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Thread: The OBC and Throssel Hole Abbey

  1. #1

    The OBC and Throssel Hole Abbey

    Hi all,

    I was wondering if any of you know if everything is a-ok with the OBC these days? I read some of the previous posts on here but really felt the need to ask.

    I'm attending a weekly Serene Reflection Meditation place which is great and have applied to go on a 3 Day Intro Retreat at Throssel Hole in a few months. The problem is I followed a link from Dharma Wheel Forum to a site called OBC Connect and some of the posts about what has gone on in the past really put the wind up me.

    I couldn't quite make out if the alleged bad stuff was specific to an Abbey in the USA and a particularly unsavoury former Abbot, or if it was implied the whole organisation was rotten. The posts reminded me of stuff I've heard about a fairly well-known and controversial Tibetan Buddhist off-shoot group.

    Gassho Thanks and All The Best from Paul

  2. #2
    Hello Paul,

    I think I can completely relate to your concern, but unless someone with real in-depth knowledge wants to share anything with you privately, I personally can only advise you to follow your common sense. There is nothing worse than non-substantiated gut feelings of people being pooled on the internet. All I can say is that many people seem to have had good experiences with the group when it comes to attending the odd retreat once in a while. So unless you feel you have to fear for your physical safety I'd just give it a go, can't be more dangerous than a heavy metal concert...and I've come out of those unscathed

    Until someone has some hard evidence that this group is to be avoided, maybe we should all keep an open mind and give them all the benefit of the doubt. But that's just my personal two cents really. Where there are humans, there is always people trouble.

    All the best and gassho,

    Hans Chudo Mongen

  3. #3
    A Zen monk I know went there years ago, but felt uncomfortable ... not because there was anything that wasn't wholesome going on, but because of the strange mix of Anglican (I think) and Buddhist tradition. The clergy are all called "Reverend", but what my friend found strange was the chanting to Christian organ. Don't know if they do that anymore.

    I suppose it is an attempt to adapt to the arrival of Buddhism to the Christian West. It wasn't for my friend. It might be for you.

    That's all I know.


  4. #4
    Hi Myozan,

    I want to wag a finger just a little at some of what you said, though I agree with "It wasn't for my friend. It might be for you."

    Yes, they have tried to blend Zen Buddhist Tradition with Christian/Anglican sensibilities. So what? Great! That is nothing to criticize. It is a lovely attempt. Symbolic of this are many of their chants, more resembling Plainsong (Gregorian Chants) than Japanese and Chinese ... but ethereal! The attempt itself to bridge "East & West" by making Buddhist Practice like a church is not only beyond criticism, but has been done by many (you should see the organ and pews in an American Pure Land Temple catering to the Japanese American community). Here, for example, is their magical version of the 16 Bodhisattva Precepts ... so moving ...

    But yes, the flavor and ambiance at the OBC may not be for you or me or everyone, but it is for some. It is very "churchlike", sometimes has some signs of being rather "cultish" in its internal dynamics and behavior, has certainly had a few stories that raise some eyebrows, certainly a bit mystical and "strange" for my taste sometimes too ... but most of the people there are sincere.

    Yes, they have had some issues in the past ... but so have many religious organizations from the Catholic Church, actual Anglican Church, on down. Yes, always keep your eyes open and be a bit careful (at the OBC, at Treeleaf too, anywhere), but a few bad apples does not the spoil the whole bushel. Keep your mind open too.

    There is a website created by many people who were members there for many years that openly discusses the problems there which have arisen, including behavior that is sometimes a bit "cultish" and some unusual behavior ... yes. That is true, and the stories speak for themselves. However, overall, there are many many positive stories from there too.

    So go, do not judge on rumors or some negatives. Judge for yourself.

    Gassho, Jundo
    Last edited by Jundo; 06-29-2012 at 12:38 PM.

  5. #5
    Hi Jundo,
    I sit corrected.

    For the record, I see nothing wrong with blending and adapting. What they do at Throssel Hole is just the natural growth of a new branch on this wonderful tree.

    My friend spent a long time at the Throssel Hole Abbey. Indeed, he was to ordain there. But, for him, it didn't suit. In the end he went to San Francisco, where he spent 14 years.

    I, myself, have never been to Throssel Hole. My friend, however, was in no way negitive about it and what they do there.


  6. #6
    Be sure to give a listen to their interpretation of the Heart Sutra (Mp3 at the link) ... a little Mahayana Sutra, a little King James/Book of Common Prayer ...

    When One with deepest wisdom of the Heart
    that is beyond discriminative thought,
    The Holy Lord, great Kanzeon Bosatsu,
    knew that the skhandas five were - as they are -
    in their self-nature, void, unstained and pure.

    Gassho, Jundo
    Last edited by Jundo; 06-29-2012 at 02:03 PM.

  7. #7
    Many thanks to you all for responding.

    You know what? I'm just going to go for it and see how it is.

    Thank you all for the postive push, and thank you all for understanding the concerns I had. Tis all new to me.


  8. #8
    Treeleaf Unsui Shugen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Redding California USA
    Quote Originally Posted by hornets View Post
    Many thanks to you all for responding.

    You know what? I'm just going to go for it and see how it is.

    Thank you all for the postive push, and thank you all for understanding the concerns I had. Tis all new to me.


    Meido Shugen
    明道 修眼

  9. #9
    About a thousand years ago, or so, when I was in a monastery in California I had the great good fortune to have some relationship with Shasta Abbey and Jiyu-Kennett Roshi, founder of Throssel Hole. The Abbey offered a wonderful correspondance course on Zen Buddhism, which I enrolled in and completed followed by a stay at the Abbey. At that time the Abbey was very Japanese style (ritual, robes, food) although everything was done in English. Kennett Roshi was just beginning to express the desire to present a "form" of Zen Buddhism that would not feel so "foreign" to Westerners. She felt that too often people invested their energies in becoming ethnopurists rather than looking at the kernel of the practice. She felt that the Anglican background she came out of could afford Westerners an opportunity to bypass having to learn to be Japanese before they felt they could learn Zen. I agreed with her, still do in many ways for those who let the "form" get in the way.


    Seishin Kyrill

  10. #10
    Member Martin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Wherever the next mediation is. Every now and then I make it back to Norfolk, England.
    I have been to Throssel Hole.

    As has been noted, the monks ask to be called Reverend. Why not? It's probably an easy title for most people raised in a country with an Anglican tradition to relate to.

    I thought the atmosphere was lovely. If there are dark goings on, I certainly didn't see them, although the abbey cat did kill a rabbit overnight and bring it in to morning meditation. There again, as one of the monks said, it hadn't taken the precepts.

    The abbey is also in a lovely spot, though difficult to get to and sadly about as inconvenient from where I live as it's possible to be in the UK. If I can manage to organise my life sufficiently (unlikely) I'm hoping to go back in September.



  11. #11
    Hi Martin,

    If my application to attend the 3 Day Intro Retreat is accepted I may see you there in September!


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