Dharma Bummers

Beware of men in robes. Fallen spiritual figures are in painfully plentiful supply these days, and as a sprawling new history of the San Francisco Zen Center shows, the list of faiths bedeviled by them very definitely includes Zen Buddhism—in particular, the unique American variety of it that sprang into being in the '60s and '70s.

Placed next to the appalling ego circuses of Eastern gurus such as Sai Baba or Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, the goings-on at Zen Center were pretty tame fare. But the real lure of Shoes Outside the Door: Desire, Devotion, and Excess at San...

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