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Buddhadharma : Winter 2014
winter 2014 buddhadharma: the Practitioner’s quarterly 53 They led a mediation session with Eido Roshi and the board of directors. We also held several sangha meetings at which An Olive Branch was present and had a sangha weekend that was probably the most important thing for us. We invited everyone to come and spend the entire weekend going through a very difficult but important facilitated discussion. There were so many raw emotions, and so many incidents were brought to light that we hadn’t been aware of. We created a timeline that filled an entire wall. People came up and posted comments, asked fur- ther questions, and shared what they knew. It was all out there, which was really key—we went from an organiza- tion plagued by secrecy and authoritarianism to one that is transparent and hewing to ethical guidelines. We spent two full years with An Olive Branch working on developing best practices for a board that could represent the sangha and help make sure that such transgressions never hap- pened again. As a result of this process, I feel that sangha members are speaking with clarity and ethical consideration for one another and that we’ve returned to fulfilling our task, which is living our bodhisattva vow, manifesting our insight. DAVID WhITEhORN: In our situation, in the early nineties, we were not only recovering from the trauma of discovering that a trusted leader had let us down but also grieving the loss of our founding teacher, who was a great mahasiddha. Fortunately, Trungpa Rinpoche had trained two people, the other one being his son, Sakyong Mipham, who for five or so years following that traumatic event just listened. He travelled around and listened to everybody and, bit by bit, began to reconstruct the community. The profound listening at the beginning was essential. LAMA PALDEN: The young Kalu Rinpoche told me a simi- lar story, that when he took responsibility for centers all around the world at the age of eighteen, he had to step in to address issues of abuse. At one center, he told all the women to come speak to him one by one. It took two days to hear them all out. He told me he cried the whole time. It was important that the women were heard. And then, of course, he did take measures to deal with the problems, but acknowledging the level of pain and upset is a crucial first step. Compassion and loving-kindness have to be emphasized and worked with much more in our spiritual communities, both in how teachers practice and develop and in how they guide students. I think it’s a failure of compassion when people are used for other people’s satisfaction. I also want to reiterate what Shinge was saying about boards. We’re Americans talking about Buddhist centers in America. There are nonprofit laws here governing religious organizations, and boards are a key part of accountability. Nonprofit laws exist to protect the public; as religious or spiritual people, we shouldn’t try to circumvent those laws just so the board can be a rubber stamp for the teacher. BUDDhADhARMA: When misconduct occurs, leaders generally try to see if mediation is possible. But how realistic is it to draw new boundaries around a teacher who has commit- ted abuses of power multiple times? In order for people to feel safe and protected in their sangha, at what point do you say the conversation is over and stricter measures are needed, perhaps involving the judicial system? ALAN SENAUKE: In Scott Edelstein’s book, Sex and the Spiri- tual Teacher, he distinguishes between garden-variety delusion, if you will, and pathology. There is a difference, and not all of us are capable of making that discernment; skilled, professional evaluation is essential to assess the situation. If a teacher crosses a boundary out of loneliness or isolation and you can bring that person back to the shore that we’re all standing on, great. But if there is a pat- tern of pathology or predation, forget it. You’ll burn out the sangha trying to rein in somebody like that. I know of sanghas that have ended up firing their teacher and selling their center because the pattern continued over and over, and it became clear that resolution wasn’t possible. In those cases, it was far more than a question of reminding somebody of their vows or the precepts. LAMA PALDEN: There needs to be a lot more education about the nature of student–teacher relations, that sexuality is something that the student has a full and complete right to not engage in with a teacher. This leads to a much larger question about how centers are structured in terms of authority, how that authority enters teacher–student rela- tionships, and how people are educated about those struc- tures. These relationships need to be based on conscious mutual agreements. But we also have to have compassion for teachers; they should be given a chance to rehabilitate, to heal, and to work on themselves. Sometimes with therapy and abstain- ing from teaching for a year or two, they can come back into the role of a teacher, but sometimes the problems run too deep. In France, in our lineage, four lamas who had