Monday, August 19, 2013

Power - A Prelude

I would have liked for the following series of posts to tell a more uplifting story, one with a happy ending perhaps, or at least a moral befitting such a tale of hardship and woe. Well, I’ll let you make up your own mind once you’ve made it to the end, if indeed you make it to the end. For some might well consider this a journey best not begun in the first place. Yes, if conflict and contentiousness prompt you to retreat into the shadows, then maybe the following series is not for you. If you like your Buddhism creamy and laced with honey, neither too hot nor too cold, then maybe you should take a pass on this one. If you like your truth meaty, but fully tenderized, without a hint of gristle or sinew, then try checking back in another month or so.

To tell you the truth, this series is by far the most difficult one I’ve yet written – recounting a tale so confounding that I’ve struggled for many hours with how to even go about telling it. It was only after my simmering thoughts had boiled the issues down to their essence – POWER – that the structure of this series began to take shape, and the words began to flow.

What follows is a story about the fracturing of the Missouri Zen Center (MZC) over issues of power – who should have it, how much should they have, and why. Sadly, this story played out like a slow motion train wreck over the past year or so, with one train being Osamu Rosan Yoshida, the teacher, and the other being the duly elected board of directors. Now, some will likely consider this account of what transpired to be unseemly, ungrateful, or vindictive. Before I begin, then, I’d like to make clear my motivation for telling it:

    1. This story encompasses a great deal of suffering, suffering that has occurred within the very place that many go in search of refuge – the sangha, or spiritual community. I hope that telling this story as accurately as I can possibly tell it will help bring closure to what has been a very difficult and troubling episode in the spiritual lives of many.
    2. I hope that other spiritual practitioners who have suffered through similar organizational difficulties will gain some measure of comfort by finding those parts of this story that resonate with them.
    3. I hope that spiritual practitioners who are currently struggling, or who will one day struggle, with similar difficulties will gain at least some benefit from being able to see the dynamics of their own place of practice with greater clarity.
    4. Better yet, I hope that thoughtful consideration of the issues raised by this story will keep similar difficulties from ever arising in the first place.

Okay, then, let’s begin. Power, Part 1 - Whose Zen Center Is This, Anyway? awaits your open mind! Subsequent installments will be posted every couple of days or so until the end of the month.

By the way, I’ve switched to an ‘open commenting’ format in order to facilitate discussion of the issues raised herein. If you’ve got a related experience that you’d like to share, please do so. Thank you!

Rosan Osamu Yoshida
Image Credits

First page of prelude from J.S. Bach's lute suite C-Minor mutopiaproject via:

Copyright 2013 by Mark Frank


  1. I think this story needs to be told. Please tell it as lovingly as possible.

  2. Thank you, Mindy. I am striving to tell this story with as much compassion as I can while still being truthful. I don't know how successful I'll actually be; but even if/when I falter, please know that that has been my goal. Mark

  3. Thanks Mark for doing this. I am eager to read the rest of the series.