The Soto Zen Buddhist Association (SZBA) requires that all members adopt a statement of ethics. Here I am attaching the Statement of Ethics that I have signed on behalf of Bodhi Oak Zen Sangha, detailing the basis of my personal ethical vows, specifically as they are relevant to my role as a Zen priest and my permission to teach. Please feel free to comment.
Statement of Ethics
Myogo Mary-Allen Macneil
Bodhi Oak Zen Sangha
As a Soto Zen priest and member of the Soto Zen Buddhist Association, I have committed myself to living an ethical life. Central to this vow is my effort to provide a safe haven in which I, my students, and all who are exploring the Zen path, may explore our true nature. The 16 Bodhisattva Precepts are the basic principle of my approach to ethics and the hallmark of Zen Buddhism
I take refuge in Buddha
I take refuge in Dharma
I take refuge in Sangha
Giving up fixed ideas about myself and the universe, I refrain from harmful action
Bearing witness to the joy and suffering of the world, I do what is good
Loving myself and others, I live for the benefit of all beings
I resolve not to kill, but to cherish all life
I resolve not to steal, but to receive what is offered as a gift
I resolve not to misuse sexuality, but to be caring and faithful in intimate relationships
I resolve not to lie, but to communicate the truth
I resolve not to intoxicate with substances or doctrines, but to promote clarity and awareness
I resolve not to speak of others’ faults, but to speak out of loving-kindness
I resolve not to praise myself at the expense of others, but to be modest
I resolve not to be possessive of anything, but to be generous
I resolve not to harbor anger, but to forgive
I resolve not to do anything to diminish the Triple Treasure of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, but to support and nurture it
Additional Ethical Standards
The teacher student relationship is founded on deep trust and respect that is the mutual responsibility of both parties to honor. However, the authority of the teacher carries with it an increased responsibility to avoid situations and actions that could result in harm to the student, the community or the teacher herself. I recognize that harm may result if a teacher and student become sexually or inappropriately emotionally involved, or if a teacher violates trust, or uses power or position for personal ends. I will avoid these kinds of situations.
I commit to conduct relationships in accord with the Bodhisattva precepts. Because of this commitment, the responsibility for maintaining appropriate and clear boundaries always rests with the teacher. I will respect and protect the personal autonomy of all students, and refrain from sexual involvement with students. Should I as a teacher feel unable to uphold this standard, I will seek guidance and counsel from my teacher, a senior teacher in my lineage and/or a senior teacher from the broader community. It is recommended that the student involved also seek guidance.
Matters discussed in individual meetings with me as the teacher are kept in confidence when confidentiality is requested and agreed to, except as may be required by law. Students are encouraged not to engage in idle talk about matters discussed in teacher-student meetings. There may be circumstances in which it is necessary for a teacher to consult a professional for legal or psychological expertise. It may be necessary to disclose confidential information in the context of such a consultation. Such consultations are also kept in confidence and are only undertaken in the interest of the Sangha and the student.
I recognize that priests and teachers are often in positions of confidence or trust, and I will not misuse my status or authority to achieve privileges or other consideration, or to inappropriately influence others.
Since I am entrusted with handling funds or assets on behalf of practitioners, I will act in the best interests of the Sangha, only use funds or assets that belong to the Sangha with the oversight and permission of the Board of Directors, and will provide accountable and transparent stewardship.Drugs and Alcohol
In consideration of my position of authority, my behavior with drugs, alcohol and all intoxicants will be in alignment with the precepts. Abuse of intoxicants is an ethical violation and is subject to the procedures outlined below.
In order to make the Dharma accessible to all, I wholeheartedly commit to maintain an environment free of sexual harassment and discrimination of any kind based on race, color, age, ethnicity or national origin, gender, sexual orientation, disability, economic status or differences in political beliefs.
If a student brings forward a concern, it may be addressed directly with me as the teacher. It may also be wise for the student to discuss this with other senior students, or with another qualified teacher to assist in discernment and in resolution of the concern.
If a matter of importance concerning ethical guidelines or practices arises, it may be brought to my attention as the teacher, and/or another qualified teacher.
If matters of importance are not able to be informally resolved, a Hearing Panel may be convened to implement a Formal Process. The Panel may consist of a person selected by me, a person selected by the student, and a third person selected by the two other Hearing Panel members, the Ethical Designee. Each member of the panel must be without actual or apparent bias or conflict of interest.
A Formal Process is initiated by communicating in writing with the Ethical Designee. This “letter of request” must include:
- A clear statement that a formal ethical hearing process is requested.
- The name of the person(s) to whom the matter pertains.
- A description of the alleged matter sufficient enough to allow the Ethical Designee to decide whether the matter is appropriate for a formal hearing process.
- A description of prior attempts to resolve the matter.
- A statement of the resolution sought
- 2. Accepting a Concern
Once the Ethical Designee has received a letter of request, the Ethical Designee, will, within 30 days, convey to the requester the acceptance or non-acceptance of the matter for formal hearing. In the event the matter is accepted for formal hearing, the Ethical Designee will also notify persons named in the Letter of Request, as appropriate.
Once the parties have been notified, the Ethical Designee will convene the meeting. One panelist chairs the hearing and insures that a record of the hearing is maintained.
The chair schedules a private hearing for the persons involved to have a full and fair opportunity to present their understanding of the matter at hearing. The Panel may ask questions and request information. The panel will also hear from me, the teacher, and from any other parties involved.
Once the Hearing Panel determines that it is sufficiently informed of the matter(s) heard, it will close the hearing and deliberate. As soon as reasonably practicable, the panel will issue a written decision and distribute it as appropriate.
This is a partial list of possible resolutions intended to encourage open-minded and creative decisions. While it is not possible to anticipate every kind of situation that might require resolution, this format hopes to ensure a process that benefits all. The findings could apply to either the teacher or the practitioner.
- Finding of no ethical breach while acknowledging the existence of a problem which needs resolution elsewhere.
- Reversal of an administrative decision or action.
- Direct or mediated private apology.
- Apology to the community.
- Follow-up meetings with the head teacher.
- Recommended education or training or intervention program (e.g. therapy or relevant 12-step program).
- Private reprimand.
- Public censure. Both the findings and action of the Hearing Panel and also the reprimand are made public to the Sangha.
- Period of probation, with probationary terms set by the Hearing Panel.
- Suspension or dismissal from position of responsibility in the Sangha.
- Suspension from teaching for a period of time. A suspension should stipulate the conditions by which a person may commence teaching.
- Limiting the decision simply to whether or not an ethical transgression occurred.