Dennis “Genpo” Merzel has had more than a few rumors swirling around him recently. His response, appropriately, has been to leave the robes and his official status as a Soto Zen lineage holder behind. Here’s what he had to say about his situation:
Owning my Responsibility
A Personal Statement from Genpo Merzel
I have chosen to disrobe as a Buddhist Priest, and will stop giving Buddhist Precepts or Ordinations, but I will continue teaching Big Mind. I will spend the rest of my life truly integrating the Soto Zen Buddhist Ethics into my life and practice so I can once again regain dignity and respect. My actions have caused a tremendous amount of pain, confusion and controversy for my wife, family, and Sangha, and for this I am truly sorry and greatly regret. My behavior was not in alignment with the Buddhist Precepts. I feel disrobing is just a small part of an appropriate response.
I am also resigning as an elsder of the White Plum Asanga, My actions should not be viewed as a reflection on the moral fabric of any of the White Plum members.
As Genpo Merzel, I will continue to bring Big Mind into the world and to train and facilitate people who wish to study with me. I will not give up on, and will still be available for people who wish to continue studying with me as just an ordinary human being who is working on his own shadows and deeply rooted patterns.
With great humility I will continue to work on my own shadows and deeply rooted patterns that have led me to miss the mark of being a moral and ethical person and a decent human being. I appreciate all the love an support as well as the criticism that has been shared with me. Experiencing all of the pain and suffering that I have caused has truly touched my heart and been the greatest teacher. It has helped open my eyes and given me greater clarity around my own dishonest, hurtful behavior as well as my sexual misconduct. I recently entered therapy and plan to continue indefinitely with it. I am in deep pain over the suffering I have caused my wife, children, students, successors and Sangha.
With Sadness and Love,
D. Genpo Merzel
Perhaps the most important part of his statement is that he, like the rest of us, is “…just an ordinary human being who is working on his own shadows and deeply rooted patterns.” No amount of meditation will free any of us from our shadows. They, like all other aspects of our being, have the potential to be exposed and dealt with as we work on our cushions, but there’s no guarantee. This is especially true, and a cautionary tale, for those of us who teach and are blessed with spouses, children and sanghas.
May we all have the courage to continually explore where our light gets blocked, where our shadows are and what they can teach us.
(Bows to Sweeping Zen)
“The White Plum Asanga Board of Directors has accepted the resignation of Genpo Merzel from White Plum Asanga membership as well as an Elder of the White Plum. This resignation is a result of his recent disclosures regarding sexual misconduct with several of his students. Please see the Big Mind website for their statement. On behalf of the White Plum organization, I extend our support for Genpo’s efforts in recovery and treatment and to the teachers and members of the Kanzeon Sangha in their efforts in healing and realigning their communities. — Roshi Gerry Shishin Wick, President, WPA”