In my travels around the world, and intense training with Zen teachers and practice environments (including Theravadan centers) over many years now I have come to learn a few things:
1. The promises and premise of Zen Buddhism is true -- truer than the golden fields of grass that beckon warmly on a warm and which bring a smile, unbidden, on a beautiful Summer's day / truer than the inhalation of fresh, exquisite air on a wonderful dusk morning / truer than the joy of laughter in your baby's eyes or the genuine smile of one whom you love
2. That even though it is true - to say so, is already too - too - much. To express so is to risk misunderstanding, knowing that the inexpressible is hard to convey through words. And that there are levels and revelations in practice that can only be known by a practitioner who bears those fruits - and not by any other
3. I have learnt that there are genuine shades of a Buddhist practice that is not encapsulated by fancy terms and sayings like "Just let go" or "Just be nice" or "Zen has no morals". People who say and repeat such platitudes reveal their own lack of depth in the Buddha Dharma practices
4. And I have learnt that there are many people who operate in the field of Zen Buddhism in this world - who are fraudsters and tricksters - but also that there are jewels still scattered gently around
5. Who can tell the chaff from the wheat is probably a matter of great karma but also great hope
For this reason, I hope that there is an awareness of persons who have committed great wrongs and who should now rightly not be able to teach, and to also face the consequences of their actions.Eido Shimano Roshi
, is one such teacher, who has at long last been revealed publicly for his crimes and actions of harm. The issue, as pointed out on Sweeping Zen
, is not about sex or purity - neither of which I believe Zen Buddhism has a problem with - but with devious manipulation, predatory abuse, harm, financial abuse and manipulation, and overall fraud in presenting what he is.
It is a shame, our shared shame, when someone abuses the Dharma so.
And at the same time, I have been heartened to meet genuine Zen teachers. There are those with heart in this world who lead it as so. Who do their best genuinely, who are true and closer to themself, their true heart, than others, and who also have real - and sustained -- insight into genuine Buddha-Dharma. And for this reason, there are also those who we may rightfully call Roshi, teacher, master and guide.
There are some of us in the West who jump on cases of abuse and manipulation as clear examples and justification to why we will not ever choose a teacher, bow to another. Perhaps we would trot our the Kalama Sutra or point out that the Buddha said be a light unto yourself. And these are not incomplete truths. As always, there are elements of truth. Of course we keep our heart, of course we walk these steps ourself, of course we are the ones who agree to sit nightly on that zafu cushion, of course we do not throw our head out of the window. But also -- as pointed out by all the ancient Masters of the past, as verified by the Sutras, there are also subtleties to Buddhist practice, there are complexities that are not evident, that can never be learnt simply by just reading a textbook or repeating platitudes like "Just let go, dude", and that one of our deepest challenges is for delusion to be overcome - for can the curtain over the eyes be revealed by other than that which is beyond that curtain.
For that reason, there is a possibility of guidance. There is such a thing as a Zen Master - even in this day and age, although I admit readily that it would be few and far between - too much so, too much so. And to be able to tell the wheat from the chaff, well how much harder still. And yet, and yet.
The workings of karma is one of the four imponderables - and yet we whom call ourself Buddhists, or identify and recognise the value of Buddhist practices in whatever form - can only choose our own way. To tread this path as best as we can, to follow the practices laid down by our many good guides and Masters of the past, and to always try to live wholeheartedly within the realms of compassion and responsibility for more than myself. I know it is hard, because I have also faced that challenge, I have also failed, and I have also woken up, at times..If we are fortunate, then we do find good guides within our path - we do see truth where we go.
The world is before us and it is not always pretty. The entrenchment of greed, selfishness and harm is strong in this world today, perhaps stronger than we have ever known...so we are all called this time to duty, we are all called together to generate an awakening which is larger than any of us have ever known in this lifetime.
We are called together so that we can again bring beauty and truth into a realm which has by and large mostly forgotten the value and innocence, beauty, and potentiality of the human heart, that those of us lucky enough to know, call me. Except to do so would be an error, so it is a silent path really.
The practice of Zen is hard, in many ways, and it is hardest because there are no real rules, no real handholds, we float in the realm of uncertainty (if we are lucky) and move along doubt and the beauty of insight in a parallel zig zag of life...but this much I know: the premise and promises of Zen Buddhism, of the sutras, are not wrong, and they do offer a chance at genuine truth, liberation, freedom and above all - clarity even amongst the storm - for those whom are interested.
I urge you to not give up and to live, whilst devoting some time to a genuine Buddhist practice, so that yours too will flower when we are ready.
With best wishes,