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Lions Roar : January 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2009 61 But in March of that year, following a Buddhist Peace Con- ference at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, Baker was discovered having an extramarital affair with a close friend’s wife. The ensu- ing scandal rocked Zen Center and led to Baker’s ouster in 1984. It tore up the community. Many left. It would be only the first of many crises for Buddhism in America as, in Coleman’s words, “one center after another exploded in acrimonious disputes about the conduct of their teachers.” There’s nothing hush-hush now about the scandal surrounding Baker Roshi. Much has been written about it, including a loosely put-together account, Shoes Outside the Door by Michael Down- ing, and those involved will talk freely about that time. It is the same with the other scandals of the period, now that much time has passed. People tend to look at them with a long lens, no longer intrigued by the blow-by-blow, but appreciative of what these up- heavals told us about the obstacles that emerge when people take on the mantle of spreading the dharma. There is also lingering pain, a hangover from a huge loss of innocence. For a period, the upheavals were much aired and discussed, even across communi- ties. For example, a Buddhist teachers’ gathering at Spirit Rock in September, 1993 (reported in the January, 1994, issue of this mag- azine) was dominated by discussions about power and sexuality. By that time, the other prominent scandal of the period was just winding down. After Trungpa Rinpoche died in 1987, lead- ership of the community he had founded, Vajradhatu (now re- organized as Shambhala International), was passed to the Vajra Regent Ösel Tendzin, whom he had appointed in 1976 to lead the community after his death. Unlike Baker Roshi, Ösel Tendzin had spent many years teaching and leading while his teacher was still living. But like Baker Roshi, he was a larger than life figure who wanted to carry out a very big vision. As at Zen Center, rifts had been developing long before the events that precipitated his fall from leadership. Though it was never publicly expressed, factions had developed. Many bristled at what they saw as Ösel Tendzin’s high-handed, authoritarian rule. In late 1998, the Vajradhatu community learned that Ösel Tendzin was HIV positive and had developed AIDS. A young man, son of a community member and a community member himself, had contracted AIDS that he traced to a liaison with Ösel Tendzin. It was also learned that members of the Vajradhatu leadership had known that the leader was HIV positive. Many members felt that Ösel Tendzin’s behavior had been reckless and that not enough had been done to protect the community. After a tortuous battle within the leadership, a senior Tibetan teacher, Zen priest holding a nyoi, the staff symbolizing the authority of a Zen teacher. PHOTOBYDONFARBER