21 Dec 2010

Sri Lankan children forced to become monks, endure abuse and manipulation in Buddhist monasteries

LankaNewspapers.com - Sri Lanka August 28, 2010

The underage poor Sinhala village boys, too young to understand religion or politics are being coerced into joining the Sinhala Buddhist chauvinist sects.

Animal sacrifice is cruel but let us save the children before saving the Goats.

The system of dedicating children to the Temples and religion goes back many centuries. These children who are given away to the Temples at an early age are too young to understand the religion, politics or child abuse. The Hindu India not only banned the practice of animal sacrifice but it also banned the dedication of children at an early age to the Temples and monasteries. I think slaughtering animals in the Temples for religious purposes is cruel and primitive so is the dedication of young children to the Temples, monasteries, religious sects when they can`t even decide what to eat, how can they decide whether they want to become a monk or a layman. In my view that is more primitive and cruel and the Buddhist Sri Lanka`s political leader must pay attention to that, and stop this sordid practice.

The child monks are torn away from their poor Sinhala Buddhist parents by radical Buddhist sects to serve as foot soldiers in their attempt to foist Sinhala chauvinism upon the country. Rampant Buddhism, violent and self-seeking political monks have been the bane of Sri Lankan politics.

The poor Sinhala village boys, mainly underage to understand religion or politics, are being coerced into joining these Buddhist chauvinist movements with the lure of street power, economic betterment and a secure life. The child monks with their cherubic faces and indoctrinated minds will appeal to these masses on the emotional and fanatically religious plane.

Gananath Obeyesekere, an anthropology professor at Princeton University, says the campaign targets children as young as 5 years even though Theravada Buddhism doctrine states that a boy must be at least 15 years of age to become a monk.

Dr. Obeysekere says in his article, `my concern here is with the whole problem of child monks because this seems to be a violation of both the letter and the spirit of Theravada Vinaya ...` [see full article below]

The Buddha himself ordained his only son Rahula at just 5 years old, but this was regarded an exception rather than a rule, Obeyesekere said.

After being rebuked for the act by his own father, the Buddha specified that one must not only have parental consent to ordain a child, but that the child must be 15 years of age. If not, the youth must have the `PHYSICAL MATURITY` of a 15-year-old.

But one major reason Obeyesekere, himself a Sinhala Buddhist, opposes child recruitment is that the very young are vulnerable to sexual abuse, which he says is `NOTORIOUSLY ASSOCIATED` with all forms of institutionalized monasticism. Giving a child to a temple is a coping mechanism of the poor Sinhala Buddhists of Sri Lanka, By letting children `go forth`, parents also hope that the child will grow up in a disciplined, spiritually refined environment.

The possibility of CHILD ABUSE IN BUDDHIST MONASTERIES` `must be faced HONESTLY and SQUARELY,` he stressed. Unlike adult monks, children have little chance of resisting sexual advances, the professor added. `Even the presence of guardians, or sponsors is not protection. How does the guardian inquire into such possibilities when the mere talk of homoerotic practices is taboo?` Obeyesekere asked.

He also asked why those politicians promoting child monk recruitment have not set an example by being ordained themselves or having their own children or grandchildren ordained.

`The more serious problem is that of sexual abuse notoriously associated with all forms of institutionalized monasticism, witness the recent cases of abuse of children put in their pastoral care even by high prelates of the Catholic Church. But Catholics have no system of child ordination and therefore the possibility of abuse of children confined to Buddhist monasteries must be faced honestly and squarely.

Unlike adult monks children have little chance of resisting sexual advances. They are much more vulnerable the cultural and familial pressures are so strong that they cannot run away to their own homes and, as far as I know, there is no satisfactory way in which they can protest to the monastic authorities. The new ordinations require, I am told, a guardian who will act in the interests of the child. But how does the guardian inquire into such possibilities when the mere talk of homoerotic practices is taboo? And how does a guardian set about his task? Are there rules and institutional procedures laid out? Perhaps one solution would be to have professionally trained child care workers among Buddhist monks who would then have the legal and moral right to inquire into problems of child abuse. But I doubt that this has even been considered by our pious officials and politicians.`

Let us Stop the child abuse and save the poor Sinhala children before saving a bunch of goats from a function once a year.

This article was found at:



Infolanka.com (undated)

Child ordinations and the rights of children

by Gananath Obeyesekere

Recent newspaper articles, photographs and reports in our newspapers have given prominence to massive campaigns to recruit thousands of children to the Buddhist order with the Prime Minister himself urging the recruitment of two thousand children as novices. He also urged the poor to multiply and bring forth children to bless the Sangha with new recruits and to serve in what he no doubt perceives as an endless war. My concern here is with the whole problem of child monks because this seems to be a violation of both the letter and the spirit of the Theravada Vinaya, the authoritative source of rules for monks. One newspaper photograph shows a child of about eight years wearing yellow robes and greeted by his smiling sister. The boy was not smiling; I am not surprised because joining a mendicant order is an awesome experience even for adults. One has therefore to ask whether little children are capable of making this kind of decision. Let me therefore address some of the issues that seem to me to be relevant for public consideration.

1. The recruitment thrust has the blessings of politicians and the officials of the Buddha Sasana Ministry. I presume that in order to set an example to others the officials promoting the campaign have ordained, or will ordain in the near future, their own children or grandchildren. Outside of the offspring of these idealistically motivated officials, most of the child recruits must surely come from the poorest of the poor and also, nowadays, from those families who have been dispossessed or have suffered from the current war. One might make a case that monastic recruitment is a good thing because it provides homes and basic care for poor children. Yet, most of these children have had more than one meal a day, have had playmates and the support of family and kin folk. How would they fare with no solid food after the noon meal, without playmates and kin support? Moreover, if Buddhists are concerned about the welfare of poor children ought they not to develop alternative provisions, such as homes and orphanages, provision of food and education for destitute families - all of which are in keeping with the spirit of the religion.

2. The more serious problem is that of sexual abuse notoriously associated with all forms of institutionalized monasticism, witness the recent cases of abuse of children put in their pastoral care even by high prelates of the Catholic Church. But Catholics have no system of child ordination and therefore the possibility of abuse of children confined to Buddhist monasteries must be faced honestly and squarely.

Over the last five or six years I have visited many Buddhist monasteries trying to locate two rare palm leaf manuscripts and I believe that in general village monks are morally responsible human beings. Yet, it is foolish to believe that abuse of children does not take place in larger monasteries, in urban settings and among the more worldly monks. The rules of the Vinaya themselves were formulated when specific acts of immorality had taken place in monasteries and among these are unlawful homoerotic activities, generally among consenting adults. In our own troubled times, monks are provided with plenty of sexual stimuli: in TV and in coeducational interactions in campuses and other arenas. Yet the rules do not provide them with heterosexual outlets. One would imagine, therefore, that in our modern context the possibility of child abuse is certainly there and one ought to have institutional safeguards for that purpose. Urban monasteries today provide no serious monastic education because modern monks want to sit for secular government exams and go to secular universities. It is in the rare instance that monks study Pali or Sanskrit and have first hand knowledge of the doctrinal tradition. Many drop out of the monkhood after some time though exact statistics are not available. If I am even partially right then the real issue is to provide incentives for monks to study Buddhism seriously, engage in meditative exercises, and for the laity to provide support and encouragement for adult monks to remain in the order. When masses of children are to be ordained it is likely that most of them will follow the now popular pattern of secular education and many will end up disrobing. If so, what good will child recruitment do for the order?

3. Unlike adult monks children have little chance of resisting sexual advances. They are much more vulnerable; the cultural and familial pressures are so strong that they cannot run away to their own homes and, as far as I know, there is no satisfactory way in which they can protest to the monastic authorities. The new ordinations require, I am told, a guardian who will act in the interests of the child. But how does the guardian inquire into such possibilities when the mere talk of homoerotic practices is taboo? And how does a guardian set about his task? Are there rules and institutional procedures laid out? Perhaps one solution would be to have professionally trained child care workers among Buddhist monks who would then have the legal and moral right to inquire into problems of child abuse. But I doubt that this has even been considered by our pious officials and politicians.

4. What are the rules of the order regarding child ordination?The classic rule which officials and monks go by is formulated in the Mahavagga 1, 53-54 of the Vinaya Pitake . In it the Buddha ordained his only son Rahula but, owing to strong protests by his own father, the sage formulated the following rule: "Monks, a child who has not his parent’s consent should not be let to go forth [that is, ordained as a novice]." But well-meaning Buddhists are unaware that this rule was qualified by another sensible rule: "Monks, a boy of less than fifteen years of age should not be let to go forth. Whoever should let (one such) go forth, there is an offence of wrong-doing." (Mahavagga, 1.50) Because sixteen years is the permitted age of marriage for Buddhists at that time one would expect a fifteen year old youth to be fully mature. Nevertheless, this is further qualified by another rule which unlike the previous one is so vague that it simply cannot be applied to our time. It says: "I allow you, monks, to let a youth of less than fifteen years of age and who is scarer of crows go forth." (ibid,. 1,51) This qualification, however, is nothing to crow about. It is not a general rule but an exception to the former one. And it has been interpreted by later traditions to mean references to a muscular youth capable of scaring crows (who in Buddhist texts are hardy creatures classed with vultures and living on carrion) by throwing a clod of earth at them with the left hand! Simply stated the rule implies that one can qualify the fifteen year norm if the youth (not child) is physically tough and up to the rigours of monastic life. Thus, it seems to me that the Theravada Buddhist rules of recruitment for novices are quite sensible: one must have parental consent; one must be fifteen years old; if not, one must be a youth with the physical maturity of a fifteen year old. There is no space for child ordination according to the Buddha-word which means that in these matters ignorance is our worst enemy.

5. I for one agree that monks have a vital religion~ role in our society officiating in temple rituals and sermons and they are absolutely indispensible for death rituals, especially the pansakula and the remembrance of the dead (mataka dana). Hence, some form of recruitment is vital to the perpetuation of lived Buddhism. If monks, politicians and government officials declare that more monks are needed then they should also ask the question, how many monks does the nation require? Or, is one good monk worth the many who openly flout the rules of the order?

I have no answers to these questions but if more monks are needed there remains a very simple solution to the problem, and that is the recruitment of older folk. Many older people are increasingly given to meditation (of various types, some deep some shallow) and they are nowadays educated, often with a good knowledge of the dhamma. They have more or less retired from work and worldly life and form an ideal recruiting ground for both novices and fully ordained monks (and nuns). Many of them have meagre pensions; therefore free monastic board and lodging would be added incentives. And given the imbalances in our population more and more older people (age fifty and over) will be available for recruitment. They have already enjoyed (or put up with) domestic life and are ready for the life after. They may not be as glamorous as child monks but they could well be the rock on which a solid foundation for the future of the sasana could be erected. It seems that the sensible thing to do is for the Buddha Sasana officials to promote this form of recruitment rather than the Orwellian scenario proposed by the Prime Minister.

(The writer is Professor of Anthropology, Emeritus, of Princeton University, New Jersey, USA)

This article was found at:



Sri Lankan grandmother who reported Buddhist monk for sexually abusing two children threatened by temple officials


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Situation vacant: Girl, 3, wanted for role of living goddess. Must offer blessings

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You can find more articles related to abuse of children by Buddhist leaders and teachers at the following blog: 

DOWN THE CROOKED PATH -  Hidden Dangers of Meditation and the Pitfalls of the Guru/Disciple relationship


  1. For sexual abuse of boy novices in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in India and Nepal, please see:

  2. Encouraging suicide

    by Luis Granados, God Experts November 6, 2011

    Buddhist God experts in southwestern China have been on a suicide binge lately. Last week victim #11, a 35-year old Buddhist nun named Qiu Xiang, set herself aflame. Most of the previous victims were younger, either twenty-somethings or, in several cases, mere teenagers. Most also come from a single town, Aba, which is near (but not in) Tibet.

    The circumstantial evidence is that there is an organized campaign in this town to egg these young people on to die the most grotesque kind of death. Either that, or there is something awfully strange in the water at the local monastery. In fact, two monks have been criminally charged in the “suicide” of 16-year old Rigzin Phuntsog; a third is charged with concealing him for 11 hours after the bonfire, to make sure he died rather than receiving the medical treatment that might have allowed him to grow to adulthood.

    What is the purpose in wasting these young lives? The purpose is to make a political point: that the Dalai Lama, the divine-right monarch of a particular Buddhist sect, ought to have more earthly power, and the Chinese government ought to have less. “Love live the Dalai Lama!” cried Tsewang Norbu, age 29, as he was engulfed in flame.

    Why now? It seems to have something to do with the process for selecting the new spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists after the current 76-year old Dalai Lama dies. ...
    His Holiness, the Dalai Lama ... leads public prayers in celebration of the suicides, extolling what terrific people these were. “They publicly played it up, spread rumors and incited more people to follow suit,” complains a government spokesman. That’s exactly what happens when the Dalai Lama puts all the blame on the Chinese government, and none on the Buddhist leadership: “The local leader must look what’s the real causes of death. It’s their own sort of wrong policy, ruthless policy, illogical policy,” he insists.

    “Throughout your successive rebirths, never relax your vigilance in upholding the truth of the Buddha’s excellent teaching for a single moment, even at the cost of your own life,” urges Kirti Rinpoche, the former head of the monastery now producing all the suicides, who now lives in comfortable CIA-funded exile with the Dalai Lama. Subtle, huh?

    The key point in Rinpoche’s exhortation is the “successive rebirths” part. The tragic sham of Buddhism is to place little value on human life, because once you end this life you’ll just hop right into another one – an especially nice one, if you gave up your life to advance the political career of a professional Buddhist God expert. ...
    Great seriousness, indeed – many thousands of American servicemen died from suicidal kamikaze attacks by young Japanese who were just as convinced then as the Dalai Lama’s disciples are today that suicide will bring them happiness in the next life.

    If it weren’t for all the CIA money supporting him over the decades, the Dalai Lama and his reincarnation antics would be a joke. Thinking about what these 11 idealistic young people might have done with their lives had they not been encouraged to throw them away doesn’t leave me smiling, though.

    read the full article at:


  3. 'Burning martyrs': the wave of Tibetan monks setting themselves on fire

    by Jason Burke in Delhi and Tania Branigan in Beijing, The Guardian November 10, 2011

    On the posters, they call them "the burning martyrs". Above photographs of the 11 Tibetan monks, former monks and nuns who have set fire to themselves this year in an unprecedented series of demonstrations in Sichuan, south-west China, the question asked is: "How many more?"

    Their images line the streets of Dharamsala, the Indian Himalayan foothill town which is a refuge to the Tibetan community in exile. And with seven suicide protests in the last four weeks alone, the question is ever more urgent. Most of those who have set themselves on fire have died.

    On Thursday monks who have recently made the perilous journey across the Himalayas to exile in India claimed leaflets were circulating in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in China listing the names of scores of young people ready to publicly burn themselves alive to protest against Chinese policies .

    Senior monks from the Kirti monastery in Aba county, the centre of the protests so far, told the Guardian that they feared it was inevitable many more would die over the coming months.

    "I am 100% sure there will be more. The situation is suffocating and there is no other way to demonstrate anger," said Kanyang Tsering, 32, a monk from Kirti living in Dharamsala.

    Tsering said the towns and villages surrounding Kirti monastery were under heavy security. "There are more soldiers and police than people. All over Tibet this is happening but in Kirti it is particularly bad."

    Kirti is not in the official Tibetan Autonomous Region, but exiles claim several Tibetan-dominated areas of south-west China as Tibet.

    Film of the area taken by journalists from the AFP news agency last month showed a heavy presence of Chinese security authorities with patrols equipped with fire extinguishers to stop further attempts at self-immolation.

    Until two years ago, when a monk burned himself to death in Aba county, the practice was unknown among Tibetan clerics. But since the start of a security clampdown provoked by the second case, in March this year, there has been a series of such suicide protests. Analysts have observed that they have taken place in locations that saw significant violence during unrest in March 2008. ...
    The Karmapa Lama, one of the most senior Tibetan religious figures, has urged Tibetans in China to find other ways to challenge Beijing's policies.

    Many see the 25-year-old Karmapa Lama, who is based near Dharamsala, as a possible successor to the Dalai Lama as the spiritual leader of exiled Tibetans.

    "These desperate acts … are a cry against the injustice and repression under which they live. But I request the people of Tibet to preserve their lives and find other, constructive ways to work for the cause of Tibet," he said.

    "In Buddhist teaching life is precious. To achieve anything worthwhile we need to preserve our lives."

    His position differs, however, from that taken by the Dalai Lama himself, who – though he has expressed deep sorrow at the deaths, which he blamed on Chinese policies – has not appealed to Tibetans to halt such acts. Tsering, the Kirti monk in Dharamsala, said that the act of suicide was shocking to most Buddhists but was justified by the "motivations" of those killing themselves. "They are doing it for the good of all people in the region, nothing else," he said.

    The Chinese government has accused the Dalai Lama of "terrorism in disguise" because he has led prayers for those who have set fire to themselves.

    The Karmapa Lama said that "Tibetans are few in number, so every Tibetan life is of value to the cause of Tibet". ...

    read the full article at:


  4. The little lama from Columbia Heights

    By Allie Shah, Minneapolis Star Tribune December 18, 2011

    Tibetan Buddhists see the extraordinary in this Columbia Heights boy -- a reincarnated guru

    It's morning time and a little boy with a shaved head and a face shaped like the moon chants a Tibetan prayer.

    His high-pitched voice echoes inside the Columbia Heights bedroom that his father has transformed into a lavish prayer room. In here, the 4-year-old forsakes his cartoons and toys to study scripture and learn to pray the Buddhist way.

    Big for his age, he looks bigger still perched on an ornate chair draped in crimson and saffron robes. "Only for lamas," explains his father, Dorje Tsegyal, sitting cross-legged on the floor at his son's feet.

    Jalue Dorjee, you see, is believed to be no ordinary boy.

    According to the highest authorities of the Tibetan Buddhist order, he is the reincarnation of the speech, mind and body of a lama, or spiritual guru, who died in Switzerland six years ago. Jalue is said to be the eighth appearance of the original lama, born in 1655.

    His discovery in 2009 is considered an honor and a blessing for his working-class parents. But it comes with a hefty price. Jalue (pronounced JAH-loo) is their only child -- their everything. This week, he turns 5, a critical marker on his predestined path. In just five more years, he will leave the familiarity of his parents' home in Minnesota to live and study in a monastery in India.

    Jalue is believed to be one of a very few American tulkus -- or reincarnated lamas -- and the first one born in Minnesota, which has the second-largest Tibetan population in the country. Still, the finding comes amid some controversy over the way tulkus are being identified, as some Tibetan scholars question why their number has been increasing -- to thousands worldwide.

    But Jalue's parents are faithful believers, and they look past any doubters to the work they must do to prepare their son for his destiny.

    The thought of letting Jalue go pains his mother, but she consoles herself that when the time comes, she will probably be accustomed to the idea.

    Of dreams and letters

    From the time a new life first began to stir inside her in 2006, Dechen Wangmo said she sensed there was something special about this child.

    He was peaceful inside her body. She carried him with ease. She never felt sick, not even in the mornings.

    And there were those dreams.

    One night, an elephant appeared with several little ones around it, she said. They merged into the small prayer room in the family home. Once inside, they vanished.

    Tsegyal, too, remembers having vivid, symbolic dreams at the time. In one, he said, he saw many lamas surrounded by tall sunflowers.

    So when a highly respected lama from India came to visit the Twin Cities Tibetan community, Tsegyal told him about the dreams. That night, the lama had magical dreams of his own, according to Tsegyal, (pronounced Say-jull). The lama told him he saw huge tigers, one in each room of the family home. Robust tigers are a good omen and a sign of strength and protection, according to Tibetan Buddhist custom.

    Before Jalue was born, the family asked the lama to perform a practice known as "divination," which is used by lamas in Tibetan Buddhism to advise people on important matters. Different lamas use their own divination methods, including ones using a rosary or dice to interpret events. This lama performed a divination using two arrows and prayer, Tsegyal recalled.

    Weeks later, a letter arrived at the Columbia Heights home. In it, the visiting lama wrote that he was sure the child was the reincarnation of a Buddhist spiritual master, Tsegyal recalled. Which spiritual master, the lama did not know.

    Determined to find out, Tsegyal wrote to His Holiness Trulshik Shatrul Rinpoche, the spiritual leader of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism, the oldest of the four schools.

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    Rinpoche performed another divination, also using the arrows. Soon another letter arrived at the family doorstep.

    "Your son is lucky to be a reincarnate of body, speech and mind of TAKSHAM NUEDEN DORJEE."

    Accepting fate

    Emotions filled Tsegyal: gratitude and fear, honor and pride.

    He showed the letter to Wangmo. "Let's not tell anyone right now," she said.

    What if people questioned Jalue's legitimacy? she worried.

    Besides, he was their one and only child. She could not bear the thought of sending her precious son off to a monastery far from her in just a few short years.

    But there could be consequences, Tsegyal gently persisted. Tibetan Buddhists believe that interfering with a person's destiny may cut their life short.

    "If he is a real reincarnated lama, we have to nurture him and nourish him," he said softly. "Otherwise, he will not have a long life."

    Wangmo saw that she must accept her son's fate.

    When another lama from India came to town, Tsegyal brought his newborn son for a blessing, but kept quiet about the recognition. "Your son seems to be of high birth," the lama observed.

    At Tsegyal's request, the lama performed a third divination ritual. Like the others, he quickly concluded the child was indeed a tulku. He told Tsegyal to alert the three highest lamas, and this led to more letters confirming Jalue as a reincarnated lama.

    On Jan. 6, 2009, a letter arrived bearing the seal of the greatest spiritual leader of the Tibetan diaspora. The Dalai Lama officially recognized Jalue as the reincarnation of the lama known as Taksham Nueden Dorjee. In a second letter, the Dalai Lama gave Jalue a formal lama name -- Tenzin Gyurme Trinley Dorjee.

    The boy was now 3. His life was about to change.

    Enlightened parenting

    The first thing to go was his hair.

    Buddhist monks must keep their hair no more than 2 inches long, a custom stemming from a story about Buddha snapping his fingers and instantly removing all the monks' hair, mustaches and beards.

    At the time, Jalue's shiny black hair fell to his shoulders.

    His parents timed his first haircut to the Dalai Lama's visit to the Tibetan community in Madison, Wis., in May 2010. The family traveled to Madison and the Dalai Lama did the honors, cutting a lock of the boy's hair. Tsegyal keeps that strand of hair preserved inside a blue, folded paper at home.

    Tsegyal had one more question for the Dalai Lama: How should he raise Jalue to ensure he will become a great lama?

    The Dalai Lama told him to keep the boy in the United States until he reaches the age of 10 so he can go to school here and learn good English. When he turns 10, he should be sent to a monastery in India, where he can learn as much as he can before he is full-grown.

    Jalue's father says he realizes that he is raising a lama for the 21st century. A tech-savvy spiritual leader who can easily communicate with people in the West and East. Yet someone also fully versed in the wisdom and practices of Tibetan Buddhism and able to teach those concepts to others.

    On a crisp fall morning, Jalue looks the part of a boy in two worlds. He practices reading Tibetan words, sitting on his lama chair at home. He is wearing a yellow "Highland Hawks" T-shirt and red flannel pajama bottoms, his favorite colors, and the ones that lamas wear exclusively.

    His head bowed over his workbook, he points to each word with a highlighter and reads aloud.

    Tsegyal sits next to his son. "He learns very fast," the father says, watching Jalue power through the workbook and look to his father with a "what's next?" expression. He's learning the basics -- how to say the morning and afternoon prayers and how to read the scriptures. In due time, his father says, he will also learn the meaning of those scriptures.

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    "Right now," Tsegyal explains, "it's very important to know the reading. The important words. Once he will grow up his age, he will start to understand."

    The boy lama

    There is so much more Tsegyal must teach his son before they part. How to wear the monk robes properly. How to walk and how to sit. At times, Tsegyal feels overwhelmed by his duty. Mother and father still struggle to find the right balance for shaping a holy man while parenting a 4-year-old. Once Tsegyal became stern while trying to get Jalue to recite a line in the scripture. The boy's face became serious, Tsegyal said, and he spoke in a commanding tone. "Abba, now I am small. You don't have to do that. When I am grown up, I will know it."

    His mother remembers the day when Jalue took issue with her discipline. "I'm the reincarnate of Taksham," he told her. "You have to talk slow and in a good manner. Otherwise, I'll be shamed."

    Other times, he appears no different than any other 4-year-old. At home, he sucks down his favorite beef soup and rice dish. He runs around the house in his Power Ranger mask, makes action figures soar off the kitchen table, builds a garage out of Legos for his toy cars. He giggles while watching "Mr. Bean" videos or play-wrestling with his dad. He carries his eagerness to learn to preschool. He often sits near the front of the class, and when his teacher, Kathy Anderson, asks a question, he stretches his hand as high as he can, waving frantically.

    Jalue stands a full head taller than his classmates. A gentle giant, he grins at a blond-haired boy named Ryan and punches him playfully on the arm. "You want to play with ME?" he asks excitedly, then leads Ryan to a tub full of Legos. At preschool he's just one of the kids, but at the local Tibetan center, Jalue is viewed with great respect and awe. He stopped at the center on Saturday to celebrate his birthday with cake, candles and singing. Jalue appeared stoic, in his monk robes, standing in front of dozens of other Tibetan-American children. They craned their necks to get a better view of the boy, introduced to them as "rinpoche," meaning "precious one." Then, they sang "Happy Birthday" to him in Tibetan. At the end, the headmaster of the Tibetan center's weekend school leaned down and touched his forehead to Jalue's -- in order to receive blessings from the little lama.

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    A mother's dilemma

    Dechen Wangmo is 40 years old now, and says she won't have any more children. She isn't sure what will happen in five years, when the day comes for Jalue to join the monastery. Sometimes she thinks she will move to India, too. Other times she feels she must stay because her job and her family are here in Minnesota. "Right now she thinks so many things," said Thinly Woser, a family friend and longtime Tibetan community leader who agreed to translate. "Of course, she would like to go to India with him. But she needs to be here. She is in a dilemma."

    She avoids taking him to shopping malls or Tibetan community events and steers clear of crowded places. Were he an ordinary boy, she would take him everywhere. But in Tibet, lamas must be kept clean and away from bad pollution so that they may have a clear vision. On the rare times she has taken him out in public in his monk robes, people have barraged her with questions. Is this a lama? Who is he? Why do you keep him here? Why don't you take him to India? Then she feels shy. She points to Jalue's father and tells the people: "Ask him."

    Her heart clings to her baby, but her faith tells her she must let go. "Since His Holiness is our guru and he says he has to go to the monastery, then of course he has to go to the monastery," she said.

    On a recent morning, Wangmo makes breakfast.

    She spreads peanut butter on warm naan and pours a cup of chai tea. "Jalue," she calls.

    He nibbles his bread, then pushes away from the table and rushes back to the living room to watch Elmo on TV. His mother inspects his teacup and frowns. "Jalue, are you done with this?" she calls to him again. He returns, tilts the blue and white porcelain cup, and gulps the last of the tea.

    "Whoa, good boy," she says, as she wipes his mouth.

    Knowing their time together is short has made Wangmo value every minute with her son. It's also made her realize that to be ready to separate from him, she must practice. When it's time for preschool, Jalue trots down the stairs dressed head to toe in maroon with a pair of Spider-Man sunglasses over his eyes and a backpack over his shoulders. He leans against his mother as she helps him put on his sneakers.

    Outside Jalue points at the yellow school bus making its way down his street. "Bus coming!" he yells. He lifts his face to receive a goodbye kiss. She bends down, cups his face and nuzzles him. The bus stops at the end of the driveway, and the whooshing sound of the doors opening tells her that it's time to let go. She follows Jalue with her eyes, watching as he climbs each step, cheerfully greets the bus driver and takes a seat. She stands in the driveway and waves to him and to the other little faces looking out the windows. She waves until she can't see him anymore. Then she walks up the driveway toward the house. Not once looking back.


  8. Zen Groups Distressed by Accusations Against Teacher

    By MARK OPPENHEIMER and IAN LOVETT New York Times February 11, 2013

    Since arriving in Los Angeles from Japan in 1962, the Buddhist teacher Joshu Sasaki, who is 105 years old, has taught thousands of Americans at his two Zen centers in the area and one in New Mexico. He has influenced thousands more enlightenment seekers through a chain of some 30 affiliated Zen centers from the Puget Sound to Princeton to Berlin. And he is known as a Buddhist teacher of Leonard Cohen, the poet and songwriter.

    Mr. Sasaki has also, according to an investigation by an independent council of Buddhist leaders, released in January, groped and sexually harassed female students for decades, taking advantage of their loyalty to a famously charismatic roshi, or master.

    The allegations against Mr. Sasaki have upset and obsessed Zen Buddhists across the country, who are part of a close-knit world in which many participants seem to know, or at least know of, the principal teachers.

    Mr. Sasaki did not respond to requests for interviews made through Paul Karsten, a member of the board of Rinzai-ji, his main center in Los Angeles. Mr. Karsten said that Mr. Sasaki’s senior priests are conducting their own inquiry. And he cautioned that the independent council took the accounts it heard from dozens of students at face value and did not investigate any “for veracity.”

    Because Mr. Sasaki has founded or sponsored so many Zen centers, and because he has the prestige of having trained in Japan, the charges that he behaved unethically — and that his supporters looked the other way — have implications for an entire way of life.

    Such charges have become more frequent in Zen Buddhism. Several other teachers have been accused of misconduct recently, notably Eido Shimano, who in 2010 was asked to resign from the Zen Studies Society in Manhattan over allegations that he had sex with students. Critics and victims have pointed to a Zen culture of secrecy, patriarchy and sexism, and to the quasi-religious worship of the Zen master, who can easily abuse his status.

    Disaffected students wrote letters to the board of one of Mr. Sasaki’s Zen centers as early as 1991. Yet it was only last November, when Eshu Martin, a Zen priest who studied under Mr. Sasaki from 1997 to 2008, posted a letter to SweepingZen.com, a popular Web site, that the wider Zen world noticed.

    Mr. Martin, now a Zen abbot in Victoria, British Columbia, accused Mr. Sasaki of a “career of misconduct,” from “frequent and repeated non-consensual groping of female students” to “sexually coercive after-hours ‘tea’ meetings, to affairs,” as well as interfering in his students’ marriages. Soon thereafter, the independent “witnessing council” of noted Zen teachers began interviewing 25 current or former students of Mr. Sasaki.

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  9. Some former students are now speaking out, including seven interviewed for this article, and their stories provide insight into the culture of Rinzai-ji and the other places where Mr. Sasaki taught. Women say they were encouraged to believe that being touched by Mr. Sasaki was part of their Zen training.

    The Zen group, or sangha, can become one’s close family, and that aspect of Zen may account for why women and men have been reluctant to speak out for so long.

    Many women whom Mr. Sasaki touched were resident monks at his centers. One woman who confronted Mr. Sasaki in the 1980s found herself an outcast afterward. The woman, who asked that her name not be used to protect her privacy, said that afterward “hardly anyone in the sangha, whom I had grown up with for 20 years, would have anything to do with us.”

    In the council’s report on Jan. 11, the three members wrote of “Sasaki asking women to show him their breasts, as part of ‘answering’ a koan” — a Zen riddle — “or to demonstrate ‘non-attachment.’ ”

    When the report was posted to SweepingZen, Mr. Sasaki’s senior priests wrote in a post that their group “has struggled with our teacher Joshu Sasaki Roshi’s sexual misconduct for a significant portion of his career in the United States” — their first such admission.

    Among those who spoke to the council and for this article was Nikki Stubbs, who now lives in Vancouver, and who studied and worked at Mount Baldy, Mr. Sasaki’s Zen center 50 miles east of Los Angeles, from 2003 to 2006. During that time, she said, Mr. Sasaki would fondle her breasts during sanzen, or private meeting; he also asked her to massage his penis. She would wonder, she said, “Was this teaching?”

    One monk, whom Ms. Stubbs said she told about the touching, was unsympathetic. “He believed in Roshi’s style, that sexualizing was teaching for particular women,” Ms. Stubbs said. The monk’s theory, common in Mr. Sasaki’s circle, was that such physicality could check a woman’s overly strong ego.

    A former student of Mr. Sasaki’s now living in the San Francisco area, who asked that her name be withheld to protect her privacy, said that at Mount Baldy in the late 1990s, “the monks confronted Roshi and said, ‘This behavior is unacceptable and has to stop.’ ” However, she said, “nothing changed.” After a time, Mr. Sasaki used Zen teaching to justify touching her, too.

    “He would say something like, ‘True love is giving yourself to everything,’ ” she explained. At Mount Baldy, the isolation could hamper one’s judgment. “It can sound trite, but you’re in this extreme state of consciousness,” she said — living at a monastery in the mountains, sitting in silence for many hours a day — “where boundaries fall away.”

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  10. Joe Marinello is a Zen teacher in Seattle who served on the board of the Zen Studies Society in New York. He has been openly critical of Mr. Shimano, the former abbot who was asked to resign from the society. Asked about teachers who say that sexual touch is an appropriate teaching technique, he was dismissive.

    “In my opinion,” Mr. Marinello said in an e-mail, “it’s just their cultural and personal distortion to justify their predations.”

    But in Zen Buddhism, students often overlook their teachers’ failings, participants say. Some Buddhists define their philosophy in contrast to Western religion: Buddhism, they believe, does not have Christian-style preoccupations about things like sex. And Zen exalts the relationship between a student and a teacher, who can come to seem irreplaceable.

    “Outside the sexual things that happened,” the woman now in San Francisco said, “my relationship with him was one of the most important I have had with anyone.”

    Several women said that Zen can foster an atmosphere of overt sexism. Jessica Kramer, a doula in Los Angeles, was Mr. Sasaki’s personal attendant in 2002. She said that he would reach into her robe and that she always resisted his advances. Surrounded almost entirely by men, she said she got very little sympathy. “I’d talk about it with people who’d say, ‘Why not just let him touch your breasts if he wants to touch your breasts?’ ”

    Susanna Stewart began studying with Mr. Sasaki about 40 years ago. Within six months, she said, Mr. Sasaki began to touch her during sanzen. This sexualizing of their relationship “led to years of confusion and pain,” Ms. Stewart said, “eventually resulting in my becoming unable to practice Zen.” And when she married one of his priests, Mr. Sasaki tried to break them up, she said, even encouraging her husband to have an affair.

    In 1992, Ms. Stewart’s husband disaffiliated himself and his North Carolina Zen Center from Mr. Sasaki. Years later, his wife said, he received hate mail from members of his old Zen group.

    The witnessing council, which wrote the report, has no official authority. Its members belong to the American Zen Teachers Association but collected stories on their own initiative, although with a statement of support from 45 other teachers and priests. One of its authors, Grace Schireson, said that Zen Buddhists in the United States have misinterpreted a Japanese philosophy.

    “Because of their long history with Zen practice, people in Japan have some skepticism about priests,” Ms. Schireson said. But in the United States many proponents have a “devotion to the guru or the teacher in a way that could repress our common sense and emotional intelligence.”

    Last Thursday morning, at Rinzai-ji on Cimarron Street in Los Angeles, Bob Mammoser, a resident monk, said that Mr. Sasaki’s “health is quite frail” and that he has “basically withdrawn from any active teaching.” Mr. Mammoser said there is talk of a meeting at the center to discuss what, if any, action to take.

    Mr. Mammoser said he first became aware of allegations against Mr. Sasaki in the 1980s. “There have been efforts in the past to address this with him,” Mr. Mammoser said. “Basically, they haven’t been able to go anywhere.”

    He added: “What’s important and is overlooked is that, besides this aspect, Roshi was a commanding and inspiring figure using Buddhist practice to help thousands find more peace, clarity and happiness in their own lives. It seems to be the kind of thing that, you get the person as a whole, good and bad, just like you marry somebody and you get their strengths and wonderful qualities as well as their weaknesses.”

    to see the links embedded in this article go to:


  11. Tibetan self-immolations having little effect, Dalai Lama says

    Reuters - June 13, 2013

    By Thuy Ong

    SYDNEY, June 13 (Reuters) - Tibetans setting themselves on fire to protest against Chinese rule are having little effect on Beijing's policies, exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama said on Thursday, while urging China to look harder at the reasons behind the incidents.

    At least 117 Tibetans have set themselves alight in protest against Chinese rule since 2009, mostly in heavily Tibetan areas of Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai provinces rather than in what China terms the Tibet Autonomous Region. Most have died.

    "It's a sad thing that happens. Of course it's very very sad. In the meantime, I express I doubt how much effect (there is) from such drastic actions," the Dalai Lama told reporters during a visit to Australia.

    A Chinese official in March accused the Dalai Lama of providing money to encourage people to set themselves on fire, and said there was evidence to prove the Nobel Peace Prize laureate was orchestrating the self-immolations.

    The Dalai Lama, 77, has called the acts "understandable," but says he does not encourage them.

    Several Tibet scholars have criticized his stance, saying his reluctance to tell his people to stop has strengthened their resolve to continue the fiery protests.

    Beijing considers the Dalai Lama, who fled from China in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule, a violent separatist. The Dalai Lama says he is merely seeking greater autonomy for his Himalayan homeland.

    The Dalai Lama said the immolations were a sensitive political issue, but said Tibetans were not sacrificing their lives because of simple social or family grievances.

    "I express this as a symptom of some causes of Chinese officials. They must investigate what is the cause of this symptom, of these events. It's not the solution just to blame someone, including the Dalai Lama," he said.

    China has tightened already strict controls in Tibet since the self-immolations began two years and has all but banned visits by foreign journalists.

    Tibet has also been a cause of diplomatic friction, especially with the United States, where meetings between the Dalai Lama and U.S. presidents have infuriated China.

    The U.S. State Department has urged China to allow Tibetans to "express grievances freely", while calling on Tibetans to "end self-immolations".

    The Dalai Lama said Tibetans could "easily hurt other people", but instead were choosing "to sacrifice their own lives, not hurting others".

    China has defended its iron-fisted rule in Tibet, saying the mountainous region suffered from dire poverty and brutal exploitation until 1950, when Communist troops "peacefully liberated" it. (Writing by Rob Taylor; Editing by Robert Birsel)


  12. Bhutans Buddhist monks accused of sexually molesting boys

    Vishal Arora, Religion News Service June 20, 2013

    The South Asian nation of Bhutan has been rocked by a sexual abuse scandal in which young Buddhist monks molested by older monks fled their monastery and reported the abuse to journalists.

    While rumors about child sexual abuse in monasteries have swirled around this tiny Buddhist nation for a while, this is the first time confirmed cases of underage monks molested by their seniors have come to the fore.

    “Every time I tried to scream or struggled, he pinned me with his body, put his hand over my mouth and covered it tightly,” an 11-year-old boy told the magazine “The Raven,” [see next comment for full story] describing how he was sexually abused by a 20-year-old monk in a monastery in Punakha, about 45 miles northeast of the capital city of Thimphu.

    The underage monk said he and his 12-year-old friend at the monastery were asked to come in turns to sleep with the senior monk.

    Another pedophile monk, a 60-year-old man, molested not only the two boys, but two other monks, aged nine and 11.

    Months after facing regular abuse at the monastery, the two boys fled last summer to their village in the southwestern district of Chukha, where they met with Sonam Ongmo, editor of the “The Raven,” which published the story and reported the case to the government’s National Commission for Women and Children.

    Chhoekey Penjor, deputy chief information officer at the Children’s Division of the commission, confirmed the allegations were found to be true and “necessary action was taken.”

    The “Red Hat” sect of Tibetan Buddhism is the state religion of Bhutan, a nation of about 700,000 people in the Himalayas between India and China.

    According to the code of conduct in monasteries, authorities disrobe an erring monk, throw flour on him and chase him away from the monastery – as they did with the 20-year-old monk.

    However, the 60-year-old monk remains in the monastery, “The Raven” reported.

    “This is the first time that child sexual abuse among monks has been reported to us,” Penjor said.

    She added that the commission had forwarded the case to the monastic body and that her department had helped set up a child protection office.

    But Lopen Gyembo Dorji, secretary general of the monastic body, said he was not aware of sexual abuse in the monastery.

    “The Raven” quoted a doctor at a hospital in Thimphu saying he is often visited by monks with psychological or sexual problems, some showing signs of abuse.

    Kinley Tshering, a former newspaper editor, said “muffled voices” about sexual abuse in monastic communities had been there “for quite some time now.”

    Sexually transmitted infections and HIV have been reported among young monks, and health officials make condoms available to monastic schools.

    A 2009 report on risks and vulnerabilities of adolescents revealed that monks were engaging in “thigh sex,” in which a man uses another man’s clenched thighs for intercourse, according to the state-owned Kuensel daily.

    A year later, at least a dozen monks, including some who were underage, were diagnosed with STIs, and at least five monks were known to be HIV positive.

    On April 10, three monks from Bhutan, aged between 21 and 24, were arrested for allegedly raping a 14-year-old girl in the Kalimpong town of West Bengal in neighboring India.



    Religion has the capacity to silence critical thinking and create blindness in entire groups of people. It can infect the minds of followers so completely as to allow the most egregious sexual acts against children and others to go unchallenged for centuries - DARREL RAY

    By Sonam Ongmo | The Raven June 4, 2013


    He arrived one February morning in 2012 from his village, alone, and with a small battered and torn suitcase secured with a rope. The few contents, untidily packed, were visible because the case couldn’t close. When I met him later that evening he was sitting alone in front of the Television enraptured by a cartoon. Thinley, eleven, stood up when I walked in. “So you want to become a monk?” I asked.

    “Yes la,” he replied.

    “Why?” I asked, “I heard you were in school. Don’t you like going to school?”

    “I like school la, but I want to become a monk,” he responded.

    “Why?” I asked again.

    “Because I want to learn the teachings of Sangay (the Buddha) and if I learn the teachings I will become learned and I will be able to help my parents and my village la.” A child consciously aware of etiquette, bold, and probably street smart too, I surmised.

    “But you can do that even if you go to school,” I said. “How will you help them?” I was curious.

    “I will be able to share the teachings, and I will be able to help with the rituals. Right now we don’t have anyone who is learned in the scriptures in our village,” he said. He spoke like an adult. I was touched by his desire to benefit others, if that was truly his intent.

    Short of saying anything else I told him, “Do you know they are very strict in the monasteries and punishment can be harsh?” I was trying to see his reaction and let him know it was not going to be so easy.

    “Well, they need to be because children can be naughty. A little discipline is always good,” he said, undeterred. He was only eleven, yet he seemed determined to take difficulty on, even leave his family of his own volition, to become a monk. It was moving. But was it because he really wanted to study the scriptures, or was it to escape the hard life in the village?

    Everything about this encounter was so Dickensian, it was hard to think there was a different Bhutan out there. Whatever his reason, I was impressed by his conviction and I wished the best for him.


    It was a beautiful June morning at the monastery. The monks had just finished their breakfast and Thinley was at the stream washing up when Penjore, twelve, a year older, joined him. Together they washed their hands and bowls in silence. It had been about four months since Thinley had come to the monastery. The morning sun fell softly around them and although the days couldn’t get more beautiful than this, the nights had been something else. Both Thinley and Penjore had experienced sleepless and terrifying nights at the monastery. Unable to take anymore of what seemed like a nightmare to them, Thinley decided it was time to do something about it. He asked Penjore if he would run away with him.

    Although both boys deny being the first one to come up with the plan, they both agree that it was decided at the stream that they would run away. Thinley may be a year younger than Penjore, who is shy and reserved, but he is taller and leaner, confident and bold.

    It was there that the boys colluded to end their monastic life for good. They ran into the bathroom and hurriedly discarded their robes on the floor, changed into their home-clothes and made their big move. They snuck into the head Lama’s chamber, stole Nu. 3,000, and made for the surrounding forests.

    “I knew we would need money if we wanted to get home,” said Thinley. “I knew where the money was kept because another novice monk Tshering, who is eleven, and worked with the head Lama showed me when I had gone to the chamber with him one day.”

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  14. Undetected the boys managed to sneak out of the monastery premises. The monastery is about half a day’s walk uphill from the main motor road in Punakha. After running for what seemed like forever, the boys rested. They said they heard voices calling out their names. A few monks had given chase.

    “They didn’t find us, but we were scared to move after that, so we spent that night in the forest,” Thinley said. “We didn’t have anything to eat, but we drank lots of water from a stream.” The next morning at sunrise they set out for the road. As they were walking along they saw a taxi and flagged it. “The driver asked us where we wanted to go and we told him to Thimphu. He said it was Nu. 1,000 and we paid him,” said Thinley. “He asked us where we were coming from and we told him that we had gone to help our uncle on his farm and were returning to Thimphu.”

    When they got to Wolakha the taxi stopped. The taxi-driver told them he couldn’t go any further. He gave no reason. “He didn’t return our money because he said he didn’t have change, but he found us a car that was going to Thimphu and told the driver to drop us there,” said Penjore.

    The driver dropped them off at the bus-station. It was raining when they walked into town and stopped a man to ask him if he knew of a cheap hotel where they could stay. “The man instead took us to the police. We were very scared. The policeman asked us where we were from. We told him the same story, that we came from our uncle’s farm, but the policeman somehow knew. Eventually we told him where we were from, although we didn’t tell him that we had run away. He called the village Tshogpa to inform my parents and Penjore’s grandmother. He told them that we were safe at the station in Thimphu.”

    “The policeman took us to a small restaurant where he bought us tea and momos,” the boys said. “A man who was sitting nearby and drinking bought us puri and aloo and even gave us Nu.100 each when we left.”


    Thinley is back in his village. He is carrying his baby sister, strapped on his back with a kabney. He hasn’t re-joined school as he has missed the academic year. He has an older brother who is in school and another younger sister apart from the one on his back. He spends his time helping his parents with the baby. His parents are farmers, although his father had once also been a monk but had left to become a farmer. I tell his parents that I want to talk to Thinley. His mother takes the baby, and Thinley and I walk behind the house where we sit on a large rock. I ask him why he ran away from the monastery.

    “I didn’t like it,” he says.

    I ask him again.

    “What happened? Why did you run away? You confided in someone about why you ran away. Will you tell me?”

    Thinley looks away and remains silent. “Did they beat you?”

    “No,” he turns to answer me, and then quickly looks away.

    “Then why did you run away? You were very eager to go when I saw you the last time. Why? Did someone harm you?” I ask again.

    He nods.

    “What did they do?”

    Thinley says that he and Penjore slept in one room with another monk who was probably in his 20’s. Sometimes, the older monk demanded one of them into his bed. They had to sleep with him in turns.

    “He didn’t put it inside me, but between my thighs. Every time I tried to scream or struggled, he pinned me with his body, put his hand over my mouth and covered it tightly. He said he was going to beat me if I screamed or said anything to anyone. During the day if I mentioned anything of it in front of the other boys, he would pinch and punch me. When I told him I was going to tell the head Lama, he said he was going to hit me so hard I would lose all my teeth, or make me unconscious.” According to Thinley, he made these threats in front of the other little boys, none of whom dared report it to the head Lama.

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  15. Apart from Thinley and Penjore there were also two other young monks – Tshering, eleven, and Dorji, nine. Dorji, according to Thinley, slept with a 60-year-old monk, whom he referred to as Agay. “Sometimes Penjore and I took turns sleeping with the Agay too, because he asked for us,” Thinley said. The 60-year old monk did the same thing, according to Thinley.

    “Some nights he put it between my thighs and asked me to clench them. Then during the course he would yell out, ‘dhum, dhum’ (tight, tight). I felt very dirty and sick, it was disgusting.”

    Thinley says that apart from this, nothing else happened. But he wonders if the other boys might have experienced differently. According to him, when the boys talked amongst themselves in the mornings about these incidents at night, Dorji who was only 9, cried, and Penjore didn’t want to talk about it at all. “Penjore kept telling us to shut-up. He didn’t want to talk about it, and he didn’t want us to either.”

    Thinley’s parents are sitting outside their house. Both of them suffer from alcoholism. His father looks unwell, his face swollen. I tell them what had happened to Thinley, hoping they will understand why he had run away and not blame him for doing so. “You were once a monk too, I heard. You probably know these things happened?” I tell his father. The father nods in acknowledgement, but doesn’t say anything. He looks embarrassed or even ashamed – either of the subject or about what has happened – and looks away indicating he doesn’t want to discuss it.

    I am standing at the edge of the field watching Penjore’s grandmother dig for some potatoes from the only piece of land she owns. She has sent someone to fetch Penjore who is with the cows. This grandmother has outlived her husband, and her only daughter who died while Penjore was at the monastery. Penjore’s father, her son-in-law, also died several years ago. The grandmother now looks after the children – Penjore and his sister. She tells me that Penjore was in school, but she couldn’t afford to keep him there so she decided to send him to the monastery for a “good Buddhist” education. “It was difficult for me to look after and feed two parent-less children,” she says. The head Lama of the monastery meant well when he took Penjore and Thinley, two boys from this village in Chukha, to give them a home and a good religious education at the monastery.

    After all, both children come from backgrounds where the families are struggling. And it is often that most, if not all, who are in the monastic community come from similar, or even more destitute, backgrounds. According to recent reports from Kuensel many monastic centers even have to bend admission rules by accepting children younger than ten years of age because they are either orphans, have no place to go to, or their parents or relatives are unable to care for them.

    “In the absence of foster homes, monastic centers function as homes to the orphans and the poor,” Tashi Geley, the Health and Religion coordinator told Kuensel.

    Penjore may come from a poor family where a single grandmother could hardly feed him well, yet when I ask him why he ran away he tells me with some anger, “The food was bad. I didn’t like it. I didn’t want to go in the first place, but my grandmother thought it would be good for me. I missed my family,” he says, tears in his eyes.

    He is obviously thinking about his mother, I think. I ask what else he didn’t like about life at the monastery and he says they were too strict. When I ask him if they beat him, and if there was anything else they did to him, he starts to cry. Did they sexually molest him? I ask – offering him an explanation of the term. He nods, says “yes,” and breaks down sobbing bitterly.

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    To avoid the boys from being criminally charged for stealing money from their Lama and to prevent further traumatizing them through police interrogations, I presented their case to RENEW (Respect Educate Nurture Empower Women) an organization that has been dealing with Women and Children’s issues. It was also hoped that some sort of therapy or counseling would be provided for the wellbeing of the children.

    Maybe RENEW doesn’t have the capabilities for that yet, because all the counselor did was ask that a written complaint be filed. It was the first case of its kind that they were dealing with. Mention of the two other boys who were still at the monastery, was also made. A few days later the Counselor said that she wanted to interview the children and summoned them to Thimphu. Penjore refused to come, but Thinley did and gave the interview. In his statements to the counselor, in the presence of a guardian, he gave her a full account of being sexually molested at the monastery, not once but several times. Then there was silence. Our counselor, we were told, was away on leave and we waited.

    My hope was that after RENEW had established the truth and legitimacy of the case, they would forward it to the police for a criminal investigation, just as they would if it had been a little girl. Instead, a month later, a call from the Dratsang asked that the boys be brought to their office for questioning. They wanted to conduct their own investigation.

    When I asked RENEW how the case had reached the Dratsang and why, I was told that the Executive Director had forwarded the case to another NGO, the NCWC (National Council for Women and Children) who in turn forwarded it to the Dratsang. On further enquiry, it was realized that social organizations, and the police, cooperate with the Dratsang and forward all such cases concerning monastic centers to them. I wondered how the boys, who had stolen money from the Lama, run away from their monastery, and now brought sexual abuse charges against some of the monks, would want to talk to the very institution they were accusing. Would they agree to speak? Would they retract their story?

    Again Penjore refused to go, but Thinley did. And again, accompanied by the same guardian, Penjore recounted without any variation of what had happened at the monastery in front of the investigative unit. A month passed again. By October, the investigative unit at the Dratsang established that the boy was indeed telling the truth. But they only singled one monk out, the 20 year old. They asked how we wanted the case dealt with; in essence what kind of outcome would be desirable. According to their code of conduct, when a monk did something wrong he was ex-communicated. They would disrobe him, throw flour on him in front of the other monks, and chase him from the monastery.

    To what end, I asked? What purpose does it serve this problem of sexual molestation in the institution if the monk is only disrobed? What message does it send to the community at large? I was tormented and torn. I have a twelve-year old son. I have brothers, who were once also little boys. Had our lives been any different, it could have been them – either the abused, or the perpetrator. I also had an insight into the lives of Penjore and Thinley and seen how they were traumatized by this incident. Yes, Bhutanese children are sturdy and they move on, are forced to, and many do. But many also don’t. They continue to suffer not just physically, but also internally – living in shame with these horrible dark secrets of rape and abuse, and suffer in anger and silence for the rest of their lives. Many suffer from depression and turn to alcohol unable to cope, and while some even take their lives, others resort to crime or even molest other children when they get older.

    When I think of these boys, I think of my son.

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    The irony about sexual abuse cases in Bhutan is that if a boy (a monk) is raped or sexually molested, he will not find justice the way a little girl can. While it is good that our system is more favorable to girls, why should justice for little boys take a back seat, just because they are monks? Do they have to compromise their dignity and their rights so that the Institutions name can be protected?

    Should a girl be raped or molested she can go to the police, or any social organization that will readily pounce on the case and investigate it.

    If the perpetrator is found, he will be charged with statutory rape and imprisoned, the media will report it, and people will be incensed that such things happen to little girls. Even men who have had consensual sex with their girlfriends, 16 or 18 year olds, are charged with statutory rape and have to live with being labeled rapists for the rest of their lives. The age of consent for sex is 18 and above and the law is “supposedly” strictly enforced in order to ensure protection of women and children. Why then is it different for these boys? Cases of sodomy, sexual molestation, or rape that occur in the monastic community to monks, even if they are below 18 years of age, are not reported to the police. If cases are taken to the WCPU (The Women and Child Protection Unit) at the police station, the police will simply forward the case to the Dratsang (the Monastic Center), which has its own internal investigative unit that will look into the case. Although the police say they do not differentiate cases because the Dratsang forwards the case back to them, we don’t know because it has never happened.

    According to reports, the government doesn’t intervene in the monastic order because they have their own courts, which operate outside the penal system. But this argument is not uniformly respected because if a monk loots a monastery or a chorten he is tried under civil law, the way he would for any other crime and the Dratsang would not be consulted? Then why is it that only sexual crimes in the monk body are not subject to civil law? While attempts are being made by the Dratsang to bring changes within the institution to improve the lives and living conditions of monks – establishing a child protection unit funded by UNICEF – a Kuensel article (25 March) reveals they still have a long way to go. Kuensel states that Sexually Transmitted Infections, piles, skin diseases, hypertension and other mental health issues are the most common ailments in the monk body. There are also five HIV positive monks, one of whom is only 19. A doctor at the Thimphu hospital told The Raven, on condition of anonymity, that it is almost every other day that he sees a monk that has ailments related to psychological issues or to private parts, some showing signs of abuse. Should a little girl go see a Doctor about her private parts being violated would he/she be required to report this to the police? Shouldn’t it be an absolute requirement that if a health-official comes across a case of a sexually violated child, be it a boy or girl, it be reported to the authorities, or have they also been asked to collaborate in the silence when it comes to monks?

    With social problems like alcoholism, substance abuse, and violence increasing in Bhutanese society, it is time to take a serious look at the root problems, some of which may be, sadly, stemming in our monastic institutions. And this is nothing surprising or new. It also doesn’t indicate that this happens in all our monastic institutions, that all our monks live miserable lives, or that it will destroy the image of the Dratsang. This happens in many institutionalized religions all over the world, with all faiths, and it has nothing to do with that particular religion. There is no better example than the tragedy of events in the Catholic Church.

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  18. In the Catholic Church, abuses might have been more extensive and rampant, and were deliberately hidden for many decades doing irreparable damage to the victims and that institution. Bhutan or Buddhist institutions don’t have to follow that path. The first step on the road to better this is to acknowledge that it is a serious social problem. Allowing transparency and making these transgressions to be recognized as crimes and prosecutable in the civil court of law, rather than outside of it, will save us. Should this not happen, the future of the Buddhist Institutions image could suffer the same fate as that of the Catholic Church. And this will happen not because people like me make such cases public, but because even without my doing so, people will learn that this is wrong and lose respect for the monastic order. I say this not out of anything against the Monastic Center, but because it is bound to happen and people are already talking about it in private conversations.

    According to studies by experts in this field, it is very clear that people who inflict sexual crimes against children have very often themselves been victims. Why do these monks think it is acceptable or normal to do this?

    Because when it happened to them nobody, including society, pointed out that it was wrong; that it is a heinous crime, one that should be punishable by law. Why is it that society, including the media, knows and does nothing? Where does this apathy come from? Is it out of fear, out of “supposed” respect for Buddhism/the monks/the religious institution, or is it because they just don’t see it as being wrong? One reason offered is that it is pointless. Pursuing such a case is not only exhaustive, it takes a toll on your psyche, and it is extremely stressful. Because many of the monks come from similar backgrounds like Penjore and Thinley, there is really no one who has the will, energy, resource or connections to stay the course. And, when your case winds up at the very institution that you want to hold accountable, how do you expect not to feel intimidated?

    Also, even after knowing what had happened, both families seemed to have no interest in righting the wrongs. When Penjore’s Uncle, also an ex-monk, heard that he had been molested, he told him not to make incredulous remarks. Yet when I told the Uncle that this might have happened and there was another boy who could corroborate his statement, he acknowledged he knew it did happen. But to them, it was just an unfortunate incident. The monastery had been kind enough to take the boys in and they knew the head Lama, whom the boys had wronged by stealing from, so how could they now hold both Lama and Dratsang to task? They would be seen as ungrateful after all that had been done for them. When I raised the case with educated colleagues their reaction baffled me equally. They were sympathetic, but didn’t seem to want me to make an “issue” out of it. One even said that I should seek compensation for the boys, like a school scholarship, so that they would at least benefit from it. After all, it was presumed that justice – the way I sought it – would be hard to come by, if at all it did. While this was all said in good faith, it surprised me that very few seemed to see why it was important to hold the Institution accountable for something that happens to these children, destitute or not.

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  19. This was not just about Penjore and Thinley, but that of many other monks like them out there.
    Although these reactions were difficult to comprehend at first, it became clearer that it was the general mindset that made this acceptable. Domestic violence is a close enough example. For the longest time Bhutanese society did not see it as something wrong or even as a crime. Even today many don’t see it as such, but only by passing legislations and prosecuting it can we make it a crime and teach society that it is wrong. It is the same for sexual abuse, especially that of monks. But unlike domestic violence where legislations were passed only recently, sexual abuse penalties are very clearly spelled out in the penal code. However, it doesn’t seem to apply to the monks because they are beyond the reach of the civil courts.

    Sadly, despite knowing these dark truths nobody has questioned it. Meanwhile, the Dratsang trying to bring in change by distributing condoms in the monasteries (as Kuensel reported) or setting up an investigative unit, which sees no cases because no one dares report them (ours was the first case brought to the Dratsang from outside the monastery), becomes a futile attempt at change. Nothing will change.

    Child molesters and rapists are often people known to the victim and someone they are familiar with. That is why it makes it even more difficult for these children and for families to report these cases or for some people to see their perpetrators as evil.


    The Dratsang itself seemed to be unsure of how to move forward. Instead of suggesting a course of action it asked for a written response to what was expected by filing this case, I responded:

    “The issue is simple – either the incidents alleged and supported by testimony and inquiry are a crime or they are not. If it is a crime, then the law should apply regardless of who these people are, (monks), or where they come from (the Dratsang)….The Dratsang is being given an opportunity to show leadership and set an example. It is at times of trouble and stress that true leadership shows moral fortitude.

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  20. People feel that by hiding these social ills we will prevent an institution from disgrace. It is submitted, however, to the contrary. If the Dratsang puts the interests of the victims and treats this as a crime, it will earn respect from the community and society for setting moral standards and leading the way. By downplaying such an incident and claiming the privilege of excusing itself and its members from civil law that applies to those it asks to follow it, risks losing credibility and respect.

    Buddhism is a religion that may be tolerant, but it is also a religion of compassion and empathy for the weak, the underprivileged, and those that are suffering. If anyone should know more about this, it should be the Dratsang. I am simply asking for your understanding of this problem; that it is wrong, and that it is a crime. If the Dratsang cannot treat it as one then, as I said before, disrobing a scapegoat doesn’t do much. The appropriate handling of this case gives the Dratsang every opportunity to show leadership and prove to our society and the world that it is different from those institutions that have condoned and hidden such cases.

    You are asking me to make a submission on the handling of this case. It is, however, not my role to determine the outcome. It happened in one of your monasteries, under your supervision, and by some of your members. The Dratsang has the moral and civic responsibility to society to act appropriately for the sake of little children that were entrusted to your care.”

    By the end of October the Dratsang did take action. The 20-year old monk was disrobed and had left the monastery. But was that because of my persistence in wanting them to make a criminal case out of it? According to a message conveyed from the Monastic Center, I was now free to pursue a criminal case against this monk in the civil court. They would not report the crime or pursue a criminal case on behalf of the boys while he was in the monk body. This way, the Dratsang prevented itself from being implicated, washed its hands of the case, and avoided moral responsibility and legal accountability for what happened. They were essentially leaving it up to these two boys, to pursue their case or it was taken for granted that somebody would help them.

    Meanwhile, no broader inquiry was made into the events, and nothing happened to the 60-year old. He continues to be a monk at the monastery. The situation of the two other boys was also not followed up on by the Dratsang, RENEW, or NCWC. Everything is back to functioning the way it does, except maybe for the boys. Although both Penjore and Thinley are back in school, one with the help of relatives, the other through a sponsor, things will never be the same. They have lost their innocence and live in shame of what happened to them. Penjore still has anger that he lost his mother while he was going through this horrible ordeal, and Thinley lost his father who succumbed to alcohol, six months after they ran away.

    (The names of all the boys have been changed to protect their identities and the name of the monastery has been deliberately left out).


  21. When monks go bad

    Sex, drugs and money laundering: behind Thai Buddhism’s fall from grace

    by Adnan R. Khan, Maclean's July 31, 2013

    If an ordinary image is worth a thousand words, then this one deserves a tome: a Thai Buddhist monk, fully decked out in saffron robes, reclining on the plush leather seats of a luxury jet, gold-tinted aviator glasses framing the familiar shaved head, and a Louis Vuitton handbag in the seat next to him.

    That image, pulled from a viral YouTube video last month, is no irreverent hip-hop artist pandering to Buddhist pop culture (and yes, there is such a thing). It is a real Buddhist monk acting really badly.


    But the story of Luang Pu Nenkham, the 33-year-old monk in that Hobbesian frame, gets even more sordid. Over the past month, Thai authorities have uncovered a vast network of his disciples allegedly involved in everything from drug trafficking to money laundering. Under the cover of Buddhist simplicity, Nenkham has amassed nothing less than an empire.

    The luxury cars—including a Ferarri and a Rolls-Royce—are only the tip of this golden pagoda. Nenkham’s alleged excesses read like a Silvio Berlusconi charge sheet: as much as US$1-billion in ill-gotten assets, including hundreds of millions of dollars stashed in 41 bank accounts, money in constant circulation (raising suspicions of money laundering), a fleet of Mercedes cars and villas scattered throughout Thailand. For years, he has been city-hopping around the world on luxury helicopters and jets with, according to one pilot, designer handbags stuffed with American dollars.

    Most disturbing, however, is the sex. This monk has broken his vow of celibacy with abandon, coupling with perhaps dozens of women, including at least one underage girl, with whom he has potentially fathered a child. If that isn’t enough, there is a manslaughter charge under investigation as well, involving a hit and run in which one man died. Nenkham was allegedly driving a Volvo at the time.

    For Thais, this latest scandal takes an already sensitive issue to an entirely new level. “I just can’t believe this was happening without anyone knowing,” says Sukrit Pradchaphet, a 42-year-old seller of Buddhist icons at Wat Ratchanatdaram, a temple in central Bangkok. “Monks are human, so we expect some of them will give in to worldly desires. But this . . . this is unbelievable.”

    As shocking as all of this may sound, however, misbehaving monks are nothing new in Thailand. According to the Office of National Buddhism, 300 monks were reprimanded for breaking their vows in 2012, most often for sexual transgressions. But the sheer scale of this latest scandal has taken even the staunchest supporters of the Buddhist institution by surprise.

    Other cases have caused less of a ripple. Last June, one of Thailand’s most-respected monks, the 61-year-old Phra Ajahn Mitsuo Gavesako, fell in love with one of his disciples. To the astonishment of many Thais, the Japanese-born monk decided to disrobe, marry his love and run off with her back to his native Japan. The gravity of that scandal was hotly contested, with some Thais arguing that Gavesako could be forgiven: he was in love.

    “I have sympathy for him,” says Pravit Rojanaphruk, a Thai commentator who has written extensively on Southeast Asian Buddhism. “I don’t blame him entirely. Theravada Buddhism, the kind practised in places like Thailand and Burma, is the most orthodox of all the Buddhist strains. If monks were allowed to marry, like they are in Japanese Buddhism for example, this sort of thing would not happen.”

    continued below

  22. For Rojanaphruk, and a growing number of Thais like him, Buddhism in Thailand is failing, unable to cope with a society increasingly under the spell of consumerism and secular ideals. Nenkham is unique in that he got caught.

    “But there are likely dozens more monks, senior monks like him, who have the same portfolio,” Rojanaphruk says. “Thai Buddhism has lost touch with reality. The rigours and demands of the system, especially on monks, are out of synch with the realities of life. Times are changing.”

    Certainly the days of forest monasteries and secluded monks devoted to a spiritual life at the expense of physical desire are quickly becoming a thing of an idyllic past. Rapid urbanization is changing the face of societies in southeast Asia, and along with it, how people engage with faith.

    Rojanaphruk says he remembers the days when his grandmother would wake up before sunrise every morning to prepare food for the alms bowls of monks. “This was the way it was done for thousands of years,” he says. “But who has time for that these days? It’s easier just to give money.”

    The result, he adds, is a commodification of Buddhism, particularly in Thailand. Monasteries find themselves competing heavily for the wallets of devotees. According to Rojanaphruk, there are now more than 40,000 temples in Thailand, each looking for a competitive edge over its rivals.

    Nenkham found that edge by convincing devotees that he possessed supernatural powers including the ability to fly, walk on water and speak directly to the gods. He claimed to be one of Lord Buddha’s original followers, reborn to give people a direct line of communication with Buddha himself.

    And people bought it.

    “Merit-making has become big business in Thailand,” Rojanaphruk says. “People offer goods and money to monks as a way to gain favour in the next life. I don’t doubt their faith–they believe in what they are doing. So they build lavish temples and statues, not only in the hopes of having their sins forgiven, but also to gain prestige in society. This is contradictory to Buddhist teaching.”

    But Thailand has become a land of contradictions, a place where orthodox Buddhism coexists alongside a booming sex industry, rampant consumerism and a degree of hedonism that would put most libertines to shame.

    The capital, Bangkok, writhes with temptation, its streets an emporium of knock-off brand names, sex toys, mobile bars, brothels and massage parlours. Mega-malls loom menacingly over centuries-old monasteries, where monks struggle to shut out the deafening calls to buy and indulge. In such an environment, monks filled with the desire for worldly pleasures is no hard thing to grasp. Many Thais simply smile at the sight of young monks browsing the latest digital gadgets at Pantip Plaza, Bangkok’s computer and mobile-phone hub. The odd monk caught swigging back a shot of Sang Som whisky elicits some finger-wagging, but little else. Sex remains taboo, but Thais appear to be in denial of the extent to which it is happening among monks.

    At the heart of it all, according to Rajanaphruk, is the monetization of faith. “If people stopped looking for easy ways to buy merit,” he says, “like becoming a monk temporarily–a feature of Thai Buddhism–monkhood would not suffer the way it has. Buddhism is a way of life. You can’t simply purchase your way to nirvana.”

    As for Nenkham, nirvana now appears a long way off. A fugitive from the law, he has managed to escape to the United States, where his most devoted followers say he will receive sanctuary. That seems unlikely. Unless he can conjure up some of those magical powers he claims to possess, he is destined for a Thai prison.


  23. The Shocking Scandal at the Heart of American Zen

    Even Zen masters can be deviants. Inside the new book that unearths a disturbing pattern of affairs at the top of one of the largest Buddhist communities in the U.S.

    by Jay Michaelson, The Daily Beast November 14, 2013

    A new ebook by New York Times religion columnist Mark Oppenheimer alleges what many in the American Buddhist community have known for years: that some of its most revered teachers were also serial sex offenders.

    Case in point: Eido Shimano Roshi. The founder and leader of New York’s Zen Studies Society—among the largest Western Buddhist communities in America, with prominent CEOs and celebrities among its members—Shimano carried on clandestine affairs with over a dozen women in his community over the course of thirty years, according to Oppenheimer’s provocatively titled Zen Predator of the Upper East Side. The book is a devastating indictment of Shimano Roshi, filled with hard evidence of the affairs and the cover-ups, the testimony of several victims, and occasionally lurid details. It even includes Shimano’s own confession to having sex with some students, though, he says, “far fewer” than his accusers allege.

    As with many religious sex scandals, this is old news to insiders. Other Zen roshis with similar allegations against them include Richard Baker, Joshu Sasaki, Taizan Maezumi—the list goes on, really. The pattern is disturbingly familiar from Catholic, Ultra-Orthodox Jewish, and similar systematic abuse scandals: insiders made aware, positive values of spiritual teacher stressed, abuse hushed up, abuse repeated.

    Yet in Shimano’s case, the facts are murkier. First, all of his “victims,” if that’s even the right word, were adults; this was not a case of predation of teenagers, as in the Catholic Church. Second, none were raped, in the narrowest (and legal) sense of the term. And while some sexual acts are alleged to have been coerced, most of Shimano’s reported liaisons were consensual—that is, if there can ever be consent within a power relationship such as that between guru and disciple, which perhaps there cannot. Finally, while Shimano was married, it’s not known what his wife made of the allegations, or when she knew of them.

    Then there’s the matter of culture. Shimano’s actions are inexcusable by Japanese, American, or any other cultural standard. Yet they did take place within a system of power and patriarchy that includes male sexual philandering within it. How different was Shimano’s behavior from that of a typical Japanese businessman? This is neither to excuse his conduct nor make generalizations about other cultures – but it is to recognize that Western terms such as “sex offender” may not completely fit.

    But a Zen monk? Here, too, the situation is more complex than it may first appear. We may have an image of Zen abbots as peaceful, enlightened, and sexually abstinent, but this simultaneously parochial and Orientalist image is our problem, not theirs. Actually, enlightened Zen monks are often worldly, engaged, and sexually voracious. Likewise, most Westerners may believe that sex and spiritual teaching should be kept separate. But in what non-Judeo-Christian-Muslim book is that written? Indeed, some of Shimano’s sexual partners regarded their physical intimacy with their teacher as part of their spiritual path. We should be wary before projecting our own Western sex negativity on non-Western spiritual teachers.

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  24. Of course, the Zen Studies Center didn’t advertise this in its brochures – and here, as Oppenheimer relates, the scandal is inescapable. Shimano wove a web of deceit around him, and his associates added layers of obfuscation and denial. Whatever the sex may have been like for some of the women involved, the hypocrisy, secrecy, and lies are indisputable. And Shimano’s alleged M.O. – of finding the “needy” woman, exploiting her vulnerability, and having sexual relations within the walls of the Zendo itself – is worse than creepy, no matter what robes the predator is wearing.

    Remarkably, Shimano’s charisma has not dimmed over the years. Indeed, one of the most fascinating passages in Zen Predator is when Oppenheimer himself meditates with Shimano, and feels proud that Shimano approves of him. Anyone who has been in the presence of a powerful boss, guru, or other father-figure knows how toxic this dynamic can be.

    The book is at its weakest, perhaps unsurprisingly, when it hazards theoretical guesses as to why Zen teachers have this problem with their sexual appetites. For example, Oppenheimer misstates Zen teaching as holding that good and evil do not exist because everything is one. Well, not quite. On an absolute level, everything may be empty (not the same as “one”). But on the relative plane, Zen is this-worldly and does not deny ethics, or ontology for that matter. These scandals have more to do with power than philosophy. Zen centers may be no better than churches, corporations, and congresses, but they are surely no worse.

    Oppenheimer also gets that philosophy quite wrong. “It can be especially hard to face demons in a tradition that promises that there are none,” he says early on in Zen Predator. This assessment would come as news to most Buddhists, since the Buddha’s own awakening came only after he defeated Mara, the arch-demon of Buddhism who – like Satan in The Last Temptation of Christ – sought to tempt him with an array of challenges and tricks. To be sure, most Western Buddhists regard Mara (and other demons) as personifications of psychological states. But surely that’s what Oppenheimer means as well.

    What Oppenheimer clearly gets right, however, is the way in which power, charisma, and authority create an environment in which leaders (religious or otherwise) become “too big to fail.” Followers want the project – whether it’s Buddhism, Boeing, or the Boy Scouts – to succeed, and they hush up any accusation that might shine an unkind light. Loyalties are tested, whistleblowers punished. It’s almost mechanistic.

    Until it isn’t. Zen Predator often reads like a soap opera, complete with lurid emails, shady financial dealings, and betrayals. But eventually, there are just too many cuckolded husbands and alienated female students, and Shimano’s associates finally had to admit the truth. The Zen Society ushers him into retirement – though some allege that without a full airing of the truth, it can never fully recover.

    Perversely, the whole sad tale, and the publication of Zen Predator itself, might be good for American Buddhism. The stereotypical notion many of us hold of a wise, Yoda-like Zen master dispensing pithy spiritual bromides is not just inaccurate and offensive – it’s deeply unhelpful to the contemplative path itself. In the end, meditation is not about exotic sages, black robes, and following in the footsteps of someone else. It’s about finding your own footsteps, in your own Western clothes, and according to your own experiences and insights.

    Idolizing one’s teachers is an impediment to the spiritual path. This is one of the meanings of the famous Zen koan, “If you see the Buddha on the road, kill him.” Which is exactly what Oppenheimer has done.

    To read the links embedded in this article go to:


  25. The Zen Predator of the Upper East Side

    Nearly 50 years ago, a penniless monk arrived in Manhattan, where he began to build an unrivaled community of followers—and a reputation for sexual abuse.
    The ongoing accusations against him expose a dark corner of the Buddhist tradition.

    by Mark Oppenheimer, The Atlantic DECEMBER 18, 2014


    I. “That was the beginning of the sangha”

    II. “Secretly in a relationship”

    III. “The Buddha probably had many lovers”

    IV. “I felt he would deny everything”

    V. “They came in search of Zen and found sex”

    VI. “Don’t speak in parables’

    VII. “I can’t say that it was consensual”

    VIII. “You start being a little curious”

    IX. “I took a vow of celibacy”

    X. “Unfortunately, we don’t have God”

    XI. “You may not see your own shadows”

    read the article at:


  26. Colorado police set sights on Shambhala Buddhist leaders

    Religion News Service, December 10, 2018

    Colorado police have opened a criminal probe into sexual assault allegations against the leader of Shambhala International, one of the largest Buddhist organizations in the West, according to a news report.

    The progressive news website ThinkProgress reported Dec. 9 that the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office had launched the investigation, attributing the story to four sources who have spoken to investigators and to emails it had obtained.

    Shambhala International denied the probe in a statement to ThinkProgress. “At this time, it is our understanding that there is no open criminal investigation in Larimer County,” the organization said.

    The reported investigation follows mounting sexual assault allegations against religious leader Mipham Rinpoche, known as the Sakyong or the “king.” Since July, Mipham has temporarily stepped down from his duties after bombshell reports by Buddhist Project Sunshine, a survivors’ support group. Shambhala’s entire governing council resigned the same day.

    Buddhist Project Sunshine, which describes itself as “a grassroots independent healing initiative,” was founded by second-generation Shambhala member Andrea Winn. It has published three reports over the past year detailing its unofficial investigation into Shambhala’s sexual abuse crisis. The reports included incidents as recent as 2011 and claimed extensive sexual violence in the Shambhala community, accusing Mipham of sexual assault, rape and sex abuse against minors, and and alleging serious cover-ups by Shambhala officials.

    According to one of the most disturbing allegations detailed in the reports, Mipham may have locked a woman in a bathroom and forcibly groped her at a party in Chile in 2002.

    Mipham’s attorney told ThinkProgress that his client “categorically denies assaulting anyone, sexually or otherwise, sexual contact with minors” or any other criminal offense.

    But Shambhala leaders have acknowledged in private meetings that Mipham had previously engaged in a “wild culture” of heavy drinking, partying and sordid sexual exploits, according to ThinkProgress, and suggested the possibility of coercive sexual relationships that required “intervention.”

    Mipham has apologized for “experiences of feeling harmed” that women have had as a result of his past “relationships” with them and, in a separate statement, said he “fully supports a third-party investigation and wishes to provide the time and space for it to occur.”

    An independent report on the sex abuse allegations, commissioned by Shambhala International in July, is expected to be released in early January.

    Though Mipham is based at the organization’s global headquarters in Halifax, Canada, Shambhala International was founded in Boulder, Colorado, by Mipham’s father, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, in the 1970s. The Boulder Shambhala Center, which has about 600 members, is the group’s U.S. headquarters and the first in a network of meditation centers that now numbers more than 200.

    “The way Shambhala International has handled this situation has been re-traumatizing and further damaging to survivors,” former Shambhala member Leslie Hays, a Boulder resident, told a local news outlet, The Daily Camera, after the allegations emerged. In the 1980s, Hays was a “spiritual wife” of Trungpa. Now, she termed their relationship abusive.

    Trungpa’s own sexual exploits and history with addiction are also open secrets.

    “When Trungpa’s transgressions came to light, the #MeToo movement had not yet begun,” Pilar Jennings, psychoanalyst and practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism, wrote in an op-ed for Religion News Service in July. “With the revelations about Mipham Rinpoche, we are contending with another generation of spiritual teachers who have clearly caused pain and suffering to many women and their loved ones.”