Clark & Ed Dorn, & knew that Tom wanted the interview for his magazine. I simply didnt think to have them sign papers requiring my approval of final text, & was self decieved in thinking that Tom understood my feelings, or thought them worthy of respect for that matter. Perhaps he was right; "Drive all blames into One" is the Mahayana slogan.

Well this letter has gone far enough. Through my own ineptness the disrelation between yourself and the local Trungpa Buddhist scene has been exacerbated. Be that as it may both Tom Clark and Ed Sanders are scheduled to visit here & teach in the Poetics school this summer. Rather than allow the emotional or literary situation to fester with gossip or misunderstanding or in communication or absolutist mutual rejection or unwholesome recrimination or snakes mistook for ropes in everybody's mind, I wish you and Dana would re-visit Boulder and teach at the Kerouac School when it is possible for you, if you're willing. Not so much a matter of forgive and forget, or papering over some basic disagreement irreconcilable, as our making a mutual effort to accomodate to each other's understandings or misunderstandings, and be in a place together where we can talk in community -- in this case Naropa Buddhist oriented but free school, not Trungpa Shrine Room or Vajrayana camp. The conflict has been a great difficulty to me -- literally six months of headache illness trying to reconcile my mind -- which oddly enough the Clark interview did, making me realize that dispite my own paranoia I did trust in Trungpa's basic sanity -- dispite the fact that his Crazy Wisdom Lineage is also Mistake or Mishap lineage (i.e. learn from mistakes, alchemize shit to roses) -- And the unreconciled conflict or paranoia has I think slightly unbalanced Tom Clark & Ed Sanders as well as myself -- So that it's occurred to me often (as well as others, Anne Waldman & Billy McKeever who's now executive Officer i.e. manager of administration at Naropa) to ask you to visit here & help break through the fear, hesitation, ideologic gossip & anxiety that smogs the Poetics school. Basically the school is stable & brilliant & the summer coming probably be the ripest; I am here half year this year teaching Blake's prophetic Books line by line (now finished with Lambeth books to 1795 & beginning on Urizen -- a project that will take 2 years to complete with students here); and I'll be teaching 9 months next year, -- since we're accredited, effort's necessary to build infant school bones. So I'm even more committed than before to trying to interrelate meditation & poetics for the long range health & glory & practical usefulness of both in America. I know you have deep grievance, and if my own anxiety is any measure of yours it must be an awful anchor drag. Or perhaps not, I remember you said you never wanted to see Trungpa again, tho you'd learned some thing from him at first. Still the basic humane as well as traditional Bodhisattva attitude is never cut off completely from any sentient being asking help or teaching. So with great respect I'm asking you to help me, and the Kerouac School, and the US Buddhist community of poets & gossips, by visiting here, teaching or reading, talking to poetry students and fellow Buddhists, & help attempt to uncoil the snake & find the rope, if there is one, which I think we can do. I dont think it means anybody -- yourself, Dana or Trungpa -- need compromise any basic principle or betray any Absolute regulation. It means, for myself, letting go of conceptions, & solidifications of thought (as I had to to stop yelling at Tom Clark & let the situation be as it is unjudged & unprejudiced by my own resentment at having been found out, so I thought) -- letting go of Painful Interpretation & trying to approach our whole mutual relationship fresh & new. Otherwise I'm caught, and maybe you maybe not I only know my own experience, in past causes and effects as seen in the past unchanged still somewhat a bummer to outsiders & ourselves.

Please let me hear from you, I hope this letter reaches you soon, let me know your reaction to the Boulder Magazine & if you have words of rebuke to me for my own behavior or speech please frankly lay them on me I am both bewildered and tranquil enough to listen.

As ever
Allen Ginsberg

**************************************

Dear Bill & Dana:

Hope you can make it to Boulder some time. The Health Food stores are Blooming here. Send us some new poems. I'll send you my first book Clean Asshole Poems & Smileing Vegetable Songs. We have been chewing tea spoon of Bee Pollen a day, said to be a supper Health Food having all the 22 elements in the Human body.

Fresh apple Juice w/ comfrey Tea To you

Love -- Peter Orlovsky
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Re: The Great Naropa Poetry Wars, by Tom Clark

Postby admin » Wed Aug 07, 2019 10:58 pm

Letter from Peter Marin to Tom Clark, May 29, 1979

Tom Clark--

A few days ago I was up in San Francisco, where David Meltzer, an old friend of mine, told me about the recent events in SF concerning Naropa/Trungpa etc. -- responses to the interview with Ginsberg, Dorn's letter concerning support for you, Callahan's petition, its withdrawal, Ginsberg's calls, and so on. Quite a situation, and just about as messay, I mean messy, as writers usually manage to make of their collective affairs. Most surprising of all, few people seem able to get straight in their minds precisely what is distressing abt the events at Snowmass, or certain things in general at Naropa itself, or why poets ought to bother abt them. That ain't surprising either, given the general level of literary consciousness, or, better, conscienciousness, these days. But that isn't my subject here, anyway. What is, is precipitated by a few of Dorn's words describing the pressure you find yourself exposed to in Boulder these days. I merely wanted to interject into the situation the fact that there are -- in SF and elsewhere -- several poets, writers and simply concerned literate persons who do find something objectionable in Trungpa's behavior/attitudes, and for whom much of the discussion now revolving around them has some significance, especially in raising certain questions which they might otherwise forget. Though those persons have remained publicly silent, which is a shame, what goes on in private is something else again, and there, as you know, the issue is not, as it never was, Trungpa himself, or Ginsberg's relation to him, but the deeper issues contained and encoded in the whole matter, issues which were, ironically, at the very heart of the tradition for which AG presumes to speak (Williams, Zukofsky, Rexroth, Whitman, Blake, even Kerouac himself), but which are forgotten at Naropa and by other poets. Pointless here, or needless, to spell out those issues in particular, but it is sufficiant to say that at the heart of the work of those named are the lovers in embrace, the notion of privacy, and the idea of intimacy as the alternative and antidote to pwers, magicks and collectivities of all sorts, particularily the kind hidden behind Naropa, in lefthand/blackmagic Buddhism. By which I mean to say that most of what calls into question the worst of Naropa also bespeaks or somehow keeps alive another poetic tradition, one which might otherwise disappear, and that there are those out there in the world who realize that, and that therefore your efforts, which may otherwise seem to isolate you, especially there in Boulder, do not go unappreciated in the world, and do some good, no matter how oddly the SF poets, in their confusions, seem to act. The issues here have never been Naropa, or Trungpa, or even, really, the stripping of WM and DN; it is, instead, I believe, the question of which values and visions it is that poets most properly owe their spirits and craft, and in keeping that issue alive, and demanding that people think about it, you are doing a useful and perhaps angelic work, and ought not to be discouraged. If I can be of some use to you, please let me know.

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Re: The Great Naropa Poetry Wars, by Tom Clark

Postby admin » Wed Aug 07, 2019 11:07 pm

Buddha-Gate Revisited: Letter from Sam Spaed to the Berkeley Barb, Apr. 12, 1979

Dear Barb:

Enjoyed your article on Buddha-Gate. The Barb has turned a good corner. I like your new shades of black and white more than the older yellow. Nice going also, Mr. Woods.

There is a definite "will-to-cult" among the Boulder Buddhist Community but it is not necessarily the fault of Chogyam Trungpa, though he does little to redirect the tendency among his followers. I would not worry too much about a Jonestown replay in Boulder though. If any mass deaths occur, it will be among Community members who are struck down by motor vehicles as they lurch to and from the several bars located near the Vajradhatu headquarters in beautiful, borderline plastic, downtown Boulder.

I had occasion, about four years ago, to penetrate relatively far into the "Community." I was motivated more by curiosity as to how Trungpa's particular aspect of Buddhism had survived its cultural and geographic relocation, than by a desire to sit at any lotus feet.

Cruising through Naropa and Vajradhatu, posing as an interested party, playing off key people in the organization against one another with flattery and suggestion, slipping through here, genuflecting there, I was able, in a relatively short time, to draw quite near the venerable one and take my readings on him and his folks at leisure.

Trungpa is an intelligent, unusual man, but is surrounded by one of the most outrageous turkey farms one could imagine. It must blow his mind at times. His core-followers, the Vajradhatu and Naropa elite, are motivated by ambitions of the crassest variety. Their third eyes are constantly on the bottom lines, while mindfucking and power tripping one another relentlessly. Meanwhile, near the bottom rungs, the ordinario meditation novices grope cross-leggedly for something, amid the seductive, paint-box iconography of Tibetan Tantra, spurred on by vacuous instruction from meditation "teachers."

Trungpa knows this. One of his themes is that human bullshit is the fertilizer for new growth in the field of bodhi, higher consciousness, whatever the term serves. In light of this, the Community is fertilizing at max rates, gloriously spewing out all manner of trips on whomever might be in a position to take a burst. It was this strident somnambulism which made it possible for me to slide by the human wall around Trungpa. But, they can't help it. The Community is merely a micro-section of all of us.

Consciousness-broadening ideas are like sub-nuclear particles. They are possessed of enormous energies, and are capable of exerting great effect on those who investigate them, and not just in a positive way. In certain situations, they can become harmful, radioactive, burning their devotees out without warning. They are also very short-lived, as are their micro-physical counterparts, disappearing quickly after their emergence into the extra-nuclear, social environment. But even as these ideas are decaying, they can imbue one with a false sense of inner competence.

Trungpa, the man, and he must be dealt with as such, as must any guru/guide, no matter how saintly the persona, is a subtle fellow. He had to run for his life at a tender age from Mao, leaving his privileged position as abbot of a monastic district in Eastern Tibet, trading the expansiveness of Kham for the sardine-can craziness of Euro-America. In his own country, he was, essentially, a prince -- a reincarnated Lama, number eleven in his line. Here, he found many who were very willing to let him carry on the role, and why not?

To his great credit, he renounced his robes and their requisite celibacy, in order to come down a notch or two toward his audience, but into his trans-adolescent mind had been shoved western culture. It made him a bit crazy, a fact that he would probably admit in the right situation to almost anyone, with a like sake lube job.

He does drink. Some people might even call him a fish, but here he is well within Tantric precedent. Some of the great saints of Tibet extolled the benefits of a dram or three as a way of shorting out the itchy demands and fears of the body for a while, and besides, it's cold, meditating in a cave in Tibet, in the winter. Trungpa was also partially paralyzed by an auto accident which took place not too long after he escaped. It probably hurts him still. Nerve damage is a bitch. Alcohol helps.

The first time I ever put eyes on him, he was being carried into a Community meeting very snockered, three hours late (he is never on time). Drinking has to have its organic effects, as it has had on Trungpa. The sauce has not messed with his writing, which is excellent, but it has done numbers on his relationships with people, clouding his judgments of them.

I have seen the venerable one at three levels of inebration (can this mean something?): mellow Ed McMahon bodhisattva (public lectures), fire-breathing Tantric demon, and, nasty bully. When in the mood to crack the whip, the prince does so with heavy-lidded wrath, taking minimum shit, his retainers looking on with sneering awe. I remember a night in Vermont. It got ugly.


But Trungpa does not palm himself off as a saint. Ask him if he is enlightened, and he might answer yes now, no an hour later. Enlightenment is a peripheral concern to him, because to his followers it is a goal parsecs distant. He can't waste time with it, and here he is right. We want enlightenment now, a Big Mac of bliss, no waiting. It can't happen.

His roly-poly charisma and Oxford wit cover extremely well for him, but think twice before pegging him as a model, or anyone for that matter. Trungpa is a man only. He would not contest that, I assure you.

It is his people, clinging to him for whatever selfish reasons, who make him look and act strangely at times. They mirror his sporadic raggedness, which they reinforce with their own absurd behavior, and lay it back on him. It's a heavy mandala. I would drink too.

Don't misunderstand me. Trungpa is no fool, no lather-headed avatar sloganeering for megabucks, offering clever nostrums for our profound problems. He is an intelligent, highly-educated man, fronting a psychology of considerable incisiveness, who has skillfully adapted it to us. Witness Allen Ginsberg, who drifted languidly into Trungpa's scene astride fluid tones from his harmonium, to find a succinct stake driven through the heart of his paranoid demon, with which Ginsberg had achieved an almost total identification.

Read his books. Trungpa is a writer of great warmth and lucidity, but bear in mind that all "spiritual knowledge" is fragmented in our age. Buddhism is but one piece of the puzzle. Unless it is cross-referenced to other fragments to make a whole, it can be a dangerous dead-end, a system, which because of the corrosion of time, mistakenly offers the beginning of self-discovery as the end. Hundreds of years passed before any of the oral teachings of Gautama Shakyamuni were written down. Pieces were lost. Trips were laid. Ever play "gossip" in school? A simple phrase is scrambled after only a few retellings. The griot tradition of the recounting of facts is one thing, the accurate transmission of esoterica quite another.

It is the panic of no-exit which drives the Boulder Community Circus, the realization that there are no magic mantras. It is the frightening confrontation with bent self. The ringmaster, complete with penile handkerchief, has the whole Felliniesque production right on its crazy schedule. Believe it. Well, don't believe it, but consider it.

The "Community," enticed into Trungpa's fun-house, is freaking out in the hall of mirrors, beginning to see that the mirrors are not distorted, that those weird shapes reflected back at them are the genuine item. It's all part of the plot.

The Community is us, our eccentricities geometrically amplified into incandescense by the pressure-pack quest for nirvana, or an easy lay. Both are sought, in varying order by different people.

Trungpa has gained a lot of power in the U.S. It's his karma. He would say you were jealous if you resented his position, and he would be right, but remember, it is not necessary to deal with him or his slick machinery to get the essence of his message. You don't even have to pay to sit in a dharmadhatu meditation hall, at least you didn't then.

Imagine yourself as a traveler who journeys abroad, carrying gold coins, and enters a land in which cow dung is the legal tender. Gold is worthless. It might drive you to drink.

Sam Spaed
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Re: The Great Naropa Poetry Wars, by Tom Clark

Postby admin » Wed Aug 07, 2019 11:38 pm

More Naropa Flack: Letter from Jim Hartz to the Berkeley Barb, May 10, 1979

Dear Barb:

As to the "Woods" article -- originally, both Naropa and Vajradhatu staff endorsed Sanders investigation of the Seminary incident because they felt assured. (After all, they're on the side of infallible truth: the man never makes mistakes.) The "investigation" was put on ice -- minus some of the suggested topics for investigation.

The idea being -- if Trungpa gets in hot water, it'll put Allen and the Kerouac Poetry trip in hot water vicariously -- so, it was on ice not to protect Trungpa, but Allen and the Naropa Poetry trip.

Then, due to a number of factors (some revelations about Trungpa on his retreat) they changed their mind and decided to publish the thing -- still leaving out some certain topics recommended for investigation -- and, of course, filled with all the animosity and righteousness of hardcore Trungpa students -- some investigation!

I think Allen's quote in the Barb is incredible -- about Dana. And Trungpa never said that -- it's Allen's twisted interpretation of what Trungpa was getting at. His psychological fingerprints are all over it and have more to do with his attitude about Dana and Merwin than Trungpa's attitude -- after all, Trungpa has hoped Merwin would share the helm of the Naropa Poetry trip -- but Merwin didn't want to. And, of course, Trungpa would've fucked Dana given the chance. Among the courtesan circuit it's a truism never to turn down the master, any of his whims, sexual or otherwise.

Allen's become a sort of lapdog and apologist for a Tibetan monarchist who loathes anything that smacks of democracy
-- no wonder they push Thomas Hobbes in the "Vajra Politics" courses at the seminaries -- particularly Hobbes Leviathan. Frankly, as Trungpa gleefully did a couple of years ago at Naropa, proclaiming the "death of Hippiedom" (Trungpa encouraged his students to vote for Nixon vs. McGovern, Ford vs. Carter -- and if invited, would've had one of his Guards burn the tires of his Mercedes to get to dinner at Nixon's White House, but he wouldn't have been caught dead at an anti-Viet war poetry reading).

I think the Beat trip is dead. For the cover of the investigation, as far as I'm concerned, they ought to have a picture of Allen, in his Uncle Sam hat, wrapped in the Shambhala flag, pissing on Walt Whitman's grave -- and Neruda's, too!!! At least, Allen as a "Beat" is dead.
Ironic twist, to say the least.

I also think it's much to Merwin's credit the way he's dealt with this incredible desire to grind him up -- and Dana, too: a person has to be working overtime to generate such nastiness and resentment to Naropa -- what a crock: he knows they wouldn't set foot in there for a trillion dollars -- pure media hype appeal, that one -- evidently displaying his newfound "meekness and emptiness" now that he's in such hot water. And sending out these letters to Dana and Bill, to Callahan, to me, asking us to go easy on the poor little thing -- pathetic. Anyway, whatever Merwin has to say, and I'm proud to provide the space for him to say it, will be in his poems, be in his reading.

With best wishes -- sorry I got so carried away -- the Woods article was good, and don't be intimated or cajoled into submission.

Jim Hartz
Intersection
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Re: The Great Naropa Poetry Wars, by Tom Clark

Postby admin » Wed Aug 07, 2019 11:56 pm

I Regained My Brain: Interview with Floy van den Berg by Sam Maddox, May, 1979

The following is an interview with Floy van den Berg, a former member of the Dharmadhatu Buddhist community. This community is led by Chogyam Trungpa, who also heads the Naropa Institute. Speaking with Boulder writer Sam Maddox, Floy has explained that she once considered Trungpa a god, a beacon of truth; today, she considers him a fraud, a bastion of conceit and confusion.

Floy first met Trungpa in Vermont in 1971, shortly after he arrived in this country
. He had set up a monastery on a farm, and was conducting seminars and retreats. Recently out of college and searching for a substitute for lifelong Catholicism, Floy was swept off her feet by Trungpa and his Tibetan version of "crazy wisdom." She stayed with "the scene" when it moved to Boulder six years ago. But shortly after Trungpa settled here, Floy began to note changes -- in style and content -- of the teachings. Trungpa surrounded himself with a monarchic entourage, including his version of a palace guard, the Vajra Guards. The style of the membership changed, too. Three-piece suits replaced jeans and shirts, and cocktails at five became de riguer.

Floy began questioning her relationship to her guru, but at first found it psychologically impossible to stand on her own. She says she was kept off balance emotionally and could not assert her own personality. It was not until it became clear to Floy that Trungpa's scene had less to do with Buddhism than with affirming middle class notions of power, status and material wealth that she was able to gain the courage to tell her story.

It has not been easy to break away. Floy has endured the indignity of having a man (himself a member of the Dharmadhatu) leave her to raise their child with only the help of welfare. Floy claims the man was acting on Trungpa's advice, and that Trungpa further advises the local Buddhists not to help her in any way. Floy was thereafter emotionally -- and on several occasions, physically -- abused, she says.

Partly because of recent publicity regarding an incident at a Trungpa seminary, in which a National Book Award winning poet and his girlfriend were stripped in front of a large crowd on Trungpa's orders, Floy van den Berg feels she can no longer keep her story to herself.

Sam Maddox


Q. As far as you know, is the incident described in Ed Sanders' report, "The Party," (see Boulder Monthly, March 1979) a typical incident, or is it just an isolated occurrence?

A. It is a typical incident, it is not an isolated example. At every seminary, as far as I know, there was a confrontation involving violence. At an earlier Seminary, Bagwan Das had a drinking bout with Trungpa; Bagwan Das had his hair to his waist, tied in holy-man knots by Hari Das Baba. Trungpa drank him under the table and with a knife cut off his hair to his neck.

Q. Then the type of behavior described in "The Party" shouldn't have come as a shock to the Buddhist community?

A. In Trungpa's case, the taking of vows is a plugging-in to Trungpa and Trungpa's authority. And there are people who have been very upset by "The Party," but there is no outlet for them. It's just their personal pathos as far as Trungpa is concerned. Trungpa's scene is the only form of Buddhism today that has the disciples working for the sake of the guru -- they're sort of servants to the guru. I had an interview with Trungpa about leaving, but for a long time I was not able to leave.

Q. How do you mean that you were not able to leave?

A. I mean psychologically. All the time was taken up meditating, trying to learn to meditate, talking with people, fixing meals, or reading books. I would go visit old college friends, but I was in a different space, and unable to relate to them. I would feel forced to come back to Trungpa.

Q. Did Trungpa provide a structure, like a family structure, for you?

A. Not a family structure, but I didn't have a lot of money -- I was on welfare by then and I couldn't find a place to live. It was more just a psychological structure of people that I knew. And I was not willing to submit to that, yet I could not find any other place to be. I was pregnant, I felt emotionally traumatized by the pregnancy and emotionally traumatized by Trungpa's group, but I could not find the courage or the stamina or the personal resourcefulness to get another place. And that's very a-typical of me.

Q. So would you say that people that are into Trungpa's scene are similar to you in so far as the psychology of need or the inability to break away from it are concerned?

A. I would say that no one that I know has broken away from Trungpa, except for one woman that I know of -- that's one exception. I'm told that this is simply what I've experienced but that it doesn't happen that way for everyone, and that people are free to come and go. But I know that for anyone who has been with Trungpa a long time, it will become extraordinarily psychologically difficult to re-enter the real world. They will be dealing with a sense of self that has been broken down.

I think in all cases in Trungpa's scene you have personalities that are becoming psychologically dependent. One of the clues to that came up in Peter Marin's article in the February issue of Harper's. Marin asked Jeremy Hayward, the head of Naropa Institute, whether or not Trungpa actually did what was best for him. And Jeremy said, "But I have to think that Trungpa is doing the best."


In my thinking, what I have come to understand is that -- and I've read a lot, talked to a lot of people and spent six years in that scene in the past -- the Buddhist teachings are quite simple, easy to comprehend, and clear. But in Trungpa's scene it becomes very, very involved. Very elusive. Very difficult to communicate. And I don't think this is happening in other Buddhist situations. I have not experienced it in other Buddhist situations that I've been around.

I think that the meditation environment around Trungpa is very confused. And meditation is there to help you get clarity.

I also think people are being drawn to Trungpa not just through middle-class wanting to run away from middle-class America, and not just middle-class mindlessness, but through a very strong sociological current in America: the desire for power. I think that it is this strong underlying desire for power that keeps them there. It's "Well, if pappa can't give it to me, man, I can't get it anyplace else. This is the candy store, the IT store." This kind of greedy thinking brings them in and holds them. Buddhism is supposedly based on the lack of greed, but Tantric teachings are something else. The Tantric teachings involve the attainment of power. Many people are coming to Trungpa from many paths of life and for many reasons, most of which are based on guilt, emotional delusions, or the desire for power. All of which are negative.

I think Trungpa is sucking these people in and using that and sending it back to them. Which is what he should be doing, mirroring back people's confusion. But then, too, they shouldn't be sitting there meditating in confusion. Most of these people have spent years with him. And after all these years, they are still sitting there meditating in complete metaphysical gossip.

Trungpa Rinpoche has been in the country for nine years. People have shown very little ability to think critically or act in a reasonable manner towards the man, or hold their own with him. I know no one who has become involved with Trungpa who have been able to hold their own, and say they feel he is wrong. This is not the case with the scene around Kalu Rinpoche, in Vancouver, who is of the same sect as Trungpa. It is not the case with GoMeng Keng who came here from the Gaylupa [Gelugpa] sect.

It seems to be singularly the case that happens to people when they are around Trungpa Rinpoche. They seem to lose a sense of themselves that is capable of functioning at a critical level, and they become emotionally blown-out. It's like a bad acid trip that you don't come back from.

Q. Do women in the Buddhist scene here find it difficult to refuse Trungpa if he asks them for sexual favors?

A. Now that's a matter of ego, as they tell it. Some find it difficult and some are proud of the fact that they don't find it difficult and they do refuse him, but he stays "warm" with them. I've personally found that I was punished. I didn't want to go to bed with Trungpa.

Q. Did he ask you to?

A. Oh, yes. By my first interview he told me I could stay at the monastery in Vermont. It became clear after that that what he was asking me to do was to become one of his concubines. When he told me I could stay, the terms were not clear to me. I was just out of college, an American girl. I was looking for purity. I was looking for contact with someone I loved. I was looking for exalted states of consciousness. I wasn't looking for being the bed-partner of a guru whom I considered to be a Buddha. It didn't enter my mind. But it became clear I could stay there if I wanted to become his mistress.

And then at my second interview during the Naropa seminar in New York City, he leaned over and kissed me strongly in the middle of an interview when there was no signalling that this was about to come about.

I think the real sociological problem comes when you take Trungpa and his sexual behavior out of the context of his disciples. I personally have experienced other disciples saying, "What do you have against sex? Why can't sex be part of your teachings? What's wrong with you?"

Then you take Trungpa away from his disciples -- who are perhaps willing to undergo this on their path -- and you put Trungpa up in front of Naropa Institute for his evening lectures with an audience containing many young girls who have happened into this naively -- like I did -- and one of the guards comes up to one of them after the lecture, and she's just had this heavy experience where she feels like she's "letting-go" or "opening-up," the first time she has emotional contact with something other than what she's grown up with. And the guard comes up and says, "He wants you, tonight." What does that girl do? It's a tremendous moment for her. And there is no space for her to say "no," unless she's fairly mature, which she isn't at that time.


I think that that's when Trungpa's behavior becomes something for people in the world to know.

Q. So he's become sort of a spiritual stud?

A. Well, "sort of" wouldn't be necessary to say.

Q. What about the guards? What kind of an organization is that?

A. Once again the situation has become too solid and has lost the Buddhist content and become something else. It's at the point where, if you're going to have an intellectual analysis of Trungpa, the question of the guards is where you start questioning how he's handling his reality and why it's no longer a Buddhist reality, or a teaching reality.

I think if I went back to the myth of Radha Krishna, we could understand this a bit. Radha was guarded by bulls because she was so precious. Trungpa is not supposed to be guarded in a Buddhist world. He is a participating lineage-holder of the Karma Karmapa lineage, which is the lineage of action because supposedly all thoughts are known. The lineage is empowered to transmit a situation by thought, releasing you into action. And action is where you overcome all things. So there should be no need for the guards, because by knowing all thoughts Trungpa should be able to overcome any harm prior to its taking place.

What we're dealing with now, we're no longer dealing with a man who's giving teachings. We're dealing with a blatant pigishness or something. The presence of the guards, the way they are, the way they handle things, the elaborate things one has to go through to see Trungpa anymore -- it's all very strange, very obscure.

Trungpa was the head of a monastery in Tibet. He ran away when the Communists took over and he's successful in living but, as the head of a monastery in Tibet, he was the head of many monks, not householders. It's not the same as it is here -- he wasn't making tons of money. He wasn't going through all this psychological bowing and scraping of Westerners at his feet. He had few temptations there. There may have been women brought to the monastery; there is a son that was born to him in Tibet by a nun. It's a whole different world from what you have here. I think what you have is a macho on the rampage, in our terms.

Q. Three-piece suits weren't always the style of dress for Boulder Buddhist, were they?

A. Peter Marin said in Harper's that to him as a visitor to Naropa Institute it seemed that Trungpa was no longer taking in the drop-outs from the '60s. It being 1971 when I met Trungpa, we were all wearing blue jeans. People who are now wearing three-piece suits were then the blue-jeans '60s crew. Someone called them a motley crew and by looks they were.

Q. You're considered an enemy.

A. Yes.

Q. A Dharma enemy?

A. Yes.

Q. After the Halloween party did the community here in Boulder know about it?

A. Yes. Before people got back there were letters coming back. And then after that I was really afraid to leave, now the world was awash. If he can do this, what is he going to do?

Q. Was there any critical discussion about the party?

A. People actually questioned, "Am I" -- as Ginsberg pointed out, the question recurred to him -- "following some sort of satanic monster? Is this the Book of the Dead coming alive in some sort of LSD fantasy?"

It is. Trungpa is some sort of monster and that's why it's so hard to talk about it. He's a selfish, prudish little brat. According to Buddhist teachings he has absolutely no right acting out like that. He's doing it and he's getting away with it. And he's highly criticized by other Buddhists. His name is "mud" in Buddhist society.


Q. Describe how you denounced the lineage and the reaction of the Guru.

A. I denounced my vows and took refuge after a series of incidents including a confrontation with Trungpa Rinpoche and a public audience with his Holiness Karmapa, head of the lineage.

Q. What was Trungpa's response? What was the incident with Trungpa?

A. I had wanted to go to Seminary because I talked with John Steinbeck IV and I remembered that keeping up with America was not why I wanted to be a Buddhist. An emissary came to my house with a message from Trungpa: if I wanted to go to seminary, the child's father couldn't go. I felt Trungpa was trying to run my life, so I decided not to go.

Then I had a confrontation with him at a wedding party. Trungpa's sister-in-law was getting married. The party was a lawn party at the couple's new house. I talked to the newlyweds when I came in, and they went to a table at the back. I wanted to be at the wedding, but I did not want to be with the rest of the people there. I was planning to renounce my vows. But I felt it should be a hands-off scene at the wedding, with no confrontation.

I got comfortable talking with the groom and some friends, and then I noticed that one of the heads of Naropa Institute walked to the table, gave a slight nod of the head to me and sat down. I thought, you don't dare, but assumed that nothing would happen at a wedding.

Q. Why did you think that? Did you feel they would want to confront you?

A. I felt nervous. The matter of denouncing the vows was a serious matter and everyone I knew objected to it.

Q. What happened then?

A. More and more heads of Trungpa organizations came to the table. It looked sinister, but I still felt that nothing would happen. Then Trungpa arrived at the party. He came to the table and looked at me. I managed a bland smile. I figured they could sit at the table; it was my friend's wedding and they wouldn't dare be after me -- that here, socially, live-and-let-live could happen.

Suddenly he, Trungpa, was sitting beside me. I don't remember seeing him walk around that table; with his leg brace, I think I would have remembered. But all of a sudden he was beside me. I turned and there he was, and I went "Gulp. My Goodness."

I knew he had come to sit beside me, and I knew it was going to be difficult not to talk to him. But I figured he would follow some ethical manner of conduct. I don't know why I thought that.

Anyhow, we did talk. The conversation, as much as I remember, went as follows:

"Oh, you're not going to seminary?"

"No, I'm not."

"Are you leaving the scene?"

"Yes, in my ignorance, that is what I'm doing."

Then he leaned his head down and pulled his glasses to the middle of his nose and looked over them. It is the same gesture my father, who was a colonel in the Air Force, used when he was going to have his way.

And he said, "Well, I must say I'm disappointed in you."

I was furious: if this was the last time we're going to talk, and he said something like that, I didn't see any point in it. So I wasn't going to let it go by without trying to gain a human moment.

I said, ''I'm disappointed in you." He turned his head away. The whole atmosphere had become quite intense. Everyone at the table was staring at us and I was very nervous.

Then I said, "But I honor the teachings of the Buddha and I want you to know that."

He said, "They will be of no help to you. The lions will come and devour you. You are without my protection and I want you to know that I reject you as my student."

The way he said it was so fierce and so involved in himself. I felt so hurt by his choice of involvement in himself and his authority and lack of understanding of my naivete, my feelings and my struggle.

I said, "If the lions come and devour me, I will tell them to go and talk it over with you."


Q. What is motivating you to do this interview? What is giving you the courage to become public about these incidents?

A. It may appear that I should be motivated by the beatings and abuse I received, out of a sense of revenge. I was beaten and abused. But this story is not an attack. It is the telling of the truth.
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Re: The Great Naropa Poetry Wars, by Tom Clark

Postby admin » Thu Aug 08, 2019 12:27 am

View from the Market Pace: Naropa Student Newsletter, July 9, 1979: Philippe Ricard

Boulder Co., middle American paradise, the land of instant sunshine, where everybody smiles to everybody else. At the center you find a philosophical kingdom, but, as in all kingdoms you never get to see the king's castle. A hierarchial organisation with a body-guarded philosopher/sovereign, councillors and retinue keeps the inner palace alien to you.

Without the gates lies the market place, where the people gather, where each and every one can speak his mind, do business, buy and sell, play and dance, learn and teach; where new and old ideas interact, opening possibilities of growth. It's a meeting of pathways, where you and I get acquainted, get involved, into friendships and love, creating links that, I hope, may endure. The master of this philosophical kingdom is benevolent, let's you play your own game but when the king goes by, the people must rise, in homage? Or, just to watch the parade go by?

Naropa is just space in time, is where most of us are passing through but the barriers are there between the kingdom devotees and those who are passing through.
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Re: The Great Naropa Poetry Wars, by Tom Clark

Postby admin » Thu Aug 08, 2019 12:57 am

Buddha with His Hand Out: Westword, by Tom Clark, Aug. 3, 1979

In what is a time of crisis for higher education here in Colorado and elsewhere, a glimmer of hope has appeared out of the general darkness. From Boulder comes a suggestion on how to cope with the accelerating costs of learning. Let the state legislature take a tip from Naropa Institute on how to solve the fundraising problem. Get those lazy students off their butts and make them go out and raise the money themselves!

The financial minds at Naropa are way out ahead of the pack on this issue. While their academic peers on the Hill are busy writing off students as so much fiscal dead weight, the canny administrators of this Tibetan Buddhist-oriented institution have learned that the student body can be a school's most important resource. Tin-cuppers from Naropa's administration regularly show up at classes, soliciting cash donations and encouraging students to hit up their parents for same. According to William McKeever of the Institute, the goal of this summer's first one-month session was to raise $14,000 for the school (and the religious organization of which it is a component). A student-directed fundraising "Cabaret Night" in June raised $650 in pledges, $325 in cash donations, $350 from a raffle, $500 from the bar, and $1500 from pre-sold raffle tickets. The proceeds from the cash bar, raffle, concessions and a softball game totaled $3,700, according to the Naropa Student Newsletter.

The cabaret night "embodied the spirit of our Institute, enormous richness, energy and shared inspiration," quoth chief fundraiser McKeever.

Still, the cabaret haul left the Institute $7,870 short of its "goal" for the session. William McKeever's admonitions about eliminating this shortfall grace the pages of the latest Student Newsletter. "Here are a few reminders," McKeever begins: "$40 per student is the median figure (for donations per student per session). You can donate your housing deposit. Pledge for later in the summer, or fall, if you must. Write or call friends, parents for support (you may use the office phones) ... "


"You can donate your housing deposit." Are you listening, Roland Rautenstraus? Think what this idea could do for our state educational system!

Naropa's second-session plans call for more of the same kind of hawking and shilling that have made it the state's most progressive educational institution, cadging-wise. Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, high mogul of the school, is delivering lectures on aesthetics and psychology, at $15 a hit (not included in tuition).

August 12 is the date of the all-day Fundraising Auction, and on August 17 there's the big wind-up fundraising Cabaret Night II. The following two days are designated as "Parents Weekend." Moms and dads arriving to chauffeur their newly-enlightened kids home from summer school will be given the opportunity to deposit coins and cash in huge bins placed at strategic points on Boulder's downtown mall.


Trungpa, the fellow who runs Naropa, has stated in one of his books that "the real function of the guru is to insult you."

Dean Briggs, sit up and take notice.

Tom Clark
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Re: The Great Naropa Poetry Wars, by Tom Clark

Postby admin » Thu Aug 08, 2019 1:02 am

Naropa Responds, Westword, Aug. 17, 1979

To the Editor:

I would like to clarify some facts regarding your article "Buddha With His Hand Out" in your August 3 edition, concerning Naropa Institute's summer fundraising drive. All money donated to the Institute goes directly and only to the Institute for the support of its educational and artistic programs. It does not go to any religious organization, nor is Naropa "a component" of any religious organization. Legally and financially Naropa Institute is an independent, private, not for profit educational corporation. Secondly, the fee of $15.00 a night for Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche's class is not in addition to tuition. It is a prorated figure for individuals attending on a lecture by lecture basis. Visitors and press can always arrange for guest passes in advance for this or any of our classes and events.

It should be noted that this Institute began with no advance financial support, has no large alumni body, and still makes 80% of its budget through student tuition and fees, which are moderate. We are able to do this primarily because of the salary range ($5,000-$8,000 for a year-round, full-time employee or faculty member). Many of our visiting faculty teach here at their own expense, waiving their salaries ($500 for a five-week course) and making donations as well. Nevertheless, the remainder always has to be met through fund raising, and calling on the students to join in the extremely generous financial support consistently offered by the Institute's faculty, staff and friends is one necessary segment of the continuation of this new school. The personal commitment and generosity demonstrated by hundreds of our students, faculty, staff and friends over the years has been quite moving. It is this spirited involvement which created this school to begin with and continues to provide for its existence and growth, educationally, artistically, as well as financially.

William McKeever
Executive Director
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Re: The Great Naropa Poetry Wars, by Tom Clark

Postby admin » Thu Aug 08, 2019 1:08 am

Religion and Politics Again: Letter from Glenn H. Mullin to Tibetan Review, Aug. 17, 1979

As documented in the last issue of the Tibetan Review, the actions of Karl G. Springer, so-called Director for External Affairs of the Vajradhatu meditation centres of Chogyam Trungpa Tulku, in sending out notices to all Vajradhatu centres slandering His Holiness the Dalai Lama and generally badmouthing the Tibetan Government-in-Exile, are irresponsible beyond belief; but they are no surprise. Throughout Buddhist groups and Tibetan sympathizers in America, there is a near-universal recognition that most movements associated with Trungpa are both politically naive and spiritually bigoted. I state this openly because I would not like the actions of Trungpa's 'Director of External Affairs' to be interpreted by the refugee community in India as representative of the work done in the names of all lamas in the west. This type of sectatrian bigotry is not associated with the centres of great teachers like the Sakyapa Lama Dezhun Rinpoche of Seattle, the Nyingma Getrul [Gyatrul] Rinpoche of California, or of Gelukpa Lamas such as Geshe Rabten, Geshe Zopa or Kyongla Tulku. Nor is it representative of Kargyu teachers such as Kalu Rinpoche, or, for that matter, of the Karmapa. It is difficult to know whether the general sectarian vibration associated with Trungpa's groups are reflective of the attitude of Trungpa himself; but, if not, he should be informed that by working in the West he is placing himself within Western ethics, meaning that a leader is responsible for the actions of his underlings.

The murder of Gungthang Tsultrim, will perhaps never be solved; but as with every sensitive event in the history of the refugee community in India, it was obviously manipulated by the Chinese anti-Tibetan agencies as a weapon to weaken the internal unity of the Tibetans. That Tsultrim's own associates were aware of this is evidenced by the fact that immediately following the incident a large number of them travelled to Dharamsala, spoke to His Holiness and the government there, and then offered long life prayers for His Holiness.

I sincerely hope that Springer's claim is untrue that, unlike His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Karmapa takes no interest in the Tibetan movement working to free Tibet from Chinese occupation; but Springer's views that if this were true it would somehow prove the latter's superior saintliness is half-witted. But he is correct on one point: he himself is in dire need of some key by which to be able to conduct himself and his work sanely.

Also, the motivation of His Holiness and many other Lamas in contributing to the Tibetan resistance movement is deeper than mere concern for the six million Tibetans who are placing their hope in them. The real reason for their concern was succinctly put by the Bhutanese delegates to the International Buddhist Conference in New Delhi last year: "Until the 1950's all of our Lamas, as well as those of other Himalayan Buddhist regions such as Sikkim and Laddakh always looked to Tibet for their training. Now that Tibet is destroyed it is hard to say how secure these Buddhist traditions will remain." Also, the former Health Minister of the Janata Government, Mr. Raj Narain, hit the nail on the head when at the same conference he stated: "You might as well face facts: unless Tibet gains her freedom, the Buddhist traditions of central Asia are bound to perish." The level of training that monks of any of the four sects presently receive in comparison to the training in old Tibet is mere primary school. For centuries Tibet has been the seat of Vajrayana Buddhism and the reservoir from which large sections of the populations of Mongolia, Laddakh, Siberia, Turkestan, Bhutan, Sikkim, etc. drew their spiritual inspiration and learning; which is, of course, why Mao was so keen to destroy Tibet as a country and as culture. The effect, he conjectured, would have the same effect on central Asia as the Roman destruction of the Druids had on Europe. It is not that the Lamas in India take time off from teachings in order to fight for Tibetan freedom; rather, it is merely a matter of their making a show of their direction from time to time. Springer may think that it is more important to convert a few Americans to weekend Buddhism than for the Lamas to try and hold together the rapidly fading splinters of their spiritual legacy here in India; but not everyone would agree with him. In Tibet not only every sect leader but also every abbot and Rpoche had a certain political as well as spiritual authority, which generally worked out more as a privilege than a burden; now that the hourglass has been turned it would hardly be a demonstration of religious qualities to turn their backs on that aspect of their trip. Perhaps some lamas do not have time at the moment to give any energy to the Tibet issue, but time will tell whether or not they will have time for Tibet when her independence has been won by the sweat of others.

As stated above, the Chinese are always looking for an opportunity to manipulate the situation in India. It could be that they will see Springer's letter as an opportunity to rid themselves of Karmapa, who has always been a pillar in the refugee community. Normally they do not like to harm the lamas, as it has the effect of creating a martyr, which strengthens the spirits of the refugees. But here Springer has built a bit of a different situation.

To rub salt into the wound he has made, Springer's supposed letter of apology to the Representative of the Tibetan Government in New York in actual fact is no apology. A look between the lines will show that all he was really doing was patting himself on the back for "having shaken up the boys at the top."

Moreover, his wild theory that Tibetan Government-in-Exile wishes to secularize the Tibetan community in India and therefore see the sect leaders as obstructive to their work is absurd beyond conception. All Tibetans are fully aware that the Lamas are the principal upholders of the Tibetan culture; without their influence, Tibetan culture is basically tukpa and momos, with the occasional Agu Tonpa joke. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama stated in an interview published by the AAP in America a few years ago, "Here in India we have had three main objectives: to settle the various groups of refugees, to establish monasteries of the different spiritual traditions in order to preserve our cultural heritage, and to do anything possible in the direction of freeing Tibet from the Chinese." I think there was wisdom in both the choice of objectives here mentioned and the order in which His Holiness mentioned them.

Springer's accusation that the Tibetan Government is sectarian is also completely off the wall. Not only do they partronize all Buddhist sects, His Holiness has made large personal donations to the Tibetan Muslims in Kashmir who are no longer even refugees. Perhaps in his few weeks in India Springer may have heard the occasional grumble about this and that, but he should have looked a bit deeper at the complexity of the refugee situation before leaping into absurdity. Having spent almost a decade in various refugee communities in India and known intimate friends from all the sects, I have no doubt that the general level of morale of the communities is high. As in any system there are squabbles and dissension, but these are a sign of healthy community, not of internal chaos. As Abe Lincoln put it, you can't satisfy all the people all the time.

Glenn H. Mullin
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