Continuing Education Module
Get a copy of the Buddhist ethical precepts and assess how your dharma center functioned in relation to the precepts. All too often gossip happens and it is always at the expense of low ranking people, while powerholders are protected. This is called right speech--in a bad group, that is.
The Precepts and How They are Warped in Malfunctioning Sanghas.
1) We are told not to kill. Pretending someone is not present when they are trying to communicate a pattern of power abuse is IMO, a form of killing. So if you try to report abuse within a dharma center and someone ignores you or shames you, that could, in my opinion be construed as a form of murder.
2) Not to lie. That means, among other things, not to present incomplete
information as if it were complete information. It also forbids witholding the
truth about a teacher's controversial or iffy lineage credentials from new visitors to a center. If a leader has not completed the foundational practices or teaches that there is such a thing as reaching a level of attainment that frees us from the vows we took to honor the precepts, that too is deceitful. It also misrepresents the Three Jewels.
3) Not to take what has not been freely (and my reading) consciously offered. That means a leader must honor boundaries, and not have
relations with persons who are vulnerable or regressed in relation to him or her. A person who is vulnerable, or regressed or fearful cannot give full and conscious consent.
4) Avoid darkening the mind and body of self and others with intoxicants. To my mind, intoxicants include personal charisma, trance, and crusade mentality (as in our Dharma is better than other peoples Dharma).
It may be that if wrongly taught, Tibetan Buddhist practices,even those done by oneself in ones private shrine-room may induce trance rather than stablize the mind and lead to insight into all things.
Hypnotherapists have long understood that in trance we are less troubled by logical discrepancies and thus less troubled by discrepancies between the precepts and teacher's or senior disciples her actual behavior. This lack of alertness can be a very early step in a chain of cause and effect that can later breed serious forms of abuse.
5) To beware of misusing sexuality. That means beware of power imbalances in personal relationships, and to be vigilent if ones attention is wandering persistently in directions where it does not belong. This is a signal to deepen ones practice and look for presence of greed, hate and illusion, NOT act it out---and one is especially obligated to do this if one
is a powerful and admired teacher!
In the area of sexuality, one is also obligated to note if one is giving ones attention preferentially to people who are wealthy, amusing, or meet one's pattern of sexual craving. The Dharma is for everone, rich, poor, elderly, young, etc. A leader who prefers the company of wealthy, attractive and adoring people is generating cause and effect that can later 'set the stage' for more serious kinds of abuse.
(Sexual abuse is never the only problem. It is only possible when a pattern of dysfunction has gone on that has been ignored.)
6) Right speech--to beware of praising self at the expense of others.
I see the corollary as also to beware of devaluing oneself so as to put someone else up high on a pedestal. A true teacher will discourage this!
7) To beware of harsh speech. This one is a big problem in Dharma centers. People are often afraid to speak up, even when it means speaking up about something potentially hazardous.
I would suggest that if a pattern of disharmony ALREADY EXISTS, it is a matter of telling the truth (honoring the precept not to lie) to insist that the matter be examined and submitted to insight (vipassana) and assessed in relation to the ethical precepts. If a pothole is in the street, the authorities
are supposed to mark it so motorists dont drive into it.
Putting up a sign to warn of a road hazard and protect others is not 'harsh speech.' If something is already going wrong, and potentially hurtful at a Dharma center, its protecting the Three Jewels to speak up, not a violation of Right Speech.
However, misbehaving leaders love to shame us with accusations that Right Speech is violated if anyone dares to blow the whistle on them. Or accuse you of being gripped by afflictive emotions.
Leaders in the grip of afflictive emotions all too often are allowed to accuse others of this, but get away without being called on their stuff. Be prepared.
Non powerholders have to be able to deflect these stunts.
8) Harboring ill will. This one is tough. But...if a leader is allowed to keep on with a pattern of questionable behavior, the fall out would likely be worse
than if the person were challenged early on. And sometimes the only way
a frightened student can energize his or her boundaries and speak out is to
use the life force of anger. I struggle with this one a lot.
If we wait until we are 100% free of afflictive emotion, the harm may reach even worse proportions, while we remain silent.
There are times when one has to give up the vision of being a perfect
practitioner and speak up--afflictive emotions and all.
9) Greed in relation to comfort,money, resources. Many misbehaving
leaders get greedy in relation to money, get insulated from reality via
entourages of people hand picked to pamper thier whims--and keep their secrets.
10) Safeguarding the Three Jewels of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
To speak up in relation to problems is to look after the welfare of the Sangha. A sangha is healthy only if it supports the practice of everyone,
whether its a brand new student, all the way up to the senior people doing
high level practices.
There is a culture of toxic shame in the false dharma world. One of the cruelest things is the accusation that seekers should not be 'coddled' and that a serious student should always accept anything, even abuse. This mentality actually rationalizes and perpetuates abuse.
Two, a surprising number of people in the New Age and fake Dharma scene actually worship authoritarian power but are not consciously aware of it.
IMO these unconscious power worshippers can only feel spiritual by thrilling to a power imbalance.
To them, whoever has rank is always right. They will always identify with the powerholder, even if theyve never even met the person and will always dump on and shame people who dare to speak out against power abuse--even if they have never met you.
The comment below is a good example of this tiresome and hurtful rhetoric of invalidation.
Simply mud-slinging by a bitter and lonely individual who is somehow projecting his hopelessness and frustration onto a convenient 'enemy'.