Anti-Harassment Policy and Ethical Guidelines

General Statement

Mountain Cloud Zen Center is an affiliate center of Sanbo Zen International (SZI) and adheres to the Ethical Code of Conduct and Process used by SZI. (See below)

Mountain Cloud Zen Center has its own in-house conflict resolution processes, and appeals to SZI’s processes only if its own procedures have failed to bring a satisfactory resolution.

If you have a conflict or issue you would like to address read through this policy and email the Board of directors at mczcboard@mountaincloud.org or the Mountain Cloud Administrator.

Contents 

Terms and Definitions
Privacy Policy
Mountain Cloud’s Ethical Conduct Policy
Anti-Harassment Policy
Complaint and Conflict Resolution

1. Mediation
2. Arbitration

MCZC Mediation Process
Effective Communication Guidelines
Code of Conduct and Process for Sanbo ZenInternational (SZI)

Terms and Definitions

MCZC:  Mountain Cloud Zen Center 

SZI:  Sanbo Zen International

SZI HEAR Committee:  Sanbo Zen International Harmony, Ethics, and Reconciliation Committtee

EEOC:  U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission 

Personnel Committee:  A committee of the Board of Directors

Arbitration Panel: The Personnel Committee becomes the Arbitration Panel once arbitration is in process.

Case Manager: A member of the Personnel Committee who handles the mediation process for a particular situation.

Mediator:  A person who attempts to help those involved in a conflict come to an agreement; a go-between. The Board of Directors selects the mediator at MCZC

Teacher:  The spiritual director of the Zen Center.

Privacy Policy

To read our Privacy Policy, click here.


Mountain Cloud’s Ethical Conduct Policy

Mountain Cloud is a training center for Zen, and Zen is a training in learning to behave well under all circumstances. Its purpose is to help us get clearer about our “original nature” so that we may learn to act in accordance with it, for the benefit of all beings, in ways that cause neither harm nor suffering, and which promote well-being, peace and harmony, all the time. It has been described by some masters as a process for the “perfecting of the personality.” 

Clearly, this is a tall order. We expect to fall short of it at times, and recognize that we all need training to get there, and on the way, guidelines are essential. 

Members, students and teachers at MCZC undertake to observe the Three Pure Precepts and the Ten Grave Precepts, and are expected to follow them to the best of their ability at all times. Sometimes we may be challenged, and difficult circumstances may arise which may lead to conflict. As people associated with the center, we look to the precepts to guide our conduct, and hold one another to account when we fall short of them.

As a lay community of Zen practitioners, we resolve to conduct our lives and our relationships with the Three Pure Precepts as our guiding principle. These are:

1)     to avoid all that is harmful,

2)     to foster and promote all that is good

3)     to purify our minds and seek the liberation of all sentient beings in all our thoughts, words, and actions.

We are bound by the Ten Grave Precepts, which are:

1)     Honor all life, do not kill,

2)     Respect others’ property, do not steal,

3)     Speak truthfully, do not lie,

4)     Respect your own and others bodies and commitments, do not misuse sex,

5)     Keep a clear mind, do not abuse drugs and intoxicants,

6)     Uphold the good name of others, do not engage in harmful speech,

7)     Live in truthful humility, do not praise self or put down others,

8)     Be generous, do not be stingy with material or spiritual goods,

9)     Cultivate a peaceful heart, do not indulge in anger, and

10) Uphold the Buddha Dharma, do not defame the Three Treasures (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha)

Sangha Relations

The relationships of those in leadership positions (Teachers, Board Members, paid staff) among themselves and with the other sangha members will receive special attention in upholding ethical guidelines. People in leadership positions must be especially careful not to abuse their power for personal gain or satisfaction. 

In teacher-student relationships and in relations among students, we will practice in accord with the Ten Grave Precepts. All relationships at the center will be conducted with mutual honor and esteem, with due acknowledgment and maintenance of boundaries, and with due care to confidentiality in matters of individual practice and personal life. We will hold one another in highest respect, and will strive to maintain right speech at all times.

The relationship between teacher and student is a particularly deep and important commitment, and a great good fortune to be able to form in our lives. It is not to be entered or left lightly. It is especially important the relationship be treated with care, attention and reverence by both parties. The ideal guiding attitude on the part of the student is one of respect, and on the part of the teacher, compassion, at all times.

In spite of our best efforts, sometimes we fall short of expectations, and conflict arises.  In cases where two parties cannot resolve a conflict, they are encouraged to turn to the MCZC Conflict and Complaint Resolution processes for help.

Anti-Harassment Policy

MCZC supports the rights of all members to be free from all forms of harassment, including harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, age or disability. Harassing conduct includes, but is not limited to: 

  • Epithets
  • Negative stereotyping
  • Sexual advances, impropriety or harassment by the Zen teacher* or any sangha member or participant 
  • Slurs
  • Threatening, intimidating or hostile behavior that relates to the above characteristics, or of any kind
  • Written or graphic material that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual or group because of the above characteristics, and that is placed on walls, bulletin boards, or elsewhere on the premises, or circulated in the workplace. 

*  It is MCZC policy that sexual impropriety of any sort by teachers, currently engaged or visiting, will not be tolerated. Complaints should be sent directly to the Mountain Cloud Board of Directors, which will initiate an arbitration process and possible referral to the SZI HEAR Committee, depending on the seriousness of the allegations.  The MCZC sangha, and possibly the general Buddhist community, shall be informed as deemed necessary by the Mountain Cloud Board, Arbitration Panel or the SZI HEAR Committee. In addition, any potentially criminal conduct will be reported to the proper authorities.

In compliance with EEOC Guidelines and MCZC policy, harassment of any kind is prohibited and should be reported to the Board. If the result of an investigation indicates that corrective action is called for, such action may include disciplinary measures up to expulsion from the community for an offender. 

Complaint and Conflict Resolution  

Mountain Cloud Zen Center uses both Mediation and Arbitration in ways intended to stimulate resolution and positive change for conflicts that require assistance. If you have a conflict or issue you would like to address read through this policy and email the Board of directors at mczcboard@mountaincloud.org or the Mountain Cloud Administrator.

If a dispute cannot be resolved by MCZC processes, cases are referred to the SZI HEAR Committee (see below)

A. Mediation 

Mediation is a process used to resolve conflict between individuals. Although most of us fear conflict, it is often a first step toward improving communication, building trust and solving a problem. Conflict is actually a dharma gate awaiting entry.

When conflict arises, the first step is attempting to resolve the issue directly with the other party.  Read through Effective Communication Guidelines (see below) for practical help with how to listen and respond in difficult situations.

If this does not resolve the issue, the MCZC board will choose a mediator to help resolve problems.  The mediator will talk to all parties involved to see if all are agreeable to engage in a conflict resolution process. To begin this process, email the board of directors at mczcboard@mountaincloud.org or the Mountain Cloud Administrator.

If all parties are willing, a Mediation Agreement is filled out and signed and an appointment is made with the mediator.  All parties should read the Effective Communication Guidelines prior to commencing mediation.These guidelines form the foundation for communication at Mountain Cloud, and how conflict resolution is approached.

When working with the mediator, the following four-step process is used:

Step #1 –  Each party, clearly and with respect, presents the issue

Each party will have a chance to fully describe the issue or problem. Parties will present issues in a way that respects the other person, but also clearly expresses the problem and its effect. (Please refer to Appendix B, Effective Communication Guidelines.)

Step #2 –  Explore issues and concerns

The mediator and each participant ask clarifying questions as needed until all understand what each party needs and wants. Respectful and courteous communication is key here. Review the guidelines outlined in the Effective Communications Guidelines (Appendix B) for active listening and responsible speaking.

Step #3 –  Create options for mutual gain

Once each party feels heard and understood, explore mutually beneficial solutions. What outcomes does each of the parties want? What compromises can be made? What are the common interests regarding the issue in question? Work together to generate solutions that are mutually beneficial. 

Step #4 –  Develop agreements based on workable solutions

Evaluate the potential solutions to determine if they are feasible to accomplish. A successful resolution should be equitable for both parties, and must be fair, ethical, and implementable. Explore each individual’s standards and needs. For instance, what do “workable,” “fair,” and “ethical” mean to all parties within the context of the particular situation?

Create an action plan for each participant. List specific goals and concrete tasks each has to do in order to complete the reconciliation process. 

If the mediation process fails, the next step is Arbitration.

B. Arbitration

Arbitration involves a more formal procedure, and is used for serious issues such as harassment, malfeasance, bullying, misuse of property, sexual or gender identity harassment.  A committee appointed by the Board of Directors will serve as an Arbitration Panel to decide the best way to manage any serious conflict after giving all participants a chance to present their cases and points of view.  Arbitration will, hopefully, be an uncommon occurrence at Mountain Cloud, and is not the preferred model of conflict resolution. 

A board member will serve as chair of the Arbitration Panel and will find two other Sangha members to join the panel. The board will also assign someone to manage the case, the case manager, who is separate from the arbitration panel members.  Panel members should have no perceived conflicts of interest with the parties involved.  Examples include close personal relationships with a participant that extends beyond activities at Mountain Cloud or being a potential witness to a precipitating event.  The

Arbitration Procedure

Requesting a case for arbitration.   Any sangha member can file a case for arbitration by contacting the Board of Directors. The board will then discuss if the case is more appropriate for mediation or arbitration and take an appropriate course of action.

Documentation processes:  The case manager will ask for written documentation by the participants. Participants should seek guidance from the case manager about how to present their case effectively.  The case manager will then meet with the participants individually to collect any additional information and, if needed, to clarify any factual statements. At times, more than one meeting may be necessary.  The participants can also provide the names of witnesses who could present factual information. The case manager will then interview the witnesses and/or obtain written statements. 

The fact-finding process should focus on events and actions taken and ignore personal motivations.  Facts should be gathered as quickly as possible to minimize possible damages to MCZC.  Most arbitration cases should limit fact-finding efforts to three weeks, though more complicated cases may take longer.

The case manager needs to keep all information confidential, as do the participants and witnesses.  This is not a public trial and until all the facts are fully addressed participants should refrain from speaking about it with others, or from getting other Mountain Cloud members to intervene, in order to maintain confidentiality and impartiality. 

Decisions.  Ideally, the Board of Directors should make efforts to get the participants to acknowledge any wrongdoing.  If that is not possible, the Arbitration Panel will review all documentation and make a choice about the most ethical way to manage the conflict.  The standard to use in these cases is “beyond a shadow of doubt” for more severe discipline.  For less severe discipline, the standard of “preponderance of evidence” can be used.

The Arbitration Panel may feel Mountain Cloud is partially responsible and recommend changes to make this type of problem less common.  It may also choose from an array of corrective actions for one or both members involved in the arbitration process. Less severe actions could include personal counseling and a written warning. More severe actions could include removal of responsibilities, suspension, prohibition from engaging in all or some Mountain Cloud activities, and legal action.  Severity will be critical an assessing these actions.  The more severe forms of corrective action are needed if individuals have safety fears, or there is potential to seriously harm MCZC’s financial status or reputation.

Appeal process:  A participant who feels the Arbitration Panel was unjust may appeal the decision to the Board.  The participant must document why the decision was unjust. This could include incorrect facts, violations of processes that were likely to have had an influence on the actions, or the severity of the corrective action taken.  The entire board will review the information as well as potential biases in the decision-making process.  If evidence of bias exists that could have altered perceptions of severity or the outcome, the board will work with the SZI HEAR Committee to review the case.

MCZC Mediation Process

Guidelines

1.  Mediation is a voluntary process and both parties must willingly agree to be involved in the process.

2.  Each party should be able to state clearly the disputed issue(s). Both parties and the mediator should sign a mediation agreement.

3.   Mediation is a dispute resolution process which is non-adversarial in nature and seeks to find reconciliation between disputing parties. The mediation process does not declare winners or losers. The main focus is to seek a resolution which is informal, quick and minimizes the harm to either party.

4.  The mediator is committed to treating the matter in a fair and unbiased way. The mediator’s role is to facilitate and help the parties reach for themselves a mutually satisfactory resolution to the problem.

5. The decision-making power rests with the parties, not the mediator. If the parties cannot agree on a resolution, the mediator will not impose a resolution. The mediator may make observations based on the discussions; but in general, will not offer judgment as to which party, if any, is at fault.

6.  Mediation is a confidential process.  All parties will respect this and not discuss what is said outside of the mediation meeting(s).

7.  No party shall be bound by anything said or done at the mediation. If the issue is resolved and if it’s deemed useful, an agreement may be put in writing and signed by all parties.

8. In the event the mediation is terminated without a resolution for any reason, either party may take the issue to arbitration.

Once you have read these guidelines, download the Mediation Agreement. (2 pages)

All parties should sign and date the Mediation Agreement. The Resolution: Tasks and Goals form should be filled out and signed once a resolution and course of action have been agreed to.

Effective Communication Guidelines

“May sangha relations become complete”

Healthy relationships and communication sometimes feel uncomfortable. It is part of our practice to learn to trust this discomfort and be with it in a non-judgmental way — much like other discomforts that may arise in practice. The ability to contain the presence of two seemingly disparate views is a dharma gate.

Healthy communication requires a good attitude and thoughtful practice for both speaker and listener

A. Good attitude for the speaker includes:

  • a recognition that expressing oneself is an important contribution to sangha relations. Avoidance, withdrawal and resentment can be unproductive alternatives.
  • a willingness to express oneself in a manner that does not make the listener wrong or bad, or blame them.
  • understanding that your feelings are only feelings. One’s personal feelings do not mean the other person needs to change.

B. Thoughtful practices for the speaker include:

  • using “I” statements such as “I feel,” or prefacing a statement with “For me…” This is helpful for owning what we are saying and not blaming of others.
  • being aware of your tone of voice, facial expressions and your energy. Are you worked up and angry or calm and equanimous?  Be aware of what emotional states you are bringing to the interaction.
  • using the “magic” sentence structure:

I feel …. (frustrated, uncomfortable, sad)… when ….. (factual occurrence, not an interpretation, label or global statements)… and what I would prefer is…. (what occurrence you prefer).

Examples:

“I feel annoyed when dishes are left in the sink over night. I would prefer that whoever uses a dish washes it and puts it away when they are finished.”

“I am concerned that the zendo heater is running at full blast when nobody is here. I would prefer that whenever someone closes up the zendo, the heater is turned off.”

We want to avoid using statements that begin with “You…”  So you wouldn’t say, “You are a messy slob for leaving dishes in the sink all the time.”

Also avoid labeling and value judgments such as “that’s disrespectful” or “that’s stupid”. Rather, identify specific actions or words.

C. Good attitude for the listener involves:

  • being willing to hear and “be with” the other person’s point of view in a neutral way. Imagine what the person is saying is a fact like the weather and not something that is “right” or “wrong”.
  • the ability to hold onto oneself and understand that the speaker’s view is not the word of the Buddha, but more like a weather report.
  • a readiness to feel whatever reactions may arise as you listen, and not act, but reserve judgment and be prepared to just listen.
  • keeping in mind “this is the speaker’s truth about this issue,” and wondering “what is my truth?”

D. Thoughtful practice for the listener is to:

  • Actively listen
  • Avoid interrupting or defending oneself
  • suspend internal judgments both of the other and of oneself. If judgments arise, put them to one side and come back to open-minded, open-hearted listening (much as one might watch thoughts arise and pass away during meditation).
  • Acknowledge the speaker’s feelings — and be aware that acknowledgement doesn’t mean agreeing with the other party’s point of view, but hearing it and recognizing it as that person’s reality. Not interpreting someone’s expressed feelings as meaning that they or we are right or wrong helps us to stay present.

Code of Conduct and Process
for Sanbo Zen International (SZI)

Sanbo Zen International is a lay group of Zen practitioners that follows in the footsteps of Shakyamuni Buddha in seeking to realize our true nature. It is open to all people who wish to practice Zen, regardless of their nationality or faith. The members are bound together by a common commitment to practice zazen with the aim of realizing wisdom and compassion in their own lives and in the world.

Purpose of the Code

The purpose of this Code of Conduct is to:

1)  promote a supportive and safe environment for the ethical teaching and practice of Zen;

2)  encourage open and respectful discussion, when necessary, regarding questionable behavior on the part of teachers or students;

3)   support sangha teachers and students in addressing unethical behavior by setting up clear guidelines for behavior and measures for handling violations.

General Ethical Guidelines

As a lay community of Zen practitioners, we the members and teachers of SZI resolve to conduct our lives and our relationships with the Three Pure Precepts as our guiding principle. These are:

1)  to avoid all that is harmful,

2)  to foster and promote all that is good

3) to  purify our minds and seek the liberation of all sentient beings in all our thoughts, words, and actions.

We are bound by the Ten Grave Precepts, which are:

1)     Honor all life, do not kill,

2)     Respect others’ property, do not steal,

3)     Speak truthfully, do not lie,

4)     Respect your own and others bodies and commitments, do not misuse sex,

5)     Keep a clear mind, do not abuse drugs and intoxicants,

6)     Uphold the good name of others, do not engage in harmful speech,

7)     Live in truthful humility, do not praise self or put down others,

8)     Be generous, do not be stingy with material or spiritual goods,

9)     Cultivate a peaceful heart, do not indulge in anger, and

10) Uphold the Buddha Dharma, do not defame the Three Treasures (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha)

Sangha Relations

The relationships of those in leadership positions (Teachers, Board Members, paid staff) among themselves and with the other sangha members will receive special attention in upholding  ethical guidelines. People in leadership positions must be especially careful not to abuse their power for personal gain or satisfaction.

In teacher-student relationships and in relations among students, we will practice in accord with the Ten Grave Precepts. All relationships will be conducted with mutual honor and esteem, with due acknowledgment and maintenance of boundaries, and with due care to confidentiality in matters of individual practice and personal life. We will hold one another in highest respect, and will strive to maintain right speech at all times.

Processes for Preventing Problems and Addressing Complaints

Individual Sanbo Zen sanghas will adopt this code of conduct or develop their own comparable code. All students should have an introduction to practice of Zen which includes reference to the sangha’s and/or SZI’s written code of conduct for teachers and students. Students and teachers shall enter into the student-teacher relationship with the consent of both parties and are free to withdraw from that relationship on advising the other party. The acceptance by a teacher of the authorization to teach includes acceptance of this code of conduct as well as responsibility for the safety and authenticity of their student’s practice.

Psychosocial problems involving teachers or students when they affect the ability of the individual to practice or teach need to be addressed through one’s usual ways of coping or through consultation with professionals.

Students should be informed and agree that a teacher may find it helpful to touch a student, to correct posture, or to demonstrate a point. However, neither student nor teacher should ever initiate contact of a sexual nature.

If a matter of concern arises, before bringing it to the attention of SZI, individuals are encouraged to resolve it within their own sangha first with the individual in question; and, if the matter is not resolved, with the teacher.

If the matter involves one’s teacher, or the teacher’s response is unsatisfactory, there should first be an effort to resolve the issue within the sangha with the aid of other teachers or senior members. Individual sanghas may choose to develop their own internal processes for addressing such concerns, which should be made clear to all.

The SZI Code of Conduct is posted on the SZI website (in this posting).

The process for dealing with concerns should ensure that they are dealt with in a timely manner. Only when the matter involves more than one sangha, or when internal processes fail or the sangha considers the matter too serious to resolve internally, should the matter be brought to the attention of the SZI Harmony, Ethics, and Reconciliation Committee.

If anyone has due reason to claim that a serious violation of ethical principles has occurred, especially in matters that include abuse of authority, financial impropriety, sexual misconduct, or a grave criminal offense with legal and public consequences, and has not been resolved within the local sangha, he or she should make a formal complaint to the Harmony, Ethics, and Reconciliation (HEAR) Committee. The committee will clarify whether the complaint is legitimate and determine how to carry out any measures necessary to address the case. A formal complaint will consist of a written description of the violation, with the name of the person or persons accused of committing the violation, along with proper documentation or testimonial to the veracity of such a claim.

The HEAR committee will be appointed by the Board in consultation with the Council of Teachers. If the accusation directly involves a teacher or board member, he or she will be excused from such deliberations. The HEAR committee shall consist of no less than three, and not more than six members, some of whom may include persons outside the sangha who may have special competence in dealing with the particular matters involved. The committee is to be given a specific timeframe within which to report to the board. If it determines that the complaint is valid, it shall recommend measures to address the case or cases. Having received such a report, the board shall take measures that may include: a mediated resolution, reparations, expulsion or suspension from a leadership role, expulsion or suspension from sangha membership, or reporting to legal or other enforcement authorities outside of the sangha where such matters may be appropriately dealt with.

To awaken, liberate and protect al beings.

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