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Buddhadharma : Winter 2010
Christina FeLdman: In lay Theravada centers in the United States, and in the centers where I teach, it’s always shared trainings rather than one person handing on a lineage to another. There’s a training program that includes plenty of sustained practice, study, and so on, and that’s led by a mix of male and female senior teachers. There have been a few ethical breaches, which is why the teacher code of ethics is strongly enforced and well known. We publicize it in all our centers. It’s on the walls, so it’s clear from the outset that a sexual relationship between a teacher and student is a no-go. It doesn’t mean there haven’t been lapses, but they’ve been addressed—sometimes very painfully, but they have been addressed. Lama PaLden droLma: I think it’s important to recognize that in Vajrayana countries like Tibet, Bhutan, and Nepal, the ethical standards were completely different in terms of non-monastic teachers having sexual relationships with students. It was con- sidered a blessing in those countries. These days, for example in Bhutan, some don’t want to go along with that, and I think the changes in the West are starting to have an impact over there, but it’s much slower. Also, in the Theravada tradition there wasn’t the same degree of importation of Asian teachers to the West as there has been in the Tibetan tradition. While some Tibetan teachers have come into alignment with Western thinking on this topic, a lot of them have not. So, over all, that’s not an area that’s been decided in Vajrayana, or that people agree on. Buddhadharma: We recently put up a post on our Sunspace website inviting women to write about their experiences in Western Buddhist communities, and the first posts that went up were all about sexual assaults and abuse by teachers. I got the impression that they weren’t just pointing to Asian teachers but also to male Western photos clockwise from top left: a. JeSSe Jiryu daviS; caroline Mclean; kathleen cuMMingS; Shundo david haye