Victims of Buddhist abuse voice concerns to Dalai Lama

Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, reportedly had to endure a ‘complicated’ meeting in Holland on Friday after he agreed to meet four victims of alleged sexual abuse carried out by Buddhist teachers in several countries.

The BBC reports that a spokesperson said the Dalai Lama was “saddened” to hear about the abuse and “constantly condemned” such behaviour. The group had requested the meeting to discuss abuse reportedly carried out by former or current Buddhist teachers in several countries.

The three women and one man who attended the 20-minute meeting on Friday presented written testimonies from 12 alleged victims.

One of those present, Oane Bijlsma said that it was “a very complicated meeting”.

She said that at the beginning the Dalai Lama “didn’t want to hear” about their cases, but added that after 10 minutes of conversation he became “more receptive”.

Several other media outlets – including this one – carried reports that the Dalai Lama said he has long been aware of devotees being abused by their gurus – and that such allegations are “nothing new”.

He agreed to the meeting after a petition was posted on the Internet ahead of his visit to the Netherlands. The opening paragraph reads:

We, the authors of this petition, are all survivors of (sexual) abuse by Buddhist teachers. We took refuge in Buddhism with an open mind and an open heart, until we were violated in its name. Later, we found out that we are not alone. We found allies too, who feel unable to look away.

The petition adds:

We put together a book-length compilation of abuse survivors’ testimonies. These personal testimonies were penned for the Dalai Lama’s eyes only, under the survivors’ own true names. They describe what happened to them, and what this has done to their lives and the lives of their loved ones. The number of contributors is still growing, but these testimonies concern (sexual) abuses by at least five Tibetan Buddhist teachers, experienced by at least twelve survivors in ten Western countries.

The BBC notes that the meeting came a week after Rigpa, an international Buddhist organisation active in the West, apologised for alleged abuse carried out by its founder Sogyal Lakar, also known as Sogyal Rinpoche, above,

Lakar is best known for his 1994 book The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, which sold over three million copies.

Last month, an independent investigation by a lawyer commissioned by Rigpa found that some members of Lakar’s “inner circle” were “subjected to serious physical, sexual and emotional abuse by him”.

The report added that senior members of the organisation had knowledge of some of the issues and “failed to address them, leaving others at risk”.

Lakar, who has stepped down as the head of Rigpa, declined to be interviewed for the investigation due to health issues.