O Come Let Us Adore Me: Brief Reflections on the Latest Sex Scandal

As I plotted this blog, I noticed thinking that I “should” be writing about the recent Sasaki Roshi sex scandal rather than the question I promised in last week’s post that I’d address this week:

“What is a Zen life and what does it have to offer?”

Sex seems to trump pretty much everything and try as I might as I sat down to write, that’s the topic that kept coming up. I even tried to weave the Zen life issue and the sex thing together…but did justice to neither… so the question will have to wait a week.

So speaking of sex scandals, here goes.

Now there’s been a whole lot of thoughtful stuff written about the Sasaki situation in the last week or so on one of the teacher listserves and on Sweeping Zen, so I lend my support to the effort to create a post-modern Zen primarily by pointing you in the sweeping direction if your interests run in that direction at the moment.

Zen students and teachers, strangely, used to be really moralistic and self-righteous. I’m told that’s an American phenomena. But thanks to all the practice we’ve had addressing the sex issue, I’ve noticed considerable maturing and nuance and shared responsibility developing over the years and that is happy news.

Obviously, setting oneself up as beyond reproach and then using students for sex in the guise of Love or Dharma is whacky. If that is what Sasaki did, then, of course, it should not be tolerated.

Still, call me old fashioned, but I do like to give the accused the opportunity to respond to allegations, yes, even in this case where the rumors have been going on for years.

In any case, you gotta wonder about Zen, don’t you? I do. And then I remember that I resemble that remark. That shifts the wondering in the right direction.

If you think, like I used too, that Zen’s about becoming somehow super-human, well, there’s little evidence for that. Despite our powerful practices, beautiful literature, extant lineages, etc., we fall down at least as much as anybody.

What to do?

We’ve got to infuse Zen training with ethical investigation without becoming prudish moralistic assholes.

We’ve got to de-mystify and de-privilege spiritual experience and dharma transmission. Just because you’ve had your kensho acknowledged by Howee Louie and ascended to the high seat, so what? Keep your hands to yourself.

And we need to create healthy communities where students are people too and are not used to meet the teacher’s needs (sexual and other – mostly the focus gets on the former while the latter can also sabotage the student’s awakening project while providing a slippery slope into doing whatever is asked or required).

This will do a lot to keep predatory personality types from being attracted to Zen.

As for the Sasaki deal, kinda like the Israel-Gaza cease fire, there appears to be reason to be cautiously optimistic that this will work out in some healthy way. Come to think of it, Sasaki’s sexual behavior has been rumored to be outside the standards of decorum for about as long as the Israel-Palestinian conflict with about as many attempts at resolution. But…maybe….

Okay, one more point. If you thought that aging would resolve your sex issues, think again. Sasaki is 105 and apparently still doing his thing. Discouraging?

Or motivating?

It’s up to each of us.

The Way of Tenderness: the Form and Emptiness of Race, Sexuality, and Gender
Doug Kaishin Phillips Ordination
Zenshin Tim Buckley Dies: One Heartbeat, Ten Thousand Buddhas
The No of No No: Affirming the Great Heart Sutra

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