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Shoes Outside the Door: Desire, Devotion, and Excess at San Francisco Zen Center

Shoes Outside the Door Desire Devotion and Excess at San Francisco Zen Center Eastern tradition collides with Western individualism in this provocative and compulsively readable investigation of Buddhism American style A genuine spiritual movement becomes strangely entangled w

  • Title: Shoes Outside the Door: Desire, Devotion, and Excess at San Francisco Zen Center
  • Author: Michael Downing
  • ISBN: 9781582432540
  • Page: 446
  • Format: Paperback
  • Eastern tradition collides with Western individualism in this provocative and compulsively readable investigation of Buddhism, American style A genuine spiritual movement becomes strangely entangled with elitist aesthetics, the culture of celebrity, multi million dollar investment portfolios, sex scandals, and an unsolved crime.Told Rashomon fashion by a singular mix of hEastern tradition collides with Western individualism in this provocative and compulsively readable investigation of Buddhism, American style A genuine spiritual movement becomes strangely entangled with elitist aesthetics, the culture of celebrity, multi million dollar investment portfolios, sex scandals, and an unsolved crime.Told Rashomon fashion by a singular mix of hippies, millionaires, intellectuals, and lost souls whose lives are almost unbelievably intertwined, Shoes Outside the Door is the first book to examine the inner workings of the profoundly influential San Francisco Zen Center In exploring the history of the most important institution in American Buddhism, author Michael Downing provocatively captures the profound ambivalence of people who earnestly seek both inner peace and worldly satisfaction.

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      Published :2018-05-10T18:18:37+00:00

    1 thought on “Shoes Outside the Door: Desire, Devotion, and Excess at San Francisco Zen Center

    1. I lived at Green Gulch Farm for two years in the late 90s. My mom gave me this book when it came out, but I never read it. Pertains largely to Zen Center's early history and "1983" when the Baker-Roshi scandal erupted (before my time). A ZC friend was over last week and saw it on my shelf, and he recommended it, so I finally started reading it.2/3 of the way through. Personally interesting as I know many of the people interviewed. Interesting to see Zen Center's reach and interconnection with so [...]

    2. It’s nice to know that Western religion hasn’t cornered the market on sex scandals. But SHOES OUTSIDE THE DOOR: DESIRE, DEVOTION, AND EXCESS AT SAN FRANCISCO ZEN CENTER by Michael Downing is more than a sordid collection of lurid tabloid tales, it’s another piece of the puzzle in the alternative history of California and the birth of the beat/hippie underground. Here is the genesis of Zen’s introduction into America through the founding of the SFZC by Suzuki-roshi, who brought the practi [...]

    3. Ah, bad zen. California zen has become such a cliche, sort of like a fad in grape varietals or decorating style. This is old core stuff, the Tassajara books that we made bread from in the 70s, Paul Hawken, and so on. I think I knew some of these folks in Santa Fe later. Anyway, sex, money, and the desire for first place corrupt zen, Naropa, christian churches, et al, and this tells that tale. Read this along with van de Wetering and "Jake Fades."

    4. Fascinating well-written and intimate view distilled from a great many interviews with long time members of the San Francisco Zen Center. The content focuses on the visionary growth of the center to include the location in SF proper, its mountain retreat Tassajara, and Green Gulch Farm inspired by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi and managed by Richard Baker. It also focuses on the transitional issues the Center faced when its founder was asked to leave in 1983 - as the author termed it "The Apocalypse". Fo [...]

    5. The author put a tremendous amount of work, time and energy into this book, which I appreciate. Downing also captured well the visitors' social dynamics at Green Gulch, which I got a taste of this summer. But the book didn't work for me at all. Its zig-zag structure feels forced. I've got nothing against a creative chronology, but this book's structure was a mess. Its themes were repetitive. Overall, sadly, it's not worth the time.

    6. Really interesting but the book is just way too long. Cut out 75-100 pages and this is a thrill ride in scandal.

    7. It seems like every year, we see more cases of religious leaders, coaches, CEOS, or educators caught out for abusing the trust of those under them. Every time, there's evidence that the problems were going on for years, with the community turning a blind eye or even actively working to enable the corruption and silence any dissenters. How does it happen? Who gives power to someone like that and keeps giving them power after it's clear they're taking sexual, financial, or psychological advantage [...]

    8. A great read on the history of the San Francisco Zen Center. During the sixties, it flourished under the leadership of Shunryu Suzuki, a name to conjure with in the world of Soto Zen - but what happens when Suzuki dies and the center falls into the hands of Richard Baker, Suzuki's appointed American succesor? As everyone knows, Baker eventually got booted out, and how that came about is the subject of the book. It's told in a non-linear way, which might make for a longer book than it would make [...]

    9. Wow, another case of BGS (Bad Guru Syndrome). From the Maharishi to Jim Jones, Bhagwan Rajneesh to Sai Baba; from David Koresh to Jim Jones, the number of "spiritual teachers" who show up with feet of clay continues to bedevil sincere seekers.This story about Richard Baker of the San Francisco Zen Center seems to be little of an exception to the rule. And after reading this I come to this conclusion: He's another socialized sociopath. The classical symptoms of socialized sociopathy include: A do [...]

    10. This book should have been better. What a great subject--exploitation in a spiritual community where trust and ethical conduct were purported to prevail. It was an opportunity to explore human frailty, faith over wisdom, greed and delusion in a Buddhist community. Instead the author meanders, is indirect, and in short, never really explains exactly what happened. Perhaps I feel this way because the author keeps aluding to a cataclysmic event, but then never describes it. Because the core of the [...]

    11. This book is at its core about a sex scandal, but it's not some exploitative sensationalistic exercise. In an appropriately non-linear way, and with extensive personal statements by many key players, Downing conveys the dream-like quality that pervades a community of true believers who have complete faith in their sprirtual leader, a blind faith that left them all completely unprepared to discover their leader was vain, insensitive and corrupt. The SF Zen Center implosion, called "the Apocalypse [...]

    12. Exquisite writing by a non-Buddhist who is somehow able to write clearly about the fuzziest aspects of Zen and the moral quandaries, the beauty and simplicity, and the multiple perspectives of a whole constellation of people involved in the sex, finances, and spiritual practices involved in bringing Japanese Buddhism to America. Their(mostly) good intentions were (as all ours are at times) overwhelmed by their humanity. Here is Mrs. Dalloway as non-fiction: each person sees everything from a dif [...]

    13. Insightful and interesting, though in parts a bit long and wordy. I found the jumps in time irritating and confusing at times. I liked the openness of the author, the way he tried to get as many perspectives as possible and bring them together using his own clear view and his intelligence. He is telling a long and complicated story and managed to keep his personal judgment/opinion out of it most of the time. (A great accomplishment!) Very much recommended for people involved in spiritual / relig [...]

    14. A riveting book -- inspirational, horrifying, and hilarious, sometimes all at once. The rise and calamitous fall of the first Buddhist mystery ever founded outside Asia -- San Francisco Zen Center -- is told with a novelist's gift for characterization and eye for detail. The title alone is brilliant, not only standard Asian/Buddhist practice but also the tip-off that some Zen practitioners were straying from the path of renunciation. Just a tremendous read.

    15. Very interesting read about how an entire Zen community was tested and divided when it was discovered the sole American dharma heir to Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, Richard Baker Roshi, was having an affair with the wife of one of his students.Fascinating to see how supposedly "enlightened" people revert back to their conditioned belief systems and judgement rather than embracing the "accept everything," spirit of Zen.

    16. I love this book. Love it, love it, love it. The story of the first Zen center in the U.S. is interesting enough on its face -- full of bizarre characters and a murder mystery and a sex scandal -- but the writing itself is gorgeous and so very zen that I was completely unable to put this book down.

    17. I couldn't finish this, and I am ashamed. Especially because I've always said that I'm DYING for (secular) Buddhist history books. And this is even from the coolest subroutine: 1970s+ San Francisco Zen Center, and all the corruption that ensued! Oh man. Wish I could have liked this more, the topic is PERFECT.

    18. A rich, kaleidescopic history of America's first Zen temple. Although the bulk of the work focuses on the 1983 sex and money scandal that threatened to destroy the San Francisco Zen Center, all of the interviews taken together give a fascinating gestalt view of the story of the Center as a whole.

    19. any one interested in learning about the spiritual mindset of the sf bay area community should read this book. had i been the author i would have named the book "when good buddhists go bad."funny in a somewhat painful way. kudos michael downing

    20. Buddhist cautionary tale hubris always finds a way into everything.It's an interesting story - a portrait of a very charismatic spiritual leader run amok - but reading this made me feel like I was participating in gossip.

    21. Wow. Talk about controversy. The San Francisco Zen Center was a hot-bed of ego and striving, among its leadership, and devoted soul-seeking, among its laiety. Mr. Downing tells a very compelling story.

    22. This book was about 2/3 too long. A rambling mess where you really had to dig to figure out what happened when.

    23. This is an interesting story, but the writer provides WAY too much detail, which makes the book too long and kind of dull.

    24. Perfect page turner for anyone interested in Zen, its migration outside of Asia, San Francisco, the 1960s, scandals, or all of the above. Loved it.

    25. Gossip make the world go round. This book is one mighty text of politically correct gossip. It's the story of the "apocalypse" of the SF Zen Center--the first Zen temple in the United States.

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