Should we follow teachers who have done harm

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Tez
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Should we follow teachers who have done harm

Post by Tez »

Hey all. Sorry for all the questions, i feel I never stop asking, but it might be an interesting discussion

The Buddhist centre is part of the Triratna Buddhist Community, which was founded by Sangharakshita in 1967. I was recommended some of his books and have been reading his work. I've found them interesting and he's a good teacher. However, he has engaged in some pretty appalling behaviour. He was accused of sexual misconduct a number of times, and even Triratna has acknowledged his behaviour was bad (even if it was in a very mealey mouthed way). One man said he coerced him into sex telling him it would help him "make spiritual progress." Basically he was an abusive man who used his position to people for sex. After learning this I feel uncomfortable learning from his teachings, but does his conduct matter if he's a good teacher? This touches on wider issues of misconduct by Buddhist teachers (which there is plenty of) and if we should follow their teachings. Any thoughts?
Knotty Veneer
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Re: Should we follow teachers who have done harm

Post by Knotty Veneer »

Yes it certainly does matter if a teacher cannot walk the talk.

I think TBC have tried to learn from Sangharakshita's mistakes but I would still be wary if I were you. They also have some pretty weird ideas about lineage and the role of women etc. I don't think they can do much harm if you have your BS detector on but there are many better groups out there (and, to be fair, many worse).
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Archie2009
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Re: Should we follow teachers who have done harm

Post by Archie2009 »

Should we follow teachers who have done harm?
No, avoid. End of.
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Johnny Dangerous
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Re: Should we follow teachers who have done harm

Post by Johnny Dangerous »

In addition to the obvious, he also has some weird Dharma ideas iirc. Doesn’t mean you’d get nothing from the books but there are probably much better teachers to put your energy into, frankly.

So, I don’t think you’re harmed somehow by reading his books, but from what I recall they aren’t that great anyway. This is a tough question generally, but I feel like in this case it’s probably not worth the time sifting through all the damage done for whatever jewels are there.

To me it’d be a tougher choice if there was more substance there.
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curtstein
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Re: Should we follow teachers who have done harm

Post by curtstein »

Sangharakshita was a great writer and I find his works quite valuable. But I would never closely associate with a teacher whose behavior I found unethical. So, for me, I see no problem reading Sangharakshita and learning from his learnedness, but I usually don't recommend him to others without, at the very least, the caution to "google him first".
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Johnny Dangerous
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Re: Should we follow teachers who have done harm

Post by Johnny Dangerous »

The OP might want to also peruse the web on Sangharakshita’s bonafides wrt to actual Buddhist traditions. Iirc there is a pretty good amount of evidence that part of his history was made up, and a lot of the syncretic approach he advocated doesn’t actually draw from the traditions he claims to, but more rips them off in a somewhat callous way. I’m normally not one for accusations of appropriation, but in this case it’s pretty accurate.

So again in addition to the obvious ethical stuff, it is worth questioning whether what you are getting by reading him is an accurate portrayal of the forms Buddhist tradition he claim to draw from. When a person takes the most basic understanding of Dharma, has no permission to teach from his alleged teachers, then starts a new “order” you could end up with a pretty rickety vehicle even without all abuse, etc, IMO there is more bad juju there than just the abuse, though that’s certainly what sticks out the most.
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laic
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Re: Should we follow teachers who have done harm

Post by laic »

This is the first I've heard of Sangarakshita being a bit dodgy! Way back when I took things more at face value I was quite happy reading "A Survey of Buddhism" as the name Sangarakshita seemed to indicate authenticity (in terms of the Dharma being taught by those from the actual Buddhist heartlands) I was quite disappointed to have it revealed that the author was actually Dennis Lingwood from Romford. Nothing against Romford of course! Anyway, this name taking seems quite prevalent. Wei Wu Wei and Nyanaponika Thera.....look them up. (Just to say, no down side to the latter, whose book of essays "The Vision of Dhamma" remains one of the finest books I have read on Buddhism, where I first heard the heartbeat of the Dharma)

My main downer on Sangarakshita was when I heard that in his organisation different coloured sashes were awarded to members indicating various levels of "attainment". Even back then my egalitarian tendencies were slightly outraged!
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Re: Should we follow teachers who have done harm

Post by Dhammanando »

laic wrote: Fri Sep 23, 2022 1:42 pm Nothing against Romford of course!
Why ever not?
:shock:

I mean no doubt it was a nice enough place back when it was a picturesque Essex market town, but now it's just a naff Greater London sprawl, wholly given over to service economy.

This song by Hard Skin about sums it up:
"Romford ... it's full of waaaankers,
Romford ... it's full of scum."
.
https://youtu.be/RLuKlB9ZMq8

laic wrote: Fri Sep 23, 2022 1:42 pmMy main downer on Sangarakshita was when I heard that in his organisation different coloured sashes were awarded to members indicating various levels of "attainment". Even back then my egalitarian tendencies were slightly outraged!
The Triratna keshas only come in two colours, gold and white. The gold ones are worn by those who've taken a vow of celibacy, the white ones by those who haven't. Nothing to do with levels of attainment.
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laic
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Re: Should we follow teachers who have done harm

Post by laic »

Dhammanando wrote: Sat Sep 24, 2022 5:19 am

The Triratna keshas only come in two colours, gold and white. The gold ones are worn by those who've taken a vow of celibacy, the white ones by those who haven't. Nothing to do with levels of attainment.
Hi, you may be right. It was something I read about of the early days when it was called the FWBO. I may have misunderstood and my "outrage" was misguided!

Oh.......Romford......a good retail market where you could pick up a bargain or two if you could avoid the spivs.

:smile:
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PadmaVonSamba
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Re: Should we follow teachers who have done harm

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

I would not “follow” such a teacher. I wouldn’t become a student of that teacher specifically. This doesn’t mean that corrupt teachers haven’t produced some really good teachings. Gaugin and Caravaggio were great painters despite being sexual predators. Edgar Allen Poe was a great writer who married his 15 year old cousin.

Skunks are particularly useful to gardeners, but that doesn’t mean you pretend they don’t stink.
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Tez
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Re: Should we follow teachers who have done harm

Post by Tez »

PadmaVonSamba wrote: Sat Sep 24, 2022 5:55 pm I would not “follow” such a teacher. I wouldn’t become a student of that teacher specifically. This doesn’t mean that corrupt teachers haven’t produced some really good teachings. Gaugin and Caravaggio were great painters despite being sexual predators. Edgar Allen Poe was a great writer who married his 15 year old cousin.

Skunks are particularly useful to gardeners, but that doesn’t mean you pretend they don’t stink.
Good points, I've had that thought too. If someone brings something into the world that's meaningful and learned it doesn't necessarily mean it becomes invalid because the person was bad. I know he has written interesting things. He has a book on Buddhist ethics which is well regarded and I have a copy. What troubles me is how he used his position of trust to get what he wanted. The young men he assaulted implicitly trusted him, and telling them that having sex with him would further their spiritual journey is using their faith (both in him and the Buddha) to manipulate them, a truly wicked act. Can we even say he was a Buddhist if he was so willing to inflict pain on others for his own selfish ends? It makes you wonder if some people are using buddhism for their own ends. Scary
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PadmaVonSamba
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Re: Should we follow teachers who have done harm

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

Tez wrote: Sat Sep 24, 2022 8:33 pm
PadmaVonSamba wrote: Sat Sep 24, 2022 5:55 pm I would not “follow” such a teacher. I wouldn’t become a student of that teacher specifically. This doesn’t mean that corrupt teachers haven’t produced some really good teachings. Gaugin and Caravaggio were great painters despite being sexual predators. Edgar Allen Poe was a great writer who married his 15 year old cousin.

Skunks are particularly useful to gardeners, but that doesn’t mean you pretend they don’t stink.
Good points, I've had that thought too. If someone brings something into the world that's meaningful and learned it doesn't necessarily mean it becomes invalid because the person was bad. I know he has written interesting things. He has a book on Buddhist ethics which is well regarded and I have a copy. What troubles me is how he used his position of trust to get what he wanted. The young men he assaulted implicitly trusted him, and telling them that having sex with him would further their spiritual journey is using their faith (both in him and the Buddha) to manipulate them, a truly wicked act. Can we even say he was a Buddhist if he was so willing to inflict pain on others for his own selfish ends? It makes you wonder if some people are using buddhism for their own ends. Scary
If you ask someone on the street for directions and they give you good information about how to get there, it’s still good information, but it doesn’t mean you want to get into his car with him.
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