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A FLAMING FISTFUL OF REACTIONARY WISDOM

by Charles and Tara Carreon

        

Are you a traditional Buddhist?  Does it just chap your hide when you hear someone accusing traditional Eastern Buddhism of an authoritarian agenda?  A little slow on the trigger with snappy comebacks?  This short essay will change all that forever.  Never again be left undefended when unexpectedly assailed by a sharp-witted anti-authoritarian. You too can stand tall, knowing that you are packing a Doctrinal Defender argument, neatly classed for swift deployment.  These tried and true zingers will set your opponent on his or her ear, contemplating the incontrovertible core of your argument.  Classed into nine basic categories, this flaming fistful of reactionary wisdom will be your dogmatic sidearm.

"It's Bigger Than All That"

This general purpose put down is best delivered with a long look down the snoot.  As the words drop, exude pity for this miserable insect who has no idea how blooming wonderful this whole damn spiritual circus is.   Hard to beat, this will work equally well as a brutal rebuff to a newbie or a deft snub against seasoned adversaries.  At a loss for words when caught consorting with authoritarian henchmen?  Just drop into this self protective crouch -- and as you come out of it, demonstrate genuine surprise that your adversary just doesn't understand how blooming wonderful this whole damn spiritual circus is.  The following list of related doctrinal arguments can be deployed against hard cases.  Just say them naturally, with that tone of pomposity that befits your station as an elder student, even if you're still trying to get your mala to get that worn look.

  • This is the ignorant thinking of the five skandhas.
  • Maybe you're not ready for the "radical" path of enlightenment.
  • All of our experiences are equally illusory.
  • We voluntarily choose to lose our freedom in order to gain a higher freedom.
  • You are mixing political ways of organizing society with the process of transmitting fundamental understandings of truth, which is a totally different matter.
  • Abusive authority is part of the tradition: Naropa/Tilopa. Zen practitioners getting hit with a stick, or slapped with a shoe over the head.
  • If we have faith in the Buddha, all our experiences will be purified.
  • The teacher is not here to facilitate a consensus.
  • Freedom is impotent to address important spiritual issues.
  • Humiliating yourself is part of getting rid of your ego.
  • We have to suspend our judgment when it comes to having faith in the doctrine.
  • We can't apply rational criteria to the choice of a guru.
  • Empowerment is necessary to confer the divine state and give permission to practice.
  • Temper tantrums and whims of the guru are manifestations of divine play.
  • Vain gossip causes harm to others.
  • Bliss will only prevail when you develop peace and love.
  • Buddhism is about an invisible reality, not a materialistic reality.
  • Let's "move beyond" the simple black-white issues presented here to something more positive.
  • Enslavement to Buddhist authority, or any other authority, is the least of my concerns because for the most part I am a total slave of my mind. Just when I think I have made progress, and liberation is close at hand, I discover I have built a bigger and more beautiful jail.

"It Works, That's Why"

This category is overused because Americans are so practical. We just want to get the job done, okay, get enlightened, get home in time for supper. It's a button-down, business-like category that will make you look like a schoolmarm if you use it too often. So be careful, at the risk of becoming terminally uncool.

  • Don't give scope for ill feelings and worthless talk.
  • Many important persons are Buddhists.
  • Rebels always lose.  Fighting authority is a naive fantasy.  The authorities rule because they are right.
  • Erratic or abusive practices are sometimes used by Eastern masters to stop the rational mind and allow enlightenment to enter.
  • The guru-disciple relationship is essential.
  • Some people benefit from being regimented. It is skilful means.
  • Control is necessary; otherwise we won't grow.
  • People need "more rules," not less.
  • Humiliating yourself is part of getting rid of your ego.
  • It is beneficial to apply various forms of friendly persuasion, peer pressure, righteous indignation, and shunning, for the benefit of your dharma brethren.
  • Use various analogies: the student is a sick patient; the guru the doctor. The student is clay; the guru is the potter.
  • Worship isn't for the guru's sake but for the student's.
  • Devotional practices rely upon community standards and a sense of self that we need to develop in the United States.
  • If we regulate ourselves with standards of ethical conduct, we can derive the greatest benefit from the religious group while minimizing the risk of exploitation.
  • We need to develop a genuine understanding of the dharma to address and alleviate our fears.
  • The scriptures and the teachers are the prime sources of religious authority.
  • It is a waste of time to carry tales about others.
  • Buddhist organizations sponsor a lot of charity activities.
  • It does some people a lot of good.

"Shutup!"

This is a very popular category, probably because you don't have to be very smart to deploy these zingers. Takes you right back to grade school.

  • Anti-authoritarian ideas are advanced by negative-minded individuals.
  • If you doubt the traditional system, it's because you are of poor character and lack life experience.
  • Only those who observe silence are good people. Silence fosters purity. We should observe silence at all times.
  • Just get over it!
  • You're mean!
  • That's the way the system works! Complaining about it is just a waste of time.
  • Don't sow discord.
  • You're going to vajra hell with that kind of attitude.
  • You just don't understand how it all works.
  •  Don't harbor any undesirable thoughts.
  • Vain gossip causes harm to others.
  • Your information is false propaganda, gossip and misleading information.
  • Your arguments have no foundation. They are hearsay.
  • It's traditional.
  • Your information isn't impartial, because it is subject to your own biases.
  • Psychologists say that anything that creates or sustains enmity with anyone for any reason carries the seeds of its own destruction and is stalked by what Jung calls "The Shadow" which MUST turn itself upon those who invoke its energy. It also throws those who act out in this way entirely into delusion, a delusion made worse when a group rallies around LA CAUSA.. That's the rules as the psychologists explain them, over and over again.

"This is Much Better Than Anything We Have in the West "

This category capitalizes on the inherent sense of inferiority that Americans feel when faced with saintly-seeming Easterners in colored robes. We didn't grow up with it, and we don't know how it works, so we'll believe anything. Your basic Texas oil scheme in the spiritual patch. If you've got the stomach for it, grab a piece and hang on, because this stuff will sell!

  •  A guru goes beyond the boundary of control which many Americans adhere to.
  • We are ethnocentric and have a fear of weakening our cultural foundations.
  • Working with a guru can be one of the most sublime experiences of one's life.
  • Ignorance is on the rise with the progress of science.
  • All the trials and tribulations faced in this world are due to the so-called developments in science and technology.
  • Americans are not comfortable with spiritual explorations into unknown and irrational realms.
  • Bliss will only prevail when you develop peace and love.
  • Buddhism is beyond democracy.
  • The dysfunction in our society creates the opportunity for Buddhist cult abuse.
  • The exclusively rational, intellectual approach to life has made Westerners feel alienated.
  • Western thought is a dangerous obstacle to spiritual knowledge.  We must reject scientific inquiry to be rid of duality and domination.
  • The anti-cult movements have presented a distorted view of Eastern spiritual religions which brings to the fore Americans' deepest fears and imaginings: mind control, total negation of reality, and allegiance to a human being rather than God.
  • The Internet is poisoning the village environment, which is the epitome of peace and love. Don't spoil the village atmosphere by imitating the city culture.

"One Bad Apple"

Everybody remembers this song by Michael Jackson and the Jackson Five, "One bad apple don't spoil the whole bunch, girl." You may recall that our grandparents had a different take, believing that indeed one bad apple would ruin the entire lot, and I dare say they had more experience with barrels of apples than all five of the Jacksons. Be that as it may, the argument has numerous adherents, as the following quotes will show.

  • My group is not like that.
  • We have to look at these things on a case by case basis.
  • Maybe you just came to it with a bad attitude.
  • Those stories are so old.
  • That was settled and probably was the result of some plaintiff lawyer's lying.
  • Hell hath no fury ...
  • While scandals do come from some Buddhist groups, many others provide a necessary, wonderful service.
  • People make mistakes.
  • Not everyone had your [bad] experience.
  • Your experience is unique.

"Assumption of Risk"

This is a legal term for "you had it coming." As in, "you had it coming breaking your neck flying down that hill on that snowboard like that." As in, "well, when you dress like that, what did you expect, he may be a priest but he's only a man!" The assumption of risk theory makes your average church yard look more dangerous than a toxic dumpsite, since you went there with your faith in your hands, you idiot, just asking to be taken for a ride. The problem with the assumption of risk defense is its excessive candor, but aside from that drawback, is a very useful first strike strategy.

  • You were offered the chance to investigate and inquire. You had a chance to stay or leave.
  • The teacher provides the necessary philosophical and practical guidance, but the student is still responsible for his or her own practice and development.
  • Let the buyer beware.
  • We have to take personal responsibility for whatever happens to us.
  • Garbage in, garbage out.
  • If you had a real problem you'd take it to court.

"Gurus are Special People"

This category is very large, and seems to comprise quite a bit of the heavy timber in this structure. These are tautologies at their best, solid to the core, because of their unitized construction. You can rely on these phrases, because they depend upon nothing.

  • The Buddhist leaders are representatives of the Buddha.
  • The student must have faith in the guru no matter what action the guru takes.
  • Any problem is our own fault, not the guru's.
  • The greater the devotion, the more blessings one receives.
  • The guru is a form of Buddha's presence, presenting the divine in a manner people can relate to.
  • The guru-disciple relationship offers the possibility of tremendous spiritual growth, healing, and a powerful change in outlook.
  • We can't apply rational criteria to the choice of a guru.
  • Veneration is necessary, because a guru embodies divine power, and is capable of bestowing grace.
  • A guru is the only person who can dispel darkness with his vast knowledge.
  • The guru is a source of revelation, interpreting and influencing the tradition's development.
  • True knowledge can only be obtained through a teacher.
  • The guru is a spiritual guide leading the disciple to Absolute Reality, the nature of Being.
  • The relationship between a guru and his students is heart to heart and is prompted by selfless love.
  • Gurus are above the ethical laws that apply to everyone else.

"We'll Side With the Majority After All"

We wanted to call this "consensus redux," to encapsulate the notion that, however much a movement rejects consensus decision-making, when it lacks the power of the majority, once it can invoke the authority of widespread acceptance, it will immediately do so.

  •  If the system was bad, why has it survived all of these years? A lot of people couldn't be wrong.
  • Well, at least we can get along with others.
  • Nobody likes you.

"Jar Jar Speaks"

Sometimes things are put forward in a manner so beeble-bumbled that they have to be dedicated to the God of inarticulateness, which for us is Jar Jar Binks. Here you go.

  • Authoritarianism/Anti-Authoritarianism is part of the "first tier thinking" which occurs before the revolutionary shift in consciousness where "being levels" emerge.

That pretty much wraps it up. If you're still here with us, thank you. We will try to think up some rebuttals to these rebuttals, but just right now we're feeling a powerful urge to regret our apostasy and engage in some full-scale repentance and ice-cream eating.


Advanced Teachings on Repelling the Rebels -- The Ear-Whispered Teachings of The Warriors of Traditionalist Dogma.  These hand grenades of authoritarian Buddhism are entrusted to those with the courage to bandy doctrines boldly.  Leave them stunned with these brain-stoppers.

A PERSON OF KNOWN ORIGINS CAN NEVER BE AN AUTHORITY

Originally pointed out by Jesus of Nazareth, who responded to local criticisms by observing that "a prophet hath no honor in his own country," this wry observation has been hammered into a rule of universal application. As a result, spiritual adulation can be lavished upon any ham-brained, be-robed individual of Mongolian extraction with enough moxie to sit on a throne while acting (pick one or more: profound, benign, whimsical, attentive, subtly threatening, or humorously avaricious). While they eventually may lose stature when they lurch drunkenly at a pair of mammaries attached to some hapless devotee (Sogyal), or engage in too many tall tales and blatant solicitations for cash (Kusum Lingpa), still they will be treated as authorities, because of the corollary rule, which is:

REGARDLESS OF OTHER CHARACTERISTICS, YOU CONTINUE TO BE AN AUTHORITY SO LONG AS YOU ARE SO RECOGNIZED BY AN AUTHORITY

This rule means that, until the Pope says to kick the guy out, the pervert priest can still say Mass and continue to defile the bodies and spirits of the young. Until actually ousted and defrocked, any authority can continue to exploit their position.

This rule is so powerful that we can even make gold out of clay -- witness the tulkufication of Catherine Burroughs and Steven Seagal, and the trail of self-stuck idiots that Kusum Lingpa has left in his train by haphazardly recognizing anyone who gives him the right ass-kissy vibe as the reincarnation of some heretofore unknown Tibetan saint. And despite all of Burroughs' Leona-Helmsley-style antics and the very absurdity of Seagal's posturing as a spiritual guide, until their "recognition" is withdrawn by Pednor Rinpoche, they will continue to collect accolades from the faithfools.

Examining the implications of these two rules, we see a third:

WESTERN PEOPLE WHO DON'T BUY AUTHORITARIAN HEIRARCHY CAN NEVER SAY ANYTHING VALID

First, since they are western, they can't self-authorize,
So they need to be recognized by an authority,
But since they reject authorities, they will never obtain such a recognition,
Therefore, nothing they say will ever have any validity to the true faithfool,
Because faithfools only evaluate ideas based on the identity of the speaker, and never on their merits.

Having gone through this analysis with respect to any speaker, a true faithfool can safely stop his ears once it is clear the speaker has no authority.

However, there is one last rule every good faithfool should keep in mind, to avoid dissing your own kind:

ANY STATEMENT BY A PERSON WHO PROFESSES FAITH IN AUTHORITY IS PRESUMPTIVELY VALID

Aha, you were waiting for this one, weren't you? This is why it is worth having a "Free Tibet" bumper sticker, or otherwise announcing your alliance with the authorities. To gain the benefit of the rule, simply append to any damn thing you say, the following: "I speak not from my own knowledge, but simply in repetition of what the gurus have declared -- it's all in the teachings -- I have nothing to add that hasn't been said before." 

WARNING: THIS LINE OF ARGUMENT HAS BEEN PROVIDED AS A SERVICE TO THOSE PERSONS DEDICATED TO LIVING INSIDE A SAFE, AUTHORIZED BELIEF SYSTEM, SO THAT THEY WILL NOT BE TEMPTED TO OPEN THEIR MINDS AND INHALE A NEW THOUGHT THAT COULD BE POISONOUS TO THEIR ENTIRE WORLD VIEW AND RESULT IN THE WASTE OF MANY HOURS OF DEVOTION, MEDITATION AND SELF-ABASEMENT. BY RUNNING THROUGH THE ANALYSIS IN ADVANCE, YOU WILL NOT BE CAUGHT UNPREPARED. THE WORKINGS OF THE MACHINERY HAVE BEEN REVEALED ONLY BECAUSE WE KNOW THAT THE FAITHFOOL WILL NOT BE SHAKEN BY ANY OF THE HOKEY SARCASM THAT FILLS THE INTERSTICES OF THE ARGUMENT, AND SO THAT THE DEVOTED FAITHFOOL CAN BE READY FOR THE SORRY-ASS ATTACKS THAT WILL COME FROM THOSE STUPID ANTI-AUTHORITARIANS.

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