Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
I found these essays at the integral nhne (new heaven new earth; modest title) website. I think the question of spiritual teachers having sexual relationships with their students probably deserves a more in depth enquiry than dwelling on the misfortunes of Mark Gafni. Two well written & thoughtful perspectives.
From Jun Po Kelly Roshi: In Defense Of Promiscuity
From Emily Baratta: In Defense of Chastity
Best lines from either essay is Emily Baratta's;
"I have a great idea for a new series of spiritual practice DVDs. It's called Goddesses Gone Wild.
Nubile coeds exposing their radiance for you, the spiritual practitioner, as you activate your second chakra in ecstatic states of mind/body bliss. You will expand your consciousness in an act of self-love, until rays of cosmic milk spew forth from your rod of creative power, bathing the universe in life force."
Thanks for posting these, Joseph. I've read both (previously), and I like Emily's the best. She was a student in one of my classes a few years back. I did not particularly resonate with JunPo's message or way of expressing himself, but I will need to return to these and review them again to be able to give a more specific response.
I've pondered these essays for a few days. I have to admit that I was moved by Jun Po Roshi's story. Maybe it's because I'm a 53 year old male noticing the very gradual waning of sexuality in my own life. I think when some men reach a certain point in their lives they become haunted by the beauty of younger women, like Kevin Spacey's character in American Beauty. Maybe it's a reflection of my frustration with the Greek dualism, hypermaculinity & anti sexual bias that seems to be foundational to my chosen spiritual tradition (Orthodox Christianity).
His account may be highly idealized 20 years after the fact. But if he and his young partner were as honest and open about their relationship as he describes, with no betrayal of other relationships, then I can't find any fault in it. That having been said, I am less than enamored of Jun Po's slippery rhetoric. He takes the same kind of more Integral Than Thou tone that Marc Gafni does. There is no mention of how his affair might have affected his sangha.
His story reminded me of Thomas Merton falling in love with a young nurse at the age of 51. By some accounts he broke his vow of celibacy. But he was changed by his affair. It seemed to be part of his gradual turn from monkish isolation towards engagement with the world. His love for a specific woman was the inspiration for his strange & beautiful poem Hagia Sophia .
Sexual desire is a fire that can provide the most essential life giving warmth, can burn and scar us and our loved ones if engaged carelessly, and in rare circumstances be the source of deep spiritual transformation. It appears Jun Po wrote his account as a response to Genpo Merzel Roshi renouncing his position as a Zen priest after having yet another affair with a student. This has been a recurring problem for Genpo since the early 90s. Emily Baratta wrote her wonderful essay as a response to Jun Po. As a guide to postmodern/integral sexual ethics I would go with Emily. But I recognize that the fire of sexuality isn't always easily predicted or contained.
Jun Po wrote a third essay - In Defense Of Promiscuity Part III
Chris Dierkes has posted an essay on the Marc Gafni situation - Perspectives on Sex and Spiritual Teachers
There is in all visible things an invisible fecundity, a
dimmed light, a meek namelessness, a hidden whole-
ness. This mysterious Unity and Integrity is Wisdom,
the Mother of all, Natura naturans. There is in all
things an inexhaustible sweetness and purity, a silence
that is a fount of action and joy. It rises up in word-
less gentleness and flows out to me from the unseen
roots of all created being, welcoming me tenderly,
saluting me with indescribable humility. This is at
once my own being, my own nature, and the Gift of
my Creator's Thought and Art within me, speaking
as Hagia Sophia, speaking as my sister, Wisdom.
I am awakened, I am born again at the voice of this,
my Sister, sent to me from the depths of the divine
O blessed, silent one, who speaks everywhere!
We do not hear the soft voice, the gentle voice, the
merciful and feminine.
We do not hear mercy, or yielding love, or non-resistance,
or non-reprisal. In her there are no reasons and no answers.
Yet she is the candor of God's light, the expression of His
We do not hear the uncomplaining pardon that bows
down the innocent visages of flowers to the dewy
earth. We do not see the Child who is prisoner in all
the people, and who says nothing. She smiles, for
though they have bound her, she cannot be a prisoner.
Not that she is strong, or clever, but simply that
she does not understand imprisonment.
The helpless one, abandoned to sweet sleep, him the
gentle one will awake: Sophia.
All that is sweet in her tenderness will speak to him
on all sides in everything, without ceasing, and he
will never be the same again. He will have awakened
not to conquest and dark pleasure but to the impeccable
pure simplicity of One consciousness in all and through all:
one Wisdom, one Child, one Meaning, one Sister.
The stars rejoice in their setting, and in the rising of
the Sun. The heavenly lights rejoice in the going
forth of one man to make a new world in the morning,
because he has come out of the confused primordial dark
night into consciousness. He has expressed the clear silence
of Sophia in his own heart. He has become eternal.
Thomas Merton Hagia Sophia
I really like Chris's article too. And Emily Baratta (now Roy; she recently married) has also written a wonderful master's thesis on sexual ethics. I'll post a link if I can I (re)-find it.
When I first read Jun Po's essay months ago, I too thought he'd written it in response to Genpo stepping down as a Roshi. But I later heard that he had actually written it prior to the Genpo firestorm; perhaps someone at Integral Life felt it was an auspicious time to post it. (And I was a little irritated that we had to wait several weeks to get the entire essay ... but, well, I guess folks are drawn in by "cliffhangers.").
In the comments section after part one of Jun Po's essay, David Marshall made a good point about the title, "In Defense of Promiscuity." Promiscuity is usually defined as having sex with lots of partners or being non-discriminating about who one has sex with. It doesn't seem like that term really describes his relationship with the young Swedish woman. (Well, he calls her a "girl.") Their tryst does start somewhat casually (imo), but nowhere does he imply that they are also involved with others -- or that they were lying to any partners about their relationship. And, as Jun Po recounts, he's not just sleeping with any old who; apparently she's a gorgeous, fresh, well-read, brilliant tantrika. He's got discriminating taste, this Jun Po. Their time together is even circumscribed in a "contract." They're being rather up-front about things. Moreover, she's not even a formal student of his; despite their age difference, he writes that they were "each other's tantra teachers."
So I found it all a little puzzling: what did this have to do with Genpo Roshi, who slept with formal students and engaged in unethical actions that broke his vows and hurt his family?
At any rate, I don't really resonate with Jun Po's story either. I do love the movie "American Beauty" -- feel sympathetic to the character that Kevin Spacy portrays. But Jun Po comes off as . . . well, as somewhat of a braggart -- albeit kind of a romantic one -- who is proud of his "enlightened" take on his delicious experience, and who then turns it into a teaching moment for us less-integral-than-thou peons. And when he talks about experiencing great heart-opening and unconditional love, I can't help but think: "all that from being with someone nine times?" Really?