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Buddhist Healthy Boundaries is a new organization, founded in 2022, that runs the online Buddhist-oriented courses formerly run by the Faith Trust Institute, and with many of the same instructors. It “aims to help Buddhist leaders create and maintain safe and healthy communities.” Such a course is currently required of senior teachers offering dokusan at GBZC.
FaithTrust Institute offers training and educational materials to help religious institutions of any sort to respond to, and prevent, incidents of misconduct by clergy or spiritual teachers. They offer a menu of services and products including intensive in-person training, webinars, books and DVDs, online training, and customized consultations.
An Olive Branch was formed as a project of the Zen Center of Pittsburgh and grew out of the need for greater understanding and reduction of sexual misconduct on the part of religious leaders. They help sanghas recognize the trauma caused by sexualized relationships between spiritual leaders and their followers; promote understanding and healing; and strengthen boards of directors, policies, and procedures to reduce the likelihood of future misconduct.
The Center for Institutional Courage promotes values for organizational accountability and “turning toward” that are aligned with our Resilient Sangha Project.
The Adult Victims of Sexual Exploitation by Clergy website contains a variety of resources for people concerned about clergy sexual misconduct. “Adult victims of sexual exploitation by clergy often don’t see themselves as victims. Without wider public awareness of the extent and impacts of this form of sexual violence, adults who have been sexually victimized by a beloved priest, pastor, minister, rabbi or other clergy will [suffer] shame and self-isolation.”
AdvocateWeb provides information and resources to promote awareness and understanding of the issues involved in the exploitation of persons by trusted helping professionals, such as clergy or counselors. They attempt to be a helpful resource for victims/survivors, their family and friends, the general public, and for victim advocates and professionals.
Scott Edelstein, Sex and the Spiritual Teacher: Why It Happens, When It’s a Problem, and What We All Can Do (2011). Edelstein presents insights and advice on sexual misconduct gathered from years of spiritual practice and personal research.
Mariana Caplan, Eyes Wide Open: Cultivating Discernment on the Spiritual Path (2009). Caplan gives advice on choosing a path, practice, and teacher based on her own practice in various mystical traditions and in psychology.
Andrea Celenza, Sexual Boundary Violations: Therapeutic, Supervisory, and Academic Contexts (2007). Celenza describes in detail the findings of academic research about how it is that such violations (often) occur among otherwise trustworthy practitioners, as well as warning signs, possible rehabilitation, and prevention. (Celenza’s article with Glen O. Gabbard, “Analysts Who Commit Sexual Boundary Violations: A Lost Cause?,” is also insightful.)
Marilyn R. Peterson, At Personal Risk: Boundary Violations in Professional-Client Relationships (1992). While not primarily about spiritual teachers, this book usefully describes the harm caused by such violations from a relational standpoint.
Other Projects, Articles, and Letters Bringing Light to Buddhist Misconduct
No Secrets in the Village: An Open Letter on Abuse in Dharma Ocean: a letter by former students of Dharma Ocean and Reggie Ray
A letter to Sogyal Lakar about abuses in the Rigpa Sangha
“The Zen Predator of the Upper East Side”: an article in The Atlantic about Eido Shimano
Open Letter to John Tarrant about his abuses of power (p. 4)
The Great Failure by Natalie Goldberg, touching upon Dainin Katagiri’s misconduct
Shorter Articles, Videos, and Podcasts
Why It’s Not an Affair by Rev. Patricia L. Liberty. Explains why boundary violations are not just affairs between “consenting adults.”
Unethical Buddhist Teachers: Were They Ever Really Enlightened? A podcast (with written transcript) by Soto Zen Priest Domyo Burk
The Promise and Peril of Spiritual Authority A recently published interview with three Buddhist teachers on the general issues of abuse of power.
Sexual Abuse in Buddhism A similar published group interview from 2013. “The measure of a community’s vibrancy and beneficence is, I believe, found less in its ability to control or eliminate troubling behavior than in its response—or lack thereof—and whether or not it brings people together.”
Confronting Abuse: Be Proactive A short magazine article on prevention.
Encountering the Shadow in Buddhist America by Katy Butler on sexual abuse in the San Francisco Zen Center
Resources from or about An Olive Branch
Clergy Sexual Misconduct and the Misuse of Power A 10-page summary of research on clergy abuse of power, with a special focus on Buddhist teachers.
Ethical Misconduct Resources A list of additional resources.
How Sexual Misconduct Shatters Spiritual Communities: Lessons for Buddhists An article about how An Olive Branch works with communities. “Once followers split into factions, conflict at the organization level typically erupts and the sangha becomes paralyzed.”
Resource list from Faith Trust Institute:
Sample Professional Codes
The Sangha Sutra. An extremely detailed (51 page!) document about ethical behavior authored by the Zen Center of Los Angeles.
Ethics Policy A more typical example of an ethics policy at a Zen community. “The responsibility for maintaining appropriate and clear boundaries always rests with the teacher.”
Professional Codes of Ethics A sampling of codes from various professions, compiled by Adult Victims of Sexual Exploitation by Clergy.
Codes of Ethics Links to codes of ethics from various professions.
2014 Code of Ethics Detailed code of ethics for counselors.
Reference materials on board and director liability
Resources on Personal Shadow
Robert Bly, A Little Book on the Human Shadow
Tsultrim Allione, Feeding Your Demons: Ancient Wisdom for Resolving Inner Conflict (excerpt)
Christopher Perry, “The Shadow” An article that provides an excellent overview of Shadow
Back to the main Resilient Sangha Project webpage.
Last updated: Jan. 1, 2023