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Buddhadharma : Winter 2014
48 buddhadharma: the Practitioner’s quarterly winter 2014 BUDDhADhARMA: Each of you is familiar with communities that have been shaken by teacher misconduct. That initial period when the abuse of power is exposed—what does it feel like, personally and within a community? ShINGE ChAYAT: Trauma, in a word—there’s the realization that a person you trusted and admired has disappointed you and brought everything into question. If a teacher is no longer trustworthy, everything is up for examination. We tend to elevate teachers to a noble height and refuse to see their human failings until they have manifested in very difficult and dangerous ways. So even though it feels terrible, becoming disillusioned can help us break through delusion and bring clarity to what’s going on. Unfortu- nately, what’s going on is often veiled in secrecy; practi- tioners may feel or sense something happening in a com- munity but the culture discourages questioning. So when misconduct is finally revealed, it’s an enormous shock. BUDDhADhARMA: David, you were part of the Shambhala community when allegations first came to light that Osel Tendzin had knowingly infected someone with HIV. What was your experience of being in the community at that moment? DAVID WhITEhORN: It was shocking. It felt like suddenly the whole world had changed. A lot of strong emotions came up—anger, sadness, disappointment. And lots of people had opinions about what had happened and why. During that period when everyone was feeling extremely exposed and vulnerable, we benefited greatly from the calm advice of teachers outside of our community who had been work- ing with us. They had the respect of everyone in the com- munity and were extremely helpful in navigating the divi- sions within the group about what had happened and how to move forward. BUDDhADhARMA: Lama Palden, what has been your experi- ence of communities dealing with misconduct or abuse? LAMA PALDEN: At some of Kalu Rinpoche’s centers in France, there were lamas who had engaged in unethical behavior and had to be removed. I’ve also acted as a medi- ator at dharma centers here, where the unethical conduct involved Western teachers. As others have said, there’s always a great deal of shock and disappointment in these situations. There’s also a lot of hurt and a sense of betrayal. One of the serious con- cerns is that many of the people who get hurt the most are those who already have experienced abuse in their child- hood. Instead of the dharma being a place where they can heal and find safety, it becomes another place of perpetra- tion and hurt. I’ve been in the room during some of these mediations where there was so much pain. We really have to acknowl- edge the level of pain that unethical activity brings forth in people. Just unbelievable pain. And I’ve seen hundreds of women turned off of the dharma. When encounters with (LEFT—RIGHT):conorKeenan,unKnoWn,stePhaniemohan,Katerogers ShINGE ROKO ShERRy ChAyAT is the abbot of The Zen Studies Society. She received dharma transmission from Eido Shimano Roshi in 1998, becoming the first American woman to receive official transmission in the Rinzai Zen tradition. hOZAN AlAN SENAuKE is vice- abbot of Berkeley Zen Center in California. In 2007 he founded Clear View Project, an organization that provides Buddhist-based resources for relief and social change in Asia and the united States. lAMA PAlDEN DROlMA is the founder and resident lama of Sukhasiddhi Foundation in San Rafael, California. She completed a three-year retreat under the direction of the late Kalu Rinpoche. DAVID WhITEhORN is a longtime student of the Shambhala lineage and a senior member of the Desung, a group of Shambhala practitioners who work to protect the health and harmony of the sangha.