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Buddhadharma : Winter 2018
FORUM | IS THE GURU MODEL BROKEN? 53 sometimes lead to harm. What does the guru model look like when it’s not work- ing well? How does it break down? LOBSANG RAPGAY: What we see in these recent cases, in addition to issues associ- ated with the psychological development of the teacher, is a lack of rigorous tradi- tional training and education, as well as the absence of ethics as the foundation of their teachings. Rigorous traditional training not only provides extensive edu- cation in the theories and practices of the teachings, but also a structure and disci- pline for trainees to conduct themselves ethically in body, speech, and mind. All traditions repeatedly stress ethics as the foundation for all practices. When someone without formal train- ing assumes the role of teacher, espe- cially in the case of esoteric teachings, the potential for abuse is enormous. At first, the teacher might personalize and simplify the teachings, making them more accessible and appealing to draw in students. But from there, the teacher is no longer beholden to the tradition; they are free to interpret and introduce the teachings in their own way, without any constraints. Such teachers rarely empha- size the centrality of ethics or subject themselves to the ethical guidelines of a Vajra master. This lack of grounding leads to a form of personalized Buddhism of which the teacher is the sole authority. From there, you begin to see very subtle subjugations or, in extreme cases, I’ve seen people use the word “enslavement.” People are threatened; other teachers or teachings are not encouraged. Over time, you begin to see the threats, then abuse increases. Often it’s sexual, but it’s not limited to that; it’s also emotional, physical, and financial. There’s always secrecy and silence. It does not take long to create an organization entirely centered around the teacher and his or her interpretation of the teachings. The teacher has complete power and authority, and others support the teacher while maintaining secrecy and silence. PEMA KHANDRO RINPOCHE: I feel Bud- dhism is taking a positive step forward. I was ashamed when people asked me how the #MeToo movement was affect- ing Buddhism and I couldn’t give any examples. Then, all of a sudden, people were speaking up and speaking out, and I was so proud of the communities that spoke out and of the brave people who told their stories under great duress. It’s important for us to go through this stage so that we can go beyond a naïve view of Buddhism based on fantasies of Shangri- La, where Tibetans are all perfect and teachers are all flawless, and all you have to do is turn off your intelligence and do what they tell you. That’s a natural stage when someone converts to a new religion. We know from the research that at first, people take things too literally; they can be fundamentalist. But gradually, they become more adept at interpreting the tradition themselves and looking into these complex issues and ambiguities, and they go beyond that black-and-white