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Buddhadharma : Fall 2005
fall 2005| 50 |buddhadharma In recent years, two big centers have sought Fronsdal’s help in crafting institutional structures that blend traditional Buddhist approaches with modern conflict resolution theory. The first was the San Francisco Zen Center, which is one of the oldest and biggest residential Buddhist centers in the West. The other was Spirit Rock Meditation Center in nearby Woodacre. Fronsdal’s mark on the two communities is evidenced in the groups that oversee their conflict resolution programs. They are called Ethics and Reconciliation Councils, or EAR Councils for short; Fronsdal admired the name and its resulting acronym so much when it was coined at the Zen Center in the mid-1990’s that he carried it to Spirit Rock in 2000. The two programs resemble one another in allowing sangha members to file formal grievances against teach- ers or other authority figures who behave uneth- ically – a markedly Western strategy. But the Zen Center program is far broader, and about to get broader still. Its EAR Council recently decided to take a shotgun approach to interpersonal conflict by providing conflict resolution training for every one of the Zen Center’s more than one hundred staff members. “My hope is that the training will help the com- munity see conflict as a field of practice,” explains Laura Burges, a schoolteacher and longtime Zen student who co-chairs the EAR Council. “It will help us as a sangha to develop a common vocabu- lary, and skills that we can use in our day-to-day lives with each other, and to see that every conflict has within it the seeds of reconciliation.” The Buddha’s response to conflict within the sangha can be found, among other places, in the Upakkilesasutta (Discourse on Defilements). This early Pali sutta describes a monastery in Kosambi where the monks are “disputatious, quarrelsome, and contentious ... wounding one another with the weapons of the tongue.” When one of the monks hears that the Buddha is visiting a friend nearby, he seeks the teacher’s help. The Buddha agrees to visit the monastery, where he entreats the monks to cease their contentious ways. But he is told in no uncertain terms to mind his own business, “for it is we [the monks] who will be accountable for this dispute, quarrel, contention, and argument.” As the Buddha prepares to leave, he reminds the quarrelsome monks that “Not by wrath are wrathful moods allayed ... but by not- wrath are they allayed.” He advises the monks to leave the monastery: “Better the faring of one alone than companionship with the foolish.” Soon after departing the monastery of the quarrelsome monks, the Buddha happens upon a bamboo grove inhabited by three monks who live together “on friendly terms and harmoni- ously, as milk and water blend, regarding one another with the eye of affection.” He asks what their secret is. The monk Anuruddha responds, “Having surrendered my own mind, [I] am liv- ing only according to the mind of these venerable ones. ... We have diverse bodies but assuredly only one mind.” Anuruddha then describes how the one mind of sangha is expressed in daily activity. The three monks follow precise rules concerning who is responsible for what task (putting out the The sangha life is not for sissies. The Buddha knew that, and that’s why the Vinaya has like nine million rules. But the question is, how do we get along in the West, where things are so different? — Diana Lion edSWoSzoWSki