Zen Groups Distressed by Accusations Against Teacher

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Zen Groups Distressed by Accusations Against Teacher childadvocate 2/12/13 10:06 PM
Zen Groups Distressed by Accusations Against Teacher

February 11, 2013

Since arriving in Los Angeles from Japan in 1962, the Buddhist teacher
Joshu Sasaki, who is 105 years old, has taught thousands of Americans
at his two Zen centers in the area and one in New Mexico. He has
influenced thousands more enlightenment seekers through a chain of
some 30 affiliated Zen centers from the Puget Sound to Princeton to
Berlin. And he is known as a Buddhist teacher of Leonard Cohen, the
poet and songwriter.

Mr. Sasaki has also, according to an investigation by an independent
council of Buddhist leaders, released in January, groped and sexually
harassed female students for decades, taking advantage of their
loyalty to a famously charismatic roshi, or master....

 Such charges have become more frequent in Zen Buddhism. Several other
teachers have been accused of misconduct recently, notably Eido
Shimano, who in 2010 was asked to resign from the Zen Studies Society
in Manhattan over allegations that he had sex with students. Critics
and victims have pointed to a Zen culture of secrecy, patriarchy and
sexism, and to the quasi-religious worship of the Zen master, who can
easily abuse his status.

Disaffected students wrote letters to the board of one of Mr. Sasaki’s
Zen centers as early as 1991. Yet it was only last November, when Eshu
Martin, a Zen priest who studied under Mr. Sasaki from 1997 to 2008,
posted a letter to SweepingZen.com, a popular Web site, that the wider
Zen world noticed.

Mr. Martin, now a Zen abbot in Victoria, British Columbia, accused Mr.
Sasaki of a “career of misconduct,” from “frequent and repeated non-
consensual groping of female students” to “sexually coercive after-
hours ‘tea’ meetings, to affairs,” as well as interfering in his
students’ marriages. Soon thereafter, the independent “witnessing
council” of noted Zen teachers began interviewing 25 current or former
students of Mr. Sasaki.

Some former students are now speaking out, including seven interviewed
for this article, and their stories provide insight into the culture
of Rinzai-ji and the other places where Mr. Sasaki taught. Women say
they were encouraged to believe that being touched by Mr. Sasaki was
part of their Zen training.


Report on Joshu Sasaki Allegations
An independent Council of Buddhist leaders investigated allegations of
sexual harassment and misconduct against Joshu Sasaki, who has taught
thousands of American at his two Zen centers in California and New
Mexico. Published: February 11, 2013

On Authority by Alan Hozan Senauke with Jan Chozen Bays and Grace
Myoan Schireson

When ongoing questions of misuse of sexuality or power unfold in a
spiritual community, it is rarely a matter of one person's actions.
Reading through the painful and heartfelt accounts documenting Joshu
Sasaki's sexual relationships with students at Rinzaiji down through
the years, we see how, knowingly and unknowingly, the community was
drawn into an open secret, and people's ability to practice the
dharma suffered. Despite individual and collective attempts to address
boundaries, repentance, and rectification, these behaviors appear to
have continued over more than four decades. We have reports that those
who chose to speak out were silenced, exiled, ridiculed, or otherwise
punished. Understanding that our practice is to bear what is
unbearable and not to turn away from reality, how could this be so? We
suggest it has something to do with a view of spiritual authority and
"enlightenment" that we in the West have created in the name of Zen.
To be fair, this is not just a problem of Zen. It arises in various
Buddhist communities, and more widely in other religious
congregations. We are unfortunately susceptible to enthrallment, which
is hardly "seeing things as they really are."


NCRJ Reveals Itself
February 9th, 2013

There was a powerful article in the Sunday New York Times Magazine on
January 27 about the devastating effects of child pornography on
victims whose images have been spread around the world on the
Internet.  It is the kind of article that would seem to generate only
sympathy and concern for victims. But the "National Center for Reason
and Justice" proved otherwise. This...organization used the occasion
to question whether real harms occurred and to smear Dr. Joyanna
Silberg, one of the therapists named in the article. In a letter to
the New York Times, published on the NCRJ website, the president of
the organization, defense lawyer Michael Snedeker, claimed that
"Joyanna Silberg, the therapist of one young woman in the story, is
notorious for advocating the debunked myth of satanic ritual child
abuse." Snedeker also asserted that "obsessive attention paid to
victims can paradoxically make their feelings of trauma worse, or even
cause them in the first place." He closed by expressing concern about
giving "pseudoscientific, dangerous therapists another gravy train."

These statements are wrong in every particular. Dr. Silberg is not
even the therapist for the woman she mentions in the story! That woman
lives in another city. Dr. Silberg merely conducted assesments for the
purpose of litigation. Dr. Silberg did not receive a percentage of any
legal judgments, nor has she received any payment other than the set
fees for conducting an evaluation. The insinuation that she may have
engaged in therapy that made the woman worse is beyond false, it is
defamatory....It is clear from the article that what Snedeker calls
"feelings of trauma" were hardly caused by the therapists in this
case. They were caused by the appalling actions of those who took
these images and disseminated them. Moreover, Dr. Silberg has never
advocated or endorsed anything pertaining to satanic ritual abuse.
Instead, she is apparently a target for these smears because she has
spoken up for victims of sexual abuse through the Leadership Council
on Child Abuse & Interpersonal Violence.