SAN FRANCISCO ZEN CENTER TO REVISIT TEACHER ED BROWN'S REMOVAL
An October 11th statement by the S.F. Zen Center allows for the possibility of a reconciliation between the Zen Center and long-time teacher Ed Brown. “Our September 26th response was in the context of this history of complaints, formal and informal, as well as the disrespect and inconsistency with which Edward responded to our invitation to meet. We reached a point where we felt stymied and had great reservations about continuing to engage in what had become a confusing and non-productive process. This decision was difficult to make. We made every effort to take great care in our decision-making process and to be respectful in our communications with Edward. However, we now realize that we made a crucial mistake when the focus and basis of our decision shifted from the specifics of the current complaint to the history of difficulties in our relationship with Edward. These issues should have been addressed separately. We apologize for the harmful effects this lack of clarity regarding our process has had on Edward and on the wider community.
We acknowledge that there is still much work to be done to improve our process for dealing with conflict, including not letting things build up without consequences or attention. Over the past 10 years, San Francisco Zen Center has devoted time and energy to studying the best practices around conflict resolution, difficult conversations, sexual harassment prevention, appropriate teacher/student boundaries, giving and receiving feedback, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, working with trauma, and Right Use of Power trainings. Both students and senior teachers have studied these different ways to practice being upright, brave and skillful in the midst of painful situations. We continue to explore ways to further share and embody these teachings, and to embed them structurally in our temple life and organization. We are committed to this life-long path of deepening and refining our understanding, practice and effort.
We are left with two questions: Is there a path forward for reconciliation? Would we revisit the decision? We envision a path towards reconciliation that starts with a face-to-face meeting with Edward, listening with respect and a genuine desire to deeply understand and learn from one another. We very much want to engage with Edward and to repair any harm that has resulted from this entire sequence of events. One of us will reach out to Edward in the next few days to invite him to meet with us.
In terms of revisiting the decision, San Francisco Zen Center has the responsibility and obligation to decide whether any teacher�s way of offering the dharma is in accord with the atmosphere of the temple and in alignment with our values and precepts. The responsibility for such decisions is carried by the senior spiritual leadership (current and former Abbesses and Abbots) in consultation with the three local Practice Committees and the senior administrative leadership. Once we have met with Edward, resolved the issue of the complaint, and made some progress towards repair and reconciliation, we will review our decision.
Perhaps we can use the uprising of attention to this issue as a moment to collaborate and share ideas on how to bring forward a questioning mind in the midst of varying views. We also feel that the intensity of concern and activation around this decision is conditioned by and may echo the conversation we are having in our practice centers and in the wider culture about appropriate sexually oriented speech and conduct, and the importance of respect for diverse experiences.
We vow to support each other in making mature and respectful statements about our views of what are and are not helpful and beneficial ways of expressing the teachings. There are many questions to be considered, such as when are certain kinds of jokes appropriate, what place does sexual content or innuendo have in a dharma talk, and how important it is to be entertaining. What is considered appropriate changes over time, as well as in different places and circumstances, and this is particularly evident in the wide range of views about how to appropriately shake up cherished beliefs and attachments without inadvertently causing harm, disrespect, or offense. We invite and encourage everyone to contribute to this ongoing dialogue about how to create forms of practice and expression that have the potential to truly effect transformation, both individually and collectively.
Our intention is to use the specifics of this situation as a Dharma gate to reflect deeply on all that we have learned, and to use that learning to better fulfill our roles and our vows.
We offer this statement for the benefit of all beings. May we continue to practice together. Eijun Linda Ruth Cutts, Central Abbess Rinso Ed Sattizahn, Abiding Abbot, City Center Fu Schroeder, Abiding Abbess, Green Gulch Farm Brian McCaffrey, SFZC Board Chair Shinchi Linda Galijan, SFZC President