Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Identified as a trouble maker by the authorities since childhood, and resolved to live up to the description, Charles Carreon soon discovered that mischief is most effectively fomented through speech. Having mastered the art of flinging verbal pipe-bombs and molotov cocktails at an early age, he refined his skills by writing legal briefs and journalistic exposes, while developing a poetic style that meandered from the lyrical to the political. Journey with him into the dark caves of the human experience, illuminated by the torch of an outraged sense of injustice.

Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Fri Jul 26, 2019 11:12 pm

Crazy Like a Fox – In “Crazy Wisdom,” Trungpa’s Heirs Sacrifice Truth to Profit
by Charles Carreon
July 24, 2019

It’s impossible to see yourself when you’re cocooned inside a rosy glow of nostalgia, so the Shambhala insiders who appear in “Crazy Wisdom” look very comfortable and somewhat pathetic.


In this slick biopic lionizing the dead Chogyam Trungpa from the safe distance of a few decades, Trungpa’s core followers appear like a string of lottery winners dressed in casual formal attire, comfortably seated in cozy sitting rooms, tasteful meditation halls, traditional shrines, and art studios. Each lucky man or woman presents the same aspect – supremely satisfied with their decision to devote their lives to Trunpa’s vision; firmly grasping the brass ring they were so fortunate to clasp when Trungpa held it out to them; serene in the knowledge that they made the right choice when they delivered their life into his hands; happy singing hosannas forever to Trungpa, Trungpa, Trungpa!

Presented in a haze of perfection, this string of Trungpa worshippers presents like a necklace of matched, cultured pearls – each one expressing identical sentiments, venturing nothing surprising, unique, or individual. Their adulation comes from a factory with faultless quality control. Their very sincerity seems affected. They’ve become the Martha Stewarts of spirituality, offering a safe, respectable approach to inner growth and fulfillment. Nevertheless, this film cannot whitewash the tainted legacy of a man whose greatest skill was his practice of self-deception. What “Crazy Wisdom” will do is memorialize the naivete, blindness, and complicity of those who, seduced by Trungpa’s self-love, still serve his will, emulating his enigmatic poses and pregnant pauses as they gush praise, elide the truth, and distort reality, painting a picture of a spiritual Camelot that never was. “Crazy Wisdom” is a farcical re-imagination of a life marked by chaotic misconduct, florid self-aggrandizement, and canny manipulation as a stately progression from sainted birth, through heroic adolescence, to fruitful maturity, culminating in nirvana, crowned by canonization, his sainthood confirmed by meteorological displays of celestial glory. There’s more truth to be found in Disney’s Snow White.

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Most notable about “Crazy Wisdom” is the scenes that aren’t included. We don’t see the classrooms at the unnamed Oxford College that Trungpa likely never attended (there are currently 39 Oxford colleges), or hear from his teachers or fellow-students. Rather, over the rooftops of a quaint English town, the single word “Oxford” appears onscreen, followed by “1963 Chogyam Trungpa receives a grant to study in England,” a group photo of college-age people among which Trungpa’s appears as the only Tibetan face, and static shots of medieval saints carved in stone.


Following this suggestive but factually substanceless montage, a trio of acolytes offer bland speculations about what Trungpa was up to during his early years in England. Francesca Freemantle, a silver-haired academic, says “He was going through a period of really examining how he was going to teach.”


Rigzin Shipko, a graying English yogi, claims “Rinpoche was doing various courses in order to familiarize himself with Western culture.”


Lyndon Antle, who claims that, after seeing Trungpa once in the Telegraph newspaper, he sold his house, quit his job, and made the trip to Samye Ling on public transport, walking the last 17 miles to the remote location near Eskdalemuir, credits Trungpa with “trying to gather the experience directly for himself of the suffering of the human condition in the west.” And that’s it for Trungpa’s attendance at England’s most prestigious institution of higher learning.

We don’t see the bedroom at Garwald House where Diana Pybus, all of sixteen and a week, climbed into Trungpa’s bed to aid his recovery from his crippling accident. We don’t hear about how the two were jailed for a night after skipping out on a hotel bill after a frolic in Glasgow. We never hear how Pamela and Christopher Woodman, devoted students scandalized by Trungpa’s habitual drunkenness and his marriage to Diana, over fourteen years his junior, accused him of moral turpitude to the American immigration authorities.


We are briefly shown a tabloid headline trumpeting the marriage to the British public, which became notorious as one of the first marriages of a sixteen-year-old bride pursuant to a change in English law. We do not hear about how the marriage outraged Diana’s family, causing her Uncle Michael to loudly accuse Trungpa in a public house as “a cradle robber and a baby snatcher” who would be wise to “go to America, because anything goes there.”


Although Akong Tulku appears in the movie, he says nothing about how he ostracized Trungpa at Samye Ling for being an embarrassment to the Kagyu lineage, or how Trungpa retaliated against him by destroying his personal shrine, urinating on the staircase, and passing out in his own filth, all on a special day when donors were present for a special visit to the abbey. Neither does Akong tell us how he was so eager to see the pair gone that he loaned Trungpa the money to fly to America, and so distrustful of repayment that he demanded custody of the ancient Trungpa lineage seals as collateral for the loan. We don’t learn that Trungpa flew to the USA without a visa, and had to wait for several months to get one, because the Americans cancelled his visa due to the accusations made by the Woodmans. We don’t hear about how Trungpa and Diana were turned out of the home of a Korean monk, Samu Kim, from whom they initially received a warm welcome, after one night of drinking. Apparently not having the requisite ability to reinterpret Trungpa’s rough behavior as crazy wisdom, Samu asked him to leave, explaining that, “You look like a Buddha, but you’re just an ordinary man. You look the story, you walk the story, but you’re not the real thing. You can’t stay any longer.”


Trungpa’s son, Osel Mukpo, aka “the Sakyong,” appears to speak a few ambiguous words about his father, but we never see the “Lady Konchok,” the Tibetan nun upon whom Trungpa sired the child, then abandoned in India. Osel doesn’t tell us how he felt about being taken from his mother, transported to Samye Ling at the age of seven, and left without family to care for him when Trungpa and Diana decamped for the States. We do not hear from Pamela and Chris Woodman, who gave Osel a home and cared for him for over a year before Trungpa filed a custody lawsuit to take him from them. Osel doesn’t tell us about the two years he spent at the Pestalozzi Village, an orphanage for refugee children, after being taken from the Woodman home by means of legal process, while barristers and solicitors sorted his fate. Nor does he tell us how he felt about his absentee father, who made his presence felt primarily by means of custody litigation while he drank, wrote poetry, and seduced his students in Vermont and Colorado. Osel doesn’t tell us how, the one time Trungpa came to see him in England, he experienced little more than fear of the stranger who was his father.


Several of the people interviewed in the film were present at the drunken Halloween party where Trungpa ordered the most aggressive males in his devotion-addled cult to break into the bedroom of a famous poet and his girlfriend, and drag them downstairs to participate in the festivities, where Trungpa, lording it over the fawning crowd like a Buddhist version of Jabba the Hutt, had the couple stripped naked for his entertainment. However, not one of these well-scrubbed, well-respected teachers of American Dharma breathes a word about this event.

We don’t meet any of Trungpa’s seven wives, who kept many nasty secrets about him hidden – his ultra-secret cocaine addiction, his penchant for torturing animals, his indulgence in sex with underage girls. We don’t hear about Trungpa’s tragic marriage to Ciel Turzanski, his sixth wife, whom he “married” the day she turned eighteen, after what all presume was a five-year long affair between the two. We aren’t so much as shown a photograph of this sacrificed child bride, who committed suicide many years later, a victim of torments too painful to imagine.

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The movie paints a friendly face on this sexual predator. We see the “Dorje Kasung,” Trungpa’s vajra guard, marching in uniform, and hear unctuous explanations about how putting Dharma nerds in uniform integrates worldly and spiritual life in “enlightened society.” However, none of these Kasung tell us that they really served as vajra pimps, bringing him the wives and girlfriends of his male students as sexual offerings, breaking up families, poisoning conjugal relationships, and preying on the daughters of students too young to lawfully consent to sexual relations.

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Two middle-aged Dharma matrons appear to declare the transcendent nature of their trysts with the tantric master.


A cuckold declares that he was jealous – of his wife’s relationship with Trungpa! He wished he could get that close!

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Lest anyone think that only Trungpa’s students are able to see the saint behind the sins, Wendy Roshi of Los Angeles Zen Center shows up to laud the “openness” with which he carried on his dalliances, and Kwong Roshi of Sonoma Mountain Zen Center comes close to tears recalling how Trungpa cried at Suzuki Roshi’s funeral.


Still, when it comes to modeling innocent befuddlement at how Trungpa could indulge in such extensive bad behavior while engaging in a religious mission, Pema Chodron sets the gold standard. Claiming that she just “does not know” how to reconcile the conflicting facts, she delivers dumb looks with panache, equating ignorance with wisdom. It is all a clever dodge, however. When she says she “doesn’t know,” she conceals that what she really means is that she is so convinced of Trungpa’s sanctity that nothing he did could ever shake her faith in his perfection. Like a Trumper who would excuse the Donald of homicide if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue, Pema Chodron won’t be budged from her commitment to Trungpa’s divinity, regardless of the evidence. For her to claim that this is a “suspension of judgment” or an “inability to reach a conclusion” is mere sophistry, devoid of sincerity.


Trungpa’s bizarre family life is of course off limits. We hear some “secular spiritual” mumbo-jumbo from the lips of Dr. Mitchell Levy, the Doctor Feelgood who allowed Trungpa to drink and drug himself into an early grave: “He taught by being a human being. He never said, ‘follow me, imitate me.’” What Dr. Levy doesn’t tell us is that, when Trungpa cast Diana aside to engage in sex with everyone else with tits inside grabbing range, he made himself useful by becoming Diana’s lover. Nor does Dr. Levy tell us that “Ashoka Mukpo” who passes in the press for Trungpa’s son, is actually his own child, born to Diana -- a Jewish-British Buddhist boy who got stuck with a Tibetan name. There are of course advantages to this arrangement, because Ashoka was recognized as a tulku, even though not born of Trungpa’s seed.


Ashoka would really have little to complain about, because Trungpa’s seed may not have been the safest genetic line to spring from. Taggie, the eldest son of his union with Diana, suffers from severe autism, and is not featured in the movie at all, even though he was recognized by the Sixteenth Karmapa as a tulku. Although autistic children benefit from sensory therapy, speech therapy, and music therapy, Taggie received none of these. Indeed, he didn't even receive basic home care, or parental affection. At age six, he was interned in the Karmapa's Rumtek monastery, and didn't return to the United States until he was eighteen. Since then, Taggie has been in the care of third parties in separate housing, due to his proclivity for violent rages and other dysfunctional behavior. One of Taggie’s longtime caretakers, Christine Chandler, in her book about the thirty years she spent in the Mukpo family cult, explained that what most enraged Taggie was the endless procession of fawning Trungpa students who, believing him to be a tulku, sought to indulge his every whim, thus stimulating his worst behavior. As Chandler recounts, Diana visited Taggie only once in over six years. On another occasion, his brother Osel promised to come for a visit, and although he never arrived, the newsletter for the Karme Choling retreat center joyfully published a report about "what a wonderful visit the Sakyong had with his brother." Chandler also describes how everyone, from Trungpa disciples to visiting lamas, seemed eager to project their fantasies on the disabled youth, variously believing him to be an embodiment of crazy wisdom, possessed by a demon, or merely in need of "a female consort." Since the movie fails to make any mention of Taggie's existence, of course, it conveniently avoids the fact that the Mukpo family, known for its extravagant spending on luxuries, has shifted the cost of Taggie's home care to the state of Vermont. Thus, disowned in body and spirit, cared for by strangers at the expense of the state, Taggie's origins as Trungpa's son appear to have benefited him not at all. While it would take a DNA test to gather the necessary evidence, modern medicine tells us that fetal alcohol syndrome often results from paternal alcohol abuse, so Taggie may have more than tulku status to thank his father for.


Gesar Mukpo, the youngest son of the Trungpa/Diana union, is another incarnate Bodhisattva, due to the now-obligatory practice of recognizing the fruit of all lama-seed as sacred. Gesar appears briefly in the movie, designated as a “filmmaker,” despite having only one film to his name, a one-hour production entitled “Tulku,” in which he interviews a number of young men who, like himself, have been recognized as incarnate Bodhisattvas, but can’t quite seem to get the hang of the family business. Gesar rejects the opportunity to share reminiscences about his famous father, deflecting an inquiry about whether Trungpa showed him love: “Love? Talking about love is an insult sort of to our relationship, because it was like he treated me like the reincarnated lama that I was recognized as. So in terms of love, did we ever talk about love – there was never any talk about something like that. He treated me like he would have treated a king of another country, you know?”

One of the most tragic episodes in the history of Trungpa’s “enlightened society” goes entirely unmentioned in the movie -- Trungpa’s terrible choice of a successor to run his organization -- Thomas Rich, that some stalwarts still venerate as “Osel Tenzin, the Vajra Regent.” Rich, whose feckless indulgence in unprotected sex while infected with HIV claimed the lives of at least two people, and probably more, has been disappeared altogether. This keeps us far away from the dangerous fact that Trungpa apparently knew that Rich had AIDS, and discouraged him from disclosing it to his sexual partners or using a condom, giving Rich license to commit heinous crimes that are now recognized as murder, plain and simple. But for those who watch “Crazy Wisdom” without knowing the story behind the lies, the concealment of Rich’s misdeeds is as complete as a bricked-over passageway to a room that has been erased from the floor plan.

Although it is well-known that Trungpa’s death was preceded by a long decline during which he lost control over his bodily movements, becoming totally reliant on personal aides to maintain his appearance and manage personal life activities, we see nothing of this. “Crazy Wisdom” sanctifies Trungpa’s early death due to alcohol and drug toxicity at the age of 48, by avoiding all discussion of the months during which his ravaged body was maintained in a semi-comatose state by the use of extraordinary medical procedures at the behest of students unable to come to grips with Trungpa’s untimely passing.

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The movie announced his death as a historical fact, then segues into the gala cremation ceremony in a vast green field thronged with followers, presided over by crowds of traditionally-garbed Tibetans, led by the redoubtable Dilgo Khyentse, whose mere face is sufficient to reduce the devoted to sighs of awe. We see the uniformed pallbearers, numbering about a dozen, carrying his remains in a brocaded palanquin to the funeral chorten, where they are consumed in a splendid conflagration, flames spouting from the roof in a micro-inferno of sacralized fire.

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The event is crowned with “fire rainbows,” an atmospheric phenomenon scientifically known as a “circumhorizontal arc” that can occur when the sun is at an elevation of 58° or greater and sunlight enters high altitude cirrus clouds at a specific angle. Like many other folks with cameras, the filmmakers were able to capture images of this unusual celestial occurrence. For those who scan the heavens for confirmation of their beliefs, colors in the clouds are proof of whatever they wish to believe. For those tethered to reality, colored clouds are pleasing, and probative of nothing.


“Crazy Wisdom” was made with a purpose in mind – to cover over the ugly edifice of Trungpa’s transgressions with a façade of holy achievements. To accomplish this, history has been doctored. Important people, both victims and perpetrators, have been removed from the frame, and traumatic events expunged from the record. Trungpa’s own actions have been edited to remove evidence that he exploited his students for sex, seducing female students and cuckolding their mates, amassing money and authority for personal aggrandizement, surrounding himself with fawning servants and uniformed toadies, neglecting his children while procuring for them useless titles of sanctity that merely inflate their pride to no purpose, and recklessly indulging in behavior that destroyed both his mind and body. Simultaneously, the movie elevates the reputations of his close students, who now have established careers as meditation teachers that are founded on the illusion of Trungpa’s own spiritual legitimacy. “Crazy Wisdom” is religious propaganda to shore up a cult of personality, and a marketing campaign that Trungpa’s followers hope to keep going for generations. To use a phrase well-known to his students, it is pure “spiritual materialism.”
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Thu Aug 15, 2019 5:34 am

The Invisible Pyramid
by Charles Carreon
August 14, 2019

Meet Loren Eiseley

I am stealing this title from a collection of essays by Loren Eiseley because it so perfectly encapsulates an important idea. Loren Eiseley launched his writing career from the unglamorous field of paleontology. He was a bone-collector, as he sometimes put it. His brilliant essays on the human condition – written from the vantage point of geological timespans – have inspired countless readers to think more deeply about who we are, how we became this way, and what we might become – if we can escape the darkness of our evolutionary past. Take this brief excerpt from the book whose title I’ve cribbed:

“I compose, or I make clever objects with what were originally a tree dweller’s hands. Fragments of his fears, his angers, his desires, still stream like midnight shadows through the circuits of my brain. His unthinking jungle violence, inconceivably magnified, may determine our ending. Still, by contrast, the indefinable potentialities of a heavy-browed creature capable of pouring his scant wealth into the grave in a gesture of grief and self-abnegation may lead us at last to some triumph beyond the realm of technics. Who is to say?”

-- The Invisible Pyramid – A Naturalist Analyses the Rocket Century, pp. 93-94 (1971 Scribners).

In this short paragraph, Eiseley spans the gulf between Australopithecus and Homo Sapiens, between the darkness of the arboreal forest and the terrible illumination of the hydrogen bomb, and concludes by pinpointing the origin of compassion in our longing to care for our dead.

Why Is the Pyramid Invisible?

Written in the late sixties and early seventies, The Invisible Pyramid is an urgent contemplation by a profound thinker who arrived at the precipice facing all humanity about forty years ahead of the crowd. The book is comprised of seven essays that turn round a central theme inspired by President Kennedy’s commitment to put a man on the moon -- why humans are reaching for the stars, what we hope to find there, and what we might be hiding from here on earth by seeking to hurl ourselves into the heavens.

Comparing the space program to the pyramids of Egypt, Eiseley wrote:

“This effort has become the primary obsession of the great continental powers. Into the organization of this endeavor has gone an outpouring of wealth and inventive genius so vast that it constitutes a public sacrifice equivalent in terms of relative wealth to the building of the Great Pyramid at Giza almost five thousand years ago. Indeed, there is a sense in which modern science is involved in the construction of just such a pyramid, although an invisible one.”
Id., p. 87.

Further on in the book, he makes reference again to the immense monuments left behind by our ancestors, who apparently commanded tremendous resources, leaving behind a legacy in stone, whose full significance we can only vaguely apprehend:

“Egypt, which had planted in the pyramids man’s mightiest challenge to effacing time, had conceived long millennia ago the dream of a sky-traveling boat that might reach the pole star. The Maya of the New World rain forests had also watched the drift of the constellations from their temples situated above the crawling vegetational sea about them. But of what their dreamers thought, the remaining hieroglyphs tell us little.”
Id., at pp. 129-130.

I See the Pyramid

When I grasped Eiseley’s meaning, I suddenly envisioned our whole society, all of us, living inside an immense pyramid of inconceivable proportions – as real as the cellphone in my pocket, the fast food restaurants and strip malls on every corner, the endless ribbons of asphalt that stretch out to the mountains and the plains, the airliners that ply the skies, the satellites that orbit above us. This vast construction, created to pursue an evanescent dream of material fulfillment, is our invisible pyramid. We have mortgaged the future of the planet, the lives of future generations, to this dream. We have become what Eiseley calls, “the world-eaters,” a race of beings who consume the earth voraciously, turning resources to waste in an accelerating drive to create and sustain a network of illusions. Now, as our habits of consumption threaten to destroy our dreams forever, we look to the stars for an escape route. Trapped on a poisoned planet, we now see billionaires reaching to establish orbital havens from whence they can gaze down on their dominions from a safe remove.

Writing in the sixties and seventies, Eiseley saw danger in our society’s reliance on scientific knowledge to guide us forward. He had not foreseen, and therefore did not address another danger – that humanity would nostalgically turn back to the past, seeking comfort in mythical cosmologies, priestcraft, and magical thinking. He did not anticipate that millions of people would turn their backs on the empirical view of reality, and take refuge in what Carl Sagan called “the demon-haunted world,” a world populated by forces that can damn or redeem in an instant, banishing the inconvenient reality in which the technocrats have sewn us up.

The Individual's Search for A World-Structure

In my view, each one of us builds his or her own invisible pyramid of belief. By a lifelong expenditure of mental energy, we construct our view of reality, and in it, we abide. Others cannot approach us without passing through the invisible gates we have constructed. When they visit, they must sit on the furniture we provide, within the walls we’ve constructed, seeing the limited view outside our windows, if indeed we haven’t simply painted images on the walls to simulate the external world in a style that comports with our projections. Most people, of course, consider it quite beyond their ability to design their own abiding place. They shop for designs, often emulating the living spaces occupied by those they admire or envy.

Religious Worldviews -- Readymade & Guaranteed to Please

Those with the biggest aspirations, those who want to have the most clearly superior abiding places, often shop for a religious structure to enclose themselves. Religions accommodate this impulse by creating lavish structures that purport to be genuine, authentic, reliable, exquisite, and eternal. Amazingly enough, when you buy a religious design, you are always promised the penthouse suite, the apex of perfection, the most perfect house in the City on the Hill. Purchasers are amazed to discover that all of this wonderfulness is well within their means. Making the down payment is always as easy as tendering your belief. You sign a blank piece of paper, and move right into the model home. Later, the realtor comes by with a copy of the full contract. It stipulates that you must live there forever, can never move out, submit to the authority of the homeowner’s association, promise to keep your lawn watered and mowed, and will not conduct ping pong tournaments in the garage. Also, only certain types of sex are permitted in the bedrooms, certain kinds of foods can be cooked in the kitchen, and particular types of clothing washed in the laundry room.

Yes, the overwhelming characteristic of the religious worldview is rigidity. Only in this way, the realtor explains, can you be sure that your neighbors will not offend you, and you will not offend them. Your choices are limited, but this is a time-saver. Your ambitions and personal hopes become irrelevant, but on the other hand, no one can embarrass you about how you live, because you live just like everyone else. There is safety in numbers, and you are one fish in an immense, silvery school that moves in a unified, harmonious dance.

Within this realm of uniform views, in which all questions have an appropriate doctrinal answer, the outer world is irrelevant. Your only concern is to eliminate all of the impulses to individual thinking and conform yourself to the right way of seeing things. When you can achieve this form of “right thinking,” you gain full membership in the “enlightened society.” Eventually, you can even dispense with your calendar, because in this realm, there is no change. Time never passes. Troublesome events never occur in this gated community. You are safe in your place, and the uniformed security guards drive by four times a day and four times a night. Because the religious life is a total commitment that pays off in complete contentment.

The Joy of Belonging

The disadvantage of moving into such an ideal realm seem to have escaped the people who have been moving into these conceptual communities. It does not occur to most of them that the invisible pyramid that they are laboring to construct is actually a monument to the ambitions of other people. The joy of laboring communally on a project that is supposed to bring universal satisfaction is often a relief from a life of individual striving in a world without meaning. Having been told all of our lives that there is some kind of meaning in life, and having been unable to find it for ourselves, we may be greatly relieved to have it provided.

Hidden Drawbacks of the Spiritual Tract-Home

But life, unfortunately, has a habit of intruding into our idealized realms. For all the promises we receive from those who sell us idealized homes in perfect psychic subdivisions, trouble seems unavoidable. The greatest problem is that almost all religions have their basis in belief systems that were evolved long before Galileo discovered the moons of Jupiter, or Einstein worked out the theory of relativity, or Bohr established the quantum nature of matter. Thus, we can only abide in these perfect mental habitations by ignoring the incongruency between scientifically-observed reality as we have grown up to know it, and the doctrinal formulations that guarantee our psychological comfort. We may discover terribly inconvenient, even terrifying aspects to our perfectly-designed abode – hell in the basement, an attic filled with strange deities speaking in foreign tongues, a backyard that stretches off into eternity, with strange figures stalking back and forth menacingly in the eternal twilight. And when you think about moving out, there’s that damned contract.

Finding Your Own Alternative

Yes, of course, you have to live somewhere. You have to have a view of the world. You have to have a comfortable sitting room to share with your friends, a kitchen to cook in, a bedroom in which to sleep and make love. But in designing that place, you should not let nostalgia be your guide. Nor should you look to move into a place just like the one your friends moved into last week. Rather, as I see it, you should do the minimum amount of construction possible, preserving as much of the original view as you can. Look for durable materials to build with, natural materials that don’t jar with the environment as you perceive it. Don’t be afraid of the world as you know it to be, and build a rational structure that reflects your own, genuine needs. True, there are no off-the-shelf blueprints for such a construction. But at least you won't become the victim of a pyramid scheme.
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Thu Mar 19, 2020 3:10 am

Twilight of the Tulkus
by Charles Carreon
March 16, 2020







His Holiness did not explain his motives further, and the incurious press has neither inquired of his office nor engaged in conjecture. But let us think it through. This is a super-heavy thing to say, assuming it will get around to the Tibetan people, both those living in Tibet and in émigré communities around the world. To say his announcement will be a disappointment is a serious understatement. The central tenet of the faith has been removed. The Tibetan Atlas has submitted his resignation. The throne of Tibet will soon be vacant, because its next God King has prospectively abdicated. The skies of Tibetan Buddhist cosmology are shaking on their medieval foundations. If the Fouteenth Dalai Lama really believed himself to be the “tulku” of Chenrezig, the Father of Tibet, who has altruistically, intentionally reincarnated fourteen times to lead the Tibetans, he wouldn’t abdicate.


Chenrezig is a timeless figure. He’s not going to let some political changes on twenty-first century planet earth impede the fulfillment of his commitment to bring benefit to all living beings in general and Tibetans in particular. That would be backing down in the face of a worldly challenge, as Chenrezig would never do. Indeed, when the going gets tough, Chenrezig gets tougher, and becomes Hayagriva, whose wrath has been legendary for a thousand years, ever since he dealt with a traitor to the Buddha’s Sacred Doctrine by turning into a horse, riding straight up his anus, and out his mouth. While painful, Hayagriva’s wrathful therapy abruptly and totally rehabilitated the heretic, who attained Tibetan Buddhist liberation as the result of the apparently fatal rape.

This type of brutal spiritual parable often recurs in Tibetan Buddhism, because Tibetans were an extremely rough people. Although today, Tibetans are marketed as the spiritual athletes of the planet, this is a western fantasy. They have been better known throughout history by their neighbors as untameable brigands mostly likely to kill you on sight, who worship demons whose external forms appear as mountaintops, and to whom they offer simulated and non-simulated blood sacrifice. The Tibetan feudal system suffered from a shortage of arable land, so younger sons did not inherit, and rich and poor alike, one in four boys, were packed off to the monasteries, where the social divisions in the society at large were replicated. The abbots of major monasteries would all be tulkus, who enjoyed a plush lifestyle, eating much better, living in warmer, cleaner accommodations, enjoying an abundance of leisure.


Yes, the Dalai Lamas have been known to play rough -– the Fifth Dalai Lama made common cause with the Mongol conquerors to acquire monasteries and monks at the point of the sword. The Dalai Lamas have been treated roughly as well -– the Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Dalai Lamas all died before reaching the age of majority. Their convenient deaths allowed Regents to rule uninterruptedly for nearly a hundred years, and malignant cliques within the Potala are presumed to have poisoned the young prelates. The situation of some tulkus today is little better. First, it is not beneficial to remove young children from their parents at an early age to be raised among male clergy. Second, hard evidence of sexual abuse in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries has come from many sources, eg., in 2013, Bhutanese health authorities were forced to distribute condoms at all Buddhist monastic schools to “stem the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV among young monks who are supposed to be celibate.”


Today, because the young tulkus have ceremonial value, and can be toured as spiritual entertainment in China, Europe, and the US, collecting substantial donations for the clerical impresarios who mount these international tours, many tulkus are raised in an excess of indulgence and wealth, as the irascible tulku Dzongsar carped in a typically rambling screed a few years back. Most American-born tulkus would fall into the class of the needlessly pampered. They are never discovered, like occasionally happened to the old Tibetan tulkus, to have been born into a farming family from the hustings; rather, they are uniformly the male offspring of lamas or of women who have carried on with lamas, in and out of wedlock. These innocent souls are discovered as tulkus in their toddler years, when brother lamas recognize each other’s offspring as divine in exchange for love donations and future reciprocal recognitions.

Unfortunately, these bizarre titles of Tibetan clerical royalty are of limited value in the modern world, and really of no value at all to those unwilling to mime the appearance of sanctity and conduct meditation retreats. While the recipients of these bizarre titles may enjoy marinating in the rote adulation bestowed by abject believers, they rarely “train in meditation,” and many clearly suffer from impostor syndrome. They simultaneously benefit from their titles and connections -– getting jobs with UNESCO and other NGOs like some of the multiple Trungpa tulkus -– and wish to come across as “ordinary people” who are “not full of themselves.” In other words, they have been backed into a lie that they had no part in creating and have no idea how to carry off.

Some of these young people try to throw it off, declaring they’re done with the sanctimonious pose, but then, they end up back in the mind-healing business, like a Spanish boy who was “recognized” as a tulku, trained in India at a monastery, rejected the indoctrination and proclaimed his training a form of captivity in a degenerate environment, and left his robes behind, only to succumb to the allure of guruhood again, which he seems to be pursuing against his own better judgment. Some cases end up like Dzongsar, a bitter, bile-spitting little man who exhibits a fascination with spiritual totalitarianism and a raunchy sexuality that many would say ill befits a cleric.

Others end up like the child that Chogyam Trungpa sired upon the body of a Tibetan nun, then abandoned in childhood -– Osel Rangdrol Mukpo, aka the Sakyong Mipham. No one would envy young Osel’s upbringing -– life in India must have been tough with his mother, who received no support from his father Chogyam, and worked on a road crew after Osel was born; however, it was probably better than the two years he spent in an orphanage in England while his father was litigating over his custody with a family of English Buddhists who believed Trungpa and his sixteen-year old bride were a bit too punk rock to be raising children. When Trungpa finally got custody of Osel and brought him to his Boulder, Colorado enclave, he was whisked into a weird world where his father was a god to legions of dazzled Americans, and spent most of his life in a booze & coke haze, delivering himself of unusual Buddhist lectures that wordsmith students pounded into core Buddhist bestsellers, the backbone of the Shambhala Publishing empire.

Osel was not trained extensively in meditation, and it is rumored by those present during his internment at the Karmapa’s monastery that he was an impulsive sort, more given to blasting about on his motorcycle than engaging the “three wisdoms” of “hearing, contemplation, and meditation” that ripen a lama’s spiritual wisdom. Osel was not at all prepared to lead a spiritual movement. Nevertheless, when Trungpa’s chosen Regent, Thomas Rich, fell into disgrace and killed two students with a sexually-administered dose of AIDS, the original Trungpa succession plan was scrapped, and Osel found himself in the role of Top Banana.

Ultimately, Osel’s legacy was consumed by the absurd excesses his father engineered into the social structure of his “Kalapa Kingdom.” The “Kalapa Court” was a locus of licentiousness during Trungpa’s life, a playground of sex, drugs and alcohol that ensnared seven women that Trungpa married. Trungpa had been married to Diana for a few years when he started marrying seven other women, and she played turnabout deftly, cohabiting with Mitchell Levy and bearing his child, Ashoka. The extra seven women, called “Sang Yum,” received marriage licenses from the Kalapa Kingdom, and comprised the core of Trungpa’s inner social circle. One young woman, inducted into an intimate relationship at an early age and married to Trungpa at 18, later committed suicide. Among those who remain, some are venerated as near-saints, and appear in gushing profiles as ideals of the spiritual woman on the website. Most of the surviving Sang Yum have kept their silence about the iniquities they observed and engaged in while serving as one-eighth of Trungpa’s sex life. One of the Sang Yum has broken silence, however, revealing Trungpa to be a cocaine addict, explaining, metabolically, how he could drink alcohol to extreme excess and remain mobile, if not ambulatory. This toxic lifestyle put an end to Trungpa’s earthly adventures at the age of 46 in 1987, but the shenanigans continued in the Kalapa Kingdom.

Trungpa’s love of intoxicants and an abundance of sexual encounters had spread throughout the group. Two teachers are currently incarcerated awaiting trial on charges of child molestation. Numerous others have been credibly accused of using their teacher status to extract sexual favors and obeisance from women and men. And Osel himself, the Sakyong, the monarch of his father’s spiritual kingdom, was outed in 2018 as the beneficiary of an entire system that, Weinstein-like, captured and sacrificed female followers to his drunken lust. Shambhala exhorts its followers to believe that their religion will someday take over the entire world and save it from a Moslem horde, which might seem a bizarre notion for modern American students to hold, but once you know that Trungpa was a rake and yet the founding saint of the religion, nothing is too crazy to believe. So just as sure as dogs come back and lick up their vomit, the Shambhala organization is moving with all deliberate speed to place Osel back on his throne, which, by the way, is ten feet high.

Asked about his father in a hagiographic video advertising Chogyam Trungpa’s “Crazy Wisdom” persona, Osel’s half-brother Gesar obliquely reveals that his father was a distant figure who gave him kingly respect, not fatherly affection: “My father respected me, and would listen to what I had to say. He treated me like a reincarnated lama -– like the king of another country.” Gesar has chosen not to act out the role of tulku, but wants to be a good Buddhist. Gesar’s half-brother Ashoka is the product of the loose sexual mores prevalent in Trungpa’s group, born to the extramarital union of Gesar’s mother Diana and Trungpa’s disciple Mitchell Levy. Ashoka has not donned Buddhist robes, currently is a staff reporter for the ACLU, and has enjoyed a series of plum jobs as a journalist, if his own webpage is accurate.

The son of Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche was offered a job that might have seemed attractive to many -– to take over the guidance of the spiritual flock amassed by his father, numbering into the thousands. But he was born in Italy to an Italian mother, his name is Yeshi Silvano Namkhai, and he got himself a western education and a job with IBM. In the movie, “My Reincarnation,” Silvano is depicted as a highly conflicted person. Silvano’s father is another distant type. The old lama grew up in a monastery from childhood, and although he was groomed to play father figure to thousands, and obviously does that job well, he didn’t bounce his kids on his knee while singing silly songs, or read them stories before bedtime. There’s this huge gap between father and son, and then the son is told that he’s a tulku. Silvano even goes off to Tibet and meets people who think he’s a reincarnation of their former guru. These people make it clear that they sacrificed much to care for his former incarnation. But now, what can he do for them? He doesn’t speak the language, he doesn’t know the rituals, he’s a hollow shell. In “My Reincarnation,” the narrative arc leads us to think that he’s actually beginning to warm to the role of spiritual leader, and since his father’s death, he has taken on the leadership role in the community; however, there are reasons to believe that his engagement is strictly limited by his own awareness of the limits to his personal commitment to the role.

For example, this April, Silvano was planning on giving a “transmission” of his father’s teachings, but only to those who have never received the transmission before (excluding all old students), and only in Italian (no translation provided). This is a strangely provisional approach to propagating a religion that I would venture to say springs more from Silvano’s respect for his father than from any inner impulse to teach Buddhism. Finding himself put upon by hundreds of people who say, “Don’t let your father’s lineage die,” he has given in, and is going to deliver a “transmission.” But such a transmission is more in the nature of a placebo than anything else. His father’s students are looking to Silvano to give them access to their own “true nature,” as his father taught. How can it be that they seriously believe they will receive it? Because they have psychologically transferred their power to the guru, and now need to get it back, even from a person who knows darn well he doesn’t have it.

Ironically, the Twelfth Trungpa tulku, whose eleventh incarnation as Chogyam Trungpa is lauded as the pre-eminent transmitter of the Kagyu lineage to the west, has been supplanted by his mere physical progeny, i.e., poor old little Osel. So now, the Twelfth Trungpa lives isolated in Tibet, neglected by his spiritual relatives. The Twelfth Trungpa has never been taught English, has begged on YouTube to have the teachings of Chogyam Trungpa translated into Tibetan so he can read them, and lives in an isolated monastery in Tibet. Meanwhile his American “relatives” give him the sop of faint praise, a stipend and some building funds, while the Sakyong parties like a rockstar, and a small coterie of insiders live well by exploiting the mass of students accumulated by the original “crazy yogi.” Memories are indeed short in the spiritual world, and the irony of the mistreatment of the Twelfth Trungpa tulku seems to elicit no comment from spiritual writers. While other Tibetan Buddhists rush to re-enthrone their deceased teachers and exalt them in their new life-form, Trungpa’s devotees frankly don’t seem to give a damn where Trungpa’s incarnation ended up. But it doesn’t matter, because Shambhala has simmered down to being what all religions are at bottom -- social clubs that profess a faith, collect donations and bequests, and issue insurance redeemable in the afterlife. American Tibetan Buddhists have been groomed to expect the tulku tradition to continue, but as Shambhala’s disappearance of the Twelfth Trungpa Tulku illustrates, the outlines of that tulku tradition are quite unclear. The fact that Shambhala students tolerate the conceptual sleight of hand that makes Trungpa disposable while all other tulkus are venerable tells you something about the effect of good mental programming. Get people to accept contradictory ideas early on, and eventually, they don’t even notice them.

Gullible students are a valued commodity, however, and they are not always present to make every modern tulku’s life comfortable. The tulku of Kalu Rinpoche, who had thousands of students worldwide, was routinely raped by multiple monks and nearly murdered by his tutor, a matter to which the young, victimized Tibetan boy testified on YouTube. It appears that such occurrences have not been unusual in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, and the current pampering that tulkus receive in the west is essentially an anomaly. Dzongsar reports that, “As a child I had just two handmade toys that I made myself. Worse, my tutor confined me to one room not just for a few weeks or months but for a whole year, so that even going to the toilet became a long awaited excursion. We also suffered regular verbal and physical abuse that went as far as making us bleed from the head and whipping us with nettles.”


Tulkus aren’t the only ones abused in this system. Some people pretend to be tulkus, and pay lamas to agree that they are tulkus, in order to wield mind-control powers over gullible students, who will accept any type of abuse from people who are called “Rinpoche,” the honorific that is properly applied only to reincarnated tulkus. Sogyal formerly-known-as-RInpoche is the scariest case of a self-annointed tulku disporting himself like a wolf among the spiritual sheep. Sogyal Lakar was born to a family of hereditary retainers for the legendary Nyingmapa tulku, Dudjom Rinpoche, and educated by Jesuits in India. His first efforts at establishing himself in the spiritual fields of America misfired, and after he was sued for sexual assault in California, he decamped for Britain, where his schtick found a warm reception. Still, nobody recognized him as an altruistically, intentionally reincarnated being until he began generating large numbers –- as in sales of his “Tibetan Book of Living and Dying,” ghostwritten by Andrew Harvey, a British writer who has published a number of books with spiritual themes, none of which sold anywhere near as well as what he wrote for Sogyal. The dynamic of branding has tremendous power in the spiritual field, where devotees will vacuum up all of the literature offered by a popular teacher, often in a first rush of enthusiasm, sometimes over a lifetime of deepening devotion. Besides publishing a runaway spiritual bestseller, Sogyal had other techniques for gathering disciples.

First, he got folks to call him Rinpoche. It may have seemed a harmless indulgence to the lamas who knew he was lying, which was all of them, given how much money he could spread around. An invitation from Sogyal to teach at a Rigpa center could provide a Tibetan lama with more money in a weekend than he would otherwise make all year. Sogyal also targeted the vulnerable for sexual and financial predation. He preyed upon the bereaved, using his bona fides as a Tibetan lama to enviegle his way into the confidence of those who had lost their loved ones. Sometimes women weeping for their lost loved ones were subjected to crass advances, or worse. He demanded sex and got it from the willing and the unwilling alike. Sogyal often threatened students with hell in the afterlife, a serious threat when leveled by a Rinpoche, whose actions are presumed to carry weight with the karmic authorities. When his desires for worldly comforts, food, and lavish amenities were not swiftly fulfilled, he struck students, sometimes causing serious injury, and always causing psychological pain.

A lawfirm hired by Rigpa Foundation, the organization Sogyal founded to spread Tibetan Buddhist teachings, advised Rigpa’s leadership to separate the corporation from Sogyal permanently, because it had discovered pervasive evidence not only of Sogyal’s direct misconduct, but of widespread enabling of abuse, denial of its existence, and retaliation against those who complained about the sick situation. A trustee of Rigpa, Patrick Gaffney, was banned from serving on the nonprofit board after the UK’s Charity Commission investigated, and found Gaffney “had knowledge of instances [of] sexual and physical abuse against students [and] failed to take appropriate action and is therefore responsible for misconduct … in administration of the charity.” Nor was Gaffney alone. After the entire affair had burst like a pustulent boil on the front pages of the world periodicals, a considerable group of high-level followers wrote a letter to the Board asking for Sogyal to be reinstated as Rigpa’s head. Sogyal’s madness had corrupted an entire organization.


After this discussion, we might ask ourselves again why the Dalai Lama declared his own reincarnations at an end. First, he might have reflected on the psychological cost to the young men, like himself, who are recruited for these strange jobs without consent. Second, he might have considered whether creating tulkus serves any use in the modern world, where they aren’t needed to serve as the abbots for huge monasteries. Third, he could have reflected on how badly some of the new tulkus are doing, and have seen that when tulkus are created for no purpose, they may suffer from a lack of clear mission or purpose, perhaps for their entire lives. Fourth, he could have reflected on how the misuse of the tulku doctrine causes injury to everyone when lamas engage in sexual, physical and financial abuse of their students. Fifth, he could have reflected on how, since tulkus have no real purpose, the doctrine will tend to be used by pious frauds who adopt the name of tulku for selfish purposes, which will bring Tibetan Buddhism into discredit, and render it an inappropriate vehicle for sharing his message of compassion and humanism. Sixth, he could have considered how the Chinese and his other political opponents will make the next Dalai Lama’s selection a circus, and that he will not be around to make it turn out right. Seventh, he might have realized that the tradition of “recognizing” tulkus such as the Dalaia Lama, is inherently a vehicle subject to manipulation by deception, and should be put to rest before he dies.

Considering the first question, the Dalai Lama would certainly probably agree that kidnapping young boys early in life and grooming them to be abbots might have been somewhat functional in Tibet’s feudal theocracy, but there’s no need for that sacrifice anymore. The Chinese have utterly altered the society, and the centers of culture are no longer isolated monasteries lodged in craggy mountain ranges, requiring the stabilizing belief in an enduring local ruler who reincarnates to maintain the ritual practices that assure good fortune on earth. Estimates made by China in the 1950s placed 24% of Tibet’s male population in monasteries, approximately 120,000 monks in 2,700 monasteries. (M.C. Goldstein, Tibetan Buddhism and Mass Monasticism) The Chinese have reduced the monastic population to 46,000, still a substantial number, but due to Han immigration from China, there are now 3.18 Million people in Tibet, so their influence on society is no longer vital. In truth and in fact, continued fidelity to the image of the Dalai Lama as Lord Chenrezig, the God King of Tibet, while a source of comfort to many of the faithful no doubt, seems unlikely to bring substantial benefit to the Land of Snows.

Second, the Dalai Lama could see that making tulkus is not in any way necessary to the propagation of the Buddhist Dharma, as he has formulated it, which is a form of non-sectarian humanism with an emphasis on compassion and optimism, and a meditation practice founded in “mindfulness,” a practice style that is more common to Thailand and Burma than Tibet. The colorful gods and demons who ruled Tibet with splendor and terror are not making the jump from their land of origin to the west, and for good reason. The Tibetan sorcerers would contend with bad weather by casting spells, legendarily standing on a mountaintop going toe to toe with demons, being battered with hail and snow to fight them with the magic of the Lotus-Born Guru. Ah, those were the days, and they’re gone forever. Even the staunchest Tibetan Buddhist doesn’t think we’re going to exorcise our way out of global warming. Just as we have no place for sorcerers, so we have no need for tulkus. If gurus want to pass their students on to their children, there’s nothing to stop them –- they don’t need to pretend their children are divine. Zen teachers have passed temple abbot positions down through a hereditary system for centuries. The famed Shunryu Suzuki Roshi’s father was a Zen master, and he ultimately took over the family temple after serving elsewhere, and before traveling to establish Zen Center San Francisco, and the Tassajara and Green Gulch monasteries.

Third, considering whether it is good for the tulkus to be created to live in a world that doesn’t need them, he has probably seen enough of the results. There was a time, from the 1970s into the first decade of this century, when there was a lot of enthusiasm for traditional Tibetan Buddhism. Americans and Europeans were excited by the idea that tulkus might be born into American and European Buddhist families, and indeed, they have been recognized. But the crop has pretty much rotted in the basket. As we’ve discussed above, these young men are lost, having been inducted into a system that no longer exists except for sentimental purposes. If they take themselves seriously, they risk becoming corrupted by an idea in which they have no basis for real belief. None of these boys “remembers their past life.” Consider the strangeness of the Twelfth Trungpa’s plea to be able to read the works of the Eleventh Trungpa in Tibetan. For heaven’s sake, the whole purpose of being an intentionally reborn being was to remember the wisdom from your past lives! If you need to read books to learn this stuff, where’s the inherent wisdom? So being called a tulku is actually just a ticket to becoming disconnected from reality.

Not only Tibetans can be afflicted with the tulku delusion. Plenty of westerners are afflicted by the belief that they attained wisdom in past lives and are here to dispense it. For example, a couple of years ago, I ran into a man in his fifties whom I have known for thirty years. A fringe player in the Oregon Buddhist community, he was the big fellow with the deficit of smarts who tagged along, drove cars, hauled loads, smiled, bowed, and basked in every ounce of love that ever came his way from the lamas. Unfortunately, one of them heedlessly told him that he was actually a tulku. Ever since then, this poor man has felt cheated out of the assistance that he has been lead to believe tulkus should receive. He desires fervently to be recognized by others as a saintly man, so much so that he’s become lonely, isolated, resentful, and frankly lost. Stories like these are far from uncommon, because many lamas will use this sort of flattery to extract favors from the gullible, who allow themselves to be paid for labor and devotion in false praise. Like a fetish that gives pleasure merely from being handled and gazed upon, the delusion that one possesses inherent spiritual eminence feeds a spiritual narcissism that is no less toxic than the worldly variety.

Fourth, there have been enough stories of recognized and unrecognized tulkus abusing their students, and the Dalai Lama has not been pleased by any of them. He hasn’t said much about them, either, but that is probably because the massive pedophile scandal swallowing the Catholic Church dominates the airwaves, and a compliant press never asks the Dalai Lama anything embarrassing. But he has to see that the conduct of Sogyal, Trungpa and Osel Mukpo has injured their students and besmirched the Buddhist doctrine. So he may not say much about it, but he certainly has it in mind.

Fifth, the continued existence of the tulku tradition corrupts lamas into selling recognitions, and results in the devaluation of the entire concept of Tibetan Buddhism, when gauche American clowns ape the ecclesiastical elite. The absurd “recognition” of Steven Seagal, now recognized as one of Hollywood’s merry band of celebrity rapists, is a classic example. Seagal has always been a self-impressed blowhard whose primary gift is his enormous body, his ability to use it to kill people, and his willingness to display that skill in dreadful movies where the body count is the measure of Seagal’s star achievement. The same lama who recognized Seagal also recognized a woman whose given name was Alice Zeoli, who renamed herself Catherine Burroughs and became a Washington DC psychic catering to the spiritual element in the nation’s capitol, then snagged a tulkuship and become Akon Jetsun Norbu Lhamo, aka Jetsunma, aka “The Buddha from Brooklyn,” as Martha Sherrill’s book on the woman is entitled. Zeoli fled Maryland after being charged with beating one of the nuns in her compound, and has found an appropriate perch in the land where anything might be true –- Sedona, Arizona.

Sixth, the Chinese are wily adversaries who have been playing politics with Tibet for a couple of millennia. They have conquered the land, they are subjugating the people and flooding the region with the Han ethnic Chinese settlers, and they regulated Buddhism in Tibet as they do in China. Temples require licenses to operate, their doctrines are subject to censorship, and the monastic population has been greatly reduced, initially by outright murder and imprisonment, and today by the imposition of coercive forces usually less extreme. The Chinese have always exercised as much control as possible over Tibetan reincarnations. The Panchen Lama’s latest rebirth was dictated by the Chinese. There are two Karmapa tulkus, because the Chinese chose one, and a Tibetan faction chose another, and both have continued to represent themselves as the Seventeenth Karmapa. Tai Situ, a high Kagyu lama, has made himself very comfortable as a creator of fake tulkus for power and profit, and he has close Chinese connections. Thus, the manipulation of the next Dalai Lama’s birth by the Chinese is a foregone conclusion.

Seventh, death makes fools of us all when we try to exercise control from the grave. It just doesn’t work. We control the earth while we live, and then death takes our power and hands in to the next generation. Chogyam Trungpa thought he could control the future. He made his intentions crystal clear, and it wasn’t to spend his next incarnation as the Twelfth Trungpa in a remote monastery in Tibet, uneducated in the English language, and ignored by the students of his Eleventh incarnation. He trusted his boyfriend Thomas Rich, a lascivious bisexual with whom Trungpa may have had intimacies, to serve as his Regent, and trusted his lawyer, Alexander Halpern, to fulfill his intentions. But Halpern is a practical man, who provides legal advice to the Dalai Lama and many other Tibetan lamas, and Halpern unloaded the bad press associated with Trungpa’s name deftly and permanently, cutting the Twelfth Trungpa out of the action by changing the Articles of Incorporation, structuring authority around Osel Mukpo, and changing the name of the corporation from Vajradhatu to Shambhala. Everything is now precisely as the Eleventh Trungpa did not want it to be. He is on the outside, his blood kin on the inside. The Dalai Lama can see these dynamics could afflict his own succession. The Fifteenth Dalai Lama could be chosen by China, and put to work undoing the current Fourteenth Dalai Lama’s life work. Questions arise, as well. Presumably, the Fifteenth Dalai Lama would be the ruler of the Tibetan Government in Exile, and from that position, he could declare the existence of Tibet null and void. The world would not shift in its course, if he did.

Tibet is in fact, already a historic relic. As the source of virtually all of the rivers that pour through China and India, it was inevitable that the Chinese would take over what they saw as an unoccupied square on the chessboard of the Great Game. The fantasies of Tibetan Buddhism were like rarefied species that live only on high mountains. As the Tibetans rightly feared when they left, their culture has not proven particularly useful to them or to the other inhabitants of the world beyond the mountains that ring the Land of Snows. Because this is the way of impermanence. Things arise based upon the confluence of conditions, and they disappear along with those conditions. The conditions that gave rise to the tulku tradition are gone, and with them all need for the tradition. The Dalai Lama has recognized this. Whether American Buddhists will is an open question.
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2020 2:38 am

The Absent Oxonian -- Musings on Trungpa’s Faux Academic Credentials & Why So Few Cared to Inquire
by Charles Carreon
May 26, 2020

What’s the difference between a foreign accent and an exotic one? Chogyam Trungpa knew. He claimed to have an “Oxonian accent,” acquired during his “matriculation” at Oxford College. At least that’s how Diana, the first of Trungpa’s eight wives, put it in her Dragon Thunder memoir, that details her maturation from child bride into den mother of a global cult devoted to the worship of her man, during a breathless two decades that passed in a whirl of booze, ménages-of-however-many, producing children from multiple unions who were uniformly recognized as reincarnated Tibetan saints and tossed to the winds.

Well, not the winds, precisely. Diana’s children, whether sired by Trungpa or Mitchell Levy, Trungpa’s close disciple, were cared for by devotees who treated them like born spiritual athletes –- asking them for spiritual advice, deferring to their presumed wisdom, etc. This did not do them much good, since they were mostly bemused by the unearned respect from clueless Buddhists, and didn’t take to the job of pretending to be founts of Eastern wisdom. Diana certainly taught them little enough, while she sought shelter from domestic chaos by jetsetting from one horsey event to another, buying dressage horses with donor funds as the natural right of ecclesiastical royalty.

As for her much-declared devotion to her husband, Diana greased the skids to Trungpa’s grave, enabling his sordid fate –- death by self-induced coma due to drug abuse and organ failure -- one more rock star sucked dry by the American celebrity-killing machine. Harsh as the assessment seems, evidence for it can be found on every page of Dragon Thunder, that has some of the candor that only the truly dissolute can exhibit. Their goalposts have moved so far, their judgment is faulty –- they can’t quite see when they’re confessing to scandal.

This poor judgment can lead to over-embellishing a cherished myth, as Diana did when she claimed that Trungpa “matriculated” at Oxford College in Dragon Thunder. Because that is a fact subject to verification or disproof, and I have obtained documents that disprove it, and I will share them with the reader. But before I proceed to that reveal, allow me to point out that these documents were not particularly difficult to obtain. It required only a modicum of research, emailing, and persistence in making followup inquiries to obtain them from Oxford College officials. Since virtually all formally published writing about Trungpa is mere hagiographic propaganda, we do not expect fact checking from the Dharma hacks who crank out these obligatory tomes. However, two books on Freda Bedi that pretend to be scholarly works were recently published, and they both repeated the apparent fable that she helped Trungpa get the Spalding sponsorship that "sent him to Oxford." So my question is -– why was I the first to make the enquiry of Oxford?

Trungpa has been the subject of dozens of articles in major periodicals. The Shambhala Publishing empire was built on Trungpa’s oeuvre. The story of his being a student or graduate of Oxford College has been repeated by reputable publications dozens of times, and no one has ever fact checked this? The signs were there all along. Look at the origin of the myth -– Trungpa’s own memoir, Born in Tibet, where he says he went to Oxford on a “Spalding fellowship,” but does not specify which of the twenty-seven Oxford colleges he attended. Searching for objective evidence of Trungpa’s Oxford academic career at The Chronicles of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche turns up absolutely nothing. People talk about his Oxford days as if they knew, but not a soul ever says they saw him attending classes, studying, or any other familiar Oxford collegiate activities. Granted, during the period he was ostensibly attending Oxford, Trungpa was fond of drinking to excess, and crashed his car, crippling himself for life. Since rakish Oxonians have been known to do wild things in drunken sprees, this may have been an attempt by the young Trungpa to fit into Oxford life. However, we cannot give academic credit for vehicular negligence.




Not all mythologizers have described Trungpa’s “Oxford education” with the careless specificity shown by Diana in her memoir. Crazy Wisdom, a video puff-piece about Trungpa, devotes little footage to the Oxford myth, displaying the word “OXFORD” over a scene of quaint English rooftops, followed by a “class photo” style image, followed by a montage of granite religious statuary and church architecture. The voiceover utters some bland statements suggesting that Trungpa attended Oxford College, without providing date of admission or graduation, course of study, favorite friends or campus hangout, or any of the usual collegiate specifics, whatsoever. Follow-on interviews with three Trungpa acolytes add no useful details, with none declaring that they ever saw Trungpa attending classes, studying, or hanging out with other students.

The Chronicles of Chogyam Trungpa does little better. A site specific search for “Oxford” at pulls up a reference to a “Spalding Fellowship Class Photo,” but does not provide it, and there are links to videos with reminiscences by an old English yogi named Ridgzin Shipko, allusions to Trungpa’s meeting with Thomas Merton someplace near Oxford, and of course, lots of comments about Trungpa’s obsession with teaching students the King’s English, with proper “Oxonian pronunciation,” as taught by the officially authorized Trungpa elocution facilitator, Carolyn Rose Gimian.

This is how the fraud has worked so nicely, because of the power of deflection. An Oxford education for a lama whose followers believe him to have been divine from birth is a mere worldly emolument, of importance only because it shows that their guru is really smart, but the diversion Trungpa created by inflicting his “Oxonian English” on everyone was epic. Think about it. What could be more off-putting than having Trungpa, whose accent does not remotely resemble traditional British pronunciation, purporting to teach his students “proper English,” when they came to learn Buddhism? What was the purpose of this game? Well it certainly distracted from whether he went to Oxford. Now everyone just wanted to get away from the man before he taught them more atrocious pronunciations!

During all of these many years during which the un-enquiring minds of American Buddhists have believed that Trungpa was an Oxford College graduate, no one has ever asked what course of study he majored in. Was this from politeness? Or a sort of covert racism, from people who never expected academic excellence from a Tibetan lama, and were impressed by his mere attendance at the world’s most famous institution of higher learning. As is attributed to Samuel Johnson, who apparently held a bias against female intellectuals: "Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.” Likewise, we didn’t expect Trungpa to learn anything at Oxford, and had no interest in how well he learned it. It was sufficient that he “went to Oxford.”

Unless of course, he didn’t. And that appears to be the case. On August 7, 2019, I wrote the email attached as Exhibit A to the Information Office at the University of Oxford, requesting “biographical information concerning Chogyam Trungpa, a Tibetan Buddhist lama … said to have ‘attended Oxford University’ and studied ‘Comparative Religion’ at St. Antony's College during the time period from 1963-1967 on a Spalding sponsorship.”

I received a reply (also part of Exhibit A) stating as follows:

“Our degree conferrals team has informed us that they cannot find any record of Chogyam Trungpa having attended the University over that time. However, they only hold information for matriculated students (students who have conferred their membership to the university on full degree programmes). If he studied for a certificate or diploma, the college (St. Antony’s) or relevant department might have some information. I’ve passed the query onto them and am currently waiting for a reply. I can then contact you with any updated information.” (Emphasis added.)

On September 9, 2019, I emailed the letter attached as Exhibit B to James Colman and Lanisha Butterfield, Oxford College media and communications people, and the Registry Administrator, Academic Records Office and Academic Registrar’s Office at St. Antony’s College. The letter begins:

The letter requests that Oxford and St. Antony's College provide copies of academic records pertaining to Chogyam Trungpa Mukpo, a Tibetan Buddhist lama who reportedly attended Oxford University and studied "Comparative Religion" at St. Antony's College during the time period from 1963-1967 on a Spalding sponsorship, pursuant to the Wikipedia's biographical entry of this man. Chogyam Trungpa is the only Oxford Buddhist alumnus listed in Wikipedia's "List of University of Oxford People in Religion.”

On September 12, 2019, I received a very brief reply (included in Exhibit B) from St. Antony’s Registry Administrator Michelle Steers:

We hold no information on this matter.

About a month later, Ms. Steers’ boss, St. Antony’s College Registrar Filiz McNamara followed up on October 8, 2019 with an email confirming that “we hold no information on this matter and therefore we are unable to assist you any further.” (Exhibit C.)

That left only a couple of other sources to contact. First, there was the Spalding Foundation. I found them in London, and on October 9, 2019, I sent a letter to Mrs. J. Rodgers, Secretary of the Spalding Trust, attached as Exhibit D, asking a simple question:

Do the records of The Spalding Trust during the years from 1963-1970 record the award of a sponsorship or fellowship for attendance at any Oxford college to a man with the following demographic description:
Birthplace: Kham, Tibet
Date of Birth: March 4, 1939
Full Legal Name: Chogyam Trungpa Mukpo

I did not receive an answer from Mrs. Rodgers of the Spalding Trust, so in March 2020, I wrote to her again, certified mail, asking for the same thing with a bigger windup:

Mr. Mukpo came to be a figure of considerable public renown, and the truth about his education is of public importance. An Oxford education confers a peerless pedigree among the world’s top educational institutions. The public has long believed that Mr. Mukpo had an Oxford education because the Spalding Trust sponsored it. This fact is repeated so ubiquitously that no citation is required. However, Oxford College has no record of attendance by Chogyam Trungpa Mukpo at any time.

If the Spalding Foundation paid for Mr. Mukpo’s Oxford education, but he did not get an Oxford education, then some explanation is required from the Spalding Foundation. Failure to respond with clarification will compel the conclusion that the Spalding Foundation has been complicit in the perpetration of a fraud upon the public of considerable dimensions.

This letter, attached as Exhibit E, fetched no response from the Spalding Trust, leaving me to wonder, “What is this Spalding Trust that sends religious men to Oxford College, but cares not when they fail to actually attend the college, and refuses to discuss this anomaly?” You know, if the Ford Foundation did that, people would give them shit about it. Well, Mr. Spalding was a rich fellow who was very Christian, very patriotic, and the history of his foundation is a little funny. He was very fond of bathing nude with other young men, and funded places where they could do that. He wrote terrible patriotic, religious poetry that absolutely stunk of jingoistic piety. And he endowed a chair at St. Antony’s College, but toward the end of his life, there was some maneuvering, and he lost control of the chair, and others took control of the Spalding Chair, and he was embittered about it.

Wikipedia reports that Trungpa was a Spalding Fellow in Comparative Religion at St. Antony’s from 1963–1968. If anyone at Wikipedia had researched St. Antony’s curriculum, it would not say these things. Trungpa was an undergrad, ostensibly studying comparative religion, who according to Diana, could barely speak any English at all. St. Antony’s was no place for such a student. Despite its name, St. Antony’s does not teach religion. It was and is a graduate school of political science, attended by senior officials and executives. Trungpa would have been unable to understand the curriculum or read the materials, or participate in class. And of course, the Registrar confirms, he didn’t even show up to try.

Vicki Mackenzie and Andrew Whitehead say that Trungpa got his Spalding sponsorship to attend Oxford thanks to the intercession of Freda Bedi and John Stapleton Driver, an Oxford Buddhist scholar who lived in Kalimpong, and taught English to Trungpa and other lamas. Driver passed away in 2014, but I was able to contact his son, Professor Felix Driver, to ask if he knew anything about Trungpa's Oxford history, based on anything he might have heard from his father. He didn't have any recollection of that fact -- only that some Tibetans had lived around Oxford.

There is another person associated with the Spalding Fellowship with whom I would connect a young exiled lama in England, if I were writing fiction. Robert Charles Zaehner was an expert on Persian religious history and literature, the author of books on drugs and mysticism, and held the Spalding Chair from 1952 until his death in 1974. R.C. Zaehner, as he was best known, had a cloak and dagger backstory as an MI5 and MI6 British Intelligence Officer. Based in Tehran during the Second World War and into the cold war fifties, he was credited with handling the MI6 side of the overthrow of Mohammad Mossadegh as Prime Minister of Iran in 1967 during the joint CIA-MI6 coup. Candidly, I can imagine Trungpa being drawn to a man who could claim credit for having ousted a liberal politician who had sought to bring social justice to downtrodden Iranians. I suspect that Trungpa, a sucker for military display, and loaded with resentment for the loss of his homeland to the invading Chinese, would have been impressed by Zaehner’s intelligence background. However, there is no record of their having met, and the only association is beyond speculative, because although Zaehner was definitely the Spalding Chair, there is no evidence that Trungpa was ever a Spalding Fellow.

What difference does it make that Trungpa lied about going to Oxford College and the whole world just believed him because it made the story so much better? To some, very little. Many loyalists will never hear the truth, regardless of how many times it is shouted in their direction. Others, coming from the alienated end of the spectrum, tell themselves that their cynicism about Trungpa had already overrun the maximum, so this disclosure alters nothing. But that’s not true. Anyone who ever believed the Oxford story has been affected by it. A lie is like a mathematical error. It skews the numbers. Once it is made, everything is off by that much. Nothing is ever quite true again, until we sort out the truth and make our minds clear of the illusion.


For me, knowing without a doubt that Trungpa was only an Oxford man in his own, deluded mind, is important. It removes a mistaken understanding that Trungpa himself planted in my mind when I read Born in Tibet in a little yurt in Southern Oregon. I was impressed. I didn't know the real author of the book was Esme Cramer Roberts. I wrote a review of the book and published it in the local food co-op newspaper. I began to spread the story. I became a carrier of the Tibetan Buddhist gospel. All things considered, I’d rather have been a messenger for truth.
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2020 7:12 am

To Advance the Cause of Racial Justice Through Dharma, Abandon the Profit Motive
by Charles Carreon



Origins and Expectations of the Religious Life

I was raised in a family of Mexican-American, Franciscan Catholic, New Deal Democrats. So priests, according to my Dad, were not supposed to be money-grubbers. Priests who behaved humbly and demonstrated material simplicity were the objects of my mother’s warm praise. A kind priest was a light in the community, urging us all to show kindness in daily life.

The idea of anyone going into religion expecting a paycheck was antithetical to the nature of the job. The Jesuits who taught at my high school were motivated by their sense of mission, not by their pay, which must’ve been negligible, if their lifestyle was any reflection of it. They certainly weren’t spending on clothes – four or five black slacks and shirts, a few pairs of black socks, a pair of Oxfords and a Roman collar were all they needed to suit up for the day. The best of these men were icons of self-discipline, focused achievers seeking inner compensation, something personal to each one. If you knew what it was, you’d know the mystery of their individual “vocation,” I suppose.

For example, my junior year English Literature teacher Mr. Fitzpatrick started out teaching spoiled suburban Catholic boys. He was a handsome man, passionate about human rights and equality in a time when Jesuit clerics were predominantly conservative. He was serious about bridging the gap between himself and his students. So during spring break 1970, he took a half-dozen of my friends down to Havasu Canyon, an arduous hike in and out, to reach the beautiful turquoise green falls that cascade hundreds of feet from sculpted red rocks into pools that look like translucent, green agates.

Well of course in that environment, with those kids, in those days, you were going to have some drug episodes. The late Bart Ferrante, then a sexually precocious Hawaiian hunk with martial arts chops, ran amok in the middle of the night, delusional from Jimson Weed intoxication, knocking over tents, hiding out in the shallow lake water, being chased by rangers with huge flashlights, and as he told me a few days later, “uprooting trees with my bare hands.”

The next day, Fitz and the boys had to hike out ASAP, but of course Brian, the ethereal Moody Blues fan, had to drop a full hit of windowpane before starting the hike out of the Grand Canyon, and found himself not really up to the physical exertion required. He needed a lot of help to get out. I think Bart, still flying on belladonna and scopolamine, carried his backpack part of the way, since he had stimulated their sudden decampment. Mr. Fitz was just about destroyed with anxiety, and forever after sort of viewed our little crew of psychonauts as feral creatures best kept at a reasonable distance. Quite wisely, he thereafter devoted his life to ministering to Native Americans on the reservation in Pendleton, Oregon, where he’s been for over forty years.

Dharma Re-Education

I daresay a lot of boomer-age Buddhists had similar religious exemplars. Folks raised in Catholic or Jewish families made up the bulk of our sangha for many years, and I know we all shared the normative view of religion as something that you give away. Our Buddhist cohort also had an egalitarian ethic that was established in hippie society. So we liked teachers who sat on the floor, who didn’t ask for money or make it clear that they wanted it, like a waiter, waiting for a tip. But we had re-educators in our sangha, people who told us that “the right way” to deal with Tibetan Lamas was to give them a high throne, offer them little red envelopes stuffed with cash piled up right in front of them as they sit on the throne, give them special food, special beds, and new linens. Ultimately they break it to you that what you need to give the Lamas is all the stuff you’ve never been able to afford for yourself and your family.

The Ram Dass Initiation

To be fair, we were prepared by the Ram Dass initiation. Ram Dass, using the old Theosophical playbook, took us directly from the self-obliterating power of high-dose LSD tripping to the feet of the guru and the art of devotion. Yogananda had offered an “airplane of spiritual realization,” but Ram Dass appeared to have boarded a rocket ship that had put him permanently in orbit. Who wouldn’t want a piece of that? With the Ram Dass initiation we received a whole new catechism that had an interesting, meritocratic flavor. Yoga had a strong flavor of self-reliance.

We are all One. God is us. We don’t know it. Gurus do. If you get a guru, they’ll teach you mantras, meditation, or maybe they’ll just touch you, and your kundalini will rise, open your chakras, and turn you into the equal of the Guru – a self-realized human being. For this, obviously, you have to pay. Even Jesus called the goal of his quest “a pearl of great price,” and said it would be worth selling everything you had to acquire it. The guru’s got the moksha. Do you got the moolah?

Introduction to the Merit Economy

Once Ram Dass had fitted us for the yoke, the Tibetans were ready to do some plowing. The Tibetans elevated material accumulation to a spiritual plane, however. The Tibetans thus revived a practice that the medieval Catholic Church had practiced for hundreds of years until Martin Luther made it the focus of his attacks on Church corruption -– the sale of divine blessings by priests and bishops, who routinely turned cash into heavenly merit, like a banker changing dollars for pounds. By concretizing merit in the form of offerings, Tibetans are able to justify the most excessive wealth accumulations as acts of worship, generosity, and dispassion.

By making physical offerings and labor donations the evidence of devotion, Tibetan lamas encouraged the belief that anything can be fixed with money. This belief is very popular with traditional Chinese Buddhists, who see giving money to Buddhist causes as the right way to cultivate “the two accumulations of merit and wisdom.” As a result, a strong affinity developed between Tibetan lamas and American Chinese Buddhist communities, once they found each other, usually because hippies were flying them around the country. Eventually, bidding for teachers began, and the sangha that I had been part of for over twenty years was ultimately outbid by another sangha. One thing led to another, and eventually, the temple that Rinpoche had built in Southern Oregon was fated to become an empty shell of what all had hoped it would become, when he abruptly transferred his attentions to the Bay Area, where a Chinese Dharma group had actually managed to put the money down to buy a proper building for an urban temple that could fill up with Chinese people who actually understood how Dharma is supposed to work. You pay, you get.

Money is the New Devotion

The trend to cater to moneyed Dharma students was strong from the beginning, but when real rich people started to bring their friends to the temple, it spelled the end for a lot of old relationships. Those who had money were whisked upstairs to lounge in silken luxury, drink from dragon teacups, and enjoy the god realm atmosphere. Family folks struggling to make ends meet, wanting blessings for their kids, asking questions about their pathetic little practices – those folks became a nuisance, and soon Rinpoche’s minders were routinely giving them the brush-off. Mass meetings for plebes. Face-time for those with checkbooks.

We Came by Our Poverty Honorably

Well you know, people can’t help it if they’re poor, and the first generation of American Buddhists got poor trying to be Buddhists. Like Suzuki Roshi said, our style was to try and blend lay and monastic roles. We liked to lay in bed with our spouses, grow organic gardens, home-school our kids, and meditate like monks, which of course leaves little time for playing the stock market. As a result, even people who got professional degrees and jobs did so after a lot of time spent travelling to India, or living in the woods, reading Thoreau, writing for underground papers and presses, teaching community college, or working for social justice for a few years in legal or medical clinics. We got a real late start on capital accumulation, but we thought that was the Buddhist way, at least until the Tibetans came along, recommending that we wear suits, start businesses, work hard, and fund some Dharma projects.

First In, First Out

Realities collided at the Southern Oregon temple, when a group of rich students decided to hijack Rinpoche’s birthday, invite phony tulkus Steven Seagal and Catherine Burroughs to appear as guests of honor, and in lieu of letting the sangha cooks make free food as we always did, hire a catering outfit to charge us for lunch at our own temple. Then it turned out so many dignitaries had gotten reserved seating that the old students who were left out of the planning were evicted from the temple altogether. Sitting out on the verandah with my wife and two other old students, the sense that we had become nobodies was overpowering. I had a bottle of wine that I was going to offer for tsok, but instead I twisted off the cap and passed it to my friend Michael, who was so shook up he practically drained it in a couple of gargantuan chug-a-lugs. I can still see the bubbles rising in the inverted bottle of pink liquid as he guzzled it. He was bound for oblivion. It hurt that bad.

The ethic had shifted, and the message was clear – “Hippies with handmade offerings are no longer needed or wanted.” The outrage was palpable. We helped pay for the land the temple was built on. We gave years of time and devotion, cooking and feeding retreatants, doing free labor on the land, and it was all rendered irrelevant by a few big checks and a B-moviestar’s appearance at the temple, wrapped in about five yards of yellow silk, still looking like he was ready to smash somebody’s face into a parking lot pillar and toss him out into the street to be run over by a bus.

Sincere poverty was out, useless, undesirable, outré. Indeed, poor disciples were becoming an overt embarrassment, to be hidden from sight. Wealth displays of Tibetan rupas, thangkas and jewelry were the order of the day. After all, you buy them from Tibetans, which is an inherently virtuous act. Hollywood had discovered the Little Buddha fashion god realm, and they were all over it like Rodeo Drive. No one could afford to be seen without a bodhi-seed mala hung with heavy silver counters, and women really needed to get some chubas, because nothing makes a lama happier than seeing that little fold in the back, so neat and discreet, that guards feminine dignity. Until of course, it’s time for secret offerings.

Subservience -- the Most Needful Offering

Many Dharma pioneers are pushed aside by the second wave of students, who feel superior to those who haven’t taken the necessary steps to push the teacher into prominence and power and their sangha into the fast lane. The most important thing, after getting a crew of wealthy donors to sponsor the regular expenses, is to get a phalanx of willing, attractive slaves into harness to pull the vajra vehicle, loaded with gurus and dignitaries, as the sweat pours off their bodies. When lamas and their honored guests need attention, poor Dharma students can provide the kind of subservience that really makes a god realm godly.

And it’s not just Tibetan Buddhists doing this. Enslaving poor zennists was the real crime that should have gotten Baker Roshi canned by Zen Center San Francisco. Of course, the book about his misdeeds is entitled “Shoes Outside the Door,” and refers to the former abbot’s predilection for boffing the wives of his students, but Baker’s use of unpaid Buddhists to run the Zen Bakery and several restaurants, and his deployment of more unpaid Buddhists to serve at his table, was injurious to the spiritual and material well being of many, many people who came wanting to practice Zen, and ended up bussing tables for no pay.

It's All for Sale

At our temple in Southern Oregon, the venality was more crass, and less effective, than Baker’s forced labor scheme. Going to the temple became like going to the Seven-11 in a bad part of town – you were constantly hit up for money. The acquisition and operation of a big sangha property, like a temple/retreat center, generates financial stress, and dues-paying members are the first to feel the pressure. Ideas for fund-raising proliferate. Sometimes, really bad ideas. Like the day the glad-handing Hawaiian real estate salesman, who’d morphed from New Age healer to Vajrayana dealer, sat in the temple and tried to show us how to raise money. Like a deejay trying to get through a community radio telethon, or an auctioneer driving up the price on some piece of fungible crap, he harangued people to pay for the temple’s new roof, or windows, or doors, or … you name it. He took the temple apart a piece at a time, and tried to sell it back to us in a new, improved form. I don’t know how I escaped, but it was not without bitter resentment for the desecration of what I’d thought was a sacred space.

After this and other extortionistic events, my wife Tara tried to communicate how wrong this was to the temple managers, using the favored communication medium of the day – a fax machine. Tara explained very cogently that by making offerings compulsory, they were destroying people’s opportunity to demonstrate generosity. Willing gifts, she was saying, were the only spiritually valuable offerings. But the comprehension up at the temple had shifted. They didn’t care if it was willing. They just wanted the green. A couple of complaints about pushy fundraising later, and Tara was banned from sending “negative faxes.”

Trapped on the Ladder to Enlightenment

Shambhala has gone much farther than this type of simple venalization of Dharma symbols, however. It has recast the entire Buddhist lifestyle in the profit-making mold by promoting the belief that human beings grow best when guided by a curriculum of spiritual development provided by experts, requiring a lifetime investment of time, money and dedication. This presentation bears more similarities to the Scientology model than most Shambhalians are comfortable admitting. Both place aspirants on an extended ladder of development. Each stage of training has financial and educational prerequisities, and yet, this education will not get you any credits in another educational institution, nor will it qualify you to do anything except teach in Shambhala. And if you have a falling out with Shambhala, you cannot call yourself a Shambhala teacher. So Shambhala teachers, who think they are training into a livelihood as a meditation teacher, find themselves trapped in what former Shambhala meditation instructor Shante Smalls described as a “Ponzi scheme” in her goodbye letter to Shambhala. Like Scientologists, Shambhalians acquire a narrow skill set that qualifies them only to be better cult members.

So what we have in Shambhala is a group of people who would like to be teachers, but are now stuck in a shrinking pool of prospective students. Soon, there will be so many teachers and so few students that they will have to take turns pretending to learn from each other. When they try and push off into the big wide world of independent meditation teaching, they discover there is no such market, and yoga studios are oversupplied with lissome beauties of both sexes able to instruct in asanas for very modest compensation. They must turn to the occupation of last resort – life coach.

What are aspiring Shambhala “teachers” looking for? How do they find themselves enmeshed in the aspirations and jargon of an enlightened society? Well, everyone in the United States needs a livelihood, and when you get into Buddhism, you start getting interested in Right Livelihood. If you were indoctrinated like a Dharma brat, like Ethan Nichtern, for example, whose dad has been in the meditation business since Ethan’s earliest days, then you were conditioned to believe that teaching meditation is the best, highest work a person can do. It is the rightest of livelihoods.

But I think most people want a job that makes them feel important. So, without really giving it too much critical thought, they conclude that if they can pay for meditation classes, other people can, too. So, eventually someone will pay them to teach meditation classes. This passes for career planning for many an American, because researching possible undesirable outcomes of our plans is not a popular approach. Optimism suits us better. Hence, the nation’s vast student loan debt.

Meet the Poor -- a Very Diverse Group!

Let's return to the theme of our essay: how can getting the money out of Dharma bring Buddhism into harmony with the ideals of racial justice? It’s easy to conjure the image of something that is far from our present reality – Buddhist meditation centers filled with people of all skin colors and ethnicities, sitting peacefully in an egalitarian setting where all are respected, and the atmosphere is spiritually nourishing for all. I ask you, what would not be present in such a happy scene? There would be no high throne where someone could raise themselves above others, and abuse their power. There would be no photographs of men in silk robes, emanating superior status, constantly propitiated like gods. There would be no kasungs, sitting pompously in their uniforms, thinking they're spiritual cops. There would be no grim-faced secretary at a folding table, collecting fees before allowing participation.

If you jettisoned all the wealth displays, all the patriarchal worship, all the teacher-worshipping, money-grubbing, and fulsome, phony piety, you would be more than halfway to creating a diverse sangha. The barriers to approaching the Dharma would come down, and people of all types would come pouring in, eager to be in a place of no threat, no sales pitch, no sleaze, no lies, no oppression. What would be lost in such an environment? All existing credentials. Exalted roles and privileged positions. Relationships based on power and subordination. And this would return us to a situation similar to that of the Buddha’s original sangha.

The poor are a diverse group. If you don’t know that, head on down to Walmart in an urban area. Or head out to the farming country where Latinos are displacing Anglo labor and marrying into the Anglo gene pool. Peep into a call center where hundreds of Americans provide customer support for minimum wage. There’s all kinds of colors and faces in there.

There is no better way to step out of the lily-white world than by stepping into the world of poverty. Over twenty percent of Black Americans, and eighteen percent of Hispanic Americans, live in poverty. This compares with around eight percent of white Americans. So when you open yourself to the poor, you open yourself to the minority population. When you orient yourself to the needs of the poor, you will connect with Black and Hispanic Americans, and not just those of some elevated social class, which is a big problem with a lot of programs intended to bring minorities in, but mostly attract people of color from affluent backgrounds who know how to blend in to white society. This improves appearances, but doesn’t really open the door to people who lack access to Dharma practice and teaching.

People act like they can't connect with people of color, or the poor, but that's because they don't really try. Many mainstream churches do it with practiced ease. They run free stores, food banks, clinics, homeless and domestic violence shelters, soup kitchens, etcetera, and now they get government funding for it. And you're doing much more than helping a few poor people. You are finding the people in the community who have the heart for the same type of work you are doing. They just need a bit of ground under them, and they will blossom. Such people are everywhere in poor communities. If Dharma groups can open their hearts to the community, we will grow the Dharma in the way Buddha did -- with the power of love.

It's easy to extend your love to the poor, through straightforward material generosity. The poor have the same common human needs that we have. Just imagine -- a crazy Mahayana wish -- a Dharma center that offers real material support to homeless practitioners -- a clothing exchange, a maildrop, a kitchen, lockers and showers, a free clinic once a month. Homeless meditation hour, counseling, scholarships for retreats. The Buddha would have approved of this sort of Dharma center, of course, given his lifestyle.

Buddha Was a Beggar

Dharma center offerings for poor communities that provide concrete resources will attract a diverse group, some of whom will be practitioners in the making. If you eliminate monetary barriers, you can find those people. And it is much more important to find practitioners and share the Dharma with them than it is to find them and charge them a fee. There are lots of barriers for the poor that you may not think about. People who don’t have nice clothing, whose shoes may be worn, aren’t always comfortable going into places that look like they were furnished at Crate & Barrel, where it looks like everybody bought their clothes at Nordstroms. Of course, even caring about what poor people think challenges the guru-centered Tibetan Buddhist way of thinking.

People who are running centers might do well to turn around, away from the shrine, and look out the door at the people in the world who might come in and ask, “What is this all about? Can I just come and sit here in the quiet? I notice you folks are very quiet. I like the quiet.” If that person is homeless, or has worn shoes and shabby clothing, all the better. Buddha, after all, was a beggar.[/size]
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Tue Jul 19, 2022 4:19 am

From the Desk of General Counsel
by Charles Carreon
July 17, 2022



The Situation of Twenty-First Century Humans

Every day we wake up and live our lives. We carry on with our affairs, making the best of the situation in which we find ourselves. We adapt to a pace of change and uncertainty, keeping up with a machine we don’t program or control. We adapt, assembling our lives, caring for those who depend on us, fulfilling complex responsibilities in the process. We wonder – how did we end up in a world like this one? We sense the potential for human fulfillment in a wholesome culture, buried beneath the thick veneer of modern technological artifice. The doomsday clock keeps ticking down, politicians temporize, war taints everything, the Amazon burns, and an aging elite class sells humanity’s future for absolutely nothing. And we ask ourselves – what can we do?

A Path with Heart

From Don Juan Matus, the Yaqui sorcerer whose words and deeds were chronicled by Carlos Castaneda, we learned that in this world of endless contention, the warrior sets out to follow a path with heart. So I feel fortunate that, as General Counsel of NAAVC, I can help to reverse the deluge of bad decisions that have initiated a mass extinction event threatening the future of earthly life. Because NAAVC exists to make Visionary Religion a safe and legal practice, which leads to better thinking and fewer bad decisions by human beings. All of the bad decisions that have led us to planetary collapse have been made by humans. To make better decisions, we need to change the human mind, we need to unwire millennia of programming that were apparently functional when resources were unlimited, transportation was local, and humanity’s population was not in the billions.

Building the Case for Visionary Religion

As General Counsel, I’ve collected evidence about how the experience of Visionary Religion changes human minds. In my opinion, it often changes them for the better, fundamentally making them more honest, less confused, and more capable of making decisions on ethical grounds. But that’s not a scientific statement, it’s an opinion based on life experience and anecdotal evidence. The sort of thing that tends not to hold up in court. So back in 2018, after Scott Stanley pulled me into his orbit and I started learning about Visionary Religion from an insider, we wrote up a survey and emailed it to 1,600 people who attended an AYA ceremony. We got back 268 completed surveys, a statistically-valid sampling, and after I reviewed the results online, I called Scott and told him that he had no need to worry that he might be wasting his life. With satisfaction rates in the high ninety-percentiles, and people reporting positive life changes of various types as a result of ceremony, I was confident he was doing good work.

Relieving Suffering and Satisfying the Need for Beauty

I summarized the results in an Executive Summary that you can download from this link. The statistical summaries tell us that the AYA congregation is a mature group of people who enter the ceremony with spiritual intentions to obtain healing, energy, insight, vision, motivation, and inspiration. That’s how they feel before they drink the medicine. After they drink, their expressions are almost uniformly very positive, like in these quotes that I selected almost at random from the seventy I included at the end of the Executive Summary:

• “Ayahuasca has improved every dimension of my life. But mostly I'm no longer consumed with anxiety and so I function better at everything.”
• “Two years ago I wanted to die every day. I daydreamed about ways to do it 4-5 times a day. I am so grateful not to feel like that anymore. I never dreamed that life could be so amazing. The only thing that really changed was my perspective. I truly believe I would be dead without ayahuasca and AYA. I did all the work but they helped save my life. Literally.”
• “There were parts of myself I was afraid of before the ceremony, particularly I was afraid God hated me for this. I learned through the ceremony that I could grow and improve but that God loves me as I am.”
• “It was a beautiful, safe and structured experience. They did not stand between me and my experience; they created a safe environment for it.”
• “The experiences have exceeded any possible expectation I may have had before attending a ceremony.”

Clearly, important work is being accomplished in ceremony. In the legal context, I refer to ceremony as “Visionary Communion,” because it involves communication with the Divine source of ourselves and our world, and because it is facilitated by a sacrament that is not a placebo. The survey results proved to me that effects of Visionary Communion are often profound. The first three quotes describe, respectively, relief from anxiety, from suicidal fantasies, and from attachment to a frightening notion of God. These types of psychological shifts are quite nearly miraculous, and the fact that they can be so swiftly achieved in Visionary Communion is very encouraging. The last two quotes express another aspect of Visionary Communion – that it can satisfy a yearning for a moment of sanctuary, a breath of air from another dimension, an insight into a world of beauty and harmony that perhaps has not entirely slipped from our grasp.

The Power of Scientific Allies

After we did our survey of the AYA congregation, Scott and I started looking for more evidence of the benefits of Visionary Religion, and we found a strong ally in Paulo Barbosa, PhD. Dr. Barbosa teaches at the State University of Santa Cruz ( UESC ) in Ilhéus, Brazil, and is a noted expert on the interaction between human beings and sacred plants in the ceremonial context. He has collaborated with Dr. Rick Strassman and other researchers to perform original studies, and at my request, back in August 2020, undertook a complete review of virtually all peer reviewed studies that have been performed to determine the physical, psychological, and social effects of ceremonial Ayahuasca use, i.e., Visionary Communion practice. Dr. Barbosa (who was at pains to acknowledge the work of his research partner Eduardo Ary Villela Marinho) prepared an expert declaration that AYA submitted in support of its position in pending litigation with the DEA, expressing as a legal conclusion:

Ayahuasca consumed in a religious context is not being used as a drug of abuse, nor does the religious use of ayahuasca lead to the abuse of other drugs; instead, religious ayahuasca users generally abandon abuse of alcohol after they become members of an ayahuasca church. These data are backed up by pre-clinical evidence indicating that ayahuasca blocks many abuse-related behavioral effects of drugs of abuse. Ayahuasca does not adversely affect mental health. Many religious ayahuasca users start out with greater psychological morbidity than the control groups, and show a marked improvement with years of ayahuasca use, reporting greater mental health after participating in religious ayahuasca use compared to control groups.

There, in sober scholarly language, is what this lawyer wants to hear about Visionary Religion. I have to dispel the casual belief that Visionary Communion is mere drug-taking under a cloak of virtue, and Dr. Barbosa’s painstaking analysis helps me do that.

You might wonder what good all of this evidence-gathering will do us. Well, the best thing you can do in litigation is to sell your adversary on your case, because then they have an incentive to settle. Until they get the idea that you might be able to win, they generally have no incentive to compromise – they just plan to win. When you’re litigating with the DEA, represented by the Department of Justice, you figure it will take a while for them to decide that you might be able to win.

A Yurt is Raised, and The DEA Decides to Negotiate

AYA has been litigating with the DEA since May of 2020, so it’s been a little over two years, and they just decided to start negotiating. There was one piece of evidence, though, that I think tipped the scales, and it wasn’t a document or a sworn statement. It was a building – a yurt, to be precise – the beautiful maloka that Scott and the AYA congregation raised in the desert east of Tucson this summer. When I was able to tell the District Judge and the U.S. Attorneys in our Fifth Amended Complaint that AYA has a church in the District of Arizona where the congregation meets every two weeks to practice Visionary Communion, it was like announcing the first heartbeat of a new being. On June 13, 2022, Judge Silver approved a stipulation between AYA and the DOJ to stay the litigation while we enter into negotiations to explore the possibilities of settlement.

A Dangerous Proposition

What does negotiating with the DEA mean? What could come of it? Poorly-handled, it can lead to disaster, as Soul Quest discovered when their lawsuit against the DEA was dismissed in March of 2022, after they went through an “exemption process,” in which the DEA cross-examined their people, dismembered their faith, and denied the Soul Quest exemption request on the grounds that they weren’t a sincere religion. For some us, watching from the sidelines, the result was not too surprising. Soul Quest’s lawyers were always several steps behind the DOJ lawyers, who exploited their ignorance in predictable ways, achieving another DEA win against the Visionary Religion community.

So right now, we are in the early stages of negotiation, what people often call “arguing over the shape of the table,” but you can bet the first thing AYA made clear was that they were not making the same mistakes as Soul Quest had. AYA is not going to concede that the DEA has authority to examine our “religious sincerity.” As a matter of principle and law, AYA’s position has always been that only U.S. District Court Judge can adjudicate the issue or whether a church or its minister is “sincere” in their practice of Visionary Religion.

Seeking the “Least Restrictive Means”

In the legal calculus that underlies the process of getting a religious exemption from the Controlled Substances Act under RFRA, there are two phases in the process. In a lawsuit, the Court first determines whether the plaintiff is “sincere” in their need to obtain an exemption from the drug laws, and then “the burden shifts to the Government” to establish that the prohibition on importing and distribution of Ayahuasca is the “least restrictive means” of advancing the Government’s interest in preventing the plaintiff from importing drugs illegally. Because AYA contends that the DEA has no business determining whether it is “religiously sincere,” AYA’s goal will be to focus the DEA on AYA’s ability to lawfully import Ayahuasca under a contractual agreement with the DEA to operate as a registered importer with a DEA number, using all the required DEA forms, and operating their importation, storage and distribution facilities with DEA inspection and approvals. Going into this process, we are using the knowledge we have gained from talking with our allies at the UDV and the Santo Daime about how they have gotten along with the DEA under the regulatory regime that they negotiated with the DOJ. What others have done, we too can do.

The Road Ahead

Society has taught us to lie to get what we want, in small and large ways. As Li Po said, “If you are straight like an arrow, you will die in a ditch, but if you are crooked like a hook, you will be made minister.” Because we are all children of society, we all have been conditioned to deceive in a thousand ways, and these deceptions seep into our personality at every level.

Visionary Communion is an appointment with radical self-honesty. In Visionary Communion, we find out how much we have lost to our lying, the tiny world we have left to inhabit when we fail to stake out the space to live in truth. We realize that honesty is worth the sacrifices it demands. As self-deception dissolves, self-censorship and posturing are revealed as unnecessary and self-defeating. Self-trust and trust of others go hand in hand, so our ability to select and recruit good companions is strengthened. We are better able to collaborate to accomplish our work, and our work is made easier through cooperative effort.

We then feel the impulse to define ourselves and design our lives consciously. When we set out to design our lives consciously, we start to behave with foresight. We learn that the business of today is to take account of the future. Because the future is waiting for us, individually, and as a member of the species that dominates this planet. Right now, the species appears to be lost, guided primarily by confusion, and that is a dangerous situation that will only get worse, unless human beings start being honest with themselves and each other. Visionary Religion might be the thing that could bring us to that change, that could get human consciousness to that critical mass necessary to convert from the dominator model of planetary exploitation to the collaborative model of living peacefully and sustainably on Spaceship Earth.

Charles Carreon
July 17, 2022
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