The change seems to have begun, in earnest, with my old teacher Robert Aitken Roshi's decision to make public his vast archive of materials related to the sexual abuses perpetrated by Eido Shimano. Aided by the democritizing power of the Internet, many disclosures and calls for accountability have come forth from the Mahasangha, and there is now an ongoing airing of past traumas and attempts at both healing and enforcement of reasonable codes of ethical behavior.
When I left ZenWorld, some of us wondered why they did not have some sort of ethical code. "It weakens traditional zen training", the Sensei said at the time (ZenWorld now does have a code of ethics). If one reads the T'ang literature this would seem obvious. Pai-Chang did not take insurance payments (as far as we know!), and didn't sue when his leg was broken by his master. But Dharma leaders, whether monks, laity, or what have you, were doubtless held to some standards of behavior in their communities. I lived in the Himalaya for 3 years, and monks who screwed the pooch (not literally, well, ahh, mostly not anyhow, except in VERY remote places) were typically called on it by people in the villages, and within the regional authority.
As my old friend Chozen Bays mentioned in a recent post on Sweeping Zen, being a Zen teacher is a profession. I am glad that here in the USA, at last, the power of the net is inviting people into a relatedness that makes it much more difficult for abuses of power to go unnoticed, and for the victims of them to be silenced. There is much more on this change to address, which I shall soon.
Of course Zen is not just a profession - it has its interiority, the vast wildness of mountain winds, infinite creativity, and at bottom the no-thing-ness (sorry) that shows the denominator as all things. But this post is about the human side and spirit of practice and how to manifest that skillfully.
And since this blog is satirical....
When I v isited Lhasa in 1998, I took time to visit all the main temples in the vicinity - Sera-Je, Ganden, Tsurphu, and Drepung. While wandering around Sera, I rounded a corner of the labyrinthine walkways and surprised an older monk and a, ahh, novice. In flagrante delicto, shall we say. Or exploring the interpenetration of phenomena. I saw a similar incident in Nepal in 1994. At the time, this prompted me to write to a friend (Laith Na'ayem), "Om Mani Padme Hum" should really be said as "Oh Mommy He's Well Hung".
Well, you must admit that the early Jesuit explorers in Tibet did liken "Lamaism" to Catholicism, identifying the exotic rituals of the Vajrayana with Rome while likening the austerity of Theravada with Protestantism. Ahem.