Abusive Buddhists

I am going to preface this post by stating that my knowledge of Buddhism is very limited. What I do know is that Buddhist monks are often seen as teachers, and appropriately or not, as moral leaders. This makes the actions described below as reprehensible as the actions of the Catholic church, especially where it concerns organizational responsibility.

The story (via Pharyngula) is in the Chicago Tribune.

The meeting took place at Wat Dhammaram, a cavernous Theravada Buddhist temple on the southwest edge of Chicago. A tearful 12-year-old told three monks how another monk had turned off the lights during a tutoring session, lifted her shirt and kissed and fondled her breasts while pressing against her, according to a lawsuit.

Shortly after that meeting, one of the monks sent a letter to the girl’s family, saying the temple’s monastic community had resolved the matter, the lawsuit says.

The “wrong doer had accepted what he had done,” wrote P. Boonshoo Sriburin, and within days would “leave the temple permanently” by flying back to Thailand.

“We have done our best to restore the order,” the letter said.

But 11 years later, the monk, Camnong Boa-Ubol, serves at a temple in California, where he says he interacts with children even as he faces a second claim, supported by DNA, that he impregnated a girl in the Chicago area.

in the case of the then-12-year-old who told the monks Boa-Ubol kissed and fondled her? He said he had “contact with her by accident.”

But they deny the woman’s other allegations and claim the case of the 12-year-old is irrelevant.

Sriburin told the Tribune that the monks did not inform the temple’s board about why Boa-Ubol was leaving because the board “leaves monastic issues to the monks.”

He said informing other members of the temple about the alleged abuse of the 12-year-old would have been a mistake.

“If they know that, it would disturb,” Sriburin said. “It’s not useful to their mind.”

Apparently, none of the monks thought it necessary to inform the police or any other authority about the monk. Dhammaram did not think it was necessary to inform the board of directors of his own temple, never mind the temple in California. As in the cases involving the Catholic church, it is more important to protect the church/temple and the priest/monk. Obviously, he does not have a concept of protecting the mind of a child.

Theravada temples surfaced in the U.S. in the 1970s to serve immigrants from Southeast Asia. They have grown by the hundreds, serving as homes to religious, cultural and educational activities, such as Sunday school.

Theravada monks who come here from Thailand report only to their temple’s head monk and board of directors, said Phramaha Thanat Inthisan, secretary-general of the Council of Thai Bhikkhus in the U.S.

The council offers advice and other support to the Thai monks based in the U.S., he said, but doesn’t keep track of everyone’s name and has no authority over the monks. Neither do the religious leaders in Thailand.

There are other examples of monks who have abused their position and disappeared into the organization.

A 30-year-old man told authorities that Chetawan, a Thai monk, held him against his will in the temple’s bathroom, groped him and tried to force inappropriate conduct.

“It was very forceful,” the man testified in court. “It was very humiliating.”

In a civil suit, the victim alleges that the temple ignored earlier instances of sexual misconduct. The claim is echoed by another man who alleges the temple’s leaders laughed when he reported being groped in 2009.

Chetawan is not here to face the lawsuit. In fact, it’s unclear where he is.

Just as Chetawan was to begin a year of probation, a DuPage County judge agreed to release him from his court-ordered supervision after his attorney said the monk would be sent back to Thailand and stripped of his title for breaking the vow of celibacy.

…A monk charged with sexual assault of a child in Harris County, Texas, also is missing.

The charges came in January after a 16-year-old girl confided in her high school counselor that the monk had been having sex with her for months, according to the complaint. Sgt. William Lilly, of the Harris County sheriff’s office, said he visited the temple in search of the monk after the teen’s outcry and “just got the sense they weren’t going to help.”

Days later, the monk’s attorney announced his client had fled and was believed to be in Cambodia.

This is not something that has happened only in the past few years. back in 1990, Katy Butler wrote a piece about a monk abusing his position

One summer afternoon in 1982, a friend of mine stood on a street in Boulder, Colorado-tinder a bright blue Rocky Mountain sky-holding a bottle of sake. The wine, a gesture of gratitude, was a gilt for Vajra Regent Osel Tendon, “Radiant Holder of the Teachings,” second-in-command of Vajradhatu, the largest branch of Tibetan Buddhism in the United States.

Moments later, my friend entered an elegant, minimally furnished office nearby. Tendzin-the former Thomas Rich of Passaic. New jersey, round-eyed, mustachioed and wearing a well-cut business suit-rose from his chair and smiled My friend shook his hand. grateful for the rare private audience. He had recently emerged from an emotionally repressive religious community in Los Angeles, and a meditation retreat led by the Regent had introduced him to a more colorful, less guilt-inducing, spiritual path­.
As the afternoon wore on, the men talked about Buddhism. love and theology. Gradually, the sake level dropped in­side the bottle- Then my friend, a little drunk, grew bold and raised the subject lie Feared most: homosexuality- There was a moment of silence.
“Stand up,” Tendzin said. “Kiss me.” My friend complied.

When the Regent requested oral sex my friend, slightly dismayed, declined.” I think you can do it,” the Regent said cheerfully. The two then moved to a couch, where my friend’s taboo against homosexuality was broken.

When it was over. Tendzin mentioned in passing that lie [sic] had similar sexual encounters several times a day. He offered my friend a ride, opened the office door and led the way through clusters of waiting assistants to a sleek car purring in the twilight below, a driver waiting at the wheel­
My friend later felt confused and embarrassed about that afternoon, but not bitter. “He pushed me into a homosexual experience, and yet at the same time he was generous. I asked to see him, and he made time (or me, he told me “I felt a mixture of embarrassment and honor. I don’t feel Tendzin abused me, and I don’t want my sexual experience judged by anybody.

I know that the actions are conducted by individuals and most of the monks are ethical in their actions. But similar to the Catholic church it is the organizational response to these actions that is so problematic.

For information on the Buddhist attitude and teachings on sex, look here, here, and here. While none of these address sex with minors, given the writings, it is impossible to reconcile ‘right thought’ and ‘right actions’ with paedophilia.

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