Fallen Leaders Gallery 1

Fallen Leaders Gallery 1


Richard Baker, abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center (SFZC), had affairs with his students.

Offense: While teaching Buddhist precepts such as "do no harm," Baker, the abbot of SFZC from 1971 to 1983, was found to be having affairs with a prominent contributor's (and close friend's) wife and other students. He also caused controversy by funding his lavish lifestyle with the work of people who earned very little.

Consequence/Punishment: The community ousted him. In 2001, Michael Downing wrote the damning book, "Shoes Outside the Door: Desire, Devotion, and Excess at San Francisco Zen Center." Baker now runs two Zen centers in Colorado and Germany and has recently improved his relations with the SFZC.

Effect on Community: The center reorganized as a non-profit with two co-abbots and a board of trustees. Though its former glory is somewhat dimmed, its three locations continue to thrive and offer spiritual refuge to many.

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