Sit down & Shut up! Brad Warner calls Genpo Roshi’s “Big Mind” bluff.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Sep 13, 2008
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The below comes via Brad Warner, re Genpo Roshi, friend of Ken Wilber. Is this Buddhism for business types who can afford it, which is fine, or is this “spiritual materialism”—dumbed down, prettied up Dharma for Dummies?

With thanks to TheWorstHorse for the tip, check out our zen monk/punk rocker brau Brad Warner’s expletive-heavy blog railing against “charlatan” Genpo Roshi’s “Big Mind” Excerpt (but click over to read full bit, plus the…egad…124 comments):

Graham Barlow kindly pointed out that ads for Gempo Roshi’s Big Scam, Big Mind® have been appearing on this site in the little ads Google puts there. At first I thought I’d complain. But actually it amuses me that a few pennies of the massive loads of dough that charlatan rakes in with his fucked up fake Zen nonsense is going to me. Thanks for the pennies Gempo, you useless piece of shit. Gimme a ride on your motorcycle sometime.

As I’ve said, anyone who goes for Big Mind® gets what they deserve. Think you can get instant Enlightenment for a hundred fifty smackers?

workshops, which promise enlightenment, or something like it, through a soupy therapeutic exercise that struck me, when I was victimized by it at a Ken Wilber “Dialogue” in Denver, as…yes…you guessed it…Spiritual Materialism!

Here’s our live-2-video interview of Brad from one of the first ‘elevision’ talk shows at our second-to-last venue, Trilogy (now B-Side).

Genpo Roshi’s distillation at work:

Ken Wilber on Genpo Roshi’s work:

Big Mind retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center, showing the journey from DIA through Boulder, Owl Canyon…a great vid.


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


71 Responses to “Sit down & Shut up! Brad Warner calls Genpo Roshi’s “Big Mind” bluff.”

  1. Sure, I agree that "soaking" anyone isn't good. But the rich, many friends of mine who are wealthy, soak themselves! Ski trips, vacations, fancy big houses, fancy big second houses, fancy cars…they might as well pay big bucks to get the Dharma, something that can actually make them happy, sane, or content.

    My concern or question is more whether or not this is the real article, genuine Dharma.

  2. A positive comment!

  3. Beautiful comment. I can't help but agree.

  4. I wrote a somewhat in-depth summation of Trungpa Rinpoche and his "crazy wisdom" lineage and controversies. I wouldn't lump him in with anyone else, eh was his own situation, and I personally am hugely grateful he was who he was.

  5. Amen. Buddhism isn't about theism. It's about practice.

  6. Bagby,

    If business types want to pay such and think peace of mind and compassion will help them be better business leaders, I'm all for it…

    …as long as what he's teaching is the real thing. That's what's important. Does it help us to come back to the present moment? To rise through and above habitual patterns? To be raw, open, genuine? Or is this spiritual materialism…something that will only help us to refine and perfect our Self?

    The answer lies here, with my personal guruji:

  7. Rocky says:

    Getting a large amount of money for a service does not mean that the service is worthless or a a sham. It just means that someone was willing to pay for it. Besides, it is what is done with the money that matters. If someone uses that money to assist others in the way, is there harm there? In order for an organization to exist it must have money. Look at the Tibetan Buddhists, they have helicopters, and personal vehicles, and have meals for all who are living there. These things are paid for by money. The Dali Lama has to pay for plane rides somehow. Even the monks in Japan where I used to live had nice cars and drank beer on the weekends sometimes. The money all came from funeral services and donations. The inherent mistake we make when thinking of money is that if there is more of it in another persons pocket, it makes them evil or less of a person. Thinking like that is no different than thinking someone with less money than you is degenerate based on those terms alone. Money is only a tool and the lack of it or the acquisition of it has no value other than if we let our Egos convince us that it does. It is the means and to what ends the money has been put to that really matters. If Genpo is achieving positive results, what business is it of anyone's what anyone chooses to pay for a service? It is not your money, nor are you teaching the class, and you definitely do not have to attend. It is good to be skeptical. It helps defend us from harm, but money should not be the deciding factor in that skepticism. It should be your desire to learn and grow. Money and the lack or the obtaining says nothing about someone other than they have or do not have it.

  8. caty says:

    Genpo is no virgin either. He had extra marital affairs and probably still does but he is older now and not such a looker. i would not pay him 1 cent for anything! The Sucessors either slept with him, idolize him or gave him $$$$

  9. Emanuel says:

    And as an aside… You preface your experience at ZMM by saying "…So when I see places charging ridiculous amounts of money for simple seminars or sessions that take only an hour or two, I gotta raise an eyebrow…."
    And then say that you got jipped out of 650 bucks for a month residency that didn't work out … kind-of makes an unfair connection to what you said before – since 650/month is a month's worth rent in your average 1 room efficiency.
    (except at ZMM it includes room/board/food/3 weekend retreats and one 7 day sesshin.)
    More than a fair price if you asked me.

    Sorry if my posts come off a little strong, they were not intended to be at all… I have done residencies there myself. I know the folks there and the way they live… and my opinion of my experience there is of a genuine, vital and vigorous American monastery, with some great teachers and monastics and students.

  10. Ellie says:

    Big Mind's 2008 public 990 federal tax return:

    or search out Big Mind on The Foundation Center's 990 finder:

  11. Ellie says:

    Big Mind's 2008 public 990 federal tax return:

    from The Foundation Center's 990 finder –

  12. Steroids says:

    Glad i found this excellent website, will be sure to bookmark it so i can surf to often.

  13. […] disqualified charlatans (Genpo Roshi, who is well-loved in many circles, has recently been accused of such), promising youngsters who have yet to prove themselves…and those who you can’t […]

  14. […] Some of you reading this probably already know that I have been highly critical of Genpo Roshi for a number of years. In March of 2007 I published an essay on the Suicide Girls website titled “Big Mind® is a Big Load® of Horseshit“. In that essay I took Genpo to task for teaching a ridiculous technique that he claimed in his literature at the time could give a person a true Buddhist enlightenment experience in just a few hours. Not long after that Genpo introduced a new, extra special version of the Big Mind® seminars for which he charged $50,000 per person. I spoke out about that as well. In 2008, the folks in Genpo’s organization came after me for daring to criticize their teacher in the comments section of this Elephant Journal piece. […]

  15. chris says:

    im sure its been said before but Brad is not claiming to be a Dharma Punk, his teachings trhough his book are a lot more traditional and respectful of the Soto tradition than it would appear on the surface….Noah Levine is the author of Dharma Punx which is a different tradition from Soto and is not connected to Brad

  16. Ran Kennedy says:

    (It won't take my comment in full as one, so I'll split it into several (4) parts: -)

    First, BL says: “Brad is not yet even a Sensei”. It seems the terms “Roshi” and “Sensei” as he uses them were introduced in his own Sangha or school.

    See (- “in so far as there is no official rank of Roshi”, and this seems not only to apply to the Soto sect. – btw)

    Either Brad has got the Dharma or he does not. Any other rank could not even appropriately be called secondary. This is a point BL seems to severely miss.

    And Brad and Genpo do not seem to differ on this point. Neither one of them claims otherwise. At least not that I know.

  17. Ran still says:

    Thirdly, – it seems to be claimed that B [Warner] is “trying to gain attention for himself by trashing others”.

    – Without expressing any personal opinion as for Big mind itself, – this does seem like a most unlikely supposition, – and it is not supported at all.

    On the other hand, – teaming up with men like Ken Wilber – [! – whose lack of true understanding Genpo Roshi is no in way able to miss, same as any other master who has rightly succeeded to the Dharma – and in any lineage] or cooperating with Andrew Cohen – [again – ! – who Genpo surly knows is explicitly a straight out fraud] would not normally be any sign of any sincerity or decency. – Bill Harris and Frederick Lenz should also be mentioned in this context.

    It is in the least most unusual, – and it is not possible in any way to seriously claim otherwise.

  18. Ran still (last) says:

    I didn't comprehend the whole thing as a very peaceful comment, – “Peace” at the end struck me as somewhat insincere, but here one may be wrong about such things.

  19. […] That means that I spent a total of five-six months on retreat with Genpo, strictly during the Big Mind era when he spent a lot less time one-on-one with students than before. That might sound like a lot […]

  20. Guest says:

    "So yeah, I violated the Buddhist precepts, so I'm going to disrobe so I'm not held accountable to those precepts anymore. Meanwhile, I'm going to continue to use my dharma name and capitalize on the buddhadharma with my controversial for-profit version of Zen and completely embrace my life as a self-help huckster."

  21. Learnedthe hardway says:

    sorry man. I'm with Cole. A four day stay for $650 IS a ripoff. They should have refunded his money. Besides what you see of the people and the goings on when all you are doing is coming for, I'm assuming, short, periodic residencies is NOT what you'd see if you stayed there full time. Ever see a ZMM monk chase after and belittle a sunday visitor for not putting $5 in the "Donation" box? I have. Ever know a ZMM student who had to quit being a student due to being unable to attend required retreats due to financial hardships, I have. Did you know the abbot once bought himself an SUV with ZMM money without the boards approval? Yeah. Oh and lets not get into the greenwashing and how the dharma communications building came to be. I'd ask to attend some board meetings, and to look at the financial records if I was you. You might be surprised at how that request is handled by those "great people". I'm not saying ZMM is a bad place to go for a retreat. You can learn one form of meditation there. But its not so pure either. They just have good PR people. I know.