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 Stories » "Five Years with a Zen Master"

"Five Years with a Zen Master"

submitted by decadron on Tuesday, February 14 at 12:01 PM

Augie Turak will speak on Monday about the five years he spent on a farm with Richard Rose in the early 80's. Since then, Augie has co-founded several companies (most notably MTV), and won the Templeton "Power of Purpose" contest with his essay, "Brother John." Augie established the Self Knowledge Symposium at NC State, which later added chapters at Duke and UNC-CH, and this is the lecture that started it all!

7:30 Monday, February 20th
Walnut Room, 4th floor of Talley
Tickets are $3 if you preregister, or $5 at the door, and can be purchased by emailing Andrew at ajhutzel@ncsu.edu or Blake at wbpember@ncsu.edu (you don't send us money, just pay $2 less if you're preregistered).

posted by Maugan on Friday, February 17 at 4:18 PM

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wilso
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CULT CULT CULT

2/17/2006 5:00:36 PM

marko
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Turak?

THE DINOSAUR HUNTER?

2/17/2006 5:14:47 PM

wilso
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http://chronicle.com/cgi2-bin/printable.cgi?article=http://chronicle.com/free/v49/i18/18a03101.htm

2/17/2006 5:16:19 PM

jimb0
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Quote :
""People hear that we are demanding, intense, and semireligious, and they often think 'cult,' but this is from people who have never attended a meeting," he says. "That's a perception that's very hard to fight." "


-taken from the very article you posted above.

2/17/2006 5:48:07 PM

Perlith
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I've talked to this guy before, he's cool as hell.

Why are you guys charging this time around? It because of the refreshments, walnut room, or what?

2/17/2006 6:04:04 PM

Punter16
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This guy most definitely did not "co-found" MTV

2/17/2006 9:58:50 PM

Shadowrunner
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I went to several meetings years ago, and was highly unimpressed. I'm not sure if I'd go so far as to say cult, but certainly on the border. They're the kind of people who equate emotional response with enlightenment, or at least catharthis, so I watched a guy be mean to a woman until she broke down and cried, then say, "See? Now see? That's what it's all about.", assuming that meant she finally "got it" when really he had just insulted her entire life and everything she believed in.

They say they want to discuss things openly, but it's very clear that they have their own beliefs and agendas that they want to press upon people, and other opinions are very clearly considered wrong.

2/17/2006 9:59:03 PM

qntmfred
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^ that pretty much sums up my experience with them too. i actually fell asleep when i went to this lecture the bullshit was so thick

2/17/2006 10:19:46 PM

jimb0
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Quote :
"Why are you guys charging this time around?"


We're charging to help cover catering from Bear Rock cafe and to help cover typical costs associated with running a student organization (it is for the most part self-sustained). Augie is not seeing a dime of the money, nor does he want to.

I don't understand the negative feelings people have here. I'm a fairly skeptical guy myself, and I found this talk to be a breath of fresh air when I attended it 3 years ago. If anything, I'd challenge you all to throw down any defenses you have against SKS and see if you benefit from the talk. I think anyone would find the lecture well worth the small amount of money it costs to attend.

Quote :
"They say they want to discuss things openly, but it's very clear that they have their own beliefs and agendas that they want to press upon people, and other opinions are very clearly considered wrong."


There's a degree of both, to be honest (discussing things openly and loosely pressing beliefs on people). People do express themselves openly, but sometimes you get called on your bullshit (which is the way I think it should be in these meetings). You could argue that with a bunch of people in a room trying to run such a meeting, there's always going to be a degree of bullshit. As far as agendas, I've felt nothing but a genuine desire to share a philosophy that is akin to those read in standard Zen texts (see: Alan Watts). That may not interest everyone, but it sure as hell interests me. I sincerely believe there is a truth to being "awakened" (which by the way is not a term unique to SKS), and that I am far from it. I don't know if at any point in time that I'm progressing towards an ultimate "truth," but I get more personal satisfaction out of these meetings than I do just about any other time of the week. That's just me. Maybe it's not for you, but it's hardly fair to throw accusations of "cult" around.

2/17/2006 10:51:55 PM

vinylbandit
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I've always been baffled by the MTV thing. I've read plenty of accounts of the founding of MTV, and none of them mention August Turak. Granted, someone might've stolen his idea (not that music videos were a new idea even then), but it's a big stretch from "I had the idea for MTV and my friend stole it" and "co-founded".

2/18/2006 1:49:33 AM

sexysadie
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i feel obligated to comment. I was involved with SKS many years ago, when I first came to NCSU and had few friends. it is very easy to get "sucked in" to this organization's mantra... especially if you are still seeking your own identity. long story short, the organization strives to convince members that they are not special, that they are not unique, essentially to break your spirit. if they succeed in convincing you that you are worthless in this world, they love you.

i can remember sitting in a circle of these people for hours at a time, literally, 3 hours, staring at each other. the "guru" told us that this was part of gaining "rapport" with one another. what it really was was a form of emotional abuse. you were not allowed to get up to use the bathroom, drink water, or cough. If you broke eye contact for an instant, you were verbally assaulted as being ingenuine, shallow, and insignificant. also, as one of the only females in the group, i was regularly singled out for analysis.

as far as Augie Turak, i had several conversations with him during my involvement with SKS. i later concluded that he is a severely disturbed individual, who i believe is frighteningly close to killing himself. the man cried so often, that i felt sure that he would turn up dead by the next meeting.

one day i brought an "outside" friend to a lecture with me, after about 3 months of my devout involvement in the group. by this time, i had contributed several hundred dollars to SKS, given up my family and friends, they had even convinced me to abstain from sex. after sitting quietly through the lecture, my friend came to me later and quietly said, "we need to talk".

she explained to me that although she understood my need to belong, these people were dangerous. i initially balked at her assessment, but then i missed a meeting. before i knew what was happening, SKS members began showing up at my dorm, creeping out my roomate and my suitemates. they would knock on my window, leave notes, warning me that i was not "authentic" and that i was weak. we finally had to go to the RA to get them to leave me alone.

in sum, beware. these people are a little off.

2/18/2006 1:57:12 AM

Shadowrunner
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I'd like to point out that I actually do know how to spell catharsis without a lisp. I think I had it phrased differently at first and was using cathartic, then changed it incorrectly.

Anyway... jimb0, I don't have any problem at all with the fact that SKS has an agenda or beliefs that they are trying to share. I just disagree with their methods for doing so and the fact that they aren't up front about it, instead trying to suck people in under the promise of open, anything-goes philosophical discussion, which I would have loved if that's what the group was about. The problem is that some people simply don't make the leap to realizing that the open discussions are actually intended to push people's beliefs in a certain direction, and instead only end up feeling insulted or broken. Still others become addicted to the emotional highs provided by some of the ritual and breaking-down of the meetings, without stopping to consider whether it's actually benefitting their lives; it seemed like a fairly common tactic was to make someone feel like they were an absolutely horrible person, and offer the promise of teaching them the path to enlightenment and improvement. Sure, that's not an uncommon tactic in many organizations (even in marketing--guilt sells), but that doesn't excuse it... and it can make the person feel horrible about themselves during the rest of the week. It's a good hook, and many people bite, but it can do a lot of damage before someone helps you pull the hook out.

2/18/2006 5:11:36 AM

jimb0
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Quote :
"one day i brought an "outside" friend to a lecture with me, after about 3 months of my devout involvement in the group. by this time, i had contributed several hundred dollars to SKS, given up my family and friends, they had even convinced me to abstain from sex. after sitting quietly through the lecture, my friend came to me later and quietly said, "we need to talk"."


to be quite honest, it sounds to me like you were somehow personally hurt from the meetings. part of the aforementioned "awakening" (which again is NOT a term unique to SKS) is giving up the illusion of who you think you are. again, it's not for everybody.

the only money i've ever contributed to SKS is to buy a roll of scotch tape to hold posters up and a few dollars to help pay for refreshments at the meetings. i've never heard anything about abstaining from sex in the meetings, and that sounds pretty ridiculous; i'd like to know the context of that one.

as for everything Shadowrunner said:

first of all, let's define agenda:
Quote :
"An agenda is a list of points to be discussed at a meeting, along with the order of points to be discussed."


you are completely correct, there is almost always an agenda; not having one would make for a pretty boring meeting. imagine meeting once a week to hear everybody's ideas on religion and philosophy in round-robin fashion. now imagine if there were no leadership or guided discussion or loosely pre-determined topics. i hope we can all honestly agree that this wouldn't last long. people would say what they wanted to say, it would turn into group therapy and there simply wouldn't be enough organization involved to sustain interest over time. when people get together in such a fashion, it's usually masturbation as far as i can tell. everybody wants to hear themselves talk (and in saying that, there is still and will always be a degree of this to SKS meetings as well). all in all, i'd much rather listen and learn from a person who has spent the majority of their life seeking a higher meaning than listen to myself a bunch of young adults explain a comfortable and easy to digest life philosophy. if i want comfort i'll go to church or talk to my parents. in saying that i'm not saying there is anything especially terrible about comfort, it just isn't what i personally think i need right now, to grow as a person.

also, i've never heard of such a promise for "open, anything-goes philosophical discussion." i'm not sure who told you that, but that's never been SKS to the best of my knowledge. as for making people feel bad, that's something common to just about any Zen-inspired philosophy (and actually common to the enlightenment process regardless of Zen or Christian or any other religious or non-religious background). it's what i was talking about earlier, surrendering the things we tell ourselves are truths that are really just comforts for the most part.

i'm hardly enlightened myself, but i'm at least open to the possibility that i'm living a lie. i'm extremely guilty of living in my own head (not sure if that makes sense to anyone), and i don't want to continue to numb myself to life so it won't hurt anymore. i want to be alive. again, again, again: the SKS 'agenda' is not for everybody. but for where i am right now in life, i honestly believe it's serving me well.

2/18/2006 1:43:26 PM

Supplanter
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http://clubs.ncsu.edu/philosophy/

For anyone who is interested in informal philosophy disccusions (using the term 'philosophy' in the academic sense, not in the 'maybe gods a she -oh wow thats deep man' sense) you could try one of the events listed on the schedule at that site.

2/18/2006 8:51:40 PM

EnderJRD
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Quote :
"They say they want to discuss things openly, but it's very clear that they have their own beliefs and agendas that they want to press upon people, and other opinions are very clearly considered wrong."


This is pretty much right on. I was involved with it for a year, and since I didn't march in step and go out of my way to go with them on retreats, I was told I wasn't allowed back. It had nothing to do with dissenting opinions or the such, since I openly agreed with much of what was said. It was the fact that I wouldn't join and go 'gung-ho' 24/7 with the group.

And I did notice that many of the people in charge of the group at the time weren't very open to people who didn't agree with them, which was hypocritical since they preached about open-mindedness.

Edit: My experience was not nearly as fucked up as sexysadie's though.

2/19/2006 1:48:04 PM

Perlith
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Quote :
"Choices always were a problem for you.
What you need is someone strong to guide you.
Deaf and blind and dumb and born to follow,
What you need is someone strong to use you..
Like me,
Like me.

If you want to get your soul to heaven,
Trust in me .
Don’t judge or question.
You are broken now ,
But faith can heal you.
Just do everything I tell you to do.
Deaf and blind and dumb and born to follow.
Let me lay my holy hand upon you."


Tool - Opiate

2/19/2006 5:25:24 PM

nastoute
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i went to a meeting or two a long time ago

i think i balked when I realized the money required to go on the "retreats"

it's in the hundreds of dollars

so, it is just a small group discussion at first, but they do try to make it "more"

and the make it "more" part takes money

no thank you

2/19/2006 7:53:18 PM

jimb0
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again, sounds like sks is just not for you. retreats cost money, that's just how it goes. yes, all organizations ask people to participate to some degree, or they wouldn't survive. there's a difference between politely saying "it wasn't for me" and insinuating the group is a bank for elder gurus like scientology. i don't know if this is what some of you were getting at, but combined with accusations of "cult" i couldn't help but take it this way.

i'm defensive because i think there's a lot of unwarranted negativity here.

2/19/2006 10:44:12 PM

Sweden
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DO YOU AGREE WITH MIKE?

2/19/2006 11:07:36 PM

sexysadie
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i think its time for a t-dub intervention

poor guy defending his cult


2/19/2006 11:14:02 PM

nastoute
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the problem is that they advertise as a philosophical discussion group, when in reality, it's more of a religion

2/19/2006 11:17:10 PM

Supplanter
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Sitting in circles staring at each other, leadership exercises, and examining yours & others personalities/emotions isn't philosophy.

But their misuse of the term isn't that horrible, I mean any time I have an English class or a history professor and they notice I'm a philosophy major they like to tell me how deep/philosophical their profession is.

But physical events & retreats sounds more like a church event or fraternity ritual rather than an academic discussion. Then again the philosophy club does go bowling a lot, but $2.50 for a night of bowling is pretty cheap.

2/19/2006 11:32:21 PM

wilso
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i don't think you have much to worry about with bowling.

2/20/2006 12:22:04 AM

vinylbandit
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Especially since the Philosophy Club bowling trophy is sitting in a case in Winston. 90% of SKS fliers are cryptic as SHIT.

So, no one answered my question about the lack of Turak's name in any account of the founding of MTV. jimb0, what gives?

[Edited on February 20, 2006 at 1:40 AM. Reason : d]

2/20/2006 1:39:39 AM

Shadowrunner
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i can understand you being defensive. it's certainly true that SKS is a good fit for some people, and it may not be the right group for other people. that's the case for any organization. my concern is that the recruiting tactics and approach of SKS seems to me to be somewhat predatory; there seems to be a large amount of bait-and-swap going on, and then following it up by attempting to break someone down in order to create a sort of dependency on the organization. that kind of psychological manipulation and control is what i take issue with, and is what draws the comparisons of SKS to a cultic group.

does that mean that SKS actually is a cult? not necessarily, and quite possibly not. i'm just saying that there are enough characteristics on the front-end in trying to recruit new members to the organization that it bears mentioning so that other students who are interested can at least make a more informed decision about joining.


that said, doesn't dude have some other talks he could give these days? surely something interesting has happened to him in the last 7 years that he could make a good speech about.

2/20/2006 2:19:18 AM

jimb0
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vinyl, he didn't found MTV, that was a misunderstanding by the person who submitted this thread (who coincidentally thought SKS was a cult a long time before joining it). Augie Turak did not found or co-found MTV. he helped get the MTV project off the ground after someone came up with the idea. the specifics for what he actually did i do not know. you're welcome to ask him at the meeting tomorrow

shadow, i think it's really cool that you argue a valid point and actually read what i wrote, and continue to present good reasons why you don't care for sks. i actually agree that there's an element of 'attempting to break someone down,' but i guess for me i see it as a necessary step if one wants to find the ultimate 'truth' or 'awakening' so frequently referred to. the problem is that this is copied by many malicious organizations to exercise mind control over people for money or power. it's really hard to filter out one predatory organization that tells people they are living a lie from another non-predatory organization that says essentially the same thing but tries to help people find truth.

do i *really* know if sks is predatory or non-predatory? Nope. i just have enough faith at the moment that it is non-predatory. it's scary shit, allowing your mind to be someone else's playdough. there's not much else to say really, except that i'd rather explore a greater depth of meaning in my life right now than have regrets later in life that i never sought answers to the big questions. in a perfect scenario, i'd go through a few hoops, find myself enlightened, and get on with life satisfied that i had the answer. mind you, any enlightened person will tell you there is no inellectual breakdown of the "answer," so it's not something you can just hear or read and instantly understand or contain. in a more expected scenario, i'll have found some answers or be a little closer to the truth and be satisfied enough to move on. if i didn't sacrifice some part of who i am, i wouldn't get any rewards (and this is something that happens regardless of the organization you're a part of or the truth you seek).

yeah, im sure he's had other shit going on, and he has, but it's hard to come up with stories that top this one.

in a few years, i might look back and think i was crazy, but i very much believe i'll look back and be proud of myself for really trying to find some answers.

2/20/2006 3:17:34 AM

nastoute
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Quote :
"it's scary shit, allowing your mind to be someone else's playdough."


yeah

that's not cool

2/20/2006 10:01:45 AM

EnderJRD
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I just found out that my roomie is president of SKS and I had no idea.

So I talked to him about my past experience and learned that all the people that used to play mindgames are no longer around the NCSU chapter. They no longer do the hardcore retreat stuff (demanding that you come) and act more like a typical student organization apparently. My roomie is a pretty normal guy and had no idea what I was talking about when I shared my story.

2/20/2006 1:22:25 PM

shalot
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whatever happened to ed cheely? that kid was creepy.

2/21/2006 6:44:46 AM

jimb0
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Ed is super cool, what are you talking about? I never found him at all creepy. Was there anything that made you think that?

2/21/2006 4:37:08 PM

vinylbandit
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OBVIOUSLY THERE WAS.

READING COMPREHENSION.

2/22/2006 3:54:23 AM

jimb0
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Vinyl, I answered your question earlier. You've got some kind of undying need to fling your shit at me like an attention-starved child.

2/22/2006 12:35:53 PM

colter
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sounds like a cult to me eh? eh?

2/22/2006 8:42:37 PM

jimb0
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/thread

2/22/2006 10:00:53 PM

vinylbandit
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Yes, you answered my question earlier.

However, in reponse to the phrase "that kid was creepy" (referring to Ed Cheely), you said "Was there anything that made you think that?"

If there wasn't, she wouldn't have said "that kid was creepy," eh?

That's all I'm saying.

2/23/2006 2:55:38 AM

jimb0
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You criticize my reading comprehension, when it should have been obvious from the nature of my question and my tone that I had a hard time digesting her comment. The equivalent semantic dissection could be used more effectively on the millions of spelling errors that get ignored on this site. That's all I'm saying.

2/23/2006 4:49:43 AM

vinylbandit
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Your tone and position were quite clear from your first two sentences.

2/23/2006 5:59:50 PM

Crooden
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Quote :
"DO YOU AGREE WITH MIKE?"


lol

2/25/2006 1:04:22 PM

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