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Buddhadharma : Summer 2018
LAMA WILLA MILLER 55 to protect them. These issues will not be worked out by individuals or communities until we begin to talk about them freely. Finally, dharma teachers who offend must be held accountable. When a community decides a teacher’s actions are above scrutiny, ethical violations will remain hidden. It is not enough for communi- ties to promise change after a violation. They must do everything in their power to facilitate healing and restore trust. This is a long process that involves compassion, equanimity, and inquiring into the sangha culture in which harm was perpetrated and perhaps enabled. the dharma is still a refuge When my former dharma community’s secret history came to broader light, I found myself on the phone with a sangha member who asked, “What about my dharma practices, the ones I received from him. Are they still valid?” I was moved deeply by this question. For communities who have been through a crisis of faith, this question is one of the first to surface. My response to him was that while the teacher might have faults, the dharma is pure. Whatever teachings, transmissions, and authori- zations you have received from the teacher are still sacred and valid, I said. When I hung up the phone, I wondered whether disillusionment is not in fact the plague of the spiritual path but rather its catalyst. Perhaps true refuge can’t be found without a falling away of our false sense of security. It may be that the deepest teachings are not the ones transmitted in the dharma hall but rather the life experi- ences that challenge everything we believed to be true. When every- thing falls apart, we are impelled to find a deeper dharma. Not a dharma of words and paper but an inner dharma of the heart’s own truth. And perhaps this is the essence of what our human teachers, fallible as they may be, have been trying to tell us all along. Several strong, courageous women stand silently in the background of this article, women who have shared with me their stories of trauma and resilience and who have read and commented on this article. I extend my deepest gratitude to all of them.