Shady Enlightenment: Daniel Ingram and Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha

Speaking of warriors, I am awaiting a proposed settlement agreement from Daniel’s attorney today over my successfully registering MCTB2 for joint copyright on the basis of my contributions, which, as a matter of law, far exceed the threshold for coauthorship.

Contributions Exceeding Legal Threshold for Authorship  

I completely restructured and rewrote 350 manuscript pages, adding and eliciting much content. I designed all the tables in the book and came up with the content for some of them. I could go on and on, and I have elsewhere (15-page demand letter), but suffice it to say that I contributed more than 800 after-work hours, after working as a developmental editor on other books all day. 

I had a written agreement and promise from Daniel that I would receive an editorial byline on the book cover and the option of penning a signed preface. Although I handed over 350 beautiful pages, he withdrew my cover credit, which had already been added to the cover design, and, more recently, my option to write a preface. He took what I faithfully gave, and in return he broke all faith.

Even though I’m an author, to get the book out I conceded cover credit and asked only for an editorial acknowledgment on the Acknowledgments page, which lists many people, none who had anywhere near the level of involvement I did on this edition.

Incredibly, he refused me even an acknowledgment that any proofreader would, according to any publishing ethics, be entitled to. On his adverse copyright registration application, which is not in effect because my registration was granted instead, he claimed that all the work done in MCTB2 was solely his work. He is trying to take 100% credit for what is, conservatively, 90% my work. On his claim he even says my claim to authorship is “illegal,” and that I’m just a “disgruntled previous editor” clearly trying to “steal” his work. 

Pretty incredible.

Push-Me/Pull-Me Friendship

Daniel and I were friends, but the relationship was turbulent, marked by cycles of his inviting me in closer, my approahing, and his throwing a hand grenade, so to speak, when he realized we had gotten somewhat close. Then the cycle would begin again.

He helped me personally with my practice, with great frequency and depth. The book benefited from the teacher-student dynamic that emerged. This practice help was expressly excluded from our written agreement of March 29. I remain grateful for his help. I consider him my first teacher, despite all the ugliness that unfolded. It saddens me–all this disillusionment. It still shocks me–the self-guarding and cruelty of this self-proclaimed arahat, which means Buddhist saint, as is mentioned in MCTB.

Daniel’s Ice-Cold Shadow Side

I know from Daniel’s long correspondence with me, amounting to hundreds of emails, many of them lengthy, the deeper reasons for these difficulties, but I certainly won’t detail that background. He is an intensely private, guarded person. 

Nonetheless, a public figure who claims to be fully enlightened, an arahat, is subject to public critique and challenge. I do therefore challenge Daniel Ingram’s notion that he is an exemplar of enlightenment. His skill is technical; his gains, perceptual. My current teacher has stated to me that it takes most practitioners about a year to break down the perceptual boundaries, a year of practicing only 20 to 30 minutes per day if they practice well with proven methods. That is how long it took me. According to Ingram, it took him 7 years, despite all his proclamation of unmatched skill as a meditator. 

Ingram seems to use his partial gains to further dissociate from his emotions, especially his cyclical outbreaks of intimacy hunger, in order to preemptively shut down and scar over his own unbearable feelings of vulnerability. If he were able or willing to feel down into this polarity at his core, then that work on emotions and psycho-dynamics might lead to true enlightenment, to realization of the nirmanikaya rather than just the dharmakaya

What is frightening, and in my experience even more harmful then straight-up emotional unavailability, is that Daniel projects his disowned vulnerability, his own shadow side, onto those who dare to approach close enough to see and experience the brutality of his compensatory and defensive interpersonal modes and methods.

MCTB’s Compensatory Models of Enlightenment

My view is that, to legitimize this fundamental split at his core, Ingram authored a book in which he facilely splits off the entirely possible advanced gains of the practice and calls belief in and work toward them “naive.” He redefines and appropriates the term arahat, an appellation with a specific history, by simply shrinking it to fit within the limitations of his own personal practice. He misappropriates the Theravadin four-path model into what he terms the revised four-path model by simply lopping off the emotional and conduct fruition and summarily throwing such fruition on the ash heap. This elaborate self-deception is a disservice to those seeking full enlightenment. I will out this much. I have.

It is interesting to me that our collaboration on MCTB2 broke off right before the book part begins that espouses Ingram’s so-called nondual model of enlightenment. It is, in one respect, fitting that I never worked on what I cannot endorse as true.

If you are unable to be vulnerable, let alone feel into your vulnerability, if you are unable to be intimate with the interconnected field of humanity, if you are unable to be clean and connected with friends trying to help you, then you are no arahat, Mister.

Fatal Altercation

Daniel and I had many long, bitter fights via email during the year that I knew him, although only one of the fights had anything at all to do with my suggested revisions to the book. He praised my work. We were joyous over Part II as the work on it was wrapping up at the end of July.

Long story short, we had a fatal argument during the few days leading up to my Mahamudra retreat, 23 July 2015, and I told him we were “through,” including in that our collaboration on MCTB2. Once on retreat, I texted him that we needed to find a way to mend our differences long enough to finish work on the book.

Mystery Replacement Editor

Daniel claimed, however, that he had immediately hired a freelance editor to replace me, as in within a day of our fight. He’s never revealed this person’s name or credentials to anyone I’ve corresponded or talked with. He’s refrained from saying who it is on his public forum. Part II was virtually finished by 23 July, yet he’s posted no draft to the public as he normally does for commentary. Consequently, I strongly doubt this other editor person even exists. Even if he or she does, the book will suffer from quality loss on the remaining part, about 130 manuscript pages, and will suffer incoherence across the whole. What I was doing for this edition was radical; the level of work is far beyond the skillset of a freelance copyeditor.

Not surprisingly, then, Daniel continued to incorporate contributions I sent him after July, well into October, including the book introduction that I took the initiative, without his prior knowledge that I was doing so, to assemble from former writings of his that I had mined, including content from our extensive private correspondence. Still, he stubbornly refused me the exclusive cover credit he had, in writing, promised me. He later withdrew my promised preface or introduction when the legal dispute proper began.

Last Blast and Banishment from the Dharma Overground

In October, during one particular email exchange with Daniel, he seemed to be considering working with me again on the rest of the book. At any rate, he didn’t say “no” when I urged him yet again to think about it instead of saying no. Unfortunately, we had another fight before this could be.

Specifically, the night before our last October break-off, Daniel and I were on Skype IM, having fun and laughing. I told him that I had just completed a tarot card reading on the fate of MCTB2 and that Sawfoot’s face had repeatedly flashed up as some kind of threat. I told Daniel that he should perhaps protect MCTB2 against anyone he had banned from his forum and who might therefore be pissed. 

It would turn out that this banned person was I.

As Daniel, on IM, pulled out his wands and began issuing all these funny spells against Sawfoot, I asked him why he wasn’t working toward becoming a Buddha. I saw him stop messaging for a while. Then he said he had resolved literally thousands of times that everything he did and said would be for the benefit of all beings. He stated that he would come back even for Sawfoot. He asked me what more he should do. I mentioned some tantric practices, but he had to go to bed to be ready for work.

Next day, I emailed him the exact tantric instructions my teacher had given me. Incredibly, Daniel flipped out over something in those instructions, or the transmittal–I don’t know what. He read it at work and emailed me an outburst of rage. He demanded that I turn over all my work to him, even though I had to work all week. I was shocked and in tears. I was totally blindsided, as I’ve been so many times, by this man’s unprovoked rage. I called him to apologize and seek explanation of what had so offended him. He only demanded that my work be turned over within the week and hung up on me.

The next day, his moderators banned me from his site, even though the one who wrote to me admitted that I had broken no rules. Daniel had expressed sudden “concern” over my comments on an existing thread. Politics.

October Silence into November Storm

All along, since July, Daniel claimed to be willing to put both my name and the mystery editor’s name on the front cover. I objected to this suggestion. I was promised, verbatim, an exclusive byline. I’m a developmental editor and writer by profession, and my name is my brand. Sharing the credit with a copyeditor, one whose name and credentials I wasn’t even allowed to know, would wrongly suggest that our roles were equivalent and that we had collaborated. He refused to let me even see what the supposed new editor was doing to my beautiful work, but he kept dangling in front of me that she was changing it. 

When, in November, I wrote to him after a month of mutual silence, the subject of the cover credit reemerged. I tried to prevail on him that his treatment of me was unfair. He stated  that he would put whomever he wanted to on “his” book’s cover. He added, “as is my right.”

In short, by withdrawing what was promised me, he unjustly enriched himself with my work, took it without any of the agreed-to compensation. My moral appeals to him for fairness all failed. I repeatedly offered and urged that we finish the rest of the book–offered him free expert labor. He asserted only his “rights.” 

So now, all appeals to morality having failed, we are playing the rights game.

This man claims to care about the practitioners whose practice depends on the clarity, completeness, and enhanced usability of this book as a pragmatic practice manual. Not once during this dispute has he, to my recollection, so much as mentioned concern for the practitioners awaiting this edition. Instead he has asserted his rights and ownership of his “baby.”

Registration for Joint Copyright on the Basis of Coauthorship

Three and a half months after Daniel appropriated my work under his sole byline and canceled my modest editorial byline, after I repeatedly failed to convince him to be reasonable if not kind, I filed for and received joint copyright registration and sent him a 15-page legal demand letter. In response, Daniel sic’d on me his lawyer friend Jay Michaelson, another supposed spiritual leader and author. 

Over-the-Top Threats and False Allegations

Michaelson emailed me several intensely threatening, rambling messages that were bizarre in their desperation, as well as incoherent as they alternated threats with pathetic begging that I cancel my copyright and destroy all my files, apparently so Ingram could simply take all credit for my work without my retaining evidence to the contrary.

This Michaelson character threatened me with legal actions for tortious interference with Daniel’s publisher, defamation, and fraud on the U.S. Copyright Office. He even threatened to make me look “mentally incompetent” (insane or demented) in front of a jury and said I would end up paying tens of thousands of dollars! This was the most bizarre piece of so-called lawyering I’ve ever seen, and that is coming from a former paralegal.This man is an author of Buddhist books and is an ordained rabbi!

Ingram was copied on all these blustering nonsensical email messages in which Michaelson claimed to represent him as attorney at law; apparently, then, Ingram entirely approved of this dirty dealing and over-the-top scare tactics. 

As mentioned, I used to be a certificated paralegal. All Michaelson’s allegations were full of shit, I knew it, he knew it, I told him so, and I later had four separate attorneys confirm my assessment (as if there were any doubt). I have had two separate copyright attorneys tell me that my copyright is valid, that I am indeed a coauthor of MCTB2, and that no federal judge in the land would rule otherwise. In fact, my attorney said that his question was not whether I were an author of this edition, but whether Daniel were.

How Kind Are You, Really?

Daniel tried, unsuccessfully, to get the U.S. Copyright Office to cancel my registration. On the day that the registration was approved, he wrote me an insulting, arrogant, nutty letter that claimed I was obsessed with him and using the courts to stalk him. He went so far as to compare my asserting my legal rights to the repugnance of a rapist! 

Wow. That is a first for me. I’ve never before been compared to a stalker and a rapist!

So how kind, or even just, are these spiritually enlightened men, really? And how stupid do they think I am?

Shame on them both. 

The two spiritual leaders (Ingram and Michaelson) certainly have taught me to be much less trusting, more self-reliant. Had I not already gained the perceptual changes I have, I might very well have suffered a crisis of faith because of their false threats, blustering, and extremely nasty behavior.

My Final Offer and Counteroffer

Even after all this ugliness, caring still that the community of practitioners have the best dharma book possible, I made Daniel another, written offer of free labor, a single pass on the rest of the book in exchange for the cover credit owed me. He would, under this proposed agreement, regain sole copyright, and I would forego the signed preface if he preferred. A generous offer, especially after he had just compared me to a rapist.

Unbelievably, he refused this offer of free help and hired a new attorney, Michaelson having quickly exhausted hopes for the profitable effects of his ridiculous blustering and bluffing. This new attorney made me a monetary offer to cancel my copyright registration and threatened an unspecified lawsuit against me if I didn’t accept. This attorney was later awfully surprised to learn from my attorney that I had effected 90% of the changes to the MCTB2 manuscript that Daniel authorized me to work on in August 2014.

My attorney made clear my position that Daniel’s often repeated threat to destroy all my work to avoid crediting me has to be enforced by destruction of all his files containing my work, and any agreement must specify liquidated damages if he cheats. However, my position to them was that I prefer that he use my work. I will settle at this point for an acknowledgment, but it must be full and accurate. In short, it must be worded by me. I’m no longer interested in finishing work on the book, even if Daniel were willing. He has poisoned the well so thoroughly that I want nothing more to do with him.

Black Binding Brambles and Fire in the Belly

What has this story to do with my practice, since I’ve made it part of my practice journal? Everything (with a capital E, Daniel–remember that?). 

It is not enough that you may have corrected misperception. You operate out of abject fear and defensive, compensatory arrogance and projection. Until you have transmuted your terror, you won’t change your dysfunctional interpersonal patterns, regardless of your perceptual shifts and technical acumen as a meditator. 

Insight is not enough. You will continue to cause others great suffering from the spot you defend, the spot you stand forth from, which is your own early scars, what you cannot or will not see but is closest to you, in you. You will continue to cause tremendous suffering for yourself, too, as black wild brambles proliferate in your shadow, binding your feet to darkness.

Meantime, the energy beneath all this, my once multi-storied fury and pain, has burned clean through. Where confusion once reigned, now is clarity. Nothing more smolders atop it. It burns, clear and direct. Consequently, at a certain point last month, I knew what to do, and with zero moral ambivalence, I have done it, stood by it, and stand by it. 

Warmth from the heart sank into the belly, you see. It feels right and good that I should embody my power, this clarity, this fire. The lesson necessary to make that successful descent to relative clarity was expensive; however, the clear burn is now steadfastly lighting my way forward.

You see, Daniel M. Ingram, you are being made responsible. 

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