Temple on a Trash Heap

This title sounds like an inspiring metaphor for some simple holiness possible in the midst of our complex, fallen world. And that’s not a bad potential topic. But this morning it’s an image that arrived unbidden as I continue to contemplate, synthesize, and come to terms with how it is American Soto Zen Buddhism has (to borrow a crude line from a very funny movie) gone “full retard”. This is to say that they recently went right ahead and declared themselves the spiritual vanguard of the neo-Marxist cultural revolution. In practice, this means they have outed themselves as a Maoist brainwashing cult.

Go to any given Soto Zen center today and, after you are sufficiently softened up by some hours of mind-opening meditation and ritual activity, you are more likely than not to be subjected to an alarming lecture, sensitively delivered in dulcet tones, about ecocidal human-caused climate change, the civilization-ending evils of fracking, spooky but invisible white supremacy, the threat of male toxicity, the rise of Trumpian fascism, the need to abolish border enforcement and capitalism, and the overwhelming moral obligation to #resist. Om Mani Padme Hum. All the standard, unquestionable socialist gobbledygook; a uniform code of the in turns bullying/nah nah nah I can’t hear you contemporary left, carved deep into the proverbial gates.

This year I got out. I #walkedaway: from the lies, the emotional blackmail, the manipulations, the indoctrination. As I reflect on how I got so far down the road tolerating this stuff, I see that I basically just compartmentalized. Mine and others’ moderately left-leaning sympathies were taken advantage of. I’ve realized that I could avoid going to the suggested Occupy sit ins, the climate marches, the separate queer/female/youth/brown sitting groups no one wanted or attended, the BLM/Antifa rallies, and I did, concentrating onshawshank positive aspects of life and more personal forms of social support; what I couldn’t avoid was the utterly demoralizing world view this all uniformly presents as background. It infects you. It’s not just a couple mistaken views. It’s a monstrous mountain of propaganda and lies, and even more dangerous half-truths. Questions were not allowed. Discussions were suppressed. Epithets, shaming, and ostracizing were performed. Welcome to American Alt-Leftism. Almost everything they decry as evils in some projected other are shadows they’re refusing themselves to own, and integrate.

So I’ve busted loose. A broken cog. A thrown rod. I’m not the only one lately to invoke the image of Tim Robbins in his Shawshank Redemption break-through-the-earth-moment: covered in shit, ecstatically stretching his arms to heaven, he breathes deep fresh air, a free-ish man – born of water and earth, in darkness. American Zen has been possessed by the partisan, relentlessly doctrinaire tenets of “Engaged Buddhism”. Without grounds in Buddha’s actual teaching in which to root their often misguided social crusades, most Zen leaders have built a doctrinal temple on the landfill of postmodern identitarian leftism, in actual service to which this plastic altruism is geared. Tedious sermons are proclaimed from this noxious presumed moral high ground (mountain seat?), by preachers who mostly have no idea who’s really pulling their jaw strings. No matter how sublime the design of the building up there, how fancy the robes, it’s still just a shack sitting on the unstable, corpse-laden mound that is Marxism’s enduring monument. I pray that other people continue to speak up as we confront this ideological pandemic.


7 thoughts on “Temple on a Trash Heap”

  1. Norman Fischer, in his Everyday Zen podcast from last week, admitted that maybe espousing progressive political ideology during dharma talks wasn’t such a great idea after all. He’s a pretty big one to have come to that realization. Maybe, hopefully, more will wake up to that fact.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Do you have a link? I’m curious to hear what he has to say. Also, I wanted to say that I don’t think these people should be hiding it either. They don’t even know they should question their ideas because everyone is just so down with the revolution. I don’t know why they all accept this adulation, and moreover, how they can accept all this racism, and straight communism. It’s such sheer ignorance: historical, social, psychological, not to mention spiritual. What have these people been practicing all these years?


  2. Titus,
    Thanks very much for speaking out and acting. I’ve had discussions with a close dharma relative for a while now about these goings on and have recently begun a discussion with my teacher. I’ve very rapidly lost respect for a good many prominent teachers because of these delusional and ultimately self-serving agendas. I almost flew across the country to attend the SZBA conference at Mt. Tremper. When reading the repentance statement in their latest newsletter, I knew that I was at a crossroads with regard to my participation in the larger American Soto organization. I was ordained as a novice about a year and a half ago, and am now committed more than ever to do what I can to uphold this Universal practice for ANY individual. Your words are very appreciated by this practitioner.
    Kanzan John Slattery


    1. Wow, thank you so much. I speak for myself, but have hoped that it might give someone encouragement or courage, somewhere. I am hearing that my somewhat drastic possibly desperate actions are having some rippling effects. Glad you found the post. Hang in there, brother.


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