Thursday, August 20, 2015

Re: Shimano and Sasaki

There was/is something about Sasaki and Shimano that most people don't realize.

Usually, when you read about these men, the articles, or the posts, are written by people who never dealt with them, or by people who sat sesshin a few times, something like this.

So most of the discussion is simplistic binary thought.  He had sex with a student, "that's bad!" or something like this.  People go on from there, expanding on how a Buddhist master, or sangha should behave.

Often, these articles end with a call for more critical thinking, on the part of the Sangha.  They warn against how unhealthy a group can become with blind devotion, and they make a call for a more active, aware, and responsible sangha.

That's fine. 

But it is a mistake to think that such a thing happens on its own.  It is also a mistake to think it is simply a "Buddhist teacher who had sex", and that this was the problem.  Los of people have sex.  Sex is not an ugly thing.

What is ugly is how all these things happened, if you were there to see some of it.

It is not as though students would just show up, get into the rapture groove, and give their lives away. 

That is not what happens...

The truth is, Mr. Sasaki and Mr. Shimano kept very careful watch over their sanghas.   This was actually the focus of their days; to maintain the very atmosphere of devotional excess that all now recognize as unhealthy. For these men, this was a conscious, deliberate effort.  They would surround themselves with a few enablers, and offer kind words of approval to those who displayed reverential awe.

That is how most people behave, actually.  The formality of the practice encourages this.

But this doesn't describe everyone in Zen.  There were indeed critical thinkers happening by, and/or those who, for whatever reason, remained as they were when crossing the gate.  And these people would be treated very differently. They were targets.  Mr. Sasaki and Mr. Shimano wanted them out.  They would manipulate those closest to them into sniping at anyone who they even suspected might cast an eye their direction. Whistleblowers, even potential whistleblowers, were very quickly made unwelcome.

They were not stupid men.  They could very easily see who these people were.  They would very quickly make them targets.

This was an easy task.  Within the air of devotional excess, such a "master" need only whisper to those close to him.  Even "I fear this new student takes energy from the Zendo"  will send a remarkable percentage of people into an angry rage, against the target.

It is not a normal environment.  This behavior was rewarded, by these "masters", and the inherent secrecy of the Zen form ("master" is rarely seen by anyone, aside from a few people, "dokusan" always in secret, no public questioning, no public forums) makes this an easy job.

Also, nobody ever admits their role.  That never, ever happens.

This is how such an unhealthy environment is created. It doesn't just show up.  It is a product of willful deception, and manipulation.  It is a calculated creation.

I was in a position to witness this.  I didn't know about the stories, at either place.  But it was frightening enough to witness this.  It is a mark of very dangerous character.  Not many people would wish for such control over others, much less deceive and connive to create and maintain it.

It will never, ever, be put to "good" use.  Such intentions will always reveal themselves in the selfish harm of others.

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