The White Plum Asanga (WPA) was founded by Maezumi Roshi, who was a beloved and brilliant teacher for many of us. He also struggled with alcoholism and was sexually inappropriate with students on several occasions. Our community began to address these issues in 1983. At that time, his misconduct became public knowledge and was talked about openly, including by Maezumi Roshi himself. He completed a rehab program at the Betty Ford Clinic and, for the rest of his life, grappled with these problems and the consequences that arose from them.
The White Plum Asanga believes strongly in transparency around the history of Maezumi Roshi and attending to issues of addiction and abuse within our communities. As part of our commitment to transparency, we also seek to address the allegations that persist to this day. The most serious accusation that persists is that Maezumi Roshi had sex with an under-age girl. The girl alluded to, now a woman in her 60s, has made a declaration that these allegations are false, read her written statement for more details. In order to preserve personal privacy, the WPA does not disclose information about any individuals with whom Maezumi Roshi (or any White Plum teacher) had, or has been rumored to have had, an inappropriate relationship. Of course, the parties themselves may self-disclose if they so wish, as has occurred in this case. The best source to date regarding Maezumi Roshi’s past can be found online in his Sweeping Zen biography.
In 1983, the Zen Center of Los Angeles community began addressing the issues of addiction and alcoholism and of sexual abuse and power abuse. Eventually, training on these issues was taken up by the White Plum Asanga, and our efforts in these areas continue to this day. We were trained by Peter Rutter, MD, on power abuse and boundary issues when these issues first came to light in our community. More recently, many of us have been trained by the Faith Trust Institute on power abuse in the clergy. All of our teachers, both clergy and lay teachers, as well as our senior students, are strongly encouraged to take these trainings. We have also instituted a policy of disciplining teachers who have committed abuse. WPA teachers were invited to a special council retreat to address the legacy of Maezumi Roshi’s behavior a few years ago at the Zen Center of Los Angeles. Our education and our efforts to attend to the consequences of his past actions are ongoing both among the teachers and within individual sanghas. Our continued efforts to address Maezumi Roshi’s misconduct run through our organizational history in an unbroken line for 35 years.
The White Plum Asanga has adopted a statement of core values which our members must agree to before they are allowed membership in our organization. We have also adopted a grievance procedure for aggrieved individuals. If any student in our communities is having problems pursuing a grievance around the behavior of a White Plum teacher in their community, they can contact the WPA President, Anne Seisen Saunders.
The WPA continues to be proactive in training its teachers and students on the precepts and ethical issues. Our sanghas are asked to address ethical issues openly and to provide the necessary training for teachers and students on appropriate boundaries, sexual abuse, power abuse, and addiction. The White Plum requires that all of its sanghas have processes in place to protect any victim of abuse. Students are encouraged to learn what their rights are and to make violations known. Some of our teachers incorporate training on shadow issues, resolving conflicts, and creating organizational cultures based on ethical behaviors.
The Board of the WPA does not condone or excuse any conduct of Maezumi Roshi which has caused harm. The Board also does not condone or excuse such conduct on the part of its Dharma teachers and continues its long history of taking active steps to prevent this from occurring. We continue to hold ourselves accountable and to learn and heal from these unfortunate events. This ongoing process is part of our atonement for harm caused by Maezumi Roshi and some of our lineage holders.
We, the White Plum teachers, are very sorry for anyone who has been harmed through the inappropriate actions due to sexual abuse and power abuse by Maezumi Roshi or any White Plum teacher. We are acutely aware of the harm and suffering that has been caused, and we feel great compassion. We continue our strong commitment to take responsibility for and to address these issues justly and openly in wise and caring ways. May our struggles strengthen and uplift our communities. May these vows be fully realized.
The Board of the White Plum Asanga.
White Plum Asanga Board Members
Anne Seisen Saunders, President
Annie Purna Pirruccello, Secretary
Elihu Genmyo Smith, Treasurer
Frank De Waele
David Keizan Scott
Barbara Salaam Angyo Wegmüller
Josh Dainin White
John Gendo Wolff