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.

***

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

203 Responses

  1. ALB
    ALB February 14, 2013 at 1:31 pm | |

    Brad, perhaps if something “gets you in trouble” every time you say it, you might look at why, instead of trusting your privilege and continuing to tell yourself you must be right. I’m going to gently point you in the direction of this famous and wonderful scholarly article by Peggy Macintosh: http://www.amptoons.com/blog/files/mcintosh.html

    It’s about white privilege, but the principles apply to all types of privilege.

    The fact that you think anyone challenging what you’ve written, even respectfully and with well-reasoned arguments, is a “troll” is rather interesting. Perhaps you think many of us have been posting “inflammatory, extraneous or off-topic” comments, but I must disagree. Wait, is that just me “trolling” again? :-X

    1. Gregory Wonderwheel
      Gregory Wonderwheel February 14, 2013 at 3:33 pm | |

      To avoid gaining advantage by disparaging another is one of the ten precepts. So, as well as having an individual identity, being aware of how we gain advantage by the benefit of belonging to a group identity that relies on disparaging other group identites and renouncing that advantage is an act in furtherance of Buddha Dharma.

      However, as much as I agree with Ms. McIntosh in principle, I think she overstates several if not many of her numbered points. For example, the first one “1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.” is just the determining feature of having a group identity and has little to do with priviledge.

      Similarly, the idea that Brad has a teacher’s priviledge is neither unique nor innovative, and in fact the people he was speaking about criticizing him are as much other teachers as anybody. So I don’t accept that there is a applicable transferrence of the so-called “white priviledge” to the context of what Brad is talking about.

      1. ALB
        ALB February 14, 2013 at 3:40 pm | |

        I was referring to Brad’s male privilege, not his teacher’s privilege.

        As for her points, she was attempting to dismantle what she takes for granted and how not everyone can say the same. Some of them hit the mark spot on, others are stretches, but the meaning is primarily found in the exercise. Though I think by number 1, she was referring to a public setting. In many parts of the country, and even many parts of a particular city, you can choose to walk into a particular grocery store, for example, and know that it will almost certainly be full of white people.

        1. Gregory Wonderwheel
          Gregory Wonderwheel February 16, 2013 at 10:21 am | |

          In the USA there is a lot of segregation and we can choose to walk into many stores knowing that the customers of that store are going to be nearly all of one generalized ancestral identity. Likewise, we can choose to walk into stores knowing that the customers of that store are going to have a lot of ancestral diversity.

  2. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi February 14, 2013 at 1:33 pm | |

    Harry,

    Yes, I have heard many stories from the Zen tradition trotted out to justify abusive and degrading behavior, and autocratic approaches to teaching.

    I particularly recall stories from Zen of Masters who would use such strict and severe methods, that many of their students died in their attempts to fulfill the practice. Can’t remember the names of the “Masters” in question, but perhaps you know about them.

    In other words, Zen has a long history of autocratic approaches to teaching its students. And like you say, maybe some of that even worked to a degree. Or it was just a reflection of the autocratic society Zen arose within, and which felt natural to people of that time and place.

    But was it really necessary otherwise, and did it really work? Is there anything intrinsic to Buddhism itself that requires such an approach. I would gather that many Buddhists here would say no. Or “no, but…”

    It’s the butts that I find interesting.

    1. Gregory Wonderwheel
      Gregory Wonderwheel February 14, 2013 at 3:35 pm | |

      “I particularly recall stories from Zen of Masters who would use such strict and severe methods, that many of their students died in their attempts to fulfill the practice. Can’t remember the names of the “Masters” in question, but perhaps you know about them.”

      Well, that is just a silly remark. There are just no such stories of “many” students dying in training. Whoever made up those stories was pulling your leg.

  3. HarryB
    HarryB February 14, 2013 at 1:41 pm | |

    Broken Yogi,

    I would go further and say that there was precedent in Japanese Zen tradition for not just autocratic approaches, but full-on psychotic approaches: The samurai were taught that if they killed with a crystal clear mind then it wasn’t a sin, because their lack of motivating hatred, greed, desire etc would not create karma… so it’s okay to abuse/kill people if you feel okay about it…

    Nice recipe for a high caste of psychos if ever I heard one!

    Watch yo butt out there.

    Regards,

    H.

    1. Gregory Wonderwheel
      Gregory Wonderwheel February 14, 2013 at 3:40 pm | |

      “The samurai were taught that if they killed with a crystal clear mind then it wasn’t a sin, because their lack of motivating hatred, greed, desire etc would not create karma… so it’s okay to abuse/kill people if you feel okay about it…”

      Again, no samurai was ever taught those two things together. Yes, the mind that transcends karma was taught, but the idea of abusing someone was also taught as karma producing. When people don’t “get” the teaching, and they take what they want and leave the rest behind, it is not necessarily the fault of the teaching. The samurai model of transcending was about two samurai meeting each other on the field of battle, not about a samurai killing a poet or a farmer for feeling insulted by something that was said and taken as an insult. But unfortunately there were way too many samaurai who used meditation to enhance skill without using the Buddha Dharma to manage their behavior. .

  4. boubi
    boubi February 14, 2013 at 2:37 pm | |

    — tysondav
    like !

    — poepsa

    Secrecy in Huineng transmission? F**k!
    He risked to get clubbered by some jealous monks, sorry.
    For transparency sake we shouldn’t have this kind of 6th patriarch and for sure not this kind of dharma, sorry again.
    It would have been better to have some self righteous sutra spitting “patriarch” like a lot of sutra spitting “masters” of nowaday, all “gasho”, “feel well”, all smiles and bowing, all very respectful and neat in their ceremonies, like puppets?
    I think you heard of Huineng or Linchi guys, right?

    And the “secret of dokusan”, bloody hell, another silence conspiration for sure, coming from that “hushed secrecy embedded in its culture!

    Why, would you find it better to have public dokusan or public “koan talks”, like some public reeducation in some “people democracy”?

    1. poepsa
      poepsa February 14, 2013 at 3:37 pm | |

      Boubi,

      So you believe that story about Huineng? I guess you believe the story of Mahakashyapa and the flower too! That’s what I mean: the historical ignorance of so many zen practitioners! All that shite? It was a masterful piece of realpolitik on the part of one segment of an upstart sect. Make up a lineage to trump those who might question zen’s “legitimacy.”

      As for the ‘secrecy’ around dokusan, I am referring to the admonishment to NEVER TALK ABOUT WHAT GOES ON IN DOKUSAN! Like, if you did you’d get some really bad, heavy karma. Sort of self-serving — especially for those who like to grope and fondle their students.

      http://www.yogabrains.org/21st-century-spirituality/what-i-hate-about-zen/

      1. Gregory Wonderwheel
        Gregory Wonderwheel February 14, 2013 at 3:47 pm | |

        Philip Yamplosky and other scholars of his ilk are not the last word on the matters, nor are they even the best word on the question of Zen lineages. They have their bias and make assumptions based on what is written and when it is written and assume there is and never was such a thing as oral history.

        1. poepsa
          poepsa February 14, 2013 at 4:00 pm | |

          I’ll take historians with no sectarian axes to grind over zen sycophants any day! That lineage has holes you can drive a semi through!

          But its sounds like I’m “talking” to some true believers and one thing I’ve learned is THAT is useless.

          As the “Zen Master” would say when ending a debate: “May your life go well.”

          1. Gregory Wonderwheel
            Gregory Wonderwheel February 16, 2013 at 10:28 am |

            Historians all have their own sectarian axe to grind. The notion of a historian with no sectarian axe to grind is a delusion. The difference between a Zen practitioner’s axe and the historian’s axe is just the difference between a splitting maul and a battle axe, or a hatchet and a halberd.

          2. Muddy Elephant
            Muddy Elephant February 17, 2013 at 3:28 am |

            Show me a historian with no sectarian axes to grind! Yes but with historian axes to grind… a truckload!!!!

  5. Fred
    Fred February 14, 2013 at 2:41 pm | |

    It’s trolling to the extant that it has nothing to do with Zen.

    Whether you live in a male-orange body-mind or a green-lesbian body-mind is
    irrelevant. The goal isn’t to enhance the body-mind in whatever social structure.

    The practice is to sit and drop the body-mind.

    1. ALB
      ALB February 14, 2013 at 2:55 pm | |

      It has as much to do with Zen as his post does. I never said anything about enhancing the body-mind. To ignore the realities of sexism (or any -ism) for the sake of “dropping the body-mind,” and pretending there’s some sort of level plane of existence, which is not the same as interconnectedness, is to do a disservice to members of your own community, especially when that -ism come crashing into that very community by way of the transgressions of one of its masters.

  6. Gregory Wonderwheel
    Gregory Wonderwheel February 14, 2013 at 3:12 pm | |

    Hey Brad, I agree 99.9% with this blog. I don’t say 100% just because of ornery principle that there is probably at least one word I could quibble over it I wanted to look for it. LOL! The words may be different but the mind it the same.

  7. Fred
    Fred February 14, 2013 at 3:13 pm | |

    Whether social status accrues to the colour of your skin or to the biology of
    your brain is irrelevant to becoming a man or woman of no distinction.

    You are trapped in the whatness of the world, focused on a level playing field
    of ego interactions.

    Dropping the attachment to something isn’t the same as ignoring it.

    1. ALB
      ALB February 14, 2013 at 3:52 pm | |

      If you mean I am not enlightened, you are so right! If you mean that issues of the world are not still important in some ways, despite in other ways not being “real,” I’d disagree, and I’m not sure that’s actually supported by Buddhism either. I don’t know much of Zen specifically, so I suppose it’s possible the teachings on the subject could vary that greatly between traditions, but I’d be surprised. What are our actions and our thoughts if not “of the world” and yet we are urged to do them rightly. I agree wholeheartedly with your last point. I’d further it and say that pointing out an unlevel playing field and wishing to remedy the harm it does isn’t the same as being attached to it.

  8. Dancing Mountain
    Dancing Mountain February 14, 2013 at 3:17 pm | |

    Brad, I have never met you, seen you once at City Center, etc. but I can say that I appreciate your continuing this discussion regardless of the fact that I don’t really agree with you. But it is a huge bummer that so much of this comment stream turned into an EXTREMELY irritating war of words between you and Sweeping Zen and everyone else chiming in. (The fact that someone was called a cunt just goes to show people think nothing of using female genitalia as an insult)
    Back to what really got me thinking this morning. It hurts to see articles like the NYT not because they’re wrong but because they’re right. Zen history is ripe with patriarchy, sexism and questionable behavior (frankly so is the history of humanity?) So we should continue to question our behavior every single minute. As a woman I wonder what behavior like Sasaki’s and your approval of sex between teachers and students does for sex and gender relationships in our society as a whole. Like you said, in Sasaki’s case where much of the activity was not consensual it’s more clearly wrong but in the cases where sex between a teacher and student was ‘consensual’ I can’t deny that power exists and led both people to say “yes” but that maybe it wasn’t right. Does that mean it’s okay when a 13 year old girl says yes to having sex with a 30 year old man? Does it make it okay if a woman says yes she’ll show her breasts to an old man who tells her it will help her let go of ego? Yes isn’t enough of a reason! We all have to take some responsibility for our actions, speech and thoughts and yes that includes our penises and vaginas. So how do we draw a line in sanghas? Or in intentional communities like Zen Center?
    I look at my lineage of buddhist ancestors and they are all male. Translations? All done by males. Forms? Originally all written for males. So do I think that the traditions are very applicable for someone like me at this point in time and place? Sometimes. So how is Zen going to adapt to our current social environment when our male teachers put on their brown robe and deny that they have any power over the females who are still dealing with an inferiority complex that’s been passed onto them? That’s like saying the current statistics or social experience for African-Americans in this country has nothing to do with the fact that their ancestors were stolen from their families and exploited for generations. Just like racism, sexism and exploitation is still around but maybe it’s just harder to see since women can vote now and have property (at least in the US).

  9. Adam Tebbe
    Adam Tebbe February 14, 2013 at 3:20 pm | |

    @ Jundo

    I’m open to it.

  10. Anonymous
    Anonymous February 14, 2013 at 3:25 pm | |

    Thank all of your for your comments to this article.

    I usually get irritated by the comments here and end up posting something in response to my irritation, in an effort to make you fools realize that you’re all wasting your time/circlejerking, but I’m liking what I’m reading here and do not feel any need to be an ass.

    Carry on by all means. Even you, Jundo.

  11. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi February 14, 2013 at 4:15 pm | |

    I wonder about stories like this one, from “Stripping the Gurus”>:

    “a true story told to Janwillem van de Wetering (1999) during his long-term stay at a Japanese Zen monastery in Kyoto in the early 1970s goes:

    “In Tokyo there are some Zen monasteries as well. In one of these monasteries … there was a Zen monk who happened to be very conceited. He refused to listen to whatever the master was trying to tell him and used the early morning interviews with the master to air all his pet theories. The masters have a special stick for this type of pupil. Our master has one, too, you will have seen it, a short thick stick. One morning the master hit the monk so hard that the monk didn’t get up any more. He couldn’t, because he was dead….

    “The head monk reported the incident to the police, but the master was never charged. Even the police know that there is an extraordinary relationship between master and pupil, a relationship outside the law.”

    I bet if an episcopal priest had done that, it wouldn’t have been ignored.

    Or is this an atypical Japanese attitude?

    1. ALB
      ALB February 14, 2013 at 8:42 pm | |

      The stories about Chogyam Trungpa, chronicled in Stripping the Gurus (which, I know, has its own share of problems) and elsewhere, have really created a sort of “crisis of faith” within me. Having grown up Catholic and seen this type of thing firsthand, not abuse necessarily but well-respected church leaders who did not live the teachings they preached and treated those “beneath” them very poorly, it makes me have some serious misgivings.

  12. Anonymous
    Anonymous February 14, 2013 at 4:44 pm | |

    Brad,

    I used to post as “Seagal Rinpoche” on your old site. I got a kick out of it, though clearly no one else did.

    Seagal is supposedly some old tulku or something like that.

  13. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi February 14, 2013 at 4:50 pm | |

    I don’t mean that killing students is typical, but the notion that the Japanese authorities would be deferential to Zen teachers acting badly, and giving them all the benefit of the doubt.

    Janwillem van de Wetering seems to be a very credible source, with much experience as a Zen practitioner, and a policeman himself in Amsterdam. I would assume he wouldn’t write about the story if it had no basis in reality.

    I think it goes to something in the Japanese character that is deferential to authorities of any kind, and which became a big part of the Zen tradition.

    Also, is hitting students with sticks uncommon or atypical in Japan? Or is that a fading practice? It seems designed to instill automatic obedience, and to dissuade students from voicing dissent. I’m sure it varies from teaching to teacher, but it does seem to be a significant part of the tradition.

    1. Gregory Wonderwheel
      Gregory Wonderwheel February 16, 2013 at 10:37 am | |

      The issue is not whether this one story happened. The issue was the claim that many Zen teachers kill many of their students. We know that people who have wealth and power of many kinds can get away with murder. But when OJ Simpson gets away with it, we don’t say that many football players kill their wives and get away with it.

  14. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote February 14, 2013 at 6:59 pm | |

    I know that Kobun was the first head of practice at Eiheiji to ask for and receive permission not to use the stick on novices. Apparently there was a long tradition of hazing novices with the stick at Eiheiji.

    Burns’ “Prohibition” was fascinating to me for documenting the fact that prior to prohibition, the American bar scene was a good old boys club. That’s part of what drove the women to follow up on their suffrage victory with a push for prohibition. This was the first time that modern non-profit fund-raising was employed for political purposes, and the leverage obtained from having 10% of the electorate committed to vote on the basis of one issue was used to strong-arm candidates and get the amendment through.

    As prohibition continued, the bar scene became mixed; the women-folk of America were exploring not only the power of the vote but a new acceptance of sex outside of marriage, and of sharing illicit intoxication. The Mafia learned how to run an organized crime syndicate in the U.S.A., and prohibition was voted out overwhelmingly.

    Buddhism, Chan, and Zen were primarily male institutions for milennia. Now we have something new, especially in this country, and we have a lot of teachers from Japan who have a hard time knowing how to behave in mixed company. There’s a freedom here, that runs counter to the master-disciple tradition of Zen, a respect for science and the for the explanation of relationships through science that can change our lives (for better or worse!).

    that’s why we’re here, on Brad’s blog, conversing with the air ( polly want a cracker?- awrk!)

  15. hrtbeat7
    hrtbeat7 February 14, 2013 at 8:01 pm | |

    MArk, you wrote: “…we have a lot of teachers from Japan who have a hard time knowing how to behave in mixed company.”

    Yes, which is proof that the nature of their so-called enlightenment is totally provisional, they are not flexible and adaptive when encountering unfamiliar situations, and so fall back on habitual conditioned responses to arising phenomena (usually based on immature emotional development endemic to their clerical culture).

    Their realization is essentially worthless, and whatever contributions they make to Dharma basically amount to cautionary tales, for those who are not entranced by the myths accompanying these poseurs, and can see through the propaganda of religious fairy tales.

    This is not only so for the Zen frauds, but also the Tibetan grifters and Hindu tricksters. We have enough home-grown phonies, we need not import more.

    1. Muddy Elephant
      Muddy Elephant February 17, 2013 at 3:35 am | |

      Provisional enlightenment. Interesting.

      Think you might really be on to something hrtbeat7

  16. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi February 14, 2013 at 8:30 pm | |

    I don’t think that some people being frauds or emotionally undeveloped in a tradition, means that all are, or that the tradition has no mature individuals in it. I think it’s clear that some do.

    But I do think it’s important to see what does actually produce human and spiritual maturity, and what doesn’t, and separate the wheat from the chaff, and grow the wheat, rather than the chaff. That’s why I ask the question. Not to stomp on the whole of any tradition, but to discriminate within it.

    I would think, for example, that Sasaki is a sign that there are some very good things in Zen, but also some things that are sorely lacking. I’d like to know which is which in both cases.

    1. hrtbeat7
      hrtbeat7 February 14, 2013 at 9:19 pm | |

      BY wrote: “I don’t think that some people being frauds or emotionally undeveloped in a tradition, means that all are, or that the tradition has no mature individuals in it. I think it’s clear that some do. ”

      You are right — there are always a few exceptions to the rule, although the rule in this case seems to be that the few exceptions are getting fewer and fewer, the closer one looks.

      “But I do think it’s important to see what does actually produce human and spiritual maturity, and what doesn’t ….”

      Perhaps we are looking in the wrong direction by expecting human and spiritual maturity to be produced by some external system in the first place.

      “I would think, for example, that Sasaki is a sign that there are some very good things in Zen, but also some things that are sorely lacking. I’d like to know which is which in both cases.”

      Whatever is good, is not in Zen, it is in us, and likewise whatever is perceived as not good is not Zen, it is also us. In the scheme of things, Zen is merely a temporary game we may choose to engage, based on certain causes and conditions. The game is not what matters. Discovering the true nature of the player is. From what I have observed, Zen practice (at least in its current incarnation) is more of an obscuration than a skillful means in that respect. I am sorry to say it, but in my estimation, that is the reality.

      As for Sasaki, he is simply more proof that my estimation is accurate.

      1. Gregory Wonderwheel
        Gregory Wonderwheel February 16, 2013 at 10:52 am | |

        “Whatever is good, is not in Zen, it is in us, and likewise whatever is perceived as not good is not Zen, it is also us. In the scheme of things, Zen is merely a temporary game we may choose to engage, based on certain causes and conditions. The game is not what matters. Discovering the true nature of the player is. From what I have observed, Zen practice (at least in its current incarnation) is more of an obscuration than a skillful means in that respect. I am sorry to say it, but in my estimation, that is the reality.”

        It is all so complicated (as complicated as predicitng the weather or mapping the genome) and we would like to make it simple.

        We use words like “Zen” and mean different things. In my view, to say, “Whatever is good and bad is not Zen” is true, in the sense that Zen is not the good and bad in us but about seeing how our mind discrimintes good and bad as activities. It is our own mind that perceives the “good” and the “not good” so in that sense the “good” and the “not good” are in us because what the mind perceives as “us” and “not us” is also us. As I use the term, Zen is not merely a “temporary game” we can choose to engage in, because Zen is us and we have no choice but to engage in it. So I agree with hrtbeat7 that when we objectify Zen as something external, then it becomes something that we fool ourselves with. But if we know that Zen is identical with discovering our true nature, then Zen is discovering our true nature, nothing more or less.

  17. SoF
    SoF February 14, 2013 at 8:56 pm | |

    It wasn’t the subject matter that was new, it was the Juxtaposition of an errant monk with the “Pope Resigns” article in the NT Times that I found interesting. On the Catholic side, they mention ‘child abuse’ rather than the s*xual exploitation of children or the s*xual abuse of children by the church fathers.

    I felt the timing of the Sasaki article was a ‘fogging’ strategy – as if “Well, they do it too!” (which is no defense).

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/12/world/europe/pope-benedict-xvi-says-he-will-retire.html

  18. HarryB
    HarryB February 14, 2013 at 9:03 pm | |

    “Again, no samurai was ever taught those two things together. Yes, the mind that transcends karma was taught, but the idea of abusing someone was also taught as karma producing. When people don’t “get” the teaching, and they take what they want and leave the rest behind, it is not necessarily the fault of the teaching. The samurai model of transcending was about two samurai meeting each other on the field of battle, not about a samurai killing a poet or a farmer for feeling insulted by something that was said and taken as an insult. But unfortunately there were way too many samaurai who used meditation to enhance skill without using the Buddha Dharma to manage their behavior. .”

    Hi Gregory,

    You may be right there, but I’m not at all convinced that psycho-Zen wasn’t consciously propagated politically at various times; just as the same sort of notion was commandeered to produce the goods for the Emperor in the good old days of Glorious Empire. We’ve all read of the wonderfully murky world of Zen patronage and courtly intrigue… it’s not like ‘the teachings’ continued entirely in some sort of remote bubble aloof from where the bling was at.

    At any rate, I think that spurious notion existed, and I think it still exists in its ways in a continuity.

    Regards,

    Harry.

    1. Gregory Wonderwheel
      Gregory Wonderwheel February 16, 2013 at 10:59 am | |

      “I’m not at all convinced that psycho-Zen wasn’t consciously propagated politically at various times; just as the same sort of notion was commandeered to produce the goods for the Emperor in the good old days of Glorious Empire. ”

      Hi Harry, I agree 100% when it comes to your fun terminology of “psycho-Zen” or what I might call psuedo Zen. Andy Ferguson has been making this point in relation to his Bodhidharma studies saying that the issue of separation of Church and State is the problem where Zen gets co-opted by the state and used in the most perverted manner. I recommend Andy’s newest book “Tracking Bodhidharma” for seeing his analysis of “Imperial Zen” as “court going” Zen instead of “home leaving” Zen. Andy also has a talk that touches on this subject given in 2009 at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center when he was writing the book. Available here http://www.sfzc.org/zc/display.asp?catid=1,10&pageid=1951

  19. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi February 14, 2013 at 9:29 pm | |

    hrtbeat7,

    “Perhaps we are looking in the wrong direction by expecting human and spiritual maturity to be produced by some external system in the first place.”

    That’s not the direction I’m looking in. I’m looking at the kinds of practices and approach that actually do produce moral and spiritual transformations in people. Of course it comes from within, but that too is just a magical explanation if one doesn’t cultivate the process through intentional practice. And these traditions have ways of doing just that, which can be taught and passed on. It’s not as if that never happens. I don’t have access to numbers to say how often that happens, but it does happen, and then it doesn’t happen. Since these traditions aren’t going away any time soon, despite your cynical attitude, it might be best to look to how they can be purified and made useful, rather than just say they have no value and put a pox on all their houses.

  20. hrtbeat7
    hrtbeat7 February 14, 2013 at 9:47 pm | |

    BY wrote: “I’m looking at the kinds of practices and approach that actually do produce moral and spiritual transformations in people.”

    This is the root of the delusion, imho — expecting some system to change us.

    And yes, there are people within all traditions who do seem to undergo a positive transformation, but is that due to the system, or some other factor?

    “Since these traditions aren’t going away any time soon, despite your cynical attitude, it might be best to look to how they can be purified and made useful, rather than just say they have no value and put a pox on all their houses.”

    No, they are not going away anytime soon, even despite my attitude. Humans are herd animals, and are always seeking to be led by some charismatic character or some hopeful, promising system, and that is not likely to change at this stage of our evolution. It is also why we will see no end to the poseurs and manipulators, beause it is a symbiotic effort — the the two need each other.

    As for purifying the system, well . . . best to clean up one’s own house (life) first, and the system will take care of itself, or it won’t, but in either case, that is not really our concern. In fact, concern over the fate of any system is more of a distraction and indeed an avoidance of the truly transformative work (imho).

    1. Andy
      Andy February 15, 2013 at 6:06 am | |

      heartbeat7

      Would you include zazen as in “the delusion, imho — expecting some system to change us.”?

    2. Gregory Wonderwheel
      Gregory Wonderwheel February 16, 2013 at 11:12 am | |

      hrtbeat7 wrote: “This is the root of the delusion, imho — expecting some system to change us.”
      Yes, but…. The expectation that there is anything that can be called an “external system” or that we need some kind of “change” are also obstacles. “Change” is a two-edged sword, a seven-headed hydra, and several other tasty metaphores.

      hrtbeat 7 wrote: “And yes, there are people within all traditions who do seem to undergo a positive transformation, but is that due to the system, or some other factor?”

      Transformation is always due to the interaction of doubt, faith, and determined vow.

      hrtbeat7 wrote: “Humans are herd animals, and are always seeking to be led by some charismatic character or some hopeful, promising system, and that is not likely to change at this stage of our evolution.”

      This is a very important observation. Perhaps we should change the name “home leaver” to “herd leaver” becasue that is actually the fact of what Siddartha Gotama was doing in his sojourn to the Bo Tree. First he left home, then he found himself in the herd of sramanas following the charismatic alpha males of the several bands. After following several of these band or pack leaders, Siddharta determined that he had to leave the herd altogether. It is a great irony that he then returned to the herd to become another alpha leader. But that is how the archetype of the world-conquering hero goes along the way.

  21. buddy
    buddy February 14, 2013 at 10:39 pm | |

    @hrtbeat7 ‘You are right — there are always a few exceptions to the rule, although the rule in this case seems to be that the few exceptions are getting fewer and fewer, the closer one looks.’ ‘From what I have observed, Zen practice (at least in its current incarnation) is more of an obscuration than a skillful means in that respect. I am sorry to say it, but in my estimation, that is the reality. As for Sasaki, he is simply more proof that my estimation is accurate.’

    Okay, since Sasaki is your latest proof, let’s narrow the discussion on what is so wrong with zen just to sexual misconduct. As far as I know, we have 4 teachers on the Soto side- Richard Baker, Maezumi, Genpo, and Katagiri- who engaged in troublesome consensual sex with their students. On the Rinzai side we have Shimano and Sasaki, accused of engaging in both consensual and non-consensual sex with their students. From the Kwan Um school we have Sueng Sahn having consensual sex with his students. Please let me know if I’m missing out any zen sex scandals here, but that’s 7 teachers over the course of some 50 years (only 2 of whom are accused of criminal activity). Given that there are over a hundred zen teachers in the U.S. alone today (registered with the AZTA), plus however many more in Japan, Europe and elsewhere, plus all those already dead with no legacy of abuse, that hardly seems like a ratio to condemn the practice as a complete moral and spiritual failure.

  22. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel February 15, 2013 at 3:23 am | |

    Dancing Mountain wrote:

    “(The fact that someone was called a cunt just goes to show people think nothing of using female genitalia as an insult)”
    I did, but you tend to forget that I added that her husband was a prick. If people get restricted to their genitalia, then they’re no longer people, and that’s the true meaning of such insults. And that’s exactly how I felt about their senseless debasing and slandering of someone else, based on a partial reading of what they had written.

    As for sexual abuse, I can well relate (since he is now long dead) how shocked my father was when, as a boy, he was given an unwelcome kiss by a Catholic priest in confession. For my part, when I was a boy, I was constantly aware and on my guard whenever I was in company of a priest, and much before I had learned about that episode. I knew well enough not to trust them.

    We have to realise also that males are in no way immune from sexual abuse, and that, for too many centuries, (and still in some countries) none could complain because of the shame associated with it.
    It is essentially the growing equality between men and women which has contributed to allow men to admit of having been abused.

    Just to state how I’m in no way tolerant how such behaviour. But it remains important not to blindly accuse Brad of being lenient on the subject just because of a fast and superficial reading of his words.

  23. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi February 15, 2013 at 4:18 am | |

    hrtbeat7,

    “As for purifying the system, well . . . best to clean up one’s own house (life) first, and the system will take care of itself, or it won’t, but in either case, that is not really our concern. ”

    You’re creating a tautology. You say that there’s no system for spiritual growth and maturity, other than “cleaning up one’s own house”. But most systems are just that, means for “cleaning up one’s own house”. When one actually goes about “cleaning up one’s own house”, what does one do? Any way you answer that question, could be called a “system”, which you just said doesn’t exist.

    Take Pantanjali’s system of Yoga. It’s very much a means for “cleaning up one’s own house”. As are most traditional paths of one kind or another. As are most new age paths. As is any form of spiritual practice one engages, even entirely on one’s own. So what exactly is the complaint?

    Traditions exist, at least in part, because there are intelligent ways to go about “cleaning up one’s house”, and these get passed on, taught by those who have used them effectively, and learned by those who want to do just that. Must everyone re-invent the wheel from scratch? Must each child refuse to learn the English language and invent their own? Shared systems seem to have a lot of value. They can also be abused, and can drift off course, and be exploited for other purposes. But whatever it is we do, it’s still a system of some kind, so it doesn’t seem to be a viable option to pretend we can have none at all.

    So I’m just not getting what your point is, and suspecting you don’t really have one.

  24. boubi
    boubi February 15, 2013 at 6:15 am | |

    Hi Brad

    Talking about morality and Buddhism, i know we go back a lot.

    In the sutras from India (i suppose) there is a lot of talk against getting drunk and so on, following indian concepts of what is right or wrong.

    Then we get that patriarch (second?) that after giving the dharma transmission to his successor started to have a life of fun. Now i don’t give a damn thing if it is true or not (poepsa read here please) but what is important is that his behavior has been considered “right” by the Chan tradition.

    We don’t see such a behavior in indian Buddhism.

    Are the two two separate “things”, different Buddhism?

    Or is there a common core with a layer of “morality” on top, a layer that varies depending on civilisation/country.

    If so, it would seem to me that a consistent part of the sutras content is “relative”, how would you say …

    So which are the parts that are “essential” ?

    Because it would seem to me that his behavior would have been heavily condemned by the early budhists

    ——–

    Desclaimer
    This comment has nothing to do with the subject of “sexual arasment” or similar.

  25. Noah
    Noah February 15, 2013 at 7:29 am | |

    I’d love for one of these great revered Buddhist Masters to address the mystery Brad referred to in one of his comments. Like, what the fuck was going on with Trungpa and Sasaki?

    I don’t mean to minimize the harm done to the victims and the responsibility therefor, which is taking up the majority of the conversation here, but I think this is really a separate issue. More fundamental to the question of our practice and this whole Buddhism/meditation thing is the question above. If someone as realized as Trungpa can’t tap into that wisdom to realize his actions are hurting other people, then what’s the point? Is it really wisdom at all, or are we all just conning ourselves?

    For my money, there are few if any people who spit dharma more directly and clearly than Trungpa. And yet…. There he was.

    We can explain his actions by saying it was “Crazy Wisdom”, unorthodox methods to get students to transcend their personal bs.

    Or we can explain his actions by saying that realization does not mean perfection in action (Brad’s take).

    Neither of these are all that appealing to me, for I think obvious reasons. But let’s just say that if after all these years Thich Nhat Hanh is accused of a similar scandal, well then how are we supposed to buy into that whole “with prajna, you see that hurting other people is just hurting yourself” line?

    I think that this is an issue that really needs to be explained by, well, someone. Because it results in a tremendous crisis for people. And I think it SHOULD. And the fact that in all these years, no one has yet stepped forward with a real explanation… well, if we can step out of our little Buddhist world for a minute, it makes the whole endeavor look kind of ridiculous. Someone please tell me the difference between Trungpa and Sasaki on the one hand and Adi Da and David Koresh on the other, other than a matter of scale? We’d like to say the former have real wisdom. But I think the followers of the latter might say the same.

    1. Gregory Wonderwheel
      Gregory Wonderwheel February 16, 2013 at 11:30 am | |

      Noah wrote: “For my money, there are few if any people who spit dharma more directly and clearly than Trungpa. And yet…. There he was.
      We can explain his actions by saying it was “Crazy Wisdom”, unorthodox methods to get students to transcend their personal bs.
      Or we can explain his actions by saying that realization does not mean perfection in action (Brad’s take).”

      I think the “crazy wisdom” take is a dodge of lazy thinking. I agree with the take that there are at least two kinds of wisdom, the wisdom of perceiving and the wisdom of acting. Somethimes they are equally realized and sometimes not. Do we expect a physicist to act like a saint? Many scientists engaged in the creation of the atomic bombs that to me are inherenlty immoral in their use. Their immorality in building the bomb does not lessen their knowledge. Why can’t a Trungpa or a Sasaki be seen as saying “do as I say, not as I do”? It doesn’t mean that they are justifying their own behavior, and in fact it means they know there is no justification for their behavior. Why is it so hard to see that someone with insight into the nature of reality can’t perform miracles of the kind that our wishful thinking demands?

      Noah wrote: “Someone please tell me the difference between Trungpa and Sasaki on the one hand and Adi Da and David Koresh on the other, other than a matter of scale? ”

      Well, to me there is a great difference that is just plain obvious when one listens to what they taught and how they taught it.

    2. Muddy Elephant
      Muddy Elephant February 17, 2013 at 3:50 am | |

      Great questions Noah except for “please tell me”

      Abandon that type of question and you will find the answers.

      1. Muddy Elephant
        Muddy Elephant February 17, 2013 at 3:56 am | |

        meaning: find the answers for yourself, don’t allow someone else to find the for you

  26. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel February 15, 2013 at 7:49 am | |

    I don’t know about this. I know, from what some people tell me that my counsel is often one of wisdom, and that my advise can really help people in need.
    But I’m not a wise man, I don’t see myself as one, and, although I try everyday to get a little bit nearer to that, I don’t think I’ll ever truly have real wisdom.
    Which is to say that, if mishap had me surrounded with worshippers that were to, every day, tell me how great, how wise I am, and try and tap into that outflowing well of wisdom, who knows what idiocy I might let myself do (apart from beating them up for annoying me).

    I just remember what was the answer Nishijima gave to someone who asked him what Zazen had done for him and he replied, “I have gotten a little bit better.”

  27. gniz
    gniz February 15, 2013 at 8:01 am | |

    To the question of what we are supposed to do with teachers who appear just as dysfunctional as anybody else and how do we deal with that seeming contradiction:

    I think the obvious point is that it really doesn’t matter what any teacher does. What matters is what each individual does or does not get out of their own practice.

    From my POV, any form of practice is about coming to an understanding of what I am and what is causing all of this (everything in my experience) to take place.

    Nobody can do it for me and nobody else really matters. If some teacher is having sex somewhere, it’s not for me to say what that means about that person’s understanding. Of course, I don’t think much of it and am not impressed by such a person’s “realization.” But ultimately, it means nothing–less than nothing to me.

    If it was my teacher, perhaps I’d get a new one. Other than that, it’s simply on me to find my own way. There are methods, sure, but once I begin to understand that this is a process for me and that the journey can only ever be mine–I don’t see how what anybody else does on their journey pertains to me.

    I think we want to have someone else do the job for us, allowing us to then ride their coattails. Those coattails are imaginary. Nobody got even a whiff of Sazaki’s enlightenment, if he had any to give. Nobody around Thich Nhat Hahn has either.

    But nobody likes to hear that, because ultimately the religious game is just that–a game for most people. The ones who truly want to understand will do whatever it takes to understand, regardless of teachers or fakes or con artists.

  28. hrtbeat7
    hrtbeat7 February 15, 2013 at 8:11 am | |

    Andy asked: “Would you include zazen as in “the delusion, imho — expecting some system to change us.”?”

    Yes, if you are expecting zazen to change you, you have already misunderstood.

    1. floating_abu
      floating_abu February 20, 2013 at 6:35 am | |

      What a pile of horse dung, hrtbeat7, with respect in this case…
      Zazen works despite your expectations, that is its power and efficacy.
      After years of “spiritual practice” all you can do is counsel that even methods such as zazen are of no power?
      I have found great power and transformation through the practices, to say they are the point is not right, but neither is your current approach of just telling people to “chill out dude” and “rely on yourself” If it were that simple, we wouldn’t have the world problems that we do, no?

  29. hrtbeat7
    hrtbeat7 February 15, 2013 at 8:15 am | |

    Buddy wrote: “Given that there are over a hundred zen teachers in the U.S. alone today (registered with the AZTA), plus however many more in Japan, Europe and elsewhere, plus all those already dead with no legacy of abuse, that hardly seems like a ratio to condemn the practice as a complete moral and spiritual failure.”

    I am not condemning the practice, Buddy. Any practice may have some benefit, even if it is to simply bring one to the realization that they have been barking up the wrong tree.

  30. hrtbeat7
    hrtbeat7 February 15, 2013 at 8:38 am | |

    BY wrote: “So I’m just not getting what your point is…”

    Just live, and stop putting another head on the one you’ve already got.

    I am grateful to all my teachers, and that certainly includes Sasaki Roshi, but what I discovered was that all the strategies, schemes, and methods had to be relinquished, because it was all a superimposition, and that only by abandoning all the safety and security of those systems and plunging into the unknown was any real freedom possible.

    1. floating_abu
      floating_abu February 20, 2013 at 6:37 am | |

      And did not your practice, and some teachers who may or may not have included Sasaki, help you towards said realisation? Your stance is odd to say the least. Surely one can say this is what I learnt through the practice and teachers, but to have used and now relinquished said raft (for example) and to stand on the shore telling people the raft is useless…well (?)

      This is why the Buddha at least used skilful means.

  31. Fred
    Fred February 15, 2013 at 8:39 am | |

    “Someone please tell me the difference between Trungpa and Sasaki on the one hand and Adi Da and David Koresh on the other, other than a matter of scale? We’d like to say the former have real wisdom. But I think the followers of the latter might say the same.”

    BY might find the right words to respond to this, but not necessarily words
    relating to where you are, if you are, or to your point of view, if you have a point
    of view.

  32. NoSexyZen
    NoSexyZen February 15, 2013 at 8:54 am | |

    Just as an aside on the whole “Sweeping Zen” crap – let’s remember what this is… Adam is just some guy who used to waste his time playing on Second Life until he got an idea for a blog, and talked other people into writing content for him. Then it seems he got the nifty idea that he liked playing on the web more than finishing his associate’s degree, and started begging people for cash to let him do that.

    I suppose he considers himself “Buddhist,” but as far as anyone knows, he doesn’t “practice zen,” (he says his playing around online is his “practice” – whatever), he doesn’t have a sangha, a teacher, or any real understanding of the various traditions and schools that he spouts off about on his “blog.” He’s some random lazy guy that a few Zen folks who wanted a venue decided to take advantage of. As has been pointed out elsewhere, he regularly displays some serious mental and emotional instability… which leaves a lot of people suspecting that it’s no coincidence that the primary person using him is a retired shrink (who better to spot the vulnerable and exploit?).

    And unlike Brad, Adam most certainly *does* censor his online content – both comments and articles seem to magically “disappear” when Adam goes too far down his “conspiracy” rabbit hole (Brad’s out to get him, doncha know?) – which is another example of his/sweeping zen’s endorsement of Grace’s and her husband’s articles and comments… they’re there because he *wants* them there.

    1. Adam Tebbe
      Adam Tebbe February 15, 2013 at 9:04 am | |

      Yes David, I have censored you, and with good reason. You can post under different names and pretend to be someone else, but you’re tone always gives you away, Stone Mirror. Yes, I don’t allow you to post on my website. I’ve already explained why several times. I know you don’t know me at all, but obviously continue believing that you do. You’re just a troll who enjoys personally attacking people, ie. I have no life, I was pursuing an associates degree (yeah, you wanted that to be a dig, too). I regularly display “serious mental and emotional instability.”

      I honestly think it excites you to attack and insult people, like it’s some cheap thrill for you. I don’t get it myself, as that’s not how I operate. But, have at it man.

      1. NoSexyZen
        NoSexyZen February 15, 2013 at 9:07 am | |

        Sorry Adam, I’m not “David” – though that’s something I forgot… your habit of accusing anyone who disagrees with or criticizes you of being [insert name of your enemy-du-jour] (or at least working for them).

        Whatev’s dude.

        1. Adam Tebbe
          Adam Tebbe February 15, 2013 at 9:34 am | |

          Well, criticize me on something with some legitimacy to it, then. That’s all David ever did was come of as some nasty, angry man all the time. I’m open to criticism, but you didn’t criticize me here, let alone constructively. You just threw out a ton of personal attacks. What exactly am I supposed to take away from it?

          Oh, you’re right! I had no life because I used Second Life. Oh, right again! I started a “blog” that’s just “crap.” Aha, yes, right again, I beg for money and am lazy, not getting that silly associate’s degree! By the way, you’re mentally and emotionally unstable! Ah, thank you very much, this person who knows me so well! Assessment accepted.

          Is this the best you can do? Insult people? You didn’t “disagree” with me, you were just nasty and being an asshole. :-)

    2. Gregory Wonderwheel
      Gregory Wonderwheel February 16, 2013 at 11:35 am | |

      NoSexyZen, harsh, but funny in the Don Rickles lineage of comedy. I do disagree with calling Adam “lazy.”

    3. floating_abu
      floating_abu February 20, 2013 at 6:43 am | |

      Be careful there now NoSexyZen, you know how Adam likes to play it.

      I also agree with GW that Adam doesn’t appear lazy in the sense of his editorial fervor, in fact I suspect he spends a lot of time on the WWW along with his co-supporters so please be more mindful in future!

  33. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote February 15, 2013 at 9:00 am | |

    There was a monk who belonged to the order in the time of Gautama, and he decided to quit the order. He went back to his village, and he was a known drunkard there. When he died, Ananda asked Gautama about his status; Gautama affirmed him as a once-returner or a non-returner, which meant that the guy was essentially established in the path. Ananda was quite taken aback, since intoxicants were strictly forbidden and the things that were forbidden were usually equated with no possibility of being on the path.

    There is, in Sanyutta Nikaya V, in book X “Kindred Sayings About In-Breathing and Out-Breathing” (Pali Text Society pg 284) this exchange:

    “Now at the end of that half-month the Exalted One, on returning from his solitary life (three week retreat where he only wanted to see the attendant who brought his food), said to the venerable Ananda:

    ‘How is it, Ananda? The order of monks seems diminished.’

    ‘As to that, lord, the Exalted One spoke to the monks in divers ways on the subject of the unlovely, spoke in praise of the meditation on the unlovely. Then the monks, saying, “The Exalted One has (thus spoken)…” spent their time given to meditation on the unlovely in all its varied applications. As to this body, they worried about it, felt shame and loathing for it, and sought for a weapon to slay themselves. Nay, as many as ten monks did so in a single day. It were a good thing, lord, if the Exalted One would teach some other method, so that the order of monks might be established in gnosis.’”

    This is followed by Gautama’s sermon on the “intent concentration on in-breaths and out-breaths”, which he declares constitutes one setting up of the four fields of mindfulness, which he asserts was his practice before and after enlightenment, and which he declares to be a thing rewarding in and of itself, and a pleasant way of living too.

    The reason it is so difficult to verify what constitutes a positive, substantive contribution to the wisdom literature and practices of the world is that they all concern the induction of a hypnogogic state, a trance state, a hypnotic state that constitutes a heightened awareness of the senses and a relinquishment of the exercise of volition. I am working with the notion that proprioception informs equalibrioception and the sense of gravity in the relaxed movement of breath, and it’s just like the patter I used to use in self-hypnosis in high school; “becoming very relaxed breathing in, very relaxed breathing out, arms and legs getting heavy breathing in, arms and legs getting heavy breathing out…”. Difference now is that the hypnotist is a location in space (not mine), and the location continues to absorb feeling with no part of the body left out and enable the relaxed movement of breath, until “the hand just moves- it’s will-less (ishinashini)” (who said that!).

    Or the whole body, as in “zazen does zazen” or “zazen gets up and walks around”.

    Hypnogogic phenomena has been observed between sleeping and waking, as well as between waking and sleeping. I like to think an emphasis on waking up to reality is misleading.

    1. Gregory Wonderwheel
      Gregory Wonderwheel February 16, 2013 at 11:45 am | |

      Mark, thanks for that sutta on the suicides. I had not heard that one before. It is hilariious! It really goes to the difficulties that can arise when we think we understand the teaching of the Buddha Dharma.

  34. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote February 15, 2013 at 9:05 am | |

    ok, that’s not quite right; it’s just that it’s waking up, not being awake, just as it’s falling asleep, not being asleep.

    The location that is not mine, that’s my location in three dimensions but if you get right down to it, it’s not mine.

    1. Gregory Wonderwheel
      Gregory Wonderwheel February 16, 2013 at 11:46 am | |

      “that’s my location in three dimensions ”

      It that what they mean when they say “location, location, location”?

  35. Fred
    Fred February 15, 2013 at 9:40 am | |

    The hypnotic state is the one that comes after the unborn and the undead.

    Peeling layers to an empty core, there is no one to wake up.

  36. sri_barence
    sri_barence February 15, 2013 at 10:14 am | |

    I’ve seen some good honest discussion about this difficult topic on this blog, but there has also been a fair amount of attacking and defending of ego. This is an important issue, so I think it would be a good idea for us to do our best to leave our own egos out of the discussion.

    If I understand correctly, these are the questions we are trying to answer.

    1. Is it appropriate for someone in the position of “teacher” to have sexual relations with someone who is in the position of “student?”
    2. Is it appropriate for sexual contact to occur during private interviews (dokusan/sanzen)?
    3. If some kind of non-consensual sexual contact occurs, what is the proper way to handle that kind of thing? (I think it is obvious that rape should be treated as a crime, and should be reported to the authorities. I’m not talking about that.)
    4. What if the contact is consensual at the time, but later one of the parties feels that it was improper or harmful? What if the person just feels uncomfortable with the memory of the experience?
    5. How should the sangha deal with teachers who consistently behave in abusive or otherwise harmful ways? How should the teacher community deal with such behavior by members of that community?
    6. What sort of relationships should be considered off-limits between “teachers” and “students?

    I think these are very complex questions. I think we should continue to talk about these things loudly and publicly within our sanghas, and try to find a way to practice that is safe and trustworthy, but also alive and dynamic. Zen shouldn’t be too safe.

    Some Christian preachers once came to The Farm and engaged Stephen Gaskin in a lively debate. It got to be quite heated, and some people were becoming upset. At that time one of the preachers stood up and said, “But we want to keep on talking, don’t we?” I think we should all be like that man. Let’s keep on talking.

    1. Gregory Wonderwheel
      Gregory Wonderwheel February 16, 2013 at 11:49 am | |

      “This is an important issue, so I think it would be a good idea for us to do our best to leave our own egos out of the discussion.”

      Too late! You already said “I think”. And then followed it up with an “I understand” and three more “I think”.

  37. Wedged
    Wedged February 15, 2013 at 11:10 am | |

    “boring old Tricycle and Shambhala Sun…”

    hahaha sweet…

  38. dejahu
    dejahu February 15, 2013 at 12:34 pm | |

    From an observers perspective, the above article seems very defensive. Isn’t that the opportunity in all this? I don’t need to point out the obvious, but surely being identified as ‘A Buddhist’ is the biggest irony. In the article is says, ‘we Buddhists, we americans’ does the practitioner actually believe they are a Buddhist and an American?

    Surely Identification creates defensiveness = suffering. Im no Buddhist, but I get what the Buddha said, and he wasn’t a Buddhist. So why become a Buddhist?

    Surely the opportunity is to move beyond all labels, beyond gurus, masters, experts, they always let you down in the end?

    Theres seems to be some clique, some tribalism amongst the idea, we buddhists, it really is insane if you see through the whole paradox. As soon as one sets up the belief in a me in here and someone better out there, your always gonna get screwed, literally…..do these teachers actually rape people, or does the person sleep with the person out of their own choice, and if so when does one take responsibility for ones own projections and give up the wounded story of a victim? Because the guru game is nearly always based on a victim, not good enough, projection. As soon as you see through the utter illusion of such projection, the games over, there is no guru, yet everything from a blade of grass blowing in the winter sky, a shimmer of sunlight on the ocean, the beating heart, everything is the guru, even the rampant zen master, but its not personal…

    anyway, what do i know, im not an american buddhist…..

    :)

    1. Gregory Wonderwheel
      Gregory Wonderwheel February 16, 2013 at 12:25 pm | |

      dejahu: “Surely Identification creates defensiveness = suffering. Im no Buddhist, but I get what the Buddha said, and he wasn’t a Buddhist. So why become a Buddhist?”

      So true when it comes to what happens in the English lanugage framing that occurs by use of the suffix “ist.”

      In Buddha’s day, when two sramanas met on the road, the common greeting was not “Hi, how are you?” but “Whose Dharma do you follow?” And the response would be something like “I follow the Dharma of Alara Kalama” or “I follow the Dharma of Udaka Ramaputtra” which would have been the Buddha’s response while he was following them as teachers. Latter sramana’s who had joined the order of bhikkshus would say “I follow the Dharma of the Buddha” or “the Buddha Dharma.” Of course the Buddha himself would not say “I follow the Buddha’s Dharma” but simply “I follow the Dharma.” And at the end of his life he did not say that people should follow the Buddha Dharma, but simply that we should follow the Dharma. But since it is difficult for us to stand on our own two feet and assert the Dharma on the basis of our own understanding, we we feel we have to assert it in reference to the Buddha to have some authority or reference point. I don’t think that is bad, because without the reference point we can get really hopelessly tangled up, as we know by seeing how entangled we can get even with the reference point.

      But the identity thingy comes up when we add to “I follow the Buddha Dharma” the self-image of “I’m a Buddhist.” which turns what is essentially an adjective about our practice into a noun as a reified objectification of entity.

  39. kigen01
    kigen01 February 15, 2013 at 12:42 pm | |

    Noah wrote:

    “For my money, there are few if any people who spit dharma more directly and clearly than Trungpa. And yet…. There he was.
    We can explain his actions by saying it was “Crazy Wisdom”, unorthodox methods to get students to transcend their personal bs.
    Or we can explain his actions by saying that realization does not mean perfection in action (Brad’s take).
    Neither of these are all that appealing to me, for I think obvious reasons. But let’s just say that if after all these years Thich Nhat Hanh is accused of a similar scandal, well then how are we supposed to buy into that whole “with prajna, you see that hurting other people is just hurting yourself” line?”

    All I learned from Sasaki Roshi was to be able to find God in the midst of both fortunate and unfortunate circumstances. IMHO, this precious gift is the only thing any Great Teacher can teach…and the only thing really worth learning from anyone at all.

  40. Fred
    Fred February 15, 2013 at 12:52 pm | |

    Finding God or finding that you are God?

  41. kigen01
    kigen01 February 15, 2013 at 1:06 pm | |

    I was taught that to truly find God, you must lose both yourself and God.

    1. floating_abu
      floating_abu February 20, 2013 at 6:45 am | |

      Don’t fake it though or you’ll only see yourself right?
      That’s mastery for you, you can’t fake genuine mastery. And thank God for that.

  42. buddy
    buddy February 15, 2013 at 2:02 pm | |

    “What if the contact is consensual at the time, but later one of the parties feels that it was improper or harmful? What if the person just feels uncomfortable with the memory of the experience?

    This is extremely complicated and may be very much related to the topic at hand (in some but definitely not all of the cases).”

    Add to that male privilege checklist “The ability to believe that falsely accusing a man of sexual assault, and all of the traumatic experiences that being brave enough to do so brings upon the victim, is somehow desirable to women.”

    Since Brad is being deliberately vague, and ALB even more deliberatley ideological, I’d like to relate #4 to a very specific example (which indeed may be teh one sri_barance was referencing).

    A former inji of Sasaki wrote a couple letters to Sweeping Zen about her experience of about 30 years ago. The old man soon began groping her (leading to her orgasms, she goes out of her way to mention), invitations to join him in his bed in the morning (which she accepts) and other sexual situations (at one point she refers to him as her lover). At no point does he promise any benefits, spiritual or otherwise, from these liasons (although she says she thought on her own accord, ‘If you fuck a rich man, you get money, if you fuck a politically powerful man, you get some kind of power…what happens if you fuck an enlightened man?’). When she eventually tells him to stop his advances he presents no punishments or threats. Now, after other women have come forward, she is calling him an ‘irresponsible and probably sociopathic predator’. The main source of her anger seems to be that she wasn’t the only one. “Silly me, I thought I was special…If anyone had warned me, my response would have been completely different.’ Discuss.

    1. floating_abu
      floating_abu February 20, 2013 at 6:46 am | |

      Yes I saw that one, I thought it was very sad that she only decided she was abused after she realised she was not the only one…this whole saga makes more than one woman recast their experience in the light of “abuse”, I suspect.

  43. Fred
    Fred February 15, 2013 at 2:03 pm | |

    And did you realize no self and no God?

  44. kigen01
    kigen01 February 15, 2013 at 2:18 pm | |

    My teacher taught me that no matter what we realize “it’s never enough”.

  45. HarryB
    HarryB February 15, 2013 at 2:24 pm | |

    Good for him/her!

    There’s never a single state to get stuck in.

    Regards,

    H.

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