If anyone wants perspective on Vajrayana Buddhism, Stephen Butterfield, now deceased, gave a detailed account of his own training in Vajrayana via Chogyam Trungpa and Ozel Tendsin. The title of Butterfield's memoir is The Double Mirror
I feel obligated to warn that though he appreciated the benefits he received from the Dharma practices he learned via Trungpa, Butterfield gave the impression that the problems did not stem from a dysfunctional teacher, but that much of the trouble originated in the organizational structure and doctrines of vajrayana itself, even when authentic, even when reliably transmitted. Those trying to cling to hopes that the tradition itself is trouble free and that only a bad apple teacher is the cause of the trouble are not going to enjoy this book.
But if you want to understand the context--namely causes and conditions--and are willing to tolerate the anxiety of asking some hard questions of a tradition you love--this book is well worth it.
Butterfield He makes a very convincing case that Trunpa especially, ran his organization in such a way that it massaged ego by inflaming ambition while constantly debunking ego.
Butterfield calls that 'the double message'--others would call it crazy making. He made it clear in this book that he loved Buddhist practice and that a severe lung problem he had actually improved when he dedicated himself to meditation practice. But the power abuses he observed within Vajradatu troubled him, and he bitterly regretted how he himself had failed to speak up on crucial issues.
Butterfield has a detailed descripton of the meditation practices used not only by beginning students but the more advanced practicds used to prepare oneself to receive and then practice the higher level tantric teachings (ngondro). He gives precise descriptions of how these affect the mind and how organizational features of Vajradhatu made it hard to take an adult autonomous stance. People who persisted in this tended to leave or were forced out.
Neverheless, the Vajradhatu version of Mahayana (Trungpa's version)may be at risk of converting the "great vehicle" into a self serving mechanism for supporting Vajradhatu,' Butterfield writes. Such risk is inherant in meditation itself, and in the anture of organizations, but it is aggravated by the guru principle.' (which was central to the tradition in which Chogyam Trunpa and his successors taught--and teach Corboy)
Buttefield again: "Political engagement, for the most part is left up to the individual (Buddhist practitioner). At times it has been overtly discouraged. Even on the pressing iBuddhist issue of opposing the Chinese destruction of Tibet, the Vajradhatu press was late to speak out or take a position, although its coverage of Budhists in Asian countries improved in the late 1980s. Ozel Tendzin (Chogyam Trungpas successor, chosen by Trunpa himself)was scornful of the "liberal conscience" of American Buddhists who opposed teh corrupt, shortsighted policies of the Reagan Administration in Central America. And Trungpa in his Seminary talks from the 1970s, often referred perjoratively to political demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience, using them as examples of a false, aggressive heroism whose purpose was more to affirm the ego of the demonstrator than to do anything constructive abou tthe problem.
Speaking of Trungpa, Butterfield continues: 'While he may have been right in some cases, his views always reflected his dislike of democracy' Butterfield noted. 'Proposals for membership control of his own organization were squashed; he once referred to them as "democratic farts" and walked out of a meeting in disgust when a student suggested that the audience vote on how late he could keep them up."
Butterfield, page 77.
And though Trunpa had the nerve and gall to express contempt for democracy, he was quite willing to exploit Americas generous immigration policies, of which his own sorry ass was a beneficiary. He also benefitted from US laws giving tax exemption to religious projects.
And though Trungpa criticised ego when it took the form of protesting unjust US policies in Central America, he set matters up at Vajradhatu so that ego was stimulated to climb the ladder and win his favor.
'The curriculum is presented through a hierarchy of forms that intensifies the mixed message behind seeking what you already have: enlighenment credentials are meaningless, said Trungpa, but you should definitely respect mine and here is a graded process for acquiring them. Although he deflated and his students scorned, the ego's desire for a higher, more spiritual more transcendental life, the whole Tibetan style lured me on with a promise of a higher more spiritual, more transcendental life.
'The system of the three yanas has an inherently elitist appeal. It triggers our desire to join the big shots, do the secret rituals, and find out what the masters really know. In my first contact with him, Trunpa undercut this elitism, he presented enlightenment as something anyone can have, right now. His message was too simple for intellectual analysis, you can do it, dont be a coward, cheer up.
Any sensible country school girl could have said the same thing.
'Yet he wore expensive suits and jewels, rode in a chauffered Mercedes, had servants, designed and awarded pins to symbolize levels of attainment in his programs, and was known to offer secret tantric instruction to selected disciples.
'Since he was telling me the truth about my own motives, I believed that if he did offer something transcendental, it would be real thing, not a plastic manipulation.
'But the ego, which supposedly did not exist, was both deflated and fully engaged. Teh impetus behind the journey came as much from the desire to earn one of his pins and hold a title in his organization as from a genuine longing to wake up, or an altruistic wish to benefit sentient beings.'The Double Mirror
, Stephen Butterfield, page 43
It turns out that Stephen Butterfield not only got involved with, and then wrote an expose on Trungpa's rendition of Buddhism, but he had earlier become involved with Amway, did well at it, and then had misgivings and wrote an exposure about it as well!
This was a man able to admit he had made mistakes and then was generous enough to put himself on the line and write material to keep other people from falling into the traps he'd walked so trustfully into.
(Review of The Double Mirror by Stephen Butterfield
In Memoriam, March 6, 2002
Raised in New England, Steve was well-indoctrined in our culture of plain speaking and no b.... For a time, opposition to the war and formation of a union occupied his best efforts, as well as an active teaching career.
Then he discovered Tibetan Buddhism. What appealed to him most, I think, was its attack on vanity. When you strip away all the high-flown, hypocritical ideals that lead us hither and yon, what is left?
Steve thus entered the cult already possessing what it had to offer, and not knowing it. One of the key tenets of Buddhism is no b.... (perfect honesty is the path of Nirvana). He practised that with might and with main.
His total honesty in this book led the cult to reject him, and they refused to officiate at his funeral. One of his last memories was of standing unadmitted outside the hall listening to the drunken party going on inside and feeling hurt and rejected. The thing that made him hurt, that was his soul. He had one. I should know, I was his brother.
and from his brother:
Amway: The Cult of Free Enterprise
by Stephen Butterfield Edition: Hardcover
In Memoriam, March 7, 2002
Steve was a very successful Amway person, making about 80K per year on it. Knowing what kind of person he was, I held aloof in disbelief as he tried to drag me into the cult.
That is part of the Amway method, to drag the friends and relatives in. He played the game up to the hilt, but stopped short of total success.
Later he redeemed himself by publishing this book.
You should know that the book was used in evidence in a case against Amway. Steve was a witness.
Steve's intent was to show clearly how "ye cannot serve both God and Mammon." He does state that he was never willing to give up his immortal soul. According to him, the cult takes over your entire life and you cannot hold any values that are not directed to making money for them (and yourself).
I know this because he was my brother. For you, Steve, now that you cannot speak for yourself.
These are organizations that do not give you full disclosure up front. Butterfield, from his brother's accounts, sought to remedy this by providing such information.
Providing information to assist people to make a fully informed decision about potential risk is service to all sentient beings.
Providing this kind of information--and going through the hell of enduring depositions and being cross examined on the witness stand in court is, really and truly, to put one's body on the line.
Stephen Butterfield suffered from sarcoidosis and it affected his lungs and led to his early death. It is difficult enough to endure the tension of giving testimony in an adversarial lawsuit, even when one is young and healthy. To do so when struggling with a serious chronic illness, especially one that affects the lungs, organs whose function is easily compromised by stress, would require the utmost courage.
Admitting one's mistakes and providing information about two high demand organizations to assist potential recruits or those with misgivings is refreshingly different from a pattern that shows up all too often in the so called Dharma world.
In the name of right speech and guru devotion, it is all too common for old timers, presons genuinely troubled about their guru or sangha, to talk about their concerns between themselves, but to keep such discussions secret and segrgated only between old timers.
These same old timers go silent about these troubles and conceal them from new arrivals on the principle of...dont tell-the-newbies-about-the-actual problems-we-are-havingwe-dont-want-to-make-the-Dharma-look-bad-or-discourage-the-newbies-they-are-not-ready-to-hear-this.
By the time the newbies are allowed to know about the troubling issues, the problems may well have grown more entrenched. And....the newbies are no longer newbies. They are old timers, cant stand to admit they made a mistake because they invested too much time or money--or cant stand to admit they colluded in harmdoing.
So they perpetuate the pattern of secrecy by with holding family secrets from the next generation of new arrivals, and claim this lying by omission is right speech.
What is especially annoying is that some of these secret keeping old timers the very ones who claim that newbies 'cant understand these matters' and infantalize them, go on to claim that the guru is corrupted because the newbies only want easy Dharma.
The secret keeping old timers refuse to see they too are participating in the causes and conditions of abuse by colluding and concealing a hurtful sangha's family secrets and a pattern of infantalizing new arrivals by with-holding information they need in order to make adult and informed decisions about the long term costs, social, emotional, financial, if they get involved with this particular sangha.
Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 04/21/2009 10:42PM by corboy.