Hartford Street Zen Center (HSZC) Ethical Guidelines
The Sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts, integral to sangha harmony and safety, serve as a guide for our ethical conduct. The Board has adopted this document to address ethical conduct within the Sangha, and it may evolve to meet future needs and situations
The Three Refuges
We take refuge in Buddha We acknowledge the Buddha Nature of all beings. Even though there are different levels of religious and administrative authority at HSZC, the sangha recognizes that fundamentally everyone is equally the expression of Buddha Nature.
We take refuge in Dharma We acknowledge the wisdom and compassion of the bodhisattva way of life. Through Dharma we embody, express and make accessible the teachings of the Buddha as transmitted by the Shunryu Suzuki Roshi lineage. We realize that our approach to Buddhism is one of many approaches and we acknowledge and respect all other expressions of the Dharma.
We take refuge in Sangha Sangha life is central to our practice. As we take refuge we also offer refuge. We aspire to create an inclusive environment for everyone’s engagement in the Bodhisattva Way. We affirm and respect our differences and similarities in gender, age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, political belief, and physical abilities and appearances. An inclusive sangha is one that encourages open, ongoing communication among all sangha members, residential and non-residential alike. Any ethical issues which arise are to be fully heard and addressed by the Hartford Street Zen Center community, in processes discussed below
The Three Pure Precepts
To do no evil This means to refrain from causing harm to oneself, to others, to animals, to plants, to the earth, to the waters and to the air.
To do good This means to uncover and to act from the loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity of our awakened nature. We embrace and rely upon confession, repentance, atonement, and reconciliation, which are time-honored Mahayana practices.
To save all beings We endeavor to offer the opportunity to all beings to discover and express their awakened nature. To do this in a collective organization of people means to maintain a balance between individual, religious, and institutional needs. When a conflict arises between any of these, open communication and clarification is a practice of saving all beings.
The Ten Essential Precepts
I vow not to kill or harm that which is living We endeavor to live skillfully and compassionately, and to benefit minds and bodies of self and others. Physical violence or abusive behavior, including threats and extreme and repeated displays of rage, are a kind of “killing.” Firearms and weapons have no place within our temple. We acknowledge that our direct or indirect role in the killing of other forms of life must be carefully examined in the context of our bodhisattva intention.
I vow not to steal or take what is not freely given We aspire to live generously. Avaricious behavior or theft harms the person who steals and harms the environment for Zen practice. Sangha funds must always be handled with full honesty and transparency, and open to appropriate scrutiny. Persons in positions of trust must not misuse their status to achieve inappropriate privileges, abuse their influence or control others.
I vow not to misuse sexuality We recognize that sexuality is an integral aspect of our daily lives and practice. We honor this part of our lives and strive to create an environment where conscious, mindful and compassionate relationships can be cultivated. Full responsibility for avoiding inappropriate encounters between adults and minors lies with the adult. If a teacher or student feel at risk of inappropriate sexual conduct, they should suspend the teacher-student relationship at least until they have sought counsel. Particular care must be shown toward new students. As the foundation of a practice is formed in the first months, it can be seriously undermined and confused through the lens of a romantic relationship. Please speak with a practice leader before beginning a sexual relationship within the hartford street community and consider six months of continuous practice for all parties as a guideline before beginning relationships with other students. Sexual harassment has no place in bodhisattva practice. Continued pursuit of sexual interest after being informed that it is unwelcome is a misuse of sexuality, and may require intervention.
I vow not to lie and to refrain from deception Lying to ourselves, another, or the community obscures the nature of the bodhisattva intention. This includes the deliberate withholding of information. We make every effort to have direct and open communication and straightforward feedback given in a spirit of honesty and compassion. Students should feel that they can carefully explore and study the self in an atmosphere of trust. When a student consults with a teacher or another student, either party can request that a disclosure be confidential. Any sharing we ask be done with care and respect.
I vow not to intoxicate mind or body of self or others Confirmed, disruptive intoxication is inappropriate within HSZC and repeated issues may call for mediation or further action. Release from all attachments is the work of the Zen student and we acknowledge and respect those who engage in recovery programs.
I vow not to slander or allow silence to harm others Intentional, false and malicious statements are an act of alienation from oneself and others. The consequence of intentional slander is pain for others and divisiveness within the community. An effort to understand the roots of the desire to slander is an essential part of this precept.
I vow not to praise self at the expense of others Learning to rejoice in one’s qualities and to rejoice in the talents and abilities of others is a deep and wholesome practice. When critique or correction of another seems appropriate, the practitioner should thoroughly examine his or her own motives and the other individual’s openness to feedback first.
I vow not to be avaricious All roles and things are transient. We come to practice and cultivate a spirit of generosity. Avarice can apply to matters of status and image, as well as material possessions. We endeavor to share our privileges and abilities.
I vow not to harbor ill will or seek vengeance or retribution Such harboring harms the community, the individuals holding the anger, and those being subjected to it. Every effort must be made to find resolutions when a person feels wrongly treated. Harboring anger will perpetuate the cycle that kills creativity, compassion, love and friendship.
I vow not to abuse the Three Treasures The Three Treasures are inseparable. When all three are realized our lives are whole and awakened.
The HSZC Council Process
The bodhisattva path is our heartfelt response to suffering. Turning away or skimming over suffering through silence, rationalization, assigning blame, feeling self-deprecating guilt, or not listening deeply to its causes and conditions are all steps directed away from the bodhisattva path. Avoidance is a condition for ongoing suffering. And when a need arises an appropriate response is requested.
When a conflict, grievance or dissonance arises in our interpersonal relationships, it is essential to attend to it fully. When our temple has needs we need to attend to them together with the multiple talents and skills of our community. Personally, this involves waking up to our own contribution to the suffering or lack through investigating our reactions, emotions and attachments and what we can offer to help the situation. Inter-personally, this involves taking the time to discuss the conflict with the other parties involved in an attempt to clarify the actual causes, conditions, feelings and responses that created the situation. When it involves temple needs showing up and offering help is community life.
The Council Process is for temple longevity and support and can serve to help with conflict when an issue is impacting multiple members, resident students or priests. We would ask if it is a 1 to 1 situation to engage in conversations as peers, if this is not possible, in these cases we ask to first work with clergy or with a mediator, and then if that does not resolve the matter council can be sought as an avenue for support of next steps. Harmonious relations are an integral and supportive part of our HSZC community life. Council sessions, usually moderated by a professional facilitator, occur several times a year, or as needed. By fostering attentive listening, authentic expression, and creative spontaneity, Council allows participants to communicate in ways that lead to a heightened sense of common purpose. Council offers effective means of working to improve temple operations, launch future efforts and to help with larger community conflict and discovering the deeper, often unexpressed needs of individuals and the HSZC sangha. Our little temple needs brains, funds and physical efforts to continue forward.
When a dispute between two individuals arises we ask you apply the following conflict resolution guidelines.
GUIDELINES FOR RESOLVING CONFLICTS AND DISAGREEMENTS WITHIN THE SANGHA:
The following suggestions and procedures can assist people involved in a dispute. We endeavor to hear all people in a respectful environment. This is often achieved by remembering that fundamentally there is no difference between us.
1) A member who feels unfairly treated by another is encouraged to discuss the situation with the other person involved; all are asked to speak and listen with mindfulness of the precepts, as free from defensiveness or criticism as possible. Sincere confession and repentance by all parties can reduce or eliminate negative feelings and perceptions. Seeking advice may be useful, but only if slander is scrupulously avoided by all parties.
2) When one-on-one discussion has failed to resolve the problem, an Issan-ji clergy person at Hartford Street Zen Center should be sought. If clergy are unable to assist in the matter, have an interest in one side of the matter or are engaged in the dispute or not available, a mediator between the two parties can be requested and every effort will be made to satisfy this arrangement. If the matter impacts multiple members (beyond 2) of the sangha or has a larger community impact, or even if the dispute seems to have influence or notable impact on the harmony of the temple, the HSZC Council process can attempt to resolve the conflict or grievance, as long as this does not create divisions within the sangha.
3) In an extreme crisis, where the safety and well-being of a sangha member is imminently threatened (like weapons, violent threats, assault), immediately calling in police or medical professionals may be necessary.
4) The HSZC Board of Directors is empowered to resolve a serious non-life-threatening crisis by swift debate, consultation with abbot or practice leader and a binding majority vote of the Board, which automatically removes the matter from Council jurisdiction. Such incidents have never occurred and no sangha member has ever been expelled, but prudence suggests articulating a process now to minimize confusion in a crisis.
5) If an interpersonal dispute cannot be resolved in peer discussion, utilizing mediation, through Council, a written complaint may be brought to the President of the HSZC Board of Directors, who will bring it before the entire Board including Abbot or practice leader and request all involved persons to be present at the board meeting, during which the Board’s function will be to determine how the dispute can best be understood and resolved in a fair and impartial manner in pertinence to the temple, the organization and sangha community. This automatically removes the matter from prior avenues including Council jurisdiction and the decision of the Board shall be binding.