Sunday, August 22, 2010

Commentary on commentary on the Eido Shimano controversy

I, like so many others, have been following the reverberations of the Eido Shimano affair in the blogosphere.

I've been reading, inter alia, Barbara's Buddhism blog on  As you can see, I made comments on that post, to the effect of 1) Genjo Marinello's obviously been quite conflicted over this, and 2) there's a whole host of other things that happened here, and some of these are quite important.

Barbara's response to myself is somewhat telling:

BTW, I found Genjo Marinello’s dharma talk audio archive — the links work better in iTunes — and listened to the first teisho, on “Neither Mind Nor Buddha.” I thought it was a pretty good teisho on shunyata that also addressed the issue of why teachers screw up. However, what was missing was an admission of the severity of Eido Shimano’s “transgressions,” and there was no acknowledgment of the suffering he caused. I’ve talked to people with first-hand knowledge of the situation who said the young women were genuinely damaged. The sensei made it sound as if Eido Shimano had just stumbled over some quibbling technicality.
 First a bit of a qubbile: Genjo Marinello should at least be referenced as at least "Osho," although he has obtained inka.

Secondly, I mentioned two dharma podcasts from Cho Bo Ji, and to be honest the point of the dharma talk was the subject of the dharma talk, not a place where Cho Bo Ji would explain or ask forgiveness of Eido Shimano's transgressions and ethical lapses.

My point was that this was evidently so present in what Genjo Osho was doing that it evidently crept into his dharma talks!

Then, below an at-least-at-one-time monk Chana writes that a) there are difficulties in American Zen, and b) the Soto sect is in trouble, and c) it has to do with a metastasis of Zen from its original foundations.  Chana illustrates an example from Bankei, who (he says) taught that life provided its own koans and that's why Hui Neng could get enlightened in two shakes of a lamb's tail.  

Now I'd like to first comment on Chana's comment before I get to Barbara, since my comments on Barbara's comments are corollary to my comments on Chana's comment. Chana is partially correct and partially wrong: the emphasis in American Zen on seated meditation alone, is hardly what the masters taught.  That said, I would submit, having read both Bankei and Hakuin that Hakuin wins on points here:  Bankei's Zen is a lazy man's Zen compared to Hakuin's Zen which must be pursued.  Hui Neng might have been enlightened in the time it takes for lightening to flash, but if his life wasn't primed for it it would never have happened.  That is the experience of my life, and so many others.  Finally, Hakuin was a very strong emphasizer of making sure this practice, even as koan practice, carries over into every day life, is practiced moment by moment.

Now to Barbara: her reply misses Chana's point entirely.  Even Dogen I would submit would emphasize mindfulness in the midst of activity.  The stuff on a cushion is only one small part of the whole enchilada. 

And that's  why there's been ethical lapses in the first place! Duh!


Kyle said...

A couple of comments, that are sort of related to this whole thing. Nobody should have to ask for forgivness for Shimano's transgressions except Shimano. His students, and even his lineage succesors, should not have to bare the brunt of the things Shimano did.

That said, there is a valid point, which you point out, to the effect that Zen practice does not end when Zazen ends.

Mumon said...

Thanks Kyle; the idea that I, as someone who has met Eido and Aho Shimano must somehow apologize for his behavior is kind of absurd. That a student should apologize for what the teacher did is less absurd, but it is still absurd. As I've written in the past I have gotten great encouragement from the words of Eido Roshi early in my practice, and his transgressions simply do not nullify them. And vice versa: his expounding of the Dharma cannot compensate for his outrageous behavior. Ditto for Chogyam Trungpa. Or, eventually, myself.

That it took the Board of the Zen Studies Society as long as it did to do something is contained in the article: it had been 15 years or so, the writings were becoming public on the internet, and so the ethics guidelines were produced because it seemed that Eido Roshi's behavior was all in the past. When they found it wasn't they acted according to their own guidelines.

It's unfortunate the way Chana wrote the comment. Perhaps they don't do much PowerPoint in the monastery.

Petteri Sulonen said...

I agree, nobody should ask for forgiveness for Shimano's transgressions except Shimano.

However, those who have enabled him to continue transgressing for several decades should ask forgiveness for that. I do not believe for a moment that nobody knew. People knew. Other people didn't want to know, and actively looked the other way. Yet others eagerly ate up the "it was all in the past" story fed to them by the former.

Nor do I believe that the ZSS acted out of their own initiative, by suddenly discovering that it wasn't all in the past. They acted because the Robert Aitken archive was made public, and there was no way to keep a lid on it anymore. What they're doing now still looks more like damage control than a sincere attempt at finding out what went wrong and where, and then doing what they can to right it. Sorry, but that's how it looks.

Whether any or all of them make a public act of contrition out of it is of secondary importance, although I do think it should sort of follow naturally, if they look inside and acknowledge their own complicity in the process.

And what you, Mumon, should do about this I know even less. Did you know? Did you suspect? Did you close your eyes? Did you look the other way? Did you snap up those comforting narratives without questioning them? Were you silent although you should have spoken? If you answer 'yes' to any of those questions, then, yes, I do think you too have something to answer for – a little, a lot, something in between. You do sound a trifle defensive with these latest posts of yours, which suggests that maybe there is something there that you ought to be looking at. Maybe.

Kyle said...

I agree, what Shimano did, albeit ethically in very poor taste, does not nullify his teachings or the work his students have done.

About what Petteri asks, if their were folks who knew and said nothing, then shame on them. But these stories about his transgressions have been floating around there for a long time. Those who had the power to do something about them, if the knew, should offer an explanation.

But who knows really who knew what and when they knew it?

Mumon said...


I had absolutely, positively no idea this was happening, and did not know any of the people who were harmed.

I attended the Zendo sitting sessions, zazenkai, etc. but to me nothing was out of place.

Of course that's the same thing about the priest in high school who was involved in inappropriate acts boys, too.

Maybe I'm completely obtuse.

Anyway, as I said, I got good teaching from the ZSS.