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 Improving Lay Relations

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Diana



Posts : 206
Join date : 2010-06-11
Location : New Mexico

PostSubject: Improving Lay Relations   Thu Aug 05, 2010 11:54 am

Do lay people have a voice in OBC policies?

Do lay people have any rights?

How do lay people report grievances and how are complaints and suggestions handled?

How can lay people protect themselves against abuse?

Does the OBC have an ethics committee?

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Kyogen

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Posts : 141
Join date : 2010-07-23
Location : Portland, OR

PostSubject: Re: Improving Lay Relations   Thu Aug 05, 2010 1:34 pm

Hello Diana,

As a priest who is has not been in the OBC for 24 years I am, perhaps, spectacularly unqualified to address any of these questions! However, I can offer some suggestions. One is to look at the ethics statements and grievance procedures in place in other organizations. Dharma Rain Zen Center's can be found at:

http://www.dharma-rain.org/?p=about_ethics

San Francisco Zen Center's are at:

http://www.sfzc.org/zc/display.asp?catid=1,5,13&pageid=29

Many organizations have learned through difficult, hard lessons just how important it is to address the issues you are raising here. At Dharma Rain, we realized that we didn't have to reinvent the wheel. There are plenty of good examples to look at, and in our own policy we tried to address some things we felt were left out. In the wider Zen community people communicate across lineage lines to to help each other avoid mistakes, and when necessary, to work through them skillfully when they occur. The OBC has begun to connect with other lineages, but in my view they are still avoiding looking at the real issues in their culture and in their past.

While they need to know there is anger and unaddressed pain out here, I hope we can offer a welcoming hand as well.

With palms joined,

Kyogen
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Laura

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Join date : 2010-07-30
Location : Portland, OR

PostSubject: Re: Improving Lay Relations   Thu Aug 05, 2010 8:15 pm

Hi Diana,

I would have to say that you could replace the words "lay people" with "junior monks" in each and every one of your questions. And, after that, you could probably replace them with the words "senior monks". The policies at Shasta Abbey were determined by a handful of people, literally about 3 monks. No one else there had much of any recourse. I once gathered up all my courage and went to the Head of the Order to voice my concerns. His response was to check with one of those 3 monks, the same one to whom I had been going for some time and who blindly supported the Abbot no matter what. As a result, my very real (and subsequently substantiated) concerns were written off as my "having trouble in my training". It was pretty much of an old boys club, as my son-in-law once put it when I told him some of my history there. And that was only a few years ago. Perhaps it's not so much of a "lay person" issue as it is simply a general issue of power and attitude within the OBC. An ethics committee and grievance process is sorely needed for all four classes of Buddhist who practice there.


Last edited by Laura on Fri Aug 06, 2010 2:33 am; edited 1 time in total
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Diana



Posts : 206
Join date : 2010-06-11
Location : New Mexico

PostSubject: Re: Improving Lay Relations   Thu Aug 05, 2010 9:30 pm

Thanks for the feedback.

I am not surprised by your report, Laura. Amalia's story confirms that going to the head of the order doesn't do any good, even when under the threat of serious health issues or abuse. After my kensho, or spiritual emergency/psychosis, I was told I could only speak with 2 other monks besides Eko; I wasn't "allowed" to speak to anybody else, monk or lay about anything that happened to me. This is one way they break you down, they isolate you and make you think that everything you think is wrong is actually all your fault! Then later, when you try to make sense of it or take action, they deny that anything ever happened at all, like it is some huge illusion/delusion or fabrication. Because they are allowed to exert their power without any authority over them to keep them in check, they can do whatever they want without any consequences whatsoever. Haryo is so obviously a lame duck in all of this. Although, I don't think any senior monk in the order is qualified to lead at this point, so perhaps singleing Haryo out is irrelevant.
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Laura

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PostSubject: Re: Improving Lay Relations   Thu Aug 05, 2010 10:09 pm

Diane, all in all I pretty much agree with everything you said in your last post. I was also "not allowed" to speak with anyone else about my concerns. As for Rev. Haryo, I actually like him quite a lot. The problem is that he just doesn't have any first-hand experience of what is going on at the temples, and has no alternative but to ask the seniors there about it. But when you're not allowed to talk to any of them, except the one's who already have decided that the problem is all in your head, how is he supposed to find anything out? It's a challenge, I must say. That is why an ethics committee and grievance procedure are so sorely needed.


Last edited by Laura on Fri Aug 06, 2010 11:00 am; edited 2 times in total
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Lise
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PostSubject: Re: Improving Lay Relations   Thu Aug 05, 2010 10:30 pm

The first person who posted to this forum, I think Vetaculoo was his/her name, mentioned a formal process by which people could bring complaints & issues to the OBC's attention, which would then be investigated. Vetaculoo deleted that original post so I can't link to it & I don't remember what was said about the process. Maybe someone out there has access to a written copy of it?
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Kozan
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PostSubject: Re: Improving Lay Relations   Fri Aug 06, 2010 2:09 am

Laura and Diana,

I may seem naive in making this proposal--but I would say that the truth that you are both speaking has far more power to effect change than you may think.

Ultimately, within spiritual practice--and therefore within institutions that claim to exist for the purpose of supporting spiritual pracitice--the only thing that matters, in the end, is an accurate discernment of the truth.

And, as the saying goes, (or as who ever said it said), "the truth will out".

I think that the effort we are making in this forum, is far more important, and far more powerful, than we may imagine.
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jack



Posts : 165
Join date : 2010-06-29

PostSubject: Re: Improving Lay Relations   Fri Aug 06, 2010 10:33 am

The relationship between the monks and the lay community is a bit odd. I think many monks are quite ill at ease about association with lay people.

The monastic environment is not a rich environment, and is poorly adapted for providing experiences that might allow a monk to understand lay life. Many senior monks who have lived most of their lives in privation of a monastic culture are deeply naive about the real world the lay practitioner swims in. I'm not just alluding to naivete about spiritual things, but also sometimes very practical things, and the relationships that affect how people work and form community. I could relate examples, but they would not add to the point.

OBC monks appear to be somewhat afraid of the laity. Some of it may come from fear of soiling their robes with contact, but I think much more of it comes from their own doubts about what the relationship should be. I know some with decades of practice who still struggle with celibacy. I know from their own statements they are somewhat afraid of contact which might defeat them in that aspect of their thought or practice; the margins of control apparently just aren't that great.

Some are ill at ease about what their role as teacher ought to be. One reasonably good monk I knew sort of went off the deep end for a period of time when he realized that his advice to lay member was being ignored and that he had no "authority" to influence things. It really drove him nuts for a while.

Lay members often need a wise, experienced Buddhist friend to help them. They are not looking for an authoritarian master; they have no interest in being or becoming a devoted slave. Most monks cannot handle this. There is some natural tension between the teacher/student role and a role of friendship. I don't know of any monks who can be a wise Buddhist friend for a lay person. From what I've gathered, monks are mostly forbidden to have friends outside the sangha of fellow monks. Perhaps I am wrong there.

I have come to the conclusion that OBC monks do not want a community of lay Buddhists that is not entirely centered around them. Any discussion of Buddhism with other lay members was heavily discouraged. Every activity at the Priory had to have the monk at the center lead. Perhaps that is a holdover from the authoritarian environment of their practice. It does make it difficult to develop a strong lay community with those imposed barriers.

My experience as a manager allows me to see both sides of the issue here; a manager/friendship relationship can be tricky. But I was never interested in having the monk manage anything for me. I only wanted to be taught good Buddhism with clear indicators as to when the teacher was talking from personal knowledge and experience, and when he was stating what he thought was true, but did not know from his own practice.

Monks want lay members to provide their financial needs while asserting openly that they will do as they see fit with the funds without any obligation to consider the wishes of those who donate. The monk would ask for funds to support the property of the Priory and then indicate there was no obligation on the part of the OBC nor him to continue to operate/staff the temple even if the funds were provided. Let's see. "You work hard, slave, provide me money and one day all these nice things will be mine to do with as I see fit." In the end that approach was quite unsuccessful, and the lack of a vibrant growing community made the small individual donations completely inadequate.
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