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Suppression of Jhana by the "Sangha"
By Dhammaccariya Jhanananda (Jeffrey S, Brooks)
68th day of the summer solo wilderness retreat
Inyo National Forest
July, 7, 2005
(copyright 2005 all rights reserved)
For over 30 years I have felt that my needs as a meditation practitioner, who has given rise to skilful meditation as defined in the suttas as jhana, have not been met either by the orthodox Theravadan community, or by the lay community of meditation teachers as represented by the SN Goenka community and the IMS/Spirit Rock community.
In addition not only have my needs not been met by the above mentioned Buddhist community of "teachers," but in fact I have found my experiences in meditation were routinely dismissed by those teachers. Further more, after nearly 30 years of not finding a single meditation teacher within any tradition of Buddhism capable of providing me with skilful guidance or instruction in my meditation experience I felt that I could no longer justify being a silent participant in the denial system of the contemporary North American Buddhist community, so I began to speak freely of my experiences and to instruct those who asked for my guidance.
Almost immediately upon beginning to speak about my experiences I found I was being marginalized within my local meditation community. I will remind you that I was the secretary, and thus a board member, for the Tucson Community Meditation Center TCMC, which is Arizona's largest vipassana community. TCMC is primarily aligned with Shinzen Young and with the IMS/Spirit Rock community of teachers. After about a year of deteriorating relations with my fellow leaders of TCMC I was finally asked to resign from their board. At that point I found that there was no further need of remaining within that organization, so I left and started my own sitting group, called the University of Arizona Meditation Club.
Shortly before I was asked to leave the board of TCMC I received a letter from Marcia Rose of the Taos Mountain Sangha Meditation Center, who resented two recent editorials that I had posted in the Southwest Insight e'Letter, which is a free newsletter in support of the Southwestern Community of contemplatives and Buddhists. If you are interested in knowing what I wrote that offended three dharma teachers so much, the 2 editorials in question are at these URLs:
I gathered from Marcia's letter, and comments from board members of TCMC that several of the IMS trained teachers, who served the Southwestern USA, had voiced resentment of those articles. Most notably among these teachers was Eric Kolvig, for whom I had managed retreats; and Shinzen Young, for whom I had arranged public dhamma talks, radio interviews and retreats, as well as having sat 2 of his ten-day meditation retreats.
After that several Vipassana meditation centers in the Southwestern USA began to boycott the Southwest Insight e'Letter, by no longer posting their retreat calendars to the GWV newsletter service. Most notable among these centers were Taos Mountain Sangha Meditation Center, Santa Fe Vipassana Sangha, and the Albuquerque Vipassana Sangha.
After a year of the boycott I began to post my messages regarding jhana via Yahoo Groups. When I began to post these messages I began to also receive personal attacks upon my character both on and off-list. These attacks were much like the letters from Eric Kolvig and Marcia Rose. Those attacks continued and grew in intensity peaking in the spring of 2004. During that time quite a few of those attacks also came from people who claimed to be Theravadan monks. One of those monks has continued to stalk me, and my work, to this day. He in fact sends me emails that would make recent on-list attacks seem like compliments.
A year ago I had been offered the position of dhamma teacher for Thanti-Thitsar Vipassana Meditation Center within a week of that offer it was revoked due to the influence of Bhante Gunaratana. Additionally, while at Thanti-Thitsar the nuns there told me that the Burmese government was contacting all North American dhamma centers requesting them to not ordain women.
A few months after Thanti-Thitsar I was asked to lead a summer-long retreat at Bell Springs Hermitage. Two weeks before that retreat was to start I received an email from Bob Roberts, one of the board members of Bell Springs Hermitage, canceling that retreat. In conversation with him he told me that the monks of Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery were filibustering the board of Bell Springs Hermitage to convince them to cancel the retreat.
As you can see, even though Buddhism is supposed to be a religion of peace, loving kindness, sympathetic joy and compassion, and the monks and teachers are supposed to be peace loving, the truth is, even the highly respected teachers that many of us have heard of for years are incensed by the idea of ecstatic meditation (jhana), and the ordaining of women.
Considering my past experiences, and the fact that the Burmese government is willing to go outside of its borders to influence the dhamma in other lands, and how seriously many peoples take their religion, as represented by the vehemence of recent letters, we can see their determination to reduce the effectiveness of the work of this dhammachara's (teacher of Buddhist philosophy).
I believe it is reasonable to conclude that persecuting mystics has not stopped, nor is it likely to ever. Thus, I have been working to preserve this work in any way that I can, so that if and when some well-meaning fool puts a bullet into the head of this donkey, the benefit of this effort will continue to inspire others to shrug off the complacency, mediocrity and hypocrisy that is represented by the "sangha" of these times.
May you dwell in the joyful home of the way (Di.t.thadhammasukhavihaaraa)
Sotapanna Jhanananda (Jeffrey S, Brooks)
the Great Western Vehicle
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