My name is Jiko and I am a lay disciple of Kyogen, who introduced himself in another thread, and a Lay Dharma teacher with lay transmission at Dharma Rain Zen Center.
I find myself in between those who are grateful for their spiritual guidance from OBC and yet no longer have a formal sangha, and those who struggle to overcome negative experiences there.
I received the Precepts from Jiyu Kennett in 1983 and attended several retreats there. I was reared in that area, though I have lived in Portland for a long time. I know that part of my immediate love of the Abbey was my love of the countryside and the mountains. But most of it was a deep, immediate and abiding love for Soto Zen and for monastic life.
Around the time I began to seriously practice Zen and attend sesshin at the Abbey, Kyogen and Gyokuko became a familiar presence in Portland. This was a happy enough combination of relationships for a time, but it didn't last. I had begun training in the Lay Ministry program when Kyogen and Gyokuko separated from the Abbey and from OBC. (A long story, and Kyogen has posted a few links that tell part of it.)
At that time, Eko took me for a walk along the cloister and told me that I had to choose: I could continue to practice at the Abbey, or I could continue to practice with Kyogen. I could not do both; if I stayed involved with Kyogen, I would be banned from the Abbey.
It was a terrible choice, especially so early in my practice. I was still in my honeymoon phase, and also struggling over whether I had a vocation for monastic life (I had children and so it was a wish from afar). And bang, I had to choose between two relationships I loved and needed.
With a little time for contemplation, I came to see the "third position" of standing apart from a conflict. In fact, OBC was insisting that I choose, but Kyogen was not doing anything of the sort. He was not creating the conflict. So the choice became clear.
It was wrenching and I missed the Abbey terribly for a long time. I still feel wistful at times. However, I am grateful that things worked out as they did. Not just because of the fruitful and enduring relationship I've had with Kyogen and with my large and healthy sangha, but because of all that I've heard over the years about what I left behind. Now that I've had a look at a number of other American sanghas as well as several monasteries and temples in Japan, I see the pattern in much of the drama explained here. I see that our conditioning does tend to lead us into the same familiar mistakes.
I look forward to both lurking and commenting here - Jiko