The Boycotting of Jhana by IMS
revealed in Correspondence with Eric Kolvig,
an Insight Meditation Society teacher, during the summer of 2005
In a message dated 6/25/05 2:08:10 PM, writes:
Hello Eric, I have known Terry Guftasen for about 30 years, and have been wanting to attend one of his wilderness meditation retreats for some time. It just so happens that I am presently in the Inyo National Forest for a second summer-long solo wilderness retreat. It would be a great pleasure to sit a retreat with him, as well as with you once again, however, there seems to be some unfinished business between us that has yet to be resolved, and most probably should be before we spend so much time again in retreat.
While we have had some conflict in the past, perhaps you can take this opportunity for taking responsibility for your actions in the past that caused harm to me as a member of TCMC, and we can have an opportunity to thus mend our difference and enjoy the sangha that will be afforded by a wilderness retreat together.
Kindest regards, Jeff Brooks (Jhanananda)
In a message dated 7/8/05 1:02:18 PM,
Eric Kolvig <email@example.com> writes:
Dear Jeff --
I'm glad for the back-and-forth of emails among you, Terry, and me, because it has alerted me to something that I would like to be clear about. Terry has shared with me your last exchange of messages. In it you wrote:
As for the waiting list, I have pondered the situation, and since Eric was one of three dhamma teachers in the Southwestern Insight Sangha who wrote to the Tucson Community Meditation Center, where I was a board member, requesting my removal from office because of two editorial I wrote in the SWI E'letter, and he has continued to avoid my requests to satisfy my enquiry into why he would do that.
Jeff, I did not request the TCMC board to remove you from the board. I do not interfere in that way in the structure and governance of local sanghas. All that I said or wrote at that time was that I did not support you to teach. That might have provided cause enough to make you angry, but I want to be sure that you know the correct cause. I do not like to sit in judgment on anyone, and I avoid it whenever possible. In that case I was asked directly for my judgment. The situation seemed important enough for me to express what I thought.
That's it: I did not support you to teach. I did and do support you as a person and as a sincere seeker of freedom. May that freedom come swift and sure.
Sent: Thursday, July 14, 2005 3:53 PM
Subject: Re: Greetings
Hello Eric, I am so very glad that you have finally gotten around to telling me what your involvement was in my removal from the board of TCMC. If you recall I have requested discussing this issue with you several times in the intervening years, but this is the first time that you have even responded to my requests. So, you can understand with this unfinished "business" between us why I would not have any interest in sitting a retreat led by you until it is resolved.
Now, onto the reasons why you felt it important to send a letter to the board of TCMC, and not to me personally, with your negative vote on my qualifications as a teacher: Personally I find it odd that you felt it important that you send such a letter to the board of TCMC. Who cares? You aren't their "guiding teacher." They were hardly on the verge of giving me a venue to express myself anyway. And, so what if they did? Don't you think anyone who has actually engaged in the daily practice of meditation for 3 decades is at least qualified to lead an introductory class in meditation, or answer questions on meditation and Buddhist philosophy?
Would you say that since I have been meditating for about twice as long as you have, would be the reason why you felt that I am unqualified to teach? Or, that I have sat well over 50 retreats would be the reason why you felt that I am unqualified to teach? Or, that I have had a daily meditation practice for now over 30 years would make me unqualified to teach? Or, did you reject my qualifications to teach meditation and Buddhist philosophy because I have made a study of three of the five volumes of the Discourses of the Buddha and have published about 70 articles on the dhamma on the web? Or, did you reject my qualifications to teach meditation because I have direct experience with the phenomena of meditation (gnosis/jhana)?
If you are interested in examining my articles on the subject of Buddhist philosophy and meditation and my personal experiences of gnosis/jhana, to verify my qualifications to teach the dhamma, then do feel free to examine the articles at this URL:
While we are at it, what are your qualifications to teach meditation and Buddhist philosophy? How long have you been meditating? How long, if ever, have you maintained a daily meditation practice? How many retreats have you sat? Have you ready any of the volumes of the Discourse of the Buddha? How many articles on meditation or Buddhist philosophy have you written? Do you have any experience whatsoever with the experience of meditation phenomena (gnosis/jhana)?
It is my understanding that very few of the meditation teachers in any tradition actually engage on a daily basis in the practices that they teach. How many IMS/Spirit Rock teachers have read the Discourses of the Buddha? Probably none of them. How many of them have the experience of gnosis/jhana? Certainly none of them or otherwise they would not make utter fools of themselves by saying gnosis/jhana is addictive. Since my qualifications to teach meditation and Buddhist philosophy mostly probably exceed the qualifications of every teacher in the Spirit Rock/IMS tradition we can conclude that I am over qualified to teach meditation and Buddhist philosophy for them.
Please note that I have copied Terry since he is getting them anyway.
Certainly if you do not support me as a teacher of the dhamma, for which I am far more qualified than you are, or anyone else related to Spirit Rock and/or IMS, then I see no reason to sit a retreat with you in a leadership role. Why would I want to engage in disempowerment?
In a message dated 7/17/05 1:10:32 PM,
Eric Kolvig <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes:
Hello, Jhananda --
It was a phone conversation with an individual, not a letter to the TCMC board. Someone asked me pointblank if I would support you to teach, and after some reflection I responded. I didn't initiate that discussion. I never wrote to anyone about this matter, and I never suggested to anyone that you should be removed from the board.
Simply put, here are the reasons why I did not support you to teach. You had not received transmission from any established teacher. That's the only quality control we have in the dharma world, so I personally consider it important. Though I saw in you some fine qualities that I consider important in a teacher, I also did not see in you other qualities that I personally consider essential in a teacher. I did not see humility. Jhananda, I cannot imagine -- literally cannot imagine -- anyone who has experienced stream entry who would announce herself or himself, as you have, by the name "Sotapanna." I did not see in you the tendency to seek harmony in sanghas and in relationships -- to be a connecting influence rather than a divisive one.
Those are the reasons. I have been reluctant to share them because, as I wrote in the earlier message, I do not like to pass judgment on people. Sometimes it's unavoidable.
Becauseur words and deeds have karmic consequences, please, if you can, refrain from speaking or writing blanket condemnations of spiritual teachers like this one: "I am now forced to accept that for the most part the well-known teachers of all of the religions for the last 50 years or more appear to me now as nothing more than charlatans."
Though you may not believe it, I wish you much happiness and peace.
In a message dated 7/21/05 5:27:13 PM
Hello Eric and thank-you ever so much for the kindness of a reply, and, thank-you also for honoring me by addressing me by my ordination name.
I am reminded of how I sat 4 retreats led by you. The first one was I believe in the early Spring of 2001 or 2, when I functioned as registrar for a 5 day retreat that you led for the Tucson Community Meditation Center (TCMC) in a Bed & Breakfast on the east side of Tucson. If you recall, I then sat another retreat led by you over spring break possibly later that year at Muleshoe Ranch for the Sunrise Sangha of Phoenix. Then I sat a retreat led by you in September at Garchen Institute. In late 2002 I then functioned as retreat manager for a retreat that you led for TCMC at Sunglow Ranch, for which I arranged the ranch setting as well.
These retreats with you all fell after I was asked to leave a 10-day Goenka retreat because my head bobbed slightly during meditation, due to the meditative absorptions (jhanas) I was having. Up until the time I returned from this Goenka retreat, expelled like some bad boy for having succeeded at meditation, I was the darling of Mary McWhorter, who as you know, is the grand dame of TCMC. It was upon her recommendation that I was voted in as a board member. But, when I returned from that Goenka retreat early she asked me why.
When I told her about what goes on in my meditations that causes my head to bob, she said, "Oh, that's jhana." She said "jhana" like I had contracted a communicative disease. But thankfully to her I finally had a name for what was going on in my meditation. From there I was able to research the web, which led me to the Discourses of the Buddha, where I found the Buddha spoke about jhana all of the time, and in the most encouraging ways.
In your kind letter you questioned my efforts as a community member and you suggested that I was "divisive." If you recall I was a member of TCMC for about 12 years and a board member for the last two years of my involvement with them. In that time I helped them in many capacities, from purchasing and installing a ceiling fan in the Zendo, and repairing the deck outside the Zendo, to attending all of their functions including their weekly sits and monthly board meetings and biannual picnics. I also led sits for them a few times a month.
In addition to the above services to TCMC, while I was completing a degree in fine art, I also designed a complete graphic design package for them that included a logo, a letterhead, business cards, envelope, three-fold brochure, and retreat fliers for Shinzen, you and Philip Moffitt's retreats. The logo required that I also design a font. And, I laid out 2 newsletters for them. I also arranged their retreat settings at Sunglow and COD ranches. Also, since I knew the owner of COD ranch personally from my years as a poet, I also negotiated with him directly to provide the ranch at a very reasonable price for TCMC's retreats, as well as a free TCMC Board member's strategic planning retreat, in which we laid out a strategic plan for TCMC for the next 10 years.
You may also recall that on May 15, 2001 I began publishing the SOUTHWEST INSIGHT E'LETTER. The purpose of that newsletter was to promote meditation retreats and meditation centers throughout the Southwestern USA. As you may know that newsletter is still being published and meditation centers all over the Southwest send me submissions for the calendar every month. Your retreats are regularly announced in that calendar. Evidence of that work can be found at this URL:
From 2001 through 2003 I began an audio engineering and recording business in service to the dhamma, called "Heavenly Flutes." With "Heavenly Flutes" I designed a sound and recording system for Garchen Institute. I also worked as the recording engineer for Garchen Institute, Dharma Kirti College and TCMC, where I recorded numerous teaching and meditation retreats including yours.
In the summer of 2002 I founded the University of Arizona Meditation Club, which found its home in the Little Chapel of All Nations of the Ada Peirce McCormack Building. The primary purpose of that organization was to provide a daily meditation sit for anyone in Tucson interested. The club was also a means by which TCMC could acquire a public space for free to put on evening dhamma talks by their visiting teachers, like you and Shinzen. If you recall I also arranged regular spots and interviews on the local independent radio station, KCXI, for promoting TCMC's retreats and their visiting teachers.
Until it became known that I had jhana I was considered a valuable member of TCMC and respected board member. Once the nature of my meditation experiences became known to the leadership of TCMC I was suddenly marginalized within that organization. Thus the accusation of divisiveness seems to originate with that marginalization as a consequence of my attainment of jhana.
In April of 2003 finding that my opportunities of personal self expression had been squelched by being forced out of my leadership roll in TCMC by you and Marcia Rose of Taos Mountain Sangha and Shinzen Young of the Vipassana Support Institute, and recognizing that people who have direct attainment of meditative absorption (jhana) and its associated fruits (phala) are not supported by any meditation organization in the USA, and probably not anywhere in the world today, and these people are routinely dismissed, marginalized and demonized as I have been by you and the rest of the sangha, thus I began a series of GWV Yahoo Groups in service of contemplatives who have these attainments.
What you probably do not know about me is the early history of my service to the community of Southwestern contemplatives (dharma/dhamma). From 1974 to 1990 I was a major participant in several meditation organizations in the Southwestern USA, where I donated moneys regularly, as well as worked in many capacities in support of those organizations. So, when you say, "I did not see in you the tendency to seek harmony in sanghas and in relationships -- to be a connecting influence rather than a divisive one." I can only say in conclusion that your point of view is highly flawed and no doubt biased, because I have done nothing but support meditation organizations and contemplatives for the last 3 decades. And, as I have already said, until it became known that I had jhana I was considered a valued member of TCMC.
The conflict between myself and the various religions and contemplative traditions of the world is they all demonize those who have attainment. If the needs of contemplative with attainment were being served by those religions and traditions, then there would not be almost 600 members on the Jhana Support Group, where the membership is almost unanimous in feeling alienated by their religion or contemplative tradition. Many of those members happen to have been Theravadan Buddhists or members of Insight Meditation Society. The fact that I am not the only one that feels dismissed, marginalized and or demonized for having success with meditation, should be proof enough that hundred of contemplatives are not finding their needs met either by IMS or by Theravadan Buddhism.
Next, you challenged my humility for using "Sotapanna" (stream winner) as a title. It is understood that humility is highly valued among teachers in any religious tradition, so when you said, "I did not see humility. Jhananda, I cannot imagine -- literally cannot imagine -- anyone who has experienced stream entry who would announce herself or himself, as you have, by the name ÔSotapanna,'" then of course I must answer the challenge.
While you may feel I am arrogant for announcing my "stream entry," if you had ever bothered to read the Discourses of the Buddha you would find that it was quite common in the Buddha's day for people to proclaim their attainments. In fact the Buddha often asked people about their attainments, and he used those attainments as his means of determining one's status in the community of contemplatives that he called "sangha." And "Sotapanna " was a term he used for those who had attained the first stages of gnosis (jhana). Do read the "Mirror of the Dhamma" Mahâli Sutta (DN 6) at this URL:
The reason why I proclaim my attainments is not to show off, or be cocky, or arrogant at all, but simply to be a living example of one who has attained gnosis (jhana), so that others who have also attained it, or who are interested in doing so, can find community with me, as well as for those who seek guidance from one who has the direct experience of gnosis (jhana). After all, if one has the choice between guidance from one, who has no experience of gnosis, verses one who has the experience of gnosis every time he meditates, then most certainly one would choose the one with gnosis. Wouldn't you? I know I would. Why follow the blind?
Can you see the problem with you evaluating my qualifications as a dhamma teacher? In those 4 meditation retreats that I sat with you as the leader, when did you ever investigate my qualifications? When did you ever discuss a topic of dhamma with me? When did you ever enquire into my knowledge of the dhamma, or meditation? You never did, even though I requested mentorship from you. You simply never engaged in the process. How long was I supposed to wait for you or any other teacher to get around to mentoring me?
I have put more than 30 years into rigorous personal contemplative practice and personal inquiry, as well as a rigorous investigation of the dhamma. Through that dedicated inquiry I have successfully manifested mastership in the 8 stages of meditative absorption (gnosis/jhana), which is how the Buddha defined the 8th fold of the Noble Eightfold Path. I have also manifest the other 10 "fruits" (phala) of the contemplative life. However, when I began to express that mastership I was marginalized and even demonized within the Southwestern Insight Meditation community, and the international Theravadan community. I believe I thus have ample evidence to prove the sangha is utterly corrupt at this time. Otherwise why would they and you marginalize one who has had success following the Nobel Eightfold Path? And, if the sangha is utterly and completely corrupt, then what is the use of "transmission?" If the sangha was not utterly corrupt, then a contemplative with 30 years of dedicated contemplative practice and ample evidence of attainment would be a highly valued individual, who would be in demand everywhere for instruction.
Do you see how I am forced to accuse the sangha of mediocrity and corruption? If I was a valued member of the sangha, then if someone asked for my "lineage" or "qualification" I could simply point to IMS or Theravadan Buddhism and say, "talk to them." But, by marginalizing and demonizing me my hand is forced. What else am I supposed to say? "Oh, I am dismissed and demonized by the sangha so don't bother to learn meditation from me?" Of course not.
Do you see how it is a setup to ignore my request for mentorship for 2 years? Then when I get fed up with waiting for you to get around to mentoring me I announce myself as a teacher, then you accuse me of arrogance? I tried to "seek harmony" in the sangha after all I have been publishing the Southwest Insight e'Letter for 5 years. But, if the sangha cannot recognize someone for his or her insight and attainment (phala), then there is no "sangha." And, a "sangha" that obstructs the work of one who has succeeded at the Noble Eightfold Path is nothing more than the forces of Mara, the evil one.
While sitting around waiting for 30 years to be recognized by the profoundly mediocre "sangha" for my insights and attainments may not seem like humility to you. It is incredible arrogance to presume to sit in judgment of one who has gnosis (jhana), 30 years of daily meditation practice and having made a study of the Discourses of the Buddha. You should be ashamed of yourself for seeking to disempower people with such credentials, because I know you have done none of this. How do I know? I have sat in 4 of your retreats. I have heard your dhamma talks. I have told you what goes on in my meditation, and you could neither provide me with a context for my experience, nor could you support me for having them. And, your dhamma talks contained none of the context for my experiences. It is as if you have never even read the Maha-satipatthana Sutta (DN 22).
Since it is clear that you have not read the Buddha's four discourses on meditation (Sati), then you may wish to familiarize yourself at least with his discourse on meditation, after all you claim to be a Buddhist meditation and philosophy (dhamma) teacher. I have recently rendered a few improvements in their translation and they are available at these URLs:
Anapanasati Sutta (MN 118) "Mindfulness of the Breath"
Kayagata-sati Sutta, MN 119 "Mindfulness of the Body"
Satipatthana Sutta (MN 10) "the Four Paths of Mindfulness"
Maha-satipatthana Sutta (DN 22) "the Larger Discourse on the Four Paths of Mindfulness"
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are also a highly informative reference to be familiar with for anyone wishing to be a serious student of meditation. I have recently rendered an improvement in its translation and it is available at this URL:
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Translation by Jhanananda
I can assure you if one diligently and skillfully engages in the contemplative life one will become enlightened in this very life-time,
Sotapanna Jhanananda (Jeffrey S, Brooks)
the Great Western Vehicle