Dennis Genpo Merzel disrobes as a Zen priest (Updated)

[February 15th update: SweepingZen.com, the creator of the below post, wants readers to know that it is currently "acting as an archive for open letters sent to Kanzeon Zen Center regarding Genpo Merzel." These can be found online via this link. As of this writing, contributions posted include letters written by Myoan Grace Schireson of Empty Nest Zendo and Kakuzen Keido Les Kaye of Kannon Do Meditation Center.]

From Sweeping Zen

Dennis Genpo Merzel, a Dharma successor of the late Taizan Maezumi-roshi and founder of the sometimes controversial Big Mind™, has announced that he will disrobe as a Zen priest and resign his elder status with the White Plum Asanga. He has, however, announced his intent to continue working under the auspices of Big Mind™. This comes on the heel of comments circulating around the web that Merzel announced in late January that he’d had an affair of several years with one of his Dharma successors, KC “Kyozen Sato” Gerpheide.

In his announcement, found on the Big Mind™ website, Merzel writes:

I will spend the rest of my life truly integrating the Soto Zen Buddhist Ethics into my life and practice so I can once again regain dignity and respect. My actions have caused a tremendous amount of pain, confusion and controversy for my wife, family, and Sangha, and for this I am truly sorry and greatly regret. My behavior was not in alignment with the Buddhist Precepts. I feel disrobing is just a small part of an appropriate response.”

Read the rest here.

Dennis Genpo Merzel (b. June 3, 1944)  is a Roshi with the White Plum Asanga of his late teacher Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi-roshi, from whom he received Dharma transmission. Merzel is also the founder of the Big Mind process and a Dharma Successor of Tetsugen Bernard Glassman-roshi, from whom he received inka following Maezumi-roshi’s death. The Big Mind process was established in 1999 and received further  funding from the Frederick P. Lenz Foundation with a $165,000 grant in 2004 and 2005. Big Mind and the claims which have surrounded it have been fodder for many critics, the most prominent of which has been Soto Zen priest Brad Warner. However, Ken Wilber (founder of Integral Institute) has frequently praised Big Mind and is a staunch supporter.

Photo © Stephanie Young Merzel