The following ethics policy statement was adopted by the Great Wave Zen Sangha Board of Directors July 12, 2013.
The intimacy of relationships in Zen practice—between teachers and students, between dharma friend and dharma friend—is a source of great joy in the Great Wave Zen Sangha and is characterized by right speech and right conduct. We acknowledge, however, that difficulties may arise among members and that disagreements, conflicts, misunderstandings, and ethical misconduct may occur. Differences of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and physical disability also require particular awareness and sensitivity.
To nurture and preserve an environment in which everyone can practice without fear, moral compromise, or distraction—an environment in which Dharma comes first—the Great Wave Board of Directors has adopted the following policies to ensure that the sangha jewel, which is formed of relationships based on trust, safety, respect, and true communication, is protected.
2. Abiding by the Three Pure Precepts
Maintaining the well being of the sangha is the mutual responsibility of all members. All members of the Sangha shall endeavor to avoid abusive behavior, harassment, and incompetence that threatens the unity and harmony of the Sangha by observing to the best of their abilities the Three Pure Precepts:
Do no harm;
Cultivate the good;
Save all sentient beings.
3. Shared Governance
Great Wave Zen Sangha’s Board of Directors shall periodically schedule Council sessions that are open to all members of the Sangha. Councils shall follow the form established in The White Plum Asanga, which emphasizes listening, speaking spontaneously from the heart, avoiding responding directly to others (i.e., no “cross-talk”), and being brief (especially avoiding repetitive statements). The contents of such council sessions shall thereafter remain confidential and shall not be raised by any parties as the topic of future conversation. The Board of Directors, however, may allude in general and without attribution to sentiments expressed at council meetings to better incorporate the interests of the members in the course of discharging its duties. (For example, if, during a council, several members complained of awkward scheduling of retreats, the Directors might seek to schedule future retreats to coincide with members’ preferences.)
4. Ethical Relationships
4.1. Dual Relationships. Practice at Great Wave Zen Sangha is warm-hearted and close, but it is important for all members to remember that, with the intimacy of practice, confusion regarding certain relationships may arise in ways that can harm practitioners and even the whole sangha if not dealt with skillfully.
In particular, teacher-student relationships, which are characterized by unequal distributions of power and vulnerability, must never be deliberately or inadvertently combined with additional relationships that serve the purpose of sexual, financial, social, or political gain. To do so is to cross a professional boundary and engage in an unethical, dual relationship. Such dual relationships can cause great spiritual and psychological harm, not only to the parties involved, but to an entire community.
Consent by all parties to a dual relationship does not excuse it or remove the potential for harm.
While all members of the Sangha are expected to avoid dual relationships, responsibility for their avoidance belongs solely to the teacher. Teachers must not only refrain from instigating dual relationships with their students, but re-establish appropriate boundaries when they have been violated and ensure that any harm caused by the violation is repaired.
4.2. Confidentiality. Daisan, dokusan, and council are venues in which highly sensitive personal information may be shared. The teacher and students are expected to maintain confidentiality among themselves about matters raised in these venues. Confidentiality is the basis of mutual trust between student and teacher and between students. However, for the well-being of individuals and of the sangha, there are times when teachers and/or practice leaders need to consult about confidential matters. Such consultations are never done lightly, and only as much information is shared as is needed to clarify and restore harmony to the situation at hand. The consultations themselves are kept confidential. Furthermore, such consultations are required when a serious ethical breach has occurred (such as a sexual relationship between a teacher and student).
4.3. Therapists and Other Helping Professionals. Sangha members are discouraged from using the Sangha as a source of business or professional clients. Teachers and Sangha members who work as psychotherapists, physicians, or attorneys shall avoid entering into professional relationships with sangha members. Others in the helping professions are asked to be sensitive to the delicate balance between worker and client, and the possible complexity of dual relationships when both parties practice at the same dharma center.
4.4. Mindful Speech. In a small community great harm can come from speech that is inconsistent with the precepts or threatens the unity of the sangha. Mutual respect and trust are built when all sangha members speak truthfully and compassionately with the intent to be helpful, and observe the clear mind precepts regarding right speech: refraining from lies, gossip (self-serving talk), slander, angry or abusive speech, and apportioning blame. Widely sharing a concern to gain support for one’s position can foster conflict, rather than reconciliation and must he avoided by all members of the sangha.
5. Reporting And Addressing Ethical Misconduct
If a member feels that these guidelines are being violated, such concerns should be addressed by following the guidelines described below. At each step of the process, members’ questions and concerns will be taken seriously and examined according to a principled and confidential process. It is expected that diligent inquiry, honesty, compassion, and openness will resolve most issues. All reconciliation processes shall, to the extent reasonably possible, protect the privacy and confidentiality of all parties. It must be understood, however, that maintaining confidentiality in all aspects of a reconciliation process may not be possible.
5.1. Requirement to Report. All practitioners are required to report clear-cut cases of ethical misconduct that they have witnessed first-hand. Members shall follow the guidelines described below to report and reconcile such instances of ethical misconduct.
Failure to report witnessed or suspected instances of significant misconduct is unacceptable and the Board of Directors may, at its discretion, bring sanctions against members who fail to report significant ethical misconduct. Sanctions will generally take the form of verbal warning, but may range, in the case of extreme or repeated instances of witnessed ethical misconduct to temporary or permanent expulsion from the sangha. Permanent expulsion must have the approval of the teacher (Spiritual Director) prior to implementation.
5.1.1. Reporting and Addressing Student Misconduct
18.104.22.168. Members should openly discuss concerns regarding the ethical conduct of other students with the teacher to assist in developing the most skillful approach to resolution. In some cases a meeting with the teacher may be sufficient to clarify or resolve an issue. In other situations the ethics of a particular behavior may not be clear, and consulting the teacher for support and advice can be very helpful. Examples of situations for which consultation with the teacher is warranted include: concerns over the fair governance of the Sangha; behaviors that, in conflicting with the Three Pure Precepts, threaten the harmony and stability of the sangha; awareness of dual relationships that create conflicts of interest; and incompetence or malfeasance that threatens the stability or longevity of the sangha.
22.214.171.124. After discussion with the teacher, sangha members are encouraged to express concerns directly to the parties with whom an ethical issue has arisen unless doing so would create greater harm. Usually, the earlier one seeks resolution the better, but sangha members may seek resolution to a problem at any time. If one-to-one dialogue fails to resolve the issue, or if such dialogue would create greater harm than good, then the member should immediately report the matter to the Board of Directors.
126.96.36.199. In receiving a complain of ethical misconduct, the Board shall investigate and determine whether misconduct has occurred and, if it has, develop a reconciliation process to resolve the matter. Should the Board determine that no misconduct has occurred, it will explain this fully to the complainant.
5.1.2. Reporting and Addressing Teacher Misconduct.
188.8.131.52. Members should report concerns regarding the ethical conduct of the teacher to the Board of Directors. Examples of situations for which discussion with the Board is warranted include: concerns over the fair governance of the Sangha; behaviors that, in conflicting with the Three Pure Precepts, threaten the harmony and stability of the sangha; awareness of the teacher’s engagement in dual relationships that create conflicts of interest; and incompetence or malfeasance that threatens the stability or longevity of the sangha. Members shall take care to ensure that complaints are based in fact, and that evidence can be provided to support any claim of teacher misconduct.
184.108.40.206. After receiving a complaint of teacher misconduct, the Board of Directors shall investigate the allegation, first by providing the teacher with the identity of the complainant and all the details of the complaint. When deemed necessary to protect all parties or the sangha, the Board may also determine that the teacher must refrain from any contact with the complainant, or, in extreme cases in which harm might not otherwise be prevented, the Board may determine that the teacher must suspend all teaching duties until the matter is resolved.
220.127.116.11. If, as a result of its investigation, the Board determines that teacher misconduct has occurred, then it shall develop a reconciliation process, in consultation with the complainant(s) to resolve the matter. Reconciliation may include such things as a requirement for the teacher to make an apology, to seek therapeutic solutions to personal problems, to renounce past behaviors deemed inappropriate, and, in the most extreme cases of misconduct, temporary or permanent suspension of teaching duties, and/or expulsion from the sangha. Suspension or expulsion shall require the unanimous vote of the Board of the Directors (except for the teacher, if also a Director). Reconciliation may also involve the Sangha’s compensation to the victim(s) for counseling therapy and other forms of healing. The Board shall take care to ensure that reconciliation requirements match the nature of the misconduct and to remember that the teacher is a human being whose positive transformation should be encouraged, not discouraged, by the nature of the reconciliation requirements.
18.104.22.168. If the teacher refuses to cooperate with the requirements of Board’s investigation, adjudication, and reconciliation requirements, then it shall have the power to sanction the teacher. Sanctions will generally take the form of verbal warning, but may range, in the case of extreme or repeated instances of non-cooperation to temporary or permanent suspension of teaching duties and/or temporary or permanent expulsion from the sangha. Suspension or expulsion shall require the unanimous vote of the Board of the Directors (except for the teacher, if also a Director).
22.214.171.124. Should the Board determine that no misconduct has occurred, it will explain this fully to the complainant. This process shall, to the extent reasonably possible, protect the privacy and confidentiality of all parties. It must be understood, however, that maintaining confidentiality in all aspects of a reconciliation process may not be possible.
126.96.36.199. If a member believes that no one on the Great Wave Zen Sangha Board of Directors can be trusted to hear concerns over the teacher’s ethical conduct; or that the reconciliation process established by the Board has permanently failed; or that the Board was not objective in its investigation and adjudication; and that the alleged misconduct is of a serious nature that requires intervention, apology, and/or recompense, then a formal, typed and signed complaint shall be simultaneously presented to the Boards of Great Wave Zen Sangha and the White Plum Asanga. Care should be taken to ensure that formal complaints are of a truly significant nature, and that all reasonable efforts to resolve the issue locally have first been exhausted.
188.8.131.52. Should the White Plum Asanga conduct an investigation in response to a member’s formal complaint concerning teacher misconduct, then all parties named in the complaint as well as the Board of Directors of the Great Wave Zen Sangha shall fully cooperate.
184.108.40.206. The Board of Directors may, at its discretion, bring sanctions against members who fail to cooperate with the investigations, adjudication, and reconciliation requirements of the White Plum Asanga. Sanctions will generally take the form of verbal warning, but may range, in the case of extreme or repeated instances of non-cooperation, to temporary or permanent expulsion from the sangha. Permanent expulsion of student members must have the approval of the teacher (Spiritual Director).
220.127.116.11. The Board of Directors may also, at its discretion, bring sanctions as described in section 18.104.22.168 against the teacher for failure to cooperate with the investigations, adjudication, and reconciliation requirements of the White Plum Asanga.