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 Leaving Your Robes Behind.....

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H Enida



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PostSubject: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Thu May 08, 2014 12:45 pm

            Something I found irrational when I was a monk in the Order was the fact that, if you decided to leave you could not take your robes with you.  You were ordained and you trained with a teacher through transmission and were then somewhat autonomous, but still had to seek ‘permission’ to make any major move and, if you ultimately left the Order, you were required to abandon your robes.  There are a few examples of monks who defied the Order and left with their robes anyway, but they were disparaged when I was there which reinforced the idea that if you wanted to keep your robes, you had to stay put and could only change locations if allowed to.  I asked my teacher once if I could move later on and he said not likely, I should expect to stay at Shasta for as long as I was a monk.

            I was explaining this to a monk from another tradition recently who said hogwash, once you are ordained you cannot be unordained and that kind of restriction on practice would seem to be a control issue.  Tibetans, Chan, Theravaden, even Soto Zen, which is supposedly the Order’s main model for practice, can’t take your robes away except for egregious breakages of rules or laws and, as has been show in recent scandals, sometimes not even then.  Why is it the Order has complete jurisdiction over each member’s robes and practice?  There are many things I could have endured had I known at one point I could start my own practice somewhere else after transmission.  To act more as a training monastery instead of a cloistered inescapable life sentence would bring the choice back to the individual trainee as to how their practice would develop.

            One of the most difficult things I personally experienced about leaving the monastery was that I was required to disrobe.  It felt like somehow I was turning my back on my own training because my robes were precious to me.  I have spent the last few years rehabilitating my understanding of what that means.  Today I trust that my life is my kesa, and where I find and how I sew each panel into it is my daily training. 
 
            On other threads here, folks have talked about the cult-like behaviors they experienced and how to recognize if you are in a cult.  One of the main signs suggests that a cult has “control over members’ activities and social connections.”  I would appreciate hearing about other’s experiences of disrobing and thoughts about how you were not given control of your ordination and later practice under the Order.
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Thu May 08, 2014 3:10 pm

This was all the Church of Kennett - and the rules she adapted or made up as she went along.  When I left, there was no rule that I was aware of that I had to give up my robes.  Of course, I officially left on good terms and then after I got my bearings and began to take back my spiritual adulthood, I fired Kennett and disconnected from Shasta. 

OBC and Shasta.  Cult-like? Absolutely.  Maybe it was Soto Zen on the outside, but on the inside it was a personality cult that was a stew of monotheism, half-baked Buddhism, theosophy, and Kennett's shadows and need for adoration. The Order only has complete jurisdiction over people when you allow it, when you play by their rules.  And "their rules" were Kennett's rules.  Any rule can be justified or rationalized, but as we have seen clearly throughout history, the various temple rules and precepts and how they were lived changed continuously in every country and age.  And many rules were created and promoted to support the status quo, to glorify the guru, to suppress questioning or dissent, to keep power and control, to keep minorities or women in their place, and so on.  

I think the Church of Kennett was dominated by the need to control - you can dress it up in Dharma language, but that's the outside - the inside is what feels so off-base, so dehumanizing.  And the consequences of what's really going on in the inside - that's why it can take years to process, understand and heal.  Better not to focus or get dazzled by the outside and face squarely and honestly what the inside dance / mentality.  The inside is the truth of what's happening. 

I know of many Buddhist groups that are not threatened by people leaving, do not try to control and manipulate their members- or at least much less, and recognize that there might be a time to seek teaching and practice elsewhere or disrobe. 

The way is much broader and kinder. 

So when people leave such cultic scenes, like Shasta, like many other authoritarian groups, you must find the way to take back your life, your adulthood, take back your "robes", truly listen to your heart/mind/integrity and not the forced authority of those that pretend to know better.  Break the rules that bind you, that do not serve your liberation, that lock you into patterns that are not wholesome.  Kennett's robes came with a heavy price.
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maisie field



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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Fri May 09, 2014 1:18 pm

Dear H Enida

That was a terrible thing to do to you,and it has no connection with true spirituality. It is mean-spirited, withholding, lacks generosity and benevolence, and, as Josh says, is another way of repressing and controlling you.

I love textiles, and am fascinated by the lore in Zen literature about robes, and how they demonstrate the meaning of practice.
It is so important to be able to eat what is good, and to wear what is good, for you, not in the interests of some dessicated old religion, but because this is the stuff of life. When I make things with cloth, they express my life. When I wear certain clothes, they are telling the story of a part of my life.

The robes you grew to love are your birth-right, and no-one who pretends to be human should take them away or deprive you of them.

Clothing ,as well as other adornment, is cultural signage of identity. Very significant. Think burka, hijab, hair shaved and ringleted, special clothes for Christian baptism, weddings, formal clothes at work, the significance of the shrouds when caring for the dead. There must be many many more examples.

Josh says the way is much broader and kinder. So it is.

They were mean to you. They show their ignorance and lack of love.
And you show courage in speaking about this cruelty, and in moving yourself towards your own truth.
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Isan
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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Fri May 09, 2014 2:24 pm

maisie field wrote:

Josh says the way is much broader and kinder. So it is.

They were mean to you. They show their ignorance and lack of love.
And you show courage in speaking about this cruelty, and in moving yourself towards your own truth.
 
Yes, they were indeed mean.  Sadly it was an aspect of the scapegoating that was done when people left, so that JK and the remaining community could avoid responsibility for contributing to the failure of the relationship.  It was also a way to hold those who left hostage psychologically, implying that the legitimacy of their practice was removed along with the robes.  Of course that is simply a lie that must be disbelieved.
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Fri May 09, 2014 2:47 pm

Remember, when Kennett left Japan, she cut herself off from her actual teacher, Zuigan Yogo, and she also totally disconnected from Japanese Soto Zen - Sotoshu.  She did not ask permission to do this, she just did it.  She was going to be her own boss and report to no one.  She created her own sect with some of the Soto Zen forms, rituals, etc.. but made her own rules and changed them as she went along, sometimes for sane reasons and other times just to further assert and tighten her control / domination / adoration.  Similar to lots of personality-based cults and groups.  Nothing new here in terms of creating this kind of my-way-or-the-highway culture. And there was rarely anyone there to say NO to her. 

Now other Zen teachers also disconnected from the Japanese system and bureaucracy  - many Western zen teachers are not connected to Soto Zen in Japan, are not registered there, were not part of the system.  Americans don't know about all this stuff and most don't care.  Kennett was more or less obsessed about it - talked about the Japanese head office frequently - as if they were going to be descending any minute to try to take control.  There was zero evidence that they knew or even cared about her or Shasta.  They mostly didn't care about Americans - and Kennett was probably seen as Koho Zenji's thing - and when he died and Kennett disappeared, that story was over. 

Back to the rules.  So that's how its always been in Buddhism... as the religion and the many variations of it moves - the rules are adapted, changed, ignored ... and so monks in Japan take vows not to drink alcohol and hours later they celebrate their ordination by drinking sake.  Tibetan spiritual leaders have multiple wives and sexual consorts, and so on.

So much of what you experienced at Shasta was based in Kennett's personal reality.  In her world, she was the living Buddha and she made and changed the rules and that was that, and if you didn't like it, you were defected, killing the buddha, breaking the precepts, etc.  She was very old school - very old testament really.  I bumped into a Buddhist writer some months ago - he asked me who my zen teacher was and I mentioned Kennett and he said, "Oh yes, we always thought of her as some medieval mother superior." 

Not in terms of robes, of course, we know that they are just cloth - cloth ages, decays.  But it's like a flag or a yarmulke.  We give the cloth meaning - and the meaning can be important beyond the cloth that can be lost or damaged.  So the kesa can have meaning beyond the fabric.  Of course, in the Platform Sutra, there is the whole story and discussion about the patriarchal robe and bowl being handed down, and then no longer being handed down.  And Dogen writes a bit about the importance of the kesa, giving it, at one point, magical properties.  He talks about just seeing the kesa, just wearing the robe is enlightenment itself or will bring you to enlightenment.  We see this a lot in Tibetan Buddhism - the importance of robes and crowns/hats, holy objects, talisman.  Of course, the best use of such things is to point out some essential aspect of insight or wisdom or practuce - not the object itself.  It has to be a pointer, doesn't it.  it can't be the thing itself, it wouldn't be wise to take refuge or lock your faith on something that someone could grab and sell on ebay.  

So Kennett and the robes.  she changes the story.  As long as you stay there - and follow her - you are living her story - more or less - whatever it was.  So she and her devotees tell you the story is truth - it is the way it is and you must follow the story.  Well, many of use realized we didn't like this story - it didn't feel truthful or beneficial - and we left.  Some of us left in a way that continued to respect Kennett's story - at least to some extent - and others not so much.  

And there is no simple answer to how each person integrates and deals with this.  If robes are important, or create your own, new ones, or you can even order robes from Japan and there are probably folks here in the U.S. that even sell various kinds of zen robes.  But these robes do not have much baggage attached and they are not part of the Church of Kennett.
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Lise
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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Fri May 09, 2014 3:25 pm

What do the Shasta monks do with the robes of those who have left?

If a former monk asked for their robes, would the request be denied?
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H Enida



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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Fri May 09, 2014 4:05 pm

            Thank you all for your kind words and perspectives.  It is so helpful for me to hear other’s thoughts as I continue this process after leaving the Order.


            Maisie, I understand your description of the love and lore of cloth.  I sewed my kesa by hand before I was ordained, reciting the three homages with every stitch.  As many of you know, it is made of nine panels with three sections each, making up 27 sections.  Then a border is added at the end and patches sewed on for the kesa clip.  There were tens of thousands of stitches and it took me approximately a month of daily hand sewing to complete it.  Many moments passed through my mind as I sat alone for hours and stitched in the homages – memories of my life and my aspiration, and of my love of the dharma within it all – each one stitched into the cloth.  Its meaning is so much more than the cloth, and could not be coveted or withheld.  It was my life transformed by a pure intention.


            I have visited other temples since leaving Shasta and they have all invited me to wear my kesa while I was at their temple.  I have simply explained that I can’t as I was not allowed to keep it.  I could make another, I still have the instructions on how, and it would have the same merit and meaning with the same pure intention.  I did make myself a kesa quilt a few years ago and sleep under it every night.   redface 

            I don’t know what RM Meian and or RM Haryo did with my kesa.  I am sure the day robes and formal robe were probably given to other novices to use sometime after I left.  While I was at the monastery, often kesas that were left by monks who disrobed were taken apart and recycled.  I know the kesa I made is not available to me unless I come back to the Order.
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Lise
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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Fri May 09, 2014 4:38 pm

H Enida wrote:

I know the kesa I made is not available to me unless I come back to the Order.


I hope it's okay to press you a little bit on this  -  how do you know this for sure?  I understand there is a rule that says this, and they told you the rule, but what if you challenge it?  If your kesa is still there, not taken apart and recycled, then at least in a physical sense it is available. If so, it's possible for Meian and Haryo to give it to you, if they chose to do so. I'm sure they have each used their executive discretion to apply or not apply a rule, as they saw fit, many times in the past.
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H Enida



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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Fri May 09, 2014 5:17 pm

Lise – When I disrobed, I was asked to leave all of my vestments in my room and they would be taken care of after I left.  I actually specifically asked them to keep them safe in case I decided to come back, but I was told I could not take them with me.  No other monk who left while I was there ever took their robes with them.

There was a ceremony that one could do if they chose which entailed offering incense in the Founder’s Shrine and then at the main altar in the Buddha Hall, after which you took off your kesa and placed it on the altar and left.  I asked RM Meian about this ceremony after RM Eko completed it, and what became of the monk once he left, to which she replied, “Eko no longer exists.”
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Lise
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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Fri May 09, 2014 6:06 pm

Thanks, Enida, that helps me understand. 

I wonder if anybody reading this (former monk) defied the rule and left with their robes? That would be interesting to hear about, if so.  I would love to hear that someone just packed them into the duffel bag or suitcase with everything else, hopped in a car and that was it.

When Meian said that about Eko, do you think she meant it was "the monk, Eko" who no longer existed? Or did you feel it was something other, or more, than that?
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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Fri May 09, 2014 6:57 pm

Sorry, my last post came across as flippant which is not good. Probably someone who is leaving is not in a frame of mind to stir up trouble by breaking rules, nor is their leaving a matter of just hopping into a car.
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Isan
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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Sat May 10, 2014 10:47 am

Lise wrote:
Thanks, Enida, that helps me understand. 

I wonder if anybody reading this (former monk) defied the rule and left with their robes? That would be interesting to hear about, if so.  I would love to hear that someone just packed them into the duffel bag or suitcase with everything else, hopped in a car and that was it.

When Meian said that about Eko, do you think she meant it was "the monk, Eko" who no longer existed? Or did you feel it was something other, or more, than that?
 
Yes, in the earlier years there were a number of people who took their robes when they left - their pets too.  Pets were also considered communal property and people were expected to leave them, but some people had raised their pets and of course were attached to them, and so take them they did.  In my own case when I left Shasta Abbey I didn't announce that I was leaving the order.  I went to the Santa Barbara Priory still technically in good standing, and so no one at the Abbey confronted me about leaving my robes behind.  When I left the Priory I took my robes with me.  I eventually gave them away to another monk practicing in a different tradition, but I kept my kesa and have it to this day. 

I would also be interested to know what Enida understood Meian to mean when she said "Eko no longer exists".  Under those difficult circumstances it may have meant something personal to Meian.  Generally though it reminds me of the way monks who left were made to disappear from the collective mind of the community - for instance no one was allowed to communicate with them and if they needed to be discussed for some reason they were no longer referred to by their ordination names.  It was all intentionally punitive and dehumanizing.  Fortunately OBCC has ended the isolation and silence imposed on many former members.
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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Sat May 10, 2014 1:29 pm

Years ago I asked for photocopies of some articles from old OBC Journals.  I was told that they would not be provided to me because the monks who had written them had subsequently left the Order and therefore there must have been errors in their understanding of Buddhism, which might have subtly manifested in their writings.  (Apparently invisible to the editing authorities and doctrinal police operating at the time of their publication, however.  I hope that these people and agencies were also suitably dealt with.)

When I resigned as a lay minister, I was required to return my robe and kesa, but it was always made clear that they were the property of the Order in any case.  Later when I left Pine Mountain Temple I was asked to surrender the kesa case that R. Phoebe had made for me.  I had thought it was a personal gift, but it was explained to me that it was a holy item and that it was not to be put to unholy use.  I did give it to R. Leon who was sent to fetch it.  In our breakup, I asked for my high school ring and record albums back, but I never got an answer.
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Isan
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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Sat May 10, 2014 1:30 pm

H Enida wrote:
There was a ceremony that one could do if they chose which entailed offering incense in the Founder’s Shrine and then at the main altar in the Buddha Hall, after which you took off your kesa and placed it on the altar and left. 
 
Enida could you say more about this optional ceremony?  No ceremony associated with disrobing existed while I was at Shasta Abbey and I'd like to understand what its' stated purpose is. 
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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Sat May 10, 2014 1:34 pm

George wrote:
Years ago I asked for photocopies of some articles from old OBC Journals.  I was told that they would not be provided to me because the monks who had written them had subsequently left the Order and therefore there must have been errors in their understanding of Buddhism, which might have subtly manifested in their writings.  (Apparently invisible to the editing authorities and doctrinal police operating at the time of their publication, however.  I hope that these people and agencies were also suitably dealt with.)

When I resigned as a lay minister, I was required to return my robe and kesa, but it was always made clear that they were the property of the Order in any case.  Later when I left Pine Mountain Temple I was asked to surrender the kesa case that R. Phoebe had made for me.  I had thought it was a personal gift, but it was explained to me that it was a holy item and that it was not to be put to unholy use.  I did give it to R. Leon who was sent to fetch it.  In our breakup, I asked for my high school ring and record albums back, but I never got an answer.
 
Remarkably convoluted thinking on their part and yet there it is.  I have to wonder what unholy use they feared you would put the kesa case to? 

High school ring?  Record albums? LOL
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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Sat May 10, 2014 2:19 pm

I took all my robes and everything else when I left.  When I realised I didn't plan to go back I took most of my robes either to Throssel or one of the priories - can't remember which now - and asked if they would like them so that they could be used.  I still have my kesa, transmission silks, and a few other items.  No-one ever asked for them or suggested that I ought to leave them behind.
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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Sat May 10, 2014 8:36 pm

Enida what you and others describe is the slow descent from buddhism to cult. If it is true, and it seems to be then it's very sad. When you are ordained a buddhist monk then that's what you are until YOU give it up - it can't be taken away from you. Even if you are thrown out of an order you are still a monk until you give it up through body, speech or mind. What makes you a monk are the commitments that you made at ordination. Not to the order, or your ordination master, or even Zen but to try however faultily and fitfully to follow the path to truth.

When I left the order I took everything with me. Later I burned my transmission silks, when I stirred the ashes I found no relics. My kesa I still have, it is the symbol of the personal commitment I made, and even sometimes hold to. But it is just that, a symbol that is personal to me. My other robes went to the kids dressing up box! The only thing that I keep purely as a memento of the best of times, and the worst of times at Shasta is Jiyu's original set of bowls from Sojiji, slightly battered and worse for wear, which she gave to me the dayshe made me a dharma heir. Oh, and I still have a portable alter that the monks at Throssel made and gave me, which reminds me of them and their many kindnesses. None of these are holy, they have no intrinsic spirituality or magic. The things I keep, I keep for sentimental value that's all. I recently lost my wedding ring, and was quite fretful and sad at the loss, but losing it does not make me any less married.
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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Sat May 10, 2014 11:28 pm

punitive, mean, and heartless.  Kennett's shadow.  Not interested in that transmission.  No thanks.  The main thought that comes to mind... thank goodness I left.  Thank goodness I had the gumption to run for my life.  Kennett or her devotees can never take away from you anything of value.  They can't give you anything of value either, come to think of it.  Frankly, good to give back such heavy heartless garments.  Who needs those.  Not even Zen dust.
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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Sun May 11, 2014 12:00 am

Well said, Mark and Josh.

I fully agree.

And yet, I would propose that Jiyu--in spite of herself perhaps--pointed us all back home. If this were not the case, I doubt that we would all be here today.

If this is true, then the only important issue (as Josh has suggested) is that we take back our own spiritual practice, our own awareness, our own integrity, for ourselves.
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H Enida



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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Sun May 11, 2014 12:41 am

According to the Rules of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives, Section IX - Monastic Vestments & Requisites, Subsection 2, "The use and custody of monastic vestments and requisites are subject to the rules of the Order"; Subsection 3, "Any member of the O.B.C. who renounces discipleship or forfeits good standing in the Order by any other means must return his or her monastic vestments and requisites to the abbot or abbess or prior of the nearest training monastery or priory of the Order"; and Subsection 4, "Monastic vestments and requisites left when a trainee or priest returns to lay life will be retained by the Order for one year...."  Good standing simply means that you are still licensed within the Order, licensing being renewed yearly for every member.  So, yes, it's the Rule, and you are not given a choice to take your kesa with you.

Isan, in answer to your question, I believe the disrobing ceremony was something RM Eko implemented, and if I remember right it was patterned after a Vinaya or Theravada ceremony.  I was chaplain for RM Eko when he ceremonially left his kesa on the altar, and I must say it was quite dramatic and sad for all his disciples to watch.  For me, it added a subtle layer of uncertainty and loss, which lead to my questioning.  I took the answer from RM Meian to mean there is no monk named Eko anymore.
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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Sun May 11, 2014 12:55 am

Enida, in response to your original question: when I "left" the Order in 1989, I left with my robes, silks, and certificates.

No one complained. One monk suggested that I should, perhaps, return them.

I did not. And he did not follow up on the matter.

I visited Shasta Abbey on September 22nd last year during the 2013 General Meeting.

After my visit I was informed by a monk attending the General Meeting that in announcing my impending visit to the community, I was identified as a monk on "inactive status".

This status was an option that RM Jiyu recognized for many years, and which both Jimyo and Jikyo have (at least implicitly) referred to previously (in different ways) as well.

Jiyu eventually eliminated the option as a result (in both my opinion and Josh's opinion) of her fear surrounding the issue of control.

Nevertheless, she clearly, and officially, maintained my "inactive" status from 1989 until her death in 1996. The Order has a demonstrated reluctance to change anything that RMJK previously established.

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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Sun May 11, 2014 1:05 am

Enida, I just saw your last post after posting mine.

I think that your quote of the rules here may be part of the crux of the matter:

"Any member of the O.B.C. who renounces discipleship or forfeits good standing in the Order by any other means must return his or her monastic vestments and requisites to the abbot or abbess or prior of the nearest training monastery or priory of the Order;"

I never renounced discipleship, and I withdrew in good standing--in spite of the fact that I left questioning everything.
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H Enida



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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Sun May 11, 2014 1:22 am

As you say Kozan, it looks like the Rules regarding vestments, were changed in the 90s and the 2000 conclave to require the return of vestments.  As the Rule says, "by any other means" which includes simply leaving.  In good standing I took to mean that one was licensed, which is renewed yearly by the Order.

More importantly, the Rule reaffirms that the vestments are at the discretion of and belong to the OBC and not the monk.  There are far reaching consequences to this Rule and left a scar for quite awhile when I left.
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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Sun May 11, 2014 1:57 am

more rules, more control - control of body, speech and mind..... so, yes, mind control......and the yearly renewal rule means that any sign of independent thought or action, any disagreement, and they can delete you, negate your training or ordination or however you see it.  It is totally in their discretion, isn't it.  No appeal.  No clear definitions.  You're not "in good standing," so you no longer exist.  Sounds like some strange Christian cult to me. 

I fired Kennett and absolutely renounced her as my teacher.  But that was some months after I had made my departure.  At some distance.  At that time, she did not ask for my robes back. She probably didn't think of it at the time.  I did send back my teacher's certificate - not because she asked for it, but because it felt false and the best word is "icky."  She had specifically requested that the title "Roshi" be written on my certificate and then when I was leaving, demanded to know why that was on my certificate.  (In Japanese Soto Zen, Roshi is NOT any kind of official title or rank in any case).  So the whole thing felt ... off.   I was no "master" and at that point, I did not see her as a "master" either.  I wanted to leave her field and her game.  So I fired her and sent back the certificate.  My robes.... had them, at some point some years later, they were recycled.  She had given me a purple silk kesa which i still have somewhere with a few various colored raksus. I honestly see them as part of my history and the Dharma in general.  I never took refuge in Kennett or her church.  To me, this is the Buddha's robe, not Kennett's.  She gave it, so it was no longer hers, was it?   She didn't own the robe anymore.  the OBC doesn't own the robe. And in any case, there was no organization called the OBC when I was there.  I have no connection to this organization, thankfully, or their ever changing rules of domination.  What does any of this have to do with liberation?
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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Sun May 11, 2014 1:57 am

Kozan, 

The Order Bylaws set out general guidelines for active members to become an inactive or associate member, and I remember hearing some of the older monks who left were in inactive status.  There are many caveats tho, you can't get married and stay inactive without express permission, you must stay in touch with the OBC or your Master every six months, and cannot wear your robes outside the temple grounds or home nor in any way function as, or in any way imply that, he/she is a priest licensed by the Order.

Interestingly, none of the monks who left when I was at a Shasta went on inactive or associate membership status.
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Sun May 11, 2014 2:41 am

How sad for you Enida, they were given to you and they are yours. Clearly giving and receiving the kesa is important o you and I liked the way you made it.
Personally i kept my robes silks and transmission book,my robes may be in a box marked A or B somewhere but they may have been disposed of years ago. I was given new robes in Japan,where the robes were made like most robes in a special way with special stitching.
I must confess that i made my raksu and my kesa was made by four ladies connected to the temple,whenever my friend look at my raksu they like looking at the back of it it has beautiful calligraphy and unfortunately the highlight and always drawn to my attention is that the perfect stitches at the front, are irregular and not so neat behind where they are not seen.
Despite my shortcomings I love my raksu it has meaning and significance for me. It is clear that the way you made and wore your raksu had meaning and significance for you,no one can take that away from you , nor the way you live your life
,
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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Sun May 11, 2014 9:14 am

Michael, I like the image of the irregular stitches - makes me think of all the places in my house that are not as tidy as the front rooms our visitors see, ha. 

I appreciate this thread because it helps me understand what the robes & kesa mean to people.

About OBC Rules of the Order -  I think it's accurate to say that not all of those rules are enforced, and that Shasta Abbey monks in leadership have demonstrated they are willing to be picky and choosy about which ones matter. For example, the FTI assessment found they had rules that would have dealt with Eko's abuse if anyone had invoked the rules, but those were ignored. So to me, the question goes beyond "what do the Rules say" about keeping the physical artifacts of being a monk.

I can't say "this is what I would do" because I will never be in that situation, but -  I think it is possible to go to Shasta Abbey, even years after leaving, and say "If you still have my robes and kesa, I ask you to please consider letting me have them back. They represent [            ] to me and I would very much appreciate being allowed to receive them."

If they say no, well, they've the right to do that according to the Rules. But maybe they would choose to make an exception . . .
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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Sun May 11, 2014 11:07 am

I actually find all this incredibly heartless, keeping the robes at shasta is like saying you can only practice in a certain place wearing certain clothes, but practice what? it is nothing to do with the Zen transmission,completely contrary to the spirit of zazen
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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Sun May 11, 2014 12:29 pm

Did no-one who felt strongly about keeping their robes say so, and even insist?  Maybe it would have made a difference.  When I was at Shasta, it was decided that monks should give up their transmission silks to be kept somewhere other than with their own things (I can't remember where), owing to someone doing something...again I can't remember what.  I flatly refused to give mine up.  I told Eko they were mine, I had been transmitted and therefore given them, I might want to look at them, and no-one, not even RMJK, had the right to take them from me.  Eko said he'd pass that on to RMJK, and I never heard another word about it.  I remember standing up for what I felt was right in other instances too, although again I can't remember the details. It was apparently always accepted that I had that right.  Did no-one else ever do this?????
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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Sun May 11, 2014 3:42 pm

When I left, I took my rakusu with me....I was told it would be a good thing to do and as I wanted
a souvenir, I took it.  Didn`t seem to be a problem about it.  I left my robes as I no longer wanted
them and didn`t want to drag them with me all the way to the u.k.

I had a period when one of the guys attempted to bully me and I tried to gently warn him off.
It wasn`t having much effect so I reported it saying that i`m close to getting violent with him.  I
was later called unexpectedly to a meeting with a couple of seniors and the guy in question.  We
had it all out and the guy somewhat grudgingly apologised to me.  I somewhat grudgingly accepted
his begrudged apology....hey, I wasn`t perfect but the matter was put to rest and I had no more
problems.

I know of other bullying instances where juniors had been picked on by other juniors and seniors.
The instances I knew of were also dealt with and resolved.  I never did see the point of suffering
in silence and being a victim.

When I knew that I was seriously considering leaving, I had a couple of meetings with Jiyu to see
if I could resolve the impasse I had come to.  I did tell her that I had tried my darndest until I was
blue in the face.  I felt that the teaching there and I were incompatible for whatever the reason.
I tried to get to the bottom of how I was going to resolve my `koan` there as things just wern`t
working out.  I`d had a major kensho before I was ordained and I knew that that wasn`t the big
answer that would give me permanent peace.  It was that, what I wanted above all and Jiyu was
unable to show me how I could get there.  She did ask me to stay and offer my training to the
community but in the end I decided that if I couldn`t help my self, I couldn`t help anyone else.
Before I left, she did give me a minor `Ego bash` together with a few others in a communal
assembly.  I thought it was a bit pathetic as I thought the Ego bashing thing was more counter
productive than helpful.  I now realise that it shows a complete lack of understanding of what the
Ego is....it in no way impedes understanding of one`s true self.

I know that Jiyu picked up the notion in Japan that the Ego has to be subjugated and the means
justified the end.  I recall her saying to a small group of us that she was told that a good master
should be so convincing when bawling out a trainee, that his face would turn red with `apparent`
rage and yet be fully in control `within`.   Those days were long gone and totally not in tune with
the western mind...what a big mistake.  Still, she never said that she was enlightened and I didn`t
think she was.

When I left, I had nothing but help all round...Jiyu included and was lent money so that I could
get home.   I had no more contact with her until I was notified that it looks like she is near the end.
I know that she suffered a lot in her later years and was almost completely incapacitated for a long
time.  I wrote her a letter basically saying thank you and goodbye, and got a heart warming letter
back.  She gave me quite a lot of personal time with her in the old days in the uk and we both
shared a similar goal and we knew it.  She said that the `way` is frought with pitfalls from the first
to the last steps.  I often wonder if she managed to lay her own demons to rest in her last years
when she was no longer active.  She was an indisputable help in my `treading of the way` and I
cannot be anything other than grateful.

When I was being taken to town to catch my greyhound for New York, it was Eko that drove me
in.  He told me that I mustn`t feel a failure or despondent. I could always come back or at the
least follow the way in a different way or place.  He said that he had left once before and it made
him feel distraught and a big failure and he is back now and feels that all is well going forward for
him.  I told him that actually, I feel in no way a failure....disappointed that things had not worked
out but ready for a new start.  He replied that he knew what I meant.  I told him that I was very
disappointed when I left Throssel Hole earlier and did feel a failure that I couldn`t crack my koan.
This is not a reflection on the prior at the time (Mark) or the way the priory was run.  I still feel
the greatest affection and respect for Mark......sorry about that Mark :-)...another person I felt
I had a heart connection to.  Kept my rakusu and robe there after leaving, as I recall.

I have to confess that i`ve always been somewhat confused how so many people have put up with
what they feel is not right for so long....years at a time, it seems.  I know it can feel difficult to
stand up to an organisation or an institution but this is one`s spiritual life one is fighting for.  Do we
all have such low self esteem that we have to fit in with the herd at all costs...whether leaders or
followers ?   I know it`s easy now to say after so many years and hindsight is an exact science.
Jiyu herself would be a different person now.
I don`t feel any angst or bitterness to any of the monks of Shasta or the OBC, including Eko.  He
was a victim of his own conditioning.  standing in his shoes and given his conditioning, who would
act so differently ?  our conditioning is not something that we choose when we come into this life.
It`s all learning curves...I hope he can find the courage to stand up again and find his way through
his unprocessed karma.

Personally, I think disillusionment to be a wonderful thing.  It Dis-illusions one of unexamined
beliefs and behaviour. You can`t beat a stiff sharp correction...not if you`re going for liberation
anyway.

I really like what Jimyo said...

" I told Eko they were mine, I had been transmitted and therefore given them, I might want to look at them, and no-one, not even RMJK, had the right to take them from me.  Eko said he'd pass that on to RMJK, and I never heard another word about it".

I laugh when I imagine Eko passing on the message to Jiyu.  Jiyu`s thoughts are pretty obvious.
" and I never heard another word about it".
As the lady said...."Did no-one else ever do this?????"
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Lise
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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Sun May 11, 2014 6:45 pm

I like what Jimyo said, too. And what you've shared, Stan. Actually I wonder if Eko ever passed along Jimyo's message, but who knows. I speculate that he did NOT tell Kennett and she never knew any different. How many of us have kept stuff from our bosses, knowing she/he would blow a gasket and the prudent thing to do was just keep still?
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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Sun May 11, 2014 8:08 pm

I think it might be illuminating to go back to the origins of the kesa. I believe the original robes were supposed to have been made from rags sewn together, hence the kesa's many pieces. In order to insure that this was a worthless collection of rags it was then smeared with clay, hence the dirty saffron hue. The robe was completely with out value, a symbol and an actualization of renouncing 'the world', something only a monk would want. A far cry from well tailored kesas in silk and various hues, even brocade, to denote position in in the hierarchy. The original robe was a sign of humility rather than a self-important badge of office.
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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Mon May 12, 2014 3:06 am

You seem to have all missed the point I was actually making; namely, that it was always possible to stand up for what you felt was right, at least in my time at Shasta.  If I ever remember them I'll give other examples.
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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Mon May 12, 2014 9:03 am

Jimyo wrote:
You seem to have all missed the point I was actually making; namely, that it was always possible to stand up for what you felt was right, at least in my time at Shasta.  If I ever remember them I'll give other examples.
 
Well Jimyo that depends on what you mean by "possible".  Of course it was always literally possible, but if you mean it was always respected and accepted I have to say that during my fourteen years at Shasta Abbey that was rarely true.  It also greatly depended on what you were standing up for.  People who dared to tell Jiyu Kennett directly that she was wrong were typically shown the door.  Your few experiences to the contrary do not represent the norm.  Note also that the people who left were in fact the ones who did stand up for themselves Many people stayed because they could not.
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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Mon May 12, 2014 9:37 am

mstrathern wrote:
The robe was completely with out value, a symbol and an actualization of renouncing 'the world', something only a monk would want.

We humans have a difficult time not making symbols that point to something into "things." I think Catholicism in particular just gave up and realized that most people were not capable of distinguishing the ephemeral from the concrete. 

All the Buddhist statues, relics, and symbols become objects of reverence and veneration, despite just being common household materials. While philosophically Zen  Buddhism eschews this simple-minded confusion of objects and symbols, in reality many Zen Buddhists are as bad as any about "holy objects."

At one level it doesn't bother me if people are awed by robes, staffs, gilded statues, ranks, etc. Whatever helps I suppose. But in the end, I think the misdirection is often fatal -- fooling the purveyor of the nonsense as profoundly as the adoring recipient.

Maybe it's my personality. I'm not the adoring type, and I find it difficult to understand those who get lost in it.
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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Mon May 12, 2014 10:11 am

Jimyo – I appreciate your comments and am glad you were able to set your boundary when you left and follow through with taking your kesa.


A couple thoughts that come up for me:  I believe you were Vice Abbess of Throssel when you left?  You probably had considerable seniority at the time, more than I did by a wide margin; the OBC Rules have developed since and there are explicit Rules now about taking your robes, which apparently aren’t retroactive; and there is a different Head of the Order now, who has the sole authority to decide the issue, even though he is not your primary teacher.



Before you are ordained, you are required to read the OBC Rules and sign an agreement that you have read them and agree to abide by them.  I don’t know when this was instituted but it appears that the Order Rules have much more authority now than they did in the past.  I know of only one recent incident where a monk defied the Order and took his robes to continue his practice, and he took his whole monastery with him and disassociated with the OBC.


The main point I was making in leaving your robes behind is that when you ordain in the OBC you are tightly controlled and subject to refusal of any request to go out on your own.  In a practice that touts “becoming spiritual adults” it seems quite contrary to this teaching.
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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Mon May 12, 2014 11:04 am

Jimyo, 

 Were you in residence at a priory or temple when you left, or were you living on your own at the time you left?
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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Mon May 12, 2014 11:15 am

Mokuan,

As H Edina pointed out in the post above yours, I was Vice Abbess of Throssel when I left.  Actually it was meant to be temporary...I just never went back.  But the question of robes etc never came up at any time.
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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Mon May 12, 2014 11:17 am

Jimyo - As RM Jiyu was still alive, it must have been long before the current administration.  May I ask what year you left the monastery?
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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Mon May 12, 2014 11:23 am

Oh, ages ago, Enida, 1985!!!  I'm sure things have changed a lot since then.
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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Mon May 12, 2014 12:17 pm

I think the difficulty and key point of zen practice in zen temples is what happens when the temple and routine or practice are not there,in other words when one leaves
I have not really thought too much about it,I remember a conversation I had with Ikko Roshi when he said his practice and teaching of Bendowa,was focused around temple life,the simple things, the tiny things,it always focused on this moment,which meant it sort of  constantly allowed body and mind to drop away Did this work for everybody I doubt it, But teaching that through practice, is not easy. For those that it helped it helped in a really good way,it helped  us through the very difficult path that we embarked on The key point I think was that the practice was done from the top, down to me who cleaned the floors,this is the spirit of zen, Even in these tough circumstances ones heart is opened, 
The rules yes there are tough rules thse are secondary to real practice and realization,

I had a formal visit and my usual message 'Ikko Roshi wants to know how you keep the rules when you dont speak Japanese' I gave my usual reply'Tell Ikko Roshi I am OK'
With rules without rules, True Zen is never cold
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maisie field



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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Mon May 12, 2014 12:26 pm

Lise wrote:
Michael, I like the image of the irregular stitches - makes me think of all the places in my house that are not as tidy as the front rooms our visitors see, ha. 

I appreciate this thread because it helps me understand what the robes & kesa mean to people.

About OBC Rules of the Order -  I think it's accurate to say that not all of those rules are enforced, and that Shasta Abbey monks in leadership have demonstrated they are willing to be picky and choosy about which ones matter. For example, the FTI assessment found they had rules that would have dealt with Eko's abuse if anyone had invoked the rules, but those were ignored. So to me, the question goes beyond "what do the Rules say" about keeping the physical artifacts of being a monk.

I can't say "this is what I would do" because I will never be in that situation, but -  I think it is possible to go to Shasta Abbey, even years after leaving, and say "If you still have my robes and kesa, I ask you to please consider letting me have them back. They represent [            ] to me and I would very much appreciate being allowed to receive them."

If they say no, well, they've the right to do that according to the Rules. But maybe they would choose to make an exception . . .

Yes Lise, the picky-choosy-ness  about which rules are important.

It is arbitrary, really, morally. From a humane perspective, the only rules that matter are those that enable people to care for each other with gentleness and compassion. Yet the institution nags away about minor constraints and refractions (who is going to be harmed by the presence or absence of a garment or two?),when major abuses are occurring.

Yet in the worst examples, the itsy regulations are the means of oppression.
I am thinking about different kinds of ruling groups, and how this topic casts light on how regimes restrict freedom and autonomy.
It is interesting.
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maisie field



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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Mon May 12, 2014 12:28 pm

This is a fascinating conversation.
Thank you ex monks, all the stories are rich and revealing......
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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Mon May 12, 2014 12:38 pm

Dear All,

I have taken your suggestions and written to the Head of the Order and the Abbess of Shasta Abbey to request that my hand-sewn kesa be returned to me.  Of course, I will not be able to use it or in any way represent the Order by wearing it, but it would lighten my heart immensely to have it and care for it.  I will let you know what I hear back!

Thank you for your kind words and support.

Enida
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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Mon May 12, 2014 1:12 pm

Maybe you could represent who you are
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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Mon May 12, 2014 3:07 pm

mstrathern wrote:
I think it might be illuminating to go back to the origins of the kesa. I believe the original robes were supposed to have been made from rags sewn together, hence the kesa's many pieces.
 
Mark,
Do you know if there is a traditional procedure in Buddhism for a bhikkhu to return to lay life, and specially how the matter of robes is handled?  I wonder if it is generally the case that the "robe and bowl" are returned to the teacher/order or if they may be kept?  I've heard that people may enter and leave up to seven times so there may be guidelines about the kesa.
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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Mon May 12, 2014 3:52 pm

Good luck with Shasta, Enida.


I'm shocked but not surprised how institutionalised so much of this sounds and how heartlessly people were treated and allowed themselves to be treated. It is yet another indictment of Zen. Stan said 

"I know that Jiyu picked up the notion in Japan that the Ego has to be subjugated and the means
justified the end.  I recall her saying to a small group of us that she was told that a good master
should be so convincing when bawling out a trainee, that his face would turn red with `apparent`
rage and yet be fully in control `within`." 


What a nasty load of Japanese rubbish! Just like Eido Shimano and his wife.


I was totally dominated in my childhood until age 14, when I held my father to the floor by the neck and told him he would not hit my mum any more.

Since then I have have spent 1000's of hours sitting with and listening to people (mostly women) who have been victims of the most heinous violence imaginable.

I wouldn't say i'm very good at it, but I have tried to be kind and keep my heart open. (As I have to say Jimyo once did for me at Throssel. It was my only experience of kindness and caring towards me by a monk at Throssel).

As I think Maisie just said, in my experience of a situation of rules with one person in control using subjugation as a main tactic, it is not just the large acts of subjugation, but its also the little things. It is in the small rules, the tiny things, that they ensure total power and dominance and the breaking of the other person. If done to a small child for many years, it is extremely difficult to unwind the conditioning, and requires many, years of kindness and patience.

'Monk', 'kesa', 'ordination', etc etc are just mental constructs that have no real meaning. As some are saying, they often were enacted for devious ends. If you are not a 'monk' you cannot be trusted with 'holy things', For gods sake! If you leave the monastry you become somehow a 'lesser-spiritual person'. For god's sake! 'Eko is dead'. For god's sake!

How people dealt with this in the warped world of Kennett and Eko would probably be how they were taught to deal with it as children by parents. Not easy to change our behaviour sometimes.

My attitude in holding my father down (and a few times after) has allowed me to speak up against people like them in my adult life. And it allowed me to walk away from Throssel and not go back when Daishin Morgan played the stupid 'lay people are less than monks' game, then tried to 'offer spiritual advice' about a girlfriend that was downright stupid at best, and dangerous to her life at worst. For god's sake!

Re sacred things being abused, I left Throssel once with the nearest thing I ever had to a kesa, my zafu! It represented my Zen practice. I arrived at my university friends' house to visit, and woke up the next morning to find them all playing football with it. When I tried to get it back they decided to play piggy in the middle! I felt defiled and ridiculed. And it was funny, [banned term] them. 

Life has continued to trample my false gods as a matter of habit. I'm still learning the lesson that nothing is sacred, everything i hold dear can be trampled on and humiliated, my emotions, my beliefs, [banned term] those Buddhist beliefs.... even my heart...

Well, there is one thing that can't be trampled on and humiliated...  but its not really a thing... [banned term] it!
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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Mon May 12, 2014 3:55 pm

I must stop saying [banned term]
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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Tue May 13, 2014 11:42 am

Or stop typing it, at least. That would be nice  funny 

So much to think about, in these recent posts. One thing my mind keeps coming back to is this comment of Stan's.


Quote :

When I knew that I was seriously considering leaving, I had a couple of meetings with Jiyu to see
if I could resolve the impasse I had come to.  I did tell her that I had tried my darndest until I was
blue in the face.  I felt that the teaching there and I were incompatible for whatever the reason.
I tried to get to the bottom of how I was going to resolve my `koan` there as things just wern`t
working out.  I`d had a major kensho before I was ordained and I knew that that wasn`t the big
answer that would give me permanent peace.  It was that, what I wanted above all and Jiyu was
unable to show me how I could get there.  She did ask me to stay and offer my training to the
community but in the end I decided that if I couldn`t help my self, I couldn`t help anyone else.
Before I left, she did give me a minor `Ego bash` together with a few others in a communal
assembly.  I thought it was a bit pathetic as I thought the Ego bashing thing was more counter
productive than helpful.  I now realise that it shows a complete lack of understanding of what the
Ego is....it in no way impedes understanding of one`s true self.

I'm told this has been a pattern at Shasta, when someone is moving through the stages of a planned departure. I wonder if those in charge are doing it still. I have heard the person is told, repeatedly, that it's best to stay at SA and "train for the community's sake if you won't do it for yourself" and then the non-private ego bash eventually happens, in some form, if the person does not change their intention to leave.

I can't get over how this is rationalised, if it still happening. They do it because it's for someone's own good? Or is it a matter of ownership rights and they feel they own this person's life now?

I wish someone who supports the approach described above would comment here and provide another viewpoint. I will not pounce on the response or use it for escalated argument. I just want to know why this is considered appropriate to do to another human being.
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   Tue May 13, 2014 11:52 am

I think the best term for this is "spiritual malpractice" - and when in doubt, humiliate.  Pathetic.
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PostSubject: Re: Leaving Your Robes Behind.....   

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Leaving Your Robes Behind.....
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