[Buddha-l] Enlightenment for Sale! (was: Review of a review)
franz at mind2mind.net
Wed Jun 30 14:17:42 MDT 2010
Barnaby et al.,
> Didn't you recently say a true dharma teacher must embody the dharma
> and actualize it in their teachings? It's hard for me to see how you
> can say that someone's marketing is disingenuous and exploitative,
> but their teaching is valid.
Yes, for me as well. But I'm not sure I'd say that Genpo's marketing
is either of those two things. He's quite up-front about charging
large sums to some people to subsidize others. They organization
claims to plough the Big Heart Circle funds back into the larger
operation of teaching dharma. I fully agree that, as you write,
"teachers should be very much held accountable for how they market
themselves." They way in which I want to hold Genpo particularly
accountable is to the freedom of the dharma from commodification.
David McMahan has expressed the stakes here very well in his latest
book, _The Making of Buddhist Modernism_ (New York: Oxford University
Press, 2008). Sorry to quote at such length, but it's a really *good*
> Buddhist modernism dissipates into the immense machinery of media-
> driven consumption, becoming not only a means for selling products
> but a product itself. From the point on the continuum where Buddhism
> becomes a purely personalized mode of self-help with scant ethical
> ramifications to where it becomes a mere commercial trope, it is
> accommodated so thoroughly to the values of western (and
> increasingly globalizing) popular culture and its consumerism and
> commercialism that its capacity to critique these elements of
> contemporary culture--for which Buddhism has such ample resources--
> is neutralized (McMahan 2008, 261).
It is this neutralization that concerns me in American Buddhism in
general and in Genpo's marketing in particular. Does this mean that I
have to consider Genpo an inadequate dharma teacher? I don't think so.
I think I'd have to meet him and study with him--and even then I might
not know. He seems not to be disingenuous. But what about
exploitative? Hmmm. Living in California--as I do, too--I am very
aware of the false dichotomy between spiritual teachings and their
methods of conveyance (on various levels including teaching authority,
cost, commitment, etc.). So of course I didn't think you were being
snarky (love that adjective), but rather sincerely expressing your
worry. These are dark waters and hard to plumb.
I will suggest one amendment to your position, though: I think Santa
Fe has both SF and LA beat on the enlightenment-for-sale market. But
of course only per capita. Richard might be able to gather data on
this for us.
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