When I heard that W. S. Merwin had received the 2005 National Book Award for Poetry for his book Migrations, I couldn’t help but think back to the first time I’d heard his name. We don’t often hear stories about distinguished nature poets that involve fist fights, broken bottles and nudity, but W. S. Merwin was the center of an astonishing incident at a Tibetan Buddhist seminar that descended into just such debauchery. The controversy that followed has been largely forgotten, but it occupied the poetry community for several years in the late 70’s, pulling the likes of Allen Ginsberg, Robert Bly, Kenneth Rexroth, Ed Sanders, Ed Dorn and Tom Clark into its vortex.
It all went down at a seminary associated with the Naropa Institute, a Tibetan Buddhist outpost in Boulder, Colorado, which hosts the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, founded by Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman. The head of the Naropa Institute in 1975 was the charismatic teacher Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, whose most famous disciple was Allen Ginsberg. Because of Trungpa’s exalted reputation, there was a waiting list for his interactive lectures and training sessions, and apparently W. S. Merwin pulled some strings (he was already at that time a well-connected poet) to get an invitation for himself and his girlfriend, Dana Naone.
It seems their desire for special treatment annoyed Trungpa (who had a reputation for unpredictable and impulsive behavior). Trungpa also seemed to bristle when Merwin and Naone expressed strong opinions about the content of the Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhist source materials, objecting especially to the bloody war imagery in some of the traditional Tibetan Vajrayana chants. Trungpa did not believe a trainee should talk back to a guru, even if the trainee was a celebrated poet.
The Naropa group threw a wild Halloween party, and Trungpa presented a twist: the poets, trainees and other attendants would celebrate Halloween not by putting on costumes but by being stripped of them. The guru, apparently drunk on some sort of spiritual libation that probably did not come from Tibet, walked around the party floor pointing at partygoers, and when he pointed at somebody his assistants would pounce on that person and strip off their clothing. “Chop them up,” he would say.
However, Merwin and Naone, having scoped out the scene, made the strategic decision to hide in their room. Trungpa noticed this and sent for them, but they refused to join. Trungpa then sent a larger contingent to retrieve them, this time with the message that they were ordered to join the party. Merwin and Naone, again, refused. At this point Trungpa declared to his faithful attendants that they must use whatever force was necessary to retrieve the wayward guests.
It may be difficult to picture a mob of half-naked, half-costumed hippie Buddhist poets forcing their way into another poet’s private room by breaking windows and smashing down doors, but I urge you to picture this, because sources state this is exactly what happened. Apparently Merwin tried to pull a Clint Eastwood move by breaking a bottle and using the jagged remains as a weapon, and all accounts state that several of the scufflers ended up with bloody limbs (though, thankfully, there were no life-threatening injuries).
Finally, Merwin and Naone were dragged screaming and crying into the party, where Trungpa yelled at them, strangely singling out Naone, a Hawaiian, for failing to respect her Asian heritage by following his direction. At his command, the mob descended upon Merwin and Naone and removed their clothing, leaving them naked and sobbing in each other’s arms in the middle of the room.
The story ends at this point, and the controversy begins. Naone had shouted for somebody to call the police during the horrific incident, but for some strange reason Merwin and Naone did not immediately leave the seminary grounds, choosing instead to stay several more days for Trungpa’s remaining lectures (which indicates that they were probably traumatized and humiliated beyond their better judgement at the time).
Slowly, other poets began to shout for justice, among them Robert Bly and Kenneth Rexroth, who called Trungpa an obscene fraud. The Naropa Institute’s funding from several non-profit sources, including the USA’s National Endowment for the Arts, was threatened. Allen Ginsberg had not been at the party, but as the spokesman for Naropa’s poetry school, a well-known follower of Trungpa and everybody’s good friend, he quickly became a central figure in the controversy.
Ginsberg was asked to repudiate Trungpa, his guru, and he would not do so. In various interviews, he repeatedly tried to find the words to defend his teacher’s actions, and continued for years to try to walk the line between both sides in this difficult battle.
Trungpa’s reputation never fully recovered from this debacle, though he remained active as a religious teacher and activist for Tibetan independence until his death in 1987. Dana Noane continued to write poetry, and edited a volume of modern Hawaiian poetry, Malama, in 1985.
Although the strange incident between Trungpa, Merwin and Naone was covered in Harper’s Magazine and The Paris Review and is discussed in Barry Miles’ biography of Allen Ginsberg, the story has slipped from notice in recent years, despite W. S. Merwin’s rising stature as a major voice in American poetry has continued unabated.
Certainly both law and rationality side with Merwin and Naone in this battle, but it’s a story that makes nobody look good. Merwin comes across as a Buddhist dilettante, pulling for special favors at a religious retreat, refusing to follow the teacher’s commands, and then failing to stand up to the teacher after the horrific treatment at the Halloween party. He made one public statement about the controversy in 1977:
My feelings about Trungpa have been mixed from the start. Admiration, throughout, for his remarkable gifts; and reservations, which developed into profound misgivings, concerning some of his uses of them. I imagine, at least, that I’ve learned some things from him (though maybe not all of them were the things I was ‘supposed’ to learn) and some through him, and I’m grateful to him for those. I wouldn’t encourage anyone to become a student of his. I wish him well.
Merwin’s National Book Award honor in Manhattan came almost exactly thirty years after the Naropa bash that went out of control. According to all reports from the award ceremony, everyone’s clothes stayed on.
my, my . . .Whoooooha, what a
my, my . . .
Whoooooha, what a story!
When will LitKicks have a similar jamboree?
Bubble BoyThat was a
That was a fascinating account. I had never heard of it before – evidence of the bubble I live in!
Funny, that if such a thing happened in 2005, nobody would even blink an eye.
Just from reading your account one can see that the guru was a fraud -imagine a Buddhist using violence and coercion because he felt insulted! Whatever happened to self-control?
Rocky Horror was that same
Rocky Horror was that same year
These events are not unlike the Rocky Horror Picture Show, which was, in fact released in 1975. There must of been something in the air that year. I wonder if one event influenced the other.
I also wonder is William S. Burroughs was present. I can just hear his deep, distinctive, drawl, “For heaven’s sa-a-a-ake, W.S., just take off your pants and be done with it!”
FascinatingI lived in Boulder
I lived in Boulder for 5 years, drove past the Naropa Institute often, but never heard that story. It is just a building on Arapahoe street not quite deserving of a stoplight, but with a conciliatory flashing yellow light suggesting caution. Boulder is a complete anomaly to small town life in that really strange things go on there with alarming frequency.
ok….Here’s an image I may
Here’s an image I may never erase from the old membrane cache:
“It may be slightly hard to picture a mob of half-naked, half-costumed hippie Buddhist poets forcing their way into another poet’s private room by breaking windows and smashing down doors”
Not like I had a shortage of disturbing images in there anyway, but thanks nonetheless…
Ah, HippiesIt’s like I can
It’s like I can almost smell them now.
MerwinTom Clark wrote a book,
Tom Clark wrote a book, if i remember correctly, about this. It was an excellent account. I worked at Naropa a few years back. The few people who were around in ’75 dismissed the controversy surrounding this night as a fight over funding and said it was overblown. Trungpa had a bad reputation in Boulder as unpredictable, often intoxicated and sometimes violent.
Well, I’m not going to try to
Well, I’m not going to try to justify Trungpa’s actions, but I think the reasoning was along the lines of: “they wanted to be here, but they refused to surrender themselves to the experience. They needed to be rid of their inhibitions and petty objections.” I think this might be why Allen Ginsberg and others didn’t want to condemn the teacher’s behavior — they believed he was trying to deliver his teachings through these actions, and Merwin and Naone *had* come to receive his teachings.
But, yeah, in the end, Stevadore, I agree with you and I think most Buddhists would as well. I think this guru had an off day.
Ha, funny … (the Burroughs
Ha, funny … (the Burroughs bit).
I think one big difference between this incident and Rocky Horror Picture Show, though, is that in the end two aliens didn’t come and shoot people with lasers and blast the whole place up into outer space.
… and this incident
… and this incident probably didn’t help that reputation much!
Reminds me of the Beatles’
Reminds me of the Beatles’ disillusionment with the Maharishi…
that scene will haunt my
that scene will haunt my dreams …
it’s not like you’ve never
it’s not like you’ve never been known to freak out the bourgeois, FC.
probably had a head full of
probably had a head full of acid and a point to make…
GinsbergSounds like a genuine
Sounds like a genuine fiasco. This story reminded me of why I don’t enjoy reading Ginsberg as much as I used to. I remember reading Howl and thinking, wow…i mean what can you say about Howl…its life changing. So I went out and bought the Big Red Book with like…every poem he ever jotted down in it pretty much, and ok…it was also very impressive. Although this is when I started liking big Al a little less…I knew he was gay, but some of his poems just seem written to offend the readers delicate “sensibilities” or whatever, which I resent a little, I mean, I just don’t care how many cocks he sucked…anyway its pretty hard to turn the actual act of intercourse (gay or straight)into good poetry…in fact its damn near impossible. So anyhow while reading a book of his collected essays (still a big fan mind you)I stumbled onto a short essay in which he defends…outright defends…get ready…NAMBLA. I’m sure you all know what this is…the north american man/boy love association…a cozy little club for child pornographers and worse. So I was pretty taken aback by that, disappointed I guess. Anyhow it doesn’t surprise me that Ginsberg wouldn’t repudiate the actions of his mentor, even though what happened at that party seems pretty obviously morally wrong. I know Ginsberg was a man who truly did not believe in the traditional in any sense, but still some things are wrong, and for all his good intentions Ginsberg definitely had a couple blind spots. Maybe it was the drugs. Oh…sorry gotta go, my 8 year old dealer is here…maybe he wants some candy? Just kidding.
A Story for the TellingIt’s
A Story for the Telling
It’s one of those days where legends bump heads like crash cards in the night.
Meanwhile, a quote from a brilliant blogger accompanies me through this article.
“I’ve just come from the planet Ginsberg in the galaxy Shalom”
(blog location: Cyber-deck 13
the Planet Ginsberg where peace is the aim, no matter how many detours through the star warred bombardments.
Duck, for the lightning bolts are ripping towards us as we speak.
Thanks, Levi, for the story.
Call me innocent, but I
Call me innocent, but I thought NAMBLA was a joke made up by the creators of South Park. Ya learn something new every day…
I know what you mean. I was
I know what you mean. I was making light of this story yesterday because, well, it seemed funny when I read it. But, yes, of course it was morally wrong to force people to disrobe if they didn’t want to. Also, I’ve heard about Ginsberg defending NAMBLA before, and I didn’t want to believe it, but apparently it’s true. Someone on these boards suggested that Ginsberg was getting old and batty when he wrote that, but I don’t know. He may have thought that sex is only harmful because of guilt, and if there were no guilt, then no one could be harmed from sex, not even children. I can’t go along with that. To me, there just has to be an age below which a minor isn’t mature enough to make the decision to have sex. Now the question is, where to draw the line? Sixteen? Eighteen? Fifteen? Is it different in different states? I’m just asking. I have no interest in having sex with anyone but my wife. Oh, but there was a time … but nevermind.
So then you almost smell
So then you almost smell patchouli?
Ahhhh, patchouli –
Ahhhh, patchouli – frankincense of freaks…earth mother mist…dope dog distractor…
We pretty much prefer Nag
We pretty much prefer Nag Champa now…better adjust your nasal cavities.
TrungpaI heard weird stories
I heard weird stories about Trungpa and also read his books. I like his books but I doubt I could stand him as a living teacher. I hate heavy jokes. I never read Merwin.
Song of India
Song of India
I have always wondered why
I have always wondered why Chogyam Trungpa was not a larger figure in Buddhism in general and literature in particular. See, his books are brilliant, they really are, his way of writing is astonishing, his Shambhala Warrior book and Meditation in Action and his translation and commentary on the Tibetan Book of the Dead are all incredibly lucid.
From the account I just read I’d say that Trungpa was applying the aspect of ‘wrath’ to the situation. If you are familiar with Tibetan Buddhism you will understand that even the Buddha, the lord of compassion, has a wrathful aspect. That wrathful aspect is often called for in situations in which ego is at its strongest. To quote his translation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the commentary anyway:
“When you are involved in ego-manufactured situations of any kind, the actual reality of the nakedness of mind and the colorful aspect of emotions will wake you up, possibly in a very violent way, as a sudden accident or sudden chaos.”
I can see Merwin’s behavior in that situation as being interpreted as ‘ego-manufactured’. Wherever your emotional reaction to a situation is strongest there you will find ego exerting itself with the greatest force.
Now, Trungpa and Buddhists in general, don’t really believe in ‘trauma’ the way Westerners brought up in the Freudian tradition do. Since the ego is only a projection there is really nothing there to be traumatized — that is the meaning of ’emptiness’ that is ego lacks an ‘independent being’ and is therefore ’empty’. Being ’empty’ the so-called trauma is really only the shocking experience of the ego’s own figurative ‘death’. But since something that is only a projection can’t really ‘die’ there is nothing to mourn, no death to mourn. You are then suffering what the Dalai Lama has called the ‘suffering of change’ if not ‘conditioned suffering’ that is that your so-called traumatic suffering arises from your ego-conditioning, you know, ‘If I am embarrassed like that I will just die!”
The Dalai Lama wrote: “You are bound to find it (the emptiness of the phenomenal world) if you practice sincerely in your daily life, and particularly when you encounter a certain object that creates a strong emotion such as attachment or hatred, and is the face of strong ego.”
I think both parties suffered from strong ego in this situation, Trungpa resorting to wrath against practitioners who were most likely not sincere and Merwin who was obviously very afraid and had strong attachment to his ego position in literature.
Chogyam Trungpa was one of many Tibetan Buddhist who we know only because of the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1959. The monks and nuns in Tibet suffered terribly at the hands of the Chinese and so, here you are having survived and escaped a very violent situation you come to America where you come across all of these, what he calls ‘Spiritual Materialists’ who follow the spiritual path for gain in status and position and who use status and position for gain and access in spiritual and literary institutions. (See his book ‘Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism.) I’m sorry, but imagine yourself in that position — what would you think of someone who cowered in their rooms to escape nakedness and slight embarrassment when you have just had to escape from the Chinese?
Mark, this is good info. It
Mark, this is good info. It adds another dimension to the subject, and it is interesting. Thanks.
thanks Mark.O for your post.I
thanks Mark.O for your post.
I read the books you mentioned and I agree with you.
I also read about crazy wisdom and ego thing.
Interesting what you said about western conception of “trauma” and buddhism. All is illusion but there are bigger illusions than others a zen master once said … It
Mark,While I agree with most
While I agree with most of what you stated in your comment, your last sentence contradicted almost the whole point of it:
“I’m sorry, but imagine yourself in that position — what would you think of someone who cowered in their rooms to escape nakedness and slight embarrassment when you have just had to escape from the Chinese?”
Fundamental Buddhism teaches compassion and never does it force its enlightenment on others at its pace. One must come to it freely and on their own terms.
That being said, I can imagine how pissed Trungpa must have been to have been insulted in that manner.
This is a fascinating
This is a fascinating incident and discussion. And, I am not a Buddhist. However, I lived for 9 years in Japan, and not all Zen schools and Buddhist sects are peaceful.
The Soka Gakai buddhists practice a militant form of Rinzai Zen, and are quite rascist in their membership and often violent in their political proclamations. It is the Rinzai Zen philosophy which supported the Imperial Japanese Military in WWII.
So I am not surprised by the actions of the Monk, but I am a little surprised that all the guests went along and broke the doors and windows, etc.
Not quite Woodstock, eh?
B. — I believe the paragraph
B. — I believe the paragraph above the one you quote, where I emphasize that both were having bouts with Ego, was meant to imply that Trungpa was perhaps in a situation that got out of his control. So the last paragraph is meant to possibly explain that. It was a very complicated situation. I can’t say how I would have handled it. I think Trungpa might have been applying wrath to the situation and then it got out of hand. Here though, I think the point is that Merwin and anyone attending this event was supposed to be a practicing Buddhist of, I would imagine, Trungpa’s lineage, the Kagyu Lineage. Pema Chodron, one of Trungpa’s most well known students, wrote in her book Awakening Loving Kindness that in the Kagyu lineage there is a history of teachers behaving badly:
“The Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, in which students of Chogyam Trungpa are trained, is sometimes called the ‘mishap lineage’ because of the ways in which the wise and venerated teachers of this lineage blew it time after time. First there was Tilopa, who was a madman, completely wild. His main student was Naropa who took … twelve years of being put through all kinds of trials to wake up…His main student was Marpa, who was famous for his intensely bad temper. He used to fly into rages, beat people and yell at them. He was also a drunk…His student was Milarepa. Milarepa was a murderer! … [H]e was afraid he would go to Hell for having murdered people — that scared him.”
She goes on to write: “We could all take heart. These are the wise ones who sit in front of us, to whom we prostrate when we do prostrations. We can prostrate to them as an example of our own wisdom mind of enlightened beings, but perhaps it’s also good to prostrate to them as confused, mixed-up people with a lot of ‘neurosis’, like ourselves. They are good examples of people who never gave up on themselves and were not afraid to be themselves, who therefore found their own genuine quality and their own true nature.”
Reading Trungpa you get the feeling that that’s what he’s after, that genuine quality of going with the flow of the situation and allowing your true nature to come to the fore — or at least some aspect of it.
Just to clarify some of the
Just to clarify some of the details and context in this story… This event did not take place at Naropa Institute in Boulder, CO, but at the 3rd Vajradhatu Seminary in Snowmass, CO, in fall of 1975. This was a special 3-month period of intensive meditation practice and study of the 3 yanas of the Tibetan Buddhist path, to which you had to apply, and which required completion of a dathun (4 weeks of sitting practice all day long) and several years of connection with Trungpa Rinpoche and the community. When Merwin arrived at Naropa Institute that summer he was told by Allen Ginsberg that Seminary was where the real goods were. Though he had done none of the prep, Merwin immediately focussed on pulling all possible strings to get into Seminary, which he did, along with his girlfriend (no small feat considering that only a quarter of applicants were accepted).
The Halloween party was between the Mahayana and Vajrayana sections. You had to explicitly request to attend the Vajrayana portion, which is all about “samaya”, devotion to the guru and to “things as they are”, as Trungpa called it.
The party scene was nighmarishly intense, but also some kind of big symbol. Trungpa was one of the first to be stripped of his clothes. People were either in costume or naked, dancing to rock music, or watching something unfold.
The sufi saying about the elephant tamer comes to mind: if you invite him to your home, be sure to have room for the elephant.
“Love minus zero, no limit.” Watch out!
Just stumbled into this
Just stumbled into this version of the 1975 Vajradhatu Seminary incident in Snowmass, CO, in an off-season ski lodge, between poet W.S. (Williiam) Merwin, his girlfriend at the time, Dana Noane, and Trungpa Rinpoche–and his auto-stable of all-too-willing undisciplined “Vajra Guards,” who behaved with all the dignity of a herd of piglets in heet in their ganging up on Merwin and Dana.
I had gotten severely drunk the night before the Halloween Party, the last day of the Mahayana section of the Seminary, and didn’t crawl out of bed until about 3:30 PM the next day, “day off,” that night to be the Halloween Party. I happened to go into Aspen that evening with Merwin, Dana, a man named Ives Waldo (an excellent Tibetan translator, particularly Lonchenpa), his fake wife at the time, Kay, and maybe a 6th person. I recall eating a steak, baked potato, trying to continue to sober up. After dinner, we saw Basil Rathbone in THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, and returned to the ski lodge in Snowmass around 10-10:30 PM.
I took one look at The Party, just warming up, said fuck it, I’m going to bed. Slept through the whole thing. William, who had had an allergy attack that day–something akin to Hives–to be polite, and Dana, also, decide to attend the party, for a while, danced. Then, went to bed. As far as they were concerned, they were done for the evening, with William not feeling well.
Sometime later–according to the various accounts in the Ed Sanders book, THE PARTY (a fraud, by the way: so much for the glorious Beatnik “brand”)–Trungpa Rinpoche appeared in what appeared to be lumberjack attire, drunk, head shaved, maybe coked-up, too (a deadly combination, at least for mere mortals)–and he ordered the stripping to commence. At some point, he noticed William and Dana weren’t at the party.
It always annoys me when this subject comes up: it wasn’t about being “naked” (of course, there was an underlying question about “nakedness of MIND,” and “territory/privacy,” which a Buddhist is supposed to give up–“help yourself to me”–when he or she enters the Bodhisattva Path, and take those Vows…but that brings up another question/problem: William and Dana were brand new students. They hadn’t even taken basic Refuge Vows yet)…as I said, the Beatnik distortion of that Seminary incident being about getting naked (even Gary Snyder fell for that one), as though William and Dana were a pair of “squares,” and the whole episode about “de-pantsing” a couple prudes, is RAT PUKE on steroids: it was about P-O-W-E-R!
The Comment preceding mine is by Mark Szpakowski. He and I were in the same “Vajra Politics” class at that ’75 Seminary, along with Merwin, and the Head of the Nalanda Translation Committee, which does a lot of great work, Larry Mermelstein. One day, the leader of that class, John Roper, came in and informed the group that Trungpa Rinpoche’s Spalding Scholarship to Oxford was “CIA-funded.”
I first heard of the Sanders “Investigation” early one afternoon in Boulder, I guess 1976-77, while sitting in Le Bar having a drink with John Steinbeck IV, and old friend whom I met in NY in the early 70’s. In comes Jack Niland, the banner printer, Proprietor of the Vajradhatu UNwelcome Wagon, exclaiming breathily: the Sanders Investigation was going to “get Bly!” as a result of his critical remarks about the brutalization of two fellow poets, endorsed by the Boulder Beatnik poets, including Allen Ginsberg, at a reading of his in Boulder several weeks previous.
So, when one Al Santoli came to me–one of Sanders’ “investigators”–I told him I didn’t want to be interviewed, but suggested that that CIA-funded Scholarship to Oxford might’ve added to the problems Merwin and Dana were having at the Seminary with some of the teachings, etc.–again, they were BRAND NEW STUDENTS–so, why not look into–investigate–THAT? I added a few other items like that, but none of them were ever investigated by Sanders & Co., and why I say the whole “investigation” was a fraud–including a baldfaced lie told by Trungpa Rinpoche’s secretary, David Rome; and one by Santoli, too. What a pack of worms.
One final note: William and Dana stayed through the whole Seminary, with periodic interviews with Trungpa Rinpoche to see how “things were going.” They stayed through to the end, receiving Vajrayana transmission. The next night, the eve of Departure Day, there was to be one last “party.” Some jerk-off suggested showing slides of the Halloween Party. Though it was fun and games for some (even Karl Springer, former Head of SDS at Brandeis, Trungpa Rinpoche’s right hand man, a very tough person, said that Halloween Party was like an “extremely BAD Acid Trip”), it wasn’t for William and Dana.
At dusk, once they heard of the slideshow, William and Dana left for Oracle, AZ, to stay with a friend of Merwin’s, driving off into blizzard in their blue Datsun pick-up truck with a hutch. After seeing them off, I came back inside the lodge. Trungpa Rinpoche was standing in a semi-circle of students, about to depart for Boulder–before the last “party.” I was standing about 8 feet from him. He said: “I understand our friends have left?” Several people chimed in: “Yes.” Then he said, and I quote: “It was my fault that they were here.” Basically stating he had made a mistake accepting them to attend the Seminary. What “strings” Merwin was pulling, I don’t know: he made his case, very vigorously, to attend. Trungpa Rinpoche gave him–and by extension, Dana–a Thumbs Up rather than a Thumbs Down, simple as that.
But then this happened: a father had dropped off his son, about 8 years old, to stay with his mother that last night of the Seminary in Snowmass. As the room William and Dana had been in was now vacant–the sliding glass doors to the room broken out in the assault on their room, were never repaired, just black garbage bags taped over the gaping holes–the mother put the child in their room, and proceeded to the “party.” It was a bitter cold night, and the child had a condition akin to asthma.
Sometime later that night, or very early that morning, the mother slipped into bed with the child. He as cold. He was rushed to the hospital, but the child didn’t make it–he died the next morning as people, and their luggage, were waiting for word in the lobby. The most desolate day of my life.
Later, when Trungpa Rinpoche got word of the child’s death, he changed his story, in case any of his student’s had enough intelligence to recall his admission–in effect–of some culpability, when he claimed it was Merwin’s presence in that room–maybe not using the word “evil,” apparently, but maybe his “Less Than Optimally Basically Good” presence in that room caused the child’s death.
So much for All-Seeing, All-Knowing Carnac, but “human, all too human.”
So, there’s a few details left out of the accounts of the Ed Sanders and Tom Clark books, and the “group think” accounts of both Trungpa Rinpoche devotees and Allen Ginsberg devotees, two sets of HERD ANIMALS. There’s quite a few more that need to be exposed, for the record.
P.S. Merwin won the National Book Award in 1972 for THE CARRIER OF LADDERS. Corso’s ELEGIAC FEELINGS, AMERICAN didn’t win that year. Ginsberg attacked Merwin in The Nation magazine for winning. It was Merwin’s THE SHADOW OF SIRIUS that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2010.
Jim Hartz, thanks for posting
Jim Hartz, thanks for posting your firsthand account.
Your perspective is very helpful. By the way, I have not read the Sanders or Clark books ( have never found copies of either) and I also had no idea about the child’s death. Years after writing this piece, I really do regret the flippant tone. I must have been low on empathy the day I wrote this … I do realize now that what sounds like a funny mess (“When Hippies Battle”) was much more serious to the people involved.
I have read of Snow mass in
I have read of Snow mass in the book ” Double Mirror” The accounts her are informative. I had a teacher who like Trungpa was rather indulgent with substances, sex and some physical intimidation. He died young as well. His teachings were excellent. I am still practicing in that lineage after 35 years.
The lesson for me was that consistent practice is ultimate. The teacher is secondary.
As for the apologists I say this: Submit your own family to the foolishness and see how you are with it.
And therein lies the rub!
And therein lies the rub! Was the drama caused by Chogyam Trungpa or by WS? Was the fear of uncovering a body – which Buddhists claim to know is illusion (sigh) – worth the tainting the “reputation” of a teacher of “remarkable talents”? I hope the vindication of people who know nothing about which they speak makes both feel better. Did WS and girlfriend – who found/forced their way into a training they was not familiar with, just for the novelty of it – disrupt others or was it the other way around? Buddhist training is no joke. There are upsets, beatings – physical, mental and emotional – battles, and (yes Virginia) death. People actually give their lives and deaths to this training and it’s profoundly inappropriate to treat it like a novelty. Like a “fun weekend.” There is an old saying about beginning spiritual training, “Better not to begin…” take it seriously folks, “but once begun, better to finish.” It sounds benign, as all spiritual advice does…but they are deadly serious. And, oh, WS – can you spell Rude, Impertinent, Profoundly insolent? Descriptive terms for tourists. Especially those who prattle into sacred ground.
What would I think? Hardly a
What would I think? Hardly a question for me. Trungpa lived off a bunch of spiritual materialists. Most of these kinds of teachers tend to fall back on the ol’ ‘crazy wisdom’ explanation when they engage in what is usually assault in its many forms. Let’s face it most westerners have no idea about discomfort when it comes to Vajrayana and these teachers sucked them right in. If you come to the west for the reasons you mention – you have to find a way to make a living. That’s what. I too have read his work and found it useful to support my practice at the time as part of a cultish Tibetan style sangha. On reflection that’s all they are.
Make all the excuses you want
Make all the excuses you want, but this was pure criminal violence against the poet and his girlfriend. I’m especially appalled by the goons who obeyed Trungpa and mindlessly assaulted the poet and his girlfriend. Just shows that people can be brainwashed into anything. I’m no “adept” or knowledgeable about the secret teachings, but I do know the difference between right and wrong. “Crazy wisdom,” my eye.
The beat generation opposed
The beat generation opposed modernization and embraced the primitivism after Christian God be replaced by the technology worship. Firstly they choose HanShan a.k.a Cold Mountain and Zen, then things went fishy after those Tibetans joined. I’m a Chinese I know how Tibetans changed the doctrines of Buddhism and transformed it into a weapon of vengeance since the Turks eliminated Buddhism in India in 1197. The so-called Shambhala holy war against ‘barbarians from Mecca’ which was then implemented into China -Tibet conflicts and Chinese or Chinese Buddhism were the victims of this cult. Be aware my western friend, Buddhism is about doctrines, rational and liberty not cult or mojo.
It’s only alluded to here but
It’s only alluded to here but pretty positive the whole thing took place at a seminary way up in the mountains and far from Boulder