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Living Council Grievance Policy*

The purpose of the Living Council is to provide a formal method for grievance resolution. It has been established to facilitate a safe environment where members of the SokukoJi Buddhist Community can address mistreatment, conflicts, and other indiscretions arising within the community. This may include, but is not limited to, sexual harassment, mistreatment, physical and verbal abuse, and intimidation.

The Living Council endeavors to recognize every situation as a living situation. Because of this, each situation is addressed as it arises rather than through pre-determined guidelines, rules, repercussions, and presumptions. The Living Council is guided by the Sixteen Precepts, particularly the Bodhisattva vow to meet situations as they are.

The Sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts as a Guide to Conflict Resolution**
The Three Refuge Vows
  1. We go to the Buddha for Guidance – All individuals participating in the Living Council will endeavor to acknowledge the innate Buddha Nature of all participants. The intention of our practice is to realize the Buddha’s Way and to see what the Buddha saw.

  2. We go to the Dharma for Guidance – We endeavor to use the Buddha’s Teachings as a guide for navigating our negativity and the negativity of others.

  3. We go to the Sangha for Guidance – We aspire to create a community that inspires each individual to function through communication, cooperation, collaboration, and compassion.

The Three Pure Precepts
  1. We endeavor to act for the benefit of others – Using our awareness, we endeavor to act for the benefit of all.

  2. We endeavor not to interfere with the awakening of others – We aspire not to use our negativity to create further negativity for ourselves or others.

  3. We endeavor to function for the mutual benefit of all beings – Our vow as aspiring Bodhisattvas is to be with all things. We endeavor to meet all things as they are, including our own minds and negativity.

The Ten Grave Precepts
  1. We endeavor to observe a complete view of killing – We seek to expand our understanding of life to include not only living beings but also our own thoughts and the thoughts of others. We endeavor to see how shutting down and interrupting our thoughts and the thoughts of others disrupts the basic clarity of a situation.

  2. We endeavor to observe a complete view of stealing – We seek to understand that there is nothing to possess or be possessed, while also acknowledging that everything is in its own right, particular place. We endeavor to use each thing that arises in a way that respects the totality of each situation.

  3. We endeavor to observe a complete view of speech – We seek to use language in a way that does not take our awareness away from the basic clarity of the situation. We endeavor to use open and direct communication to support every situation while not promoting, destroying, or abandoning anything for the benefit of one’s self. We endeavor not to turn our experiences into dharma gossip.

  4. We endeavor to observe a complete view of sexuality – We seek to avoid creating harm through sexuality. With all of sexuality’s complex aspects, we endeavor to create a safe and respectful observance of others’ emotional, mental and physical boundaries and to never exploit others. We seek to cultivate an environment that is supportive to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or identity.

  5. We endeavor to observe a complete view of intoxication – We seek to create a safe environment that excludes intoxicants and other destructive substances on the Monastery grounds and encourages the use of awareness regarding these substances outside of the Monastery.

  6. We endeavor to observe a complete view of past transgressions – We seek to practice here and now. While not ignoring what has gone before us, we endeavor to relate to everything as a living situation without becoming fixated or dismissive. We endeavor to be creative when relating to our lives.

  7. We endeavor to observe a complete view of cause and effect – We seek to understand the Teachings of Dependent Origination. We endeavor to look at the complexity of each situation and to include as much as possible as we move forward.

  8. We endeavor to observe a complete view of attachment – We seek to provide these teachings and a practice environment without being stingy or exclusive. Based on every situation, we endeavor to include all who wish to be included.

  9. We endeavor to observe a complete view of anger – While anger arises spontaneously in all of us, we seek not to use our anger as the motivation for our actions, whether through body, speech, or mind. We endeavor to relate to anger as it arises uniquely within ourselves.

  10. We endeavor to have a complete view of the Three Treasures – We seek to acknowledge Buddha Nature in all its forms. We seek to respect the many paths to the Truth. We seek to support the awakening of all beings on their personal and shared paths.

       ** Precepts are not rules to be followed blindly, but are to be observed with intelligence  - Sokuzan

Submitting a Grievance

If resolution cannot first be accomplished through communication between involved parties or through another method, the formal process begins with a meeting between a member of SokukoJi’s monastic community (a fully ordained monk) and the distressed party to discuss what has transpired. At this point, the distressed party will be asked to submit a formal complaint in writing which should include:

  • Acknowledgment of the formal submission of a grievance

  • An account of the situation or behavior and any involved parties

  • Previous attempts to resolve the situation

  • A statement about the desired resolution

  • Any additional pertinent information

This written form will go to the Living Council Coordinator.

No one desiring a Living Council meeting shall be denied.

Forming the Council

The Living Council Coordinator will select to sit on the Council three members from a list of volunteers who have completed The Living Council Grievance Meeting Training Program through SokukoJi Buddhist Temple Monastery, at least one of those volunteers being a monk ordained at SokukoJi.

The Living Council Coordinator may include themselves as one of the three selected to function on the Council. If the Living Council Coordinator is involved in the grievance, a member of SokukoJi’s monastic community will select the members to sit on the Living Council. If the situation does not allow this, the Board of Directors of SokukoJi Buddhist Community will select the members. Whoever is the object of the grievance will not function on the Council.

All parties in the grievance will be allowed to bring up any concerns they have with the members selected to serve on the Council. While the parties involved will not have the final say as to who will function on the Council, their input will be taken into consideration. The Living Council Coordinator will function as the facilitator for the Living Council Grievance Meeting or may delegate that responsibility to another Council member. If the Living Council Coordinator is the subject of the grievance, another facilitator will be appointed by the monastic community.

Convening the Council

The Living Council Coordinator will contact all parties within a week of the initial grievance and set a date that works for all parties to meet. The meeting will begin by reviewing the Sixteen Precepts set up for the Living Council, as well as the guidelines for the involved parties and the Council. The facilitator will guide conversation by inviting each party to share their understanding of what happened and what they would like the resolution to be. All Living Council meetings will be audio recorded with the consent of the involved parties. The aggrieved party may request to meet with the Council privately without the accused party, which will be taken into consideration by the Living Council.

Guidelines for all attendees at a Living Council Grievance Meeting
  • This is not an interrogation but a means to facilitate communication, cooperation, collaboration, and compassion.

  • All questions are to help get a better understanding of what occurred.

  • Wait for the facilitator to invite you to speak/ask questions.

  • Try not to ask leading questions that assume a particular outcome.

  • When speaking, refrain from attacks, blame, and name calling.

  • Present information in as direct a way as possible.

  • When listening, receive what is occurring without interrupting.

  • If arguing or interrupting begins to occur, the facilitator will ask both sides to wait and take one full minute or more to return to awareness only. This mediation should be facilitated by the person in charge with a small bell signal to begin the minute or more and conclude.

  • Breaks may be taken periodically throughout the meeting as needed.

  • Be aware of body language without interpreting.

  • Consensus will be used for resolution and/or further action.


       All members in attendance should be on the same level (i.e. everyone in chairs or on the ground).

Living Council Format

The following will function as a basic guideline as to how Living Council Grievance Meetings are to be conducted. (Everyone in attendance should receive a copy of the initial grievance.)

  1. A recorder will be started, and the Living Council Coordinator or the facilitator will state the date and purpose of the meeting.

  2. All parties involved in the grievance will say their Dharma names (if they have one), their given names, and “bowing,” then verbally state their consent to participate in the meeting.

  3. The Living Council Coordinator will read the guidelines that have been set out for all participants and discuss how the meeting will be conducted.

  4. The participants in the meeting will be invited to read the Precepts that have been put together for the Living Council out loud.

  5. One member of the Council, designated as the time keeper, will ring a bell, and each person in attendance will bow and state their name.

  6. The whole group will sit silently in meditation for a few moments. The duration will be decided at the time of the meeting by the time keeper (at least 5 minutes).

  7. The Living Council Coordinator will facilitate discussion.

  8. The Living Council Coordinator will conclude the meeting by reiterating the agreed upon next steps, and within one week (or a mutually agreed upon timeframe) of the meeting, the distressed party and the accused party will be asked to sign a document outlining the findings of fact and the agreed upon outcome of the meeting. This may include but is not limited to a resolution, further meetings, or guidelines for future action.

  9. At the end of the meeting, participants will dedicate the merit.

Resolution Document

This document should include a copy of the initial grievance submitted to the Council, notes from the meeting, and a summary of the next steps taken. Everyone who attended the meeting should sign and date this document which will be kept in a locked file cabinet along with a flash drive that contains the audio recording from the meeting.

Legal Issues

There may be situations that are beyond the sole jurisdiction of the Living Council and SokukoJi Buddhist Temple Monastery. In such cases, these situations will be addressed accordingly with the appropriate outside parties. SokukoJi will abide by all local, state, and federal laws.

       *As this is a living document, it is subject to amendments by the Living Council Committee at any time.

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