Teacher-Student Consent

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Malcolm
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Re: Teacher-Student Consent

Post by Malcolm »

Knotty Veneer wrote: Fri Aug 05, 2022 6:29 pm I think back to the Trungpa podcast thread a while back which reported on how he was witnessed by a group of adults French kissing a 13 year old girl - and they all did nothing.
In the 1970's, there were a lot of 13 year girls running around getting involved in relationships with older men. It's mostly bad parenting, and while illegal, no one did anything about it if the parents said nothing. Trungpa himself married a 16 year old, whom he had met when she was fifteen. People in the 1970's were not particularly conscious of the fact that it was necessarily wrong to sleep with underage women. For example, the former headmaster of my private school began a relationship with the a 14 year old (to whom he remains married to this day actually) in 1979. People's attitudes were simply different. A lot of things that people find abusive or cringy, etc., were accepted. Now, of course, these things are not very accepted at all. But then? If the parents didn't mind, well, then there was no problem. Note, I am not defending it, this was just how it was when I was an adolescent in the 1970's. I remember camp counselors striking up relationships with some of the 14 year girls at my camp, pretty openly. circa 1974-5. If you were an underage girl, and you were sexually active, everyone considered you pretty much fair game.

Parenting had a lot to do with. Hippie parents often would not interfere with their kids. Partly because they did not want to place the sexually repressive values they suffered from in their adolescence on their own kids. Things are far more uptight now.
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Re: Teacher-Student Consent

Post by Knotty Veneer »

I'm not convinced that in this case it was just like hey man it was the 70s. From what I remember from the podcast the reporter - another teenage girl who Trungpa also attempted to flirt with - could see that the adults were uncomfortable with what he was doing. So they did know this was off - and still did nothing.

I find it difficult to believe that anyone with teenage daughters or nieces, or grandchildren would not raise immediate red flags at this sort of behavior - even in the 70s (and IIRC this actually occurred a little later in the 80s, not that it matters).
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Re: Teacher-Student Consent

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Knotty Veneer wrote: Fri Aug 05, 2022 8:55 pm I'm not convinced that in this case it was just like hey man it was the 70s. From what I remember from the podcast the reporter - another teenage girl who Trungpa also attempted to flirt with - could see that the adults were uncomfortable with what he was doing. So they did know this was off - and still did nothing.

I find it difficult to believe that anyone with teenage daughters or nieces, or grandchildren would not raise immediate red flags at this sort of behavior - even in the 70s (and IIRC this actually occurred a little later in the 80s, not that it matters).
Yeah, there’s a lot about the 1970s that’s hard to believe.
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Re: Teacher-Student Consent

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I find it difficult to believe that anyone with teenage daughters or nieces, or grandchildren would not raise immediate red flags at this sort of behavior - even in the 70s (and IIRC this actually occurred a little later in the 80s, not that it matters).
Then you are not that familiar with how abuse is perpetuated. Sadly, this is not uncommon at all, and describes group/institutional dynamics in all kinds of abuse situations from what I have seen. Sadly, the Trungpa situation is only unique in its Buddhist-ness to Buddhists.

This is exacty why it is so important for victims, whistleblowers to have their say, because saying something in situations of abuse is often the exception, not the rule.

It’s sad, I wish people did different, and maybe we can change it, but I feel like pretending it’s some uniquely Vajrayana situation is looking in the wrong direction.
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Re: Teacher-Student Consent

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I grew up as a Catholic in Ireland in the 70s and 80s before the whistle was blown on the endemic abuse that existed in Catholic institutions there. And there are some similarities with TBism in the attitudes of the laity towards the clergy - priests where so much holier than the rest of us and to think ill of them was the work of the devil.

But as a few people spoke up and more came forward the sheer scale of the abuse made it impossible to deny. I'm not saying abuse is widespread in TBism - not at all - but it is foolish to deny that the power that is handed over to gurus in TBism is not abused by the unscrupulous in ways that are not possible in other versions of Buddhism where the teacher is not put on so high a pedestal.
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Malcolm
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Re: Teacher-Student Consent

Post by Malcolm »

Knotty Veneer wrote: Fri Aug 05, 2022 8:55 pm I'm not convinced that in this case it was just like hey man it was the 70s.
Did you grow up in America during the 1970's?
I find it difficult to believe that anyone with teenage daughters or nieces, or grandchildren would not raise immediate red flags at this sort of behavior - even in the 70s (and IIRC this actually occurred a little later in the 80s, not that it matters).
Things started to get more uptight in America in the 90's. The eighties were still pretty loose in many respects. I personally know more than one 13 or 14 year woman who had 25 year old boyfriends with their parents full knowledge, during the early 80's, in Cambridge, MA. As I said, hippie parents...
Vases, canvas, bucklers, armies, forests, garlands, trees
houses, chariots, hostelries, and all such things
that common people designate dependent on their parts,
accept as such. For Buddha did not quarrel with the world!

—— Candrakīrti. MAV 6:166
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KathyLauren
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Re: Teacher-Student Consent

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Johnny Dangerous wrote: Fri Aug 05, 2022 6:10 pm
KathyLauren wrote: Fri Aug 05, 2022 5:46 pm
Knotty Veneer wrote: Fri Aug 05, 2022 12:49 pm Alas, it appears again because of the emphasis on the role of the guru, TBist scandals seems to involve issues of consent in addition to the above. The ability to refuse consent is short-circuited by the belief that the abuser is incapable of wrongdoing and even to think such a thing is a wrong view. To my mind that makes the scandals that affect TBist groups more unpleasant and therefore more serious (not to downplay any wrongdoing in Sanghas).
:good: I believe you have gotten to the heart of the issue with this paragraph.

Even if the guru makes no claim to that effect, often the lay disciples surrounding the guru do make such claims. I have heard exactly those words spoken to me in the context of, if I was asked, consent would be mandatory. Failure to consent would end me up in vajra hell.

Such mythology is common enough in Tibetan Buddhism. It is by no means unique to that particular group. Whether the guru supports it or not, whether it has scriptural basis or not, it circulates among the laity and is promulgated to newcomers.

Mandatory consent, of course, is not consent at all. I believe that was the point that the OP was trying to make.

Om mani padme hum
Kathy
I’m curious, have you ever experienced this?

Most of the time when I have seen a newer Vajrayana person doing this, it is because they heard something ( or likely read it, with no context) like the snake in the tube analogy, and they basically are approaching scrupulosity or some form of religious OCD. I mean, if we want to point this out as a possible Avenue of abuse, then we would have to attribute abuse in the entire Christian religion to this sort of factor, where it is -far-stronger than what is typically found in Vajrayana. That’s a tempting but seemingly lazy claim.

If we are going to evaluate this kind of thing, I think real world examples of threats of damnation in Vajrayana would be good to have. I have personally had the snake in the tube analogy explained to me by teachers, including high and well known Lamas. It is was not in any case explained in this way. I know such fundamentalist explanations exist of course.

At any rate, it is flimsy and speculative to connect this directly to abuse claims, there are just too many variables involved to take the connection seriously as a primary cause, and we have to acknowledge that when threatened with hell, people have some agency to believe it or not.

I am not convinced that this is a primary factor bringing about abuse in Vajrayana, compared to say, general misogyny, “see nothing say nothing” attitudes, etc.
I am not quite sure exactly what "this" you are referring to. As I said in my post, I have certainly experienced lay Buddhists telling me that refusing consent was not an option, should the guru select me as his partner. I never believed it myself. But I can see that more impressionable people, anxious to fit in, might swallow it hook line and sinker.

I was never propositioned, but had it happened, I was quite clear in my own mind that my response would have been "Hell, no!' But then, I have never believed in magic. The Buddha's teachings work very well in a strictly rational mode, and require no magic to be effective. If the guru really is a living Buddha, he can teach me effectively in the conventional way.

In my experience, it is the lay members of the community who are most to blame for this mythology. I have never heard a teacher claim special powers. But I have met teachers I did not trust not to take advantage of a situation.

Om mani padme hum
Kathy
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Re: Teacher-Student Consent

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Malcolm wrote: Fri Aug 05, 2022 10:50 pm
Knotty Veneer wrote: Fri Aug 05, 2022 8:55 pm I'm not convinced that in this case it was just like hey man it was the 70s.
Did you grow up in America during the 1970's?
I find it difficult to believe that anyone with teenage daughters or nieces, or grandchildren would not raise immediate red flags at this sort of behavior - even in the 70s (and IIRC this actually occurred a little later in the 80s, not that it matters).
Things started to get more uptight in America in the 90's. The eighties were still pretty loose in many respects. I personally know more than one 13 or 14 year woman who had 25 year old boyfriends with their parents full knowledge, during the early 80's, in Cambridge, MA. As I said, hippie parents...
Yeah, I know this will sound outlandish to some, but honestly girls that age having consensual sex with older men happens frequently. Doesn’t mean it’s good, there are very serious issues with the ability of a 13 year old to make decisions about that stuff, especially with a man in any kind of authority position. Obviously, that’s the reason we have Age of consent laws, we decided that a person that age can’t fully consent by definition of their developmental limitations.

I would point out though that it was not even a particularly unusual pairing until the 20th century. I think it’s -definitely-a change for the better that we have such standards now, but factually there are still plenty of traditional cultures where it’s “normal”. Of course those cultures often see a drastic reduction in female autonomy as “normal” too.

The idea that any group of people at any time would react in horror at a 13 year girl doing stuff with an older man is just demonstrably inaccurate though. Those are cultural standards that do actually change by place and time.

We gotta be less puritanical and provincial if we wanna realistically address this stuff. That isn’t to say I doubt that this instance of Trungpa doing this wasn’t abuse etc., I just don’t know that it would exist in today’s cultural context around these things.
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Re: Teacher-Student Consent

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Knotty Veneer wrote: Fri Aug 05, 2022 10:04 pm I grew up as a Catholic in Ireland in the 70s and 80s before the whistle was blown on the endemic abuse that existed in Catholic institutions there. And there are some similarities with TBism in the attitudes of the laity towards the clergy - priests where so much holier than the rest of us and to think ill of them was the work of the devil.

But as a few people spoke up and more came forward the sheer scale of the abuse made it impossible to deny. I'm not saying abuse is widespread in TBism - not at all - but it is foolish to deny that the power that is handed over to gurus in TBism is not abused by the unscrupulous in ways that are not possible in other versions of Buddhism where the teacher is not put on so high a pedestal.
Like I said, those details are the how, not the why.

What version of Buddhism- minus secular-type approaches does not put teachers on a pedestal?
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Re: Teacher-Student Consent

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Knotty Veneer wrote: Fri Aug 05, 2022 10:04 pm I grew up as a Catholic in Ireland in the 70s and 80s before the whistle was blown on the endemic abuse that existed in Catholic institutions there. And there are some similarities with TBism in the attitudes of the laity towards the clergy - priests where so much holier than the rest of us and to think ill of them was the work of the devil.

But as a few people spoke up and more came forward the sheer scale of the abuse made it impossible to deny. I'm not saying abuse is widespread in TBism - not at all - but it is foolish to deny that the power that is handed over to gurus in TBism is not abused by the unscrupulous in ways that are not possible in other versions of Buddhism where the teacher is not put on so high a pedestal.
I think you’ve just pointed out the weakness in the “it’s the vajrayana’s influence” argument.

If I asked you - is abuse more prevalent in the Catholic Church or in Tibetan Buddhism? - you wouldn’t be able to give a definitive answer since you don’t have numbers for the latter. Most people would probably guess the Catholic Church, but they don’t know for sure. But if we think it’s the Catholic Church, why claim that the vajrayana in particular leads to abuse?

My point is that all this discussion is appeals to intuition based on anecdotes. Any of us can equally say, no we won’t think it’s like that.
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Re: Teacher-Student Consent

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Knotty Veneer wrote: Fri Aug 05, 2022 10:04 pm but it is foolish to deny that the power that is handed over to gurus in TBism is not abused by the unscrupulous in ways that are not possible in other versions of Buddhism where the teacher is not put on so high a pedestal.
I doubt this.
Go to any Theravadin country and you'll find most believe their favorite monk is an Arhat. Or go to East Asia and see how many people think their favorite teacher is an Arya Bodhisattva or Buddha.
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Re: Teacher-Student Consent

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KathyLauren wrote: Fri Aug 05, 2022 11:00 pm If the guru really is a living Buddha, he can teach me effectively in the conventional way.

In my experience, it is the lay members of the community who are most to blame for this mythology. I have never heard a teacher claim special powers. But I have met teachers I did not trust not to take advantage of a situation.

Om mani padme hum
Kathy
Also do not act in a coquettish manner, flirting with your Guru as though you could win his favor in this way. Your Guru is a Buddha with equal loving compassion for all. He will not be impressed by your frivolous behavior.
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Re: Teacher-Student Consent

Post by Knotty Veneer »

PeterC wrote: Sat Aug 06, 2022 1:51 am

I think you’ve just pointed out the weakness in the “it’s the vajrayana’s influence” argument.

If I asked you - is abuse more prevalent in the Catholic Church or in Tibetan Buddhism? - you wouldn’t be able to give a definitive answer since you don’t have numbers for the latter. Most people would probably guess the Catholic Church, but they don’t know for sure. But if we think it’s the Catholic Church, why claim that the vajrayana in particular leads to abuse?

My point is that all this discussion is appeals to intuition based on anecdotes. Any of us can equally say, no we won’t think it’s like that.
I am NOT claiming that the vajrayana in particular leads to abuse. What I am claiming is that because of beliefs around the role of the guru, some of the abuse takes a particular form. That is, gaslighting the abused and the community that the abuse is not what it seems - that it is somehow, on some level mere mortals cannot comprehend, beneficial for the one abused.

It is not entirely specific to TBist abuse. Sangharakshita, of the TBC, for example was wont to convince students (particularly straight ones) he wanted to sleep with that it would help remove blocks to their spiritual progress.
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Re: Teacher-Student Consent

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Knotty Veneer wrote: Sat Aug 06, 2022 8:08 am
PeterC wrote: Sat Aug 06, 2022 1:51 am

I think you’ve just pointed out the weakness in the “it’s the vajrayana’s influence” argument.

If I asked you - is abuse more prevalent in the Catholic Church or in Tibetan Buddhism? - you wouldn’t be able to give a definitive answer since you don’t have numbers for the latter. Most people would probably guess the Catholic Church, but they don’t know for sure. But if we think it’s the Catholic Church, why claim that the vajrayana in particular leads to abuse?

My point is that all this discussion is appeals to intuition based on anecdotes. Any of us can equally say, no we won’t think it’s like that.
I am NOT claiming that the vajrayana in particular leads to abuse. What I am claiming is that because of beliefs around the role of the guru, some of the abuse takes a particular form. That is, gaslighting the abused and the community that the abuse is not what it seems - that it is somehow, on some level mere mortals cannot comprehend, beneficial for the one abused.

It is not entirely specific to TBist abuse. Sangharakshita, of the TBC, for example was wont to convince students (particularly straight ones) he wanted to sleep with that it would help remove blocks to their spiritual progress.
Thanks for clarifying. As you say, this is a common rationalization, and not limited to the vajrayana or even to Buddhism. About once every five minutes some Indian guru gets caught doing this, and their followers are on a whole other level from the vajrayanists.

It needs to be said, repeatedly, that this sort of behavior is not common in the vajrayana, it is not normal, and only a small group of lamas will take the extreme position that this is all ok. Unfortunately the opponents of this behavior/rationalization seem to get more airtime than the opponents. In the Lakhar scandal, DJKr and OTr got a lot more internet exposure by long anti-victim screeds than HHDL did from his prompt, concise and specific recognition that this was abuse and a disgrace. If you want to address this problem - however serious you might consider it to be - you need to highlight the authorities that condemn it, rather than just claim that the entire system of teaching is problematic.
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Re: Teacher-Student Consent

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Konchog1 wrote: Sat Aug 06, 2022 2:53 am
KathyLauren wrote: Fri Aug 05, 2022 11:00 pm If the guru really is a living Buddha, he can teach me effectively in the conventional way.

In my experience, it is the lay members of the community who are most to blame for this mythology. I have never heard a teacher claim special powers. But I have met teachers I did not trust not to take advantage of a situation.

Om mani padme hum
Kathy
Also do not act in a coquettish manner, flirting with your Guru as though you could win his favor in this way. Your Guru is a Buddha with equal loving compassion for all. He will not be impressed by your frivolous behavior.
http://www.buddhism.org/Sutras/2/Sutras3.htm
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Re: Teacher-Student Consent

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I keep repeating my claim: Yes, there IS something very specific about Vajrayana that directly plays into continuation of abusive teacher/student relationships. It is the practice of guru yoga in the widest sense, including seeing the guru with pure perception. This does not exist as a practice in any other Buddhist tradition in the same sense, at least not that I'm aware of, and it is both one of the core practices in Vajrayana that can have a tremendous growth effect - yet also one of the core contributing factors to cover up any sort of bad conduct on the guru's side. Stating that Vajrayana is just like any other religion with regards to abuse is avoiding this one point. It's not, and that is both its beauty and its ugliness.

What is NOT exclusive to Vajrayana is the claim that any teacher/holy person has some sort of transcendental, intangible, elusive magic sauce that nobody can really judge except if s/he himself has the same sauce. This claim exists in various forms in nearly every religion, be it christianity (e.g. pope who is somehow closer to god), shamanism (the shaman has a direct connection to an other-world that can neither be proven nor disproven), various schools of hinduism, and so on. In some religions it is that the magic sauce is some inspiration from god, in others it is a special knowledge that supposedly takes years and years of studies, in others yet it is rather to be born in a lineage of special people and so on. In any case, the belief that someone else has access to that secret magic sauce and one has not and therefore is capable of having deeper understanding than oneself including situations of cause and effects of abuse, this same belief equally supports the upkeeping of abusive teacher student situation.

Vajrayana has both problems to deal with, other religions have only one of them to deal with.
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Re: Teacher-Student Consent

Post by PeterC »

fckw wrote: Sat Aug 06, 2022 1:26 pm I keep repeating my claim: Yes, there IS something very specific about Vajrayana that directly plays into continuation of abusive teacher/student relationships.
Perhaps you can give us some statistics to back this up? Or is it just your intuition?
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Re: Teacher-Student Consent

Post by Malcolm »

fckw wrote: Sat Aug 06, 2022 1:26 pm I keep repeating my claim: Yes, there IS something very specific about Vajrayana that directly plays into continuation of abusive teacher/student relationships. It is the practice of guru yoga in the widest sense, including seeing the guru with pure perception. This does not exist as a practice in any other Buddhist tradition in the same sense, at least not that I'm aware of, and it is both one of the core practices in Vajrayana that can have a tremendous growth effect - yet also one of the core contributing factors to cover up any sort of bad conduct on the guru's side. Stating that Vajrayana is just like any other religion with regards to abuse is avoiding this one point. It's not, and that is both its beauty and its ugliness.

What is NOT exclusive to Vajrayana is the claim that any teacher/holy person has some sort of transcendental, intangible, elusive magic sauce that nobody can really judge except if s/he himself has the same sauce. This claim exists in various forms in nearly every religion, be it christianity (e.g. pope who is somehow closer to god), shamanism (the shaman has a direct connection to an other-world that can neither be proven nor disproven), various schools of hinduism, and so on. In some religions it is that the magic sauce is some inspiration from god, in others it is a special knowledge that supposedly takes years and years of studies, in others yet it is rather to be born in a lineage of special people and so on. In any case, the belief that someone else has access to that secret magic sauce and one has not and therefore is capable of having deeper understanding than oneself including situations of cause and effects of abuse, this same belief equally supports the upkeeping of abusive teacher student situation.

Vajrayana has both problems to deal with, other religions have only one of them to deal with.
Except that Vajrayana doesn’t claim gurus are infallible, or that they have some special sauce. Indeed it us explicitly acknowledged that the since gurus are fir the most part ordinary people, we don’t relate to them liturgically that way, etc., so your claim is false.
Vases, canvas, bucklers, armies, forests, garlands, trees
houses, chariots, hostelries, and all such things
that common people designate dependent on their parts,
accept as such. For Buddha did not quarrel with the world!

—— Candrakīrti. MAV 6:166
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Re: Teacher-Student Consent

Post by Sādhaka »

What separates Vajrayana from other religions, is the very advanced esoteric methods. Of course other religions have their esoteric methods, e.g. Qabalah, Gnosticism, Sufism, etc.; but these cannot be totally proven to have methods as advanced as Vajrayana (although some like to speculate that they do).

Now in Vajrayana, and all Dharma, we start out with Pascal’s wager, not as applied to “god”, but as applied to karma & rebirth. But again in Vajrayana it does more or less come down to the very advanced methods. The proof in the puddin’, is going to be, if one is a Tantric, retreats for Khrul Khor, Tummo, and other Completion Stage practices. For Dzogchen it is going to be retreats for the Special Preliminaries, Trekcho, and then of course the actual core of Dzogchen practice ‘beyond’ the Special Preliminaries and Trekcho. Of course these do have to be received from a qualified Lineage Holder; and can’t be practiced only based on reading books. And none of this is some “special sauce” per sé; it is experiential.

Most people seemingly go through their Vajrayana life experience only at the level of saying Mantras and doing visualizations. Of course these things are good, and would work on the mind & subtle bodies in deep ways not always perceptible to the grosser levels of mind; and, if one has enough merits and/or enough determination, this could even be sufficient in itself for Liberation in a single lifetime.

However I would presume that most who attained Liberation and/or became qualified to teach, did so from doing the extended retreats of the very advanced methods that I mentioned above. Therefore Vajrayana is simply in another league and more advanced paradigm, than merely believing in something like other religions do. You could say that it is scientific in that regard.
Last edited by Sādhaka on Sat Aug 06, 2022 2:42 pm, edited 6 times in total.
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Re: Teacher-Student Consent

Post by Sādhaka »

I should add that Chögyal Namkhai Norbu would mention how westerners like to say “What’s the technique?” And he would go on to say that westerners are often chasing techniques, and then implied that Vajrayana/Dzogchen is not merely a set of mechanical techniques as many people seem to think.

Therefore I didn’t mean to imply that that’s all Vajrayana is. Let’s just say however that Vajrayana and Dzogchen is very vast in its methods and nuances, more subtle & nuanced than anything that could possibly be imagined in comparison to religious beliefs.

At the same time, it is all skillful means, from the ultimate perspective anyway. I remember Malcolm once mentioned here that it’s skillful means all the way down…. And in that same thread a conversation then ensued about the meaning of this.

In any case, I’d say that the Four Seals and the Four Noble Truths would in the end be the gold standard; even in Vajrayana and Dzogchen.
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