There is quite some discussion online about abuse in Buddhism and usually it focuses only on the first two of three points which were outlined by Kata as steps for healing:
- to see and to accept that abuse happened,
- to understand how the abuse happened and the role of everybody involved,
- to process on the path by taking responsibility for what you can control and to find solutions to move on.
The third point can be easily misunderstood as “victim blaming”.
To avoid misunderstandings, and to dive deeper into the road of finding healing from abuse we set up an interview and a discussion with Kata highlighting aspects, rarely spoken of online, on the process of recovering from cults or healing from abuse. The goal of this discussion / interview is to help people to better understand these processes and also to see where they are now and what might be ahead of them either as tasks or as opportunities to move on in a healthy, resilient, empowering, healing way.
Please be alerted to the possibility that you might find the conversation difficult or triggering.
Here is the interview (90 minutes):
(Please excuse disturbing noises during the Skype interview.)
For the sake of orientation, what follows are the questions prepared for the interview. Not all of them were covered directly but most of them and some indirectly.
Q: Can you briefly introduce your professional background and why you want to be anonymous?
Q: When we had a skype discussion you outlined three steps regarding the process of recovery.
1) to see and to accept that abused happened,
2) to understand how the abuse happened and the role of everybody involved,
3) to process on the path, to find solutions to move on.
You mentioned in that context also, that for step three you have to go back on the starting point, to take responsibility, but maybe people don’t want that or are not able to do that. Can you explain those three points and especially the third point and why it is important?
Q: The taking of responsibility as the very last step, can only come after a long process of healing as far as I understand it otherwise it might feed the spiral of self-blame and it can block the healing. Moreover, stressing it to survivors who are not at that point can be perceived as “victim blaming”. Can you differentiate and explain these complexities?
Q: Some say, you have to take care not to throw out the baby with the bath water. But what about if there was a lot of bath water but less of an baby and how to find out if there was a baby at all or if it was all a type of fiction?
Moreover, good food (dharma) can be given but been poisoned (like meat can be poisoned) with delusions such as great hopes and expectations for salvation / liberation and fears to do wrong, to fail, e.g. not following the guru’s command / intentions or supposed wisdom, breaking samayas (tantric commitments) or going to hell etc.
To discriminate well the baby from the bath water or the dharma from the poison might be a very difficult and long term task. What are your thoughts on that?
Q: What are your observations regarding the discussion of abuse in Buddhist communities on social media, the blog sphere, the press, responses by Buddhist institutions, whistle blowers, victims / survivors, supporters of survivors, journalists and bloggers who spoke up – what things that are useful can you identify and what things you can identify which are not so useful or potentially or really damaging or destructive?
Q: What would be your benevolent wishes for each of these groups I mentioned?
1) Buddhist communities
2) discussions on social media and blogs
3) press / journalists
4) whistle blowers
5) victims / survivors
6) Buddhist institutions
and 7) – not mentioned above, the perpetrators?
Q: Can you explain what trauma is?
Q: How can one recover from trauma?
Q: Can Buddhism help to recover from trauma and where can Buddhist teachings trigger or deepen trauma?
Q: There is a vast range of approaches that people can take to trauma — from physical healing work to Dharma understanding to Western psychotherapies. What is your understanding of different approaches for healing for different individuals? (This is a question from Joanne Clark.)
Q: What is important for you to share with the listeners which these questions or our discussion didn’t address?
Research and Academic Institutions
- Research on Abuse in Buddhist Communities 2018/10/10
- Silencing and Oblivion of Psychological Trauma, Its Unconscious Aspects, and Their Impact on the Inflation of Vajrayāna. An Analysis of Cross-Group Dynamics and Recent Developments in Buddhist Groups Based on Qualitative Data – Miriam Anders
- Addressing current incidents in buddhist communities and self-responsibility – Miriam Anders
- “Traumatisation by suffering damage within so-called Buddhist groups” – Miriam Anders
- “Psychological impact of power abuse in buddhist groups and essential aspects in psychotherapeutic interventions for the affected individuals” – Miriam Anders
- Buddhist scholars receive grant to document sexual abuse in American Buddhism– Lion’s Roar
- Inform – an independent educational charity providing information about minority religions and sects which is as accurate, up-to-date and as evidence-based as possible
International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) – a global network of people concerned about psychological manipulation and abuse in cultic and other high-control environments
- Breaking the Silence on Sexual Misconduct – Lama Willa B. Miller (Lion’s Roar)
- Advice for Women in a Secret Sexual Relationship with Their Buddhist Teacher – Lama Willa B. Miller (Lion’s Roar)
- The Guru Question: The Crisis of Western Buddhism and the Global Future of the Nalanda Tradition – Joseph Loizzo
- The Dalai Lama on Abuse by Buddhist Teachers or Gurus October 10, 2017
- Dealing with Abusive Behavior by Spiritual Teachers – Alexander Berzin
- What Went Wrong: An interview with Tibetan psychologist Lobsang Rapgay about student-teacher relationships that turn abusive – Tricycle Winter 2017