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 35 year old letter

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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: 35 year old letter   Mon Nov 22, 2010 2:51 pm

I was going to write a few funny stories, but this is my last. I am pleased Daiji Strathern has written, or started to. This is because really it gives me a chance to talk about him. It is really the only purpose I chose to write in the first place.
The 35 year old letter in truth was given to him and then on to me, a letter written by Jiju Kennett 35 years ago talking mainly about how scared Daiji or Mark was of the truth, the way, whatever. It said a bit of stuff about Bill and me, but big deal.
Daiji did leave Shasta saying it was not working for hm, also saying it was gedo zen that was being practiced. Now in Zen there are checking systems in place, in Rinzai there are the checking koans, and Soto the collective weight of the heirarchy,always other older monks, to ensure practice stays on the right track, if you are lucky as pure as possible.
The new practice had started at Shasta of perceiving previous lives, not just one, but many, spreading around the place, going back in time together, this needs checking, this is not zen practice,this does not lead to real awakening.
The worrying thing is the lack of ability to say hang on. Was this denied, did people have their freedom of speech taken from them. These previous lives went back as far as Jesus and deciples, This is odd behaviour at best, sick at worse. This practice, causes, harm to the spirit, and mental confusion and trauma.
Mark left, people tried to talk him round, but he left. He was a Dharma heir he was not listened to.The previous lives, came to an orcestrated end,and the discrediting started. I wrote to Shasta, and was told I had to follow the party line, and who was I to be critical, only the loyal understood. Bill tried to communicate, and was told he needed to go over to Shasta for more training.
Here is Mark Strathern, standing up for the truth, for what he believed in, and every effort was made to destroy him. I want you to know,I fought for him, and would not have him destroyed.Here is someone who showed leadership, courage and commitment,and this is always in short supply, any where in the world , even temples.This is the stuff Dharma heirs are made of. This leads to strenghth of spirit and religious character. Mark would not be bought with a coloured Raksu or fancy title. First , second, third kensho who cares, it simply is not what I came to Zen Buddhism for. I believed and believe in the true way.The true way is walked by people,simply who seek the truth. I am lucky I left the reformed soto zen sect a long time ago , but not the practice of zazen. From the little I have read there has been a few hurt people,this is very sad,because, I am sure that everyone was so sincere in their efforts to find the true way, Life is paper thin, the way is always here.
Good bye good luck
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Jimyo

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PostSubject: Re: 35 year old letter   Mon Nov 22, 2010 5:01 pm

So....errr....are you going to tell us about the letter?
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Lise
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PostSubject: Re: 35 year old letter   Thu Dec 02, 2010 4:32 pm

hi Chisan -- I would like to know more about the letter if possible. Mark, your thoughts are welcome too, of course.

I understand that it was sent to other Buddhists in England when Mark left. I assume the recipients included some who weren't involved with the OBC? This goes beyond what I've seen described here re: shunning, where the negative messaging seemed mostly confined to the sangha circle.

How did the letter appear -- as a personal note or on OBC letterhead (if such existed then) and it was signed by Kennett?

L.
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: 35 year old letter   Thu Dec 02, 2010 5:02 pm

Hi Lise
The letter was written on Zen Mission Society letter heading dated 18th September 1977 and signed I am not God only a Zen Master Jiju Kennett
The letter was powerful and emotive , dismissive of Mark then me.
It was sent to many different Buddhist addresses,and came to me a few months ago. It had been sent to a friend who was connected to the Buddhist Society I believe. Kennett had alienated herself from the Buddhist Society so it would have fallen on deaf ears, especially as Mark and myself had friends there, and I had just given a talk there.
It is worthy of a little discussion as it shows how horrible someone can be to someone else in this case Mark,and attempt to hurt his reputation.
I believe if we could all talk openly on a forum 35 years( sorry 33 years ) ago,the outcome would have been different.As Josh has said there was not freedom of speech at Shasta, or he at least felt there was not.We used to have Catholic monks come on retreats what would they have felt if they knew what some of the previous lives were,not very happy at all.
I am babbling sorry Lise, I will speak to Mark, and see what he feels about disclosing more of the letter. Thank you
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Lise
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PostSubject: Re: 35 year old letter   Thu Dec 02, 2010 5:37 pm

Thanks for that, Chisan. And I wouldn't nudge you or Mark for further disclosure, I'm just a curious rat by nature. I try to reign it in once a week, though.

cheers,
L
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Anne

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PostSubject: Re: 35 year old letter   Thu Dec 02, 2010 6:04 pm

I remember receiving the 'circular' in 1977. My impression was that it was prepared in something of an emergency.

The circular mentioned that not all transmitted priests had experienced kensho, which may have surprised quite a few people, and mentioned this also in relation to Daiji (Mark). It also mentioned something about him having become afraid of what was happening in connection with RMJK's third kensho, from which the writer inferred (as Chisan said) that Mark was afraid of the truth (I don't remember the actual wording). I think it may also have said that he had at first agreed not to discuss his concerns with others on his return to Throssel but that he had subsequently done so.

The wording was not malicious, but I felt that the writer was feeling much strain about the whole situation and clearly did not agree with Mark's actions.

I think the circular may also have mentioned about arrangements for caretaker-priors to come to Throssel once monks (like Jimyo) had gone to Shasta for training. It might also have asked for feedback on who, among recipients, wanted to continue contact with the Zen Mission Society.

I no longer have a copy of the circular, so hope that my recollections are not too wide of the mark (no pun intended).
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: 35 year old letter   Thu Dec 02, 2010 6:16 pm

Well Anne you do have a good memory and very accurate,there were other things that were infered to about Bill. There was a feeling in1970 when Bill Picard had this huge Satori expeience ( it did spread through the gossip network) that in some way Jiju did insome way orchestrate it or she had been training him from afar and it culminated with this experience.This was not the case, I asked Bill so I know it was not. This sort of experience happens, it is not dependant on anything certainly not anyone else. Iam not an expert on teachers roles, I believe that if a community sits deeply, it is a bit difficult to fight against it, or put another way it is easier to go with it.So for me if the teacher sits deeply it somehow sets the tone .I did experience this in Japan,my job was cleaning the floors so I am not an expert
Sorry waffling again but good memory Anne
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: 35 year old letter   Thu Dec 02, 2010 6:25 pm

Lise my reply did not get through as it must have been sent the same time as Anne's
I said thank you for asking and there are no secrets, but as it concerns Mark I feel I must talk to him first, or better still i will try and trick him into answering it as he writes better than I do!
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Lise
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PostSubject: Re: 35 year old letter   Thu Dec 02, 2010 7:59 pm

Flattery and trickery, that's the ticket
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mstrathern
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PostSubject: Re: 35 year old letter   Sat Dec 04, 2010 1:10 am

Since there seems to be some interest in the letter I have put it up on my flikr page [markstrathern] tagged 'letter'. My scanner is broken at the moment so I have used a camera; not very good quality but perfectly legible.
I think that by and large too much has been made of it, but it certainly exhibits the slight persecution complex that Jiyu had about the English. I think that we have to remember that she was an ordinary person like all of us with as many faults and failings. She went to Japan and gained some spiritual insight which led to her transmission, originally by Suigan Yogo, and then, if we are to believe her, by Koho Zenji. Suigan was later written out of the story, as was Myozen, both of whom were the main translators of 'Zen is Eternal Life', though neither gets a mention in the downloadable pdf version on the Shasta website. When Koho Zenji died she decided, unwisely in my opinion now, to return to the west to teach. This, as far as I can gather, was not with the full blessing Soto Zen headquarters, the history here is very muddied.
I think she saw herself as a great proselytiser perhaps to be ranked in history alongside Dogen and Bhodidharma. In America things went well for some time but she had recurrent serious health problems and there were incipient signs of what was to come that were ignored by those around her (iincluding me). The year before this letter was written she was taken seriously ill and withdrew from Shasta. I believe that it was during this time things went seriously wrong. A number of problems and latent flaws got magnified and there was no one there that she could turn to to guide her spiritually. I now realise that this was a poor sick woman who went horribly astray and who needed our help rather than our unswerving obedience which is what she demanded. I'm afraid that part of the problem was the old one of power corrupts. I think that this was coupled with an originally small, and to some limited extent justified, persecution complex and also a certain petty jealousy of her disciples when they had major spiritual experiences, and she was not going to be outdone by any of her followers. In this very vulnerable state she went seriously awry. However she could still teach but what she taught at that time, particularly to her inner clique, was poisoned by her own illusions, though I think she rowed back on some of the worst excesses later.
So that is the background, as I see it, to the letter. I had been fortunate and arrived back at Shasta at the height of what seemed to me to be some form of mass hysteria. In the circumstances I found it impossible to follow St John of the Cross's dictum 'to live in the monastery as if on your own', and so continue my training despite what was happening. I therefore told Jiyu my views and left. The letter came sometime later to a very wide range followers and others in England. To my mind it displays some of Jiyu's characteristic flaws, her mild paranoia towards the English and the Japanese, whilst at the same time seeking approval and her denigration of anyone who had the effrontery to leave her. As for me well I can only say that I was not frightened, not that I'm a particularly brave person just that there was nothing to be afraid of. I was certainly troubled and confused, and also quite apprehensive when I went up to Throssel to explain my actions but not frightened about what was going on just very sad.
Unfortunately the echoes of that dreadful time at Shasta are still ringing on if this forum is anything to go by. Until the OBC can truly face its past it will remain in thrall to it.
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: 35 year old letter   Sat Dec 04, 2010 8:19 am

Chisan, with regard to your account of Kennett's taking credit somehow for Bill Picard's satori --- this happened to me a few times. Kennett would "take credit" for various spiritual experiences in my case -- and clearly she had nothing to do with them. But that's was her default position, the very first thing she would say / claim / pronounce. Somehow, it was always about her, her power, her brilliance - and in some very clear cases, it had absolutely nothing to do with her.

There were a a few absurd examples, in may case - and all I could do was shake my head. How was this about YOU????? And why should that even matter? Why should that be the first thing out of your mouth?

Her "self" was alive and well.

To me, this behavior was an expression of her insecurity - and her obsessive and unconscious need to be the center of adoration and to be the constant power center. If things did not go well, we were all to blame - if anything positive happened, she was the source. Standard, conventional cultic behavior. No Zen here. Just her story being played out again and again.
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: 35 year old letter   Sat Dec 04, 2010 10:43 am

Well I think it was because there was no challenge allowed.
I remember being told a story of a young Dalhai Lama,when he was being installed if that is the right word, All monks were invited to test ( if that is the right word) him.He sat in a circle and one monk ground a stone on a piece of wood that made a continuose noise.the other monk fired questions at him on any suject, he had to fire the answers back and have the correct hand mudra or position. He was doing well ,the ceremony had been going on for hours,when a really tricky question was fired, The Dalhai Lama stumbled for words only for a second but he stumbled, the noise kept going,if it stopped, he would have failed the test. then from some great depth, he fired back the right answer, with his hand in the right posture.everybody was relieved and smiled.
I believe that he did not get the maximum marks, but this was also seen as a very good sign.
I have worked with a lot of kids who have committed street crime. Their bravado, and ability to alter the truth ,is sometimes what they stand and fall by,( sometimes the police view is stretched too) The kids will stand straight, and have you got the bottle to challenge them. Their lies are pretty solid
This is in no way a comparison with Jiju but the basics that if you get away with something,it strenghtens your hand next time it is human nature.
Simple domestic abuse or violence starts with an argument, perhaps, one calling the other a word that one would not have used during courtship, but once the barrier has been broken, it is easier to go there again, maybe the next argument, starts with it and ends with a little push. People who have been in this sort of circumstance tend not to make a lot of eye contact afterwards, simply not to invite any one in.
Sorry I have waffled but insecurity is the basis of it,one tends to do the opposite of what one first intended to do which is sad for we actually liked Kennett for what she was in the beginning.I think the pressure of trying to build something in a few years that took a few lifetimes in Tibet and Japan is immense,and in alot of cases of meditation centre building, the basis the energy has come from self centeredness,rather than from the meditation
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mstrathern
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PostSubject: Re: 35 year old letter   Sat Dec 04, 2010 12:38 pm

Chisan, surely the comparison with the kids is just right, just more extreme. There was nothing special about Jiyu, for whatever reasons she got caught up in everyday pettiness and bravado. In the pressure cooker of a training monastery where she tried to maintain that she was both 'special' and training the lid finally blew with messy consequences.

The dharma does not lock you in it sets you free, you sail over to the other shore then leave the boat of the dharma behind, Jiyu frequently said this but god help anyone who tried to leave her behind! Sangharakshita another flawed guru but one who new the written Mahyana well used to quote that the dharma was a 'thorn used to take a splinter out; when done you dropped them both. In Catholic teaching dogma is a door, once passed through you leave it behind. Mind you you won't find many priests teaching it, they might lose their grip on their congregation (now who does that remind me of?)

We did pass in the night but you were up early and I was up late listening to the cricket in Australia - you can't give up all attachments!
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PostSubject: Re: 35 year old letter   Sat Dec 04, 2010 1:17 pm

Isan PM'd me:Dear Mark,

I downloaded the "letter" from your flikr page and just finished reading it .... At the moment I'd like to ask your permission to retype the letter and post it in a new thread here. This will make it much easier for people to read, which I think is important.

Many thanks for making the letter available.

_________________
blessings,

Isan


Yes - Isan of course - in fact I would be grateful if you did. The only reason I hav'nt done it myself is laziness
Mark
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Isan
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PostSubject: Re: 35 year old letter   Sat Dec 04, 2010 1:47 pm

mstrathern wrote:


Yes - Isan of course - in fact I would be grateful if you did. The only reason I haven't done it myself is laziness
Mark

Well, now that the cat is out of the bag I'll have to follow through I plan to type up the letter this afternoon or tomorrow and post it in a new thread.
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windmilljohn



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PostSubject: Re: 35 year old letter   Fri Jan 07, 2011 2:21 pm

Chisan, we haven't been in touch for over 30 years, and today I stumbled across this website and here you are and what we were talking about in 1977, as if it was yesterday, especially That Letter.... (you remember striding across the field of rams at Norley Farm...? Can you mail me at johnarmstrong1@blueyonder.co.uk?)

This is a great website, and obviously many of the issues are as burning today as they were then. I was a lay trainee at Shasta Abbey for three months in the summer of 1975, then visited Throssel Hole and sat with Chisan - then Hofuku - and Kyosei's group in Lewisham. Then Chisan moved to Cornwall, Kyosei to Throssel and I, eventually, to Therevadan teaching in Wiltshire, very traditional. Now, four grown-up children later and more or less retired, I have time to read the runes...!

John Armstrong
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Lise
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PostSubject: Re: 35 year old letter   Fri Jan 07, 2011 2:30 pm

Hi John -- welcome to the forum Smile

Lise
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: 35 year old letter   Fri Jan 07, 2011 2:55 pm

John how absolutely wonderful to hear from you.
I will email you.
I am not surprised at all you have contacted I am so pleased. I had a phone call last night from someone who has been trying to contact me for 30 years. It is worrying I always think I am hard to find,
I remember your Dad and also you were with me the first time I came to Cornwall looking for a house to buy. Remember Niggy, she was brilliant when Bill died.
I tell people constantly you invented the windmill!
Now that is enough the rest is private
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