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 OBC Conclave 2010: A Way Forward

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Ian

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PostSubject: OBC Conclave 2010: A Way Forward   Wed Aug 04, 2010 6:50 am

For those of us who care deeply about this tradition and wish it well, it might be helpful to look at positive ways forward to address the issues raised in this forum. The Conclave of 2010 provides an opportunity for that.

A starting point for issues to be discussed and considered might be RM Eko's concerns as expressed by RM Meian as quoted at http://obcconnect.forumotion.net/keeping-in-touch-f5/a-letter-from-rev-master-meian-t28.htm:

"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.....................:

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."

Other issues might include:

the constitutional rules and legal structure which give enormous power to the Head of Order with rather limited checks and balances;

the development of liturgy in the light of the SZTP translations which are now available http://hcbss.stanford.edu/research/projects/sztp/index.html;

The role of laity and monastics and the transition of an individual from one role to another;

Could role of "priest" in a temple (the pastoral role) - or other roles - be separated from monastic practice or otherwise "unpacked"?

Should celibacy be an option rather than a requirement for some or all functions or roles?

Do other Buddhist traditions and their structures offer possible models for any of these matters?

Could new initiatives to begin new ways of doing things be started on a "pilot" basis to see whether they work?

Should one or more "Working Groups" be set up by the Head of Order or the Conclave to consider these or other issues and report back on them in a public and open process?

It would be naive to imagine all issues can be resolved in a limited time frame (or ever) but these points provide a "direction of travel" to begin a journey.

Do people on this forum, particularly OBC lay of manastic adherents, have any other ideas?

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Sophia

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PostSubject: Re: OBC Conclave 2010: A Way Forward   Wed Aug 04, 2010 4:22 pm

Your Stanford link no longer works.
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Kozan
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PostSubject: Re: OBC Conclave 2010: A Way Forward   Wed Aug 04, 2010 11:13 pm

Ian--I think that you may have just identified the crux of the matter--as a strategy for effecting beneficial change within the OBC.

I have additional thoughts to add, which I will do in the future, after a little more reflection.
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Kyogen

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PostSubject: Re: OBC Conclave 2010: A Way Forward   Thu Aug 05, 2010 12:20 am

Hello Ian,

I was part of the Soto Zen Translation project, and I have the primary texts on my computer somewhere. I'm not entirely sure how or if that helps as far as this forum goes, but I'll give it some thought.

Kyogen
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Ian

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PostSubject: Oops   Thu Aug 05, 2010 5:17 am

rachel wrote:
Your Stanford link no longer works.

Apologies. Try this: http://hcbss.stanford.edu/research/projects/sztp/translations/soto_zen_texts.html
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Ian

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PostSubject: Translations   Thu Aug 05, 2010 5:29 am

Kyogen wrote:
Hello Ian,

I was part of the Soto Zen Translation project, and I have the primary texts on my computer somewhere. I'm not entirely sure how or if that helps as far as this forum goes, but I'll give it some thought.

Kyogen

Thanks for that. I agree about the limited relevance of the detail. I only mentioned the SZTP verions because they seemed to have sound academic and linguistic backing and to have involved a wide range of branches of the Soto Zen Tradition.

I suppose my point was more generally about the desirability of perhaps reviewing the existing translations used by the OBC in liturgy and scripture. It was only a suggestion for a matter to consider and that may have happened already but it would be interesting to know more about that.

A comparison of RM Jiyu's translations and those of Rev Hubert Nearman with others shows, it seems to me, general consistency between the OBC version and others but occasional oddities. However, that is based on a fairly cursory examination of a limited range of translations of a limited number of scriptures by one who does not know any Japanese or Chinese.

It is also fair to add that the OBC seems to be very open to the use, study, and development of other translations outside liturgy.
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PostSubject: Re: OBC Conclave 2010: A Way Forward   Thu Aug 05, 2010 12:44 pm

Meanwhile back at the ranch, I was wondering if the OBC has a current ethics and grievance policy that is open to complaints from lay members, ordained members, and others? The key word here being open. How do people who feel aggrieved find the appropriate avenues?
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PostSubject: Re: OBC Conclave 2010: A Way Forward   Thu Aug 05, 2010 8:31 pm

Hi Gyokuko,

I didn't realize that I had answered your question in another thread. If you haven't already seen it, you might want to see the thread Diana started on Improving Lay Relations. I tried to copy and paste it all in here, but that doesn't seem to be working for me. Anyway, here's the link: http://obcconnect.forumotion.net/suggestions-for-the-obc-f9/improving-lay-relations-t51.htm#433. Why do I feel that you will not be surprised by my answer? Laughing
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Dharmavidya

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PostSubject: Re: OBC Conclave 2010: A Way Forward   Fri Aug 06, 2010 4:14 pm

It is fairly classic sociological theory that organisations begin with a charismatic founder who establishes something based on a powerful personal insight and conviction and that later there are succession problems and eventually the whole thing becomes bureaucratized and sensible but spiritually meaningless.

The solution to the kind of mess that is documented in the pages of this site is not likely to be found in a better book of procedures. Certainly there needs to be flexibility so that organic change and evolution can happen and there needs to be space in that for lay and monastic voices to be heard. We have experimented with this in Amida Trust and it works well. There anybody can start a ball rolling and if it gathers support and momentum, change happens; but if we think that there is a water-tight system that will prevent trouble and error, we will be fooling ourselves. It is not systems that make things good, it is people and their attitudes.

Of all the attitudes one could talk about, friendship and openness are ones that summarise most of what is required. It may be that these can be cultivated within OBC - I have no way of knowing - or it may be that those who are outside can do so - can they/we? The very best would encompass both groups, but that may be asking too much. Sharing our hurts is a start, but only a start.
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Ian

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PostSubject: The Role of Rules and Constitutions   Sat Aug 07, 2010 8:11 am

I largely agree with Dharmavidya but question the inevitability of bureaucratisation leading to spiritual meaninglessness.

If one relies always and solely on the charismatic leader and if all power rests there then there are clearly potential issues about abuse and accountability. Boring processes such as meetings, agenda's, discussion, elections, and the like, as well as trust mechanisms and the dedication of material assets such as land, buildings and money to be "locked in" to use for a cause rather than at the charismatic leader's personal disposal are valuable.

The "Middle Way" surely lies in retaining the spirit of wisdom, mutual respect, compassion, friendliness and openness in the way things are run while having appropriate legal and bureaucratic structures in place as well. The striuctures may help to ensure, as far as such devices can, that there are checks and balances in at least fundamental and vitally important decisions and that the assets are used for the purposes intended. They can also ensure "voice" for all, lay and monastic, junior and senior.

Weber (for I believe it was he) points to a duality between authority based on a "charismatic leader" and "rational-legal" authority but, as always, we should not allow ourselves to be trapped in that Wink.
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Dharmavidya

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PostSubject: Re: OBC Conclave 2010: A Way Forward   Sun Aug 08, 2010 3:42 am

Yes, I agree with Ian. In this case a certain duality is very useful and correct - a middle way, in fact. But it is not easy to achieve - to have the benefit of charismatic energy together with the checks and balances of constitutional control is the ideal.

One useful rule of thumb is that it is impossible to ensure that mistakes are not made but it is possible to set things up in such a way that they do not get ignored or swept under the carpet.

A lot depends on ethos. If people do not feel they can talk about things even the best system will fail whereas if there is openness even a poorly designed system may still muddle through.
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Lise
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PostSubject: accounting and accountability   Mon Aug 09, 2010 12:32 am

I've been thinking about processes related to the use of assets. It is troubling to think about donations not being used for the purpose for which they were solicited, or a prior covering discretionary personal vacation travel expenses with priory funds, if these examples can be verified.

Not that this is the most urgent issue on the list, but in some ways it's low-hanging fruit. Fixing the more obvious problems would be a step toward solidifying (or re-establishing) trust in certain areas.

Does anyone know how and when a temple's use of funds is audited, who performs the review, the level of detail applied (such as reviewing credit card statements), what reporting is generated, who sees the results?

Re: processes generally, do the rules require the Head of the Order to investigate an issue without being formally asked to do so, if he has knowledge (actual or constructive) of a problem?
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Ian

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PostSubject: Assets etc.   Mon Aug 09, 2010 10:59 am

I should emphasise that my suggestions about the issue of the dedication of assets and, within that, financial accountability were based on general principles. I have heard nothing indicating any impropriety at all in that direction in the OBC or its temples and have not seen anything on this forum along these lines. It is just that, alongside governance, the issue of protecting assets is one of the legal/bureaucratic issues that always has to be addressed in any organisation.
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PostSubject: Re: OBC Conclave 2010: A Way Forward   Mon Aug 09, 2010 12:12 pm

hi Ian -- I've pm'd you with a couple of links to comments made on the forum about financial practices.

I think a regular audit process, with public disclosure, benefits donors and recipients alike. Trust but verify, as Mr. Reagan used to say --
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PostSubject: Re: OBC Conclave 2010: A Way Forward   Tue Aug 10, 2010 3:21 pm

Ian, another suggestion for the Conclave, drawn from comments within this forum --

How about implementing a system-wide, consistent curriculum for spiritual counseling training, to be delivered to newly-transmitted monks before they ever have counseling contact with laity?

The idea is to educate newly-minted senior monks about how to handle the counseling responsibility in an ethical way, how to use approved tools and techniques, and how to stray true to recognized teachings (for example, that the four classes of Buddhists are supposed to be equally valued).

The OBC could organize a workgroup of the type you have suggested whose purpose would be to solicit input from all experienced members. These contributions would then be distilled into a comprehensive training program required of all transmitted monks.

Does this seem possible?
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Ian

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PostSubject: Audits and Counselling   Tue Aug 10, 2010 4:08 pm

Lise

I agree on both points.

On audits, there are legal requirements where a temple has charitable status or equivalent for tax purposes and the detail of that will depend on the local rules in the particular US State or the UK, Dutch, German etc legal rules and requirements. One question is how far beyond this the OBC ought to go. A visit to http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/ and a search for "Throssel Hole" provides online access to accounts and trustee reports over a number of years. They have been examined and compared with the underlying accounting records by an accountant who certifies them. This seems to be quite a full level of accountability. The same applies to Telford Priory, Reading Priory, and Rochdale Zen Retreat. In addition, the Throssel accounts are publicly and conspicuously displayed in the entrance hall. I don't know how that works in the US States or in the Netherlands or Germany.

On counselling training, a plan to draw on experienced people and any expertise available to get some methodical training in place would be very helpful, I should think. At the minimum, knowing when to refer somebody to someone else would be good. On this, I don't know what the current practice is.
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Kyogen

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PostSubject: Re: OBC Conclave 2010: A Way Forward   Tue Aug 10, 2010 5:12 pm

Hello Ian,

Over here audits are extremely expensive, and they don't make much sense for small non profits. It is generally advised that groups make their reports public, but not the books in entirety. Also, there are "good practices" that are recommended, such as dividing the responsibility for writing checks and paying bills from doing deposits and from the bookkeeping. That is what we do, and what the Soto Zen Buddhist Association does.

Kyogen
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Ian

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PostSubject: Transparency of Accounts   Wed Aug 11, 2010 5:05 am

Thanks, Kyogen that makes a lot of sense and also would make a helpful suggestion for practice in the US for the OBC to consider. Clearly, it is not usual for any organisation to publish its books in full, although normally a regulator will have power to inspect them in case of problems. As I understand it, it's usual to publish annual accounts and a report. An audit or accounting examination has made sure that the accounts are in line with the books, maybe on a sample basis. The legal rules, and maybe therefore guidelines vary according to annual turnover to allow for the unfairness of high accounting costs on small organisations.

Suggestion: It would obviously be most helpful if the annual accounts and report was public and easily accessible e.g. online. In the UK cases I mentioned that is already the case if you visit the Charity Commission site (link above). Maybe all Priories and Abbeys could do that on or through their own websites.

Ironically, in the home of silicone valley it is only
possible to get filed information about the OBC or any other business entity by
mail or by visiting the office of the Secretary of State of California. In
particular, the bylaws or other constitutional documents/rules of OBC and,
Shasta can only be obtained from or through them (as with other entities registered there) This is how it works in California: http://www.sos.ca.gov/business/be/information-requests.htm

An online search on the California Secretary of State's Website just shows a few details like name of entity, address, agent for service and entity number (C1132548 for the OBC and C0771467 for the dlightfully named "Shasta Abbey, Temple of Radiant Wisdom on the Solitary, Pure White Mountain").

This issue directly leads into governance structures. Maybe something for another post...................
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Lise
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PostSubject: Re: OBC Conclave 2010: A Way Forward   Tue Aug 17, 2010 12:47 pm

hi Ian,

Catching up on more ideas for the list. These were drawn from a post by forum member Justsit (see: Re: Rev. Master Eko's resignation Fri 13 Aug 2010 - 20:11):

More acceptance of monks leaving and returning to monastic status without the imputation of guilt/failure;

Consider rotating the Abbott position regularly, to avoid administrative burnout.



Last edited by Lise on Tue Aug 17, 2010 3:50 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : to clarify)
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Ian

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PostSubject: Topics: Monk/Lay Fluidity and Rotating Abbots   Wed Aug 18, 2010 7:02 am

Thanks, Lise. I have gone a bit quiet partly because I have been a bit busy with other things but I have found time to keep an eye on new developments across the forum. It is heartening how it is taking off.

On the two points you mention:

"More acceptance of monks leaving and returning to monastic status without the imputation of guilt/failure"

I wholly agree that this is desirable. It seems to me that such an approach should be reflected in the way people are treated, the culture and atmosphere around the Order, its Abbeys and Priories and its affiliated meditation groups. It should also include a lot of openness about that being the attitude as a general proposition before during and after someone's actual movement from lay person to monk or vice versa. This would recognise the impermanence of all conditioned phenomena and the fact that a person might move in or out of monastic status from time to time, whether senior or junior, experienced or not.

The experience, skills and contribution of former monastics would then not be lost to the wider Sangha and the Order. Obviously, all of that is subject to the right of every individual to insist on their privacy in a particular case and to insist on limiting the information put out about why they left (or joined) as a monk and what they are doing now.

Accepting this approach might involve a thorough review of the by-laws and rules of the OBC, the two Abbeys and Lay Ministers. The by laws set out different categories of OBC membership with different roles and rights and those formal documents need to reflect a more open and more flexible approach, in addition to that attitude being reflected in the culture.

It seems to me that this kind of opening up allows for natural and fluid evolution and development of the Sangha in terms of the roles of lay and monastic Sangha members. If the number of monks goes down and their average age increases, maybe the role of Lay Sangha members expands? Maybe the dividing lines between priesthood, monastic, lay, celibate or not, and so on moves over time? That is another issue that would involve a review of the By-laws, rules and practices. At present only Lay Ministers and Monks are members and there are issues about the power or influence of junior monks. The question is whether that is a good way of doing things and what other ways might exist or be acceptable to all involved in the Sangha while still being workable?

"Consider rotating the Abbott position regularly, to avoid administrative burnout"

This is a more pragmatic issue. If a person gains experience in a role it could be unhelpful to stop them carrying on in the role after an arbitrary fixed period. On the other hand, some rotation of jobs along with the development, both formally in rules and in practice, of collective leadership, consultation, and delegation of particular aspects of a job might be healthy. It is always hard to use strict or fixed rules to deal with issues which such as this but accountability plus machinery for wider input can help without causing massive bureaucracy or preventing fast decisions when they are necessary. Of course, the buck has to stop somewhere and someone has to have the responsibility of decisionmaking, albeit within a framework of accountability and openness. There are no simple solutions, but discussing these things is surely helpful.

Maybe it is only possible to set a backdrop of fixed rules and processes such that the organisation has the best possible chance of operating with a healthy culture and dealing effectively with the inevitable problems and crises. In the end, people have to operate the system and the "spirit versus letter" and "discretion versus certainty" issues will always arise in connection with decisions, rules and procedures. They just have to be handled on an ongoing basis, hopefully in a spirit of compassion and wisdom.


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PostSubject: Re: OBC Conclave 2010: A Way Forward   Fri Sep 24, 2010 11:46 pm

There are still a few days left for the Conclave, so I would like to add this to the list, in case anyone inside the OBC can relay the message:

Please discuss with your peers the reasons for keeping the laity's confidential information private. Unless you truly need counsel from a fellow monk in order to respond effectively to a serious issue, please don't share, at a monks' tea or elsewhere, what lay people say during spiritual counseling. Please safeguard their information as you would your own.


Last edited by Lise on Sat Sep 25, 2010 11:42 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : seeking a better tone -- the first was too Church Lady.)
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PostSubject: Re: OBC Conclave 2010: A Way Forward   Fri Sep 24, 2010 11:59 pm

Well said Lise!
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Ian

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PostSubject: Re: OBC Conclave 2010: A Way Forward   Mon Oct 18, 2010 10:58 am

Having raised the issue of the Conclave on here, it may be helpful for me to point people to the talk by RM Meian at:

http://www.shastaabbey.org/teachings-recent.html

which includes a brief account of the Conclave proceedings and some of its decisions.

Perhaps fuller information about the decisions reached there and the next steps for the OBC in dealing with the range of issues raised here and among both lay and monastic Sangha will be published on their website(s) in due course.

At our meditation group retreat yesterday, the Senior Monk who liaises with us gave an account of the main decisions and the Conclave proceedings. A discussion of the issues ensued. This seemed to show a clear intention to take practical steps to develop a changed culture including the establishment of an ethics committee and an investigating committee to see what went wrong in the past - the latter possibly to include outsiders. There also seem to be plans for the development of an organisational structure for the Lay Sangha and the establishment a body to pursue wider ongoing reform and development. The place of formal rules and structures on the one hand and the role of culture on the other seemed to be balanced reasonably. The need for tranparency, accountability and openness was emphasised. So was regret for the failures of the past which made people vulnerable.

The signals from both the talk on the Shasta website and the talk to our group seem to me to indicate a genuine recognition in the OBC of the problems and a sincere and honest resolve to address them. I am grateful for the way this has been handled and hope that this indicates a healthy way forward.
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PostSubject: Re: OBC Conclave 2010: A Way Forward   Tue Oct 19, 2010 7:26 am

For more and fuller Conclave news and, in particular information about the new Interim Board and its website address see http://www.readingbuddhistpriory.org.uk/news

This is yet another sign, to me, of serious and honest resolve and a spirit of openness.
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PostSubject: Re: OBC Conclave 2010: A Way Forward   Tue Oct 19, 2010 11:36 am

Hi Folks, thought I'd share this:


Dear Friends,

Many of the senior monks of the Order, together with five lay ministers,
met at Shasta Abbey this September for our scheduled conclave to discuss
and update some of our rules. While so many of us were together, we also
took the opportunity to have a good look at some fundamental questions
that are affecting the Order and how it works. One of the central
outcomes was a proposal to form an interim board to identify those areas
needing attention and through a process of consultation come to a common
solution. This should help Rev. Master Haryo in his role as Head of the
Order and facilitate all the work that we wish to do in response to the
many challenges that we face.

As many of you know already, the Abbot of Shasta recently left his post.
As a result of the circumstances surrounding his departure, a committee
was established at the conclave to carry forward a fact finding enquiry
at Shasta Abbey by, or in conjunction with, an outside professional
organisation for the purpose of seeing what we can learn from these
events. This matter has been a wake-up call to all of us and contributes
to a sense that we need a period of reflection. During the discussions
at the conclave, it became clear that we are ready to embrace the
changes that are necessary, including the formation of the interim
board, to review our structures and how we are all working together.

This board, which will include two lay representatives and six monks, is
still being formed and should be ready to start work on November 7th.
The purpose of the board is to receive submissions from anyone who has
comments, concerns or ideas about any aspect of the functioning of the
OBC; to appoint committees as needed to look into the issues raised; and
to make all the information and proposals available for further comment
until we reach a point where there is sufficient agreement for a change
to be implemented. We are beginning a process of self examination that
will take some time, as we intend to do it thoroughly. The work of the
new interim board will include a review of how we maintain our ethical
standards as an organisation and how we respond to concerns when they
are raised.

The lay community is establishing its own network through which
discussion can take place. The intention is to come up with a proposal
on how the lay sangha can develop a greater role than the present
structure allows. The possible formation of a lay wing of the Order,
open to sincere lay people committed to our practice, will be considered
and any proposal then submitted to the interim board.

The chair of the interim board is Rev. Master Saido and the secretary is
Rev. Alicia. You are welcome to contact them, or any other board members
once the board is set up, with any suggestions or concerns via the
contact details below. The OBC Interim Board has a website where
additional information will be made available. You are also welcome to
contact any of us and we look forward to hearing from you.

This is an important time in the life of the Order and we all hope that
as the new methods of consultation are put into place, you will feel
able to take part in this process of renewal.

With all good wishes and gassho

Rev. Master Haryo Young
Head of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives

Rev. Master Daishin Morgan Rev. Master Meian Elbert
Abbot, Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey Abbess, Shasta Abbey

Rev. Master Daishin Yalon Rev. Master Saido Kennaway
Vice-Abbot, Shasta Abbey Chairperson, OBC Interim Board
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PostSubject: Re: OBC Conclave 2010: A Way Forward   Tue Oct 19, 2010 10:07 pm

Hi Vetaculoo, nice to see you again. Thank you for posting this. (Vetaculoo was the first poster on this forum besides me.)

Thanks to you also, Ian. I know you have done a lot over the past few months to try to help things along.

I look forward to visiting the website of the OBC Interim Board --

Lise

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