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Feb 4

Reactions to the Wickwire Holm Report

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Opening this space for reactions to and discussions about the report that has been published, available here.


Have you read it? What do you think?

Feb 5

I didn't like the credence given to witness accounts of one of the claimants character. The claims of sexual assault were not substantiated in this case. A criminal investigation may find otherwise but I can understand why women were reluctant to engage in this process. Especially as it involved naming themselves to the accused.


On a positive note, the tide has turned and the work of BPS has instigated this.

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  • This was written for an audience unfamiliar with Buddhism, so apologies if I cover some unnecessary ground, but wanted to share here as well. Dedications like these always do it for me. I love the eloquence, and the meaning behind the words, as well as their poignancy:  "May the ever-expanding wisdom and compassion of the mahayana Draw us out of our complacent self-concern Into the liberating and challenging playground of the peaceful bodhisattva warrior. May the world enjoy peace, and may all beings be freed from ignorance and suffering." Most Buddhist works, texts, or talks come with a dedication similar to this. A couple points to help with understanding: Buddhism has three general paths, or 'vehicles.' Mahayana translates as 'greater vehicle,' and is the point when one's practice ceases to be focused on their own improvement and progress towards enlightenment, and becomes focused on others'. Because 'enlightenment' is a pretty wishy washy term, it can be more concretely recognized as increasing realization and the cessation of suffering, which kind of go hand in hand - Buddhists understand attachment as being the root of suffering. Attachment in many circumstances can be understood as expectation; we suffer when our expectations differ from our reality - by increasing our degree of realization we bring our expectations more into line with reality. We still suffer hardships, but no longer have the additional difficulty of suffering due to a mismatch of expectations; rather, we are able to relate with and execute the practice of working through hardships with a relative sense of joy and buoyancy. The ever expanding is a reference to the limitless nature of these qualities, and also their continual growth. We could talk more about the relationship between wisdom and compassion, and how they enable each other; this is developed language within the Buddhist tradition, but our everyday understandings of these words suffice fairly well. I love the phrase 'complacent self-concern.' Just ....speaks volumes. How much good is left on the table because we traditionally cannot see beyond our own self-interest? The 'liberating and challenging playground of the peaceful bodhisattva warrior' lots to unpack here. Starting backwards: 'peaceful bodhisattva warrior' peaceful - no surprise, Buddhist vows of nonviolence etc. That's pretty well known. Bodhisattva - a person who has taken a vow to withhold from realizing their own enlightenment until all other sentient beings are enlightened. Traditionally, these are people who have reached the final stages of the 'hinayana,' or path focused on individual enlightenment. Highly accomplished, very dedicated in their practice, yet hold back from the final goal in order to help others along the same path - very noble beings. Opening up the definition a little, it is easy to see how this applies to anyone putting the good of others ahead of their own gain. Charitable work is definitely bodhisattva work! There is real depth to the bodhisattva concept / ideal though, it gets very nuanced and subtle. Just to highlight, there are separate discussions around 'idiot compassion' (which can be understood as a form of enabling behaviour), and occasionally a bodhisattva may do something quite shocking and uncharacteristic of a 'peaceful being,' in order to help people realize the limits to their own conceptual understanding - bodhisattva work often has, but does not require, a peaceful and non-confrontational form. The end results of realization is the more important piece. The warrior concept comes in because it takes a certain warrior mentality to be willing to make sacrifices for the greater good. But again, lots of language around this, creating a different conception from the standard: the weapons this warrior wields are those of tenderness, compassion and discriminating awareness, which creates a nice distinction from our typical view. These require real strength to be able to invoke and use; often we are shielding our tenderness and boxing up our compassion, to be shared only with those we deem worthy of receiving it. 'Liberating and challenging playground' I love this description for life. What could be more true? Liberating others is both the goal and challenge of the bodhisattva. Making the vow to benefit others is both very liberating and very challenging. Not having to live to fuel one's own ego is very liberating - just think of how many people are, right now, suffering because they are trying to live up to the expectations others have of them, or their own perfectionist tendencies ? 'I have to be pretty, I have to be a certain weight , I have to be funny , I can't go against the grain' ... all these 'I have tos' boil down into a string of self-centered thoughts. 'I...I...I...' it is very liberating to put our preoccupation with yourself down and focus primarily on others. There's a growing amount of science to back me up on this, but it's easy to see how an over-engaged focused on one's own self often could lead cross the boundary into unhealthy thinking that ultimately erodes one's sense of basic confidence. It's also easy to see how a focus on helping others would reinforce that same sense. Creating good in the world for someone else is one of the most surefire ways to increase the sense of good-feeling we have in our own lives. Also mirrors the expression 'the search for happiness is the end of happiness' - the search implies a lack, which can easily be found once we stop searching for ourselves and start looking to see how we may enable others to realize theirs. Again, it goes deep. Lots of words have been written about this. It is also very challenging to do; people react in ways that are difficult to predict, and all one can do is bring their best efforts, and seek to expand both their wisdom and skillful means. Both wisdom and skillful means play a prominent role in Buddhist teachings and practice, and are flip sides of the same coin. And playground - love it. Borrowing from Hinduism for a moment, lila is the act that their gods engage in. Lila translates as play, the idea being what else does a god, who has no needs, spend their time doing? They spend their time in play - their games may look very different from the ones we have , but the idea is that it's almost leisurely, and inconsequential to them. The inconsequential bit doesn't really translate over to the Buddhist understanding - we are all mortal, after all. This existence is our existence, good or bad. There are consequences. But that levity of play carries through; more often than not a heavy sense of seriousness is a result of an ego feeling threatened somewhere. For those with no ego, there are no threats. And the last line - well, that one is pretty straightforward. Thanks for sticking with me through this long-winded thought. I wanted to share the dedication with you, and I hope it resonates with and lifts you in the same way it does for me. In sincerity and solidarity - cheers
  • As I was reading The Path to Individual Liberation, I came across the following statement: "You do not need to have a bureaucracy of meditative techniques. Dignity is not based on self and other...and the more you let go, the more dignity takes place." So much emphasis within many forms of Buddhism, early Shambhala teachings in particular, is placed on practices that are universally accessible - shamatha and vipassana. In Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, as well as in countless other places, Chogyam Trungpa discusses, at length, the dangers of building up a hierarchy of practice. From there, Trungpa raises the idea of meditation-in-action, and post-meditation practice, which ultimately becomes equally important to the act of sitting. Sitting is the practice, and the fuel, for our post-meditation practice, which essentially become the intentions and actions of our life outside of sitting practice. It could be said that it is the post-meditation work that transforms our realization into actualization. Sitting is for ourselves. It is through the post-meditation work that it comes to benefit others - a simple example would be a habitually angry person, confronting, befriending and transcending their anger through extended shamatha/vipassana practice. They may have major realizations and breakthroughs while sitting, but if that fails to translate to their life outside of sitting practice, the realization has borne little fruit for anyone, including the angry person themselves. I have a hard time reconciling these two dynamics - on the one hand, there is a base, as in fundamental, practice that is both required and sufficient for developing realization. On the other, there are a plethora of techniques, usually behind some form of pay-wall, or hierarchy. Taking a lesson from the corporate world, hierarchies tend to do more to fuel egos than to diffuse them. It makes a lot of practical sense to have a wide-ranging tool-set for helping us achieve actualization in our post-meditation practice, and to deepen the degree of our individual and collective realization. But I am left to wonder - at what point are we ceasing to practice effectively and beginning to act out of a distorted sense of pride? Here is a parallel. I am an accountant. Personal taxes - at least in Canada, where I live, tend to be pretty straightforward. If you are in the top 1%, sure, there's a lot more to it, but for the vast majority of individuals, a program like TurboTax will take care of you end to end for about 20 bucks, no matter what you've got going on. For many years, companies like H&R Block, whose bread and butter is tax-filings, would charge on a sliding scale, ranging from that same price up to a few hundred bucks, depending on how many different things you have going on. As a brief aside, I am happy to say now, their pricing has moved a LOT closer to TurboTax's and doesn't seem to be quite so...hefty. Here's the point: the business model was get them while they are young, teach a form of learned dependence, and profit from them for the rest of their life. A few years ago, H&R Block offered their cheapest pricing to students, and would provide an instant refund. Many students used this service, and never learned how to do taxes themselves (or to operate a software directly that would do their taxes for them). Once they graduated, the price of H&R Block's service would escalate, sometimes quickly, based on the increased perceived complexity of the return. The perception here is important, as that is what the sale is based on. All the while, the same 20 dollar program would fulfill the individual's needs. Cutting Through offers quotes at length regarding this, but here is one that may be particularly worth considering: "It is important to see that the main point of any spiritual practice is to step out of the bureacracy of ego. This means stepping out of ego's constant desire for a higher, more spiritual, more transcendental version of knowledge, religion, virtue, judgment, comfort or whatever it is that the particular ego is seeking. One must step out of spiritual materialism. If we do not step out of spiritual materialism, if we in fact practice it, then we may eventually find ourselves possessed of a huge collection of spiritual paths. We may feel these spiritual collections to be very precious. We have studied so much. We may have studied Western philosophy or Oriental philosophy, practiced yoga or perhaps have studied under dozens of great masters. We have achieved and we have learned. We believe that we have accumulated a hoard of knowledge. And yet, having gone through all this, there is still something to give up. It is extremely mysterious! How could this happen? Impossible! But unfortunately it is so. Our vast collections of knowledge and experience are just part of ego's display, part of the grandiose quality of ego. We display them to the world and, in so doing, reassure ourselves that we exist, safe and secure, as 'spiritual' people." And then - he continues with a wonderful metaphor of having created a shop, and seeking to fill it up. I guess the question I am left with is: what do you gain out of the seal of the scorpion practice that you do not out of shamatha & vipassana ? I am hoping someone is able to offer insight or realization on this. Is there anyone who has taken those teachings who is able to comment? You don't need to explain them, or divulge any secrets...just, I would appreciate any discussion of their value. What did you get from them? From my current (ignorant as it is!) perspective - it seems similar to H&R Block above - charging hundreds, or I suppose in this case thousands? of dollars for a teaching where the simple version would do.
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