Zen in the News

The Joshu Sasaki sex scandal has made both the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times thus making it officially news, as opposed to just the stuff that gets bantered about on Buddhist blogs.

One of the reasons things like this have been covered up in the past is the knowledge among us Buddhists that we are a very tiny minority. We know that there is little information available to the general public about what Buddhists believe and practice. We know that sex sells. We know that if papers like the NY and LA Times start coming out with headlines saying “Buddhist Sex Scandal” the general public, who know so little about us, will forever associate Buddhist with sex scandal, thus rendering all of Buddhism as “those guys who have the sex scandals.”

This was a major part of why the troubles with Richard Baker and Maezumi Roshi were hidden. Those scandals happened in the Seventies when there was even less available information. But we haven’t come that far yet, so it’s still a big fear.

And now what we feared has come to pass. Here is how the New York Times explains Buddhism to its audience;

Such charges have become more frequent in Zen Buddhism. Several other teachers have been accused of misconduct recently … Critics and victims have pointed to a Zen culture of secrecy, patriarchy and sexism, and to the quasi-religious worship of the Zen master, who can easily abuse his status.

So Zen Buddhism is all about the quasi-religious worship of Zen Masters and has a culture of secrecy, patriarchy and sexism. It has to be true because the New York Times said it and they’re not allowed to print anything that’s not true.

The Zen I have studied and practiced for most of my life never had anything to do with secrecy, patriarchy or sexism. Nor was there even the slightest hint of quasi-religious worship of the two teachers with whom I studied. Both of them were resolutely against secrecy, patriarchy and sexism, and neither would have stood for anyone even attempting to worship them. Dogen Zenji, the founder of our school, championed women’s equality in medieval Japan for gosh sakes! I’ve encountered a lot of Zen teachers in my travels and only one of them has ever been accused of sexual impropriety. And even his case was not all that clear cut.

But it hardly matters when authorities like the New York Times tell everyone otherwise.

Perhaps the anxiety over this is what has caused the witch hunt mentality within the Buddhist community. When I found myself accused of being a “psychotic sexual predator” on a website so authoritative it is cited as a source for the NY Times article because I suggested that it was natural to expect non-celibate Buddhist teachers to have consensual sexual relations with their so-called “congregants” it was clear that we had crossed a line.*

We had become so frantic in our quest to root out the evil in our midst that we were turning on everyone who could even in the remotest way be accused of sexual misconduct. “Look!” we said to the media, “I’m not like those bad guys! Here’s another one of us you can tear up! Just don’t go for me!” I’m sure I was not the only one who felt the wrath of those who wished to present themselves as the champions of justice ready to vanquish all aggressors and make everything clean and pure again.

But here’s the thing. We Buddhists, even our so-called “Masters,” are just people like everyone else. This is enshrined within our philosophy and practice. It goes right back to the founder.

In the Sixties we somehow got lost in a rush to present Buddhism as some kind of magic mojo and its teachers as superhuman Masters who had transcended the muck of all human frailties. This cartoon-like image persists even now, fueled by the media and perpetuated by we Buddhists ourselves.

When we fail to complain about “Zen Masters” who present themselves as so incredibly enlightened they can charge thousands of dollars for ordinary citizens to sit in their presence whereby they will be divulged the secrets of the universe, we are killing Buddhism. When we teachers allow ourselves to be presented as free from our base attachments because we know that sells books and gets more butts in seats at our talks, we are killing Buddhism.

Joshu Sasaki has done a great service to American Buddhism. I won’t go so far as to speculate that he did it intentionally. He’s probably just an old horn dog. But whether he meant for this to happen or not, he did a great thing. He helped kill off the image of the Enlightened Master as something beyond human. He did so by leaving a legacy not just of sexual misconduct but of deep, profound insight. I like Sasaki better now than I ever did, even while I wish there had been a better way to do this.** Ultimately this scandal just might help save Buddhism in America by transforming it from a cartoon stereotype into something real.

Of course since I’ve said this, I will now be called one of those who excused the abuse and the harm that it caused. But that’s not the truth. I don’t excuse it. It is very sad that it happened. I’m sorry so many people were harmed. That’s not good. Just because I believe something positive will come out of this doesn’t excuse the abuse itself.

But I really wonder if we Americans would ever have been smart enough to understand what Sasaki has taught us if we’d just been told it was so rather than having it demonstrated in unmistakable actions. I kinda doubt it. We’ve already been told but we still wanted to believe in supermasters in our midst.


* I am not referring here to Sasaki’s alleged gropings and so forth as “consensual sexual relations with congregants.” I am referring back to the kinds of relationships described in an earlier article titled Terrible Nicknames to Earn. See that article or this one for clarification.

** When I say that I like Sasaki, I don’t mean I like what he did. I think it’s awful. Did you read that? I’ll write it again just in case because I’ve noticed these parts tend to get skimmed over. I think what Sasaki did was awful. And again. I think what Sasaki did was awful. When I say I like him I mean that I still very much like a lot of the things he said in the context of being a teacher. His book Buddha is the Center of Gravity is still one of the best. And in some perverse way, I like the fact that such teachings came from a man who was so clearly troubled and not at all holy. It means there’s still some hope for the rest of us. He was not a monster. He was a human being. Like me. Maybe like you too? That’s not for me to say.


Oh yeah. Like I’m gonna get any donations after an article like that! But they sure would help.

Sharing is caring! Tweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponDigg this

203 Responses

Page 1 of 3
  1. tysondav
    tysondav February 13, 2013 at 8:23 pm |

    Brad, it does seem like there is a rather large amount of “zen masters” that are involved in sex with their students. I think it is implied that enlightenment, whatever that is, is supposed to make the person that attains it a little wiser, a little better as a human.

    On the flip side, I think our PC culture would like to gloss over thousands of years of biology and sociology. In stone age days, women were attracted to the alpha male and the alpha male was supposed to have sex with the women to propagate the species. A little oversimplified, but you get the gist. So as humans, our nature is to take advantage of power and women look toward getting security from those in power. Call that sexist if you want, but thousands of years of biology prove it.

  2. A-Bob
    A-Bob February 13, 2013 at 8:38 pm |

    How did we get to the point of knowing by having had it demonstrated in unmistakable actions rather than just believing because we’ve been told it was so? I thought we didn’t really know what happened because we weren’t there..

  3. poepsa
    poepsa February 13, 2013 at 8:48 pm |

    Ah, Brad…

    Just maybe the NYT is taking a broader view of zen history and culture than your personal experience with your two teachers.

    No one with any real knowledge — willing to tell the truth and not be an apologist for the tradition — can possibly keep a straight face and say zen hasn’t a huge share of secrecy, patriarchy and sexism! And yeah, some pretty heavy slavish “devotion” to the zen “master” isn’t lacking either!

    1. Remember the story of that guy, Hui Neng? I seem to recall a bit of secrecy around his alleged “transmission.”

    Students are heavily warned not to share what goes on in dokusan; transmission ceremonies involve parts that go on behind closed doors…

    So much of zen’s “mystique” is built around the hushed secrecy embedded in its culture!

    2. Does the fact that much is made of the zen patriarchs provide any hint about that item? Doesn’t the fact that some western zen practitioners felt compelled to create a lineage of women ancestors tell us something about the patriarchal history of zen. Yes, there is a rhetoric of equality, but as has been shown repeatedly, the rhetoric covered over the reality. So much has been said about the nameless women that show up in zen stories; how come we only know the men’s names?

    AND, as for that rhetoric, I’ve written about how the heroic rhetoric of zen culture reifies “masculine/gendered” attributes: kind of like how for a woman to really succeed in politics, she’s got to be a ‘real man’ in the way Thatcher was more butch than even Reagan.

    3. The sexism is pretty much aligned with the patriarchy issue so I won’t go into that here.

    You write:
    “But here’s the thing. We Buddhists, even our so-called “Masters,” are just people like everyone else. This is enshrined within our philosophy and practice. It goes right back to the founder.

    In the Sixties we somehow got lost in a rush to present Buddhism as some kind of magic mojo and its teachers as superhuman Masters who had transcended the muck of all human frailties. This cartoon-like image persists even now, fueled by the media and perpetuated by we Buddhists ourselves.”

    Yet again I have to ask, have you READ the suttas? The Buddha is hardly presented as “just like everyone else.” I agree this hallowing and hagiography sucks, but it IS there! Like you, I don’t think such valorization a positive attribute, but we cannot honestly deny its presence! AND, this isn’t just the result of the hippies that came to zen in the sixties! The Mahayana went even further than the Pali Canon and just about deified the buddha! “Three bodies” and all that shite!

    SO, I love much of your work, Brad. And I am grateful for your generally down-to-earth perspective, but I think you needn’t feel so defensive and play the propagandist. We can practice zen without making excuses for it’s deficits.

    If I may paraphrase what you wrote in your first book, zen is about questioning everything, and that (should) include questioning zen.

  4. Adam Tebbe
    Adam Tebbe February 13, 2013 at 10:24 pm |

    “When I started being accused of being a “psychotic sexual predator” by a website so authoritative it is cited as a source for the NY Times article because I suggested that it was natural to expect non-celibate Buddhist teachers to have consensual sexual relations with their so-called “congregants” it was clear that we had crossed a line.”

    I’m sorry but this is dishonest. It’s like taking someone’s review on Amazon.com and saying Amazon.com says whatever about the book in question. The quote you refer to came from someone who used the comments section. I get that you don’t like the website but honesty is always a good practice. You know, I don’t those who comment on your blog are “you” or “hardcore Zen.”

  5. Adam Tebbe
    Adam Tebbe February 13, 2013 at 11:54 pm |

    It was literally a comment on a blog. You picked the most salacious thing said by someone in a comments section at a website and say in your piece here that the website called you this. It’s just terribly inaccurate. What of your dharma brother who in your comments here called Grace a cunt? Are we to assume that is a statement made by Brad Warner? How about the Nishihima lineage? I certainly don’t think it is.

    Would you say this about The New York Times if someone left a comment there, attributing their personal comments to the publication. It’s just not honest man. What happened was between you, Grace and Peter.

  6. acmcarey
    acmcarey February 14, 2013 at 12:17 am |

    Thank you Brad for posting what you did. I appreciate your straightforwardness and honesty. When I first dabbled in Zen and Buddhism back in my mid twenties, (I am now 60) I would look up to certain Zen masters as ‘super masters’ as you so apply put it. I used to think of them as even ‘super human’ in a way. Now all these years later I can see them as people just like you and me. This makes Zen, and Buddhism in general, more believable and doable to me. I want to keep this fairly recent desire to get back into meditation (it’s actually been building for about 5 years or so) going because maybe a regular guy can do it also.

  7. Adam Tebbe
    Adam Tebbe February 14, 2013 at 12:20 am |

    And yes, mind you, Grace typed out her response as yet another comment to the thread in question. Look, I understand what it’s like to some degree to have people say things about you that are hurtful or that don’t seem accurate to me. It’s part of what comes with placing ourselves in a public forum such as the worldwide web. We can say what we would like to say, and others can say what they like to say.

    It’s really no different that any forum, in many respects. People come on and share their views. But, I don’t think anyone (perhaps some do) make the leap to saying the forum somehow shares those views in question. Does that make sense? I just am rather bothered by your attributing the statements to Sweeping Zen when all that Sweeping Zen does is host various content provided unto it via authors.

    This was a fucked up time for a lot of people. I understand that this was stressful for you. It was stressful for me, also, and for many others. I hate having to publish stuff like what we publish on Sasaki or Shimano. It’s not pleasant. It gets people pissed off at you, and they say nasty shit sometimes. But if you’re looking for a centralized “opinion” of Sweeping Zen, you will not find one. That’s because Sweeping Zen is comprised of numerous participants, all of who represent themselves in their words and actions.

  8. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel February 14, 2013 at 12:31 am |

    Brad writes:

    “Nobody in Japan would pay $5000 for 2 days with a Zen Master any more than someone here would pay $5000 for 2 days with an Episcopal priest, just to cite one example.”

    Hear, hear!!!

  9. Muddy Elephant
    Muddy Elephant February 14, 2013 at 12:42 am |

    Oh no not another flame war….. please god no!!!!!!

    Anyways, I saw the NYT article and I was hoping and pretty sure that Brad would post about it.

    Brad, when you write a paragraph such as the one starting: “Joshu Sasaki has done a great service to American Buddhism.” I feel like I get it for the most part, and so do many of your students and readers.

    However, aren’t you just throwing out fresh meat to the dogs as well? I just think you are pushing peoples buttons because you can. And it’s just too easy to do that isn’t it?

    You become a mere provacateur, perhaps it is something you do as a teacher, but I’m not sure anyone is learning.

    1. Adam Tebbe
      Adam Tebbe February 14, 2013 at 12:47 am |

      “Oh no not another flame war….. please god no!!!!!!”

      Agreed there. I just wanted to make some points. Fair enough?

      1. Muddy Elephant
        Muddy Elephant February 14, 2013 at 1:02 am |

        Of course.

        “So the Lankavatara-sutra says that ignorant people get stuck in words like an elephant in the mud. Nevertheless, we cannot do without language. ”

        –Dr. Walpola Rahula

  10. Adam Tebbe
    Adam Tebbe February 14, 2013 at 1:14 am |

    Then knock yourself out man. I started Sweeping Zen. The term sweeping was intended as a synonym of comprehensive, and also had a certain feeling of Zen samu practice to it. As always, I’m me. You are you. Grace is Grace. Michel Proulx is Michel Proulx. The only problem is that you absolutely stand by a very clear fallacy. I think most users of the web get how comment sections work. I know the courts do.

  11. Adam Tebbe
    Adam Tebbe February 14, 2013 at 1:27 am |

    And based on the logic employed here, we would then assume that, in your view, Michel Proux spoke for Hardcore Zen in his comments about Grace Schireson here. Correct me if I’m wrong?

    1. Andy
      Andy February 14, 2013 at 7:59 am |

      Adam Tebbe wants to strain the plausible deniability card. He appears to be either counting on folk’s stupidity or their ignorance as to how Sweeping Zen presents itself in contrast to Brad’s personal blog.

      If Grace and Peter Schireson were freelance journos who regularly wrote columns for the New York Times, then it would be appropriate to address what they wrote as coming under the purvey of the paper’s editorial policy. Moreover, if under their columns they addressed comments, their own posts would not be of the same kind as those by ‘outside’ posters.

      This perception would be reinforced if either talked in their comments as though they were a part of what constituted the publication ie “It’s called The New York Times because WE are a timely publication from New York”

      The Schireson’s articles on Sweeping Zen don’t appear anywhere else first, and aren’t re-published, as Brad’s were, and so the articles have a different status in relation to Sweeping Zen’s voice – and at the very least what it is allowing that voice to be perceived as constituting.

      It is willfully wrong-headed to equate what Brad didn’t moderate of Proulx Michel words about Grace, with Grace’s own comments under her or any other Sweeping Zen article, for the same reason that it would be wrong to equate anything I write on a Sweeping Zen comment section. I don’t write articles which appear first on Sweeping Zen and speak as though I were a part of the publication’s voice, and Proulx Michel doesn’t chip in with the odd blog article on Brad’s site.

      Also Adam Tebbe himself has been very vocal on Sweeping Zen in his support not only of the Schireson’s right to their views published first on his site, as though they were the same as the one’s he has re-published, but of their points of view and in the warmest personal terms of admiration.

      Add all these pieces together and the impression I gain is that the Schireson’s are very much an influence upon the editorial voice of Sweeping Zen; and, alongside their seeming-status as de facto ‘in house’ writers, appear to be or have been a very significant part of what shapes its identity and out-put in relation to other, republished writers.

      Brad seems to be addressing the perceived reality of what sweeping Zen is, and which Sweeping Zen itself, in it’s output, gives cause to support.

      It’s also wrong to compare Brad’s blog with Adam Tebbe’s ‘blog’ as though they were the same kind of thing. Sweeping Zen presents itself as a publication with editors and publishes articles from writers directly as well as re-publishing others. It presents itself as representing a Zen community and lists many Zen centres as its Sponsors.

      1. floating_abu
        floating_abu February 20, 2013 at 3:27 am |

        Adam Tebbe cannot take no responsibility in what he chooses to endorse and publish. His response to Brad etc and his own comments splattered across his various threads and internet postings also tell their own story, and are consistent with the hard line stance and ethical overlording of some people in the circles.

        It is also worth noting that Adam was ultimately fine with other posters on the Sasaki story calling a woman (who said that she did not have the experience of what Sasaki did as “abuse”) as a whore.

        He doesn’t have a practice, as far as has been said, and the most is he is an interested person who runs his own blogging site and trying to make a living out of it. Not that there’s anything wrong with that per se, but we have also seen some behavior come out of that…

        Jundo is a Zen master? This thread is becoming funny. Here’s some discussion on the topic for those who are interested: http://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=69&t=11691

        Brad, FWIW, thanks for your elucidation and your kind spirit.


  12. mtto
    mtto February 14, 2013 at 2:39 am |

    Hi Adam,

    Your example is wrong because Michel Proux has never been a blogger on this site. The fact that Grace Schireson writes articles for Sweeping Zen lends weight to her comments on the site beyond those of random commenters on the internet. The fact that she writes articles for Sweeping Zen means that she speaks for Sweeping Zen, by definition.

    1. boubi
      boubi February 14, 2013 at 2:43 pm |

      Michel Proulx is fat, end of the story, and bald too. Now sue me!

  13. Ugrok
    Ugrok February 14, 2013 at 2:46 am |

    Holy cow !

    Zen masters arguing in a blog’s comment section !

    They really ARE ordinary people !

    Great !

    1. fightclubbuddha
      fightclubbuddha February 14, 2013 at 4:50 am |

      That’s hyperbole. Adam Tebbe is hardly a Zen master. He has a blog about Zen. That’s like comparing a kid with a lemonade stand to an executive at General Motors. Brad and Jundo are Zen masters. Adam Tebbe is an editor.

      1. Gregory Wonderwheel
        Gregory Wonderwheel February 16, 2013 at 9:49 am |

        LOL! Well the term “Zen master” is certainly being stretched to the breaking point.

        Whenever the word “master” comes up I am reminded of Ursula LeGuin’s great work of the Earthsea trilogy where it is revealed that a “Dragon Master” is not someone who kills dragons, but is someone who talks to a dragon and gets away alive.

    2. floating_abu
      floating_abu February 20, 2013 at 6:21 am |

      With due respect, you don’t get to call someone a Master until you know what a Zen Master really is.


      Best wishes,

      1. Newleaf
        Newleaf February 20, 2013 at 6:27 am |

        The lineage thing. Nice diversionary tactic. With due respect, it would be nice to have a conversation without having to list my lineage practice.

  14. Adam Tebbe
    Adam Tebbe February 14, 2013 at 3:10 am |

    Hi mtto,

    When I published the writings of Brad Warner at the website, he sure never “spoke for Sweeping Zen.” He spoke for himself. The same is true for every teacher who writes for Sweeping Zen.

    All the best,


  15. Adam Tebbe
    Adam Tebbe February 14, 2013 at 3:19 am |

    Let’s take Brad’s comment that became the source of the discussion to begin with. According to this line of reasoning, when he posted as Brad Warner at my website, he was actually posting the “official opinion of Sweeping Zen,” because I had previously carried some of his writings, had interviewed him and corresponded with him. There are tons of Zen teachers who comment in the comment sections at the website. None of them “speak for Sweeping Zen.” They speak for themselves.

  16. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon February 14, 2013 at 3:53 am |

    I think that Brad is completely wrong about all of this. It seems blatantly obvious that the New York Times and Grace and Adam were speaking metaphorically (or mythopoetically, if you prefer).

    (If you’re just now joining the show, please see the previous comment thread for relevance.)

    1. Andy
      Andy February 14, 2013 at 7:00 am |

      “(If you’re just now joining the show, please see the previous comment thread for relevance.)”

      Nice to see that you are getting the point about the need for context!

      And as sarcasm is an aspect of language use (like metaphor) which requires the reader not to take the words in question literally, I’m glad you’ve pointed folk to the previous thread, so that they can judge for themselves if your sarcasm is in the service of the fallacious Argumentum ad Populum type (with some straw man mixed in) or not.

      I’m aware that in using clunky, specialised terms like ‘mythopoetic’ and in making such lengthy, intellectualized analysis, I was in danger of irritating folk who might think I was just being a grandstanding cleverdick. But as one of your follow-up posts on ‘semantics’ show, one can’t always avoid making lengthy analysis with reference to certain forms of terminology.

      I also understand that, in my providing such an extensive set of replies to your strong criticism of Khru’s words, TGC, I was running the risk of upsetting you. I hope you understand that this wasn’t my intention. I did hope that your initial criticism of Khru’s words indicated that this would be otherwise, and that it revealed a willingness to take the sort of (reasoned) punches you yourself felt free to land, through considered, if impassioned argument, without things getting too bitchy and personal.

      The reason I put the time I did into my replies to you is due to an ongoing concern I have for how I think critiques and arguments against religious points of view can often go awry and end up with both parties cross-talking, becoming entrenched, and too often mutually dismissive based on some false assumptions and a blindsideness to the dimensions of the language each side is using. We live in an age in which New Atheist-style modes of argumentation have become in certain situations as unthinkingly embedded as those they seek to criticize, and I find this very sad.

      Anyways, please know that I’m for any hurt.

      1. Andy
        Andy February 14, 2013 at 7:02 am |

        typo ( Freudian slip!): Anyways, please know that I’m SORRY for any hurt.

  17. Adam Tebbe
    Adam Tebbe February 14, 2013 at 5:05 am |


    I’m pretty sure he was referring to the interactions between Brad and Grace in the comments section of the website.

    Be well.

    1. boubi
      boubi February 14, 2013 at 2:45 pm |

      What kind of interaction? The two of them … ?

  18. lauramadugan823
    lauramadugan823 February 14, 2013 at 6:02 am |

    The culture of celebrity runs very deep in the west, and star-fucking has been common probably throughout human history. It shouldn’t be surprising that this tendency has to be dealt with in american zen communities because it is something that american have running deep in our psyches. the media is in the business of selling papers and selling adverts – so this has to be framed as ‘news’ somehow – but if it is news that someone in a visible position is brought low by not being able to keep his dick in his pants… well, it can probably be read on a cave wall in the south of france somewhere as being a headline in 1 billion BC.

  19. Steve
    Steve February 14, 2013 at 6:45 am |

    I agree with everything Brad said in his article. I just watched the video posted at Sweeping Zen of the no-nothing from Young Turks discussing the scandal and cringed. I don’t blame Sweeping Zen for publishing the story which had to be published. I agree with Adam that you can’t hold Sweeping Zen accountable for the Grace and Peter’s comments and articles. But. Sweeping Zen does present writings of “zen teachers” on its site. And Grace’s comments and Peter’s “article” are as equally shocking as the scandal itself albeit in a different way. I read Sweeping Zen during all of this and my only thought was “These are our zen teachers? What the hell is going on here?” I’d like to believe that there are people out there who could help me deepen my practice. Because at times I feel vulnerable about it. But then I read the “who’s who in the world of US zen” and wonder if there are really any more than a handful of teachers out there. Maybe I’ll start a who’s who of science website and post a bunch of credentialed creationists. Can’t blame me. Res ipsa loquiter.

    1. floating_abu
      floating_abu February 20, 2013 at 3:20 am |

      I think you can be pretty clear that nearly 90% of the ‘teachers’ on Sweeping Zen and populist web sites are not the definitive guide to Zen mastery or even guidance. And thank God for that, take heart.


  20. Jundotreeleaf
    Jundotreeleaf February 14, 2013 at 7:28 am |

    Brad, Adam … How about everybody let it go, make up, start again from here? Frankly you two guys have so much in common, more than even any two other Zen people I can name. Water under the bridge. Brad, you would actually find a welcoming home at SweepingZen I think, because your is exactly the kind of “no bullshit” voice that Adam is open to more than the stuffy, lamestream Buddhist media. Adam , Brad is a pain in the neck sometimes (believe me, I know 😉 ), but he is a cuddly pain in the neck,

    I would suggest that the two of you sit down and shut up together, break bread and have a cup of tea … but the last time I suggested that around this blog, it kinda backfired! 🙂

    Anyway, come on guys. Do the Buddhist thing, forgive and forget this one.

    Gassho, Jundo

    1. Andy
      Andy February 14, 2013 at 8:47 am |

      “Brad, you would actually find a welcoming home at SweepingZen I think, because your is exactly the kind of “no bullshit” voice that Adam is open to more than the stuffy, lamestream Buddhist media.”

      Jundo, why a ‘welcoming home’? It might be if he used to use Sweeping Zen as the first port of call for his articles as I think you do (which I’ve found interesting contributions btw). Why should he anyone view Sweeping Zen as having such a special institutional-like status? As though it were some kind of centralised on-line sangha. If that is how to see it, then I would be concerned with Adam Tebbe pulling the strings – and that purely based on the emotional instability that seems at at important times to exessively cloud his judgement, I interpret through his own posts and video blogs.

      I get your nice words attempting to affect an entente-cordiale, but I have found enough evidence from Adam’s own words on Facebook and on Sweeping Zen – even before the scandal spats, which suggest to me that Adam Tebbe has a personal bias against Brad. A pre-existing personal bias which, rather than developing from issues arising out of views regarding sex and zen, has instead used these issues as justifiable ground through which to tangentially express that personal bias – an attitude exacerbated perhaps by his affinity to the views of ‘authorities’ like the Schiresons. I do wonder if this stems from Adam’s own status as a Zen Practioner/authority and the status he gains in the world of Zen through the success of his publication. Sort of that old devil of taking pot shots at what one would like to be. And Brad’s views and cultural persona might just make him the perfect target for the dark side on that one.

      As human beings we might have more common ground than we would like to admit to sometimes, but that doesn’t mean we can or should live together. Inviting Brad ‘home’ is like inviting someone back into a house, where the house-owner has some bug-bear about him as a person and has already seen fit to gang up on him alongside his two favorite tenants.

      These are just my impressions. But if I were Brad and I had these impressions, I’d stay away for a good while.

  21. ALB
    ALB February 14, 2013 at 7:53 am |

    I must say, this is deeply troubling. Why is everyone downplaying this as a “sex scandal” and acting as though he’s merely accused of having sex with his students, which is arguably unethical and an abuse of power but certainly not criminal or necessarily condemnable. He is, in fact, accused of groping women who didn’t want or consent to it, harassment, and sexual coercion (which, by the way, is assault, not a “sex scandal”). And you say that makes you like him more? Try, for a moment, to think about how it might feel for a woman to read you praise a man for sexually violating other women. Speaking for myself, it makes me feel unvalued, unwelcome, and unsafe. It makes me feel like some Buddhist circles are exactly the kind of boys’ club the New York Times is making them out to be, though I am thankful that I have not encountered that in my personal (non-internet) experience. How can you seriously defend and congratulate a sexual predator in one breath and condemn the Times for accusations of patriarchy and sexism in the next? The photo you chose for this post really just drives the point home. I agree with you that we should not forget that we humans are all flawed, even the most venerated among us, and I can even go so far as to understand what you might have meant by this event (if not Sasaki himself) doing a service. But you have excused the coverup of sexual abuse and minimized the actions of the abuser. I’m not sure why you are so defensive, but it makes it seem as though you, and not his critics, are the one who can’t justify the idea of Sasaki as both a Zen master and also a man who has done wrong. Keep in mind that we have an example of how this can go for a religious group. The Catholic Church’s reputation has been tarnished, perhaps irreparably, not by the abuse, but by their (mis)handling of and reaction to it. If you are concerned about how this will impact the reputation of Zen, perhaps you shouldn’t keep taking pages from their playbook.

  22. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel February 14, 2013 at 8:19 am |

    Add to that the strange attitude towards sex that Northern Americans have, which is, at times quite weird: judging from American TV programmes, it is obvious that murder and extreme violence are much less frowned upon than sex (more acceptable?).

    Now, considering that Americans are, nevertheless, human beings, such extreme repression of such a fundamental instinct is liable to make up for a lot of fucking up… (pun intended…)

    1. ALB
      ALB February 14, 2013 at 8:27 am |

      If you’ve not seen it, there is a documentary called “This Film Is Not Yet Rated” that addresses the point you make about violence being more acceptable in the US than sex, specifically in movies. The film is about the MPAA, a small secretive organization in Hollywood that decides what rating (G, PG, R, etc.) each movie gets, and it’s fascinating.

  23. nozenji
    nozenji February 14, 2013 at 8:37 am |

    Hi all,
    Sometimes it’s best to stay quiet, I’m not always good at that, but I try to remember Pema Chodren’s quote, “The path is awareness, the practice is refraining.”
    I don’t personally know either Brad or Adam, but it seems to me they are both very sincere people who are doing what they can to help relieve suffering in this world. I especially appreciate Brad’s lack of any special language or attitude about his position as a Zen teacher, and Adam’s dedication to his site, which so many of us have found a wonderful source of teachings and information. Brad, if you’re pissed off that’s a teaching, and likewise to Adam. Maybe we can all just let the empty bodily sensations of anger percolate and evaporate. Maybe greater compassion, which is what we all want, will result.

  24. poepsa
    poepsa February 14, 2013 at 8:47 am |


    I hear you…. AND I still stand by what I said in my comment that there are structural/cultural elements in zen history and culture that LEAD to such “shit” as people believing someone is worth $5,000 for a weekend!

    Folks in Japan wouldn’t do that because of their history — they KNOW these guys are just (for the most part) ‘temple priests’ or ‘funeral priests’ (I think that is what your teacher called them?). The so-called “zen masters” who brought zen to the US in the 60s were just regular guys over there. BUT here, because of cultural/historical conditions, these priests were made into “Zen Masters” (always with the Caps, too!).

    Why not jettison the fucking term, “zen master,” and just call yourself and them “zen teachers?” “Master” is laden with cultural baggage and inherently embodies a power dynamic that is too easily misused.

    Let face it, this so-called “zen sex scandal” is simply another in a long line of zen power and authority abuse.

    I realize you are more traditional than I, but in many other ways, I think we are quite aligned. If you’re interested, this essay I originally wrote for my blog details some of the structural/cultural and historical conditions that lead to such abuse. It’s called, “What I Hate About Zen.”


  25. OccuBuddha
    OccuBuddha February 14, 2013 at 8:56 am |

    Thank you for writing this and putting yourself out there(here)..
    Though I enjoyed many of your points and acknowledge the need to relate to teachers as humans I was deeply troubled by one of your thoughts. You say it is natural for teachers to have consensual relations with their congregants. This is bullshit bro. You can say it is natural for teachers to WANT to but the path of awakening is there to allow us to let that desire pass and act in ways that are appropiate to the situation. They are students, they come because they suffer, and they are here for The Dharma, not your dharma. If one is not ready to stop acting on these sort of base desires then one is not ready to be a teacher and then there will be much less need to lower the bar to allow teachers to be just normal people. If you’ve been practicing for some time and still think that line is ok to cross you’ve either been poorly instructed in practice or have started from a very difficult karmic position; either way it’s probably best to sit down, shut up, and stop playing the role of teacher.

    1. Muddy Elephant
      Muddy Elephant February 14, 2013 at 4:47 pm |

      I think NOT to expect sexual relationships between teachers and their students to happen is unnatural and lacking awareness of what it is to be human.

      Maybe it’s immoral, probably. But it is natural isn’t it?

  26. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote February 14, 2013 at 8:57 am |

    ALB, strong words and I agree that the people I have read about in the Japanese Soto Zen organization are all men, and that Sasaki has probably committed offenses that could be prosecuted.

    Apparently none of the women he has committed these offenses against has seen fit to press charges. Rape victims often don’t press charges either, I’m not saying he shouldn’t be prosecuted, just that we do have some mixed stories about what he has done and how offensive the behaviour was to the women subjected to it.

    In my opinion, the pictures Brad picks are one of the highlights of his blog, for me. He has a great sense of humor and current fashion or mode, that’s what I take away. From what he has published about sexuality and Buddhism, I know that he respects all aspects of human sexuality and people of both genders but he’s willing to poke fun at the drop of a hat. IMHO.

    On the discord between the editors/authors of the two websites: I believe Brad’s response was in large part due to what he felt was an abuse of the confidence one of his sources placed in him. A contributor to Sweeping Zen saw fit to name names and Brad felt that because someone had allowed him to use their story with respect, he could not stand by and see them disrespected while someone tried to count coup on him.

    Now that brings us to an interesting point. I find the articles and conversation on Sweeping Zen to be a great contribution to the very education that Brad is keen to see America have about Zen teachers, namely, that they are human, have foibles and weaknesses just like everybody else, and should not be regarded as omniscient or even capable of correctly describing the experience that has led to their elevation to the status of teacher. Just because someone has mastered an art, doesn’t mean they can describe what they did or how they are able to do what they do. The genius of Gautama the Buddha was that he was able to successfully teach in words and deeds, to Sariputta and Moggallana and many others; Sariputta and others echoed Gautama’s words in their teachings as recorded in the Pali Canon, although subtle differences can be discerned.

    I appreciate what both Brad and Adam are doing, just as I value what David Chadwick did and does, in terms of removing the screen from in front of the wizards and wizardesses of Oz. Adam only accepts contributions from authorized Zen teachers or serious students of authorized Zen teachers, assuming that such a prerequisite will ensure that what is offered on Sweeping Zen truly represents American Zen. Brad looks to his own authorization to teach as the final word on whether he is qualified to teach or not, and sees himself as outside of mainstream Soto and perhaps more representative of what Zen in America is shaping up to be.

    I do feel that in allowing a Zen teacher to have a regular blog on Sweeping Zen and to respond to comments as an authorized Zen teacher, Adam is putting himself in the position of endorsing the blog articles and responses of such a teacher as representative of “real” Zen in America.

    Perhaps the larger issue is the degree of accomplishment of Chinese Chan and Japanese Zen teachers compared with their American counterparts, accomplishment at being physically adept at the posture of zazen. Kobun, for example, could get into the lotus without using his hands, and never had pain or numbness in his legs as a result of sitting the lotus.

    Now me, my whine is that what we really need is instruction in the practice of zazen that anyone can understand, skip the mystic mumbo-jumbo, and my claim is that until American Zen teachers can offer that the dharma hasn’t really arrived on these shores. Bitch, bitch.

    1. ALB
      ALB February 14, 2013 at 11:23 am |

      I think you accurately explain why the fact that no one has pressed charges does not mean he has not committed any prosecutable offenses. If he has indeed done the minimum of what he’s accused of, he could have been charged initially, if not now due to statutes of limitations. As I’m sure you know, the reasons that women don’t see fit to press charges in cases like this have nothing to do with whether or not a crime has been committed.

      A photo that not only sexually objectifies women but further makes light of serious sexual abuse is just in poor taste. You might like it for being irreverent or whatever, but its use, in conjunction with some of the content, was problematic for me.

  27. Jundotreeleaf
    Jundotreeleaf February 14, 2013 at 9:01 am |

    Jundo, why a ‘welcoming home’? It might be if he used to use Sweeping Zen as the first port of call for his articles as I think you do (which I’ve found interesting contributions btw). Why should he anyone view Sweeping Zen as having such a special institutional-like status? As though it were some kind of centralised on-line sangha. If that is how to see it, then I would be concerned with Adam Tebbe pulling the strings

    Hi Andy,

    I personally have found that Adam does not edit or censor at all what I, and other contributors, publish there, which is certainly one contributed to this mess with what Grace and her husband wrote. Adam just let them say what they wanted. In that sense, Adam’s editorial policy is pretty much exactly like Brad in this infamous (:-)) comments section … hands off. Good for Brad and Adam to have the cajones to do that. In my view, Adam was no more responsible for what Grace and Husband Peter said about Brad, than Brad was responsible the next day what Michel Proulx turned around in this comments section and called Grace a “c*nt” (pardon my French).

    Look, in my opinion, Adam is providing an alternative rag … an underground comic version, if you will … to boring old Tricycle and Shambhala Sun and all that. Brad should the support the place just for that reason.

    I am convinced that, sometimes in this world, people rub each other the wrong way because they are too much along, have too much in common. I think that the case with Adam and Brad.

    Gassho, Jundo

    1. zucchinipants
      zucchinipants February 14, 2013 at 10:48 am |

      Actually, another thing Adam and Brad have in common is that they both DO censor their supposedly uncensored comment sections. As a result, their sites are populated by sycophants and/or people with mental diarrhea.
      Frankly, comment sections on blogs are rarely a good idea.
      But if you’re content with splashing yourselves in shit all day, have at it.

      1. boubi
        boubi February 14, 2013 at 3:03 pm |

        I don’t know from where you get your informations, but i have NEVER seen Brad censoring any comment, even though sometimes i thought he would censor some of mine.

        I publicly disagreed with him in strong terms and he NEVER censored my comments, NEVER, even when i told in his face that he was writing (IMO) a load of bullshit.

        And for this i admire him a lot.

        While totally i despise some anal retentive self righteous site owners with a political commissar’s limited and sectarian view of the dharma.

      2. floating_abu
        floating_abu February 20, 2013 at 6:26 am |

        I have not known or heard of Brad to censor, but I have seen Adam Tebbe do that, ironically after I publicly thanked him for being transparent.

        I understand that he needs to fund his website though, but I would rather be in the hands of a practitioner myself..

        IOW I think you will find these guys quite different, and why not, Brad is a practitioner, and for that he has my respect at least.

        My bias.


  28. Jundotreeleaf
    Jundotreeleaf February 14, 2013 at 9:02 am |

    That should say “too much alike”

  29. Jundotreeleaf
    Jundotreeleaf February 14, 2013 at 9:15 am |

    How about we just say that you are a psychedelic (in your Dimentia 13 phase) sexual who sometime like “Predator” movies?

  30. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote February 14, 2013 at 9:32 am |

    I didn’t finish my thought about how adept the Japanese and Chinese teachers are as sitters, as yogins of the lotus, compared to their American counterparts. The point was that even the most adept of yogins, the most amazing zazen sitters, are quite subject to karma. That is what the revelations in the biographies and on Sweeping Zen point to: even the most impressive master of an Eastern meditation or martial arts tradition is subject to the same kind of karma that everyone else is subject to, their lives expose the exercise of volition and its consequences the same as everyone else’s. So we conclude, perhaps, that being an adept is not always the whole story in dealing with the everyday issues of life, that there are other lessons besides facility with the posture of meditation that are important to the inward happiness and sense of fulfillment that we all identify with enlightenment.

    In fact, the master of “not doing” has to contend with the “empty hand” of belief that acts regardless of conscious understanding, that reveals the gap between what is understood and what is believed. Closing that gap, in my opinion, is what American Zen is about, and why the stories of the foibles of Japanese and anointed American successors seem so important at this time in the development of American Zen.

  31. Andy
    Andy February 14, 2013 at 9:38 am |

    “In my view, Adam was no more responsible for what Grace and Husband Peter said about Brad, than Brad was responsible the next day what Michel Proulx turned around in this comments section and called Grace a “c*nt” (pardon my French). ”

    I addressed this further up in a more lengthy post in reply to one of Adam’s. But I’ll point out that what Peter wrote, for example, was in an article appearing first in Sweeping Zen. This is, therefore, at a similar level of editorial responsibility as Brad has about his own articles. He is responsible for being an editor with a capital E if he calls himself one, and for the perception that he had/has a bias towards the Schireson’s which may have or may in the future allow for impressions that Sweeping Zen can be a place for Friends-of-Adam to get away with damaging misrepresentations of someone they have a gripe against. With such a nice list of Dharma-centre sponsors and the site’s self-presentation as a hub for a community, one would have thought this editorial responsibility extended towards that community in a manner which Brad’s personal blog shouldn’t have to. There is that all important spirit of the law thing to consider, as well as what one can plausibly deny.

    1. floating_abu
      floating_abu February 20, 2013 at 6:27 am |

      Yes, to claim editorial ignorance is as stupid as .. well you name it 🙂

  32. BobbyByrd
    BobbyByrd February 14, 2013 at 9:39 am |

    Well, I always like to read what Brad has to say because it stimulates my own thinking and feeling. Here, like other times, he does just that. I’ve sat sesshin a few times at Bodhi Manda back in the 90s, and so this whole story roils in my gut. But I feel Brad’s whole thing with Adam Tebbe and Sweeping Zen is blown way out of proportion. Hurt feelings and anger hardening into rational arguments on both sides of the coin. Sad. I also read the piece by Grace S and was turned off. Too easy and too moralistic and irritating. It was a feeling I used to get when my mother dragged me to church. That is one of the reasons I sit and stare at a wall. I find a place that opens my heart and mind so that I consider this other stuff. I don’t, however, hold Adam or Sweeping Zen responsible for her comments. For me Sweeping Zen and Adam’s work are useful tools. An open forum which is now empty of Brad’s voice. Oh well. Good for Adam and what he does. Sweeping Zen was a place to start the fire in the first place, and the fire has kept us all warm, although confused and saddened. So I hope Adam and Brad settle their differences somehow. Their work is important to my own practice.

    But, oh well. What can you do?

    By the way, for my money (not much these days, being that I’m a poet and a independent publisher), the comments and articles posted by various women that were connected to Rinsai-Ji and Joshu Sasaki have been the most instructive. You can find links to these at, well,…Sweeping Zen.

    Thanks, Brad, for this post. –Bobby

  33. Katageek
    Katageek February 14, 2013 at 9:51 am |

    Okay Brad, let me get this straight.

    If I become a fake zen teacher I’LL GET LAID?


    It’s THAT easy?

    … THUD … THUD … THUD …

    Time to start a Zen movement! Needs a catchy name that doubles as a tag line.

    “Occupy Zazen.”

    Oh, this is going to be SWEET!

    1. floating_abu
      floating_abu February 20, 2013 at 6:28 am |

      1st premise: Sasaki was/is a fake teacher. I would doubt that severely, even if he did make mistakes it seems.

      2nd premise: Fake Zen teachers – sure there are plenty of them unfortunately


  34. Justlikethis
    Justlikethis February 14, 2013 at 10:15 am |

    ‘cuse me, I find that my legs go to sleep whilst I am sitting, is there any known cure ?
    And should I pay attention to it if the person telling me what the cure is is an abuser.

    P.S. Does a Glass House have Buddha Nature??

  35. Thor29
    Thor29 February 14, 2013 at 10:28 am |

    What really bums me out about American Zen is the American part. Zen doesn’t seem to be able to overcome the madness of American culture. So you get the cranky authoritarian Puritans and emotionally stunted children that populate Sweeping Zen and elsewhere. My personal experience is with the San Francisco Zen Center and Green Gulch and there didn’t seem to be much joy or love there. Just more attempts at subjugation and control and lots of the cult of the individual (contradictions that result in madness). American culture has this amazing ability to take anything of value and destroy it from within. Unless Zen challenges the core assumptions of this sick culture, all you will ever get are these silly scandals and idiots paying $5000 for enlightenment.

  36. sri_barence
    sri_barence February 14, 2013 at 10:29 am |

    Can I join in? I only like the first and second Predator movies, though… But I do like sex. And I have an opinion about Zen Masters and their “authority via lineage.”

    Like many people, I once thought of Zen teachers (and other “spiritual teachers”) as somehow superhuman and larger than life. But I once saw Stephen Gaskin looking at a book with a puzzled expression, until I told him it he had it upside down. “Why so I have!,” he replied. Another time I came to visit him, and realized he was just an old man (he was probably about 55 years old then; I was rather young).

    I have practiced and had interviews with several Zen teachers in the KwanUm school. Although I liked most of them, and thought they were interesting, they all seemed pretty ordinary to me. The first time I had an interview with Seung Sahn, I noticed that his glasses were dirty. Big fingerprints all over! How could he see clearly?

    And I had an interview with one teacher who was clearly not ready for prime time. I suspect there were “political” reasons for his being made a teacher, but “not knowing, so cannot say.” I don’t think he is actively teaching these days.

    I think Zen teachers should be certified somehow, if only to protect against outright fraud. But we students should also practice hard, so we cannot be fooled by others. We should not give to others authority which we alone possess. We should take some responsibility for the world we create for ourselves. Enough said.

    1. Gregory Wonderwheel
      Gregory Wonderwheel February 16, 2013 at 10:05 am |

      “The first time I had an interview with Seung Sahn, I noticed that his glasses were dirty. Big fingerprints all over! How could he see clearly?”

      Really? I take it that this comment is self-revelatory about how we humans have such silly ideas stimulated by innane details of observation.

  37. gniz
    gniz February 14, 2013 at 10:37 am |

    We are like children, aren’t we? At some level, we want someone, a kind of parent, to tell us what to do and how to behave and what to believe. I have the same thing myself.

    When they disappoint us by being human, we feel upset and angry and betrayed.

    Nothing is going to keep religious institutions from being corrupt, because people will always corrupt organizations. People corrupt organizations because most people are somewhat insane, and mostly unconscious, and hardly able to fathom their own behavior and motivations.

    This should not surprise anyone who is paying attention.

    1. Muddy Elephant
      Muddy Elephant February 17, 2013 at 3:15 am |

      On point as usual gniz.

  38. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi February 14, 2013 at 10:56 am |


    But I really wonder if we Americans would ever have been smart enough to understand what Sasaki has taught us if we’d just been told it was so rather than having it demonstrated in unmistakable actions.

    I don’t quite get your intended meaning here. What “unmistakable actions” are your referring to? The groping/sexual stuff, or his demonstration of “deep, profound insight”? If the latter, what demonstration did he give of that?

    See, the problem with people like Sasaki is that it’s a bit of a mystery as to why they can have such “deep, profound insight” into Zen, and yet seem to lack the same in matters of ordinary human conduct. Did Sasaki not know that what he was doing was a clear violation of the Buddhist principle of “right conduct”? I find that hard to believe. He wasn’t an idiot. And he did try very hard to hide and cover this up, which indicates that he, and others around him, also know that it violated basic Buddhist precepts. So the question remains as to just how meaningful all these “deep, profound insights” really are, if they don’t give a person a basic human conscience about right conduct.

    It’s not a question confined to Zen, of course. As you know, I’ve encountered this problem in my own experience, in a much more exaggerated way. If you look into any religion, you are going to find this going on somewhere. With Sasaki, however, it’s a more interesting issue, precisely because he was so widely acknowledged as probably the pre-eminent Zen teacher of his time in America, which one might think would give him a better grasp of right conduct than almost anyone else. And yet, he failed rather badly here when it came to his own dick. Which is about as basic as you can get.

    What accounts for that? And don’t just say “he’s human”. You’re human too, and you don’t go around groping chicks in sesshin. The accomplished practice of Zen Buddhism is supposed to give us greater conscience and human intelligence, not less. Or is that just not the case?

    1. hrtbeat7
      hrtbeat7 February 14, 2013 at 3:54 pm |

      Hiya BY, you wrote: “The accomplished practice of Zen Buddhism is supposed to give us greater conscience and human intelligence, not less. Or is that just not the case?”

      I’ve earnestly examined that very issue for 4 decades now. Based on very extensive personal and as well as shared investigation of thousands of practitioners (myself included) and many dozens of so-called zen teachers, both in communities and in individual practice (as well as on the internet in various forums dedicated to Zen), I would offer that the chances of Zen practice (in whatever school or sect) leading to some sort of enduring and truly transformative awakening that can in turn be integrated into a stable life-level embodiment would be comparable to the chances of someone not only winning a major state lottery, but then also using the resulting funds wisely for the benefit of sentient beings.

      I would not go so far as to label the endeavor a complete waste of time, since some good can come from almost any adventure, but if one is truly interested in making the most of this brief human life, there are certainly much more effective ways to go about it than chasing one’s tail in pursuit of some conceptual ideal of enlightenment.

    2. Gregory Wonderwheel
      Gregory Wonderwheel February 16, 2013 at 10:14 am |

      “The accomplished practice of Zen Buddhism is supposed to give us greater conscience and human intelligence, not less. Or is that just not the case?”

      Aye, there’s the rub, perchance in the dream.

      What is conscience; what is intelligence? If defined merely within culturally determined cognitive standards than the answer is no, it is just not the case. This is the reason that the movement to naturalize Buddhism will always fail and only create a denatured Buddha Dharma.

    3. Muddy Elephant
      Muddy Elephant February 17, 2013 at 3:13 am |

      I just think–and assuming with requisite inaccuracy

      (as I am neither a proper student or teacher of so-called zen)

      that having a student to teacher relationship of the type that occurs within “monastic” or “retreat” type settings

      (and as far as I have researched: Sasaki’s living conditions for his students were very arduous indeed)

      is a relationship that exists in the unique confines of intense silence, zazen, and physical deprivation that zen tradition often calls for

      add on top of this strange and unique environment the vast differences in sexual conduct that underlie Japanese and American culture and history. Not to mention the underlying history of the development of zen buddhism insofar as Japan and America are related.

      This is a puzzle that is more difficult to unravel than any standard labels of sexual assault are capable of doing.

      I believe a certain amount of irreverence (a la Brad Warner) to our, American, litigious ideals of sexual conduct is appropriate and welcomed just to make people exercise their sense of awareness.

      However, to be brazenly honest: within the laws of our, American, society Sasaki should probably face the legal consequences of his actions, if the allegations are proven true in a court of law, etc… etc.

  39. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel February 14, 2013 at 12:09 pm |

    ALB writes:

    “This is a really flippant way to describe a man who is accused of serious sexual abuse.”

    This person who comes at my place to practice told me he knew one person who was a regional director for something, and had a reputation of having affairs with all the women he met. That person once told him, “you know, I never raped anyone”.

    It seems that no woman ever made a formal complaint about Sasaki’s actions. He, in my opinion, abused his situation of power, but Brad’s observation remains valid: what if he had been an episcopalian priest?

    You sound to me as someone hurt that is much too ready to find fault in anyone who does not share your agressivity in the matter. That does not seem right.

    1. ALB
      ALB February 14, 2013 at 1:13 pm |

      Except that in your example all of the actions were consensual and in this instance many of them were not consensual, according to the allegations. That is the entire crux of the issue I have with this. If he were merely “an old horn dog” who had consensual sex with every female student under the sun, I wouldn’t even have bothered to chime in. I would just think he was slimy and unethical, but would generally agree with Brad’s assessment. The difference is that he not only abused his position of power, but also physically violated women against their will, which is being diminished and ignored. And sure, we don’t know what happened, we weren’t there, etc. But if we’re going to talk about it at all, which we are, we can’t pretend that some of the more uncomfortable accusations didn’t happen because we don’t want to deal with it.

      I don’t mean to be aggressive. I’ve taken pains to make sure I’m expressing myself clearly and not resorting to harsh words or name-calling. Nevertheless, it’s an extremely difficult topic to discuss (without attachment) and I apologize if I haven’t 100% succeeded in maintaining an even keel. Which once again lends itself to my point about intention vs. reception.

      As for him being Episcopalian, I’m not sure what you mean. Brad’s point was that no one would spend $5,000 on a weekend retreat with an Episcopalian retreat, and I don’t disagree with him. Are you saying that if he was Episcopalian people wouldn’t be criticizing him? I don’t think that’s true, and my feelings about his actions would be the same no matter what.

  40. Fred
    Fred February 14, 2013 at 12:15 pm |

    “But if you’re content with splashing yourselves in shit all day, have at it.”

    As an Aghori, I don’t resent your comment.

  41. HarryB
    HarryB February 14, 2013 at 12:58 pm |

    Hi Broken Yogi,

    Just a though in tangential relation to your message:

    There is that old carcass of an idea in certain Zen circles that an ‘enlightened’ person can do no wrong if they are acting intuitively as an enlightened person; and that such intuitive actions are not bound by the Precepts which are seen as provisional and relative by comparison.

    It’s all horeshit, of course; and it woo-ifies Zen and makes a fuzzy, remote, reified never-never region of Buddhist realisation (or worse, makes a psychotic indulgence of it)… It ‘rents apart heaven and earth’ to use a bit of Dogen-speak.

    The notion that the ‘enlightened Master’ may mysteriously know, or rather un-know, how to teach us in seemingly outrageous/invasive ways is part of the ‘Master’ fallacy that seems, to me, to have contributed to some of the apologetic explanations that I’ve read regarding Zen Master Feelgood.

    The fallacy is well supported by the old Zen accounts. There might even be some truth in it; but it seems it is more the exception than the rule, and it is open to all sorts of self-serving bullshit and abuse.



  42. OccuBuddha
    OccuBuddha February 14, 2013 at 1:15 pm |

    omfg if y’all keep this up there be no mushroom gatherers
    and the toilet paper will be lonely
    his hands and our mouths deafen the entrances song
    But still she sings

  43. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi February 14, 2013 at 1:29 pm |


    Thanks for the nuanced reply. I agree that there’s a relationship issue here, so it inherently has two or more people involved, each of whom has a responsibility to fulfill. But that goes back to what the Zen teaching really is on the responsibility of the student, which all too often seems to be “be obedient to the Master, and learn through that obedience.” It’s part of the traditional Guru method of teaching, which also relies on obedience to a trusted teacher who is part of a lineage of transmission. Obedience is seen as crucial in overcoming the ego, which does not want to obey anyone else. So when the teacher acts inappropriately, the doctrine of obedience seems to override everything else, which is often labeled “ego” or “ignorance”, and the student submits even to degrading treatment. Getting hit with a stick, perhaps. Or with a dick in some cases.

    “I should also add that it is tougher than you can imagine to be in a position like Sasaki’s. All that adoration is extremely damaging. People pile all kinds of shit on you and act like it’s a great gift they’re bestowing when it’s really just a load of stinky diarrhea. Then they get mad when you tell them, “No. I do not want your gift of smelly poo.””

    Yes, I’ve seen that kind of damage first hand. It’s part of the dynamics of any cult. The students think they are gaining something by building up or protecting the Master, the Master seems to gain in power and authority as well, but in reality, each is engaged in a mutual downward spiral that saps the tradition of any real spiritual strength. People get hurt in the process, including the alleged Master, who forgoes his own growth and learning for the sake of power and privilege. Everyone seems to lose, except those who can learn from failure. So it’s important to be that guy, who learns from his own mistakes, and the mistakes of others.

Comments are closed.