This is a very controversial time. The world is rocking with the current political environment. Buddhism is rocking with the increasing revelations of violence and sexual abuse. And on top of that, there are always things happening in our own lives.
I see people pulling towards shutting down. Shutting their eyes. Maybe if they wait long enough this will all disappear and we can go back to living the way we have been living. There is at least some security in knowing what we’ve had these past years, or even decades. There is a seeming security in the known – the familiar.
This is a seductive and harmful trap, and I urge you to entertain the possibility that things are changing. I mean, they are! There is no doubt – things are changing. The abuse is coming more and more into the light. As much as we’d like to ignore this, or pretend it is not happening – the fact is, it is happening.
So what I want to urge you to entertain is that these changes are for the better. This is an opportunity for us to create a better situation for Buddhism in the West.
Good work has happened to establish Buddhism in the West. Many teachers have tirelessly, selflessly and tenderly looked at how to bring these precious teachings into the Western mindstream. They have explored countless ways to bring teachings quite foreign into practical, every day ways for Western people to engage, to live them, to bring them into our every day thoughts, spoken words, and activities.
In this magical and blessed process, Buddhism has engaged this Western mind, and this Western mind has whole heartedly and joyfully engaged Buddhism.
What we are looking at now is a piece of what that Western mind has contributed to the union. That piece is around trauma and violence. The Western world has a long history of oppression, domination of cultures and people, and heartless violence. Generation after generation of trauma, where the parents pass on the “lineage” of trauma to their children, largely unconsciously. Where we elect governments that replay the patterns of domination and violence on the people in their care. The Western world has been in a multi-generational cycle of trauma and violence.
Does it make sense that this societal pattern of trauma would have become part of the union of Buddhism and the West?
Perhaps this is believable, and we can acknowledge that some teachers with the very best of intentions have been the same people who have been doing great harm and violence to their students. Further, we could acknowledge this has been happening for years, and maybe even decades. And going even further, we could acknowledge that students around those teachers witnessed this happening to their fellow students and did nothing to stop it, and perhaps they even protected it with secrecy so the abuse could continue. Within a multi-generational trauma culture, all of these things are believable.
So if we can come to this place of saying, “Yes, I can see how this could happen and in fact, I see that it HAS happened.” Now what? What can be done about this. Without doubt, Buddhism has taken firm root in the West. Western Buddhists have had a string plucked that goes right to their core. They are faithful. They have become convinced of the purity, goodness and benefit of the Buddhist teachings.They want to pursue this path for their own benefit and the benefit of countless suffering beings.
As faith-full Buddhists, how do we now approach this crisis in our relationship with Buddhism? How do we navigate through this? It won’t work to turn a blind eye to the human corruption.
What I propose is that we use the power of Buddhism and the wisdom of Western trauma healing and non-violent communication to walk, step by step, through cleaning and healing the human corruption. Buddhism offers many skillful means – many ways to work with our minds skilfully. That can be the engine that propels a sane way forward.
Trungpa Rinpoche taught about the wisdom of many traditions. I never understood him to suggest that Shambhala had the only access to wisdom. What I heard him say is that there is wisdom in many human traditions, and I would suggest that now is the time to bring together the wisdom from Buddhism with the wisdom of other human traditions, such as trauma healing and non-violent communication.
In my view, by bringing these different strands of wisdom together in service of resolving the sexual and other violence in Buddhist communities, we are going to more firmly root Buddhism in the West with a clear view of longevity for these precious teachings. This also opens the possibility of Buddhist communities providing leadership for other communities in the world who are grappling with issues of sexual violence.
In my own healing journey, I have always accessed my Buddhist practices as a support for my healing work. I saw that I healed much more quickly than other women in the therapy groups I attended. It is without doubt because I had access to the tools from my Buddhist upbringing.
Now, on both the individual and community levels, we can access the wisdom support of our Buddhist practices as we take one step after another in dealing with sorting out this heartbreaking mess we have created. What I am saying is that this is possible. We have access to both the Buddhist and Western wisdom tools. Now, it is a matter of taking the steps.
I have prepared a plan for developing a Buddhist community sexualized violence toolkit. Please support the Project Sunshine Phase 2 independent healing initiative going forward. Over the past few days there has been a rising trend of support. We not only need to keep that going, we need to further magnify it to reach our fundraising goal of $55,100 – the amount needed to create and distribute the toolkit worldwide to Buddhist communities. Our fundraising campaign closes April 30th.
Please open your heart and take a chance. This is something for all of us, and can extend beyond Buddhist communities. Please help this happen by donating today and sharing about this with your community of contacts.
Here is the link to donate: Project Sunshine Phase 2 GoFundMe
Here is a link to all information and resources regarding the abuse in Shambhala