Flavors of Buddhism / Avoiding the jive and hype

By Jundo Cohen of Treeleaf Zendo

There’s a flavor of Buddhism for everyone, it seems, especially in the West. There are groups and teachings of all stripes — the monastic and the “out in the world” types, the traditional and the tradition-breaking, and many in between, mixing and matching. The Western Buddhist world comes in ten thousand colors and flavors!

And that can be GOOD, so long as you find the path and teacher(s) right for you. [Click through for more, and to "sit-a-long" with today's video.]

What you have to do, though, is avoid the snake oil, the image-driven jive and hype, the soothing but empty cliches, the charismatic charlatans, the fast food drive-though spirituality. Also, don’t fall into “spiritual materialism” — shopping around in the “Dharma department store” for the fluffy and flashy, for teachers of anything-goes, feel-good philosophies that just say what we want to hear (and not what we need to hear).

Oh, and if you do stumble on a worthwhile practice, be sure not to quit as soon as it becomes a little demanding. Do all that… and you’ll be just fine!

A related talk and “Sit-A-Long” video follows. Note: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a total sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.

Visit Jundo Cohen and Treeleaf Zendo online, here.


  1. Posted October 16, 2010 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    @ Mahakala You mean like this con man who goes by the name Barry Graham? http://desolation-alley.blogspot.com/2010/10/anot

  2. Mahakala
    Posted October 16, 2010 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    One man's strong language is another man's quaint affectation. That particular statement which you had originally made, and subsequently deemed as strong language here – is something that might be regarded by many others as quite tame. For instance there are no explicit words or graphic descriptions of sexual and/or violent activity.

    It begs the question: If someone shies away from "offensive" language, how much more will they shy away from "offensive" circumstances? Both situations which of course hinge on the existence of "offensiveness" to begin with. Is it something which lies within a person, or something which lies in the space between persons? Or does it blur the lines altogether?

    How far does the responsibility of sanitation go? What environment is most productive to the objectives of buddhism? These questions don't seem to have easy answers in a general sense, but rather only in specifics.

    Perhaps the issue of pushing the edge is less volatile in a teacher/student relationship, where there is a voluntary admission to defer to a higher authority. In a public space of wider discourse, the only opportunity of voluntary admission is in entrance itself, and the only higher authority is in the format or place of discourse itself.

    It may indicate the opportunity for mistakes is lessened, and this is arguably less opportunity for growth by learning from them. To expect an extension of a teaching situation may be more than certain formats can provide.

  3. Posted October 16, 2010 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    Nice words. I don’t mind coming back.

  4. Posted October 16, 2010 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    Jundo, thank you for another thought-provoking–and humorous!–insight. I have missed hearing from you. Your wry humor, simple language, and relevant ruminations speak volumes to me. I also make an effort in my daily duties to "pay forward" the wisdom you bestow. My cats also find your voice soothing. Julius and Augustus like to hang around the speakers when you are on my computer.

  5. chuggai
    Posted October 17, 2010 at 5:47 am | Permalink

    Did the Buddha teach religious diversity? I cannot find examples anywhere, at least not by googling it as a question — I know of the story of the two Brahmins that questioned him and he pointed out their wrong views, http://www.dhammaweb.net/Tipitaka/read.php?id=13 . I feel that tolerating others point of view in a respectful manner is important but so is telling them or helping them to see the fallacy of their delusion. I'm not about to force my ideas and experience on anyone but I will kindly disagree and disincline theirs perhaps.

  6. Posted October 17, 2010 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    I really enjoyed this post. Thanks!!

  7. glo
    Posted October 19, 2010 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    How wonderful to see you again. I've missed you & Taigu. Going in in a couple of days for my umpteenth heart procedure(s), this time to make me more comfortable – not sure how well it'll work, but hopeful.
    Just to let you know that your clear teachings & manner have done my heart good in many ways, & I'll continue to look for you on Sunspace.
    Deep gassho

  8. Posted October 19, 2010 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

    Glo, the Heart that matters is of many kinds. I will dedicate our Heart Sutra recitation (how fitting!) at our Zazenkai this Saturday to your well being.

    Gassho, Jundo

  9. glo
    Posted October 20, 2010 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Jundo. It is very comforting to hear from you, & I will try to join in the Zazenkai. The Heart Sutra has always had special meaning for me.



  10. Ronchan
    Posted November 2, 2010 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    Thank you, Jundo.



  11. Shawn
    Posted December 11, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for this Jundo. It has been difficult to find a sangha, much less a teacher to help me in my walk. I rely upon books and online resources to provide answers, guidance and support. I have several times been tempted to 'compromise' my requirements in order to be involved but these type of resources always help me. I think the western mind many times wants a detailed path and many schools/teachers are attempting to find a middle-way for this. While it is appealing, I urge others to look deeply into the school/teacher before you are accepting of what is being taught. This blog and some of the other TreeLeaf resources are very much needed and welcomed and I thank you for them.



  12. Stephen
    Posted February 16, 2011 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    Duality is the first one to eliminate…. Don't worry about Barry…..Work on you…

  13. Stephen
    Posted February 16, 2011 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    Why impose your beliefs on another and judge theirs? Those that disagree offer good medicine for our practice….Once again….duality is the greatest poison…We are all of the same root,,,,The Buddha's statement on wrong views says nothing about chastising someone else's beliefs…

  14. Suze
    Posted March 26, 2012 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    Your way Jundo, opens hearts and calms fears. Your posts have been missed on Beliefnet, Believe me (chuckle). So glad to have found you again. What was that addage? "I was lost and now am found" Ohh, the drama that is self, leaving still ..



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