Someone forwarded me this exchange that appeared on the Sweeping Zen website:
Alain: “What we have here is a Zen prick (sorry I cannot call him a priest or teacher) that confuses his dick with a teaching stick. It is quite obvious to me that this Brad guy should not be a teacher, I simply cannot understand why he is a teacher in the first place. He seems to be more of the kind of a psychotic sexual predator who is desperately in need of help.”
Grace Schireson: “Yes, something is definitely amiss with advocating this kind of self-indulgence as a Zen teacher. We are all struggling to express this as skillfully as we can. I appreciate your direct approach.”
For the record the views that I expressed which have earned me these nicknames are as follows:
1) I believe that the recent allegations about Joshu Sasaki are serious and merit investigation. I am pleased that his organization Rinzai-ji are doing that. I’m glad that someone associated with that organization (Eshu Martin) has finally addressed the matter publicly.
However, I do not know what actually went on in Sasaki’s sanzen room. I have been in communication with one woman who says that she doesn’t feel that what she experienced with Sasaki ought to be called “abuse” and that it was not even sexual in nature. I believe that she has every right to characterize her experience the way she wants to. I believe it is a kind of subtle sexism to try and tell her that she is wrong.
That doesn’t mean I think it’s OK for Zen teachers to grope Zen students in the sanzen room. I was abundantly and unmistakably clear about that point already.
2) Grace Schireson expressed the opinion that all romantic involvement between anyone who can be defined as a “member of clergy” and anyone who can be defined as a “congregant” is unethical and ought to be illegal. I said this was absolutely wrong (yes, I did use the word “kuso” [shit] to describe her views, but only after Grace had used the word “kuso” to describe my views, I should have refrained from re-using her rude word).
Apparently there are folks who believe that the only reason I could hold views like these is because I want the freedom to use my position as a Zen teacher to get as much tail as possible. In fact, I never even thought of that as a reason to hold such views. If I had, I might have added something addressing that issue. It makes no sense to me that someone would believe that could be the only reason I’d think that way. It’s weird.
For the record, I hold my views about the Sasaki case because I was not there. That’s it. End of story.
My views about romance between so-called “clergy” and so-called “congregant” are somewhat more complex. I hold these views because if you have a religion in which the ordained “clergy” is not bound by a vow of celibacy then romances between “clergy” and “congregant” are inevitable. They will happen. Because this is a fact, I believe we need a realistic approach.
Jundo Cohen pointed out that a number of members of the American Zen Teachers Association (AZTA) are happily married to spouses they met when those spouses-to-be were their students. I personally know a few people who met their spouses under similar circumstances. It happens. It’s been happening in Japan since the Meiji Restoration in 1868 when the requirement for celibacy among Japanese Zen teachers was removed. It happend a lot even before, in fact, though it was seldom openly acknowledged until then.
It’s really very simple. Take an unmarried non-celibate male Zen teacher, just for an example, though a female teacher might also experience the same thing. He is so dedicated to Zen that he has devoted his life to it. Maybe he has never married or even had a serious romantic relationship because he’s been so deeply involved in practice. But, like most people, he is lonely. Like most people, he would rather not sleep by himself every night. Like most people, he has a heart and can fall in love. And love tends not to obey the rules. Where is this teacher likely to meet a person who has anything close to the same level of interest in the one thing that is more important to him than anything else in the world?
a) At a bar
b) On ZenMasterDate.com
c) Among the people he teaches Zen to
Indeed there are people who take advantage of their position as a “member of clergy” and do bad things. I do not deny that. It’s serious. But to say that all romantic involvement between “member of clergy” and “congregant” is by definition “sexual abuse” is absurd. It’s the kind of view that will cause a world of hurt and pain for people who legitimately fall in love under difficult circumstances.
I have spoken to a number of protestant ministers and a few rabbis about this subject. Their religions have had to deal with this matter for hundreds of years, thousands in the case of Judaism. The consensus seems to be that such romances are strongly discouraged. In seminary, ministers in training are generally taught to avoid them. That’s not because they are by definition “abusive.” It’s because they are almost always problematic for the couple and for the congregation.
However, for the reasons I have outlined above, it is acknowledged that these things sometimes happen and that they will continue to happen so long as the clergy is non-celibate. When they do happen, the matter has to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, not with a blanket rule that assumes the clergy member must, by definition, be a “psychotic sexual predator” or something of the sort. Dealing with things case-by-case is the realistic way to handle it. Zen prides itself on being realistic and in dealing with pretty much everything on a case-by-case basis. I believe we should follow the very logical and sensible approach to the matter that has already worked for other religions with non-celibate clergy.
I am at a loss to understand why the fact that I believe these things means I am a “Zen prick” and a “psychotic sexual predator.”
I’m averting my eyes from Sweeping Zen these days. But apparently everybody over there has an opinion about me. Someone told me there are at least five articles up there right now about this horrible Brad Warner pervert and perhaps hundreds of comments.
I find it interesting to observe my own reaction. If I were not me I would assume that Brad Warner would have a very hard time not looking at all this nonsense. But here in Brad Warner’s skin, I find that I have only a very minor interest in the matter. People keep forwarding things to me (that’s how I got the quote that leads off this article). But I feel no compulsion at all to go over there and read it for myself. Maybe one day I will. Who knows? For now it just doesn’t feel very compelling. It all seems kind of stupid. Although I will admit, it does make me angry when I do see it.
By the way, I’ve been classifying Zen as a “religion” and its teachers as “clergy” in this article. I’m doing that for rhetorical purposes. I believe very strongly that Zen is not a religion nor are its teachers “members of clergy.” But I prefer to save that for another time.
Help Brad feel that some people still like him by sending him money to pay his rent.
Be sure and get psychotically sexually abused by me tomorrow at Hill Street Center 237 Hill St. Santa Monica CA 90405 from 9:50 AM till Noon! It’s our weekly Zen meeting. Or as I call it, “Groping time!”