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Thread: The Big Mind

  1. #1

    The Big Mind

    Just an intellectual curiosity from someone with a minor in History.

    I was looking at the updates on my youtube subs and found the following video from Dennis Gempo Merzel Roshi:

    "1 Introduction to Big Mind by Genpo Roshi"
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zT9y1YEUjy0[/video]]

    I sortta remembered about "The Big Mind" from a Brad Warner's article. This time I decided to watch the whole set of youtube videos (ok...up to part 5 :P ).

    I read the wiki articles on Big Mind and Dennis Genpo Merzel to get more background info. I also read Ken Wilber's intro to Big Mind/Big Heart by Genpo Roshi.

    From Wilbur's text:
    Let me state this as strongly as I can: the Big Mind Process (founded by Dennis Genpo Merzel Roshi) is arguably the most important and original discovery in the last two centuries of Buddhism. It is an astonishingly original, profound, and effective path for waking up, or seeing one’s True Nature. What Dennis Genpo Roshi has done is not only the most original discovery in Buddhism in the last two centuries, it is unbelievably simple, quick, and effective. In Zen, this realization of one’s True Nature, or Ultimate Reality, is called kensho or satori (“seeing into one’s True Nature,” or discovering Big Mind and Big Heart). It often takes five years or more of extremely difficult practice (I know, I’ve done it) in order for a profound satori to occur. With the Big Mind Process, a genuine kensho can occur in about an hour—seriously. Once you get it, you can do it virtually any time you wish, and almost instantaneously. It is nothing less than the discovery of your True and Unique Self, Ultimately Reality, the Ground of All Being—again, call it what you like, for “they call it Many which is really One.”
    :shock:

    But.

    What I am trying to figure out is the connection from where Dennis Genpo Merzel the Zen Teacher went to become the Dennis Genpo Merzel the Big Mind teacher. To put it in another way, what is the Buddhist foundation or connection between Dennis Genpo Merzel's Zen Buddism and his Big Mind practice? I read the wiki article, but I can't see the connection.

  2. #2

    Re: The Big Mind

    I'm not sure what the connection is. i watched the videos and all i witnessed was Genpo Roshi asking to speak to different voices, asking people to spin around in circles and asking questions. I understand he accepts money for this "service" also. Something seems very off and wrong here. This concerns me. May all be well.

    Gassho, Chris

  3. #3

    Re: The Big Mind

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris_Tomlinson
    I'm not sure what the connection is. i watched the videos and all i witnessed was Genpo Roshi asking to speak to different voices, asking people to spin around in circles and asking questions. I understand he accepts money for this "service" also. Something seems very off and wrong here. This concerns me. May all be well.
    And that's what raised my curiosity in so far what is the connection between his training in Soto and Rinzai and his method, Big Mind.

    I think he mentions it in the video, but from wiki:

    The central idea in the Big Mind exercise is that there are 10,000 voices in the mind. They are all competing to be heard and to act. Because they are "stuck" or suppressed, they are not well controlled and manifest at inappropriate times. (e.g losing one's temper). Proponents of the Big Mind process argue that by very clearly bringing out each voice into full consciousness, the voice loses its neurotic control of actions and instead can be expressed in a healthy manner.
    Probably that's not what Denni's would define as his main central idea, but, let's say it is, IMHO as a non-buddhist scholar, I just don't see the Buddhist connection.

    BTW, 10,000 voices? Where did he get that? Probably metaphorical. Hopefully. I mean, that's quite a lot of voices to be counting. :mrgreen:

  4. #4

    Re: The Big Mind

    10,000 voices? I sure hope that's metaphorical. I saw in the comments on the videos people claiming to have experienced kensho. I'd really like to think this man wasn't taking advantage of people. I watched the videos with an open mind and by the end i was just shaking my head.

    Gassho, Chris

  5. #5

    Re: The Big Mind

    Quote Originally Posted by chicanobudista

    BTW, 10,000 voices? Where did he get that? Probably metaphorical. Hopefully. I mean, that's quite a lot of voices to be counting. :mrgreen:
    Hi everybody.

    Isn't 10,000 like saying unumerous, infinite in a metaphorical way?

    May the force be with you
    Tb

  6. #6

    Re: The Big Mind

    hi all, i dont post ever but read this forum and benefit from it and now ill add my two cents to this topic.

    i understand peoples problems and concerns with the whole big mind process. it costs a lot. and maybe at first glance seems like a superficial scheme short-cut to "enlightenment."

    i bought the book. ive not done the procedure. but the book comes with a cd which can guide you to do the procedure.

    i believe that there can be value there and the author is coming from a very sincere place. it can be critiqued but i dont think its an out-and-out swindle. i see the connection to zen buddhism. its a technique aimed at getting people to act from a non-ego-centered place. whatever that is.

    i see big mind method as a way to let go of the burden of being ourselves and see the openness of life. for an instant. i believe that it can be a transforming experience. i also believe - and genpo roshi also writes this in his book - that such an experience is not the end-all and be-all, and that nothing is the end-all and be-all. in the book, he tells you that you have to keep working on opening up, and that meditation is the way to do that. he definitely is not selling this as the easy shortcut to eternal happiness, just an experience that can be valuable in the context of a continuing spiritual practice. something inspiring.

    so maybe theres not a lasting impact for everyone, but it can be for some. i think. something to inspire people to keep at it. theres a difference between rinzai and soto zen, or so im told, and theres an emphasis on this breakthrough experience there. we want the cookie. then we get the cookie. but life goes on and its still what you make of it.

    so im not so critical of it. its an honest effort to help people, we can debate how useful it is.

    i understand the 10,000 voices thing. if theres no permanent "you," but just different emotions and attitudes that are flowing through you - based on your conditioning and disposition or whatever - than maybe you can see these different attitudes for what they are, which is not "you." and maybe you can do that by consciously enacting them out, giving voice to them. if youre not one voice but 10,000 voices - then who are you really. and that seems buddhist to me, trying to figure out who you are really.

    everybody's friend brad warner just busts on this guy relentlessly and talks about how its just a get-rich scam. and maybe its not the best way to go about this zen thing, i can understand people being critical of it, but who am i to say whats best. but i also think its sincere. but i also did not see the point in going through the process, staring at the wall is wacky enough for me.

  7. #7

    Re: The Big Mind

    Quote Originally Posted by jaypiddler
    staring at the wall is wacky enough for me.
    Hi everybody.

    Just wait until you realize the wall is staring at you.

    May the force be with you
    Tb

  8. #8

    Re: The Big Mind

    Hi Guys,

    I have taken some "Big Mind" classes personally at a retreat a few years ago led by Genpo. I have also listened to recordings of the full course. I am not as much of a critic of it as my friend Ven. Brad, but I do say that its uses are limited for most folks, I believe.

    As to the cost ... often nearly $1000 (I have seen as much as about $1500) for a weekend or few day retreat ... well, even a Zen Master has to put his kids through college I guess. :wink: :wink: If Jundo did not have a day job, I might be charging you all as much for my wisdom. :roll:

    But I do not care for the way it is being marketed, with overblown claims. As far as I am concerned, Ken Wilber is half genius, half seer, half snake oil salesman, half double-talker ... statements like the following are ridiculous ...

    What Dennis Genpo Roshi has done is not only the most original discovery in Buddhism in the last two centuries, it is unbelievably simple, quick, and effective. In Zen, this realization of one’s True Nature, or Ultimate Reality, is called kensho or satori (“seeing into one’s True Nature,” or discovering Big Mind and Big Heart). It often takes five years or more of extremely difficult practice (I know, I’ve done it) in order for a profound satori to occur. With the Big Mind Process, a genuine kensho can occur in about an hour—seriously. Once you get it, you can do it virtually any time you wish, and almost instantaneously.
    Yes, and it gets stains out of your carpet too, or your money back (I actually don't think that "Big Mind" comes with a "money back" guaranty by the way).

    That being said, I found Big Mind to be very effective for what it is, especially for people fairly new to Zen or Buddhism. And what is it?

    Well, Genpo is a psychologist by training. I understand that he did not really develop the technique, but modified some famous psychologists's methods to a "Zen" setting. It does work as a kind of guided meditation or group hypnosis for people in the room. It does get people to recognize all the clutter in their heads, the different thoughts and emotions and judgments that are constantly flooding our day-to-day minds.

    This thing about getting to recognize all the voices in our head and dropping them is perfectly valid. It is what we do in "Just Sitting" Shikantaza when we drop thoughts and emotions, ideas of this and that, judgments, thoughts of self/other, past/present/future. We drop our greedy voice, angry voice, all those voices. I have not trouble with this.

    And I think, at the end of a few hours or days of being locked in a room with Genpo, he can get folks to still the mind quite a bit, and induce a taste of the mind free of all that thinking. The result is a small taste of "Zen Mind" or "Big Mind" or "Emptiness" or whatever you would like to call it.

    But, frankly, any good guided meditation teacher (even one of those guided meditation tapes you can buy at the book store) will get you to a fairly similar place by similar methods. The mind is quieted, a bit of peace and stillness arises. And that costs $10.00, not $1000! Now, granted, Genpo's seminar has a little bit more meat on its bones than a relaxation tape (that learning about the voices in our head is a bit of Vipassana Insight, although in a simple form) and, for folks who are prone to it, Genpo's multi-day guided meditation and teachings might induce a very profound state. I think it could. But for most folks, it will be a short or mild "peak experience" I believe.

    Furthermore, the problem is that Zen Practice is not about a brief peak experience. It Is a day by day practice of learning to approach life, and who we are (not two, by the way), very differently. It is nothing that can be taught in a weekend or with a quick "Kensho". Zen Buddhist Teachings are everything we are always talking about here at Treeleaf and our incorporating those Teachings into how we think (and learn not to think) about life. That takes constant attention, daily sitting on the Zafu (sudden enlightenment always requires gradual learning ... gradual enlightenment is a series of sudden moments). Otherwise, it is a bit like a weekend stay at an an expensive "spa" vs. a lifelong program of good diet and exercise. We are about the latter.

    I think that Genpo is selling a taste a Zen, a bit of stage hypnosis and some calming of the mind to folks who have never experienced that. I don't think that necessarily a bad thing, but it is not 'once and for always life fixing' ... and it is certainly not worth the pricetag ... I believe.

    Big Mind will induce certain Zen-like states in participants, but it is not what we are doing here ... which is more the slow process of training to be athletes of the mind. Something like that.

    Gassho, Jundo

  9. #9

    Re: The Big Mind

    I used to find the concept insulting but if we 1)get Wilber out of the picture (groupies are not Genpo's fault), 2) don't take seriously the publicity and the hype and ) realize that the "enlightening" videos are available for public use in you tube, well most of the suspiciousness goes away. I watched all the series yesterday, and basically he is not presenting anything that has not been explained elsewhere, he just puts it in a structured order to induce an intellectual "enlightenment" (just insight like any other, but it may be a really intense experience for some). This is nothing but a dharma talk, and at that it is more effective than most in that it encompasses a bigger picture rather than a small aspect of the dharma. As other dharma talks, this one is soaked with the teachers persona. From what is apparent on the videos he is being gentle and does not make any claims any more outlandish than many other zen teachers. He is clear. The best part is that he does not neglect teaching about compassion and personal responsibility. Those are things (like wisdom, etc) that we have to exercise every moment, and to think that a course will make us good executioners is ridiculous; but it can provide a good place to start and motivate a solid practice for many. That is the one part missing: the motivation to sit and practice.

    The multiplicity of "voices" is like the concept of the Three Minds, a fake division, but takes analysis and discrimination further and therefore its artificiallity becomes more obvious. Rather than being a "bad thing", realizing that something is just an educational tool and not the real thing is valuable.

    Gassho

  10. #10

    Re: The Big Mind

    Hi everybody.

    Well isnt that what all "teach yourself gurus" do?
    Take something and transform it to something else and put their label on it?

    Some of it are useful (ok, maybe they all are in a sense) and some are not so useful.

    Be a lamp unto yourself, maybe it will come with ENLIGHTMENT.
    Maybe it wont.

    May the force be with you
    Tb

  11. #11

    Re: The Big Mind

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    I have taken some "Big Mind" classes personally at a retreat a few years ago led by Genpo. I have also listened to recordings of the full course. I am not as much of a critic of it as my friend Ven. Brad, but I do say that its uses are limited for most folks, I believe.
    The classes seem interesting, though from just watching the video, it made me antsy. It just seems too complicated, but I guess you have to be there in order to get it.

    My mom got a degree in Psychology (totally into Freud and Jung) and my godfather studied Psychiatry. I was raised in an environment where issues about the mind, psychology, mental health issues, etc. were discussed. So, watching the videos, I wasn't.....wowed. It's seems interesting, but Wilbur comments just rub me the wrong way.

    As to the cost ... often nearly $1000 (I have seen as much as about $1500) for a weekend or few day retreat ... well, even a Zen Master has to put his kids through college I guess. :wink: :wink: If Jundo did not have a day job, I might be charging you all as much for my wisdom. :roll:
    :shock:

    People will invest in what they believe, even in projects that may be considered folly by others. Nevertheless, I always like to put these #'s in context. Before reading your post, Jundo, I was also reading Brad Warner's post on trying to get donations for his meditation group. At his last sitting, he got $14. Reading Crooked Cucumber, it's interesting to see the slow process that Suzuki lived through in order to get the Zen center going in San Francisco. At a personal level, I am working with my local group to raise at least $60 to pay travel expenses for a center teacher in Austin to come to our region. $1,000?! Wow. We could really put it to good use here. :mrgreen:

  12. #12
    Senior Member Martin's Avatar
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    Re: The Big Mind

    I attended a Big Mind event in London maybe eighteen months ago - mainly because I'd seen Brad Warner (whom I like, or whose writing I like, anyway) almost hysterical about it, and when I found it was coming to London I thought I'd go and make up my own mind (big or small).

    I thought Jundo gave a balanced assessment. I learned some things, some things didn't work for me. There was a cost, but given that Genpo (and his entourage) had to come over to London, and given the cost of hiring rooms in London, I thought the cost was extremely reasonable. Nothing like the figures quoted, and I doubt Genpo was making much if anything. In fairness to Genpo, he was on this occasion very explicit that he was not peddling any kind of "once and for all enlightenment", just someting that might help some people on the way. I acknowledge that some of the claims made by Ken Wilber etc for it, and (apparently) by Genpo on his website, go much further.

    Overall, it simply made me want to return to my zafu, which I guess is no bad thing. I didn't feel any inclination to go the following year (but then I'd found Treeleaf by then). But I couldn't see what people get so worked up about. And I had a nice sandwich.

    Gassho

    Martin

  13. #13

    Re: The Big Mind

    Hi all,

    This is very much IMHO. First, to get this out of the way, in Genpo's Kanzeon lineage, they have an on-going, lifetime practice just like every other zen lineage with zen centers, daily sitting, sesshins, zazenkai, 3 month intensive practice periods, the whole bit. One kensho does not enlightenment make. ALL the books on koan study say that it is a lifetime practice and that the first "awakening" experience is merely a tiny, brief glimpse of that awakening we call enlightenment. And Big Mind is very much in the tradition of first koan practice. Genpo did many years of koan practice as Maezumi Roshi's numeber two student and has merely designed a process which can help some people to experience that first awakening/kensho. I do wish that people who have not experienced kensho would stop deciding that it is a waste of time for other people (I don't mean anyone here, just people I have met elsewhere). As to the price of Big Mind, the dvd's are available for $80 US.

    Big Mind might be almost impossible for a Soto person to understand or accept because, in my experience, kensho is dismissed as a worthless and probably delusional experience (always, i tmight be noted, by peole who have never experienced it). And since the Big Mind Process aims overtly to help/cause people to experience a first kensho, you see the difficulty for a soto person. I hope that people could simply accept that rinzai zen practice merely is a different process. Chinul, the great Korean zen teacher of the 13th century, talks about "sudden great awakening followed by a lifetime of cultivation". Torei, Japanese rinzai zen teacher of the 18th century, talks about the absolute necessity of continuous practice AFTER completing koan study.

    In my experience, soto people look on rinzai zen practice as a great con, swindle, delusion. I am certainly not saying that of anyone here, merely that this has been my experience meeting other people. On the other side, Yasutani Roshi (a rinzai teacher) also talks about the rude attitude that many rinzai people have towards soto practice and condemns same. This is in his book on the Genjokoan "Flowers Fall".

    In general, I wish people would stop treating Genpo as Satan incarnate simply because his zen way is different that their zen way. And the Big Mind process has been very helpful to many people. some of whom may go on to practice zazen, some of whom will go on to do other things.

    I hope perhaps this explains a possible relation between Big Mind and koan study/zen practice. But maybe someone should, with a truly open and inquiring mind, ask Genpo himself?

    Small note to Martin - if Genpo appeared to have a "team" with him, it may have just been some of his students (and dharma heirs) who registered for the workshop as you did.

    I had an informal sanzen/dokusan/daisan (I get confused about the terms) with Genpo about 30 years ago, at Zen Center of Los Angeles, back when Maezumi Roshi was there and he mentioned that his first kensho experience was before he had ever heard of zen, when he was struggling with being ill and not being able to be a competition swimmer.

    thank you for your time,
    with palms together,
    rowan

  14. #14

    Re: The Big Mind

    Thank you for the post Rowan.

  15. #15
    Kiddo
    Guest

    Re: The Big Mind

    Hi All,
    I was given the Big Mind video.....my goodness it must be two summers ago already. At the time I had probably been meditating for about a year and was on the verge of giving it up because "the voices" were, I thought, what made me me. After a year of meditating I can't say that I experienced much space or quieting down of the mind if anything it just got louder. I was to the point where I was afraid to sit. Now granted during that whole time my father was dying and I was a mess but even before his illness my thoughts and emotions were what I believed to be me.

    So I watched Big Mind and for the first time in my life I was free from being identified with all those voices. I can not stress enough how huge this realization was for me. To suddenly be aware that my moods and thoughts, which always dictated my day, could now be witnessed instead of identified with and acted out made my life much more manageable. I have that freedom both on and off my zafu and I for one am most grateful for having had the experience of viewing Big Mind.
    Just my two cents.
    Kiddo

  16. #16

    Re: The Big Mind

    Hi Will - thank you for your thank you, they do matter.....

    And Kiddo, thank you for your post.

    And thank you to everyone else for their posts, so much to think about.

    gassho,
    rowan

  17. #17

    Re: The Big Mind

    Did the Big Mind Process locally last spring and also thought although it was pricy the cost was quite reasonable.

    I learnt a thing or two about the voices :roll: but still wondered what it had to do with Zen. The Big Mind experience was overwhelming but did not last :roll:.

    I believe the Big Mind process is used as part of the Integral training and heard (on the intergralnaked.org) a few interviews between a teacher and a student in which the teacher - Diane Musho Hamilton to be more precise - used it (asking the specific voice depending on the situatiuon) to help the student see a particular issue from a different perspective. Very much like a therapy session.

    Gassho,

    Irina

  18. #18

    Re: The Big Mind

    I live in Utah and the Kanzeon Center in SLC is really the most well known Buddhist center, let alone Zen, in the state for sure. I have not participated in anything personally yet, though I do have the DVD and will eventually watch it =)

  19. #19
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: The Big Mind

    Some thoughts.

    I sat at Kanzeon and I've used Mr. Harris' Holosync (got to about level 3).

    Kanzeon was my first introduction to institutional Zen. It wasn't a terrible place. I've downloaded some videos of the Big Mind process (since erased), and I have to say I'm unimpressed and in no way see its connection to Zen.

    Holosync was terrible for me. I have a psychological condition that reduces my stress tolerance pretty significantly, and holosync just shredded me. Like, 'afraid the government was coming to get me' shredded me. I would recommend that anyone attempting to use Binaural Beat entrainment should instead opt for Neuro Programmer or Mind Workstation instead. You can customize the entrainment and you can avoid the stress of binaural beats altogether and use isochronic beats instead. It's also a LOT cheaper - even Mind Workstation - which is also very sophisticated and has a more significant learning curve.

    I would think that Byron Katie's 'The Work' process would be a better discursive counterpoint to zazen (as opposed to 'Big Mind') - helping to dissipate the hold of those unexamined thoughts and emotions with which we especially identify.

    My girlfriend has a problem with Genpo mostly because he hosted a talk about 'Big Mind' at ZCLA once, and whenever someone asked him about the specifics of the 'Big Mind' process, he said "You should come to the seminar and find out for yourself." The seminar was somewhat costly. Then again, Katie's seminars are VERY expensive as well - but she's not Buddhist either. Anything you want to learn about her process can be learned cheaply or even for free.

    In the final analysis, I'm a bit nervous about what Genpo is doing with the joining of identity psychology with Zen. He advertises 'Big Mind' as a shortcut to the realization of Zen. I'm far from enlightened, and my kensho experience is not 'sanctioned' by any particular teacher - but what he advocates is a far cry from the simple 'dropping of body and mind' that I very briefly experienced. Then again - seeing as he's the endorsed teacher, it could be my experience that is suspect.

    Chet

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