108 Zen Books publishes once a day as a form of practice. If there is something significant that shakes the ground of practice, I feel it important to put out another post. The fragility of our world of practice was brought into clear focus last week with the resignation of Eido Shimano following decades of unresolved suffering caused by his sexual liasons with students in the Zen Studies Society.
This morning, I read one of the most lucid, compassionate yet fearless commentaries on the issue by Barry Briggs of Ox Herding. I have developed a fond respect for Barry’s teaching over this year of blogging. Today, I bow deeply to his strength of practice and devotion to the Dharma. You can read Barry’s commentary here.
Each time I read and hear of teachers engaging in sexual activities that cause such deep and profound damage (suffering just isn’t a sufficient word), I am enraged. And sadly, I have learned through my own attempts to intervene and call organizations to account for exploitative behaviours by their teachers that a lone voice will not suffice. What I’ve learned from the Shimano debacle also is the amount of time it takes when organizations close in and become partners in the abuse. Decades. That, perhaps, is the greater travesty: not the actions of the man but the cowardliness of the community. But we are frail and need our structures to protect us even if those structures are only reflections of our rotted beams and foundations.
I want to add something here that might get forgotten in such frays. Sexual relationships with teachers are not for the good of the student. Emotional relationships with teachers are not for the good of the student. They are exploitations of vulnerabilities. If you suspect you are in such a relationship, do not be ashamed. Seek help. Expect not to be believed because of the inherent blindness of the organization. Then, keep seeking help until you are heard.
(Post-drive to work edit: If you are a community member and especially if you are someone in a position of some authority who receives information of boundary violations: Please listen. Please see the trust under the distress.)