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Buddhadharma : Winter 2014
52 buddhadharma: the Practitioner’s quarterly winter 2014 ALAN SENAUKE: The first thing is to really listen. Listen to everybody—on all sides—and create open forums, com- bining people from within the community and without who can offer equanimity and presence to hear everyone, including those who have been accused of crossing bound- aries. Then there has to be some discernment process. In the vinaya, there are prescribed remedies for different breaches of the precepts before a monk or a nun can sit in the whole circle again. They have to make confession and repentance, either to their peers or to their elders. We can translate that to our present-day experience in different ways, but there has to be a lot of speaking and listening. Also, the sangha has to hold the grief that some people will not be healed. Even with the best of intentions, some people will be wounded and leave. Some will not want to heal, and that includes victims and perpetrators. And when they don’t, there’s nothing you can do, but as a holder of the container, you still have a responsibility to make every effort. We have to have the groundedness to be able to hold all of that. ShINGE ChAYAT: The process of healing, of regaining trust after decades during which power was abused and trust was lost, is a very long one. It may take years for people to feel they have finally come to a place where they are healed. The immediate situation may be taken care of, but you have to constantly work on the process. You can’t just have one sangha meeting or some kind of guidance from profes- sionals in the field and then say, “Okay, we’ve got it!” The Faith Trust Institute made five recommendations, which we followed: Eido Roshi had to end his tenure as abbot; he needed to make a full public apology acknowl- edging his misconduct and regret for harm done; those students who wanted to continue studying with him had to do it on their own, not under the auspices of The Zen Studies Society; we had to conduct a formal financial audit; and we needed to consult with colleagues who had gone through similar misconduct issues. After those things happened, we began working with a wonderful group of professionals called An Olive Branch. If a teacher is no longer trustworthy, everything is up for examination. Becoming disillusioned can help us break through delusion and bring clarity to what’s going on. — Shinge Chayat DAVID WhITEhORN: That’s hard to say, given that times were very different, and the stage of development in the com- munity and in people’s individual practice was so different. Greater transparency is certainly key, as is having ethics laid out right at the beginning. BUDDhADhARMA: Shinge, do you feel there is anything that could have been done while Eido Roshi was still head of the community that could have changed the whole course of events? ShINGE ChAYAT: We couldn’t do anything until he was no longer holding all the power. People tried many times. In the seventies, many of us left because there was no way to make any change happen. When I came back in the nineties, it seemed changes had occurred for the better. But really, he still had all the power. When all the power in a community is in one person’s hands and that person is supported unconditionally by others, including board members and senior students, there’s no way you can say, “Hey! This is wrong. We have to make some changes here.” It can’t happen. Prior boards had tried their best. In 2010, when the revelation of a new relationship came to light, one of the first things we did was ask Eido Roshi to step down as a member of the board. He was the head of the board as well as abbot. With both secular and spiritual dimensions held by the same person, there was no balance of power. The board basically rubber-stamped whatever Eido Roshi said. So the first thing we had to do was ask him to submit a letter of resignation. That hap- pened very quickly, within three weeks after that revelation of the affair. Then we worked with the Faith Trust Institute and asked them to help us get through the next stages, which included not just dealing with the problems that had accrued over decades but also looking at how to avert problems like that in the future. BUDDhADhARMA: You’ve all talked about the shock people experience when it’s revealed that their trusted teacher has been involved in ethical misconduct or abuse. After the shock subsides, how can a community start to rebuild?