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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Wed Feb 09, 2011 6:29 pm

Admin note: the following was split from from the "Thoughts on Celibacy" thread as it seemed to warrant a topic in its own right. Josh is listed as the thread's "author" because his post was the first to be split; this is a function of the forum software.


Not sure where to put this, but I will place it here for now.

Genpo Merzel Disrobes

From Tricycle Magazine's Blog: 07 Feb 2011 in



Dennis Genpo Merzel has announced that he will disrobe as a Zen priest and step down as an elder in the White Plum Asangha, an extensive group of Zen communities practicing in the lineage of Maezumi Roshi.

Merzel writes:

I have chosen to disrobe as a Buddhist Priest, and will stop giving Buddhist Precepts or Ordinations, but I will continue teaching Big Mind. I will spend the rest of my life truly integrating the Soto Zen Buddhist Ethics into my life and practice so I can once again regain dignity and respect. My actions have caused a tremendous amount of pain, confusion, and controversy for my wife, family, and Sangha, and for this I am truly sorry and greatly regret. My behavior was not in alignment with the Buddhist Precepts. I feel disrobing is just a small part of an appropriate response.

I am also resigning as an elder of the White Plum Asanga. My actions should not be viewed as a reflection on the moral fabric of any of the White Plum members.

He expresses sorrow for hurting those close to him with his sexual misconduct. Read the complete statement here.

The White Plum Asangha has accepted his resignation, posting a Special Announcement on their site:

The White Plum Asanga Board of Directors has accepted the resignation of Genpo Merzel from White Plum Asanga membership as well as an Elder of the White Plum. This resignation is a result of his recent disclosures regarding sexual misconduct with several of his students. Please see the Big Mind website for their statement. On behalf of the White Plum organization, I extend our support for Genpo's efforts in recovery and treatment and to the teachers and members of the Kanzeon Sangha in their efforts in healing and realigning their communities. --- Roshi Gerry Shishin Wick, President, WPA

We join with the White Plum Asangha in wishing the best for all the members of Genpo Merzel's sangha and personal circle hurt by this announcement and the actions that preceded it.
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Wed Feb 09, 2011 6:57 pm

Yes Josh you and I were talking privately about Genpo about a month ago,I was querying with you the large ammounts of money he charged for guildance.
Interesting bernie Glassman gave the leadership to Genpo a few months ago.
I recomended a few people tto go to LAZC a long time ago,and all they wrote back about was sexual antics and how to have a stronger and asertive ego,especially with regard women.
One of my great friends was assistant to Maezumi,and she dreaded it when Trumpa came to stay,the alcohol drinking etc.
It says very little for this form of Buddhism when what it seems to do is assert ones own individual ego from a position of supossed power Sorry it is not the right way.If one feels it is not right must must be strong and not walk it.
lets go back to Mark leaving he could not swallow the previous lives thing it did not stop all it did was create a pecular practice based on relativity and now a generation down Eko is removed from office, However Well doneall those for saying NO to what they feel theyought to say no to. Lets hope we say Yes to what we fell we ought to
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Wed Feb 09, 2011 10:36 pm

Hello Josh, and all,

Just to let you all know, the AZTA is beginning to address the situation with Genpo. We were pretty active behind the scenes, sometimes more publicly, in addressing the problems with Aido Shimano Roshi at Zen Studies Society in New York. I am quite certain that we had a positive effect in moving their board into taking decisive action. Things may still go wrong, but members of ZSS are part of the AZTA community, and getting support from us is beneficial to them in taking difficult stands.

I'm not entirely sure what effect we can have on Genpo and the Kanzeon Zen Center, as they have avoided connecting with organizations that have taken stands in opposition to sexual misconduct and other types of abuse. I think the way things played out in New York, however, has influenced events in Utah, where Kanzeon is based. I can only hope that be effective in this situation as well.

With palms joined,

Kyogen
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Fri Oct 14, 2011 11:21 am

On this topic I just came across a sort of horrifying and funny article title on the cover of the UK's "Psychologies" magazine, "Meditation kick-started my sex life".
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Mon Dec 05, 2011 2:55 pm

Shyam Dodge - from Elephant Journal
on Dec 5, 2011
The Sex Lives of Monks: Confessions of Kalu Rinpoche

Revelations of Sexual Abuse and Dehumanization in Tibetan Buddhism
Kalu Rinpoche


Link to the video confession: http://youtu.be/z5Ka3bEN1rs

Kalu Rinpoche, a 21-year-old young man, is considered to be the reincarnation of Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche. The official website for the lineage declares Kalu to be the “The Supreme reincarnation of our spiritual master” and someone who’s mere gaze can inspire equanimity, even ecstasy. Troubling pronouncements when viewed in light of revelations from November 28th of this year.

Kalu, himself, posted a video where he frankly and bravely tells the true story behind his spiritual myth. It is a story of molestation by Tibetan monks, murder attempts, and drug abuse. It is not a comforting tale. And it clarifies the endemic problems of any system that relies upon denial of the senses in favor of supernatural “realities.”

I speak from experience. I too am a former monk and former guru from the Hindu tradition. And while my personal story is not one of sexual abuse I can attest to the damages done by orthodoxy and mind-body dualism, which has the overwhelming tendency (and track record) to perpetuate dissociation, denial, and rationalizations for unethical and often very dehumanizing—even criminal—behavior within the religious hierarchy. What to speak of how debilitating such memes are on a personal, spiritual, and psychological level. It is pretty clear by now that anytime you get a bunch of monks bonded together by an intense body-negative religious code some little kid is bound to get molested.

This video has a power to it. It is, of course, disenchanting to those of us enamored and prone to romanticizing the Tibetan Buddhist tradition—and by that logic any traditional spirituality other than Western iterations. (Cue revelations of how condescending it is to perpetuate postcolonial renditions of the “noble savage” with regards to contemporary Western reverence of Eastern guru-types.)

But it has an even deeper lesson to teach us: the problems inherent to a spiritual philosophy that dehumanizes us. When we believe in supernatural realities where some young kid is considered to be the reincarnation of a “Supremely Wise Being” we have essentially erased the person, the human being, behind all of our idealizations. Critiquing the corruptive power of such spiritual idealization is an oft cited and very relevant observation to make—such as the monks who abused Kalu—but Kalu’s story is more than that. It is the story of a young man who is and was being crushed beneath the cultural and religio-political burdens of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. He is definitely a remarkable young man. Very few human beings are subjected to such a powerful machine of personal erasure as the Tulku tradition and yet he has come out of it with his humanity, while bruised, intact.

Again, I can relate to this. As a young boy my yogic community held me in high regard and by the time I was twenty-five I was officially declared to be a fully enlightened being. This conferment of spiritual authority produced a revelation in me, but not the one expected.

What I saw so clearly were four things, two of which Kalu touches upon in his video:

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

2. The politics seething beneath the religious hierarchy. Kalu describes a key motivator behind this cutthroat political underbelly and the attempts on his life, “and then my own manager tried to kill me and everything… I mean my teacher. And it’s all about money, power, controlling. Because, if you can control the president you can get what you want” (min 5:03—5:14). Disheartening words for a spiritual tradition that promotes selflessness and compassion.

The third awakening is one that Kalu barely and only briefly touches upon in his video. Which has to do with a number of things but most importantly, he is still operating as Kalu Rinpoche. I have profound sympathy for Kalu. He has so much personal trauma to work through, so many cultural and religio-political burdens placed on his shoulders, and—not to sound condescending but—a very significant educational gap to overcome due to his monastic training (I speak from experience). He needs a lot of help and my heart goes out to him. Nonetheless, he has yet to leave the Tulku machine. I know I will get a lot of flak for saying this but, I truly hope he does. Of course, I understand that he is under much greater social pressure, as a Tibetan, than I ever was and is living within a different set of cultural-familial demands than myself. But that doesn’t change his very human need for help and the time and appropriate space to heal, which I don’t see as forthcoming in his maintaining the role of spiritual educator in an orthodox tradition.

The third observation has to do with the pernicious effects of mind-body dualism. Whether it be Tibetan Buddhism, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, or Christian mysticism, there is a deep and abiding disgust for the human body. This negative view of our human biology stems from a belief in the existence and superiority of the spirit. Most traditional forms of spirituality (whether Eastern or Western) are predicated upon a metaphysical identification with an invisible spirit that survives the death of the body and contains our essence. In Tibetan Buddhism this spiritual “imprint” may be devoid of “true self” but it nonetheless survives the death of the body and contains the continuity of self necessary for the demands of reincarnation. The second commonality within religious traditions is that the body is viewed as an obstacle to the evolution of the spirit.

In Patanjali’s system, this problem is resolved through the abnegation of the body’s essential needs and wants, including food, sex, intimacy, and love. Both the Buddhist and yogic traditions teach us to not grieve the dead, for all things are impermanent. This speaks to not only a profound fear of death but it is also a fear of life—for it is life denying. In order to guard against death, life itself is rejected in the form of militating against the physical body via spiritual detachment.

I spent years engaging in this form of metaphysical asceticism. I rejected my body, denied it sex, fasted continuously and abstained from all “impure” foods. I was starving for intimacy, for love, for the permission to grieve those cherished ones who had died (including my father). I was desperate to be human. And yet, my whole spiritual life was predicated on denying my essential humanity. This note of desperation I do hear in Kalu’s video. He implores us to take care of our families, to be human. And I applaud him for that. But I, personally, think this effort to be human demands a reinvestment in the body itself.

It is, in many ways, an ethical decision. In order to treat others well I must value them, not an imaginary supernatural idea of “who they truly are as invisible spiritual beings,” but as living breathing persons that I can touch and know and speak to right now with my own body and my own eyes made of flesh. This also means that I can hurt those people if I don’t invest in the value of the human body.

Spiritual idealizations, such as mind-body dualism, have the tendency to not only obscure but also erase the value of the physical—for it is the physical body that invalidates and casts doubts/threatens the world of spiritual idealizations. These are the dangers engendered by losing contact with the real, the tangible, the physical, for it is the erasure of persons replacing them with concepts—which is anti-body and therefore has profound implications for our very human lives.

The fourth observation I made soon after being officially declared a superhuman divinity is intimately connected to this third awakening. It has to do with the implications of reinvesting in the body. It is a revisioning of spirituality and ethics.

When we understand the importance of this living breathing human body, the questions are no longer about metaphysics, but ethics. The question is no longer “what is the meaning of life?” but is much more vitally “what should I do with this life?” This kind of spirituality, which is rooted in the reality of the body, elicits an interpersonal experience we can all share in. And it therefore generates an ethic of intimacy. This re-embodiment of our common humanity, based upon the value of the body itself, is in fact an ethical practice.

By reinvesting in the body, we reinvest in our ecology, economy, and society. Understanding that all things lean into one another we can develop an ethical philosophy that has immense force. The force of this ethic is grounded in the experience of inhabiting your own skin. From there we inhabit our environment, our community, and this earth. If I invest in my body then I naturally care about the rivers and the lakes, from which I get water to live. By investing in my own body I come into greater intimacy with the bodies of others, which makes me care for the wellbeing of others as well as myself. Therefore, the ethics of this embodied life are about intimacy and the world of relationship. By this simple act, this reinvestment in my humanity, the ethical and environmental ramifications are enormous. I have in one simple philosophical shift become an environmentalist and an embodied humanist.

This fourth observation I’ve come to call embodied spirituality (see Julian Walker’s wonderful sutra on this very topic), which is a type of embodied ethics and embodied ecology. Of course, I have not originated any of these ideas but they have been the touchstones by which I have learned to heal myself from years of metaphysical asceticism. It is also why I am no longer a monk or a guru, for both “occupations” perpetuate and engender beliefs I consider to be harmful to myself and others. Hence, my weariness regarding the Tulku theocracy via belief in reincarnation and its tendency to breed the kinds of exploitation and scandal Kalu is simultaneously mired in and exposing.

It is inhuman to deny yourself the pleasures of the body and it is inhuman to deny the overwhelming precedence and value of our embodied lives. If such an embodied spirituality were to gain traction in the world, as I am advocating for, we would see less moral travesties, exploitation, and sexual abuse in the guise of religious holiness, such as the sad story of Kalu Rinpoche. I also believe that if such an embodied spirituality were to take hold it might stir a revolution in ethics, that would extend into all spheres of our religious, political, and social lives. For it is about becoming more human, not less.

Shyam Dodge is a former Hindu monk, author, and satirist. He is currently a student of religion at Harvard University. His memoir, Wet Hot and Wild American Yogi, enjoys a cult following in the United States and Europe, both for its enduring controversy and irreverence. His collection of sacred stories, Sweetened Condensed Milk, remains a part of the curriculum in the philosophy portion of many yoga teacher trainings worldwide. You can find his books here: http://amzn.to/utWZO7 Author Website: http://shyamdodge.com/
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Mon Dec 05, 2011 3:16 pm

Josh,

This is interesting - thanks for posting it. I was a little confused at points in that I wasn't sure if you or Shyam Dodge was talking. Are you talking about yourself in any part of this? Perhaps you could put the text from Elephant Journal in quotation marks or italicize it?
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Mon Dec 05, 2011 3:38 pm

That was all Shyam's article -- nothing from me
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Wed Jan 04, 2012 11:49 am

Josh,

Thank you for a look at Shyam Dodge's thoughts. Another perspective you've shared with us that offers a way to expand our understanding and reevaluate core assumptions about spirituality.

Wet Hot and Wild--only $3.70 as an ebook. How can I resist?
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Sat Feb 11, 2012 9:13 am

A picture is worth a thousand words. This is a must see video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMSAMUd7Hq4
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Sun Feb 12, 2012 9:19 pm

The first sexual revolution
Pleasure principles
How morality became personal in 18th-century England

Feb 11th 2012 | from The Economist

The Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution. By Faramerz Dabhoiwala. Allen Lane; 484 pages; To be published in America in May by Oxford University Press USA

FOR much of the last millennium Europeans lived under sex laws that would have won the approval of the most austere mullah. In England between the 13th and 16th centuries, extramarital sex was policed with such energy that up to 90% of the litigation handled by church courts was about combating fornication, adultery, sodomy and prostitution. The punishments were often savage. When the Reformation got going in the mid-16th century, the zeal for rooting out illicit sex went up another notch. Harsh new national laws were passed, such as a statute in 1534 that made buggery a capital offence. In 1552 a revision of canon law meant that adulterers could face life imprisonment or exile. Sexual transgressors were often whipped, publicly humiliated and even branded.

A hundred years later things quite suddenly began to change. By the mid-18th century sexual mores in England (and in much of Europe, too) had undergone a revolution, writes Faramerz Dabhoiwala, an Oxford historian who has spent much of the last 20 years researching the subject. This rupture was far more dramatic than anything that happened in 1963 when, according to the poet Philip Larkin, “sexual intercourse began”. Less than 100 years after the execution for adultery of Mary Latham, a young woman in Puritan New England, many people were thinking about sex in ways that would make some contemporary readers blush. The wealthy and powerful proudly and openly displayed their mistresses. A public agog for salacious gossip followed the lives of courtesans and high-society prostitutes (such as the oft-painted Kitty Fisher), and pornography was widely available.

The assumption in early modern England that sexual persecution was essential to good social order was not unlike that of the more conservative Islamic republics today. It was partly rooted in religion and the looming threat of hellfire. It was also a product of patriarchal attitudes that saw women as the property of fathers or husbands. Should a woman have sex with a stranger, her family would feel that a crime had been committed against them.

There were practical considerations, too. For affluent families the sudden arrival of a bastard child could wreak havoc with rules of inheritance. The illegitimate children of the poor were resented as burdens on the community, and there was a constant fear of venereal diseases spread by whores. It was everyone’s business to bear down on illicit sex because of its awful consequences. Policing was effective because most people lived in villages or small towns where privacy was unknown.

When and why did things start to change? The latter half of the 17th century saw the start of a backlash against extreme Puritanism, particularly among the upper classes who observed the louche goings on at court, led by the libidinous Charles II. But as Mr Dabhoiwala persuasively argues, the reasons for the first sexual revolution were complex and varied. The migration of people to big cities had made the bonds of traditional morality much harder to enforce, while the explosion of mass-printed media both spread ideas and exploited prurient interest in sexual shenanigans. Exploration also had an influence, as travellers returned with tales of very different sexual cultures.

But the key driver, Mr Dabhoiwala believes, was the spread of religious tolerance and nonconformity, which eroded the church’s authority and let people define morality more personally. Samuel Johnson, a high Tory Anglican, spoke for many in 1750 when he opined that “every man should regulate his actions by his own conscience”. His close friend and amanuensis, James Boswell, chronicled his own frequent encounters with whores and musings on polygamy with little show of guilt. For Boswell and many of his contemporaries, morals were “an uncertain thing”. The upper-middle-class members of the Beggar’s Benison club in Scotland, founded in 1732, apparently thought nothing of arranging meetings where they could drink, sing and fondle naked women. Such evenings were brought to a fitting climax, as it were, when they would communally ejaculate into a ceremonial pewter platter. The book is rich in anecdotes, funny, touching and seedy.

Yet it would be wrong to view late-18th-century attitudes towards sex as a prototype of our own. Sexual liberation was largely confined to the ranks of well-to-do chaps. It was generally assumed that while it was “natural” for men to pursue sexual opportunity, women were instinctively more virtuous (in complete contrast with the prior belief that women were the more uncontrollably lustful sex). Thus women were seen as vulnerable to male seduction, particularly by unscrupulous rakes who plotted with bawds to ensnare the innocent. William Hogarth’s 1732 engravings of “The Harlot’s Progress” were wildly popular, as were Samuel Richardson’s moralizing novels, “Pamela” and “Clarissa”. The number of prostitutes in London grew exponentially, but they came to be regarded less as wicked sirens and more as victims of men’s carnal appetites who deserved not punishment but pity—and, when possible, salvation and reform by charitable institutions.

“The Origins of Sex” is a splendidly informative and entertaining book, but Mr Dabhoiwala leaves us with quite a few frustratingly loose ends. He has little to say, for example, about contraception, which was central to the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Sheaths of various kinds became popular in the 18th century, but libertines such as Casanova saw them more as protection against disease than as a form of birth control. What women thought about contraception is left blank. And by restricting himself to the period running roughly between 1600 and 1800, the author is able to bypass the late-Victorian return to sexual discipline, which lingered well into the last century. The difference, he would say, is that even the most prudish Victorians saw sexuality largely as a private matter, which the state should neither judge nor attempt to regulate. If only young Iranians were so lucky.
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Mon Feb 13, 2012 5:24 pm

Very interesting review. Thanks, Josh. Geraldine Brooks in Nine Parts of Desire says that Islamic women are covered to protect men from female sexuality. Unrestrained, the women's sexual nature would draw men to lust and sin. Nice to have such power, huh! (especially at my age!)

Now if the bishops can just stop Obama's contraceptive rule, everyone will abstain from sex (unless they want to have children, of course) and morality will be preserved across our land.

Today the governor of Washingon signed legislation to permit same sex marriage. The fundamentalist Christians are already heading west to get referendum signatures to undo the new law. I don't understand how the same people who think 1st Amendment religious freedom prohibits government- required health insurance for contraceptives can at the same time think that the government should decide who a person may or not marry.
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Fri Feb 17, 2012 12:24 pm

I ran across this small piece from Tsoknyi Rinpoche, a teacher of the Dzogchen meditation tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. It is poorly translated, but the key point seemed to me to apply to much of the drama that went on at Shasta and around Kennett with regard to the demand for celibacy and her negative reactions to married couples and romance and sexuality. I think that much of what she did and said came from her feeling unloved and feeling the wounded victim.....

Here is what Tsoknyi said:

Renunciation Shouldn’t Come from a Wounded Heart

Student: Rinpoche I think the point that you mentioned – renunciation not coming from a place of a wounded heart – could you just elaborate on that?

Translator for Rinpoche*: In the case of a wounded heart the ego is quite present and therefore what that ego really wants is to be happy, but then does not encounter situations that make them happy. Whatever they have, or whatever they are experiencing is causes for suffering. So when that wounded heart is in that way, then it makes the whole situation very dramatic.

Rinpoche: So Buddhism says I look at everything is like fragile. But because in deep down you want some solid that you didn’t get, based on that you’re wounded, and then still you want some solid, and then finally you realize there’s no solidity anything, it makes you more upset.

Or you’re “Oh, not bad. I thought I’m the only one suffering but you know there exists also suffering in samsara. Wow, I’m good.” So is this renunciation or not, we don’t know yet. So could bring you some proud, or well-being based on ego also.

What we want is healthy human, healthy renunciation by compassion and love, and still keep going. But not attached.

*Gerardo Abboud, Translator
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Tue Feb 28, 2012 2:40 am


February 27, 2012
Yoga and Sex Scandals: No Surprise Here
By WILLIAM J. BROAD


The wholesome image of yoga took a hit in the past few weeks as a rising star of the discipline came tumbling back to earth. After accusations of sexual impropriety with female students, John Friend, the founder of Anusara, one of the world’s fastest-growing styles, told followers that he was stepping down for an indefinite period of “self-reflection, therapy and personal retreat.”

Mr. Friend preached a gospel of gentle poses mixed with openness aimed at fostering love and happiness. But Elena Brower, a former confidante, has said that insiders knew of his “penchant for women” and his love of “partying and fun.”

Few had any idea about his sexual indiscretions, she added. The apparent hypocrisy has upset many followers.

“Those folks are devastated,” Ms. Brower wrote in The Huffington Post. “They’re understandably disappointed to hear that he cheated on his girlfriends repeatedly” and “lied to so many.”

But this is hardly the first time that yoga’s enlightened facade has been cracked by sexual scandal. Why does yoga produce so many philanderers? And why do the resulting uproars leave so many people shocked and distraught?

One factor is ignorance. Yoga teachers and how-to books seldom mention that the discipline began as a sex cult — an omission that leaves many practitioners open to libidinal surprise.

Hatha yoga — the parent of the styles now practiced around the globe — began as a branch of Tantra. In medieval India, Tantra devotees sought to fuse the male and female aspects of the cosmos into a blissful state of consciousness.

The rites of Tantric cults, while often steeped in symbolism, could also include group and individual sex. One text advised devotees to revere the female sex organ and enjoy vigorous intercourse. Candidates for worship included actresses and prostitutes, as well as the sisters of practitioners.

Hatha originated as a way to speed the Tantric agenda. It used poses, deep breathing and stimulating acts — including intercourse — to hasten rapturous bliss. In time, Tantra and Hatha developed bad reputations. The main charge was that practitioners indulged in sexual debauchery under the pretext of spirituality.

Early in the 20th century, the founders of modern yoga worked hard to remove the Tantric stain. They devised a sanitized discipline that played down the old eroticism for a new emphasis on health and fitness.

B. K. S. Iyengar, the author of “Light on Yoga,” published in 1965, exemplified the change. His book made no mention of Hatha’s Tantric roots and praised the discipline as a panacea that could cure nearly 100 ailments and diseases. And so modern practitioners have embraced a whitewashed simulacrum of Hatha.

But over the decades, many have discovered from personal experience that the practice can fan the sexual flames. Pelvic regions can feel more sensitive and orgasms more intense.

Science has begun to clarify the inner mechanisms. In Russia and India, scientists have measured sharp rises in testosterone — a main hormone of sexual arousal in both men and women. Czech scientists working with electroencephalographs have shown how poses can result in bursts of brainwaves indistinguishable from those of lovers. More recently, scientists at the University of British Columbia have documented how fast breathing — done in many yoga classes — can increase blood flow through the genitals. The effect was found to be strong enough to promote sexual arousal not only in healthy individuals but among those with diminished libidos.

In India, recent clinical studies have shown that men and women who take up yoga report wide improvements in their sex lives, including enhanced feelings of pleasure and satisfaction as well as emotional closeness with partners.

At Rutgers University, scientists are investigating how yoga and related practices can foster autoerotic bliss. It turns out that some individuals can think themselves into states of sexual ecstasy — a phenomenon known clinically as spontaneous orgasm and popularly as “thinking off.”

The Rutgers scientists use brain scanners to measure the levels of excitement in women and compare their responses with readings from manual stimulation of the genitals. The results demonstrate that both practices light up the brain in characteristic ways and produce significant rises in blood pressure, heart rate and tolerance for pain — what turns out to be a signature of orgasm.

Since the baby boomers discovered yoga, the arousal, sweating, heavy breathing and states of undress that characterize yoga classes have led to predictable results. In 1995, sex between students and teachers became so prevalent that the California Yoga Teachers Association deplored it as immoral and called for high standards.

“We wrote the code,” Judith Lasater, the group’s president, told a reporter, “because there were so many violations going on.”

If yoga can arouse everyday practitioners, it apparently has similar, if not greater, effects on gurus — often charming extroverts in excellent physical condition, some enthusiastic for veneration.

The misanthropes among them offer a bittersweet tribute to yoga’s revitalizing powers. A surprising number, it turns out, were in their 60s and 70s.

Swami Muktananda (1908-82) was an Indian man of great charisma who favored dark glasses and gaudy robes.

At the height of his fame, around 1980, he attracted many thousands of devotees — including movie stars and political celebrities — and succeeded in setting up a network of hundreds of ashrams and meditation centers around the globe. He kept his main shrines in California and New York.

In late 1981, when a senior aide charged that the venerated yogi was in fact a serial philanderer and sexual hypocrite who used threats of violence to hide his duplicity, Mr. Muktananda defended himself as a persecuted saint, and soon died of heart failure.

Joan Bridges was one of his lovers. At the time, she was 26 and he was 73. Like many other devotees, Ms. Bridges had a difficult time finding fault with a man she regarded as a virtual god beyond law and morality.

“I was both thrilled and confused,” she said of their first intimacy in a Web posting. “He told us to be celibate, so how could this be sexual? I had no answers.”

To denounce the philanderers would be to admit years of empty study and devotion. So many women ended up blaming themselves. Sorting out the realities took years and sometimes decades of pain and reflection, counseling and psychotherapy. In time, the victims began to fight back.

Swami Satchidananda (1914-2002) was a superstar of yoga who gave the invocation at Woodstock. In 1991, protesters waving placards (“Stop the Abuse,” “End the Cover Up”) marched outside a Virginia hotel where he was addressing a symposium.

“How can you call yourself a spiritual instructor,” a former devotee shouted from the audience, “when you have molested me and other women?”

Another case involved Swami Rama (1925-96), a tall man with a strikingly handsome face. In 1994, one of his victims filed a lawsuit charging that he had initiated abuse at his Pennsylvania ashram when she was 19. In 1997, shortly after his death, a jury awarded the woman nearly $2 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

So, too, former devotees at Kripalu, a Berkshires ashram, won more than $2.5 million after its longtime guru — a man who gave impassioned talks on the spiritual value of chastity — confessed to multiple affairs.

The drama with Mr. Friend is still unfolding. So far, at least 50 Anusara teachers have resigned, and the fate of his enterprise remains unclear. In his letter to followers, he promised to make “a full public statement that will transparently address the entirety of this situation.”

The angst of former Anusara teachers is palpable. “I can no longer support a teacher whose actions have caused irreparable damage to our beloved community,” Sarah Faircloth, a North Carolina instructor, wrote on her Web site.

But perhaps — if students and teachers knew more about what Hatha can do, and what it was designed to do — they would find themselves less prone to surprise and unyogalike distress.

William J. Broad is the author of “The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards,” published this month by Simon & Schuster.
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Tue Feb 28, 2012 12:40 pm

Jcbaran wrote:
Science has begun to clarify the inner mechanisms. In Russia and India, scientists have measured sharp rises in testosterone — a main hormone of sexual arousal in both men and women. Czech scientists working with electroencephalographs have shown how poses can result in bursts of brainwaves indistinguishable from those of lovers. More recently, scientists at the University of British Columbia have documented how fast breathing — done in many yoga classes — can increase blood flow through the genitals. The effect was found to be strong enough to promote sexual arousal not only in healthy individuals but among those with diminished libidos.

It's already been clearly established that philandering is not limited to any particular practice, so moving right along...

Drawing a line between hatha yoga and sex seems absurd. Art, music and dance are potentially erotic too; should everything come with a disclaimer "beware, engaging in this activity might cause you to feel something"? The fact that there is an historical relationship between the many forms of yoga, including sexual tantra, doesn't change the fact that most forms of yoga are not physically sexual and aren't practiced with any intent to be sexually stimulating. I've practiced hatha yoga for most of my life, including the years when I was celibate, and it is not my experience that it is inherently sexually stimulating. It would make more sense to talk about the barrage of overtly sexual imagery in the mass media if this is a concern.

This author previously wrote a book about the dangers of yoga after injuring himself while doing yoga. Again, does everything need a disclaimer? "caution, moving your body can cause injury, do so at your own risk"
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Mon Mar 05, 2012 4:32 pm

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18560_162-57390125/?tag=currentVideoInfo;videoMetaInfo

Episode of CBS "60 Minutes" on sexual scandals in the Catholic Church in Ireland.
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Mon Mar 05, 2012 4:47 pm

It's good to see a member of the hierarchy with a conscience. Maybe this can be the catalyst for the Irish to break the grip of Rome and reclaim their own Celtic spiritual traditions. They flourished as an indigenous form of Celtic Christianity from the 5th to the 12 centuries under the leadership of inspired people like Brigid of Kildare and Columba, an incarnational and nature mystic form of Christianity until the Pope and the English King made a deal to exercise military and religious hegemony over Ireland. Ireland used to be a massive exporter of priests to the U.S. My diocese was called the "diocese of Eastern Ireland" instead of Eastern Oregon it was nearly all staffed by Irish priests, who were largely incompetent and alcoholic and terrible examples of pastoral care, had no experience with real human life.
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Tue Mar 06, 2012 1:58 am

Interview: Genjo Marinello on Eido Shimano & Zen Studies Society
From Sweeping Zen website

March 03, 2012

Kokan Genjo Marinello Osho (born 1954) is the current Abbot of Dai Bai Zan Cho Bo Zen Ji in Seattle, WA, a Rinzai Zen temple. Genjo Osho began his Zen training in 1975, and was ordained an unsui (priest in training) in 1980. During 1981-82 he trained at RyutakuJi in Japan. Genjo Osho was formally installed as the second Abbot of Chobo-Ji on Rinzai Zenji’s (d.866) memorial day January 10th, 1999. Genjo Osho is also psychotherapist in private practice, a certificated spiritual director from a program affiliated with the Vancouver School of Theology, married to wife, Carolyn, and devoted father to daughter, Adrienne. Chobo-Ji temple is in the Rinzai – Hakuin Ekaku Zenji Dharma Line, after Genki Roshi retired, Genjo Marinello Osho trained with Eido Shimano Roshi, former abbot of DaiBosatsu Monastery in New York, who affirmed Genjo Osho as a Dharma Heir on May 21st, 2008. Genjo Osho-san is a member of the American Zen Teachers Association. (Read more…)

Interview notes: This interview took place shortly after my recent interview with Shinge Roko Sherry Chayat of Zen Studies Society. You can read an older interview with Genjo Osho from June of 2009 here.

SZ: You’ve been expressing concern over stewardship of the board at the Zen Studies Society (ZSS) for some time now, having tendered your resignation from there in July of last year. What are your main areas of concern?

KGM: I’m concerned about a number of issues. First of all I don’t think it is sustainable to keep paying the Shimanos’ just over $90,000 a year in deferred compensation and benefits. By the way, the Shimanos’ from the beginning have tried to argue that they were owed more than this amount. I don’t know where negotiations stand today, but this is the rate that ZSS was paying them when I departed. This seems exorbitant to me, especially considering the reasons for their retirement. I believe the 1995 ZSS board that foolishly enacted the Deferred Compensation Agreement (DCA) stipulating this amount, along with a 4% per year cost of living increase, had no adequate sense of separation from Eido Roshi and therefore mismanaged their fiduciary responsibility. In hindsight, I think both Eido Roshi and his wife should have been fired for cause instead of being strongly encouraged to retire, which would have given the board much better standing to negotiate more reasonable terms. In any case, I’ve been advocating that the board at least attempt to use all legal means possible to abrogate this agreement in court, but Shinge Roshi is adamantly opposed to this approach and has basically conceded to the terms of the 1995 agreement. Mind you I have nothing against coming to some reasonable settlement with the Shimanos’, but I think it is unreasonable and unsustainable for the ZSS to continue to make this kind of outlay month after month. I would rather see them sell some slice of the Dai Bosatsu Zendo (DBZ) property to support a lump sum settlement than be burdened by this unreasonable 1995 agreement. The only way ZSS can possibly pay for the 95 DCA anyway is to sell some land or grant an easement of 1000 acres of DBZ to an organization such as the Nature Conservancy.

More importantly I am concerned by the board’s continued attachment to the man over the Dharma or the healing of the Sangha; agreeing to the 1995 DCA is only the tip of the iceberg. Once ZSS began, through our ethics investigation, to get credible evidence that Eido Roshi had been sexualizing other women at the monastery in recent years, I thought the time had come to begin implementing to the tee the recommendations of the FaithTrust Institute. This would have meant that Eido Roshi should have been forced to resign as abbot by early Fall of 2010. Instead, Shinge Roshi argued that he should be allowed to continue to teach through Dec. 8th, 2010, and plans were being made for him to be able to teach willing senior students well into 2012. However, just after his retirement we discovered the letter that Eido Roshi foolishly circulated to friends in the US and Japan addressed to the editor of the New York Times that stated the allegations against him were false. This flew in the face of what he later called his “forced” public apology of Sept. 7, 2010. When a copy of this letter was discovered in the office of Shobo-Ji (New York City Zen Center), Shinge Roshi strongly discouraged me from going public with my indignation and expressed indignation that I stirred up such a hornet’s nest of protest against Eido Roshi.

I thought things were going better in early February of 2011 when the board affirmed that Eido Roshi would no longer be allowed to teach under the auspices of ZSS, and it appeared that Shinge Roshi had secured a commitment from Eido Roshi that he would no longer teach. But shortly thereafter, bolstered by his most staunch supporters, Eido Roshi reversed himself, and then Shinge Roshi too began to look for some way he could continue to teach those who still desperately wanted his attention. Ideas were floated that perhaps Eido Roshi could reside part time, do translation work and teach at Jorakuan (Beecher House in the center of DBZ property) if there were some way to make Jorakuan not legally connected to ZSS. Later plans were made for a meeting in early May 2011, with the help of Olive Branch consultants, where we would try and negotiate some sort of settlement possibly allowing Eido Roshi to continue to teach willing senior students on ZSS property if many stringent stipulations were met. However, at the meeting Eido Roshi not only would not agree to stipulations, he began to claim that the board had no authority to put any restrictions on him at all. It was also at this meeting Eido Roshi said that it would have been more karmically harmful to refuse sexual overtures from female students than to acquiesce to their needs.

After this point I felt sure there would be no further thought of negotiation with Eido Roshi, but Shinge Roshi insisted that we still try to find a way to accommodate him and his most devout students. Shortly after an early June 2011 meeting at DBZ, I heard from a former board member about a first hand account shared with him by a woman and senior female student of a “date rape” by Eido Roshi some years back. After hearing this I had a sickening realization that Eido Roshi was a sexual predator, not just a sexual addict seducing his own students. I tried to convey this as best I could to the rest of the ZSS board. However, despite my efforts and additional credible evidence that kept coming to light, later in that same month, Shinge Roshi floated the idea to split ZSS, keeping the monastery but giving up Shobo-Ji to Eido Roshi so that he could continue to teach there. I thought this was insane, Shinge Roshi thought it was “thinking out of the box.” At this point, I began to lose confidence that Shinge Roshi would ever understand that helping Eido Roshi to teach in any capacity anywhere on or off campus would be enabling the continuance of his predation of vulnerable female students. Yet she begrudgingly agreed that we needed to change the locks to Shobo-Ji so that Eido Roshi could not have unsupervised access. Changing the locks sent a concrete message to Eido Roshi that the board would not collapse under the weight of his charismatic persuasion.

Then in early July of 2011 Eido Roshi and Shinge Roshi invited everyone to come to DBZ for an “extremely important announcement.” At this meeting Eido Roshi openly stepped down from any teaching and encouraged all of his former students to train with Shinge Roshi. However, the meeting was marred at the end with an aggressive attempt by Eido Roshi, backed by staunch supporters, to receive a new key to Shobo-Ji. Having made this concession about teaching, he made a scene trying to manipulate the board to allow him to have free and open use of the city temple a few blocks from his condo on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. At the meeting the board did not bend, but decided, against my strong objections, that the video of the meeting and the full transcript of the meeting would be suppressed, and it has been to this day.

Then incredibly a couple of days later the board received an email from Eido Roshi detailing how he wanted to be allowed to teach introductory zazen and lead Dharma classes at Shobo-Ji so he could “nurture the next generation of students.” I was flabbergasted, but I was told by Shinge Roshi and the others that this letter was also to be suppressed. I tried to make the point to the board that this letter should be released because it patently exposed his expectation to continue teaching in one form or another. I also tried to make a strong case that in light of this letter, there needed to be a hiatus of having Eido Roshi on ZSS property. Sadly, it became clear that the majority was not with me. The conference call with the board where these items were being discussed ended with Shinge Roshi loudly scolding me for breaking rules of confidentiality. She complained vehemently that my June 5th, 2011 memo updating the Chobo-Ji Sangha on recent ZSS events and shared with the wider maha-Sangha, disclosed far more than she thought appropriate. Other board members informed me privately that they thought I had done a good job. Nevertheless, by the conclusion of this conference call I became convinced that I could no longer be effective on the ZSS board.

I could feel little harmony with the direction Shinge Roshi was going. I felt the need for more transparency not less. I wanted Eido Roshi to stay away from both properties, and in my opinion no real healing would be possible for those alienated or directly harmed without this step. I was also disturbed by the fact that he still had rooms at both ZSS properties that were devoted to him and his possessions. And I remain frustrated by the fact that the board has essentially capitulated to the 95 DCA without a fight. I take some credit for helping the board not to surrender to more than this amount, which Eido Roshi was arguing for. Can you see why I think the board has been overly focused on the man rather than on propagating the Dharma or healing the Sangha?

On a more positive note, there was an important All Sangha Meeting held in August of last year, facilitated by the Olive Branch. However, not everyone could or would attend because the meeting was held at the monastery in the Catskills rather than a more neutral and central location in or near the city. I was traveling from Seattle to attend, but when transferring in Chicago, all flights to New York were canceled because of Hurricane Irene. Those in attendance did much work together, but I believe there has been far too little follow up. Here is a link to Shinge Roshi’s progress letters and others to my letters calling on Shinge Roshi and ZSS to do much more.

http://www.shimanoarchive.com/PDFs/20110919_Chayat_Sangha.pdf
&
http://www.shimanoarchive.com/PDFs/20111101_Chayat_Sangha.pdf

http://www.shimanoarchive.com/PDFs/20111107_Marinello_ZFI.pdf
&
http://www.choboji.org/ZSS_steps.pdf

SZ: Wow. What was the board’s reaction to the attempt made to get a key to Shobo-ji? Was this the same evening that a board member’s car was keyed up, or was that on a different occasion?

KGM: All the board members present were stupefied and I heard even his DBZ monks told him his manipulation to get a key was inappropriate. However, all my information is second hand, as I was not at this meeting and have never seen the tape or been able to read the fuller transcript. The incident where a board member’s car was keyed (vandalized) because of his support for stringent restrictions on Eido Roshi’s visitations was at the August All Sangha Meeting.

SZ: While you were still a board member, did you ever see Shimano admit wrongdoing in a public way?

KGM: On several occasions I heard him make reference to past deeds, saying that he took full responsibility for the harm his actions had caused. In my presence, he was never very specific in public about what his misbehaviors were. However, others have told me that on occasion he has publically been more revealing than this. I thought his initial reaction just after the most recent scandal broke was not bad at all. In my presence, he did not deny any allegation made by the woman who called him out, he was apologetic and accepted full responsibility for the ethical breach, and realized that his time for “retirement” had come. Compared to what I had heard about his response to earlier incidents this was a major advance.

SZ: In all of this, many others and I are curious as to why you continue referring to him as Roshi. I say that while having a ton of respect for you, so you know. I just find it a little strange, considering such extreme measures are being taken to ensure this man does not have access to any more students, as he has been deemed a danger. How do you reconcile that?

KGM: It is hard for me to reconcile this; I’m still working on it! I often heard Eido Roshi say that Soen Roshi, his Dharma Father, was an enigma to him and his greatest koan. Now I know much better what he was talking about. Let me begin by saying he was a Roshi to me; in other words, he served as a catalyst to my own insight and confidence. I was able to project on him without fear that it would significantly hook him. He would push me into dark nights of the soul, not knowing for sure if I would be able to climb out, but confident that if I did, I would be the stronger for it. I will forever be grateful for his strengths, clear insights and many talents.

One of the most important lessons he helped me realize is that one can never find Buddha in isolation from Bumpkin. We are all a mix of strengths and weaknesses. Just because we are weak in some areas, doesn’t mean that we can’t excel in others. Even in his failures, he has provided invaluable lessons. First and foremost among them is that Zen practice can indeed nurture true insight, but true insight alone, especially when bounded by a bubble of arrogance and self-aggrandizement, is insufficient for deep maturity in the Way. Deep maturity requires that we examine our lives and vow to root out any repeating patterns or programs that harm others. We must always be on the lookout for patterns that cause harm.

As a psychotherapist I see these patterns as gaps in our early development, and we must vow to expose, examine and face our shortcomings so thoroughly that they are transformed from liabilities to assets. This effort will likely be the hardest and most important work we will ever do, but if we don’t do this work, look out! It will come to bite us, and probably those closest to us. How can we hope to live our Great Vow to care for all beings without truly facing our own shadow? This is not to say that Eido Roshi never faced his shadow and never did this kind of work; however, it is plain that he had big blinders on and that circumstances never caught up to him in such a way that he had no other choice but to delve deeply into these shadowy broken areas.

SZ: Would you ever consider restoring a relationship with ZSS again, or becoming a member of their board? In short, do you hold out hope for that organization?

KGM: Yes, I believe ZSS can still recover. Much has already been done by Shinge Roshi to positively change the culture of practice at DBZ, but it is tragic to me that she appears to be trying to move on without fully integrating and learning from the past and without more fully reaching out to those who have been alienated and directly harmed. No one currently alienated or directly harmed will likely feel comfortable returning to ZSS while Eido Roshi is still allowed on campus, so I fear the wider sangha for this reason alone will remain fractured.

I believe ZSS must one day become a haven for those who have been abused or harmed, and that ultimately this is the only possible path for those in Eido Roshi’s lineage. How else can we possibly make amends for the damage that has been done to the ZSS Sangha and American Zen? I believe in the readiness of time this course will become the only path. When this corner is turned, I will be delighted to return in some capacity, but I’m not holding my breath. Until then I will stay away, but I plan to continue to be vigilant calling out Eido Roshi’s history of bad behaviors to whatever audience he hopes to teach. Moreover it is my intention to watch and comment as needed on ZSS actions until the inevitable corner to deep healing with those alienated or harmed has been turned.

SZ: How has the transition been, moving to your new location for Chobo-ji? It looks like you all have put a ton of work in to the place (photos are beautiful).

KGM: Thank you. It is a joy to be up a half-hour before zazen, to go downstairs to the new zendo, open the doors, turn on the lights and get the tea water going. Even though the space is new it radiates an ancient feel. The planning committee of Zen students, architect and contractor brought decades of experience to bear in the planning and execution of every detail. I am awed and unbelievably grateful for the many who have volunteered so much time and so many resources to make this expansion possible. I have a new title; in addition to being a Zen Abbot, I am now an Apartment Manager. There are eight apartments above the new zendo, one is reserved for the office/library, my wife and I and our two small dogs occupy one apartment and this leaves six one-bedroom apartments available for Zen students to reside and train on the property. Former tenants of the building still occupy two of these six apartments, and residents who are interested in starting the Residential Zen Practice with me occupy the last four. How this Zen Residential Practice will evolve remains to be seen, but it is an exciting time for Chobo-Ji and I look forward to being able to concentrate on my efforts here in Seattle.

SZ: Thanks for taking the time to let readers know about your concerns. In closing, do you have any parting words for our readers?

KGM: You’re most welcome Adam it is a pleasure to work with you and support Sweeping Zen. You have done a great job interviewing so many American Zen Teachers. My ordination teacher, Genki Takabayashi Roshi, was the catalyst for many invaluable lessons; perhaps foremost among them was the realization that wherever we are, we are just beginning and never complete. We all have work to do; unfortunately, it appears that with the help of others who continue to indulge and financially support Eido Roshi, he may never get on with the work he needs to do anytime soon. This is one of many ways the sangha has failed Eido Roshi and other teachers put up on pedestals. We must be careful to realize that as human beings we will never escape our base animalistic nature. The best we can do is become so conscious of our own base nature that we develop the skillfulness to put it in the back seat. However, even with great awareness and clarity it is very difficult not to be fooled and directed by our instincts for survival that constantly try to direct us to have enough and then a little more. With time, great determination, great faith and great doubt, we all can come to deeper maturity, where insight rather than instinct becomes the guiding principle of our lives. Nevertheless, we must all remain vigilant not to get tricked by Mara again and again. Take care!
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Wed Mar 07, 2012 2:17 am

More from Sweeping Zen website:

The ZSS Dialogue: An ongoing study in healing a community



Sweeping Zen is providing a valuable forum for airing questions about Zen teacher misconduct and how the Zen community leadership meets this challenge. The recent dialogue in Sweeping Zen captured in interviews with Roko Sherry Shinge Chayat Roshi and Genjo Marinello brings several important questions into focus: How should a Zen center organization remediate and restructure in the aftermath of a teacher’s misconduct, how does influential community members’ loyalty to a disgraced teacher tend to minimize a teacher’s misconduct, and what is the appropriate balance between keeping an established community functioning and thoroughly and honestly disclosing harm done and helping its victims heal. Their side by side interviews begin to resemble a case study in the effort required to remediate teacher misconduct, revealing how even with the best intentions harm can be perpetuated and justified, and how whistleblowers – the Zen students who point out a teacher’s faults – are isolated and driven out of sanghas.

There is a dangerous and predictable process that develops in sanghas plagued by teacher misconduct. It’s a process of division that preserves and rewards the teacher’s defenders and systematically isolates those who speak truth to power. Teachers who commit harm repeatedly can do so only with protectors and enablers and a community that tolerates, dismisses or supports their misconduct. Under such circumstances, loyalty and gratitude to the teacher – a traditional element in Zen practice – becomes a very tricky business, easily hijacked for unwholesome purposes. Because the Zen teacher-student relationship is a new dynamic in the West, it’s especially important for us to look carefully at the overall dynamic, at its complexities and boundaries, and at what happens when the relationship breaks down. This is a work in progress and is painful for all concerned parties.

When a teacher is violating appropriate boundaries and exploiting students, there is a loyalist tendency to minimize, explain away, or even cover-up the misconduct in order to keep the community functioning and maintain the status quo. Sometimes what’s being protected and preserved is a level of activity, sometimes an idealized concept of the teacher and practice, sometimes a public face or reputation, sometimes the positions and benefits of senior members, sometimes real estate owned by the community, but the dynamic is the same. At the organizational level, those who support the teacher despite his/her harmful misconduct circle the wagons and are typically empowered or “promoted” in the hierarchy to keep the teacher and the community’s status as a Zen practice place. Meanwhile those who voice the problem, try to change the system, and ask the teacher to acknowledge his/her harm are driven away. Or they leave to avoid being pulled into the web of loyal apologists. The teacher’s supporters come to be labeled as authentic practitioners, true Dharma heirs and examples of Zen wisdom, while those seeking rehabilitation and remediation for the teacher and the community are labeled as troublemakers and enemies of the Dharma. This perverse split affects not only the community, but the quality of Zen teaching and the teachers themselves. The whole Zen tradition is dragged down by lies, cover-ups, and corruption, and the challenging, courageous, and talented students are driven out, isolated, and sometimes deprived of a teaching venue.

In her Sweeping Zen interview, Roko Shinge Roshi seems to be struggling to find a balanced way to acknowledge and address Eido Shimano’s misconduct and the community’s pain without throwing the baby (the ZSS community itself) out with the bathwater. As is now well documented and widely known, Eido Shimano was informed (by Aitken Roshi’s report in 1964) of serious damage to two women in his Hawaii community who were hospitalized in a psychiatric ward resulting from their sexual experiences with Shimano. Despite being warned about the harm he’d caused, the record suggests that Shimano continued for more than 40 years, perhaps compelled by addiction, to risk causing this same harm, having sex with female students who might be especially vulnerable to emotional distress. Roko Shinge Roshi provides some socio-cultural context for his sexual predation, harking back to the 60’s and early 70’s when women’s new found sexual freedom was, in her words, expressed by “choosing who we wanted to have sex with and kind of subverting the paradigm” including taking on teachers as lovers, a choice she compares to elevating the word “queer” to something positive in the gay liberation movement.

Of course, we are always swimming in and influenced by the currents of our times, but there are other perspectives on this kind of acting out that are also worth taking into account in this case. One alternative feminist perspective is that choosing a Zen teacher for a sexual partner is hardly an expression of a woman’s freedom, in the 60’s, 70’s, or at any time before or since. Rather, having sex with a mentor, employer, teacher, or doctor may be better understood as a time-worn, misguided attempt to seek power through sex with a powerful man. I describe some of these dynamics in my book Zen Women: Beyond Tea Ladies, Iron Maidens and Macho Masters. A seductive adult woman needs to take responsibility for her behavior, but ultimately, it is a Zen master’s job to teach any woman seeking sex as a means to enlightenment that seduction and ingratiation are not the route to Zen awakening. Sadly, Eido Shimano apparently advised female students that sexual intimacy with him was good for their Zen practice. Whatever socio-cultural and psychological forces may have been influencing his female victims, they do not mitigate the hard reality of what took place in Shimano’s community and the need to keep his misconduct, responsibility as teacher, and the harm caused at the center of our discussions.

Responsible teaching and protection of students is an essential obligation for any teacher in a position of power and a necessary requirement in the Zen teacher’s job description. Unequal power in any helping profession requires restraint in satisfying one’s own appetites – sexual and otherwise – in favor of protecting students’ well-being and not confusing the purpose of training or healing. It is deemed so essential to those empowered to guide others that a legal prohibition between consenting adults has been mandated—sex is illegal– between doctors and patients, therapists and clients, and in some states between ministers and congregation members. Sadly, such a law prohibiting a minister’s sexual liaison with a member of his/her congregation has yet to be passed in New York where Shimano did his damage.

In Scott Edelstein’s excellent book, Sex and the Spiritual Teacher, we learn that a sexually addicted, sexually predatory and sexually exploitative teacher can also apparently offer wisdom, and that such teachers have done just that throughout history. Edelstein argues: “Whether we like it or not, many spiritual teachers are both wise and foolish; many are both generous and acquisitive; many are both loving and self-centered. In fact, a small number of exceptionally insightful and inspiring spiritual teachers have also been serial exploiters.” However, he also concludes that the community cannot survive this kind of misconduct and that these serially exploitative teachers cannot be remediated. Rather than endlessly arguing about who is at fault, or hand-wringing about the shame and lost opportunity, Edelstein recommends that we need to protect the community and consider that sexual exploitations are not a good fit with the job requirement of being a spiritual guide. We need to become clear on who can be helped and how to protect and heal the community. On this point, I congratulate the ZSS Board for bringing in the Faith Trust Institute to investigate Eido Shimano. Sadly, as Genjo Marinello points out, the Faith Trust recommendations were not followed by the ZSS Board.

We also learn from Genjo Marinello’s allegations that the ZSS Board was informed that Eido Shimano had forced himself on some of his students in non-consensual sex. (I also have personally heard women describe non-consensual sexual encounters with Eido Shimano.) Addressing this difficult matter in her Sweeping Zen interview, Roko Shinge Roshi seems to be aiming for a balanced view, remarking that if such events occurred, “all we can say is how much we deplore it and how much it pains us.” By withholding judgment as to the truth of the non-consensual sex (“if” such events occurred), she seems to be trying to establish a calm, neutral ground – not siding with either Eido Shimano or acknowledging the truth of his accusers’ allegations. Not an easy task, but an understandable undertaking given Roko Shinge Roshi’s attempt to sustain and nurture the ZSS community.

That said, beyond deploring alleged non-consensual sex, going further to express a willingness to investigate and even a willingness to prosecute if compelling evidence is found would be a brave additional step that may be necessary for healing the community. A sincere promise of investigation, possible prosecution, and remuneration to victims would encourage women to come forward and tell their stories so that justice could be served and the community could truly begin to heal. Whatever the legal consequences, knowing that Eido Shimano had perpetrated rape or date rape is an essential part of this conversation and the potential healing of the ZSS community. “Deploring” is certainly an expression of compassion, but I wonder how far it will go toward actually healing these concerns and allegations and repairing the community. Encouraging women to come forward requires trust and honesty; these basic conditions need to be more clearly established for ZSS women to testify. We have learned from the Catholic Church that an attempt for truth and justice can seem hopeless to survivors of clergy abuse since the clergy are so well protected by the institutional denial and avoidance. Investigating allegations, supporting those abused and physically forced to have sex without consent, and seeing that justice is served begins to offer the appropriate response to move beyond the misconduct and the mistrust.

Sangha leaders should consider actions to create a trusting environment. Expressions of disapproval of non-consensual sex are weak tea. We all deplore rape, but what will we do about such allegations in a Zen community? Genjo Marinello suggests that Eido Shimano’s ($90,000/year) retirement money is inappropriate under such circumstances. It seems he is being rewarded for harmful behavior, and that the victims of his harm should receive compensation instead. Until this level of honest investigation and appropriate action are undertaken, a cloud of mistrust will shadow the ZSS community. No matter how hard the ZSS Board works to rewrite the bylaws or restructure the community, the integrity of the community cannot be restored until the truth is heard and an appropriate response is offered.

Speaking and facing the truth, meeting reality, is the backbone of the Zen tradition. In order for Zen to become authentic in the West, it needs to root in honesty and accountability. All of us should care enough about Zen to look closely at what is being taught, to take responsibility for creating structures to apply honesty in our communities, and to develop processes for early remediation and termination for the teachers’ transgressions that cannot be remediated. To honor the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, we must each hold those three treasures dear and not become passive observers. I believe the ZSS Board is trying to find the balance between protecting an established teaching venue and healing the community. This has been a thankless job for all of them. Zen practice requires guts. Let us keeping working to make it real here in the West. Please investigate thoroughly and then voice your findings on this matter. We can still make a difference in the outcome.
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Wed Mar 07, 2012 2:31 am

"By withholding judgment as to the truth of the non-consensual sex (“if”
such events occurred), she seems to be trying to establish a calm,
neutral ground – not siding with either Eido Shimano or acknowledging
the truth of his accusers’ allegations. "

***********************
How can one have a "neutral" stance about non-consensual sex, which by definition constitutes rape? The priority here needs to be advocacy for the victims and protection for all trainees in the Sangha, not payment and protection for the perpetrator. Some striking parallels with the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy and their handling of such cases.
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Wed Mar 07, 2012 10:10 pm

I totally agree Bill, rape is rape and criminal offence. If he had wandered into a bank with gun and robbed it would people be tip toeing around like he done something rather embarrassing like constantly farting loudly during meditation. No, prison sentences for rape are on a par with those for bank robbery so like the rest of society we should treat them similarly. If you saw someone go into a bank in monks robes and waving a gun would you call the police and let them sort it out, or would you say 'Well he may not be robbing the bank, he is probably just using skilful means to teach us about the emptiness of materialism.' Rape is rape and it is probably a further criminal act in itself not to report it. It is made worse not better when the rapist is using a position of trust and authority to abuse others and then cloak his actions in 'holiness', 'egolessness' or 'skilful means'. It is time such cases are referred to the police, the proper authority, rather than some subservient 'management committee'.
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Fri Mar 09, 2012 11:17 am

From the Guardian / UK:
The YouTube confessional sending shockwaves through the Buddhist world
. Young Kalu Rinpoche's traumatic revelations highlight the dissonance between Tibetan tradition and 21st-century life
Mary Finnigan
guardian.co.uk, Friday 9 March 2012 05.44 EST

He is 21, a handsome, charismatic Tibetan who describes being a lama as his job. He is passionately keen on music, he raps, break-dances and parties in capital cities around the globe. Kalu Rinpoche chronicles his moods, his existential angst, his activities and philosophical insights on Facebook – and he recently broke the most profoundly entrenched Tibetan Buddhist taboo with a confessional video that received more than 23,000 hits on YouTube.

It is hardly surprising that Kalu is agonising over what the future holds for him. As a baby, he was recognised as the reincarnation of the deeply revered previous Kalu, who was one of two lamas largely responsible for the worldwide explosion of interest in Tibetan Buddhism during the late 1970s and throughout the 80s.

Old Kalu was seen as a bodhisattva – a person who has attained a level of realisation similar to that of the historical Buddha. He spent 13 years in solitary retreat as a hermit yogi in eastern Tibet, before escaping to India following the Chinese invasion. Kalu had his headquarters in the Himalayan foothills, but he spent the rest of his life travelling the world, setting up meditation centres, teaching and attending to the needs of many thousands of followers.

Old Kalu died in 1989 after establishing a formidable reputation. He was an impossible act to follow, leaving his successor with responsibility for over 70 centres across four continents, together with a duty of care for the spiritual wellbeing of the people involved in them. Young Kalu's father, Gyaltsen, was old Kalu's personal assistant. In his confessional video, young Kalu says the traumatic events he experienced during his teenage years started after his father died when he was nine.

He relates how he was moved to a different monastery and at the age of 12 was sexually abused by older monks. He goes on to reveal that when he refused to obey instructions, his tutor tried to kill him.

"It was all about money, power and control," he says.

Kalu did the traditional three-year retreat from the age of 15, but after that his training came to an abrupt end. "I went crazy," he says. "I became a drug addict and an alcoholic."

Kalu's exposure on the internet of the dark underbelly of Tibetan monastic life is unprecedented in modern times. People who knew his predecessor say that he was sometimes critical in private, but the rule in lama land is that you never air your grievances to the outside world. Above all, you never cause loss of face by criticising a fellow lama in public.

The shock that reverberated across the Tibetan Buddhist community following these revelations is still making waves. In his Facebook posts, young Kalu seems undecided about what to do next. He is no longer a monk and appears to have moved on from drug and alcohol excess, but there is no teaching schedule for 2012 on his website.

The respected British lama Jampa Thaye sympathises with Kalu: "Ideally, a young incarnate lama should be given time to mature – intellectually and in contemplation," he says. "But all too often they are thrust into teaching tours in order to raise funds for their monasteries or in Kalu's case, the organisation he inherited from his predecessor." Lama Jampa points out that Kalu does not benefit from "the protective cocoon of a monastery" and also has to cope with the unrestrained adoration of his western devotees: "No wonder he's floundering. Sadly, I think his suffering will continue for some time. In my view the best thing he could do is try to live an ordinary life."

According to his recent public utterances, Kalu has this idea in mind. Instead of urging his followers into the study and long retreats essential to serious Tibetan Buddhist practice, he asks them to be kind to each other and to take care of the poor and the needy. He often talks about love and insists that he is just an ordinary person doing his best to lead a good life.

Young Kalu demonstrated his moral fibre shortly after he first arrived in France to check out the meditation centres set up by old Kalu. He discovered that one of them had been taken over by a group of corrupt Bhutanese monks, who were breaking their vows and wallowing in self-indulgence. Most of the French Buddhists who had supported the centre for many years had fled in disgust and the place was no longer functional. Horrified and distressed, Kalu ordered the monks to leave. They refused to acknowledge his authority and were only persuaded to return to Bhutan after Kalu enlisted backup from Tai Situ Rinpoche, the senior lama of his lineage.

At the age of 21, Kalu has been traumatised by an attempt on his life, sexual abuse and a massive load of expectations and responsibilities. He is a deracinated Tibetan, born in exile – and also a high-profile guru with a worldwide following. The intensity of his experiences so far highlights the cultural dissonance between Tibetan tradition and the challenges of 21st-century life in the developed world. Kalu is probably seen as a loose canon by older lamas, but he gets away with it because of his status. In one sense he is a victim, but perhaps he will turn out to be a pioneer. Or a bit of both.
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Fri Mar 09, 2012 11:50 am

What a bizarre, strange, and disappointing story! I have a vivid memory of sitting at the feet of the old Kalu Rimpoche in a packed room in Victoria B.C. where adoring devotees were all hanging on every word from the translator, all of them wanting to hitch their spiritual wagon to this old man. It confirms for me the growing sense that healthy spiritual community and institutional monasticism with hierarchy are incompatible.
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Fri Mar 09, 2012 12:27 pm

Soon after I left Shasta, during the year that I was still identifying myself as a Zen monk, I went to visit Kalu Rinpoche and receive some teachings and initiations from him. At that point - i guess this would have been mid-1977 - he was visiting America and in New Mexico as I recall. He loved having a Zen monk come to receive his teachings, had me sit up front, we had lunch and dinner together, etc. He seemed like a very "holy' lama, very intense and quite traditional. He gave lots of initiations in fast Tibetan and it seemed like most of the Westerners were coming for the blessing aspect of it all.

I have not met the current incarnation. For this young lama to come forward like this, to make such a personal and candid video - that has never happened before in the Tibetan tradition. Problems and issues like this are never discussed openly in public -- and in many cases probably never even addressed behind closed doors. There are still many huge monasteries where the boys come and grow up entirely away from women and any feminine influences. No doubt there are all kinds of abuses, but likely all in the shadows.

It would be a valuable process for some of these shadows to come to light, to be openly explored, for their monastic culture to come out of the middle ages, to learn from some of the western practices of democracy, open speech, emotional intelligence, and so on. Reformation can be a good thing.... but we shall see.
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Fri Mar 09, 2012 1:09 pm

I agree, such exposures of the dark side of Tibetan Buddhism are a good thing. Having gone to a Roman Catholic monastic Seminary, at not quite age 15, and having been targeted for sexual abuse, it is even harder for me to understand taking little boys away from their parents and subjecting them to a highly unnatural institutional inculturation and rearing. Being in such a powerless position with adult males who lack anything like a healthy sexual development, makes these little boys vulnerable targets for sexual exploitation, speaking from experience.

My sister is what I call a "fundamentalist" Vajrayana Buddhist and absolutely worships these Tibetan lama/monks, especially the Rimpoches, like gods and attributes magical powers to them. She went to Dharmasala in the 70s for five years and has been on that track ever since. These monks can do no wrong in her eyes. So the "true believers" will turn on anyone who challenges that view, and will see this young incarnate Rimpoche as an aberration, a mistaken identity.
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Fri Mar 09, 2012 1:26 pm

Many westerners never see the insides of the bigger Tibetan institutions,and only slightly intersect with the shadows -- and most don't even want to acknowledge there are any shadows -- as we know from Shasta / OBC experience. These spiritual scenes can be very enchanting and the story is so big, so mystical that it overwhelms reality. I know so many westerners who have completely fallen in love with the Tibetan mega-story. There are some great teachers and teachings, but it is at the same time a medieval religious institution. Even some Tibetan leaders have addressed the hyper-romanticism and how it harms everyone in the end.
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Fri Mar 09, 2012 1:34 pm

I can't help thinking that Shakyamuni would be pleased about the "shake-up" that's going on in the institutions that started to form after he died. This young, internet savvy lama sounds like a very good-hearted guy.
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Fri Mar 09, 2012 1:40 pm

Jcbaran wrote:
Many westerners never see the insides of the bigger Tibetan institutions,and only slightly intersect with the shadows -- and most don't even want to acknowledge there are any shadows -- as we know from Shasta / OBC experience. These spiritual scenes can be very enchanting and the story is so big, so mystical that it overwhelms reality. I know so many westerners who have completely fallen in love with the Tibetan mega-story. There are some great teachers and teachings, but it is at the same time a medieval religious institution. Even some Tibetan leaders have addressed the hyper-romanticism and how it harms everyone in the end.

Indeed, that romanticism and denial is in my own family from someone who has seen the monastic culture close up. My view is that the need to romanticize is connected with an underlying problem of inadequacy where the ardent devotee, Western or Eastern, of the monk/holy man is convinced that the magic is only accessible through another, higher being, and by hitching one's own wagon to them, rather than taking responsibility and undertaking a committed daily life-long practice and all the dryness and challenge that comes with real growth and being a spiritual adult.
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PostSubject: Kalu Rimpoche   Fri Mar 09, 2012 3:04 pm

This is a sad story isn't it.And it is brave to speak your story like this.I am grateful to this young man because he is shedding light on something primitive and exploitative.This will enable some progress to be made.It isn't surprising that boy initiates are sexually exploited in Tibetan Monasteries.It is shocking to think how rare it is for someone to be able to talk about it and name it .

Thank you for the posting.
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Fri Mar 09, 2012 11:55 pm

Before the Chinese invasion Tibet was a feudal society with all the best and worst that implies. I remember Trungpa - there was a man with his own demons - saying that he thought that the best thing that had happened to Tibet was the Chinese invasion. He said the Chinese might be barbaric to the Tibetans, but not nearly as barbaric as the Tibetan hierarchy had been. He then went on to illustrate his point with a number of horrific stories. Here the self-styled masters who seem to believe in 'Droit du seigneur' should end up on the sex offenders register, and until they do similar stories will just continue. If Eko had been the head of a medical practice rather than a religious institution in all likelihood he would have been disbarred for life, prosecuted and put on the register; all of which if the Faith Trust report is to be believed he richly deserves. We must stop tip-toeing around these perverts and abusers and see them and call them for what they are or they will just continue, and even proliferate. Though I fear I must admit that in my time I have tip-toed around too.
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Sat Mar 10, 2012 6:18 am

mstrathern wrote:
If Eko had been the head of a medical practice rather than a religious institution in all likelihood he would have been......put on the register

Would what he did warrant inclusion on the sex offenders register? I thought that was for people who physically abused people. I could easily be wrong about that though since I have zero knowledge on this subject.

mstrathern wrote:
We must stop tip-toeing around these perverts and abusers and see them and call them for what they are or they will just continue, and even proliferate. Though I fear I must admit that in my time I have tip-toed around too.

I agree, though I think sorrow is a more honest reaction. I imagine if one of my children grew up and ended up doing bad things like these I would be heartbroken. I try to see the perpetrators as children who have been messed up by life. But, yes, that doesn't mean letting them carry on.
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Sat Mar 10, 2012 10:55 am

The Order does not have procedures,mechanisms,or the cultural history to enable its people to act when abuses occur.I know this to my cost as do many others who post here.

My immediate response to your post Glorfindel is to say that sexual abuse can be framed in many ways.Certainly,it does not only consist in physical acts.

Also,there are laws in the UK that allow for prosecution of someone whose coercive behaviour leads others to fear reprisal if they do not collude with that person's demands.ie.,in an imaginary scenario,someone seen to be in a position of power and influence might suggest a potential victim do something sexual.Behind that suggestion might be an implied threat of exclusion from that person's sphere if the potential victim doesn't co-operate.This scenario can occur where children are abused by adults.The implied threat of exclusion may seem vague,but can be very frightening,indeed life threatening ,when it involves a small child who is dependent on the adult,often a parent, for food and shelter,in fact for their very life.

The example of young boys in Tibetan temples is a case in point.The abused child is dependent on the abuser for their survival.

Sadly,drug dealers create this dependency on their user/clients,pimps on their prostitutes,and adults on their child victims.

If I knew what this person Little was supposed to have done,I might be able to be more definite about his legal position if he were in a professional role.

I do know there are huge difficulties in securing prosecutions in sex -related crimes.There is cultural prejudice,lots of denial(that such thing is even posssible),and the intimidation of vicitims by perpetrators makes prosecution a long winded process,and impedes the collection of robust evidence.

A person such as Little might be a candidate for inclusion on the sex offenders register,but he would have to have a proven record of offences for which he had been sentenced and which were considered serious enough.

Sex offenders get put on the register, go to prison, come out ,and carry on as they did before.Sadly,I have known some through my work.

There are no easy answers,but the courage to talk about the issue,keep talking ,and challenge the denial that is so pervasive,is a useful first step.
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Sat Mar 10, 2012 1:14 pm

Ikuko, some of it is lengthy reading, but the forum threads below will give you an idea of the issues that came to light about the former abbott, Michael Little (Eko).

I've heard from legal contacts that a criminal charge is unlikely in his case (unless a minor was among the victims) but civil suits are possible, as they may be for the Shasta Abbey organisation due to Haryo's and Meian's role in enabling his conduct.

http://obcconnect.forumotion.net/t16-rev-master-eko-s-resignation

http://obcconnect.forumotion.net/t338-additional-info-on-michael-little

http://obcconnect.forumotion.net/t347-additional-info-on-michael-little-continued
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Sat Mar 10, 2012 4:53 pm

Ikuko wrote:
The Order does not have procedures,mechanisms,or the cultural history to enable its people to act when abuses occur.I know this to my cost as do many others who post here.

I'm sorry to hear that you suffered at the hand of the OBC.

Ikuko wrote:
My immediate response to your post Glorfindel is to say that sexual abuse can be framed in many ways.Certainly,it does not only consist in physical acts.

Yes. But my question was purely about what warrants inclusion in the Sex Offenders Register. I've got this weird habit of trying to get everyone to be precise in the things they say. It prevents confusion.
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Sat Mar 10, 2012 7:39 pm

Hey Glorfindel
I try to see the perpetrators as children who have been messed up by life. But, yes, that doesn't mean letting them carry on.

It's a nice way of looking at it.

I find the way folks divide themselves off from others (in this case Eko) as the antithesis of the practise of meditation. If meditation is a word one doesn't relate to then compassion, tenderness, love, sympathy etc. will equally work..
The OBC's tendencies to shun others is no different than the way that folks commonly shun whatever happens to be societies vision of the Bogey man today.
I see those who try to create that gulf between themselves and the folks that hurt others, as equally scary because really all I see in folks hurting others is a lack of empathy. Those with limited empathy for others need only look in a mirror to meet the Bogey man which is why they are also usually the one with the torch & pitchfork raised highest in the air against someone else.

Of course stop the hurting of others by all sane means, but without equal efforts at developing empathy for the Bogey man, all you have is Bogey men imitating other Bogey men.
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Sat Mar 10, 2012 8:17 pm

glorfindel wrote:
I imagine if one of my children grew up and ended up doing bad things like these I would be heartbroken. I try to see the perpetrators as children who have been messed up by life. But, yes, that doesn't mean letting them carry on.

Ikuko wrote:
There are no easy answers, but the courage to talk about the issue, keep talking, and challenge the denial that is so pervasive, is a useful first step.

Howard wrote:
Of course stop the hurting of others by all sane means, but without equal efforts at developing empathy for the Bogey man, all you have is Bogey men imitating other Bogey men.

Glorfindel, Ikuko, and Howard--very well said.
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Sat Mar 10, 2012 9:34 pm

Glorfidel of course your right sorrow and compassion for all concerned is the best personal reaction, though one can understand that for some, particularly victims, anger obscures the vision. But what I was, and am, concerned with is the social and institutional reaction. This has to be tempered towards the victim rather than the perpetrator, and even more importantly towards the protection of other potential victims. What has happened does not do this. Eko has left and it seems is free to start all over again personifying himself as a blameless teacher hounded out by the jealous. It would have been better to ask him to stay in the order and undertake treatment. Demoting him to the ranks, as far as possible isolating him from temptation, and OBC telephones! And yes maybe even prosecuted and put on the sex register if he has acted criminally. Howard of course is as usual right 'why behold the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but consider not the beam that is in thine own eye?'. But this should not stop us speaking out and acting to protect others, otherwise we are not showing compassion either to the victim or the perpetrator, we are just 'passing on the other side'. We are all frail and imperfect which is why we need to practice but that should not drive us into inaction in the face of blatant abuse.
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Sat Mar 10, 2012 10:07 pm

mstrathern wrote:
Howard of course is as usual right 'why behold the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but consider not the beam that is in thine own eye?'. But this should not stop us speaking out and acting to protect others, otherwise we are not showing compassion either to the victim or the perpetrator, we are just 'passing on the other side'. We are all frail and imperfect which is why we need to practice but that should not drive us into inaction in the face of blatant abuse.

Mark, well said, yet again.
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Sun Mar 11, 2012 9:58 am

Thank you for the links Lise.I am reading through them to try to improve my understanding.

Re The Sex Offenders Register-it seems very unlikely that the actions I have read about so far would warrant any criminal prosecution-because of the quality of the evidence.But if I considered myself to be a victim,I would keep a journal ,so that if there were any prosecution or legal action my recollections could be be accessed.
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Mon Mar 12, 2012 6:58 pm

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130404193

Power Imbalance Can Facilitate Clerical Abuse
Listen to the Story from NPR - National Public Radio


Talk of the Nation - [34 min 54 sec]

October 7, 2010

Accusations of sexual misconduct by a suburban Atlanta pastor are troubling, but all too familiar for many abuse victims. While the facts of the Atlanta case are still unknown, the abuse of congregation members by clergy, regardless of religion, is nothing new.
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Thu Mar 15, 2012 7:58 am

Former Kagyu nun, June Campbell, was translator for the previous Kalu Rinpoche for some years. Cribbing the words of Wikipedia: "In her book Traveller in Space: Gender, Identity and Tibetan Buddhism she writes that he subjected her to an abusive sexual relationship which he told her was tantric spiritual practice. She raises the same theme in a number of interviews, including one with Tricycle magazine in 1996."

Here are some links...

Book (pub. 1996):
http://www.american-buddha.com/travel.space.toc.htm#TRAVELLER%20IN%20SPACE:%20IN%20SEARCH%20OF%20FEMALE%20IDENTITY%20IN%20TIBETAN%20BUDDHISM

Tricycle interview (1996):
http://www.anandainfo.com/tantric_robes.html

Comment in The Independent (1999):
http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/i-was-a-tantric-sex-slave-1069859.html

June Campbell perceived the situation in which she had found herself as an outcome of the prevalent Buddhist premise that one must be male to become a samyaksambuddha, such as Śākyamuni.

The word "buddha" is found in combinations such as śrāvakabuddha (arhat) and pratyekabuddha. I think that, perhaps because people are keen to become enlightened or "awake", the significance of becoming a samyaksambuddha is often understood simply in terms of its literal translation as perfectly awake or enlightened: and so being unable to become a samyaksambuddha is understood as meaning that you can't become so enlightened. However, it is not just the degree of personal enlightenment that defines a samyaksambuddha but also the very public role in founding a dispensation. (Personally, I don't see any reason to suppose that the two (self-enlightenment and other-enlightenment) must be inseparable.) The public role surely depends in good measure upon what those with leverage in society support, and the beliefs, perceptions and affinities of others, as well as having good karmic connections with many others, and other conducive outer circumstances, and skills of expression).

There certainly were female arhats in Śakyamuni's sangha, and anyone with enough understanding of the emptiness of form would realise that it is not ones physical gender that produces awakening. In Theravadin lore, not only are samyaksambuddhas invariably male, they are also born only in India and only into the priestly or ruler/warrior caste. The Mahayana has samyaksambuddhas springing up from various walks of life and in various realms. In the sutra, The Questions of an Old Lady, everyone in Buddha Bodhyaṅgapuṣpakara's heavenly buddhafield will be male, with the body of one of the "supreme gods" of the Trāyastriṃśa Heaven (Heaven of the Thirty-Three Gods): http://read.84000.co/#ReadingRoom/UT22084-059-014/0 To quote the introduction to the translation, "The main body of the text, which consists of Buddha’s [Śākyamuni's] teachings in answer to the old lady’s questions, is an explanation of emptiness"...it would be bonkers, after all that, to suppose that one must have a male form (whether or not like a deva of the Trāyastriṃśa Heaven) to become enlightened, whatever may be the form of the dwellers in Buddha B's buddhafield.

Clearly this digresses from the topic of this thread, and I apologise for this digression, but with regard to June Campbell's experiences, observations and concerns, I think it is a grave shame that, within the Mahayana, the lore of male-only samyaksambuddhas seems historically to have been mistranslated into male-only enlightenment; and that exclusive focus on, and elevation of, this also-public role has led to, or perpetuated, social imbalance between the sexes, and prejudice against women.

Of course, even without the enlightenment issue, given the importance in the Mahayana of becoming a samyaksambuddha, some might argue that being female is a clear shirking of moral duty and just plain mean!

I shall slouch off now into my indolent life of fecklessness and let this thread get back on track!... (-:
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Thu Mar 15, 2012 1:32 pm

@Anne

To the contrary, your post is precisely on track! It is about conflation of religion with a toxic culture of patriarchy. Patriarchy is all about the organization of human life to insure the perpetual domination and exploitation of the female gender. As such it is clear that every formulation of institutional religion that I am aware of has become an instrument of the inculturation of patriarchy into the minds of young boys and girls, and investing that culture of domination somehow with the "mandate of heaven" (for lack a better term). It takes forms in every religious tradition, some worse than others. In my view these forms are beyond redemption, and sanctuary circles of reverent practice where the feminine and masculine are both honored for their true gifts in mutual receptivity and blessing are the only forms of community spiritual practice I am interested in.

But it confirms my growing belief that institutional religion, whether monastic or lay led, is mainly about oppression and the preservation of patriarchal, hierarchical culture more than anything else. The current debate about women's health care under the guise of religious freedom in the U.S. is an excellent example. For that reason I can not see any spiritual community as a safe and healthy environment for the mutual support of spiritual growth and wellness that does not possess equality of gender in all aspects, including the absence of hierarchies of power.

In many respects I see much more hope in the developing Western forms of sangha presently evolving both in Christianity and Buddhism that are outside the framework of institutional religion. Much of what is hopeful in the world today, including even the Arab and Persian spring is inspired by the feminine spirit and its values of equality and mutuality. I find hope in that today and the story of this former nun shows how she has grown past her abuse to have new insight and freedom about the true nature of the life of the spirit. The deconstruction of these falsely revered gurus and their institutional networks perhaps give anxiety to some. I find it freeing to the life of the spirit, especially when we can eliminate the magical thinking that supports and maintains it, based on fear. If the present Wisdom traditions of the world are to survive, they must divest themselves of their oppressive forms and find a new birthing. Perhaps it is time that they die. I appreciate your posting on this woman's story of betrayal and rebirth and its insight for all of us.
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PostSubject: News items on religious leaders   Thu Mar 15, 2012 8:02 pm

Essay - Religion Dispatches - March 9, 2012
Yoga Guru or CEO? Saving the Brand When Scandal Strikes
By Andrea R. Jain

John Friend, the yoga entrepreneur responsible for creating Anusara yoga, is mired in scandal.

In 2010, Friend told the New York Times’ Mimi Swartz that he believed his brand of yoga was successful because it was simply of higher quality: “...people can choose—either they are going to go to a fast-food joint or a fine restaurant.”

But recent scandals threaten any vision of Anusara as the “fine restaurant” of the yoga world.

The accusations, (re-posted in early February from an anonymous site by blogger Yoga Dork) can be summarized as follows: Friend heads a Wiccan coven in which he has sex with female members; Friend had several sexual relationships with married Anusara employees and teachers; Friend violated federal regulations regarding employee benefits by suddenly freezing Anusara, Inc.’s pension fund; and finally, Friend put his employees at legal risk by arranging for them to accept packages of marijuana for his personal use.

In the last few months, four of Anusara’s most senior teachers—Christina Sell, Darren Rhodes, Elena Brower, and Amy Ippoliti—resigned one by one, citing “professional differences.” On February 12, two additional senior teachers, Noah Maze and Bernadette Birney, resigned, and Maze stepped down from his position on an interim committee established by Friend to ensure Anusara’s survival from the onslaught of the scandals. On her website, Birney added fuel to the fire, claiming that Friend “decided to ‘heal’ his students with ‘sex therapy.’”

Friend responded in a February 8, 2012 interview with Waylon Lewis at Elephant Journal. He confirmed that he had had sexual relationships with married employees and teachers and that Anusara, Inc. had violated federal regulations regarding employee pension funds. That day, Friend also emailed a letter to Anusara teachers regarding the scandals. He wrote:

The central issue now is that the wonderful image and reputation of Anusara yoga has been severely stained in the minds of some, since my personal behavior has been perceived to be out of integrity with Anusara ethics... the disharmony between my personal image and the values of our school needs to be reconciled, if Anusara is to properly heal... we are exploring scenarios in which the company is restructured to give teachers more voice and representation not only in areas of brand, ethics and curriculum, but also in the governance and direction of the company itself.

He added, “We must all remember that any missteps by me do not invalidate any of the greatness of the Anusara yoga method.”

Saving the Brand

Friend and his colleagues are desperately fighting to save the Anusara brand. In a letter to the Anusara community on February 24, Friend announced the appointment of Michal Lichtman as CEO of the new “teacher-run, nonprofit organization—the Anusara Yoga School,” adding that Friend himself would remain only “founder, student, and teacher of Anusara yoga.” Will this make any difference?

Some had assumed such changes would make a difference. Stewart J. Lawrence suggests in HuffPo that the Anusara situation reflects the reality for the entire yoga industry, whose future is grim due to the dominance of “charismatic, guru-based governing structures” rather than “more modern and democratic” ones.

Friend is not, however, the Anusara guru. Even though Friend uses the term kula (Sanskrit for “family”) to refer to the Anusara community—a term traditionally applied to disciples gathered around a guru—Friend rejects the label, preferring instead to call himself the founder and (until the recent restructuring) general manager of Anusara. But that doesn’t mean the infallible attributes often associated with the term guru haven’t been attributed to him. John Friend had been, until the scandals hit, considered the paragon of virtue within the Anusara community.

But even if Friend functions as a guru for the Anusara community, his relationship to the Anusara brand is not different than the relationship of other popular persons to particular brands. Think Martha Stewart, or Apple’s Steve Jobs. In the same way that Jobs was believed to have abilities beyond mundane marketing skills, Friend is considered to have special insight into the nature of yoga and its path to happiness. This vision of Friend is key to thousands of yoga practitioners’ uncompromising commitment to the Anusara brand.

Yoga: Sex Cult

While some blame yoga sex scandals on “guru-based governing structures,” others go straight to yoga’s roots. In a sardonically titled New York Times article, “Yoga and Sex Scandals: No Surprise Here,” journalist William J. Broad writes:

Why does yoga produce so many philanderers? And why do the resulting uproars leave so many people shocked and distraught? One factor is ignorance. Yoga teachers and how-to books seldom mention that the discipline began as a sex cult—an omission that leaves many practitioners open to libidinal surprise.

This is a bold thesis, but it’s inaccurate. Arguing that hatha yoga is a “parent of the styles now practiced around the globe” and labeling the beginnings of hatha yoga a “sex cult” are both historically irresponsible moves. Popularized forms of modern yoga only started to develop into the forms they take today about a hundred years ago, and, though traditionally linked to hatha yoga, they have more in common with other fitness routines prevalent in modern physical culture than with earlier varieties of yoga.

Furthermore, to reduce hatha yoga traditions to “sex cults” is abhorrently untrue. After all, although there have been traditions of hatha yoga that prescribed systematized sexual rituals, yoga frequently prescribed sexual continence (in varying degrees and forms) rather than “sexual debauchery,” as Broad simplistically puts it. And in today’s popularized varieties, such as Anusara, modern yoga does not prescribe “sexual debauchery” of any kind.

Beyond Broad’s false history of yoga, he also fails to recognize the fact that philanderers abound everywhere that there is competition for power. In the case of religion we need only to summon the recent scandal involving Eddie L. Long, the former pastor of the New Birth Missionary Baptist megachurch in Lithonia, Georgia. And then, in the fitness world, the tragic story of the scandal at Penn State football. In both the Long and Sandusky cases, scandals arose around accusations that the men had used their status and power to sexually seduce and abuse young men.

Yes, when sex scandals erupted involving Friend, it was not a shock—but not because yoga is, or ever was, a sex cult.

In the end, Friend may be a yoga guru who shattered his disciples’ spiritual vision of yoga, but he is also simply a marketer whose brand image management went awry.

Andrea R. Jain is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Her research interests include theories of religion as well as religion in relation to the body. More specifically, her research focuses on the transnational construction and global popularization of modern yoga. Andrea’s current projects include studies on the intersections of consumer culture and modern yoga as well as modern yoga gurus.
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Sat Mar 17, 2012 11:22 pm

I thought that posting this might be useful. This article addresses our tribal instincts and the narratives that we believe in politics.... but it can well be applied to religion. What is the main story? Once upon a time...... For Zen, the main story is the transmission / the unbroken lineage / the zen master as the living Buddha. This is the big sacredness that informs the tradition, the belief system, the practices, the culture. People who worship the same idol trust one another and become very defensive when the idol is questioned or attacked. So if you want to understand why a religion operates the way it does, or what happened with Shimano or the OBC or the current Catholic Church, follow the sacred story. And stories always have heroes and villains, the defenders of the faith and the apostates, the good ones against the bad ones, those that keep the true way and those that fall into darkness.

March 17, 2012 - NYT
Forget the Money, Follow the Sacredness
By JONATHAN HAIDT


Groups circle around a flag, an idea, a leader or a cause and treat it as sacred.

In the film version of “All the President’s Men,” when Robert Redford, playing the journalist Bob Woodward, is struggling to unravel the Watergate conspiracy, an anonymous source advises him to “follow the money.” It’s a good rule of thumb for understanding the behavior of politicians. But following the money leads you astray if you’re trying to understand voters.

Self-interest, political scientists have found, is a surprisingly weak predictor of people’s views on specific issues. Parents of children in public school are not more supportive of government aid to schools than other citizens. People without health insurance are not more likely to favor government-provided health insurance than are people who are fully insured.

Despite what you might have learned in Economics 101, people aren’t always selfish. In politics, they’re more often groupish. When people feel that a group they value — be it racial, religious, regional or ideological — is under attack, they rally to its defense, even at some cost to themselves. We evolved to be tribal, and politics is a competition among coalitions of tribes.

The key to understanding tribal behavior is not money, it’s sacredness. The great trick that humans developed at some point in the last few hundred thousand years is the ability to circle around a tree, rock, ancestor, flag, book or god, and then treat that thing as sacred. People who worship the same idol can trust one another, work as a team and prevail over less cohesive groups. So if you want to understand politics, and especially our divisive culture wars, you must follow the sacredness.

A good way to follow the sacredness is to listen to the stories that each tribe tells about itself and the larger nation. The Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith once summarized the moral narrative told by the American left like this: “Once upon a time, the vast majority” of people suffered in societies that were “unjust, unhealthy, repressive and oppressive.” These societies were “reprehensible because of their deep-rooted inequality, exploitation and irrational traditionalism — all of which made life very unfair, unpleasant and short. But the noble human aspiration for autonomy, equality and prosperity struggled mightily against the forces of misery and oppression and eventually succeeded in establishing modern, liberal, democratic, capitalist, welfare societies.” Despite our progress, “there is much work to be done to dismantle the powerful vestiges of inequality, exploitation and repression.” This struggle, as Smith put it, “is the one mission truly worth dedicating one’s life to achieving.”

This is a heroic liberation narrative. For the American left, African-Americans, women and other victimized groups are the sacred objects at the center of the story. As liberals circle around these groups, they bond together and gain a sense of righteous common purpose.

Contrast that narrative with one that Ronald Reagan developed in the 1970s and ’80s for conservatism. The clinical psychologist Drew Westen summarized the Reagan narrative like this: “Once upon a time, America was a shining beacon. Then liberals came along and erected an enormous federal bureaucracy that handcuffed the invisible hand of the free market. They subverted our traditional American values and opposed God and faith at every step of the way.” For example, “instead of requiring that people work for a living, they siphoned money from hard-working Americans and gave it to Cadillac-driving drug addicts and welfare queens.” Instead of the “traditional American values of family, fidelity and personal responsibility, they preached promiscuity, premarital sex and the gay lifestyle” and instead of “projecting strength to those who would do evil around the world, they cut military budgets, disrespected our soldiers in uniform and burned our flag.” In response, “Americans decided to take their country back from those who sought to undermine it.”

This, too, is a heroic narrative, but it’s a heroism of defense. In this narrative it’s God and country that are sacred — hence the importance in conservative iconography of the Bible, the flag, the military and the founding fathers. But the subtext in this narrative is about moral order. For social conservatives, religion and the traditional family are so important in part because they foster self-control, create moral order and fend off chaos. (Think of Rick Santorum’s comment that birth control is bad because it’s “a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”) Liberals are the devil in this narrative because they want to destroy or subvert all sources of moral order.

Actually, there’s a second subtext in the Reagan narrative in which liberty is the sacred object. Circling around liberty would seem, on its face, to be more consistent with liberalism and its many liberation movements than with social conservatism. But here’s where narrative analysis really helps. Part of Reagan’s political genius was that he told a single story about America that rallied libertarians and social conservatives, who are otherwise strange bedfellows. He did this by presenting liberal activist government as the single devil that is eternally bent on destroying two different sets of sacred values — economic liberty and moral order. Only if all nonliberals unite into a coalition of tribes can this devil be defeated.

If you follow the sacredness, you can understand some of the weirdness of the last few months in politics. In January, the Obama administration announced that religiously affiliated hospitals and other institutions must offer health plans that provide free contraception to their members. It’s one thing for the government to insist that people have a right to buy a product that their employer abhors. But it’s a rather direct act of sacrilege (for many Christians) for the government to force religious institutions to pay for that product. The outraged reaction galvanized the Christian right and gave a lift to Rick Santorum’s campaign.

AROUND this time, bills were making their way through state legislatures requiring that women undergo a medically unnecessary ultrasound before they can have an abortion. It’s one thing for a state government to make abortions harder to get (as with a waiting period). But it’s a rather direct act of sacrilege (for nearly all liberals as well as libertarians) for a state to force a doctor to insert a probe into a woman’s vagina. The outraged reaction galvanized the secular left and gave a lift to President Obama.

This is why we’ve seen the sudden re-emergence of the older culture war — the one between the religious right and the secular left that raged for so many years before the financial crisis and the rise of the Tea Party. When sacred objects are threatened, we can expect a ferocious tribal response. The right perceives a “war on Christianity” and gears up for a holy war. The left perceives a “war on women” and gears up for, well, a holy war.

The timing could hardly be worse. America faces multiple threats and challenges, many of which will require each side to accept a “grand bargain” that imposes, at the very least, painful compromises on core economic values. But when your opponent is the devil, bargaining and compromise are themselves forms of sacrilege.

Jonathan Haidt is a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and a visiting professor of business ethics at N.Y.U.’s Stern School of Business. Parts of this essay were excerpted from “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion,” which was just released.
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Sun Mar 18, 2012 1:05 pm

More insights on the power that stories have in our lives. This essay focuses more on fiction, but I would say that religious stories, stories about saints and sages, miracles, tales of ancient origins - have even a stronger effect on our brains. These stories overwhelm cognition, so even if we see in front of us many examples that contradict the main narrative, the narrative often remains glued in place - especially if it has been repeated over and over again -- like going to church from an early age -- or being in a religious community or cult - where certain stories and teachings are retold daily and there is little or no room for doubt or questioning.

March 17, 2012 - NYT
Your Brain on Fiction
By ANNIE MURPHY PAUL

AMID the squawks and pings of our digital devices, the old-fashioned virtues of reading novels can seem faded, even futile. But new support for the value of fiction is arriving from an unexpected quarter: neuroscience.

Brain scans are revealing what happens in our heads when we read a detailed description, an evocative metaphor or an emotional exchange between characters. Stories, this research is showing, stimulate the brain and even change how we act in life.

Researchers have long known that the “classical” language regions, like Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area, are involved in how the brain interprets written words. What scientists have come to realize in the last few years is that narratives activate many other parts of our brains as well, suggesting why the experience of reading can feel so alive. Words like “lavender,” “cinnamon” and “soap,” for example, elicit a response not only from the language-processing areas of our brains, but also those devoted to dealing with smells.

In a 2006 study published in the journal NeuroImage, researchers in Spain asked participants to read words with strong odor associations, along with neutral words, while their brains were being scanned by a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine. When subjects looked at the Spanish words for “perfume” and “coffee,” their primary olfactory cortex lit up; when they saw the words that mean “chair” and “key,” this region remained dark. The way the brain handles metaphors has also received extensive study; some scientists have contended that figures of speech like “a rough day” are so familiar that they are treated simply as words and no more. Last month, however, a team of researchers from Emory University reported in Brain & Language that when subjects in their laboratory read a metaphor involving texture, the sensory cortex, responsible for perceiving texture through touch, became active. Metaphors like “The singer had a velvet voice” and “He had leathery hands” roused the sensory cortex, while phrases matched for meaning, like “The singer had a pleasing voice” and “He had strong hands,” did not.

Researchers have discovered that words describing motion also stimulate regions of the brain distinct from language-processing areas. In a study led by the cognitive scientist Véronique Boulenger, of the Laboratory of Language Dynamics in France, the brains of participants were scanned as they read sentences like “John grasped the object” and “Pablo kicked the ball.” The scans revealed activity in the motor cortex, which coordinates the body’s movements. What’s more, this activity was concentrated in one part of the motor cortex when the movement described was arm-related and in another part when the movement concerned the leg.

The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated. Keith Oatley, an emeritus professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto (and a published novelist), has proposed that reading produces a vivid simulation of reality, one that “runs on minds of readers just as computer simulations run on computers.” Fiction — with its redolent details, imaginative metaphors and attentive descriptions of people and their actions — offers an especially rich replica. Indeed, in one respect novels go beyond simulating reality to give readers an experience unavailable off the page: the opportunity to enter fully into other people’s thoughts and feelings.

The novel, of course, is an unequaled medium for the exploration of human social and emotional life. And there is evidence that just as the brain responds to depictions of smells and textures and movements as if they were the real thing, so it treats the interactions among fictional characters as something like real-life social encounters.

Raymond Mar, a psychologist at York University in Canada, performed an analysis of 86 fMRI studies, published last year in the Annual Review of Psychology, and concluded that there was substantial overlap in the brain networks used to understand stories and the networks used to navigate interactions with other individuals — in particular, interactions in which we’re trying to figure out the thoughts and feelings of others. Scientists call this capacity of the brain to construct a map of other people’s intentions “theory of mind.” Narratives offer a unique opportunity to engage this capacity, as we identify with characters’ longings and frustrations, guess at their hidden motives and track their encounters with friends and enemies, neighbors and lovers.

It is an exercise that hones our real-life social skills, another body of research suggests. Dr. Oatley and Dr. Mar, in collaboration with several other scientists, reported in two studies, published in 2006 and 2009, that individuals who frequently read fiction seem to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and see the world from their perspective. This relationship persisted even after the researchers accounted for the possibility that more empathetic individuals might prefer reading novels. A 2010 study by Dr. Mar found a similar result in preschool-age children: the more stories they had read to them, the keener their theory of mind — an effect that was also produced by watching movies but, curiously, not by watching television. (Dr. Mar has conjectured that because children often watch TV alone, but go to the movies with their parents, they may experience more “parent-children conversations about mental states” when it comes to films.)

Fiction, Dr. Oatley notes, “is a particularly useful simulation because negotiating the social world effectively is extremely tricky, requiring us to weigh up myriad interacting instances of cause and effect. Just as computer simulations can help us get to grips with complex problems such as flying a plane or forecasting the weather, so novels, stories and dramas can help us understand the complexities of social life.”

These findings will affirm the experience of readers who have felt illuminated and instructed by a novel, who have found themselves comparing a plucky young woman to Elizabeth Bennet or a tiresome pedant to Edward Casaubon. Reading great literature, it has long been averred, enlarges and improves us as human beings. Brain science shows this claim is truer than we imagined.

Annie Murphy Paul is the author, most recently, of “Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives.”
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Mon Mar 19, 2012 1:03 am

http://youtu.be/3sZDM93HFGs

From Congressman Tim Ryan on Mindfulness and a Mindful Nation
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Mon Mar 19, 2012 2:14 am

RE: Jonathan Haidt essay

I respect the analysis about conflicting mythologies, but there are some false equivalencies in his analysis. Without getting into the policy issues, the extreme evangelical and Catholic right wing literally see the present struggle as a religious war between the forces of God and Satan. While some on the far left can have their own brand of extremist narrative, the religious war analogy really is only the property of the right. A case in point, today top tier candidate Rick Santorum was introduced by pastor Dennis Terry as the one to restore America to its roots as a "Christian" country and those who disagree should leave or be expelled from America. Ronald Reagan could not be nominated by the GOP today for being too liberal. Ronald Reagan was someone who embraced religious pluralism and policy compromise, and in no way is representative of the today's right wing. The rabid right, who are fortunately a relatively small minority but in charge of the GOP, see the narrative as a death struggle with the forces of Satan.
http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/pastor-dennis-terry-introduces-rick-santorum-tells-liberals-and-non-christians-get-out
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Mon Mar 19, 2012 9:13 am

Bill -- thanks for sharing this citation from People for the American Way. I totally agree. I have actually been doing some research on this issue - the new extreme evangelical right, especially the "New Apostolic Reformation" that Rick Perry, Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann are associated with. This movement does see everything as spiritual warfare, Satan controls the world and they must do constant battle with demons. NPR has done some very good reporting on this movement while most of the mainstream media has ignored it. You might want to listen to some of their reporting on this. I am doing a project for GLAAD on religion and the media, so needed to look into this area of modern Christianity. Very disturbing. They believe that of course the Roman Catholic Church is demonic, Virgin Mary is a demon, and so on. But some of the leaders of the New Apostolic Reformation may have put that aspect of their thinking aside to support Santorum - since he is close to them on so many issues.
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Mon Mar 19, 2012 10:13 am

Thanks, Josh. For the moment there seems to be an alliance between the Catholic and Evangelical Right, including the Catholic bishops, themselves heavily influenced with the theology of Opus Dei, who see this as a spiritual warfare with liberal demonic forces. And as we well know there are many progressive Catholics who reject that kind of theology and political ideology and follow a progressive social justice agenda. I follow the polling pretty closely and the Catholic bishops and the majority of lay people are on opposite sides of the fence on most issues.
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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Thu Mar 22, 2012 4:12 am

AlterNet
How Religion's Demand for Obedience Keeps Us in the Dark Ages
By Adam Lee, AlterNet
Posted on March 19, 2012


For the vast majority of human history, the only form of government was the few ruling over the many. As human societies became settled and stratified, tribal chiefs and conquering warlords rose to become kings, pharaohs and emperors, all ruling with absolute power and passing on their thrones to their children. To justify this obvious inequality and explain why they should reign over everyone else, most of these ancient rulers claimed that the gods had chosen them, and priesthoods and holy books obligingly came on the scene to promote and defend the theory of divine right.

It's true that religion has often served to unite people against tyranny, as well as to justify it. But in many cases, when a religious rebellion overcame a tyrant, it was only to install a different tyrant whose beliefs matched those of the revolutionaries. Christians were at first ruthlessly persecuted by the Roman Empire, but when they ascended to power, they in turn banned all the pagan religions that had previously persecuted them. Protestant reformers like John Calvin broke away from the decrees of the Pope, but Calvinists created their own theocratic city-states where their will would reign supreme.

Similarly, when King Henry VIII split England away from the Catholic church, it wasn't so he could create a utopia of religious liberty; it was so he could create a theocracy where his preferred beliefs, rather than the Vatican's, would be the law of the land. And in just the same way, when the Puritans fled England and migrated to the New World, it wasn't to uphold religious tolerance; it was to impose their beliefs, rather than the Church of England's.

It's only within the last few centuries, in the era of the Enlightenment, that a few fearless thinkers argued that the people should govern themselves, that society should be steered by the democratic will rather than the whims of an absolute ruler. The kings and emperors battled ferociously to stamp this idea out, but it took root and spread in spite of them. In historical terms, democracy is a young idea, and human civilization is still reverberating from it -- as we see in autocratic Arab societies convulsed with revolution, or Chinese citizens rising up against the state, or even in America, with protesters marching in the streets against a resurgence of oligarchy.

But while the secular arguments for dictatorship have been greatly weakened, the religious arguments for it have scarcely changed at all. Religion is very much a holdover from the dark ages of the past, and the world's holy books still enshrine the ancient demands for us to bow down and obey the (conveniently unseen and absent) gods, and more importantly, the human beings who claim the right to act as their representatives. It's no surprise, then, that the most fervent advocates of religion in the modern world are also the most deeply inculcated with this mindset of command and obedience.

We saw this vividly in recent weeks with the controversy over birth control. As polls and surveys make clear, the overwhelming majority of American Catholics use contraception and in all other ways live normal, modern lives. They mostly just ignore the archaic bluster of the bishops. But the Pope and the Vatican hierarchy conduct themselves publicly as if nothing had changed since the Middle Ages; as if there were billions of Catholics who'd leap to obey the slightest crook of their finger.

The attitude the Vatican displays toward Catholic laypeople is perfectly summed up in a papal encyclical from 1906, titled "Vehementer Nos":

The Scripture teaches us, and the tradition of the Fathers confirms the teaching, that the Church is the mystical body of Christ, ruled by the Pastors and Doctors -- a society of men containing within its own fold chiefs who have full and perfect powers for ruling, teaching and judging. It follows that the Church is essentially an unequal society, that is, a society comprising two categories of persons, the Pastors and the flock, those who occupy a rank in the different degrees of the hierarchy and the multitude of the faithful. So distinct are these categories that with the pastoral body only rests the necessary right and authority for promoting the end of the society and directing all its members towards that end; the one duty of the multitude is to allow themselves to be led, and, like a docile flock, to follow the Pastors.

An even more breathtakingly arrogant expression of this idea comes from New Advent, the official Catholic theological encyclopedia. Watch how it addresses that whole embarrassing Galileo episode:

[I]n the Catholic system internal assent is sometimes demanded, under pain of grievous sin, to doctrinal decisions that do not profess to be infallible.... [but] the assent to be given in such cases is recognized as being not irrevocable and irreversible, like the assent required in the case of definitive and infallible teaching, but merely provisional...

To take a particular example, if Galileo who happened to be right while the ecclesiastical tribunal which condemned him was wrong, had really possessed convincing scientific evidence in favour of the heliocentric theory, he would have been justified in refusing his internal assent to the opposite theory, provided that in doing so he observed with thorough loyalty all the conditions involved in the duty of external obedience.

To translate the church's legalisms into plain language, what this is saying is that it's OK to doubt something the church teaches, but only if you keep quiet about that doubt and outwardly obey everything the church authorities tell you, acting as if your doubt didn't exist. And if the church teaches that something is an infallible article of faith, even that ineffective option is taken away: you're required to believe it without question or else face eternal [banned term].

Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order, wrote that believers should "always be ready to obey [the church] with mind and heart, setting aside all judgment of one's own." To explain just how absolute he thought this obedience should be, he used a vivid analogy:

That we may be altogether of the same mind and in conformity with the Church herself, if she shall have defined anything to be black which to our eyes appears to be white, we ought in like manner to pronounce it to be black.

Nor is it just from the Catholic side of the aisle where we hear these pronouncements. Even though Protestants don't have one pope to rule them all, they still believe that following your betters is essential. Here's a statement to that effect from the esteemed apologist C.S. Lewis, from his book The Problem of Pain:

But in addition to the content, the mere obeying is also intrinsically good, for, in obeying, a rational creature consciously enacts its creaturely role, reverses the act by which we fell, treads Adam's dance backward, and returns.

According to Lewis, obedience is "intrinsically good." In other words, it's always a good thing to do as you're told, no matter what you're being told to do or who's telling you to do it! It doesn't take much imagination to picture the moral atrocities that could result from putting this idea into practice.

Another influential Christian writer and one of the intellectual fathers of the modern religious right, Francis Schaeffer, put the same thought -- the same demand for mental slavery -- in even blunter terms:

I am false or confused if I sing about Christ's Lordship and contrive to retain areas of my own life that are autonomous. This is true if it is my sexual life that is autonomous, but it is at least equally true if it is my intellectual life that is autonomous -- or even my intellectual life in a highly selective area. Any autonomy is wrong.

Just to prove that none of these are flukes, here's one more quote, this time from Christian evangelical pastor Ray Stedman, excerpted from his sermon titled "Bringing Thoughts Into Captivity":

I have noticed through the years that the intellectual life is often the last part of a Christian to be yielded to the right of Jesus Christ to rule. Somehow we love to retain some area of our intellect, of our thought-life, reserved from the control of Jesus Christ. For instance, we reserve the right to judge Scripture, as to what we will or will not agree with, what we will or will not accept... [Disagreeing with any part of the Bible] represents a struggle with the Lordship of Christ; his right to rule over every area of life, his right to control the thought-life, every thought taken captive to obey him.

Nor is the demand for mindless obedience confined to Christianity. Here's how one Jewish rabbi explained the rationale for the kosher dietary laws, recounted in Richard Dawkins' essay "Viruses of the Mind":

That most of the Kashrut laws are divine ordinances without reason given is 100 percent the point. It is very easy not to murder people. Very easy. It is a little bit harder not to steal because one is tempted occasionally. So that is no great proof that I believe in God or am fulfilling His will. But, if He tells me not to have a cup of coffee with milk in it with my mincemeat and peas at lunchtime, that is a test. The only reason I am doing that is because I have been told to so do. It is something difficult.

In other words, the kosher laws have no reason or justification, and that's a good thing, because they teach people the habit of unquestioning obedience, which should be encouraged. This uncannily resembles a piece of parenting advice from Stephen Colbert, who satirically wrote that "Arbitrary rules teach kids discipline: If every rule made sense, they wouldn't be learning respect for authority, they'd be learning logic." Religious authorities like this rabbi are making the exact same argument in all seriousness! And then, of course, there's Islam, whose very name is Arabic for "submission."

The social scientist Jonathan Haidt has identified what he calls the five foundations of morality: harm/care, fairness/reciprocity, in-group/loyalty, authority/respect, and purity/sanctity. Surveys from all over the world find that self-identified conservatives put far more emphasis on the last three, two of which are fundamental to a worldview based on obedience and submission. The implied similarity between conservatism and fundamentalist religion is too obvious to ignore, particularly in America, where the conservative political party is dominated by an especially regressive and belligerent strain of evangelical Christianity.

And like political conservatism in general, many religious rules are actively destructive to human liberty and happiness. Christian church leaders claim we should prohibit same-sex marriage and abortion and restrict access to birth control; ultra-Orthodox Jewish zealots want to erase women from public life; Islamic theocracies want to make it illegal to criticize or dissent from their beliefs. If moral commands could only be backed up by appeals to reason or human good, these unfounded and harmful laws would vanish overnight. Instead, the people who make these rules and want us to obey them claim that they're messengers of the will of God, and thus no further justification is needed. It bears emphasizing that this is the exact same argument made by ancient monarchs and tyrants, all of whom used this idea to justify atrocious cruelty.

Those ancient monarchs were toppled because they proved, despite their lofty claims of divine right, that they were no better or wiser or more suited to rule than any other human being. This is a lesson from history that deserves wider attention in the modern world. Like them, religious conservatives claim that they're passing along God's ideas, and thus that we should obey them without critical challenge and questioning. This idea has always had disastrous consequences in the past -- why should we expect anything different this time?

In sharp contrast to the religious and conservative worldview of obedience and submission, the worldview of freethinkers and progressives at its best is one that exalts freedom and liberty -- freedom to make our own choices, freedom of the mind to travel and explore wherever it will. These are our commandments: Think for yourself and don't blindly bow down to the claims of another. Exercise your own best judgment. Ask questions and investigate whether what you've been taught is true. There have been countless wars and devastations because people were too eager to subordinate their will and conscience to the ruling authorities, but as Sam Harris says, no atrocity was ever committed because people were being too reasonable, too skeptical, or too independently minded. If anything, human beings have always been too eager to obey and to subordinate their will to others. The more we throw off that ancient and limiting mindset, the more freedom we have to think, act and speak as we choose, the more humanity as a whole will prosper.

View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/154604/
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: Articles, media, video and other news items on spiritual leaders    Sat Mar 24, 2012 11:33 pm

a moving column on religion from Frank Bruni:

March 24, 2012
Rethinking His Religion
By FRANK BRUNI


I MOVED into my freshman-year dorm at the University of North Carolina after many of the other men on the hall. One had already begun decorating. I spotted the poster above his desk right away. It showed a loaf of bread and a chalice of red wine, with these words: “Jesus invites you to a banquet in his honor.”

This man attended Catholic services every Sunday in a jacket and tie, feeling that church deserved such respect. I kept a certain distance from him. I’d arrived at college determined to be honest about my sexual orientation and steer clear of people who might make that uncomfortable or worse. I figured him for one of them.

About two years ago, out of nowhere, he found me. His life, he wanted me to know, had taken interesting turns. He’d gone into medicine, just as he’d always planned. He’d married and had kids. But he’d also strayed from his onetime script. As a doctor, he has spent a part of his time providing abortions.

For some readers his journey will be proof positive of Rick Santorum’s assertion last month that college is too often godless and corrupting. For others, it will be a resounding affirmation of education’s purpose.

I’m struck more than anything else by how much searching and asking and reflecting he’s done, this man I’d so quickly discounted, who pledged a fraternity when he was still on my radar and then, when he wasn’t, quit in protest over how it had blackballed a Korean pledge candidate and a gay one.

Because we never really talked after freshman year, I didn’t know that, nor did I know that after graduation he ventured to a desperately poor part of Africa to teach for a year. College, he recently told me, had not only given him a glimpse of how large the world was but also shamed him about how little of it he knew.

In his 30s he read all 11 volumes of “The Story of Civilization,” then tackled Erasmus, whose mention in those books intrigued him. When he told me this I was floored: I knew him freshman year as a gym rat more than a bookworm and extrapolated his personality and future from there.

During our recent correspondence, he said he was sorry for any impression he might have given me in college that he wasn’t open to the candid discussions we have now. I corrected him: I owed the apology — for misjudging him.

He grew up in the South, in a setting so homogenous and a family so untroubled that, he said, he had no cause to question his parents’ religious convictions, which became his. He said that college gave him cause, starting with me. Sometime during freshman year, he figured out that I was gay, and yet I didn’t conform to his prior belief that homosexuals were “deserving of pity for their mental illness.” I seemed to him sane and sound.

He said that we talked about this once — I only half recall it — and that the exchange was partly why he remembered me two decades later.

Questioning his church’s position on homosexuality made him question more. He read the Bible “front to back and took notes of everything I liked and didn’t like,” he said.

“There’s a lot of wisdom there,” he added, “but it’s a real mistake not to think about it critically.”

He also read books on church history and, he said, “was appalled at the behavior of the church while it presumed to teach all of us moral behavior.” How often had it pushed back at important science? Vilified important thinkers?

Even so, he added to his teaching duties in Africa a weekly, extracurricular Bible study for the schoolchildren. But the miseries he witnessed made him second-guess the point of that, partly because they made him second-guess any god who permitted them.

He saw cruelties born of the kind of bigotry that religion and false righteousness sometimes abet. A teenage girl he met was dying of sepsis from a female circumcision performed with a kitchen knife. He asked the male medical worker attending to her why such crude mutilation was condoned, and was told that women otherwise were overly sexual and “prone to prostitution.”

“Isn’t it just possible,” he pushed back, “that women are prone to poverty, and men are prone to prostitution?”

He has thought a lot about how customs, laws and religion do and don’t jibe with women’s actions and autonomy.

“In all centuries, through all history, women have ended pregnancies somehow,” he said. “They feel so strongly about this that they will attempt abortion even when it’s illegal, unsafe and often lethal.”

In decades past, many American women died from botched abortions. But with abortion’s legalization, “those deaths virtually vanished.”

“If doctors and nurses do not step up and provide these services or if so many obstacles and restrictions are put into place that women cannot access the services, then the stream of women seeking abortions tends to flow toward the illegal and dangerous methods,” he said.

He had researched and reflected on much of this by the time he graduated from medical school, and so he decided to devote a bit of each week to helping out in an abortion clinic. Over years to come, in various settings, he continued this work, often braving protesters, sometimes wearing a bulletproof vest.

He knew George Tiller, the Kansas abortion provider shot dead in 2009 by an abortion foe.

THAT happened in a church, he noted. He hasn’t belonged to one since college. “Religion too often demands belief in physical absurdities and anachronistic traditions despite all scientific evidence and moral progress,” he said.

And in too many religious people he sees inconsistencies. They speak of life’s preciousness when railing against abortion but fail to acknowledge how they let other values override that concern when they support war, the death penalty or governments that do nothing for people in perilous need.

He has not raised his young children in any church, or told them that God exists, because he no longer believes that. But he wants them to have the community-minded values and altruism that he indeed credits many religions with fostering. He wants them to be soulful, philosophical.

So he rounded up favorite quotations from Emerson, Thoreau, Confucius, Siddhartha, Gandhi, Marcus Aurelius, Martin Luther King and more. From the New Testament, too. He put each on a strip of paper, then filled a salad bowl with the strips. At dinner he asks his kids to fish one out so they can discuss it.

He takes his kids outside to gaze at stars, which speak to the wonder of creation and the humility he wants them to feel about their place in it.

He’s big on humility, asking, who are we to go to the barricades for human embryos and then treat animals and their habitats with such contempt? Or to make such unforgiving judgments about people who err, including women who get pregnant without meaning to, unequipped for the awesome responsibility of a child?

As a physician, he said, you’re privy to patients’ secrets — to their truths — and understand that few people live up to their own stated ideals. He has treated a philandering pastor, a drug-abusing financier. “I see life as it really is,” he told me, “not how we wish it were.”

He shared a story about one of the loudest abortion foes he ever encountered, a woman who stood year in and year out on a ladder, so that her head would be above other protesters’ as she shouted “murderer” at him and other doctors and “whore” at every woman who walked into the clinic.

One day she was missing. “I thought, ‘I hope she’s O.K.,’ ” he recalled. He walked into an examining room to find her there. She needed an abortion and had come to him because, she explained, he was a familiar face. After the procedure, she assured him she wasn’t like all those other women: loose, unprincipled.

She told him: “I don’t have the money for a baby right now. And my relationship isn’t where it should be.”

“Nothing like life,” he responded, “to teach you a little more.”

A week later, she was back on her ladder.



I invite you to visit my blog, follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/frankbruni and join me on Facebook.
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