You’re interested in going to a Buddhist center in your city for the first time. What advice can be given?

Lion’s Roar posted an entry I’m interested in going to a Buddhist center in my city for the first time. Any advice? On a rather quick reading I found it a bit incomplete recollecting my and others’ people experiences with cult-like groups such as the New Kadampa Tradition / Kadampa Buddhism. I wondered how that advice given by Lion’s Roar can prevent one from falling pray to cultish or questionable Buddhist groups? What do you think? I think its not a complete or a pretty save advice that Lion’s Roar offered.

That’s why I had the idea to ask YOU about what advice you have to offer to newly interested people who want to visit a Buddhist center in their city for the first time. Most of you have experiences of harm in cultish or damaging Buddhist groups. What would you advice to people interested to go to a Buddhist center in their city so that they might NOT end up in the pain and suffering as we had to experience it – or finally even abandoning the Buddhadharma altogether?

A person who relied on the Sangha of the Pagode Path Hue in Frankfurt – outwardly a young, dynamic Sangha – whose (former) abbot, Thich Thien Son (Mai Hue Giang Tran), has been alleged of multiple sexual abuse of his (male) students (including the abuse of young men who were already abused as children and whom he promised to heal from that abuse!) – wrote on my German blog this very sad message recently which I just approved:

Die Geschichte von TTS hat bei mir ziemlich viel zerstört. Von „Buddha Dharma Sangha“ ist nur noch Dharma geblieben. Den Buddhismus habe ich hinter mir gelassen.
„Sangha“??? um Gottes Willen – Die Sangha, die eine Stütze sein sollte, Reaktionen der Menschen in der Sangha, die Abhängigkeit von TTS hat mir gezeigt was Sanghas sind: Ein Haufen Blinder die nicht man zu sich selber ehrlich sind. Süchtig nach Macht, Anerkennung und Gier, hörig bis zum Anschlag. Oder einfach: Verlogen. Sangha ist definitiv kein „Juwel“. _()_

Translation: The story of TTS has destroyed a good deal to me. From “Buddha Dharma Sangha” has remained only Dharma. The Buddhism I have left behind me.
“Sangha” ??? For God’s sake – The Sangha, which should be a support, the reactions of people in the Sangha, the dependence on TTS showed me what Sanghas are: A pile of blind people who are not true to themselves. Addicted to power, recognition and greed, submissively dependent to the limit. Or simply: mendacious. Sangha is definitely not a “gem”. _ () _

It makes me so sad to read this.

And its even sadder that – as it appears to me – many gave up Buddhism altogether* after having made devastating experiences in unhealthy or abusive Buddhist groups. So my request, my call to you – the readers of this blog – is what advice would you give to newcomers to Buddhism to be able to avoid the negative and harmful experiences we had to make? How can new seekers of  Buddhism avoid to bump into a Buddhist centre which might be good in online and print marketing and self-presentation but harmful to its members or followers?

You could use the template by Lion’s Roar and offer your own advice in the comment section. Maybe we can help and protect some people?!

(I will add my thoughts later in a comment.)

* Luckily, Joram, who wrote the comment quoted above, seems still to have faith in the Dharma!