" A Buddhist Manifesto" A View and a Questionable Past

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" A Buddhist Manifesto" A View and a Questionable Past

Postby Anagarika » Sat Jul 20, 2013 11:22 pm

I spent an hour at lunch today reading an article by Subhuti, entitled " A Buddhist Manifesto." I found the article interesting, and appreciated its focus on the maintenance of orthodox or traditional approaches to Buddhist Dhamma in the west. The article is well written and makes a good case, that resonated with me to some degree. The article springs out of the former FWBO, now Triratna organization, which apparently has practice centers in the UK, and worldwide. The originator of the FWBO is given great credit for participating in the conversion of Hindu 'untouchables' to Buddhism, thereby elevating them out of the lowest caste in India.

Here's the other side of the coin: allegations of male/male sexual abuse in its centers. Allegations (proven) that the founder, Sangharakshita, sexually abused young men whom he had taken "under his wing," and then taken to bed. At least one young man who had been victimized at one of its centers committed suicide as a result of the trauma he experienced in the FWBO men's center.

So tragic that such a strong written and spoken work product arises out of a group that by all appearances has elements of a gay men's cult. I'm not dissing on the gay community; rather gay and straight men who are motivated to form organizations that seem to have as a hidden agenda sexual conquest.

So many red flags that have been raised with Buddhism in the west. I have spent time at Ven. Thanissaro's Wat Metta....give me a group of devout, celibate Vinaya monks anyday. To me, Wat Metta, Abhayagiri, Ajahn Brahm, Amaravati...this is where the Buddha's Sangha resides.

_______________________________________
Relevant Triratna links:

http://vimeo.com/48953081
http://thebuddhistcentre.com/triratna/b ... -community
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Re: " A Buddhist Manifesto" A View and a Questionable Past

Postby Kim OHara » Sun Jul 21, 2013 2:05 am

Hi, BuddhaSoup,
I think ...
BuddhaSoup wrote:... organizations that seem to have as a hidden agenda sexual conquest.

... is a bit strong. I have had nothing to do with FWBO but a fair bit to do with a range of other religious/spiritual organisations and what seems to be the most common scenario is that motivations initially are good but that sexual tensions and misbehaviour are generated as people live too closely together and too isolated from wider society.
And they are often not completely one-sided. Many of the students/novices/lay followers are attracted to spiritual centres because of their own unresolved interpersonal issues and latch on to the leader/teacher/priest as the whole centre of their emotional lives (BTW, look up "transference" in the psychiatric context, too) and the leader is not necessarily going to be strong enough to turn down what is offered ... especially since the leaders, too, often began as somewhat troubled people.
In short, I put most of it down to all-too-human fallibility, not deliberate exploitation. The prime exception to that is where children are involved.

:namaste:
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Re: " A Buddhist Manifesto" A View and a Questionable Past

Postby Mr Man » Sun Jul 21, 2013 8:01 am

Hi Kim
What starts as human fallibility seems to often end up as deliberate exploitation. When one party has (or takes) power and authority they also have to take the responsibility. I don't think "transference" can be used as an excuse for absolution.
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Re: " A Buddhist Manifesto" A View and a Questionable Past

Postby Kim OHara » Sun Jul 21, 2013 11:05 am

Mr Man wrote:Hi Kim
What starts as human fallibility seems to often end up as deliberate exploitation. When one party has (or takes) power and authority they also have to take the responsibility. I don't think "transference" can be used as an excuse for absolution.

Maybe I should have quoted a bit more of the OP: "I'm not dissing on the gay community; rather gay and straight men who are motivated to form organizations that seem to have as a hidden agenda sexual conquest," which implies bad faith from the outset - that's what I thought was "a bit strong" and not at all likely.
For the rest, I agree with you that anyone in a position of power, especially in a faith community, has an absolute obligation not to abuse that position. However, I don't think we can realistically expect everyone in such a position to honour that obligation, especially in the light of the factors I mentioned. As I said, mostly human fallibility. That doesn't mean we should condone it, though.

:namaste:
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Re: " A Buddhist Manifesto" A View and a Questionable Past

Postby Anagarika » Sun Jul 21, 2013 1:24 pm

Thanks, Kim and Mr. Man, for your thoughtful posts.

One of the articles that I found is this one, from the Guardian. http://www.fwbo-files.com/guardian_article_v2.htm

"Subhuti argued in an FWBO internal magazine in 1986 that it could be beneficial to change sexual orientation as a way of recognising - and liberating yourself from - your conditioning; and that a teacher/mentor could use sex as a way of opening up communication with their pupil. Homosexual sex was promoted as more conducive to the spiritual life than heterosexual sex. Some members tried to raise the alarm, warning that novices were being damaged by sexually predatory teachers and demanding an end to the "glorification of homoerotic feelings"."

My reasoning for writing the original post stems from being so impressed with Subhuti's "Buddhist Manifesto" thesis, and then, after investigating the author and reading more of Sangharakshita's history, the story began to ring true of what I have read in the past of the man-boy indoctrination in the Catholic church, the church of my family of origin. One of the diocese has been found to have created seminaries for young men, that were really sex camps for one of the Cardinals and his pedophile bishop friends. It's shocking stuff, but suggests the lengths that predators will go to to create opportunities for sexual conquest.

I recoil from this stuff as I feel strongly that the Vinaya was one well thought out means to keep abuses out of the sangha. Many in the modern west have argued that if a teacher's teaching is, on one hand, highly authentic, it matters not what his other hand is doing. Ven. Thanissaro has disagreed, and he suggested that it matters very much what the other hand is doing in terms of evaluating whether a teacher is one to be followed. "Now, is the dharma something you can point to with only one hand? Can the other hand ever really be invisible?" http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma3/interview1.html

Triratna seems to be a large and very well funded organization; beautiful websites, well produced videos and international travel. Subhuti is highly articulate and persuasive. Yet behind the curtains of this organization seems to be something very curious and possibly dark. If this were a xtian evangelical cult, I wouldn't take the time to write about them, but these are very skilled, articulate 'Buddhists,' attracting large numbers. Again, I'll take the rural, rustic, dusty Wats with the Vinaya monks and noble Bhikkhunis any day of the week....
Last edited by Anagarika on Sun Jul 21, 2013 1:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: " A Buddhist Manifesto" A View and a Questionable Past

Postby Dan74 » Sun Jul 21, 2013 1:30 pm

My understanding is that Sangharakshita is no longer active in Triratna and what you refer to is basically in the past. Of course we know that kamma doesn't just disappear and I am sure the organisation is still dealing with it on many levels but by and large it is now a benign lay Buddhist association from all that I've heard.
_/|\_
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Re: " A Buddhist Manifesto" A View and a Questionable Past

Postby Kim OHara » Sun Jul 21, 2013 9:57 pm

BuddhaSoup wrote:Many in the modern west have argued that if a teacher's teaching is, on one hand, highly authentic, it matters not what his other hand is doing. Ven. Thanissaro has disagreed, and he suggested that it matters very much what the other hand is doing in terms of evaluating whether a teacher is one to be followed. "Now, is the dharma something you can point to with only one hand? Can the other hand ever really be invisible?" http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma3/interview1.html

Sila is both essential to panna and samadhi and a natural outcome of panna and samadhi. How, then, can anyone rely on a teacher who is unable to maintain basic morality?

:namaste:
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Re: " A Buddhist Manifesto" A View and a Questionable Past

Postby Kusala » Mon Jul 22, 2013 3:59 am

BuddhaSoup wrote:Thanks, Kim and Mr. Man, for your thoughtful posts.

One of the articles that I found is this one, from the Guardian. http://www.fwbo-files.com/guardian_article_v2.htm

"Subhuti argued in an FWBO internal magazine in 1986 that it could be beneficial to change sexual orientation as a way of recognising - and liberating yourself from - your conditioning; and that a teacher/mentor could use sex as a way of opening up communication with their pupil. Homosexual sex was promoted as more conducive to the spiritual life than heterosexual sex. Some members tried to raise the alarm, warning that novices were being damaged by sexually predatory teachers and demanding an end to the "glorification of homoerotic feelings"."

My reasoning for writing the original post stems from being so impressed with Subhuti's "Buddhist Manifesto" thesis, and then, after investigating the author and reading more of Sangharakshita's history, the story began to ring true of what I have read in the past of the man-boy indoctrination in the Catholic church, the church of my family of origin. One of the diocese has been found to have created seminaries for young men, that were really sex camps for one of the Cardinals and his pedophile bishop friends. It's shocking stuff, but suggests the lengths that predators will go to to create opportunities for sexual conquest.

I recoil from this stuff as I feel strongly that the Vinaya was one well thought out means to keep abuses out of the sangha. Many in the modern west have argued that if a teacher's teaching is, on one hand, highly authentic, it matters not what his other hand is doing. Ven. Thanissaro has disagreed, and he suggested that it matters very much what the other hand is doing in terms of evaluating whether a teacher is one to be followed. "Now, is the dharma something you can point to with only one hand? Can the other hand ever really be invisible?" http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma3/interview1.html

Triratna seems to be a large and very well funded organization; beautiful websites, well produced videos and international travel. Subhuti is highly articulate and persuasive. Yet behind the curtains of this organization seems to be something very curious and possibly dark. If this were a xtian evangelical cult, I wouldn't take the time to write about them, but these are very skilled, articulate 'Buddhists,' attracting large numbers. Again, I'll take the rural, rustic, dusty Wats with the Vinaya monks and noble Bhikkhunis any day of the week....


"...But they will listen when discourses that are literary works - the works of poets, elegant in sound, elegant in rhetoric, the work of outsiders, words of disciples - are recited. They will lend ear and set their hearts on knowing them. They will regard these teachings as worth grasping & mastering." http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
Image

Homage to the Buddha
Thus indeed, is that Blessed One: He is the Holy One, fully enlightened, endowed with clear vision and virtuous conduct, sublime, the Knower of the worlds, the incomparable leader of men to be tamed, the teacher of gods and men, enlightened and blessed.

Homage to the Teachings
The Dhamma of the Blessed One is perfectly expounded; to be seen here and now; not delayed in
time; inviting one to come and see; onward leading (to Nibbana); to be known by the wise, each for himself.
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Re: " A Buddhist Manifesto" A View and a Questionable Past

Postby SarathW » Mon Jul 22, 2013 4:29 am

Hi BuddhaS
Thanks for the link. I was about to ask this question "How to find a good teacher" from the forum and I got the answer from the link you provided.
==================================
One has to do with evaluating teachers. The suttas recommend that a student look carefully at a person's whole life before accepting him or her as a teacher: Does this person embody the precepts? Can you detect any overt passion, aversion, or delusion in what this person says or does? Only if someone can pass these tests should you accept him or her as a teacher.

This calls into question an attitude that's becoming increasingly prevalent here in the US. A teacher once said, not too long ago, “As long as a teacher points at the truth with one hand, it doesn't matter what he or she does with the other hand.” Now, is the dharma something you can point to with only one hand? Can the other hand ever really be invisible? There's a real drive at the moment to turn out teachers to fill the demand for retreat leaders, but if they feel they can afford a one-handed attitude, we'll end up with teachers who are little more than mindfulness technicians or yogi-herders: people whose job is to get students safely through the retreat experience, but whose personal life may be teaching an entirely separate lesson. Is that what we want?

If it is, we are setting people up for trouble. So far the mindfulness community has avoided many of the scandals that have ravaged other American Buddhist communities, largely because it hasn't been a community. It's more a far-flung network of retreat clientele. The teachers' personal lives haven't had that much direct bearing on the lives of the students. But now local communities are beginning to develop, where students and teachers have close, long-term contact with one another. Can we imagine that what each teacher does with that other hand is not going to have an impact on the students' lives and their respect for the dharma? If we don't start now to rely more on the suttas' method for evaluating teachers, we'll have to start reinventing the dharma wheel after people get hurt, which would be a great shame.
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Re: " A Buddhist Manifesto" A View and a Questionable Past

Postby BlackBird » Mon Jul 22, 2013 5:32 am

Hey Buddhasoup, as far as I can recall. Triratna has a bit of a dark past. I know it is not that way today, and there are many members of the organisation that I respect, including (correct me if i'm wrong) yourself. In the fwbofiles website numerous sources give detailed experiences of sexual harassment, and it would seem there was a definite pressure put on certain individuals to have intercourse with other certain members, there was also a pressure for heterosexual men to 'try' being homosexual, or 'try' having homosexual intercourse, among other nasty and unskillful happenings. It seems it was a dark time indeed. I am glad the organization has move beyond those murky waters.

metta
Jack
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: " A Buddhist Manifesto" A View and a Questionable Past

Postby Anagarika » Mon Jul 22, 2013 10:32 am

BlackBird wrote:Hey Buddhasoup, as far as I can recall. Triratna has a bit of a dark past. I know it is not that way today, and there are many members of the organisation that I respect, including (correct me if i'm wrong) yourself. In the fwbofiles website numerous sources give detailed experiences of sexual harassment, and it would seem there was a definite pressure put on certain individuals to have intercourse with other certain members, there was also a pressure for heterosexual men to 'try' being homosexual, or 'try' having homosexual intercourse, among other nasty and unskillful happenings. It seems it was a dark time indeed. I am glad the organization has move beyond those murky waters.

metta
Jack


Hi Jack:

Just to correct the record, I am not and have never been a member of FWBO or Triratna. I wouldn't become a member, as it is my perception that some leopards just can't change their spots over time. Perhaps in 2013 Triratna is a different environment (their 'ClearVisionTrust' videos now prominently feature women), but it seems to me that if Monsanto is teaching a course on environmental ethics and running the local food pantry, one might exercise caution before signing up. My sense is that after the scandals and abuses were revealed in the 90's, Subhuti and others were smart enough businesspeople to reshape the organization into something more marketable to diverse groups. Sangharakshita was put out to pasture, though fealty to him is still evident in this group.

with Metta, and caveat emptor....

M
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Re: " A Buddhist Manifesto" A View and a Questionable Past

Postby BlackBird » Mon Jul 22, 2013 11:10 am

Oh my apologies, where did I get the idea you were with Triratna from... I'm sure one of our members here is part of the organization, but I seem to recall some association in my mind between you and it. Then again maybe I'm more confused than I realize :shock:
metta
Jack
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: " A Buddhist Manifesto" A View and a Questionable Past

Postby Anagarika » Mon Jul 22, 2013 11:34 am

No worries, Jack, and just glad you joined the conversation. I hope that of Tritatna members that you know, they are doing good things, and are operating from an ethical heart. As Ven. Thanissaro mentioned (thanks to Sara), there's opportunity for great harm when the Dhamma is exploited, and students are misled and abused. I'm of the mind that Triratna is not too far different from some of the moneyed Xtian evangelical corporations that have formed in the US, only using the Dhamma as the centerpiece instead of the Bible. I see in the slick videos that many of the speakers have a new book they are pushing...perhaps within Triratna there's an emphasis on low level personality cults being developed....sort of like what has happened with the Food Network....celebrity chefs!

This again brings me back to my original point....when you spend time with someone like Thanissaro Bhikkhu, and walk about his Wat in the remote hills, and experience the kindness of his lay supporters there, and have the sense that there are no cults of personality, nothing being offered but the Dhamma freely, you see the young monks cleaning their alms bowls quietly and smiling, see Ven. Thanissaro sitting with a broad smile amidst his Thai community in San Diego, and then hear Ajahn Thanissaro give a talk without any pretense or hype....then you feel you're in the company of the kalyana mitta that the Buddha recommended. That's the Buddhism that I want to be around; that's just my two cents on the subject. I just don't want to see people harmed under this broad umbrella of the Buddhadharma.
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