June 2016 - Walking the Middle Way

June, 2016 (All day)

I have been working with the Board of Directors of the Zen Studies Society and the Anniversary Steering Committee for the past year on how best to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of Dai Bosatsu Zendo and the sixtieth anniversary of ZSS. We knew we wanted to follow an inspiring sesshin with a memorable celebration worthy of this great milestone.

We were gratified by the warm and positive responses from those whom we invited to present their teachings and offerings at the July 3rd commemoration: the Ven. Shunan Noritake Roshi, abbot of Reiun-in at Myoshin-ji, Japan; David Loy, author of the 2015 book A New Buddhist Path: Enlightenment, Evolution, and Ethics in the Modern World; Professor Richard Jaffe, renowned D. T. Suzuki scholar and author of the just-published Selected Works of D. T. Suzuki; tea master Todd Frey; chef Seppo Ed Farrey, author of Three Bowls: Vegetarian Recipes from an American Zen Buddhist Monastery, and long-time tenzo at DBZ; Shakuhachi Grand Master Nyogetsu Reishin Ronnie Seldin; composer and guitarist Anthony Bez; and jazz duo Genmyo Atsundo Aikawa, bassist, and Koshin Yuka Aikawa, pianist.

Our Anniversary Sesshin will soon begin, with 50 participants; more than 150 Sangha members and Dharma friends will be attending the July 3rd commemoration. Many generous anniversary gifts have been made; we have nearly reached our $100,000 goal.

As most of us have experienced, any special event, no matter how auspicious, can engender conflicting points of view; indeed, it is the nature of viewpoints to be factional.

The Board and I struggled with a particularly difficult dilemma in planning this occasion: how to acknowledge Eido Tai Shimano Roshi for his visionary work in establishing DBZ, while being sensitive to concerns about the harm caused to many Sangha members and to ZSS as a result of decades of his inappropriate relationships with students. Since he is the founding abbot, we felt it would not be in keeping with Buddhist principles to exclude him completely; yet we could not ignore the consequences of his misconduct; nor could we ignore the many people who said they could not attend if he were present.

After a long process of discussion and discernment, we decided to afford Eido Roshi and his Sangha a private time for commemoration on the afternoon of July 4th. It fell to me to write the difficult letter informing him that he could not attend the public events of July 3rd. I did my best to do so in a courteous manner, knowing how painful it would be to receive this.

My personal letter to him, sent by U.S. Mail, was then scanned by someone and sent out as an e-mail, which immediately found its way to the Internet. Unsurprisingly, I received angry responses from those on both sides of the viewpoint divide—some who were outraged that we had not invited him to the main event, and others who were aghast that he would even be permitted to step foot on the property.

During these past five-and-a-half years, the Board and I have tried our best to make decisions with integrity and attunement; to walk the Middle Way. This is not always acceptable to those whose views may be at polar opposites, but it is the only path I know.

I often think of the Lotus Sutra’s Bodhisattva Never Despise, who told his attackers, “One day you, too, will become a Buddha.” As practicing Buddhists, should we not extend our vow thus? After all, the thousand arms of Avalokitesvara embrace all beings, without exception. Using our best discernment, born of deep and abiding wisdom and compassion, let us walk this Middle Way.

Namu Dai Bosa!

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