Episode 195 :: Jay Michaelson and Mark Oppenheimer :: The Zen Predator of the Upper East Side

| March 16, 2014 | 2 Comments

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Jay Michaelson

Hi, everyone. Before we get started with today’s episode, I want to remind the listeners that we’ve started a new podcast which may also interest you. It’s called Present Moment: Mindfulness Practice and Science, and appears every other week, alternating with The Secular Buddhist. You’ll find many of the same guests you’ve enjoyed and learned from here, as well as new researchers, teachers, and practitioners. You’ll find Present Moment in the Science & Medicine section of iTunes, in Natural Sciences, or just do an iTunes Store seach for Mindfulness, and look in the results in the Podcasts section. You can also visit the website, PresentMomentMindfulness.com. Thanks for checking it out, and if you like what you hear, please feel free to share it with others.

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Mark Oppenheimer

Our zen sanghas have been suffering lately, as news of the sexual excesses and allegations of abuse of power on the part of zen teachers surfaces. That suffering isn’t, as it turns out, because of long hidden problems, but because well known problems were ignored by those involved, and often excuses for bad behavior were made on the behalf of beloved teachers. Under any other context, those teachers would have been removed from that role for their actions. All the more perplexing is what conditions these problems to arise, why do they continue, and how can they be stopped.

Dr. Jay Michaelson is the author of five books, including “Evolving Dharma: Meditation, Buddhism, and the Next Generation of Enlightenment.” A longtime contemplative practitioner, he will be teaching at New York Insight in April, 2014, and at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies in September, 2014. He holds a J.D. from Yale Law School and a Ph.D. from Hebrew University, and is presently a Visiting Scholar at Brown University, affiliated with the Varieties of Contemplative Experience project.

Mark Oppenheimer is one of the country’s leading investigators of religion as an essayist, reporter, and critic. He writes a religion column for The New York Times and also writes for The New York Times Magazine, Mother Jones, Slate, The Forward, and Tablet, among other publications. Oppenheimer has a doctorate in American religious history and directs the Yale Journalism Initiative. The author of three previous books, he lives with his family in New Haven, Connecticut.

So, sit back, relax, and have a nice Arizona Sunrise tea.

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Music for This Episode Courtesy of Rodrigo Rodriguez

The music heard in the middle of this podcast is from Rodrigo Rodriguez. You can visit his website to hear more of his music, get the full discography, and view his upcoming tour dates.

Category: The Secular Buddhist Podcast

Ted Meissner

About the Author ()

Ted Meissner is the Executive Director of the Secular Buddhist Association, host of the SBA's official podcast The Secular Buddhist, and is on the Advisory Board for the Spiritual Naturalist Society. His background is in the Zen and Theravada traditions, he is a regular speaker on interfaith panel discussions, and is interested in examining the evolution of contemplative practice in contemporary culture.

Comments (2)

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  1. colonelbunny says:

    Ok, I think this issue is connected to a larger issue of abuse of power, and the cover up by the community. I feel this issue is not different from a college professor having sex with a student, a breach of ethics, which a community will forgive for the sake of not having to deal with the problem, or blame the victim. After the first incident, the community has to create a contract that says you don’t get to do this, and polices it. I would like to know if the people who felt their Buddhist practice was devastated, would have felt less devastated if their community had embraced them, rather than hushed it up.

    My own experience of this is familial sexual abuse, I was (I think) the third granddaughter molested by my grandfather, and ultimately my older family members still refuse to discuss it, and two granddaughters younger than myself were also molested, (then he ran out of granddaughters) when anyone could have decided “let’s not let grandpa alone with preteen girls”

  2. Mark Knickelbine says:

    A good discussion but I think it overlooked one important element of why guru worship presents such a danger, as opposed to the same kind of abuse by bosses, professors or rock stars. When other power figures decide to dally with their subordinates, the subordinate at least has the capacity to determine whether that behavior is acceptable or not. They may consent or they may feel trapped, but at least they can judge whether what is happening is right or wrong. With the guru, the relationship is founded on the disciple’s lack of discernment, indeed his/her delusion compared to the mystical wisdom of the master. The disciple abandons reason and moral agency, and truth becomes what the master says it is. Giving another person that kind of power over you invites abuse, and there is no way institutional safeguards will prevent it. For all the gifts that traditional Buddhism has brought to the West, we must return the favor by demonstrating that the efficacy of the practice is not abandoned by embedding it in egalitarian, democratc institutional forms that have no place for super-human authority figures.

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