Dear Dharma Wheel Editors and Readers,
I hope this post finds everyone well.
My name is Charama Bhavika. I am the Executive Director of the Five Mountain Zen Order. I believe I am in a position to comment on some of what has been going on lately.
I have known Paul Lynch for 2-1/2 years. He ordained me as a Zen priest last year. This year, he allowed me to teach as an apprentice Zen teacher. I take that responsibility very seriously. My fellow Zen teachers in the Five Mountain Zen Order do, too. They are wonderful people, with insight, wisdom, and great compassion among their many positive attributes. I am proud to be associated with Paul and the Five Mountain Zen Order, and consider myself blessed to know people of such sterling character.
Paul Lynch is an excellent teacher. More than that, I have found him to be a compassionate, giving person who goes the extra mile for everybody. I have spoken to Paul for hundreds of hours in the years I have known him. I can vouch for his character. Seriously, you would be hard pressed to find somebody more committed to the Dharma.
I have watched Mujin Karuna post comments here, there, and everywhere, trying to enlist as many people as he can to his cause. I am surprised by how many people believe him without ever checking the facts, or going to the source for correct information. When people on various web sites discover the truth of the matter, they take down his posts. He attributes that to "heat" being put on them. But it has nothing to do with "heat," for there is no "heat" possible. What "heat" can be applied? What can anyone say or do to coerce someone to take down posts?
What Mujin calls "heat" is merely the light – of truth. When people discover the truth, they cease giving Mujin Karuna a platform.
For the record, I do not make a dime from Five Mountain Zen Order. Or from the students I teach. Or from teaching classes at the College of Zen Buddhist Studies. To my knowledge, no teacher at the College in our Order does. We all volunteer our time – hours and hours of it – to help people. We do it out of the same dedication to the Dharma that Mujin Karuna claims motivates him. I do what I do because I love to see people's lives transformed. The feedback I get from my students thrills and humbles me. I learn as much from them as they say they learn from me. They make the long hours worth it. I am sure Mujin Karuna does it for the same reasons.
I do not doubt his sincerity. So why does he doubt mine? or Paul's? Or that of any teacher in the Five Mountain Zen Order?
I will not reveal personal information about Mujin Karuna. His past is his business. He has a right to his privacy.
However, I will say this: Mujin Dharma often posted comments in the Forum at the College of Zen Buddhist Studies. One comment would be kind and self-effacing. The very next could be sarcastic and bitter. One time, he complained that we were not paying enough attention to him, and angrily chided us for not doing more to reach out to him. Then, next post, he would apologize for his comments. A short while later, he returned to lashing out. He seemed to lack an even keel, swinging widely from one emotion to another.
Mujin Karuna was given free rein to become anything he wanted to be within our Order. Paul worked with him closely; doing everything he could to help Mujin become an educated, ordained teacher of Zen. Mujin was attending the College of Zen Buddhist Studies on a 100% scholarship granted by the teachers of the Five Mountain Zen Order. At one point, Mujin asked Paul if he could start a Prison study group. Paul agreed, and allowed Mujin to post information about his new venture on our College's Forum. Anything Mujin wanted to do, he could have done in our Order. There were no limits.
Except the ones he placed on himself.
And therein lies the heart of the matter.
On or about November 18, 2012, Mujin Karuna was expelled from the College of Zen Buddhist Studies and dismissed from the Five Mountain Zen Order for his divisiveness, attacking the Sangha verbally, attacking his teachers verbally, and creating disharmony within the Sangha.
This is when his vendetta against Paul Lynch and the Five Mountain Zen Order began in earnest.
Now, Mujin Karuna unrelentingly posts comments that accuse Paul, the Five Mountain Zen Order, and even me of malfeasance and/or trying to rip off the IRS or to con people. None of that is true. Paul Lynch is meticulous in his record keeping. And he jumps through all required legal hoops to make absolutely sure what we're doing is legal and above board.
For example, the issue with PayPal that Mujin Karuna likes to hold up as damning evidence against Paul was nothing more than the Five Mountain Zen Order following all of PayPal's requirements to open a business banking account bearing the same name as the order for Tax purposes – which was done once Paul relocated to Las Vegas. PayPal told Paul that he couldn't access his money until he complied with their regulations. He did. And the money was released. Nothing illegal occurred. No IRS law was skirted. In fact, just the opposite. All local, state, and federal laws have been fully obeyed.
On that subject, it is worth noting that on July 31, 2012, Mujin Karuna recounted his own struggles (in a post in the College's Forum) with setting up his PayPal account in the Philippines. He offered advice in setting up the Five Mountain Zen Order's PayPal account. He was not accusing us of anything then. In fact, then, he acknowledged the struggles he went through himself in complying with the regulations and laws, and sympathized with our plight.
As a side point, Mujin says that Five Mountain has committed tax fraud as a Non-Profit organization, and claims he contacted the IRS. He exaggerates his claims at every turn. We do not claim, and nowhere does it say, that the Five Mountain Zen Order is a tax exempt 501(c)3. We have filed as a Corporation in Nevada and are in the process of applying for tax-exempt status. The paperwork has yet to be filed with the IRS.
I have never met Mujin Karuna. I have only had limited e-mail exchanges with him, starting with the College acceptance e-mail I sent to him on June 26th, 2012. I know him primarily through his posts in our College Forum – and, lately, via his libelous accusations here and elsewhere. Therefore, I do not know if he actually believes what he posts, or if he is merely lashing out in blind anger trying to hurt us and take down an Order that exists for one purpose: to help others.
I have no "heat" to apply to Mujin Karuna. Or to anyone here at Dharma Wheel. There is nothing I can do to stop Mujin Karuna from ruining my life or the lives of those with whom I work, people about whom I care deeply. All I can do is hope that he will abide by the Precepts he took, and find the heart of compassion that is so lacking in the world today – especially if he is as concerned with the Mahasangha as he says he is.
That is all I can ask of anyone here, frankly. Patience. The benefit of the doubt. No snap judgments. There is no need for anger. Or bitterness. Or vindictiveness. Any time you would like to discuss the Five Mountain Zen Order, just contact me. I am on Facebook. You can always reach me there.
As I wrote, I do not personally know Mujin. I can see from his work in the Philippines that he is dedicated to helping others. He appears to be sincere in his commitment to the Dharma. I am not interested in tearing down his character or demeaning his work. In fact, just the opposite. I wish him all the best and hope his sangha grows and prospers.
As for the other anti-Paul, anti-Five Mountain comments here, I can assure you that nobody involved with Five Mountain is – as one poster put it – "...clearly just driven by the need for cash, and adulation by those similarly ambitious." If Paul has cash piled up somewhere, I have yet to see it. And if he – or any of us in the Five Mountain Zen Order – is "ambitious" it is to do one thing, and one thing alone: help others. That is why Paul worked with Mujin Karuna for so long, long after we suggested he part ways with him because of his erratic behavior. That is why his direction for me, in every conversation (for over two years!) is to find my path and let the world see my heart. He never once said, "You know, Charama. If you really want to rake it in, here's what you need to do." On the contrary, Paul assures me that the "Dharma business" is long on debt and very short indeed on cash.
Moreover, that is fine with me. I have learned to live on very little. My car is ten years old (and in serious need of repair) and I live paycheck to paycheck. It takes my wife and I months to save up for a Zen retreat. Afterwards, we are hurting for money. I know of at least one other teacher in the Five Mountain Zen Order who could not afford to attend the last retreat. Therefore, he did not. We make do with what we have.
I'm not sure where the ideas and charges come from that I see posted here, especially that Paul does what he does for money, or that we're all "ambitious." However, I can tell you straight out neither is true.
We do it out of love.
And that's the God's honest truth.
Here's more truth:
Mujin Karuna claims that Karuna Dharma, et al, did not know our Order assumed direction of the University the Venerable Dr. Thich Thien-An founded. The truth is, our Abbot and Karuna Dharma were responsible for the passing of the torch, from them to us. We now carry that torch carefully, gently, knowing full well how important it is to honor Karuna Dharma, Dr. Thich Thien-An, and all those great teachers and great students who were affiliated with the school over the years. We take nothing lightly at Five Mountain Zen Order, least of all the honoring of those who came before us.
Mujin Karuna claims that our Order "stole" the International Buddhist Meditation Center (IBMC). The truth is, Five Mountain Zen Order has no affiliation with the International Buddhist Meditation Center (IBMC) and has never stated such. IBMC is no longer operating as it once was. They now serve as an open Sangha House accepting Buddhist Monastics who live in Los Angeles.
Life is short. It would be a shame to spend it in anger, polarized by imagined - or falsified - bifurcations. That is why my own personal path is only love – as in "only love dispels hate." I try hard to build bridges, to mend fences, and to help others who are hurting. I ask everyone here to please seek love and to embrace peace. Working together, we could transform the world. Valuable time spent bickering is unforgivable.
Thank you for taking time to read my post. I apologize for its length. I guess I had a lot to say.
"If you want to attain your true nature, you must have Great Faith, Great Courage, and Great Question. It is like a three-legged stool...With these supporting your practice, you can attain your true self. You can attain universal substance, and attain your correct way, and truth, and make your life correct. Then you can help all sentient beings get out of suffering. That is our job."
- Zen Master Seung Sahn
Compass of Zen