February 20, 2011

Sex in the Sangha: Apparently, we still haven't had enough

The sex scandals that have rocked the Zen communities in recent weeks are pretty depressing. First it was Eido Shimano, whose exposure on the internet was followed up by a New York Times report. Zen teacher John Tarrant is now under fire for writing an obit for the late Aitken Roshi. Aitken had disowned Tarrant for what Aitken considered credible allegations of sexual indiscretions with students, and also criticized Tarrant's teaching style and conduct as a therapist. So Tarrant didn't win any points with Aitken's Diamond Sangha for what they considered a veiled attack on their teacher. Now, Genpo Merzel, among the dharma heirs of Maezumi Roshi, has publicly apologized for breaking his marriage vows by having sex with students.

None of this is new. People have talked of Eido Shimano's behavior for years. Once, as my predecessor prepared to publish accusations against Shimano, his accusers withdrew their names and the story never saw the light of day. Another, non-Buddhist publication made the same decision about the story for the same reasons. Discussions of Tarrant's alleged relationships with students are old news, too, and Genpo Merzel has had like trouble in the past.

It's easy enough to judge others' actions. Plenty of times we have seen the damaging results of the sexual, financial, and professional indiscretions that have torn dharma communities apart. Usually, following revelations that rival our political sex scandals, the pile-on  begins, and perhaps it is well deserved. But a whole new dimension is added when teachers' sexual partners have been called out for their part in creating the very suffering they condemn. One of the 44 signatories to the American Zen Teachers Association's open letter to Kanzeon Zen Center regarding Genpo Merzel's unacceptable behavior was Jan Chozen Bays, resident teacher of the Zen Community of Oregon, who was given inka by Genpo. In a letter posted at Sweeping Zen today, Maezumi's daughter Kirsten Mitsuyo Maezumi writes of the damage and pain her father and Bays brought to her family by having a secret affair. Both Maezumi and Bays were married—and not to each other—and both had small children at the time. Bays, a pediatrician, was the Maezumis' family doctor, confidante to Maezumi's wife, and doctor to Genpo Merzel, according to Kirsten Maezumi.

Another signing the AZTA open letter was Roko Sherry Chayat, heir to Eido Shimano. Shimano's behavior had been known about for years, and yet it continued with the full knowledge of many of his students. It is almost impossible to imagine that Chayat herself did not know given her position as Shimano's heir and the length of time she studied with him. Yet it was pressure from without that forced the issue, one that had otherwise continued for years.

But better late than never. It's just that since Kirstin Maezumi has spoken up, both Bays and Chayat might want to shed some light here and discuss their respective parts in these matters if any. We haven't heard from Tarrant publicly; perhaps, disagreeing with his former teacher, he feels he's done nothing wrong. Shimano stepped down last year in the wake of a string of allegations online, after which the Times article appeared. And of course, there was Genpo Merzel's public apology.

I don't know what to say about sex between teachers and students. In almost all cases we hear about, it's consensual (or at least physical force was not involved), and it usually falls to the student to determine whether the relationship was appropriate or not. But the power differential is real, and should be acknowledged. Some regret their actions, feel taken advantage of, and grapple with a deep sense of betrayal and shame; others claim to be unaffected—or even positively affected—by such relationships. It's really for the student to decide. But it always seems to end poorly when teachers make a habit of it, especially when a lot of secrecy and denial come into play.
 
When it comes to sex, regulations are necessary but in the end they are not really an answer. Desire doesn’t obey one’s wishes; in fact, it is often quite at odds with one’s wishes. If that were not the case, it would be much easier to be a good person. But it isn’t easy. Still, regulations are there so that when abuse of any kind does happen, people can be called to account. But that it happens and will continue to happen is certain. Sex can make a fool of anyone and often does.

How we deal with desire is a pretty good indication of where we are on the path, but that we're tripped up by it is nothing that should surprise any of us. I think there is a good question we could be asking ourselves right now: What about the way our dharma communities are organized supports and creates situations in which our leaders act in ways that are damaging and undermine our, and their, best intentions, and how do we go about creating community structures that discourage damaging behavior and allow us to deal with it effectively when it occurs? And let’s not wait for our teachers to do it for us. They have as much to learn here as anyone. We should know at least that much by now.

As for those for whom relationships between students and teachers are acceptable—fine, and you have no reason to hide it. If you don't think it's all right, ask your teacher about his or her own experience with this and how they feel about it. Make your own decision.

Homepage Image: je@n

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gerti's picture

Hi,
I am a female author, psychotherapist and long time Zen practitioner. I am looking for Zen students who have had bad breakups with teachers and sanghas in the past (regardless of the reason). I've had one of those breakups myself, and know how traumatic it can be. I want to make those voices heard so we can learn from them and understand how to move past it. You can contact me at: zenvoices@gmail.com

buddhasoup's picture

I have had the priviledge and pleasure to meet Thanissaro Bhikkhu at Wat Metta....he's such a thoughtful and careful scholar in so many ways and he really provides the kind of clear comment of moral and ethical issues in American Buddhism that can be sorely lacking from perhaps more well known "teachers" that one might find in Tricycle.

Ajahn Geoff: ":Whether an affair is consensual doesn't matter: Other people are sure to be hurt; the level of trust and honesty in the communitycan suffer for generations." This is just very well said, and captures the high bar, the high ethical standard, that all practicing Buddhists should adhere to.

Folks like Tarrant can advertize their institutes and costly seminars, but thank Buddha we have a dedicated Bhikkhu like the Ven. Thanissaro to articulate the Buddha way, to offer his numerous publications for free, and to otherwise stand as a Buddha beacon in what has been a somewhat occasionally smarmy Buddhist landscape in the West.

Sam Mowe's picture

Hi everybody,

I just wanted to let people know that we're discussing Scott Edelstein's Sex and the Spiritual Teacher at the Tricycle Book Club. From the book's introduction:

"This book is about spiritual teachers who have sex with their students, the suffering that such encounters often cause, and what all of us can do about it.

This is not a book of finger-pointing or whistle-blowing. Nor does it defend or apologize for spiritual teachers who lose their way. In fact, as we will see, the more we attack or defend wayward teachers, the more we encourage their waywardness.

Instead, this book is intended to create greater safety and spiritual intimacy between spiritual teachers and their students, and among members of spiritual communities."

Join the conversation here:
http://www.tricycle.com/community/sex-and-spiritual-teacher

Best,
Sam

rob.grover's picture

In fact I've never heard of love of the dharma causing that much trouble before. And that's the most condescending statement. Just like Bays feels pain for everyone involved. i suggest a horizontal moment of silence for her.

myojozen's picture

hello mr grover,
I understand a lot of your annoyance. The amount of fake compassion being peddled in the American Dharma market is often a bit stomach turning.
However, it has always been the job of elders in the Sangha to keep it on the straight and narrow. It is of course an assumption that those doing the keeping and narrowing are on the level themselves since if they weren't presumably they would have been out on their ear before now.
Something seems to have gone wrong here doesn't it?
There do plainly need to be standards of behaviour to which members of the Sangha must adhere. In the first place it is impossible to develop the practice without ethical discipline (no matter what some people may say) and in the second students should not be solicited in the Zendo.
On the other hand perhaps people should stop pointing the finger and just make their own practice deep and real.
There will always be spiritual charlatans - usually you know who they are because...well.....you know who they are! They tend to be the ones who go for fame or gain or both!
Very few people can handle being in the limelight without some degree of corruption creeping in.
Human suffering is not a trivial thing and it cannot be fixed through any amount of discussion or argument - only in the profound silence of meditation.
Undoubtedly the Soto Zen community has become utterly decadent in Japan and also absurdly childish in America. There's very little point in slinging abuse at people who aren't going to listen anyway.
Why don't we just do what Dogen did; find a real teacher, however long we may have to look, and stick at the practice until we really do see the light?
We can keep our own small practice communities clean but as for others? Their problem really.
I rather suspect the old White Plum was a bit off right from the start, don't you?
Rev. Myojo

wildrose's picture

"I rather suspect the old White Plum was a bit off right from the start, don't you?"

Well, Maezumi Roshi clearly had a lot of problems. However, from what I can tell most of that lineage is upright and doing a fine job teaching and practicing the Dharma.

Some not so fine ... and that is true in other lineages, too. But it does appear to me that many/most took the lessons to heart and learned from the mistakes.

myojozen's picture

Hello Wildrose,
Thank you for your reply. My observation of the activities of even the most upright of the Plums is that often their own personal preoccupations overshadow the straight practice and I think this must have a lot to do with the original teacher. Egotism takes many forms; often quite harmless to others but a teacher should keep their personal foibles out of the teaching.
Obviously, most teachers are not fully enlightened people and they have to apply discipline and practice as the rest of us do but that discipline is not just to do with keeping precepts. They must keep their personal opinions out of their teaching. Opinions are like a--holes, everybody has one! The more responsibility someone has in the Sangha the less they should express themselves and the more they should express the Dharma.
Well, there's an opinion!
Hope I haven't given offence,
In gassho,
Rev. Myojo

Anreal's picture

I would say

"The more someone LIVES the Dharma, the more their selves are not separate from it and therefore expression of self becomes like a blossom of realization"

A true teacher IS the teaching, and therefor the concept of personal opinion falls away completely. If a teacher's opinion is still a separate thing from their teaching my advice would be to run for the hills, find another teacher ....

The whole point of a living lineage is that teachings should be passed on from REALISED master to student .... there's a big difference between someone who 'knows the teachings and techniques' and someone who KNOWS it.

This 'getting it from the student of so and so who was the student of so and so' can only lead to trouble. The idea that the students of 'so and so' are necessarily a certain caliber also makes no sense to me. Awareness is not something that can be transferred really, it either wakes up in a person or it doesn't. Just because one has learned from a famous teacher in no way means that one will necessarily manifest the same qualities at all. A dharma descendant as you call it, does it necessarily mean they GOT IT ... ?

"The teachings begin to degrade the longer they are around" is surely a well-known Buddhist saying.

Personally I take the view that most teachers are not to be trusted, they are after all a dime a dozen. The realised teacher >>>> now THERE is a rare thing and probably not likely to be found easily, not in ones neighbourhood, maybe not even in ones state or even country as there are not many of them actually around.

myojozen's picture

hello Anreal,
i really do agree with you on this point.
after a few years around I've come to the conclusion that there seem to be three categories of genuine teacher;
1. Enlightened and part of a system (possibly the best category); enlightened AND able to teach!
2. Enlightened and not part of a system; enlightened but perhaps not necessarily a good teacher.
3.Not fully enlightened but well established in one of the systems and therefore able to guide someone as far ass they've got themselves.
The others seem to be;
pretenders, cult leaders, path builders or path twisters - I am sure you can figure out who's who...............

Anreal's picture

It seems to me that unfortunately through this whole thing you equate SYSTEM with ABILITY TO TEACH.

This of course leaves out most of the founding teachers, as they all started the lineages and systems often didn't show up until hundreds of years after.

I guess it depends what you mean by system >>>>

What about an enlightened person, not part of the system, but clearly able to teach?

lol, anyways I agree with you on most of it though. Personally I find the # 3's the most difficult, because they do serve the function of preserving the teachings sure, but one cannot expect to become realized purely through interaction with someone like this. Sooner or later one would have to find a REAL TEACHER , someone that is not actually expounding the teachings as such, but someone who is sharing their personal realization. I think it is where westerners still make their mistakes .... but then, how many of them know that to find the teachings truly they would literally have to personally find a living Buddha? :)

I guess the whole 'when the student' is ready applies of course. Never more so than here.

If you demand cream, then cream is what you'll get, of course we have to first be able to discern which teachings are good quality cream versus stale old cheese and most people are not committed to put the time in.

True teachers are scarce, I guess that is why the teachings are described as "honey on the tongue" ....

Oh yes, and finally .... the 'ability to teach' as you describe group #2 ... again I think I might disagree. Not many teachers historically (and by that I mean enlightened teachers) actually taught large groups of people, especially outside the monastery as in the case of yogis. Though you are probably referring to what I know especially in the kagyu lineage as the various 'signs of a teacher' with the ability to communicate the meaning of the teachings to people of various levels of awareness. I can't fault you there, I'm just questioning the way in which most people assess these abilities. A so-called 'crazy yogi' in the mountains who dances naked and howls to the wolves might be the perfect teacher to the student aware enough to recognize them. ;)

I would argue that if one were lucky enough to find an enlightened being, and one was hungry enough for the teachings, the Teacher could teach without ever saying a single world ....

This is surely one of the primary reasons for the practice of 'guru yoga' for example. Which is the process whereby someone eventually comes to realize that they ARE the guru, and the guru is them. Someone who wants it badly enough will manifest a Teacher in all kinds of possible guises. (my opinion).

I guess the difference between studying Buddhism from a scholastic/academic perspective is vastly different from someone 'studying' Buddhism because their lives depend on it.

Anyways.
Nice talking.
I like the way you think. :)

Dominic Gomez's picture

Hi Anreal,
Re: "...the difference between studying Buddhism from a scholastic/academic perspective is vastly different from someone 'studying' Buddhism because their lives depend on it."
This has been my observation and experience during the 37 years I've been practicing Buddhism. A simply scholastic/academic understanding of the Law (dharma) renders a person anemic and weak when it comes time to facing and dealing with the harsh reality of daily life (samsara).
OTOH, strong faith in the Law and in one's inherent Buddhahood brings forth from within a powerful and dynamic way of being that can surmount all difficulties on the journey of birth, aging, illness and death (i.e. life itself).

wildrose's picture

Well, there's an opinion for you, and a rather sweeping generalization -- given the great number of dharma descendants of Maezumi Roshi! My opinion is that this is harmful speech, verging on breaking the precept against disparaging others in order to raise oneself up and/or idle gossip.

Also, given the absurd corruption of Japanese Soto Zen which you mentioned in another post, perhaps all dharma descendants of Japanese Soto Zen are also similarly infected? I don't think so, but do you?

Really, very prejudicial and sweeping statements like these are irresponsible character-assassination, and I would expect better of a Zen priest claiming to uphold the precepts.

myojozen's picture

Dear Wildrose,
I'm not sure it's all that harmful. It is my experience both of Japanese and American Buddhism. Obviously I am not suggesting that there are no full ticket priests in Japan or even in America but I think we have to be honest with ourselves about the situation: most priests in Japan freely admit that they don't do any meditation again after finishing their first few years training. It's just a family business (surely you know this). As you say I am making a generalization about the FAMOUS Plums. There are, I am sure some nice quiet plums just getting on with it - but we don't really know about them do we? I don't think I am assassinating anyone's character as I am just making some general observations.
Anyway, it's been nice talking but the tone seems to be lowering fast so I'll back off now before I get MY character assassinated!
You may have the last word if you wish.....
In Gassho,
Myojo

wildrose's picture

"You may have the last word if you wish....."

Thanks, I'll take you up on your generous offer. :)

Glad to see you qualified your sweeping statement somewhat. Now it's only the "famous" teachers in the White Plum Asanga. Not sure who you mean, but the ones I've heard of appear to be doing fine Dharma teaching -- with a couple notable exceptions. That lineage doesn't appear to be more or less "off" than any other.

We do agree that from most reliable reports (I haven't been there) Japanese Soto Zen largely degenerated into the family temple business. Whether American Soto Zen is similarly degenerate and, if so, whether that degeneration is traceable back to the Japanese roots is an interesting question.

I got the impression that many first generation Asian teachers came to the US in order to revive the teaching in a place where people actually wanted to learn to practice Zen Buddhism.

rob.grover's picture

Wildrose, This is a PR push. If you think about it, somehow she's a victim and if you think about it some more, she says she does this because she cares about women but doesn't most of the species? is caring about women as opposed to dogs and chimps and men such a rare quality? i guess this one really touched a nerve with me because if you think about it even again just a little bit more she shows no sense of real responsibility. "i worked on myself a lot a lot a lot and i am calling kirsten now because i thought over all these years she was just fine and dandy after i had a role (maybe) in breaking up her family. if i had known sneaking around with her dad for many years would have upset her i would have said i was sorrier sooner and i would have sent out my pr flacks earlier and maybe even used my doctor's license to give everyone drugs because that is what we did in those days." the last part is maybe okay though.

i'd try talking like that if i weren't a man but since i am no one would believe me and i'd get a letter and a finger wag from Jan Chozen Bays! that fake apology made my head hurt in other words.

what a weak apology to refer to whatever her "role" in causing harm was. in a real apology you know exactly what harm you caused and you say it plainly and without a lot of mention of extenuating circumstances and all this talk about the time. it's like in those times "we used to lie and sneak around and love the dharma and stuff." as opposed to later with bill clinton and george bush when we didn't. that darn jimmy carter! that was about the cleverest apology i ever heard. i was about to send her a donation but the genpo horizontal inka stuff popped in my mind right a way. shame on these teachers! if the kanzeon kids take her advice they better take out some insurance 2!

Tharpa Pema's picture

Dear Rob Grover:

You sound like you are in a great deal of pain. I am so sorry you feel bad. May things look brighter for you soon.

With karuna, Linda

rob.grover's picture

and oh yeah, boo hoo! i should take classes for all the bad things i did and then list 'em all like on a resume for proof!

rob.grover's picture

wow, okay, grover's all read up now. screwy thing is that this lady managed to work into her very long explanation that genpo dude acts like a drunk. i had to read it a few times before i realized that's what she did. she just worked it in like it was germaine. good thing genpo dude is not a doctor otherwise he would have betrayed his patients too and broke the hippocratic oath. all that heart felt talk like she is full of compassion and she just takes another shot at dude! so, like i said i've been researching up and it's true what sheehan says. genpo dude made her a roshi!!!! yeah, it's true. he did the deed in 2006 (just google it). so a lot she learned in 30 years. so chozin gets a promotion and dumps him! okay, maybe that's not fair but like the man says is she the one who should be mouthin off about this? if she was a guy believe me she wouldn't be working with children now! hey, but maybe this is just because i got in a fight with my girlfriend. good thing she's not a doctor! when we finish college if she becomes a pediotrician i'll run for the hills!

fairway Linda's picture

Isn't it typical of the "spiritual generation" of the 60s and 70s, following their beautiful hearts like butterflies through a meadow, not noticing the innocents they were trampling on. The children of this selfish generation of seekers didn't buy the ticket but took the ride anyway. And don't tell me "it was in the air, everyone was doing it, peace and love, man." Hogwash. Good Buddhists ought to own up to their own garbage, and this whole mess Stinks.

Anreal's picture

What blows my mind away are all these sweeping statements that from a non-dual perspective seems so weird.

Is not ALL SELF?
Is the teacher not self?
Is the women doctor not self?
Is the daughter not self?
Are the innocents not self?
Are the tramplers not self?
Is time itself not self?

Forgive me if non-duality is an unfamiliar concept here, I am aware that not all paths have non-duality as a base. I can only speak from my personal realization though and all this 'they did such and such' seems rather strange.

From my perspective the stink is also self, lol so if something stinks it is only the self that needs to deal with it.

Dominic Gomez's picture

Yes, Viginia, all is self. As are teachers, doctors, daughters, innocents, tramplers, etc., etc. In such a case, do unto others as you would have them do unto your self.

fairway Linda's picture

Nonduality is not an existent thing that can be applied to all situations and used to deny claims about reality; it is a mind-training tool. But that is beside the point. The dharma is one thing, sexual abuse, neglect of children, real world matters, quite another. Yes yes, all is dharma. You can choose to see your own life through that lens if you wish, but to deny the suffering of others is not any kind of dharma the Buddha taught. It seems that many here are unhappy that Ms. Maezumi feels free to question the behavior of a teacher they hold dear, but beyond that, many imply that a "real" Buddhist cannot—will not—feel "pain" or experience "anger." If that sounds true to you, good luck but you are not living in the real world. And you can deny the real world exists, but there will still be a lot of sorry people shaking their heads at your funeral when your ashes join the earth.

Anreal's picture

IT seems your understanding of non-duality is not complete, in which case its senseless to talk about it because it will only cause you confusion.

However, please understand that NON-DUALITY is very much an existent thing, and used to describe the enlightened state itself, in fact, it is the description of 'REALITY AS IT REALLY IS'.
I'll leave it at that.

By understanding that the suffering of others IS MY SUFFERING is certainly not denying the Buddhas teaching, but I guess at this point the way the different paths approach the Buddha's teaching becomes obvious and so no point in arguing. I'm simply pointing out that Seeing Others as Self and vice versa is part of the most strictest interpretation of Buddhism however it is a characteristic only truly addressed in 'higher path' Buddhism.

"Yes yes all is dharma" you say and all I can say is yes, for me all is dharma, not some theoretical or academic experience, or something I do because it's all the rage >>> Rather the teachings are the sound of my foot falls with every step that I take.

Besides, the only thing I was commenting on in terms of Non-duality was the whole bitter diatribe against a certain generation who is apparently 'such and such'.

Peace to you.

Dominic Gomez's picture

I remember those days as a high school student in San Francisco. For a growing number of young Americans, wearing flowers in your hair and following your heart was a healthier karmic alternative to bombing Gooks and redlining Negroes.

wildrose's picture

Jan Chozen Bays' response to Kirsten Mitsuyo Maezumi is now posted over at Sweeping Zen http://sweepingzen.com/2011/02/24/response-to-kirsten-mitsuyo-maezumi/#c...
and it illustrates for me how much she has to offer to sanghas that are suffering sexual misconduct troubles.

There is also a wonderful response from Ms. Maezumi which raises some of the "grey areas" around teacher-student relationships. Ms. Maezumi says:

"Honestly the most helpful insight I got out of our illuminating conversation, is the one into the nature of the affair you had with my father as you say, ” It was mostly an affair of the heart, taking intimately about dharma and translating Dogen Zenji.”

"That you didn’t feel her victimized you, or that your vulnerability was preyed upon, or that sex was the only reason for the affair.
"I think that is important… NOT that it makes it right, or appropriate, but that it was not, in its nature, an abuse of power.

"It was a love of the dharma.

"I think this could be the case in many of the consensual affairs that happen in sanghas between teacher and students.
"Again, NOT that it makes it right at all! ; it is just another shade of grey in the black and white of right and wrong…and of being human.

"It makes the line so much more complicated.
"That there are other reasons than abuse of power, desire of position, lust or addiction, that cause these lines to be crossed.

"How will these be judged?"

Good question!

cainmac's picture

http://www.facebook.com/cain.macwitish/posts/156222771099240

Well, Human being are human beings... I think Osho had it right with putting sex up front in his first book in English, "From Sex to Superconsciousness". Once we FULLY acknowledge sex and take it out of "blue" moralising, then we can truly take responsibility for it and live from a place where behavior like this doesn't even manifest

Males (generally) are attracted to having sex with multiple partners (DUH!!!) the only shocking thing here is that our"socitey's" structures are set up to "make it wrong"... I personally have opted out of those expectations by not being married, and being 100% truthful with girlfriends about my sexual feelings, It takes courage, but it can be handled responsibly.

I like Jun Po Kelly Roshi's post on integrallife.com "In defense of promiscuity"
http://integrallife.com/member/jun-po-kelly-roshi/blog/defense-promiscuity

We need to stat living in the 21st century and stop letting bronze age strictures trip us up... HELLO?!?!?!?

NellaLou's picture

Jan Chozen Bays has responded to Ms. Maezumi in thorough and heartfelt terms.

http://sweepingzen.com/2011/02/24/response-to-kirsten-mitsuyo-maezumi/

It is better to know more about something than less. Ignorance is not medicine for anything. If the principles want to tell their story we have the obligation to shut up and listen at that point before making further comment.

And if they don't....

and harm continues...

stir the ocean...

rob.grover's picture

Heartfelt? Fine if you want to trust her. Isn't it strange her apology is full of insults and rationalizations? Who is she to give Genpo advice? She's just like him except that he didn't repeatedly break the hippocratic oath and then get inka from someone she broke it with.

wildrose's picture

Thanks for the link, NellaLou. A moving and wise response from Jan Chosen Bays, and an example of the wisdom that can arise from a deeply examined life and repentance.

I'm so glad she has chosen to do this work all these years, and is offering her wisdom & support to the sanghas suffering through similar issues today.

ZenIrishChai's picture

I thought that was an excellent response by Jan Chozen Bays, and really stands evident of the mindful growth and healing that can come out of such a situation when handled right, no matter how wrong the action was at the time. I think her work within the community about how these situations should be handled and prevented is vitally important.

It also put a lot of things in better perspective because I wasn't aware of all the facts. I have to sincerely apologize for hastily judging the people involved from a place of ignorance. There was a lot I didn't know, and I should have recognized that before responding.

I also know that ZCLA today is nothing like how it was back then; more evidence of the effective healing and growth that followed these problems. It's one of the best Zen Centers I have ever visited, having traveled a lot in the past decade from California, to Oregon, to Missouri.

Well said NellaLou, and thank you for that wisdom. That's a great way to be a part of the healing instead of adding to the storm. I am very humbled and grateful for that.

ZenIrishChai's picture

I also wanted to add my apology and appreciation to Genpo Merzel's actions since he already had the type of open meeting I suggested long before I posted about it. Truly, the only thing as boundless as the Dharma can be our own ignorance when we allow ourselves to be swept away by it. My humble and sincere apologies...

James Shaheen's picture

@zenirishchai:

Many thanks for your helpful and insightful comments.

Some time ago we scheduled Scott Edelstein to lead a Book Club discussion in March (Sex and the Spiritual Teacher: Why it happens, when it's a problem, and what we can all do). There will be more helpful discussion there.

Here are a few thoughts on my original post and the considerations that went into it.

I think what’s key here is the issue of transparency. Many of the issues faced by Buddhist communities are exacerbated by, and some even originate in, a lack of transparency. Needless to say, everyone, including teachers, deserves respect for their privacy. But should respect for privacy cross over to some kind of systemic secretiveness, problems are sure to follow.

The letters of Nelson Foster and Jack Shoemaker and Kirsten Maezumi also point to the question of transparency. As they make clear, Foster and Shoemaker felt that John Tarrant’s essay about Robert Aitken was skewed by the deep troubles in, and eventual severing of, Tarrant’s and Aitken’s relationship. It was this point that Foster and Shoemaker felt was not made sufficiently clear, either by the article’s author or its editor. It was to explain this that Foster and Shoemaker wrote their open letter, and it was to make their point clearly that they mentioned the reasons for the split. That is, at least, how I read it. Whether or not one agrees with Foster’s and Shoemaker’s assessment of Tarrant’s essay is another story. But they state quite plainly why they are writing the letter, why they are saying what they are saying, and why they are saying it now and not at another time.

Kirsten Maezumi’s open letter also addresses the issue of transparency, in this case in the open letter signed by 44 Zen teachers addressing the problems at the Kanzeon Zen Center over the behavior of their teacher Genpo Merzel. One of those who signed the letter was Jan Chozen Bays, and as I read it, Kirsten Maezumi is saying that, because of the complicated and terribly fraught relationships among Genpo, Chozen, and her father and their teacher, Maezumi Roshi, Chozen’s involvement in matters relating to Genpo’s future was suspect. Whether one agrees or not, it certainly seems like a reasonable thing to bring up.

And where does Tricycle stand in all this? We have over the years given some attention to controversies and scandals in the Buddhist community, though this has not been a major focus. When we do enter into an area of controversy, some will say we are using sensationalism to sell magazines or get attention; others will say they are glad we are shedding light where it is needed. When we steer clear of controversy, some will say we are fearful of losing advertisers or of alienating persons of influence; others, I imagine, are glad to read a magazine with content that is generally positive and a source of support. The question we have to ask ourselves is whether venturing into controversy will be, on the whole, helpful or not to our readers. We discuss this, we seek outside counsel, and at times we argue with each other, occasionally rather heatedly.

It has been argued that dealing publicly with problems in the Buddhist community might discourage people in their practice or that it might tarnish how Buddhism is perceived in a culture where it is new and still fragile. There is certainly the risk of that. But I think we can look at the matter in reverse. If we are able, as a broad community, to be forthright, honest, and self-critical in dealing with controversy, we are demonstrating something that is, in any religion, a virtue to be prized.

DougVieques's picture

"If we are able, as a broad community, to be forthright, honest, and self-critical in dealing with controversy, we are demonstrating something that is, in any religion, a virtue to be prized."

A cutting discernment James.... I reflect back upon the SF Zen Center, many years ago, caught in a terrible situation of denial and deception as a Board of Directors turned a blind eye on misbehavior of the most flagrant kind. The facts emerging recently about other teachers who clearly do not follow the precepts and some who have been sexual predators for many years reflect badly on all of us who follow the path and would like to trust our teachers and their sponsoring organizations wholly and completely.

Alternately, and more disheartening in my view, the Catholic church chose the route of concealment if possible and strict damage control when that proved impossible. The generations of damaged victims will attest to the improvident view of the church hierarchy. Let's learn from their mistakes.

Compassion to all beings and to the planet itself.

ZenIrishChai's picture

I spent some time today reading parts of the Shobogenzo looking for some clarity on this issue, when I came across this passage in the first chapter; it suddenly felt as if Dogen were replying to this topic directly and helped me find a more settled state of mind about it. I hope it helps here:

"Reading sentences while remaining ignorant of how to practice [is like] a student of
medicine forgetting how to compound medications. What use is that? Those
who chant endlessly are like frogs in a spring paddy field, croaking day and
night. In the end it is all useless. It is still more difficult for people who are
deeply disturbed by fame and gain to abandon these things. The mind that
craves gain is very deep, and so it must have been present in the ancient past.
How could it not be present in the world today? It is most pitiful. Just remember,
when a practitioner directly follows a master who has attained the truth
and clarified the mind, and when the practitioner matches that mind and experiences
and understands it, and thus receives the authentic transmission of the
subtle Dharma of the Seven Buddhas, then the exact teaching appears clearly
and is received and maintained. This is beyond the comprehension of Dharma
teachers who study words. So stop this doubting and delusion and, following
the teaching of a true master, attain in experience the buddhas’ samādhi
of receiving and using the self, by sitting in zazen and pursuing the truth."

Excerpt from Original Edition © 1994–1999 Gudo Wafu Nishijima and Chodo Cross; & Copyright © 2007 by Bukkyō Dendō Kyōkai and Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research

I am unable to find better words anywhere else to help our direction on this issue. Somehow it's become distinctly clear how to handle it for me after reading this, although I struggle to find the words to express my interpretation and connection.

The best description I can come up with is the fact that in his time and in ours, there were teachers who received the true Dharma, but still easily fell prey to desires of fame and personal gain ("[like] a student of medicine forgetting how to compound medications" & "The mind that craves gain is very deep"). Sometimes this will distort the source material and sometimes it won't, but I think it is up to each and every one of us to see the Dharma given to us, experience it in zazen, find it's accuracy in application, or continue searching for the right teacher that has maintained the true Dharma. For us to dwell in frustration and doubt of today's teachers takes us that much longer to arrive at the truth and find the true Dharma in this existence. It almost feels as if he just told me "Get over it, and return to your cushion." much like the monk in meditation seated next to Dogen Zenji as he left this existence; (as portrayed in the movie "Zen".) "Continue to sit!".

As angry as these issues have made me, they truly do only hinder my personal growth the longer I dwell on it. I realize this is no different then making excuses about why I can't practice in this very moment. For others more deeply affected, I know it won't be so easy. As a global Sangha of bodhisattvas on the same path, we stand with you to overcome the negative Karma these teachers have created for all of us. I don't believe the mistake of these teachers is because of a lack of policy or instruction in this area, as we are consistently reminded that the Dharmas are boundless, and very clear on the path to escaping further suffering. No religion should need a policy to make it clearer that sexual misconduct is wrong, but even with increased media exposure and new policies, people continue doing the wrong things. These are cases where people that knew better simply succumbed to great ignorance, harming those around them as the Dharma said it would. I have to agree with Sharmila2 here; "Really, it isn't that complicated. It is our craving that makes it seem so.". I never found the issue of relationships or sexual affairs a confusing issue in my practice. I know there are many others that feel the same way, so with all due respect, maybe these teachers should be listening to our Dharma in this particular area. Maybe that is the form this blog post will take for them to understand exactly what they have done, and are in danger of doing again if they don't understand their mistake.

sharmila2's picture

Perhaps this sexual misconduct and the huge confusion (delusion?) arising therefrom illustrates why celibacy was deemed a cornerstone of the monastic tradition. The Buddha fully understood how easy it would be for craving and desire to lead us off the path, and how we would then delude ourselves with shades of grey; therefore he left no room for discussion or negotiation when he set up the original sangha, as Thanissaro Bikkhu has pointed out. While he allowed for the minor rules to be removed after his death, celibacy was definitely "a MAJOR rule", on par with the prohibition against killing another human.
Any sexual act involving a monk or nun is, by definition, not compatible with the Buddha's teachings, since it does not lead to reduction of craving, delusion or hostility (as has been amply demonstrated). For lay Buddhists, sexual misconduct includes adultery, or sex with a minor or someone who is "under another's care" i.e. not able to provide full, voluntary and informed consent. Really, it isn't that complicated. It is our craving that makes it seem so.

Maura High's picture

@sharmila, and all those who are responding to this article and issue: I am not a scholar, so I don't know a whole lot about Buddha's teachings, but I do know there's a difference between monastic life and life in the community (lay and ordained) that makes up a zen center. For lay people, practice is all about living in those shades of gray. We can't simply decide to give up sex, or love, or desire--those are part of our lives here and now and our healthy functioning in society, as parents, spouses, partners. Priests may fall in love, and have consensual sexual relations, and marry, in many zen schools. It's harder to sort out what's right use of sexual desire and instinct and what's not, when it's not absolutely prohibited. We may fall back on the guidelines Buddha gave to his son (Ambalatthika-rahulovada Sutta, trans. Thanissaro Bikku):"Whenever you want to do a bodily action, you should reflect on it: 'This bodily action I want to do — would it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Would it be an unskillful bodily action, with painful consequences, painful results?' If, on reflection, you know that it would lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both; it would be an unskillful bodily action with painful consequences, painful results, then any bodily action of that sort is absolutely unfit for you to do. But if on reflection you know that it would not cause affliction... it would be a skillful bodily action with pleasant consequences, pleasant results, then any bodily action of that sort is fit for you to do." By this criterion, teachers should not have adulterous relations, as it causes huge damage to self and others.

ZenIrishChai's picture

I understand and appreciate what you are saying. I just want to mention one correction that stood out for me. Pleasant situations are not any more acceptable then harmful situations according to my understanding of the Dharma. Buddhism is nicknamed "The Middle Way" for this reason. We are told that in order to escape the cycle of continued suffering, we must stop being led by our interpretations of pleasant desire or unpleasant aversion equally. They both will have harmful results in the end by leading our actions by a false perspective of our true nature, only offering us fleeting pleasure at best, instead of a mindful contentment with the way things are. That could be exactly what you meant though, and my apology if I am getting caught up too much in the choice of words.

Either way, the Dharma teaches us to overcome these two extremes and see clearly to the true essence of reality that is neither negative or positive. It just is. It's very clear when our minds are clear and unafflicted by pleasurable or unpleasurable phenomenon. The simplicity and awareness of prior commitments to the Sangha and to a married partner should have made many of these actions clearly harmful long before they took root within their actions.

There is an absolute difference between the lay practitioner and ordained. I think this would be a completely different issue if it only happened to lay persons, and more of a personal issue to be settled outside the confines of the temple or center. On the other hand, ordained practitioners and teachers involved in any way should feel deeply responsible for making a commitment to the clear instruction of the Dharma, and completely failing to live by it. I think they can only recover from this with deep, honest reflection about why these afflictions arose within, and should probably still have continued communication and practice with a temple or center to help them see sides of this issue that they are having difficulty seeing on their own. That's a tough angle for me to take because I don't know how they would return to the community where they caused so much pain, and continue to practice in that environment. In other ways, it also seems like maybe that's exactly where they should be right now. This practice seems a lot more 'in our face' in that way then some other religious perspectives. I've heard many of us say that when we are at our very worst, it's the most productive time to sit with it and see that side of ourselves from which we panic to get away from, especially when everyone else is aware of it and can see it. That's a more difficult practice then I can manage so I certainly don't expect it of others, even of our teachers and Dharma ancestors. However, my respect for these people would certainly begin to heal if they appeared before the community as practitioners that fell from the path, but stay dedicated to learning from their mistakes and returning to the community to help, to grow, and to repair the damages. Maybe they are helping more by not returning though, and I'm sure that factored in to their decision. Only the people directly affected by these events can make that decision. I can also see how it would be pretty difficult to find teachers more knowledgeable and experienced in the Dharma then some of those returning. It would probably take great humility and courage to face a group of practitioners with so many extremes of reactions to it, and the wisdom to humbly face everything said as either accurate and needed, or not helpful at this point, but all greatly valued as a window to their return to true awareness.

wildrose's picture

The main issue in Zen Buddhism seems to be the situation where someone is "under one's own care", i.e., teachers having sex with their students.

These are not Buddhist monks, but may be priests, or lay teachers. They may genuinely fall in love, or fall into infatuation, or abuse their charisma/power. How do we tell the difference, and should such cases be treated differently? They may involve a fully mature student who knows their own minds/hearts fully, and is fully capable of giving consent -- or not. How do we know the difference? Should there be a bright line for non-monastic Zen teachers and/or priests that they NEVER fall in love with a student? Or should there be some room there?

Anreal's picture

As a bit of a devil's advocate again I would just like to point out the original intent/purpose of traditional conduct such as "do not question the teacher."

This is a very complicated issue here in the west and you will never find me endorsing any rule across the board other than "BE AWAKE to the moment at all times" but I do feel that it is necessary to address this issue.

Traditionally, receiving teachings is not just something that anyone could get, for nothing, whenever they wanted. The teachings themselves should be viewed as treasures, rare and precious gems transmitted by a realized masters. (I have spoken a bit about the nature of the relationship between the teacher and student earlier on)

What I DO want to point out is that the teachings are not philosophical theories open for discussion by students with no understanding. Part of the process in the receiving of teachings is that the students at that point 'submit' in devotion to the guru to receive instruction. They are not there to catalogue shop for teachings that suit them but entirely offer up all their preconceived ideas in order to receive instruction. (of course, this is why students have to check out their teachers for a while in the first place, to ascertain whether the teacher is WORTH submitting to!)

As harsh as this might sound, Buddhism has never been a democracy, or a free for all. If a student wants teachings, they should investigate until they find the right master at which point they devote themselves completely to the process. If they are constantly engaged in subtle judgement and questions they will never receive the benefit of the teachings as Buddhism itself requires such a completely new way of looking at the world - like a washing machine for the head - the last thing that is needed is for the student to constantly be doubting their teacher.

Of course, people in the west have a hard time dealing with this. I would argue that if you are unable to unequivocally trust a teacher, and if the non-democratic experience of the teachings bugs you:
- one has either not find the right teachings
- not find the right teacher
- it is not the right time to engage the teachings
and so on.

myojozen's picture

Dear Wildrose,
I am 45. I am a Zen priest. I am a teacher. I am a single father and I have a girlfriend. I became a priest mainly because I wanted to have a closer relationship with my Teacher-a completely honest and honourable man. If you were to delve into my past you would find all kinds of unpriestly activity, but that was before I became one.
It seems to me that many of the more famous teachers who introduced Buddhism to the United States were not great priests themselves and their students didn't have that great an example to follow.
I think there is quite a blase attitude to the Dharma in the US, as if we are all free to make up our own Dharma to suit ourselves - which we are I suppose - but not if we're going to be priests.
Buddhism has risen and fallen in every country it has migrated to. It seems to me that the fall might be accomplished in record time in America if people don't watch out.
If being a priest is to have any meaning then we must preserve the precepts - regardless of the behaviour of others.
Yes. Of course people fall in love but that doesn't happen without volition on our part - even if we never act upon it. Married priests should NEVER have affairs. If their marriage is hopeless they should end it before getting together with someone else - obviously. If they don't have the discipline to do that then they shouldn't be priests let alone teachers.
As I said before, I think that there were some bad examples at the start but that doesn't mean that it has to go on that way.
Buddhism in America needs a major overhaul. It is riddled with pride and dishonesty and bound up massively with politics rather than practice.
I don't see why a priest shouldn't have an open honest monogamous relationship with a student provided both parties are free to do so without compromising the precepts.
The real problem, I think, is when people's ambition gets going. Fame and gain are what Dogen constantly warned us of. The endless, repetative publishing of books, articles,DVDs and CDs and the large amounts of money and praise to be had are the real problem. Everyone knows that to appeal to a mass audience (and that is what these characters want) you have to reduce the quality of the product and this leads to an inevitable corruption of the Dharma.
It seems to me that everyone mentioned in this discussion falls into that category to some extent. Both the obvious frauds and the people capitalizing on their downfall.
As William Shakespeare said;"Love and be silent"
I shall now take his advice.

In Gassho,
Rev. Thomas Myojo

bc795743's picture

I find this entire discussion very interesting as it has cropped up many times in my relationship with Buddhism.

There is a Pureland group in the UK, Amida Trust, where the Head of the Order maintains that marriage is not a Buddhist institution thus he did not break any Buddhist precepts (he is "Ordained") through his public extramarital affair with a student and has not been divorced though the marriage is broken down and each of the parties is acting as "single" and available.

I question the example this sets for the followers of this group and is an example of a "convenient" interpretation of what is Buddhist and what is not.

wildrose's picture

Hello Rev. Thomas Myojo -- Thanks for your comments. I agree with you as to what Zen priests and lay teachers (as opposed to monks who take a vow of celebacy) "should" and "should not" do. I also believe that if they make a mistake in this area, there needs to be a process by which they can atone and be rehabilitated, if they are able and willing to do so. I think the most egregious cases we know about were the teachers who apparently lacked remorse for the harm they did and continued doing it.

I once belonged to a sangha where an unmarried lay teacher and an unmarried mature senior student fell in love. Personally, I was quite happy for them both and the happiness they found together. However, some other members of our sangha believed it was unethical in ALL cases for a teacher to have a romantic relationship with a student -- even when both were single and both were mature people apparently able to know their own hearts and minds. The sangha members who objected believed that a boundary had been crossed, they feared the senior student might gain special status, they also objected to the relationship having been "secret" for awhile when it first was developing.

As a result, some of us wanted to have an open conversation about this disharmony in the sangha to try to bring about mutual reconciliation and understanding. Unfortunately, the teacher and the board of directors did not want to allow that open conversation. Those who were unhappy with the teacher's relationship were isolated and condemned and, in my opinion, mistreated. So I left the sangha, and so did a few others.

I left not because of the teacher's romantic relationship, but because of the treatment of those who were uneasy, confused, disturbed by it. I felt there was an atmosphere of "you cannot question or challenge the teacher's conduct" that was very unhealthy and, frankly, quite shocking. I had not expected it. As I've read more about the sanghas where teachers' conduct goes unchallenged, I've seen the "cult-like" atmosphere that sometimes seems to develop as very dangerous -- not just to students, but also to teachers. Teachers are human, afterall, and need to be answerable to others for their conduct. I think they need to be answerable to their sangha, not just other teachers, when their conduct is causing harm or disharmony.

Not all problems can be worked out, but there needs to be a process to try to work them out. I don't know if the members of our sangha who believed a teacher should never have a romantic relationship with a student under any circumstances could have been reconciled with our teacher, or our teacher with them, but there was no effort to try ... and that saddened me greatly.

Many Zen Centers do have ethical policies and reconciliation committees. I'd like to hear from some who have faced this issue "successfully."

James Shaheen's picture

I don't know why the letter reflects poorly on Aitken. Also, I do not share your opinion of the writers' motives but we're looking at this from two very different perspectives. You know the Diamond Sangha well and I do not. I do not know John Tarrant and beyond mentioning that old allegations have once again become part of a larger public discussion, I can't say anything else.

As for the Shambhala Sun, we've found ourselves in like situations. Once I ran an article on Walter Nowick and did not mention problems dividing the sangha and allegations of inappropriate use of authority. I am embarrassed to say I was ignorant of them. Former students of his let me know that and with some unhappiness. I wish the writer had, but the responsibility was ultimately mine.

wildrose's picture

I think it reflects poorly on Aitken because his closest dharma heir at the end of his life -- Foster --and his literary executor -- Shoemaker -- are engaged in extremely damaging speech about another of his dharma heirs -- Tarrant. And because the "scandal" they raise is 12 years old.

I find that suggestive of a climate of unexamined grudge-holding that I would hope senior dharma teachers would not want to perpetuate. This all this seems so lacking in self-reflection and makes me wonder about how much self-reflection Aitken Roshi encouraged in these matters.

I'm also a student of the late Chan Master Sheng Yen, and this reminds me of one of his stories. There was once a monk in his monastery who ate all the cottage cheese every morning when the container was placed on the breakfast table. The other monks came to Master Sheng Yen to complain about this greedy behavior and to ask Master Sheng Yen to set him straight. Instead of chastising the cottage cheese-eating monk, Master Sheng Yen chastised the complaining monks, telling them that they needed to help the monk to understand that his conduct was causing problems. He said most bad conduct is just ignorance. Eventually one of the monks did explain to the cottage cheese-eater that some of the other monks would also like to eat some cottage cheese for breakfast so he shouldn't eat it all. The monk never hogged the cottage cheese again. The story charmed me with its insight into how our judgments of others get in the way of our just helping each other out of our ignorance & troubles.

rob.grover's picture

Wildrose, It's amazing you blame aiken for tarrant's behavior. just crazy! it's like blaming kristin for not being forgiving enough. we have to remember that bays slept with her patients and the father of her patients. also she was given inka by someone she slept with (another patient and whose wife was a patient) and later attacked. she has not denied kristin's accusation that she slept with genpo has she? was that for love of the dharma too? she never says she's sorry really. just blames it on all sorts of people and things.

you think it's important that bays wasn't a victim. who ever said she was a victim? is she being noble for saying she wasn't? no, she's leading us away form the point--the fact that she victimized others.

this has nothing to do with dharma or love of dharma. if you love the dharma you don't do this. she loved herself and now she's in the worst kind of denial and charlatanry.

i know someone who was caught drunk driving a few times and he took more classes than bays ever did and could list more on his resume. bays is like a drunk driver. she can just keep taking the classes. maybe she and tarrant should wag a finger at everyone for not being forgiving enough while she blasts genpo while pretending to apologize. you get now sense she has any idea what she has done and then she makes her husband a roshi. it all stinks and you are an apologist for someone who has left a lot of victims in her wake.

James Shaheen's picture

I apologize if I twisted your words. What I'm saying is that you seem to question Foster's motives and Shoemaker's because of their past with Tarrant. In fact, you attribute motive to their actions. If this is not correct, please let me know. Likewise, people may question Bays's motives because of her past with Genpo. That's not to determine her motives but to suggest that her involvement—decades ago and recently—raises the expected questions, fair or not. I think it was an unwise decision to include her as a signatory.

wildrose's picture

OK. Thanks for your apology.
_/|\_

I think Foster and Shoemaker made their motives clear:

"In making a case for this change of direction [in their letter in response to Tarrant's article which they proposed for publication in the Sun], Mr. McLeod advanced an argument that we find untenable, to put it mildly: "we have tried not to wash the Buddhist world's dirty laundry in public -- to avoid getting into detail about difficulties and divisions within Buddhist sanghas. This is particularly important in the Sun, with a substantial non-Buddhist or beginning Buddhist audience." To the degree that this policy represents refusal to indulge in back-biting and gossip-mongering, we enthusiastically applaud it; otherwise, it seems to us that it infantilizes readers and may protect them from information that beginners actually need to be attuned to in exploring the profusion of Buddhist paths, organizations, and teachers on offer in North America today. How he applied the policy in the present instance seems utterly indefensible, for while it has shielded his readers from awareness of Dr. Tarrant's misconduct and removal from the Diamond Sangha, it hasn't spared them his biased "tribute" impugning the wisdom and character of a widely respected teacher."

So, their stated objective or "motive" was to inform the readers of the details of Tarrant's "misconduct and removal from the Diamond Sangha" 12 years ago. Do you read it otherwise?

They apparently thought doing so would somehow elevate the "wisdom and character" of Aitken Roshi. But their letter had the opposite effect on me. It made me more aware that the "back-biting and gossip-mongering" hadn't died down in the Diamond Sangha after all these years. And I do take that as a reflection on the founder and lead teacher -- on the "family style," if you will.

I've been around the block with "spiritual communities" since the '70s, seen most of it many times. I try to call it like I see it.

The reason I do that is to call all of our sanctimony into question -- yours and mine, too. I don't think it helps at all if we're going to put our ill-will aside and get to the heart of the matter.

James Shaheen's picture

I agree, whether Kirsten forgives Bays is not an issue.

What you're saying is that you trust Bays but you do not trust Foster and Shoemaker, and that's fine. You can see, though, how the reverse will be true for others. In the case of Bays, her direct involvement raises questions that work against the credibility of the letter. It's good for people to have the information so that they can make good decisions on their own.

wildrose's picture

James, you're twisting what I say. Whether I "trust" Foster and Shoemaker -- they're not giving advice -- isn't an issue or even relevant. I'm observing their tactic -- dragging up old shit about Tarrant. What does that say about them? About Aitken? Anyone who has ever spent a long time in a Sangha will know that Zen teachers have their shadows, and that their students need to come to grips with them somehow. If we fail to do that, then we are putting teachers on a pedestal. And I think we are seeing the consequences of that when carried to extremes in the Shimano and perhaps the Genpo cases of sex and money.

I hope people will take Bays' direct involvement (30 years ago) with Maezumi and Genpo as a source of experience-based hard won wisdom and compassion -- as I do.

James Shaheen's picture

Wildrose,

I don't dispute that Bays has done great work. The point is that it seems self-defeating to me for the AZTA to include her as a signatory. Her history does not make her an ideal public spokesperson on such matters or her advice credible, particularly when she was so closely involved with the teacher in question. The appearance of a conflict—and the real possibility of one—is great. If she is going to make a public statement, then, it is important to understand its context. Just as you question the motives of the Diamond Sangha because of your understanding of their history with Tarrant, we can expect others will have similar doubts about Jan Chozen Bays's involvement here. You see the problem. I'm sure those who have participated in this very sort of behavior and regret it have much to offer otherwise, and there are plenty of ways to do that, as Bays's work over the years shows.

I can't speak for Kirsten Maezumi, but she in fact does say that she can forgive Bays. Whether she has is not an issue here.

Our best wishes are indeed with those who struggle with this, both those under fire and those cleaning up the mess.

Thanks for your comment,

James