Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"The Zen Predator of the Upper East Side"

New York Times writer Mark Oppenheimer's "The Zen Predator of the Upper East Side" hit the electronic bookshelves this morning.

Here is the book description as offered by Amazon:
Nearly 50 years ago, a Zen Buddhist monk—fleeing a cloud of suspicion—arrived in Manhattan, penniless and alone. Eido Shimano would quickly build an unrivaled community of followers: Zen students he culled from the heights of New York society to form arguably the most prestigious Japanese Buddhist organization in the country. Authors, entertainers, and scions of vast fortunes, all questing for spiritual enlightenment, flocked to study and live in his spacious compound. But always there were whispers that things were not what they seemed.
With sexual-abuse allegations against Zen leaders in the U.S. now stunningly common, The Zen Predator of the Upper East Side examines a dangerously complicated corner of the tradition—and shows how aspects of Buddhist practice may actually facilitate abuse. Featuring exclusive reporting and interviews, the book is a powerful true story of secrets and sexual exploitation perpetrated under the guise of religion—and a cautionary tale of the dark side of Zen in America.


  1. It sounds like an uplifting "rags to riches" tale (if you skip the second half of the description).
    The cover is pretty cheesey -- snake around an enso? Come on....

    Well, do report back on the juicy bits!

  2. Dave -- The cover is needlessly hurried and cheap, I agree. And the book itself is really a longish essay at perhaps 60 pages. The 'juicy bits' are less sexual and more concerned with the machinations of a manipulative personality in a 'Buddhist' setting.

  3. The cover is pathetic.... looks like it was done by a sixth-grader.

  4. Here's a review from The Daily Beast:

  5. I read it yesterday (instant gratification thanks to amazon kindle) and even though I knew what it was about, from reading your blog and other sources on the internet, the experience was still like getting punched in the gut.

    I want to believe that having a strong spiritual practice helps you to see right vs. wrong and gives you the courage to make right actions. It's easy to assume that charismatic spiritual leaders have a moral compass. It seems that some people are so attached to this idea of Shimano, that to see him as lying, manipulative, and predatory would do too much damage to their views of themselves and their practice.

    I am grateful to the people who have spoken out, and continue to do so. Enabling abuse in the name of "protecting Zen in America" is one kind of deluded thinking that needs exposed and obliterated.