Dear All Members of Dogen Sangha International,
I received a rather strange letter from Mr Michael Luetchford yesterday, and I thought that it might be necessary for me to write my answer to him openly utilizing Dogen Sangha Blog. Because even though the address is written to Ven Brad Warner, but I feel that the main object of criticism might be Gudo myself, and so I would like to express my opinion clearly in my blog. For making the structure of descriptions clearly, I quote his letter first, and then I will write my opinion. The sign (M.L.) suggests Mr Michael Luetchford, and (Gudo) suggests Gudo Wafu Nishijima.
(Mr. Luetchford's letter to Ven Brad Warner, and us.)
(M.L.) Hail successors of Nishijima Roshi, all of us.
(Gudo) I remember that I have indicated only Ven Brad Warner as my successor in Doge Sangha International, therefore M.L.'s recognition might be a little wrong.
(M.L.) Sorry for the delay in responding, but we have been away for 2 weeks.
(Gudo) Very nice expression.
(M.L.) Brad, are you nuts? What prompted you to accept the position of leader of a virtually non-existent organisation (virtual organisation??) when you say you don't really want to, you don't know what it really means, and you don't know what you want to do?
(Gudo) I think that Mr Luetchford's opinion seems to me too much abstract and not real to me.
(M.L.) Have you perhaps started to believe that the old man is somehow infallible, and that although you say you can't think why he would want you to take over something that doesn't really exist, that somewhere he has some magical knowledge of the future and your inherent capabilities to lead us all? Do you perhaps believe that somehow Sensei is acting from a deep and pure buddhist intuition that may be infallible? Because it seems to me that is what Sensei has started to believe about himself in his old age. But that's doesn't seem to be how most of Sensei's older students feel about him.
(Gudo) I think that Dogen Sangha International really exists on the earth already, and it is working in cooperation with divisions of Dogen Sangha groups, which have been working for 50 years already. I am sure that each leader of Dogen Sangha groups will continue their valuable efforts further, and the cooperation between the former Dogen Sangha
groups and Dogen Sangha International will work together friendly. I am afraid that Mr Luetchford is making his efforts to produce some kinds of tumult in Dogen Sangha International.
(M.L.) What does your "many months of working out the decision mean? Do you mean that it took you many months to convince yourself that the old man knows what he is doing, as against the feeling you write of that "you knew for certain he was crazy"? Have you not heard what happens in the brains of some very old people. Have you not heard that they become strange and do strange things and make strange decisions while seeming to be perfectly lucid at other times? I and others have been the recipient of so many strange decisions from Sensei over the last few years, that it is the only conclusion that makes any sense. Why do you want to believe in Sensei's infallibility so much? Is it because you believe it will then pass mysteriously to you?
(Gudo) Mr Luetchford! Thank you very much for your kindness to worry about my brain so much, but having begun to think about such a problem, I have passed more than 50 years, because it is very natural that when we have begun organizing a Buddhist group, we have to think about the problem of successor soon. I would like to know your opinion of so many strange decision fro me over the last few years.
(M.L.) You write such an insulting brush-off to any members of the sangha who might possibly not agree with you or might want to discuss with you, that it makes me wonder what you have been up to on your tour of TV shows and magazine articles as a minor celebrity over there in the US, sitting around in your bright golden robe and waving your stick around. What do you mean when you say "To those of you who are resigning, farewell, have fun."? Is it just your way of protecting yourself against criticism before it comes? Too arrogant by far, and very much like "Either you come along with me although I don't know where I am going, or f*** off; I don't really care which!"
(Gudo) We should not limit ourselves only inside, which we have.
(M.L.) What is dogen sangha international? If you have publicly accepted the role of "leader" of an organization that its founder has stated clearly includes us all, then its up to you to work that out and let people know what you are going to do as their leader. Not just dismiss people with slick words. Couldn't you have done this during the months of "working out the decision"?
(Gudo) I have begun writing Dogen Sangha Blog since 29th, November, 2005, and I have explained what Dogen Sangha is for about 2 years, and furthermore I will continue such a kind of informations for members as far as possible, therefore I would like to ask you to study Dogen Sangha as far as possible utilizing my blog.
(M.L.) Could you try again to explain your position on a day when you don't have "an awful lot of work to do for my "real job"? I think that is the least you could do if you accept the position. Hey, what's an hour or two working out how you will lead a group of practitioners into the 21st century, compared with the months you took to "work out the decision"?
(Gudo) I think that if Ven Brad Warner continues his daily life as usual, he will do a lot of works for promoting Buddhism so clearly.
(M.L.) Anyway, why is it necessary to have "dogen sangha international"? Aren't we all doing what we can as individual teachers to spread the practice of zazen and Dogen's teachings? Do you have any idea what other Dogen Sangha people are doing? Are you at all interested? Do we need someone like you to head us up?
(Gudo) Having founded Dogen Sangha International, there are so many changes in Dogen Sangha experienced. Therefore the big difference of future might be expected to Dogen Sangha so much.
(M.L.) Just because the old man wants it, or you have convinced yourself to take it on, doesn't change things for me. Yoko and I were co-founders with Sensei of Dogen Sangha (the other co-founders have all left Sensei), and we have been witness over the years to the events that have taken place in our sangha through Sensei's poor judgment and ambition. Some of us know how stubborn Sensei is and how over the years he has sometimes manipulated, bullied, enticed and plotted to get what he wants irrespective of the effects on his students. He may justify it as being buddhist "action". But I think it is just the character of the man, and it is one reason why so many of his students have left him over the years. But do everything he wants and you get a smooth ride. That seems to describe your experience with him. The persona that he is now presenting on his blog is very different to the man who we have come to know, revere and love over a period of 30 years.
(Gudo) Before your comming to Japan, I have established Dogen Sangha already, and Mr Jeffery Bailey has been working for Dogen Sangha already, and so it is impossible for everyone to recognize that you were a co-establisher of Dogen Sangha at that time.
(M.L.) What is the difference between "leader of dogensangha international" and "successor"? Are we not all successors? How come Sensei wants to choose just one of us? Did Rempo Niwa choose one successor? Did Kodo Sawaki choose a successor? Did Master Bodhidharma prefer one successor over the other three? And James's idea of a democratic sangha of brothers and sisters misses the point completely. But what Sensei says about it being a buddhist tradition is just not acceptable.
(Gudo) It is necessary for us to have only one successor of Dogen Sangha International, because Dogen Sangha International exists only one, but in the case of successors of Dharma, there can be so many, because I have given Dharma so many times to my students already. Therefore it is necessary for us to remember that the leader of organization, which is only one, is just only one, but in the case of Dharma, which can be given many times, can be many.
(M.L.) What is this all about? Is it about making an organisation that really encompasses and unites all Sensei's successors so that we work with and support each other in teaching Dogen's buddhism, or is it an old man's desire to preserve his own personal legacy, something that really seems over the last few years to be having the opposite effect?
(Gudo) The situations are like this. I have presented Dharma so many to my students, whom I esteemed to be able to receive Dharma. And later I found necessity to make much more big organization, which works throughout the world, and so I ordered Brad Warner to such a job.
(M.L.) Come on Brad, open your eyes if you have any. Sensei seems to have lost his several years ago.
(Gudo) Buddhist efforts can never be boxing, and so it is necessary for us to take care not to become like a boxer. A few years ago, a rumor that Gudo Wafu Nishijima was going to die, however, I have been still living. What shall I do? I hope that all members of Dogen Sangha will think about so valuable historical meaning of Dogen Sangha, and cooperate together to accomplish our historical mission sincerely.
With best wishes Gudo Wafu Nishijima
Mike & Yoko Luetchford
Dogen Sangha UK