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 Hi from John Bevan

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John Bevan

Posts : 1
Join date : 2018-01-10

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PostSubject: Hi from John Bevan   Hi from John Bevan EmptyWed Jan 10, 2018 4:46 am

I was never a "member" of OBC or Shasta Abbey nor was I associated with them in any way. My connection to Shasta was quite accidental - I was looking for a PDF of the Shobogenzo online and Shasta Abbey was one of the first hits on Google. I quite like that translation, though the Nishijima/Cross translation is pretty good too (though it has a ton of problems!).

I looked around on the web page and bumped into the Abbess Kennett. I listened to one of her talks and immediately disagreed with her. "Buddhism is a religion," she said and, after listening to many more talks, I decided that she is barely a Buddhist let alone an Abbess in a monastery she created!

I read the "Is the OBC a cult?" forum entries and found a lot of interesting points of view, especially the posts about what a "cult" is. In reality, pretty much everything is a cult. We can't help it - we are indoctrinated in every way into the belief system we choose to live with inside ourselves. And that, of course, finds its way outside in many ways: writing, speech, actions, etc. I was introduced to Buddhism when I was 16 (I'm 65 now) by reading books such as "Buddhist Scriptures" by Edward Conze. Aside from certain concepts - such as reincarnation, with which I do not agree - I came to the "conclusion" that Buddhism is a down-to-earth, common sense way of looking at the world and makes a lot of sense. I had been meditating since I was 8 years old (because I got involved in the martial arts, the first lesson of which was disciplining the mind), so meditation was not a "mysterious" topic as it was to most of the people with whom I associated.

I believe that Kennett was a woman who wanted to find a way of giving women a voice, especially in matters of religion which was her particular interest. I found a PDF copy of David Kay's very good book entitled, "Tibetan and Zen Buddhism in Britain" and paid particular attention to the section about Kennett. Kay does not paint her in a good light at all - not, apparently, due to a personal (or other) bias but using Kennett's own writings and conversations.

Sorry this introduction is so long. I'm from Cardiff (S. Wales) and have been living in the U.S. since 1977. Perhaps I'll go back to Wales when I retire.
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Posts : 207
Join date : 2010-06-11
Location : New Mexico

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PostSubject: Re: Hi from John Bevan   Hi from John Bevan EmptyThu Jan 11, 2018 1:11 pm

Hello John,
Your post brought up some things for me. I’ve been thinking about OBC Connect a lot over the past few months. I don’t know if you’ve been following the news about the #MeToo movement here in the US, but there is a movement happening now where women are speaking up about sexual harassment and abuse. I have to say, I believe that this forum was created from the same seed; it was created as a forum for those who felt abused and it gave those of us who felt abused a voice. Some of us paid a heavy price for telling our stories, but ultimately, it did bring change and that’s the most important thing.
I have been a part of telling this story, but am happy to report that the story has had a very happy ending for me. This year is my 20-year anniversary for taking the precepts at Shasta Abbey and although it has been a rough road, I’m eternally grateful for everything I have learned along the way. I’m am grateful for Jiyu’s training and life-long work. I greatly admire her for persevering through her own experiences of abuse that she went through in Japan- a male dominated power structure. It’s interesting that the things she fought against were unfortunately carried through to her successor. But because women (and men) spoke up, the OBC was able to see that there needed to be ways to insure safety and protection for everyone. I hope that over time, compassion and loving-kindness has prevailed and the policies and procedures necessary have been developed to insure equality and safety.
I know Kay was biased about Jiyu and yes, the OBC is a new religious movement, or cult. But like you said, every religion practiced today can be viewed as a cult. We originally argued the point as a way to operationalize the behaviors and actions that we experienced; there were definitions and guidelines already in use that helped to identify abuses of power. The OBC is not the only Buddhist organization that has had to confront this issue and many people do not realize this. Those that have spoken out against these abuses have paved the way for healing and I truly hope that that is what has happened.

I should say, that I don’t know what is happening with the OBC currently. I am hopeful that everyone is in a good space. My own anger and negative feelings about what happened to me have burned out and I’m left with gratitude and loving-kindness.

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Posts : 1640
Join date : 2010-11-17

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PostSubject: Re: Hi from John Bevan   Hi from John Bevan EmptyWed Feb 28, 2018 3:46 pm

Interesting John I liked this bit    I came to the "conclusion" that Buddhism is a down-to-earth, common sense way of looking at the world and makes a lot of sense. 
You may well be right and I think the dilemma we have is how do we know if our view or indeed our practice of Zen is the (correct) one! Because if todays teachers have their own interpretation or view the chances of it leading us to peculiar places is quite high Yep Zen temples in Japan are tough yes they are geared around men but many women have done pretty good we tend not to hear too much about them.On reflection the real temples are where we actually are, our surrounding, lifestyle, country, sex, sexuality.... the whole thing ..can we express and live zen? our integrity honesty and depth of being given a chance will guide us
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Posts : 605
Join date : 2010-11-14
Age : 76
Location : Bedfordshire, UK

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PostSubject: Re: Hi from John Bevan   Hi from John Bevan EmptyMon Mar 12, 2018 8:06 pm

Interestingly Dogen the founder of the Japanese Soto Zen lineage, which was Jiyu's lineage, was railing against men's attitudes to women, nuns in particular, in 13th century Japan from the Shobogenzo:
Eihei Dogen wrote:
Nowadays there are some extremely stupid men who think,  ‘Women are nothing but sexual objects and providers of food’ …..There are many who will not pay homage to women or nuns even if they have manifested the Dharma and transmitted it. They do not understand the Dharma [and] are like animals.” (Raihai Tokuzui – Paying Homage and Acquiring the Essence).

He did appear to rather row back on this in later life, but he did have a female Dharma Heir and certainly met  female teachers whilst he was in China. Note that at this point in his career he seemed to think that ordained and unordained women (and presumably men too!) could "manifest the Dharma"
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Posts : 1640
Join date : 2010-11-17

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PostSubject: Re: Hi from John Bevan   Hi from John Bevan EmptySat Mar 31, 2018 1:43 pm

I have to say I did not know any of these snippets regarding Dogen ! I can understand the young monks having feelings and desires for female companionship as it is one of the energies of the universe its how we survive, I ca also understand why the temples in Japan were male only but they had built some mixed ones recently. Interesting but I cant understand it is that dowsers have told me that there are masculine feminine laylines.I was a bit unsure of these laylines but there are some great places  that certainly have calm energy.So I think a lot of religions havent worked out the male female dance and by blocking it aint really the answer
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Posts : 1617
Join date : 2010-11-13
Age : 68
Location : New York, NY

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PostSubject: Re: Hi from John Bevan   Hi from John Bevan EmptyWed Apr 04, 2018 9:13 am

John -- welcome to this forum.  I haven't posted anything in awhile.  This forum has been relatively quiet for the last few years, but I continue to believe that this long and varied conversation is a valuable resource for both ex-members and those who want to understand what can happen in any organization, religious or otherwise.  So it's good that it sits here.  

John, I agree with some of the points you make about Kennett.  Some thoughts. 

Many of the early western Buddhist "pioneers" who went off to Asia to study Buddhism - in the 50s and 60s -- were quite sincere, but also they brought with them lots of western and personal baggage.  Often they did not understand the languages - whether that was Japanese, Chinese, Tibetan or Burmese.  And the teachings they received were often simplified and then filtered through a western religious lens.  Add to it that many of these pioneers were loners, seekers, and were often deeply blind to their own shadows, needs, and hidden agendas.  And many were not as much seeking enlightenment, but had dreams of becoming masters or gurus.  For some, Asian religion became a kind of new enchantment or intoxication, replacing an old model with a new shiny, exotic mystical one.  

Kennett's understanding of Buddhism came mostly from her days at the London Buddhist Society (LBS)  where she met visiting monks from Asia and where she interacted with D.T. Suzuki.  The LBS was rooted in romantic mysticism and even occultism. and D.T. Suzuki promoted a seriously distorted version of Zen, mostly Rinzai, and highly romantic, meant to impress westerners, and completely disconnected to the way Zen was actually lived and practiced in Japan.  

Kennett's understanding of Soto Zen was very limited to say the least.  Her Japanese comprehension was minimal, she couldn't read Japanese or Chinese.  Even in Sojiji, the big Soto Zen training monastery, she was mostly an outsider.  She worked with one teacher to translate a small percent of the Soto Zen teachings of Dogen.  I would say that her Zen experience was filtered through her personality, her unrecognized shadow, her earlier personal study of Buddhism, Christianity and some occult thinking.  This became clear to me after being with her for about five years. So what I was seeing five years in was lots of confusion, contradictions, but along with that, a demand for absolute obedience to her and to whatever she said.  She craved adoration.  Loyalty became the overwhelming demand on her devotees.

Also, as time went on, she became more and more stressed out, authoritarian, grandiose, and even delusional.  She became quite the emotional bully, using humiliation as one of her main teaching tools - always a bad sign.  Which is why I left and why many other people took their leave. If a teacher goes off the rails, i don't care what some old teachings say, you can and should either speak out or walk out.   

I don't think this analysis of Kennett is overly harsh.  Many spiritual leaders, teachers, gurus are not nearly as enlightened as they want us to believe or as they think they are.  Highly enlightened teachers, I think, are very very are, and having one enlightenment experience is a great first step, but hardly makes a person a living Buddha or any kind of "master."  Many gurus / teachers drink their own kool-aid.  Many get seduced by their role, by adoration, love sitting on a throne and being the master.  We have seen this over and over again.  Organizations can easily slide into being more and more cultic, especially when the teacher is self-blind and questioning of any sort is considered the greatest possible sin.  This is a formula for harm and delusion.  

Kennett was certainly a pioneer with regard to women in Soto Zen. She trained at an all-male and all-Japanese monastery and certainly put up with discrimination.  That came with the territory.  And she ordained many women disciples.  AND, here is the big rub, Kennett actually treated women poorly.  From the experience of many ex-members, it was clear that Kennett identified with the male principle, and often humiliated her female disciples much more than the men.  Perhaps she was over compensating.  She wanted to be the tough strong leader, so the feminine was not much a part of her style of personality.  These mental attitudes no doubt were set in her childhood and in growing up in a totally male-dominated society.  

anyway, enough for now.
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