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 Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?

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June99



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PostSubject: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Fri Nov 08, 2013 3:16 pm

First topic message reminder :

[Admin note:  this thread was split from the thread about Rev. Bridin's leave of absence, under "Keeping in Touch", in order to give the offshoot discussion a chance to continue while helping the original thread get back to the purpose for which it was created.  June99's name shown as the author since her post was the first in sequence to be split, but this is only a function of the forum software.]

I was at the Abbey when Rev. Bridin was a postulant many, many years ago. She was kind, smart, and very sincere. I also remember her getting scolded in the kitchen by Rev. Leon for not cleaning a bowl correctly and doing what he said.  It was uncomfortable watching someone 20-30 years younger scolding her like a child.
I hope she feels happy and free now. The announcement that she is taking time to "clarify her spiritual purpose" rubs me the wrong way. It's seems they are trying to send the message that they know better and her decision has nothing to do with them. They should quote her reason for leaving instead of sounding like an authority on the matter.
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chisanmichaelhughes



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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Thu Nov 21, 2013 1:24 am

Enida I have a question for you
Does the actual practice of zazen have rules and regulations?
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Jcbaran



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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Thu Nov 21, 2013 2:35 am

I bumped into this on-line and thought it would be good to post as part of this discussion.  Do not know this website or the source.  http://www.westernchanfellowship.org/lib/wcf////unethical-zen-masters/ - The writer was a student of Sheng Yen actually, but clearly - at least in words - this fellow has moved away from the early thoughts of his teacher. But I don't know this teacher or his scene, Stuart Lachs might know him. 

Unethical Zen Masters
By: Simon Child, Chuan-fa Jing-hong

There have been several well-publicised scandals involving unethical behaviour by Zen masters. This is not a uniquely Zen problem, nor a uniquely Buddhist problem – there have also been similar problems involving other religions, for example with Christian priests – but I'm going to talk about it from the Zen perspective since that is my tradition, the Chinese Zen tradition of Chan Buddhism.

Article commissioned by Medytacja magazine (Poland).

There have been several well-publicised scandals involving unethical behaviour by Zen masters. This is not a uniquely Zen problem, nor a uniquely Buddhist problem – there have also been similar problems involving other religions, for example with Christian priests – but I'm going to talk about it from the Zen perspective since that is my tradition, the Chinese Zen tradition of Chan Buddhism.

When you hear of such behaviour, perhaps involving misuse of sexuality, power, or money, in someone who is reputed to be an enlightened master, then it raises doubts about the meaning of enlightenment, and the quality of their certification and appointment. If an ‘enlightened master’ can behave this way, does that mean that the concept of enlightenment is a sham? Does it mean that they were incorrectly approved, and if so how can it happen that their teacher made that mistake? Or is there some other explanation?

What is Enlightenment?

When Zen first became known in the West, the concept of enlightenment being accessible to those who practice Zen was very attractive. It is especially attractive to those with difficulty in their lives who hope and imagine that tasting enlightenment will cure all their problems. They project their fantasies and hopes for salvation onto the enlightenment experience, and also onto those Zen masters who are reputed to personify it.

But with Zen being relatively new in the West, and for most of us not part of our culture and upbringing, our understanding of this process may be rather superficial. To untangle this problem we need a deeper understanding of what is meant by enlightenment and Zen training.

All animals have a tendency to interpret the world in terms of its significance for them. This is a biological mechanism, enabling survival in what may be a hostile environment by recognising possible dangers and potential favourable circumstances. Unexpected sound – might be a snake, run away. Colours – might be edible fruit, go and investigate. We humans are complex social beings and add much complexity to this, reacting to opportunities and threats relating to our social position, learning from memories of past events and planning for a better future.

This instinct is important to us as we do need to be able to recognise threats and opportunities, both physical and social. But as a reflex behaviour it is rather crude and does not always serve us well – not all sounds indicate danger, poisonous fruit may be attractively coloured, we may misperceive the attitudes of others, and the future cannot be determined as we are not in control of all the conditions that will create it. We create suffering for ourselves by agonising over lost opportunities and unsuccessful endeavours, with fear of failure in what we seek and of losing what we have gained.

Striving to avoid failure we engage obsessively in trying to interpret the world around us. As a result we hardly ever perceive the world directly; instead we are aware only of our own thoughts about the world. You could say that we inhabit a virtual world of our own creation, full of our conceptions about the world but with no direct contact with the world itself.

If you doubt this, observe your own mind. How often can you rest in pure clear awareness, without replacing this by opinions and judgements? Do you see a landscape, or do you see a ‘beautiful’ or ‘ugly’ or ‘boring’ landscape? Notice how that value judgement is inserted automatically and unconsciously, and can make it difficult for you to see the actual view in front of you – you may immediately register it as ‘seen’ and turn your attention to something else. Do you see a person, or do you see a ‘friend’ or ‘stranger’ or ‘enemy’? Notice how, even before this categorisation had entered your awareness, you had already started to move towards or away from the person.

A glimpse of enlightenment is a step outside of the virtual world, into a direct perception of the underlying reality. In this state we do not inhabit opinions, we are not anxious about outcomes, and in particular we have stopped creating a sense of duality and opposition between ourselves and the rest of the world. The lack of duality between self and other, and indeed the lack of any sense of ‘self’, abolishes selfishness, and yet our basic self-preserving functions still operate – we can still walk and talk and respond to needs, and will still eat meals and take care when crossing roads. But the usual habitual setting of self before and above others is absent, and so naturally our minds are open and our actions compassionate.

The crucial point to understand is that such an enlightenment experience is a temporary state. Your usual self-centred habits of thought and action return as you slip out of this state back into your usual way of perceiving and interacting in the world. So is this experience of any value? Yes. It confirms to you that such a state of direct contact with nature is possible. It provides a ‘reference point’ for understanding your future states, highlighting to you just how much you live in a dualistic self-cherishing manner disconnected from direct contact with life. But far from freeing you of all of this, as you may have fantasised, instead the enlightenment experience highlights to you just how much work there is still to be done. This is why in Chan it is said that an enlightenment experience marks the beginning of practice, not the end.

I sometimes put it this way – the purpose of practice is not to reveal enlightenment to you, but to reveal your obstructions and bad habits! There may be some relationship between enlightenment and practice but we should look at it the opposite way around to what you might assume. If you practice purifying your mind and awareness then you may be more likely to have an enlightenment experience. But even better, if you have an enlightenment experience then you are better placed to continue practice to deepen your insight and work on your remaining obstructions.

Perhaps we could discuss the fully-enlightened state of Buddhahood, when all obstructions have been resolved, but to do so would rekindle our fantasies about enlightenment. Most masters have had a glimpse of enlightenment, but are not fully-enlightened Buddhas. Certainly I would make no such claim for myself, indeed I would deny it!

Students and Masters

By itself an enlightenment experience is not sufficient qualification to become a teacher. The potential teacher needs to continue practice of meditation and keeping precepts, to stabilise and develop their insight and ethical behaviour. If they also have sufficient knowledge and communication skills then some time later it may be possible to consider appointing them as teachers.

A person who has had such an experience has not become some superhuman perfect being. They are still subject to human frailties including selfish thoughts. Hopefully they will now be more aware of this, and have learned how to continue their practice to work on their karmic tendencies, and so may create less harm than previously. But still it might happen that they behave unskilfully and we should not be confused by that even if they are in the role of teacher.

There can be a difficult and destructive dynamic between teachers and students which can make this problem more extreme. Students may project onto their teacher their hopes for an infallible perfect teacher who will give them total enlightenment. The teacher may collude with this, for reasons of status or because they also believe that one is perfected by an enlightenment experience. Such a teacher can become trapped in this charade – to keep their role the teacher has to continue to project an image of perfection. How do they understand their own imperfections, which contradict their public and private image of perfection? Perhaps they deny them, which means they do not work on them. Or perhaps, even more dangerously, they tell themselves that since they are enlightened then they can do nothing wrong – that whatever they do, even seemingly unethical actions, are just their own expression of enlightenment. Here we have a recipe for disaster – an imperfect teacher who suppresses their own awareness of their unresolved imperfections, interacting with hopeful students who trust their teacher absolutely but inappropriately.

The significant error here is to place too much emphasis on the experience of enlightenment. To the general public, and to some Zen practitioners, and perhaps also for some Zen teachers, it can be seen as the goal of practice, with a belief that once achieved then practice is complete. This is a very severe and dangerous misunderstanding. Much more important is to cultivate a practice of awareness and ongoing investigation of one’s karmic tendencies, which will enable one to notice and intercept one’s own selfish thoughts before they are translated into harmful actions.

To reduce the risk of future problems, both students and teacher need a better understanding of the purpose of Zen training, and to drop any fantasies regarding enlightenment experiences. Masters must have the humility to recognise that they too may have faults, and diligently continue their practice to continue the process of purifying their thoughts and actions. And students have responsibilities too. They must not be star-struck – they must realise that their teachers are human and they must not be shocked if their teachers show human frailties. But they should be shocked, and complain, if their teacher takes an incorrect attitude to their own errors: claiming these are their expression of enlightenment; harming others yet not admitting fault; or failing to continue their own practice of investigation and purification.
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Jcbaran



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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Thu Nov 21, 2013 3:32 am

The Buddha specifically said that his disciples should carefully scrutinize his behavior, to see if he is true to his teaching, if he is authentic, living what he is preaching - and he specifically says they do not need some super powers to check him out.  Vimamsaka Sutta.  here is an audio commentary:

http://audio.buddhistdoor.com/eng/play/1098
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Stan Giko



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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Thu Nov 21, 2013 6:15 am

Josh,

Thanks for posting the `Unethical Zen Masters` article.  I think it`s excellent and it elucidates
many key topics that should have been investigated long ago.  This should be required reading
for anyone entering a monastery and should be talked through thoroughly and explored in a
group environment.  An environment where tough questions are permitted and encouraged.

I always thought it was extraordinary that so called Enlightenment or the aim of training was
never fully elucidated in the monastery. It was always rather vague... it could be almost anything
as there isn`t a standard accepted definition.  `You`ll know it if you get it` or just `training is
endless`.  Even the paradoxes of the morning scriptures were left unexplained to the newcomer.
Jiyu said that it normally takes about thirty years to complete one`s training in a japanese
monastery but,.....what is that point ?  What is one expected to achieve realistically ?  Most
people that I know certainly don`t seem enlightened after 30 years of Zen training.  What did we
actually sign up for ?

"The crucial point to understand is that such an enlightenment experience is a temporary state."

That was an excellent point.  Anything that is an experience or a state is temporary . All
experiences occur in time. they have a begining and an end. They can`t be made permanent so
there can be no master that has a permanent enlightenment experience.  Only understanding
gleaned from these experiences can be permanent, as knowledge isn`t time constrained.
Knowledge doesn`t require a severe regimen or a `boot camp` methodology to attain.  It should
be passed on by `equals`, the teacher should be a friend and not someone `raining down` the
dharma from on high.  It`s simply counter productive.

As regards the Student and Masters aspect, I believe there should be a clear distinction made
between a Master of the teaching and the Master of the teaching with mastery of him/her self.
Only the latter should be recognised as a true zen Master...that should `thin the herd` greatly.
Lastly....

"And students have responsibilities too. They must not be star-struck"

Absolutely...Blind faith in the teacher..or anything...is always a mistake and leads to a painful
learning curve. We all hate that feeling of being `suckered`...especially when we have set
ourselves up for it !  It should be faith pending the results of our training and assessing the
efficacy of the teacher over time.  If it doesn`t work, it`s time to walk and try elsewhere.
The student has a definite responsibility to him/her self.

Thanks for posting a really good article.
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H Enida



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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Thu Nov 21, 2013 11:01 am

Good morning all,

As novices we had classes on the "Taitaikoho" and how to translate that today.  I don't know if any of you have access to the text we can publish here, but I would appreciate your comments about it. It was the one of the main teachings we studied in classes as novices when I was at the Abbey.
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Thu Nov 21, 2013 11:51 am

"Believing oneself to be perfect is often the sign of a delusional mind."
Data to the Borg Queen, Star Trek: First Contact
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June99



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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Thu Nov 21, 2013 12:22 pm

Enida,
First of all, thank you so much for sharing your experience at the Abbey. I only wish this open communication about the OBC had been around years ago to help me understand my gut feeling about things that didn't always feel right. I'm grateful for the knowledge now, as it makes me realize some of my initial doubts and questions were legitimate and not just my problem. 
This is a little off topic, but what is your take on the Abbey and the way it isolated itself from other groups? There was a sense that the Abbey org. though it was better because it was more serious in it's practice. I remember in the beginning one was asked not to read other books while visiting there. Also, when I asked a monk about a passage from Robert Aitkin's book or Ram Das it was abruptly dismissed. I was also told not to "get too involved" in a Zen Center group when I moved a fair distance from the priory I normally went to.
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Thu Nov 21, 2013 3:18 pm

Interesting that June that is one of my memories from the early 70s a sort of sprititual elitism. How on earth can this be if one practices zazen?
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H Enida



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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Thu Nov 21, 2013 3:53 pm

Hi June,

We had approved reading lists when I was at the Abbey.  As a guest in the Guest House we were invited to read only the books on the shelves.  As a postulant and novice, you were only allowed to read what was on the approved novice reading list, unless you asked a senior senior or the Abbot if you could read something not on the list.

There were other aspects of these limitations, i.e. that novices could not leave the temple unless approval was given.  Before I was a chaplain I rarely left the monastery.  I was asked to have others who were seniors run the errand for me unless I had a good excuse (like a doctor appointment where they couldn’t do it for me J).  I also was authorized to call my family only once a month for one hour for the first few years I was at the monastery, and not allowed a family visit until after I had been ordained for a time.

As I said, as a novice we studied one of the translations of Dogen called the Taitaikoho in our novice classes led by different Masters.  There were several we studied by comparison: Rev. Master Jiyu’s How Junior Priests Must Behave in the Presence of Senior Priests, in Zen is Eternal Life; Leighton and Okumura’s translation in Dogen’s Pure Standards for the Zen Community; and Ichimura Shohei’s translation of North American Institute of Zen and Buddhist Studies in Zen Master Eihei Dogen’s Monastic Regulations.

Here are just a few:  “never stare at a senior,” “do not laugh loudly,” “All seniors must be served with the same respect as that which you would accord your own master,” “Be grateful for all teaching given by a senior;” “Always wait for a senior’s permission before sitting down in his presence,” “Never touch a senior,” “Never sit down before a senior permits you and then clasp your hands, sit down respectfully and upright,” “Stand as if at attention when with a senior if you must stand,” etc., etc., etc.  These are from Rev. Master Jiyu’s translation in Zen is Eternal Life which is widely available.  There are many more of the same tenor.  The other translations are actually interesting to read in comparison, similar but different.

These were the teachings when I was there and seniors expected you to learn how to put this into practice -- it conditioned one to be a good novice – and I am certain that is why we were studying it.


Last edited by H Enida on Thu Nov 21, 2013 5:03 pm; edited 1 time in total
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June99



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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Thu Nov 21, 2013 4:18 pm

Thank you Enida! That helps clarify some of what I sensed and experienced. It also explains why some novices kept to themselves so much. I'm sure they were afraid of the watchful eye and subsequent tongue lashing.
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Thu Nov 21, 2013 4:22 pm

Sorry I am dashing around and loosing the plot in plain speak I think this is it
The juniors have lecture on their behavior and how to be in front of the seniors
When the time comes and one becomes a seniors the rules slightly change and you can tell people hoe to act,shun other people,discredit other people, and do naughty things on the phone.
This we call zen?
Other way
learn to meditate shikantaka, natural respect and compassion already there, enjoy life love other people
no need to call this anything
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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Thu Nov 21, 2013 6:43 pm

chisanmichaelhughes wrote:
Other way
learn to meditate shikantaka, natural respect and compassion already there, enjoy life love other people
no need to call this anything
I've never understood why it has to be more than this, or harder (on self and others) than this.



Edited to say, I'm repeating myself - sorry   The good sense of "no need to call this anything" just jumps off the page at me each time I see it.


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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Thu Nov 21, 2013 6:58 pm

Reading Enida's last post, I can't help but wonder what might have happened if Kennett had not tried to import so much of the Japanese cultural trappings with her when she decided to teach Buddhism in the U.S. I understand that she "imprinted" on the Japanese expression/understanding of Zen and so that's the structure she embraced and tried to recreate, with some adaptation. I just wonder what might have happened if she had considered whether all these rigid, authoritarian codes were really needed for what she was trying to do. No point in speculating, I guess, but I am curious. 

June, I remember how often I saw novices who couldn't talk to lay guests at all because they'd been told to "train in silence" for a period of time. I wished I had asked one of the senior monks about this practice, just to hear how they would have explained it.
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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Thu Nov 21, 2013 10:07 pm

Prior to ordination rather than Dogen's rules for monks, which were just about OK in the thirteenth century (but culturally we have progressed a little in the last 800 years), it might have been better to read: 'Believing [banned term describing a male cows excreta]: how not to get sucked into an intellectual black hole.', ISBN 978-1-61614-411-1, by Stephen Law. It might have helped inoculate against nonsense.
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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Fri Nov 22, 2013 1:41 am

Brilliant bypassing of radar

I like to believe that zazen helps me see things as they are, strip the concepts, projections,mr amd mrs important out ,dont make anymore
All Dogen said was get up live and go to bed
he did not mention the Cornflakes
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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Fri Nov 22, 2013 10:59 am

I believe the British are fairly rule-bound and class-conscious, no?  "There's something peculiarly tenacious to an Island people!" wrote Winston Churchill, referring both to the British, and the Japanese re: WWII.  Well? maybe they feel they're barely hanging on...you can't exactly "go West young man" to get away from what you don't like in the East.

I too suffered under the grating rules of Shasta Abbey, and what seemed to me the constant herding about and monitoring.  Surprise! I have a job presently where they monitor you by the minute, electronically, including badging to get in the door, with report sent and electronic monitoring of time on task...to the minute...Shasta therefore helped!  However, they couldn't make me say the toilet verse, and I didn't "That'll show 'em!"  They do however require a 6-minute vacation (1/10th of an hour) for being a minute late.  You cannot make it up by staying an extra minute after sign-out time.
 
Is there a more artful way to live than punctilious pertinacity?

Somewhere Blake writes:
"What is it that women do in men require?
The lineaments of gratified desire. 
What is it that men do in women require?
The lineaments of gratified desire."

If Blake is correct...you're being monitored in lay life too...by the stock market of the mood of the significant other (if present)...Blake's wife said, when asked what it was like to be married to the famous man: "I have very little of Mr. Blake's company--he's so often in heaven!"

So I finally told myself, about a retreat at Shasta Abbey -- it's a concentration camp -- in a good way.  Charity/tenderness/benevolence/sympathy -- these they taught as the four signs of enlightenment...If I didn't believe that? I'd have felt beat up at best, and terrorized if I allowed my baseline anxiety to blow up. 

So how can I blame them? I have no way of knowing what I looked like coming through the gate...was my hair on fire?  it's a smoking ruin now.  I just trusted when I went out the gate I'd be a bit better ready to live...and it felt that way...(I could be wrong?)
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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Fri Nov 22, 2013 11:53 am

i fully appreciate that discipline and rules and participating in a retreat can be beneficial - even when its difficult or tough.  But what we are addressing here is a way of life that became progressively more extreme and toxic and unconsciously mean.  The right medicine in the right amounts can heal - that same medicine can harm you or even kill you when given in higher doses or too often or without intelligence.  Isolated spiritual communities and their leaders frequently go wacko, extreme, cultic.... this is clear and obvious.  It also happens in all kinds of other human group situations.  No surprise.  We see it all the time... and we lived it at Shasta.  It is not so much about blame but about the getting of wisdom - figuring out what is true and what is not, what is beneficial and what is not, what heals and what harms.  This sorting process is a very important part of waking up.  If you can't tell fool's gold from real gold, if you can't tell harm or help, that is a big problem, and you should not be teaching anybody anything.  

At Shasta, there was a vast of amount of ignoring and ignorance and institutional blindness and a total suppression of communication and thought.  It was a totalitarian system - in a small way - but tyrannical nonetheless.  Enough of that.  Enough of wowing and bowing.  On this forum, we share and discuss and wrestle and wonder and challenge - each person in their own way, many different points of view, we welcome independent thinking, analysis, critical thought, questioning.  That the "masters" at Shasta don't like this process or think we are breaking the precepts - that's their story and their problem.  In their system, there is only ONE way to think, ONE story, and anything else is heretical, defective. 

and the whole theology that "masters" can't be criticized or challenged or are unaccountable.... first, that is not dharma, but more importantly,  - it is harmful, foolish, unsustainable... that teaching is not selling water by the river, it's selling arsenic.  Not interested in buying that poison.
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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Fri Nov 22, 2013 12:14 pm

Hi everyone,

When I was a novice and chaplain, I found a video in Eko's lounge of a documentary taped in Japan.  It was about a female Buddhist monastery and the documentary was about life in that monastery.  I didn't understand a word of it, because it was a Japanese documentary.  But I was completely amazed when I watched it.  The Zendo, the bells, the hallways, the mealtime ceremony, all of it was just what we had at the Abbey.  I could have visited them as a monk, not speaking a word of japanese, with no instruction at all, and sat on the tan with my bowl set and enjoyed a formal mealtime ceremony with them without any problem.  They untied their bowl sets in the same way, spread their bowls, serverd the food, ate, and washed up in the same way we were taught.

Up until I saw that video I had had no idea that RM Jiyu had so completely and precisely created a Japanese style monastery in Mt Shasta, California.  How she did it with the limited funds and limited resourses she had amazes me.  The zendo, the tans, the ceremonies, all of it.  The documentary followed the monks throughout the day and it was remarkable.  When I saw the novice running through the halls ringing the wake up bell it was just like watching an Abbey monk ringing the identical bell.  It felt so timeless to watch it.  

By the time I watched it RM Jiyu had been dead for 11 years and all of the novices had been ordained by one of her disciples, but the mealtime ceremony, the Shosan ceremony, the bell ringing the monks into the Buddha Hall, etc etc etc were exactly the same.  Even the height and layout of the tans was the same.  She must have made preciser drawings with measurements before she left Japan.

At the time I was still loving living in a monastery, sleeping in the Zendo, and participating in the ceremonies.  So to see the exact same things going on in Japanese monastery was inspiring to me.  I knew at that time that I was learning at least the forms of authentic Japaneses Zen monastic training.

I'm not commenting on the benefit, or lack of it, to a person living in a monastery in America.  I'm just saying it was an amazing accomplishment.  

Sohia
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pete x. berkeley

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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Fri Nov 22, 2013 1:03 pm

Josh: Your comments above, which begin with--
"I fully appreciate that discipline and rules and participating in a retreat can be beneficial - even when it's difficult or tough..."
 
is excellent, to me, because I have been scratching toward understanding what I've been asking for...which is not just a flatfooted pronouncement (BaaAAADDddd) but an explanation of either the effect on oneself that was negative, or an explanation of what would be more appropriate, and positive...and you've given both.  This is so much better than neo-dogmatism (i.e. "I'm right; you're wrong.")  If there's anything worse than the bumper sticker: God said it. I believe it. That settles it."
it would have to be: "Bring back Baal."

What we see with strong thinkers is a definitive weather report, as if Nature has no surprises and the Universe is a known entity. For example (not from the Forum) what does Richard Dawkins derive from proclaiming himself an atheist, and theists wrong?  Not that I know everything he said, in fact he did say theists can't prove their point, and I can't disprove their point (that God exists).  Therefore, I'm not a complete and full atheist; maybe there is a God but I doubt it...so that was good. But still why does he fear the thought or the practice.  He opens one of his books saying "Religion is responsible for the Twin Towers [9/11] falling."  Whoa!  That's a pretty pathetic piece of forensics.  Dr. Judy Wood, Webster Griffin Tarpley, and former professor of Religion, David Ray Griffin could help Dawkins here.  but I've vectored off.

"God is a concept, by which we measure our pain." John Lennon sang, and continues "Let me say it again..." (and he does).  So?  Is there any chance, Josh, and others that what is an anodyne for some, may be an irritant to others? 

Sophia:  You have so far done a beautiful job of bringing windows on the world of Shasta more recently than my experience, and I ask again, how did it hurt you to believe and train, to trust? If Japanese-style Soto Zen came over to California pretty well intact, and it's not quite right, then there's more work to do...that's all...What was Lady Macbeth's mistake?  Going to make forceful change...urging her husband on, picking up a knife..."Then I'll do, and I'll do, and I'll do!"

I remember a documentary on Mother Teresa of Calcutta.  The Hollywood star interviewing her said I wish I could join you, but I feel unworthy...I haven't lived such a pure life...(a pretty brave admission).  Mother Teresa replied: "Even if my sins were scarlet red, God would forgive me."

You can argue against this "God" thing, and this "sin" thing...but you can't argue with the woman's feelings, or Mother Teresa's compassionate changing from individual focus to general amnesty.

"This alone have I taught: Sorrow, and the release from sorrow." Didn't the Buddha say that?  If you don't have sorrow, I guess you get to pass this vending machine.
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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Fri Nov 22, 2013 1:57 pm

In a nutshell one of the main reasons I don't associate with the OBC anymore is because I feel like they crossed some real boundaries in the way they admonished me for petty things and offered their unsolicited or presumptuous advice. Because I was so young, and open, 'like an empty vessel,'  I was an easy target for their we know best attitude. 
In the past, I've posted some of the confusing things that were said to me, but here is a summary:
-"You have a calling to be a monk, don't wait like I did, you'll regret it. If you have a family they will sense this calling and resent it."
-"Some people are meant to be alone... you are one of them."
-"Your resistance to becoming a monk may have to do with the way your mother treated you."
-"YOU have nothing to lose by becoming a monk" (this one is particularly funny, in my opinion)
-"You are procrastinating again, I sense you do this alot" (when I was wavering on becoming a lay resident)
-"I am not surprised"... followed by "you have a lot more to do if you want to be a good member..." after I decided against lay residency.
-"Yeah, you had better..." (donate money) when the monk was angry that I didn't contribute enough work.
-"Are you normally a happy person? You just don't seem like it." (I was actually miserable being there but was constantly being advised that it was my "resistance.")
This all happened when I was only 24 years old and the 40 year old me would not stand for this now. But, I'm curious if there's just a culture of it's okay for me to get into your business and tell you what is wrong, so to speak, there? Maybe some of the former monks can expand on this.
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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Fri Nov 22, 2013 10:39 pm

jumping back some posts... Stuart Lachs commented on the blog I posted from Simon Child - see above. 

Here is what Stuart said:

"I saw posted on the OBC board a piece by Simon Child that was well liked and that you thought I might know who he is. Yes I do. Feel free to post all or part what follows.

"Simon Child is one of Sheng Yen's Dharma heirs in England. He started studying with John Crook, Sheng Yen's first Dharma heir. Crook is a perfect example of some one getting D.t. because they have a group of followers. It also served SY's purposes of having a Western Dharma heir and thereby branding himself as a global player in the competitive atmosphere of big name Buddhist teachers on Taiwan. Crook mentioned to me on the day he received D.t. that he thought Shifu ( SY) was afraid he would affiliate his group with a Tibetan lineage. When I questioned SY about Crook's D.t. he told me that he told John "he could not pass some one on their Chan experience." SY was often quite honest with me when I confronted him directly.

I would say that Simon has more insight into Zen than Crook had. Simon's article is straight forward- a breadth of fresh air. The pieces missing from articles like this is why did Westerners think so naively of enlightenment and of Zen masters? In a few words it is because of the misleading fantasies put out by a long line of people, D.T. Suzuki being one of the first, Sheng Yen too and the article of his some one quoted to justify their self serving behavior. Sheng Yen loved to idealize Zen masters and their attainment. The whole Zen mythology in my opinion needs to be deconstructed so as to prevent the next charismatic roshi who comes along, and he will come along, to mine the myth for his or her own purposes.

I strongly believe their is enough in Zen's view and practice to stand well without the fantasy of super human people/roshi imputed to have attainment way beyond anything they really have. When and if the rare extraordinary person comes along that actually has a super high a level of attainment, that person will not need a fantasy to back him up."  End of comments from Stuart
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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Sat Nov 23, 2013 3:31 am

Pete, 

I greatly benefitted from much that I learned and experienced while at Shasta Abbey. I was treated by many monks with love and compassion, especially the more senior novices, Rev Helen, Rev Amanda, and Rev Bridin. They are all seniors now.  They helped me, supported me in my efforts, encouraged me in any way they could, were never unkind to me and I miss them dearly.

And there is definitely more work to do, both on my part personally in my life, and at Shasta Abbey by the monks there.  I don't believe any of the monks there intend to harm anyone.  They all became monks to become better trainees and to help others do the same.  It is just that they seem to be unaware of some of the changes that would be helpful.

Sophia
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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Sat Nov 23, 2013 3:50 am

I have experienced monks apologizing.  I approached one senior to show her something one afternoon and she told me a little abruptly that she didn't have time, she was on her way to give a dharma talk.  Knowing that she was in a hurry, I told her I would show her later.  That afternoon she came looking for me. "I'm so sorry for the way I spoke to you earlier," she said.  I told her she didn't need to apologize, I understood that giving a Dharma talk could be stressful.  "Oh, but I do," she said.  "You see," she explained looking slightly sheepish. "The Dharma talk was on right speech!"  

She smiled and we both just burst out laughing.  It was such a good example of how difficult it can be to follow our own teaching.  She was a great example of a monk trying to practice what she was teaching.  I saw her work very hard on the way she spoke to people and become much gentler and kinder over time. I admire her greatly for that.

It's not that the individual monks aren't doing their best. It's more that the way the Abbey operates is not conducive to monks being kind or focusing on the compassion of practicing the precepts. They read them, and teach them, but much of the time they don't embody them.  

I think Kozan has a better idea of why.  I would like to read his paper. I don't know much about the psychology of group or organizational behavior.

Sophia
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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Sat Nov 23, 2013 8:43 am

I had many friends at the Abbey when I was there.  The novices were more or less equals and I appreciated our older novices, many who are now seniors.  I loved all the monks in their own way- some are sweet, some a little forgetful, some illustrious, and really dedicated to being there.  It would be very difficult to stay and work as hard as a monk's life requires if you weren't dedicated.  And they loved the dharma.

My most trying experiences were when taking instruction or refuge from seniors or monastic officers. The tone was often abrupt and I was never sure if they were really hearing me or my question. In my case, they often didn't understand or further investigate my concerns, and my monastics officers involved didn't have to be held accountable, which caused me much harm (some of which I just can't share on a public forum).  I had to learn how to phrase questions or bring information in a way that would not result in admonishment towards me. Sometimes it was hilarious trying to work through the maze of communicating between two seniors without getting zapped.  When I became a senior chaplain for the Abbot, no one gave me much grief anymore on a daily basis.

In hindsight, I see the dynamic and how it created a lack of accountability.  I believe it is more about the group dynamic and interpretation of the teachings than any individual monk's behavior.  They were all volunteers there just like I was - and the hours were long and the pay sucked. I have studied hard, and had counseling about, my part in it since I left. 

That dynamic is what many of the people who spoke with Faith Trust were trying to address as well - trying to understand how this happened with a bunch of well meaning people.  I would like to read your article too Kozan.  I think it is an interesting study to discover how groups operate fairly smoothly without being aware of the unintended consequences.  Not unlike Plato's Allegory of the Cave.....
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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Sat Nov 23, 2013 11:52 am

Hi Enida,

I looked at the posts on The Reading Corner section of OBC Connect. There is a whole list of book after book written by people who share the same experience we are talking about. We seem to be coming back to what someone expressed so well...you don't see it until you do. 

How does a monk who's dedicated his entire adult life to what he thought was helping people look honestly at what has gone wrong with that initial good intention and consider the possibility that he has been harming people in the name of Buddhism.

Sure, at that point you could make changes and start doing better. But that would require facing all the harm already done, questioning practices you have been living by and teaching for your entire monastic 
career, and making changes.  What an upheaval that would be. It's much more comfortable to blame the whole episode on Eko, who is no longer there. So, problem solved.

Even if you do go through all that and decide that change is needed. how do you get the entire order, around 100 monks, to agree on new ways, new rules...  I guess it's less if you subtract Koshin and his group and all the monks who have left since I was there. But still, they are spread all over the North America, Britain, and Europe. Why would the monks outside of Shasta Abbey see a need to change? Living what happened has much more impact than hearing about it. 

I think the Head of the Order would probably have to be leading the movement for change and he definitely isn't taking on that role. No wonder the Interim Board disbanded.

Sophia
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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Sat Nov 23, 2013 12:40 pm

It is interesting that other temples would say it is a Shasta or Eko problem because we are claiming to be one Order (even putting aside the teaching of no separate self Smile).  Beside the fact that many other temples have had the same problems of dynamics with harsh results themselves, even if they aren't exactly the same or well publicized.  This is an Order problem.

I suppose the Head of the Order can't very well orchestrate change either, each individual temple would just leave the Order if they didn't agree (hence Koshin).  Practically speaking, it doesn't appear that the framework functions.  The final word, Rev. Master Jiyu, is gone so there is no way to enforce change because everyone sees her legacy a bit differently....sigh.  It's a conundrum.
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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Sat Nov 23, 2013 8:40 pm

June99 wrote:
In a nutshell one of the main reasons I don't associate with the OBC anymore is because I feel like they crossed some real boundaries in the way they admonished me for petty things and offered their unsolicited or presumptuous advice.   . . .
 
This all happened when I was only 24 years old and the 40 year old me would not stand for this now. But, I'm curious if there's just a culture of it's okay for me to get into your business and tell you what is wrong, so to speak, there? Maybe some of the former monks can expand on this.
I hope a former monk will comment, or maybe just someone who has stayed at the Abbey recently and can share their impressions.

June, some of my experiences were similar to yours although I wasn't as young as you were, when I started going to the Abbey. I'm thankful I was in my early 30s by then -- ten years earlier I was a very different person.

One thing that stands out in memory -  during a retreat I was part of a small group sitting in the Buddha Hall, listening to two monks conduct a dharma discussion. I wasn't comfortable being there because both of them acted as if they had been told to prod the lay people into making comments/answering questions, and I was much more in listening mode that afternoon. I tried to cooperate and give them a comment when they called on me directly, but then one of them starting dissecting it, really tearing it apart in front of the group, and I felt that my answer was being held up as an example of wrong understanding. Not fun, not what I went to that retreat for. I tried to diffuse the tension within myself by making a comment like "wow, you guys don't hold back on showing us our errors", said with a smile although I didn't feel like smiling.  The answer from the monk was, "Well, you did walk into the room . . ."  I took that to mean, anything that happens after I walked through the door was fair game as far as this guy was concerned, because I put myself there. Except -  retreat attendees don't have a choice about being there - we're supposed to participate "wholeheartedly" in the schedule unless we're ill or have some other good reason to skip. So there I was, having a monk get into my business (involuntarily on my part) and highlight what was wrong with my thinking/outlook.

So at least as recently as 2005, that mentality was still part of monastic/laity interaction. I know that's quite a few years ago; I would be interested to hear from anyone recently involved with Shasta Abbey who has thoughts to share on whether things have changed since then, and to what degree.


Last edited by Lise on Sat Nov 23, 2013 8:59 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : factual correction - lost track of dates)
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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Sat Nov 23, 2013 8:57 pm

I would also like to hear anyone's thoughts on whether the monks have tried to mend their ways in regard to keeping the laity's confidential information private.  Several forum members have commented on this issue in years past, including me -- the carelessness with which some senior monks would pass along things said to them during sanzen as if were suitable cocktail party chatter. This lapse in care and judgment shocked me greatly, no doubt because I witnessed someone's distress when she learned that Daishin Yalon was telling other people something she had told him in sanzen. The irony wasn't lost on me back then, either -  monks would be very stern in saying that you couldn't discuss with anyone else what was said to you in sanzen, and then they do whatever they feel like doing -   yes, I still have some residue about this. 

I would like to know if there is a more conscious awareness -  or perhaps, a respect for - the fundamental obligation to keep confidential information to themselves.
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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Sat Nov 23, 2013 10:13 pm

Enida wrote:
I suppose the Head of the Order can't very well orchestrate change either, each individual temple would just leave the Order if they didn't agree (hence Koshin).  Practically speaking, it doesn't appear that the framework functions.
Two points here, almost diametrically opposed. Ah, the joys of cognitive dissonance!

First, for the Head of the Order to act in this way would probably mean that at least he thought that he had the authority over the rest of the order. And this hierarchical authority is part of what is being complained about. Second, and much more important, if he acted in this way in extremis it might mean the break up and end of the OBC. Now should he sacrifice the Order for the truth - YES!

The purpose of the order is truth, if those in the Order subjugate the truth to the needs of the Order then they have given up on the search for the truth and have started on the path to being hypocritical layabouts playing at being monks. Oops .. a bit over the top I fear, but you probably get the gist.We all make mistakes and at times try to hide hide them, and hide from them. But you cannot become awakened by taking sleeping pills.
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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Sun Nov 24, 2013 4:09 am

I tried to diffuse the tension within myself by making a comment like "wow, you guys don't hold back on showing us our errors", said with a smile although I didn't feel like smiling.


Yep that's the Lise we've come to know and love
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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Sun Nov 24, 2013 10:45 am

That is kind, Michael. In retrospect, though, I might have been baring my teeth instead of smiling - sometimes there is not too much difference funny
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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Sun Nov 24, 2013 11:19 am

Lise, Thank you for bringing this to the table again. It seems as soon as one shows genuine interest and dedication to the OBC sect it sets up a power differential and the senior monks and/or priors start to treat you like their disciple. The institutionalized hierarchy they live by then becomes the basis of your teacher/ student relationship as well. And with it comes the pushy advice, verbal admonishments, and sideway, stink eye glances when you've said something wrong.
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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Sun Nov 24, 2013 1:18 pm

June99 wrote:


. . .  And with it comes the pushy advice, verbal admonishments, and sideway, stink eye glances when you've said something wrong.

Oh man, this really takes me back -  the stink-eye glances.  I tried not to say much during retreats at SA, but more than once I recall "getting looks" from one senior monk or another, after saying something (or reacting to something someone else said) that did not align with SA protocol or teachings. They didn't try to hide it -  it looked very open and deliberate.

I guess that works sometimes, on people who are trying to please them, but all it did for me was move me closer to understanding why I should not go there anymore -
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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Sun Nov 24, 2013 5:26 pm

One of the things which comes across is very poor communication skills.
I think sometimes when one is in a hierarchical situation especially monastic where advice is given and there is a sense that everything said is right ,correct or the truth, that one is lulled into a false sense that one has all the skillful means and not lacking in basic skills.
However it appears from what you guys say that,the juniors and lay people are almost bullied into accepting what is passed off for teaching,even manipulated into accepting it. This stink eye form of manipulation is a little out of date.
Removed far away from spiritual circles, communication skills are high on the agenda,one can take courses on communication skills, one can take courses on man management.The leval of teaching technique and communication is very poor, which might explain partly Kennetts avoidance of personal argument or challenge,she would not allow it,and do all the very basic tactics to avoid it. How refreshing for a teacher to say 'I dont know',how disappointing to hear 'this is the right way',I dont think Buddhism and any real understanding can be carried from moment to moment,Buddhism and real understanding are realized this very moment.
So for me to think oneself is right and to teach someone what one thinks is right, is way outside the spirit of Zen
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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Sun Nov 24, 2013 8:24 pm

Mstrathern wrote:  Now should he sacrifice the Order for the truth – YES!

I agree.  It seems to me THAT would be RM Jiyu’s legacy, not the forms which are subject to change J  Who knows how she would have changed things up if she was still living……I am curious what the consensus would be on what her legacy really is.  To me she is an ancestor, not my master.  I never met her as she died before I ever came to the Abbey.  When we went to the monastic gathering at Throssel several years ago there were two distinct groups of monks.  All the masters who were RM Jiyu’s disciples, and the rest of us who were granddisciples and who had very little in common with each other – we had different masters who had different ideas of her legacy.  I had to wonder at that time what would hold us together, if not for the Seniors who were disciples of RM Jiyu.  What would be her legacy in 50 years?

Regarding your comment Mark, “they have given up on the search for the truth,” and this string about offering correction to a teacher -- I heard a speaker in a 12-step meeting share recently about being teachable.  She talked about when she is the expert again, she is in real danger of falling back into her disease.  When she is teachable, everyone’s shared experience enhances her understanding.  (Reminds me of the story of the master overflowing a student’s  full teacup.)  In my experience, the senior monks weren’t very teachable.  The structure of training novices and giving teaching to the laity made the teachers the experts.  The Taitaikoho for training young monks talks in several instances about not giving teaching to another while in front of a senior, etc., and there is a definite taboo on addressing seniors to you with a teaching.  It was very uncomfortable if I sounded like I was trying to do that, I could feel the tension in the room and I often had to restate my concern in a more ‘appropriate’ fashion.  You take refuge in seniors and listen to them and don’t ask too much or trouble them, and use skillful speech to offer information that doesn’t come across as teaching.  It is definitely not an equal give and take.

I am just wondering how the ideal that the laity and monks inform each other’s practice is relevant if what the laity has to say to the monks toward needed changes is simply disregarded by the monks if they don't agree.  It is supposedly the laity that financially supports the monks and the monks who bring the teaching to the laity in turn – an interdependent relationship.  There should be acceptance as the ideal in my mind, not subject to censure and refusals, and unanswered by the monks.
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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Sun Nov 24, 2013 9:37 pm

In one of the Pali Canon texts it says of one 'who has won his own salvation' that 'to him it does not occur: "There is, who is better than me, equal to me, inferior to me." 
Samyutta-Nikaya iii, 235

Doesn't sound like you would get the stink eye from him/her! Mind you this is an idealised picture which I don't think we can expect to ever fully live up to. Also it is a description of behavior that we can only aspire to as a by-product of practice, not an admonition that we should should contort ourselves to fit, that's just acting, and would likely lead to all sorts of neuroses. Mmm... is there an 'echo' of something there?
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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Mon Nov 25, 2013 2:16 am

Did you mean Eko?
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PostSubject: taboo and prohibition   Mon Nov 25, 2013 6:13 am

The question is, why would anyone want to found a new religion, or why would anyone want to transplant an old religion from one place to another?
 
Religion can present itself to us as a set of myths and fairy stories, it can present itself to us as a set of moral strictures and exhortations, it can present itself to as a set of promises (eternal life, deep wisdom etc). It can present itself to us as a guide to meaning in an otherwise meaningless universe.
 
From a social point of view, though, aside form basic laws against murder, theft etc, every tribe or social group needs to have some kind of belief system, and some set of moral standards.
 
In many societies religion is the medium of these moral conventions and the medium through which they are preserved in society. So that apart from any personal satisfaction we may obtain in prayer and genuflection we also derive a very tangible benefit in the sense of a set of moral conventions which hopefully allow us to live in harmony together.
 
Many societies use or have used religion for this purpose. Though I am an atheist, at infant school I was taught the ten commandments, which is a very sensible set of commandments and I think will influence my thinking always.
 
So, a motive for inventing a new religion (or importing one from another place, which is much the same thing), could be as a form of social engineering, i.e. to provide a new value system to replace on old value system which is perceived as defunct. This is, in fact, the only possible sensible reason for attempting such a thing. Some of my ancestors were Christian missionaries in Syria and Lebanon, and they were able to help women who were suffering under the Arab system at the time. Although I don’t share their Christian beliefs, I can see that some of the work they did with the women of the Arabs had real value.
 
At the present moment our civilization is in a period of decline. I state this as a bald fact of nature and not as a value judgment. Civilization is a disciplined state which exacts a fairly heavy price upon us but can also deliver some very significant rewards. Freud wrote about the price we pay for it, as for the rewards, just listen to the music of Schumann or Brahms, read the novels of Tolstoy, Flaubert, Hardy or the Brontes, watch the plays of Shakespeare, read the poetry of Rilke, the fruits of this last blindingly beautiful phase of western civilization are right in front of our nose and plain for anyone who wants to see, to see.
 
Civilization is buttressed by a system of boundaries like a set of psychic sea walls, which govern relations between classes, perhaps, but certainly sexual relations. These barriers are inherited and unconscious, they have the character of taboo rather than prohibition. Because they are a common part of our collective psyche, we don’t experience them as painful. In a civilized society we don’t experience pain in having to refrain from having sexual relations with our sister or our best friend’s wife, because we know that “that’s the way things are.”
 
Now we have a system where almost all the traditional barriers are dissolving. There are very few taboos remaining. I think the taboo against family incest still remains, though obviously some people ignore it. But taboos against sexual relations between unmarried people are gone, same sex taboos are gone, even taboos against having a fling with your best friend’s partner are, seemingly gone, and so on. We may experience this as liberation but in fact for many people it is deeply confusing and draining. Good fences make good neighbours. It is much easier to be friends with people if you know where the boundaries are.
 
So, finally the point I am trying to come to. Given that we are in a terminal stage of a civilization, how can we deal with this fact? I have a sense that some of the Buddhist missionaries, whether Asians coming to the west or westerners training in Asia are trying to deal with this by transplanting Buddhism as a way of re-establishing a social framework for morality. And it seems to me that Zen in America, insofar as I can see it (and perhaps there are better streams that don’t attract so much publicity) has split into two main streams. One is the big money, sexploitation stream which has simply been co-opted by the mainstream of western civilization and is happy to drift over the weir with it. This is simply the psychic equivalent of a pyramid scheme, where the suckers at the base lose everything to keep the guys at the top in their mansions and regalia. But the other stream is the “moral re-armament” stream.
 
Logically speaking moral re-armament is a very natural reaction to the decline of civilization. After all, if your taboos are dissolving, what more natural than to build new ones? But this is very dangerous because whereas a taboo seems natural to us and not too painful in the observation, a prohibition is very painful to as and we are constantly reminded that we are being prevented from doing something that we could otherwise naturally do. The result is that people get sadistic.
 
So although in some ways I have more sympathy with the moral re-armers (because at least they are genuine and have at least some logic behind them), I think that in the end they actually do more harm than the pyramid sellers because they inculcate deeply ingrained habits of anger and negativity towards things which are after all only human and trivial and nothing to get worked up about really.
 
As for what we should be doing? Well, I have come to doubt that starting a new religion is any use whatsoever, and that all you can do is to help people understand what’s happening to them so that they can make better choices and save something from the wreckage.
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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Mon Nov 25, 2013 9:31 am

Lise and June - if you look at Shasta Abbey's website under "About" then "Legal" you will find the O.B.C. Confidentiality Policy.  It explains pretty clearly they can speak to other monks about personal issues brought up in sanzen.  I remember shortly after having moved to the Abbey a monk came up and asked me about something private in my life and I thought to myself, "Hey, I didn't tell them that...."  I wondered why they talked about others personally instead of keeping to the principal of the problem.  Perhaps they should make a clear disclaimer before every sanzen?
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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Mon Nov 25, 2013 10:51 am

Hi everyone, 

Two quick comments.  One, as novices when we referred to that look, it was humorously called getting the "hairy eyeball." Don't know where that came from. It was passed down from novice to novice.  "Oh, I said ........... and she gave me the hairy eyeball."  

Second, when I was packing up Eko's things in his library, I found the course on Non violent communication.  I had never seen it before.  I think he probably ordered it for the monks.  He had been talking a lot about how the monks spoke to each other and the laity.  He was really trying to initiate some changes at the Abbey.  One of the reasons he kept his relationship a secret was so that he could institute some changes before he left and better communication skills for the monks was on that list.

Sophia
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Mon Nov 25, 2013 11:37 am

Did his plans for communication skills ever get discussed?
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Mon Nov 25, 2013 11:38 am

( That is a joke) Sorry
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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Mon Nov 25, 2013 11:50 am

H Sophia wrote:
Hi everyone, 

I found the course on Non violent communication.  I had never seen it before.  I think he probably ordered it for the monks.  He had been talking a lot about how the monks spoke to each other and the laity.  He was really trying to initiate some changes at the Abbey.

Sophia
.
Yes it would be interesting to know more about what Eko's intentions were. 

More about NVC here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonviolent_Communication

I expect Kozan will jump in here as he is a proponent.


Last edited by Isan on Mon Nov 25, 2013 1:23 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Lise
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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Mon Nov 25, 2013 12:40 pm

H Enida wrote:
Lise and June - if you look at Shasta Abbey's website under "About" then "Legal" you will find the O.B.C. Confidentiality Policy.  It explains pretty clearly they can speak to other monks about personal issues brought up in sanzen.  I remember shortly after having moved to the Abbey a monk came up and asked me about something private in my life and I thought to myself, "Hey, I didn't tell them that...."  I wondered why they talked about others personally instead of keeping to the principal of the problem.  Perhaps they should make a clear disclaimer before every sanzen?
Hi Enida -  the policy you point to was not in place in 2006 when the incident I mentioned occurred. A shorter, simpler policy was published but I don't have a copy of it. There was a similar reference to a monk needing to decide if silence would cause greater harm, if it was a really serious matter, and in that case they had a right to consult with other seniors if they thought it would.

The issue in question was not serious enough that D. Yalon needed to mention it to anyone else; if he had maintained silence, this would not have caused harm. His sharing with other monks caused a great deal of embarrassment and distress to the person in question, and this wasn't necessary. It didn't serve a greater good.

In a recent Sunday dharma talk D. Yalon talks about how he often doesn't remember who said what to him, or the content of what he told someone.  For those taking sanzen with him, this is good to keep in mind.  The reference occurs somewhere between the 8 and 10 minute marks.


Edited to say:  these newer rules, and the old ones that I saw, both talk about monks sharing the info with other seniors. In the incident I mentioned, my friend received remarks about her private sanzen comments from three monks, in separate incidents during the retreat, only one of whom was a senior. It's hard to understand why junior monks were brought into the loop at all - that would seem to be directly outside the protocol.


Last edited by Lise on Mon Nov 25, 2013 2:13 pm; edited 4 times in total (Reason for editing : clarifications)
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Carol

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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Tue Nov 26, 2013 12:09 am

Sophia's remrks about Eko trying to improve communication techniques at the Abby is consistent with my knowledge (almost said "friendship") with him.

He spoke to us more as a lay person would speak. I went to several week-long retreats led by him, and his manner of speaking was always kind, somewhat casual, often humorous. I found his communication style helpful and friendly.

He made me able to "hear"the dharma without the barriers of OBC-speak, which was quite off-putting to me. I liked him and admired his teaching and am sorry that he was so conflicted within himself that he had to lie and disrupt the lives and faith of so many people.
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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Tue Nov 26, 2013 1:56 am

Interesting points Carol.
Shasta did not have the option for a teacher possibly an Abbot to operate as a married person,I think most western groups are open to that. Eko did not have many options , and maybe did not know the way out.
I am not sure about the message of spirituality and celebacy,and the middle way,I question  the issue made about it. relationships and sexuality are deepened by communication,zen can not be outside of life.  In real terms Eko perhaps had 1 important thing to teach people.which was what to do when in a jam,when the rule book did not cover the issue.

It does seem with our discussing Shimano,Baker,Shasta that more unneeded knots have been created than before,discussion and communication on real issues seems to have been banned, and sexuality taught and lived in abusive ways...very strange
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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Tue Nov 26, 2013 12:12 pm

chisanmichaelhughes wrote:

I am not sure about the message of spirituality and celebacy,and the middle way,I question  the issue made about it. relationships and sexuality are deepened by communication,zen can not be outside of life.  
In at least one of RMJK's tapes recorded in the 80's, she clearly stated that one "can not go as far spiritually" if they are in a relationship.  
As a young twenty-something and eager to "find that eternal,"  this posed a lot of confusion for me. I wonder if it creates some dissonance in the monks as well?
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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Tue Nov 26, 2013 1:15 pm

Of course one can not go very far,because there is nowhere to go.
Life presents us with many koans far more difficult and relevant than zen koans,simple koans like how do we live in the right way,how do we form deep relationships,how do we have a good sexual relationship that is in tune including spiritually in tune with ones partner,what do we do when surrounded by hardship and grief. These are real relevant questions for all of us, about our own lives our here and now,if zen does not encompass these issues and help show a way through ,then it is not relevant to mankind.

I think JK;s very big koan was how did she handle her close disciples leaving,how did she relate with other people,could she accept other people their whole person, did she accept her shadows? we all have personal issues,zen should help us see them and accept them,and also find a way through
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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Wed Nov 27, 2013 12:58 pm

chisanmichaelhughes wrote:

Of course one can not go very far,because there is nowhere to go.

. . .
This is an issue that still puzzles me, when I think of how often I heard someone talk about the importance of "how far they could go" and of "attaining something higher and more pure" for themselves through renunciation and rejection (in whatever form). Aren't those ideas just another level of ego embellishment they'd need to set down as part of "crossing to the other shore"?
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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Wed Nov 27, 2013 1:26 pm

H Enida wrote:
Lise and June - if you look at Shasta Abbey's website under "About" then "Legal" you will find the O.B.C. Confidentiality Policy.  It explains pretty clearly they can speak to other monks about personal issues brought up in sanzen.  I remember shortly after having moved to the Abbey a monk came up and asked me about something private in my life and I thought to myself, "Hey, I didn't tell them that...."  I wondered why they talked about others personally instead of keeping to the principal of the problem.  Perhaps they should make a clear disclaimer before every sanzen?
Tying up loose ends as far as additional thoughts -  yes, each sanzen session should begin with a review of the rules, and I would hope a statement of commitment from the monk, saying that she/he intends to abide by them according to their best use of judgment, making a diligent effort.

I was thinking of what the Faith Trust report summary said about how the right rules were in place at Shasta Abbey (mostly) and could have addressed the various aspects of harm, except that the Abbey's leadership didn't follow the rules. I think the same dynamic exists with this policy about confidentiality. It looks good on paper, but if they don't follow it, where is the benefit? And if it has holes you could drive a truck through, what then? And if you have monks not taking responsibility for remembering what is said to them, or what they say to others -  it just seems bizarre to even pretend there is consistent protection of private information.

A culture of having rules as window-dressing surely must filter down from the top.  I know M. Little is out of the picture now, but his attitude and behaviour must have been absorbed to some degree by the community. If he told his girlfriend, in emails, about very private things his monastic and lay disciples told him in confidence, what kind of culture can we suppose existed there? It still floors me when I think about it.


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PostSubject: Re: Offering Correction to a Teacher - is this "good to do"?   Sun Dec 29, 2013 11:08 am

not sure if this piece belongs in this section, may post it elsewhere also:  from a former member of the Shambhala community - anonymously posted at the Radio Free Shambhala website

Questioning in a Spiritual Community
December 20, 2010 by A Contributor - from Radio Free Shambhala


Spiritual communities vary of course, but there is a history, with its corresponding literature, of how some of them have not only abused power but also undermined the confidence and goodness of their members.

Most of us enter a spiritual path with curiosity, openness, and a willingness and desire to be genuine.  We may be searching for answers to deep, existential questions. It might be a transitional time in our lives or a time of crisis, or maybe we just want to make the world a better place.

The spiritual group may promise us hope for a happier life and answers to the world’s problems— if we follow the program and spiritual advice of the leader and his close associates.  Our new spiritual family also provides an instant social network and feeling that we are part of something bigger, such as working towards world peace, saving the environment, or another good cause.

However, the community may not be as open as it appears to be. We start to see this other side when authority is questioned, and when dissent is discouraged. Rather than respecting the critical intelligence of the members, those-in-power focus on business as usual and staying the course. When this occurs, dissent is marginalized and conformity and loyalty are rewarded.

For members of a spiritual community, it is not always easy to discern this form of rigidity. Most of us never get much time in the back-stage rooms of the teacher and the organization, which would afford us the opportunity to use our critical-thinking skills and truly examine both the teacher and the inner workings of the organization. Even if we do see behavior that belies the belief system
of the group, there are many ways we can rationalize these behaviors. We may file these observations away, until they accumulate in an avalanche of undeniable contradictions that scream out for acknowledgement.

To facilitate collective denial, community members tend to reframe questionable behavior as a “teaching” or remind us that our perceptions must be false and clouded because of our own inferior awareness or understanding.

Being Taken in By Appearances

Even though on a spiritual path we are supposed to thoroughly examine the teacher, using our critical intelligence prior to making a commitment with this person, scrutinizing is often discouraged. We, as humans, are vulnerable to appearances and can be extremely impressed by sales professionals and advertisers in our day-to-day consumer lives. How much more so in our spiritual lives? Even though so much is at stake and we are exhorted to examine and question a spiritual guide, we are often so open and vulnerable on a spiritual journey, that we can be easily impressed.

Questioning Finances

In organizations that lack transparency of finances, members don’t tend to openly question where their monies are actually going.  Administration fees remain a mystery because questioning is seen to be disloyal. It seems the organization has been set up to keep this information vague, mysterious and oblique, and healthy questioning is thus eliminated from one’s spiritual journey.

If one does question, this can lead to the threat of marginalization and abandonment by the leadership and the group. Once one has been convinced that one’s own perceptions are not to be trusted and that the teacher is operating from a higher realization and view, and therefore could never do anything wrong, questioning the finances would be seen as anathema. In a Tibetan Buddhist context, this can be seen as tantamount to breaking samaya. The set-up is further reinforced when the teacher only allows unquestioning students in close proximity to the actual realities of the situation, thus further walling off the back-stage behaviors from the front-stage appearances.  The inner circle of students is so devoted that everything the teacher does in the back-stage setting is reframed as part of their view, and every detail is made sense of within that view.

Consequences for Questioner

One-upsmanship and various forms of verbal and psychological abuse are reactive tools available to those who cannot entertain the possibility of critically questioning the leader and the situation. Instead, their response enables and supports the leadership and strengthens community members’ inclination to conform to the status quo.

There might be censure tactics against fellow students who speak out, or moralistic attacks that, in the case of Buddhist communities, appropriate the Mahayana and Vajrayana teachings to quell dissenters. Questioning is extremely threatening to those deeply invested in going along with the situation. Since loyal students are loath to believe anything critics say, having become the teacher’s instruments of silence, egregious behaviors that are exposed fall on deaf ears. In fact, the person who is disclosing the information becomes the issue, rather than the behavior of the leadership or the organization.

The discloser’s motivation, sincerity, honesty, and even sanity are called into question, thus assuring that seamless unquestioning will continue in the group. The moral authority of the teacher, even if it is simply a projection of the loyal followers, is far greater than the critic’s authority. Broaching the subject of improprieties of the organization and teacher is a very slippery and difficult road, so the deck is stacked in favor of the status quo continuing. This is particularly true when organizations encourage group thinking and experiencing, and use the media and internet to offer a seamless, teflon flow of “positive” information to the public.

It is difficult to overstate the effects these tactics have on members of a community, particularly if they have spent years embedded within the community. They don’t want to admit it has happened. This couldn’t have happened to them, they are too smart, too savvy and sophisticated to be fooled. They think this only happens to others – it can’t happen here. Many remain in a sort of no man’s land, neither denying nor admitting it.

The questioner who is marginalized might experience feelings of loss, sadness, anger and confusion, oscillating with feelings of  betrayal, of being a fool, blaming themself, and distrusting ever again to put themself in such a position.  For those who fear to question because they are part of the group largely for social reasons, exposing the community’s underbelly is a form of social and tribal suicide, particularly when associated with the group for much of one’s adult social life. Most humans cannot easily extricate themselves from the complex social network of friends and associates that has been sustaining them. The situation is like that of a recovering addict who has to leave his still-addicted friends in order to lead a healthy life.

Consequences of Not Questioning

Some of us may never seriously consider the possibility that our spiritual path may actually have been hijacked. Many will vacillate between seeing clearly one day, then the next day burying their perceptions, and chastising themselves for being so disloyal for even having such thoughts.   The majority will watch from the sidelines, as those who speak out are made to feel crazy, disempowered, ostracized, ridiculed, taunted, or stonewalled by the true believers, and so decide it is not worth it. Better to just keep quiet, go along, and convince ourselves that this is the true path, rather than allow ourselves to raise points that bear further scrutiny.

We may rationalize that we are somehow protecting the authentic teachings by remaining loyal to the situation, but our silence actually enables the situation to continue. Some of us will just go away and never face the feelings that arise, ranging from shame and guilt to confusion and betrayal.

If the reality is that our spiritual journey was hijacked and we cannot face it, we will be blocked on our own spiritual journey. We may become closed and cut ourselves off to other opportunities to connect with a teacher and the teachings. Or we may blindly jump into another fantasy of projections with another teacher and situation, repeating the same patterns of blind devotion, once again leaving behind our critical faculties.

Taking Responsibility

For some in such a situation, the time may come to sweep away the cobwebs of vagueness, ambiguity, uncertainly, self-doubt and hesitation and start to critically process and honestly discuss it.

    How do such characteristics manifest in a – our –  spiritual community, and how can we help each other truly recover?
    How do we implicitly or explicitly perpetuate personal and group behavior that favors going-along, and discounts individual intelligence ?
    Closer to home, in Shambhala language, do we trust our own perceptions? Do we have confidence in their, and our, unconditional basic goodness? Do we project that outwards while denying it in ourselves?

We are responsible for the choices we make, and for our own active ignoring. We need to consider the possibility that we have  fallen in line with something very different from what we signed up for, and that we may not be trusting our intelligence.

If we do not learn from this experience, we leave ourselves vulnerable to jumping into another scene and repeating the same patterns of naive devotion. This will affect others as well as ourselves. Taking stock and moving on requires understanding what has transpired, and learning from it, so it doesn’t happen again. We need to think clearly about our commitments, and examine the leadership and group in which we place our trust, especially when it has to do with something as important as the path to our own and others’ sanity.

This article was submitted to Radio Free Shambhala by an author who requested anonymity. It is published here after
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