Critical Dharma for Thinking Minds /Milk Tea Alliance


This has to stop. We have to deeply examine what’s going on in western sanghas that makes people vulnerable to sexual abuse. This story is almost a year old (May 2015) but it’s the first I’ve heard of this happening in Europe: Austria and the Netherlands.

Having been through the experience of abuse within Buddhist communities—verbal, physical and sexual assault—I know first hand how this happens. First Buddhism is presented in such a way that you are led to believe that “full awakening” only comes through revered gurus, lamas, monks, and lay teachers. Or it only happens within the context of a tight-knit sangha and not outside of it. Or it only develops through rigorously adhering to the program of retreats and courses laid out by a particular Buddhist organization. All of these ideas are bunk, and they are not what the Buddha taught. One of the tests of true enlightenment from the Suttas is that you are “independent of the teachings of others.” (S. Batchelor, After Buddhism). The teaching of the Dhammapada is that Buddha was not a guru in the traditional sense: ‘Buddhas only point the way’. At the end of his life, Buddha taught that your only refuge was yourself and the dharma. (S. Batchelor, After Buddhism). In the Kalama Sutta, Buddha taught his followers to QUESTION EVERYTHING. Accept no teaching or practice just because some teacher, lama, monk, guru, or long-term practitioner told you so. Test it against your own reason and experience. You are the only one who can liberate yourself, with the help of other practitioners. My experience is that if you don’t do the work yourself and find your own way, within the context of your own life, true spiritual growth becomes even more elusive. You cannot imitate or inhabit someone else’s enlightenment, whether from an ordained monk or a lay practitioner. You have to do the work yourself.

What I experienced in previous sanghas that I have been in is that I wasn’t abused in the normal course of things. I became the target of abuse when I resisted the kind of cult-like conditioning that many sanghas promote, often without realizing that they are doing so. They put pressure on members to conform, to take on every recommended practice, retreat or course, whether it works for you or not. If you don’t, you’re  labeled a failure within the context of that community. I became the target of abuse when I questioned  or challenged the teaching I received.  If you dare to question what they teach, they attack you and silence you. That’s when I left western Tibetan Buddhism for good and began practicing as a post-Buddhism Buddhist.

We have to start teaching people to that they don’t need a particular community or a lineage to understand Buddha’s teachings and realize awakening. We have to create new communities that have flat hierarchies, no revered teachers, that work more like encuentros, peer-led self-study and support groups. We have to teach people  not to be codependent, but to be co-independent with others in their pursuit of spiritual growth. This kind of practice would reduce the kind of passivity and dependence that sets people up for victimization with Buddhist teachers and communities.

Posted on May 25, 2015 by 

A number of Buddhist monks and teachers in the Netherlands have been sexually abusing students for decades. Victims include both men and women, some of them minors. Victims are finally coming forward to tell their story.

Over the past few months broadcaster NOS, in conjunction with Buddhism scholar Rob Hogendoorn, has been speaking to some of these victims. Among these people are three men who were abused by a Thai monk. This monk arrived in the Netherlands in the 70’s and worked in a temple in Waalwijk. He sexually abused young men for at least 20 years. Earlier this month a number of this Mettavihari’s, who died in 2007, followers decided to talk about the years of “repeated inappropriate behavior” after decades of keeping silent. According to them, the reason they are coming forward now is that their own investigation has shown that the abuse was even larger than they thought.

NOS also found two other major scandals of Buddhist teacher abusing their position of power with students. In both cases victims turned to the police, but no charges were ever filed.

In a Buddhist center in Middelburg “Kelsang Chopel”, the Austrian Gerhard Mattioli, harassed and sexually abused female students in the period between 2001 and 2008. In the minutes of a meeting of the Buddhist Union Netherlands, the then president talks of a “self proclaimed lama”, or teacher, who “wreaked havoc in a horrible way”, according to NOS. The BUN sent people to speak with the victims, but no further publicity was given to the case.

At the end of 2001 Dhammawiranatha, Pierre Krul from The Hague, stepped down as monk at a monastery in Makinga, Friesland, after being confronted with the many sexual relationships he participated in with women. The victims turned to the BUN. “The stories were truly staggering, brainwashing, instigation, sexual relationships with women, but also with very young, underage girls.” a board member said to NOS. According to NOS, many of these women were mentally dependent.

Buddhist teacher Frank Uyttebroeck told NOS that there are also more recent cases. According to him, at least five people have come to him for help after being abused by different teachers in the past five years. Two of them were so traumatized that he had to refer them to get medical treatment.

Most Buddhist organizations in the Netherlands are now considering measures to stop sexual abuse in their own circles and to offer better help to victims. The BUN told NOS that it recently sent an appeal to more than 40 affiliated centers in which they point out the importance of precautionary measures. The administration warns individual Buddhists to “orientate well and think” before they join a particular organization or teacher.


  1. Chrustine Chan

    This is the reason why it is very important for every Buddhist to know and understand the monastic code of conducts, the patimokkha – not only for honouring and helping the monastics to practice wiithin their bounds, but also for lay devotees (both male and female) to protect themselves. Devotees who rely on the words of their “teachers” sometimes fall prey to their own delusions. To rely on yourself, first read and understand the suttas, then seek guidance from monastics on your practice, but bear in mind the patimokkha shall be your guide to the do’s and don’ts when interacting with your teacher.

  2. Marc

    While I agree with the author on most of this article, there are different kinds of people who are drawn to different forms of Buddhism. For some, regiment and being told what to do (in terms of practice) is helpful. For some, being completely free is more helpful to their disposition. I think that when you first start out (especially in the west), many probably think that you need a savior. A lot think Buddha is a savior and he must be like Jesus. Then you learn that’s not the case, that you have to eliminate the raft after you cross the river. But what comes before the raft? The rocky path – and who knows what path a person may be on. So it isn’t really beneficial to condemn certain practices as they may be stepping stones to a persons own enlightenment. I’ve seen people who have left sanghas that have been like what the article describes (minus the sexual abuse), and I imagine those people have grown from the experience. Sometimes you have to be let down by someone you think will save you before you realize you can only help yourself.

  3. Gyan chandra shakya

    I am gyanchandra shaky former rev Satan’s palace of Nepal.

  4. Gyan chandra shakya

    I am gyanchandra shakya former rev. Sasanapala of Nepal. I studied in Sri Lanka from 1987-1997 aged 13-23.what I experienced is that monk’s life is unbelievably sexually repressed. The inevitable result of that is sexually perversion. What I experienced is that over 90% of the monks practice paedophilia. Even though most will blame the monks I see the fault in the doctrine itself. I reckon that Buddha was a transgendered person with extremely low sexually desire. I think the lifestyle of monks he advised is totally counterproductive to normal individuals. Instead of producing enlightened individuals it produce sick peadophiles. In fact over 90% of monks in Sri Lanka are trapped into monkhood in childhood. No sane person in their right mind would choose life of celibacy. I suffered a great deal due my heightened sexually desire. For me it was hell on earth which I could not escape. I became a Monk at 13 to save my 12year old younger brother. After reaching Sri Lanka and reaching puberty I could not return due to no money. I hoped many times for civil war to escalate in deadly fashion and all foreigners to be expelled from Sri Lanka. Looking back I would have been left for dead no matter what. Now I reckon the venue pannaloka of Nepal who took me and many others to Sri Lanka as a human trafficker whose sole goal was to collect donations for novice monks and pocket it and my own parents as heartless child sellers.

    • Shaun Bartone

      Yes, the abuse of child monks is real, it’s terrible. It’s common to many nations that have child monks, including Tibet.

  5. Gyan chandra shakya

    In Buddhism the main thing is nirvana at least in the theravada Buddhism practiced in Sri Lanka. It is the emancipation from reincarnation. A person recently noted that if he was sure of heaven he will commit suicide immediately. The thing is nobody is certain about the existence of almighty God. But I am certain about absence of rebirth. The thing is when we give birth to our children we pass down our genes. That is our real rebirth. Everything taught in Buddhism or any other religion seems to me as extreme retarded thinking. But my whole student life was spent studying that same retarded doctrine coming board first in Sri Lanka in couple of exams. That was not because of my deep understanding of Buddhism but sheer ability to memorise stuff. What a waste of a useful brain.

    • Shaun Bartone

      I came to the same conclusion that rebirth is what we pass on of ourselves to the next generation, our genes and our cultural legacy.

  6. TL

    Sad news that Against the Stream has rescinded the mentioned Frank’s Uyttebroeck empowerment to teach due to “a pattern of sexual misconduct.” https://www.lionsroar.com/220000-2/

  7. John Smith

    “This has to stop. We have to deeply examine what’s going on in western sanghas that makes people vulnerable to sexual abuse.”

    Isn’t it obvious? Western Buddtardism converts atheists AS atheists. Its not like Christianity which converts the atheist to belief in God and moral absolutes. These atheists who become Buddtards remain atheists, thus remain immoral shitstains. That’s why they are sexual abusers.

    • Shaun Bartone

      Do you know why I’m allowing this disgusting comment? Because I think it’s an example of how ignorant, vile and hateful Christianity has become in America. Thanks for offering yourself as a model of US Christianity.

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I do Tai Chi with Paul Read, the Teapot Monk, @ 21st Century Tai Chi Academy https://www.21stcenturytaichi.com/academy/89szm

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