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Buddhadharma : Fall 2012
FALL 2 0 1 2 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 63 temple. In addition, we have a central abbot—currently Steve Stückey—whose focus is primarily on Zen Center-wide issues. The abiding abbesses and the central abbot share spiritual authority for the entire organization, but the particular focus of each is slightly different. It seems like we’re moving toward making that structure permanent. We are a very large, geographically diverse community, with very different activities going on at our three temples. There was a recognition that we needed a more effective and timely decision-making process at each temple and overall for the entire organization. Related to that is increasing our commitment to transparency. What are the responsibilities of each abbot? They should be written down and available to everyone in the sangha. Our website describes our governance polices in detail. There’s an effort to be not only transparent but also accountable. STEVE STÜCKY: The abbots have a term of office, so it’s not a lifetime appointment. Their names are put forward by an elders’ council, which is a group of about fifteen senior practitioners, and are then brought to the board of directors, which is elected by the sangha, for ratification. That’s how the abbots are selected. BUDDHADHARMA: The system seems to have a fair number of checks and balances built into it. STEVE STÜCKY: That’s right, and that has been an evolution at San Francisco Zen Center. We decided to have term limits for abbots. On the question of who should nominate and elect abbots, it was felt the board of directors wasn’t sufficient, because it wouldn’t reflect the confidence of the whole sangha. The elders’ council was specifically created with that primary responsibility in mind. BUDDHADHARMA: What is the nature of spiritual authority within the Zen Center community? MARY MORGAN: That’s a question many people ask, and people have different pictures of exactly what that is. It’s a matter of continuing conversation. BLANCHE HARTMAN: I think the important thing is sincerity of practice. Are people deeply committed to their vow? And the community makes that decision by who they go to for guidance. One’s sincerity and practice is easily seen by the people who live with you every day. NORMAN FISCHER: Also, the abbots’ spiritual authority and spiritual interests extend to questions of administration, personnel, finances, and everything else. Even though Zen Center has a president and a board who are looking over those things, the abbots are not uninvolved. It’s not like there’s some big division between administration and the spiritual life. It’s all one thing. That’s one reason why, as Mary was saying, the (Above) Green Gulch Farm in Muir Beach, California. (Right) Staff outside the Green Grocery Store operated by Green Gulch, ca 1982. (TOP)PHOTOSTEPHWENDERSKI,COURTESYOFSFZC;(INSET)BARBARAWENGERBARBARAWENGER