When abuse claims are brought to light in our spiritual communities, we face a troubling dilemma: what do we do next? The recent reports of sexual abuse that have unraveled Shambhala International’s leadership are, sadly, only the latest in a familiar story of teacher-student relationships gone awry. It is during such times that many will put years of dharma practice and commitment to their teachers into question.
The following articles from our archives are five takes from Buddhists across traditions on both the value and the risks of teacher-student relationships, as well as personal accounts of the reflection, and eventually, healing, that comes after a serious breach. We hope they offer clarity in a confusing time.
What Went Wrong
Lobsang Rabgay, a Tibetan psychologist and former monk, examines both the psychological and social conditions that allow Tibetan Buddhist teachers to abuse their leadership roles. One issue, he says, is their newfound access to unrestricted power in the West.
Sex in the Sangha . . . Again
Abuses of power within Buddhist sanghas are far from isolated events. Here, four Buddhist teachers discuss the systemic issues that allow it to happen, time and time again.
The Good Fit
A student of Taizan Maezumi Roshi, a controversial Zen pioneer in the West, reflects on the internal journey he experienced while studying under the supervision of a flawed master.
Why I Quit Guru Yoga
Anyone who participates in Vajrayana Buddhism’s rigid hierarchical structure is vulnerable to the the pains caused by abuse of power, says former Tibetan Buddhist monk Stephen Batchelor. In order to end this history of exploitation, he argues, the tradition must sever itself from its feudal origins.
After the reports of abuse settle, what matters most is not dwelling on the details of the wrongs that were committed but rather the open question of what heals. Three dharma practitioners share their stories of healing after spiritual crisis.
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