24, 26, and Counting

Written by Rob Hogendoorn

1 minute

Since I began investigating sexual abuse by Buddhist teachers, I’ve filed 24 dossiers on 24 individual abusive teachers who taught in the Netherlands. Some of those dossiers have been published by myself and colleagues, others will be published some day, still other dossiers will never be published.

The protection of sources is a major problem, because most Western Buddhist communities are very small. This means that often the exposing of abuse is enough to reveal my sources. If these sources are not ready to reveal themselves to their communities, the case remains unpublished until someone else is. Meanwhile, I keep my files up-to-date.

In the same spirit, I keep tabs on the members of the Dutch Buddhist Union (BUN). Every two years or so, I update my list of the abusive teachers in their midst.

I did so again today. The members printed in bold had or have a spiritual leader or teacher (also printed in bold) who has been discredited by well-founded public allegations of sexual abuse.

On September 20, 2022 the count was 26 of the 49 members (53 percent). That’s more than half of the largest communities. I don’t see why the incidence of abuse in Buddhist communities in the Netherlands would be significantly higher than in other countries.

It may be that Buddhists in those countries simply haven’t lived under the same level of journalistic scrutiny as is commonplace in the Netherlands now. That goes to show that, quite likely, sexual abuse among Western Buddhists outside the Netherlands is underreported.

Also, these findings underline that it’s in everyone’s interest to prompt journalists in mainstream media and academics to take a more thorough-going interest in Buddhist communities. It’s not in the interest of abusers and their enablers, of course, but who cares?

Awareness of abuse does not end with publicity, it starts with publicity. The first report often triggers new reports. Speaking for myself: to this day, I receive new reports on some abusive Buddhist teacher somewhere in the world every three to four weeks.

Originally posted as a long-Tweet on September 19, 2022 (with slight edits).

About the author

Rob Hogendoorn

Investigative reporter and academic researcher Rob Hogendoorn (b. 1964) began researching the reception of Buddhism in Western society and culture in the early 1990s. His modus operandi remained the same ever since: independent, inquisitive and provocative.