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 new member: Rev. Seikai

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Rev. Seikai



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PostSubject: new member: Rev. Seikai   Sun Aug 15, 2010 1:23 pm

Greetings, My name is Rev. Seikai Luebke; I am an active monk of the OBC, a Master of the OBC, a disciple of Rev. Master Jiyu Kennett, ordained in March, 1978. My objectives in joining this forum are very simple: contributors have expressed a desire that active OBC members contribute to the forum, in hopes of gaining a broader spectrum of views on what has occurred in the past or is happening in the present in the OBC. If I can shed a little bit of light where there is murkiness, openness where there is hiddenness, and positivity where there is negativity, I will be delighted. I have no desire to change anyone's views on the OBC per se, other than to help foster a move in the direction of openness, which seems to lie at the root of what past members have objected to from decades past.

Unlike most of the contributers to this forum, I have made a lifetime commitment to being a monk of the OBC, have experienced many of the same difficulties and frustrations that former monks of the OBC have experienced, have worked to resolve those issues within the context of being an active, supportive and deeply contented monk within the order. Like any human organization, we have problems and difficulties that arise in the flow of events over time; life is a constant process of addressing problems, doing the best we can with them, practicing kindness and compassion to all beings, working to alleviate suffering. I see a group of people here who are genuinely trying to find the truth, trying to understand their past experiences within the OBC, reconnecting with old friends, and trying to bridge gaps of understanding. I hope that I can be of service and that my contribution, like that of Rev. Master Daishin Morgan, the abbot of Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey, will be well received.
Blessings to all, Rev. Seikai
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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Sun Aug 15, 2010 1:32 pm

Hi Rev. Seikai!
Great to see you here! I look back with fondness to the days when the sewing machines in the Sewing Room and Buddhist Supplies were humming.
Sophia
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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Sun Aug 15, 2010 1:54 pm

Welcome Seikai!

You have the honor of being the first senior monk in the OBC to offer to participate in this forum. I look forward to what you have to say.

By the way, I remember our cycle-camping trip together with affection. It was a great experience...well, apart from my crashing into the back of your bike at one point and almost destroying your rear wheel! Sorry about that sunny
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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Sun Aug 15, 2010 2:22 pm

Hello Rev. Seikai
Great to see your brush on the canvas.
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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Sun Aug 15, 2010 3:06 pm

Welcome to the forum Seikai--wonderful to see you here!
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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Sun Aug 15, 2010 3:45 pm

Hello Seikai! How wonderful to see you here. Welcome aboard!
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PostSubject: welcome!   Sun Aug 15, 2010 4:19 pm

Hello Rev. Seikai, nice to have you here.

Regards,
Lise
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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Sun Aug 15, 2010 6:52 pm

Hello Seikai!

Glad to hear from you and to know you're doing well.

All my best,
Sansho
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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Tue Aug 17, 2010 8:03 pm

Hello Seikai,

Welcome from me as well. Where are you these days? Are you at Shasta Abbey, or are you at a Priory? Throssel?

With palms joined,

Kyogen
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Rev. Seikai



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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Fri Aug 20, 2010 1:13 pm

Hello, Kozan, Isan and Kyogen. In times of old when I was a young novice monk in my early 20s, you were all sources of inspiration to me in one way or another; sources of inspiration are just so valuable in human life, and I think we all need them. Of course, I was always saddened by the departure of any monk while I was training at Shasta Abbey, but perhaps especially when the monk was a good example of integrity or training. I think it might help people to know that sometimes monastic life just does not work for a person in the long run; people change and situations change, and that is simply part of life. And there is no reason to believe that there is something fundamentally wrong with a person who chooses to follow some other path in life, or if one chooses to remain a monastic in some other tradition than Soto Zen or the OBC.

To Kyogen: I hope that some day we can have a conversation, although I don't think this forum would be the best way or means of accomplishing that.

To Rachel (there is a new Rev. Sophia, by the way, so as far as I'm concerned, it would help to call you Rachel--I guess you don't go by Agnes anymore--to avoid confusion), Laura, Howard and Lise: thank you for your welcome and kindness. I remember all people I have trained with fondly, and I am here to foster communication and friendly relations.

I hope that what we all share is a deep and abiding gratitude for what RMJK taught us, as her Dharma was deep and penetrating, and gave her disciples the capacity to convert their own suffering and karma in the direction of compassion, love, wisdom, and enlightenment. I wonder if it might be possible to move in the direction of dissolving the fence that people have referred to, encampments of those who are still actively within the OBC and those who have removed themselves from any association with it. After all, duality--dividing up and forming adversarial positions--is central to the suffering we experience as human beings.

With blessngs and best wishes to all,
Rev. Seikai
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PostSubject: Hello Seikai!   Fri Aug 20, 2010 4:08 pm

Seikai -
Thanks for your open, honest message. I saw your name on a flyer a few months ago about a meditation group in Morro Bay (connected with the Pine Mt. Retreat). I work 2 days a week in Morro Bay. But I didn't stop by because I didn't want to cause a problem for you (the last I heard, if any monk at the Abbey was in touch with someone who had left, they would be asked to leave the order).

Which made me wonder if the path from awakening to liberation is being taught at the Abbey. For me, not only are all beliefs and concepts falling away, but also the need to control. I can't imagine the Abbey functioning without the need to control. Perhaps some day, when there are many monks who haven't only had awakening experiences but who are fully liberated....

Anyway, I'm glad you're doing well. Best wishes,
Komei
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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Tue Aug 24, 2010 9:39 pm

Hi Rev. Seikai,

I just had to say hello and thank you for being here on the forum.

You were the first Shasta Abbey monk I ever saw. I'll never forget it; I thought you looked like either a cult member or a UPS guy! You were in your brown work clothes, popping in at Pine Grove for a popsicle, I think. That was almost 20 years ago. Whoa.

My absolute fondest memories were from the time I knew you and you were there at the Abbey. I admired your genuineness, gentle heart, and great wacky sense of humor (when you weren't being the oh-so-serious master). I loved hearing stories from you and Rev. Alden about the "old days." I also remember some hilarious monologues and recitations of old Faulty Towers skits from you guys. I think Rev. Kinsei was in on that too, although I can't remember for sure.

I can't thank you enough for all you did for me while you were there. I think your leaving was the first time I had to deal with a separation from a sangha member. This is something I still do not understand. Some of the people I met, like you, were so special to me, that I ended up grieving when you left. Sharing training with someone can be so special and intimate and when it's gone so quickly, without some type of closure or goodbye or anything, it can be traumatic. I think this is partly why I came to the forum. I grieve all the lost love, for me and for everybody else. It makes me so sad to hear people have been shunned or not allowed back on Abbey property, etc... I feel like we are all a family that has for some reason been displaced and we are trying to find our way back home. Now, we can argue what that home is, but I am talking about US- all of us here. I can not live a detached life, separated from people and things. I feel. I feel big things. Seeing people in pain, and my own pain, makes me want to fight for all of us.

I guess my wishes of love for all of us may seem childish, but that is my wish. It always has been. I remember asking about "love" at a dharma talk once. I was looked at with pity and the subject was quickly changed. But why can't we love each other? What will happen to monastics if we can't love? What good is training if we can't open up our big hearts?

I'm glad you are still around Seikai, and that you didn't totally dissapear. You sound great. I do hope you are well. Take care.

Peace,
Diana
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Rev. Seikai



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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Wed Aug 25, 2010 12:01 am

Dear Diana,
How nice to hear from you! What a heartfelt, beautiful letter to write. I deeply appreciate your memories, sentiments and kindness. When I was the guestmaster at Shasta Abbey, I went out of my way to try and usher in a new batch of lay people from the local area, of whom you were one, and I felt a sort of paternal responsibility for you all. My sense of humor has been described as "droll" and as you recall it never stays out of sight for too very long. One certainly needs one in this business!

The Buddha said: "There is no coming together without parting," and parting partakes of grief. Life will always be this way. I moved when it became intuitively obvious that it was a good thing to do, and everyone I spoke with it about felt the same way. Shasta Abbey is still very much a part of me; Rev. Master Jiyu is still very alive in my heart. I feel badly about your trauma and wish there were something that I could do to help you; grief for suffering beings, grief for ones own suffering, is inevitable at times in this business. But on the other hand, we can let go of it by offering it up to that which is greater than ourselves. Doing so has always been the source of joy in my life, and I will never stop this practice. It was my Master's greatest gift to me.

I don't think it is childish to wish for love, but the nature of human love is that we easily let it take over our lives and emotions. Loving without either attachment or fear is exquisite, and I think that is what we are here to learn. Love can become transcendent love, a love not based on any particular external condition, love which is purified.

I am well; I fought off a fairly rare form of cancer in the past year, and am getting better all the time. Thank you for writing and best wishes to you also.

Your last two questions are excellent. Maybe someone would be willing to tackle them in a new thread to this web forum.
Blessings, Rev. Seikai
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Diana



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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Fri Aug 27, 2010 5:51 pm

Rev. Seikai,

I'm sorry to hear you were ill, but I'm glad you are doing okay now. You were an awesome Guestmaster and you make a great "Mother-Hen." Lol!

I have been studying "love" for quite some time now. In the academic setting, in psychology specifically, love is a well-covered subject. I can look at it from all angles now, but I have found that the feeling of love is what moves me most, and so I take the emotional view. I guess that's not the popular Buddhist view, in regards to anything, but it's what I do now. I find that with myself or my clients, that to leave out the emotions is the most destructive thing for a person. So I don't distinguish between what is pure or what is transcendent, I just love no matter what. And yes, the subject of love would make a good thread!

Take Care,
Diana
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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Sun Aug 29, 2010 10:34 pm

Hello again Seikai,

I’m still not sure where you hang your hat these days. It seems you left the Abbey, and it sounds like you took up Priory life somewhere. I’d like to hear some more about that, if you feel free to say where you are now, or where you have spent time.

I was interested in your description of your past and current relationship with JK and the OBC. You acknowledge some problems:

Quote :
Like any human organization, we have problems and difficulties that arise in the flow of events over time; life is a constant process of addressing problems, doing the best we can with them, practicing kindness and compassion to all beings, working to alleviate suffering.


I remember my own struggle with trying to do my best as a disciple, and I certainly had a lot to learn, while seeing things that didn’t seem right to me. Over time I found out that I didn’t always see the big picture, and that ways of doing things I didn’t understand could be very skillful and effective. I had to put aside my own point of view to learn these things.

On the other hand, I got to a point where some things that were done to other people, and some things I was required to do, were clearly not helpful and not necessary. I got to where I didn’t want to collude with that any more.

It is yet another thing when you find yourself on the receiving end of this treatment. When JK and others came after Gyokuko and me I knew there would be no support from within the Abbey community. No one could say anything on our behalf. Although, for a time, a number of monks stayed in contact with us surreptitiously. This experience drove home to me the extent to which my silence when others were mistreated was a collusion with that mistreatment. For that I am truly sorry. I also know I was doing the best I could. It was a real koan.

The real problem for me at the Abbey was when speaking your mind in opposition to anything JK did became forbidden. In the early days it could be done. Even if a monk is wrong in their view, there should be an avenue for expressing such views. The consequences of not allowing this are just too high. There comes a time when debate and dissent need to end, and the group moves on. Not allowing it at all is disastrous.

That brings me to the present. In my conversation with Eko Little last spring, he made it completely clear that any discussion of past mistakes at the Abbey, particularly with regard to JK, was not possible. I think this is continuing the disaster. What we do not acknowledge has a way of controlling us. The reason this forum exists is because of this lack of acknowledgement.

You seem to be an honest person sincerely trying to do the right thing. I know you were young in years and in practice when many of the events I am aware of took place. Nonetheless, we all partake of them. I hope you can understand what I’m saying, and in your own way present a voice of reason within the OBC.

With palms joined,

Kyogen
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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Mon Aug 30, 2010 1:33 am

Dear Kyogen,
Thank you so much for writing. Yes, I was still a fairly young monk when the events surrounding the split which occurred between RMJK and yourself and Gyokuko took place. I was not a party or wtiness to any of it, and as a consequence in all the years since then, have simply kept an open mind and ear about what happened. There are always two sides to every story, and this one has been long and complicated; when I've asked monks about it, for instance Rev. Master Haryo, who is now Head of the OBC, he says he knows very little himself as he was often just doing maintenance work at the time; other monks were similarly preoccupied. I was the resident prior at the Berkeley Buddhist Priory in this period, 1984-86.

RMJK is dead, as is RM Daizui, the two people in the OBC who knew the most. Eko Little has disrobed. He steadfastly would not ever talk about the forementioned events, nor would he tolerate what might be termed constructive criticism of RMJK. His era has ended and Rev. Master Meian will have to make up her own mind about these matters; she is a broad-minded human being, and does listen to other monks.

I'm not a side-taker, and am mostly just interested in the truth, whatever it might happen to be; the acknowledgement and redress that people seem to want from the OBC (what is the OBC? a collection of people under an umbrella of that name, all of us different) seems an abstract concept to me. Where celibacy is concerned, it seemed to me as a young monk that it was the defacto policy of Shasta Abbey, although as a novice one was shielded from involvement in such matters for the sake of just doing day to day training (thankfully). It is true that RMJK's thinking on the matter of celibacy evolved over the course of time, and--this is an educated guess (memory is fuzzy) on my part--by 1986 she wanted it to be a blanket policy for all active monks of the order. Hence the split. I wrote a post in the thread on celibacy in this forum, not to espouse any particular view (although it was so interpreted) but simply to articulate a very brief history of celibacy where Christianity, Buddhism and Soto Zen are concerned, for the sake of anyone reading the thread who was unfamiliar with said history. If there were any factual errors in what I wrote, I beg forgivenness.

As to whether RMJK had "political motives" for the move to celibacy, this is beyond my knowledge; I don't know what she was thinking or her motives. All is know for certain is that everyone had the choice to either train as a celibate monk, or train as a lay person, or go to another order or tradition. Those of us who stayed with the OBC have been happy and content with the celibate life, which is not to deny that the desire for sex and intimacy exists in all of us to one degree or another. And you are correct in saying that, on some level or another, all of us partook of the changes that were made, and the effects of those changes on many individuals. We share collective karma, which is to say that we were all involved in action--vipaka--and consequences of actions--karma. That karma is still playing out.

Where the playing out of karma is concerned, that's my only real interest at this time. And as I have said, if I can facilitate harmony and understanding, I'll try to help; I say this with the recognition that there might be little or nothing I can realistically do. But, for the moment, I can be a voice of reason and equanimity; I will reiterate that I do not represent the OBC in any official capacity. I am also still in recovery from cancer (hairy cell leukemia), and will probably not be able to devote much time and energy (which are precious) to this web forum in the next several weeks. The feedback I have gotten so far has been positive, and I realize that being the only active monk of the OBC to be currently making any contribution to it, people are watching every word I say. I have felt like a lightning rod at times, which is not an easy thing, as I have my limits.

I live in Southern California at Pine Mountain Buddhist Temple, in Ventura County. I have been here ten years. I'm happy to be alive and relatively healthy--life is precious.

With all best wishes to you and Gyokuko
Rev. Seikai

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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Mon Aug 30, 2010 6:28 am

Dear Seikai,
You are doing much more than perhaps you know. Your letter displays clearly why many of us joined the OBC to begin with. Your openness and humility were always a part of the OBC and I'm glad to see it still is. For those who say the OBC is a cult, your words and you as a decent human being and fine monk show clearly why many of us believe it is not. Please don't underestimate the power of simple truth and humility. It is a beacon. If there is your attitude and similar one with those who feel aggrieved, perhaps the details can be worked out.
I wish you the greatest happiness and good health. Please do only what you can and not overextend yourself.
Your friend,
Kaizan
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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Mon Aug 30, 2010 11:13 am

Hello Seikai,

Thank you for writing from the heart - that's what I needed from you.

Regarding Kyogen & Gyokuko and Dharma Rain Zen Center, I don't believe trying to remember what went on 25 years ago is of primary importance. I suggest it's time for the OBC to examine the policy in place that excludes them, and determine what basis there is in the present for maintaining that policy. In addition to being a collection of individuals the OBC is also an organization with policies, and is greater than any one person, so it must be treated as a distinct entity.

If you believe that the issues being discussed in this forum deserve consideration then just say so. I believe Eko is an example of how things can be taken too far. In my opinion he so successfully suppressed his capacity to think and discriminate in the service of RMJK that after her departure he could not resume using those faculties. RMJK demonstrated a willingness to change and adapt the teaching over the years. The OBC should not keep her dharma in a museum.

There is something in the book about when the disciple is free of the master's restraint...

I'm glad to hear that you are recovering your health!



Last edited by Isan on Mon Aug 30, 2010 11:53 am; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : additional thoughts)
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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Mon Aug 30, 2010 2:26 pm

Hello Seikei,

Thank you for your response. I understand that the policies set in place at Shasta can work just fine. I have a bit of a problem with the way they were changed on the fly to suite what RMJK wanted to do, but that’s another matter. What is of most concern to me was the way that she would ignore the policies in egregious ways when she lost her temper.

There was a monk (or nun, if you use that term) from Holland who did something to anger RMJK. While this young woman was in town, RMJK ordered her things be packed up and put outside the gate. The rules of the order clearly indicated a procedure for dealing with issues like that. Koshin Shomberg fought her on that. She then went after him so that he had to leave the temple. That was the issue that sent him to NCBP in the first place. His subsequent capitulation is a wonder to me.

Komei Larson can speak to her own story, but she came to stay with us after she was kicked out. Komei was away from the Abbey attending to her dying mother. Some issue broke out at the Abby, and RMJK wanted to grill the monks about it. She ordered Komei to return immediately. Komei could not, in good conscience, comply. How much power does the Abbot, or Master have? That is a legitimate question. The issue for me is what happened next.

After her mother died, Komei returned to the Abbey. She found her personal books, robes, and even her dog were confiscated on the grounds that she wasn’t fit to have them. Again, you can write the rules such that a teacher can do such a thing. It doesn’t matter. It was way over the top, and clearly an abuse of power.

I’m glad your own situation was resolved with RMJK. I had similar experiences when issues were within reasonable boundaries. I think the organization, and that includes you, need to admit that abuses occurred and then take measures to see to it they can’t happen again. Because I will not say that RMJK was perfect, as Eko said to me last spring, I am not fit to set foot on the Abbey grounds. That’s just fine with me. It’s not a place I want to visit unless I can do so honestly. I love and respect the fine things RMJK taught me, and I’m trying to honor her by living up to them. I don’t think it dishonors her memory to be truthful. I think is dishonors the best in her to continue to be in denial about the rest.

With palms joined,

Kyogen
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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Wed Sep 01, 2010 1:01 am

My dear friends, Kaizan and Isan; (Kyogen, I'll be in touch)

Your kind words are soothing to my heart, which at times is troubled by reading things said about people and events that do not bear witness to the great depth and beauty of the Buddhist Way. Being human, and being in the process of attempting to purify our heavy karma which we have inherited from past lives, we sometimes fall into error, or hold to hardened views which obscure our ability to make wise decisions at moments when wisdom is called for, and when compassion should be brought to bear.

Isan, I think that many of the things people are writing about deserve consideration; my reluctance to speak directly to them derives from a perspective that has come about from over three decades of being a monk whose first priority has always been to work on my own karma, work on my own attitudes, and do the best I can to--as RMJK often said with considerable British emphasis in her voice--give up everything. I took her words literally. I take the Dharma so seriously, and it has proven so deeply rewarding, that at times I almost cannot comprehend that people in the greater Buddhist Sangha can squabble over things that I would have thought are just part of the very difficult undertaking of letting go of our defensiveness as individuals in possession of fragile egos.

It certainly is not that, for me, I lack sympathy for people who have felt themselves to have been wronged by RMJK or some other monk of the OBC; we can all have sympathy for eachother, communicate honestly, work to let go of the opinionatedness, and try to arrive at a deeper understanding of things that happened in the past, and where we stand now in relation to those past events. On the other hand, I went through those same struggles and difficulties with my Master, but rather than allow them to act as a pry bar to dislodge me from being a monk training under her guidance, I embraced them and talked through the difficulties in such a way as to make them into the nourishing mud, so to speak, in which, we were taught, the lotus blossom needs in order to grow up and bloom.

At the risk of sounding very preachy here, which I am very capable of, I would like to offer a few verses of the Buddha's teaching which, back in the 1980s, when hell seemed to break loose on a fairly regular basis, and my own mind would complain bitterly about all that I thought was wrong with what was going on around me, I would recite this mantra:

(Verse 1) All that we are in the result of what we have thought; it is founded upon our thoughts, it is based upon our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts with a wicked mind, suffering will follow that man even as the wheel follows the hoof of the ox.
All that we are is the result of what we have thought; it is founded upon our thoughts, it is based upon our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts with a pure mind, happiness will follow him, like a shadow that never leaves.

(Verse 2) "He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me": in those who harbour such thoughts, hatred will never cease. "He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me": in those who do not harbour such thoughts, hatred will cease.

(Verse 3) For never does hatred cease by hatred here in this world, hatred ceases by love: This is an eternal law.

(Verse 4) Those who do not practice patience are unaware that in this quarrel we perish; those who have realized and practiced patience have their quarrels calmed thereby.

(from the Dhammapada a mixture of translations.)

To me, these verses are the best known cure in the world for victim-perpetrator karma, and represent the means by which we can free ourselves from victimhood. We can also come to realize that, in the blink of an eye, we can jump from victim back into the role of perpetrator if we do not practice patience, but instead react out of hurt feelings.

So does that mean I am advocating the turning of a blind eye by the OBC towards those who, after however many years, still feel that they have been wronged? No, but what I am saying is that the kind of redress that people seem to want is of limited value. It helps people emotionally and psychologically, which is a good thing, and doubtless also a necessary thing for some. But after all, the context of the situation in which all these wrongs took place was an environment of Buddhist monasticism; this does not exonerate anyone who commits a wrong--karma for evil acts is inevitable at some time in the future--but on the other hand it does put the onus of responsibility for accepting what happens on the shoulders of the individual monk. If you can accept what happens and bear full responsibility therefore, then you can also have the freedom to act in a way which leads towards the diminishing of human suffering as opposed to continuing to be part of the problem. I do not see what I am saying as "tough love"; rather, I see it as the way things are in monastic life. My perspective, based on my own experiences, does not let anyone off the hook, does not justify the doing of harm, and does not turn away from the pain of individual human beings: it simply accepts things as they are. If we want to go forward with compassion for all living beings, we are free to do so. And that we do so is vitally important, because there is a great need in the world for people to understand this, and for all of us to be a living examples of what the Buddha taught.

I am not especially sentimental, but when I rewrote the words of the Buddha above, I cried. I have devoted my life to the purification of karma because I brought such a crippling load of it with me into this world. Now I can see that it is my duty to describe to other people how they can do the same thing. Again, I devote myself to the resolution of past karma and plain old human difficulties if I possibly can.

With love, in gassho, respectfully submitted,
Rev. Seikai



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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Wed Sep 01, 2010 12:56 pm

Rev. Seikai wrote:
My dear friends, Kaizan and Isan; (Kyogen, I'll be in touch)

Your kind words are soothing to my heart, which at times is troubled by reading things said about people and events that do not bear witness to the great depth and beauty of the Buddhist Way. Being human, and being in the process of attempting to purify our heavy karma which we have inherited from past lives, we sometimes fall into error, or hold to hardened views which obscure our ability to make wise decisions at moments when wisdom is called for, and when compassion should be brought to bear.

With love, in gassho, respectfully submitted,
Rev. Seikai

Hello again Seikai,

Thank you for your heartfelt response. I believe I understand the path you have taken. I know it hasn't been easy and I respect that you've been able to stay true to yourself. What I want to say is not meant to devalue your experience, but to speak to another aspect. Roshi Kennett used to say that we had to see with both eyes - it was not enough to see only the all is one, we also needed to see the all is different. Let me use the case of Jacques Lusseyran (And There Was Light) as an example. We all read the book at some point at the Abbey so I'm hoping you're familiar with it. Jacques had the great misfortune of being incarcerated in Buchenwald Concentration Camp toward the end of WWII. He survived that experience because early on he had a kensho and understood there was no one to be harmed. He lived paying no attention to himself and instead saw his purpose as ministering to everyone else, to ease their suffering in any way possible. But not only did he live through the experience, he stated in his book that he had no evil memories of that time in the camp. Now, it is amazing enough that he survived, but to make this statement is truly astonishing to me. It shows what is possible when we surrender the self to the Self. I believe this is an example of living in the all is one. But what about the all is different? Jacques spent the rest of his life speaking out against discrimination. He fought the French government to get them to remove discriminatory laws against disabled people put in place by the Vichy government (the nazi puppet government). He did not have anything good to say about concentration camps because he found God in one.

Now, let me state clearly that I don't equate Shasta Abbey with a concentration camp - let's remove that from the discussion. The broader question is how do we understand the all is different in the context of Buddhist monastic training? We were all volunteers at the Abbey. Unlike a prison camp the gate was never locked and we could have walked out at any time. Many of us stayed though for many years, and struggled with the koan of seeing with both eyes. Roshi Kennett made my life a living hell and that enabled me eventually to make the leap to the place where I understood there is no one to be harmed, but what then? Over time I had to consider if it benefited me to continue to stay in a living hell. Seeing the all is different meant making decisions about what I wanted my life and my relationships to be like. Regarding Jacques, I don't believe he would have spent one extra minute in the camp if he had the choice. If the gate was unlocked he and every other sane person would have walked out. At Shasta Abbey the gate was unlocked, and we had to take responsibility for making the choice to stay or leave. Additionally I came to understand Roshi Kennett's limitations better and I believe it behooved us as her disciples to help her understand the ways in which her behavior was excessive and harmful. Imagine the dilemma of experiencing that imperative coming not from the self but from the Self? I can't express how frightening this was to me at the time. My attempts to give Roshi Kennett feedback along these lines was feeble at best, and they were met with punishing attacks.

Now, all these years later the koan persists. Roshi Kennett is no longer with us, but her legacy of disallowing criticism and refusing to be held accountable lives on in the OBC. I am not afraid to speak up now, and the need to do so still exists. The need to address wrongs done to individuals in the name of Buddhist teaching is a real one, but the overarching need is to address the basic conception of Buddhist community. How should we live together and practice the Buddha way? I contend that an organization that causes perceived harm to so many people and then finds it expedient to ignore and exclude them is not practicing the Way.


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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Wed Sep 01, 2010 1:07 pm

Thank you Isan.
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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Wed Sep 01, 2010 2:18 pm

Thank you, Isan. Your posts are one of the reason I continue to hang around this forum. You are inspiring.
The only thing I would like to add is that what you said about the victims is also true about the perpetrators. Once someone has found that place where there is no difference between self and other, and they believe truly that nothing matters, they can abuse, hurt and kill like no other. For this reason the Samurai were all trained in Zen meditation. It made them fearless but also ruthless.
The justification for abuse that the OBC preaches is that it is the victim's job as a trainee to go beyond the opposites. Where there is no victim, there can be no perpetrator so there can be no abuse. This logic can justify doing anything to anybody. The fact that someone somewhere manages to see beyond it as a victim for an instant is not proof that what happened was acceptable, as Lusseyran points out. And the fact that someone does not get to that place and is instead just utterly damaged and traumatized, like Kluger or Wiesel, is no proof that they failed at anything. It is cynical, arrogant and just plain brutal to place the blame on the victim in a case of abuse by claiming that they should have had a different perspective on it.

My belief is that the training taught at the OBC actually conditions people to become perfect perpetrators: cold, mean, without compassion or even remnants of human sympathy. I do not doubt that there are a few folks who stay who somehow do not exhibit these qualities, but they are the exception, not the rule.
And the lovely, loving surface that is so seductive to the laity? This too is trained. "Being bright" for the novices, later the subtle and not-so-subtle techniques of impressing, dominating and yes, hypnotizing, for the seniors.
I do not deny the place you speak of, or the Self or Spirit by any means! My experience and belief in that place saved my life and my sanity. But I question whether a systematic method to reach it can ever end well. And as I have said elsewhere, I do not believe that reaching that place has ever had anything to do with anyone living a life of integrity.
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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Wed Sep 01, 2010 5:41 pm

Isan, thanks for saving me the time of writing an even more lengthy post. Too much mind reading on this site. I was going to address the all is one and all is different, but you have said what I wanted to say. Those of us who left the OBC came to believe that many of the crazy making and emotionally abusive acts done by Rev. Kennett did not come from a place of deep meditation, well constructed and tailored to lead that person to enlightenment. It is my belief that much of it came from her own unresolved psychological issues. They were explosive emotional reactions that could be frightening and hurtful to those who existed in an atmosphere where to even suggest this out loud in public would bring severe censure.

Those of us who left are those that found living in that environment no longer conducive to our growth, well being, and health. We felt that it was wrong and we believed that demeaning and frightening others when they are most vulnerable are neither a necessary part of the path nor a decent thing to do. I know that the Zen texts are filled with such examples, but does that mean we must do them? When Christians espouse they should beat their wives as long as the stick is no wider than their thumb, because this is in the Bible, do we not see them as a group we’d not expect sensible Christians to join? When a Muslim sect stones adulterers to death because it’s in the Koran (please correct me if this is not correct) wouldn’t we see that as sect unworthy of being associated with? When a Buddhist teacher disallows any monk from driving another monk (me) to his physical therapy appointment because, I guess, I’m not really ill, even when the physical therapist is utterly shocked and very concerned that I would be forced to use the bus, isn’t that a Buddhist group one should be cautious of? As Isan rightly pointed out, the author of And There Was Light was not a proponent of the environment in which he saw the light. I saw a lot of humiliation for many years and it deeply troubled me. It was not my finest hour that I did not act until it was me being made crazy, me being humiliated. There are those on this site that state that these troubling tactics, at least in some places in the OBC, continue to this day. That is troubling to me. Given my own experience, I can’t dismiss them.

Perhaps these tactics made sense in the culture of medieval Japan, I don’t know. But to those who think they can transpose this to modern American culture, I would suggest that you may be creating your own demise. This is a culture of lawsuits and the internet. This is a culture and country founded on individual rights. Buddhism has had to adapt to every culture it entered. When it ceases to adapt it will cease to exist. It may be worrying that this forum exists, but the internet is not going away. The culture that exists outside the monastery gates, which holds individual rights as paramount, is not going away. If many of the cruel and demeaning tactics used by Rev. Kennett continue to be used, it is my opinion that the OBC eventually will be branded a cult.

While I sympathize with Amalia, I differ from her in that I believe there is a baby in the bath water. While I respect where Seikai is coming from, I do not believe what happened to me should happen to others (not that he’s suggesting that). Nor do I believe that the bizarre and cruel ways I was treated were necessary for my spiritual growth. I cherish the baby, but if you bathe it in [banned term] toilet water, you’ll likely just get a sick baby. And please let it be known that in the mid 1980s until the time I left (I don't know how it is now) there was an enormous amount of illness at the abbey. Way too much considering we were all in the prime of life. And while I know there is an attrition rate in every organization, it seems the OBC, at least my cohort, had an excessive one. Could there be a reason besides we’re all poor trainees?

The negative things I have described were only part of my experience in the OBC. There were also many, many positive aspects of my life there. I had many spiritual experiences that changed my life; I had good friends whose company I cherished and of whom I have fond memories; I lived a communal life that offered a glimpse into another way of living than the one offered in our individualistic society, and that has given me a perspective on the culture I live in that most don’t have, a perspective I cherish; and in my earlier years I had an excellent relationship with Rev. Kennett that spurred my spiritual growth more than would otherwise have occurred. It is my assumption that all of these things continue to flourish in the OBC. I, and perhaps many that left the OBC, left these things with a very, very heavy heart. I don’t want to see those things destroyed. But to keep silent on our experiences that we truly feel were wrong and misguided, and that many claim continue to occur—explain how that would be right?

While there are plenty of dangers trying to follow one’s heart and develop awareness while in the world, one cannot ignore the dangers of an enclosed society with a closed feedback loop. I would propose that perhaps monks expound endlessly on the former and do not give due consideration to the latter. Monks are people with their own flaws and fears. Is it not possible that when the feedback loop is closed that those fears and flaws will be magnified and justified? That what is not essential becomes so pervasive that it is perceived as essential? That what should not be acceptable becomes acceptable?


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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Thu Sep 02, 2010 7:58 am

One of the reasons I joined this forum having been told of its existence, was a wish to try and re-engage with the OBC in some way and to try to see that perhaps I was mistaken. After leaving Throssel, I felt extremely foolish for having wanted so very much to train there as deeply as I did. There's something intangible and unexplainable about the wish to train, and there is a depth to the sincerity of that wish which doesn't just dissolve or evaporate when things do not unfold the way they could, and perhaps should have done. When a monk or lay person leaves the monastery or priories, they are often not mentioned and seem to drift off into some parrallel universe in shame. The agreed story for their departure is reiterated in the same way enough times that people learn not to question the "why"s of another's exit. The idea that lay trainees might want to keep in touch with that ex-monk and a way of contacting them made available is not something I ever saw, despite quite a large number of monks who left.

For me, the "baby in the bath water" is that I care and that I care enough to belong to this forum and make posts which may not make for pretty or comfortable reading. I care about the OBC, and it's because I care that I feel it's almost a duty to speak out. How can these issues be rectified if they are not placed squarely on the table? I'm reminded of the "within all darkness there is light". You can't have one sided light. The [banned term] toilet water that the baby can lie in, as Kaizan related it, is perhaps the fear surrounding people talking and discussing what really happened in a way this forum provides. I've found it tremendously helpful to read that others too felt some of the feelings I felt and that has helped to remove the isolation factor, after nearly four years. It's also heartening that there is a chance to learn from those who have found how to move on, and train despite the loss of a tangible sangha. Thank you for sharing that with us.



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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Thu Sep 02, 2010 1:26 pm

Dear Robert,
Although this thread began as my introduction to this web forum, it is certainly not my private little podium. You've posted your thoughts on it, however, which leads me to wonder if there isn't a cry for help in what you are saying about your experiences of having been in the process of becoming a monk, having that process aborted, and then feeling cut off from the people to whom you had so recently entrusted your life and well being.

There are some difficult aspects to this. In the "old days", Rev. Master Jiyu generally would ask that monks not be in contact with those who had left the monastery. To this day I cannot be certain of her reasons for doing this, but I can try to craft an explanation. First, I think she wanted people who had left the monastery to have their own space to think things over, and decide what they really wanted to do with their lives. She did not want to meddle in anyone's life once they had stepped outside the gate of the monastery, and she did not want to damage anyone's reputation by speaking of them publicly. Whether or not she took a monk's departure as a personal failure, I simply don't know--I couldn't read her mind--but I do know that she often grieved for people who had given up monastic life.

The main difficulty that we all have faced over the years in this matter is the spreading of doubt. However long a person trains and lives in the monastic environment, once they leave it, if they leave on account of a conviction that there is something deeply wrong with the way that practice is being carried out, or the way in which the teaching is being given, or the way in which the abbess, abbot or main teacher is behaving, or that they personally were mistreated, chances are they are not goin to speak favorably about the monastery or the order once they are back in the world. If they are saying derogatory, unfavorable things to people who are still in the monastic environment, the risk is that they will infect those people with doubt about the validity or efficacy of the training they are involved in.

Many of the people who are contributing to this web forum are saying that if the monastic environment or teacher has some significant dysfunctionality about it, and meanwhile no critiquing of the environment or teacher is allowed, then you have a closed feedback loop, in which it is difficult to get an outside prespective on what you're doing, and it is difficult to make any substantive changes which address the perceived dysfunction. People who study systems functioning have found that this is an unhealthy situation to be in, so there is clearly truth in what they (forum contributors) are saying.

Within the monastic envirnment, the difficulty is that what you are doing is radically different from the accepted ways in which the world functions. Monastic life is inherently difficult--you are working to purify your inherited, previous karma, no easy matter--and requires a very high level of faith in the teacher and in the efficacy of the practice. Over time, if a monk builds up their own practice to a level where they know for themselves the very deep freedom and peace of heart that comes from sticking with it, then what is going on on an external level ceases to be all that important in the context of whether it makes or breaks them as a monk. But getting to that point is the difficulty, and so teachers try to shield the trainee from exposure to doubt. As people have pointed out, in the internet age that might become impossible, which will probably add another layer of difficulty to monastic life.

Although people who enter into monastic life all have some kind of motivation to find something deeper and truer than what the world has to offer, not everyone has the self-generated motivation to ignore the distractions and just concentrate on their own practice. The value of the monastic environment is that, unlike the world, people are pulling together behind a common motivation: liberating ourselves from suffering (if it is a Buddhist monastery). And still there are going to be distractions, and people will make mistakes or do things with the very best of intentions that later on prove to have been not a good idea.

So I hope you can begin to see how, by leaving the monastic environment, the stage is essential set for you to feel isolated and cut off. But within that I think there is a lot people can do to help eachother, and I would hope that over time, those of us who remain in the monastic environment will attempt to do more to assist people who leave it, give them spiritual if not practical help with re-entering the world, and work towards the diminishing of a stark dichotomy between being an active monk and an ex-monk. In others words, we can all try to be as accepting and compassionate towards eachother as is possible under the circumstances, which are inherently not easy.

I've never met you or even heard your story until a few days ago; I certainly wish you well and hope that your journey in life leads you to great peace of mind and heart, however you are able to get there.

With all best wishes & blessings,
Rev. Seikai





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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Thu Sep 02, 2010 10:09 pm

Its interesting listening to those who are content with the OBC actually communicating with those who are not. Thanks again Lise for working to have this happen! If you want to move this out of Rev. Seikai's introduction, feel free, it is turning into a catch all, but it was reading these posts that motivated it.. & thanks Rev Seikai for choosing to walk on this uncomfortable ground.

Ever been in an abusive family situation where you can taste the fear that people are sitting on?
Well at this forum it seems like there is a big bloody elephant dancing in the garden that only one side sees. Folks that are unhappy with the OBC say that the other side has been two stepping with this elephant for so long that they don't recognize it for what it is. Those happy with the OBC says that if there was a big bloody dancing elephant in their garden, they'd know about it. One side says that unless the elephant is owned and dealt with, the garden will be destroyed. The other side says that even if there was an elephant, its not bothering them and there are a lot of reasons to leave it alone. Both sides have thoughtful measured words and an appreciation for the garden but I think everyone is being hurt by whatever is doing the trampling.
I've heard it said that doubt is the monk killer but can it possibly be as dangerous as this elephant?


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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Thu Sep 02, 2010 11:30 pm

I'll defer to Rev. Master Seikai on the issue of splitting the thread. It did become more much than an introduction, but I think RM Seikai led the way with that in his post of 20 August, so I'm inclined to ask his preference here . . .

Honestly, Howard, between you and Kaizan, the moderators can almost keep up with adding banned terms to the naughty list. Smile But you're forgiven (and you haven't even asked, which I realize). For the benefit of our American audience, "[banned term]" is not a word to use in polite company.

"Big blooming dancing elephant". How is that? Yeah, I know, it lacks something . . .


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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Fri Sep 03, 2010 12:26 am

Howard, I think you have just nailed it--with a brilliantly insightful observation.

And I second your thanks to Lise and Rev. Seikai. Seikai--I think that your openness, and willingness to engage, are pioneering and exemplary. (And I feel certain that we have many active OBC dharma sisters and brothers who support what you--and we--are attempting to do, in the name of openness and integrity. I have heard from several already).

Lise--just saw your new post while writing this. You are indeed a master of skillful humor (or humour as our British colleagues would put it), good will, and insight!

I have been working on a new topic that I hope to post in a day or two, entitled:

Institutionalized Trauma: Can an institution itself become traumatized--and if so--(how) can it heal and transform?
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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Fri Sep 03, 2010 6:55 pm

I would love to explore Howard's and Kozan's line of thinking here...Looking forward to that thread, Kozan.

~Diana
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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Sun Sep 05, 2010 10:12 pm

Dear Rev. Seikai,

Thank you for explaining, and for lending us your introductory thread for this subject!

I can appreciate the monastic reasons for not always speaking about those who have left. Obviously it isn't for me to evaluate best practice for monks' training. But for the benefit of finding ways of dealing with this in future, I think it's worth mentioning how it feels to me as a layperson (and others from what I've noticed) when a monk disappears without prior notice or further explanation.

Even to laypeople it feels like training in a family, and if my brother disappeared I would certainly not rest until I knew why. I wouldn't ever feel more at rest just because nobody talked about it; on the contrary, I would be particularly freaked out because not only has someone I've been close to gone, everybody who's left appears to be acting strangely and coldly (even though this is obviously not the case).

I think it would help to simply gather people when this happens and talk about it. It would air it and stop making for exciting gossip in darkened rooms, whispered illicit conversations in the cloister, and would hopefully also end the wild speculations as to why and who's next. We could do with more open conversations about things like this. It's unlikely that it would pave the way for anarchy or disrespect (in case anyone's worried about that...) On the contrary, I imagine that people who are treated as adults, sharing in sensitive subjects, are more likely to act like them too.

Ties are ties. While I don't believe in entertaining attachments, surely acknowledging people who were once close makes it less likely that there will be reason to keep them away.

All best wishes,

In gassho
Mia
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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Sun Sep 05, 2010 11:28 pm

Beautifully expressed Mia. Thank you!
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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Mon Sep 06, 2010 12:31 am

Dear Mia,
I live in a small temple which has only two monks; this being the case, I am rarely in a position to discuss the departure of a monk from my temple, although it has happened a few times in the past. When it did happen, at the first opportunity, we informed the lay congregation either in person or email or however we can get ahold of them. We explain the situation as honestly as we can, giving full consideration to the privacy and personal matters of the person who has departed.

If you live in a small temple, the departure of a monk who represents, let's say 33% of your monastic community, has an immediate and large impact. You are in the position of having to assess all of the ramifications of what has happened. It is always hard, because as you and others have pointed out on this forum, the monastic Sangha is like a family; sometimes family members move, which is different from having them leave the family altogether, as when a monk disrobes.

In a larger monastic community, the departure of one monk out of, let's say 25, has less of an immediate impact on a purely percentage level; on another level, that of the intimacy and trust that has existed between monks over the course of time, it is just as hard. As I have mentioned in a previous post, there will always be a threshold that is crossed in becoming a Buddhist monk, and until you actually go forth into the monastic Sangha, there is no way that a member of the laity can know the full extent of what that is like. It is an enormously difficult undertaking; you are vowing to keep the Precepts, you are vowing to train yourself endlessly; you are vowing to help all sentient beings. The depth of that committment is like the ocean--vast and full.

Sometimes it simply doesn't work for an individual to reamin in the monastic Sangha; we all know those who've been in it for a period of time, and then disrobed for whatever constellation of reasons. Sometimes that process is painful to the extent that those who remain in the monastic Sangha are reluctant to talk much about it; in all probability that reluctance stems not so much from a fear of anarchy and disrespect amongst the laity as just the sheer human grief of having someone that you lived and trained with for x-number of years decide to give it up, even if their reasons for doing so are totally understandable, which they usually are.

If you have been involved with a monastic community of the OBC and feel that the way in which the departures of various monks was not handled to your satisfaction, then your thoughts on the matter should be addressed to the prior or abbot of the temple concerned, and you might consider proposing something that you think might work better. It's just possible that they might consider it carefully and, the next time a monk departs, a more public means of dispersing the information will take place.

Meanwhile, it is a pity that there is a generally held perception that A) the OBC has a high rate of monastic disrobing, and B) that when a monk does disrobe, there is an automatic association of failure with that event. With regards to A): actually, the rate in the OBC is no higher than any other Buddhist monastic tradition; I have zero statistics--I am only repeating what I have heard--which is that, if anything, our rate of disrobing is on the low side of the curve. With regards to B): success and failure are worldly concepts. None of us know the half of what is going on with another person; we can only guess at their motivations, their hopes, their fears, what gets to them where they live, and what brings them happiness and joy. With that in mind, we are in no position to really judge a person who disrobes as a failure; they might actually be responding to a call deep within themselves to do something entirely different from being a monk.

Having said all that, it is still nevertheless equally challenging, if not moreso, for the monk who disrobes to leave behind what he or she has entered into. It is evident from what a number of ex-monks who contribute to this forum are saying that they are still suffering on account of their experiences of becoming disaffected and leaving the monastic Sangha. I wish I could help them. I felt the same things they did, I've been through numerous hells, but in the end I did not hold my Master responsible for my own suffering: both the causes of suffering and the cures therefore lie within each and every one of us. What I can say in the way of positive affirmation of the OBC is that I have found the cure for my own suffering, which, after all, is the goal of Buddhism.

Dogen wrote that there is "greater intimacy amongst members of the monastic Sangha than most people have with themselves." If this is so, is it any wonder that leaving the Sangha is painful? It illustrates what the Buddha taught: Suffering Exists. We cannot escape suffering, but we can fully accept that it exists and do the best we can within the limitations of being human to alleviate it for ourselves and all beings. The deeper we accept things as they are and enter into the flow of immaculacy, the more we become one with this whole mystifying process.

Thank you for your thoughts, Mia,
Respectfully submitted, Rev. Seikai
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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Sat Sep 18, 2010 4:23 am

Mia, thank you for raising and speaking to this issue.

And Rev. Seikai, thank you for your considered response.

Although I am a former member of the monastic community, I am not suffering, I am not disaffected, and I have not left the greater Sangha. I remain forever grateful to Rev. Master Jiyu and her teaching--more so than I can possibly express. And this is my motivation for attempting to understand and unravel the conflicted experience that so many in this forum have reported.

I think that the exclusion of former lay and monastic members of the OBC who have left the Order, is probably not an issue that causes suffering for most of us who have left--it is an issue that for good reason, causes, and should cause, some degree of concern for those who remain.

No matter how carefully you parse it, the bottom line is that the OBC today is simply not able to retain a connection with those who leave. This is because RMJK was terrified that anyone who left in a state of conflict would turn against her, and would turn others against her as well--which led her to institutionalize a general policy of exclusion.

Betrayal, in my observation, and confirmed by several on this forum (Isan I believe, although Kaizan, Kyogen, and others, may well have touched on this as well) was perhaps RMJK's greatest fear. Unfortunately, her methods of coping with her fear of betrayal tended to result in the harsh behavior that caused people to leave (or stay) in a state of distress--thereby evoking a perception of betrayal! In my observation, harsh behavior can be subtly and unconsciously traumatizing for an entire community. A history of repetition of this dynamic can seem to confirm the underlying misunderstanding and the need to exclude. A pattern of exclusion, based on the fear that those who have left will sow the seeds of doubt in the minds of those who remain, may now have become institutionalized within the psyche and culture of the OBC.

However, Rev. Seikai, as you admirably demonstrate, and as my own contact with other active members of the OBC proves to me, this dynamic is not universal within the Order. Institutions may become traumatized; and yet, through the simple willingness of individuals to be open to dialogue--and the awareness that it can bring--a collective history of institutional trauma can, I believe, be recognized and healed.

I firmly believe that acknowledging mistakes and healing trauma is the greatest possible sign of gratitude and respect that we can show. It is the prerequisite for making the profound depth of Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett's teaching yet more clear--and for ensuring that it remains alive in the present moment. I feel certain that this is precisely what she would want us to do.



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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Sat Sep 18, 2010 10:40 am

We live in the sky as if in the world
Like muddy roots beneath the pure lotus
The world is the mind of the trainee.
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Rev. Seikai



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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Sat Sep 18, 2010 11:12 pm

Dear Kozan and Kaizan,
Thank you for your observations. I have no argument with anything that either of you have said, and I remain committed to being a conduit for fostering greater understanding among former members of the OBC with those who have remained active within the order. I am also committed, as you are, to making my Master's teaching more clear, which can only come about as a result of putting what she taught into practice, proving it true for yourself(or finding that it just doesn't mesh for you on some level or another), and then using skilful means to give it a renewed expression.

Right at the moment we are in conclave mode, and I am at Shasta Abbey, so I just don't have the time and energy to say very much. I find the concept of institutionalized trauma to be an interesting one, and don't feel that I am in much of a position to comment on it. I believe that I have felt it for myself to have been the case that it exists, but that it is also a matter of individual training to free oneself from it, in the same way that society as a whole is riddled with society-wide fears and assumptions that cloud our collective ability to see the truth of what our society does to us. Unlike society at large, which does not offer any clear information on how to step clear of its own false assumptions, at least in monastic life we are offered the Dharma, which does, in fact, give us the tools to reflect upon fears and traumas, as well as the desires that set the basic desire--anger & frustration--fear & the delusions of a separate self cycle in motion in the first place. To me the basic vicious cycle of causation - greed, hate and delusion, which I have rephrased as desire, anger and fear as a result of my own vision into its operation - is a very real thing, the nature of which I have witnessed intimately.

I know I sound like a broken record, but I continue to view bringing an end to the vicious cycle can only come about as a result of individuals seeking their own liberation. We may try mightily to create an ideal environment in which individuals can practice effectively in order to bring this transformation about, but being humans, those environments we create can never be without flaws, and the implication of this is that, on some level, it is futile to blame the teacher or the environment for suffering. We can recognize when teachers have fallen short in their efforts to help other people, we can recognize that harm has been done, we can recognize that human life is a messy business, and we can recognize that monastic life is a messy business. Can healing come about as a result of such an examination? Yes, in the initial stages of healing, and no, in the deeper levels of healing. The deeper levels of healing involve the renunciation of the entire vicious cycle of desire, anger and fear.

Thank you for the willingness to engage in an intelligent conversation, with all best wishes,
Rev. Seikai
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Kozan
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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Sat Sep 18, 2010 11:41 pm

Thank you Rev. Seikai! You have left a wonderful, deeply honest, and heartfelt response--which I am grateful for, and (in turn) have no argument with!

I am leaving this quick thank you now because I can see that you are currently on line. I will post some additional thoughts in a day or two.

Best regards, and in gassho,
Kozan
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justsit



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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Sun Sep 19, 2010 12:45 pm

Rev. Seikai has an interesting dharma talk which can be accessed through the Shasta Abbey webpage called "Finding Joy in the Face of Adversity." He discusses Rev. Master Eko's departure among other things. As is always the case with Rev. Seikai, I found his thoughts to be very uplifting and recommend a listen.
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Jiko



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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Sun Sep 19, 2010 7:04 pm

Dear Rev. Seikai,
This is my question in response to your kind posts. You state that RM Kennett institutionalized a policy of exclusion out of fear, and that made it impossible to contact those who left or come to closure with many conflicts. She has been gone for a long time. Why hasn't the policy of exclusion changed? Why continue to maintain policies when many of the seniors have suggested they don't agree? Why is change so difficult for OBC?
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Rev. Seikai



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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Tue Sep 21, 2010 11:21 pm

Dear Jiko,
Thank you for your question; it is a step forward for the OBC Connect web forum to have contributors asking direct questions.

First, I haven't at any time used the words, “RM Kennett institutionalized a policy of exclusion out of fear, and that made it impossible to contact those who left or come to closure with many conflicts.” What I have said, in response to Kozan's posting on this thread, is that I have no argument with what he wrote, which is not the equivalent of my saying the same thing. In other words, I regard it as a partial truth; what remains unsaid, for me, is that there are other reasons for exclusion, which have been in place within Buddhist monasticism since the time of the Buddha. Right at the moment I am not prepared to go into what behaviors the monastic Sangha regards as unacceptable, and therefore warranting exclusion. On the whole, RMJK did not exclude anyone indefinitely and finally, and generally she did so for reasons other than fear; being human, it is nevertheless possible that fear was involved—I simply don't know.

With regard to the words, “that made it impossible to contact those who left or come to closure with many conflicts,” at times in the 1980s, RMJK requested that former monks not be contacted, but that was then, and a lot has changed in the meantime. The words “come to closure” is a fairly worldly idea, and not one that is normally used in Buddhism, because in Buddhist monasticism, it is recognized that the kind of closure the world desires does not get at the root causes of conflict. To get at the root causes of conflict, or disagreement, we have to look at hardened opinions and attitudes of mind. When those who are party to a disagreement hold on to an immovable view and are unwilling to give anything up, there is no room to negotiate and arrive at a mutually agreeable understanding.

One example of a former monk of the OBC who arranged to speak with RMJK is Sansho, who met with her within the last couple years of her life, patched up their differences, and left having resolved his former difficulties with her (so I understand). So, that is to say that it was and is possible for former monks to make their peace with, if not RMJK, since she is dead, but at least the OBC and active monks of the OBC. I would imagine that if any former monk wished to do this, the place to start would be by writing a letter of a conciliatory tone to Rev. Master Haryo and see what he recommends, and to show a willingness to listen to whatever suggestions he might have.

Moving to the question, “Why hasn't the policy of exclusion changed?”, I would say that it has: when RMJK died, Rev. Master Daizui became Head of the OBC, which was change, and when he died, Rev. Master Haryo became Head of the OBC, another change. They made and make decisions based on their own best wisdom and insights into any particular issue, which would include contact with and attempts to resolve conflicts with any former monk of the OBC. One example would be that of Kaizan, to whom RM Daizui issued an apology on behalf of the OBC some years ago. Change is constant; people and policies are always undergoing change, as far as I can see.

Why continue to maintain policies when many of the seniors have suggested they don't agree? Well, again, I think that policies are always in a state of flux, like everything else. As to what any other senior of the OBC thinks, other than me, you'd have to talk to them. I don't feel that I can speak for them or make a judgment as to whether they agree or disagree with any particular policy of the OBC, never mind how long ago it might have been actively in place.

Finally, you ask, "Why is change so difficult for [the] OBC?" For the same reasons that change is difficult for any given individual human being. We are creatures of habit, we find change difficult to contemplate and implement, and sometimes act in ways contrary to our own enlightened self interests. Having said that, I believe that change will flow forth from the conclave of the OBC which is now in session.

I pray that I have done a satisfactory job of answering your questions, and if anything in my response is not clear, please ask for clarification, and if i can provide it, I will.

With all best wishes, respectfully submitted,
Rev. Seikai
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Isan
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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Wed Sep 22, 2010 1:15 pm

Seikai,

I would imagine that if any former monk wished to do this, the place to start would be by writing a letter of a conciliatory tone to Rev. Master Haryo and see what he recommends, and to show a willingness to listen to whatever suggestions he might have.

I wrote a letter some years ago to Shasta Abbey expressing a wish for reconciliation and to date I have not received a response. As a result I am reluctant to write again without a clear statement from the OBC that it in fact wants reconciliation. I would like to see a general statement offering apology for misunderstandings and regret for harm that has occurred to former members, along with a sincere wish to open the lines of communication with the intent to help individuals and heal the divisions in the Sangha. Such a statement would give me and others a reason to believe that the OBC is serious in this regard.

One example would be that of Kaizan, to whom RM Daizui issued an apology on behalf of the OBC some years ago

The fact that Daizui issued a formal apology to Kaizan on behalf of the OBC is not proof that this is generally possible. I believe that Daizui was unique in his understanding that people should not be excluded and shunned when they experienced conflicts that made it necessary for them to leave the community. He was always actively seeking ways to keep the lines of communication open, sometimes at considerable expense to himself in that he was on occasion severely reprimanded by RMJK for doing so. At this time I do not see anyone in the OBC actively trying to do what he did.

what remains unsaid, for me, is that there are other reasons for exclusion, which have been in place within Buddhist monasticism since the time of the Buddha. Right at the moment I am not prepared to go into what behaviors the monastic Sangha regards as unacceptable, and therefore warranting exclusion

I suggest that instead of seeking justification in the past for the current policy of exclusion, the OBC should focus on the recent and current effects of that policy. In fact is there even a formal policy that can be found in the public OBC literature or that you can officially post here? The only policy I observed during my years at Shasta Abbey was if you dared to say "No" to anything you were told to leave (and sometimes helped to do so).

What is clear now is the damage to individuals and to the Sangha in general has been very great over the years. That damage is not the result of a well thought out and carefully administered policy designed to protect the Sangha.


Last edited by Isan on Wed Sep 22, 2010 3:07 pm; edited 3 times in total (Reason for editing : additional thoughts + spelling)
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Rev. Seikai



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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Mon Nov 29, 2010 11:19 pm

For reasons of mental, spiritual and physical health, I need to excuse myself from involvement with posting for the foreseeable future. If anyone would like to contact me directly, please click on the "personal message" icon and go from there. If you can be fairly nice to me, not defame my Master and keep the Buddhist Precepts, it is very much appreciated. I have no personal issues with, argument against or ill will for anyone who has posted on this forum. I will check my inbox on a regular basis. May all be well, may all be happy, may all be free from suffering.

Best wishes, respectfully,
Rev Seikai
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Kozan
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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Tue Nov 30, 2010 12:20 am

Thank you, Rev. Seikai, for the time that you have spent with us. It was unexpected--and deeply appreciated. (This is of course my own opinion, but I suspect that it is shared by more than a few).

Those of us here on the forum will, naturally, continue to mull over our various perceptions and experiences.

As a result of my own experience, I have become convinced that spiritual practice is, at root, a process of existential healing--not a process of adversarial struggle! Kindness is everything.

May you continue to heal into Awareness itself--and join us here again whenever you wish. I, for one, will miss your participation.

Take care my friend,
Kozan


Last edited by Kozan on Tue Nov 30, 2010 1:08 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : A little fine-tuning...)
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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Tue Nov 30, 2010 8:07 am

Seikai,
I'd like to add my voice to Kozan's. I too will miss, what I hope were respectful, even is sometimes passionate discussions. I always had respect for you, even when we disagreed, and I hope that showed.

Take care of your health and well being on all fronts,
Your friend,
Kaizan
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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Tue Nov 30, 2010 9:10 pm

Thank you so much Rev. Master Seikai for your thoughtful and considerate efforts here.

I hope very much that I get a chance to meet you one day, and talk about the Dharma (or anything else) over tea.

May you be well in all aspects, and may your practice and your teaching be blessed.
--Dan
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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Tue Nov 30, 2010 9:18 pm

Seikai,

Thank you for your efforts here. I'm glad you will continue to check for private messages. I also hope you (or someone) will post news from the OBC about the new policies that RM Meian has talked about.

Best wishes for health and happiness.
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Rev. Seikai



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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Mon Dec 06, 2010 2:15 am

Friends, a small musing. I haven’t retreated completely from this forum; I think sometimes about stuff like the following:

Not long ago I met a character in the town of Ojai who told me he was a Shinto priest. He was American, about 60 or 65, had a long ponytail, drove a Ford pickup with a camper on the back and had a wonderful dog with him. Ojai, a town where Krishnamurti lived for many years, attracts people like him. Not unlike Mt. Shasta, there are always new age and spiritual types around town, and one cannot help encountering them from time to time.

This fellow let me in on a secret: while in Vietnam, he met certain aliens. These aliens informed him that, among other things going on with our planet, there were aliens around who are feeding off the negative energy created by earthlings. He didn’t say so directly, but one implication of this was that the Vietnam War must have created a banquet for these beings, and since then they have moved on to other hot spots on the face of our blue planet.

I’m not particularly interested in aliens; as far as I’m concerned, they probably have their own problems and their own karma to deal with. But the direction my mind takes is something along the following: Buddha taught how to give up being negative, how to purify negative thought patterns, negative energies, negative Habit Energy, which is one way of describing unwholesome karma. But why is it so hard for people to see this, let alone actually get down to the business of witnessing their own habitual negative thinking and converting it?

On an occasion when the Buddha was walking with his attendant Ananda in a village where he was not respected, the villagers hurled insults at them to the point where Ananda said to Shakyamuni: “Let us depart this place, World-honored One, and go somewhere where we can beg for alms peacefully.” But the Buddha responded by saying, “No, Ananda, patiently will I endure the insults and abuses of others, as an elephant endures the arrows shot in battle, for the world is ill-natured.” I have always taken great consolation in that one sentence, which is a verse from the Dhammapada.

The fellow I met in Ojai also told me that the aliens steer a wide berth around those who have renounced negativity and cultivated a pure, positive mind. Apparently, they’re just not interested in such people. It’s a slightly wacky story, I admit, but no matter how far-fetched it might be, it gets me to ponder the state of our ill-natured world. How far can we go with our collective negativity before we begin to flat-out self-destruct?

RMJK also taught how to purify negativity and karma. Perhaps her personality somewhat obscured the message, and that in the years since then people have used her eccentricity and personality as reasons for not really hearing or putting her central message into practice. But I, for one, heard it. Despite all the difficulties inherent in being her disciple, I put them aside and just concentrated on the actual practice. Now I am eternally grateful that I did.

Blessings, Rev. Seikai
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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Mon Dec 06, 2010 6:56 am

Seikai it is really good to see that you are still with us. However I think you're posting misses some important points. The Buddha taught, not only how to give up being negative but also how to give up and purify the positive. The overly optimistic is just as deluded as the overly pessimistic.

I'm sure you feel that you "will endure the insults and abuses of others" when you read much of this forum, I genuinely feel for you, thank you. And I do take your implied point about this forum that it may in the end just implode in a cloud of negativity, there is that danger. However, much of what has been said here, although couched in negative terms, is actually positive. It is positive that for the first time many of us have been able to tell the truth, and the truth in this case is important and right. The negativity comes from the fact that the truth has been about harm and suppressed for a long time. There are those within the OBC that have been promulgating lies; both by supressing the truth and in their actions. It is a lie to say that you are being compassionate when you're being deliberately take pleasure in being cruel, it is not skillful means, it is a lie, lie, LIE. This has damaged many people. Such teaching is not the Dharma and and those teaching it are not the Sangha, and they have forfeited the right to call themselves such. The Dharma and the Sangha lie with us, and here I include not just the members of this forum, but also all those of goodwill within the OBC, particularly yourself. There are some on this forum who I think would like to see the end of the OBC. I do not, I think there are those within the OBC who are following the Buddhist path. If they can reform the OBC from within then it can emerge a strong and vibrant organisation doing good in the world and helping others, at the moment it is not. But to do this they must take ownership of both the problem and the organisation, difficult training. If they cannot reform it then I fear I will, with great sadness, join those who would see it end, because it will be doing more harm than good, more damage than healing. And it will end, because it will become more and more closed to the outside world until it extinguishes itself. Twenty years of studying complex systems science has shown me that openess allows evolution and change, and is dynamic and full of life, whilst being closed is static and always leads death. Two of the great laws of the universe are ahimsa and the second law of thermodynamics.
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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Mon Dec 06, 2010 7:38 am

Well said Mark I applaud you.
wish I could express like some of you guys.
much love john.
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PostSubject: Re: new member: Rev. Seikai   Mon Dec 06, 2010 3:40 pm

Just jumping in her a little:

Seikai said: "Perhaps her personality somewhat obscured the message, and that in the years since then people have used her eccentricity and personality as reasons for not really hearing or putting her central message into practice. But I, for one, heard it. Despite all the difficulties inherent in being her disciple, I put them aside and just concentrated on the actual practice."

ACTIONS are everything - words almost nothing. I did not use Kennett's eccentricity and personality for reasons not to put what she taught into practice. I enjoyed her eccentricities for the first few years and did put the basic Soto teachings into practice, as best I could. And I did appreciate some of the "tough" parts of her pushing during that first chapter at Shasta.

AND when her ACTIONS became progressively more angry, abusive, irrational and tyrannical -- well, they spoke much louder than her words. The roar of this tigress was harmful. And these were not just charming eccentricities. The "central message" is what you do, how you treat your fellow men/women, your everyday actions.

But here is something that keeps on striking me. I notice this in your post and in Daishin's dismissal of my experiences. One of the main reasons I left was that i could no longer take part in harming others at Shasta. To stay and support Kennett - and to function as the good disciple and do exactly as we were told -- involved HARMING other people - no beatings, that's true, but there were frequent and constant examples of emotional brutality -- and in the context of a closed community where people have given up everything, this borders on emotional and mental terrorism.

And as the most senior students, we were often told to say and treat other monks with hard disrespect. Many times I felt terrible in carrying out Kennett's commands. And I could find no dharma in what she was doing -- many of her actions seemed to come out of insecurity, jealousy, her discomfort with married couples, her need to be the constant center of adoration. Over and over again I had to violate my inner sense of right, my conscience, to follow her - and at a certain point, I couldn't do it any longer.

Now, of course, the party line is that I was misunderstanding, substituting my own (less enlightened) vision for the greater and more enlightened vision of the great master. This is the standard story is so many cultic organizations, by the way. Well, you know I did buy that story for awhile -- and there was some truth in that approach for the first 4 years or so.

But after than, when my vision became clearer -- and Kennett's actions became more harmful, I didn't buy it any more.

But the bottom line for this post -- leaving wasn't just about me. It was equally or even more important that everything in me screamed to STOP DOING HARM. Stop this emotional brutality that was hurting others, turning them into fearful dependent children.

Seikai, you say that you put your concerns "aside" and just did your practice. Did you see others being harmed? by Kennett or Eko or the institution? and if you did notice this, did you put these concerns aside? Doesn't your practice involve the welfare of all your other fellow monks? Does just doing your practice mean ignoring what was happening to others?

I appreciate how hard this. I know from the inside. What I put aside - when I left -- was that I would NEVER AGAIN ignore my inner guidance. If my guts said NO -- i go with that. If my guts say LEAVE - I am gone. If my guts say DON"T DO THAT - i don't do it. Now, i have slipped up some times - and every time, that has been the only regrets in my life.

There is no greater good that what is found in the present moment, that's what I discovered. And the way we treat the "least" person is the way we relate to the whole. Since there is no least person, there is no greater good that is served by mistreating others, ever.






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