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Ming Zhen Shakya

Sex, Semantics, and Chauvinism

by Ming Zhen Shakya, OHY

In Eyes Wide Shut, Stanley Kubrick's dissection of a modern marital crisis with its spiritual subtext of doubt, temptation, fall, repentance and redemption, presents a tantalizing parallel to an account of Tantric excess reported by Georg Feuerstein in Holy Madness: the Shock Tactics and Radical Teachings of Crazy Wise Adepts, Holy Fools and Rascal Gurus. (Paragon House, NY.) Dr. Feuerstein is as generous as he is authoritative. We would have described the scandal at Naropa Institute more parsimoniously.

In Eyes Wide Shut, a young physician and his wife, parents of a single child, attend a lavish Christmas party. Musicians are playing, and the doctor is surprised to recognize the bandleader as an old classmate. Between sets the two men talk, bringing each other up to date on their professional lives. The wife drinks champagne and dances with a handsome guest.

When her dancing partner tries to seduce her, she rejects his advances because, as she insists, she is a married woman. Her husband, however, after having been conspicuously corralled by a couple of young women, has disappeared from the ballroom floor. His wife does not know that he has in fact discreetly gone to attend a drug-overdosed prostitute in the host's private rooms.

Later, at home, emboldened by marijuana and prodded perhaps by suspicions that her husband has been unfaithful, she confesses to a wild sexual attraction she once felt for a stranger... a stranger for whom, she says, she would have given everything.... a totality which included her husband. He is stunned by her graphic revelations, and being so wounded becomes vulnerable to temptation. The next night, responding to an egotistical demand for the equal rights of retributive sin, he marches his protest through whore-ridden streets.

When his attempt to engage a prostitute is aborted by an untimely phone call, he puts his corruptive mission on hold; but on a subsequent night he returns to accomplish the liaison. This attempt, too, ends in failure when the prostitute he has come to meet informs him, through her roommate, that she has just learned that she has contracted AIDS. He repairs to the nightclub where his ex-classmate musician is playing.

This friend informs him that later that night he will perform at a strange orgiastic masquerade party given by a congregation of rich sexual degenerates who periodically engage him to play blindfolded during their macabre rituals.

Intrigued, the doctor insists that he be given the secret location of the party, and the musician reluctantly gives him the mansion's address and the password for entry. After obtaining the necessary mask and eighteenth century costume, the doctor proceeds to the party.

Liveried thugs patrol the corridors while an imperial, enthroned master presides over the ceremonial offering of naked women to the society of revelers. While the musician softly plays the organ, enhancing the ecclesiastical ambiance, people casually fornicate.

One masked but otherwise naked woman warns the doctor that he is in great danger and, further, that even by warning him she has placed herself in equal danger. He is incredulous - why would she risk warning him?; but then, suddenly, he sees his musician friend being forcibly escorted from the premises. Moments later, the doctor is brought before the master and the assembled group and is exposed as an uninvited "gate crasher". He, too, is ejected.

Concerned about the musician's fate, he attempts to visit him in his hotel; but the deskclerk informs him that the musician, while under the coercive eyes and 'assistance'of several men, has unexpectedly checked out. When the doctor notices that strange men are also following him, he begins to feel seriously threatened. His fears are exacerbated when he reads a newspaper account of the discovery of a young woman's body. He suspects that the victim may be the same woman who warned him at the party, and although he knows that he should exit this drama and get out while he can, the danger is vivifying and he is irresistibly drawn into the mystery. He goes to the morgue to inspect the body.

And so we learn how it happens that though a man may look, he may not necessarily see, that though his eyes may be wide open, he still may stumble blindly into the Nigredo of someone else's moral decadence. It remains to be seen whether, having fallen, he will accustom himself to the subterranean world he had not suspected existed beneath the surface glitz, or whether he will repent and grope his way out of the darkness.

And what happens to one man, may also happen to an entire congregation.

As recounted in Holy Madness, Chogyam Trungpa had taken monastic vows in the Kargyupa branch of Tibetan Buddhism at the age of eight and "conducted his first full initiation ceremony... in which he imparted secret teachings to monks who had come from far and wide" at the age of fourteen.

At twenty, in l959, he led a group of refugees into India and began a study of English. In l963, he entered England where he married an Englishwoman and ceased to wear Buddhist robes. In l970, when he was thirty-one, he came to the United States and helped to found Colorado's Naropa Institute. Suitably attired in mufti, he smoked, observed no dietary restrictions, drank constantly - even to the point of coming to class inebriated while continuing to drink as he lectured - and "ingested psychedelics". He also engaged in "sexual relationships, apparently with students of either sex."

Feuerstein quotes a perceptive article by Peter Marin which appeared in Harper's (February, l979):

    "The Naropa Institute embodies a feudal, priestly tradition transplanted to a capitalistic setting. The attraction it has for its adherents is oddly reminiscent of the attraction the aristocracy had for the rising middle class in the early days of capitalistic expansion. These middle-class children seem drawn irresistibly not only to the discipline involved but also to the trappings of hierarchy... "If there is a compassion at work here, as some insist, it is so distant, so diminished, so divorced from concrete changes in social structure, that it makes no difference at all... Behind the public face lies the intrigue and attitude of a medieval court."

We shall not have to look far to see the parallel between the occult, aristocratic orgy depicted in Eyes Wide Shut and the fateful "meetings" conducted at Naropa under Trungpa's leadership.

Citing the personal testimony of poet W.S. Merwin as provided in B. Miles' Ginsberg: A Biography, Feuerstein relates the experience of this poet and his wife when, in l975, they arrived at Naropa to study Vajrayana Buddhism with Trungpa.

A "Halloween party" was being held with masked guests who were invited to disrobe and become as naked as Trungpa was. Those who declined to remove their clothes were "assisted" to disrobe by Trungpa's guards.

Merwin and his wife, appalled by this conduct, returned to their room intending to pack and leave. Trungpa summoned them to return and when they refused, he imperiously ordered his disciples to fetch them. A group, drunk and violent, went to their room, broke down the door, smashed a window; and, after some hand-to-hand combat, dragged the poet and his wife "none too gently, before the Tantric master." Trungpa insulted Merwin's oriental wife with racist remarks and threw a glass of sake in the poet's face. He demanded that they disrobe and when they refused, he had them forcibly stripped. When one of his disciples protested this treatment, Trungpa punched him in the face.

If this were not enough of an assault on Buddhism, and it certainly should have been, Trungpa appointed Osel Tendzin as his successor in l976. We can conclude this regrettable chapter in Naropa's history by referring to a March 6, l989 Newsweek article: Tendzin (American Thomas Rich of Passaic, New Jersey) "acknowledged that he contracted the AIDS virus four years ago but continued to have sex with some male members of the church." Newsweek quotes him as confessing to his congregation, "Thinking that I had some extraordinary means of protection, I went ahead with my business as if something would take care of it."

The protection that Osel Tendzin assumed he had involved "controlling" his "karma", a prophylactic technique that at the very least he should have shared with the Center for Disease Control. There are so few laughs to be gained at the expense of AIDS.

With alcoholism and AIDS respectively, Chogyam Trungpa and Osel Tendzin paid with their lives for their errors. The harm they did to others is beyond calculation. Aside from those persons who were led into disease, death, alcohol and drug abuse, or who were spiritually raped by having been sexually plundered, virtually no Buddhist teacher in Christendom has escaped the awkward necessity of having to answer questions about this well-publicized scandal. Needless to say, it wasn't as if other Buddhist organizations, Zen especially, had to search the cosmos for signs of scandalous life. Buddhism's reputation for gentleness, sobriety, integrity and sexual restraint was everywhere being sucked into the black holes of sanghas led by puerile "Tantric masters" or raunchy, drunken "Roshis". Even today we hear of Zen Centers who perform ad hoc cartoon marriage ceremonies to sanctify (as if that were possible) the turning of their nunneries into harems. There were more than enough scandals to go around.

Naropa, having learned so bitter a lesson in so hard a way, is not likely to fall victim again to such irresponsible leadership. In recent months the Institute has made an effort to attract students to their Buddhist studies' program and naturally we all wish them well. The only issue for Mahayana Zen teachers to ponder is the ancient problem: how do we regard the oriental, 'left-hand' (sexual) approach to religious practice, a practice that lends itself so readily to such abuse?

Three great religions of the orient accommodate forms of worship that embrace both 'right-hand'celibate and 'left-hand' sexual regimens: Daoism with its Single and Dual Cultivation methods; Hinduism with its Daksinacara and Vamacara approaches; and Buddhism.

Mahayana Zen and Pure Land Buddhism follow a conservative, right-hand path. Theravadin Buddhism observes both a purely celibate (in every sense of the word) form and a form which tortures the definition of "celibate" until it twists into "abstaining from sex with women". Vajrayana Buddhism embraces both right and left-hand Tantric forms.

We readily understand the right-hand paths, but what is at the core of the left-hand sexual approaches, and are all of them as reprehensible as Trungpa's and Osel Tendzin's?

As it happens, a physiological fact compounds the spiritual with the sexual. As concentration extends into meditation (true meditation and not stupefying self-hypnotic trance), more areas of the brain are resonantly enveloped until, finally, in the state of samadhi, the pleasure centers clustered deep in the brain's interior are stimulated. Simply put, the goal of meditation is samadhi and samadhi is prolonged orgasmic ecstasy.

Meditators in conservative, right-hand paths strive to control with mantra, yantra, and other meditation techniques the means of accessing these interior areas of the brain; and in the resultant bliss become totally independent of other people. Each practitioner becomes a congregation of one.

Responsible left-hand paths attempt to use the sexual experience itself as a meditative technique, and with due respect for the persons and the process, strive to enhance and augment that physical experience until it, too, results in protracted, ego-transcended ecstasy.

Irresponsible left-hand paths quickly degenerate into antinomian, guru-worshipping enslavement and the orgies previously described.

But there is a further spiritual state that is involved in the Quest: the stupendous experience of Spiritual Androgyny called variously The Union of Opposites, Divine Marriage, or The Rebis Experience in the alchemical opus. In Jungian terms, this indicates that the male meditator has integrated his Anima or that the female meditator has integrated her Animus, a state in which the individual ego is not merely transcended but is in fact subsumed by this personified, archetypal 'divinity'.

Divine Marriage obviously requires a Divine Spouse, and a further problem arises regarding the locus of the Divine Beloved.

Mahayana Buddhism is a religion of Salvation which presupposes a savior figure, and to us this, of course, is a celestial Bodhisattva. Such a divinity inhabits the meditator's mind, and access to this Divine Beloved is gained through solitary meditations. The entire opus unfolds internally. Although statuary and other artwork often depict the Bodhisattva as having both sexual characteristics, encounters with this exalted figure have nothing to do with samsaric homosexuality, bi-sexuality, or even heterosexuality.

But in left-hand paths, a human being is employed to personate a divine figure (such as Kali, Shiva, Krishna, or any of the Taras) and the actualization of a 'cosmic' conjugal experience is attempted. For so long as this process is strictly and ethically controlled, it is a valid method.

This Bodhisattva experience lasts, generally, for about three years, during which time the fortunate person rapturously witnesses this sun/moon fusion. Physically - in the material world - the meditator appears quite unattached and normal. But for so long as this spiritual honeymoon continues, other people, except those from kitchen or laundry, can be only intrusive. For this reason, separate apartments for the exclusive use of such Spiritual Brides or Grooms are located near the edge of most oriental monastery complexes.

Because information about this mysterious event is considered sacred and is so often misunderstood by the uninitiated, it is usually conferred upon a devotee privately, by word of mouth from teacher to student. Unfortunately, secret oral transmissions are not secret anymore, and when uninformed persons make assumptions about the experience, much misinformation is circulated. The idea, for example, that a monk endures solitary confinement for three years as a kind of macho test is ludicrous.

The rationales for using sexual intercourse as a means to attain a higher spiritual state vary only slightly.

In Daoism's dual-cultivation, the meditator intends to increase his yin energy with that obtained by physical contact with his consort during coition and ultimately to gain sufficient yin energy to create within himself the Divine Spouse, the Valley Spirit or Mysterious Feminine. Single-cultivation Daoist adherents insist that every human being already possesses equal portions of yin and yang, and that an apparent deficiency in one or the other is simply the result of a blockage in the meridian channel system. In either case, the method of unblocking, circulating and distributing the vital "chi" energy to specific areas of the body is called the Microcosmic Orbit, an alchemical regimen.

In principle, Shakti (yin) is power, and Shiva (yang) is the law that power obeys; and, since there can be no power with conformance to some operative law and no law meaningful without power to manifest it, these two, being aspects of a single unit, are in fact contained within every individual.

Other paths, such as the Theravadin, provide for the recognition of the Divine Beloved in gurus or Perfect Masters. (Rumi, an Islamic Sufi, was also such a devotee of his master, Shams of Tabriz.) In Theravadin temples we find no statues of Bodhisattvas. Instead, the devotees worship the divine figure as it is seen to appear in the human form of priests or revered teachers. Theravadin forms follow either a strict and true celibate path or one which employs the body of human beings to facilitate both samadhi and Marriage. Unfortunately, as in some strange Elizabethan drama, the bodies employed to personate a goddess are usually those of young male acolytes.

The Vajrayana, however, allows for the worship of both celestial Bodhisattvas and Perfect Masters, and their statuary and artwork represent both celestial figures and deified gurus. In conservative, right-hand Tantric forms (such as the Dalai Lama's Gelugpa branch) the devotee meditates in solitude. In left-hand Tantric orders human beings are employed to personate divinities and, by the vehicle of reincarnation, the apotheosized guru presents himself in the corpus of a frequently all too human teacher.

It is not possible to deduce from an organization's superficial appearance which approach is being followed. Warnings are said to be the litany of the disgruntled or the irrationally motivated. As in Kubrick's film, when the woman at the secret orgy warns the doctor to leave immediately, her warning is ignored by him because he cannot understand what she cannot articulate. He finds her concern for his welfare implausible. Truth must reveal itself as a dead thing on a slab.

Since it is in the left-hand methodologies that we find so many opportunities for mischief, we may well wonder under what conditions an opportunity becomes an enactment.

Whenever a devotee does not desire to proceed in solitude or to adhere to responsible, prescribed ritual, several powerful social forces are released:

First is the group dynamic, the "herd" mentality and its instinctive requirement for hero-worshipping, i.e., "lead stallion" male domination. All congregations engender in their individual members a sense of security, of "belonging" and being "connected". They provide social opportunities, a shared elitism, and also, in the person of a charismatic leader, a needed object of veneration. All successful organizations, whether cults or great world religions, function in accordance with this dynamic. It is only when the force is not properly constrained that we find such tragedies as Jonestown and Heaven's Gate.

Second, as libertine Tantric groups understand the Opus, for as long as The Union of Opposites is the goal, it is necessary to deal in opposites. The aspirant needs to liberate himself from the confining rules of earth-bound mortals. If alcohol is forbidden, then it must be consumed in order for him to transcend the state of denial of it; if meat is forbidden, then it must be eaten. If sexual abstinence is mandated, then satyriasis and salaciousness must counteract the mandate. This logic suggests that in order to become a good citizen one must first commit treason.

To the immature, danger and delinquency are powerful aphrodisiacs which easily convert ritual rectitude into antinomian excess - that rule-devouring feeding frenzy. We can hardly expect that such travesties of worship will produce a single, enlightened individual; and in this expectation we are never disappointed.

Third, and most significantly, the possibilities of mischief accrue in direct proportion as females are denigrated in the cultural environment- a social condition traditionally prevalent in the orient.

In the west, women have no authoritative positions in most religions and only few executive positions even in political office; but in the orient the situation is far more pernicious. We have only to look at the lopsided statistics of abortion when the fetus is female or infanticide when the infant is female to appreciate the sexual burden women must there carry.

Seldom, if ever, does the path of an unbridled left-hand cult lead to any advantage for the female participant. Again and again we hear truly sad stories of women who, with wide open eyes, could not see beneath the mere surface of morality and were lured, by a bait-and-switch advertising tactic, into these disastrous communities. Not until after they had severed old ties to families and financial resources, made commitments to their new associates and provided testimonials (words of praise that are difficult to retract) did they come to realize that they had bargained badly. We cannot be aloof and judgmental and say, "Ah, why didn't they just leave?" Victims who have willingly entered into the scheme of their victimization are often so damaged and compromised by their own complicity that little else but loyalty's fragile hopes remain for them. Bombardiers, at some righteous altitude, can dispassionately watch puffs of smoke rise from the ground. They never have to see the faces of those who witness the explosions at closer range. An infantryman has a different view of battle.

Once, while researching an article about shelters for the homeless, my attention was drawn to a woman who wore a metal bracelet upon which a Buddhist mantra was inscribed. A patina of 'other worldly' happiness covered her obvious poverty, and in well-polished phrases she spoke glowingly of her Tantric Buddhist Path.

Years before, she related, as a miserable divorced mother of two, living with her parents, she had answered an ad for a receptionist; and though she had not gotten the job, the kind woman who had interviewed her telephoned the next day to invite her to a friendly spiritual gathering. Her luck immediately changed, she said. She met many wonderful people, in particular the group's handsome master who would become her teacher, her savior, her true 'husband'.

Her journey to the ranks of the homeless after such an auspicious beginning being of more than passing interest to me, I pressed her for those details which overlooked other-worldly joy and revealed this-worldly exploitation. (The ploy of advertising for a non-skilled office job such as a receptionist would surely attract young women... who would willingly supply vital statistics on the employment applications.)

Everyone made such a fuss over her, especially the American 'Tantric Master' whose aptitude for spiritual truth was such that he managed to acquire, during one week's vacation in Nepal, all the secret teachings of several Lamas. He made her feel beautiful and important - but it was not love at first sight - no, he had known her intimately in a previous life. It took only a few meetings for him to propose 'spiritual marriage' and to beg her to take up residence - without her children - in the old, large and dilapidated house the 'community' occupied. She at first demurred; but then, in his bedroom, he taught her how to meditate looking into a winged vanity mirror. She had to sit naked, surrounded by reflections of herself for hours. It was a magic mirror, she told me, because if she stared straight ahead into her own eyes, her head would shrink to the size of a pea. (As it happens, this is not an unusual response to the meditation.) After a weekend of shrinking she agreed to move in, without children. Her parents, staunch Christians, were angry and alarmed.

Of course, she wanted to contribute to the commonweal, and this desire was accommodated by allowing her to work in the group's 'Dharma business': a janitorial service. For twelve years she spent her nights (six of them a week) cleaning the toilets of a chain of gas stations. Early in the course of this unpaid employment, to facilitate sounder daytime sleep, she was moved down to a darker, cellar suite; a new woman had moved into the master's bed; and her other ex-husband was easily able to wrest custody of their children from her. Ecclesiastically, she rose quickly in rank and was soon privileged to "conduct rituals" with various men associated with the group. Everyday she officiated.

But then her karma caught up with her, she said. She began to have migraine headaches... she had thought perhaps it was the furnace or the termite spraying... but it was her karma, all right. She had been cursed by a wrathful deity. The migraine medication was expensive. She could not work regularly. She could not even initiate properly. And then she developed "female" problems that required expensive surgery. This wrathful deity posed a threat to everyone in the community and she was simply and understandably asked to leave.

With fifty dollars in her purse, she took the bus home to her parents and begged them to pay for the medical attention she needed. (They did; but when she attempted to turn them away from Christianity, they asked her to leave.) Her children did not know her well enough to be even curious about her, she said, the patina cracking just enough to reveal a dulled and antique sorrow.

I asked her if she ever attempted to contact her group; and she said that she regularly did, every night she did the mirror meditation and communicated directly with them. She showed me the mirror she used. Once she had returned physically to the old house, but they had moved away. In was through her mirror messages that they informed her they would all meet again as soon as she worked out her karma. And that's what she was doing... hitching rides from town to town... searching the Yellow Pages for a janitorial service with a familiar name.

So there she was: unemployed and perhaps unemployable. Not a nickel had ever been put into any kind of social security or unemployment program for her. I had taken her to be a woman of sixty. She was forty-five.

Sometimes Buddhist teachers feel like physicians who believe their patient's condition is incurable. We don't want to come right out and say that so we prescribe the usual nostrums, the anodynes of prayer and study. Yes, we say, there is always hope.

At a Chinese-American Friendship Club meeting, I once talked with a lady who had grown up in the Chinese community of a small town in the Philippines. A Daoist monastery was located near the town and everyone revered the monks and nuns. Like most laymen, the townspeople assumed that all Daoist forms of worship were based upon celibate, 'single-cultivation' regimens. Girls who might otherwise have been forced to walk the streets were given refuge there - and the splendid opportunity to become nuns. Knowing nothing about dual-cultivation, the neighbors would be occasionally shocked to hear rumors that a nun had been driven from the monastery because she had become pregnant. Everyone assumed that the wretched woman had broken her vows in some licentious adventures. This lady shamefully confessed that whenever these women were encountered in town she, and everyone else, would spit at them.

She had been shocked to learn about the 'other' Daoist path and deeply regretted how she had treated those girls. "We didn't realize that we were victims, too... that we were spitting on ourselves. Ah," she said, "in those days women were blamed for getting pregnant when pregnancy was undesired, or for not getting pregnant when it was; or for producing a worthless female child instead of a valued male. I have four children, all daughters," she said proudly, "and I thank God that He has forgiven me."

In Buddhism, tactics which lure the innocent into fulfilling 'spiritual' sexual requirements are not confined to women. Our saffron clad brethren have both their left-hand and their conservative forms of worship. In either case they abjure so much as the touch of females, and while many priests are entirely celibate in every sense of the word, others routinely engage in sexual acts with young males. To them, however, it is all a question of semantics.

I know Buddhists from Sri Lanka who insist it is a sin to eat meat but who frequently enjoy shrimp, clams, oysters, and other seafood because, in their opinion, these creatures are not made of meat. (It is not always easy to argue a point in Buddhist philosophy.)

But what about sex? Well, sex with women is clearly sinful and quite against the Precepts; but since sex with men is not sex with women it is not sinful. (For all I know, Osel Tendzin considered himself a virgin.)

Here also we have a not-too subtle clue to the kind of anti-female bias in which women are employed to do temple cleaning and cooking or to teach other women but are not accorded ecclesiastical rank. One never sees nuns sitting in the throne-like chairs that line the walls of Theravadin temples. But no one asks why this is so.

This female denigration and male preference is usually quite hidden; but occasionally we get glimpses of it. Ten years ago (1990), a little noticed article appeared in our local newspaper in the World Briefs section:

    (Dateline) Bangkok, Thailand - 144 Buddhist Monks recently tested positive for the AIDS virus in Thailand, according to Dr. Teera Ramasoota, head of the Communicable Disease Control department. Mechai Viravaidya, head of the private Population and Community Development association said Friday, "If you checked all the temples, I'm sure you'd find a lot more." Monks take vows of celibacy, and Mechai said he did not know how the monks contracted the virus.

Once, in Taiwan, while standing with a group of Zen monks and nuns, a monk from one of the Theravadin orders approached and briskly instructed us women to line up and hold our arms out in front of us making cups with our hands. His master was going to give us little gifts. We giggled and did as we were asked.

The master then handed each of the men a trinket but when he came to us women, he held his hand twelve inches above our cupped fingers, and making certain that he had avoided contact with our defiled flesh, dropped the trinket into our hands. The nuns were educated women and I felt frisky so I said something stupid like, "A menstrual taboo! Call the Anthropology police!" The attendant monk sneered and said that his master was trying to avert any suspicion that he had lascivious desires for female flesh. It was simply a gesture of respect. "Like hell it is," I said.

That this is not the case at all was better demonstrated when I later visited a Theravadin temple here in the U.S. The master called me aside to ask me for help with his computer. Someone had donated a computer to him and had gotten him a new account. He remembered the password but had forgotten his email address. Could I help? (In the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king.) All I could think of doing was to send myself an email on his computer and then to telephone him to tell him his address. His computer was in his bedroom and as we walked down the corridor to the room one of his lay assistants pushed passed me and entered the room and quickly put a large 'insulating' towel on the seat of the computer chair. Then he sat on the bed, glaring at me with a smug, accusatory expression that informed me of the kind of trouble I'd be in if I tried something funny. I managed to control myself.

(Friends of mine told me that this priest and his lay workers were the bane of the local Chinese restaurant. They were regular customers, but since they observed the rule that a male priest may not sit at a table with anyone who is not a male priest, they required two tables: the priest would sit alone at his, and his companions would occupy a second table. Annoyed patrons impatiently waited to be seated, while the waiter, not under the same vow of poverty as his clerical customers, steeled himself for the absence of a tip.)

Abuses proliferate in direct proportion to our readiness to entertain primitive superstitions and to yield to a childish need to worship heroes. In right-hand Buddhist Paths, such as Zen, male and female equality is more than just a goal; and we are not permitted to become emotionally involved with our masters or to regard them as heroic.

But sometimes there is no way to avoid an emotional response. I recall an experience I had at Nan Hua Monastery when a Dharma sister of mine arrived from Thailand. She was all in a dither and I asked what had made her so excited. She explained that for the first time in her life her master had touched her skin. "In my country, " she said, "it is illegal for a monk to touch a woman; but when we arrived here, he stepped down off the train ahead of me and then he turned and reached up to take my hand to help me down!" There were tears of joy in her eyes. "What made him break the rule," I asked. "Oh," she said, "Your master ordered it! He said the Chinese do not follow this custom and that when we were in China my master was to touch women if it was appropriate to do so. So," she whispered incredulously, "my master took my hand to help me off the train."

I suddenly felt inordinately proud that Wei Yin was my master. In fact, it might be said that in that brief moment I absolutely adored him. 


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Last modified: July 11, 2004
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