I think it is important to keep raising this issue.
The reasons why this issue should be of primary concern to Buddhists is made quite clear in your article,
which is that the student-teacher relationship creates a structure in which abuse,
although not necessarily more likely to happen than in other situations,
can potentially happen without notice or reprimand more than in some other situations.
You have outlined:
--the privacy factor of the student-teacher relationship
--the "trust me" factor of the student-teacher relationship
--the denial factor in any group of devoted followers.
I would regard these, sort of, as specific check-points
from which an 'Am I really safe?" criteria could probably be established
(maybe your next project?)
At the same time, some other things should be considered as well,
as an addition to your work, and not in any defense of the problems you are addressing.
Despite amazing social, political and economic progress for women overall in the last 30 years,
Women are still victimized in the United States at an alarming rate, by people they know and trust
(Not just Buddhist teachers).
Domestic violence statistics alone are shocking. In this context, you could also consider whether Buddhist environments overall have a greater or lesser degree of violation than any other trust-based arrangement.
And then, in this respect, to look at to what degree we hold Buddhism to a higher standard,
and to what degree that not only makes the violation that much worse,
but also to what degree someone in a buddhist environment
is likely to be more trusting, to the point of
abandoning her better judgement.
I am not blaming the victim here,
But this is also the method of the ordinary con-artist.
(con, by the way, being short for confidence).
The higher up we place someone
the longer it is for our better judgement to reach.
In my city, a very large Vajrayana center is headed up by a female lama
and I think, as a result, this accounts for why it has a very high percentage of women who go there,
maybe half, maybe more than half.
We often regard it as sexist that
in many religious traditions, women are often divided from men.
But we don't mind separate facilities at the airport.
I once asked a Thai monk, a friend of mine,
why he was prohibited from even shaking hands with a woman
(strict adherence to his monk's vows).
He'd meditated for years in jungles with tigers, snakes and wild elephants
but when he got near a woman he nearly panicked.
He told me that in The Buddha's time, one day,
one of his followers walked closely behind a man and a woman
who were entering a temple, which are often darkly lit.
Inside the temple, the monk grabbed a quick feel
(the woman's breast or rear end ...my monk friend didn't go into detail)
and of course this caused a great uproar, a big scandal,
upset the woman and the man,
and really brought a lot of problems down on the sangha,
and so on.
So, the Buddha, probably thinking "to hell with this sh##"
(in a very enlightened way, of course)
simply said, "from now on, monks may not touch women!"
So, as you can see, this is not a new problem at all.
So, the question it raises in my mind is,
is this just par for the course,
that's what you get with patriarchy, etc.
or do we admit that not only does a problem exist,
but that this also shows just how insidious the tentacles of samsara really are,
and emphasize to people, men and women, that
trust and surrender does not mean abandoning your own instincts and common sense?
And then, how is that message to be broadcast?
There are two parts of your article that I think are a little unfair.
You mention Chogyam Trungpa F##king his students.
Everybody was F##king everybody in the 1970's.
So, again, maybe as a religious teacher, maybe he was the one who should not have been,
So he's up on a pedestal
but maybe this is the same pedestal that leads people to trust more than they should.
So it kind of works both ways.
"Papal infallibility is nothing compared to the authority Buddhist teachers have over their students".
That is a well-written statement. Catchy. But I am not sure it is true.
"Buddhist teaching, because it doesn’t rely on one text and emphasizes a non-intellectual approach to enlightenment, is whatever the teacher says it is".
Again, anybody can call themselves a teacher.
But there are authentic teachers whose authenticity is not charisma,
but the teaching from texts and the ability to teach without distortion.
If more women become Buddhists, maybe this problem will be solved
but if this problem isn't solved, will more women become buddhists?
that's the paradox.
Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth. Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.