Sex and the Sangha:Update

This is a followup to previous articles including Sex and the Sangha:Forgiveness, Retribution or Justice

The following has been recently posted on the Zen Studies Society ethical guidelines page:

The Zen Studies Society acknowledges that there have been occurrences of improper relationships between teachers and students. In the past, attempts to address concerns about such relationships were not satisfactory. The present board has revised and posted the following Guidelines for Ethical Behavior, including a grievance procedure. The board is adamant that these guidelines be upheld. The board also wishes to begin a process of reconciliation. If you are reading this and feel your concerns have not been acknowledged or heard, please contact a member of the ethics committee. On July 4, 2010, Eido Shimano Roshi and Aiho-san Shimano, who served the Zen Studies Society Board of Directors for the past forty-two years, voluntarily stepped down from the board to facilitate a smooth transition of both temporal authority and spiritual legacy.

July 14, 2010
Apparently the bolded lines above have now been commented out. Here is the current page code (13:37 PDT) which indicates the words are still there but have been set so they don’t display.To access this on the ZSS website go to View in your browser and select Page Source.

Here is a screenshot of the code with the original statement intact. Click on it to read it more clearly.


On Bhante Sujato’s blog he has written “On “Sex and the Sangha” and the displacement of pain” which was based on my original post mentioned above. It is a really well thought out read on the dysfunctional aspects of Sangha including the bhikkuni ordination issue in which he is involved. As well there have been many useful comments.

One comment in particular by Linda struck me as pertinent to the above situation and the various discussions going on about it at Robert Aitken Roshi’s blog, Genkaku’s blog and on Zen Forum International.

Linda wrote:

“What i am objecting to is the misuse of “Dhammic” language and ideology in a way that perpetuates suffering.”

Excellent point, Bhante. Unfortunately this seems to happen quite a bit, not only in the ordained sangha, but also among some western (probably others too but I’m speaking from my experience) lay teachers and other practitioners who misuse “Dhammic” language to justify thinking and behavior that is actually just very unexamined and/or “shadow” based. I’ve personally seen this and have also seen the untold damage it can cause.

Ahhh, delusion is a mightily slippery, elusive and powerful force for us all, isn’t it? How to see what we can’t see?

But when group dynamics, community structures, and group-think become increasingly insular, narrow and unresponsive to feedback, combined with dynamics such as undue influence from others one is close to, blaming, other forms of projection (inc. both transference and counter-transference–quite natural but dangerous when unexamined), the (very human) desire to belong, the tendency to control or even ‘get rid of’ those seen as difficult (or those who ‘push one’s buttons’) or just misguided personal perceptions and unwillingness and/or inability to look at one’s own personal and/or group’s shadow issues, it can be particularly difficult to investigate… and very dangerous.
Dysfunctional, dynamics are not even seen, let alone examined or adequately addressed. And much pain ensues…. (I am speaking from my own experience being in a situation like this, and also from working professionally with groups and organizations, not from having actually lived in WPP communities, so this is not specifically about them.)

I guess we would all like to hope for and expect more (in terms of “enlightened” behavior and group dynamics, willingness to listen and examine things deeply, good communication, etc) in spiritual groups/communities, but unfortunately all the worldly dhammas, shadow issues, projection, and group dynamics still exist, and sometimes it seems such groups are no more capable of examining and addressing them than most secular/wordly groups and organizations are (sometimes less so). And even worse, most anything can be justified by whatever view (even the most so-called “spiritual” ones) one wishes to use to justify it. Somehow it seems even worse when “spiritual” views/”teachings”/ideology are used… perhaps because there’s an even greater incongruence, and also because it can get much more subtle and thus more difficult to see the actual issues and problems.

And sadly, in these types of conditions within groups, the worst in each other can get unconsciously fostered, not the best… (not to say the latter doesn’t happen as well at times).

Of course most of these dynamics operate individually as well (e.g. areas one wants to protect, difficult things to see or be with in oneself and the subtle ways one can avoid those, places of fear, contraction, defensiveness, blaming, etc). At least they come up in me! In fact, the deeper I look and the more I practice, the more I see how subtle it can be, and also how difficult at times…

Investigating these areas seems like such an important part of the practice… the process of continually examining one’s views, mind-states, intentions and actions (and the effect they have on both oneself and others) on all levels from the most blatant to the most subtle. And not only individually, but also the willingness to address these issues as a group in terms of group dynamics. Takes a lot of courage, reflection, and radically deep honesty…. and wholehearted (and whole-life) practice, doesn’t it?

This video of Ajahn Brahm on Dealing with Difficult People is great. He discusses the problems authority and the intrinsic attitudes that accompany it as well as the setup of monastic and related Buddhist institutions. Well worth watching.

7 comments on “Sex and the Sangha:Update

  1. Temporal authority generally applies to political and material power. In the cases of fiefdoms for example it would include the power of taxation, economics, allocation of assets and decisions on secular matters.

    Someone on Yahoo answers explained it thusly:

    “Temporal authority is the power of the state or nation, not of the church or religion. The church or religion has spiritual authority, unless you live in a theocracy were the religion has political control/power over the state by design.”

    As for what that means in a spiritual community it would seem to indicate absolute authority in everything involving that community, even an infallibility similar to what the old Popes used to enjoy.

  2. Pingback: Tricycle » Eido Shimano Roshi and Dai Bosatsu

  3. It seems to me that the exercise of temporal power, indeed power of any sort, in the spiritual community conflicts with the notion of personal responsibility on the one hand, and with the first precept on the other.

    “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

  4. It is nice to finally see this issue addressed. I have some thought on the issue myself that you can check out here:
    I tried to post it on Tricycle but it would seem that they have had enough open commentary on the issue and closed comments. Not unexpected.

  5. Check ZSS site again, the post you refer to has been modified, since 14 July.

  6. Pingback: Tricycle » Eido Shimano Roshi and Zen Studies Society in the Times

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