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The White Plum Asanga issues statement regarding Dennis Genpo Merzel

After previously “accepting the resignation of Genpo Merzel from White Plum Asanga membership as well as an Elder of the White Plum,” The White Plum Asanga, whose members are leaders of in the Zen lineage of Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi Roshi, has issued the following statement regarding former White Plum Zen teacher Dennis Genpo Merzel and what the statement describes as “his abuse of his position of teacher and Abbot”:
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“The White Plum Asanga affirms integrity, honesty, and humility as central to the practice of our Dharma teaching. We affirm non-harming in our relations with all those whom we encounter. We collectively vow to maintain our lineage as a vital branch of the Dharma tree, and to keep it as clear as possible from harmful actions. We also recognize that, from the very root of our lineage, we have experienced misconduct in the areas of sex and alcohol. Read More »

Kanzeon Zen Center board responds to letter about Genpo Merzel

The Kanzeon Zen Center board has responded to a letter about Dennis Genpo Merzel signed by 66 Zen teachers affiliated with the American Zen Teachers Association, which we posted previously. Click here to read the board’s response on the Sweeping Zen website.

Open letter to Dennis Genpo Merzel signed by sixty-six Zen teachers

Following on previous coverage of the disrobing of former White Plum Asanga Zen teacher Dennis Genpo Merzel, sixty-six Zen teachers have issued and signed the following open letter, which refers also to Merzel’s own communication, Owning My Responsibility: A Personal Statement from Genpo Merzel.” These follow here.

19 April, 2011

Dear Mr Merzel,

We are a group of Zen teachers, affiliated with all of the major schools of Zen in the west. We write as individuals, however, not as representatives of any group. We are deeply concerned at your apparent turning away from your own stated intention of stepping back as a teacher in order to take care of your habitual abuses of power with students and others. We are addressing this letter to you with the heartfelt wish that you read and heed our counsel. We are also sending this letter to various Dharma journals and websites because we have deep doubts that the letter will convince you and we feel that the greater sangha needs to be made aware of the problem and our views. Read More »

Dennis Genpo Merzel to continue to teach

Kanzeon Zen Center has announced that Dennis Genpo Merzel, who recently stepped down as a Zen priest, will be continue to teach with a new title, Zen Master.

Genpo Merzel disrobed a month and a half ago, following reports of sexual misconduct with students.  Members of the American Zen community united to express their feelings about his actions and how to move forward.

Sweeping Zen posted this response to Kanzeon Zen Center’s recent announcement of Genpo Merzel’s Zen Master status.

Letter of “Recommendations for Genpo Merzel, the Kanzeon Zen Center Board” published; 44 Zen teachers sign / Update: Kanzeon Zen Center board responds

As part of its effort to act “as an archive for open letters sent to Kanzeon Zen Center regarding Genpo Merzel” in the light of Merzel’s recent disrobing as a Zen priest, SweepingZen.com has published a letter, signed by 44 Zen teachers, outlining recommendations for how Merzel and the Kanzeon Zen Center (for which he’d been guiding teacher) should proceed. View the letter here.

February 17 update: The Kanzeon Zen Center Board has issued a response to the open letter, outlining some of their actions to date and plans for the future, adding that “Under these circumstances, we respectfully request that those people who sincerely hope that we at Kanzeon survive and heal as a community, and create an environment and adopt procedures that lessen the possibility of any future misconduct or abuse, will extend us a little patience and allow us the time and breathing space to restore the peace and harmony of the sangha and the strength and sound practice of its members. Genpo Merzel has repeatedly reiterated his full support for all of the actions taken by the Board and Sensei as outlined above.” Read the letter here.

Dennis Genpo Merzel disrobes as a Zen priest (Updated)

[February 15th update: SweepingZen.com, the creator of the below post, wants readers to know that it is currently "acting as an archive for open letters sent to Kanzeon Zen Center regarding Genpo Merzel." These can be found online via this link. As of this writing, contributions posted include letters written by Myoan Grace Schireson of Empty Nest Zendo and Kakuzen Keido Les Kaye of Kannon Do Meditation Center.]

From Sweeping Zen

Dennis Genpo Merzel, a Dharma successor of the late Taizan Maezumi-roshi and founder of the sometimes controversial Big Mind™, has announced that he will disrobe as a Zen priest and resign his elder status with the White Plum Asanga. He has, however, announced his intent to continue working under the auspices of Big Mind™. This comes on the heel of comments circulating around the web that Merzel announced in late January that he’d had an affair of several years with one of his Dharma successors, KC “Kyozen Sato” Gerpheide.

In his announcement, found on the Big Mind™ website, Merzel writes:

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, Read More »

San Francisco: Zen monk killed in hit-and-run

Christine Svanemyr

San Franciscans have been shocked by a hit-and-run incident at a local park on September 5 that resulted in the death of Christine Svanemyr, a Zen monk and life coach. Svanemyr and her husband, Vegar, resided for nearly four years at Big Mind Zen Center in Salt Lake City, during which time she received Zen ordination from Genpo Merzel Roshi. The SF Examiner reports that she had been “working as the director of development for New Ventures West, an integral coaching company that helps people meet their full potential in life, according to the company’s website.”

Thomas Burnoski, a San Francisco parks employee, has been taken into custody and charged with vehicular manslaughter. Svanemyr’s infant daughter, Isa Amelie, and dog were with her at the park but were unharmed in the incident.

Read the full story here.