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What Should Be Done About Sasaki?

What in the world do you do with a 105 year old guy who is reported to have done this:

• Twenty-three of those are no longer practicing with Joshu Roshi and had negative experiences, and many of those have shared their bad experiences with other Buddhist sanghas.
• There was one report to a crisis hotline, one police report, and once I witnessed a woman confronting Joshu Roshi in front of his wife, saying “Try touching me now when your wife is here!”
• Fourteen of the forty-two would probably say they are still Roshi’s students, nine of them obviously are.
o Of those, two told me their sexual encounters with Roshi were fantastically helpful, healing some sexual problems.
o Five others say only positive, though not so effusively glorious things.
o Six other women still practicing with Roshi (or at least saying they are his student) express more of an “I’ve put up with a lot” attitude.
o Five others had very short, one time encounters, all of whom said they rebuffed Roshi’s advances with a slap, a laugh, or by changing the subject.
• Eleven out of the forty-two told me in detail how Roshi repeatedly grabbed at them despite their saying “No,” sometimes dozens of times in one day, over many months, and sometimes many years. Two of those told me they were pushed to the ground.
• I have also had extensive conversations with two Japanese monks who, for their own reasons had researched Joshu’s history in Japan. They told me Joshu Roshi has biological children in Japan who were not openly acknowledged as his when they were children. I have since met one of them, and I read an email from another. The monk told me that in Japan his sexual activity was a big concern within Myoshin-ji.

And in resistance to such allegations, replied: 

, “This is the only way I can teach you,” “You should overcome your ego,” “If you don’t have sex with me, you are not manifesting one true nature,” “You say ‘my body,’ but that is the thought of your incomplete self,” “You are the only one I ever touch,” “You have the best energy.”

From Sweeping Zen

Pushing women to the ground sounds a little too much like rape. When I said I'd like to grab Sasaki roshi by the scruff of his neck and drag him out into the snow and put him out of his misery, my wife suggested I was speaking from anger. Maybe what sounds like rape makes me angry. I think I misspoke, but I'm not sure. 

I know, I know, as an aspiring priest, I'm supposed to be non-violent and compassionate and kind, but this is how I felt, not how I'm acting. I'm a bodhisattva in training.

But when is an ass kicking not some shred of patriarchal conditioning, and is just an ass kicking, like a mother lion swatting at a hyena? 

Of course, this information is 3rd hand by the time it gets to me on Sweeping Zen. I don't know what really happened. And I don't really want to kick Sasaki roshi's ass. However, I'd like to see him removed, I'd like to see our teachers show up and collect his kesa. 

My view feels tight and limited and closed. What can I do? I fear I myself am not able wear the Buddha's robe. 


  1. Than you for sharing your process, responses, and doubts. We are continually refining, aren't we?

  2. I think anger is a common response. And not a problem, in my view, unless you let it go on and impact your daily actions. Which is what I have noticed with discussions of these scandals. Many people letting anger distort their words, and causing more suffering.

    Hard to know what to do with a 105 year old priest. Removing him is appropriate. But it seems like sanghas need to figure out some better structures to deal with, and prevent, these kind of things. Structures that reflect our teachings, and aren't just punitive and reactionary.

  3. Talking about this with you has been tremendously beneficial. It has been helpful to notice when other people seem to be speaking from anger and then to notice what I do when responding to perceived anger ALSO to notice what I sound like when speaking from my own anger. It also made me curious about what Reb Anderson calls "appropriate anger" in his book "Being Upright." I was also reminded again how my anger builds when I read the comment streams on various online forums like Sweeping Zen. Where to draw the line between being informed and getting swept up in dharma debates and anonymous name calling. But touching someone's breasts or genital area in a dokusan is not okay. I don't know what to say to someone who feels that it is. But if most people feel it is not okay and you have a teacher with sexual boundary issues it seems like this would enable his behavior to do it to others. What do you do? I am deeply appreciative of Grace Shireson's writing concerning this issue and many issues facing women in Zen. To be continued...

  4. I don't know how I missed this until now, but what is speaking to me is your anger. I blogged the other day on an experience in a hospital where a nasty doctor awakened me rudely and talked to me condescendingly. You know what? I know where he's coming from, in general. Low doc on the totem pole, having to work nights during the holidays. But I am deeply angry. I am working on a letter that will go to one or two appropriate places and will tell what I experienced. The only reason I'm doing that is because I'm angry. So I do not think this anger is a waste of time. Rage is. I have to get the anger down enough to be cool and believable in this letter. Most women put up with shit like this and don't even complain about it, just feel vaguely shamed and guilty, just as many women do not report rape.
    I know my anger rests on the rage from the sexual abuse of my childhood. You end up with this column of internal rage as suppressed as the memory. But that's what I have to offer this world, the clarity of vision that endowed me with.


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