I'm not saying that the article is flawed because the author is a student of Nydahl's. If this appeared to be my thesis to any of you I apologize for the misunderstanding. In order to judge if the article is objective or not, of course one needs to investigate the article itself and analyze the arguments and theses proposed in it.
The propositional content of a thesis and the intentions with which the author proposes this thesis are two different facts which have to be judged independently of each other - but of course there can be relations between both layers of discourse. In this case I believe it is all too obvious that the author is biased because he is an Ole Nydahl student. Nevertheless, of course, the claim that his article is pseudo-objective needs to be supported by arguments. Funny enough, this distinction between the rational content of a criticism and the intentions of the person uttering it leads us directly to the flaw of the article.
I was a student of Ole Nydahl's for a while in the late nineties, and one of the very many critical points that made me change my mind and turn away from him was the way he handles criticism. He almost never addresses the rational content of a criticism, instead he just insinuates that the criticism is uttered because the person criticising him has negative intentions. Like being impoisoned by pride, hatred, jealousy etc. Or, if the criticism comes from people on the "other side" of the Karmapa affair, he just insinuates that the motive behind the criticism is just that they are attacking him for political reasons. But I cannot remember that he ever addressed the rational content of the criticisms he was confronted with.
To give you an example, in the mid-nineties there was a big scandal in the Vienna center, because the founders of that center split from (or is it with?) the Ole students. The founders are studied Tibetologists who follow a rather traditional approach and saw themselves primarily as students of the Tibetan teachers, namely of Khenpo Chodrak. They had a big fight with the Ole students, both sides sueing each other to whom the furnishing and all the statues of the center belonged etc. From the side of the traditionalists there were lots of well founded rational reasons why they couldn't go with the Ole students any more. One of the most important reasons was that the Ole students were trying to forbid
them to do Tibetan Pujas in the temple. (At that time Ole had literally banned all Tibetan Pujas from his centers and only allowed his translated meditations in his centers.) When Ole adressed this conflict in his public talks, all he said about it was that the founders of that center are intellectuals and as such they are very proud and narrow minded, and because of their pride they had turned against him. He didn't address the rational content of their criticism with one single word. And this is how he normally addresses criticism.
This way of handling criticism is a widespread pattern both in Ole Nydahl's behaviour as well as in his students behaviour, and alltogether it creates a certain cultish athmosphere in his centers, because as soon as you ask a critical question people respond by saying things like "Oh, you are very proud, you should do more prostrations" or "you only say that because of anger you should do more Dorje Sempa practice".
Now coming back to the topic of this thread and to my accusation that the author is pseudo-objective, let's take a look at this passage:
It is surprising to realize how little academic research has been done on a worldwide organization whose adherents form the largest number of convert Buddhists in many European countries and possibly the largest convert Buddhist movement in the whole of Europe and South America. This lack of research might partly be due to the fact that the Diamond Way is still of rather negligible relevance in France and the Anglo-Saxon world. Another factor is the academic bias, especially in current North-American Buddhist and Tibetan Studies, whose scholars/practitioners overwhelmingly come from the dGe lugs school or the more vocal other side of the divided Karma bKa' brgyud community. They are supported by large and influential Buddhist publishing houses such as the dGe lugs-associated Wisdom and Snow Lion and institutions such as the Tsadra Foundation. In the controversy about the recognition of the Seventeenth Karma pa hierarch, this group favors one-sidedly the Si tu pa candidate, Urgyen Trinley (O rgyan 'phrin las), who is recognized by the surprising alliance of the Chinese occupants of Tibet and the Dalai Lama. The supporters of this candidate try to monopolize the academic and public discourse by attacking or ignoring Thaye Dorje (mTha' yas rdo rje), the candidate supported by Nydahl and his Diamond Way; Thaye Dorje wasrecognized by the "Red Hat Karma pa," the Fourteenth Zhwa dmar pa hierarch.
This passage and the entire article reflects exactly this pattern of thinking that Ole Nydahl applies when he is responsing to criticism: instead of addressing the rational points of the critique brought forward he insinuates the critic has negative intentions, or even worse: belongs to the "other side".
This pattern of thinking is on the verge of paranoia, but certainly it is a form of denying reality.
If Scherer really wanted to know why the academic community ignores Ole Nydahl and his teachings, he could research what the criticisms are. There was an over 100 pages thread at eSangha (I pretty much sense that this thread is going to become very long as well), there still is an over 100 pages thread at the cult watch forum at rickross.com, there are numerous critical articles on the web by observers belonging to the christian churches. And last not least: having studied Tibetology (?) or comparative religious sciences or whatever, Scherer could have simply asked his academic teachers what their criticism is. And even if now Scherer is maybe bound to have a pure view of his teacher he should have done so before he decided to see Ole as his Guru.
There are so many points about Ole Nydahl's teachings which are criticised over and over again that refuting them from an academic point of view (if that would be possible at all) would fill volumes. But instead of adressing the critique on a rational level Scherer trivializes it: people may have a problem with Ole's biography, the drugs and the women, but well, the drug stuff is history, his womanizing is a from of Crazy Wisdom and his political views about Islam are his private opinion. And yes, at least he's honest about it. And besides the academic community is ignoring Ole Nydahl because they are against his Karmapa.
On this background the whole "hermeneutic of trust" vs. "hermeneutic of suspicion" thing appears to me like an attempt to intellectually sublimate Oles style of handling (or rather manhandling) criticism: instead of dealing with the rational content he insinuates negative intentions. So, even if I haven't yet read it with the scrutiny with wich I normally read academic articles, the baseline of Scherers thesis seems to be: whoever criticises Ole is doing so from the perspective of a hermeneutics of suspicion, so let's just ignore it.
If I have overread a passage where Scherer actually rationally adresses a criticism of Nydahl's teachings
- please let me know.
Loud farts during meditation are allowed. Very loud farts during meditation are allowed. - Kodo Sawaki Roshi, Zen ist die größte Lüge aller Zeiten