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 Exclusion from the OBC

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Lise
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PostSubject: Exclusion from the OBC   Fri Aug 27, 2010 11:15 am

Lise wrote:
violet wrote:
Lise said:
"I understand that the OBC's rules and belief system prohibit members from criticizing Rev. Kennett, and that those who do so risk excommunication."

I would like to know the circumstances under which the "senior Shasta monk" said this to you. Was he or she saying that criticizing RM Jiyu was breaking the precept against defaming the Sangha? Did he mean just her or any master or any senior monk? . . .

hi Violet -- the comment came up during a spiritual counseling session and was in reference to Rev. Kennett's teaching & actions specifically; the monk didn't say whether he thought the prohibition applied to other seniors' teaching as well. As I understood him, to question or criticize her was the same thing as defaming the sangha, and he referred to this as "deliberately breaking one of the grave precepts". I no longer have OBC reading material so I'm not clear on which "grave precept" he was talking about specifically, or if it is different from the general "refrain from criticizing the faults of others".

My impression from hearing other Abbey monks talk is that they do correct each other or at least question things they're hearing that aren't doctrinally sound. I often heard lay people say, in a dharma discussion "but Rev. So-and-So told us something different yesterday when we asked about (whatever it was) . . . " And then the monk leading the discussion would say "Well, I'll go talk to him/her and ask about that, because it's not my understanding of how that works", etc. There didn't seem to be any stress around the idea of senior monks questioning each other.

I was glad to hear from Rev. Seikai that questioning and criticism of Kennett are not "punished", so to speak, by a severance from the community. There is such a thing as exclusion in the OBC rules, but I'm not sure how that differs technically from the concept of excommunication.

Edited to add: Exclusion could make an interesting thread on its own-- I'll copy this over to it.
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PostSubject: Re: Exclusion from the OBC   Sat Aug 28, 2010 9:32 am

Rev. Seikai wrote:
The questions on my plate are piling up, and I hope I can answer the most important ones in due time. I might be able to cast a little light on the following:

With regards to being or feeling excluded:
The translation of the Scripture of Brahma's Net, which is used for the twice-monthly Renewal of Vows ceremony, contains explanations of the 10 Precepts which are taken in Mahayana Buddhism, sometimes referred to as the 10 Grave Precepts, as distinct from the 48 Less Grave Precepts, which are also taken.

At the end of the commentary on each of the precepts, there is the injunction: "...if you (violate this precept) you are a Bodhisattva who is committing a serious offense, warranting exclusion." It is possible that people have taken the words "warranting exclusion" too literally. Generally speaking, they refer to some kind of fairly mild sanction against the person who commits the offense, such as walking at the back of a line of monks who are on an alms round. I can remember RMJK explaining that, traditionally, if a monk was someone who, let's say, gossipped a lot and spoke against others, other monks wouldn't want to sit next to them, etc. These things were always done as a way of communicating a sense of shame to the person (which is different from guilt), i.e. that they needed to shape up; the second half of the practice was that once a person confessed that they had done something which in some way broke the Precepts or had unfortunate consequences, usually in the context of the Pratimoksha (Precepts renewing) ceremony, that the matter would then be forgotten about.

So, it is entirely possible that a monk might very well have explained that speaking ill of Rev. Master Jiyu, i.e. breaking the 10th Precept on defaming the Three Treasures of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, was "a serious offense, warranting exclusion", i.e. that the person who did the defaming would be "shunned" in some capacity. But, if someone were to explain the precepts in this way, they should also include the equally important second half of the equation, which is that once a person realizes their mistake and expresses penitence or regret, and renews their vow to keep the precept(s), all is forgiven.

My personal experience with RMJK, as I wrote in a previous post, was that if I made a mistake in training (which, of course, happened), as soon as I expressed regret in mild words to her, she immediately responded favorably and did everything she could to help me. So to me, she exhibited how this process actually works in the context of monastic training. I would imagine that it works in some modified form for lay training, wherein a lay trainee would seek spiritual counseling with a monk with whom they had a relationship of trust.

I don't think that the injunction which includes the turn of phrase "warranting exclusion" has the connotation of being cast into darkness, such as one might derive from a more Judeo-Christian interpretation of sin-guilt-punishment. In Buddhism, there isn't actually a concept of guilt; guilt is largely a product of the religious paradigm of the Western world, and so we tend to bring it with us into Buddhism. (I suffered from it terribly). In Buddhism there is always the recognition that we can repent of our wrong-doing and go with a clean slate. And guilt, as a vexation of the mind, can be offered up and cleansed by not believing in its validity. There is no "original sin", and thus no need to carry a load of guilt about being in some sort of fallen state from which you need redemption. There are simply actions and consequences.

To conclude, exclusion, as explained above, is quite distinct from the idea of excommunication, which literally meant "to be cut off from God." No one, of course, can do that to another human being, and if they think they can, heaven help them.


Regarding the "infallibility" of a Zen Master:
The confusion here might derive from a passage from Dogen, who says, "If you meet a Zen Master who teaches the truth, do not consider his caste, appearance, shortcomings or behavior.....but bow before him out of respect," etc.

Here again, there might be confusion resulting from a too literal interpretation of Dogen's words (it is, after all, a translation to begin with). RMJK did not teach us to hand over our lives to her out of blind faith, she taught us to grow up to be spiritual adults, who take full responsibility for our own actions and behaviors. This includes Zen Masters. She wrote an article expressing her views on the matter, entitled Perfect Faith, attempting to explain how the delicate dance between a master and a trainee actually works.

I personally have never subscribed to a notion that any Zen Master is infallible or beyond culpability. It isn't what I was taught, and as far as I'm concerned, as long as we are all in human form, we might as well accept that we aren't perfect, we make mistakes, and take the consequences. That is what the Law of Karma teaches. We take the Precepts so that we have an ideal to live by and can minimize the damage we do. And, within the constraints of being human, we can also purify our intentions and our hearts to the point where we know for ourselves the very deep freedom and joy of living by the Precepts, or put another way, we can know the "immaculacy of nothingness" or the Buddha Nature.

We've strayed some distance from the topic of celibacy here, so there might be something to be said for finding a thread better suited to the topic, or of starting a new one. I'll go wherever it's appropriate.
Respectfully submitted, Rev. Seikai
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