Our Resilient Sangha

My sangha that has spent the last year and a half recovering from yet another case of Zen teachers’ abuse of power. We’d like to share what we learned.

In the late fall of 2020, our Greater Boston Zen Center (GBZC) sangha was still recovering—spiritually, emotionally, financially, organizationally—from our split with Boundless Way Zen (BoWZ) over issues of teachers’ abuse of power. Then, just before Thanksgiving, a new issue came up for our now-separate group: Our GBZC Spiritual Director engaged in year-long secret emotional and sexual misconduct with one of his students.

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Which Battery Do We Charge?

Kanzeon, the bodhisattva of compassion, is said to “receive only compassion.” Does that mean she blocks everything else out?

Every so often I have the experience of reading through a sutra that I have chanted or read hundreds or thousands of times before, and a line suddenly pops out. It may be a line that I hadn’t noticed, or a line that I’d always been puzzled by. That happened recently for me with part of the “Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo” chant that we do at every sutra service.

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Non-Duality IV: Relationships in Process Thinking

We can widen our views of the types of relationships that are possible by comparing our habitual “entity” thinking with Zen-inspired “process” thinking. This may help organizations prevent or deal with abuses of power.

Recall that in “process thinking” we acknowledge that what we commonly perceive as “things” actually arise from activities and relationships (Non-Duality Part I). There are no static “essences,” and the world is in continual cycles of creation and destruction. The provisional “thing” I call “me” is no exception.

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Nonduality Part III: Relationships in Entity Thinking

Our usual way of viewing the world as made up of entities that first exist and only later act and relate to each other constricts our thinking. Within it, we can only image three ways of relating: equality, merger, or domination.

In the yin-yang diagram, both light and dark are necessary, and their relationship is dynamic. But in our habitual Western thought not only do we separate the two and think of them as fixed, we tend to associate light with superior and dark with inferior.

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Non-duality Part II: Yin-Yang

The yin-yang diagram illustrates how nonduality includes duality—but must be understood through dynamic “process” thinking rather than static “entity” thinking.

While the metaphor of the ocean (oneness) and the waves (many) that temporarily arise is a wonderful illustration of nondualism, it doesn’t spawn much further understanding. The ancient Chinese yin-yang diagram (shown here), associated with Daoism, highlights more dimensions. 

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Non-Duality Part I: Entity vs. Process Thinking

To understand nonduality, we have to take a step backward and look at the fundamentals of how we think about the world. If we take an “entity” view, it makes no sense. If we understand the world as “process,” though, we can see that this is, in fact, the reality of our life.

Abide not in duality,
refrain from all pursuit of it.
If there’s a trace of right and wrong
true-mind is lost, confused, distraught…

From One-mind comes duality,
but cling not even to this One…

These verses are from the Zen sutra entitled “Affirming Faith in Mind” (“Xinxinming” by Jianzhi Sengcan).

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Wanting (to be Rid of Pain)

Pain and the desire to be rid of pain arise. What do we do with them?

I recently fell into a trap. I had just read in a Zen koan, “When the mind seeks nothing, this is called the Way.” Yet I get recurrent periods of pain that do not respond to any of a variety of relatively safe pain medications. My mind was at that moment quite insistently seeking relief from the pain. So my thought chain then continued, “Why can’t I get rid of this wanting to get rid of the pain? I must be a bad Zen student.”

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What If ‘Capitalism’ Isn’t the Problem?

A few days ago, I was interviewed by Oshan Joshan for his podcast series “Musing Minds.” We talked about both economics, Zen, gender…so on some of the same themes I’ve addressed elsewhere on this blog.

Oshan gave the interview the title “What If ‘Capitalism’ Isn’t the Problem?” That’s not to say we don’t have enormous problems! Only that we have mis-identified their source.