Unicycle Disclaimer: If the goal of dharma is to erode clinging to the ego, may this column offend your ego. May you experience a letting go of any grasping to that offended ego, and may you experience the bliss that comes with eroding defensiveness, righteousness, anger, or resentment.
New Meditator on Retreat: “I want my money back.”
“In the end, I was just angry,” says Will Harris, speaking on his first monthlong summer retreat in the Santa Cruz mountains. Asked to summarize the experience, Harris says, “A total rip-off.”
Over a chai soy latte in a San Francisco coffee bar, Harris, a twenty-nine-year-old interpersonal psychology student at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS), told Unicycle, “I gave that center $4,000 and they gave me a small room with no windows or heat and the bottom rung on their work roster. I was scraping burnt rice off cast-iron pans the entire month.”
When asked if $4,000 was a high price to pay for the precious dharma, Harris opined, “You know, it’s like my friend Joseph says: Marpa had to walk to India and live like a bum, and Milarepa had to build all those towers and sit in caves and shit. But at least they didn’t have to pay $4,000 to be humiliated. This is f-ingdukkha, man.”
Having to do menial work and sleep in a windowless room with no heating only exacerbated Harris’s dissatisfaction with the retreat’s high cost, but that wasn’t all. He continued: “Only rich middle-aged women can afford these retreats. As for me, I had to use my student loan, and for what? To sit on a moldy carpet and count my breath for thirty days? Seriously, I could have done that at home. At least there I wouldn’t have a douche-bag roommate throwing ice water over me at 4 a.m., you know? I was getting up, Tashi!”
Calls to senior members of the sangha regarding Harris’s grievances were not returned. However, whenUnicycle caught up with Harris’s water-throwing roommate, Tashi Awesome, he confessed to what he called “minor hazing,” but said this was standard practice on residential retreats. “Will? Yeah, that pussy couldn’t even make a grand a day,” added Awesome, using a Tibetan practitioners’ slang term for 1,000 full-length prostrations.
Harris denies this, claiming he is quite capable of prostrating at a normal pace. And anyway, he says, Tashi Awesome’s childish pranks were the least of his troubles; the most annoying part of the experience was that the revered meditation master Ajahn Lama—billed as leading the retreat—wasn’t even present. “Yeah, all the teachings were on VHS or audio cassette,” says Harris, a hint of anger returning to his voice. “They should have mentioned that ahead of time.”
When asked if he might return for next summer’s four-week retreat, Harris is unequivocal. “Do you have any idea how un-Zen I left that place? I wanted to kill those jokers.”
Tashi Awesome and Eugene Roshi
Can I do lovingkindness practice for a broken laptop or iPhone to get it to work properly?
—Sharon Shanti Ross, Portland, Oregon
As the Buddha taught us in the “Dhammapada,” “We are what we think; with our thoughts and actions we make our world.” This points to the mind-only notion that everything we see is our mental projection, including our iPhone. So, yes, you can do lovingkindness practice for your iPhone; by doing so you are sending love to an aspect of yourself. As the broken-iPhone part of yourself receives love, it will heal. Hope this works.
Absolutely not. Do you realize that back when the holy one was around they didn’t even have cell phones or laptops? I’m not sure about desktops. I know for sure they didn’t have 3G, though. Rather then trying to fix your laptop or iPhone, perhaps you should accept their true nature. As the Tathagata said, “To understand everything is to forgive everything.” Sharon, it’s time to acknowledge impermanence and go get a brand-new laptop and/or cell phone! I hope this was helpful, and please don’t listen to that other guy.
Buddhism in America with the Disgruntled Yogi™
In an ongoing series examining Buddhism in America, Unicycle will be presenting the views of “The Disgruntled Yogi™,” a longtime onetime student of many legendary teachers, loyal to none. DY, as he likes to be called, holds a massage certificate from Hollyhock Institute, in Canada, and three quarters of a Rolfer’s license from the New Mexico Rolfers Union (Level One training). Known for telling crazy Vietnam stories to hungover young yogis at breakfast prep in various meditation centers, he’s the guy that still smokes weed in his VW bus just outside the retreat boundary. Unicycle caught up with DY in Crestone, Colorado, last October. Here is Part One of the series.
Disgruntled Yogi™, how do you feel about the state of the dharma in North America today?
It’s terrible today. In my day, the blessings rained down all the time whether you liked it or not. You couldn’t lean against a cave wall without leaving a handprint. I can’t tell you how many times I woke up at the end of an empowerment to hear, “You have just received the supreme empowerment; there is none higher.” Man, I miss the old days. You know, you used to be able to get laid back then. These days all the Buddhists are a bunch of theists—and the women, well, they’re like tanks in shawls.
A lot of your peers became teachers themselves. What are your thoughts on Surya Das, Robert Thurman, and Jack Kornfield?
These whitey teachers are a bunch of amateurs. They tell stupid jokes in very boring, monotonous voices. You know, the voice you use to sound spiritual? Chögyam Trungpa and Suzuki Roshi didn’t give two craps if people thought they were spiritual. Plus, they knew how to put on a show; it was worth the five dollars for admission.
Do you feel overlooked by your peers?
Duh—I was Suzuki Roshi’s personal driver for a whole summer, plus I attended over half the Shambhala Seminary back in 1982. Back then, attending half was enough—I could nail most hourlong meditations in about twenty minutes flat. So, yeah, to say I’ve been overlooked would be an understatement. But that’s how it goes when you are humble—no one stops to recognize you for your selflessness over the years.
Do you feel the dharma is getting established in the West?
Because the kids stopped taking acid. Seriously, who finds dharma through ecstasy and beer?
COMING NEXT ISSUE!
- Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche Says: “To Compare Two Things Destroys Them Both”; Unicycle Says: “Vipassana vs. Dzogchen—It’s Time to Decide!”
- Man Turns to Dharma after Kombucha Lab Explosion
- Sangha Woman Buys Shawl, Attends Abhisheka
- Peet’s Coffee to Open Inside Maha Bodhi Stupa
- Lesbian Buddhist Reads Pema Chödrön Book, Likes It a Lot
Unicycle is the unshapely hybrid of Gesar Mukpo, Isaiah Seret, and Alex “Rhek” Usow—a three-headed, six-legged, six-armed being which is attempting to create a comedy newspaper out of Chogyam Trungpa’s “Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism.” When not sharing the Unicycle life form, Mukpo and Seret work as film directors and Usow is the creator of the Baby Gorilla Industries and Sharks and Hammers clothing company in Vancouver.
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