Sex Scandal Has U.S. Buddhists Looking Within

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Sex Scandal Has U.S. Buddhists Looking Within

Postby Mr. G » Sat Aug 21, 2010 9:59 pm

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/21/us/21 ... .html?_r=1

Sex Scandal Has U.S. Buddhists Looking Within
By MARK OPPENHEIMER

Sooner or later, every traditional faith has to confront sexual impropriety by its spiritual leaders: extramarital sex, or sex with the wrong people (members of the congregation, minors) or, for supposedly celibate clergy, any sex at all.

But there are great differences in how religions handle these transgressions. For Jews and many Protestants, it is the local congregation that decides what sins are too great to countenance, and what kind of discipline is needed. For Roman Catholics, a worldwide hierarchy decides, depending on reports from local representatives. And for Buddhists — well, the answer is not so clear.

The root of the problem, some experts say, is that the teacher/student relationship in Buddhism has no obvious Western analogy. Priests and rabbis know the boundaries, even if some do not always respect them. Doctors, too, have ethical canons they are supposed to honor. A spiritual figure like a priest, an authority figure like a teacher, a therapeutic figure like an analyst — the Buddhist teacher may be all of those, but is not really like any one of them. Even sanghas, or Buddhist communities, that discourage such relationships often have no process for enforcing a ban, and as one Zen society in New York is learning, that can lead to problems.

Since 1965, Eido Shimano, now 77, has been the abbot, or head spiritual teacher, of the Zen Studies Society, a Japanese Buddhist community with headquarters on East 67th Street in Manhattan and a 1,400-acre monastery in the Catskills. For much of that time, there have been rumors about the married abbot’s sexual liaisons, with his students and with other women. Such rumors could no longer be ignored when, in 2008, the University of Hawaii at Manoa unsealed some papers donated by Robert Aitken, a leading American Buddhist and founder of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship.

The papers included files about Mr. Shimano that Mr. Aitken kept from 1964 to 2003. Mr. Aitken, who died Aug. 5, met Mr. Shimano when both men worked in Hawaii in the 1960s, and for more than 40 years he kept notes on his colleague’s liaisons, based on conversations with women who had confided in him.

In a 1995 letter to the president of the Zen Studies Society’s board, Mr. Aitken wrote: “Over the past three decades, we have interviewed many former students of Shimano Roshi. Their stories are consistent: trust placed in an apparently wise and compassionate teacher, only to have that trust manipulated in the form of his sexual misconduct and abuse.” (“Roshi,” or teacher, is a Japanese honorific that goes after the name.)

The Aitken papers were soon circulating on the Internet. On June 15, Mr. Shimano’s board of directors, which exercises ultimate authority in the society, met to discuss the allegations. Mr. Shimano, who was then on the board, was not present, but most board members concurred that the charges most likely had some validity.

“I thought the sources were varied enough” to seem valid, said one board member, who asked not to be named. “I certainly didn’t think it was all a fraud.”

At that meeting, the board members began writing a new set of ethical guidelines for the society. In the text, they included an acknowledgment of past indiscretions by Mr. Shimano. Chris Phelan, another board member, said that Mr. Shimano saw the text of the statement and approved of it. “He didn’t step forward and say he was being libeled,” Mr. Phelan said.

Nonetheless, several board members told The New York Times that they believed that Mr. Shimano’s relations with students had ended long ago, and they saw no reason that Mr. Shimano could not continue teaching.

“As far as I knew, there had been a hiatus of 15 years,” said Joe Marinello, a board member who is the abbot of the Seattle Zen Temple.

But then, on July 19, the board announced that Mr. Shimano had resigned from the board after being confronted with allegations of “clergy misconduct.” The statement was sent in response to inquiries from Tricycle, a magazine about Buddhism. Since that time, the board has said that Mr. Shimano will continue as abbot until 2012, but a vice abbot has been appointed and Mr. Shimano will not be taking new students.

So what had changed?

A week after beginning work on new ethical guidelines — which in their final form forbid “sexual advances or liaisons” between teachers and sangha members — the board was confronted with a new revelation.

In interviews over the past two weeks, four board members, including Mr. Marinello, said that on June 21 a woman — whose name he would not reveal — stood up during dinner at the Catskills monastery and announced that for the past two years she had had a consensual affair with Mr. Shimano, who was at the dinner. Several board members have said that Mr. Shimano later admitted the affair in conversations with them. On Wednesday, the society issued a statement acknowledging that “in June of this year, a woman revealed that there was an inappropriate relationship between herself and Eido Roshi."

Mr. Shimano did not return several phone calls.

In two ways, this small, symbolic statement — Mr. Shimano’s resigning from his own board — reflects how American religion has changed in the last 15 years.

First, this more recent affair occurred in a different news media culture. Clerical impropriety is a hot topic, of course. And on the Internet, where several bloggers were scrutinizing the Aitken papers, the new affair was sure to be mentioned. “The Internet was turning the heat up,” one member said. Board members had to act; they could not afford to be seen as indifferent.

Second, there has been a shift within the American Buddhist community, which has become more concerned about relations between teachers and students.

Historically, because that relationship is considered sacrosanct, affairs were not always condemned, or even disapproved of.

“Unlike the therapeutic environment with analysis, with Buddhist teachers and students there are debates about what is appropriate and what isn’t,” says James Shaheen, editor of Tricycle. As to sexual relationships between teacher and student, “most people would come down on the side of ‘Let’s just not do it.’ ”

But there has also been a cultural aversion among Zen Buddhists to seeming censorious about sexuality. In a 2002 review of “Shoes Outside the Door,” a book by Michael Downing about Richard Baker, the abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center in the 1970s and ’80s, Frederick Crews wrote that Mr. Baker’s “serial liaisons, hardly unique in the world of high-level American Buddhism, could have been forgiven, but his chronic untruthfulness about them could not.”

Sex, alcoholism and drug abuse by major Buddhist leaders have all been tolerated over the years, by followers who look the other way, or even looked right at it and pretend not to care. For example, the Tibetan Buddhist master Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, who founded the Naropa Institute (now Naropa University) in Boulder, Colo., was often publicly drunk. The Buddhist journalist Katy Butler wrote a 1990 article called “Encountering the Shadow in Buddhist America,” in which she described the public alcoholism of Mr. Trungpa Rinpoche.

“We habitually denied what was in front of our faces, felt powerless and lost touch with our inner experience,” Ms. Butler wrote.

Clark Strand, who led Mr. Shimano’s Upper East Side zendo from 1988 to 1990, said that on American soil, Asian Buddhism’s sexual ethics, in particular, had to change.

“What you see in America is a lot of Asian Buddhist teachers coming into contact for the first time with spiritual communities that include women,” Mr. Strand said. “And they weren’t necessarily prepared for that.”

“To be blunt about it, a Japanese Zen monk could go over the wall and visit a prostitute and a blind eye could be turned to that.” In America, he added, “it wasn’t as easy to turn a blind eye to going over the wall in his own monastery.”
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Re: Sex Scandal Has U.S. Buddhists Looking Within

Postby Huifeng » Sun Aug 22, 2010 3:01 am

I disagree that "for Buddhists — well, the answer is not so clear".

In the standard Buddhist format, the ordained Samgha is extremely clear about this matter. One who engages in such activities is expelled from the Samgha, as it is an "offence of defeat" (parajika).

The problem is whether or not US (or other) Buddhists are willing to use the basic Buddhist paradigm or not. Those communities that still do use this paradigm are in no doubt whatsoever.

At least the article could clarify for which Buddhists this is a problem, rather than assuming that it applies to all.
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Re: Sex Scandal Has U.S. Buddhists Looking Within

Postby Will » Sun Aug 22, 2010 3:10 am

Huifeng wrote:I disagree that "for Buddhists — well, the answer is not so clear".

In the standard Buddhist format, the ordained Samgha is extremely clear about this matter. One who engages in such activities is expelled from the Samgha, as it is an "offence of defeat" (parajika).

The problem is whether or not US (or other) Buddhists are willing to use the basic Buddhist paradigm or not. Those communities that still do use this paradigm are in no doubt whatsoever.

At least the article could clarify for which Buddhists this is a problem, rather than assuming that it applies to all.


The Japanese sangha does not follow the traditional monastic rules. They have their own modified, lax version. At least that is what I recall reading somewhere.
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Re: Sex Scandal Has U.S. Buddhists Looking Within

Postby Indrajala » Sun Aug 22, 2010 4:03 am

Huifeng wrote:I disagree that "for Buddhists — well, the answer is not so clear".

In the standard Buddhist format, the ordained Samgha is extremely clear about this matter. One who engages in such activities is expelled from the Samgha, as it is an "offence of defeat" (parajika).

The problem is whether or not US (or other) Buddhists are willing to use the basic Buddhist paradigm or not. Those communities that still do use this paradigm are in no doubt whatsoever.

At least the article could clarify for which Buddhists this is a problem, rather than assuming that it applies to all.


Unfortunately even in Japan the standard Buddhist format isn't followed.

So when that gets exported to a society that cares less for institutions of religion, whatever regulations that did exist are prone to be ignored or just unknown.
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Re: Sex Scandal Has U.S. Buddhists Looking Within

Postby Indrajala » Sun Aug 22, 2010 4:08 am

Will wrote:
Huifeng wrote:I disagree that "for Buddhists — well, the answer is not so clear".

In the standard Buddhist format, the ordained Samgha is extremely clear about this matter. One who engages in such activities is expelled from the Samgha, as it is an "offence of defeat" (parajika).

The problem is whether or not US (or other) Buddhists are willing to use the basic Buddhist paradigm or not. Those communities that still do use this paradigm are in no doubt whatsoever.

At least the article could clarify for which Buddhists this is a problem, rather than assuming that it applies to all.


The Japanese sangha does not follow the traditional monastic rules. They have their own modified, lax version. At least that is what I recall reading somewhere.



There is no vinaya in Japanese Buddhism anymore.

You have to understand that here in Japan Buddhism is often called by the locals a "funeral religion". Besides the occasional festival, you only ever connect to "Buddhism" when somebody drops dead and you need a priest to do the ceremonies. For others it is an intellectual pursuit (which explains why Japanese academia has a long history of Buddhist studies).
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Re: Sex Scandal Has U.S. Buddhists Looking Within

Postby Heruka » Sun Aug 22, 2010 4:15 am

The root of the problem, some experts say, is that the teacher/student relationship in Buddhism has no obvious Western analogy. Priests and rabbis know the boundaries, even if some do not always respect them. Doctors, too, have ethical canons they are supposed to honor. A spiritual figure like a priest, an authority figure like a teacher, a therapeutic figure like an analyst — the Buddhist teacher may be all of those, but is not really like any one of them. Even sanghas, or Buddhist communities, that discourage such relationships often have no process for enforcing a ban, and as one Zen society in New York is learning, that can lead to problems.




some experts say is a great line.....
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Re: Sex Scandal Has U.S. Buddhists Looking Within

Postby Heruka » Sun Aug 22, 2010 4:21 am

btw is this Eido Shimano not the guy that had a beef with esangha?
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Re: Sex Scandal Has U.S. Buddhists Looking Within

Postby Bodhi » Sun Aug 22, 2010 6:00 am

As Ven. Huifeng said it, there is consequence for such violation in Buddhism, but it is up to them to accept or consider this consequence or not. Apparently most of Japan Zen seem to abolished it and the same seem to be the case with most Zen "priest" in the west so it seem unclear to them, thus this become a problem.
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Re: Sex Scandal Has U.S. zennists Looking Within

Postby Will » Sun Aug 22, 2010 2:12 pm

Zen Forum has a many-page thread on sexual misconduct, thanks to Eido.

By the by, this thread should be under Zen.
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Re: Sex Scandal Has U.S. zennists Looking Within

Postby Mr. G » Sun Aug 22, 2010 2:19 pm

Will wrote:By the by, this thread should be under Zen.


This was an article in the NY Times...we'll leave it here for now, thanks Will.
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Re: Sex Scandal Has U.S. Buddhists Looking Within

Postby Mr. G » Sun Aug 22, 2010 6:58 pm

If everyone likes, I can move lineage specific news items to their approriate forum in the future.
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Re: Sex Scandal Has U.S. Buddhists Looking Within

Postby kirtu » Sun Aug 22, 2010 7:41 pm

You did not have to practice very long in the NY Zen world in the 90's without hearing that so-and-so was a "skirt chaser" or that this or that teacher was engaged in sexual relationships with a student.

So if the relationship was consensual .....

But what Aiken Roshi had apparently documented were situations that were manipulative in some way. Can students have sexual relationships with teachers that are actually truly consensual due to the perception or perhaps reality of power being involved?

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Re: Sex Scandal Has U.S. Buddhists Looking Within

Postby Indrajala » Sun Aug 22, 2010 7:51 pm

kirtu wrote:But what Aiken Roshi had apparently documented were situations that were manipulative in some way. Can students have sexual relationships with teachers that are actually truly consensual due to the perception or perhaps reality of power being involved?

Kirt


In the case of Buddhism, where Shakyamuni taught that engaging in sensory desires is detrimental to meditative absorptions, having meditation teachers copulating with their students not only harms the image of the institution, but also is counter productive to the actual goals of meditation.

Keep in mind though this is an extension of modern Japanese Buddhism we're talking about, so such ideas are actually quite alien in the present day.
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Re: Sex Scandal Has U.S. Buddhists Looking Within

Postby kirtu » Sun Aug 22, 2010 10:51 pm

Huseng wrote:In the case of Buddhism, where Shakyamuni taught that engaging in sensory desires is detrimental to meditative absorptions, having meditation teachers copulating with their students not only harms the image of the institution, but also is counter productive to the actual goals of meditation.


Well one response to that is that copulation does not affect the degree of enlightenment. So sex doesn't affect kensho or wisdom arising from the deepening of kensho or satori. The monastic model is not the only model available. Now whether priests should be engaging in sex is another matter - priests can after all marry and engage in sex and a normal family life. And some priests did engage in normal family life.

BTW - this is not just a Japanese thing. Many Zen teachers have sex lives (for that matter this is not just a Zen thing either). But certainly part of the issue is whether people are being appropriate in their relationships or not.

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Re: Sex Scandal Has U.S. Buddhists Looking Within

Postby Indrajala » Mon Aug 23, 2010 4:10 am

kirtu wrote:
Well one response to that is that copulation does not affect the degree of enlightenment. So sex doesn't affect kensho or wisdom arising from the deepening of kensho or satori. The monastic model is not the only model available. Now whether priests should be engaging in sex is another matter - priests can after all marry and engage in sex and a normal family life. And some priests did engage in normal family life.


I don't think "degree of enlightenment" describes anything. You're either enlightened or you're not. Some are closer to it than others of course.

If you sit down and read Zen, as in Japanese Zen (and not Chan which is separate), people like Dogen are key to point out the problems with sex, lewd behaviour and idle discussions of it. Priests are actually not supposed to be married. If you read the literature of the Zen patriarchs in Japan (and of course this is further stated by earlier Chinese Chan writers) they speak of this.

However, these sources are casually ignored. The problem in Japan is that temples are passed down from father to son (they call it master to disciple but in reality it is hereditary) and since they are the grave keepers for the deceased of the local residents they are under a lot of pressure by the local community to marry and ensure there is someone to takeover the job of tending the graves. I don't foresee this changing any time soon, but then Japanese Buddhism is in a state of rapid decay. The younger generations will feel less and less need for Buddhist funeral services and less expensive services will be provided by ordinary companies. The financial base of most temples will be eradicated and the children who inherit them will see no need to spend several years of their life in some seminary doing zazen and sweeping floors when the neon jungle of Tokyo calls to them.

You must understand to the average Japanese youth the idea of becoming a priest is not appealing in the least. It is a filial duty rather than a calling.

Yes, Zen priests usually do have normal family lives, and that might explain why in my experience in Japan I've never actually met a Zen priest that I thought demonstrated accomplishment or any kind of realization.


BTW - this is not just a Japanese thing. Many Zen teachers have sex lives (for that matter this is not just a Zen thing either). But certainly part of the issue is whether people are being appropriate in their relationships or not.


However, Zen teachers outside of Japan have only arisen in any notable number within the last two decades at most. Interestingly it will probably be outside Japan where Zen actually survives while it largely dies out in Japan.

Look at it this way: if you read even the most basic of sutras you'll find Shakyamuni telling people that engaging in sensory desires, particularly sex, is a hindrance to meditation and liberation.

If you have Zen teachers having sex lives, would you really be able to think of them as advanced and capable? People read books. They'll see the contradiction there: Zen teacher teaching meditation but not having the personal qualifications to really speak of meditation in any great depth.
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Re: Sex Scandal Has U.S. Buddhists Looking Within

Postby kirtu » Mon Aug 23, 2010 10:08 am

Huseng wrote:
kirtu wrote:
Well one response to that is that copulation does not affect the degree of enlightenment. So sex doesn't affect kensho or wisdom arising from the deepening of kensho or satori. The monastic model is not the only model available. Now whether priests should be engaging in sex is another matter - priests can after all marry and engage in sex and a normal family life. And some priests did engage in normal family life.


I don't think "degree of enlightenment" describes anything. You're either enlightened or you're not. Some are closer to it than others of course.


No that's not the case and it's esp. not the case in Japanese Zen Buddhism at least as transmitted to the US. There is a two-fold problem that permits this behavior to arise and that is the lack of the Vinaya and the very view of enlightenment in Zen Buddhism.

To the point that there are degree's of enlightenment: this is acknowledged by all the schools: the Southern School cannonically has the Stream-Enterer, Once-Returner, Non-Returner and Arahant all based on the attenuation or destruction of the fetters. The Southern School also delineates stages before full Stream-Enterer is realised. The Mahayana School has different systems for different lineages but more or less followed a similar pattern for the first three grades of realization (for lack of a better term). This is reflected in some sutras where the Mahayana stage of Stream-Entry and Non-Returner are explicitly mentioned. In Indo-Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism this was further developed into the five paths and ten stages all of which deal with the effects of the accumulation of merit and wisdom and the purification of defilements that obscure the mind (then from the moment of the first bhumi one becomes an Arya Bodhisattva) and so forth. In Zen Buddhism there were different systems as well typified by the Ranks of Tozan. But basically Zen Buddhism as transmitted to the US and Europe centered around the experience of kensho and satori, kensho being glossed as the actual transcendent glimpse or initial direct, non-conceptual, non-contrived realization of emptiness or Buddhanature (different people have different kensho experiences) and satori being glossed as actual enlightenment. These were debated and different groups within Zen Buddhism have different views.

But to state that the phrase "degree of enlightenment" is meaningless runs counter to Buddhist thought beginning with Shakyamuni.

If you sit down and read Zen, as in Japanese Zen (and not Chan which is separate), people like Dogen are key to point out the problems with sex, lewd behaviour and idle discussions of it. Priests are actually not supposed to be married. If you read the literature of the Zen patriarchs in Japan (and of course this is further stated by earlier Chinese Chan writers) they speak of this.


Well generally that's true. But - Ikkyu forward we have a different reality at least in part based on his example. Over time his became more an acceptable template and by the time of the Militarists priests were often married, ect. as you have pointed out with the loss of the Vinaya in most of Japanese Buddhism (so in a way these troubles seem traceable to Saicho).

However, these sources are casually ignored. The problem in Japan is that temples are passed down from father to son ... and since they are the grave keepers ... and the children who inherit them will see no need to spend several years of their life in some seminary doing zazen and sweeping floors when the neon jungle of Tokyo calls to them.

You must understand to the average Japanese youth the idea of becoming a priest is not appealing in the least. It is a filial duty rather than a calling.


Ironically it is the perceived degeneration of Zen Buddhist institutions that has caused virtually all the teachers from Japan to the US and Europe to actually get on the ship/jet and come to the West.

You (and hopefully some Japanese youth) must understand that real kensho is real, and transformative but is not necessarily liberative in terms of spontaneously causing people to follow the precepts although it creates a hightened state of morality for a while. Kensho is a kind of mini-enlightenment experience but it has to be nurtured and developed otherwise people can sort of backslide a bit and maybe just be slightly better people than they were before. Kensho does not spontaneously sever the defilements although it does attenuate them. So I surmise (not based on sutra, just my musing but in part based on discussion with a Theravadin Bhikkhu) that people who have experienced kensho but later neglected their practice are kind of like Stream-Enterers who then fell off the wagon and became alcoholics (there are some examples like this in the Theravadin cannon) although I'm not asserting that kensho is the same as Stream-Entry.

So what's important with this? Why am I mentioning it and going on at length? Because it appears that the majority of Zen teachers who have had enlightenment experiences have experienced kensho and not satori and this is based on their general outlines as passed down in the literature.

Part of the problem with Zen people being lax according to the Vinaya is the nature of enlightenment in Zen Buddhism.

Yes, Zen priests usually do have normal family lives, and that might explain why in my experience in Japan I've never actually met a Zen priest that I thought demonstrated accomplishment or any kind of realization.


You may be too hard on them.

Anyway, how about Shunyu Suzuki? Then this plays out like Richard Baker and the San Francisco Zen Center "scandal" of yesteryear.


BTW - this is not just a Japanese thing. Many Zen teachers have sex lives (for that matter this is not just a Zen thing either). But certainly part of the issue is whether people are being appropriate in their relationships or not.


However, Zen teachers outside of Japan have only arisen in any notable number within the last two decades at most. Interestingly it will probably be outside Japan where Zen actually survives while it largely dies out in Japan.


Unfortunately so. It doesn't have to be that way. People can attain realization (or at least kensho) pretty easily and create real reform. And this is not confined to Zen. All the Japanese schools are potent wombs for birthing real bodhisattvas.

Look at it this way: if you read even the most basic of sutras you'll find Shakyamuni telling people that engaging in sensory desires, particularly sex, is a hindrance to meditation and liberation.

But Shakyamuni is the example of a renunciate who attained enlightenment. This is the exact problem. Zen is based on the bodhisattva path primarily not the renunciate path. The failure to resolve the apparent duality has permitted teachers with real gifts and real insight to chase sex and alcohol.

If you have Zen teachers having sex lives, would you really be able to think of them as advanced and capable? People read books. They'll see the contradiction there: Zen teacher teaching meditation but not having the personal qualifications to really speak of meditation in any great depth.


Well that's not the case. All the teachers I've known are well able to teach meditation. The issue is that the training is not just meditation. But all the teachers I've personally known have been rock solid in their personal morality and personally following the Vinaya - and non have been true monks (perhaps one).

There are deep issues here around sex and puritanism and the nature of enlightenment in Zen Buddhism. This sort of thing has happened before. We could go on at length about some other teachers - the Gay teacher Issan Dorsey comes to mind as an example. Sex itself is not the issue in Japanese Zen Buddhism; the misuse of sex is the issue. We can bemoan the fact that the traditional Vinaya is not followed in Japanese Zen Buddhism - the Bodhisattva precepts are. It is within that context that the discussion needs to be oriented.

And Eido Shimano may have gotten smeared in all of this. Aitken Roshi could have been wrong.

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Re: Sex Scandal Has U.S. Buddhists Looking Within

Postby Indrajala » Mon Aug 23, 2010 11:17 am

kirtu wrote:Well generally that's true. But - Ikkyu forward we have a different reality at least in part based on his example. Over time his became more an acceptable template and by the time of the Militarists priests were often married, ect. as you have pointed out with the loss of the Vinaya in most of Japanese Buddhism (so in a way these troubles seem traceable to Saicho).


Ikkyu is not a representative of Buddhism. Japanese people have brought him up in discussions with me and I fail to see how he can even be thought of as representative of Japanese Buddhism. He was into male sodomy and while I don't have a problem with homosexuality, that he was doing this and we even know about it in the present day says something about his own behaviour in his own time.

Anyone attempting to emulate him and his whoring nowadays is prone to catch STDs and probably spread them to others. There is nothing moral or Buddhist about such behaviour.


You (and hopefully some Japanese youth) must understand that real kensho is real, and transformative but is not necessarily liberative in terms of spontaneously causing people to follow the precepts although it creates a hightened state of morality for a while.


You can experience a lot of things in meditation, but without right view there is no right samadhi. I have argued this point with many people who forget that right view comes well before right samadhi on the Eightfold Noble Path.

Meditation in itself is a neutral tool that can actually reinforce wrong views and negative behaviours. One example of this in Japan, where western materialist philosophy has been adopted and left completely unchallenged, is a lot of Japanese Buddhist priests by their own admission are either agnostic towards karma and rebirth or outright deny both. Going into long meditation with such views will at best be palliative and cultivate a kind of mental relaxation and apathy towards the woes of the world, but the wrong view at heart -- that of nihilism -- will probably become stronger when one enters states of samadhi where there really seems like nothing at all exists.

So, anyone speaking of kensho while holding outright wrong views has probably experienced some interesting events through meditation, but that hardly counts as actual realizations or insights worth anything. Again, I've spoken to any number of Zen priests, both young and old, who meditate but hold wrong views and even teach others false dharma.


Kensho is a kind of mini-enlightenment experience but it has to be nurtured and developed otherwise people can sort of backslide a bit and maybe just be slightly better people than they were before. Kensho does not spontaneously sever the defilements although it does attenuate them. So I surmise (not based on sutra, just my musing but in part based on discussion with a Theravadin Bhikkhu) that people who have experienced kensho but later neglected their practice are kind of like Stream-Enterers who then fell off the wagon and became alcoholics (there are some examples like this in the Theravadin cannon) although I'm not asserting that kensho is the same as Stream-Entry.


You're mixing together Theravada ideas and Japanese Zen. Their systems of meditation and their models of liberation are quite different. To talk of kensho in a Theravada context is quite meaningless.






You may be too hard on them.


Or I may be honest about my feelings. If I don't sense someone has any realization or true insight I won't pretend that I do just to make everyone feel better.


Anyway, how about Shunyu Suzuki? Then this plays out like Richard Baker and the San Francisco Zen Center "scandal" of yesteryear.



I never met him.




But Shakyamuni is the example of a renunciate who attained enlightenment. This is the exact problem. Zen is based on the bodhisattva path primarily not the renunciate path. The failure to resolve the apparent duality has permitted teachers with real gifts and real insight to chase sex and alcohol.


Renunciation and the Bodhisattva path are not mutually exclusive.

If you're alluding to Vimalakirti he is an exceptional case. This is something I've read about recently in Daoxuan's work. Most people don't have the "roots" so to speak to hang out in casinos and live a lay life while genuinely cultivating others like Vimalakirti did. There are very few people, and I don't include myself in that category, who can genuinely progress towards liberation without some kind of renunciation (primarily renunciation of sense pleasures and the eight worldly concerns for example).





There are deep issues here around sex and puritanism and the nature of enlightenment in Zen Buddhism. This sort of thing has happened before. We could go on at length about some other teachers - the Gay teacher Issan Dorsey comes to mind as an example. Sex itself is not the issue in Japanese Zen Buddhism; the misuse of sex is the issue. We can bemoan the fact that the traditional Vinaya is not followed in Japanese Zen Buddhism - the Bodhisattva precepts are. It is within that context that the discussion needs to be oriented.


"Puritanism" is not an appropriate appellation to utilize in a discussion of Buddhist traditions.

Sex actually is an issue in Zen Buddhism if you actually read the texts. The problem is that modern Zen teachers casually ignore what they find disagreeable in the foundational texts of their own tradition and manipulate much of the contents elsewhere to fit their own agendas and desires. The most horrid example of this was the support given to Japanese militarism by Japanese Buddhist schools in the early 20th century. They might not openly support violence anymore, but they clearly ignore much of the foundational tenets of their tradition.

Whether you chose to actually read and acknowledge what the original founders of Japanese Zen traditions said or not is up to you, but just keep in mind that what is being taught as "Zen" nowadays both here in Japan and particularly in the English speaking world is a far cry from what Zen originally was up until the modern period.
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Re: Sex Scandal Has U.S. Buddhists Looking Within

Postby kirtu » Mon Aug 23, 2010 4:02 pm

Huseng wrote:
kirtu wrote:Well generally that's true. But - Ikkyu forward we have a different reality at least in part based on his example. Over time his became more an acceptable template and by the time of the Militarists priests were often married, ect. as you have pointed out with the loss of the Vinaya in most of Japanese Buddhism (so in a way these troubles seem traceable to Saicho).


Ikkyu is not a representative of Buddhism. Japanese people have brought him up in discussions with me and I fail to see how he can even be thought of as representative of Japanese Buddhism.


Ikkyu is indeed one of the representatives of the spirit of Japanese Buddhism.


You (and hopefully some Japanese youth) must understand that real kensho is real, and transformative but is not necessarily liberative in terms of spontaneously causing people to follow the precepts although it creates a hightened state of morality for a while.


You can experience a lot of things in meditation, but without right view there is no right samadhi. I have argued this point with many people who forget that right view comes well before right samadhi on the Eightfold Noble Path.


This is true and then points to the problem of the validity of and verification of kensho. Kensho is not totally unique to Japanese Zen Buddhism but it is unique in that they even created a word specifically for it. However lots of people might claim kensho while actually being involved in something delusional.


Kensho is a kind of mini-enlightenment experience but it has to be nurtured and developed otherwise people can sort of backslide a bit and maybe just be slightly better people than they were before. Kensho does not spontaneously sever the defilements although it does attenuate them. So I surmise (not based on sutra, just my musing but in part based on discussion with a Theravadin Bhikkhu) that people who have experienced kensho but later neglected their practice are kind of like Stream-Enterers who then fell off the wagon and became alcoholics (there are some examples like this in the Theravadin cannon) although I'm not asserting that kensho is the same as Stream-Entry.


You're mixing together Theravada ideas and Japanese Zen.


No I'm not mixing them together at all. I'm roughly equating the realization born from authentic kensho with Stream-Entry although that isn't exact (there is a "weak" level of Stream-Entry that only lasts for this life mentioned in the Theravadin cannon so perhaps kensho is roughly at this weak level). Another way of putting it is that authentic kensho is results in a middle level on the Path of Accumulation or very weakly on the Path of Joining (like very, very weak Heat). The reason for attempting these bad equivalences is that kensho results in deep and authentic bodhicitta and people can cut superficial negativities. However deep negativities can still arise. And the other reason for harping on this point is that it appears that most Zen teachers who have had enlightenment experiences have had kensho and not satori. So their insight is relatively weak (although a lot better generally [on most days] that the average person).

As for comparing models between the Southern School and the Northern Schools, such comparisons are made all the time but mostly they center on comparing the qualities of Arhats and Bodhisattvas from the side of the Northern School.

You may be too hard on them.


Or I may be honest about my feelings. If I don't sense someone has any realization or true insight I won't pretend that I do just to make everyone feel better.


How would you recognize someone's realization?

Anyway, how about Shunyu Suzuki? Then this plays out like Richard Baker and the San Francisco Zen Center "scandal" of yesteryear.



I never met him.


You've also not read Suzuki's lectures? Read of him? Nonetheless the issues around SFZC and Richard Baker are clearly valid here. A book details the issues: Shoes Outside the Door: Desire, Devotion and Excess at the San Francisco Zen Center. This was reviewed a long time ago in Tricycle and the review and comments may still be available.


But Shakyamuni is the example of a renunciate who attained enlightenment. This is the exact problem. Zen is based on the bodhisattva path primarily not the renunciate path. The failure to resolve the apparent duality has permitted teachers with real gifts and real insight to chase sex and alcohol.


Renunciation and the Bodhisattva path are not mutually exclusive.


No they aren't BUT people in Zen have not engaged renunciation deeply. This is a long-standing problem and was not evident within Zen institutions during the 90's.

If you're alluding to Vimalakirti he is an exceptional case.


I wasn't but .....

This is something I've read about recently in Daoxuan's work.


Huseng - your view of Buddhism is informed by 6th Century Mahayana commentary. It's something to keep in mind.

Most people don't have the "roots" so to speak to hang out in casinos and live a lay life while genuinely cultivating others like Vimalakirti did. There are very few people, and I don't include myself in that category, who can genuinely progress towards liberation without some kind of renunciation (primarily renunciation of sense pleasures and the eight worldly concerns for example).


Vimalakirti did definitely master renunciation he just didn't become a monk. Vimalakirti would actually be a good model in Zen. Is he ever mentioned in teisho?

As you have pointed out renunciation is necessary. Then the question becomes how much renunciation, etc. Clearly cutting the eight worldly concerns but they are a subtle tar baby.

There are deep issues here around sex and puritanism and the nature of enlightenment in Zen Buddhism. This sort of thing has happened before. We could go on at length about some other teachers - the Gay teacher Issan Dorsey comes to mind as an example. Sex itself is not the issue in Japanese Zen Buddhism; the misuse of sex is the issue. We can bemoan the fact that the traditional Vinaya is not followed in Japanese Zen Buddhism - the Bodhisattva precepts are. It is within that context that the discussion needs to be oriented.


"Puritanism" is not an appropriate appellation to utilize in a discussion of Buddhist traditions.


Really? You don't come from a mixed libertine-puritarian society? You were raised in North America, no? You haven't meet Chinese or Vietnamese Buddhists?

Sex actually is an issue in Zen Buddhism if you actually read the texts. The problem is that modern Zen teachers casually ignore what they find disagreeable in the foundational texts of their own tradition and manipulate much of the contents elsewhere to fit their own agendas and desires. The most horrid example of this was the support given to Japanese militarism by Japanese Buddhist schools in the early 20th century. They might not openly support violence anymore, but they clearly ignore much of the foundational tenets of their tradition.


The institutions did. It's not possible for really enlightened people to do this. But then this goes back to the weak level of enlightenment that many people seem to experience.

Huseng - have you actually read about the nature of enlightenment in Zen? If not, Kaplleau's "Three Pillars of Zen" would be a good start. And here you have Kaplleau being dragged by his teacher to a house of prostitution.

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Re: Sex Scandal Has U.S. Buddhists Looking Within

Postby Jikan » Mon Aug 23, 2010 4:18 pm

For what it's worth, I've met Soto Zen teachers who are married (in two particular cases, you have teachers married to each other!) who have demonstrated what I regarded as some measure of realization (clear to me by their ability to transmit the teachings without distortion and without hesitation) and certainly a strong degree of renunciation from mundane habits. These are in North America. My teacher is married to another ordained priest (Tendai); his teacher was also married, &c.

I'm a novice priest myself and married, but I claim no level of attainment and I fear my renunciation is poor. Again, for what it's worth and for the sake of full disclosure.

Huseng's diagnosis is accurate in many respects but it's important not to make total and blanket statements about these issues, which are rarely as simple as they may seem.
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Re: Sex Scandal Has U.S. Buddhists Looking Within

Postby Indrajala » Mon Aug 23, 2010 5:54 pm

No I'm not mixing them together at all. I'm roughly equating the realization born from authentic kensho with Stream-Entry although that isn't exact (there is a "weak" level of Stream-Entry that only lasts for this life mentioned in the Theravadin cannon so perhaps kensho is roughly at this weak level).


Stream-entry is a step towards Arhatship and cessation. Kensho isn't about attaining Arhatship. You're conflating two very different models of Buddhist practice.

Another way of putting it is that authentic kensho is results in a middle level on the Path of Accumulation or very weakly on the Path of Joining (like very, very weak Heat). The reason for attempting these bad equivalences is that kensho results in deep and authentic bodhicitta and people can cut superficial negativities. However deep negativities can still arise. And the other reason for harping on this point is that it appears that most Zen teachers who have had enlightenment experiences have had kensho and not satori. So their insight is relatively weak (although a lot better generally [on most days] that the average person).



You really need to start pointing to some kind of scripture because what you're outlining sounds less like a standard Buddhist model of practice and just your own motley mix of ideas.

As for comparing models between the Southern School and the Northern Schools, such comparisons are made all the time but mostly they center on comparing the qualities of Arhats and Bodhisattvas from the side of the Northern School.


What are you talking about? Theravada and East Asian Mahayana?


How would you recognize someone's realization?


Observe their behaviour, action, presence and go with my gut feeling. If they're really enlightened and I don't think they are, they won't get upset.

No they aren't BUT people in Zen have not engaged renunciation deeply. This is a long-standing problem and was not evident within Zen institutions during the 90's.


You ever read about Dogen? Or how about his lectures? He talked about how degenerate monks were for having their own closet space. He advocated an absolutely stoic lifestyle along with celibacy, renunciation and devotion to the path.

I think Dogen is a better character to represent Zen than Suzuki.


Huseng - your view of Buddhism is informed by 6th Century Mahayana commentary. It's something to keep in mind.


Daoxuan was 7th century. His insight is just as valid as it was in his own time.


Really? You don't come from a mixed libertine-puritarian society? You were raised in North America, no? You haven't meet Chinese or Vietnamese Buddhists?


Puritanism is a term utilized in a Christian context. It isn't an appropriate term to apply to Buddhism.

The institutions did. It's not possible for really enlightened people to do this. But then this goes back to the weak level of enlightenment that many people seem to experience.


Weak level of enlightenment? Okay, well some of the big names in Zen back in the early 20th century were in full support of the war effort in Asia.

Huseng - have you actually read about the nature of enlightenment in Zen? If not, Kaplleau's "Three Pillars of Zen" would be a good start. And here you have Kaplleau being dragged by his teacher to a house of prostitution.


Yes, I read that book, but then I realized this watered down version of "Zen" being marketed to people on the spiritual marketplace is largely nonsense. If you want Zen read Dogen not Kaplleau.
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