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 Rev. Master Eko's resignation

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Lise
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PostSubject: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Mon May 03, 2010 9:53 pm

Rev. Master Eko Little has announced that he is resigning as Abbot and returning to secular life. His message to the congregation indicated that he expects to be at Shasta Abbey for another 1-2 months before leaving.


Last edited by Lise on Tue Aug 24, 2010 2:23 pm; edited 2 times in total
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PostSubject: the Abbot's statement   Wed May 05, 2010 10:41 am

[I'm told that the following message is available for viewing at Shasta Abbey and was also released by Rev. Eko in a general email distribution to the congregation and others. I'm not aware of any confidentiality issues or restrictions on publishing it on this forum, but if anyone else is, please send me a message with details.]



"Announcement to the Congregation

We have made it a tradition here at Shasta Abbey that, on the day before Wesak, during the Wesak vigil ceremony, the abbot of Shasta Abbey rededicates him/herself to leading the Community as abbot for another year. This tradition was begun by Rev. Master in the latter part of her life, and I have continued the practice up until the present time. I am sorry to tell you that I will not be performing that ceremony this year, and that I will be resigning as abbot here and leaving the Abbey to return to secular life.

This decision has been ripening for me for many years now. My reasons for leaving center around the fact that, while I have profound respect for the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives, I also have profound and respectful disagreement with the Order which I feel is irreconcilable. Because maintaining harmony in the sangha is so important, I feel my best course is to leave now and preserve the harmony of the Sangha rather than remain and risk creating conflict, dissension, and disharmony. Presently, this disagreement is not a charged situation or a conflict because I have tried to be discrete about how I feel, and I have neither expressed my concern to the Community here nor to the Order in such a way that it might provoke a conflict. No one has asked me to leave, and I have broken no rules that would require me to resign as abbot here, leave the Abbey, or leave the Order. In fact, I have received a lot encouragement to stay and try to work things out.

It has become painfully clear to me that I see the policies, prodedures, decision-making process, and direction of the Order very differently than most, if not all, of my friends and colleagues. While I am assured that my concerns and differences can be worked out in our present environment and through our present procedures, I have to respectfully say that I am unable to accept this. I do not see the process in place or the environment for being able to effectively voice, communicate, discuss, or resolve my concerns.

I do not believe that the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives should, would, or could make itself over to my liking. I am one person among 100, and we decide major issues through consensus. The reality of living in a monastic community based on consensus is, if someone cannot live with others in agreement and harmony, that person has the responsibility to either change their views or leave. I have made a sincere attempt to change my views, but am unsuccessful. So, it is better that I go now with the harmony of the Sangha preserved, rather than later after causing a great conflict and having to leave as a result of rending and harming the Harmony of the Sangha.

I am not at odds with Rev. Master Haryo, the OBC director. We have known each other for many years and we have a cordial relationship. I am not accusing the Order of moral/perceptual breakdown. I am not leaving because there is some kind of nasty cover-up or scandal that has occurred. The OBC is full of very fine people who are training very hard and doing their best in Buddhist practice. I regard many of them as better trainees than I am, and perhaps my actions show how poor a trainee I am.

I have been told that if I want to really preserve harmony, I should simply leave saying that I have personal problems and do nothing that is going to implicate the Order’s reputation, as this is going to create doubt, suspicion, mistrust, or disharmony. I want to say here categorically that I am not implicating anyone in anything. I am not trying to cause doubt, dissension, or disharmony; I hope for discussion, constructive discussion, which will deepen faith, find areas of agreement, and create deeper harmony. That is what I want.

And I have to say to all of you, and I include the monastic community in this – is this what you would want? Would you want me to just walk away saying I have personal problems, I have to leave, and that’s it? I am not trying to implicate anyone in anything, other than to say that I believe that we have some problems, they need acknowledgement, they need to be worked on in a constructive and harmonious way, and I hope that happens. It is clear that I – quite possibly through my personal failings - am not going to be part of that solution. I take responsibility for that and accept it.

In order to understand fully why I am choosing this route, even if that were possible, you would have see what I see through my eyes and perceptions. Of course that’s impossible, because we each see conditions in a different way from each other. I owe it to you to tell you at least what I am telling you. I owe it to the Buddhadharma to practice Right Speech. And I owe it to my teacher, who took on the entire Soto Sect and the prejudices of history, to do and act as she felt was true. Compared to her, I am nothing, and I do not in any way compare what I am doing with what she did. However, she did teach me to never shrink from saying what one feels to be true, and never allow the potential misunderstandings of others to prevent me from speaking when speaking is necessary. I feel that it is necessary, here and now, and I hope that you receive in the spirit I am offering it.

I have already drawn criticism that I am acting childishly, spitefully, selfishly, irresponsibly, stupidly, and harmfully. One person has called it soap opera, a superficial production with the intention of harming others. I will take all those criticisms and look at them over the course of the years. There may be some truth to some of them – after all, I am an ordinary sentient being, and capable of great folly. I cannot prevent anyone from misunderstanding what I am saying or doing; all I do is to say, “Please hear my words; this is what is true for me.”

I am not unhappy with the Abbey, the Community, or you, the congregation. I love this place and all of you very deeply. I am well-loved, well-supported, and – these are my words – spoiled rotten. I have spent the majority of my life here; this is a huge change for me; I never conceived this decision to be one that I would have to make. But here it is, and this is what I am going to do. I feel very sad to leave and, needless to say, the community of Shasta Abbey does not want me to go.

It is impossible for me to remain the abbot of a monastery and a monastic teacher when I cannot wholeheartedly support the policies and procedures of the Order. I do not blame anyone for this decision; it is my own, and I make it freely. This is my view, not a great moral conflict with the Order. I wish to remain on good terms with the Shasta Abbey Community as well as with the OBC Community at large. And before my deepening sense of disagreement and disaffection grows any farther, I feel it is best for all concerned if I leave now in a state of honorable and respectful difference of view, rather than soldier on and run the risk of creating more harm.

Transitions like this are very difficult. I ask that you all root yourselves in your practice; please continue to support the Abbey and our larger OBC community, and just absorb and accept both my decision and its consequences. Please do not let my decision cause you to doubt your practice, our community, or the Order. This is my decision, I make it voluntarily, and no one has forced me to do so. In fact, many people have tried to talk me out of it. Although this is probably the most painful decision of my life so far, I still feel that it is the best – the right -decision for me. I have considered it for a long, long time. Although I am emotional now about it because I am so sad, it is not a decision I have made precipitately or without a great amount of thought and consideration.

I have turned over the day-to-day decisions to the Vice-Abbess, RM Meian. I will not be performing ceremonies, giving teaching, or giving counseling. I am not disappearing, but you may not see me as often as you might otherwise do so. I do not know when I will be leaving, but I assume it will be sometime between 1-2 months. I do not know exactly where I will be going or what I will be doing, but I do know that I wish to continue to return here to visit my spiritual home and family, and especially to pay my respects to Rev. Master’s stupa. Shasta Abbey will remain central in my heart for the rest of my life, and I am determined to continue my Buddhist religious life and practice.

The monastery will continue on. The monks are supporting each other and their training will help support you all, and vice-versa. There will be an election, a new induction, a conclave, and a celebration of our 40th anniversary. Life will go on. Abbots come and go, monastics come and go, congregation members come and go. This monastery is bigger than one person; it can hold all the changes that will occur, and it will continue abide here as long as the community holds together in harmony. You are part of this community; please continue, support each other, support the monastery, support the Order. It’s all one body, and it’s much bigger than any one person.

I now ask for your prayers, your support, you compassion and understanding. I have tried to do my best here; I have had some successes and some failures, but at least I was able to lead the community through the difficult transition from Rev. Master’s death to a new period of activity and prosperity. I believe that the Abbey, the monastic community, the OBC, and all of you will continue to go forward in this way. It cannot happen without your faith, your training, and your support. I ask that you continue to give all that so that the monastery may remain the same kind of place for others as it has been for us. To me, it is an island of light, and this world needs as many islands of light as it can hold. For all our sakes, please help us to remain here for many years to come. Thank you and bless you all."
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PostSubject: will this change things for others who leave?   Tue May 11, 2010 10:02 am

Maybe it's not as easy now for the OBC to cast a cloud of shame and failure over Rev. Eko's decision, as they have with other monks who left. Maybe he won't become one of the "disappeared" whose names can't be mentioned?
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PostSubject: RM Eko's Resignation   Sat May 15, 2010 10:50 pm

Rev Master Eko's resignation as Abbot of Shasta Abbey, for the reasons that he has given, will constitute a seismic event within the OBC.

What this should lead to is a greater willingness to recognize and assess the ever present, yet often invisible, role of the institutionalization of spiritual teaching.

In the early years in particular, Rev Master Jiyu-Kennett often decried the arising of what she called "institutional mind" within the monastic community.

The overarching issue, in its essence, as I perceive it is: the direct experience of the transcendent ground of Awareness itself, is the basis of spiritual teaching in Buddhism and all religious traditions. This teaching is inherently paradoxical--and cannot be encompassed or contained by concepts--or by institutional policies and proceedures.

And here's the rub: religious institutions are necessary to provide teaching for those who are interested, and to ensure its continued transmission, but--through its inherent inability to preserve the paradox of true spiritual teaching--religion all too easily becomes a form of INSTITUTIONALIZED DELUSION.

The essence of this principle is contained in the well known Zen teaching that "the finger that points to the moon, is not the moon itself". The challenge lies in untying the knot of institutionalization from the original teaching itself.

In the broadest sense, I think that this is the koan of all religious institutions--and the dynamic itself is what makes all religious institutions a form of cult.

Does the koan have a solution? Yes it does. The solution, in stark contrast to the classic Zen koan however--is not individual--but collective.

In the case of Shasta Abbey and the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives, the koan can only be resolved (I propose) by recognizing and acknowledging the fact that it is our responsibility, as disciples of Rev Master Jiyu-Kennett, to always honor her teaching, and to compassionately discern the distinction between her personal biases and shortcomings--and her wonderful insight and teaching.

I would further propose that this is nothing special--it is the responsibility of all who engage in a spiritual practice. The teaching that "the disciple stands on the shoulders of the teacher" is a rather precise identification of this principle. The teacher inevitably hands her koan to the rest of us--and we resolve it back into Immaculacy out of gratitude.

It seems to me, that in this light, the harmony of the Sangha only remains TRUE harmony, so long as it does not sacrifice the Truth in order to avoid looking at that which is uncomfortable to look at. The effort to try to prevent the arising of doubt by suppressing information about those who have left the Order, forinstance, is a strategy that always backfires.

The Buddha Nature--the transcendent ground of Awareness itself--is unconditional Openess itself. In an institution--nothing less will do.
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Sun May 16, 2010 3:22 pm

I'll defer to those who have a better grasp of the issues re: institutionalization -- possibly OBC insiders like Kozan are best placed to speak to that and offer a viewpoint. I'm not equipped to talk about it, although part of me wants to try Wink

I'm trying to decide what surprised me most about this news. Maybe the idea that RM Eko ordained a new monk very recently as his disciple -- when he must have known by then he was going to leave? How could he go forward with the ordination? Wouldn't the new monk feel hoodwinked and bamboozled? I wonder too about his other disciples, some of whom he has probably "talked down from the ledge" over the years if they said they wanted to leave. I also remember his email back when Rev. Berenice left the Order -- it was all about him telling her it was unwise, he didn't agree with her decision, etc. Maybe he tried to advise her in the best way he felt at the time, but something about it is not right -- it's like his reasons for leaving are valid because he says they are, but previous to this, other monks' reasons were not valid? That's what bugs me.

I do think though, it takes guts to go back to lay life right now. I couldn't imagine anyone who had been in a state of dependency for so long, like these senior monks are, going back to earning their own living and paying bills. Most of them have been so long removed from self-sufficiency, it's hard to picture how they'd survive --
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PostSubject: additional info. wow.   Tue May 18, 2010 9:46 am

This was forwarded to me for posting. I understood that it has been released by the Abbey in a general email distribution to the congregation and others.




"May 18, 2010

Fax: (530) 9264428
Website: www.shastaabbey.org

To our Congregation and Friends:

Rev. Master Eko met with the Shasta Abbey monastic community the evening of May 16th to inform us of another aspect of his returning to lay life. In addition to his concerns about the direction of the Order he also has admitted that he has formed a romantic relationship with a lay congregation member and has concealed that from the community until now. Due to this breakage of the Rules of the Order and the Precept on
speaking contrary to the truth, it is with sadness and regret that the community has asked Rev. Master Eko to resign immediately, which he has done. Rev. Master Meian has been appointed as Acting Abbess until we can elect a new abbot/abbess.

Some members of the congregation have offered financial gifts to Rev. Master Eko which we will be returning to you. If you have any questions about your gift, please contact Rev. Master Daishin.

We would like to invite you to come to an open discussion with us on Saturday, May 22nd at 3:30 p.m. in the Buddha Hall. This is a very sad and difficult matter for all of us and we would like to offer, and would be grateful for, an opportunity to take mutual refuge.

We are deeply sorry to have to tell you this. We do not condone actions of this kind and feel it is necessary to bring this to light. It is important to be able to discuss these matters and to see how to use difficulties to deepen our practice. We hope to be able to rebuild our confidence and mutual trust together over time as we go forward from here."
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PostSubject: The Newest Revelation   Tue May 18, 2010 3:52 pm

I suspect that this revelation actually comes as a relief to the OBC. RM Eko's concerns about the direction of the Order, and its policies and procedures, can now be effectively dismissed--and his departure will no longer be the "seismic event" that I suggested it would be, in my earlier posting.

Indeed, if anything, the event is likely to reinforce the institutional culture of contraction--rather than serving as an opportunity to engage in the far more difficult (and scary) task of acknowledging and decoupling the fears and biases that were part of Rev. Master Jiyu's own koan, and that (I believe) inadvertantly became part of our institutional culture and structure. She, of course, created Shasta Abbey and the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives with the best of all possible intentions, and with great love and skill, to ensure the continued transmission of the Dharma.

I believe, as I suggested in my previous posting, that engaging in this task of acknowledgement and transformation, is the highest expression of gratitude for her teaching that we can show--and is what all teachers hope their disciples will do!
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Tue May 18, 2010 4:46 pm

I don't know, Kozan, but I think you were right the first time, it will be a seismic event, although, as you say, maybe not for the reasons first mentioned.

I think the Abbey will struggle with how to spin the romantic aspect. Will they imply that Eko is just deluded to want to experience emotional love? Or will they focus on his mistake/poor judgment of getting involved with someone while still under vows? It will be interesting to see what position they take and what message goes out to the lay people.

My reaction to this latest news was that it didn't change my opinion of Rev. Eko at all. I didn't get to know him when I was going to the Abbey, but I felt he was a decent guy. I hope his new life rocks. It doesn't bother me that he wasn't completely forthcoming in his first announcement -- he's only human. Plus as abbot he was always under huge pressure to keep up appearances and not jeopardize all the public image stuff that others are so keen to prop up for outsiders.

I saw another e-tree email today from someone who quoted Rev. Meian re: Rev. Eko (albeit before the latest news), to the effect "there is no judgment". I second that motion completely --
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Tue May 18, 2010 6:24 pm

Lise--good points--and good question!

I suspect that the spin on the romantic aspect will be very simple and straightforward--something to the effect that if Rev. Eko wanted to enter into a romantic relationship, the appropriate course of action would have been to resign as Abbot and return to lay life first. And there might then be some mention of the importance of celibacy as a means of preventing the misuse of the trust between a monk and those seeking spiritual guidance (the same issue that exists for psychotherapists and teachers). I personally think that the celibacy rule, in its current form, is misguided for a number of reasons (but that's another discussion).

I fully agree with your opinion of Rev Eko and the points you make. Not only have I known him for many years, but he was my Chief Junior during my Teacher training Term.

And finally, while I obviously do not have a vote for the next abbot, if I did, Rev Master Meian would certainly receive it. In my opinion--she rocks!
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Tue May 18, 2010 10:09 pm

(Of course, in my unbiased opinion (in this case), all of my Dharma sisters and brothers--both lay and monastic, who I have had the privilege to know and train with--ROCK! Period.)
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Wed May 19, 2010 7:34 am

Totally agree on Rev. Meian as an excellent choice to lead. I hope she wants to do it and that it doesn't take too much of a toll on her.

A thread on celibacy would be good -- I have some thoughts & questions on that too.

Update on sangha feedback to yesterday's news: two persons sent emails to the e-tree saying they still want their going-away donations to go to Rev. Eko (the Abbey wants to return donors' money). I'm so impressed with the visible, compassionate support -- they said the gifts were given without any conditions and don't need to be returned. There's the teaching in action, right there.
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Thu May 20, 2010 10:24 pm

Lise, thanks for your update on sangha feedback. The Abbey was obligated to return donations--unless donors confirmed their original intentions, as these did--which is indeed the teaching in action!

Very good idea for a discussion thread on celibacy. In many ways, I think that it lies close to the crux of the issue by which inherently nondualistic, paradoxical spiritual teaching can be reduced to a rather one-sided interpretation in order to benefit the perceived needs of the institution--with potentially tragic results.

I would be willing to kick it off with my own experience and take on the matter. Any other thoughts or suggestions?
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PostSubject: Some thoughts on celibacy   Fri May 21, 2010 8:14 am

Feel free to paste over into the new thread if you like --

I think it’s a hard, lonely life that most people can’t sustain, at least not in a well-adjusted manner. I’m not surprised that someone would be celibate for years and then realize they want something else.

I don’t get where the OBC’s disdain comes from re: emotional love, sex & partnership. It’s not just my imagination – I saw & heard enough while I was there to know this is real. A newer monk was talking to me about the nature of relationships and said that even some married lay couples in the Abbey sangha had eliminated sex from their relationships altogether. They still live together but in celibacy. She said this in the manner of “isn’t this great?” while I’m thinking “no, this is crazy”. I understand that monks can’t have sex, but to work on convincing lay people that they too are above it and it isn’t necessary? This is really messed up. I’m not saying sex is the be-all of a relationship, but it is part of a normal healthy connection and not something to despise or be ashamed for wanting.

On a related note, I was pretty creeped out to be forwarded one more e-tree email from the Abbey, stating that Rev. Eko did not have sexual contact with the lay person. Again, the fixation with sex . . . if he admitted to an emotional involvement, does it matter if it was physical too? Is it anyone else’s business anyway?

One more thing. I remember when Rev. Neil left in early ’06, part of the reason was supposedly because he accused another more senior monk (not RM Eko) of inappropriate behavior toward a lay person. I don’t think it was investigated much – I think they just got him out and then issued a message about him needing to work on his personal problems. At the time I wondered if some of the seniors are immune to questioning because of who they are? Does this happen more often than people know, and is it only noticed when someone like Eko admits to it?
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Sat May 22, 2010 10:11 pm

Lise, thanks for the new information, thoughts, and questions!

I haven't started the new thread yet because I am still reflecting. I have too much to write in response, and am trying to distill it down to a manageable length!

I think that you are right about institutional disdain (in the past, I found that individual opinions varied dramatically from the institutional party line). The disdain for emotional, loving, sexual relationships is (in my opinion) a sometimes subtle but profound misunderstanding of Buddhist spiritual teaching. It is the result of equating attachment to desire (identified as the cause of suffering in Buddhism) with the nature of sexuality itself. (And it ignores the fact that as biological organisms, we are sexual beings by design.) The next steps in the sequence of misunderstanding are: engaging in a loving, mutually supportive, committed, sexual relationship is synonymous with attachment to desire--and greed. And therefore, progress in spiritual practice becomes equated with the presumed necessity of eventually becoming celibate.

However, all of this is based on the reduction of the original, inherently paradoxical teaching, to a one-sided duality.

The original teaching: a committed and loving sexual relationship can become a means of attachment to ego-centered delusion--and it can equally, (and more often) become a means of mutual benefit and enlightenment.

The one-sided institutional position: sex=attachment to delusion; celibacy=enlightenment. And the implication is that if you conform your outer behavior to the dictates of the institution your inner practice will automatically excell towards enlightenment.

As you say--this is really messed up!

I understand your reaction to the latest Abbey email. At the same time, I find it very significant.

The first announcement by the Abbey, that RM Eko had "formed a romantic relationship with a lay congregation member", that was concealed from the community, and therefore required his immediate resignation, implies that the matter in question was that of a sexual relationship. Why is this significant? Because emotional attraction, even if mutual, does not, in and of itself, constitute a breakage of the precepts, or provide valid grounds for dismissal. (At the very least, the actual circumstances become less clear, because the spectrum of possiblities is far wider.)

I can't help you very much with your last question. During my time at the Abbey, I never (knowingly) observed a monk behaving inappropriately towards a lay person. At the same time, I can think of all too many occassions on which, in retrospect, I wish that I had acted more compassionately, towards both monks and lay members under my care.
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Sun May 23, 2010 7:07 am

trying to post, but getting blank space where the message should be --


quote="Kozan"

"The original teaching: a committed and loving sexual relationship can become a means of attachment to ego-centered delusion--and it can equally, (and more often) become a means of mutual benefit and enlightenment.

The one-sided institutional position: sex=attachment to delusion; celibacy=enlightenment. And the implication is that if you conform your outer behavior to the dictates of the institution your inner practice will automatically excell towards enlightenment. "[/quote]

This captures just what I wanted to express, when some of the monks would talk about relationships, but I couldn't put it together as simply and clearly as you have done.

Your explanation of the Abbey's second statement does clarify what they were doing -- thanks for that. By private message I heard something similar from another forum member -- he said it was important to the Abbey to be clear that Rev. Eko had not been "permanently excluded", I think is the concept. I guess resignation allows for a possible return someday whereas "exclusion" doesn't?

The Abbey website now has an announcement about Rev. Eko's leaving. There are kind words about him --

Kozan, I hope you'll write as much as you want to on any topic -- you have a unique perspective on things that are a mystery to most of us, and your input is really valuable. I'm glad you are on this forum.
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Sun May 23, 2010 7:09 am

that's more like it -- for some reason I couldn't post until removing the hyperlink to the Abbey's website which is http://www.shastaabbey.org/rmeko1.htm
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Mon May 24, 2010 4:54 pm

Thanks Lise--and thanks again for providing this forum!
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Sun May 30, 2010 6:00 am

The following was moved from the Introductions thread where first posted:



Subject: Rev. Master Eko Fri 28 May 2010 - 23:30

violet wrote:
I was absolutely shocked to hear that Rev. Master Eko had resigned from OBC as a result of differences about the direction of the order. Then I was surprised (but not too surprised) that he had a "concealed romantic attachment" with a member of the congregation and they essentially kicked him out. He was one person in the Order who I respected and could talk to. I admired the direction he was taking them -- interacting with other Buddhist groups and opening up those walls to some fresh air. I would be interested in hearing what his "differences" were. He has been a monk since he was 19 and it must be a huge adjustment for him. I wish him the best and wish he would join this forum!!


Subject: Re: I'll start . . . Yesterday at 12:58

Lise wrote:
Hi Violet -- welcome to the forum.

I've also wondered about Rev. Eko's reasons for resigning. Although, I don't have the impression that he was kicked out -- he had given them his resignation notice and was making plans to leave. The announcement about the relationship appears to have just speeded up his leave-taking.

I might move this part over to the thread on his resignation -- if you see that your comment has disappeared from this area, look for it over there --

Subject: Re: I'll start . . . Yesterday at 22:04

violet wrote:
I hope you have read the OBC's explanation of what happen to Rev. Master Eko. It looks to me like "kicked out" is the right word, given the explnation for why he was asked to leave so quickly.
In any event, I find that his actions have a profound impact on whatever remaining confidence I had in the OBC. If he -- a person I respected and admired -- found things so discordant that he felt he had to leave (the "romantic attachment" aside), I feel better about my own departure.

I would like to hear more from Kozan about why he is so disillusioned with spiritual organizations.
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Sun May 30, 2010 2:45 pm

Hi Violet,

I am inclined to agree with you--that Eko was essentially kicked out--which also served to effectively invalidate his concerns from the perspective of the OBC.

My concern with relgious organizations in general, including the OBC, is that, in the interest of preserving the teaching, they tend to develop an internal "culture" of thinking and practice that often perceives critical feedback as an assault on the teaching itself. This leads to an institutional culture in which spiritual teaching tends to be interpreted and used to support institutional goals. The original teaching is diminished--and critique is identified as a failure to accept, an undermining of the harmony of the Sangha, and the sowing of doubt. Within this dynamic, those who leave the community are assumed to have fallen down in their training, and to constitute a potential threat.

I think that the solution is not to reject institutions, or to focus on alleged shortcomings per se, but to recognize and acknowledge the dynamic itself. This allows the institution to come down off its pedestal and become a useful adjunct to spiritual practice rather than a self-appointed arbiter of what constitutes acceptable belief.
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Carol



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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Mon May 31, 2010 5:39 pm

Thanks, Kozan, for your answer. I can see that the solution you propose would be helpful for the institution itself to "come off its pedestal." But I'm not sure how this solution helps someone who has been burned by the institution and carries some heavy water about the place. Do you think the solution applies to individuals as well as institutions? Also, I have a deep suspicion that the person who was the head of the priory I attended may have gone seriously off the track and that those who are supposed to oversee that person either do not know or do not care. Does you solution -- recognizing the dynamic between the original teaching and the institution -- help when the institution itself may be off track?
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Wed Jun 02, 2010 12:00 am

Violet, I think that you have just asked the crucial question!

I think that for you, and others, who have been burned by the OBC, the recognition and acknowledgement of what you have gone through requires that the OBC wake-up!

In a post under a different topic (What are the signs that the OBC might be a cult?) you describe experiences, at a priory, in which the Prior (in my opinion) perfectly exemplifies the institutional culture by repeating Rev. Master's behavior and words--to never use the Masters special cup--and that "Buddhism isn't democracy" (...neither at Shasta Abbey, nor at traditional Japanese Zen Temples for that matter). As you effectively point out, this is authoritarianism--which I would add, is all too prevalent, historically, in Buddhist institutions--and is ultimately a contradiction of Buddhist teaching.

At the same time, I am convinced that the vast majority of OBC monks--including, quite possibly, the above Prior--would be horrified if they were to actually recognize the consequences of the institutional dynamic. I think that Rev. Master herself would be devastated by the unintended consequences of her best intentions and pioneering effort. These intertwined issues are why it seems so important to me to understand this dynamic--with compassion--for both the institution, and especially, for those like yourself (and others posting on and viewing this Forum), who have been harmed by it!

I think that the crux of the matter is to encompass the institution itself within spiritual practice--as a valid focus of awareness itself. This is not currently permissible. It is as if a "water-tight barrier or partition" (to quote Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett) were errected around the institution to obscure it from awareness! For an institution dedicated to spiritual teaching and practice this is the ultimate contradiction!! (Again, I think that this is not unique to the OBC, but is common to some degree with all religious institutions.)

It seems to me that everyone benefits from the simple recognition that the institution is nothing more than an always imperfect finger, pointing to the moon of Zen. And that it is the recognition that religious institutions are inherently imperfect by nature (or downright delusional if they forget their imperfection), that makes it possible for an institution to lighten-up (!) and not take itself too seriously--which in turn, is the requirement (I suspect) for an institution to be able to continually transcend, heal, and transform itself--which it must do, if it is to survive.
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Mon Jun 07, 2010 5:54 am

On June 1st the Abbey's website announcement about RM Eko was revised. The only change I can see is the reference to a relationship with a "lay congregation member"; the word "lay" has been removed. I suppose this was intentional -
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Tue Jun 15, 2010 7:55 pm

I don't even know where to start on this one! I would very much like to know who the woman in question is. If anyone is privy to this information, please pass it on. I have many concerns about Eko starting a relationship with a congregation member, ESPECIALLY a lay disciple. The power-differential here makes it impossible to form a healthy relationship for either party. I wish that the law was set up for monks as it is for therapists; if I was to start a relationship with a client I would lose my license and go to jail. If Eko did form a relationship with a disciple, there should be consequences. I can't believe that noone would hold him, a Zen Master for God's sake, accountable for this violation. It is ethically and morally wrong (if this is indeed what happened). And it just goes to show the power that these people have and the complete lack of accountability. If this is indeed the case, all of his teachings lose their credibility and all faith in them is gone.

Personally, I was berated for having fallen in love with a monk once. I was told I was being "childish" and told to grow up. I was also told that the karma I would create from causing a monk to disrobe would destroy me. I was also told I "should be ashamed of myself". Now, what does all that mean if my own master runs off with one of his disciples????

I am very concerned for both Eko and the alleged woman. I am especially concerned if it is one lay person in particular. Anyway, please let me know via post or PM if you know who it is. Thanks.

Peace,
Diana
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Wed Jun 16, 2010 8:27 am

My thoughts --

I'm not sure the romantic partner was his disciple, or even a lay person. The Abbey removed the word "lay" from the text "lay congregation member" in the revised announcement about his leaving. I don't know if this signifies anything.

On consequences -- I think the Abbey doled out the heaviest penalty they have. I missed seeing this myself, when I first read about it, but others here are pretty sure he was formally excluded from the community. Not for the fact of the relationship but for not telling the truth in earlier statements. There isn't anything worse than separation from the sangha, if I understand the official view correctly.

I keep thinking about the harm that comes from forced celibacy. If monks were allowed other choices, think of the benefits, and the harm avoided. Rev. Eko could have continued to serve the community that loved him, his life would have been enriched, he wouldn't have engaged in deceit, possibly exploitation . . .

Diana, this is not to take anything away from what you've said about your experience of attraction to a monk or the unfortunate way you were treated. I think it happens a lot. From what I've seen, some monks encourage it through a kind of enticement; they enjoy, and pretend not to see, that someone is developing the wrong kind of interest. Then, when it becomes too noticeable to others, they shut down. Not sure if this was your situation (I'm not pressing you for details). It has happened to others, including monks. I remember an OBC Journal article by Rev. Vivian ('01 or '02 maybe) and it seemed to indicate that she felt led by her master into thinking they had a romantic bond, then he "betrayed" her by telling other monks that she had developed this problem in regard to him. He referred to her making a "very big mistake", I think it says somewhere in her article. It's more likely there were two people making the big mistake, and one of them had the responsibility to know better and keep it from getting that far.

I really feel for monks who are called to true vocations, yet want to give and receive emotional love. I've been told that the Abbey's internal talks focus a lot on the physical aspect of celibacy, and things related to the body, but how much do they talk about the emotional side? I think this is the area where critical needs go unmet and can lead to damaging behavior --

Will save the rest for Kozan's celibacy thread --
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Wed Jun 16, 2010 9:18 pm

I taught High School for many years and with large groups of teenagers in a controlled and rule governed environment where there had to be methods for resolving conflicts and handling rule violations without a final suspension. The monks at Shasta Abbey reminded me of the naivete and innocence of the youthful spirit. What has always troubled me about the Abbey is "the on the bus or off the bus" rigidity.
This issue with the Reverend Master and with those monks that have felt exploited and hurt by the Order makes me very sad. The feeling I have is just great sadness and loss.
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Thu Jun 17, 2010 11:09 am

Yes, it's sad from a number of angles.

I think of Rev. Eko particularly and send him good thoughts whenever I do. I think his action was very brave and will lead to positive change --
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Thu Jun 17, 2010 4:09 pm

This should probably be moved to the thread on celibacy (I didn't see it) but...

I think one of the difficulties with romantic situations--sexual and otherwise--is that they are not always easy to deal with whether you are a part of the relationship or a directly-affected third party even for those of us who AREN'T celibate. It takes practice and experience just learning to recognize your own emotions let alone dealing wtih them and juggling how those emotions or how that relationship will effect the community around you (ie: workplace romance) and the best way to handle it if it does.

Also: some people find people in a position of spiritual authority attractive. If you're the person in that position of authority, but you haven't had that social experience, it might be a difficult temptation to pass up or if you DO pass it up to do it gracefully. Turning someone down gracefully is a skill.

So it might not be surprising that people who do not have that experience have a hard time giving good advice on that issue let alone being able to handle their own feelings when it comes up for them either directly, as the object of someone else's affection, or even as bystanders.

I won't say it's excusable, but I do find it understandable.

If I ever went to spiritual counselling for relationship issues, I would want it to be with a monk who had dated (or possibly been married) and who had not entered the monastery until later in life.

To ask a fellow or fellowette with no experience for relationship advice is putting both of us in a bad position, I would imagine.
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Thu Jun 17, 2010 4:42 pm

Hi Sandokai, and welcome to the forum. Thank you for joining us!

There isn't a celibacy thread yet, so you didn't miss it. I think we do have enough comment on the topic now to start one, so I'll move some posts over to a new category.
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Sat Jun 19, 2010 12:13 pm

I tried on several occasions to receive spiritual counseling on relationship matters. The monks (except for Rev. Meido) couldn't offer help. I feel great sympathy for RM Eko who evidently fell in"love" with a congregation member because he -- like the other monks who have been around since their teenage or early 20's years -- have no recent personal experience with relationships (sexual or non-sexual) or how to deal with the overwhelming and irrational emotions that they bring.

There is an OBC newsletter from the early 1970's in which Koshin wrote a piece saying that sexuality and training are not incompatible. It was helpful to me to read. At that time, Koshin was married to another monk. Since that time, I have heard little or nothing about sexuality and training for lay people.

RM Jiyu did say that she thought sexual relationships in marriage precluded the 3rd kensho, but that didn't seem to apply to me. I agree with the comments in this forum that a celibate priesthood raises serious issues for lay followers.
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PostSubject: Low Expectations   Sat Jun 19, 2010 3:09 pm

I guess I am different from many...I attend many retreats over 10 years at Shasta Abbey and rarely spoke to a monk. I was there for a quiet place to meditate and kick start my practice which has a way of lagging when I am living my day to day life. I did not expect much from the monks except predictability, honesty, understanding, and encouragement. They always seemed out of touch with reality as I knew it which was just fine by me but not an encouragement to confide in them. I usually felt very fortunate to have such a safe haven in my stormy life. Unfortunately, now with the conflict and the obvious turmoil that they are experiencing , I do not see it as the peaceful retreat I once did.
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Sun Jun 20, 2010 7:17 am

I can't help but think that Rev. Master Meian's leadership will bring calm and stability, in time.

Sugin, in looking back I wish I had kept to your approach. I didn't engage much with anybody on my first retreats, just focused on meditation. I loved keeping silent, and sitting in the Buddha Hall listening to the water splashing in the fountain outside, and looking at Mt. Shasta through those long windows in the Skanda Hall. That was more than enough. Then I got interested in evaluating the theories presented in dharma discussions, and I got on this gerbil-wheel of spiritual counseling that I don't think I ever really wanted, and I started noticing the weirdness going on . . .

That is one thing I do differently in my practice now, with the temple I go to -- everything is at arm's length. I support things where I can, I enjoy the beautiful temple and the activities, their pageantry, I sit with them in meditation. And that's all -- almost no contact with monks and I've turned off the part of my brain that sees and records what other people are doing. What a relief.
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Sun Jun 20, 2010 5:17 pm

I hope you are right, Lise.
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PostSubject: Compassion   Mon Aug 02, 2010 6:02 am

I'm a lay member that just happened to find this forum. Thank you!
I've always found myself envious of those who can launch a profession or a relationship and maintain it apparently seamlessly for the rest of their lives. For me, in my practice, I notice that I wax and wane. In my marriage of 38 years, "emotions" evolve; sometimes heightened, sometimes dormant. I've had the good fortune to be able to change jobs, or at least aspects of it, every decade or two. I notice with teachers, they may have the same dedication, but they may express it with a bit less energy after the passage of time.
I feel nothing but compassion for both RM Eko and the Abbey. May that be the reaction of others as well.
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PostSubject: Unfortunately Freud was right!   Thu Aug 12, 2010 10:14 pm

Hello all. To qualify myself, i am also a long-time retreat and resident trainee at the abbey and intend to occasionally continue my practice there.

As a person who has been through a few things, contemplated monastic training, and has also been far too educted than he really needs to be ... I must say that the formation of religious institutions which require celibacy is quite a folly and really ridiculous. I really think people that cope with these conditions have some sort of mental maladjustments of some kind or another, ranging from conflicted homosexuality all the way to ... more homosexuality or intense pain from rejection in past relationships. I know this might be hard to hear, but isnt that what buddhism is all about? Hearing what is hard to hear? I find it shocking that so many monks can spend so many years in meditation and still not listen to what is hard to hear.

Proof of this is Rev. Eko's very deceptive good bye speech where he never mentions a 'relationship.'

Shame on you Eko for such miserable failings in Right Speech, which you preached for so many years and continued to lye and deceit the congregation in your final speech!

Just goes to show that organized religion, like the Catholic church, is full of lies, deceit, and socio-paths.

I am sorry I am offending some of you 'doey-eyed' members of the community, but you need to grow up and get out of your little baby-game realities! If you think there is hostility in my writing, you are wrong, but only disappointment at the weakness of human beings to be so weak to seek so much 'outside' of themselves that they kiss [admin delete] so much to these mostly socio-pathic messed up individuals we often call reverend.

But, with that said, I completely adhere to the tenets of Buddhism and agree with all of the posts which discuss how the institutionalization basically ruins it. I recently spent several months in Thailand and can attest that they are 'way' more layed back than the abbey and approch it from an entirely different angle that i don't believe many at the abbey would comprehend or subscribe to.

Well, I've blown off enough steam ... homage to the buddha, dharma and sangha.


Last edited by Lise on Fri Aug 13, 2010 6:39 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : coarse language)
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Fri Aug 13, 2010 1:12 am

Nice handle by the way but maybe too wrathful a letter even for someone called Achalanatha.
I believe there is a term for an inflamatory posting called a flame which is interesting when authored by someone who has the name of a buddhist deity that is often pictured with fire.

Sometimes, not often in my experience, but sometimes, things get said that require me to get off my Canadian (lets all be friends) [admin delete] and wade into waters that look unhealthy.
I've never been a monk, never been required to be celibate, have tried celibacy, found it had some meditative benefits & difficulties just like training with sexuality has it's own range of benefits & difficulties.
Attributing organizations that promote celibacy to be filled with the mentally maladjusted, and gasp.. homosexuals is an interesting thing for a meditator to say. I don't know if I've ever met anyone who didn't display some level of mental maladjustment. I mean, why meditate at all unless you do have some level of mental maladjustment. The same with your "intense pain from rejection in past relationships" that is as good a description of the human condition as I can think of. Mental maladjustments and inadequacy are words that describe the way we actively create, moment by moment, our psyches. Meditation is the process of letting go of our contribution to that active creation. I would be interested in hearing where mental malajustments and sexual preferences fit in for you in terms of your own meditation. It's actually a serious question. People that find some things hard to hear and slag those who they feel might have the same weaknesses as them, are most often found in the mirror. They certainly visit my mirror often enough.

OK, your unhappy with Rev. E , his doey eyed followers and organized religion. Just tell me that none of that reflects anything you've seen in the mirror and I'll go away and try to think how the three refugees you ended your letter with in some way relates to what you wrote or your namesake.


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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Fri Aug 13, 2010 8:46 am

Kozan wrote:

I suspect that the spin on the romantic aspect will be very simple and straightforward--something to the effect that if Rev. Eko wanted to enter into a romantic relationship, the appropriate course of action would have been to resign as Abbot and return to lay life first. And there might then be some mention of the importance of celibacy as a means of preventing the misuse of the trust between a monk and those seeking spiritual guidance (the same issue that exists for psychotherapists and teachers). I personally think that the celibacy rule, in its current form, is misguided for a number of reasons (but that's another discussion).

This pattern of behavior - that of monks finding themselves attracted to people, getting involved and then leaving the OBC under a cloud - is really very predictable. If the OBC actually understood that sometimes monks need to return to lay life and supported that transition it would be possible for monks to do so openly and in an orderly manner. As is, returning to lay life, and in particular ending celibacy and entering into a romantic relationship, is judged as "defeat" and a return to "delusion". It is a move that monks struggle to avoid at all costs because of the judgment and shunning. The sense that this is something you really want and need to do has to be locked in a box and hidden from view. Genies trapped in bottles become very angry though. Sooner or later the longing to break out of the isolation overwhelms the "rules" and proper decorum, and people do what they must to return to life. Instead of seeing this behavior as a profound failure of the organization the OBC condemns the individual and remains in denial of its' complicity. Roshi Kennett used to say it was normal in the East for people to enter and leave the Buddhist priesthood multiple times over the course of their lives. This was offered as an example of how Buddhism was flexible and non-judgmental, but it was only another example of the "double-speak" that was common at the Abbey.
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Fri Aug 13, 2010 8:54 am

Trying to 'control me' Howard? Interesting how you can just slough off breakages of the precepts to 'good meditation' and the 'human condition.' And, when I picked the name Achalanatha, it had nothing to do with anything conscious ... however, I just have grown into a habit of using it for other things.

Believe me Howard, I know the drill. I don't need another tea and lecture. I know you are well intentioned and sincere probably in the things you are talking about.

I am angry because Buddhism teaches the 'straightforward' mind, and I think REv. E's speech was anything but, and I wanted to call him on it, wondering why the community could not immediately hear point by point, number by number reasons and issues of exactly what Rev. E disagreed with at the abbey. I mean, if it is soooo important that he would step down, can we have some transparency? At least in a religious practice that has drummed the Precepts into our head non-stop? Can we at least see the precepts being followed when it really matters? No ... but that is Rev. E's koan and training ... so it is ok ... because everything is training.

Whether this is just another 'opportunity' for him to train and I to train and the whole blinking world to train is obvious Howard, but you can point it out to your hearts content ... I don't care ... its ok; but, I must say that I have grown ill of hearing the word training. All I can say from what I have seen ... is that the training does not seem to work! Ok, ok, its not about goals. The goal of goalessness and all that malarkey and the buddha mind is training for eternity ... and the big picture ... and opportunities to train...I know I know ... I am sick of it ... I know ... shut up for a minute Howard and clean out your ears! Ok, ok I know that your meditation is already doing that for you and me and the three worlds.

The community has been let down. I do not appreciate the secrecy. And ... I do not believe that maladjusted people should be in positions of influence and power as they are in religious organizations.

As far as my sexuality arising in my meditation and how I deal with it? I am fortunate that I have a satisfying and healthy sex life with a beautiful woman and absolutely no guilt ... so I guess at the moment it isnt a major source of suffering for me ... but who's to say ... a field of merit ... even 39 years of merit ... could be apparently wiped out in an instant. I know not everyone is as fortunate as me and I definitly know that people dont need what I need ... but my point about mentioning sexuality in my previous posts is that I have chosen not to be led around like a little puppy by fussy homosexuals. I just do not get along with them. In the history of my life, ... I have always been burned by fussy homosexuals I have had as friends and I guess I hate interacting with them and their whims and drama. It is MY choice to convey this Howard ... and so I am.
I am not denying their buddha nature (is that possible?) or hating them as human beings ... but hating being in societal power structures with them. I also hate some people at the abbey who I find rude. I am actually a very nice person ... but I am tired of taking [admin delete] from fussy little rude people who have much less education than I and even more problems. I would rather sort out my suffering and do my 'training' alone ... live out my life ... and die. I am most definitely OUT of organized religion ... forever and ever, AMEN.

Just remember, at the abbey you are being led by a bunch of monkeys, and many of them can be quite rude. You see, celibacy and monastic training is about power (and often wealth) ... and monkeys trying to accumulate some for themselves since they were so powerless to do so in the 'real' world. So, they create a world where they can have some power and respect (delusion). So, in a sense, I believe many people's suffering is a form of anger, that they can not have what they want. Angry little monkeys searching. But, ok Howard ... here we go again ... I know ... this is what its all about ... our koan's and our training ... I know ... play the program Howard ... be a good little monkey.

But all kidding aside, throw off the yoke! Liberate yourselves from this folly - like the masters really want you to do! Go out and live a life. Eko is doing the right thing. Get the heck out and live a satisfying life Eko. I am not actually mad at him, but respect him even more. I am just trying to express something that most will find stupid, but maybe someone gets something out of.

(Maybe I should change my handle to benedict Arnold?)


Last edited by Lise on Fri Aug 13, 2010 9:52 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : violation / rule #6)
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Fri Aug 13, 2010 9:35 am

@ Achalanatha

Regarding your post the only point I would query you on is the use of the term "fussy homosexuals". Do you really feel that? Based on my time at the Abbey I would describe many of the monks as fussy asexuals. Disparaging homosexuality per se seems off the mark.

Edit:

In light of Lise' comment I wanted to add that my use of the term "asexual" was not meant to be disparaging. When I was a monk practicing celibacy I would have self-identified as an aspiring asexual (defined as "free from or unaffected by sexuality" at dictionary.com). Of course I don't know how any monks currently in the OBC self-identify with regard to sexual orientation. I'll stand by "fussy" though Smile


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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Fri Aug 13, 2010 9:48 am

Achalanatha, I understand that you're new here. Please take a look at the Forum Rules so you get a feel for how discussions work and the guidelines we follow in order to have a civil environment. Derogatory comment about sexual orientation is offensive, as is name-calling, and they won't be allowed.

If needed we can continue this tangent in another spot.
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Fri Aug 13, 2010 10:09 am

Isan wrote:
. . . As is, returning to lay life, and in particular ending celibacy and entering into a romantic relationship, is judged as "defeat" and a return to "delusion". It is a move that monks struggle to avoid at all costs because of the judgment and shunning. The sense that this is something you really want and need to do has to be locked in a box and hidden from view. Genies trapped in bottles become very angry though. Sooner or later the longing to break out of the isolation overwhelms the "rules" and proper decorum, and people do what they must to return to life. . . .

This was clear to me during my contact with the OBC. Even as a lay person who didn't go in person that often, I could see it and feel it. It is palpable.

For those who struggle with celibacy but can't or won't leave (although you could argue they have already "left" in their minds and spirits), I think the genie is pacified by borderline conduct that is harmful to themselves and others. Whatever suppressed energy can't be absorbed inward, will be directed outward.

The judgment and shunning are such a waste.
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Fri Aug 13, 2010 1:11 pm

I remember at a retreat once at Shasta Abbey the conversation coming up with other attendees "Would you want your significant other to be here?" The overwhelming response was "No." All said they would be concerned about the other person's welfare (e.g., how are they holding up? etc) and that that would be a distraction to their own meditation.
For that and other reasons, I can understand the desire of the seniors to keep the monastery monastic.
However, I can thoroughly understand and appreciate the idea of monks coming for a while, leaving for a while, and returning. Most of all, being able to leave and return without any sense of guilt or failure.
It also seems to me that being a monk is one thing; being the administrator of a large abbey is another. It seems inevitable to me that after 10 years or so as an administrator burn-out is going to set in. Maybe they should rotate the job of abbot???
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Fri Aug 13, 2010 2:37 pm

The thing that has always caused me the most concern with the OBC was where members "koans" became cloaked in the guise of spirituality. It added an extra shield and complexity to problems that needed to be looked at. It gave protection and license to behaviours that contradicted fundamental Buddhist teachings. With senior members it resulted in juniors being coerced into supporting delusive behaviour. What should have been the issue of meditation became instead a personal support structure on which to hang one's robes. The fruits of todays Abbey were planted and watered over many years.
Achalanatha said I was a good little monkey, which is true. (boy, that sentence is a keeper). The sting of it always comes from our complicity.
I am lost when contemplating the possibilities of finding open ears when asking others to be vulnerable when they've established spiritual forts to feel secure within. Jiyu used to say " the higher you climb, the harder you hang on". While this is not the situation she was referring to, it seems like a truth that applies here. Those who we are asking to be open and transparent are the very ones who have the farthest to fall in the process.
This only leaves me with the options of trying not to make the same mistakes. Can I let go, be transparent, wrong, vulnerable while manifesting a wide & open heart? Maybe some days.
I did the accounting for a meditation group & priory for 25 years. It was small, had meagre financial input and was in danger of not being able to support itself every summer when many of it's members were away. There was a yearly concern about it's possible financial collapse. The one thing that softened the yearly hand wringing about the possible loss of the building was the realization that the real priory was just the members meditation, plain & simple.
Everything else was just window dressing.
This obviously applies to the OBC as well. While inertia is a difficult force to contend with, I feel more hopeful for the possibility of change with Rev. Eko's leaving than if none of this came to light.
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Rev. Seikai



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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Sat Aug 21, 2010 10:58 am

There are a number of very difficult points to address with regard to the resignation of Eko Little as abbot of Shasta Abbey; in this thread there have been several attempts to do this, but unless you were in or near enough to the actual unfolding of events, it is virtually impossible to have an accurate take on the core issues of what actually happened.

Respect for Eko's privacy and for his many years of dedicated training as a monk compel those of us who are still within the OBC to remain silent on some aspects of his situation, including the name of the person with whom he became romantically involved--it is his business. The woman is a lay person and not a monk, of that you can be certain.

Addressing sexuality in the contest of monastic training is an area with which I have a lot of experience, having fallen in love twice as monk, and having successfully incorporated those two events into the the broader unfolding of my own training, my capacity to take refuge in the Sangha, and my understanding of human nature. I would like to make an offering of my understanding of how to train with sexuality, but given the nature of the topic, it will take considerable time, and extend beyond what I say here. In Eko's case, the problem was not so much that he fell in love per se--goodness knows this can happen to any human being--but the fact that he concealed it for a considerable length of time. He broke the rules of the order, which unequivocally state that if a monk falls in love, or feels romantically drawn to someone, it is incumbant upon that monk to be open about it and discuss it with one of his peers. This is what I did, successfully, in my training, and what Eko did not do.

I think it would be helpful to readers of this forum to know that the root problems of Eko's departure predated his romantic involvement, and had nothing to do with sexuality. Those root problems derived from his idealism, about which I spoke during a Dharma talk given at Shasta Abbey on August 15. The audio file of this Dharma talk is easily accessed via the Abbey's website. If nothing else, I think that his story illustrates how unchecked idealism leads to disharmony, disharmony can create isolation, if no steps are taken to reintegrate into a community or institution once the isolation has has taken root, and ultimately how isolation defeats people in the context of monastic training.

With regard to the dynamic between the original teaching and the insitutionalizing of the teaching, this is another fairly large topic, and I appreciate Kozan's comments on the matter. We should recognize that the Buddha himself had the same problem: there was no Vinaya for the first 20 years of the Sangha, until a monk was convinced to have sex with his former wife so that the family could have an heir on which to bestow their wealth and their future. If a monastic order is celibate, which is largely the case in Buddhism outside of the Zen tradition, and other Japanese Buddhist traditions, then the institution must set up rules and guidelines for the safeguarding and maintenance of celibacy. On their own, rules can only set limits, and do little to provide positive support, encouragement and wisdom to a celibate monk; for that you need compassionate human beings. RMJK was such a person. She helped me with my strong sexual koan, and for that matter, so did Eko many years ago before he became the abbot of the monastery.

Eko was well aware of the rules of the order of which he was a member. If he chose not to abide by those rules--and I do not know if he deliberately did that or not--then, like any human being who breaks the law, he should have known that there would be consequences for his actions. In the event concerned, he was given every possible benefit of the doubt, every possible offering of help, and the compassion of the community to which he belonged. In the end, he continued to not respond to any of those overtures, and the effect was that he was asked to resign sooner (immediately) rather than later (which was what he had wanted to do before the revelation of his romantic involvement).

I recently spent five days with the community of Shasta Abbey, spoke with many of the monks there, and was generally impressed with the maturity and resiliency of the monks with regard to the departure of their former abbot. I do not know what would qualify as a "seismic event" within the OBC; certainly in this case, it was something that affected every member of the order, and one which contains a considerable amount of teaching about how not to behave as a monk or an abbot. Eko left behind 15 disciples at Shasta Abbey, a similar number of (exclusively female) lay disciples, and a karmic wake. It has not been an easy summer for Shasta Abbey, but I think considerable good will come from it over the long run. As always, compassion and understanding are what will help everyone the most.

Respectfully submitted, Rev. Seikai

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cmpnwtr



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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Sat Aug 21, 2010 12:21 pm

A brief comment to this discussion on sexuality which has arisen. My impression from the early years, the first decade of Shasta Abbey, was that the teaching on sexuality was much healthier, in contrast to later years. I recall when my wife and I were married by the Singers(Gyozan and Shuyu) in the Eugene Priory, we had excellent pre-marriage counseling on the spirituality of sexual expression, ideas which reportedly had come from Jiyu Kennett on the innate goodness of sexual expression. And they were summed up in a verse of our wedding vows in use at that time by the Priory, (I believe taken from the Anglican service) "With my body I thee worship." As time went on the proper exercise of sexuality was taught increasingly as an impediment to spiritual progress, change that was accentuated in the 80s, and of course the celibacy requirement for the priesthood was installed with the capitulation to the rules of the Malaysian Chinese Sangha, and the rejection of the Japanese Soto lineage in which Jiyu Kennett had been trained. I can only say as a person married for 37 years that the aforementioned verse in our wedding vows has remained meaningful and sexual expression has nurtured the love that sustains us now psychologically and spiritually into our sixties in the fourth decade of marriage. I remember once an exchange with my friend, Doug MacPhillamay. I asked him if it was possible to love without attachment. He smiled and said, "The important thing is to love." Everything that is precious and good and life -giving in my own journey has come about through relationships of love that began with attachment and where I learned to love and grow through attachment, not in spite of. I do not deny that some persons may have a vocation to celibacy. But I find that the the imposition of celibacy as a requirement to be in spiritual service as a priest, or clergy is a terrible mistake, whether that be Buddhist, or Catholic, and has led to so much of the abuses, dishonesty, and mistakes that have been made through the centuries.
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Carol



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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Sat Aug 21, 2010 2:55 pm

The New York Times carried an article today headlined "Sex Scandals Have US Buddhists Looking Within." See http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/21/us/21beliefs.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper. The first paragraph reads: "Sooner or later, every traditional faith has to confront sexual impropriety by its spiritual leaders: extramarital sex, or sex with the wrong people (members of the congregation, minors) or, for supposedly celibate clergy, any sex at all." The story is a reminder that Zen Buddhists are no purer than any other religious group.

I'm not sure where this post fits, but it was partly inspired by Rev. Seikai's thoughtful and candid explanation of RM Eko's departure. I don't mean to imply in any way that RM Eko's conduct involved a "sex scandal."But I think the whole question of sex/celibacy/romantic misdeeds is easier for a religious organization like the OBC to deal with than other types of misconduct by senior priests.

To me, the “Buddhist Fire and Brimstone” teaching and practice to which Amalia was exposed at North Cascades is far worse than sexual or romantic impropriety by a monk. (See her post for Aug. 18.) It seems easier for the OBC to dismiss romantic misconduct by priests as "bad" or a violation of the rules than it is for the Order to condemn teaching and practice like that of the senior monk at NCBP. Presumably, her master was trying to teach Amalia something about hungry ghosts and demons. But his terrifying threats and his gross neglect of her physical and mental safety led to suffering that was every bit as horrific for Amalia as sexual misconduct would have been. Amalia never received anything like an apology either from her master or from the OBC.

This kind of “teaching” is contrary to what Rev. Seikai wisely said about RM Eko’s departure: “As always, compassion and understanding are what will help everyone the most.” Amalia received nothing but blame, frightening threats and “exorcisms” when what she most needed was compassion and understanding.
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Sat Aug 21, 2010 5:11 pm

Thank you, Rev. Seikai. One question comes up first, although others are buzzing --

Rev. Seikai wrote:
. . . He broke the rules of the order, which unequivocally state that if a monk falls in love, or feels romantically drawn to someone, it is incumbant upon that monk to be open about it and discuss it with one of his peers. This is what I did, successfully, in my training, and what Eko did not do.

Does an abbot have peers? Everyone is subordinate. They look up to the leader, expecting exemplary guidance, clear thought, strong resolve, etc. RM Meian alluded to this in a dharma talk shortly after the news broke. She mentioned talking with another person (a male monk?) who said, "If an abbot can fall off the horse, what hope have I?"

It would be nice to think that an abbot could take refuge in fellow monks, but with a subject like this, so loaded with shame and failure (according to former monks), is it likely that anyone in his position would take that step? Especially in an environment which many of us experienced as closed, secretive and repressive. If I saw that as a lay attendee, I can't help but wonder what it's like for those inside.

Rev. Seikai wrote:
I think it would be helpful to readers of this forum to know that the root problems of Eko's departure predated his romantic involvement, and had nothing to do with sexuality. Those root problems derived from his idealism, about which I spoke during a Dharma talk given at Shasta Abbey on August 15. The audio file of this Dharma talk is easily accessed via the Abbey's website. If nothing else, I think that his story illustrates how unchecked idealism leads to disharmony, disharmony can create isolation, if no steps are taken to reintegrate into a community or institution once the isolation has has taken root, and ultimately how isolation defeats people in the context of monastic training.

Or . . . could isolation give them the space and the emotional distance to construct a pathway out of a situation they don't want to continue? I would think being an abbot (in the way others expect you to be) is not unlike riding a horse that will never stop. Instead of falling off the horse -- maybe he jumped.


Last edited by Lise on Sat Aug 21, 2010 5:38 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : clarity)
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Sun Aug 22, 2010 5:47 am

cmpnwtr wrote:
. . . I remember once an exchange with my friend, Doug MacPhillamay. I asked him if it was possible to love without attachment. He smiled and said, "The important thing is to love." Everything that is precious and good and life -giving in my own journey has come about through relationships of love that began with attachment and where I learned to love and grow through attachment, not in spite of.
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Sun Aug 22, 2010 10:15 am

Rev. Seikai wrote:
There are a number of very difficult points to address with regard to the resignation of Eko Little as abbot of Shasta Abbey; in this thread there have been several attempts to do this, but unless you were in or near enough to the actual unfolding of events, it is virtually impossible to have an accurate take on the core issues of what actually happened.

Respectfully submitted, Rev. Seikai

You're probably correct that those of us who were not close to the unfolding of events cannot have an accurate understanding of what happened, so let's talk more generally. I would agree that if a monk falls in love it's best to be open about it and get counsel. Whatever they ultimately decide it will be better for everyone if it's not hidden. So you have to ask why over the years the pattern of monks getting romantically involved and not being honest about it keeps repeating. Eko is only the most recent on a long list. You say on the occasions you fell in love you were able to take refuge in the Sangha, but clearly many have not been able to do so. I would especially want to know why if I were in a leadership position. Are you or others at the Abbey curious about why?

I observed many people leave Shasta Abbey during the years I was there – for many reasons, not just romantic involvement – and I did not see RMJK respond by reflecting on her behavior or teaching technique. To the contrary, a monk’s departure was usually viewed as a personal insult and she responded with the shunning behavior that has become the norm in the OBC.

In your introduction thread you wrote:

“I hope that what we all share is a deep and abiding gratitude for what RMJK taught us, as her Dharma was deep and penetrating”

And:

“I wonder if it might be possible to move in the direction of dissolving the fence that people have referred to... After all, duality--dividing up and forming adversarial positions--is central to the suffering we experience as human beings.”

I contend that to remove the fence it will be necessary to understand not only Rev Master Jiyu Kennett’s deep and penetrating Dharma, but also her very human, flawed behaviors. We are not honoring her Dharma when we ignore her humanity and repeat her mistakes.
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cmpnwtr



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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Sun Aug 22, 2010 11:07 am

I find myself agreeing with Isan's points here. Any healing of divisions and harm has to involve an examination of the mistakes made by Jiyu Kennett, (and other teachers) arising from her own humanness, which inevitably were reflected and expressed in her actions and teachings. In any healthy, growing community there must be enough faith and competence to accept and accomodate what is learned from experience. This is what characterizes an open living system, the capacity to learn and adjust to experience, including especially those mistakes that are made that bring injury and harm. It is true at the cellular level to the level of all organisms. When we deify human beings and elevate them to a status that denies their fallibility we make this kind of examination and adjustment impossible. That is a closed system, unable to learn and grow, and it is a major component of the various movements of rigid and militant fundamentalism that we have come to see arise in all the major religious traditions that now bring harm to the planet.

Since I was one of those persons who was shunned, I have not had ongoing contact with the Shasta Abbey Sangha for many years, so I am not fully aware of all that has transpired. A friend of mine who has maintained contact told me that following the death of Jiyu Kennett there was a proclamation signed that was circulated among monks and lay people, designating Jiyu Kennett in history as the "Buddha of the West." I found that a very disturbing report. I would hope that it isn't true. If it is, it is further evidence of this "deification" tendency.

What I found empowering and inspiring about the early days and teachings, was the teaching away from this. Jiyu Kennett made a point of saying "there is no party line in this monastery", a teaching that was increasingly reversed. A central point of the early days was the teaching about the koan of inadequacy and that each of us has the calling and capacity to bring forth true nature to the fullest and in the particular way that each of us is capable. When we elevate human beings beyond what they are for the purpose of "hitching our wagon" to their "enlightenment train" we deny what is our own birthright and surrender to a flawed human being what is only properly offered to the Beloved of our own hearts. And that flawed human being must pretend to be someone they are not. So much harm is done in that cause. And correction and healing cannot happen without.

I recall well that Jiyu Kennett used to tell the story of a young student in Japan who when reminded of the story of the historical Buddha, objected saying, " What does he have to do with right now?" And her commentary was that the young man was correct, and understood that the Truth manifests in this moment and through the aegis of the practice of each one of us. It is sad that she and her legacy have become elevated in such a way to contradict so much of what she taught. Is there so little faith and depth of practice that there is a fear to examine her humanity and the mistakes that have been carried in her name out for fear that the institutional edifice will come crashing down?

Blessings,
Bill Ryan
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Tue Aug 24, 2010 9:19 am

To all those who have made posts since my last one, dated August 21:
If we are going to have a conversation about celibacy, I'm going to go to that thread in an attempt to hold to the guidelines for this web forum.

To Bill Ryan: Thanks for your comments and I'll pick up your thread in the appropriate location pretty soon.
To Violet: Regarding fire and brimstone, I was exposed to that genre of preaching as a kid, and have no desire to hear it again.

To Lise: Yes, an abbot has peers. In a case like this, he could have talked to any senior monk of the order; one would expect that he would talk to someone of a similar age in seniorty, but not necessarily. As I mentioned before, in Eko's case, his romantic involvement was the last in a series of cause-and-effect dominoes. Earlier dominoes had, in fact, been addressed both in an open forum within the OBC, and in face-to-face meetings within the monastery. It is likely, actually, that someone else in his position would take the step of consulting another senior about a matter of this importance not just for ones own spiritual life, but for that of a whole community. I did so on a number of occasions, and given that we are all human and have to train with our sexuality, I should think that it would be the normal course of events for a monk to do so. I also think that the overall maturity of the monks in the OBC has progressed a long way since 25 years ago, and so this happens less often than it used to.

Regarding the shame and guilt surrounding sexuality, it remains a big deal as long as it is kept shut up in a box, but once one has the faith to open up the box and share it with a few others, as I did, it ceases to be this huge problem. The secrecy is actually a worse problem than sexuality itself, which, if you look at it without either grasping or pushing away, is just a biologically wired-in human thing.

The monastic Sangha will probably always look soomewhat closed off to the lay community; there is a threshhold that one crosses in becoming a monk. This does not mean the lay community is inferior on some existential level, just that we are different in how we live.

[Just a quick note: I'm having technical difficulties with this web forum, so if this post appears truncated, that's the reason for it. I keep losing stuff to cyberspace.]

I will have to continue in another post.
Respectfully, with all best wishes, Rev. Seikai
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