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Dec, 2003

 Steven Seagal Comes Out of the Buddhist Closet


by Charles Carreon
December, 2003


In 2002 Shambhala Sun, the shameful house organ of the Vajradhatu mafia, published a pathetic softball interview of phony tulku Steven Seagal. The interviewer in "Steven Seagal Speaks" feeds Seagal one easy question after another, and never once follows up with a pointed interrogation. The interviewer points out none of the obvious contradictions in Seagal's flow of blather. I've read more incisive interviews of Miss America.

There's a stink of piety and obeisance to the questions, which are spiked with Trungpa-esque phrases like "finding your seat," which give it that "insider" flavor. (See Trungpa's poem to Osel Tendzin urging him to "find his seat." Tendzin famously misfired while enjoying his seat, causing one of his students, and the student's girlfriend, to die of AIDS. But he had such a sunny disposition in the face of tragedy, that he is quoted as saying, "Ladies and gentlemen, the point is not to live as long as possible." Shambhala Sun has never covered the topic of Tendzin's murders, imposing a complete blackout on this topic. Although Tendzin is venerated by the Shambhaloids, who have reinvented him as a teacher with a "provocative" style, there is no information about him on the Shambhala Sun website, except for that one quote above, drawn from a doctor-devotee's essay.

No, instead of real information about their crash-and-burn gurus, the Shambhala Sun is working to shore up the reputation of Steven Seagal, who dropped out of the sky like the meteor in David Spade's hilarious sendup of redneck life, "Joe Dirt." The Seagal interview is by screenwriter Stanley Weiser ("Wall Street" 1989). His Seagal interview is so soft-brained, I thought maybe he wrote "The Karate Kid." It must be the air in Los Angeles; either that, or the number of gurus that swing through the town.

Whatever the cause, Weiser takes Seagal seriously, as only a fellow show-business person can. Willing suspension of disbelief is the key here. Seagal swings from one contradictory statement to another. First he says he was born with a spiritual bent, and that he's on earth only to do good. Then he admits he suffered delusions of grandeur when he was young, and now he understands things better. But his "better" understanding is the same one he had when he was young -- that he needs to achieve great spiritual wisdom to benefit human beings. He says he's meditated a long time, but then admits tantra confuses him. He says he wouldn't give a bribe to be called a tulku, but admits making large donations to religious organizations. He claims he keeps his donations secret, and complains that the press hasn't publicized his generosity. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's let the man speak for himself. All quotes are accurate, though they have been rearranged in order to highlight contradictions.

SEAGAL wrote:

Q: There are the recent reports that Penor Rinpoche has recognized you as a tulku. Is that correct?
A: ... Well, first of all, this a recognition that people have been telling me about for more than twenty years, people who have known me in the dharma for a long time, long, long before Penor Rinpoche ever formalized this.

In other words, "Yes, and it's long overdue."

SEAGAL wrote:

I was born with a serious spiritual consciousness and for many years studied different paths.

"You see, I've been spiritually advanced from birth, like all tulkus."

SEAGAL wrote:

I was confused in my youth: I thought that if I could spiritually feed myself to levels of great spiritual attainment then I could do greater things in the world and it would be good for me and therefore good for everyone else.

"I used to be impressed with my inborn wisdom-talent. Now I am beyond any delusions involving self-importance."

SEAGAL wrote:

I am here on this Earth for one thing and that is to see if I can somehow serve humankind and ease the suffering of others.

"Like all of the Great Ones, my mission is healing."

SEAGAL wrote:

It was something that I had always kept secret, and in fact denied.

"I have tried to hide my light from the world, actively concealing my divinity."

SEAGAL wrote:

So if I denied it then, why would I bribe people for it now?

"For that matter, why would I now argue in favor of my divinity when I have in the past denied it?"

SEAGAL wrote:

I have traditionally donated large sums of money to many different religious organizations ... in secret, but ... the press believes there is no profit in reporting good deeds.

"You will find no record of my donations anywhere, both because I hate publicizing good deeds, and because those damned reporters hate me."

SEAGAL wrote:

[P]eople ...said to me that I am an incarnate lama, or tulku.

"You know, it's just something you get used to."

SEAGAL wrote:

I was originally introduced to ... a handful of lamas who had come over from Tibet [who] were sick and had been tortured. [W]hen the Khampas were still fighting the Chinese and the CIA was helping them, and because of the severe repression of the Tibetan people, I wanted to get involved. ... it is probably best if we donít get into that. ...I donít want to appear to be a dangerous revolutionary person.

"I supported violent resistance, but that's top secret, and bad for my image. Nobody understands what it's like to be a secret agent bodhisattva."

SEAGAL wrote:

These were the years when my interest in Tibetan Buddhism flourished, but my involvement in any of the spiritual endeavors and training remained my personal businessónot secret as some of the other things were, but just private.

"I keep secrets, which are dark things I will not talk about. I also keep things private, about which I am happy to tell you, because I must use them as evidence of my long-time connection with all things Tibetan."

SEAGAL wrote:

I very much wanted to be invisible in the dharma community, for a lot of reasons. Only in the last few months have I come out of the closet.

"You won't be able to verify any of my claims, because like I said, it was private, because I didn't want the attention. Now I want the attention."

SEAGAL wrote:

Penor Rinpoche basically recognized me as Kyung-drak Dorje, who was the reincarnation of the translator Yudra Nyingpo.

"He didn't recognize me as Yudra Nyingpo, but he 'basically' recognized me as this other guy, who was his reincarnation."

SEAGAL wrote:

From the time that I started going to India and meditating I did start getting memories [of past lives] that were fairly unclear.

"Do not try to get any details out of me."

SEAGAL wrote:

Just a few days ago ... a lama ... said to me ... "you have a very good imprint of many strong past lives, and therefore your realization will come more swiftly than some peopleís."
Q: What did he mean by that?
A: I canít really explain it.

"Many lamas kiss my ass. Perhaps they have heard about my secret donations."

SEAGAL wrote:

Of course, as you practice longer, you will develop some different siddhis. But none of them really matters.

"For example, I am a huge man who could break your head with my fist. It's not important."

SEAGAL wrote:

... I have consistently said ... I donít believe it is very important who I was in my last lives, I think it is important who I am in this life...

"Let's talk about something I know about, okay?"

SEAGAL wrote:

I am not a highly realized being, I am not a great lama, I donít have any great practice.

"All of the Great Ones deny being great. I fit the mold."

SEAGAL wrote:

I am a very low person just trying to get to first base and the most basic practice of a bodhisattva. I am starting humble memorizations, meditations, and prayers.

"Of course, you already heard about the 27 years, the Tibetans recognizing me as divine, and my special talents in meditation, so you know this is just more of my humble schtick."

SEAGAL wrote:

I have been doing serious meditation in my own pitiful way for probably twenty-seven years.

"Have another helping!"

SEAGAL wrote:

Hopefully [by sitting with Trichen Rinpoche and Penor Rinpoche] I will absorb some knowledge or wisdom....

"Name dropping really works with Tibetan Buddhists, so bombs away!"

SEAGAL wrote:

Whenever I get too esoteric into the realms of tantric stuff, I get a little bit lost.

"I just keep it simple. Like Elvis Costello said, 'What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding?'"

SEAGAL wrote:

[T]he great obstacle was just a lack of understanding of the way.

"So glad I'm over that obstacle!"

SEAGAL wrote:

[W]hen I was in Japan, people tried to deify me, and the reason I left there was that deification is truly a death trap.

"A total dead end."

SEAGAL wrote:

That is a reason why I kept my spiritual practice to myself in America.

"Once people realize you're divine, it's all over. They will deify you. Didn't want to make the same mistakes here, so I just laid low."

SEAGAL wrote:

I donít think deification has been one of my biggest problems in life because I am lucky enough to have understood a long time ago what adoration and power really are about.

"I've just learned to take it in stride. I'm huge, I'm handsome, I'm rich. And on top of it all, I'm divine. The adulation is just part of the scene."

SEAGAL wrote:

I have given teachings recently. Always on Buddhaís teachings.

"If anyone will listen, I need the practice."

SEAGAL wrote:

When I walk into a room some people see a dog, some people see a cow. I am all of what they see. It is their perception.

"This sort of thing worked for Charlie Manson, why not for me? Just talk bullshit and let it roll."

SEAGAL wrote:

Buddhanature is in all of us, even in a mangy dog lying in the gutter with fleas. That dog is Buddha to me.

"I heard that some guy named Naropa saw his guru as a dog. I been thinkin' a lot about that."

SEAGAL wrote:

The Dalai Lama has said to me to concentrate on bodhicitta.

"He knows I make movies in which I kill lots of people."

SEAGAL wrote:

Q: The Dalai Lama gave you personal instructions about teaching?
A: I wouldnít say he has given me personal instructions about teaching.

"Just had to ask that, didn't you?"

SEAGAL wrote:

I donít really care what other people think of me or say about me.

"I swear I never think about it."

SEAGAL wrote:

Guru Rinpoche, the Lord Buddha and all the protectors, dakas and dakinis [give me solace].

"Blondes, bucks, flashy cars, all mean nothing to me. What I want is all stuff I can imagine in my head just as well without a dime in my pocket. In fact, I'm about to give away all my stuff, I'm feeling so solaced about it all."

SEAGAL wrote:

I want to be able to feed the children who are starving and sick in Tibet.

"But my arms aren't long enough."

SEAGAL wrote:

We are also trying recently to do something for people with eye problems in Tibet.

"That's me and some other people I can't mention."

[Dr. Larry Brilliant, Co-Founder of the SEVA Foundation] The night of the stroke, Jai called me and asked me to go to the hospital. And I went to the Kaiser Hospital on the peninsula, and I was there when they brought the ambulance in. And I thought he was dead. If not dead, there was a gossamer-thin thread that separated him from death....

He was in a very gentle and open space to the extent that he was there at all. It was pretty amazing, his recovery....

We've lost a lot of very good friends to very bad drugs. And we've seen the exalted spirit that certain psychedelics, under certain conditions, can bring. And it would be disingenuous to deny that, just as it would be disingenuous to deny that religious and mystical experience from fasting, meditating and yoga. For me, it opened up a new world that my very conventional, very middle-class upbringing in Detroit, Michigan wouldn't have opened for me, that my training in medical school would have, if anything, have forbidden me to see. So I'm deeply grateful for those times and those experiments....

How do I explain who Maharaji was, and how he did what he did? I don't have any explanation. Maybe it was his love of God. I can't explain who he was. I can almost begin to understand how he loved everybody. I mean, that was sort of his job. He was a saint. Saints are supposed to love everybody. That's not what has always so staggered me. What staggered me is not that he loved everybody, but that when I was sitting in front of him, I loved everybody. That was the hardest thing for me to understand. How he could so totally transform the spirit of people who were with him and bring out not just the best in us, but something that wasn't even in us, we didn't know. I don't think any of us were ever as good or as pure or as loving in our whole life as we were when we were sitting in front of him....

The most common word that he ever said was "Ram," God's name, and the second most common was "Jau," "get out of here." And all the Westerners who would come to him, attracted like a magnet, he would always say, "Go away. Go away." No, I don't think he wanted anything ever from me or from any of us. We tried to give him things. You couldn't give him money. You couldn't do anything for him. There was nothing that he needed....

You know, you can talk to, I don't know, a thousand people my age who went through the sixties, and you ask them "What was their first 'Ah hah'?" And for so many of them it was reading "Be Here Now." It was at one time the best-selling book in the English language, except for Ben Spock and the Bible....

There was a time when so many Western seekers went to India in search of the truth. Many experienced something which transformed them forever. A few could come back and articulate that transformation. Ram Dass allowed us to go along on his ride. Even after his stroke, Wavy said to him, "Look, Dick, you always go ahead of the rest of us and bring back what you've learned. Go back from this and tell us what we have to face as we get older and face the same kinds of problems."

-- Ram Dass: Fierce Grace, directed by Mickey Lemle

SEAGAL wrote:

Acting is an art ... art is the mother of religion; by becoming one with ourselves and nature, one becomes one with god.

"This is my best shot at profundity. Watch that I don't drown."

SEAGAL wrote:

[A]rt imitates life and its function should be a perfect and accurate interpretation of the way life really is, in all of its emanations.

"I learned about emanations recently. I like to use the word, but maybe this isn't the best way."

SEAGAL wrote:

I am not saying that I am a great artist; I am probably a poor artist.

"It is fun to be honest sometimes."

SEAGAL wrote:

I am an artist trying to perfect his craft, but at the same time I do have feelings about violence.

"I am drowning. Please help me."

SEAGAL wrote:

I was under a contract with Warner Brothers I could not get out of, and what they wanted me for was the male action films.

"I agreed to kill people on film in exchange for millions, not realizing I would someday want to pose as a man of peace. By the time this tulku option opened up, I was stuck."

SEAGAL wrote:

I was offered extraordinary sums of money by other studios to do different types of movies and Warner Brothers would not let me.

"Yeah, like I was gonna do "Hamlet" for the BBC, and a special with the Muppets."

SEAGAL wrote:

Now that Iím out of that situation, ... the kinds of films I would really like to do ... are spiritual in nature and ... will lead people into contemplation and offer them joy.

"Yeah, I'm going to do a dinosaur special for Discovery Channel."

SEAGAL wrote:

I am grateful for the ability that I have on the screen to bring people happiness and joy and the ability that I will have in the future to hopefully bring people into the path of contemplation.

"People have a lot of frustrations, and when my character breaks every bone in a villain's body by slamming him against every protuberance on a late-model BMW, then shoves him into the trunk and pushes the Beamer off a high-rise parking structure, it releases those frustrations, and that gives people joy. Then they can consider the path of contemplation, and how they can only kick the shit out of their enemies if they stay calm, like me."

SEAGAL wrote:

I consider my worst enemies and my worst sufferings to be my greatest teachers, so there is always another side to these negative forces.

"So people like Charles and Tara Carreon do not bother me at all. In fact, they are my greatest benefactors, because they show me how far I have to go."