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 Zen teachers issue open letter confronting abuse

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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Zen teachers issue open letter confronting abuse   Tue Jan 13, 2015 10:58 pm

Zen teachers issue open letter confronting abuse -by Grace Schireson | January 13, 2015



Following Buddhadharma‘s Winter 2014 cover story on abuse in Buddhist communities, 90 Zen teachers and community leaders have penned an open letter on the issue.


As Zen teachers, we would like to express our gratitude for Buddhadharma’s recent issue on abuse in Buddhist communities. We also appreciated Mr. Oppenheimer’s piece in The Atlantic for “The Zen Predator of the Upper East Side.” We are referring to the discussion and reports on the abuse of power and authority of Zen Teacher Eido Shimano and others. We believe exposing this problem is a positive step in the direction of preventing such abuses in the future. Many women and others in the Zen community have suffered as a result, and we regret and apologize for our collective failure to stop this harm. Thanks to Mr. Oppenheimer’s efforts, women have come forward, some even using their names; we think this kind of courage can only embolden other survivors of abuse to speak out.

We have pledged to look and listen to our communities and to build more visible ethics codes, working toward consensus on national standards on behavior and oversight, and seeking outside consultation to educate and empower students to come forward if they have been abused. Unlike either our Asian counterparts or American Judeo-Christian clergy, the American Zen tradition does not yet have a central authorizing body capable of sanctioning and removing a harmful teacher.

Even so, as Zen Buddhist community leaders we are committed to changing the culture of silence and the idealization of the teacher’s status that has been so detrimental to students. As Mr. Oppenheimer points out, scoundrels and sociopaths will always walk among us–sometimes as teachers and priests. While ethics and changes in the balance of power cannot completely halt these scoundrels, we are working steadily to make our communities more aware of these dangers as a way to prevent abuse. We view the revelations concerning Eido Shimano as a wake-up call to each of us to pay close attention to the safety of the members of our community, and to monitor our own behavior as well as that of others.

Signed by

1. Abbess Myoan Grace Schireson, Empty Nest Zendo, 54333 Two Hills Road, North Fork, CA 93643 Phone 559.994.9008
2. Rev. Genjo Joe Marinello, Choboji Zen Center
3. Abbess Tonen O’Connor, Milwaukee Zen Center
4. Rev. Hozan Alan Senauke, Berkeley Zen Center
5. Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara, Village Zendo
6. Karin Ryuku Kempe, Zen Center of Denver
7. Rev. Eshu Martin, Zenwest Buddhist Society
8. Bodhin Kjolhede, Rochester Zen Center
9. Barry Magid, The Ordinary Mind Zendo, NYC
10. Abbot Jay Rinsen Weik, Great Heartland Buddhist Temple of Toledo
11. Abbess Zenki Mary Mocine, Vallejo Zen Center
12. Rev. Jisho Warner, Stone Creek Zen Center
13. Diane Eshin Rizzetto, Bay Zen Center
14. Rev. Nomon Tim Burnett, Red Cedar Zen
15. Roshi Joan Halifax, Upaya Zen Center
16. Rev. Taigen Dan Leighton, Ancient Dragon Zen Gate
17. Rev. Daishin McCabe, Zen Fields, Ames Iowa
18. Rev. Jundo Cohen, Trealeaf Sangha, Japan
19. Kristen Larson, NO Sangha, Diamond Sangha Lineage, Port Angeles, WA
20. Leonard Marcel, Seven Thunders Sangha
21. Daniel Terragno, Rocks & Clouds Zendo
22. Bonseong Jeff Kitzes, Guiding teacher, Empty Gate Zen Center, Berkeley, CA
23. Abbot Zoketsu Norman Fischer, former abbot SFZC, director Everyday Zen Foundation
24. Anita Feng, Blue Heron Zen Community
25. Ray Ruzan Cicetti, Empty Bowl Zendo
26. Rev. Joen Snyder O’Neal, Compassionate Ocean Dharma Center
27. Rev. Zenshin Greg Fain, San Francisco Zen Center
28. Rev. Eido Frances Carney, Olympia Zen Center
29. Rev. Melissa Myozen Blacker, Boundless Way Temple
30. Abbess Jan Chozen Bay, Great Vow Zen Monastery
31. Abbot Hogen Bays, Great Vow Zen Monastery
32. Rev. Anka Spencer, Puerto Compasivo
33. Abbot Les Kaye, Kannon Do Zen Meditation Center
34. Rev. Shinshu Roberts, Ocean Gate Zen Center
35. Rev. Daijaku Kinst, Ocean Gate Zen Center
36. Rev. Domyo Burk, Bright Way Zen
37. Abbess P. Dai-En Bennage, founder, Mt. Equity Zendo, Jiho-an
38. Abbess Zenkei Blanche Hartman, San Francisco Zen Center
39. Eiko Joshin Carolyn Atkinson, Everyday Dharma Zen Center
40. Rev. Shinchi Linda Galijan, Tassajara Zen Mountain Center
41. Rev. Mitra Bishop, Mountain Gate & Hidden Valley Zen Center
42. Glenn Noblin, Austin Zen Center
43. Rev. Dairyu Michael Wenger, Dragons Leap Zen Center
44. Rev. Kuzan Peter Schireson, Zen Center Fresno
45. Rev. Tenku Ruff, Golden Bell Zazenkai
46. Rev. Kenshin Catherine Cascade, Bird Haven Zendo
47. Rev. Peg Koan Syverson, Appamada, Austin, TX
48. Debra Seido Martin, Empty Field Zendo
49. Eihei Peter Levitt, Salt Spring Zen Circle, Canada
50. Abbot Eshin John Godfrey, Zen Centre of Vancouver, Canada
51. Kim Hoben Hansen, North Shore Zendo, Canada
52. Rev. Meiren Val Szymanski, Bamboo In The Wind
53. Sensei Janet Jiryu Abels, Still Mind Zendo New York City
54. Sensei Gregory Hosho Abels, Still Mind Zendo New York City
55. Marisa Seishin Cespedes, Still Mind Zendo New York City
56. Rev. Sosan Theresa Flynn, Clouds in Water Zen Center
57. Rev. Lee Lewis, Broken Wooden Ladle Zen Project
58. Rev. Myogen Kathryn Stark, Hospice Chaplain
59. Robert Rosenbaum, Lay teacher, Meadowmont Zen Qigong
60. Rev. Tomon Lisa Marr, Milwaukee Zen Center
61. Rev. Joan Hogetsu Hoeberichts, Heart Circle Sangha
62. Abbess Wendy Egyoku Nakao, Zen Center Los Angeles
63. Rev. Baika Pratt-Heaton, Mt. Diablo Zen Center
64. Rev. Cynthia Kear, Everywhere Zen
65. Rev. Yozen Peter Schneider, Beginner’s Mind Zen Center
66. Abbess Setsuan Gaelyn Godwin, Houston Zen Center
67. Abbess Josho Pat Phelan, Chapel Hill Zen Center
68. Rev. Hobu Beata Chapman, Open Zen Community
69. Diane Musho Hamilton, Two Arrows Zen, Salt Lake City, Utah
70. Michael Mugaku Zimmerman Sensei, Two Arrows Zen, Salt Lake City, Utah
71. Rev. Myo-o Marilyn Habermas-Scher, Dharma Dance Sangha, Hospital Chaplain
72. Rev. Hoka Chris Fortin, Sebastapol Lotus Sangha, Everyday Zen Foundation
73. Sensei Ann Pirrucello, Three Treasures Zen Community
74. Mushin Abby Terris, Sangha Jewel, Corvallis, Oregon
75. Rev. Ben Connelly, Minnesota Zen Meditation Center
76. Rev. Kakumyo Lowe Chard, Dharma Rain Zen Center
77. Rev. Steve Kanji Ruhl, Yale Buddhist Sangha
78. Sunyana Graef, Vermont Zen Center
79. Sensei Al Genkai Kaszniak, Upaya Zen Center of Tucson
80. Rev. Zuiko Redding, Cedar Rapids Zen Center, Iowa
81. Rev. Ekyo Susan Nelson, Minnesota Zen Meditation Center
82. Sekishun Karen DeCotis, Lay teacher, Bozeman Zen Group
83. Elizabeth Hamilton, Zen teacher, Zen Center San Diego
84. Michael Kieran, Diamond Sangha Honolulu
85. J. Lee Nelson, Lay teacher, Everyday Zen
86. Rev. Nicolee Jikyo McMahon, Three Treasures Zen Community
87. Anna Youree Christensen, Ordinary Mind Zendo NYC
88. Rev. Shodo Spring, Mountains and Waters
89. Tenney Nathanson Sensei, Desert Rain Zen
90. Rev. Philip Sengetsu Kolman, Sensei, Hermitage Heart, Garrison, NY
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: Zen teachers issue open letter confronting abuse   Tue Jan 13, 2015 11:01 pm

Are any OBC groups / "masters" signatories to this letter?  Didn't notice any.  Interesting who signed, and who didn't I suppose.
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BeenThere



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PostSubject: Re: Zen teachers issue open letter confronting abuse   Wed Jan 14, 2015 4:37 pm

I believe all the teachers who signed are member of one of the Zen teacher orgs. AZTA, SZBA and LZTA.

I don't think any of the OBC teachers are member of these organisations.

Fairly certain that in the past Eko Little and Meian Elbert have been members. (could be wrong)
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H Enida



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PostSubject: Re: Zen teachers issue open letter confronting abuse   Thu Jan 15, 2015 11:52 am

That's the first thing that caught my eye too Josh, there are no OBC authorities on the list of signees.....hmmmmm.

The article says nothing about these teachers having to be part of any organization, i.e. AZTA, SZBA, etc.  And, the Abbey monks have been involved in some of these organizations in the past and certainly are friendly with many of their teachers, so they would have been able to include themselves if they were interested.

I note the article also refers new practitioners to the resources of the signing teachers as places for ethical practice....I would think any right-minded organization would want to be on this list.
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: Zen teachers issue open letter confronting abuse   Thu Jan 15, 2015 12:00 pm

well, OBC and Shasta are the poster children for "the culture of silence and the idealization of the teacher’s status."  So OBC folks could sign this statement, but in reality, shut up and bow has been the norm there for decades and Kennett has certainly been glorified.  and i don't know what's going on now, but if they can't acknowledge Kennett's shadows, then little has changed.
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: Zen teachers issue open letter confronting abuse   Thu Jan 15, 2015 6:13 pm

I guess glorifying teachers and being teachers with the assumption that one has something to teach,or one know a particular secret is rather an exhausting way to live maybe giving up Zen and all things that separate us from life itself is maybe quite a good place to be
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: Zen teachers issue open letter confronting abuse   Fri Jan 16, 2015 11:19 pm

i am quoted in this HuffingtonPost news piece about the open letter:



http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/16/zen-teachers-abuse-letter_n_6488386.html?utm_hp_ref=religion

90 Zen Teachers Pledge To Change Culture That Fosters Abuse
The Huffington Post  |  By Antonia Blumberg - Posted: 01/16/2015


Prominent Zen teacher Eido Shimano resigned as head of a Buddhist monastery in New York in 2010 over allegations of sexual abuse. Shimano's fall from grace and the subsequent revelations of other teachers' misdeeds forced many American Buddhist communities to evaluate how they handled such abuses of power.

On Tuesday, 90 Zen teachers signed onto a letter expressing their remorse over the alleged sexual assault and their commitment to alter "the culture of silence" that fosters it.

"We have pledged to look and listen to our communities and to build more visible ethics codes, working toward consensus on national standards on behavior and oversight, and seeking outside consultation to educate and empower students to come forward if they have been abused," the letter states.

Drafted primarily by Abbess Myoan Grace Schireson of Empty Nest Zendo in California and Rev. Genjo Joe Marinello of the Choboji Zen Center in Washington state, the letter references two 2014 articles detailing abuse in Buddhist sanghas, or monastic communities. The letter says those articles -- in The Atlantic and Buddhadharma magazine -- contributed to public awareness of the issue and represented "a positive step in the direction" of preventing future abuses.

"Revelations of sexual misconduct, abuses of power and a culture of silence about these problems in the Zen community have surfaced repeatedly and more frequently since communication on the Internet has reached a large and interactive audience," Schireson told The Huffington Post by email.

Following publication of the December article in The Atlantic, titled "The Zen Predator of the Upper East Side," Shireson said she and others saw "an opportunity to respond to these painful public revelations with an apology, an acknowledgment to those who outed this harmful behavior, and a pledge to change Zen's culture."

The letter notes that the American Zen tradition, unlike its counterparts in Asia, lacks a central authorizing body with the power to remove an abusive teacher. In Shimano's case, a student came forward to say that they had been having an affair, and pressure from the community and media coverage eventually led to Shimano's resignation.

Josh Baran, a strategic communications consultant and former Zen priest, told HuffPost that in addition to management issues, American Zen communities have long been plagued by false notions of teacher infallibility.

"We need a culture where the teacher is not presumed to be fully enlightened," Baran said. "There's a common misconception that whatever the teacher is doing must be great teaching. ... It creates a kind of spiritual trap."

Baran left his Zen community in 1977 when it became "toxic" due to abuses of power, he said, but he has continued practicing Buddhism in the years since. Communities that have gone through crises need help from psychological and counseling resources to heal, Baran said. Within the tradition, he added, there's an opportunity to re-examine those assumptions about leaders' enlightenment and move toward greater transparency.

"It's time for spiritual adulthood," Baran said, "and that could be exciting."

Schireson said she hopes the letter will push other teachers to maintain high ethical standards as well as help students feel safe enough to approach trusted teachers if problems arise.

"We hope that the letter will not only serve as an apology and pledge by Zen teachers, but that it will also help to educate Zen students (and other spiritual practitioners) about the dangers of a culture that idealizes the teacher and silences dissent," she said via email.

"In the long run," Schireson added, "maybe the pledge can begin to serve as 'A Zen Student’s Bill of Rights.
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PostSubject: Re: Zen teachers issue open letter confronting abuse   Fri Jan 16, 2015 11:48 pm

This is what a true bodhisattva's vows look like.  No grandiose self-serving pronouncements about saving all beings, however innumerable they may be, this is real and measurable and directed toward saving beings from harm who are right in front of their eyes. I admire this so much.
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: Zen teachers issue open letter confronting abuse   Mon Jan 19, 2015 12:49 am

this was the prologue to the letter that was posted above.  The prologue was posted on the sweepingzen.com site:

A Pledge from the Next Generation of Zen Teachers

By Grace Schireson and Genjo Marinello

Genjo Marinello and Grace Schireson are two of the principle authors of the open letter from 92 Zen teachers that was just released and reprinted below. Together they have written this prologue to share with readers of Sweeping Zen.

Prologue

“Revelations of sexual misconduct, abuses of power and a culture of silence about these problems in the Zen community have surfaced repeatedly and more frequently since communication on the Internet has reached a large and interactive audience. The majority of Zen teachers today have neither participated in these harmful practices nor excused them, but there has been little that our community has been able to do. Sweeping Zen and the Shimano and Sasaki archives first, and now mainstream journals (the New York Times, L.A. Times and The Atlantic) have begun to report on these unethical and unwholesome events, and this exposure has directly contributed to a movement of deeper recognition, reorganization and productive change that will help reduce the likelihood of further abuse.

At this time, there is no central Zen sanctioning body that could remove a Zen priest from his position, as there is in Asia. Instead, Zen teachers and other courageous crusaders have used the Internet to condemn particular instances of abusive or unethical behavior. More importantly, we all have begun to look at ways that our Zen culture may contribute to silencing our communities and protecting abusive teachers.

The current letter by more than 90 Zen teachers, in response to the detailed reporting in The Atlantic and the most recent issue of Buddhadharma, apologizes for not doing enough to protect students, and pledges to change the culture of silence and the idealization of the Zen teacher which have proven so detrimental to students in abusive situations. This current generation of Zen teachers is committed to creating a more wholesome environment where the teacher is held accountable and will be asked to look at his/her faults, where the community’s voice to raise concern is strengthened, and where outside agencies and groups can be called to intervene to support a fair process.

Look over the letter, and you will likely find teachers in your area, priest or lay, who appreciate courageous whistle blowers, recognize systemic problems, and will actively work with others not to sweep problems under the rug. All of us support strengthening procedures to ensure ethical and fair practices and are working hard to foster a practice environment that is both heart centered and authentic.”
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PostSubject: Re: Zen teachers issue open letter confronting abuse   Mon Jan 19, 2015 8:33 pm

Josh wrote:
It's time for spiritual adulthood
How right, how right. We all have to grow up,  take responsibility for our actions,  and be responsible to others. In truth there is nowhere to hide and nothing to cover our nakedness.
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