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Thread: Discrimination in the SZBA: Small Changes, BIG BARRIERS

  1. #101
    My latest essay in my ongoing push with the SZBA ...

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    ANGO, AGEISM AND THE SZBA

    Richard Jindo Shokai Maxwell is not a famous priest. In fact, it was only after decades as a funeral director, a lifetime raising a family, after children and grandchildren, that Shokai discovered Buddhism and, eventually, a calling to Zen priesthood late in life. Before that, Shokai devoted himself to a long career in Canada tending to the dead with respect, facing daily what most of us avoid, while helping bereaved survivors through their greatest time of grief and vulnerability, Toward the end of his career, Shokai found himself presented with an opportunity to work and teach embalming in Japan of all places, at a funeral home near Hiroshima, where he dove deeply into the world of Japanese Buddhism and mortuary traditions.

    Although surprisingly positive, cheerful and vibrant for someone in such a field, he has witnessed unspeakable tragedies through the years, not only professionally but personally. He lost people in his own family. Following his Ordination as a novice priest at the age of 78(!), in 2014, his wife developed terminal cancer, which he nursed her through, right until the end. Since that time, he has been gifted with a new partner in life, a woman who is also elderly and who happens to be totally blind with progressive mobility issues. Shokai serves as her eyes and legs. He himself has had (and has) skin cancer, eye, leg, nerve, and heart disease, as well as serious dental issues. He toughs on.

    Despite all that, Shokai found the time to train in Zen, to devote himself to being a good priest, receiving Dharma Transmission from me in 2017. Today, beloved by a small group of Zen students in the town of Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, Shokai overseas a little Sangha which meets at the Japanese Garden in Germain Park. The group made it through Covid. He gives Jukai now and then. His reputation is excellent, his Zazen strong, his Zen guidance honest and good. He remains a warm and wise voice within our Treeleaf Sangha, consistently insightful and helpful on issues of maturing, aging, loss, grief, serious illness and life in general.

    The one thing that he has not been able to do, however, given his advanced age and poor health (not to mention his daily nursing of other sick individuals around him), is to join in an “Ango” or other similar long term, residential Zen priest training period. His training was primarily at a distance, reading and sitting and meeting with his teacher daily for several years by video, voice and word, seeing and meeting his teacher and his fellow practitioners face-to-face by modern media in our primarily online Sangha, mixed with the sometime personal meeting. His training was at the front lines of life, bringing Buddhist practice to bear in nursing his late wife through terrible illness and his visually impaired partner now. He calls it the “Ango of life and death.” It was enough, and his quality as a priest is obvious by who he has become. Just ask the other Zen folks who know and love him, and who benefit from his presence, both in our Treeleaf Sangha and in Germain Park. This man, during over eight decades of life, has experienced the hardships of life’s “monastery of hard knocks,” and has come out its gates with a heart full of wisdom and compassion.

    So, in response to several recent posts and essays by me calling out the Soto Zen Buddhism Association (SZBA) for age, disability and other discrimination due to their insistence on residential training programs for all their members, the administrators of the SZBA responded to me by self-heralding, to the contrary, the “wokeness” at the SZBA, their goodness, their progressive views, their handful of minority and disabled members, that they are not the kind of folks to discriminate. So, I got Shokai to submit an application to be a full member there, to see if things had changed.

    Alas, that’s where reality set in.

    There is a Japanese trick of not refusing someone’s membership or application by not really accepting it in the first place. “Processing” and consideration drag on and on, and “no” is never uttered, but neither is “yes,” because consultations and red tape, additional considerations and hoops suddenly present themselves. Just this past week, Shokai was informed by Acting President Ben Connelly of the SZBA that, while the organization “aspires” to process applications in about two months, it can take several months, and might take a year in some cases. The application procedure is complex, and they apologize for any frustration. It is just typical, how things are. Ben explains that “the SZBA has never received a membership application which came with requests for disability accommodations. Our membership committee is not experienced in this field, so we have formed an ad hoc committee to provide disability accommodation recommendations to the membership committee. This probably will add a few weeks to the process. We were in the process of forming an ongoing committee to handle disability accommodation requests when we got Shokai's application but that ongoing committee is not yet in place.”

    You are darn right that they have no experience with disability accommodations! That's because prior folks were simply chased away at the door. Well, it is time that they get experienced!

    I will continue to report here from time to time on what transpires with Shokai’s application, and whether wisdom and compassion triumph in the end. I sure hope that they do the right thing, not only for Shokai, but for many others like him who are sure to follow. So far, I hear rumors that some hardliners in the SZBA are firmly pushing back against any changes to the requirements of Ango and residency for the simple reason that, because they themselves managed it, because they themselves had the time, wealth and health to do it, and because some disabled individuals manage to manage it, that road must be the unique path for everyone, and thus -all- disabled individuals must somehow manage it. After all, they say, not everyone need be a priest! On the other hand, the liberals in the group continue to profess how “woke” they are in wishing to open the doors of the organization to good priests who are disadvantaged. We shall see.

    In the meantime, Shokai turned 85 years old just this week, on April 9th, the day following the traditional Buddha’s Birth celebration in Japan. Unfortunately, Shokai and his lady also received a positive Covid diagnosis this week too. Fully vaxed, they are toughing that out like the rest of life.

    Let us hope that the SZBA does the right thing soon, for sweet Shokai and so many others like him.

    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  2. #102


    Gassho, Shinshi

    SaT-LaH
    空道 心志 Kudo Shinshi
    I am just a priest-in-training, any resemblance between what I post and actual teachings is purely coincidental.
    E84I - JAJ

  3. #103


    … and a generally awesome person.

    Gassho,
    Nengei


    Sent using Tapatalk.

  4. #104


    Tairin
    Sat today and lah

  5. #105
    Hi

    I check this thread today.And sorry too long for me to understand clearly.
    Also I am Japanese so difficult to understand,meaning of English.
    I sometimes make misunderstanding.

    But from my position.(I am Japanese,and do Ango at Japanese Soto monastery.
    And I have lots of disabelity,and have no money.)I feel so big discrimination at
    practice time(this is my opinion not nagative message).

    When I practiced from temple to temple,I sufferd lots of problems.I did so big effort.
    I feel almost impossible to keep practicing at 曹洞宗.But lots of people supported me.
    And lots of kirmic effection happend.So I went to Ango.

    I separate from family,I accept situation to talk in English(at here,at Antaiji),I had no
    money.I have big disability at body and mind.And now my mom is very dangerous
    situation,but I separate with her.When I think about this fact.Lots of people
    can do more effort to become a monk.This is kind of another view.

    And in Tosho-ji lots of old people came from US and Europe,Shoso who came
    from France is 81 years old.And lots of harmony to help them to do Ango.

    And also I read this
    https://www.sotozen.com/eng/dharma/pdf/49e.pdf
    Situation at 曹洞宗 at North america and another ared.

    I try to think about this situation by Dharma eye.
    I think I will keep on practice,and will help you and your Sangha from my experiences.

    So..... hard way to do Ango at monastery for me.So I shared my experiences of Ango.
    Because of you.

    I was at hospital at yesterday because of my heart problem.
    But I will go pirglimage from day after tomorrow.(I will report that).

    I try to stand up again and again,till before my breath will stop.

    Gassho
    Sat today
    LAH
    Kakunen
    Last edited by Kakunen; 04-17-2022 at 09:51 AM.

  6. #106
    Very inspiring, thank you Shokai and Jundo

    Gassho, Tomás
    Sat&LaH

  7. #107


    Gassho,
    Kotei sat/lah today.

    義道 冴庭 / Gidō Kotei.
    Being a novice priest doesn't mean that my writing about the Dharma is more substantial than yours. Actually, it might well be the other way round.

  8. #108
    Kahunan please don’t worry when I sit Sunday Sit I will sit metta for you, please know we care about you. I have disabilities!
    Gassho
    st/lah


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    Lay member, loving kindness; just a guy, Calm Poet, Ubasoku.

  9. #109
    Thank you, Jundo, for your advocacy efforts. I hope SZBA does the right thing. Metta to Shokai and his partner; may they recover quickly from Covid.
    Gassho,
    Naiko
    st lah

  10. #110
    Thank you for your persistence, Jundo & Shokai. Shokai & Ben Connelly are wonderful people. I'm curious to see what happens next; organizations have to decide whether the structure or the situation takes precedence. Unfortunately, they usually choose the former.

    Gassho,
    Shujin
    st

  11. #111
    Quote Originally Posted by Naiko View Post
    Thank you, Jundo, for your advocacy efforts. I hope SZBA does the right thing. Metta to Shokai and his partner; may they recover quickly from Covid.
    Gassho,
    Naiko
    st lah

    生と死をください

    STLah
    安知 Anchi

  12. #112
    Let's sit for Shokai today, who pets the tigers alongside the Path.

    gassho
    sitting sat ds today
    Visiting unsui, take w/salt.

  13. #113
    Thank you for the update, Jundo, and for your continued efforts towards change.

    And a very happy belated birthday to you, dear Shokai! I hope you are both recovering well.

    -stlah

  14. #114
    I think the most important thing is that you gave Shokai transmission. Being authorized to teach is more important than some organization. In fact the transmission from a transmitted teacher should automatically make you a member. But if that’s not the case then if it was me I wouldn’t want to be a member

    Sat/lah




    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    _/_
    Rich
    MUHYO
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

    https://instagram.com/notmovingmind

  15. #115
    Quote Originally Posted by Rich View Post
    I think the most important thing is that you gave Shokai transmission. Being authorized to teach is more important than some organization. In fact the transmission from a transmitted teacher should automatically make you a member. But if that’s not the case then if it was me I wouldn’t want to be a member

    Sat/lah


    And one of the jobs of a Buddhist teacher should be to identify a FAKE Buddha quote. Okay, nice thought even if he did not say that ... but he did not say that.

    These are not, in fact, the words of the Buddha, but are the words of the Insight Meditation teacher and psychotherapist, Jack Kornfield. ... Although the Buddha didn’t say we are born every day, he does seems to have made statements like, “a sage at peace is not born, does not age, does not die, is unagitated, and is free from longing. He has nothing whereby he would be born.” The “sage at peace” is one who is awakened, having overcome delusion.

    https://fakebuddhaquotes.com/each-mo...-matters-most/

    Gassho, Jundo at Quality Control

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  16. #116
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    And one of the jobs of a Buddhist teacher should be to identify a FAKE Buddha quote. Okay, nice thought even if he did not say that ... but he did not say that.




    Gassho, Jundo at Quality Control

    STLah
    Yea it didn’t sound like buddha to me either but there’s a grain of truth in it 🥸

    Sat/lah


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    _/_
    Rich
    MUHYO
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

    https://instagram.com/notmovingmind

  17. #117
    As a parent of a child with disabilities, thank you for your passion and dedication to the cause 🙏

    Gassho,
    ST
    Seth
    Last edited by Seth David; 04-24-2022 at 01:47 AM.

  18. #118
    While I appreciate where you are coming from, Jundo, I am not sure I like the idea of going after a director of the SZBA by name rather than the board in general.

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday-
    ------------------------------------
    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.

  19. #119
    Dear All,

    I have rewritten my post from yesterday, based on the feeling that it may be proper and necessary to criticize an organization for its unfair and discriminatory policies, and to criticize the board of directors of the organization which makes and sustains those policies, but somehow not the individual directors on that board who support those same policies. I respect that.

    Our goal should be for inclusiveness and diversity in priesthood, not exclusion.


    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    DISCRIMINATION IN THE SZBA: IS THIS A GOOD PRIEST?

    An organization can claim one thing, yet do quite the opposite. The Soto Zen Buddhist Association bills itself as seeking "to make Zen practice available to everyone [working to] transform barriers based on race, ethnicity, gender identity, religion, political affiliation, economic class, sexual orientation, age, and ability." Their webpage states, "We find harmony in both our differences and what we share." [https://www.szba.org/] Sadly, high sounding words and actions can be far apart.

    This SZBA (the union of English speaking Soto Zen teachers in North America and elsewhere) is populated by priests who have pushed the boundaries on what it means to be a traditional Buddhist priest. Male and female, of all genders, often married with kids, most residing in America in situations of relative (by world standards) prosperity in a modern western economy, overwhelmingly highly educated (perhaps the majority with graduate degrees), its members rarely fit the tradition of what it meant to be a monk or priest, typically celibate, cloistered and male, in Asia for hundreds upon hundreds of years. Oh, SZBA leaders are overwhelmingly good people, sincere and well meaning, dedicated to the path ... and yet, even people who are well meaning, who stand for diversity in words, can engage in discrimination without meaning so.

    The SZBA (as well as the AZTA, the American Zen Teachers Association, a similar organization, but for Zen/Chan/Son/Thien teachers of many traditions) is overwhelmingly populated by married priests, often Buddhist priests married to other Buddhist priests, not exactly a traditional state of affairs in centuries upon centuries of Buddhist celibate priesthood. Most did not pass through monastic training in the standard ways of China and Japan. Many or most, just by the fact of having grown up in modern, developed countries, enjoyed privileged upbringings and educations, had economic resources to allow and afford their own priest training, were able to pursue their own path due to the good fortune of good health and youth (or, even when living with some health issues, typically not to a degree which prevented residential training completely.)

    Now, with all good intent, such individuals, as leaders of the SZBA and AZTA, turn around to exclude others who are less fortunate, less physically able, others who ask that like doors be opened for them.

    There is a tendency in reformist religion to always draw the line of orthodoxy/heterodoxy just to the left of where one stands: One may have engaged in training short-cuts, to have wealth and to live a personal married lifestyle unlike anything that Master Dogen and the other ancient ancestors would recognize, yet be willing to discriminate and exclude others who are more disadvantaged and limited in physical and economic abilities compared to oneself.

    I address the Boards of Directors of the SZBA and AZTA -- In your recognizing who is welcome in your organizations, perhaps the central question you should ask is this:

    Is someone a dedicated, wise, compassionate, caring, ethical, experienced, informed and knowledgeable, sincere Zen priest, a friend along the Way to many, whatever the hard and winding road which led them there?
    How one became a good priest does not matter so much as one having become so. There are wonderful, warm and wise, awakened and hard working Buddhist priests who became so though life's monastery of hard knocks and struggles. Sadly, there are more than a few hurtful and heedless priests who took the orthodox route, with fancy robes, official paperwork, and training at famous monasteries. In other words, there are good and bad priests and teachers of all kinds, some orthodox and some not.


    "Is this a good priest?"


    That is the only question, and it is not a matter of famous monastery or particular means.

    There are dedicated, wise, compassionate, good Soto Zen priests who deserve admission to the SZBA and AZTA, but who are older than some, sicker than some, who live in war zones and the developing world unlike most of you, who have overcome hardships where their very dedication and compassion as a good priest is proven on the front lines of life. These are excellent priests who simply lacked the wealth and health to attend the residential training that you and others could afford, yet finished as excellent priests. They deserve admission too.

    THERE IS ROOM FOR ALL GOOD PRIESTS. same yet diverse!

    Will the SZBA and AZTA Directors, all good priests, recognize these other good priests as well?

    Last edited by Jundo; 05-21-2022 at 03:13 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  20. #120
    In some states it's not necessary to go to law school to be a lawyer although one still has to pass the Bar to practice law regardless of formal education.

    It would be nice if all priests had to pass the "Bar" to practice. This would solve the problem.

    Gassho, Jishin, ST, LAH

  21. #121
    Quote Originally Posted by Jishin View Post
    In some states it's not necessary to go to law school to be a lawyer although one still has to pass the Bar to practice law regardless of formal education.

    It would be nice if all priests had to pass the "Bar" to practice. This would solve the problem.

    Gassho, Jishin, ST, LAH
    Do you mean pass a written test or have a refreshing drink

    Sat/lah



    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    _/_
    Rich
    MUHYO
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

    https://instagram.com/notmovingmind

  22. #122

    Discrimination in the SZBA: Small Changes, BIG BARRIERS

    Quote Originally Posted by Rich View Post
    Do you mean pass a written test or have a refreshing drink

    Sat/lah



    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    https://testmaxprep.com/blog/lsat/be...0aAunxEALw_wcB

    Sometimes bartending requires licensure too.

    https://home.binwise.com/blog/do-you...nse-to-bartend




    Gassho, Jishin, ST, LAH
    Last edited by Jishin; 05-21-2022 at 08:12 PM.

  23. #123
    Quote Originally Posted by Jishin View Post
    In some states it's not necessary to go to law school to be a lawyer although one still has to pass the Bar to practice law regardless of formal education.

    It would be nice if all priests had to pass the "Bar" to practice. This would solve the problem.

    Gassho, Jishin, ST, LAH
    I guess, to use your comparison, the bar is passed by receiving ordination as a monk. That is something a transmitted priest is fully authorized to do. The other side is like a funky organization of lawyers saying: yeah, we won’t let you in our little group and will not recognize you as one of us cause we’re all from Harvard and you went to a tiny university. Like in Mean Girls “ YOU CAN’T SIT WITH US”.
    As far as I’ve looked into things, if everyone were to be registered with Sotoshu, there would be a standardized requirement list for all monks. But these are local cliques and organizations. We have one in Europe as well, and the director is actually a dharma heir of Zuigaku Rempo as well I would assume our European monks would try to join this particular association, rather than the very exclusive, fancy American one
    Jundo is putting up a good fight though, and I can see this means a lot to him.


    Sorry for the length of this!

    Sat Today
    Bion
    美音

    -------------------------
    Please consider whatever I might say as my own ideas, experiences and understanding, and not zen doctrine.
    Join me on Insight Timer
    Help me feed those in need by joining my Share The Meal team HERE

  24. #124
    Jundo is putting up a good fight though, and I can see this means a lot to him.
    Perhaps means too much, but we all can get fixated on something sometimes.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  25. #125
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Perhaps means too much, but we all can get fixated on something sometimes.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    I admire how much you’re willing to fight because you feel it’s the right thing to do! So, bows to you for that!

    Sat Today
    Bion
    美音

    -------------------------
    Please consider whatever I might say as my own ideas, experiences and understanding, and not zen doctrine.
    Join me on Insight Timer
    Help me feed those in need by joining my Share The Meal team HERE

  26. #126
    Hello everyone, wow what a debate!

    I parked this one in my favourites and have just got around to reading it. To me, balance is important. All beings should be able to enter the path of the priesthood if they believe this is appropriate for them, but you should hold the goal of becoming a priest lightly, i.e. don't fixate on it. Read the treeleaf guidelines on becoming a priest; wholehearted zen practice is much like this pathway, a priest just makes some 'other' commitments to serve. There are many ways to 'save all beings' and you don't have to be a priest to organise a sitting group. In the West, we are obsessed with credentials, to the extent that you don't actually have to be good at your job, as long as you are qualified. But, of course, there is a balance. A Master's Degree will not automatically make me better at my job, much like a 90 day retreat will not necessarily make me a 'better Buddhist'. When I, 25 years ago, decided not to become a zen monk, and therefore a priest, with 25 years of reflection and service to my community in social work and then nursing, I do not consider that this path has put me at a disadvantage in respect of the service I could provide to my community if I were to become a zen priest. Sure, I have not done the prescribed 'work' to get there, but sometimes you have to serve (and I've done a Tour in Afghanistan too), to understand what service is and how the myriad dharmas work through you in your perpetual attempt to fulfil the bodhisattva vows. For me, Buddhist institutions should not be waiting to be called to remove discrimination from their processes, they should be leading the charge! As has been described here, the notion of what a priest is has to be challenged and adapted to. Do we only need officiating or teaching priests? What about the person who spends years learning traditional Chinese or Japanese writing techniques in order to copy and preserve zen's heritage? Is that person not worthy of a respectful title, I would surely bow to that person even if I were the head of the Sotoshu. Zen is a constant 'conversation with the modern world' and each day we determine what is important - eat breakfast, wash bowl, walk dog, take kids to school, go to work, and so on. Zen in the West does not have the pedigree or historical authority of it's root traditions. At the end of the day, I believe we must ask ourselves what we want from our historically young traditions and not seek to compare them to the well-established Western Christian traditions in a bid for legitimacy. Zen, unlike many other religious traditions, likes to do-the-dance with it's host, so I believe we also need to consider that the journey of zen in the West is far from over, and many more surprising turns lay ahead. Before COVID, the idea of an online sangha was widely criticised, now look at how many other traditions now use their own version of the treeleaf sitting rooms! Treeleaf can 'turn the light inwards' on the zen institutions once again with our championing of differently abled and diverse ancestors and priests.

    Thank you for all your contributions, this has been a very interesting and insightful debate.

    Gassho, Tokan

    SATLAH

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