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. I find it ironic and bizarre that a kid like Brad Warner, with a few years of Zen experience, puts himself out there as a "Dharma Punk", which is to be taken I guess as some revolutionary new thing, and then goes on to rip on a guy who has 37 years of Zen experience, and is a Roshi, (Brad is not yet even a Sensei). Genpo Roshi has literally thousands of students, has written 5 books, and is well respected throughout the world.

    What's Brad's Dharma Punk stance?

    That "real" Zen takes years of sitting and following the forms he learned. This sounds more like a "traditionalist"or "fundamentalist" viewpoint. A viewpoint that is stuck in his own deeply rooted patterns and in a refusal to welcome the natural evolution of Zen teaching in the West.

    So the Punk takes the Fundamentalist view and the Old Master takes the new and revolutionary path. Interesting!

    Maezumi Roshi, founder of Los Angeles Zen Center told his students, many of whom are now Sensei's and Roshi's, that they must first "Swallow the whole fish", before striking out on their own with new teaching methods and practices. Genpo Roshi, having spent 37 years "Swallowing the whole fish", teaching the traditional Soto Zen forms, has now evolved a method for gaining deep insights, that works, and works well for Westerners. Isn't this what many others before him have done throughout history? To work to find ways to make the dharma alive and relevant for the people of our times?

    In addition, and Brad would know this if he had the balls to come and see for himself, Genpo Roshi still actively trains his students in traditional meditation, service forms and koans, along with the highly effective, and truly revolutionary Big Mind process.

    If Brad thinks he's such hot shit, maybe he should come for a visit and challenge Genpo Roshi to a proper debate and see where he stands. I'd be happy to film this session and put it out there for all the world to see and judge for themselves. I doubt if he will, he's already refused to answer our invitations, but the offer still stands. I'm afraid though, that he prefers to lob bombs from a distance, trying to gain attention for himself by trashing others. Is that your Zen, Brad? I think it breaks one of the precepts you are so proud of taking as a monk.


    Bruce Lambson

    Executive Director

    Big Mind Big Heart / Kanzeon Zen Center

    Salt Lake City, UT

  2. admin says:

    Great, thoughtful post, Bruce. Thanks for that. I’ll be happy to check it out further, when I experience the practice it wasn’t with Genpo Roshi himself, so perhaps something was lost in translation.

  3. admin says:

    Getting the Dharma out in an accessible way, as it seems Genpo Roshi is aiming to do with Big Mind practice, is of paramount importance, it’s our bodhisattva duty. That said, if in doing so we dilute or change the Dharma, there’s no point.

    It’s an interesting discussion, one that’s vital to the healthy growth of Dharma in the West!

  4. Thank you for posting this, and rest assured, we’re not diluting the dharma, just offering a new way to study the self, along with all the more traditional ways we still teach.

    As Dogen says,” to study the Buddha way is to study the self…”

    This self study is not just about having an experience of the absolute, in the hopes that your “enlightenment” experience will fix all the crap we bring to our “relative” lives. In fact, without some serious work on our relative selves, we can find it quite difficult to realize the absolute and begin to incorporate a healthy dharmic understanding into our lives. I’ve met a number of monks who, despite sitting and studying for 10-20 years, still have a lot of anger or other emotional and psychological issues that get in the way of them becoming well rounded and mature human beings.

    Is this a failure of the dharma, or a failure of the traditional Japanese forms we trained in, which are heavy on the masculine, patriarchal systems dating back to feudal Japan.

    Even the title of Brad Warner’s book “Sit Down and Shut Up” reflects this macho attitude. Is the dharma better or truer when it’s expressed like that? Or is it just a not so subtle way to exclude and sideline women and keep zen as an elitist “good ole boys club”?

    Bruce Lambson
    Executive Director
    Big Mind Big Heart
    Kanzeon Zen Center
    Salt Lake City

  5. Gerry says:


    Why do you even care what Brad thinks? Is that what Big Mind is all about; about words spoken in the past, or are you worried about some financial impact in the future? As the “executive director” of your organization, maybe it is the latter.

    You also seem very angry. So much for being aware, being present, and being forgiving and compassionate.


  6. KJ says:

    I find it ironic and bizarre that a kid like Brad Warner, with a few years of Zen experience, puts himself out there as a “Dharma Punk”, which is to be taken I guess as some revolutionary new thing, and then goes on to rip on a guy who has 37 years of Zen experience, and is a Roshi, (Brad is not yet even a Sensei). Genpo Roshi has literally thousands of students, has written 5 books, and is well respected throughout the world.

    Whether he is well respected or not is irrelevant. Or what people call him “Hello my name is Roshi, respect me bitch”
    Or how many books he has written or how many people follow him.

    If you believe that the above points are important indicators for a person who understands the fundamentals of zen, then you don’t understand zen at all. Maybe you should stick to this Big mind stuff after all.

  7. Zen Dragon says:

    Good point, Gerry!

    It looks as if Brad´s much more in balance than Bruce. Judgeing by how they behave.

    I mean: It´s almost like a bad acting scene in WWE. “If you got balls accept our challenge.” Buddha wars, or what. *lol*

    The Buddha would simply not have cared. They who want to see will come. Those who don´t stay away. It doesn´t matter what anybody says.

    Let each one judge for him or herself.

    Brad keeping ye good ole boys club alive? Come on! Don´t be ridiculous…

    Brad´s funny and fitting reply:

    Relax, take it easy.


  8. nanook says:

    big mind did not work for me, yet. but the other day i was sitting on the toilet and having a shit and i was having a satori. for a few seconds that is. i am sure big mind worked for some. isnt that worth it? and while it feels cocky to sell it as if it worked reliably, selling it with cautionary notes about how it would probably not work and that you should not expect anything would probably work as selffulfilling prophecy, you know that. poor dear, the dissapointment of you ego resisting enlightenment once again has made you making up stories about how selling big mind was actually evil or anything. oh, sure, its about the money. like anyone pays for the bigmind vidoes on pirate bay. everyone should know in the first place, that attending seminars is for realy rich people who will not ever miss their spended money. when has a seminar ever been more than an experience? if you pay I-I stuff from your mouth, you are victimizing your self.

    for what i have heard big mind does not ever claim to just stick. its a state training, and everyone honest can understand that states are needes for motivation to even begin meditation and stick with that.

    oh yeah, it is “mind control” (says brad), sure, like the theory of prjoection which makes naive green milfs go psychcoanalytical on their AA friends. or the enneagram, which has it in a table that enneagram sixes do project for defense, respectively assuming that other types dont project, lol.

    seriously, thats crap. everything turns out dangerous in the understanding of some normal/average people.

    as for genpos qualification, i am sceptical as well, (as i am sceptical with many “teachers”). may he have had a secular title for years. well well. he also tells the story how he got enlightened by accident and was introduced to zen ideas only afterwars. sounds like a practical extrinsic big ego character to me. someone who did not have much interest in reality or its consistency or coherinteness, bevor beein hit by it. explainable by typology, not a karma crime or anything (probably). but not what i ador

  9. rath says:

    I have read both of brad’s books. The aspect of contemporary thought behind old teachings spoke to me. Buddhism has been a subject of my studies for 15+ years. I have read and worked on mindfulness on many koans. I have stayed clear of any one person’s teaching of zen for this very reason(pertaining to the bickering). I cannot get behind Genpo Roshi’s way on zen, nor Brad’s. The fact that Genpo has ++ years of learning does not matter. Zen is now, not then or later; besides that does not mean he knows anything. Many people are blind for their entire life. Not that I know he is, or care. Brad’s anger on fraudulent teachers is well grounded, but not when it causes these problems. It seems egos here are raging (as well as mine for wanting to disperse squabbles by posting a comment!). Anyway I am not a “buddhist”, but if I were new to the teachings and I saw this kind of thing happening within the belief it would keep me away.

  10. Matthew LenzDiaz says:

    I don’t believe there is anything good that can come out of Big Mind. The reason being that it focuses too much on enlightenment.

    What do those fools want enlightenment for? Do most people know what enlightenment is?

    If it’s defined by Genpo Roshi than it can be attained and taken with you out the door. Thats how most people sell spiritual experiences, they pick and choose one out of many experiences in the whole spectrum of emotion and declare it better than any other state of mind.

    The way I understood Zen is that enlightenment does not exist in anywhere within the realm of thought. In other words, its like space, you can’t grasp it, no shape nor form. How can anybody offer that to people? How can anyone grasp that immediately (or even at all)?

    I understand what Brad means. Zen has no product because the product is already there. How can they give you something you already have? You cannot find enlightenment anywhere outside yourself. So if thats the case, what is the point of all this? That is the question, not “when can I get it?”.

    If you wan’t something to grasp, wait until they perfect pleasure drugs and you can feel enlightened in seconds.

  11. Bruce Lambson seems to believe that “roshi” and “sensei” are titles of the same hierarchical value as “colonel” or general… I’m afraid they’re not. Just like saying that “old man” is a title or “elder” is either. Yet, “sensei” doesn’t mean anything more than “elder” (“born previously”).
    What’s more, Nishijima roshi (he well deserves the “title” being almost 90 years old) has chosen Ven. Brad Warner to be his successor as leader of Dogen Sangha, and it just seems that Nishijima roshi never indulged in alcohol or been involved in any sort of sexual misdemeanour ever since he became a monk, so I’m afraid his opinion of Ven. Warner must have its weight.
    It must be annoying of course to have all those countless years of sitting under one’s arse and having to resort to such lame ass arguments against someone who just reminds you of the authority of Master Dogen in matters of “enlightenment”. But as we say in french (all about asses (or donkeys as you’d put it in America) “faire et laisser braire” (to do and let bray)

  12. Mumon says:

    Argument from “authority,” + argument ad numerum.

    From where I sit, I side with Warner: it takes years to cultivate certain skills, and it’s simply fraudulent to claim other wise, whether it’s tennis or zen.

  13. Tin says:

    Mr. Lambson failed to mention that what “evolv[ing] a method for gaining deep insights” actually means is “stole an from Hal and Sidra Stone.”

    Granted, sharing credit may lead to sharing some of those expensive class fees; but it still might lend a little more moral authority to your next personal attack.

  14. Austin Keith says:

    See what you’re doing? You’re engaging. Stop. If we stop, it all stops.

  15. Nick Nolan says:

    You know the quality of students from the quality of their teachers. Maezumi Roshi swallowed much more than fish. He was alcoholic and had sexual relationships with his students. In short, he was failure as teacher (Not failed zen practioner, because that’s different thing completely).

    Thinking that being older practitioner (Brad has trained only 25 years), makes you immune from grand failures shows the big arrogance from the Gempos followers.

  16. Cole says:

    What is enlightenment but an opinion on perfection? As for higher states of mind, they come and go for us all as all things do in life- life itself comes and goes. Where I do believe it is possible to “transcend suffering” (as many put it), there is no permanence in any transcendence. You always have to come back to now. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not so good and sometimes it’s pretty shitty. It doesn’t take years of training to know that. Everybody knows how to live and no Zen practitioner or other type of so-called “expert” on life can say otherwise. Everybody knows what’s real and it doesn’t matter if they’re trying to escape it or not. That’s just how we each choose to live. No one is blind and there is no big truth to awaken to. All this hub-bub about “big mind” and “enlightenment” is just some way to get a mass quantity of people to act in the same manner because we all just want to get along. Whoever wants to do that, go for it. Some people prefer video games or reading books, some like to attend seminars. Six of one, half a dozen of another. It’s all life and that’s all we can do.

  17. admin says:

    Cole, Your basic point is great—but there actually is a place for that ineffable thing called enlightenment in the Buddhist tradition—and in the human path—as Naropa might say, or Marpa might tell him, you have a wonderful conceptual understanding, advanced and full of truth. Now go practice, and practice more, and practice more, and see what happens. And practice more.

  18. Cole says:

    Practice, indeed- as if there is any other way. ^.^

  19. Bagby says:

    Brad Warner seems authentic to me. When I learned that Genpo Roshi is willing to charge 5 people $50,000 each for the privilege of spending five days with him, he lost all credibility to me.

    Genpo Roshi is a huckster. Whatever realization he may have, is overwhelmed by his realization that he has bills to pay, possibly including Bruce Lambson’s salary.

  20. SidUrbanus says:


    Such anger for someone in the path. You write:

    “I find it ironic and bizarre that a kid like Brad Warner, with a few years of Zen experience, puts himself out there as a “Dharma Punk”, which is to be taken I guess as some revolutionary new thing, and then goes on to rip on a guy who has 37 years of Zen experience, and is a Roshi, (Brad is not yet even a Sensei). Genpo Roshi has literally thousands of students, has written 5 books, and is well respected throughout the world.”

    Sounds like a version of the proverbial “my dad can beat up yours!” Is this the kind of enlightened discourse I would get by paying thousands of dollars to pursue something that I can do with my own teacher?

    What does it matter if Brad is not a Roshi? Who is being fundamental here, in the worst kind of way?

    I hope you sit and reflect on your anger, your attachment to ego and your overall lack of compassion. I know I will reflect on the sadness this has brought me.

  21. Austin says:

    Kyosaku is about as close as it gets to instant enlightenment.

    I guess I’m confused.

    Does anyone really think they’ll never be angry again? Never be sad? Always be…what?

    The E word can’t be anything more or less than what we have right this second. And if it is, who will find the words? You hear words, you hear the buddha, you don’t have to kill him- just hit him the kyosaku.

  22. Cole says:

    I can understand charging for things to a point. However, I first was exposed to Buddhism by a Zen Center that had no need to require any money from their students. They stay afloat on donations alone and they never even ask for them. Whether somebody just wants to learn how to meditate, learn Chinese even or whatever other program the center offers, there's no pressure- except maybe to do them the favor of staying for dinner (which is FREE!) There are a few things that I know of that they do request money for- their week long session, and only enough to cover the cost of each student's accommodations and retreats to their parent monastery in Taiwan and even then, that's only to cover your own plane ticket.

    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. To say anything to the effect that learning from them is the truest way to follow the path is too much for me. For some, their methods may be worth it so that is fortunate for all parties involved, but there are some very sincere people that may not have considered the possibility that they are being had.

    I was just had by Zen Mountain Monastery. I payed $650 to spend a month there and they kicked me out on my fourth day. They had a very strict method and wanted everybody to develop certain habits during zazen they said were good and we would understand later, or require that we ask questions only during a formal one-on-one with the vice abbott (or abbott if he was available). I wasn't prepared to develop habits just because I was told to, so I did as I always do when I practice (not disturbing anyone) and was told to go sit in the hall during morning zazen. The vice abbott requested me to see him first that morning, so I spoke to him and said I didn't have any questions because I was practicing "giving up"- as in, giving up on striving for higher states or trying to achieve anything, because I realized there is nothing to achieve. Things are perfect just the way they are and that is my stillness. Let sadness be sadness, let anger be anger. It's nothing to be ashamed of. No ignoring my thoughts, no obsessing over them, just nothing. At that, he told me to leave. I had about an hour to catch the next bus to NYC. And what else? No refund, but they still sent me a request in the mail to give them money to build a "Dragon Hall" that's going to cost $3.5 million. So I'm just thinking… you want me to donate even more money for a facility that I'm not even welcome to. Riiiiight.

    I don't know that much about Genpo Roshi, aside from what I've been reading the past week, but he sounds like a real stand-up kinda guy. I'll be sure to give him about as much mind as I do ZMM's Dragon Hall.

  23. C says:

    Hi Bruce,

    It’s good to know that someone out there is pioneering new ways to sell the Dharma to students here in the U.S.

    Like the $65.00 Big Mind logo pins you sell in the online ‘3Treasures Shop’ of your Kanzeon Zen Center.

    Not to mention the $40.00 Big Mind hoodies.

    Or the ‘beautiful, distinctly Oriental, Sandalwood incense’ for merely $19.95 (what a bargain!). And it’s distinctly Oriental! I didn’t think I could get that outside of the Orient!

    How much does that Big Mind seminar cost again?

    Best wishes to you in all your business endeavors.

  24. admin says:

    C’mon, C, everyone charges money for everything–I worked at Shambhala Mountain for years, a wonderful place with solid Dharma programs, and they charged crazy prices for some things and reasonable for others. A $40 hoodie is strictly average. I think I don’t give a shiite how much they’re charging folks for seminars. If they’re soaking the business class, grand. What I do care about is whether it’s the genuine article—Dharma—or, as Brad puts it, charlatanism. Or, as Trungpa Rinpoche discussed in Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, if it’s just intended to perfect the self, not wake it up.

  25. admin says:

    Great post, Cole. I got $500 in my account, so I feel it. Can’t believe they wouldn’t reimburse. Shambhala Mountain, where I worked, and Karme Choling in Vermont offer (mostly) silent monthlong meditation retreats called Dathuns, I’ve done two of ’em and they’ve been the hardest, best months of my life, no exaggeration (or at least not much). They’re pretty cheap, considering they include room and board, and I think they do reimburse if you have to leave for some reason, not sure.

    As for charging crazy money, it does seem crazy, but big business folks pay that kind of money for those kinds of programs—it’s good to have something for everyone. I think the question is whether or not it’s well-intentioned, or more about money. If it’s genuine Dharma, charge what you want, the market will tell you it’s too much if no one signs up?

  26. admin says:

    “It’s very helpful to realize that being here, sitting in meditation, doing simple everyday things like working, walking outside, talking with people, bathing, using the toilet, and eating, is actually all that we need to be fully awake, fully alive, fully human. While we are sitting in meditation, we are simply exploring humanity and all of creation in the form of ourselves. We can become the world’s greatest experts on anger, jealousy, and self-deprecation, as well as on joyfulness, clarity, and insight, Everything that human beings feel, we feel. We can become extremely wise and sensitive to all of humanity and the whole universe simply by knowing ourselves, just as we are.”
    – Pema Chödrön, teaching on day two of a dathün

  27. Cole says:

    Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll be sure to check it out. ^.^ I probably should have asked around before I decided on a place to go on retreat to. Live and learn, right? haha. Even so, I think even bad experiences like that can be great teachers.

    Very nice quote from Pema. I’ll be keeping that in mind…

  28. C says:

    “I think I don’t give a shiite how much they’re charging folks for seminars. If they’re soaking the business class, grand. What I do care about is whether it’s the genuine article—Dharma—or, as Brad puts it, charlatanism.”


    Soaking the business class isn’t the Dharma. Soaking ANYONE isn’t the Dharma. How much did Huineng soak the business class for? How much time did Dogen’s marketing department spend cooking up cool graphics to advertise his $50,000 5-day exclusive seminars in luxury hotels?

    Please. Sometimes it’s hard to spot charlatans, but these folks make it easy.


  29. Richard Page says:

    Gratitude for your bringing Big Mind to a wider audience. I was fortunate to recieve the
    process in three hours for $15 from Terry Patten here in Berkeley. After 35+ years of my best effort, including 7 years with Tibetan teachers, 20 with Sufi teachers and 4 years in retreat with a Shaivite master, my Enneagram 8 defense remained ready to be reactive and blaming. During Big Mind I found the ‘Damaged Child’ had enrolled the ‘Controller’ to filter every moment for potential attack(thus killing other more loving possibilities). Continuing the process with Achaan Jumnian I learned that I was apparently willing to harm the whole world and myself to maintain this false ideation of my self. Kudos to Big Mind.

  30. G.A. says:

    It makes me sad

    to see that

    Big Mind

    is “headed up”

    by such


  31. […] as Buddhist practice. Last week my publishers found and pointed me to this massively delayed reaction to what I wrote. (My thanks to Waylon of Elephant magazine for writing the […]

  32. Tam Ho Niem says:

    Padmasambhava, the 8th century Tibetan saint, said that “when iron birds fly and horses have wheels, the Dharma will go west.” He cautioned that in this future time “perverted monks will sell the Dharma like merchandise” and urged all sincere seekers to avoid these corrupt teachers.
    Qualified teachers don’t just talk the talk, they live according to the Buddhist precepts. Take for example His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, who has never given in to anger and despair despite the atrocities committed by the Chinese against the Tibetan people, or Ajahn Brahm, who carries no money and sleeps in a bare cell, or Thich Nhat Hanh, who has lived in exile for decades because he dared to speak out against the American War and the suffering it caused the people of Viet Nam. Don’t let anyone “sell” you an “enlightenment” experience and tell you it’s Dharma; that’s not what the Buddha taught. But don’t take my word for it; go read a sutra.

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  34. Genryu says:

    Interesting to read Lambson’s comments here. what’s not mentioned of course are the real facts about Merzel, such as that he lies about his students ordinations. I know because he tried to deny mine after I openly spilled the beans on how he stole the big mind nonsense and what a crock it all is. He takes money from a cult group, whose leader’s ‘teachings’ he uses – Nutball Freddy Lenz anyone? Has slept with students and engages in hate campaigns against former students, and if anyone wants to see the proof, you’re more than welcome to contact me as soon as an upcoming legal action is settled. He’s also being investigated by the UK authorities for fraud, and will shortly be facing a serious defamation law suit. Oh and you forgot to tell everyone why Merzel was kicked out of Bar Harbor, Maine, too Bruce. Oh yes, that’s right he was sleeping with a student who he was setting up as a successor, at least until he got found out. Amazing how these little things get forgotten isn’t it? The man shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near students. He’s a thoroughly dishonest individual who long ago ceased being a Zen teacher.

  35. joe miles says:

    I’ve recently read that Maezumi roshi, Chogyam Trungpa both slept with female students, and now you’re saying Genpo Merzel is doing the same. Kinda hard to believe that these teachers of the Way are that corrupt. It kinda invalidates the words out of their mouths.

    Is this all just bad rumors, people trying to destroy any belief in Zen? Frankly, it’s getting a bit beyond belief!

    Joe Miles

  36. […] here’s my Top 10 Buddhist Teachers You Can Study With list. I’ve disqualified charlatans, egomaniacs, promising youngsters who have yet to prove themself…and those who you […]

  37. […] 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 […]

  38. Genryu says:

    Joe, the student I referred to was called Liz McNamara. When Genpo was busted for sleeping with her, he was thrown out of Bar Harbor Zen Center. It was kept pretty hush hush but is a checkable matter of historical record. Him and Eido Roshi are probably the most unethical Zen teachers around at the moment and neither of these two hesitate to try rewriting history when it suits them.

  39. Austin says:

    These people are not saints. The way is not paved with gold. Zen is not about getting rid of human desires. Maybe we ask too much.

  40. Doen says:


    You claim the Liz McNamara affair is a “checkable matter of historical record” but I have been unable to verify it. Can you provide some checkable historical record to support this allegation?

  41. Genryu says:

    It was actually Lynn ‘Shozen’ McNamara and yes it’s checkable. It’s been a few years and I got her first name wrong. Ask any Kanzeon Sangha member who was around in Bar Harbor at the time it came out, try Tenkai Roshi for just one. Look on Genpo’s shit list where he put her name up because he didn’t want her talking, or at Stuart Lach’s piece, which should be available online, about Genpo lying when it came out that he was busted sleeping with a student. Or simply check out the reason for his divorce – namely that his wife found out about his sleeping with students. There’s also this page, which the Kanzeon Sangha thought police haven’t got round to altering yet, which lists Shozen as one of Genpo’s Dharma successors (and yet now she’s on his shit list along with every other senior student who found out what he was really like).
    The following students and former students of Genpo were in Bar Harbor around the time this all came out (and which was why Genpo was thrown out of Bar Harbor):

    Mary Beth,Fitsburgh,

    The list could go on a long time. This is no secret, except now that Genpo is trying to rewrite history. You could also talk to Ken Jones – the well known writer on Buddhism and in particular Buddhist ethics, who can also confirm what happened.

  42. Genryu says:

    Austin, that’s not even relevant to what we’re talking about here. Genpo deliberately deceived his wife, his students and his peers, has tried to market a dubious therapy as some sort of short cut to enlightenment, presented the so called teachings of a cult nut job – Freddy Lenz, as though they were Dharma, has taken money from said cult group – the Frederick Lenz foundation (which he’s also on the board of – conflict of interest anyone?), taken part in hate campaigns against former students who wouldn’t keep quiet about what he really is, and is now peddling bullshit about The Secret, in order to rake in more money and attempting to rewrite history. He has abused his position, his students and along the way, the Dharma.

    Then there’s Eido Tai Shimano, who has also slept with students, has driven some to breakdowns, was removed from one position because he tried to abuse (there’s no other word for it) vulnerable patients in a medical facility and is also trying to rewrite history. The only teachers and students associated with these two that should be trusted are those that left and spoke out. The rest have taken part in a conspiracy of silence or, worse, collaborated with these men. Neither of these teachers should be allowed anywhere near students.

  43. Tam Ho Niem says:

    Robert Aitken is the only US Roshi who has no whiff of scandal about him. Maybe someday someone will do a study about why American Zen went so wrong. In the meantime, why give any more of your life energy to this phony? Maybe he was your creditor in a former life? Let karma work. Find an authentic teacher or a sincere spiritual friend and just do what the Buddha taught as best you can. True practice will heal you.
    Om mani padme hum.

  44. Tam Ho Niem says:

    Someone has written about why American Zen is broken. His name is Stuart Lachs:

  45. […] and fun to read, but is thought inspiring as well.  He has a unique style and tends to call things like he sees them, giving his words an irreverant (though never disrespectful) tone at times.  His self-deprecating […]

  46. This was discussed last week wasn’t it?

  47. stram entrant says:

    As a mere novice in the Zen path here in the UKI am confused by what I have read and see in videos of The Big Mind business. American Buddism has been torn repeatedly by sexual and financial scandals for many years – as described in the book about Baker Roshi's appalling sexual and financial misbehaviour at the S.F. Zen Cemtre ( 'Shoes Outside the Door). The impression received – to a naieve observer over here – is that many so-called Buddhist centres in the USA are more focused on making profit than on serving the Dharma and that the central Buddhist ethical tenets of moral behaviour have often been ignored. The home website of Big Mind organisation looks, from all appearances like any other large, profit-making capitalist company in the USA – in fact the executive-structure and job titles listed on the website could pass for any large business enterprise.

    My strong impression is that the Buddha forbade his disciples and followers from taking money for the teaching of meditation or spreading the word of the Dharma – though he readily accepted 'Dana' in terms of freely-given funds or resources.

    The idea that a Buddhist-teaching organisation would demand $600 annual membership as a pre-condition of gaining access to the teaching, or $900 for a weekend's experience – or even worse $25,000 for a one-to-one session with Roshi Glassman (?) is the antithesis of everything that the Buddha ever preached – indeed it seems to be the very anathema of what Buddhism is supposed to be.

    If any person who alcked money were to turn up at one of these Big Mind sessions and ask free admission to seek refuge in the the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha – what would Genpo Roshi reply? Would he say:
    "Sorry bud, come back when you've raised $600!"

    What would the Buddha have done in the same circumstances?

  48. stream entrant says:

    As a mere novice in the Zen path here in the UKI am confused by what I have read and see in videos of The Big Mind business. American Buddism has been torn repeatedly by sexual and financial scandals for many years – as described in the book about Baker Roshi's appalling sexual and financial misbehaviour at the S.F. Zen Cemtre ( 'Shoes Outside the Door). The impression received – to a naieve observer over here – is that many so-called Buddhist centres in the USA are more focused on making profit than on serving the Dharma and that the central Buddhist ethical tenets of moral behaviour have often been ignored. The home website of Big Mind organisation looks, from all appearances like any other large, profit-making capitalist company in the USA – in fact the executive-structure and job titles listed on the website could pass for any large business enterprise.

  49. 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:

  50. I think the space between extremes is a good space to hold. What's wrong with a $40 buck hoodie, if it keeps you warm, and reminds you of your path, and is fair labor (is it?).