Les Kaye Letter to Kanzeon Board re: Genpo and AZTA History

Here’s a letter from Les Kaye with some history very pertinent to the present situation with Genpo Merzel. 

I’m very sad to read this detail.

Dear Chet and Kanzeon Board Members;

Chozen Bays has informed the AZTA membership that Genpo’s Salt Lake City students’ are concerned about AZTA’s  failure to respond to Genpo’s recent admissions.

They asked her: “Why are all the Zen teachers silent about this situation with Genpo? ” ” Is there some kind of conspiracy to protect any Zen teacher, no matter what they do to harm others?” 

I am writing  to let you know that AZTA has not been silent about Genpo’s behavior, and in fact was quite active several years ago in trying to change what we felt was an intolerable situation.  Following is part of that history.

In  August, 1992 , the AZTA teachers at the time  (known in those early days as the Second Generations American Zen Teachers group) wrote a letter to Maezumi-roshi expressing our concern about Genpo’s on-going sexual exploitations and his misappropriation of funds.  We asked that his permission to teach be revoked.  That letter is attached [Dosho note: see the Sweeping Zen site for the letter in pdf].

Those of us who signed the letter to Maezumi received responses from Genpo’s students, criticizing us and denying that he had created harm.

Here is an excerpt from one of those letters to the  Second Generations American Zen Teachers:

The issues of student-teacher relationships and sexual misconduct are very relevant to Zen in North America.  I have seen Genpo Sensei work work personally on these issues and have seen him take responsibility for his past sexual misconduct.  I question and am very much disturbed by your approach as a group to address such issues. It appears that it has become somewhat of a personal vendetta for some of you and that a case has been presented to have Genpo Sensei,  a lineage holder and Dharma successor, stop teaching. 
I feel very sad that Zen in North America has come to this.  As a group, would it not be more productive to offer a context of support for one another, and a fair forum to discuss such issues rather than trying to slander and undermine one another?   I question your integrity as spiritual leaders to have so irresponsibly signed such a letter without realizing the implications to the Dharma in the West and without investigating its accuracy, not to mention the effects it could have on the hundreds of students that Genpo sensei now has in Europe and America.
– From  a wom[a]n at Kanzeon Bald Peak Mountain, Hillsboro, OR,  August 19, 1992.

Here is a second excerpt:
It seems that those of you who felt so ethically and morally responsible for signing this letter attacking the ethical and moral behavior of a fellow teacher do not have the first clue about practicing such conduct in your own lives.
– From  another women at Kanzeon Bald Peak Mountain, Hillsboro, OR,  August 25, 1992 

The following month, Sept. 1992,  a meeting – organized by Chozen Bays and Yvonne Rand of the San Francisco Zen Center, and moderated by a paid, professional facilitator –  was held with Genpo,  Maezumi-roshi, and others,  at Green Gulch Farm, an affiliate of San Francisco Zen Center.  The purpose of the meeting was to help Maezumi-roshi, and everyone else,  understand the situation and to  give Genpo a chance to respond to our concerns.  Many of Genpo’s students from Los Angles attended, as well as his attorney.  Genpo was confronted by four women (actually, three women and the husband of a fourth) who told their stories of being personally abused by Genpo.   The meeting was respectful and courteous, except at  one point when the  husband said to  Genpo:  “If you touch my wife in the dokusan room again I’ll kill you.”

(Dosho’s note: I’m deleting this paragraph and related comments because I’ve been made aware that some of the information may not be correct.) 

…At the end of the meeting, Maezumi-roshi was asked to comment.  I don’t recall his exact words but they were something like: “Don’t be the first to throw stones.”  He did not accept our request to withdraw Genpo’s sanction to teach the Dharma. 

In sum, AZTA has not been indifferent.  Almost twenty years ago, we tried to curtail Genpo’s behavior and were told that we were in the wrong.   Today we are being told by Genpo’s more recent students that we are in the wrong for NOT doing something.

If others express concern about AZTA’s lack of involvement, please share this message with them.


Les Kaye
Kannon Do Zen Center
Mountain View, CA
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