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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

First topic message reminder :

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    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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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Fri Aug 27, 2010 10:21 am

violet wrote:
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? . . .

hi Violet -- the comment came up during a spiritual counseling session and was in reference to Rev. Kennett's teaching & actions specifically; the monk didn't say whether he thought the prohibition applied to other seniors' teaching as well. As I understood him, to question or criticize her was the same thing as defaming the sangha, and he referred to this as "deliberately breaking one of the grave precepts". I no longer have OBC reading material so I'm not clear on which "grave precept" he was talking about specifically, or if it is different from the general "refrain from criticizing the faults of others".

My impression from hearing other Abbey monks talk is that they do correct each other or at least question things they're hearing that aren't doctrinally sound. I often heard lay people say, in a dharma discussion "but Rev. So-and-So told us something different yesterday when we asked about (whatever it was) . . . " And then the monk leading the discussion would say "Well, I'll go talk to him/her and ask about that, because it's not my understanding of how that works", etc. There didn't seem to be any stress around the idea of senior monks questioning each other.

I was glad to hear from Rev. Seikai that questioning and criticism of Kennett are not "punished", so to speak, by a severance from the community. There is such a thing as exclusion in the OBC rules, but I'm not sure how that differs technically from the concept of excommunication.

Edited to add: Exclusion could make an interesting thread on its own-- I'll copy this over to it.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Fri Aug 27, 2010 11:58 pm

The questions on my plate are piling up, and I hope I can answer the most important ones in due time. I might be able to cast a little light on the following:

With regards to being or feeling excluded:
The translation of the Scripture of Brahma's Net, which is used for the twice-monthly Renewal of Vows ceremony, contains explanations of the 10 Precepts which are taken in Mahayana Buddhism, sometimes referred to as the 10 Grave Precepts, as distinct from the 48 Less Grave Precepts, which are also taken.

At the end of the commentary on each of the precepts, there is the injunction: "...if you (violate this precept) you are a Bodhisattva who is committing a serious offense, warranting exclusion." It is possible that people have taken the words "warranting exclusion" too literally. Generally speaking, they refer to some kind of fairly mild sanction against the person who commits the offense, such as walking at the back of a line of monks who are on an alms round. I can remember RMJK explaining that, traditionally, if a monk was someone who, let's say, gossipped a lot and spoke against others, other monks wouldn't want to sit next to them, etc. These things were always done as a way of communicating a sense of shame to the person (which is different from guilt), i.e. that they needed to shape up; the second half of the practice was that once a person confessed that they had done something which in some way broke the Precepts or had unfortunate consequences, usually in the context of the Pratimoksha (Precepts renewing) ceremony, that the matter would then be forgotten about.

So, it is entirely possible that a monk might very well have explained that speaking ill of Rev. Master Jiyu, i.e. breaking the 10th Precept on defaming the Three Treasures of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, was "a serious offense, warranting exclusion", i.e. that the person who did the defaming would be "shunned" in some capacity. But, if someone were to explain the precepts in this way, they should also include the equally important second half of the equation, which is that once a person realizes their mistake and expresses penitence or regret, and renews their vow to keep the precept(s), all is forgiven.

My personal experience with RMJK, as I wrote in a previous post, was that if I made a mistake in training (which, of course, happened), as soon as I expressed regret in mild words to her, she immediately responded favorably and did everything she could to help me. So to me, she exhibited how this process actually works in the context of monastic training. I would imagine that it works in some modified form for lay training, wherein a lay trainee would seek spiritual counseling with a monk with whom they had a relationship of trust.

I don't think that the injunction which includes the turn of phrase "warranting exclusion" has the connotation of being cast into darkness, such as one might derive from a more Judeo-Christian interpretation of sin-guilt-punishment. In Buddhism, there isn't actually a concept of guilt; guilt is largely a product of the religious paradigm of the Western world, and so we tend to bring it with us into Buddhism. (I suffered from it terribly). In Buddhism there is always the recognition that we can repent of our wrong-doing and go with a clean slate. And guilt, as a vexation of the mind, can be offered up and cleansed by not believing in its validity. There is no "original sin", and thus no need to carry a load of guilt about being in some sort of fallen state from which you need redemption. There are simply actions and consequences.

To conclude, exclusion, as explained above, is quite distinct from the idea of excommunication, which literally meant "to be cut off from God." No one, of course, can do that to another human being, and if they think they can, heaven help them.


Regarding the "infallibility" of a Zen Master:
The confusion here might derive from a passage from Dogen, who says, "If you meet a Zen Master who teaches the truth, do not consider his caste, appearance, shortcomings or behavior.....but bow before him out of respect," etc.

Here again, there might be confusion resulting from a too literal interpretation of Dogen's words (it is, after all, a translation to begin with). RMJK did not teach us to hand over our lives to her out of blind faith, she taught us to grow up to be spiritual adults, who take full responsibility for our own actions and behaviors. This includes Zen Masters. She wrote an article expressing her views on the matter, entitled Perfect Faith, attempting to explain how the delicate dance between a master and a trainee actually works.

I personally have never subscribed to a notion that any Zen Master is infallible or beyond culpability. It isn't what I was taught, and as far as I'm concerned, as long as we are all in human form, we might as well accept that we aren't perfect, we make mistakes, and take the consequences. That is what the Law of Karma teaches. We take the Precepts so that we have an ideal to live by and can minimize the damage we do. And, within the constraints of being human, we can also purify our intentions and our hearts to the point where we know for ourselves the very deep freedom and joy of living by the Precepts, or put another way, we can know the "immaculacy of nothingness" or the Buddha Nature.

We've strayed some distance from the topic of celibacy here, so there might be something to be said for finding a thread better suited to the topic, or of starting a new one. I'll go wherever it's appropriate.
Respectfully submitted, Rev. Seikai
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sat Aug 28, 2010 9:22 am

Thank you, Rev. Seikai, I think the admins will be creating a follow-on thread and moving your last comment, and mine, to a new home.

Corrected to say, there is a new thread titled "Exclusion" under the category "In Theory and Practice", to which the post will be moved.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sat Aug 28, 2010 2:54 pm

Why can't Celibacy be an option rather than a rule?
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sat Aug 28, 2010 3:09 pm

Another thought has just followed the last one as it so often does, Rev. Master Eko and Rev. Master Raymond both had around thirty or forty years training and experience between them and that is lost to both the Monastic Sangha and the Lay Sangha now. Celibacy does not seem to follow a Middle Way to me.
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PostSubject: ecclesiastical polity and celibacy   Sun Aug 29, 2010 8:26 pm

Thank you, Bill et al. for your thoughtful discussions

Some of my memories are lost in time and others are colored by the emotions associated with grief. Many important communications related to my recollections of the evolution of the changes in the OBC were not the public pronouncements but were private communications and some were secretive discussions or letters.
I seem to remember Roshi saying in private, while we were still single, that while she thought Kyogen and I were the perfect couple, she could not say so in public because there were "others" in the community who would be upset. The implication at the time was that there were members of the community attracted to someone else who might take our relationship as a green light to pursue that someone. It was uncomfortable to sit through a lecture at UCBerkeley in which she then went on at some length about celibacy, absolute purity, and higher states of consciousness to a group of shocked college students.
After we were married, and running the temple in Oregon, we were extolled in public as the prime example of how temple priests should be, and were invited back to the Abbey often but we chose to do so often singly so as to keep the temple in Oregon running. In the fall of 1985 we started getting private messages from various friends at the Abbey (Koshin, Hogetsu, Daizui, et al) that behind closed doors in Roshi's house the tide of opinion about us was changing. Part of this opinion was that celibacy was becoming a hot topic and the success we were having in strengthening to two temples in Oregon made it hard to ignore us. Daizui at this time was sending letters and articles, explaining what he was seeing, but requesting that his letters be burned after reading. The articles he sent were largely from psychological journals. One was about "group think" another about the evolution of an organization from strong founder through the next generations. These letters and articles helped to prepare us to some degree for the attacks that started during December of 1985 and continued unabated until sometime after our resignation from the Order. There was another letter that Kyogen doesn't remember, which leaves me to wonder if my memory is faulty. In this letter, Daizui was regretting that the celibacy issue was getting so much air time. He and Eko had traveled to Malasia together and had the same meetings with the monks there.
Daizui's impression was that they were delighted to have American cousins and were not concerned that we trained under different rules and expectations. So if my memory holds, Bill's statement:


Quote :
was a political act of control to appease the Malaysian authorities and to enforce personal authority, and not an act of spiritual guidance.

is doubly sad, because it was a political decision and an unnecessary one even in the political arena.

respectfully submitted,
Gyokuko
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Wed Oct 13, 2010 7:14 am

On 11th August, I wrote on this thread:

“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 [sic] 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.”


Well, folks, it looks like the “honest mistake” may have been mine. I have posted further details today on In Theory and Practice/Correlations between Supramundane Paths.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Fri Nov 05, 2010 7:22 pm

I really have no problem with Celibacy. My feeling is that if I wanted to become a monk, it's one of the rules of the OBC and that's that.

The problem I do have is when both sides of the fence are played, and rather than just being honest and saying, "I've fallen in love and I can no longer be a monk", a less honourable route is chosen. That ignoble route is what really hurts everyone.

Regards,
Ian
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Tue Dec 28, 2010 10:32 am

I just wanted to say that I think that two of Mark's points made somewhere on this forum are important, I believe. The first is that I agree that having both sexes train in a monastery together is one of the more commendable and unique practices of Shasta Abbey in the Buddhist monastic world. However, it is also inevitable, as Mark said in one post, that some men and women might fall in love while training together. I think that the institutional shunning of these individuals is unnecessary and harmful.

I don't believe it is helpful to label these people as "deluded" or to behave in a way that suggests they've done something wrong, is a manifestation of bodhicitta. Quite the contrary.

Since most people in the West who are deeply interested in Buddhism are, in fact, NOT interested in monastacism or celibacy, it would be a good idea for the OBC to make more of an effort to welcome the fourfold sangha into the decision-making process and to validate the lay model of Buddhist practice, in my view. Again, the vast majority of individuals providing most of the financial and work to Dharma centers is the West is being done by the lay sangha. To ignore these individuals or to dismiss them as not being "devoted enough" doesn't seem wise.

It is an entirely different topic to discuss the issue of a Buddhist Abbott or Teacher of the Dharma having relations with a student. I believe the current rules of conduct established by the teachers of Insight Meditation Society as described by Jack Kornfield in his book provide a balanced set of guidelines for lay Buddhist teachers, which could be adopted by any Buddhist institution.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sun Feb 06, 2011 4:23 pm

I think there were a lot of the things said or taught by the OBC monks that created the same stigmas that other conventional religions often guilty of.
Take sex for example. I distinctly remember in the early '90's sitting at a dharma talk and being told that it is "stealing from the tressure house." ... and that there is only so much in a bucket and when you engage in sex, it's taking away from "it."
Being ernest in my intentions and yearnings to be a good Buddhist, this provided a fair amount conflict with my raging 20 something hormones at the time.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sun Feb 06, 2011 5:29 pm

What peculiar statements 'stealing from the treasure house, and only so much in the bucket'
I am a bit staggard to read this
Religious institutions have to be very careful when,telling other people how to live their lives,because I think talks or instructions like this can really screw people up
Interesting June there is a famous Benedictine Abbey here in the UK where 4 monks are under investigation,by the police for sexual activity with a minor. The Abbey runs a boys school, the incidents happened a few years ago.
It is very difficult for a religious order to give good advice on sexuality when they know very little about it,or possible have had bad experiences with it.
Sexuality is always a strong aspect in peoples lives,it can not be ignored,and has to be very well understood before being discussed or advice given. Then there are all the separate issues such as sexual abuse ,which has to be handled with great care and experience too,preferably by same sex people. these are very raw and tender issues 'Only so much in the bucket' does not show any understanding of human beings at all for me
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sun Feb 06, 2011 7:39 pm

It was actually Koshen who said it. And from all accounts, including mine, his monastery and views are extreme. I paid a short visit to NCBP a few years ago and it felt like a trip from the movie Apocalypse Now... It was eerie, he is eerie, and not some place I would ever go back to.
I just regret getting involved with the OBC at such a young age period... and feel a need to warn others.
After breaking ties with the OBC, I've come to reevaluate a number of erroneous spiritual ideas, including ones about sex, that I learned from them. It's been both an angering and liberating experience, to say the least.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sun Feb 06, 2011 11:09 pm

It's not just you or the NCBP, June. I was told almost the exact same thing at the Abbey. The whole organization is anti-relationship and anti-family. They equate it with "attachments" and "desire" and "craving." They say it's harmful. Good for you for taking a stand. It's all very disgusting and sad to me now.
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PostSubject: sex, relationships, and so on   Sun Feb 06, 2011 11:37 pm

Couldn't agree with you more Diana!
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Mon Feb 07, 2011 2:02 am

This is one of those posts that hits my stomach a bit. I always have a very big question mark when someone tells someone else how to live. Surely the whole Buddhist thing is to be a light unto oneself.This does not mean we do not seek guidance,of course we do,we take guildance and refuge, but to be told what to do with undertones of control,is not it for me. One of the nice things about the temple I was at in Japan was the Abbots younger brother had built a kinder garden school, in the temple grounds. It was lovely to see all the kids walking up and down from the school in their crocodile (2x2) formation,with their yellow hats and backpacks. We were part of every ones society. They all took comfort from seeing the monks it was a 2 way thing,
Basically when someone tries to control someone else , it is a very insecure thing to do and shows incredible lack of awareness ,compassion and understanding.
June have you writen anywhere else about Your experiences and objections? Could you point me to them please if you have? I am interested in hearing about North Cascades,which seems quite horrible
Diana we have not heard from you for a bit you do have very good points to make you know,sometimes it feels like the forun has run out of steam,or it is time to move on,and then there is a post which stimulates considerable thought like this, your view throws a good perspective
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Mon Feb 07, 2011 2:54 am

Chisan--I have, but don't know how to ref. them. So Lise forgive me for going off topic on this chain. I'll try to be brief.
In a nutshell:
Came to the OBC in my early 20's. After about a year had some experiences spiritual in nature. Was told by the two monks that I had a calling to be a monk. Was also told by both of them that if I didn't heed this calling I wouldn't be happy. Exact words were by one was, "Don't put it off... you'll regret it... if you ignore it and have a family your children will sense it... you may resent them... blah blah blah. Also told by a third monk that some people are meant to be single and I was one of them, and that I should practice being happy and single...
While I do believe I have a strong inclination toward contemplation and finding peace... all this other directive advice left me utterly confused... In essence, they were scaring me with the consequences of not becoming a monk... unhappiness, resentment, emotionally neglected children, etc. Not to mention we would listen to lectures by RMJ that repeatedly said householders and those in relationships "could only go so far."
Being pretty naive and in my early 20's... well that's pretty heavy stuff.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Mon Feb 07, 2011 3:02 am

RE: NCBP
I don't have any specific bad experiences to recount from my short time there. I don't like the unfriendly isolated nature of the place. Their sole focus and obsession is on on past life memories and converting that karma. It's a very unbalanced practice and view of Buddhism, in my opinion. You can check out the dharma talks on their website and hear for yourself. The last several are about How to Grow a Lotus Blossom.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Mon Feb 07, 2011 3:23 am

Thanks for telling me.There is so much I do not know about how things went at Shatsa. Since posting my post above yours I have been thinking about it all the time. It sounds so cold and heartless and constipated.One of my put offs of western Buddhism is the incredible desire of the heiraechy to be seen as teachers,to tell people off, or tell them how to sit or how to live. Unfortunately when one starts ones spiritual journey one is naturally receptive,and trusting, which is a beautiful place to be in,but also a easy place to be manipulated.
Josh is vey easily misunderstood,as he has seen the far end of personal abuse that religios systems have caused, I keep out the wy now so I do not see them,but I have seen people sexually abused by teachers, one poor guy thought it was an initiation.The subtleties of mental manipulation are harder to see sometimes,and imparting ones own views is omly proof of lack of any understanding,a bigger problem is when group think sets in and every body toes the party line.I was well impressed with Howards introduction when he straight away apologises for any shunning that took place while he was at the Abbey.
Shunning is or was a huge part of controlling the minds of those remaining at the Abbey.I get angry still when I remember being told Gensho had jumped into bed with the devil,or there was something wrong with Mark.

You know I do not know exactly why Eko left,there was some sort of relationship , it blows apart the whole thing about arhat kensho and once returner stuff, after 40 years of being a monk, and being able to tell that the Abbott of Sojiji did not have a kemsho , he finds out he is a human being after all, well good for him,maybe this is where his practice starts, within his own humanity.
Tenderness,warmth ,laughter, compassion, friendships, equality,love,learning, getting it wrong,laughing at oneself,letting go of one own stupid ways,I think that is called life I quite like the sound of that
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Mon Feb 07, 2011 3:52 am

I got a crossed post with you,and you see again and you tell me of these obsession with past life memories and converting karma.
For me zen Buddhism is about now,zazen allows us to experience NOW there is no other experience other than mind made experiences,or relative experiences,these relative experiences can be helpful with this and that, but relative means relative,dualistic.Now is here, there are varying depths of experiencing now,and of these deepest experiences I can not talk.Teachers with incredible experience of sitting zazen,or meditation can help and guide, this path is difficult and is nothing to do with personal obsession,knowledge or relative visions.Manipulating,Pointing out other peoples egos,or telling people not to have sex is a bit dark ages for me I am afraid.I think these fraught people need to sit down and have a beer,relax a bit , be human for a minute, who knows June they might like it
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Mon Feb 07, 2011 3:30 pm

sorry in post 2 up I said

I have seen people sexually abused by teachers
I meant to say

I have seen people who have been sexually abused by teachers

Thanks and apologies
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Mon Feb 07, 2011 8:08 pm

June99 wrote:

Came to the OBC in my early 20's. After about a year had some experiences spiritual in nature. Was told by the two monks that I had a calling to be a monk. Was also told by both of them that if I didn't heed this calling I wouldn't be happy. Exact words were by one was, "Don't put it off... you'll regret it... if you ignore it and have a family your children will sense it... you may resent them... blah blah blah. Also told by a third monk that some people are meant to be single and I was one of them, and that I should practice being happy and single...

Yes, these were commonly held beliefs at Shasta Abbey while I was there in the 70s-80s. Many monks rather simplistically believed that what was true for them must be true for everyone. It was a symptom of being a very young community with only RMJK as a senior point of reference. Many of us officially became teachers while still very young and inexperienced. A lot of it seems quite wild and irresponsible to me now. I hope you've been able to sort through the confusing messages and figure out what's best for you.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Tue Feb 08, 2011 1:49 am

Good and honest answer Isan,
I would be very interested to know, if know having put down what seemed an important part of your life,if you feel you understand your practice more now or less now

And second question is would you be able to answer the sex question any better now

Quite personal but I would appreciate an answer
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Tue Feb 08, 2011 11:43 am

chisanmichaelhughes wrote:
Good and honest answer Isan,
I would be very interested to know, if know having put down what seemed an important part of your life,if you feel you understand your practice more now or less now

And second question is would you be able to answer the sex question any better now

Quite personal but I would appreciate an answer

No problem. Practicing celibacy for a time was really good for me. I was in my mid twenties and benefited from learning impulse control and shifting my focus to matters of the heart. There were times when I needed the emotional privacy that celibacy makes possible to experience certain spiritual openings. After about six years though I came to feel that celibacy was not right as a life long practice. I wanted to actually experience sex as part of a committed relationship and spiritual practice, instead of seeing it as an obstacle that needed to be constantly suppressed and redirected. I had been raised Roman Catholic and internalized strong negative messages about sex. That combined with the messages at Shasta Abbey constituted a lot of baggage. It took years to let go of all that, but now I'm married and have what I feel is a pretty good relationship. Sex is a normal and relatively small part of it and isn't such a big deal anymore. I expect that being older helps too.

In terms of spiritual practice I don't think you can get beyond sex until you really understand it's normal and put it in a healthy context. Then you can begin to forget about it. Trying to suppress it with meditation doesn't work. It's quite possible that there's a point in spiritual practice where the need for sex just falls away, but I don't believe you arrive there if you hold negative beliefs about sex. To say "you can only go so far if you are sexually active" may ultimately be true, but it's a very unhelpful way to express that truth. It implies that sex is bad and must be given up at the beginning of the journey when in fact the opposite is true; sex in the context of love IS the journey. Of course each person has to figure this out for themselves. It may be that for some people life long celibacy is a good practice, but from everything I've heard it seems like those folks are in the minority.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Tue Feb 08, 2011 12:10 pm

that goes with my view that , by stepping back one understands more.

I feel you would be better now, at giving advise, than you were then,simply because you have a more rounded experienced view based on experience of normal life.

This stepping back we have done when we leave a meditative place is I feel quite vital. I think that a teacher can throw one or two things at us I certainly got that with Ikko roshi,and they take a long time to filter through, to naturally work out. Some koans sit deep and i do not think can be turned off. One either accepts the answer,or ignores it

I believe wisdom naturally matures usually without realising it. i feel you personally want to be positive about the discord with Shasta and good for you too as it is the right way. I hope you use your wisdom at mending bridges and healing wounds
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Tue Feb 08, 2011 1:34 pm

I would agree with Isan, that sex is just an "and other" in my life, not a big deal. When I broke ties with the OBC all of the conflicts about sex, relationships, spiritual progress dissipated. I feel more relaxed and at peace now than I ever did before. Also, I would add that when I expressed doubts about wanting to become a monk I was questioned and challenged by the prior. He asked my why not and I said that I saw a teacher berating his student, an accomplished woman in her 40's, about not counting the correct number of lay guests and I don't want that to happen to me. I also said I didn't want to give up everything job, education, comforts, my hair, etc.
His response was that sometimes some students need more of a heavy hand and that I was probably fearful because my mother was also hard on me--which actually wasn't true. And, that I wasn't really losing or giving up anything. Again, an example of monks seeing things through only their perspective. I hope Rev. Meian addresses the problem of biased and over zealous guidance in her order.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Tue Feb 08, 2011 1:58 pm

June
I once new a Catholic nun, she had come to a Zen retreat I was running so she must have been pretty open, anyway she had rather good take on being an ordained celibate or a married lay person. She said in response to a lay person saying there was a big difference between an ordained Catholic celibate and married lay folk: 'Oh no, not really. Someone who is ordained learns to how to love all people through a commitment to loving one,God; whilst a married lay person learns to how love God, and hence all people, through a commitment to loving one, their partner.' 'Same in Buddhism' I commented, 'Just no God!'. In any case I think the underlying sentiment is great and true.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Tue Feb 08, 2011 6:02 pm

Was that Sister Maureen Mark?
If so she is down here now and doing Hospice care ...wonderful lady
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Wed Feb 09, 2011 8:35 pm

Mike
Forty years ago and I'm afraid that I can't remember the nuns's name only vague recollections of the retreat itself and her reply to the question.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Thu Feb 10, 2011 2:57 am

Ther were a few catholic reigious at thet time Mark that I remember. I will remind you of a couple.
Firstly Father Conrad I dropped in to see him after you left Shasta, to tell him of your leaving,as I know you were fond of him...not sure if you knew that

Then there was the nun Dominican I think who lived in Ladbroke Grove, our young Chinese friend, was going to commit suicide he also lived in Ladbroke Grove. The amazing story unfolded very fast at the lad phoned Bill Picard in Cornwall,as he met Bill at Tathata Centre. The nun had in the past befriended Bill,after going on a retreat at Spode,Quick thinking Bill phoned the nun,who rushed round and talked the lad out of it,she was a star performer
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sun Oct 09, 2011 5:09 pm

I have a question for those ordained priests at OBC who were married. I assume most of you met your partner at the monastery, developed a relationship with your future spouse over time, and decided to enter into marriage. That process in itself seems an interesting one in the context of monastic training. I suppose that developing a relationship includes some period of recognizing a fondness, communicating and admitting to a mutual trust and respect to pursue that style of relationship which might include some kind of "courtship".

How does one differentiate the arising/falling of a phenomenal psycho/emotional connection, versus recognizing something most significant and meaningful is happening? How does such a courtship occur? And what was it like to either share or confine your developing relationship with those around you, incld RMJK ? I am having difficulty envisioning how a relationship profound enough to become marriage occurs while two people are earnestly on an individual path that for most traditional intents suggests you should transcend "beyond" that. (and apologies for any insinuation that marriage isn't an appropriate and perfect companion to training. I am, for one, very fortunate to be in a marriage for 31 years)

So, I'd very much appreciate some personal insight to this.


On a slightly different tract, but still having to do with a matter of sexuality and training...
living in Salt Lake City, it is unfortunate to see the Kanzeon Center and the adjacent resident building up for sale. Genpo Merzel's sexual prowess and infidelity to his wives is upsetting. But his ego is perhaps the bigger problem. I think it's true that without the financial support that Genpo Merzel's special programs brought in, the Center can't sustain itself. (I always marveled at Shasta Abbey's very modest fee structure for training as compared to what goes on in the rest of the USA) Thus, we see a downsizing and renaming of Genpo's movement (BigMind, BigHeart ...whatever that will mean) and a re-creation of new groups along Soto Zen lines. If you look at the Big Mind website, you'll see that workshops continue from now through November 2012. And, a splinter group, the Boulder Mountain Zendo with locations in Salt Lake and Boulder, Utah are examples, of some attempt at continuity. One of it's two leaders, Diane Musho Hamilton sensei, had been conducting some of the BigMind seminars; but it purports to be affiliated with ZCLA, so it's going to be interesting to see if it maintains ties with ZCLA and a slightly more traditional Soto Zen.

I think one of the problematic threads we are seeing in the USA is the allure of celebrity and the granted-power connected with it. The manifested transgressions are usually abuse of sex and/or misuse of money. (Hey, sounds like same problems with leaders of government.) It converts Genpo's ideas of "Big Mind" into Genpo's problem of a "Big Head". Turning training into a "big money maker", charging exorbitant fees that offer streamlined awakening (which implies that only the wealthiest of persons can indulge), is a prescription to self-aggrandizement and the erosion of a foundation in buddhist training and maintaining the Precepts. Just like Richard Baker developing the need to eat at great restaurants, have girlfriends, and drive an expensive BMW, because he's living in more rarified air and keeping up with the "Jones". (that's something we didn't see RMJK do......start spending the OBC's money lavishly or manipulate disciples into sexual relationships.)

Perhaps we should call Genpo's program a new school of Zen: Genpo-Zen (well, he has renamed his Zen......BigMind Zen.) Soto-Zen Rinzai-Zen Obaku-Zen and Genpo-Zen.

And, I suppose that many critiques I've read in the e-posts regarding RMJK, particularly the unfolding of events from 1976 to her death might tag another school of Zen.... Jiyu-Zen. Some of it's characteristics seem very unique to OBC. One cannot find parallels in other Zen centers.

Personally, when I was following teachings coming out of Shasta Abbey from 76-87, I paid a great deal of attention to the earlier RMJK work, in the voluminous audio library SA offered on topics, such as Dogen's Shobogenzo, et al. I learned a great deal and was/am very appreciative. I must have purchased practically everything. Unfortunately, I never did have/take the opportunity to be a direct part of the OBC sangha and my small efforts to start a satellite group in Utah did not prevail. Over time, particularly after the emergence and incorporation of the content of Lotus Blossom and other works; I saw myself seeking refuge in her disciples (f.x. Journal), feeling that the content of her new work was well beyond my comprehension and interest. I saw all of you, the ordained priests and trainees more grounded. You spoke in unique, personalized language when writing about the state of your own training.

But, it truly was beginning to look like her own school of Zen. And maybe being so distant gives me a unique objectivity. And it was when I began to see a trend for priest/trainee writings in the mid-80s to show similar, repeated phrasing and terminology that I feared the group was beginning to evolve into a mimicry of the Reverend Master. As a small example, "the still small voice". That term wasn't used early on, and then it blossomed, and began to appear in writings by many of you. Now, was that a wonderful term that just seemed to ring as a familiar truth simultaneously with all of you, including laypersons? or was it part of a vernacular that you felt would speak towards RMJK's expectations? I suppose, in truth it was a little of both.

I am new to the OBC Connect forum. I found myself scouring it's contents for hours and hours. Very upsetting at times (you don't know how many times I wanted to tell a few of you to just
shut up, grow up and get on with living) But my deeper self prevails. There is validity in what concerns most of you engaged in this forum....and frankly you know it 1000-times or a million times better than I do.

Most of you don't know me, don't remember me. And why would you? Some of you may remember the beautiful stained-glass Wheel of Dharma that my wife created and we donated to the Abbey when we were there for one of my infant's naming ceremonies in the early 80s.
Well, nevertheless, I did consider myself a lay trainee of the OBC and very much appreciated everything that you all offered in the way of teaching.

Kindest regards and best wishes to all of you...
Richard

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Isan
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Mon Oct 10, 2011 6:00 pm

RichardSLC wrote:
I have a question for those ordained priests at OBC who were married. I assume most of you met your partner at the monastery, developed a relationship with your future spouse over time, and decided to enter into marriage. That process in itself seems an interesting one in the context of monastic training. I suppose that developing a relationship includes some period of recognizing a fondness, communicating and admitting to a mutual trust and respect to pursue that style of relationship which might include some kind of "courtship".

Hello Richard,
It was possible for people at Shasta Abbey to form relationships/marriages during the first few years after the community was formed. I arrived in 1971 and I'd say this was accepted until 74/75. Initially Jiyu Kennett supported this and the community was still loosely structured which allowed time for people to explore relationships. Gradually JK withdrew her support though as she moved the community toward a more classic monastic model. Eventually, as part of the unfolding of the Lotus Blossom experiences she established that monks must be single and celibate, and those married monks who were still at Shasta Abbey were required to separate if they wished to remain.

RichardSLC wrote:
How does one differentiate the arising/falling of a phenomenal psycho/emotional connection, versus recognizing something most significant and meaningful is happening? How does such a courtship occur? And what was it like to either share or confine your developing relationship with those around you, including RMJK? I am having difficulty envisioning how a relationship profound enough to become marriage occurs while two people are earnestly on an individual path that for most traditional intents suggests you should transcend "beyond" that. (and apologies for any insinuation that marriage isn't an appropriate and perfect companion to training. I am, for one, very fortunate to be in a marriage for 31 years)

I would rephrase your fairly complex question as "how do you know when you've met Ms/Mr Right?" :-) The answer there was trial and error as it is everywhere. And yes, if you embrace the notion that you are on an individual path with a goal of going beyond personal relationships then you have effectively withdrawn support for finding a partner. The shift at Shasta Abbey away from "partnering" pretty much put an end to people pursuing partners and to a degree undermined the existing couples since their needs were not supported and their relationships came to be viewed as distractions which contradicted the new paradigm. I could say more about this, but I will give you a chance to respond first to see if we're on the right track.

There is also additional related information in other threads here. I would search on "Dell"or "Kannon Dell", which was the name of the separate community created for married monks with children.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Wed Jan 04, 2012 7:06 pm

"We are all human beings, no one person is superhuman or has some
privileged connection to a hidden domain of consciousness kept just out
of the reach of other normal human beings—no matter their title or
religious esteem (or cultural pedigree for that matter)."
*******************************

It's so simple, and so basic. Why can't we human beings just live our spiritual lives, and create our spiriutal traditions based on this simple truth, that we all know deep inside. As I read this I recall some years ago, accompanied by my younger Tibetan Buddhist sister, I sat on the floor of a very crowded room in Victoria, B.C. at the feet of the elder Kalu Rimpoche. He was treated like a god, instead of a human being. My brother-in-law, a lay teacher, was the translator. What Kalu Rimpoche had to say was interesting, but also simple and unspectacular. I wondered at the time why this shrunken old man was held in such an inappropriate light by those present. Is there something about us that we need to create gurus, hierarchies, saints, and such special people? I have had occasion to know personally and to be associated with a world-renowned Christian contemplative teacher by the name of Thomas Keating. I witnessed people who can barely find 20 minutes a day to sit, but will travel thousands of miles at great expense and troop adoringly behind Abbot Keating. It's like somehow we lack the faith that the temple of our own heart has the Light, that we have to hitch our wagon to someone else who has the real thing, because we don't. Thomas Keating was/is an ordinary guy, with some talents for speaking and writing, but with just as big or greater a burden of baggage and limitations of psyche and soul as the rest of us. We can all do better than these acts of idolatry that lead to so much unneeded suffering, misdirection, and illusion.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Thu Jan 05, 2012 1:02 am

Very well said Bill! (As you wrote):

"It's so simple, and so basic. Why can't we human beings just live our spiritual lives, and create our spiriutal traditions based on this simple truth, that we all know deep inside."

And, of course, we can! It seems to me that the crux of the matter is that we have to give ourselves permission to do so.

The more I reflect on this issue, the more I find myself coming back to the conviction that much of what we discuss on this forum revolves around the issue of reclaiming the innate integrity of our own perception, spiritual practice, and experience.

It seems to me that the essence of this issue boils down to the paradox that we may not be able to perceive our innate integrity until we are able to reclaim it, by giving ourselves permission to do so!
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Thu Jan 05, 2012 1:54 am

Kozan wrote:

The more I reflect on this issue, the more I find myself coming back to the conviction that much of what we discuss on this forum revolves around the issue of reclaiming the innate integrity of our own perception, spiritual practice, and experience.

It seems to me that the essence of this issue boils down to the paradox that we may not be able to perceive our innate integrity until we are able to reclaim it, by giving ourselves permission to do so!

Elegantly and succinctly stated, Kozan. I believe T.S. Elliot said something along those lines about returning where we started and recognizing and reclaiming it fully for the first time.

In the traditions in which I have traveled that truth was there but the people who acculturated me in the tradition didn't practice it, nor know how to teach this foundational trust in our own heart, and instead were continually urging me to reject it, to distrust it. Through the pain of those experiences of separation from what is deepest and truest in myself, I came eventually in midlife to return to this "reclaiming it".

When my daughter was little we taught her to meditate with the simple instructions to learn to listen and to attune herself to her own "secret places." I think she learned that at an earlier age better than I did, and for that reason has always trusted her own inner integrity and measured what others say or teach by the extent to which those utterances, examples, or teachings resonate or not with her own inner integrity and perceptions. She is a remarkably whole person.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Thu Jan 05, 2012 11:38 am

cmpnwtr wrote:

In the traditions in which I have traveled that truth was there but the people who acculturated me in the tradition didn't practice it, nor know how to teach this foundational trust in our own heart, and instead were continually urging me to reject it, to distrust it.

In addition people are sometimes taught they don't deserve it. It can be difficult to challenge and uproot that belief after it has been internalized.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Thu Jan 05, 2012 1:07 pm

Isan wrote:

In addition people are sometimes taught they don't deserve it. It can be difficult to challenge and uproot that belief after it has been internalized.

Well stated, Isan. In the traditions in which I practiced, Zen Buddhism and Roman and Anglo-Catholic mystical Christianity there are conflicting messages, one is, one the one hand, original nature/image of God, Kingdom of Heaven within/Enlightenment, and on the other,and original sin/burden of karma and special attainment.

My point of view is this-whatever metaphor you choose to practice in, the Kingdom of Heaven/Enlightenment is not a meritocracy. There are no special beings. It is pure gift already given. The main simple thing is to awaken and open fully to receive and live it. There is no deserving or undeserving, there is just receiving what is fully offered.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Thu Jan 12, 2012 9:34 pm

Also at work is the mistaken belief that safety lies in numbers. If I am the only one who sees something that feels true, something that comes from my "secret" place (as Bill so eloquently put it),then I might be wrong. But if my whole meditation group or congregation or order or whatever believes something, it gathers weight and seems more "true." We see this bandwagon effect in politics as well as religion.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Fri Jan 13, 2012 12:35 am

Carol wrote:
Also at work is the mistaken belief that safety lies in numbers. If I am the only one who sees something that feels true, something that comes from my "secret" place (as Bill so eloquently put it),then I might be wrong. But if my whole meditation group or congregation or order or whatever believes something, it gathers weight and seems more "true." We see this bandwagon effect in politics as well as religion.
****************************
Ah, therein lies the dilemma, Carol. In the end we are responsible for our spiritual choices. And for me spiritual maturity involves the growing capacity to stand alone and on the sacred ground of what we find and have come to trust through the interiority of our practice, and the capacity for awareness we have cultivated through our grounding in the heart center. That said, spiritual maturity also makes room for a process of spiritual discernment that balances inner insight of the heart with rational analysis of the brain, and making room for and seeking out the perceptions of those individual spiritual friends whose judgment and maturity we have come to value over time and experience in this life. In the Celtic tradition the most important resource for a person is to have an "anam cara" or soul friend (also translated as "dear soul") someone with whom you can speak freely and share your own perceptions and experiences, someone who holds your well-being in highest regard, more than their own judgments and agendas. Processing an important question with such a "soul friend" I find to be an exquisitely beautiful and helpful experience.

I am always leery of any of the kind of groupthink that is present in spiritual communities or other organized groups. Spiritual maturity for me means trusting in our own inner integrity and accepting the consequences of that trust, even and especially when it doesn't turn out as we might have hoped. For me anything else is a false certainty. False certainties are the temptation that charismatic leaders and unhealthy and authoritarian spiritual communities offer.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Fri Jan 13, 2012 6:23 am

Here is what Nyogen Senzaki said before he died:
“Friends in the Dharma, be satisfied with your own heads. Do no put any false heads above your own. Then, minute after minute watch your steps closely. These are my last words to you.”
Crystal-clear instructions but not so easy to follow at times. Sometimes comfort is more enticing, attractive than lucidity, integrity & truth ...

Best wishes to all
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Fri Jan 13, 2012 7:48 pm

Bill said, "Processing an important question with such a "soul friend" I find to be an exquisitely beautiful and helpful experience."

The people that write on OBC Connect serve that role for me. Probably not the same as having a living, breathing "soul friend," but cyber soul friends are a great substitute. So many people write thoughtful comments from many different perspectives. Sometimes things get a little rough, but that makes this forum in many ways the best kind of soul friend. Not much [prohibited word] gets by here.

Lamten - the Buddha taught sort of the same thing and (interestingly enough) so did RMJK. She often said don't take my word for the truth, but test it through your own experience. Unfortunately, for her and some of her disciples, that teaching became perverted into "If you don't understand this, put it on the back burner. Maybe some day when you become enlightened enough, you'll understand."
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Fri Jan 13, 2012 8:54 pm

Carol wrote:

The people that write on OBC Connect serve that role for me. Probably not the same as having a living, breathing "soul friend," but cyber soul friends are a great substitute. So many people write thoughtful comments from many different perspectives.

Lamten - the Buddha taught sort of the same thing and (interestingly enough) so did RMJK. She often said don't take my word for the truth, but test it through your own experience. ."
******************
Indeed, Carol, we find our soul friending where it appears.

Likewise I heard the same instruction from JK, and it confused me that she didn't practice it in her teacher/student relationships. It has helped being here to release from that confusion.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Tue Jan 17, 2012 8:27 am

Carol and Bill,

The later teaching of Rev. Kennett was to have trust and faith in the master is a higher teaching than when the Buddha said, Don't believe this to be true because I say it is. You have to make it true for yourself. In other words you were supposed to believe first. That of course creates many problems.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Fri Feb 03, 2012 2:49 pm

I read all these comments about celibacy and it seems to me that this consideration is extremely narrow.

We live in a culture where celibacy is practiced by the population for periods of time: typically childhood and the teenage period are basically periods of celibacy; if not a period of celibacy with ad hoc interruptions. Also, some single adults live comfortably with celibacy. Even in marriage, a couple may go through a period of celibacy.

This idea that celibacy is some special and privileged undertaking of "some monks," "real monks," or 'enlightened' monks misses the simple reality of the culture's engagement with celibacy.

And in this context, I have known and know many many people who live a celibate life for long or extended periods of time and I did not or do not observe a larger statistical tendency of enlightenment in this group.

This idea that celibacy is the bus to Nirvana is a peculiar fantasy.

Further, there is a Buddhist belief that celibacy leads to sexual rewards in the after-life or future-life.

Sex is with us both when we participate in it or when abstain from physical sexual behavior.

And do not the Theravadins believe that things begin with thought: if that is true then the preoccupation with celibacy is a sexual preoccupation (voyeurism).

In the context of the OBC -- from my readings across the many topics of this site -- it is clear to me that the celibacy that would address the creation of a lot of suffering is the abstinence from power and the desire to control others.

In many various practices (spiritual economies) sexual abstinence is the currency for purchasing/achieving control. The true and deep question is not are you celibate; but what do you want? (pssst!!! do you want a deal?)

P.S. if you can't love peace; then feel the love.....
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Fri Feb 03, 2012 4:25 pm

Renunciation hath its privileges and its costs. It fosters a certain level of focus and concentration that can either aid or hinder ones meditation. Neither good nor bad in itself but is simply what an individual or group makes of it.

Monk hood brings it's own complications with sex because the inherent power imbalances of the likely participants which a sane society tries to discourage.

Renunciation too often leans towards magic, hardness, imbalance, specialness and the idea that there is someone to experience that control. Such a simplistic idea of "training".

Long ago, the idea of a monk handling money was synonymous with their failure.
I wonder if the future will see sex being looked upon the way that we now accept them handling money today?
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Fri Feb 03, 2012 8:22 pm

albertfuller wrote:

We live in a culture where celibacy is practiced by the population for periods of time: typically childhood and the teenage period are basically periods of celibacy; if not a period of celibacy with ad hoc interruptions. Also, some single adults live comfortably with celibacy. Even in marriage, a couple may go through a period of celibacy.

This idea that celibacy is some special and privileged undertaking of "some monks," "real monks," or 'enlightened' monks misses the simple reality of the culture's engagement with celibacy.

And in this context, I have known and know many many people who live a celibate life for long or extended periods of time and I did not or do not observe a larger statistical tendency of enlightenment in this group.

This idea that celibacy is the bus to Nirvana is a peculiar fantasy.

Ah, "the bus to Nirvana" - I love that!


Celibacy, as I understood it when first proposed at Shasta Abbey, was not meant simply as physical abstinence but as a commitment to a lifestyle not focused on the pursuit of sexual encounters. In other words it was an expression of "Right Action". I believe a sexually active person who is also committed to practicing Buddhism has to answer the same question of what constitutes "Right Action" and perhaps has the more difficult path by not choosing the simple solution of unilateral abstinence. A common solution is people enter into committed partnerships (marriage, et al) and thereby create clear boundaries, but once you get past the surface I imagine each person tussles with it and finds a unique answer.

As you say abstinence can't be equated with spirituality. For instance it could be a reflection of the inability to deal with relationship/intimacy/commitment and not really what a person wants. Based on my own experience at SA and what I observed around me I'd say that celibacy was embraced with no understanding of it's long term implications. Instead it became another element in the simplistic definition of monkhood. The fact that many people did not know how to handle the psychological pressures created by abstinence coupled with the general lack of experience/guidance in the community resulted in monk after monk leaving after some personal "failure". Really it is proof of a systemic failure more than anything else and it goes unacknowledged.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sat Feb 04, 2012 10:35 am

I do not comment from any direct knowledge of celibacy but I have for some time pondered the question and how it seems to have affected the OBC. I have never been able to reconcile celibacy with The Middle Path. In fact, monasticism itself seems to me quite far from any balanced life.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sat Feb 04, 2012 12:59 pm

I wonder if the answer does lie in making celibacy optional for monastics, as others have discussed often, here and elsewhere. I have been to Buddhist communities where ordained monks had spouses/partners, and children. From an outsider's viewpoint it looked normal, and the atmosphere was much less charged with tension, suppression, and the twisted-ness - I haven't a better word for it - of a community insisting that a celibate life is "higher and more pure" than partnership.

More musing - the idea of physical sex is often the focus of celibacy discussions but I wonder if emotional connection is the stronger driver, or at least, the interest in getting an emotional reaction from someone. Romance and emotional connection are much easier and less dangerous to indulge in than attempting to have sex with someone within a monastery. I have seen, at more than one "celibate" centre - male monks behaving flirtatiously with women, singling some out for special attention and creating opportunities to spend time alone with them. It may not be sex they want, at all - it may be simply the fun of chasing or enticing someone, rather than actually capturing them.

At non-celibate centres, the chase dynamic is much less apparent, at least to me. People choose the lifestyle that supports their practice, and they don't have to regard a monastic vocation as incompatible with partnering.

It is sad to see grown adults, mostly male, play-acting at being celibate.


Last edited by Lise on Sat Feb 04, 2012 1:18 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : grammar)
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sat Feb 04, 2012 4:55 pm

Lise wrote:
I wonder if the answer does lie in making celibacy optional for monastics, as others have discussed often, here and elsewhere. I have been to Buddhist communities where ordained monks had spouses/partners, and children. From an outsider's viewpoint it looked normal, and the atmosphere was much less charged with tension, suppression, and the twisted-ness - I haven't a better word for it - of a community insisting that a celibate life is "higher and more pure" than partnership.

Ironically that is exactly how Shasta Abbey started out. Jiyu Kennett created a mixed community because of the abuses of the "boot camp" paradigm she experienced in Japan. It's a shame that she retreated from the experiment back into what she was familiar with. Of course as the head of the community she didn't have to re-experience what was objectionable about it.

Lise wrote:
More musing - the idea of physical sex is often the focus of celibacy discussions but I wonder if emotional connection is the stronger driver, or at least, the interest in getting an emotional reaction from someone. Romance and emotional connection are much easier and less dangerous to indulge in than attempting to have sex with someone within a monastery. I have seen, at more than one "celibate" centre - male monks behaving flirtatiously with women, singling some out for special attention and creating opportunities to spend time alone with them. It may not be sex they want, at all - it may be simply the fun of chasing or enticing someone, rather than actually capturing them.

At non-celibate centres, the chase dynamic is much less apparent, at least to me. People choose the lifestyle that supports their practice, and they don't have to regard a monastic vocation as incompatible with partnering.

It is sad to see grown adults, mostly male, play-acting at being celibate.

You've hit on something important. Living in "boot camp" mode, where the need for emotional connection is suppressed indefinitely, a sense of loneliness and deprivation builds that is far more than the simple absence of sex. I can understand well why monks would seek out female companionship while telling themselves it's not about sex. Of course in many cases it came to include sex because the boundary could not be maintained. People create a terrible predicament when they buy into the belief that celibacy is necessary for their vocations to be legitimate.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sat Feb 04, 2012 5:03 pm

The famous sex researcher Alfred Kinsey asserted that the only sexual perversion in the world was celibacy. He was quite a character whether you agree with that or not.

The issue at Shasta was that the push for celibacy was so entangled in Kennett's unresolved loneliness, frustration and even jealousy that it had an only a tangential relationship to conscious spirituality. It was all so subconscious and then became part of her unrelenting drive to dominate the lives of her monastic devotees. So distorted, painful.
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PostSubject: Re: Thoughts on celibacy -- assorted posts    Sun Feb 05, 2012 11:17 am

I can't help myself. I have to bring up the "celibacy ring," which was started by Rev. Kennett to display one's commitment to celibacy. It was worn like a wedding ring. Thank goodness I had the good sense to refuse that special mark of spirituality. It reeked to much of the "Bride of Christ" idea. It creeped me out. To wear the ring you had to commit to a LIFETIME of celibacy. I don't even think the Buddha ever required such a commitment (though I'm no scholar). I figured that I was celibate for the time, but had the sense to realize I couldn't know if I'd be celibate in 20 years. Ironically, without wearing the ring I managed to remain celibate for the time I was a monk. I saw one monk after another with the ring end up having sex. I imagine the ring just added to their sense of guilt and failure. As if there wasn't enough of that at Shasta if you fell from grace. Everything we hated about Christianity and ran to Buddhism to find an alternative was actually right there at our fingertips.

You are correct Lise about the flirting. I know I would do that and saw many monks, even those who remained celibate, male and female, do the same. There is an incredible urge for emotional and sexual connection. I don't know what I think about celibacy. I believe it's right for some. I also think there may very well be spiritual practices that transforms sexual energy so that celibacy would not actually be a hardship. But they were not taught at Shasta. There was, however, a lot of self denial and guilt (and ring nonsense) that were mistaken for true spirituality. I would hope that in the history of Buddhist monastism there was a true reason for celibacy, but I don't feel I'm any kind of authority there. The older I get the more comfortable I am with just not knowing much about a lot of things. Maybe they were wrong, maybe not. In the end though, they're not living my life. The last I looked, I'm the only one who can do that.
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