The cults of Sambo Kyodan

Created by Japanese WW2 Veterans, Harada Daiun Sogaku and Hakuun Yasutani, as a ‘New Lineage’ for the Lay practitioner and named as the “Three Treasures Religious Organization” that claims to have merged the Japanese Soto and Rinzi teachings to one complete path. This New Lineage was so bold, as to claim that one does not have to be a Buddhist to join, and invited Jesuits and Jews into this ‘Brave New Lineage’.

Both of the Japanese men were Ultra-nationalism and praised the Japanese culture as the highest of all cultures, but never talked openly about the war or what part they had in it, though, claimed that the Japanese have lost their true spirit in the surrender to the Americans.

The New Lineage however takes a dark turn, for Yasutani’s student Philip Kapleau, a Jewish-Polish American, who became an assistant teacher who never received Dharma Transmission from Yasutani nor Harada, and went rogue to create his own cult after the passing of Yasutani based on his own understanding and beliefs of Zen. Kapleau was a perfectionist, fussy about small details, focusing on a strict discipline for his students. Kapleau used harsh methods that pushed the students to the edge of sanity, some committing suicide, others mentally falling apart, harming themselves or others, and many too never return.

Kapleau’s methods ‘a battlefield Zen’ seemed to attract psychopaths, sadomasochists as well many other crazies who adapted to Kapleau’s ‘Extreme methods’, his strict disciplinarian ways, all in a zeal to achieve enlightenment. These ‘Extreme methods’ becomes a whole different thing then, for them its pure fascination and wonderment, like how fire is to the pyromaniac, they cannot get enough of it, and become demons in the method itself, a tormentor of souls for ones own delights!

Though Kapleau gave Dharma Transmission to many of his disciples, it was never questioned or mentioned by the group that Kapleau himself never received Dharma Transmission from Yasutani or Harada. The Dharma Transmission is said to be an unbroken line of successors going all the way back to the original Buddha.

Kapleau was a perfect cult leader, able to install fear into his disciples, to where they feel he could look into their souls, read their minds and judge them. This feeling of being judged at all times leads the members to simply accept anything that Kapleau said as absolute Truth. This is well-known cult technique used by cults, to drive in belief and faith, or to revile the lack of it – thus the sin of not believing and the embarrassment of having been ostracized by the group.

Kapleau kept making up his Zen teachings by channeling past Zen teachers, even to bring up the ghost Harada and Yasutani, where Kapleau would interpret what they meant and said to his congregation. Again, another cult tactic where the leader who is viewed as the ‘Chosen one’ is the only one who can commune with the source, where the congregation of believers listens to New Teachings in this New Lineage.

Though Kapleau passed away in 2004, and his disciples continued a psychological method of Zen, the adherence to his made-up Japanese Zen methodology, and still recite his teachings, and his channeling as Zen lore.

It becomes clear that Kapleau, the Rochester Zen Center, and his successors did not teach actual Zen, did not adhere to the Ch’an Soto values or beliefs as they publicly claim, and they did not follow the Buddhas teachings or that of the Bodhisattva (A path of easing suffering for others through transcendence). Rather they engaged in harsh cult tactics, brainwashing, and mind-control that lead to a lot of abuse of themselves and others. They continue these methods and the cult, because they actually believe they are enlightened!

Kapleau was not the only troubled member of Sambo Kyodan, Dennis Merzel an American Jew born in New York City, had several affairs with his female students at a sub-temple in Bar Harbor Main, where he was the abbot. His actions prompted a stern letter written from the members of the Soto Zen Association urging him to resign, though he ignored them, and continues to this day as a free-wheeling Zen teacher at the Kanzeon Zen Center in Salt Lake City, Utah!

As all cults do, they have renamed themselves to Sanbo-Zen International, in 2014, in hopes to escape the past claims of cult abuse and cult tactics that have come out about Kapleau, though this never works to erase the suffering that was created and is still being created by them.

I have no choice as the author to denounce Kapleau, the Rochester Zen Center, and the heirs as cultists, not teaching Zen and not teaching the Buddhas Path.

A complete list of Sanbo Kyodan teachers and its centers is listed here:

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Non-aligned Zen Teacher currently living in Las Vegas, Nevada USA Youtube Channel Website