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Thread: Sangha Danger Signs (Split from Just Sit-ism)

  1. #1

    Sangha Danger Signs (Split from Just Sit-ism)

    NOTE FROM JUNDO: I SPLIT THIS AS A SEPARATE THREAD TOPIC AS IT IS SO IMPORTANT

    I'm not sure what the confession zone would be all about, but I certainly would love to watch the airing of grievances "bottled up" among Nishijima's heirs. What are we talking about? The causes that Mr. Cross drowned in the deep end? Any other cases of "questionable realization"?

    This is important to me because for a long time I struggled (aka, more than "just sitting") with the stories of Yasutani's sick nationalism, Katagiri's affairs, Dick Baker's sick everything, Trungpa's "crazy wisdom", Maezumi's booze enlightenment, etc. This was, in my early practice, the hardest thing to come to terms with. And then eventually I came to apreciate all those that have smeared Buddhism because

    a) they showed me that "zen masters" (whatever that means) are dudes no less human than my own ass, and that seeing any authority/mystical quality/ paternal figure/ role model feature in them is just a deluded attempt on my part to delegate my responsibility to them

    b) they helped me better understand the purely administrative, worldly meaning of Dharma Transmission (talk about emptiness!)

    c) they got themselves out of the way so that we could look more directly at the teachings

    d) a long etc of subtleties

    It seems to me that most of us are westerners, and just as buddhism had to incorporate a lot of bovine feces in every culture where it thrived, it is thriving as we speak in an environment where secrecy is a sign of shady character and dubious moral background.

    Unless knowing painful truths hurts our personal delusions, I think most of us like to see Zen and Buddhism in general in exactly the same light that we try to see everything else in the world: "as it is"

    Now if the confession zone is about venting, remorse and whining, I'll pass. Repentance as taught by Uchiyama is as far as yours truly will go.

    Gassho

  2. #2

    Re: Just Sit-ism

    Quote Originally Posted by Alberto
    I'm not sure what the confession zone would be all about, but I certainly would love to watch the airing of grievances "bottled up" among Nishijima's heirs. What are we talking about? The causes that Mr. Cross drowned in the deep end? Any other cases of "questionable realization"?

    This is important to me because for a long time I struggled (aka, more than "just sitting") with the stories of Yasutani's sick nationalism, Katagiri's affairs, Dick Baker's sick everything, Trungpa's "crazy wisdom", Maezumi's booze enlightenment, etc. This was, in my early practice, the hardest thing to come to terms with. And then eventually I came to apreciate all those that have smeared Buddhism because ...
    Thank you, Alberto, for an important post. I think these things need to be mentioned and discussed from time to time in any group like ours. I will reprint, at length, a couple of things I have written on this in the past. By the way, you just reminded me that "Shoes by the Door" will be added to the Treeleaf Book List as required reading...

    As the 'Lineage Holder Resident-On-Call' of this Sangha, Mind-to-Mind Transmittee, Perfectly Enlightened One, Entity Free of Time-Space, President-for-Life and 'All-Around Great Guy' ... I ("I" being merely a convention useful to communicate with lesser beings) offer this opinion on the subject:

    Some common sense and historical context is required to understand these things.

    If Zen Practice and philosophy may be thought of as 'Karate of the Mind,' (breaking down our little perspectives on self, suffering, time, space etc. etc. the way some folks break boards and bones), then a 'Dharma Holder' may be thought of as a fellow who has done this Practice for a good long time, knows the kicks, jumps and punches, and can show others the ropes, thereby granted a 'Black Belt' ... all as recognized by a seasoned, older teacher to whom the successor has been apprenticed for some years. In that way, 'Mind-to-Mind Transmission' may be said to mean something like that I know the same mental kicks, jumps and punches as demonstrated by my 'Master', even if I do not necessarily do them just as he does, and have my own twist on things.

    Traditionally, 'Dharma Transmission' has been bestowed for several reasons in China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam. The best reason is the one above, I think, namely that one non-understands and can pass that non-understanding on. But sometimes it was given purely for reasons of political or social connection (like the Queen might bestow a Knighthood), or because the Transmittee was useful to the lineage, for example, as a good cook or translator of texts. In Japan, since priests were allowed to marry in the 19th century, the Soto school has tended to allow lineage and Transmission to be passed from blood father to son almost automatically so that temples can be 'kept in the family'. My own teacher, Nishijima, is a critic of that whole system whereby temples have often become little more than money making operations passed from generation to generation to do expensive funeral ceremonies.

    Lineage should serve as some evidence to new students that a teacher is 'qualified'. Unfortunately, it does not always or in most cases (because of the way the system operates, as described above). The only way to know is, ultimately, to sit with a teacher for awhile and see if he/she is sincere, seems to know the ropes, and if he/she actually helps the student practice the Dharma (and that there is no abusive situation, cult activity, money making motives. Listening to the opinions of other students of the teacher may not be that useful, as people tend get hypnotized by the guru they latch on to ... only to find out years later that maybe they should not have given the guy their house and savings and run off to his Ashram). You just have to try a teacher and see if the teachings somehow seem right and work in your life. Because a lot of fakes and con-men have hung out the name 'Zen Master' on their own ('Zen Master Rama' was a self-proclaimed 'Master' and a true piece of abusive work) or questionable authority and knowledge (a fellow who calls himself 'Adyashanti' gets my goat, and is almost a parody of what a Zen teacher should be), students need to be careful. Two organizations were established in the US to check teacher's credentials and to attempt to uphold standards (the 'American Zen Teachers Association' and the 'Soto Zen Buddhist Association'), and I belong to both. We often get complaints from people who are coming out of abusive situations with self-proclaimed masters and gurus and charlatans of all sorts.

    Western students have romanticized the whole idea of Zen Teacher, and many of the books about Zen (D.T.Suzuki, Three Pillars and others) were an encouragement to their doing so because those writers presented a very idealized, mystical picture of the process. Many teachers, enjoying the power trip and the adulation of the crowd, encouraged this (read "Shoes By the Door" about SFZC in the 70's), resulting in all kinds of sex and other scandals at Buddhist centers. Don't get me wrong: A good Zen teacher can help the student swallow the whole universe, drop away time and space, see beyond life&death and all that ... but he/she is just a human being complete with dandruff, bad habits and annoying foibles too (just ask my wife when she can't get me to take out the garbage). Here are a couple of excellent articles done on the whole subject a few years ago ...

    http://www.thezensite.com/ZenEssays/Cri ... Clouds.htm

    http://www.thezensite.com/ZenEssays/Cri ... zation.htm

    I did my own parody of what many students want in an 'Eastern Master' here, for one of the daily 'Sit-a-Long with Jundo''s on the blog.

    http://treeleafzen.blogspot.com/2007/05 ... gi-xv.html

    I do think that it is good to for us to honor our Lineage, and our history, and all the teachers who came before to make the teachings possible. It is much like honoring one's own mother and father and ancestors. It is not merely a lineage in time or a single place, nor a single line, but encompasses each mountain, grain of sand, blade of grass and star. It is ordinary, but it is plenty funky too! I think.

    Well, anyway, no "perfect beings" around here. Only "perfectly imperfect, perfectly-just-what-they-are" beings.

    Gassho, Jundo

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forum/viewtopic.php?p=422#p422
    [There is a ] mentality that creeps up in so many (religious groups of any religion). Buddhist groups, and even Zen groups, can go exactly the same way (It happened at San Francisco Zen Center in the 'Shoes by the Door' days of Richard Baker). (You posted a check-list of cult behavior a few months ago, and I will look for it).

    I keep things around here down to earth and make few silly claims about what we are doing here. At least I try. I believe that the ordinary IS 'magic', that not seeking for special states IS a special state, that being at home right where you are IS finding nirvana here and now. If you ever find me pulling any of the psycho-babble crap or guru stuff or other cultish activity described in this book or that blog, please call me on it right away and make your escape from here. I will give you your money back (by the way, I will never ask for any).

    ...

    Here is a typical list of warning signs.

    I did find a 'danger' sign for Treeleaf Zendo, and that's that the 'leader' (Jundo) is ALWAYS RIGHT. Please do not forget that. :-)

    Also, we could do a bit better on financial disclosure ... except for the fact that donations are not accepted (By the way, anyone wishing to make a donation to Treeleaf, I encourage you to make a donation instead to a charity of your choice, one that helps folks, e.g., feeding the hungry, finding a medical cure, world peace, etc.)

    Gassho, Jundo the Infallible

    __________________________________________________ _____

    Ten warning signs of a potentially unsafe group/leader.

    1. Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability.

    2. No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry.

    3. No meaningful financial disclosure regarding budget, expenses such as an independently audited financial statement.

    4. Unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies and persecutions.

    5. There is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil.

    6. Former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a similar pattern of grievances.

    7. There are records, books, news articles, or television programs that document the abuses of the group/leader.

    8. Followers feel they can never be "good enough".

    9. The group/leader is always right.

    10. The group/leader is the exclusive means of knowing "truth" or receiving validation, no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible.

    Ten warning signs regarding people involved in/with a potentially unsafe group/leader.

    1. Extreme obsessiveness regarding the group/leader resulting in the exclusion of almost every practical consideration.

    2. Individual identity, the group, the leader and/or God as distinct and separate categories of existence become increasingly blurred. Instead, in the follower's mind these identities become substantially and increasingly fused--as that person's involvement with the group/leader continues and deepens.

    3. Whenever the group/leader is criticized or questioned it is characterized as "persecution".

    4. Uncharacteristically stilted and seemingly programmed conversation and mannerisms, cloning of the group/leader in personal behavior.

    5. Dependency upon the group/leader for problem solving, solutions, and definitions without meaningful reflective thought. A seeming inability to think independently or analyze situations without group/leader involvement.

    6. Hyperactivity centered on the group/leader agenda, which seems to supercede any personal goals or individual interests.

    7. A dramatic loss of spontaneity and sense of humor.

    8. Increasing isolation from family and old friends unless they demonstrate an interest in the group/leader.

    9. Anything the group/leader does can be justified no matter how harsh or harmful.

    10. Former followers are at best-considered negative or worse evil and under bad influences. They can not be trusted and personal contact is avoided.

    Ten signs of a safe group/leader.

    1. A safe group/leader will answer your questions without becoming judgmental and punitive.

    2. A safe group/leader will disclose information such as finances and often offer an independently audited financial statement regarding budget and expenses. Safe groups and leaders will tell you more than you want to know.

    3. A safe group/leader is often democratic, sharing decision making and encouraging accountability and oversight.

    4. A safe group/leader may have disgruntled former followers, but will not vilify, excommunicate and forbid others from associating with them.

    5. A safe group/leader will not have a paper trail of overwhelmingly negative records, books, articles and statements about them.

    6. A safe group/leader will encourage family communication, community interaction and existing friendships and not feel threatened.

    7. A safe group/leader will recognize reasonable boundaries and limitations when dealing with others.

    8. A safe group/leader will encourage critical thinking, individual autonomy and feelings of self-esteem.

    9. A safe group/leader will admit failings and mistakes and accept constructive criticism and advice.

    10. A safe group/leader will not be the only source of knowledge and learning excluding everyone else, but value dialogue and the free exchange of ideas.

    Don't be naïve, develop a good BS Detector.

    http://www.rickross.com/warningsigns.html
    _____________________________________________

    Here is another, more detailed list ...

    http://www.factnet.org/headlines/destru ... signs.html

    http://www.i4m.com/think/recovery/mormo ... nation.htm
    Hi,

    This is an important article for anyone to read who is considering being involved in the Zen world. It is an honest report on Zen in the West. We should all be "Informed Spiritual Consumers", for want of a better term. Do not believe any person just because he/she has a robe, a funny hat and a title (even if seemingly a really sweet fellow like me)

    The title says it all. The report is a little dated, and contains some factual inaccuracies here and there, but is about right.

    http://www.geocities.com/jiji_muge/uszen3.html

    This is another report on a related theme by the same author

    http://www.mandala.hr/5/lachs3.html

    Although the reports focus on the US, my understanding is that similar situations have happened in Canada and Europe. It is one of the reasons I seem to get so hot and bothered about institutional checks and balances, and the Precepts, in my own Lineage with Nishijima Sensei/Roshi. It is important. Of course, most Zen teachers and Buddhist Centers are not involved in abuse or scandal ... but we must learn from the rotten apples.

    Sex, power and authority tempted a few folks and led them to the Dark Side. If you ever see signs of anything like this at Treeleaf or any other group you are involved in, "GET OUT FAST!" is my advice.

    To quote Sophocles ..

    "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely"

    Gassho, Jundo

  3. #3

    Re: Sangha Danger Signs (Split from Just Sit-ism)

    Don't worry Jundo if you start showing meglomaniac tendancies I will run away:



    Thank you for nailing your credentials on the door of the Zendo.

    Gassho

    Jools

  4. #4
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Sangha Danger Signs (Split from Just Sit-ism)

    Jundo,

    If we "get out fast", where do we go? Reading such things makes one wonder if it is not like this all over the place. I've heard stories of similar things here in France, and those articles make it look like these problems are endemic. (At least they don't involve young children, like some other organizations...)

    Seriously, I understand that people are imperfect, but are westerners so hung up that they cannot have a healthy attitude towards the type of power and influence that a master-disciple relationship involve? In a way, I think I'm glad to be a part of this virtual sangha, since it's less likely that anyone is abusing others - not that it can't happen, but the lack of physical proximity certainly changes things.

    Do such things happen in Japan, or in other Asian countries?

    Kirk

  5. #5

    Re: Sangha Danger Signs (Split from Just Sit-ism)

    I do think "Danger" arises when what is our responsibility, we've handed over to someone else and then disregard what we see, hear, and feel. Trusting an unworthy and distrusting ourselves.
    This kind of danger can happen to us anytime anyplace anywhere--in our marital bed, in the fine print of the contract with our long time friend and business partner, in the doctor/dentist/car salesman's office, not just with the roshi in the sangha.

  6. #6
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Sangha Danger Signs (Split from Just Sit-ism)

    Well, in any teacher/student relationship there is a question of the learner trusting the teacher, the teacher being "better" than the learner in the subject being taught. So handing over responsibility is common. What's different in meditation or similar subjects is the psychological elements that are so overwhelming.

    Kirk

  7. #7

    Re: Sangha Danger Signs (Split from Just Sit-ism)

    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc
    Seriously, I understand that people are imperfect, but are westerners so hung up that they cannot have a healthy attitude towards the type of power and influence that a master-disciple relationship involve? In a way, I think I'm glad to be a part of this virtual sangha, since it's less likely that anyone is abusing others - not that it can't happen, but the lack of physical proximity certainly changes things.
    Abusive or inapropriate internet sex? Given you teacher SS#, DOB, and Credit Card #? :mrgreen:

  8. #8

    Re: Sangha Danger Signs (Split from Just Sit-ism)

    Jundo

    deep gassho for being infallible, and a full prostration for giving the issue clarity and discussing it with humor. The topic is touchy until we realize that it is not about us, it is not about being mad at funky teachers, but about protecting those that find the Dharma for the first time and come closer to hear more about it. And also about protecting those that have followed the way for a while but haven't figured out that, indeed, they cannot be deceived by others.

    Thanks, Jundo, for reviewing once more a topic that you have discussed before. Those of us that join the sangha should always keep in mind that by commenting on our doubts you and the old timers are showing patience and understanding. Going over and over the same stuff every so often may not be as pleasurable as watching the cyclic blossoming of flowers in the spring, and yet you just do it. Thanks.

    This opens the door for more comments on what a teacher is and, with profound respect for some comments above, I must insist that the teacher is not there to take responsibility for us. A teacher is a friend that has walked the way for longer and can show us some pitfalls and keep us from wasting our life looking for shortcuts. And while the teacher deserves deeply-felt respect and gratitude, he/she should not be envisioned as a savior, a genuine know-it-all, a parent, a therapist, a crying-shoulder, the bestower of algorithms for problem-solving,etc. Now, some of us may need such a figure, and the important thing is to recognize such needs, see them clearly and work with them.

    "Yeah, I did my neighbor's wife, but Jundo/Dogen/ Nagarjuna told me there ain't no such thing as good and bad so I just dropped off body and mind and boy, was that enlightening". "Yeah, I left my 8 year-old alone with the priest but he told me he was a saintly man of God". "Yes, I burned my lap with McDonald's cofee, they should have told me it was really hot". Ah, all the variations in our old quest to evade accountability and our vain attempts to renounce personal responsibility.

    Teachers are human beings, and to that I bow. If a teacher can fool us, we're not looking at him/her in the right way.

    In my life I've traveled on horrible donkeys, wobbly skates, crowded and stinky buses, cars sometimes elegant and sometimes ruinous, fast planes, etc. I'll ride whatever vehicle takes me where I need to go. The Dharma does the same.

    Gassho

  9. #9

    Re: Sangha Danger Signs (Split from Just Sit-ism)

    From the wikipedia article on SZC

    In 1983 Tenshin Reb Anderson had received shiho from Zentatsu Richard Baker, becoming Baker's first Dharma heir (though Baker disputes this). From 1986 to 1988 he served as abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center, and from 1988 to 1995 he served there as co-abbot with Sojun Mel Weitsman. Anderson became entangled in a strange incident that occurred in 1987 that reached back to 1983—a period just after Zentatsu Richard Baker had resigned as abbot. While jogging through Golden Gate Park one day, Anderson had deviated from the path to urinate in some bushes. There he found the corpse of a man with a bullet wound to the head and a revolver nearby. Rather than report this to the police, Anderson returned to the body over a period of several days to meditate over the corpse.
    I am sorry....but that is very creepy. :shock: What was the reason for not reporting this incident to the police??

  10. #10

    Re: Sangha Danger Signs (Split from Just Sit-ism)

    Hi Erik,

    I just sat with Tenshin Roshi at a Sesshin ... good teacher. My view of the incident, he just momentarily spaced and freaked a couple of times. Yes, even Zen teachers stumble.

    The story actually gets "worse" (Tenshin writes openly about it in a book he wrote). After taking the gun home to the Zen Center, he stowed it away somewhere. Years later, when confronted with a fellow trying to break into Zen Center (I reprint a Wiki on it below), he grabbed the gun, followed the guy down the road and into some buildings wanting to threaten him (the gun was unloaded).

    He lost it. We all lose it sometimes. Don't believe old Buddhist story books that Zen Masters of old were 'perfectly enlightened' 24/7, the Buddhist fairy tale equivalent of 'they lived happily ever after'.

    Our Zen Practice is about 'balance' in body-mind, like riding a bike or keeping a canoe upright. Sometimes, we all take a spill!! (Hopefully, not too often and years in between ... okay, I have never wanted to threaten some guy with a gun, but I have had a spat or two with the wife over the years that resulted in a dented wall).

    The only question if whether we can quickly get back on the bike or in the canoe, and whether we have the sense and ability to be able to do so quickly. The Precepts, among other things, help keep us on the seat or in the boat. (I patched the wall, let my hand heal ... felt like a fool afterwards).

    Tenshin, for a moment or two, fell out of the canoe!

    Gassho, Jundo

    Anderson became entangled in a strange incident that occurred in 1987 that reached back to 1983—a period just after Zentatsu Richard Baker had resigned as abbot. While jogging through Golden Gate Park one day, Anderson had deviated from the path to urinate in some bushes. There he found the corpse of a man with a bullet wound to the head and a revolver nearby. Rather than report this to the police, Anderson returned to the body over a period of several days to meditate over the corpse. On one such visit he decided to take the revolver home with him.[6] Upon his final visit he found that the body was no longer there, and a fellow priest whom he had confided in showed him a newspaper article covering the apparent suicide. Five years later (in 1988), roughly fifteen months after Anderson had become abbot of the San Francisco, Anderson was arrested for brandishing this same firearm in public. He reports that he had been mugged at knifepoint by a man just a block away from the San Francisco Zen Center at 300 Page Street. Anderson remembered stowing the revolver away in the San Francisco Zen Center's garage and quickly retrieved it. He then drove after the alleged mugger and followed him into a housing project with the revolver (unloaded) in hand, being arrested minutes later by a police officer with his own gun pointed at him.[6]

    This 1987 incident has had a damaging impact on Anderson's reputation as a teacher, the incident having received local and national media coverage at the time of arrest. The San Francisco Board of Directors sent him on a leave of absence for six months, and when he came back they appointed Mel Weitsman as a co-abbot. Regarding this ordeal, Anderson has written, "On both a personal and a professional level, I am still dealing with the consequences of this episode. Some people felt that I had committed an irrevocable betrayal of trust, and have discounted me and my teaching ever since. Others were more forgiving, but their trust in me and my integrity was permanently shaken. Even newer students, who come to Zen Center and find out about these incidents, are sometimes confused and question whether I can be their teacher. These events are a helpful reminder—both to me and to others—of my vulnerability to arrogance and inflation. I see how my empowerment to protect and care for the Triple Treasure inflated my sense of personal authority, and thus detracted from and disparaged the Triple Treasure. This ancient twisted karma I now fully avow."[6] In October of 1999 Anderson suffered a heart attack while conducting dokusan. Rushed to Marin General Hospital, he then underwent a successful emergency angioplasty.[1]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tenshin_Reb_Anderson

  11. #11

    Re: Sangha Danger Signs (Split from Just Sit-ism)

    I haven't thought this through much, but it strikes me that our ability to "drop" things in Zen is very similar to the Judeo/Christian notion of forgiveness. We don't forget other's mistakes, but we accept them and move on. However, we also remember so that if a pattern of bad behavior emerges we don't fall victim to others.

    This may be a bit half-baked ( I just crawled out of bed).

    Gassho,
    Bill


    PS--I can understand Anderson's moment of anger and wanting to chase a criminal. I have more trouble with his decision to not report the corpse over a period of days to the police and removing the gun from the scene. I know that the Buddha told us to meditate at charnel grounds, but still . . . it speaks to a bit of an übermensch mentality on Reb's part. Maybe he learned a great deal from that.

  12. #12

    Re: Sangha Danger Signs (Split from Just Sit-ism)

    Sounds reasonable for just waking up... You did good, it's a good post.
    You should see me some mornings, lol.

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