"Barry Graham" is the alias of a 46 year old Scottish national who declares himself a famous writer, journalist, and "Zen Master." After living in Arizona for a number of years, he recently moved to Portland, Oregon. Based on outrageous and totally ignorant claims about having been trained, ordained, and given transmission as a Soto lineage holder in Japan, he started giving precepts and even ordained a number of "monks". Problem is, his behavior was so suspect, bizarre, abusive and erratic his students got suspicious. When they investigated, it turns out none of his claims were true: his supposed teacher was fictitious, the temples in Scotland and Japan don't exist, all the documents supporting his flimsy claims were proved fakes, the Sotoshu had never hear of him, and no two pieces of his story about any part of his life added up.
He's once again changed locations and is trying to gather new students around himself. He's self-published a book of "Zen teachings" (called "Kill Your Self: Life After Ego" as if that didn't prove his ignorance about Zen in itself) and is exceedingly fond of couching himself as a "teacher" while discussing the simply fascinating exchanges initiated by questions from his "many students" (Most appear to be in his head.)
He's kept a blog since 2002. When controversy around him arose and was documented in a story in Tricycle magazine, at first he purged his more outrageous lies piecemeal, but then deleted the entire mess from 2002-2009. Luckily, someone screen captured most of the site before it was deleted.
Likewise, the website for his group (which seems to consist of himself and his girlfriend, whom he's "ordained") has likewise been regularly edited to alter or just remove claims as their lies were found to be ineluctable.
For instance, he initially said he was a Soto priest, who had trained at a temple in Glasgow and at "Butsudo Zen Center" sometimes said to be in Tokyo, sometimes Kyoto. He said his teacher in Scotland was Alan McFarlane; in Japan it was "Ando Yamashira roshi" later changed to "Yamashiro", when he presumably figured out the former wasn't even really a Japanese name. Whoops. Research revealed that none of of these places or people exist. He listed his "center" on numerous online directories as "Soto" authorized, and himself as a Soto priest. Later, when his claims crumbled, he stated that Yamashiro had left the Soto school, and that was why he wasn't listed in their records, totally failing to understand (or hoping everyone else would) that this simply isn't how it works. If you are a Soto priest, much less a Dharma holder, you are always in the records of this 800 yer old organization that bases its entire structure and legitimacy in meticulous records of Zen transmissions and ordinations. Never mind he was only saying this after having claimed to be a Soto "Zen Master" himself for the previous 5 years, and having been caught, he was flailing for an out.
The address of the center where he supposedly trained in Scotland was shown to be for an apartment building where he had lived before moving to the US, not zoned for anything but that. The only actual Zen group in the small city of Glasgow had never heard of Graham, his "teacher", or their temple - which they said was not possible if it existed. The cross street of his former apartment building is "Nansen." This in fact was the "Dharma name" he initially used for himself (in what I'm sure he found a cute and convenient and possibly even cosmic coincidence, it happens to be the Japanese version of Nanquan, the famous Chinese master); later he changed it to "Nanshin."
He also later adopted and used until recently the Japanese name Dogo. This name was given to him by Kobutsu Kevin Malone, a Rinzai Zen priest known for his prison chaplaincy work and dogged efforts to get his former teacher Eido Shimano held accountable for decades of abuse. Graham told Malone that he was a monk and wished to become his student and have Malone sponsor his center in Arizona. He asked Malone to send him robes since Graham's had "worn out", and also asked for money, bells, cushions, and zendo supplies. Malone accepted his claims at face value, and accepting him as his student gave Graham the name "Dogo."
They soon fell out. Graham slandered Malone and others of his students on his website - this kerfuffle was what was reported in the Tricycle piece (Graham has since deleted all evidence of this.) Malone told him to stop using the name Dogo - of course he didn't stop, for years. Not missing a beat or seeming to even slow down, after meeting with her twice, Graham started to claim the elderly and infirm Joko Beck was not only his teacher, but had given him "transmission." He was eventually contacted by Beck's own daughter and told to stop making these claims.
He now simply says he "eschews Zen traditions" as hopelessly backward and corrupt, yet calls himself "sensei", expounds on Zen forms and teachings, and offers "dokusan" (but only to his dues paying "members.")
There is considerably more to all this, as if it were needed, with discs full of screen captures and still extant blogs by others tracking his goings-on. Anyone with a more than cursory understanding of Zen in America can exactly track Graham's claims and see him artlessly and clumsily cobbling together bits and bobs from various Zen traditions as they've been developing here, pretty obviously inspired by the success and fame (such as it is) of Brad Warner. A bit of Sanbo Kyodan here, some San Francisco Zen Center here, a little "Namu Dai Bosa" from ZSS tossed in over there, a little Nishijima, etc etc. A hodge podge born of brazenness, ignorance, stunted emotional development, and internet access.
Beyond all of this foolishness, what he spouts as his deep and insightful Zen "diamonds" are simply mean, graceless, self-serving misinterpretations of the precious Dharma that suit his own brutal, manipulative agendas. I invite you to read his blog, and his writings. He's a nasty piece of work.
I'm putting this information here so that anyone in Portland can help spread the word, and those elsewhere if encountering him or his "teachings" know what sort of quantity you are dealing with here. In a word, all evidence suggests he's a total sociopath and inveterate scam artist and con man.
Last edited by jisahn108
on Sat Jan 26, 2013 8:41 pm, edited 2 times in total.