I Was Nearly Trapped Into Joining A CultPosted: December 21, 2011 Filed under: Failure, Friends, Informational, Rant, Writings | Tags: Braintree, Cult, Entrapment, I-Kuan-Tao, Jim Jones, Jonestown, Love Bombing, MBTA, Quincy, Taylor, The Dao, The Suits 3 Comments
Seriously, the shit Taylor gets me into. Yesterday, being Tuesday December 20th, Taylor gives me a call at 3PM asking if I would like to go out to a party with him that he was invited to by two Asian girls he had just met on the train no more than a week ago. He tells me this during that phone conversation:
“I asked them if it was going to be a party with alcohol, they said no. I asked them if it was going to be a party with dancing, they said no. They said it was going to be a party with ten or so people sitting around and talking, but having been to China, ‘sitting around and talking’ means there’s going to be a giant 4 course meal, so bring your stomach.”
I agree to go. Taylor is an identical copy of me: he and I look like brothers, we like the same exact stuff and I have gone on random adventures like this with him before and had an awesome time each time (one including an incredible spur of the moment concert with punk bands). Agreeing to this is no big deal, Taylor and I get ourselves knee deep into things all the time, so why should this be any more different? We decide to meet each other at the T at 5:30pm and take the bus together to these girls’ house just past the Quincy shipyard in Braintree.
(Note: This post is very long and if you want to avoid the details and you just want to read the rant, scroll down to “In Retrospect“)
When I arrived at Quincy Center, I stood there for no more than 20 seconds before I sent Taylor a text saying “At Q center” … and then promptly saw him walking behind me. I catch up to him and ask him again what we’re getting ourselves into. He tells me the same thing as before: He heard these two girls speaking Mandarin together and since he knows the language, he started to talk to them so he could practice his Mandarin. He ends up obtaining their QQ numbers (It’s like AIM for Asians) and talked with them over the chat service for a week before they invited him to the party they’re having. Taylor asked if he could bring a friend and they said yes. Now here we are about to take the bus together to this party.
We went into the convenience store at the train station so Taylor could bring them a gift (he really wanted to bring them a pound cake), but I thought about the possibilities of what this party might turn out to be. Either A) I’m going to be sitting in a room and Taylor is going to be talking Chinese and making jokes about me that I can’t understand, or B) these girls are going to heavily flirt with us before… drugging us and stealing our kidneys to sell illegally on the black market/drugging us and forcing us into marriage for green cards/murdering us. Regardless, I’m going into this situation knowing it will be very awkward. I snapped into reality and convinced Taylor to scrap the idea of bringing a pound cake to their party, because if they’re working hard on an epic meal, we should not be bringing a shitty convenience store pound cake, because that would be rude.
We walk out of the store and our bus is loading passengers, so we head on the bus and talk more about this party we’re going to. Taylor thinks there’s a possibility the girls are looking for love (one of my fears) and he says, “You (Joe) might be able to score some tail.” I remind him I have a girlfriend and he tells me, “You have a girlfriend?” Yes, Taylor, I have a girlfriend! I showed him a picture of her and he said, “Oh, but she’s not Asian! You need an Asian girlfriend!” Such a boy… Taylor then mentions and that he just remembered something: one of the girls was walking through her house on her laptop showing him the house on webcam when Taylor saw a shrine behind her. It was a huge Buddhist shrine, bigger than any he’s seen in any household before… Now he jokes that we might be getting ourselves into something religious and we might be walking into a house full of Asian Jehovah’s Witnesses.
We exit the bus and walk down the street to find the house. As we stand out front, we can see the shrine from the street, as well as about three small boys inside running around playing. We entered the house and took our shoes off, as is customary, and we see there’s a lot of cooking going on in the kitchen. Good thing I brought my stomach! One of the girls Taylor met kindly grabbed our jackets from us and showed us to the other room, where the shrine is, and we were given a place to sit. I noticed that everyone was wearing the same exact blue suit and tie uniform… This didn’t bother me at first, because they all looked like flight attendants and I assumed they may have just made it home from work, or it’s because they’re Asian and saved by buying in bulk. The same girl who took our jackets kindly offered us Pepsi or water, and I went with a water.
As soon as she left, we’re immediately surrounded by no less than three of these airline looking attendants in their blue suits. They ask us about or religious backgrounds and Taylor told them he was born Jewish and I told them I was born Protestant. Still surrounded by suits, we’re taken over to a painting next to the shrine where we’re shown a picture of all the Gods of all faiths, including Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, Guan Yu and many others sitting together in harmony with a noticeably larger “God of all Gods” sitting in front of them. We’re then told about “The Dao,” or in English, all religions come together for one specific meaning: “The Truth.” Much like how we all work different jobs for money, different religions seek to obtain the truth. These people know “The Truth” and want to share “The Truth” with us, so they sit us down, again, surrounded by three to five suits and they tell us to fill out a “registration form.”
Have you ever suddenly realized that you’re very very scared and you’re trapped and as you reached for your pocket to have 911 ready on speed dial that suddenly- BIG MISTAKE! I left my phone in my jacket! Oh God, I might just die here… Honestly, these suits are preaching their religion, which they continued to tell us was not a religion, and they told us we must seek “The Dao” and we must “Cultivate the Dao” and become better people in our community. No less that twenty-five suits are in this house and they continued to tell us we need to help ourselves, we need to help others, become used to giving to the community and ultimately, we will find our way to heaven with “The Dao.” Over and over we’re preached to about how everything in the world comes to “One” or “The Truth” or “The Dao.” Our fingers come together as one at our wrist, branches come together at the trunk, all religions come together with “The Truth.”
As much as they’re preaching this, they also tell us that they’re not a religion. They say that “The Dao” can be sought through Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc. They mention that their shine is to the fat Buddha, because 90% if their temple is Chinese and they are people who are familiar with the Buddha. If they were to put Jesus there, the followers would become lost because they don’t know Jesus. Buddha is simply used for comfort. They tell us if Jesus were to preach in China, he’d use Chinese text and Chinese philosophy, because it all comes to the same point of “The Dao.” If Buddha were to come to America to preach, he would use the Bible, again, because it all comes to the same point of “The Dao.”
I’m nervous and continue to tell the suits “I am uncomfortable with this” and that I would not like to participate. Taylor agrees to participate for two reasons: One, he’s doing it to be polite because he wants to leave alive and two, he’s looking at it from an Anthropological standpoint: “I’ll do anything once.” In agreeing to take part in receiving “The Dao,” Taylor had to make a donation. He gave them $5. We were surrounded at all times by no less than three suits at any time during the two hour grilling process of “The Dao” and how we must “Cultivate the Dao” and how their religion is not a religion, but again, there were no less than twenty-five total in this small house temple.
Finally, the first part of the ceremony begins. It involved offering food to the fat Buddha, burning incense and the sacred burning of scriptures with names of those in the temple. It was beautiful to watch. As the second part of the ceremony began, I was asked to leave the room as only those who are receiving “The Dao” or have already received “The Dao” can witness what goes on. Before I leave the room, Taylor whispers in my ear, “If you hear me scream your name, bust down that door and get me the hell out of here.”
Sitting outside the shrine room, I’m surrounded by twelve to fifteen suits who are aware I am uncomfortable, start giving me food and lots of food as they all sit and talk with me about everything that, surprisingly, does not involve “The Dao”! Having a chance to relax, everything was awesome and I had fun talking and laughing with everyone that ranged from 20 year olds to 60+ year olds. One guy came in late (not in a suit) and he sat down and talked with me and asked me if I could give him the run down about myself and my friend. I told him how Taylor randomly met the girls, who then invited him, who then invited me. I told the non-suit that Taylor and I were both college students, I was looking into becoming a high school English teacher and Taylor was looking to teach English in China and he was in the other room currently receiving “The Dao.” The guy said that teaching in America is a hassle and that I should try going to China to visit and look into teaching there. Several suits agreed and suggested the same thing. Hey, I’m open to new things and I’d love to teach English in China! But seriously, I’m broke, so not yet.
After 30 minutes of hanging out with the suits, Taylor comes out of the room and tells me he received “The Dao” and that there are things he can’t tell me because they are secret. At this point, much like when I left the room, no one wanted to talk about “The Dao” anymore! They gave us food, lots of food! We talked, laughed, shared stories and told jokes… Suddenly this crazy religion about “Cultivating the Dao” turned into the most awesome social experience I’ve been to in a long time. Soon enough, Taylor was making jokes in Mandarin at my expense because I didn’t know what they were saying, so I started to talk back in Spanish for the fun of it.
At about 10pm, Taylor and I were given a ride to the train station and that’s when we could finally discuss what happened.
Now that we are gone, Taylor and I could finally talk to each other like normal human beings and not kidnapping suspects. I had an awesome time as soon as I realized I wouldn’t have to be tricked into the Cult, and considering the only cost was Taylor’s $5 donation and we were fed like kings, I say it was alright on my end! But yes, it’s a fucking cult. “CULTivating the Dao,” love-bombing by giving us food and being nice to us (after being crazy), tricking us into a situation where religion is forced down our throats, matching uniforms, CULT CULT CULT CULT FUCKING CHRIST IT’S A GODDAMN CULT.
Their cult is probably the most narcissistic cult on the planet. Everything about the cult promotes the self: What can I do to make myself better, I give back to the community and I receive “The Dao” so that I can go to heaven. I’m not even joking when I say this: They have a secret handshake that no one can know about unless they receive “The Dao.” Tell me that isn’t the most selfish thing ever! Christians let non-Christians cry over Jesus and wear his cross, but heaven forbid I can’t learn their fucking handshake!
Taylor gave them his name, address and a rarely used phone number. Looking back on this, this could kill him, because if they are a real cult, which we are certainly afraid of (I-Kuan-Tao is everything that we took part in and I-Kuan-Tao is a cult that has previously been banned), this could mean they might A) literally kill him, or B) Prevent him from getting to China. If they’re Chinese Nationalists, which it sounds like because they were heavily suggesting Taylor and I go there, Taylor probably would not be blocked from entering the country, I’m worried he’d be trapped and stuck inside the country with no way out. The possibility that they are a cult also means that he may be prevented from leaving the country over something as dumb as being tricked by a couple of girls to a “party” and filling out a bullshit piece of paper.
PARANOIA PARANOIA EVERYONE IS COMING TO GET ME. I recently learned about cults and I took a sharp look into them and every bad sign most cults carry are popping up with this group: Their temple is in a house and they’re building a real temple not so far away. Reminds me of Jonestown. They were showering us in food and affection, Love-bombing is a known recruiting technique by cults to lure people in. Also, the entrapment was severely disturbing and very Cult-esque. Taylor and I probably would not have gone to the party, much less would he have gone through the “Receiving Dao”ceremony if we had known “The Truth” beforehand.
I think I’m going to lock myself into a room for the next several years. Someone buy me an M16 for Christmas and someone else get me ammo. Sharing is caring.
Have a question? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or message Joe on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Renken
While I can see how this situation was frightening in itself, this whole article is extremely misinformed.
I would like you to know, to begin with, that Daoism is, truly and honestly, NOT a religion- It is a philosophy which sometimes toes the line of religion. If you don’t believe me, here’s the wiki page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taoism In fact, the phrase “Asian Jehovah’s Witnesses” really doesn’t even translate. If you do a bit of research on Eastern religions/philosophies (Namely, Buddhism and Daoism) you will learn that they have NO direct agenda. Their purpose is not to convert you, make you ‘believe’ anything (in the Western sense of the word) or to threaten or scare you in any way.
In fact, these philosophies don’t even have a concept of God to worship! Some forms of Buddhism do consider the Buddha a holy figure akin to a prophet or a God, but all in all, they stem from philosophies. From your article I assume you attended a temple that followed this branch of Buddhism, but I’ll touch on that later- Even with the idolatry, the teachings remain the same.
Next I want to tackle the bit about identical clothing. Here in the West, we abide by what’s called Individualist culture. We choose our own jobs, marry people we love, and happily feed a capitalist society. We believe in “creativity of the individual” and fighting the man.
In the East, however, there is a very strong Collectivist culture. This means that they thrive on group mentality and solidarity as a whole. They do what is best for their community, not just for themselves. (Hence, communism. As we all know, that doesn’t quite work as a form of government, but that’s an essay for another day. ) In the East, uniforms do not represent “repression of ideas,” they represent a pride in being a part of the group- An important cog in the machine of society.
Neither of these viewpoints is inherently worse than the other. Both have strengths and weaknesses- The Western view incites greed, while an Eastern culture can breed sheep-like passivity under a poor leader.
If you’re still curious, I have attached some additional info from Iowa State University at the bottom of the page.
“Weâ€™re then told about â€œThe Dao,â€ or in English, all religions come together for one specific meaning: â€œThe Truth.â€ Much like how we all work different jobs for money, different religions seek to obtain the truth. These people know â€œThe Truthâ€ and want to share â€œThe Truthâ€ with us, ”
Here is the core of the ceremony you attended. I’m not sure if you’re repeating what they told you, or if you truly understand this concept, but it’s already quite well explained, really. The Dao just a name for the ‘truth’ at the end of any real religion. Of course a Daoist would want to share that with you- The same way that Jesus or Abraham would have preached their message. In the eyes of Daoism, every religion reaches the same conclusion, so in the end, all of the prophets are preaching the same message.
Ever heard of the golden rule? Check this out:
Makes a pretty convincing argument, right? In the end, no matter what your belief system, it’s compassion that matters.
As for the registration, I assume that if these people are feeding you, they want some kind of record as to who’s coming in and out. I would guess that this is a purely procedural bureaucratic measure keep track of visitors- You’ll find that most churches and monasteries these days like to know about their visitor flow for financial and analytical reasons.
“Honestly, these suits are preaching their religion, which they continued to tell us was not a religion, and they told us we must seek â€œThe Daoâ€ and we must â€œCultivate the Daoâ€ and become better people in our community. No less that twenty-five suits are in this house and they continued to tell us we need to help ourselves, we need to help others, become used to giving to the community and ultimately, we will find our way to heaven with â€œThe Dao.â€ Over and over weâ€™re preached to about how everything in the world comes to â€œOneâ€ or â€œThe Truthâ€ or â€œThe Dao.â€ Our fingers come together as one at our wrist, branches come together at the trunk, all religions come together with â€œThe Truth.â€”
Frankly, it sounds like you are simply too frightened to listen to what these people are actually telling you. If there’s one invaluable thing I’ve learned from life, it’s to ALWAYS keep your eyes, ears, and mind open for new knowledge- no matter how scared or uncomfortable you are. I don’t mean you should believe everything, but you should never reject an idea straight away just because it makes you uncomfortable.
These Daoists are not “Preaching” you anything. You said yourself that the only thing they told you that you needed to do was “to help ourselves, help others, and become used to giving in the community”
……Wow, that sounds really awful.
The only reason these Daoists used the word Heaven was because you had already told them you were both of Abrahamic faiths. (In other words, God-fearing) To a Daoist, Heaven is a relative concept- It is not a place, but a state of being. It is the same state of being as Nirvana in the Buddhist tradition, Valhalla for the Norse, and so on. They are all “One Truth” ….Essentially, this “One Truth,” the Dao, and Heaven, are all the same. Do you now see why they have no problem with the idols of all different religions?
“They mention that their shine is to the fat Buddha, because 90% if their temple is Chinese and they are people who are familiar with the Buddha.”
This confirms my earlier thought about the particular branch of Buddhism. This kind of Buddhism can be considered a religion, not just a philosophy, and you can read more about it here.>
Please keep in mind, also, that you entered this temple of your own free will. Even if you were “Grilled for two hours,” Would you say the same of being sent to Sunday School and quizzed on the verses of the bible? Again, think about exactly what type of things you were being drilled on. Drinking the blood of virgins? Stoning your neighbor? I doubt it. The Dao is about teaching compassion.
The secrecy regarding “only those who are receiving the Dao” is, ironically, to ensure that they are not welcoming raging psychos into their sacred ceremony, quite like the kind I think you may have imagined in your moment of panic. As I’m sure you learned at the more relaxed part of the ceremony, this is not a fear-inducing crowd. They don’t encourage shame or repression or any form of self-sacrifice. I would suggest trying to talk to your friend about what he learned, even if just in part. He probably can’t- Literally not able to- tell you what he learned, because that’s one of the very riddles of the Dao: “We canâ€™t have full knowledge all at once. We must start by believing; then afterwards we may be led on to master the evidence for ourselves. ” -From the Dao Te Ching
In reponse to, “In Retrospect”
You use the phrase, â€œCULTivating the Dao,” to argue the point that Daoism is a cult. I think this is a case for Etymology Man: The original stem of the word cultivate, CULT (From Latin) means, “improve by training or education.” By this definition, wouldn’t any school be a cult? Wouldn’t any religion be a cult? Couldn’t you, technically, call a garden a cult (After all, you are CULTivating it help it grow.)
My dear, you can cultivate ANYTHING to ANY shape. Pay attention less to the teaching process, but to what is being taught.
You mention love-bombing a couple times, and yes, you are right. This is a technique that has been used to gain trust in less trustworthy situations. However, think about why exactly that makes you trusting….Because you are being literally BOMBED with LOVE. This is the VERY ESSENCE of Daoism. To bomb you with love and kindness. In the words of Elvis Costello, What’s so funny about peace love and understanding?
“”Their cult is probably the most narcissistic cult on the planet. Everything about the cult promotes the self: What can I do to make myself better, I give back to the community and I receive â€œThe Daoâ€ so that I can go to heaven. Iâ€™m not even joking when I say this: They have a secret handshake that no one can know about unless they receive â€œThe Dao.â€ Tell me that isnâ€™t the most selfish thing ever! Christians let non-Christians cry over Jesus and wear his cross, but heaven forbid I canâ€™t learn their fucking handshake!””
This is the least informed of all statements made here. In a Daoist philosophy, there is literally no separation between a single person’s soul (I) and the rest of the universe. (you). Have you heard the saying, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”? This is the same philosophy. How can you change others if you can’t change yourself first? How can you love others if you can’t love yourself first? Compassion begins with YOU because YOU must be the one to light the flame- Then you pass it on to others. You didn’t learn the handshake not because you aren’t worthy, but because you don’t yet understand the concept Dao. It is not like Christianity, in which you have a set of simple rules to follow and deeds to do, It is a concept that must be grasped and understood.
If this ceremony was indeed I-Kuan-Tao, you must understand that this is not pure Daoism. Yes, it has roots in Dao, but the Wiki page will tell you all that is has many OTHER and STRONGER influences besides that of Daoism. If these are true Daoists, they should have no intention to harm or influence your life in any negative way.
“”Taylor and I probably would not have gone to the party, much less would he have gone through the â€œReceiving Daoâ€ceremony if we had known â€œThe Truthâ€ beforehand,””
I leave you with the insistence that, at least for the sake of curiosity, you and your friend find and read a copy of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tsu. It’s not very long, and if you keep an open mind you may begin to understand more about the ceremony you witnessed- even if it’s something you never choose to believe. And of course, before you write a long article like this one, do your homework!
From the Tao Te Ching, “Truth that can be told is no real truth, the name that can be called is no true name. ”
(More on culture From U of Iowa)
“In individualistic societies, the goals of individuals are valued more highly than the goals of the group. Individuals are rewarded for behaving independently, making their own plans, and working toward achieving their personal goals. In these societies, individuals are hired and promoted largely based on individual achievement and qualifications. Examples of individualistic societies include the United States and Northern and Western European countries.
In collectivist societies, on the other hand, the needs of the group are considered more important than those of the individual. In these societies, kinship ties are much stronger and may take precedence over expertise in matters of appointments and promotions. Collectivism is a value in Asian, African, as well as South American cultures.
Take, for example, the case of arranged marriages, still common in countries such as India or Pakistan. In those cultures, marriages are times to form family alliances. You marry whomever your family chooses or whoever is best for the family. In the U.S., on the other hand, you marry whomever you choose, the implication being that itâ€™s your decision and you choose the one best for you. In this case, the welfare of the individual takes precedence over the welfare of the family. The same can happen in your professional life. A student from a collectivist culture may be sent to the U.S. to study whatever his/her government or company needs and not necessarily what he/she wants to pursue; whatever the group needs (i.e., country or company) takes precedence over what the individual wants.”
I appreciate your quite long essay about how essentially my entire real life encounter with these people is somehow “wrong” and “misinformed,” but this is not an essay on Daoism/Taoism, nor did I ever mention the exact terminology “Daoism” or “Taoism.” What I’ve told is a story about how two girls invited us to a “party” (I must reiterate that this “party” had no mention of it being religious) and it quickly turned into a very scary situation involving us being surrounded by suits, grilled on our religious beliefs and told how it was imperative for us to receive “The Dao” from these people. Taylor only speculated that the party may be religious from the shrine he saw in the background when one of the girls showed him the house via her webcam (she did not talk about the shrine). When we arrived at the house and I reiterate it was a house, not a building, not a church and not a temple; it was a house. I started to use the term “temple,” because we were told by one of the suits that the house served as a “family temple.” Again, I reiterate that Taylor invited me to a party to hang out with a few Asian friends who spoke Mandarin together.
I must also reiterate that the suits were not taking “no” for an answer. We had informed them many times that we did not know and were not informed that the party was religious in any way, yet they continued to surround us, they insisted that we receive “The Dao” and continually asked us to fill out a registration form. I told them I was uncomfortable with them shoving “The Dao” down my throat, yet it took two hours of repeating “I am uncomfortable” and “I would not like to participate” before they decided to stop pestering me about joining. The only reason they stopped pestering Taylor was because he agreed to do the ceremony for the sake of wanting to leave this party alive. We were not friends of these girls, Taylor was hardly an acquaintance (having only met them a week earlier on the train) and furthermore: these people we so not talking WITH us as they were talking AT us. I find it hard to believe that these people were teaching a philosophy, such as Daoism/Taoism, and not a spin-off religion based on the fact there was a severe amount of entrapment, an initiation, a required donation and a secrecy involved with the group. They do not advertise, they do not have a website and they are strictly word of mouth.
It was not until AFTER the first two and a half to three hours of Taylor and I being there and all the religion being over and done with that the event finally turned into the party we came to look for and honestly, that almost made it worth while. I had a blast sitting there and chatting with everyone, the food was incredible and that part was a pleasant experience… Except for the fact that all came AFTER several hours of grilling us and nearly demanding us to become part of their temple and receiving The Dao.”
Taylor was a religion minor in college. He has spent a great deal of time in China, with Chinese families and around Chinese culture and the religious aspect of this event scared him and severely put him off. This was unlike anything he’s experienced in the United States or China. It was a very scary situation and I must reiterate this fact: IT. WAS. SCARY. Had we walked into an actual temple, I could see us being grilled on our religious views, but we entered a HOUSE expecting a PARTY. Instead of a party, we were harassed and nearly forced to join a temple for a solid two and a half to three hours. Had you been along side us, shared the same expectations as us, and had been surrounded by all these suits continually grilling us: I can assure you would have felt uncomfortable as well. It was even more scary after having informed them I felt uncomfortable and yet they did not back down about pursuing I join the temple.
I reiterate: This is not an essay on Daoism/Taoism, its practices or its philosophy. This is a true story of a scary encounter my friend Taylor and I came across that involved a group of people aggressively pursuing that we join their temple.
I have had a similar experience happen to me, somewhat a little bit different but in a lot of ways much the same. I live in Australia and the situation you explained is exactly what happened to me over 12 months ago. I was lured to one of these house temples by an Asian woman . Although I thought it was Taoism I never found out it was I-KUAN TAO until a few months later and the worst part is they keep telling you it is not a religion but it has that many religious rituals to it.
You are right in the sense it is a form of Asian Jehovah Witnesses. The only difference is that they try to blend all the religions together and some of it doesn’t make sense. If you look around the web there are people with similar stories.
Here are two similar stories
Both of these aren’t my story because I could write a short story on mine as I went to their temple for a few months. I stopped going after I did some research on the web and came up with a lot of information on the origins of this religion.
Have a look at these sites for some of the way they preach. (not trying to preach here, but like you i was brought up Christian and found their views on Christianity a bit bizarre)
The thing about the taoism.net site is that they tell you it is not Taoism but this site is linked to I KUAN TAO and uses Taoism.net as a Domain.
The site that first woke me up was this one.
have a look down the bottom of the page