Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.75 shipping
Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism Paperback – October 22, 2002
"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Learn more
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
"The usefulness of this book lies in Trungpa's uncanny ability to cut right to the heart of the matter and presents his understanding of Buddhism and the way of life it teaches in a manner that is applicable to his students' living situation."— Journal of the American Academy of Religion
From the Inside Flap
Examines the self-deceptions, distortions, and sidetracks that imperil the spiritual journey as well as awareness and fearlessness of the true path.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Unfortunately, the guru in question created a personality cult, parading about in expensive robes (brocade, silk, cashmere) in front of his impoverished hippie audiences while women bodyguards in black dresses and high heels, packing automatic weapons, served him saké. Trungpa, having vowed celibacy to his superiors, caroused with female students and nuns, eloped from England with an underage girl, tolerated abuse and exploitation of students by assorted inner circle henchmen while hobnobbing with beatnik superstars and ultimately drank himself into delirium, cirrhotic liver and death. One of his cardinal, and unforgivable, sins is promotion as a successor of Osel Tenzin (aka Thomas Rich) who knowingly passed HIV during unprotected sex to (hundreds?) of his students. Here is the excuse:
"... Rich first swore us to secrecy (family secrets again), and then said that Trungpa had requested him to be tested for HIV in the early 1980s and told him to keep quiet about the positive result. Tendzin had asked Trungpa what he should do if students wanted to have sex with him, and Trungpa's reply was that as long as he did his Vajrayana purification practices, it did not matter, because they would not get the disease." Hmmm... "if students wanted to have sex with him..."... Like Rajneesh, the two guys called this debauchery .... "tantra" :) ! Or crazy wisdom. I call it addiction and the epitome of spiritual materialism!
How good are Trungpa's words in SM? Does it matter who speaks? Do precepts matter? If a brilliant, highly accomplished tulku who trained at Oxford and at the famous Surmang (Sarmung?!) Kagyu monastery, someone who mastered the intricacies of philosophical-energetic exercises that constitute lojong ("mind training"), falls under the sway of the Ego, what chance do we have, you and me? How does spiritual practice unlock the fundamental goodness in us? Does inventing a new concept help or does it represent yet another way to throw sand into the eyes of unsuspecting Westerners?
I believe that 'spiritual materialism', while legitimate and innocuous as a concept in itself, was used as a tool, a not so subtle technique of mind control to instill fear and dependence into Trungpa's cult. This can, in fact, be considered the negative side of satipatthana ("mindfulness") and satti sampajanna ('clear comprehension'). It is easy for a spiritual teacher entrusted with intimate personal details to take advantage of the disciple by slowly wrapping him/her into a net made of shame and guilt that only the teacher himself can unwrap. To tell the student that their attraction to spirituality is inauthentic and needs to be 'realigned'. I imagine that falling under sway of someone like that is like growing up in an abusive family - perpetuating a fundamental ignorance and lack of integrity which need to be exorcised eventually. The worrisome detail here is that the Tibetan hierarchy, like the Catholic church of today, refused to condemn the wayward tulku despite ample reports about goings-on at Naropa. Sadly, when it comes to spirituality we are on our own, depending on our own moral compass, gut feelings and integrity. I'd suspect that the more one strays from simple ethics-based practices towards the 'energetic' end of the spiritual spectrum, the more dangerous the territory. Anyways, at least one person seems to have escaped with her skin and inner compass intact - Pema Chodron, whom I respect deeply. She to this day refuses to discuss Trungpa's misdeeds which i guess is a credit to her... and him.
Psychologically speaking, Trungpa's behavior is easy to understand. We're talking about a young boy, taken away from his mother and family and raised in the highly misogynistic all-male environment of the monastery. Indoctrinated by the belief in the "power of divine incarnation". Tulkus are raised through cognitive dissonance: women are polluting, they are an obstacle to practice, at best women can serve others and at worst they are a nuisance - yet women are also transformed into dakinis, female aspects of being that men must associate with in order to reach enlightenment. Right there is the recipe for abuse, as explained so eloquently by June Campbell. As a semidivine Being, the tulku can do anything he wants. And Trungpa did.
This book is worth reading because it represents one of the milestones of Tibetan permeation of the Western spiritual landscape and may have interesting (hypothetical) connections to ideas discussed by Gurdjieff and Castaneda. It also points at a dead end, as "an attempt of an overgrown child to reconstruct for himself a kingdom according to whim" (Marin, 1995). There are/were other, true, beacons of light in the Tibetan community like Tarthang, Mingyur, Chagdud, Tenzin Wangyal and HH Tenzin Gyatso. It is the Who, not What, that matters.
Along with Osho (Rajneesh) and Adi Da (Bubba Free John), Trungpa "crashed and burned," a victim of self-destructive behavior. In Trungpa's case, it was alcohol (liver disease) that dug him an early grave, and in addition to his wild boozing, Trungpa was also heavy cigarette smoker notorious for wild sexing and abusive behavior of his students. His misbehavior was rationalized as "Crazy Wisdom."
Trungpa's hand-picked Dharma-successor was Osel Tendzin (author of "Buddha in the Palm of your Hand"). Tendzin, a homosexual, contracted AIDS, and even after he knew he had the disease, continued to have unprotected sex with some of his students, thereby infecting them.
What is especially significant about Trungpa's and Tendzin's behavior is that their teachings emphasize the importance of a "spiritual friend" (or guru) whom one totally trusts and serves. In "Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism," Trungpa makes it clear that a "spiritual friend" is absolutely necessary. He writes:
"I do not think it is possible to see what is, to see yourself as you are, without a teacher. You have to have a spiritual friend in order to surrender and completely open yourself."
Clearly, many students suffered because they accepted Trungpa and/or Tendzin as their "spiritual friend" (guru). Is a "spiritual friend" a sine qua non on the spiritual path? Hardly. For example, Ramana Maharshi, J. Krishnamurti, and Eckhart Tolle did not have a guru.
In the forty years since I first read "Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism," I have become an unsurpassed expert in Buddhadharma, so it was with "open eyes" that I re-read it yesterday. In short, I found Trungpa's teaching to be a mixed bag.
The good part of Trungpa's teaching is his emphasis on "cutting through spiritual materialism." He details how the "Three Lords"--the "Lord of Materialism" (the neurotic pusuit of physical comfort, security and pleasure), the "Lord of Speech" (the misuse of the mind and ideologies in relation to the world), and the "Lord of Mind" (the games the egoic mind plays) obstruct spiritual awakening.
In addition to elaborating the pitfalls on the spiritual path, he also, properly, and in direct contrast to the neo-Advaitans and pop-Zennists, emphasizes how difficult real spiritual life is. He writes:
"Once we commit to the spiritual path, it is very painful and we are in for it... It will be terrible, excrutiating, but that is the way it is."
Trungpa also, properly, emphasizes surrendering, or opening, and allowing things to be as they are as key components of a "real meditation practice."
Another positive aspect of this book are all the stories Trungpa tells about legendary Tibetan gurus such as Marpa, Naropa, and Milarepa. These stories are inspiring as well as enlightening.
Trungpa covers a lot of ground in this text, discoursing on, among other subjects, the Four Noble Truths, The Six Realms, Tantra, Initiation, and Sunyata (Emptiness). Although he is very knowledeable, he is not very deep, and this is also indicated by his failure to talk about the Trikaya (Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya, Nirmanakaya) and Togal, the all-important Dzogchen practice that complements Treckho, the meditative practice of cutting through spiritual meditation. If Trungpa had been En-Light-ened, he would have pointed out that once one cuts through spiritual materialism, one encounters Spirit, the Sambhogakaya, Clear-Light Energy, and must channel it via the practice of Togal.
Trungpa's failure to understand Spirit is evident in his misunderstanding of Initiation. He rightly defines the term "Abhisheka" as "sprinkling and pouring," which a true mystic understands as being Baptized by the Spirit (or Sambhogakaya), but Trungpa, pathetically, can only describe Initiation as "the meeting of two minds," yours and your "spiritual friend's.
Trungpa has no understanding of true spiritual Bliss, which one experiences via the Sambhogakaya, the Blessing/Blissing Clear-Light Energy Body. He writes: "It is possible in the beginning to force oneself into the experience of bliss. It is kind of a self-hypnosis..." And never does he talk about the Bliss Body, the Sambhogakaya.
Trungpa's takes on virtually every aspect of Budhadharma are weak (for example, he has no clue what Yogacara Buddhism is about), and he has a penchant for contradiction, the most egregious being his his dissing of the idea the One Mind, while then describing ultimate reality as "open space, the basic ground, what we really are...a basic intelligence." To the discerning, he is, on the one hand, explicitly denying the One Mind, while implicitly, on the other hand, describing it (reality) as an all-pervading intelligence.
In summary, this classic text, despite its problems, is a worthwhile read for beginner-to-intermediate Dharma practitioners. It's well-written, entertaining, and exposes the many pitfalls on the spiritual path. But if you are interested in deep, demystifying Buddhadharma, Dzogchen, or Mahamudra, you will have to look elsewhere.