[Buddha-l] Another One Bites the Dust

Franz Metcalf franz at mind2mind.net
Mon Mar 4 15:23:35 MST 2013


I find myself wanting to agree with (and perhaps nuance) everyone's views in this discussion of ariyas and puthujjanas, teachers and students. Yes, teachers have authority and are inspiring. Yes, they are also just humans like the rest of us. Yes, we need to hold them to a very high standard of ethical conduct. Yes, they will still, sometimes, abuse their powers. Especially, as Batchelor observes, in the Vajrayana and Chan/Tien/Son/Zen traditions, where the ariya/puthujjana distinction is so highly (perhaps overly) inscribed. What to do?

I don't think we need to absolutely forbid private meetings between teachers and students. We would lose some genuine opportunities for help by doing so. Rather, we need to follow well-established precedents from the healing professions (among which, surely, Buddhist teaching ought to be included). Since the good Mr. Ford has been frequently mentioned in this thread, here are the policies at his center, Boundless Way Zen, policies in the creation of which he was intimately involved:


(To save folks time: these policies include a standing "Ethics and Reconciliation Committee" that is the first safe place to take concerns; clear rules that no teacher-student sexual intimacy is acceptable; confidentiality, not secrecy; and a formal investigative procedure when reconciliation fails.)

In my own Forge Guild, I drafted and we adopted something similar. We know failure will occur and we shall have to hope for the best, but we do what we can to discourage that failure. It is like the hadith in which someone ask the Prophet whether it is better to tether one's camel or to trust in God. The Prophet answers, trust in God, but tether your camel. 


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