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 Assessment by FaithTrust

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Lise
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PostSubject: Assessment by FaithTrust    Sat May 07, 2011 1:08 pm

This was received this morning:

"From: [deleted
Subject: Fw: For the etree please
To: [deleted
Received: Saturday, 8 May, 2011, 17:16 p.m.

--- On Fri, 5/6/11, Reverend Helen Cummings <revhelencummings@gmail.com> wrote:
From: Reverend Helen Cummings <revhelencummings@gmail.com>
Subject: For the etree please
To: [deleted]
Date: Friday, May 6, 2011, 5:07 PM

Dear friends, we have posted a Special Announcement from the OBC Steering Group for the Faith Trust Institute (FTI) assessment at Shasta Abbey on our website http://www.shastaabbey.org. You may get the full text through the News and Announcements on the Opening Page or on the News Page.

In gassho. The Prior"
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Sat May 07, 2011 1:12 pm

This is the announcement referenced above:

"Dear Friends,
This announcement is to let you know that we have asked FaithTrust Institute to conduct
an assessment regarding the behavior of the former abbot of Shasta Abbey, and in
particular how Shasta Abbey and the Order responded to it, as it occurred and as they
became aware of it. FaithTrust Institute is a national, multifaith, multicultural training and
education organization specializing in clergy abuse, and is based in Seattle
(www.faithtrustinstitute.org).

As many of you know, on April 30, 2010, Rev. Master Eko Little announced his resignation
as abbot of Shasta Abbey, citing irreconcilable differences with the OBC. At that time, he
was asked if the development of a romantic relationship was a factor in his decision; he
denied that it was. The rules of the Order both recognize the potential for such
relationships to arise, and offer direction as to how they should be handled openly and in a
way that minimizes confusion and harm. Subsequent to his initial announcement, it was
confirmed that he had, in fact, been fostering such a relationship with a congregation
member, and it became apparent that, rather than following the guidance of the rules, he
had lied about this fact. In response to this information and in accordance with the rules of
the Order, the monastic community asked for his immediate resignation. He left Shasta
Abbey on May 21, 2010.

Since his departure, additional information has come to light relating to the former abbot’s
inappropriate behavior toward both lay and monastic sangha members. During the
Conclave (a general meeting of the Order) held in September 2010 it was disclosed that
monks and congregation members have come forward with reports of what they
considered to be his misuse of power and authority, and betrayal of trust. In particular,
there is indication that in his position as a spiritual teacher he may have violated sexual
and ethical boundaries. The Conclave regarded such behavior as completely inappropriate,
and a violation of the Order rules and Precepts that we embrace as a community.
We take this matter very seriously and deeply regret the harm that such behavior has
caused. We have started an extensive process of review of our monastic structure, rules,
and assumptions. We have invited FaithTrust Institute to assist us in this process, to assess
our responses to the former abbot’s behavior and to make recommendations to help those
affected, and the Sangha as whole, heal from this betrayal of trust, and to strengthen us as
an Order community. Additionally, we are taking steps towards reviewing, and expanding
the awareness of, our ethics procedures both at Shasta Abbey and throughout the Order.
Finally, Shasta Abbey has extended an offer of professional help to those whom they know
to have been harmed to assist in the healing process. We are all open to talking more about
this and the difficult issues that this matter might raise not only at Shasta Abbey but among
our congregations throughout the Order.

If you have personal experience regarding the former abbot’s misconduct in these areas,
we invite you to send a statement to a confidential mailbox at this address:
Shasta@faithtrustinstitute.org".
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Sun May 08, 2011 8:58 am

As discussed elsewhere on this forum, this assessment by the Faith Trust Institute is limited to Eko's behavior. That's the assignment. But as I noted, this is a first step for this isolated organization - to engage an outside group to conduct an inquiry and give some advice.

However, the self-inquiry is following the "one bad apple" narrative. Undoubtedly, the assessment will include at least some recognition of how Shasta's policies and practices fostered denial, abuse of power, blind obedience around the Eko situation. But from their statement, i doubt if this process will seriously look at the deeper abuses of power that are the direct and continuing legacy of Kennett.

The whole family is dysfunctional, not just one son.

How could this have gone on for years with Eko - and no one spoke up?

Well, how could abuses of power gone on for decades with Kennett and still everyone inside this organization remained and still remain mute? Blind, deaf and yes, dumb.

This grandiosity, this self-glorification, this error-blindness and denial are hardly recent activities.
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Sun May 08, 2011 9:55 am

Here is the second page of the announcement:

Alternatively you may write to:

Marie Fortune
FaithTrust Institute
2400 N 45th Street Suite 101
Seattle, WA 98103

We are committed to this being an inclusive and candid process. In an effort to facilitate an
environment in which individuals will feel free to share their experiences, we have asked
FTI to provide us with only a synthesis of all the feedback received, and to ensure that this
synthesis contains no identifying markers that could reveal the identities of individual
contributors.

Please include your contact information so that FTI can contact you if additional
information is needed. It is also possible to have a telephone or Skype interview if you feel
that this is necessary.

We are expecting a report and recommendations from FTI to be submitted to the Order
Conclave in September 2011. Consequently we would be grateful if all written and
interview contributions are submitted by May 31, 2011.

If you have any questions about the assessment, please contact:
UK and Europe: Mo Henderson (Lay Minister, OBC) +33 (296) 83 33 53,
mohende@orange.fr
USA: Ellen Cleaver (Lay Minister, OBC) +1 (530) 926 2897, ecleaver@snowcrest.net

Written by the OBC's steering group for the FTI assessment at Shasta Abbey, and endorsed
by Rev. Master Haryo Young, Head of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives and Rev.
Master Meian Elbert, Abbess of Shasta Abbey.

Edit: Although Marie Fortune's email address was not included in the announcement it is available on the FaithTrust website.

mfortune@faithtrustinstitute.org


Last edited by Isan on Mon May 09, 2011 8:25 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : addition of email address)
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Sun May 08, 2011 10:04 am

Thanks Isan -

Re: Josh's comment -

Agree. If people hadn't bought into the myth of the Zen roshi by handing over their minds and free will . . . who knows what might have evolved.

At the risk of being repetitious I still feel moved to comment whenever these Shasta statements point to Michael Little as the problem. His behaviour (and their enabling of it) may be high on the list of things needing attention, but they aren't the only items there.

If nothing else, I hope the FaithTrust consultant really looks for all the factors that may have caused Eko to conceal what he was doing and then lie about it. I may be viewing this too simplistically, but I think the Abbey senior monks have no tolerance for other seniors even thinking of living their lives differently; someone who tries to return to lay life, even in "the right way" is going to be put through the wringer of guilting, shaming and fear-mongering. Until they fix this, the rest will just be window-dressing.
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Sun May 08, 2011 11:47 am

I wonder if FaithTrust knows about this site? Hmmm, might be a good idea to send them the link. It would certainly given them a more complete picture.
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Sun May 08, 2011 1:09 pm

Hey Mokuan

Once again common sense pokes holes in needless complexity.

A small fly in the ointment of our expectations is that for all sorts of reasons this faithTrust consultant has probably been brought in with a clear Eko only mandate. I imagine that the consultant must respect this if only to remain in business.

If his mandate is open, then I welcome any clarification of that from anyone.

& regardless FaithTrust should still be publicly sent a link to the OBC connect.

Cheers all
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Sun May 08, 2011 1:40 pm

Mokuan, Howard, good comments, and I have a few thoughts -

I'm typing up a letter to the FaithTrust consultant, Marie Fortune, at this very moment, and I encourage anyone to do the same even if your comments are not related to Eko. I don't know, but I'm guessing she does know about this forum and I can only hope she's reading it. I will mention it in my letter regardless.

Even if Ms. Fortune can't go outside scope, I would think our information would help her get the bigger picture of things going wrong not only at Shasta but Throssel as well, and in other OBC locations; it can't help but improve the overall depth of her information-gathering and therefore the quality of her end product, the assessment. She might advise the Abbey (and beyond them, the OBC) that they would do well to schedule a number of investigations, or perhaps a more comprehensive review that would take up more of the issues we've raised on this forum. Perhaps some of the work could even be split off to other consultants; FaithTrust is not the only provider of remedial services.

One thing I'd like to know -- why such a short period for collecting comments? If the report is not due until September, wouldn't you think a longer period of data gathering is appropriate? Does anyone know how this 31 May date was chosen?

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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Sun May 08, 2011 5:31 pm

When Stalin died he left two envelopes for his successor. The first one said "Open, if in trouble". The other one said, "Open if again in trouble". When Khrushchov had difficulties, he opened the first envelope. Inside he found a message, "Blame everything on me." It helped. However, he got into difficulties again, so he opened the second envelope. The message inside read, "Write your two envelopes".

If the OBC inquiry is restricted to the Eko regime, its purpose is damage control. It is, then, not a true inquiry trying to find out the truth.

My experience, and the experience of many others on the forum, point to endemic problems in Jiyu Kennett's legacy. They may be present in some other Zen Buddhist ideologies/organizations.

I firmly believe (if I sound doctrinaire, so be it) that suppression of individual freedom always results in tyranny. It is so, whether it be in the name of "social justice", or "transcending the ego". In one case you get Mao, Pol Pot or Castro; in the other, Jiyu Kennett. (The flavour and severity may differ.)

After a long-ish life of searching, I would now trust only religion, study, practice, which promotes normalcy. Practice that aims at disorienting one in the name of anything at all, lends itself to abuse. Long ago I rejected the doctrine of the Original Sin. I likewise reject any practice that attempts to 'beat' the ego out of me, purporting to offer me 'spiritual attainment' at the end of the exercise. If I am told that "where there is hurt, there is self", my answer is -well, there palpably is hurt (Life is suffering,remember?)! But I am not supposed to show self; so I will swallow my pain, and present a brave face to the world. Don't you find this suspect? THIS kind of manipulation of facts is at the root of problems at OBC, I am convinced of that. Any ordinary, everyday reality is edited, interpreted in the light of a teaching, which, I doubt, was Buddha's intention. Any perception, own any evidence of one's senses and mind, is dismissed in the name of some nebulous, mystical invention of another person.
I can start only from where I am, at any moment. Anything else is a fantasy. Trusting A PRIORI someone else's wisdom and honesty, overriding one's own, is not a sign of spiritual adulthood. It is, in the end, a behaviour of a shirker of responsibility for one's own life.
I know, these are big questions, which may appear to go beyond the boundaries of this thread. But they are relevant! Is FaithTrust going to look at them? Haha ha, AHH, ha ha ha....
Luv, Ol'ga
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Sun May 08, 2011 6:41 pm

well, my expectations are being met perfectly, no surprise here. The Faith Trust group should look at this web forum, but with their assignment focused around Eko and going forward and preventing future sexual issues - i seriously doubt they will look deeply at the past or Kennett's legacy. I am sure they were told NOT to go too far afield.
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Sun May 08, 2011 7:17 pm

one more point. The Faith Trust Institute mostly deals with sexual abuse -- and the serious cases - priest pedophiles, serial sexual predators, cover-ups by the Catholic Church, sexual molestation in boarding schools, major lawsuits, and so forth.

So, through this very narrow lens, when they assess Shasta and Eko, the situation there is relatively mild in their eyes. Faith Trust might even praise Shasta for acting quickly in firing Eko - and praise them for keeping their vows of celibacy and so on.

Knowing these kind of assessments, FTI will then recommend a half dozen conventional / organizational / legal policies and processes to open up communication inside the organization so any kind of potential sexual activity can be quickly noted and dealt with.

Their report will probably include a few quotes from some of the interviewees about abuse of power, but FTI won't go too far into the past or deal with issues they might see as beyond their assignment.

We shall see, but my expectations are that this will be superficial and not address any of the systemic core issues.
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Mon May 09, 2011 7:51 pm

How can the Faith Trust possibly come to a proper consideration. They are a rather Christian biased organisation and Eko was Jesus Christ in a former life!
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Mon May 09, 2011 8:14 pm

Note that although Marie Fortune's email address was not included in the announcement at ShastaAbbey.org it is listed in the "staff" section of the FaithTrust website.

mfortune@faithtrustinstitute.org
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Mon May 09, 2011 8:20 pm

mstrathern wrote:
How can the Faith Trust possibly come to a proper consideration. They are a rather Christian biased organisation and Eko was Jesus Christ in a former life!

Ha ha...now moving right along. I looked closely at the FaithTrust website and I'm not seeing a Christian bias in either language or imagery. They specifically state they are made up of men and women from many faith traditions.
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Tue May 10, 2011 5:00 am

hee hee, Mark
Did you know that Christs tomb was lined with papyrus reed, why,
so it couldnt have an echo.
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Tue May 10, 2011 8:35 am

"so it couldn't have an echo".

Oh, you boys. You're going to get both Jesus AND Bodhidharma stirred up, and they're double trouble together.

I need to go find the post where Michael (Chisan) delivered an utterly priceless line about "and now we've got Jesus and Bodhidharma in the cupboard", or similar. To this day I can't get that visual out of my head. And I'm half frightened to open the cabinets when I want to make tea. Thanks for that, Michael funny
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Wed May 11, 2011 3:25 pm

Ol'ga wrote:

I can start only from where I am, at any moment. Anything else is a fantasy. Trusting A PRIORI someone else's wisdom and honesty, overriding one's own, is not a sign of spiritual adulthood. It is, in the end, a behavior of a shirker of responsibility for one's own life.

Luv, Ol'ga

Olga,

I agree that trusting a teacher's wisdom "a priori" (without observing and confirming from personal experience) is a mistake. I don't believe that was generally the case for the first generation of students. I had a sufficiently personal relationship with RMJK to be able to make a determination that there was something there worth trusting. It was possible for me to deal with her eccentricity for a long time as a result. That was a very challenging process and in the end it became too difficult, but it was always one on one for me. When you sweep all the grand teachings aside what you're left with is a relationship with another person. You can learn about yourself in a relationship both because of and in spite of it being difficult. You can see it for what it is, and stay in it without glorifying it until it is finished for you.

It was another kettle of fish (as RMJK liked to say) for the generations of students that came afterward. As the community grew and RMJK delegated the teaching of newer students to others she became more remote. Those students did not have a one on one relationship with RMJK for years (maybe never in the latter years) and they had to base their belief in her efficacy as a teacher on the fact that the more senior students supported her. It was a priori for them. I think this increasing distance contributed to (what Josh might call) the "master myth" that came to surround her.
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Wed May 11, 2011 9:28 pm

Isan I was not trying to imply that the Faith Trust was a bad organisation, it seems to be doing excellent work. What I felt though having looked at their website was that there was a clear mismatch with the problems in the OBC as we on the forum have articulated them. Their areas of expertise seem to be in sexual and physical abuse, particularly of women and within families. Whilst there may have been an element of this in the 'Eko affair' in this particular case it is merely the symptom of a much deeper and widespread illness. One which I don't think that they will be able to properly address, partly because of their remit and partly because of their natural focus, both of which will tend to limit them to dealing with the 'Eko affair' and not the underlying problems of a disfuctional organisation.

Olga, Isan I must profoundly disagree with you about trusting teachers. What you say is true but this is not the state that people arrive in when coming to organisations like the OBC. There is a Christian simile for the spiritual path that I think expresses it rather well. They talk of three stages based on the mediaeval household: the stage of the spiritual slave, the stage of the spiritual servant and the stage of son of the house. Of course we are all really sons of the house but that is not how we see it when we start out on our journey. We put our trust in 'higher' things; teachers and teachings. Putting ones faith in teachers can lead to being misled and abused, putting ones faith in teachings can lead to fundamentalism and intolerance. But where can people start? Can they just throw away everything and follow their hearts? But even this is just another teaching which can lead astray and in the past has occasioned terrible abuse. No there will always be imperfections and abuse of one kind or another whether inter-personal, hierarchical or bureaucratic we just have to muddle through making difficult compromises as we go. But always trying to point out what seem to be abuses and mistakes as come across them.
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Wed May 11, 2011 11:19 pm

mstrathern wrote:
Isan I was not trying to imply that the Faith Trust was a bad organisation, it seems to be doing excellent work. What I felt though having looked at their website was that there was a clear mismatch with the problems in the OBC as we on the forum have articulated them. Their areas of expertise seem to be in sexual and physical abuse, particularly of women and within families. Whilst there may have been an element of this in the 'Eko affair' in this particular case it is merely the symptom of a much deeper and widespread illness. One which I don't think that they will be able to properly address, partly because of their remit and partly because of their natural focus, both of which will tend to limit them to dealing with the 'Eko affair' and not the underlying problems of a disfuctional organisation.

Mark, I didn't feel you were saying FTI was a bad organization. I was just responding to your saying they were Christian, and as far as I can tell they're not. I agree that based on their mission statement they are a poor fit to address the larger issues that we feel lie at the heart of the matter. On the upside though, they have been invited in which is itself a significant step. There is also an opportunity to make personal input to FTI and I know that a few forum members already have.
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Wed May 11, 2011 11:31 pm

Regarding Isan's post, clearly, all of us made our own personal assessments and choices with regard to Kennett and Shasta. For me, the scales seriously tipped into the red / danger / harm zone after 5 years and then it took me two more years to extricate myself. We all had personal relationships with Kennett, in one way or another, but frankly, these relationships were actually very impersonal in reality - since she demanded worship and adoration and her love was anything but unconditional.

And to me, it wasn't that Kennett was "eccentric" - like some batty old aunt who loved cats and smokey tea. Her very unenlightened behavior and the community she created became seriously harmful and progressively worse as time went on. And for me, it did become less and less Zen and more and more the Church of Kennett, a cult of personality and confusion. Why should I put up with that? What good was there in that? Fool's gold.

I am watching this TV series called THE BORGIAS on Showtime - all about the Borgia pope and his corrupt sons, murders, politics, and palace intrigue. High drama and all this delusional religion about the Pope being God's representative on earth while murdering his enemies, waging war, and so on. Such a story - and also not a very healthy one. And yes, those Borgias were quite eccentric.
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Thu May 12, 2011 12:02 am

Jcbaran wrote:
We all had personal relationships with Kennett, in one way or another, but frankly, these relationships were actually very impersonal in reality - since she demanded worship and adoration and her love was anything but unconditional.

I don't feel you're in a position to know exactly what my relationship to RMJK consisted of.

Jcbaran wrote:
Her very unenlightened behavior and the community she created became seriously harmful and progressively worse as time went on. And for me, it did become less and less Zen and more and more the Church of Kennett, a cult of personality and confusion. Why should I put up with that? What good was there in that?

Has someone implied you should have put up with it?
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Thu May 12, 2011 12:32 am

My experience with Buddhism began and ended with a branch of the OBC , it was the only one I knew, became familiar with, both, loved fiercely, yet in the end wondered why I subjected myself for so long in a relationship that at times treated its most loyal supporters, friends with such disdain and arrogance, which at first I even admired as perhaps being "aloof" and above it all. Fools Gold indeed, The Borgias had Power, and power always blends well with eccentricity, they go hand in hand, and when religion comes into the mix, delusion results.
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Thu May 12, 2011 4:28 am

Isan I based my view that the Faith Trust might be a Christian centric organisation on the links page on their web site of which the majority are to Christian sites and a few are for Judaic and Islamic sites; the three Abrahamic relgions of the book as moslems would say. I'm sure they try to be totally inclusive I just think that there thinking will probably be coloured by their backgrounds.
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Thu May 12, 2011 10:17 am

mstrathern wrote:
Isan I based my view that the Faith Trust might be a Christian centric organisation on the links page on their web site of which the majority are to Christian sites and a few are for Judaic and Islamic sites; the three Abrahamic relgions of the book as moslems would say. I'm sure they try to be totally inclusive I just think that there thinking will probably be coloured by their backgrounds.

Mark, do you feel that their religious background will adversely effect the assessment?
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Thu May 12, 2011 3:30 pm

With the FaithTrust, I'm wondering what their understanding or comprehension is of the master-disciple relationship.

Perhaps I'm wrong, but I can hear OBC voices in my head responding to inquiries from FaithTrust with: That's part of the master-disciple relationship. That's not abuse, that's not dysfunctional, that's not cultish; that's the master-disciple relationship.


Isan, Kozan, Henry: In your private communications with the OBC, do you get a sense they really see a need for reform or is this just going through the motions?
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Thu May 12, 2011 5:14 pm

The Faith Trust Institute may be able to make some recommendations as the result of findings and communications it has received, but it will not be able to discern, uncover the much more subtle patterns of abuse within the relationships of students and teachers. Although posing as teachings, some of these methods have nothing to do with the Truth of Buddhism, but everything to do with behavior that is much more consistent with psyches that may have been damaged themselves in some way and which now need to find an outlet to express that damage in a way where it conveniently fools itsself into believing it is helping another to let go of ego, thereby feeling to be quite in accord with the teachings of love and compassion. As Josh has said, the mind is a great confabulator. It ultimately is up to the trainee how willing they are to keep on going along with all of this, and it may take a while, but in the end all are ultimately responsible for their own "training" and come to see how it may be possible to distinguish between teachings that either benefit or cause damage. .
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Thu May 12, 2011 7:24 pm

mokuan wrote:

Isan, Kozan, Henry: In your private communications with the OBC, do you get a sense they really see a need for reform or is this just going through the motions?

From what I've been told I believe the people at Shasta Abbey are shocked and confused by what has transpired with Eko. FTI was called in to help with this and not just for the sake of appearances. The effort to reform is real, but I don't know how many there feel that the culture as a whole needs to be examined.
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Thu May 12, 2011 8:15 pm

Lets hope that it is not 'shaken but not stirred'
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Tue May 17, 2011 3:31 pm

An investigation by an outside body requires a defined scope, or it ends up with an unlimited need for funds and a de facto mandate to smear the object of the investigation. Recall, for example, the Kenneth Starr investigation of the Clintons, which moved from Whitewater, to the Clintons' finances, to the Clintons' friends, Bill's entire record as governor of Arkansas, and finally ended up in the most sordid and unnecessary place possible: Bill's pants and a semen-stained dress.

I would like to invite those who can to consider what a huge step it is for a hermetic organization like SA to ask an (apparently) independent investigator to come in and review the handling of the sacking of its former leader.

Before we all pile on with "it's not good enough," and I admit that I am deeply skeptical that ANY result short of dissolution of the place would satisfy some of its critics, can we please take a moment to give SA the credit it deserves for subjecting itself to this review?

And maybe SA is not done yet. Maybe an outside investigator would be an inappropriate tool for the task of unearthing the deeper institutional issues. I suspect that if this task is to be properly addressed, it will have to be done by the monks themselves, and maybe with the help of the former monks who also knew RM Jiyu.

My real concern is that, since a web forum is a very impermanent record, the darker feelings and events of SA/OBC's early years and Jiyu's legacy will be lost when OBC Connect is gone. How are we going to compile these views in a way that they are available to future generations of OBC laity and monastics?

********************************

Regarding Jesus and Bodhidharma--Is there any evidence that Jiyu and Eko genuinely thought that those people were among their past lives beyond, say, 1980? Did they dwell on these fantasies in their Dharma talks or in private conversation? Because it has become the go-to punchline of OBC Connect, and maybe the joke has turned a bit rancid. "Oh what laughable hippy-dippy fools they were back then. Might as well have been dropping peyote for how delusional they were." Ha ha ha, how funny, for the 1,000th time.

********************************

Chisan--I want to add my voice to those supporting you in this time of change and challenge for your family. I hope that you find time to be good also to yourself, and that your household does not end up revolving fully around the needs of depression and dementia. May you and your family know peace and happiness.


Last edited by ddolmar on Tue May 17, 2011 4:34 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Tue May 17, 2011 3:50 pm

ddolmar wrote:

Before we all pile on with "it's not good enough," and I admit that I am deeply skeptical that ANY result short of dissolution of the place would satisfy some of its critics, can we please take a moment to give SA the credit it deserves for subjecting itself to this review?

And maybe SA is not done yet. Maybe an outside investigator would be an inappropriate tool for the task of unearthing the deeper institutional issues. I suspect that if this task is to be properly addressed, it will have to be done by the monks themselves, and maybe with the help of the former monks who also knew RM Jiyu.

Regarding Jesus and Bodhidharma--Is there any evidence that Jiyu and Eko genuinely thought that those people were among their past lives beyond, say, 1980? Did they dwell on these fantasies in their Dharma talks or in private conversation? Because it has become the go-to punchline of OBC Connect, and maybe the joke has turned a bit rancid. "Oh what laughable hippy-dippy fools they were back then. Might as well have been dropping peyote for how delusional they were." Ha ha ha, how funny, for the 1,000th time.

I agree that it is a very significant step for Shasta Abbey to invite in FTI. Since we do not know the outcome yet I don't know why some need to criticize as if they do. I see no benefit in predicting the outcome one way or the other - I prefer to hope for the best.

Regarding Jesus and Bodhidharma I will repeat what I've said before, ie it has been blown way out of proportion. There has been no interest in having a serious discussion about past life phenomena, etc. Referring to it has just become a way of sneering at RMJK and the events surrounding HTGLB.
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Tue May 17, 2011 4:53 pm

ddolmar wrote:
My real concern is that, since a web forum is a very impermanent record, the darker feelings and events of SA/OBC's early years and Jiyu's legacy will be lost when OBC Connect is gone. How are we going to compile these views in a way that they are available to future generations of OBC laity and monastics?

Is our forum going somewhere? I must be out of the loop.

Dan, I think the comments may be scattered among several threads so that you won't see them all in this one, but several people have said that the FTI assessment is a start and could lead to good things. The caveat is that it might also be used as window-dressing, to scapegoat Michael Little and ignore the other problems, and maybe it's being done to help protect against litigation. Different opinions have always had a home here, as you know.

Isan, regarding the comments about Jesus, St. John of the Cross, Bodhidharma, etc., I'm not sneering at Kennett when I give in to a chuckle every now and then. I've always thought it's absurd when anyone, not just Kennett or Eko, needs to have "been someone" in a past life; what's wrong with an ordinary Joe or Jane who passes through life without notoriety? Long before I ran across the OBC, I thought it was basically silly to latch onto a famous person's history and say (as if one could really know or prove this) "I was so-and-so". As if it matters, in any way. . . it makes no sense to me.

If someone in the OBC ever addressed Kennett's Lotus Blossom period directly, with candor, it might de-mystify the issue for me and take away some of the giggle factor. I guess I'll have to wait and see --
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Tue May 17, 2011 7:41 pm

The postings I most enjoy are the ones that don't come with an overpowering whiff of agenda. Agenda free postings are most often the ones that people post of what they are seeing now. They are often exploratory, observative, and low on certainty. They rely on and reflect the openness, flexibility and change in the world that is usually found in a period of anyones meditation. They feel more like invitations to explore than pronouncements of an imminent force feeding.

I'm not saying or thinking that all postings should be agenda free. Some of the more informative posters come with a prepackaged agenda. I just wish I didn't feel I had to wade through some version of fundamentalism (either OBC or OBC connect) as part of the cost of reading it.

As one who has found my own landscape painted with layers of brain washing and consider it's uncovering to be my path towards clarity & freedom, I might be a smidge sensitive about it all. Agenda postings give me that sinking feeling of again answering a 1-800 number against my better judgement and finding oneself in that inevidable dance of NO with another salesman.

My favourite postings are good on content but always 0 on sales.


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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Tue May 17, 2011 10:08 pm

Okay, I guess I'd have to say that I support the OBC's decision to hire the FTI folks to come in. I've done a little research and asked those I know in the business about FTI and as far as I can tell, they are totally legit.

I stated in another post as well that I had been in contact with Rev. Meian and I support her in this tough time. Just because I support these folks doesn't mean I'm considering ever joing such a group again. I can not deny that even though my history with the OBC has been overshadowed by Eko's reign, that I still care about and love some of these folks, Rev. Meian being one person in particular who I greatly admire and respect.

There is such a sticky mess here that needs sorting through: the delusion of Jiyu and Eko and how that delusion has tarnished the Dharma and hurt people -vs.- Buddhism. It all leaves me wondering, "well, what did the Buddha teach?" and "can't we just throw out all the other stuff?" By stuff I mean past lives (Jesus and Bodhidharma), the Lotus Blossom, the lord of the house, the cosmic Buddha, etc... Well, the OBC CAN'T just throw that all out because it's too big a part of their founder. So where do they go from here? The problem is that it's all out there and it's really obvious that these teachings are the foundation of the OBC and also can be dangerous and totally sabotage someones "training." But this is the time for the OBC to figure this stuff out. My advice for them though is to look more critically than they ever have at Jiyu and her teachings and the Buddha's teachings and decide what's best for the people, not the organization. Organizationally, it would probably be better to keep isolated and just be a small organization, but this would not benefit human beings. Jiyu's teaching can be looked at critically for what it is and they can move on. I think they must move on.

It is because they haven't been critical and open that the use of "Jesus and Bodhidharma" has any weight in the first place. It's the extreme absurdities that make certain things obvious. I for one, use the "Jesus and Bodhidharma" schtick as a reminder and this reminder is very important! It points back to just how weird spiritual training can get and it's a reminder of the Buddha's warnings about getting caught up in delusion. It's also a great reminder of the destructive force of "fame and gain", of celebrity, and the fact that there are pathological narcissist's out there just ready to take advantage of the first weak victim that comes along. I know we use it alot here, but I will reiterate someone else's thoughts on this that if everybody knew coming in to training at the OBC that this is really what people think and this kind of past life stuff is at the foundation of teachings, would they ever even enter the gates? Many answer "no" to this as do I. This is why it is so critical that the OBC "comes out" in a sense: they need to come out to their past and current members and to the whole Buddhist community at large and say "THIS, is what we believe in and what we teach." They need to figure it out.

I know it sounds like they are using Eko as a scapegoat, but there is more at work here than just him and at the same time he really was the biggest recent issue to deal with. I know many of you left a long time ago, and it's been a while since I was around SA too, but I can say wholeheartedly, the Eko caused much suffering and what he did with his power was horrible. Jiyu is dead and it's been a long time since her passing. Put this into perspective: the Eko stuff is just coming out and there is more fall-out to come. In some ways it's more of a shock to those who lived and trained with him because (this is my opinion) it happened on their watch. I would imagine there is some grief and guilt to deal with there. The community's collective delusion has been uncovered; I would imagine they are all feeling shocked and vulnerable.

But I could be wrong- about some of this, but not all of it ;-)

Peace
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Tue May 17, 2011 11:02 pm

@ Diana

Thank for sharing your perspective. I am one of those "oldie moldies" from the past. But I've been around when a community or an organization gets opened to scrutiny, including some Catholic and professional organizations. It's like picking at a loose strand, the more you pick, the more the fabric of something begins to come apart. The fact that SA is willing to be scrutinized by some professionals is a good thing, and the obvious loose strands are going to be picked at, but a lot of people I imagine will be interviewed so the issues are going to come out and be examined. The fact that Rev. Meian wants to do this is good and tells me she and others are willing to take a close look at things. Until proven otherwise I am likely to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Blessings,
Bill
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Wed May 18, 2011 3:32 pm

Isan, Lise, Howard, Bill, Ol'ga, Diana and all--Thanks for the many nuances you bring to this discussion.

Lise--I would say that to be critical of someone else's views is not the same as to attempt to silence them. I'm glad that there is a fairly high level of support overall here for SA's hiring of FTI because it appears (IMO) that SA is really trying to work out some of the most important outstanding issues, and do it openly. I just wanted to argue that hiring FTI to investigate the Jiyu/control/founding myths issue, to saw away at the "rotted wood" in the foundations of the organization, would be to give the investigators a poorly defined scope and therefore probably couldn't work. So I think that the complaints about the narrow scope given to FTI are unrealistic.

And I think the implications being made that SA has given this narrow scope to FTI *for the express purpose* of generating a superficial, scapegoating investigation so that the older skeletons can stay closeted...I think these implications are just plain mean-spirited, are deeply cynical.

And I think that post-Eko SA deserves maybe slightly more presumption of good faith by now. Their every action still seems to get deranged into the meanest interpretation that is still left open by the available facts (by a few folks). I wonder how many of us would fare well under such unsympathetic scrutiny?

Howard--Maybe that's me having an agenda, but if so, then the agenda is a desire for "fair" acknowledgement--whatever that means--of SA's forward progress, and that they are lately acting in ways that are consistent with good faith (following through on what they said they were going to do by hiring FTI, for example). Or maybe it's just that I enjoy a good argument, and the more it devolves into a row, the better.

Re Jesus and Bodhidharma--We may just disagree about the level of importance of this episode, beyond its effect of (understandably) discouraging some from continuing training with Jiyu back in the day. In other words, I understand why it WAS important to some individuals, and why it IS a core fact about their history with OBC, but I don't see a direct connection to SA's path forward in the present day. Isan's point about the deeper control issues is much better put than I could manage.

Somehow I don't see RM Meian wanting that rigid control to continue on her watch, but on the other hand monastic Zen Buddhism is intrinsically authoritarian in its structure. (Spiritual adults...in Zen monasteries where you typically need permission from Reverend Master Mommy or Reverend Master Daddy to do anything? Really? Am I being trite or stupid by calling attention to this apparent disconnect?) Hopefully we'll eventually find out whether a system of checks and balances can be worked out at SA to limit a Master's power over their spiritual charges, and whether that can mitigate the underlying control problem.


Last edited by ddolmar on Wed May 18, 2011 3:47 pm; edited 5 times in total (Reason for editing : Was insufficiently biting and unkind and argumentative. Actually, it just needed a bit of clarification.)
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Fri May 20, 2011 8:59 am

Hi all, sorry to be checking in late, I'm happy to do a thread split, just to give the evolving topics a bit more publicity. So many good items have sprung up here, and they might not be seen if people are put off by the "Assessment" title of the thread. I will try to pick the right posts for splitting, hopefully I won't mess it up. cheers

Update, it looks like I missed at least three posts that would have made sense to move to the new thread. I am going to try to do this now but I'm not sure where they will pop up in the sequence. I'm sorry for the discoordination, will do better next time.
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Wed May 25, 2011 3:09 pm

The announcement below mentions the Ethics Committee -- good for them, that they followed through on this.

--- On Tue, 5/24/11, Shasta Abbey Prior wrote:

From: Shasta Abbey Prior
Subject: Fw: for the etree
To: admin delete
Date: Tuesday, May 24, 2011, 2:08 PM

Dear Friends,

We wanted to let you know about the following events:

Meeting with the Local Congregation

On Saturday, June 11th, we will hold a meeting with our lay friends to continue the discussion of recent developments within both the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives and here at Shasta Abbey, including the introduction of the Ethics Committee here at the Abbey. The meeting will be held in the Buddha Hall at 3pm.

Summer Talks Series in Mount Shasta

During the summer we will offer three talks on Aspects of the Serene Reflection Meditation Tradition at the Lower Lodge of Mount Shasta City Park. These talks present teaching on three fundamental aspects of our practice: Serene Reflection Meditation, the Buddhist Precepts, and True Wisdom. Presented by monks from Shasta Abbey, the talks will offer teaching on how these foundational Buddhist practices are relevant to our daily life in 2011. There will be time for questions. There is no charge for the talks, though donations are greatly appreciated. These talks will start at 7PM at the Lower Lodge of Mount Shasta City Park.

The dates for, and the subject of, each talk are as follows:

June 13 Serene Reflection Meditation
July 25 The Buddhist Precepts
August 15 True Wisdom

If you would be interested in helping out with one or all of these talks, or if you would be willing to put up posters, please contact the prior@shastaabbey.org. We hope to see you there.

In gassho,

Rev. Kodo Kay

Prior



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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Thu May 26, 2011 10:48 am

Lise wrote:
The announcement below mentions the Ethics Committee -- good for them, that they followed through on this.

--- On Tue, 5/24/11, Shasta Abbey Prior wrote:

From: Shasta Abbey Prior
Subject: Fw: for the etree
To: admin delete
Date: Tuesday, May 24, 2011, 2:08 PM

Dear Friends,

We wanted to let you know about the following events:

Meeting with the Local Congregation

On Saturday, June 11th, we will hold a meeting with our lay friends to continue the discussion of recent developments within both the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives and here at Shasta Abbey, including the introduction of the Ethics Committee here at the Abbey. The meeting will be held in the Buddha Hall at 3pm.

Lise, can you post a link to this news? I can't find it on the SA website.
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Thu May 26, 2011 12:44 pm

hi Isan, I don't think it's on the SA website yet -- the message was distributed by email to a list of Shasta sangha members (some of whom are also members here, and they share the info).

Maybe the website will mention it after they've had their meeting?

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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Thu May 26, 2011 4:33 pm

Lise wrote:
hi Isan, I don't think it's on the SA website yet -- the message was distributed by email to a list of Shasta sangha members (some of whom are also members here, and they share the info).

Maybe the website will mention it after they've had their meeting?


Ah, that explains it. Thanks! I'll check with my sources (cause I have so many) and see what I can find out sunny
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Sat May 28, 2011 3:01 pm

After some months of indifference (should I make that sound better?) I got a strong urge to look at what's going on here. Strangely enough, the first thread I went to was this one. As I see, there is only three days to contact Faith Trust Inst. I will be copying and pasting my first entry on my intro thread and sending it to them. I will also opine on the absurdity of the limited scope of their investigation. That post should should elucidate that point and I will look for other posts that do the same. Spitting in the wind perhaps, but I work with at risk adolescents and their frequently at risk parents. I'm used to getting spit on my face. Perhaps if I let them know that the OBC is [admin delete] they might suggest to the OBC that their assignment be reframed.


Last edited by Watson on Tue May 31, 2011 9:27 am; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : Forum rules violation / # 6; name-calling and trolling (making controversial posts purely to stir up an adverse reaction).)
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Sat May 28, 2011 4:18 pm

I wrote the following letter to Ms. Fortune (gotta love that name) at Faith Trust:


Dear Ms. Fortune,


I was a monk at Shasta Abbey from 1976-1991. I heard of your
involvement with Shasta Abbey from the website OBC Connect. I’m sure you’ve
been contacted by them. I am writing you because I believe the narrowness of
your assignment will not allow you to help the OBC truly look at the problems
they face. Your ability to look outside of the narrowness of focus they
assigned you might be nil, but perhaps with some additional information and
perspective you could provide a recommendation to the OBC to look outside their
present narrow scope. It is to this end that I have copied below some of the
posts I’ve made on OBC Connect. The most important one is the first one, describing my own appaling experience at Shasta Abbey when I became ill. I believe it demonstrates clearly that Michael Little’s (Eko) style of leadership did not
spring from thin air. In fact, he absorbed much from Rev. Kennett. My
experience with her, which I’ve written about below, will show that. The posts
I’ve included after that (each separate post separated by a line) are my
thoughts on the connectedness of Mr. Little’s style of leadership with Rev.
Kennett’s. To look at Michael Little in
isolation from his teacher and the culture that developed within the OBC over
decades is foolish at best and will only benefit the OBC minimally. Perhaps it
will do more harm than good, providing them with the illusion of having solved
a problem they’ve really barely addressed. However, I understand you are
business and must follow the directives of those that contract your services.



I hope my thoughts are of some use to your project and ultimately
of help to the OBC in seeing themselves and what they’ve inherited from Rev.
Kennett more clearly.


Sincerely,

Henry Esformes For those interested: I also copy and pasted into the letter some posts of mine from the "After the Conclave" thread: Nov. 21, Dec. 4, Dec. 5, and Dec. 6, along with the original post on my intro thread. Couldn't hurt to try.
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Sat May 28, 2011 4:27 pm

Henry--excellent letter--and welcome back to the Forum!! Your presence has been missed.
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Sat May 28, 2011 5:23 pm

Henry wrote:
I wrote the following letter to Ms. Fortune (gotta love that name) at Faith Trust:


Dear Ms. Fortune,


I was a monk at Shasta Abbey from 1976-1991. I heard of your
involvement with Shasta Abbey from the website OBC Connect. I’m sure you’ve
been contacted by them. I am writing you because I believe the narrowness of
your assignment will not allow you to help the OBC truly look at the problems
they face.

Henry, welcome back! Regarding contacing Ms Fortune, I did receive a reply from her via email to a letter I sent, so we know the email address is good. Let us know if you hear back as well.
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Sat May 28, 2011 10:22 pm

Great to hear from you again Henry and thanks for sharing you email to Ms Fotune. It provoke me to emil her too mainly on a wider issue that has been concerning me for some time and was brought into focus by this thread and a talking with Chisan a week ago over a beer.

Dear Ms Fortune,

I wish you well with your enquiries at Shasta Abbey and the OBC, and hope that you can help them . I was Prior at Throssel Hole Priory for a number of years and left many years ago in 1974 when on a visit to Shasta Abbey I found practices and beliefs being developed that I profoundly disagreed with. But that is not what this communication is about. I am a contributor to the OBCconnect forum, which I am sure your are aware of, the contributors are a disparate group ranging from those who seem to have totally turned against the OBC and would not seem be satisfied until it was disbanded, through to those who seem to feel that there have been one or two bad eggs and once they have been dealt with all will be fine. But you can read all our opinions on the forum. If you need some background on the OBC may I recommend ‘Tibetan and Zen Buddhism in Britain’, David N. Kay, RoutlageCurzon, 2004. This is basically Kay’s PhD thesis and appears to be well researched and unbiased. Half of the book is devoted to the development of the OBC, with only a mild British bias.



But this is not what this email is about. I would like to provoke you and you organisation, the Faith Trust, to a much wider debate which might be subsumed under ‘Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?’, ‘Who guards the guardians?’. It seems to me that as soon as the word religion is used the state and society in general both in Europe and the US throw up their hands and abandon any attempt to police the behaviour of those involved. In consequence religious organisations seem to have become a haven for charlatans, abusers and exploiters of all hues, to the point where the bad often drives out the good. There are few enforceable standards, fewer sanctions and no external guardians except the law which tends to abdicate its responsibilities at the mere mention of the word religion. There are organisations such as yours, but you are without sanctions, except for breaches of the law, and only advisory, even then only well after the event. This would not be tolerated in any of the other caring professions from social workers, to doctors and teachers. There are often some kind of ‘parish’ council but these are often easily subverted, or completely ignored. In the case of Soto Zen there is an umbrella organisation but it has no teeth having been writing for years to one person to try and get him to relinquish his position and appalling behaviour, but not willing to report matters to the authorities when there is behaviour that goes way beyond the merely scandalous. We all need some form of external validating and policing authority which has the authority, the power and the will to investigate at their own instigation and publicly publish their findings. One which has real teeth and can ultimately withdraw the right for someone to hold office and ultimately disband or with at the very least withdraw charitable status from organisations.


Sorry for the rant but I feel strongly that something needs to be done and frustrated as to the lack of any sign of progress.


I will post a copy of this email on the OBCconnect forum in the thread ‘OBC Experiences/ Assessment by Faith Trust’. Hopefully it will draw further comments that may be of use or interest to you.


Yours in faith
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Sun May 29, 2011 12:02 am

Mark, good for you - I take my hat off for you and Henry for taking a firm stand this way. Whatever it will accomplish, it's sooo right to speak up.
Only as a point of discussion that I couldn't resist:

Indeed, who guards the guardians? Who would guard the guardians of guardians? What would be the criteria? How would investigations be conducted? Would all religious institutions be supervised, overseen?
Would you say, Mark, that if there were such an overseeing institution, Shasta Abbey should have been shut down in the 70s? Or rapped on the knuckles?
Would this not open a can of worms, such as political correctness in schools, families?
Naturally, I feel strongly about this as you do - what happened in Shasta was ghastly (even minus the occult stuff - all the vicious manipulation etc), but to oversee this kind of stuff...I honestly don't know how.
At the beginning of your letter you wrote,
the contributors are a disparate group ranging from those who seem
to have totally turned against the OBC and would not seem be satisfied
until it was disbanded

I don't know if we do - I guess some do? I am not sure, myself - am I uncharacteristically [banned term]-footing? I knew only Roshi's set-up, and I don't think I would want a system where her show would be shut down, could be shut down. I think I would worry very much about the Big Brother, you see. Getting rid of one kind of evil (just social evil, nothing satanic), we could be opening the doors to much worse one. Or no?
I already said good night, so what am I doing here?
Luv, as always,
Ol'ga
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Sun May 29, 2011 8:10 am

Henry and mark great letters.I have to sit behind you Mark and say your letter does and has to represent me too. My Mum seems to be having quite large strokes every other day,the koan of time is very relevant to me now,the faster Itry to write the more spellins and jumbled it gets. Please do write these letters and draw attention to our pertinent issues,and our love of the true way
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Sun May 29, 2011 5:48 pm

Hey Chisan,

I'm really sorry to hear about your Mom. I took care of my mother until she died and it was the hardest thing I've ever done but perhaps the best as well. I think a lot of karma got cleaned up during those months. Hope you can manage and that you have help. It must be really disturbing to have big incidents on a frequent basis. Full crisis mode is sooo hard. I'm thinking of you.

Polly
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Mon May 30, 2011 2:11 am

Michael/chisan ,
Thank you for coming into this with your words , and I too am thinking about you and your mother , and all that that brings up ,love Nicky
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PostSubject: Re: Assessment by FaithTrust    Mon May 30, 2011 2:42 am

Thanks Nicky and Polly I appreciate it,we had ambulences out last night although it is a bit difficult we are alright today. Your love is so charming and wonderful to feel.It is I guess something we all go through xx
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