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03 Betrayal
Forum: Healing Jikoji Forum
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  06 How the Buddy System Limits Diversity of Opinion and Ethnicity
Posted by: admin - 07-12-2020, 07:19 PM - Forum: Healing Jikoji Forum - Replies (1)

Jikoji uses a "Buddy System" to select standing committee members.  Being a member of a standing committee for one year is a requirement for being on the board.  In the special meeting of the board held in June 2019 where two board members were removed, it was explained by the board chairman that the committee requirement was put in place so that any potential board member would be a known quantity to Jikoji's lawyer and Guiding teacher.

  This rule has serious deleterious consequences.  One is that it limits membership to the handful of people that Jikoji's lawyer, who lives hundreds of miles from Jikoji, can be familiar with on a personal basis. Thus, a perusal of the makeup of the board since 2007 - as far as online records go back at Jikoji - reveals that the same names keep cropping up on the list of board directors, officers and standing committee members.  Two members are present on the list, in multiple capacities, throughout that time, one of which was a board member well before that. This, obviously, is not the way to obtain a wide ranging collection of perspectives from within the sangha.

  It could be argued that, while limiting perspectives, this system does at least preserve expertise. That is not always so, however, as the person with the longest track record as a decision-maker at Jikoji has incurred numerous complaints about their performance on the board, being "infamous" as one teacher in the Phoenix Cloud lineage put it, for misusing consensus to force the group to conform to their opinion.  Is there not a danger of a sense of entitlement arising in one who has been in a decision-making position for some twenty years?

  More alarming yet is the lack of racial diversity in positions of power at jikoji. Since 2007, there has only been one Asian or Asian American on the board, standing committee, or office of the board, and no Hispanics or African Americans.  While membership among African Americans is very low in the group, and only a little larger among Hispanics, about half of all attendees of the Sunday program are Asian or Asian American. Why such a paucity of representation in a temple established by a man from Japan that teaches a religion that originated in Asia? 

  We needn't posit overt racism to explain this, but systemic racism, what Glenn Harris, president of Race Forward and publisher of Colorlines, defines as "the complex interaction of culture, policy and institutions that holds in place the outcomes we see in our lives," surely needs to be investigated as the cause of such an extreme lack of representation.  The Buddy System is a form of systemic racism by Harris' definition, as the policy of winnowing candidates for the board through committee selection in the hands of a few invariably selects members with which those few experience cultural familiarity and ease.

  If overcoming such disproportionate representation was not enough of an incentive to replace the buddy system, there is another, perhaps even more compelling reason.  Studies on power and ethnicity found that:

   Culture of origin can shape how individualistic or communal you are—and how you use power. Hispanic immigrants, on average, have been found to be more collectivistic than European Americans, more inclined to use power to help people, and less inclined to use it to take advantage of others.14 Priming European Americans to feel powerful increased the mental accessibility of words related to entitlement, but priming Asian Americans to feel powerful conjured responsibility.15 And while feeling powerful increased selfishness in European Americans, it reduced it in Asian Americans.

-Why Power Brings Out Your True Self

  We should consider very carefully what the cost of the restrictive system for selection of members that hold power has been for Jikoji over the years and going forward.

14. Torelli, C.J. & Shavitt, S. Culture and concepts of power. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 99, 703-723 (2010).
15. Zhong, C.B., Magee, J., Maddux, W., & Galinsky, A. Power, Culture, and Action: Considerations in the Expression and Enactment of Power in East Asian and Western Societies, in Ya-Ru Chen (ed.) National Culture and Groups (Research on Managing Groups and Teams) Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, United Kingdom (2006).

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  03 Betrayal
Posted by: admin - 06-26-2020, 06:42 AM - Forum: Healing Jikoji Forum - Replies (3)

...it is the breach of trust that shocks and traumatizes. Depending on the degree of trust invested, the sense of betrayal may increase exponentially. - Caryl Gopfert

All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them.
 - Isak Dinesen

  This will no doubt be the most painful thread to participate in on this forum.  It is undertaken with the understanding that to heal the wounds inflicted in the past, they need to be revisited with clarity and understood so they are not repeated, as well as to provide healing for those who feel they have been mistreated.  In her eye-opening work, Student Experiences of Betrayal in the Zen Buddhist Teacher/Student Relationship, Caryl Gopfert relates the experiences of nine Zen students who have felt betrayed in their relationships with teachers. After collecting all the subject's stories she shared them among themselves.  The very act of reading each other’s stories was reported as healing by many of the people in the study.

  Ideally this would be carried out in a group setting, with teachers, elders, and sangha members present, along with a professional facilitator to guide the process.  This was asked for but never provided.  We will do the best we can to allow people to be heard.  We hope you will do the best you can to listen.

  Gopfert identifies the experience of the betrayal of trust as the essence of abusive relationships between parent/child, teacher(professor)/student, minister/congregant, or therapist/client, whether the abuse is sexual or not.   She defines betrayal on page 31:

  Betrayal lies not only in the overt breaking of ethical standards, but also in the destruction or damaging of the trust implicit in intimate relationships.

  She believes the intimacy of spiritual teacher/student relationships to rival those of the parent/child relationship and quotes Jan Chozen Bays who maintains, "There are striking similarities between child abuse and spiritual abuse." She explains that students come to practice like trusting children, open and willing to share their "innermost anxieties and shadowy places, trusting the teacher to act always for their benefit. To betray that trust for personal gain is a misuse of power akin to child abuse."  Just as child abuse disrupts a child's development, sometimes permanently, making healthy sexuality an impossibility, "Spiritual abuse of students is similarly disruptive, with the result that some students never mature in spiritual practice and others are turned away from the Dharma forever." - p.41

  Gopfert compares sexual betrayal with other forms of betrayal of intimate trust, all of which share a power differential of one in power and one dependent to some extent on the person in power. 

This makes the less powerful person vulnerable in the relationship. In each case there is the assumption that the person in power will act in the best  interests of the "supplicant"; there is trust in the integrity not only of the person, but also in the "office" of the person in power. Lena Dominelli (1989) talks about power in betrayals of trust in incestuous relationships. Power in families is theoretically "tempered by trust," she maintains. "This sets up the expectation that the powerless members of the family will be cared for and protected by its more powerful ones. Their failure to live up to this expectation becomes a betrayal of trust, or the abuse of power ... "
-p. 43

She goes on to state,

  Across the board the effects of betrayal of trust are similar, if not the same, and lists loss of self-esteem; loss of trust in the betrayer; generic loss of trust in others; a desire for vengeance; a decimation of self-trust; anxiety, depression, fear, and lack of concentration (Finkelhor & Browne, 1986; Fortune, 1994; Pope, 1988; Pope & Vasquez, 1991; Sonne, Meyer, Borys, & Marshall, 1985). In his review of the research on therapist/client sexual intimacy, Kenneth Pope (1988) found that the consequences for clients were similar to Rape Response Syndrome, Battered Spouse Syndrome, reaction to incest and child abuse, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Consequences for the client include: ambivalence about the betrayer; a sense of guilt; feelings of emptiness and isolation; impaired ability to trust; identity and boundary confusion; depression and anxiety; suppressed rage; cognitive dysfunction, especially attention and concentration.

  We will add that, even though the relationship with sangha and management does not have the intimacy of the teacher/student relationship, the implicit trust placed in those in management positions, as guardians of the community, and the betrayal of the expectations of just treatment and sincere concern for the plight of its members is also trauma inducing.  Betrayals of trust are not limited to actions taken, but also include the omission of expected action, the fulfillment of implicit and explicit agreements.  For many of us it is the intimacy lost when we had to leave the community that is most dearly missed and longed for and the steps that were not taken to encourage peaceful and more cooperative relations that was the betrayal of trust.

  We would like to hear your stories and suggestions in the comments.  As this is liable to be the most emotional discussion on the forum, please read the guidelines for comments and keep them in mind.  Also, this advice from Thich Nhat Hahn, which may be seen as impossibly ideal, but can be used as a guiding star, and our speech measured against how close it comes to that star even if it never reaches it.  We bring up past injuries not to cause others harm, but to protect those in the future from having to undergo similar harm from similar misunderstanding.

Loving Speech and Compassionate Listening
When we know how to use loving speech, we can help the other person open their heart and see that we did not have the intention of making them suffer. If in the past the other person hurt us, it is because they could not see our pain and our suffering.
We need to know how to use loving speech. For example, we can say:
“For some time now, I know that you have had many difficulties and suffered and I have not been able to help you. My way of reacting has created even more suffering for you and that is my fault. I have not been able to see your suffering and pain, your difficulties, and your despair – because I only could only see my own pain and suffering. That is why I continued to criticize and blame you and we could no longer communicate. Now I can see more clearly. I see your difficulties, suffering and despair. Please help me. Please tell me more about your suffering and pain, so I can understand and not react as I have previously and not make you suffer like I have done in the past. If you do not help me, then who will? Please give me a chance to be your true brother, your true sister.”
When we are able to speak in this way, then the other person will open their heart and will share with us about their difficulties and suffering. It could be that while speaking, they may use words of criticism and blame and it may be that they have many wrong perceptions about us. But the practice of deep compassionate listening requires that we do not interrupt the other person, even if what they are saying is not in accord with the truth. If we interrupt, we will turn the session of deep listening into a debate and all will be lost. We have to follow our breathing while listening and remind ourselves that we are practicing deep listening for one purpose only: to help the other person open their heart, and share their pain and suffering so they can suffer less. If there have been some misunderstandings between us then, a few days later, when we can find the right moment, we provide them with more information so they can correct their perceptions.
Re-establishing communication and reconciling with our brothers and sisters is a very important practice. If we cannot do that, then how can we possibly build Sangha?

  *The closest thing that came to it was a sangha meeting in March of 2019, but little time was provided to explore the hurt that people have felt.  Of the three hours provided, forty minutes were spent in Zazen, despite a request to not take time away from the meeting, but just open that up beforehand for people who wish to come early.  An hour was spent on introductions, a ten minute break and another ten minutes on an incident that took place during the break harking back to a forty year-old conflict, leaving only one hour for any exchange of views - far too short a time to explore in depth such deeply felt and complex interpersonal issues.   Even then, much of that time was spent in denial by some, either by claiming there were no recent conflicts and so everything was now fine, or that we just needed to understand the meaning of the word "conflict" in a more sophisticated way to understand that there were never any conflicts at Jikoji.  People were interrupted who were called on to speak, while another person injected her opinion numerous times without being called on.   Many of the members who felt aggrieved were unable to attend because the meeting was held on a week day during work hours.  All of this contributed to the meeting being an inadequate exploration of the conflicts besetting Jikoji.

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Photo Turning to Each Other
Posted by: admin - 06-26-2020, 05:57 AM - Forum: Healing Jikoji Forum - No Replies

It's time for us to turn to each other, not on each other.      

Jesse Jackson

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Posted by: admin - 06-26-2020, 01:35 AM - Forum: Healing Jikoji Forum - No Replies

EWIC Ethics Statement and CRP Proposal:

RMIC Ethics Statement and CRP:

Proposed JMG Appointment Doc with Comments by Pam Vavra Attorney at Law

Appointment of the Jikoji Manager Group and Acceptance of Appointment:

Jikoji Guest and Practitioner Policy:

Gopfert, Caryl:  Experiences of Betrayal in the Zen Buddhist Student/Teacher Relationship

Santa Cruz Conflict Resolution Center: A Report for Jikoji Spiritual and Resident Community
Prepared by the Conflict resolution Center October 2018

Santa Cruz Conflict Resolution Center: Tools for Effective Communication

Santa Cruz Conflict Resolution Center: Conflict Resolution in Three Easy Steps

Email Sent to Jikoji Sangha Members Expressing Concerns About Special Board Meeting

"Concerns" Document Linked Within Email Above

Why Power Brings Out Your True Self

Sociocracy For All - A one stop shop for all things sociocracy

3 paths to Self-Management - A look at different strategies for non-hierarchical management systems

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  05 Managing Conflict
Posted by: admin - 06-13-2020, 11:45 PM - Forum: Healing Jikoji Forum - No Replies

There is too much verbiage, everyone needs to just stop talking. - Jikoji teacher's response when asked how to resolve the conflicts at the temple.

If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.
- Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

  Dialogue is the most effective way of resolving conflict. - The 14th Dalai Lama

In an apparent turn in sympathy with the last two quotes, in July of 2016 a special meeting was called by the board to explore ways in which:

   ...the sangha could support residents in their community practice. A temporary committee was proposed to brainstorm needs and solutions that would foster a more positive community experience and improved skills in handling challenges...
It was agreed that a committee should be established that would start ongoing conversations among the community. 

  The committee was later named the “Everything is Workable” committee and within the course of a few meetings agreed that the residents of Jikoji would benefit from training in conflict resolution, and that Jikoji should adopt an ethics statement and Conflict Resolution Policy (CRP) such as many other Buddhist and spiritual communities have.  The committee did not aim at getting rid of conflict - that would neither be possible or desirable - conflict is inevitable, and is indicative of a membership that feels empowered.  The more powerful one feels the more likely one is to express their true views and feelings.  It may not be too far an exaggeration to say that conflict is essential to creativity, perhaps this is what Heraclitus meant when he said that war was the father of all things. As Albert Low said, “ Instead of suppressing conflicts, specific channels could be created to make this conflict explicit, and specific methods could be set up by which the conflict is resolved.” This was the goal of the committee.

  Eventually a one day workshop was held at Jikoji by the Santa Cruz Conflict Resolution Center (SCCRC). The reception was largely positive, but no further workshops were scheduled.

In the meantime, ongoing meetings continued in regards to the ethics statement and CRP.  An online discussion was held among the sangha to evaluate the two documents, and although the majority of the comments were favorable there were also dissenting opinions.

  In Dec 2018, the documents were presented to the board for approval.  The Ethics Statement, which consisted of Kobun’s translation of Bodhidharma’s precepts, was withdrawn, as one board member objected to it, stating that it prohibited the drinking of wine, and people at Jikoji drink wine. Another resident objected that Kobun's translation of the precepts were empty of content and context.  The CRP was tabled as one board member said she was unable to open the document on her computer and so never read it, even though she had already made comments about it in an email exchange.

  There followed a lengthy back and forth email exchange concerning the CRP, but the proposal failed to be passed by the board as one board member blocked it.  It was then revised, with input from the residents and presented to them to pass, which they did. Upon the return of one resident monk who had been absent, however, the vote was retaken and the previous decision overturned as residents who had previously abstained now voted against the proposal.
  Eventually a number of residents and one sangha member appointed themselves to write another CRP under the aegis of the Resident Monk's and Initiate's Committee. This was passed, the final version ending up in the JMG document, which can be viewed in the reference section.  The board-appointed (EWI) committee's proposal can also be viewed there.

   Aside from the procedural legitimacy of the two committees, there are a number of important differences between the two documents. One is that the RMIC CRP makes attending mediation optional, whereas in the EWIC CRP, at some point, when facing an impasse, it becomes a required procedural step.  Obviously sangha members cannot be forced to go to mediation, but we do not think it too much to ask residents to commit, as a necessary condition for being a resident of a Buddhist community, to do everything in their power to work out differences with a fellow resident or other sangha member.  Such a commitment is akin to taking the precepts as part of one's initiation, and in fact, may have more demonstrable consequences. Thich Nhat Hahn’ 8th precept of Engaged Buddhism states:

8. Do not utter words that can create discord and cause the community to break. Make every effort to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.

We wanted to prevent a response such as one resident had when it was suggested that she go to mediation with a sangha member that she had felt had wronged her, as an initial test of the proposed policy.  She replied that she didn't need to work anything out with that person, that she just wanted her to stay away from her.  The offending party was later banned from Jikoji.  The one who refused mediation became a key member of the RMIC that wrote the CRP, and stated that it was this conflict that motivated her to get involved.

  Another difference is the characterization of sangha representatives for each party as "advocates" in the RMIC document, whereas they are mediators in the EWIC proposal. Advocacy is more appropriate for court processes, where blame and punishment are being meted out.  Mediation is more akin to the Buddhist abandonment of self-interested views, replacing them with an open-ended inquiry that is not directed toward any preconceived outcome other than increased understanding. Mediation is not to be viewed as a competition, with two sides vying to be the winner.  It is a cooperative undertaking where both sides agree to make an effort to abandon narrow views in order to see new possibilities, new understandings.  It requires empathy, advocacy does not.

  The RMIC CRP is part of the Jikoji Management Group’s procedural policy.  Should a conflict not be resolved via mediation or other methods, it falls upon the Jikoji Management Group to decide the issue. Unfortunately, reinforces the issues of oligarchy discussed elsewhere as the Jikoji Management Group is composed of a select group of Jikoji insiders -two staff members, two board members, and Jikoji's lawyer (an individual with wide ranging decision-making power, at least second to the Guiding Teacher at Jikoji).  A group composed of insiders is fraught with problems all too familiar to those who have studied conflict situations in groups where less powerful members have tried to address grievances involving senior members, leaders or teachers.  In an article about sexual abuse in Buddhist centers, in Tricycle magazine the following exchange with Jack Kornfield, co-founder of Spirit Rock and Insight Meditation Society, took place:

Tricycle: It would be easy to dismiss these issues of sexual abuse as arising from one or two “bad egg” teachers. But if we look at the entirety of American Buddhism, it’s clear that that’s not the case: these issues arise across traditions and communities, suggesting that the very way our sanghas are set up is contributing to their existence. How do we address these deeper, systemic problems? It seems that even if there is a process in place to lodge a complaint against a teacher, often it does not go anywhere, because the complaint is processed through a board whose members are very close to the teacher. The whole organization is usually structured from the top down: there’s the teacher, and then the board, and then the general sangha, precluding horizontal communication. 
JK: You’re quite right that our communities are structured from the top down. That’s because the traditions themselves have been patriarchal and top-down. To address this, what we’ve set up in our community at Spirit Rock is an independent ethics council. A small group of teachers who are most respected for their balance and integrity are elected to it—the balance is important, because these issues can stir up a hornet’s nest, and when emotions are triggered, people tend to think unclearly. So the council is made up of the elected teachers, a community member, and a board member who are independent from the board or the head teacher. They have the power to investigate, to look for reconciliation, and, if necessary, to come back to the board or the community and require changes. There has to be a process that’s outside of the hierarchy that you described.
 The EWIC CRP proposal creates an Ethics and Reconciliation committee in an attempt to achieve independence.  The membership is composed of people appointed by the board or the teacher.  This might be too cozy.  Thinking of it along the lines of an independent judiciary might be helpful.  There are pros and cons to an elected vs appointed judiciary.  The electors may lack the interest or knowledge to choose wisely, the leaders and board members perhaps have too much self interest to appoint impartially.  Perhaps a way to side step the problems with either approach is to utilize the services of a professional arbiter as the last step in settling a conflict that has not been resolved in any other way. A professional arbiter would be a disinterested judge, and so improve the chances of a fair decision.  An impartial arbiter would also deflect any resentment about a decision away from the temple to speed healing.

  Lastly, a major difference between the two documents is that the RMIC version includes long passages from the Jikoji Employee Manual.  The EWIC looked over the Employee Manual and decided it was inappropriate for a policy for the sangha in general, but apropos for the two or three employees of Jikoji only.  We researched many other sanghas and never found anything resembling an employee manual within their Ethics Statement or CRP.  The Jikoji Employee manual was created to satisfy insurance coverage requirements.  As such, it is designed around a blame and punishment paradigm which we did not want to introduce into a document promoting mutual cooperation for investigative problem solving.

  On September 16, 2018 the Santa Cruz Conflict Resolution Center (SCCRC) began interviews with residents, former residents, sangha members and board members at Jikoji. No teachers participated in the interviews, although they were encouraged to do so.  The SCCRC issued a report which can be found in the reference section.
No follow up was ever taken, other than a letter emailed by one board member to the SCCRC claiming that the issues had been resolved by among other things, the appointment of the Jikoji Management Group.  Per the proposal:

the delegation of all authority over the administrative affairs of Jikoji to the Jikoji Management Group by Michael Newhall as set forth in the attached document entitled “Appointment of the Jikoji Management Group and Acceptance of Appointment”.  This approval is without limitation or exception.  The Board specifically approves and ratifies the authority of the JIkoji Management Group to adopt policies for Jikoji that include, without limitation each of the following: An ethics policy; A conflict resolution policy; and, A guest and resident practitioners’ policy.  

  Where many members had voiced a desire for more transparency in regards to decision-making and open, structured dialogue, instead a group was formed which further restricts access from the sangha, making most, if not all major management and policy decisions their exclusive domain, with no accountability to anyone else.  Even the Guiding Teacher is not allowed to replace them for a period of two years.  It is hard to see how the formation of another committee, populated by the same select members that compose the other committees at Jikoji, is going to provide a corrective to the mistakes of the past.

  Given Zen’s stance that the ultimate truth cannot be understood or expressed by conceptual means, the reluctance of some teachers to rely upon dialogue to untangle conflicts is understandable.  Is there a place for mediation and other conflict resolution techniques, or do you think Zazen and silent contemplation is a sufficient remedy for interpersonal disagreements ?  If the former, what forms, and procedures do you think are best employed?  Do you think an independent body is an important component, or can this all be accomplished in a fair and impartial manner “in house?”  Please leave, comments, suggestions and critiques below.

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  04 Governance
Posted by: admin - 06-13-2020, 11:42 PM - Forum: Healing Jikoji Forum - No Replies

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. - Leo Tolstoy

  Known as the Anna Karenina principle: happy families share in common a variety of causes and conditions which lead to happiness, while any number of missing components can cause an unhappy family. This concept has been generalized to apply to several fields of study.

  If this principle applies to Zen centers, or more broadly, all spiritual centers, and a variety of conditions all must be met for continuance, but even one missing condition can spell dissolution, is it any wonder so many spiritual communities are short lived?  In fact, one might apply this principle in general to explain impermanence at large. The continued existence of any situation is dependent on such a myriad of conditions that nothing can endlessly endure, the best we can hope for is slow, directed change.

  Given the ever changing contingencies a spiritual community encounters, skillful governance might be the most important factor for it's duration, for achieving that slow, directed change. This is what we will focus on in this thread.  Other factors for a thriving spiritual community that will be explored later are:

  • An Inspirational Teacher, or Elders to provide guidance and encouragement to newer practitioners; 
  • Sincere, Engaged Members  -  A commitment to the ideals and ways of the practice, and the willingness to make the effort to maintain the community as well as abide by the agreements made within it;
  • Right Speech - Skillful use of language to promote mutual understanding and intimacy;
  • Understandable rules and procedures that every member can follow in the day to day operation of the temple, written and easily available to all;
  • A straightforward and comprehensible process for addressing grievances, that can be carried out in an unbiased way.
If you think of others, please provide them in the comment section.

  While all unhappy families may be unhappy in their own way, two constants are observed time and again in the recent cases of abusive, dysfunctional Zen centers and other spiritual communities:
  1. a lack of process or the employment of a process to address grievances, exacerbated by:
  2. a form of governance that is not open to members easily participating in the process by which decisions are made that affect them, i.e., autocracies and oligarchies. 
  Once the inevitable serious conflict occurs, especially, but not limited to a conflict with a teacher or other person in management, it is all too easy for those in power to mobilize the familiar defenses of denial, discrediting, silencing or simply ignoring. Without a means to redress or work out differences, and the suppression of one point of view, the unheard party's frustration festers and may manifest in different forms of disruptive behavior, and/or going outside the governing body, seeking a wider audience in the hopes of being heard.  All this can eventually lead to the dissolution, or the severe curtailment of a group's mission as it institutes further damage control, lurching from one crisis to the next.

  The Jikoji bylaws state:

The basic assumptions underlying the organization of Jikoji are:
(a)   membership is universal;
(b)   Directors, and Officers, and the Residents. including both the Resident Teacher and Resident Practitioners, serve and do not govern the affairs of the corporation;
©   there is no idea of hierarchy within the organization.

  On paper the Jikoji Zen Center appears to have an excellent governing structure in place, operating under democratic principles.  The teacher and staff are answerable to a board of three to eleven elected members, charged with appointment, oversight, and removal, if needed, of the Resident Teacher and staff, per the bylaws, Section 3 Duties of the Board of Directors:
It shall be the duty of the Directors to:
(a)   Perform any and all duties imposed on them collectively or individually by law, by the Articles of Incorporation of this corporation or by these Bylaws.
(b)   Appoint and remove, employ and discharge, and, except as otherwise provided in these Bylaws, prescribe the duties and fix the compensation, if any, of all officers, agents and employees of the corporation, and the Resident Teacher.
©   Supervise all officers, agents and employees of the corporation to assure that their duties are performed properly.
(d)   Meet at such times and places as required by these Bylaws.
(e)   Register their current physical and e-mail addresses and facsimile telephone numbers with the Secretary of the corporation, except that a Board Member who is unwilling to have notices send by e-mail need not register an e-mail address. Notices of meetings mailed, emailed, or faxed to them at such physical/email addresses and/or fax numbers shall be valid notice thereof.
(f)    Comply with the letter and spirit of the Consensus Guidelines in all decision making matters based on the principal that failure to do so, including without limitation, inappropriate blocking of one or more decisions and personal attacks on other board or Sangha members shall be grounds for removal as a Director.

Digging a little deeper we find that the Directors are not elected by the membership of Jikoji, but by a designated group of Electors, who must satisfy the following requirements:

The Board of Directors shall be elected by  members of the Sangha described in subparts (a), (b) and ©, below, who are herein referred to as the “Electors”. Only those Electors who are present at the meeting at which the election occurs and who have been active in the affairs of Jikoji in the preceding year shall be eligible to vote in such election. The term “active” is self-defined by each member of the Sangha who considers him or herself to have maintained a Buddhist practice at Jikoji during the preceding year. Provided if by consensus of the Board an Elector is deemed not to have maintained a Buddhist practice at Jikoji during the preceding year, such person shall not be eligible to vote in said election. An Elector is any one of the following Sangha members:
(a)     Current Board Members and ex-Board members including any Resident Practitioners (formerly referred to as “Caretakers”) who have served as Board Members;
(b)     Any person who serves as a Resident Practitioner on or after the date of adoption of these Third Amended Bylaws and in that capacity completes at least two years of service; and,
©     Any Sangha member who has received ordination in Kobun’s lineage or the lineage of his brother, Hojosama Keibun Otokawa, including both lay ordination and ordination as a priest.

  In practice, this has limited those who are eligible to vote for Directors at any one point in time to six to twelve people, usually on the low part of that range.  In a sangha containing perhaps over four hundred members, however loosely defined, this is far from a democracy, or a democratic republic, as the vast majority of the sangha has no say in the selection of representatives that will make decisions that affect them and their practice at Jikoji.
  Not only that, there are further restrictions on who is even eligible to be a board member:

Section 20: Eligibility
   Anyone is eligible to be elected to the board, provided she/he has served for at least one year on a standing committee and maintained a level of practice at Jikoji which in the judgment of such person is appropriate to qualify him or her to be a director of this Zen spiritual community. For the Resident Practitioner nominee for Board membership, the period of standing committee membership three months and practice at Jikoji shall be the period of  her or his residency at Jikoji

 The effect of this requirement is to limit board participation to a select few.  Since one can only be appointed by the Resident Teacher or the board to a standing committee, a perusal of the board minutes will reveal the same names reoccurring year after year as board members.  A revolving membership of a select few is the perfect recipe for inflexible government.  Not only is the requirement unduly restrictive, the "real reason" for its existence, as explained in a recent special board meeting, was to insure that anyone who got on the board was a "known quantity" to the Resident Teacher and Jikoji's lawyer. It is unclear why being known by Jikoji's lawyer should be a criteria for board membership - that seems irrelevant and inappropriate - and since the board oversees the Resident Teacher his approval for membership constitutes undue influence.

  All these restrictions to access to governance have deleterious consequences.  A sangha that is removed from any involvement in the decisions of the temple will not consider it as integral to their practice. Their lack of involvement creates a disengagement and a bifurcation within the sangha of those whose practice consist only or mainly in governance and those who only come to sit, listen to dharma talks, and participate in service, chanting and other rituals, and work days. Of the four current board members, three of them have minimal to no involvement in the meditation, sesshins, rituals and dharma discussions that make up the bulk of the activity for the majority of the sangha. One of the current officers of the board - who does not participate in the activities just mentioned - in referencing a member's qualifications to serve on the board characterized his forty plus years of sesshins and work contributions in the construction of the temple as the "Disneyland experience" of Jikoji, and so determined he was not qualified for board service.

  This gulf between management and practitioners becomes even more pronounced when a conflict occurs. A board or management group composed of members who are strangers to the majority of the sangha can hardly be expected to be impartial in a dispute between them and teachers, management and staff members who are friends and coworkers.  People who have been involved with groups where this has occurred, or even only read the descriptions of such occurrences, are well familiar with the rounds of denial, counter accusations, discrediting, ostracizing, gas lighting and other ploys mobilized by those close to the top when accused of mistreatment by a member of the wider sangha.  An us- against-them mentality quickly unfolds and pervades the entire organization. Next, the few in managerial positions define themselves as the organization, whether they practice there or not, and label those pressing for change and reconciliation as troublemakers, dissenters, bad students or an outside disaffected group. Organizations with oligarchic governance invariably spend a good deal of time suppressing the very antidote to the lack of innovation and disengagement it breeds - dissent - seeing it as a threat to their power, rather than a helpful corrective to one sided views.  According to Adriano Pianesi, dissent-friendly organizations encourage dissent in the following way:
  • The organization needs to value differences and conflict for the sake of better decision-making. Organizational cultures where avoiding conflict is the norm keep the cost of dissent so high that it becomes not affordable. When people can disagree with one another and express their dissent, organizations are healthier. Disagreements often result in a more thorough study of options and better decisions. However, it takes more than a memo or a sign to beat conflict avoidance and become truly OK with disagreement and dissent in the workplace.
  • Dissent-friendly processes and procedures lower the cost of raising dissenting opinions. Open-door policies, HR mechanisms (ombudsman and the like) and meeting protocols (devil’s advocate meetings) can all help regulate, give expression to and lower the cost of dissent. That reinforces the governance structure of the organization for better alignment and more efficient decision-making processes.
  • Speeches, posturing or PR will not cut it. When it comes to dissent, the proof is in the pudding: Are the dissenting opinions fully heard? Are there consequences for the dissenters? The true test of organizational dissent is whether the outcome of the dissent manages to be heard and — in some cases — becomes the consensus. If the dissenters are marginalized, taken down or eliminated, their example will not be followed and, no matter the rhetoric, dissent will disappear.
  Authoritarian structures are harmful to those in power as well as those deprived of it, as the acquisition of power appears to impair the ability to empathize, a serious issue for a practice based on selflessness and compassion.  Since empathy is a requirement for communicative action, its impairment hampers constructive dialogue.  Furthermore,  worse decisions are made than under more inclusive decision-making structures.  Given this, the democratic spirit of our society, and Kobun's opposition to hierarchy, why did Jikoji choose such a method?  It seems directly antithetical to Kobun’s egalitarian beliefs.  Limiting sangha and even the board’s involvement in decision- making has been explained a number of times as a necessary step to take after Kobun’s death in 2002.  A period of chaos and heated argumentation ensued, and a decision was made to turn to a committee-based decision-making process.  More on this history at another time, but we should consider whether a process set up to resolve a decision-making impasse during a time of crisis should be extended to the everyday governing of affairs at a Zen temple like Jikoji.

  Perhaps oligarchy was never chosen.  One theory of organizational structures claims that oligarchy is inevitable.  Termed the Iron Law of Oligarchy by sociologist Robert Michels, it is claimed that all democratic organizations inevitably turn into oligarchies because the leaders, rather than the organization's membership, will inevitably grow to dominate the organization's power structures.  Any large organization, Michels pointed out, has to create a bureaucracy in order to maintain its efficiency as it becomes larger—many decisions have to be made daily that cannot be made by large numbers of disorganized people. For the organization to function effectively, centralization has to occur and power will end up in the hands of a few. Those few—the oligarchy—will use all means necessary to preserve and further increase their power.  This is accomplished in the following ways:
  1. By controlling who has access to information, those in power can centralize their power successfully, often with little accountability, due to the apathy, indifference and non-participation most members have in relation to their organization's decision-making processes.
  2. Democratic attempts to hold leadership positions accountable are prone to fail, since with power comes the ability to reward loyalty.
  3. The ability to control what procedures the organization follows when making decisions is largely in the hands of the oligarchs.
  This may be an unnecessarily pessimistic view, stating it as a law has an air of inevitability, which, indeed, Michel’s did believe. It might be that their are only strong forces at play, driving democracies toward oligarchies, but it’s not an “iron law.”  Nevertheless, their are some great advantages to this view.  We need not look about for particular individuals to blame and demonize.  Those who have managed Jikoji for many years all have had good intentions, and accomplished much.  It is these forces at play that Michel points out that are to blame, always working to undermine democracy, that is what needs to be ameliorated by an engaged, informed and vigilant sangha.  There is no need to oppose members of the sangha who were in management positions.  They did the best they knew how to make Jikoji available for as many as possible, but like all sentient beings, they are subject to the myriad causes and conditions of existence, and cannot be expected to reach perfection.

  Much research has been done over the last several decades in regards to cognitive biases, Daniel Kahneman, and Amos Tversky in their 2011 summation of this work, Thinking, Fast and Slow, near its close, state, “The question that is most often asked about cognitive illusions is whether they can be overcome. The message … is not encouraging.”  Kahneman writes, “We would all like to have a warning bell that rings loudly whenever we are about to make a serious error, but no such bell is available.”

   A vigilant, actively engaged sangha is that warning bell.  By providing a diversity of opinions, backgrounds and perspectives it provides a check on the numerous biases to which any single individual or small group invariably succumb.  Kahneman agrees that the most effective check against them, is from the outside - others can perceive our errors more readily than we can.  Procedures organized in a way that dissuades or prevents people from acting on biased thoughts need to be defended against attempts to circumvent them by those headstrong enough to believe that the triumph of their view is more important than following process.  A reevaluation of what constitutes practice may be called for to include this role of the sangha in helping overcome restricted, fixed views as an aspect of the Bodhisattva's vows. It is not uncommon for students to view participation in governance as an odious responsibility, or worse, as something antithetical to practice, and view the sitting practice -  the aforementioned "Disneyland Experience of Jikoji" - as the "real" practice.  In fact, they are both necessary for a complete practice.  To only govern is to cut oneself off from the inspirational source of the practice, to only sit is to not fully participate in the manifestation of that source.

  There is a reason that those in management positions are reluctant to listen to those outside of it, they feel that they know more about the issues and needs of the organization - and they do!  That alone is not, however, a sufficient reason to ignore others or suppress or exclude their ability to affect change.  One leader at Jikoji expressed that he did not trust the sangha to make decisions. The more willing that managers and leaders are to share their knowledge and expertise with other members the less likely they are to fall into such isolation and mistrust.  The entire sangha needs to be encouraged and invited to participate in the decisions of the temple, as it is the only corrective eye obtainable.  As James Baldwin wrote, "Neither love nor terror makes one blind: indifference makes one blind."  The indifference of the sangha inexorably leads to a narrow vision for the temple: a vision that only reflects the concerns of a few.

  The harm that authoritarian governance causes by the suppression of dissent are legion: the refusal to acknowledge the design flaws in the Chernobyl plant, the coverup of the Covid-19 dangers in China, and the dismissal of administrators by president Trump when they disagree - these are all costly weaknesses of a form of governance that will not tolerate unpleasant truths.  According to cult researcher Arthur Deikman, author of The Wrong Way Home, “Conscious and unconscious suppression and restriction of dissent is perhaps the most characteristic feature of cult life” (p.123).  He further states, “Only a lively appreciation of dissent’s vital function at all levels of society can preserve it as a corrective to wishful thinking, self-inflation and unperceived rigidity.” (P.138).  Rather than discouraging sangha involvement in the decision making process, the work of those governing should be to do everything possible to discourage indifference and apathy, and educate the sangha as to the importance of their partnership in collaborative governance.

  Jikoji Zen Center may be only one illegal, covered-up transgression away from a crisis that could could be too costly or damaging of it's reputation for the temple to survive. If Jikoji is to grow and flourish for five hundred years it is imperative that it returns to the open, member-empowered temple that Kobun envisioned.

  How can we get out of this downward spiral before we are each left with a narrow practice focused only on ourselves?  Opening up participation in all facets of Jikoji’s activities would be one way.  The restrictions on board membership detailed above are highly unusual for a nonprofit organization.  Most Zen groups allow any member to vote for board directors.  Perhaps a nominal monthly or annual fee for membership would be a good place to start, with voting rights included. Should anyone be allowed to run for the board? Most nonprofits allow it.  A thoughtful discussion on this matter is welcomed in the comment section.

  But changing the rules to encourage participation will be of no use if the mindset of the sangha towards governance does not change.  Few Zen students want to engage in the work of governance, and in fact, an eager desire to do so is probably a red flag, at least early on in one's training.  Still, at some point, involvement in the community at many levels must be considered a part of the practice if the community is to survive.  As Linji put it, it is "paying the costs of one's keep."  Karmic debt must not be thought of as an odious task forced upon one, but an actual opportunity to fulfill one's purpose and create meaning for one's life.

  An actively engaged sangha will inform itself, thus ameliorating one of the factors leading to oligarchy.  It will also insist on procedures that are transparent and followed by both members and management, something many of us feel has not been happening in the last few years at Jikoji as a select few interpret the rules to accomplish undeclared ends.  Finally, as power is distributed, the opportunity to reward those loyal to management is diminished.

  This is just scratching the surface on governance, and what can be done to make Jikoji a more open, vibrant and participatory temple. Some elders have suggested exploring new models of governance, such as affinity groups, sociocracy, and other alternative organizational structures. For a starting point, and to stimulate further discussion visit this site:


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  02 Re-defining Sangha
Posted by: admin - 06-13-2020, 11:39 PM - Forum: Healing Jikoji Forum - Replies (2)

I'll let you be in my dream, if I can be in yours. - Bob Dylan

The first basic assumption, as stated in Jikoji’s bylaws, is that membership is universal.  Perhaps this is too broad a definition for sangha, as the word becomes superfluous, meaning nothing more than human, or even sentient, being.  Or does it prod us toward a more open and inclusive understanding of the dimensions of our practice?

    During a December 1, 2019 dharma talk, Michael Newhall re-evaluated his former conception of membership in Jikoji from the universal membership just stated to a less inclusive one: 

...before I had a sense of sangha in a very idealistic sense, as all beings, every being in the ten directions.  We say, as being everyone whose practiced, whose in on this particular path, in the past, in the future, in this present moment, which is a wonderful view, and I don't discount it at all but lately I've been very aware and thinking of sangha as being a local affair.  It's basically who shows up.  Its who I am sitting with.

  This talk came soon after a number of residents were forced to leave due to the passage of a new policy at Jikoji, unequally enforced, that displaced them while installing others in more permanent positions and leaving others in place.  Two board members who opposed the policy were removed from the board. Others, before and after this policy was passed, stopped coming to Jikoji because of unfair treatment and the inability to address grievances.  Whether the questioning of the very first basic assumption in the bylaws was an attempt to resolve a cognitive dissonance brought about by the loss of so many members, or if there were other reasons - it has an unfortunate consequence.  Membership is so narrowly defined by this standard that three quarters of the board and two thirds of the board officers would not meet the definition. 

  On January 19, 2020, Michael reiterates this idea, the importance of this thinking perhaps emphasized by the highly unusual, if not unique step at the time, of a transcript of the talk being linked on the face page of Jikoji.org:

From this place, from this zen center where I practice, some people come and go, just tasting the practice, but some stay for a while, and others settle in for a longer haul. Regardless, I always have carried a broad view of sangha with expanded idealism: that sangha, the community, must include all beings, be totally inclusive. Though I still carry that view, in recent times the focus rests much closer to home, to a daily practice of a specific place, to the local neighborhood, basically to who is here.

  This sounds even more restrictive if, "a daily practice of a specific place", is intended to mean that only those people that can come to the daily practice at Jikoji are members of the sangha.Given its location, pragmatically that limits membership to the four to seven residents currently there. While hard to believe that that is what is intended, and grateful for the acknowledgement that the expanded view of sangha is still being carried, it is also hard to understand what important point is being made and why it is being so prominently stressed and reiterated, especially at this fragile time in Jikoji’s history.

  Do we want to redefine sangha as a small, local affair?  Who decides this? How many weeks, months or years of not "being in place" disqualifies one from the sangha and who and how is this decided?  Will older members of the sangha, who donated much time, effort and money to build Jikoji no longer part of the sangha, if they move far away, or are simply not well enough to make the trip to the Santa Cruz mountains no longer be considered sangha members? Is this a retreat to a more insular practice? Is it compatible with the Bodhisattva vows, is it merely another form of tribalism, creating unneeded separation, or does it have a more positive function?  

  Those critical of the mindfulness movement have stressed how a restricted definition of the Pali term sati , to the awareness of the present moment only, easily leads to a self-absorbed practice, unconcerned about and disconnected from others. It is also a simplistic understanding of this mysterious aspect of existence we call "time."  Michael wisely rejects this, but to substitute a particular point in space for a particular point in time is to trade in one narrow view for another.  The realization of suchness, is not limited to any particular place or time.  Our astonishment at existence, and of our own consciousness, is boundless.  It is inclusive of all space and time, all sentient beings, all earth, grass, trees, walls, tiles and pebbles.  Is the widest possible inclusion of sangha too idealistic and ill defined, or is it the essence of the Mahayana Way? Is there some middle way between an over-idealistic, loosely-defined view of sangha and a narrow view that excludes too many and sequesters others in a private, removed, self-centered practice, with the danger of slipping into an Us/Other mentality?  

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  01 Building Sangha
Posted by: admin - 06-13-2020, 11:33 PM - Forum: Healing Jikoji Forum - No Replies

“...building our Sangha and cultivating brotherhood and sisterhood is the most fundamental, core practice. Becoming a distinguished scholar, well-learned in the sutras is not a core practice.” - Thich Nhat Hahn

  Probably most Buddhists in America, if asked to name the most fundamental core practice of Buddhism would say, “meditation.” Other options might be developing insight, compassion, wisdom.  Most would be surprised by Thich Nhat Hahn’s claim that it is building the sangha and cultivating brotherhood and sisterhood.  A running gag in Zen groups about the Three Treasures is:

   We take refuge in the Buddha - Sure!
   We take refuge in the Dharma - Of course!
   We take refuge in the Sangha... Huh?

  Robert Sharf, professor and Chair of the Berkeley Center for Buddhist Studies attributes at least some of the success of mindfulness programs or multi-day retreats to the creation of temporary intentional community for individuals, he challenges researchers to consider and study the effects of Sangha as a determining success factor, stating that human beings need to feel a sense of belonging in order to alleviate their suffering and existential anguish. Evan Thompson echoes the same sentiment when he says, “Many of the beneficial effects of meditation may come from the community support structure and the sociality of the practice...”

  In the essay from which the top quote was lifted, entitled Sangha Building: our noblest career,  Thich Nhat Hahn gives an example of Bat Nha Monastery in Vietnam, with 400, many young, monastics.  He states that they were not particularly adept at scholarship, sitting or walking meditation, Mindfulness, Concentration, or Insight, yet they were able to communicate with each other well enough to withstand oppression and mistreatment aimed at disbanding them.  Despite a year and a half of such oppression they maintained a compassionate, non-violent spirit, hoping to continue to practice together. 

  He continues, “So many young people came to Bat Nha from all over Vietnam, not because they loved Dharma talks or were passionate about the ways of practice, but because, for the first time in their lives, they discovered brotherhood and sisterhood there, and were determined to stay. Before coming, they had never experienced that kind of brotherhood and sisterhood.

  “They discovered that brotherhood and sisterhood is authentic living, is nothing other than life itself. That is why the work of building brotherhood and sisterhood is the most important task of a monastic. 

  “If we have brotherhood and sisterhood, we will be able to remain a monastic our whole life. Without it, we will become bored and will seek refuge in material and emotional comforts, and we will lose the beautiful ideal that we had in the beginning.”

  If one accepts the view that modern life is characterized by alienation and impersonalization, then it is not far-fetched to think that alleviating that malady, even temporarily, could have great positive psychological benefits.  Indeed, many people have come to reside at Jikoji knowing little about Zen Buddhism, but attracted to live at the Center for its promise of the intimacy of community that is deeply missed in their lives.  Still more come for the Sunday programs, sesshins, and work days with similar hopes.

  Invariably conflicts arise - between teacher and students, residents and residents, residents and other sangha members.  It has always been and will always be.  How skillfully those conflicts are handled largely determines how fulfilling the community experience will be for members.  Healthy communities allow for disagreement and involvement in decision making and have open, understandable processes in place to encourage that involvement as well as agreed-upon methods for finding solutions to conflict.  Poorly functioning communities exclude people from the decision-making process and problem-solving discourse. Using different combinations of hidden, or complex decision-making and conflict management processes, limiting participation to a select few, silencing dissent and attempts to work out interpersonal problems, denying there existence, or, at the extreme, banishing dissenters or members labeled as troublemakers creates a dis-empowered, fearful, factionalized and alienated membership.

  When asked how Jikoji tried to resolve conflict, one of the senior teachers replied, "Jikoji has always been conflicted throughout its 40 year history.  The common resolution to interpersonal conflict is for someone to leave."

  Unfortunately, leaving (or being told to leave, as what recently happened to four residents), because there is no adequate method for working out conflict, carries with it great costs. The hopes and dreams of community as well as those of spiritual cultivation and nourishment -  the “beautiful ideal” are crushed. The betrayal of trust invested in the community and teachers often results in a long list of psychological maladies such as nightmares, depression, loss of trust and faith in the practice, mistrust of self and others, hostility, cognitive dysfunction, feeling powerless and worthless, to name a few. Given that the First Pure Precept is to do no harm, should we not be doing everything we can to avoid these outcomes of an exclusionary conflict "resolution" policy?  Is not forty years already too long of an experiment for a method that causes so much harm?

  Many members of the Jikoji sangha feel it has been too long and that we can do better.  We want to explore alternatives to getting rid of people to solve conflicts, and try to heal divisions through ethical discourse, transparent, participatory decision-making, and learning how to listen to those with whom we disagree.  That is the purpose of this forum.  It is not created for the purpose of airing grievances and pointing the finger of blame at others.  However, stories of unskillful behavior do serve a purpose when coupled with suggestions for improvement.  Also, sharing hurtful moments with others who have been similarly harmed is healing in and of itself, especially when victims have been silenced and ostracized.  Let us try to keep the naming of names to a minimum, and remember that it is not the person we are against, but the harmful behavior.  We are interested in understanding the causes and conditions of the strife at Jikoji Zen Center, not in starting another campaign of blame and shame against other sangha members.

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  Purpose of this Forum
Posted by: admin - 06-13-2020, 08:23 PM - Forum: Healing Jikoji Forum - No Replies

This dissertation is my re-found voice once silenced by personal experience of betrayal, blended with the voices of those similarly betrayed. In my opinion, voices are meant to be heard. Our voices, alone and together, have something of value that wants to be shared. This work is, then, important to me personally, professionally and, in a wider context, communally. It is a way of understanding my own process more deeply, a transformative (and informative) process contributing to the understanding of those in the Zen community specifically, and of those interested in spiritual practice in general. Participants in this study may also experience transformative change, understanding their experience more fully and drawing meaning from both the experience and the process of participating. I also hope for transformative effects in the reader of this study, through insight, empathy, and understanding. - Caryl Reimer Gopfert

  We have similar hopes as Ms. Gopfert did for her dissertation and have produced this forum with the same goals in mind.  We hope for a participatory experience that will prove to be healing for all that have been embroiled in the controversies at Jikoji Zen Center, no matter what side they have taken.  We also seek the counsel of the wider sangha, many of whom are not aware of problems and conflicts that have occurred at Jikoji in its recent history.  This invitation extends as well to anyone who has an interest in making Zen practice more viable in the West.

  To facilitate the healing and bring about understanding, it is unavoidable that past conflicts will need to be brought forward and detailed.  This is not to assign blame, but to seek corrective measures so as not to repeat the mistakes of the past, and if possible, to achieve reconciliation.  The hope is that anyone who sincerely recites the Bodhisattva's Vows will take on the responsibility to make our Jikoji temple a place that facilitates whole-hearted practice for all.

  Again to quote Caryl Gopfert:
Awareness and compassion around issues of betrayal must be deepened and broadened, from the perspective of teachers, students, and communities. We cannot go on harming students and still have a viable practice; we must understand and prevent the causes of this experience--as far as is possible--and also identify and heal the experience of betrayal once it occurs. This work is a gift to the community I have grown to love and appreciate even more in the years it has taken to recover from my own experience.

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  Interdependent Deliberation
Posted by: admin - 06-11-2019, 10:48 PM - Forum: Healing Jikoji Forum - No Replies

Sometimes the greatest adventure is simply a conversation. - Amadeus Wolfe

    Human endeavor involves decision making in the face of uncertainty. Since no one person can have a complete perspective, the discovery of others' opinions and reasoning enhances the efficacy of any decision-making process. Most important, is to listen to and consider points of view that differ from the prevailing opinion, in order to ameliorate the effects of confirmation bias.

   When the performance of groups and lone individuals in reasoning tasks is compared, groups fare much better—sometimes dramatically so. Not only do groups have a better performance than the average individual, but they often perform as well, or even better, than the best group member.

The superior functioning of group decision-making is largely attributed to the consideration of minority opinion. Unfortunately, it is this very minority opinion that can be absent in a group discussion. Samuel Asch’s famous conformity studies set off decades of replications and explanations as to why the holders of minority opinions might be reluctant to voice their views. Spiral of silence theory claims that fears of isolation inhibit minority expression. Self-categorization theory posits an in group/out group dynamic. Whatever the theoretical basis, empirical evidence suggests anonymity promotes the expression of minority views. Also, bias based on gender identitification, race, class, social status are reduced or eliminated as well as some of the many cognitive biases humans fall prey to. 

Proponents of deliberative democracy have welcomed the advent of online deliberation as a means to enact their process, given its open, universally accessible platform. Not positing a unitary self, it is compatible with views considering the self, and cognition, largely a social construct, and integrates seamlessly with Buddhist concepts of no-self, emptiness, and interdependence, while still acknowledging the differences that always exist between individuals. This field of difference is the ground upon which deliberation operates to transform privately-oriented individuals into community-oriented beings. Community deliberation may also have intrinsic value, increasing community awareness, buy-in, and trust in governing institutions and their decisions. Deliberation that includes envisioning how a particular position or policy actually works in real-world applications reduces the extremity of competing views, perhaps by elucidating the complexity of the situation, which could lead to an increased appreciation of opposing positions.

 The greatest danger in deliberating with others is adopting an adversarial stance that locks us in to our view. It is most important, when carrying out this process, to continue to remind oneself that the other's point of view is needed to carry on a valuable deliberation. As Baruch Spinozo said, "No matter how thin you slice it, there is always two sides." As difficult as it is, we must try to be grateful when opposing views topple our own. If we sincerely wish to arrive closer to truth, this is the inevitable result of the deliberation process. Rather than own, and become attached and fixed to ideas, we need to constantly remind ourselves that all ideas and viewpoints are interdependent, and so subject to change, evolution, and destruction. It truly is an interdependent activity that produces all viewpoints, whether labeled "mine" or "yours." When done with this understanding of mutual dependence, it can bring about the co-creation of a novel view, and an appreciation of the harmony that underlies difference.


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