Check For Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself, Lessons from Buddhist Controversy

Previously we wrote the two articles below, most notably the second article regarding Calvin Elmer Malone the convicted paedophile and author of the book ‘Razor-wire Dharma: A Buddhist Life in Prison’.

The second article included this point:

Instead of asking impossible questions, a better question to ask is what sources do you take your inspiration from and what Buddhist lineage do you want to follow? The easiest way to check is to take a look at the background of the author or Buddhist lineage by doing a little web searching for yourself.

Writing the previous article was not easy and involved reading some things we knew already and some we did not. Certainly, there was a lot that made us feel uncomfortable. We wrote the previous article and this article in order to share some of our experiences that we have had in our pursuit of the spiritual path.

It is easy to become absorbed in the warmth of the community and Buddhist teachings. Before investing your spiritual aspirations in a leader or their organisation, it is worth doing our own due diligence. The reader is encouraged to consider:

  • Why does the self-installed charismatic leader or the organisation itself exist in the first place? Are either self-serving in any way, or are they based entirely on tried and tested Buddhist beliefs?
  • Do you see any behaviors within the organisation, teachers, or other students that you have any concerns about? This might seem like an isolated incident but could be indicative of a wider pattern of behavior. Could the behavior be considered to be those of a cult in any way?
  • Do you really understand the charismatic leader or the organisation and their history, based on a thorough internet search? Or is your understanding based on their own version of the historical events? Have you tried searching for the name of the charismatic leader or the organisation, along with “cult”, “controversy”, or “scandal”?
  • Have you compared the charismatic leader’s and the organisation’s presentation of Buddhist beliefs with the presentation from other organisations? Do they both describe the same belief structure or does one organisation fetishize some specific practice or belief?
  • Have you spoken to the teachers in other organisations, to ask them of their understanding of your charismatic leader or the organisation? It is worth seeking out the opinion of others. Many teachers will make themselves available to genuine questions either face-to-face, or via email or phone call. They might be in the same state or country as you, or they might be overseas.

These questions become more important as we invest our spiritual development into a given specific charismatic leader or organisation.

Love, @happyops