Saturday, March 17, 2012

Taego Order USA Finally Open about Discriminatory Policies

The Taego Order Overseas Parish is finally being transparent with regard to their discriminatory policies towards women, gay and lesbian people, the physically challenged, and people over 55 years of age.

Unfortunately they continue to claim these are Vinaya based rules that Korean headquarters is following. Based on the Vinaya, no monk may be anything but celibate but they conveniently choose to ignore that rule. And there is no specific reference to gay people not being allowed to ordain in the Vinaya, this is a gross misinterpretation.

From the Taego Order website:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Taego Order's Double Standards and Discrimantory Policies

I have based the following blog post on numerous conversations I've had with several current and former members of the Taego Order, in addition to some online research that has been corroborated by some relevant American Zen figures.

Oh, the tangled web we weave when we try to cram an old, Asian Zen Buddhist lineage into contemporary American culture...

The Taego Order is one that prides itself on being a "liberal order" that fully recognizes women as equals.

Yet many have found the complete opposite to be true. Well the whole world has discovered this, to be accurate...

Jongmae Kenneth Park, the Overseas Bishop of the Taego Order, used to be a Chogye monk but broke ranks with them over some differences (this blogger cannot recall the details and his source is no longer available) and joined the Taego Order in Korea, the 2nd largest Zen order there. Although Chogye monks are supposed to be celibate, Jongmae was married for many years and has a son in the armed services.

He brought some of his disciples along with him that also weren't being recognized by the Chogye Order and he began to form an "overseas parish" so he could offer Westerners a full monk ordination with the Taego people.

He linked himself up with an Austrian Buddhist college and formed the "IBS-AMERICA", Institute for Buddhist Studies to offer a study-at-home, greatly condensed version of their Buddhist Studies program--a full time, four year degree in 2 years (just a few hours a week at home)! The seminary program consists of simple, simple assignments in very, very bad English.

The Austrian woman that Jongmae Park was having an affair with until Autumn 2010 (while Jongmae was still married to his current wife) was in charge of translating the coursework which might explain the very poor English.

Many welcomed the opportunity to live in the United States or Europe and be part of a very old Zen lineage, but early in 2011, a few students found out (after already being in the laughable online long-distance Taego Seminary program) that while straight male monks in the Taego Order may marry and live a non-celibate life--women would not be permitted to.

In addition to this, according to Bishop Jongmae Park and Hae Doh Sunim (the vice-Bishop) gay and lesbian people were supposedly welcome to participate in the Overseas Taego Seminary and were told they could be ordained as monks (well, the men could anyway, just not the women). However, should Korean headquarters find out someone was gay, said monk would be expelled IMMEDIATELY.

Sorry for all of that tuition money you spent, and for the bizarre Iron Man type ordination process that takes place in the hills of Korea, but if you're a gay dude (even a single, celibate one), you're out on your ears.

It reminds one of Don't Ask, Don't Tell!

So although Jongmae and his right hand monk-man Hae Doh Sunim (aka Gary Schwocho) present the Taego Seminary as an equal opportunity seminary for all aspiring Zen monks, in fact once you're already in the seminary program and written several checks out to Jongmae Kenneth Park you find out that you're a second class citizen if you're female or gay.

Oh, and if you suffer from any physical ailments or are in a wheelchair you shouldn't even bother to apply. Over fifty years old? Join some other Order, just not the "modern" Taego Zen Order.

The worst part of all of this is the Jongmae Kenneth Park's only defense of this ridiculously discriminatory double standard of a policy is to cite Vinaya rules that according to him ban gay people from being monks.

Not only is this completely untrue, but the Vinaya forbids any kind of sexual behavior or marriage for monks. According the the Vinaya, Jongmae Park's own Taego Order monks should all be expelled since most of them are not celibate.

When someone recently blew the whistle on this Order and their less than equal policies and their lack of transparency, they were demonized by Hae Doh Sunim and Jongmae Park via email and untrue gossip. So much for the middle way...

Fortunately there are many other modern Zen orders in the United States and abroad that treat all potential ordainees equally.

If you are wanting to ordain with an Order that discriminates against women, gay people, the disabled, then I suggest you sign up with the Taego Order.

Taego people can have whatever policies they want, but they should be honest about it on their web site. If a woman or a gay dude wants to be a monk and pays money to begin their seminary studies, and then the find out half way through that they won't be treated equally, that's just lame. It's a waste of time and money and it's just stupid.



The following was copied from the Taego Order website:

The following standards are currently (Dec 2011) in effect if one is considering ordination as either Dharma instructor or monk in the Korean Buddhist Taego Order, Overseas Parish:

The candidate must be no older than 55 years at the time of samanera/samaneri (novice monk) ordination; there is no upper age limit on Dharma instructor ordination.

Homosexuals may be ordained into either clergy status including samanera/samaneri, however, bhikkhu/bhikhuni (full monk) ordination is currently not permissible.

Ordination into either clergy status is currently not permissible for those already in, or considering, legally recognized homosexual relationships (in those states where it is permitted).

Ordination into either clergy status is permissible for men and women, however, bhikkhuni (full monk) status is currently not permissible for married women.

Since samanera/samaneri ordination occurs in Korea, the candidate must be physically capable of handling the four weeks of intensive training in Korea just prior to ordination.