Rinzai-ji Zen Center Thrown Off Balance

roshi4WebRinzai-ji Zen Center, a school of Buddhism with roots in 6th century China, is often perceived as a particularly demanding spiritual practice. Besides the focus on “sitting” daily and in weekend, weeklong and longer retreats, Rinzai-ji Zen practice is distinguished by sanzen, the one on one interview between the Roshi, a venerated teacher, and the student.  In these private interviews a relationship develops between the Roshi and the student that is intimate and demanding, much like the relationship between a therapist and client. In sanzen, a Koan - a question, statement or situation which demonstrates insight - is given to the student. The student’s response to the Koan, reveals to the Roshi the students understanding. The subsequent interaction between the teacher and student is meant to sharpen and deepen this understanding.

Kyozan Joshu Sasaki Roshi
is the 105-year-old Zen master and teacher of Rinzai Ji, a Zen community located in the West Adams community. Perceived as a particularly talented and dedicated teacher, Sasaki Roshi has long enjoyed the deep respect and admiration of the Zen community for over 50 years as he slowly built up a series of Zen centers in America and became a tireless and celebrated teacher and advocate for Zen here and in Europe.  He was admired for the quality of his ability to get to the heart of the student and guide them forward in their practice.

But behind the scenes Rinzai-ji priests and nuns long struggled with a disturbing truth. True to the times and the difficulty of keeping secrets...that truth exploded onto the national scene when a monk, Eshu Martin, formerly associated with the Rinzai-ji center and now an abbot at a Zen center in British Columbia, revealed on the website sweepingzen.com, a history of sexual abuse and coercion by Sasaki Roshi.
Eshu claimed “he has engaged in many forms of inappropriate sexual relationship with those who have come to him as students since his arrival here more than 50 years ago. His career of misconduct has run the gamut from frequent and repeated non-consensual groping of female students during interview, to sexually coercive after hours “tea” meetings, to affairs and sexual interference in the marriages and relationships of his students.” 

Several articles sprung up on the website as practitioners debated each other over the minutiae of Zen thought, the ‘comments’ section added more revealing information and women came forward to describe their experiences, some in graphic detail.

The incident quickly went viral with an article in the LA Times and national coverage in the New York Times and elsewhere. A panel of independent Buddhist leaders conducted their own investigation and released the results in January consolidating the allegations of groping and sexual misconduct by Sasaki Roshi.  Information included accusations that had been made as early as 1991 but supporters either looked the other way or engaged in frustrating efforts to confront Sasaki Roshi who would promise to stop but ultimately was unable to.

In response to the revelations, Rinzai-ji’s senior priests (Osho’s) posted on their website  http://www.rinzaijioshos.org/

“The Rinzai-ji community of practitioners has struggled with our teacher Joshu Sasaki Roshi’s sexual misconduct for a significant portion of his career in the United States. Senior members of our community have made several earnest and serious attempts over the years to correct  this problem. Ultimately, these attempts failed. Our hearts were not firm enough, our minds were not clear enough, and our practices were not strong enough so that we might persist until the problem was resolved. We fully acknowledge now, without any reservation, and with the heaviest of hearts, that because of our failure to address our teacher’s sexual misconduct, women and also men have been hurt, women and men who trusted us with their Zen practices, and whose trust we failed to honor in a fundamental way. Joshu Sasaki Roshi is no longer teaching. Senior members of our organization have been busy the past year crafting a document that outlines how our community will move forward without him. A key portion of this document is being dedicated to an ethics policy to ensure that the kind of misconduct that we failed to address properly in the past will not occur again—and will be dealt with properly and swiftly if it does.  Although we sincerely believe that Sasaki Roshi’s teachings have helped a great number of people, and we are profoundly grateful that he brought us this deep and meaningful tradition, clearly we have been doing something fundamentally wrong if harmful behavior could continue for so many years.”

"It is our deepest and sincerest intention that in directly addressing the issue here, we can begin to contribute in some small way to the larger discussion in American Buddhism about how to manifest the dharma without deceit, dysfunction, unhealthy power imbalances, inappropriate sexual relationships, and, ultimately, the heartbreak that results from all of the above.”

Sasaki Roshi, 105 years old, is in ill-health and bedridden. As of the printing of this post he has neither issued a public statement nor apology.  The Rinzai Ji Board has now established strict anti-harassment policies, reporting protocal and immediate response guidelines.



Add comment

Security code

News Category


Currently are 17 guests and no members online

Kubik-Rubik Joomla! Extensions

About Us

Established in August of 2008 by writerartist Dianne V. Lawrence, The Neighborhood News covers the events, people, history, politics and historic architecture of communities throughout the Mid-City and West Adams area in Los Angeles Council District 10.

Contact Us

Dianne V. Lawrence
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.