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Thread: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

  1. #1

    Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    http://hardcorezen.blogspot.com/2011/04 ... ssion.html

    Hello friends,

    This is today's article on uncle Brad's website. In it, he details why he is opposed to the idea of joining "the guild," as it were.

    I found it a good article, and would like to hear what you all think. I, for one, can see the merit in his argument; that having been said, I can see how something of an oversight body could perhaps be a good forum for the exchange of ideas and dialogue between what could otherwise be somewhat isolated teachers.

    Not being a teacher myself, of course, I don't exactly know. But I think that it's interesting to watch the growth of the two bodies.

    Metta,

    Saijun

  2. #2
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    Hi all,

    I just wrote a very long and detailed response to Brad's article, but lost the whole thing which is probably for the best. Basically, I think Brad's argument is flawed when he says that the concept of a profession is inextricably linked to the idea of compensation or a promise of results for services. A profession is merely a group of people enagaged in the same occupation that relies on some body of knowledge. Professionals either transmit what they have learned to others or perform some skill, often both. And in the 13th century the common definition of "profession" was "vows taken upon entering a religious order" which I think pretty well describes what the members of SZBA & AZTA occupy themselves with and profess to know about. And, using the example of college professors, the line between teacher and student was commonly blurred in the earliest universities of Europe and was not always simply about what one person knows and the other does not. In the end I think Brad is caught up in modern definitions of terms like "profession", "teacher", and "student" that only in recent times have had anything to do with money.

    My basic advice to Brad if he cared to hear it: Get over yourself.

    Gassho,
    Dosho

  3. #3

    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    Quote Originally Posted by Dosho
    My basic advice to Brad if he cared to hear it: Get over yourself.
    I agree. Although Brad does make good points, the understanding of Zen is not something you can pay for and hope someone will just hand you enlightenment with a recite and a 10% off discount around Rohatsu...
    but he pushes it too far. He is becoming closed minded. Just because he disagree with something, he thinks it is completely wrong. Who knows he might be of more help by joining, he may not, but he is never going to find out if he just sits in his room pointing fingers.

    This practice of Zen is to drop off our blinders. Not to drop off the old ones so that we can put on new ones.

    Gassho

    Seiryu

    P.S all this is coming from someone who really likes what Brad has to say at times.

  4. #4

    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    Hi everybody,

    I really understand where Brad is coming from and I really agree with him. When you are familiar with what takes place in Japan where Zen is but a business, temples places for a family trade handed over from father to son, where the official Institutions are displaying a remarkable lack of compassion and interest in human suffering and seem highly concerned by their bank accounts...When you know how much people like Sawwaki Kodo wanted Zen to not be a profession anymore because of the traps that go with it...Of course he gets pretty systematic and extreme, but that's Brad's style. Anyway, thumbs up to Brad for spotting what is round the corner for American Zen: A big mighty church with greedy fellows and rigid dogma (open your eyes because it has already started...)

    gassho

    Taigu

  5. #5
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    Is there something familiar in that trend?

    I saw the same thing happen to Bahai Faith about twenty years ago and since Mary died I think the decay has blossomed.

  6. #6
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    Frankly, my guess is that these groups in the US are set up in part because of potential liability issues. Having a professional organization for "independent" professions helps establish guidelines.

    But I read this in Brad's article, and it really underscores just what's wrong with him:

    "This is why I refuse to accept students. I do not wish to share my work with anyone who defines herself or himself as my student. That would be unfair to both of us. Such a person is only a hindrance to me. They get in the way of what I need to do. Frankly, students are a nuisance. Furthermore, their attitude of viewing themselves as students is a hindrance to them. Its such a hindrance that it makes it impossible for me to help them even if I wanted to."

    This sort of hostility suggests that he is certainly in the wrong line of work. I think he has some idea that he's above everyone else, and that lack of humility makes him arrogant and out of sync with what Zen seems to teach.

  7. #7

    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    I already wrote a comment on Brad's blog regarding this post.

    I said if I could only read and share one article of his with others this would be the one.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Nenka's Avatar
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    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc
    "This is why I refuse to accept students. I do not wish to share my work with anyone who defines herself or himself as my student. That would be unfair to both of us. Such a person is only a hindrance to me. They get in the way of what I need to do. Frankly, students are a nuisance. Furthermore, their attitude of viewing themselves as students is a hindrance to them. Its such a hindrance that it makes it impossible for me to help them even if I wanted to."

    This sort of hostility suggests that he is certainly in the wrong line of work. I think he has some idea that he's above everyone else, and that lack of humility makes him arrogant and out of sync with what Zen seems to teach.
    I was about to agree with that; I was about to ask how a Zen teacher could have no use for Zen students. But then I noticed the first line of his bio: "I'm a Zen monk, writer, bass player and film-maker." Not teacher. Well, so be it.

    I used to believe organizations like the AZTA were useful in protecting students against unethical teachers such as [insert one of them here], but no longer. What purpose do they serve? (Really, I would like to know.) The acronym just seems to be another credential tacked onto the bottom of every "Write a Check and Get Enlightened With Celebrity Zen Master X!" ad littering the pages of Buddhist magazines.

    For the record, I don't "like" Brad Warner; I find him arrogant and full of the punk posturing I couldn't stand in high school and college. However . . . a big gassho to him on this one.

    For what it's worth,

    Jen

  9. #9
    Senior Member Nenka's Avatar
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    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    Edit: whoops posted twice somehow

  10. #10

    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    advice for the iconoclast: don't be surprised when the last ivory tower standing is your own.

  11. #11

    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    I came to this article expecting to agree that, "Oh yes, bad Brad! He should humble himself." But after reading it, I couldn't agree more.

    For me, big organizations of like-minded people can do a lot of good, but they can also do a WORLD of bad. No necessarily in the sense we normally think of, yes yes it's all founded in the precepts etc... but what does such an organization do? Police? Enforce? With what authority?

    Fundamentally, the issue with the scandals that have arisen have been two fold: One - there is a "teacher" engaging in unacceptable behavior. Two - there are students who don't seem to get that zen masters are people too. The g*ddamn mystic bull of this "Zen" pulls a curtain over their eyes and APPARENTLY common sense leaves. Suddenly, one feels they are inferior to a teacher and must kiss ass to somehow attain the state of the "guru". I feel that organizations like the SBZA and the AZTA take responsibility away from the "student". They make it seem as though the blinders may stay on because "Oh! They're SZBA approved!"

    Personal responsibility speaks volumes. I thank Brad for taking the time to write this.

    "You can't share as much as a fart with anyone else" Kodo Sawaki. So how do you expect a teacher to share enlightenment? Hm?

    Gassho,
    Myoken

  12. #12

    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    Hello,

    I have nothing to add other than to say thank you for your posts. I just returned from a six day trade fair with no time to log on to the internet....it somehow feels very nice to return to Treeleaf after a few days on the road and read all your insightful posts.

    Gassho and deep bows,

    Hans

    P.S. I even met a Japanese business contact who turned out to be a lay Sot-shu adherent

  13. #13
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    Hi all,

    I have to admit that I was initially puzzled by some of the responses here, especially Taigu's. However, I realized that I do not know much about the actual politics of AZTA and SZBA and was speaking of them in the sense of what would be ideal. And I get the feeling that is not the case (nothing ever is), but will do my own research on what I think of them and their methods.

    I agree with what a couple of you said in that organizations with less than pure motives can be very damaging, but I think things can be very much worse without them. And while I do remember hearing of what has happened in Japan (but at the same time profess to be largely ignorant of it) I don't think the exact same thing would happen in the West. Oh, we have some very bad organizations and people who run them, don't get me wrong. But exactly the same? I don't think so. I think of it like unions: Do I think many are corrupt and greedy? Yes, absolutely. But do I still support them as a whole because I think corporations would squash the common worker if they did not exist? Yes, absolutely.

    And I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that some of my negative feelings towards Brad's post are because of my impressions of him overall and that's not something I'm proud of at all. However, like someone mentioned he also reminds me of people from high school who are now trying to recapture a youth they believed they missed. Brad is brilliant in many of his insights and his contributions even at Treeleaf in the people he has brought here through his books are significant, but underneath that raw intelligence I see an enternally scared little boy who so desperately wants to feel in control of his life but does not. As such he acts out and tries way too hard to be a "Badass Suicide Girls Punk Rocker Zennie". And his ego loves nothing more than to be praised as the iconoclast he believes himself to be and to some degree is. He deserves credit and may even be right in what he says in the post, but I for one am not going to feed the creature that is Brad Warner, Inc. until he shows some humility and openess to opinions that differ from his own.

    Gassho,
    Dosho

  14. #14

    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    Frankly, I thought the blog was a bunch of self-aggrandizing nonsense, making egoistic excuses for shirking responsibility and getting paid for it. I'm obviously in the minority, but that's how I felt about it and I said so. My objection was simply this, the blog is about the same as that insipid commercial years ago with the basketball player saying, "I am not a role model."
    When Brad states, "This is why I refuse to accept students. I do not wish to share my work with anyone who defines herself or himself as my student." he belittles the learner, and he's not really being honest. He IS a teacher, he DOES have students, whether or not he'd prefer not to. But people ARE looking to him for guidance, and in his compassion, he would turn on the beginner or easily swayed student rather than give true direction, choosing instead to avoid such a one altogether. Where would we be if Buddha had rejected Subhuti or Ananda? Yes... there is a risk of a student over-identifying with a teacher... but that is a sorry excuse not to see ones' self as a teacher.
    And this simply isn't honest. Brad teaches. In a Zendo, a classroom, or elsewhere... he teaches. He writes books. He lectures. Apparently, our "non-professional" doesn't eschew the paychecks, delivering the Dharma instead in small doses and sound bytes, complete with t-shirts and souvenirs, without the inconvenience of a "student" coming back to shatter his ego with the startling news that his advice or teaching just didn't pan out.
    I don't honestly see what others have in this blog. Sorry.

  15. #15

    Re: "Zen is not in the Helping Profession"

    Well I read what Brad had to say. And I read through the comments. Maybe in my practice I am in an unusual placed but I just really don't care what his thoughts and opinions are. Nor whether the role of governing Zen bodies are effective our needed.

    I suppose in the end it is because they have almost no impact on my practice and neither detract from nor enhance it. Maybe it is just the hermitage I've been on lately. :-)

    Gassho,

    Shawn


    Sent from my GT-P1000 using Tapatalk

  16. #16
    Stephanie
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    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    I think Brad has some valid points, but I also agree with KvonNJ's assessment of Brad's stance as self-aggrandizing and shirking responsibility. I think the issue is that human beings are not perfect and whether we go in one direction or another, there's going to be a particular set of imperfections that come with it. Either we have a Zen free of the ills that beset large institutions but also full of teachers who take on authority positions and do whatever with students without anyone or any standard to call them out for it, or a Zen that becomes somewhat institutionalized and takes on some of the accretions of institutional dogma, pandering, and materialism.

    I honestly think there's something to be said for either side, but I'd rather err on the side of some form of accountability for Zen teachers. I think of all the young people attracted to Zen looking for direction who don't have any way to check on the legitimacy of Zen Master Rama Lama Ding Dong who invites them on a hot tub retreat with him. Some people are going to end up on the wrong end of Roshi Ding Dong's, er, dong, anyway, but I know that when I was in college I tended to do some research into things I was getting into, to see if institutions and organizations were connected to any larger network of legitimacy. Of course, these very authorizations and organizations can be suspect themselves, and/or not that effective at weeding out charlatans, but at least they're a starting point for research.

    I think Brad may have a bit of an agenda when it comes to this sort of thing because he sleeps with students, or at least has done so in the past. The helping professions and these organizing bodies frown on that. I agree with Brad's assessment of how Zen teachers work with students as far as it goes that teachers are not experts and the work is a mutual effort (most modern schools of therapy posit the same thing, that client and therapist are "collaborators") but I disagree with his arguments that a relationship between teacher and student is non-hierarchical. No matter how much you might try to make it non-hierarchical, it is so by its very nature. That's uncomfortable for some folks, but that uncomfortability can't erase the fact.

    I agree that Zen teachers are not "helping professionals" in the sense that they are not trained or licensed to help people with anything outside of the spiritual path. A lot of American Zen teachers take a self-help approach and start offering their thoughts and techniques in areas where they have no training and limited understanding and could do some harm. And some people seem to find an easier way into a therapy career by means of donning some religious hat than actually training to be a therapist.

    However, one area in which I think Zen teachers are in the same exact boat as "helping professionals" is the nature of the power differential in the relationship between the teacher/therapist and student/client. For those who undergo education and training in the therapy field, there is extensive training in understanding these dynamics, and how to maintain proper and non-harmful boundaries between therapist and client. I think Zen teachers often do not understand these dynamics, and either neglect them out of ignorance or naivete, or ignore them out of greed and self-serving ends, often with the same result.

    People project a lot onto authority figures. And Zen teachers become authority figures, no matter how much they might not want to be. People project "mommy" or "daddy issues" onto Zen teachers just as they do therapists. People misinterpret the intimacies of the relationship with a teacher and experience unhealthy or misplaced sexual attraction to Zen teachers just as they do therapists. The difference is that therapists are trained how to deal with these projections and "transference," and their own "countertransference," while Zen teachers are not. This is not to say there are not therapists who neglect this education or ignore it or make mistakes in spite of their best efforts. But a lot of harm is prevented just through the fact it is widely taught to be mindful of proper boundaries in the therapeutic relationship.

    I will make my own bold statement and say that a sexual relationship between someone who came to a Zen teacher looking for a teacher and that teacher will never, ever, be one that is starting from a healthy place. Because the attraction and magnetism comes from the sexual allure of perceived power, and the dynamic that plays out between someone who is relating to someone they see as so much more powerful and knowing than them, and someone who is receiving that adulation, kicks up a lot of dust and dirt. It can be very sexually alluring (human sexuality is all about power dynamics, dominance/submission, etc., just study our closest animal relatives) but an emotional hornet's nest. There is no way to form an equal partnership out of a relationship that started out of someone's attraction to someone they saw as someone who could guide them and show them the way (i.e. someone projected onto as a parental figure).

    No matter how well-intentioned someone may be, I think that without the proper education and training, instinctive sexual and emotional responses take over, and so without any sort of regulating body holding people accountable, and with the ongoing mystique of the Zen teacher as someone with some sort of occult power or mysticism, more often than not there would be impropriety coming up in teacher/student relationships. With some form of people coming together, looking at what they do and talking about it, at least there can be some awareness, some standard, some forum. I'm definitely on the side of it being better to have it than not, though there certainly are costs and "trade-offs."

  17. #17

    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    Hi,

    I think that Brad makes some very good points in his article, but I also thinks he raises a couple of strawmen not really there.

    I am a member of both organizations ... as far, anyway, as one could call those loose knit, disorganized groups even "organizations".

    But beyond that ... I don't know any member of the SZBA or AZTA who thinks of being a Zen teacher as a "profession" in which, as Brad says, a Zen teacher is someone "who charge[s] money to people who come to us to be helped, the way a professional therapist does." The only exception I can think of are the few members who actually are psychologists and therapists and seek to combine their work, as well as those money grubbers (like Genpo Roshi, not a member of the SZBA or AZTA) who try to turn Buddhist teaching into a business. In fact, the AZTA and SZBA members spend a good portion of their time trying to keep the calling of "Zen Teaching" from becoming that. Most members of these organizations work very hard and receive little if any compensation for it ... often barely able to pay the rent via donations and such.

    Furthermore, most members of the SZBA and AZTA that I know are very much opposed to the "teacher" as "guru" thing, and almost all would see a teacher as having a role like an experienced voice sharing the same path ... a friend in this practice ... who offers a helpful word or hand from time to time to someone along the way. Each practitioner on this path must do their own heavy lifting, and the teacher and Sangha are merely there as a support. That, I believe, would be the overwhelmingly prevalent view among the members of those groups I have encountered.

    Maybe "calling" is a better word, like for any decent member of the clergy. Whether we want to admit it or not, and whether Brad wants to recognize it or not, people come to us ... ask us for advice ... and we can hurt them if we are insincere or abuse the situation. I have people coming to me at times in their life like divorce, cancer diagnosis, deaths of a loved one ... and while my role is primarily to direct them to the Zafu, it is simply wrong to believe that I have no ethical standards I need follow in such cases because "it is not my job as a Zen teacher to help people." What is more, if someone is asking me for some guidance on their Zen practice, it is silly to think that there is no relationship between us in which I could do the person harm because they trust me. I often encounter folks who are vulnerable. I do have a position of trust not to hurt people, and groups of teachers like the SZBA and AZTA have some responsibility to see that people do not get hurt by so-called "Buddhist teachers".

    The fact of the matter is that the SZBA and AZTA are loose knit associations of teachers from a variety of Zen traditions, all flavors of Zen ... liberal, conservative, traditional and new fangled. In a way, they are barely more than discussion groups. They have tried to enforce minimal standards for recognizing who are folks coming to teach with some legitimate credentials ... and who are all the con-men and flimflam artists out there, like Barry Graham who claims to be successor to a made up Zen Teacher from a non-existent temple. They have tried to encourage (not even insist on) some minimal standards of training for young priests to make sure that people are not turned out on the world with a title and little more (we are not "professionals", but if you think a Zen teacher cannot do harm to someone's heart as real as an untrained quack heart surgeon with a white coat, a scalpel, and a degree from a fake medical school ... one is naive about the damage we can do to lives.). Many have also wrestled with how to respond to problems of ethics and Sangha members being hurt (you will hear more about that in the coming days), and they are doing their best even without any real police powers except the pen and the wagging finger (because the "organizations" are so disorganized and toothless).

    But the SZBA and AZTA are not nefarious groups seeking on appointing a Pope and turning Zen in the West into a doctrinaire church. Not most of the members I know (maybe a few would like that).

    They have given me a bit of a hard time because of our recent "Online Ordinations" and the way we are trying to train our novice priests around here. Most of the folks who are members have some concerns about it ... AND THEY ARE RIGHT TO HAVE THOSE CONCERNS! They want to make sure that "Zen Teacher" certificates are not being handed out like diplomas from an online diploma mill. So far, it looks I am succeeding in winning them over about the seriousness of what we are doing here ... but even if I cannot, I do not fault them for trying to have some minimum standards for what it means to be ordained and to train as a priest.

    The fact is that both the SZBA and AZTA let me in as a member. That shows that their standards can't be all so high. :?

    Gassho, Jundo

  18. #18
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    Wow, it's really late and I just got back from a professional conference (non-zen, of course) where I have been spouting my professional ass off, and so I check into the forum here and see this. TOO FUNNY :twisted:

    My basic point, as a professional in the field of counseling - especially as applied to those with disabilities - is philosophically quite in line with Brad's. I tell my students all the time, and I mean ALL THE TIME, that we are not in the business of helping people. Rather, we are in the business of helping people help themselves. So I think on his basic premise I can extrapolate that to the zen profession with complete agreement. I in absolutely no way feel Jundo or Taigu are here to help me except if it means to help me help myself. It's a very important distinction.

    I just had this almost exact conversation (again, my profession, not zen) tonight just before logging on and at least a couple of times at the conference I was at. It is not a position that people like. I got into at least one fight over it, and I think I "buddha'd" my way out of it. People mean well, but meaning well and trying to be helpful is often not actually helpful. Sorry, but that's just true.

    Helping people creates a distinction between those that are helped and those that need help, thus a duality. That ain't the Zen I know. That ain't the Zen I practice everyday. So, again, philosophically, I am right with Brad on this one. BUT, and this is a BIG BUT, i understand the practical problems with his position as stated.

    Sorry, it's late, as I said earlier, so I'll try to parse this out later. I know it's difficult, but it's a very worthwhile issue. But right now sleep is most helpful to me.

    zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  19. #19
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    Quote Originally Posted by KvonNJ
    And this simply isn't honest. Brad teaches. In a Zendo, a classroom, or elsewhere... he teaches. He writes books. He lectures. Apparently, our "non-professional" doesn't eschew the paychecks, delivering the Dharma instead in small doses and sound bytes, complete with t-shirts and souvenirs, without the inconvenience of a "student" coming back to shatter his ego with the startling news that his advice or teaching just didn't pan out.
    Yes, if he gives talks or writes books, he is imparting knowledge - unless, of course, he's just telling stories and writing novels, which is not the case. But he's trying to pretend - using some very curious logic - that he is not an authority figure, when he claims he is a "Zen monk" (whatever that means), a claim that is intended to give weight to what he says.

    Yes, I think he wants the good without the problems of the bad, and it shows a serious lack of respect for those to whom he imparts knowledge. (And, while I think, from reading one of his books and some of his blog posts, that he is disturbed, he does have some useful knowledge to impart.)

    One more thing, he seems to want to minimize the role of both teachers and students. I was a teacher for many years, and the way teachers and students interact is quite special. It doesn't always work - in fact, it probably works less often than one wants - and teachers fail very often, in part because of themselves, and in part because of students' lack of motivation. Perhaps he just wants to avoid accepting his own failure by saying that he has no students?

  20. #20

    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    I tell my students all the time, and I mean ALL THE TIME, that we are not in the business of helping people. Rather, we are in the business of helping people help themselves.

    you can call it "helping people help themselves, Al, but in giving such assistance, even if you're pointing them in the right direction or hooking them up with resources- internal or external- that they were unaware of... well, frankly it's all pretty semantic. Helping people help themselves starts with HELPING PEOPLE because that's exactly what it is.

  21. #21
    Senior Member Nenka's Avatar
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    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc
    Yes, if he gives talks or writes books, he is imparting knowledge - unless, of course, he's just telling stories and writing novels, which is not the case. But he's trying to pretend - using some very curious logic - that he is not an authority figure, when he claims he is a "Zen monk" (whatever that means), a claim that is intended to give weight to what he says.
    Point taken.

    Also, thanks, Jundo, for your explanation of what the AZTA and SZBA do. A lot there I didn't know.

    Speaking of a lot there I didn't know:

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    I think Brad may have a bit of an agenda when it comes to this sort of thing because he sleeps with students, or at least has done so in the past.
    Ehhhh . . . maybe it's best he wants to stay away from students now . . .

    :?

  22. #22
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    Jennifer wrote:
    Ehhhh . . . maybe it's best he wants to stay away from students now . . .
    But remember, he has no students! :wink:
    I don't know Brad personally but I have read some of his work which I did enjoy.

    Gassho,
    John

  23. #23

    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    Hi Guys,

    REQUEST FROM JUNDO:

    I will plead "Right Speech" / No Gossip here and say that we should not speculate about Brad and moralize here so easily.

    The Genpo and Eido Roshis situations are egregious, long term, involving multiple relationships with students in which some folks were hurt, misuse of the teaching place, and all admitted (for the most part) by the two men involved. As far as I know, Brad (in his book) said that he had a relationship with someone who came to sittings a few times, he does not consider that there was a "student-teacher" relationship, and the relationship developed quite some time after she no longer came to the group when his marriage was ending. So, I feel I may criticize Genpo and Eido for their actions together with other teachers, but I do not want to do so easily in other cases where I do not have so much information, where the situation is much less clear.

    Gassho, Jundo

  24. #24
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    Thank you Jundo Sensei for stopping things before they turn into a runaway gossip train. As Brad isnt here to clarify things for himself It was nice for you to step in on his behalf. From what you said it seems much milder and less cause to crucify over than how it may have come across throughout this thread.

    Gassho,
    John

  25. #25

    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    Dalliances with women aside, I simply find his comments on the teacher-student relationship to be completely wrong, and his assertions about it in his own life to be dishonest, self serving and hypocritical. Whether its about clearing some imaginary moral hurdle to allow for sleeping with someone or simply absolving himself from the responsibilities of a position he voluntarily takes on (whether he likes it or not,) it's the shirking of that responsibility... the moral and spiritual laziness that turns Zen and Buddhism into nothing but a money making venture for him... THAT'S the part I can't stand. It puts him about a half a step away from the televangelist who makes money off the Gospel without really having a pastoral role in peoples' lives... and it's gross. It's also EXACTLY the thing he claims to be avoiding by eschewing teaching groups and whatnot.
    Well done, Brad. You're exactly what you claim not to be. Strip away the leather jackets, the deliberately shocking statements and behavior, and the constant posing, and you're left with just another religious wonk flogging religion and practice and spirituality for money but without the inconvenience of relationship.

  26. #26

    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    Maybe if I had some kind of relationship with Brad other than occasionally reading his blog posts I would have stronger opinions about him. His comments about difference between a zen teacher and the helping professions makes sense and not wanting formal students is his personal choice. The money he earns is from writing and his talking gigs he claims just covers expenses.

  27. #27
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    Quote Originally Posted by KvonNJ
    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    I tell my students all the time, and I mean ALL THE TIME, that we are not in the business of helping people. Rather, we are in the business of helping people help themselves.

    you can call it "helping people help themselves, Al, but in giving such assistance, even if you're pointing them in the right direction or hooking them up with resources- internal or external- that they were unaware of... well, frankly it's all pretty semantic. Helping people help themselves starts with HELPING PEOPLE because that's exactly what it is.
    I don't disagree at all, but it's an important nuance that I define this way: Helping people tends to be doing things for them, and helping people help themselves is more like giving people what they need in order to do things for themselves. So, I can help you find enlightenment and tell you "There it is!" (after you've paid $19.95 for my seminar), or I can help you find enlightenment by pointing you to the zafu and giving you tips and instruction and support, etc. (all freely given) so that you can figure it out yourself to the point that someday you say "There it is!" completely on your own. Which form of enlightenment will mean more to you? Probably, hopefully, the latter. Which is faster and easier to do? The former, for sure. Which one feeds the needs of the teacher's ego more? Again, the former, for sure. Which camp would Brad be in? He would probably disagree with all of this :wink: but I would put him clearly in the "helping people help themselves" camp, and I very much appreciate his efforts to get this message out there.

    Brad may be flawed (as are we all), but that doesn't mean he's wrong.
    Sometimes his message may be flawed (because of his own flaws or because words are so imperfect), but that doesn't mean the message isn't valuable.
    Sometimes it's hard to separate the man from the message, but as students that is our responsibility -- not his.

  28. #28

    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    Still comes across as a semantic difference, Al. Point me to the Zafu and you HAVE helped me. Tell me something I don't know and you HAVE taught me. And the teacher/student relationship has been at the core of Buddhism since some fellows started following the Buddha after his enlightenment.

  29. #29

    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    Thank you for your words, Al. Brad's style is by far not my cup of tea at all but his way to display the Dharma is just brilliant and many of his intuitions spot on. Of course, flaws can be found ( in any of us), at it is our job to see clearly and distingish between the personal s.... and the priceless teachings.

    The fact that Brad refuses to get into a dynamic of teacher to sudent relationship is presumably something he has to work on. He is not the first relunctant teacher, Kobun roshi was famous for his multople attempts at not teaching (and meanwhile teaching anyway)...The Zen history is packed with this priests turned into beggars and nobodies. As to Brad' money, he is struggling. I don't think he is just like what he is so critical of.

    gassho


    Taigu

  30. #30
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    It's more than just semantics, Karl; it's behavioral. It's about a form of action. There's lots of levels to helping, and helping people to help themselves is a higher level. How's this: There's chocolate and then there's double fudge chocolate. The difference between the two is not semantic, right. Same idea applied in a different way.

  31. #31
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    I'm not trying to say I think Brad is evil or hopelessly corrupt, or anything like that. I get an opposite impression, that he is overall a meek and gentle person. But I do think the ego is wily, and that Brad's relationship with someone who came into his life because he was leading a Zen group -- I am not basing this on some backroom gossip, but the book he wrote and published -- is a factor in his arguing the case he does.

    My point was not to bash on Brad. I don't think Brad is better or worse than me or much anyone else. He just is a source point of discussion of things that many, if not all of us do. I think Brad's self-deception is really apparent in the things he says, perhaps only because he tries so hard to be honest and sincere. Which is why I find his posts to provide rich material for response and rebuttal. But again... my point isn't to pick apart Brad. Or to point to him as a bad egg in a carton full of good eggs. That's not how I see it.

    So perhaps it would help if instead of talking about Brad, I say in my own experience it is easy to neglect boundaries, propriety, and decorum in relationships with others. Emotions are wondrous and profound and inspire us to do many things, good and bad. I have yet to see evidence that any amount of Zen training or kenshos or plaudits from the community has ever caused someone to transcend the powerful impetus of emotional energy, whether pain or desire. Sure, folks who have been practicing a long time might succumb less often, but every Zen teacher and student I've met has had buttons that can still be pushed. My emotions, and what they inspire me to do and to say, continue to surprise me.

    So I think it's good to have training as to the causes that can lead to boundary violation or unhealthy power dynamics in relationships, and how to address these and prevent impropriety from occurring. Because I don't think this is a case of "bad eggs," I think this is a matter of our nature as human beings. And to have some form of accountability and community is to offer guards against the seduction of power to both the person holding the power and the person not holding it.

  32. #32

    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    It's more than just semantics, Karl; it's behavioral. It's about a form of action. There's lots of levels to helping, and helping people to help themselves is a higher level. How's this: There's chocolate and then there's double fudge chocolate. The difference between the two is not semantic, right. Same idea applied in a different way.
    Yes, there's a difference. But here, Brad's got himself a nice package of double fudge chocolate, and claiming he doesn't eat chocolate.

  33. #33

    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu

    The fact that Brad refuses to get into a dynamic of teacher to sudent relationship is presumably something he has to work on.


    Taigu
    Quote Originally Posted by KvonNJ
    And the teacher/student relationship has been at the core of Buddhism since some fellows started following the Buddha after his enlightenment.

    I think if Brad ever creates or finds a supportive practice community he may change his view on students. In todays world most transmitted teachers must support themselves whereas in Buddhas day the society supported teachers and even students (MONKS).

  34. #34
    Senior Member murasaki's Avatar
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    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    Call me strange or naive...but the moment sexual energy and enters any kind of teacher-student relationship, all the "allure" and "mysticism" completely goes away for me and I feel disillusioned and imposed upon. I don't think there can be any learning without the crisp white ramie of platonicism...which holds the real "allure" for me.

    I know you could probably figure out a slew of personal issues with me just from that above statement, but don't waste your time, I've got other people doing that

    gassho
    Julia

  35. #35

    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    Quote Originally Posted by murasaki
    Call me strange or naive...but the moment sexual energy and enters any kind of teacher-student relationship, all the "allure" and "mysticism" completely goes away for me and I feel disillusioned and imposed upon. I don't think there can be any learning without the crisp white ramie of platonicism...which holds the real "allure" for me.

    I know you could probably figure out a slew of personal issues with me just from that above statement, but don't waste your time, I've got other people doing that

    gassho
    Julia
    Hello Julia,

    When I was practicing in the Thai tradition, there was a fellow I met at Wat Metta who was, as I recall, a Brahmin priest of some sort. He related to me that while he was practicing on his mountain-top as a hermit, a young girl came seeking answers, and they wound up married for (again, as I remember) 30-odd years.

    I don't mean this to imply that I'm in favor of physically intimate relationships between teachers and students (far from it!), but perhaps things can grow and develop, and a system like the one at SFZC could work; a relationship would be accepted if the student-teacher relationship is dissolved for some time prior.

    That having been said, I do see your point if your teacher begins to make unwanted advances. Not a good environment at all!

    Metta,

    Saijun

  36. #36

    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    Quote Originally Posted by Saijun
    and a system like the one at SFZC could work; a relationship would be accepted if the student-teacher relationship is dissolved for some time prior.
    Just for point of reference, our 'STATEMENT OF ETHICAL PRINCIPLES AND PROCEDURES' here at Treeleaf are based on recommendations of the SZBA and echo the rules developed at other Zen Sangha. They state in part:

    Student/teacher relationships should be based on mutual respect, compassion, and kindness. We acknowledge the inequality inherent in such a relationship and the power issues involved. We specifically acknowledge the great harm, both psychological and spiritual, that results from teachers becoming sexually involved with their students, both for the teacher and student involved and for the community as a whole. We, therefore, consider it unethical for a teacher to engage in sexual behavior with her or his student, even if with the consent of the adult parties involved, if a student-teacher relationship has existed at any recent time between the parties (deemed to be within a period of 6 months).
    viewtopic.php?f=9&t=2818

    Yes, even given our primarily "online" format, it is possible for such things to happen here. We do have people meeting, and "under a roof" sitting groups too.

    Why the "6 months"? Well, I think that was developed (not original to us ... some groups have 6 months, some a longer period, some a total ban) because, truly, sometimes one cannot stand in the way of love. Our modern Zen clergy are not celibate but, like Protestant ministers, can engage in healthy relationships, love and marriage. If there is a long cooling off period, the parties have time to reflect and be apart, and the feelings are still there despite time and a bit of distance ... the teacher-student relationship is given time to be replaced ... yet peoples' hearts still call to each other ... well, perhaps, we should not stand in the way.

    Gassho, J

  37. #37

    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    Another perspective

    http://monkeymindonline.blogspot.com/20 ... or-of.html

    A Couple of Words in Favor of Professionalizing Zen Teachers"

    Now, I've run across one or two assertions about the American Zen Teachers Association as trying to become such a thing. Obviously these are assertions from people who have never attended AZTA meetings. As one who has, I can tell anyone interested, it is a very loose gathering, with no officers and no dues, and limited interests beyond being a peer support group. It has a sole committee, a membership committee which with the consent of the larger gathering defines who may be a member of the body. Which has consequences for people who see it simply as the largest gathering of Zen teachers. But it also publicly acknowledges there are many legitimate teachers not affiliated. Possibly, I would add, the majority of the sum total of legitimate Zen teachers in the West.

    This is not a professional organization.

    Would that it were...

  38. #38

    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    I do respect a lot of what Brad says. Sure in his books, sometimes I feel like he comes off like he wishes he were a punk rocker still, and I'm not certain how authentic his rebelliousness is. But I can only go on what I read. I don't know him, and a lot of that is fluff to me, so it is not to me to judge who he is as a person. Hell I portray an image of myself to the world that only partially accurate sometimes. I do know that when he writes about Zen he does so very lucidly, and I've learned a lot from his books and perspective on Buddhism.

    That being said, it's hard to critique a blog post. I mean it's not like a dialogue. I really wish I could sit down with him and ask him what he means by student. He admits he was Nishijima Roshi's student, so my guess is that maybe he means that he doesn't want disciples or students with the attitudes that set him (as their teacher) above themselves. He writes about that quite a lot about how he even asked Nishijima questions in an effort to give up his own authority or responsibility. Perhaps, this is just another perspective or way of expressing that idea. We are responsible for ourselves, or we need to learn to help ourselves as others have posted. I don't know, it's certainly weird that he doesn't consider himself a teacher considering that he's written 4 books and has a regular blog.

    Gassho,

    Risho

  39. #39
    Senior Member Nenka's Avatar
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    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    I don't know. He doesn't want students, he wants to work on himself, I still say that's fine, even if he has a very abrasive way of expressing it. Metta to him.

    Gassho,

    Jennifer

    Also--thanks, Erik, for posting that link.

  40. #40

    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    Hi Guys,

    ANOTHER REQUEST FROM JUNDO:

    I will plead "Right Speech" again, and I have been tempted to close the topic or even erase it ... the first time at Treeleaf I would have done it. It is not that I think anyone is being intentionally mean here, but I would like to bring up a couple of Precepts ...

    PRECEPTS VIII - To Refrain from Discussing Faults of Others.

    My teacher, Nishijima, said:

    This is a precept pointing out that we should not be too critical or self-righteous when our Buddhist brothers and sisters, struggling as best they can to engage in Buddhist practice through the activities of their daily lives, stumble or fall off the path. In its wider meaning, it means to seek to avoid speaking of the faults of anyone in a way not helpful to that person, or in a way meant simply to praise oneself by comparison.

    viewtopic.php?f=7&t=3135

    PRECEPTS IX - To Refrain from Self-Praise & Judging Others

    Nishijima says:

    Do not praise yourself or berate others. We should not praise ourselves, nor speak ill of others. We should be humble regarding ourselves, forgiving and not overly judgmental in our outlook toward other human beings. Although it seems a simple precept, I believe that it is one of the deepest in significance and import.

    Now, whether others engage in this Precept or not is ALSO not something we should talk about.

    Let me note that, further, I think it fine to make some general, constructive criticism (or even really -strong- criticism) as Brad makes of Genpo, and as I have too about Genpo, because of the continued, ongoing impact of his behavior on the wider Sangha (same with some like Eido Shimano). HOWEVER, there is a fine line from that to just discussing the human faults and failings of others, our goodness in comparison, and it is a hard line to avoid stepping over. Maybe we should stop now.

    Perhaps some folks might even consider rewriting some of their own postings to avoid that?

    Gassho, Jundo

  41. #41

    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    Hello friends,

    I'd like to apologize for the turn this post has taken. I meant it more as a place to discuss the establishment of a Zen "establishment" in the west. I apologize if I was in any way interpreted being critical of Brad.

    Metta,

    Saijun

  42. #42
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    I feel like the criticisms being aired here are worthy of being aired, because these are issues that are instructive to all, but I also respect Jundo's desire not to sanction Brad-bashing here. Gassho Jundo, I respect and admire your self-reflection and restraint on this matter.

  43. #43
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    Jundo,

    Thank you for your teaching.

    I did consider rewriting some of what I wrote about Brad, but decided against it since I would rather leave what I said as a lesson to myself on how I would like to act or not act as the case may be. To say I shouldn't have said this or that would be just be covering over my mistake instead of learning from it. What is done is done. I have spent most of my life regretting things I have said, many of them not in need of regret or apology. So, while I don't think I must apologize, I will choose to do so.

    It was not my place to tell Brad to "get over himself" or to analzyze the events of his childhood and how they may or may not affect him as an adult. It was not wise to judge the choices he has made, the things he has said, or as I stated in my second post to have a general dislike of a person for no reason. Overall, my purpose in both posts was met in analyzing his arguments and disputing them with facts or opinion, but in the end I digressed into a character assasination that was unwarranted and not in line with the precepts I have vowed to live by in my daily life.

    For all this and all my other failings that negatively impact others, I sincerely apologize. My ego attempted to inflate itself by deflating Brad's ego, which was careless and pointless. I won't say that it will never happen again because it undoubtedly will, but hopefully not where Brad is concerned. I will endeavor to do better in the future generally and specifically in the way that I regard Brad and his teachings. I have stumbled, but will get up and continue making mistakes and learning from them. I will not live my life trying NOT to make mistakes but will try to live as I believe I should...with mistakes being the inevitable outcome...as I seek to follow the precepts.

    Thank you for pointing this out Jundo.

    Gassho,
    Dosho

  44. #44

    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    Who is this 'Brad' person anyway, and if you all think so little of him why do you follow his words? :twisted:

  45. #45

    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    Here is what I took as the gist of Brad's comments:

    "Zen teaching is not a profession and must never be a profession. A professional is someone who charges for their services and promises some kind of results, even if not necessarily promising what the client views as success. The moment Zen teachers start looking upon what they do in this way, what they do is no longer Zen teaching at all. . . .

    What is being proposed here is a professional organization for professional people who, just like the doctors, lawyers and therapists were being categorized with, charge for their services and promise results. People who charge for their services and promise results ought to be held accountable for the results of those services. . .

    I, for one, do not promise any results. Nor do I offer any help. I will let you join me in my work if I feel that you wont get in the way of what I need to do. Historically this has always been the attitude of Zen teachers. Why else do you think it was so hard for people to become students of the Zen teachers of the past?"
    I do think most of this is much ado about nothing except semantics and the possible questioning of each other's motives. Jundo believes that the motives of the two organizations are different from those that I think Brad assumes.

    Depending upon how much Brad lets someone "get in the way" of his work, he may be a little harsh, but, in life, there is always that line somewhere, because there are always tradeoffs. Gassho, Grace.

  46. #46

    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    On a side note about teaching, being a volunteer teacher to those who cannot read and write and those trying to pass the high school equivalency test, I do have some thoughts on teaching, in general.

    To me, teaching is the reason why human civilization has advanced over time. It is the collaborative process, whereby the teacher hopes to pass on experience to another, so that the student may benefit and advance more quickly and may, in turn, contribute more to the world. The teacher always learns from the student, too, and may even, in time, be formally taught by the student. Every great teacher that I have known wants to both grow with their students and hopes to be surpassed by them. Gassho, Grace.

  47. #47

    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    I've read Brad's books and follow his blog. I don't always agree with his statements, many times quite the opposite, but I am glad that there is a "voice of dissent" out there. That's all I'll say on the matter

  48. #48

    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    Quote Originally Posted by Matto
    I've read Brad's books and follow his blog. I don't always agree with his statements, many times quite the opposite, but I am glad that their is a "voice of dissent" out there. That's all I'll say on the matter
    I agree with Matto completely!

  49. #49

    Re: Zen is not in the Helping Profession

    Quote Originally Posted by edward
    Quote Originally Posted by Matto
    I've read Brad's books and follow his blog. I don't always agree with his statements, many times quite the opposite, but I am glad that their is a "voice of dissent" out there. That's all I'll say on the matter
    I agree with Matto completely!
    Dear Irony,

    You are awesome!

    Love.
    R


    P.S.- Well done Matto and edward

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