ROOTIN’ AND TOOTIN’


I wrote a nasty piece about Genpo Roshi’s Big Mind™ — a new process for Zen practice Genpo claims will give you Enlightenment in just an hour — for this week’s Suicide Girls article. It’s going to “go live” — as they say — at Noon Pacific Time on Saturday (March 3, just 2 days before my birthday). Ever since I wrote a couple scathing paragraphs about Big Mind™ in a review of the movie “What The Bleep” about two years ago (click on the title of this article if you want to read it) I’ve been hearing from lots of people who’ve been involved in Big Mind™, or BM as I like to abbreviate it. And, man-o-man it sounds like it’s even worse than I imagined! I’ve also heard from Zen teachers nearly everywhere I’ve gone to speak how appalled they are at this new development in the world of Zen. I’m starting to think that, maybe more than being just an obvious bit of low-rent sideshow hokum, this could possibly end up being the stuff of scandal sheets and Movies of the Week before too long. Of course, I’m sure Genpo and his butt-buddy Ken Wilber will end up on Oprah before then. Oh how the wheels of commerce do turn.

Anyway, I’ll leave it till Saturday before the serious Big Mind™ bashing begins. But while I was writing, I was fishing around on-line for a quote I recall seeing in which John Daido Loori praised Big Mind™ as an excellent skillful means or some such thing. The quote came from a printed hand-out someone got at a Big Mind™ seminar and kindly sent me, which I then kindly lost track of. I was hoping the same stuff ended up on the Internets somewhere, but I couldn’t find it. So I guess Daido gets a reprieve this time. Maybe he wisely told them to take his name off the list of supporters. Although I wouldn’t give too much credit to the guy who wrote the very worst book ever written in the history of books about Dogen (the reprehensible “True Dharma Eye,” may every copy burn in Hell).

Anyway (again) I didn’t find the quote, but I did find a thing someone wrote way back in the golden year of twenty-ought-five about li’l old me. It’s always funny to see this kind of thing. I thought I’d share it with you. Here’s what they said:

“Notice that Brad Warner hasn’t actually claimed to have tried the Big Mind™ process, or holosync for that matter. His ideas on what meditation/Buddhism must be are frustratingly stubborn. ‘That’s not Zen! THIS is Zen! And I’m the rootin’ tootin’ toughest Zen cowboy in town!’”

Haw! Is that what I sound like? I am definitely not the rootin’ tootin’ toughest Zen cowboy in town. What I am, though, is honest. Real Buddhist practice is hard work. Guys like Genpo Roshi and the makers of the holosync try and con you into thinking there are easy peasy ways to get to the same place. There are not. This isn’t just my personal opinion. It’s a fact.

The dude goes on to say, “If Big Mind™ works, if it really can give you a little satori within hours (I’m also doubtful, but I have no right to claim anything until I’ve tried it) then it doesn’t matter if Genpo Roshi is a 30ft drug taking meerkat.”

I’ve heard this argument a lot, that I shouldn’t knock it till I’ve tried it cuz, who knows, maybe it really does work. But it isn’t a valid argument. Let me give you a metaphor. Let’s say a Martian came to Earth and an unscrupulous Earthling handed him a gram of coke and a straw. He tells the Martian that the coke is what we on Earth call a “piano.” He tells the Martian to suck it up thru the straw into his proboscis. The Martian does so and he goes back to Mars and tells his friends, “When I was on Earth I sucked a piano into my nose through a straw and it felt GREAT!” Now the Martians may believe him. But will anyone on Earth?

The only reason anyone falls for this kind of malarchy is that they don’t have any understanding what words like satori, kensho or enlightenment mean, just like our Martian friend has no idea what we on Planet Earth call a “piano.”

This doesn’t mean I’m calling all y’all dummies. I’m the biggest Neanderthal in town. But does it make sense to you that some new fangled technique is gonna get you 15 years of Zazen experience in just an hour? And if you don’t know the answer to that one, how about this? Do you think a new fangled miracle diet pill is going to help you lose the fat it took 15 years to put on in a single week? I thought not. Then why would you imagine a lifetime of misuse of your brain and body can be undone in an afternoon? (actually Genpo claims BM can give you Enlightenment “before lunchtime.”)

So there’s your sneak preview. Enjoy the Suicide Girls piece this weekend. Remember it’s free to look at my stuff up there. No need to join or risk accidentally seeing any tattooed nudie cuties.

*****POST SCRIPT March 8, 2007*****

I dug up the quote by John Daido Loori about Big Mind. It’s from an article called “Genpo Roshi’s Big Mind.” The author is John Kain but the original source is not noted on the copy I have. I believe it was a hand-out given at a Big Mind™ seminar. Here’s what it says:

“Zen teaching is like fishing,” says John Daido Loori, the abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery, dharma brother to Genpo Roshi and author of numerous books including, Making Love with Light (Daido Roshi is my teacher and has a much more traditional approach to practice than does Genpo Roshi. I’d asked him what he thought of Genpo Roshi’s less traditional method). “Every fisherman has a technique. Some use flies, some lures, some bait. The key is to get the student hooked. Genpo Roshi uses the Big Mind process. I use the Arts, and Tetsugen (Bernie Glassman) uses social action. What counts is what happens when the student gets hooked. Genpo Roshi has shown, through the strength of his successors, that he is good at the essential part of Zen training. His successors are excellent.”

There you have it. Although I’m not really sure just what Daido is saying here. It’s not quite as supportive as I’d recalled. In fact, it may be an obtuse way of saying he doesn’t support BM. It’s impossible to know. Which may be the problem (see my March 7 article). I do have a problem, as well, with the idea that it’s OK to hook a student with something deceptive. Or to hook students at all. This may be a matter for another article.

169 Responses

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  1. Brad
    Brad March 7, 2007 at 9:07 am | |

    Wait! The author of the piece I just quoted was John Kain. It’s at the end of the print-out. Still don’t know the original source.

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 11, 2007 at 7:39 pm | |

    Finally!! After 2000+ years of extensive, life long meditation someone finds the magic potion for enlightenment in just a few hours. Poor Siddharta. Poor Bodhidharma. And all the other countless Buddhist practioners that have totally missed out on this quick fix enlightenment. Right.

  3. Alan Gregory Wonderwheel

    Brad’s honesty is refreshing. His saying “Although I’m not really sure just what Daido is saying here.” is enough to explain why he -Brad- also doesn’t have a clue what Genpo Roshi is doing either.

    When you don’t know what is going on, it is best to not comment at all. Brad only makes himself look like a fool to comment in the way he does about Genpo Roshi’s work.

  4. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 14, 2007 at 2:40 am | |

    re: Loori’s quote on the BM process

    I’d say that what Daido is getting at is that it’s just another way to get people into practicing zazen, which is something that Genpo has an irrefutable history of doing.

    If Genpo actually came out and said: “Do this and you don’t need to sit any longer,” I’d guess there would be a loud “WTF!” from the Maezumi lineage.

    Anyway, no one is perfect in their execution – not Brad, Merzel, Loori, Maezumi, Nishijima etc.
    All of them are full of shit in one way or another (as are we all).

    IMO it’s their best intentions that count, the 3 pure precepts and all of that…

  5. _wesmiller_
    _wesmiller_ March 19, 2007 at 6:36 am | |

    we were born on the same day.
    neato frito

  6. Anonymous
    Anonymous June 12, 2007 at 7:27 am | |

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  7. Vegar
    Vegar August 2, 2007 at 7:01 pm | |

    There’s a couple of things I’d like to add to this discussion – Genpo Roshi was actually more “hardcore” in his practice than Brad Warner will most likely ever be. Who else here has sat for 35 years? And out of those, 8-10 hours a day for ten years and three three-month angos one year. When it comes to a pure sitting track record there are very few people that come close to Genpo Roshi.

    That of course doesn’t say anything about Big Mind, but it is an interesting thing to consider before you make a solid judgement.

    I’ve actually spent quite a lot of time with Genpo Roshi, and he’s never said that sitting isn’t necessary. He doesn’t say that it is necessary either. But rather that some people prefer Big Mind, others sitting and some like both. I’m one of the latter, but even in Genpo Roshi’s sangha there are those who prefer to sit over lots of Big Mind.

    When it comes to the claim that “enlightenment is guaranteed”, what actually says is that it’s more like a helicopter ride over the territory, where one can touch down different places and get a feel for the path ahead, but it doesn’t mean that you don’t have to walk it.

    And there are as many ways to practice as there are people, so let’s go a little easy on one another…

  8. Anonymous
    Anonymous September 26, 2007 at 7:07 pm | |

    Hey Brad, dude, if you actually went to the trouble to understand what you are criticizing two things would happen. First, your writing would loose that vitriolic, nasty, holier-than-thou sound and second, you’re criticism might just have something meaningful to say. Funny, this was the first post of yours I have read, and it will be the last. Have a nice life.

  9. Henke
    Henke December 5, 2007 at 5:42 am | |

    “When it comes to a pure sitting track record there are very few people that come close to Genpo Roshi.”

    LOL, having trained with Genpo for over a decade, I’d say there is a long list of people that are far more ethical and for that matter have something of worth to impart that Genpo hasn’t had for a long, long time. I certainly wouldn’t hold up coming “close” to Genpo as any standard. The man used to be a good teacher but sold out, slept with students, went for the fast buck and hasn’t been a real Zen teacher for years. Nuff said.

  10. Anonymous
    Anonymous February 8, 2008 at 2:20 pm | |

    I don’t know who this Genpo dude is and frankly I care not. But a couple of things spring to this small mind.

    Firstly NO ONE can give “you” enlightenment, considering it’s not a thing to be given, and there is no “one” to receive it. Although they’re certainly appears to be. And I don’t mind anyone going with all his or her might for said prize.

    Now onto another little existential error…a week, a day, a weekend, a life time of zazen, one million reincarnations where you sit on your fat ass wont give it to YOU.

    Not an instant of time is required for the universe to be what it always already IS.

    Your Isness is the IS that IS and the only IS there is.

    Mistakenly cutting and dividing isness into objects each now endowed by your knife like mind with there own independent existence in no way makes any difference to the undifferentiated nature of what is.

  11. joe koudelka
    joe koudelka March 4, 2008 at 3:54 pm | |

    effing eh to the isness dude. dice it or slice it, just this, this, this, this,…. cause and effect over and over, oh-oh! there it goes again!

  12. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 18, 2008 at 3:29 pm | |

    I have observed the “Big Mind” process and can confirmed it has nothing to do with Zen. Moreover, Dennis Merzel is by no means “enlightened”. BM is simply a trans personal psychology designed to make participants feel comfortable with their egos–not to transcend it.

    The bottomline is that Merzel is making a living based on the reputation of Zen. Overall, the Zen community should be thankful that he found nothing in the sitting meditation form worth trademarking–other wise the Zen community would have to refer to their practice as “Big Butt”.

  13. ursus
    ursus May 9, 2008 at 5:11 am | |

    There is always going to be a market for this kind of thing. Exercise machines are sold on TV and the Net while those who buy them cannot do a single pushup (for free). There are thousands of books on diets whereas simple solution for losing weight is to eat less. But that, of course requires effort. Which sucks. Sitting is boring, annoying, hard, hurts back and knees and you never know if there is going to be any point of that! Popping headphones on and relaxing under a dreamy music is cool and pleasant and brings results quickly. Some results anyway. Tempting man!

    You believe your way is the best and teach it. That’s professionalism (in Buddhist priesthood I guess). I tend to agree with your teachings. Many will disagree and buy this gadget with soundtracks at alpha level (what the fuck does it mean, but doesn’t matter, it comes in different colors so that can combine well with my new shoes). Please keep talking, I will not buy that stuff but rather listen to you.

  14. Buddha Torrents
    Buddha Torrents June 24, 2008 at 2:17 pm | |

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. Andrew
    Andrew January 19, 2009 at 9:03 pm | |

    enlightenment is itself faux and zen is schizophrenic.

    genpo is just doing what zen excels at which is plagarism, ripping off soen san nim and clear mind slogan, who himself was just dipping into the korean zen bag of cliches

    such dull and dreary minds that the best they can do is filch cliches

    enlightenment, buddha; sentimental nonsense for cretinous twits

  16. Anonymous
    Anonymous October 6, 2009 at 2:27 pm | |

    Some very enjoyable posts. I have sat for years, but wish I could do it more intensively as many of you have….job intervenes…
    I sat with Genpo's group at one point. At first I was fascinated, I ended up basically not really liking him.

    Before and after that, I encountered along the way one martial arts teacher and two zen teachers who I really felt close to. It was totally different. None of the three was into making money or amassing power. Nothing could be further from their minds. All were rebels in some sense: there was an absolute commitment to the truth. NO interest in bullshit at all.

    The martial arts world is full of bad teachers who fool people and who are technically competent. To find a really good person who is technically excellent is very rare. Probably they have relatively few students.

    The BM process may have merit, but I hate the marketing. It reminds me of Werner Erhard's stuff. In fact Genpo had done some of those courses, and that no doubt helped lead to his developing BM.

    I did some of those courses too and though on the one hand I "got a lot out of it" and it "opened doors" on the other hand it took me years to erase the traces only partly.

    Many people got a lot out of it, but many also got some power out of it that they went on to abuse.

    It is very hard to remain pure and be involved in power and money and affairs with students. That Genpo covered up and lied about his affair in Maine is very revealing about his character. This was after I had known him and even then there was a similar incident.

    I guess there are some people who you can just trust and some you can't. You have to go with your gut. I love van der Wetering's books and don't love Ken Wilber's for instance…

    So it does not really surprise me to find them working together.

    It seems only the heart matters.

    Guess there is no short cut. Too bad… and Wonderful!!! Best to all…

  17. Anonymous
    Anonymous October 12, 2009 at 2:52 pm | |

    Having had a few go's at the BM process and being committed to Zazen and koan and working with a teacher, I feel it has something to add to the mix. Moving through different "selves" helps loosen my hold on a fixed sense of self. If I am so many selves but not any one, who am I? Why not just be "non seeking non grasping" or "Big Mind". All the effort to make something happen can get in the way. BM offers a way to side step the desire to make it happen and to just do it. However i am sure there is no substitute for sitting in order to integrate in a deeply saturating way. Genpo still recommends Zazen and koan. I kinda feel if someone brings up stuff very strongly in us like Genpo does for Brad then it points at a part of ourselves that we have disowned and not integrated yet. When i look at the papers every day I know that every murderer and mugger is just me. Same way Genpo is just you Brad! Just maybe a bit you don't like to look at.

  18. Anonymous
    Anonymous March 1, 2011 at 11:20 am | |

    As a student of Genpo's I feel he has used the poularity of zen to sell BM and then used BM to sell zen. He always taught that you needed to sit alot in order to see the effects of BM…Funny how that worked. The next thing is become scarce so no one can question you!

  19. escort palma
    escort palma February 7, 2012 at 10:27 am | |

    Well, I don't really think it may have success.

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