The statement that appeared on the Zen Mountain Monastery’s website Monday was about as straightforward as things get when explaining how affairs of the heart can hurt administrations of all sorts. It was all about how their abbot, Ryushin Sensei (61 year old former pediatrician and psychiatrist Konrad Marchaj), had resigned his post the day before, January 25, because of an affair he’d been having and the toll it had taken on his wife, his practice, and his obligations as the man ZMM turned to after the passing of its founder, John Daido Loori, in 2009.
“Dear Sangha, I have been asked by Shugen Sensei to permanently step down as the abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery, and take six months leave from my responsibilities as a teacher in the Mountains and Rivers Order,” it read. “It is my transgression against the vows and rules of the Order that are the reason for these actions.”
The statement came as the result of a weekend-long retreat at the monastery in Mount Tremper, during which the community, or sangha, discussed their abbot’s infidelities, their support for his wife, ZMM’s training coordinator Jody Hojin Oshi Kimmel, and Ryushin’s further admissions of having found himself drawn to teaching from his studies of “shamanic traditions and religions.” It was accompanied online by a statement from the monastic order’s New York-based abbot, Geoffrey Shugen Arnold, who will take over as abbot of the monastery in addition to his roles as head of the Mountains and Rivers Order and New York City-based Zen Center.
“Ryushin’s infidelity — his betrayal of Hojin, his intimate partner, and thus his marriage and monastic vows — is a most serious breach for a person in a position of spiritual and ethical authority and leadership,” Shugen’s statement reads. “I also feel that his consuming involvement in shamanic traditions, and how this has influenced his recent teachings and behavior has led to confusion and disruption within the sangha. The whole purpose of our existence as a Buddhist practicing community is to provide a clear and healthy environment in which to discover, practice and have our lives transformed by this most profound wisdom tradition that is buddhadharma. As the Head of the Order, I am responsible to ensure that a proper environment exists to serve students sincerely seeking the particular pathways to realization and actualization provided by Buddhism. It is within such reflections and convictions that I have asked Ryushin to cease his teaching and administrative responsibilities.”
The resigned abbot’s statement closes: “I am sorry for causing you all this pain, confusion and the demand for work this requires of everybody. I am sorry for my lapse in honesty, transparency and openness. Amidst all this, I love you all as I seek ways to better express that.”
Upcoming retreats for the weekend of February 13 through 15are continuing without change. For further information visit https://zmm.mro.org/.