Ethics Policy




Shao Shan Temple provides an environment and programs for spiritual cultivation.  The Sangha (community of participants) relates with one another on the basis of compassion, mutual respect, and inclusivity.  The commitment of our Sangha is to support each participant’s spiritual development and to maintain an environment that is conducive to spiritual practice.  


The ethical principles that guide our actions are the Sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts. We understand the Precepts as a set of practices to be continually cultivated and deepened and rely on them as precious touchstones for guiding our thoughts, words, and deeds. Approached with mindfulness and sincerity, Precept practice provides the conditions for developing spiritual maturity in the life of the community, and protects the environment for spiritual development and practice. Our aspiration and practice is to cultivate lives that are an expression of the following Precepts and guidelines:

The Three Refuges

We take refuge in Buddha

We take refuge in Dharma

We take refuge in Sangha

The Three Pure Precepts

Do no harm

Do good

Live to benefit all beings

The Ten Grave Precepts

1. A follower of the Way does not kill but rather cultivates and encourages life.

2. A follower of the Way does not take what is not given but rather cultivates and encourages generosity.

3. A follower of the Way does not misuse sexuality but rather cultivates and encourages open, honest, and responsible relationships.

4. A follower of the Way does not lie but rather cultivates and encourages truthful communication.

5. A follower of the Way does not intoxicate self or others but rather cultivates and encourages clarity.

6. A follower of the Way does not slander but rather cultivates and encourages respectful speech.

7. A follower of the Way neither extols self nor demeans others but rather cultivates awareness of the interdependent nature of self.

8. A follower of the Way does not attach to anything, even the teaching, but rather cultivates mutual support and shares the dharma with all beings.

9. A follower of the Way does not harbor ill will but rather cultivates loving-kindness, understanding and forgiveness.

10. A follower of the Way does not turn away from the Three Treasures but rather cultivates and encourages taking refuge in them.

2.1 Ethical Guidelines

The Ethical Guidelines presented below elaborate on the guidance provided by the Precepts through focus on aspects of conduct within the Sangha that require special awareness in order to maintain a practice environment that is safe, harmonious, and free from needless distraction. The dimensions of Sangha relations addressed in the ethical guidelines include: mindful speech and action, the boundaries of the teacher/student relationship, confidentiality, and appropriate use of power and position. 

 In order to provide the Sangha with an individual who can be consulted on ethical matters, the Abbot, with the approval of the Board, will appoint an Ethical Designee.  This appointment will be for three years and will automatically renew unless terminated by the Ethical Designee or the Abbot, with the consent of the Board.


2.1.1.  Mindful speech and action

A respectful and compassionate standard of behavior, based on mindfulness in speech and action, is expected from everyone who participates in Shao Shan Temple activities.  This is based on respect for each person as a unique expression of Buddha nature regardless of age, gender, race, ethnic background, appearance, sexual orientation, and physical disability. 

Right speech:  refraining from lies, gossip (self-serving talk), slander, angry or abusive speech, and apportioning blame, is central in practicing this compassionate standard of behavior.  

Right action:  refraining from behavior that is harmful or destructive to self or others, including any form of physical violence, emotional coercion, sexual misconduct or harassment, or drug or substance abuse.


2.1.2.  Teacher / Student Relationships

The teacher student relationship is founded on deep trust and respect that is the mutual responsibility of both parties to honor.  However, the authority of the teacher carries with it an increased responsibility to avoid situations and actions that could result in harm to the student, the community or themselves. We recognize that harm may result if a teacher and student become sexually or inappropriately emotionally involved, or if a teacher violates trust, or uses power or position for personal ends. 

At Shao Shan Temple, a teacher must make a commitment to conduct relationships in accord with the Bodhisattva precepts.  Because of this commitment, the responsibility for maintaining appropriate and clear boundaries always rests with the teacher.  They will respect and protect the personal autonomy of all students, and refrain from sexual involvement with students. Should a teacher feel unable to uphold this standard, it is expected that they will seek guidance and counsel from their teacher, the Ethical Designee, the Board, who might choose to involve the Soto Zen Council, or a senior teacher from the broader community.  It is recommended that the student involved also do so.  If a teacher nevertheless maintains an interest in a sexual relationship with a Sangha member, a process may be initiated to determine if changes in their role in the community are necessary. 

2.1.3.  Confidentiality

In a small and intimate community such as ours, it is common for members to share sensitive personal information in the course of exploring the Dharma.  To foster an environment of trust and truthful communication, it is the responsibility of all Sangha members to hold personal communications with respect, since personal information offered at group meetings, practice events or Sangha gatherings is not confidential.  

Matters discussed in individual meetings with the teacher are kept in confidence, except as may be exempted by law.  Students are encouraged not to engage in idle talk about matters discussed in teacher-student meetings. 

There may be circumstances in which it is necessary for a teacher to consult a professional for legal,  psychological, or other expertise.  It may be necessary to disclose confidential information in the context of such a consultation.  Such consultations are also kept in confidence and are only to be undertaken in the interest of the Sangha and the student.


2.1.4.  Use of Power and Position

Individuals in positions of confidence or trust must not misuse status or authority to achieve privileges or other consideration, or to inappropriately influence others.  

Individuals who are entrusted with handling funds or assets bear responsibility to provide accountable stewardship. It is not appropriate for anyone to use their relationship to the Temple for personal gain or status.


The Board of Directors of Shao Shan Temple is committed to the ethical management of Shao Shan Temple, Inc.  To accomplish that commitment the Board will manage the Temple in accordance with the following ethical principles for organizational behavior:

3.1.  The Board will comply with all legal requirements associated with the operation of the Temple.

3.2.  The Board will maintain and enforce a robust safeguarding policy for the Temple, its staff and volunteers.

3.3.  The Board will comply with the Temple’s Conflict of Interest Policy.

3.4.  The Board will be transparent in all of its business dealings.

3.5.  The Board will be good stewards of the Temple by responsibly planning for and managing the Temple’s financial resources, physical assets, staff, and volunteers.

3.6.  The Board will comply with the Temple’s Financial Policy.

3.7.  The Board will comply with the Temple’s Non-Discrimination and Non-Harassment Policy.

3.8.  The Board will provide procedures for reporting alleged misconduct and ensure that support is provided to individual(s) who raise or disclose ethical concerns. 



Shao Shan Temple is committed to safeguarding the health and welfare of all individuals who participate in programs offered by the Temple.  Safeguarding means:

4.1  Taking all reasonable steps to prevent harm, particularly sexual exploitation, abuse, and harassment from occurring at Shao Shan Temple; 

4.2  Protecting people, especially children, young adults, and vulnerable adults from that harm; and 

4.3  Responding appropriately should harm occur.

Shao Shan Temple will work to:

4.4  Promote and prioritize the safety and wellbeing of children, young people, and adults who attend programs at the Temple.

4.5  Ensure that all staff and volunteers working regularly with minors at the Temple will be properly screened. For those staff and volunteers who are considered “well-known” to the Temple (i.e. are acquainted with the Temple priest(s) and existing staff/volunteers, have attended regular programming for at least one year, and/or for whom the Temple would feel confident giving a reference to another organization), the Temple would perform a Vermont criminal record check and check the Vermont Sex Offender Registry. For staff and volunteers who would not be considered “well-known” to the Temple, the Temple would also require a written application, interview, and reference check, in addition to a Vermont criminal record check and a check of the Vermont Sex Offender Registry. Any conviction for a violent offense or sexual crime would be an automatic disqualification for supporting Temple programming with minors. For other types of convictions, the application would be referred to the Board for further review. In the circumstance that a person may be needed to volunteer on an impromptu basis, that person would not necessarily need to go through the screening process, but they would need to be with a staff/volunteer who has been screened.

4.6  Ensure that everyone who is involved regularly with programming at the Temple understands their roles and responsibilities in respect to safeguarding and is encouraged to be attentive to, identify, and respond to signs of abuse, neglect and other safeguarding concerns relating to children, young people, and adults who attend programs at the Temple.

4.7  Ensure appropriate action is taken in the event of incidents/concerns of abuse;

4.8  Ensure that support is provided to the individual(s) who raise or disclose the concern; 

4.9  Ensure that confidential, detailed, and accurate records of all safeguarding concerns are maintained and securely stored; 

4.10 Ensure that truthful references are provided in response to requests from individuals or organizations outside the Temple regarding individuals who were involved in violations of the Temple safeguarding policy;

4.11 Ensure robust safeguarding procedures are in operation at the Temple  and are regularly reviewed and updated.


All adults and minors have a responsibility to treat one another with dignity, respect, sensitivity and fairness. All behavior that discriminates, is violent, or is generally considered offensive is unacceptable.  Complaints in this regard will be acted on promptly by the Temple. 

The Protection Policy for Minors is a separate document, which has been developed in light of these principles. The Board is responsible for ensuring that all staff and volunteers who are regularly involved in programming sign the Protection Policy for Minors upon accepting the position of responsibility and will be made aware of the consequences of failing to adhere to the Policy.  The same will also be incorporated in agreements with consultants and contractors who will be working directly with minors.  Failing to adhere to it will lead to termination of contracts or agreements.


All Temple staff, volunteers, program participants, and visitors will comply with the Shao Shan Temple’s Non-Discrimination/Non-Harassment Policy when interacting with others participating in Temple events or programs.  All Temple staff, volunteers, program participants, and visitors will refrain from the following behaviors:

6.1   Verbal conduct such as epithets, derogatory jokes or comments, slurs, or unwanted sexual advances, invitations, or comments; 

6.2   Visual conduct such as derogatory and/or sexually-oriented posters, photography, cartoons, drawings, or gestures;

6.3  Physical conduct such as assault, unwanted touching, blocking normal movement, or interfering with work;

6.4  Threats and demands to submit to sexual requests as a condition of continued employment, or to avoid some other loss  and/or offers of employment benefits in return for sexual favors; and

6.5  Retaliation for having reported or threatening to report harassment.


The Temple has two procedures for reporting and resolving issues related to alleged incidents of unethical conduct – an informal ethical process, and a formal ethical process.  

In cases involving abuse or neglect of a minor, staff or volunteers will make a report to the Vermont Department for Children and Families Child Abuse Hotline (800-649-5285 at the time of this revision) within 24 hours of the time information regarding the suspected abuse or neglect was first received or observed.  The incident will also be reported to the program facilitator, Abbot, and/or Temple Board of Directors.

7.1.  Informal Ethical Process

If a matter of importance arises, it may be addressed directly with the others involved. It may also be wise to discuss this with a teacher or Dharma friend to assist in resolution. We discourage sharing concerns widely solely to gain support for one’s views. 

However, if a matter of importance concerning ethical guidelines or practices arises and is not able to be resolved through the above means, it may be brought to the attention of the Abbot and/or the Ethical Designee. The Ethical Designee serves to assist Sangha members who may be unsure about their own ethical course. The Designee may function as a sounding board for one’s concerns, as a source of questioning to facilitate deeper personal reflection, or as a source of advice regarding how best to resolve a conflict. The Designee may also be available to witness or mediate discussions between persons with differences of opinion with respect to ethical matters. In the case of a situation involving inappropriate conduct or behavior, consultation with the Designee is encouraged. The name of the current Ethical Designee shall be publicly available.


7.2.  Formal Ethical Hearing Process

If matters of importance are not able to be resolved through the informal ethical process, a Hearing Panel may be convened to implement the Formal Process.

7.2.1. Bringing a Concern

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

If the matter involves the Ethical Designee, the letter of request may be directed to the Board of Directors instead.

7.2.2. Accepting a Concern

Once the Ethical Designee has received a letter of request, the Ethical Designee, in consultation with the Board, must acknowledge the request within seven days.  As soon as reasonably possible, and no later than fifteen days after the acknowledgement of receipt, the Board must 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.

7.2.3. Convening the Hearing Panel

Once the parties have been notified, the Ethical Designee, in consultation with the Board, will convene a three-person panel to conduct the hearing.  This should be scheduled as soon as reasonably possible, ideally within fifteen days of having notified all parties involved. The Ethical Designee may serve on the hearing panel. One panelist chairs the hearing (hereafter referred to as “Chair”) and ensures that a confidential record of the hearing is maintained and stored in a secure location. Each member of the Panel must be without actual or apparent bias or conflict of interest. 

7.2.4. 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 may consult with the Board as appropriate.


7.2.5. Hearing Panel Decision

Once the Hearing Panel determines that it is sufficiently informed as to the matter(s) to be heard, it will close the hearing and deliberate. Deliberation may include consultation with the Board. The Panel will attempt to reach consensus (see “Shao Shan Temple Decision-Making Guidelines” document), and if consensus is not achievable, may choose to vote. A two-thirds majority is required to issue a decision.

As soon as reasonably practicable, but no later than seven days after the hearing was closed, the Panel will issue a written decision and distribute it as appropriate.


7.2.6. Right of Appeal to the Board of Directors

There is a right to appeal a Panel Decision within thirty days of receipt of the written decision. Appeal is made to the Shao Shan Temple Board of Directors and may be granted on evidence of bias, procedural irregularities, or new information not previously available. The Board of Directors may then appoint a three-person Appeals Committee, with no more than one person from the original Hearing Panel. The Appeals Committee will review the matter to decide whether the decision should be upheld or dismissed. The Appeals Committee will attempt to reach consensus (see “Shao Shan Temple Decision-Making Guidelines” document), and if consensus is not achievable, may choose to vote. A two-thirds majority is required to issue a decision.


7.2.7. Partial List of Possible Resolutions by a Hearing Panel

The following 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. 

  Approved by SST Board 5/5/22