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Regarding Teacher Misconduct in American Zen

February 16, 2019

 

Eido Mary Frances Carney, pictured above, has written a well-thought out and perceptive article discussing the history of the Soto Zen school in America, and steps that it has taken to help reduce the risk of ethical mishaps.   

 

Here is a highly notable quote:

 

"It is also extremely important to note and remember that in each instance of sexual misconduct in Soto Zen, the temples and communities dealt with the problem, they sought counseling and outside conflict resolution assistance, they removed the teacher from his teaching platform, they installed a new teacher who assisted in the recovery from the wounding of the event, and they required the teacher to complete treatment in counseling. The Zen communities did not simply walk away from or ignore the problem when it came to the forefront; they faced it and restored the good name of their communities and their temples. That their faith in their leader was dashed by the event was obvious, but such difficulties taught the Zen communities and the national associations to put in place and use Ethical Guidelines to help them through the trials of betrayal that misconduct evokes."

 

The article in full can be read here.

 

In addition, she also points out that nearly 50% of the teachers / priests in Soto Zen communities in the US are women, and that so far, no women have committed an ethical offence that must be adjudicated.  She does well to point out that this doesn't mean that women are exempt from such behaviour, and that time will tell whether women are less likely to engage in misconduct, but that this has led to a "cultural shift in how Soto Zen communities deliberate, govern their resources, and communicate within their bodies of practice."  I found that quite interesting.

 

Ultimately, the path being pursued by many within Soto Zen to prevent misconduct is to establish international organizations that teachers opt-in to which provides certification of Soto Zen teachers and enforces set minimums in terms of training and practice for new priests, separate from existing power structures based on lineage. These are similar in function to professional associations that we see in other industries, like accounting or engineering. 

 

 

 

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