Sangha, i.e. “The Crowd You Run With”

DalaiLamaCrowdAfter I put up my previous piece about Zen Predator of the Upper East Side, a short book-like Kindle object about the sex scandals surrounding Eido Shimano, a commenter who calls herself Shade said, “Okay, as a member of the fairer sex, this is what I don’t get… if the women in this man’s charge had a problem with the way he was behaving toward them, why didn’t they just high tail it?”

I’ve heard this kind of question a lot whenever these Zen sex scandals arise.  If just men asked that question I might think it’s something to do with the supposed differences between male and female psychology. But both men and women seem to ask it. And I have wondered the same thing myself.

After all, in all of the sex scandals involving Zen people in the West the issue has never been about anyone forcing himself upon someone who was defenseless. The so-called “victims” are never children or the mentally handicapped or anything like that. They are always adults, often not even very young adults (some of Sasaki Roshi’s conquests were in their 50s and 60s), and always of reasonably sound mind. In Shimano’s case he did seem to target women who were psychologically vulnerable. Still, even this is relative. Though they may have been in somewhat compromised psychological states, they weren’t so impaired as to be unable to say no.

Reading the book-like object (is a “Kindle Single” a book?), you get a sense of what was really involved. Commenter mtto said, “There are also a variety of witnesses and enablers. Robert Aiken who sent Shimano to New York from Hawaii, making him someone else’s problem. The students who didn’t care that Shimano was an abuser because he didn’t abuse them, and he ‘worked for them’ as a zen teacher. The women who didn’t feel victimized by their affairs with Shimano, but knew he was molesting women who were harmed. Those who were appalled by Shimano, but didn’t want to harm Zen in the West, so kept quiet. To me, these are the real villains.”

He’s on the right track. But I think we can take things even further down that line.

We in the West are prone to view our individuality as the most important aspect of what we are as human beings. We imagine that we move through life as autonomous units, making our own individual choices and being singularly responsible for every action we take because it is of our own personal free will. But is that really true? And are we just who we are, or are we as much who we seem to those around us to be?

In Buddhism the so-called Three Treasures are Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Sangha, which basically means “who you hang out with,” is considered extremely important. The crowd you run with is vital to your spiritual path.

I never really liked this because I tend to be a loner, a rebel. Like Pee Wee Herman. You don’t want to get mixed up with me. Sangha seemed like more of a pain in the ass than a treasure.

Yet much of my supposed “individuality” comes from my environment. When I lived in Japan I behaved differently from how I’d behaved in Akron. Learning a new language reshaped the way I thought. Being around Japanese people forced me to change how I acted. I had to tone everything down, for one thing. I remember expressing what I felt was mild annoyance in the office where I worked and watching the people around me react as if I’d just screamed and thrown my desk through the window. I found out that in Japan you must express your mild annoyance much more subtly if you want it to be understood for what it is.

The actions that happened between Shimano and his conquests alone in the dokusan room where no one else could see involved a lot more than just two people. The entire community was part of it. The community gave Shimano, a pudgy, pasty-faced guy, a rock star aura he could never have created for himself. They made him seem like the kind of guy a woman might want to say yes to.

Once I was doing a talk in a city where the Dalai Lama happened to be speaking the very same day. Suffice it to say, my audience was not so huge. Someone I knew who’d gone to see Mr. Lama rather than attend my talk (grrrr) was gushing later on about how he could feel the tremendous spiritual power emanating from the Dalai Lama as he passed, ringed by his retinue of Secret Service men and fawning worshippers, and surrounded by a thick throng of people elated to be near such a holy being.

How much of what my friend was feeling really came from the spiritual power of the smiling little man at the center of that mess?

This doesn’t absolve individuals of their own actions. But the circumstances in which those actions take place cannot be disregarded. There was a lot more going on when these women said yes to Shimano’s advances and much of it was beyond them and even beyond Shimano. Shimano himself was under continual pressure to be the spiritual superhero his followers wanted him to be. This doesn’t mean he wasn’t a jerk. But that kind of thing is hard to take. I know. I’ve been there myself.

In the comments section, Hungry Ghost said, “I played in DIY political punk bands my whole life and always seemed to have some grasp on what kind of person I was. Then I played in a band with a record deal, fan base, worldwide touring and, it didn’t happen immediately, but after a few years of fans and promoters and club owners fawning over us and signing autographs I changed a lot — became entitled, reckless, confrontational.” He wondered if this kind of thing didn’t affect spiritual teachers who become super famous too. It does.

We don’t like to think of ourselves as being so mixed in with the people around us. I know I certainly do not. I want to think of myself as self-sufficient, self-determining, sovereign. But if there is no self, how can I be self-determining and self-sufficient?

If we are going to prevent scandals and other abuses like this from continuing to happen, we have to see how we all work together to create the conditions in which they occur. It’s no good to simply blame the bad guy at the center of it all or to tell the other people involved they could have just said no.

Shade’s question is the crucial one. Why didn’t they just get out of there? Why didn’t the people at Jonestown just refuse to drink the Flavor-Aid (Jim Jones was too cheap to buy real Kool Aid for his mass suicide, which I think makes the whole thing that much more tragic)?

The answers to these questions are as complex as the groups and circumstances out of which they arise. But I think if we continue to research them, patterns will emerge. They have been emerging from the serious investigations into these cases.

A lot of times the discussions on these subjects devolve very quickly into just a bunch of lurid poking into people’s private affairs or a lot of self-congratulating “well I would never do anything like that!” sort of reactions. Rather than looking at these matters as stuff that happens to others, we need to look at how we ourselves do the same sorts of things. Maybe our own versions of those same things don’t end in sex scandals and mass suicides. But we do them too. All of us.

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The documentary about me, Brad Warner’s Hardcore Zen, is now available to download. Get it here!

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Here’s my upcoming touring schedule:

Aug. 2 Dogen Sangha Los Angeles

Sept. 5-7 Houston Zen Center (I will probably do events in Austin, El Paso and Dallas around the same time)

Oct. 3-5 Helsinki, Finland all events to be determined

Oct. 6 Movie Screening in Espoo, Finland

Oct. 8 Lecture in Munich, Germany

Oct. 9-11 Retreat in Munich, Germany

Oct. 12-17 Retreat at Benediktushof near Würzburg, Germany

Oct 18-19 Retreat in Bonn, Germany

Oct 20 Hamburg, Germany

Oct 24: Lecture in Groningen, Netherlands

Oct 25: Day-long zazen in Groningen, Netherlands

Oct 26: Lecture in Eindhoven, Netherlands

Oct 27: Evening zazen in Eindhoven, Netherlands

Oct 28: Evening zazen in Nijmegen, Netherlands

Oct 29: Lecture in Rotterdam, Netherlands

Oct 30: Lecture in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Oct 31: Movie screening in Utrecht, Netherlands

Nov 1-2: Retreat in Utrecht, Netherlands

Nov 4-6 (or 3-5 possibly) Retreat in Hebden Bridge, UK

Nov 7-8 Something in Manchester, UK (to be determined)

95 Responses

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  1. minkfoot
    minkfoot June 21, 2014 at 9:05 am |

    Is it impolite to jump in and grab for no. one? It is? Then I won’t.

  2. minkfoot
    minkfoot June 21, 2014 at 9:54 am |

    It was a cool but sunny day in Vermont as I drove back to northern Vermont the day before Midsummer’s. I needed some food to take a pill with, so I stopped at a general store along the way. The youth behind the sandwich/deli counter asked me what my bumpersticker meant. How he could see my car from where he was working, I don’t know. A few years ago, I was in a witch store in New Paltz and found a sticker that said, “Ankh If Love Isis.” For some reason, I find this terribly funny, and just had to buy it. Now, suddenly, this young man asked if it had anything to do with the militant group in Syria and Iraq. I was stunned to realize I could be seen as some kind of Islamic fundamentalist sympathizer.

    Context is important, and it won’t stand still.

    When the Buddha relics came through Syracuse, I went through the rite of blessing done by Roko Sherry Chayat, successor and replacement for Eido Shimano at Daibusatsu-ji. I have no problem accepting her as a legitimate Zen teacher, limited as my experience of her may be. Does that mean teaching is a distinctly different and separate compartment of life from morality and compassionate treatment of those over whom one has power? I would like to say no, but I also do not want to delegitimize the students of misbehaving teachers. I haven’t resolved this yet, and may not ever.

    It comes down to, again, managing my own life as best I can with an eye on the precepts. I’m very glad that I never had to deal with problems of a split between loyalty and honesty that perhaps Ven. Chayat did and perhaps does.

    And how is it possible to deal compassionately with Shimano himself, who has never left the ranks of sentient beings many of us have vowed to save? How do you save a perp whose vision is likely clearer than one’s own?

    1. Fred
      Fred June 21, 2014 at 11:11 am |

      It’s not his vision; it’s the Universe’s.

  3. Fred
    Fred June 21, 2014 at 11:24 am |

    ” Like Pee Wee Herman. You don’t want to get mixed up with me.”

    “I’m right-handed, and the police report said I was jerking off with my left hand. That would have been the end of the case right there, proof it couldn’t have been me.”

  4. Dancing Mountain
    Dancing Mountain June 21, 2014 at 12:22 pm |

    Thanks Brad, I like this post. I appreciate your questions and willingness to discuss others’ questions about sex and scandal. I was just reading another blog about sexual assault and “rape culture” and in a radio interview Heather McDonald, a Canadian political-type countered surveys about assault incidence with this juicy bit, “If colleges were this tsunami of sexual violence and predation that is claimed, we would have seen a stampede to create and demand alternatives – whether sending girls to single-sex schools or private tutors… Instead, every year the onslaught to get females… into college increases…” So when people ask why did the victim stick around or not report, like you said, context is often being ignored. And why is the question, ‘why didn’t the victim just stay home from meditation that day?’ instead of, ‘why didn’t someone throw this joker out?’ Women shouldn’t have to avoid college, the streets at night, the zendo or any other space where they may encounter a man indoctrinated to believe he is untouchable and entitled to what he wants when he wants it.

  5. Jinzang
    Jinzang June 21, 2014 at 12:27 pm |

    I was wondering why an Islamic group would name itself after a pagan goddess and found out the name is a creation of Western news organizations:

  6. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote June 21, 2014 at 2:46 pm |

    “Shade’s question is the crucial one. Why didn’t they just get out of there? Why didn’t the people at Jonestown just refuse to drink the Flavor-Aid (Jim Jones was too cheap to buy real Kool Aid for his mass suicide, which I think makes the whole thing that much more tragic)?”

    Was I not supposed to get a laugh out of that last line, Brad? You mean, that they didn’t even get a sugar high and had to just decease on some artificial flavor?

    Well, comic relief was welcome, there.

    At least with rockers, the mojo is evident to all in the presence in the beat. With Zen guys or hippy gurus or politico evangalists, the mojo behind the draw can’t be found when their words or actions are taken out of context.

    However, it’s very possible to assess the words and actions of Zen guys, hippy gurus, and politico evangelists after the fact to see whether or not they still speak to us, and that can be easier to do out of the original context. Sort of like how science is sometimes driven by the hypotheses of very bright individuals, proof is lined up, and then years or decades later it’s discovered that the evidence didn’t bear out the hypotheses. But at the time, the mojo of the individual got aligned with the material benefit of a lot of individuals to hide the truth.

    I think I’ve mentioned before that some enlightened people appear to be more gifted at teaching than others; I guess the corollary is that some may be a danger to self or others, running with scissors down the Zendo hallways.

  7. The Idiot
    The Idiot June 21, 2014 at 7:16 pm |

    ♫ Everything is Awesome ♫

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot June 22, 2014 at 4:18 am |

      Nothing is better! ☻

  8. The Idiot
    The Idiot June 21, 2014 at 7:20 pm |

    ☜ ☞ ☠ ☠☜☜

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot June 22, 2014 at 4:07 am |

      I hope Jundo created that rather than someone else. I love ridicule, but self-mockery is the best!

  9. jiesen
    jiesen June 21, 2014 at 10:48 pm |

    The “oneness of practice-enlightenment” was also a point stressed in the Bendōwa (弁道話 “A Talk on the Endeavor of the Path”) of 1231:

    Thinking that practice and enlightenment are not one is no more than a view that is outside the Way. In buddha-dharma [i.e. Buddhism], practice and enlightenment are one and the same. Because it is the practice of enlightenment, a beginner’s wholehearted practice of the Way is exactly the totality of original enlightenment. For this reason, in conveying the essential attitude for practice, it is taught not to wait for enlightenment outside practice.[18] -Dogen

  10. jiesen
    jiesen June 21, 2014 at 10:48 pm |

    In buddha-dharma practice and enlightenment are one and the same. -Dogen

  11. jiesen
    jiesen June 21, 2014 at 11:03 pm |

    Before enlightenment there is cultivation. After enlightenment there is cultivation.

    People want to cultivate. This jackass took advantage of people who want to cultivate.

    I still think that traditional monasticism, and lay-monasticism…two different ways of doing the same thing. It depends upon the person.

    On one hand, perversion or extreme lust could creep up in a traditional monasticism. The same could be said for lay-monasticism.

    I think now, there are people who cultivate, and people who do not.

    The students were more cultivated then the teacher. They just didn’t know it. The teacher took advantage of that.

  12. jiesen
    jiesen June 21, 2014 at 11:04 pm |


  13. jiesen
    jiesen June 22, 2014 at 12:16 am |

    As we progress in practice, we need to practice even harder! The more we practice, the more we realize the need to practice even harder l0l!

  14. jiesen
    jiesen June 22, 2014 at 12:33 am |

    When I bow, I recite this; but I never really follow it enough.
    I give one bow to the Buddha. Living beings are numberless, I vow to save them.
    I give one bow to the Dharma. Affiliations are endless, I vow to cast them off.
    I give one bow the Sangha. Dharma doors are immeasurable, I vow to entre them all.
    The Buddha Way is unsurpassable, I vow to realize it.

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot June 22, 2014 at 4:12 am |

      I heard once, in a sesshin groggy from lack of sleep and intense, non-verbal effort, the chant leader began, “Sentient beings are numberless – I vow to penetrate them all!”

  15. shade
    shade June 22, 2014 at 6:03 am |

    I thought about it awhile and decided there was only one thing I wanted to say about this, for now.

    A “Kindle Single” is definitely not a book. Books are made of paper.

    1. Yugen
      Yugen June 22, 2014 at 8:40 am |

      ‘Book’ can refer to any number of monograph instantiations, including scroll-form parchment, unbound papyrus, or electronic text. You may be looking for the term ‘codex,’ although that is also not entirely unambiguous.

      1. shade
        shade June 22, 2014 at 10:24 am |

        Mmmm, no. To my mind, a “book” consists of a collection of pages bound between two covers. Whatever the consensus is among the academic powers that be, that’s my definition and I’m sticking to it.

        But I take back what I said about the paper. Those silly little plastic picture books they make for babies to play with in the bath – those also count as books.

  16. Wibble
    Wibble June 22, 2014 at 7:04 am |

    Not at Ladbrokes Online Betting they aint.


  17. IuseComputers
    IuseComputers June 22, 2014 at 1:37 pm |

    Would this be similar to a dishonest person convincing another, mostly honest person (over several conversations) that they should do something illegal?

    Or an alcoholic convincing someone who has been sober for two months that they should have just one beer with them?

    I can see what Brad is saying here about how one is the company they keep.

  18. Mumbles
    Mumbles June 22, 2014 at 2:14 pm |

    All that allegories intend to say is that the incomprehensible is incomprehensible, and that we already know. But the problems we struggle with every day are a different matter. On this subject a man once asked: “Why such stubbornness? If you only followed the allegories, you yourselves would become allegories and in that way solve all your everyday problems.”

    Another said: “I bet that is also an allegory.”

    The first said: “You have won.”

    The second said: “But alas, only allegorically.”

    The first said: “No, in real life. Allegorically you have lost.”

    -Anonymous tale

  19. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote June 22, 2014 at 3:21 pm |

    minkfoot, I found that image (the drive-by zendo) by googling something like “zendo hallway running scissors”, but now I’m not able to find it again to determine what page it came from.

    I did find this:

    I like what Brad Warner says: “Zen has to be a little bit dangerous…”. I’m not running around in the kitchen with scissors, but I am a Zen toddler whose parents are watching – just enough room to explore but the rat poison and the alcohol are out of reach….!

    Deep bows

    Hey, Yugen, is that you?! Thanks for backing me up!

  20. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote June 22, 2014 at 3:33 pm |

    Ah, ok, that image was an April 1st production from here.

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot June 22, 2014 at 5:38 pm |


  21. jason farrow
    jason farrow June 22, 2014 at 8:34 pm |

    well…since we are off topic, and on the topic of books. here i book i am really enjoying right now. i’m putting up there next to “Zen Mind, Beginners Mind.”
    Like Zen Mind, Beginners Mind…this book catches you by surprise in terms of it’s value.

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot June 23, 2014 at 10:52 am |

      It’s good to study a little Chan (or any other flavor of the Dharma) to broaden your understanding of what Dharma is. Some more of Ven. Hsuan Hua, with a great foreword by the inimitable Ven. Xu Yun:

  22. jason farrow
    jason farrow June 22, 2014 at 8:37 pm |

    really he is talking about the very fine aspects of mediation and practice. it comes off as very flowery metaphorical stuff(which, i confess, i like. may be i was Linzi in a past life l0l!) then you realize that he is actually being very literal.

  23. Leah
    Leah June 22, 2014 at 9:09 pm |

    Great stuff here and in the last couple posts (I did some catching up).

    “‘Okay, as a member of the fairer sex, this is what I don’t get… if the women in this man’s charge had a problem with the way he was behaving toward them, why didn’t they just high tail it?'”

    That thought occurs to me too. But that’s like telling a woman in an abusive marriage/relationship to just leave. Some might say that’s not a fair example (with the abusive situation being the more complicated, especially with kids/no resources, etc.) but I think they’re similar in the “conditions in which they occur” and forces that make them possible. It’s not so simple to just get out of either situation even if for different reasons (I think some might be the same or similar psychologically).

    And on this:

    “If we are going to prevent scandals and other abuses like this from continuing to happen, we have to see how we all work together to create the conditions in which they occur. It’s no good to simply blame the bad guy at the center of it all or to tell the other people involved they could have just said no.”

    I brought up your point in conversation this evening: it definitely applies to all sorts of abuses, like misogyny in certain cultures/religious sects or pedophilia in the Catholic church. Racism and homophobic violence. Hitler, even. He couldn’t have come to power without the conditions that were in place just as Jim Jones couldn’t have.

    Thanks for good stuff to think about.

  24. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote June 22, 2014 at 10:17 pm |

    On that last note, Leah, I discovered surfing the web this gem (on Wikipedia, concerning the Scottish philosopher Carlyle):

    “Carlyle’s distaste for democracy and his belief in charismatic leadership was unsurprisingly appealing to Joseph Goebbels, who read Carlyle’s biography of Frederick to Hitler during his last days in 1945.”

    Whazzat, you say. Well, I pondered the fact that Hitler was a vegetarian, that programs of eugenics were popular in the United States in the 1930’s, and that a Scottish philosopher could despise democracy and write about charismatic leaders in the 1870’s in a way that inspired Goebbels and Hitler. I thought about Louise Brooks’ description of Berlin in the 1930’s, some of which was captured in Caberet.

    And then there’s the more or less universal genocide of American indigenous peoples. Easier to talk about the holocaust than the trail of tears?

    Can we describe the practice of zazen in such a way as to make the practice accessible to people without a teacher?

    I am gaining an appreciation for the Sufi mantra. Every breath, so says friend John. That I must lose my mind in the space of a breath is difficult for me to accept, because the positive attitude necessary is an opening to the divine, but there’s no divine in my Zennish universe and if I can’t sell myself on results then what do I have besides well-being? It’s like immersion in a mantra, but the mantra must be received in the spirit, dedicated in the spirit, I feel that.

    I think dedication to scientific accuracy as regards personal experience can serve as that dedication, in that there is a beauty in reality that transcends the personal. But I consider mathematics a part of the beauty of nature, so I don’t know if most people will feel inspired without a teacher, even if the practice of zazen can be described in such a way as to make it accessible to more people.

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot June 23, 2014 at 10:57 am |

      I have no problem with divinity. Monotheism, yes.

    2. Leah
      Leah June 23, 2014 at 10:07 pm |

      I’m not altogether sure what your points are about concerning Hitler, Mark. You said you were pondering some things, like Hitler having been a vegetarian. But I’m not clear on what your conclusions are.

      He was a neurotic basket case and severally abused/tortured as a child, from what I understand. That he was a vegetarian may or may not have anything to do with anything (I haven’t read anything on why he was a vegetarian). But the other things you mentioned–sure, seems like they all are a part of what was going on to allow what he did to happen.

      “And then there’s the more or less universal genocide of American indigenous peoples. Easier to talk about the holocaust than the trail of tears? ”

      Not sure what this has to do with the topic at hand. Regardless, maybe for some people (Americans) it is easier. For me it hits closer to home. Instead of buildings, houses, and roads, I often see forests and streams and the people who originally lived here in the US, in my mind’s eye, anyway. Wherever I’ve lived. I think all Americans should get up and leave, go back to wherever the hell we came from, and give the land back to the people–what’s left of them–who originally lived here.

      “Can we describe the practice of zazen in such a way as to make the practice accessible to people without a teacher? ”

      Sure. I think Brad wrote a book called “Sit down and shut up” or something. Pretty simple instructions, if you ask me. Kidding, of course. Sort of. I was sitting and practicing different things long before I had a teacher. I still don’t have one (though I mainly follow TNH’s teachings, so I guess you could say I adopted him as my teacher, even if virtually or through his books). I don’t want one, I don’t think. I prefer to take the best or what makes sense to me from a variety of teachers.

      Heck, I have teachers every day, come to think of it. They pop out of nowhere, seems like.

    3. minkfoot
      minkfoot June 24, 2014 at 8:46 am |

      The role of the monastic Sangha, aside from providing intensive practice for individuals called to it, is to preserve and transmit the Dharma. Dharma is deeper than most people suspect, which is why even full-fledged Arhats and Bodhisattvas still respect the Buddha as the only one to have got it fully. (I read one teacher saying that even the Buddhas continue to evolve.)

      It’s not terribly hard to get benefit from the Dharma, and any insight and transformation among large numbers of individuals is welcome. But kenshos and satoris are just dipping under the surface of a bottomless sea. I heard it said that great teacher Hakuin had 17 major satoris, and after each one, he said to his students, “Hey, folks . . . You know all that stuff I’ve been telling you? Forget it! This is the real deal.”

      Having encountered many teachers of various schools, the ones that have impressed me most, consistently, have been celibate monastics of the Zen, Chan, Seon, and Theravadan schools. Not to say that there aren’t deeply experienced teachers who are not celibate or even ordained, or that all monastics are riper than nonmonastics, but that’s the pattern.

      So, though the basic instructions are simple (too simple), subtleties accrue as you walk the way. Without a body of people willing to devote their entire lives to the Dharma, giving up their sexuality, much of heir freedom, and personal ambition, the capacity to deal with these subtleties can leak away. I am not called to this kind of life, but I am glad to have acquaintances amongst those who are, to observe, question, and generally hang with.

  25. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote June 22, 2014 at 10:27 pm |

    On his eightieth birthday, in a grove near Kushinagar, he passed away peacefully into Parinirvana. His last words were, “… be a lamp unto yourselves, look for no other refuge. Let the truth be your map and your refuge … work out your own salvation with diligence.”

  26. AnneMH
    AnneMH June 23, 2014 at 4:41 am |

    Hmm, there is so much to this and I generally avoid crossing over into too much psychology but it seems relevant. And it is intimately tied into my Buddhist practice.

    I was in one of this ‘why doesn’t she leave’ deals. Not physically, I would have understood leaving then, but emotionally. I just met an old friend who said she saw it on my honeymoon trip in fact. There was something about being a punk girl that helped and hurt, I was NOT going to be one of those women crying over a guy, and I found my practice early so I kept trying to face reality. Still it took it getting much worse before I could get the hell out of there. It was very small children with medical issues, a extended family who told me to work it out and refused to let me stay with them, and my own shit about it.

    So of course there was therapy, loads of that. What I found was that therapists in general have NO CLUE how to deal with an abusive or power imbalance relationship within couples counseling. In fact a closed website on emotionally abusive relationships recommends getting personal counseling but not going to couples counseling. I only met one who had an inkling. I recall having a good sense of what was happening at one point and then I started dealing with the structures that supported it all. At one point I told the counselor I was not codependent, I did not take responsibility for his actions or for 50% of what was abusive in the relationship, and I was going to do that in order to show up meek and mild a year later wanting to work on codependent issues created in couples counseling. I walked out of therapies, the best therapist I ever had was a lawyer. He told me that my ex was one of the most narcissistic people he had met, and lawyers run in some pretty narc crowds. The messages from my culture were powerful and entrenched. It took somewhere between 4 and 7 years for the people close to me to really get it. There was a lot of ‘if you just love him’ that went around.

    In the end that was a really long time ago, It rarely comes up, I moved on and my practice is part of that. I am not perfect but I am also not identifying as a victim from 20 years ago. However I deeply realized how many ways it is supported for women to stay in these situations, I can only assume it is similar in a spiritual community. I ended up spending over 10 years of my 25 years of practice going solo because I did not trust anyone. I think I missed something, but the risk was not in my head. It is very important that we deal with this in our groups, very important we look carefully at the dynamics of what is happening, very important we understand the pressures that are affecting us whether cultural or psychological.

  27. shade
    shade June 23, 2014 at 6:57 am |

    Oh Jeez. The only reason I even commented on this topic is because it’s come up several times. Normally it’s something I would avoid, not having read the book in question, not knowing the details of the case, not being Buddhist, not being part of any official spiritual community whatsoever, ect., ect. But since I’ve been quoted I guess I’ll need to bite the bullet and try and explain myself.

    My question (i.e. why not leave) was somewhat rhetorical and also somewhat disingenuous. I do understand the whole notion of enthrallment, being subject to that demon in no small way myself (though I tend to go for actors and rock stars, people I’m not likely to actually encounter in the flesh). What we’re talking about, basically, is idolatry, and that’s something I think every human being has to contend with who makes it out of the crib (maybe even in the crib). But that’s the thing, we do have to contend with it, especially those of us over the age of consent. Because I think we also all know, instinctualy, that this kind of reverence – where we place all responsibility for our actions at the feet of another person – is bullshit. And that includes emotionally damaged people, though I will allow that complicates the issue.

    Of course Mr. Eido Shimano is responsible for his actions too. I’m not saying the guy ain’t a skeeve. But if someone acts skeevy toward you, and you voluntarily put yourself in that persons presence, over and over, one’s status as a helpless victim I find, ah, questionable. (To be fair though – like I said, I haven’t read the book, and don’t intend to. I don’t know that this man’s “victims” actually regarded themselves that way, or if that was the way the writer chose to spin things. There are plenty of people in the world itching to act the crusader on another person’s behalf)

    I also question the comparison with abusive marriages. Is it really as hard to sever ties with a Buddhist temple as it is to leave a marriage? I understand that Shimado was a person with some clout within that institution, which probably contributed to the aura of impeach-ability around the man but… well, we’re talking about the Buddhists here. Even in New York that organization doesn’t cast nearly as long a shadow as say, the Catholic church or General Electric or a government agency. I’m not sure they cast as long a shadow as the DMV.

    I know I sort of sound like an asshole here and more than a little presumptive, given how little experience I have with the issue. So if I’ve offended anyone… well, I guess I’ll have to put up with that, seeing as I was stupid enough to speak so off-the-cuff. But since I’m already in it, one last thing: If I went to a person for spiritual guidance and that person made a pass at me, I’d definitely question the quality of that person’s “wisdom”.

    1. shade
      shade June 23, 2014 at 8:41 am |

      Ah, quick correction. UN-impeach-ability I think I meant.

    2. Leah
      Leah June 23, 2014 at 10:24 pm |

      Hey Shade,

      “If I went to a person for spiritual guidance and that person made a pass at me, I’d definitely question the quality of that person’s “wisdom”.”

      Heck yeah. Me too. Obviously other people don’t.

      I responded to your (quoted) comment because I know it’s something a lot of people think about. you’re not the only one. It occurs to me to as I mentioned.

      “What we’re talking about, basically, is idolatry,”

      I haven’t thought of it that way–great way to put it.

      “Is it really as hard to sever ties with a Buddhist temple as it is to leave a marriage?”

      I don’t know for sure (and I realize you’re putting out the question to everyone, but it’s interesting to me), but I’ll bet for some people it definitely is.

      I think it has to do with how much ego identity is wrapped up in it, what emotional need it’s fulfilling….there’s other stuff I can’t think of at the moment. People “play tapes” from childhood and try to get unmet needs met in the adult situation (marriage, temple, etc) , and if there’s some extreme element to it all, it could get obsessive. Don’t quote me. I’m thinking out loud here.

      Now I’m wondering whether breaking away from an unhealthy spiritual group situation might be even more difficult than to break away from an abusive marriage. It’s all relative, I guess, to each person’s emotional make-up or situation.

      In Buddhist terms, I guess it’s just plain old attachment, but in the extreme.

  28. Harlan
    Harlan June 23, 2014 at 7:59 am |

    God is on Twitter.. though it is an unverified account.
    But as he tweeted, that’s his style..

    “When people fight and hate and kill over Me I’m obviously very flattered.” – God

  29. Fred
    Fred June 23, 2014 at 10:15 am |

    Mr. Hua : “When we gain the One, all things are done.”

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot June 24, 2014 at 8:57 am |

      From Boundless Way’s liturgical version of the Xinxinming:

      Do not remain in the dualistic state. Avoid such pursuits carefully.
      If there is even a trace of this and that, of right and wrong, the mind-essence
      will be lost in confusion. All dualities come from the One, but do not be
      attached even to this One. When this one mind rests undisturbed in the
      Way, nothing in the world can offend; and when no thing can give
      offense, things cease to exist in the old way.

  30. dwsmithjr
    dwsmithjr June 23, 2014 at 11:20 am |

    I’m sure most of the people here have heard about the Stanford Prison Experiment.

    Seems pertinent.

  31. dwsmithjr
    dwsmithjr June 23, 2014 at 11:23 am |

    One might also point out the default brain state for humans is belief. Skepticism is an “unnatural” state that has to be cultivated, often against significant cognitive bias and social and cultural pressure.

  32. The Idiot
    The Idiot June 23, 2014 at 3:32 pm |

    My default is UberStrike.

  33. jason farrow
    jason farrow June 23, 2014 at 4:40 pm |

    i think AnnMH’s concepts and experience is very relevant to the topic. as well as fred’s comment “When we gain the One, all things are done.” they are focal to shade’s question “why didn’t they just walk away?” which is a very valid question as well. AnnMH’s experience answers shade’s question imho.
    as to fred’s pov. i agree. like, i am not a rinzai master, and yet i know not to “dick” everything that walks into my personal space. in this sense, is it logical that a zen “master” should be an opportunistic slut? a control freak slut? a limelight slut? a greedy money seeking slut? an all-around megalomaniac alpha male slut? if the teacher is qualified to teach, shouldn’t they understand that “When we gain the One, all things are done.” what need does this person have with being a slut? why do they need to seek greed? what is the learning for the “one’s” cultivators in the “one’s” piggish greed? what is the learning curve for cultivators in the “one’s” dick-headed’ish’ness?
    what need does the “one” have need for sex? or fame? or money?

    and a vital point here, beyond japan, what is our understanding of the conduct of the “one?” how does that relate to modern soto zen and rinzai?

    logically speaking, if a monastic leaves the monastery, are they still a monastic? don’t all the same rules apply as they would in a monastery? (are those rules, or are they an understanding? )you could follow the same view of thought and say that if like in the great buddhist persecution, when the monastics are forced back to laity; having a stable relationship brings stability to a monastic. having a good reputation brings stability to a monastic. donations or a day job brings stability to monastics.

    if the traditional monasticism were to crumble, then logically the laity would carry on the tradition and adapt as need be right? hence the rakusu.

    traditionally the sangha is thought of as the monastics, not the laity. but my thought is that all things are sangha. all things are “teacher”…why is it that a lay-person like myself can grasp that, but a modern rinzai”master” cannot? why is it that i do not assert myself (ie be a dick) to all the “sangha” about me? and if i do, why is that i am conscious that i have and make amends where possible? (like a normal person.)
    i wouldn’t condemn a monastic for embracing the home-life as a point of adaptation. but what does that have to do with being an egotistical-advantageous-megalomaniac-control freak- dick’head slut?

    japanese zen form is good in it’s simplicity. i like it. but why is that i meet so many “dicks” in zen? or that we hear about so many “dick-heads” in zen? male an female. look at that coo-coo shastabby leader. hard to argue the fact that she was a nut’er.

    sometimes i hear people say “oh the master brought the dharma here to the west.” really? how do you pick something up that is intangible, non-existent, and bring it somewhere? does the master bring it, or does the master come seeking it in all others?

    bhaizhang changed the monasticism in china as a form of adaptation in that he allowed farming. so now the monastics were killing insects to grow food instead of begging and accepting whatever fell into their bowl. and began saying “a day without work is day without food.” this made monasticism self sufficient to a large degree; and is a key factor in why people can practice buddhism today in the west. this is a logical sacrifice of the practice as to support the practice. what does being a slut have to do with that? what does being a “dick” have to do with that?

    10’ooo Dharmas return to the One. What does the one return too?

  34. jason farrow
    jason farrow June 23, 2014 at 4:53 pm |

    since the time of Dipankara, Sakyamuni, and BodhiDharma; has the dharma changed?

    does the “one” move from country to country or not?

    where can we find the “Blue Eyed Lotus One” now?

    where is the World Honoured One today?

  35. jason farrow
    jason farrow June 23, 2014 at 5:22 pm |

    *what need does the “one” have need for sex? or fame? or money?*
    is this not a hardcore point of view? either punk or zen?

  36. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote June 23, 2014 at 5:53 pm |

    Some interesting stuff: maybe Shimano should have watched more Hartley:

  37. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote June 23, 2014 at 5:53 pm |

    current tense would perhaps be more correct, “watch”.

  38. Mumbles
    Mumbles June 23, 2014 at 8:27 pm |

    Lazaretto: A lazaretto or lazaret is a quarantine station for maritime travellers. Lazarets can be ships permanently at anchor, isolated islands, or mainland buildings.

  39. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel June 24, 2014 at 1:20 am |

    I think that even a lay person is bound not to harm others. Some people have told me, when I told them of the unacceptable behaviour of Sogyal “rimpoche”, that he, not being a monk, had no barriers that forbade him having sex. Which is just besides the point. By trying to seduce a friend of mine’s wife, who was also his secretary for the area, he wrought havoc in her personal life, broke her marriage, and had her cease the practice altogether so shocked was she at that behaviour. That is yet another manifestation of greed: wanting to have ever more, not being able to stand not having what one desires.

    And that is harmful to other beings.

  40. AnneMH
    AnneMH June 24, 2014 at 5:35 am |

    Thank you for understanding the connection, I felt a little uneasy after posting that.

    Someone said ‘if a monastic leaves a monastery are they still a monastic’. Our local theravadan nun did just that. The story of why is in Buddha’s Forgotten Nuns (I think you can see it on vimeo). She had been a nun for about 20 years in England when some of the higher ups decided that full ordination for women was actually not possible. That and some other things happened and she left. She leaves according to monastic rules yet outside of a monastery. Very challenging, There is a non-profit and a whole team to support her and traveling and teaching and simply a place to live when she does not handle money or cook. When she first left she had no idea if she would have a place to live even. (her name is Amma Thanansanti Bikkhuni if you are interested in alternative monastic life). There are supportive monks and ones that decided not to allow ordination in the story of course, but when you think of someone being able to leave an abusive situation I can’t imagine being more vulnerable than to have some robes, an alms bowl and no access to handling money, wow.

    Some of this actually reminds me of Brad’s situation. There is no guarantee that there will be the next thing provided for. It is very much up for our sangha on-line and in person.

  41. shade
    shade June 24, 2014 at 8:02 am |

    AnneMH, I have a question for you, which you can answer or not as you please…

    When you say this nun “does not handle money or cook”, do you mean she is unable to do so, or that her monastic vows prevent her from doing so? Because the thing about money I get, and respect, as I consider money to be essentially evil (not that I practice what I preach, to my shame). But the cooking thing has me confounded. She can’t even boil a pot of water for tea or noodles? What about sticking a slice of cheese between two slices of bread for a sandwich? Does that count as “cooking”? I’m really scratching my head over this.

    Also, Thanks by the way to Leah, for responding to my rambling commentary. Or anyone who responds to my rambling commentary, Brad too of course. It’s nice to know I’m not typing into the void.

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot June 24, 2014 at 8:51 am |

      Well, you are. It’s just that the void answers some of the time.

      1. Alan Sailer
        Alan Sailer June 24, 2014 at 5:47 pm |

        Isn’t the void prohibited by law? Or something like that, I always seem get those vital quotes screwed up…


        1. minkfoot
          minkfoot June 25, 2014 at 4:44 am |

          That just made me void into my pants.

          1. The Idiot
            The Idiot June 25, 2014 at 5:15 am |

            no worries mf… void happens :0)

      2. minkfoot
        minkfoot June 25, 2014 at 6:01 am |

        Hey, Alan, I just looked over the comments I was making for an old question of yours, and, to my surprise, it looks complete, though I thought I had some more things to write. It might be a little too long for here, and it’s not ontopic. Send me an address to my name at g mail, and I’ll get it to you.

  42. navybsn
    navybsn June 24, 2014 at 1:15 pm |

    As a younger person, I was always sort of in awe of certain people, doctors, priests, high ranking military officers. I gave them a larger than normal amount of respect/credibility based on their experience and position. As I got older and more familiar with many of the people, I began to realize that they were just regular people like me. It’s like the old expression “He puts his pants on one leg at a time too” (or something to that effect). Whether it’s the Dalai Lama, the Pope, or a supposed spiritual master of whatever persuasion, I think we get into trouble when we stop recognizing that they are just people. True they have different experiences and insights, but just people.

  43. Jason
    Jason June 24, 2014 at 8:44 pm |

    “I tend to be a loner, a rebel. Like Pee Wee Herman. ” I’m stealing this.

  44. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote June 24, 2014 at 9:02 pm |

    Shade, she has 370 or something rules she has to follow, and not handling money and not cooking for herself would be two of them (I’m guessing– I haven’t studied the Vinaya or “rules of the order”, there’s volumes of Vinaya because every rule was made in response to something at the time). These rules are followed even though the monks and nuns in the West can no longer go on begging rounds, so essentially someone else has to handle money for them and someone else has to cook for them.

    That someone can so dedicate their lives and somehow find the support they need to do it, is a miracle in itself, I guess.

    I have been too backward in my coordination and understanding to undertake a monk’s life, even the kind where I work and handle money. Too slow at learning the things that apparently no one else could teach me (things like this). I think I can sit a little now, but knowing I don’t know is still an unfamiliar place to me.

    1. Fred
      Fred June 25, 2014 at 4:56 am |

      You don’t have to follow 370 rules to ” become enlightened “.

      Just drop the ” body-mind “.

      I would imagine that the males trumped up some bullshite to get her booted,
      because the personality she was existing in was a pain in the booty.

      An OCD iconoclast got the booty boot.

      1. minkfoot
        minkfoot June 25, 2014 at 6:02 am |

        You can get enlightened following 370 rules.

        1. Fred
          Fred June 25, 2014 at 9:57 am |

          370 rules can get enlightened following you.

  45. shade
    shade June 25, 2014 at 6:27 am |

    Three hundred and seventy?? My God. Well, keeping that straight would certainly constitute a lifetime occupation. But thanks for the information.

  46. blake
    blake June 25, 2014 at 6:57 am |

    “We in the West are prone to view our individuality as the most important aspect of what we are as human beings. We imagine that we move through life as autonomous units, making our own individual choices and being singularly responsible for every action we take because it is of our own personal free will. But is that really true?”

    Yesterday I was in the car, listening to the radio when Squirrel Nut Zipper’s song Hell came on. If you aren’t familiar with it, it just basically talks about how your partying life is going to send you to hell. It’s sort of making fun of the notion. But there’s this line that goes, “Lose your face, lose your name, and get fitted for a suit of flame.” This is many people’s idea of hell: losing your identity. The attractiveness of an afterlife is that this doesn’t happen. You get to be you forever and ever! Unless you are bad.

  47. AnneMH
    AnneMH June 25, 2014 at 7:19 am |

    Shade, yes she cannot prepare herself food. She has boiled water for tea for guests and since she can have some types of snacks past noon (cheese and chocolate) she will offer that if you are at her place in the evening. So we work around that, people put meals in her fridge and I think someone sends her a text message officially offering it then she can eat. There are people who are not local who have given money to a local restaurant so she can walk there for a meal. Also she does go to the farmer;s market with her alms bowl. Apparently a bunch of local stoners think she is cool and brought her to a soup kitchen place once.

    She has a great way of talking about her rules, I can’t quite capture it. I think there is value in creating the structure we have by adopting precepts. Sometimes we can just use them to push off some responsibility or we can take them on freely understanding that we have created some intentional structure. The thing is that when you meet her she is very ‘normal’, happy and a resource. I think it can be valuable to all of us to have some people who have stepped out of regular life and be a resource. All the levels of this are valuable, so I see Brad as a level of this with other lay teachers, and then monastics are another level. In one talk she said that the lay community will probably be fine without monastics but the monastics are dependent (and to some extent our lay teachers) on the community.

    1. Fred
      Fred June 25, 2014 at 9:59 am |

      The gateless gate is without structure.

      Passing through without thought or precept, there is freedom.

    2. minkfoot
      minkfoot June 25, 2014 at 2:00 pm |

      You have an interesting Dharmic environment, Anne. Does your handle imply you’re in NH?

      I live in the Northeast Kingdom, a desert for Zen, but the Vajrayana is amply represented by Karmê Chöling. Used to be no Zen in the whole state until the 90s. Now there’s a wonderful little Soto temple just an hour away in Calais, on Cranberry Meadows Road. It’s 20 miles out of Montpelier on a county road named, uh, County Road.

      For a year and a half, I ran a weekly sitting group that occasionally had a few regulars, but mostly they were characters like the guy who claimed he had a bad back and needed to lie down to sit – he sure could snore!

      I admire groups of practitoners that can function without teachers most of the time. I sat with the Arcata Zen Group in Humboldt County, CA., for two months ten years ago. Since their teacher, Maelie Scott-roshi, died in the early aughts, they have pretty much run themselves and grown, relying on Alan Senauke and the truly wonderful Angie Boissevain for being teachers at retreats and ceremonies. Makes me feel kind of homesick just writing this.

  48. The Idiot
    The Idiot June 25, 2014 at 1:44 pm |


    The Invisible Doorway isn’t even there!

  49. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel June 25, 2014 at 1:48 pm |

    Shade: Money is no more evil than inches, pounds or quarts are. It’s a mere measuring instrument. It is only as evil as you make it.

Comments are closed.