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 Kennett and Nazi Zen masters -a reflection

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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Kennett and Nazi Zen masters -a reflection   Sat Jan 04, 2014 1:43 pm

Brian Victoria recently sent me a new essay he is writing on D.T. Suzuki's thoughts on Japan's militarism.  Brian has written on this before, but this is a new essay with some new source material.  As I read a quote in his piece, it triggered some memories from Shasta that I wanted to share. 

For some years, at least the first two or three, one topic of conversation that Kennett brought up was around the idea that you could be a Zen master and a Nazi.  She did not bring this up frequently, but from time to time, it was one of those issues that especially she and Mokurai would talk about. How Zen was neutral and could blend with any philosophy including fascism, so you could be a Zen master and still be a Nazi - in fact, Zen would make your a more effective Nazi. 

Now, every time this came up, I was completely perplexed.  It made no sense to me.  And I said a few times, "I don't get it."  Zen was morally and ethically neutral?  Now, the Zen we were studying and living was hardly morally neutral.  The Shushogi, the precepts, the teachings on compassion, do only good, do good for others, see everyone as Buddha, all life is sacred, and so on.  Now occasionally, we would hear about transcending the opposites and going beyond good and evil, but did that mean that you could be a mass murder and be enlightened at the same time?  How did that even work?  What about the teachings are karma and cause and effect?  I would say after a few years, Kennett stopped talking about this issue, at least, that's how I remember it. She still might have brought it up in some context, but if so, I tuned out and ignored it as confusing at best and more likely harmful.  Whatever that Zen was, I wasn't terribly interested - and it certainly wasn't the Soto Zen we were trying to embody. 

But why would she say and believe this?  Where did this come from?  Was this something they taught her at Soji-ji?  It didn't seem to be connected to Zen and World War II - since Kennett seemed to know nothing about that aspect of Zen history - or frankly anything of Zen history. 

Maybe other people on this forum remember these discussions? 

I mostly forgot about this for many years, and then remembered it first when I wrote the piece on Zen at War, the long review for Tricycle, and interviewed various Zen teachers in Japan.  But since Kennett knew so little about Zen history, when I remembered her ruminations on Zen and Nazis, I rejected the idea that it came from that source. 

Then I read this from Brian's latest essay:


1938 book, Zen Buddhism and Its Influence on Japanese Culture, D. T. Suzuki wrote:

"Zen has no special doctrine or philosophy with a set of concepts and intellectual formulas, except that it tries to release one from the bondage of birth and death and this by means of certain intuitive modes of understanding peculiar to itself. It is, therefore, extremely flexible to adapt itself almost to any philosophy and moral doctrine as long as its intuitive teaching is not interfered with.”

It may be found wedded to anarchism or fascism, communism or democracy, atheism or idealism, or any political and economical dogmatism.” It is, however, generally animated with a certain revolutionary spirit, and when things come to a deadlock which is the case when we are overloaded with conventionalisms, formalism, and other cognate isms, Zen asserts itself and proves to be a destructive force.”  


Before I jump back into Kennett on this, just point out the obvious.  What "Zen" is Suzuki talking about?  The simple answer is that this "Zen" is a kind of hybrid samurai-imperial-japanese Frankenstein distortion of Zen Buddhism, and ultimately not Mahayana Buddhism at all. It is a practice that is devoid of compassion, the Bodhisattva principle, bodhicitta, and lacks any understanding of even the most basic teachings of the Buddha. This is what I would call a Zen based on mindlessness - not mindfulness.  It also is based on the absurd concept that if you do things with no thought, in a state of no-mind, then it is a perfect act of zen, there is no karma - and that includes chopping someone's head off or slaughtering your enemies.  I would actually consider this the state of a sociopath or psychopath, someone who goes into oblivion and lacks any kind of conscience, empathy or self-awareness.  

So back to Kennett.  She got this Nazi Zen concept / narrative from D.T. Suzuki. And I would venture to say that this little tidbit opens up another way to understand Kennett's story.  

Kennett was first exposed to Buddhism i think through her father, but then through a Thervada center in London - so basic Buddhist teachings.  But most of her connection to Buddhism came through the London Buddhist Society and Christmas Humphreys - i think she was involved with that for like 8 years before she went to Japan.  Now Christmas Humphreys was originally a Theosophist - which is a wacky mixture of mysticism, the occult, eastern religions, magical thinking, highly romantic notions about Tibet and Japan and masters, and so on.  His theosophical lodge eventually morphed into the London Buddhist Society, but those years in the UK, Buddhism was mingled with all kinds of eastern mysticism and occult beliefs - a confusion - they sort of believed everything - an early version of New Age thinking.  And a lot of it, came through a Christian lens.  And Kennett was exposed to all of that. 

Then enters D.T. Suzuki - who was very close to Christmas Humphreys. Suzuki made many visits to the UK and Kennett met him there and attended his lectures.  No doubt Suzuki's books and thoughts permeated the LBS, since Suzuki was considered at the time the great Zen teacher / philosopher / expert.  What he said was the truth!!!  And what he was teachings was a highly distorted romanticized version of imperial-samurai Zen. So that was Kennett's main and only introduction to Zen.  And there was no critical thinking going on, no questioning and no doubt.  This was the great eastern wisdom from the horse's mouth. 

So when Kennett goes east, to Japan, she brings with her a long-time back-story and belief system that she learned in the UK.  It is almost hard-wired at that point.  And I don't think she ever unraveled those earlier concepts and beliefs.  They stayed with her, unquestioned.  Yes, at Soji-ji, she learned some basic Soto Zen teachings, but actually not that much.  She learned only the Dogen and Keizan that she helped translate, she learned all the Soto ritual, but not much beyond that.  She was immersed in surviving Soji-ji, did not speak Japanese at all at the beginning and only somewhat by the end, could not read Japanese or Chinese, and learned no Zen history to speak of. So what else could she learn?  So, my sense, is that all the early ideas and teachings from LBS, Humphreys, and Suzuki stayed with her - as they were far more accessible to her than anything in Japanese or Chinese.  

So there she was, in the early 70s, essentially quoting Suzuki's distorted views about Zen merging with fascism - almost verbatim.  Even though, IMHO, what she said was totally contrary to basic Soto / Dogen teaching.  It made no sense.  Am I missing something?

And further, as the years went on and Kennett delved into some psychic/occult stuff - more so around the time of her lotus blossom period - i think much of that probably came from her LBS days also.

end of reflection.
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PostSubject: Re: Kennett and Nazi Zen masters -a reflection   Sat Jan 04, 2014 11:59 pm

Jcbaran wrote:
For some years, at least the first two or three, one topic of conversation that Kennett brought up was around the idea that you could be a Zen master and a Nazi.  She did not bring this up frequently, but from time to time, it was one of those issues that especially she and Mokurai would talk about. How Zen was neutral and could blend with any philosophy including fascism, so you could be a Zen master and still be a Nazi - in fact, Zen would make your a more effective Nazi. 

Now, every time this came up, I was completely perplexed.  It made no sense to me.  And I said a few times, "I don't get it."  Zen was morally and ethically neutral?  Now, the Zen we were studying and living was hardly morally neutral.  The Shushogi, the precepts, the teachings on compassion, do only good, do good for others, see everyone as Buddha, all life is sacred, and so on.  Now occasionally, we would hear about transcending the opposites and going beyond good and evil, but did that mean that you could be a mass murder and be enlightened at the same time?  How did that even work?  What about the teachings are karma and cause and effect?  I would say after a few years, Kennett stopped talking about this issue, at least, that's how I remember it. She still might have brought it up in some context, but if so, I tuned out and ignored it as confusing at best and more likely harmful.  Whatever that Zen was, I wasn't terribly interested - and it certainly wasn't the Soto Zen we were trying to embody. 
.
I was never present when such a discussion occurred and can't know the context.  I think you are taking some large leaps in order to connect the dots.  Leaving aside speculation I believe that what is important is what you stated in the second paragraph above, which is that we were taught the Shushogi, the precepts and the teachings of compassion, etc.  Jiyu Kennett never taught anything at Shasta Abbey that smacked of Nazism.  In fact on the occasions when she touched on Nazism she was quite clear about its evil aspects.  I really don't feel there was any ambiguity about it.
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PostSubject: Re: Kennett and Nazi Zen masters -a reflection   Sun Jan 05, 2014 2:45 am

I am not saying she promoted nazism.  If she did that, I would have been out the door. I am saying that she bought some aspects of Suzuki's samurai zen view without questioning it.  She brought this topic up more than a few times - and it stuck in my mind because it was so incomprehensible to me, but Kennett didn't think so.  In terms of taking large leaps, i think that is possible - i am connecting up some dots in terms of who Kennett was - since that is all we can do at this point, for those who might be interested in trying to figure her out more or come to understand her as a person, rather than as the master persona that we all came to meet and know after Japan.
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PostSubject: Re: Kennett and Nazi Zen masters -a reflection   Sun Jan 05, 2014 3:29 am

I would not know anything about this,however I can completely understand people saying that Zen could make you fit into anything even being a Nazi.Simply because when in a institution that has a strict rule structure and heirarchy it is easy and perhaps natural to comply and fit in with the system,after all if one complies one is not shunned or bullied in any way. It has it seems taken a long time to do something about bad teachers.
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PostSubject: Re: Kennett and Nazi Zen masters -a reflection   Sun Jan 05, 2014 10:19 am

Jcbaran wrote:
I am not saying she promoted nazism.  If she did that, I would have been out the door. I am saying that she bought some aspects of Suzuki's samurai zen view without questioning it.  She brought this topic up more than a few times - and it stuck in my mind because it was so incomprehensible to me, but Kennett didn't think so.  In terms of taking large leaps, i think that is possible - i am connecting up some dots in terms of who Kennett was - since that is all we can do at this point, for those who might be interested in trying to figure her out more or come to understand her as a person, rather than as the master persona that we all came to meet and know after Japan.
.
Again my point is that Jiyu Kennett made her position clear on Nazism and Samurai Zen through her actual teaching.  That was her answer to those corrupt paradigms.  That she may have had speculative discussions about them without overtly condemning them doesn't imply anything different to me.  I was present during some discussions where she explored the relationship between personal freedom and karmic consequence, where she pointed out that it was possible to go in the direction of believing that one was no longer bound by karma (Aleister Crowley was one of her examples), but I don't remember her ever supporting that option or being ambiguous as to it being "wrong teaching". 

Jiyu Kennett made the classic mistake of surrounding herself exclusively with "subordinates" and refusing to be held accountable by them.  We could point to any number of hierarchical institutions of her day that modeled that behavior and could have influenced her.
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PostSubject: Re: Kennett and Nazi Zen masters -a reflection   Sun Jan 05, 2014 10:59 am

well lets hope the subordinates did not simply follow orders
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PostSubject: Re: Kennett and Nazi Zen masters -a reflection   Sun Jan 05, 2014 6:20 pm

chisanmichaelhughes wrote:
well lets hope the subordinates did not simply follow orders


The evidence is that either Shasta subordinates followed orders or they had to leave, which just left behind those who would always follow orders,
and the OBCC site probably only exists because of the harm perpetrated by those subordinates adopting aspects of Jiyu's personality disorders along with standard
buddhist teachings

but.....

the suggestion that a Jiyu's exploration with her students about Zen's relationship to a Nazism, translates as her actual support for Nazism
speaks only of Jitsido's lack of objectivity about his former teacher.  The heading of his thread, says it all.
 
In my presence, in addition to Jiyu's speaking of traditional Buddhist teachings, she stated that Nazism was not just a misguided organization but its followers  demonstrated a delight in evilness.

Just saying.

PS 
I do remember a number of teachers confusingly speaking of Zen's moral neutrality in the 70's. It seemed only to be the means of pointing out the importance of correct concentration & mindfulness in meditation as opposed to ego fulfilling versions that could be miss used.  (like Gedo Zen}




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PostSubject: Re: Kennett and Nazi Zen masters -a reflection   Sun Jan 05, 2014 8:26 pm

My short title did not say that Kennett actually supported Nazism or she was a Nazi Zen Master.  But she was confused in many areas - and this was one of them.  She doesn't get any gold stars for being against Nazism.  I was frankly horrified that she made us wear large wooden swastikas around our necks for a few years.  I would hide it under my robes.  For that alone, we should have spoken out and said NO WAY, but we didn't.  And No, wearing the swastikas doesn't mean that I think she was a Nazi, just extremely insensitive.
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PostSubject: Re: Kennett and Nazi Zen masters -a reflection   Sun Jan 05, 2014 9:38 pm

Jcbaran and Nazi Zen teachers - reflection.

Well, all seems like a [banned term] smear from this side.

So back to Kennett.  She got this Nazi Zen concept / narrative from D.T. Suzuki. And I would venture to say that this little tidbit opens up another way to understand Kennett's story.  

Like an evangelist saying he's not try to sell you anything.

Oh and that swastika of yours was facing left as an ancient Buddhist symbol as opposed to the right facing version taken up by Kali followers and Nazis. It is sort of like objecting to shaving your head as a Buddhist because skin heads are also doing it.

Yes I do see how uncomfortable it could make you feel considering how many folks outside of Shasta didn't know the difference between those swastika's but I don't think anyone ever said that a Zen practice for anyone was to be comfortable. It is about how to stop feeding sufferings cause.
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PostSubject: Re: Kennett and Nazi Zen masters -a reflection   Mon Jan 06, 2014 12:19 pm

just my thoughts -  the title of this thread didn't lead me to think Kennett was being labeled someone who agreed with Nazi philosophy or objectives. 

I asked some of my extended family (Jewish) about the distinction between a left- and right-facing swastika. (I wasn't raised in the Jewish faith.)  They said it wouldn't make any difference as far as the emotional reaction to it. The Buddhist use of it is almost unknown, and the only other familiar usage is loaded with painful associations.

If you had to wear a left-facing swastika and caught sight of yourself in a mirror, what would you see?
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PostSubject: Re: Kennett and Nazi Zen masters -a reflection   Mon Jan 06, 2014 1:03 pm

Lise wrote:
just my thoughts -  the title of this thread didn't lead me to think Kennett was being labeled someone who agreed with Nazi philosophy or objectives. 

I asked some of my extended family (Jewish) about the distinction between a left- and right-facing swastika. (I wasn't raised in the Jewish faith.)  They said it wouldn't make any difference as far as the emotional reaction to it. The Buddhist use of it is almost unknown, and the only other familiar usage is loaded with painful associations.

If you had to wear a left-facing swastika and caught sight of yourself in a mirror, what would you see?
.
Regarding the wearing of manjis Jiyu Kennett felt that the Nazi's had hijacked the symbol which has been used in Buddhism and other religions for millennia.  She introduced manjis as a way to remove the negative (Nazi) connotation  - to take the symbol back.  She did not require that we wear them outside of Shasta Abbey - that would have been insensitive since the average person is not going to know the history of the symbol and will only associate it with Nazism.  Like Josh I was never comfortable wearing one.  Fortunately it never caused a serious misunderstanding in my experience.

Some info here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swastika#Buddhism
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PostSubject: Re: Kennett and Nazi Zen masters -a reflection   Mon Jan 06, 2014 1:55 pm

I think it was such a weird thing to do in the first place

I think there are wider issues,especially with disciplined religions and the possibility of blindly following a teacher. I think temple routine and practice in the wrong hands as we have seen does not work at best and is very harmful at worse.
Zen has it's foundation in Japanese tradition,there are elements of toughness and ruthlessness that may well fit into their society,the question is can it help ones spiritual journey. The answer to that lies outside the structure, and falls on what the teaching is, not what is verbally said but what is lived.

I have to say at this point temple discipline, the cold trmperature, the kyusaku the whole lot I found good for me,but I can understand why it is not beneficial for most people. However life is the real teacher,and now is the place to be.
My family fought both the Japanese in Burma and the Nazis in Europe,Ikko Roshi fought against us,my earliest memories were of war stories,of bombings and brave people,When nations are at war the people on the ground do all the killing,they dont make the big decisions,if they survive most probably they are good at killing,and have the rest of their lives to come to terms with it.
As Buddhists we make peace with our selves and our enemies,the present and the past,and we should also not be fooled by ourselves and others,nor follow the twisted words of dictators or peculiar religious teachers
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PostSubject: Re: Kennett and Nazi Zen masters -a reflection   Mon Jan 06, 2014 3:05 pm

I didn't read Josh's title as pejorative or misleading. I think what he wrote just reflects some more of the OBC weirdness that seems to characterize it.

The larger point about moral ambivalence and indifference is part of the Zen literature. It's reminiscent of Luther's admonition to go and sin heartily because we are saved by faith not works. (In this case, substitute Zen enlightenment for faith.) The premise that Zen is "beyond" morality and that "harm" is illusory has sheltered much malicious behavior -- from monks and laity alike. There is no basis for this that I can find in the Pali Canon, the Buddhist idea of karma, etc. It's a convenient mis-truth perpetuated by those who need it to be true because of their own deficiencies.

Monks who invoke the idea that "no one can actually be harmed" seem to do so to excuse their own egregious misbehavior -- such a primitive, mundane rationalization -- so common to the psychopath who really doesn't grasp the pain of another.

The other interesting issue is about Buddhism as war. Religions have had to do much bobbing and weaving to dodge this issue. If you kill a tribe member, it's murder. If you kill a non-tribe member to support the tribe, it's OK. Even the Buddha wasn't very definitive on this. He recognized participation in conflict for defensive purposes as being legitimate, while he also indicated it didn't spare one the karma associated with it. Not very helpful.
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PostSubject: Re: Kennett and Nazi Zen masters -a reflection   Mon Jan 06, 2014 3:08 pm

As the guest master, i interacted with lots of visitors and a few of them, when they saw the swastikas, were horrified.  And yes, I explained it and it made no difference. They had a very negative reaction, not surprising, and left.  I get that Hitler appropriate this symbol, but guess why no buddhists in the west are using the swastika for any reason.  I am not sure that a shaved head is analogous.
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PostSubject: Re: Kennett and Nazi Zen masters -a reflection   Mon Jan 06, 2014 4:25 pm

Good take on it Jack
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PostSubject: Re: Kennett and Nazi Zen masters -a reflection   Mon Jan 06, 2014 5:21 pm

I question whether the forced wearing of swastikas was anything other than a shock-therapy training exercise inflicted on the community as a display of Kennett's authority and power.  Most of us raised in Western culture, and definitely most people with ties to Jewish tradition and history, would have found this insensitive in the extreme.  I can understand the wish to "take back" a symbol that was misappropriated, but really, what possible good was going to be achieved by this? It wasn't going to cut any ice outside the monastery gates, that's for sure -  that symbol won't be rehabilitated anytime soon, perhaps not for many generations.


Jack wrote:

. . .

Monks who invoke the idea that "no one can actually be harmed" seem to do so to excuse their own egregious misbehavior -- such a primitive, mundane rationalization -- so common to the psychopath who really doesn't grasp the pain of another.

. . .

Agree.  And I still can't grasp how reasonable, intelligent people will give over their power to these individuals who teach that trainees are "fundamentally unharmable", which is right up there with "where there is hurt, there is self".  Get people to believe this and you can do anything you want.
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PostSubject: Re: Kennett and Nazi Zen masters -a reflection   Mon Jan 06, 2014 7:00 pm

Yes, 

But on the other hand where there is hurt there is a wonderful training opportunity. If I am experiencing emotional pain and instead of acting on it, I sit very still, there is something important to be learned about myself.  

In my case if something hurts me, and I sit still, let the emotions arise, and have a good look inward there is something about myself I have been avoiding seeing. Once I see it, it is usually no longer painful. Especially if I forgive myself, or look with compassion. Then my emotional baggage gets lighter and I become a happier person. That's how it works for me. That's what "where there is suffering, there is self,"means to me.  It's too bad it has been used as a permission to harm people because it is a wonderful teaching.

I heard on a video a couple of days ago that a diet counselor had told a client that she should never eat when she was upset. I also try not to act on things when I am upset. Better to sit still and see what I can learn about myself. Then act later when I am calm and can act from a place of compassion. To bad such a beautiful teaching has been so abused and misused.
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PostSubject: Re: Kennett and Nazi Zen masters -a reflection   Tue Jan 07, 2014 12:51 am

Remember, at Shasta, there was no choice about anything. It wasn't optional to wear the swastikas.  There was never the option that if you felt uncomfortable, don't wear it.  I have no doubt that Kennett's initial thought was sincere enough - old buddhist symbol abused by the Nazis, we should reclaim it - once she had the thought, her personality was - no doubt, full steam ahead - my ideas are divine, submit.  No second thoughts, no input, no discussion - bow.  She had no interest in what others might have thought about it. 

And yes, you can certainly watch your mind as you have reactions and feelings about wearing the swastika - and you can use that as part of your practice, as a kind of daily life koan.  Sure.  I did that for years.  And it was in the context of submission, surrender and the suppression of any critical thinking.  That's a big price to pay.  Sometimes you use things as koans - which is inwardly active but outwardly passive... and sometimes an answer to a koan is - NO, bad idea.  NOT DOING THAT.  Going with "the flow" is not always all that spiritual.

I interact with Buddhist groups all the time.  On Wed, i'll see my old friend Sharon Salzberg talking about her new book on Happiness at Work.  And because of my PR and marketing career, people often call me for advice, brainstorming, etc.  So, let's imagine a Zen or Buddhist group is creating a new center and they tell me that they are thinking of putting a large swastika above the front door - like a church would do with a cross or a synagogue with the Star of David.  If World War II didn't happen, no problem.  But it did.  I would say, that is a horrible idea - incredibly insensitive, many western Buddhists come from Jewish backgrounds, the symbol is a universal symbol of the holocaust, cruelty and slaughter, and there is no reason why this symbol should be used - you gain nothing by using it - it's not some magical thing - and it may turn many people away from the Dharma.  I wouldn't "wow and bow" - and I would engage them in a deeper discussion about the consequences of these kinds of actions.  There could even be significant negative media attention - all for what exactly?  Now that would be my opinion.  They will do as they choose.

And there is the practical - is this a good idea?  Is this skillful?  Now Kennett rarely cared how her actions impacted others - if people had "issues" or were upset, that was their koan.  You might think that she was acting purely as a Zen teacher -- i would say that sometimes she was - and there was value in it - but increasingly what I experienced was that Kennett lacked empathy and didn't care about what others felt long before she sailed to Japan.  that was her personality, her upbringing, her shadows, her self.  In fact, when she saw someone getting upset over something, she would intensify the pressure - was that Zen or her need for control and power?  It may not be all one or the other, but as the years went by, it became increasing not skillful and not teaching... and yes, we can use anything as grist for the mill - we can bring it all to our path.  I tried to do that while at Shasta, I tried to do that when I left and continue to see that as value... AND that no longer means being passive, it no longer means not having discriminating wisdom and critical thinking and logic and common sense.  Common sense says do not wear swastikas.  for me.
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PostSubject: Re: Kennett and Nazi Zen masters -a reflection   Tue Jan 07, 2014 1:28 am

I agree completely.  I found sitting still very helpful in the midst of my suffering over the way Eko was behaving and the suffering he was causing me and others.  I also found it very helpful to print up the emails that exposed his lies and brought openness and honesty to the whole weird scene that was going on at Shasta at the time. What a relief.

 Sitting still in the midst of things shouldn't be confused with being a door mat or allowing harm to be done. And that teaching should not be used to convince people that they should be passive when they see harm being done. That teaching is the one perpetrators in religious organizations use in order to get away with whatever they want.

I also saw that teaching used at the Abbey just to shut novices up when they were being a bother. So much less work to use a one liner like that than to actually listen to the person and try to help them. 

The sad part is that it can be a helpful teaching and now it's just associated with bullying and cover ups.
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PostSubject: Re: Kennett and Nazi Zen masters -a reflection   Tue Jan 07, 2014 2:13 am

Well Sophia I have to tell you that we are being battered by storms here last night we had a huge thunder storm  right over head with a blinding flash and a huge bang,an overhead explosion,it did make me wonder if we as  humans had screwed up  our weather patterns, however when it woke me I thought of your previous post,I was a little concerned with it , however this new post is more rounded for me  and I feel happier reading it.Off to work now,I live by a river and work by another one and they are so full,the tides, tidal surges,and waves are immense
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PostSubject: Re: Kennett and Nazi Zen masters -a reflection   Tue Jan 07, 2014 10:02 am

Jcbaran wrote:
As the guest master, i interacted with lots of visitors and a few of them, when they saw the swastikas, were horrified.  And yes, I explained it and it made no difference. They had a very negative reaction, not surprising, and left.  I get that Hitler appropriate this symbol, but guess why no buddhists in the west are using the swastika for any reason.  I am not sure that a shaved head is analogous.
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I believe we were able to wear the manjis at Shasta Abbey without much fallout because we lived in a bubble, almost completely isolated from the surrounding community.  We didn't wear them outside and so they weren't seen by people who might misunderstand except in the situation you describe.  As the guest master you were exposed in a way that the rest of us weren't and I get how painful it must have been to be perceived by those visitors as somehow promoting Nazism.  I don't know if you were able to relate this to JK, but if you did I wouldn't be surprised if she ignored it.  As you say she almost always left it to us to deal with our resistance to her actions as "personal koan" - that was her M.O.  This was always the larger problem, that we were not allowed any real say about how things were done.

On the other hand her attempt to re-frame the swastika as a Buddhist symbol, used to depict both negative and positive action, was not without value.  After all it is a symbol used in the Soto tradition and in fact displayed on one of the transmission papers.  We at least, as priests, needed to understand this and not be ashamed of it because a group of psychopaths hijacked it.  Of course she could have done it differently, but then she would have had to be a different person...

On a side note I once went into Mt Shasta City to put some gas in one of the cars, wearing my robes and displaying my bald head as usual (sans manji though).  A guy came up to me and said that my bald head reminded him of the images he had seen of German concentration camps where all of the prisoners had shaven heads.  He didn't introduce himself or ask me my name, just launched into this with no apparent awareness of how insulting it was.  I can't remember anymore how I replied to him.  It was just another instance where the image of a Buddhist monk was misunderstand and disrespected in a culture that had no point of reference.  That was a burden I placed on myself though by taking ordination, and not Jiyu Kennett's fault.
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: Kennett and Nazi Zen masters -a reflection   Tue Jan 07, 2014 7:03 pm

when most guests came, i hid the swastika under my robes, so i certainly went out of my way not to show it.  But there was the occasional wardrobe malfunction.  I don't think we wore them for that many years, or am I remembering it wrong? 

With the shaved head, never got any comments about concentration camps - but maybe that because i wasn't particularly skinny and Isan, you were trim, so maybe that was part of it.  When I was in cities and bumped into young black males, they related to me - to the shaved head and robes  through the lens of kung-fu or karate - they thought i must be some martial arts dude.  Karate films were / are very popular with young black males.  So they thought it was very cool.  This happened a bunch of times when we were out shopping or something in SF.
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PostSubject: Re: Kennett and Nazi Zen masters -a reflection   Tue Jan 07, 2014 8:27 pm

Jcbaran wrote:

When most guests came, i hid the swastika under my robes, so i certainly went out of my way not to show it.  But there was the occasional wardrobe malfunction.  I don't think we wore them for that many years, or am I remembering it wrong? 

With the shaved head, never got any comments about concentration camps - but maybe that because i wasn't particularly skinny and Isan, you were trim, so maybe that was part of it.  When I was in cities and bumped into young black males, they related to me - to the shaved head and robes  through the lens of kung-fu or karate - they thought i must be some martial arts dude.  Karate films were / are very popular with young black males.  So they thought it was very cool.  This happened a bunch of times when we were out shopping or something in SF.
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Can't remember how long we wore the manjis, but I do remember that at one point we switched from the plexiglass ones to nicely designed copper/brass ones that had lotus blossoms on the front.  The swastika was in the background and a lot less obvious - I felt less uncomfortable wearing that one.  Anyway, ancient history.

So the black guys thought you were a martial artist?  Clearly I was hanging around with the wrong people :-)
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PostSubject: Re: Kennett and Nazi Zen masters -a reflection   Tue Jan 07, 2014 9:09 pm

Chisan M.H. I hope your weather improves although I am jealous because I love thunder storms, they are very rare here.  We’re in the midst of a drought, so tell some of that moisture to come across the pond. 
 
It is too bad that the ancient symbol of the Manji will now forever be regarded with suspicion simply because it was “hijacked by psychopaths” as Isan put it.  On a personal note I can relate to those that do not understand the difference between the “Manji” and the “Hakenkreuz”. History is chock full of pain, confusion and misunderstanding of all sorts of things.  I was born 1940 in Berlin, Germany, and my family name was Borrmann, we even had a Martin (August) Borrmann in the family who was actually a writer and poet in his native East Prussia which has since become part of Poland. He traveled a lot in Indonesia and also wrote a book titled, SUNDA eine Reise durch Sumatra.  (travels through Sumatra) and had nothing whatsoever to do with Naziism. My father was drafted into the army and had to comply because had he not it would have been concentration camp for the whole family. Since he was a dentist I do not believe that he was ever involved in any combat of any kind, yet he drowned in a river in Russia under suspicious circumstances in 1943.  My mother believed that his death was caused by someone who did not like the fact the family had not joined the Nazi Party and were still "Sozial Demokraten." I recall as a child my mother constantly explaining to people that our name was spelled with two rr’s and two nn’s and that we had no relation to that Martin Borman of Infamy.  When the war was over in 1945, not too many were eager to admit that they had Nazi ties. I still have proof in my possession in the form of a copy of a handwritten letter that my paternal grandfather wrote to one of his brothers who had the intention of joining the Nazi Party chastising him in the strongest terms and calling Hitler a monster of such enormous proportions as the world had not ever seen.(Hmm, perhaps a few select others come to mind such as Caligula, Torquemada, Attila, et al ). Anyway, that letter was a very dangerous thing had it ever fallen into the wrong hands and it was courageous of him to have written it in any case. 
At times it seems to me that perhaps some sort of collective National Karma, perhaps even partially, caused a negative effect on my practice and helped bring it to an end.  I suppose I will just never know this. 
Even though there isn't much for me to laugh about lately, I did have  to LOL about Josh Barans most recent mention of "Wardrobe Malfunction".  Smile  
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PostSubject: Re: Kennett and Nazi Zen masters -a reflection   Wed Jan 08, 2014 1:02 pm

I think the meetup idea deserves its own thread  yes   look for it in The Lounge -
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PostSubject: Re: Kennett and Nazi Zen masters -a reflection   Sun Feb 23, 2014 5:20 am

I always had the impression of a sort of neo-con culture around the OBC.
Kennett was very wacky, when I met her in 1972.I just generally got the impression, and these things can be highly calibrated and subtle, that she was a bit of a militarist and a bit of a tory. I was a pacifist and a hippy, so decided early on to keep shtum when around Throssel and the monks.

Now, I think there can be huge contradictions and paradoxes in the realpolitik.
I go for Nietsche,for instance-what a writer!
Schubert-sublime genius, druggy, libertine, these days would be a "sex offender "
Wagner-eugenicist, fascist, great composer, if you like that sort of thing.
We got a woman prime minister, who ended centuries of male-only leadership, and she decimated the working class and led UK into a pointless war .
And there are countless other examples.
It is fuzzy.

What side would  Kennett  have taken on austerity politics of today? I think I have to take sides, it is the only thing to do. Cameron and Osbourne are bxxxxxxs.
I don't sit in meditation wondering which side I am on, I do my life as a citizen, and let the meditation take care of itself 

The OBC is a little fiefdom .It refuses to sit in the eye of the storm where conflicting forces meet, in real life, which is always intersectional, where we have to be both citizens and dissenters, making
often hugely uncomfortable choices, in order to protect our families ,in order to save our skins (see breljo's post, above, for which thank you breljo!)

Kennett, the OBC, become Nazi, racist, sexist by inaction as well as by action or partisanship.
We ordinary people have to take sides all the time, not because there is a clear choice ....but because doing nothing is not an option.
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PostSubject: Re: Kennett and Nazi Zen masters -a reflection   Sun Feb 23, 2014 11:23 am

maisie field wrote:
I always had the impression of a sort of neo-con culture around the OBC.
Kennett was very wacky, when I met her in 1972.I just generally got the impression, and these things can be highly calibrated and subtle, that she was a bit of a militarist and a bit of a tory. I was a pacifist and a hippy, so decided early on to keep shtum when around Throssel and the monks.

The OBC is a little fiefdom .It refuses to sit in the eye of the storm where conflicting forces meet, in real life, which is always intersectional, where we have to be both citizens and dissenters, making
often hugely uncomfortable choices, in order to protect our families ,in order to save our skins (see breljo's post, above, for which thank you breljo!)

Kennett, the OBC, become Nazi, racist, sexist by inaction as well as by action or partisanship.
We ordinary people have to take sides all the time, not because there is a clear choice ....but because doing nothing is not an option.
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I would say that although Jiyu Kennett grew up in a more conservative time she didn't subscribe to the mindless conservatism that I saw in my parents' generation.  She was critical of "hippie" culture not because of its' alignment with leftist and anti-war politics, etc, but because of the drug use and general indulgence.  Regarding US politics we for instance sat through the "Watergate" travesty and watched Richard Nixon lie and then lie some more, and she was not reluctant to call it exactly what it was instead of mindlessly supporting Republican policies the way some people did.  As I said earlier JK was unequivocal in denouncing Nazism and taught us that its' pseudo spirituality was essentially "Gedo".  JK's one great failing was not allowing people to grow up and that lies at the root of the general paralysis of the OBC when it comes to thinking/engaging/participating both internally and with the larger world.  All IMHO of course...:-)
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PostSubject: Re: Kennett and Nazi Zen masters -a reflection   Tue Feb 25, 2014 8:51 pm

Isan wrote:
JK's one great failing was not allowing people to grow up and that lies at the root of the general paralysis of the OBC

I think that this is because in many ways she could not face growing up herself. It increasingly all became a game centered on her and around her. At it's best referring to the experiences and writings of those with genuine experiences, albeit that they too were just ordinary fallible people. At worst it descended into the fantasies and dreams of greatness and power produced by her increasingly ill mind.
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PostSubject: Re: Kennett and Nazi Zen masters -a reflection   Tue Feb 25, 2014 11:26 pm

Thank you, Maisie and Bridget, for bringing the "real world" into this conversation. One of the things that bothered me about practicing with the OBC was the absence of connection to the world of commerce and politics. Koshin said everyone should vote, but his monks - at least the juniors - weren't allowed to read any newspapers or magazines or watch tv much less connect to the internet.

I think we are spiritual beings for sure and need to meditate or otherwise tend to our spiritual lives. But we are also part of the body politic and have a responsibility to know what's going on in wider worlds than our own narrow lives and respond accordingly. We are also part of the world of commerce - like it or not - and we are responsible for making a living and supporting ourselves and our families with food, shelter, medicine, clothing. I can't understand withdrawing from those worlds and letting someone else take the responsibility for keeping things running.

In many countries (perhaps including Germany), the Vatican went along with Nazism and Communism in order to maintain their own position and influence. That's not what I mean by the above comments about taking responsibility. I hugely admire Thomas Merton who, even though he was part of a silent order that spent hours every day in silence and meditation, took a stand against the Vietnam War.
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PostSubject: Re: Kennett and Nazi Zen masters -a reflection   Wed Feb 26, 2014 4:30 am

I think also a large issue was thinking or saying that zen is this not that or indeed zen is that not this,
Living a cloistered life may unfortunately need justifying. We do this because, or the stillness and quietness and the discipline helps..well it did not help eko only added to his confusion and fixed view of life. Indeed a very narrow view of life.We say practice but for what? we say retreat from what?
Life is lived i dont believe Zen makes life any easier,or we become in any way superior. From my experience Zen temples are tough but not as tough as life. Compassion and love does not come from a plateau of exception it is here because we are human
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PostSubject: Re: Kennett and Nazi Zen masters -a reflection   Wed Feb 26, 2014 10:21 am

First, the idea that monks should all vote, but aren't allowed to find out about the political situation - are cut off from all media, does that make any sense?  Sounds goofy.  The idea that monks should vote probably came from Kennett, so Koshin was copying that. 

Yes, individually and in small groups you can retreat from "the world" - but only in your mind obviously.  Retreats can be helpful - for a time - but as a long-term lifestyle, it is mostly not helpful.  And the reality was - Ch'an in China, Zen in Japan - these religions were intricately connected to all aspects of society, politics, culture, money, power, and so on.  The temples in Japan and China were all controlled and approved by the ruling powers, there was no real freedom of religious practice, and all religion - to survive - became part of the official system.  The stories of the renegade monks that talked back to emperors and generals -  and burned Buddha statues - there are probably always a handful of such wild cards (and they are great stories and speak to romantic ideals)  - but that's far less than 1% of the practical way religion is lived.  

When you think you have "left the world" - and there is "the world" out there that is dangerous and evil and you see yourself as totally apart from all that - living in some ideal, pure, immaculate (one of Kennett's favorite words") bubble, walled fortress, you are kidding yourself.  And we know this from all the evidence.  We know this from the behavior of Eko or Sasaki and the many others.  Thinking you are special and apart - that creates a fantasy state that helps blind you to your shadows.

I just posted in the Reading Section - a link to the PBS Frontline special on the Catholic Church that aired last night. Worth watching. This is a huge example of an institution that thinks it is special, totally apart and better than "the world," God's Church, not accountable, not bound by worldly laws, etc.  And for so many centuries, they pretend, live this fantasy, that they are not part of the regular world of politics and power and so on.  And all the evidence says otherwise.  All the evidence says this is a delusional toxic fantasy that only makes things so much worse.  And they use this narrative of special holiness to justify all manner of abuse and cover-up and behavior.  So the shadows become real monsters - to those abused. 

Religion, mysticism, is not special in the world - is not outside of human nature.  It does not have primacy and can be held accountable, can be examined by critical thinking and historical analysis and seen in the context of history, sociology, psychology, money, and power.
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PostSubject: Re: Kennett and Nazi Zen masters -a reflection   Wed Feb 26, 2014 11:11 am

Jcbaran wrote:
First, the idea that monks should all vote, but aren't allowed to find out about the political situation - are cut off from all media, does that make any sense?  Sounds goofy.  The idea that monks should vote probably came from Kennett, so Koshin was copying that. 
.
Shasta Abbey changed greatly over the years I was there (71-84) - the isolation and pretense of being separate from the "world" grew slowly over time.  Early on Jiyu Kennett encouraged people to vote as a way of participating in the larger culture.  We watched the news in her house every evening and people were allowed to read newspapers so it was possible to be informed.  Her position shifted dramatically after the junior monks were moved into the new zendo (can't remember what year the building was completed).  She wanted them to be more immersed in the practice and so they were cut off more from the outside - it went downhill from there.  There initially was a good intention, but over time the unforeseen consequences appeared.  JK never changed her mind in response to objections from her students.  The resistance of some of the seniors to her decisions only hardened her determination to do things her own way, and, as they say, the rest is history.
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