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The Amazon Book Review
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Raised in New England, Steve was well-indoctrined in our culture of plain speaking and no b.... For a time, opposition to the war and formation of a union occupied his best efforts, as well as an active teaching career. Then he discovered Tibetan Buddhism. What appealed to him most, I think, was its attack on vanity. When you strip away all the high-flown, hypocritical ideals that lead us hither and yon, what is left? Steve thus entered the cult already possessing what it had to offer, and not knowing it. One of the key tenets of Buddhism is no b.... (perfect honesty is the path of Nirvana). He practised that with might and with main. His total honesty in this book led the cult to reject him, and they refused to officiate at his funeral. One of his last memories was of standing unadmitted outside the hall listening to the drunken party going on inside and feeling hurt and rejected. The thing that made him hurt, that was his soul. He had one. I should know, I was his brother.
Stephen T. Butterfield was a student of the school of Buddhism founded by Chogyam Trungpa in the 1970's. At first enthralled by the authentic, liberating practices of Tibetian Buddhism, he also comes to grips with the inevitable corruption and authoritarianism inherent in any large organization. He grapples with the issues that every religious practitioner must confront, the paradox that the very practices so enriching and enlightening are contained within a structure full of ego, psychosis and greed. He discovers that Buddhism is not any more pure than Christianity, and that this is part of the thin line that a truthful, honest practitioner must always walk. He also describes the stages and teachings given at the stages within the Vajrayana tradition. Always honest in his critiques as well as praises, Stephen captures the journey of a seeker unwilling to settle for dogma, always seeking the truth behind the words, in actual experience. Although his conclusions are not always happy and comfortable, his appraisal of his Buddhist education is quite engaging.
Butterfield, Stephen J. The Double Mirror: A Skeptical Journey into Buddhist Tantra was published in 1994 by North Atlantic Books of Berkeley, California. A long-time "student" of the Shambala (Dharmadhatu) tradition established by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche which, besides traditional Tibetan Buddhist teachings incorporates certain elements of Zen within an idiosyncratic organizational framework, tells of his progress as well as the problems and conflicts experienced by him especially in the times immediately following Trungpa's death. His description of the travails of ngondro will be especially illuminating to beginners as are the aspects of Vajrayana which emphasize the role of the guru. This is an honest account of one person's experiences and it turned out to be both revealing and helpful rather than a depressing and discouraging expose.
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In Double Mirror, Stephen Butterfield discusses some of his experiences with the controversial Tibetan Buddhist guru, Chogyam Trungpa. There is quite a bit of information here on Tibetan Buddhist beliefs and rituals --the stages of initiation, the principle of "emptiness" and the fundamental law of absolute devotion to the guru. Butterfield never becomes fully reconciled to the latter. His feelings about Trungpa and his organization are ambivalent throughout this book. On the one hand, Trungpa is described as an authentic teacher of Buddhism, inspiring Western students with his "crazy wisdom" tactics (in many ways similar to Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh). On the other hand, Butterfield gives ample evidence that this was as much a cult as a religion. There is a strict hierarchy within the organization; higher-ups live in luxury while beginners are treated as serfs. Worst of all, Tendzin, Trungpa's second in command, knowingly infected many students with AIDS. To complete the picture, Butterfield describes both Trungpa and Tendzin as alcoholics. These facts seem to go beyond the limits of even tantra or crazy wisdom and into the realm of pure exploitation and hypocrisy. Butterfield never fully reconciles the two sides of his experience, which gives the title of this book a double meaning (the first meaning is that a Buddhist perspective sees the inner and outer worlds as mirroring each other). He tries to reconcile a skeptical mind with a tradition demanding absolute obedience to a guru. This is a very difficult issue for someone raised in a Western culture and following an Eastern discipline, so I can't really fault Butterfield for not solving this dilemma. Still, there is something askew about the way he alternately praises and condemns the organization.Read more ›
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Butterfield was a follower of a Buddhist cult (using the term loosely: it was more kooky than vicious) that revolved around the enigmatic but dissolute Chogyam Rinpoche.
The book is a chronicle of the author's years with these people, and why he, Siddharthalike, eventually had to turn and follow his own path.
Perhaps the book's chief merit lies in its deliberate dissection of what it's like to really want to get into a belief system, yet know in the back of your mind that it doesn't add up. You don't want to embarrass people, you don't want to strain friendships, you have so much invested, your friends will think you foolish, etc. And yet you are unsuppressibly aware the whole thing is horse-puckey.
Having said that, the book is certainly not an "expose" of Buddhism, or even of Rinpoche. It is clear that Butterfield has a high opinion of most of his co-religionists and is not necessarily out to take off Rinopoche's head or discredit the religion.
Rather, it is a respectful and thoughtfully-woven account of the author's years of involvement with this group, and how he grew to be dissatisfied personally with its teachings and practices.
And happily, this book is not so beset with specialized Buddhist terms that only the initiated could navigate it. I've seen some of those. No, it's fine material for a general reader, or for somebody just getting into Buddhism.
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