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Thread: My Cancer Ango - 11 - Is Tenpyozan Monastery A Discriminatory Institution?

  1. #1

    My Cancer Ango - 11 - Is Tenpyozan Monastery A Discriminatory Institution?

    This will be the last post, for now, on the question of discrimination in Zen Buddhism, and whether we are shutting our doors to many excellent Priests and Teachers because of the hardships they face in life.

    Tenpyozan is a beautiful, Japanese style monastery being built in Lake Country, California to introduce the structure and methods of traditional Japanese Soto Zen-style monastic Practice to Westerners without the need for them to travel to Japan for the experience, and without the language barrier. (LINK) However, it also presents a question:

    Is Tenpyozan Monastery, and places like it, a discriminatory institution?

    I would respond that, NO!, it is not at all ... except, well, YES!, a little bit it is. It opens doors, but also slams doors in the faces of others.

    Tenpyozan is being built under the auspices of an excellent man, the Rev. Gengo Akiba, the 'Sokan' (Bishop) of the Japanese Soto-shu in North America. He, in fact, and most all of the people involved in this story of exclusion and discrimination are generally good and gentle people who really have no such thought in mind, and only good intentions. However, they are church people, not unlike the clergy and devoted followers of other world religions with rather conservative ideas on how things must be done in the training of priests: That way is, generally, how things have always been done.

    In most cases, those traditional ways remain as important, beautiful and powerful as they always have been and should be celebrated. As Soto Zen Practitioners, we should be so grateful that someone is making the effort to build a place to keep these traditional ways alive, and to pass them on. For many or most people seeking to enter the Zen Priesthood, they are good ways ... even necessary to their Path ... ways that should be celebrated and encouraged. I support Tenpyozan, I have donated my own money there and encouraged other Zen Practitioners to do so. The trouble is only that it also closes the Path of other ways for the people we have been speaking of these past days in my "Cancer Ward" talks: The severely disabled individual who could never even travel to Tenpyozan, let alone live there, the poor foreigner without economic means and others dependent on him financially, the elderly and sick man nursing a sick woman, the medical practitioner needed by her patients, the abused woman in hiding, the mother of a special needs child who cannot get away. Yesterday, I heard of another: A Zen priest in training caring for a sick mother, a sick brother, a child who needs him. Each is manifesting him or herself as gifted clergy in bringing these Soto Zen ways to fellow disabled, sick, victimized, suffering individuals, yet each has little or no hope of Training at a place like Tenpyozan.

    Are we perpetuating the history of discrimination that has been present in Soto Zen in particular, all Zen and much of Buddhism in general, throughout their history? The Sangha was hesitant to admit many of the disabled since its earliest times, often writing off their disability as some form of Karmic debt to pay. Our Treeleaf Sangha is now compiling a "Differently Enabled Ancestors List" to be recited during some ceremonies, which list will include the names of several such barred individuals who were turned away. (INFO) Women took a back seat, and still do, in much of traditional Buddhism, and only in the past Century have women achieved some "separate but equal" equality in Soto Shu Zen in Japan. Various racial and "outcast" minorities in Japan were shut out for centuries by the Soto-shu. (LINK) Recently, a Japanese friend of mine in Japan was turned away from Ordination and Training because he lacked the substantial capital and economic backing needed for the costly equipment and Training tuition at a Japanese Soto monastery, and Zen Monasteries have over the centuries been more readily available to the educated, financially secure and "elite" classes of aristocratic and warrior societies than the "common man." Even our beloved Dogen Zenji, in what I consider a momentary failing of his generally warm and "grandmotherly" heart, once told a novice priest to let his mother starve rather than quit his training. Shame on you, Dogen Zenji:

    A monk said,

    “My aged mother is still alive. I am her only son. She lives solely by my support. ... If I leave the world and live alone in a hermitage, my mother cannot expect to live for even one day.

    Dogen instructed,

    ... If you abandon your present life and enter the Buddha-Way, even if your mother dies of starvation, wouldn’t it be better for you to form a connection with the Way and for her to permit her only son to enter the Way? Although it is most difficult to cast aside filial love even over aeons and many lifetimes, if, having being born in a human body you give it up in this lifetime, when you encounter the Buddha’s teachings you will be truly fulfilling your debt of gratitude. Why wouldn’t this be in accordance with the Buddha’s will? It is said that if one child leaves home to become a monk, seven generations of parents will attain the Way. ...
    http://global.sotozen-net.or.jp/comm...nki/03-14.html
    Hmmm. Maybe so in 13th Century Japan, or other times long ago and far away. But is this a model of dedication that we wish to, that we need to bring to Buddhism in the West today? Why not open doors, and find various Paths, to celebrate diversity in our clergy, various roads through hardship and overcoming?

    When, awhile back, I met a priest associated with Tenpyozan, I congratulated him on construction of such a beautiful institution. But I noted that a certain cultural arrogance and Japanese cultural chauvinism remains about it, a sense that it is necessary to bring the "correct" Japanese ways of Soto Zen to the West to help the unwashed natives who cannot appreciate "real" Zen (i.e., the Japanese way). In fact, I support the preservation of these traditional Japanese and Asian ways of Soto Zen, and know their power and beauty. We do need these ways. The Japanese have so much to Teach us, to pass on. However, I then suggested to the Japanese priest that the Soto Clergy from Japan should spend equal time to be sent here to the West, to be trained and "certified" by many Western Teachers in what we have created here, in the ways we have developed and are developing for bringing these beautiful Teachings out from behind monastery walls, and into the modern world and the daily lives of people. We have as much to teach the Japanese, and to pass on, as they do to us. They should ask for our formal "certifications" too. The Japanese priest did not understand at all.

    Are the SZBA and AZTA discriminatory institutions?

    Organizations like the SZBA are trying to become certifying bodies. They perform a needed service in that regard, I feel, and I also support that effort generally. The reason is that there are true conmen, fakes and hucksters out there, some purported "Zen Teachers" who make up their training and teachers in some part or whole hog. The organizations wish to become a kind of "stamp of authenticity" to separate out the fakes and liars so that potential students can avoid their traps. I support so. However, because of potential legal liability issues, it is difficult for an organization like the SZBA to make a statement directly that the person is "fake" or not telling the truth. Rather, the organizations simply can exclude such fakers from membership. An unfortunate side effect, though, is that when the SZBA and like organizations also exclude the disabled, the working mother, the poor, the elderly etc., from membership, it thus lumps them silently (and unintentionally, I know) in the same pile as fakers, painting them as also defective, insufficient etc. when they are certainly not, simply because they are all lumped together as having been rejected because something is missing or wrong. These people are not fakers in any way, and the older ones have proven track records over several years, with paperwork in order. It is simply their inability to meet the requirement of an "Ango" or "Retreat" in the narrow sense that the "church people" define it that causes this harm to many.

    The people inside organizations like the SZBA and AZTA are not "bad people," not in any way. But they are "church people" with increasingly churchlike ideas about the narrow path to Zen Priesthood, namely, their own way or the highway. Attempts to raise these issues within the organizations, now under the control of a mainstream elite of generally like minded 'old guard' people, inevitably meet with silence or even a warning to be quiet, upturned noses and punishments for making waves. I risk such punishment for speaking now. They are aware of the question, they know about it. They just tend to ignore it. Thus, I raise a dissent for the ears of the wider Zen Sangha (you) and will continue to do so. I might be wrong, but I see a small injustice that needs to be righted in our Wisdom and Compassion that (supposedly) lets us look past surfaces and technicalities. One of the few comments I can find is by the Rev. Dosho Port, one of my opponents on this issue, who recently tried to summarize the question on his blog this way:

    ... I’ve become aware that there are at least a handful of those with American Soto Zen authorizations who would consider as monastic practice, “ango” (安居, “peaceful dwelling,” intensive periods of monastic practice, click here for more), intensive periods of practice as householders. For some of those who hold this view, training in monasteries is a mark of racial and economic privilege. The argument for the sameness of householder and homeleaver practice seems to go like this: “Isn’t householder practice, if it includes zazen, a teacher’s guidance, study, and liturgy, the same as monastic practice?”

    No, in my view, it is not the same. See the definition of “ango” in the link above. I’d add to what’s said there that in monastic practice, we don’t have control of our time, our diet, “our” almost anything. We learn and practice a way of life based on how to actualize the buddhadharma through the twenty-four hours with sangha and in the context of the training center, not a home life with a wide range of personal choices, even when going through a difficult period in life.
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wildfox...D2EPbQucIlT.99
    Dosho does not get it. He has not heard the message that Ango in the cancer ward, nursing the sick child needing constant care, digging one's daughter out of earthquake rubble, caring for the alcoholic brother, living life with severe disability, sacrificing in service to patients and the needy at great personal cost is also beyond control of "our time, our diet, “our” almost anything." We can bring the Teachings and spirit of the Ancestors right there. Folks like Dosho do not have a clue.

    But in any case, I am happy to report that today's talk (I ramble on these issues a bit more) is also my last from the Cancer Ward for awhile. I have been sent back home to recuperate. It will be a slow road back, still painful, but I am taking day by day. I want to thank again all of you who offered such kindness and powerful support to me during this cancer surgery and hospitalization. I felt it when I needed it. I will turn to it when I need in the coming weeks and months.


    Gassho, Jundo

    SatTodayLAH
    Last edited by Jundo; 12-31-2017 at 10:14 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  2. #2
    Eishuu
    Guest
    Thank you for speaking out about this. Deep bows

    Gassho
    Lucy
    ST/LAH

  3. #3
    Member Hoseki's Avatar
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    Gassho,

    Hoseki
    Sat today


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  4. #4
    Thank you Jundo

    Gassho Kyotai
    ST

    Sent from my SM-G950W using Tapatalk
    I am a student at Treeleaf. Please take what I say with a grain of salt. Gassho

  5. #5
    This has been an interesting series of discussions.

    One thing that struck me as I read this is that I think that “discrimination” is the wrong choice of words. “Ignorance” would be a better choice. Why?

    Discrimination is treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person based on the group, class, or category to which the person is perceived to belong rather than on individual attributes.
    Although discrimination is a conscious decision to exclude it is generally done in malice. I expect that truly it is more from a place of ignorance. I am a fit, healthy, strong, able bodied male with reasonable financial means. I can only barely perceive the situation that many of our members here are in. Day after day we read about one member or another whose malaise forces them to modify their approach to daily practise or perhaps feel they need to give it up all together. Honestly if it wasn’t for these members I’d have no awareness at all. My heart goes out to them. I can not fathom that world or that life. This is likely also the case with some of the people from the various organizations of which we’ve been discussing.

    Now I don’t mean to defend them either. I really don’t care much for the perceived authority or control they are attempting to exert. That isn’t the type of Zen or Buddhism i follow. I just have trouble believing that they are truly and without ignorance discriminating.

    I would also like to add that I think TreeLeaf is an experiment. It is an experiment to see whether Soto Zen Buddhism can truly be transmitted through the internet rather than face to face. It is an experiment I believe in, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. I think the proof of the experiment will be the quality of the practitioners including both priests and laity.

    I’ll get off my soapbox now.


    Warren
    Sat today
    Last edited by Tairin; 12-29-2017 at 03:28 PM.

  6. #6
    Thank you for continuing this fight Jundo.

    Gassho
    Shingen

    Sat/LAH
    RINDO SHINGEN
    倫道 真現

  7. #7
    Thank you, Jundo.

    Sadly the beliefs expressed in the Pali Canon are still held by most Theravadin Buddhists I meet today. You would hope that Mahayana Buddhism would be more interested in Bodhisattva motivation the positive benefit of inclusion of individuals going through all kinds of difficulty yet managing to live a life consistent with the dharma and teaching that others can do the same.

    Breaking down barriers for inclusion is totally part of the Bodhisattva path and I would be interested to talk to Zen priests such as Angel Kyodo Williams who look at the lack of inclusion of ethnic minorities and see what they think of the inclusion of disabled and others.

    I love the fact that Treeleaf includes the leaves that are less than perfect, maybe misshapen, the wrong colour or disfigured by parasitic wasps. If the rest of the Zen community will not be like this then we can be a model for them until they come on board.

    I hope there was good news on your return home, Jundo.

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    ------------------------------------
    Feel free to message me if you wish to talk about issues around practicing with physical limitations. This is something I have been sitting with for a fair while and am happy to help with suggestions or just offer a listening ear.

  8. #8
    Thank you Jundo for your teaching and your efforts on behalf of those that often don't have a loud voice and struggle to be both seen and heard.

    Gassho, Allan

    SaT-LaH

  9. #9
    Member Hoseki's Avatar
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    Iíve been thinking about this and I think as long as these institutions require these kind of material resources and thatís the barrier for many. They will be entrenched is class and will mostly like predominantly middle class and white. I only really care the demographics when people are prohibited from participating or shunned until they leave.

    Just a thought. I will return to it when I think about differently abled folks.

    Gassho
    Hoseki
    Sat today


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  10. #10

    My Cancer Ango - 11 - Is Tenpyozan Monastery A Discriminatory Institution?

    Here is the argument as I see it:

    I would like to play in the NBA but I can't dribble, shoot the trey or dunk. I cant even make free throws. I am a good spectator though and enjoy watching NBA players or college ball, high school ball or players in the neighborhood court playing street ball. Coaching in the NBA never was in the cards for me. Maybe I can coach 7 year olds but thatís it. My wife played college ball and maybe could have played professionally. Her scoring record still stands after 20 years of her career being over. She would make a great coach but its not her thing anymore. It is a mistake to think that only people with my wife's background would make a good coach, be it in college, the Women's National Basketball Association or any other level of basketball. If this were not so all of the boys, girls, teens, women and men who are not professional players would not be part of the game. Non NBA/WNBA players also need coaches and if you ask me it is a whole harder to train a bunch of non NBA players to play like pros. We don't play all day log. We have day jobs. We are weekend warriors. Besides, without us there is no WNBA.

    Gassho, Jishin, ST

    IMG_0141.JPG
    Last edited by Jishin; 12-29-2017 at 10:06 PM.

  11. #11
    Member Hoseki's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hoseki View Post
    Iíve been thinking about this and I think as long as these institutions require these kind of material resources and thatís the barrier for many. They will be entrenched is class and will mostly like predominantly middle class and white. I only really care the demographics when people are prohibited from participating or shunned until they leave.

    Just a thought. I will return to it when I think about differently abled folks.

    Gassho
    Hoseki
    Sat today


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    Just finished watching the video. Kind of wish I had done that before posting


    Gassho
    Hoseki
    Sat today


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  12. #12
    A great series of talks Jundo, thank you. I personally feel things will change eventually, the old guard won't be around forever and will inevitably be replaced by people with a more expansive mind-set, a generation that has grown up with the internet as a natural and integral part of every day life, and forming relationships not confined by physical, geographic and cultural boundaries a normal, regular part of that life. What we are doing here is groundbreaking at the moment, but I can see a future in which virtual Sangha and therefore virtual Ango and Sesshin will all become part of the Zen of the future. We just happen to be leading the way . In the meantime we can allow the water of our voices to wear away at the stones in others ears.

    Gassho
    Frankie
    satwithyoualltoday/lah
    satwithyoualltoday/lah

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Jishin View Post
    Here is the argument as I see it:

    I would like to play in the NBA but I can't dribble, shoot the trey or dunk. I cant even make free throws. I am a good spectator though and enjoy watching NBA players or college ball, high school ball or players in the neighborhood court playing street ball. Coaching in the NBA never was in the cards for me. Maybe I can coach 7 year olds but that’s it. My wife played college ball and maybe could have played professionally. Her scoring record still stands after 20 years of her career being over. She would make a great coach but its not her thing anymore. It is a mistake to think that only people with my wife's background would make a good coach, be it in college, the Women's National Basketball Association or any other level of basketball. If this were not so all of the boys, girls, teens, women and men who are not professional players would not be part of the game. Non NBA/WNBA players also need coaches and if you ask me it is a whole harder to train a bunch of non NBA players to play like pros. We don't play all day log. We have day jobs. We are weekend warriors. Besides, without us there is no WNBA.

    Gassho, Jishin, ST

    IMG_0141.JPG
    I would argue that Zen priesting is not basketball. There are other skills involves in ministry, caring, nurturing this way besides dunks and dribbles. If the only skills required to be a Zen Priest were what can be passed on in a monastic setting, I would agree with you. But I think those are the least of it and, anyway, they can be preserved by others. There is a place in basketball too for the pick-up game among friends, the backyard hoop on the garage, not only the NBA.

    Besides, it is the net without a hole, the court that is boundless.

    Gassho, J

    SatTodayLAH
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  14. #14

    My Cancer Ango - 11 - Is Tenpyozan Monastery A Discriminatory Institution?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post

    Besides, it is the net without a hole, the court that is boundless.

    LAH
    Well, this is what I am trying to say but we donít talk purty down here in Texas.

    Just being an advocate.

    Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_
    Last edited by Jishin; 12-30-2017 at 01:31 AM.

  15. #15
    Hey Jundo,

    What happens here at Treeleaf is difficult to put into words so words always fail (at least when I utter them). That said all my utterances are meant to provide support of our Sangha and you know this. I am partly saying this for the benefit of others. I am glad to hear you are doing better.

    Gassho, Jishin, ST

  16. #16
    Thank you and deep bows to Treeleaf for being the voice(and home) for said population who have previously been overlooked.


    Gassho,
    Hoyu
    Sat Today
    Ho (Dharma)
    Yu (Hot Water)

  17. #17


    Gassho,
    Onkai
    Sat/LAH

  18. #18
    Thank you for being an advocate. I continue to wish you well in your recovery.


    Sat2day

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