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 Introduction-Bill

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cmpnwtr

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PostSubject: Introduction-Bill   Tue Aug 17, 2010 3:00 pm

I must say I am warmed by the other introductions I have read, and especially from those who I have been graced to know along the way,

I have to start with a spiritual crisis that took me to Zen and Shasta Abbey. In brief at age 21 I found myself in a rather grand funk in the throes of an existential and clinical depression that had the potential for self destruction. In the midst of that crisis I cried out inwardly for help. And the help came in the form of a memory from early childhood. In the remembrance I am sitting at age 3 in the tall grass behind my grandparents chicken house, with eyes closed and a total absorption and interior rest in a Life and Presence that is utterly “Home” for lack of a better word. And in the remembrance I experienced again that same Life and Presence as the Home from which my own life arises.Well this experience brought about a spontaneous remission of my existential and clinical malaise along with an evaporation of the despairing and suicidal thinking. So I resolved that this experience, and in the remembrance the conscious return to this interior sanctuary of Presence was something I could build my life on. The first person I happened to encounter after that was a “zenster” from Berkley. He talked about Soto Zen meditation practice. And it was not long after that I began to start a practice on my own, and found my way to Shasta Abbey in 1971 for an initial personal retreat.

I had entered a Benedictine monastic seminary at age 15 so monasteries and the spiritual life were not alien, and the idea of contemplative prayer was not alien either. So the teachings of Roshi Kennett resonated about "God within" or the Buddhist equivalent of True Nature as our sole refuge and the source of our life of compassion and alignment with preceptual ethics. As time went on I was delighted to hear her teach from many of the Christian mystics and it helped me integrate the roots of my Catholic background and Christian monastic experience.

In the years following my wife and I were married at the Eugene priory where Shuyu and Gyozan Singer were the teachers. And after moving to Klamath Falls
in 1978 I began to have a close collegial friendship and spiritual mentoring relationship with Doug (Daizui) MacPhillamay. Doug was a clinical psychologist and he did a residency training at our mental health clinic. So I saw him daily and on occasion co-led groups with him. We had a meditation group at our house and Doug gave Dharma teachings and was available for sanzen to the group members. They were very intimate, friendly, and safe relationships and Doug’s leadership and support was most appreciated. The week long sesshin retreats at the abbey were a good way for me to deepen my practice. Doug also presided at a naming ceremony for our second child, Carlo, in our home following his birth. My daughter, Frieda, had been named at Shasta Abbey in 1976 by Josh (Jitsudo Baran).

In 1980 our son contracted Acute Myelocytic Leukemia and died. Doug was available to me to help me process this spiritually. Doug was present with my wife and I in a private funeral ritual immediately followed by my son’s cremation where we sat in meditation. That proved to be an occasion of great opening for me. Our son's ashes are buried in the Shasta Abbey cemetery.

As time went on I became more committed and involved and entered training to be a lay minister. By 1987 after we moved to the Portland area I had become very concerned with the direction at the Abbey with increasing exclusivity, hierarchy, and emphasis on the ultimate authority of the abbess. The breaking point was the renunciation of past teachings through the affiliation with the Chinese lineage in a way that was an abandonment of married priests, and the public denunciation and ridicule heaped on good monks and members. Personal observation told me that the abbess had gone "off the rails" in a tragic way, something she had always taught can happen to the most highly attained practitioner. So I resigned from the order. At which point Eko quickly demanded I turn in my rakhsu. My wife was deeply hurt by that. Something inwardly laughed in me. I remember hearing an old line from a Firesign Theatre album where the film noir detective character, "Nick Danger-Third Eye," is told to "Turn in his badge." Perhaps the most hurtful thing was when in my correspondence with my friend and mentor, Doug, I told him of my decision to attend at the Dharma Rain Zen Center, he informed me he would have to cease all contact with me. My anger and hurt did not last long. And another voice arose within me, "Cut down the flagpole, Bill." Doug died a few years ago. I never ceased to love him deeply and to be grateful for all he had shared of himself. And even in his shunning of me there was the gift of my liberation and freedom in the truth of 'no external refuge.'

And as time went on I grew to love the Carlsons and appreciate their good work in redeeming the teachings that had been so helpful to me early on. We had some good talks in those first months following my break that were very helpful. My wife and I, and my daughter Frieda, became members of DRZC. ( Frieda, at her own choosing attended Jukai classes at age 15, went through Jukai cermonies and retreat, receiving lay ordination, and remains a practicing Zen Buddhist today at age 35.)

Another event was even more helpful. In 1987 I began a spiritual mentorship with the Abbot of a Trappist monastery who had organized a little sangha of Christian contemplatives, inspired by the teachings and practice of some Christian Zen teachers, principally Willigis Jager OSB.(student of Yamada Roshi of the Diamond Sangha lineage). Bernard became a true soul friend (anam chara) in the Celtic tradition and who embodied for me the actualization of love as the highest truth and allowed me to integrate all the best of Shasta Abbey with all the best of the Christian mystical tradition. (Bernard's sangha continues today in the Seven Thunders Community, which meets monthly in the meditation chapel that Bernard built.)

Before his death in 1997 Bernard encouraged me to be involved in sharing my practice through spiritual direction and teaching to others, which I have since done after getting two years of formal training in spiritual direction from a Benedictine program, and studying and practicing with other Christian mystical teachers, Thomas Keating, Pat Hawk (Diamond Sangha lineage), Thomas Hand (Diamond Sangha) and Cynthia Bourgeault. For a period of years I had a full schedule of leading Christian Contemplative retreats, partnering with some Benedictine nuns and a Methodist from Alaska. At present I'm retired (from mental health counseling) and my spiritual work is mostly with individuals who have a serious meditation practice. My teachings and practice have in recent years been inspired by the mystical traditions of Eastern Christianity of Hesychastic meditation or Prayer of the Heart, which easily integrate with what I learned in Soto Zen. ( I have a church affiliation as Episcopalian. ) And I've written a few books myself that I have shared with my own students. But always, in my talks and in my writings, I often make reference to my Zen training and quote Roshi Kennett, Doug MacPhillamay, or Kyogen and Gyokuko Carlson. And I can say without equivocation that everything I teach, and everything I practice arises from the simple truth that I practiced and experienced as a three year old, and continue to experience and live to this day.

I am so glad to share my story with you, and to express my gratitude to those teachers who each in their own way pointed to that Reality of the three year old, waiting to be Re-membered and lived as an adult. I am retired and live a hermit life of solitude and attention to practice that brings great happiness.
Cheers and blessings to all,
Bill Ryan
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Kyogen

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PostSubject: Re: Introduction-Bill   Tue Aug 17, 2010 8:00 pm

Hello Bill,

It's great to see you here. Welcome.

Kyogen
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Lise
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PostSubject: welcome!   Wed Aug 18, 2010 12:36 am

Hi Bill, thanks for joining us. Excellent intro post Smile

L.
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PostSubject: Re: Introduction-Bill   Thu Aug 19, 2010 7:52 pm

Bill,

Of the points raised in your post, this one stays with me because it is especially sad: "Perhaps the most hurtful thing was when in my correspondence with my friend and mentor, Doug, I told him of my decision to attend at the Dharma Rain Zen Center, he informed me he would have to cease all contact with me."

I don't understand how Rev. Kennett could justify this or harmonize it with Preceptual behavior. Was there no room at all to "agree to disagree" with her? Can any of the early followers speak to this?
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cmpnwtr

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PostSubject: Re: Introduction-Bill   Thu Aug 19, 2010 8:35 pm

Lise said:" I don't understand how Rev. Kennett could justify this or harmonize it with Preceptual behavior. Was there no room at all to "agree to disagree" with her? Can any of the early followers speak to this? "
****************
There is no justification for it religiously or spiritually. The explanation I came to then and since is this: It was a further sign that Jiyu Kennett had gone "off the rails" psychologically, spiritually, and ethically, and that my own dear friend and mentor found himself confronted with a choice of compliance with her demand to participate in shunning or be expelled from the sangha and the life he had chosen for himself. In his compliance with something so terribly wrong I believe he inflicted a grievous wound on his own internal integrity. My wound was a temporary one, but I believe his was life long. Clearly this comes from a desperate deficit psychological compulsion to control others and is driven by fear and inadequacy. But of course this was a widespread and ongoing enforced practice then, and from what I hear, since.

I should also add that this kind of behavior would have been entirely unthinkable in the early years. As a member of the sangha in Portland during this time, all persons were required to make a choice of exclusivity. And members of the Portland Buddhist Priory in affiliation with Shasta Abbey were forbidden to have contact with Gyokuko and Kyogen Carlson and their sangha, later to be called the Dharma Rain Zen Center. It was about as silly and also destructive as one can possibly imagine. And why were the Carlsons cast out? Because they did not comply with Jiyu Kennett's requirement that they either divorce or leave the Buddhist priesthood, so that she could be officially recognized by the Chinese Malaysian sangha and be in compliance with their rules against a married priesthood. All this and a history in earlier years where she had not only approved a married priesthood (which is accepted in the Japanese Soto tradition) but she actually encouraged some monks to be married. So go figure...

You can imagine anyone with any degree of personal integrity, any maturity of practice, any internal heartful discernment, and half a brain, trying to come to terms with this development and make any sense or reconcile oneself to such insanity. I was present when she stated, regarding her official recognition as a female teacher, and that of her lineage. "The whole Buddhist world is watching." To me it was a terrible compulsion on her part arising from this deep sense of inadequacy, and no doubt from a lifetime of rejection of her worth as a woman. It was a tragic fall of a gifted person.

So, it's the age old story for her followers. You go along (with something terribly wrong) to get along, or just leave.

Blessings,
Bill
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PostSubject: Re: Introduction-Bill   Thu Aug 19, 2010 9:52 pm

Hello Bill--and welcome!

Lise: in my observation, RMJK had little tolerance for disagreement at this point in time, if she perceived it to be at all adversarial in nature. It seemed to me that adversarial disagreement could trigger a deep fear for her, which then probably made the disagreement feel not only like an attack on her personally, but on her teaching itself. An attack on her teaching was then perceived as an attack on the teaching.

I think that the increased emphasis on faith became a strategy for reducing the expression of disagreement with her teaching and to preserve some greater semblance of peace and harmony within the sangha.

The emphasis on faith then also provided the justification for severing communication with those who left--the presumption being that their dissatisfaction could cause doubt to arise in the minds of those who remained, thereby undermining the training of the faithful. Kyogen and Isan have suggested, in another thread, just how extreme and bizarre this belief could become.

The problem I think, is that this entire dynamic becomes self-confirming, self-reinforcing, self-escalating, and very harmful. By acting on this fear RMJK, I believe, created the very conditions of adversarial disagreement that she so feared. This dynamic appears to be continuing within the OBC institutional culture today. And this is understandable--since once established, it can only be transformed through conscious acknowledgement, an understanding of how it comes about, a recognition of why it is both self-defeating and harmful, and of course, a desire to change.

Bill: I have the same reaction to your experience that Lise had--compounded further, for me, by my near certainty that Daizui was strongly opposed to RMJK's policy at that time--and ultimately unable to do anything about it. I would bet that severing his connection with you was the last thing he wanted to do!
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PostSubject: Re: Introduction-Bill   Thu Aug 19, 2010 9:55 pm

Bill--excellent points! (I just saw your newest post after posting my previous post).
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PostSubject: Re: Introduction-Bill   Thu Aug 19, 2010 10:19 pm

Kozan:"...my near certainty that Daizui was strongly opposed to RMJK's policy at that time--and ultimately unable to do anything about it. I would bet that severing his connection with you was the last thing he wanted to do!"
********

Dear Kozan,
I welcome your remarks and have warm memories of your presence at the Abbey during those years.

Yes, I was quite aware of Daizui's position at the time, and shocked when Jiyu Kennett attacked, denounced, and humiliated him in my presence and before others. Daizui took the position of capitulation and compliance. And I was quite aware that he did not want to do what he did. This made me even sadder and disappointed that he would so disregard his own heart, and that this kind of coercion was being placed on him to do so. And it was so stunning to me, so conflicting with the earlier teachings that had so attracted me to the Abbey, that the deep listening of meditation was to attend and attune one's life to the "still, small voice" in the heart.

Hence in my own tenure of association with the Abbey Jiyu Kennett had gone from being an elder companion and guide on the journey to being the infallible annointed Oracle of the Divine.And the thrust of the teaching changed to unquestioning belief in her and her teachings rather than trust in the interior intimacy of the Beloved present in our own deep heart. Naturally I did not have the every day contact. But the line of demarcation for me was her tragic decision to align with the Chinese lineage and to disregard the lives and well-being of her students and followers, to disregard her own teachings for the sake of this external sham of acceptance. It revealed to me a profound inadequacy and a profound narcissism that was shocking. I must add that human relationships to me are sacred, especially those that are vowed relationships. For her to throw them away with utter contempt, even disgust, toward married monastic disciples was beyond the pale.

I always continued to love the person and teacher that had once been, and cherish her teachings that had born fruit in my own life. But I have to say those were trying times and I grew up a lot. I had to stand on my own two feet and sift the wheat from the chaff. But I did it. And my life is better for it.

Thanks again for sharing your insight, Kozan.

Blessings,
Bill
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