Sunday, November 25, 2018

Contrary Ways

"She insulted me, she hurt me, she defeated me, she robbed me."
Those who think such thoughts, will not be free from hate.
"She insulted me, she hurt me, she defeated me, she robbed me."
Those who think not such thoughts, will be free from hate. 
- Dhammapada[1] DHP 1:3-4

I haven't attended any of Ed Brown's Peaceful Sea Sangha sittings, but he used to visit Green Gulch to give the talk for the Sunday Morning Children's Program a few times each year, and it was always a treat. We came to look forward to his easy way with the children and his repertoire of wonderful dharma stores and his warm friendly presence.

Where other teachers avoided the weekends with the Children's Program or opted to read a story from a book, Ed had a number he could tell from memory, and even brought puppets with him to help tell the stories (Poncé!). It was always sweet, and it brings tears to me eyes remembering those times before I began to feel that Green Gulch might not be a safe space for me.

For hate is not conquered by hate: hate is conquered by love. This is a law eternal. 
- DHP 1:5
So when I heard that Ed Brown had been barred from teaching at all Zen Center campus due to a letter of complaint which was leaked to the Buddhist underground and bounced around Facebook like a piece of Russian propaganda or Anti-Vax Meme, and then read the shit-show of a response from SFZC's leadership, and then listened to the tapes, and then read the commentaries, it set loose ten thousand things in my mind.

After listening to the recordings, the letter of complaint reads like a carefully crafted concern-troll which perfectly achieved it's aim: provoke an authority into committing to a knee-jerk and disproportionate response. It's the religious equivalent of SWATing someone: calling in a hostage situation with spoofed caller-ID so that the police will break down the door and start throwing flash-bangs into cribs and shooting dogs.

It also feels completely—almost laughably—predictable. My experience with SFZC in general being so PC it hurts, the script here seems like it could have been a lifetime special or an awkward Saturday night live sketch or something Trump would put on his twitter and disclaim as "So Sad" or a "Total Witch Hunt".
Many do not know that we are here in this world to live in harmony. Those who know this do not fight against each other.
- DHP 1:6
"A More Welcoming and Inclusive Community" is something that it's hard to argue against, but of course we find that there are limits to what a society can be accepting of. Here we all are in 2018, trying to deal with a malignant narcissist in the White House trolling the world more or less 24/7, and the shit really does seem to flow downhill, with even the most venerated institutions getting caught up in dividing our culture into extreme right wing authoritarian and extremely left wing, also authoritarian, politically correct culture which revolves around the statement, "He insulted me, he hurt me, he defeated me, he robbed me."

Those who think such thoughts will not be free from hate. My advice to the letter writer is to reflect on this Dharma teaching. But in this case we are also dealing with Abbots of the middle way, and their behavior, across the board, in this has been at best disappointing and at worst should seriously raise questions about how Zen Center chooses it's leaders and trains it's staff. As has been pointed out elsewhere, dealing with this kid of situation is something that an organization the size of Zen Center should have policy and process to implement to prevent an ad-hoc and transparently personal response.

[1] The Dhammapada, Translated by Juan Mascara, Penguin Classics 1973