A “black book” warns about the abuses of Buddhism

Sexual and spiritual abuse, mistreatment, concealment of deviations in the upper echelons of the institution… On Wednesday, September 14, it went on sale in bookstores [de Francia] Buddhism, the law of silencethe result of a profound investigation that reveals the shadows of various centers of Tibetan tradition in Europe.

Far from the image of a “religion of happiness” widely entrenched in the West, an investigation lifts the veil on some edifying failures. Sexual abuse -also on minors-, psychological, ill-treatment, economic embezzlement? After eleven years of work, journalist Élodie Emery and documentary filmmaker Wandrille Lanos have written a chilling story -supported by 32 testimonies from victims, some of them never before published- about the hidden workings of a system that, for more than fifty years, it has covered up the misguided actions of eminent Buddhist masters.

Some of the facts are not new, and expose personalities who have been held in high esteem. In the first place, the scandalous Lama Sogyal Rinpoche, founder of a dozen centers in Europe -among them the emblematic Lerab Ling, in Roqueredonde (Hérault)-, who lived surrounded by a swarm of “dakinis”, young women whom he treated , with the knowledge of many, as sexual slaves, and whom he did not hesitate to beat.

He justified these deviations with the false concept of “foolish wisdom”, which supposedly would hasten the attainment of enlightenment. “Some girls keep the scars from the beatings,” says a former fan in the book. Finally disowned in 2017 by the Dalai Lama, Sogyal Rinpoche was never convicted before his death two years later.

in action

The investigation also focuses on the “OKC case”, which takes its name from the center founded in the early 1970s by the Belgian guru Robert Spatz, who urged his disciples to entrust their children to him… exposing them to rape and abuse, at the Château-de-Soleils estate (Alpes-de-Haute-Provence). In December 2020, Robert Spatz was sentenced in Liège to five years in prison with a suspended sentence, during a second appeal trial that was resolved with an appeal to the Supreme Court. In France, the Aix prosecutor’s office also opened an investigation with the constitution of civil parties in 2021.

Questioning the silence and inaction for decades of the Dalai Lama – who was asked by twenty Buddhist teachers, as early as 1993, to publicly condemn the actions of certain teachers in the West, as evidenced by a film of the meeting, of which is shown an excerpt in the documentary of the same name broadcast on Arte.tv on Tuesday, September 13 (and visible until November 11) -, this book also points to the famous French monk Matthieu Ricard.

He is criticized, in particular, for having ignored the victims’ letters and for continuing to support Sogyal Rinpoche and Robert Spatz by visiting their centers. In a press release published on September 9, Matthieu Ricard denied having “been in possession of information that was not public or that had not already been transmitted to justice about the abuses (…) of the two men.” In it, he explained his request that the filmed interview he had given to the authors as part of his documentary be withdrawn.

Doctrine

Supported by the analysis of specialists, his work continues to raise interesting doctrinal questions, pointing out the “blind obedience” that disciples owe to their teachers in Tibetan Buddhism. “The historical Buddha said that it was important to maintain a critical sense in all circumstances”, recalls Antony Boussemart, president of the Buddhist Union of France (UBF), not without saluting the “healthy work” of this research for the liberation of the word of the victims.

He has also said that the UBF ethics commission will continue its work to avoid these drifts during a legal day in November. For her part, Élodie Emery hopes that the investigation “allows the victims, who feel that something isolated has happened to them, to realize that they belong to a system that goes beyond them.”