Upper Valley Zen Center
ETHICS AND PRECEPTS
Historically, issues of ethical conduct have arisen in communities, Buddhist and otherwise, that compel us to clarify the relationship between practice and ethics. We cannot privilege practice at the expense of ethics. Seventh century Zen teacher Huineng said, if you want to sit in stillness, be non-judgmental toward others. It is the measure of our practice, that we manifest kindness, compassion, and non-judgment; that we embody the precepts. Our sitting practice may be the way to realize, for ourselves, the precepts, yet the precepts are the measure of our practice. These principles are intended as guidance for the Upper Valley Zen Center community. They are subject to change, depending on circumstances and are not intended as definitive interpretation of the precepts or the Three Treasures.
We aspire to create an inclusive environment for everyone who wishes to engage in Zen Practice and the boddhisattva way. We aim to affirm and respect our differences as well as our similarities in gender, age, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, political belief, physical ability and appearance. We affirm that inclusiveness requires open and ongoing communication, with ethical concerns and conflicts fully heard and addressed in an appropriate forum (see Grievance Procedure below). All Zen Center members are encouraged to study and participate in the creation of appropriate structures for decision making within the Zen Center.
Racial Justice Statement
With vow to liberate all beings, we stand with all who experience oppression in the struggle to embody the truth of the fundamental equality of all; to recognize and confront prejudice personally, in our communities and in our nation; and to nurture broad cultural, racial, and ethnic participation in our Zen center.
For resources recommended for further study of issues of racial justice, click here.
Abuse of power
While rejoicing in our wholesome qualities and deeds is welcomed, self praiseand personal gain at the expense of others and the misuse of positions of responsibility for personal advantage arise out of ignorance of the interdependent nature of self. Within the Zen Center, we recognize that it may sometimes be necessary to criticize such actions on the part of individuals or groups, while paying close attention to personal motives, the content of what is said and to whom it is said.
THE FIVE PRECEPTS
Refrain from killing
Everything is illuminating together as true nature so there is nothing outside ofself to kill. Physical violence as well as abusive and threatening behavior is destructive of individuals, community and an environment of practice. Firearms and other weapons are not permitted in the Zen Center. All Zen Center members are encouraged to assist in identifying and addressing incidents of this nature.
- Refrain from stealing
- Refrain from Lying
- Refrain from sexual misconduct
Manifesting true nature, which is unattached, relationships are straightforwardand pure. Acknowledging and honoring sexuality creates an environment where conscious and compassionate relationships can be cultivated. We aspire to an Zen practice environment free from sexual harassment and abuse. The use of a position of authority for sexual gain is regarded as abuse, with the burden of responsibility falling on the person in authority to avoid such relationships. Sexual abuse includes these particular instances: 1) when an adult engages in sexual behavior with a minor (an offense that must be reported to legal authorities); and 2) when a person in a position of official Zen Center leadership engages in sexual behavior with his or her student. Any leader who wishes to engage in sexual relationship with a student will be required to abandon their Zen Center position or the relationship. All Zen Center members are encouraged to assist in identifying and resolving incidents of this nature.
Refrain from intoxication
Zen practice occurs in a context of clear presence, mindfulness and a state of mind that is not conditioned by intoxicants of any sort. When clarity is lost, it is all too easy to break the other precepts. Furthermore, our intention is that the Zen Center be an environment that supports those who are attempting to live without intoxicants.Therefore, alcohol or drug intoxication within the Zen Center is inappropriate and a cause for concern and possible intervention. When any Zen Center participant is involved in abusive or addictive use of intoxicants, he or she should seek help and the counsel of a Zen Center practice leader. Because denial is frequently a symptom of addiction, the sangha is encouraged to help addicted persons recognize the need for help.
THE THREE TREASURES
In taking refuge in the Buddha, we acknowledge the Buddha nature of all beings. While there are different levels of spiritual and administrative authority within the Zen Center, everyone is equally the expression of Buddha nature.
In taking refuge in the Dharma, we acknowledge the wisdom and compassion of the boddhisattva way of life, and the teachings conveyed through the lineage of Zen tradition. Recognizing that our understanding and practice of Buddhism is only one of many approaches, we acknowledge and respect all other expressions of the Dharma.
In taking refuge in the Sangha, we acknowledge the central role that community life has in our practice. Community requires the commitment to practice understanding and acceptance within our Zen Center, but also acknowledges the role our Zen Center plays in nourishing the life of the wider community we live in. All Zen Center participants are encouraged to participate in the planning and organizing of Zen Center activities as well as public service opportunities.
We recognize that grievances will arise in any community and our commitment to harmonious life together requires clear lines of communication and opportunity for conflict to be openly aired and resolved.
Direct communication between sangha members remains the first and principle means by which conflict will be addressed. Raising a concern in the moment, respectful of one another, remains in all cases the preferred way to resolve offense and misunderstanding.
Where resolution is not achieved by direct communication, then appeal should be made to a person in position of community leadership for consultation and assistance. In conflict involving a Zen Center community leader, appeal may be made to a member of the Board of Directors, who will first consider intervening in the matter personally, and, if insufficient, will bring the matter before the Board of Directors.
A fourth and ultimate level of appeal by either party involved in dispute, or called by a majority of the Board of Directors, will be an ethics committee formed by the Board of Directors and including three people in leadership positions in local Buddhist sanghas, or others in roles of spiritual leadership within the wider community. Their decision in such matters will be considered final, unless legal issues are involved.