I recently discovered that several months ago, the founder of an important Zen offshoot was found to have been involved in several extra-marital affairs, including one with his senior student. This is not the first spirituality sex scandal, and certainly not the last, and I am not judging his behavior – but what’s the issue here?
In my opinion, it’s not the act, but rather the pretense and vows – including the pretense of being a ‘spiritual master’ – that are the real issues at stake.
I recently received an email from his organization positing three ways I should consider reaching out to him to join his rank of students. Ugh…no. If they asked me if I’d like to share insights and discoveries with him and his group, I’d say sure! But by continuing to insist that his role is strictly as Zen Master whose role is to teach the lost, confused masses, I feel he’s doing his own growth a disservice.
He does seem to be seeing himself more as a human being, less as a Zen Master, so I do sense this might be changing (see Returning Home). Nonetheless, there’s still a long way to go — I feel the next step is for him to simply drop the remaining trappings of the title and aura of ‘Zen Master’, as well as open up the two way street of discovery. The problem is that he’s still too enmeshed in the whole buildup around himself as Master..
Spiritual titles and vows I feel serve to create the grounds for hypocrisy, pretense and denial – little more. Our journey takes us through consistency and contradiction, joy and suffering, experimentation and application, virtue and sin – this is the case for each and every one of us. When we put ourselves, or allow ourselves, to operate from an “elevated position”, we are simply asking for nature to pull the chair from under us. The sooner titles, ranks, vows, and precepts are stripped from spiritual movements, the purer the spirituality becomes.
Ultimately, I’m not saying everyone’s words are equally insightful, or that all behavior is equally intelligent. What I am saying is that our spiritual contributions should be self-evident, not self-proclaimed…unless, that is, we want to sell something. And that is a different topic altogether.