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Buddhadharma : Summer 2018
LAMA WILLA MILLER 43 the shame they would bring to our Buddhist communities. We might worry they will threaten our practice or the values we hold dear. We may be afraid to look at the truth that the very teacher we believed to be the embodiment of perfection is, in fact, a complicated human being. Inquiring into these words means questioning everything, including some of our deepest beliefs. The courage and emotional energy required to do this is significant. As “one of those women,” when I was in my twenties, I prob- ably would not have connected these terms to my life even if I had come across them. While I knew by year three of the relationship that what was happening to me was painful and disempowering, I believed I alone was at fault. Even when I did finally come across these terms, long after the relationship had ended, they at first seemed foreign to me. Yet as I inquired into the meaning of these words, they gave me a fresh frame within which to consider and explore my history. Could it be that what had happened to me had also happened to other people, both within my tradition and outside of it? Was it possible that I alone was not at fault—that my teacher’s actions were also responsible for the suffering we both endured? Was it possible that there are some boundaries that simply should not be crossed? Boundaries and power in spiritual Communities Over the years, women practitioners have shared with me stories of teacher sexual misconduct. It is more common than you might imagine: “He came into my room during retreat unannounced. He asked me to undress. He also undressed. He sat on my zabuton and asked me to get in his lap.” “I had a dharma interview with him. During the interview, he took my hand while I was talking about my aunt’s cancer. I was crying. I thought he was going to comfort me, but he took my face in his hands and kissed me.”