1. It is a pity that most of the western, including the western monks, do not know the true face of the Tibetan Buddhism. It shows that the western Buddhists think the Lamism is one of the sects of Buddism, so that they would not point out the sexual scandals are not personal errors of lamas, but false Buddha’s Dharma. Sexual practice is not Dharma, Tibetan Buddhism is not Buddhism.
2. Just like the Shalom Tzeng said: “Language and words are very limited when they come to explain the concept of the true Buddha Dharma.” Zen training is a method to get the way to the truth of lives. We train our consciousness to focus on finding out the Buddha nature (Alaya vijnana) which everyone of us has. But Consciousness is not Buddha nature, and Zen training is not Zen.
© non-duality magazine
Interview with non duality magazine
Chuan Zhi was born in Lafayette Indiana in the United States in 1960, attended elementary school in Southern Illinois, and high school in Eastern Pennsylvania. In 1980 he attended Reed College in Portland Oregon where he graduated with an undergraduate degree in Physics in 1983. During his time at Reed he found the works of Robert M. Persig, D.T. Suzuki and Mircea Eliade which “planted the seeds” for his future foray into Zen. Following graduate studies in Nuclear Physics at Purdue University, he worked as an experimental physicist for a decade and later as a Computer Programmer for a variety of organizations. He continues working in this field for a division of the United Nations.
Beginning in the late 1980’s, he began attending sesshins (intensive meditation retreats) and studying under a variety of Zen teachers in the Mountain West and East Coast of the United States. In 1997 he met Jy Din Shakya, then Abbot and founder of Hsu Yun temple in Honolulu Hawaii, and one of Hsu Yun’s direct Dharma Heirs. He was ordained and given the name Chuan Zhi (傳智) that year at Hsu Yun temple. He was also named the head of a new Chan order with the objective to disseminate the teachings of Chan Buddhism to the West. The order was named the Zen Buddhist Order of Hsu Yun, after Jy Din’s master, whom he also had named his own temple after nearly forty years prior. In 1998 Jy Din escorted Chuan Zhi to China where he received full ordination at Hong Fa temple, along with 500 others. Following the month-long ceremony he became recognized by the Buddhist Association of China as an official lineage holder in the Linji (Rinzai) tradition and Abbot of the Zen Buddhist Order of Hsu Yun.
Since then, Chuan Zhi has continued to work to spread the teachings of Chan to other interested persons. As of the writing of this biography, the Order of Hsu Yun (hsuyun.org) has grown to include local sanghas in Venezuela, Argentina, Colombia, Canada, Great Britain, France, Greece, Sweden, China and, of course, the United States.
Chuan Zhi writes essays on topics related to Zen for the order, and continues to enjoy studying String Theory and Quantum Mechanics and relating these fields to the science of neurology and, more generally, to the nature of the Mind and the connection between perception and Reality.
NDM: Do you think that Japanese Zen or even Tibetan Buddhism or Chan Buddhism should implement some new kind of rules for teacher/student relationships? For example, Theravada Buddhism, Spirit Rock has developed a code of ethics for teachers in the Insight Meditation tradition that includes the following paragraphs:
"We agree to avoid creating harm through sexuality and to avoid sexual exploitation or relationships of a sexual manner that are outside of the bounds of the relationship commitments we have made to another or that involve another who has made vows to another. Teachers with vows of celibacy will live according to their vows. Teachers in committed relationships will honor their vows and refrain from adultery. All teachers agree not to use their teaching role to exploit their authority and position in order to assume a sexual relationship with a student.
Because several single teachers in our community have developed partnerships and marriages with former students, we acknowledge that such a healthy relationship can be possible, but that great care and sensitivity are needed. We agree that in this case the following guidelines are crucial:
A) A sexual relationship is never appropriate between teachers and students.
B) During retreats or formal teaching, any intimation of future student-teacher romantic or sexual relationship is inappropriate.
C) If interest in a genuine and committed relationship develops over time between a single teacher and a student, the student-teacher relationship must clearly and consciously have ended before any further development toward a romantic relationship. Such a relationship must be approached with restraint and sensitivity – in no case should it occur immediately after retreat. A minimum time period of three months or longer from the last formal teaching between them, and a clear understanding from both parties that the student-teacher relationship has ended must be coupled with a conscious commitment to enter into a relationship that brings no harm to either party."
Chuan Zhi: It’s easy to get carried away with rules, but I must admit that we have a lot of them for the clergy in our order dealing with ethical and moral behavior. Our order has a fairly simple rule in our Canons of Conduct for our clerics regarding sexual relationships. It states:
"It is a violation of these canons for a student and teacher, priest or practice leader who has a one-on-one practice relationship to have a sexual relationship with a student/sangha member. A sexual relationship is never appropriate between teachers and their students. During retreats or formal teaching, any intimation of student-teacher romantic or sexual relationship or liaison is inappropriate and in violation of these ethical guidelines and subject to disciplinary action."
We could spell out a hundred, or a thousand rules but at some point we need to let common sense be the guide and deal with individual situations as they arise.
Centuries ago the Vinay rules of conduct were established and they were added to over the years. Today, there are still thousands of monks who vow to uphold them, yet many of them are inconsequential for today's societies and cultures (like rules on building huts, among other things). People have added to them over the centuries, but not taken any away. Every Buddhist sect has its code of ethics that it's members vow to uphold. The Vinaya rules of the Mahayana, as well as the Patimokkha rules of the Theravadin, are strict and a monastic who is caught offending any of them is subject to extreme disciplinary actions including expulsion from the monastery and defrocking. To give you an idea of how specific and sexually oriented these can be (since you reference the situation with Genpo Roshi and others), here are a few:
The following are prohibited, and are listed among the thirteen sanghadisesas of the Patimokkha, the Theravadin code of ethics for monastics:
"Discharge of semen, except while dreaming, or getting someone to discharge your semen."
"Lustful bodily contact with a woman, including kissing or holding hands."
"Making lustful remarks to a woman alluding to her genitals or sexual intercourse."
Clearly, the fact that such rules exist is testimony to the fact that there has been at least one instance of "inappropriate discharge of semen", "lustful bodily contact", and "lustful comments relating to a woman's genitals or sexual intercourse" at some time in the distant past ... hmmm.
We clearly need rules, but it may be best if they are generalized and then specific situations dealt with on an individual basis.
Perhaps another aspect of the problem is that there is really little to no oversight on a Roshi, Master, Guru, etc., in the West. They act as autonomous voices and as such can pretty much do what they please. There is nobody to expel them, reprimand them, or even to guide them on the difficult job they have of ministering to others. I don't know that more rules will actually help out the problems we're seeing in contemporary Westernized Zen. The more people who can be aware of what's going on and make it known to those who are new to the western Zen "culture", the better. I suspect that if we could have Zen without "masters" we might see more people mastering Zen.
NDM: The Dalai Lama of Tibet gave an address in 1994 where he addresses this issue. Do you agree with that part where he encourages students of teacher abuse to speak out on matters like this in public? Specifically, he said,
"Particular concern was expressed about unethical conduct among teachers. In recent years both Asian and Western teachers have been involved in scandals concerning sexual misconduct with their students, abuse of alcohol and drugs, misappropriation of funds, and misuse of power. This has resulted in widespread damage both to the Buddhist community and the individuals involved. Each student must be encouraged to take responsible measures to confront teachers with unethical aspects of their conduct. If the teacher shows no sign of reform, students should not hesitate to publicize any unethical behavior of which there is irrefutable evidence. This should be done irrespective of other beneficial aspects of his or her work and of one's spiritual commitment to that teacher. It should also be made clear in any publicity that such conduct is not in conformity with Buddhist teachings. No matter what level of spiritual attainment a teacher has, or claims to have, reached, no person can stand above the norms of ethical conduct. In order for the Buddhadharma not to be brought into disrepute and to avoid harm to students and teachers, it is necessary that all teachers at least live by the five lay precepts. In cases where ethical standards have been infringed, compassion and care should be shown towards both teacher and student."
Chuan Zhi: Yes, I agree with this wholeheartedly and I think the vast majority of Buddhist teachers would as well. If not, Buddhism is doomed!
NDM: Are there times when it would be better to keep matters like this private. For example recently when Lama Choedak Rinpoche was caught red handed he said. "Every single one of us makes mistakes and it is up to each of us to forgive http://topics.treehugger.com/quote/0crr4j9fXAc2Q. He also asked for privacy.
Chuan Zhi: When I read that I had to re-read it a couple times to make sure what I had read was accurate because it seemed so out of place. Yes, there are times to keep things private -- when we are dealing with the spiritual relationship between teacher and student. That is sacred territory. However when there is blatant abuse of "office" going on, secrecy is no longer an issue. If harm is being done it is the moral duty of anyone who is witness to it to speak out. If they don’t, who will?
NDM: Should he be forgiven, allowed to continue teaching or should he disrobe the way Genpo Roshi did?
Chuan Zhi: It’s not really my place to comment on the affairs other spiritual leaders, especially those from other religious traditions. I do not know Choedak Rinpoche and cannot base my remarks on anything but what I have read in the public media. Should he disrobe? I think this all depends on him and his sangha. He is also a human being, just like the rest us. He is also dealing with the same issues we are all dealing with as human beings. I would rather see him grow through this experience, deepen his commitment to his spiritual path, see him changing himself and providing the appropriate support to his congregation that he has committed to than to throw the whole thing down the drain. Whether he goes in this direction, or is able to, is up to him and whatever encouragement/discouragement he receives from his sangha.
We need to remember that there are no saints. If there are, I haven't met one. And I don't think we need saints in order to gain the tremendous benefits from Zen and other mystical religious traditions that are there for us. Spiritual practices don’t make us into perfect people. They make us into more fulfilled people. The problems arise when we put our teachers on pedestals. We glorify them and endow sainthood upon them, metaphorically speaking. Bad idea. It's frequently harmful for the students, and it's especially harmful on those who sit upon those pedestals who lack the spiritual awareness to not be affected by being there. While some are forced to sit upon them, others seek to attain them. I think ultimately the gatekeepers of the Dharma must be the people at large, not those who pose as iconic representations of Buddha, advertising their vast accomplishments in academic training or tutelage under some famous person, or those who flaunt their titles and degrees, attesting to their qualifications for such a lofty post.
When we have ordinations in our order, the title we bestow on our clerics is not Master or Guru or Roshi, it's Kalyanamitra, which means "spiritual friend". It eliminates any hierarchy of relationship on the spiritual journey which we are all on. It also eliminates the isolation that clerics would otherwise endure from being seen as "special" or "advanced" in some way.
There are many people like Genpo Roshi and Choedak Rinpoche who have active ministries and who make tremendous errors. None of these teachers would be where they are if they did not also have many fine attributes as teachers. These two prominent teachers have both made some big mistakes as human beings. I can say I have too. It’s part and parcel of being human, and it’s also the way we learn and grow. Where each of them goes and what happens next is not a matter for us to decide, but for them and their sanghas to work out together. My personal feeling is that if we all just realize that we're all seekers on the Path, all at different places on it, and that none of us are above another in any way, then everything will work out. But can we do that?
It gives me solace to reflect that in a mere one billion years as the sun begins to enter old age preparing to become a red giant, all life on earth will have vanished. In the overall scheme of things, none of this is so important is it? But while we’re around for this short time to witness this amazing thing called Being, doesn’t it behoove us to uncover all we can about it? Ultimately, that’s the intent of a spiritual life. Discovery is the joy of the practice and nobody can do it for us.
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