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 On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs

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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Mon Dec 06, 2010 8:03 pm

First topic message reminder :

Stuart Lachs is a brilliant writer and critic on the current Zen scene. For those who want to take a deeper look at the entire institution of the Zen master, the lineage, and the structure and mindset these creates, it is worth reading his essays. They are all posted on line in different places, but i thought it would make it easier i posted some of them here -- and to start a discussion -- so i will cut and paste.

Much of what he discusses relates directly to Shasta and Kennett. Stuart gave me permission to post any of his writings on this site, so there are no copyright or permission issues
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Fri Dec 31, 2010 12:00 am

http://shastaabbey.org/images_rmJiyu.html

Hi Chisan Michael,

It feels kind of voyeuristic, but the above link will take you to Shasta's website and to pictures of JK specifically. About the ninth picture in will be the hondo and you can see the painted glass windows. These scenes are taken directly from the drawings in her book HTGLB. At the time I was there, they were on both sides of the hondo and continued into the zendo. Now that I stop and think about it, it is pretty strange.

"Kensho blue" is like a light tourquoise. The lay ministers' rakusus are also kensho blue, only they're a deeper shade of tourquoise.

Hope this helps,
mokuan
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Fri Dec 31, 2010 3:02 am

Thanks for that link,I assume the stained glass window are the small arch shaped ones high on the wall. it gives me a bit of an impression. Were any actually of her?
The collections of photos were quite good some nice shots.
The alms round seemed a bit peculiar,they seem to be wearing theravadin alms round attire,
I did the alms round in Japan, you wore shoes made from straw or reeds, the monk had to find me the largest pair of these shoes,which were about 3 or 4 sizes too small,we walked very fast calling out HO my feet got a bit beat up. I think I preferred the images of Kennett when she was at Sojiji and the early era, I was not so keen on the more recent photos.
Also it seemed to me that any photo of any oneconcerntrating in a ceremony ,seemed to portray a blank emotionless expression,which one can say is fine,but there seemed no compassion in their faces, a little bit dead. the grounds were very beautiful , I was not aware of all the colours either of all the robes,it has changed quite a bit I enjoyed looking at them. Thanks
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Fri Dec 31, 2010 4:36 am

Mokuan,I must tell you a related story.
Years ago i worked at a delinquent black centre, it was a rough place, which eventually was fire bombed. There were only 3 white people who ever entered.
One was Prince Charles, one was me, and one was a policeman the first to rush the building during a raid, the doors were slammed behind him , by the time he was thrown out and rushed to hospital, they could not find his testicles, as he had been kicked so hard,they were up in his body. That was it a violent bunch,whose smallest crime was weighing out weed to sell. I fortunately got on well with them, they called me Honkey, I did like them, their music, and actually had enormous sympathy for their situation .

Any way I met a very lively American black girl, who was leading a drug rehabilitation programme ,which I found sad to see , how the youing people were struggling to pull, back a life, which did not have much hope in it in the first place.

She told me that she had been to Shasta before it was Shasta Abbey, she described it very accurately, and she said the walls were all painted pink, the colour of the 'happy hum' I can't remember why she went there or what it was, or even if it was actually Shasta, but she did describe it.
There were 3 murders by the ongoing crime youths in that area this week, it reminds me of, what was a poignant time , i met some lovely people, and some bombed out people, some users and abusers, but some black kids, that were trying to make a difference to a pretty bombed out situation
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Fri Dec 31, 2010 10:30 am

Dear Chisan Michael,

You have had some interesting experiences in your life. Me, too. If I ever make it to the UK, I'll look you up and we can swap stories. I used to live in a remote of part of Alaska -- no roads in and no roads out. I worked in an emergency shelter for kids who had to be pulled out their homes or villages immediately. They were primarily Yup'ik Eskimo and Athabsacan kids. I had a great time and I really enjoyed the job. Sadly, though, too many of those kids are dead now either by their own hand or someone else's. But when we get together, Chisan Michael, I'll tell you all the great things about these kids. They had my heart.

* * *

Putrid pink! I'd forgotten all about the pink. Yes, everything was painted Peptobismal pink by the previous owners, but I don't remember who they were. It was a number of years before my time.

And as far as any of the painted glass, they were all scenes from HTGLB, which were representative of RMJK but none of them had her actual likeness.
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Fri Dec 31, 2010 12:29 pm

good work you did in Alaska, I wonder why these people ( I have never heard of Athabsacan before) changed,I doubt if their race or tribe was always irrisponsible. My first thought was alcohol. Alcohol, our present to the world,seems to have done a lot of destroying. But you may tell me otherwise ,I think it is very sad to see these sights. The black kids I was involved with , tended to have a problem from social repression,a bit of alcohol,and a lot of weed,
So the girl was right about the pink,so we have had peptobismal pink,kensho blue at shasta,I wonder what the next color will be
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Fri Dec 31, 2010 4:24 pm

Isan wrote:
I believe you are missing the point of sharing stories, which is to inspire.

Sharing stories is one thing, but what about believing in stories, confusing a story with what you're actually experiencing? That's why I never posted anything about sharing stories, but rather about clinging to memories etc.

Also, if you tell or believe in a story "to inspire"... it makes a big difference what it is exactly that it inspires you to do!

Stuart
http://stuart-randomthoughts.blogspot.com/
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Fri Dec 31, 2010 5:27 pm

Stuart I recognised a different approach you have thought it may be Chinese influence,,but you I think sit with Sung Sahn ( sorry if my spelling is incorrect) i met him way back when he first came over I ran a meditation centre in London and I invited him to come and lead a retreat ( It is along time I think that is right) Then his main desciple George, came over from America and stayed with me in Cornwall . I liked George.
I think the korean way is to attack the koan a bit , certainly is to be energetic.
So I am now going to celebrate the new year, and I hope your energetic attacking way leads direct to the Buddhas path of enlightenment
Happy new year
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Fri Dec 31, 2010 7:12 pm

randomstu wrote:
Isan wrote:
I believe you are missing the point of sharing stories, which is to inspire.

Sharing stories is one thing, but what about believing in stories, confusing a story with what you're actually experiencing? That's why I never posted anything about sharing stories, but rather about clinging to memories etc.

Also, if you tell or believe in a story "to inspire"... it makes a big difference what it is exactly that it inspires you to do!

Stuart
http://stuart-randomthoughts.blogspot.com/

I don't disagree with anything you've written, however it is very general. Is there anything specific implied in the context of the thread? Much of the talk here is analysis of Jiyu Kennett and her experiences. It seemed to me your comments were directed toward her specifically, but perhaps that's incorrect?
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Fri Dec 31, 2010 7:19 pm

This is off the topic of Lachs critique, and I can't resist

Quote :
Putrid pink! I'd forgotten all about the pink. Yes, everything was
painted Peptobismal pink by the previous owners, but I don't remember
who they were. It was a number of years before my time.

The previous owners of the Abbey were a group known to us as 'I amers'. The stories were they believed Heaven to be pink, hence the universal pink on all surfaces. Other tidbits included the group dying out in part due to celibacy, no new members from within and few converts. Also, I recall hearing that they attempted to produce a white stool through dietary management as this was a sign of purity.

They also never wore or used red or black, the merchants in town were sensitive to this and I remember being apologized to in the early days when I was given a black pen to sign with at the hardware store.

We did have a party when the last room was de-pinked, everyone sighed with relief.
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Fri Dec 31, 2010 7:33 pm

gensho wrote:

The previous owners of the Abbey were a group known to us as 'I amers'.

We did have a party when the last room was de-pinked, everyone sighed with relief.

Yes, and more precisely The Saint Germain Foundation. I don't remember the "end of pink" party though - must have been out behind the kitchen, working on the leach field LOL.
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Fri Dec 31, 2010 7:43 pm

LOL!
I once donated paint after RM Eko's house was remodeled (used to be Jiyu's house) and we had to take the lot back because he said it looked "too pink." Apparently the color set off a lot of different things for some of the "old" monks.

BTW, I'd love to hear some more stories from the "old-timers" here of how they felt about Jiyu's doll collection and that weird little village of the 7 realms, etc... She really was very eccentric. I never realized how "culty" the stain glass window panes were until now.

"I AM" is still big in Shasta, btw. There are many different cults in the area. Pretty harmless stuff for the most part, but definitley some financial exploitation. One very destructive cult is nearby though, in Canby (the IHOT cult). I know some of the ex-members including some second-generation members and have heard their stories- really sad stuff.

~Diana
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Fri Dec 31, 2010 9:37 pm

Diana wrote:

"I AM" is still big in Shasta, btw. There are many different cults in the area. Pretty harmless stuff for the most part, but definitley some financial exploitation. One very destructive cult is nearby though, in Canby (the IHOT cult). I know some of the ex-members including some second-generation members and have heard their stories- really sad stuff.

~Diana

Re the Canby cult, do you mean I'SOT?
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Sat Jan 01, 2011 2:40 am

i don't remember any doll collection. That must have been after my time. Dolls of the seven realms? What was that?
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Sat Jan 01, 2011 12:03 pm

Hi Josh,

Gyokuko would be able to answer the doll question far more accurately than I, but from what I remember of the early '80s, RMJK was collecting dolls and making clothes for dolls. Gyokuko was her seamstress, and if I'm remembering correctly -- and I may not be -- they were going to go into business together selling dolls. I'm not sure if the profits were going to the Abbey or them personally. It was a time of a lot of building going on at Shasta, so maybe it was an idea to generate income to pay construction costs.
Also, RMJK had a huge doll house made. I'm not very good at estimating dimensions, but it had to be something like four or five, maybe even more, feet high. The thing was gigantic! And what I remember most about the doll house is that Sansho, with his cake decorating skills, used pastry bags filled with plaster-type stuff to cover the doll house in curlicues and scalloping and all sorts of ornate design.
A lot of time was devoted to dolls during that period. I think the enterprise was scrapped when the Carlsons got excommunicated, because not too much doll stuff was going on when I came back in the early '90s. But like I say, Gyokuko would know all about it.
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Sat Jan 01, 2011 12:26 pm

Isan- yep, ISOT- that was a typo on my part.

Josh, Mokuan answered the doll part. I heard that the dolls were Barbie dolls and that the doll house was big enough to accomodate them. The 7 realms thing, for lack of a better definition, I think was called the "Kanzen garden," but I might be wrong about that. That garden was still there in the late 90's, but was taken down. Basically, there were little dolls who were in the realms and there was one Kanzeon in each realm looking after everything. There were also little flying Deva's around.

In 1998 we had a major going-through of all the attics and storage houses and there were tons of Xmas decorations! I heard that Jiyu loved to decorate for Xmas. Also, many used books were found from all over- lots of Teresa of Avila and Thomas Merton, etc... We gathered everything up and had a huge yardsale.
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Sat Jan 01, 2011 1:07 pm

funny. the metaphor i used a few times is that of Jung's "the ego's doll house." It is my opinion that Kennett often treated her devotees like dolls, objects to move around, manipulate, cast in her personal myth/story, cast out if they challenged her and so on. Amusing that she starts up a hobby where she actually builds a huge doll house. Life imitates art or something like that.... or maybe life imitates life.....
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Sat Jan 01, 2011 1:16 pm

Hi Diana,

I'm so glad to hear the Kanzeon Garden was taken down. I remember a friend of mine, who'd been a Trappist monk for ages, came to visit me one afternoon. I gave him the tour and when we came to the Kanzeon Garden with its toy soldiers, or whatever, I was mortally embarrassed. I explained to him it was for the children.

But there was not very many children that ever came through, and it was not designed specifically with children in mind.

And Christmas? Yes, she loved Christmas trees. Artificial trees were used and every year the ornaments on the trees had to go in the exact same place as they were the year before and the year before that. Poor Komei had to make detailed drawings of each Christmas tree -- and there were lots of them -- and its ornament placement. She supervised the novices to make sure we followed the drawings precisely as that is how RMJK wanted the tree to look.

BTW, if you ever see the former R. Lara, don't mention decorating the trees. That just puts her into a tail spin!
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Sat Jan 01, 2011 2:00 pm

One of the questions Iasked daiji when he returned to the UK in 76 and I do ask him today,is why di not everybody leave at the same time. He may like to give a fuller answer himself,so i will briefly say it was not beeficial for him to stay.
the puzzling thing is that these stories,scream out to me.
Not just kennett but Eido roshi too, I think one must question the depth of the teachings that were being given at the time.
Were they relevant?
Were they helping individual people , in other words us, find ou spirituality.
May be the answer is a bit of both
For me i was very very clear, Eko with his previos lives of Jesus,no matter how it is interpreted,or explained,is nothing whatsoever to do with zazen.
Eido Roshi, with his fondling of girls,within his responsibility,is afragrant breach of responsibilty,and any socal code of behaviour. In a social helping system,he would have gone through all the diciplinary proceedures, the police would have been informed, and he may well have over here, done some time, or at least had to sign the sexual offenders registry.

So for us what was Kennett teaching? Was it about her? or about the Dharma
I do not know as I left all association with Kennett in 76 but I feel sure that this odd line of teaching,this neurosis,has been passed on ,As it turns out Eko was a choice that was dubious to say the least in being an Abbot, all of his funny traits would have been visible, so why did nobody scream...or did they and it fell on deaf ears.
The stained glass windows, the dolls houses with drawings as the black girl said to me They were nuts before man
I actually think it was not in Kennetts interest to have here followers really develop.she wanted people to be subservient
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Sat Jan 01, 2011 2:07 pm

Josh,
When you used the "ego's doll house" metaphor, I thought you had her real doll house in mind. I thought maybe you were just waiting to bring it up or something. It is very interesting isn't it? I also wonder about her fascination with soap operas- I have heard from many people that she watched them every day and made the monks watch them too. There are so many elements of pathology here and as a psychology student I find that she is a very interesting case! What was her reality? All the "8" stuff you have identified is certainly right on. Looking at it from a cultic studies perspective she fits the cult leader persona perfectly; charismatic, narcissitic, obsessive compulsive, attachment issues, among others. And I must say, most of what you have described as far as her 8-personality goes, most of it is dead with Eko as well.

Mokuan,
Certain things were difficult to explain to other people like guests and the Kanzeon Garden was certainly one of them. I had forgotten that it was for the kids- you are right about that. There was a dynamic at play when I first started going to the Abbey in 1998: there was enough time that had gone by to start changing some things around the monastery yet at the same time, there was resistance to any change. Eko fiercely defended every written word of teaching of Jiyu's, and I mean fierce! There were people who wanted to publish some things about her and he wouldn't let them unless every single word was exactly as she had written it. He must have been in a difficult position as he was always in her shadow, and yes that could be interpreted as her "dark side." Their relationship is so interesting to look at. He shared her obsessive-compulsive tendencies and made monks do weird things that made no sense. Why did they do this? Surely they couldn't have done it as a form of "teaching." I think they both suffered from grandiosity and delusion; again, displaying a fair amount of pathology. Your description of the Xmas tree schematic, total OCD! I feel so sorry for all the monks who had to endure all this nonsense from both Jiyu and Eko.

Peace,
Diana
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Sat Jan 01, 2011 3:11 pm

Oh yes, Kennett watched a bunch of afternoon soap operas everyday. They were some of the standard popular ones at the time - can't really remember their names. and yes, we all had to watch them with her.

One thing also to remind people is that Kennett could not be alone, EVER. From the moment she woke up in the morning until she went to sleep at night, she had to be served and often surrounded by her devotees.

And once you were in her presence, you couldn't leave, unless you had some crucial work to do - you had to have a really strong reason. And in the evening, the culture was you couldn't leave until she went to sleep.

She didn't sit zazen, even in a chair, ever. and she couldn't be by herself. Also, there was never much quiet in her house. Always surrounded by monks and constant chattering, gossiping, nattering about the cats, dogs and goats - and the TV was on a great deal. So she didn't seem to appreciate any kind of silence.

Just as a note or counterpoint. For the last ten years, I have been helping a Tibetan lama named Mingyur Rinpoche. He was one of the sons of my main Tibetan teacher, Tulku Urgyen. Mingyur was born in 1975, so he is 35 years old now. By the time he was in his early 20's, he had been in two formal 3-year retreats.

For the next three years, starting in the spring, he will be going into a private 3-year meditation retreat, cutting off all contact with his students. He will not be on twitter or facebook.

Mingyur is a wonderful meditation / dzogchen teacher, totally unpretentious, kind, simple, clear, joyful. Never seen him criticize anyone, fly into a rage, play any politics. He has never once told me what to do. He continues to spend hours a day meditating and do various Tibetan meditation practices and will do this his entire life. He never talks about his "spiritual experiences." (For most Tibetans, it is considered totally inappropriate to speak of one's experiences at all, except with one's main teacher.)
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Tue Jan 04, 2011 3:54 pm

A few notes to add:
Kennett's favourite soap when I was jiisha was 'As the World turns'.

As Josh says KR was unable to be alone. I had to sleep in her kitchen for a number of years.

I'll second that KR didn't do zazen in any classic use of the term whether in a theravadin or malay or japanese variant. I believe she believed herself to be in a state of mind that transcended such a distinctions.

We were in a sort of 'dolls house' zendo, suitable perhaps for getting started in practice as we were a group who wanted to practice and figure out what that was. But, as soon as we grew in our practice and began to take refuge within ourselves (a key injunction of the Buddha), then trouble began. KR's core technique was to sow self-doubt.

Having studied with other Tibetan and Zen teachers since, I have experienced a teacher testing my resolve and conviction. This is a different technique and experience than KRs techniques of humiliation. KR often spoke of the zen sodo being like 1984, and her technique of humiliating the student who challenged her with their own insight was in line with Orwell's 1984.
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Tue Jan 04, 2011 4:48 pm

Humiliation as a supposed method of teaching was far too prevalent for my taste. It never made sense to me and it it to my discredit that I tolerated it done to others and didn't fully decide to leave Shasta until I was the target. There also was an inordinate amount of obsessiveness when it came to the dolls and Christmas decorations. Everything had to be exactly so. But the real problem was how angry she would get at those who did not execute things exactly "right" and letting them and everyone know how incompetent they were. The damaging part of this was how easily people internalized the humiliation. This was supposed to make people more aware, willing to serve correctly as a disciple should. It is interesting this tactic was used mostly with women. Rev. Kennett said that women were more intelligent and competent so she expected more of them. I never bought that reasoning but neither did i chalenge her. Sad to remember myself that way. The power of group think is such that I never once saw anyone stand up and publicly tell her to please stop doing that.
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Tue Jan 04, 2011 4:55 pm

Josh
Thanks for your brief description of your present teacher. I e wondered if there actually were such teachers out there--those who just behave ordinarily and decently. I'm curious as to how they see their role as a teacher and their expectations and treatment of their students.
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Tue Jan 04, 2011 5:18 pm

That's why I will keep bringing up the Enneagram and Kennett as a very unevolved version of Type Eight. All this abusive and harsh language, her emotional brutality and the humiliation was 95% based on her personal shadows and devils. She was the quintessential Eight boss. Clear as day.

Of course, she promoted this behavior as "teaching" or "zen" but it simply had almost nothing to do with it. That characterization is merely putting lipstick on a pig. Eights are the masters at rationalization and denial and they live this entitled rage - as if they have some divine right to be abusive and not suffer any consequences or even care how other people feel.

It is inconceivable to me that this kind of severely negative and unkind behavior can produce compassionate, wise and caring people. Her "teaching" created fear, self-loathing, depression, anxiety, and emotional dependence. I don't recall those traits being categorized as paramitas.

Her "teaching" was unskillful means at its most unconscious. Where was the skill? Once you get people to follow blindly and without questioning, to give up their adulthood and critical thinking, then it is actually quite easy to manipulate them constantly - because they NEVER complain or speak up.

Their only sane option is to leave -- which many of us did. Good for us.

The more I think about Shasta the more I realize what a literally insane place it was. There was no basic sanity there. None.
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Tue Jan 04, 2011 7:24 pm

Josh and Gensho
When you both left you were both close to kennett, why did you find it difficult to confront her,to challenge her?
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Tue Jan 04, 2011 9:14 pm

In the western traditions the traveller on a spiritual quest normally has what is termed a spiritual director. This has rather different conotations to master or roshi, closer to teacher, it is also a much less exclusive relationship. It is interesting to compare our experiences with the OBC and the advice given to find a spritual director by Spiritual Directors International (horrible name) at:
http://www.sdiworld.org/find_a_spiritual_director.html

There is a wealth information on the site including advice on buddhist spiritual direction.

More on spiritual direction in general can be found at Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiritual_director

and of course Google:
http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&aq=4&oq=spiritual+director&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4SMSN_en___GB359&q=spiritual+directors+directory+uk#sclient=psy&hl=en&rlz=1T4SMSN_en___GB359&q=spiritual+director&aq=f&aqi=g5&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=&pbx=1&fp=1&cad=b
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Tue Jan 04, 2011 9:18 pm

Hey Chisen
Josh and Gensho
When you both left you were both close to kennett, why did you find it difficult to confront her,to challenge her?



Once again jumping right in to address a question not asked of me.

I never saw anyone around Jiyu who didn't act like a groupie, including me. She seemed like a force of nature or an old time god where everyone tip toed gently in her presence. I think if you didn't see her in this way you probably didn't hang around long enough to be noticed. Those that stayed were the dewy eyed, naive, hopelessly hopeful that saw her power as a sign of her spiritual accomplishments and not as a personality disorder. We believed because we wanted to believe. She was surrounded by disciples who demonstrated great focus, concentration & a relentless ability to point the responsibility for any difficulty back onto the trainee. The Shasta program sucked up backbones like a straw sucks up noodles.

Confront her? Challenge her?

I think the time that one spent propping up the Jiyu program probably equals the time it takes to let go of it enough to re find ones backbone.
By the time that this would happen, one would be been long gone and just another of the shunned.

I am disappointed that it took me so long to find a little of my own backbone. I am angry that I spent so much time with my head stuck in the sand of the conditioning that excused everything with the old "just do your own training".

I hope that those inside the Abbey are able to show a little more haste in finding their own backbone than I did.

Cheers
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Tue Jan 04, 2011 10:00 pm

whey was it difficult to challenge her.

She created a culture of fear, emotional terror really. We all saw it constantly - the slightest disagreement and she would start raging, through a tantrum, explode. it was clearly her way or the highway. And every day, in dozens of ways, we all learned to suppress our feelings, insights, integrity, intuition. Confronting her was terrifying and exhausting.

I had a slight disagreement with her about something so small - who can remember - and the next day she says in a past life I was an evil pope. Another monk was not going fully along with her program and in a past life, he tried to kill her or put her in a cage. Speak out and you are demonized.

So when I really admitted to myself what was really going on -- I made my plan to leave / escape. It wasn't really about confronting her - i needed to get out first and get some distance and some perspective and begin to take back my adulthood. I wanted to leave on my own terms. We had all seen people literally thrown out the front gate in minutes.

Once you decided to confront, you had to leave - and then go find a new life. Which is what many of us did.
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Wed Jan 05, 2011 1:23 am

Thanks Howard and Josh
I would like to hear Genshos view, and also Daijis,
Mark what happened after you said this is not working for me?
Did you see Kennett again?
When did this promising not to say anything take place?
You told me at the time that you felt Kennett go whoops in her stomach?
This was quite an impact moment,I got the feeling she felt she was almost rumbled,but sort of fronted it out.
It must have been a shock for her as she respected you you were an Abbot,or Prior did she not want to discussit?
And Gensho Kennett would not want to loose you.Did she try to get you to stay?
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Wed Jan 05, 2011 6:37 am

Mike in some ways you would be better to direct that question to Josh and the others who were there at the time. Luckily I was not in the inner clique before I resigned, and I certainly wasn't after I resigning. So I am not really in a position to comment on what happened with Jiyu. But as I remember it there were only a few days between me saying that I was going and my leaving. I can't remember the exact sequence but in my interview with Jiyu I believe she prevailed on me not to leave instantly but to wait a few days (a week?) before going. I remember being visited by number (3 or 4?) of the inner circle who had clearly been sent to dissuade me. Some I felt were genuine in wanting me to take on the new practices but some I felt were going through the motions, which troubled me for them.
My only comfort over the whole affair was to come across Kay's comment: 'Particularly in response to the disrobing of Daiji Strathern, she began to discourage the more unusual kinds of past-life experience' [David N. Kay, Tibetan and Zen Buddhism in Britain, Routledge Curzon]. So my leaving may have had some beneficial effect, but really here again you should ask others, as I was not there to see it.
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Wed Jan 05, 2011 6:58 am

thanks Mark,I am struggling with the impotence that we all felt, (Hope that is the right word) Was it an option to talk with Jiyu.Or was the door closed firmly in your face,with a take it or leave it?
Did you have any option to expand your view of why you thought it was gedo zen?
Did you see Jiyu again?
Did you feel outnumbered?
I think the plan backfired in the Uk when I did not buy it
Actually one of the reasons I was given for you leaving as well as the scared theory, was you were caught smoking (In this case not behind the cricket pavillion) remarkable reason for leaving IO asked you about it,and you said Josh had been buying you the cigarettes!
the interesting thing about David Kay is where did he get the info from, but also was it discouraged, we have heard on the forum that Jin Shen was practiced in spare time, or at weekends,It is a bit like a roshi I knew saying he would only drink at the week ends as he was alcoholic. Also the visionary experiences have still been going on, to considerable harm to people.
As Isaid I remain puzzled,and it is a good chance to air all views.
It seems that Jiyu had a problem experiencing the present moment,she wanted something else, something more.
Remember the koan Winter comes, summer comes, how do you avoid them
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Mon Mar 21, 2011 5:13 pm

Stuart Lachs has just posted another brilliant essay.

http://mandala.hr/samsara/Stuart_Lachs.When_the_Saints_Go_Marching_In.pdf

This essay focuses on the Zen narrative and myth making - how fantasy is created in place of reality - in writing about the lives of "masters." He looks articles that appeared in Tricycle Magazine - biographies of the Chinese Chan teacher Shen Yen and Walter Nowich, an American Zen teacher.

Worth reading
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Mon Mar 21, 2011 9:50 pm

Quote :

Josh and Gensho
When you both left you were both close to kennett, why did you find it difficult to confront her,to challenge her?

When I was JR's attendant (jiisha), I evolved into the role of the 'black sheep' as she called it. I would challenge her and offer an alternate view when I truly felt it needed to be spoken. For a few years I was 'lucky' in that I had complete access and the opportunity to speak up and I used it as best I could.
I left the role of her attendant in response to the changes that came about in 76 in Oakland and were carried back to Shasta. I was particularly struck by JR's expectation of getting lots of 'treatment' when others in the group at Oakland were also suffering - but they somehow never warranted any help. Always reasons given, I just got tired of speaking up, I realized that I didn't want to keep studying with JR and didn't want to be at Shasta as part of a cult. Precisely because the sharp exchanges of zen were now forbidden by a new dogma, I knew there was no reason for a person who wanted zen to stay.

Easy to say that it was so clear, but I went back and forth inside over a couple of months, finally, deciding it was time to go during a meeting of seniors in which rote agreement was given to a decision by JR to mistreat then banish one of us - when it was clear that many didn't truly agree and couldn't/wouldn't speak up. Do that, is a dangerous step to take in one's training. If you do not stand for what you believe, if you can't find inside 'what you know' for yourself then you're not yet a zen person. If you go against yourself you give yourself away.

Once, I knew I couldn't speak directly with JR, it was only time and circumstances before I left. Best not to stay around. Staying is getting sucked into 'possessions' - a temple (I was offered one), even offered an approved wife! Don't do it.

Here's a flashback: I remember years before watching TV with JR, it was Rod Serlings Night Gallery this episode (The Sins Of The Fathers -
A young boy plays the part of sin-eater at a wake.) Took place in medival wales or ireland. The boy's father is a sin-eater - at a wake they eat a special meal whereby they take on the sins of the dead who can now enter heaven. The father dies, and the mother locks the boy away for days until he's ravenous, then lets him out to eat that meal and his father's sins. Thereby becoming the next sin-eater and letting his father enter heaven! Look for it - it's awesome.

We'll eat the sins of our teachers to get a full belly of rich food - whether silks, temples - whatever the reward offered all we need do is eat their sins!

Seems to me that inside-out, upside-down transmission infected Shasta and a similar process is widespread in zen. Too much stuff, too much greed for attainment.

'Winter comes, summer comes - how do you avoid this?' The more you try, the worse it will be, ending up a monty-python peasant pulling a cart of rubbish.
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Tue Mar 22, 2011 2:41 am

yes thanks for the reply, good reply. Surprisingly your reply takes me back many years ,when I was sitting in Bills living room,and we were reading a letter your wife Dess had sent to Bill, it was a general letter.

We had some tapes that Josh had sent over,and we were discussing ,leaving a practice,and still carrying on with the spirit of the practice,which for us was zazen. We wished all of you well,and hoped that none of you threw the goodness of endeavor away,at least not in a negative way.

Reading your words,makes me feel, because of what you say,and not being fooled by rhetoric, that actually the practice was good that we did. Now I feel that as we were blocked by thoughts and notions of the microcosim we lived in,we were not really allowed to practice the koan 'If the Buddha is in the way' We took on the words and understanding of kennett Roshi rather than dropping them,I do not feel we were allowed to drop them, it had to be her teaching rather than our own realisation.

I still sit with people that sat with you here when you Josh and Mark came down here in 73. Recently we were discussing the phrase using greed positively , which was an expression, used then at that time, it was a lively discussion,there were no takers for the expression. There were so many of these blocks,or spiritual possessions put in the way of zazen.

Finally what you write,points out the imeasurability of time, then..... now..... who cares, what concepts! Practice is seeing the voidness of concepts and spiritual possessions. If one practices like this the treasure house will open up naturally and we will enjoy it fully
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Tue Mar 22, 2011 8:18 pm

Hi, this is Ol'ga, aka Chinso, 1971-74.
The topic of not speaking up, not contradicting Roshi, particularly interests me. I was a "small fry", did not get past transmission (Gensho got the purple robe then). I left of my own will, even though JR afterwards said various lies about my leaving. I think that there was a fundamental reason, for me (and, surely, others), for not contradicting Roshi. It was understood that she was an accomplished teacher, in posession of higher wisdom who knew things not yet seen by us, and that she would use methods that would - in the outside uninitiated world - seem weird, dishonest, insane and evil even, - for our own good. This view was so prevallent in my time, that all of us, to a high degree, bought into it, and certainly never openly questioned it (what? openly? not even in a whisper!). There was simply no culture of debate, of reasoning. It has partly to do with the very unfortunate anti-intellectual bias of Zen. In my experience in Shasta, we lived in a FOG, enforced by Roshi, but also, as I've said, probably by Zen tradition itself (I, at any rate, am convinced of it). Sometimes, to sort things out, to figure out what one TRULY feels, to shine a light on one's unease, when one is told palpable bs, one has to THINK, [admin delete] [read backwards]!, use one's intellect, that wonderful instrument we humans are blessed with. I would eventually like to say more about this. For now just this much: there was a definite group-think in force there, and we all contributed to it, against our best conscience. I don't intend to flagellate myself or anybody (flagellation was somebody else's style, after all, wasn't it) - I think we can be all easily forgiven (if forgivance is even needed): the price was so great, man! - enlightenment, ultimate freedom, at the cost of such a trifle as bending to the will of a transcendentally wise person. And, I wonder if you have a similar sense of it - of that silent uniform "mass" of monks, of that totalitarian flavour of that place. (Odd that I, of all people, did not spot it then, coming from a totalitarian country. Well, I couldn't. I couldn't give up my dream, not just yet.) There were also other reasons, e.g., one's love and devotion for one's teacher. I think we were generally sincere people, but we all nonetheless cheated, lived a life of a lie. Is that not the kind of a problematic situation that life itself often brings? Who is without guilt? When is it right to compromise? Can one learn something new, something perhaps even revolutionary, without for a while suspending one's questioning mind? At what point does one say, "hey! this is going too far!", I wont' be a part of it, even if I must pay a hefty price? Leaving itself was not easy, it was like a small death, partly. It was also like taking a deep deep breath of fresh air!
Enough for now, to your relief.


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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Tue Mar 22, 2011 10:23 pm

Hi Ol'ga, just a quick note to welcome you to the forum. I hope you will say more.

When you say "There was simply no culture of debate, of reasoning", I have to admit the thought of that turns my blood cold. I can't imagine what that is like. Or how it becomes normal, and people go along.
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Tue Mar 22, 2011 11:00 pm

Olga,
Wonderful to hear your voice!
I was walking yesterday, thinking of you and others that I sat with in 70 before we all got to Shasta. Reminded of those days walking the same streets by these dialogues.
What you say is so true. The situation at Shasta was as you describe it. There was an ongoing tension between the theme of a 'sangha of practitioners' and 'petitioners at the feet of the guru'.
Perhaps the buddha was very wise when he said his followers should be beggars. Nowadays, all his followers expect to be teachers. Such a difference between being supported on what is leftover verses being special and sitting at the top of the table.
The occult master loomed over our practice and directed the dance. We all bent to the tune during our stay and broke free when we could.
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Wed Mar 23, 2011 2:38 am

When I read your posting Olga and see your photo I do smile,I detect great spririt,individuality,and a rebellious streak. These are qualities I admire in people,and yet were qualities we were not really allowed to express. I was talking last night with some friends , one very wisely said he alsways compared situations today with the Buddhas time, when there were no institutions, and the basis of his teaching was be a light to yourself, and the Buddha also pointed out,that teachers can only point the way. I felt like you when leaving Shasta, but also a breath of fresh air learning and life still goes on. We were also talking last night about what Gensho says sitting at the top of the table, cor what a cringe statement, that attitude encourages, bullying and authoritarianism,which are long ways from being beggars and not being special.
Institutional Zen!! No thanks
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Wed Mar 23, 2011 8:35 pm

Thank all three of you for your welcome and kind words. I actually found this forum when googling Gensho, trying to find out what he was up to.
I'll write again. I've been glued to the computer today...can't go on like this, my hubby will starve!
I wrote a long-ish post on the Eko resignation. Painful matter - that it had to happen this way.
Hugz to everybody interested,
Ol'ga
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Wed Mar 23, 2011 11:28 pm

Olga,

It is wonderful to see you here! Welcome to the Forum!!

I think that you have described, with great insight, a prevalent dynamic that we experienced.

I especially like your reflective questions:

"Can one learn something new, something perhaps even revolutionary, without for a while suspending one's questioning mind? At what point does one say, "hey! this is going too far!", I wont' be a part of it, even if I must pay a hefty price?"

I think that these issues, questions, and potential answers, lie at the crux of what many of us spend a lot of time wrestling with on this forum.

Well said; and again, welcome!
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Thu Mar 24, 2011 1:27 am

Gensho, Kozan,
I got such a thrill from your responding! I seldom think about my past, perhaps because it's strewn with losses and upheavals, I don't know. And so my few years at Shasta are really covered with dust. And now you people come back to life, oh my!
Kozan, I remember you well, your way of walking, your build....your coveting my boots (they fit you perfectly; they were three sizes too big for me)...
I was young then and it was long ago. You people stayed a lot longer, and put up with so much more. It seems that Roshi got madder and madder. Because I do believe she was mad, at least in a common parlance, since I am not a shrink to diagnose her. To be fair to her, the environment was so artificial, that there were no correcting mechanisms to shunt her back to some normalcy. I think that monasteries are not a good idea.

I now read about the doll house, and the Christmas decorations. It's not onley that we were dolls for her: we ourselves played roles. We were like children playing house, or doctor. So we played at priests.

I saved myself at first by cheating. You may remember how during Jukai Sange we march through the grounds at night; we were given a small piece of paper and were instructed to attach in our mind something about ourselves that we considered YUKK!!!, and after the procession, in the Zendo we gave the pieces to Roshi, and they were burned in the hibachi while she utter a bloodcurdling shriek. Remember? Well, I could never find anything 'yukky' in me. There are things I need to change, some are way overdue, some really I must change. Some I probably will fail to change, and it's not excusable. But they are not disgusting, contemptible. They are only human nitty-gritties.

We took ourselves so seriously. And all was bathed in a rich soup of hysteria.

Roshi was an extremely perceptive person. How much she used her insights to control us I don't know. You all saw a lot more of her sick ways. I left while I still could and did the give her some benefit of doubt. I left because I saw that common sense was trampled upon. I saw some things were palpably wrong.

Oddly, what helped me was that I am a Slav. I felt she despised me for it. I still think so. Well, so I went for walks in the ravine and sang Slovak songs. I am not big on my Slovak roots, but am aware of them, acknowledge them as facts, and am grateful for them as my heritage. And this helped me to put distance between me and the bs, the chimera, the lie.

I think that because I left early enough that I don't feel bitterness for what was done to me. It's part of the fabric of my life; and I did learn a lot there. 'Buddha has clay feet'. (So I am allowed to have them, too, and have fun with it.) 'Lotus grows in the mud'. (So there is a place for mud - it's full of nutrients. Ode to Mud! ha ha) 'Fare alone like a rhinocerous.' So, in other words, be true to yourself. And be ready to be possibly all alone one day (I am not, yet. It's a tough one for me.)

And then my leaving was in the end an assertion of strength.

Life goes on, and it dishes out some beastly stuff at times, enough of it. Maybe I am too easy on myself, I don't know. But we were taught to be so very harsh with ourselves, for fear of becoming 'complacent'. And so we ran around like eager beavers. It might be OK, even necessary at times, to be complacent. Otherwise how does one ever fall asleep at night? Which is were I am heading now.

Hugz,
Ol'ga
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Thu Mar 24, 2011 1:44 am

Oops, re my last post: the point about the Jukai Sange was that I handed in a BLANK piece of paper. Nothing in my mind was attached to it, no grievous sin, no heinous flaw. That's why it was cheating. Good for me.
Ol'ga
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PostSubject: Re: On Zen Masters - some thoughts from Stuart Lachs   Thu Mar 24, 2011 1:47 am

Olga
great that you are joining this discussion. Truly enjoy seeing many points of view and experiences.

I posted a link to Stuart Lach's essay. I really recommend people read the second section on Walter Nowick. Stuart is so insightful about how everyone is this drama - the "master", the disciples and even those outside the system help create this total mythology, fantasy, illusion -- yes, we are all dolls in this doll house - as long as we go along with these stories that we intuitively know are false.

here is the link again:

http://mandala.hr/samsara/Stuart_Lachs.When_the_Saints_Go_Marching_In.pdf
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