Sunday, July 31, 2011

Another View on Whether Tibetan Buddhism is Working in the West



by Tara Carreon

A former American convert to Tibetan Buddhism for over 20 years speaks her mind. Her viewpoint is that, although American Tibetan Buddhists have made the decision to adopt traditional Tibetan Buddhist beliefs because they seem authoritative and reliable, this decision has been a mistake. First, she finds that Tibetans themselves suffer from ethnocentrism and cultural arrogance that blinds them to the virtues of Western culture and predisposes them to favor all things Tibetan. Second, she finds American students far too willing to abandon the advantages of our intellectual training and democratic culture of equality in favor of medieval concepts still espoused by Tibetans due to their cultural backwardness. The solution, this student says, is to abandon Tibetan cultural belief systems, stripping Buddhism to its core values of straightforward inquiry and insight into appearance and emptiness, supplementing these values with Western virtues of optimism, creativity, and the scientific method. Such a change in spiritual approach can lead to real cause for optimism and freedom from outmoded notions that merely lead to psychological subjugation.


I'm writing this article from the viewpoint of having spent the last 26 years immersed in Buddhism, 22 of those in Tibetan Buddhism. For virtually all of that time, I was extremely devout, did my practice compulsively, and usually held monthly pujas in my home, to which other students were publicly invited. I hosted scores of lama events, helped raise many thousands of dollars, sewed clothes and cooked meals for my teacher, typed transcripts of tapes, and even edited an entire book of teachings. I traveled to India and Nepal. I helped build a traditional four-story Tibetan temple in Ashland, Oregon, one of the biggest and most authentic temples in the West. I received the entire transmission of Nyingma teachings from beginning to end, including the Dzogchen Trekchod and Togyal teachings, and at the end, my teacher declared that I needed no further teachings, and should simply practice what he had taught me.

My immersion in Tibetan Buddhism ultimately led to a psychological stalemate between my impulse to be a perfect Buddhist and my inability to see any truly "enlightened" developments in my psyche after these many years of effort. Three years ago I began a radical reevaluation of my relationship with the dharma, and those two other far more troublesome "jewels," the lama and the sangha. At some point, I began to feel that I had been duped, and began to unpack my psychological baggage. I discovered that I was seething with resentment over the years of self-abasement, and humiliated by the fact that I had aided my captors. While this language, and some of the language that I use in my essay below, may seem harsh or accusatory, I believe that I feel about these things just as any other ordinary person would feel after the years of effort turn out to have been invested for no good reason. Additionally, the inner compulsion to perform ritualistic practices in which I had lost faith, and the need to overcome the fear that abandoning these practices would cause me to suffer terrible consequences, has made for many painful days and nights. The process of self-deprogramming has taken me to the edge of despair, and beyond. The truth is that one who delivers their belief into the hands of others risks having to fight to get it back. Having fought that fight, it is my desire to save other people from wasting their time, energy and happiness in what I now view as a bad investment in the realm of faith. I would suggest that sincere spiritual seekers return to themselves and appreciate the good aspects of our own Western culture in order to achieve spiritual satisfaction.


I was inspired to write this article after I read an interview in Tricycle Magazine the other day with Alan Wallace, entitled "Tibetan Buddhism in the West: Is it Working?" The title excited me. Finally, I thought, someone is going to reveal the trouble behind the scenes, and we can start to get these things out into the open. Since I know and like Alan Wallace, and admire him greatly as a translator, I was very interested to hear his views.

Alan left too much unspoken, to say the least. For Alan, it's apparently too delicate to discuss. I can understand why Alan plays it safe, being a professor of Tibetan studies and a recognized spokesperson for Tibetan Buddhism. He has a reputation to cultivate. An academic and a translator, he receives a share of the veneration that is paid to the lamas. On the downside, no one wants to be an accused heretic, like Stephen Batchelor. Like Alan, many Tibetan Buddhists are very careful about what they say. Among those who know, the threat of "samaya injury" from saying the wrong thing has a very chilling effect on speech. More generally, it is no surprise that those on the path of "secret mantra" enjoy playing at having secret information that they are forbidden to disclose. Therefore, Tibetan Buddhists are unable to get their problems into the open where they can examine them in the clear light of day. As always, silence and secrecy breed ignorance and denial.

Alan blames Western students for what I see as the Tibetan failure to adequately communicate the teachings. Granted, Alan is simply repeating what he's been told, and I do not believe he is distorting the message. Real insiders often hear from Tibetan lamas how little they respect Westerners. Sometimes, it seems that beating up on Westerners is one of the Tibetans' favorite pastimes. However, the lamas rarely open themselves to criticism about their own ways. They can even get testy if pressed. Most students don't speak up unless they want to be called heretics, and shunned from their communities forever. Only people who don't have a reputation or position to protect can speak the truth. That virtually precludes people with vested interests in the existing system from saying anything meaningful at all -- at least if it's critical thinking we value. The "authorities" have, and will continue, to report only the "official story."

The Dalai Lama [author's note: "whom I no longer have any respect for whatsoever after reading Victor and Victoria Trimondi's book, "The Shadow of the Dalai Lama" -- 11/13/04] says we should have open dialogue, and hash out our differences. In response to the question: "In your recent book 'Ethics for the New Millennium,' you called for a 'spiritual' and then an 'ethical revolution. Are you willing to emerge as a prophet?," the Dalai Lama replies:

"[T]oday, this is not the business of any one individual. Everywhere there are all sorts of organizations that are concerned with these things. Everyone has the same responsibility now -- I think it's the democratic way. With increased awareness, with a stronger sense of concern, every person must come forward and join together as one body, each one cooperating with every other. There are some individuals -- some intellectuals, some religious persons and quite a few scientists -- who all have real awareness of the critical situation in the world. But one problem is that they each just express their own view and then let a few organizations carry the burden as best they can. Now, if we could more often come together, discuss the problems in depth, make some appeals for positive action or even offer stronger criticism of wrong actions, and even tell the U.N. or some important governments -- then that's the way to have some positive effect."

Robert Thurman, Rolling Stone, May 24, 2001.

This is how we refine our viewpoint through free speech and debate. But while free speech is the soul of democracy, it is very much against the usual Tibetan party line of "shut up and put up." The Tibetans have never known and fundamentally distrust democracy. At the Tibetan temple where I invested 22 years, there were no "members." We weren't allowed to vote on anything, or to elect our "leaders". Theocratic by tradition, Tibetan lamas rule by fiat. Even the Dalai Lama's speech is cautious and diplomatic.

At the start of the interview, Alan tells us what Tibetan lamas think about Westerners. The lamas' complaint is so familiar it invokes a yawn: Westerners in "a consumer society, a business-oriented society" become "dilettantes ... dabbling in one flavor after another, without gaining proficiency in anything." We're "impatient, superficial, and fickle" and "in Tibetan society, fickleness is considered to be one of the worst of vices." This description is more ethnocentric, and less compassionate, than most students would expect of the Dalai Lama's fellow-clerics. However, if you spend enough time with Tibetans, you'll learn they feel quite superior. Tibetan lamas are comfortable sitting on thrones, eating good food, and having people serve them. And it seems that many Western Tibetan Buddhists are more than willing to intern as domestic servants and handymen. Having come from a prosperous Western tradition that is in stark contrast to the Tibetan lifestyle, Western students are willing to disavow it all to become members of the enlightenment club. Or perhaps they have been dying for an opportunity to serve, to work off their "White Man's Burden" with a little self-abasement.

Alan continues to faithfully communicate the sad fact that the "finest lamas" are quite disgusted with us. "The finest lamas are now refusing even to come to the West, because they figure they could be spending their time either teaching Tibetans in Asia, or they could simply go into retreat and meditate." The lamas believe that "devoting time to people with such fickleness and so little faith is time not very well spent." This is rather snitty. Westerners are the only eager consumers of mystical practice, and even minority Americans aren't attracted. (When was the last time you saw a group of African-Americans at an empowerment?) Young Tibetans want jobs and secular education, not trinkets and blessings. Alan's comment presumes that the great lamas have "bigger fish to fry." The fact is, that due to the financial support they have received from Westerners (and the Taiwanese), they can afford to remain esconced in relative splendor in Kathmandu and Bhutan. Now let us take each of Alan's comments in turn.

First, to self-slander our culture as merely a consumer and business-oriented society, ignores the fact that our country is the most religiously tolerant nation in the world. In cities across the nation, people from every faith live and worship down the street from each other, which would be impossible in their respective countries of origin. The combination of government-protected freedom of religion, plus tax incentives and an actual interest in Buddhism, makes our country a place where Tibetans are quite eager to live. They recognize that in addition to religious freedom, having a refrigerator, a warm place to sleep, and clean water, have spiritual as well as worldly advantages. While lamas often criticize the "material" Western lifestyle, waxing eloquent about how their own people live happily on little, due to their religious faith, most are eager to secure residence, land, cars and temples. There is every evidence that the lamas seek in America exactly what they had in Tibet -- wealth and leisure -- remembering always that according to a helpful doctrine, seeking leisure to pursue the spiritual path is an unimpeachable motivation. The complaint that we shop for Dharma is rather disingenuous. The lamas themselves turned the Dharma into a traveling show, selling tickets to empowerments with vague promises of spiritual benefit, revealing only after the fact in empowerments, students take on weighty "samaya" commitments that obligate them to eternal fealty to their initiators. This "bait and switch" method always evokes a certain number of grumbles in the crowd of newbies, but the eager smiles of older students are usually sufficient to overcome most objection. After all, who can resist getting conked on the head with religious objects by a wise old lama on a throne, while young acolytes circulate holding incense and other magical items? And you get a knotted red string to wear around your neck as a token of your commitment! Increasingly, you pay hundreds of dollars for the privilege of attending an empowerment, for which all are presumptively qualified, who have the ability to pay. There is no question of qualification or readiness, or spiritual sincerity. The students manning the door want to see real dollars, not earnest entreaties. Possibly we should blame Americans for this venality. Probably not. The teachers chose the teachings, the place and the time. The students came, paid money, and listened. According to Alan, however, they blundered. Somehow, the criticism seems unwarranted.

Tibetan lamas are equally vulnerable to criticism on grounds of "fickleness." Tricycle has reported enough about "competing tulkus," "the Shugden schism" and countless other instances of petty clerical infighting to establish that if fickleness is a vice, Tibetan clerics are ridden with it. Gossip is a staple in Tibetan Buddhist circles. In our center, we were always getting the word from the top about "Who's hot, and who's not." The list of disgraced students and rival lamas grew over time, until one day I found my own name added to the list. I think "fickleness" usually occurs when two lamas vie for the attentions of a single wealthy donor.

Alan suggests that if the supply of sincere students dries up, the lamas will go away. I suspect that those lamas who would leave have already departed. And what did they expect from us, anyway? Did the lamas really expect students to learn Tibetan, memorize rituals, join the clergy en masse, and build large temples everywhere? If they want that type of performance they need to stick with their own people. Do Christian missionaries pack up and leave when their prospective converts don't learn all the hymns? Put simply, this is a harsh, judgmental response that does too little to honor the sincerity of students who often surrender family and livelihood to the pursuit of Tibetan Buddhism. Does it seem compassionate to write off an entire culture as fickle, and return to the mountain fastness to engage in "more productive" contemplation? But Alan delivers this harsh declaration without blinking. You can see that, by controlling entry and status into the lofty world of lamas and their "entourages," Tibetans can induce Westerners like Alan to tacitly adopt their own prejudice. You might start to think that one can get approval from Tibetans by criticizing Westerners.

Make no mistake about it, the lamas are sure they know best, and will likely not be impressed with your own speculations or reflections about spirituality. In this regard, Alan warns us that in seeking to ascertain spiritual truth, "one extreme is ... individualism."

Let's play that back again. Would it sound different if I told you I was quoting Mao, or an Orwellian Big Brother? Can an American be saying this? Individualism is the basis of our Constitution, of all our civil rights and humanitarian values. Each person's individual buddha nature is the basis of dharma. Is individuality not the beauty of our unique existence in this universe? Why this paranoia about independent thought? Is it really not possible for an individual to realize the truth without a prescription? Buddha, presumably, was an individual, who through the exercise of his own mind, found freedom. Yet Thinley Norbu criticizes Americans for having "freedom habit." Must we choose between Buddhism or freedom? Perhaps in some brand of Buddhism, appropriate to a feudal system, peasants do not ask these questions. Americans, however, would probably choose freedom, thereby choosing, I believe, true dharma as well.

Alan denigrates our ability to think for ourselves, saying that with respect to making spiritual decisions, we will always be like "a kid going into a restaurant and saying, I'll just take what tastes good." This metaphor implies that students are children who just want to eat candy. But this assertion is illogical. We must trust ourselves to make spiritual choices, else we could not even make the first decision to rely upon the doctrine. Alan's view is that although we were smart enough to select the Tibetans to be our teachers, now that we've found our true "parents," the lamas, we will always and forever be children. Thus we can never grow up, and must rely totally on the lamas. Says Alan: "That's the core issue in Buddhism." I strongly disagree. The core issue in Buddhism is not our ignorance, but rather our intelligent, enlightened nature.

While on the subject of being treated like a child, I've often heard the lamas say, "it's time to grow up." This is where they get you coming and going. If you become a high-maintenance disciple, showing lots of devotion, or having many questions, you're called a baby. If you think for yourself, you're a deluded individualist. As in all double-bind situations, the issue isn't whether we are children, but rather, whether the lamas shall tell us who we are. Western students deserve dignity and respect, and they do not receive it from the bulk of lamas. On the other hand, they clearly have not demanded it.

The rest of Alan's interview is full of nice questions about whether Buddhism is working in the West, and how we must make Buddhism work for Westerners, but he gives no answers. So the whole interview basically boils down to "No, Tibetan Buddhism isn't working, because Americans aren't doing it very well." Well, that clearly is the official story.


Am I alone in saying there is a humongous culture clash between Tibetans and Westerners? That's not so embarrassing, is it? So let me ask you another question: Do we live in Tibet or in the West? And if we live in the West, isn't it fair to ask Tibetans to understand our culture somewhat before they criticize us extensively?

At the sound of these words, I can see the true believers heading for the aisles, thinking, "This is effrontery, this is sacrilege; I want nothing to do with it." Which is not a good sign. Cultural isolation crystallized Tibet into a theocratic state of lettered tulkus ruling over a vast illiterate peasantry, creating a culture so unified with its religion that it lacks virtually all secular cultural expression. This "union of Church and State" creates innumerable problems. Western students, who are not serfs or shepherds, should not be dealt with in the same way. Still, in your average Dharma center, the lama's word (or his wife's word) is law. Questioning is disobedience, and disagreement is heresy. If you think I'm exaggerating, I'll give you a list of centers to visit.

Few of us took vows of refuge with various lamas because we longed to chant in a foreign language and bow before enthroned teachers. Those who did should have no complaints. But most people were trying to find some inner peace and self-understanding. If we're not getting that from involvement with the lamas, it isn't sacrilege to say so, and return to our original spiritual concerns. We are entitled to ask, "WHAT IS BUDDHISM?" After 22 years of being a "Tibetan" Buddhist, I'm finding it hard to answer that question. Actually, it would be hard for any Tibetan Buddhist to answer this question. Tibetans have little need for the Buddha, who has been eclipsed by Padmasambhava, the Karmapa, or whatever tulku-dynasty is revered by the sect. So Tibetan Buddhists know about as much about the Buddha as Mormons know about Jesus Christ (not much).

If you learn Tibetan Buddhism, you learn more about Tibet than about Buddha. As long as we believe that the colorful and exciting Tibetan culture is Buddhism, we will be unable to find true Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism is not working for us because we are unable to find its essence in the complex and colorful Tibetan way of life. Tibetan symbols do not speak to us, nor do we learn from reciting a sadhana in a foreign language. (It took the Catholics until the 1960's to stop saying the Mass in Latin, though, so this folly is equally the result of our own cultural absurdity).

There's no question but that, if you become a Tibetan Buddhist, you get a lot of stuff. You get a red string tied around your neck right off the bat. You get sacred practices, protector deities, mantras and visualizations. But what are we surrendering? I would suggest we are surrendering something very valuable -- our belief in objective, empirical reality, as revealed through scientific knowledge. We take this belief for granted of course, because it is second nature. But if you become a Tibetan Buddhist, this sense of reality can begin to slip away, little by little, replaced by a patchwork of myth, fantasy, and what passes for meditation.

From the viewpoint of an educated American, Tibetan culture is anachronistic: young Tibetans are dazzled and overwhelmed by our modern world. The older lamas are bemused by our culture, and turn away from it too quickly to learn much about us. They live, psychologically, on a flat earth, without the benefit of scientific knowledge. Often their lectures are rather quaint, as they present fallacious arguments to support the doctrine. Many are sweet, sincere, and so hopelessly out of touch that Steven Segal managed to pass himself off as a tulku. Can we seriously rely on teachings from that culture?

The Tibetans themselves suffered greatly due to their blind faith in a theocratic system that failed utterly to provide two essentials of governance: (1) good foreign relations, and (2) a reliable military. As a result, two million Tibetans have died due to Chinese aggression that has gone basically unredressed by the international community. Tibet was unable to meet the challenge of the twentieth century. It had no independent-thinking intelligencia. But for the efforts of Heinrich Harrer to give the young Dalai Lama an education about the world beyond the walls of the Potala, it is questionable whether Tibet could have fielded even one political leader to explain its situation to the world. None of this is to justify the murderous outrages of the Chinese, whose conduct is so vile as to defy expression. However, Tibet's political leaders owed their constituents a modicum of protection from foreign aggression, at least through diplomatic avenues. Unfortunately, the ingrown monastics of Tibet were unsuited to international political life, and practiced the defense tactics of an ostrich.

Due to what can only be seen as misguided confidence, Tibet's inept leaders wielded political authority nonetheless, leading to a cultural disaster. As the Dalai Lama explained in a recent interview with Robert Thurman, the routine integration of the clergy in the secular economic fabric damages society: "Some Tibetans also say that in the past, the way of life was that the dharma almost served as a livelihood or a routine profession. The Buddhist was not thinking of nirvana, not caring for liberation, just how to make a living. Officials used it for their lives, monks, nuns and lamas for their lives. Inside, in their inner world, they were like ordinary people, lusting and hating. So the dharma became a poison in this way.

When there is too much focus on the Buddhist institution, and the country goes to waste, that's what it means when people say Buddhism ruined the country." (Rolling Stone, May 24, 2001)

Now, in this country, Tibetans are making a similar mistake. In Tibetan Buddhist dharma centers all over America, lamas give orders to a tight hierarchy of appointed followers, who are often chosen for their willingness to donate time, money, real estate and property. Students are encouraged to adopt a medieval mind-set, and to abandon belief in their ability to make their own decisions. Lamas advise on who to marry, when to divorce, what jobs to take or quit. Many students request "divinations" of future events, and even pay money to have monks recite volleys of prayers to "eliminate obstacles."

What is difficult to understand for those who haven't been immersed in Tibetan Buddhism for a long time, is that this religion is obsessed with controlling outcomes by the use of magical invocations. This religious model is most like the Christian feudal religion of medieval Europe, linked to a large agrarian serfdom. This religious model also carries with it a powerful anti-logical seed: the belief that favorable outcomes of desired events are controlled by the intercession of supernatural powers.

The red robes, the chants, the tormas, the deities, the colorful temples, the instruments, the sadhanas, the codes of conduct, the lamas, the teacher-disciple relationship are products of Tibetan culture. These symbols were created by Tibetans and likely can only be understood by Tibetans. We Westerners will never be able to understand these things, or translate them into our culture. Fire pujas, exorcisms, prayers to oath-bound protectors. These practices are beautiful, but non-translatable. Period. We do not need to obtain supernatural aid to make the crops grow and the lambs fat. Reciting long lists of protector deities and invoking their aid does not rank high on my list of contemplative activities. These practices are not only unhelpful for most students; there is substantial evidence that people can develop bizarre habits from long repetition of activities that they do not understand, and are pursuing solely due to "faith" that the practice will produce some magical benefit. The Dalai Lama responded with unusual candor recently when asked, "What prevents people from understanding [the essence of Buddhism]?":

"When people think it's all about doing tantric visualizations and rituals. When I talk about the Buddhist dharma, I'm not talking about just chanting and rituals. If it's thought to be a philosophy, it's not that, either. The dharma, it's just the mind. I'm afraid that among the Tibetans, the Chinese and also some Westerners -- the new Buddhists -- in many cases they consider the practice of Buddhism is simply to recite something and perform some ritual, putting false expectations on the esoteric magic of tantra: 'Oh, if I do this, I may get something amazing!' So they neglect the basic instruments that actually transform our mind. These instruments are the altruistic spirit of enlightenment [bodhicitta], the transcendent attitude, renunciation, the realization of impermanence, the wisdom of selflessness. People who think they have a magic gimmick neglect these things. So their inner world, their inner reality, remains very raw. Sadly, use of ritual can feed that neglect. Knowledge of philosophy can also feed that. It's a great tragedy."


Most of us came to Tibetan Buddhism because it seemed to be a reliable repository of ancient Buddhist wisdom. Along the way we discovered it is actually a vast cultural tapestry with more of the medieval than we originally expected. Assuming there is more here than culture and folklore, can we separate the wheat from the chaff? Can we find the core Buddhism in the midst of the Tibetan glare?

Core Buddhism can only be that which is indestructible and not based on form, i.e., that which the Buddha taught that relates to the mind, because only that is universal and (hopefully) can translate from culture to culture. As the Dalai Lama said, "The dharma, it's just the mind."

What did the Buddha teach about the mind? I remember one thing from my studies, and that was first and most importantly, that the Buddha abandoned established religious practices, and looked at mind for himself. This seems like the quintessential "individual" act. The Buddha apprehended the truth of appearance and voidness and taught the Prajnaparamita mind teachings which state that there are no inherently existing self, or objects, that form is emptiness and emptiness is form. The story of the Buddha's life is a story about Indian society, including injunctions to refrain from teaching to "blonde-haired people," and the detailed rules of monastic conduct. These cultural trappings are not worthy of special reverence. Buddha's acts of cultural defiance are far more inspiring: his abandonment of kingship, his rejection of existing doctrine, his transcendence of gurus and asceticism. His self-reliance, in a word.

Like the Buddha, who called everything into doubt, we too should question for our whole life. But the lamas tell you not to follow the Buddha's example, telling you you're arrogant to think that you are like him. They urge you to question for about one minute, then insist that you make up your mind to rely on the lama's authority and abandon questioning for the rest of your life. As a practical matter, such questioning is as bad as none at all.

As history unveils the future of Tibetan Buddhism in this country, we are not going to see a careful translation from Tibet to the West. Tibetan Buddhism is finished for Westerners. Along with Japanese Buddhism, Thai Buddhism, Indian Buddhism, and the rest.

We don't need lamas. We don't need any authority figures. We don't need temples. We don't need a lot of books. We don't need to give anyone money. We don't need someone holding our hand. We have everything we need to realize our true nature already inside us, because we have our minds and individuality. We need to love ourselves, and trust ourselves.


We Westerners and especially we Americans have a hidden dharma tradition to inspire us right here in our own culture. Our aspirations -- to save the planet, feed people, release wrongly imprisoned people, give women the right to vote -- are wholesome. Our belief in principles of equality, fairness, justice, and freedom of speech and belief are all "Buddhist" principles without having that name. As a guide for social governance, the U.S. Constitution is far superior to King Trisong Detsun's code, which provided harsh punishment, even death, for those who violated Buddhist rules. We have a very good understanding of what it means to be a "bodhisattva," but we don't call it that. We call it being a "humanitarian" or a "social activist." If we supplement the core Buddhist teachings with these noble traditions, and unite knowledge of the union of appearance and emptiness with the clear-eyed view of the scientific method, we have a very adequate philosophy of positive development. Once we agree that science provides a better explanation for phenomena than superstitions involving supernatural forces, there is plenty to agree on in this universe. Rather than cleaving to old ways, retaining magical notions as doctrinal elements, a viable religious philosophy joins with the current knowledge of the day to open a way to live creatively and optimistically, thus providing concrete benefit to all.

Some of us might even find that our view of "enlightenment" must embrace more than the Buddha is said to have taught, to encompass all of the fruits of human knowledge, from astrophysics to nanotech, from the genetic origins of life to the ecology of the planet. Medievalism, even of the Buddhist sort, will not serve this quest for integration. Perhaps "enlightenment" itself is evolving. Then again, maybe there's something inherently wise about our "natural" and "ordinary" mind. Someday, if we explore directly for ourselves, we might even be able to take these "mind" teachings out of the realm of philosophy, conjecture and fantasy, into the realm of reality. To do that, we're going to have to work with our culture and knowledge, and test these old ideas against scientific observations of mind. Contrary to what the Tibetans think, that their doctrine has codified absolute and immutable principles, I think rather that they can be improved and developed. Maybe the Tibetans had a much lower expectation about everything than do we Westerners, not only culturally speaking, but also spiritually speaking, and we can do them one better. We can be optimistic about our ability to learn new things based upon new investigations. The Dalai Lama has repeatedly observed that Western science may be able to help fill in gaps in Tibetan Buddhist knowledge of the mind's nature, which however accurate, is fundamentally intuitive, subjective, and unconfirmed by outer observations. Everything from Tibetan descriptions of the states before and after death to the phases of meditative insights, are fundamentally a compendium of traditional lore. Western science has just begun to observe the physically confirmable evidences of mental activity Biofeedback studies of Zen students actually provided fascinating confirmation of the observable effects on brainwave function associated with Zen meditation. In this way, empirical and intuitive knowledge can support each other to establish a solid foundation for human self-improvement, one that does not require vast investments of "faith."


While faith in doctrinal pronouncements is certainly the order of the day in semi-literate feudal cultures, it carries little convincing force for people raised in a rational scientific culture. We are far more likely to feel comfortable in a 747 than flying on a magic carpet, even in the company of a Tibetan lama. There is a fundamental need to rest easy in your beliefs, especially if you are trying to meditate. Dropping conceptual thought is much more difficult if you are uncomfortable with your assumptions about reality. Thus, making a lot of medieval assumptions about reality, cause and effect, and the need to propitiate the protector deities is not necessarily good preparation for non-conceptual meditation of the sort universally practiced by virtually all Buddhists. In this way, the Tibetan Buddhist emphasis on arcane rituals can definitely set an aspiring meditator off their stride, making meditative accomplishments seem all the more difficult. It's like putting on a large weight pack before starting to climb a mountain. Why do it? We will climb higher, and enjoy it more, without this baggage.

Compounding the problem for Westerners trying to develop faith in the Tibetan Buddhist philosophy is the fact that the traditional faith-building exercises do not work for Westerners. The standard prescription for developing faith is to contemplate the virtues of the "lineage gurus" and to develop devotion to one's own guru as the living embodiment of a lineage of wisdom masters going back to Vajradhara, Padmasambhava, or Shakyamuni. The usual practice, of reciting lineage prayers in Tibetan, is about as faith-building as reading the "begats" from Deuteronomy in the original Aramaic. Of course, if I had listened to tales of Guru Rinpoche from the days of childhood while eating tsampa around a yak-dung fire, the effect would likely be otherwise.

Logically, it makes no sense to attempt to invoke strong emotional feelings based on childhood conditioning that does not exist. The heroes of my childhood were Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, and other Western culture heroes. No injection of doctrine and myth is going to transfer that type of deep admiration to a Tibetan historical figure, and the attempt to stimulate such emotions is misguided. I can tell you from 22 years of personal experience that, no matter how much Tibetan history you imbibe, and how earnestly you attempt to give rise to the appropriate feelings of reverence and awe, the results will be unsatisfying. You may refine your yearning and obsession to an impressive degree, but nagging doubts will grow in tandem with your efforts to suppress them. Ultimately, the purported "prerequisites" for meditation will eclipse the view of non-duality altogether.


The Tibetans may need to humble themselves. They've entered a new world about which they know nothing. While it's fashionable to attend the chanting exhibitions of the Gyuto "Tantric choir," and there is no doubt the cultural display of old Tibet is charming and beautiful, that culture is of the past. Besides nostalgic yearning, Americans have no need to provide a cultural hothouse in which to preserve a displaced theocratic culture. It will be humiliating for Tibetans to continue to sell their traditions on stage for small change. Better to move on. Old things are lost forever. And often times, this is not a bad thing. Things die so that new things can be born. The Tibetans can let new ideas be born in themselves. Why hold on to old ways that aren't useful or relevant any longer? Indeed, young Tibetans are like young people everywhere. They have no desire to follow the ways of a culture that has left its roots in the distant soil of the Tibetan heartland, particularly if they can actually move to the West. If their religion works for them, great. If they can find adherents who also find value in Tibetan Buddhism, their religion business may also prosper in the marketplace of ideas. I think it likely, however, that Tibetan Buddhism will survive only in stripped-down forms, once the cultish fascination with arcane rituals has dissipated. The Tibetan clerics should prepare for this development. While possibly not as devastating as the failure of the dot.coms and the electricity crisis is for California, the effects will be felt as the West burns through yet another religious fad.


Now that I am no longer a "Tibetan" Buddhist, and have learned to think for myself, and am not hammered down by negative views of myself and the universe, like sin and samsara, etc., the World seems very exciting to me in a way I never knew before. Human beings are marvelous creations, so very intelligent and creative. I think there is tremendous hope all around us and ahead of us. Besides the fact that the world and our minds spontaneously exist without our having labored to create them, which should be enough of a miracle for anyone, there are reasons for optimism about the prospects for a good life for humanity on earth. Slowly, we are all speaking the same language. Since war often is the result of miscommunication, with fuller communication among the nations, war could become obsolete. As war decreases, resources are going to be freed up, which will enable us to improve the lot of people and the planet. As we communicate with each other about our similar needs, and global resource competition meets with a world pool of intellectual capital, standards of living may equalize. Science is allowing us to see the wonder of the universe and of our selves in a way that has never happened before. Our visions are expanding. Someday we'll be able to travel through the universe. And who knows, maybe someday we'll even agree on what it means to meditate, and who we are.

We can open ourselves to a world that will truly inspire us. We should be careful about adopting a world view that equates the outer world with ugliness and evil (samsara), and which urges "retreat" into "meditation" as the only refuge from a doomed existence. Quite simply, we shouldn't use Buddhism to become depressed about the state of the world. We should believe we can make things better for everyone and everything. If everyone can be a bit of an activist, and do their part, I feel sure we can change the world to be a better place for everyone. For me, that's Dharma.

I want to thank my husband, Charles Carreon, who has traveled the Buddhist path with me for almost as long as we have been married, which is 27 years, for his enormous contribution to this article.

AMERICAN BUDDHA by Tara and Charles Carreon


  1. Tibetan Buddhism is becoming a bad joke in the West, and in parts of the East as well. How can anyone take it seriously, when so many monks treat the celibacy and compassion as optional? Rinpoches and other teachers who don't give a whit as to how much human wreckage they leave in the wake of their headlong pursuit of their own personal gratification are putting a very bad face on the Buddha's teachings.

  2. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for putting into words so exactly and thoroughly what had to be my conclusion after a brief (but deep) encounter with Tibetan Buddhism that lasted almost two years. It has shocked me to the core to see from very close just how much seemingly intelligent westerners are willing to offer up for the superficial solace the codependent relationship with a Lama (Guru) may hold. Shocked indeed by the contempt of these Lama's for the integrity of their "followers" in their vulnerable and desperate search. Shocked by the numbing of their discernment when it comes for instance to condemn them for having sex with their(female)students. In large numbers! I've been shocked and astonished to see that apparently for these students the answer to all the problems and hardships in our culture and life in general is to abandon common sense, humanity and I dare say morality. Blindly following "a leader" has been of all times. But in these times, with the amount of information and education available, it is plain regression. Thank you again. May it be heard, read and thought about. May we grow up further and show real and active compassion instead of working to cultivate "faith". The consensus necessary to "believe" has made countless victims in history already. May we wake up in the truest sense of the word.

  3. While this post is not my own, I can empathize with you, really, because I was in Tibetan Buddhism for a year before I found out what they taught. I was shocked. I got the Kalachakra online and found that my own teacher taught from it and practiced it as wekk, I told him that he was a liar when he said that he didn't practice these things, but I knew better. I am not an idiot.

    That is when I began doing research with another woman who was also as upset as me, and this blog is the result of our efforst. I spent my first year out of Tibetan Buddhism being upset over what I was reading, disturbed is more like it. Angry also comes to mind because they are harming others greatly.

    I even learned that tantric sex is secretly taught by gurus in Hinduism. I still ask myself where I go from here, but nowhere is the best place now. I still believe in loving kindness as taught in Buddhism and in helping others which doesn't seem to be taught in Buddhism unless you are teaching people meditation.

    Shocked is a good word for what you are experiencing. I remember being on my teacher's website and seeing a picture of a Buddha with a woman on his lap having sex and sitting there in shock, thinking, is my teacher teaching tantric sex?

    I even thought to going back to Christianity so I began reading the gnostics and was disturbed by them, and then more disturbed to learn that Jesus may not have existed. Oh, well, I wasn't really that all disturbed since I never connected to Christianity anyway. I still believe in some sort of God, more like a Consciousness of Love and find myself reading books like "The Field" by McTaggart.

    Now I have moved away from reading things on tantrism and just post things sent to me and answer comments made here. I had to get my brain out of the mud, because what I learned was too disturbing, but it is all on here now.

    Thank you so much for coming here and for posting. May you find peace, which I know you will.

  4. The author says, "The truth is that one who delivers their belief into the hands of others risks having to fight to get it back." Exactly. So why do it? Where in the great texts of Buddhism does it say you should surrender yourself to the guru without checking him out thoroughly? If you surrender your belief to him, and then have to fight to get it back, then you didn't really know him in the first place. If he demands devotion, that should make you even more suspicious.

    She says, "I would suggest that sincere spiritual seekers return to themselves and appreciate the good aspects of our own Western culture in order to achieve spiritual satisfaction." Too true. Presumably that was true 20 or so years ago when she first took to Buddhism. So where does the original mistake lie? The Dalai Lama is always saying that we should follow our own culture.

    She says, "Now that I am no longer a "Tibetan" Buddhist, and have learned to think for myself." An extraordinary statement. Buddha said, "You should be the master of your own mind" Nowhere in authentic Buddhism does it say you should not think for yourself.

    While there are many truths in this article, it is delivered with great cynicism and anger. There are many assertions that I simply don't recognize, and I have been involved in Buddhism longer than she has. Moreover, I too am seriously concerned about the state of Tibetan Buddhism in the west, as you can see from my article here, and on my blog

  5. There is nothing salvagable in Tibetan Buddhism. It has always been a cesspool from the moment Padmasambhava entered into Tibet with these sick teachings that were a degeneration of what Buddha taught. Then he went about conquering the emperor's wife, making her his consort. Of course, that is nothing new since Tibetan Buddhism is really all about sex, and the lama's will sleep with anyone's wife, woman, man, or any child he pleases because he is basically a sexual predator in monk's clothing.

    Check out a lama first? Where would you begin since since they all practice these secret teachings, even the beloved Dalai Lama, and you can be with the lama for years and not know that these practices are going on because they are they kept secret. Many learn about them after they have already given themselves over to the teachings and the lama, and after lama has groomed them by getting their trust in the same way that sexual predators do their victims.

    Anger! There is very good reason to be angry!!!!!!!!!!!

    Why be concerned for Tibetan Buddhism in the west, when there is more to be concerned by those in Tibet and India where children are sexually abused by these lamas?

  6. There was no mention of checking the guru out carefully in the earlier years of Tibetan Buddhism: in the 1960's, 70's and 80's. The Dalai Lama only began to caution about this after Western dharma leaders met with him in the early 1990's to discuss the issue of sexual misconduct. It's websites like this one that are performing a great public service in getting the word out about not trusting the guru until he passes muster.

    Gavin makes an excellent point: if the guru demands devotion, even for a few lessons in meditation, or beginning Dharma lessons, that is a red flag that the guru is unscrupulous. Guru devotion has no place in the beginning or intermediate stages of Dharma study.

    I would point out that Gavin's experience as a male Dharma student has likely been very different from many women's experience. Due to the high percentage of corrupt teachers, Dharma study tends to be discriminatory against women. Women have to abandon Dharna center after center in search of a teacher who, as one former TB student pithily put it, "keeps his genitals to himself", while men are able to enjoy the teachings calmly, without harassment. Even teachers who don't demand devotion upfront will try to cozy up to women students privately.

    Furthermore, it's not always possible to thoroughly check the teacher out; Dharma centers sometimes bring in a monk for a temporary period to teach a special course. Though it's important for students to be forewarned about the potential pitfalls in Dharma study, there needs to be some form of accountability in the system. If the Tibetan Buddhist (and the same applies to Zen) hierarchy has no interest in doing this, the onus is on Western Dharma centers to police their teachers.

  7. Glad to have you posting here Gavan. Your article “Sex and the lama” is excellent.

    You wrote in your article “Sex and the Lama:

    “I can think of no such teaching, and I would challenge anyone to produce one.” This is very true. Tantric teachings crept into Buddhism in later centuries and have been part of Tibetan Buddhism since the 8th century or so. Even the Dalai Lama teaches such practices that are arguing against in your article, and they call him His Holiness. I think not.

    As others have stated here, Tibetan Buddhism is a degeneration of Buddha’s teachings. But of course a student will defend their lama’s teachings, after all, they are taught in the kalachakra that the Dalai Lama teaches, as well as in other tantric texts used in Tibetan Buddhism. Do you realize that in Tibetan Buddhism it is stated that there is no enlightenment without sex? Have you not encountered this in Tibetan Buddhism yourself? Or have you been in another sect? Would love to hear your story.

    If people desire to know what Buddha taught, the clearest teachings are in Theravada texts.

    You have a great blog by the way. What I and my friends have posted here you are welcome to use for educational purposes.

  8. Good posts by anonymous'. I would say again that Tibetan Buddhism is all about sex in order to reach enligtenment. If a person knows this going in then what can I say, but most women, including myself, had no idea that Tibetan Buddhism was about sex, but we all know that lamas and gurus choose who they desire to bed with, so many in Tibetan Buddhism will never learn what is in these teachings.

  9. If Dharma centers can't "police their teachers", and teachers can't control themselves, maybe Dharma centers should have the altar and the teacher's seat behind bars, so there would be no chance of physical contact with followers. They could put a barrier across the teacher's section of the room.

  10. I like this idea, only sex is built into the Tibetan Buddhism tradition if one desires to become enlightened. I think they should be run out of town myself.

  11. I have been involved in Tibetan Buddhism since the 70s. I am a translator of Tibetan texts and teacher of Tibetan language. I speak Tibetan and know the Tibetan culture well. First of all, there are four major traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. I follow the Gelugpa tradition. I spent eight years in a monastery studying the traditional curriculum. It is abundantly clear that pure Tibetan Buddhism is based on the Four Noble Truths, the Three Higher Trainings of ethics, concentration and wisdom, just as found in the Theravada teachings. The essence of practice is wisdom and compassion. If you have come across some teachers who are in it for money and sex (and I am sure there are some) they do not represent the core teachings of Tibetan Buddhism. I do not say this out of attachment to my path, but from experience.

    As for Tantra, when understood properly (and unfortunately it seldom is) it is a wonderful path to the total transformation of the mind. As for the sex element, much of it is symbolic, especially in the celibate monastic tradition. The practice of taking a consort was practiced by a few in ancient India, and is followed by a few in some traditions in Tibet. But it is a tiny, tiny part of practice.

    Also, the rituals, of which there are plenty in TB, are only valid if they are outer manifestations of inner wisdom and compassion.

    What some have seen in certain lamas in the West should be understood in the light of the above.

    Also the charge by "Anonymous" (Why can't people use their real names? How many "Anonymous" are there, anyway) that TB has abandoned the Buddha and replaced him with Padma Sambhava is false. All, and I do mean all, the major texts we studied were by ancient Indian masters, such as Nagarjuna and Candrakirti, who based their assertions on the sutras of the Buddha. Of course the Tibetans wrote commentaries, but they have sound grounding in the Indian texts.

    Also, the main temples in Dharamsala, where the Dalai Lama lives, and those of the three main monasteries in the South have the Buddha as the main statue, and object of veneration. The holiest place in India for Tibetans is Bodhgaya, where the Buddha attained enlightenment.

    As I said before, I am very concerned that the transmission of the Dharma to the West is pure, but any discussion on this topic has to be based on good evidence and thoughtful reasoning.

  12. "As for the sex element, much of it is symbolic, especially in the celibate monastic tradition. The practice of taking a consort was practiced by a few in ancient India, and is followed by a few in some traditions in Tibet. But it is a tiny, tiny part of practice."

    Symbolic in that you first visualize making love to a woman but eventually a consort is needed, and as long as you do not release semen you are still considered celibate, but the highest tantras are to be practiced with a real consort, not imagined. Even the Kalachakra says that you have to eventually have sex in order to become enlightened and this with a real consort. And are not all Buddhists trying to become enlightened?

    The Tibetan monasteries taken in children from families and use these children in their sexual rituals. Boys are raped by the punk monks. Girls, when grown and are no longer needed, are sent out of the monasteries, many becoming prostitutes because no one will marry them. Check out, a Tibetan forum, because they even talk about these matters. Here is some information from their website:

    Even some Tibetan monasteries have sexual frescos on their walls:

    What I have noticed is just how many Tibetan Buddhists deny this is happening. Why is this? It is because these teachings are secret. Anyone who doesn’t believe these things can go to amazon and buy the Commentary of the Kalachakra by a lama who was sent to the U.S. by the Dalai Lama:

    If anyone reads the posts on this blog I am sure we have produced enough evidence.

    Yes, Tibetan Buddhists do teach the 4 noble truths, but they also teach the Mahayana texts that Buddha did not teach, as well as tantric texts were also not taught by him. Can you prove otherwise? Tantra was not even part of the Vedic teachings of India but were added at a later date and brought to Tibet in the 8th century. History of the Tantric Religion by N.N. Bhattacharyya is a good book.

  13. I am not on a crusade here to prove that TB is whiter than white. But I do want to present a balanced picture of TB. I also have concerns about the way it is being portrayed in the West, which is why I am seeking out blogs such as yours. But the debate must be held in an unbiased way.

    First of all, the blog taken from Phayul is presented as if it was a Phayul blog. I now Phayul and respect its views. This is not a Phayul blog. What you do not mention is that what you have posted is a comment by a contributor from Nepal. What you also do not mention is that this contributor is only one of many and is fiercely attacked by other contributors. So, why be selective and pick out just this one? Why not present a balanced view of the postings? I haven't looked at the other source yet, but I will.

    If you are keen on evidence, why not take my evidence? I lived among Tibetans for 14 years in India. Is my experience not worthy? I notice you applaud me for my blog on Sex and the Lams, but refuse to accept what i say when it contradicts your own assertions. However, you willingly jump on views that support your own view. Maybe you think I am in denial, lying or just a fool? Which is it?

    Look at your comment that you no longer have any faith in the Dalai Lama. This is based on the reading of one book. (these authors are well known) This is in spite of the overwhelming experiential evidence from all over the world that he is at least a decent human being and a good monk. I have met him privately a few times, and attended many of his teachings. So I am blind?

    As for this secrecy argument, if the sex thing was a shameful secret, why would they paint sexual images on the temple walls for all to see? There are also frescoes of Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and peaceful deities exhibiting compassion to all beings. Why don't you pick those out? I spent 8 years in a monastery. if TB was all about sex, then I should have had plenty of it! That was not the case.

    As for Kalacakra, I have translated 8 works on this tantra, including one of the most used books (Ornament of Stainless Light) So I know a little about this tantra. And I can only repeat what i said earlier. First of all, hardly any Tibetans actually practice Kalacakra. The giving of the public initiation by the Dalai Lama is not for that reason. Even if they did, the taking of a consort is a practice that hardly anybody does these days. It is very advanced. Your description of visualizing and taking an actual consort is non-existent in the main monasteries.

    As for me having to prove that the Mahayana is the word of the Buddha, it is usually up to the accuser to prove his point. The Mahayana has been accepted as the Buddha's word for centuries. If you doubt its authenticity, then it is up to you to prove it. So what is your proof? That it is not in the Pali Canon? Not being found in one place is not proof of non-existence. Can you prove that that Ananda and others at the first council collected every teaching of the Buddha? And again you are going to rely on one book (Bhattacarya)for your evidence? His views are well known in Buddhist circles, and I could give you references that dispute his views. But the process is endless. "Even the devil can quote scripture to suit his purposes." Best to rely upon reason and experience.

    However, in fairness, there have been those who dispute the Mahayana, even in ancient India. It is a good topic for discussion, as long as it is done fairly. Essentially the best way to be conclusive is to study and investigate the Mahayana sutras themselves, and see where they lead.

    As i keep saying, I am not here as a flag waver of TB or its teachers in the West. But I believe if you are going to put something out on the internet, it should be fair, unbiased, and well-researched. I want to discuss these things, but if it not conducted in that spirit, then discussion is pointless..

  14. I will have to answer you a little at a time here:

    1. Phayul is a Tibetan forum. The people posting on it are Tibetans. It is hard to get on that forum unless you are Tibetan. I have posted on this blog many other proofs of what goes on in monasteries--too numerous to post again, and I have listed books as well. Tibetans and others who have been in the monasteries have written about such matters. I have not been biased since I posted the entire thread from Phayul.

    2. N. N. Bhattacharya, as I said, is a starter for information. If as you say, he has been refuted, which I really doubt since I have read other books collaborating his works, then the burden of proof is on you. The Kalachakra, which contents I have posted on this blog, is the best source, isn't it?

    3. Why not offer your evidence? You have only offered evidence that woman are being abused in the West. There is evidence that children are being abused in monasteries in Tibet and now India. I have offered this proof on this blog. I will go so far as to say that the lamas who came to the West came here with their own moral standards, and this is why women are being sexually abused. These teachings are also in the tantras, where at first you learn very high moral standards and then after you become a lama you can let them go, turn them upside down, so to speak. I have read this in many books, even the Kalachakra. Here is an example from one tantra:

    Hevajra Tantra: “A wise man ... should remove the filth of his mind by filth ... one must rise by that through which one falls”, or, more vividly, “As flatulence is cured by eating beans so that wind may expel wind, as a thorn in the foot can be removed by another thorn, and as a poison can be neutralized by poison, so sin can purge sin”. For the same reason, the Kalachakra Tantra exhorts its pupils to commit the following: to kill, to lie, to steal, to break the marriage vows, to drink alcohol, to have sexual relations with lower-class girls A Tantric is freed from the chains of the wheel of life by precisely that which imprisons a normal person."

  15. This is my second reply:

    1. The frescos are on the back walls of the monasteries where tourist can’t see them. I have photos of them here on this blog, taken by a friend of my friend.
    2. Did Buddha have secret teachings?
    Ven. S. Dhammika wrote this:
    "Esoterism is the idea that some spiritual teachings should be kept secret from the majority and only be revealed to a select few. The Upanishads, which were composed around the time of the Buddha, were secret teachings only made available to high caste people who pledged total loyalty to the teacher. Even in Tibetan Buddhism or Vajrayana, some teachings are reserved only to those who have been initiated. The idea that the Dhamma should be restricted to or monopolized by an ‘in-group’ was repugnant to the Buddha. He perceived the truths he taught as being understandable to all, relevant to all and applicable to all. On one occasion he said, ‘Three things shine openly, not in secret. What three? The orb of the moon, the orb of the sun and the Dhamma and discipline taught by the Tathàgata’ (Anguttara Nikaya I. 283). He reiterated this same point just before his final passing when he said; ‘I have proclaimed the Dhamma without any idea of a hidden and open teaching. I do not have the closed fist of the teacher who holds anything back’ (Digha Nikaya II. 100).
    But what does the Kalachakra say: If the secrets are not kept, one's head and heart will burst."

    "If one keeps the secrets, this water will turn into nectar, which gives rise to the siddhis or realizations; but if one fails to do so, it shall turn into the molten iron of the hell realm. This indicates the great danger of disclosing tantric secrets to those who are not fit to receive them."

  16. The secret teachings in the Kalachakra are still being taught by the Dalai Lama. Here are three examples, the lama who wrote the Commentary of the Kalachakra came to the U.S. to teach these secret teachings, and they are in his book.

    The second example is that the Dalai Lama talks about them in his book.

    Thethird is this: Stephen Batchelor took this secret teaching from the Dalai Lama and wrote to me:

    "However, all higher yoga tantras, including the Kalachakra, contain sexual practices, but these are only supposed to be undertaken after years of training. But, of course, some teachers use them as a justification to gain sexual favours from students. So be careful."

    But if you couple this with the fact that the moral teachings are to be turned upside down, then you can imagine that lamas live on sexual favors.

  17. "I have not been biased since I posted the entire thread from Phayul." You posted the link to to the thread, which is not the same thing at all. Again, I ask, why did you pick out this comment from among all the others?

    " N. N. Bhattacharya, as I said, is a starter for information. If as you say, he has been refuted, which I really doubt since I have read other books collaborating his works." I did not say he had been refuted, but disputed. I do not doubt his credentials as a great scholar. But there are those who disagree with him. But,as I said before, we could go on for ever quoting sources to support arguments. I prefer reason and experience.

    "Why not offer your evidence?" Evidence for what? That the Mahayana is the word of Buddha? Through years of study (which I hope has been critical but fair) I have satisfied myself that these are valid teachings. You could do the same. I cannot just offer you proof on a plate.

    "You have only offered evidence that woman are being abused in the West. There is evidence that children are being abused in monasteries in Tibet and now India. I have offered this proof on this blog." Where exactly is this proof? However, in fairness, I cannot refute or substantiate this accusation, because I do not have all the facts. However, I too have heard a few stories like this. But my beef with you is that you take these stories and apply them to TB as a whole. Apart from the fact that this is a great insult to the Tibetan people, who languish in Tibet under the yoke of Chinese cruelty, it is simply not true that TB is permeated with sex hungry lamas in search of younf girls. And i say this from experience, not from scouring the internet to find articles to support my views.

    "I will go so far as to say that the lamas who came to the West came here with their own moral standards, and this is why women are being sexually abused." All of them? Please!!

    "These teachings are also in the tantras, where at first you learn very high moral standards and then after you become a lama you can let them go, turn them upside down, so to speak." If TB is so corrupt, why bother to learn high moral standards in the first place? Is it not possible that having trained in ethics, you might want to live by them. Why on earth would a monk maintain high ethics and then throw them all away. knowing full well the consequences of doing so?

    There are secret teachings in many tantras. The Hevajra is the most explicit of them. However, it has been drummed into me many times that they are often not to be taken literally, or if they are, are only to be practiced by advance yogis. Even Stephen says this. You either believe me or not.

    At the risk of becoming repetitive, I am not saying that all lamas are pure. But I take serious issue with you on your stance that somehow the whole of TB is corrupt. Even the title of this blog "Down the Crooked Path" seems to indicate your take on TB, and maybe other religions too. I only ask you to take into consideration my experience of years within TB.

  18. "The frescos are on the back walls of the monasteries where tourist can’t see them. I have photos of them here on this blog, taken by a friend of my friend." Well, if they are put where tourists can't see them, how come your friend of a friend managed to take photos of them? Anyway, there are hundreds of these kinds of paintings openly displayed in hundreds of temples in India and Nepal. I have seen them.

    "Did Buddha have secret teachings?" Yes, he did. The comment by Ven. S. Dhammika is from the point of view of someone who clearly does not accept the Mahayana as the teachings of Buddha. But on the whole he is right. Most Mahayana sutras are available for anyone to read. I have them all on my hard drive, and they are downloadable (in Tibetan, mostly) for free. But the tantras were secret, because they could be so easily be misunderstood, as is clearly the case. Also they are very profound. But I don't expect you to just accept that. They need to be studied and thought about. In the tantric colleges in Tibet, tantra was studied thoroughly before being practiced. That is how it should be. If there are some lamas bring tantra openly to the west, without stressing the strict safeguards, then then is a risk of misunderstanding.

    Ven Dhammika says, "Even in Tibetan Buddhism or Vajrayana..." as if these two are the same. They are not. Mahayana is divided into sutra and tantra. In the first years of study, no tantra is taught.

    I don't know whether any further contribution to this discussion will be worthwhile. Also, I have to go somewhere soon. All I ask is that you consider what I say in all fairness

  19. I agree with these comments by Withywindle. I used to be on eSangha and have experienced how the Tibetan Buddhists took over the board, raising havoc, banning people over nothing, ending up in a lawsuit and then being hacked, probably because an insider wanted to hide the evidence. Easy to do when you are a moderator because all you have to do is delete, delete, delete. There is a good website up that is exposing eSangha, called eSangha Alert. I wish Dharma Wheel would follow suit before they end up in one. Ever watched Tulku Trailer: The tulku said that the monastery was “a cesspool of jealousy, gossip, hate, very unbuddhist in a lot of ways.” These websites were/are the same way.

  20. First, thank you for you post Josey and others.

    "’I have not been biased since I posted the entire thread from Phayul." You posted the link to to the thread, which is not the same thing at all. Again, I ask, why did you pick out this comment from among all the others?

    Why is your website so anti-NKT and pro Dalai Lama. Why don’t you have a balanced view of NKT? My own answer is that people are being harmed in Tibetan Buddhism, and many do not know what they are getting into until after they have joined and been in it for a while. Then wham bam thank you ma’am.

    “I prefer reason and experience” You are not using reason you are just posting what you have been taught by the Tibetan Buddhists. Experience. I know of many people who have had really, really bad experiences with Tibetan Buddhists. Well, gee, Josey in the post above, and the first person who put up a comment here. The list is long.

    “I have satisfied myself that these are valid teachings. You could do the same. I cannot just offer you proof on a plate.” But you told me that the burden of proof was on me. Now it is on you. If people want to become Tibetan Buddhists, so be it, but they also need to know what they might be getting into.

    “But my beef with you is that you take these stories and apply them to TB as a whole. Apart from the fact that this is a great insult to the Tibetan people, who languish in Tibet under the yoke of Chinese cruelty, it is simply not true that TB is permeated with sex hungry lamas in search of younf girls.” This is really an insane argument. In Tibetan society, before the Chinese arrived, they had a cruel feudal system. I doubt very much if I am insulting any Tibetan. We all know the cruelty of religions. Tibetan Buddhism is not immune to this.

    “If TB is so corrupt, why bother to learn high moral standards in the first place?” Gee, you tell me. I have no idea why they teach morals and then turn them upside down once they become a lama. I do know that it is certainly a teaching, and anyone that reads this can look into my own research and find this out. It is even in the tantras. But it has been stated by Buddhologists that tantra got into Hinduism and Buddhism because people rebelled against having to live a real moral life. If you really had read the tantras, and I mean REALLY, then you would know that what I am saying is true, otherwise you are just blowing smoke.

    “You either believe me or not.” Of course I don’t believe you because I know better. That is like someone asking me to believe that they are Santa Claus when I know that there is no Santa Claus.

  21. Interesting discussion here, though a bit challenging to follow. To boil it down a bit:

    1. RE: charge of sexual misconduct by teachers in Tibetan Buddhism. I wonder if this is exclusive to TB. We shouldn't be surprised that Buddhism has the "Catholic disease", in view of the fact that the Buddha struggled to get his monks to maintain celibacy. A study of the Vinaya reflects this. There's a sutra where the Buddha says: admitting nuns to the order will shorten the life of the Dharma, presumably because of the temptation their presence will cause the monks. Nuns weren't allowed unaccompanied around monks, because monks couldn't be trusted to keep their vows. Unaware of this, innocent Westerners assumed their celibate gurus were trustworthy & safe to be around. That was a mistake. Many teachers in the West aren't high spiritual achievers, they're just guys who have been denied sex who have gotten their geshe degree. I don't think it hurts to cut through the New Age hype and see these people realistically. (Some don't claim to be special, anyway.) Isn't that what Buddhism is about--seeing things as they are? Cutting through the mind's projections?

    2. RE: the claim that the reason for misconduct is structural in TB; bluntly, that it's a covert sex cult with a fancy veneer of Buddhist theory, which is predisposing it's purveyors to "misconduct". Here's what's strange; I pick up some of the Dalai Lama's books on Buddhism and how to live a spiritual life. Among the inspiring philosophical expositions, passages on sexual technique arise, completely from left field. Claims of monks remaining "pure" if they don't "release the energy" are made, and other bizarre sexual references. If it's a celibate tradition, why all the DL's sex talk? He's saying it's not sex if you don't ejaculate (?!), in the middle of treatises on "The Good Heart", and other guides to a spiritual life. I'll leave this to the experts, but it looks to me like--where there's smoke, there's fire.

    3. RE: the question of sexual abuse of boy novices, & the phayul post. This is something I've made a study of. Until recently, the only info about this was in a blog by a Hindu ordained as a TB monk, Lama Shree.
    Since Lama Shree isn't TIbetan, and "has issues" with the DL, in the absence of corroborating testimony from the Tibetan community, this report can be said to lack credibility. On the other hand, if there's any chance that the report is accurate, compassion would move us to do something to help end suffering for this class of sentient beings. We now have 3-4 credible sources: the phayul post, young Kalu Rinpoche's video stating he was sexually abused, which he later clarifies as rape in an article posted on this blog, Lodoe Senge's statement in the same article about his rape by his tutor when he was a 5 year old tulku, and Namkhai Norbu's complaints to his students of his own sexual abuse in the monastery when he was a child tulku (mentioned in his bio film as simply "abuse").

    Denial of unpleasant truths is ordinary. Public truth-telling by insiders is extraordinary, and warrants quoting and posting. If Kalu Rinpoche is on a mission to create alternatives to the monastic system for poor children, and to forbid the induction of boys into the monasteries he controls, the problem must be widespread, don't you think?. We owe it to those boys to acknowledge their suffering, not sweep it under the rug, and to try to do something to end it.

    Final thought: corruption and abuse in the TB world is unrelated to the Chinese invading Tibet. We shouldn't conflate the two. Abuses continue in India and Nepal, where there are no Chinese.

  22. Great post Anonymous.

    Gavin, it may be enough for you, but we are here to help people decide whether they want to be in Tibetan Buddhism or not. Most people who join Tibetan Buddhism do not know what the teachings are beforehand because they are held to be secret. Some men and women have even been coerced into having sex, believing it to bring them enlightenment, when instead, it brings them psychological pain. This practice needs to be out in the open because religion should not cause suffering to others.

    Here are some interesting comments by the Dalai Lama on alcohol and sexual misconduct in which he is almost blaming the west for what some lamas are doing, when in fact in Commentary of the Kalachakra it states that one should drink alcohol and have sex. On page 159: “…the Buddha states very frequently in the Vinaya Sutras (scriptures on the monastic discipline) that the monks should take absolutely no alcohol and should not have any sexual intercourse or relationships with women. In fact, they should not even be alone in the same room with a woman. This is very emphatically and repeatedly stated—it is very strict. This is meant for beings who are still subject to taking lower rebirth as a result of such actions. However, monks who have gone quite far in their practice and have gained very high states of realization in terms of bodhicitta, realization of emptiness, as well as their practices of tantra, are allowed by the Buddha to have sexual intercourse with woman and to take alcohol.”

    "Alcohol," His Holiness commented, "is often at the root of these problems… Of course: a tempting strategy for someone uprooted from his home-culture then thrust into a bewildering and demanding world for which he lacks the necessary social and emotional skills to cope.”

    Not only does the Kalachakra twist Buddha’s teachings, but the Dalai Lama, at least to me, appears to be blaming us in the west for the lamas’ downfall. This reminds me of the Adam and Eve story, which Adam blames Eve for his own downfall.

  23. Here is a great conversation with the Dalai Lama that is revealing--some of which I posted here already: