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 A letter from Rev. Master Meian

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Lise
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PostSubject: A letter from Rev. Master Meian   Mon Jun 21, 2010 11:56 pm

[Please note: My avatar picture appears next to this post because I added the entry to the forum; sorry for any confusion. Rev. Meian's comments begin with "Dear friends, . . . " below, in quotes.]


This message was distributed on the e-tree this evening and forwarded here for posting:


"Dear friends,


Recently it has become apparent that some of you are
wondering about the circumstances of the departure of Rev. Master Eko, which we may not have explained as well as we might.
I will try to fill in some of the details and address some concerns
here.

On May 2nd, as you know, we sent out the text of Rev. Master Eko's announcement to the congregation, in which he said he was going to leave the Abbey and return to lay life, and talked about his disagreement with the direction and functioning of the Order as his reason for doing so.
On May 15th we accidentally learned that one aspect of Rev. Master Eko’s leaving was that he had formed a romantic relationship with a congregation member, which he hoped to pursue. This fact he had concealed from us, and we asked him to resign his post immediately. We sent out a statement to this effect, without giving a lot of personal details. When a monk leaves the Abbey we try to protect their privacy; sometimes things are complicated and very personal, and as monks we respect confidentiality. Because of this absence of detail our response has seemed rather harsh and unkind to some people, and this is understandable. I would like to explain a little now.

For us, the main problem was not the forming of the attachment; human beings fall in love, monks are human beings and we recognise
that this can happen. When it does it is painful and can cause harm, but it happens. The main problem was the lengthy concealment, which was much more harmful. One of the rules of our Order is as follows:


The relationship of the priesthood to the laity depends for its efficacy as a vehicle of spiritual training on mutual respect and faith. The faith of congregation members is always seriously damaged when a priest deliberately fosters a sexual element in relation to any member of the congregation, thus it is fundamental that priests of the Order not seek or encourage sexual or romantic involvements. A priest who feels that he or she is tending toward such a relationship should take refuge in his or her seniors in the sangha. Should the priest, after careful meditation and after discussing the matter with other senior priests of the Order, decide to pursue a romantic relationship, he or she should arrange with the head of the Order to be immediately relieved of his or her duties and return to lay life.@ (Section II, Rule 9.)

We take this rule very seriously, because of the damage that
can be caused when it is not kept. Teachers, psychotherapists, and others who are in a position of power and trust have the same ethical rule. In the case of Rev. Master Eko, this rule was clearly broken, the relationship was concealed for a long time, and the Precept on truthfulness was also broken over a long time, seriously damaging the trust of members of the community and congregation. This is why we viewed this matter so gravely.

After our statement on May 17th Rev. Master Eko requested that it be made clear that there was no sexual contact: to celibate monks this is an important point, so we sent out an addendum to our statement to make this clear.

Some people feel that we were unkind in asking Rev. Master
Eko to resign his post immediately and leave soon. In fact, he had announced his intention to resign and leave two weeks earlier, and his continued presence was both painful and confusing for people. We gave him generous financial help, both from the monks themselves and from congregation members, since a nonprofit corporation may not give a significant amount of money to any individual person. We
updated his medical and optical care, tried to provide for his needs, and in general did whatever we could to help him to adjust to his new life in the world. We were very much aware of the vulnerability of his situation after almost 39 years of monastic life, and we wanted to help him. We made it clear that he would be welcome to visit at a later date, and on his last evening we had a farewell tea, leaving him with kind words.


Some people may think monks are opposed to romantic or sexual relationships, but this is not so. In lay life they are of course just fine, and they can be an excellent vehicle for Buddhist practice. For monks it is different: we vow to be celibate. One way of practice does not stand against the other; we need both for the Buddha Dharma to flourish. This is why the Buddha talked about the Fourfold Sangha: lay men, lay women, male and female monks.

Again, some people may be wondering what the problems with
the Order are that Rev. Master Eko was referring to. Rev. Master Haryo, the Head of the Order, has affirmed his willingness to look at any aspects of the Order
's direction and functioning that need
addressing and make changes where needed. The issues that Rev. Master Eko brought up could certainly have been discussed and worked out: a perceived lack of communication within the Order;
standards for entry of postulants and for re-entry of former monks; colours of monastic vestments; perceived lack of sufficient discussion of events within the Order; how much autonomy an abbot or chief priest has within his or her own temple, and so on. Many of these things may be brought up and discussed at the upcoming Conclave of the Order to be held at Shasta Abbey in September.


I have felt it best to address all of these concerns because
they have all been raised. If you have sent our previous statements about Rev. Master Eko
's departure to other people, we would appreciate your sending them this message as well, so that they may, perhaps, feel reassured about our actions and intentions. In no way do we wish to cause any further harm to anyone, including the former Rev. Master Eko; we owe him a great debt of gratitude for all he has done for the monastery and the community during his
abbacy, and we sincerely wish him well.


With best wishes, in gassho,

Rev. Meian."


Last edited by Lise on Sun Aug 08, 2010 9:54 pm; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : To clarify, in response to a question, why my picture accompanies this post instead of RM Meian's. Because she is not a forum member and did not create the post, her picture does not appear here.)
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PostSubject: Re: A letter from Rev. Master Meian   Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:46 am

I found this message encouraging. To get such openness and candor, right out of the gate -- tips you off as to the kind of leader RM Meian will be and already is. She meets things head-on.

Time will tell if her influence can get some of the other monks back on track re: the equality of lay & monastic life and respecting lay life as a valid choice.

It's nice to hear that RM Eko got a decent goodbye.
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PostSubject: Re: A letter from Rev. Master Meian   Tue Jun 22, 2010 4:18 pm

Well said Lise--and well said RM Meian!
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PostSubject: Re: A letter from Rev. Master Meian   Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:34 pm

Thank you so much for sharing this. It does help.
Sugin
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PostSubject: Re: A letter from Rev. Master Meian   Wed Jun 23, 2010 10:43 am

I am not immediately praiseful of this follow-up letter about RM Eko's departure from Shasta Abbey. To begin with, I don't see it as a voluntary attempt to keep the lay Sangha informed. It surfaces after the fact, to address and to quiet concerns already expressed by the laity--in such places as this forum--and did not take the initiative. It responds rather than leads.
And after all the secrecy, explained as "privacy," around how so many other monks have left the Abbey and the Order, why do we suddenly know details about Michael Little's sex life, financial prospects, and health insurance? Did he give them permission to reveal these private personal aspects about his new life? At the moment, I interpret this message primarily as self-serving.
Beyond these concerns with the message, I also see some of its general statements of philosophy as in opposition to the actual practices I have seen in the field, where I believe I have seen monks to be deliberately untruthful over extended periods, for instance. (Always covered by "skillful means.")
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PostSubject: Re: A letter from Rev. Master Meian   Wed Jun 23, 2010 11:30 am

"The issues that Rev. Master Eko brought up could certainly have been discussed and worked out: a perceived lack of communication within the Order;
standards for entry of postulates and for re-entry of former monks; colours of monastic vestments; perceived lack of sufficient discussion of events within the Order; how much autonomy an abbot or chief priest has within his or her own temple, and so on. Many of these things may be brought up and discussed at the upcoming Conclave of the Order to be held at Shasta Abbey in September."

This does sound like a start. It would be great if they had a forum for everyone to discuss and ask questions about procedures and activities of the sangha. Maybe some lay liaison appointee might work or an open newsletter. Of course, no one expects a Zen monastery to be operated as a democracy so "I just don't know".
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PostSubject: Re: A letter from Rev. Master Meian   Thu Jun 24, 2010 12:26 am

George, maybe the sudden flow of information is due to the new administration's different approach to handling public relations disasters like the present one. 13 years of secretiveness and suppression under RM Eko, 26 years under RM Jiyu. The new sheriff in town is not responsible for how things were done before. I wouldn't be surprised if the old "concealment" environment wasn't her style and now she has a chance to put her own philosophies into practice. Obviously I have no idea if this is correct -- just my speculation.

I accept the Abbey's explanation that Michael Little wanted everyone to receive confirmation re: the lack of sexual contact. I could have happily lived my entire life without ever thinking about that, but -- fine, he didn't break the rule on sex. Regarding medical insurance, we already know the Abbey provides that for monks (lay people pay for it) and we know the community was taking up a collection for him (Daishin's email). I don't see that either issue was a violation of confidentiality, but nonetheless, I too hope they confirmed that he was okay with it being discussed. He does deserve as much privacy as anyone else.

I agree with you re: general statements of philosophy not matching up to what's going on in the field. I think Rev. Meian has no idea of the extent to which a number of OBC monks are deviating from teachings such as "the four classes of buddhists are equal", even though I believe she supports this idea herself. I think she has been too far removed, for too long, from what monks are actually doing and saying outside the presence of other monks. The disconnect is huge, but it's also not something she herself created. Hopefully it's something she can help fix .

I can't get over how new all of this must be for them -- the idea of having to respond to an outside forum, explain things they've never had to explain -- this is a lot of change in a very short time.




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PostSubject: Re: A letter from Rev. Master Meian   Fri Aug 13, 2010 9:43 pm

Rev. Meian, by whatever means ... is a great person and I hope she can do well and do some great work in the fields of merit ... of which many are rarely capable of.
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