Grievance Procedure

Procedures for addressing ethical concerns

The following procedure can be adapted to address the concerns of individuals or groups of practitioners under the guidance of a teacher but without an Administrative Board or Board of Directors.

Ethics procedures - part one

If a student brings forward a concern, it may be addressed directly with the teacher.  It may also be wise to discuss this with another qualified SZBA or ASZB recognized teacher to assist in discernment and in resolution of the concern. Rev. Zuiko Redding ( of the Cedar Rapids Zen Center and Rev. Tenku Ruff ( can be contacted for this purpose, or, to find a list of SZBA teachers, see

Informal Ethical Process

If a matter of importance concerning ethical guidelines or practices arises, it may be brought to the attention of the Teacher and/or another qualified teacher.

Formal Ethical Hearing Process

If matters of importance are not able to be informally resolved, a Hearing Panel may be convened to implement a Formal Process. The Panel may consist of another teacher selected by me, a teacher selected by the student and a third teacher selected by the two advising teachers, the Ethical Designee.

1. Bringing a Concern

A Formal Process is initiated by communicating in writing with the Ethical Designee. This “letter of request” must include:

  • A clear statement that a formal ethical hearing process is requested.
  • The name of the person(s) to whom the matter pertains.

  • A description of the alleged matter sufficient enough to allow the Ethical Designee to decide whether the matter is appropriate for a formal hearing process.
  • A description of prior attempts to resolve the matter.
  • A statement of the resolution sought.

2. Accepting a Concern

Once the Ethical Designee has received a letter of request, the Ethical Designee, will, within 30 days convey to the requester the  acceptance or non-acceptance of the matter for formal hearing.  In the event the matter is accepted for formal hearing, the Ethical Designee will also notify persons named in the Letter of Request, as appropriate.

3. Convening the Hearing Panel

Once the parties have been notified, the Ethical Designee, in consultation with the Head Teacher, will convene the meeting. One panelist chairs the hearing and insures that a record of the hearing is maintained.  Each member of the panel must be without actual or apparent bias or conflict of interest. 

4. Hearing the Concern

The chair schedules a private hearing for the persons involved to have a full and fair opportunity to present their understanding of the matter at hearing.  The Panel may ask questions and request information.  The panel will consult with the Head Teacher

5. Hearing Panel Decision

Once the Hearing Panel determines that it is sufficiently informed of the matter(s) heard, it will close the hearing and deliberate.  Deliberation will include consultation with the Head Teacher.

As soon as reasonably practicable, the panel will issue a written decision and distribute it as appropriate

6. Partial List of Possible Resolutions by a Hearing Panel

This is a partial list of possible resolutions intended to encourage open-minded and creative decisions. While it is not possible to anticipate every kind of situation which might require resolution, this format hopes to ensure a process that benefits all.  The findings could apply to either the teacher or the practitioner. issue a written decision and distribute it as appropriate
  • Finding of no ethical breach while acknowledging the existence of a problem which needs resolution elsewhere.
  • Direct or mediated private apology.
  • Apology to the community.
  • Follow-up meetings with the head teacher.
  • Recommended education or training or intervention program (e.g. therapy or relevant 12-step program).
  • Private reprimand.
  • Public censure.  The findings and action of the Hearing Panel as well as the reprimand, are made public to the Sangha.
  • Period of probation, with probationary terms set by the Hearing Panel.
  • Suspension or dismissal from position of responsibility in the Sangha.
  • Suspension from teaching for a period of time. A suspension should stipulate the conditions by which a person may commence teaching. 
  • Limiting the decision simply to whether or not an ethical transgression occurred.

Ethical Violations and Members' Obligations to SZNA

Soto Zen Buddhist priests have a special responsibility to ensure a safe teaching environment for all Zen students, temple members and temple visitors. All priests registered with Soto Zen North America are bound by these principles:

1. Self-Reporting Clause

Members shall take responsible action when they become aware that they themselves or another SZNA member is impaired or otherwise unable to maintain the SZNA Code of Ethics. Soto Zen North America members shall provide the Sokan’s office immediate notice of any complaint of unethical conduct made against them. If a priest has been found by their temple or Zen center to be in violation of the SZNA ethical guidelines, they must immediately report this to the Sokan’s office and to the appropriate authorities, in accordance with applicable laws. Should the priest not report, their temple or Zen center officers should do so. If the ethical violation is not otherwise reported, an SZNA member not affiliated with the temple may report the violation to the Sokan’s office. Priests found in violation of the SZBA Code of Ethics may be subject to suspension of membership.

2. Illegal Activity Clause

Any SZNA member convicted of a felony will be subject to review of their membership by the director’s office. SZNA membership will be suspended during this period of review. When all legal obligations have been met as determined by the judicial system, the member may apply for reinstatement.

The words Zen Fields and a signature stamp next to a spare ink pen outline of a meditator in a field


Subscribe to receive Dharma teachings and
Zen Fields updates to your in-box weekly!