E-Sangha is Being Sued

Posted by Jundo Cohen

Several Soto Zen Buddhist clergy and I felt that there has been a long history of sect bashing, discriminatory actions, impositions of punishment, disparagement and the like, by the non-Zen Buddhist administrators (mostly Tibetan Buddhist practitioners and various priests from conservative traditions) directed specifically at Zen Buddhist practitioners and clergy ... especially those expressing what the administrators see as Buddhist teachings conflicting with their own views of Buddhism (for example, the administrators would regularly pop into the "Soto Zen" forum, delete postings explaining Soto Zen doctrine by various Soto Zen clergy, substitute their own interpretations of Buddhist doctrine as "correct" in place of views that were not "the Buddha's teachings" as they see them ... and ban or censor anyone protesting).

The situation became so bad that it was felt some action should be taken, and some discussion began among some of us as to what was possible. All attempts at reasonable discussion failed, our emails were not answered, any suggestions to fix the problems were not even responded to.

I am now a retired lawyer. I am a Buddhist priest. Truly, I do not believe in most any kind of dispute, and I believe that very little in life is worth fighting about … but when it comes to matters of free speech, racial or religious discrimination, sect defamation and the like, well, that is a different story and goes right to the heart of what is still worth defending in our society … even by Buddhists. In this post-911 age, people do not believe in standing up for religious equality and freedom from discrimination, but some of us say it is still important. In fact, it may be the most important philosophy to uphold for many of us, right up there with Buddhism itself. I believe that those issues may be important enough for even a Buddhist to take action on, and that doing so would constitute "Right Action" in certain situations.

So, to make a long story short, we discovered that Singapore, the home base of E-Sangha and of its owners, happens to have some of the world's most aggressive legal protections against religious intolerance. For example, they possess a licensing authority for the internet, not unlike the FCC for broadcast stations in America, and E-Sangha's actions can be challenged there as an act "causing feelings of enmity, hatred, ill-will or hostility between different religious groups and sects." We decided to file a petition there and with certain other civil authorities in Singapore as our one available, effective avenue of protest. There will also be a civil claim filed to accompany this.

And that is why the administrators of E-Sangha, instead of talking with us about these issues, took their usual stance ... they simply shut down the "Soto Zen" forum altogether in an attempt to fully silence all discussion.