Dogen Sangha Blog


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Monday, July 30, 2007

Mr Luetchford's criticism against me

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


Blogger Mike Luetchford said...

Hello Sensei

You have made public my email to Brad (which was private within the group of your dharma heirs) which contains parts of his email to all your successors regarding how he feels about taking on the post of leader of DSI. I am not sure of the reason you have done this, because the things I said about you within our group would have remained private within our group. But now they become public, along with parts of Brad's email. I don't have any objection to this, because I think it shows how interested you seem to be in retaining control, rather than resolving problems between us. Because I present a problem to you, you want to get rid of me, as you tried to do last year, or defeat me. Why else would you publish this email? You appear to be interested in power, not people.

Of the replies you make to my comments, some of them are, I think, your misunderstandings of what I said. But one thing you say, I strongly refute. It is not true that you formed Dogen Sangha with Jeff Bailey before I arrived in Japan. Dogen Sangha was discussed between you, Jeff, Larry Zacchi, and myself, and I remember that in deciding on a name, Jeff came up with "Dogen Sangha". You didn't like the name Dogen Sangha at first because you felt that it was disrespectful to Master Dogen to use his name without a title. But you eventually agreed, and we formed the group. We then went on to formalise Dogen Sangha when you published the booklet to raise funds on the opening of our dojo in Ichikawa. Your memory on this, and on a lot of other matters, is not clear. This, in itself is not so important, as long as you can recognise it.

With regard to your other comments, I would like to make the following replies:

Of course all of us who have received dharma transmission are your successors. You say as much yourself. You seem only to have appointed Brad to head up DSI. But I and most other of your successors have no real idea what DSI is, or what it is supposed to do, or why you formed it. You didn't discuss it with us, you didn't ask us. You just posted it on your blog. That's the first we heard of it. And the same with Brad's appointment. You didn't inform us, you just posted it on your blog. That's the real situation.

My comments to Brad in the paragraph that starts "Brad, are you nuts?" are based on what Brad himself wrote in his email to us, and which I do not want to quote without his agreement. If I have misrepresented what he said, he can say so. He hasn't yet replied to my email.

Although you say that DSI "exists on this earth and is working in cooperation with divisions of Dogen Sangha groups", what you say has no meaning to me. It sounds like an exaggeration based on some people registering their names. What are "divisions of Dogen Sangha groups?" Which ones have been working for 50 years already? Isn't that rather improbable considering that you only started teaching buddhism in 1975, and we only formed Dogen Sangha in 1986 or thereabouts? (Or is it just a typing mistake?) The leaders of Dogen Sangha groups - of which I am one - can only cooperate with you and your plans if you tell us about them, if you include us in them, instead of imposing them on us as you so often do. You often teach that reality is different from our plans, but it often feels like you force your plans on us.

I worry about your mental health because of the strange things you have said and done in recent years. I have kept quiet as much as I could, but when you seem to be leading us into chaos, I feel the need to speak up. I had no intention to do it publicly, but you have forced that situation.

But I have stuck with you for 30 years. I will continue to stick with you, so please don't try to expel me from the sangha as you did last year. You need to make some concessions so that we can unite our work. I don't need an infallible leader - I need a human being who admits to being human, who says sorry when he is mistaken. And Brad needs to think about what he has taken on, and let us know. It is just not enough for him to treat the "honor" you have bestowed on him like a dog who has found a new stick. Although life unfolds in mysterious ways, we don't need to make events more mysterious than they are.

There are a lot of young people out there who are reading your blog who won't understand what all this is about. Well, basically its about a lot of stubborn people, led by an immensely stubborn master, trying to move forward together. We may achieve it.

Respectfully yours
Michael Eido Luetchford

1:54 AM, July 31, 2007  
Blogger Smoggyrob said...

Hello Mr. Luetchford:

Speaking for those outside the loop, I find these publications of private emails fascinating. I am really sorry if it causes you any discomfort (/I'd/ certainly feel discomforted), but this look inside DSI is truly riveting. And at least your private thoughts were made public in a community that shares your concern for the welfare of our extended sangha. As way of disclaimer, I sit with Brad and sometimes offer him my assistance.

To this matter of DSI, I'm surprised to see (what appears to me to be) such disrespectful references to Nishijima Roshi from his dharma heirs. Chodo's rage, Jundo's exemption of himself from Roshi's decision, your comments, they all surprise me. One's teacher is one's link back to the Buddha, one of the Three Treasures, the master that legitimizes one's own teaching. I'm not condemning any of your actions -- I have no idea what your experiences are. I'm just surprised.

In my arrogance I feel I have something to offer as a way forward. Why don't all of the dharma heirs suggest things they'd like to see DSI accomplish? The structure of the thing is up to Nishijima Roshi, but I'm sure he'd consider your suggestions. If we go that route, I think you'll be able to watch everyone's ideas turn into reality. It's a fact that DSI will be exactly what it's members make it.

We all know that this thing can turn out wonderfully or terribly, depending exactly on what each one of us does right now. Anyone experienced with groups will know that the sum of all our good faith efforts can be so much greater than each part. We're talking about something we all believe to be incredibly important. Let's make it wonderful.

Okay, that was sappier than than I intended. For balance, to anyone about to rip into me, go &#@% yourself.

Mr. Luetchford, what do /you/ want DSI to do? Hell, I'd like to hear /everyone/ chime in on "What should DSI do?" I'm talkin' to you, Anonymi.



11:26 AM, July 31, 2007  

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