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 Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training

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Robert
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PostSubject: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Fri Aug 27, 2010 7:25 pm

I'm very interested that the 2010 conclave has chosen as it's subject "A Way Forwards". Having been pointed to the proposed new rules by some friends, I was somewhat astounded to see the second proposed rule which I will copy below at the end of this post. In order to put the rule into context, it's first necessary to say a little about the background which undoubtedly led it. I should say before writing any more that only a handful of people have known this until now for reasons which will become clear.

During my Introductory Retreat at Throssel back in 2004, I signed up for sanzen and asked if I could take the Precepts there. I wanted to know that I was entering a temple where I could train with openness, honesty and integrity as a female to male transsexual person. After a brief consultation with other senior monks, the monk confirmed that I was free to take the Precepts at Throssel and that being transsexual would not in any way preclude me from training. From then on, transsexuality was not discussed and I could get on with training as I'd hoped I could.

In July 2006 I left my home and job to go to Throssel with a view to becoming a monk. I was there for six months. In that time I slotted into the way of life and had the initial discussions with RM about training as a monk and what that would mean. I wrote the formal letter of request and filled in the application form as required. I noticed that the meetings with RM were dominated by questions about transsexuality and how did I see myself?! I made it clear then, as I do now and always have, that I am not a "man" but trans and that I accept myself as having a trans status. I also made it clear - or tried to - that transsexuality is a recognized medical condition, probably caused by the sex of the brain (hypothalamous) being at odds with the sex of the body. It is a condition which requires treatment through taking hormones and having surgery. In my case, I've had the least possible to enable me to survive; put that another way, I do not have a penis. Obviously there are times when having a trans status meant I was unable to do certain things. During the larger retreats with a lot of outside work, I'd go the whole week without having a shower as it would have been inappropriate for me to use the washroom showers. It was often embarassing by the end of the week as deodorants are discouraged and I felt for the poor person sitting next to me! Such is life.

We got to a point where my application was proceeding and it was all full steam ahead. Christmas was approaching and I had to leave the monastery for the three week monks' retreat. Before going, I was told that my being there as a member of the community was going to "expand the community", "challenge comfort zones" and "force diversity". When I returned after Christmas, the monastery was a very different place. Rev Wilber had tragically died and a second monk had left the same day. Before Christmas I had been told that "each and every door" to RM's room was open and that all I need do was ask. After Christmas when I knew he was seeing people, I signed up to see him. Ten days later when I saw him, I asked if he still wanted to proceed with my application given that I too had a history of self harm and that I too had suicidal vulnerability in the past but was told that was not in itself a problem. Transsexuality came up again and he said there were questions about my proceeding but that we'd sit with it.

A couple of days later I was helping to prepare breakfast when a monk came over. He said, "Now that you're out, do you want your keyboard (digital piano) back?" I replied that he should keep the keyboard but asked if RM had told him I was going, to which he said yes. I told the monk next to me that I was out and there were some hurried and confused discussions between some of the monks. I was asked if I wanted to see RM before he left for Germany the next day, to which I replied, "Not especially as I might thump him!" However, after lunch I was called in to see him. I was told monastic training at Throssel was not an option for me and no reason was given. I was however, told I could stay as long as I needed to sort things out, days, weeks, even months within reason.

The following day as RM left for Germany, the then Guest Master told me that they'd heard I'd be leaving on 23rd January (eight days' time) and was that correct. If I hadn't got the message the first time, I sure had it by now. I had a chat with a monk and said, "I just don't fit in here." The response was, "That's nonsense, absolute nonsense!" There was a shocked silence when I stated that that was what RM had said, amongst other things.

During those eight days before leaving, I was taken aside and told by at least five senior monks, two of them masters, that, and I quote from one monk, "the real reason RM has kicked you out is because you're transsexual." Another master said, "He sees your taking hormones as compounding delusion," and that "they'd need to be renounced." Those eight days were hellish and I felt utterly shattered by them, emotionally, spiritually and personally.

I left while the monks were having tea with RM as it was a discreet time to go. A number of monks sent me a message that they didn't want to say goodbye as they were upset by what was happening. A week after leaving I wrote to RM to ask if there was any truth in what I had heard. I felt I owed it to him to at least have the chance to speak for himself. He replied to the letter but chose not to respond to those questions. A couple of months later I tried to see him when I was in the north. I phoned to make an appointment and was told, "he doesn't have enough time to see his monks let alone a lay trainee like you."

Nine months after leaving, I was in the north starting a new job. I decided to draw a line under the whole experience by going to the festival and offer incense to say a final thanks to RM Jiyu and goodbye at the Altar. After the ceremony RM was around and we had a brief chat. He told me I was always welcome there. In November I returned for the Founder's Ceremony and despite being told RM wanted to see me, I left without seeing him. I did however send an email asking how being told I didn't fit in married up with "you're always welcome here". That led to a meeting in which I put to RM what had been said and that it was from a number of senior monks and asked if there was any truth in it. After a silence, he acknowledged there was and apologised for the hurt and damage his comments had caused. He also confirmed that there had been an attempt to prevent me from speaking to lay trainees in my local area by the local prior with his consent. I am very grateful to the four lay trainees who resisted the pressure and kept in touch.

With acceptance at the heart of the teaching, the new proposed rule 2 (and subsequent remarks) from the conclave is a very loud and resounding rejection for trans people and leaves a very sad, shocking and painful taste in the mouth. The OBC would do well to look into the law and the Gender Recognition Act, the Sex Discrimination Act and the Human Rights Act. I feel for those who have trained with sincerity for years who may now feel let down by the Order's inability to get it's collective brain out of other people's underpants. Is this "A Way Forwards"? If so, for whom?

5. PROPOSED NEW RULES
2. Regarding a transgender person pursuing residential training within the OBC, the following rule has been proposed:
“If someone identified as one gender, but known by a monk to have the genitals of the other, is going to be staying in a temple of the Order, the Chief Priest of that temple must be informed before the visit is arranged, or as soon as the situation becomes known. Also, anyone who might be placed in intimate association with such a transgendered person, must be given the option of avoiding such intimacy.” (F9)
3. An argument was made that as the F9. I was posed the following question by a monk: “How should someone who identifies themselves as male, and is known to have female genitalia be treated in the context of the OBC?”
He continued:
…the only reason that it comes up for me, is that this very possibility was being seriously discussed at the Family Gathering at Throssel.……I would be very grateful if we talked about this some more. I, for one, would be grateful to know if such a person within the OBC were making arrangements to visit our temple. I would also like to know if I, or someone, especially a heterosexual male, for whom I had some responsibility, were expected to share a toilet room, bathing room, or bedroom with such a person. My concern was aroused recently because I realized that I don’t know who, if anyone, might be ordaining such individuals and, if so, under what unexpected circumstances I, or someone for whom I had some spiritual responsibility, might be thrown into intimate contact with them. As it stands now, I don’t see that I have any expectation of being able to choose to avoid such potentially intimate contact. I would like the Order to develop a mechanism for being given a choice.
Even though, during our discussion, there was no female who expressed reservations about the above possibility, I suspect that there might be females in our Order who might feel uncomfortable if they were thrown into intimate contact with a ‘woman’ with male genitalia. Likewise, I would be grateful to know if someone like this, within the OBC, were asking to stay at the Priory.



Last edited by Lise on Sat Aug 28, 2010 9:18 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : typo in title)
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Howard

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PostSubject: Is this "A Way Forward?": new proposed rules and transgender   Fri Aug 27, 2010 8:49 pm

Hello Robert.
If the monastery is a reflection of the world, few stories point out this truth as harshly as yours. There are so many obviously broken precepts here that I'm not sure where to begin. While it is probably little comfort to you, I hope your interaction with your fellow trainees gave some starving brains some food for thought and that your story here opens up some much needed lines of dialogue.
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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Sat Aug 28, 2010 11:51 am

Dear Robert,
I'm so sorry to hear of all of this.
Sophia
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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Sat Aug 28, 2010 7:11 pm

How very sad. Form is simply form and form is emptiness and how can we forget this? We are conditioned by our experiences of form but we are not dependent on those forms. Nothing of wisdom requires a certain form. Nothing of compassion and understanding require anything of form.

Women have been made the target of so much delusion and confusion in Buddhism over the centuries, as though their form were somehow essential - permanent - when everything, everything in the Dharma tells us that form is transient. Everything we experience tells us this, that who we are and who we may become is not dependent on our form.

I have friends who are male-to-female and female-to-male transsexuals. I have practiced with women and men, big people and little people, tall and short, young and old, gay and straight and bisexual. Who cares? We do, sometimes - but if we care, that is the opportunity for training. To bow to the fears expressed here is the real shame. - Jiko
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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Sun Aug 29, 2010 2:34 am

Robert, welcome to this forum!

I second Jiko's observations, and would add the observation that based on Buddhist teaching, in all of its aspects, transgendered people should be more widely and readily accepted within Buddhist communities than anywhere else (with the possible exception, of course, of the transgendered community itself)!

The difficult to understand treatment that you experienced, is even more difficult to understand within the context of the OBC. RM Jiyu, in my observation and experience, took an activist stance on relatively few issues (but did on several, including animal rights and a strong opposition to the death penalty).

One issue that she was particularly insistent on however was the importance of recognizing the absolute spiritual equality, validity, and integrity of all people, genders, and sexual orientations. At the time during the 1970's when she was articulating this position, I don't know if she was even aware of the experience and issues of transgendered people. My guess however is that today, she would not accept any form of discrimination, no matter how subtle, against transgendered people in general--or within the OBC in particular.

In any case, I would propose that discrimination in any form, against transgendered people (or anyone else), has no place in Buddhism--and simply cannot be justified.
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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Sun Aug 29, 2010 10:48 am

Your story does not surprise me. When I was ill at Shasta and being kicked out of this temple and that, senior monks, including Rev. Kennett were coming to all sorts of conclusions about me without ever talkinig to me. To my face Rev. Kennett was very tolerant and understanding, but in speaking to others about me she would be judgmental and condemning. I heard one such conversation between her and Eko. It becomes an utterly confusing mess where messages are so mixed and contradictory that your head spins. For people who are vulnerable like I belileve you must have been and as I was when so ill, the effects are devastating. Thank you for sharing your story. i think when I have the time I will post my own story of leaving. Perhaps there should be a thread "How I left the OBC?"
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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Sun Aug 29, 2010 11:15 am

Hi Kaizan, and welcome to the forum. I think your idea is a very good one -- please feel free to create such a thread if you like.

cheers,
Lise
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Henry

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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Sun Aug 29, 2010 12:33 pm

I think what I stated above reinforces what I believe Isan or Kozan has spoken about: that Rev. Kennett's personal flaws have become institutionalized in the OBC. They are so enmeshed with the everyday life of the monks and their world view that they cannot be seen anymore than we can see air or fish can see water. The power structure is so heirarchical and the institionalized flaws so taken as truth that they cannot see the folly that is so obvious to all those outside the fishbowl. Their decree of others' delusions are taken as gospel. We will see what occurs when their actions--decided in secret by a small group and reinforced by all around them as truth--are seen in the public domain. I hope that this does not become an exercise in humiliation and attack, but is rather an opportunity for the OBC to see through the eyes of others and perhaps reevaluate thier own assumptions. If some more active monks join this forum, perhaps we too will be able to see through their eyes.
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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Sun Aug 29, 2010 1:47 pm

Hi Kaizan,
I think your last sentence can be taken 2 ways: "if more active monks join this forum" we will be able to see through their eyes their side to the situations described; or "if more active monks join this forum" we will not be able to see the water/air just as they are not able to. While I suspect you mean the latter, I hope what could actual happen is something different. I'd really like to think that there is real insight into how to establish/maintain a community on BOTH sides of fence. There's alot of wisdom in the eyes of those reading this forum. I'm hoping there will be enough recognition of that wisdom: active and non-active have great contributions for each other. There is so much potential for dialogical engagment and dissolution of "otherness". Both sides need to be willing to be challenged by the other. I think we all understand there is something precious in our experience of the Abbey, even in the midst of flaws and strengths.
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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Sun Aug 29, 2010 5:06 pm

Hi Sophia,
Actually I meant the former, that we be able to get their perspective on events described. I agree with the hope you expressed and open dialogue seems the best hope. Unfortunately, for those like me, our experience was that our perspective was not valid or true. Our perspective was tainted by delusion while those in authority had the clarity to discern the correct course of action. This was certainly not always the case, but, in my opinion, it was the case too often. It was a mistaken approach to differences that as far as I could see was getting more and more cemented as the norm. Of course I left the abbey in 1991 and things could have changed. However, from post of monks of a more recent vintage, it appears that many shared my unfortunate experience.
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Isan
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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Sun Aug 29, 2010 7:25 pm

Robert wrote:

During those eight days before leaving, I was taken aside and told by at least five senior monks, two of them masters, that, and I quote from one monk, "the real reason RM has kicked you out is because you're transsexual." Another master said, "He sees your taking hormones as compounding delusion," and that "they'd need to be renounced." Those eight days were hellish and I felt utterly shattered by them, emotionally, spiritually and personally.

With acceptance at the heart of the teaching, the new proposed rule 2 (and subsequent remarks) from the conclave is a very loud and resounding rejection for trans people and leaves a very sad, shocking and painful taste in the mouth. The OBC would do well to look into the law and the Gender Recognition Act, the Sex Discrimination Act and the Human Rights Act. I feel for those who have trained with sincerity for years who may now feel let down by the Order's inability to get it's collective brain out of other people's underpants. Is this "A Way Forwards"? If so, for whom?

Thank you for sharing the details of your story. I'm sorry to hear how it went especially since I had some reason to hope that behavior at Throssel didn't follow the OBC norm. On one hand there is obvious fear and prejudice regarding your identity as a transsexual. On the other there is the disingenuous behavior where people are intentionally told conflicting things, e.g. you're in but you're out, you're welcome anytime but you're leaving next week, and so on. This kind of manipulation was common at Shasta Abbey when I trained there in the 70's-80's, and it seems to have permeated the OBC. What it has to do with Buddhist training is anyone's guess.
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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Sun Aug 29, 2010 7:35 pm

Kaizan wrote:
i think when I have the time I will post my own story of leaving. Perhaps there should be a thread "How I left the OBC?"

People sometimes include the "leaving story" as part of an introduction in the (wait for it) "introductions" section Very Happy I believe it's important to document the behaviors. It needs to be understood that the mind games and abuses were not isolated events.
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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Sun Aug 29, 2010 8:25 pm

There are some truely sad storys here.
I also think that the issues here can best be heard by those willing to be challenged by views that are not their own. A willing walk outside ones comfort zone. While this has been expressed in terms of "active monks", I would widen this invite to a broader range that includes the active laity.

Most of the issues here that attract my attention have to do with feeling uncomfortable. Uncomfortable at how people relate to each other, at views that seem inflexible, at the us & them mentality and at ideas held as identity. I don't like being uncomfortable but I trust feeling uncomfortable for it carries with it the possibility of awareness. I like being comfortable but my biggest blunders (blindness) have come about when I thought I was right and always when feeling comfortable.
This might be an off day for me but I've couple of questions to throw out there....

I don't understand this gulf between meditative experience and what seems to be a denial of it. You sit still, witness ones infinite insignificance, experience a transcendent oneness with all, etc etc. and then what? Pretend it's not real when your comfort zone is threatened? If your vocation (or understanding) revolves around meditation, doesn't the active denial of meditations truths give one a serious case of religious schizophrenia? According to many of the OBC stories unfolding here, wouldn't this result in significant spiritual damage that would only get worse the longer you stayed. I know in Shasta this often came under the heading of the "Ideal & the actual" but mostly this just seemed like a vehicle for explaining away bad behaviour.

The second thing that I think is connected and equally incomprehensibly is the great importance put on appearance and reputation. Once again it all seems to fly in the face of the experience of meditation. If you sit and observe the constant flow & ephemeral nature of existence, just what can you then pin this appearance and reputation on? Isn't the manifestation of ones experience of meditation the point of it all. Its hard not to see a focus on appearance and reputation as just another case of worldly mind spin.
Any pointers would be appreciated.
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Robert
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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Mon Aug 30, 2010 4:31 am

Thank you for the many considered responses to this thread. It's never someone's wish to be in a position to be able to tell of such a situation and from what I'm reading of other people's experiences with the OBC, I sadly realise I am far from alone.

Although I never met RM Jiyu, when I heard "The Deeper Mind", I knew that here was someone I had to follow. Two things that leapt out at me, firstly the strength of her conviction that there is absolute equality between the sexes. How very refreshing! If a person knows there to be equality between the sexes, it's unlikely they'd reserve prejudiced views for other groups. How could there not be complete equality between the sexes if you think about it?!

The other point she made very clearly in that talk was about acceptance. Acceptance requires a certain amount of facing issues that may be uncomfortable and push us beyond our comfort zones. It forces us to look a little more closely at what we think we know and who we think we are. Having left over three years ago, one thing which baffles me with the new proposed rule 2 is that while much of my life has moved on, this issue has been held on to and has remained active on the agenda list for the conclave. Rather than face the opportunities encompassed in meeting a diverse range of humans, it seems the OBC have actively tried to side step the discomfort by effectively excluding trans people. The language in the document is horrifying in both it's crudeness and the utter rejection implicit for the trans community that we are no more than the genitals we happen to have, as implied by the initial question, “How should someone who identifies themselves as male, and is known to have female genitalia be treated in the context of the OBC?” The answer should have been, "Just as you'd treat everyone else."

However RM Haryo wrote, "I, for one, would be grateful to know if such a person within the OBC were making arrangements to visit our temple. I would also like to know if I, or someone, especially a heterosexual male, for whom I had some responsibility, were expected to share a toilet room, bathing room, or bedroom with such a person. My concern was aroused recently because I realized that I don’t know who, if anyone, might be ordaining such individuals and, if so, under what unexpected circumstances I, or someone for whom I had some spiritual responsibility, might be thrown into intimate contact with them. As it stands now, I don’t see that I have any expectation of being able to choose to avoid such potentially intimate contact. I would like the Order to develop a mechanism for being given a choice."

I'd be interested to know what threat I am perceived to cause. I'd like to know what "intimate contact" is supposed to mean. Are we truely training if we think we have the right to "choose to avoid" situations we find challenging? As RM Jiyu says in the "Deeper Mind", "Either you accept something or you don't; don't play games with it." Need I say more?

Trying to find something positive in all this, I should perhaps say that when I was first seeking treatment in 1998, my GP struck me off and refused to treat me saying, "I can't treat something like you; I'm a good Catholic!" I've now joined the ranks of "such a person". It seems I've been promoted...
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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Mon Aug 30, 2010 12:31 pm

The proposal that has been put up for discussion at the Conclave about accommodating trans-sexual people has been put forward by one individual and does not represent my view at all. All OBC members are able to put proposals to the Conclave. We then discuss the matter and see if we can reach a consensus. One advantage of this method is that everyone has a voice and everyone’s concerns must be heard before a decision is reached.

We have had the privilege of having several trans-sexual people staying at Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey over the years and on each occasion we have found no problem in accommodating their physical needs. I believe that nobody else had any problem either. Therefore this proposal seems quite unnecessary to me. I think the person who put it forward has no experience in this area and the proposal was a way of bringing the matter up for discussion. The Order invites individual members to freely put forward whatever proposals they wish for the Conclave. The result is that proposals get made that sometimes personally one wishes had not been made but then that is free speech. Proposals for the Conclave were intended for internal consideration only as they are just proposals and don’t represent anything but the view of the person who puts them forward. Having read this one, my intention was to have a quiet word with the proposer when we meet at the Conclave and explain why I felt it was flawed. No doubt many others would do the same. In circumstances like this the proposal would quite likely be withdrawn as there is clearly no prospect of it being adopted. The question could then be discussed in an informal way with the object of helping inform rather than a discussion in the context of legislating new rules.

In his post on this subject Robert has said some things that I would like to respond to. When anyone applies to be a postulant I explain to them in some detail the process and that it involves not only myself but also a group of five or more other senior monks with whom I will discuss the application. When a monk is accepted for ordination here, he or she becomes my disciple. There are stages of commitment through which they pass and in the process they have the chance to thoroughly explore what this means. It is a two way commitment and from my side, once entered into, there is no going back. Accordingly, in the end, it is my decision who I ordain. However, I need to take refuge with the Sangha as a postulant does not just become a disciple but also enters a community. I also need the input of others in the process to try and minimise the chance of important dimensions getting overlooked, either from my side or that of the postulant.

When the process begins I explain to the applicant that I am not psychic and it takes time for me to get to know them sufficiently and see how they are responding to the monastic life. I have not kept figures on this, but my impression is that of those who apply for the postulancy a good half don’t make it through the process and a fair proportion of those are turned down by me (after consulting with others) if I come to see that there is a good chance that monastic life is not going to be a beneficial experience for them. Sometimes, as in Robert’s case, I am unable to communicate my reasons in a way that the person is able to receive. I do try to be as clear as I can and I did make efforts to keep lines of communication open with Robert. I accept there was one occasion when he wanted to see me but I was unable to accommodate him in the restricted time available. Since he left there has been a fair amount of contact between him and myself as well as other monks here.

I am sad to say that a serious mistake was made in how he was informed of the decision not to let him become a postulant. I had discussed my concerns with the group of senior monks who help in these matters. One of these monks had responsibility for the music used at our ceremonies and on behalf of the monastery had received from Robert a generous donation of a quality keyboard. He asked Robert if he would like the keyboard back, I think knowing that he was a musician and might have need of it. This monk should have ensured that Robert had been properly informed by me of the decision before saying what he did. The monk concerned has recognised this mistake and I offered my sincere apology to Robert once I realised what had happened. Robert seemed to accept my apology at the time and wrote an appreciative letter after our meeting.

I can see how confusing it was for him, and how sudden the turn around must have seemed. I did tell him that I was glad to have someone join the community who was a transexual person because that was so. However, there is of course a great deal more that has to be taken into account than a person’s sexuality. He and I did discuss aspects of his treatment and I had some questions about that, not being familiar with what it involved. The use of hormones was a subject we talked about several times. I don’t think the use of hormones is a bar to someone being a monk, as Robert pointed out to me, it is the recommended treatment for his condition. Even so, I had some concerns that I sought to explore, both with him and by reading some of the material he was able to recommend to me. However, in the end there were other factors that indicated to us that the monastic life was not going to be helpful for Robert. After my discussion with other senior monks about his situation I did not act immediately, I wanted to reflect on it for a while longer. It was in this interval that the mistake was made and he was informed in quite the wrong way and I very much regret that.

The purpose of the postulancy is to try out the monastic life in practice. There is always the chance one will be turned down and I am sorry that Robert believes I turned him down out of a prejudice against trans sexual people, but that is not the case. Looking back on these events I can see there were times when I could have been more sensitive to his situation. I hope the experience has equipped me and all of us to respond better in the future.

With best wishes and gassho to all

Daishin
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revhhy



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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Mon Aug 30, 2010 7:52 pm

Hello everyone. My name is Haryo, and I’m the current Head of the Order, having been elected to that position by my fellow monks. Let me start off by saying hello to those of you who know me, especially those of you who trained side by side with me as a monk. Regardless of how our individual paths have turned out, I know what it took to respond to that particular call, and the depth of letting go that it expressed. To share that space with someone creates a mutual respect which only becomes reinforced when the reality of our unity becomes more real that our surface separateness. I should hasten to say that of course such an understanding is not just within the purview of monks, but is open to anyone who is willing to do what has to be done to find it.

The longer I live the more I realize how complex life is, and how few things are simply black or white. And as I look within myself I also see a complexity of “me’s” that are quite remarkable on the one hand, but challenging on the other as far as sitting still in the midst of them, and acting from that stillness. We all wear many hats, each with its own responsibilities. One I wear is that of a friend to anyone I have ever met, regardless of the ups and downs that life may put us through. I can’t take that hat off, because it is in fact my flesh. On top of that goes one hat or another, depending on the responsibilities life hands me. My Head of the Order hat is not one I would have chosen, but one I was given and I try to do right by it. For me it represents (among other things) patience, tolerance, impartiality, firmness when necessary, and, through it all, the seeking of truth—which at times means just sitting in unknowing and not making up a truth just to end the tension of unknowing. Being human, my ability to actualize these ideals often falls short, but like the rest of us, I try.

I’ve been intending to speak on this forum at some point and here is as good a place as any to begin. At the moment I’d like to talk about the proposed rule that has shown up here and clarify its context.

Firstly, the construction of one of Robert’s sentences can make it appear that the quote he cites are my words, and they are not. (However RM Haryo wrote, "I, for one, would be grateful to know…). I will assume no mal intent, but ask that we all realize the potential for misunderstanding or outright damage that can occur if things aren’t expressed carefully, sources aren’t checked, hearsay is run with as fact, etc. Also, we have not chosen as our Conclave subject "A Way Forwards". Whilst such a sentiment is a reasonable one, I believe it is a phrase generated by someone in the forum.

I can assure anyone reading this thread that this is not a rule of the OBC, nor do I imagine that it ever could be. I am disappointed that it has been taken out of context and spun in such a way as to make it look like we’re all charging off in this direction. We aren’t, period. I am also disappointed that my efforts to be generous with information so as to keep our members informed about what might be topics for discussion have resulted in someone’s thoughts, which were not composed for public consumption, being spread about in what I feel to be an irresponsible way. I had assumed that those whom I kept informed regarding Conclave matters would recognize that whatever might be proposed for the Conclave was simply a proposal, and should not be viewed as or put forth as having any reality as a rule or policy unless it is approved by the Conclave.

I believe the person proposing the rule isn’t prejudiced towards anyone, but was perhaps being too theoretical in his thinking that he might end up in a circumstance awkward for a transgendered person or himself, and, in consideration of their mutual sensitivities wondered if there was a way to keep that from happening. I suggested that he see if he could come up with a rule that would address his concern. Now, a rule is usually something that takes a lot of work to get right. It has to be succinct, address whatever is the point of the rule, not have a lot of grey area or loop holes, and when called for and possible, have a tone of compassion and positive intent that is an understood background to something which, out of necessity, may have a rather legalistic appearance. Doing all this is something of an art. First attempts usually don’t go very far before being reworked, and as a first attempt this proposal would have been short lived.

Among the criticisms I’ve received is that I’ve been too open to hearing what members of our Order have to say, and not restrictive enough as to how and where they say it. Nonetheless, when someone offers possible rules or topics for discussion, I tend not to prejudge the degree of merit of what they are offering since I don't want to be too strong a filter through which all our ideas must pass. I trust the wisdom of our sangha to sort out the reasonable from the unreasonable. However, this means being willing to receive ideas that in the end aren't taken up. Sometimes proposing a rule (which is a codified form of guidance) is a way to start a conversation when someone feels our present forms of guidance may be insufficient. It's only function may prove to be that it provided a starting point for a discussion. As individuals, anyone can propose anything, and I don't want to take that right away from them. As has been pointed out, the proposal mentioned here is that of one person, and my understanding is that whenever a transgender person has been training with us, their needs (if made known), and the needs of others, have been accommodated without difficulty.

If the proposal is not withdrawn before the Conclave, I will suggest that creating such a rule, or anything like it, would be unwise, and unnecessary given our experience. For the record, I wouldn't endorse a policy that purports to take into account the needs and feelings of a transgendered person without my becoming more informed on the subject than I am. Nor would I support anything that violates the letter or spirit of any anti-discrimination laws.

I should say before ending that my participation in the forum will be conditioned by the amount of time I have to interact thoughtfully with it (which isn’t much time at the moment), and by my sense of whether what I might say will actually prove to be useful. Please don't take offense if I'm not as responsive as you would like. H.Y.


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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Tue Aug 31, 2010 3:13 am

Rev. Haryo, and Rev. Daishin Morgan--I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to read your comments here!

(And welcome Haryo! I've been hoping that you would begin to post on this site.)

In my opinion, the honesty, openess, integrity, and detail of your respective responses--and the very fact that you have each responded--speaks volumes.

By saying this, I do not mean to presume that your responses necessarily alleviate the pain of Robert's experience , or address his issues and concerns. (Naturally, only you Robert, can say.)

But I do mean (again, as my own opinion) to suggest that the value and quality of your respective comments Daishin and Haryo, go far in establishing openness, transparency, and trust.

It also seems to me, that the next step may be to acknowledge and address Amalia's experience and trauma, not for the purpose of allocating blame, but for the purpose--Amalia--of confirming your obvious courage, insight, and integrity; and to insure that the possibility of others being similarly traumatized is minimized or eliminated. In my opinion, everyone involved in the dynamic of harsh teaching, is traumatized.

And this in turn suggests, in light of all of the posts that we can view on this site, that what we have here is...a koan.

Not just a collection of individual koans, not just a collective koan, but an institutional koan--that at root (I would propose), is no one's fault.

I think that this koan bears a striking resemblence to the Koan of Nansen's Cat. (I assume that most readers here are familiar with this koan, but if not, an easy internet search will fill you in).

Kyogen, Gyokuko, Isan, Kaizan, Bill, Komei, and others, have touched on the role that Rev. Master Jiyu's fear and anger have played in the introduction of personal biases and harsh teaching methods into the culture of the sangha, and the institution of the OBC--and the cognitive dissonance that results. Harsh teaching methods can force and precipitate sange (deep contrition) and kensho. But I would propose that, in the long run, harsh teaching methods always produce trauma. A person who experiences awakening through such means, as RMJK did in Sojiji, may all too easily end up utilizing the same teaching methods with others, in the at least unconscious belief that doing so is a necessary and inevitable aspect of training and enlightenment. Over time, this dynamic can become an invisible aspect of the institutional culture.

The essence of the koan, as I see it, is how do we fully accept the teaching without perpetuating biases and mistakes? How do we, as RMJK asked, "cut the cat in one?" Denying the mistakes of our teacher cuts the cat in two. Discerning the difference between the essence of her profound teaching--and yet judging her mistakes as nothing but mistakes (rather than as a learning opportunity as well), still cuts the cat in two.

It seems to me that there is an attitude of mind that can accept the teaching unconditionally--as the basis, paradoxically, for becoming able to discern which aspects of the teaching address what we should consider doing--and which aspects of the teaching are for the purpose of pointing out what we should not do!

And it seems to me that all teachers, in the end, hope that their disciples will develop the spiritual maturity to question everything: to build on the essence of their teaching, without repeating--or institutionalizing--their mistakes.

I can't help but feel that doing this difficult work constitutes the truest and deepest form of respect and gratitude.

With Warm Regards,
Kozan

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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Tue Aug 31, 2010 1:13 pm

Robert, there is no threat in you or your transgendered history. Often the threat we feel is within ourselves, coming to the surface. Fear is often internal, hard to define - an existential threat to the self. If we practice diligently, we can begin to unpack the layers in which it is wrapped. I would assume that the person who is so concerned with your sexual orientation and your genital packaging has a lot of conditioning from other experiences, not related to you.

I would point out to anyone asking that in Japan (and many parts of the world) men and women share toilets and baths much of the time. These are natural behaviors. It is assumed that we are mature and responsible until proven otherwise. - Jiko
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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Tue Aug 31, 2010 2:33 pm

I have an interesting observation which just may have some validity as I think it might offend everyone. The dynamic I am perceiving between the disgruntled, curmudgeony, inactive monks, and the stern but reasonable active monks in authority (Haryo and Daishin Morgan), is frighteningly similar to children who feel aggreieved by a father they perceive as abusive. The children want acknowledgment. The father doesn’t think he’s been abusive (just keeping everyone in line), and is trying to be understanding. Still he is somewhat annoyed that the children are being over reactive and are forcing him to address an onerous task he has little time for (like the kids wouldn’t rather be outside playing). He will address it, because he loves his children (and doesn’t want them spreading false rumors to the neighbors) but he does wish they would just grow up. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to say that I am more aligned with the children. I know, no big news flash. However, there is nothing that I want from the OBC: no acknowledgment, no apology, no validation. I am just very curious to see where this conversation leads.
The interesting point is how reasonable the dads are. Everything has a neat and tidy explanation that wraps everything up so nicely. “There you go children, see Daddy meant no harm. Run off now like good boys and girls.” And these explanations might be the most accurate explanations for the events referred to. But here’s the rub: my darn memory kicks in of what I went through myself at the abbey. Whenever I talked to a person in authority (except Daizui), the most reasonable explanations were given, but I knew that what was happening to me was not reasonable. It was quite bizarre, in fact. So we have a trust issue. How do we believe the reasonableness, when our history causes us to doubt? I wish I had the answer to that because I am quite fond of Seikai and Haryo and have very good memories of them both. I know them to be people of integrity and honesty. Daishin Morgan I did not know nearly as well, though I believe he is a man of integrity. I believe they are all telling the truth as they see it. But I can’t help but feel something is missing. Between present and former OBC members it seems like there are two arrows missing in mid air.
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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Tue Aug 31, 2010 3:28 pm

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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Wed Sep 01, 2010 4:40 am

There is no way that Daishin Morgan or Haryo Young can possibly admit that the reason Robert was not accepted into the postulancy was because of their prejudice against transexuals. Were they to do so, they would be giving him grounds for what (at least in the US) would already be a fairly interesting lawsuit.
Presumably this aspect of the case has finally dawned upon them, and they have realized that that new rule of theirs could also be quite problematic. Seeing how it would be black-and-white proof that they do in fact discriminate.
Quote :
It also seems to me, that the next step may be to acknowledge and address Amalia's experience and trauma, not
@Kozan
Let's just say I'm not holding my breath. After they actually blamed me for interfering with their supposed investigation....! I never did expect anything from anyone with that complaint. It was important to me personally to make it but it is obvious that within the authoritarian system of the OBC there can be no acknowledgements, no apologies and no consequences for senior monks.

Quote :
The dynamic I am perceiving between the disgruntled, curmudgeony, inactive monks, and the stern but reasonable active monks in authority (Haryo and Daishin Morgan), is frighteningly similar to children who feel aggreieved by a father they perceive as abusive. The children want acknowledgment. The father doesn’t think he’s been abusive (just keeping everyone in line), and is trying to be understanding.
@Kaizan
Rather obnoxious how you phrased that, but you are right about the basic dynamic. We have been all preconditioned to behave that way by the training in their temples- what Diana identifies as mind control. To recover we have to break through that. This is why it bothers me so much when former members continue to use the same old speech patterns they learned at the Abbey and show the same old kind of deference. You've got to break through that otherwise they still have a hold on you in your mind.
It is time to rethink the old respect for those bald ones in brown robes and big red tassles. They are just people, they're not above us or better than us and they sure aren't living some sort of enlightened life! They aren't our parents, or our president or anyone one else who has ever deserved our respect as an authority figure. And even if they were we would be free to criticize and complain, and take apart the obnoxious things they say and do, because that is what a democracy means.
Their status in the OBC means nothing here in this forum. Fortunately there are no authorities here on this site except for Lise. (Which as everyone knows bothers me, but at the same time I say good for her! get your power back, girl! cheers ) So I am glad that everyone hasn't waited in a sort of hushed silence after Haryo and Daishin have made their statements. Full of the same mumbojumbo-respectful-concerns-blah-blah-preach-the-dharma-in-all-realms-even-in-the-dark-misguided-internet-forum-realm-blah-blah-blah.
What they have to say is valuable because it is some form of self-expression, and I am all for that, but no more so than any of the other 700+ posts on this site.

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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Wed Sep 01, 2010 8:28 am

Amelia
It was pretty obnoxious wasn’t it? I guess I shouldn’t enjoy that so much. I’d be interested in knowing what you mean by “speech patterns we learned at the abbey.” As for deference, I don’t think I am deferring anything. I have my view and expressed it. I consider Seikai and Haryo to be friends. I knew them for 15 years. Haryo was always a friendly, kind person who was very helpful to his fellow monks. He never spoke an ill word to me. We went camping together and joked and laughed together. Seikai too was good friend who showed me kindness when I was ill. Why would I not speak to them respectfully?
On the other hand, I can appreciate that you are very angry and I’m glad you’re expressing that anger on this site. Sometimes “good cop, bad cop” can have more effectiveness than either alone. Except here we are not assuming roles, we are each speaking our own mind, our own truth. And you have to understand we old ex-monks are in the 60 year old range (no deference required) and have lost some of the piss, vinegar, and fire you younger folks have. We get our kicks with little stupidities like being obnoxious. Perhaps you can humor us a bit.
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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Wed Sep 01, 2010 2:55 pm

It might surprise forum readers to know that “being trans” is not the be all and end all of my life! It is a condition with which I must live, but it is not life itself.

It’s good to know that the proposed new rule 2 is effectively off the conclave agenda. How it ever got on to it given the teachings on acceptance is beyond me and I make no apology for raising the issue. I am however, happy to stand corrected with regards to the assertion that it was RM Haryo who responded in the quote if that was not the case.

There’ve been many interesting replies. One thing Kaizan has raised is trust and the “reasonable explanations” which tidy everything away, and which in a monastery environment, quickly brings any awkward discussion to a swift close. Although I can not speak for you Kaizan, I can’t help wondering whether you’re pointing at a contradiction between words and actions. Could it be that while the words said one thing, the actions said quite another? Which do you trust, what you see or what you hear? I’m not sure; maybe we should start a thread on trust!

One thing that has come out loud and clear is that despite a thread alluding to requests that this forum be private and closed, it is precisely because it is open and public that the proposed rule 2 has been clarified as just that, a proposal, and dropped before any more damage can be done. While comments made do not remove or excuse my experiences at Throssel, it does at least show why it is necessary for this forum to be here, and for it to be public and open. Thanks Lise for the great job you do with this forum, and for keeping it open.
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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Wed Sep 01, 2010 3:54 pm

Thanks, Robert -- and I hope we do see a thread on trust, and what happens when we can't reconcile the disparity between what we see and hear.

Re: the quote that Rev. Master Haryo has confirmed was not his: if it is an actual comment that someone made, I assume it came from a monk or a lay minister, someone who could affect lay people through spiritual counseling or more casual contact. I hope the OBC seniors will consider the impact that this person's beliefs and behaviour may have on vulnerable people, and take steps to protect against harm.

L.
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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Wed Sep 01, 2010 5:17 pm

Robert,
I can't tell you which you should trust, but I know that when someone's words say one thing and their body language (which includes actions) says another, the brain of the observer will go with what the body says almost all the time. I think there's good reason for that.
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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Thu Sep 02, 2010 11:23 pm

Hello Robert, Haryo, and Lise,

Quote :
Re: the quote that Rev. Master Haryo has confirmed was not his: if it is an actual comment that someone made, I assume it came from a monk or a lay minister, someone who could affect lay people through spiritual counseling or more casual contact. I hope the OBC seniors will consider the impact that this person's beliefs and behaviour may have on vulnerable people, and take steps to protect against harm.
I would like to express support for what Lise says here about hoping institutions watch for behavior and speech that can be hurtful, and work to move people in authority away from such actions.

At the same time I would like to offer support for Haryo, and for people within the OBC, to be able to speak openly with each other. We are, after all, commenting on a communication that was not intended for public distribution. At least that's what I understand from Haryo's post. So, within any person or group, ignorance is just ignorance, and people have a need to express what they feel about what they don't understand. What matters is how this is handled within an institution.

I hope all of you in the OBC have a fruitful, honest, spirited and truthful discussion on many issues at the upcoming conclave.

With palms joined,

Kyogen
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Kyogen

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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Thu Sep 02, 2010 11:33 pm

Ha! I just noticed that the topic title for this thread has lead to some very interesting Google Ads at the top of this section. Ah, the modern world!

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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Thu Sep 02, 2010 11:42 pm

Kyogen, this is what I get for going cheap and starting this forum on a free site. If I'd actually paid for hosting and forum software, we wouldn't see any tacky ads. Hope to have it fixed soon Smile

How mortifying.
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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Fri Sep 03, 2010 6:01 am

The free download Adblock Plus which is designed for best use on Mozilla Firefox mercifully removes ads from sight.
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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Sun Sep 05, 2010 8:34 pm

Ad blocking works on a browser, but not on the website itself. This is an ad sponsored site, so there it is. It's really common for non profit and volunteer organizations to use these services. The American Zen Teachers Association is a group with no formal structure, no dues, no assets, no money. We use Yahoo Groups for a way to connect, and that is ad supported as well.

No problem Lise. Actually, much of the time the ads on this topic seem reasonable, if rather specific. When I posted my comment, however, there were some very "blue" offerings. That's an old fashioned Americanism, for any confused Brits and the young.

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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Sun Sep 05, 2010 9:19 pm

When I first came across this forum I was under the impression that its objective was to say negative things about the OBC. But I read it more carefully and - call me an optimist but – reading through much of the pain expressed, I now believe the overarching objective is to reach out; to say the things that need to be said in the hope that we will reach an understanding. Understanding being one of the stepping stones towards improved practice guidelines.

This community is a complex one. There are lay people, monks, monks ‘in the world’, ex-monks, ex-lay people. I find it quite amazing that we, at least literally for the time being, are on the same (web)page. My personal tendency has often been to brush things under the carpet, but now that the truth about some of these situations is out as best as people have been able to express it, I feel compelled to chime in with my perspective. It’s a straw to the stack that will hopefully inch us in the right direction.

I grew up straddling the cultures of four different continents, and one of the clearer lessons was that even if another person has 1 head, 5 basic senses, and you both speak English, what one person says is frequently not what the other hears. Not even at a monastery. This is a disappointment to those who hope that a monastery is an oasis, and that’s the first mistake; believing our impressions of people. But impressions are far more often based on our ongoing thought constructions than on the person actually sitting opposite us.

For example, I’ve trained with both Rev. Master Daishin and Robert for some time and know them both to be honest and sincere. But so far as I understand it (correct me if I’m wrong) Robert believes that he was rejected because he was trans, and Rev. Master Daishin disagrees. I don’t think anyone who was not in the room where these words were spoken can possibly know what was said. The clearest communication fit for court would have been if Robert had asked “did you reject me because I was trans?” and Rev. Master Daishin had answered either “yes you were rejected because you were trans” or “no you were not rejected because you were trans”.

I doubt that was the wording since most people don’t communicate like that in normal conversation (though it really would help if they did!) No doubt Robert thought he was asking something along those lines. But then did Rev. Master Daishin understand the question exactly the way that Robert was thinking it, or did he interpret words, phrases or references differently from Robert? Did he then agree to what he believed he was asked, or did Robert interpret that he agreed based on what appeared to be a nod, facial expression, or an agreement to something entirely different?

I’m not making excuses but I am being pedantic because words and assumptions are important. They have a significant impact on hearts and minds and I think we should be careful about what we hear as well as what we say. In Robert’s case, even if we can’t know the full picture of what happened, I think the important question is what can be done?

I have experienced incorrect assumptions being made about me even by masters who are great teachers, the result being lost trust and lost teaching opportunities. I’d like to suggest a few ways in which communication could be improved to avoid mistakes in future.

To take two personal examples which I think touch on a lot of communication difficulties specific to monasteries: I went to sanzen but instead of answering my sanzen question, the master lectured me on something she thought I had done, based on hearsay that had been reported to her indirectly, by someone who had not been present at the time I was supposed to have done it.

Another time it had been confirmed that I would stay for an extended period. Another master then approached and asked “in passing” in the kitchen if I still had my flat to go back to in case I was going to leave soon. Later when I had sanzen she took it and instead of sanzen I was asked to defend why I should stay.

Both of these situations, while minor, were profoundly disturbing to me in different ways.

Normal practice in ‘the world’ would be to arrange a separate meeting if you have something to discuss. Using sanzen as a convenient opportunity to talk seems to me to undermine the value of spiritual counselling. It also feels disempowering, undermining and confusing to go into a meeting prepared to ask a spiritual question, only to be lectured at or asked about something completely different.

Some further suggestions are as follows. I guess it’s unusual for a trainee to address a monk’s position directly but it’s quicker and clearer than dancing around the issues.

If you or a colleague has a sense about a trainee and you discuss this with colleagues and you all agree, this still does not mean that your sense is correct. I really would advocate asking the actual trainee as directly as possible in private whether your sense is correct or not, and then listening openly. This may not seem important but it’s very possible that it feels substantial to the person you’re talking to. Maybe the trainee doesn’t see themselves as clearly as you think you do, or maybe they won’t admit it, but especially if you’re interpreting a situation that you were not present at, I’d say the trainee has a right to hear your assumptions and explain their side of things before you make any conclusions.

Taking refuge is a wonderful practice but the flip side is that sometimes a trainee discusses something personal with one monk, and then a week later a different monk makes a comment about this personal thing to the trainee. It’s unsettling not to know who knows about one’s private details. Please treat such information carefully and as confidentially as possible. If the trainee hasn’t told you directly, they may well feel uncomfortable about you knowing; I wouldn’t raise the subject unless the trainee raises it first.

Ensure that a trainee is not told that he/she is confirmed to stay long-term until he/she really is. Then inform everyone at the top of the hierarchy, and ensure that there’s a structural agreement not to suggest that somebody leaves after they’ve been told that they can stay, unless the situation radically changes. Being told that you may have to leave after you’ve been told that you can stay can be extremely unsettling on a spiritual, emotional and physical survival level.

Subtlety, metaphor and questions “in passing” are fertile ground for misunderstanding. Don’t use them to clarify personal issues with people other than your closest friends.

Congratulations if you’ve read this far… I’d be interested to hear any further thoughts. There are further ideas and theory behind the suggestions but I’ve tried to keep it short.

All best wishes for the conclave.

In gassho,
Mia
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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Sun Sep 12, 2010 12:33 am

[Post removed for numerous violations.]





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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Sat Dec 11, 2010 7:39 pm

Hi Robert
i read your other post you wrote today, but decided to wirte on this topic.
i have puzzled over you and what you wrote on this post for a few weeks.
I feel for you that you had a difficuly,i do not know anything about transgender peolple,however I did meet and work with someone, who was once a man , and had his penis removed,and liked to feel he was more of a woman. I do not have these fellings so it is difficult to understand. My friend from the past was very honest and open like yourself,he or she did not hve a problem with the circumstances, I did not either ,but I could not understand it.
Hope that makes sense.
I think what you are saying is you were not welcome to practice at throssel and bypassing that if I may,I would like to ask how you feel in side yourself. Do you feel the transgender situation you are in prevents you from feeling whole within yourself,when you sit can you be whole complete as you are or do you find personal issues and situations keep you from being whole and complete.The reason I ask, is I am a bit shocked at the number of awful stories I have heard here. I do not personally believe that zen pratice is confined to a particular place or time, I would love to hear you did feel whole and complete,and the throssel issue was separate. I suppose what I am saying is despite shocking times our inate spiritual nature is not destroyed by other peoples shortsightedness.
I hope this is not too personal, or irrelevant to you,You have had a bashing so take care of yourself
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Robert
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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Sun Dec 12, 2010 8:38 am

Hi Chisan,

Thanks for your post and for feeling able to say you don't really understand. If I'm honest, I guess I don't really understand transgenderism either, it's just how it is for some people throughout the world, and that's life. Even if the "cause" were known, I'm not sure it would necessarily be helpful. After all, we know the cause of suffering yet that does not in itself stop the fact that people suffer.

The questions you ask are not too personal at all. One of the things which is difficult now to relate nowadays is the pain of the past prior to transition. If you were to pass me in the street, you probably wouldn't notice me at all. Although my employers know about my trans status, many of my colleagues do not, which shows how invisible my transsexual status is. That is both good and not so good, but that's another issue!

In the past, I couldn't have told you what the problem was as I simply didn't know, but I was extremely unhappy. I started cutting myself when I was eight and that continued until my mid-twenties. At 12, puberty, all the mirrors left my world as far as possible as I simply couldn't relate to what I saw, so I chose not to look. Washing became a nightmare so I often went weeks - and I means weeks - without washing our removing my underclothes or t-shirt. Deodorant went straight on the t-shirt! I just couldn't be with the body under the clothes. I used to mumble rather than talk as I didn't really relate to my voice. Over time, leaving the house was increasingly challenging as I got quite a bit of abuse from passers by not knowing if I was a man or woman. To put that in perspective, I was sacked from four jobs, two before I transitioned due to the situation. Although I was a music student - as it happens, at the same college as RMJK - I was absolutely not able to play in the large orchestras. The head of department took me out of the symphony orchestra and gave me time to work my socks off to become good enough to lead the viola section in the small chamber groups where I had some chance of actually entering the room, let alone playing. Being in a place with too many people was crippling and in my five student years in London, I went to the pub once. I rode a bike to avoid the underground and bus travel. All in all, not a pretty picture really.

With the transition, many of the difficulties dissolved. I found my body started to become my own and I was able to wash. When I was 24, six months into transition, the mirrors started to return to my world - 12 years after removing them. My voice broke and I suddenly had a speaking voice I could relate to. I've a limited range for singing, but that's a small price to pay really. After chest surgery aged 24, I was able for the first time since puberty to stand up straight. I stopped wearing so many layers of clothes (even in summer), as there was no longer anything to hide or be ashamed of. In 1999 after a period of homelessness and incredible poverty, I started re-engaging with people and went regularly to a Quaker Meetings for Worship and in 2004 to Throssel and Reading Priory. Sleeping in the ceremony hall, group meals and shared space were not insurmountable problems.

I will always be trans and am accepting of that fact and happy to live with the contradictions being trans brings with it. I meet some wonderful people as I travel around the UK and Ireland giving talks, and have had some deeply challenging experiences which have, hopefully, made me stronger. When I sit, I'm not afraid of what it might bring up as I'm not afraid of, or denying my past. Yes there has been much pain, not only for me but for my family, but I know enough to realise that that is the nature of the condition and of fighting rather than accepting it. To that end, I'm no more a man than I was ever a woman as neither really exists. I'm trans and I occupy this space and that's good enough for me. The journey of transition was always a journey towards and with the truth. And if it showed me nothing else, then it showed me very clearly that while every else could and would change in that process, the truth was the only part of me that could not and would not change.

I hope that answers some of your question, if not, let me know and I'll try again!
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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Sun Dec 12, 2010 11:54 am

Thanks Robert for your reply and of course your openness.
I read your reply earlier, and felt the need to absorb what you wrote.
I am pleased you are not asking me any advice!
I think I see your situation through my eyes,it is impossible for me to really understand your specific situation,but some I can understand. I can understand the feeling of isolation and rejection,both very painful places to be.
I can not understand the circumstances at Throssel as I was not there.
What of course I admire, is you have the strengh to keep going and also believe in the truth inside yourself,I am sure everyone who reads this admires and respects too.
I often relate what I read here back to the temple I was in in Japan, and also relate it back to the Abbott. I feel with alot of what I have read your circumstances included that it is very difficult sometimes to make views and judgments of right and wrong,the test is how one ended up feeling, did the answers we were given lead us to a better place.Did your being thrown out of Throssel make you feel worse as a person or did it encourage you on your Buddhist path?
I believe the core, the basis of zen Buddhism is loving kindness,a teacher can not give us this, nor beat it out of us, we have it already within us, it may be buried deep,but we never find it somewhere else and then start to include it in our practice,that would be pretentious to say the least.
The feeling I have, having read your reply,is possibly shaken not stirred,you have had the funny looks and comments, but you are still there, you seem strong and honest and giving talks to others ,good for you.As Buddhists I believe we all sit together and despite our isolation, you are always welcome to sit with me, and by the comments I read here with everyone else too.Take care my friend
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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Sun Dec 12, 2010 12:42 pm

Thank you Chisan, I very much appreciate that. We can sit together even though alone - alone with the universe.
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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Sun Dec 12, 2010 2:08 pm

Dear Robert,

I can't begin to fathom what it must be like to have a body that's just not "me."

I bow to your courage to keep going to find your truth, your voice, your body. I bow to your generosity in sharing your experience with us and with those whom you travel through the UK to talk with who are struggling with those very same issues.

You are indeed a jewel in the Buddha's crown. And if I were you, I would be proud to be me!!!

With bows, with gratitude, with love,
mokuan
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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Sun Dec 12, 2010 3:21 pm

Yes, Mokuan, you are so right! And thanks to both Chisan and Robert for such a tender and respectful meeting! A privilege to read.
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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Sun Dec 12, 2010 5:27 pm

Thanks Mokuan, Sophia and Chisan.

Although much of the content of this site focusses on negative situations and painful endings that many here have experienced through their contact with the OBC, both past and present, it's been quite moving to watch the way the forum members have responded to another's input and reached out. It intrigues me that the reaching out and warmth displayed on this forum is not something I ever saw so widespread in the monastery. How ironic that one needs to leave the monastery setting in order to respond with warmth, love and compassion!
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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Sun Dec 12, 2010 6:05 pm

Hi Robert,
Interesting what you say, one needs to leave the monastry in order to respond with compasion warmth, and love.
I feel this happens when one practices from one's head and not ones heart.We have as human beings an amazing ability to bring things we experience down to our own leval. I find it a bit hard to understand, but it seems even with deep experiences, our intellects very quickly,rationalise the experiences,pidgeon hole them, analise,talk about,blow out of proportion, and very quickly the benefit from zazen is filtered.Intellectual Zen or Zen from our own limitations is a cold place.
In japan when I was there apart from a hot bath, the only warm thing was the practice!
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Robert
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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Sun Dec 12, 2010 6:55 pm

It's good you found two sources of warmth in the Japanese temple you trained in Chisan, even if one was the bath and not necessarily the people or atmosphere surrounding you.

Perhaps the delayed reaction or response in the monastery is driven by a fear of "getting it wrong" or speaking out of turn. There's nothing quite like fear - or egos - to make a potentially compassionate act feel calculated and cold. Often the appearance of the response presented came across as being more relevant than the act of the response itself. This could be where the actions and words fail to marry leading to confused messages.
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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Mon Dec 13, 2010 3:02 am

yes I think this is the crux of the problem here on the forum.

My take on it is , we do expect a lot to expect other people to get 'it' right all the time. May be slots, certain people fit in, bring about certain pressures, or at least they feel they do.

simple situations, like doctors are under pressure to be right,but a good doctor askes for a second opinion if unsure, they feel confident that they will not be undermined. Priests come under this heading too, they are taught to answere questions, and their study of the specific religion, usually is greater than ours,and some of course are great debaters.

The confusion ends with spiritual practice,when our depths are explored by our heart not our head,when our practice is done we know we have not reached the end of our practice, we realise we do not have all the answers ,and that we make mistakes, we have more to do, and more responsibility to accept. When meeting at this point by having nothing we can all share the depth of the experience,and this experience based on humility points out the way forward. because of course the direction forward is to our hearts.

reading all the issues people ahve raised here on the forum, is incredible really for a Buddhist group.Gensho in his article he wrote about when kennet was ill, and saying that he felt a huge Sange was about to occur,possibly pin points a watershed point. A point of pressure one way and we are all deeply affected by someone else humility, and the other way we run from someone else arrogance.
You know I am not an expert at these things,but from very limited experience, when I see people who I feel are big people,showing great humility it has a profound effect on me. I believe we are united in this experience, without perhaps realising it, it is what we wanted from the teaching in the first placeand in some ways, it is what we are gripeing about.
What do you think?
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PostSubject: Transgender training   Mon Mar 28, 2011 12:52 pm

Dear Robert

I have been following the threads on this forum for the past few weeks but your story moved me to write. You probably wont remember me but i stayed at Throssel for about five days and chatted to you on many occassions during that time. We actually drove to another laypersons home in Allendale i think, to celebrate their birthday with some cake at a lunch time on a renewal day. Can't remeber the chaps name now!

I am a lay member of the OBC and have been involved with the order since 1999 and ususally stay at Throssel about once a year and attend my local group when possible. I have been quite shocked to read some of the psotings on the site, especially yours. I rememebr getting on really well with you and i can remember that you were really committted to becoming a monk. I am very dissapointed to hear you were told that you could become a monk and then later told you could not. For the record i feel you being transgender should not have affected your ability to become a monk.

It has been quite difficult to hear many of the comments posted on the site, although i welcome the site and am not offended. I do believe in being open to and hearing the truth. My own experience of the OBC has been incredibly positive. However, i think the recent situation with Rev Eko has got me thinking about things.

Any way i hope things are going well for you now Robert. All the best.

In gassho
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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Mon Mar 28, 2011 3:41 pm

Hello Redstart, welcome to the forum!

I do remember going to Allendale for the birthday - it was a good afternoon out, thanks for bringing it to mind! Thanks also for your kind words. I was committed to becoming a monk but feel that I've had a very lucky, albeit painful escape. It's as well to discover the true colours of a place before ordination.

I can well appreciate your difficulties around the content of this site - I share them while also valuing the importance of having the openness and transparency this forum brings with it. A monk once said to me that sometimes it's best not to know the truth and I have to disagree with that. While it may hurt or sit awkwardly because it was not what or how we thought it would be, it's important to know all the same. Initially part of me, somewhat selfishly, was relieved that so many of the most disturbing stories have come from "over there" as I wanted to believe the best of Throssel despite what happened to me. That "relief" was quickly cut down to size through the many private messages I've received since posting my experiences at Throssel from a number of other people who have had some serious issues. I'm glad that your own personal experience of the OBC has been positive and that you have not encountered the troubles many of those posting here have. I guess it's as well to have both your heart and your eyes open in any religious setting...

I hope to read more of your posts around the forum as and when you write.

Best wishes,
Robert.
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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Mon Mar 28, 2011 4:01 pm

Hello Redstart

I found your posting to Robert and your statement about your willingness to be open & hearing the truth, very refreshing.

Very few of any active laypeople I know would come to this site because they believe to do so would not only be a statement of doubt about their own teacher but would also would support preceptual breakages & unsubstantiated gossip.

The people that have told me about this have also said they have never visited this site and would recommend that others (including their teacher) don't as well.

What used to be Soto Zen a long time ago has slowly morphed into Buddhist fundamentalism.

I guess I am wondering if you would think that your connection to Throssel is meditative or devotional? I ask this because in my own area those who were meditative in orientation ended up leaving the OBC and the ones who remained were devotional. Perhaps this only means that the devotional ones stuck with it where as the meditative ones with no specific teacher as an anchor, left.
This has meant that I've watched lay trainings approach to arising doubt slowly change from facing an arising meditative phenomena into not touching a door that a full blown Boogy Man sits behind just waiting to be let out.

What has allowed you your fluidity with connecting to both the OBC and here?

Cheers
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PostSubject: Re: Is this "A Way Forward?": proposed rules and transgender training   Mon Apr 25, 2011 4:30 pm

Hi Howard

Sorry it has taken so long to respond. A fair question deserves a fair answer. Before i answer i just wanted to say i'm not sure i will post much after this but i will keep an eye on this site now and again. This is not out of fear or anything like that but i'm pretty happy with my connection to the OBC and not sure reading comments on this site too often are helpful to me personally.

You posed a few questions that got me thinking. Firstly you say most lay people you know wouldn't visit this site as they would see it as a statement of doubt about their teacher and possibly see it as supporting preceptual breakage and as gossip. Here are a few thoughts on this.

Firstly i am a married man, with children, have a fairly stressful job with a bit of responsibility. My wife and children are not buddhist and are not likey to be i reckon! I mention this only to try and convey to you that i am not a fundamentalist but lead a pretty normal existence in the world as a laymen. I also can't help notice that the majority of articles on this site relate to OBC members experience in the USA. I am not being anti-American here at all. I am Scottish and my experience of the OBC is mostly in Scotland and of Throssel Hole which is obviously in England. But i do wonder if there is a difference between how the sanga in the US and UK have developed. I always rememebr a lay minister who i deeply respect making an observation to me that he was surprised on a visit to the US to note the difference between lay ministers in the UK and US. This was no idle gossip but he said he noticed how they were far more involved in speaking to lay people aboput their conduct. In my experience of the UK, Scotland mostly, this doesn't really happen. So i wonder if there are differences? Althoug i note that Robert's (sorry to bring your name into this Robert!)experience was in the UK and i am not claiming the sanga here are perfect but i do wonder if there is a difference.

The monks i have met, in particular the two Scottish priors there have been to date, have always encouraged the sanga/me to think for ourselves and make our own minds up. I will metion this site to my prior the next time i spaeak to him and i am certian we will have a calm and informed discussion about this site. I also believe there is little or no idle gossip on these pages. All i read is the stories of genuine people who have had a bad experinece with the OBC. This saddens me personally but hasn;t put me off. I believe positives often come from negatives and these stories might help channel new directions within how the OBC is structured. I also believe there are far more positives than negatives about the OBC but there is always room to improve and there certainly should be an openess to reflect and listen to people who have had a negative experience.


I have always loved Great Master Dogen's saying 'always be prepared to be disturbed by the truth'. In fact i say it a lot to myself. If i am prepared to be disturbed by the truth, i have nothing to fear about reading and listening to the unfortunate experinces some people have had with the OBC. Although there are many including me who have very positive experince of the OBC.

You also ask if my connection to Throssel is meditative or devotional. Not sure about that one. If i'm being honest i would say both but the words i would use to describe my connection to Throssel is practical and grateful. I only make it there once or if i'm really lucky twice a year. I normally stay for roughly 3 - 6 days. For me it is just a great way to retreat from the world, recharge my spiritual batteries, reconnect with my meditation practice and just find a bit of peace and i am grateful to the OBC for offering me that! It is just such a change form my usual life out here in the world!

I hope that answers your questions. Sorry it is a bit long winded and it could have flowed better but hey its quite late here in Scotland!! As i say i might not be on for a while as for me it personally it doesn't help to be on here too much. That is not meant as alighton this sight at all, just what works for me personally.

I sincerely wish you all the best with your practice and life with or with out the OBC.

In gassho

Redstart
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