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Teacher Sexual misconduct -Eido Tai Shimano, ZSS, and others

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Teacher Sexual misconduct -Eido Tai Shimano, ZSS, and others

Postby genkaku on Wed Nov 11, 2009 1:49 am

I received this article today in email and hesitate to post it for fear that it will just excite a dithering of virtues. But the observations and fears once expressed by Robert Aitken Roshi about Eido Tai Shimano (Roshi), and the latter's predatory sexual adventures with his students strike me as important pointers.

1. However wonderful Zen Buddhism and Zen practice may be -- and I for one would say it is pretty wonderful -- it is important to remember without rancor that there is no real accountability built into the realm. If the teacher is thought of, in one way or another, as an embodiment of the Dharma, then, despite all protestations this way or that, that teacher is as capable of sowing harm as s/he is of sowing kindness. We may all wish until we're blue in the face that in a realm of 'kindness' we will find true kindness. But I am talking about human realities, not the hopefulness and encouragement of precepts. As I say ... consider without rancor. It's just an observation worth making, for my money.

2. The central -- and perhaps only -- lesson any of us might take from arrogant fools is this: "Just don't you do that!"

PS. Mods ... if you find this topic in some way out of line, please feel free to delete it.
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Re: Eido Tai Shimano

Postby Luzdelaluna on Wed Nov 11, 2009 3:03 am

.
Another lesson:
Speak up when asked. Speak honestly and forthrightly.


Thank you Adam.
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Re: Eido Tai Shimano

Postby doormat on Wed Nov 11, 2009 3:14 am

It's an important lesson for anyone, but especially for beginners who are looking for teachers. The introductory workshops at the Rochester Zen Center include a talk on how to select a teacher and what things to look for when a teacher is not acting in the best interest of the student. I hope it's a common lecture at other zen centers - if it isn't, it should be.
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Re: Eido Tai Shimano

Postby christopher::: on Wed Nov 11, 2009 3:55 am

It might also be worth exploring the mythology of Zen, where recognized heirs and teachers are automatically considered wiser and more enlightened then everyone else. The kinds of problems described here seem to arise in any organized social community where a hierarchy of wisdom and authority is assumed, based solely on one's role and position.

Once we have such a hierarchy, and bow to it, we next have to do what we can to defend our group's "image." To make sure the "good name" of your institution/school isn't ruined. Not much different from defending one's ego. In fact they're intimately related- group identity and ego identity.

We have these same kinds of problems in academia. Same mythology as well...

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Re: Eido Tai Shimano

Postby Jundo Cohen on Wed Nov 11, 2009 4:38 am

Hi,

All human beings, from 'Great Bodhisattvas' right on down to the rest of us, are human beings ... and that means rough edges, cracks and ugly spots, flesh, fallings down and flaws. (At least, of course, until we eventually become Perfect Golden Buddhas ... assuming that even those ideals reside anywhere beyond our flawed human imaginations) Human beings are human. That includes Zen and other Buddhist teachers, no less.

What matters most is what we do with those flaws in life, how we live as human beings ... with a bit of grace, ease, non-attachment, wholeness, peace, at-oneness and sincerity, great Compassion and Loving Kindness toward our fellow flawed beings. Practice does not remove all our human rough spots, but it allows a wild and imperfect stone to be imperfect (perfectly imperfect) yet simultaneously material to be polished into a jewel ... so many rough edges made soft and round. The Precepts are a guide for constant moment-to-moment practice in "not falling down". One cannot polish a tile into a Buddha ... but the constant polishing is Buddha.

Yet, despite the roundness and polishing, some rough edges may remain. All human beings have the tendency to fall down from time to time, some more than others.

It is a fallacy to think that Zen priests are ever completely free, during this life, from being human. In any large group of people ... whether Zen priests, other Buddhist, Christian or Jewish priests and clergy of all kinds ... there will always be examples of greed, anger and ignorance. Furthermore, in the lifetime of any one individual ... even among the best of us ... there are sure to be moments of greed, anger and ignorance.

But our Practice does, more often than not, free us from the worst. It makes us better people. (In fact, most clergy I have met ... not just Buddhist clergy, but of all religions ... are good, caring, ethical people, the bad apples aside). Most of the Zen teachers I have met ... especially those with a few years and some maturity under their belt ... tend to be lovely, gentle, well rounded, self-actuated, moderate, compassionate, healthy people - balanced, living life with fullness and well.

What is more, a teacher can be 95% good, wise and decent, a caring and profound minister ... yet have a proclivity in the remaining 5% that is an inner devil. The fact is that being a Buddhist teacher has not allowed many to avoid getting led around by the "little Buddha" in their pants sometimes, getting involved in sex scandals. There have been several modern Buddhist masters with addiction issues, some who ended up in a Betty Ford center. I know more than one who has smoked himself for packs a day into lung cancer.

The question is whether the 95% that embodies Wisdom and Compassion is completely canceled and nullified by the 5% which is an ass and a human fool. Certainly, if the 5% is serious enough (child abuse as seen among some rabbis and priests is certainly an example, as are other acts of violence or truly malicious conduct), I say it does, certainly. (In fact, while recognizing that even the victimizer is too a victim of beginingless greed, anger, ignorance ... toss the worst of them in a cell, and throw away the key!). On the other hand, if what is seen is a relatively minor human weakness or failing ... I say it does not. What is more, it may make the teacher an even greater teacher because of his/her humanity.

In other words, I would rather learn about some things from a fellow weak and fragile human being wrestling, right now, with Mara than from a stone Buddha statue, a Dharma machine, a Flawless Saint (although how many of those long dead saints and ancestors in religious hagiographic story books, their lives cleaned up and dipped in gold and set on a pedestal after their deaths, were truly so flawless during their flesh and blood lives?).

In our Zen practice we taste a realm beyond all desire ... beyond "we" ... a view by which there is nothing lacking, so no base or object for greed ... where all hate, longing and despair evaporate, all swept away in peace and wholeness. There is such Liberation, and it can be known by anyone who follows this Way of Zen.

But so long as we are human beings ... whether an 80 year old man or a child of age 3 ... we must also live in this ordinary realm of flesh and blood, its sometime desire ... a world where "you" and "me" are separate too, where we may feel lack and greed ... subject to anger, longing and times of despair. So long as we are in this world ... so-called "Zen Master" or not ... we cannot escape fully the realm of Samsara (even if, ultimately, there is no other to stumble into, no place we can fall).

All human beings have the tendency to fall down from time to time. I guess it is just a matter of what the person does then ... picking themselves up, recovering balance, getting back on the trail, apologizing and learning from any damage caused. Like any great athlete, the point is not that we never get knocked around, never trip or stumble ... but how we handle the fall (as in the martial arts ... there is no training offered on how to never fall, but endless training on how to fall well). Show me the man or woman who falls down sometimes ... but who demonstrates how to fall well and recover one's footing ... and I will show you a great Zen teacher.

Gassho, J

PS - This is why we cannot neglect the Precepts in this Practice ... which, while recognizing that we may fail to abide by them sometimes, yet point toward harmless, healthful and beneficial actions toward our self and other selfs (not two).
Last edited by Jundo Cohen on Wed Nov 11, 2009 10:55 am, edited 14 times in total.
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Re: Eido Tai Shimano

Postby Carol on Wed Nov 11, 2009 5:00 am

Jundo Cohen wrote:Hi,

All human beings, from 'Great Bodhisattvas' right on down to the rest of us, are human beings ... and that means rough edges, cracks and ugly spots, flesh, fallings down and flaws. (At least, of course, until we eventually become Perfect Golden Buddhas ... assuming that even those ideals reside anywhere beyond our flawed human imaginations) Human beings are human. That includes Zen and other Buddhist teachers, no less.


Thank you, Jundo. Those were my sentiments, too, on reading this. It's a real conundrum for all of us who practice ... eventually our teachers will come off their pedestals and we will see them as human beings. Sometimes the flaws are so serious that something must be done ... sometimes the flaws are so endearing or irritating that our practice is profoundly deepened by them. In all cases, it seems to me that compassion is required. Without that, nothing is learned.

Deep bows,

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Re: Eido Tai Shimano

Postby hungryghost on Wed Nov 11, 2009 5:35 am

Of course I allow any teacher their normal human frailtys and such...I do think that a teacher should not, under any circumstances, have sex with a student. If a non celibate teacher chooses to do this under consensual conditions, the student-teacher relationship should be dissolved. In a case where actual abuse takes place, the teacher should step down. A medical professional who does this is subject to prosecution, yeah? Like a therapist? A spiritual teacher is dealing with peoples minds...keep it in yer freakin pants. There is absolutely no excuse for this kind of thing.
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Re: Eido Tai Shimano

Postby AlasdairGF on Wed Nov 11, 2009 11:32 am

A couple of gut reactions to this - I read the article you linked to a week or so back, but haven't really sat down and had a good think about it yet!

First - I worry that reading about matters like this is mere titillation for me. Like when I found out about the Baker Roshi scandal... my reaction was not one I'm proud of, very much against the spirit of the right speech precepts. So I try to be careful about these. Have held off from getting Shoes Outside the Door, for instance, as I'm not sure enough of my motivations! These are serious & relevant matters of course, so the other side of it is not sticking my head in sand...

Second - the ability to question authority, to demand accountability of our teachers and leaders, what a wonderful gift we cynical moderns/Westerners bring to Buddhism! Can you imagine all the people over the past 800 years who have been in various ways taken advantage of by less-than-scrupulous Zen teachers, monks, nuns, whoever? (The same is true of other religions, in our own culture too, of course). The critical perspective is something we need to nurture and cherish, even if (especially if!) it means we have to abandon some of our romantic ideals about what Zen is. I really recommend that everyone have a look at the 'critical' section of The Zen Site. Question everything!
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Re: Eido Tai Shimano

Postby genkaku on Wed Nov 11, 2009 12:38 pm

Nicely put AlasdairGF. Thank you.

On the one hand, Buddhist bloviations can't staunch bleeding wounds or dissuade us from being curious about 'all the sordid details.' On the other hand, Buddhist encouragements really do make some sense.

On the one hand, common sense and critical thinking make sense. On the other hand, there is a longing to actualize a life that is more sensible, somehow, than common sense and mere critical thinking.

It's a pain in the tail -- or anyway it is for me -- to recognize that I have to square off against such things ... neither burying myself is some pretend 'understanding' nor getting swept up in the particulars .... It all leaves me, as before, staring and often blithering in the goddamned mirror. :)
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Re: Eido Tai Shimano

Postby Jok_Hae on Wed Nov 11, 2009 1:21 pm

Hi all,

There is only one thing that is truly reliable.

There is only one thing that is always there for us.

There is only one thing the teaches us without mistake.


The practice of zazen.


Putting one's practice and indeed, their life, completely in the hands of a teacher is, imo, the most dangerous thing a practitioner of any religion can do, for all the reasons pointed out in the posts above.

Good luck and thanks for practicing,
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Re: Eido Tai Shimano

Postby Luzdelaluna on Wed Nov 11, 2009 2:34 pm

.
Damn, Keith! Excellent post! My thoughts and feelings precisely.
:rbow:

I recently had an experience of the "falling off the pedestal" nature and will not go into details here, but I found it critical and absolutely necessary to confront the person...and confront I did.

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Re: Eido Tai Shimano

Postby Shonin on Wed Nov 11, 2009 2:36 pm

I love a bit of gossip
The Victorious Ones have announced that emptiness is the relinquishing of all views. Those who are possessed of the view of emptiness are said to be incorrigible.
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Re: Eido Tai Shimano

Postby Jok_Hae on Wed Nov 11, 2009 2:48 pm

Luzdelaluna wrote:.
Damn, Keith! Excellent post! My thoughts and feelings precisely.
:rbow:

I recently had an experience of the "falling off the pedestal" nature and will not go into details here, but I found it critical and absolutely necessary to confront the person...and confront I did.

:peace:


Thanks Luz. It sucks when it happens, but teachers cannot possibly live up to the expectations and standards of perfection that we put on them. Ever. Sooner or later we will see a small (or in the case of the subject at hand, a very large) fault here or there that will change our perception. This is why I have always had the opinion that searching for the perfect "style" or teacher of Zen is less important as we sometimes make it. That ideal doesn't exist. But, the practice of Zen Buddhist sitting is impossible to taint. All imho, of course.

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Re: Eido Tai Shimano

Postby Jundo Cohen on Wed Nov 11, 2009 3:04 pm

Jok_Hae wrote:But, the practice of Zen Buddhist sitting is impossible to taint. All imho, of course.

Keith


Although, perhaps, if one constantly places too high and idealistic expectations on sitting too ... putting "Zazen on a pedestal" ... one will also tend to a fall.

Sometimes people begin this practice with dreams and visions of 'what to expect' ... the Golden Buddha at the end of the rainbow ... and thus miss the true beauty of sitting with what is. Thinking that they are "let down" by the Zen experience ... they may miss, in the ups and downs and tumbles, that there is no place to fall.

Is the perfection of Zazen ... and the perfection of all of life ... found right in the imperfection of sitting? Much like looking honestly at our perfectly imperfect teachers.

Just a thought.

Gassho, J
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Re: Eido Tai Shimano

Postby Luzdelaluna on Wed Nov 11, 2009 3:05 pm

Good Lord! I was never searching for perfection in any human being, and anyone who does will continually be let down...talk about creating your own suffering! And the imperfections in a teacher or anyone else for that matter, can deepen one's practice. But how about some plain old common sense behavior and honesty from someone you do seek guidance from? That's not too much to expect. And if they can't be met, or one finds some behavior unacceptable, time to move on. And that's your responsibility to yourself. That's all. (Just keep practicing...regardless)
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Re: Eido Tai Shimano

Postby genkaku on Wed Nov 11, 2009 3:10 pm

I was never searching for perfection in any human being,


Ummmmm ... really? Never sought perfection in yourself, for example? :)
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Re: Eido Tai Shimano

Postby christopher::: on Wed Nov 11, 2009 3:11 pm

Besides living teachers, and sitting, lets not forget that there's also great guidance to be found in the writings of the ancestors, and from conversations with fellow practitioners- aka, sangha. And while it's not "traditionally" considered essential for Zen Buddhism, I think a person's practice can only benefit when one digs a bit into the wisdom of other Buddhist traditions and/or talks with other teachers. The Buddha himself went to many different masters of his time, seeking guidance. He didn't depend upon one single person to teach him, and much of what he learned he discovered on his own, by looking within.

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Re: Eido Tai Shimano

Postby Luzdelaluna on Wed Nov 11, 2009 3:16 pm

genkaku wrote:
I was never searching for perfection in any human being,


Ummmmm ... really? Never sought perfection in yourself, for example? :)


LOL!!! Yes, of course I struggled with that in early years, but I have come to know, love and respect my warts. I just don't need to add someone else's warts that they wont acknowledge.
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Re: Eido Tai Shimano

Postby Christopher on Wed Nov 11, 2009 3:19 pm

christopher::: wrote:lets not forget that there's also great guidance to be found in the writings of the ancestors

It's interesting that you bring this up here, because that's precisely part of "the problem": i.e. that a given teacher can be very eloquent in writing, a brilliant translator or whatever, but still be a skirt-chasing buffoon in the interview room. Real zen practice only shows itself in your reactions to live, unpredicatable situations. It's very easy to write nice stuff.
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Re: Eido Tai Shimano

Postby Jok_Hae on Wed Nov 11, 2009 3:21 pm

Jundo Cohen wrote:
Jok_Hae wrote:But, the practice of Zen Buddhist sitting is impossible to taint. All imho, of course.

Keith


Although, perhaps, if one constantly places too high and idealistic expectations on sitting too ... putting "Zazen on a pedestal" ... one will also tend to a fall.

Sometimes people begin this practice with dreams and visions of 'what to expect' ... the Golden Buddha at the end of the rainbow ... and thus miss the true beauty of sitting with what is. Thinking that they are "let down" by the Zen experience ... they may miss, in the ups and downs and tumbles, that there is no place to fall.

Is the perfection of Zazen ... and the perfection of all of life ... found right in the imperfection of sitting? Much like looking honestly at our perfectly imperfect teachers.

Just a thought.

Gassho, J


Hello Jundo,

Thanks for your reply. If someone sits with visions of what to expect, imho, that is still perfect sitting. The changes that occur while we think we are practicing occur despite our best effort to screw them up. It may take years or even lifetimes (anyone for a throwdown? ;) ) but the train can't be stopped, so to speak. Imperfect sitting is nothing less than perfect. Just my opinion, of course.

Keith
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