Tuesday, July 10, 2007

ZENGO

The first spring I was living at Kopan, Lama Zopa Rimpoche gave his first meditation course. His teaching style was very formal, slow, and with many repetitions. It was not easy to keep my attention alive, but even so, the discipline and the energy of many people meditating together was a good experience.
Right after the course the Lamas left for Dharamsala, but Zina, who was always eager to attract people to the center, had met a Japanese monk, Zengo, and invited him to give a course at Kopan. Zengo was young and smooth and very self-confident and came with a group of disciples. Many of the Lamas followers also took his course, but his style was very different from Lama Zopa’s and did not always please those who were accustomed to the Tibetan way. When he repeated the Zen saying: "If you meet the Buddha, kill him!" Claudio, an Italian student of Lama Yeshe's, was so offended that he picked up his stuff, and left the course.
Zina also picked up a blond American yogi who was into power-breathing. He challenged Zengo, who was into the power aspect of meditation, and they had a snorting match sitting in front of each other in lotus position on the lawn. Really, the scene was quite crazy that summer! Zengo's disciples mixed acid in his morning cereal one day when they were going on an outing with him. When he started tripping, he felt that the ultimate enlightenment had come upon him and he let his people know that he was Maitreya, the Buddha of the future whose coming is predicted in the scriptures. Knowing that he was tripping, the cruel disciples did not take him seriously and, having lost their belief in him, they all left.
There were now only a few people remaining at Kopan, among them Sylvia and Cynthia, two lesbian Americans. Zengo told Sylvia that for a master sex was not a problem and invited her to become his mistress, but she declined and openly let him know that she preferred Cynthia. Desperate to regain his position as teacher he decided to give another meditation course, but when he announced it to the girls they just laughed at him.
In the end he left all alone. I heard later that under the name of His Holiness Maitreya Buddha he got a new group of followers in England.

7 comments:

Ai said...

That's a funny yet tragic little story. I love tales with a twist ^^

- Ai (no Day Tripper)

yeshiUK said...

I knew Zengo briefly in England in 1970. I had heard he'd set up a dharma centre near Nottingham (1971?). I was wondering where he might be now, if still alive?
Charles M

Bold oy! said...

I am sorry but I know less than you.

Googling Zengo I found the following:

Sangharakshita: …Why does Enlightenment experience need confirmation?' Anybody got any ideas?
Kuladeva: It's possible to be led astray. One example that springs to mind is Zengo, when he thought he had become the Buddha Maitreya. So he had had possibly some kind of lofty spiritual experience, obviously short of Enlightenment if he had mistaken it for something
else.

Apparently he caused quite a stir in the Buddhist community in England when he came out as Maitreya, but they didn't know the origin of his belief!

yeshiUK said...

Found him -
he has created a beautiful garden.
Doesn't seem to teach as much as he used to.
http://www.buddhamaitreya.co.uk/
Must drop by one day...

Bold oy! said...

Whoa! That is nice to see.

yeshiUK said...

I remember Zengo from his pre-Maitreya days, or at least pre-English-Maitreya days: from your amusing tale I gather he had already revealed himself as Maitreya (cornflakes and acid, hmm...).
In UK he suddenly made the annoucement: I think the first time was at Samye-Ling Tibetan Centre in Scotland, whereupon he was asked to leave. But I may have got confused about sequences. Anyway, we went on to Fife, and I eventually found him rather suspect, and left on good terms. However, I must say I had a lot of respect for his meditation, some of his sessions and retreats were excellent. Just a bit too much interest in vulnerable females (he was claiming to be a monk at the time). My moment for leaving was when I got up in the middle of a sessin, walked across the shrine-room, took his glasses off, gave them to him, and walked out, respectfully. It seemed like the right thing to do (I was 20).
I must say the garden is impressive - it speaks of a fine meditative mind, methinks.

Bold oy! said...

You must have met him shortly after I knew him in the fall of 1970.
He definitely had power, but I doubt that a drug induced enlightenment is lasting.

I saw him at his most vulnerable and he did seem thrown off balance and I also found his interest in women suspect.

Anyway, who am I to judge! The garden is there, that is an impressive achievement.