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Lions Roar : November 2019
accountable. Until we eliminate patriarchal power dynamics in our communities, voices that question the vested interests of the status quo will inevitably be silenced. I realize that using words like patriarchy, oppression, and misogyny may make this problem sound academic or remote. But this is about real grief and pain—mine and yours. When a spiritual teacher betrays the sacred trust and open heart of a stu- dent, it cuts deep. It becomes hard, if not impossible, to maintain faith in the teachings and the possibility of transformation. I’ve spent years trying to understand the causes of this betrayal. When the duplicity occurs in the context of one’s mar- riage, it is doubly disastrous. I was lucky. Because my faith in the practice was already unshakeable, I remained connected to the goodness of Buddhism while I explored the scary depths of what humans can do with unchecked power. How, I wondered, can enlightened beings act so... unenlightened? It was confusing! At the big teachers’ meeting at Spirit Rock in 2001, I asked an esteemed monk from the Thai forest tradition, Ajahn Jayissaro, about this. His answer was so simple: “At the very least, teachers should be able to keep the five precepts.” Jack Kornfield, the second love of my life, my beloved husband, has written extensively on this topic. He quotes Suzuki Roshi, who said, “Strictly speaking, there are no enlightened beings; there is only enlightened activity.” We’ve learned to look at a teacher’s actions, not just their teachings. His Holiness the Dalai Lama suggests taking time to get to know a teacher. Do they follow the eightfold path and keep their precepts? Do they proclaim their own enlightenment? It’s also important to look at the mem- bers of their community: are they blinded by authority? Are they willing to speak about challenges openly and freely? Are they willing to look at ways they might be col- luding with harmful situations? Are they focused on collective as well as individual flourishing? Do they emphasize unconditional love? Perhaps the greatest harm of unchecked abuse is that it sabo- tages our capacity to do the work Buddhist practice is intended to do—to alleviate our suffering and that of the world. When the Buddhist community tolerates abuse, we dis- able the very practices that promote wisdom, compassion, harmony, and love. We undermine the foundations of sila, samadhi, and prajna. Unless students feel safe, how can they shift their identification with a separate self and see that we’re all connected in love? With- out feeling safe, it’s impossible to relax into concentration and meditation practices. We all bring our wounds and suffering to the practice, and we need safety, space, silence, and support to learn how to be present with all that we experience and to free our hearts. Some communities are working skillfully to train teachers, put safeguards in place to prevent abuse, and support survivors when it happens. Here are eight steps I see to a wise response: 1. Use the wisdom of the Buddha and his teachings on social and communal harmony to counter the toxic, distorted views of our culture. Examine and correct the structures we’ve created that foster marginalization and injustice. 2. Team-teach as a way to protect each other from various temptations and mentor new teachers. Working together encourages feedback, transparency, and accountability. 3. Educate our communities about professional, established ways to deal with abuse. Educate young practitioners. 4. Raise awareness and address fears of being disbelieved, rejected, or ostracized, which inhibit people from coming forward. 5. Establish policies that apply equally to everyone, in all situations. 6. Teach and coach staff, teachers, and community members how to overcome discomfort and follow reporting guidelines. 7. Train community leaders to implement policies and guide- lines in a sensitive and timely way. 8. Create an atmosphere of support and respect for everyone involved, especially those with the courage to come forward. TRUDY GOODMAN, PhD,is aleadingteacher in the Insight Meditation tradition and founding teacher of InsightLA. She is a contributing author to the anthology Mindfulness and Psychotherapy. Dare We Update the Dharma? Buddhist teachings have been changing and evolving from the beginning, says scholar ROGER R. JACKSON. He suggests some ways they can be updated to reflect modern values and knowledge. WHEN I MENTIONED to my wife that I’d been asked to write a piece on “updating the dharma,” she commented, “It’s not the dharma that needs updating. It’s our minds.” She was right, of course. The Buddha himself famously remarked that whether enlightened beings appear or not, the way things are and the way we ought to live remain constant. What’s more, the basic ideas and practices of Buddhism have provided deep personal and cultural meaning to countless people for 2,500 years. So, what’s to update? Yet Buddhist teachings and doctrines have been updated right from the beginning. Responding to changing audiences and circumstances, the Buddha gave a wide variety of teach- ings over his forty-five-year career. His successors in Asia and beyond, both premodern and modern, followed suit. They PHOTOBYTRACYFRANK LION’S ROAR | NOVEMBER 2019 62