I thought that I would post the following here a little ahead of its appearing on Nishijima Roshi's blog. Treeleaf Zendo is now recognized as a separate Lineage derived from Nishijima Roshi, apart from Nishijima's other Lineage (Dogen Sangha/Dogen Sangha Internation), and we are thus naturally withdrawing from the umbrella of that entity. I think the following letter is self-explanatory, but write me personally or here on the Forum if anyone has any question about anything. I think it is a wonderful development, and I thank Nishijima Roshi for his approval and this recognition of the Treeleaf.

You will see a discussion of "democracy" and "checks and balances" in the letter, and you may wonder how that applies to Treeleaf. It most certainly applies. It is a bit unusual, because Treeleaf is a Sangha consisting of a group of members (you) and a single teacher (me ... although I prefer to think of myself as the bozo on this bus who happens to be the bus driver). So, it is a bit different from the situation in Dogen Sangha, which is a body of inderpendent Sangha, each with its own teacher, attempting to work in concert. However, the same principles apply here: Very directly, people here vote with their feet. If I should ever act in a way that is abusive, for example, I give you all permission to move this Forum elsewhere, continue the sitting and discussion, and leave me behind! Furthermore, if I ever act in any way that you consider a violation of the Precepts, I ask that you tell me so, publicly and directly.

I accept no donations here (although I encourage you to donate to other charities with greater need), and thus there is little chance of financial impropriety. However, if we ever did have a budget or the like, I would immediately put in place mechanisms of outside financial oversight.

So, let us celebrate this change. I feel like a young man moving from home for the first time. The whole world is now open to us (and, anyway, "Dad" Nishijima remains just a phone call away) :-)

Gassho, Jundo

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Hello All,

Nishijima Roshi has given his permission to my posting the following announcement here. I thank Nishijima for this idea, and for his recognition of the Treeleaf as its own Lineage. I am hoping you will join us in celebrating this.

If anyone has any question about this or any matter, please feel free to write me at any time via our online Zendo:


Gassho, Jundo Cohen



At Nishijima Roshi’s suggestion (I had great resistance to the idea for many months, but I now believe that Roshi’s idea is wise), the “Treeleaf Zendo” through which I teach will be a separate Lineage deriving from Nishijima Roshi. Accordingly, we now withdraw and “go our own way” from Dogen Sangha/Dogen Sangha International, another branch of the tree of which Buddha and Master Dogen are the root, and Master Nishijima the core. All things are change, and this change will have no effect on my relationship with and love for my teacher, my position as the head of Treeleaf Zendo, or the nature of the “Dharma Transmission” bestowed upon me by Nishijima Roshi. I hope that Dogen Sangha International and Treeleaf Zendo will sail as two ships crossing the same vast ocean.

So that the reasons for this are not misunderstood, I would like to offer a brief explanation. I have discussed some of these issues before, but they are worth briefly repeating for the record, so that the situation is clear. They have nothing to do with my respect and love for Ven. Brad, who I think stands as a stimulating and positive presence within the many flavors of Zen Buddhism. I think he is, like many in Dogen Sangha, a superb teacher trying to find his own unique voice, a fine successor to Nishijima Roshi, and that he has potential to be a good President of Dogen Sangha International.

There is no reason to repeat in detail my reasons, but my objections originated from concern for the organization itself. For a long time, I and others attempted to express these several concerns from within the organization. However, as the saying goes, “too many cooks spoil the broth”. Thus, Master Nishijima suggested that we could each go our own way and each “do our own thing”. It is a wise thought. It reflects the history of the countless branching lineages of Zen Buddhism over the centuries, the reason why the lineages keep perpetually branching!

As expressed in Brad’s fine letter of yesterday, some of us see Dogen Sangha International as an umbrella body uniting all the various teachers who are Dharma Heirs to Nishijima Roshi (and other students of Nishijima’s teachings) in many separate Sangha, in many countries, all of us upholding his teachings, and possessing love and respect for our teacher. However, some of us in the organization feel that, in the 21st century and after the countless cases of power, financial and other scandal within various Zen and other Buddhist Sangha around the world (please see the following) …

http://www.strippingthegurus.com/stgsam ... rs/zen.asp

… a de minimus degree of checks and balances, and input into decision making, is a fundamental necessity. The idea is now long vanished within almost all Sangha and Buddhist organizations in the West that no system of oversight is required. As a lawyer with quite a bit of experience with Buddhist and other organizations and the problems that can occur within them, I know that there is a middle ground between chaos and disconnection vs. a bureaucratic or rigid organization, and that a certain degree of regular communication and interchange among members should always be encouraged in such a body. To assert otherwise is short-sighted. Decisions should not be rendered on a whim, and especially not on a single person’s whim. Finally, in any Buddhist organization, there should be constant care and attention to the Precepts … they exist for a reason and are not a matter of “do as you feel” or that “the teacher is always right just because he/she is the teacher.” Although I will no long be in a position to say so, I believe that a lack of attention to the meaning of the Precepts within Dogen Sangha, and an over-emphasis on Zazen Practice alone, has been one major cause of various problems that have arisen in the past within the Sangha.

Zen Buddhism is now in a period of rapid change, keeping some traditions while modernizing others. In the views and experience of some members of Dogen Sangha, authoritarian or fuedal thinking on governance needs to be left to the 15th Century. I will not live under such an antiquated system, especially without any checks upon it and without much emphasis on the guidance of the Precepts. For some reason, Dogen Sangha is trying to stay feudal and traditional in its method of governance, but modern, hip, loose and liberal on the issue of standards and the Precepts. The choice should probably be the other way around. In any event, this is just a difference of vision between the new president of DSI and several of its members. While it would have been possible to patch it over, or ignore the issue through silence, the present solution is best.

So, some of us are sailing off under separate sails. Several ships on the same ocean.

Thank you, Roshi. You proposed a very wise plan. I hope to see you again when we are back to Japan, offer bows, and that you will sit again on my daily “Sit-a-Long with Jundo” Zazen netcast.

http://treeleafzen.blogspot.com/2007/08 ... shaya.html

Nishijima Roshi wrote me today to say that he will continue to fight for needed reforms in Buddhism as it currently exists in our world, and that "I will do my best until to my death".

I responded:

"I will do my best to help you in your work, as your loyal and loving student. That will never change."

Gassho, Jundo Cohen