abstract :

Although American Buddhist communities have done much to address the problem of sexual and other teacher misconduct over the years, thanks in large part to the efforts of feminist teachers and leaders, more remains to be done. Using American Sōtō Zen as a case study, this essay describes three structural problems that create conditions conducive to teacher misconduct in the North American context. These are: (1) vastly different paradigms of ordination and professional expectations for clergy in Asian Buddhist and American cultures, which have enormous implications for how clergy working in America are trained; (2) inadequate polity (governance) in the West, at both the level of individual North American congregations and across Buddhist lineages or schools; and (3) patriarchal structures in American culture, in Buddhism generally, and in Zen institutions particularly that support clericalism and insularity. It argues that three resources from the American Protestant tradition could be useful for American Buddhists to think about and to think with when considering how to address these problems. These are: (1) graduate-level professional education and certification for ministry; (2) certain aspects of the polity of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); and (3) the Protestant—and more recently, Papal—critique of clericalism. The author's aim is not simply to critique, but to offer constructive suggestions.


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pp. 95-125
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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