(NOT QUITE) PEACE IN E-SANGHA: Need your advice

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  • Jundo
    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
    • Apr 2006
    • 39474

    (NOT QUITE) PEACE IN E-SANGHA: Need your advice

    Dear All,

    I need the advice & wisdom of everyone at Treeleaf regarding the best course to take.

    Just prior to my re-joining E-Sangha, I received a list of rules and warnings that I am expected to abide by at all times if I am allowed to rejoin their forums. A few of these are extremely restrictive and, I believe (and many other Zen Buddhist teachers I have spoken to today in the Western Zen world firmly believe), are intolerant and discriminatory. Some are based on false information and narrow (biased) historical interpretations. It is sad. It is silly!

    For example, based on an ancient historical interpretation, I would be forced to admit that certain Tibetan, Chinese and Vietnamese lineages are superior, and more historically "true", than any lineage of any priest of any school of Buddhism in Japan, including Zen Buddhism of course. This is based on a old historical interpretation that the only lineages authorized to "officially" ordain died out or were never present in other countries. To give you some context, it is much like Catholic believers asserting the superiority or greater legitimacy of catholic clergy over Anglicans or other Protestants based on historical events during the 16th century Reformation.

    Oh, so silly! It is basically a step short of a claim of national and racial superiority for Tibetans and Chinese.

    For a second example, I would be forbidden from challenging, in anything I write for their Forum, the "official" interpretation at E-Sangha, and the infallibility of the content of, certain early Sutta's that they have selected. This is not only limited to the question of "post mortem rebirth", but that is one among the central issues. Again, this is just like my being forbidden as a Protestant to challenge the Catholic interpritation of the Book of Daniel.

    And you may have thought that Buddhists were beyond arguing over the Trinity and the Virgin Birth?

    Oh, if they only realized that this wide and grand universe is big enough to hold everybody!

    I do not believe that it would be right for me to rejoin. I do not believe that I can, in all good conscience, agree to these things (it is not that I deny other people the right to believe in them, but they would deny me the right to not believe in them in the way they do). I also think it likely that I will end up saying something, at some point, that they will object to and they will soon kick me out again.

    So, I have decided not to rejoin. I am sad.

    However, I also believe that certain forms of social intolerance and discrimination can be met with peaceful, non-violent, passive resistance and protest. Therefore, I am doing more than just letting this matter drop (they are entitled to what they believe, but they are very powerful as a source of information in the Buddhist world). I am considering (with some others) initiating a peaceful campaign regarding E-Sangha, uniting several Buddhist schools, under the slogan "Religious Intolerance is Un-Buddhist - PLEASE BOYCOTT E-SANGHA, An Intolerant Buddhist Community".

    The campaign would be publicized and organized and talked about across Buddhist Schools, and would include placing banners on homepages, blogs and such that read as above.

    I do not believe in violence, I do think we are all entitled to our own beliefs however much others may find them strange, I do not like religious tensions ....

    However, I think that this is the right thing to do. I believe that it is fully in keeping with the Precepts, especially with regard to "Right Speech" (maybe the slogan needs to be toned down a bit?).

    But, it has effects on all of us, and effects beyond us ... what do you guys think??

    Gassho, Jundo
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE
  • Longdog
    Member
    • Nov 2007
    • 448

    #2
    Hi Jundo

    I've never been involved in E-Sanga but I can see your predicament.

    Personally I think I would just ignore them and get on with what is important to me.

    To start any sort of a 'so and so is un-buddhist' campaign would seem un-buddhist in itself to me. I know you may feel that in your position you can not stand by and let this sort of thing happen, but where would it stop? I'm sure there are more groups/organisations out there that the Buddha police could chase up too?

    One reason I came to Soto Zen Buddhism was that it doesn't seem to evangelical in it's approach and people just get on with sitting.

    You've told them and others what you think, may be it's up to people themselves to now make their own choices, to activily 'dis' them may come across as you thinking you're infallible.

    People on E-sanga are just as responsible for their own training as everyone else is. That's koan of living isn't it?

    My two penneth worth anyway.

    In gassho, Kev
    [url:x8wstd0h]http://moder-dye.blogspot.com/[/url:x8wstd0h]

    Comment

    • Komoku
      Member
      • Sep 2007
      • 55

      #3
      "Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest woman whom you have seen and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to her. Will she gain anything by it? Will it restore her to a control over her own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj for the hungry and spiritually starving millions? Then you will find your doubts and yourself melting away." -- Mahatma Gandhi

      Leave the e-sangha to the e-sangha. With the treeleaf create light and not heat. I believe the seekers who come here are seeking light. E-sangha will continue to create its own problems.
      Gassho,

      Komoku
      古黙

      Sat

      Comment

      • Rev R
        Member
        • Jul 2007
        • 457

        #4
        Jundo,

        I am inclined to support this endeavor. However, I would like to see the actual stipulations to your return. Not as a matter of distrust mind you, but rather because I would prefer to see the evidence with my own eyes.

        Is this an issue that is solely related to e-sangha, or is it a common line of thinking in schools that e-sangha's interpretation are tied to?

        Comment

        • Jundo
          Treeleaf Founder and Priest
          • Apr 2006
          • 39474

          #5
          Hi Rev,

          I will put the offending sections below ... the rest are not controversial.

          I am still leaning toward taking this step. Perhaps "Please Boycott" "Kindly Boycott" "Avoid" or "Beware" of E-Sangha??

          I feel that religious intolerance and discrimination, in such a powerful and influential forum, must not be allowed to go unchecked. This "looking the other way" would have effect on the poor old lady. THAT WAS A QUOTE BY GANDHI, for gosh sakes. Not exactly a "take no action" guy, was he?

          Scholars I have contacted today in the Zen community, of course, do not concur in many of the following historical interpretations ...

          Gassho, Jundo


          FROM THE ADMINISTRATOR OF E-SANGHA:

          Fifth: E-Sangha is not democratic, never has been, and never will be,
          no more so than any private corporation operating in the United
          States is a democracy or is run as a democracy. Neither is E-Sangha a
          business, though the owner of the site does accept donations in
          Singapore to pay for the server. Nor is E-Sangha a non-profit or any
          other kind of corporation at all. It is a strictly volunteer, at-your-
          own risk venture.

          Sixth: Regarding the question of your ordination and ordinations in
          general: the position of E-Sangha is that ordinations such as yours
          are lay ordinations, and that you are a member of the Buddhist lay
          clergy. This means, that as far as we are concerned, you are not a
          monk of any kind.

          The point of view of E-Sangha is that the only monks and nuns
          existing in Buddhism today are those men and women who have been
          ordained into one of three three surviving Vinaya lineages i.e.
          Theravada, Mula-sarvastivada [Tibetan] or Dharmaguptaka [China,
          Vietnam and Korea]. The Tendai and Shingon priests who are presently
          members of E-Sangha cede that this is so, they agree with this
          assessment, and in fact they helped us formulate it.

          ...

          Eighth: In terms of doctrine: the base level of Buddhist teachings we
          assert as properly Buddhist, canonical and acceptable are those found
          in the Pali Canon and the Sanskrit Agamas. This is why such things as
          dependent origination, rebirth [punarbhava] and so on are non-
          negotiable items at E-Sangha.

          E-Sangha is _Buddhist_ before it is Tibetan Buddhist, Chinese
          Buddhist, Japanese Buddhist, Theravadin, Zen or anything else. Given
          that this is the case, the basic criteria by which we, the moderating
          staff, judge any Buddhists' statements on E-Sangha is whether it
          accords (or not) with the basic teachings in the Nikayas/Agamas. The
          heuristic we then apply depends upon sect and what the founders of
          those sects state.

          I have never found a single founder of any sect who denies literal
          rebirth categorically, and in fact, found that they all uphold it as
          a basic tenet, including Dogen.

          Any objection that Soto does not agree with rebirth in a literal
          sense will be met with citations where Dogen without questions
          affirms the Agamic position on rebirth i.e. that without rebirth, one
          could not have the four fruits of shravakas, i.e. stream entrants,
          once-returners, never-returners and arhats. The first three are
          defined precisely by the Buddha in the Agamas/Nikayas in terms of the
          number of actual rebirths they experience as well as places where
          they experience rebirth in the desire realm and form realm before
          they become Arhats i.e. seven lifetimes, one lifetime, rebirth in the
          form realm etc, and then there are various categories within these.

          My point is that Dogen explicitly affirms these and condemns those
          who reject rebirth as those who also reject the four types of
          Shravaka realizers. You may read this in Englightenment Unfolds
          around page 263, towards the end. Whatever Modern Soto Buddhist may
          claim, it is very clear what Dogen's position is.

          Of course I am also aware that in Mahayana Buddhism there are two
          truths, relative and ultimate; two types of teaching, definitive and
          provisional and so on, and I am extremely familiar with all the
          discussions around these issues.

          It is not my intent to go into these issues with you in this email, I
          am merely providing these for the sake of clarity and so you know
          where I am coming from.

          Ninth: the E-Sangha middle way is to reject the existence of any
          permanent identity [the extreme of permanence] and to reject the
          assertion that there is no rebirth [the extreme of annihilation].
          This is the middle way to which we expect all members on E-Sangha
          will adhere. I hope you will find it possible to tread this middle
          way as well.

          Best wishes,

          Malcolm Smith

          ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

          Comment

          • Jundo
            Treeleaf Founder and Priest
            • Apr 2006
            • 39474

            #6
            Originally posted by Rev R
            Is this an issue that is solely related to e-sangha, or is it a common line of thinking in schools that e-sangha's interpretation are tied to?
            Yes, it is part of a wider "holier than thou" thing in the Buddhist world. Some Chinese, Tibetans etc. tend not to think of any Japanese lineage (Shingon, Tendai, Jodo, Nishiren, Rinzai or Soto Zen Buddhist) as Kosher.

            Gassho, Jundo
            ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

            Comment

            • Rev R
              Member
              • Jul 2007
              • 457

              #7
              Ok forgive my French but that sounds like total bullshit to me.

              Since my last post I've been thinking that perhaps singling out e-sangha as an organization maybe going a bit far. As the others have mentioned it could be taken as just an attempt to bad mouth e-sangha and the vinyana traditions. But in essence, they disregard anything but the vinyana traditions as having any merit. To censor anyone who disagrees with this view is a terrible thing. Particularly with the status as a large resource for Buddhist thought.

              Perhaps something along the lines of "Be Lamps Unto Yourselves: Encourage Free-thought in Buddhism!" as a broad stroke with the behavior of the e-sangha administration as an example (since it's not the entire community being indicted here).

              Comment

              • Eika
                Member
                • Sep 2007
                • 806

                #8
                Jundo wrote:
                Yes, it is part of a wider "holier than thou" thing in the Buddhist world. The Chinese, Tibetans tend not to think of any Japanese lineage (Shingon, Tendai, Jodo, Nishiren, Rinzai or Soto Zen Buddhist) as Kosher.

                Gassho, Jundo
                I vote to drop it as well unless a much more positive way of countering their ignorance can be envisioned. I find a most all of the e-sangha terms objectionable, but I see very little chance of resolution or peace coming from a campaign against such beliefs. Jundo's statement above leads me to believe that this is an issue that will survive any website because it is about fear, ignorance, even racism, and self-elevation by discounting others' views (which by the way are mostly metaphysical questions that are unanswerable by the living). I see nothing but divisive speech and anger coming from any conflict with e-sangha.
                Like Jim, I would prefer us to lead the way positively, though I understand Jundo's reluctance to leave such baloney unchallenged. Ideally, e-sangha would remove any discussions that fall outside of lineages they approve of/respect. That is a pipe-dream I'm sure.

                Sorry, no solutions from me.

                Bill
                [size=150:m8cet5u6]??[/size:m8cet5u6] We are involved in a life that passes understanding and our highest business is our daily life---John Cage

                Comment

                • Komoku
                  Member
                  • Sep 2007
                  • 55

                  #9
                  On the Internet many things can appear legitimate that are illegitimate, and these things can appear legitimate for long periods of time. E-sangha questions (even attacks) your legitimacy because you are a threat, but I see nothing to provide proof of their own legitimacy. Who are they to write such things to you about Soto Zen? The boycott or campaign will make them appear legitimate to some and they do not deserve the recognition or exposure the campaign would provide. Nameless Tendai and Shingon priest name dropping, bah!

                  Therefore, I'm still sticking with my first post and instinct however wrong I might be. E-Sangha is not some powerful foreign government, and we've done far less as a Sangha in response to other causes that impact more people in more significant ways.
                  Gassho,

                  Komoku
                  古黙

                  Sat

                  Comment

                  • Eika
                    Member
                    • Sep 2007
                    • 806

                    #10
                    Perhaps something along the lines of "Be Lamps Unto Yourselves: Encourage Free-thought in Buddhism!" as a broad stroke with the behavior of the e-sangha administration as an example (since it's not the entire community being indicted here).
                    Yes, this is closer to what I had in mind . . . you're on the right track Rev.

                    Bill
                    [size=150:m8cet5u6]??[/size:m8cet5u6] We are involved in a life that passes understanding and our highest business is our daily life---John Cage

                    Comment

                    • Eika
                      Member
                      • Sep 2007
                      • 806

                      #11
                      Jim has a great point.

                      Therefore, I'm still sticking with my first post and instinct however wrong I might be. E-Sangha is not some powerful foreign government, and we've done far less as a Sangha in response to other causes that impact more people in more significant ways.
                      We are not getting worked up over the millions of other issues that are world-changers but we are spending a lot of time worrying about a group of folks who have offended us. We can't fix everything, but we CAN ignore the people who run e-sangha.

                      Bill
                      [size=150:m8cet5u6]??[/size:m8cet5u6] We are involved in a life that passes understanding and our highest business is our daily life---John Cage

                      Comment

                      • Jundo
                        Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                        • Apr 2006
                        • 39474

                        #12
                        Hi Guys,

                        Well, this organization is already one of tremendous influence, with a larger readership than magazines such as Buddhadharma and Tricycle. I cannot easily turn away from religious intolerance in my own back yard. Passive resistance, and a campaign with a positive theme of "Tolerance" should not be easily rejected. Is not to ignore the problem, and to take no action, the same as countenancing the problem? All I wish to do is get the information out, and this seems like the best way.

                        You know, I cannot easily solve the problem of Darfur or wars on foreign shores, but I can do something here. That does not mean that we are not equally concerned with intolerance wherever and however it appears (I think a Darfur ribbon should be put on the blog, by the way, and I will do so ... unless someone disagrees?).

                        My heart is telling me that this is the right thing to do. Okay, it is not the March in Thelma Alabama, or Burmese monks refusing to accept alms, or Gahndi taking on the British. It is a small thing, but the same steps are required. I do not think that I should remain silent, and that a "call to boycott" is a legitimate, Buddhist step ...



                        Gassho, Jundo
                        ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                        Comment

                        • Longdog
                          Member
                          • Nov 2007
                          • 448

                          #13
                          Hi, me again. I'm still of the 'forget 'em and get on with my own practice' school of thought for all I think that what they say stinks.

                          Any proclamaition on your own site homepage or that of others critising E-Sanga is not a good first impression for you to make. Surely it falls under the precepts of critising others and also saying that we're better than them.

                          If the question is of up holding right speech then that has already been done hasn't it? Hence the 2 threads on it here and I pressume some mention on E-Sanga?

                          Listening to todays talk again (before the zazen) made me think of this issue.

                          In gassho, Kev
                          [url:x8wstd0h]http://moder-dye.blogspot.com/[/url:x8wstd0h]

                          Comment

                          • Jundo
                            Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                            • Apr 2006
                            • 39474

                            #14
                            Hi Guys,

                            As I have always said, the Precepts are made for living in a life/world with many ambiguities and gray areas. We must try to do, as we can, that which (from our available vantage point and educated guesses) reduces harm and increases benefit ... But some actions, like the one we are discussing, have mixed results.

                            All we can do is try to stand back and choose, as best we can, the "right" course. "Right Speech" is the same.

                            So, if there is so much feeling in the Sangha that we should do nothing more, then we shall do nothing more on this.

                            I will let other people in the Sangha chime in and express their opinions over the next day. But, if the consensus is this, I will limit my actions to writing E-Sangha a letter expressing my objections, and leave it at that.


                            Gassho, Jundo
                            ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                            Comment

                            • TracyF
                              Member
                              • Nov 2007
                              • 188

                              #15
                              I am considering (with some others) initiating a peaceful campaign regarding E-Sangha, uniting several Buddhist schools, under the slogan "Religious Intolerance is Un-Buddhist - PLEASE BOYCOTT E-SANGHA, An Intolerant Buddhist Community".
                              Something doesn't sit right with me in the bolded part, Jundo. Seems to kind of stoop to their level. I'd prefer if you found a way to use this as an education tool. I asked a few questions in the other thread on this. I'm sure there's lots of people out there who would benefit from some answers to those questions from the Soto Zen point of view. Maybe your campaign should be simple: something along the lines that people new to Buddhism should be forewarned that not all Buddhist sects are properly represented at e-sangha (particularly Zen, Tendai, etc.). Then link people to legitimate texts on the internet that are considered mainstream Soto Zen. You could even bullet point some of the points of contention: rebirth, other earthly realms (and associated beings), etc. Stress that the main point of Soto Zen is zazen, etc. etc.

                              I hope I'm not being too demanding for a new person. :lol:

                              Comment

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