Genpo Roshi is quite active here in The Netherlands. But his influenced has waned considerably lately. It's hard to tell if that's just because of the very highly publicized and largely meaningless sex scandal or because people realized what a joke the whole Big Mind® thing was.
The above comments are from Zen teacher Brad Warner's current post on Zen in Europe. For anyone who hasn't read Brad's writing before, his persona is frequently smart ass and irreverent. Furthermore, he loves to take shots at Dennis Merzel(Genpo), to the point where it's almost become a cliche.
Anyway, what struck me in the above comment is the decidedly cavalier attitude Warner takes in regards to the "sex scandal" that rocked Genpo's sangha several months ago. This is not a new view from Brad, nor is it an uncommon view around the convert Zen world. In response to various posts I have written about the scandal that happened in my own sangha, as well as what happened with Genpo and other Zen teachers in recent years, I have received many comments suggesting that "it's no big deal" and/or that the grievances are "all in the students' head, completely blown out of proportion."
This morning, as I reflect on all that I've experienced, and also what I have read about sex scandals in spiritual communities (which are almost always about much more than sex, I find myself thinking about how our attitudes about sex really explode the holy masks so many of us love to parade around in.
There are endless streams of Buddhist writing about compassion, and yet when it comes to suffering borne at least in part from sexual relations, how often does that compassion get tossed under the "emptiness" bus?
Or on the other side of the coin, how often do we resort to fast and easy moral judgments about those involved, be they teachers or students?
In other words, how often do we simply choose a relative or absolute shortcut, essentially out a desire to avoid the karmic mess before us?
For every cavalier statement like Warner's, there are as many or more final and total condemnations of teachers like Genpo, or of the "infantile" students that held their former teachers on a pedestal.
Perhaps it's not terribly surprising, but it is sort of ironic that a lot of Buddhists seem entirely unable to demonstrate compassion when it comes to their fellow dharma brothers and sisters.
And I believe that when it comes to something with such intensity as a sex scandal, which tends to unravel a knot of power abuse along with it, one of the main reasons that so many of us fail to embody compassion is that we can't figure out what compassion truly is in such a situation.
On the one hand, there's a need to deal with the facts of the relative world. A need for some accountability and responsibility taken.
On the other hand, there's the emptiness of the situation, that in an absolute sense, what happened was "no big deal" or that, anyway, "it's ok as it is."
If you think about it, this struggle between addressing the absolute and relative plays out in every moment of our lives. However, the power of sexuality seems to not only highlight the two poles, but effectively blasts all but the most seasoned of practitioners into one camp or the other. If I consider my own experience, it's been filled with a lot of swinging between the two ends, and more recently attempting to find some middle ground in what I say, write, and think.
Nagarjuna's tetralemma comes up for me in all of this. It's essentially a warning to not get attached to any of these four views:
X and non-X (both)
neither X nor non-X (neither)
When I have deliberately worked with this, examining "answers" or "conclusions" about something, at some point, I have found myself empty handed. Without anything to hold onto. It's startling, so much so that I've noticed getting stuck to being startled. To the point of paralysis.
Yet it seems to me that this is the pivot point, the opportunity to truly embody compassion and liberate suffering. However, ever desiring some solid ground, some fixed right or wrong, we tend to miss the opportunity time and time again.
I'll leave you with this poem from Zen master Ikkyu, no stranger to sex and sex scandals, to ponder.
From the world of passions,
returning to the world of passions.
There is a moment’s pause --
if it rains, let it rain,
If the wind blows let it blow.