Since arriving in Los Angeles from Japan in 1962, the Buddhist teacher Joshu Sasaki, who is 105 years old, has taught thousands of Americans at his two Zen centers in the area and one in New Mexico. He has influenced thousands more enlightenment seekers through a chain of some 30 affiliated Zen centers from the Puget Sound to Princeton to Berlin. And he is known as a Buddhist teacher of Leonard Cohen, the poet and songwriter.
Mr. Sasaki has also, according to an investigation by an independent council of Buddhist leaders, released in January, groped and sexually harassed female students for decades, taking advantage of their loyalty to a famously charismatic roshi, or master.
The above excerpt is from the opening lines of Zen Groups Distressed by Accusations Against Teacher by Mark Oppenheimer and Ian Lovett. New York Times: Feb 11, 2013.
Note: I initially hesitated posting this story. Given, however, the long relationship between Leonard Cohen and Roshi, how closely this site covers other aspects of Mr Cohen’s life, and the public’s increased awareness as a result of the New York Times article, ignoring this controversy is impossible. Consequently, I have provided links to pertinent information, including the extensive New York Times piece (which includes the original Report on Joshu Sasaki Allegations) by Oppenheimer and Lovett, to allow readers to consider the issue for themselves. The following information, gathered from publications within the Zen community may also be helpful.
Rinzai-ji Oshos’ Response To Allegations Of Sexual Misconduct By Joshu Sasaki Roshi
In response to allegations of sexual misconduct leveled at Rinzai-ji senior teacher Joshu Sasaki Roshi, Rinzai-ji oshos have issued a statement announcing that Sasaki is no longer teaching. The sangha is creating policies to address other complaints of misconduct, and to try to prevent other abuses from happening in the future.
From Updated: Rinzai-ji oshos’ open letter regarding Sasaki roshi responds to sexual misconduct allegations; acknowledges misconduct. Posted Jan 11, 2013 at Buddhadharma on the Shambhala Sun web site.
For more information, see
- Everybody Knows – Kyozan Joshu Sasaki Roshi and Rinzai-ji posted by Eshu Martin at Sweeping Zen on November 16, 2012
- American Buddhism: Some Big Names in Crisis by Justin Whitaker. Patheos: November 24, 2012