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Shinzen Young

Shinzen Young has like... a giant ego, right?

Forget everything about anatta and Buddhist nomenclature, I am talking about the good old "Ego" you mean when you use the word when talking to your in-laws.

The guy is obviously extremely full of himself, right? Watch any few videos of his and you quickly learn how he:

- is a language master who learned Japanese and Chinese in his teenage years just to get a grasp on Buddhism
- studied advanced mathematics so he can come up with grade-school level genius analogies like "S=PxR"
- has of course created his own system

The most hilarious and ridiculous thing I have read this year is his "Author's preface" for his book "The Science of Enlightenment", though. First of all, he refers to himself in the 3rd person. Classic ego-douchebag move right there.  But then he goes on to refer to himself as "hard-nosed researcher" who of course could have written the book for other genius-level mathematicians and "scientists" out there but sadly had to dumb it down for all us idiots and write it as "Shinzen the Dharma teacher".

It gets even better, though, check this quote out:
"It is perhaps even possible to derive those equations from first principles the way Navier-Stokes is derived from Cauchy continuity. In such fields, distinctive “flow regimes” are typically associated with relations on the parameters of the equations, i.e., F (Pj) → Q, where Q is qualitative change in field behavior. By qualitative change in field behavior, I mean things like the appearance of solitons or the disappearance of turbulence, etc. Through inverse methods, it may be possible to establish a correspondence between the presence of a certain parameter relation in the equations modeling a field in a brain and the presence of classical enlightenment in the owner of that brain.(...)"

That's just comical. Has this guy ever actually published a proper peer-reviewed paper where he actually applied advanced mathematics to meditation/neuroscience?
It's just laughable Technobabble without any real substance behind it.  Very important for his branding and marketing and Mr. Science-Meditation-Guy, though, I am sure. Might as well use the law of gravitation to illustrate how the presence of a giant Ego is pressing me down.

Maybe if I pay $5.99 for each of his 75 "talks", I will change my mind. No wonder he went secular and had to found his own thing. Because those ain't got nothing to do with good old Buddhist ethics.

Imagine creating your own system and website, smiling blissfully and having a group of loyal devotees called "Shinheads". All in all, you gotta have a huge Ego to pull it all off.

What do you guys think? ;)

RE: Shinzen Young has like... a giant ego, right?
Answer
10/21/18 7:53 AM as a reply to Michael.
Did you begin this rant on an in-breath or an out-breath?

RE: Shinzen Young has like... a giant ego, right?
Answer
10/21/18 7:54 AM as a reply to Tashi Tharpa.
Do you like evading questions with questions?

RE: Shinzen Young has like... a giant ego, right?
Answer
10/21/18 8:40 AM as a reply to Michael.
What do you guys think? ;)

I think there's ego in every single one of us, including those who teach how to reduce the effects of the ego. I also think that Shinzen Young has been a great teacher to a lot of people. His "Science of Enlightenment" recorded book was a great boon to my very early practice. I've met Shinzen Young in person and I've heard him speak to live audiences in person. At no time have I thought of Shinzen as having a huge ego. But... to each his own.

RE: Shinzen Young has like... a giant ego, right?
Answer
10/21/18 9:03 AM as a reply to Michael.
Michael:
No wonder he went secular and had to found his own thing. Because those ain't got nothing to do with good old Buddhist ethics.

Imagine creating your own system and website, smiling blissfully and having a group of loyal devotees called "Shinheads". All in all, you gotta have a huge Ego to pull it all off.

What do you guys think? ;)


Siddhartha Guatama (The Buddha) made his family and friends call him "Lord Enlightened One", created his own system, smiled blissfully and had a loyal group of devotees called Buddhists. 

The Dalai Lama has people call him "His Holiness". Go to any Buddhist monastery and people will bow and act subserviant to the head monks. 

Perhaps, you are right, and having a 'giant ego' is necessary to have the confidence to pull off being a teacher to a large number of people. Or maybe one attains a giant ego as the result of having a lot of people look up to you. It's probably a bit of both in an upward spiral.

Either way, the important takeaway you should get from any teacher is, "Do these teaching benefit me? Do they work?" Whether or not the teacher has what you think is a giant ego, might not be at all important to those questions. 

RE: Shinzen Young has like... a giant ego, right?
Answer
10/21/18 9:27 AM as a reply to Jinxed P.
I agree with you about the Gotama and the Dalai Lama. It's hard to say what was really going on back then as far as the Buddha in concerned but I read his "biography" by Karen Armstrong a short while ago and you are right: He presented himself as "the guy". The guy, that arrives every 32000 years, the Samma SamBuddha, teacher of supreme enlightenment.


I think it is very important to tear those higher-than-life figures down from their pedestals once in a while. Not literally, but for the sake of my own waking up, growing up and maturing as an equal. Well, of course I could also uplift myself, make my own .org system and Sangha and get my own devotees. Sounds actually nicer.

Look, it's not that important and of course there are far far worse figures out there in the spiritual world and let's not get started on the mundane world. What works, works, I agree.

I still think there is some benefit in pointing out egoic tendencies in teachers. Not for them but for oneself. Helps to calibrate the compass and the expectations. It's about standing on your own feet.


Edit: Oh and with the "Buddhist ethics" part I was refering to how unifiedmindfulness.com is set up as a full-fledged business to make some of that sweet MONEYYYYY emoticon

RE: Shinzen Young has like... a giant ego, right?
Answer
10/21/18 10:21 AM as a reply to Michael.
Sometimes the things we perceive in others that bother us a lot is a classic case case of shadow projection. Meaning, issues we have in us that we do not want to admit to consciousness, we either see in others or, when we see others have it (whether the perception is true or not), it bothers us to the core. 

So you can ask yourself, why is this bothering you so much (what you perceive in Shinzen Young)?

Unless we are directly affected by a teacher's behavior, there is no reason to be bothered by whatever ego they may have. Easier said than done though. I get bothered by all sorts of things I shouldn't. 

This shadow projection may not be your case but it's worth being mindful of the possibility. 

Best wishes in your practice.

RE: Shinzen Young has like... a giant ego, right?
Answer
10/21/18 10:44 AM as a reply to Michael.
Sure, there is benefit in pointing out 'egoic tendencies in teachers. But for your own awakening, better not to feel the need to tear anyone down, but to understand why people are the way they are and have a compassionate understanding.

Instead of looking at it as - "Look at this jerk, and how great he thinks he is!"

A more helpful view would be - "Human beings have a natural tendency when they have a group of followers to become overly confident in themselves. We see this in every industry -- Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Kanye West, Jesus, politicians, gurus. It might a relic of our evolutionary past. Some kind of 'alpha male' thing. If Shinzen really does have a big ego, I'm not surprised given how many people like him, it would be hard not to have an ego when he has been so successful as a teacher.

Or perhaps, simply attributing a 'big ego' to him is too simplistic. Maybe he has a lack of insecurity, which manifests itself to me as having a big ego. How would I act if I was truly secure with myself and didn't give a fuck about what anything thinks of me? What is it about myself that is so disturbed by his 'ego'? Could it be some insecurity within myself?"

Also, I can't blame western teachers for making money. How else are they supposed to eat? Buddhism only survives in the east because they have a system where as in Thailand, 95% of the country is Buddhist and people support the monks through food and donation, often being told by monks that they will accrue good Karma and have a better rebirth if they do so. 

Of course, you are correct to be wary of teachers who seem to be in it for the money (above making enough to live) because you don't know if they are marketing false goods for the sake of the sale. So be skeptical, but don't just assume because someone is making money that they are a charlatan. 




RE: Shinzen Young has like... a giant ego, right?
Answer
10/21/18 11:02 AM as a reply to Ben V..
@ Ben V.
Of course it has to do with me. I mean, it's not a huge issue for me; I felt compelled to start this thread after I saw his website and read the intro of his book. I also saw videos of him over the last couple of weeks which I mostly enjoyed. But it's not like I am losing sleep over it.

The reason why it has to do with me, I already have described in the above post. It's finding your own way. "Kill the Buddha if we meet him", right?
There was something that rubbed me the wrong way about him and I wanted to find out, what it was.

I think most "spiritual seekers" are familiar with the feeling when you are disillusioned by a teacher or guru. It can be frustrating, it might even be fearful or depressing if you were really invested. But it also freeing and most importantly of all, it gives the responsbility back to you. It makes you grow up. That's why it is important.


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Edit: Oh and I don't blame teachers who make money, either. But I still can't help to infintely respect teachers more, who have a regular job or business and for whom the practice is not intertwined with earning money.

But in the case of UM and Shinzen, the way the websites are set up and all the different programs and like I said 70+ 60 minute "teachings" for 5.99. I don't like it. The way Dharmatreasure for instance has set up their stuff seems more skillful and good to me.

RE: Shinzen Young has like... a giant ego, right?
Answer
10/21/18 11:01 AM as a reply to Michael.
Ya well said. I had a friend who was very devoted to the Dharma in Sogyal Rinpoche's organization. When the scandals started kicking in like a flood, she gave up everything, completely demoralized. I think the best attitude is like picking fruits from a tree, pick what you need and leave the rest. 

RE: Shinzen Young has like... a giant ego, right?
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10/21/18 11:12 AM as a reply to Ben V..
Yes, that was a shit show. I saw the movie "Little Buddha" two years ago and googled a bit afterwards. At first I found it nice that there was a real Tibetan monk playing a monk in the movie and then I found out that he was the famous author of the "Tibetan book of living and dying" and then I found out that... he is a massive prick to say the least.

This structure of being a teacher dependent on the work of your students is inherently problematic and flawed in my opinion. The purest and most honest way to me is how I, Daniel Ingram and probably most people on here do it: "just get a job you bum!"

RE: Shinzen Young has like... a giant ego, right?
Answer
10/21/18 12:59 PM as a reply to Michael.
Hi Michael, I remember reading that preface and all the stuff you are talking about.  But I guess there are two components here - who he is (including how he writes), and then how we react to him.  The noble eightfold path frees us from our reactions - it quitens the mental grabbing after formations and evaluations that creates the cycle of suffering. 

Anyway, I learned stuff from his book and was pleased that I read it.  But equally it is good to have these discussions, to share perspectives, and to keep going on the journey together. 

Is there sombody else whose writing style you prefer?

RE: Shinzen Young has like... a giant ego, right?
Answer
10/21/18 1:30 PM as a reply to curious.
So maybe we can talk about ethics and what's fair or unfair when it comes to relationships with teachers of Buddhism. Is it fair to call them unethical when they charge for their services? Is it fair or unfair in today's society to expect more or less of teachers who teach Buddhism for a living as opposed to those who have a regular job and teach Buddhism on the side?

Just asking...

RE: Shinzen Young has like... a giant ego, right?
Answer
10/21/18 2:07 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
@curious.

I mostly like how Shinzen writes, maybe with the exception of the intro I mentioned. What I also need to say here that we/I always tend to put higher standards to people more dear to us. Shinzen of course isn't Sogyal, he isn't Gurdjieff, he isn't Andrew Cohen or any of the countless other frauds.

I feel like he could be more honest, though. I think Culadasa has an edge on him in that regard.

@Chris Marti:
I wouldn't call him unethical in a general sense, more related to traditional Buddhist monastic values.

Personally, I have no problem in principle paying for books or courses or teachers. For instance how Culadasa offers retreats or teacher training programs. The way unifiedmindfulness is set up is rubbing me a bit the wrong way. It all looks like the websites of those people who sell "revolutionary ebooks for just $98 instead of $698". But again, it's not a huge problem, it's not we are talking about a Yellow Fever outbreak here.
Like I said, though, I personally hugely respect people who simply earn their money with a normal job. I equally respect places like the Zen monastry Antaiji, who try to be self-sustained as much as possible and work in the fields a lot but also rely on begging/givings.

Satsang teachers with their devotees who fulfill their every wish and keep them in a nice cozy cocoon -> red flag for me. Can't take those gurus seriously.

RE: Shinzen Young has like... a giant ego, right?
Answer
10/21/18 2:17 PM as a reply to Michael.
Michael:

@Chris Marti:
I wouldn't call him unethical in a general sense, more related to traditional Buddhist monastic values.


But he's not a monastic. Is it fair to hold him to those standards of ethics?

And someone who makes their living off of teaching doesn't really have much choice but to operate as a business, and a well-run one at that if they don't want to starve or go homeless. I enjoyed his book The Science of Enlightenment, but admit the marketing of Shinzen's stuff turns me off. However, I'm obviously not his target demographic. So while it might not appeal to me, that doesn't necessarily make it wrong.

RE: Shinzen Young has like... a giant ego, right?
Answer
10/21/18 5:05 PM as a reply to Andromeda.
> And someone who makes their living off of teaching doesn't really have much choice but to operate as a business

To the extent that this is true, we can conclude from this that it is unethical to make your living off teaching.

However, there are other choices besides operating as a business, such as joining a monastery or other nonprofit organization intended for the support of teachers, or by living off of donations (I mean actual donations, not payment for teaching disguised as "donations.")

RE: Shinzen Young has like... a giant ego, right?
Answer
10/21/18 5:09 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
So maybe we can talk about ethics and what's fair or unfair when it comes to relationships with teachers of Buddhism. Is it fair to call them unethical when they charge for their services? Is it fair or unfair in today's society to expect more or less of teachers who teach Buddhism for a living as opposed to those who have a regular job and teach Buddhism on the side?

Just asking...

In my view, yes, it is fair to call them unethical, because the payment of money distorts the relationship and alters the teaching. Tibetan gurus who encourage their students to think of them as perfect are similarly unethical, even if they don't charge.

I don't expect more from people who don't have a regular job - whether a teacher has a regular job or not, they shouldn't take money for teaching the dharma.

RE: Shinzen Young has like... a giant ego, right?
Answer
10/21/18 5:52 PM as a reply to J C.
In my view, yes, it is fair to call them unethical, because the payment of money distorts the relationship and alters the teaching. Tibetan gurus who encourage their students to think of them as perfect are similarly unethical, even if they don't charge.

Well, for me if I receive something of value in return for the value I provide it's not unethical as long as it's not illegal. I've run into lots of folks in various dharma communities who agree with you and think it's unethical to ask for money in return for teaching dharma. I'm left wondering why. If I'm begging for food to stay alive and teaching dharma in return, I'm exchanging value for value - food for dharma. If I'm maintaining a monastery by taking up collections and teaching dharma in my monastery, I'm exchanging value for value - money to maintain my monastery for the purpose of teaching the dharma.

Also, how does accepting payment (let's assume any exchange of value) for teaching dharma distort the teaching?

Maybe someone here can help relieve my confusion.

emoticon


RE: Shinzen Young has like... a giant ego, right?
Answer
10/21/18 6:30 PM as a reply to Michael.
Michael:
Do you like evading questions with questions?

Sorry, I shouldn't have been snarky like that. Not helpful. I just don't see the point in attacking a teacher like this. What about the clear, simple and direct side of his teaching (it's definitely there)? Have you put that stuff into practice, tried it out for yourself? Many people find it very helpful. 

RE: Shinzen Young has like... a giant ego, right?
Answer
10/21/18 6:32 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
The donations are voluntary gifts and not in exchange for anything.

A good example of how payment distorts the teaching is the pragmatic dharma teachers who take money and overdiagnose people as "technical 4th path." It creates incentives to misdiagnose.

There's a great cartoon of two gurus at the top of a mountain, one labeled "wisdom" and the other labeled "validation." Many climbers with fancy gear are fighting each other to get to the "validation" guru, while only one climber is trying to get to the "wisdom" one.

There will always be more of a market for validation than for wisdom. There will always be more of a market for teachers who say things are easy than for teachers who talk about how hard it is. If your living depends on people paying you to teach, it will be difficult to avoid the temptation of subtly, or not-so-subtly, distorting the way you teach to attract and keep more students.