«Purpose of This Document In a Sangha, we are challenged to achieve a balance between “single effort” in our personal practice, and “harmonious ...»
Ethics and Precepts in Sangha Relationships
Zen Practice in Community
Purpose of This Document
In a Sangha, we are challenged to achieve a balance between “single effort” in our
personal practice, and “harmonious effort” with all other members of the community. On one
hand, we strive to be authentic, true to ourselves, and to honor our own path. On the other hand,
we strive to be kind, compassionate, respectful, and considerate of others. Ideally these two sides
of practice become naturally aligned as we integrate the Dharma into our lives. This document describes ethical guidelines and expectations that accompany the process of that alignment in our Sangha.
This document presupposes the following ethical values:
Compassion Respect Integrity Trust Kindness Dharma Rain Zen Center is committed to providing an environment that is free from physical violence, verbal abuse, sexual harassment, disparaging or discriminatory treatment, dishonesty, and substance abuse. These behaviors are incompatible with the core values and goals of this Sangha. Procedures for addressing such conduct are described in the document Ethics Complaint and Dispute Resolution Processes.
Contents Section One: Sangha Relationships, Connection and Authority 2 Levels of Involvement in the Sangha 2 Authority and Degrees of Formal Teaching Relationship 5 Section Two: The Sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts — A Path of Practice and Guidelines for Sangha Relationships 6 1 Ethics and Precepts in Sangha Relationships. Revised May 2015.
Section One: Sangha Relationships, Connection and Authority Becoming a Buddhist begins with taking refuge in the Three Treasures: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. Relationships within a practice community, or Sangha, are a reflection of these refuges.
At the heart of it, taking refuge is an act of respect and veneration. Ultimately this refuge is in one’s own deepest nature, the truth itself, and all beings. In practice, taking refuge includes cultivating an attitude of respect and veneration for the historical Buddha, respect and veneration for the Dharma in the form of the Sutras and other teachings, and respect and veneration for the Sangha in the form of the lineage down to the present time. In a community like Dharma Rain Zen Center, this finds expression in an attitude of respect and veneration for the temple itself.
This attitude, when cultivated deeply, extends to the various teachers, to the practice traditions, and to the other members of the temple. This respect and veneration is deeply precious, even sacred. As a result, holding authority within the temple becomes a sacred trust to the degree that authority is held.
Respect and Kindness: At Dharma Rain Zen Center, we recognize a reciprocal relationship between respect and kindness. A graduated level of expectation and ethical accountability is directly related to the degree of formal commitment to practice and to this Center, and to the amount of authority held. This graduated expectation begins with the basic respect for others, for the temple, and for the tradition expected of all who come through the doors. As authority within the temple increases, the importance of kindness and compassion also increases, because differences in power increase the potential for doing harm. Various levels of involvement are described below. As the level of commitment and authority increases, members are held to the levels of expectation for previous levels as well as for the one they occupy at any given point in time.
Levels of Involvement in the Sangha
1. Casual participation. Since the temple is open to all for most events, expectations are very simple. We expect those attending to be respectful of others, to be courteous, to respect the property of others, and to participate in a way that respects the temple and the practice itself while they are attending. No other expectation or standards apply.
2. Membership. Becoming a member of the temple often, but not always, includes developing on-going relationships with other members as friends or simply as fellow Sangha members. It can include taking on temple jobs and developing relationships with teachers. As involvement becomes on-going, the expectation of basic respect for the temple and other members continues when one is not actually at the temple or temple functions. As involvement deepens, members are expected to begin using the precepts as a point of reference in their lives. The precepts are also useful in suggesting methods of, and vocabulary for, conflict resolution of various degrees of formality between peers, or between members and teachers.
3. Full Members. When members take the precepts formally (Jukai), support the temple, and participate regularly, they are called “Full Members” and become part of the fabric of the temple.
“Taking” the precepts means to hold them, to reflect on them and measure all aspects of one’s 2 Ethics and Precepts in Sangha Relationships. Revised May 2015.
life and actions by them, to let this have an effect, and to let their meaning unfold. At some point an aspiration to embody the precepts can start to develop. Because they are more established in the Sangha, full members need to be considerate of newer members. A Full Member, for example, should be careful not to make overtures toward a romantic relationship with a new member until that person has established herself or himself within the Sangha. Full Members are encouraged to treat newer members with both respect and kindness and to try to meet them in helpful ways.
4. Residents. Members in residential practice are subject to all other expectations that apply to them (such as those for Lay Disciples, etc.), but they are also subject to their Resident’s Contract.
In addition, we expect residents to be respectful of all who come into the temple, and to give them the space to feel comfortable. This means, for example, that flirting with someone who has come in for a workshop is inappropriate.
5. Board and Council Members. To be eligible for election to the Board of Directors a person must be a Full Member (see above definition). Board members have a responsibility to act in the best long-term interests of the Sangha, and to act as responsible stewards of the Sangha’s resources. In their relationships to other members, they should endeavor to be responsive to members’ questions and concerns.
In addition to the Board, there are other major councils that oversee various aspects of Dharma Rain Zen Center life and function. Their obligations with regard to other Sangha members are the same as that of Board members. The four councils and their duties, described very briefly, are the Dharma Council which oversees teaching functions, the Mandala Council which oversees staffing and jobs, the Elders Council which holds long-term institutional memory and has specific duties with regard to the other councils, and the Ethics Council, whose function is described in detail in the document Ethics Complaint and Dispute Resolution Processes.
6. Lay Disciples. Because they are formally connected to the Center and the lineage, we expect Lay Disciples to conduct their private lives in a way that would reflect well on the temple. We expect them to be honest and ethical in their personal and business dealings, to be faithful in personal relationships, and to be generally law-abiding good citizens of the community. These matters are generally considered training issues between the disciple and his or her teacher. The ethical guidelines for informal teaching relationships, however, (see item three under Authority and Degrees of Formal Teaching Relationship on page 5) apply to Lay Disciples when they act as Practice Advisors, when they are leading retreats, classes, or workshops, or whenever someone comes to them for advice or guidance because of their position as a Lay Disciple. Also, because of their increased visibility within the Sangha, they should be mindful of the perception of authority new members will have regarding them, and be careful of inadvertently taking undue advantage. Kindness and consideration for newer members becomes more important because of the perceived authority held by Lay Disciples.
7. Lay Teachers. The level of expectation and standards (accountability) are basically the same as for Lay Disciples. The perception of authority is even greater, and the Lay Teacher should be mindful of this. Accountability will go up whenever a formal teaching relationship with another member develops, and Lay Teachers then become subject to the guidelines in item ten.
9. Junior and Transmitted Priests as staff members. The level of expectation and standards (accountability) are basically the same as for Monk Disciples. As Junior Priests (who have completed five years of training) take on more teaching authority their accountability is like that of Lay Teachers. Transmitted priests are even more independent, and may, with their teacher’s permission and the agreement of the Dharma Council, take personal students formally. Issues between such teachers and their students should first go to the teacher’s own teacher. If necessary, an issue could be escalated to become a matter for either the Dharma Council or the Ethics Council as deemed appropriate.
10. All Formal Teaching Relationships. Any undue advantage taken of formal students is a serious matter. Unconscious, heedless or careless actions that are detrimental to the welfare of formal students indicate a need for further training or education, and may become a matter for the Ethics Council. Formal students should remember, however, that they always have autonomy over their personal decisions (with regard to their health or finances, for example), within the guidelines of their commitment. For Lay Disciples, this means they always have the choice to back out of a training position if the requirements are more than they feel ready to meet. For Monk Disciples, training positions may be quite uncomfortable at times, and adjustments to them are a matter of discernment between the disciple and the teacher.
11. Abbots. To the degree that it reflects on the Center, anything abbots do in public, as well as anything they do in private that affects their ability to perform their duties, may be subject to a formal review process by the Ethics Council. Because abbots have some degree of authority over all aspects of temple life, their conduct with respect to all those who come to the Center should be undertaken with due care. Despite this high level of visibility and accountability, abbots do have the right to privacy when alone. Serious allegations concerning abbots, if found substantive, require bringing in outside mediation and assistance. The Ethics Council holds the procedures for investigating such allegations when deemed necessary in a joint decision with the Board of Directors.
12. Teachers Without Teachers. Whenever a Lay Teacher or Transmitted priest’s own teacher is not present (deceased, no longer active, absent for an extended time, etc.), their public conduct and their relationships with their own students, formal or informal, is subject to oversight by their elders and peers. Because they carry authority within the lineage, they need to be mindful of this with respect to how their actions affect others, and they are subject to the ethical guidelines when they are working within the Dharma Rain Zen Center organization. Should a question about this arise, see item 14 below.
13. Visiting Teachers. Visiting teachers, when they stay for a night or two for any reason, are treated as guests. When they have regular interactions with the DRZC Sangha for anything more than a few days, they should be made aware of these guidelines. When a visiting teacher is in 4 Ethics and Precepts in Sangha Relationships. Revised May 2015.
residence, or will be in regular contact with the DRZC Sangha even though not in residence, a residence interview should be done, and an agreement signed that makes the expectations and boundaries clear. They are also made aware of this ethics document and the expectations it describes. Should a teacher from another lineage develop a long-term role at Dharma Rain, they would be treated in much the same way as “Teachers Without Teachers” above.
14. When Problems or Questions Arise. Any individual may report an ethical concern to the shuso, the Abbot, a teacher, a lay disciple, or a member of the Ethics Council. Those unsure about whom to contact can ask the shuso to direct them to an appropriate person. Members may be advised to work things out informally or with a mediator. If necessary, these concerns could become a matter for either the Dharma or Ethics Council as deemed appropriate. The Dharma Council, for example, would handle matters regarding methods and skillful means, while the Ethics Council would handle matters of misconduct. Conflicts and issues between members may be handled in much the same way. This process is described in detail in the document Ethics Complaint and Dispute Resolution Processes.
Authority and Degrees of Formal Teaching Relationship
1. Peer relationships: relationships between Sangha members in general. Quite often, this is the nature of an interaction, even when a difference of rank or status exists. Most of the time, interactions between Sangha members at Dharma Rain Zen Center are fairly informal. To a teacher, Lay Disciple, or a long term full member, these informal interactions may have the character of peer interactions, but not always. When they involve a newer member, however, that new member will often be very aware of the authority held by a teacher, Lay Disciple, or full member. Because of this, members who hold authority within the community should remember to emphasize kindness and be very careful in their interactions with newer members or any member with less authority.
2. Mentor: a Lay Disciple acting as a Practice Advisor to a new member is an example of a mentor relationship. Also, to a lesser degree, any Full Member helping out a new member has aspects of being a mentor. There is some on-going authority, even though the relationship may be fairly informal.