Monday, January 06, 2014

Is there a fundamental difference between your teacher and Eido Shimano? And what does that mean for our own conduct?

Beyond, of course whether one should be in a position of authority or not.  At least one of the above should not be, that would be at least the latter should not be.  Of course if your teacher by this point is Eido Shimano, you've got  bigger problems than I can address here; I would suggest an alternative.

That's not my point here, or rather everyone stipulates to the point that these sexual abusers don't belong in a position of authority.

My point is that there may be some people who think that beyond the authority question, there is a fundamental difference between Teacher X (insert your teacher here) and Eido Shimano or Sasaki etc.

Or me. Or you.  If someone's Teacher X says they are fundamentally different from Eido Shimano,  I can't imagine who would have authorized them.  If someone's Teacher X says they are not fundamentally different from Eido Shimano, then what does that say about how we conduct ourselves with regard to the wrongful behavior of Shimano?

Yes, the holding of the precepts applies here.  It takes skill.  Here's something somewhat related to what I'm talking about.  

If in your domain the enemy has hurt you, 
Why should you torture your own mind,
This lies not in the enemy's territory?

Your kind family you left all behind,
Why don't you leave your enemy also, 
and the hate, that brings so much torment?

We truly entertain & play with this gnawing
anger, which brings any good one wish to purify
to sole ruin, complete fiasco and full failure!!!
Can there exist any greater fool, than one in Anger?

When someone has done us wrong,
We fly into hot rage and fierce fury!
But why then do we thus repeat and commit 
the same evil as we just blamed the others?

If somebody while wishing to worry you,
Has done you some wrong and vile thing,
Why do you worry then yourself,
And thereby satisfy his wish?

If you are in rage, and longing for revenge,
whether you return some evil to him or not,
You will evermore torture yourself with the 
pain that always inherently is born of any hate!

If, out of rage and anger, your enemy
Should do you some real wrong & harm,
Why do you imitate his evil behaviour
By growing blind hate in your own mind?

That wrath and hate, through which the foe
Has done you some unpleasant thing,
That inner hate, indeed, you should destroy!
Then how can you worry without any cause?

Since moment after moment all vanishes, 
so too will vanish those five groups and
clusters of clinging that have done you harm!
Who is it then you're angry with?
Nothing is left out there! It is all gone now!

If one person hates another person,
Whom does he hurt most, if not himself!
We are thus the cause of our own pain,
Why then do we hate the others after all?
Source: Visuddhimagga IX,22
The right-wing war-bloggers did not get Osama bin Laden; their blogging was only an outlet for their righteous and unrighteous rage.  It had no effect in regard to making anyone whole after 9/11.  And we lefty bloggers never did get to bring Dick Cheney to justice either.

 I didn't "get" any of the bad "teachers" and in fact that wasn't my intention.  My intention was to point out "that" is not the Buddhism I know about and endeavor to practice (and often make mistakes in practice).

I think my point's obvious: in dealing with these scandals, where's the 功夫? Where's the accomplished skill on the part of those responding to it?   If "naming and shaming" doesn't work for your behavior why would you think it does here?  If war-blogging didn't catch Osama bin Laden why do you think it does here?  Or is the real purpose of the "naming and shaming" to provide an outlet for rage?  To allow the namer and shaker to vicariously participate in an abuser's abuse by allowing them to keep space in one's mind rather than focus on how to extinguish the situation?

I suspect what I've written here might not go over well with many folks, but yeah, Teacher X and righteous blogger, the precepts applies to you if you've taken them, just as they apply to me. 


Chriss Pagani said...

I just addressed this in a comment on a previous post.

There's no higher authority to defrock Zen Masters. The purpose of naming and shaming is to make it impossible for the predatory teachers to continue teaching and acquiring victims. If that hasn't happened yet, then there hasn't been enough naming and shaming.

You know when you've done enough naming and shaming when there are no more victims because no female student will go anywhere near these men. Until then, the job is not done.

No offense, but it seems like you're taking a very male point of view on this: It happened, it's embarrassing to zen, and we need to stop talking about it. Great for the guys! They just don't want to hear about it anymore. But for women, the situation is very different. For women, it will not be enough until predatory zen masters are deprived of their opportunities to offend again.

Oh, on Zen Masters and what that all means: I expanded on this in my other comment. Let me say that I've really started to think that the "enlightenment" thing is bullshit. And perhaps without intention, you solidified that point in another thread.

I don't mean to suggest that there are no enlightened beings, but rather that there are far fewer of them than is claimed. For instance, I would expect the truly enlightened to DEMONSTRATE by their behavior "compassion for all" living beings. As I suggested in the other thread, if you don't demonstrate it, you don't have it.

What I think is going on here is that intellectual knowledge is being called enlightenment. Many people "get" the concept of being one with everything. I get it - very much so. They intellectually grasp a LOT of things! I don't think that's enlightenment, it's just knowledge.

A teacher like Eido knows everything he should know on an intellectual level. He's an expert. His behavior, however, proves that what he knows is not manifested within himself.

It's like: I know a lot about the mechanical operations of cars. Living with a mechanic will do that. I can name all the parts and what they do. Friends are impressed when I say, "Oh, you've got a problem with 'x' and here's what you need to do to fix it." .... But I'm not really a mechanic. I'd be lost trying to fix a car; it's just that I've picked up a lot of information and it's in my head ready to repeat as needed. ...I think that these zen masters are like this. They can talk but they can't do.

These predatory zen teachers are just fooling people into thinking that talking is the same as doing and that if they know every intellectual thing there is to know about enlightenment, they must be enlightened. But a truly enlightened being will demonstrate compassion in his/her behavior. Otherwise, it's all talk. Nothing more.

Mumon K said...

Chriss -

See my comment on the other post for things that are common to your comment here...

I understand the outrage that many feel in response to hearing/experiencing the abuse of authority by these "teachers."

But I would also submit that the best way to deprive predatory "zen masters" of their opportunities to offend also happens to be consonant with our own following of the precepts.

I don't see that happening; what I see instead is that there are folks who are defining zen practice as being "for" or "against" these predatory "zen masters!"

That's not even scratching one's foot through one's shoe, to use a zen saying.

I don't know what your relationship to the precepts is, if any, but as I read it, compassion must be extended to all, and yes predators need to be kept away from those on whom they'd prey.

I don't see how renting space in one's head for outrage accomplishes those objectives.

Chriss Pagani said...

Yeah, rage is not what is needed. What I want is to hang a big sign around these teachers neck that says "Warning, sexual predator - Keep Away" ...They won't wear that sign, though, so publicizing is the next best option. Not a great one but my feeling is that I want to know who these people are so I don't have to learn the hard way. That's what I want for my sisters, too.

It's not a matter of being for or against them. It's about protecting potential victims.

Are you familiar with the Thich Nhat Hanh poem, "Call Me By My True Names"? The preface is what makes it relevant to this discussion:

"I have a poem for you. This poem is about three of us.
The first is a twelve-year-old girl, one of the boat
people crossing the Gulf of Siam. She was raped by a
sea pirate, and after that she threw herself into the
sea. The second person is the sea pirate, who was born
in a remote village in Thailand. And the third person
is me. I was very angry, of course. But I could not take
sides against the sea pirate. If I could have, it would
have been easier, but I couldn't. I realized that if I
had been born in his village and had lived a similar life
- economic, educational, and so on - it is likely that I
would now be that sea pirate. So it is not easy to take
sides. Out of suffering, I wrote this poem. It is called
"Please Call Me by My True Names," because I have many names,
and when you call me by any of them, I have to say, "Yes.""

The poem:
Call Me by My True Names

Do not say that I'll depart tomorrow

because even today I still arrive.

Look deeply: I arrive in every second

to be a bud on a spring branch,

to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,

learning to sing in my new nest,

to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,

to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,

in order to fear and to hope.

The rhythm of my heart is the birth and

death of all that are alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,

and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time

to eat the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,

and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,

feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,

my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,

and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,

who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate,

and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my hands,

and I am the man who has to pay his "debt of blood" to, my people,

dying slowly in a forced labor camp.

My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all walks of life.

My pain if like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,

so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,

so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,

so I can wake up,

and so the door of my heart can be left open,

the door of compassion.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Anonymous said...

>If "naming and shaming" doesn't work for your
>behavior why would you think it does here?

But it does work. It took you from this:

>I've been to the Zen Studies Society in New
>York, and even saw Eido Roshi give Dharma
>talks...and they were about the Dharma!
>I even once had tea with him! And his wife!
>True, I'm male, and never had dokusan with him,
>and wasn't molested by him. But still!

to this:

>everyone stipulates to the point that these
>sexual abusers don't belong in a position
>of authority.

So somewhere between that previous post and your current one, your attitude towards Shimano was indeed moved at least somewhat by the public discourse about him.

And in fact, changes in public discourse are ultimately the root of most social change. The legal remedies you recommend for Shimano's victims didn't appear whole from the clouds- they came from the changing attitudes of legislators, their electorate, lawyers, judges and jury members; i.e. the public. And it's still a very difficult one for victims to carry through precisely because the public discourse hasn't moved far enough to make legal proceedings socially tenable for most victims yet.

The whole "naming and shaming" thing has two very concrete end-goals: 1) to protect potential students by making instances of abusive behaviors easy to find out about. And 2) to make it unacceptable on both a social and practical level for people to engage in those behaviors. "Naming and shaming" may not be accomplishing those goals perfectly, but it's working a heck of a lot better than anything else that was tried previously.

So that's the positive side of "naming and shaming": it's stopping at least some abuse from happening, making at least some victims feel less socially ostracized, and promoting legal action on the part of the victims.

The negative side, which you rightly point out is: anger is damaging, and we are failing to follow the precepts perfectly when we engage in it. And separation between self and other is illusory and we are engaging in harmful action when we entertain the delusion that we are somehow fundamentally different from people (like Shimano) who engage in abusive behavior.

I think you are 100% correct about this. And I really, truly think it's radically and centrally important that we each move as best we can towards being able to see Shimano in our selves. It's a great good that you are able to do that.

But you appear to have been able to do that from the beginning. You had tea with him and his wife, and he had valuable things to say to you about the dharma. You thought we shouldn't judge him too harshly. You thought we should wait and see what the evidence showed.

Now can you hold the "other side" close to your heart as well? Can you see the situation from Adam Tebbe's point of view? From Grace Schireson's? They're angry at Shimano and you're angry at them. And I can't help thinking that, granted holding onto anger is a suboptimal response to life events, the anger at Shimano is both easier to understand and has a better practical cost/benefit ratio. So why should they shut up about their anger and move on but you should not? Why not just attend to your own house? Where is your anger coming from?

Mumon K said...

Chriss -

I've read that; it's kind related to the point to which I was getting. Not having compassion for those we think are "the bad guys" is not only contrary to vows we take but it's also ineffective in reforming "the bad guys."


My statements are not in conflict with each other, as I see it.

My attitude towards Shimano didn't change in response to an internet uproar over him, but in response to his actions.

I see much of what the rest of you're writing here is what might be labeled concern-trolling. I see this because I don't see, based on what I've observed, an openness, but rather conclusions made, and in some cases (e.g. "anger") it can't be justified in terms of what I've written.

You ask, about seeing the situation from Grace Schireson & Adam Tebbe's point of view?

I'd ask, can they?

As for Mr. Tebbe, given what he's written before, I think it's very difficult for him to see the situation. In the immediate case, he's trying to "report" something he's heard rumors from parties which are serving stakeholders in a dispute in confidence.

Wrap your head around that for a minute, precept-wise.

As for Ms. Schireson, the most polite thing I can say is those of us in professions all have to beware of la déformation professionelle, which can blind us to the obvious. I do a lot of communicating across culture and distance in my work, and have had to mediate more than a couple of disputes. My remarks regarding her were not made ex nihilo. When someone writing as both someone who has practiced Zen Buddhism as well as a psychological professional writes statements disparaging a whole class of people, no one of good will or open mind can do other than question this.

As I said on another thread, if she was employed at a large number of companies and communicated things like this regularly, she'd be fired.

Barbara O'Brien said...

Bravo. I have found I can't initiate a dispassionate discussion about the third precept and Zen teachers. If I address the possible psychological and social dynamics that allow these situations to fester without also screaming and calling names I am "making excuses."

IMO the real purpose of the name calling is to create a separation between the holy "me" and the wicked "them." How enlightened is that?

Mumon K said...


Thanks. I can see why your experience would be what it is.

Mumon K said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

> My attitude towards Shimano didn't change
> in response to an internet uproar over him,
> but in response to his actions

Then maybe I misunderstood the first post? Because it looked to me like in that first post you already were aware there had been multiple, well-sourced accusations of abuse against him, but you just hadn't decided for sure that a) they were true and b) they were bad enough that they outweighed the good things about him as a teacher. And then it looked to me like sometime between then and now, more information came out and at some point, that more information reached a tipping point where you changed your mind. In which case, my argument is that maybe anger and outrage aren't a perfect Buddhist response, but they're what got the situation taken care of to the minimal extent it actually has been taken care of.

So it's not the case that your thoughts about Shimano changed because you got more information? I'm not sure I understand what you're saying about it being his behavior that changed how you view him. It seems to me like his behavior has been pretty consistent from start to finish.


As far as the concern-trolling thing: oops, sorry. Insofar as a concern troll is (I think) generally seen as just doing it for kicks and not actually trying to engage; in that regard, I wasn't concern-trolling. I really did want to engage honestly. But as far as tone goes- yeah, maybe that was a little concern-troll-ey. Sorry.

So said more bluntly, my point was this: I think you're right that it would be more ideal if various people attended more to their own sense of alienation from Shimano. But I also think anger is a completely understandable response to abusive behavior, and that in this case, it's gotten some real concrete good done. And I think you telling them to shut up and attend to their anger is hypocritical crap, since you're clearly not attending to your anger either.

So overall, my read is: Tebbe et al are angry and imperfect but also doing an immense service to the American zen community in finally forcing it to clean up the dirty laundry it's been killing itself with for decades. You're angry and imperfect and telling them they should stop. So it ends up feeling to me that despite your stipulation that he shouldn't be in a position of authority, what you're actually doing is defending Shimano. And I'm angry and imperfect too, so that pisses me off.

You know, it's funny. After many years of struggle, I ultimately have come to terms with my inescapable, intimate connection with the Shimano-like person in my own life, who raped me when I was a kid. And consequently I'm not really very angry with Shimano. I think he's massively fucked-up. But we're all massively fucked-up.

But even though I've tried with every ounce of resolve I have, even though I love some of those people dearly, I can't seem to get over my anger at the people whose silence enabled his ruinous behavior. So there you go; when you tell Tebbe et al to attend to their vows and shut up, I read that as you telling me I should attend to my vows and shut up. So that's my contribution- I'm angry, have conflated you with my own situation, and I really do need to attend to my vows too.

But even so- even with my best self- I think you're wrong- tragically wrong- about the shutting up part. Shutting up is what allows this shit to go on for decades unchecked.

Mumon K said...


I have sympathy for your past...

So there you go; when you tell Tebbe et al to attend to their vows and shut up, I read that as you telling me I should attend to my vows and shut up.

I'm not saying that. To practice 功夫 (kung fu, in its most general sense, acting from skillful accomplishment) is not remaining silent.

Please keep trying.

Al said...

I'm not sure why people promote shaming and people like Tebbe scandal mongering instead of getting attorneys and police involved.

You want to stop this? Use the legal system. Shimano and Sasaki both molested enough people for enough years for at least a civil suit (and possibly a criminal one depending on the statute of limitations on their crimes). Then go after the organizations, which are legal corporations holding property, that host and support them. Take a couple of those down and you know that ever incorporated Zen center in the country will take notice and keep that in mind when their teachers potentially act badly.

Mumon K said...


Exactly. In fact, because of agreements made between Eido Shimano and the NY Zen Studies Society, there has been litigation pending, but it probably will whither away - Shimano was owed a pension when he stepped down and lo and behold the Zen Studies society doesn't have a boatload of money.

But you're right. If something's beyond the statute of limitations, well they'd have to show I suppose some ongoing harm, like the Catholic Church.