Sunday, August 15, 2010

Toga, Toga, Toga

There's a scene in the motion picture Animal House, where one of the characters, "Eric 'Otter' Stratton," is defending the riotous behavior of his renegade fraternity before the Student Council. He says:

"But you can't hold a whole fraternity responsible for the behavior of a few, sick twisted individuals. For if you do, then shouldn't we blame the whole fraternity system? And if the whole fraternity system is guilty, then isn't this an indictment of our educational institutions in general? I put it to you, Greg - isn't this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, you can do whatever you want to us, but we're not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America. Gentlemen!"

This is known as "argument ad hominem," from the Latin, "against the man." You fallaciously attack the opponent instead of responding to the matter at hand.

It is a tactic that guilty children use to defend themselves on the playground.

Rather more venomously, it is a tactic that cults often use to defend themselves against criticism.

I want you to keep Otter in mind if you should come across reactionary flack from the subjects of the following public protest.

I make this protest because I have been troubling over the concluding passage in Dzongsar Khyentse's excellent book, What Makes You Not A Buddhist:

"You cannot kill so much as one insect, let alone a human being. And if you happen to learn of an individual Buddhist or a group that is doing so, then as a Buddhist you must protest and condemn them. If you keep silent, you are not only not discouraging them, you are basically one of them. You are not a Buddhist."

"Protest," and "condemn" are strong words. Ordinarily, I protest getting out of bed in the morning, and I condemn my habitual tendency to see the world in terms of dualistic thinking. However, here we have a lama I hold in the very highest esteem, and he has seen fit to conclude one of the best books on Buddhism ever written in the English language with a clear directive: a clear exhortation to act.

So, as much as it pains me to do so, I take this directive to heart, and tell you that I wrote equally strong words to Alyce Zeoli (she calls herself "Jetsunma"), and members of an organization called Kunzang Palyul Choling, which has a reputation as the Animal House of dharma centers, when I learned of their habitual practice of killing insects:

"What would you say if I told you that you spend more money killing insects and handling waste than you send to H.H. Penor Rinpoche and the seat of your lineage? It seems that this is, in fact, precisely what you do."
It is easy enough to check. The vendors are Senate Termite Control, 8656 Dakota Drive, Gaithersburg, Maryland, John Seek Septic Tank Pumping of Laytonville, Maryland, and Titus Trash of Dickerson, Maryland.

This is a disgusting circumstance, made even more disgusting when one realizes this is done with donated money; hence, the negativity associated with their acts even devolves upon the otherwise unwitting donors who support such activity.

This is not the first time someone has protested against KPC's violent nature, nor is it the first time their killing ways have been condemned. These are people who patently just don't know what it means to be Buddhist:

"[Gyaltrul Rinpoche] had been horrified to learn from Kunzang Lama, one of Penor Rinpoche’s attendants, that electric bug zappers were being used on temple grounds. “But we’re Buddhists! We can’t kill!” he’d said. Jetsunma had prayer flags put next to the zappers–as a way to offset the bad karma from killing the insects–but one night it was discovered that the electric cord had been cut."

The above is a quotation from Martha Sherrill's highly regarded investigative report on the KPC cult, The Buddha From Brooklyn, which I commend to your attention. What is even more troubling is that it describes events in 1988... yet here, twenty years later, the practice continues.

The smallest part of the tiniest realization that comes through the most basic, even superficial practice of Buddhism is that we don't kill. Through their own acts, not the acts of others, Alyce Zeoli and Kunzang Palyul Choling have shown the depth of their clouded ignorance, and have thoroughly disgraced and shamed H.H. Penor Rinpoche and the lineage he represents.

UPDATE - 22 March 2009

Here, in their own words, is the KPC response. Not only do they admit to the practice of regularly killing insects, but they also seek to justify their conduct:
If I did not see this with my own eyes, I would not believe it possible. Mark my words: this arrogant hellishness will lead to health problems for His Holiness Penor Rinpoche.

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3 reader comments:

Anonymous said...

It's unclear who is writing this blog. Is it written by a true Buddhist or just someone who seeks to antagonize its practitioners?

I can't imagine why someone who truly understands Buddhist ideals would try to vilify a community of practitioners. Where does this strong hatred in your heart come from? Have you learned nothing about making generalizations and unskillfully judging others? It's clear reading this blog that the author just has an unskillful and ego-driven score to settle.

Anonymous said...

Question for you -
I have read in other writings of yours, or linked from yours, that you mentioned the students at KPC were members of a cult - in one example you stated that the health problems of Jetsunma were blamed on her students. How is that different than your closing statement in this? That this temples actions will cause adverse health affects for HH Penor Rinpoche?

TENPA said...

To be accurate, I did not state that the health problems of Jetsunma were blamed on her students. That statement was made by one of her former students, who maintains a site wholly unrelated to me or mine, and links here for reasons unknown to me.

It is different because Penor Rinpoche was their preceptor -- they took ordinations and empowerments from him -- whereas Jetsunma is incapable of giving ordinations or empowerments, as she herself will readily admit.