A while back in this post there was some discussion about conflicting views two teachers had over the appropriate way to deal with ritual objects in the Zendo. The folks involved were Ven. Dogo Barry Graham (aka Urban Monk) and Ven. Gomyo Kevin Seperic (aka Hoodie Monk) both of whom have been students of Ven Kobutsu Malone founder of The Engaged Zen Foundation among other things.
It appears this little tiff has blown up to a point where reputations, credentials, intentions, mental health and the future of the Sangha involved is at risk. Not to mention the trust of any students practicing there. The latest episode is posted here on Ven. Gomyo’s blog with contributions by Ven. Kobutsu in the comments. I won’t go into the details here, you can read it for yourself.
By the time these kinds of disputes become so very public the damage has generally been done. And in my opinion the responsibility rests with the teacher as much as with the two individuals involved. To give sanction to someone without appropriate due diligence is a mistake that can have disastrous consequences. For a student to attempt to correct the teacher’s mistake compounds the issues. And for another student to sever ties with those who have (apparently) given assistance with numerous things regarding a Sangha is also a mistake. It grows exponentially. And I can’t help but wonder what an upcoming book has to do with all of it?
The threads of such in-fighting are a tangle and no doubt there is a great deal more only those involved know about. It’s all a very unpleasant situation. Through their writings and engaged work I have come to respect all three of these people. All seem sincere and passionate about the Dharma.
Ultimately though, we are each responsible for our own well-being and for our own actions. If decisions have been made that are regrettable it is best to correct what can be corrected and learn from the experience.
And though generally what I write here is for other students, teachers also need to wake up a little more and stop relying on their “teacherness” to discern other’s motives and GET SOME REFERENCES !
Feb. 5 A note on Ven. Kobutsu’s reply to the above response with images of letters and other proofs of credentials. Correction. This information has been available for some time and was only recently cited by link on Ven. Gomyo’s blogpost.
Feb. 5 Please also read Jame’s Ford’s very insightful and informative post on Teaching Credentials in Zen
Thanks to comment writers also for your responses. And to other bloggers who have reflected on this issue in terms of what it means to you, such as this honest reaction on the Just Zazen blog,with its insightful ending, we are all getting some lessons here and what we choose to take from them will be useful for our practices and understanding.
If you have written a reaction to this situation that you want to share please feel free to leave a link in the comments. It may benefit someone else who is currently questioning.
I have made a post for people questioning especially those who are questioning the value of Buddhist practice here Cosmic Drama.