Ethics & Conflict ResolutionIntroduction The Sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts, integral to sangha harmony and safety, serve as a guide for our ethical conduct. This is as true during the process of conflict resolution as at any other time. The Three Refuges
We also recognize that misuse of authority and status is a form of taking what is not given. Given a complex system of hierarchical levels of authority it is important to realize that these play a role in some situations and not in others. It is important that persons in positions of trust do not misuse their status to achieve inappropriate privileges or to otherwise misuse their influence or control others.
Because this area is so delicate we ask that priests, people in formal roles that entail clear advantages of influence in relationship to others, should discuss the appropriateness of the potential relationship with a teacher or practice leader. Particular care must be shown new students. As the foundation of a practice is formed in the first months, it can be seriously undermined and confused through the lens of a romantic relationship. Please speak with a practice leader before beginning a sexual relationship and consider six months of continuous practice as a guideline before beginning relationships with newer students. This is especially important in the case of priests and people in positions of authority (religious or secular). Sexual harassment has no place in bodhisattva practice. Continued expression of sexual interest after being informed that it is unwelcome is a misuse of sexuality.
- A member who feels unfairly treated by another is encouraged to discuss the situation with the other person involved; all are asked to speak and listen with mindfulness of the precepts. Stating the Actual: A crucial aspect of conflict resolution, as in Buddhist practice, is discriminating between our interpretations and opinions of an event and how it was or is personally experienced. In part, this means not generalizing but rather stating the particulars of actual situations and the emotions experienced. Mutual understanding is difficult when discussion remains at the level of interpretation and generalization. Being Heard: It is important that everyone have an opportunity to be fully heard. This includes a history of the conflict, statement of feelings, and goals for resolution. The statements need to be as free from defensiveness or criticism as possible. Clear and deliberate presentation with adequate time to listen to each other is often all that is needed for reconciliation to begin. Restating what was heard: We can ensure that everyone understands each other by rephrasing what we have heard the other person saying, with the person being restated clarifying any mistakes. Confession: We facilitate resolution and reconciliation is facilitated when all reflect on how they may have contributed to a conflict and then explain this to the other party. Even when one party is primarily responsible, each party creates a safer environment by owning their part and apologizing. Facilitation: It is often helpful to have one or more trusted people (such as another sangha member, a spouse, or a friend) acting as mediators or facilitators to ensure that each person is heard and to help the people avoid blaming and accusing. Seeking advice: Sometimes instead of a facilitator, simply getting advice on how to proceed in a given situation will be enough.
- If this does not resolve the dispute to the satisfaction of all involved, it may then be brought to one or more practice leaders, using the above guidelines.
- If the dispute remains unresolved, a written complaint may be brought to the President of the AZC Board of Directors, who will bring it before the Board and request all involved persons to be present at the board meeting, during which the Board's function will be to determine whether a Grievance Committee is to be formed, and if so, who will be on it, as detailed below.
Procedures for filing a formal grievance at AZC A Grievance Committee is made up of three Board members: One chosen by the member filing the grievance, one by the other person involved, and one by the first two chosen. The board may allow a person to choose a committee member who is not a Board member, if circumstances indicate that this would be appropriate. The committee member chosen by each party is not meant to represent that person, but rather to hear fairly and impartially.
The person bringing the grievance will submit a complete written explanation of the situation; describing as much as possible the situation details and any efforts made toward reconciliation prior to bringing the formal grievance. The committee meets with the parties involved; taking as long as necessary to thoroughly hear the situation. Following investigation the committee will make recommendations to the Board, which will inform the parties of the decisions. The parties may appeal to the whole Board; the Board's decisions will then be binding.
An effort at reconciliation between the parties and with the sangha will be recommended. In some situations we understand it may take a long time before true reconciliation is possible.