mr. gordo wrote:Hi Yeshe,
Merzel admitted to a multiyear affair with KC “Kyozen Sato” Gerpheide one of his students and successors during his annual retreat in Ameland, Holland. During the time in question Gerpheide received Dharma Transmission in the Soto Zen lineage from Merzel. Merzel and his current wife Stephanie Young Merzel are separated and seeking divorce.
Morality does need to be enforced among priests.
Jikan wrote:Assume that some Buddhist teachers in North America & Europe, the global north broadly speaking, will be involved in conjugal relationships. Is it fair to assume that all those relationships will conform to the rather rigid confines of "traditional" monogamy? I'm of the view that Buddhism has more to teach Madame Bovary than the reverse. [that is, even though many monogomous relationships find ways to work, some are simply not workable at all and create more hardship than bodhicitta.]
This is not to excuse dishonesty or endorse uses of sexuality that are harmful to others. I'd rather learn from an honest polyamor, that is, someone who just comes out and says "Hi there, I'm Jane Doe Roshi and I'm happily in an open marriage" or "I'm involved with multiple partners" than someone who, for whatever reason, is put in the position of being dishonest and hurting people while pretending to lead an Honest Life.
Celibacy is one solution, and for many it's a great solution. It won't be the solution for all teachers or all traditions, however, and this is why this question of nonharming in the realm of sexuality will come up again and again and again in a sex-obsessed culture like ours in North America. This is what I'd like to get at, what I'd like to provoke.
Anders Honore wrote:In fact, I dare say much of the fault lies in the surrounding community and they way they are set up. Their own teachers failed to excommunicate them and/or gave them Dharma transmission prematurely and the communities they were embedded in did not have solid enough preceptory foundations to simply have them disrobed. The problem is larger than simply two people acting immorally. There is a larger issue of them having arrived in the positions they did when they were evidently not properly qualified and there being a lack of a wider community capable of adressing their transgressions when they first started happening.
Heruka wrote:i think the problem rests with religion, i think if it ditched the dogma that all are born imperfect and only through a priest caste, the keepers of secrets,that only through them is one commanded to be pure enough to commune with its central godhead, either a perfect buddha or a transcedental universal god. abuse will always be present with such a position of control and command.
The person who observes a life-long purifactory fast is known as a "venerable (gomi) lay practitioner".
Kanzeon Zen Center is currently undergoing a major transition. As previously announced, Genpo Roshi has retired as a Buddhist Priest but will continue as a Zen Master to teach and lead retreats, at the Bear Trap Lodge when in Salt Lake City and elsewhere including Hawaii.
The Kanzeon Board has made a painstaking analysis of Kanzeon’s financial situation and concluded that Kanzeon cannot continue to operate as it has for the past several years. The reality is that the Center has been largely supported by Genpo Roshi’s teaching and Big Mind work. Generous donations to Big Mind, Inc., a separate non-profit corporation, have enabled Roshi to support Kanzeon’s full-time staff and its Salt Lake City properties, and to continue supporting residents, extending scholarships, and allowing free and partial tuition to all who could not attend at full price. During this time membership dues and income from programs has covered only a small fraction of Kanzeon’s overhead, while additional donations and contributions from local members of the Center have been minimal.
Since some Kanzeon members and others outside the Kanzeon community have objected to Genpo Roshi’s continuing to teach at the Center, and income from Big Mind has also decreased, and even though he is donating the proceeds from events outside the Center to Kanzeon, he is no longer able to support it to the extent that he has in the past. As a result, the Board has regretfully concluded that in order to survive Kanzeon must sell off its properties in Salt Lake City.
The sale will also allow Kanzeon to pay off its obligations and sustain its existence, with Genpo Roshi continuing as its Abbot, outside Salt Lake City at Solitude in Big Cottonwood Canyon.
Genpo Roshi will continue to teach all those who wish to study from him. This year he will be in residence at Solitude from early April through September. In addition to Big Mind Conferences and Retreats, he will be available to Kanzeon members for small group teachings. When not in Utah, he will be teaching and leading trainings and retreats throughout the world, including on the island of Maui, Hawaii.
19 April, 2011
Dear Mr Merzel,
We are a group of Zen teachers, affiliated with all of the major schools of Zen in the west. We write as individuals, however, not as representatives of any group. We are deeply concerned at your apparent turning away from your own stated intention of stepping back as a teacher in order to take care of your habitual abuses of power with students and others. We are addressing this letter to you with the heartfelt wish that you read and heed our counsel. We are also sending this letter to various Dharma journals and websites because we have deep doubts that the letter will convince you and we feel that the greater sangha needs to be made aware of the problem and our views.
On the 15th of February forty-four teachers sent you a public letter, in response to your admission of serious misconduct, expressing deep concern both for you and for the sangha you serve. The letter recommended that you take a leave of absence from teaching and enter into counseling with people qualified to work with clergy sexual misconduct. We know others including close colleagues and friends offered similar counsel.
On February 6, you published a confession of unethical behavior, adultery and sexual misconduct with students. You called this statement, “Owning My Responsibility: A Personal Statement from Genpo Merzel.” In it you say you will disrobe as a priest, “as just a small part of my response.” You describe yourself as having engaged in “dishonest, hurtful behavior as well as sexual misconduct.” Earlier in the year, in at least two meetings, you acknowledged having engaged in a long affair with one of your students. You claim you will no longer give the Buddhist precepts, that you will spend the rest of your life integrating the precepts into your life and practice so as to regain “dignity and respect” and characterize yourself as having missed “the mark of being a moral and ethical person and a decent human being.” Finally, you stated that you have entered therapy and plan to continue indefinitely. A copy of the entire statement is attached to this letter.
This was not the first occasion such behaviors were revealed. Your response this time was to disrobe as a Buddhist priest and to resign from the White Plum Asanga, the only organization that may have had sway over your future actions.
We write again because you seem to have decided to ignore your own best impulses and to return to your path of denial. The page on your website that contained your statement a few short weeks ago now reads: “This page does not exist.”
On February 6, you said you would spend the rest of your life “integrating the Soto Zen Buddhist Ethics into (your) life.” Many of us read this and understood your intention was to cease representing yourself as a Zen teacher and instead to give future energy to the Big Mind project you’ve developed.
In fact, you continued to use the titles of a Zen teacher (Zen Master, Roshi) and to act in every way as a Zen teacher, just no longer as a priest or as a member of a larger Zen organization. Initially, your Kanzeon Board of Directors committed to a process of separating from your “Big Mind” organization and to bringing in new leadership for the Center. You were to take an indefinite leave from leadership at Kanzeon, of at least one year. Yet, a few weeks later, your Board at Kanzeon now says you have “retired” as a priest only and that they will sell off the assets of Kanzeon. Your Board’s statement also says that you will now teach nearby and offers your teaching to all members of Kanzeon, in the new location. The statement reads, in part, “The sale will also allow Kanzeon to pay off its obligations and sustain its existence, with Genpo Roshi continuing as its Abbot, outside Salt Lake City at Solitude in Big Cottonwood Canyon.”
We sincerely hope you will eventually find in your heart a way to genuine repentance, and out of that follow a course of remediation that may actually lead to healing. Others have acknowledged misconduct and have made appropriate amends in the past, and been rehabilitated within the mahasangha. May you be encouraged by their example?
However, at this point we see no evidence of good faith action on your part. It seems you continue to hold yourself out as a religious leader, a Zen Master and that the Kanzeon Board has turned and followed your lead. We are concerned for people who may come to you as a Zen teacher. Those among your current students who choose to continue with you have made a conscious decision, aware, we assume, of all the facts regarding your repeated history of exploitative behaviors.
Therefore, as members of the Zen teaching mahasangha deeply concerned for the wellbeing of anyone to whom you present yourself as a Zen teacher, we feel we cannot remain silent. We need to state publicly our belief that you are not acting faithfully within the bounds of our tradition. We reiterate our call for you to enter treatment with people qualified to diagnose and address your repeated unethical and exploitative behaviors. And, we call on you to honor your commitment to step aside from Kanzeon and allow a remediation process to happen there as well.
Janet Jiryu Abels – Still Mind Zendo
Gregory Hosho Abels – Still Mind Zendo
Robert Joshin Althouse – Zen Life & Meditation Center
Eiko Joshin Carolyn Atkinson – Everyday Dharma Zen Center
Shosan Victoria Austin – San Francisco Zen Center
Chozen Bays – Great Vow Zen Monastery
Hogen Bays – Great Vow Zen Monastery
Dai-En Bennage – Mt. Equity Zendo
Mitra Bishop – Mountain Gate Temple & Hidden Valley Zen Center
Melissa Myozen Blacker – Boundless Way Zen
Tony Bland – Starkville Zen Dojo
Angie Boissevain – Floating Zendo
Ingen Kevin Breen – San Francisco Zen Center
Domyo Burk – Dharma Rain Zen Center
Tim Burkett – Minnesota Zen Meditation Center
Gyokuko Carlson – Dharma Rain Zen Center
Kyogen Carlson – Dharma Rain Zen Center
Roko Sherry Chayat – Zen Center of Syracuse
Nonin Chowaney – Nebraska Zen Center
Jissan Larry Christensen – Zen Center of Portland
Jundo Cohen – Treeleaf Zendo
Michael Taiun Elliston – Atlanta Soto Zen Center
Norman Fischer – Everyday Zen Foundation
James Ford – Boundless Way Zen
Jake Jiyu Gage – Vista Zen Center
Eshin Godfrey – Zen Centre of Vancouver
Gaelyn Godwin – Houston Zen Center
Sunyana Graef – Vermont Zen Center
Elizabeth Hamilton – Zen Center of San Diego
Zenkei Blanche Hartman – San Francisco Zen Center
Joko Dave Haselwood – Stone Creek Zen Center
Taigen Henderson – Toronto Zen Centre
Soeng. Hyang – Kwan Um School of Zen
Les Keido Kaye – Kannon Do Zen Meditation Center
Myozan Dennis Keegan – Moon Water Sangha
Daijaku Kinst – Ocean Gate Zen Center
Bodhin Kjolhehe – Rochester Zen Center
Barry Magid – The Ordinary Mind Zendo
Genjo Marinello – Dai Bai Zan Cho Bo Zen Ji
Daishin McCabe – Mt. Equity Zendo
Ejo McMullen – Eugene Zendo
Misha Merrill – Zen Heart Sangha
Mary Mocine – Vallejo Zen Center
Dosho Port – Wild Fox Zen
Susan Ji-on Postal – Empty Hand Zen Center
Byakuren Judith Ragir – Clouds in Water Zen Center
Al Fusho Rapaport – Open Mind Zen Meditation Center
Zuiko Redding – Cedar Rapids Zen Center
Lewis Richmond – The Vimala Sangha
Joan Rieck – Three Treasures Sangha of the Sandias
Diane Eshin Rizzetto – Bay Zen Center
Shinshu Roberts – Ocean Gate Zen Center
David Rynick – Boundless Way Zen
Grace Jill Schireson – Empty Nest Zendo
Yozen Peter Schneider – Beginner’s Mind Zen Center
Hozan Alan Senauke – Berkeley Zen Center
Joen Snyder O’Neal – Compassionate Ocean Dharma Center
Myogen Steve Stucky – San Francisco Zen Center
Haju Sunim – Zen Buddhist Temple, Ann Arbor
Val Meiren Szymanski – Bamboo In The Wind
Daniel Terragno – Rocks and Clouds Zendo
Katherine Thanas – Santa Cruz Zen Center
Jordan Thorn – San Francisco Zen Center
Sallie Jiko Tisdale – Dharma Rain Zen Center
Jisho Warner – Stone Creek Zen Center
Baizan Cathleen Williams – San Francisco Zen Center
Huseng wrote:Anders Honore wrote:In fact, I dare say much of the fault lies in the surrounding community and they way they are set up. Their own teachers failed to excommunicate them and/or gave them Dharma transmission prematurely and the communities they were embedded in did not have solid enough preceptory foundations to simply have them disrobed. The problem is larger than simply two people acting immorally. There is a larger issue of them having arrived in the positions they did when they were evidently not properly qualified and there being a lack of a wider community capable of adressing their transgressions when they first started happening.
Maybe the problem is that no rules for the clergy are in place.
I mean in communities where the Vinaya is observed, it isn't just the monks and nuns who know it, but the laity know enough to know when monastics are breaking the rules.
You just don't have the same problems in Asia, with the exception of Japan, where the rules are laid out and a strict system of quality control is in place. Both the monastics and the laity know the house rules and in general they're followed. If they're not, then appropriate measures are taken.
What I see happening in American Zen especially is a buffet table where people pick and chose what they like according to shifting tastes without any regard for what the Buddha actually taught. They like that one famous like from the Pali Canon about not taking things on faith or tradition, but they ignore the teachings on restraining one's lust and greed. I mean, $50,000 for a session of "Big Mind"? How do people even fall for such nonsense? That isn't Buddhism.
If half these self-proclaimed Roshis actually read a sutra, they would know one of the key teachings of the Buddha was his discipline.