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Buddhadharma : Winter 2014
winter 2014 buddhadharma: the Practitioner’s quarterly 49 (LEFT—RIGHT):conorKeenan,unKnoWn,stePhaniemohan,Katerogers abuse happen early on in someone’s dharma career, they haven’t yet developed the skills that might help them stay. BUDDhADhARMA: We should also point out that the young Kalu Rinpoche put out a YouTube video a couple of years ago talking about his own experience of being abused growing up in a monastery. LAMA PALDEN: Yes, he has brought the issue out of the closet for the Tibetan and Vajrayana communities, because of course it’s happening in all the monasteries. Some of my British male friends have told me it’s very much like the British public schools system—it’s something that has always gone on and everybody knows, but nobody talks about it. I think it was very courageous of Rinpoche to bring the misconduct to light. He wants to work inside the system for change. BUDDhADhARMA: Alan, what are some of your experiences and observations of the problem of abuse of power? ALAN SENAUKE: Shortly after I had begun working at the Buddhist Peace Fellowship in 1991, the organization was referenced as a resource in the back of Peter Rutter’s book, Sex in the Forbidden Zone. When the book came out, sud- denly women who had been victimized by teachers and then excluded by their communities started calling us. I’ve noticed that people in pain not only turn inward and build a cyst or capsule around themselves for protec- tion but they also turn against each other. It’s not just that people have different opinions of what’s going on and what should be done. Often the teacher has been the binding energy of a community, and when that is removed or shattered, practitioners can’t find closeness or mutual support within the group. So it can be a volatile and frag- ile situation. It’s very destructive and can run like wildfire through a community. Once that fire starts burning, it’s difficult to control. BUDDhADhARMA: Shinge, looking back on the conflict that arose in your community, The Zen Studies Society, what were some of the conditions that gave rise to ethical mis- conduct and how it was handled? ShINGE ChAYAT: There’s so much to the answer, but I could distill it to one word: secrecy. When secrets are well hid- den, well kept, people become complicit without realizing it. No one is really sure what’s going on, and no one is allowed to question things—especially in an Asian patri- archal structure that discourages transparency. Unethical behavior that may be accepted in another culture—not necessarily approved of, but tacitly ignored—is not okay in ours. Our framework of Western psychology has us more predisposed to look at issues directly and not allow the same old patterns. We want to see what’s really going on, and when that investigative spirit runs up against an old guard saying don’t question authority, even more divisive- ness can be created. That’s been a big issue for us at The Zen Studies Society. We’ve had to learn how to question authority, and we’ve had to see all the aspects, whether cultural or personal, that led to the structure of a secret society and the elevation of one human being to a god-like status, which created a situation where no one felt safe to ask questions. We have to acknowledge the level of pain that unethical activity brings forth in people—just unbelievable pain. I’ve seen hundreds of women turned off of the dharma. — Lama Palden PHOTO©themalni|istocK.com