As I’m certain most readers of this blog are aware, Mr. James Cohen (aka Jundo), President of Treeleaf Zendo, has recently uploaded a number of comments to this blog regarding my status as president of Dogen Sangha International. These comments appear in the post below this one entitled “Bye Bye Tokio.” There are only two people who can erase any of these comments, me and Mr. Cohen. I have chosen to allow them to stay up permanently. If you check and they have been removed, this is the work of Mr. Cohen. I am keeping this material in the form of a PDF file in case the original versions are altered later.
First of all, allow me to assure everyone that I have not resigned as president of Dogen Sangha International. In fact, just the opposite has happened. On Friday September 25, 2009 at around 11:00 AM Japan Time I made a personal promise to Nishijima Roshi that I would remain president of Dogen Sangha International (DSI) at least until Nishijima Roshi’s death. Putting aside, for a moment, exactly what it means to be president of DSI, I intend to honor my promise to my teacher.
I must say that I was quite shocked to see Mr. Cohen’s comments on my blog. The emails between me and Nishijima Roshi that he posted appeared to me to be quite clearly sent to Mr. Cohen in error. Remember that Nishijima Roshi is now 90 years old. Even I have sometimes forgotten that an email from someone else was appended to one I was sending to a different person. And I was far less than 75 years old when I first began using email technology!
Furthermore, even if Mr. Cohen would have us believe that he did not know these emails were sent to him in error, I believe they were absolutely unambiguously and unquestionably private emails that were never intended for public consumption. I believe there can be no doubt at all about this fact.
This extreme breach of privacy is the most utterly inappropriate thing I have ever seen carried out in the name of Buddhism.
I have no idea why the president of one Buddhist organization would feel it necessary to make public such private correspondence concerning the president of another Buddhist organization. I can think of no reasonable cause to do so. This seems to me to be a highly unethical and immoral act.
Mr. Cohen is not a member of Dogen Sangha International and has no authority to make public statements on behalf of the organization. He certainly has no authorization at all to make public statements on my behalf.
For the record, the private email from me to Nishijima Roshi that Mr. Cohen made public was part of a much larger discussion between myself and Nishijima Roshi that Mr. Cohen was not privy to, and which I do not find any compelling reason to explain here.
Furthermore, I have not spoken to or communicated with Mr. Cohen except in a few very brief emails for the past two years. I chose to break off my relationship with him at that time because it became clear that every interaction between us always went very badly. There are times in life when the only thing you can do with certain relationships is put a stop to them. Sometimes, if the people involved stay away from each other for a while, they can resume some sort of relationship later on. In my own life I’ve recently been able to reconnect with an ex-girlfriend with whom I’ve had a rather stormy relationship for the past 15 or so years. We’re friends again now and it’s nice. But we would not be friends now if we had not stayed away from each other completely for several years.
In that case, she and I were once very close. We went through a lot together including an attack on the streets of Akron by a pair of men who seemed intent on killing me for no apparent reason (they appeared to be high on some kind of drug — drugs suck). In the case of Mr. Cohen and myself, we were never anywhere near that close. I can clearly recall meeting him only three times. Once at a Nepalese restaurant in Tokyo called Mt. Fishtail, once at an Indian restaurant in Tokyo called Raj Mahal and once at an overnight trip to Tokei-in Temple in Shizuoka. I suspect we must have met a handful of times other than this, but I do not clearly remember those meetings. It is entirely possible he came to some of Nishijima Roshi’s talks at Tokyo University. But I do not recall seeing him there. As far as I can recall he was not one of regulars who came every week. Be aware that my memory is pretty dodgy. But this is my honest recollection. In any case, we were never friends.
When Mr. Cohen left Dogen Sangha International in 2007, I sensed that the time was right to end the relationship between us. As I said, it never seemed to go very well and once he was no longer part of the organization I could see no compelling reason to keep up what I found to be an utterly fruitless relationship with him.
And, yes folks, I did once send Mr. Cohen an email that said, “Go fuck yourself.” But this was not a hastily scrawled missive sent in anger. In fact I first wrote him what I believed to be a very reasonable email stating why I no longer wished to carry on our relationship. But then I reflected on the fact that I’d sent him what I believed to be very reasonable emails before and they never seemed to work. I thought that one very rude statement might convey what I wanted to say far more effectively. So I scrapped my longer email and just sent one sentence. I reasoned that most people who received an email saying “Go fuck yourself” would sense that the person who sent that email no longer wished to carry on communicating with them.
Personally I’d prefer to cease all communications with Mr. Cohen for a period of five years. If, sometime in September of 2014, it seems that we might be able to have a reasonable conversation with each other, I’d be willing to do so. I think it will take at least that long for the current series of emails to become mere “water under the bridge” for me (you are only seeing the very tip of the iceberg here, there must be a couple dozen emails from Mr. Cohen similar to the ones he posted on this blog sitting in my inbox).
The thing that worries me most about this situation is the effect it is having on the health and well-being of Nishijima Roshi. I firmly believe there is only one person who can put an end to all of this, and I believe that person is Mr. Cohen. All he needs to do, I think, is to keep “Noble Silence” on the various issues that seem to be bothering him. I really hope he chooses to do so for Nishijima Roshi’s sake. Nishijima Roshi is a very old man and when I visited him last week I could see the visible toll all of this was taking on him. It was the cause of the only argument I have ever had with Nishijima Roshi in the many years I have known him.
This post is not intended as the beginning of a discussion with Mr. Cohen or anyone else on this matter. It is my final word on the subject. I am going to be quite stubborn over the next few weeks about this. Even if the comments section of every article I put up is filled with nothing but hundreds of postings about the supposed “Jundo vs. Brad War,” I will steadfastly ignore them. I’ve just traveled all the way around the world and had a lot of really interesting adventures I’d rather talk about.
But there is one last thing I would like to add. I have noticed a few comments over the past weeks from someone who identifies him/herself as “another DS guy on the outs.” I have no idea who this person might be. I would very much appreciate it if he or she would send a brief email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can discuss whatever the issues he/she has with Dogen Sangha and see if some solution can be worked out.