Zen centers are supposed to epitomize calm, but there was anguish at a national Zen meeting last year as devotees reacted to sexual misconduct scandals involving prominent monks.
The Rev. Kyoki Roberts, head priest of the Zen Center of Pittsburgh, was as appalled by some of the responses as by the abuse itself. "I heard a Zen Buddhist teacher use the word 'vitriolic' to describe the victims," she said.
Rev. Roberts, who was a professional mediator before becoming a priest, knows that congregations of all faiths tear themselves apart after a scandal involving a trusted leader. Certain that there are ways to prevent that, she returned to Pittsburgh and founded An Olive Branch. It is dedicated to the prevention of misconduct in the wake of accusations
..."Our mediations were volatile. We were literally telling people to check their guns at the door. But we had a 98 percent success rate," she said.
Their success came from identifying and addressing deeper concerns behind the issue that people were fighting over, she said. If a group is torn over whether to keep a door opened or closed, they aren't really fighting about the door -- one group may have health concerns about an overheated building while another has safety concerns about who might walk through the door. Only when health and safety are addressed can a decision be made about the door.
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