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 Two things on my mind

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Lise
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PostSubject: Two things on my mind   Mon Nov 09, 2009 12:18 pm

I wanted to share some thoughts about why I eventually stopped training at the OBC. It was a gradual falling away, no sudden break or event that caused it. For me it was more a matter of increasing internal conflict that I couldn't reconcile with what I saw and heard around me. The main issues were --

I don't think most of the Shasta monks see lay persons as an equivalent group among the four classes of Buddhists. The longer I was in contact there, the more I began to feel they saw me as "deluded" for being in the world and wanting to remain a lay person. I'm not saying all monks take this position, but the ones I talked with the most seemed to give a message that if my training and understanding were "strong enough" or "deep enough", I wouldn't care about my job anymore or want to have a home and a partner. I didn't come to the Abbey because of dissatisfaction with my life, I just wanted to know more about Buddhism and learn to meditate. One monk I trained with, especially, seemed only interested in the bad things in my life, never the good or positive -- I felt she was encouraging me to be unhappy with my life so I would come into the Abbey and renounce everything. I didn't ever feel comfortable taking my son or boyfriend on a visit due to the repeated message "You don't need another person -- each of us has everything we need inside of ourselves & there's no need to look outside yourself for anything". I'm sure it's true that we have everything we need, but I also like the idea of sharing my life with a partner, experiencing emotional love, enjoying my attachments to family, being enthusiastic about the world, etc. I won't allow someone or some group to label me as "deluded" because of that, and I know there are Buddhist groups that do not put that message out to lay people. I am in another sangha now for almost a year and have not experienced anything similar.

I had trouble with another issue too. It seemed like lay people are encouraged to get to know the monks, within boundaries, and trust them as teachers, and this is generally good. But something I don't understand is: when a monk would leave, it's like we were supposed to forget that person and not ever ask how they are or what they're doing. There is a lack of humanity in that and I don't understand it. I know we are not supposed to regard monks as best friends or be too attached to them on a personal level, and we accept that sometimes they leave. But I don't see why they become a forbidden topic and we have to act like they were never there. If the Abbey really believed that lay life was a valid choice, wouldn't there be respect and compassion for those who returned to it? It bothered me that there was/is such a strong taboo about talking about a former monk. I would like to know how Rev. Neil McGinn is doing now, or Rev. Alden Fulcher or Rev. Berenice Sykes. I stay in touch with some Shasta lay people through email, but even they won't respond to a question about a former monk, even if they know -- the taboo is that strong. It doesn't seem right to me that such an atmosphere of repression exists, even with the laity.

I did learn good things at the Abbey and will always appreciate that. I am also mindful of what wasn't good, though, and I feel it is important to stand up and own all of it together.
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Jimyo

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PostSubject: Re: Two things on my mind   Fri Sep 24, 2010 1:39 pm

No-one's perfect, Lise....not even monks!
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PostSubject: Re: Two things on my mind   Sat Sep 25, 2010 9:41 pm

In response to Jimyo's last comment but not directed at her in particular:

You know, the "Nobody's perfect, not even monks!" and "Monks are human too" lines have worn right through for me. Most adults understand that we all have bad days, sensitive or hazy areas in our understanding, and do not always perform at optimum levels 24/7. Common courtesy suggests that we all need to cut each other some slack sometimes, or as a friend of mine quoted; "Be excessively kind to people. You never know what battles they are fighting."

That said, anyone who sets themselves up as a spiritual leader and dharma teacher by definition is held to at least as high if not a higher standard than those they teach. The job can't be all perks. If you expect me to live by your words and trust that they will lead me to the Eternal, if you expect me to support you financially and physically and emotionally (and don't try to get out of the last one there) then I expect you to earn that. To be trustworthy. Fiscally responsible. To be honest. If I can't lose my temper with the Zen Master, then the Zen Master had jolly well not plan on losing their temper with me. All the high-minded dharma in the world doesn't amount to much if you've got a mean streak. If you abuse the power afforded you by your title even a little you are less than your poorest student.

I have been a nurse for 35 years and I see Zen Masters and Doctors in a similar light. The majority of physicians feel they are entitled to respect and authority simply because of their title, their academic achievement and their body of knowledge. At least, they come out of med school thinking that. Then reality, the patients (and the nurses) show them the truth. The difference between doctors and Zen Masters is that there is even less accountability for Zen Masters, and of the two the Zen Master can do the greatest damage.
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Diana



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PostSubject: Re: Two things on my mind   Sat Sep 25, 2010 10:02 pm

Polly,

I think I might just print that out and post it on my wall. That is some publish-able stuff right there. That should be printed and posted in every Buddhist monastery or organization as "The Lay Person's Bill of Rights." Every future trainee should have this in their hand when they walk through the gates.

Well said Polly. Thanks.

~Diana
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PostSubject: Re: Two things on my mind   Sat Sep 25, 2010 11:02 pm

Thank you, Polly.
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Iain

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PostSubject: Re: Two things on my mind   Sun Sep 26, 2010 2:48 am

Diana wrote:
Polly,

That is some publish-able stuff right there. That should be printed and posted in every Buddhist monastery or organization as "The Lay Person's Bill of Rights." Every future trainee should have this in their hand when they walk through the gates.


~Diana

Interesting stuff and it is certainly consistent with contemporary North American culture but is it actually Buddhism?

I don't remember the Buddha himself saying much on the point, nor reading anything about it in the classic Asian Zen texts.
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Diana



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PostSubject: Re: Two things on my mind   Sun Sep 26, 2010 10:33 am

To Iain,

Well, I am an American, so there you go. One of my ancestors helped to form, and so signed, the Declaration of Independence and lost everything to do so. Maybe my karma and the collective karma of the American culture makes it impossible to ignore the "secular versus religious ethics" debate. I guess one would have to understand more about American culture to realise how deeply this issue pulses through our blood.

Right now, in my state, the issue of genocide with Native Americans, equal rights for the LGBT community, abuse by clergy, and immigration are serious topics. I can't bury my head in the sand just because I'm a "Buddhist." There has to be a way to acheive human rights and keep people safe and free from being abused or exploited. And in light of all the children who have been abused by priests, religion, I'm afraid, must also be held responsible.

As we can see, as Buddhism has travelled through the world, it has had to change and integrate into the existing culture. To say that "I don't remember the Buddha himself saying much on the point, nor reading anything about it in the classic Asian texts" can make a point for all who oppose the Mahayana path and can therefor discredit Dogen and Zen. I'm sure I don't need to point out that when Buddhism found it's way to Japan, that it adopted the existing spiritual belief system and culture including it's law and ethics.

In my view, these issues have to be addressed when looking at organizations like the OBC who are obviously having a difficult time with secular ethics and issues of abuse. I applaud Polly's comment because it brings up so many important points. The beauty of this forum is that we have a voice here. It seems that not everyone has the stamina to handle it, but that's okay. All this stuff has to be hashed-out.

There are Buddhist organizations who have figured a lot of this stuff out. It is my wish that the OBC can open up to the point of taking the rights of human beings into account and to stop the cycle of abuse and intergenerational/historical trauma that it perpetuates or falls victim to.

Peace,
Diana
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Lise
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PostSubject: Re: Two things on my mind   Sun Sep 26, 2010 10:33 am

Iain wrote:
Interesting stuff and it is certainly consistent with contemporary North American culture but is it actually Buddhism?

Yes, the laity's rights to protection are Buddhism, as is the expectation that monks have a duty to avoid harm. We are not required to find a scriptural citation as proof; this concept is a fundamental component of right action and compassion for the self, and others.
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Diana



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PostSubject: Re: Two things on my mind   Sun Sep 26, 2010 10:51 am

Well said, Lise.

You make it sound so simple! Lol! Thank you!

Peace,
Diana
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PostSubject: Re: Two things on my mind   Sun Sep 26, 2010 11:03 am

Hi Diana,
What a pleasure to read your posts. It's like a cup of morning joe snapping you out of a sleepy stupor. While I don't agree with everything you say (as though you'd expect or want that), what a shame there's no room for a voice like yours in the OBC. What happened while I was still a monk is that there was too much fear in challenging Rev. Kennett. That fear of challenging her became institutionalized and rationalized. To challenge her was to "create disharmony in the sangha." More and more of the people who felt the need to challenge some her assumptions left the monastery, having no outlet for their voice and moral sense within it, leaving mostly those who were more comfortable with keeping challenging her to a minimum or non existant.

I think your comments on the American character and culture are pertinent here. Jeez, even nuns in the US are starting to challenge bishops. As revered as it might be from an historical Buddhist sense, the degree of submission that was required at the OBC is unlikely to work in America. All the voices like yours end up leaving or being ejected. What the answer is for Buddhist monastism in America, I don't know. It would be an interesting discussion. But the degree of fear that I saw when I was at the abbey in regard to challenging Rev. Kennett--I just don't see that working. When you lose the spunk, that's when the negative feedback loop functions at full capacity. It is true because it is true. While too much challenging certainly presents a whole array of problems in a community that by its very nature requires a good degree of quiet and peace, it's opposite, of too much fear of speaking one's mind, holds as large an array of equally damaging problems.
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Lise
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PostSubject: Re: Two things on my mind   Sun Sep 26, 2010 11:11 am

@ Diana, I think we were posting simultaneously -- and I very much agree with your points as well --
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Diana



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PostSubject: Re: Two things on my mind   Sun Sep 26, 2010 12:25 pm

Thanks Kaizan.

I guess I have never said hello to you. Hello. I certainly don't expect anybody to agree with me here. But thanks for your feedback, I do appreciate it. I very much appreciate your story as well. I think we are all helping each other so much on the forum. I think it's kind of beautiful, actually. I'm sorry that others might not see it this way.

I can't help but see things from my own perspective, or my conditioning. I can not change where I am at in this process. I am now seeing that people like you, the elder (no offense, lol), more experienced ones, can serve as a guide for those of us who struggle. I think it's great that you and the others seem to be willing to do this. It takes a lot and not everyone is cut out for it, for sure.

I look forward to hearing more from you and about you in the future. Peace!

Hi Lise,

Yep, simultaneous posting! I hope you are having a good morning!
~Diana
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PostSubject: Re: Two things on my mind   Sun Sep 26, 2010 11:55 pm

In re-reading my posting from last night I find that I regret my analogy made in the last paragraph. I do not actually believe that the majority of monks feel entitled to respect and authority based solely on their title. Some, probably, just like some doctors do. I have profound respect for most OBC monks and great love for some of them. The "Monks are human too," phrase has a particular bite to it for me as it can be made to serve in place of apology and can be a way of sidestepping responsibility. And I do think that monks should be held to a high standard of behavior, as I elucidated yesterday. But that last paragraph of the posting seems churlish in retrospect and inaccurate as well, so, human or not, I apologize for it.







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Iain

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PostSubject: Re: Two things on my mind   Mon Sep 27, 2010 3:37 am

polly wrote:
In re-reading my posting from last night I find that I regret my analogy made in the last paragraph. I do not actually believe that the majority of monks feel entitled to respect and authority based solely on their title.

I'm really glad that you wrote this Polly

This was why I questioned whether what had been written could be considered "Buddhism"

"Authority" may be another ball game to debate but it seems to me that "respect" is something that should be utterly fundamental to Buddhist practice. It is what is demonstrated by the act of bowing and there is no spiritual blossoming without both respect and bowing. I often hear people using the expression "She/he has to earn my respect" and they clearly feel there is virtue in the position.

From a Buddhist perspective I don't think that respect is a commodity to be 'earned' by others like some kind of financial transaction - which I think it very often is in some contemporary cultures. I think that for anyone intent on following any particular path of Buddhist training respect has to be a core value and something that is offered to anyone irrespective of their relative rank, status or the degree to which they are currently demonstrating enlightenment or delusion in the particulars of their lives.

Offering respect in an unaffected way isn't simply a matter of 'being nice', or 'cutting people some slack' - it is much more fundamental to any kind of spiritual growth. Well, that is my opinion anyway.

That doesn't of course mean that it isn't sometimes right to express a contrary view. Acceptance of and respect for others doesn't mean accepting everything that they do or say.

My experience of the majority of OBC monks corresponds exactly with yours.
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