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Deception, Corruption and Truth

Commentary by Suzanne Duarte

   Hell is the truth realized too late. ~ E.O. Wilson [1], Harvard biologist

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Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, 1975 (Photo by Paul C. Kloppenberg)

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It is said that when a great teacher passes, as Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche did in 1987, his or her students each carry particular teachings from that teacher that they then have the responsibility to bring to fruition in their lives.  This is how lineage is carried on.  I received many transmissions from Trungpa Rinpoche, but after he died several specific aspects of his teachings rose to consciousness, bringing an urgent sense of my obligation to fulfill them.  These pieces came as little energetic packets of information—or ‘medicine’—about my ‘mission’ that had his stamp on them.  I don’t know how else to explain it.  These ‘messages’ usually came to me while I was on retreat and they shaped the path that would subsequently unfold in my life.

Two of the ‘messages’ I received (on two separate retreats) had to do with two dharmic values that the Vidyadhara embodied, which were reinforced in me by his example.  Those values are consideration and concern for future generations and the importance of being truthful, which are related with each other.  After receiving these messages after he died, I began to understand that our personal adherence to the truth – or honesty – in the present is essential for the sanity and wellbeing of future generations, and thus for the continuity of the dharma.  That neither truth nor concern about future generations is a value that is widely held or respected in mainstream Western societies has become increasingly apparent to me since the Vidyadhara died, which has served to sharpen my focus on the importance of these values. 

The Vidyadhara and his Kagyu and Nyingma lineages had a great deal of foresight and always acted on behalf of future beings.  This was the force behind the Rimé movement in the 19th century, which helped to preserve sacred teachings in Tibet for future generations.  Trungpa Rinpoche expressed his concern about the future in the Sadhana of Mahamudra and in his Shambhala teachings.  I was already concerned about our collective future before I met Rinpoche in 1972, but when I found myself reciting the Sadhana of Mahamudra the first time I walked into a Dharmadhatu (aka Shambhala Center), that clinched it for me.  That shared concern for the future was the main reason I became his student and it fueled my devotion to him. 

Trungpa Rinpoche went to great lengths to make sure his students understood that we are the beneficiaries of the work and sacrifices of many generations of dharma practitioners and teachers whose explicit intention was to benefit future generations of human beings.  In the summer of 1976 or 1977, at a Naropa Institute lecture at the Sacred Heart school auditorium, I heard Trungpa Rinpoche describe his 500-year vision of how the dharma could be kept alive through the Dark Age of materialism, and thus enable future generations to maintain awakened mind in difficult circumstances.  He called this vision Enlightened Society, which is elaborated in his Shambhala teachings on warriorship.  He founded Shambhala Training in the late 1970s specifically to build the foundations for an enlightened society. 

In 2000, when George W. Bush showed up on the American horizon, the truth aspect of the Vidyadhara’s teachings – his consistent directive to adhere fearlessly to the truth, both within ourselves and with each other – began to echo recurrently in my mind.  Surrendering to the truth – even when bitter – and integrating the wisdom offered is the spiritual practice that enables the path to unfold.  After all, when we enter the stream of Buddhadharma by taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, we vow to free ourselves from delusion, acknowledging that ignorance and delusion cause suffering for ourselves and others.  The cure for delusion is to face the truth, the facts of reality.

As Trungpa Rinpoche said in “Just the Facts [2]:

Dharma literally means “truth” or “norm.” It is a particular way of thinking, a way of viewing the world, which is not a concept but experience. This particular truth is very painful truth — usually truths are.  It rings with the sound of reality, which comes too close to home. We become completely embarrassed when we begin to hear the truth. It is wrong to think that the truth is going to sound fantastic and beautiful, like a flute solo. The truth is actually like a thunderbolt. It wakes you up and makes you think twice whether you should stay in the rain or move into the house. Provocative. . . .

Sacredness doesn’t come in the form of religion, as a savior notion. The sacredness is the truthfulness. . . .  At this point, believing in miracles is an obstacle.  There is great room, on the other hand, for our minds to open, give [in] and face facts. Literally to face the facts: the facts of reality, the facts of pain, the facts of boredom.

Our world, this particular world, our Dharma, our truth, needs to be acknowledged and needs immense surrendering—not just a one-shot deal. Without this first Dharma, understanding the truth and our relationship to the truth, we could not go further.

Trungpa Rinpoche himself was fearlessly honest and up-front, and he had an unnerving, cosmic sense of humor.  He abhorred deception and pretense, deplored cowardice, and was compassionately precise in exposing it – a characteristic that discomforted many students.  Someone once said that the role of the spiritual friend is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.  This was exemplified by Trungpa Rinpoche. 

His emphasis on truth as sacred dharma confirmed my intuitive conviction that lies and deception are corrosive.  Lies and deception create fragmentation, confusion, and degradation.  Cleaving to truth gives us strength, backbone, and is essential for maintaining integrity and sanity, whereas lying fragments our integrity and therefore weakens us.  Deception also sows corruption in our social milieu, like a virus in the collective psyche.  Truth sets things right and restores sanity, at least for a little while, until the virus of corruption erupts again.

During George W. Bush’s presidential campaign in 2000, the pretence and deception were so transparent that I could not understand how so many people could fall for it.  Bush’s election was ‘dodgy,’ to say the least, but he got in, and the fact that so many people were so easily deceived did not bode well for the future.  Indeed, a virus of corruption erupted during the Bush II administration, and that virus seemed to spread to other countries due to the American political and economic hegemony that existed when Bush took office – as if the world said, “If they do it in American, it must be okay.” 

I cite the example of the Bush II years to illustrate the relationship between deception, corruption and collective suffering, which is the converse of the relationship between truth (dharma) and the wellbeing of future generations.  Although the corruption in the Bush administration may not have exceeded by orders of magnitude that of other corrupt American administrations, it was nevertheless a dramatic example of the old adage that “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

In any case, my conviction in the value of honesty and my visceral antipathy towards deception kept my attention riveted to the shenanigans of the second Bush administration. There seemed to be no end to the lies, hypocrisy, secretiveness, cover-ups, disinformation, denial and distortion of scientific findings (e.g., global warming!), intrigues, scandals, fraud, subterfuge, and evasion that came out of that administration or were permitted by it.

It seems significant that the Bush II years were marked by numerous scandals in the United States, beginning in October 2001 with the Enron scandal [3] – the largest corporate scandal in American history, which involved Bush’s good friend Ken Lay.  And just before Bush left office, another gigantic scandal erupted in December 2008 with revelations of the $65 billion fraud case against Bernard Madoff [4] – “the largest investor fraud ever committed by a single person,” which has had devastating effects on many sangha people.  We can’t blame all of this on Mr. Bush, but a culture of deception and corruption did proliferate during his administration, and now we can watch (and experience) the ripening of the karma as the United States and the global economy suffer the economic consequences.  

On July 12, 2009, an article in The Independent [5] reported on the State of the Future,” the largest single report to look at the future of the planet.  Entitled “The planet’s future: Climate change ‘will cause civilisation to collapse,’” the article says:

The impact of the global recession is a key theme, with researchers warning that global clean energy, food availability, poverty and the growth of democracy around the world are at “risk of getting worse due to the recession.” The report adds: “Too many greedy and deceitful decisions led to a world recession and demonstrated the international interdependence of economics and ethics.”

Although the future has been looking better for most of the world over the past 20 years, the global recession has lowered the State of the Future Index for the next 10 years. Half the world could face violence and unrest due to severe unemployment combined with scarce water, food and energy supplies and the cumulative effects of climate change.

This report vividly illustrates the effects of deception and corruption. “Too many greedy and deceitful decisions” lead to collective suffering in the future because deception and corruption are entropic.  They create disorder and degradation, ruptures in the fabric of reality, and are therefore, by definition, unsustainable.  It doesn’t matter how many people buy into the deception and participate in the corruption, there is no safety in numbers.  Rationalizing that ‘everybody does it’ provides no cover.  The rotten karma will still ripen.  And the more widespread the deception and corruption are, the more people get hurt.  In the case of climate change, for example – which the Bush administration denied for 8 years, delaying action to mitigate the effects – the collective suffering could go on for centuries. 

But what does all this have to do with the dharma and why talk about this on RFS?  Corruption can and does occur on a spiritual level as well as in the political economy.  Spiritual corruption begins when we depart from the truth, the dharma.  When we deceive ourselves, we inevitably deceive others, which starts the degenerative cycle of corruption.

In fact, the Vidyadhara said that deception creates samsara (cyclic existence and suffering due to ignorance and delusion):

With tremendous deception, we create samsara — pain and misery for the whole world, including ourselves – but we still come off as if we were innocent.  We call ourselves ladies and gentlemen, and we say, “I never commit any sins or create any problems. I’m just a regular old person, blah blah blah.”  That snowballing of deception and the type of existence our deception creates are shocking.

You might ask, “If everybody is involved with that particular scheme or project, then who sees the problem at all?  Couldn’t everybody just join in so that we don’t have to see each other that way?  Then we could just appreciate ourselves and our snowballing neuroses, and there would be no reference point whatsoever outside of that.”  Fortunately — or maybe unfortunately — we have one person who saw that there was a problem.  That person was known as Buddha. 

(From “Introduction” to The Truth Of Suffering And The Path Of Liberation, edited by Judith Lief, Shambhala Publications 2009.)

No matter how many people believe a lie, it’s still a lie, and it still creates samsara, corruption, karma, and suffering – a setting sun world.  The lie has to be exposed.  To be permissive of deception is to collude with it and corrupt ourselves. This is the Buddha’s painful and embarrassing truth that “comes too close to home.”  But, since it’s the Buddha’s truth, there is still good news: recognizing deception and corruption and realizing the truth releases the energy that has been locked up in evasion, and that is the energy we use to liberate ourselves and walk the path of dharma.   

Allegiance with the truth, no matter the cost, enables us to remain in integrity, connected with reality, one with the dharma.  We have to look beneath the deceptive surface of ‘normality’ to glean the truth of things as they are – whether about ourselves or about our world.  Being open to seeing the truth, rather than shying away from it, arouses our creative energy, raises our lungta, and turns the poison of delusion into medicine – insight.  Of course, it is certainly best to catch deception before we become involved in corruption, for then we might think we have too much to lose by facing the truth – which is the ultimate deception that creates samsara.  

As the Vidyadhara said, surrendering to the truth isn’t a one-shot deal.  It is a continuous process of unmasking ourselves, cutting through deception, through spiritual materialism and all the other tricks of ego that are reinforced by our conditioning in the setting-sun world.  Our wisdom co-emerges with our confusion when we are willing to catch ourselves in deception and surrender to the truth. 

The energy of truth uplifts us and takes us forward in a dharmic direction, the direction of enlightened society.  Enlightened Society is our hope for the future of humanity and of the dharma, and that hope resides in being honest and truthful with ourselves and each other.

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#1 Comment By John Tischer On July 21, 2009 @ 9:32 pm

Excellent article, Suzanne. Thanks for the time and effort! J.T.

#2 Comment By George Klima On July 21, 2009 @ 9:55 pm

Thank you

#3 Comment By Christopher Huck On July 21, 2009 @ 11:19 pm

Hola Suzanne,
Laurita and I are traveling to Amsterdam in August, en route to the Chakrasavara Abhisheka in Belgium to be given by VV Tenga Rinpoche. Perhaps we could meet up for a glass of wine, or a meal? Let me know how to contact you directly.
Cheers,
Christopher Huck

#4 Comment By madeline schreiber On July 22, 2009 @ 7:51 am

Suzanne Duarte describes her experiences this way:

“These pieces came as little energetic packets of information—or ‘medicine’—about my ‘mission’ that had his stamp on them. I don’t know how else to explain it. These ‘messages’ usually came to me while I was on retreat and they shaped the path that would subsequently unfold in my life.”

I have also had experiences that could be described this way. Recently one such experience happened within the protection circle of the Vajrayogini sadhana and feast offering in Halifax. It took the form of a haiku-like three line poem.

Already a young boy,
he doesn’t need us now;
he will need us later on

eh ma ho
madeline
nova scotia

#5 Comment By Mark Hobbs On July 22, 2009 @ 9:50 am

Your poignant article really voiced much of what has been conscious to many during this Dark Age. The epic spiritual battle that we are in is in many ways no different than the battle that the Buddha faced with Mara on a more social and cultural level.

The 16th Karmapa commented, when visiting America, that Buddhadharma would burn like a wild fire in the West. Most likely he was looking many lifetimes into the future but we can already see that many educated people have taken the teachings to heart.

#6 Comment By Andrew Safer On July 22, 2009 @ 11:19 am

Thank you for this, Suzanne.

You wrote:

“It doesn’t matter how many people buy into the deception and participate in the corruption, there is no safety in numbers. Rationalizing that ‘everybody does it’ provides no cover. The rotten karma will still ripen. ”

And you quoted Trungpa Rinpoche:

“You might ask, ‘If everybody is involved with that particular scheme or project, then who sees the problem at all? Couldn’t everybody just join in so that we don’t have to see each other that way? Then we could just appreciate ourselves and our snowballing neuroses, and there would be no reference point whatsoever outside of that.’ Fortunately — or maybe unfortunately — we have one person who saw that there was a problem. That person was known as Buddha. ”

(From “Introduction” to The Truth Of Suffering And The Path Of Liberation, edited by Judith Lief, Shambhala Publications 2009.)

This reminds me of a section from The Rules of Victory: How to Transform Chaos and Conflict by James Gimian and Barry Boyce (Boston: Shambhala, 2008)

“Even worse is how we tend to distort perception through groupthink–whereby no one is willing to share with the group anything he or she sees that lies outside what the group holds to be true–and with calamitous consequences. NASA went through several tragic disasters as a result of this phenomenon. Some military and government leaders have pointed out a pernicious form of groupthink they call ‘incestuous amplification.’ It occurs when a group of people share a view so deeply that they believe something more strongly in the group than any of the individuals would believe on their own.

“Former senator Bob Graham ponted out the dangers of this in a Senate speech on the topic of intelligence reform in the United States: ‘The only people who were at the table are people who have the same point of view. Their views are then vetted through people who again share the same beliefs. As a result, the oiriginal conclusion is not only validated, it is amplified. After the attacks of Septembger 11, the intelligence community was accused of failing to connect the dots. Incestuous amplification is unlikely to either connect the dots or expand the number of dots which are visible.”

(Quoted from US Congress, 108th Cong., 2nd sess., Congressional Record 150, no. 108 (2004): S9105)

#7 Comment By Chris On July 22, 2009 @ 12:11 pm

Thank you Suzanne, for this integrated, briliant , incisive Lion’s Roar, regarding deception and corruption and its insidious effects.

“Incestuous amplification”… I had never heard that term, but had always felt that the NASA tragedy, and the 9/11 tragedy must have happened because people in the beauracracy were afraid to speak out about the group think consensual reality.

#8 Comment By Suzanne Duarte On July 22, 2009 @ 1:23 pm

Andrew, thank you for those quotes! As with Chris, I had not heard the term “incestuous amplification,” and it also resonates with me. It’s fascinating to think about how groupthink “occurs when a group of people share a view so deeply that they believe something more strongly in the group than any of the individuals would believe on their own.”

Here are a few excerpts from the article “How To Control A Herd Of Humans” by David Robson 2/4/09 [6] (The article is short, but you have to be a subscriber to read the whole thing, which is why I’m excerpting it and claiming “fair use.”):

“Hitler and Mussolini both had the ability to bend millions of people to their fascist will. Now evidence from psychology and neurology is emerging to explain how tactics like organised marching and propaganda can work to exert mass mind control.

“Scott Wiltermuth of Stanford University in California and colleagues have found that activities performed in unison, such as marching or dancing, increase loyalty to the group. “It makes us feel as though we’re part of a larger entity, so we see the group’s welfare as being as important as our own,” he says.

“Psychologist Jonathan Haidt at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville thinks this research helps explain why fascist leaders, amongst others, use organised marching and chanting to whip crowds into a frenzy of devotion to their cause, though these tactics can be used just as well for peace, he stresses. …

“Meanwhile, the powerful unifying effects of propaganda images are being explored by Charles Seger at Indiana University at Bloomington. …

“Interest in the idea of a herd mentality has been renewed by work into mirror neurons — cells that fire when we perform an action or watch someone perform a similar action. It suggests that our brains are geared to mimic our peers. “We are set up for ‘auto-copy’,” says Haidt.

“Neurological evidence seems to back this idea. Vasily Klucharev, at the Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, found that the brain releases more of the reward chemical dopamine when we fall in line with the group consensus. His team
asked 24 women to rate more than 200 women for attractiveness. If a participant discovered their ratings did not tally with that of the others, they tended to readjust their scores. When a woman realised her differing opinion, fMRI scans revealed that her brain generated what the team dubbed an “error signal”. This has a conditioning effect, says Klucharev: it’s how
we learn to follow the crowd.”

More to follow . . .

#9 Comment By damchö On July 22, 2009 @ 1:26 pm

Andrew, your quotation from “The Rules of Victory” is so appropriate here. I think it should be read aloud at the beginning of all important meetings everywhere…

I feel these situations get a little tricky. What I mean is that what counts as diversity in points of view can itself end up being defined by groupthink–egoic concerns–rather than by clear and spacious view. This seems to be how so many organizations deceive themselves into assuming that genuine diversity is present at the table. There will be different perspectives on relatively minor questions, but certain quite significant matters are never really explored.

And this is where Suzanne’s essay comes in, because when our allegiance is first to the truth and only then to the expansion or even survival of a particular organization, this problem can only progress so far. Any imbalance is going to get exposed eventually if what is cared about is fundamentally getting it right, rather than “success”.

Corporations–even by law–have to be concerned first and foremost with their survival and increasing net worth or reach. Dharma organizations need to be always concerned first and foremost with the dharma, the truth, and no other concern can be allowed to compromise this. The more the concerns of the former creep into the latter, the greater the temptations–and they can be so subtle–for everyone at that table to suppress real dissent.

And thanks also Suzanne for reminding us of the urgency of it all.

#10 Comment By Suzanne Duarte On July 22, 2009 @ 1:27 pm

Continuing the thought:

I think that the practice of solitary retreat counteracts the effects of social conditioning, which may be the reason that solitary retreats have played such an important role in our Kagyu and Nyingma lineages, and especially in ‘crazy wisdom.’ I find it helpful to have the added perspective of scientific understanding on groupthink or herd mentality – the research on which seems to be very recent. But the ancient practice of solitary retreat gives us the backbone and confidence to counteract groupthink in everyday life. This is, after all, how the Buddha became enlightened. 😉

#11 Comment By Chris On July 22, 2009 @ 4:11 pm

Yes, I think it would also be wise to investigate, how much solitary retreat, actually has the current leadership actually engaged in over the last 20 years?

Tulky Urgyen spend decades in solitary retreat, so did Dilgo Khentse Rinpoche, and Dudjom Rinpoche, and other great Lamas. Even the Dalai Lama spends about 4 hours in the early morning engaged in retreat practice alone.

Does the current Shambhala mandala actually think that this was unnecessary now? Or that two weeks in a group retreat situation , which does nothing to counteract groupthink, but only reinforces it, is the same thing?

Or that two weeks in a Scorpion Seal cabin, with an entourage catering to your every need, is the same as three years?

Or that you can just call yourself a lama, and wear the robes, without doing a three year retreat?

It’s not just CTR ‘s legacy that is being reworked and revamped, it is the whole notion of “retreat” in the SI mandala. So that people actually believe now that they have been on “retreat” in a group practice situation, blabbering and talking, and caught up in distraction and social events,never alone for a minute, or that two weeks in a cabin alone is serious retreat, and can take the place of months and years on retreat.?

You raise a critical point Susanne about retreat, and what is actually the meaning of retreat.

#12 Comment By Chris On July 22, 2009 @ 4:34 pm

There are students of Dzigar Kontrol Rinpoche , young students, that have been on solitary retreat here in the mountains, for years. There is a student of Chadrul Rinpoche that is going on his 18th year on retreat. The Karma Kagyu Center, The 17th Karmapa center, has people on retreat for 1- 3 years, one women is on a lifetime retreat.

Here is Reggie Ray’s website’s description of Retreat.

Solitary Retreat

——————————————————————————–

The practice of solitary retreat has been an essential feature of the practicing lineage for generations. Trungpa Rinpoche taught that it is especially in the solitude of individual retreat that we are able to meet ourselves in a complete way. Accordingly, this practice is a centerpiece of the Dharmasagara lineage

In order to provide opportunities for solitary retreat, Dharma Ocean has acquired acreage which will see the construction of a dozen individual cabins and a small hermitage for intensive practice. One cabin, shown here, has been completed, and is available on a rental basis.

As the other retreat cabins and hermitage are finished, they too will be available on a rental basis. Thus, these facilities are intended not only for the Dharma Ocean community, but for anyone seeking the unique opportunities offered by withdrawl from the world and intensive practice in solitude.

#13 Comment By Harold On July 22, 2009 @ 5:09 pm

Incestuous amplification sounds very much like Gregory Bateson’s term schismogenesis. Steps to an Ecology of Mind is still a profound read. See wikipedia re: schismogenisis.

#14 Comment By Susanne Vincent On July 23, 2009 @ 2:24 am

To fill a big gap in social sector research, I’ve just done a national survey in NZ to look at staff motivation and wellbeing in mission-driven nonprofit organisations: international NGOs, church organisations, welfare organisations, voluntary orgs. In one bit of it, I asked people to rate personally how much they are motivated by a list of factors that I’ve seen motivate and inspire people who work for organisations that want to change the world in some way.
To live a vision; to model important values; to work in an open, collegiate culture where with the best skilful means we can alleviate suffering and help eradicate its causes. In this zone, it’s less about bucks, yachts and kudos, more about meaning, myth and ritual. The Amnesty Way (now pretty much subsumed by Harvard Business School frameworks, sadly) evangelised about mutual respect, the need for open dialogue, Do No Harm, the accountability of leaders, the paradigm of stewardship, allowing deep democracy (although those words weren’t used), never demonising the perpetrator, always allowing dignity, promoting the preciousness of human life, the icon of the Protector as the model of warriorship, and of course the bodhisattva principle of going past your limits to help give others a chance. Here, nobody gave a toss about Nestle’s multi-tier world dominance strategy or ensuring Toyota is still the #1 lifestyle choice.
I call such factors The Organisational Promise. They are the reason for showing up.
In the results, the response to the ‘motivational factors’ is off the scale, and some of the comments genuinely moving. No fewer than 70% said they would continue to do their job even if they were rich enough not to need to work.
Of course, I asked them to rate the extent to which the listed factors (and any others they want to add) were actually present in the organisation. Mostly, the results were shocking, and furthermore, people felt deeply betrayed. NGOs and religions evoke our trust, we see them as above the herd, and lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds. In these organisations, the ball is being dropped in the leadership zone. This is because leaders are unable to live the vision in a sufficiently authentic way, or fail in their stewardship role, or try to conceal or shout down problems, or absent themselves and get immersed in high level work, or simply ignore it all.
This is often not about conscious omissions. It is frequently about what I and a few others call the organisational shadow. Unless it is very mindful, one of the biggest risks in any society with a highly idealised mission and the means to liberate others is to be eaten by its shadow. Unless it can admit its own elements of pain, grief, rage or fear, its dissenting parts, its ugly and smelly parts, its weaknesses, wicked stepmothers, banished sons and the papers locked in the trunk in the basement, it will start to create on the inside exactly what it exists to oppose on the outside, because it trying too hard to be ‘good’. It ends up living with that tear in the fabric of reality and that ‘shimmer’ of inauthenticity and racketeering that the Vidyadhara describes in his talks on the six bardos. Dialogue becomes impossible, insight is warped and friends start to sense an aura of conditionality that makes trust and relationship untenable, because everything is tainted by agenda, conversations get strategic (even language gets strategic!) and relationships get subsumed under constituency-building missions.
Individuals and societies that try to filter out their shadow elements are doing Ignorance. To avoid allowing the shadow any airtime, people will often fight more aggressively and defend themselves more wholeheartedly and manipulatively than if their house was burning down. It happened to America. If it wasn’t for that Top Nation land of the brave and free business, maybe there wouldn’t have been such a great slamming of doors and rousing of military machinery when people suggested that it just wasn’t true. Perhaps Australia was better off – just a bunch of convicts with nothing particular to prove.

Thank you Suzanne for this contribution; for me the factor of truthfulness is a very very important one; it’s at the core of the Shambhala vision. It’s not negotiable.

#15 Comment By Kevin Lyons On July 23, 2009 @ 6:40 am

Hello Suzanne. I enjoyed your article very much. It seems sadly to be a meditation on the Dark Ages that we are all living in. Great website Mark.

#16 Comment By Rob Graffis On July 23, 2009 @ 8:05 am

“I received many transmissions from Trungpa Rinpoche”.

Suzanne, what were the transmissions?

#17 Comment By Chris On July 23, 2009 @ 8:24 am

In one treatise, by Elias Caprilies, a Venezualan translator , Dozgchen student of Namkai Norbu, Trangu Rinpoche, and Dudjom Rinpoche, among others, he gives a section over to the the nature of samsara.
In samsara, he says, things always start out good, idealistic, filled with promises, then things get flat, and then they start to stink, become negative, the promise is broken.

We forget buddhism 101 when we get into idealistic realms. That samsara ,is samsara, that NGO’s and well meaning religious organizations are always still functioning in samsara, and samsara is bound to disappoint.

Friends let us down, turning into enemies, Gurus abandon us, we are all alone. It is in the throws of disappointment that we find our sanity, beyond any expectations. Expectations are what seduces us to forget this.

#18 Comment By Jim Wilton On July 23, 2009 @ 9:18 am

Suzanne, meditation experiences are fine — as long as you don’t solidify them. If you do, then that attachment can be a real obstacle. I think that is why Tibetan practioners tend to downplay meditation experiences. As they say, “if you eat, you shit; if you practice, you have meditation experiences.”

What bothers me about your post is its almost exclusive orientation toward finding deception in others (George Bush, etc.). The only difference between prajna and normal intelligence that I am aware of is that prajna undercuts its own ground. The biggest deception that we have to worry about is self deception.

I would be more on board with your post if I had the sense that you felt that George Bush’s self deception broke your heart. Isn’t his view of a solid self and a point of view not all that different from ours?

#19 Comment By damch On July 23, 2009 @ 9:47 am

Hi Suzanne V., I really appreciate your post.

“Unless it is very mindful, one of the biggest risks in any society with a highly idealised mission and the means to liberate others is to be eaten by its shadow. Unless it can admit its own elements of pain, grief, rage or fear, its dissenting parts, its ugly and smelly parts, its weaknesses, wicked stepmothers, banished sons and the papers locked in the trunk in the basement, it will start to create on the inside exactly what it exists to oppose on the outside, because it is trying too hard to be ‘good’. It ends up living with that tear in the fabric of reality and that ‘shimmer’ of inauthenticity and racketeering that the Vidyadhara describes in his talks on the six bardos.”

This is so understandable, isn’t it? We all want to back a winner, be on the winning side. Especially at this grand level, this most beautiful and noble level: building enlightened society. We want to find the Group / Religion / Party / Nation / whatever that’s *really* doing that. Having found It, we feel we need to paper over our gaps in confidence, smother the doubts, lest they join with those of others and the mission slows down. A triumphalistic mentality emerges quite naturally–and dangerously.

“Dialogue becomes impossible, insight is warped and friends start to sense an aura of conditionality that makes trust and relationship untenable, because everything is tainted by agenda, conversations get strategic (even language gets strategic!) and relationships get subsumed under constituency-building missions.”

Agenda and strategy, yes. The methods of ego, collectivized. This is so natural, isn’t it? But often harder to see when it’s the Party / Group etc., the Good Guys, engaged in it, for all the best reasons…

#20 Comment By Suzanne Duarte On July 23, 2009 @ 11:54 am

Jim Wilton says, “What bothers me about your post is its almost exclusive orientation toward finding deception in others (George Bush, etc.)”

Really? I wonder whether you would be willing to re-read the article and count the number of times I used the word “ourselves” – I count at least nine times, excluding quotes by the Vidyadhara. I found ‘free ourselves,’ ‘for ourselves,’ ‘deceive ourselves,’ ‘corrupt ourselves,’ ‘liberate ourselves,’ ‘about ourselves,’ unmasking ourselves,’ ‘catch ourselves,’ and ‘honest and truthful with ourselves.’

Jim says, “I would be more on board with your post if I had the sense that you felt that George Bush’s self deception broke your heart. Isn’t his view of a solid self and a point of view not all that different from ours?”

The difference is not in kind, but in scale: the scale of the effect of deception within the Executive Branch of the most powerful country in the world (at least at that time). As I said, “I cite the example of the Bush II years to illustrate the relationship between deception, corruption and collective suffering, which is the converse of the relationship between truth (dharma) and the wellbeing of future generations.” In other words, I was addressing the consequences of truth and deception on the collective level.

Do you have a problem with that? What is it? Isn’t that what the Vidyadhara was doing in the quote that begins: “With tremendous deception, we create samsara — pain and misery for the whole world, including ourselves – but we still come off as if we were innocent.”

Rob Graffis, I received formal practice transmissions and also what I regard as personal transmissions from the Vidyadhara. I was using the term in the general sense of the transmission of wisdom that comes from having a personal relationship with an enlightened teacher. Some of it came in words, some of it in nonverbal energetic exchanges, some of it in dreams. I think you know what I mean, since you were around at the same time. Why do you ask? Are you asking me to cite my dharmic credentials, which abhisekas, how many interviews, how many staff meetings, how many informal conversations, how many ways I encountered him and what happened over the course of 14 years? Really?

Harold says, “Incestuous amplification sounds very much like Gregory Bateson’s term schismogenesis.” I looked up schismogenesis and found it to be an intriguing concept. Would you like to elaborate on the relationship you see between schismogenesis and incestuous amplification?

#21 Comment By Charles Marrow On July 23, 2009 @ 1:29 pm

Greetings –

I think there was a comment that was posted on rfs a few kalpas ago (in internet time). It was a simple remark that I thought had some interesting potential. It suggested that some of the tensions that are being experienced by the sangha might be reduced by acknowledging and having Shambhala International reflect in its programs and organizational structure that there are 2 streams of practice and study. These two streams reflect the inspirations of various practitioners that cross generational lines and may be thought of as karmically based. Those being that some sangha members would like to focus on:

A: The Kagyu and Nyingma approach of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. I understand this as focusing on the practice traditions and spiritual approach presented by Rinpoche as Vajradhatu. It further presents Shambhala as a primarily secular approach that is fully ecumenical.

and

B. The Shambhala Buddhist approach of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche that emphasizes the practice approach that culminates in the Scorpion Seal Retreat. It further emphasizes the integration of the Shambhala Teachings and Buddhism.

I thought this suggestion was quite elegant in its simplicity. It went largely unnoticed at the time.

Yours in the Dharma,

Charles Marrow, Mahone Bay Nova Scotia, ph. (902) 531-2491

#22 Comment By Suzanne Duarte On July 23, 2009 @ 2:14 pm

This poem was posted by John Castlebury on July 23rd, 2009 10:09 am under “Differing Views and Paths.” To me this is pure, intimate Chögyam Trungpa speaking to his students. I believe this might have been composed during a Kalapa Assembly, the first that I attended. I find it very poignant because it expresses so clearly his voice, tone, and vision in 1981, and the world we had at that time, which was unified and strong, and is no more.

The Vision Free from Frivolity

The sun has not risen out of impulse,
Nor has the moon.
For that matter Vajradhatu has not developed out of impulse.
The vision of Vajradhatu is entirely free from fear and impulse.
It is the product of careful consideration and wisdom,
And inheritance of the lineage.
So we keep expanding, continuing, maintaining our dharmic world that way:
We earned what we deserved.
Our exertion and practice are free from regret;
We will never change our mind.
Let us work together in this vast vision.
Please join us.
Thank you for your support and dedication;
Without that we would not have achieved what we have achieved so far.
But we have furthermore to go.
Let us proclaim the dharma in all the ten directions.

[VCTR, Kalapa Camp, Chateau Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada, 17 January 1981, from the unpublished poetry]

Thank you, John Castlebury.

Suzanne

#23 Comment By Chris Keyser On July 23, 2009 @ 7:59 pm

Thank you, Suzanne for a very insightful, provocative, and timely essay.

Mark, please put a period or sentence break after Suzanne’s name on the RFS home page so it doesn’t read:
Commentary by Suzanne Duarte Hell is the truth realized too late.

Thanks.
Chris

#24 Comment By Henry O On July 24, 2009 @ 5:06 pm

Did Trungpa Rinpoche do much retreat?

#25 Comment By Mark Szpakowski On July 24, 2009 @ 5:30 pm

Charles, Toby whoever (using Henry O et al), you’ll need to use your real name to keep posting here.

Re “Did Trungpa Rinpoche do much retreat?”, he did at least 2 one-year retreats (1978, 1984) during his 17 years in North America, plus some extensive ones (eg, Charlemont in 1972 I think), and of course that was preceded by years of intensive practice in Tibet, under some of the greatest teachers, till his “graduation” and entering into the action at age 19, and departure from Tibet.

But actually, you have no idea.

[7] provides a glimpse.

#26 Comment By Chris Keyser On July 27, 2009 @ 12:29 am

Henry O.:
Please read “Born in Tibet,” the Vidyadhara’s autobigraphy of his life in Tibet and harrowing escape from the Chinese invaders. He talks about several retreats he did before leaving Tibet.
Apparently the Vidyadhara wanted to spend more time in retreat, but his bursar and the other politicos at Surmang monastery kept yanking him out of retreat and sending him on “teaching tours” to raise money for the monastery.
In particular, his bursar prevented him from completing a 49-day bardo retreat. Even supreme abbots can be subjected to bureaucratic demands.

#27 Comment By James Elliott On August 29, 2009 @ 7:24 am

Great theme, and a theme – lying – only fleetingly referred to if at all within Buddhism or any other philosophy as far as I know of, but it is there if we look for it.

It seems clear to me, for example, that the first noble truth refers to perhaps the most deeply seated denial we have to overcome before bodhisattva activity can ever be genuine.

Trungpa Rinpoche spoke of this in several ways.

One is the cusp between hinayana and Mahayana, where our understanding jumps from one and a half fold egolessness, to two fold egolessness, the point at which some say we truly enter the path for the first time, everything up to that point being in some sense theater that points us in the right direction.

The point being, that although it is rarely spoken of directly, I think you are onto something seminally important that is truly Shambhalian in depth and breadth when speaking of honesty from it’s deepest meaning (the nature of ego and mind) to its outermost manifestation (being honest and open in the most ordinary sense), a theme for which it is virtually impossible to find a point at which one rule is applicable to spiritual practice and another for politics, not if our external activity is to maintain any connection to and an ability to express the absolute, i.e. to transcend ordinary samsaric activity.

In this vein, I would like to call attention to a couple of books by Sissela Bok: “Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life” (1978), and “Secrets: On the Ethics of Concealment and Revelation” (1982). These are books that have absolutely no spiritual pretensions, but which end up touching on the nature of the path anyway, due to the nature of the subject.

In the introduction explaining why she did these books she explains that in her entire studies and career she never came across any explanation for lying. In the entire history of philosophy every minutiae of human existence has been studied: beauty, ugliness, why we like things, how we know things, meaning, ethics, what is love, on and on, but no one ever delved into lying: what it is, why we do it, why we think it is OK, why we think it is not, how it is used, the results and so on. Philosophers through the ages if they mention it at all say simply “it’s one of those things people do” and give it no further attention.

In these books Sissela decided to fill that gap and has given lying the full treatment, including chapters about how information is used, how people and secret organizations use withholding of information to maintain power, whether lying is ever justified (hardly ever), and some interesting chapters on the nature of gossip or the grapevine, whether it is healthy, how they poison or immunize society, and many other interesting facets about lying and truth, a theme we all have to deal with actually every single day, even if we don’t tend to think about it all that much.

In the inspiration that “Those with fantasy, have no need to lie.”
(Stanistaw J. Lec)

James Elliott

#28 Comment By Suzanne Duarte On August 29, 2009 @ 9:04 am

James, thank you for your interesting post. Of course I agree with what you say here, that honesty is “something seminally important that is truly Shambhalian in depth and breadth when speaking of honesty from it’s deepest meaning (the nature of ego and mind) to its outermost manifestation (being honest and open in the most ordinary sense), a theme for which it is virtually impossible to find a point at which one rule is applicable to spiritual practice and another for politics, not if our external activity is to maintain any connection to and an ability to express the absolute, i.e. to transcend ordinary samsaric activity.”

Re: whether lying is rarely spoken of in Buddhism, it is actually one of the basic Buddhist precepts, the fourth precept. They are: not killing or harming living beings; not taking what is not freely given; not engaging in sexual misconduct; not lying or using false speech; and not using intoxicants that cause us to lose mindfulness.

Thank you for the reference to Sissela Bok’s books. I think lying is the basic strategy of ego to justify its existence and its ignorance, and that is just as true on the personal level as on the collective level. As Rinpoche said, deception creates samsara. If we want to create Enlightened Society, we need to be scrupulously honest with ourselves and with others. That’s why we need warriorship: fearlessness in facing ourselves and being ‘true’ or genuine. All else follows from that.

Thanks again, James.

Suzanne

#29 Comment By damchö On August 29, 2009 @ 11:31 am

Thank you for the book suggestions James. I’d like to add anoher which is relevant in a similar way: “The Captive Mind”, by the poet Czesław Miłosz. Written in the early ’50s when the author was breaking with the Communist Party and preparing to leave Poland, it is quite insightful about the kinds of dynamics within utopian, religio-political movements when they begin to consolidate power. No one truly believes they are lying or sacrificing their integrity in any way shape or form; everyone assumes their motivations remain basically completely pure; everything is still all about liberation of the people–all people–and yet … somehow … we end up with Stalinism…

The heart of the book consists of 4 or 5 case studies of artists Miłosz knew (though he doesn’t reveal their names). All in all quite psychologically astute and as relevant as when it was written.

#30 Comment By James Elliott On August 30, 2009 @ 12:34 am

Suzanne,

I remember the precepts, have taken them on several occasions, and recall there is also the idea of confession, that one talk with an MI or someone we respect to admit transgressions to prevent ideas like ‘if they don’t know, I’m in the clear’ that sort of thing, though no one explained it as such.

At I believe the 1985 Seminary one could take the vows selectively. A friend said he would take them all except lying, so then he could do whatever he wanted. It was a joke, but it hints at the all encompassing importance of honesty. Everything, even gestures of compassion, can become tools for a personal agenda if it is decided that at some level dishonesty is an acceptable approach.

My point wasn’t that lying is somehow OK in Buddhism. I think it may be that if we’re not being honest we’re off in the bushes somewhere. Maybe it should have been: passion, aggression, ignorance, and lying? Anyway, lying is not discussed in the way almost everything else within Buddhism is. I’ve heard the other 4 precepts discussed at some length. Ego is broken down into thousands of facets, kleshas, döns, downfalls and antidotes, various types of suffering however ubiquitous or fleeting, various ways laziness arises and manifests all listed with causes results and disciplines to overcome them, Buddha families are thoroughly detailed with a pageant of qualities neurotic and enlightened, and abhidharma is renowned for it’s microscopic nanosecond observations and impartial detail down to the subatomic level of how mind works. The Buddhadharma is remarkable in its detail and experiential accuracy.

But I haven’t yet come across anything that relates directly with lying, the basic strategy of ego as you say, as something we have to work with, in terms of cause, results, antidotes, skillful means, or anything. There is only this reference via precepts that we just shouldn’t. It is like a black hole, a gap in the teachings. Your essay here may be more than you will find in Buddhism about this critical subject.

Considering how honesty is perhaps the thread which holds society maybe even culture together, this is odd.

Could this be intentional? Is there some good reason? Is it too obvious? I don’t know, but due to that gap, I looked elsewhere and found quite a few answers about things that were happening, things for which I could find no satisfactory answer within the Buddhist teachings. Lying is a case in point.

The Buddhist twelve step groups that were meeting in Boulder when I lived there exemplify this contrast. There was level of honesty and an understanding for how critically important that is, that I didn’t know I was missing until I encountered it there. It took me a while to figure out why I looked forward to and was inspired by those meetings. If that level of honesty were occurring in a community at large, regardless the theme, I bet they would have a subtle and vast effect on culture at large and would be inspiring people from all walks of life.

In the inspiration that teachings are accouterments to honesty and truth, not the other way around.

#31 Comment By Suzanne Duarte On August 30, 2009 @ 8:35 pm

Thank you for all these good, provocative, and poignant thoughts and questions, James Elliott. I see what you mean here: “I haven’t yet come across anything that relates directly with lying, the basic strategy of ego as you say, as something we have to work with, in terms of cause, results, antidotes, skillful means, or anything. There is only this reference via precepts that we just shouldn’t. It is like a black hole, a gap in the teachings.”

It is odd, isn’t it?

What your latest post brought up for me was a contemplation on the Dark Age. I began to wonder whether the lying and deception was as pervasive before the machine age, or before capitalism. Could it be that Buddhism doesn’t address lying more fully and directly because it wasn’t as pervasive and systemic in ancient India and pre-modern cultures, such as Tibet, than it has now become? I don’t know. But it does seem that our inborn ‘bullshit detector’ has been numbed and even disabled in modern culture.

When you say: “Everything, even gestures of compassion, can become tools for a personal agenda if it is decided that at some level dishonesty is an acceptable approach,” I am reminded of “The Century of the Self” by Adam Curtis. It’s a 4-part, 4-hour series produced by the BBC about the mind manipulation of the masses that has gone on since WWII. It’s on Google videos: [8]. It reveals in a vivid, dramatic way how lying (and thus corruption) became pervasive in the age of television, movies and advertising. It shows how “The Lords of Materialism have seized power.”

When you say, “If that level of honesty [as in 12-step meetings] were occurring in a community at large, regardless the theme, I bet they would have a subtle and vast effect on culture at large and would be inspiring people from all walks of life,” I do agree that that seems to have been the intention in the Vidyadhara’s vision of Shambhala. He emphasized authenticity and genuineness from the beginning in his presentation of Shambhala. I don’t see how we can have authenticity and genuineness without honesty!

#32 Comment By Siddhartha On July 17, 2011 @ 9:49 am

Most of the communities in India (such as Bengali), are succumbed in ‘Culture of Poverty'(American anthropologist Oscar Lewis), irrespective of class or economic strata, lives in pavement or apartment. Nobody is at all ashamed of the deep-rooted corruption, decaying general quality of life, worst Politico-administrative system, weak mother language, continuous absorption of common space (mental as well as physical, both). We are becoming fathers & mothers only by self-procreation, mindlessly & blindfold. Simply depriving their(the children) fundamental rights of a decent, caring society, fearless & dignified living. Do not ever look for any other positive alternative behaviour/values to perform human way of parenthood, i.e. deliberately co-parenting children those are born out of ignorance, extreme poverty. All of us are being driven only by the very animal instinct, an acute shortage of fine sense. If we the Bengali people, ever be able to bring that genuine freedom (from vicious cycle of ‘poverty’) in our own life/attitude, involve ourselves in ‘Production of Space’ (Henri Lefebvre), at least initiate a movement by heart, the radical positivity, decent & dedicated Politics will definitely come up. – Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay, 16/4, Girish Banerjee Lane, Howrah-711101, India.