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Buddhadharma : Summer 2012
SUMMER 2 0 1 2 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 23 the ethics committee, including contact numbers. The policy is also on our web- site. If an incident occurs in which one or more parties want assistance, then three people from the ethics committee will be assigned to oversee the process to hear and resolve the issues. If the three assigned ethics committee mem- bers determine that a face-to-face meet- ing with the concerned parties would be useful to resolve the issue, and the concerned parties agree, a reconciliation meeting will be scheduled and facili- tated. If the incident represents a seri- ous ethical breach or a serially repeated pattern, the full ethics committee will meet, conduct a fuller investigation, and make recommendations to the board for action. If the incident involves a leader in the sangha, everything becomes more complicated. It is extremely hard for a leader or teacher to be objectively assessed by sangha members. Therefore, in this kind of situation, ethics commit- tee members from outside the sangha should be recruited to assess a possible EDWARDDAIKICADMAN ethical breach. Chobo-Ji’s ethics policy states, “For any situation concerning a potential ethical breach by an ordained member of the community, the policy of the Chobo-Ji board is to refer to an out- side group (for example, the Faith Trust Institute or a similar organization with expertise on the matters in question).” In my mind, it is also essential that there be organizational structures allowing for a clear separation of powers between a spiritual leader and a board of direc- tors with legal and fiduciary oversight. The majority of board members should be elected by the sangha, not selected by a spiritual leader. Other important safeguards include opportunities for the sangha to regularly be exposed to issues concerning ethics. For example, Chobo-Ji has recently held focus groups on the precepts and non- violent communication, and discussions based on the book Sex and the Spiritual Teacher. A crucial point to remember when ethical breaches cause profound Join the conversation. Share your comments on this issue at thebuddhadharma.com/letstalk heartache is that governing boards must reach out to those directly harmed and alienated. Deep healing is not possible unless those harmed feel comfortable enough to return. They may decide not to, but every effort should be made to ameliorate the damage, including, when appropriate, organizational apologies and financial support for counseling for those in need. Having read this far, I ask, have you read your sangha’s ethics policy recently? Does it include clear workable steps for assessment and reconciliation? Does an active committee that has real autonomy and authority support the policy with regular reviews and updates? Is there suitable separation of powers between the governing board and the spiritual leaders? It is everyone’s responsibility to be mindful of these concerns. Without this effort, be assured that unchecked power will corrupt and apathy will lead to misfortune and heartache. We can— and must—do better.