Friday, February 15, 2013

Sexual misconduct in Zen? (commentary)

Amber Dorrian, Ashley Wells, Dhr. Seven, Wisdom Quarterly (COMMENTARY)
Sitting cool with Budai (Hotei) "the Laughing Buddha" (Shutterhound Photography/
American Zen Master Brad Warner on Zen
Zen is a Mahayana Buddhist school -- the "greater," largely devotional expression of the Buddha's teaching mixed with Hinduism, Shinto, and tantra (which would seem to include tantric sex as part of its esoteric practices) mingled with Japan's patriarchal culture.
In Japan Kwan Yin (Kannon), Goddess of Mercy, is a male, just as she was in India (Avalokiteshvara). Given its patriarchy, secluded monasticism, and rigid traditions, it is quite like Roman Catholicism. 
Indeed, many Roman Catholics in America and Europe may feel some kinship with the tradition since it mimics their own understanding of religion. But Zen is thought, or imagined, to be free of all the trappings of "religion" and formality. There are no texts, no rules, no teachings, no standards... The situation could hardly be further from the truth, but that is how D.T. Suzuki, Alan Watts, and others presented it to the US after WW II; they also illustrated the opposite but were largely ignored in that respect. We only heard what we wanted to hear.
Just as Catholicism is riddled with sexual misconduct (kamesu micchacara), it cannot be too surprising that Zen follows suit in this respect as well. Particularly in Los Angeles. 
The West Coast is a place of mischief, far removed from the strictures of the Old World, in this case a uniformly well knit Japanese society, with its safeguards. The ethnic Japanese population in the US is scattered, well assimilated, and gives little apparent regard to Zen, while still greatly devoted to Shinto-customs and popular Nichiren Buddhist devotionalism

Addictions, even to sex, need recovery.
What can be worse than being raped or molested? Being raped or molested by trusted, celibate "holy" people or guardians (incest). Zen may counter that "If one meets a roshi on the road, disregard him." This is based on the radically exaggerated and widely celebrated saying, "If you meet the Buddha on the road..." It means do not look to teachers for salvation (satori or kensho). But the situation is worse than that. Zen today is like the Catholicism of yesteryear in that it allows its "monks" and priests to marry. Mahayana is a populist movement, and roshis have sex, have children, have property just like Protestant ministers. They may look holy and celibate, enlightened or bound by the rules the historical Buddha laid down for the Monastic Order, but they -- probably due to Hindu influence -- left those shramanic traditions long ago in favor of a "Greater" Vehicle bound for mass enlightenment. That ship has yet to dock or anyone save anyone else. But we're still hoping some will save themselves and actually follow the historical Buddha's advice for the preservation of the Monastic Order, the Dharma (Teachings), and the original Buddha's good name.

But why would we at Wisdom Quarterly violate the additional Mahayana "precept" to air the dirty laundry of fellow members of the sangha (reinterpreted in Mahayana to mean "community" rather than Monastic Order or, more correctly, disparate community of enlightened practitioners, the Arya Sangha)?

It is exactly for the preservation of Buddhism (as represented by the Buddha-Dharma-Sangha or "Three Precious Gems") that we at Wisdom Quarterly air it. Would anyone rather that this precious tradition go the way of the Catholic religion or its pedophile priests and corrupt bishops, cardinals, and popes?

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