July 30, 2014

Joshu Sasaki Roshi, Rinzai Zen Master, Dies at 107

The influential teacher leaves a mixed legacy.

Mark Oppenheimer

On Sunday, Joshu Sasaki Roshi, a Rinzai Zen Buddhist who came to the United States in 1962 and went on to become one of the country’s most influential, if not most controversial, Zen teachers, died at Cedars-Sinai medical center in Los Angeles. He was 107 years old.

Although said to have no dharma heirs, Joshu Roshi had legions of followers who founded about 30 Zen centers, from Seattle to Oslo, Vancouver to Berlin, some of which later closed. He led a large center in Los Angeles and two training centers in the Southwest, one in New Mexico and one at Mount Baldy, in the mountains east of Los Angeles. The poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen lived at Mount Baldy in the 1990s, lending his teacher a semimythic status among spiritually inclined rock fans.

It’s safe to say that nobody in the last century has, directly or indirectly, led more people to Rinzai Zen teachings than this ancient teacher, born in imperial Japan and made a roshi when the memory of Hiroshima was but two years in the past.

Yet if Joshu Roshi was extraordinary in his reach, he was depressingly common in what we might call his grasp. As I reported in The New York Times last year—outing what had long been common knowledge in the Zen Buddhist world—Joshu Roshi had for decades groped and harassed female students, often quite violently. Although the board of one center received letters about his conduct as early as 1991, it was not until one of his former monks, Eshu Martin, posted an open letter on SweepingZen.com in 2012, that the board took action. An independent “witnessing council” of Zen teachers also initiated an investigation, publishing a report last year that described incidents like “Sasaki asking women to show him their breasts, as part of ‘answering’ a koan”— a Zen riddle—“or to demonstrate ‘non-attachment.’” When women reported sexually assaultive behavior, they found the male monks unsympathetic. And when I reported on this story last year, after Joshu Roshi had largely retired from active teaching, a reservoir of sympathy for the man still remained.

Bob Mammoser, a resident monk at Rinzai-ji, told me that he had been aware of allegations against Joshu Roshi since the 1980s. And he didn’t seem to doubt them. “What’s important and is overlooked,” he told me, “is that, besides this aspect, Roshi was a commanding and inspiring figure using Buddhist practice to help thousands find more peace, clarity, and happiness in their own lives.” He said that with teachers “you get the person as a whole, good and bad, just like you marry somebody and you get their strengths and wonderful qualities as well as their weaknesses.”

Joshu Roshi’s behavior was all too typical of the early generation of Japanese teachers in America, who arrived just in time for the explosion of interest in Eastern religion. They often embodied the dark side of the sexual revolution that was also underway, taking license with students, who often felt pressured by their immediate culture to give way and who found little support when they complained.

In the 1960s, four major Zen teachers came to the United States from Japan: Shunryu Suzuki, Eido Shimano, Taizan Maezumi and Joshu Sasaki. Andy Afable, a former resident monk at a monastery founded by Eido Shimano Roshi, told me that three of the four—Maezumi and, more recently, Shimano and Sasaki—caused widely publicized sex scandals that brought great distress to their zendos and organizations. Even the one who was not tainted by scandal, Shunryu Suzuki, handed the San Francisco Zen Center off to Richard Baker, who became embroiled in scandal after it surfaced that Baker had had carried out affairs with several female members of his community.

Joshu Roshi’s impropriety with many of his female followers—and the collusive secrecy of his male followers—should not be forgotten. But it would be wrong to reduce the man to just this. He did have a grand side. “He’s both the friend and the enemy,” Leonard Cohen said of Joshu Roshi in the film Leonard Cohen: Spring 1996.

He is just what he is. And of course he’s going to be an enemy to your self-indulgence, an enemy to your laziness, he’s going to be a friend to your effort. . . . He’s going to be all the things that he has to be to turn you away from depending on him. And finally you just say: This guy is absolutely true. He really loves me so much that I don’t need to depend on him.

Mark Oppenheimer writes for The New York Times and is author of the e-book The Zen Predator of the Upper East Side.

Image: Angelica Sarkisyan/Flickr

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wsking's picture

Regarding "Crazy Wisdom": This Vajrayana term does not exist in Zen, but it is well-known that a Zen master may do some pretty strange things to wake students up. Those acts can range from strange sayings, to strange behavior, to physical whacks and slaps. Such things are reserved for advanced students to point out the nature of awareness and mind, or catapult a student to a new level of insight.

Asking a student to "Show the breast" or "Grab the Breast" shows that the zen tradition originated with the Indian Mahasiddha tradition. This fact alone stands as validation for the yoga method. Babies know how to answer this koan every day! For the meditator the point is observing the mind and observing the flow of energy. That is the point of yoga practice.

One way to work with a man or woman at the beginning is to help the student get over a lack of awareness regarding an underlying sexual approach, attitude,or expectations regarding a relationship with a teacher. These are cultural assumptions of which the student may often be unaware. The quickest and fastest way to do that is to use repulsion and dislike. Once that is accomplished, then the work can begin. That clingy sticky quality of desire just hampers the work of a meditation master. Finding a way to point out that quality of mind to a student is not easy. Its very hard to get students to be able to see it in themselves and their attitudes. Our whole culture is geared toward exciting it and using it. These attitudes are especially strong in very young adults, but always present in everyone.

A Vajrayana master may take the opposite approach and use the desire, increase it, until the student can't help but notice it as an obstacle, then give it up, or exhaust it, or turn away from it in disgust, or just observe it as phenomenon, depending on their level of ability.

Of course, if you find a person an unsuitable student, then using repulsion and dislike is a good way to get them to leave, particularly if you would just prefer to work with men. If you know that your center might be harmful to a student, or the student out of sync with the personalities in the center, telling them to leave, asking them to leave, or behaving in such a way that they will leave, are all options on the table.

Then there are several other possibilities: the teacher is mentally ill, morally unethical, psychologically manipulated for political ends, a liar or just plain insulting. On the other hand, it may be the student who has any or all of those unfortunate qualities. In any case, the community must have safeguards in place, and make practice support and training available to all.

drleroi's picture

I was a minor student of Chogyam Trungpa. A lot of his actions (which I did not witness) were incomprehensible to me, as was his alcoholism. However, the little bit of time I spent in his presence completely changed my life, as did his writings. He was capable of imparting "Big Mind" very directly. I have wrestled for a good portion of my life with how his actions and those of the Vajra Regent, and the damage they caused others fit in with the Dharma. Like most of us, he was human, of mixed motives, purity and imperfection, wisdom and ignorance. It has not lessened my committment to the path, and perhaps served as a necessary instruction. Other teachers of mine, such as Kathar Khenpo have apparently led spotless lives. We have perhaps ignored the Tibetan admonishment that the best teacher lives two valleys away.

janetmartha's picture

Sorry, I'm a bit thick; what does that mean, the best teacher lives two valleys away? That we're never happy with the one we have? Or that it's really better to leave your own valley and find a teacher that's out of your comfort zone?

wsking's picture

It means, like another Tibetan saying, that if you live too close to the holy guru, you ( read ego) get burned/crisped by being too close to his power. And that if you stay too far away, you freeze to death. You have to find a pleasant balance between devotion, attendance, and a healthy amount of room to grow into your own realization. Therefore, two valleys away is a good distance. You can go to visit, make offerings, and stay for teachings, and then go home without getting involved in monastery politics, gossip, slander, sexual folderol, power plays, etc.

janetmartha's picture

Thank you! That's very useful!

Dominic Gomez's picture

OTOH "We're home – home! And this is my room – and you're all here – and I'm not going to leave here ever, ever again, because I love you all! And... oh, Auntie Em, there's no place like home!" ~ Dorothy

wsking's picture

Huh???? Click your heels! What?!

Dominic Gomez's picture

The Truth Is NOT Out There ( e.g. Sasaki, et al.) It's in here (tap your own heart).

wsking's picture


meetingbrook's picture

"Whole sight; or all the rest is desolation." (--John Fowles, in Daniel Martin)

meetingbrook's picture

"You did bad things."
"You hurt people."
"Well...what do you have to say? What do we do now?"
"Say what helps you. Do what helps you. Me? I'm dead."
"Thank you for this teaching."
You're welcome. It's the least I could do. If I could have done less, I would have. Probably should have."
"Goodbye hurting zen master."
"Good bye."

jcbaran's picture

And the official New York Times obit:


jcbaran's picture

A video about sexual objectification that is clearly appropriate for this discussion.

isafakir's picture

to forgive and forget sexual abuse exploitation and arrogance when that person refuses to acknowledge how wrong it is does nobody no favors. does not help nobody no how. everything is forgivable. but not forgettable. sexual abuse and exploitation is so much worse than taking a life.it poisons whole societies. it cause physical irreversible changes in the central nervous system.saying it was OK because the guy had good intentions is a disservice. it was not is not can not be OK.

He has apparently to all reports profoundly damaged the lives of god knows how many people. Nobody who has never been sexually assaulted and sexually exploited can literally never imagine the damage it does to the person and everyone that person touches. I find it beyond incredible, inexplicable, deeply offensive that still to this day there are people willing to go on record as enablers of this crime. Whatever else good and pure and wonderful and hokey dokey this reverend revered mr sazaki may have accomplished and i make no judgement there, saying it was OK that any of these individuals who have taken on the responsibility for other people's lives and used it for personal gain is OK is just plain wrong.

i don't mean to adjudicate facts i don't know but it is offensive to say it does not matter. it is not OK.

K. Hesselink's picture

For me this article is enough reason to discontinue my (paid) subscription to tricycle. Women outnumber men in Buddhism, so tricycle should take their perspective into account. There is no valid reason to publish an article that dances around the subject of power abuse like this. It's simply wrong. It's against the Buddha's teachings and it is traumatic for the women involved.

What's more - by breaking his monastic vows and continuing to teach and present himself as a monk, Sasaki Roshi was transmitting impure dharma. Since the student is going to be influenced by the morality of the teacher, an immoral teacher is a very serious problem for the lineage and for every student he influenced. Given how very many people he 'brought into Renzai', that problem is very large indeed.

What's more, by forcing himself on women, he broke his bodhisattva vows - he failed to work for their welfare, but put his own sexual desires above their spiritual and emotional needs.

To call those actions 'impropriety' is offensive to me. Impropriety would be to have a girlfriend. A monk who has a girlfriend breaks his vows, and by continuing to wear his robes, lies. He is doing harm to the sangha by pretending to be a monk, but he is not actively harming beings. Appropriate words for what Sasaki did are sexual assault and rape. I fail to see how his heritage can be, in any way, a blessing on the dharma in the West.


Stephen's picture

I suggest you read L. Cohen's comment again...several times. And remember ... he is a poet.
Zen Masters do all sorts of seemingly 'crazy' things to adherents when working on koans.
Also, please take a look at the delusions of "perception" in Buddhist teaching - the skandhas or aggregates (form, sensation, perception, mental formations and consciousness). Just because you read a report by someone, you must not assume it is "literally" true.
I can't imagine ending my Tricycle subscription because I read one article that I didn't agree with. That sounds like "throwing the baby out with the bath water" to me. I need my 'Daily Dharma' to start my day. Namaste K. Hesselink. Namaste Tricycle.

yeshezangpo's picture

i concur with Dalai Lama- a teacher can have sex with students if he can eat feces with equanimity and fly. As someone that have studies with Sasaki Roshi he could do neither so talk of crazy wisdom is just that obscification

wsking's picture

I teach high school. I eat shit for breakfast and all day long.
Sometimes I think I can fly, too! It all depends on the way I look at it. My tigers are teenagers and administrators. We all have them. Any other creative shenanigans must triumph over constant exhaustion. Very unlikely. See you in the charnel grounds! LOL!

jcbaran's picture

"Crazy wisdom" and "skillful means" have been overly romanticized and used mostly - yes, mostly, as excuses and rationalizations for selfish behavior by all kinds of gurus / masters / cult leaders. And mostly used for sex, power and financial gain. "Show me your tits" is not a koan, nor is demanding oral sex skillful means.... and it doesn't matter that a given "master" or his devotees wrap up this kind of behavior in all kinds of spiritual terms. What I have seen a great deal is that when women, and it is mostly women who are the targets of these male gurus, who resist are then told they are attached, clinging to their ego, are resisting the true teaching, will never get enlightened - until they surrender - body and mind - to the guru - and this can mean - no surprise here.... sexual submission. With Sasaki, as we have seen with other teachers, this is not an isolated incident or a few incidents. There is no doubt this happened over many decades, like 50 years, and, as one of his senior disciples said - "Roshi does that to all the women." That's his words - "all the women." It is totally true, probably not "all" - but some gurus lock into a habitual pattern of sexual predation. They can do it, their disciples are instructed constantly never to say NO to their "enlightened master" - so the teachers have free access. Anything goes and they can usually get away with it. And if the men start to challenge the teachers behavior, they are vilified, cut off, told to shut up. Remember, it's all enlightened teaching, or so the story goes. This is not feudal Japan or ancient Lhasa. Religious leaders are accountable. Religious, non-profit organizations are accountable. Sexual harassment is against laws, not to mention the ethical dimensions. Just because you have some fancy title or wear robes does not give you a free pass to abuse. Enlightenment is expressed or not in daily life - in how your treat others - in how accountable and responsible you are - in moment by moment and has nothing to do with titles or certificates - which frankly can be bought in Asia or come with your family.

Dominic Gomez's picture

Enlightenment is expressed as daily life - in how you treat others. Bingo

BarbaraK's picture

Reply to icbaran: I couldn't have executed a reply to this article any better. Even though it was tolerated in feudal societies or even in Western ones until only 30 years ago, this article exusing this monk's reprehensible and criminal behavior is not at all reflective of what is acceptable or to be tolerated today. I've been a practicing and teaching member of various groups since 1969 from Japanese to various Tibetan ones, seen it all, protested it all, seen it all disregarded and excused and you icbaran are spot on.

davide's picture

Very well said.

isafakir's picture

not very well said. if what is said is it doesn't matter what so and so did to a certain number of people is OK because he usually was an OK dude, than categorically not well said.

in the 13 plus billion years of existence the holocaust did not add up to much either. asteroids killed far more lives and apparently the worst loss of life on the planet in the past 4 plus billion years left it virtually lifeless. so 6 million jews a few million assorted gypsies gay people priests and 20 million some odd russian and soviet union casualties are small potatoes in comparison. but they are our small potatoes. i was too young to realize what happened at nagasaki but it does matter and it matters that we aren't asked for our approval still when mennonite missionaries are executed with equipment our taxes bought. so it does matter and zenning it up and saying: no death no life no enlightenment deep prajna paramita it does not matter, i believe, does all of us a disservice. IMHO.

davide's picture

I commented that K Hesselink's criticism of Sasaki and Tricycle was well stated. Are you saying I should have elaborated? Or did the nesting confuse you?

sqarenot's picture

People resent and fear lawyers because a few are predatory, and most are pretty good at looking after their own interests: who is the first and guaranteed beneficiary of a bankruptcy proceeding? And it is largely lawyers who craft the relevant laws.

Doctors are hampered (and insurance companies get rich) by malpractice claims, because patients are so ready to blame caregivers for any unhappy outcome, however caused, and wish to exact high compensation and cause pain in return.

Arguably, both issues cause harm to populations in general. And both could likely be resolved if the members of each profession themselves hounded the very few really awful malefactors out of the guild, or at least made efforts to promulgate quality standards and public reviews (which should accomplish the same). But it rarely works that way. And yet, the real revolutionaries - the Semmelweises and Prusiners - are still run out of town on a rail. It's a perfect lose-lose proposition propagated by a wide range of highly plausible excuses for inaction.

Though doctors and lawyers take various professional oaths, the deeper moral principles on which these are founded are often somewhat remote. An oath named for someone dead two millennia? On a book to which many subscribe in name only, if at all? And yet the equivalent foundations for dharma practice pre-date even Hippocrates (slightly) and Jesus. The difference? We recite our (allegedly unbroken) personal lineage, to keep it all relevant. And we reiterate our vows to adhere to a very specific, concrete behavioral code designed to support our own spiritual development and provide benefit to all beings, while protecting ourselves and others from excess, self-delusion and outright perversion. Alas, as with doctors and lawyers, the public leaders of most Buddhist schools and lineages decline to criticize their peers, again for a host of ever-so-defensible reasons. The phrase "circle jerk" comes to mind...

Many here will have read the 1993 "confront teachers" statement, posted here - http://hoodiemonks.org/ShimanoArchive.html - with the full text here: http://www.tricycle.com/news/news-8. It is interesting to note how certain signatories to that letter have apparently fallen into many of the same abuse-of-power traps, with respect to money, sex or power; passed some of their attitudes along to their own students and dharma heirs; and now react strongly or even viciously if challenged on such subjects.

People vote with their feet and wallets, and articles like this go a long way toward providing accessible and reasonably balanced information that can guide people into supportive schools, and right back out of them when they prove otherwise. Anger here is probably useful, if it motivates positive action. So is free communication, whether impassioned outcry or reasoned reportage.

We are only in the first century of pervasive Western dharma teaching, and regulatory mechanisms take a while to coalesce. One doubts that knowledge of possible impending emancipation did much to ease the pain of an antebellum slave's flogging. The victims of today's errant teachers may get little moral compensation in knowing their own contribution to this turn in the global evolution of Buddhadharma teaching, and perhaps other (dare one suggest higher?) syntheses. But these really are the first generations in human history empowered to demand accountability, to isolate if not punish, and to speak freely in all such matters. There is no excuse for persistent misconduct of this order. And - the courage and communal support to challenge it may very well lie at the heart of this stage in a very long progression, whose end - if there ever be one - is certainly beyond our apprehension.

isafakir's picture

thank you. god bless your compassionate words.

buddhasoup's picture

There are some people commenting that it is not our place in Buddhism to make judgments of others, including teachers. There is some sense that we dispense with discernment or judgment in the practice, and perhaps that is a peculiar affect of western Zen. However, the Buddha taught, as reflected in the early Suttas, that we must develop the capacity for judgment, as a gatekeeper for wise and ethical action. Mindfulness includes development of this gatekeeper function. As Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote with respect to evaluating teachers:

"To test for a teacher's wisdom, the Buddha advised noticing how a potential teacher responds to questions about what's skillful and not, and how well he or she handles adversity. To test for integrity, you look for virtue in day-to-day activities, and purity in the teacher's dealings with others. Does this person make excuses for breaking the precepts, bringing them down to his level of behavior rather than lifting his behavior to theirs? Does he take unfair advantage of other people? If so, you'd better find another teacher." http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/power_of_judgment....

Western Buddhism really could benefit by paying some attention to the actual teachings of the historical Buddha, who really had some very wise and appropriate guidelines for conduct in the sangha. Somehow, as the Dharma passed through medieval Asia and later landed in the west, the Buddha's wise teachings were diluted and corrupted. Thankfully, we have these guidelines and these teachings at our fingertips if we wish to look for them. Much suffering can be avoided by the west paying attention to what the Buddha actually taught.

wsking's picture

Thank you, buddhasoup. That is a great link.
Even if a person cannot meet all those criterion, very good ones, BTW, they may be a good Dharma friend to you and have a lot of experience and wisdom either for yourself or for others. There are so many different kinds of people. Nobody could have all the approaches or all the personality types that spark everyone.
I have never found anyone who was perfect, so I try to look for myself to be perfect. Otherwise, I just try to be like the Siberian goose of Tibetan lore and take the milk and leave the water. "This very place the Lotus Paradise, this very body, the Buddha." I find it is more livable to have a sense of humor and flexibility than to be too rigid. Do you think that's okay?

lisaloon's picture

Thank you, buddhasoup. "Gatekeeper for wise and ethical action" points in a crucial direction. This was very helpful to us. Deep bows.

sharmila2's picture

While I do not doubt that sexual abuse happens in traditional Theravada monasteries as well, at least there is none of this nonsense about using it as part of Dharma practice or forgiving the teacher their demons. In the Vinaya, laid down by the Buddha himself, sexual offenses such as this are grounds for dismissal from the Sangha without possibility for re-ordination. Simple, final, end of story, no gray areas. The Buddha was wise enough to understand that the Sangha could not survive if monastics were not held to the highest moral standards; he ensured that they were completely dependent on the laity for their survival (which is why they are not allowed to grow their own food) in order to ensure that lay people had access to the teachings, and in turn he ensured that the Sangha did not have the opportunity to prey on their supporters either materially or sexually by handing down a very strict set of 600+ rules governing all aspects of interactions. Most of these rules were laid down after complaints from the public about either actual or perceived impropriety on the part of monks. Interestingly, even if the monk hadn't committed an actual wrongdoing, the Buddha would lay down a rule if he felt that their was room for misperception of the monks motives which would harm the public view of the sangha. He was thus completely pragmatic about human failings and the importance of appearances in society, and took steps to protect both sides.
Those traditions that have ignored the Buddha's original rules (even with some justification) have left themselves open to abuses such as this, and have only themselves to blame for the fallout.

buddhasoup's picture

Sadhu x 3

tajopro's picture

This is very important. I appreciate the story told by " jcbaran on August 1, 2014, 3:25 am." It is not remotely "negative" to sharply note wrong behavior. I can think of almost nothing more karmically destructive than groping in the interview room at the moment of the student's greatest vulnerability. Koan work and practice are so subtle, confusing, and mysterious that no one should have to wrestle, to that extent, with the teacher's demons. Dismissing the behavior with laughter is indeed complicit and confusing. Thanks to those who are shining a light on these interactions. May it move us all toward healing. -Yuuka

isafakir's picture


jilamd's picture

My experiences in different spritual technics say:
Get the technic, practice hard and be your spritual teacher.
Why to look for spritualism in others, when you are on the way?

Josephinechurchill's picture

I come from Australia and we are in the middle of a Royal Commission into Institutionalized Sexual Abuse...Catholic, Anglican, Salvation Army, you name the institution, one by one they are being exposed for years of protecting perpetrators, justifying their behaviors and in doing so destroying the lives of young children, women and men. This obituary is a thinly disguised apologist piece, no different than the documents being tendered to our Commission about Christian institutions... "He was a great catholic priest, he was an enlightened minister, he did so many good works...what's the odd rape here and there compared to all his good works..we have to take the good with the bad." Mark Oppenhimer, you write well, so why not write another piece, from the perspective of the women who have been assaulted and abused by this man, why not explore the consequences for those women who were not only abused, but worse, told that they just have to 'take the good with the bad'. And if you can't or wont do it I challenge Tricycle to find someone who will. The women who read this magazine deserve better.

lisaloon's picture

These are wise words, I think. Thank you for highlighting the much larger context than just Rinzai Zen.
This was a deeply disturbing apology-piece of an obituary in Tricycle. Much more should follow, and Tricycle should not leave this issue at this point. I second this writer's challenge.

isafakir's picture

amen. tricycle deserves to be faulted here. it has done a disservice.

jilamd's picture

Let me share my experience:

Get the technic,Practice, and be your spritual teacher.
Why should we search spritualism in others?
When we get the right technic and do practice, we are on the way.

phillips_vivian's picture

He was not a true Buddhist teacher. He couldn't learn himself what he was preaching. Teachers teach with the example of their life. We are all a mix of light and dark feelings inside our minds and bodies, but we try to be in the present moment and do what it is ethically correct now. He was just a student of Buddhism with much to learn...

jmallory's picture

I am disappointed and appalled at Tricycle for such a white-washed obituary about someone who clearly was a sexual predator. Sasaki's supporters' absurd justifications of his life and behavior are seriously disturbing in their "it doesn't matter to me" denials, it sounds way too much like "But the trains run on time!" heard from Mussolini supporters in WWII. And this from people allegedly engaged in serious spiritual practice...

No one needs to "know" someone personally to judge behavior inflicted on others when it rises to the level of criminal action or abuse. I don't "know" the man who killed my brother but killing my brother is still wrong and I have every human right to proclaim my judgement of his abusive behavior and inform others about that abuse.

Metteyya Brahmana's picture

Judging others has no capacity to improve the human condition. Obituaries of this sort are rooted in Christian 'judgmentalism' concerning one's life, when we all know Jesus and every other significant leader - including the Buddha - taught us not to judge, as we are incapable of knowing all that is necessary to judge one's total kamma, and the point of spiritual practice is to focus on improving our own shortcomings rather than focusing on those of others.

I think the more 'Buddhist' response to the Joshu Sasaki Roshi saga would be: "I am saddened that no one introduced this Roshi to the Buddhist meditation practice of Patikulamanasikara (32-parts of the body) which appears to be effective in overcoming lust for pleasure associated with the human body."

We should always want what is best for others, even those who are suffering from mental defilements and have abused others as a result.

isafakir's picture

never heard of that practice. it should be better marketted.

Rob_'s picture

If the buddha taught not to judge, how come you're judging this as "christian" judgmentalism? Yup, it's a slippery slope when telling others not to judge and judging them at the same time. It doesn't take a christian to have a low opinion of Sasaki's behavior.

Not judging is an ideal. If you refrain from all judgment you're just watching the scenery go by. Not a very compassionate approach.

Metteyya Brahmana's picture

Not judging anyone...just pointing out the history of "was this a good or bad person'" obituaries after someone dies. The very next sentence in my last comment actually admits that judging others is NOT what Jesus taught, and therefore not a real 'Christian' response to those who were suffering from sex addiction.

American punitive 'lock 'em up' culture induced by the mainstream media far too often trivializes and dichotomizes real tragedies into victim/victimizer boxes to justify over-punishment of 'victimizers' (often for profit by the prison-industrial complex). The sad truth is often there are two 'victims' (human beings worthy of our care and attention) in these situations - the perpetrator and the person harmed by them. If you study reconciliations between death row inmates and families of persons that they killed, this becomes apparent, in which metta meditation or even traditional anger management therapy could have saved lives and a lot of wasted taxpayer money on over-incarceration.

Rob_'s picture

Perhaps this obituary is rooted by the facts of this man's life. Not any "Christian judgmentalism" or mainstream media nonsense. The mainstream media doesn't even care about this story. If you can't seem to understand your own words, by all means claim you're not judging. I don't really care either way, but it's your hypocrisy.

How about you try not projecting judgments on why someone may be writing an obituary in a certain manner. Sometimes it really can be a simple reporting on the facts.

Metteyya Brahmana's picture

I see where we are getting hung up...you are equating judging a person's life as bad or good with discernment concerning the cultural conditioning that led to the judgment. I am not capable of 'judging' the life of the writer of the article (nor do I want to), but I am capable of discerning the cultural context in which his writing occurs and how this is reinforced through religious dogmas - Christian or otherwise - that attempt to 'place' (judge) one's soul in a hierarchy between good and evil. Again, the Buddhist response is why are we engaged in these sorts of judgments about the lives of people after they are dead and not more concerned with getting the person help while they were still alive?

The point is are we going to fall for the American cultural and political trap that 'only victims matter', or are we going to assert our Buddhist values and extend compassion and loving kindness to ALL beings, including those who may be difficult to love. Angulimala became an enlightened monk despite being a mass murderer in his earlier life because the Buddha cared about him just as much as any other human being. We really need to learn from these examples from the Buddha's teachings and quit compartmentalizing our compassion so it only extends to those whom our culture tells us are worthy of compassion.

wsking's picture

I agree with you. Thank you for saying it. Much of the comments are based on a cultural bias, mine too. So your comment acts as a helpful re-focus and reminder of our best motivation.

Rob_'s picture

I think you're a little too caught up in your grand theories and projections. Keep it simple, re-read the article. There is no condemnation of Sasaki, nor a judgmental tone. So how you can proclaim, "Obituaries of this sort are rooted in Christian 'judgmentalism' concerning one's life", is beyond my ken.

Dominic Gomez's picture

Buddhism accords with the times and location in which it is practiced, in this case America. In ancient times in old countries, victims, women and children didn't matter to those who held power. It behooves the Buddhist to keep abreast of society.

Metteyya Brahmana's picture

It really would be tragic if Americans allow its version of Buddhism to be reduced to "loving kindness only toward easy to love people" rather than to ALL beings as stressed by the Buddha. Such a cultural adaptation guts the intent of the Metta Sutta and has the effect of oppressing the spiritual advancement of human beings by going 'backward' to the 'us versus them' conflict-ridden dichotomies of the past. Progress can't be assumed just because it is current - you really have to analyze what is going on spiritually in current times and discern whether the popular view in a particular culture is making people on the whole more hateful, vengeful, and separate, or more loving, compassionate, and one with all beings.