MAPLE Monastic Academy

MAPLE Monastic Academy upekkha metta karuna 12/24/21 6:44 AM
RE: MAPLE/Monastic Academy alarming information emerging Brandon Dayton 12/15/21 8:18 AM
RE: MAPLE/Monastic Academy alarming information emerging Brandon Dayton 12/23/21 12:13 AM
RE: MAPLE/Monastic Academy alarming information emerging Noah D 12/15/21 11:50 AM
RE: MAPLE/Monastic Academy alarming information emerging Ellen McSweeney 12/20/21 11:23 AM
RE: MAPLE/Monastic Academy alarming information emerging Brandon Dayton 12/21/21 9:55 AM
RE: MAPLE/Monastic Academy alarming information emerging Ellen McSweeney 12/21/21 10:23 AM
RE: MAPLE/Monastic Academy alarming information emerging Ellen McSweeney 12/21/21 10:06 AM
RE: MAPLE/Monastic Academy alarming information emerging Colin Bested Bested 12/23/21 12:09 AM
RE: MAPLE/Monastic Academy alarming information emerging Brandon Dayton 12/23/21 9:40 AM
RE: MAPLE/Monastic Academy alarming information emerging Colin Bested Bested 12/23/21 9:38 AM
RE: MAPLE/Monastic Academy alarming information emerging Shekinah Alegra 12/31/21 5:21 PM
RE: MAPLE/Monastic Academy alarming information emerging George S 1/1/22 8:04 AM
RE: MAPLE/Monastic Academy alarming information emerging Colin Bested Bested 1/3/22 3:43 PM
RE: MAPLE/Monastic Academy alarming information emerging Kim _ 12/21/21 11:30 AM
RE: post deleted. Brandon Dayton 12/23/21 9:28 AM
RE: post deleted. Brandon Dayton 12/23/21 10:36 AM
RE: post deleted. Chris Marti 12/24/21 6:44 AM
RE: post deleted. Brandon Dayton 12/23/21 10:41 AM
upekkha metta karuna, modified 9 Months ago at 12/24/21 6:44 AM
Created 9 Months ago at 12/14/21 9:41 PM

MAPLE Monastic Academy

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Brandon Dayton, modified 9 Months ago at 12/15/21 8:18 AM
Created 9 Months ago at 12/15/21 8:18 AM

RE: MAPLE/Monastic Academy alarming information emerging

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Hey Dharma Lion Roar,

Would you be open to chat about this more one-on-one? I'm interested in getting more details.
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Noah D, modified 9 Months ago at 12/15/21 11:50 AM
Created 9 Months ago at 12/15/21 11:46 AM

RE: MAPLE/Monastic Academy alarming information emerging

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Thank you for sharing.  

Edit: I'm really sorry for the abuse you experienced there.  I hope they make needed changes to prevent this & protect everyone involved, as soon as possible.  This is very disappointing news, as I had been a fan of the MA from afar for a couple years now.
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Brandon Dayton, modified 9 Months ago at 12/23/21 12:13 AM
Created 9 Months ago at 12/17/21 10:08 AM

RE: MAPLE/Monastic Academy alarming information emerging

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Dharma Lion Roar
Yeah definitey. I'd be down to email back and forth about it or if there's a DM function on here that's great too. 

DM function here isn't currently working but you can email me: brandondayton@pm.me
Ellen McSweeney, modified 9 Months ago at 12/20/21 11:23 AM
Created 9 Months ago at 12/20/21 11:23 AM

RE: MAPLE/Monastic Academy alarming information emerging

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I'm an occasional reader of Dharma Overground, chiming in here to say that my experience training at MAPLE has been really wonderful. I'm a resident here, and started my training in May. If you're considering coming to visit or sit a retreat here, and have questions/concerns, I'd be happy to talk with you. I offer this not to invalidate any difficult experiences that others have had, but simply to ensure that the benefits of training here are also lifted up. 

To give a sense of my personal + practice background: I'm 36, female, married, and queer-identified. I'm a classically trained musician + therapist (LICSW), and I've been practicing for about 10 years. Before coming to MAPLE, I sat all my retreats at IMS, so my foundations are in the Pali canon/Satipatthana. I'm also interested in jhana practice, Brahmaviharas, and have done some Soulmaking Dharma practice. 

Basically, studying with Soryu (and living in a rigorous, loving monastic community) has changed my life and my practice profoundly. In particular, the 1-on-1 interviews with Soryu have been some of the most catalytic experiences I've had on my path. These interviews are very different from the informal-feeling interviews I experienced as a student at IMS and elsewhere. Instead they are profound encounters, closer to what is offered in traditional Zen. (Though we are not a Zen center and Soryu does not teach Zen, he is greatly influenced by his five years training in Japan under Zen Master Shodo Harada.) Soryu tracks each person's practice closely and has a very high standard for samadhi. On retreat, we receive these interviews almost daily; off-retreat, it's maybe once a week or so. It's hard to put the value of this experience into words.

The Medium post linked above seems to reflect a very complex situation, and contains many claims to which I can't adequately respond. But my personal sense is that MAPLE is trying to do some really hard things. For instance, it's trying to offer the Dharma in a way that challenges status quo ideologies (like liberal humanism) that Western Buddhism has been largely absorbed into. It's also trying to create a form of modern monasticism that responds to the rapid deterioration of our society. The organization has made mistakes, and I hope to be part of the effort to keep making it better. I am grateful for the friction and feedback, as any effort this ambitious is bound to be imperfect. I hope this process is onward-leading for all, so that the goodness of what is offered at MAPLE can continue, while minimizing confusion and harm. 

I'll stop there but am happy to answer more questions from my personal experience, on or off-thread. 
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Brandon Dayton, modified 9 Months ago at 12/21/21 9:55 AM
Created 9 Months ago at 12/21/21 9:55 AM

RE: MAPLE/Monastic Academy alarming information emerging

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Hi Ellen,

Thanks for responding to this. It’s been a pleasure corresponding with you on and off over the course of this year as we’ve had our respective experiences with MAPLE. I hope we’re able to connect in person one of these days.

Up to the point of hearing about these allegations, I was singing the praises of Monastic Academy to everyone I knew. Even with just one meeting with Soryu and attending an online course, MA has had a profound impact on my life this year. It's filled in gaps with my sense meaning, purpose and moral training that I've not found elsewhere. It's all been upside for me so far.

They are actually teaching powerful practices that do positively affect people's lives, but frankly, that is completely irrelevant to the issue here.

The only question here is whether or not misconduct has happened. It may seem like a contradiction that an institution that is so effective in some ways could also be deeply flawed in others, but it is actually totally common. I just finished watching the HBO Documentary The Vow, about the NXIVM scandal, and that is exactly what you hear former members say over and over again - “How can this organization, that is making such positive changes in people’s, lives be doing all this awful stuff?” To be fair, the allegations at MA are nothing close to what happened at NXIVM, but the principle is the same. I experienced this same thing personally as I left LDS Mormonism. I’ve seen it over and over again with many of my friends going through the same process.

Paradoxically, an institution that can deliver powerful change is actually better at covering up misbehavior for this very reason. The seeming contradiction makes it harder to see and accept what’s going on. Then one day you wake up and realize you’ve wasted half your life.

There is also an implication expressed subtly and not-so subtly throughout the MA community that what they provide is not only unique but essential, both to personal development and to saving the world.

Consider that everything positive you have experienced at MA can be found (or built) elsewhere. I just finished a 7-day retreat with Shinzen that was rigorous, had great teaching support and facilitated the deepest transformation I’ve experienced in years. Meditation, bio-emotive feedback, circling, monastic rigor, high-quality teaching can all be found in other places. More importantly, our salvation is not dependent on any one teacher, technique or community but on our personal dedication to training and life. Peace Pilgrim didn’t need any of these special tools to find her awakening. It’s not the Magic Feather that allowed Dumbo to fly.

But even if MA was doing something special and irreproducible, it still wouldn’t justify the wrong-doing. I’ve heard many people at MA express the vision of a world full of monasteries, each competing with each other for the best students and the best funding. MA is not the first monastery and it won’t be the last. If they can’t meet the most basic expectations of responsibility for a spiritual community we should look elsewhere or build something new.
Ellen McSweeney, modified 9 Months ago at 12/21/21 10:06 AM
Created 9 Months ago at 12/21/21 10:06 AM

RE: MAPLE/Monastic Academy alarming information emerging

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Thank you for your good wishes for my practice. I wish you well also.

I have navigated adverse states and experiences as part of my Dharma path, long before I came to MAPLE to train. I anticipate that great challenges will certainly arise again, as these are part of the path. It can be challenging to discern when to press on along the path and when to pause, make changes, and seek support. As a therapist and a contemplative, I see the value in both approaches. I trust my practice, my discernment, and the reflection of trusted loved ones to help me steer through such territory. 

You make a variety of claims here that I cannot speak to, and I do not know on what basis you make them. However, I can say that among various meditation traditions, there is huge variety in what constitutes transmission/authorization to teach. This does make it difficult to know who we can trust. We have to use our own inner wisdom and sovereignty in assessing any teacher. For instance, there are teacher training programs popping up everywhere which "certify" meditation teachers, most of whom have never done any intensive monastic training at all! In my experience some of these teachers are good, and some are not.

It's untrue that 10 years of study is required in all monastic traditions. Just as one example, the remarkable Zen student Maura O'Halloran earned full transmission in three years. My understanding is that transmission would usually be based on contemplative attainments rather than the length of study, although of course those two things are often related.

Soryu makes clear that he does not have Zen transmission and that he does not teach Zen. My direct experience, as well as my prior experiences with many other teachers (primarily in the Insight tradition), tell me that his training goes quite deep and that there is a great deal to be learned from him.

I understand the reluctance to share your identity, but if we were to have a sincere exchange about this, knowing who you are would be important. I am using my real name, which I hope demonstrates the extent to which I am willing to stand by what I share here.
Ellen McSweeney, modified 9 Months ago at 12/21/21 10:23 AM
Created 9 Months ago at 12/21/21 10:23 AM

RE: MAPLE/Monastic Academy alarming information emerging

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Hey Brandon -- I completely hear you. I couldn't agree more that our dedication to training, and to life, is the most important thing. This transcends any one institution, and as the Dharma teaches us, all conditioned things have the nature of changing and falling apart. I've had a long path of study and practice before coming to MAPLE. My path still includes many other teachers and institutions, and I anticipate that will always be true. Soryu has actively encouraged me to bring certain questions to other teachers; many people at MAPLE have other Dharma teachers in their lives as well.

In response to your share here, lots of different things come up for me. First and foremost: indeed, the question IS whether misconduct happened. I would argue that you do not have the full picture -- nor do I assume that I do. 

The other thing that comes up for me is a deep sense of acceptance regarding the inherent imperfection of all human institutions. This isn't a blank check for harm or irresponsibility, of course. But do these failings mean that the institutions ought to be condemned, or ought not exist? Of course, Brandon, we could build again or elsewhere -- but wouldn't it be hubris to assume that suffering would not arise again under the fresh new tent we erected? In so many of the spaces I've worked in, especially social movements, I've seen folks discover a crack in the foundation and then move quickly to tear the whole thing down. This doesn't make sense to me right now. As Ajahn Chah once taught, "The glass is already broken." At this point in my life, I am choosing to deeply mourn the difficulty of all that we are trying to accomplish in this broken world, and to stay in place as I wrestle with that.

Thank you -- it's beautiful to be able to share with you about this. Your post opened up important territory in my mind and heart. I'd love to talk with you offline if you're open to it. Take good care, friend.
Colin Bested Bested, modified 9 Months ago at 12/23/21 12:09 AM
Created 9 Months ago at 12/21/21 11:24 AM

RE: MAPLE/Monastic Academy alarming information emerging

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Hello Dharma Lion Roar,

I was reading through this thread and some claims you made really grabbed me, as they would really shift my views a lot, as I have a great reverence and love for lineage and I am a resident at Willow Monastic Academy (details added at the end about my training). 

You mention these claims:
1. "The negative standing Soryu has in his community with Sogen-Ji"
2. "Shodo Harada specifically has said that Soryu should not teach intensive retreats and should not lead a monastery"

Please, can you link me to where these claims are substantiated?
This would be of great importance to how I see Soryu's own rendering of what brought him to do what he does and to maintain it. I vaguely recall Soryu saying sometime this year, such as, that Harada Roshi is happy to hear about what Soryu and MAPLE are doing and not particularly critical or supportive.

With Friendship,
Virabhadra

For context, I am currently training at Willow Monastic Academy. I go back and forth between there and MAPLE. The training is something I deeply value and plan to continue with for many years. Soryu has been a life-changing teacher for me (and evidently many others) in ways that are hard to articulate the rarity and value of, such as offering for me a way to trust and love myself and find a sense of peace, sustainable on my own, that I can offer others and put to use to enable decisions that create and maintain less suffering for all beings.

I might as well add that I'm happy to talk to anyone about my experience with the training. I've been with it for 1.5 years, and I plan to be around for a while. It is definitely not for everyone unless they do some serious work to prepare. It is intense. It is young and scrappy, having many rough edges, though in my view, deeply caring and admirable as demonstrated by constant transformation and humility from all involved in leadership. Reach me through a message here or virabhadra at growingwillow dot org.

May all beings be free of dukkha and freed from samsara through each of our efforts to practice the cultivation of perception and behaviour.
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Kim _, modified 9 Months ago at 12/21/21 11:30 AM
Created 9 Months ago at 12/21/21 11:30 AM

RE: MAPLE/Monastic Academy alarming information emerging

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Hello,

I saw the OP and considered few days whether to chime in or not. I knew Soryu in Sogenji, where both he and I trained. I knew him briefly when he was there for couple of months. This was in 2004. We got along well together and spent some afternoons chatting together. I'd say we both were keen seekers, meaning, clueless about buddhanature. And very restless. I was told he came and went and never stayed longer than couple of months at a time, totalling maybe 2 years of monastic training altogether, according to an elder sangha member.

Dharma Lion Roar wrote in the OP, "trained at MAPLE and left with symptoms of PTSD, panic and anxiety attacks, psychotic breaks, OCD and many other problems as well, I became aware that something may be deeply wrong with this place and training system".

I have no idea what is practiced there or how the training system is constructed, or if there is some unethical elements involved, but are you aware of the fact that the symptoms you mention are not actually that uncommon? I saw this at Sogenji but the tradition couldn't do much about it. I value my training at the temple and the time with Harada Roshi but at the same time it is a simple fact that many people come across these kind of problems training under authorised lineage teachers. I actually can't think of a single zen sangha or training place where this didn't happen. Always someone in deep trouble.

I like what Dhammarato says about the necessity to practice metta or jhana first before insight. I think it would help Western people who are often so tangled up in trauma, stress and emotional issues. When you put troubled people on a rigorous training schedule, you're asking for trouble.
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Brandon Dayton, modified 9 Months ago at 12/23/21 9:40 AM
Created 9 Months ago at 12/23/21 9:16 AM

RE: MAPLE/Monastic Academy alarming information emerging

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Hey Colin,

Don't know if you remember, but we had a brief chat before I left MAPLE this Spring. It was one of the hilights of the experience and I appreciate your kindness and thoughtfulness. I just have really warm feelings when I see your post here, even though I'm making a completely different decision in regards to this org. 

I'm done with my association with MA, but I think it has attracted some of the most loving, intelligent, curious and brave people out there. I definitely count you and Ellen among that group, and I'm grateful I've had a chance to get to know both of you in the process.

Hoping we cross paths again.
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Brandon Dayton, modified 9 Months ago at 12/23/21 9:28 AM
Created 9 Months ago at 12/23/21 9:17 AM

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Some other public comments that I am seeing at r/streamentry

I've spoken directly with Aaron Stryker offline and his point of view is very nuanced and careful with how he is judging the situation. I'm hoping to hear more from him in public in the future on this topic.

​​​​​​​https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10109115376589050&id=900287&m_entstream_source=timeline

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10220602273709590&id=1316913649
Colin Bested Bested, modified 9 Months ago at 12/23/21 9:38 AM
Created 9 Months ago at 12/23/21 9:38 AM

RE: MAPLE/Monastic Academy alarming information emerging

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Hi Brandon,

Your words bring me a lot of warmth and joy! emoticon

May our paths cross again one way or another, and may our cultivation of mind the benefit of all beings deepen and radiate. 

With Friendship,
Virabhadra (Colin Bested)
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Brandon Dayton, modified 9 Months ago at 12/23/21 10:36 AM
Created 9 Months ago at 12/23/21 10:36 AM

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To the Mods, 

​​​​​​​Can we get this post re-titled so readers can be aware of its content?
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Brandon Dayton, modified 9 Months ago at 12/23/21 10:41 AM
Created 9 Months ago at 12/23/21 10:41 AM

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I posted a summary of my decision to distance myself from Monastic Academy on r/streamentry. There is some overlap with stuff I said here, so I'll just include the link rather than reposting the entire thing:

https://www.reddit.com/r/streamentry/comments/rgrscg/comment/hpp60q9/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=web2x&context=3
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Chris Marti, modified 9 Months ago at 12/24/21 6:44 AM
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Done!
Shekinah Alegra, modified 9 Months ago at 12/31/21 5:21 PM
Created 9 Months ago at 12/31/21 3:33 AM

RE: MAPLE/Monastic Academy alarming information emerging

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Virabhadra,

First of all, I just want to thank you for your response on Medium. I have been meaning to reach out to you. Thank you for engaging in these important conversations and questions. Your participation and the participation of other current community members is critical to addressing these issues, and I hope will lead to meaningful growth and change. 

You listed these claims from the OP, but I don't remember seeing these specific claims in the original post which has since been deleted. Perhaps I missed something. 

You mention these claims and seem to be seeking more information about Soryu's background and lineage:
1. "The negative standing Soryu has in his community with Sogen-Ji"
2. "Shodo Harada specifically has said that Soryu should not teach intensive retreats and should not lead a monastery"

Concerning these, I have heard of several reports from former Sogenji members that conflict with Soryu's personal account and the length of time he trained at Sogenji. Additionally, when I look at various bios of Soryu's on the internet I also find conflicting information about his training at Sogenji.

For example, his bio on the MA website says: "Soryu Forall, Chair of the Board, has spent over two decades in intensive contemplative practice. He was ordained in 1998 by Zen Master Taigen Shodo Harada, abbot of Sogen monastery in Okayama, Japan, where he trained for six years. https://www.monasticacademy.com/board-and-advisors/

At this CML link here it says Soryu trained with Harada Roshi for 5 years: https://www.centerformindfullearning.org/cowork/

Here and here it says Soyu trained for several years with Harada Roshi: https://sites.google.com/a/budsa.org/soryuforall/home/biography 
https://homepracticeprogram.com/soryu

Here it says that Soryu trained with Harada Roshi for 4 years: https://dengfoundation.org/staff/teal-forall-scott/

Kim Katami's who trained with Soryu commented below saying that: "I was told he came and went and never stayed longer than a couple of months at a time, totaling maybe 2 years of monastic training altogether, according to an elder sangha member."

This statement above seems more aligned with an offline account I heard from a Zen teacher who studied at Sogenji during the same time period. If you want to reach out privately to me I may be able to connect you directly with this teacher. Even if Soryu's training was collectively spread out over several, 4, 5, or 6 years as listed in these bios - the presentation of this information in these bios would be misleading to potential students. It is not clear how much time he actually spent in monastic training. It should also be noted that the 4th precept is to abstain from false speech. 

Here you will see a biography here that says "Soryu has done intensive contemplative practice for over two decades, training in Buddhist monasteries in Asia, primarily under the Zen Master Shodo Harada. https://www.monasticacademy.com/meet-vermont/

Here Daniel Thorson writes that Soryu has a decade of intensive monastic experience: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/soryu-forall-manufactured-awakenings/id1057220344?i=1000468307893. It seems like someone like Daniel who has spent several years training with Soryu would know how long his teacher spent in training; but again this information conflicts with other sources (including those created by Soryu himself)

Why so many conflicting sources of info? Generally speaking, most people write their own bios and a number of these bios are listed on organizational pages of which Soryu would have been using/aware of/ responsible for ensuring correct information about his background and credentials. 

Additionally, it is unclear to me what "ordained" means though the date of this event is a consistent detail throughout his bios, as I believe that Harada Roshi only gave transmission to two disciples. Some have speculated that this might mean he may have been given permission to lead zazen (a sitting group that practices together which is something Harada Roshi is reported to have given many people permission to do) or this may have been some other ceremony or recognition at Sogenji. There is confusion for me about what ordination means in reference to Sogenji. Perhaps ordination here pertains to his decision to become a Buddhist and to take the 5 Precepts. How to Become a Buddhist Monk: 13 Steps (with Pictures) - wikiHow

Another point of interest is that in all of the biographies I have found of Soryu he only ever lists himself as the sole founder of the Center for Mindful Learning - however, there were actually 4-5 founders of CML. Are you aware of whom the other founders are? I have recently been in contact with two of the former founders and with the first Executive Director who have their own stories to tell. You might be interested in connecting with those people if you want to learn more about this organization's and Soryu's history. Here is a bit more information here: https://www.centerformindfullearning.org/history/

Also, note that contrary to the Monastic Academy's recent statement that states that they are not a monastery this website clearly states that the Monastic Academy was founded as a modern monastery. I was recruited to come to a modern monastery and have always heard it called a monastery. Additionally, the many blogs of former members refer to the Monastic Academy as a monastery. This also feels like misrepresentation or distortion of information. 

You state that "The training is something I deeply value and plan to continue with for many years. Soryu has been a life-changing teacher for me (and evidently many others) in ways that are hard to articulate the rarity and value of, such as offering for me a way to trust and love myself and find a sense of peace, sustainable on my own, that I can offer others and put to use to enable decisions that create and maintain less suffering for all beings."

I believe you and here that this training has brought value to your life that is real.  I wonder how this training which seems to have value to you and evidently many others could also be the cause of such deep suffering for myself (and evidently many others). How can this gap be bridged to create real transformation? Have you trained in other monastic settings prior to this? Is it possible that other training environments may offer similar opportunities and/or might offer insight into how more safely and effectively hold the current training environment with greater wisdom, care, and compassion for others? 

Personally, though I have never trained with Soryu; his decisions which he directed his students to carry out (re: coercive documentation, covering up sexual misconduct; followed by immediate exclusion and shunning by this community; interference in an intimate relationship) have caused me more suffering than probably ANY other single human being whom I have not personally met or been in contact with. It is difficult for me to understand how any legitimate spiritual teacher or person who values compassion, integrity, and wisdom could behave this way or instruct his students to behave this way towards another. After everything I've heard from other past residents, I don't believe these are new patterns or just "mistakes". I don't think it would be fair to say that Soryu is only this one set of traits, good or bad- but I also don't have any reason to trust him or think he is a safe person to have power over myself or others in such vulnerable states. It is understandable that others may not see these issues or feel the same way who primarily have positive experiences. 

I just know that something feels VERY off to me about all these contradictions, and about the way that "risks" that have caused such serious harm to others have continued to be justified as part of intensive training - and I want others to have access to the kind of information I wish I had when making a decision about where and how to train for their own safety and wellbeing. 

On a somewhat more  philosophical note, humanity is very complex and evolving both on the physical body level and on the spiritual plane. All of this strikes me as deeply karmic and ancestral in nature. Soryu may very well be exceptional as a teacher in plenty of ways, but he also seems to have serious blind spots. Real hurt and harms have happened; repeatedly for many years without change. Given enough power without accountability, we are all capable of harm. I often wonder how something that was so profound, magical, loving, transformative, and good in so many moments; could also be so utterly abusive, unaware, lacking in compassion and wisdom, and fucked up at the same time. I feel the tension between the oneness and divinity that I believe humans are/have access to AND yet also this incredible capacity for violence and our own complicity in the suffering of the earth, unjust systems, and the suffering of our fellow man. Especially when something benefits us personally. I have also benefited from many systems that have caused deep harm - in fact the whole system is set up such that we are complicit (I find this to be one of the deep ironies with the MA.) How do I reconcile with that? What do I do about that? Patterns of harm and abuse often have deep individual and collective roots in our histories, genetics, environments, ect.  While I believe these roots need to be held with compassion; I also believe that it takes tremendous compassion to interrupt and hold the opposition to these patterns.

It is my understanding both through the study of history and religion that when strong spiritual dogmas that have strong authoritarian and patriarchal bents have taken power and sought to influence and control other groups or parts of society that great harm has come to the earth and to various groups of people. Look at the history of Christianity, colonization, and how those structures operated? Or look at the authoritarian regimes in Eastern Europe. People are capable of creating incredible suffering under movements and regimes that have used similar methods - or even within insular groups that create unhealthy groups dynamics and different realities. Consider that similar structures and dynamics may still hold tremendous suffering and capacity for harm? If we are going to create and participate in similar models how do we ensure that these structures don't cause suffering or oppression as seems to be happening for a number of people?  What safeguards are needed within a monastic container or within any community to nurture health? How do we respond when we see that something in our relationship to one another, within a group, or within an institution is causing suffering? Perhaps how we relate to and use power may be one of the most important questions of our time - or any other.

Every community is being faced with the questions of how to hold issues of communal safety, wellbeing, and accountability at this time. Many human communities are not well on a relational, emotional, mental, and spiritual level (sometimes physical). These needs for many people are deeply unmet. I believe on a deep level we are still feeling the loss of the village. We are all impacted by broader cultural patterns which live in us; and many by a lack of rootedness via the history of colonization and immigration which leaves us disconnected from the land. Furthermore, the exclusion of women's voices from places of influence in culture and the long history of oppression of the feminine has had deep impacts on people of all gender identities. The history of Buddhism also should be considered in this regard. All these factors and more can make building healthy communities incredibly difficult. I believe we are still impacted by these legacies and they have deeply distorted our ideas about community and leadership such that we are not always capable of seeing when we are acting these old cultural patterns and wounds out. I would like to think that we can intentionally make choices towards creating communal practices that counteract such patterns and are more likely to generate health (i.e. social engineering). I also believe that we need deep reconciliation, healing, and balance with feminine principles and the earth if we are going to be effective in caring for the Earth and its peoples. I continue to feel the tension between the profound insight and learning that is possible through Buddhist monastic practice and structures ( when held with great care) which I still believe has deep insights for me personally and the need for new models of relating leadership, and community that allows and supports shared power structures rather than power over models and seeks to actively interrupt the patterns and imprints left by colonization, patriarchial systems, religious powers, and capitalism. 

 It seems likely to me that in a more stable training environment with clear roles and expectations; and in the absence of certain events and the responses I might have also benefitted greatly from many aspects of this training. I imagine that in a parallel timeline that this organization and I might have been exactly what was needed by the other- and perhaps that is still true to some degree in that I feel this organization could greatly benefit from deeper insight on nonprofit management and organizational development AND I still believe meditation is a key to training my own mind and discovering deeper joy and peace. The concepts that the organization is built on are compelling. I loved the idea of combining leadership training and meditation; I was very much into and excited about the mission and values that were initially presented to me. However, I currently cannot in good conscience support this organization's practices or even be silent about my concerns. Though I have no intention of ever training with Soryu or the Monastic Academy in the future - I do hope to find other monastic training environments with a greater feminine influence and presence to train with. I hope that you too continue to have positive experiences and growth within meditation and community, and believe that you and other current members' engagement in these conversations are critical to cultivating accountability, awareness, organizational practices, addressing past harm, and a healthier organizational culture.

Being human is messy.

With gratitude, 
Shekinah
George S, modified 9 Months ago at 1/1/22 8:04 AM
Created 9 Months ago at 1/1/22 8:04 AM

RE: MAPLE/Monastic Academy alarming information emerging

Posts: 2557 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Shekinah Alegra
I still believe meditation is a key to training my own mind and discovering deeper joy and peace.

I think this is the key. Once you set your heart on it, it’s possible to wake up quite quickly without getting caught up in the complex dynamics of in-person spiritual communities!
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Colin Bested Bested, modified 8 Months ago at 1/3/22 3:43 PM
Created 8 Months ago at 1/3/22 3:43 PM

RE: MAPLE/Monastic Academy alarming information emerging

Posts: 3 Join Date: 12/21/21 Recent Posts
Hi Shekinah,

It brings me joy to finally have a kind of back-and-forth with you after all that has been going on! 

The claims I mentioned never referred to the OP. They referred to another comment that I responded to. I think that that other comment was deleted a couple of days after I made my comment. Words online can be so fleeting, volatile, impermanent (like all conditioned things).

I appreciate your compilation of bios of Soryu. I get a different sense from you in reaction to them. I don't see conflicting bios as some sort of bad sign / bad-vibes-trigger; instead, I see it is typical of 'words online'. Impermanent. Soryu trained at Sogenji. He came and went. That seems fairly simple to me. I imagine that coming and going is fairly normal.
I've come and gone between Willow and MAPLE many times already (about 6-8 times) and I've been training for a little over a year and a half. It'd take some effort to make a bio for me that is that accurate, let alone Soryu.

Also, you seem to cite progressively older bios; perhaps Soryu did more training between those bios and they haven't been updated in years. You can probably investigate and find out when they were last updated. Some of the photos look pretty old. 

Further clarifications:

Re "intensive contemplative practice for over two decades" - this can be done and claimed by anyone anywhere once they have the basics down. It is a pretty general claim. Soryu has been training for roughly ~26 years--if I were to make a guess--so the 'two decades' figure seems roughly accurate to me.

Re"decades of monastic training" - that one seems a little less clear. It could mean "in a monastery" or "on solo retreat" or "doing the technique anywhere" once you have the technique.

Overall, this compilation of bios keeps bringing me back to a growing distrust of 'words online' and 'words' in general, which is common in zen tradition. Practice is embodied and passed on in an embodied way through moments, decades, and over the centuries.

Re Ordination, there are many kinds (Buddhism is diverse). I'd be happy to share the little I know in conversation. It is quite easy to find info on Wikipedia about Soto vs. Rinzai forms, for example, and East vs. West. There is a lot of difference. It can be googled. I have googled some of it in the past. 

Re Founders and Board Members, I've never investigated that. I'm sure Soryu had a lot of help. I'm sure Monastic Academy wouldn't exist without many people, foremost among that list: Soryu.

Re "is MAPLE a monastery?", here is my answer: No. It is not. It is a monastic academy, a new thing. What is a 'modern monastery'? I don't know. it seems like a new term. For me, a 'monastery' is a place where, for example, there are many people who hold life-long vows and commitments to certain practices and communities. Monasteries are older institutions, unlike the new one we are referring to, MAPLE, years old (compare this to Sogenji where Soryu trained - centuries). All that said, MAPLE is pretty 'monastic' because of how we practice. The conversation can easily go on. It is an engaging one for me. I'm happy to talk about it more sometime.

At this point, I'll take a break from addressing any more specific questions or claims here or now in writing. I would be very happy to have a conversation with you about the questions above which I haven't gotten to.
I'm happy to get clarity on your questions and then answer them. I'm happy to record those answers. I'd likely be happy to share the answers publicly.
Those are some big and important questions!
For me, they deserve to be addressed in a medium other than writing because of my lack of skill with words and their inherent ambiguity (and flavour of impermanence).

Sidenote, yes, I would love to be connected with the "Zen teacher who studied at Sogenji" that you are willing to connect me with. Please email me if you're still down. virabhadra [at] growingwillow [dot] org.

Also, feel free to reach out and email me for a chat! 

With Friendship,
​​​​​​​Virabhadra

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