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

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Re: Sexual misconduct by Buddhist teachers (was Eido Tai Shi

Postby genkaku on Sun Aug 28, 2011 12:38 pm

Below, please find a group of individual letters addressed largely to the leadership of the meeting Aug. 26-28 at Dai Bosatsu. The meeting has been billed as an effort to heal many past and current difficulties at Zen Studies Society in the wake of Eido Shimano's activities. All documents are filed on the public site called the Shimanoarchive.



"OLIVIA'S" LETTER TO SHINGE
An Open Letter To: Shinge Roko Sherry Chayat, Abbot, and Board Members of Zen Studies Society.

From: Olivia

Date: August 22, 2011

I am writing this open letter in anticipation of your August 26-28, 2011 meeting at Dai Bosatsu Zendo. Since I am unable to attend, this letter will serve as my contribution for sharing with the group as solicited in Rev. Shinge Sherry Chayat’s letter to the Zen Studies Society Sangha on August 4, 2011. I received a Dharma name from Eido Shimano and served for some time as Tenzo.

One year and 2 months ago, I came across Robert Aitken Roshi’s blog in which he called out Eido Shimano for the many reports of his abuse of women over a 40 year period. What followed has been a renewed and unprecedented outpouring of public statements. The overall intent has been to help Zen Studies Society disassociate completely from Eido Shimano while empathizing with complex and difficult loyalties. To date this clean and strong separation has not occurred for the benefit of all. As some letters have pointed out, such a separation could even lead to the benefit of Eido Shimano himself.

Largely missing from these public statements are first hand public letters from actual female victims of Eido Shimano. Many female victims have gone to great lengths and personal sacrifice to bring their experiences directly to the attention of the current board and previous boards, but have not gotten the response they hoped for: understanding of their experience and changes in policies that reflect that understanding. Perhaps this is because there remains some confusion about what constitutes a consensual “love affair” as opposed to sexual abuse and intentional deception (psychological abuse). Although I have a right to protect my privacy, as do Sangha members engaging in a healing weekend, I feel a responsibility to myself and others not to continue to hold in secrecy actions that damaged me and others. Until the past is fully acknowledged and the current board has taken fully appropriate actions as indicated by many people, the conditions for real, lasting, and deep healing are not in place.

To the extent that I was not healed enough from abuse prior to meeting Eido Shimano, that complicated my initial inability to say “no” to his sexual advances and run fast and far, I offer my deep apology to the Sangha and greater Zen world for being any part of the anguish and divisions that followed.

I ask that you accept this heart-felt letter and all that it contains (including this introduction) to be read by Rev. Shinge Sherry Chayat, or Rev. Genjo Joe Marinello during this upcoming meeting, and to include it in the minutes of your next board meeting.

While a new resident at Dai Bosatsu Zendo, I was sitting alone in the upstairs library room totally engaged in drawing a copy of a beautiful ceiling to floor Japanese sumi-e brush painting of Jizo Bodhisattva. Eido Shimano came into the room, sat next to me, and told me the very moving story behind the creation of that original brush painting. He then placed his arm around me and kissed me on the lips.
At the time I was young and very vulnerable. At the age of 16 I had been raped and sexually abused by a popular teacher at my high school for a period of one year. When I sought protection and help, the people I spoke with often responded with disbelief or with concern for the reputation of the school. Survival at that time often meant I had to pretend that nothing out of the ordinary was occurring. It wasn’t until I learned that a friend had the same experience with this teacher that we found the mutual validation to reveal the teacher’s abuse to the principal. Nothing changed in part because laws protecting students were not in place or made public as they are today.

When Eido Shimano made his sexual advance, he was aware of my history of being abused. My immediate thought was, “Oh please, not this again”. He told me that he felt he could help me have a “good experience” rather than a traumatic one. All I felt was incredible anxiety. Yet, even while my whole being shrank from him, I was unable to articulate for myself why his sentiment didn’t seem sincere. I had no sexual desire for him and felt sickened by the complications of such a relationship with a prominent Zen teacher and a married man. When I asked about his wife, whom I had never met, he sighed and shook his head, then said she was mentally unwell and living in Japan. When I couldn’t think of any other “reason” to say no to him, something in me froze, and I felt unable to stop him from continuing with his advances.

That night was the first of many sexual meetings over more than a year, always initiated by Eido Shimano. For example, he would signal me in a hallway or during Dokusan he would ask me to come up to his private apartment. While at home visting my parents during a Christmas holiday, he called and asked me to meet him in NYC. He also insisted that I keep these meetings a secret because it could cause him difficulties. Only many years later was I able to understand why I was incapable of rejecting his sexual advances. It was far from a consensual relationship between equals. He exploited the spiritual trust I had placed in him and impeded my own innate ability for healing and personal strength. He exploited my isolation from my family and outside friends, and his knowledge that I had been abused previously. Our relationship was not “healing” for me and the ending was very traumatic. That ending, as well as how I became a resident at DBZ, is a story in itself and too lengthy to include in this letter.

One important issue I have not seen in writings regarding Eido Shimano was the fact that he spread sexually transmitted diseases from his multiple relationships. While a resident at DBZ, I had absolutely no sexual contact with any other person anywhere. Eido Shimano, however, was simultaneously sexually active with at least two other female residents, as I later found out. I became aware of one of these relationships near the end of my stay, and learned about the other woman after leaving DBZ. I now know that it’s possible he had other sexual liaisons as well, with residents, students at the NYC Zendo, or nonresident students. Eido Shimano led me to believe that our relationship was exclusive, though.

During a sesshin I developed symptoms of a sexually transmitted disease. When I told Eido Shimano, he said he was suffering from the same symptoms. I told him that I needed to go home immediately to a doctor who could diagnose and treat it. Eido Shimano gave me a glass jar containing a sample of his urine and asked me to take it to the doctor. He asked me to submit it anonymously because he needed to remain at DBZ to lead sesshin. I thought it highly unlikely that a doctor would test the sample under such circumstances, and I was right.

I found out that I had a fully treatable STD. Eido Shimano later told me that he had also received medical treatment. He said he would never forget the discomfort of that sesshin. However, that experience did not keep him from disregarding the health and safety of other female students – or himself – at that time or in the future. This experience caused me to begin to move toward leaving DBZ. Although I eventually gave my entire story to members of the board (this letter reflects my partial story), nothing was done to remove Eido Shimano for the safety of his female students and their present or future partners. His needs and self interests, and the reputation of Zen Studies Society, continued to be the primary concern of a complicit board, at the cost of common moral integrity, the precepts, and the well being of students. I was fortunate not to have been infected with any other STD, especially a life-threatening one. In 1990, Katy Butler published an article called “Encountering the Shadow in Buddhist America” that describes a community with a sexually promiscuous Abbot who gave AIDS to at least one of his followers.

I am a woman who knows the dynamic and beautiful practice of Zazen. I also had a strong affinity for the natural surroundings of DBZ. I loved the lake, the Buddha across the lake, the Jizo on the hill, the trees growing out of cracks in the rocks, the rain on the roof, and the color of everything. I became Tenzo and loved (most of the time) getting up before the sun to make oatmeal, start new batches of bread, and bring it all out to the tables to serve fellow students. I had wonderful help from the head monk. Most of what I learned about the practice of Zazen and the art of being Tenzo came from this monk. Although for obvious reasons I tended to keep myself apart from other residents, there are memories with Sangha students that I treasure. It was painful to leave all of that behind, as well as the possibilities that I imagined for the place as a whole. Unlike Eido Shimano, I was essentially banished from the monastery. In the aftermath of one of his own scandals, Eido Shimano has written that he “bravely marches on”. Marching on over the lives of women and men he has directly impeded, slandered or thrown aside – with the overall support of the board - is hardly a form of courage.

The practice of Zazen is not in question here. Japanese culture is not in question here. Lineage is not my concern here. What Eido Shimano did was wrong. What the board failed to do to not safeguard the practice for everyone was wrong. The often cited “again and again and again” of covering up or whitewashing the facts caused by Eido Shimano’s destructive actions was wrong. That time and energy could have been used to encourage focus and creativity on a vibrant and life-giving practice that begins the moment we step off the cushion just as much as when we bow to it and begin sitting.
To this day, immense amounts of time and energy are consumed by this focus on Eido Shimano. That energy should belong mostly to supporting and guiding the healthy development of Zen students. Members who have withdrawn from the board of directors (some current members include; Banko Randy Phillips, Genjo Joe Marinello, Seigan Ed Glassing) large numbers of former ZSS students, and scores of Zen teachers have pointed out that Eido Shimano has caused inestimable harm to the Sangha, and to the future of Zen Studies Society. Students like me (and sometimes their families and friends) who were directly harmed have experienced immeasurable loss of potential, community, and even health.

Until Eido Shimano is asked to leave without visitation priviledges, or until he has expressed genuine empathy and remorse – rather than shame at being exposed - to a substantial number of students, ordained monks and nuns, and heirs; a voting membership becomes a reality; and plans for restitution to injured parties in a restorative justice program are in place, students will continue to have to replay the wheel of sorting out what Zen Studies Society has yet to accomplish despite the leadership’s long-standing responsibility to act.

The word “victim” indicates real injury, but not a real identity. My identity comes from something that is irrepressible and unsullied. It opens unexpectedly, such as on a walk by the ocean or sharing time with a beloved while both are free of agendas. This is what causes me to feel awe and joy. Whatever that aliveness is that can re-emerge as constant and true despite what many of us have been through is what I bow to, and I bow to it in you.

In a recent online Dharma talk given by Norman Fischer called "When You Greet Me, I Bow", he eloquently summarizes the relational space between a Zen teacher of old and his student ... “ simply being together with warm-hearted kindness, dropping storylines, and appreciating each other’s profound human presence is the whole of teaching."

If it is trust in this grace and life-affirming power of the Dharma that you wish to wholeheartedly uphold, rather than the flounderings of an institution, and you believe Eido Shimano has important work to do to recognize and make amends for his past harmful actions, then I truly believe that such a refuge will naturally unfold toward the benefit of all.

Olivia

(This pseudonym is for privacy to allow my own life to unfold without further trauma from either Eido Shimano or Zen Studies Society. It is not secrecy. At some point I may be willing to use my real name but until then I ask that you respect my anonymity. Relevant people know who I am. Some of my present activities include being clerk for a Committee on Peace and Social Concerns within the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting - Quaker)
**************************************************

SHINGE'S RESPONSE TO "OLIVIA'S" LETTER:
http://www.shimanoarchive.com/PDFs/2011 ... Olivia.pdf

Dear "Olivia,"

I am beyond saddened by your devastating account, which is so courageous and clear, so profound in its insights.

Be assured that I will read it aloud this weekend, although I can't promise to read it without sobbing; that I am listening acutely to what you say, and that my heart is pierced by it.

You are right, the complex and difficult loyalties have not allowed a clean and strong separation. I hear you.

Thank you, dear Sister.

Gassho,
Shinge

*************************************************

"OLIVIA'S" RESPONSE TO SHINGE:
http://www.shimanoarchive.com/PDFs/2011 ... Chayat.pdf

Dear Shinge,


Thank you for your simple and touching words and your willingness to read my letter.

I look forward, as do many people, to seeing important changes that reflect your expressed sentiments.

I am beyond saddened when I hear the accounts of other women (and men) who have also been victimized. I am infuriated, and hope to act, wisely. I don't believe it is tears we need as much as direct and affirmative action.

Gassho,

“Olivia”


____________________________________________________________
DAI AN'S LETTER TO SHINGE

http://www.shimanoarchive.com/PDFs/2201 ... Chayat.pdf

August 25, 2011
Shinge Roshi
c/o An Olive Branch

Dear Shinge Roshi:

I write in response to your recent announcements inviting those of us who have been a part of the Zen Studies Society and associated sanghas to provide input for your discussion on August 26-28.

Since I have been unable to return to the Zen Center of Syracuse after learning of Eido Shimano's long history of misconduct, and because I am not a direct victim of his abuse, I am not entirely certain whether my input is invited or relevant. One might ask, how is it my place to comment on these matters? After much thought, I have concluded that as a survivor myself, and as a long-time legal advocate for the abused,

"I cannot sit idly by in [Syracuse] and not be concerned about what happens in [ Dai Bosatsu Zendo]. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."

--Martin Luther King, Jr.


Given the courage shown by people such as Kobutsu, Genkaku, Genjo Osho , "Olivia" and our own brother Kensei, how can I remain silent? I am here. Injustice is here. So, I must speak in solidarity with those who have been harmed directly by Eido Shimano, as well as with those who have been shunned for speaking out against the grossly inadequate leadership response to his misconduct.

As you will recall, the specifics behind my leaving the ZCS, given its continuing association with Eido Shimano, are described in my January 5, 2011 letters to you and to the Zen Center of Syracuse Board of Trustees. In response to my letters, I did receive an apology, but was asked to keep it private while the Zen Studies Society Board of Trustees completed its difficult deliberations concerning Eido Roshi. I did honor that request. But in all of these months since then, that same apology has never been extended to those directly harmed by Eido Shimano. Furthermore, it appears that Shimano has been allowed to retire "with honor", and continues to be allowed access to and influence over the Zen Studies Society and its affiliates. Since these concerns have not been addressed, I believe that the risk of further harm to unsuspecting vulnerable people continues to be great.

Through all of this, I experienced a tremendous loss from not being able to return to the Zen Center of Syracuse. Like Dai Bosatsu Zendo, it is a very beautiful place in its own special way, and I have missed it. I spent many happy moments sitting there with the sangha. I was invited in, trusting in explicit assurances that my vulnerabilities and sensitivities as a survivor and advocate were understood and respected. I felt that I had at last found a safe haven. It was therefore the last place where I expected to find that its guiding teacher is a sexual predator. The continuation by the ZCS of its relationship with Shimano felt like a denial of the kind of suffering caused by him and those like him.
While in a state of shock after learning of Eido Shimano's history and the ZCS' continuing relationship with him, I knew that I could not stay at the Zen Center of Syracuse. One Sunday in the Spring on 2010, I entered the zendo, removed my robe and rokasu from their "special hanger" (an inside joke) and put them on for service one last time. I chanted my heart out , while catching glimpses of my beloved sangha. After the chanting had ended, I left the zendo along with my Dharma brothers and sisters , and then walked slowly down the driveway and across the street to my car. I sat there and watched as the zendo filled again and the door was closed shut for zazen (crying my eyes out). I never have been able to return, and it has taken a long time to find adequate words to express how the ripple of Shimano's unchecked misconduct effected me.

Alhough I believe it is too late for me for me too return (my practice has now taken a different path ), I do hope that the Zen Studies Society and the Zen Center of Syracuse will be able to take the steps needed to become places where people like me can feel safe and supported. To accomplish this, I believe that the Zen Studies Society and the Zen Center of Syracuse need to completely disassociate themselves from Eido Shimano and also take the following steps:

Those who ZSS and ZCS would take on as students should be affirmatively and completely advised of the history of the "Shimano lineage", especially the misconduct of Eido Shimano;

All survivors of Eido Shimano's misconduct, including those harmed directly and indirectly, should be given a safe and appropriate opportunity to be heard by a completely neutral body, outside of Zen Studies Society premises. Then, at the very least, they should receive a detailed written apology from both Eido Shimano and those in leadership who disregarded the possibility that that his harmful behavior might continue;

Those heirs who would continue to teach should themselves refresh their training under another teacher; and

Eido Shimano's honorific as "Retiring Abbott"; his retirement package in lieu of compensation for his victims; and his presence and influence at the ZSS and its affiliates should all come completely and abruptly to an end.

Please receive my best wishes for a meaningful discussion that will lead to real action to benefit those who have been harmed by Eido Shimano.

Let True Dharma Continue!

DaiAn


______________________________________________

A LETTER FROM SEIGAN ED GLASSING

http://www.shimanoarchive.com/PDFs/2011 ... ing_OB.pdf

August 26, 2011

A letter from Seigan Ed Glassing to The Olive Branch Facilitators to be read during an open circle.

Please do not make the same mistake that I made. I started practicing with Eido Shimano in 1985 and despite hearing rumors that he slept with his students; I didn’t really want to believe that. I wholeheartedly trusted in my teacher, and whatever he did; whatever he said was a “teaching”. When the first scandal occurred (that I experienced in 1993) although many Sangha members left, I stayed. I was a loyal monk, I was not going to quit and I was not going to judge him. I felt that it really wasn’t such a big deal after all, whoever he had slept with was an adult too and capable of making decisions for herself. I scoffed at people, who seemed puritanical and snobbish, I learned elitism, I learned arrogance, I learned self-righteousness and I learned how to separate and compartmentalize. Perhaps you think, “Well, what’s done is done, now lets move on.” Or maybe “I owe Eido Shimano my life and I am grateful to him no matter what.” To those who think this I would ask you to think. I ask you to be curious, to ask questions, to stand up to what you believe in. Study the history of the organization, read books such as “Sex and the Spiritual Teacher” and “Spiritual Bypassing”. Please don’t make the mistake that I did thinking that Zazen is all you need. Please don’t keep your head in the sand of the Absolute; thinking that everything is OK when it is not. I enabled this kind of thought. Now I see things in a different way.

The Teacher/Student was breeched repeatedly not just once…but for decades. Do not forget this. Many, many people suffered Sexual, Emotional, and Psychological abuse stemming from the actions of Eido Shimano. There was a culture of blindness regarding “the Teacher”. I want it known in this meeting that there was definitely an effort on the part of some Board members, and Senior Students to diminish the gravity of the abuse, to sweep it under the rug and to protect Shimano after the scandal broke. This is why I left. I could not be part of an organization that talked about Compassion, Truth and Wisdom and yet so unwilling to actually face the Truth, be Compassionate and wake up to the Wisdom of reality.
Part of the problem is an over attachment to the “Teacher”. I see the same over attachment happening again with Shinge Roshi. Given the best of intentions, the ZSS became over the years cult-like in its worship of Shimano and good people have come to believe in the myths and stories told to them for decades. Stop it, stop the manipulation, deceit and pathology.

I offer a few suggestions to those who want the Society to heal and move forward- take them or leave them.

• I want it to be known that in order to heal Trust must be restored. For this to happen the entire organization must acknowledge over and over again (NOT JUST ONCE) the terrible pain that was inflicted on women by both Eido Shimano and the cover-ups by past Boards. I want them to admit that there were repeated ethical breeches between Teacher and Student and that this caused great suffering. Face it, admit it, acknowledge it and don’t ever get tired of saying it. Have it become a part of the mandala.
• A clear and direct Apology to the victims who suffered is warranted and this should be announced to the larger Buddhist community on the web in publications and in tesiho. This apology should be a permanent feature to the ZSS website.
• Reaching out to the abused should be priority.
• A healing and reconciliation meeting like this should be held again and again.
• A Ceremony held each year to acknowledge the pain, reflect, confess, purify and heal through ritual and spirituality the shadow history of the ZSS. Learn what “Fusatsu” is and incorporate into the practice.
• Many who left the ZSS are written out of history and/or attacked. I want this to stop, there are more people who left the organization throughout the years then there are people who stayed behind. None of them deserve to be character assassinated.
• I want the structure of the organization to be completely rebuilt from the bottom upward. I want the bylaws rewritten. I want a democratically elected Board.
• I want a separation of powers so that the new Abbot concentrates solely on the Spiritual teaching of students. The Abbot should not be the Chairman of the Board or associated with the ZSS Board or have voting powers.
• I want the Dharma Heirs to rotate as they do at San Francisco Zen Center.
• Finally, I want the ZSS to make a clean and final break with Eido Shimano disavowing any kind of teaching or visits by him in the future. He is history; don’t rewrite it with golden myths, flowery lies and hero worship. Be honest enough and have the courage enough to see things and him as they are.




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Re: Sexual misconduct by Buddhist teachers (was Eido Tai Shi

Postby christopher::: on Sun Aug 28, 2011 2:38 pm

Thanks so much for posting these, genkaku. Some of the clearest and most direct letters shared here, so far, especially Oliva's story. (Letters linked to by Genjo's post as well). I hope these messages will be welcomed and really heard in a great many people's hearts. Like the story of the professor who's tea cup overflowed, we each have to first empty our minds of illusions and preconceptions in order to fully receive.

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Re: Sexual misconduct by Buddhist teachers (was Eido Tai Shi

Postby Genjo on Sun Aug 28, 2011 3:00 pm

christopher::: wrote:Thanks so much for posting these, genkaku. Some of the clearest and most direct letters shared here, so far, especially Oliva's story. ...


Yes, I agree completely. I am so thankful to each of the writers, and hope that these letters were not only read at the meeting held this weekend at DBZ, but well received for the gems that they are.

Genjo
Abbot of Dai Bai Zan Cho Bo Zen Ji (Chobo-Ji) temple, Seattle, USA; psychotherapist and certificated spiritual director.

http://www.choboji.org
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Re: Sexual misconduct by Buddhist teachers (was Eido Tai Shi

Postby Bob Skank on Sun Aug 28, 2011 4:22 pm

Gassho, Shusan, and thank you, Genjo and Genkako! Information and knowledge and diverse points of view are very helpful to me! The article by Katy Butler, "Encountering the Shadow in Buddhist America," cited by Olivia, was especially helpful in my effort to get a reasonable perspective on the conduct that troubled the sanghas of Chogyam Trungpa, Osel Tendzin, and Richard Baker. http://www.katybutler.com/publications/ ... istusa.htm It would have been helpful to me, too, personally, perhaps, if some teachers and students from the few zen temples with which I was at all familiar had earlier in my temple practice been more forthcoming and candid about their past personal relationships. But I now understand that these relationships were no secret to some in the sangha, though they were unknown to me, and that I cannot expect people ceaselessly, like the Ancient Mariner, to tell others their tales. I know also from my own personal life experience how difficult it can be to skillfully negotiate sexual desire. Thanks to the work of Stuart Lachs, Brian Victoria, and writers in the movement known as Critical Buddhism, I am gradually and gratefully coming to understand how the tradition of zen myth, zen legend, transmission, priesthood, authority, submission, obedience, secrecy, nonthinking, and the repudiation of logic and reason can in some instances cause more confusion and darkness than light. In my case, when I questioned what appeared to me to be verbal abuse, I or my opinions were mocked and ridiculed and called "bullshit," "stupid," "dishonest," "denial," "chickenshit," "gossip," and "avoidance"; later when, as respectfully and as honestly as I could, I told others in speech and in writing of my confusion, I was expelled from the temple and, at a meeting of the board I was forbidden to attend, I was accused of "triangulation" and of "violating the precepts." When family and friends asked me what happened and, as best I could, I explained, others said that I was "malicious," a "badmouth," a "gossip," a "phony," and that in my "weaseliness" I was "falsifying" facts and circumstances. Even now, because I tell my story, people call me "aggressive" and "hostile" and say that it is obvious that I have "an axe to grind." Jesus Christ! I have practiced the buddhadharma for thirty-six years. It is exhausting! All my past and harmful karma I fully avow. May all beings embody the great way.

Bob
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Re: Sexual misconduct by Buddhist teachers (was Eido Tai Shi

Postby 1handclapping on Mon Aug 29, 2011 4:26 am

Bob Skank wrote:
Does the fact that Shimano was these women's zen priest and zen teacher make his misconduct more heinous than it would have been had he not been their zen teacher and a priest?

I apologize if I seem to be splitting hairs here, Shusan. I appreciate your patience with me.

Some of the Critical Buddhists have suggested that an emphasis on authority, submission, and obedience in relations between zen priest and zen student can make the relationship like that between parent and child.


Absolutely, the misconduct is more heinous if a violation of trust and a position of authority are involved, than when misconduct occurs between peers. Posing this question is not at all "splitting hairs", it's hitting the nail on the head. :Thumb:

Clergy are required to maintain professional boundaries with their congregants, precisely because of the trust placed in them. This trust opens the congregants up to a certain level of vulnerability even if a childhood history of abuse or other emotional neediness is not present, which unfortunately in many cases it is. And in the Mahayana traditions, in addition to mere trust, there is further the aspect of submission and obedience to the teacher. As if that weren't enough, added to that risky mix is the commonly-held belief that the teacher operates from a higher level of understanding, and spiritual attainment and vision than the disciples, and therefore is above "mundane" morality, meaning what appears to be abuse or misconduct may be "skillful means". This is a potential powderkeg.

Due to the power differential between clergy and congregants, and the trust and vulnerability factors, US law holds the principle of "fiduciary trust", which applies to clergy and spiritual counselors. Breach of fiduciary trust was one of the charges upon which Sogyal Rinpoche was brought to trial in the 1990's. Certainly some of the cases I've read about on this thread could have been taken to court (and not merely on fiduciary trust, but on assault grounds), and I would think that sangha boards and other oversight organizations could also be held liable for negligence if they fail to remove a clergy member who has repeatedly harmed disciples. Has their potential liability not occurred to anyone in authority?

Someone here mentioned that Eido Shimano showed a clear pattern of targeting the youngest and most psychologically vulnerable members of the sangha. That is the behavior of a sexual predator. The fact that this behavior was clearly present and recognized, but not remedied, is chilling. Unfortunately, I'm afraid it is more common that some would like to think, throughout the Mahayana tradition, which raises the question: what to do about it?

Ikko_Ikkoku makes an important point in comments about sangha members and board members too enthralled with the teacher to take action or even to perceive there is a problem. In such environments, one can enact all the stringent behavior rules for teachers one wants, but nothing will come of it if those in authority turn a blind eye, and furthermore, shun the few who might speak up. I don't see a solution to this, except:

1) Enacting a widespread education campaign to inform disciples, would-be disciples and aspiring board members of the potential risks inherent in the disciple-teacher relationship (some books were recommended earlier here, websites could be set up, etc.), so as to introduce more clarity to the community, and

2) Consider retiring the concept of the teacher as an enlightened master worthy of blind trust, submission and obedience. Isn't this one factor that enables the type of problem we're discussing? Don't teachers need to earn our respect and trust, by demonstrating their commitment to the principles they preach? Has the practice of submitting to a teacher as an unquestioned and unquestionable authority and even a quasi-deity become for us, with good reason, an anachronism? These are only partial remedies to the problem, but through discussions such as this, hopefully a more comprehensive solution can be found and implemented.

I think a strong awareness-raising campaign throughout the Buddhist community is needed on this issue. It's wonderful to see the issue discussed openly and calmly here, but this is an extremely exceptional occurrence, in my observation.
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Re: Sexual misconduct by Buddhist teachers (was Eido Tai Shi

Postby Bob Skank on Mon Aug 29, 2011 4:42 am

1handclapping wrote: Consider retiring the concept of the teacher as an enlightened master worthy of blind trust, submission and obedience.

Isn't this one factor that enables the type of problem we're discussing?

Don't teachers need to earn our respect and trust, by demonstrating their commitment to the principles they preach?

Has the practice of submitting to a teacher as an unquestioned and unquestionable authority and even a quasi-deity become for us, with good reason, an anachronism?

....It's wonderful to see the issue discussed openly and calmly here, but this is an extremely exceptional occurrence, in my observation.


Thank you, Clapping Hand! Yes, yes, and yes. My hand is clapping!

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Re: Sexual misconduct by Buddhist teachers (was Eido Tai Shi

Postby genkaku on Tue Aug 30, 2011 12:43 am

If anyone can provide a description of the Aug. 26-28 meeting at Dai Bosatsu, it might help shed some light on the direction Zen Studies Society plans to take. How many people attended? Who attended? Who did not attend? What was the format? What happened? What conclusions, if any, were reached?

Thank you.
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Re: Sexual misconduct by Buddhist teachers (was Eido Tai Shi

Postby 1handclapping on Tue Aug 30, 2011 5:27 am

I second genkaku's motion: could someone give us a report? How are members of the ZSS board selected?
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Re: Sexual misconduct by Buddhist teachers (was Eido Tai Shi

Postby Genjo on Tue Aug 30, 2011 4:09 pm

1handclapping wrote:I second genkaku's motion: could someone give us a report [of the Aug. 26-28 meeting at Dai Bosatsu] ? How are members of the ZSS board selected?


As for how ZSS Board members are selected: They are usually nominated by the abbot and occasionally nominated by a current board member. Board members serve a three year term and are usually consecutively re-elected, there are no term limits. In my mind, this system ends up placing too much power in one person, and as I see it how board members are selected should become much more democratic, but there is still some resistance within the board to this idea.

As for the Aug. 26-28th meeting, I was turned back by Hurricane Irene and was not able to attend, but this is what I've heard: There 30-40 people in attendance. Three were facilitators from An-Olive-Branch (see: http://www.an-olive-branch.org/about). About a half-dozen people in attendance were staunch Eido Roshi supporters, and objected to the idea that any "intervention" was made against Eido Roshi in this last year, and also objected to the idea there had been any "sexual misconduct" by Eido Roshi. It was also reported that evidently one ZSS Board member's car was vandalized because of his support of restrictions on Eido Roshi being on ZSS property. A collection was taken up to repair the damage. Friday was mostly taken up with a ZSS Board meeting (it is my understanding only 4 board members were present) and small meetings with facilitators so they got a good idea of the range of opinions held by those present. Saturday was taken up with presenting a time line of ZSS history, and examining significant dates with those present. Then the main event on Saturday was an "adapted Samoan Circle" (see: http://www.daibosatsu.org/pdf/ZSSMediation_Site.pdf) where the idea was that everyone would have a chance to be heard. I believe it was during this time that 10 letters received by people who were either not able or did not feel safe to attend were read to all present, including the three posted above by Genkaku. All letters basically insisted that complete separation from Eido Roshi was necessary for any healing to be possible at ZSS.

Sunday was devoted to expressing what steps would be needed to allow for a healthy future at ZSS. It appears that the minority was as stubborn as ever, but that the majority urged that further separation from Eido Roshi was necessary, and that bylaw reform was necessary to ensure a more democratic board. Participants also advocated that further steps be taken to reach out to those who were taken advantage of, manipulated or abused, and that ZSS issue to an organizational apology (but there was board resistance to an organizational apology because of legal issues). How accurate is this account? I don't know for sure because unfortunately I wasn't there.

What the ZSS Board will do with this split in the sangha and how they respond to the majority remains to be seen.

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Re: Sexual misconduct by Buddhist teachers (was Eido Tai Shi

Postby Pedestrian on Tue Aug 30, 2011 4:57 pm

Thanks for that update, Genjo. This board situation evokes of a lot of badly structured and poorly functioning boards that I've seen over the decades. By-law reform is a crucial step, as would be some strategic planning with an organization used to working with NP boards.

One exercise that many boards perform is to create a matrix of the skills, competencies, and professional expertise the board needs to execute its stated roles and responsibilities. Current board members self-identify their areas of expertise, leaving a clear set of characteristics that a board development committee can then use for proactive, appropriate ethical recruitment. The classic example is finance: most boards are chock-a-block full of people who get the raison d'etre of the organization but have no clue about quarterly reports, debt management, and so on.

It's a great exercise, since virtually every board can identify areas that would truly improve their collective work with ease. It's also a way to avoid the sort of interest blocs that can derail the actual function of a board, but it avoids getting personal with individual members about their voting records or what have you.

Finally, and obviously, a successful strategic process produces a board with the resources to do the work it is charged to do. For those of us who serve on NP boards, it indicates that the board is self-reflective about what it is and does -- a basic requirement for most competent volunteers to serve as directors. In situations such as this, where serious past problems must be addressed and organizations must be remade, boards that enabled or sat idly by often lack precisely those with the skills needed to move the board forward.

One last comment from someone new to this scene on the outside looking in. I'm struck by the high level of interest and commitment the greater Zen and Buddhist community has in working out these complex organizational and governance issues at ZSS, among those intimately (and often troublingly) connected to ZSS and those who care only about the broader Zen sangha. That significant interest and commitment suggests that ZSS has an opportunity to do something quite remarkable -- remarkably difficult, yes, but also remarkably important. Indeed, as an organization committed to a practice that embraces being in this moment, here and now, in all its complexity, ZSS could demonstrate profound leadership that would resonate throughout that broader sangha, particularly in the West.

[edited to clarify two sentences -- CA]
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Re: Sexual misconduct by Buddhist teachers (was Eido Tai Shi

Postby Carol on Tue Aug 30, 2011 5:15 pm

Really good advice, Pedestrian. I too have seen major dysfunction on non-profit boards I have served on myself. Solving the problem through democratic election of board members didn't work very well when we tried it with one (non-Buddhist) nonprofit board because it became a "popularity contest" where the range of skills needed on the board wasn't necessarily the criteria used by the voters. We have had a 10-year dysfunction resulting from electing our boards! But we had a 15-year dysfunction before we rewrote the bylaws to require elections because the previous boards were very out of touch with the needs of the membership.

However, in the context of a Zen Center, I do believe the board must be elected ... at least most of them, with some options for adding board members with needed skills. An Abbot-appointed board is a dangerous entity ... it's very difficult to hold an Abbot (or head teacher or founder) acccountable as it is ... but with his/her hand-picked board, perhaps nearly impossible.

Watching the developments at ZSS over the past year, I have been impressed that the board has moved as far as it has so far. Wrenching, I'm sure. I hope the board was sufficiently impressed by the large number of Sangha members who want complete separation from Eido Shimano. I've seen it before, where a cadre of loyalists was able to protect a Zen teacher from any and all challenges ... but this is SUCH AN EXTREME CASE. I just don't see how half a dozen people can be allowed to control this decision. Some people may have to leave if they cannot accept what must be done. Sometimes you just cannot get unanimous agreement, and must take strong steps anyway.
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Re: Sexual misconduct by Buddhist teachers (was Eido Tai Shi

Postby Nonin on Tue Aug 30, 2011 7:20 pm

I agree, Carol, that a lot of necessary steps have been taken at ZSS, and I also agree that many more steps need to be taken. That the transgressions by Eido Shimano occurred over such a long period of time without any organizational correction is indicative of major structural and ethical flaws in the organization, an appointed board, secrecy, and cover-up being three of the worst.

Whether ZSS is able to right itself and change its by-laws to include things like an elected board remains to be seen. The ethical gravitas of the organization also needs to be changed and their current Ethics Statement needs major revision and expansion. Most importantly, taking institutional responsibility for the wounding of so many women over the years needs to be at the forefront of the healing process.

I know Roko Sherry Chayat (Shinge-roshi), ZSS's current abbot, fairly well, and I trust that she knows what needs to be done to steer the organization on the right track. Whether she and others will be able to do this in the face of opposition both from within and without remains to be seen. I hope so, but right now the organization is so severely wounded that its recovery is not a given.

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Re: Sexual misconduct by Buddhist teachers (was Eido Tai Shi

Postby Pedestrian on Tue Aug 30, 2011 7:44 pm

Elected NP boards are pretty common, particularly after an organization has been up and running for a while and gets past charismatic leadership structures to the second or third by-law iteration with a board of actual directors. At that stage, in my experience, the distinction of elected and appointed is pretty much moot, since only those boards that elect or appoint with unanimous support function effectively anyway. How they got there is less important than whether they truly share a sense responsibility to the organization and community, defined explicitly with coherent statements of mission, purpose, and principle that guide their action.

Of course, if some directors believe that the organization's interests coincide exactly with one individual's interests, or if some directors prioritize a small segment of that community at the expense of the broader community interest... it's hard to see a way forward....
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Re: Sexual misconduct by Buddhist teachers (was Eido Tai Shi

Postby Shusan on Wed Aug 31, 2011 12:32 am

again, I find the hypothetical discussions about general organizational practices interesting, but overlooking in some key ways the distinguishing marks of this situation. It seems like so much whistling past the graveyard.

I think even more important than the similarities with other not-for-profit orgs are the differences for a Zen community. Especially this Zen community.

time will tell. I can't imagine with everything that's now known that ZSS will be able to attract any kind of vital new membership. If a new teacher isn't going to be brought in from completely outside the profoundly dysfunctional and highly suspect community that Shimano built around himself with zero peer oversight (save the periodic issuing of calls for him to step down), well, as I say, who with the sense of a billy goat would pick ZSS over another organization? I don't know the numbers, but it seems like there are some expensive properties and other financial commitments - these seem like not only giant drags on an organization, but obstacles to more radical and healing treatment of what ails this community.

I don't know what kind of endowment is currently supporting all this, but I doubt membership dues or donations at this time are even making a dent - they surely must have trickled to virtually nothing. And how is it all going to survive until a whole new community can be generated to support the structure - full of people that don't care about the history? That'll take years, IF everything continually goes right - and so far nothing has. Can the ZSS exist without dues or donations for a year? Two? Five? This is part of what is so weird about the ZSS - there was a huge endowment thrown at this charismatic Asian guy who built a cult around himself populated by (sympathetically) ignorant Americans, a rotating cast of whom decided that as long as it didn't happen to them or "he's stopped now", he could do what he wanted and they could live the dream. Though i don't doubt the good intentions of most, or that real practice occurred.

There wasn't the normal grass-roots, "a few students are attracted to a teacher and build a community together" kind of thing, with organically grown checks and balances. Or a teacher who simply had and ethical lapse or two along the way. Shimano attracted people with flash and flourish and a questionable charisma, plus a whole lot of fancy Japanese exotica bought with someone else's dime (someone who lived to regret it). Meanwhile he pathologically stalked and sexually molested dozens of women, continually cheated on his wife, lied, manipulated others to lie, on and on, year after year. He wasn't "good" and then went "bad". He was a hot mess from the get go. Now his balloon has gone poof, and you have a crippled, imploding org. stuck with a pretty, expensive, hollow shell.

Me, I'd bag it, get therapy, and find another teacher not trained by Shimano. Hopefully with some beat prefab zendo, in a trailer maybe, with a neon-pink plastic Buddha from Hong Kong...
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Re: Sexual misconduct by Buddhist teachers (was Eido Tai Shi

Postby Genjo on Wed Aug 31, 2011 1:05 am

Nonin wrote:I agree, Carol, that a lot of necessary steps have been taken at ZSS, and I also agree that many more steps need to be taken. ...

Whether ZSS is able to right itself and change its by-laws to include things like an elected board remains to be seen. The ethical gravitas of the organization also needs to be changed and their current Ethics Statement needs major revision and expansion. Most importantly, taking institutional responsibility for the wounding of so many women over the years needs to be at the forefront of the healing process. ...


I couldn't agree more with all these points, especially the need for a more democratically selected and independent board, and most of all the need for the institution to reach out to those harmed with an organizational apology. In my mind these steps are absolutely essential. Regarding the needed organizational apology, the ZSS Board should not hide behind any legal liability fears. As the Faith Trust Institute told us, it has been demonstrated that sincere open apologies diminish the likelihood of civil suits. The ZSS board revamped their Ethical Guidelines in June of 2010, but given what the organization has been through, it should be very clear to all spiritual communities who are aware of the plight of ZSS, that every group should review and probably strengthen their ethical guidelines to insure that for serious accusations there is a truly independent form of investigation and determination of consequences.

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Re: Sexual misconduct by Buddhist teachers (was Eido Tai Shi

Postby goddess on Wed Aug 31, 2011 8:54 am

The apology idea sounds perfect to me. Apology is like a vacuum cleaner that sucks trauma out of the world.
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Re: Sexual misconduct by Buddhist teachers (was Eido Tai Shi

Postby christopher::: on Wed Aug 31, 2011 10:24 am

Shusan wrote:
again, I find the hypothetical discussions about general organizational practices interesting, but overlooking in some key ways the distinguishing marks of this situation. It seems like so much whistling past the graveyard.

I think even more important than the similarities with other not-for-profit orgs are the differences for a Zen community. Especially this Zen community.

time will tell. I can't imagine with everything that's now known that ZSS will be able to attract any kind of vital new membership. If a new teacher isn't going to be brought in from completely outside the profoundly dysfunctional and highly suspect community that Shimano built around himself with zero peer oversight (save the periodic issuing of calls for him to step down), well, as I say, who with the sense of a billy goat would pick ZSS over another organization? I don't know the numbers, but it seems like there are some expensive properties and other financial commitments - these seem like not only giant drags on an organization, but obstacles to more radical and healing treatment of what ails this community.

I don't know what kind of endowment is currently supporting all this, but I doubt membership dues or donations at this time are even making a dent - they surely must have trickled to virtually nothing. And how is it all going to survive until a whole new community can be generated to support the structure - full of people that don't care about the history? That'll take years, IF everything continually goes right - and so far nothing has. Can the ZSS exist without dues or donations for a year? Two? Five? This is part of what is so weird about the ZSS - there was a huge endowment thrown at this charismatic Asian guy who built a cult around himself populated by (sympathetically) ignorant Americans, a rotating cast of whom decided that as long as it didn't happen to them or "he's stopped now", he could do what he wanted and they could live the dream. Though i don't doubt the good intentions of most, or that real practice occurred.

There wasn't the normal grass-roots, "a few students are attracted to a teacher and build a community together" kind of thing, with organically grown checks and balances. Or a teacher who simply had and ethical lapse or two along the way. Shimano attracted people with flash and flourish and a questionable charisma, plus a whole lot of fancy Japanese exotica bought with someone else's dime (someone who lived to regret it). Meanwhile he pathologically stalked and sexually molested dozens of women, continually cheated on his wife, lied, manipulated others to lie, on and on, year after year. He wasn't "good" and then went "bad". He was a hot mess from the get go. Now his balloon has gone poof, and you have a crippled, imploding org. stuck with a pretty, expensive, hollow shell.

Me, I'd bag it, get therapy, and find another teacher not trained by Shimano. Hopefully with some beat prefab zendo, in a trailer maybe, with a neon-pink plastic Buddha from Hong Kong...



Shushan makes some pretty important points, imo, in regards to the financial "bottom line" for any large organization. These issues came up almost immediately for the Kanzeon Zen Center in Utah, when Genpo Merzel's problems emerged earlier this year.

The Zen Studies Society was originally established in 1956 to assist D.T. Suzuki and didn't come under Shimano's control until 1965. If Shimano's community cannot renew themselves successfully it might not be such a bad outcome for a healthy outside Zen Buddhist organization to come in and simply start over with ZSS, from scratch.

Something dies, something new is born. This is the natural way of all compounded forms in our Universe, no?

As Shushan said:

time will tell


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Re: Sexual misconduct by Buddhist teachers (was Eido Tai Shi

Postby Genjo on Wed Aug 31, 2011 3:42 pm

Carol wrote:Watching the developments at ZSS over the past year, I have been impressed that the board has moved as far as it has so far. Wrenching, I'm sure. I hope the board was sufficiently impressed by the large number of Sangha members who want complete separation from Eido Shimano. I've seen it before, where a cadre of loyalists was able to protect a Zen teacher from any and all challenges ... but this is SUCH AN EXTREME CASE. I just don't see how half a dozen people can be allowed to control this decision. Some people may have to leave if they cannot accept what must be done. Sometimes you just cannot get unanimous agreement, and must take strong steps anyway.


I've just learned that at the conclusion of the ZSS Sangha meeting held last weekend that Eido Roshi's staunch supporters plan to organize an effort to buy the New York Zendo, Shobo-Ji, from ZSS so that Eido Roshi can continue to teach them and others. Their first step will be to see if Eido Roshi is open to the idea. It is fine with me if his staunch supporters want to continue to meet with him at some venue of their choosing off campus, but I think the idea of selling Shobo-Ji to Eido Roshi or the Eido Roshi faction is ludicrous and morally bankrupt. It is apparent that one or more of the few remaining ZSS board members thinks this idea has some merit. If the ZSS board were to agree to sell Shobo-Ji to this faction of enablers they would become enablers themselves. I also know that if you asked the majority of those still practicing at Shobo-Ji since Eido Roshi's departure, they would be aghast at the idea of selling their center out from under them. I call on an immediate vote of the ZSS board to firmly close the door on this possibility.

Turning any part of ZSS property over to a known serial abuser of basic ethical guidelines, who has seriously wounded many lives with his sexual misconduct with students over decades, would be a travesty beyond measure. Surely it is not asking too much of the ZSS board that assures us that Eido Roshi will not teach again on its property, that it will not sell to a faction of supporters that will encourage him to teach again!

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Re: Sexual misconduct by Buddhist teachers (was Eido Tai Shi

Postby Pedestrian on Wed Aug 31, 2011 3:54 pm

Well, those actions pretty well confirm Shushan's cautions above. My points about NP organization boards assumed far too much about ZSS, clearly. How terribly sad.
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Re: Sexual misconduct by Buddhist teachers (was Eido Tai Shi

Postby Shusan on Wed Aug 31, 2011 5:27 pm

Christopher said "it might not be such a bad outcome for a healthy outside Zen Buddhist organization to come in and simply start over with ZSS, from scratch.'

This is another level of the tragedy of all this. This small, faltering organization that was begun by such a seminal figure, DT Suzuki, was to my mind hijacked by Shimano; it was a tiny little study group until Shimano used it as his escape hatch from Hawaii, and platform to build his empire of predation and control. it would have been a minor footnote in American Buddhist history if Shimano had not arrived when he did. And so much more the loss.

I've written some things about Adi Da Samraj; I've found him to be a classic case study in pathological inflation and cult development, but sort of on steroids. The parallels with Shimano are in some ways quite striking.

They were born about the same time, and their stars rose in the same era of post-hippie boomer idealism and cultural experimentation. They were both heavily into a theatrical, costume-y, hierarchical, authoritarian, highly sexualized, psychologically manipulative pseudo-spiritual scene. Both ended up totally alienated from their more traditionally-rooted teachers. They both coasted for decades on large endowments and donations that the era made possible for them to get control of and build some gorgeous compounds with. Many of their followers claim they demonstrated extraordinary personal charisma and "spiritual power." I could go on. I'm a Gen X'r myself, and I can't imagine being attracted to either one of these guys - I think they precisely delineate certain psychological shadows of an era.

The ZSS as a org. doesn't have the historical or current institutional legs to say "we were this other thing before - we can bring in new leadership and reconfigure." They were a few years old teacherless 'zen study' (not practice) 'society' (not temple or center) before Shimano came in and developed this utterly dysfunctional cult over 45 years. There is no one there who predates him, or some tradition to fall back on. It's Shimano's cult - it's not a respected "Rinzai" institution, with deep ties to a larger organization or constellation in Japan or the US (Rinzai teachers in Japan have little respect for Shimano - he is considered something of an embarrassment by most, and there are serious questions about his fundamental credentials, much less his behavior. We know what most American teachers think about him.) The majority of his own heirs have cut the cord with him and ZSS precisely due to his abuses - yet none that I know have cared to give up the titles granted by him, which I find interesting.

This is exactly a large part of the problem. If it had been either of those things, there would now be some support to fall back on, some people to appeal to. But as I've said already, I think the only way forward for the ZSS community would be to completely restructure with a new, non-Shimano related teacher, and new board. As I've also said before, if this was a corporation, the entire board would be tossed over, an interim board would be instituted, the thing would be rebuilt, there would probably be radical dispensation of property, etc etc etc.

Instead its limp limp squabble "moderate hiatus" type talk. How could it be otherwise, when everyone involved is utterly, completely, and totally compromised by being where they are (as teacher, monk, student, or board member) solely due to Shimano himself?

Of course it would be heinous if Shimano's closest, most denial-bound groupies (who let's not forget included nearly everyone still involved until not very long ago - read the Aitken blog comments from last year) get their hands on one of the properties and perpetuate their cult, further alienating the majority who I'm sure are primarily motivated by noble intentions to just have a place to gather and practice with each other without all of this psychodrama. But the whole thing was built on psychodrama. The language of his teaching and even that of his heirs is still psychodramatical. There was a cancer growing within the body of the thing since the day Shimano showed up. The body is riddled with it. There are decades of documents tracking his activities, and the organization covering for him, apologizing for him, hiding his misdeeds, silencing and alienating his accusers, perpetuating in every way his actions. It is not "Bad Shimano" separate from "Good Organization that predated him." That's exactly the kind of f-ed up compartmentalization that got everyone into this mess in the first place. I guess my argument is that they are at this point utterly inseparable, as demonstrated by the way this has all been (largely mis-) handled over the last year, to today.

Yes, time will tell. It's a serious black eye for Buddhism in America, but a positive sign that the the truth will out, and of a slowly but surely maturing American sangha. And you think young people today (the Gen Y's and Millennials) interested in Buddhism would go for a teacher like Shimano? I seriously doubt it...I wouldn't have. We're hopefully learning a few things from the hard won lessons of our forbears.
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