What to do about Zen teachers and controversial behavior

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clyde
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What to do about Zen teachers and controversial behavior

Post by clyde » Sat Feb 16, 2019 5:15 pm

Linda asked that the John Tarrant Roshi topic be deleted because Friend posted a link to Aitken Roshi’s open letter to John about his alleged misconduct. Before taking any action I want to address the broader issue.

There are many, many wonderful Zen teachers who are compassionate and skillful and wise. But there are also a few Zen teachers who have had concerns, sometimes minor, sometimes serious, raised about their conduct.

While I don’t want to promote gossip, I don’t know that ‘hiding’ facts (which are already public) about Zen teachers is in the best interests of Zen or Zen students.

What are your thoughts on this?


p.s: I’ve read some of John’s writings, seen a few videos, and have sat with him when he visited my local sangha. I knew about the controversy, but hold no animosity to him.
“Enlightenment means to see what harm you are involved in and to renounce it.” David Brazier, The New Buddhism

“The most straightforward advice on awakening enlightened mind is this: practice not causing harm to anyone—yourself or others—and every day, do what you can to be helpful.” Pema Chodron, “What to Do When the Going Gets Rough”

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KeithA
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Re: What to do about controversial teachers

Post by KeithA » Sat Feb 16, 2019 5:21 pm

clyde wrote:
Sat Feb 16, 2019 5:15 pm
Linda asked that the John Tarrant Roshi topic be deleted because Friend posted a link to Aitken Roshi’s open letter to John about his alleged misconduct. Before taking any action I want to address the broader issue.

There are many, many wonderful Zen teachers who are compassionate and skillful and wise. But there are also a few Zen teachers who have had concerns, sometimes minor, sometimes serious, raised about their conduct.

While I don’t want to promote gossip, I don’t know that ‘hiding’ facts (which are already public) about Zen teachers is in the best interests of Zen or Zen students.

What are your thoughts on this?


p.s: I’ve read some of John’s writings, seen a few videos, and have sat with him when he visited my local sangha. I knew about the controversy, but hold no animosity to him.
I just read the link in question, and I am left wondering what the big deal is. It is an open letter submitted to a public Sangha newsletter, by one of the most revered Westerm born Zen teachers there is.

The broader issue is that Life is messy. :115:
You make, you get.

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Re: What to do about controversial teachers

Post by lindama » Sat Feb 16, 2019 5:31 pm

Seems to me that the broader issue is that this is 20 years old.... the view has been concretized in time, there is a 20 year gap on events. what does this serve? Seems to me that the zen way is to hold the 10,000 things and move on. I made my comments in the context of zen koans.

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Re: What to do about controversial teachers

Post by Caodemarte » Sat Feb 16, 2019 8:42 pm

In general terms it is very important to be as transparent as possible. There is no need to gossip; there is great need to be clear about what we are doing and saying. This is especially true in religion where there are so many fraudsters and naive people willing to be defrauded.

If you want to get folk medical advice from your illiterate grandmother that is fine. However, if you are getting that advice because you falsely think she graduated from Harvard Medical School and is highly recommended by your local hospital you have been fooled by yourself or others.

Please note that I have received excellent medical advice and treatment from illiterate elders. It would have been a giant red flag if they had claimed to be Harvard graduates!

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Re: What to do about controversial teachers

Post by fuki » Sat Feb 16, 2019 9:08 pm

clyde wrote:
Sat Feb 16, 2019 5:15 pm

What are your thoughts on this?

In general (since I have not read any particular topic recently here)
people want/need to speak about this because it's simply manifested energy, there's a difference between pure gossip and being 'interested' in such topics due to unspent energies or emotional churning conflicts within, so I'm all in favour for people adressing the topics of controversial teachers, not to diss a teacher or event in particular, because it (the situation or history) serves as a prop or a catalyst/associative story for the energy to arise and be talked about among friends, hopefully in all understanding. The distinction between the above and pure gossip depends on each case, can't in front determine to not ever talk about such things. but it might be best to talk about such controversy in general without dropping names perhaps, but even if names are dropped, I still see it as a prop and never the teacher/name/form in particular, even teacher's negative actions like this are then in service, that is if people are allowed to speak about it.
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Re: What to do about controversial teachers

Post by KeithA » Sat Feb 16, 2019 9:57 pm

In what way was an open letter to a Sangha "gossip"?

When Sweeping Zen went away, I wasn't sad. It seemed to exist to have endless discussions about teacher transgressions. So, I am not suggesting we have huge threads about that particular subject. But, to be honest, I did not know about this letter and I don't see the point in whitewashing it.

Anyway, I respect the wisdom of the group. Just seems like we are being a little precious on this one.
You make, you get.

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narhwal90
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Re: What to do about controversial teachers

Post by narhwal90 » Sat Feb 16, 2019 10:03 pm

Unskilled behavior can be as instructive as skilled and not talking about a bell having been rung will not stop the echos.

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Re: What to do about controversial teachers

Post by desert_woodworker » Sat Feb 16, 2019 10:04 pm

Let's let the echoes stop.

--Joe

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Re: What to do about controversial teachers

Post by lindama » Sun Feb 17, 2019 1:36 am

KeithA wrote:
Sat Feb 16, 2019 9:57 pm
In what way was an open letter to a Sangha "gossip"?

When Sweeping Zen went away, I wasn't sad. It seemed to exist to have endless discussions about teacher transgressions. So, I am not suggesting we have huge threads about that particular subject. But, to be honest, I did not know about this letter and I don't see the point in whitewashing it.

Anyway, I respect the wisdom of the group. Just seems like we are being a little precious on this one.

Keith, I don't see this as "white washing". It is 20 years old. what does it serve to bring this up again. ofc, it was not gossip at the time. the world has moved on. The original discussion was in the context of koans, not reputations long gone. just saying

as I said in the beginning.... if I have learned one thing, there is nothing to hold on to.

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Re: What to do about controversial teachers

Post by lindama » Sun Feb 17, 2019 1:41 am

desert_woodworker wrote:
Sat Feb 16, 2019 10:04 pm
Let's let the echoes stop.

--Joe
amen

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Re: What to do about controversial teachers

Post by desert_woodworker » Sun Feb 17, 2019 1:47 am

lindama wrote:
Sun Feb 17, 2019 1:41 am
desert_woodworker wrote:
Sat Feb 16, 2019 10:04 pm
Let's let the echoes stop.

--Joe
amen
Thanks, Linda. And as I say, Why weigh anything heavy? It serves no purpose. Nor Porpoise.

--Joe


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Re: What to do about controversial teachers

Post by Crystal » Sun Feb 17, 2019 10:21 am

There are male teachers in Vajrayana and Zen who have been getting a really bad name for Buddhism in general, because of their sexual behavior with their female students . There has even been violence as well as sex ,in the case of Tibetan teacher Sogyal Lakar, who apparently punched a nun in front of a group of people.

It all needs to be brought out into the open, so that people can share their thoughts and strategies and then eventually move on with their shattered lives,- and this appears to be slowly happening within the Shambhala organisation, after the shocking behavior of Chogyam Trungpa's son was revealed.

Preventing, or attempting to suppress freedom of speech, and sweeping this sort of thing "under the carpet," is potentially an invitation for more bad behaviour in the future, in my humble opinion.

Finally, I wish everyone well, and hope that my honest thoughts about this aren't going to be deleted.


_/|\_

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Re: What to do about controversial teachers

Post by desert_woodworker » Sun Feb 17, 2019 11:12 am

I wouldn't say that this site in particular is one in which "everything needs to be brought out in the open". Especially when it's all been done before, other places, and multiple times.

I think that rehashing this sort of thing is disguised behavior of the sort that Buddhists call "Downgrading Others While Praising Oneself". It's a very Human but perverted leverage that lands one straight in Hell.

In the event mentioned, the Diamond Sangha publication brought out in the open what the Teacher's Circle meant to bring out in the open, about 20 years ago. Issue closed. And well done. By this point in time, its should have had a good Christian burial.

If folks want to discuss other "controversial teachers" in this thread, go ahead and rake muck. Muckraking journalists in USA became famous for this sort of activity.

By the way, the teachers who some people may have in mind are not "controversial". They are teachers. Some of their behavior has been wrong and may have become controversial, and in some other cases even unfortunately misunderstood. But there is no doubt that they are teachers, and have been duly made teachers by their own teachers. Thus, the thread-title "controversial teachers" is misleading, and unfortunately wrong.

This is not to excuse wrong behavior, however.

I see no use in this thread so far. Although, this present post is a very good one.

--Joe

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Re: What to do about controversial teachers

Post by Crystal » Sun Feb 17, 2019 11:59 am

I think that rehashing this sort of thing is disguised behavior of the sort that Buddhists call "Downgrading Others While Praising Oneself". It's a very Human but perverted leverage that lands one straight in Hell.
Are you refering to me, Joe?.... and if so, where have I praised myself ?

I think that some men just don't even seem to try to understand what women go through in these situations with their teachers.
It's a very Human but perverted leverage that lands one straight in Hell
Is that so?...and where is "Hell"? ~ It's the home of all the conceptual proliferation in our very own minds, my friend!
I see no use in this thread so far. Although, this present post is a very good one.
Was that what you meant about "Downgrading Others While Praising Oneself"?

:558:

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Re: What to do about controversial teachers

Post by desert_woodworker » Sun Feb 17, 2019 1:10 pm

All of us are always referring to ourselves. There is One being, if that many.

This site need not be or become a warning place about certain teachers, nor provide space for criticism of them.

By all means, if we have a friend who wants to hook up with a teacher whose behavior one feels one can be critical of, be sure to share your concerns in person with that friend. Bringing that process up to this site is muck-raking when it's not directed to one friend who one feels is in need of one's cautions about said teachers. Idle speech. Praising oneself while blaming others. Re-hashing what's been hashed more competently by others, and already completed at an earlier time by the people directly involved.

Encouraging muck-raking will surely keep people away from this site, or bring in only those who enjoy to specialize in that sort of thing.

On to better things, I hope!

--Joe

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Re: What to do about controversial teachers

Post by Crystal » Sun Feb 17, 2019 1:53 pm

Joe, I think you're forgetting that the topic title is "What to do about controversial teachers" and that Clyde said very sensibly :
Clyde wrote:I don’t know that ‘hiding’ facts (which are already public) about Zen teachers is in the best interests of Zen or Zen students.
You said: "Encouraging muck-raking will surely keep people away from this site, or bring in only those who enjoy to specialize in that sort of thing."

What's more likely to keep people away from the site, is if one or two people start dominating the forums and setting themselves up as the teachers of anyone else who happens to post here ! That, as well as the fact that the real teachers who could benefit others like myself have gone!

I came here as a Vajrayana/Theravada practitioner with an interest in Zen, and so far I've learned hardly anything - apart from a couple of fart jokes!

:115: :558:


May all sentient beings have peace and happiness.

.

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Re: What to do about controversial teachers

Post by loves' the unjust » Sun Feb 17, 2019 2:24 pm

Crystal wrote: I came here as a Vajrayana/Theravada practitioner with an interest in Zen, and so far I've learned hardly anything - apart from a couple of fart jokes!

:115:
You know more than I do.Well, to be honest everyone knows more than I do.
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Re: What to do about controversial teachers

Post by narhwal90 » Sun Feb 17, 2019 2:33 pm

Personally I find having this sort of stuff public helpful because it clarifies the teachers and sanghas I will stay away from. For my part the spectacle of a teacher indulging himself with his students, particularly when there are marriages to others involved reduces the practice to playacting and frankly disgusting. What about an alcoholic roshi reeking of vodka during zazen?

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Re: What to do about Zen teachers and controversial behavior

Post by clyde » Sun Feb 17, 2019 6:23 pm

As I stated in my OP, I’m looking for guidelines for handling topics/posts about Zen teachers that reference publicly known bad behavior or alleged bad behavior. So, let’s not focus on any particular Zen teacher.

On the one hand, this isn’t a “muckraking” site, nor will idle gossip be permitted. Nor will criticism of other non-Zen teachers be permitted.

There are dozens and dozens of wonderful Zen teachers worthy of praise. But there are a few Zen teachers, some of them well known, about whom there are credible public reports of bad behavior. It seems, at least to me, to be a disservice to hide such facts.

I agree with Joe that my naming the topic was poor. I’ll blame the lingering effects of jet lag. I was attempting and failing to be neutral. I’ve renamed the topic, “What to do about Zen teachers and controversial behavior”
“Enlightenment means to see what harm you are involved in and to renounce it.” David Brazier, The New Buddhism

“The most straightforward advice on awakening enlightened mind is this: practice not causing harm to anyone—yourself or others—and every day, do what you can to be helpful.” Pema Chodron, “What to Do When the Going Gets Rough”

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Re: What to do about Zen teachers and controversial behavior

Post by WoodsyLadyM » Sun Feb 17, 2019 7:44 pm

Crystal wrote:
Sun Feb 17, 2019 10:21 am
There are male teachers in Vajrayana and Zen who have been getting a really bad name for Buddhism in general, because of their sexual behavior with their female students . There has even been violence as well as sex ,in the case of Tibetan teacher Sogyal Lakar, who apparently punched a nun in front of a group of people.

It all needs to be brought out into the open, so that people can share their thoughts and strategies and then eventually move on with their shattered lives,- and this appears to be slowly happening within the Shambhala organisation, after the shocking behavior of Chogyam Trungpa's son was revealed.

Preventing, or attempting to suppress freedom of speech, and sweeping this sort of thing "under the carpet," is potentially an invitation for more bad behaviour in the future, in my humble opinion.

Finally, I wish everyone well, and hope that my honest thoughts about this aren't going to be deleted.


_/|\_
I totally agree with you, Crystal. I'd rather know than remain in ignorance.

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