Disrobing Genpo. ~ Brad Warner

The Elephant Ecosystem

Every time you read, share, comment or heart you help an article improve its Rating—which helps Readers see important issues & writers win $$$ from Elephant. Learn more.

Views 10
Shares 1.0
Hearts 0.0
Comments 10
Editor's Pick 0.0
Total Ecosystem Rating 0.0
0 Do you love this article? Show the author your support by hearting.

Famous Zen Master Genpo Roshi has announced that he is disrobing.

For those not acquainted with obscure Buddhist twists on familiar phraseology, to “disrobe” as a Buddhist monk means that you formally quit the Buddhist order and give up your status as a priest and/or monk. Ironically, it was disrobing that got him into trouble in the first place. It seems that Genpo, who is married, had an affair with the woman he was grooming to be his successor.

Genpo Roshi put a short essay explaining his side of the story entitled “Owning My Responsibility” on his website. It said in part, “I have chosen to disrobe as a Buddhist Priest, and will stop giving Buddhist Precepts or Ordinations, but I will continue teaching Big Mind®. I will spend the rest of my life truly integrating the Soto Zen Buddhist Ethics into my life and practice so I can once again regain dignity and respect. I will not give up on, and will still continue to be available for people who wish to continue studying with me as just an ordinary human being who is working on his own shadows and deeply rooted patterns… that have led me to miss the mark of being a moral and ethical person and a decent human being. Experiencing the pain and suffering that I have caused has truly touched my heart and been the greatest teacher. It has helped open my eyes and given me greater clarity around my own dishonest, hurtful behavior as well as my sexual misconduct. I am in deep pain over the suffering I have caused my wife, children, students, successors and Sangha.”

It’s signed “With Sadness and Love.” Isn’t that just the most precious and special thing you’ve ever read in your entire life? Feh.*

Some of you reading this probably already know that I have been highly critical of Genpo Roshi for a number of years [as has elephant, from time to time. ~ ed.]. 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.

Now Genpo’s sexual misconduct has been found out and he’s all contrite and lovingly sad about it. Yet he promises he will still continue teaching Big Mind® and he will truly integrate Soto Zen Buddhist Ethics into his life. There is something seriously wrong with this picture. Deeply, deeply wrong.

Maybe I’m just weird. But Genpo’s affair seems like a pretty minor thing. Which is not to say I think it’s fine and dandy. But it’s a matter between him and his wife and his lover. I’ve come to believe quite strongly that monogamy is not at all the natural condition of human beings, despite what we’ve been told for so many years. For some people it comes effortlessly. For others it is absolutely impossible. I think for most of us it is possible, but extremely difficult. When I hear that someone has failed at it I am never shocked or surprised.

I understand that Genpo presented himself as a happily monogamously married family man and that these new revelations have shown this to have been a lie. I can see why people are upset at finding out that a man they trusted to lead them to the Ultimate Truth could not even tell the conventional/relative truth about his marital situation. Even so, the man’s sexual infidelities and his dishonesty about them, as bad as they are, are not even close to what I perceive as his most damaging misconduct.

People are falling all over themselves to congratulate Genpo for disrobing and “doing the right thing.” I don’t see it that way at all. Doing the right thing would have been remaining as a monk and ending the whole Big Mind® program. By leaving the Buddhist community, Genpo has now put himself beyond the reach of the only people who could legitimately criticize Big Mind®. I expect to see Big Mind® get even bigger and cause more destruction. Even absent the Big Mind® nonsense, remaining in the Buddhist order would have been the best way to address the other matters. Now that he’s on his own, Genpo has no one to answer to and can become as big of a cult leader as he pleases. That’s what typically happens in cases like this.

As usual when a sex scandal hits the news, this one has been accompanied by a whole series of other revelations. A former insider in Genpo’s organization stated on Facebook that Genpo’s community “has given him (Genpo) enough money to have three houses, two new cars and a Harley Davidson, not to mention a couple hundred thou a year salary and all expenses.” Yikes!

This all just has me scratching my head and furrowing my brow. Maybe I simply do not comprehend how normal people think. Because very little of this makes any sense to me at all. I get that the whole love affair thing was hidden. I get that people didn’t know about it till now. But this financial stuff had to have been all right out in the open. Genpo’s community didn’t know he had three houses, two new cars and a Harley? Really? Even I have seen photos of him on the Harley. And yet nobody noticed any problem with this? Seriously? That’s your story?

Look. I am not insisting all Zen monks take a vow of absolute poverty and live on just what they can carry in a knapsack slung over their backs like the monks in ancient China did. I know we’re living in a completely different society than they were. I own three bass guitars, a used PT Cruiser, and a ten-speed bike. I wouldn’t want to have to stuff those in a knapsack. But three houses? For the love of God, who needs three houses? I don’t even have one!**

Genpo made no secret that he was charging $50,000 a person for his instant enlightenment seminars. Didn’t anyone think that was just a tad excessive? It doesn’t sound like Genpo has any intention of not doing that anymore. He’s just going to be a little more careful about where he puts his penis.

I don’t care where he puts his penis! I’m sorry for the pain and suffering his wife and kids and his girlfriend had to endure. And it does show a lack of judgment and honesty that could reflect on other areas of his life and teaching. But it is so completely removed from the more truly damaging stuff he’s been doing (and apparently intends to go right on doing) that it hardly even registers as far as I’m concerned.

Sexual misconduct is a serious matter in Buddhist practice. It is one of the top ten things we vow not to do when we declare to the world our intention of following the Buddha Way. Long ago the Buddhist order tried to specifically define what is and is not sexual misconduct. But many centuries before any of us were born they realized that what constitutes sexual misconduct is very much tied to the society you live in and the attitudes of the people you interact with. There can never be any universal definition of sexual misconduct. Nevertheless there is still a universal thing that we can call “sexual misconduct” in spite of the fact that the specifics of what it is are so variable. Therefore we vow not to conduct ourselves wrongly in the area of sexuality. Then we have to figure out for ourselves what precisely that means in our own lives and in the lives of those we interact with.

It sounds to me like Genpo probably did engage in sexual misconduct. He clearly defines his behavior as such. In another instance having sex with someone other than the person you married would not be sexual misconduct. There are many married couples who do not feel that extra-marital sex is sexual misconduct. There are even entire societies who do not feel sex outside of marriage is anything to get too worked up about.

This is why these sex-related allegations against Genpo mean nothing at all to me. For all I know maybe Genpo and his wife were swingers and the affair was not nearly so hurtful as he’s making it out to be. He could just be too ashamed to admit it and is taking this public stance as a way of avoiding doing so. I don’t know and I don’t care very much. I don’t even understand why everyone else seems so overwrought about it.

There is another issue, though, that I am personally concerned about regarding this scandal. Some people have misread my book, Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate, as containing the revelation that I had an affair with one of my Zen students. Some have even so deeply misconstrued the book as to believe it says I had two affairs with two students. In fact, I fell in love with a woman who had come to a handful of the Zen classes I taught and then stopped attending them a few months before we got together. The other woman mentioned in the book was not only not a Zen student, she had not even the slightest interest in Buddhism. Neither of them ever entered into anything like a formal teacher/student relationship with me. In Zen, the teacher/student relationship is a clearly defined thing that involves a specific public declaration and ceremony.

Even so, this experience led me to understand how and why teacher/student love affairs develop so frequently in the Zen community as well as in other spiritual communities. Most of them are nothing at all like what happened with Genpo. There is no deception, no cheating on spouses, and no abuse of power going on in the majority of these relationships. They are simply cases of people finding mutual attraction based on a deeply held interest that precious few people can even understand let alone share. Where else would an un-partnered Zen teacher be most likely to encounter a person like that other than among her students? Sure there are six billion other people on the planet, as one guy pointed out on Facebook regarding Genpo, but how many of them are committed practitioners of the thing that that un-partnered teacher has dedicated her life to?

Unfortunately for these lucky people who have been able to find their so-called “soul mates,” the Genpo case may very well be absorbed into the psyches of the rest of their community and lead them to believe that something terrible is going on when really nothing could be further from the truth. Besides the whole Big Mind® mess, this is what saddens me most about the Genpo Roshi affair.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Big Mind® is a deeply hurtful and dangerous technique that goes absolutely against the real teachings of Soto style Zen Buddhism. It is far more unethical and immoral to run a Big Mind® seminar than it is to cheat on your spouse. The potential damage far surpasses anything a love affair could produce. I’ve written more extensively about this on my blog.

Buddhist style “enlightenment experiences” (I despise this term, but it’s in common use, so I’m stuck with it) are not something one should take lightly. There’s a very good reason why Zen teachers for thousands of years have cautioned their students to go very slowly and cautiously along the path. These sudden breakthroughs can seem very thrilling when they happen. People might even pay good money for them. But they can also mess your mind up in a very big way if you go into them unprepared. Yet here’s old loving Genpo making it so you can walk in off the street and have one in a couple hours. That’s like giving random people massive doses of LSD and saying, “Here! It’s fun! Now you’re going to see God and love everyone in the world!”

And Genpo has vowed to keep right on doing it. Wonderful. Just wonderful.

* And poor Ken Wilber! He’s up there on YouTube from a couple years ago telling the world, “Isn’t Genpo Roshi about the most amazing thing you’ve ever seen? It’s not just Genpo as a human being and as an Enlightened human being. He’s a deeply, deeply decent human being. Which is much harder than being enlightened, incidentally.”

**Hey former Genpo followers! I’m struggling to find a way to pay the rent on a cheap apartment in one of the most rundown communities in America. If you really want to stick it to Genpo, why not take away one of his houses, sell it, and give the money to his worst arch-enemy and nemesis–me? Then I’ll buy myself one house and it’ll all be even steven. Hit me up. We’ll talk.

Brad Warner is a Zen monk and author of Sex Sin and Zen: A Buddhist Exploration of Sex from Celibacy to Polyamory and Everything in Between, Sit Down and Shut Up! and Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate. He maintains a blog about Buddhist stuff.

Brad Warner is ON TOUR RIGHT NOW and may even be in your area! To see where Brad will be speaking next, take a look here!

The Elephant Ecosystem

Every time you read, share, comment or heart you help an article improve its Rating—which helps Readers see important issues & writers win $$$ from Elephant. Learn more.

Views 10
Shares 1.0
Hearts 0.0
Comments 10
Editor's Pick 0.0
Total Ecosystem Rating 0.0
0 Do you love this article? Show the author your support by hearting.

You must be logged in to post a comment. Create an account.

anonymous Jul 8, 2014 8:33pm

Hi there, I found your site by way of Google even as looking

for a comparable topic, your site got here up, it appears good.

I have bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.

Hello there, simply changed into alert to your blog thru Google, and found that it’s truly informative.

I’m going to watch out for brussels. I’ll be grateful in case you

continue this in future. Numerous people will probably be benefited from your writing.


anonymous Oct 6, 2013 9:36am

best part of this post is working on his own shadows and deeply rooted patterns… that have led me to miss the mark of being a moral and ethical

anonymous Oct 5, 2013 4:20pm

best part of this post is the right thing would have been remaining as a monk and ending the whole Big Mind® program.

anonymous Sep 9, 2013 5:33am

best part of this post is poor Ken Wilber! He’s up there on YouTube from a couple years ago telling the world, “Isn’t Genpo Roshi about the most amazing thing you’ve ever seen? It’s not just Genpo as a human being and as an Enlightened human being

anonymous May 9, 2013 10:45pm

The problem is that Buddhists are just now discovering that there actually is a thing called morality. So where does it come from? Where does moral law originate? You must now acknowledge it exists and that it has an origin or else not complain about each other.

anonymous Nov 3, 2012 9:11am

[…] I just read this piece by Brad Warner on his reaction to Dennis Genpo Merzel’s stepping down as a Zen priest and […]

anonymous Jun 9, 2011 3:41pm

Petty stuff, get over it. Brad, Genpo, aren't you the Awareness?

anonymous Jun 6, 2011 1:18pm

months ago, suffixtreemonkey wrote…
> … educating others that maybe the quick route to enlightenment does not
> really lead to enlightenment as we understand it.

Who's this "we," paleface? I'm sure as heck not familiar with any generally-agreed-upon understanding of what "enlightenment" is.

In the tradition I practice with, "enlightenment" is a teaching word, used to point to the experience of this moment (what are you doing right now?). So we have at least 3 different ways that "enlightenment" is used: (1) enlightenment is at least somewhat related to an experience that you can get from a short workshop, (2) enlightenment is something that you can't get quickly and easily, but only by long, slow, gradual, formal practice, and (3) enlightenment is a teaching used to point to something not dependent on anything that you get or don't get.

anonymous May 19, 2011 3:52am

There is no right or wrong there just is. There is no you or me there just is. There is no moral or immoral there only is. There is one awareness one presence there is one oneness. Every moment just is. Anything that is seen is only illusion. Anything that is felt is illusion. any illusion is oneness. Dennis Merzel is Brad Warner there is no difference they are both writing this post they both are this post. This post is oneness. The person reading this post is Dennis Warner or Brad Merzel or Merzel Warner it is all oneness. I am Dennis Merzel, I am Bran Warner, I am you, we are oneness. Adultery is oneness. Hatred is oneness. anger is oneness. love is oneness. there is only oneness. Good vs. Evil is Oneness vs. Oneness. The illusion of division or duality is oneness.

anonymous Apr 23, 2011 9:02pm

At one point I was a student of Big Mind. My wife admitted infidelity four months ago. I now live in a train wreck. My children and me are emotionally devastated. I am offended with you making light of the pain caused by infidelity. I don't know the worst big mind did to anyone. All they did to me was sucker me out of a few hundred bucks. I got over it. I would trade the worst big mind experience for lilving with the constant thought of the woman i love with another man. You obviously have never experienced infidelity.

anonymous Apr 5, 2011 4:41pm

I am not a big fan of Genpo, but your way of voicing your critcism seems rather immature, trying to nail a complaint to every word genpo has said. Grow up.

anonymous Mar 14, 2011 3:32pm

[…] harrowing tales of sex scandals, money laundering, power struggles and coercive threats. . […]

anonymous Mar 1, 2011 12:53pm

If anyone has $50k to throw at instant "Big Mind" or whatever, then they probably got what they paid for. If there was ever the smack of a Zen master's stick, that is it: "Oh crap, I just paid $50k for *this*?" One person's instant enlightenment is another person's instant karma.

anonymous Feb 27, 2011 6:18pm

[…] I caused controversy by writing my controversial zen teacher who finds himself in the middle of a sex scandal an open letter, I cannot help but contemplate my relationship with him—and teacher-student […]

anonymous Feb 27, 2011 3:58pm

Wow my first tiome reading sth by you, and I must say:

I am thankful I didnt read your book many years ago

Big Mind Worked well for me, and I dont see it as a substitute for meditation and I use it for more specific details. You sound strange, bro. I am no buddhist and given your way of talking, you are a) a true believer, and you b) mainly wanna talk about yourself, so I guess there is no sense to talk about anythin(see a) thats not you(b). Just wanted to let you know one thing, buddy: Big mInd works best with people able to hold multiple as-if perspecives, and I guess vertical development is bull to you anyway, why should being stupid be worse than being smart, ? : ) : ) : )

In case you need it as usual, please complain about me as one of the Integral assholes to go for you as you did with so many others on so many places in the internet, whiny.

Btw: Its no wonder you dont care about Genpo not following his truth vows or whatever. If I would be a, lets say, morally very lexible person : ), I wouldnt care neither

anonymous Feb 27, 2011 10:54am

Well! Looks like Genpo is one of your disowned shadow aspects! Gotta love that self-righteousness!

anonymous Feb 25, 2011 1:48pm

His confession is rare

anonymous Feb 23, 2011 3:09pm

Ken Wilber has a lot of experience in justifying the sexual misadventures of his gurus. I doubt that this will shake him up too much. He'll just start selling the same line of BS that he did when Adi Da was found to be a sexually abusive drug addict, or explain it away like he did for Cohen.

anonymous Feb 18, 2011 9:06am

I have learned that opinions and judgments concerning other people's private lives should be "labeled" mere "thinking", and that it's best to breathe out and wish everyone true well-being.

anonymous Feb 17, 2011 2:09pm

I like that the naturalness of love is brought up. I feel an openness to a path that defends love and naturalness AND honesty and compassion. Two sides of the same coin. Or just the same coin.

anonymous Feb 16, 2011 5:12am

Brad Warner is correct in his points criticizing Merzel. Now Brad just has to learn that rebirth is literal as it is stated in the sutras.

anonymous Feb 15, 2011 1:58am

Brad – 1
Al & co. – 0

anonymous Feb 14, 2011 9:15pm

Genpo. Ted Haggerty. Same Deal.

anonymous Feb 14, 2011 6:20pm

Just to remind everyone who we're talking about. Dug this up from an old spam "Big Mind" workshop email I got: "What if I could promise you the experience of being One with the entire universe–not after decades of meditation, but immediately, right now? You WILL have this experience (plus, a lot more) if you'll spend two days with the great Zen master, Genpo Roshi."

    anonymous Feb 15, 2011 6:20pm

    "Being one with the universe." Oops. Not Buddhism. Zen monism. Trap door opens and Genpo Roshi falls through into the hell realms.

anonymous Feb 13, 2011 2:10pm

Ok, so the famous Zen guy has pulled a Sarah Palin – he'll do much better for himself and his "method" on his own – the New Age workshop crowd will eat this up; especially his contrite admission of being only human. And knowing the New Age workshop circuit, he'll have tons of new opportunities to get laid.

anonymous Feb 12, 2011 6:59am

Whenever I see the phrase Zen Buddhism I smile at the oxymoron. Zen, it has always appeared to me, has little to do with Buddhism, if anything. Brad Warner has, time after time, verified this conclusion for me. Maybe there could be an agreement to not use the two terms together. Maybe Zen could learn to stand on its own, with no tie-in with the Awakened One. Maybe Zen as an entire practice could disrobe once and for all.

    anonymous Feb 14, 2011 6:41pm

    Zen without Buddhism isn't Zen. It's just sitting on a cushion being bored.

      anonymous Feb 15, 2011 6:18pm

      But Zen without Buddhism is what we find most frequently. Therefore, maybe sitting on a cushion being bored is now a major hobby. You must admit, however, that a lot of attitude can be donned as a result of sitting on a cushion being bored, so maybe the boredom is transferred into attitude?

      Though I am being sarcastic to a large extent, I find almost all Zen practitioners I speak with have absolutely no clue regarding the basics of Buddhism.

        anonymous Feb 15, 2011 6:23pm

        Unfortunately, everything you say here is pretty true.

        I've heard well known "Zen" teachers admit to never reading a sutra, which I find appalling.

anonymous Feb 12, 2011 1:52am

His hands are not quite the right position

anonymous Feb 11, 2011 8:18pm

Like Adam, above, Mr. Warner isn't always my particular cup of Buddhist tea. I found this article, though, to be just excellent, and a model of compassionate integrity. To those who leapt in to defend Genpo's choices, please consider re-reading it more carefully.

(And though I appreciate that final point about the dangers of 'tastes' of enlightenment, I think the damage in these cases tends to be far more social / communal than individual. There is little more intolerable than the company of people on a new-age spiritual trip. The problem with such "thrilling breakthroughs" isn't that they'll mess up your head, but that others might take your starry-eyed rhapsodizing to be indicative of spirituality in general, and vow never to set foot in anything resembling a temple for fear of similar cognitive evisceration.)

anonymous Feb 11, 2011 6:54pm

Big Mind – Ah well! you get what you pay for, the more you pay the more you get, just more luggage to carry around. Now if you want sunyata….

anonymous Feb 11, 2011 5:47pm

I'm a student of Genpo Roshi (wel, not Roshi anymore) and a wrote him an open letter, sharing with him my view. If you guys are interested: http://basicgoodness.com/2011/open-letter-to-my-t

Sir Miles said:

"The framework for Big Mind came from voice dialogue (with permission) and this is a perfectly useful and straightforward piece of psychological theory that can be applied in practice to really help people to understand how we work. the fact that he extended it to bring in "non dual' voices seems logical and in my experience not dangerous."

I agree. And I have been giving BM workshops since 2007 and I've witnessed at least 10 people having very strong experiences, if not kensho. I'm not a Zen Master, it's the technique that is truly quite powerful. Especially when a participant does it for the first time and has no prior concept whatsoever of the non-dual (never meditated before etc). For me BM is helpful, zazen is helpful. They are complementary in my experience.

    anonymous Feb 12, 2011 10:45pm

    I hope one day to think and speak as clearly as you have in your letter. I hope your teacher has read this with an open heart and mind.

    You are truly blessed.
    Thank you for sharing your heart.

anonymous Feb 11, 2011 12:27pm

[…] […]

anonymous Feb 11, 2011 12:12pm

"Genpo Roshi is changing the face of Zen—now and for the future. He is part traditional Zen Master and part modern spiritual innovator and his original teaching method, Big Mind, Big Heart, enables even the novice student to have a direct and potentially life changing experience of their own true nature" Taken from http://greatintegralawakening.com/genporoshi.html. Okay, the word enlightenment is not used, but it sure sounds like it to me.

anonymous Feb 11, 2011 7:47am

If you do not take the opportunity to speak out against abuses of power, you are failing at Right Speech, in my opinion.

    anonymous Feb 14, 2011 6:40pm

    Does Brad Warner engage in Right Speech when he calls other teachers "assholes" and writes his columns for porn sites?

anonymous Feb 10, 2011 5:44pm

A better, more even handed and informative article. http://dangerousharvests.blogspot.com/2011/02/gen

A yes, of course Brad is going to use this opportunity to trash Big Mind, a powerful and unique practice, and ignore the "real" issues at stake.

anonymous Feb 10, 2011 4:30pm

How can you dish Big Mind if you have never tried it? I have attended a number of Big Mind workshops. It has never been touted as instant enlightenment. It is an experiential form of empowering the student that lessens the importance of the teacher. Through this process you get to experience various aspects of mind that would otherwise be inaccessible to inexperienced practitioners of Zen. All of my teachers have emphasized the importance of a regular sitting practice, etc. Roshe and the people he trained are interested in a psychologically healthy practice. Too many of us use it to unintentionally isolate ourselves or zone out. Did Roshe disappoint his followers? Did he abuse his power? Yes on both accounts but please don't trash his teaching methods, especially when you have never experienced them for yourself. Ditto with Ken Wilbur. So easy to put others down. So much harder to look at our own stuff. That's why I appreciated Big Mind. It got me to do that with humor and gentleness, which helped me change my relationships with myself and others..

anonymous Feb 10, 2011 4:14pm

Wow, attached much?

There are two approaches to the Westernization of, well, anything: either keep it as purely [insert culture] as possible, or remix it so that it makes more sense to the Western cultural mind. What Dennis Merzel did was integrate a kind of Western psychotherapy into an Eastern contemplative practice. Although I may have missed a few articles about him because I'm not as fixated on Genpo as you seem to be, I have never heard him say that Big Mind allows anyone to realize enlightenment. Instead, I have heard him explain that Big Mind gives one a sort of glimpse into the freedom that is possible with a regular practice.

    anonymous Feb 14, 2011 6:18pm

    I love it when "Buddhists" beat each other up with accusations of being "attached." So "enlightened."
    Here's something from a press release I got in a spam promo email from Big Mind: "What if I could promise you the experience of being One with the entire universe–not after decades of
    meditation, but immediately, right now? You WILL have this experience (plus, a lot more)
    if you'll spend two days with the great Zen master, Genpo Roshi!" Enlightenment by any other name…
    No, I did not make that up. July 24, 2008. Still in my in box…
    Yeah go ahead, tell me how great he is anyway…

      anonymous Feb 14, 2011 6:38pm

      If you aren't a Buddhist, "bebop23," why do you even care what Buddhists do?

      I mean, I know you're a Brad Warner fanboy from seeing you on his blog but, other than trolling, what do you have to add here?

anonymous Feb 10, 2011 1:13pm

I have to say his disrobing just clears the way for his continued use and ploughing of the supposed miracle machine Big Mind (TM) which is a farce of a supposed Zen teaching. I'm sorry to say that I have never considered his teachings very genuine, and this scandal is not really Zen teacher related to my mind, because I am not sure he was ever of that mould. To my knowing, he was much more just about commercialisation and big money than a proponent or teacher of genuine Zen Buddhism. Sorry to say, but Brad has a point.

anonymous Feb 10, 2011 11:22am

"Yet he promises he will still continue teaching Big Mind® and he will truly integrate Soto Zen Buddhist Ethics into his life. There is something seriously wrong with this picture. Deeply, deeply wrong."
"Doing the right thing would have been remaining as a monk and ending the whole Big Mind® program."

— exactly.
Those of you complaining that Brad is celebrating his failure may want to read the article again. He is in no way doing that, heck, there's not even a hint of "I told you so" in this article – something that would have been EASY for Brad to state. What he is stating is if Genpo truly wanted to show any intention in working back towards the precepts he took, it may have been a better idea to continue with Zen, and drop the act as a cult leader.

    anonymous Mar 29, 2013 10:55am

    "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."

anonymous Feb 10, 2011 10:39am

Just another opportunity for Brad to show his version of the ethical behavior of a Buddhist priest by bagging on another person's failings in public. Way to go, Brad.

As one priest to another, maybe you should worry more about your own shit and less about the man who at least stepped up, publicly acknowledged his mistakes, and removed himself from his positions within the Buddhist sangha. You'd think that you would be pleased by this.

anonymous Feb 10, 2011 10:20am

Well said Brad a nuanced and balanced essay in my opinion I don't see any " Revelling" in Genpo's fall from grace just some questions regarding the ethics of his action. Bravo !

anonymous Feb 10, 2011 10:15am

Thank you Brad! You have balls. Reading the comments many people fall very fast into wrong diplomacy without reading the article carefully. You spoke something out what is on your mind and, how I think, very necessary in todays world because false teachers exist a lot and are very dangerous thing.

Be careful, be careful, be careful!

anonymous Feb 10, 2011 9:54am

I ususally am not a fan of Brad's. No loathing or anything like that, just not my particular cup of tea. But this article absolutely hit the mark. The real tragedy here is that Genpo is going to continue marketing his BS Big Mind while using Zen language, and will continue presenting it in a dharma-flavored way. He is now able to do this completely autonomously. He will continue to stain the dharma by selling it as an experience one can "get". When I first heard that he was disrobing I was hoping he would just go away all together. Sadly that isn't the case.

anonymous Feb 10, 2011 8:40am

From the very first sentence this post is grossly inaccurate and ignorant.

"For those not acquainted with obscure Buddhist twists on familiar phraseology, to “disrobe” as a Buddhist monk means that you formally quit the Buddhist order and give up your status as a priest and/or monk."

When one "disrobes" they are absolutely not "formally quitting the Buddhist order". When one disrobes they stop being a monk or nun. Genpo never was a monk since the complete monastic vinaya does not exist in his "order". Genpo was a Buddhist priest, he has formally declared that he will no longer be a Buddhist preist. Not that he will no longer be a Buddhist. There is a huge difference between a monk, a Buddhist preist, and a lay practitioner in terms of vows and commitments.
Genpo's actions have been hugely unethical but Brad's celebratory and ignorant attention seeking on the subject comes close to matching Genpo's distasteful actions.

    anonymous Feb 10, 2011 12:57pm

    Please explain the "huge difference" between a monk and a priest in Buddhism.

      anonymous Feb 10, 2011 3:53pm

      The huge difference between a monk and a priest in Buddhism is that one holds the authentic transmission of a complete form of the vinaya which includes the various vows of celibacy etc. a "priest does not hold the vows of the complete vinaya transmission. Megatron is absolutely correct in this assertion. The two paths are vastly different.

        anonymous Feb 11, 2011 3:30pm

        "Vastly different"? That's interesting. I've been living in Japan for 14 years now and never seen any differences other that between clergy/lay. I guess no one told them…

          anonymous Feb 15, 2011 4:13pm

          The Japanese don't have Vinaya holding monks. Since the establishment of the Bodhisattva Vows-based ordination platform following Saicho's death more than 1,000 years ago, more and more monastics in Japan were ordained under that system until the Vinaya system died out. All the people you see in Japan are not Vinaya holders. You need to go to China, Korea (for one of the orders there), Vietnam, Thailand, etc in order to meet Vinaaya monastics.

          In the West, when people speak of a Buddhist "priest," they generally mean someone who has received Bodhisattva Vow-based precepts but who is not a holder of Vinaya vows, is not required to be celibate, and may often be married. The reason to use "priest" instead of "monk" (the Japanese word used is soryo and it is used interchangeably there) is to avoid this confusion.

    anonymous Feb 10, 2011 4:00pm

    You might be nitpicking but I have to agree with your assessment of the first statement of the article.
    Its probably just semantics but sometimes all it takes to skewer an argument is an accurate assessment of the language and how it is used.

anonymous Feb 10, 2011 7:51am

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Brad Warner, Matthew Curtiss, Zenfant, justonelamp, Scott Marshall and others. Scott Marshall said: Brad Warner on Genpo Roshi, "sexual misconduct" in Buddhism & Big Mind: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/02/disrobing-genpo–brad-warner/ […]

anonymous Feb 10, 2011 6:53am

am I the only one who gets something almost slightly affirming out of all these stories where the so-called enlightened dude's -and maybe they really are- enlightenment somehow isn't enough to keep them from being ordinary mistake-making people just like all of the rest of us?

like somehow these real-life stories send a ripple of massive adjustment through the collective's understanding of what this high and misty ideal of perfect enlightenment really is. like we make it into this thing in our imagination that'll free us once and for all from all of our messy, frustrating, long daily-life complicating humanity -once we can just get it, land it, catch it.

I for one liked finding out that say Krishnamurti had a lover on the side -to bring up a similar myth-busting example- how fucking tender, how human, don't we all really know where that was coming from? the desire for love, a lover. maybe we don't know the enlightenment he had but we do know those deep and simply yearnings.

I don't know. there's something kind of affirming ultimately about some of the stories of this nature.

    anonymous Feb 11, 2011 11:16am

    I hear you on this Cliff – much as we want our teachers to be perfect, they are never going to be. It would be nice if they could stick to the precepts though…

anonymous Feb 10, 2011 4:13am

You make a good point; commercionalisation of Buddhism (or of any other religion) like that is hurtful to the religion, but I think as long as there are people in the world, there will be scammers. There’s little we can do about it.

Little besides educating others that maybe the quick route to enlightenment does not really lead to enlightenment as we understand it.

Maybe a little personal advice: I understand why you got so worked up about this news, but posting an essay is something that is hard to take back, and you sound a bit jealous of this false guru’s wealth, which is not very Buddhist, either. But that’s just a small detail, shoshaku jushaku. I hope your rent troubles will soon be over!

As a side note: I’ve read a story ( http://matadornetwork.com/bnt/2011/01/31/child-monk-bodh-gaya/ ) about (Buddhist) monks where the young monks on the streets of India tried to scam the western journalist of some money. I’d guess they don’t need the money (just) for food, but for some things they’re not really allowed to have.

To me, scamming beggars and this “instant enlightenment” teacher work only on a different scale, but they’re not that different. Just to illustrate my point that Buddhism and scams go back a very long way. :o)

anonymous Feb 10, 2011 2:22am

Brad in all light it is always about you anyway!

anonymous Feb 10, 2011 1:58am

I think someone has unresolved Daddy issues. Maybe you could use some therapy too, Brad.

anonymous Feb 10, 2011 1:33am

Careful with the darkside… dont rejoice on the falling of others

    John Pappas Feb 10, 2011 8:42pm

    Thank you, yoda.

    anonymous Feb 20, 2011 1:20pm

    Interesting issues being presented, with Gempo's and Brad's disclosures on
    their student / teacher Affairs. I am new to the Buddha teachings and now dissapointed.
    As a boomer I missed out on the playing a guitar act to find girls many years ago,
    seems like female seekers looking for clearity today are……. just as vulnerable.
    I am really glad we did not sign-up for the Big Mind course, thanks Brad.

    anonymous Apr 24, 2011 2:45am

    I am new to this and I think the discussions are interesting.
    Since I have attended Big Mind retreats, met Genpo Roshi, talked to him in private, etc. I want to share my thoughts.
    In Ameland we attended a somewhat typical retreat schedule for 9 days, starting at 6Am with 40/30/30 minutes of zazen. Breakfast, working samadhi, chopping vegetable, etc. meditation, then lunch. In the afternoon we did a little over
    two hours of Big Mind, a kind of group psychotherapy to me. Only who wants to take the microphone and address
    anything could do so. Never was anybody asked to say something, people volunteered. Some started crying, telling
    their stories, some were desperate, most were quite stable, many seemed relaxed and happy. The whole range..
    There never was pressure to do anything, to say anything, not even to attend anything.

      anonymous Apr 24, 2011 2:47am

      Sometimes I just slept in my room, read a book, skipped parts of the seminar. No problem at all for anybody.
      The afternoon Big Mind session with Genpo Roshi, basically the only time he attended, besides some evenings, was for me like some time of group psychotherapy. You can, if you like, take the microphone and speak up in a certain voice, like the voice of anger, or fear, or jealousy, etc. but if you do not want to talk, expose yourself, etc. you just don't. My girl friend did not for a week. Many people never took the mike.
      I have never seen Genpo Roshi make fun of anybody, when the person was in pain or distress.
      But Genpo Roshi at other times did make jokes and we all had fun, laughing can also release tension.
      What I think was positive for me as a general sceptic, was the fact that he also made a lot of fun about himself, about Big Mind, about Zen, etc. He does have a healthy sense of humour in my eyes.

        anonymous Apr 24, 2011 2:48am

        The seminar was only $900 for 9 days including all meals and room, that seems reasonably to me.
        What I am VERY sceptical about is the fact that for fund raising there are the 5/5/50s where people pay $50.000.- and get five days with a maximum of five people of Big Mind training.
        No therapy in my eyes can be worth that, no therapy can change you in any way profound in five days.
        But I have never heard or read Genpo Roshi say that you will get huge lasting changes out of short training.
        He always pointed out to us that a short glimpse of peace, Big Mind, non duality is possible with the Big Mind technique and I think it is, but that for implementing this into our lives it takes a lot of time and practice.
        It takes time to grow, it takes zazen.
        I am confused now concerning the future of Kanzeon Zen Center and Big Mind, there seems to be a lot going on that goes beyond his being unfaithful, which I, like Brad, don't give a shit about.

          anonymous Apr 24, 2011 2:48am

          I am sceptical about the money thing, when seminars get expensive, I get suspicious. They are getting expensive, why? The Big Mind process, where you give voice to feelings, the thinking mind, also non dual parts of our mind, helped me lot to expand my perspective on life, to release tension, to put light on disowned aspects.
          It is no miracle therapy, it is no shortcut to enlightenment, it is no easy way of getting "better", it is just a tool to
          reflect on how my mind works. I get to know myself and clarify my way of thinking through Big Mind. That part I like.
          I hope this could clarify a little to some readers.
          Sorry for the length of my text.
          Paul (Austria, sorry for language problems

anonymous Feb 10, 2011 11:00am

I think that Brad is just using this event as another platform to express how against the Big Mind program he is. By using it as such it really is celebrating the failure and using it as another soapbox to stand on and talk about Genpo's program. We get it already.

anonymous Feb 10, 2011 11:44am

I read the article and you could shorten it to "He doesn't like Genpo" and leave it at that.

Genpo did the right thing in this instance, which was step down from all Buddhist positions of authority. Anything else is just Brad kvetching in his typical way about other people he doesn't like instead of showing some actual compassion for a fellow human being.

Genpo is going to be held accountable for his behavior in the same manner as any other person (including you, me, or anyone else). He abused his position as a priest by sleeping with one or more students in an affair and needs to not be in that position or one of Buddhist leadership. He solved that problem.

Beyond that, it is an issue for he, his wife, and his mistress and not our business. Our business, in this instance, as fellow Buddhists (or as Zen priests in mine and Brad's instance) is that the Dharma not be abused or sullied by being associated with ongoing transgressions of his vows and position by Genpo Merzel. While he may need to make amends to people, Genpo has solve this problem as an ongoing issue by removing himself.

Getting Genpo back on track is Genpo's business, not that of the rest of the world, unless he asks for help.

So, please, try actually reading my point.

anonymous Feb 10, 2011 3:55pm

That is an extremely narrow definition of the word "order" Rev.

anonymous Feb 12, 2011 9:28am

Al, since your teacher is a complete phony (and so is his "lineage") and you seem to have anger management issues, I can see why you have problems with Merzel being criticized…

anonymous Feb 12, 2011 9:38am

Don’t believe everything on the Internet. The bona fides of both my teacher and preceptor are legitimate enough, especially when compared to many Zen teachers in North America.

I see you couldn’t respond to the substance of what I said so you had to attempt the cheap shot.

anonymous Feb 14, 2011 6:35pm

You seem to be confused about who my actual teacher is as well as the facts. The person in question is my preceptor, not my teacher. I received vows from him and have been on retreats with him but I don't work with him week to week as my teacher. In any case, he has documented inga from his *former* teacher who, years later, decided that he didn't actually give it (which begs the question of why there is a document signed by him in the first place). This same teacher now making these claims also broke with his own teacher and the Kwan Um School but, strangely, when he does it, it is fine and dandy but if someone breaks with him (for whatever reason) they have mental health issues?

Needless to say, you aren't a party to all of the details involved (and neither am I, for that matter). I know my preceptor and I've done retreats with him and others. I've been satisfied as to his authenticity. Rather than going around repeating gossip about people you don't know and have never met, maybe you should crack a Dharma text or go practice?

As to my own authority, I find this amusing. I'm pretty up front about what I am and am not an authority on. My actual name is attached to what I write, as is where I work and what I spend my time on. I live my life relatively openly, giving ammunition to people like you, it seems. You wouldn't be able to engage in this kind of speech against me or the people that I've worked with if I hid behind anonymity in the same manner as you. Kind of hypocritical of you, isn't it? In the end, I leave it up to the people who read my blog to decide if I'm worth reading. If you don't like what I have to say, why do you come to my blog?

In all of this gossiping speech, you still haven't responded to the actual points that I wrote above though. This is all smoke and the fire is still burning. Why not respond to what I wrote rather than casting rumors about? Is it simply that I disagreed with Brad's ongoing inability to engage in the conduct of the heir to a Dharma master and a priest? Is what I said wrong somehow? Try engaging with the actual issues and gossiping less.

anonymous Feb 15, 2011 3:52pm

Your f*cking dumbass Billings. Must be sad having a Mom whos a Dude.

anonymous Feb 18, 2011 11:55pm

"inga" is not "inka": that is, being made a ji do pop sa is NOT dharma transmission. As this letter makes clear.

"Dear Students of the Golden Wind Zen Group and the Public at Large:

It is with a great deal of sadness and wistfulness that I write this letter is to inform you that Paul Lynch was permanently suspended on July 13, 2008 as a Ji Do Poep Sa Nim in the Golden Wind Zen Teaching Order. I originally asked Paul to take a leave of absence as a teacher during which time he could begin to practice regularly once again and make an effort to deal with his severe health problems and personal issues. When informed of this leave-of-absence from teaching, Paul decided to walk away from the sangha entirely.

A Ji Do Poep Sa is permitted to teach only under the direct supervision of their supervising Zen Master according to the Korean/American Zen tradition.

Any teaching done by Paul (under the rubric of a “Before Thinking” organization or in any other forum) is, therefore, presented without the consent or approval of Zen Master Ji Bong. Consequently, Zen Master Ji Bong accepts no responsibility for any of Paul Lynch’s words or actions currently or at any time in the future. Paul Lynch is not in any respect to be considered the Dharma heir of either Zen Master Seung Sahn or Zen Master Ji Bong.

If a student -JDPS is unwilling to follow his/her teacher, that student gives up all rights to any claims of lineage. One has authentic lineage or one has nothing – that is the majesty of the Zen Tradition.

Ironically, this experience has become a good teaching experience for all of us. We must watch our steps in each moment – remember there is always a banana peel close by.

Zen Master Ji Bong (August 17, 2008)"

Lynch can do what he wants, but he should stop legitimizing himself by claiming Moore, and by extension Seung Sahn, as his lineage credentials, which he keeps emphatically doing. If he had any integrity, like many other teachers and priests, when he had conflict with one teacher, you respectfully work out a transition to a new teacher, RETAKE precepts with that teacher, and begin again. He did not receive transmission, which would make such a situation unnecessary. He completely misrepresents himself. As do you. You say the same thing everywhere – "You don't know the REAL story." I don't need to know YOUR version. The teacher told him to work some shit out, and he felt he'd just turn around and start his own school instead, peopled with the like of this guy, Big Al Billings. This is the pattern of a man in the throws of inflation, and you can't throw a rock in the Buddhist universe without hitting someone displaying such symptoms.
The choosing of a teacher(or "preceptor") is a dangerous business – especially considering these types of half-baked wannabes running around shouting "katz! Do you understand?"

anonymous Feb 15, 2011 4:06pm

That's the kind of highbrow response I expect! Good job!

anonymous Feb 15, 2011 4:09pm

How is Big Mind a "dangerous spiritual practice?" Have you tried it, watched the videos about it or read their literature?

I've watched the videos but never tried it. That said, it seemed to be pretty straightforward psychotherapy (but not really Buddhist per se).

anonymous Feb 19, 2011 12:00am

And I know enough people in the Kwan Um school that if Lynch hadn't burned so many bridges he could have simply taken up with another Kwan Um Zen master and gotten transmission from them, if he was deserving. The fact that he just decided to start his own school instead saying he's an heir of Moore and Seung Sahn, often hiding behind the confusion of vague and erratic Asian terminology, simply boggles the mind.

anonymous Apr 2, 2011 12:31pm

Goodieb, are you not yourself 'judging'? "Where is your compassion?"

Brad's efforts are laudable for they go to 'teaching the teacher' and teachers notoriously defend their lofty perch until successfully knocked off of it.

anonymous Apr 2, 2011 12:32pm

Right on Aaron. Power and Money, Money and Power!

anonymous Aug 7, 2011 10:57am

Very happy that those quotes were an enlightening experience for you!?! Best of luck with your path. I'm sure it is going very well.

Read The Best Articles of March
You voted with your hearts, comments, views, and shares.

elephant journal

Elephant Journal is dedicated to “bringing together those working (and playing) to create enlightened society.” We’re about anything that helps us to live a good life that’s also good for others, and our planet. >>> Founded as a print magazine in 2002, we went national in 2005 and then (because mainstream magazine distribution is wildly inefficient from an eco-responsible point of view) transitioned online in 2009. >>> elephant’s been named to 30 top new media lists, and was voted #1 in the US on twitter’s Shorty Awards for #green content…two years running. >>> Get involved: > Subscribe to our free Best of the Week e-newsletter. > Follow us on Twitter. Fan us on Facebook. > Write: send article or query. > Advertise. > Pay for what you read, help indie journalism survive and thrive—and get your name/business/fave non-profit on every page of elephantjournal.com. Questions? Send to [email protected]