This posting has taken me a very long time to sit with and write ... years perhaps ...
Today's subject in our "BIG Questions" series ... "When Roshis Act Ugly, Small And All Too Human".
First, let us set out the Indictment ... and it just scratches the surface. Nothing should be hidden. Many skeletons in Zen's closet it seems.
Originally Posted by DavidIt is quite a list of human weakness, ugliness and falling down.Originally Posted by David
Here is how I have come to think of it ...
All human beings, from 'Great Bodhisattvas' right on down to the rest of us, are human beings ... and that means rough edges, cracks and ugly spots, flesh, fallings down and flaws. (At least, of course, until we eventually become Perfect Golden Buddhas ... assuming that even those ideals reside anywhere beyond our flawed human imaginations) Human beings are human. That includes Zen and other Buddhist teachers, no less.
What matters most is what we do with those flaws in life, how we live as human beings ... with a bit of grace, ease, non-attachment, wholeness, peace, at-oneness and sincerity, great Compassion and Loving Kindness toward our fellow flawed beings. Practice does not remove all our human rough spots, but it allows a wild and imperfect stone to be imperfect (perfectly imperfect) yet simultaneously material to be polished into a jewel ... so many rough edges made soft and round. The Precepts are a guide for constant moment-to-moment practice in "not falling down". One cannot polish a tile into a Buddha ... but the constant polishing is Buddha.
Yet, despite the roundness and polishing, some rough edges may remain. All human beings have the tendency to fall down from time to time, some more than others.
It is a fallacy to think that Zen priests are ever completely free, during this life, from being human. In any large group of people ... whether Zen priests, other Buddhist, Christian or Jewish priests and clergy of all kinds ... there will always be examples of greed, anger and ignorance. Furthermore, in the lifetime of any one individual ... even among the best of us ... there are sure to be moments of greed, anger and ignorance.
But our Practice does, more often than not, free us from the worst. It makes us better people. (In fact, most clergy I have met ... not just Buddhist clergy, but of all religions ... are good, caring, ethical people, the bad apples aside). Most of the Zen teachers I have met ... especially those with a few years and some maturity under their belt ... tend to be lovely, gentle, well rounded, self-actuated, moderate, compassionate, healthy people - balanced, living life with fullness and well.
What is more, a teacher can be 95% good, wise and decent, a caring and profound minister ... yet have a proclivity in the remaining 5% that is an inner devil. The fact is that being a Buddhist teacher has not allowed many to avoid getting led around by the "little Buddha" in their pants sometimes, getting involved in sex scandals. There have been several modern Buddhist masters with addiction issues. I do not know of any case of child abuse involving a modern Zen or other Buddhist teacher ... but I would not be shocked if there ever was such a scandal. I know of Zen teachers who have punched other Zen teachers, or momentarily "lost it" and taken to an instant of violence.
The question is whether the 95% that embodies Wisdom and Compassion is completely canceled and nullified by the 5% which is an ass and a human fool. Certainly, if the 5% is serious enough (child abuse as seen among some rabbis and priests is certainly an example, as are other acts of violence or truly malicious conduct), I say it does, certainly. (In fact, while recognizing that even the victimizer is too a victim of beginingless greed, anger, ignorance ... toss the worst of them in a cell, and throw away the key!). On the other hand, if what is seen is a relatively minor human weakness or failing ... I say it does not. What is more, it may make the teacher an even greater teacher because of his/her humanity.
In other words, I would rather learn about some things from a fellow weak and fragile human being wrestling, right now, with Mara than from a stone Buddha statue, a Dharma machine, a Flawless Saint (although how many of those long dead saints and ancestors in religious hagiographic story books, their lives cleaned up and dipped in gold and set on a pedestal after their deaths, were truly so flawless during their flesh and blood lives?).
In our Zen practice we taste a realm beyond all desire ... beyond "we" ... a view by which there is nothing lacking, so no base or object for greed ... where all hate, longing and despair evaporate, all swept away in peace and wholeness. There is such Liberation, and it can be known by anyone who follows this Way of Zen.
But so long as we are human beings ... whether an 80 year old man or a child of age 3 ... we must also live in this ordinary realm of flesh and blood, its sometime desire ... a world where "you" and "me" are separate too, where we may feel lack and greed ... subject to anger, longing and times of despair. So long as we are in this world ... so-called "Zen Master" or not ... we cannot escape fully the realm of Samsara (even if, ultimately, there is no other to stumble into, no place we can fall).
All human beings have the tendency to fall down from time to time. I guess it is just a matter of what the person does then ... picking themselves up, recovering balance, getting back on the trail, apologizing and learning from any damage caused. Like any great athlete, the point is not that we never get knocked around, never trip or stumble ... but how we handle the fall (as in the martial arts ... there is no training offered on how to never fall, but endless training on how to fall well). Show me the man or woman who falls down sometimes ... but who demonstrates how to fall well and recover one's footing ... and I will show you a great Zen teacher.
PS - This is why we cannot neglect the Precepts in this Practice ... which, while recognizing that we may fail to abide by them sometimes, yet point toward harmless, healthful and beneficial actions toward our self and other selfs (not two). We must keep our aim in this Practice, not just on personal suffering, but on Compassion toward others and "saving all sentient beings".
PPS - I so much agree with what someone wrote on another thread ...
Yes. it is not sweet words that matter ... but actions and actual behavior.However, that doesn't mean that all teachers with personal issues are good teachers. And just because something a teacher told us sounded good at the time, made us feel inspired, doesn't mean it was right. We believe a lot of dumb things because they feel good to believe. There are a lot of words that make us feel good. And words that may be true in theory can be false when the person who pronounces them does not embody them.