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 Reverend Wilber

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hausen



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PostSubject: Reverend Wilber   Thu Jul 29, 2010 5:54 am

Hello,

Can anyone shed any light on the suicide of Reverend Wilber from Throssel Hole Abbey? I did speak to a monk about this when I found out, but they didn't really go into much detail. I do understand he was suffering from depression and had been before his entry into the order. I was also informed he had become increasingly at odds with the Abbot, and other members of the Sangha before he was asked to leave the Monastery to take 'time out'. It was during this 'time out' that he decided to end his life by putting himself in front of an oncoming train.

I'd like to know what differences he was having with the Abbot and other senior monks? Was he experiencing a nervous breakdown of sorts? Was he taking any medication for his depression during his training while at the Abbey? What were the terms of his 'time out'? Was Reverend Wilber assisted in any way after his departure from the Monastery in receiving medical or psychological help? What is the OBC admissions policy for people who have suffered from depression? and can Zen training agitate or exasperate those with psychological problems? Finally did Reverend Wilber have a close relationship with anyone be it a monk or lay person, in which he talked about any issues he was having? Are junior monks allowed to confide or discuss any issues with whoever they so wish or is there a rigid hierarchical structure which mandates you speak with only a designated spiritual advisor? It seems to me if such a relationship were to break down, it would definitely make someone feel isolated and depressed.

I think the above questions are important to answer, as I once witnessed a woman at a local meditation group have an outburst/breakdown. She was highly upset, and became more and more irritable and agitated. The Monk present at the time was completely unable to deal with the situation, and ended up shouting at her as a means to calm her down. The weird thing is, that moment was never spoken of again, we never saw her again, and no one ever inquired after her.

Hausen.







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Shirlet



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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Thu Jul 29, 2010 6:30 am

I think the question of how the OBC deal with such situations is an important one. However, we should be very sensitive and aware that Rev Wilbur (even though deceased) and his relatives have a right to privacy and this should be respected. These questions could hopefully be answered in a generic way that does not compromise that privacy or cause upset to the family.
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jack



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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Thu Jul 29, 2010 8:02 am

I seriously doubt you will hear anything from inside the order. Openness about anything is not a characteristic of the OBC, particularly about any mistakes they make.

The point raised here and elsewhere about the ability of OBC monks to handle spiritual emergencies is a good one. I for one haven't experienced or witnessed a spiritual emergency -- in fact I'm not sure what that is. I have witnessed forms of mental illness, some temporary, some prolonged.

One tendency within the OBC I've noticed is to view nearly every problem as a spiritual problem. This blinds them to their own ineptness and ignorance about mental illness; that ignorance becomes the foundation of arrogant surety about their imagined spiritual diagnoses which can have a devastating impact on those already impaired.

The combination of secrecy and ignorant arrogance has always been a disaster waiting to happen. The Catholic Church has a long history of treating problems of mental illness as spiritual problems, with a long track record of misery to show for it. Its view of pedophilia as only a "spiritual problem" and its practice of shrouding such behavior with secrecy and indulgence grow from the conditions of spiritual arrogance and ignorance. In the case of the lady who almost perished because of some monk's adamant diagnosis of an infestation of a hungry ghost, the spiritual threats of expulsion and drastic karmic consequences (which have now proved to be false), the denial of any wrongdoing after a superficial official investigation, the inability to even admit they may have made wrong judgments, the presumed innocence of senior monks, and the inability to distinguish between psychological and spiritual problems are the same basic conditions which led to the Catholic Church's indulgence of rampant misconduct of its priesthood. I don't see any safeguards within the OBC for remedying excesses nor a culture that is likely to develop them.

Buddhism is for relatively healthy minds. I think Zen is a particularly poor choice for those who suffer from depression because it encourages as spiritual practice existing feelings of isolation and deprivation The First Noble Truth is not a depressive's view of the world, but it draws depressives like flies since it seems to accept as highest spiritual truth their negatively distorted view of the world and life. Unfortunately, much of Buddhism cannot distinguish between those drawn to Buddhism by their own illness and those drawn by a deeper search for truth.
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Lise
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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Thu Jul 29, 2010 11:10 am

I too have thought about Rev. Wilber. I take Shirlet's point that the issues should be handled with sensitivity, and at the same time I think it's important to know what was done to help him, if anyone is aware of that. If talking about this can possibly avert harm to others, then it's important to try. There seems to be a disconnect in some OBC matters between what they say they do (or should do) and what actually happens.

I was at Shasta Abbey not long after his death and remember seeing a small framed picture of him, placed on a table or some piece of furniture in the Buddha Hall, with some flowers near it. I don't know his age but he looked very young.
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Kyogen

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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Thu Jul 29, 2010 12:14 pm

I would add that while privacy is one side of the issue, caring is the other. Family members can just as easily feel that a lack of interest and concern makes matters worse. There is a middle way, but moving into caring inquiry is the right thing to do.

Kyogen
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Jiko



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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Fri Jul 30, 2010 1:54 pm

We have an open-door sangha with more than 200 members and new people walking in the door every day. We have had all kinds of people here, including many with depression, personality disorders and mental illness. It's inevitable in any organization, and perhaps especially in a religious center - these people are suffering and seeking consolation and clarity, however they can. So we have had to get training and offer training and support to all the staff and seniors here in managing difficult people and crisis situations. It's an ongoing process. We really want Dharma Rain to be open to all who can benefit from the practice - which is not every single person, but most people, even very troubled people.

I think it is important to note as well that deep spiritual transformation CAN look like mental illness or depression or psychic breakdown and you need people who can recognize the difference. That means people who have no personal investment - no personal need for it to be one thing or another - so that the person receives the correct medicine. I have had some very intense experiences through practice and remain grateful that I was help firmly and gently in my sangha at that time. I have also been to counselors when I felt the need - and there are several therapists and medical people in our sangha as well.

To me, it makes no more sense to say that every experience has a spiritual cause than to say every experience has a physical cause. No obstacles there - Jiko
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Carol

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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Fri Jul 30, 2010 2:03 pm

What kind of compassionate organization throws people out the door if they are suffering from depression or mental illness? What kind of religious leader teaches that psychotherapy is inconsistent with Buddhist training, as Koshin did?
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Kyogen

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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Fri Jul 30, 2010 2:25 pm

Hello Violet,

Sad to say, otherwise very caring people can get to the end of their rope and toss someone aside when they just don't know what else to do. Taking refuge in others with more experience at such times is essential. I do that on a regular basis. Then you find out that taking refuge in others, just peers who have some distance, is invaluable. It keeps a teacher sane. I hope the OBC as an organization grows up and learns to do this. I love and respect the people I still know there. I think they just need a reality check, and to get real with themselves.

With palms joined,

Kyogen
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hausen



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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Fri Jul 30, 2010 4:47 pm

I'd like to add that I did see a leaflet at Throssel recently for a Buddhist retreat centre in Scotland (the name escapes me at the moment) which caters to people with mental health issues. I'll try and find out what it is called and post a link.

Ultimately most of the time, I think the obc has been a well intentioned practice, mistakes are obviously inevitable as that's what human beings do...we make mistakes. I for one am a complete master! I do however think we have to be careful here with this forum. Without input from obc members be it lay or ordained (both preferably!...c'mon step up, don't be shy!), debate here could denigrate into opinion and speculation which may not be possibly justified. I'm not saying that is the case with any of your posts here on this thread! You have all made some excellent and valid comments. It just seems that there are more ex obc folk talking here than people who still practice within the order. This needs to change, for this forum to reach it's full potential.

Best,

Hausen.
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Lise
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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Fri Jul 30, 2010 6:37 pm

Agree, Haugen -- not sure if you saw this mentioned in http://obcconnect.forumotion.net/introductions-f4/another-introduction-and-some-observations-t40.htm

lise wrote:
:There are a few members here who I think are still involved with the OBC. I too would like to see them use the forum more. The key is for them to start more threads of their own that will stay on-topic with their thoughts and perceptions. For the most part, they've dropped posts into threads started by others who don't feel good about the OBC, so their comments tend to get lost. Or their comments may be perceived as trying to refute or deflect the original poster's concerns or criticism, which may not be their intent at all. I have encouraged some OBC members to start their own threads but there seems to be a barrier for most of these folks . . .

sandokai wrote:
This is me.

i'm uncomfortable from two directions. on one hand i feel like im being unfaithful to the people i care about who are loyal to the obc. on the other hand i haven't seen what others have so i feel guilty because i cant offer support or commiseration

When I was still involved, and even though I was very much aware of things I wasn't comfortable with it, I would have had a tough time posting anything about the OBC. Even positives. Mostly due to my perception that: posting comments = having an opinion = clinging to my opinion = failing to comprehend and live the teachings.

I don't know if this is how current OBC members feel -- maybe they will come in and talk about it --

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Isan
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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Tue Aug 03, 2010 2:28 pm

hausen wrote:
I do however think we have to be careful here with this forum. Without input from obc members be it lay or ordained (both preferably!...c'mon step up, don't be shy!), debate here could denigrate into opinion and speculation which may not be possibly justified. I'm not saying that is the case with any of your posts here on this thread! You have all made some excellent and valid comments. It just seems that there are more ex obc folk talking here than people who still practice within the order. This needs to change, for this forum to reach it's full potential.

I disagree. What will prevent the debate from degenerating into speculation, etc, is each of us holding ourselves to a high standard, not the presence of active members of the OBC. Greater participation by OBC members would only help the forum "reach its' full potential" if they were individuals capable of critical thought and sufficiently fearless to express those thoughts in public. During my years at Shasta Abbey (70's-80's) the system of repression and retribution was so great that no one dared disagree with the "teaching" in public. The censorship is so deeply internalized that even after leaving and repudiating the system it took me five years to start speaking out. What I've heard and read since then leads me to believe that the OBC has only worsened in this regard. Of course I would be delighted (well, astonished really) to be proven wrong, but I've learned that there's no point in holding one's breath.


Last edited by Victek on Tue Aug 03, 2010 10:21 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : spelling and grammatical corrections)
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Diana



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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Tue Aug 03, 2010 10:52 pm

I agree with Isan on this one.

~Diana
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Laura

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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Wed Aug 04, 2010 1:11 am

Hello Isan! Welcome to the forums. It is amazing what an influx of former monastics has joined the forums lately!

I was not at the Abbey as a monastic during your time there, but I would like to say that the repressive, retributive environment you describe was certainly alive and flourishing well during my tenure at the monastery (1996-2007). I am still struggling with free speech myself! As much as I feel that I have quite successfully integrated into secular life, I do retain some strongly enforced habit patterns. This forum is helping me to work on them.

Glad you weren't holding your breath, for I certainly cannot prove you wrong. I hope you are doing well. It is really a pleasure to find you here.

~ Laura
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Daishin Morgan



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PostSubject: Rev. Wilber's Suicide   Sat Aug 07, 2010 4:29 am

I recently came across this website and would like to respond to the questions that have been asked about Rev. Wilber and his suicide. My name is Daishin Morgan and I am the Abbot of Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey.
Rev. Wilber was 36 years old when he became a monk and was here for about ten years. He had been a radiographer and a keen fell runner. He had a history of depression before he came to the monastery. It centred around a deep sense of worthlessness and a considerable anger that could either flare up unpredictably or burn within him in a way that made him unapproachable. He received valuable help from a local Doctor who is also a trained counsellor. She prescribed medication and saw him for counselling outside the monastery. He had his difficulties here but also many good times. He could be particularly sympathetic to others who were suffering mental pain.
We encourage novice monks, in addition to their relationship with me, to "take refuge" with the novice master and or with the monk in charge of the department where they work. In addition all monks are free, and encouraged, to talk with any of the other senior monks they wish. Our aim is to foster a sense of community where people are free to find appropriate ways to speak of what is on their minds. When Rev. Wilber had been here about a year we realized he had an eating disorder. Although it took some time, he made good progress and largely overcame it. He also made some headway with his depression and learned how to recognise the signs of its onset. In the last year or so he was able to side step some episodes or recover more quickly. He gained in confidence and seemed happier.
In early 2006 I appointed Wilber as one of my assistants. This was a gesture of trust and he responded with a lot of effort. Then in what turned out to be the last few months of his life we began the process leading to his transmission - the step from novice monk to becoming a priest. In view of his difficulties we were tailoring the process to his needs, recognizing that he might not be able to fulfil some of the public aspects of this role but that nevertheless there were many ways in which he was making a valuable contribution that we wanted to recognise.
Rev. Wilber had been a novice for longer than is usual. As other monks were ordained and went through the training they overtook him and he found this very difficult. The improvement we saw in his last year enabled us to give him the opportunity to move on. Unfortunately the results were mixed. Initially he was delighted but then he began to act in ways he knew were unacceptable. I think somewhere inside he was frightened by his own progress. He was faced with the prospect that he really could make a step forward but that meant leaving behind some of the old patterns of behaviour that he had used to try and cope in the past. It was as though he were testing us - "If I show you how I fear I really am, will you still love me?" He yearned for acceptance but found it very hard to accept when it was given. Rev. Wilber was not a patient in an institution, he was part of the community, and I think that was why he wanted to stay here as long as he did. He left several times over the years and returned to his parents home. On each occasion, after about a week, he called up and asked to return and his parents drove him back. His father said to me on one of these occasions that in his view Wilber’s best chance of a good life was being here. He had no illusions about his son’s difficulties as he suffered in the same way himself. My difficulty was that we could not allow Wilber to be here unconditionally - there were other vulnerable people here, and his outbursts could be intimidating and frightening, even though he was never physically violent.
He was at a crossroads; he could not remain a novice monk forever, if for no other reason than the damage it caused his self esteem every time he was overtaken. He feared the consequences of stepping forward into the position he was being offered. In addition his mother had recently become seriously ill and if she died then he would lose the chance to stay with his parents. This came to a head on 16th December 2006 when he had been quite abusive to one of the other monks. I told him that behaving in this way meant I could not go ahead with his transmission. His reaction was such that I had no option but to ask him to leave. After our interview a colleague of mine asked him if we could help him in any way, if he needed any money or other assistance, but he was hurt and angry and just wanted to leave right away. I believe he knew that being asked to go left the door open for him to return when he cooled down - as he had done in the past. He departed by taxi to the station - we assumed to his parents home.
What happened next became clear at the inquest that was held into his death. He went to his parents house but with his mother in hospital no one was home. He left his bags on the lawn and went to the nearby railway line and lay down with his head on the tracks. His sister described at the inquest how, before he was a monk, he had told her he had done this a couple of times to see what would happen. No train had come along and so he had left. She also described other suicidal incidents - some cries for help, and one more serious attempt. He had not disclosed these incidents to us.
The police found a note in his bag that could be construed as a suicide note but was too ambiguous to be sure. There was also a note left in his notebook addressed to me in which he said he had no ill will towards me and hoped I would be willing to write a reference so he could get a job. The Coroner said this raised a reasonable doubt about his intention to take his own life, especially when taken together with his previous behaviour of putting his head on the railway line. However, she could not conclude that it was an accident and so recorded an open verdict.
Rev. Wilber’s sister Sara wrote to me some time after the funeral and sent a portion of his ashes along with a tree to plant in our grounds. She wrote that he had spent some of the happiest times of his rather troubled life with us and felt sure he would wish his ashes to remain here.
I hope this goes some way to helping readers understand what happened. The above is of course written with hindsight. I did not see things as clearly while they were unfolding in the moment. I regret that we were unable to manage his departure in a better way. Had I put all the elements together as I was able to do afterwards, I would have done that differently. I think it would still have been necessary to ask him to go.
Even before Rev Wilber’s death we were modifying our procedure of accepting new monks. At the start of my time here as Abbot I was rather naive in thinking that all that was really necessary was for an applicant to really want to be a monk. I don’t see it that way anymore. Monastic life can be a profound help but it can also be harmful. In Wilber’s case I think it really helped him up to the point where he had to take a step he was not able to make. I did not see that clearly enough at the time. His father felt that he would have died a lot sooner if he had not been with us - I don’t know if that is true, I hope it is true that we helped him. When people become monks we take some considerable time over the process to see how a person responds to monastic life. It is a challenge and a pressure cooker although we never deliberately set out to make it so. I believe that life is challenge enough, particularly the challenge of getting on with each other in close quarters in a monastery. Any deliberate manipulation of another is profoundly wrong.
We are aware of the need to develop the skills to recognize when people need specialized help and we encourage them to seek it whenever necessary. Our current guest master is a clinical psychologist with many years professional experience. Five senior monks from here have attended a course on Mental Health First Aid. We have a number of mental health professionals available to us to consult and we do so whenever the need arises. They include a clinical psychologist, and a Psychologist specialising in schizophrenia. We do the best we can, in my case it isn’t perfect, but I loved Rev. Wilber as a disciple, and believe I did my human best for him.
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jack



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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Sat Aug 07, 2010 9:38 am

Though I am surprised at Daishin Morgan's remarks, I quite appreciate the effort to be open about the circumstances, and am glad to hear that training is being provided to identify those with psychological difficulty rather then just assuming it's all a spiritual problem of some sort. I applaud the effort of this OBC temple.


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Isan
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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Sat Aug 07, 2010 11:49 am

Daishin Morgan wrote:
When people become monks we take some considerable time over the process to see how a person responds to monastic life. It is a challenge and a pressure cooker although we never deliberately set out to make it so. I believe that life is challenge enough, particularly the challenge of getting on with each other in close quarters in a monastery. Any deliberate manipulation of another is profoundly wrong.

We are aware of the need to develop the skills to recognize when people need specialized help and we encourage them to seek it whenever necessary. Our current guest master is a clinical psychologist with many years professional experience. Five senior monks from here have attended a course on Mental Health First Aid. We have a number of mental health professionals available to us to consult and we do so whenever the need arises. They include a clinical psychologist, and a Psychologist specializing in schizophrenia. We do the best we can, in my case it isn’t perfect, but I loved Rev. Wilber as a disciple, and believe I did my human best for him.

Well Daishin, I am pleasantly surprised to see you here. I trust you remember me. I appreciate your willingness to go on the record about what happened with Rev Wilbur. The information about making mental health professionals available to your students says good things about how you're going about teaching. But your comment that "deliberate manipulation of another is profoundly wrong" is harder to believe. During all my years at Shasta Abbey the deliberate manipulation of others was the rule, not the exception. Are you saying you have intentionally turned away from this "style" of teaching? Can you speak to this?
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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Sat Aug 07, 2010 3:01 pm

Hello Rev. Daishin,

I don't think you know me, as my training with the OBC has all been in the U.S., primarily at Shasta Abbey, where I spent 11 years in monastic training. But I just wanted to say how very grateful I am to see your participation in this forum and, most especially, your openness about the situation with Rev. Wilber. I can only imagine how difficult that whole situation has been for you and the community at Throssel. Thank you so much for sharing your perspective and shedding so much light on that situation.

~ Laura
(formerly Fidelia)
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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Sat Aug 07, 2010 5:56 pm

Hello Daishin,

I certainly remember you very well from your five years at Shasta Abbey. Do you plan on participating on this site in the future? I imagine wading through this material would be like strolling through a brier patch, yet active engagement from someone like you would be highly welcome, for most of us, I would think. However, I think it would do a lot of good for people to see some honest, open exchange.

I hope all is well near Hadrian's Wall.

With palms joined,

Kyogen
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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Sat Aug 07, 2010 11:41 pm

Daishin--welcome--it is wonderful to see you here! And I hope that you will remain here with us.

I, for one, am continually impressed and inspired by this forum community--in its amazing diversity, in an often expressed willingness to acknowledge and accept the diverse experience articulated by many, and the compassion that emerges when we do so.

I have been engaging in a friendly, private, wager with myself, that we would see you posting here first--based on my clear memory of your forthright openness and integrity--and because of the benefits that Kyogen has referred to as "distance from the center of gravity".

I also hope that we will see Haryo, Meian, Daishin Yalon (and others) posting soon as well--since they (I am certain) share your same qualities of openness, integrity, compassion, and a desire to unravel any koan--any institutional dynamic--that emerges as a cause of suffering.
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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Sun Aug 08, 2010 11:22 am

Kozan,
Well said, as always.
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Carol

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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Sun Aug 08, 2010 2:02 pm

Thank you, Rev. Daishin, for your candor and openness.
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hausen



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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Fri Aug 20, 2010 1:04 pm

Thank you Rev Daishin, that certainly helped me to understand what happened. It's always been a difficult thing for me to comprehend. I suppose I was incredibly naive in thinking that a monk would somehow have less problems, and would be the last person to take his or her own life.
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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Fri Aug 27, 2010 5:15 pm

I was recently pointed to this website by some friends and am glad they directed me here. As I am new, I have not as yet had time to read through all the previous threads and topics, but one I have read is this one. I was at the Throssel for six months, five of them with Rev Wilber, one after his death. We worked in the kitchen together and got on well. We often met when out running or in quiet corners for a chat from time to time. Over time, we discussed many different issues. The day before RM Daishin left for the Carribean, Rev Wilber came bounding into the kitchen and was grinning like a Cheshire cat! The following day, when RM had left, he told me he was being prepared for transmission. It was not until after his death that I came to realise he had not told anyone else. Without going into too many details, he discussed the many thoughts he was having about what was happening and knew he was on very uncertain and at times frightening ground. While he desperately wanted to take the next step, like anyone on the cusp of achieving something they've worked hard for, he was also unsure whether he could live up to it all. It was not difficult to see that his mental health was strained and this was underlined by a discussion which included suicide. As I was at Throssel with a view to becoming a monk and was not a postulant at the time, I had to leave the monastery for the three weeks over Christmas, returning for the New Year Retreat. Before leaving, Rev Wilber and I had a long chat in the cloister.

When I returned after three difficult weeks, I was taken aside and informed that Rev Wilber had died from suicide before Christmas. At the first opportunity, during a public Tea and Questions, I told RM that I'd known of Rev Wilber's forthcoming transmission and alluded to other conversations which perhaps should be passed on. As nothing further came of it, I mentioned to another senior monk that Rev Wilber had mentioned things it might be helpful now to know. I was told to "stop having self-indulgent and self-important thoughts", thinking I had "important information to pass on", consequently I've never discussed the difficulties Rev Wilber mentioned and the troubles he was having with any of the monks. Given the severity of the situation, which leaves as many unanswered questions as it raises, I'd have thought any person who had had any involvement - however small - in the overall picture would actively seek to gain as many vantage points as possible to see as much of the picture as possible. It's easy to say that hindsight is useful after the event, but in a situation with suicide, hindsight is all there is.

Within ten days of hearing of Rev Wilber's death, I too was told to leave, initially no reason was given.
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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Fri Aug 27, 2010 5:39 pm

Robert,

I'm so sorry for your loss. I can't imagine holding what you experienced. Of course I hope you do not feel guilty about what happened, but I can see how easy it would be, and natural, to feel that way. I hope you have found some support and love in dealing with this situation.

I'm also sorry to hear that you where told to leave Throssel and really hope you do not feel guilty about that! Your contribution here raises some interesting questions, yes? We get messages from some members that "eveything is okay on this side of the fence," only to find out that the dysfunction is spread throughout the entire organization. It is that dysfunction that made it impossible to prevent Reverend Wilber's suicide.

I am convinced that the OBC is unable to support a healthy, thriving, and loving environment to deal with the suffering of others. It may seem that it is possible in some circumstances and yes, there are positive things about training and learning how to love and be a compassionate human being, but it takes a well trained and emotionally healthy person to support and train others. It is our social responsibility to look at the organizations and people we choose to follow in this most important aspect of our lives-- our spiritual health. All paths in the OBC lead to Jiyu; she was their teacher and they practice what she taught. I believe at some point she went off into an unhealthy territory that crystalized into a dysfunctional group of disciples and teachings. I don't believe it can be rectified at this point, but we can move on and get back to our original paths and find what we are looking for somewhere else.

Thank you so much for your post.

Peace,
Diana
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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Fri Aug 27, 2010 8:21 pm

Robert wrote:

When I returned after three difficult weeks, I was taken aside and informed that Rev Wilber had died from suicide before Christmas. At the first opportunity, during a public Tea and Questions, I told RM that I'd known of Rev Wilber's forthcoming transmission and alluded to other conversations which perhaps should be passed on. As nothing further came of it, I mentioned to another senior monk that Rev Wilber had mentioned things it might be helpful now to know. I was told to "stop having self-indulgent and self-important thoughts", thinking I had "important information to pass on", consequently I've never discussed the difficulties Rev Wilber mentioned and the troubles he was having with any of the monks. Given the severity of the situation, which leaves as many unanswered questions as it raises, I'd have thought any person who had had any involvement - however small - in the overall picture would actively seek to gain as many vantage points as possible to see as much of the picture as possible. It's easy to say that hindsight is useful after the event, but in a situation with suicide, hindsight is all there is.

Within ten days of hearing of Rev Wilber's death, I too was told to leave, initially no reason was given.

Hello Robert,

Welcome to OBC Connect. This forum makes possible something which was not possible at Shasta Abbey when I studied there, and that is simply to say what you believe is true and needs to be said about your experience in OBC centers without fear of reprisal. Regarding your post, can you say more about why you were asked to leave? Do you feel it was in response to your wanting to talk about your conversation with Rev Wilbur before he died?
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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Sat Aug 28, 2010 3:08 am

Hi Isan and Diana,

Thanks for your kind welcome to this forum.

After much thought last night, I wrote about why I was asked to leave. It's in the Suggestions for the OBC under the conclave thread. I'm afraid it doesn't make for pretty reading, despite so much being left out! When I met RM Daishin eleven months after leaving, I suggested that his timing had been extraordinarily unhelpful, (if nothing else, then because of implied guilt.) Whether Rev Wilber's death made him think twice about my proceeding due to the challenges I seem to have presented to the community, only he really knows. What I do know is that the manner and appalling mis-handling of my situation so close to Rev Wilber's death left me with very real suicidal thoughts of my own. Thankfully, my sister was there to help me pick up those pieces.

As for support from the community, well forget it! There was simply no contact, in fact there were monks actively informing lay trainees to keep away from me. It was a hellish time. Oddly once I'd seen RM and had the chance to tell him what had been happening, much of which he was well aware of, I was contacted three times in two days to organise my playing the organ at a festival - so they obviously do know how to use a telephone!

Best wishes,
Robert.
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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Wed Sep 15, 2010 4:19 am

Hi Robert,

Its Ryuji,

I'm new here. Just wanted to say hi at this point and extend my love and sympathy to you.

Best wishes,
Ryuji
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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Tue Apr 12, 2011 4:45 pm

Hello forum members,

For those who may be interested in joining an off-line discussion related to this thread, when and if there is interest, please contact Robert for more information.

We're aware that some people may have further thoughts to share about Rev. Wilber and the circumstances of his death, but due to the sensitivity of the subject, and possible forum concerns around libel/defamation, they might not be comfortable posting openly. Our thought is to help people get in touch with each other if they are interested in finding others who also want or need to talk about what happened with Rev. Wilber.

To clarify, the idea is not to close this thread or try to replace it with a private discussion; each can supplement the other, in our view.

Please let Robert know if you're interested in this and he will provide further details.

thanks,
Lise
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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Fri Mar 01, 2013 12:00 pm

Daishin Morgan wrote:

"Rev. Wilber had been a novice for longer than is usual. As other monks were ordained and went through the training they overtook him and he found this very difficult. The improvement we saw in his last year enabled us to give him the opportunity to move on. Unfortunately the results were mixed. Initially he was delighted but then he began to act in ways he knew were unacceptable. I think somewhere inside he was frightened by his own progress. He was faced with the prospect that he really could make a step forward but that meant leaving behind some of the old patterns of behaviour that he had used to try and cope in the past. It was as though he were testing us - "If I show you how I fear I really am, will you still love me?" He yearned for acceptance but found it very hard to accept when it was given."



This is my first post on this website, I have only been reading it since finding the website few months ago. The reason for finding this website is that I went back to practice soto zen last summer and the only group in my area (UK) turned out to be connected to OBC so I investigated it. Currently, I am happy with my local group but from what I read on this website I'll be cautious if I get further involved. I am familiar with the pitfalls that are part and parcel of religious organisations for having practised in another buddhist tradition for 12 years and although that tradition has a lot to offer, there was also some disfunctionning associated with a large structure/group and also the inevitable 'collective ego' and mind control (conscious or not) that develop with it.

Here I wanted to intervene because I am interested in and somewhat intrigued by the interface between mental health and spirituality for having come accross another suicide (in soto zen, coincidence?) 25 years ago when starting practising with another group on the continent related to Taisen Daishimaru/International Zen Association. I was in my early 20s at the time and joined a small local group during an academic year at university. In this tradition, someone ( a monk/priest/master) leads the session by giving some 'kusen' (brief instruction) during zazen. I attended the group during a few months until one day, the monk leading the sessions was absent. I enquired and was told that he had killed himself throwing himself in front of a lorry. At the time, I was very idealistic about buddhism, possibly because of a lack of maturity and because I was also feeling very miserable inside. Consequently, I had high expectations that buddhism would help overcome my delusions and internal sufferings I suppose it is true to a degree (I still believe this but in a different way!) but it is not as plain sailing as I thought it would be.

So no need to say that I was very shocked by the suicide, let alone of a long standing practitioner. But with hindsight, I believe that the event although tragic, was somehow a protective factor for me because I was embarking in adulthood with deep early childhood wounds and this had to be addressed later with a professional therapist. I could have just thrown myself into buddhism instead of addressing some of my issues on the psychological plane, I was also contemplating ordination at the time which I am sure would have been harmful. I was fortunate to figure that out myself but I think that it is very important that, as Jack mentions above, someone helped the applicant to explore carefully reasons for entering monastic life.



In comparison and although I will never know why the monk killed himself, a monk killing himself still tells me that something went terribly wrong in relation to the degree of commitment placed in spirituality, the belief/hope associated with it, and obviously deep rooted existential suffering. I agree with Daishin Morgan that entering the monastic life can be hugely beneficial or very harmful.

Nevertheless, as far as I am concerned, what gave me the wisdom, courage and somehow compassion to pass the therapist's door and persevere to face and heal the darkest corners of my upbringing and its consequences on adulthood was my spiritual practice (Nichiren buddhism then). In this tradition, we also discussed the importance to be clear as to how to go about people with mental health issues (and what I mean by mental health issues is not necessarily an 'illness' per se).

I feel that it is absolutely crucial to find the wisdom to be clear as to how spirituality can help, to what degree and what is the remit of professional counselling. We used to make a point of strictly clarifying to people that as a buddhist organisation we are not counsellors but we can only offer guidance in faith which may help individuals make their own decision regarding the best course of action for the respect of their life.

However, with reference to Daishin Morgan quoted above, I am wondering what he means by 'improvement' in Rev Wilder's situation which led him to be prepared for transmission? I think that, although perhaps based on a good intention, it would have been very misleading and not in Rev Wilder's best interest to progress him towards priesthood in the bid for him to feel 'better' about himself considering his trouble with self-esteem. I suppose that he had first to feel at peace with himself regardless his position in the monastery, therefore if it was as a novice that he was suffering because he was seeing others overtaking him, I think that it was precisely in this very position as a novice that lied the opportunity for him to find peace with himself and others before moving on anywhere else, or he would have inevitably taken his disfunctioning perspective with him into priesthood. Then for those in the position of giving guidance, I think that compassion here may take the form of strictness as to help the person understand the above and support him towards a break through/acceptance?

However, this is just a reflection/food for thought and not a judgement towards Daishin Morgan whom I very much appreciate for his honest reflections on the matter and the fact that what could have been done with hindsight is not always possible in the mid of the circumstances. I understand for working in the realm of child and adult protection that these situations often present difficult if not impossible dilemmas where respect for individual choice is to be weighted up with the protection of self and/or others. It is often a '[banned term] if we do, [banned term] if we don't' picture in the public eye. Nothing/no one may have prevented Rev Wilder's death if this was indeed a suicide.

With respect

Sophie
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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Fri Mar 01, 2013 12:37 pm

Sophie70 wrote:

However, this is just a reflection/food for thought and not a judgement towards Daishin Morgan whom I very much appreciate for his honest reflections on the matter and the fact that what could have been done with hindsight is not always possible in the mid of the circumstances. I understand for working in the realm of child and adult protection that these situations often present difficult if not impossible dilemmas where respect for individual choice is to be weighted up with the protection of self and/or others. It is often a '[banned term] if we do, [banned term] if we don't' picture in the public eye. Nothing/no one may have prevented Rev Wilder's death if this was indeed a suicide.

With respect

Sophie

Sophie,

Welcome to OBCC. I appreciate your thoughtful reflections on the matter of Rev Wilber and the intersection of mental health and spiritual practice in general. Unfortunately Daishin Morgan was only willing to make a statement instead of entering into a discussion to explore what happened with Rev Wilber and I feel this was a missed opportunity.

Although the forum has been relatively quiet of late the discussions here remain relevant. Feel free to chime in.

blessings,

Isan
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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Sat Mar 02, 2013 7:38 am

Sophie.
I still find Rev Wilbers suicide frightening and shocking , and it haunts me . Luckily i have one memory of his grumpy face breaking into a smile when i said something to him .
your posting was moving , and each time i try and respond it all gets convoluted, so to keep it short : my experience of Mental health/spiritual practice is to keep out of organized religion.
( though i don't like the term mental health- sounds like some separate part of us )
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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Thu Mar 07, 2013 3:51 pm

If you're looking for the discussion about the interaction of psychology, psychiatry, etc. and spiritual practice, please look under the category "In Theory and Practice" for the new offshoot thread titled "Mental Health and Spiritual Practice".
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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Sun May 26, 2013 3:24 pm

I speak as a person who trained and worked in pharmacy, became burnt out and extremely distressed with "mental health issues" who took at least two major drug overdoses, self harmed, resided in psychiatric wards, became penniless and effectively homeless, tried to jump off a bridge one time, and am surprisingly still here.

What is this blame culture we see everywhere? Why do we look at individuals and organisations and hold them responsible? Are they not all attempts to point to something else?

To use a visual analogy, we may consider both the endeavours of medicine and organised religion as branches of one original tree, or look at the branches of a river delta meeting the sea, it is the same thing.

Apologies if this post seems off topic, I intend to head over to the other thread presently.

The contemplative traditions in any religion have been around all along to say, can you not see, can you not hear? Why should anyone get involved with Zen without understanding that it is life and death? If you go for surgery in a hospital, there is a consent form; I don't see a lot of difference between this and the spiritual surgery of Zen. It seems to me that taking the precepts is like the consent form. But as a surgeon will tell you, there is only so much they can do, healing has to take place within the patient themselves (and this is mysterious). So if someone is given leave from training within the monastery, is this not a kindness? How can an organisation be blamed for being kind? (And you've heard the saying sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind). You don't make or let a sick person work themselves to death if you have any integrity or decency.

In my case I took antidepressants for 15 years, and major tranquillizers and sleeping tablets and other medications to manage the side effects of each one, all of which were ultimately valueless and harmful (in hindsight). I can only suppose I'm still here because a tiny part of me doubted the whole state of affairs as an adult.

You know, monks don't ask for thanks, they just get on with it. They can give you medicine but it's down to the individual to hear it and take it. They are trying to teach how to listen, how to see, how to pay heed to the heart. Like any medical professional they do their utmost, but sometimes a crash victim comes along who seems already beyond help.

The worst outcome of Reverend Wilbur's death would be that no-one would remember him and how hard he tried.
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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Sun May 26, 2013 3:32 pm

I can only suppose I'm still here because a tiny part of me doubted the whole state of affairs as an adult.

Good for you and I have never heard of Rev Wilber but I have now
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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Sun May 26, 2013 4:56 pm

_/\_
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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Mon May 27, 2013 10:21 am

sianabelle wrote:
Why should anyone get involved with Zen without understanding that it is life and death? If you go for surgery in a hospital, there is a consent form; I don't see a lot of difference between this and the spiritual surgery of Zen.

To use your analogy I'd say that surgeons are also subject to review to evaluate their performance and occasionally hold them accountable for mistakes. The fact that the patient signs a consent form is a separate matter.
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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Tue Jun 04, 2013 12:32 pm

Thanks for your reply Isan

I'm wondering who might be best qualified to carry out such a review - an individual, the media, or an independent committee...
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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Wed Jun 05, 2013 9:49 am

Sianabelle -
some thoughts in regard to your post. With priests, teachers, organizations, and students - we are all responsible. I think we all should aim at being spiritual adults and that means we are accountable. The fact that a person has a certificate, diploma, license or title does not in any way exempt them from being accountable. The fact that you might sign a consent form - in the case of the doctor - does not mean he can do what he likes. As we know, some doctors are terrific and some are not and in the U.S., literally hundreds of thousands of people die every year because of medical malpractice, misdiagnosis, hospital error and pharmaceutical mistakes.

and i am not sure that taking the precepts is the same as giving consent. And even if you pledge to work with a teacher, at any time you can change your mind, withdraw any pledge, consent or vow, and walk away. I don't see this as being unfaithful or not dedicated - it might mean that in some cases - but in other cases, it means your are exercising your own integrity and course correcting.

As we know all too well, through evidence, spiritual teachers are not special human beings - they can over reach, make mistakes, become lost in their own story about who they think they are. Are they all doing the best they can? That would be wonderful, but that's just not reality. Not in any religion, not in any organization. There needs to be oversight, transparency, institutional integrity, checks and balances, honest communication, and respect for all persons at all levels.

If we assume anything with spiritual / religious organizations including leaders / priests / teachers, we must assume that they are a collection of human beings, are complex, subject to change and confusion, and always -- always - need to be open to feedback and correction, question their assumptions - if they want to stay alive and non-toxic. Those that are closed to criticism or change become cults and ultimately harmful.

As we see, there are wonderful teachers and healthy organizations - and others that are not so much. And many people benefit from all kinds of groups and situations - even those that are problematic. And everyone and every group is accountable - in my book.
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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Wed Jun 05, 2013 2:39 pm

Thanks for your reply JC

Yeah, human organisations these days tend to have similarities in that the roles get institutionalized, or frozen in place.

I have to admit I was thinking along the lines, to use the medical analogy, of temporary interventions, like removal of an infected appendix. One might give informed consent for such a procedure. On the other hand if your life is hanging by a thread one might be relieved if someone stepped in while you were unconscious and did what they could to help.

I agree about the need for feedback. But how hard it is to for people to bear the vulnerability (and pain that goes with it) to truly listen and see and sense how things are on an ongoing basis. (I think this is why people sometimes look forward to dying).

Lately I've been considering that it might not be a bad idea for individuals to take it in turns to 'dress up' in different roles - kids do it all the time, and I'm sure it does happen in different organizations. So we could have 'Cat' in charge on Monday, 'Dog' in charge on Tuesday, 'Goldfish' in charge on Wednesday etc etc. (Note to self - must seek out some documentaries on transvestites and see what they say about people's perceptions, or in-depth interviews with method actors). I'm entirely sure this is an old idea, and that it does occur on different timescales, for example political terms of office of presidency are limited, but perhaps the frequency could be increased to match the apparent pace of modern life.

I'm sure you'll come back and ask who decides how often and in which manner such allocation of different roles is to take place, and by what criteria. Well, isn't this how wars start. We don't really want mass slaughter on battlefields (other note to self: continue reading Sun Tzu and Miyamoto Musashi)
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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Thu Jun 06, 2013 8:35 pm

sianabelle you said:
Quote :
he contemplative traditions in any religion have been around all along to say, can you not see, can you not hear? Why should anyone get involved with Zen without understanding that it is life and death? If you go for surgery in a hospital, there is a consent form; I don't see a lot of difference between this and the spiritual surgery of Zen. It seems to me that taking the precepts is like the consent form. But as a surgeon will tell you, there is only so much they can do, healing has to take place within the patient themselves (and this is mysterious). So if someone is given leave from training within the monastery, is this not a kindness? How can an organisation be blamed for being kind? (And you've heard the saying sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind). You don't make or let a sick person work themselves to death if you have any integrity or decency.
This is great, it set a train of thought of in my mind that I think you are already ahead of me on. I have often had a problem with the frequently made assertion that the disciple must have complete trust and obedience to their master. But I now see that this is also tue of one's brain surgeon; you need to have complete trust and obedience to them if you are going to give yourself over to them for an operation. But this does not give them licence to abuse, coerce or mistreat you. They should not coerce you into an operation that you don't want, persuade perhaps, coerce no. They have no right to abuse you in any way (unless of course you think drilling holes in your head is an abuse!) or knowingly give you inappropriate treatment. Just so with the master and the disciple. The master is treating the disciple spiritually, he has no jurisdiction over the disciple except in that quite narrow domain. He cannot require the disciple to undergo, or refrain from any paticualr medical treatment. He can offer his advice, but then so can anyone. Why? Well because it is outside his domain of expertise. So if any teacher / master / guru says you must you must obey absolutely in all things, or even in most things, run a mile. It is, of course, not just true of the brain surgeon, it holds for the policeman, the doctor, the high school teacher, doctor, etc., etc. Within their jurisdiction and competency they may lay down the law and you have to trust them but they are not allowed to abuse their position or act outside their jurisdiction.

So thank you sianabelle you have helped with a quandary that I have had for many years. It is not totally resolved, but I can now see it much more clearly.
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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Fri Jun 07, 2013 3:44 pm

I have never really thought about it like that Mark, I agree with the regulations regarding the surgeons.
Re the zen masters i actually dont care ..but it is a huge but as long as i feel it leads in the right direction,which was basically your benchmark when you left Shasta. I have to say the two people i respected most and certainly received the best guildance from thise being Bill Picard and Ikko Roshi the teching roshi at Eiheiji,were most probably the straight est people i personally have met in my life,their was never a mention of these types of issues.it was always this is zazen it is simple all you have to do is do it,the issues is something else.
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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Tue Jun 18, 2013 1:47 am

But before you let the surgeon drill into your head, you can get a second opinion. The surgeon doesn't castigate you for the crime of "doubt."
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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Tue Jun 18, 2013 2:02 am

Doubt is a good thin and how about challenge. I think one can so easily think one knows all the answers knows what it is all about,in za.zen terms one creates another invisible layer of self,not knowing is maybe healthier than knowing,maybe not being concerned if one knows or not knows is healthier still, but big deal. Sects so often fall into the trap, that they or the leader is perfect,but religion is for human beings who are not...perhaps contraversally,Eko might have made a better Abbot after his sexual escapade than he was before,he might have been more human,and learnt to live with his grunge in a real positive way, which for me is more positive than pretending or believing one does not have any. It is doubt that sees behind the scenes of a fake phoenix city
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PostSubject: Re: Reverend Wilber   Tue Jun 18, 2013 8:44 am

Hi Chisan Michael Hughes,

Yesterday I met Penny Holden,she who was a shepherdess,used to go to Throssel in the old days,and like me was a big fan of Mark Strathern.

I mentioned that you posted here,and she said she would do so too.
She didn't seem to remember you.I said you had stayed in her cottage,and she said"I wonder which one..."(She is currently quite into property buying,renovation etc...).
But she was enthusiastic about getting in touch with folk from former OBC times.....

I expect this should be in a different thread....hope it brings two old friends together...

maisie
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