Blue Heron Zen Community and Golden Wind Zen Order Ethics and Guidelines

Preface: The Blue Heron Zen Community and the Golden Wind Zen Order strive to practice open and honest communication within the community. Our purpose is to help each other attain our true selves and to save all beings from suffering. In our relationships, whether between students or teachers our purpose is to seek understanding and to learn from situations that arise from our communication and actions. We live in a close community that requires a high level of responsibility to express ourselves with an intention to be helpful.

Inevitably, in our sangha relationships, we will be misunderstood and situations will arise where we are uncomfortable or upset. This is the nature of human relations and provides an important opportunity to examine how our actions affect others, how our own needs interfere with listening, and how we can reconcile misunderstandings with greater clarity among parties. In fact, the practice of Zen is the willingness to face our “don’t know mind”, to practice honesty and bring forth our passion for truth.

There are also situations that cross the line and will not be tolerated. The sangha must be free of sexual or other forms of physical or psychological harassment. No means no; use it mindfully and hear it clearly. Touching should be mutually agreed upon. If someone asks not to be touched, respect their wishes. If someone rejects even your most gentle advances, be mindful and heed their wishes.

In instances of harassment, ethical concerns, or inappropriate use of teaching authority, it is essential that you contact the Abbot or teacher within the Zen Community that is not involved in the situation.

Those in the sangha who hold positions in the hierarchy—senior students as well as teachers—have a special obligation to be very mindful of the potential misuse of power, money, alcohol, controlled substances and sex. Using your position to fulfill your desires is not correct relationship and is an abuse of power.

While we recognize that we are all students and teachers of each other, this Statement of Ethics applies to those who have received authorization to teach the Dharma as Dharma Teachers, Senior Dharma Teachers, Ji Do Poep Sa’s and Zen Master.

Commitment of the Teachers: As teachers we recognize that we are the recipients of the sangha’s trust. We each receive the role of teacher as a deepening of our own personal practice and as service to the Dharma. We are committed to supporting the practice and awakening of others through all aspects of teaching, (in public talks, private interviews, formal practice and workshops), and through our own lives. We are committed to honoring the trust of the sangha, to honoring the essential nature of the student-teacher relationship, and to honoring the importance of that relationship in the transmission of Dharma.

Alignment with Golden Wind Zen Order and Blue Heron Zen Values: Our conduct as practitioners and as teachers is guided by the precepts. In particular, we honor our commitment to wake up to our Original Nature and help others. We realize the implications of interdependent reality and the natural unfolding of cause and effect. Therefore, we are deeply aware of the effect that our conduct as teachers has on the life of students. We are committed to conduct that promotes trust, respect and open communication with and among sangha members. We pledge to refrain from conduct that abuses the power dynamic between student and teacher. We pledge to refrain from conduct harmful to the student or ourselves, physically, sexually or psychologically.

We are committed to live and teach in a way that honors our life as a Way of Awakening for all beings, including ourselves.

We are committed to live and act in accord with the fact of interdependent reality. Our conduct as practitioners and as teachers is also guided by the following specific commitments:

The Student-Teacher Relationship: We recognize the spiritual intimacy of the student-teacher relationship. We vow to be honest and to maintain clear boundaries between student and teacher. We define teacher misconduct as conduct that is harmful to the well-being of the Zen Community, sangha, or an individual student. We vow not to abuse our role as teachers by exploiting the trust of students through verbal abuse, sexual misconduct, misuse of the Zen Community’s funds, or through psychological manipulation of the power dynamic inherent in the student-teacher relationship.

Sexual Relationships: We recognize that any sexual relationship between a teacher and student is harmful to the student, the teacher and the sangha as a whole. Such a relationship is therefore never appropriate. We also recognize that attraction and affection between or among people may arise. We are mindful of the harm that can be done even under the most sincere consensual circumstances. We acknowledge that shifts in romantic and sexual dynamics can occur gradually or suddenly and require both vigilance and integrity.

We vow to be open and transparent to ourselves and to the other teachers, and to end any student-teacher relationship before any romantic or sexual relationship is begun. In the event that the parties involved wish to pursue such a relationship, they will end the student-teacher relationship, and the student will then study with another teacher. It is the responsibility of the teachers to counsel and guide the parties involved.

Privacy in the Interview Room: Personal life matters discussed between student and teacher in the interview room are private, and will be kept private. Exceptions can be made, with the student’s permission, to discuss specific issues with other teachers. In the case where illegal acts come to light in the course of the student/teacher relationship, we are required by law to report what is confessed or alleged to the proper authorities.

Discussion of Kong-an Practice Outside of the Interview Room: Teachers will, when needed, consult with other teachers about a student’s kong-an work. A student’s kong-an work is private, and students should not discuss their kong-an outside of an interview situation.

Dual Relationships: A dual relationship is created whenever a teacher and a student are relating to each other in two different capacities. For example, a teacher who is a psychotherapist may be asked by a student to become a client/patient. Or a teacher who is an attorney may be asked by a student to provide legal services. Or a teacher and student may want to cultivate a personal friendship with no romantic aspects. These and other such situations give rise to a dual relationship. We recognize that not all dual relationships are inherently unethical. We are, however, mindful of the complexities and risks in these circumstances. If, for example, a teacher becomes a student’s psychotherapist or attorney, the student-teacher relationship will end upon commencing the new professional relationship.

We acknowledge our shared and individual responsibility as teachers to hold the clarity and integrity of the student-teacher relationship. We will seek the counsel of the other teachers as needed.

Financial Responsibility: We are mindful that all of the Zen Community’s funds belong to the Zen Community organization and the whole sangha. We acknowledge our responsibility to be scrupulously honest with the Zen Community’s Funds.

Gifts: Students may wish to offer gifts as an expression of gratitude for a teacher’s offering of the Dharma. We call this Dana. Since we wish to avoid any undue influence that a gift might have on the essential student-teacher relationship, we will consider all gifts over a modest amount to be gifts to the Zen Community itself rather than to any particular teacher.

Conflicts or Grievances with Teachers: GWZO teachers vow to support each student’s effort to awaken by behaving in a way that nurtures and does not cause harm. It is our responsibility to maintain clear and appropriate boundaries within the student-teacher relationship. GWZO teachers and students alike are expected to look out for the well-being of the sangha. Any concern or complaint about the conduct of a teacher should follow the grievance procedure.

Teacher to Teacher Relationships: We will respect, support, and, as needed, counsel each other. We will address whatever issues arise between and among teachers in a timely way. We commit to our ongoing practice.

Summation: We recognize that our practice continues without end. We hold ourselves accountable to the Zen Community organization, to the sangha, to our peers among the teachers, to our own guiding teacher and to the Golden Wind Zen Order.

Grievance Procedure

If a person has a grievance with another, it is always best to attempt to reconcile differences between the involved parties. However, if this is not successful, the Blue Heron Zen Community offers the following procedure for resolving concerns and conflicts.

1. The first person to contact is the Abbot. Depending on the nature of the situation, the Abbot may select another teacher and member of the sangha as part of an ethics committee to investigate and determine the nature of the situation.

2. If the Abbot is involved in the situation and is not impartial – then a Ji Do Poep Sa Nim will be the first contact person and may also select two others to determine the nature of the situation.

3. The first priority is to provide a safe and neutral process to hear the point of view of the parties. The second priority is to come to a mutually agreed upon resolution. The third priority is to recommend a set of conditions that will be followed by the parties. In consultation with the parties and teachers a set of conditions will be developed by mutual agreement. If the parties do not agree to a solution then the recommendations go to Step 4.

4. The recommendations will go to all of the Ji Do Poep Sa Nims and the Zen Master for their concurrence if the parties do not agree. The teachers and Zen Master have the option of approving the conditions or to recommend alterations. In situations of disagreement within the Teachers Group, the Zen Master in consultation with the Abbot has the authority to make a final decision.