Saturday, December 21, 2013

Zen "teacher" scandals, their critics, and the fetishism of the "teacher" of Zen

One reason I'm kind of bored with the Shimano thing is that in looking at the Sweeping Zen stories (they don't seem to stop), I kind of get to wondering what this all has to do with Zen practice, with the practice of most of us who aren't involved in Zen teacher scandals,  and who aren't in any of the sanghas that have been blacklisted.

I mean, yeah, the jokers are still out there, but if you google "genpo," the number 2 suggestion is "genpo roshi affiar."  A similar result holds for "Eido Shimano."   While it's not the sole focus of the Sweeping Zen website by any means,  scandals do seem prominently displayed.  So why the focus, especially when anyone could google a Zen osho these days to find out if there's any dirt on them?

I think it has to do more with issues of attachment than many of the people talking about his would like to admit, and the fact that there are avowed "Zen teachers" in the thick of this leads me to question their credentials,  at least in terms of the root meaning of the word (i.e., what do they have that would give you credence in them).   I'm not talking about Genjo Marinello here, by the way.

This stuff doesn't have to do with the improvement or edification of  my practice, and I suspect it's true for others as well, at least directly. 

I do think for many of the people who are ostenisibly "Zen teachers" who are commenting on this stuff there is a dynamic of the fetishism of the "teacher" of Zen - and this doesn't just express itself as a positive idealization of the "guru," but also  but also as a condemning idealization of the guru.

Let me ask a question: Ethics aside, does anyone think Dennis Merzel or Eido Shimano or Sasaki knows nothing  or has no experience about Zen?  Are they worthy of compassion?  Yeah, don't let them near attractive women students...but then again I wouldn't recommend anyone go near a "teacher" who says things like

Japanese men in power and Western men in power tend to indulge in sexual encounters with subordinates as part of their privileged position. Whether they are US President, congressman, or business man, or spiritual teacher or minister, sexual liaisons seem to be included in male privilege all over the world.

This "teacher," in my view,  raises red flags to me just as much as Shimano or Merzel would.

I happen to be a white male working in an international company in a managerial role; I have had numerous dealings with professionals from pretty much every name electronics company you can think of outside of some industrial applications.   In my experience of about 35 years in the profession, there have been, amongst the thousands of people I've been working with there have been just two cases of sexual indiscretions. One was clearly consensual, and in the other the woman was hardly powerless in the situation.

Companies in the West have good reasons for ethical guidelines they have about these things (less so in Japan, but on the other hand there are other forces at work in Japan that put a lid on this to some extent).  Disturbing the 和 (wa or harmony) of the workplace is very bad for business, and most business people get that.  Even in government, it's the exception rather than the rule.  For every Bill Clinton or Jack Kennedy you've got more than a couple of a Richard Nixons,  Jimmy Carters, and Barack Obamas.   They arguably misuse their power anyway,  but they are generally acting on behalf interests that want power misused that way.

From someone who claims to be a "Zen teacher" who writes the above,  I would question their credentials as a "Zen teacher."   From someone who claims to be a clinical psychologist, I would wonder what kind of professional and ethical criteria relate to someone who makes such generalizations.  I wonder how this attachment to stereotypes of males in power ripples through their practice. 

I realize that my criticism can be applied to myself here, and I wouldn't say I'm completely free of attachments myself,  but then again, I think it does harm to perpetuate a false stereotype, and that ought to be in the "public interest" as much as any "Zen scandal."

I'm done with this post, I've got to take a long shower.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Scandals Schmandals...I've been busy...

I haven't had much time in the past few months to post here; there's been a lot to do at work, so much so that even home life has not been given the attention I should have given to it.

It's not that I haven't had ideas of what to post...for example, the nature of giving and charity, and what that ought to mean from my meager understanding of Buddhism.

For another example, I have thought of posting about holiday blues and family turmoil in light of the Lotus Sutra.

It's been so that I haven't even had much attention to give to the rest of the Buddhist blogosphere, and with the notable exception of Barbara's blog, it looks like the  same old same old.

I think much of the Buddhist blogosphere is overly attached to  the "Zen master scandal" stuff  and there's a kind of inverse guru fetishism implied in it.

And I really don't have time for that,  although I did comment on a post by Gracie Myoan Schireson regarding a review of a book on the Shimano scandal here;  and I stand by those comments.

My own practice has been woefully inadequate of late, or perhaps I'm realizing that it's been woefully inadequate to begin with (and a knee situation hasn't made sitting easy of late, to put it mildly).

It's time for compassion.