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 Rev. Master Eko's resignation

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Lise
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PostSubject: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Tue May 04, 2010 12:53 am

First topic message reminder :

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 5:23 pm; edited 2 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Sat Aug 21, 2010 8:11 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 8:38 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 8:47 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 1:15 pm

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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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Sun Aug 22, 2010 2:07 pm

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 12:19 pm

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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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Tue Aug 24, 2010 12:38 pm

To conclude my reply to Lise's comments:

With regard to isolation: as to your speculation on the matter, with regard to Eko's case in particular, I simply don't know the answer, and in all likelihood, none of us ever will. With regard to abbots as a general question, they need to be transparent just like any other member of a monastic community, and not think themselves to be above the common lot of monastics, whether male or female. Eko's shortcoming in this area I regard as another human tragedy that played out with unfortunate consequences, but as I said earlier, not without teaching and ultimate value for the monastery and the order. I can say with all certainty that isolation, once it sets in, very often sets the stage for a monk disrobing, as has been the case here.

Regarding the monk who speculates on his chances of staying on the horse if the abbot cannot: speaking for myself, I have every confidence that I can stay on the horse, having ridden a couple bucking broncos and stayed on. What makes or breaks a monk in this situation is their willingness to openly discuss their training with other monks. It really depends on the individual and what they really want in life, what motivates them, and if they want to help Buddhism succeed in a radically different environment from the parental one in Asia.

Unless someone has further comments about Eko Little's resignation as abbot of Shasta Abbey, I don't have anything further to say about that. I will be going to threads on the topics of celibacy and sexuality to answer Isan's comments and questions, which are good ones.

Again, respectfully, Rev. Seikai
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Tue Aug 24, 2010 2:07 pm

Rev. Seikai, a response to your technical glitch issue:

I encountered the same difficulty myself when I first began posting on this forum. I finally deduced that the problem was caused by my logging in but not ensuring that the "log me in automatically at each visit" box remained checked. Apparently the site refreshes itself periodically. If the aforementioned box is not checked, you will be automatically logged out, and any post that you are working on will be lost.
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Wed Mar 23, 2011 8:28 pm

I just tuned in on this discussion, don't have the heart to read all the posts. It hurts that Eko had to do it this way, but it also illustrates the points I am trying to sort out under another topic. First of all, celibacy, if not by natural inclination, is for the birds. It takes way too much out of one to suppress one's longing, rather than going with the flow, and live, [admin delete].
I've seen this kind of thing in another tradition. It may be hard for the guru to hold himself back when he feels very close to his disciple. And he may fail, but can't come clean, because it would destroy his calling of a teacher. And so he turns it into a lie, covers it up. This does so much harm! Because a lie breeds conflict inside all the concerned, unease, disturbance, ''house devided". And it destroys trust. Imagine what it does do to one's study? (I don't call it training).
Eko lied in his long goodbye address to his flock. It was a huge lie, almost incomprehensible. In that, he failed badly, because he hurt his people, no doubt. Nothing else matters; not some ideal, a principle. No, what matters is what this must have done to his people. It may have caused pain; it may have encouraged them in some other lie, in not facing truth.....or it may have helped them open their eyes? Who knows? Still, it was so wrong. Too bad, because I also like him for all times' sake (he was a buddy - he even taught me some Italian swearwords, ha ha, way back when). It seems he tried to be superhuman, and, thankfully, failed. I hope he'll be happy with his love. That big lie is a big problem, though, that and the harm it must have caused. It gives me pain in my stomach.
This again shows the legacy of Kennett Roshi's sickness. She had a considerable problem with sexuality (crippling, in fact, in my view). It showed time and again (I can provide examples upon request, but it might not be necessary; what the heck, let the gal rest in peace, at least on this one): particularly when she asked you to take a vow of celibacy. That happened after my time. What a sick idea - married couples, too, I hear.
There are times and situations when one needs to be celibate. It may not be easy, but most people manage. I guess. But to impose celibacy for the sake of some dubious holiness is bunk. It's unhealthy, it's unwholesome, it's warped.
Ol'ga


Last edited by Watson on Mon Mar 28, 2011 8:41 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : violation / use of banned term)
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Fri Mar 25, 2011 10:46 pm

Ol'ga wrote:

Eko lied in his long goodbye address to his flock. It was a huge lie, almost incomprehensible. In that, he failed badly, because he hurt his people, no doubt. Nothing else matters; not some ideal, a principle. No, what matters is what this must have done to his people. It may have caused pain; it may have encouraged them in some other lie, in not facing truth.....or it may have helped them open their eyes? Who knows?

Ol'ga, I feel the same as you in regard to much of what you wrote.

I didn't know Eko at all. I have read others' comments about him on this forum and I don't discount what they say. Nonetheless I have sympathy for the situation itself -- a senior monk who doesn't feel able to talk to anyone about what's really going on with him, perhaps because of the pointlessness in anticipating a neutral/non-judgmental hearing from his peers. These monastic communities have such a vested interest in people staying "inside" (obviously) and especially a leader who is supposed to be a premier example of training.

I wonder what Eko would have received from his community if he had actually been able to talk about wanting a different life; someone to take walks with, hold hands with, fall asleep with. You know, all that human stuff that isn't supposed to rank very high when you're on the monastic inside track in the Enlightenment Derby. I will speculate (and perhaps a current OBC monk will pop out of the cupboard to comment) that such an effort doesn't have a snowball's chance. I speculate that when a monk begins to acknowledge that the "truth" they are "disturbed by" is . . . "my path lies outside this gate", they mostly likely become the target of kind, well-meaning, relentless guidance about the dust in their eyes, their lack of wisdom, faith, perservance /etc.

I wonder how many monks have had the courage to start talking to their peers about a desire to live in a different way, perhaps months before they actually leave. Think of what that would cost them, every day, in having to deal with others' opinions and judgments. Really -- what kind of person has that courage? Someone who takes responsibility for his or her own life and proactively chooses a course for it, rather than "let" conditions arise that make the choice for him? If that is not enlightened behaviour, what is?

Lately I have listened to some of the Sunday dharma talks posted by Shasta, mostly to get a feel for how their public messages may reflect changes of the past year. Based on the talk from the most recent Sunday, I think there is still a tonne of judgmentalism applied to a person's decision to go on in her or his training outside the gates of Shasta Abbey. I believe it is a pervasive belief among Shasta monks that the only worthwhile training is the kind they can keep in their sight, employed to their benefit and under their thumb. Happy to hear that I may be mistaken, and why -

L.
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PostSubject: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation   Sat Mar 26, 2011 7:33 pm

Lise,

...monastic inside track in the Enlightenment Derby.
You're funny, darlink! I luvya!

As to
I wonder how many monks have had the courage to
start talking to their peers about a desire to live in a different way,
perhaps months before they actually leave.


I don't know if that would be even a matter of courage. When the decision to leave was ripening in me, I certainly would not talk to anyone about it. I think that that kind of talk would be considered subversive, and hence verboten. Also, I was simply not close enough to anyone to talk to them about it, or maybe did not even trust anyone. Even when I told Roshi I was going, and she sent Eko to talk me out of it, I did not tell him anything about my reasons. I did agree to think about it - I was relieved of my duties and was allowed to sit in the Koho Zenji's shrine as long as I needed to. I think I stayed perhaps three days, and then went. I wasn't allowed to take my robes, or my Transmission book and silks. All I had was my shaved nut, which was very unusual for a woman in ordinary clothes in those days.
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