Dalai Lama Says Sex Abuse By Buddhist Teachers ‘Nothing New’

The Buddhist leader says he first learned about sex abuse claims in the 1990s.

The Dalai Lama
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The Buddhist leader says he first learned about sex abuse claims in the 1990s.

While on a visit to the Netherlands, the Dalai Lama met with a group of citizens claiming sexual abuse by Buddhist teachers, according to Tribune India. The group had organized a petition to meet with His Holiness while in the Netherlands for four days on a trip through Europe. Their appeal was heartwrenching:

“We found refuge in Buddhism with an open mind and heart, until we were raped in its name.”

The Dalai Lama’s response was characteristically calm during a press conference on Dutch public television.

“I already did know these things, nothing new,” he said.

He went on to note that there were claims of sexual abuse by teachers at a conference of Western Buddhist teachers in Dharamsala 25 years ago.

WION calls the news shocking in its story, saying that the Dalai Lama heard written testimony from a dozen survivors of sexual abuse during a 20-minute meeting. According to the news anchor, His Holiness was extremely saddened to hear about the abuse, and “constantly condemned” such behavior.

Of the accused, the Dalai Lama said in English that they “don’t care about the Buddha’s teaching. So now that everything has been made public, people may concern about their shame,” an apparent call for compassion toward the accused, as well as the victims.

This November, the leaders of all the different Buddhist traditions in Tibet will be meeting to discuss the future Dalai Lama, according to the Tibetan Journal. His Holiness is 83 and has insisted that his followers discuss the topic sooner rather than later. He mentioned this meeting in the press conference, saying that he thought the Buddhist leaders should address the topic of sexual abuse by Buddhist teachers at that time.

“I think the religious leaders should pay more attention,” he added.

This news comes less than a week after a sexual scandal rocked one of the highest factions of Tibetan Buddhism. According to the Telegraph, the leadership of the Rigpa Buddhist organization apologized last week for the suffering caused by its founder, Sogyal Rinpoche, who allegedly performed sexual and violent acts. Rinpoche wrote The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, which has sold more than 300 million copies. There are more than 200 Rigpa centers worldwide, and in July Rinpoche stepped back from his administration and teaching duties for the organization while the allegations were investigated. The report commissioned by Rigpa found support for most of the allegations against the former leader and recommended “disassociating from Sogyal as fully as possible and removing those in leadership tainted by the scandal.” When issuing the apology, the Rigpa Vision Board stated on behalf of all of the Rigpa individual boards that the organization would act upon those recommendations fully.