Village Zendo Ethics Statement


We welcome people of different cultures, colors, abilities, ages, identifications, and beliefs who can practice within the guidelines for meditation and harmonious practice that we have laid out for the Village Zendo. We appreciate and explore our differences in order to build understanding, harmony, and openness for the whole community.

Student-Teacher Relationship

In Zen, the uniquely intimate nature of student-teacher face-to-face meetings can give rise to questions about confidentiality. We treat these meetings with a reasonable assumption of privacy, not a strict code of secrecy. A core aspect of our practice is spiritual direction. While there is a right to a reasonable sense of confidentiality regarding what is said in these meetings, Dharma teachers consult with one another and hold confidential information among themselves rather than alone.

Students are also expected to hold private interview interactions in confidence unless they wish to lodge a complaint. It goes without saying that any perceived slight should be discussed with the teacher in question first. Idle talk about interview is inappropriate and harmful to everyone’s practice.

Whenever a teacher and a student are relating to each other in capacities or contexts outside their respective teacher/student roles, a dual relationship is created. For example, a teacher who is a psychotherapist may be asked by a student to become a client/patient. Or a student who is an attorney may be asked by a teacher to provide legal services. These and other such situations give rise to a dual relationship. We recognize that not all dual relationships are inherently unethical. We are, however, mindful of the complexities and risks in these circumstances, and therefore it is the policy of the Village Zendo that teachers, dharma holders and ordained members of the sangha shall neither provide nor seek professional services from members of the sangha.

Village Zendo teachers and dharma holders acknowledge their responsibility to maintain the clarity, integrity and safety of the teacher-student relationship. No teacher or dharma holder will seek or initiate a sexual relationship with any member of the VZ sangha, nor will they reciprocate if any member of the sangha seeks or attempts to initiate a sexual relationship with them.  Should a teacher or dharma holder wish to explore such a relationship, they will immediately make this known to the Spiritual Director and/or the VZ Executive Committee and step down from their teaching position.  If they are also serving in the role of priest, they will step down from that role and resume lay status.  Because ordained members of the community, like teachers, are also the object of power projections, the same prohibitions apply to them as apply to teachers.

Power relations

The Village Zendo is committed to providing an environment of equality and respect for all those who come to practice. We seek to maintain a container where all can feel safe to participate fully and authentically in a variety of ways.

Recognizing and valuing the importance of diversity, no individuals or forms of practice are privileged or given special status. This is especially true in regard to those who are ordained, for whom the dangers and pitfalls of power projection can run high. Any seniority is based solely on the maturity of spiritual practice. In fact, the majority of senior practitioners at the Village Zendo are not ordained.

All members of the Village Zendo, especially teachers, senior students and ordained members of the community are encouraged to observe a high standard of ethical conduct. We expect them to pay close attention to personal boundaries especially in the areas of sex and money, and to avoid other forms of control over others.
We also seek to maintain as much transparency as possible in regard to the structure, operations, finances, and decision-making of the organization.

If anyone experiences or perceives a violation or abuse of power, we strongly encourage him or her to speak up. This is vitally important not only to the individual involved but to the whole community. The procedures for addressing such abuse are those in place for conflict resolution.

Conflict resolution

Conflict is prone to occur in all communities, including spiritual ones. When conflict arises, we attempt to address it skillfully, rather than to avoid or deny it. We seek to respond to conflict in a way that promotes greater individual and collective self-awareness.

Our procedures for resolving conflict involve the following steps: 1) examination of one’s own role in the situation; 2) when appropriate, direct efforts at communication and reconciliation between the parties involved; 3) when Step #2 is inappropriate or inadequate, recourse to a Village Zendo teacher to seek advice; 4) when Step #3 is inadequate, recourse to the Village Zendo Omsbudsperson who may intervene or facilitate resolution; 5) when Step #4 is inadequate, recourse to the Village Zendo Executive Committee and the Omsbudsperson (with any Executive Committee member recusing herself or himself if involved in the conflict); 6) when Step #5 is inadequate or the case involves formal legal matters, recourse to the Village Zendo Board.

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