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 Some truth, the whole truth? Example and some thoughts.

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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Some truth, the whole truth? Example and some thoughts.   Fri Apr 26, 2013 5:31 pm

So, the eulogy below was posted on sweepingzen. I did not know this zen teacher who died, knew almost nothing about him. What struck me when I read the eulogy was that his disciple, Genjo, was being far more open and honest than most zen students about their teacher, especially after they die. I bolded a section of the eulogy where Genjo is forthright about his teacher's shortcoming, personality, faults. He doesn't seem to sugar coat it or use euphemisms. Imagine anyone at Shasta talking like this about Kennett -- inconceivable, impossible. and that's true of most devotees of gurus - if the teacher is a bully, they say he's a lion; if he was a sexual predator, they talk about his "passion for life"; if he was emotionally abusive, they say he was a fierce loving teacher and so on. So, in this case, Genjo seems to talk much more directly and humanly about his teacher. At least, a little bit. And then i also saw on line a far more extensive account of his teacher's behavior and background. So, I will post that piece also. Of course, it is a little uncomfortable - "speaking ill of the dead." How much do you share? With all the various scandals that have rocked the Zen world, now more than ever, we need open, honest communication. Teachers are all accountable - we are all accountable - and we need full disclosure, not in some witch hunt way, but in a manner that acknowledges directly their humanity / our humanity. Pretending just doesn't work, never did, but especially now, it will all come out anyway. Why pretend - no need if we can have new definitions of what a teacher is and how we relate to such people. Much more now we need honest spiritual friends and mentors, not grand masters who play roles and games, and get seduced by these narratives.

Genki Takabayashi Eulogy

Posted by: Genjo Marinello April 23, 2013 - from sweepingzen.com

This piece is a reprise of remarks I gave at the 49th Memorial Day Celebration, April 14th, for Rev. Genki Takabayashi, the retired founding abbot of the Dai Bai Zan Cho Bo Zen Temple (Chobo-Ji).


Genki died, Feb. 24th, at his home in Victor Montana, with his wife Leslie Gannon at his side. He had just turned 80 (81 by Japanese reckoning). He was born in Gifu Prefecture in Japan and was given up for adoption at age 11 to a Rinzai Zen priest, Genpo Takabayashi, abbot of Seitai-Ji. His adoptive father eventually ordained Genki. As a young adult he left for Daitoku-Ji, one of the two principle Rinzai training temples in Kyoto Japan. For a time he became abbot of a temple in Kamakura Japan.

After twenty years of Zen training, Genki was a rising star within the Daitoku-Ji ranks. However, because of troubles arising from his own poor behavior, he lost favor with the hierarchy, and no longer had much of a future within Japanese Rinzai Zen. Therefore, he was amenable to overtures from Dr. Glenn Webb, then an Art History professor at the UW and head of the Seattle Zen Center (the progenitor of Chobo-Ji), to consider immigrating to Seattle to become our temple priest.

He arrived in Seattle in the autumn of 1977, and I was one of a few students to greet him at the airport. After a long flight he was hungry, so we offered him an airport breakfast of oatmeal, and I became fearful he might just take the next flight home. In fact, Genki wasn’t sure he would stay; he thought he was coming just to check us out. However, he was delighted to find that Seattle students were sincere, and he found our spirit and commitment strong and refreshing. Dr. Webb was able to assist with getting a “green card” for Genki to stay in the USA as a “missionary.” Eventually, he went on to become a US citizen.

I ended up apprenticing with Genki Roshi (Senior Priest), as we soon came to call him, for twenty years until his retirement in 1997. Over the course of my long association with him, I learned three profound lessons.

The first thing Genki showed me about the human condition is that it is possible to transcend our likes and dislikes, preferences and opinions. During the1980 summer sesshin (week-long meditation intensive) with him, which was held at Dry Falls State Camp, the temperatures were in the nineties and the meditation hall was full of mosquitoes and flies. In addition, Mount St. Helens had a secondary eruption, flooding the air with gritty ash. To say that our meditation periods were hellish was not an understatement. During this retreat twice a day students would visit Genki Roshi in the Dokusan Room where Dharma Interviews were held. It was a small room with little ventilation, and we all concluded some animal had died and was rotting somewhere under the floorboards. In the meditation hall and Dokusan Room, Genki sat serenely unmoving in full-lotus, with a beneficent continence, seemingly impervious to adversity. However, he often related that at his first Daitoku-Ji sesshin, after three days he thought he would die from pain and exhaustion, and hoped there would be an earthquake to bring the roof down to end his suffering. Yet, by the conclusion of the seven-day retreat there had been some kind of shift where he become confident that if an earthquake brought the roof down that somehow he would remain seated in the midst of the rubble.

The Autumn Sesshin of the following year was held on the Seattle Zen Center’s newly acquired property at about 5,000 ft on the crest of a ridge between Cle Elum and Ellensburg, WA. It began to snow during our retreat and our newly built meditation hall did not yet have windows installed. One Dokusan period I was waiting in line to visit Genki Roshi and snow was coming through the vacant window and piling up on the frame of my eyeglasses. When I opened the flap of the outdoor camping tent that was serving as the Dokusan Room, I could hear the crackle of ice snapping. In front of me Genki was once again sitting serenely in full lotus surrounded by icicles hanging from the walls of the tent. When I left the next month to train at Ryutaku-Ji, an affiliate monastery in Japan, these images of Genki Roshi sitting untroubled by conditions and circumstances allowed me to face the uncertainty and trials of such a journey with a measure of equanimity, and I am forever grateful.

The second gift I received from Genki Roshi was the opportunity to soak up his actualization that an “enlightened” life is an “ordinary” life. In everything he approached he demonstrated that living life fully with “everyday openhearted activity” was paramount. No matter if it was sitting zazen (seated meditation), cooking, calligraphy, gardening, landscaping, cleaning, pottery, giving Teisho (formal Dharma Talk), making a bowl of whisked green tea or writing fiction, Genki was fully present to the activity at hand, operating with joy, unending enthusiasm and energy. He taught us that samu (work meditation) was more important to our training than zazen, sutra recitation or koan (Zen parable) study.

The third lesson learned, the hardest to accept and perhaps the most important, is that all of us are fully human! That is to say, that though Genki amply demonstrated that we can be and are all vessels of the Dharma, we are also limited, and from time to time stubbornly primitive. There will always be tension between our base instincts and true insight. When Genki left Japan he abandoned a relationship and a child. He never understood credit or money well and often found himself in debt. Early on during his time in Seattle we had to warn female participants that there was a good chance he would make a pass at them. We are all a blend of Buddha and bumpkin; with all the training in the world we will never arrive. In other words, from wherever we are we are always just beginning. I often tell the story of how at least once a year Genki would give a Teisho where he would exclaim, “I now just beginning to understand, just now beginning to see.”

Everyone has limitations and shortcomings that arise from wounds in our history. There are three options for dealing with them. One is to do the very difficult work of combusting, digesting and integrating these wounds. Second is to contain them so that they don’t cause harm to others. Third is to skip over them with spiritual bypassing, which can be easily done, but usually comes back to haunt us. Like most of us, Genki made use of all three.

Genki Roshi proved time and again that he could be an inspirational catalyst for those training with him. He probed and prompted us to investigate and experience the depth of our true nature, a bottomless vastness without form that gives rise to everything. He taught mainly by example how to live fully and passionately, with an attentive caring attitude, beyond any attachment to rank, position, preference or opinion. He became a surrogate father to me, and I will be forever grateful for his continued presence in my life. May the flower of his inspiration continue to bloom for generations to come.

From the comment section:

someone asked:

Who did he sexualy abuse? What women did he harras?

Reply

Genjo Marinello
April 23, 2013 at 4:01 pm

As far as I am aware, he inappropriately approached several women within the Seattle Sangha, some accepted his overtures, most rebuffed him. I never saw it first hand. I believe most of the women involved have over time spoken to me at one time or another. Perhaps they will use this opportunity to post here with their accounts, this of course is up to them.
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: Some truth, the whole truth? Example and some thoughts.   Sun Apr 28, 2013 12:59 pm

Part II -so the post and links below is from the Shimano archives and is a 9-page account about the life and teaching career of Genki. It is fairly detailed, so I can't insert the piece here. If you would like to read the full story, you can go on-line and read the pdf.

Why is this interesting? As we discussed, in China and Japan, you simply do not ever criticize your master, teacher, father, boss. It is not done. No matter what they do, how they behave, respectful silence is the culture. Individuals and shadows and the personal do not matter - it is the role in society that matters and should be respected and the rest is just ignored as irrelevant. The role / myth / big picture is maintained.

But in the west, this is simply not the case. Here we honor the individual, the personal... and we want to explore psychological issues. And human and personal rights and feelings are not irrelevant, are central to our way of life. We push towards democracy (at least the ideal) and in this ideal, all beings are equal. I know, often this doesn't happen in real life, but at least it's something we aspire towards.

So, Genki dies and there is a relatively honest eulogy from his student and a far more detailed and complex account also published on line. This could not have happened in Japan or China. This is a new reality. I understand if some people don't like this and find it disrespectful or too much or it's bad for the Dharma. It is certainly more complex. It does bring up discomfort in some people. Except for Seikai's one post on sweepingzen, the Shasta bunch still can't even slightly acknowledge Kennett's shadow.

So this is from sweepingzen.com and the shimano archives:

Shimano Archive: Kangan Glenn Webb on Genki Takabayashi

Posted by: Adam Tebbe November 29, 2012


The Shimano Archive, maintained by The Rev. Kobutsu Malone, is becoming an extraordinarily important source of information for journalists — providing documentation on the sometimes unseemly side of Zen practice here in the West.

The Archive recently published an unsolicited email from Kangan Glenn Webb sent to Malone from August 16, 2010. In the email Webb, a recepient of the Order of the Rising Sun, talks about Genki Takabayashi in a somewhat unflattering light.

As part of the email, Webb alleges in part:

…I also became aware that open sexual couplings and marijuana use were part of the scene. Later, one of the couplings turned out to be Genki himself and a European female student. When she became pregnant she ultimately decided with his encouragement to have an abortion. I assumed that we would hold a traditional mizuko ceremony but he refused. So I conducted a private one for the woman. Most people in the house did not know about the pregnancy or abortion, and those who did never mentioned it.

To read the full email over at The Shimano Archive, please click here.
http://www.shimanoarchive.com/PDFs/20100816_Takabayashi.pdf
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: Some truth, the whole truth? Example and some thoughts.   Sun Apr 28, 2013 2:44 pm

And I post this book review from the New York Times which touches on the topic of the different ways that Asian / Chinese culture and Western culture views the individual... helps explain why in almost all the accounts of Chinese Zen teachers, how they are all myth, hagiography, all the tales of the teachers follow very similar patterns - so it is not about the individual, but about the ideal role.

Many Selves
By WESLEY YANG

TIGER WRITING

Art, Culture, and the Interdependent Self - By Gish Jen - Illustrated. 201 pp. Harvard University Press. $18.95.
Book Review from the New York Times


A group of students at Cornell, born in Asia but raised in the United States by immigrant parents, were instructed to keep a diary. They struggled to recall the events of their own daily lives when they were later quizzed about them, remembering fewer details about their experiences than their Euro-American counterparts. Qi Wang, the Cornell scholar of “cross-cultural” cognition who conducted the experiment, speculated that Asians were not more forgetful but that they had, perhaps, filtered out the contents of their own stories, deeming them unworthy of being encoded as memories in the first place.

The novelist Gish Jen cites these findings in her curious new book about Asian and Asian-American narratives, “Tiger Writing,” as an explanation for the “notably un-self-centered” approach of her father’s memoir. The account, which he started writing when he was 85 years old, offered few details of his own grandfather’s “appearance or personality or tastes — the sorts of things we in the West might include as a way of conveying both his uniqueness and his importance as a figure in the narrative.” It instead described at great length the number of doors in the house where her father grew up and whether they were open or shut — concentrating not on his individual self, but on the context within which that self was situated, and by which it was constrained. The world he describes is not, as Jen puts it, “a modern, linear world of conflict and rising action, but rather one of harmony and eternal, cyclical action, in which order, ritual and peace are beauty, and events spell, not excitement or progress, but disruption.”

Like the young Asian students at Cornell, Jen’s father had been born into a culture whose parenting style explicitly intends the humbling of the individual self in favor of the needs of the broader collective. (Parents engage in short, selective conversation with their children, emphasizing “proper behavior, self-restraint and attunement to others.”) What this “low elaborative” parenting style aims at instead is the creation of an “interdependent self,” defined not by its sense of inner autonomy, but by its sensitivity to the social roles it must play depending on the context in which it finds itself. The scholars of cross-cultural cognition, who reject the universality of Western models of the mind, maintain that this emphasis on social context translates into a measurable divergence in how Easterners and Westerners literally see the physical world. Jen cites an experiment in which a group of old Singaporean men were shown images of a changing figure on an unchanging background. The men were so fixated on the background at the expense of the figure that fMRI readings failed to register any change in perception when the figure changed from a bucket to a guitar to a vacuum cleaner to a house plant.

Jen maintains that this interdependent self finds its expression in practices as various as Chinese landscape paintings, which depict the individual as dwarfed by the magnificence of his surroundings; Chinese writing, which tends to revolve around the recurrent and the typical rather than the unique and specific and dramatic; Chinese medicine, which treats the body as a single holistic system in pursuit of harmonious balance, rather than a collection of discrete parts to be fixed in isolation; and the communal Chinese meals that offer no option exclusive to any individual diner. For Jen, Chinese ways both ancient and enduring, prosaic and arcane, confirm the proposition made by Richard Nisbett, a University of Michigan psychologist, that “Westerners are protagonists of their autobiographical novels,” whereas Asians are “merely cast members in movies touching on their existences.”

The interest in all this is not that these blunt and ahistoric generalizations rest on solid philosophical grounding — in fact, the more closely one examines the broad assumptions of cross-cultural psychology, the cruder they begin to seem — but that they should feel so intuitively persuasive to so keen an observer of Asian and Asian-American lives as Gish Jen, who works at the psychic periphery of East and West. Jen is acutely conscious that to affirm that Asians have a strongly reduced sense of individuality in relation to their Western counterparts risks endorsing the view that Asians are “robot- or sheeplike.” She is therefore keen to assert that her father made significant innovations in the scientific field in which he worked, that he was “strikingly — my mother would probably say maddeningly — unconventional,” and to cite research that finds the interdependent self can still become a “fiercely enterprising, un-self-conscious, navigatory self.”

Moreover, she points to the excesses of Western individualism — “It has promoted decontextualization and isolation; it has promoted narcissism. It has promoted arrogance. It has promoted a disembodied reason. It has promoted a culture that so celebrates uniqueness that people are driven mad trying to prove themselves unique” — as she strives to vindicate the emotional wholeness and belonging available only within the framework of Eastern interdependence. She concedes that interdependent selves can produce “group policing” that is “intense and ruthless” but insists that “the joy of a functioning interdependent relationship can be tremendous, too.”

Jen wonders how a person raised in an “interdependent context” — that is to say, as the daughter of two Chinese immigrants — came to practice the art of fiction, which she calls the “sanctuary of the independent self.” At times her narrative reads like the archetypical Western narrative of liberation from the constraints of tradition, as when she celebrates the influence of Western literature and her Jewish classmates in Scarsdale, whose conversation was “so funny, so gory, so exactingly blow-by-blow.” But in “Tiger Writing,” which transcribes the Massey Lectures she delivered at Harvard University last year, she always draws back to criticize what she has just affirmed, and affirm what she has just criticized. She concludes that “we need both the interdependent and the independent self” and calls each one to recognize the claims of the other, while silkily suggestingthat interdependent selves, more accustomed to striking balances, may be better equipped at finding the unity in apparent polar opposites, and thus at effecting this reconciliation of East and West.

She observes along the way that an early draft of one of her novels relied on a narrator who was a mere disembodied set of eyes and ears until her editor prodded her to endow the character with a coherent self, and that she has always been “aware of how much more responsive to my context I tended to be than many of my peers.” She also describes how her father once forced an insubordinate student to repeatedly take out and bring in the same garbage. Acknowledging the resemblance to the apparently mindless repetition imposed by Mr. Miyagi in “The Karate Kid,” Jen says the episode with her father was not necessarily an instance of “blind obedience” and submission to “naked power” being inflicted on the student. Perhaps it was, she suggests, an invitation for that student to ask: “Where are we? And, Whose house is that? And, What is the way? rather than Who am I? And, What do I want? And, Do I feel like doing this?” Perhaps some profound wisdom from the East was thereby conveyed. Or maybe her father was just being a bully.

Wesley Yang, a contributing editor at New York magazine, is writing a book about Asian-Americans.
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