destructive behaviour and the collusion of communities

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.)

Please practice,


Come Together: a Bodhisattva call to action for the Gulf oil disaster


My dharma friend, Maia, at The Jizo Chronicles sent out a call for us to engage fully in helping with the various aspects of the disaster following the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  In her post today, she quotes one of the Upaya Chaplaincy candidates, Penny Alsop, whose words are too powerful to ignore:

Send your love. Take action anywhere that you can. Look at those pictures of oil covered animals and let it break your heart then take the next steps that make sense to you. Just please do not forget.

Look.  And let it break your heart.  Our practice as engaged Buddhists – and there is no other type – is to do just that (in the words of Joanna Macy): look, let it break our hearts, and then go forth with linked arms.  Maia listed many ways to help in her post.  Barry from Ox Herding also listed a number of sites that are involved in rescue and collecting donations.

On the news today, the predictions are that it will take another three months before interventions might stop the flow.  So much will be lost by then.  Please consider reaching out with anything you have, in any way you can.  It’s been a non-stop run of disasters and I know we are all feeling like we’re caught in an unending series of demands.  Yet I think finally we are allowing ourselves to be faced with real life.  Perhaps we are finally growing up and stepping up to the plate.

Let`s not squander this chance to fulfill our vow,


Tibet: no news is not good news

I’ve been concerned lately that there is almost no coverage about the Tibet/China earthquake.  Perhaps it’s overload from all the various tragedies that has rendered environmental upheaval “old news.”  Yet my blog stats have hit an all time high in the last week with the post Tibet Earthquake Relief getting the most hits of all time (over 300 page views).  That post – meagre as it was – has also been Twittered and trackbacked and pinged.  So clearly only the media has lost interest.  

Today I received this email from the Canada Tibet Committee.  After thinking long and hard about what it means to put it on the blog, I decided that whatever the intent of the blog, whatever my personal views are about Tibet and China, this is something we may wish to think about and fold into our practice as we see it fits.  So here it is below, verbatim, with no attachments to any view other than to bear witness to suffering that is still happening.  

Dear friends,  


Last week’s earthquake in Jyekundo (Chinese: Yushu), a predominantly Tibetan area, has devastated the region. Local citizens need your help.
The official death toll at the time of writing this email stood at 2,039, but unofficial reports indicate the toll may be as high as 15,000. Another 12,000 are injured. 


The CTC has pledged funds towards immediate relief for the victims of the earthquake. Our donation will be channeled through Machik, an organization that is already on the ground providing relief. Machik is also able to issue Canadian tax receipts.

If you are able to donate please visit: and select the Jyekundo Earthquake relief option on the Fund designation icon. Or visit the Machik website – – and click on “Donate Now” through the Canada Helps icon.  

You can also help by contacting your MP


Please write or call and ask your MP to:

Make a statement in Parliament acknowledging the tragedy, and specifically referring to Tibetans. The population of the region is 97 per cent Tibetan.
Encourage the Chinese government to graciously accept international offers of support from aid organizations ready to provide immediate relief, and for long term support in rebuilding.

Encourage China to review its development policies in the region related to hydro facilities and water management, see:

Request that the Chinese government accept His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s offer to visit the earthquake zone. Tibetans in Jyekundo have issued a remarkable letter appealing for His Holiness to visit the region and His Holiness has expressed his willingness (full text below).

You can find your MP’s contact information at:

Letter from Tibetans to President Hu and Premier Wen, requesting a visit by the Dalai Lama
16 April 2010

Dear President Hu and Premier Wen,
Wish you both good health. During the initial hours of the natural disaster, we appreciate your government’s immediate relief efforts through soldiers and all round support from different sections of the society and we, the victims of this calamity, thank you for the same.

But we are a deeply religious community having a strong faith in the teachings of Buddha. Since many generations, we have a deep faith in His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Today, as we are suffering from a great physical and mental anguish, we really need His Holiness to visit the quake affected area to pray for the departed souls and to provide solace to the broken hearts. Today, we request you, president Hu and premier Wen, to find the compassion in your hearts and fulfill this desire of us quake victims. We, the quake victims numbering more than 10,000, implore you from our hearts to temporarily set aside your government’s political differences with the Dalai Lama and kindly consider our request.

With this invitation to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, we have no other objective apart from fulfilling our religious aspirations of praying for the departed souls and the survivors of the disaster.

In this hour of distress, His Holiness’ visit to offer prayers and condolences in person is the only way to heal our wounded hearts.

There is no other better way.

Statement of His Holiness the Dalai Lama
His Holiness the Dalai Lama Eager to Visit Earthquake Affected Area

As I mentioned briefly soon after I heard the news, I was deeply saddened by the effects of the devastating earthquake in the Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (Tibetan:Kyigudo) of Qinghai Province which resulted in the tragic loss of many lives, a great number of injured and severe loss of property. Because of the physical distance between us, at present I am unable to comfort those directly affected, but I would like them to know I am praying for them.

I commend the monastic community, young people and many other individuals from nearby areas for their good neighbourly support and assistance to the families of those who have lost everything. May your exemplary compassion continue to grow. This kind of voluntary work in the service of others really puts the bodhisattva aspiration into practice.
I also applaud the Chinese authorities for visiting the affected areas, especially Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, who has not only personally offered comfort to the affected communities, but has also overseen the relief work. I am very appreciative too that the media have been free to report on the tragedy and its aftermath.

In 2008, when a similar earthquake struck Sichuan, Chinese central and local government leaders and auxiliary authorities took great pains to provide relief, allow free access to the media, as well as clearing the way for international relief agencies to provide assistance as required. I applauded these positive moves then and appeal for such ease of access on this occasion too.

The Tibetan community in exile would like to offer whatever support and assistance it can towards the relief work. We hope to be able to do this through the proper and appropriate channels as soon as possible.
When Sichuan was rocked by an earthquake two years ago, I wished to visit the affected areas to pray and comfort the people there, but I was unable to do so. However, when Taiwan was struck by a typhoon last year, I was able to visit the affected families and pray with them for those who had perished in that disaster. In providing some solace to the people concerned, I was happy to be able to do something useful.

This time the location of the earthquake, Kyigudo (Chinese: Yushu), lies in Qinghai Province, which happens to be where both the late Panchen Lama and I were born. To fulfill the wishes of many of the people there, I am eager to go there myself to offer them comfort.

In conclusion, I appeal to governments, international aid organizations and other agencies to extend whatever assistance they can to enable the families of those devastated by this tragedy to rebuild their lives. At the same time, I also call on the survivors of this catastrophe to recognize what has happened as the workings of karma and to transform this adversity into something positive, keeping their hopes up and meeting setbacks with courage as they struggle to restore what they have lost. Once again, I pray for those who have lost their lives as well as for the well being of those who have survived.
DALAI LAMA, 17 April 2010

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walking among sharp knives

Recently having written about knives and read others’ posts about knives behind us, this report about the abuses against Karen women village chiefs comes to remind us of the pain and suffering still ever present.

Please take the time to read it.  Please pass it along to your communities

Walking Among Sharp Knives: the unsung courage of Karen women village chiefs

A reprise of Snyder poem quoted today: If we cannot change things, who will?

Thank you for practicing,


Haiti Relief Urgently Needed

Dear Friends,

Please let us direct our attention to the situation in Haiti.  My dharma brother, Barry Briggs at Ox Herding has listed a number of ways to help.  Please click here.

Dharma brother, Andre of Bodhi Leaf, has recommended The Humanitarian Coalition comprised of CARE, OXFAM, OXFAM-Quebec and Save the Children.

World Vision Canada is also another organization that would welcome donations.

May all be safe and supported through our efforts,


Rest Well: John Daido Loori, Roshi


Daiso Roshi passed away at 9:30 this morning.

Please visit Ox Herding for details.  Wisdom Publications biography is here

No coming, no going
No after, no before
I hold you close to me
I release you to be so free
Because I am in you, and you are in me
Because I am in you, and you are in me.

No coming, no going from a Basketful of Plums

This body is not me.
I am not limited by this body.
I am life without boundaries.
I have never been born,
and I have never died.

Look at the ocean and the sky filled with stars,
manifestations from my wondrous True Mind.

Since before time, I have been free.
Birth and death are only doors through which we pass,
scared thresholds on our journey.
Birth and death are a game of hide-and-seek.

So laugh with me,
hold my hand, let us say good-bye,
say good-bye, to meet again soon.

We meet today.
We will meet again tomorrow.
We will meet at the source every moment.
We meet each other in all forms of life.

Ceremony for the Deceased, from Chanting from the Heart, Thich Nhat Hanh & the Monks and Nuns of Plum Village

Thank you for practicing, roshi,