Article on Sexual Abuse & Harassment in Buddhist Communities

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Article on Sexual Abuse & Harassment in Buddhist Communities

Postby renjender » Wed Mar 20, 2013 6:11 pm

I wrote an article on sexual abuse and harassment in Buddhist communities on xoJane, "It Didn't Happen To Me But It Did Happen..." The link ishttp://www.xojane.com/issues/it-didnt-happen-to-me-but-it-did-happen-sexual-abuse-and-harassment-in-buddhist-and-other-insular-communities. I invite folks to read it, and to comment (if they feel moved to). Thanks and take care.-Ren Jender
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Re: Article on Sexual Abuse & Harassment in Buddhist Communi

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Thu Mar 21, 2013 2:45 am

I think it is important to keep raising this issue.
The reasons why this issue should be of primary concern to Buddhists is made quite clear in your article,
which is that the student-teacher relationship creates a structure in which abuse,
although not necessarily more likely to happen than in other situations,
can potentially happen without notice or reprimand more than in some other situations.

You have outlined:
--the privacy factor of the student-teacher relationship
--the "trust me" factor of the student-teacher relationship
--the denial factor in any group of devoted followers.
I would regard these, sort of, as specific check-points
from which an 'Am I really safe?" criteria could probably be established
(maybe your next project?)

At the same time, some other things should be considered as well,
as an addition to your work, and not in any defense of the problems you are addressing.

Despite amazing social, political and economic progress for women overall in the last 30 years,
Women are still victimized in the United States at an alarming rate, by people they know and trust
(Not just Buddhist teachers).
Domestic violence statistics alone are shocking. In this context, you could also consider whether Buddhist environments overall have a greater or lesser degree of violation than any other trust-based arrangement.

And then, in this respect, to look at to what degree we hold Buddhism to a higher standard,
and to what degree that not only makes the violation that much worse,
but also to what degree someone in a buddhist environment
is likely to be more trusting, to the point of
abandoning her better judgement.
I am not blaming the victim here,
But this is also the method of the ordinary con-artist.
(con, by the way, being short for confidence).

The higher up we place someone
the longer it is for our better judgement to reach.


In my city, a very large Vajrayana center is headed up by a female lama
and I think, as a result, this accounts for why it has a very high percentage of women who go there,
maybe half, maybe more than half.
We often regard it as sexist that
in many religious traditions, women are often divided from men.
But we don't mind separate facilities at the airport.

I once asked a Thai monk, a friend of mine,
why he was prohibited from even shaking hands with a woman
(strict adherence to his monk's vows).
He'd meditated for years in jungles with tigers, snakes and wild elephants
but when he got near a woman he nearly panicked.

He told me that in The Buddha's time, one day,
one of his followers walked closely behind a man and a woman
who were entering a temple, which are often darkly lit.
Inside the temple, the monk grabbed a quick feel
(the woman's breast or rear end ...my monk friend didn't go into detail)
and of course this caused a great uproar, a big scandal,
upset the woman and the man,
and really brought a lot of problems down on the sangha,
and so on.
So, the Buddha, probably thinking "to hell with this sh##"
(in a very enlightened way, of course)
simply said, "from now on, monks may not touch women!"
Problem solved!

So, as you can see, this is not a new problem at all.
So, the question it raises in my mind is,
is this just par for the course,
that's what you get with patriarchy, etc.
or do we admit that not only does a problem exist,
but that this also shows just how insidious the tentacles of samsara really are,
and emphasize to people, men and women, that
trust and surrender does not mean abandoning your own instincts and common sense?
And then, how is that message to be broadcast?

There are two parts of your article that I think are a little unfair.
You mention Chogyam Trungpa F##king his students.
Everybody was F##king everybody in the 1970's.
So, again, maybe as a religious teacher, maybe he was the one who should not have been,
So he's up on a pedestal
but maybe this is the same pedestal that leads people to trust more than they should.
So it kind of works both ways.

"Papal infallibility is nothing compared to the authority Buddhist teachers have over their students".
That is a well-written statement. Catchy. But I am not sure it is true.

"Buddhist teaching, because it doesn’t rely on one text and emphasizes a non-intellectual approach to enlightenment, is whatever the teacher says it is".
Again, anybody can call themselves a teacher.
But there are authentic teachers whose authenticity is not charisma,
but the teaching from texts and the ability to teach without distortion.

If more women become Buddhists, maybe this problem will be solved
but if this problem isn't solved, will more women become buddhists?
that's the paradox.
.
.
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Re: Article on Sexual Abuse & Harassment in Buddhist Communi

Postby Yudron » Thu Mar 21, 2013 4:20 am

renjender wrote:I wrote an article on sexual abuse and harassment in Buddhist communities on xoJane, "It Didn't Happen To Me But It Did Happen..." The link ishttp://www.xojane.com/issues/it-didnt-happen-to-me-but-it-did-happen-sexual-abuse-and-harassment-in-buddhist-and-other-insular-communities. I invite folks to read it, and to comment (if they feel moved to). Thanks and take care.-Ren Jender


My reaction is that more women need to meditate and study seriously in one Buddhist tradition so that more of us can be leaders and steer the direction and tone of groups in a more appropriate direction. I do not feel that Dharma groups are better without leaders.
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Re: Article on Sexual Abuse & Harassment in Buddhist Communi

Postby plwk » Thu Mar 21, 2013 4:27 am

Nice article. I love this particular comment...
If you meet the patriarchy by the side of the road, kill it.-the koan given to women everywhere :rolling: :thumbsup:
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Re: Article on Sexual Abuse & Harassment in Buddhist Communi

Postby Indrajala » Thu Mar 21, 2013 4:38 am

From the article:

Buddhist teaching, because it doesn’t rely on one text and emphasizes a non-intellectual approach to enlightenment, is whatever the teacher says it is.


This isn't true. Plenty of traditions place ultimate authority on scripture, and not the guru. Some interpretation's are given more attention and authority than others, but ultimately it is the scripture, not the teacher, which holds the final authority. This isn't universally true, but to say "Buddhist teaching is whatever the teacher says it is" is misleading.

There are also long traditions of Buddhist scholasticism and philosophy which are, at least amongst intellectuals, seen as an essential component in establishing right view with which liberation can occur.
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Re: Article on Sexual Abuse & Harassment in Buddhist Communi

Postby Wayfarer » Thu Mar 21, 2013 5:06 am

Reminds me why I'm a solitary practitioner.


It amazes me how people can create so many problems. Give them a glass of water, they'll find a way to drown in it.
Learn to do good, refrain from evil, purify the mind ~ this is the teaching of the Buddhas
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Re: Article on Sexual Abuse & Harassment in Buddhist Communi

Postby shaunc » Thu Mar 21, 2013 5:30 am

I know I'm going to get torn to shreds for saying this but here goes anyway. Sexual abuse in buddhist sanghas happens for the same reason that it does in the catholic church. Celibacy I believe is the main cause of this problem. As much as I respect monastics this particular vow goes against nature. Men & women are meant to cohabitate. I'm not saying that a free for all love in is the answer & I'm not condoning promiscuity but a stable & loving relationship would probably help things. The downside to this of course is that monks/nuns would only be able to practise part-time as having a family requires a lot of commitment as well, working, shopping, paying the bills etc. Most Japanese sects manage to have non-celibate ordained members & a lot of christian religions do as well, as a matter of fact one religion & I'm sorry I can't remember if it's Judaism or Islam insists that it's holy men (priests, sorry but again I can't remember the exact title) are married.
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Re: Article on Sexual Abuse & Harassment in Buddhist Communi

Postby muni » Thu Mar 21, 2013 8:09 am

Enjoy safe samsara or bow through own veils for the teacher.

One-sided opinions or look for a root teacher ( student-teacher relationship) through own clarity, which is not at all increasing by mockery and gossip but by study and practice.

"Samsara is the tendency to find fault with others". This means not: accept a teacher contradicting the Dharma. But one need to see clear "what" contradict. Samsara.
Falling down into thoughts' stream, identification arises.
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Re: Article on Sexual Abuse & Harassment in Buddhist Communi

Postby Berry » Thu Mar 21, 2013 9:00 am

shaunc wrote:I know I'm going to get torn to shreds for saying this but here goes anyway. Sexual abuse in buddhist sanghas happens for the same reason that it does in the catholic church. Celibacy I believe is the main cause of this problem.


In the case of sexual abuse in Tibetan Buddhist sanghas, it appears to be lay lamas/tulkus who have been unable to curb their lusts, rather than celibate monks.
.
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Re: Article on Sexual Abuse & Harassment in Buddhist Communi

Postby muni » Thu Mar 21, 2013 10:08 am

Also for a root teacher: since clarity is not merely hard intellectual understanding, the revealing heart connection can give spontaneous trust.

For buddhist hormones: always useful to be aware of the interdependence of own mind and appearance (illusion).

:namaste:
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Re: Article on Sexual Abuse & Harassment in Buddhist Communi

Postby JKhedrup » Thu Mar 21, 2013 11:26 am

Shaunc,

In case you hadn't noticed, Buddhism is on the decline in Japan.

As for positing celibacy as the main cause of misconduct, this is ridiculous. As for it going against nature, Lord Buddha was not a tyrant, he had very good reasons for asking celibacy of his followers which are all available to you in the scriptures.

In Boy Scouts,Hare Krishna and the Anglican Church, there is extensive history of abuse. In Boy Scouts most of the perpetrators were married. The Anglican Church has married clergy. In hare krishna, most of the abuse was perpetrated by grihastas-people in the married section of the community. When Shambhala has a crisis regarding misconduct in the 1980s, it was perpetrated by a lay regent.

The big sex scandals of the moment in Buddhism in the US involve married, Japanese lay Zen teachers.

So your hasty conclusions do not hold water when you look at the broader history of abuse outside the Catholic church. Getting rid of celibacy will not get rid of abuse. The problem is the dynamics of power.

Advocating dismantling celibacy is advocating dismantling the Sangha. The great teachers of Buddhism at the moment include monks like HHDL, Ajahn Brahm, HH Karmapa, Ven. Heng Sure. Your generalizations dishonour the sacrifice and precepts of such teachers.

I will not let such generalizations go unchallenged as they erode the already tiny amount of support for many monks and nuns in the West, who are very sincere and deserve better.
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
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Re: Article on Sexual Abuse & Harassment in Buddhist Communi

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Thu Mar 21, 2013 12:08 pm

shaunc wrote:I know I'm going to get torn to shreds for saying this but here goes anyway. Sexual abuse in buddhist sanghas happens for the same reason that it does in the catholic church. Celibacy.

I read this, and the post that responded to it.
It is probably true that for some people, celibacy is not a good idea.
But the only really identifiable reason why abusers choose to abuse
is because they choose to abuse.
Sometimes people have situations where
they must make choices they would rather not make
but this isn't one of those situations.
.
.
.
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The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
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Re: Article on Sexual Abuse & Harassment in Buddhist Communi

Postby Indrajala » Thu Mar 21, 2013 12:22 pm

shaunc wrote:Celibacy I believe is the main cause of this problem.


The recent Roshi in question was not bound to any vows of celibacy. Plenty of other cases involving sexual abuse occur between non-monastic clergymen and women.

Also, keep in mind, the Buddha stressed the importance of brahmacarya. In Buddhism ideally his word is to be taken seriously.



As much as I respect monastics this particular vow goes against nature. Men & women are meant to cohabitate.


I completely agree. Unfortunately, the natural order of things is saṃsāra. To go along with the flow is to migrate through the six paths from the peak of existence down to the lowest corner of the Avici Hell. To achieve liberation you must go against the flow.


I'm not saying that a free for all love in is the answer & I'm not condoning promiscuity but a stable & loving relationship would probably help things.


I doubt it. Plenty of married people get into affairs, or into the swinging scene (wife swapping, open relationships, etc.) out of boredom. Maybe they even go all out and try experimenting with the same sex just to explore their fantasies further.

Then maybe they realize how that isn't really helping them in life and they seek actual solutions, such as Dharma.
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Re: Article on Sexual Abuse & Harassment in Buddhist Communi

Postby plwk » Thu Mar 21, 2013 12:35 pm

Men & women are meant to cohabitate.
Meant to? Err, have you heard of asexuals?
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Re: Article on Sexual Abuse & Harassment in Buddhist Communi

Postby Sherab Dorje » Thu Mar 21, 2013 12:57 pm

...homosexuals and bisexuals?

Anyway, this thread is moving off topic. The topic is not "...the impact of celibacy" (we have a whole other thread for that, which I will track down and paste here since the search function is not working) it is about sexual abuse and harassment in Buddhist communities. Let us not forget that the article also talks about sexual abuse and harassment amongst/between students too.

The article also talks about patriarchal values in Buddhist communities and the treatment of queer members of the communities.

The only thing, it seems, that the article DOES NOT talk about is the effects of celibacy.

Please keep on topic and civil or I will lock the thread.
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Re: Article on Sexual Abuse & Harassment in Buddhist Communi

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Thu Mar 21, 2013 6:22 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:Please keep on topic and civil or I will lock the thread.

He means it. I've seen him do it. Locked, and the key thrown away.
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Re: Article on Sexual Abuse & Harassment in Buddhist Communi

Postby David N. Snyder » Thu Mar 21, 2013 6:48 pm

renjender wrote:Buddhism might have a lot of books on the New Age bestseller list these days, but unlike Hinduism and Islam, it doesn’t have a big, single Bible or Torah-like book for adherents to use as the Last Word On Everything.


You haven't heard of the Sutras? The Vinaya? Many traditions including all of Theravada and most of Mahayana highly revere the Tripitaka and place it in the highest authority, sort of the "Constitution" of the Dharma.

For all of Theravada and much of Mahayana, a monk or nun who engages in any sexual relations (with anyone), it is a 'defeat' and is disrobed.
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Re: Article on Sexual Abuse & Harassment in Buddhist Communi

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Mar 22, 2013 12:47 am

renjender wrote:Buddhism might have a lot of books on the New Age bestseller list these days, but unlike Hinduism and Islam, it doesn’t have a big, single Bible or Torah-like book for adherents to use as the Last Word On Everything.
Buddhism isn't based on following dogma,
and no one can prove that anything purported to be the teachings of Buddha
are actually what he taught.
But the validity of the teachings is maintained
by constant application.
If one doesn't apply the teachings
but ignores them, then it isn't Dharma that is to blame
and the sangha is no more guilty of being a bad environment
than a boy's boarding school.

What is different about abuse in the sangha, from that of the Catholic Church,
is that although vulnerable, the victims of Buddhist teachers were adults,
and could make adult choices.
This doesn't mean it was okay...I am just pointing out an important difference.
But, there have been monks who have molested children.
I recall a case a couple of years ago in Thailand.
And the monk was put in jail, I think.
.
.
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The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
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Re: Article on Sexual Abuse & Harassment in Buddhist Communi

Postby plwk » Fri Mar 22, 2013 3:19 am

Please keep on topic and civil or I will lock the thread.

He means it. I've seen him do it. Locked, and the key thrown away.
:jumping:
Ya know... Father Astus and Mother Tara have spare keys....

Buddhism might have a lot of books on the New Age bestseller list these days, but unlike Hinduism and Islam, it doesn’t have a big, single Bible or Torah-like book for adherents to use as the Last Word On Everything.
If I may give another twist to this... perhaps this is meant in a way to say that no one school within Buddhism would agree that only one text is agreed upon by all and at times may even insist that texts used by others may not fit one's own school rather than lacking textual authority. You mentioned the Bible? I am sure you're aware that the more conservative Protestant evangelicals reject the Catholic version of the Bible and the Catholics are not amused that their separated brethren should create an authority for themselves on what is scripture post Council of Nicaea...
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Re: Article on Sexual Abuse & Harassment in Buddhist Communi

Postby shaunc » Fri Mar 22, 2013 4:08 am

I'm not saying that a free for all love in is the answer & I'm not condoning promiscuity but a stable & loving relationship would probably help things.


I doubt it. Plenty of married people get into affairs, or into the swinging scene (wife swapping, open relationships, etc.) out of boredom. Maybe they even go all out and try experimenting with the same sex just to explore their fantasies further.

Then maybe they realize how that isn't really helping them in life and they seek actual solutions, such as Dharma.


Plenty of people do this you say. I don't believe that, I'd say a small minority of people do this, probably way less than 10%. Also this post was about sexual abuse, a consensual affair by married people may well be breaking the 3rd precept but it's not sexual abuse. Sexual abuse is when a stronger more authorative person takes advantage of a weaker one. Adult/child, teacher/student, doctor/patient.
Last edited by Sherab Dorje on Fri Mar 22, 2013 9:04 am, edited 1 time in total.
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