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August 23, 2010


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Thank you for your clear vision _/\_


Thank you for saying what had to be said.


Thanks for you continued clarity + pragmatism. We worhip duality. We have become a society were accidents no long occur (someone must be at fault) but when a person is asked to accept responsibility they are unwilling to do so. There are an endless supply of excuses. The "intention" paragraph says it all.


Thank you, Barry. This is the most lucid statement of Dharma and practice I've read.


This is why I read you first thing each morning. It is not the certainty I hear from others, but the way you articulate that this path, and life, can be hard, confusing and messy; but we stumble on with no hope of complete understanding. But that's OK.

Chong Go Sunim

This really gets me heated up, so I don't want to get too into it, (or I'll stick my foot in my mouth!) but people need to know that they have a responcibility in situations like this. If a person is incapable of controling their behavior, then those around them have to make sure that this person cannot hurt others.

"I wasn't in charge," or "it wasn't my job" doesn't cut it. If you're still confused about what to do (or intimidated), consider it from legal standpoint:

In criminal cases, there's a very hard division between guilt and innocense:
You either:
1. tried to stop what was happening,
2. stood by and watched/did nothing,
3. actively participated

Only number 1 gets a pass, 2 and 3 are in trouble. "Standing by and watching" often gets you charged as an accessory.

Likewise in civil cases, if you knew there was a problem, especially when you were repeatedly warned about it, and yet you did nothing, you are deemed negligent. When the warnings are well documented, and the harm as well, you're really in deep trouble.

In a neglegence case like this, any half-decent lawyer can win a multi-million dollar verdict in his sleep. It's very easy to imagine that the organization will lose their centers to pay for judgements and legal fees.


I found the Zen Study Society's recent comments on the situation and aftermath really soft and still overly deferential to Shimano. Having been a member of a sangha that went through a much smaller version of all of this, it's clear to me that no matter how piercing the teachings are, entire communities can be blind to the impact of a wayward teacher. And the desire to support, please, and deny the possibilities is stronger when it's collective - to the point where dissenting voices are shunned, and even eliminated. I can imagine there have been people in the Zen Study Society's community beyond the actual victims who spoke up, and were promptly shut down because this happened in my sangha repeatedly before someone finally broke through.

It's important not to underestimate the power of group momentum in these situations. My guess is that this is only the beginning for the Zen Studies Society. They a long road of difficult work ahead of them before - I hope they can go forward with a clarity in thought and action that up until now they just haven't displayed.


Is this what the Tibetans mean by "Ocean Discount"??


Barry, you have written a good analysis. However, the Zen Studies Society Board is indeed now engaged in the hard work of responsibility. It is true, that with no complaints over the last 15 years against Eido Roshi we became lax. We naively believed that the point was so strongly made 15 years ago, the time of the last known complaint, that Eido Roshi had finally understood and reformed his behavior. When a woman recently reported that she pursued him and he did not decline her overtures, it was a real wake up call. Indeed, we were at fault for being naive, we were at fault for not keeping our Ethical Guidelines up to date with a more workable grievance procedure. However, since this wake up call, here is what we have done so far:

1) Met with and heard from the woman who made the public announcement.
2) Met with Roshi to hear his side (he admitted his error and took responsibility).
3) Began meetings to hear from and listen to our active Sangha.
4) Confirmed that Eido Roshi and his wife Aiho-san would step down from the Board.
5) Confirmed with Roshi that he would not see new students.
6) Confirmed with Roshi the appointment of a new Vice Abbot.
7) Confirmed with Roshi a firm and fixed date to complete transition to new Abbot.
8) Hired professional outside consultants to assist with open ethics investigation (FaithTrust Institute, www.faithtrustinstitute.org)
9) Begin a formal review of organizational and financial structures.
10) Went public with the facts and with the following offer...

If you are reading this and feel your concerns have not been acknowledged or heard, or are aware of ethical matters that need to be addressed, please email your written communication to the ethics committee. With guidance from the FaithTrust Institute, the Ethics Committee will respond and process every communication we receive in a timely and appropriate manner. The Zen Studies Society Ethics Committee can be reached by emailing zssethicscom@gmail.com.


Thanks for this post; it needs a reply which I will have to make at length.

In short, I think there are a couple of issues that aren't correct.

The issue is not whether Eido Shimano is a spiritual fraud. It is more that there is an inherent conflict of interest when an oversight committee's spiritual development depends directly on the person being overseen.

That's why I think Genjo's solution is a good one.

Barry Briggs

One reader was unable to post their comment so they emailed it to me. Here it is for all to read:
I am vastly amused by all the overblown angst being expressed over this affair. :-) The ENTIRE BUDDHIST WORLD is implicated in one old man's sex life? Please.

I seriously doubt that Shimano's seduction alone, or even primarily, was responsible for the "nervous breakdowns" of the women in question. Mental illness is a pre-existing condition with multiple roots.

Actually, I don't see any evidence of Shimona's "seduction," only unsubstantiated (and universally unchallenged) allegations.

Indeed, in the widely circulated "The Aitken-Shimano Letters," it is said, "Aitken speculates that the guilt Miss S. felt about deceiving the Aitkens may have led to her mental breakdown." Oddly, the document doesn't mention how Miss S deceived the Aitkens (or whether she achieved the kensho she sought from Shimano).

Guilt over sexual matters is the critical difference between Western (especially American) and Eastern cultures. It is noteworthy that we have no reports of Asian students having nervous breakdowns after affairs with Zen masters. Was it the affair or guilt over it that tipped these mentally unstable women over the edge?

And what is guilt except conflict between what you feel is right for you and what society says is wrong for everyone?

So perhaps my amusement is unwarranted. It seems THE ENTIRE BUDDHIST WORLD, or at least the sexually repressed American contingent, really is implicated in the negative consequences of one old man's sex life. That part of the world contributes most of the negativity to the consequences: the guilt experienced by these women.

The Barking Unicorn


You're still dreaming Genjo....


"perhaps each of us can use this situation to learn something about ourselves."

I have found myself being drawn into this situation motivated mostly by a personal sense of the unfair and biased means used by some of the principals involved in this to promote their positions.

Don't like what is coming out, by my hand and mind, as a result.

This helps put all of this in a more clear perspective and I am most thankful for your help in making this so.


thankyou for that barry



Just exactly WHO "Met with" the young woman and the roshi?

Al Billings

I invite the Barking Unicorn to read the following article, originally meant for publication almost 30 years ago: http://www.shimanoarchive.com/PDF%27s/19820400R_Zen_Seduction.html.

It gives a first person account of a woman being molested (the author of the article) by Eido Shimano.

mama p

wow. my heart just broke. i had no idea about this...

and, Genjo? i think the response many of us are looking for is less a 10-point process (with sub-processes, sub-committees, and sub-missions of forms), and more a simple, direct 3-step solution:
1. you CANNOT do that,
2. you WILL NOT do that,
3. you can GO now.

...VICE abbot?? are you freaking KIDDING me??!

(sorry to rant, Barry. your response was beautifully worded and i am grateful for it.)

golden wind

What needs to happen is for Eido roshi to humbly and publicly apologize for the harm he has caused and to resign as abbot and from all teaching immediately. If he won't do it, the board needs to do it for him.

The ZSS board also needs to apologize for years of lack of diligence in their duty to the students who came to ZSS for dharma teaching and for trivializing and dismissing the complaints and their impacts.

Humility requires this. There isn't any way around it that will meet the need that presents itself now.


I first posted this response on Barry's next offering, entitled Eido Shimano and the Myth of Compartmentalization. It serves better to be placed here. I also proof read (and corrected) a poorly worded sentence at the end.

Barry's offering on this subject leads to a conclusion of Eido Shimano as being a spiritual fraud.

Nothing, nothing exists in isolation. To think this is not so is to be lost in the fog of duality.

If, as alleged, there is present in Eido Shimano, a spiritually fraudulent voice; ie one that is spiritually deceitful and spiritually spurious, there is also present a spiritually truthful and spiritually authentic voice.

IT cannot be any other way! :)

To draw a conclusion, as Barry has done, by focusing only on one aspect of this man, is a fine example of constructing a Buddha then forgetting to kill him.

The conclusion does not stand up. (It is a) fraudulent conclusion.


Barking Unicorn should also read the letters from the licensed caretakers to Aitken that emphatically state Shimano was responsible for the exacerbation of their condition by preying on them in a clinical setting! Also Pauling clearly held that opinion as well. The five precepts are the first five for a reason. any Bikkhu seriously violating them would be permanently disrobed and expelled for causing so much harm to the Sangha. ZSS hasn't seemed to want to do that after nearly five decades of giving Tai San a pass, arguably starting with Aitken and Soen Roshi. The glowing press release was unskillful in my view.
Some love to pawn "insight" as some elevated grand possession. If Tai San had true insight how could he not see the karma of his continued and unchecked predation?


*I should say that this wasn't in a clinical setting where he was treating the women but nevertheless was in a power relationship.


"If Tai San had true insight how could he not see the karma of his continued and unchecked predation?"

A person addicted to the feelings engendered in taking risks can quite often clearly see how it is destroying their life.

This does not mean they are capable of stopping the taking of risks.


I understand this dynamic. However, one could clearly see then that eliminating karmic vexations comes from more than preaching the greatness of koans.


" ... one could clearly see then that eliminating karmic vexations comes from more than preaching ..."


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