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 Dan quits hovering

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ddolmar

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PostSubject: Dan quits hovering   Fri Aug 27, 2010 12:31 am

Hello to all!

I am impressed with the extremely high quality threads that you all have created here, and in such a short time at that. I don't think I've met many of you, although many names that I recognize of former and current monks have been included in the posts so far.

I live in Redding, and work as a scientist. For someone with a long-time interest in Buddhism, it's been kind of remarkable that I have only managed to get to Shasta Abbey once or twice a year. I have been sitting zazen for several years now on my own, and I have to say that the big quiet place that I first identified with arse-on-zafu has indeed been a great refuge to me.

And Shasta Abbey, being the first place that I have encountered the Dharma in depth, has been a source of wisdom and support. I frequently listen to the Dharma talks that they have posted at their web site.

Thank you so much for all of your great and terrible stories of life in the OBC! I bet that you can imagine what an impression they make on an infrequent lay visitor who only has ever seen smiles and kindness from the monks, but just in case:

HOLY SHIKANTAZA, BATMAN!! eek

This is truly among the most eye-opening set of stories and commentary that I have ever read, thanks to your amazing and sometimes harrowing experiences, not to mention your evident wisdom. Some of you apparently suffered greatly for it, but it also seems obvious that the Dharma was not wasted on you at all. If you think about it, there's probably a few hundred years' worth of experience among you.

By the way, I never intended to leave my critical thinking skills behind at the visitor's gate on Summit Drive (I'm too immensely impressed with my mind to ever do that), but now that determination is tremendously reinforced. Besides, how can those critical thoughts get in the way when they are the Way, as they say?

I have a thread in mind that I may post eventually, but I shall probably stay in the background most of the time, as so many of you seem to have much catching up to do, and much more that you can teach me than vice versa.

I hope that these brief comments encourage your willingness to share, and that you do not mind me mostly "listening" in.

Again, thanks to all, and warmest regards.
--Dan
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Lise
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PostSubject: welcome!   Fri Aug 27, 2010 9:48 am

Hi Dan -- glad you've joined us. I hope you'll listen in as much you like, and join in the discussions if and when you want to. The perspective of current attendees helps keep balance on the forum and might even answer our questions as to how things are now, compared to how we knew them. I'm sure you can teach us too, so don't hold back. Great to have you here!

Lise



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indira



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PostSubject: Re: Dan quits hovering   Fri Aug 27, 2010 6:16 pm

Hello, my name is Susanna and I have been observing this forum for a few months, since Rev Eko left. I have been a member of the Shasta Abbey congregation as an adult for many years now, although at this point I am a long-distance member trying to move closer. As a child I was raised close to/within the Abbey, a daughter of 2 monks. Ultimately our family lived with several other families at Kannon Dell a few miles from the Abbey proper.
There are some familiar names here (Isan, Oshin, Jiryu, Sansho, Kyogen, Gyokuko, Sophia, of course Rev Seikai and Rev Daishin Morgan) and some unfamiliar ones as well.
When I first came across this forum I was taken aback by the anger directed towards the Abbey and found my hackles up in response. I found myself incensed with every new post I read. And then I began to relax, eased by the addition of some members with a more calming presence. I have been hesitant to speak on this forum, for it feels to be less of a forum for OBC "supporters" and more of a forum for people with a thing or two to say on the other side. So I feel as if I'm very much a houseguest on this site and don't want to step on any toes.

I will not defend the Abbey for it does not need defending. I will not speak on behalf of the Abbey because that is not my place and I am not representative of them. I will support the Abbey wholeheartedly in my heart and my mind and my actions, but will not make a fuss about it because it is not necessary.

My mother left the Abbey (she was a monk since the 70's) back around 1995 and has since not returned. When someone you love leaves something you love for something you know nothing about, it gives you pause for thought. I think monks leave the Abbey (or any religious order) for many reasons. Studies have shown that most large events or accidents in life are caused by a succession of barely perceptible events, combined with a lack of awareness and attention to detail. My, possibly wrong, opinion is that monastic life does not preclude these barely perceptible events including boredom, delusion, desire or just plain tiredness from occurring. From personal experience (not monastic) I know that once you get that bit in your mouth if you don't check it immediately or have it checked for you then you are likely to run with it.
I am grateful to the Abbey physically for many memories of childhood--4th of July potlucks, Open Houses, Wesak ceremonies in the white dress and crown; I am grateful for a religious upbringing that, bar none, is the absolute strongest force in my life and governs my daily life from small actions to large ones; I am grateful for the zafu and the wall I faced during many retreats and meditation periods; I am grateful to every monk at the Abbey for being a teacher to not only me but others.
I remember one Jukai (maybe when I was sixteen?), Rev Master Jiyu sitting on the Ceremony Hall Alter during a ceremony, speaking to the gathered community/congregation. She said, and it stands out to me to this day "Remember you are fundamentally unharmable". When I fear loss or change or am just having a bad moment that seems scarier than it should, I remember this. Fundamentally Unharmable.

Gassho,
Susanna
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ddolmar

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PostSubject: Re: Dan quits hovering   Fri Aug 27, 2010 7:58 pm

Thanks Lise for setting up this web site and being its administrator. I can tell that it's not always easy to balance priorities (freedom for individuals vs. presentic coherent topic threads, for example) to everyone's liking.

*********************************************

Susanna, I hope to meet you at Shasta Abbey one of these days. Perhaps we have already met, and I haven't put your name to your face.

There obviously is a lot of pain being expressed on this site, so much so that it seems difficult to believe that all of it could have no cause other than that these people "failed in their training," or had brain disorders. However, I certainly appreciate that your experiences at the Abbey have been quite positive (as have mine), and I suspect that this is not doubted by many of the people describing darker feelings and events.

As with all things in life, Shasta Abbey is, and surely always will be, a mixed bag. To be a little facile about it, the fact that we laity are treated well there does not preclude the possibility that some of the monks might get abused behind doors. The Zen tradition, because of its Chinese/Japanese origin, is naturally going to encourage great piety toward one's master, and particularly toward someone who accomplished something as radical as RM Jiyu did in completing her training in Japan, and in founding the OBC (all while being a girl in a sexist land and time, no less). The possibility of a nuanced view of her legacy may be particularly difficult for the OBC, which has struggled with the demon of external legitimacy since before its inception.

Therefore, it seems at least possible to me that the current senior monks may have gone too far down this pious road of master veneration. I for one have never heard them say anything even slightly critical of RM Jiyu. That stands out for me because at so many junctions where they might aggrandize their tradition, or disparage other religions in small or large ways, or make their metaphysical claims in a manner which imply that those of us who are agnostic ("lacking knowledge") toward them are foolish for our skepticism, the senior monks are rather uncanny in choosing a more sensitive road in their teachings. I can't say those things about many religious teachers that I have encountered.

But, the Precept against speaking ill of others surely does not preclude a good story about how they had a conflict with RM Jiyu in which she was clearly in the wrong, and how it was resolved. Such stories could be quite helpful, both to humanize the Master whose memory they obviously still love, and to show how conflict resolution is handled among people who are a step or twenty ahead of us on the Boddhisatva path. It would be even more enlightening to learn that they simply disagree with some way in which she arranged things, and, the faith being for the living, made a change.

However, such a decision can only be made by them, and it would be wrong of me to suggest that they change for some airy, aesthetic desire of mine. Because I have not attended frequently, and truly have no idea how it goes there day to day, it may be that I have taken this speculation much too far already. I have no independent thoughts about whether things "ought to" change at Shasta Abbey or the OBC. Others here have expressed their views eloquently, and from the vantage point of many years of collective monastic experience there.

As you imply, or at least I infer form your words, Susanna, it often only takes little errors in thinking to create massive problems in the real world. One can reasonably hope that the Order has read some of the threads here (many of which are quite infused with goodwill, regardless of the criticism), and is challenged to self-evaluate, without assuming that they either must change or must not. It is their decision.

I will say that the notion concerns me somewhat that the junior monks may have no recourse for resolving a conflict with Master--even a significant moral dilemma--execpt to bow to the Master's wishes. It would take a layperson of tremendous tact to intervene in a way that maintains harmony, but if I had a reasonable suspicion of an on-going abuse even after a second and third thought, I think I would be obliged to make an effort come what may.

Wow, that's a long post!


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Isan
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PostSubject: Re: Dan quits hovering   Fri Aug 27, 2010 10:25 pm

indira wrote:
Hello, my name is Susanna and I have been observing this forum for a few months, since Rev Eko left. I have been a member of the Shasta Abbey congregation as an adult for many years now, although at this point I am a long-distance member trying to move closer. As a child I was raised close to/within the Abbey, a daughter of 2 monks. Ultimately our family lived with several other families at Kannon Dell a few miles from the Abbey proper.

Gassho,
Susanna

Hello Susanna,

I remember you, Chosei, Zuiko and your brother Chris too. I hope your family is well. One thing I will say about Jiyu Kennett Roshi is she loved children and she treated them with great care. Your childhood was protected from the conflicts that occurred inside Shasta Abbey, and appropriately so. Roshi Kennett was capable of great generosity, but she could also be very defensive. Whenever monks disagreed with her she often took personal offense and simply could not accept criticism in any form. On one hand her sincere willingness to teach Buddhism was successful in that she took a bunch of spiritual children and raised a generation of monks, but then she could not really acknowledge and accept them as adults. More specifically I mean she would not grant them the freedom to live autonomously and accept them as peers to be taken seriously and listened to in the course of daily life. Paradoxically as more of us grew up and began challenging her unwillingness to recognize our adulthood she became more autocratic and more determined to keep everyone down.

Children are initially dependent on their Parents, but if the parents do a good job the children grow up and stop being dependent. At some point the parents have to acknowledge that the children have become adults and respect them as such. Typically in the world young adults leave the homes of their parents and strike out to create a life of their own. This makes a lot of sense because a power shift needs to occur between the young adult and the parent. This is hard to achieve while living at home because of the long standing dynamic of dependency. After a young person achieves a measure of success and independence they can return to their parents who will now see and acknowledge them as an adult. There was no analogue for this process within the monastic community. Roshi Kennett used to often repeat that "monasteries are not democracies", but really that was a completely arbitrary belief. A community is the sum total of what all of it members contribute. Personally I feel another vision was possible. It was not necessary for Roshi Kennett to infantilize us in order to continue receiving the respect and deference she would always rightly deserve. I had to leave Roshi Kennett and the Abbey in order to figure out how to live an autonomous, adult life. I will always feel sad though that I had to make a choice.
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PostSubject: Re: Dan quits hovering   Fri Aug 27, 2010 11:36 pm

Susanna--welcome--and wonderful to see you here!

There is no reason that you would remember me, since I had relatively little contact with Kannon Dell, and left the Abbey for Priory and affilitated meditation group work in 1978. But I remember you, and of course your parents, very well. (In fact, during Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett's illness, at her request, I stood in for her, for your father's Transmission).

Like you, I cherish Rev. Master Jiyu's teaching.

Isan--beautifully expressed summary of what I also think is one of the key issues at the heart of the matter!

And Dan--a belated welcome to this forum! The counter-balancing viewpoint that you and Susanna bring (along with others) make a delightful addition to this discussion. It is my personal opinion that the process of listening compassionately to those who have experienced distress and trauma within the OBC, and to those who have experienced great benfit, can become a means of ongoing transformation that benefits everyone.
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ddolmar

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PostSubject: Re: Dan quits hovering   Sat Aug 28, 2010 3:32 am

Thank you, Isan, for your concise perspective. Your brevity is a lesson all on its own for me.

It's really great to read the thoughts of you and the others who were around back in the day.

And thanks for that very kind welcome, Kozan, though I'm not sure a whole 24 hours since I first posted counts as belated. Very Happy

I have briefly looked online at your eco-dwelling work and now am looking forward to have something new to study a little bit on the side.

Re: "benefits everyone"...I believe it, too. We're always becoming something new.
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Kyogen

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PostSubject: Re: Dan quits hovering   Sun Aug 29, 2010 9:54 pm

Hello Susana and Dan,

I certainly remember you, Susana, and your brother Chris. I took a photo of you sitting on a zafu in the Abbey Zendo, back when it was in the double wide mobile building, and you were just a tiny thing.

As I understand it, you father, Chosei, is still at the Abbey, and you mother, Zuiko, went to Plumb Village to become a nun in Thich Nhat Hanh's tradition. Is that correct, and is that still the case?

In response to Isan, I agree with everything he says, but I would make one small but important distinction. I would not say that Jiyu Kennett loved children. She had been pretty badly abused herself as a child. Her mother was probably mentally ill. I think she had a great concern for the welfare of children, particularly small children. However she could not be around them for very long herself. Small children made her nervous, and she would absent herself quickly when they were around. As they got older, however, her patience and tolerance decreased. Adolescents, she used to say, should be packed off to boarding school and returned when they grew up. She said it only half-jokingly. β€œLittle reptiles,” she used to call them. At least she was honest with her reactions.

With palms joined,

Kyogen
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Isan
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PostSubject: Re: Dan quits hovering   Sun Aug 29, 2010 11:27 pm

Kyogen wrote:

In response to Isan, I agree with everything he says, but I would make one small but important distinction. I would not say that Jiyu Kennett loved children. She had been pretty badly abused herself as a child. Her mother was probably mentally ill. I think she had a great concern for the welfare of children, particularly small children. However she could not be around them for very long herself. Small children made her nervous, and she would absent herself quickly when they were around. As they got older, however, her patience and tolerance decreased. Adolescents, she used to say, should be packed off to boarding school and returned when they grew up. She said it only half-jokingly. β€œLittle reptiles,” she used to call them. At least she was honest with her reactions.

With palms joined,

Kyogen

Kyogen this is interesting. I do remember Jiyu Kennett making comments occasionally that were along the lines of "children should be seen and not heard", but I did not realize it was more serious than that. I do remember what she related about her childhood, and her mother in particular. In light of that her feelings were understandable. It's a shame she could not seek help around those issues. She tried to do it all on her own when really she needed other people. In a way she led a painfully lonely life.
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ddolmar

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PostSubject: Re: Dan quits hovering   Mon Aug 30, 2010 12:56 am

Hi Rev. Master Kyogen--Hope I get a chance to visit you and RM Gyokuko at Dharma Rain sometime. Is "Reverend Master" how you are still called?

Again I am compelled to geek out at how interesting it is to hear everyone's thoughts about the "old" days. When you know the Abbey as it is now, particularly the air of stability, surety, and universal welcoming that is seemingly effortlessly maintained around the place, it's hard to imagine that there has been so much drama in only 40 years. On the other hand, that is half a lifetime!

****************************************

Susanna--I neglected to mentioned that it's nice to have another Shasta supporter join in the discussion. I am glad to learn that your childhood association with SA was so positive! I would love to learn about how having Buddhist monks as parents made things different for you compared to your peers growing up, if you ever feel like sharing. Perhaps that's a discussion that's more appropriate for an actual conversation.

I thought I heard that your Dad was named a Teacher of Zen, and is now Rev. Master Chosei at the Abbey. Is that right? In fact I think several of the more senior monks have been recently elevated, and now there are nine or ten Reverend Masters where last year there were only five or so (incl. RM Eko). Of course let us know if I've got it wrong.

So much for me not posting very much. I can't seem to stay away. Be well, all.



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Kyogen

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PostSubject: Re: Dan quits hovering   Mon Aug 30, 2010 2:00 pm

Hello Dan,

Gyokuko and I dropped the use of titles, although some people will use Roshi or Sensei. I don't correct them, but we don't use them in print. There is no real consensus about when those titles should be used, so I ignore them. You are most welcome to come visit us. That would be nice.

With palms joined,

Kyogen
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PostSubject: Re: Dan quits hovering   Mon Aug 30, 2010 6:34 pm

Kyogen, If it's the same one I'm thinking of I still have a copy of that photograph you took of me on a zafu--I seem to recall I was very pleased with myself because I would sit still and my brother would not...

Dan, I'm not sure of the comparison of my being raised by Buddhist monks as opposed to a child raised otherwise--most of my peers as a young child were Buddhist as well. Also I think that to a child parents are just parents regardless of anything else they may be, and life is just life.

I suppose at any age life is just life, we're all pretty much doing the same thing, just wearing different clothes...

Susanna
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PostSubject: Re: Dan quits hovering   Mon Aug 30, 2010 9:04 pm

Hello susanna,

That is indeed the photo in question. we used it for our booklet on zazen. Chris was in a contrary mood that day as i recall, but you were most cooperative which i appreciated. It was a very sweet and memorable photograph.

With palms joined,

Kyogen
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PostSubject: Re: Dan quits hovering   Mon Aug 30, 2010 11:25 pm

Kyogen--it was indeed both a memorable and a sweet photo! And I can still see it clearly in my mind's eye.

Suzanna--even though the photo was a side view, it caught the expression on your face, which seemed to combine both serenity and impish delight!

And now we know the reason for both. It sounds like you are living it!
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PostSubject: Re: Dan quits hovering   Mon Aug 30, 2010 11:31 pm

I too remember how kind everyone was to me when I first visited the Abbey at the age of 10. The monks were so wonderful to me. I loved that wierd little plastic figure garden with the 3 worlds. And the pet cemetary.

@Indira
No one is trying to take away your precious childhood memories! But you never really got into it, you were only on the surface, And yes, it was a lovely, loving surface. Be thankful for it. In a way, RM Jiyu was quite honest by putting all of the 3 worlds, including the hells, in that little plastic garden. Some of us had an OBC experience that involved a tour to all 3 realms, and yes, those were monks playing the parts of the demons.


Quote :
I think monks leave the Abbey (or any religious order) for many reasons. Studies have shown that most large events or accidents in life are caused by a succession of barely perceptible events, combined with a lack of awareness and attention to detail. My, possibly wrong, opinion is that monastic life does not preclude these barely perceptible events including boredom, delusion, desire or just plain tiredness from occurring. From personal experience (not monastic) I know that once you get that bit in your mouth if you don't check it immediately or have it checked for you then you are likely to run with it.

What studies are you referring to? And I would love to hear why you think leaving the Abbey is comparable to a large accident. Like what, a car accident?

BTW I think we may have done Jukai together. There was another teenage girl from the Dell that year and I think it might have been you. 90/91?
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