A Different Light

Written by Rob Hogendoorn

1 minute

The past two decades or so, I’ve collected all the contemporaneous reports on sexual abuse by Buddhists in books, journals, and magazines I could find. I’ll be making available a collection of such documents over the next few weeks on Openbuddhism.org, with short introductions by myself.

By now, it’s clear that abuses have been exposed in media and books at least since the mid 1970s. Because these reports predate the internet age and can be exceedingly hard to find, few people are aware of them.

I’ve been persuaded that most every well-known Western Buddhist leader alive today—roughly speaking, the babyboomers among them, who are now well into their 70s and 80s—has been aware of these abuses for 45 years or more.

Although they’d like to project the image of being concerned now, most all of those leaders have been standard bearers of the culture of silence—and have thereby enabled the abuse they were aware of.

Among them are ‘independent’ Buddhist journalists and academics who have consistently refused to investigate the abuses that were reported to them.

The silent motto of these opinion leaders was: ‘Don’t bite the hand that feeds our religious authenticity, authority, and livelihood.’

I suspect that most of these Western Buddhist leaders plan to go their graves or crematoria without publicly acknowledging their own enabling conduct—and in more than a few cases, criminal complicity.

It would throw a quite different light on their hallowed Buddhist history, and they simply don’t want to live to see this tale being told.

Their stance is quite similar to the denial of Germans—and Roman-Catholic clergymen, for that matter— who repeated ‘Wir haben es nicht gewuβt’ [‘We weren’t aware of this’] until they died.

I won’t be able to do all the legwork myself.

So, I strongly encourage you to pursue the scattered leads in the documents I provide; to retrieve the dark history of the failing part of the Western reception of Buddhism that as it is unquestioning and even a-critical; to piece together the evidence of the colossal mistake of those who believe that they’ve turned themselves into beacons of morality and hope simply by calling themselves Buddhist, wearing Asian robes and accoutrements, or outliving disillusioned Buddhist contemporaries who dispersed and disappeared in the mist of time.

Originally posted as a long-Tweet on October 1, 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.