What Do The Words Of The European Buddhist Union Really Mean?

Written by Rob Hogendoorn

2 minutes

So the European Buddhist Union (EBU), once again, expresses its sympathy with victims and survivors of abusive Buddhist teachers and their enablers. But what does its “Statement against any form of abuse” really mean?

What do these words mean, when the EBU’s response to the Arte-documentary uses euphemisms such as ‘serious breaches of integrity’ and ‘in some cases criminal offences’ to suggest that the numerous crimes abusive Buddhists commit are bugs, not features of Western Buddhism?

What do the EBU’s words mean, right when it doles a project aimed at underage children out to its former council member Dominique Side and a team of (former) Rigpa members? What does it mean to the EBU that Side was one of Sogyal Lakar’s worst enablers for decades?

Does it concern the EBU that Side was the ‘Superior’ of the Lerab Ling ‘Congregation,’ where young girls were groomed by their parents to serve as ‘Dakinis’—the corrupted epithet that Rigpa used for Sogyal’s sex slaves?

What do the EBU’s words mean, when it admitted Dharmaling as its member in 2018, after Slovenian media reported in 2012 that its leader “Shenpen Rinpoche” was arrested on allegations of sexual offences against minors and is currently being prosecuted in Slovenia?

What do the EBU’s words mean, when Dnevnik reports that “Shenpen Rinpoche” (aka Ronan Chatellier) was prosecuted and sentenced for sexually assaulting children in his native France in the mid 1990s?

What do the EBU’s words mean, when a “Support Committee for Mr. Ronan Chatelier” still strives after his rehabilitation, by shedding light “on the facts for which he was convicted”? Will the EBU appear as a character witness next?

Was it enough for “Shenpen Rinpoche” to grow a beard to stand EBU’s vetting procedure and be invited to contribute to the current issue of its magazine? What sympathy exactly does the EBU convey to victims and survivors with that? “Take good care of yourselves, while we take good care of our own”?

What do the EBU’s words mean, when one its council members, Michael Ritman, just said this on Dutch national television about the Dalai Lama: “People naturally look up to him and he is very well-known. But he has no power. He has no government. He has no organisation. He lives in exile with a small group of people around him who shield him. The only power he actually has is that he can speak out. And he did that repeatedly.”

Apparently, it escaped Ritman that the Dalai Lama also “spoke out” to endorse teachers he knew to be abusive, such as Sogyal Lakar, and to make empty promises. Ritman himself is the chairman of the Dutch Buddhist Union (BUN). As it happens, he’s  a long-time Sogyal apologist as well. He jumped ship after the Dalai Lama did.

As BUN-chairman, he intimidated the hosts of an expert meeting at the Free University in Amsterdam into blocking the participation of Oane Bijlsma. What does it mean that the EBU welcomed another person with a dubious track record to succeed Dominique Side on its council?

What will victims and survivors of abusive Buddhist teachers feel while watching EBU-president Ron Eichhorn’s beaming introduction to one of his “favourite programmes”—aimed at children between 5 and 19 years old—with these basic facts about his organisation in mind?

So I ask, once again, what do the EBU’s expressions of sympathy with victims and survivors really mean?

Originally posted as a long-Tweet on October 3, 2022 (slight edits and link added).

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.