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 Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts

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Lise
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PostSubject: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Fri Jun 18, 2010 9:55 am

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

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


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

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

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

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

As you say--this is really messed up!
[See "Rev. Master Eko's Resignation" for Lise's and Kozan's posts in entirety.]


Last edited by Lise on Wed Aug 25, 2010 1:27 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : removed date reference in thread title)
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Fri Jun 18, 2010 10:07 am

deweyboy wrote:
. . . I also cringe at the report that Eko was asked to leave immediately because he developed a relationship with someone, that sounds like the Church of Rome, Italy. that sounds very UnBuddhist. Many Soto Zen Masters are married with kids. Maybe the OBC needs to go back to the time when they excluded Kyogen and Gyokuko Carlsen and it's subsequent nasty treatment of this loving couple. There is a strain of nastiness in the OBC that they ought to eliminate. . . .

Kozan wrote:
. . . And I fully agree with you about the exclusion of Kyogen and Gyokuko. I think it was one of RM Jiyu-Kennett's most tragic mistakes, and one the OBC should, in my opinion, rectify.
[See "Seeking Info on Sangha Members" thread for Deweyboy's and Kozan's posts in entirety.]
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Fri Jun 18, 2010 10:16 am

rachel wrote:
. . . 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. . . . .
[See "Why is this a searchable, open forum?" to view Rachel's post in entirety.]
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Fri Jun 18, 2010 10:23 am

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

I really feel for monks who are called to true vocations, yet want to give and receive emotional love. I've been told that the Abbey's internal talks focus a lot on the physical aspect of celibacy, and things related to the body, but how much do they talk about the emotional side? I think this is the area where critical needs go unmet and can lead to damaging behavior -- . . .
[See "Rev. Master Eko's resignation" thread for Lise's post in entirety.]
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Fri Jun 18, 2010 10:26 am

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

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

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

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

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

To ask a fellow or fellowette with no experience for relationship advice is putting both of us in a bad position, I would imagine.
[See "Rev. Master Eko's resignation" thread for Sandokai's post in entirety.]
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Fri Jun 18, 2010 11:47 am

Sandokai, I agree, there are advantages to working with a teacher whose background allows them to understand certain issues better. I too would not expect a monk to give advice on areas they're not familiar with.

I sometimes wish I had asked for spiritual counseling with different monks; some of them must take a more balanced view of non-celibate life than my usual teachers did.

Good point about some people being attracted to authority figures. I think of it as similar to kids' immature crushes on teachers, coaches, etc., except we're talking about adults of course. I'm sure it's not easy to deal with that kind of attention; I also suppose monks get training on how to deal with that. Some are probably better at deflecting the attention than others, some probably never want to receive that kind of interest, and others, well . . .

People are human. Some of my comments on exploitation have had a harsh tone, I know. I should try to temper that by saying I don't think people should be blamed for the human instinct to relate, connect, be special to someone. It becomes a problem in the wrong setting, though, where the rules don't allow an emotionally intimate connection for the person in authority. The instinct or tendency doesn't go away, sometimes; it may be vented in a disguised form, usually toward a vulnerable person. This is what I have trouble with.
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PostSubject: How many people have been told this?   Mon Jun 21, 2010 3:56 pm

[See the thread "Is the OBC a cult? What do you think?" for Diana's post in entirety.]

Diana wrote:
. . . My master used to tell me that it was completely my choice to become a monk or not. He then would tell me that “the world” didn’t compare to the monk’s life and how much better it would be and how I shouldn’t have relationships or doing anything that might tarnish my new pure self. . . .

Diana, do you remember any specific phrasing the monk(s) used when you were told to avoid relationships? If it is the same phrase I know of, this could be an example of one area in which to start keeping stats.

Over the years I was going to Mt. Shasta, I heard from three lay women (at different times) that having a partner relationship was no longer possible because it would, in their words which were almost identical, "pull me away from my path". These were lay people with established lives, not in residence at the Abbey, with no disclosed intentions to leave lay life.

Someone had to be implanting this, for three people to use the same phrase. How can a monk presume to know what another's "path" should be, or that a partner relationship has no place in it?
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PostSubject: ideas about relationships...   Mon Jun 21, 2010 11:40 pm

Wow... things just keep getting creepier and creepier. After I had a relationship that ended, mostly because of an age difference, I went to spiritual counseling. I was told that I was "meant to be single" and "not in relationships." The monk didn't say because of "the path" but why else would you want to be alone. I actually believed this and stopped dating. I told my best friend, who is very well respected psychiatrist, and she thought it was total hogwash. So then I stopped confiding in her, as well as my other best friend, because I knew they would think that I was crazy. And ultimately I began to feel isolated.
I think the OBC monks are blurring the line too much between monks and laity. What may be good for them isn't necessarily practical or even desired as a lay person. And unfort. because these monks seem so wise and compassionate it's easy to believe their assesments. Life is gray, maybe a part of me likes time alone and solitude, but to say that I am not meant for relationships is putting ideas, that never occurred to me, in my head. Unless you truly, truly, want to be a monk and do the path 100% I think people should evaluate everything they say, and really ask themselves is this really true for me????? Sounds like "discriminating thought" which is so riled against, i know.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Tue Jun 22, 2010 12:37 am

Hi June -- I haven't had a chance yet to welcome you to the forum. Glad you're here, and thanks for posting.

I couldn't agree more with what you've said. People have got to evaluate what they are being told and remember that they are the ones who decide what is right for them -- not a monk, no matter how well-intentioned or persuasive that person appears to be.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Mon Jun 28, 2010 9:10 pm

Response to Lise:

Hi. I don't remember if that exact phrase was used or not, but it was definitely along those lines. Telling laypeople that relationships are bad or negative or harmful creates a huge problem because we are human and we are naturally attracted to people. It's such a set-up. There is no way that anyone, apparently even RM Eko himself, can exclude themselves from a loving relationship. I really hope and wish that everyone who has trained and is training with the OBC gets a chance to work through all this stuff and live happy lives full of love and even fun!

To June99:

It sounds like we had similar experiences. Over time I lost most of my "regular" friends. The deeper I got at the Abbey, the more isolated and vulnerable I became. Ultimately though, my inner strength did win. I started studying and going to therapy regularly. I think the OBC's disdain for the "self", ego, "attachments", etc..., ultimately lead down a very destructive psychological and social path. We need the ego. We need a strong sense of self. We need relationships, love, attachments. We need these things to be happy and healthy in the present and future. True compassion and love come from caring deeply about ourselves and those we love.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Fri Jul 02, 2010 1:31 am

For whatever reasons, the monks at the priory I attended wouldn't perform weddings. I was really disappointed when I got married (a REALLY important event for me) but the monks wouldn't be part of the wedding. What was that about?
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Fri Jul 02, 2010 2:52 am

Violet--good question! At root--just another example, in my opinion, of one of RM Jiyu's biases that became institutionalized.

In the early years RMJ performed many wedding ceremonies--for both lay members and monks!

She eventually decided that she did not like training married monks--and she seemed to feel increasingly uncomfortable about performing wedding ceremonies in general. Far easier she said (in terms of the karma she perceived), "to bury the dead, than to marry the living".

This coincided, significantly, with the point that Rachel made earlier--that RMJ increasingly hoped that her Malaysian ordination Master and sangha (celibate, like most Buddhist lineages), would recognize the OBC, which she hoped might also provide some financial benefit as well.

Naturally, these attitudes became institutionalized, and continue to this day--under the asssumption that they constitute valid spiritual teaching.

This is yet another reason that I am proposing the importance of constantly re-evaluating the institutional culture of the OBC (or any religious institution for that matter). And I think that this forum is a great place for doing so!
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Wed Jul 28, 2010 9:06 am

I feel I must apologise for the length of this entry but don’t think I could have reduced it by much.

Master Jiyu equated the first full kensho with the stage of stream-winner described in Pali suttas and Theravada literature. My understanding is that she drew her conclusions on celibacy and the third great kensho from equating the latter with the Theravada stage of non-returner.

I believe that these equations were an unfortunate academic mistake with far-reaching consequences. Before continuing, I wish to say that some lulus of mine have been contained only by my relative obscurity and lack of influence! My gratitude to Master Jiyu (whom I first met in 1972) is boundless: I would say that I owe her my life in a sense. While I believe that what I am about to write is correct, please – “buyer beware”!

I believe that Reverend Master should have equated the first full kensho with arhat stage, and that the preceding stages of the Theravadin supramundane path equate with earlier stages of awakening to no self/person in the skandhas. Theravadin names of these earlier stages include “once-returner” and “non-returner” but this should not confuse, as it is not voluntary compassionate rebirth that is limited (tulkus view this differently to Theravadins) but rebirth as a result of certain “knots” of illusoryself-grasping. I know of no name in Zen for these earlier stages, although they are undoubtedly experienced.

After someone reaches basic arhat stage, subtle dualistic appearances still occur from time to time due to what are termed “imprints of delusions” (I don’t know the Sanskrit word, ?some kind of vasana) or jneyāvarana (sometimes translated as “obstructions to omniscience”, i.e obstructions to ongoing simultaneous perception of phenomenality and emptiness, not the omniscience of sarvajñāna), and other terms: all these terms relate to the same veils.

Master Jiyu emphasised that having a first full kensho is not the end of training but marks a new beginning and she spoke/wrote of training and self-awakening after this: I believe that she was referring to clearing degrees of jneyāvarana, and that her third great kensho finished this process. In the 1977 first edition of How to Grow a Lotus Blossom (appendix A), she wrote of kensho becoming a gapless “long and permanent experience”: I think she was referring to thence ongoing simultaneous perception of phenomenality and emptiness. The 1993 second edition of HGLB omits this statement (and many others that appeared in the first edition).

My impression has been that Master Jiyu thought no lay person (single or otherwise), or non-celibate cleric or even a celibate cleric with a heart-mate relationship/leanings, could self-awaken beyond the stage of the “second, ongoing kensho”, as she termed the period of training and self-awakening between the “first full” and “third great” kenshos (not to be confused with the “ongoing simultaneous perception of phenomenality and emptiness” that results from clearing all jneyāvarana). See, for example, her interview in Meetings with Remarkable Women by Lenore Friedman (1987).

A few accounts of lay non-returners and arhats exist in Pali suttas but I do not know if Master Jiyu came across them. In the case of lay arhats, they either ordained or died very soon after liberation. In his answers to questions from the Bactrian king Menander (Milinda), arhat Ven. Nagasena asserts that a lay arhat must either join the Order or s/he will die (I think within a day) because, according to Ven. Nagasena, lay life is inherently unable to support an arhat. I have also seen reference to this belief in modern day Theravadin sources but do not know if it is ubiquitous. With regard to celibacy, an assumption in Theravada seems to be that voluntary sexual activity (?erectile) proves that the person has not yet reached non-returner stage. I suspect that some influential arhats of old found differently, hence the divergence between Mahayana and Theravada in these matters. (The condition and experiential views of non-influential arhats would probably not have been believed.)

Master Jiyu would not have agreed that celibacy/absence of a heart-mate relationship, or monastic ordination and lifestyle were necessary for reaching the first full kensho; but I believe that, because of misequating stages and because of the Theravada view that non-returners+ are inevitably celibate and that lay arhats soon expire, she inferred that these conditions apply to what are actually post-arhat-liberation kenshos. I never learned of any change in her views concerning this, or of any subsequent disclaimer from the OBC.

Mahayana schools, at least of the “third turning of the wheel” variety, acknowledge that one can train and self-awaken in this life beyond the level of basic arhat liberation. I can offer no suggestion as to why Master Jiyu was unaware of this academically, or to how widespread this unawareness is. After preparatory training and stream-entry (or whatever name one gives it), three successive supramundane paths of training and self-awakening proceed, somewhat like turns of a helix. The first corresponds to the period from stream-entry to entering arhat stage, and is termed along the lines of “path realising no self/person in the skandhas” or “path realising the emptiness of the person” (the latter term omits that other forms in ones physical sensory environment (also included among the first skandha) are also realised as “not selves” at stream-entry). The second, termed along the lines of “path realising the emptiness of dharmas”, begins at entry to arhat stage; during its course, all skandhas are experientially realised as empty of self-nature: the emptiness of form is realised at entry to arhat stage (which sets a tone for the rest) but emptying the perceived duality of “nirvana” v. samsara (i.e peace v. disturbing formations) is, I think, where clearing the “jneyāvarana” begins. The third is termed along the lines of “path realising the emptiness of ‘emptiness’”, during the course of which the subtlest dualistic appearances are cleared. I think the “second, ongoing” phase of kensho, as referred to by Master Jiyu, spans the second of the above three paths and most of the third. A Ch’an understanding of these three supramundane phases appears online at www.chan1.org Ch’an Newsletter 109 (August 1995) and in Hoofprint of the Ox, by Master Sheng-yen (2001).

My understanding is that Theravadin schools count knowledge of the clearing of jneyāvarana (termed the anavarana or “incessant/unobstructed” knowledge) as one of six knowledges developed only by full buddhas, which would be another major difference between Theravada and these Mahayana schools.

I only get to use an internet computer once a week, and quite briefly, so regret I will be unable to reply promptly to any responses to this entry.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Wed Jul 28, 2010 1:57 pm

I did not know Jiyu Kennett. I only encountered her disciples. The litmus test of a great teacher are her students. I've not yet found examples that create any interest in obtaining what they claim to have. So, based on her followers, I am not convinced of what she taught or her ability to teach. Perhaps if I had encountered her myself, I might have been persuaded that she was able to live what she taught.

I did not find her writings (or talks) to be particularly helpful with practice, nor very helpful in understanding what the Buddha himself had to say about things. Bikkhu Bodhi has provided much more understandable and scholarly material (both written and oral), with integrity and intellectual honesty.

Jiyu Kennett did not do a particularly good job of making Buddhism understandable to Americans. Her ceremonial, songs, etc. are stuffed full of Anglican church culture, music, etc. Some of it like the Buddha-ized Christmas carols and Buddhist hymns seem particularly forced fragments taken from another puzzle. That's not a condemnation, but it's not American and much of it comes across nearly as foreign as Americanized Japanese. Then throw in priests who lecture about the necessity of having "faith" in Buddhism, and most Americans who have walked away from cultural Christianity quickly walk away from this. They've had enough of Christianity; they don't want a Buddhist form of it. I've seen them walk away.

Her teaching seems a curious blend of mix n match among Zen, Theravadin, and the Anglican church. I was confused until I made the effort and took the time to read the discourses of the Buddha for myself. There is some commonality between Zen and the discourses in the Pali Canon, but one issue is glaring; integrity and freedom from even the taints of the Buddhist poisons are paramount as the ONLY reliable indicators of arhantship or attainment. The story of Devadatta is an interesting parable that destroy the notion that psychic power, visions, etc. have anything whatsoever to do with the enlightenment the Buddha taught. Devadatta had more psychic powers that nearly any mortal could stand, but he was still corrupted and destroyed by lack of integrity, jealousy, and eventually hatred. We still seem hung up on the the belief that psychic visions, paranormal powers, charisma are some special indicators of enlightenment or attainment. Opposites/smopposites -- who cares -- if you can't live a life of integrity, kindness, and compassion?

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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Fri Jul 30, 2010 11:49 am

Jack wrote:
Her teaching seems a curious blend of mix n match among Zen, Theravadin, and the Anglican church.

I want to comment on this point but will do so in another thread, in order to stay on track here with the celibacy discussion. I just finished a first reading of the Kay book and found interesting observations re: how and when Rev. Jiyu drew from different traditions to support certain choices she wanted for the OBC. More on that later.

Anne, welcome to the forum and thank you for this first post. I hope we have some people here with the right background to discuss many of the points you've made; I can only grasp a few. I think those with more scholarship in Buddhism will be better placed to talk about interpretation of the sutras and theories of arhat liberation. (But I now have new items for my summer reading list, for which I thank you.)


Anne wrote:
. . . Master Jiyu equated the first full kensho with the stage of stream-winner described in Pali suttas and Theravada literature. My understanding is that she drew her conclusions on celibacy and the third great kensho from equating the latter with the Theravada stage of non-returner.

I believe that these equations were an unfortunate academic mistake with far-reaching consequences. . . .


An academic mistake could explain her position. I've also wondered whether her conclusions could have been a strategic choice of the type David Kay references in his work.

Since my earliest exposure to the OBC I've wondered if Rev. Jiyu was not basically crafting her own version of a religion according to what she liked and what was most useful at a given time, and then changing the rules as her preferences or objectives shifted. I question whether her altered position on celibacy had more to do with internal revelations and enhanced knowledge, or was it more a reaction to external factors that she wanted to change.

Maybe those who were there at the time can comment -- I wonder if she primarily just got tired of sharing her monks' time/attention/resources with their families or partners, and possibly her new "understanding" of a third kensho was a way to legitimate the removal of that problem from her daily life?

I'm sure this idea is too simplistic to capture everything that was going on at that time. Rachel and Kozan have mentioned other reasons, such as her wanting the Malaysian sangha's support. There is also discussion (in Kay's book and elsewhere) about her need for increased devotion from her closest followers, which seems to me would be on a direct collision course with monks trying to balance family responsibilities too.

So these are my thoughts . . . not profound but just some things I've always wondered . . .

L.


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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Wed Aug 04, 2010 9:18 am

Hi Lise.

Firstly, I must retract the reference to sarvajñāna in my previous posting: “not the omniscience of sarvajñāna”. Another “unfortunate academic mistake”! I was thinking of the English term “omniscience”, meaning access to any kind of relative knowledge. The Pali word sabbannuta, in Theravada use, does seem to include this meaning (?through mastery of mundane superknowledges (abhijñā)), and is counted in Theravada as one of the six special knowledges of a samyak-sambuddha. However, I am unsure of the exact Mahayana use(s) of sarvajñāna and a similar Sanskrit word, sarvajñatā, so this reference is best omitted; clearing all obscurations to ongoing simultaneous perception of phenomenality and emptiness does not automatically result in mastery of mundane superknowledges.

I will ponder on what you said.

I met Jiyu Kennett to speak to only three times, when she visited England, and also later corresponded with her by letter. The first time I saw her (not to speak to) was at The Buddhist Society in London, in 1972. Impressed by what I saw and heard, I attended a small private retreat in the south of England. She spoke of compassion, gratitude, taking responsibility for ones actions, and willingness to change, and seemed to me to be the epitome of her words. I spoke to her in private about a matter in training that was disturbing me, and her simple two word answer (“Take responsibility”) led to a breakthrough on the matter. Although her later views saddened me, and concerned me on behalf of other people, I have no reason to change my basic view of her.


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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Wed Aug 04, 2010 12:12 pm

Hello Lise and Anne,

This is quite an interesting thread. In response to your observations, Anne, while JK was aware of Theravadin and Chinese Mahayana teaching on a variety of subjects, she was not an academic by nature. To use a musical metaphor, she “played by ear.” Then she would justify her tune by finding a label in her doctrinal bag of tricks. I don’t mean to be overly harsh or condemning of her for this. I think the best teachers rely primarily on their own experience. On the other hand, JK could take off on some wild goose chases, to appropriate her own literary devise, and she could make some really ridiculous statements, not just on points of Dharma, but in other matters as well. I sometimes tried to offer some careful comments in response to these, but would get shot down for my impudence. Admitting a mistake was close to impossible for her.

Sarvajñata (all-knowledge) is not a term you run into very often in the Zen world, but it is prominent in the Prajnaparamita texts like the Perfection of Wisdom in 8000 Lines (Ashtasahasrika). DT Suzuki refers to it in a wonderful way when he says, and I paraphrase here, that when we show gratitude, to that extent sarvajñata is made manifest in the world. This agrees with passages in the Ashta which suggest that the Buddha’s all-knowledge is not something we gain, but something we serve. When we see and appreciate what is right in front of us, we see with Buddha’s eye, and it is known as Sarvajñata. The Buddha’s all-knowledge exists through space and time because of this. This fits with the Denkoroku view of the Buddha constantly appearing through our own effort in practice. I really love the Zen tradition because of this gentle and metaphorical way of expressing the Dharma.

With palms joined,

Kyogen
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Wed Aug 11, 2010 8:19 am

Hello Kyogen, thank you for the information.

Do any of our former OBC Members and Fellows know if the OBC still operates under the premise that a Soto Zen first full kensho equates with Theravada stream-entry and that a third great kensho (as referred to by Master Jiyu) equates with entry to non-returner stage?

If these views no longer pertain, does anyone know when this changed? I do not recall any public announcement of this: perhaps I missed it but if there was none, do you know why the silence?

Though Master Jiyu’s honest mistake had a major impact in the past and may still haunt some people today, if it has since been rumbled by governing members of the OBC, I guess it does not relate to any present situation in the Order unless avoiding disclosure contributes to other problems.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Wed Aug 11, 2010 11:14 am

Hi Anne,

I must admit that I feel quite a bit out of my depth in joining this conversation. But I can tell you, as someone who left the OBC only 3 years ago, that the former abbot, Rev. Eko Little, did continue to teach RM Jiyu's view that the first kensho constituted stream entry and the third constituted attainment of the arhat stage. This teaching was not referred to often, as there was not a strong emphasis on calculating stages of enlightenment. The emphasis was much more focused on just the ongoing daily practice and training. I was, however, quite surprised to hear that this description of the stages might be inaccurate. I had so thoroughly assimilated it that I never thought to question it.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Wed Aug 11, 2010 11:26 am

Lise wrote:

Since my earliest exposure to the OBC I've wondered if Rev. Jiyu was not basically crafting her own version of a religion according to what she liked and what was most useful at a given time, and then changing the rules as her preferences or objectives shifted. I question whether her altered position on celibacy had more to do with internal revelations and enhanced knowledge, or was it more a reaction to external factors that she wanted to change.

Maybe those who were there at the time can comment --  I wonder if she primarily just got tired of sharing her monks' time/attention/resources with their families or partners, and possibly her new "understanding" of a third kensho was a way to legitimate the removal of that problem from her daily life?

I'm sure this idea is too simplistic to capture everything that was going on at that time. Rachel and Kozan have mentioned other reasons, such as her wanting the Malaysian sangha's support. There is also discussion (in Kay's book and elsewhere) about her need for increased devotion from her closest followers, which seems to me would be on a direct collision course with monks trying to balance family responsibilities too.

So these are my thoughts . . . not profound but just some things I've always wondered . . .

L.
Here's my take on this...  

When I joined the group in 1971 Rev Jiyu was very supportive, even actively encouraging of marriage between her ordained students.  I don't remember her saying specifically why, but it seemed to me part of her desire to create a more open community.  In those early years she spoke more than once about how repressive the training was in Sojiji and she wanted her own group to be different.  For instance she always wanted the food we all ate to be of the highest quality possible and over time it became really excellent (whatever else retreat guests thought about the Abbey they often commented on the amazing food!).  Regarding married couples, although she supported them she had no personal experience and no training for how to counsel them.  The difficulties that normally ensue in romantic relationships disrupted her larger vision of Buddhist training and she withdrew support over time.  A piece of land was purchased for lay and ordained married couples and gradually the community was split into two groups with the single (and by implication celibate) monks at Shasta Abbey.  There was a time where married monks could continue to live at the Abbey if they did not live together - in other words if they lived as if single and were celibate.  It was not until her "third kensho" that she proclaimed the single, celibate life as a condition of monkhood.  She actually required that some monks divorce if they wanted to continue living at the Abbey, even though (I believe) they were already living separately.  It was around this time that Kyogen and Gyokuko - who were already running the group in Oregon - were put in a similar position.  They of course said "no thank you" and we have Dharma Rain ZC as a result.

addition:

Regarding the Japanese Soto Zen Church, Rev Jiyu's transmission master Koho Zengi had past before she left Japan.  She described that after he died there was a shift back to greater discrimination against women and foreigners, and (rather ironically) she felt about them not unlike what many of us feel about the OBC today.  Regarding the Malaysian Sangha, her ordination master - the Venerable Seck Kim Seng - was still alive and at some point (can't remember the year) he visited Shasta Abbey.  I don't know the back story of his visit, but Rev Jiyu was quite uncomfortable with fact that she had married monks at the Abbey.  She actually asked the married monks to remove their wedding rings during his stay.  We kind of maintained a "don't ask don't tell" policy.  I don't know who initially got the wheels turning for the visit, but I believe it was held up as proof that the Zen Mission Society was a legitimate organization and was meant to fill the gap left by the break with the Japanese Soto Zen Church.  No doubt this account is incomplete and hopefully others who were there will add their recollections.

I have some additional thoughts about celibacy, but I will post them in another message after they are properly gathered.


Last edited by Isan on Sun Sep 29, 2013 12:39 pm; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : additional content)
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Wed Aug 11, 2010 6:39 pm

Hi Isan,
My memory is that in 85 or 86 some Chinese monks were going to visit the Abbey. This was later than the Seck Kim Seng visit. Rev. M. Kennett was worried about the U. S. government being taken over more by Christians and then eventually saying the Abbey was a cult and no longer a valid religious institution. She feared that what Japanese support there was, was weak and couldn't be couldn't be counted on. So the support of the Malaysian Chinese monks was very important to her. She was worried about having any married priests acting as priests anywhere that still had ties to the OBC. It was then that Kyogen and Gyokuko where told they either had to divorce or quit being priests. This my memory but Kyogen and Gyokuko would know it, I'm sure, better that I would.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Wed Aug 11, 2010 8:20 pm

Hello Isan and Sansho,

Wow, I don't remember the fear of Christians taking over the government. What I remember was a need to exert control, and use of celibacy years after our marriage and fairly successful running of a temple to bring us to heal. One of these days I'll get that narrative together. I'd be interested in input from people involved back then.

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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Wed Aug 11, 2010 8:35 pm

Well, I was a lay person at the time, but Sansho's post reminded me that this was at about the same time that the whole Rajneesh thing was going on in Oregon, and elsewhere. It makes sense to me that RM Jiyu might have been very worried about the Abbey being labelled as a cult due to what happened with the Immigration Dept. and Rajneesh Puram. In fact, weren't the visas of many of the British monks in jeopardy of not being renewed at about that same time? I can see that tying in very neatly with her concern about obtaining "legitimacy" for the OBC.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Wed Aug 11, 2010 11:00 pm

I remember very well how much she wanted the support of the Malaysian monks and her stating that we had to change to be accepted by them. She spoke several times about celibacy in the Buddhist world and the political reasons why Japan was an abberation. Somewhat obscurely, she connected some food issues to the Malaysian acceptance of us: because garlic and onions were thought to be aphrodisiacs, she said we should eschew them in our diet. However, onions were quickly allowed back in! Mexican food, however, was often mentioned as 'tasting like cardboard' (which seemed subjective) while she sought to include it in the foods offensive to Chinese monastic practices. In the end, a concern for Malysian acceptance resulted in both a formal statement of celibacy and food guidelines that at least appeared to be mostly an expression of personal taste. Although I know that onions and garlic are not allowed in Chinese monastaries, because of the exceptions the issue took on a personal nature. At this time, also, Koshin and she disagreed over spicy foods in general. If my memory serves me, he went to Seattle at this point. However he had a change in heart, and I remember Rev. Master speaking of the importance of letting go of one's will. I would link these two issues to a shift in teaching towards obediance/faith in one's master. An evolution from a desire to gain support from the Malaysian temple.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Thu Aug 12, 2010 6:48 am

I remember someone asking Rev. M. Kennett about garlic and onions and why, if they were both supposed to be prohibited in monasteries, we didn't eat garlic but we did have onions. She answered that she liked onions but didn't like garlic. This can be looked at as a not-so-good example of personal likes and dislikes governing temple rules but I've always found it amusing and endearing; an example of her practicality and being human.
I know, I know I'm way off the celibacy part of the thread. Sorry.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Thu Aug 12, 2010 11:20 am

I remember asking RM Eko the same question. His answer was that the type of onions we grow now were not the type of onions that were aphrodisiacs. He also said that he would "know from his meditation" if onions really created desire and he felt quite certain that they did not. I don't find his answer quite as endearing, lol.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Thu Aug 12, 2010 12:20 pm

Laura wrote:
He also said that he would "know from his meditation" if onions really created desire and he felt quite certain that they did not.

Well shoot, and I was going to look for the right kind of onions at the store --

Laura, I hope you don't mind me asking this question -- I don't mean to take advantage of your knowledge as a recent former monk, but . . . I'm still puzzling over what monks are told about the emotional side of celibacy. I've heard and read about sitting with physical desire, but surprisingly little about how to address emotional connection and attraction. Maybe I missed that part of Q&A during discussions, but it seemed like I never really heard anyone at Shasta address it --
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Thu Aug 12, 2010 11:09 pm

Hi Lise,

I don't remember too much specifically on exactly that subject , but my sense is that it would have been pretty much the same advice. We were taught to sit still and not act upon whatever arose, be that physical desire, a memory, an emotion, attraction, you name it, the answer was to sit still with it. This advice, of course, pretty well related to formal meditation practice, but we were also supposed to bring that practice into our daily lives. Obviously, however, in our daily lives we have to act. The idea was to learn to recognize the ways in which we were acting, what was driving us, how did we respond to different situations. By bringing self-awareness into all of our activities, we could see more clearly where we were driven by our attachments (including friendship), where we were more prone to break the Precepts and create negative karma for ourselves and others. I actually found, and continue to find, that level of self-awareness to be an excellent thing.

Emotional connection and attraction, as well as the physical counterpart to that, were generally viewed as being the result of past-life karma. There is nothing wrong with that, but as a monk committed to celibacy, it was important to recognize how the emotional attraction could be a springboard to physical attraction too.

The intent of celibacy, as I currently understand it, is really for people to learn how to stop turning outward in their search for happiness. It is to help people learn how to take refuge within their own heart. This ties in with the teaching of anicca (impermanence) and anatta (no self). If we are constantly looking outside of ourselves to find happiness in something that has no lasting, independent substance and which is bound to fade away, we are going to find ourselves very unhappy in the long run, for there is no permanent refuge in them. This view is not moralistic or judgmental, but simply an attempt to help people find lasting contentment and peace. Unfortunately, that is frequently not the way it is understood, or taught, or practiced. Attraction is not evil, nor are sexual relations, nor is being a lay person. It is simply a matter of whether or not a person wishes to find a lasting escape from samsara (this transient world of suffering). It is not required that anyone do so! It is only when we ourselves have come to the point that we really, really, really want to make that transition for ourselves, when we are thoroughly dissatisfied with samsara and looking for answers, that the practice of celibacy can be a help, as a way of ceasing to grasp for pleasure outwardly. In the end, I am not at all sure that celibacy in and of itself is essential, or that it need be a permanent practice. What I do believe to be essential is a thorough comprehension of the Four Noble Truths and a well-developed practice of non-attachment and all-acceptance.

Hope you don't mind that I've gone beyond the scope of your question and expressed my current view on this subject. I would be delighted to hear what others think about this as well.

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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sat Aug 14, 2010 9:47 pm

Laura, I appreciate receiving the wider scope, in your answer -- thank you.

One part of your response jumps out at me: "If we are constantly looking outside of ourselves to find happiness in
something that has no lasting, independent substance and which is bound
to fade away, we are going to find ourselves very unhappy in the long
run, for there is no permanent refuge in them
."

I have been barking my shins on an issue / koan / karmic jangle, whatever, for as long as I've been looking at Buddhism. Here 'tis: Re: the experience of happiness that comes from outside one's self, such as a partner relationship: I don't understand why the teachings assume everyone is counting on a connection that lasts forever. I know that a partner relationship might last a couple of days, or weeks, or 50 years, or somewhere in-between. One of us might die, run off with a home-wrecker, start batting for the other team, who knows what. To me it is still worthwhile and an acceptable trade-off, to risk an uncertain outcome in order to enjoy what might be a short-lived but very beneficial connection. My point is, I don't think this choice can be assumed to end in suffering always and every time, for everyone.

I'm wondering why Buddhist theory seems to have this loophole; the lack of a defined term for people who do not expect good things to last forever, and we accept the pain of loss when it happens, but it does not necessarily constitute suffering for us. Is there a name for this somewhere, and I missed it?

Does anybody else feel the same way? I can't be a party of one?

Again, thanks Laura --

L.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sun Aug 15, 2010 3:14 am

The pain of loss, then, does not constitute suffering? Hmmm, it sure does for me, lol.

That doesn't mean you should never get a puppy because you know it will die someday. Nor does it mean you should never have a relationship because you know it can't last forever. What it does mean, is that if you are looking for a permanent refuge, you will not find it in samsara. If you're looking for a temporary refuge, you may certainly have as many as you would like. yes
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sun Aug 15, 2010 4:33 am

Hey Lise I think for Buddhists, Dependant Origination may address this loophole by stepping away from the psychological reasoning ( the possibility of enjoying pleasure without any expectation or attachment to it's continuance) and explaining the process in a more basic & causal format.
In the meantime I see Laura has posted a much more direct and helpful response.

I have a question to throw out there . This may be a bring the celibacy conversation down a few notches but my experience with it was that celibacy gave me another another form of energy to channel toward focus & concentration. This could be used as a definite aid in the practise of meditation.
On the opposite side of this, sexual experience leaves me in a bit of a stupor. Maybe it's just me, or a guy thing but it makes my brain feels like it's had a couple of beers. I might be a bit easier to be around, like I've been given an injection of some type of social lubricant but my mental alertness certainly drops a number of degrees. My approach on this is that meditation is about being present (awake), not about being a brainiac and yet I don't take intoxicants because of the way they stupefy. There seems to be something hypocritical here. Two different actions can bring about a mental dullness for me.
One seems OK while the other one doesn't. Anybody have any similar experience or have insight that can illuminate any of this?
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sun Aug 15, 2010 10:09 am

Laura wrote:
The pain of loss, then, does not constitute suffering?

Right, that's what I'm getting at -- the difference between pain and suffering, because often they're not the same. The pain of loss is something I can't avoid -- it happens, you go through it, hopefully it passes away. Suffering from loss is something else altogether. In the context of a lost relationship, it could mean "wanting things to be other than they are", in other words, not accepting the loss, trying to re-create what is gone, living in memories, etc. I remember a talk in the guest house where the monk brought up this distinction (not in the context of celibacy or relationships) and talked about it for a long time, and it did make sense to me. There wasn't time to ask him to address my next question, which was what I've posted here, about Buddhist theory assuming everyone insists on good things lasting forever. It seems like this assumption is the basis for teaching that samsaric attachment can only end up in suffering, and this is what I'm questioning because it doesn't fit -- it doesn't feel true to me. I don't think the world of samsara is tempting me with enticements just for the purpose of yanking them away and breaking my heart. I don't think I will ever be able to see it that way. Guess I'm stuck
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sun Aug 15, 2010 10:56 am

Howard wrote:
. . . Dependant Origination may address this loophole by stepping away from the psychological reasoning ( the possibility of enjoying pleasure without any expectation or attachment to it's continuance) and explaining the process in a more basic & causal format.

Agree that Dependant Origination looks at a causal format without addressing the "no expectations" reasoning . . . which doesn't make the latter go away . . . this is the big gap in theory to me.

Howard wrote:
. . . On the opposite side of this, sexual experience leaves me in a bit of a stupor. Maybe it's just me, or a guy thing but it makes my brain feels like it's had a couple of beers. I might be a bit easier to be around, like I've been given an injection of some type of social lubricant but my mental alertness certainly drops a number of degrees. My approach on this is that meditation is about being present (awake), not about being a brainiac and yet I don't take intoxicants because of the way they stupefy. There seems to be something hypocritical here. Two different actions can bring about a mental dullness for me.
One seems OK while the other one doesn't. Anybody have any similar experience or have insight that can illuminate any of this?

My comment here isn't insightful, just my two cents. I drink alcohol and haven't chosen yet to experience celibacy as a focused choice. Neither alcohol nor sex has felt like an intoxicant, based on how I engage with them -- moderation instead of extremes, etc.

I think others will have more useful insights on the bigger questions --


Last edited by Lise on Sun Aug 15, 2010 11:11 am; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : fix typo in quoted material and clarify my own)
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sun Aug 15, 2010 11:27 am

Laura wrote:
The intent of celibacy, as I currently understand it, is really for people to learn how to stop turning outward in their search for happiness. It is to help people learn how to take refuge within their own heart. This ties in with the teaching of anicca (impermanence) and anatta (no self). If we are constantly looking outside of ourselves to find happiness in something that has no lasting, independent substance and which is bound to fade away, we are going to find ourselves very unhappy in the long run, for there is no permanent refuge in them. This view is not moralistic or judgmental, but simply an attempt to help people find lasting contentment and peace.

It seems to me this question is really much larger than the matter of celibacy and life partners. As we come to a tangible understanding of anicca and see that everything is passing away we have to learn to let go. Self, life partner, dog, children, parents, friends, teachers, disciples...all passing away. We have to keep letting go as we love. The problems come when we live in a dream of permanence and then feel devastated when we are awakened by loss.

A little Google-Fu produced this quote:

This reminds me of a famous saying of Achaan Cha, the great Thai monk.
He would hold up a tea cup and say, "To me this cup is already broken."
Everything is like this, already broken. Why does this upset us? When we
think something is not broken, we think it is intact, that it is ours,
so we have to protect it. And then when it turns out we cannot protect
it, that we lose it, that it breaks, that it is taken from us — as
everything always is — we go to pieces


http://www.everydayzen.org/index.php?Itemid=26&option=com_teaching&sort=date&task=viewTeaching&id=text-129-88

One of the risks of being single & celibate is it can simply be an expression of avoidance instead of wholehearted living. This is not an argument against celibacy or monkhood. It's for doing the things you really want to do, so that at the end of the day you don't regret not having done them.


Last edited by Isan on Sun Aug 15, 2010 12:24 pm; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : grammer and more grammer)
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sun Aug 15, 2010 1:11 pm

A couple of thoughts while reading the above. First, Howard. I gave a lecture this past Spring comparing the ritual of counting the Omer in Judaism to the Taoist/Buddhist text, The Way to the Light of Heaven. Both are remarkable in the way they trace a path over the body while making the connection between ethical practice and divine revelation. (It's difficult to find words that span both traditions here, but I think Jews are comfortable with speaking of a harmonization of body and mind.) As I read the Way to the Light of Heaven again, after many years absence, I was really struck by the centrality of celibacy. As you say, the alertness of a body not engaged in sex, is a key component of the ability to turn the Wheel for the author of this text. On the other hand, that consideration would not have been part of the Jewish author's concern: although if this writing is coming out of the beit midrash culture, many rabbis were, in effect, celibate while engaged in study--traveling back home to their families periodically. But the text itself gives no instruction that celibacy is either desired or necessary. Instead, what the two works have in common is a practice of good deeds based on awareness of self and other. Over set periods of time (the Omer is the time between Passover and Shavuot--seven weeks--the time between leaving Egypt and receiving the commandments at Sinai; the LofH says the Buddha Nature develops after 100 days), the practitioner learns how to disengage from selfish action through learning how the body can be engaged in acts of loving kindness. Both stress the development (and refinement) of listening to the heart so that be a force of good in the world.
I think that the passages on celibacy in LofH are meant as a divestment of attachment so that one can help oneself see the 'other' as oneself (diminish the space between self and other). The all is different and the all is one. But my experience of a commited relationship is that you each keep the other 'unselfish'. As I see it, the house is like a monastic community in that you are reminded that you are not living life simply for yourself in this arrangement: each of you has to give up treasured parts of yourself in order to not only live in harmony, but as full beings in dignity. In my experience, sex doesn't diminish that awareness, it cultivates a sensitivity to the other's needs.
The sticky wicket of attachments occurs everywhere. As you say, Lise and Isan, knowing that things/relationships are impermanent is the key. I don't know if that ever becomes easy. I think a key is that in order to be attentive to others, we have to admit a 'not knowing' and open ourselves in awareness.
I know for myself I have plenty of attachments outside of my relationship with my husband--and deep disappointments when things don't work out. What keeps me going is trying to see if there are details I am overlooking: are there new directions available if I loosen my commitment to this particular path? It is interesting to see how I resist a wholehearted practice of what I think I want, sabotaging my own desires. Awareness turns up funny things! Whether at work or at home, it is our own distractedness that is responsible for unexpected outcomes. But that needs to be embraced too. There's just no separation, only a dance. Otherwise, why would there be so much peace in the deepest sorrow?
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sun Aug 15, 2010 1:21 pm

I think what I'm trying to point to has to do with recognizing grasping and clinging. Isan, that quote was an excellent reference; thank you for finding it. Letting go is the crux of the matter. But that doesn't mean that you don't still have partners, dogs, children, parents, friends, etc. It just means that your relationship towards those things changes. To my mind, it changes so much for the better when we are able to let them come and go, as they will do. Not only are we happier in those relationships when the grasping is gone, but so are they!

As someone who had a very strong component of clinging in all my relationships, I found that becoming a monk and being celibate was very helpful. It's a bit like a drug addict needing to go to away to a treatment center. Trying to let go of addiction in the midst of one's usual surroundings is extremely difficult and sometimes impossible. Those who aren't addicted, or at least not very strongly addicted, wouldn't need the treatment. Although clinging is a common human problem, I am willing to consider the possibility that it is not ubiquitous. scratch

It was interesting to me that what was actually offered at the Abbey was to substitute your relationship to the teacher for the relationships you left behind. Perhaps that is what people actually really wanted and tried to do. I certainly did. Perhaps you could equate this to using methadone to help people get off heroin. I'm not sure whether or not this was cultivated deliberately by the Abbey but in the end, one has to get off the methadone too. Unfortunately, that part of the process was not supported, and dependence on the abbot was cultivated and expected to be permanent. I don't think that Eko would agree with this statement, nevertheless, this was the way he related to all of his monastic (and I suspect lay) disciples. Rev. Master Jiyu said somewhere in print that she did not want to surround herself with "yes men". I'm not sure at what point that changed, but while I was there, "yes men" were precisely what was wanted.

At any rate, I found my leaving the Abbey to be the next step in the process of letting go. It is a testament to the strength of my own clinging that it took me 11 years to do so.

I have returned to my family, renewed old friendships and made new ones. And those relationships are completely different in nature than what they were before. I currently live with my eldest daughter and her family, and we get along better than we ever did. This is because of the change in me. I am so much better able to allow my daughter to be who she is rather than who I want her to be, to learn from her own experience rather than imposing the lessons of mine upon her, and I no longer attempt to sway her behavior or her opinions. I have learned how to be more completely who I am, and as a result I allow others the liberty to be more completely who they are. We are all a whole lot happier as a result. And, yes, sometimes we agree to disagree.

It is absolutely not about avoidance, but temporary avoidance might be a help in making the leap from grasping to all-acceptance. It certainly has been for me. Please note that I am not claiming to have reached a state of perfect all-acceptance! But I recognize clinging in myself more quickly now; I am well aware that it's end result is suffering; and I am much, much more willing to let go. It is simply a matter of choosing to suffer or choosing freedom from suffering, and I generally prefer to go with the latter. And when suffering strikes, I am much more likely to take a look for the clinging (you can substitute "expectations") within my own heart than to blame external conditions. To that extent, I would have to say that my training at the Abbey has been very successful. My leaving there has been very successful as well. clapping
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Tue Aug 17, 2010 11:29 am

hi Laura, I'm just catching up to some thoughts I had on a point from your earlier post:

Laura wrote:
Emotional connection and attraction, as well as the physical counterpart to that, were generally viewed as being the result of past-life karma.

I heard this mentioned at the Abbey but never asked why this is so. How would a person know the difference between a hold-over from a past life and a newly-created attraction?

I remember a lay friend telling me about some difficulty she was having with one of the monks, in a context of some emotional discord or upset. (It may have been an attraction issue -- I didn't ask questions.) Another monk knew about it and offered "you may have karma with Rev. So-and-So", but didn't go on to explain why this mattered or what a person was supposed to do about it. I remember my friend saying she wished she'd never heard that because it didn't help, but in fact made things worse. ?


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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Tue Aug 17, 2010 2:34 pm


Hi Lise
This may seem obvious but in my experience of watching monks at the Abbey and elsewhere was that :
The question of "Is it past or current karma unfolding" never seemed to make a difference as far as what was needed to address it.
The only benefit of presenting an interaction or connection as past karma is that it lessens some of the potential interfering guilt between the people in the situation. Like the difference between getting wet in a rainstorm as opposed to spraying a hose up in the air and getting wet. The first case requires getting out of the falling water whereas the second case requires the same response but can be made more complicated by our feelings for our obvious contributions to becoming wet. I'm sure we've both heard enough stories about burning carts or the removal of poisoned arrows that speak of this view of teaching. The past karma explanation easily explains the strength of emotional feelings when logic can't. The past karma explanation also presents a course of action to embark on that would not so likely be fettered by our own soap opera. This explanation is not to say that I support either but only to say that I saw a number of advantages to why the the monks might present it as past karma.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Tue Aug 17, 2010 3:46 pm

hi Howard -- I agree, sometimes the issue is that you're wet, not how you got that way -- whether it's from a past or present cause may not matter.

On the other hand there may be situations where a present-day factor is the root cause and should be considered, along with the possibility of past karma, as a reason for current difficulties. A monk can't know which is true. If "past karma" is offered to someone with no context or discussion of what it means, I think it can be upsetting.

From the celibacy angle: elsewhere on this forum I've talked about seeing what looked like inappropriate behavior by some monks toward unattached lay people, esp. women in mid-life. It could be that rather than two individuals having past life karma between them, a monk might be acting on some un-processed issues about celibacy arising from the current lifetime. And maybe the lay person is contributing as well, through her/his own actions that could easily have roots in the present life, and little to do with anything that went before.

I think the "past karma" explanation is possible, but it shouldn't be used to deflect attention away from looking further into the causes of certain behavior --



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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Wed Aug 18, 2010 11:33 am

If we are practising celibacy how are we to understand and sublimate sex, relationships and attachments?
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Wed Aug 18, 2010 12:10 pm

My understanding is to sit with desire/attraction, etc. Watch these feelings arise and go. To be able to sit within (and not push away) allows you to find a more neutral 'third place'. By not acting right away (grasping), we give ourselves the space to hear the 'still, small voice'. Personally, I've often found a great neutrality here. At this point, the Precepts can be a guide. Are you practicing harmlessness through this relationship? To me, sitting in the midst of conditions is alot harder than simply jumping in or pushing away. It takes being with the person and seeing how you both fit with each of your aspirations. Being open to possibility--either as a celibate or not--and courageous enough to say, well, I might be wrong, but I'm going to try this and keep as true as I can to the Precepts.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Tue Aug 24, 2010 2:11 pm

To address questions posed to me regarding celibacy, by Bill Ryan, in the thread concerning the resignation by Eko Little as abbot of Shasta Abbey.

[There are quite a few really excellent insights into the nature of celibacy in the 40 posts preceeding this one. I don't have all the answers, and there are some good points made about celibacy from former monks who lived the celibate life for a period of time.]

Dear Bill,
I love history. In Roman Catholicism, celibacy was introduced about a millenium ago, and has persevered despite various means that priests have contrived to get around it. In today's world, there are obviously big problems that surround the vow of celibacy for the Catholic priethood (keep in mind that the priesthood is distinct from the monkhood). With the issues of pedophilia and other abuses getting into the news all the time, it certainly looks like things just aren't working for them, and that the best interests of the Catholic Church would be best served by trying something different.

The monastic traditions, on the other hand, function independently of the Vatican and the church hierarchy for the most part. If the monastic traditions wish to preserve celibacy, you would think that their best interests would be served by doing so, given that giving it up would seriously challenge their raison d'etre. The question as to why should there be a celibate monastic tradition at all is one that lay people sometimes ask, and the only answer on the part of celibate monks is that we have a strong calling to live this way. It isn't even necessarily our first choice, but a strong calling is a strong calling, and it just doesn't do to "argue with God" about the thing.

Having said that, neither does it do for monks to make a case against sexual expression for the laity--in fact it is pointless and futile. That married/commited couples love each other and express that love in ways that are not available to monastics is to be encouraged, as you recall RM Daizui doing in years past. The cultivation and purification of love in a commited relationship is one of those beautiful ways of undertaking Buddhist training. Unless a monk has some experience of doing that previous to entering the celibate life, it should come as no surprise that they would have little insight as to how that kind of training is carried out, unless they are unusually wise.

In Buddhism, celibacy was central to the Buddha's own life and teaching, and therefore, unlike Christianity, Buddhism is monastically centered. There is no clear-cut distinction between the priesthood and the monkhood as a consequence. So, in Buddhism there isn't a marrying, non-celibate priesthood, generally speaking, unless you go to Japan. In Japan, the non-celibate priesthood was introduced in the late 19th century as one aspect of a much larger political movement, the Meiji Restoration, and that event of course included the Soto Zen tradition among other Buddhist sects. So, today, Soto Zen has married priests, which is a recent change in the history of Buddhism, and a departure from what is considered not only the norm in the rest of Buddhism, but a prerequisite for being a monk/priest.

RMJK knew all this, and following her spiritual awakening in 1976, began to chart a course for the (then, Zen Mission Society) OBC to move back to being celibate, in keeping with the rest of Buddhism. This set apart the OBC from the rest of Soto Zen, and brought us into greater affinity with the Malaysian Buddhist Sangha. In more recent years, Eko Little fostered greater involvement with monks of all flavors, and so some OBC monks have gotten to know bhikkus and bhikkunis of various other monastic traditions. We seem to have less in common with married Soto Zen priests, although there are many very excellent people in that millieu also.

So, although you lament the loss of an ebullience and vitality that existed in the 1970s, the fact is that RMJK successfully turned the entire ship of the monastic OBC into celibate waters, and concurrently set up the Lay Ministry as a variant of the married priest model for the order. And this fact does not have to discourage anyone from happily living life as a married lay practitioner within the OBC--far more people do that than practice as celibate monks. It will always be that way, as those who have the irresistible calling to be a monk are relatively few.

There is no motivation in the OBC to review our commitment to celibacy for monks, as those of us who have continued to live this way since the 1980s are happy with it, and it helps those scattered few who wish to be celibate to know that it can be done. We do not have to create a philosophical divide over it and proceed to have a quarrel, however. The harmony of the Four-Fold Sangha is based on mutual respect on the part of the male and female monastics for the laity and vice versa. If ever we lose that respect, the Sangha begins to crumble from within.

Since America is steeped in Christian values, few people understand the value of celibacy, as oppposed to Asia, where very devout lay Buddhists tend to venerate the monks and support them. So to be a celibate monk in America without the support of an Asian lay Sangha is a venture into the unknown, but RMJK took us there, and we have been working on making a success of it ever since. It will always be a huge challenge as long as I'm alive, I realize that; but nevertheless I have given my entire life to the task, and do not regret doing so.

I hope this is helpful,
With all best wishes, Rev. Seikai
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Tue Aug 24, 2010 3:05 pm

Dear Seikai,

Like the Roman Catholic Church the real issue here historically with Shasta Abbey has been the issue of control, not celibacy. The thrust of your argument is that Jiyu Kennett did not realize the true necessity of celibacy until an awakening she had in 1976, and she began to change her teaching at that time. I would suggest that is a revision of history, since she in fact was fully accepting of married priests, until the time of her capitulation to the requirements of alignment with the Chinese sangha in 1986. I remember well it was a preference that married priests be assigned to priories because of the mutual support they provided each other. I witnessed ( the late 70s or early 80s?) the formal cermonial "sending off" of Isan and his former wife, Ando to assume leadership of the Throssel Hole Priory. They were held as models, not as hidden "exceptions" to the monastic vocation. And at that time she did not "chart a course" but simply abandoned her previously authorized married priests, requiring that they divorce or renounce their priesthood. So I suggest that your narrative does not jive with the facts, and I am inclined to think that those married priests who are on this forum might be able to support what I am saying. ( I would add, if memory serves, that the Japanese priesthood is not the only married priesthood in Buddhism, as if your exclusions were some invalidation of the Japanese priesthood.)

Additionally it is my understanding that in the Soto lineage of Zen the authorization to teach and exercise the priesthood is a matter of a transmission and formal recognition, that once granted cannot be taken back as a matter of the whim of institutional realignments or personal requirements of an individual. In the early days the goal was for priests to become full teachers with their own temples and students/disciples, not permanent dependents on a religious order and its founder. After 1986 it was said (tongue in cheek) that Shasta Abbey was a seminary from which you could never graduate. (Isan's comment about Shasta Abbey being a place from which you could never leave, at least in good standing, rings true.) Jiyu Kennett's actions in 1986 were not only a cruel abandonment of those she had transmitted, graduates of the monastic seminary, but also an abandonment of responsibility of the consequences of her previous teaching she had done in the name of the Japanese Soto lineage in which she had been trained. And central to this is her assertion in making herself the authority rather than the teaching and lineage in which she was trained. And spiritual maturity became defined by a capitulation to her personal authority rather than the teaching that each person has realized in themselves.

I can only say that I am grateful that I received the teaching of the first years, and learned to practice based on it. What I learned, and what was taught, was how to become a spiritual adult, and take responsibility for my own spiritual life, rather than become subject to the whims and institutional alignments of flawed human beings and the roles they adopt in the course of their institutional development. For that I am grateful to Jiyu Kennett that I had the benefit of her earlier teaching. I am paradoxically grateful that at a critical moment I was forced to choose integrity and maturity over compliance with an external dictate. Equal is the paradox that the rejection and shunning by a spiritual friend and mentor, Doug MacPhillamay, turned into a great grace for me. At some point every person on the journey must learn to stand on their own two feet and give their life profoundly and deeply to no human being. What I am most sorry about is the damage that has been done in the name of this religious tradition by flawed human beings who make claims of spiritual authority that are not deserved. I have been gifted with the vision of seeing realized the earlier vision of Jiyu Kennett based on true Soto Zen teaching and the goal of an authentic spiritual maturity in the founding and growth of the Dharma Rain Zen Center.

I appreciate your presence here, Seikai, but I do not envy your position, to defend the indefensible in the name of religion.

Blessings,
Bill
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Wed Aug 25, 2010 11:03 am

Rev. Seikai wrote:

The monastic traditions, on the other hand, function independently of the Vatican and the church hierarchy for the most part. If the monastic traditions wish to preserve celibacy, you would think that their best interests would be served by doing so, given that giving it up would seriously challenge their raison d'etre. The question as to why should there be a celibate monastic tradition at all is one that lay people sometimes ask, and the only answer on the part of celibate monks is that we have a strong calling to live this way. It isn't even necessarily our first choice, but a strong calling is a strong calling, and it just doesn't do to "argue with God" about the thing.

I hope this is helpful,
With all best wishes, Rev. Seikai

Seikai,

Your historical justification for the move to celibacy is interesting, but unnecessary. RMJK’s understanding of the matter changed over the years and her teaching changed to reflect that. I was celibate for six years at the Abbey and I continue to view that period as necessary and beneficial. Requiring that celibacy be a lifelong commitment as a condition of entering and remaining in the priesthood is another matter. I don’t see how anyone can know if celibacy is going to be appropriate for the rest of their lives. The stakes are very high under these circumstances and the long line of monks who have “failed” in this regard suggests that this issue is not handled well. I went through this myself and I know of what I speak.

You mentioned that the move to a married priesthood in Japan was politically motivated, and since it did not arise in the context of religious practice it was appropriate to return to the original celibate priesthood which is traditional in Buddhism. That’s fine as far as it goes, but I would argue it was also a matter of political expediency to require monks who had been married during the period when it was supported to divorce in order to make the community acceptable to the Malaysian Buddhist Sangha. Marriage and ordination are both serious commitments, and requiring that someone relinquish one or the other to remain in good standing is fundamentally wrong.

More serious then all of the above is the more general matter of “shunning” which you have yet to speak to. It is cruel and vindictive to cut off everyone from the Sangha who has a conflict with the OBC. It also serves to keep people in the organization fearful since they know what awaits should they dare to disagree. By the way, it is important to mention that the only way to resolve a conflict in the OBC is for the student to somehow realize they were wrong to in the first place, and be appropriately contrite. Those in authority are never wrong. Under these circumstances it’s hard to understand how you would expect anyone to feel safe enough to take refuge in the Sangha when they experience conflicts. I’m not aware that there is any historic precedent in Buddhism for the practice of shunning. However there is excommunication* in the Catholic Church.

* 1. to cut off from communion with a church or exclude from the sacraments of a church by ecclesiastical sentence.
2. to exclude or expel from membership or participation in any group, association, etc.


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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Wed Aug 25, 2010 1:28 pm

Thank you, Isan, for adding to the perspective of the drastic change that happened at Shasta Abbey. What those of us who were participants in our various stations in life witnessed was a huge change from what we had originally given our life and loyalties to. We thought we were participating in a sangha devoted to long and rich spiritual traditions, teaching, and lineage of Soto Zen brought into a Western cultural context. And the change in the imposition of the celibacy rule for the priesthood was but one aspect of that. What we witnessed was a change in the vision of sangha itself with a diverse but rich leadership of a growing body of practitioners both priests and lay whose capacity for spiritual maturity was measured by their autonomy of practice and independence in life.

This vision was changed with the formation of a sangha institutionalized in the structure of a religious order where one person exercises total control over priests and laity, and where spiritual maturity is measured in the degree of absolute loyalty and obedience to the dictates of this singular person. Any disagreements are dealt with severely with banishment, shunning, and even the demand or forcible taking back of symbols of Buddhist commitment or attainment, such as a lay minister's rakhsu, or a priests transmission silks. The imposition of the celibacy rule and non-married status as a condition for previously transmitted and recognized priests and teachers was not only cruel but completely outside of the established traditions of the lineage of Soto Zen practice to which all of us thought we had committed ourselves.

Contrary to what is stated, this was not a "carefully charted" course, but a sudden and dramatic upheaval that was brought on by a political and institutional realignment, a unilateral action to which all student/disciples were required to submit or leave under the penalty of exclusion and shunning. And contrary to what has been explained, this was not the result of spiritual awakening in my view, but rather the overwhelming desire for institutional recognition from the Buddhist establishment in the East.

In a meeting with Jiyu Kennett in which she was giving explanation it was clear that she most wanted institutional recognition for her teaching authority and for Shasta Abbey. This recognition had not been forthcoming from the Japanese authorities, but it was being offered from the Malaysian line of her ordination master, which made her overjoyed. But the conditions were that married priests were dispensable, and would have to divorce or renounce their priesthood and teaching authority. The other big requirement was that monks had to be subject to the rules of the vinaya. She was apologetic about this since admittedly some of the rules of the monastic vinaya were clearly misogynistic and sexist. She admitted that some in the monastery were not happy about this. She was ecstatic that as a woman she would now have standing in the Buddhist world, and made the revelatory statement in my presence, " The whole Buddhist world is watching." And it become clear to me that this was a seismic change being imposed from the top at huge human and spiritual cost. The message was clear as well. Comply or leave. And if you leave, you leave in disgrace, and your leaving is seen as an act of betrayal and a failure of your practice and spiritual attainment. All of this was the consequence of a flawed human being's decisions based on a deep sense of inadequacy and a history of rejection and invalidation because of her gender.

So in effect what we witnessed and participated in was not a growthful evolution of a community into a particular spiritual stance about celibacy, but the unilateral imposition of a uniformity on priests and laity because of the a decision for political realignment with an alien spiritual lineage and tradition outside of what nearly all student/disciples thought they were in alignment with. It was a command decision taken by one person without any regard for the huge and destructive consequences for all those who had had given their lives in trust to that point. It was a political decision taken for unworthy motives without regard for the entire community affected and the sacredness of already vowed relationships of both marriage and ordination. It is a decision that resonates to the present day in the continued practices of shunning, exclusion, and intolerance for diversity of understanding.

In 16 year period of my tenure in the Shasta Abbey sangha we saw a change from a vision and teaching of a diverse and rich community where differences were seen as normal and enriching, and where the goal of the spiritual life was spiritual adulthood, responsibility, and empowerment, to the establishment of an idiosyncratic religious order structure, a structure alien to the tradition of origin, and subject to the will of an individual, where the goal is uniformity and dependence. I submit that like the Roman Catholic Church, the imposition of the celibacy rule, even as a retroactive action, on married clergy, even those who were already "graduated" from the so-called seminary and living independently, was a political act of control to appease the Malaysian authorities and to enforce personal authority, and not an act of spiritual guidance.

My words here are not an attack on Jiyu Kennett but an advocacy that all of us hold spiritual teachers as human beings and not more than they are,and to grow to the potential to stand on our own two feet in this life, to hold ourselves and others accountable. To this day I love her and all that she gifted me with, and in paradoxical ways her tragic flaws and mistakes gifted me as much, if not more, than her strengths. Her teaching of the early days helped me prepare to receive and grow from the pain of her mistakes in later days.

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak the truth of my experience . I think I don't have more to say on this forum. I hope that my reflections have been of some merit with those who have left the OBC or those who remain in affiliation. Thank you for the opportunity to speak where I had no opportunity some 23 years ago.

Blessings,
Bill Ryan
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Wed Aug 25, 2010 9:12 pm

cmpnwtr wrote:
. . . So in effect what we witnessed and participated in was not a growthful evolution of a community into a particular spiritual stance about celibacy, but the unilateral imposition of a uniformity on priests and laity because of the a decision for political realignment with an alien spiritual lineage and tradition outside of what nearly all student/disciples thought they were in alignment with. It was a command decision taken by one person without any regard for the huge and destructive consequences for all those who had had given their lives in trust to that point. It was a political decision taken for unworthy motives without regard for the entire community affected and the sacredness of already vowed relationships of both marriage and ordination. It is a decision that resonates to the present day in the continued practices of shunning, exclusion, and intolerance for diversity of understanding. . . .

I wish someone within the OBC was able to address these points. I understand that the OBC's rules and belief system prohibit members from criticizing Rev. Kennett, and that those who do so risk excommunication. But is there no possibility of finding the right speech to talk about what happened to people as a result of her actions?

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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Thu Aug 26, 2010 12:43 am

Lise,
It will be a difficult task, given the very high level of opinionatedness in the posts that have followed my last one in this thread. I am going to work on it, however.

For what it's worth, in the meantime, just a few simple facts:
There has never been any petition circulated within the OBC to suggest that Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett is "the Buddha of the West."

There is no procedure for excommunication in the rules of the OBC. Excommunication is practiced in Catholicism, but I've never heard of it being practiced in Buddhism.

RMJK often said of herself: "I never said I was a saint."

No one in the OBC is prohibited from criticizing RMJK. It would be accurate to say that there is a collective awareness that she did some things which, in retrospect, probably could have been done better, or could have been done another way. In other words, she was a human being and made mistakes, had successes and failures like everyone else. What I personally witnessed was that she admitted as much from time to time.

I've not been witness to any attempt to deify my Master.

So now, this is my view point right at the moment:
The inherent difficulty in all these communications is that using Right Speech means that we are willing to put down our opinionatedness and just look for the truth. But different people can look at the same event, or recall the same event, and have completely different interpretations and recollections of what happened. Thus, there is no absolute truth, absolute Right Speech, right interpretation, or anything like that. People often just want to be "right" about things, and have you admit that you are "wrong".

To harmoniously work towards an agreeable resolution of past difficulties would be the ideal, and I'm always willing to participate in such an effort; I do not represent the OBC in an official capacity, other than just being a senior monk and master of the order. I was witness to some things and not to others. As I said upon joining, if I can shed a little light I will do so, if I can bring a little positivity to this forum, I'll do it.

With loving kindness and best wishes to all,
Rev. Seikai

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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Thu Aug 26, 2010 10:24 am

Rev. Seikai, thank you for responding. While reading your post I was thinking that you've become a lightning rod, more or less, for so much of the energy around these issues. To some extent that may be unavoidable, but nonetheless it's not a great position to put you in and many of us realize it. (I don't know if you will receive less voltage, regardless.)

Thank you for clarifying the issue of excommunication. I had heard from a senior Shasta monk that to discuss any fault in Jiyu-Kennett's behavior or teachings is the same as defaming the sangha, and this constituted deliberately breaking one of the grave precepts, for which a person could be "excluded". It's interesting to see that monks hold different views on this.

Regarding how and when Rev. Kennett changed her mind on celibacy, I agree people can have different recollections and experiences, such that each one's "truth" is valid for them even if it doesn't match up to another person's view.

What about the shunning? It seems to me the facts support a common understanding at least as to this point. People who did not agree to break their marriage or ordination vows were cast out and cut off from contact with the community. They have said this was devastating to them, causing pain that has continued for 20-something years. Can you, or someone else in the OBC, speak to this at all?

You've mentioned the goal of working harmoniously toward a resolution of past difficulties. From what I read on this forum, many people share that view and would love to see it come about. The very first steps need to be taken, however.

When I think about this issue, I don't focus on Rev. Kennett's human mistakes or how she could have handled her decisions differently or better. I think of those who were harmed. Leaving aside the rightness or wrongness of Kennett's intent, her actions caused great suffering and the harm has not been redressed in any way. The OBC owes these people an apology.

Do you (or anyone in the OBC who's reading this) feel it may be possible to take that first step?




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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Thu Aug 26, 2010 11:55 pm

Lise said:
"I understand that the OBC's rules and belief system prohibit members from criticizing Rev. Kennett, and that those who do so risk excommunication."

I would like to know the circumstances under which the "senior Shasta monk" said this to you. Was he or she saying that criticizing RM Jiyu was breaking the precept against defaming the Sangha? Did he mean just her or any master or any senior monk?

Koshin once delivered a talk on the need for absolute faith in the master, even if his teachings or behavior seemed wrong. I was puzzled by this and now wonder if this was OBC "doctrine" or if he was just going off on his own in his teachings.

Thank you, Rev. Seikai for joining this forum. This is the first time in nearly 20 years that I have heard (or I guess "read" is more correct) a discussion between a monk and lay people and non-believers that was honest and open and frank. I truly appreciate your being on the forum.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Fri Aug 27, 2010 5:34 am

Laura wrote:
Hi Anne,

I must admit that I feel quite a bit out of my depth in joining this conversation. But I can tell you, as someone who left the OBC only 3 years ago, that the former abbot, Rev. Eko Little, did continue to teach RM Jiyu's view that the first kensho constituted stream entry and the third constituted attainment of the arhat stage. This teaching was not referred to often, as there was not a strong emphasis on calculating stages of enlightenment. The emphasis was much more focused on just the ongoing daily practice and training. I was, however, quite surprised to hear that this description of the stages might be inaccurate. I had so thoroughly assimilated it that I never thought to question it.

Many thanks, Laura, for this information. Please excuse my tardy reply. I have put further information on another thread: "Correlations between Supramundane Paths".
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