On Sunday, January 25th, Ryushin Sensei stepped down as abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery after it became known that he had been committing adultery for the previous six months. His resignation was requested by Shugen Sensei, the head of the Mountains and Rivers Order, to which Zen Mountain Monastery belongs. In a statement, Shugen Sensei wrote, in part:
Ryushin’s infidelity – his betrayal of… his intimate partner, and thus his marriage and monastic vows – is a most serious breach for a person in a position of spiritual and ethical authority and leadership… The whole purpose of our existence as a Buddhist practicing community is to provide a clear and healthy environment in which to discover, practice and have our lives transformed by this most profound wisdom tradition that is buddhadharma. As the Head of the Order, I am responsible to ensure that a proper environment exists to serve students sincerely seeking the particular pathways to realization and actualization provided by Buddhism. It is within such reflections and convictions that I have asked Ryushin to cease his teaching and administrative responsibilities.
Over the weekend of January 23rd, the formal students of the monastery gathered to discuss the situation and establish how the monastery would proceed, which Shugen Sensei described as “an extraordinarily painful and empowering moment for our community.”
Ryushin Sensei also commented:
I have been asked by Shugen Sensei to permanently step down as the abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery, and take six months leave from my responsibilities as a teacher in the Mountains and Rivers Order. I completely agree with his request, will follow it, and this will become effective as of Sunday, January 25th.
Over the last six months, I formed an intimate relationship with someone outside our sangha, betraying Hojin [Ryushin Sensei’s partner], not being honest and forthright with her, and breaking our spiritual union vows and ending our marriage. This also violates my monastic vow of stability, and goes against the ethical guidelines that are to be observed by a teacher in our Order. Most importantly, I have caused Hojin a tremendous amount of pain with my self-centered and unilateral decisions to pursue this new relationship. These actions are also a betrayal of your trust in me.
It is necessary that I leave so that Hojin can have the space to take care of herself without needing to deal with my presence, for Shugen Sensei to attend to the needs of the sangha, for you to have time to feel deeply your responses to these changes and circumstances, for me to have time to gain fuller appreciation of the pain I have caused, to grieve and to delve deeper into seeing what is the authentic expression that all these teaching offer me, and for all of us to see how this challenge can be an opportunity for deepening our understanding of the dharma, and our capacity to hold ourselves and each other in more loving and nurturing embrace.
I am sorry for causing you all this pain, confusion and the demand for work this requires of everybody. I am sorry for my lapse in honesty, transparency and openness. Amidst all this, I love you all as I seek ways to better express that. Please continue with your practices and commitment to exhaustively explore this amazing gift of your life for the benefit of all beings.
You can read the statements in full at the Zen Mountain Monastery website.