Appeal of American Joan for Sexuell Victims by Eido Shimano: No Road of Compromise! Be courageous and forthright! (Letter from Roshi Joan regarding Eido Shimano Roshi)

@ Down the Crooked Path

Letter from Roshi Joan regarding Eido Shimano
By Joan Halifax

"I am Founding Abbot of Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a woman, a Zen practitioner since 1965, and someone who was sexually assaulted by one of her Buddhist teachers years ago. I have been following the discussion on the AZTA listserv for many months about the Eido Shimano "case". I use the term "case" not to mean koan, but in a legalistic sense. For just as the former Israeli president has just been convicted in a court of law of rape and sexual harassment, so also is Eido Shimano vulnerable to such an indictment.

For many years, I have heard about the sexual behavior of Eido Shimano toward his female students; there has long been talk about many of the Buddhist teachers who have violated sexual boundaries with their students. Sadly, the list of Buddhist teachers who have had intercourse with their students is not short. We have also been aware of not only of teachers having sex in the dokusan room but of teachers engaging in sexual violence toward their students as well.

For those of us who are not only teachers but women, the misogyny that we have encountered when we have brought these violations to the attention of others has been often concerning. For like many rape victims, we have been seen as somehow culpable, have been ignored, criticized, or shunned.

I want to say that I am grateful and am relieved that Eido Shimano has resigned from his abbacy and the Zen Center Board, and that you have identified good, strong leaders to take over your center. We live in a time when there should be zero tolerance of the violation of professional boundaries, and most particularly sexual abuse on the part of leaders, whether they be a president of a country, a prime minister, or a minister, whether psychologist or social worker, whether monk or manager."


"Many of us have experienced being under the spell of a teacher or person of authority. Some of us have seen our own students caught in the trance of positive projections. But our practice is about waking up and ending suffering, being real and being courageous in dealing with mara, and actualizing compassion, even a compassion that might seem ruthless. We have to realize that the three-fold training is clear on the matter of sex and ethics, physical abuse and sangha relationships, and the role of wisdom and compassion in relation to the three jewels. And we have to see our teachers in a totally realistic light, including their feet of clay.

I also want to say that it is not that Eido Shimano is a scapegoat for all other spiritual teachers who have violated sexual boundaries and engaging in sexually abusive (and probably addictive) behavior. I hope that by bringing this situation to the world's attention through Aitken's now-public archive, the NYTimes article, and the increasing storm of emails, blogposts, and communiques (including facebook), the sexual abuse of women by Buddhist teachers will diminish, if not end, through strong negative sanctions of those who have engaged in activities such as this."


"The sexual abuse of women is no small matter globally. It takes profound commitment to deal with this issue. Humbly, I feel that we as Buddhists need to clean up the scene in our own backyard, and clean it up now. We all share this karma, and we must share the correction process as well. Compassion tells us that, and we have to not only listen but as well to act. Thus these letters you are currently receiving....... Please heed them, and heed them well.

I do feel deeply about this issue since so many women have passed through my zendo diminished and damaged as a result of having been subjected to sexual boundary violations by their teachers; some have been physically abused; others have been psychologically intimidated and then forced into sex. Some women were plainly deluded and hungry for acknowledgment, and in some way, power; others were coerced, shamed, and some were threatened; others were entranced and tricked. In the end, after all is said and done, most have wanted to abandon their Buddhist practice, finding Buddhism too passive and uncaring, if not dangerous.

As a result of what I have borne witness to in others and myself, as well as bearing witness to women who have been raped in the context of war or extreme family abuse, I would suggest here that we need to actualize a compassion that is more skillful and much braver at this time. I hope you will consider that standing aside might not be the best route in terms of this situation with Eido Shimano. I hope you will be courageous and forthright and not take the road of compromise. For it has been compromise, I believe, and lack of ethical resolve that has given rise to our collective suffering in this situation, the individual suffering of the women who have been subjected to this abuse, and to the deep suffering in your sangha."

Joan Halifax
Founding Abbot
Upaya Zen Center

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  1. More from Joan Halifax, Roshi:

    "Why Buddhism? Violations of Trust in the Sexual Sphere"

    "We all know that rape as a weapon of war has been used against women and nations for thousands of years. Rape, forcible seduction, seduction through trickery, power and domination, have also been part of most religions. If you want to deepen the shadow of any religion, turn wisdom and compassion into hypocrisy, and stand by as its male clergy disrespects women, has sex with female congregants, abuses women, degrades or rapes them.

    As a Zen priest, as a woman, I have to ask: why my religion? Why Buddhism? This is not what the Buddha taught. But for too long ... gross misogyny has existed in the Buddhist world, a misogyny so deep that it has allowed the abuse of women and nuns in our time, not only historically or in Asia. The misogyny is well-expressed through mistreatment of women, through sexual boundary violation of women and the psychological abuse of women".

    It is fine to discuss and post on the internet about this danger to women, but what can we do on a practical level to eliminate this scourge from Buddhism? A concrete strategy and coordinated effort are needed internationally. Sexually predatory Buddhist clergy must be stopped!

  2. First Nun In History To Receive Geshe Degree in Tibetan Buddhism!

    Venerable Kelsang Wangmo, a German nun, was recently given the prestigious Geshe degree (like a PhD.) after 12 years of rigorous study of Buddhist philosophy at the Institute for Buddhist Dialectical Studies in Dharamsala, India. British nun Tenzin Palmo, who established a nunnery in India, said that women face many obstacles and challenges if they seek higher education. Palmo details her experience in her book, "A Cave In The Snow".

    The Dalai Lama confessed that although the Buddha taught equality for women, later generations have failed to follow the Buddha's example. He added, that although he has made efforts to provide higher educational opportunities to nuns, he cannot make changes unilaterally. The agreement and cooperation of elders from the entire religious hierarchy are required.


  3. The first nun to receive Geshe Degree in Tibetan Buddhism = the beginning of catastrophe in Germany! Just think about what does the Lama Ole Nydahl bring to the german and european people! The degree means nothing but fake buddhism. The Dalai Lama never made efforts to provide higher educational opportunities to nuns, but takes advantage of women as rituell sex-objects.

  4. If the nun visits Germany, maybe you can talk to her about these problems. The Institute doesn't teach tantric practice, I don't think; it teaches Buddhist theory. But if the nun comes to Germany it would be a valuable opportunity to discuss abuse issues with her, and ask her what her opinion is of Tantra, and of the harm it causes to women. Maybe you can find her on the internet, and email her.

  5. The Tantra is the essence of Tibetan Buddhism. Without Tantra is Tibetan Buddhism not Tibetan Buddhism anymore. We could use another expression: Tibetan Buddhism is a "religion" with the coat of Buddhism; his real face is Lamaism which tantric practice plays the most important role. So we could say what the Institute teaches is not ORTHODOX Buddhist theory. It is a fake Buddhist theory.

    It's dangerous for Western people to imagine that the Lamaism is a sect of Buddhism although they have heard some abuse cases. Those abuses by lamas are NOT "single cases" but commen situation. Tibetan Buddhism is not Buddhism. It derives from Hinduism and Bön. His essence is the tantric copulation which Buddha Shakyamuni never taught us.

  6. Indeed, T.K.'s statment is definitely correct. If Tibetan Tantric Buddhism abandoned the couple-practice tantra, the living-buddhas or rinpoches would then lose their privilege of enjoying the lustful pleasure; Tibetan “Buddhism” would no longer be the Tantric school with secret transmission; consequently, it would cease to exist. Lamaism is definitely not Buddhism. It is purely a sexual cultivation center, and has been under the guise of Buddhism for over one thousand years with its superb publicity. Most outsiders cannot see through their cunning propagandas, let alone disclose the hidden truth. Once a lama is able to enjoy sexual pleasure for a long period of time without ejaculation during sexual intercourse, he can then claim to “have achieved Buddhahood in this lifetim." It is a misleading fantasy to suggest that there is any Buddhism in it other than worldly desires.

  7. Thank you, Anonymous. Your expression is clearer for readers to realize why Tibetan Tantric Buddhism is dangerous for all of us and why it is not Buddhism.