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Dalai Lama Speaks on Abuse by Dharma Teachers After Meeting Alleged Victims

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His Holiness the Dalai Lama meets well-wishers on arriving at his hotel in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, on 14 September. Photo by Olivier Adam. From dalailama.com
His Holiness the Dalai Lama meets well-wishers on arriving at his hotel in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, on 14 September. Photo by Olivier Adam. From dalailama.com

Following a meeting with four alleged victims of abuse committed by Tibetan Buddhist teachers, His Holiness the Dalai Lama acknowledged in a television interview in the Netherlands on Saturday that he has been aware of similar allegations since the 1990s and encouraged other victims of abuse to speak out.

“I already did know these things, [it’s] nothing new,” the Dalai Lama told Dutch public television channel NOS late on Saturday, noting that he had previously heard rumors of abuse while attending a conference for Western Buddhist teachers in Dharamsala in northern India. “Twenty-five years ago . . . someone mentioned about a problem of sexual allegations.” (DW)

On Friday, the first day of a four-day visit to the Netherlands, His Holiness held a 20-minute meeting with four people from Belgium and the Netherlands who said that Tibetan Buddhist teachers had abused them. During the meeting the group submitted written accounts of abuse from 12 alleged victims.

The four said the Dalai Lama had promised to follow up on the reports of sexual, physical, and psychological abuse, and had said he would raise the matter during a conference between senior leaders of Tibetan Buddhism scheduled to be held in Dharamsala in November.

“What we want from him is that he is very clear about the fact that religious leaders in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition are not above the law,” said Oane Bijlsma, one of the group of four people who met with the Dalai Lama. “That even if they claim that their tradition endorses behavior that is supposedly beyond good and evil, it can never be the case.” (The Washington Post)

Using the hashtag #MeTooGuru, the group has gathered more than 1,800 signatures after setting up an online petition calling for the Tibetan spiritual leader to address the allegations in the written accounts.*

“We, the authors of this petition, are all survivors of (sexual) abuse by Buddhist teachers. We took refuge in Buddhism with an open mind and an open heart, until we were violated in its name,” the group wrote in a statement accompanying their petition: (Change.org)

News reports and emerging scandals around the globe prove that (sexual) abuse by both lay and ordained Buddhist teachers is rampant and persistent. The abuses have marred the spiritual welfare of countless children, women, and men. We applaud the Dalai Lama’s sustained effort to promote secular ethics and Buddhist values. He has been a champion of women’s rights, thanks to the involvement and support of the underprivileged Buddhist nuns and their advocates. Also, he has spoken out against abuses by lay and ordained Buddhist teachers. But his is still a lone voice. 

. . . 

With this petition we sincerely ask the Dalai Lama to endorse and implement the following requests:

• To accept our compilation of survivors’ testimonies in person during your visit to the Netherlands and respond to some of our ideas for follow-up actions;

• To ask the Mind & Life Institute that holds your frequent dialogues with scientists and Buddhists to host a meeting on human sexuality, sexual abuse by lay and ordained religious teachers, and sexual trauma;

• To put abuse by lay and ordained Buddhist teachers on the agenda of the intended gathering of religious leaders and representatives of the major Tibetan schools in Dharamsala in November 2018;

• To reaffirm publicly that Buddhist teachers who commit crimes and misdemeanors, just like any other citizen, are liable to criminal prosecution and civil action. (Change.org)

The Dalai Lama poses with the four petitioners. Photo by Marlies Bosch. From lionsroar.com
The Dalai Lama poses with the four petitioners. Photo by Marlies Bosch. From lionsroar.com

The Dalai Lama “has consistently denounced such irresponsible and unethical behavior,” said Tseten Samdup Chhoekyapa, a representative for the Dalai Lama in Europe, following Friday’s meeting. (France 24)

Buddhists who commit acts of sexual abuse “don’t care about the Buddha’s teaching,” the Dalai Lama said during his interview with NOS. “So now that everything has been made public, people may concern about their shame.” (France 24)

Referencing the planned conference of senior lamas and religious leaders in November, the 83-year-old spiritual leader added: “At that time they should talk about it  . . .  I think the religious leaders should pay more attention.” (DW)

Ricardo Mendes, one of the group of four granted an audience, said he felt the meeting with His Holiness had been productive: “He was like: OK, now I have maybe the material. I have real papers, real stories of real people that I can use to point fingers in the Buddhist landscape and say, ‘This guy, this guy, this guy are behaving this way, and you should not follow them, and this is not Tibetan Buddhism.’” (The Washington Post)

“Maybe . . . this is what is going to come out of this meeting, that he is going to have the ammo to actually fire,” added Mendes, who said he had been physically abused as child while growing up in a Buddhist community in Belgium. (The Washington Post)

The meeting came in the wake of a series of exposés and accusations of impropriety against a number of prominent Buddhist teachers and leaders in around the world, notably the Nyingma teachers Sogyal Rinpoche, founder of the Rigpa international network of Buddhist centers, and Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, former head of the Canada-based Shambhala international Buddhist community. Ven. Seoljeong, the presiding executive of the Jogye Order of South Korea, the country’s largest Buddhist order, is also embroiled in a corruption scandal, while the former head of the Buddhist Association of China was recently removed from his post as the abbot of Longquan Monastery in Beijing, following a probe into accusations of sexual abuse.

#MeTooGuru – Support the Dalai Lama’s effort to remedy sexual abuse (Change.org)

See more

Dalai Lama admits he knew about Buddhist teachers’ sexual abuse (DW)
Dalai Lama meets alleged victims of abuse by Buddhist gurus (The Washington Post)
Dalai Lama: I knew of sex abuse by Buddhist teachers since 1990s (France 24)
‘#Metooguru’: Dalai Lama meets victims of alleged abuse by Buddhist teachers (NBC News)
Dalai Lama meets with survivors of abuse by Buddhist teachers (Lion’s Roar)
Dalai Lama Admits to Knowing about Decades-long Abuse in Tibetan Buddhism (Tricycle)
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet

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