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 Why is this a searchable, open forum?

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Lise
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PostSubject: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Thu Jun 10, 2010 7:35 pm

I've been asked recently if I would change this to a private, non-searchable forum viewable only by members who have gone through some type of verification. My answer to this was no, and I thought it might be helpful to share the reasons why.

-- People in early stages with the OBC need to be able to find this forum so they can know what problems to look out for. Our experience can help them the most if they see the info before dismantling their lives. Some move, quit jobs, end relationships, abdicate the raising of their children, etc., to be near a priory or Abbey or go live there. They may do this based on no more than the Disney version of OBC life that they see as retreat guests or drop-in visitors. For some, their decisions might have been different if their research found a forum like this where people come together and say, "No, it wasn't just me, there really are serious problems." So -- there's the public service aspect that I think is extremely important.

-- An open forum is more fair to everyone who is or might be named as a problem in connection to the OBC. I've always had trouble with people who want to tell their side of a story but don't want the other side to have the same right. In a non-therapeutic forum setting, like this one is, people have the right to know what's being said about them and present a response/defense if they want to. If the forum is private and non-searchable, they have no chance of doing that. Misinformation can be passed off as the truth, no one would know, and even more harm might follow. My feeling is that if someone is willing to accuse another of harm, then he or she should stand behind their words, own them and be willing to be questioned or challenged about it. If their facts are true and can be substantiated, they should have nothing to fear from open discussion and review.

So, kind of a long-winded speech but I wanted to share my thoughts with you. I hope this helps explain my position and why I think we need to keep the forum as it is.

L.
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Sat Jun 12, 2010 1:33 am

Lise, I think that the points that you make are so important, and (of course) I am in full agreement.

In reflecting on my own experience, I have found the opportunity to share experience and best conclusions, in an open forum, to be far more healing than it would be in a closed forum.

In accord with the reasons that you have pointed out, an open forum challenges us to accept the integrity of our experience, stand up for it, and present it to the world--not only with feeling, but with dispassionate thought and compassion for others. Doing so makes the confirmation of its integrity possible.

And all of this becomes yet more powerful, I think, by recognizing that all of us, including members of the OBC, are ultimately in this together. I firmly believe that there are no "bad guys" here--only a sometimes dysfunctional institutional culture and structure, that (perhaps paradoxically) longs to be recognized for what it is, appreciated for its original intention and good qualities--and healed.

It seems to me, again, from my experience, that this is perhaps where the healing for each of us might take place. It's not that the OBC needs to read and acknowledge our experience in order for us to heal--but that we simply, each in our own way, benefit by standing up for what we have found to be true for ourselves!

I recommend this to all. (And would be delighted to see more postings!)
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Sat Jun 12, 2010 1:49 pm

Agree, this is not at all about needing the OBC to acknowledge anyone's experience; the open forum just gives them the ability to do so.

Am thinking about the idea of there being no "bad guys" and how to say this the right way. I believe we all share the Buddha nature. I believe that no one is inherently bad. I also believe there is more behind some individuals' behavior than the effect of the institutional culture around them. I think some people gravitate toward these sheltered environments like Shasta Abbey because they can, sometimes, act out in very negative ways without paying for the consequences. To me it's a form of exploitation; they are exploiting other peoples' reluctance to complain of their mistaken/abusive behavior, basically. Again, I wouldn't choose to call these people "bad", but they are personally responsible for their behavior and we shouldn't forget this. These are the stories that I think some people may want to tell but are afraid to do so, for different reasons.

I guess my post here is meant to reach out to them and say, if you want to talk about a situation that happened to you, and you are ready to name names, it's ok to do that. You can also talk about a situation in general terms if that's easier than referring to specific persons.

More musings. I saw harmful behavior by some monks and laity at Shasta Abbey that seemed to be tolerated because of who they were, status-wise; either a very senior monk whose skills and abilities were needed in the community, or in some cases, a lay member of prominent standing in the social hierarchy (to the extent someone can claim that in Mt. Shasta). They would do or say really bizarre things, sometimes very hurtful, and the people around them would just fall silent, look at the ground, drift away, go blank. I agree the institutional culture was very strongly reinforcing the idea that you couldn't object, talk back, protest . . . but there is also the element of the offenders choosing to behave as they did. Any organization has people like that, but not all organizations foster an environment with so few checks and balances as Shasta Abbey seems to have -- just my thoughts on this.


Last edited by Lise on Sun Jun 13, 2010 10:55 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : grammar)
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Sat Jun 12, 2010 7:52 pm

The question of why some people are willing to come forward and speak about their experiences and others are not and also the question of why some people behave badly can be answered when one looks at the dynamics and structure of a cult.

Janja Lalich describes how cults are structured in her book "Take Back Your Life". One of the four dimensions of how a cult is structured is it's "systems of influence". People that have been associated with Shasta Abbey for a long time for instance, will have been exposed to this dynamic and the consequences are that they have learned new behaviors, one being that they maintain the "harmony" of the sangha by keeping silent. Obviously this is a complex issue, and I'm not sure I can fully explain it.

Janja Lalich explains the sytems of influence as:
"This is the network of interactions and social influence that resides in the group's social relations. This interaction and group culture teach members to adapt their thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors in relation to their new beliefs. The purpose of the sytems of influence is to shape the group culture. The specific goal is to create institutionalized group norms and an established code of conduct by which members are expected to live. This is accomplished by various methods of peer and leadership pressure, and through social-psychological influence and modeling. The desired effect is conformity and the self-renunciation that is required not only to be a part of the group but also to achieve the professed goal" (p.16).

The OBC and Shasta Abbey members have all been exposed to this influence. In essence, at one time or another, they have conformed (renounced) and changed their behavior. These changes are VERY difficult to change once you leave the group, especially once you've been fully "converted" to the group. The techniques used in cults can be psychologically damaging to people and have lasting effects on their lives.

Also, some people, monks and laity, have and continue to act what someone on the outside would view as "bad behavior". This is simply because that is what is modeled for them; that is the effect of the system of influence. There's nothing more disturbing than watching someone you know, monk or lay, actually change their behavior, become someone completely different, and then start to act paradoxically like a zen master.

It is very important for someone leaving a cult to get help. Exit counseling is especially helpful for monks leaving the order. There are numerous resources out there. My one hope for this forum is for people to find a way to heal and get help. Everyone has had some form of cult exposure if they have been affiliated with the OBC or Shasta Abbey.

Breaking the silence is a great first step and I thank Lise for starting this forum.

Diana
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Sun Jun 13, 2010 12:20 am

I may be a little biased--but--great assessment Diana!! (And compelling citation.)
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Sun Jun 13, 2010 12:36 am

Lise--such good points.

I agree: no matter how coercive an institutional structure may be--we all remain responsible for our choices and behavior. The Nuremberg Trials made this unmistakably clear.
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Sun Jun 13, 2010 1:28 am

Oops. Diana, your observations were so compelling that I forgot to welcome you before replying.

So, as one member to another--welcome to this forum!
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Sun Jun 13, 2010 10:53 am

Hi Diana -- great to have you here. Welcome!

As someone who never got in deep with the OBC, I know I don't really understand the lingering effects of conformance on those who did fully "convert". It's hard for me to speculate on what it's like -- but I'm guessing it's a sense that the monks are somehow watching or listening from afar? Or maybe that negative karma is created by not-conforming, and the karma will ripen in the form of a painful next life? I'm sure others could describe this more accurately who have gone through it.

I have a lot of respect for people who are dealing with this and have not let it stop them from speaking --
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Sun Jun 13, 2010 10:27 pm

Hi Lise and thanks for the welcome. Thanks also to Kozan.

It seems that you, Lise, did miss out on being totally converted by the OBC. I know it's tough to imagine exactly how someone could be brainwashed. I should mention that I do take the stance that the OBC and its affiliate priories and monasteries are cults. What you mentioned about people possibly fearing that monks or members are watching them or the threat of spiritually negative consequences like a bad future life, are just the tip of the iceberg. It's a very complex process and anyone interested in learning about it more would need to do some research.

My favorite two references about cults are: "Take Back Your Life" by Janja Lalich and Madeleine Tobias and "Recovery From Cults" by Michael Langone.

I think one important thing to remember is that there are many people with many different experiences with the OBC; it ranges from a benign retreat experience or dharma talk to absolute psychological, physical, and spiritual abuse. Personally, I can hold all these experiences in a relatively objective and compassionate manner. I respect everyone's experience and I'm an advocate to all those ex-members and those in-between.

My personal experience isn't of physical abuse, but I would say I did suffer spiritual and psychological abuse. I also learned the most important lessons of my life. I am grateful to have found my way through it and grateful for all the help I've had.

Diana
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Mon Jun 14, 2010 4:53 pm

Diana, your willingness to share this will help others, no doubt -- and it is brave.

I may start a new thread on the issue of how people can tell when a spiritual teaching connection starts becoming something harmful for the recipient. My own experience is fairly shallow in that regard but I expect others could have a great deal to say -
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Mon Jun 14, 2010 9:41 pm

This is such a good discussion of cult related issues, that I would like to offer a few more thoughts in response to earlier questions raised.

I think that it is a perfectly reasonable assessment, for anyone who has experienced abuse in connection with the OBC, to conclude that the institution qualifies as a cult. And Diana, I think that your experience is particularly compelling in this regard.

I feel that the institutional culture of Shasta Abbey and the OBC exhibit strong cult-like characteristics (which I've touched on in previous comments). And it is therefore not surprising when people living within this institutional culture sometimes behave in cult-like ways that can be extremely harmful to others (and karmically, very harmful to themselves).

I do not however, believe that the OBC qualifies as a cult in the way the term is conventionally used. (And, in taking this position, I am not in disagreement with anyone who does perceive the OBC as a cult.)

The reason that I think that the OBC fails to qualify as a true cult, despite what I believe to be its significant dysfunction, is because, in my perception, neither RM Jiyu-Kennett, nor the monks currently in charge (at least those who I know), have had any desire to dominate or exploit the sangha, or any individual, for any reason, let alone for the purposes of acquiring power and wealth.

I've reached this conclusion as a result of some 20 years of observation, which began with my ordination as a novice monk on July 5th, 1970, in the first group of monks that Rev. Master ordained in the U.S., 9 months after she arrived from Japan. At this point there was no institution to speak of, and no institutional culture. I observed and experienced the process by which Rev. Master created the institution and the institutional culture--step by step. (To actually begin to understand what I observed however has taken another 20 years!)

I think that the essence of the OBC's cult-like function is rooted in the fears, biases, and shortcomings that Rev. Master brought to the process of creating the institution and its culture. Her primary purpose, I believe, was to create a vehicle that would preserve the teaching and its Transmission, and a culture of spiritual practice with a strong emphasis on the precepts. These organizational goals are traditional in Buddhism. Over the years however, I think that the level of her fear increased (heightened by scandals that were occuring in other prominant Buddhist organizations), resulting in an increased emphasis on control in order to prevent abuse. This in turn led to the dynamic that occurs in all religious institutions that begin to tailor inherently paradoxical spiritual teaching to support the perceived needs of the institution itself--thereby losing which ever side of the paradox doesn't seem to serve the institution. (Again, I've touched on this point, in more detail, in previous posts).

The institutionalization of fear and bias, together with the tailoring of spiritual teaching to support the institution rather than individual spiritual liberation, becomes profoundly detrimental. I feel certain that Rev. Master was sincerely trying to do the best possible to create an institution that would prevent abuse. Tragically, I think, it was the original motivating fear that has created an institutional culture that can itself become abusive.

As I have posted previously, I think that there is an urgent need for members of the OBC to recognize this dynamic and to focus attention on the institutional culture itself, in order to begin to discern the distinction between spiritual teaching and practice--and the institutional culture that has come to claim that it is the true teaching and practice.

I also feel that all of this pertains directly to the issues of why members who leave the OBC tend to go silent (similar to and slightly more specific than Diana's points); and how all of this pertains to the healing process that I have experienced. But--this post is already too long, so these additional thoughts will have to wait!
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Tue Jun 15, 2010 11:26 am

[quote="Kozan"]The reason that I think that the OBC fails to qualify as a true cult, despite what I believe to be its significant dysfunction, is because, in my perception, neither RM Jiyu-Kennett, nor the monks currently in charge (at least those who I know), have had any desire to dominate or exploit the sangha, or any individual, for any reason, let alone for the purposes of acquiring power and wealth."

Kozan, a couple of thoughts came up for me re: this portion of your comment specifically. My comment is not intended to discount your experience or conclusions -- you were there 20 years and I was a sporadic attendee -- but I have another view.

I don't think the question turns on whether Jiyu-Kennett or the present staff had or have a desire to exploit; most of the monks probably had good motives at least in the beginning, at least consciously. The issue is whether exploitation happens -- it does. [Btw, I'm not looking at the exploitation in terms of whether it helps confirm the cult designation or not -- as you all know I'm undecided on that one.]

I can't speak to how monks may exploit each other, but exploitation of lay people is going on in different ways -- for example --

A monk who shared a lay person's confidential info (told to him in sanzen in the Buddha Hall during a formal retreat) with other monks, who then repeated it back to the lay person and caused her a lot of distress. She told me about it when we shared a room in the guest house. I remember her saying that she thought monks gained status based on having information that other monks didn't have, and that when they disclosed it, this was like flashing a wad of cash or other valuable in their possession. She was going overseas to live (I think) and had told Daishin Yalon, in sanzen, that the monks in the community seemed to be growing more distant to her as it got closer to time to leave. She asked him if they weren't happy to see her anymore because she was going from the area. They talked about it and he said, no, of course that's not true. On her next visit, she said no fewer than 3 monks came up to her at different points and said "You know we're always happy to see you, don't you? We're not upset with you for leaving". Pretty big clue that Daishin had breached confidentiality in an area that is supposed to be one of the most sacred. She said she believed he did it thoughtlessly, probably as casual gossip, without intending to hurt her, but harm was done. To me this is one example of a monk exploiting a lay person in order to acquire more of something (status, therefore power) for himself.

Another example happened to me directly. I've already mentioned on this forum that I felt some of the monks were encouraging me to be unhappy with worldly life so that I would leave it. I feel that some (not all) of the monks are listening for what they think are a person's areas of weakness or particular vulnerability, after which they guide all discussions back to those areas. For me this was subtle and it took me a long time to notice it, but once I did, I knew I wasn't mistaken. If I expressed satisfaction with other areas of my life, the message became that I was not seeing things as they really were -- apparently only the negative aspects were "real". (Talk about selling the wine of delusion.) I felt that the person I was talking to was trying to re-frame my life and experiences in a distorted way, and influence me to agree with her, in order to reach the conclusion she wanted. This is exploitation.

I saw and heard of other things too -- male senior monks encouraging disciple-ships with single, early-to-middle aged women, particularly, who were somewhat adrift in life . . . or in a stage of midlife assessment that is ripe for exploitation. I know the import of what I'm saying here and I know it's serious -- but this is what I saw. You could see it in the body language and glazed adoring expression -- the hero worship and romantic fantasy that seems to be going on for some of these women. This is my opinion only, based on what I saw and heard, but I think a number of senior monks are exploiting their teaching relationships with lay people (usually female but not necessarily) in order to get emotional needs of their own met. I am sure they are very aware of the boundaries of what is acceptable. I also think there is a fair amount of activity at the edges of those boundaries, and this is where a lot of exploitation takes place.

Enough for now --
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Tue Jun 15, 2010 12:33 pm

Hi. I've been reading these comments since I learned R. Eko left and searched around to find more information about it. I'd like to keep myself anonymous, since I feel very close to my Buddhist past and the community. I was at the monastery between 1981 and 1996 and was a senior monk when I left. I have not read literature on cults, and so cannot respond to this question from within that field. However, it never occured to me that the Abbey is a cult or that I was part of one. I have been to a number of Catholic monasteries in the meantime, as well as reading core texts in the development of Western monasticism and I would say that there is no inherent difference between contemplative monasteries, as a general category, in Catholic America, and the Abbey. In fact, I have seen many things that would commend the Abbey to Catholic monastics, such as gender equality and an understanding of celibacy that is not based on pushing away or trying to deny the human body. When I was there, there a number of very healthy discussions on sitting with desire: which, if you hold celibacy as a positive, is a healthy approach.
Having left in 1996, I cannot speak to the culture that developed after Rev. Master's death--and certainly not to the what people here have witnessed in regards to monks' treatment of the laity.
But I would like to comment on two things. First, I saw a very different trend developing within the monastic community in my last year or so, as Rev. Master became increasingly ill. As I saw her, Rev. Master held out a tremendous trust that those who had received the Transmission would act from this certainity. She recognized that we were truly spiritual adults. This is not to say she did not admonish the community or individuals. But I would say that I saw a shift in that trust, not by her, but by others "in charge" as her health diminished. The whole community was, of course strained, but I saw a tremendous amount of accusation and scrutiny develop amongst the monastic community which I felt betrayed what she taught. I don't know if that continued after her death, nor whether this affected monks interactions with the laity.
Secondly, I know that Rev. Master wished to set up a situation that parallels the human-divine relationship. As she saw this (and here I think others, such as St. Benedict, Cassian and a whole host of monks who set up "rules" in the West would agree), a disciple needs to set aside their their desires and learn to listen closely to the master. Rev. Master was emphatic that this did NOT mean setting aside one's ethical sense, which is why she emphasized the Precepts and taking this teaching as deeply as possible into our lives. While Transmission recognizes an adulthood (and lay ministry was a step on the lay side of that--she also envisioned a step further there, too, when lay disciples received the brown kesa), the training to these steps was meant to help disciples discern need from desire and to trust letting go of desire. I recognize that this puts people in a vulnerable spot, which raises a spectre of "cult". I believe that the notion of sangha is meant to be a counter-balance to this danger. In contemporary Catholic culture, I know this counter-balance was found to be needed to extend further than just the community, and to include contact with other monasteries. If there is a conflict now between the OBC and the Abbey, that counter-balance may well be in play here, but I don't know. I do know Rev. Master was reluctant to interact with other Buddhist communities here in the US, I do know that there were ties with Malysian monastics (which is where the strict celibacy rules originated in the 1980's).
One thing I can say is that the Abbey was (again I can't speak for now) very generous in its inclusion of retreat guests into monastic life. Catholic monasteries frequently do not offer this side-by-side training. Shasta was able to erect a cloister that is much less restrictive, giving people a transparency that is commendable.
These remarks are not meant to be an apologetic. I wanted to offer some explanation for what may have gone too far, in the structure of master-disciple relationships. While I can't assess that, I think it is important to keep in mind that the intent to build a human community that helps people learn how to develop a relationship with the Eternal is exemplary, and should not be lost. It is also important to keep in mind that we all make mistakes (no matter 'how far' we are in training) and mindfulness of our overstepping is not only important, but must necessarily include an openess to broader scrutiny.
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Tue Jun 15, 2010 5:25 pm

Thank you Lise and Rachel for your comments--and welcome Rachel to this discussion! I think that all of the comments that both of you have made do a better job of making my point than I have managed to do.

Lise, my apologies for lack of clarity in my last post. My point is that once a cult-like institutional dynamic is established, as I believe to be the case with Shasta Abbey and the OBC, then the outcome is exploitive--however unconscious, unintentional, or subtle it may be--even if the organization might not be a "cult" per se.

On the other hand, if I had been more clear, you might not have provided the specific examples of exploitation that you did--which are so important in understanding the dynamic of the institutional culture itself.

Rachel, all of your comments are right in accord with my own experience as well--except that, since I had left by 1991, I did not witness the events you describe just prior to Rev. Master's death. Nevertheless, the "accusation and scrutiny" that you observed within the monastic community does not particularly surprise me. Once the principles of spiritual teaching and practice become instututionalized for the purpose of control, it is all too easy for the institutional culture to respond to fear and uncertainty by becoming more constricted.

And your last paragraph beautifully expresses the reason that I find it so important to be able to simultaneously hold in mind the ideas that an institution may exhibit cult-like behavior without being a cult--and that an institution that develops for the best of all possible reasons, may exhibit cult-like behavior. All of which in turn, I believe, makes it imperative to recognize and acknowledge cult-like dynamics, whenever they occur, as an essential first step in healing and transformation for us all.
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Tue Jun 15, 2010 7:59 pm

Rachel, here's a welcome from me too -- thank you for joining us here.

L.
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Tue Jun 15, 2010 10:40 pm

Hi again. I'd like to continue the debate over whether the OBC is a cult. Maybe we should start another thread? Feel free to cut and paste, Lise, or let let me know what I can do. Here are my current thoughts anyway...

Is the OBC/Shasta Abbey a cult? In my personal and professional opinion the answer to that question is “yes”. Let’s start by giving the most often quoted and accepted useful definition of the word cult:

“A cult is a group or movement that, to a significant degree, (a) exhibits great or excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea, or thing, (b) uses a thought-reform program to persuade, control, and socialize members(i.e., to integrate them into the group’s unique pattern of relationships, beliefs, values, and practices), (c) systematically induces states of psychological dependency in members, (d) exploits members to advance the leadership’s goals, and (e) causes psychological harm to members, their families, and the community” (Langone, 1993, p.5)

Now let’s break it down:
(a) Devotion to person, idea, or thing.

In general: It is obvious that in the early days, devotion to Jiyu was absolutely necessary. She is the central figure as founder of the organization. After her death, it could be stated that any of her disciples, abbots, abbesses, or priors who were in a position of power and authority, would also demand devotion. Apart from people, devotion to ideas or things is also central when one looks at the goal of training being enlightenment or becoming one with the Buddha himself. It is obvious that devotion is central to this organization to anyone who has ever attended a ceremony or morning service.

In my experience: I was taught early on at the Abbey to devote myself to the masters and later on that intensified as I became a lay disciple. Through many means and circumstances such as meditation and thought-reform, I did submit and take on the learned-behavior of bowing, devotion, contrition, etc… The Buddha, the Abbey, and my master became central to my life and I became dependent upon them.

(b)Thought-reform as a means to persuade, control, and social members.
In general: The term “thought-reform” must be defined here. There are certain conditions that a thought-reform program can practice and they are:

“-Keeping the person unaware of what is going on and how she is being changed one step at a time.
-Controlling the person’s social and/or physical environment, especially the person’s time.
-Systematically creating a sense of powerlessness.
-Manipulating a system of rewards, punishments, and experiences in order to inhibit behavior that reflects the person’s former identity.
-Manipulating a system of rewards, punishments, and experiences in order to promote the group’s ideology, belief systems, and group-approved behaviors.
-Putting forward a closed system of logic and an authoritarian structure that permits no feedback and cannot be modified except by leadership approval or executive order” (Lalich and Tobias, 2006, p. 40-41).

The methods used to ensure the success of the process are as follows:

“-Induced dissociation and other altered states (speaking in tongues, chanting, trance induction via repeated affirmations, extended periods of meditation, lengthy denunciation sessions, public trials, “hot seat” criticisms focusing on the individual, sexual abuse, torture, etc.)
-Control of information going in and out of the group environment.
-Isolation from family and friends.
-Control of member’s financial resources.
-Sleep and food deprivation.
-Peer and leadership pressure.
-Extensive indoctrination sessions.
-Rigid security regulations and daily rules” (Lalich and Tobias, 2006, p. 41).

In general, many, if not all, of these conditions are met by the OBC. Personally, I have been exposed to too many of them to mention.

(c) Inducing states of dependency.

In general: It is obvious that the monks are dependent on the laity, the abbot/ess or prior, and to the order. These people give up their lives; their identity, careers, partners, family, money… They have the most at stake and the most to lose. The power differential is set up to use, abuse, and exploit them.

In my experience: I was literally told to never speak of my experiences or training to anyone, monk or lay, except for my master and two other monks. I was in a state of psychological emergency when I was told this. I was immediately dependent on a few select monks for my survival. I gave up my relationship, my friends, and other things not associated with the Abbey. I barely functioned in the world. When I was “let go” by my master I was totally lost. It took me 5 years to regain the autonomy and independence I had before beginning “training”.

(d) Exploits members to advance the organizations goals.

In general: This is both a simple and complex issue. First one has to look at “what are the goals of the OBC?” It could be stated that any financial support given to the OBC and its affiliates is a form of exploitation. One example of this could be the decision of Shasta Abbey to discontinue its “Buddhist Supply Shop” with the goal that the monks had better thing to do than run a business. The local congregation took the business over and of course, continued to support the Abbey. The Abbey found other resources to support their livelihood and could therefore spend more time on their own training. At this time, the Abbey also started shutting down access to the Abbey to the laity and public for more time for their own training. So not only did they successfully get rid of having to work, they also raised more money than ever before and reduced their religious services by closing the facilities.

In my experience: Did I feel exploited? That’s a tough one. The only form of exploitation that I could have possibly been exposed to was psychological and spiritual. I do feel that I was manipulated, but it is too personal a recollection to share.

(e) Causing psychological harm.

In general: There have been too many to mention, hundreds of people, that have left the OBC that have claimed psychological harm. One person in particular comes to mind in this. If you have not heard of the physical and psychological abuse that happened at North Cascades priory, I urge you to seek out this information. Rev. Koshin is implicated as being responsible for the almost-death of a novice monk. It is also well known that some monks have become mentally ill and others have even committed suicide. I know many congregation members that are mentally ill and damaged from training with the OBC.

In my experience: I was psychologically harmed in many different ways. Many of my issues should have been addressed by a trained therapist or psychologist. At the time, I was told to take “refuge in the three treasures” and that would help me, but it was insufficient and I suffered for years.

I hope this helps everybody, and I hope to continue this discussion and hear of other’s experiences.
Peace,
Diana
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Thu Jun 17, 2010 7:06 pm

Diana, thank you for your previous post, the introduction of Langone's conceptual framework, and for your valuable perspective in general!

Before I respond to some of your points, I would like to reiterate that even though I do not believe that the OBC is a cult, and I am perfectly happy to debate the issue, I have no objection whatsoever with the use of the word cult by anyone who finds it appropriate in describing and making sense of their own experience. I think that reclaiming the integrity of our perception and experience is essential for each of us in general, and I think that supporting diverse viewpoints is a primary purpose of this forum, which Lise has established and so skillfully maintains!

I think that Langone's framework, and others that I have seen, are extremely useful in identifying the destructive dynamics that take place within some institutions, relationships, and of course, cults--especially because a significant aspect of the dynamic is to make it invisible to those being exploited! I would propose however, that if we look carefully, we can find many of the dynamics that Langone has identified in virtually all religious institutions. The only distinction hinges on Langone's phrase, "to a significant degree"--and what this actually signifies for each of the five areas of concern.

Although I do not believe that the OBC qualifies as a cult, I do have concerns, including the fact that you and others have reported experiences of abuse and trauma. Accordingly, I prefer to use the term cult-like because I think that it facilitates the recognition of problems without having to first decide whether or not the organization qualifies as a cult per se; and because I am concerned that the anti-cult movement sometimes seems to show a dynamic that can appear to be all too similar to that of the Inquisition and the Witch Trials.

To respond to just a few of the comments that you have made in the lettered catagories:

(a) Devotion. An attitude of respect is certainly emphasized, but RM Jiyu never required devotion--and continually pointed out the importance of not putting the teacher on a pedestal. Devotion itself is used as a path in some schools of Buddhism and Hinduism, and in some form in most other religions--but Zen primarily uses the analytical approach.

Enlightenment never involves "becoming one with the Buddha himself." It does involve returning home to that which is the transcendent ground of (our own) Awareness itself--traditionally referred to in many ways, including, to become one with the Buddha Nature (which, strictly speaking, we are always one with anyway--since it is the ground of our own awareness).

(b) Thought Reform. After Langone's list of conditions and methods, you state that "many if not all of these conditions are met by the OBC." I did not experience any of these conditions--with three exceptions. All OBC monestaries, priories, and meditation groups utilize daily schedules (time control) and rules ("daily rules"). I am also concerned, as I have commented before, with what I see as the institutional culture of teaching and practice--but this, I believe, is at a far more subtle level than what Langone is describing.

(c) Dependency. A concern of mine as well--confirmed by your own experience.

(d) Exploitation. You comment that, "It could be stated that any financial support given to the OBC and its affiliates is a form of exploitation." The tradition in Buddhism, and in most if not all other religions, is dependency on donations as a primary means of financial support.

My concern with exploitation (which, again, I have commented on in other posts) is that to the extent that the institutional culture remains unrecognized, it exploits everyone at a subtle level. RM Jiyu-Kennett herself made this point (in my opinion) when she titled her first book: Selling Water by the River (later published as Zen is Eternal Life).

(e) Psychological Harm. You have stated your opinion that: "...hundreds of people, that have left the OBC that have claimed psychological harm."; and that, "It is also well known that some monks have become mentally ill and others have even committed suicide. I know many congregation members that are mentally ill and damaged from training with the OBC."

Really? This has not been my observation, experience, or understanding at all. How have you collected this data?

The final point that you make, based on your experience, I fully agree with. Spiritual practice alone is no substitute for professional psychological help when dealing with serious psychological issues--and when it is, the outcome can be tragic. From the little that I have been able to gleen about the event that you refer to at the North Cascades Buddhist Priory, the trauma experienced by RM Koshin's disciple may well have been the result of an effort to use spiritual practice to treat a possibly unrecognized psychological issue. Clearly, the outcome was tragic for all concerned.

Again, I greatly respect the work that you have done and are doing, and the perspective that you provide!
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Sat Jun 19, 2010 2:56 pm

On the subject of psychological harm and psychological treatment -- Koshin preached in a formal dharma talk and more often in informal talks that receiving psychological treatment was inconsistent with training. I personally know a trainee who was experiencing severe psychological problems and was being treated by a psychologist. Koshin told him not to come to meditation or ceremonies as long as he was being treated. I can't understand an institution like the OBC giving its monks such unsupervised control over the laity that Koshin could have said such things. The Catholic Church has been reviled for failing to oversee or sweeping under the carpet the sexual abuse by priests. I can't see why the OBC should be held to a lesser standard.

Also, I am aware of one monk in the 1990's who "went crazy," according to Koshin. I don't know the whole story -- obviously, since the laity were always kept in the dark about such things -- but Koshin made it quite clear that this monk acted out of some sort of psychosis that was directed at the OBC and at RM Jiyu, who was still alive and active at the time. I knew the monk and once had spiritual counseling from him. I liked him and wonder what happened to him.
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Sat Jun 19, 2010 7:34 pm

As I understand it, Rev. Master felt that the aspect of psychology that is incompatible with training is the emphasis on the self: whereas Buddhist teaching is annata or 'no-self', Western psychology emphasizes the ego. Paradoxically, however, to enter into serious training, you do have to have a strong sense of self. You need to be able to be open to criticism and know that "you" is not harmed by the letting go of aspects of your life that you have come to define as yourself. It is is very hard, sometimes, to see yourself so completley, either in your own meditation or through the 'mirror' the zen master holds up to you. A person has to be psychologically healthy, as the West understands it, to be able to find the solidity within themselves to let go of the self. If someone were to come to a priory with "severe psychological problems" as you describe, Violet, they are too vulnerable to undergo this type of practice. It is not fair to them, and possibly, they could be disturbing to others if they experienced problems with the meds, etc. As far as the monk you mentioned, he reached a point where he pushed himself without consulting with members of the sangha to a place that he could not handle. Ultimately the community was not able to handle it either, which was very sad for all of us. (I don't want to transgress privacy by saying how, but the situation was handled with psychiatric consultation). Monastic friends in Catholicism have told me of similar incidents. Many of the orders now do rigorous testing before a postulant is accepted--because training does challenge people psychologically.
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Sat Jun 19, 2010 10:25 pm

In response to Violet:
Hi Violet!

I think Koshin needs to be stopped asap. This really bugs me! The Abbey monks didn't discount therapy explicitly. What they did was refer to their own therapists! I knew of two therapists and one psychiatrist, all lay ministers, while I was involved. I have one experience that really sticks out:

During a dharma "discussion", one lay person brought up that he was sad after hearing about a congregation member dying of alcoholism. As I saw so many times, a lay person who really needed support and guidance through his personal grief over the situation was basically ignored as a moral discussion of using alcohol and drugs surfaced. I was shocked at the way the discussion was going and shocked at the lack of compassion.

Basically, the monk and this psychiatrist proceeded to judge, moralize, and debase this poor souls life and reduce his alcoholism to a "selfish" act that will have severe consequences. They even specualted about his future lives; it was predicted he would become a hungry ghost.

I had to speak up, and since I had just finished my "Alcohol and Chemical Dependency" class, I had some solid facts to support my arguement. I retorted that alcoholism was a disease. I will never forget how that stupid psychiatrist looked at me; his eyes narrowed and his lips stiffened and he said "alcoholism is NOT a disease." I swear, that look could have done some damage to another person. At that moment I decided that he should have his license taken away. The monk also submitted to him and let him, as the "expert", explain to us all the karmic consequences of being a selfish alcoholic.

This happened at a time when I was no longer a disciple and had come back just to observe and prove to myself that they were all nuts and it wasn't just me! I can't believe the bad behavior and utter bologne ( did I spell that right, I mean the processed meat!) that I witnessed.

Peace,
Diana


Last edited by Diana on Sun Jun 20, 2010 10:18 pm; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : violation of forum rules on coarse language/swear words)
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Sun Jun 27, 2010 12:39 am

Diana, I heard a similar dharma discussion after a congregation member committed suicide. We were told he had broken the precepts and had created endless bad karma for himself. It was shocking and didn't seem compassionate to people who had known the person who died.
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Sun Jun 27, 2010 10:54 pm

This is a thought in response to Rachel's comments on the role (if any) of psychiatric treatment in the OBC's practice and teaching. If a person needs psychological treatment, telling that person that they are "unable" or unsuitable to participate in group meditation and ceremonies seems cruel and lacking in compassion. If a person is troubled mentally and emotionally, they need guidance and support more than ever. Isn't this what the sangha is all about?

This is not to say that if a person's psychosis creates a danger to the community, it might be wise to exclude them by helping them get the treatment they need. But I can't see why letting go of the "self" in training is any more of a hindrance for a person who needs psychological treatment than it is for a person who needs surgery for heart trouble or kidney stones. The "self" is involved in the body as much as the emotions and mental state.

And Kozan's point about the incident at North Cascades is interesting. But if the novice monk was in fact using spiritual practice to heal an unknown psychological problem, the compassionate thing would have been for the senior monks to seek appropriate medical treatment rather than blaming the novice for suffering "delusions."
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Mon Aug 02, 2010 11:08 am

Lise--Thank you 1,000 times for initiating this forum.
Over my years associated with the OBC (only about a decade, with a few years as a lay minister), I had many questions about the Order and its history, but no one would answer them, even when I asked directly about the turmoil that must have roiled the Order when RM Jiyu declared that monks couldn't be married and asked directly about the odd relationship of North Cascades Priory to Shasta Abbey, etc. Because of this forum many of my questions have been answered, but the specific answers are not important to me. What I value most here is the spirit of open inquiry, conducted on a polite and reasonable plane. Excellent! Fearless questioning! Following Where the Questioning Leads You! I am very grateful.
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Mon Aug 02, 2010 11:56 am

well, if all this questioning drops me into that Avici place, which is probably like Fresno only hotter, see if you can send me a cold six-pack every now and then Actually, make it a couple of cases -- we might have a crowd. Microbrews pls, none of that Bud Lite stuff.

thanks George Smile
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Sun Sep 19, 2010 1:27 am

I am new to this forum and forums as a whole. I am finding this a helpful source of insight. I would like to comment on something Lise said back in July (I can't figure out how to move a quote into this box) about someone who was unhappy that a monk shared her concerns with other monks and likened it to his flashing his inside information like a wad of cash.

I was aware very early on that the monk I was training under was sharing my story with other monks of the order. I took this to mean that this monk took my training very seriously and took refuge with peers as a way of adding to what was offered to me, and of preventing mistakes. I never felt nor do I now feel as though confidences are betrayed, I feel it is done from a place of trying to help in the fullest possible way. I am sure that if I asked that something I speak of not be passed on to other monks that my wish would be respected.

It might be a good idea for the monks to let their trainees know that they do discuss their issues with other monks if they feel it will be helpful. Myself, I just thought I was getting two (or more) for one, so to speak, and that it was a really good deal but I know that plenty would feel that confidences had been violated.

Best regards,
Polly
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Mon Sep 20, 2010 12:33 am

Hi Polly -- welcome to the forum.

The only point I disagree with is this -- monks should not be allowed to discuss anything with other monks unless the person involved gives permission first. (Exceptions would be where a crime is being committed and the monk has a legal duty to report it.) To me, revealing a confidence without someone's permission is a gross violation of trust whether well-intentioned or not. The Abbey's own materials state that counseling is confidential between the priest and the person being counseled -- not "all of the priests" and the recipient. A trainee receiving sanzen thinks it's confidential without having to ask, and they shouldn't have to ask that the priest not reveal the info.

I have thought for awhile about whether to post my own experiences with monks wanting information that seemed to me was gossip. I was twice cornered by monks wanting me to discuss other lay people, which I wasn't comfortable with. I was also asked about my experiences at a different retreat center, and pointed questions were asked about the monks running those retreats. I have to agree that inside information has a high value for some in the Shasta community.
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Mon Sep 20, 2010 6:23 am

Lise wrote:


The Abbey's own materials state that counseling is confidential between the priest and the person being counseled -- not "all of the priests" and the recipient. A trainee receiving sanzen thinks it's confidential without having to ask, and they shouldn't have to ask that the priest not reveal the info.


I don't think that this is correct.

My own copy of the "Rule of Confidentiality within the OBC" which I think dates from the issue of a Lay Ministry Manual published seventeen years ago says "Spiritual communications to a priest of the Order are presumed to be confidential. If, as a result of meditation, a priest feels that silence will cause harm and greater good can be accomplished by revealing confidential information, the priest must follow his or her conscience. Consultations with other senior priests of the Order are not a breach of confidentiality" (my emphasis).

This point is amplified later in the text: "Priests sometimes consult with their Master or other senior monks over situations they encounter in the course of offering spiritual advice. This is only done when such a safeguard is necessary to help all concerned. Any priest so consulted will maintain confidentiality within the above guidelines and any such consultation is not considered a breach of confidentiality. Such consultations are part of the basic principle of the Third refuge, to take refuge in the Sangha"

As far as I know this rule has not been modified, and as I recollect it at Throssel a copy is displayed on the notice board right next to the "request for sanzen pad" so that there is no confusion on the point.
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Mon Sep 20, 2010 8:56 am

Iain, thanks for providing the policy -- I'll stand corrected, as it's been several years since I read what was posted in the guesthouse regarding confidentiality of counseling.

My only thought about this policy is that you can drive a truck through it. What is the use of a presumption of confidentiality that can be negated so easily and upon such vague terms?

I am sure there are occasions when discussing a truly serious matter with another priest will help a monk give better counsel. I still think there are huge problems for anyone who doesn't know this is going to happen -- they should be asked first. And to reveal someone's personal disclosure to the entire community, in a social setting, as if it were an item on the entertainment agenda? That is not an example of a monk taking refuge in his peers -- that is exploitation of his role and of the person who trusted him in it.

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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Mon Sep 20, 2010 9:34 am

Lise wrote:

I still think there are huge problems for anyone who doesn't know this is going to happen -- they should be asked first.
Surely the important thing here is that everyone in the congregation and particularly anyone seeking sanzen does understand exactly what the Order's rule on confidentiality is? Then they can choose whether to seek spiritual counselling with a Senior or not. I don't think anyone visiting Throssel could be in the least doubt as to what the rule is, and that communication with a monk is on the basis of that rule. It is even dealt with in pre-visit literature.

In other religious institutions - for example the Roman Catholic Church - the content of exchanges such as formal acts of confession are as I understand it specifically in absolute confidence. But because of the Third Refuge I doubt that is ever the case in a Buddhist tradition. It certainly isn't in respect of sanzen in Zen temples in Japan where my understanding is that it is on exactly the same basis as in the OBC.

Quote :
And to reveal someone's personal disclosure to the entire community, in a social setting, as if it were an item on the entertainment agenda? That is not an example of a monk taking refuge in his peers -- that is exploitation of his role and of the person who trusted him in it.

Absolutely agree with you. Do you have direct experience you can share with us of any occasion where the contents of a sanzen interview have been shared like this in a setting involving either juniors or lay people? It would clearly break the OBC rule. I've never witnessed such a thing in thirty years attending Throssel, nor has any monk ever shared confidential information from any interview with me on a one-to-one basis.
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Mon Sep 20, 2010 10:05 am

[quote="Iain"]
Lise wrote:


Quote :
And to reveal someone's personal disclosure to the entire community, in a social setting, as if it were an item on the entertainment agenda? That is not an example of a monk taking refuge in his peers -- that is exploitation of his role and of the person who trusted him in it.

Absolutely agree with you. Do you have direct experience you can share with us of any occasion where the contents of a sanzen interview have been shared like this in a setting involving either juniors or lay people? It would clearly break the OBC rule. I've never witnessed such a thing in thirty years attending Throssel, nor has any monk ever shared confidential information from any interview with me on a one-to-one basis.

Iaian,

The example I've spoken of did happen to someone else who has not yet begun posting here, but I understand that she intends to join the forum. I shared a room with her at Shasta Abbey and received her account of what happened, which I have no reason to doubt. There is no question in my mind that she did see Daishin Yalon in sanzen in the Buddha Hall, during a retreat, and discussed a personal matter that was troubling her. It wasn't a matter of spiritual life or death or harm to any other person. She was making plans to move and had noticed that some (not all) of the monks seem displeased with the decision and had begun acting distant. One had also made a disparaging remark about "chasing things on the other side of the world." She was concerned that her presence at the Abbey might not be welcome, and this was the matter she discussed with Daishin Y. She said to him "I'm not sure they're happy to see me anymore." On succeeding visits, she was approached by at least three monks. One was Rev. Renee, one was a novice (not sure of her name) and I don't recall which other monk, all of whom said a variation of the phrase "you know we're always happy to see you here". One of these monks, I don't who, told my friend that that they had heard during a monks' social tea that my friend was upset about this issue.

So -- that's the best I can do in laying out the scenario. It did not happen to me, but I witnessed my friend's distress when she related what happened. She was and is known to be a person of good character, and I have no reason to think she was untruthful.
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Mon Sep 20, 2010 10:20 am

Monks talk about lay people and everything else during monks' tea. I was surprised that novices were included in this kind of thing. It is one of the interesting things about finally being ordained is that you get the scoop on a lot of stuff you never know about as a lay person. We heard all the time about the different lay people, their spiritual problems or otherwise, and the senior monks' opinions on the same. Also was done to novice monks who were not present (rule of silence!).
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Mon Sep 20, 2010 10:23 am

I'd just like to add, though, that this forum is way more informative than anything I ever hear in a monks' tea. (so please no one out there needs to get ordained just to find out the inside story)
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Mon Sep 20, 2010 11:26 am

amalia wrote:
Monks talk about lay people and everything else during monks' tea. I was surprised that novices were included in this kind of thing. It is one of the interesting things about finally being ordained is that you get the scoop on a lot of stuff you never know about as a lay person. We heard all the time about the different lay people, their spiritual problems or otherwise, and the senior monks' opinions on the same. Also was done to novice monks who were not present (rule of silence!).

This is disingenuous. That is not what I asked Lise, nor what she appeared to refer to in her earlier post which as I understood it (and she didn't contradict this in her reply above) was about Seniors sharing information that she believed had been given in strict confidence to one monk during spiritual conselling. She didn't appear to understand what the rule actually was.

She has confirmed that she hasn't had personal experience of that kind of information being given and then shared with others, but does believe that her friend has. Until her friend does post about her own experience for me this has the status of hearsay evidence.

I can't imagine any kind of human orgaisation where people in close contact with each other don't share information with each other about each other all the time and especially in an informal social context. How would that ever work? What kind of a sangha would it be where we didn't say "Goodness! X is really struggling at the moment, I don't think he has really got over the impact of the death of his wife" and all that kind of stuff? This is quite different to betraying confidences given in formal spiritual counselling.

I'm sure that confidences can potentially be broken anywhere and everywhere and maybe sometimes are, but let's be clear EXACTLY what we are talking about here.
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Mon Sep 20, 2010 11:41 am

Sorry I just reread what I wrote and realized you could take it the wrong way. I didn't mean that it was interesting hearing the details of private sanzen stuff being discussed openly at monks's tea. It was interesting that we finally heard a lot about what was happening in the organization, which one otherwise never heard about. There is a whole lot said at monks' tea and open brunches that lay people don't know anything about. Yes, it made me very uncomfortable when my friends's personal spiritual problems were openly discussed, but there was nothing I, as a novice, could do about it.
But as to the sanzen issue: of course these things were being discussed casually at monks' tea, as I am sure any monk reading this knows. There is no confidence that I observed whatsoever.
I heard senior monks discuss things at monks' tea that could only have come out of sanzen, and believe me, the discussions were anything but some helpful sharing among them to help someone. Gossip, pure and simple.
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Mon Sep 20, 2010 11:44 am

and I'd just like to add, that I was a novice so how could I have possibly been part of some spiritual consultation that this sharing of information was supposedly about?
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Mon Sep 20, 2010 12:56 pm

Lise,
It sounds as though your friend was feeling insecure about her place within the sangha, concerned that no one cared that she was leaving. Isn't it likely that Diashin Yalon's intent when mentioning this to other monks was to alert them so that they could assure her that she would be missed? Id est: he was trying to help? To attribute ill intent to another is risky business; there are problems enough in OBC without assigning motives such as "exploiting a lay person to gain status." What possible status could be gained in this instance? It seems more likely that status was gained by your friend for having a grievance to share.

I see great benefit to an open forum and applaud and thank you for starting and administering one. But I see this sort of speculation as one of the great pitfalls of such a forum, adding delusion to an already confused heart. Grievances and betrayals in spiritual training are real and painful and need help. I wouldn't be here in this forum if I didn't have experience with these issues. But great care must be taken by us all not to compound problems with speculation and unfounded accusation regarding the motives of others because it doesn't help. Plenty of damage can be done unwittingly in the course of training and it is the damage that needs help. I'm not sure that apportioning blame heals much. Somewhere in OBC writings I read that if someone shoots you with an arrow, don't waste time hunting them down and figuring out why they shot you, just get that arrow out and bind the wound. (That's a very rough version but it covers the subject.) That doesn't mean I don't think that everyone is accountable for their actions regardless of rank or status, nor that bad behavior should not be addressed. Far from it.

My mother told me once in frustration, "Heavens, Polly, don't take offense when none was meant! It's hard enough not hurting people's feelings when you are trying not to!" I never thought I'd quote my mother to anybody but there you go Mom, you're in print. I think she's right, and that's in print too.

Best regards,
Polly
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Mon Sep 20, 2010 2:55 pm

Polly, I think you've raised some good points, but your comments are also only speculation, esp. in regard to whether my friend may have felt insecure about her place. I also doubt that a monk would find it appropriate to ask other monks to assure someone that she would be missed; that doesn't sound plausible to me. It doesn't align at all with the concepts of attachment & letting go, for one thing.

I don't think my friend was seeking a status boost. I was worried that she looked so upset & I asked what was wrong -- she wasn't volunteering anything. She had trouble talking about it and gave very short answers -- there was no melodrama or performance about it. We only talked about this once, I never brought it up again and she never mentioned it again.

I understand you have a different view and I respect that, but my opinion is unchanged: it's wrong for monks to share sanzen discussions this way regardless of intent. The risk of causing harm is too great, and monks who do this are not off the hook simply because they might say they were trying to help. Even if that were the case here, I don't see how anyone could justify disclosing a sensitive matter indiscriminately, during a social gathering, as though it were cocktail party chatter.

I believe Amalia when she relates how lay information is bandied about, and I think this is bad news for everyone involved.

Iain, to follow up on your point -- I agree that people should know and understand the rules applicable to spiritual counseling. This sounds extreme, but maybe each monk should be required to read the rules to a counseling recipient, before any session begins, to make crystal clear that their information can be shared pursuant to some very vague guidlelines. Some might decline the counseling if they really understood how this appears to work. I know I would never have entered into it if I thought the monks had that much latitude to breach confidentiality. Call it naivete, but that's what I thought back then.

I too wish this forum had been around in those days. It might have saved me a fair of amount of psychological counseling in the months and years that followed.
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Tue Sep 21, 2010 12:35 am

Lise, you are right. I did make comments based on speculation which is exactly what I was urging against. It would be funnier if I wasn't embarrassed. My apologies. And I don't completely disagree with you regarding confidentiality, but wanted to express another viewpoint since it had never occurred to me to be offended by that particular issue. Nobody ever told me the rules for monk-trainee relationships, which actually became problematic down the road. If there's anything I dislike, it's finding out I broke some unspoken rule that the rule-holder just assumed I should know. There's nothing wrong with clarity, and clarity at the outset would surely avert a lot of misunderstanding along the way.
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Tue Sep 21, 2010 9:03 am

polly wrote:
... great care must be taken by us all not to compound problems with speculation and unfounded accusation regarding the motives of others because it doesn't help. Plenty of damage can be done unwittingly in the course of training and it is the damage that needs help. I'm not sure that apportioning blame heals much. ... That doesn't mean I don't think that everyone is accountable for their actions regardless of rank or status.
This is such an important key point that I think it bears repeating.
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Tue Sep 21, 2010 6:59 pm

I'd like to add my agreement that apportioning blame is not and shouldn't be the goal. But there are valid reasons for mentioning monks by name regarding behavior that isn't good. If I still took sanzen, I would want to know if the monk didn't share my understanding of confidentiality, and there's almost no way to find that out unless someone shares the information in a place like this.

I also agree that speculation only detracts from the discussion and that's something I will try to keep out of my future posts. Thanks Polly, for bringing it up.
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Wed Sep 22, 2010 4:13 am

Lise wrote:
there are valid reasons for mentioning monks by name regarding behavior that isn't good.
I just wanted to say in case it wasn't clear in my post above, that I absolutely agree with this (and monks have no qualms about mentioning trainees by name either). What I meant was that there's a difference between "apportioning blame" and "pointing out unhelpful/damaging behavior". (Sorry if I'm stating the obvious, but I'd rather do that than risk misunderstanding.) The intent behind each is different, and while the same words might be said, the effect of the latter is more constructive. The difference is in the level of emotional detachment of the person saying it. I don't mean that there's anything wrong with anger at all (or love or passion and all the other wonderful human emotions), but that it can detract from clarity and constructive change if its negative elements are purposely directed at others.

On the flip side (there always is one, isn't there) people who've achieved a high level of detachment can seem to be either unaware or uncaring about the emotional damage that their 'cold' comments can evoke. There's a need for balance on both sides.
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Fri Sep 24, 2010 11:40 am

Hi, i was a lay minister. Recently an OBC friend reluctantly told me about this site , (her hesitancy in itself shocked me.)
Its a relief to have found you all , i no longer feel so isolated, though moving away is lonely .
I admire Dianas clarity, as i do Amalia's .A lot of moving articulate 'stuff' . For the moment i havnt a lot to say in direct response . I'm interested though in what Lise says about when spiritual teaching becomes harmful. Much to work out . And the Monk confidentiality rules that Ian quotes make me tremble with rage and explains my relief at getting OUT. Best wishes Nicky
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Fri Sep 24, 2010 11:48 am

Nicky wrote:
Hi, i was a lay minister. Recently an OBC friend reluctantly told me about this site , (her hesitancy in itself shocked me.)
Its a relief to have found you all , i no longer feel so isolated, though moving away is lonely .
I admire Dianas clarity, as i do Amalia's .A lot of moving articulate 'stuff' . For the moment i havnt a lot to say in direct response . I'm interested though in what Lise says about when spiritual teaching becomes harmful. Much to work out . And the Monk confidentiality rules that Ian quotes make me tremble with rage and explains my relief at getting OUT. Best wishes Nicky

Welcome Nicky. There are many former OBC members here. Look around and take your time. We'll help you decompress. Depending on how long you were "IN" it can take a while to recover balance. As you know getting "OUT" is only the beginning, but how sweet it is! When you feel ready share your story... sunny
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Fri Sep 24, 2010 1:10 pm

Hi Nicky, welcome -- I will be back soon, am traveling at the moment. Glad you have joined
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cheers
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Fri Sep 24, 2010 1:15 pm

I've only been on this site a few hours. I was delighted to find it, as there seemed to be many old friends here. How, reading more, I'm wondering.....

I'm deeply sorry and sympathetic that so many people have had such bad experiences with the OBC. But I'm seriously wondering if those experiences aren't clouding people's judgement. Being an intuitive person - and I worked that way long before I ever became a monk or even heard of Throssel and Shasta - I know that if your mind gets tied up in knots with logic, you need to look at what your heart, guts, Buddha Nature, soul, or whatever you want to call it is telling you. I can't tell you how that works for you , but I can tell you for me.....

I was at Throssel and Shasta for 11 years. I left under a cloud, and had quite a hard time sorting out my life. But....I KNOW being a monk did me far more good than harm. I KNOW the OBC is not a cult. I KNOW that, while very far from perfect, just about everyone there did their best. And I KNOW that I'm thinking clearly now in saying this, perhaps more clearly than I've ever thought in my life before.

I'm not asking you to believe me, or accept what I say, or trust me. Why should you? Most of you probably don't even know me. And of course things may have changed after I left in 1985. But I'd be wrong not to say anything when I think maybe, just maybe, things are getting a little out of proportion here.

Love to you all...and I mean it. Now I'll go away for a bit...and decide if I really want to be on this site. It seems that, as has almost always been the case in my life, I still stand and walk alone.....
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Fri Sep 24, 2010 1:17 pm

I've only been on this site a few hours. I was delighted to find it, as there seemed to be many old friends here. How, reading more, I'm wondering.....

I'm deeply sorry and sympathetic that so many people have had such bad experiences with the OBC. But I'm seriously wondering if those experiences aren't clouding people's judgement. Being an intuitive person - and I worked that way long before I ever became a monk or even heard of Throssel and Shasta - I know that if your mind gets tied up in knots with logic, you need to look at what your heart, guts, Buddha Nature, soul, or whatever you want to call it is telling you. I can't tell you how that works for you , but I can tell you for me.....

I was at Throssel and Shasta for 11 years. I left under a cloud, and had quite a hard time sorting out my life. But....I KNOW being a monk did me far more good than harm. I KNOW the OBC is not a cult. I KNOW that, while very far from perfect, just about everyone there did their best. And I KNOW that I'm thinking clearly now in saying this, perhaps more clearly than I've ever thought in my life before.

I'm not asking you to believe me, or accept what I say, or trust me. Why should you? Most of you probably don't even know me. And of course things may have changed after I left in 1985. But I'd be wrong not to say anything when I think maybe, just maybe, things are getting a little out of proportion here.

Love to you all...and I mean it. Now I'll go away for a bit...and decide if I really want to be on this site. It seems that, as has almost always been the case in my life, I still stand and walk alone.....
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Fri Sep 24, 2010 2:01 pm

Dear Jimyo,
Great to see you here! I entered the postulency (and was ordained) in 1981--and you left in 85. I remember you well, but since you had returned to Throssel during most of our overlap, not sure you remember me!

I understand what you are saying in the above post. I myself had a difficult experience that resulted in my deciding the best thing was to leave. Since Kaizan's post on illness, I've sitting with posting my story for about a week. I keep asking what the route of least harm is (and most good). I'm still not sure which way to go.

In my experience, things changed alot in the last year or so of Rev. Master's life. From the posts here, I gather some of the roots of that change began earlier, maybe even around the time you left. From posts concerning the Rev. Eko years, I gather that what I saw developing in 1996, continued and increased. For me, this site has confirmed my decision.

However, I agree with you that while it was difficult to sort things out, ultimately, I draw much from my years at Shasta. I understand my Transmission as opening up something that I continue to see unfolding. This is bigger than the institution or its members, and yet, it also intimately connected to that time and place. It makes me happy to have found all of thee people I once trained with here at this site, and I care deeply about the directions the monastery is deciding to take, now that there is a new Abbess.

To participate in this forum can be bittersweet: there is often a sense that the institution is unable to respond to some of the problems cited because it cannot step outside of itself to comprehend what is being said here. And, I am not sure "former" members of the OBC will ever be recognized as having a voice (although I see signs...). But also, the forum, by its amazing power to provide a way for us all to find each other and speak with each other, is doing something totally new and unanticipated. It is obvious, from the member posts, that former members are being heard to some extent.

I know it is part of the human condition to "carry our burdens" longer than we should. But to address your concern, I think that there is cleansing happening through this space. Your point is precisely why I haven't posted my own response (publically) to Kaizan's story. I haven't decided whether doing so is adding a cloud. I do know that reading some of these stories has lifted some clouds for me.

I don't if that helps, but there it is. I'd certainly enjoy keeping in touch.
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Fri Sep 24, 2010 3:19 pm

Sophia wrote:

To participate in this forum can be bittersweet: there is often a sense that the institution is unable to respond to some of the problems cited because it cannot step outside of itself to comprehend what is being said here. And, I am not sure "former" members of the OBC will ever be recognized as having a voice (although I see signs...). But also, the forum, by its amazing power to provide a way for us all to find each other and speak with each other, is doing something totally new and unanticipated. It is obvious, from the member posts, that former members are being heard to some extent.

I think initially for many of us it has been a place where we could express the thoughts and feelings we felt obliged to suppress during our time in the OBC. With that initial need met other things become possible. Paradoxically, carrying a burden of unexpressed feelings often makes it impossible to appreciate the good we have taken away from the training we did. After unburdening oneself a more balanced view is possible and sometimes gratitude arises in the midst of the contradictions.



Last edited by Isan on Fri Sep 24, 2010 3:20 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : grammar)
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Fri Sep 24, 2010 3:58 pm

Sophia, I remember your name, but I just can't place you. I returned to Throssel in '82, so I suppose that's not surprising. Maybe some day you'll post a photo and see if that jogs my horribly bad memory, even after all these years.

I do realise that things may have changed a lot after I left. I've had a bit of contact with Throssel; visited once, and I see Rev Myoho at her place in Wales from time to time; we're good friends since we're both dotty cat lovers! But I don't really know what's been going on at Shasta, and of course I've always been on the outside, so to speak.

I too would enjoy keeping in touch. Those of us on here have a past and a history that those who've never been monks can never understand, however it's affected us. At least, that's how I see it.

Isan, what you say makes an awful of sense. I need to try to see some of the stuff on here on that basis, rather than thinking (as perhaps I was), what on earth have I got myself into! Perhaps the fact that I tended to express my feelings too much for my own good - and certainly too much for everyone else's peace of mind - was a good thing. At any rate, I don't remember suffering as some seem to have done. Or maybe it's that time has given me a selective memory.
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PostSubject: Re: Why is this a searchable, open forum?   Fri Sep 24, 2010 4:27 pm

I've been asked to supply a photo to a flyer for a class I'm teaching, so coming soon on a forum near you...
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