June 1, 2013

The letter below was prepared by the Transitional Leadership Team and the interim Abbots of Rinzai-ji in conjunction with the Rinzai-ji Bearing Witness Group. It outlines our response to recent reports that the Roshi behaved inappropriately with female students, and that our community ignored or covered up this behavior.

The oshos and centers of Rinzai-ji were asked to distribute this letter to their sanghas and as widely available as possible. After careful consideration and much work involving a large number of Oshos, monks and nuns, and laypeople, we believe that the process outlined in the letter is a clear and compassionate response to the reports of harm.


Dear current and former members of the Rinzai-ji community,

As most of you know, reports of misconduct have been made against our teacher Joshu Sasaki Roshi concerning his behavior with female students.  This issue has been made public through various media, including websites, radio, magazines and newspapers.

Members of the Rinzai-ji community met twice at Mt. Baldy Zen Center (in January and March of this year) to discuss how to best respond to these reports.  A Bearing Witness Group was formed to investigate different organizations experienced in helping communities like ours deal with similar situations.

Following the recommendation of the Bearing Witness Group, we contracted with a Zen Buddhist nonprofit organization, An Olive Branch, to serve as a neutral third party to receive reports of harm.  An Olive Branch will bring reports requiring resolution to the Listening Council, a group of Rinzai-ji sangha members established to respond to these reports with compassion.

The Rinzai-ji community is now inviting people who feel harmed to come forward. As neutral first receiver, An Olive Branch will:

a)     Listen in confidentiality to the person reporting harm;

b)     Recognize and explore potential resolution to grievances with reporters of harm;

c)     Carry any request to the Listening Council for reporters of harm who wish to remain anonymous;

d)     Make arrangements for individuals who wish to speak directly to the Rinzai-ji Listening Council.

The Rinzai-ji community encourages those who feel harmed to enter this process of resolution and reconciliation.

An Olive Branch can be reached in any of the following three ways:

An Olive Branch

124 Willow Ridge Rd.  Sewickley, PA 15143

412-996-5483 (Eastern Time Zone 8am-5pm Tues-Sat)



May 31, 2013

For Immediate Release:
May 31, 2013
Los Angeles, CA
Contact: Rev. Eshin Godfrey, eshin@rinzaiji.org
323.732.2263 (10am-3pm PST Tues-Fri)

The Rinzai-ji Community’s Response to Reports of Misconduct

The Rinzai-ji community is addressing reports of sexual misconduct involving its teacher Joshu Sasaki Roshi, made public over the past few months through various media.

Members of the Rinzai-ji community met twice, with the assistance of outside professionals, at Mt. Baldy Zen Center (in January and March this year) to discuss how best to respond to these reports and other organizational concerns. With ongoing outside consultation, these members decided upon the following steps:

A formal public letter of apology was written and published.

A Transitional Leadership Team was formed to guide the sangha over the next year.

A review of Rinzai-ji’s governance procedures and policies is underway.

To respond to these reports, the sangha has contracted with the Zen Buddhist nonprofit organization An Olive Branch to be a safe, confidential, and neutral third party. The Rinzai-ji community invites those who feel harmed to contact An Olive Branch. An Olive Branch will bring reports that require resolution to the Listening Council, a group of sangha members established to respond to these reports with compassion.

An Olive Branch can be reached in any of the following ways:

Rev. Kyoki Roberts

An Olive Branch


124 Willow Ridge Rd. Sewickley, PA 15143

412-996-5483 (Eastern Time Zone 8am-5pm Tues-Sat)



Rinzai-ji was founded in 1968 as a Rinzai Zen Buddhist temple by Joshu Sasaki Roshi. It now comprises more than two-dozen affiliated Zen Buddhist communities in North America and Europe.

March 12, 2013

Meeting of Ordained Sangha of Rinzai-ji
Mount Baldy Zen Center 2, 3 March 2013

Summary Report

Planners: Eshin John Godfrey, Gento Steve Krieger, Myosho Virginia Matthews.

Facilitator: Egyoku Wendy Nakao (Zen Center of Los Angeles).

Also in attendance: Eko Cheryl Schnabel, Dokan Charles Martin, Gendo (Vermont), Genkai Dan MacKinnon, Genshin (Colorado), Gido Richard Schnabel, Ginsei Ginger Calloway, Hosen Christiane Ranger, Jundo Steve Slusher, Kendo (Rinzai-ji), Koshin Chris Cain, Koshin Susan Crozier, Koyo Charles Engennach, Myokyo Judith McClean, Myorei Corinne Zeraffa, Myoren Kumiko Yasukawa, Myosen Julie Sprott, Oren Beth Schaefer, Seido Larry Clark, Seiju Bob Mammoser, Seiun Steve Quintero, Seisen Anne Marie Quintero, Shinkai Marie Barrett, Sohan Noah Youngleson (Saturday), Sokai Geoff Barrett, Soko Paul Humphreys.

Observer: Rev. Kyoki Roberts (An Olive Branch).

Special thanks to Mount Baldy staff for actively supporting the meeting.

Day One

 [The procedure for Day One was the same as for the 5, 6 January meeting.  Please refer to that Summary Report for details.]

 Day Two

 Facilitator reads a list of Guiding Questions compiled in response to what has arisen on Day One. These will be distributed to all those present to use or not use as we wish.

Agreement: Soko Paul Humphreys will write report for the weekend in consultation with others and follow through on communication with Roshi, with Sangha, and rinzaijioshos.org.

Report of Retirement Planning Committee for Kyozan Joshu Roshi: Gento, Myoren, Myoyu, Koshin Susan Crozier, and Soko Paul Humphreys (presenter).

The work of this committee is described as helping the Roshi to communicate his wishes to the sangha.  Thus far, the Roshi has made clear that he has no successor and that Rinzai-ji, as the mother temple, shall not be guided by a single abbot.

Report of Planning Group for the meeting: Eshin (presenter), Gento, and Myosho.

A delegation of two from the planning group, two from the retirement group and Seiju met with Roshi before the meeting, as we felt it was essential that his view be available during our discussions. First Roshi was informed that the purpose of the meeting was to form an entity to carry the greater Rinzai-ji Sangha forward.  Second, that significant funds would be needed for the Bearing Witness process.  Roshi replied by thanking us for our efforts to help deal with the situation and to continue with what those present at the upcoming meeting felt was best to do. He also made clear he authorizes the funds that are needed.

Report of Bearing Witness Group (BWG): Ginsei (presenter), Hosen, Myokyo, Myosho, Seido, Seiju.

The BWG has determined that 1) a neutral third party “first responder” is essential for those coming forward to report harm, 2) a mediating, consensus-building approach is the best response, and 3) a “family systems” framework is best for analyzing problems involving hurt and harm.

An Olive Branch (AOB) has developed an Assessment Proposal on the basis of interviews with some oshos and one board member.  The AOB proposal offers a “cafeteria-style” range of interventions that include governance counseling, grievance procedures and education, as well as first receivership.  The recommendation of the BWG is for an initial agreement with the AOB for first receivership.

Facilitator next calls upon three individuals to present reports that describe possible organizational models for a greater Rinzai-ji sangha.

Ordained Sangha of Rinzai-ji. Presenters: Jundo and Seiju.

Summary of history leading up to efforts by Seiju, Jundo, and Jeff Creek, in consultation with Joshu Roshi, to develop articles of incorporation for an organization intended to complement rather than replace the role of the Roshi.  Functions of the organization correspond with specific roles within an Executive Committee.

Senmon Dojo.  Presenter: Gido.

A senmon dojo is needed to produce a Roshi. Mt Cobb has the requirements of 1) adequate land 2) several oshos 3) adjacent land that can be bought for additional temples.  Training for women is equally important, though different and separate from training for men.

Transitional Leadership Council.  Presenters: Eshin and Myosho.

This is a proposal to carry the work of the current and previous meetings forward. Its size would be most workable with five individuals, 2 – 3 women, 2 – 3 men selected from Oshos, monks, nuns, and lay practitioners.  Its roles would be to facilitate communication and sharing of information within the sangha; be a “container” for the BWG; public relations; oversee care of the Roshi; and to work toward a structure with shared leadership that is both durable and responsive.

Facilitator next calls for discussion of the above three proposal which results in:

• Agreement One.  There is a clear need for better communication within the ordained sangha and for establishing the mechanisms for this to happen.
• Agreement Two.  The ordained sangha wants to convene another meeting.
• Agreement Three.  Some kind of formal leadership is necessary to organize another meeting and to hold the process at this time.

A decision to go forward for a year with a Transitional Leadership Team (TLT) was arrived at by a Yes vote of 90+% of those present. The five initial members were chosen by a two-stage ballot resulting in:
Myosho Virginia Matthews, Eshin John Godfrey, Gento Steve Krieger, Oren Beth Schaefer, Koshin Susan Crozier.

The primary tasks of the Transitional Leadership Team will be 1) facilitating communication within the sangha, 2) holding the ongoing work of the Bearing Witness Group, 3) identifying and prioritizing additional areas that need attention, and 4) organizing one or more subsequent sangha listening circles.

Seiju, Gento, and Soko Paul Humphreys are called upon to meet with Joshu Roshi to present a report of the meeting.  [This report was presented to the Roshi on Wednesday 8 March.]

The facilitator thanks all present, including Rev. Kyoki Roberts, then leads chanting of the Four Vows to close.

Submitted with nine bows,
Soko Paul Humphreys
8 March 2013

January 14, 2013

The next Osho meeting will be held on March 2, 3 and 4, 2013.

The meeting will be at MBZC for the Saturday and Sunday. It will receive a report on the planning of the Bearing Witness group and start reviewing the culture and structure of our organization with a commitment to constructive change. Egyoku has again generously accepted the role of moderator for this meeting.

On the afternoon of Monday March 4 there will be a sange ceremony which will include Roshi, health permitting. The ceremony will be held at Rinzai-ji and is open to all sangha members.

The ordained sangha that have practiced at a training center within the last three years are also invited to the full meeting. Their voices are also needed at this crucial time of transition.

Last modified February 6, 2013

January 10, 2013

Open letter to our fellow practitioners and the American Buddhist community

Recently there has been the allegation of long-term sexual misconduct by Joshu Sasaki Roshi, as well as the inability on the part of the senior practitioners to appropriately address the problem.

Sadly, we cannot deny these accusations. This issue has been a sore on the body of our Sangha for decades, and we are eager and relieved to finally open it to the light of day.

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.

Most importantly this means reaching out to those who have suffered from this problem, and doing everything we possibly can to help them heal. As the first step on a long road, we are forming a Bearing Witness Council that will confidentially receive the stories of the women who are hurting, and work with them to move toward healing. (Information about this will be available soon on this site)

Furthermore, as practitioners tasked with teaching the dharma, we must take a look at ourselves, and the way we relate to each other, and at the question of power in our community, with fresh and unyielding eyes.  It is our profound and immediate responsibility to make sure that this problem never happens again in our community.  Our job now is to face our failures with humility and a firm commitment to change, and as a start, we bow our heads low in apology and ask for the forgiveness of those whom we have hurt over the years through our neglect.

Nine bows,

The Osho Council of Rinzai-ji

January 8, 2013

Meeting of Oshos, Representatives of Ordained Sangha, and Members of Board of Directors of Rinzai-ji | 5, 6 January 2013

Summary Report

 Organizers: Eshin John Godfrey, Gento Steve Krieger, Myosho Virginia Matthews

Facilitator: Egyoku Wendy Nakao

Also in attendance:  Eko Cheryl Schnabel, Gido Richard Schnabel, Giko David Rubin, Hosen Christiane Ranger, Kigen William Ekeson, Koshin Chris Cain, Koyo Charles Engennach, Myokyo Judith McClean, Seido Larry Clark, Seiju Bob Mammoser, Sokai Geoff Barrett, Ginsei Ginger Calloway, Sohan Noah Youngleson, Soko Paul Humphreys, Jack Williamson (Saturday morning), Bill Flynn (Saturday).

Mount Baldy ordained staff (actively supporting, though not in attendance at the meeting): Dokan Charles Martin and Genkai Dan MacKinnon.

 Day One

Facilitator introduces the three principles for Council Circle: 1) not knowing / no-self—being open to all that arises, thereby giving up fixed ideas about myself, others, and the world; 2) bearing witness by listening and speaking from the heart—deep listening to all that arises within the circle without judgment or blame, thereby becoming one with what is shared; and 3) healing action (also called liberating action, or loving action)—allowing an action that serves the whole to arise from the practice of not-knowing and bearing witness.

 Convening of the circle is preceded by a short period of silent meditation.  Both morning and afternoon sessions begin with a brief check-in, a witnessing by each member of the circle as a way of “taking the temperature” of the group.

The facilitator introduces the guidelines for Council practice.  These include: return to not-knowing (being open); bearing witness by speaking leanly and, at the same time, saying what is important for one to say; listening without judgment; speaking only from one’s own experience using “I” statements; holding silence as an option; no preparing of one’s sharing, simply plunging.

We used a talking piece (held by each person while speaking) and had an agreement of confidentiality.

 Both morning and afternoon sessions end with a brief witnessing reflection by each member of the circle; many remark on the value and effectiveness of the Council circle.

Day Two

Facilitator offers her list of Guiding Questions based on what has arisen on Day One. These will be distributed to all those present to use/or not use as we wish.

Facilitator communicates specific objectives for action suggested by the planning committee: 1) create a Bearing Witness Council which can design and execute a process by which those who have been hurt may come forward; 2) create a Statement of Response to the current situation about concerns about sexual conduct that has brought about harm; and 3) draft a report of the meeting to Kyozan Joshu Roshi, oshos not present, ordained sangha, and members of boards of directors of the Rinzai-ji sangha.

Before addressing these objectives, the circle hears three letters that had been submitted to the planning committee with the request that they be read during the meeting.

The facilitator invites individuals to choose one of three objectives and work with others in the group so-formed.  From recommendations arrived at through small group discussions and discussion within the larger circle that follows, the circle arrives at the agreements that are given below.

 Agreement One.  Establish a planning circle with Ginsei as steward, the responsibility of which is to define and create a plan to respond to those who have come forward to Rinzai-ji and the Witnessing Council with their grievances and deeply felt concerns.  The Council Circle has called for this plan to include the formation of a Bearing Witness Group with members who can commit to facilitate this process over a long period of time.

Agreement Two.  Establish a writing circle with Koshin as steward to revise and disseminate a statement of response from the Oshos.  Koshin will contact Marie Fortune of the Faith Trust Institute for her expert feedback of the current draft. Target date for posting and distribution is January 11, 2013. This Circle will determine how and where the statement is posted, on which sites, etc., after having received input from the group.

Agreement Three.  Draft a summary report of the weekend.  Soko Paul H. will draft the report and, together with Seiju and Gento, present it to the Roshi on or before 9 January 2013.  The report will posted to rinzaijioshos.org and sent to all Oshos (including those not present), presidents of the Boards of Directors, and all ordained members of the larger Rinzai-ji Sangha.

Agreement Four.  Contact members of the Witness Council to 1) thank them for their work, 2) request that an invitation to dialog with the Bearing Witness Council be conveyed to individuals who have reported first-hand experience of harm, and 3) request delay of posting of the summary report until the statement of response from the Rinzai-ji Oshos is posted on January 11.  Myosho is designated person for this task.  (Note: Myosho has done this and the Witness Council has agreed to this request.)

Agreement Five.  Contact Kobutsu Malone to request that he change the name of the “Sasaki Roku” website to “Sasaki Archive.” Giko will do this. (Note: this is Giko’s personal action; the group did not object.)

Agreement Six.  Begin planning for a second meeting.  The Planning Group of Eshin, Gento, and Myosho agreed to plan a second meeting to convene within two months to continue the momentum of the weekend.  The primary focus will be reviewing the culture and structure of our organization with a commitment to constructive change.

A brief witnessing is offered by each member of the circle; many remark with thanks on the skill of Egyoku Roshi as facilitator for the meeting.

 The meeting ends with all present chanting the Four Vows of a Bodhisattva.

 Submitted with nine bows by Soko Paul Humphreys

7 January 2013 with minor editing on 9 January

December 20, 2012

For the January meeting three critical areas of attention are to be addressed after the healing circle. It’s recommended that all three go ahead; both by reviewing at the meeting and continuing in later meetings.

1. An apology/statement. The Faith Trust Institute considers an apology the first and essential step.

2. Witnessing. Allowing women and husbands to come forward and be heard. This is often the main healing step.

3. Review Rinzai-ji. Review the “culture” of Rinzai-ji to ensure it is healthy, effective, open and fair.

December 23, 2012

An osho meeting will be held at Mt Baldy Zen Center on January 5 and 6, 2012.

It will include representatives from the Boards of the three main centers, nuns and monks.
We’re pleased that Roshi Egyoku Nakao of ZCLA has generously accepted our request to moderate the meeting.
The meeting will start with a deep listening circle with a non-judgmental mind. Later we will move to areas requiring attention.

December 6, 2012

The oshos decided that Eshin, Myosho and Gento take responsibility for arranging the January meeting. They have gained background information from An Olive Branch and had a conference consultation with Marie Fortune of The Faith Trust Institute.

December 1, 2012

The following statement was released by Seiju on behalf of the oshos:

To whom it may concern,

The oshos of Joshu Sasaki Roshi are deeply troubled by the allegations of abuse involving some of the students who have practiced at our centers.

In order to thoroughly address this matter, on the weekend of January 5-6, 2013, the Mount Baldy Zen Center will host a meeting for the oshos of our community together with an independent, professional facilitator trained in addressing such matters. We will also invite representatives of the Mt.
 Baldy Board, the Rinzai-ji Board, as well as members of the ordained sangha to attend. This meeting will be the necessary first step to clarify within our organization what is an extremely difficult and complex issue. We welcome any suggestions or comments that sangha members might have regarding this meeting and the issues to be discussed. Confidentiality is guaranteed. Please email us at mbzcoffice@gmail.com.

We bow deeply with folded hands for your patience and understanding as we attempt to deal with what is a matter of crucial importance for our community.