Critical Dharma for Thinking Minds /Milk Tea Alliance
John Yates, aka Culadasa, author of The Mind Illuminated, has been confronted with charges of sexual misconduct by the Board of Dharma Treasure. The incidents involve adultery with several women, for whom he also allegedly provided financial support.
Dear Dharma Treasure Sangha,
It was recently brought to the attention of Dharma Treasure Board members that John Yates (Upasaka Culadasa) has engaged in ongoing conduct unbecoming of a Spiritual Director and Dharma teacher. He has not followed the upasaka (layperson) precepts of sexual harmlessness, right speech, and taking what is not freely given.
We thoroughly reviewed a substantial body of evidence, contemplated its significance, and sought confidential counsel from senior Western Dharma teachers, who urged transparency. We also sought legal advice and spoke with various non-profit consultants to draw on their expertise and objectivity in handling this matter. As a result of our process, the Board has voted to remove Mr. Yates from all positions with Dharma Treasure.
In a series of Board meetings as well as written correspondences with Mr. Yates, he admitted to being involved in a pattern of sexual misconduct in the form of adultery. There is no evidence that this adultery involved improper interactions with students or any form of unwanted sexual advances. Rather, adultery with multiple women, some of whom are sex workers, took place over the past four years. The outcome was extended relationships with a group of about ten women. Relationships with some continue to the present day.
He has provided significant financial support to some of these women, a portion of which was given without the prior knowledge or consent of his wife. Mr. Yates also said he engaged in false speech by responding to his wife’s questions with admissions, partial truths, and lies during these years.
After we brought this misconduct to the attention of Mr. Yates, he agreed to write a letter to the Sangha disclosing his behavior, which would give students informed consent to decide for themselves whether to continue studying with him. However, after weeks of negotiations, we were unable to come to an agreement about the content and degree of transparency of his letter.
At the end of this entire process, we are sadly forced to conclude that Mr. Yates should not be teaching Dharma at this time. Likewise, we are clear that keeping the upasaka (layperson) vows is an absolutely essential foundation for serving as the Spiritual Director of Dharma Treasure. With heavy hearts, the Board has voted to remove him from this role, from the Board, and from all other positions associated with Dharma Treasure.
We also acknowledge the benefit of Mr. Yates’ scholarship, meditation instructions, and the personal guidance he has provided for so many earnest seekers, including ourselves. People from all over the world have been deeply impacted by the Dharma he has presented, and we do not wish to minimize the good he has done. We are forever grateful for the study and practice we have all undertaken together with Mr. Yates.
We know people may feel disbelief and dismay upon learning about this pattern of behavior. However, it is our strong wish that we all use this time as an opportunity to practice patient inquiry, compassion, and discernment. Our goal in sharing this information with the Sangha is to provide each of you with enough information to make your own informed decision about whether or how to work with Mr. Yates as a teacher. We hope this transparency about Mr. Yates’ behavior can help us all move toward a place where we honor teachers for their gifts while acknowledging they are complex human beings who make mistakes.
You can imagine this has been a long, methodical, and distressing process. Moving forward, we feel it is in the best interest of the organization to form a new Board that brings fresh perspectives and energy. The current Board will resign after vetting and electing new qualified Board members to carry on the mission of Dharma Treasure.
Finally, we hope this disclosure about Mr. Yates’ conduct does not shake your confidence in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. The transformative strength of refuge in the triple treasure can sustain us through this challenging time. Many other communities have walked this difficult path and emerged wiser and stronger. The ancient and modern history of Buddhism is filled with examples of the Dharma’s liberating individual and social power and compassion. Let us never forget that.
The Dharma Treasure Board of Directors