Discussion of Zen Buddhism-in-action, application in daily life.
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.
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]
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.
Practitioners who cultivate the personal realization of buddha knowledge dwell in the bliss of whatever is present and do not abandon their practice.
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.
Soto Zen Buddhist Priest. Transmitted Dharma Heir of Dainin Katagiri Roshi.
Abbot and Head Teacher, Nebraska Zen Center / Heartland Temple, Omaha, Nebraska, USA
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....
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...
Last edited by Shusan on Wed Aug 31, 2011 1:34 am, edited 1 time in total.
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.
The apology idea sounds perfect to me. Apology is like a vacuum cleaner that sucks trauma out of the world.
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:
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!
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.
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.
I think all the deep organizational soul-searching, examination of failed ethics statements, analysis of the mechanics of board selections, etc. is a process which, though painful, is a good example for other organizations. There is tremendous learning going on here. I would hope that this experience could someday benefit other Buddhist organizations who need to face similar issues. I'd like to see the question of ethics discussed by sangha leadership nationwide, if not internationally. (I tend to dream big.) These problems crop up everywhere, and denial can be strong. The ideal would be to have effective ethics guidelines in place and an aware and conscientious board before a problem arises.
I'm very impressed and moved by this discussion. (Where is a :heart: emoticon when you need one?) ; )
It has been for the last twenty years in the US. It's been taken up many times in both American Zen Teachers Association and in Soto Zen Buddhist Association meetings.
As a result, most temples and monasteries have drafted ethics statements that contain grievance procedures in case the ethical guidelines described therein are violated. And, The Buddhist Peace Fellowship publishes a booklet titled Safe Harbor that outlines ethical guidelines for Buddhist groups.
We display our organization's ethics statement prominently at both Nebraska Zen Center / Heartland Temple and Zen Center of Pittsburgh / Deep Spring Temple. Here's a link to it. It about halfway down the page:
Soto Zen Buddhist Priest. Transmitted Dharma Heir of Dainin Katagiri Roshi.
Abbot and Head Teacher, Nebraska Zen Center / Heartland Temple, Omaha, Nebraska, USA
Thank you so much for this info, Nonin. I plan to poll local Buddhist centers where I live (which are Tibetan, mostly) to see what guidelines and procedures they have set up, as an informal study.
Assuming anyone is seriously considering the proposal Genjo has outlined, I think it would be a moral travesty (and that's as polite as I can be).
Craven in the extreme.
And for those still addicted to sweetly-modulated, hug-festival language, at least have the courtesy to familiarize yourselves with the background ... as for example in The Shimano Archive among many other sources.
I answered your doubt and negativity about what I meant by "moderate hiatus" a few posts ago. See: viewtopic.php?f=73&t=3584&start=1300
I'm sorry you still see this as utterly, completely, and totally compromised.
Last edited by Genjo on Thu Sep 01, 2011 6:08 am, edited 1 time in total.
Genjo's point addresses the dysfunction exhibited by the one or more ZSS board members (I will call them, “The Attached Ones”), and how their inability to exhibit common sense and compassion is deadlocking / hanging the board. This is why this disaster has festered for so long. Until the truth about The Attached Ones, comes out into the open, nothing is going to change. ZSS will just bumble along until it ceases to exist.
There are likely some who, like Genjo, have taken the painful steps of opening their eyes to what has been a grand con game – and Genjo, I wish you would reconsider your resignation. I applaud them, as they are examples of the Dharma at work. Yeah, it sucks finding out you have been taken, but it certainly sucks more to let it continue.
Putting aside the immense suffering that Shimano has created, there is still the problem of individuals who have enabled and supported his actions over the years. A vast majority of these people have been board members of ZSS.
With the behavior and actions exhibited over this past weekend's meeting - and we are talking about violent and criminal behavior that in my unprofessional opinion strikes me as psychotic - one really has to ask why the board hasn't sent a unified message that, "Enough is enough; those who are attached to Shimano are free to call Shimano, make your own personal arrangements, and do whatever he asks of you. However, you are disruptive to the Sangha and are no longer welcome on ZSS property. Good bye." A half dozen people / The Attached Ones are being allowed to hijack the desires of a Sangha that consists of multiples of more individuals.
Even after a board member’s car was trashed in the parking lot at DBZ, the board is unable to stand in unity and state that they are putting a stop to this, now. The reason for this is The Attached Ones, who lack the intellectual horsepower, common sense, understanding, and compassion to put their needs aside for the benefit of the wider Sangha.
The question simply becomes how can the board be un-hung and the impasse cleared?
The answer is simple. Let the sun shine where it hasn’t. Let the world see the opinions written by The Attached Ones. There are enough ex-recent board members with ample documentation that clearly shows The Attached One’s cover-ups. deficient moral attitudes, scheming, and lack of ability to manage ZSS that they should simply and anonymously send that documentation to Kobutsu Malone so that the world can get the unabridged picture – THE TRUTH. The source of the materials needn’t be identified – mail it in a manila envelope with no return address. Let the WW Sangha see the statements of those Attached board members, so they can truly see who these people are underneath their robes, Kesas, and fly whisks.
If you folks with relevant documentation would finally step up to the plate, this deadlock would finally be broken. IT IS IN YOUR POWER TO FIX THIS. Do you want to be enablers, too?
Come on – step up to the plate. Do the right thing. It’s the same courage that supports your great doubt. Unload the documentation, and I promise you that it will take a huge weight off of your chests.
FYI here is a copy of my latest letter to the ZSS Board...
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