I love Buddhist Geeks. Their podcast is great. But something about this one just irks me somewhat. Let me tell you why…
[from Progressive Buddhism] The latest Buddhist Geeks podcast is an interview with Zen teacher Norman Fischer who argues in favour of secular and therapeutic expressions of Buddhist wisdom, such as Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction.
Secular expressions, fine. But therapeutic expressions of Buddhist wisdom? No. And here is why. When you take Buddhism and lend it to the field of medicine (even a field as soft as counseling or psychology), you take the chance of making it an “alternative” or New Age remedy for something that is best handled by actual doctors and not monks or roshis or dipshits like me with some interest in religion. I don’t care if it is Christian or Buddhist or Muslim wisdom, it means that your treatment is based upon belief and not science.
Also this just reeks of profit. Can I copywrite it?
[from Buddhist Geeks] As Buddhism transitions to the West, we see that it is doing so in a couple different ways. Some forms look more like their original Asian roots, while others are secular and non-Religious in their presentation. Zen teacher Norman Fischer, an early 2nd generation teacher in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, calls the more traditional forms part of “Plan A” and the more secular forms, “Plan B.”
I do have respect for Suzuki Roshi’s teachings but is this the correct path for the foundation he built for Zen in the West? Some alternative meditative treatment? Why do the secular sects of Buddhism have to be paired with nonsensical, clinically unproven pseudo-science, charlatan snake-oil? (Do we get to spin prayer wheels to cure cancer, or maybe we walk around stupas to cure impotence). Buddhism has the same “therapeutic” and scientific integrity as any other religion – namely…none. I might as well freaking pray or speak in toungue or faith heal…
In this interview we discuss with Norman the importance of Plan B approaches, like Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction. We also discuss his personal experience teaching Plan B at places like Google. Finally, we explore how the livelihood of trained and competent meditation teachers may relay heavily on Plan B approaches.
In going down this path we are making promises that we cannot keep. We are promising ease and comfort. True Buddhist meditative practice is anything but easy and comfortable, it is exactly the opposite. This is in every way as bad as the beatnik/hippy zen that became so popular in the 60’s because of the mysticism that surrounded it. However, these days we trade in mysticism for pseudo-science.
And if you want to see where this eventually leads click here, but I warn you – it isn’t pretty. I got white hairs just looking at it.