The FWBO's Cult Advisory Service
FWBO Press Release inaugurating
THE BUDDHIST CULT ADVISORY SERVICE
The FWBO is unique in its understanding of the problems associated with charisma and the abuse of power. Not only is its leader, Sangharakshita, free of such traits, but the FWBO has also had experience from within its own ranks of these problems, which it dealt with promptly and decisively.
There are many characteristics of cults. Five signifiers, none of which apply to the FWBO, are:
A superficial outsider might well erroneously draw the conclusion that all these signifiers apply to the FWBO. They did apply, however, to the FWBO's Croydon Buddhist Centre in the period 1978 to 1988. Members, for example, used to strongly defend the local leader's viewpoint, and considered their Centre to be superior to other Centres. The leader, Padmaraja, had casual sex with a large number of the young men under the guise of 'spiritual friendship'. And so on. Some said that Padmaraja was in many ways copying Sangharakshita in microcosm, but that is to miss the point. It was different, for obvious reasons.
Dealing with this situation, which only took 10 years, was a triumph for the central FWBO leadership, and has given them an informed perspective on cults. Apart from the ongoing sexual abuse and brainwashing, one member committed suicide partly as a result of being there. Think what might have happened had Sangharakshita not stepped in as quickly as he did!
Some say he could have asked a senior disciple, who could be relied upon to back his viewpoint, to join the Centre at an earlier date. But 10 years is not long in the grand sweep of Buddhist history. Besides which, the Croydon Centre was making a lot of money, which Sangharakshita found "exciting" (1985). It was also a testament, as one senior disciple put it, to Sangharakshita's faith that people can change for the better. When the situation was brought to an end, Sangharakshita was quick to lay all the responsibility at the doors of the members of the Croydon Centre. This was insightful and courageous of him.
Some said this was a bit rich, as Sangharakshita had appointed Padmaraja, against advice, in the first place; he allowed the Centre to be run in his name; and he encouraged many of the younger members of the Centre (some of whom he also had sex with) to continue living and working there. Sangharakshita, it has been said, like Padmaraja, was motivated by ambition and the trappings of success, and it was only when he could no longer ignore the human cost, and the potential cost to his reputation, that he acted. Furthermore, the issue was for him also one of regaining power over the Croydon Centre, which he could take for granted at other Centres. But, again like Padmaraja, Sangharakshita would leave the FWBO rather than be accountable for his actions. Sangharakshita's senior disciples connive in his lack of accountability.
The above 'critique' is a clear example of muddled thinking, probably by someone who was at the Croydon Centre and has never recovered from it, a veiled cry for help. With his Vajra-integrity, Sangharakshita has long since transcended any tendency to make mistakes or to act from impure motives.
The problems that many Buddhist groups have had, and continue to have, with issues around the abuse of authority are well-known. The central FWBO leadership, however, has always been free of such problems: as with many issues facing Buddhists in the west, the FWBO has faced and sorted them, often years before other Buddhists were ever aware such issues existed.
The FWBO is therefore uniquely placed to found the Buddhist Cult Advisory Service, whose inauguration it is pleased to announce.
Cult Advisory Service,