Genpo on Buddhist Geeks.
Can I just say one thing. You can ask me a question. I really don’t give a shit at this point in my life. I really don’t. I had a big breakthrough in June around the issue of caring and not caring and I feel I deeply, deeply, deeply care about all sentient beings. And all my work has evolved all sentient beings, where you have to become more conscious. And healthier and with less shadows. And the other side of this triangle, I really don’t give a shit. But go ahead and ask your question.
Well Genpo, I do give a shit. I really do. I question the “guru” mentality that surrounds you and the likes of Ken Wilber, Bill Harris and Eckhart Tolle. I give a shit because your “Wham Bam” dharma is the Buddhist equivalent of a “one-night stand”. Sure! Its fun and he/she may be sexy and alluring but its just gonna leave you feeling crappy, sore and sticky in the morning.
I posted about Big Mind previously and when reviewing Genpo’s interview on Buddhist Geeks I found that I was going back to the same ol’ thing. Namely, is selling the Dharma an effective way of getting it to everyone? Or does it simply get to those who can (or are willing to) pay for it? When I expressed these concers in my older post, I explained my intent to some “Big Mind’ers” on Twitter. I told ’em that my post is critical but I would love to hear their input – My mind not being made up but rather looking for some conversation on these issues. Well, Bruce Hogen Lambson, Executive Director of Big Mind was nice enough to comment and address these concerns.
I’m really enjoying this discussion and wanted to throw in my two cents worth as Executive Director of the Big Mind organization.
I appreciate the level headedness of the comments. You all make some very good points that always are on the agenda at our board meetings.
First, we’re not making near as much as most people think, less than a million a year the last few years since we decided to start selling CDs, DVDs, Books and the usual meditation supplies like cushions and incense and running more retreats and workshops.
And, just to be clear, Genpo Roshi is truly on a modest fixed salary as set by our 11 member board.
Where does the money go? We have three buildings to pay mortgages on and maintain, and anyone who owns buildings built in the early 1900’s knows that the maintenance isn’t cheap. Luckily, within our roughly 200 member local sangha here in Salt Lake, we have some carpenters and electricians who help out, but when it comes to a new roof or serious plumbing repairs, we have to hire professionals.
We also spend a substantial amount of money on supporting the 12 or so monks who are here studying for the priesthood full time. (These folks are doing it in the traditional fashion as prescribed by the Soto Zen school, which we are a part of.) This includes lots of sitting meditation and memorizing of the chants and formal services we do each day. In addition since Maezumi Roshi (and Genpo Roshi) was ordained in the Rinzai school, we also do koan study. The Big Mind work developed by Genpo Roshi is also a part of this, so our monks and laypeople get all of it if they aspire to become teachers themselves.
How do we help the poor? We offer scholarships to almost all of our workshops and retreats to sincere students who request help. We also offer free mediation classes at local hospitals, prisons and even high schools here. In addition we run a Soup Kitchen in the winter here for the homeless.
Also, starting about 3 months ago, because of new advances in internet technology, we are now broadcasting free our regular Sunday morning and Thursday evening talks from our website.
You can find this on our site http://www.bigmind.org and then click on Big Mind TV. There’s also an “On Demand” section there that has a lot of interesting videos. By the way, this service costs us about $1,250 per month because of the amount of bandwidth used. And the cameras, computers, software and T-1 lines required are pricy too. So far though, over 8000 people representing 175 countries have taken advantage of this and we’re very happy about that.
The one comment I hear fairly regularly on blogs about us is “I don’t know much about Big Mind but it sounds (fill in the blank).”
I would love for you to explore this practice, and all the other things we do, and I invite you to join us. If you want to get a feel for our community, you can check us out on Facebook Big Mind Network. (Although I won’t necessarily vouch for everyone on there…)
I think a big part of our job of spreading the dharma is to make it accessible in many different ways, and to build a community that supports us and each other. We think we’re doing that in an honest and forthright way. When I see what we have done, I’m happy and I don’t let people who are trashing our success bother me, while remaining open to your feedback.
You can also phone me at 801-244-4940 or email to email@example.com.
Bruce Hogen Lambson
This is exactly the type of comment that I would expect from the governance board of a large (even with only a 1 million dollar budget) organization. They addressed my concerns, told me where I was lacking (which is fine! I lack a-plenty), and encouraged me to continue to experiment and explore. Great! I wish all Buddhist organizations were as quick to communicate with bloggers. *kaff, kaff, ahem*
That being said, I erased my redundant (but fucking hilarious) review of Genpo’s Big Mind interview on Buddhist Geeks and instead went back over to www.bigmind.org to check out those resources that were promised to me. I understand that any large organization requires fundraising and donations to stay afloat and producing. I have worked at non-profits for years and I know that some amount of “exclusivity” is expected for those “Big Money” donors. Their name on a wall or some fancy brunch. Maybe a chance to hang out with a (minor) celebrity.
Thinking back to some of those zendos that I list under my ” Zen Resources” page brought me back to the fact that they also rely on donations and sustained aid from practitioners. Just look at San Fransisco Zen Center or the AudioDharma or Zencast! What great resources and podcasts all for free to help us learn and practice the Dharma. Lets see what Big Mind has in store for us humble practitioners along these lines….
Wait, hold on.
Well, nothing for free. Except for that video with Ken Wilber speaking, I think, Klingon.
Newsletter, also not free. But what about “Zen Eye” where you can…
Download over 300 hours of video and audio of Genpo Roshi’s live teaching sessions on Zen, Big Mind, Koans, Meditation and more directly to your computer!
New material is posted every week, so you can stay up on the very latest Big Mind sessions with Genpo Roshi filmed live at the Big Mind Western Zen Center in Salt Lake City and from other live events around the world.
Hmmmmm, this must be a mistake. This is also not free. In talking about benefiting sentient beings in the Buddhist Geeks podcast and defending his fundraising procedures, he sure doesn’t leave much for us. And the title of that webpage was *ahem* “Home-Study“. Personally, I think you would get better Dharma from my page.
This is just one guy talking, but this little Dharma-shit prefers to sweep the dust and push the dirt. Genpo promises that he wants to benefit others but it is looking more and more like everything has a price-tag at “Big Mind”. You would be better off visiting my Zen Resources Page and find some resources that can actually aid your practice.
I have no issue with putting a price tag on some aspects of Charma teaching. An organization requires money to survive but when you look at the goal of “Big Mind” I think all you see are dollar signs. This is far from the goal of…
build[ing] a community that supports us and each other.
Well, maybe it does but it builds its foundation on sales and not benefit. Which makes it exclusive.