Welcome to Twitter Hell.

Via elephant journal
on Feb 8, 2010
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twitter hell @ryderjaphy "bill schwartz"

Tibetan Buddhism, Don’t Ask Alyce—and How to Stop Online Bullies.

~ by Bill Schwartz @RyderJaphy on Twitter (via @elephantjournal)

“Hell is just resistance to life.” ~ Pema Chodron

Props to Waylon for publishing “Bite me, Boulder Buddhists.” That took a pair, my friend. Not bad for a “Dharma Brat.”

Now for the latest controversy—what everyone is tweeting about these days—the appropriateness of questioning Dharma teachers on Twitter. My position: if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.

Last September, here in Chicago Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, my beloved guru of 28 years, was taking questions from the Karma Thegsum Choling audience. At 80 years of age he rarely leaves his charges at Karme Ling, in Delhi, New York, where he is Master of the traditional three-year retreat.

[That spring I had suffered a silent heart attack. Over six months I went from a middle-aged man with perfect blood pressure and cholesterol, who had never smoked, rarely drank, walked an hour daily along the lakefront, and most important, because of a family history of sudden death, saw my internist every three months…to a senior citizen who couldn’t walk half a block unassisted.]

In my private interview the day before I had asked for Rinpoche’s final instructions and blessings; though feeling at death’s door I insisted over his protestations on doing my three prostrations and sitting on the floor. Old-school Karma Kagyu to the bitter end, no way was I about to take a seat higher than my Vajra master.

Even if it killed me!

At the end of the audience, I blurted out my question, “I can’t help but think of Rinpoche as anything but perfect. But do you ever feel like you aren’t good enough?” The translator was from Taiwan and wasn’t familiar with the idiom. “You know, disappointed in yourself, like you don’t measure up to expectations.” Before the translation of my question was complete, Rinpoche was smiling and laughing.

“All the time,” he responded. “I’ve lived in the West over 30 years, don’t speak English, don’t get the culture of my students”…and the list of complaints he had about himself went on (to the delight of the audience). For whatever reason, I’ve always been able to ask difficult, pointed questions of the most venerated teachers of the lineage without a second thought.

In our tradition here in Chicago, that is the purpose of our afternoon session. We don’t do the lineage supplication [request of teachings] beforehand or dedicate the merit [to all sentient beings] afterward. According to Rinpoche, “The questions have improved over the years, but they aren’t Dharma.” Obviously, this is simply an opportunity for people in the audience to ask whatever is on their minds.


On Twitter, the other week, I asked Jetsunma Akhon Lhamo (Alyce Louise Zeoli) of the Palyul lineage of the Nyingma tradition a question. She’s on Twitter constantly, tweeting under @AkhonLhamo about animal rescue mostly and promoting the prayer vigils she presides over at her center in Poolesville, Maryland. Not my cup of tea, but she asked me to follow her, and with proper Twitter etiquette, I did so.

I had just finished reading Tyler Dewar’s (@tylerdewar on Twitter) recent interview in Bodhi Magazine with the 17th Karmapa. There was a graph in which His Holiness discussed the importance of sangha [community] as a harmonious coming together. Nalanda West, Seattle, Washington (@NalandaWest), had tweeted a link to the interview, and I re-tweeted it to share with the people who follow my Twitter stream.

twitter stream

Then I asked the question, “What does His Holiness mean?” and people began to chime in to discuss what they thought. Much to my surprise Jetsuma chimed in with “Consistency.” I tweeted back “What do you mean?”…

…and the sh*t storm began. Maybe I missed something, but she called me an asshole and made a snide remark about my heart, which gave her devoted Kunzang Palyul Ling followers the green light to begin attacking me.

I laughed it off and mentioned it in my last Elephant Journal article—“I’m an asshole, but that’s beside the point”—and returned to my daily routine of practice and tweeting Dharma quotes and music during session breaks without giving it a second thought. I had no idea of the Twitter hell I was about to catch.

From the point of my initial exchange with Jetsuma, the attacks escalated from strangers ridiculing the fact that I’m dying of congestive heart failure to a personal threat—“I know people in Chicago”—from one of her devoted followers. I’ve always known that the Nyingma have had issues surrounding Penor Rinpoche recognizing the “actor” Steven Seagal as a tulku, but I had no idea what a pile of sh*t I had stepped into.

buddhism community dialogue twitterThankfully, Twitter isn’t a message board, and I can block Jetsuma’s followers from seeing my Twitter stream. I’ve had to block only one person who created a shell account to spam my @Replies (Twitter inbox) with threatening messages. Why would a Dharma teacher on Twitter allow her or his followers to behave in such a shameful manner? Perhaps she didn’t know. I haven’t a clue.

Ending on a positive note…Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche (@ponlop) has followed me back; he wasn’t following anyone on Twitter when I wrote my last article. We’ve been exchanging direct messages (private tweets); he enjoyed “Bite Me, Boulder Buddhists” and mentoring me through the process of dying.

Also, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche (@yongeymingyurrinpoche) is on Twitter now, but has yet to tweet.

What about Twitter hell? My bad; it ended in a tweet. “Founding member Chicago KTC, well regarded over 28 years, will not hesitate to take legal action against anyone stating otherwise here.” And so while we can “drive all blames into ourselves,” as the Lojong slogan goes—and while I remember to be grateful to my “enemies,” who are my greatest teacher—well, Twitter hell turned out to be for those deluded enough to think they could push Bill Schwartz around. Later.

Karmapa Chenno


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45 Responses to “Welcome to Twitter Hell.”

  1. John,

    I just looked over and (lightly) edited the above article, and I did find the gap between what Bill said he said and the violent reaction from Lhamo herself and her students to be somewhat confusing.

    That said, I've watched Bill go at it on twitter with others, and I can say that he seems to be pretty fair, gentle, strong…while others seem to enjoy spinning off on him.

    If you can't beat @ryderjaphy, join him!

  2. Bill Schwartz says:

    LOL Arguing with me about the dharma on Twitter is a bit like sticking your head in a wood chipper without an off switch. Thanks for the edit. My wife the book editor didn't think it was my best effort.

  3. elephantjournal says:

    I like this one a great deal. Easier to understand for me, and fearless–you get into the waves of twitter and community and Dharma without apology. I think it's a helpful offering to all Buddhist communities to relax and communicate.

    I just went in and followed @Ponlop, and the others mentioned.

  4. Leader of the Pack says:

    My old Pappy had a dog that he loved. Nobody else could see the use, but since we all loved Pappy, we put up with the beast.

    Now, as time went by, it became obvious that dog was touched in the head. Even Pappy came to see it, but since he was kind-hearted, he never let us put the dog down. He would just warn people, explaining that the dog was sick. I guess he kept hoping for a miracle.

    Well, Pappy up and died, and that dog just kept getting worse. Out of respect for Pappy's memory, we let that dog hang around — getting fatter and meaner, snoring, farting, and snapping at people — but, we keep it on a short leash.

    Bill, I am so sorry that the damn dog took a bite at you. I guess you know how embarrassed we all are when something like that happens.

    In future, it might be helpful to understand that the dog thinks it is a Queen, so if you call it "Your Highness," it will wag its tail and lick your face.

  5. Keeping Score says:

    Not just you. When a very senior tulku associated with the Palyul lineage pointed out, on Twitter, that the admittedly unusual person you enjoyed following was indeed a recognized tulku, even HE was subjected to days of abuse by this crew. Maybe this is because of a bad love story between two Western tulkus? I don't know whether to laugh or cry. What is that old James Taylor number? "This used to be her town…. this used to be your town too…"

  6. Leslie says:

    Joyce I whole heartedly agree with you. Can we look at ourselves and say that yes we are truly engaging in right conduct and right speech with this gossip?

  7. Bill Schwartz says:

    Hey Joyce,

    Just woke up, always encouraging when you have congestive heart failure. Glad to see Jetsuma's students have discovered Elephant Journal.

    As the record will reflect I have never attacked Jetsuma. On the other hand, we have a record of your statements regarding me against my good name.

    If you wish to stand behind your comments as posted please leave your contact information for my attorney and I will gladly see you in court here; will even give you a lift from the airport.

    Bill Schwartz

  8. We have a habit of giving space to any and all who are devoted to "the mindful life"—living a life of benefit. As reflected in John and my comments above, we do think that @RyderJaphy does play hardball instead of engaging in "drive all blames into one" and resolving controversy into peace—that said I grew up in a Buddhist community whose response to any controversy, discussion, complaint, tough times was…"Sit more."

    That's wise. That's also highly disfunctional.

    So I'll side with openness and yes, given the 2.0 nature, the give and take of the internet, I'd be most humbly honored to see Ven. Jetsunma write an article on any subject, at any time, on elephant. We'd be sure to give her the same space and respect as we have our friend, the fiery "old dog" Mr. Schwartz who is at this time one of the leading presences nationally for Buddhism on twitter. Cheers!

  9. I'd be more comfortable with more respect, my man, less legal threats in this forum. What elevates this to transparency, from gossip, is both frankness (which I love in you) and understanding. Hard back, soft front as Trungpa Rinpoche used to say.

  10. Bill Schwartz says:

    oops, that last comment was for Joyce, sorry Leslie.

  11. SmilingUp says:

    Dear Elephant:
    How could you be sure she wrote it, as distinct from her ghostwriters? Because when she writes, on Twitter, it is all about her dog's bowels, her bad knees, her latest fundraising emergency, and the people she hates.

  12. Johnny Appleseed. says:

    That was an overall type of comment and not necessarily directed at Joyce or anyone in particular.

  13. I follow the Mahayana tradition, but know that no vehicle really supports this kind of conflict… Surely, there is a middle path here.

  14. Bill Schwartz says:

    Tibetan Buddhist sangha representatives around country have been reaching out to me on issue to make sure all our years of hard work to make sure we are all on the same page regarding how we conduct ourselves with new media.

  15. What I appreciate and love about Bill is 1) his humor and 2) his willingness, nay eagerness, to engage where most of we American Buddhists are not too good at communicating when conflict comes up.

    Yes, we should be able to resolve conflict into peace, bring onto the path. I hope that can happen on this page. But we won't be able to do so if we keep sweeping confusing under the zabuton.

  16. Bill Schwartz says:

    Thank you Waylon, I'm not worthy. Sweeping the mess under the shrine room carpet accomplishes nothing. We can stop Tibetan Buddhists engaging in cyber-bullying in the name of the dharma. This article has been online for 24 hours and concerned representatives of sanghas around the country have reached out to me determined that such behavior is stopped before it brings us all down as Tibetan Buddhists, all thanks to you, and Elephant Journal I might add.

  17. yoga man says:

    Khenchen Tsewang will be at the Alexandria center from Feb 11-17th 2010 You can send him an email of the article
    or print it out and send it too this address with your concerns:
    Too Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso
    % Palyul Changchub Dargyeling
    211 King Street, 3rd floor
    Old Town Alexandria, VA 22314
    •Give a call at (301) 879-8903.
    •Or send an email: [email protected]
    Website: http://www.palyuldc.org/
    Holiness Karma Kuchen (send a copy)
    Lama Lobsang's attention (send a copy)
    you can fax or you can write:
    HH Penor Rinpoche's Zimkhang
    Namdroling Nyingmapa Monastery
    Arlikumari, P.O. Bylakuppe pin 571104
    Mysore District, Karnataka State, India
    Tel: (91) 8223-254-318 Tel: (91) 8223-254-038 Lama Lobsang: (91) 8223-254-036
    Fax: (91) 8223-252-039
    Instead of a lawsuit first maybe start by writing to Khenchen Tsewang or give him a call, send a copy to Lama Lobsang by fax for His Holiness the Fifth Karma Kuchen Rinpoche to read, this is a well written article.

  18. Ex-Namdroling says:

    Lama Lobsang will short stop it, and it will never get any farther than the round file. Best shot is straight to HHKK with copies to MT — but guess what? They already know. It is a bad joke at Namdroling.

  19. Greg says:

    Geoff, exactly. You see clearly.

  20. Greg says:

    John wrote, "I am surprised at the conflict you describe. I am buddhist, an avid twitterer and also a bit of an asshole but I don't seem to get the flack that you do."

    Good heads-up observation. Fits in the "what is wrong with this picture" category?

  21. Leslie says:

    As a practitioner, does it not seem to be the complete anthesis of what we strive to accomplish, to worry about the appearance our "My" good name?

  22. yoga man says:

    Back in the old Tibet the Lama would pretty much stay in one location, and sometimes go around in Tibet and teach, women usually didn't do that, gender was an issue, although there were some exceptions of course, these days to see a location (Barnsville) with the same kind of energy and activity, well, if you have karma with that then its like you can understand that, also you would view work there as the activity of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, as many of her devoted students do, however many of us have karma and indeed merits to connect with different teachers is all, a different tradition, one has to go where one belongs to really progress imho, for example individuals may understand and have the capacity to learn from Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQ5mcPvCBIk or from His Holiness The 17th Karmapa http://www.kagyu.org/kagyulineage/karmapa/news.ph
    Basically it's the ole saying, "if the shoe fits wear it".

  23. Johnny Appleseed. says:

    Looks like the word twisters (this time @saddha) are harassing @Ogmin now. You know who they are because they always, always, always RT @ ahkonlhamo. Again, passive aggressive attacking.

  24. This is something I respect about you and Elephant journal.

  25. It's not the approach I would take, but fair enough. I realize that different contexts require different approaches, and there are appropriate times to threaten legal action.

    Take care,

  26. Ok. Again, I don't know all the details, so I'll have to trust you on this one.

    We recently had (real) mice here at our apartment in Boulder. We have been trying to deal with the situation non-violently, but it has proven ineffective to try and catch mice without killing them and put an end to the problem. So your metaphor is meaningful to me–sometimes more aggressive action is the best way to solve the problem up front.

    May you be happy and healthy,

  27. Bill Schwartz says:

    Just woke up, one of those rare beautiful days we get here in Chicago after a heavy snow. Just want to reiterate, after checking my tweet stream, for those whom consider this article a smack down of Jetsuma and the KPC sangha that it is nothing of the kind. Please, as it pertains to the parties in question, it wasn't personal.

  28. Bill Schwartz says:

    When I was a kid during the Vietnam War, there was a favorite cartoon of mine. It pictured a middle class couple enjoying breakfast, the husband reading the morning paper. The caption:read "Good news dear, it's all over but the fighting.."

    The Twitter war is over, let us not continue fighting over what we need to put behind us as Buddhists. It's time to move forward.

    All Buddhists on Twitter have won, transparency and accountability has prevailed.

    The snarkiness I continue to see is understandable after what we have been through as a sangha but it serves no end other than pouring salt in old wounds.

    Such behavior is beneath us as Buddhists.


    Bill Schwartz

  29. richard says:

    so it's ok if i drive a prius?? 🙂

  30. yoga man says:

    Buddha mobile… zoom! zoom! : )
    "Although we seem to get in the way of reality, in fact this is impossible. The hindrances that we throw up are used by reality. They become part and parcel of our Dharma training. They are the means by which we meet ourselves and realise that we are ordinary beings, ourselves subject to the relentless flow of existence-time."

  31. carfan says:

    Every lama I've ever seen over the past few years was either in a Landcruiser or a Mercedes-Benz.

  32. bill schwartz says:

    LOL, as long as you don't eat granola while driving (gets under brake pedal) and resist the temptation (a hard one for "men" in Boulder, of course) to use the rear view mirror to admire your pony tail.

  33. bill schwartz says:

    The "zoom zoom" slogan was for Mazda car commercial; would be too ironic if it was Toyota. Favorite Tibetan Buddhist bumper sticker "My other vehicle is the Vajrayana," of course.

  34. bill schwartz says:

    LOL, you must belong to a much more affluent Sangha than mine; where lucky to have someone that even has a car to drive visiting Rinpoche's around in. Of course, we can always ask the local Shambhala Buddhist sangha for a lift in a pinch. The only downside with that option though is the kasung and they always have to be late because Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche was always famously late for teachings back in the day.

  35. Bill Schwartz says:

    Yes Waylon, this was not my best effort here. Never ask your wife to edit a manuscript after a Superbowl Game party. Especially if they think Peyton Manning is cute. Talk about sticking your head in a wood chipper.

    Hope we get a good response from here on our next collaboration here.

    I once had a a boss that came back from a management seminar spouting off these ridiculous self -improvement phrases. "There is no 'I' in team work," to which I of course retorted "true, but there is an 'I' in bite me."

    Lasted seventeen years there; oh has the world changed, and so has the dharma. Thank you for @elephantjournal and kudos on not turning out like the kind of dharma brats we all so feared your generation would become..

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  39. Nyigmu says:

    take care when u dance with the dakini named lhamo 🙂
    she has big feet for stepping on toes

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  41. yogi says:

    A Palyul Khentrul (Khenpo Tulku) graduate of Namdroling, at his web site warns people against her in his own smart way.

    He incorporated into his web site a warning directed at Jetsunma @JALpalyul on twitter, there’s more than 1 in Palyul that feel the same:

    Go too: http://www.ogyenling.org/Buddhism.aspx

    Scroll down on that web page to the 7th topic:

    Once you have scrolled down to the topic: DANGERS OF A GURU-DISCIPLE RELATIONSHIP see the word “Controversy Page” in the first sentence, click it

    Khentrul offers a link on his web site to the “Controversy Page”

    link: http://www.viewonbuddhism.org/controversy-controversial-teacher-group-center-questionable.html

    Follow the link from his site to the page he offers, currently the 12th name on the list of The Controversial : Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo, (Alyce Louise Zeoli)

    Khentrul put that link up, and the week that link went up Jestunma was higher up on the controversy list

    It’s there, he’s a Palyul Namdroling Graduate, & a Khenpo & a Tulku with the equivalent of a PHD in Buddhism

    @JALpalyul (twitter name) & “Controversy” go together. She’s the only Palyul Nyingmapa on the Controversy List web page, very telling!~

    Khenpo Guru (Khenpo Tsewang Gyatso Rinpoche was placed in charge of ALL Palyul Centers in North America by HHPR, that includes her center, he still is in charge of all the activities of Palyul in North America, the official representative for HHPR in The U.S.A. He is beloved of all Palyul students world wide, and a very important teacher. Jetsunma won’t invite him back to her center after she sent him packing years ago, she does not teach her students proper respect for Khenpo Guru, not one of them went to hear him teach last time he was 15 mins away from her center at a branch center in Washington this last year, not one monk or nun, why? she didn’t want them there, she does not support Palyul, properly, and Khenpo ordained many of her monks and nuns, yet no one came to see him, and he wasn’t asked to go to her center, not even invited for an afternoon, although he was right there 15 mins away, he was ignored by KPC, pay attention KPC board, wake up!

    Jetsunmas comment on porn recently, directed to @ryderjaphy was no doubt gleaned from the comment here above mine, she still reads this area on Elephant Journal.

    She used that word “snatch” on twitter 10/28/2010 like a seasoned trucker, not like a dignified lady teacher towards @ryderjaphy

  42. Leslie says:

    You seem very defensive, Bill, but perhaps that is simply my perception. Isn't that true for all of us. However I am confused as to why you are now venturing off into Monastic code?

  43. […] longtime elephant readers and writers know, one of our most popular writers was (on twitter) doing something similar toward Jetsunma and her community—as well as directing […]

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