Ethical Guidelines


The Ethical Guidelines for the Upaya Sangha of Tucson are organized according to the following sections:

Bodhisattva Vows

Statement of Right Conduct

Ethics Code for Teachers and Leaders; Ethics Complaint and Resolution Procedures

     Raising Concerns


Relationships and Intimacy

Professional Conflicts


Formal Procedure

Bodhisattva Vows

Creations are numberless, I vow to free them.

Delusions are inexhaustible, I vow to transform them.

Reality is boundless, I vow to perceive it.

The awakened way is unsurpassable, I vow to embody it.

Statement of Right Conduct

The Upaya Sangha of Tucson is committed to providing a supportive and nurturing environment for the practice of the Buddha Way. The ground for right conduct is the practice of the sixteen bodhisattva kai or precepts.  As phrased by the Zen Peacemakers, they are:

The Three Treasures

  • Be one with the Buddha (the awakened nature of all beings)
  • Be one with the Dharma (the ocean of wisdom and compassion)
  • Be one with the Sangha (the community of those living in harmony with all Buddhas and Dharmas)

The Three Pure Precepts

  • Do no harm (to practice not-knowing thereby giving up fixed ideas about myself and the universe)
  • Do good (to bear witness to the joy and suffering of the world)
  • Do good for others (to effect the healing of myself and others)

The Ten Grave Precepts

  • Do not kill (recognizing that I am not separate from all that is)
  • Do not steal (being satisfied with what I have)
  • Do not be greedy (encountering all creations with respect and dignity)
  • Do not tell a lie (listening and speaking from the heart)
  • Do not be ignorant (cultivating a mind that sees clearly)
  • Do not talk about others’ faults and errors (unconditionally accepting what each moment has to offer)
  • Do not elevate yourself and put down others (speaking what is perceived to be the truth without guilt or blame)
  • Do not be stingy (using all of the ingredients of my life)
  • Do not be angry (transforming suffering into wisdom)
  • Do not speak ill of the Three Treasures (honoring my life as an instrument of peacemaking)



Ethics Code for Teachers and Leaders
Ethics Complaint and Resolution Procedures For the Upaya Sangha of Tucson


(Much gratitude to all who have worked so hard to make the Zen Dharma a viable and living way to alleviate suffering and open a path to joy in this life. This document is based upon the work of many communities within the Western Zen Mahasangha, and in particular it is patterned upon the work of the Berkeley Zen Center, the Upaya Zen Center, and the White Plum Asanga.)


We who are given the responsibilities of leadership and teaching within our sangha acknowledge that we are first of all continuing students of the Great Way. We also acknowledge there are power differentials in our relationships and that with leadership our words and actions carry even greater weight than might otherwise be the case. Accordingly, we agree to bind ourselves consciously to a code of conduct that nurtures our community as well as our own continuing practice.

We already have committed to walk the way of the Bodhisattva Vows. From these vows and the Bodhisattva precepts we find an outline for our lives. As leaders and teachers our first continuing commitment is to not knowing. Our second is to walk this path with humility. Our third is to accept correction as generously as it may be offered. Through these vows, precepts, commitments, and the guidelines listed below we seek to cultivate a community of openness, generosity and wisdom.

Everyone who is invited to leadership as a transmitted teacher, guest teacher, practice leader, or Steering Committee member within the Upaya Sangha of Tucson agrees to conduct himself or herself in accordance with this Ethics Code.

All leaders of our sangha, including transmitted and guest teachers, practice leaders, and Steering Committee members may avail themselves of the complaint procedure described here, as may any others who participate in our sangha activities.

Raising Concerns

We are human and so contain within our hearts all the possibilities of being human. Something may happen within our sangha that causes concern. Ideally we can approach one another and speak of any such concern. We strongly encourage this as a first step. Sometimes this doesn’t feel comfortable or right, or perhaps, even safe. If so, a process is in place to smooth the way toward reconciliation.

In the course of sangha interactions, disagreements, conflicts, misunderstandings and unethical behavior can occur. Often the ethical lines will not be obvious. The Upaya Sangha of Tucson Steering Committee will assist in that process of clarification as well as pursue more serious allegations. Any participant in the sangha is encouraged to bring concerns to any member of the Steering Committee for consultation, support and advice if direct discussion with the person involved has been unsuccessful at reaching resolution.

The names of the Steering Committee members are posted on the Upaya Sangha of Tucson website.

Should an ethical concern arise, and if direct discussion with the person involved has been unsuccessful at reaching a resolution, the sooner one can consult with a member of the Steering Committee, the better.

Often a meeting with a single member of the Steering Committee will prove sufficient. This can be an opportunity to air a concern and in that conversation often matters are made clear. Possibly there may be a need for additional consultation. This can be mapped out with the Steering Committee member.

However, matters involving significant inappropriate behavior, inappropriate sexual conduct, abusive behavior, harassment, incompetence or the use of position for personal gain or exploitation should quickly be brought to the whole Steering Committee. Anyone aware of the following matters should bring them to the Steering Committee immediately: misappropriation of funds, gross and harmful incompetence in leadership or teaching or anything that a therapist or minister would be mandated by law to report, such as suspected abuse or neglect of a child, an elder, or a disabled person. (For more information about mandated child abuse/neglect reporting across the various states, see, and that specifically for Arizona at Statutory requirements in Arizona for reporting elder abuse/neglect are at

Steering Committee members will inform other Steering Committee members of matters of concern which have been brought to them. In the case where a concern involves a member of the Steering Committee, that member and any other member who is closely related (e.g., spouse or domestic partner) will be excluded from discussion of the issue, and for purposes of this discussion will be replaced by other active sangha participants appointed by the remaining Steering Committee members. Details of the matter of concern will be handled with discretion. The Steering Committee members will first offer a listening ear and counsel. Secondarily, the Steering Committee will facilitate a dialogue between parties. If a dialogue between the parties does not lead to reconciliation, then the Steering Committee will make recommendations. As noted above, for purposes of hearing a concern and making recommendations, this will be absent any Steering Committee member involved in an allegation and any Steering Committee member with a significant relationship, such as spouse or domestic partner, to the member involved in an allegation, and replaced by active sangha participants appointed by the remaining Steering Committee members. The Committee thus constituted is responsible for the recommendations, which are to be decided upon by majority vote within the Committee. If an appeal of the recommendation is desired, it may be made by formal procedure, described below.


We understand confidentiality to be a reasonable assumption of privacy. It is not a strict code of secrecy.

A central part of our practice is spiritual direction. There is a right to a reasonable sense of confidentiality regarding what is said in dokusan, daisan, or private interviews with a teacher or practice leader. However, it is the practice of this community that a transmitted teacher, guest teacher, and practice leaders consult with each other and the Steering Committee, holding confidentialities among themselves rather than alone. Personal details disclosed during private interviews that are not relevant to practice in the judgment of the teacher(s) are not shared.

When complaints are made or concerns are expressed, again, one person should not be expected to hold these things in secret. The matter may and probably will be brought to the full Steering Committee (absent any member involved in an allegation, and any member closely related to the member involved in the allegation). As is appropriate and as described here, these complaints or concerns may be brought to the Upaya Sangha of Tucson Steering Committee.

Relationships and Intimacy

Our practice is one of intimacy. It can be warmhearted and close. And relationships between teachers and students, as with therapeutic relationships, usually involve powerful psychic conditions including projection, transference and counter-transference, among others. In addition there are the complexities found within the power differential that exists between a teacher and a student. With these various circumstances it may be tempting to cross a line from spiritual intimacy to sexual intimacy. And whatever the merits of sexual intimacy, this type of relationship tends to confuse the other aspects of intimate relationship necessary for a successful teacher and student relationship.

Again, sexuality is a natural part of life and as a non-celibate sangha, sexual intimacy is going to be a cherished part of our private lives. However, those who teach and lead have additional responsibilities and our covenant includes several commitments regarding sexual behavior.

No transmitted teacher, visiting teacher, or other sangha leader who is married or in a committed relationship should engage in sexual activities with any person outside of their stated commitment.

Any transmitted teacher, visiting teacher, or other leader who finds a romantic relationship beginning with a member of the sangha should inform the Steering Committee of this relationship and seek guidance as to the most healthful way to proceed.

If the people involved are in a teacher-student relationship, a choice must be made between either pursuing that personal relationship or continuing the teacher-student relationship, but not both. The Steering Committee should help in this decision-making process. A resolution should be achieved with as little delay and as much openness and transparency as humanly possible.

Professional Conflicts

Some of our sangha participants are psychotherapists, coaches, physicians, attorneys, contractors and others who may offer services to others of our sangha. It is important to be mindful of the complexities that can arise in dual relationships, and while we do not discourage these relationships, we ask all to be mindful of potential abuses. Teachers, psychotherapists, ministers and other professionals are expected to abide by the ethical codes of their professions. Teachers and others in authority in the Upaya Sangha of Tucson have a responsibility to anticipate and avoid potential conflicts of interest. All matters of a financial nature among those participating in the sangha should be engaged in with open hearts and clear heads. If there are questions or concerns it is appropriate to bring these concerns to a member of the Steering Committee.


Maintaining the wellbeing of the sangha is the mutual responsibility of all its members. If you feel the guidelines are not being observed, or simply wish to share your discomfort, please bring those concerns to a member of the Steering Committee. Your questions will be taken seriously and examined according to a principled and confidential process. We hope that diligent inquiry, honesty, compassion and openness will strengthen our sangha and support this important practice into the future.

Again, whenever possible, a direct conversation between the parties is best. When it is not possible, then one should bring concerns to a member of the Steering Committee. If the matter can be brought to a satisfactory conclusion through an informal process, this would be the end of the matter. If the matter cannot be resolved informally, or with more serious concerns, a process has been developed outlined below as the “Formal Procedure.”

There are many possible consequences to a complaint. Healing and reconciliation is the goal. But all parties cannot always be satisfied. Serious violations, particularly of personal intimacy between leaders or teachers and other participants in the sangha, may necessitate interventions recommended by the Steering Committee, and in the case of transmitted teachers, a complaint may potentially also be brought to the White Plum Asanga Board of Directors (See White Plum Asanga Code of Ethical Conduct–10.11.14.pdf ), recommendations from which may include various sanctions including dismissal from leadership or teaching within the Upaya Sangha of Tucson.

Formal Procedure

Our formal grievance procedure is available when informal attempts at reconciliation have not worked or are inappropriate.

Some areas that are appropriate for this formal procedure include situations in which a participant wishes to appeal a decision regarding her or himself personally or situations where a person feels another participant, leader or any teacher has engaged in significant misconduct or unethical behavior.

Any person who is an active participant in Upaya Sangha of Tucson activities may use this process. In general this process is for the community. The Steering Committee (for purposes of hearing the complaint, absent any member involved in an allegation, and any member with a close relationship to the member involved in an allegation; with those members replaced by active sangha participants appointed by the remaining Steering Committee members) can determine whether a complaint should be addressed.

The Steering Committee, as constituted for hearing the complaint, has responsibility for determining whether alleged misconduct has occurred, and any recommended consequences. Such consequences may include expulsion from the sangha or other sanctions against a transmitted teacher, visiting teacher, or other leaders.

Any complaint to the Steering Committee under this formal grievance procedure must be made in writing. It may be given to any member of the Steering Committee. Anyone who registers a complaint with the Steering Committee should be given a copy of the Ethics Code along with a written acknowledgment of receipt of the complaint.

The complaint should describe the alleged behavior, a history of any attempts to resolve the complaint informally, and a general statement about the desired resolution. The complaint and related documents will be retained by the Steering Committee for such period as it considers appropriate.

The Steering Committee should respond to the person who has registered the complaint in writing within a month after receipt of the complaint with a statement of its decision and the reason(s) for the decision.

Among the possible responses are a finding of no breach, suggesting a mediated resolution, a finding acknowledging some breach and, in the case where the misconduct involved a transmitted teacher, possible referral of the complaint to the White Plum Asanga Board of Directors, a reversal of a prior decision or action, a private and mediated apology, a private reprimand, follow-up meetings with affected parties, a public apology, public censure, reparation when possible, a recommendation for psychological counseling or similar program, a period of probation, suspension or dismissal. Any misconduct for which there is statutory mandatory reporting in Arizona will be reported to the appropriate authorities.

In the case of alleged misconduct on the part of a transmitted teacher, anyone may appeal the Steering Committee’s decision to the White Plum Asanga Board of Directors. However, all are expected to work from an assumption that the Steering Committee has acted in good faith and with due diligence, and should not lightly attempt overturn the findings of the Steering Committee.