Please proceed to the Q&A page or the Suggestions page
to ask questions or make suggestions on the Bylaws.

On 7 July 2012 the Council and the European Office addressed a message to the European Sangha presenting the draft of our new bylaws for the foundation of our European Kwan Um School of Zen as a legal entity and asking for your suggestions.

So that our Sangha has time to examine carefully the draft of the new bylaws and make suggestions, this Forum on the internet has been created, allowing everyone to read the concerns and suggestions of the members of our Sangha about the draft of the new bylaws and get a public answer from its authors.

The draft of the new bylaws has been published already and is available as a pdf.  It is also available on this site under the “Bylaws” tab (above left).  The Polish translation is also available as a pdf, and the original letter accompanying the bylaws. We hope to receive your feedback so that a useful dialogue appears that helps us to enrich the draft of the new bylaws and make it clear, complete and useful for the European Sangha. The original timescale for discussion has been extended till at least September 21st.

21/9/2012: Revision version 5 is available here or as a pdf. This is the version to be presented at the sangha meeting 21 September 2012 in Warsaw.

27/9/2012: The Forum is suspended for a few days while we reorganise it for the next phase, Oct-Nov 2012.

29/9/2012: The Forum is archived, following the activation of the Q&A page and the Suggestions page.



75 thoughts on “Forum”

  1. Webmaster said:

    This is how your comments and suggestions will appear after moderation (technically unavoidable). Note that nested replies can be added to another member’s comments – a very good way of continuing and contributing to a discussion thread. Please post a new feedback comment if introducing a new topic. All discussions to be on the Bylaws only, please, for the moment. Please post your comments and suggestions using the form with the title Your Feedback that you will find below. Comments will be moderated before appearing publicly, within 24 hours.

    • Dear friends,
      For those who can not attend the European Sangha meeting next weekend: Martin Roell and I will report live from Falenica and share thoughts, impressions and photos via Twitter:
      We plan to tweet both in English and German. So, if you want to stay tuned — just follow the twitter account or check the timeline.
      Best Regards, Till

  2. Dear EO & Sangha,

    First of all, I would like to thank each one of you for the effort you put into creating the bylaws. Yesterday we had a short conversation with Bon Shim SSN who wondered why isn’t anybody posting on this website. Well, I am pretty sure that is because it’s got the layout of a blog and many peope who enter here are confused: “‘OK. this is some kind of a blog – now where’s the platform / the forum that they’re talking about? I know I thought so and few people told me the same. Hopefully my post will start something.

    I read the bylaws thoroughly while translating them to Polish and I am a lawyer so I have a few thoughts and ideas about them. I am sitting a kyolche right now so it isn’t a really good time for me to spend time online but I’d like to start a discussion. I found a couple of legal technique inconsistencies that I will write in detail next week after I have left kyol che.

    My biggest concern about the bylaws is that it obviously constitutes the sangha as a teacher’s organization where the students’ participation is at best optional. Sanghas are supposed to be represented by their GT’s which makes their power as nominal members rather illusory. I wouldn’t want to sound overly dramatic about this but the documents that has been produced seems like bylaws for a sangha that doesn’t want to get involved. I think that it’s a bad sign and a symptom of some sort of miscomunication between the sangha and its leaders. Personally, as a local group leader I felt like I’ve been left out and treated as flock 😉 (I intensionally exaggerate to make my point but still there is truth to it) rather than an associate. Now, I perfectly understand being flock in the field of practice, forms, teaching and such but I don’t see the reason why shouldn’t the students have some influence on organisational aspects of the sangha and why the bylaws completely omit formally institutionalizing such influence.

    I sincerely admit that I am not sure what the EKUSZ is going to do and how it’s going to operate. Until now it seemed to me that it was mostly a teachers’ thing – setting teacher’s fees, establishing practise forms. Maybe this experience lead to devising the discussed bylaws but for this we need a teacher’s compact not an international legal entity. The goals of the organisation are very generally formulated so I would like to request the architects of EKUSZ to explain why we need it and what will it do that we aren’t doing now. Do we now or are we creating structures for the sake of structures? I am neither expressing doubt, nor I want to come out as a naysayer – I am sincerely asking – this is really important for me to help me have to a more informed opinion about the proposed structure.

    As I wrote above it’s not the best time for me to go into details but my general idea is that we should institutionalize the voice of members of the EKUSZ (not only Guiding Teachers) at least in the form of an advisory body and try to think how to make it work (I remember the history of Board of Representatives).

    I sincerely hope my post starts some kind of a discussion 🙂

    Toruń Zen Group

  3. Sung-Yon Lee said:

    It’s very sharp pointed and I agree with you, Piotr. The clear intention is the most important thing whatever we do. Sung-Yon

  4. Thank you, Piotr, for going ahead!

    I have a practical suggestion, to add the following line to the bylaws:
    “At any time, the guiding teacher can dismiss his Sangha, if the Sangha does not comply with his opinion, and elect himself a new Sangha.”
    (based on a quote by Berthold Brecht)

    OK, just kidding 😉 Seriously speaking, I am a little shocked by the anti-democratic spirit of the proposal. Is that the spirit of our school?

    Seung Sahn SSN once said:
    “When Bodhidharma came to China, he became the First Patriarch of Zen. As the result of a ‘marriage’ between Vipassana-style Indian meditation and Chinese Taoism, Zen appeared. Now it has come to the West, and what is already here? Christianity, Judaism, and so forth. When Zen ‘gets married’ to one of these traditions, a new style of Buddhism will appear. Perhaps there will be a woman Matriarch and all Dharma transmission will go only from woman to woman. Why not? So everyone, you must create American Buddhism.”

    In our case, we must create a European Buddhism. A European Kwan Um School of Zen that commits itself to European principles, with a transparent and democratic administration.

    From my point of view, the proposal should be rewritten according to these principles. That may need a long time, but it is necessary. In the EKUSZ the Sangha must be able to participate, and the administrative decisions must be transparent!

    So far my two cents to the bylaws for the EKUZS… but maybe there is an alternative way to form a European entity?

    The fact, that the proposal includes many paragraphs about the teachers, but only two (paragraphs 5 & 6) about the Sangha, has also a benefit. Simply cross out those paragraphs and we have the perfect bylaws for the European Teachers Group! No need for discussion any more, because the proposal already passed the European Teachers Group. So at the European Sangha meeting in September we could launch the “European Teachers of Kwan Um Zen e.V.” We would then have a legal entity that can receive donations from the European Sanghas and can push forward the planning of our new European retreat center.

    Till Zoppke
    Berlin Zen Center

    • Anonymous said:

      “At any time, the Sangha can dismiss his teacher, if the teacher does not comply with their opinion, and elect themself a new teacher.”

      Only Kidding? Is that the way you want build this school?

      Is that the style we want to argue each other?

      • Like this the quote is wrong. I think Till just wanted to express that there is a lot of words about the teachers but only few about the students.

      • Anonymous said:
        “At any time, the Sangha can dismiss his teacher, if the teacher does not comply with their opinion, and elect themself a new teacher.”

        Are you referring to the regulation that the Sanghas elect their Guiding Teachers? This regulation though was canceled a few months ago, and the Guiding Teachers are appointed by the ETG now.

        But back to the other case, where a teacher is dismissing his Sangha, which is more delicate. According to the draft, such an exclusion from the EKUSZ can be initiated by the Guiding Teacher or the Council, then would be ordered by the European Office and finally must be confirmed by the Meeting of Members (§5,6).

        I would prefer to see a consensus between the Guiding Teacher, the Council and the European Office, even _before_ a Sangha is threatened to be excluded. One should not forget, that a Sangha loses all its funds and assets when it is excluded (§5,5). So an ultimatum for exclusion must be considered very carefully, and shall not depend on an individual (the guiding teacher’s) opinion!

        Exclusions of Sanghas are not so hypothetical. In the German Kwan Um School of Zen, it already happened that local Zen centers were closed against their own will, by teacher’s order. A very painful experience.

        Nobody wants a similar case to happen again. But of course, the EKUSZ must have means to maintain its integrity. Just make sure, that an exclusion is the ultima ratio, and have a consensus about it in all bodies of the EKUSZ!

        • Eduardo del Valle Pérez said:

          Dear friend when you write in your comment that “One should not forget, that a Sangha loses all its funds and assets when it is excluded (§5,5). ” This is not completely correct. What is written exactly in the draft of the bylaws is:


          “In case of termination of the membership and the closing of local centers, groups or temples, or because of their separation from the association, all assets given by the European Teachers Group, by the Meeting of Members or by the European Office and all capital funds and donations gained through being a member of the association remain as the property of the association, the European Kwan Um School of Zen e.V.”

          So if you read carefully it is said that “all assets given by the European Teachers Group, by the Meeting of Members or by the European Office and all capital funds and donations gained through being a member of the association remain as the property of the association, the European Kwan Um School of Zen e.V.”

          That means, in the case you are commenting, that the Sangha doesn’t loses all its funds and assets, instead the Sangha is asked to return the assets, capital funds and donations gained through being a member of the European Kwan Um School of Zen, which is very different and more clear.

          Thank you

          • Thanks, Eduardo, I appreciate that we are going into details now.

            So hypothetically, the Kwan Um Zen School Germany joins the EKUSZ on January 1st 2013, and leaves the EKUSZ on December 31st 2013. Within 2013, we may receive approx. 50.000€ revenues (membership fees, donations etc.) and approx. 50.000€ expenses (rents, energy, office costs etc.), while our financial reserve (adding up all bank & cash accounts) is about 35.000€.

            So which amount of “capital funds and donations” did the Kwan Um Zen School Germany gain in 2013 through being a member of the EKUSZ?

            In my understanding, the German school received 50.000€ in 2013, because membership feed, donations etc. all are “capital funds”. One may argue, that the 50.000€ totally are spent in 2013, so the German School did not gain anything. But this view contradicts to the German regulations for Non-Profit Organizations, where a near term spending (“zeitnahe Verwendung”, means within 1 year) of all revenues is required. So the money spent in 2013 is the money earned in 2012 (plus additional 15.000€ cashflow). The financial reserve at December 31st is completely new money earned in 2013, and the Kwan Um Zen School Germany would loose all its funds to the EKUSZ.

            Till (Treasurer of the Kwan Um Zen School Germany)

            • Eduardo del Valle Pérez said:

              Dear Till

              You make a good point with your example.

              I have no technical knowledge about these economical matters but maybe Wilfried Rahn or Koen Vermeulen can comment on this to see how the point 5.5 can be interpreted and if it can have different consequences depending on the laws of different countries.

              Best wishes, Eduardo

          • Anonymous said:

            Note that the bylaws are not clear on what happens to the assets upon dissolution.

            Section 6.9 indicates that all assets – not just those given by the EKUSZ – must transfer to the EKUSZ.

            This is troubling because some sanghas (members) could be forced to dissolve by the EKUSZ, thereby losing all their assets.

            • ZM Ji Kwang said:

              Thank you also for this indication. We already became aware of this weak point. The revised draft of the bylaws, which we plan to present during the Sangha weekend in Warsaw, will take this into consideration.

  5. Jakub Koldovský said:

    Hello everyone!
    its good to have again some kind of together forum, where we can discuss and see Sangha opinions!

    Also thanks to people who worked on bylaws.

    Concerning proposed bylaws – vast majority (80% appx.) of Prague Zen Center /including half of Czech republic/ does not support this.

    As Piotr stated above – the zen center which signes these bylaws becomes powerless concerning all properties owned by zen center, all money owned by zen center etc.
    There is a lot of not clear parts in proposed bylaws, but this strikes at first sight.

    We would like to have the right to choose our representative in EU sangha , also the right to call off said representative.
    And this representative has to have impact on decison-making process.
    /if said organization wonna have our money and choose where these money goes/

    Yes, we are students concerning teaching, and there we appreciate teachers help.
    But we are not students concerning our properties, our money, our organization.
    We become students in Kwan Um because we are looking for teaching, not to look for advice what to do with our money and properties.

    I will use Piotrs words here:
    “I don’t see the reason why shouldn’t the students have some influence on organisational aspects of the sangha and why the bylaws completely omit formally institutionalizing such influence.”

    In the fact this sums that all.

    Thank you for reading!

    Yours in the Dharma

    Prague Zen Center

  6. I must have missed prior discussions on this: I was lost when I realised that the members of this organisation will not be people but Zen Centers and groups and national Sanghas. These bylaws seem to aim at organising a group of teachers. If the teachers find that these rules help them work better, this will surely be of benefit to the entire Sangha, but as a non-teacher, I fail to see how they are an improvement over the current situation and I am at a loss as to how to contribute to this. I miss a preamble or any kind of discussion as to what this is actually meant to achieve. I am also disappointed that the opportunity to institutionalise student-teacher communication in the administration of the school was missed.

    • Webmaster said:

      The opportunity is not yet missed: the bylaws we are discussing here are a draft. Your comments will influence the final form of the bylaws that is adopted — especially for issues on which many students agree. This is why the consultation process has been set up via this Forum. Please use the Forum to freely criticize and make constructive suggestions for improvements and the way you want to see the school work: what you say may affect the future structure and operation of the European KUSZ. Thanks.

      • This document, labeled “final version”, has been worked on by various committees and groups, all without open student involvement, since 2010. Now you are opening it up for “free criticism” and “constructive suggestions” in an _online forum_, suggesting in your emails that a decision shall be made on Sangha Weekend in September – in less than 6 weeks. I don’t feel taken seriously.

        I lack an understanding of the context and intent of the bylaws to be able to comment on them further. I doubt that asynchronically written comments by individuals will be effective in substantially improving the document.

        What this _could_ start is a more fundamental discussion on how we want decisionmaking in our school to function: I wish that all members can participate freely in the decisionmaking on our school’s administrative structure and process. This means that all members should be able to participate in both, the topical discussions AND the decisionmaking on the structure of these discussions.

        We have had many attempts in our school to include students more in discussions that were previously mostly held only by teachers. I appreciate the attempt – there is good heart there, openness and true listening. However, if the structure of the discussions is controlled by teachers alone, and as tightly regulated as here (“you may comment, but do it on this board. Your comments will be moderated. Constructive comments only. And in 6 weeks, there shall be a decision.”), students will not be motivated much to take part in these conversation. I certainly am not. (Who is actually reading this? How will I get a feedback on what I have to say? How will you ask me questions to get the best out of me? In fact: What _are_ your questions?)

    • Usually when such document is proposed it comes from some kind of an introduction from its authors. This is a point to start a discussion – such introduction should explain the goals and the proposed means to achieve them. We are missing this.

  7. Ondras Pribyla said:

    We have discussed together with Jiri Hazlbauer, Jirka Lnenicka, Tam Jordan and Verka Kollarova and here are our QUESTIONS and COMMENTS. We hope that this discussion platform will allow also input from the authors, so the questions can be actually answered in some way…

    Since our Q&C may open several threads, i am posting them in separate parts.

    …and above all, we want to appreciate all the effort of authors and all people involved actively or passively in this discussion 😉

    1. Legal Structure

    Do we (does anybody) know whether the legal implications of the bylaws are enforceable in court? Are these bylaws enforceable within all countries of the EU? It may be that the different national legal systems within the EU do not allow many enforceable actions.

    If that is the case, it still might be good to pursue a vision of an international or european organization, but we think it would be better to aspire to create some “honor code” style of document rather than a “legal” style of document. (We assume that the non-EU countries like Israel are already expected to adopt these bylaws only as an honor code.)

    What are the advantages of a registered organization over an informal organization?

    2. Vision of the school

    As we understand it, the main purpose for creating an official legal organization is to handle money and assets properly. Is that accurate?

    What vision do we have for money flow? (To see whether the proposed structure is appropriate)
    Inflow: Money flows in from donations and membership—what amounts do we expect?
    Outflow: Money will be used to support the central office and local sanghas—what amounts do we expect?

    Are there any other organizational needs we want to fulfill by creating such organization?

    This is first part of our Q&C. Thanks for reading, thanks for reply.

    Ondras (& Jiri, Jirka, Tam, Verka)

    • Wilfried Rahn said:

      1. Starting the process to build a legal entity, Jo Potter and I talked to a lawyer to ask about the principles to found a European legal entity. Suprisingly he told us that there is no international law or European law that can be used. You have to use national laws. After some investigations the decision was made to use German laws.

      So if someone wants to enforce something in court against the EKUZS he can do this in each country where he lives using German law. This is the way all international organisations work.

      To found a European legal entity we need a “legal” style document, there is no other way. This is also binding for Sanghas in non-EU-countries like Israel. We need this legal clarity for cases of disagreement.

      Should we have additonally an “honor code” style document? Maybe. But there are a lot of documents already in place: the teacher´s compact, role descriptions of all important roles in the school, Dharma Teacher Handbook and so on. In total this gives a good understanding about the principles in the Kwan Um School of Zen.

    • Wilfried Rahn said:

      2. Yes, you are absolutely right: the main purpose for creating an official legal organization is to handle money and assets properly.

      This sounds not important. But it is. If you try to do something with money (e.g. close a contract) you need to be a legal person or a natural person. Now, without a legal person a natural person has to step in. This person takes a lot of risk for something that is not in their interest but in the interest of the KUSZ. To have a legal person will open our mind to new opportunities, that might be skipped before reaching conciousness because no one wanted to take the risk.

      Also important is, that all assets of a leaving group can go to a clear defined entity. For example, the German legal entity is a non-profit-organisation (NPO). NPOs in Germany need to say what’s to do with their assets in case of closing the organisation. It has to go to another NPO. You can not give it to a certain person.

      Maybe others can say more about visions and finances.

    • kvermeul108 said:

      Dear Ondras,

      You ask about the financial vision. Let me answer you, since I am responsible for Finance in the EO.

      The answer is simple. We are at point zero. There is no plan. The only idea that we have is to form a committee to define a plan.

      See also my post about my understanding how this committee will work in your “Second part of questions and comments”, points 4/5 decisions and discussion.

      Kind regards,

  8. Ondras Pribyla said:

    This is the second part of our QUESTIONS and COMMENTS:
    3. Local sanghas and representation

    We feel that the essential part of the school is what happens at the local level: daily practice together, local retreats and other sangha events etc. Without the local sanghas, we actually have no school.

    In the draft of the bylaws there is little mentioned about the local sanghas, their responsibilities and their autonomy (including money issues). There is almost nothing mentioned of sangha representation. Abbots are appointed by the Guiding Teacher, who are themselves appointed by the ETG. So, while the individual sangha members are entrusted with the work of maintaining their local practice, finances, and administration, they are not similarly entrusted with making decisions that affect the very things that they are responsible for.

    Similarly, many of the stories about the founding of the school suggest that Zen Master Seung Sahn built the school with, for, and because of the dharma teachers. We’ve even heard that Dae Soen Sa Nim’s intention was for the dharma teachers to be the backbone of the school. In many sanghas without a local Zen master or JDPSN, the sanghas exist only because of the local dharma teachers. The bylaws don’t mention dharma teachers except in passing. What is your vision for the role of dharma teachers?

    What kind of relationship do you envision between the local sanghas and the international structure? In what issues should the local sanghas be autonomous?

    4. Decisions

    The current draft as we understand it seems to state as principle that all decision-making power is in the hands of the ETG. Such a decision-making process seems appropriate to us only in certain cases.

    We understand there is a diversity of character in the decisions to be made. There are things that must, of course, be decided entirely by the teachers, without even informing the students. However, there are also decisions that it is vital the students be involved in. Referring back to this idea of the school being formed of many local sanghas, it seems especially necessary that the local sanghas be involved in making decisions that concern their daily operations. (closely connected with the question of autonomy stated above)

    So we believe that there must be a greater diversity in the decision-making process, to account for the complexity of our school, but we do not yet know how to create this diversity.

    5. Discussion

    As we understand it, the current draft of bylaws places both DECISION-MAKING, and DISCUSSION in forming that decision, within the ETG.

    We would like to make a distinction between these two processes.

    In order to make a qualified decision, it may be necessary to discuss certain issues thoroughly throughout the sangha (as is now happening with the bylaws). That discussion takes time and effort, especially when our school is scattered throughout all of Europe and Israel. We would like to suggest that the process of discussion and mutual understanding that comes from this kind of effort is often more valuable than an agreement about the final decision.

    We would like to consider ways that our sangha can be involved in communication and discussion, to better inform the decision-making process.
    (even in issues, in which the power to make the decision lies in hands of teachers.)

    Thanks for reading, thanks for replies 😉
    Ondras (&Jiri, Jirka, Tam, Verka)

    • Peter Voke said:

      These replies are not from the Council or EO, just from one student.

      3. Autonomy. The KUSZ is not a democracy. It is led by the lineage-holders given transmission by ZM Seung Sahn, in our case ZM Wu Bong. The bylaws go into a lot of detail about how he delegates powers to the Council and the ETG and thence to guiding teachers, but they make clear that the ultimate authority lies with him. The authority of the head teacher and the other teachers appointed and given transmission/inka by him or by ZM Seung Sahn is primarily spiritual, and no doubt we are all happy with that. But it is not just spiritual. When it comes to critical practical decisions about organisation, forms, practices, and so on, we are asked to consult with our guiding teacher and make sure we are in line with the tradition/teaching/principles of the KUSZ lineage. The advice and guidance of the GT is our way of making sure we stay in the school tradition and that everything we do is part of the school’s together action. (For everyday decisions about which we have no doubt, we just go ahead and get on with the job; maybe the bylaws should be (more) clear on this?)

      Those are the principles on which we actually operate, and the bylaws put this into legal language so it is clear legally who is running the EKUSZ. In practice, my experience is that 90% of the time it works fine as the GT and the students don’t disagree anyway, and 10% of the time there is some disagreement and discussion. (Maybe 1% of the time there is a major problem, but after living in six Zen centers in the past 8 years I don’t recall anything that caused a major rift that could not be healed / repaired.)

    • Peter Voke said:

      4. Decisions. The point made here (4 above) is very wise and insightful. Some decisions are for teachers only, some need limited consulation, and some may need to be throughly aired and discussed by the whole sangha. The problem seems to be — who decides which issues are which?? If the teachers encounter an issue, they make the decison, or open it up for discussion. If we create a mechanism for open discussion (see 5 below) among students or dharma teachers, we could raise an issue and it would be in open discussion immediately, and then we pass it on to the teachers for the final ruling. In the end, critical decisions affecting the whole European sangha have to be made by the European head teacher, Council or ETG.

    • Peter Voke said:

      5. Discussion. It is clear from question 5 and numerous other postings in the Forum that people want to be consulted and to have real influence on organisational decisions of the EKUSZ. You do not feel you have this at the moment; some of you feel neglected, left out, powerless. People are not quite sure how to achieve this, but you do not find that your right to talk to your GT is enough. If a new mechanism is needed (or the revival of an old one, like the Board of Representatives) to achieve this, now is the time to create it; the Forum has brought this up as a major concern and actually illustrates what is needed in the way it is working(!) So — what do you want? Revival of the BoR? To be co-opted onto committees? This forum to continue and broaden? The virtual sangha or something like that? or something different?

      If a mechanism existed (like the BoR) it would be in the bylaws. It is not there because it does not exist.

      • Eduardo del Valle Pérez said:

        Dear friends, I’m also expressing my personal opinion as a student and not as a member of the EO.

        It comes to my mind then, reading how some people want that the Sangha can participate more in taking the responsibility of the EKUSZ, that it would be very good to use the committees for this purpose. And I believe that in fact in the bylaws the committees have been included as a good means so that people of the Sangha who wants to work for the European Kwan Um School of Zen and be part of its decission making can do it.

        I believe that when a committee is created the different jobs to do in the committee should be specified and offered openly to the Sangha. This way any member of the Sangha who wants to participate in one way or another in the decision making of the School must take the responsibility of doing a job inside a committee, and use his/her job and personal effort to help the School and as a mean to influence in its decision making.

        According to my own experience, I believe that when one does the job and has the experience of working for the European Sangha as a whole then one comes to understand what is possible and what is not possible to do with our limited possibilities instead of just complaining or expressing that things should be done in a different way.

        It is true that things could be always be improved, and they must be improved, but the only way to do it is that people take responsibilities and be in charge of a job and then go step by step with good heart and try mind. In my opinion the committees will be very good for this giving the opportunity to the members of our Sangha who want to help actively to do it.

        May be another interesting ideas about this matter will appear, thank you everyone for your opinions.

    • Wilfried Rahn said:

      3. Your first statement about the role of the local Sangha is great. Without local Sanghas no school. Yes.

      It is intended not to say anything in this bylaws about local Sanghas, except that what is absolutely necessary for the relationship between the local Sangha and the EKUSZ. You find it in the chapters 5 and 6. The basic ideas are:
      (a) keep it as it is now. The binding element between Sangha and EKUSZ is the guiding teacher (as he was the binding element between Sangha and European Teachers Group).
      (b) a commitment of the local Sangha to give their assets to the EKUSZ in case of closing (or give everything, that was earned from the KUSZ in the time of their membership in case of releasing from the EKUSZ).
      (c) ask for membership fees

      There are no further statements for the local Sangha because it was not planned to change anything. Local Sanghas too important to the school for making any rules that might fit in one situation but not in another.

      The bylaws are made for the legal entity, called EKUSZ. It is not made to describe the European Kwan Um School of Zen as a whole. For example, it is not necessary to talk about the important role of Dharma Teachers in this school in this bylaws, although we all know about it.

      In the end you ask in which issues the local Sanghas are autonomous. In which issues are you autonomous today? This is the answer. Guiding teacher principle is in place today. No changes intended. So you know how this principle is lived by your guiding teacher. There is no new situation to come with this bylaws.

    • Wilfried Rahn said:

      4.+5. Very good idea to distinguish between decision and discussion. It allows to see the issues more clearly.
      Regarding discussion: yes, we need more open and public discussions in all stages of the decision-making process. We are round about 500 people organized in round about 50 local groups in a dozen countries with different historical background. Misunderstanding is very easy. To overcome this, there is only one way: talk to each other.
      This organization is on the way to learn how to manage this. Electronic medias will help a lot. But it will be a process, nothing that can be decide within a day or even a year. This forum may be a step forward, and it was established by the European Office because of the initiative of students, as you know.

      Reply to “Decisions”:
      The bylaws has the principles that all decisions on European level will made within the European Teachers Group, that is correct. This is as it is now, no changes planned.
      You say that there are certain questions that need to be decided by students. As said before, the role of the guiding teacher is to guide the Sangha, not to command the Sangha. So the autonomous part of the local Sangha is not touched. But what kind of issues on the European level need to be decided by students? If you find one, let’s talk to the teachers to make a committee concering this issue composed of students. This committee can find a solution and prepare a decision. The only thing that is not implemented yet is that the final decision is in the hand of the teachers again.
      Let’s try see what happen in the future. If the teachers always have to agree to the decisions prepared by committees, they might give decision power to the committees. We are in the beginning of a process, please see that confidence in the abilities of the others must rise. Then changes come from alone.
      See also the new European Office. There are students and they have influence. Ask them.
      So there is not only a command structure. There are some possibilities for students to influence decisions now. It might look like this flower is pretty small, but there is a chance that this flower will grow.

      Some comments imply that representatives of the students should make all decisions. Peter said already something to this idea.
      This approach will have a lot of other problems, like defining different voting weights for representatives of different Sanghas, regular meeting attendance must be forced, are the representatives really talking for the Sangha or following their own ideas, etc. This would change our school to something like a political party. In the end it is open if the decisions will be better or not.
      According to Till’s idea, to open the former Korean approach to European traditions, you may have in mind that a lot of European churches used to be not based on democratic principles.

      • Wilfried Rahn said:

        Just an additional idea: from my perspective we are simply too small for a democratic approach. To have special persons for decision making, who are highly committed to the spirit of the school, the teachers, seems to be more effective.

        In 100 years, with 500,000 students and 1000 teachers the situation will be completely different and we will have different bylaws. Depending on the current situation and the current abilities.

        From my perspective this bylaws are the best possible depending on the current situation and the current abilities.

      • Peter Voke said:

        I don’t think using the European Office as a route for students to influence organisational decisions by the teachers or the Council is correct. We each have specific jobs in the EO and anyone can contact us about those jobs, which are practical matters under our responsibility, and we will try to help. The teachers also ask our advice, but our role is to advise about the practical side of communications, finance, internet, etc. and carry out decisions of the Council. We don’t influence EKUSZ strategy or decisions which are the teachers’ responsibility. If concerned or wanting to talk about those kinds of things, we go to our guiding teacher, like any other student.

        • Wilfried Rahn said:

          Oh yes. I did not meant to use the European Office to get power in the organization. That will not work.

          But you talk more often to teachers and the Council members than other students. They listen to your words and see your basic ideas behind the words. Do you really think that this has no impact to them? Even a little bit?

          I just wanted to overcome this black-and-white-picture: on one side the teachers who make decisions, on the other side the students that have to follow the rules. There is a feedback process, teachers and students talk to each other and this changes views on both sides.

          Sorry, maybe the example of the European Office was wrong to explain this basic idea, because it allows misunderstandings about the role of the European Office. This was not intended..

    • kvermeul108 said:

      Dear Ondras,

      About your comments about decisions and discussion I give you my understanding about the way the committees will work. Since I am responsible for finance I put it in the context of the financial plan.

      As I mentioned in a separate update about the current status of the financial plan: We are at point zero. There is no plan. The only idea that we have is to form a committee to define a plan

      You remember that we had a financial plan a couple of years ago. At that time I was also responsible for Finance. When we had our discussion about Finance I realised how differently we think in Europe. Our ideas are not the same. I think that’s great. It’s part of our European heritage. But at that time, I made a big mistake. I tried to push my ideas through our organization. I apologize for that. Now I see more clearly that I only should do my job: add my two cents, and then let it go. It will try that.

      As I said, for now there is no financial plan. The only idea that we have is to form a committee to define a plan. I believe that the committee will be formed within the coming weeks. That will be a good test to see how the Sangha can participate.

      For the sake of this discussion, I will explain you my understanding about the way the Committee will function. Well, maybe the approach will be changed based on the input on this blog. 😉 After all, we don’t have a lot of experience in this domain. Also, I have not discussed this in detail in the EO. So this is my personal view.

      Practically, as responsible for the Finance Committee I first need to get a strategy that has been approved by our European Abbot, who will discuss this with ZM Wu Bong and the teachers of the ETG. Maybe also with the other teachers, I’m not sure about this. The students who are part of the EO can also give their input.

      That does not mean that the strategy cannot be discussed in the Committee before they start to elaborate the detailed financial plan that will be used to implement the strategy. If the Committee would like to adapt the strategy, I propose that they can go back to the teachers with their suggestions. Then, maybe the strategy will be adapted. Maybe not.

      So, in order to get quickly a first version of the guidelines I propose that the abbot, or if asked so, the Committee leader writes the first version of the guidelines. At some point the Committee can participate in defining the guidelines. However, at the end of the day, ZM Wu Bong has the last word because of his veto power. That seems to be the name of the game that we are playing. Maybe, as a result of the input in this blog, the rules will be changed. But let’s assume for a moment that this rule will not be changed. Then we have an important question. What kind of leadership do we have in the European KUSZ?

      Let me share my experience in the EO. Currently the EO is working really smoothly.

      Once, ZM Wu Bong told me: “a good leader is a good follower.” That’s true. If a leader goes his own way, nobody follows anyway. So, this is about Together Action. When I meet ZM Wu Bong we sometimes talk about organization and finance in our school, because I’m part of the EO. Well, I never get any instruction how to work or what to implement. That’s an important point. Based on my experience, no financial plan has been defined based on specific ideas of ZM Wu Bong. He rather inspires based on his vision and high level strategy. So this opens the door to communication and the possibility to develop initiatives.

      Also ZM Ji Kwang, who is our current abbot since several months didn’t tell me how we should manage finance. But just before I left on holidays he asked me to give my ideas about it. So I sent a proposal with 3 or 4 sentences. I cannot give any details about it, because we have not yet discussed it. From my experience, ZM Ji Kwang give a lot of freedom in the way that the details are defined. He makes sure that the job is done in line with the strategy, but he doesn’t do the job.

      We have a few directors in the EO, just like we have a money master, a tea master etc. during a retreat. All directors understand that the title of Director doesn’t mean so much. You just need to do your job. New initiatives appear and people pick up tasks that need to be done. Since the directors are humble assistants there is no need to fight for a “good” idea.

      This is my experience about the work in the EO. Because everybody understands his job, decisions are taken smoothly. It’s not about power.

      Let me go back to the committee.

      Once there is a strategy with an approved set of guidelines the EO will send a message to the Sangha in order to find volunteers to participate in the Finance Committee. The committee will mainly meet via Skype. I’m not sure how many people Skype can easily handle, but for sure there is a limit. However, based on my experience the problem is rather to find enough people for a committee.

      If there are too many candidates the Committee leader will choose the Committee members based on experience. We should try to include members from different regions in Europe in order to be able to take the cultural differences into account. We have to find a good balance of effectiveness and representativity.

      Once we get to the best possible guidelines the Committee defines the details of the financial plan. This needs then be approved by the European abbot and the EO.

      We all know that our teachers are very busy. They don’t have a lot of time to change the details. So we can really expect that, as a rule of thumb, the details will be accepted if they are in line with the guidelines. That actually means that the actions are defined by the committee members. This is real power. I have seen this so many times in the organization where I work. From my experience, this is a balanced approach. Defining the strategy at the top is real power. Defining the details of the implementation is as much power.

      An important task will be to communicate regularly to the Sangha about the progress of the Committee and asking feedback about the proposals. Somebody should be responsible for that. The frequency of communication and the person responsible of the communication should be assigned. Maybe a committee member can do that in cooperation with the committee leader. I guess that it is not necessary to include this in the by-laws. That’s rather about the way we work.
      This communication makes sure that the Sangha members are in the loop of the decision making process. If we can make this work, then we will get a taste of democracy while keeping efficiency. And efficiency is important, people have families to take care of and we still need time to practice.

      Decision making is an important topic. We have our local Zen centers and also the European dimension. Isn’t it true that local Zen centers have lots of freedom. I never had the impression that this will change in the future. The Dharma teachers will remain key in our organization.

      On a European level we cannot work in the same way as we do locally. We don’t meet so often and, because of our background, different European regions really think differently. I believe that in a European context we should not try to do the same thing as we do locally on a bigger scale. We will build something new together. We don’t know yet what it will look like. We first need to build it. Let’s have trust that we are able to get there.

      That’s my 2 cents.

      Kind regards,

  9. Ondras Pribyla said:

    This is the third and last part of our questions and comments…

    6. Together-action and connection

    We deeply value together-action as an enormously important part of our school tradition. The ability to do things together in harmony is rare and precious in today’s world and it is great that our tradition encourages it. Thus we would love to keep our school united worldwide. Tensions between parts may arise but we see the endeavour to keep harmony within them as an important point of our tradition.

    Do you feel the same? Is the worldwide integrity of the school an important value for you? How can we reflect this in the bylaws?

    In this draft of the bylaws, references to the international Kwan Um School of Zen are not clear. Specifically, it seems quite important that, in the spirit of harmony, these three issues be clarified:
    a) role of Teachers Compact
    b) teaching authority of the school zen master as the “spiritual head” of the worldwide school.
    c) relationship with the already existing international entity “Kwan Um School of Zen, Inc.”

    We have some more technical comments on this issue, but we would like to post them later for the sake of clarity.

    Thanks for reading, thanks for replies.
    Ondras (and Jiri, Jirka, Tam and Verka)

    • Wilfried Rahn said:

      6. There is no doubt that the European KUSZ will be a part of the international Kwan Um School of Zen. This is reflected in §2 The Teaching Tradition. Here it shows the hierarchy of the teachers: School Zen Master, than European Zen Master, than all other masters in Europe.
      This answers b). In particular, the European Zen Master has veto power to all decisions made by the EKUSZ. Because the School Zen Master can rule the European Zen Master, the School Zen Master can force the European Zen Master to veto a decision. This is not written in the bylaws, because we did not want to define, how the School Zen Master and the European Zen Master should organize this. But it is implicitly designed.

      a) Role of teachers compact. Again, if something is not written in the bylaws is not said that it not exist. You will not find any details for the process of becoming a master in this school. One of the steps in this process is to sign the teachers compact, that binds the teacher to the tradition of the Kwan Um School of Zen. This is reflected in §2 (6) without using the words teachers compact. Together action with KUZS teachers of other regions is also reflected in this passage. May be we can change the wording for more clarity, but I can not see that this is necessary.

      c) The relationship to other parts of the KUSZ is shown in §3 (6). It says that it is a must for the EKUSZ to become part of an international KUSZ. Very clear. It just ask for some preconditions for the international KUSZ.
      The idea of §3 (6) is, that ideally there should be a umbrella organization called International KUSZ and organizations for the regions Asia, America and Europe, following the principal structure given by DSSN by establishing the School Master and the three regional Zen Masters.
      From the European perspective, as I understand it, Providence ZC sometimes mismatches the roles of being the international Head Temple (supporting the School Zen Master) and the role of being the American Head Temple (supporting the American teachers group). For example, the American KUSZ make bylaws for their local Sanghas mandatory. But this bylaws are not compatible with European laws.
      But these issues are under investigation from both sides, the American and the European. Finally there will be a solution and the new EKUSZ will be part of the international KUSZ, as §3 (6) says. I have no doubt about this.

      • Eduardo del Valle Pérez said:

        Dear Wilfried

        Thank you for your clarification about the relationship of the European Kwan Um School of Zen and the International Kwan Um School of Zen. I’m also sharing your point of view.

        Answering to Till, who wrote above:

        “In our case, we must create a European Buddhism. A European Kwan Um School of Zen that commits itself to European principles, with a transparent and democratic administration.”

        I believe, that the purpose of the bylaws is not to create a separated School in Europe, but to provide a legal entity able to help the European Zen centers that are and will continue being part of the International Kwan Um School of Zen.

        It is interesting to see that the Kwan Um School of Zen has become the largest Zen school in the West and it is present in many countries. This is very beautiful and shows how an international Zen school is possible.

        It comes to my mind what Mang Gong Sunim once wrote “The Whole World is a Single Flower”, our School present around the World is a live example of the spirit of this sentence showing that understanding, harmony, and together action between our National Sanghas is possible. This is in fact the direction taught by Zen Master Seung Sahn.

        I believe that now it is very important that our School remains only as one international school. When Bodhidharma came to China it took 6 generations of Zen Masters, arriving to the Sixth Patriarch, until the first separation appeared between the Northern and Southern School; and soon later the 5 Schools of Zen appeared in China. So it took long time until naturally new schools appeared.

        Our great teacher, Zen Master Seung Sahn, left this world only 7 years ago and I believe it is time now to take care of his teachings and the School he left to us so that it can grow and become a strong and big tree. The time will come when the trunk will split into different branches, new Schools, that can harbor many beings.

        But in order the branches can be strong and bear fruit first the tree must be well rooted and its trunk must grow strong and united, this is our job now in the times in which we live. This is my belief.

        Thank you

      • Anonymous said:

        You write that, “There is no doubt that the European KUSZ will be a part of the international Kwan Um School of Zen.”

        However the bylaws do not provide this certainty. The bylaws state that EKUSZ will “become part of an international association of the Kwan Um School of Zen if such an association is appropriate and constituted legally.” 3(6)

        From this section, the ETG appears to believes that the current International Kwan Um School of Zen, headquartered at Providence Zen Center for approximately 30 years, is not appropriate or legal.

        If this is the case, then these bylaws seem to represent a schism within the international school.

        • ZM Ji Kwang said:

          We have absolutely no intention in Europe to create a schism within our school. We are one worldwide school! But as a matter of fact in the past 30 years we have never been “ruled” by the board of the KUSZ in Providence. So we have no real entity, board or directors and no bylaws of an “International KUSZ” who have any say in Asia or Europe. But we teachers and our staff members work and talk together and most important: we all practise together. So we share the same Dharma, the same forms, and have one worldwide Sangha with a lot of activities between each other. That is the reality and what I clearly perceive as our wonderful worldwide School. Besides this we will soon have a revised Teachers Compact which will clarify our relationship between the regions of our school in America, Asia and Europe .

      • Anonymous said:

        Note that nothing in the bylaws says that the School Zen Master “can rule the European Zen Master, the School Zen Master can force the European Zen Master to veto a decision.”

        The bylaws only grant the School Zen Master vague “spiritual” authority.

        • ZM Ji Kwang said:

          Thank you for this indication. All questions regarding the position and authority of the School Zen Master are presently being discussed by her together with our regional Zen Masters in Asia and Europe. Soon we will have a clear regulation.

          • We have to be careful with vetos. According to the framework for NPOs in Germany, the board members are accountable for all their actions, the director even with his personal wealth. So if a decision of the board is vetoed by someone who is not a board member, is the board still accountable? If the board decides an action to avoid financial damage to the school, but is overruled by the European Head Zen Master, can the school demand compensation? A right to veto for the School Head Zen Master who may not be a member of the EKUSZ is even more problematic.

            In the German bylaws we have a veto right of the European Head Zen Master for all decisions of the members meeting. Maybe it is reasonable to limit veto rights in the EKUSZ to the members meeting as well.

            My personal believe is, that we don’t need a veto at all. In case of a dissent between the European Teachers and a (European or International) Head Zen Master, I would trust the European Teachers more; same as I trust the whole Sangha (teachers and students) more than just the teachers. The Kwan Um School of Zen is not the Catholic Church and doesn’t need papal infallibility, because we know and accept that people make mistakes.

            • This points to a fundamental question: What should these bylaws rule or constitute? (Mir geht hier gerade mein Englisch aus – ich verwende wahrscheinlich unpräzise Begriffe.): An administrative body, “the school” as a whole, a “religious body” (whatever that is)? To me, this draft breathes the air of our Buddhist and Confucian tradition. I do believe that keeping to the Buddhist tradition of spiritual leadership and transmission through “elders” (masters, people with transmission) is correct and should be kept, I wonder if following the same rules – or different but similar Confucian ways – is useful for the administrative side of our school (for the school as a whole, and for the European School in particular). My feeling is that a democratic structure could serve as a much better foundation for the administrative body that supports the school than can this quasi-confucian-mixed-buddhist-transmission-supported-by-an-office structure that is being proposed now. The structure of the German Protestant church could be an interesting model on how to integrate democratic administrative powers and religious leadership.

  10. Ronny Herzog said:

    Dear all,

    I want to second what Martin said.

    Further, I lack understanding of the fundamental need for having a European legal entity of our school. This means a much higher administrative effort, but where is the need for this?

    Is it only, that we do not need to pay taxes if we donate money?

    Is it because of a new European Center? As I understand, an “eingetragener Verein” (as the new European legal entity should be built) has only limited possibilities in managing property. Shouldn’t it then not better be a foundation?

    thanks and greetings to everyone,

  11. Dear Dharma friends,

    what about, if we start working on the bylaws text in a wiki? A wiki is a website which allows its users to add, modify, or delete its content via a web browser (definition from wikipedia, the most famous wiki of the world wide web).

    Such a tool can help us to stay constructive and focused on the bylaws text. Whenever we feel consensus about a suggestion, we can adapt the text and so slowly improve the bylaws. It is also a useful tool to correct textual errors/typos.

    In fact, I had already created a wiki and posted a link to it last night. But my post was rejected by the admin, quoting colleagues from the European Office, that a wiki would be “too early, and possibly not the right way to go.”

    Well, I think it is not too early and the right way to go. Our discussion shows great commitment at the moment, and to give anybody the chance to improve the bylaws will benefit our school.

    Regards, Till

    • Webmaster said:

      Most postings on this forum have asked questions about the bylaws and made criticisms and suggestions aimed at clarifying the bylaws’ meaning and the ways they would be applied in practice. This is very good. It is not the intention to form a new committee to rewrite the bylaws, still less to make a wiki of the bylaws that anyone can edit. The Council will not support this move, and the EO will not implement it.

      The way to proceed is to identify together the issues that we believe need to be clarified or changed or supplemented in the bylaws, and then we can arrive at a consensus on how to go forward. This can even involve individuals or groups suggesting revised wording or additional clauses for the bylaws, or just commenting that something is not clear or does not make sense. We can easily extend this platform (wordpress blog site, EKUSZ forum) to accommodate this function, if people want that. Do you want that?

      If your ideas ask for clarification of the bylaws, no problem. If they involve adding new features or mechanisms, small problem. If they involve reversing the fundamental principles of the bylaws, BIG problem!

      Peter will continue below….

    • Ondras Pribyla said:

      This platform is starting to be very messy. It takes a lot of effort for me to follow all the threads. That also means that if anybody new wants to see what’s going on here, it would take hours for him. I don’t want to exclude people from contributing or observing just because the way discussion is organized here would require more time and effort than they are willing to give.

      A structure that is not linear would help a lot. So i strongly support Till’s idea about wiki. Also i don’t understand the need for censorship/moderation here.

      • Webmaster said:

        Moderation is built into the system for good reasons, which you understand. It cannot be switched off. There is a policy in operation to block posts that contain links to other sites, also anonymous comments from outside the European sangha, and spam. That is all that has been blocked so far.

        A lot of comments have been made by now, some of them rather long, and no matter how we organise them, they would take a long time to read.

        A bylaws wiki would make the discussion much more random, argumentative, undirected and in the end unconstructive. It would tend to split the sangha into factions rather than bring us to a wise and compassionate consensus. The Council (and EO) are unanimously agreed it is not a good idea.

      • Eduardo del Valle Pérez said:

        I believe the Forum is working properly and many useful initiatives and ideas are appearing. To create another platform could be very confusing and the discussion could fade away on the main forum when people goes to the wiki.

        I think it is better that everybody works together over the Forum instead of having the need to check two different platforms (forum and wiki). It could happen that the same matters are discussed at the same time in the two platforms by different persons, this would not be clear.

        I also think that the authors of the bylaws, who have worked hard and for long time in them, should be the right persons to work on the draft in order to reflect the needed changes on it based on the new good ideas and constructive solutions that appearing on the Forum.

        Thank you

  12. Peter Voke said:

    Speaking now as an individual student, I think this forum has identified numerous areas where the bylaws are confusing or unclear. One main recommendation is that there should be a preamble outlining the purpose and principles of the bylaws, explaining what they are for and why we need them.

    Small problem?
    Another constant theme is that students want more of a voice and this should be in the bylaws. This is adding a new layer or mechanism to EKUSZ, or reviving an old one, in addition to the route we already have through our guiding teacher. So potentially this is a “small problem” (see above). Piotr summed it up at the beginning: “…why shouldn’t the students have some influence on organisational aspects of the sangha and why the bylaws completely omit formally institutionalizing such influence?” Actually this is not a problem with the bylaws, which just formalize the present situation; but it has come up repeatedly, and so we students have to decide if we want a new/old committee/board/whatever of our own to influence the organisational decisions of EKUSZ, and how it should be formed and operate. Is the influence you have through your guiding teacher not enough?

    Big problem?
    The really major issue raised in the forum is the matter of local autonomy, and particularly a fundamental principle of the bylaws: that any assets or property owned by the school should legally be assets of EKUSZ (so of the governing body, the ETG) and not of the local sangha, ZC or group. Very strong opposition to this principle has been voiced. This is a minefield, as it will apply in different ways to just about every ZC or group in the school. No ZC is exactly like any other, nor any of us like Won Kwang Sa. If we reject this legal principle (as Prague/Czech sangha indicated) or if we (re)arrange ownership of our assets so as to get around it (as I do, and many others), we should at least make the teachers aware that this is going to happen so they know that this fundamental part of the bylaws is not going to work. The bylaws are supposed to formalize the ways things work at the moment. If they don’t, conflict is inevitable down the line. Actually, local sanghas, ZCs and groups are very autonomous at the moment, especially about financial matters and assets. The bylaws ought to formally recognise this. Do they?

  13. Wilfried Rahn said:

    I should say something about my role in this discussion. A little late, may be, but better late than never. I worked as a consultant in some periods of the process to prepare this bylaws, especially in the last period. My comments have no official character, not authorized from any teacher or the Teachers Group or the European Office. The replies are only based on my experiences doing the job. They may be helpful to understand the spirit of the bylaws.

    I would like to reply on Till’s example for the consequences about §5,5. I start a new thread, in order to make the reply better readable.

    The confusion starts with the interpretation of the expressions “capital fund” and “gain”.
    [Special to the German readers: Leo übersetzt capital funds to “Firmenkapital” und gain wird u.A. übersetzt mit “gewinnen”. Die deutsche Übersetzung von §5d lautet demgemäß:
    Im Falle der Beendigung der Mitgliedschaft und dem Schließen des lokalen Zentrums, der Gruppe oder des Tempels, oder bei dessen Austritt aus der Vereinigung, verbleiben alle Besitztümer, die von der Europäischen Lehrer Gruppe, vom “Meeting of Members” oder vom Europäische Büro gekommen sind sowie das während der Zeit der Zugehörigkeit zur Vereinigung dazugewonne Kapital und die dazugewonnen Spenden im Besitz der Vereinigung, der Europäischen Kwan Um Zen Schule e.V.]

    Capital funds means the money the local Sangha has. Gaining in this context means the increase of money the Sangha has at the moment of ending the membership in comparison to the beginning of the membership.

    So in Till’s example the German Kwan Um School of Zen does not gain any additional money and they do not pay anything to the EKUSZ in the end of this year.

    That is what § 5d says, that is what was intended with this rule. This part is really a little bit tricky, because of the legal implications. So make sure that you really do understand it before criticize.

    • Wilfried Rahn said:

      Because of the importance of §5d I would like to give some more examples that might be helpful for understanding.

      Same years ago I opened a group in Viersen, Germany. The German KUSZ helped me with some assets: a moktak, a chukbi, several sutra books and incense. They also helped me to prepare a flyer, the printing of the flyer was paid by me. I bought some books by DSSN to resell them. I also bought some blankets as sitting mats and some cushions. The dharma room was in my appartment, so there were no rental costs. Some people came and sit with me, some made donations although I did not asked for money.

      After some time I closed the group.

      If this would have happend in the EKUZS what would result from §5d?

      The moktak, the chukbi and the sutra books remain in the property of the EKUSZ, so I give them back to them. The incense no longer exist, so nothing results from that. Also simple is that the blankets and the cushions are still mine.

      I did not sell even one book from DSSN, but if I would have done, the difference between wholesale price and sales price would been income. Also the donations are income. This has to be calculated against the printing costs. In the end I lost money. So the EKUSZ do not get any money in this example. This is in fact a simple example.

      Look at a more complex one. The German KUSZ (called KUZSD) becomes a member and 10 years later leave the EKUSZ. In this time their capital funds raise from 35.000 € to 40.000 €. They have no other assets gotten from the EKUSZ. All assets in their groups came from suppliers and was paid. They got a donation from the EKUSZ for the translation of a book into German, half of the total costs for this book about 2000 €. Another donation was given for the opening ceremony of a new Zen group. A third donation was given for a renewal of the kitchen of the Zen Center Berlin (1000 €).

      First, the KUZSD has to pay 5000 € because of the raise of the capital funds. All the assets belong to the KUZSD, no question. The first donation resulted in a copyright for a book. The copyright now will turn half to the EKUSZ, half to the KUSZD. They may use the copyright in common or find an agreement to pay the other off. The second donation has no impact, because the opening ceremony is done and the money spent. The third donation is the most tricky one. Lets say, the renewal happened 5 years ago. Local deduction rules may say that the kitchen has a current value of 1000€. The donation of 1000 € was 15 % of the costs of the new kitchen. In this case the KUZSD has to pay 150 €.

      This calculation may raise discussions between the parties. Therefore I would advise to give donations like the last one with a time stamp. The parties should make an agreement, that the donation has to pay back only if the leaving will happen within a certain time, lets say 3 years.

      From my perspective for big donations, like 100.000 € for a building, we should not use this paragraph, but make special contracts, defining ownership, the rules of the cooperation and the rules for dismissal of any party. This is in fact one of the reason for the EKUSZ for being a legal entity. Only legal or natural persons can make contracts.

      Coming back to the 5.150 € the KUSZD has to pay in our example. As a non profit organization it cannot just pay some money to someone. The KUSZD can make a donation to the EKUSZ. But the EKUSZ cannot force the KUSZD to do that. So §5d may raise a conflict of becoming a member.

      The solution for that comes from §6,9. The KUSZD signs a paper, that in case of a dismissal it will make a donation to the EKUSZ to fulfill the duties coming from §5d. If this paper is binding in German law, §6,9 is fulfilled and the membership can start. Note, that the EKUSZ has to be a (buddhist) non profit organization for that, because the KUSZD can only make donations to non profit organizations.

      • Thank you, Wilfried, for your explanation. Nevertheless the statement in the bylaws should be clarified, as they leave space for interpretation and the bylaws are a legally binding document.

        Another observation: in §5 (3) you define that the EKUSZ may have corporate and individual members. When referring to members below, you should clarify if you mean corporate, individual or all members. For example:

        §5 (5) “In case of termination of the membership […] all assets given by the European Teachers Group, by the Meeting of Members or by the European Office and all capital funds and donations gained through being a member of the association remain as the property of the association […] .”

        ==> Probably, this does not apply for individual members.

        §5 (6) “The association can exclude members if they act against the goals of the association or if they don’t comply with the teachings, rules and responsibilities.”

        ==> This may as well apply for individual members, but should be clarified.

  14. Alexandra said:

    I have read the posts with great interest and would like to add a few observations. To begin with: I am not a law professional, so I don’t comment the detailed paragraphs. I am also convinced, that the authors had worked with great care and the intention points in the right direction. The problem behind this discussion is for me – and there I agree with Martin and others – are the communication-structures and the structures, which allow the Sangha to participate in decision making about this draft and about future issues.
    Observing this discussion it seems to me, as if the forum provides an opportunity for the members of the Kwan Um School of Zen (I speak here as a member of an organization, not as a student. I am a student, when I am practicing) to speak out, to address their approval or disapproval. But there is no real communication between the teachers and the members of our school. Why are we having a forum, where the ones we are talking about and we want to talk with — the ZMs and JDPSNs — don’t talk with us and explain, what is asked here. That’s just the point: vertical communication and participation. We all have our own thoughts, considerations and fears — may it be the affair of Won Kwang Sa, the shut-down of a group in Germany or a new retreat center in Europe — but which lessons are learned from these cases by the leaders, what shall not happen again, where do we, where do the ZMs and JDPSNs want to go? And I’m sure, many points of the bylaw try to provide further problems and make things clearer than before and thats good.
    I would like to hear more about it, about the motivations, about the reasons for these regulations, about eventual ideas for projects. And that I would like to hear from the teachers themselves.
    And in a second step I would like to vote as a member of this organisation, directly or via elected representatives, for or against the submission of the European bylaws and the foundation of the EKUSZ.
    A comment to Wilfrieds post, that religious groups very often were hierarchal. I don’t know, to whom Wilfried is referring (the Russian Orthodox Church?). The Protestant Church in Germany is organized democratically and federal. That means, on all levels the members are electing a board that has decisive impact on the decisions of the whole church and is taking control, similar to the parliaments in the European Democracies (Synod, Council and a church conference). The EKUSZ should, in my humble opinion, also have a democratic-federal triad: 1. Parliament (elected representatives of all members), government (ZM/JDPSN) and Council (leaders/abbots of all zen centers). And this with mutual control, as the parliament has to approve certain decisions (e.g. about the budget or important projects), and the council may reject those cases. Perhaps it would be more like a constitutional monarchy, because the goverment is fixed, but that’s better then nothing.
    The objection, that in reality there wouldn’t be enough members participating and that everything is going fine as it goes now, means one is scratching his right leg, while the left one is itching. It is all about a fundamental structure.

    So to my point of view, the european bylaws (after introducing them in the european level and changing them by the Sangha feedback) should be submitted in each country, by a meeting of members, before they become official and effective. It would imply that convincing comes before submission and not after. At least this is the democratic procedure as I know it.
    My conclusion: include feedback in the bylaws until the european Sangha meeting, introduce them at the meeting, include the results of the discussion again, and then let them be ratified by the meeting of members of any Sangha. Then the bylaws are approved and effective. Democracy is hard work, but it will pay off, also for the European Kwan Um School of Zen.

    • Alexandra: thank you for the pointer to the German Protestant church! I think they can serve as a very insightful example on how an organisation can balance / connect / bring into harmony religious and organisational leadership and include a democratic base on the side of administrative & financial matters. I know very little about it, but I would like to study it more.

  15. OK, I came back from the retreat.

    First of all I’d like to add my two cents about the democratic aspect. I think it’s really important to find some balance between efficiency and democracy. Wilfried and Peter pointed out that our relationship with our GTs is some kind of influence on the organization. True that, I’ve never seen my teachers work against the sangha. But while I can have complete confidence in the people that I personally know, I don’t have much confidence in organizations. I think that sums it. I am afraid to give too much power to an organization where the money is involved. The way the bylaws are written, the executive body of the organization has absolute power and last say over literally every aspect if its activity.

    This kind of documents are not written for the times when everything goes smooth. We need them also for the time when something goes wrong.

    Now, let’s end the general rant and go in to details:

    §5 (1) – the paragraph is not clear enough to state who is the member. Is it “our Sangha” that is the practioners or “sanghas” – local centres, groups and such. Or maybe national sanghas? This leads to many doubts. Let’s take Poland as an example: we have one legal entity, that is a religious entity (Glaubensgemeinschaft). It has legal personality. Then, there are its field units – groups and centres which also have legal personality. Now, who can be the member of EKUSZ? I am not sure if Polish bylaws allow field units to separately become members of an organization.

    To make it clear, I think we need to put a small dictionary that defines local sangha, national sangha, and a zen centre by referring to the local nomenclatures. This is the way most EU docs are wriiten.

    §6 (4) The members are represented by its Guiding Teacher in the Meeting of Members, who is authorized to use the members’ right to vote.

    I don’t know the German association law but I suspect that similiarly as the Polish law, it outlines the necessary bodies in an association and some of their responsibilities that you can’t change. If I were the court to register such bylaws I would have following doubts:
    – GT is not even a member of the sanghas, how can he represent them?
    – How are the votes counted? He has one vote for every sanga? One vote total?
    – GT uses the members’ right to vote – does the members’ instruction bind him or not? If yes, it means that he has sangha’s power of attorney. If not, that how can you say that the members are represented by him? He’s not elected by the member, he doesn’t have to consider the member’s opinion. This is no representation, the body can’t be called Meeting of Members and I doubt that it’s in accord with the law. In Poland you wouldn’t be able to register such a rule because it contradicts the idea of the obligatory power of the Meeting of Members. And I suspect that the German court will be more meticulous than the Polish courts.

    §6 (9) The members must issue a declaration, which is legally binding and in accordance with their national law, that their assets, belongings and their property according to § 5 (5, d) will be transferred into the ownership of the EKUSZ in case their Sangha dissolves from this association

    It’s going to be very difficult. First, § 5(5)d says that it’s only assets given by the EKUSZ and ‘gained through being a member” are to be given back. It’s fair. Here it’s changed – now “all the assets will be transferred”. This is not fair. Anyway, this kind of obligation can only lead to responsibility in the field of obligations, not property law (this means if a member dissolves we’ll have a damage claim not a claim to release any item). And it’s too vague to actually work. If I were to leave the sangha in some kind of hostile atmosphere, I’d quickly transfer all the assets somewhere else, and then leave. And you’d have nothing on on me except for a damage claim against a non-existent entity. Hence, I think this paragraph causes more harm than good and I think it should be left out and there are better ways to secure our interest. It just brings atmosphere of suspicion and distrust.

    Better way to do it would be to carefully construct each donation, with respect to the governing local law. In most legal systems would be a donation deed under a condition subsequent that the entity won’t leave the organization.

    §6 (10) must aspire to a non-profit-status in accordance with their national law or must at least manage their administration accordingly

    In Poland it doesn’t mean anything. The NPO law lists a numerus clausus of fields of interest of a NPO and nothing that we do is there. So as a church we have no possibility of aspiring to a non profit status and we don’t know accordingly to what we should manage our administration.

    §8 The European Teachers Group is the “High Assembly”.

    What language will be the official language of the bylaws? If English, then “high assembly” doesn’t mean anything. It has but a fantasy ring and should be substituted with something that has a meaning. 😉

    §10 The European Office

    Doesn’t need so much attention in the bylaws. The EO as a dynamic structure needs to be flexible and it’s better to put general stuff into the bylaws. Imho, stating that the EO exists as an adminsitrative body composed of people appointed by the Council is enough. The rest should be in regulations issued by the Council. We need more flexibility and don’t want to be forced to change the bylaws when we are in need of a 7th office members or, for instance, use SMS instead of emails.

    I actually have more…

    • §5 (5) Termination of the membership

      “The Council and the European Office need to accept and confirm the legitimacy of the application” — this may contradict to the framework for NPO’s in Germany, §39 BGB, where an unconditioned right to leave the organization is granted to any member.

      Suggestion: delete §5 (5) b – d, as these lines originate from mistrust. It is better, if we build the EKUSZ on trust.

  16. Webmaster said:


    “We will discuss the Bylaws during the Sangha Weekend . The Council, EO and Bylaws Committee are considering the proposals presented in the forum. The Bylaws Committee is likely to be be extended and will try to present a revised version during the Sangha Weekend. We appreciate all inputs and good suggestions given in the forum.”

    The bylaws have now been extensively revised in response to the feedback on this forum and comments from many students and teachers. Revision version 5 is available on this site or as a pdf. This is the version to be presented at the sangha meeting 22 September 2012 in Warsaw.

  17. Ondras Pribyla said:

    Thanks for the discussion so far. It seems over now (first due to its
    structure, secondly due to the last post)

    When we asked EO and ETG for a platform for discussion, i was hoping
    that it would bring more clarity to all this adventure around bylaws.
    And it did 😉

    It seems that the platform helped to raise comments publicly and i was
    happy to see all your concerns and comments.

    It also made clear for me that there are fundamental hindrances we
    will have to overcome before any european structure would be as
    functional as i would like it. Here i am trying to explain them and
    propose what we can do about it:

    1. The draft of bylaws was formaly introduced by european teachers
    comittee. However i have not seen any response from any of the
    teachers. Neither Wu Bong SSN who is supposed to become a head of the
    organization, nor any other teacher clarified his views and visions.
    Therefore it is not clear for me who is in driving all this effort. To
    me creating organizations is about trust, yet now i don’t even know
    who shall i trust (or distrust) to.

    2. Main purpose of the bylaws is claimed “to manage money and assets properly”.
    Yet there is no clear financial vision (as Koen said) about how much
    money we (you) want to raise,
    in which ways neither how it is to be used. Therefore i see our
    organization unprepared for creating such structure.

    3. As Wilfred said, the bylaws are meant to be legal document and thus
    “need this legal clarity for cases of disagreement.”
    I understand the bylaws as a kind of contract between people
    Yet i am not seeing the clarity i would wish:
    – some issues are not explicitely mentioned there (teacher compact,
    level of autonomy of the local groups)
    – the current draft mixes a legal style with honor code style (the
    issue of help to monks)
    – we are told not to try to change “the principles” of the bylaws, yet
    nobody so far explicitely stated what “the principles” are.
    For me the draft lacks the clarity of meaning, the process lacks
    clarity of intention.
    Therefore it looks to me as a power excersice rather than attempt to
    build the community.

    Saying all this means i am not ready to commit myself to the bylaws as drafted

    What i would need to feel some commitment to the bylaws? Here i try to
    give some doable actions, that would help me:
    1. I want to get clear what is this about. It would help me if you:
    – explicitely state what are “the principles”
    – clarify the needs you want to fulfill by creating these bylaws.
    2. I want to trust the people who are leading the organization. It
    would help me if:
    – make transparent who is actively involved in process of creating
    the organization. (i.e. who is reading this forum?)
    – teachers can make public their visions and views of the
    organization. (i trust the teachers as spiritual leaders, but so far i
    have no experience that would lead me to trust teachers as leaders of

    Now for me the time i can give to discussion is over. As the semestr
    at the university starts, i will not be able to put effort to these
    organizational processes.

    Thanks for all that has been accomplished.

  18. I think it’s safe to say that right now our sangha consists of those who are extremely critical about the bylaws and those who don’t care enough to even express their opinion. Meh.

    • There are also those for whom English is a foreign language and who don’t command it as well as us here on this board do- that’s probably 95% of the European Sangha and it includes most of the teachers.

      I am disappointed that they are not taking part though, and that there is still no answer to the fundamental question of “why are we actually having this discussion / what do we (you) want from the bylaws / why are you asking for feedback on it”. Good people have spent many hours on this now, posting to this board and getting into phone conversations and the only feedback is the brief statement in .

      I appreciate that there will be a discussion on Sangha weekend, but what I need is not a discussion of the bylaws, but a conversation on why to have them in the first place, or a fundamental one on the role of “teachers” and their relationship to “non-teachers”. There seems to be quite some dissatisfaction with the status quo from both sides, but it is not clear to me how to proceed.

      An open, participatory process could clear the situation up and bring constructive results. It would require a commitment to real dialogue though – quite different from the passivity that happened here so far.

      I’d love to hear the teachers speak on what their needs are. I’d love to see us all listening to eachother and discover ways of organising better. A few hours in Falenica will probably not be enough, but it could be a start.

    • Sung-Yon Lee said:

      Dear Piotr, what do you expect of the people? Everyone does what one is and what one can do. Just like in the nature and everything together makes this world. If you are engaged, you are engaged. That’s all. Thank you.
      Sung-Yon, Hamburg

  19. Sung-Yon Lee said:

    Hello, all who are engaging on this forum.
    As Martin mentioned English is for most people a foreign language and to write in English about this kind of delicate theme is also for me a big challenge. So I guess that many would like to comment but they won’t feel easy to do that. And there are already many opinions and initiative ideas and criticism about the bylaws. And I am very grateful for them. For me the whole structure is very complicated: council, office, committee etc., so I needed time to understand which and who is responsible for which subject.
    Democracy is not always a right tool for everything in the world. So democratic way or not isn’t the measurement for me to be in a organisation like our Zen-Community.
    We say “organisation”. It comes from the organs. Our body doesn’t function democratically. Otherwise we wouldn’t exist even a day. Our organs function with eachother out of connectedness and no-self.
    Our way and the goal at the same time is already given in our 4 Great Vows. A bigger or small organisation and its administration will be needed only for that reason.
    At the last weekend in Berlin during a YMJJ, Zen Master Seonghyang gave us two very significant words: intimacy and trust (between teachers and students, or someone says “non-teacher”, and among the sangha members). Something which can be a hindrance and disturbance for our practice and trust and intimacy for our relationships with teachers must be removed, as that we cut little branches for a good growth of a tree. Of course there can be many different professionals and non-professionals who holds a saw for the cutting. This is the forum where the tree-cutters, or gardeners, are standing and investigating woods or a tree, a quite big tree. For me the orientation lies in the 4 Great Vows. And we all have to be gardeners with compassion and clear wisdom out of Don’t Know Mind.
    My appeal to those who will make the final decision about the bylaws: please go to the very basic, essential point. If you do the best out of this mind, then I trust you.

    Thank you for your attention for my non-professional way of commenting.
    from Hamburg, Germany

  20. Dear Sangha, as one of the teachers that did not contribute to the forum yet and thus caused disappointment for some of you who put a lot of attention to it I want to express my appreciate for all your input here and am very impressed for the wisdom and heart that is presented. It shows you care. So do I and I am sure all my fellow colleagues do. I did not have the resources to follow up the discussion before, only during Kyol Che last week I could catch up. Now I even noticed the discussion continued a little bit.
    I am very sorry for causing disappoinmtment and also want to ask not to interpret the missing contribution of others – be it teachers or non-teachers – as not caring. We all many people care a lot about our school and sangha and were not engaged here. There are many ways how to contribute. I believe most important is to do anything we do with the wish to help each other, to foster trust and to make connection. If we have good intention we will get good results. I am very much looking forward to have the chance to proceed with this process and find our middle way. I truly believe the result will benefit our together work. Take care, in the Dharma, Arne

  21. Hi,

    I didn’t read all the posts, I just looked quickly in the bylaws from the point of view I am curious and find it suspicious. And reviewing quickly, I laugh and find ‘Oh, yeah, same problems everywhere.’

    The Members are not really well defined. OK, there are listed some individuals, but what the heck are the local groups? Are they approved, or not approved, who approves them, size, etc.etc. And last the council meets via the Guiding Teacher who represents the local groups. But I see it unclear what is the connection between local group and Guiding Teacher. And there is no other option for representation then the Guiding Teacher, i.e. even if there is a Sangha Meeting and some persons are at the same place, there is no chance that local people could attend.

    Overall, I see it more or less a generic formulation and it’s somehow a good base for the Teachers in guiding. I wonder, why they are required at all, because as a local group its hard to get the idea behind the curtain.

    Anyway, thanx for the effort.


  22. A few weeks ago the board of directors of Kwan Um Zen School Germany discussed the bylaws draft and possible consequences of it extensively. The result was a letter to all German members explaining our point of view and inviting comments. We received several. Whilst one comment stated disinterest, all others encouraged us to keep on working for a more participatory version, giving ideas, too.
    As most of us are unable to join the meeting in Warsaw we want to share with you the summary of this sangha and board of directors discussion process in Germany- this is what we consider important keys for clarification in the ongoing process of discussion:

    The relationship between organization and spiritual leadership:
    There is no doubt that spiritual leadership should lie in the hand of the Teacher Group.
    But we need to be able to distinguish between this and organizational structures and find a model of connecting and organizing the two reasonably.

    The culture of decision making: Kwan Um School Philosophy
    While some teachers stress that the decisions of the school are not to be taken democratically, some sangha members are talking of consensus finding. A way must be found to bring the different views together. It is important to figure out and make clear: If we are not a democratic school, then: What are we? What is the self concept of this school? Which values, direction or interpretation do we follow?
    In regard to this Zen Master Soeng Hyang said that mutual trust and intimacy are at the basis of what we do. How can these values be kept in the process of designing our association?
    We all should practice in everyday life the teachings of our school. Otherwise we may face a loss of credibility. And there is a respectful, empathic and open spirit that we should certainly take care not to lose.

    Building trust by working out reliable processes
    Uncertainty and mistrust have come about much through what was left unsaid and undefined:
    Procedures and practices concerning
    – Communication
    – Modalities for joining the European Kwan Um School (national schools, individual sanghas)
    – Modalities of representation (key of voting power e.g. by number or size of sangha?)
    – Transparency of representation (who speaks in whose name e.g. the European office members?)
    – Conflict resolution
    We suggest there to be a committee to define additional internal regulations (as above) in which teachers, European office and sangha participate alike.

    Considering common sense- practically
    Regular dealings with the German public authorities will be necessary for tax and accountability of the non-profit-association. This will have to be done in German language and with all the necessary knowledge. This is considerable work that will have to be done in German. We think, several persons have to be qualified for this. If one person gets a different job or falls sick continuity must be kept. If data or documentation are not correctly presented, the official board of directors can be held accountable before the law.
    If there are regulations in the draft that do not conform with the bylaws of the German association, to change them will be necessary before we can go ahead and join EKUSZ. Teachers alone cannot do that in a formally correct way. That will require a national meeting of members, a vote and an extraordinary resolution.

    Direct comments on the bylaws as they were
    Sanghas have to have comprehensible representation in EKUSZ. Communication between the EKUSZ bodies and national sanghas needs to be regulated. In “worldly” matters like money and organization we need participation, information and accountability towards the sanghas if sangha money and resources are used. Ideas and topics from sangha members have to be able to reach EKUSZ directly.
    We suggest that the sanghas may directly elect a board of advisors which takes part in European organizational decisions. It could also organize communication processes. We also suggest that the national representative in the meeting may be elected by the national sanghas.

    §6 (9)
    The painful experience of WKS is reflected in this point. We feel that it is advised to review this paragraph. Emphasizing enforcement and deterrence (as it is now) conserves opposites thinking, general mistrust and negative energy. We feel that this is not a sustainable approach. European Kwan Um School can only be built on trust and intimacy between teachers and students, members and decision makers. Trust and intimacy grow with a solid, well-controlled organization, sufficient communication, transparency and mutual respect.

    Elected bodies of the sangha should be recognized and all should be done to prevent a loss of trust and credibility. Let’s protect and strengthen the good name of the European Kwan Um School which is now a very positive and powerful reality for all members.

  23. The bylaws have now been extensively revised in response to the feedback on this forum and comments from many students and teachers. Revision version 5 is available on this site or as a pdf. This is the version to be presented at the sangha meeting 22 September 2012 in Warsaw.

  24. This weekend, at the Sangha Weekend in Falenica, I learned that the “teachers’ compact”, a document that members sign when receiving Inka in this school and are becoming teachers (dharma masters), apparently states, that it is the _teachers’_ responsibility not only to run the school spiritually, but also its administration (!). I did not know this before. This perspective cleared up a lot of the confusing tension that we have had before for me. Could you please post the exact wording of this passage of the teachers’ compact, so that we can understand better, on what base the bylaws necessarily need to operate on?


    • Posted on behalf of EO and ZMJK
      After setting out the teaching tradition and the school organisation, the compact states:
      “The teaching and administrative authority for the school is thus vested in the School Zen Master, and the Zen Masters and Ji Do Poep Sa Nims.”
      Later, just before the end of the compact and the signature, this is emphasised:
      “The Kwan Um School of Zen will be governed by the teachers who are aligned with the direction set forth in this compact and thus choose to sign it.”

  25. “I would like to express my deep appreciation to all of you for your help with the bylaws project. … it was possible to react adequately to the forum’s discussion and revise the bylaws in a good way. This was proved by the fact that during our Sangha weekend the present draft of the bylaws has been discussed in a positive light and the reaction of the vast majority was very affirmative. We have a clear mandate to proceed and finish the bylaws in the present spirit by 30th November 2012.” — ZM Ji Kwang, email to the EO and Bylaws committee

    The forum is now archived: no more comments will be posted here. Over the next phase lasting till the 30th November, there is the opportunity to comment, make suggestions and ask questions about details of the bylaws. Please proceed to the Q&A page or the Suggestions page to ask questions or make suggestions on the Bylaws. — KUSZEu webmaster, EO

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