60 Years

Written by Rob Hogendoorn

1 minute

For some time now, I’ve recycled publications that I know are hard to find, mainly as food for thought for novice and professional readers. This series demonstrates that abusive Buddhists have been published and talked about by Buddhists continuously since the 1960s.

Over time, Western Buddhists replaced a culture of silence with one of empty chatter. That’s worse, because a culture of empty chatter provides novices with a false sense of security and long-term enablers—Buddhist teachers included—with an excuse to look the other way.

For 60 (yes, really, 60!) years, traditional Buddhist leaders and their Western devotees—Buddhist teachers included— proved themselves to be unequal to the task of dealing with sexual and other abuses responsibly and adequately.

The reasons why victims/survivors seldom have recourse to civil and criminal courts of law are legion. However, the prime reason why Western Buddhist communities and institutions don’t sue abusive Buddhist teachers or report them to the police—even when the victims/survivors are underage—is rather obvious: Western devotees who don’t want abusive Buddhist teachers to go bankrupt or end up in prison are in the majority.

Indeed, they rarely label sexual abuse as a tort or criminal offense at all. This carefree, oblivious mentality isolates many Western Buddhist communities and institutions from civic life and order altogether.

Paying lip service to saving all sentient beings, many Western Buddhist devotees are hard-pressed to recognise, never mind abide by even basic civic duties such as reporting crimes or observing good governance.

To them, their crude and capricious ‘Buddhist way’ of handling abuse seems to be a self-sufficient, viable alternative to hard-won, sophisticated legal systems everywhere.

I surmise this fateful mistake has plagued the reception of Buddhism in the West to such an extent that rampant abuse became an endemic, structural part of its social fabric—like a body with immune deficiency.

In effect, much of Western Buddhism has served to undermine rather than strengthen the rule of law. That’s why I focus on gaining a clearer insight into the specific reasons why Western Buddhists have struggled to address and curtail abuse for so many years.

I try to spend as little time on social media as I possibly can, and I’m leaving Twitter shortly. Openbuddhism.org will remain available though, as a resource and platform for freethinkers who develop tough, probing questions and dare speak truth to power.

Originally posted as a series of Tweets on December 15, 2022 (with slight edits). I deactivated my Twitter-account on December 17, 2022.

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.