... and other reflections on "When Roshis Act Ugly, Small And All Too Human" ...
Before I add my small voice to the many calls of condemnation of Eido Tai Shimano "Roshi", and demands for his self-reflection, dismissal and disgrace (more here from James Ford) ... http://monkeymindonline.blogspot.com/20 ... o-zen.html
... I would like to reflect on the overall question of when Buddhist teachers act with human weakness, ugliness, seemingly against all that they stand for.
I think it a fallacy to believe that Buddhists, no matter the level or depth of the practitioner, are ever completely free during this life from being just human. It is a religious, heroic image created by the many old Buddhist stories which scrubbed clean all the tales of the ancestors of the past, robbing them of every flaw and placing them on golden pedestals. A Buddha or Ancestor (Jesus or any Saint in any religion) dies and ... century by century ... those in the religion (looking from afar at what those attainments actually were on the part of their "religious heroes" and with need to depict their power) start to imagine, fantasize and exaggerate the wonderful nature of the teacher and teaching into something super-human. What was merely "Great, Profound and Wonderful" must become "Mysterious, Wondrous and (often) Ridiculous". The result is called an "hagiography"
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.
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.
And it is a breath of fresh air that we finally realize so about Buddhist practice. It is also a chance for the true POWER of this practice to manifest ... for it is a practice for flawed human beings who wish to be better. The true value of this Buddhist Way is proven there.
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.
What our Practice does accomplish, if diligently followed, is to free us from the worst (at least among most long time practitioners I know ... apparently, not so for Eido and his ilk). It does work to make 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 like Eido Shimano 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. It would be a shame if someone like "Eido Roshi" were taken as representative of all Buddhist teachers everywhere, or used as the basis to claim that the Buddhist Way is without value ... for the countless good and decent teachers are proof otherwise.
Now, the reason (in my opinion) to condemn someone such as Eido is --not-- because he is a Buddhist clergy who had a sexual affair with a student or several students. That, unfortunately, is all too human and is a matter between consenting adults (although there are great possibilities of the teacher taking advantage of his/her position vis-a-vis the student even there). The reason instead is because he clearly engaged in decades of horribly abusive sexual conduct which hurt the victims deeply and profoundly, then added to the hurt of victims in order to protect himself, then covered it up time and again, seeking to whitewash his reputation. It now appears that he was aided in this by people around him. Few (Aitken Roshi and a few others being the exception) spoke out until now, for there is a tendency in the Buddhist world to look away, hoping that the problem will simply vanish or be dealt with by the wrongdoing teacher's own students (in this case, despite countless promises, it was not). Thus, it is time for bodies such as the American Zen Teachers Association to have some means to censure teachers who violate the ethics accompanying their positions of trust, and to force such teachers and their students and Sangha into repenting and reform. Shame on them for not doing so until now, shame on all of us for not intervening more.
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