Grace Schireson doesn’t like me. I think we should get that out of the way right at the top of this page. She read bits and pieces of my book Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate and decided I was a sexual predator in Zen robes, and even worse than some of the other perps because I openly bragged about it.
This is not true at all.
That book is, in part, an attempt to do precisely what Grace says she wants to do in her recent open letter in which she says that she is “committed to changing … the idealization of the teacher’s status that has been so detrimental to students.” I figured I’d do that more powerfully than those who write books and Internet screeds about the bad things other people do. By revealing the less than stellar aspects of my own life I hoped that people would see all of us in this Zen business in a different light. But that hardly matters since Grace’s 2012 article about me on Sweeping Zen will, it seems, stand forever as a warning to all to beware of Brad Warner and his “self-serving alleged seductions and … promoting [his] right to have sex with any woman who attends [his] teaching.”
This is how it works in the world of institutions and political power.
Which is why, even though I agree with all but one line in Grace’s letter, I think that letter is wrongheaded and potentially destructive simply because of that single line which shows precisely what Grace’s intent really is. It’s not about stopping sexual predators. Not in the least. It uses that hot-button topic as a way to push for an altogether different agenda.
Here is Grace’s letter:
As Zen teachers, we would like to express our gratitude for Buddhadharma’s recent issue on abuse in Buddhist communities. We also appreciated Mr. Oppenheimer’s piece in The Atlantic for “The Zen Predator of the Upper East Side.” We are referring to the discussion and reports on the abuse of power and authority of Zen Teacher Eido Shimano and others. We believe exposing this problem is a positive step in the direction of preventing such abuses in the future. Many women and others in the Zen community have suffered as a result, and we regret and apologize for our collective failure to stop this harm. Thanks to Mr. Oppenheimer’s efforts, women have come forward, some even using their names; we think this kind of courage can only embolden other survivors of abuse to speak out.
We have pledged to look and listen to our communities and to build more visible ethics codes, working toward consensus on national standards on behavior and oversight, and seeking outside consultation to educate and empower students to come forward if they have been abused. Unlike either our Asian counterparts or American Judeo-Christian clergy, the American Zen tradition does not yet have a central authorizing body capable of sanctioning and removing a harmful teacher.
Even so, as Zen Buddhist community leaders we are committed to changing the culture of silence and the idealization of the teacher’s status that has been so detrimental to students. As Mr. Oppenheimer points out, scoundrels and sociopaths will always walk among us—sometimes as teachers and priests. While ethics and changes in the balance of power cannot completely halt these scoundrels, we are working steadily to make our communities more aware of these dangers as a way to prevent abuse. We view the revelations concerning Eido Shimano as a wake-up call to each of us to pay close attention to the safety of the members of our community, and to monitor our own behavior as well as that of others.
It’s signed by 90 prominent Zen teachers, some of whom are close friends of mine. I was sad to see their names on that list.
The line that gives the game away is right in the middle of the piece. It goes, “Unlike either our Asian counterparts or American Judeo-Christian clergy, the American Zen tradition does not yet have a central authorizing body capable of sanctioning and removing a harmful teacher.” This ends paragraph two, and the next paragraph begins with the words “even so,” indicating that the establishment of this authorizing body is how Grace intends to remedy the problem.
I agree with every other line in the letter. I’ll say that again since people sometimes seem to miss these kinds of points when I make them. I agree with every other line in the letter.
I don’t like the tone of some of it. I don’t like the use of the word “scoundrels.” Scoundrels tie pretty Polly to the railroad tracks in old silent movies until the hero in the white hat (Grace?) can come along and save them. I have my doubts about the efficacy of “visible ethics codes,” besides which we already have one, a little thing we like to call the Buddhist Precepts. The idea of “consensus on national standards of behavior and oversight” is pretty chilling too, if you ask me. But still, I agree with what Grace is trying to say in her rather clumsily over-the-top prose.
Even so, I would never sign such a letter (not that Grace would have asked me) because it really boils down to just two messages. 1) Don’t blame the 90 of us who signed this because we’re the good guys, it’s those other bad Zen teachers who did this stuff and 2) The best way to solve the problem is to establish a “central authorizing body capable of sanctioning and removing a harmful teacher,” and, by the way, who do you think should run that organization?
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. Anyone who might get their skivvies in a twist over what I’m saying here need not worry. I am clearly on the losing side of this argument. Within two decades at the most there will be a central authorizing body capable of sanctioning and removing those it judges to be “harmful” Zen teachers. Some of those it sanctions and removes will genuinely be harmful while others will be people who speak out in ways the central authorizing body does not approve of or simply cannot understand. They’ll be able to do more than just write articles about people they don’t like. They’ll be able to ruin them forever.
We’ve seen this before.
* * *
Tomorrow January 17, 2015, just like almost every Saturday, I will be leading zazen starting at 9:30am at the Veteran’s Memorial Complex, 4117 Overland Blvd., Culver City, California. All are welcome. Beginner’s are encouraged. Come along if you’re not scared of me.
Also, next Monday, January 19, 2015, just like almost every other Monday, I’ll be leading zazen starting at 8:00pm at Silverlake Yoga 2810 1/2 Glendale Blvd. Studio 2, Los Angeles, CA
And, as always, your kind donations are very much appreciated!
Two woman named Grace holding wooden staffs. Coincidence? I think not!
“Joke ’em if they can’t take a fuck.”
‘When asked what was the most important development in Western Zen, he (Fukushima) said: “The equality of women.”
I think Grace is keen to see this. I wonder what proportion of the lineage holders in America are women; I can think of many, so I wouldn’t be surprised if at least in numbers men and women are equally represented as Zen teachers in America.
One might consider the continued scandals involving male teachers and female students a particular badge of dishonor on the most important development in Western Zen, if that development is the equality of women.
Suppose what you really wanted in American Zen was for all women to be able to pursue their Zen practice until they themselves were authorized to teach. The sexual involvement of a male teacher with a female student might be considered by some to be an obstacle in this regard (although there are examples of female students who received transmission from a previous lover). Sexual harassment, such as that provided by the ishinashini hand of Sasaki, would be a major source of frustration and indeed a call to action, if a person really wanted equality in American Zen. I can see that.
Another thoughtful and balanced post, Mark. Something I am not really capable of myself, as I just try and carve out the humor in everything 😉
I like reading your stuff here.
[I’m replying here to Mark, but also to Jinzang at 5:37pm]
My last (long) comment was a bit frivolous, and very Devil’s Advocate. Please let me rephrase.
Yes. Some people approaching Zen teachers for instruction may be vulnerable. Yes, there is a duty of care in any relationship that takes a teacher/student form, more so in the context of a religion that holds compassion as key virtue. Yes, if a person has been raped or sexually abused in the past, and is later sexually exploited by the person she or he seeks help from, it can do a great deal of further harm. Yes, when advances are made by a person in authority, a woman can freeze and be unable to actively resist, despite being uncomfortable.
Also, yes, a pattern of male teachers having sex with female students does nothing to foster gender equality in Zen, and is bad for Zen’s general reputation. (If it becomes widely believed that some students have received inka in exchange for jiggy-jiggy, it makes a mockery of the idea of dharma transmission in general).
However – I have concerns about the way this issue is being discussed and acted on in online Zen circles.
1) A lot of the discourse uses terms like ‘victim’, ‘predator’, ‘seduction’, ‘exploitation’, and ‘abuse’. In a psychotherapeutic or educational setting, these words are generally appropriate when there is sex between ‘staffer’ and ‘customer’. I can’t see that they generally apply in Western Zen. The reported actions of Genpo/Joshu/Eido don’t merit those terms in my view. These teachers basically broke an unspoken convention in their community – that they should be celibate or maintain marital fidelity. Grace and the guy who runs Sweeping Zen come from the therapy/recovery world, where sex abuse is a very live issue: there judgement may be coloured by this
2) This ‘victim’ language contains assumptions that I don’t recognise. The vast majority of Zen students I’ve met (loads) are intelligent, well educated, and experienced in the ways of the world. Male, female, gay, straight … I never met a dumb zennist. Some of us may have underlying attachment issues, or trauma – but very few if any are incapable of getting out of a situation we don’t want to be in.
3) The victim-predator dynamic that is assumed precludes some possibilities that are very real. Female students may have completely known that what was happening was against the rules, and acted with full awareness and consent. They may even have initiated the affairs in some cases. Some might even have seen sex with sensei as a way to advance up some imagined career ladder. To deny these possibilities is deeply patronising and sexist. Like the Dharmadhatu, sexual manipulation transcends gender.
4) Personally, I do not have the slightest problem if my Zen teacher is having sexual relationships within the group. I don’t see how it’s relevant to anything that interests me in him as a teacher/sangha leader. I would be annoyed if local small zen sanghas had to adhere to all sorts of bureaucracy and hierarchy.
5) There seems to be an agenda among people commenting on this situation to a) professionalise and formalise Zen teaching as a career with a governing body, and b) pass all the responsibility for good behaviour onto the teacher, exempting the students from any blame. Both of these things in my eyes promote rather than weaken the illusion of the special and important Zen Master, which they claim to weaken. Both of these things are valuable to someone like Grace Schireson who has an interest in Abbacies and Realty connected with Zen. For the many devoted teachers who scrape by with tiny sanghas, a) and b) just create further problems.
Sorry. Brad’s last two posts have evoked my wordy-ranty side. I’ll be brief in future. The real Shinchan gets to the point much quicker…
Who gives a shit about Grace Schireson and her opinions anyway? You’re not a sexual predator Brad and that’s all that matters. Don’t listen to the feminazis and prudes. Keep writing books and doing good Karma.
Great! Yes, one sentence can be revealing. For me there were more. The constant mentioning of one guy (Shimano) seems to me like a crowd pleaser. I told them that I copied the list of 90, and here I want to say why: It is only a matter of time until we find someone of the list being involved in just the same scandals as the one mentioned above.
When asked who was so courageous to come forward by name with accusations, I got only two third hand citations from the archive. One was said to come originally from a dharma-successor of this teacher, another one only mentioned “seduction”. Well, when it comes to the “seduction” of adult females, how many of us adult males are spotless, and how many of adult females want us to be?
“Well, when it comes to the “seduction” of adult females, how many of us adult males are spotless, and how many of adult females want us to be?”
I am spotless
Totally spotless? That is fantastic. What do you use? Proactiv?
“The next generation”? Are they not the current generation of Zen teachers? Are not even feisty young rebels like Brad Warner and Noah Levine members of the current generation of Dharma teachers?
I was surprised that some of the comments over at Sweeping Zen make the comments here look tame by comparison. There are a larger number of insulting jokes here but the content and mood over there seems almost like serious Jihadis or Baptists.
Buddha save me from your followers.
If you are 50 you are hardly a feisty young rebel.
From Sweeping Zen:
“What do those zen teachers want now? To establish s.th. similar to a Vinaya Kamma? Still, they would hold no power over someone who is not a member of their club.
Look precisely. Some American zen teachers call themselves priests but have not fulfilled the official requirements like a stay in Eiheiji, an ordination by someone who actually runs a temple himself etc.
Then — everybody can become a zen monk outside the Vinaya. You do not need any confirmation of anyone, neiter to take the Bodhisattva vows (as stated in the sutras) nor to consider yourself a monk. The word/profession is not protected by any copyright or else.
Thus those who signed obviously think that they are equipped with s.th. that has a “standard” and that they could strip others of.
In the case of a traditional zen dharma heir, you are not the ones to revoke that anyway.”
it’s all a fairy tale anyway
Whoa Brad is 50 years old? Crazy I had no idea he was that dusty. I guess I never checked the publishing date of Hardcore Zen. . .
Pete Seeger managed to be a feisty young rebel into his nineties.
I think because of Brad’s tone, people here tend to tacitly (sometimes maybe not so subtly) adhere to the sage and ancient dictum:
“Life (or Sex; or Religion; et al.) is too important to take seriously.)”
Brad’s “tone” may lead to those conclusions, but his choice of topics are typically serious ones, and most often currently topical. This provides a platform for his idiosyncratic reactive opinions, which in turn ignites or deflates commentary.
It most often tends to remind me of another sage and ancient dictum:
“Opinions are like assholes, everybody has one.”
“Brad’s “tone” may lead to those conclusions, but his choice of topics are typically serious ones, and most often currently topical. This provides a platform for his idiosyncratic reactive opinions, which in turn ignites or deflates commentary.”
As I seem to recall as well, Brad’s tone was what prompted the response from Grace… He came out swinging, but she caught him with a few haymakers.
thanks so much, justlui!
Shinchan, I appreciate your post.
Brad’s site is pretty amazing, not the least because it is open to anyone to comment, without moderation (unless you post two or more links). I can understand the feeling that moderation is necessary in the Wild West of the internet, and there are individuals who have been black-balled from Brad’s site in the past, but I always feel a little strange when I hit the “post” button and get a message about moderation. The feeling grows, when I come back days or weeks later and my post never made it to the discussion!
If it were about women as equals in this Wild West of American Zen, then I don’t think a governing board is necessary. Maybe “yes means yes” for the general population instead of just college students would be a good thing, I don’t know.
If you really want to get down to the heart of the feminist revolution in America, I think it’s “yes means yes”. And I’m all for it, except it’s unclear to me how that works out in terms of proof in the courtroom. Right now, it sounds like it places the burden of proof on the accused; gotta have it in writing? Hey, I’m ok with that! Good luck, youth of America, Zen or otherwise!
Owing to my personal lack of talent, my life has been concerned with the science of Zen more than the art. Can’t have one without the other, it’s true, and I’ve been accused of being overly concerned with why the tail of the ox doesn’t pass through the gate. Of what beating the drum is about. Of exactly what it means to say that the twin-bladed sword is whirled behind the ears.
“Even if you set words turning and occupy the essential bridge, it still won’t do to let go. If you don’t let go, the whole great earth isn’t worth grasping. But what is the place to set words turning?”
(intro to 60th case, Blue Cliff Record, trans. Cleary & Cleary)
Aw gee, that’s a hard one. Lem’me see now… where’s my pencil… now where was I!
“Identifying women ancestors is new to Zen and, I believe, essential to the full unfolding of Western Zen Buddhism. Women now make up about half of all teachers in Western Buddhism, and the recognition of women ancestors is a solid step toward bringing Buddhism more fully into the reality of Western life.”
(Chanting Names Once Forgotten, by Grace Schireson)
An expansion on that last point:
‘”Gazing at the Deep Colors of Autumn” by the Japanese nun Rengetsu:
Clad in black robes I should have no attractions
To the shapes and scents of this world.
But how can I keep my vows,
Gazing at today’s crimson maple leaves?
Women’s Zen teaching laments the loss of loved ones and extols the beauty of life. No matter how deep their practice, their human heart is exposed. This is a wonderfully alive teaching for Western Buddhists, most of whom practice in the midst of family, work, and community rather than in silent monastic settings. Learning about Zen’s ancestral women and how they expressed practice in their family, art, and community can be a bountiful source of inspiration for Westerners.’
My hat is off to Grace Schireson for keeping her eyes on the prize that her teacher extolled as the significant thing here.
On another side of the coin, Brad’s teacher didn’t retire to the monastery either, and the guy insisted that an interpretation of modern scientific information about components of the autonomic nervous system was relevant to the action that takes place in seated meditation. Music to what’s behind the ears:
‘”White foamy waves flooding the skies arise on level ground”
**** Several fathoms deep underfoot. Guest and host intermingle. Suddenly they’re on top of your head– what will you do? I hit.’
(from the verse of the 50th case, Blue Cliff Record trans. by Cleary & Cleary pg 343)
“why the tail of the ox doesn’t pass through the gate” – mu
“Of what beating the drum is about.” – mu
“Of exactly what it means to say that the twin-bladed sword is whirled behind the ears.” – mu
“But what is the place to set words turning?” – muuuuuuuuuuu
“Grace Schireson doesn’t like me” – mu mu mew
“How now, brown cow?” mooooooooo
Fred, wrong on all counts. Being stuck in mu is only elementary at best.
What is the non elementary way then? Fill me in man 🙂
“Unlike either our Asian counterparts or American Judeo-Christian clergy, the American Zen tradition does not yet have a central authorizing body capable of sanctioning and removing a harmful teacher.”
Well, whether or not one agrees that there should be a “central authorizing body”, the first point should be made that the sentence is actually false. There is no “central authorizing body capable of sanctioning and removing a harmful teacher” in the “American Judeo-Christian clergy” or “our Asian counterparts.”
There are institutional canon courts for certain institutions of religion but none that exist across the board. There is no central authorizing body for Buddhism in Japan. Not even a central authorizing body for Zen Buddhism in Japan. Since the sentence suggests otherwise it is plainly wrong and misleading.
P.S. When we know we are in a cult and cultivating the mind-ground, we are aware of the seeds and tools we need. And we can tell the difference between the vegetable we planted and the weed. It is only those people who fool themselves into thinking they can cultivate spirituality without the “cult” part who are in for a rude awakening.
As Captain Beefheart sang, “Cultivate the ground. It’s the only one around.”
Why thank you Mr. Wonderheart
back in mu again:
all bound for mu mu land
I like the version with Tammy Wynette’s vocals better.
I grew up listening to Tammy Wynette, Elvis, and Roy Orbison.
That’s some good listening
Mu is in the heart
There is in Europe an organisation which holds itself for the ONLY providers of REAL Zen in the world, and they are very efficient at being a cult, at being power hungry arses and at doing everything they can to keep people from looking elsewhere. Why, some even pondered the possibility of copyrighting the word Zen. I suppose that’s what Shireson aims at. But it is somewhat doomed in the long run.
Would that be a Soto organization, Michel?
Saw this quote and thought of Fred’s up there somewhere saying something about something-er-ether “shining through” or something:
“You are absolutely comfortable and happy the way you are, yet at the same time you find it excruciatingly painful. You are not certain whether you want to stay the way you are, which is very pleasurable, or not stay the way you are, because it is very painful at the same time. That kind of pushing and pulling happens all the time. That seems to be the motivation and the contagious quality of buddha nature, which is trying to shine through all the time.” -Chogyam Trungpa
Spiritual Materialism – I believe, eh? ive read a ton of his stuff but am somewhat obsessed with that really cool, really creepy book. Any of his pre-Shamhala stuff is insane, almost too much sometimes. I like Shambhala stuff too…but he must have realized he needed to water it down a little for Westerners cause his earlier shit is insane. But SM is really all anyone would need to know. That and apparently Brads stuff since I come back so often hoping for new posts, books…anything!!
I love hanging out at KarmÃª ChÃ¶ling, reading Vajrayana sources, and talking to disciples of Trungpa. Seems like the Japanese and Japanese-derived teachers are either unfamiliar or reticent about aspects of Buddhism that most Westerners would call trans-physical, but the Tibetans merrily spout the most entertaining stuff without self-censoring! Not very useful and probably misleading for non-practicing or inexperienced people, but I think it a worthwhile endeavor to ask, “What is there in this that generations of practitioners found of value? What does it refer to, and how did the lineage perceive it.”
Guess it comes down to, there’s relative truth and absolute truth. The relative truth, ‘it’s a gentleman’s job to seduce a lady’. The absolute, ‘body-mind in zazen, no yoni, no lingam’. Manifest these non-dually: mindfully pause before unpipping the zenis.
“Unlike either our Asian counterparts or American Judeo-Christian clergy, the American Zen tradition does not yet have a central authorizing body capable of sanctioning and removing a harmful teacher.” That’s especially naive given that the Catholic Church has covered up for priests who were sexual predators for decades. Not to mention the way that universities will often be more concerned with their reputation than the plight of rape victims on campus. And what rapist or sexual predator doesn’t know that it is wrong? Especially when one of the tenets of the religion is to avoid sexual misconduct? How will any code of ethics help?
Off topic: Brad, when you will publish your new book “Don´t be a Jerk – Interpretation od Dogen´s Shobogenzo”? I´m so looking forward to it! Unfortunately I´m not practicing zazen regularly, but when I read books about Zen and Zazen, I suddenly do (for short time till I finish reading those books). Thanks!
Off topic: Brad, when you will publish your new book “Don´t be a Jerk – Interpretation od Dogen´s Shobogenzo”? I´m so looking forward to it! Unfortunately I´m not practicing zazen regularly, but when I read books about Zen and Zazen, I suddenly do (for short time till I finish reading those books). Thanks!!!!
Minkfoot: the organisation is the AZI (International Zen Association) which is close to the Sotoshu, but does not recognise Sotoshu masters if they have not passed through their approval. For example, all of Sawaki’s heirs are not recognised. They worship a fictitious Sawaki, they can therefore not allow REAL Sawaki heirs to demonstrate their b******t.
Sfigato (!!!) is quite right. A central authority is in no way a guarantee of any sort in those matters. There are too many examples of that. It may well be that, as states Shinchan Ohara, “Both of these things are valuable to someone like Grace Schireson who has an interest in Abbacies and Realty connected with Zen”.
Power hungry people like to attack the vulnerable ones, and one such as Brad who is honest with his own weaknesses is a ready-made victim for such people. We ought to watch out for more than just « sexual predators ». Power predators, and money predators are just as dangerous, and, in such a country as France, where sex is not really an issue, contrary to the USA (not that rape is allowed, to the contrary, but that relationships between consenting adults are a normal thing), the main problems which I have observed in the « Zen » circles is more on the power trip, the mental control issues and the cultic mentality. The results are terrible, because the majority of « zennists » in France have never truly practiced Zazen in their whole life.
“A central authority is in no way a guarantee of any sort in those matters.”
Guarantees are impossible… I think it’s better to reflect on whether or not having a central authority is better than nothing at all.
Michel, I thought as much. Perhaps the Dharma has self-correcting processes and we can hope the org will straighten out. Meanwhile, we have our own problems in North America.
Shodo, there’s a play between opposing forces. Regulatory bodies are forming. Anarchistic tendencies will help to preserve freedom of expressing the teaching. Grace is part of the mix, and our sentiments are, too. I wouldn’t worry about it as much as Grace seems to, but we are all children here, and Buddha let’s the children play.
Okay, I know this will make some people go, “What the hell?” but I’m going to tell people what is the most painful way to be killed because I think I’ve experienced it a little… I had this extremely painful, unorthodox dream that I am including in a short story I’m writing.
I dreamed of an idyllic town where everyone cultivated the land and played chess. Everyone was jolly until strange beings from the sky invaded and started mutilating everyone. I experienced everyone’s unique private experience and pain; it felt as if the feeling of loss was stronger than gain in life. Eventually everyone in the dream stood still and stares away from the dream’s [I]circumference[/I] towards “me” asking why I dreamt them into existence just to suffer.
I appeared as a golden bodhisattva, don’t know how, and promised to stop the onslaught from the alien invaders. I was able to mitigate their damage and send them back, but as a consequence, the land was no longer arable. New children were born and played amongst a river that froze into black ooze while the older generation remained with the harsh memories, jaded from realizing they can never enjoy life like before the onslaught.
In short: [b]the most painful way to die is to become a pantheistic deity because life is about pain and loss ultimately. You would consequently feel the pain and suffering of everyone without division because that what life truly is.[/b] Their groaning and lamentation shall come in unison as one voice. There would be a multiplicity of dying and suffering within your One Body, and you’ll be slowly murdered as you can feel everything deteriorate or something like that.
The dream was depressing as hell, but I liked it, I guess.
Everything is arising and passing away. That’s the normal state of affairs. What’s
experienced as suffering is really just ignorance about what is.
“[Red Pine’s notes]
17. Section LIX. Implicit in this definition of buddhahood is a reinterpretation of the Four Noble Truths: how can there be suffering if there is no self; how can there be a cause of suffering if there is no obstruction; how can there be a cessation of suffering if there is no death; and how can there be a path leading to the cessation of suffering if there is no affliction.”
It’s simple! It’s magic!
Check this out, Fred:
“According to Scopus, Iran ranked 17th in terms of science production in the world in 2012 with the production of 34,155 articles above Switzerland and Turkey.”
Do you still think we’re a savage people?
Iranians have a popular saying that the “pen of the scholar is stronger than the sword”, and it shows in their scientific and technological progress.
The country isn’t as bad as the media portrays it. It can definitely improve, but given all the sanctions and aggression from the Saudis and Israelis, it has been doing well.
“Do you still think we’re a savage people?”
I never said that the Iranians were a savage people
“The country isn’t as bad as the media portrays it. It can definitely improve, but given all the sanctions and aggression from the Saudis and Israelis, it has been doing well.”
Of course the media is biased towards the U.S.
How did the Saudis aggress against the Iranians?
I apologize for saying that you should contemplate on the concept
of the Isrealis nuking Iran. I said it knowing that I was pushing your anger button, and that was wrong.
Fred, I apologize for my past rudeness. That’s good we can start anew.
Perhaps it may be useful to consider the Tibetan lineages, which tend to be hierarchical and orderly, at least to my eyes. They have had to deal with two thorny issues in the form of Kelsang Gyatso and Michael Roach. Despite the authority the lineages seem to enjoy, both of these men are continuing with their ecclesiastical careers and doing quite well.
Mr. Roach has been dissected many times on the ElephantJournal.
Minkfoot, you’re aware of the allegations that the molestation of young boys is frequent in Tibetan monasteries?
“Women’s Zen teaching laments the loss of loved ones and extols the beauty of life. No matter how deep their practice, their human heart is exposed. This is a wonderfully alive teaching for Western Buddhists, most of whom practice in the midst of family, work, and community rather than in silent monastic settings. ”
I think in this she and Brad are not so different, except that Brad is making the same case for men. I hope.
I am aware of allegations of sexual impropriety in monasteries, period. I have no doubt it happens. I also have no doubt it would be alleged whether or not it happens.
I would like to see reports from credible investigations that could give us some idea of the extent and severity of the problem, if it is, indeed, a problem.
Wot cha got?
Did you get the video of the young Kalu Rimpoche where he puts forth those allegations, saying that it happened to him, leading him to early alcoholism and drugs abuse?
Yes, just saw it. Still, how common is the abuse? Was what he described a normal occurrence or his bad luck? How does it vary across monasteries and lineages?
“Let’s play (Zen) master and servant…” – David Gahan Roshi
Having a rare bout of insomnia for a couple of nights in a row, in the middle of the third night I recalled a practice from my youth, one I adapted at the time into a personal practice of healing and regeneration, circulating the light into an “egg” of protection, dissolving into it. So I tried it that third night and have slept soundly ever since.
No doubt it is related to this:
…which I practiced much later, to most interesting effect…
Oh, man, that’s twisted!
This too, o’course, related like a 1st cousin…
All was folded into this potent hybrid that surely works, although it is the gross form, rather than the fine, as Shiva is the base metal to Buddha’s gold…
Sorry kids, that last link was far more graphic than I thought…proceed with caution…
And, I almost forgot the Microcosmic Orbit (et al, ie; Inner Alchemy)!!
Mumbles, can you elaborate on ‘circulating the light into an “egg” of protection’- is that sort of like, whirling the light in all directions to surround the place of being? I know, I saw the links… but I think it was simpler at some point in your falling asleep.
This is interesting to me:
Roughly the ilio-tibial bands up the leg, perhaps the fascia connected from the ilio-tibial bands with the fascia latae tensors and the gluts, the before the pubic bones and behind the sacrum affected, the attachments of the ilio-tibial bands at the rims of the pelvis connected through the fascia of the quadratus lumborum with the fascia of the rib cage in the movement of breath and ultimately joining the fascia of the extensors to the temporal, occiputtal, parietal, and sphenoid bones of the skull.
So you can tell I am looking at a tracing along or just below the surface of the body. Maybe whoever drew the diagram meant for the interpretation to be internal, but as a tracing just below the surface this is remarkably close to the visualization I seem to have.
You’ll have to as Carlos Casteneda about the “egg”
….no, I’ll try to e-mail you something tonight or this weekend. I’ve taken up enough space here, Mark.
Against my better judgment, I am going to jump in here briefly as someone who signed the letter and is a AZTA/SZBA member. I also speak as someone who gets all kinds of questions and grief from some in the AZTA/SZBA because of some of the experimental aspects over at Treeleaf.
I sense a big, BIG overreaction by some here. There is no “central governing body” in Western Zen, nor do I know many folks in the AZTA or SZBA who want one (there may be some).
The SZBA (less the case for the AZTA, which is more just a place for social exchange among folks from different traditions of Zen/Son/Chan) is concerned with some de minimus training standards for anyone who is a member of the organization … which, by the way, is not even all Soto Zen teachers. The SZBA has all right to do that, and to make sure that folks who are functioning as Soto Zen teachers are not just someone that was handed (or bought) a Kesa and hung out a shingle. That is far, far distant from trying to be some “central governing body” or the Spanish Inquisition! I mean, if they let me in … their standards must be pretty low! 🙂
Next, there are so many con artists out their who wrap themselves in a table cloth, call themselves “Guru” this or “Roshi” that, often for nefarious reasons. The AZTA both want to keep such folks out of their groups, like this guy who invented his teacher and a non-existent Zen center in Japan, and who has engaged in some questionable behavior with students …
Next, the AZTA and SZBA want their members to abide by certain basic ethical standards. Unfortunately, sometimes, the Precepts are not enough without some group action to chastise offenders by the greater Sangha (a tradition since the Buddha’s time). That seems to be common sense, and is much better than simply looking away (something, unfortunately, that has happened to often in the past).
Dharma Transmission from an experienced Teacher in an established Lineage to a younger person is not guaranty of anything, and sure is no guaranty that the student will be a gifted, ethical, caring priest. Nonetheless, it still seems like a better system than just letting anyone wrap themself in a table cloth after having read a couple of Buddhist books and (maybe with or without some touch of insight) start selling themself as “God’s Gift to Buddhism” to unsuspecting students. Requiring Soto Zen priests to have some basic understanding of Soto Zen tenets, history and … most important … Practices does not seem like too much to ask.
In the case of Grace’s message to Brad, boy, she said some dumb things she should apologize for. The Brad she describes is far from the “straight edge” guy I know. But, nonetheless and that aside, nothing so shocking in the rest of what she said.
Gassho, Jundo Cohen
PS – I will be re-issuing in a few days a book by Nishijima Roshi called “A Heart to Heart Chat on Buddhism with Old Master Gudo”. It is an expanded edition with talks by Brad and my Dharma Grandpa, Rempo Niwa Zenji. The new edition comes out next week, keep an eye out.
PS — I will be re-issuing in a few days a book by Nishijima Roshi called “A Heart to Heart Chat on Buddhism with Old Master Gudo”. It is an expanded edition with talks by Brad and my Dharma Grandpa, Rempo Niwa Zenji. The new edition comes out next week, keep an eye out.
Not sure why I mentioned “talks by Brad” there. There are talks by Nishijima Roshi and Niwa Rempo Zenji, but not Brad.
“. The SZBA has all right to do that, and to make sure that folks who are functioning as Soto Zen teachers are not just someone that was handed (or bought) a Kesa and hung out a shingle. That is far, far distant from trying to be some “central governing body” or the Spanish Inquisition!”
Yeah right, because none of those SZBA teachers are full of shit.
“Dharma Transmission from an experienced Teacher in an established Lineage to a younger person is not guaranty of anything”
In that case, who gives the SZBA the right to say what is or is not proper zen protocol
I guess that you guys need to elect a pope so you can work out the dogma.
“PS — I will be re-issuing in a few days a book by Nishijima Roshi called “A Heart to Heart Chat on Buddhism with Old Master Gudo”. ”
Did you edit out the stuff about the sympathetic/parasympathetic balance?
Jundo, where can we get the book? I’d rather buy it from your website, for example, than give all the cash to Jeff Bezos.
I read and enjoyed the Three Philosophies and One Reality one. Old Master Gudo is one of the few Buddhist teachers who register very low on my bullshit-o-meter
Mumbles: As for the cases of abuse, a friend of mine is a researcher in Tibetan Buddhism, especially in all about nuns in Tibetan nunneries. She speaks fluent Tibetan (the Lhassa upper class variant, which sometimes comes to her as a bit “tight” when she gets to odd places 🙂 ). She therefore often goes both to Tibet (and obviously the rest of China) and India, and she knows quite a few people in those countries.
So she told me of a friend of hers in India who decided, out of vocation, to become a trainee monk in a monastery in India. As soon as he got in there, the cop-monks (“dop-dop”) started raping him. So, he complained to his teacher who replied he could do nothing about it. As in went on, and he kept complaining, the teacher finally told him that the only solution was to get out of monkhood. Which he did.
Ew. I heard an almost identical first-hand account from an insider at a xtian priest-training seminary. Fucking organised religion. Fuck it!
Thanks to Jundo for his 11th hour intervention. His take on the function and goals of the SZBA and AZTA are reassuring.
I question his view that there has been a “BIG overreaction” here, though. The majority of the commenters on this blog are laypeople, with various levels of commitment to Zen. Some of us (I’m one of the bigger culprits recently) use hyperbole and sometimes rough, iconoclastic language – to promote vigorous debate, and for our own amusement. It often gets catty.
But, putting matters of style to one side – nobody here has suggested (afaik) that it’s OK in general to read ‘Buddhism for Dummies’,wrap oneself in one’s bedsheet, hang out one’s shingle, and call oneself Roshi. Nobody(?) thinks it’s a bad thing to have a Sotoshu or SZBA to keep a list of those who’ve passed a minimal standard of training. Nobody is against the traditions of jukai and inka, per se.
The live issues have been more controversial than those that Jundo mentioned. They are: the over-reverence of teachers, who have been held in some sanghas as transcendent of ethics and censure; and correct response to the abuses of ethics that are the inevitable outcome of such roshi-worship.
There is a general philosophical point being made – that just adding another layer of hierarchy or oversight does not solve this problem. You can layer people on top of people forever, until you create a pagoda of social control stretching up to Tushita heaven, and it won’t solve this problem. The only way such a system ever maintains itself is by passing orders down the chain, and by enforcing secrecy when someone on a higher level messes up. Such a system would, encourage ethical abuse, ossify the marrow of Zen, and fossilize its bones (and nobody much would join such an obvious power cult anyway). In Islam, Judaism and Catholicism, most followers are born into the cult: apostasy means social death, and hierarchies can flourish. The same thing won’t work with Western Zen followers.
Nobody is saying that Grace Schireson or the signatories to her letter are proposing a Zen Inquisition or a Zen Gestapo. We are (I think) pointing out that a Board of Ethics risks being very counter-productive when it comes to reducing abuses of power. What would be more useful would be a Universal Declaration of Humanity from Zen teachers, admitting that (regardless of training, transmission, or real insight) they have the capacity to fuck up just as much as anyone else, and are just as vulnerable to sex addiction and psychological immaturity, and need support, criticism and advice as much as the next person. Once that is done, nobody can claim that the teacher seduced them with the force of his spiritual hoodoo, and other sangha members will feel less compelled to defend the boss if a complaint is made. Once we’re all honest about this, a lot of these problems can be resolved with kindness to all involved.
Sasaki seems to have been an excellent zen teacher, but with poor understanding of sexuality and poor impulse control. If his sangha had accepted his human weakness from the start, a lot of suffering could have been prevented.
“. Nobody(?) thinks it’s a bad thing to have a Sotoshu or SZBA to keep a list of those who’ve passed a minimal standard of training. Nobody is against the traditions of jukai and inka, per se.”
What’s any of this have to do with realization?
Nobody thinks non thinking; somebody thinks of their position in a hierarchy.
“What’s any of this have to do with realization?”
Not a thing Fred. Hierarchies are bad, but it would be worse if people’s only source of Zen was from cowardly anonymous web hecklers like me or you. A few basic standards and qualifications are comforting for beginners.
And there we may see that the idea of “perfection” of the Zen teacher reaches far further than we’d think. Because, for most people, this liability of Sasaski groping girls tending to mean that he wasn’t, in the end, truly enlightened is exactly the counterpart of sustaining that, being an enlightened being, he could never have groped any girl.
I’m an easily angered man, prone to fits of anger which get me bawling with an extremely loud voice, an obnoxious dirty old man not even able to realise that his lewd allusions are annoying, a living example of Foghorn Leghorn of Chicken Hawk Looney Tunes renown, an obnoxious know-it-all who’s always got a say on anything that’s being discussed. But I don’t think (all right, I’m a bit partial, there) that it doesn’t mean that anything that I may say is in essence flawed. But the opposite is also true. The fact that I often say well seen things doesn’t keep me from being all those idiotic things at the same time.
Hi Michel, As per your reply above concerning abuse, I’m not certain to what you are responding, I don’t recall weighing in on that topic? Possibly you are getting minkfoot and mumbles mixed up?
And I get the feeling that I’ve been interpreted as promoting the Tibetan system, when my point was that, even with the centralized authority headed by the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan hierarchy can’t do much about Gyatso and Roach, but to distance themselves from them.
Michel, are you aware of the author Michel Houellebecq? He seems to be stirring the pot with his new novel “Submission,” which I understand is being interpreted as anti-Islamic but is actually a broader satire on the French.
Antoine Ã“ RaifteirÃ, a native of County Mayo, was blind from childhood and earned his living by playing the fiddle and singing his songs in country houses in the west of Ireland. He is the blind poet of Yeats’s poem “The Tower.”
I am Raftery the Poet
(Anthony Raftery 1784-1835)
I am Raftery the poet
Full of hope and love
With no light in my eyes
With gentleness that has no misery
Going west upon my pilgrimage
By the light of my heart
Though feeble and tired
To the end of my rove.
Behold me now
With my face to the wall
Unto empty pockets.
Thanks Mark, for circulating the light.
I’d heard that Yeats loved Ryokan’s zen poems, and that Akutagawa was inspired by Yeat’s. But, Raftery and the Secret of the Golden Flower, this is new! Taoist Alchemy in the bogs of Mayo, whoduv thunkit?
It seems this world is a small bright pearl for longer than supposed!
Mumbles: my bad. No I just wanted to comfort Minkfoot’s thing about Tibetans: showing that any organised thing is no guarantee. Because, as has abundantly been stated, institutions tend to cover for themselves rather than take measures. Same with police corps confronted to inner corruption;
As for Houellebecq, it is indeed a satire of French society. Ever since the early ’80ies, our PC Left has launched an active propaganda against the French integrationist system, in favour of the anglo-saxon community system. The results have been appalling, and the latter killings have fired a general demand for a return to the Republic. (Republican values in France are quite diverse from Republican values in the USA).
It started in 1983 when a march was organised from Marseilles to Paris (some 700 km) by youth of foreign origins, mostly North African, but not exclusively, for Equality. The then President, Mitterrand, immediately organised a counter offensive called SOS Racisme destined to defuse that movement, and propounding communitarism instead. You know, each one in his own corner, and do not come and disturb us in our petty bourgeois life… This has led to the “veil offensive” aimed at shaming non practicing muslims, since they tend to be concentrated in the same boroughs, followed by the “hallal offensive”, aiming at the same. All this heavily fostered by the Saudis and Qataris.
To the opposite, French Republican Values, and the 1905 Law of Separation of Church and State, aim at allowing anyone to practice their religion serenely, on the condition of not encroaching on the political life of the Nation. And also allowing anyone to change religion without being bothered, or not to practice any religion without being bothered.
As for those who like to say that this is racism, because it reeks of islamophobia (has anyone ever heard of Mormonophobia, orBaptistophobia?) the recrudescence of Antisemitism and violent actions against Jews, essentially due to Muslims should be a sound preocupation of those concerned about racism…
When we attempt to put our principles into language, we run into trouble eventually because it does not fully reflect reality in a sufficiently accurate way. Sometimes the problem is like that of logical self-reference, as when one says, “The following statement is false. The preceding statement is true.” If one were to make a law to guarantee absolute freedom of religion, one must then allow forced conversion and other intolerable practices, such as human sacrifice – practices which conflict with the sacred rights of others. To say one must tolerate all viewpoints . . . consider the view that other viewpoints must be suppressed. So absolutism is untenable and exceptions are made. The process takes some time to achieve an adequate fairness, if ever.
To many of us in the States, the banning of the hijab in France seemed unreasonably discrimatory against Muslim women who choose to wear one as a symbol of their religious affiliation. After all, within my lifetime, my own mother always wore a scarf or a hat in public, especially in Orthodox churches. In Catholic churches in my youth, women always wore hats or veils, and I remember young girls pinning a handerchief to their hair if they had nothing else. Only some Protestant churches allowed bare-headed women into their sacred places.
Doing a quick check on the law online, I see that it was not the hijab that was banned but anything that obscures the face. Our debased news media did not make that clear; neither did they mention the background of imposition of face-veils on Muslim women by fundamentalists as acts of politico-religious domination. That makes the French position more understandable.
Whether or not it is a fair restriction of personal rights is another thing. Here in the Land of the Free, a growing number of businesses have signs at the door instructing one to remove their headgear upon entry. I believe it bgan with the banks, and it’s to convenience the surveillance cameras. I ignore them and keep my beret on, and so far no one has challenged me. If I were to be confronted, perhaps I might comply, perhaps I might leave, or perhaps I might challenge the challenger – I guess much would depend on my mood that day.
The French law is your business. If it proves unfair enough, I am sure it will be modified with further exceptions. Thanks for providing some background.
I am mystified, however, by your continued depiction of me as championing Tibetan monasticism as some model for solving the problem of misbehaving Zen masters, when I used it as an example of how authoritarian systems yet fail to control their own deviant people (which I do not necessarily see as a bad thing).
I will say regarding your evidence of sexual predation in Tibetan monasteries, that it suggests several further avenues of inquiry before many questions are somewhat clarified. First would be to verify your friend’s statements. I do not doubt your veracity, nor your friend’s, but what we have is your account of her account of stuff she’s heard. Then, there is a question of how widespread the abuse is (although I have no doubt that there is some in any celibate monastic situation, or abuses of power even in noncelibate situation – a total lack of all abuse in any human institution would be nigh on miraculous); also, is there a difference between monasteries in Tibet and China, and those outside the reach of the Chinese government; was there as much abuse before the Chinese takeover; do some sects foster abuse more than others? I imply neither a belief in widespread abuse in the Tibetan system, nor a belief in the opposite with these questions; with Tibetan Buddhism, I have no dog in that race.
My direct familiarity is with monks of Taiwanese Chan Buddhism of the Dharma Drum lineage,, and also with the Kwan Um international lineage of Korean Soen. On the one hand, I would be very surprised to hear of widespread abuse or laxity in precepts in Dharma Drum, from the monastic examples I am acquainted with, although who can ever be completely certain? In Kwan Um, I have heard of incidents that indicate a certain laxity of observance of sexual precepts, though I have heard of no coercive behavior. I have no idea of how prevalent that may be. I do not wish to indict Kwan Um, which I see with generally favorable eyes.
Lastly, with regard to your description of yourself, Michel – you would fit in well in some of my social circles in Vermont, presumed accent and all.
“FOR those concerned about racism”
Thanks for that, Michel. I am not a “current events” type of person in terms of short-term or long lasting interests, this is one reason Brad’s “let me react to the latest news” approach to this blog often leaves me cold and going in a different direction. It’s all “wars and rumors of wars” all the time anyway, so why bother with this or that particular detail?
Consequently, I know little or nothing about what’s going on in France other than there was a bombing, people were killed, it has something to do with the situation you have described so eloquently above, and so: thank you for that review of historical events leading up to the present situation on behalf of others who might appreciate the inside scoop.
However, I am aware of the rich history of French cinema, arts, and letters and the extraordinary artists who at times magically turn situations such as this one happening now into fine art, the quintessence of human experience, so that others might enjoy and learn from it, and hopefully, someday react to a difficult situation with thoughtfulness and grace and peace rather than with anger, desperation, and violence.
I am more interested in whether or not you have read any of Michel Houellebecq’s novels, what is your opinion on them, and which, if any or all of them, you would recommend to this readership?
The suchness of the situation is as Boubi and Michel have described.
I use to ignore the permutations and perturbations of form, but to ignore cause
and effect is folly.
It’s not ignorance, Fred, “to thine own self be true” otherwise, there is no self. And in that lies the balance.
Katagiri Roshi :
“Buddha-nature is impermanence itself. This real moment is constantly: working, arising, disappearing, and appearing. To say what the present moment is, right here, right now, is to say that this moment has already disappeared. This is called emptiness. Both cause and effect are exactly impermanence in themselves. It means just appearing, that’s all. This is the basic nature of existence. That’s why impermanence is Buddha-nature. Buddha-nature is being preached constantly. When you manifest yourself right now, right here, becoming one with zazen or with your activity, this is Buddha-nature manifested in the realm of emptiness or impermanence.”
Minkfoot: “I am mystified, however, by your continued depiction of me as championing Tibetan monasticism as some model for solving the problem of misbehaving Zen masters (…)
To point: I did not at all. This is a huge misunderstanding.
Well and good, then.
Shinchan, I clipped that poem out of the S.F. Chronicle when I was in high school, and carried it in my wallet for twenty years or so. Then I lost it. I looked for it online every few years for the last decade, and last night I discovered it has now been added to the library of online everything.
For years, all I could remember was “see me now, and my face to the wall, a’ playin’ onto empty pockets”, but I loved the sentiment.
I’d seen it before, but like you, not since way back. There is definitely something ‘zen’ about the aesthetic of the poem (although I was exaggerating about the Taoist Alchemy… ‘the light of my eyes’, ‘light of my heart’ phrases reminded me of the Golden Flower translation that mumbles linked to above). I also like this one by Yeats, maybe inspired by Raftery?
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