Monday, February 18, 2013

A Few Words on Zen's Sex Scandals

Wisdom Quarterly; James Myoun Ford (Boundless Way Zen), Monkey Mind (, Feb. 17, 2013), "A Few Words on Zen’s Sex Scandals and What Might Follow"

I’ve commented here and there on the larger sex scandals touching on our Zen communities here in the West. I’ve been praised and I’ve been castigated for these comments. I liked praise better. I can claim for good or ill the distinction of being the first of the Western Zen teachers to write an open letter to the Zen Studies Society board calling for the dismissal of the Reverend Eido Shimano. My letter was quickly followed by a cascade of other letters sent to their board, showing, I believe, if it hadn’t been me, that first letter would have been sent by another, perhaps within days. So not lots of credit to be earned there. I also joined in signing a letter calling upon the Reverend Genpo Merzel to withdraw from teaching, at least for a while in order to pursue serious counseling for his repeated misconduct with students. I gather he chose to follow that counsel for about a week. Since then I have chosen not to write anything about the Reverend Joshu Sasaki... More
(Stephen Slottow) Philip Kapleau used to make the point that Zen teachers are not gurus: They are not magical, they don’t have absolute authority, and they don’t (or shouldn’t) presume to dictate what students should do in every aspect of their lives; they are guides, human beings who have gone sufficiently far in their training to instruct others and have some teaching authorizations to do so -- but [are] still, in some sense, students themselves....And the student doesn’t abdicate responsibility. Aitken made the same points repeatedly. I agree that written guidelines are terribly important; they act as a touchstone and need to be constructed with care. Also there has been too much fixation on sexual incidents to the exclusion of other questionable dealings by some teachers that involve finance and authority outside the sexual realm. 

Oh, the temptation of unenlightened "holy" men after satori (an epiphany)!
(Mushim Patricia Ikeda) [Zen's] potential is not a guarantee, however, and in my opinion it has been reduced by a number of different elements, up to now, in the U.S. Among those elements are...lack of cultural safeties that may be present in the Asian societies that Zen (Chan/Son/Thien) have traveled to the U.S. from, absence of cultural safeties that need to be instituted in U.S. cultures as Zen takes root, lack of understanding or acknowledging among teachers of projection/transference/countertransference, wishful and magical thinking, lack of standardized professional codes of ethics for U.S. Zen teachers, insufficient emphasis on the precepts or lack of holding teachers accountable to a “normal” (person on the street) understanding of the precepts, and last but not least, the tenet of Zen which proclaims that it is “a special transmission outside the scriptures.” MORE COMMENTS

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