ETHICS AND RECONCILIATION
The path of virtue and compassion
Buddhist practice is based on the interconnectedness of all existence and the resulting imperative for appropriate and harmonious relationships. The Five Buddhist Sila (virtues) can serve well as a guide through which we reflect and gain insight to develop an internal moral compass for our everyday relationships, thus minimizing pain and suffering to ourselves and others.
All members of the community take responsibility for cultivating and integrating the deep meaning of the five sila. The sila are not mere ethical codes, but calls to contemplation and responsible action. The practice of the sila is central to both personal development and harmony as a community. By working on ourselves we take personal responsibility for the ethics of the community. We give of ourselves and all benefit.
Those in the community who hold positions of responsibility – senior students as well as teachers, nuns and monks – have a special obligation to set an example and manifest a harmonious, egalitarian and safe environment beneficial to the practice.
The Five Buddhist Sila
Cultivate the mind of compassion
Mindful that the other is myself, we respect and honour all forms of life; are not ruled by violence; and do not discriminate based on small-minded judgement of individual characteristics such as race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, wealth or age. And thus we cultivate compassion.
Cultivate the mind of spotless integrity
Mindful that we all share this one world, we make appropriate use of resources – including the Zen Centre’s funds, food and supplies – and respect one another’s property. And thus we cultivate spotless integrity.
Cultivate the mind of true love
Mindful that we live in relationship, we maintain healthy, respectful interactions, and are not driven by lust to satisfy our own desires. We are sensitive to the misuse of power, and take care that others and ourselves are not abused. And thus we cultivate true love.
Cultivate the mind of perfect trust
Mindful of the power and effect of words, we honour honesty and truth; respect confidentiality; and avoid gossip, heedless talk and speaking ill of others. And thus we cultivate perfect trust.
Cultivate the mind of perfect clarity
Mindful of our vow to awaken, we do not cloud our mind and body, are aware of the effects of intoxicants, and take care of our health. And thus we cultivate perfect clarity.
When Difficulties Arise
As an old Zen saying put it, practitioners are like uncut diamonds rubbing against and polishing each other. In the context and crucible of Zen practice, interpersonal frictions provide an opportunity to gain insight, transform and mature as a human being. Realizing and learning from conflict and other difficulties is a major part of practice; without this, practice can too easily turn into a comfort rather than a deep transformative vehicle.
At the same time, however, it’s important to maintain a clear, healthy sense of self and one’s own boundaries. Not everything has to be accepted under the guise of “practice.” If you feel you’ve been abused or treated unfairly or unethically the reconciliation process is here to help. The ethics and reconciliation process aims to promote a culture in which all feel empowered to bring issues, concerns and grievances out into the open.
Grievances or interpersonal frictions – whether involving an ethical breach or not – occasionally require some form of resolution. In looking for resolution, we value dialogue over isolation, reconciliation over estrangement, forgiveness over resentment, confession over accusation, and atonement over retribution. It is better to deal with a problem than to hold resentment or regret in the heart, no matter how difficult it may feel to step forward.
You have options:
• You can speak directly with the other person.
• You can speak directly with the other person with the help of a mutually agreed-on neutral party. (A member of the centre’s Reconciliation Committee, described below, could fulfill this role).
• If dialogue fails or feels inappropriate or unsafe, or in the case of serious ethical issues, you can select and contact a member of the Reconciliation Committee.
• If you witness a serious ethical breach, act responsibly and contact a member of the committee.
The committee member contacted will act as the intake person working in confidentiality with you to determine the appropriate course of action. You might arrive at a personal resolution through this interaction, or decide to organize a dialogue between parties, or arrange for a facilitated dialogue, or request an investigation by the full committee.
A full committee investigation and deliberation involves all sides, and decisions could call for a suggested personal apology, an apology to the community-at-large, an atonement ceremony, censure or, in the most serious cases, expulsion.
The Reconciliation Committee is selected annually at the AGM by the centre’s Administrative Council (defined by the Bylaws as consisting of directors and sangha members in good standing). It comprises a man and a woman from the sangha and a person from outside the centre. Current members are Laurissa Kowalchuk and Kevin Contzen of the Zen Centre of Vancouver, and Myoshin McCandless of the Mountain Rain Zen Community. The committee has the option of consulting or bringing on board needed qualified people. Anyone who is party to a conflict must recuse himself or herself from handling that case. People involved in a case can appeal the Reconciliation Committee’s decision to the Administration Council.
The centre’s reconciliation policy is a living document and will evolve as needed to maintain a wise and beneficial process for resolving conflict and unethical behaviour. In this way the Zen Centre community learns and grows while sustaining a healthy and vital community.