I didn’t really want to get into the allegations Jundo Cohen has been raising in the comments section. But I feel it now may be necessary.
First, the short version: After the alleged “assault” that Jundo claimed occurred in Tokyo at a meeting of Dogen Sangha, I read all of Mr. Cohen's claims. I then spoke personally face-to-face with Peter Rocca, the Dogen Sangha teacher Jundo alleges assaulted him. I have known Peter a long time and I trust him to tell me the truth (Peter’s version of events appears in the email below). Furthermore, I spoke with two other people who were present when the so-called “assault” occurred and their versions of events concurred with Peter’s.
If I had had any reason to believe that Peter Rocca actually assaulted Mr. Cohen, I would have taken appropriate action as the head of Dogen Sangha International. However, I could find no compelling reason to believe he had.
Now the long version: At the time all of this was going on and Mr. Cohen was threatening lawsuits and so on, I found it necessary to explain in writing my take on the incident in question to someone I trusted. The following was never intended to be made public. But now I am doing so.
Please also be aware that I am not doing this in an attempt to convince anyone to believe some particular version of this story. I am making this public to make it clear how I came to the decision I came to and why.
Here is the email:
Between August 21st and September 9th 2009 Jundo sent me 15 emails (I just counted) first inviting me to meet him and escalating quickly into demands for a meeting backed up by threats to disrupt the retreat I was to lead at Tokei-in Temple in Shizuoka Sept. 19-22 with picketing and protests if I did not agree to the meeting. I told him I would not meet him. I did not state my reasons, because I do not need to do so. I am a free human being who can choose who he does and does not wish to spend time with. That has been one of only 3 emails I've sent to him.
One of his many demands was that all members of Dogen Sangha (DS) should meet with him every 6 months (Jundo is not a member of DS). He cc'd almost all of these emails to a list of 29 people, some of whom were Nishijima's dharma heirs and others who were just members of DS. One of those members (not an heir) suggested Jundo should come to one of DS's weekly meetings on Saturday Sept. 12. Jundo said he would. I was in England at the time & very busy.
On September 16th (4 days later) I heard from Peter Rocca, who leads the Saturday sittings, that he had met with Jundo in Tsukuba, the town where Jundo lives, on September 15th and they'd had "a frank discussion for about 40 minutes" about DS etc.
Also on Sept. 16th I received yet another invitation from Jundo to meet for a cup of tea. I had already said no to his previous request, so I did not bother to answer. But when he posted that same note as a comment on my blog I deleted it. I had only sent that one email to him by this point, saying I would not meet him.
On Sept. 17th (5 days after the 12th) I got a long email from Jundo (cc'd as usual to 29 others) describing that he had been punched by Peter Rocca when he attended the DS meeting on September 12th. This email described Jundo as merely trying to sit peacefully with the group. It also included more threats of future protests in front of the building where the meetings are held in Tokyo unless we gave in to his demands for twice annual meetings (please realize that DS members are scattered all over the world & none are wealthy, this is simply impossible even if we wanted to).
On Sept. 18th Peter sent out an email to those same 29 people describing a completely different version of the events on Sept. 12th. He said Jundo came into the room, was being disruptive and had an extremely unpleasant attitude. He was asked to leave. When Jundo refused to leave Peter physically pushed him from the room. He pointed out that Jundo had stayed after the supposed "assault" and they (Peter & Jundo) had had a discussion that day in which the "assault" was not mentioned. Nor was it mentioned in Tsukuba on the 15th. Nor was it mentioned in several emails Peter had received from Jundo between the 12th and the 15th.
I met & spoke with Peter on Sept. 23rd and was satisfied he was telling the truth about the events of Sept. 12th. My opinion was that it was unfortunate Peter had physically pushed Jundo from the room. But it didn't sound like a major thing. It's quite common for people to enter Zendos in an agitated state of mind/body and be asked or even forced to leave. I suspect that Peter possibly reacted more strongly than he needed to. But I wasn't there to judge, so I don't. In any case it didn't strike me as a very big deal. Besides that, Peter's account of events combined with what I knew about both Peter and Jundo made Peter's version of events sound far more plausible than Jundo's.
Since that exchange I have received 30 more emails from Jundo on this subject (mostly cc'd to that big list). These are always very unpleasant, mean-spirited, and full of sarcasm and accusations. Most contain threats of legal action either for assault or defamation of character (because Peter told his version of events to those 29 people on Jundo's mailing list). His story of what happened on the 12th has changed several times. There were various demands. One of these was a demand that I meet him at Nishijima Roshi's apartment the day before I left Tokyo (and was incredibly busy). If I did so, Jundo said, his threats against Peter would be dropped.
This was supposedly an assault by Peter Rocca. How does my meeting with Jundo figure into it? This makes no sense at all. It seemed to me the entire matter was being used as leverage to force me into meeting with Jundo.
I did not want to have this meeting because I felt that to meet with Jundo under threat would be to send the signal that this type of behavior works. I felt he would press his demand for bi-annual meetings and use legal action as a threat. At the last possible minute Nishijima agreed with me (we really argued over this) and canceled the meeting. I was prepared to have the meeting up until Nishijima canceled. But, quite honestly, I am extremely glad Nishijima canceled.
There you have it. That is how I saw things, and, rereading this in light of the recent comments and so forth see no reason to change my mind.
I have an 11 hour drive ahead of me today, so that's quite enough for now.