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,