Without a climate of accountablity, a climate of accountability that is part of normal media coverage, Buddhist leaders will lack a very important restraining principle.
What I call the Stanford Cookie Experiment may account for many cases of guru greediness for power, wealth and a sense of entitlement to use the sanga for a sexual supermarket.
What can seriously aggravate this is a lack of what I call a normal day to day climate of accountability from both sangha and outside media. Gurus all too often only get scrutiny after trouble erupts. But prior to damage reports, they often lack accountabilty--coddled by an entourage, respect and even grovelling obseqiousness from media, and the luxury of answering only questions they choose to answer.
And, often the troubled sangha whines, 'But why trash the three jewels by telling all this to the secular media?'
Answer to that from Corboy: Because, all too often, people DO try, loyally, to remedy a misbehaving guru by trying to institute reform within the sangha and the misbehaving guru will disgrace them, the misbheaving gurus senior and favored entourage members bar access and slander the people trying to tell the truth, and that means there is no mechanism within the sangha to set limits on the guru and remedy the troubles. Anyone seeking reform finds that the only way to be heard to is to leave the conspiracy of silence that characterizes the sangha and either contact the secular media or create a media outlet of ones own--a blog or website--which is usually hounded by trolls from the troubled sangha.
(It should be noted that a troubled guru is all too often surrounded by what looks like a decadent royal court, with a privy council of enablers and serfs who scrub the floors and take out the garbage. It should be kept in mind that Buddha could have lived as a prince, but chose to leave his palaces and the pleasures of courtly life, and took to the road with a beggars bowl. He did not teach so as to legitimize his successors living like
pampered maharajahs dressed in gold and brocade. )
By contrast, secular elected politicians are the butt of jokes* and in most cases, journalists ask much tougher questions of secular politicans than of lamas and rinpoches--except that these high ranking lamas and rinpoches ARE political leaders--they often are princes and barons in exile.
*(an old one. "When is a politician lying? Answer: When his/her lips move.')
Tibetan Buddhism and its leaders are now chic and come from what I personally call, a part of the world that is 'fashionably oppressed.' The attention given by the media tends to be adoring.
I cannot forget that the high lamas and rinpoches functioned as princes and barons in their old territory and resemble White Russians in exile who longed to return and reclaim their confiscated estates.
Instead, theyve done a most successful job colonizing the western imagination. And, friends, thats the way to build an empire, or regain access to a lost empire--always begin by colonizing the imagination of others so that it would be literally unthinkable for them to see anyone but you as rightful leader.
This does NOT mean that the Chinese behavior toward Tibet and her people and culture is anything less than awful. It is simply that this has gained media attention and
advocacy from socially empowered persons and celebrities in the West.
But this means that Tibetan leaders who misbehave and traditional misogyny are not given the close scrutiny that should always be given to anyone who wields vast power.
At this time, no one has yet created a normal climate of accountability for leaders of the Tibetan diaspora comparable to what the Popes of Rome have to deal with.
By this time, there exists an advocacy organization for Catholics wounded by clergy abuse, named SNAP.
But there exists nothing comparable to aid wounded members of the Tibetan Buddhist community. One dare not question the lamas and rinpoches for then you get screamed down that youre being hard on Tibetans who fled Chinese atrocities, you are risking going to Vajra hell, and your guru equals your practice and how dare you defile the Three Jewels, blah blah.
There is no structure within Tibetan Buddhist tradition by which social roles and the exercise of authority can be analyzed objectively and this empowers anyone who misbehaves and happens to be in a position of authority.
By contrast, Lord Acton, a loyal Catholic, was raised in a western milieu in which philosophy and even theology had created a way to analyze power and social roles objectively.
This enabled Lord Acton to be loyal to Catholicism, yet disagree with Papal Infalliblity and enabled Lord Acton to write the words,
'Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.'
and to see what happens if someone has been randomly assigned to a leadership position for even a time limited period, read what I have termed the Stanford Cookie Experiment.
Some persons are not content with cookies. They feel entitled to grab for sexual outlets, rather than cookies.
And if someone has been in power for decades, with no climate of accountablity, the effect will probably be far more extreme.
The Stanford Cookie Experiment
Gaining power puts the powerholder at increased risk of misdoing.
Let us look at the Stanford Cookie Experiment.
I first learned of this experiment from reading a book, written by Robert I Sutton, a professor of management and engineering at Stanford University, entitled The No Asshole Rule:Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't.
let us look at Professor Deborah Gruenfeld's experiment--what I term the Stanford Cookie Experiment. I believe that scholars of cults and dysfunctional organizatins need to place this experiment alongside Stanley Milgram's Obedience to Authority Experiment and Philip Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment.
This experiement demonstrates how a leadership role, randomly assigned, has a tendency to trigger swinish bad manners in otherwise normal persons.
The way the experiment worked (and it was replicated a number of times)
subjects were assembled into a group to do a shared task.
*At random, one subject in each group was assigned the role of overseeing and evaluating the others' work--randomly assigned to a leadership role.
During the experiment, a plate of cookies/biscuits was brought in.
Time and again, those subjects randomly assigned to the leadership role, tended
to do the following:
Took more cookies (greed)
Chewed with mouths open (lapses of ordinary good manners)
Got crumbs on their faces and left crumbs on the table (messes for others to clean up)
Thus, random assignment to a brief, time limited leadership role had a potent effect--increasing the probability that the promoted subject's manners would deteriorate.
Now...these were persons who had not sought the leadership role. By contrast, the persons who interest us are those who are driven to desire power, desire fame, spend years seeking ways to market themselves, hone their persuasive skills, and once they become leaders of personality centered groups, are waited on, insulated from consequences, and have enablers making excuses for them.
Imagine the Cookie Experiment going on for ten years or more.
The experiment was done by Professor Deborah Gruenfeld of Stanford University--her
speciality has been researching the effects of putting people in positions of power where they lord it over others.
Read more about the Cookie Experiment here: