If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him, they said. The thought is attributed to Zen master Linji, the founder of the Rinzai sect. But, as dailybuddhism.com describes it:
“the road, the killing and even the buddha are symbolic”
I always took this to mean that in zen we were iconoclasts and proud of it. But last night I was trawling the net and found a referral to allegations of sexual misconduct by Sasaki Roshi. Sasaki is the founder and abbot of Rinzai-ji, a zen temple in Los Angeles. Some people might know of him because of his association with Leonard Cohen.I know about him because he has a lot to do with the lineage of the zen centre that I visit. I will not explain exactly how, because that would be far to longwinded, but part of my shock was that this whole thing started in November of last year and I had never heard anything about it. So:
“How could we find the courage to kill the buddha if we can’t even question our roshi’s behaviour?”
I did not want to base an opinion on just one blogpost, but when I looked further I found lots of people talking about it. One of them is Charlotte Shane, who wrote a moving article about being an inji (personal assistant) to Sasaki in the seventies and being abused by him. Sasaki didn’t exactly start doing these things when he was 100 years old. But it did take decades for anybody to go public. Decades of misconduct.
This morning I googled Penn and Teller for a link to their ‘Bullshit’-show called “Holier than thou”. I remembered it being informative on Mother Teresa. Instead, I found a letter by doctor David H. Gorski. It’s an open letter to Penn and Teller and he thinks they have made a big mistake in appearing on the Dr Oz Show. I must admit I know who Dr Oz is. We used to get the Oprah show and he appeared on that, wearing a little green hat and dress, as if he was about to go and perform major surgery. I always thought there was something suspicious about a doctor who felt he had to wear a funny kind of suit to convince me that he really was a doctor.It appears that Penn and Teller did some magic tricks on the programme and you might ask what the harm is, however, Dr. Oz regularly promotes homeopathy and other remedies that are not exactly science based. Because he reminds you every minute that he’s a doctor, he might have more credibility than a layperson. On the show he rhetorically asks:
“(…) Could homeopathy be the gentlest and the best medicine for you and your family?”
David Gorski is a longtime fan of Penn and Teller and he would expect them to recognise bullshit when they hear it. He was really shocked to see:
“(…) two skeptical icons lending their name to a daytime swamp of nonsense (…)”
And I feel that Penn and Teller themselves would phrase it less friendly if they were making the comments. So I sort of lost three heroes today. I’m sure I will find a way to deal with that.