Dogen Sangha Blog


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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Announcement regarding 'TREELEAF ZENDO'

Hello All,

Nishijima Roshi has given his permission to my posting the following announcement here. I thank Nishijima Roshi for this idea, and for his recognition of the Treeleaf as its own Lineage. I am hoping that you will join us in celebrating this new birth and potential.

If anyone has any question about this or any matter, please feel free to write me at any time via our online Zendo:

Gassho, Jundo Cohen



At Nishijima Roshi’s suggestion (I had great resistance to the idea for many months, but I now believe that Roshi’s idea is wise), the “Treeleaf Zendo” through which I teach will be a separate Lineage deriving from Nishijima Roshi. Accordingly, we now withdraw and “go our own way” from Dogen Sangha/Dogen Sangha International, another branch of the tree of which Buddha and Master Dogen are the root, and Master Nishijima the core. All things are change, and this change will have no effect on my relationship with and love for my teacher, my position as the head of Treeleaf Zendo, or the nature of the “Dharma Transmission” bestowed upon me by Nishijima Roshi. I hope that Dogen Sangha International and Treeleaf Zendo will sail as two ships crossing the same vast ocean.

So that the reasons for this are not misunderstood, I would like to offer a brief explanation. I have discussed some of these issues before, but they are worth briefly repeating for the record, so that the situation is clear. They have nothing to do with my respect and love for Ven. Brad, who I think stands as a stimulating and positive presence within the many flavors of Zen Buddhism. I think he is, like many in Dogen Sangha, a superb teacher trying to find his own unique voice, a fine successor to Nishijima Roshi, and that he has potential to be a good President of Dogen Sangha International.

There is no need to repeat in detail my reasons, but my objections originated from concern for the organization itself. For a long time, I and others attempted to express these several concerns from within the organization. However, as the saying goes, “too many cooks spoil the broth”. Thus, Master Nishijima suggested that we could each go our own way and each “do our own thing”. It is a wise thought. It reflects the history of the countless branching lineages of Zen Buddhism over the centuries, the reason why the lineages keep perpetually branching!

As expressed in Brad’s fine letter of yesterday, some of us see Dogen Sangha International as an umbrella body uniting all the various teachers who are Dharma Heirs to Nishijima Roshi (and other students of Nishijima’s teachings) in many separate Sangha, in many countries, all of us upholding his teachings, and possessing love and respect for our teacher. However, some of us in the organization feel that, in the 21st century and after the countless cases of power, financial and other scandal within various Zen and other Buddhist Sangha around the world (please see the following) …

… a de minimus degree of checks and balances, and input into decision making, is a fundamental necessity. The idea is now long vanished within almost all Sangha and Buddhist organizations in the West that no system of oversight is required. As a lawyer with quite a bit of experience with Buddhist and other organizations and the problems that can occur within them, I know that there is a middle ground between chaos and disconnection vs. a bureaucratic or rigid organization, and that a certain degree of regular communication and interchange among members should always be encouraged in such a body. To assert otherwise is short-sighted. Decisions should not be rendered on a whim, and especially not on a single person’s whim. Finally, in any Buddhist organization, there should be constant care and attention to the Precepts … they exist for a reason and are not a matter of “do as you feel” or that “the teacher is always right just because he/she is the teacher.” Although I will no long be in a position to say so, I believe that a lack of attention to the meaning of the Precepts within Dogen Sangha, and an over-emphasis on Zazen Practice alone, has been one major cause of various problems that have arisen in the past within the Sangha.

Zen Buddhism is now in a period of rapid change, keeping some traditions while modernizing others. In the views and experience of some members of Dogen Sangha, authoritarian or fuedal thinking on governance needs to be left to the 15th Century. I will not live under such an antiquated system, especially without any checks upon it and without much emphasis on the guidance of the Precepts. For some reason, Dogen Sangha is trying to stay feudal and traditional in its method of governance, but modern, hip, loose and liberal on the issue of standards and the Precepts. The choice should probably be the other way around. In any event, this is just a difference of vision between the new president of DSI and several of its members. While it would have been possible to patch it over, or ignore the issue through silence, the present solution is best.

So, some of us are sailing off under separate sails. Several ships on the same ocean.

Thank you, Roshi. You proposed a very wise plan. I hope to see you again when we are back to Japan, offer bows, and that you will sit again on my daily “Sit-a-Long with Jundo” Zazen netcast.

Nishijima Roshi wrote me today to say that he will continue to fight for needed reforms in Buddhism as it currently exists in our world, and that "I will do my best until to my death".

I responded:

"I will do my best to help you in your work, as your loyal and loving student. That will never change."

Gassho, Jundo Cohen


Blogger Harry said...

Hi Jundo,

Don't you think that the piece on Sex and Violence in Zen that you posted a link to has more than a whiff of 'witch-hunt' off it?

I mean the writer has good and important points re. violence and manipulation by teachers where people have been wrongly harmed; but the argument seems to be coming from a viewpoint of complete ideal moral purity. Should we criticize relatively harmless behavior in this way, where the writer imposes some behavioral ideal of his own on the Zen tradition?

Yes, it seems clear that there could be said to be a tradition in Zen monasticism of transgressing the precepts, or of blurring any strict meanings... but where people are only sneaking out for a smoke, eating meat or having a little consensual sex then big deal. I mean, what business is it of his or ours to judge?

More than a touch of 'overkill' there to my mind.



1:19 AM, October 19, 2007  
Blogger jundo cohen said...

Hi Harry,

I agree that the piece was extreme, lumping sneaking a cigarette in with more serious things. It was a 'witch-hunt' perhaps, but the best list I could find of all the various scandals. Thanks for pointing that out.

Gassho, Jundo

6:26 AM, October 19, 2007  
Blogger Mysterion said...

Richard Baker is alive and well in Colorado.


If we fail to remember, then we are bound to forget.

Best regards,

5:14 AM, October 23, 2007  
Blogger Harry said...


We humans are bound to forget.



9:17 PM, October 23, 2007  
Blogger Wonji Dharma said...

Hello Venerable,

I haven't posted on your site before and am somewhat saddened that all of this needed to be played out in a public forum, yet it is understandable that you and Brad needed to take a stand. I do understand your points and respect you for speaking up. That stated I choose to remain neutral in this as it doesn’t concern me.

What does concern me however, is the transmission of the Dharma to the West and the methods that have appeared in the last twenty years. I myself was in the Kwan Um School of many years and have found myself having to go independent from an independent teacher. I am not alone in this yet it is all by natural process. I would choose to use two of the largest (I use this metaphorically so don’t crucify me for the statement) Zen Sangha’s in the West. The first would be the White Plum Asanga of Maezumi Roshi and then the large network which is the Kwan Um School of Zen of Zen Master Seung Sahn. I use these two groups because of the very large number of Dharma Heirs that are now teaching Zen in the West as well as the East.

For the most part, Maezumi’s Dharma Heirs founded their own Center’s which operated fairly independently once they were given teaching authority; although, Maezumi Roshi did maintain ultimate authority in each of these groups. The Kwan Um School of Zen has always been centric in its control and transmission. All groups are members of the Parent Organization and all authority is governed therein. Follow the death of these two great teachers, the White Plum Asanga decided to function on a ceremonial level and to the best of my knowledge maintains no central control over the various groups or lineages. The Kwan Um School of Zen has chosen to maintain central control and the ‘group’ itself gives transmission to new teachers not the individual teachers in the group.

Dharma transmission has always been mind to mind, outside the sutras, not dependent on words and speech. So, it makes sense that each of you should have independent groups as it fits into the original way the Zen was transmitted to the West. Good luck on your new Sangha and follow your heart/mind and all will be well.

Paul Lynch, JDPSN

12:07 PM, October 01, 2009  

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