29 April 2014


The Guru/Student Relationship is not the Western Psychotherapy Model

This essay is about the guru/disciple relationship that is much, much different from the psychotherapy model that Westerners now view as the correct ethics for the spiritual relationship.  It is not.

      Westerners want clean relationships with boundaries and money exchanges to seal the deal.  Fixed 50 minute sessions, fixed venues for therapy, payment of money, and proscriptions on behavior, also called “medical ethics.”

      On the other hand the Eastern concept of guru/student, or the relations between people outside of the medical context are far more messy, have far fewer boundaries, and therefore tend to be potentially much more powerful in transformative ability that psychotherapy.

       My discussion here relates to the teaching methods of Sasaki Roshi who realized that different people require different approaches to awakening, enlightenment, or even functional health.

I was with Sasaki briefly at Mt. Baldy during 1970. It was an awesome experience and he an awesome teacher. For 50 years this alleged \"abuse\" was going on and no one did much? Has anyone done other than accuse, blame, and execute Roshi as some sort of sexual pervert? Has anyone examined the place of sex between students and teachers in the various traditions?

I have never had a teacher who was celibate, especially those who were supposedly celibate monks: Not Maezumi Roshi, not Thich Thien-An, not Seung Sahn, not Kozan Roshi, not Robert Adams, not Muktananda, not those in Baba’s tradition from Da Free John, Rudi, Muktananda’s successors, and so an ad infinitum.

Why? Is it that all Eastern spiritual teachers are sexual predators? Or is it that there is something in romantic love, sexual or non-sexual, that is helpful for both in terms of becoming human, and realizing one’s own self as a human/divine coupling?

Or is it that sex between teacher is viewed from a very limited point of view: no sex between teacher and student, never. The behavioral boundaries of Western Psychotherapy and Western medical ethics are applied to spiritual/human relationships such as with teacher/student. I think this is misguided. I think there is a lot to learn by investigating the actual relationships, actual occurrences between the teacher and student, what emotions were brought out, and if the student benefitted in any way from the experience.

All that I see with regard to Roshi’s 50 years of teaching men and women, is almost universal condemnation with not one minute spent on investigating the short and long term effects of “romantic,” sexual, or just plain over-the-top devotional love that two people can have with each other that can and will lead to Self-Realization. Not the philosophical nonsence of No-Self, or Emptiness/Void, but of realizing oneself as both human and divine.

The universal allegation here is made of pain caused to students. But Zen is pain! Staying at Mt. Baldy during a winter training session was pure pain. Freezing cold, getting up at 3 am to shovel snow, the Kyosaku blasts by Ryoshu, and no expression of love anywhere. It was the coldest place in the world.

Yet, when I saw Sasaki in Sanzen, never was there a warmer character. I can imagine the sheer warmth and acceptance a woman might feel if she felt loved in such a cold place, enough to awaken devotion in both she and Roshi. This supposed abuse went on for 50 years and it continued.

Everyone and I mean everyone, knew of Roshi’s lap Sanzens.  Women students knew even before they went into their first Sanzen session with him.

Could it be that everyone was learning from their human and koan interactions with Roshi, becoming more human than the concentration camp externals would allow? Instead of attacking Sasaki, ask him why he did what he did.

Was there a conscious intent to reate a spiritual or psychological opening in each case? I know Sasaki encouraged me to throw myself into the world first, as one woman was told, and to get dirty, before finding enlightenment, and I completely concur with this teaching for “some.” I would assume he would have a different way of behavior towards a former prostitute. You see, Westerners want all relationships to be “tidy” and well defined by money and contracts, professional ethics, and predictability. But Zen wants messy, confusing, spontaneous and open relationships with each other and with the world.

Unfortunately, Sasaki comes from a culture of secrecy and silence, and everything but a pleasant face is hidden. This is on him. I think this should be a time to learn about the place of romantic love, sex, “groping” as crudely stated in awakening. My own teacher was confronted by a woman during Satsang who asked aloud in front of the entire group of 40 attendees, “Robert, why did you stick your tongue down my throat.” After a long time he answered, “Because I thought it was what you needed.”

I fully understand that answer, do any of you, or are you caught up in a feminist morality scrubbing? Let us learn what was going on, hear the results.

All that I have read about Roshi in the last two years is a long list of accusations and allegations of student’s pain.

Shit, my life in Zen was constant pain, physical, emotional, random frightening Kundalini experiences, and not having a clue as to what the Heart Sutra meant even after studying it for 20 years. Read the Tiger’s Cave about a Zen Abbott and his relationship and failings with parishioners. Learn what Sasaki was able to accomplish in 50 years of doing the same thing over and over.

For Muktananda and other energy teachers, there is the obvious notion of Shaktipat of the most intimate sort. Tantric traditions focus on using sexual desire to arouse the Shakti. The more you learn while practicing spirituality, deeply, and honestly, the less judgmental you tend to get, because you understand more deeply and you understand that human relationships are messy, and that Western professional codes are attempts to limit and control the depth of a relationship. I am saying there is a lot to be learned here.

      See my video where I go into it deeper:


Ed Muzika


  1. So does morality and ethical behavior mean nothing to you as a Buddhist?

  2. Ahhhhh... So now you've taken away the comments altogether?
    I wonder why that is?
    My guess is that you don't like what I've said?

    It's a shame that you seem to need to make yourself look a certain way, it prevents you from the possibility of seeing how you are wrong.
    I guess you have a reputation to maintain...?
    Oh well, keep waxing poetic on your "bliss"...

  3. On the contrary Shodo. I am taking your strident voice away from this message because you have already made up your mind that Roshi is guilty of multiple transgressions of your ethical standards and you have become merely a scold. There is nothing valuable or contributory in our dialogues towards understanding versus condemning. You can walk that path alone.

    A better line for you to follow is how many people have awakened under Sasaki's care versus how many have complained something negative happened to them while with Sasaki?

    You don't want to see a bigger picture because you have small picture ethical standards.