Section I.Sangharakshita's place within the Buddhist tradition
Section II. Sangharakshita's training
Section III. Tibetan Buddhism
Section IV. Sangharakshita's career
Section V. Sangharakshita and the FWBO's teachings in theory and practice
a) The Question of Orthodoxy
2) The Teachings
of the FWBO
a) 'Higher and Lower Beings'
"Sangharakshita and Nietzsche"
The ‘higher evolution’ and Darwinism, biological and social
FWBO Ideology and Nazism
FWBO Buddhism and Nichiren
Support for Sangharakshita's approach
a) Men and Women
b) Sex and Lifestyle
"Beyond the Monk - Lay Split"
Sex and Spiritual Life
c) Families and Lifestyle
d) Sex and the FWBO
Heterosexuality and Homosexuality
FWBO Buddhism - going back to first principles?
The Dalai Lama and his attitude towards homosexuality
The Charge of Coercion
This Refutation attempts
to follow the structure of the FWBO's Response, so as to answer its points systematically.
In this Refutation, page numbers within square brackets eg. [p23] relate to
an assumed 50 page document length for the FWBO's Response (equivalent to 10
point type on A4 paper). Numbers with an n prefix refer to the note number in
the FWBO's Response eg. [n23]
Background to this Refutation
The FWBO's Response states:
[p1] "The FWBO Files is a 20,000 word document about the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order, published in May 1998 on an Internet Web site."
The FWBO Files were originally available from a UK internet site, and after this site was blocked by the FWBO, subsequently became available at two sites:
The FWBO's Response to the
FWBO Files is still available at:
(please note that the www.fwbo.org site is controlled by the FWBO; the www.fwbo.com and www.ex-cult.org sites are not.)
The footnote in the FWBO's Response tells us...
[n1] "It was initially posted...but withdrawn by Demon, the Internet provider on the grounds that its material was possibly libellous."
In truth, it was withdrawn by Demon because the FWBO threatened them with legal action, a fact the Response neglects to mention. This was done 12 hours before The Times Educational Supplement published an article entitled 'Buddhist group misleading pupils` (12 June 1998) which arose out of the Files and, in particular, out of questions being asked in the House of Commons about the activities of the Order, questions which ultimately led to an ongoing government enquiry.
The TES article alerted the educational establishment to the existence of the Internet document and so, in the lead up to its publication and in light of the fact that the British educational establishment is a field of considerable profit for the FWBO, they did everything within their power to prevent the public from viewing it. This differs somewhat from the open tone of their initial statement that they were "very open to talking fully and frankly about any concerns it may raise... about any aspect of the FWBO and its way of functioning" (Pro forma FWBO response sent to all British Buddhist Centres after Files publication on 6 May 1998). How they could answer the public's questions concerning a document they had deliberately prevented them from seeing is anyone's guess.
In fact, though the Order were probably not exceeding their UK legal rights in threatening Demon at the time, under the European Convention's Bill of Human Rights, it is an offence to attempt to censor information which is in the public interest. Thus, though the Response attempts to portray the Files content as libellous and illegal, the reality of the situation is that their own actions were a direct and illegal contravention of European law as well as an infringement of basic human rights as defined by the European Union.
[p1] "...the Files is just one element in a sustained campaign by an anonymous group to discredit the FWBO...the individuals responsible for it also contacted The Guardian in 1997 and stimulated its critical article on the FWBOs work".
What we have here are the first attempts to attribute the Files to a group conspiracy. This was Hilary Clinton's first defence of her husband when accused of improper behaviour; subsequently the accusations, as we know, turned out to be true.
When the Dalai Lama met with the Conference of Western Buddhist Teachers in March 1993 (Kulananda attending), he advised that the integrity of the Buddhist tradition should take precedence over guarding a teacher's reputation when he is justly accused of ethical misconduct. When there is incontrovertible evidence of wrong doing, he said, it is one's responsibility to take action."Make voice" he insisted, "Give warning! We no longer tolerate!" The Dalai Lama encouraged repeated open criticism of such behaviour; if all else fails he stated we should: "Name names in newspapers".
- see Stephen Batchelor's report on the Conference of Western Buddhist Teachers with the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala in March 1993, available at:It was for this reason that, as the authors of the Response rightly surmise, the Files' authors contacted The Guardian. Interestingly the FWBO did not see fit to sue The Guardian over any of the allegations. Clearly, they knew they could never win such a case. Such inaction implicitly, indeed explicitly, confirms the truth of the allegations made in the article.
[p2] "The intention of this Response is not to malign the authors of the Files or to suggest that the FWBO is wholly without flaws."
The Response subsequently refers to the authors of the Files as:
'an inept and transparent interlocutor', as well as a 'lying`, 'disingenuous`, 'deeply misinformed`, 'sectarian', 'fundamentalist`, 'gossip`, who is lacking in 'credibility` and whose 'essentially false`, 'highly misleading` and 'entirely unsubstantiated claims`, are 'patently false`, 'easily disproveable factual inaccuracies', 'fictitious` 'slanders` and 'blatant untruths`. These are 'complete fabrication and highly implausible` and arise out of 'poor research` which reaches 'absurd conclusions`, based on 'selectively quoted, misinterpreted` or 'inaccurate quotes`, which are 'sometimes fabricated` and represent 'tendentious exploitation of personal tragedy` (I have tried to avoid repetition as much as possible here for the sake of brevity)...all of which seemingly contradict the FWBO's intent "not to malign the authors of the Files or to suggest that the FWBO is wholly without flaws".
[p2] "we will follow the structure of the Files itself, so that its points may be answered systematically."
This is simply not done. Where is the response to 'The Venerable Mahasthavira Sangharakshita - Whats in a Name?` (Files, pp 29-31 of 38), for example? Why did Sangharakshita lie about his monastic status and allow himself to be referred to using honorific titles fit only for monks who have maintained moral purity for 20 years, when he was neither a monk nor morally pure? Why did he personally expel those who attempted to bring this to light? Why does he translate his name incorrectly, in a manner which makes it look as if he has been divinely chosen to take part in the task of transmitting Dharma to the West?
Why was the senior translator for more than one of the Tibetan lamas with whom Sangharakshita is supposed to have had such meaningful relationships, unable to confirm that any such relationships existed? Why did he not invite either Dudjom Rinpoche or Dilgo Khyentse to his centres when they came to the UK, two lamas he claims he had strong bonds with?
Again, why was the conduct of those at Lesingham House throughout the 1980's more akin to that of the patrons of a San Francisco gay bathhouse than a 'Buddhist` retreat centre? Where is Kulananda's response to the multiple allegations of abuse made against him? Why did he confirm to Reverend Daishin Morgan in 1990 (long after the Croydon controversy) that, within the FWBO, practises "took place between older teachers [plural] and younger students, as had happened in Ancient Greece", and what did he mean by this? Such questions cannot and should not be left unanswered in the way the FWBO have deemed fit.
This document will attempt to address the contents of the FWBO's Response in a proper systematic fashion, pointing out all of the explicit and implicit admissions, fudges and discrepancies inherent within the document. It will not however address the Response where it resorts to empty and repetitive rhetoric, vapid sloganeering or propagandizing, of which there is a substantial amount. If any important questions are left unanswered, the author will be happy to answer them in an appropriate public forum.
[p2] "This Response is not, for example, going to discuss the details of any individual's sexual relationships. It is not uncommon to find the two parties to such a relationship telling entirely different stories about its nature, and outsiders cannot know where the truth lies. There is little point, therefore, in entering into an inconclusive exchange of claim and counter-claim".
The allegations in the Files are not made by individual parties.Rather they have been made in relation to Sangharakshita and those close to him by a number of individuals; they concern a multiplicity of abuses over a sustained period of time. 'Outsiders` can surely draw certain conclusions on the basis of these repeated, multiple allegations.
[p2] "Some people have asked that Sangharakshita himself comment on the accusations in the Files. On some of these issues he has spoken in the past, and we will present his statements here; in some other cases we have asked him ourselves, and pass on what he has said. But there are many, many accusations in the Files, and the only way for Sangharakshita to have answered them all would have been for him to write this Response himself. He has not done this, but he is currently writing a volume of memoirs about his life from 1964 to 1972, the period to which many of the allegations in the Files relate".
The allegations made in the Files are extremely serious. Sangharakshita is, in effect, 'on trial`. Would a court of law accept an accused's envoy when answers were required concerning periods and actions of which that envoy had no personal knowledge? Clearly not. Since the allegations revolve around Sangharakshita, his activities and his ideas, it is only fitting that he should answer them personally. Finally, the author of the Files is very happy that Sangharakshita is writing his memoirs concerning the period 1964-72, and is certain that they will demonstrate the same characteristic 'honesty` he has shown, for example, in his publicly lying for almost four decades about his monastic status, whilst at the same time having sex and taking drugs (as he & the FWBO admit within their Response).
[p3] "We shall not attempt to show that the FWBO's teachings are better than others".
The other side of the coin to 'showing that the FWBOs teachings are better than others`, is asserting that Asian Buddhist traditions are inferior.The assertion that such traditions are limited by their 'ethnicity` is implicit in the claim that the FWBO's teachings are devoid of such limitations, a claim which is extremely explicit throughout their literature. It is in this way that the FWBO attempt, both within the Response itself as well as in their publications in general, to show that their teachings are better than those of the Asian traditions.
[p3] "There are naturally differing views on the broader doctrinal questions, and our arguments are offered respectfully as a contribution to a debate. We hope that this Response will stimulate a frank and open discussion between concerned parties regarding such questions as what constitutes legitimacy in a Buddhist teacher or organisation, and how one ascertains the authenticity of a teaching, all of which have a bearing on consideration of the FWBO itself".
It is noteworthy that the FWBO are finally prepared to enter into such discussions with Buddhists; such a revelation represents a welcome change of attitude from what has been until now a self enclosed, exclusive organization. It is hoped both that such a debate take place and, more importantly, that its conclusions are assimilated. It is at the same time sad that such discussions were not entered into before Sangharakshita and the FWBO decided to invent Buddhist teachings on morality, karma, women, the family, as well as homosexuality and Christianity, then sell these to the public at large as 'Buddhism` for the last three decades, without consulting representatives of any of the Asian Buddhist traditions on whose doctrines these ideas are supposedly based.
As to what constitutes a legitimate Buddhist teacher, one would have thought that, at minimum, he or she should teach Buddhism and keep basic Buddhist precepts such as not lying, taking drugs or having sex while claiming to be of ordained status.
Finally, if the FWBO wish to ascertain the authenticity of their 'doctrines` perhaps extensive consultation of and comparison with the scriptures of the various Asian Buddhist traditions might act as a useful starting point (particulary because, apart from the said scriptures, no other authentic reference points exist).
[p3] "He remains anonymous for no stated reason and in phone-calls to people in the FWBO and others in their professional capacities, he has used various pseudonyms".
The author's reasons for maintaining anonymity arose out of the experiences of others who have in the past attempted to alert the public at large to the truth about Sangharakshita and the FWBO; when Mark Dunlop for example, attempted to warn others about the activities of Sangharakshita, rumours were circulated that he was mad, even that he thought he was enlightened; FWBO devotees continue this abuse down to the present day on Internet newsgroups. Maurice Walshe's disdain for Sangharakshita was attributed to his being jealous of his popularity rather than any knowledge of the truth behind the facade.
Here, within their Response, the authors attempt to undermine the credibilty of the Files' author by identifying his use of anonymity as disingenuous. It is apparent from this that one of the many tactics the Order and their 'founder` employ whenever probing questions are asked, is to malign the source from which the questions arose, in an obvious attempt to undermine the credibility of that source, whilst at the same time drawing attention away from the real issues. The fact is that anonymity is being maintained so that the issues raised are addressed, rather than allowing the Order to distract the public and reduce these important issues to mere fodder for a vitriolic dispute.
Surely, considering the seriousness of the allegations against the FWBO and Sangharakshita, it would be more apposite for them to examine themselves and see if the allegations are true, rather than trying to ascertain who made them in order to launch yet another attack.
[p3] "We would like to extend an invitation to the author of the Files, and any others who have doubts, questions or criticisms of the FWBO, to discuss these with us directly, or in an appropriate public forum, so that we may together seek to establish the truth".
To discuss the issues with the FWBO 'directly` actually means out of public view. However, it is in the public interest that all are informed about the issues under discussion; keeping such issues behind closed doors has very obvious drawbacks and limitations. Should others wish to accept the invitation to 'private` discussion, that is up to them.
As to discussing the issues in an 'appropriate public forum`, one would have thought that the Internet was sufficiently public for anyone's wishes. Nevertheless, if the FWBO consider the Internet to be inappropriate and they are as willing as they say to discuss the issues raised in the Files in a public forum, perhaps something resembling the Councils held after the death of the Buddha, would be appropriate. Herein it can be determined which of their doctrines are genuinely Buddhist and which are 'the gospel according to Sangharakshita`.
As far as establishing the validity of the allegations against the FWBO and its 'founder`, the public should be able to discern their validity after having read the confirmations, implicit and explicit, featured throughout the Response, as well as taking into account the considerable number of denials, discrepancies and fudges therein.
Section I. Sangharakshita's place within the Buddhist tradition
'Mistaking a charlatan for a savior and offering him one's life with blind faith is like falling asleep on a borrowed horse; the horse will return to its owner.` - Chogyam TrungpaResponse:
The claim that Sangharakshita's teaching is based on his discernment of what the Buddhist traditions have in common is nonsense. All of the teachings mentioned above are common to none, they are simply his own creation.
Which pre-existent Buddhist tradition are the teachings on the 'Higher Evolution` derived from? How many of the Asian traditions tell us that the nuclear family, pseudo-liberalism and Christianity are 'enemies to be attacked`, or that 'therapeutic blasphemy`, or sex with a spiritual friend, represent valid and beneficial spiritual practices?
Again, do not all traditions have the Tripitaka in common? Does not the Tripitaka contain the Vinaya pitaka, the codes of moral conduct? Then to what is Subhuti referring in 'Buddhism for Today` when he claims that:"..Buddhist ethics is cast entirely in terms of skill. There are no absolute moral values and each person must learn by his own experience how best to act." (p180). Isn't this equivalent to saying there is no right and wrong in Buddhism, 'just make it up as you go along`? Which Buddhist tradition is this teaching taken from?
[p3] "His teaching is an attempt to articulate the underlying principles running through the tradition as a whole, rather than to train students in an Eastern form; he describes himself as a 'translator' rather than a representative; in founding the FWBO he has drawn freely on the Buddhist tradition as a whole within a system that has its own coherence yet differs, not in spirit but in various particulars, from the systems from which he has drawn".
The claim that Sangharakshita can "articulate the underlying principles running through the tradition as a whole" and that he has "drawn freely on the Buddhist tradition as a whole" is one of extreme arrogance. Sangharakshita is a "translator" who has no knowledge of any scriptural language. How then can he possibly have acquired the total knowledge of each tradition necessary to engage in such an undertaking? As was stated in the Files, Sangharakshita's knowledge of Buddhism is based largely on knowledge acquired in an autodidactic fashion, principally from the Western literature current in the 1940's and 50's, along with the English language translations available at the time. Sangharakshita himself has confirmed the statement in Stephen Batchelor's 'Awakening of the West` that, apart from limited encounters with teachers of the Theravadin and Tibetan traditions, his "knowledge was based on English translations of canonical texts and scholarly studies of the material." Batchelor took the draft of the text to Sangharakshita to root out mistakes in the section concerning him before the book went for publication. Sangharakshita did not object to the inclusion of the above.
[p3] "The Files is plainly outraged by this approach, but its justification is the history and example of the Buddhist tradition itself....Its history shows continual reformulation and development, often at the instigation of a single figure."
Perhaps so, but this development has taken the form of a continuous evolution WITHIN the traditions and has therefore been a natural and organic progression. Sangharakshita on the other hand, has demonstrated extreme arrogance in inventing doctrines which totally contradict those of all previous traditions.
[p3] "- consider, for example the doctrinal disputes surrounding such figures as Nagarjuna and Bhaveviveka in India, or Tao-Sheng, Chih-I, and Hui Neng in China, Tsong-ka-pa in Tibet,....".
The mention of Nagarjuna and Tzong Khapa is most amusing. These were people who absorbed as many teachings as possible with scrupulous attention to mastery of each system in its entirety and constant reliance upon the citation of authoritative sources. Here the FWBO are attempting to equate their 'founder's` approach with its total antithesis.
[p3] "One might say that a tension between over-rigid conservation and necessary reformulation runs through the Dharma's spread and has been particularly intense at every crucial juncture.The encounter of the Buddhist tradition as a whole with the West is generally recognized to be such a juncture."
According to whom is this 'reformulation` necessary? Is the West 'generally' recognized as such a juncture? Certainly not by those Western Buddhists who have been successfully practising the Buddhism of the Asian traditions in the West over recent decades. The situation in the West may or may not be such a juncture, but here the FWBO assert that a majority think that it certainly is and then (surprise, surprise) offer their own perfect solution for it. Are practitioners of Asian Buddhist traditions in the West then, wasting their time? Should they be listening to the gospel according to Sangharakshita, Kulananda et al, rather than to the 'ethnically challenged` ideas of Tzong Khapa, Nagarjuna, Buddhaghosa and the like?
Furthermore, quite apart from Sangharakshita's lack of any serious training in Buddhist traditions, he also spent the vast majority of his adult life completely disassociated from society at large, either within the institutionalised environment of the army or subsequently in India, completely disconnected from Western society altogether. Thus, his knowledge of the mores of adult society was as scant as his knowledge of Buddhism. How then could he possibly be qualified to determine what the nature of this 'necessary reformulation` should be? No, Sangharakshita's reformulation was not based on the needs and idiosincracies of Western society any more than it was based on a proper understanding of Buddhism; it was a reformulation that had as its foundation the need to accomodate his own personal peculiarities, such has his hatred of women and Christianity and his seemingly insatiable appetite for young men. Unfortunately this reformulation is now sold to Westerners as the Word of the historical Buddha.
[p3] "...a crucial issue in understanding Sangharakshita's relation to the Buddhist tradition is that the encounter has been between the West and the Buddhist tradition as a whole, all of whose branches have become available to Westerners at the same time. We are therefore heirs to that tradition as a whole, at the same time as being Westerners with our own cultural legacy".
Indeed we are all "heirs to that tradition as a whole", but Sangharakshita has received and trained only in fragments of these traditions; he is therefore heir to no more than this. Of course, in reality we are all potential 'heirs` in that, if we have the patience, we can study one tradition properly.
[p3] "Similarly, Sangharakshita's training included experience of various Buddhist schools, and was supplemented by far broader reading in Buddhist canonical literature than would be usual in any of those schools"
In which language did he conduct all of this extensive reading of Buddhist canonical literature? Japanese, Chinese, Tibetan, Sanskrit, Pali? Since he has no ability whatsoever to read in the first three of these scriptural languages, and since he is unable to demonstrate even an elementary knowledge of the latter two, as evidenced by his inability to distinguish between such basic words as 'of` and 'by` (see Files: "The Venerable Mahasthavira Sangharakshita - Whats in a Name?"), it is difficult to understand how his knowledge of the various Buddhist schools could have been supplemented by "far broader reading in Buddhist canonical literature than would be usual" in any of the Asian Buddhist schools.
Sangharakshita's reading was broad only in the sense of his having read a number of English language translations of a tiny fraction of texts of the various Asian Buddhist traditions. Here however, it is depth of understanding that is required, rather than a smattering of knowledge about Buddhism in general. No genuine Dharma master is a 'jack of all trades, master of none` and this attitude of 'never mind the quality, feel the width` can never result in an adequate 'reformulation` of the Dharma, only its significant 'dumbing down` and the triumph of style over content.
[p4] "His conviction (and, indeed, his argument) is that there are values, goals, teachings and practices which define the core of the Buddhist tradition,"
True, but without knowing even one of the traditions properly, how is it possible for Sangharakshita to discern which values, goals, teachings and practices define the core of the Buddhist tradition?
[p4] " He claims that, as well as being innovative in some of its formulations, his teaching is in keeping with the principles and spirit of the Dharma as a whole and is, in this sense, wholly orthodox"
His teachings on women, the family, the Higher Evolution of the individual and the place of the homosexual relationship in the Buddhist path are, on the other hand, wholly heterodox and, since they directly contradict teachings found within genuine traditions, can hardly be said to be "in keeping with the principles and spirit of the Dharma".
Upon scrutiny, it becomes apparent that much of this particular argument revolves around the definition of the word 'orthodoxy`. The footnote which accompanies this section, gives the names of the texts wherein Sangharakshita re-defines the meaning of the word 'orthodoxy` so as to marginalize the Asian traditions (see 'Extending the Hand of Fellowship` for instance). Not content with re-defining the meaning of Buddhism, Sangharakshita and his supporters also appear to believe it is his right to re-define the meaning of the English language.
[p4] "The FWBO, similarly, sees itself as wholly traditional and orthodox. It is not so in the sense of following all the observances, customs and practices which have become traditional in Buddhist countries, but in the sense that it seeks to apply the essential, traditional, principles of Buddhism to the circumstances in which it finds itself."
In other words , it is superior to Asian forms of Buddhism since they are polluted with 'cultural conditioning` and are therefore less relevant to the West; the FWBO, on the other hand, apply the "essential, traditional, principles" of Buddhism in its new environment. Remember, the authors of the Response "shall not attempt to show that the FWBO's teachings are better than others"!
[p4] "It is a radical orthodoxy"
This is a totally nonsensical
term, its two components being mutually exclusive & contradictory.
[p4] "The FWBO's role ..is ... creative, in the sense of not allowing itself to be determined by the immediate past of British Buddhism, or, for the matter of that, by the immediate past of the eastern Buddhist world."
The FWBO's teachings on women, the Higher Evolution and so on, are not findable in the immediate past of either of the above, nor indeed are they findable in the distant past of the latter. It would seem therefore that the FWBOs teaching is "creative, in the sense of not allowing itself to be determined by the past of" the whole of the Buddhist tradition, either in its earlier or later manifestations.
[p4] "Thus the concerned reader who asks of the FWBO (or indeed any Buddhist tradition), 'Is this real Buddhism?' will not find an answer by simply looking at other Buddhist traditions, and expecting it to be exactly the same".
If the concerned reader should however find teachings which do not appear in any pre-existent Buddhist tradition or even directly contradict the Word of the Buddha, he or she can be sure that such a teaching is not Buddhist. When for example, did the Buddha teach that sex with ones spiritual friend was part of the path, or that "the nuclear family, Christianity, and pseudo liberalism" are "The enemies to be attacked"? (Subhuti, Buddhism for Today p176)
[p4] "If pushed to extremes (as, we would say, has occurred in the Files) such a position would be fundamentalist. As an innovator, Sangharakshita, by definition, cannot be easily fitted into pre-existent sectarian categories."
Calling the author of the Files a 'fundamentalist` and describing pre-existent categories as 'sectarian` (a term which appears throughout the Response in reference to both the author of the Files as well as to the Asian Buddhist traditions in general) is nothing more than vapid sloganeering. Actually, if the term 'fundamentalist` referred to those who adhere to the fundamental principles of Buddhism, rather than being an attempt to cast the author of the Files in the same mould as Islamic fundamentalists (which is clearly the intent of the Response's authors), it could easily be taken as a compliment. Further, the reference to the pre-existing Asian Buddhist traditions as pre-existent sectarian categories is probably one of the finest examples of sectarianism to manifest in recent times.
[p4] "Academic commentator Andrew Rawlinson, for example, locates Sangharakshita within 'the ecumenical Sangha' of non-sectarian western Buddhist teachers'"
Andrew Rawlinson, for those who are not familiar with him (i.e. the majority of people who read the Response), is a strange bedfellow for the FWBO to throw in their lot with. A maverick academic (whose idea for the cited work, he reveals in his preface, arose out of the desire to secure postgraduate funding), he is not a Buddhist and can best be described as a 'universal theist` whose philosophical views are based on instructions he received from a contemporary Sikh guru. What qualifiies him to confirm that Sangharakshita is worthy of determining the future direction of Buddhism in the West is anybody's guess.
Section II. Sangharakshita's Training
a) Sangharakshita as a wandering ascetic and in the Theravadin Tradition.
'He claims to have lived the life of a wandering ascetic in India. We are presented with little evidence to support this claim. On the contrary, in one publication he openly admits to never having been alone during this particular period of his life, and to have spent fifteen months in the same place...`
[p4] "In The Rainbow Road,Sangharakshita gives a detailed account of his life from the time that he went forth in 1947 until his sojourn with Bhikkhu Kashyap a few months after his sramanera ordination in 1949. This life is principally characterised by wandering and asceticism and, as Sangharakshita has always said, he followed it in the company of the friend who was ordained as Ven. Buddharakshita`.
Chapter 1 of 'Facing Mount
Kanchenjunga` (p7), tells us:
"I had not been on my own in the Army which had originally brought me to India, I had not been on my own during my two years as a wandering ascetic." In referring to the same period in 'The History of My Going for Refuge" (p27) Sangharakshita tells us: "...we eventually settled in a deserted ashram on the outskirts of the town of Muvattupuzha, in the State of Travancore, where we stayed for fifteen months".
Thus in a two year period of 'wandering asceticism`, Sangharakshita, by his own admission, was a) never alone, and b) stayed in the same place for fifteen months. This, in most peoples books, other than Sangharakshita and the FWBO's, does not constitute 'wandering asceticism`.
Furthermore, notwithstanding the fact that the claim to said 'asceticism` is an obvious nonsense, the evidence offered to support Sangharakshita's claim comes from yet another of his own endless volumes of memoirs, this time 'The Rainbow Road`. Do the FWBO not realise that the worm has turned and that the word of a man known to have repeatedly lied for decades, the word of a man who had 'experimental` sex with people who went to him for spiritual guidance while at the same time claiming to be a monk, the word of a man who wallows in almost constant self-aggrandisement, no longer has any value in the world outside the mandala of Sangharakshita's ego. References to Sangharakshita's works as a means of proving his claims to be true are as pointless as asking a burglar whether he committed the robbery or not.
'We are told: 'he studied Abhidhamma, Pali and Logic at Benares University with Ven. Jagdish Kashyap', a Buddhist teacher of the Theravada tradition with whom Sangharakshita claims to have had a deep and meaningful relationship. Yet, according to Sangharakshita's own writings, his whole relationship with Kashyap lasted a total of seven months, a thoroughly insufficient period of time for any such relationship to develop.' (p.5)
[p4] "The Rainbow Road describes how the two lived together from mid-1949 in Kashyapji's small house at Benares University. Under Kashyap's guidance Sangharakshita 'embarked on a course of study that was to keep me busy without interruption - for seven of the quietest and happiest months I have ever known.' Although subsequently he rarely studied with such intensity under such ideal conditions, prolonged and deep reflection on the Dharma has been a lifelong habit".
The habit of "prolonged and deep reflection on the Dharma" is a lifelong one for any genuine practitioner of the Buddha's teaching. This however is not the issue under discussion. The point the Files makes is that Sangharakshita and the FWBO use his few months of studying Pali, Abhidhamma and logic in an academic context as evidence for the claim that his training in the Theravada was extensive. The Response very clearly confirms that this 'extensive training` did indeed last only seven months and that "subsequently he rarely studied with such intensity".
Furthermore, as was pointed out previously, in Stephen Batchelor's 'Awakening of the West` (p331), he states:
"Yet apart from the 7 months with Jagdish Kashyap and, since 1953, occasional sessions with Dardo Rinpoche, Sangharakshita's knowledge of Buddhist doctrine was based on English language translations of canonical texts and scholarly studies of the material."
The reader will recall that Batchelor took the draft of his work to Sangharakshita to root out any inaccuracies in the section concerning him before publication and that, having read it, Sangharakshita raised no objections.
[p4] "The success of these studies may be assessed by considering Sangharakshita's subsequent writing and teaching".
The footnote [n15] to this informs us that Sangharakshita's understanding of Buddhism (and here they are referring in particular to the Theravada) is 'formidable by any standards` and amongst other works, offers his 'Eternal Legacy` (Tharpa, London, 1985) as evidence of this. However, in his review of the above work in the journal 'Studies in Comparative Religion`(vol 17), L.S. Cousins, one of the seniormost lay practitioners of Theravada Buddhism in Britain, a renowned Buddhist scholar, and someone whom the Response sees fit to quote in order to justify its assertions, describes Sangharakshita's work as one in which..
"We find neither the cautious and accurate care required for academic scholarship nor the inspiration of a straightforward spiritual approach."
"As a source of historical information The Eternal Legacy is seriously flawed...it is old fashioned and oddly dated. Sometimes it seems likely that this is because the views of particular scholars have been accepted because their views fit the author's preconceptions rather than because of the strength of their arguments."
"Occasionally the distortion of history becomes absurd."
"The author rarely misses an opportunity to attack the Theravada school - for its "narrowness", its "pedantically narrow and rigid doctrine of Buddhavacana", its "formalism" and so on...it seems a pity to introduce a sectarian and narrow-minded approach of a kind that the more traditional forms of Buddhist teaching have generally avoided".
The review outlines various other faults, the quotations of which are unneccesary for the purposes of the present debate.
In considering Sangharakshita's understanding of Mahayana philosophy one might consult Hamish Gregor's review of 'Wisdom Beyond Words: Sense and Non-Sense in the Buddhist Prajnaparamita Tradition' (Windhorse 1993) in the Buddhist Studies Review (13,1 p35). Having listed the ways in which Sangharakshita attacks practitioners of the Zen and Tibetan tradition in a manner remarkably similar to his denunciations of the Theravada ("Zen and Tibetan practitioners are just as likely to be narrow minded, bigoted, dogmatic and literalistic as any Theravadin"), Gregor concludes:
"All in all, this volume is remarkable only for its superficiality. It will be of no interest to the scholarly community; and the reader who seeks deeper understanding of the prajnaparamita teachings at the non-specialist level is already well - and far better - catered for elsewhere."
He further describes Sangharakshita's explanation of the vajrayana practice of mantra as "lame" and "risible" and, as far as content is concerned, tells us that "on its ostensible subject matter, the text offers little worthy of note".
Sangharakshita's rendition of the vajra guru mantra of Padmasambhava, which he gives as 'Om Ah Hum Jetsun Guru Padma Siddhi Hum`, is a fine example of the risible nature of Sangharakshita's explanations. Along with the mantra of universal compassion, Om Mani Padme Hum, the vajra guru mantra was probably the most recited of all mantras in Tibet. If Sangharakshita knew anything at all about Tibetan Buddhism, one would expect that he would at least know one of its most famous mantras. The Sanskrit vajra guru mantra however, is Om Ah Hum Vajra Guru Padma Siddhi Hum, the word 'jetsun`, macaronically inserted by Sangharakshita, being of Tibetan rather than Sanskrit origin and having a completely different significance to the word 'Vajra`. A clear indication of the "success" of his studies?
Sangharakshita's works may have sold well and he may have given many 'teachings`. However, the content of his teachings and writings are an object of derision amongst knowledgable Buddhists and, as his writings on the vajra guru mantra illustrate, are based on little, if any, real experience of the traditions he claims extensive knowledge of.
The remainder of this particular paragraph of the Response speaks of the enduring nature of the relationship between Sangharakshita and Jagdish Kashyap. Their relationship may well have lasted for many years subsequent to the seven months spent studying at Benares but, as both 'The Rainbow Road` and Stephen Batchelor's work clearly state, Sangharakshita's actual period of training with his Theravadin guru (which is what is actually of relevance to the present debate) lasted a total of seven months. Since it takes years, indeed decades, to develop a thorough understanding of such a profound tradition as the Theravada, seven months of study, as the Files suggests, is clearly a thoroughly insufficient period of time for such an understanding to develop.
[p4] "The Files cites two Theravadins who questioned Sangharakshita's knowledge of their tradition"
One of these, as the Response rightly states in the accompanying footnote, is Dhiravamsa. In responding to his accusation that their teacher knows nothing about vipassana, the authors state that Sangharakshita has never written or lectured on vipassana meditation. Had he any knowledge whatsoever of this practice, Sangharakshita would surely have written extensively on the subject. The authors then, implicitly confirm the validity of Dhiravamsa's accusation that Sangharakshita knows nothing about the meditational practice which lies at the very heart of the Theravada. How then can he possibly claim any expertise in that tradition?
[p4] "Bhikkhu Brahmavamso's view that Sangharakshita's 43 Years ago: Reflections on my Bhikkhu Ordination displays 'the misunderstandings of an outsider' (p.5), is a personal opinion, stated in a polemical book review".
The FWBO are quite happy to accept all of Sangharakshita's personal opinions, as explained in writings steeped in polemic, as the teaching of the Buddha. Why then, should they find it so difficult to accept Brahmavamso's opinions?
[p4] "More broadly, the fullest evidence for Sangharakshita's understanding of Theravada teaching lies in the many books he has written expounding the Pali Canon, and teachings drawn from it by the Theravadin tradition."
One might equally say the fullest evidence for Lobsang Rampa's understanding of the Tibetan tradition lies in the many books he has written concerning it.
[p5] "He has likewise maintained friendships with Theravadin monks and lay people over the years who would not share Brahmavamso's opinion"
It is probably quite true that Sangharakshita has maintained such friendships and that some Theravadins would not share Brahmavamso's opinions. The Theravada is a large and complex tradition with many sub-divisions. It is precisely because of this complexity that Brahmavamso describes Sangharakshita's views on the Theravada as "the misunderstandings of an outsider". What Sangharakshita saw of the Theravada thirty five years ago in India was by many people's accounts, less than inspiring and some of Sangharakshita's criticisms clearly had their basis in fact. However, what he saw can by no means be said to be representative of the nature of the whole of this ancient tradition and had he been anything more than a mere 'outsider` he would have known this. Despite this, and on the basis of his minimal encounter, Sangharakshita casts the whole of the Theravada in a negative light in much of his work. This blanket condemnation is then blindly accepted by disciples who have no experience of the tradition whatsoever.
Sangharakshita often relies on deductive reasoning to arrive at his thoroughly generalized conclusions. Deductive reasoning consists of arriving at specific conclusions on the basis of general premises, for example 'I met a bhikkhu obsessed with formalism; he was of the Theravada. Therefore, the Theravada is riddled with formalism`. Such a method is the object of derision of trained logicians as a consequence of its obvious faults and inadequacies. Consider the following: I have seen a car; it was red; therefore all cars are red. Ridiculous as this may seem, it is exactly the same logic Sangharakshita relied upon when formulating his theories about the Theravada.
[p5] "Theravadin bhikkhus are not required, as the Files suggest, to undertake 'systematic training in textual and contemplative curricula'".
The key word here is 'required`. While it is true that there is no insistence in the Vinaya that bhikkhus follow a certain prescribed formal course of study or practice, the nature and purpose of living the holy life is made quite clear in the scriptures. This is clearly expressed in the Mahaa Assapura Sutta, No. 39 in the Majjhima Nikaya for instance. The FWBO are invited to examine this scripture and see how much resemblance it bears to their leader's example.
[p5] "What is required is strict adherence to the bhikkhu pratimoksa and rules of the Vinaya. Sangharakshita asserts that he scrupulously followed this disciplinary code in all its major requirements for more than twenty years."
Sangharakshita claims his ordination took place on 24 November, 1950. In the August 1987 issue of the FWBO magazine Golden Drum, Sangharakshita states: "In 1967, when I returned from India to start the FWBO, there was a lot of talk abut the place of sex in communication. I therefore thought I should perhaps experiment a little in this field. This was also the period of my experimentation with psychedelic drugs...I was just exploring things for my own benefit, for the satisfaction of my own curiosity".
As those not mathematically challenged will realise, 50 plus 20 does not equal 67. Nor does 50 plus 20 equal 87 or 93; 1987 being the year he first publicly admitted to his drug taking and sexual activities, and 1993 being the first time he publicly admitted to the invalidity of his ordination (albeit for reasons other than those he gave).
Even though he by his own admission did not, had Sangharakshita maintained his vows for 20 years (i.e. until 1970), since he did not publicly admit to his 'extramural` activities until 1987, then for the period from 1970 to 1987, in knowingly allowing others to believe he was a monk, while in fact he was not, Sangharakshita would still be guilty of lying. People who have sex, take drugs and lie repeatedly while claiming to live the monk's life do not qualify as Venerable Mahasthaviras in the real Buddhist world.
Furthermore, the FWBO have attempted to justify Sangharakshita's drug taking and sexual experimentation by claiming it was a part of the 'necessary reformulation` he was engaged in, in the late 1960s. (See their extensive response to the Guardian article issued in early November 1987). Yet here, in the above quote, he states that he engaged in said activities purely for his own benefit, in order to satisfy his own curiosity. So which was it?
Finally, why are the Response's authors still attempting to perpetuate the illusion that Sangharakshita was a bhikkhu who maintained pure morality when he himself has, albeit somewhat belatedly, admitted that he never held a valid ordination in the first place, a fact he claims to have become aware of 1956? (see 43 Years Ago, p.8). All that this indicates is that the FWBO are completely unable to give an answer to any of the allegations made in the FWBO Files under the heading 'The Venerable Maha Sthavira Sangharakshita - Whats in a Name?`, as evidenced by their complete unwillingness to address any of the issues contained therein. Why? Because they have no answer. Why? Because the allegations are all true.
[p5] "He was fully accepted by the Sangha as a fellow bhikkhu"
Of course he was accepted as a bhikkhu by the Sangha. He wore the robe, shaved his head and told people that he was a bhikkhu. Their is nothing unusual then, in the fact that he was accepted by the Sangha as a bhikkhu nor does it prove anything. If Sangharakshita had worn a fireman's outfit, driven round in a fire engine and told everyone he was a fireman, no doubt he would have been fully accepted as a fireman. The truth of the matter is however that, by his own admission in 1993, he was no more a bhikkhu than he was a fireman; he was simply 'dressing up`. One wonders why then, in 1991, Sangharakshita wrote, in the full knowledge that he was not a monk:
"I myself was a monk...I was a monk because I wanted to identify myself with Buddhism and the spiritual life as fully as I possibly could,...and saw the monastic life as the best means of achieving this end. For me 'being a monk` certainly did not mean simply wearing a yellow robe and keeping my head shaved, as it seemingly did for so many other members of the Monastic Order".(Facing Mount Kanchenjunga, p370)
Two years later, in '43 Years Ago`, Sangharakshita made it quite clear that he was not, nor had he ever been, a monk and that being one certainly did mean simply wearing a yellow robe and keeping his head shaved. (Note also the hostile and sweeping generalisation with regard to the monastic sangha, another recurrent theme in Sangharakshita's works.)
[p5] "indeed he was entrusted with responsibilities, such as the editorship of The Maha Bodhi Journal, which would only have been given to a bhikkhu in good standing."
The proprietors of the journal would certainly not have made enquiries as to the 'good standing` of the 'bhikkhu` since such enquiries represent a humungous 'faux pas` in Buddhist circles. Their primary concern would have been to find someone who could write in fluent English. Since there were so few candidates qualified in that respect available at the time it is not so surprising that Sangharakshita was given the job. The Response's authors create the illusion that Sangharakshita was chosen for the job because he was held in high regard by prominent members of the Asian Buddhist community. It is far more likely that he was chosen primarily because he could spell properly and secondly, because he appeared to demonstrate a modicum of knowledge of certain aspects of the Buddhist tradition.
b) Sangharakshita - the Triyanist
If the Response's intention is 'to follow the structure of the Files itself, so that its points may be answered systematically", as it states, then this section should represent an attempt to answer the Files' allegation that Sangharakshitas 'extensive` knowledge of the Zen and Chan Buddhist traditions was based on nothing more than an alleged relationship with a renegade who was not an authorised teacher of any of the Chinese or Japanese Buddhist traditions. We shall return to this point in a moment but let us first examine the Response's preamble which would seem to confirm that in fact we are actually addressing the question of Sangharakshita's links with the Chinese and Japanese traditions.
[p5] "His earliest encounters with Buddhism came through wide reading across the tradition, and particularly the Mahayana texts The Diamond Sutra and The Sutra of Wei Lang (Hui Neng), which at the age of 16 convinced him that he was a Buddhist and always had been".
The 'width` of Sangharakshita's reading in the languages of Japan and China, the homes of the Zen and Chan traditions respectively, has already been demonstrated, he being unable to read in either of the relevant languages. But what about the effect that the reading the English translations of the two above mentioned texts, in particular the Diamond Sutra, had upon him; how does he himself describe this profound effect? In 'The History of My Going for Refuge`(p.20) he tells us:
"Though this book epitomizes a teaching of such rarified sublimity that even Arhats, saints who have attained individual Nirvana, are said to become confused and afraid when they hear of it for the first time, I at once joyfully embraced it with an unqualified acceptance and assent. To me the truth taught by the Buddha in the Diamond Sutra was not new. I had known and believed and realized it ages before and the reading of the Sutra as it were awoke me to the existence of something I had forgotten".
So, having humbly declared himself superior to the Arhats, Sangharakshita goes on to claim to have actually realized the view of the true nature of reality expressed in the Diamond Sutra before even reading it, and all at the ripe old age of sixteen.
In Buddhist circles, the claim to 'realization` is a significant one to make. This is not merely the assertion that one has developed a full and correct understanding of something, rather it is a declaration of an intuitive experience of a philosophical concept, wherein the mind is so mixed with the idea that it becomes part of ones own 'world view` and accompanies one at all times, in all situations. Even Hui Neng, who actually did experience such a realization, managed to keep that one to himself. Sangharakshita, on the other hand, shared the knowledge of his 'realization` with us by having it published and distributed worldwide by his own personal publishing company, Windhorse Press.
[p5] "His earliest published article, aged 19, was entitled 'The Unity of Buddhism' in 1946, and was printed in The Middle Way".
This accidentally reveals the arrogance of the underlying assumption behind the whole of Sangharakshita's work: 'The Unity of Buddhism`, at the age of 19? May one ask how he had discerned this unity? Obviously not by contact with any of the traditions since he was yet to encounter them, but by a combination of auto-didactism founded on some early Western (and hence superficial) accounts of Buddhism, and his own breathtaking self-confidence.
[p5] "His friendships ...included a close connection with Lama Anagarika Govinda".
Wait a minute, weren't we supposed to be addressing the question of Sangharakshita's training in the Zen tradition? Then why are we talking about Lama Govinda? Nevertheless, let us pause for a moment to consider Govinda's credentials as well as several similarities between himself and the 'venerable Maha Sthavira`.
Govinda, like Sangharakshita, was very fond of 'dressing up`, often, although not exclusively, as a Tibetan lama. Unlike the majority of Tibetan Buddhists however, Govinda's relationship with his own 'root guru`, Thomo Geshe Rinpoche, was based on an encounter which lasted a matter of weeks rather than years, as evidenced by his account of their relationship in 'Way of the White Clouds`.
Following this, on the basis of meetings with Kagyu practitioners, Govinda declared himself a Kagyupa, despite the fact that his 'root guru` was a Gelugpa and an avid devotee of the demonic spirit Dorje Shugden, sworn enemy of the Kagyu and Nyingma traditions.(As far as the author is aware, the worship of Dorje Shugden does not feature in the spiritual curriculum of the Arya Maitreya Mandala)
Sangharakshita, who felt a 'close personal connection with the Nyingma tradition`, also cites a well known devotee of Shugden, Dhardo Rinpoche, as one of his principal teachers. The relationship with those who propitiate the spirit continues down to the present: The FWBO were instrumental in ensuring the admission of the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) to the Network of Buddhist Organizations, the Order use the NKT founder Kelsang Gyatso's work in their study groups, and their magazine Dharma Life (eg Summer 1998) has portrayed NKT members as orthodox representatives of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, whereas in fact they are recognized as pariahs throughout the whole of the Tibetan Buddhist world.
As to Govinda's version of Buddhism which is, to say the least, bizarre, his teachings and understanding are based again on knowledge acquired primarily in an autodidactic fashion and bear little resemblance to anything found in the Tibetan Canon, as is quite obvious to genuine practitioners of the Tibetan traditions upon examination of any of his later works. Where the two men and their teachings differ however is that, whereas Govinda was to all intents and purposes harmless and his ideas quaint, Sangharakshita and his ideas have proved themselves to be harmful and represent a serious threat to the existence of genuine Dharma throughout the Western world.
In brief, the citation of Govinda as support for the validity of Sangharakshita's 'triyanist` approach is meaningless. Quite apart from the fact that what should actually be under consideration here is Sangharakshita's links with the Zen and Chan traditions, Govinda was not a master of any of the Asian Buddhist traditions, he was simply someone who gained popularity on the basis of a scant connection with the Tibetan tradition and because he happened to be around as 'Shangri la` became more popular in the West. The Response's authors citation of him and indeed the long-standing citation of his friendship with Sangharakshita as evidence of his connection with the Tibetan tradition throughout the history of the FWBO amounts to nothing more than wanton and premeditated 'name dropping`; such connections prove nothing other than that there were some very bizarre characters in India in the 1950s.
[p5] "In this period Sangharakshita described himself as a 'triyana Buddhist' - his Kalimpong base was called the Triyana Vardhana Vihara - and his approach provided a basis for his subsequent connections with lamas who were themselves followers of Tibetan triyana. While this approach may be unacceptable or incomprehensible by the standards of the Files, his endeavours to establish a triyana approach were widely applauded and won the support of figures such as the Dalai Lama and Govinda, who wrote:
'Probably for the first time in the history of Buddhism the Hinayana, the Mahayana, and the Vajrayana have found a common centre in the Triyana Vardhana Vihara. This is an important step forward on the road towards the unification of Buddhism... a creative cooperation, in which the best of each [yana] contributes to the attainment of the highest aim and helps us to see the Buddha-Dharma in its whole depth and width.'"
Whereas the three vehicle approach in the Tibetan tradition is based on the wisdom of generations of enlightened masters and has a long and proven history of efficacy running back for more than a thousand years, the 'triyanist` approach which Sangharakshita claims as his own is based on the ideas of a 'monk` with a proven history of lying, drug taking and sexual misconduct and whose knowledge is based on little, if any formal training in any of the Asian traditions and a few superficial, sometimes unsubstantiated, relationships with teachers of any of the same. The consequences of practising this 'triyana Buddhism`, as the Guardian article demonstrated and this work will further show, have been psychological trauma and even suicide.
Citing the Dalai Lama when the FWBO are supposedly answering questions concerning Sangharakshita's training in the Zen Buddhist tradition is as curious as the citation of Govinda and is probably done for the same reasons. It certainly does have the effect of making it look as if the Dalai Lama is a supporter of Sangharakshita's activities. However, when consulted, the response of the Office of Tibet was to state that the message of congratulation to the Triyana Vardhana Vihara referred to in the Response was issued at a time when His Holiness had only recently emerged from Tibet and was therefore obviously keen to ensure that the various Buddhist schools drew together in order to establish a strong tradition of Dharma in the West. When I explained that, in light of the emerging truths about the FWBO and their 'founder`, it might be appropriate for His Holiness to issue a statement disassociating himself from them, the Office's response was to state that, since the message did not express support for Sangharakshita personally, nor was their any evidence of any strong links between His Holiness and Sangharakshita, nor had the Dalai Lama expressed support for the activities of the FWBO, then there was obviously no reason for the issue of such a statement.
Thus, although the Response's authors use the name of the Dalai Lama to create the illusion of sanction of the highest order, the reality of the situation is that no such sanction of their leader or organization has ever existed. In light of the comments made by the Dalai Lama which feature at the beginning of this document and the fact that the Office of Tibet are now fully aware of Sangharakshita and the FWBO's activities, it is also clear that unless the FWBO distance themselves from their disgraced leader and stop preaching false Dharma, it never will.
Govinda's statement that the founding of the Vihara was: "the first time in the history of Buddhism (that) the Hinayana, the Mahayana, and the Vajrayana have found a common centre" serves to demonstrate his lack of understanding of the tradition he claimed to follow, the teachings of the various traditons of Tibetan Buddhism representing as they do the quintessential 'triyana` approach to Buddhism. In other words, every single temple and monastery in Tibet was a 'Triyana Vihara`.
[p5] "An important figure for Sangharakshita was Yogi Chen.....The Files claims that 'no independent confirmation of the relationship [between Sangharakshita and Yogi Chen] exists. `However, a book entitled Buddhist Meditation: Systematic and Practical, comprises transcriptions by Bhikkhu Khantipalo of teachings given by Yogi Chen to Sangharakshita and Khantipalo in Kalimpong in 1962...The Files makes various attacks on Chen's reputation because 'he was not an authorized teacher of any of the Japanese or Chinese Buddhist systems.`"
The Files actually states "No independent confirmation of the relationship exists. However, even if it did, this would be no proof of authentic knowledge of Zen. Mr. Chen was not an authorized teacher of any of the Chinese or Japanese Buddhist systems". The Files author was clearly unaware of the existence of the work 'Buddhist Meditation: Systematic and Practical`, edited by Bhikkhu Khantipalo (whose credibility as a witness we shall return to later), printed as it was in 1967 solely for free distribution [See Response, note 24]. Confirmation does then exist.
However, as the Files states, whether independent confirmation exists or not, Sangharakshita's encounter with Chen is no proof of knowledge of Zen, since Chen was not an authorized teacher of either Chan or Zen. The Response fails to address this. Rather, it tries to fudge the issue by carefully and conveniently omitting the sentence "However, even if it did, this would be no proof of authentic knowledge of Zen" since this demonstrates the author's willingness to concede that such confirmation might exist. This is disingenuous sophism of the worst kind.
To recap the Files, Chen was not an authorized teacher of either the Chinese or Japanese traditions. He was clearly an eclectic, and was considered a barking mad renegade by some; his 'Fire Puja of Jesus` would seem to confirm both these points. Any claim to authentic knowledge of either Zen or Chan on the basis of a relationship with such a character is therefore an obvious nonsense. Sangharakshita makes such a claim. This, combined with the reading of a handful of archaic English language translations of texts from these traditions, acted as the basis for his determining the essence of Zen. Such scant knowledge of a tradition is an entirely inadequate foundation for one engaged in so significant a task as discerning such an essence.
[p5] "The Files makes various attacks on Chen's reputation ......in the same way that it disputes Sangharakshita's legitimacy, and without argument or investigation."
The accompanying footnote advises the investigative reader to look to Chen's own account of his training for confirmation of his authenticity. Relying on self-validating testimony is a fundamental mistake FWBO followers have made for decades and, as has already been stated, makes as little sense as expecting an honest answer from a burglar when questioned as to whether he commited the crime.
The footnote then quotes Chen's own account of the depth of his relationship, not with the Chinese or Japanese traditions, but with various masters of the Tibetan tradition. This is simply another disingenuous fudge. Obviously, involvement with the Tibetan tradition, imagined or otherwise, does not qualify one to teach or authorise others to teach Zen.
The note concludes with
the claim that Chen:
[n26] "spent one month with Kalu Rinpoche and became a holder of Shenba Kagyu Lineage and qualified to pass it on, also completing a three year solitary retreat for these latter teachings."
This accidentally demonstrates the ignorance of the compilers of the Response. There is no Shenba Kagyu tradition to become a lineage holder of. One suspects, due to the proximity of Kalu Rinpoche's name, that it is the Shangpa Kagyu which is being referred to. Again, the mere completion of a three year retreat in any of the Tibetan traditions does not qualify one to become a lineage holder, as the authors would know if they had even a basic knowledge of Tibetan Buddhism.
The section in the main
body of the text concludes:
[p5] "Alternative views [as to his authenticity] may be obtained from some of Chen's many disciples."
Chen's disciples, like Sangharakshita's, rely on his own account of his spiritual heritage. They therefore only repeat the 'truth` about Chen as it was told to them by him. Don't the FWBO realise that, when entering into such a significant relationship as that which one forms with a spiritual teacher, far greater scrutiny is required than that demonstrated by the thoroughly gullible blind faith approach of 'I believe him because he said so`?
Section III. Tibetan Buddhism
[p5] "Sangharakshita is not a follower of Tibetan Buddhism, nor is he a Vajrayana teacher, and the FWBO is not and does not claim to be a Tibetan Buddhist tradition."
The above represents a welcome, although somewhat belated, admission. However, isn't it true that on coming to the FWBO, people are promised that they are joining a '3 vehicle` tradition? If Sangharakshita can't teach Vajrayana then how can this be true?
[p5] " Sangharakshita's principal engagement with Tibetan Buddhism in his teaching is in the many seminars he gave during the 1970s and 1980s on texts from many traditions, including Tibetan Vajrayana."
Didn't the Response just say that Sangharakshita is not a Vajrayana teacher? Why then does he give teachings and seminars on Tibetan Vajrayana? Why, between 1978 and 1980, did Windhorse Press produce a series of eight booklets, based on Sangharakshita's lectures, entitled 'The Tantric Path`?
a) Tantric initiations
[p5] "Sangharakshita received numerous initiations from highly respected Lamas, as outlined below. It must be admitted that much of this is not provable in all of its details, although it is demonstrable in sufficient detail to be entirely believable."
Which is exactly why this list of the initiations Sangharakshita supposedly received appears here: not because it is proof but because it appears to be believable. And whose account of Sangharaksita's 'numerous` (and notably minor) tantric initiations is this list based upon? Er, why, Sangharakshita's of course.
[p5-6] "The Files ... makes the unsubstantiated claim that Trungpa Rimpoche said Sangharakshita had 'definitely received no higher initiations, unless by false pretenses'".
Trungpa Rinpoche made the comment to Maurice Walshe. Maurice Walshe confirmed this to the Files author, both in writing and during interviews. Surely this constitutes substantiation?
[p6] "and it argues that Sangharakshita could not have communicated with them in Tibetan (in fact he spoke in Hindi or Nepali, with translators as necessary)."
Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro had a perfectly adequate Tibetan to English translator in Sonam Kazi. Why, as was pointed out in the Files, was Sonam Kazi unable to confirm any relationship between Sangharakshita and Jamyang Khyentse? Again why, with a well trained Tibetan/English translator, would translators into languages other than Tibetan (which Khyentse Rinpoche would obviously only possess a minimal understanding of, having only recently emerged from Tibet), be necessary or of any value? Further, is it realistically possible for a master to convey the essence of the Tibetan tantric tradition and all of its subtleties in its entirety through the medium of a mixture of broken English, Hindi and Nepali, three languages that Jamyang Khyentse barely understood?
[p6] "In 1956 Chattrul Sangye Dorje Rimpoche gave Sangharakshita the initiation of Green Tara, the sadhana of which he says he faithfully performed every day for seven years."
Ignoring this particular incidence of self validation, what is of real interest here is the word 'gave`, the repeatedly used, chosen phrase of the authors of the Response when referring to Sangharakshita's receipt of initiations; 'so & so Rimpoche GAVE Sangharakshita such & such an intitiation`. As the Files points out (p8), the minor initiations listed by the Response's authors were routinely bestowed on hundreds, indeed thousands of people. Sangharakshita was not singled out as some highly important being to be 'given` these initiations. He 'took` them, along with hundreds of others, in an atmosphere where his presence was only as significant as that of any of the hundreds of others who were in attendance.
Furthermore, without underestimating the power or ability of those lamas who bestowed them, for these initiations to have had any significant effect, one would have thought it necessary for Sangharakshita to have understood at least a little of what was going on, in terms of prayers, sworn commitments, visualizations and so on. All initiations are preceeded by the taking of Refuge and Bodhisattva vows. Nearly all of the initiations Sangharakshita claims to have received, he took in the 1950s. Yet he gives the date of his highly significant first receipt of the Bodhisattva vow from Dhardo Rinpoche as 12 October 1962. Obviously, Sangharakshita had absolutely no idea whatsoever of what was going on around him during the initiations he received, otherwise he would know that he had taken the Bodhisattva ordination many years before. In such an atmosphere how can he have possibly have received anything other than some minor blessing, equivalent perhaps to that received by some newborn Tibetan child , who, like Sangharakshita, was present at the initiation but, equally, had no idea whatsoever of what was going on. Perhaps this was why Sangharakshita felt his receipt of the Bodhisattva vow from Dhardo Rinpoche was of such immense "spiritual significance": it was clearly the first time in all of the years that he had been taking the Bodhisattva vows that he actually realized he was receiving them.
One can see it now: the Inji Gelong (Tib, Colloquialism - 'Western monk`), deep in concentration at the lama's feet, imbibing the sweet nectar of his vajra holy speech, meditating deeply on the significance of the initiation process as its subtle intricacies unfolded before him. The reality of the situation however was that despite appearances, who was sitting there was a fraud, someone only dressed as a monk, and what's more, someone who had no idea whatsoever of what was going on. This is probably what Trungpa Rinpoche meant when he said that Sangharakshita had "definitely received no higher initiations, unless by false pretences". Chilling to think that, within little more than a decade, Sangharakshita was claiming to have discerned the essence of the entire Tibetan tantric tradition, indeed the whole of Buddhism in general.
[p6] " Sangharakshita asked Jamyang Khyentse Rimpoche for the Manjughosa initiation. However Rimpoche decided to give him the initiations of Avalokitesvara, Vajrapani and Green Tara as well. Jamyang Khyentse commissioned for Sangharakshita a thangka depicting the four Bodhisattvas and nineteen great Buddhist teachers. Sangharakshita himself was shown twice, once teaching the Dharma and again meditating in a cave. Rimpoche explained that through this initiation he had transmitted to Sangharakshita the essence of all the teachings of all the gurus in the thangka. Sangharakshita was now, he said, their spiritual heir and successor."
Sangharakshita's claim that Khyentse Rinpoche told him that, in receiving 4 relatively minor initiations, he had become the 'spiritual heir and successor` to the founding gurus of each of the Tibetan traditions as well as numerous other important figures is an extraordinary claim to make, considering that the Drub thab Kundu alone (the source from which Jamyang Khyentse would have drawn these) contains approximately 625 initiations. So we can conclude that it is unlikely, to say the least, that Jamyang Khyentse ever said this, particularly because the 'substantiating` reference is to Sangharakshita's own account. Not even His Holiness the Dalai Lama or Sakyan Trizin are credited with being the successors to all of these beings.
And where is this important thangka, 'commissioned` by Jamyang Khyentse, a thangka which, if it existed, one would have thought would have been emblazoned across the cover of Sangharakshita's 'tantric` works? Why, in the keeping of his friend Dr. Mehta of course, at the Society of the Servants of God, Malabar Hill, Bombay [see Response note 32], obviously for ease of reference. Perhaps if the FWBO now make efforts to bring this important work to the West (which, I am informed, they already have, but without success) they might also produce evidence that it was commissioned by Jamyang Khyentse.
[p6] "At the same time he received instruction in the Tharpe Delam and especially its mula yoga practices from Kachu Rimpoche and Dhardo Rimpoche."
The attempt to make a connection with the Tharpa`i bDe-lam represents a further unwitting indicator of the ignorance of Sangharakshita and his followers. This of course is the ngondro, or 'foundational practice`, for the dKon-mchog sPyi-'dus cycle which , one hazards a guess, was the cycle of Padmasambhava whose initiation he received. If they had known this they would have been sure to mention it. As a question to this, I ask them to immediately name, without consulting others:
a) the terton of this system, and
b) the author of the commentary?
The phrase 'mula yoga` is extremely curious. If translated into Tibetan it would presumably be rtsa-ba'irnal-'byor; no such phrase exists within the Tharpa'i bDe-lam. Perhaps what is being referred to is the ngondro, the 'bum-lnga` (500,000 recitations of Refuge, Bodhicitta, Vajrasattva mantra etc.). If Sangharakshita had accomplished these we would, I think, have been informed.
All of this is important because in the Nyingma tradition the accomplishment of the ngondro is the essential pre-requisite for the receipt and practice of the inner tantras, including rdzogs chen itself. So, we can surely conclude that Sangharakshita's 'close personal connection with the Nyingmapa tradition` is confined to the receipt of a few minor initiations and does not include the completion of even its most elementary contemplative levels. The idea that such a person posesses the spiritual authority to discern and then teach the essence of Tibetan Buddhism is ludicrous.
The assertion that Sangharakshita received instruction on the practices of the Tharpa'i bDe-lam from the Gelugpa lama Dhardo Rinpoche is equally ludicrous. Quite apart from the fact that he was also a devotee of the demonic spirit Dorje Shugden, who is said to inflict illness and death on Gelugpa monks who embrace Nyingma teachings (S.Batchelor, 'Deity or Demon` p63 Tricycle), Dhardo Rinpoche himself was an extremely orthodox practitioner of the teachings of Lama Tzong Khapa's Gelug tradition, whose followers were known to frown at the mere mention of the 'philosophically inferior` and 'heterodox` Nyingma doctrine of rdzogs-chen. (See G.Samuels 'Civilized Shamans` for an extended account of the disagreements between the two traditions and their philosophies). That the Gelugpa Dhardo Rinpoche would give instruction on the Nyingma Tharpa'i bDe-lam is therefore about as unlikely as the Pope giving instruction on the works of John Calvin.
[p6] "Sangharakshita spent most time, and developed the deepest connection, with Dhardo Rimpoche, a Gelug lama and Lharampa Geshe, which continued from 1953 until Rimpoche's death in 1991. They became friends during a trip together as 'Eminent Buddhists from the Border Areas' on a trip organised by the Indian Government to celebrate Buddha Jayanti in 1956. He became closely involved with the Rimpoche's teaching of Tibetan Buddhism through rewriting a contribution by one of the Rimpoche's Tibetan disciples to a book eventually published in 1956 as The Path of the Buddha.
Eventually Sangharakshita took the Bodhisattva ordination from Dhardo Rimpoche and received from him a detailed explanation of the sixty-four precepts taken at the time of ordination. For Sangharakshita the spiritual significance of this occasion was immense"
From the Response's own words it appears that Sangharakshita's studies in the Gelug tradition amount to:
a) A friendship with Dhardo Rinpoche, during which he helped edit a book.
b) Receipt of the Bodhisattva ordination
Admittedly, Sangharakshita did engage in occasional sessions of studying Gelugpa teachings with Dhardo Rinpoche, as evidenced by his not contradicting Stephen Batchelor's account of this particular part of his history. However, the combination of a friendship with a lama, occasional sessions of study, and receipt of the Bodhisattva ordination represents a very far cry from the vast textual studies undertaken by those who are fully learned in the Gelug tradition, such as Geshe George Dreyfus and Geshe Michael Roach.
The question might arise as to why Sangharakshita did not deny the validity of Batchelor's assertions with reference to his training when given the opportunity to do so. Actually, Batchelor represents everything Sangharakshita would want to be but never was. Someone who maintained pure morality for years as a monk whilst living in the traditional Buddhist environment of the monastic community (something Sangharakshita never did), someone who had strong links with his Buddhist peers and teachers, and a solid understanding of more than one scripture-based tradition and the language of its conveyance. Like Sangharakshita, Batchelor spent time in India and was familiar with many of the characters, both in the Orient and the Occident, whom Sangharakshita himself had encountered.
This is why Sangharakshita kept quiet when presented with Batchelor's draft. Batchelor knew too much about Buddhism and what actually went on during Sangharakshita's time in India for him to deny it. Whereas in the West, where people have little understanding of the nature of training in Buddhist traditions or their actual philosophies , as well no knowledge whatsoever of Sangharakshita's lifestyle, it has been possible for him to create his own history and pass off his own personal version as Buddhism for years, in the presence of someone who demonstrated knowledge of what actually constitutes Buddhist teaching and who was aware of the true extent of his training and shenanigans, Sangharakshita could only remain silent.
Sangharakshita's attitude to initiations
[p6] "Whatever the exact status of these initiations within their respective systems of tantric practice, the issue is really one of interpretation - how one sees the significance of these initiations."
This is nonsense. Within the context of the 'new' tantric traditions (ie post-eleventh century) for example, whereas it is possible to achieve Enlightenment in one lifetime by practising the highest of the four levels of tantra, it is not possible to do so in the same period of time by practising any of the three lower levels. For genuine tantric practitioners this is not a matter of interpretation, it is a matter of fact. (See the Dalai Lama's 'Tantra in Tibet`series). If the Response authors had any understanding whatsoever of tantric doctrine they would have known this. Thus the statement that...
[p6] "Sangharakshita holds that 'there are no higher teachings, only deeper realisations`"
only proves that he knows nothing about the various divisions of tantric practice. Notice that, in this peculiarly self serving formulation that "there are no higher teachings, only deeper realisations", Sangharakshita is tacitly admitting that he has received none. This point goes to the heart of the charge of arrogance; how can he claim to know and teach the heart of Buddhism when he has not received it? It is as arrogant as saying one has understood the unity of all sciences when one has got no further than first year General Science.
[p6] "This is in contrast to the view expressed in the Files which says, for example, that 'the average Tibetan would probably feel as excited about the possibility of receiving the Bodhisattva ordination as the average Westerner would feel about the possibility of receiving a new National Insurance number.'
The accompanying footnote
"The average Tibetan does not take the 64 precepts of Bodhisattva Samvara Sila on numerous occasions - they recite a verse before initiations which stands in place of more elaborate Bodhisattva vows. Sangharakshita took the 64 precepts in a spirit of great seriousness. Many Tibetan Lamas likewise regard them as serious. For instance Geshe Kelsang Gyatso and Dudjom Rimpoche have both written books on the subject."
Those who care to actually examine Kelsang Gyatso's book, 'The Bodhisattva Vow` (Tharpa 1991, p115) will note that the second precept of aspiring bodhicitta is 'to generate bodhicitta six times a day`. How do Tibetan Buddhists achieve this? By formally taking the Bodhisatva vow six times a day or, more than 2,000 times per year; not surprisingly practitioners sometimes lack a sense of inspiration when taking the vow, despite the extreme significance of the event. Were the authors of the Response holders of the Bodhisattva vows, they would have known this.
[p6] "While Sangharakshita plainly is experienced in aspects of Vajrayana, his authority to draw inspiration from the Tibetan tradition in his teaching, and to pass on some of its insights and practices, is based not on the number of initiations he received, or their formal status, but on the sincerity and effectiveness of his practice, the clarity of his understanding, and the depth of his realisation."
The assertion that Sangharakshita's "authority to to draw inspiration from the Tibetan tradition and to pass on some of its insights and practices" is based on "the depth of his realisation" is as serious an argument as one's friends insisting to one's first year science teacher that one has an intuitive realisation of the deeper principles of physics. He would be very foolish indeed to take their word for it, and indeed, both in the Dharma and the world in general, it is only one's teachers who are actually in a position to judge. Sangharakshita is, on the other hand, a self-validating teacher, 'appointed` only by himself and those he has duped.
The footnote [n43] which
ends this section is a gem:
"On the connected issue of lineage Sangharakshita comments: 'I have discouraged [emphasis on] this because it seems to lead to a sort of spiritual snobbery. So I don't like to speak in terms of lineage or lineage holder; though I suppose, if I wanted to, I could quite legitimately say that I was a lineage holder in that sense. But I would rather not mention that or stress that, for the reasons I have mentioned. I think it is so, in a way, childish.'"
Thus, in Sangharakshita's eyes, those holding the title lineage holder are engaged in the perpetuation of "spiritual snobbery" or being "childish" (except, of course the venerable Maha sthavira himself who, one sentence later, claims exactly that title). Is he including here the lineage masters of all four Tibetan traditions or simply those other than the ones with whom he feels a "close connection"? It is glaringly obvious that Sangharakshita does not "like to speak in terms of lineage or lineage holder" because he is not one; this is the real reason why he would "rather not mention that or stress that"; because it undermines the false image of his own authority.
[p7] "As has been said, Sangharakshita does not claim to teach Vajrayana Buddhism" (accompanied by note 44) - "Note that in this in this matter of 'utmost importance` the Files presents no evidence that Sangharakshita claims this"
Within the Response we have so far learned that Sangharakshita gives seminars on the Vajrayana, has had a series of books published on the topic, and that he teaches, not only the purified essence of the 'culturally contaminated` tantric vehicle, but the essence of all of the three vehicles of Buddhism; Hinayana, Mahayana & Vajrayana. In the footnote mentioned above he even claims the status of lineage holder. It seems hardly necessary for the Files to have presented evidence that Sangharakshita claims to teach Vajrayana Buddhism; the Response has done a wonderful job of proving just that.
[p7] "Secondly, Sangharakshita had the approval of his teachers in his general approach to practice."
According to, er, Sangharakshita.
[p7] "Sangharakshita says that he consulted his teachers about his proposed move back to Britain and his decision to start a new Buddhist movement, and received their blessing for this."
"Sangharakshita says"? Well, it must be true then. Did these teachers give their blessings on the basis of the knowledge that he was going to perform sexual 'experiments` on disciples whilst claiming to be a bhikkhu? Did he inform them that he would be portraying the nuclear family as the enemy of the spiritual community? Did he explain to his tantric gurus that he would be teaching that women are ensnared in the lower evolution, a conception which directly contradicts fundamental tantric philosophy?
[p7] "Thirdly, Sangharakshita has been given permission to initiate, but such matters are private between guru and chela and are not the subject of public discussion."
We can pass over this claim with contempt for the self serving rubbish that it obviously is. Nobody in the tantric tradition has ever heard of such a rule before.
[p7] "The FWBO is not a school of Vajrayana, nor has it ever claimed this status, and members of the Western Buddhist Order are not tantric practitioners."
Why doesn't the FWBO publicise the above admission? If the FWBO is not a vajrayana school, does not claim such status, nor are its members tantric practitioners, the FWBO does not therefore practice a three vehicle system; at best it is two vehicle. This author would have no complaint if they would admit this. If Theravadins and others wished to criticize the way the Order lay illegitimate claim to their systems, that is their business.
[p7] "Sangharakshita and the FWBO respect the integrity of the tantra as a system and claim no status within its terms. The meditation practices given to members of the Western Buddhist Order may well derive from tantra, but they are not conceived as tantric practices. They are seen as expressions of going for Refuge to the Three Jewels in relation to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. The 'initiation' at the ordination ceremony of the WBO is not seen as a tantric initiation, nor does it resemble tantric initiation or empowerment."
This paragraph admits to the FWBOs cannibalizing of tantra; "Western Buddhist Order practices "may well derive from tantra, but they are not conceived of as tantric practices". With customary arrogance, the Order assume that they know better than the lineages. The final sentence should be utilized as a health warning at their 'ordination` ceremonies: "The 'initiation` at the ordination ceremony of the WBO is not seen as a tantric initiation, nor does it resemble tantric initiation or empowerment."
b) The Approach to Texts
[p7] "As a western Buddhist movement the FWBO does not follow the approach to studying Dharma texts that was developed by Indian or Tibetan scholasticism...Dharma study is taken seriously within the FWBO...In common with most Buddhists in the West we would regard the masterpieces of Buddhist canonical literature as the common property of humanity, and rightful subjects of study and reflection for all, irrespective of the scholastic conventions of Tibet."
The traditional way of study is now dismissed as 'the scholastic conventions of Tibet`. Again, this is self-serving and actually represents the fact that Sangharakshita has had no such training. That this represents a recipe for intellectual and spiritual confusion is evidenced by the books offered as references [see Response note 51]. 2 questions:
1) Do the Order know how reliable these translations are? Answer - no. Otherwise they would not attempt to understand the Kagyu tradition through Chang's highly flawed Milarepa books.
2) How on earth can there be any logical order or progression to acquiring the view if one mixes together these works? For example, Kelsang Gyatso's Gelugpa Prasangika interpretation of the Bodhicharyavatara with Gampopa's 'Jewel Ornament`, filtered through Guenther?
Why don't Kulanada et al go and study these texts slowly and in detail with masters who have received the transmission and then explanation from truly learned people. This is the main point: why be contented with a poor diet of second hand food filtered through Sangharakshita, why not go and learn the traditions properly? Each senior Order member should go to a different tradition and learn it carefully from different masters, realise it and THEN they can transmit it to Westerners. This would be Western Buddhism. Right now these people are imprisoned in the ego of Sangharakshita.
Face it, no real teacher claims to have discovered the essence of all Buddhism. Rather, with becoming modesty, they act only as conductors of the tradition they have learned while exhibiting true friendship to other Buddhist traditions. This is real non-sectarianism. It allows all the traditions to flourish without allowing their teachings to be reduced to a nondescript 'porridge` dressed up as 'an attempt to discern those aspects of Buddhism that are universal`. Why don't these people come out of the darkness and into the sunlight of Dharma?
[p7] "The Files asserts that 'Sangharakshita would have great difficulty in finding any bona fide, knowledgeable Buddhists who would concur with his interpretations of the meaning of Buddhism.' The facts of the matter, however, indicate just the opposite. Indeed, there are a number of respected and well-known Buddhist scholars within the Western Buddhist Order itself."
Nagarjuna, Chandrakirti, Tzong Khapa, Buddhaghosa et al, are examples of 'Buddhist scholars`. Those 'Buddhist scholars` cited by the Response as evidence that their interpretation of Buddhism is valid are, on the other hand, present day academics who are also FWBO members! It is no surprise then, that they would support the assertion that the FWBOs teachings are valid. The point the Files made was that Sangharakshita and the FWBO would have difficulty in finding any bona fide, knowledgeable Buddhists who would concur with their interpretations, not a handful of FWBO academics.
Summary of Sangharakshita's Training
[p7] "It should be clear from the above that Sangharakshita has not lied about his training."
No, quite the opposite. If one reads the Response properly, paying attention to the implicit and explicit admissions, fudges, discrepancies and untruths inherent within it, it becomes quite clear that Sangharakshita has constantly "lied about his training".
[p7] "In its pan-Buddhist character this training is certainly unusual, and may be unacceptable by the standards of the Files."
His training is not merely unusual, it is also inadequate and is not acceptable by the standards of the Files, of any genuine Buddhists, or indeed of honest people in general.
[p7] " However Sangharakshita has presented a cogent, arguably compelling, alternative to these standards which by comparison appear stunted, not to say fundamentalist."
The 'standards` demonstrated by Sangharakshita have amounted to lying, cheating and deceiving the British public, indeed the whole of the Western world, for the last three decades. Is it really so "stunted" and "fundamentalist" to expect a spiritual teacher to tell the truth, or to expect a bhikkhu not to have sex and take drugs?
Section IV. Sangharakshita's career
a) Sangharakshita's Involvement with Ambedkarism
[p7] "The Files asserts that Sangharakshita makes a 'claim that he officiated at a ceremonial mass conversion of [Dr. Ambedkar and] half a million Harijans (Untouchables) to Buddhism.' This, it says, is spurious as Sangharakshita was in Sikkim at the time of this conversion. Neither the FWBO nor Sangharakshita has ever claimed that Sangharakshita conducted the conversion."
This is accompanied by the
following footnote [n53]:
"The accusation that Sangharakshita claims to have officiated at Ambedkar's conversion ceremony would appear to derive from a similar mistake in Snelling's Buddhist Handbook, which the Files' author has either failed to check against FWBO sources, or else has knowingly used as a basis for a smear.....The most charitable explanation of this blatant untruth is that the author of the Files is so convinced of Sangharakshita's dishonesty that any apparent inconsistency is seized on; but in this case, there is no doubt whatsoever that Sangharakshita has never claimed to have been present at the ceremony. The less charitable explanation is that the Files author is himself lying. Neither possibility reflects well upon him and each raises questions about his motivation, and credibility."
Readers will note the Response's statement that:"The Files asserts that Sangharakshita makes" the claim that he officiated at the famous mass conversion of Untouchables at Nagpur in 1956. It continues, "Neither the FWBO nor Sangharakshita has ever claimed that Sangharakshita conducted the conversion" and then goes on in the accompanying footnote to accuse the Files author of "knowingly" "lying" in respect of this, an action which, it is claimed "raises questions about his motivation, and credibility".
This is a fudge. Those who examine the Files thoroughly will find that it does not accuse either Sangharakshita or the FWBO of making the above claim. The assertion that Sangharakshita was at Nagpur in 1956 is clearly referenced in the footnotes of the Files to John Snelling in his 'Buddhist Handbook` (Files footnote 21). By falsely accusing the author of having lied about this, the Response's authors provide themselves with a starting point for launching into an extremely vitriolic attack on the person of the Files author as well as his motives and credibility. But it is clear from the Files itself that the author never makes such an assertion. Surely such deception raises questions about the Response's authors motivation and credibility.
One of the most common responses noted to the section concerning Ambedkar and the Untouchables has been one of disbelief: "I can't believe he was not there, I was sure that he was". Those who made such comments can be forgiven for assuming this; the FWBO have made much of Sangharakshita's encounter with Ambedkar and his involvement in those conversions which became commonplace subsequent to his death. The Order continue to perpetuate this illusion by building up their standing amongst Untouchables in India right down to the present day, engaging in charity work which has considerably enhanced their reputation, both in India and abroad.
This has led to some assuming that Sangharakshita was actually at Nagpur for the famous mass conversion, thus rendering him, in their eyes, "a significant figure in an important Indian historic and religious event" [Response p8]. The Response's claim however that it "is for history to determine" whether this was actually the case or not is quite incorrect; the Response itself makes it quite clear that he was not.
Genuine Ambedkarite Buddhists in India are outraged by all of the above for, in drawing funds to themselves, the FWBO's Karuna Trust are actually cutting the charitable lifeline to Ambedkar's true devotees, whose motives for wishing to engage in charitable work are nothing more than the desire to benefit 'Untouchables`. The FWBO on the other hand, stand to profit considerably from their activities, for in ingratiating themselves with 'Untouchables` they gradually create the image of themselves as a genuine, altruistic Buddhist movement with strong Indian links.
b) Sangharakshita's involvement with British Buddhism in the 1960s
Wear the yellow robe
But if you are reckless
You will fall into darkness
In commenting on the 'rumours` of sexual impropriety surrounding Sangharakshita's dismissal from his post as incumbent at the Hampstead Buddhist Vihara, the Response tells us:
[p8]"The trustees of the EST subsequently attempted to stem the rumours when the situation had become riven with gossip."
This is accompanied by the
"The Ven. Sangharakshita - A Statement. The Directors of the English Sangha Trust Ltd. wish it to be known that in deciding to replace the Ven. Sthavira Sangharakshita in the office of Chief Incumbent at the Hampstead Buddhist Vihara they are not making any charge of impropriety or misconduct against him. The Directors hope that whatever may have been said to the detriment of his character in the course of recent speculation and gossip may now be withdrawn and that all concerned may turn their energies to the study and practice of the Dharma.' The Buddhist, February 1967."
Here we have another tactic the Order employ elsewhere in the document; quotation from persons or bodies which appear to confirm that Sangharakshita was never guilty of any wrongdoing, whereas in fact they represent honourable attempts to clean up the mess Sangharakshita left behind him and at the same time protect the reputation of Buddhism in the West. In a sense, they are attempts to get the 'cat back into the bag` after more and more people began to ask questions about the real reasons behind Sangharakshita's expulsion from the Hampstead Buddhist Vihara. Although they appear to be written to protect the reputation of the FWBO's leader, these letters were actually written to protect the reputation of something far more important; that of the Dharma itself, something which Sangharakshita himself clearly had no regard for.
After misusing the above letter to establish Sangharakshita's innocence of all charges of sexual impropriety, the footnote then quotes from a letter posted on an Internet newsgroup. It states:
 "In November 1997 Lance Cousins, an academic and seasoned observer of these issues commented: 'I heard various claims that S[angharakshita] was asked to leave India in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I have never believed them, since they surfaced after feelings had become both public and very bitter."
The remaining UNQUOTED part of Lance Cousins' posting (to newsgroups alt.religion.buddhism.tibetan, and uk.religion.buddhist, 13 Nov. 1997) continues:
"Some years earlier I myself saw written allegations of sexual activities on the part of Sangharakshita in India. This was before Sangharakshita arrived in England. All the allegations at that time concerned sexual activity in a ritual context. I have always assumed that he became involved with a Tibetan tantric group practising sexual and homosexual initiations. I had already formed that understanding before Mark Dunlop's involvement in Buddhism. The impression I get is that this had deteriorated into a series of 'affairs` by some time in the 1970s"
Readers will recall the Response branding the Files author a liar whose work was 'highly misleading`, it being based on 'selective quotation`.
Cousins' attribution of Sangharakshita's homosexual activities in India to his involvement in a Tibetan tantric group is based on a scant knowledge of Tibetan Buddhism (as he himself would be the first to admit); no tantric doctrine incorporates homosexual activity. In 1993, in the Priceless Jewel (Windhorse 1993), Sangharakshita describes the fact that the tantras contain no such doctrine as 'limiting`. Mark Dunlop's explanation of how he was seduced by Sangharakshita using the 'daka` argument (See Files, p 20 'The proper foundation for the spiritual life - the homosexual relationship`) indicates that this did not prevent him from 'experimenting`.
The Hampstead Buddhist Vihara
In refering to the accusation that Sangharakshita was expelled from India for the seduction of a young boy, the Response states:
[p8] "The Files cites 'three independent sources' (p.11) for this accusation. Two of them are identified only by initials; the other quote is twenty years old. These accounts are anonymous hearsay, and in the absence of more substantial evidence must be regarded as rumours."
The use of initials in the Files is to protect the individuals concerned; it does not invalidate the quotes or render them untrue. Be that as it may, after some detective work, Kulananda did actually manage to identify 'FW`. The following is taken from a letter from FW, dated 25 May 1998, received by the Files' author soon after the release of the Files:
Someone called Kulanada telephoned me to say that there is a document circulating which refers to a conversation I am supposed to have had with Christmas Humphreys about Kulanada's teacher Sangharakshita. He asked if he could talk to me about it, for instance, if the reference was true. I said "It is true". He sounded surprised. And that was about the end of the conversation."
FW subsequently confirmed, both in taped conversation and in writing that she would be willing to swear to this in the presence of an attorney. In portraying the testimony of FW as "anonymous hearsay", Kulananda, co-author of the Response, is therefore deliberately lying. He knew, after all, when he was writing the Response, exactly where this information came from.
JD, the second source, knew Sangharakshita and lived in Kalimpong at the time of his expulsion. If Kulananda wishes to confirm that, as the Files states "it was common knowledge there at the time of his expulsion that Sangharakshita had gone for the above reasons" (ie for the seduction of an underage boy), he need only consult Sangharakshita as to who JD might be and then contact him.
The fact that Chime Rigdzin Rinpoche of the Tibetan Nyingma tradition ( with which Sangharakshita feels such a 'close spiritual connection`) told the same story twenty years ago, obviously in no way renders it invalid.
Bhikkhu Khantipalo, one of Sangharakshita's English colleagues in India, is also cited, allegedly having said that Sangharakshita's behaviour in India was 'off the rails for a celibate monk', and that they parted because he 'found the homosexual evidence a bit hard to fit in with my idea of being a bhikkhu.' (Files p.11). In 1997 however, and in response to his mention in the Files, Khantipalo (now Lawrence Khantipalo) wished to set the story straight:
[p8] 'I regarded Sangharakshita as one of my Teachers and I was grateful to him for the insights I had gained from living with him in Kalimpong, Poona and Bombay. I have no evidence that Sangharakshita ever was involved in any homosexual relationship. There were, of course, a number of young men at the Vihara, visiting and occasionally staying but I saw no evidence of any sexual relations.'
The letter continues in
the footnotes [n62]:
'Before I went to Triyana Vardhana Vihara I had the misfortune to listen to a person in robes who told me stories - likely, I think, to be his own fantasies - about Sangharakshita's sexual predilections. Perhaps my youth and inexperience may excuse (not to speak of a fairly strong prudishness) my listening to this... Although I may have written to Mark Dunlop a letter in March '91 - quite possibly I did - the sentence [i.e. Mark's quoting of Khantipalo's alleged words], "But I found the homosexual evidence..." sounds phony. What evidence? Did I have evidence then that I do not now? I presume he is able to produce that letter. If indeed I did write such a sentence, though it seems unlikely, I should make it plain that I retract that remark entirely.'
Which is a bit like Billy Bunter saying 'No I didn't eat your beastly cake, and anyway it was horrible`. Of course Mark Dunlop is able to produce the letter, indeed the present author has seen all of the extensive supporting evidence for the Files allegations.
In the course of this particular piece of evidence, his letter of 28 March 1991 to Mark Dunlop, Khantipalo does in fact make all of those statements which he now subsequently denies. Khantipalo's statement to the FWBO does not therefore mean simply that his 'evidence for the prosecution` is no longer valid. More than this, it means that he is no longer a valid 'witness` for either the 'defence` or the 'prosecution`. Would any court of law in the land base its judgements on the word of a man whose word changes with the direction of the wind? We can therefore ignore the Response's reference to his clearly requested testimony.
Those genuinely interested in discovering the true reason for Sangharakshita's expulsion from India, particularly journalists with a will to travel, might take as their starting point his 'The Rainbow Road` and in particular the references to his relationship with Mr Sachin Kumar Singh, which, from his writings, seems more reminiscent of that between Wilde and Bosie than one between a teacher and student. Mr Singh may well be able to shed light on the truth behind the Files' disturbing allegation.
[p8] "The Files suggests that the threat of scandal was the real background to Sangharakshita's invitation to return to the UK. As with any conspiracy theory, this is impossible to disprove, but the Files account is highly improbable."
Here, at last, is the "conspiracy theory" tactic. Note how it was never determined that there is a conspiracy. Rather the Response nonchalantly inserts the notion, as if its existence were already an established fact. Note also that the Response admits that it is impossible for them to disprove the allegations, although they wrongfully attribute their inability to do so to the Files allegations as being part of a 'conspiracy`. The real reason the FWBO have been unable to disprove any of the allegations in the Files is because they have their basis in fact.
[p8] "The strongest argument against it is the inherent implausibility of an English High Court judge (Humphreys) and a senior Indian official colluding in covering up a criminal act..."
This is one of the weakest and most ridiculous arguments in the whole of the FWBO's Response. Let us first examine the assertion that it is implausible that a High Court judge might collude in the cover up of a criminal act.
Readers will no doubt recall the quashing in July 1998 at the Court of Appeal of the conviction of Derek Bentley for the murder of PC Sidney Miles in November 1952. This was the famous 'Let him have it, Chris` case where the man who actually pulled the trigger, Christopher Craig, ultimately walked free and the 19 year old boy, Derek Bentley, who had instructed his friend to hand over the weapon, went to the gallows. The case is generally recognized as one of the greatest miscarriages of British justice to have occured in recent times.
When the judgement against Bentley was finally reversed, the present Lord Chief Justice, Lord Bingham, laid much of the blame at the door of the then Chief Justice, Lord Goddard, and in particular on his thoroughly damning and biased summing-up. However, Goddard's conviction that Bentley was a guilty man who deserved to hang was based on the evidence as it had been presented to him by the prosecuting counsel. Not only had counsel presented a convincing argument for the prosecution, but he also withheld evidence that should have led to the freeing of Bentley on the grounds of diminished responsibility. Bentley, although physically 19 years old, had the mental age of an 11 year old. The prosecuting counsel had evidence of this but, realising that the case would likely be lost if it were to fall into the hands of the defence, kept it under wraps. The prosecuting counsel was Christmas Humphreys.
To describe the idea that someone such as Humphreys could collude in the cover up of a criminal act as 'inherently implausible`, as the Response does, is therefore an assertion worthy of the highest ridicule. Far from it, the fact of the matter is that Humphreys didn't just collude in the cover up of a criminal act, he colluded in the perpetration of one: the judicial murder of an innocent man. As the Files stated, Humphreys was also the man who sent Ruth Ellis, the last woman to hang in Britain and someone it is now clear should never have been executed on the grounds of diminished responsibility, to the gallows.
As to the assertion that an Indian politician would not collude in a criminal act, one wonders whether those who wrote the Response are actually living on planet Earth, it being common knowledge throughout the world that in India, the words 'politics` and 'corruption` are frequently synonymous.
[p8] "and [the inherent implausibility] of Humphreys risking his reputation and the harmony of British Buddhism through a possible repetition in the UK."
According to 'The Western Buddhist` (Winter 1967 p17), after his expulsion by the EST:
"Ven. Sangharakshita got in touch with friends who had supported his work at the Vihara, including Mr Christmas Humphreys, President of the Buddhist Society....Mr Humphreys, however, backed the Trust in their summary dismissal, and declined to assist."
It is patently obvious from this that Humphreys DID decide to risk his reputation, doubtless on the basis of another of Sangharakshita's 'promises` that he would behave himself and that there would be no repeat of his outrageous behaviour in India. Humphreys' unwillingness to support Sangharakshita in yet another of his darkest hours indicates that he was obviously furious at having his trust betrayed and, having given him his 'last chance` only to have it thrown back in his face, decided to have no more to do with him. It was years before Humphreys would speak to Sangharakshita again.
Thus the Response's assertion that the Files account of the reasons surrounding Sangharakshita's expulsion from India:
[p8] "does not square with the high regard in which Humphreys publicly held both Sangharakshita and the FWBO, as is recorded in his autobiography where he gives both his 'full support.' Indeed, Sangharakshita and Humphreys were in regular contact from the early fifties right up until Humphreys' death." is a complete nonsense; even the note accompanying this [n63] tells us:
"..it is true that for a period after his departure from Hampstead there were difficulties between Sangharakshita and Humphreys..",
thus directly contradicting this statement.
We can pass over the following paragraph's offer of:
[p8] " A more straightforward explanation of the EST's invitation to Sangharakshita..."
since we are here interested in discerning the truth, rather than the easiest way out of a contentious issue.
[p9] "Sangharakshita's incumbency at the Hampstead Vihara was to end abruptly in November 1966 whilst he was in India when he received a letter from the English Sangha Trusts's trustees. The Files ascribes the trustees' decision to fear of sexual scandal."
The Files does not ascribe Sangharakshita's expulsion to the trustees "fear of sexual scandal". The Files states that the reasons for Sangharakshita's expulsion were:
a) he began bringing what Maurice Walshe described as "a string of young men of ill repute" (ie 'rent boys` and not 'hippies` as Response footnote 70 claims) back to the Vihara, and,
b) Khantipalo wrote to the EST withdrawing his support for Sangharakshita's appointment, a support which had swayed Maurice Walshe into giving Sangharakshita the benefit of the doubt and appointing him incumbent in the first place, despite increasing numbers of rumours trickling back from India to him about Sangharakshita's sexual exploits. No doubt Khantipalo will now write another letter claiming he never wrote such a letter, or that perhaps he did, but anyway, even if he did, he now withdraws any of the offending remarks (or not, as the case may be).
Thus, it was not "fear of sexual scandal" which prompted Sangharakshita's dismissal by the EST. Rather it was fear of the sexual scandal Sangharakshita was perpetrating there while claiming to be a bhikkhu becoming public knowledge that worried the EST, since this would blacken the name of the whole of Buddhism in Britain. This, as was pointed out previously, was the real reason the EST subsequently issued a statement that Sangharakshita was not guilty of any wrongdoing.
[p9] "While such fears may indeed have prompted the trustees' action, at the same time records of the period also point to fundamental differences in the approach to Buddhism of the parties concerned."
In other words, even if he was bringing back rent boys to the Vihara, there were much more important issues of approach at stake. One would have thought that the Chief Incumbent bhikkhu bringing men to the vihara for sex would have been enough to merit Sangharakshita's dismissal, even if the EST and he had agreed on issues of zeitgeist.
[p9] "The socially conventional and doctrinally sectarian members of the English Sangha Trust, in particular Maurice Walshe,"
Read "Maurice Walshe and his cronies, the narrow minded and 'straight` old fuddy duddy, sectarian fundamentalist members of the English Sangha Trust "
[p9] "interpreted Sangharakshita as dangerously innovative"
"...dangerously innovative."? This is nothing more than 'sound byte` politics. The use of this term is an attempt to cast Sangharakshita as a hero of non-conformity, radical in his approach, even in the face of the "socially conventional, doctrinally sectarian" EST members. Readers will note that Charles Manson, another character who gained fame in the 60s, was also a 'radical non-conformist` who did not allow himself to be restricted by the 'social conventions` of American society (i.e. the laws of their criminal justice system). No, the real reason the EST dismissed Sangharakshita was not because they interpreted him as "dangerously innovative"; they simply interpreted him as plain old 'dangerous`.
[p9] "emphasising as he did the unity of all Buddhist schools and teaching a socially-engaged, non-denominational approach to the Dharma. As Stephen Batchelor writes:...."
The juxtaposition of a reference to Stephen Batchelor's work and the assertion that Sangharakshita teaches a 'socially engaged` form of Buddhism is an attempt to appeal to and establish a common cause with contemporary Buddhists of a similar predilection. However there are important distinctions between Sangharakshitan 'Buddhism` and that of those who advocate a socially engaged approach to their faith. Whereas the latter are pro-feminist for example, Sangharakshita has stated:
"The feminist reading of history as the story of Woman's opression by Man belongs not to history but to mythology"
(Incidentally, yet another quotation contained in the Files which the Response does not address)
Thus the above excerpt from the Response can be seen as much as an effort to accumulate allies by falsely claiming a common cause as it is an attempt at self-justification.
The decision to include as a footnote that which accompanies the quote from Batchelor, is a thoroughly astounding one and represents one of the biggest mistakes the authors of the Response make throughout the whole of their work for, in attempting to demonstrate the narrow mindednes of the EST, they unwittingly provide us with a list of at least some of the reasons why Sangharakshita was expelled from the vihara. It reads [n66]:
"In his January 1968 editorial Walshe adds, 'There are far too many spurious "Buddhists" about, whose self-invented teachings at best spread confusion and at worst, when combined with drug-taking and other practices, lead to moral degradation and personal tragedy. It is not only the right but the duty of true Buddhists to proclaim the genuine teaching and denounce imposters and spiritual demagogues... This as we have frequently repeated lately is a Theravada Vihara. There are respectable and responsible Oriental representatives of other Buddhist schools in Britain and of these we make no criticism: indeed we hold them in the highest esteem. But such tolerance implies no indiscriminate permissiveness, as some in 'robes' or otherwise, having misread the signs, have found to their cost."
Who was Walshe referring to when speaking of 'spurious Buddhists`, 'imposters` and 'spiritual demagogues`, of 'persons in 'robes` or otherwise`, other than the venerable Maha sthavira himself. Who else at the time was involved in preaching 'self-invented teachings`, 'combined with drug taking and other practices [?], which led 'to moral degradation and personal tragedy`? Since the editorial was written so soon after Sangharakshita's expulsion, it does not take the most brilliant of intellects to figure out to whom Maurice Walshe was referring.
[p9] "At Hampstead Sangharakshita was outspoken in his criticisms of the formalism, or else lack of spiritual seriousness [!], he saw in those around him... Sangharakshita had always regarded himself as first and foremost a Buddhist - formal monasticism was a secondary matter."
[p9] "While continuing strictly to observe the major rules of the monastic code,..."
In other words, disregarding all the 'minor` rules or 'sanghadisesas` such as 'not intentionally emitting semen`(1st sanghadisesa), 'not promoting schisms in the Sangha (10th sanghadisesa, as well as one of the five 'most heinous crimes` in Buddhism), 'not denying wrongdoings` (12th sanghadisesa), not causing others to lose faith through immoral behaviour (13th sanghadisesa).
[p9] "...he was not willing to fall in with others' ideas of the rigidly prescribed role to which they felt he, as a bhikkhu, should conform. He was not the narrowly conventional bhikkhu they wanted."
Meaning, what the 'narrowly conventional` EST wanted was a Theravadin bhikkhu who behaved like one and kept his vows. What they got was a bhikkhu "other than in the technical Vinaya sense", as Sangharakshita so frequently and euphemistically puts it (see Files p 31 - 'Whats in a Name?) who had little, if any, regard for the values which he supposedly represented.
An accompanying footnote
[n69] "The Files alleges: 'On occasions Sangharakshita would dress in lay clothes and travel to Covent Garden Opera with his companions.` In fact Sangharakshita went to the Opera once, with a woman friend, whilst wearing his robes."
Well, as long as he was only out publicly demonstrating his contempt for orthodoxy by breaking a number of vows of the tradition which, at that time, he was the seniormost representative of in the UK, that's alright then.
[p9] "While being consistent with the traditions of the Mahayana, and with the more broad-minded elements within the Theravada, Sangharakshita's approach did not live up to the expectations of the EST trustees."
Unfortunately, Sangharakshita's behaviour is as inconsistent with many of the schools of the Mahayana as it is with that of the Theravadin tradition, their monks relying as they do, on an almost identical set of disciplinary codes. As to the "more broad-minded elements within the Theravada", this must refer to Theravadins who felt it unnecessary to maintain moral discipline. Since such adherence represents the foundation of all realisation in the Theravada, as well as in all of the Buddhist traditions in general, it is difficult to discern exactly whom these "more broad-minded elements" might be.
[p9] "The Hampstead Vihara's activities were developing around Sangharakshita in a way the trustees did not like and could not control."
True (!), the trustees did not like the fact that someone in their midst was posing as a bhikkhu while having sex and taking drugs, all in the name of the precious Theravada Dhamma, nor that they were beginning to lose control of the situation. This seems quite reasonable.
[p9] "A further issue concerned the dispute about vipassana meditation which was the background to Sangharakshita's initial invitation.......But in England he met a number of people suffering mental difficulties apparently as a consequence of engaging in the particular form of vipassana meditation practice they had been taught at the Vihara, and he visited several in mental hospital."
Sangharakshita's diagnosis is remarkably similar to one offered by the eminent consultant psychiatrist Dr.E.T (MA MB B Ch(Camb) MRCPsych), a person who has devoted decades to treating numerous cult victims. A letter to the author of the Files, dated August 1998, states:
"I write to confirm that we discussed the case histories of four people who had experienced unfortunate results from having been recruited by the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order. On the basis of the symptomology which was extremely similar I suggested they were suffering from serious adjustment disorders.
As a result of their indoctrination, their states would in my opinion warrant the definition 'ego dystonic sexual orientation` [F66.1, ICD 10] in that, being heterosexual, they were persuaded to participate in homosexual activities which they found distasteful, and as a result suffered identity crises; in two cases this sadly led to violent suicides."
Add to this the approximately thirty men who were psychologically damaged at the FWBO's Croydon centre in the 1980s, where Sangharakshita's experimental ideology was so rigourously implemented as to reach its logical conclusion, and one begins to get a picture of how far Sangharakshita's 'Buddhism` actually succeeds in freeing beings from suffering.
This diagnosis is a significant one for it shows that the 'Dharma` Sangharakshita has invented results in a specific mental condition when inflicted on individuals. Surely the fact that the outcome of this can be suicide indicates that the FWBO need to take a long and serious look at what they are teaching to vulnerable young men in the name of Buddhism - if they do not then it can only be a matter of time before they have more blood on their hands.
[p9] "The Files' allegation that Sangharakshita was sexually active at this time, and that 'as his fame increased, so did his sexual exploits', is entirely unsubstantiated. Nor does it name any individuals allegedly concerned. Sangharakshita has always strongly denied this rumour; no evidence for it has ever been produced and the Files merely repeats gossip."
Again this is incorrect. The Files names Terry Delamare (p.12) and, as is made quite clear, the allegation was substantiated by SW (a founder member of the FWBO, who soon broke away), who knew both Sangharakshita and Delamare well. SW has since confirmed that, despite Sangharakshita's claims to the contrary, Delamare took it as accepted fact that people knew the relationship between he and Sangharakshita was a sexual one, indeed this was even more obvious from the way that Sangharakshita talked about it than Delamare (taped interviews - 26/9/98 & 8/10/98). She furthermore stated that, when other people became involved, this became even clearer.
In its footnote the Response then accuses the Files' author of inventing stories of further allegations appearing on an Internet newsgroup after the publication of the Guardian article concerning Sangharakshita's sexual activities.
On 29 0ctober 1997, (two days after the Guardian article appeared) Mary Finnigan, the well known journalist and co-ordinator of the Bristol and Bath Buddhist Coalition, of which the Order is a member, posted the following statement:
"In the late 1960s I heard
directly from more than one male friend making an approach as a prospective
student that Sangharakshita had attempted to seduce him."
Those with access to the Internet should be able to confirm this by running a search using the name 'Finnigan` on Deja-News.
The Response's subsequent reference to a statement from Maurice Walshe is yet another instance of the FWBO misusing statements issued to save the face of Buddhism, so as to save the face of their disgraced leader.
A letter which clarifies Walshe's reasons for his public statements was quoted in the Winter 1967 edition of 'The Western Buddhist` and states [p17]:
"Mr Walshe, was in favour of 'keeping the matter in the dark`...and of 'putting out the impression that the Sthavira had decided of his own to remain in the East.`"
Clearly Walshe was desperate to maintain the good reputation of Buddhism in its new home and was forced by circumstance to state that Sangharakshita's behaviour was not in question. It is obvious from the above that his public statements were actually designed to hide sinister goings on which might have serious repercussions for the future of Buddhism in the West.
Sangharakshita's departure from Hampstead
[p9] "In September 1966, after deciding with the concurrence of the EST trustees to settle in England permanently, Sangharakshita returned to India to set his affairs in order."
This is based on Sangharakshita's own account of events.The footnote denies that his leaving was a capitulation to avoid public scandal. Its evidence for this is that:
a) Sangharakshita quickly returned to the UK
b) Vehement opposition to his dismissal was expressed by some members of the newly founded English Sangha Association executive committee.
Sangharakshita would clearly want to return to the UK as quickly as possible. He was beginning to build up a following and, whats more, these followers felt it perfectly acceptable for him to take drugs and have sex while at the same time claiming to be a Buddhist monk. England, for Sangharakshita, must have seemed, not only like 'the land of milk and honey`, but also the land where you could 'have your cake and eat it too`.
Those ESA members who expressed their disapproval of the EST's decision to dismiss Sangharakshita (some of whom, according to Walshe, subsequently apologized for their actions) were of two types: those who knew nothing of the real reasons behind Sangharakshita's dismissal, and those who did know, but did not feel it necessary to dismiss him; all were European. Presumably these were the "more broad minded elements within the Theravada" the Response referred to earlier. One wonders whether the Thai clerical establishment would have thought that such conduct would constitute proper grounds for dismissal or if they too would have broadened their minds to accomodate Sangharakshita's sex and drug taking.
The footnote then attempts to undermine the plausibility of the Files assertion that Sangharakshita was thrown out of India for seducing an underage boy, by claiming that if he had been thrown out he would have been persona non grata in the eyes of the Indian authorities, subsequent frequent visits to India proving that this was clearly not the case.
However, as the Files makes clear, Sangharakshita's expulsion was agreed upon on the basis of secret negotiations between a senior Indian official and Christmas Humphreys so as to avoid a scandal that would blacken the name of both Buddhism and Britain in Indian eyes irretrievably. The Indian authorities remained unaware of this precisely because of the fact that these negotiations were kept totally secret and it was for this reason that Sangharakshita was still able to visit India despite his previous actions.
[p9] "In the course of this visit he received a letter from the EST telling him that they would be 'seeking elsewhere for an incumbent.' If he returned to England, the trustees 'would withdraw their support' from him. In effect, he had been dismissed. Up to this point relations between Sangharakshita and the trustees had always been cordial...the letter came as a complete surprise."
It is quite obvious from all of the above that the relationship had not "always been cordial", nor would the letter have come as a "complete surprise".
[p9] "No charges were made directly to Sangharakshita, and the Files' citation of the letter's reference to 'grave indiscretion and conduct wholly unbecoming in a bhikkhu' (p.11) is a fabrication. The letter simply informs Sangharakshita that 'you have failed to comport yourself in a manner fitting to the religious office that you hold in the Order', without specifying in what way he had failed. Neither then nor later was Sangharakshita presented with any specific charges..."
Maurice Walshe, Chair of the English Sangha Trust at the time, stated that Sangharakshita was informed by letter of his being dismissed for "grave indiscretion and conduct wholly unbecoming in a bhikkhu". If this was a fabrication by Walshe, then why does The Western Buddhist (Winter 1967) tell us the letter made reference to "unbecoming conduct". Not surprisingly, when the Response quotes from this document [Response note 77], the relevant sentence mysteriously disappears, as does the statement that Humphreys fully supported the expulsion. The reason given for the abbreviation of the relevant piece is that the "account is too long to quote in full".
Furthermore, what is the difference between being expelled for "grave indiscretion and conduct wholly unbecoming in a bhikkhu" and being expelled because "your 'extra mural` activities ...do not conform to the high standards of self discipline and ethics of the Theravada and... you have failed to comport yourself in a manner fitting to the religious office that you hold within the Order"? (The full reason given in the EST letter quoted at Response note 76). Answer - none! This is the same charge! Finally it is obvious why the EST had no need of providing Sangharakshita with any specific charges; he already knew exactly why he was 'leaving`.
[p10] "Sangharakshita has never said that 'he left the EST because they had strayed from the true Buddhist path' (Files p.12). He has always said that he left because the trustees expelled him".
The History of My Going for Refuge, page 76, tells us that, after two years with the EST:
"I eventually concluded that...the existing British Buddhist movement had already strayed from the right path..and that a new Buddhist movement was badly needed."
Sangharakshita did not then, leave the EST because he felt he knew better than they what constituted proper Buddhism; rather he left because he humbly felt he knew better than the whole of the existing British Buddhist movement! In all of the above mentioned work Sangharakshita makes no reference to his expulsion. Rather he paints a picture of himself as the true guardian of Buddhism whose 'leaving` was brought about by the fact that "the existing Buddhist movement had...strayed from the right path." And so, to ensure the purity of the West's new found jewel, which had already, even at this early stage, been polluted by 'narrow minded fundamentalists`, he "founded the Western Buddhist Order which...came into existence on Sunday 7 April 1968..."(page 83)
[p10] "Perhaps reflecting the acrimony of this period, the Files now makes the extremely serious charge that Sangharakshita was, in effect, responsible for two suicides. First:
'a young man, whom Sangharakshita had apparently been counseling through a drug problem, and with whom he had struck up a 'friendship', disappeared from the Vihara and was found dead in the Thames on the 1st of January 1967.'(p.12)
This story is a complete fabrication - and a highly implausible one at that. Attentive readers will observe that Sangharakshita was in India on this date; he himself has no idea what this story refers to."
Maurice Walshe initially conveyed this story to the author; unfortunately, at the age of 85, he found it difficult to remember the boy's name. RW, another figure on the British Buddhist scene at the time, also remembered the suicide and recalled the name 'Richard` although he could remember no more than that, he too being rather advanced in years. He did however advise that the author contact Owen Jenkins, who "would certainly remember the case because he had to identify the body recovered from the Thames." (letter to author 20/9/98). The Response's authors, indeed anyone concerned, should feel free to contact Mr Jenkins for confirmation.
The fact that Sangharakshita was in India at the time of the suicide does not render the allegation invalid. Sangharakshita, for example, did not have to be present at Archway station when Terry Delamare threw himself under a train, despite having contributed to the state of mind which led to his decision. Similarly Stephen Barnham, Sangharakshita's protege, was not at the Avon Gorge when Matt Evans threw himself into it in March 1990, despite having perpetrated the abuse which led to him taking his own life. Suicide, by nature, is something which one can create the causes for, without having to be 'in at the kill`. Nevertheless, both Sangharakshita and Barnham have blood on their hands.
[p10] "Then the Files makes a similar charge (p.12) concerning Sangharakshita's friend Terry Delamare. Sangharakshita and Terry were close friends; they shared a flat and Terry accompanied Sangharakshita on his trip to India, but this was not a sexual relationship. The assertion that Delamare killed himself because he realised that he had been duped into a homosexual relationship is entirely without foundation."
The two footnotes which
accompany this section state:
[n81] "Dharmachari Kuladeva is alleged to have said that Sangharakshita had 'more than just a friendship' with Delamare. Kuladeva says that he knows nothing of Sangharakshita's relationship with Terry Delamare and that he has never spoken to anyone in those terms. He asked us on his behalf to deny vigorously these claims."
[n82] "The Files says that Sangharakshita gave an implausible explanation for Delamare's death: that it resulted from guilt around his father's profession as a butcher. No source is cited for this - Sangharakshita has never said anything of the sort."
Readers will note that the Response offers no evidence that the relationship between the two men was not sexual, it simply states: "...this was not a sexual relationship."
As will be recalled SW, one of the founder members of the FWBO, confirmed that the relationship was a sexual one. This is now also confirmed by RW, another early presence on the British Buddhist scene who, having pieced together the accounts of others, particularly MR (another founder member of the FWBO who has since broken away), who stated:
Delamare, who "...felt trapped by the ongoing relationship with Sangharakshita, couldn't see a viable way out and ended it all in 1969."
Thus, whereas the Response's statements that the association between the two men was "not a sexual relationship" and "The assertion that Delamare killed himself because he realised that he had been duped into a homosexual relationship is entirely without foundation" rely upon nothing more than denial to substantiate their validity,The Files allegations are now supported by three independent sources, all of whom knew both men, and two of whom were founding members of the FWBO.
Kuladeva's denial of ever having stated that the relationship between the two men was 'more than just a friendship` is somewhat similar to the denial by Ian Gadsby, 'Stiracitta` made in 1982, after having told a participant in a yoga retreat that: "You have to remember, Sangharakshita is into little boys." When, three months later and over several glasses of wine, the prospective Order member who was recipient to this information let this slip, all hell broke loose. Both Gadsby and the unfortunate person mentioned were immediately 'carpeted` and asked to explain themselves. Gadsby denied ever having made such a statement, whereas the prospective Order member confirmed he had. This person was subsequently forcibly ostracized and within weeks was ex of the FWBO.
If the Response's authors doubt that Kuladeva commented on the nature of the relationship between the two men, perhaps they could ask him how the Files author knows that the thangka supposedly commissioned by Jamyang Khyentse is said to feature this eminent lama in the form of Manjushri (again, highly improbable as no lama would be so arrogant as to commision a painting of himself in the form of a Buddha, even if he was one!), or that it was Order members Lokamitra and Suvajra who were unable to retrieve the said painting from Sangharakshita's friend Dr. Mehta at the Society of Servants of God in Bombay? Finally, how does the author know that Kuladeva is moving away from the Order and becoming more and more involved with the eminent lama, Namkhai Norbu? All of these facts were imparted during a telephone conversation which took place on 24 June 1997, a conversation which Kuladeva claims never took place.
The source of the claim that Sangharakshita told others that Delamare killed himself because of guilt around his father's profession as a butcher is Mark Dunlop, another young man who was duped into an abusive homosexual relationship with Sangharakshita under the auspices of it being a spiritual one. Within the body of the Reponse Sangharakshita admits to having had a sexual relationship with Dunlop, while at the same time wearing robes and allowing others to address him as 'the venerable Maha sthavira`.
The 'Real' Western Buddhist Order
[p10] "The Files' accusation that Sangharakshita is not the true founder of the Western Buddhist Order arises from a confusion of names..."
The two names confused being 'The Western Buddhist Order`(WBO) and, er, 'The Western Buddhist Order`(WBO).
[p10] "and an ignorance of history. It is true that a Western Buddhist Order was indeed founded by Robert Clifton in 1952 and that Clifton ordained Jack Austin and others.....By the 1960s this WBO was effectively defunct."
No, it is true that THE and not "a" WBO was founded by Clifton in 1952. Sangharakshita, albeit reluctantly, as note 83 of the Response points out, was a member. The representatives of this Order published a periodical, 'The Western Buddhist`. It was this periodical which in the winter of 1967, announced the birth of a new daughter organisation, the Friends of the Western Sangha, with Sangharakshita as President and the WBO's UK representative, Jack Austin as vice-President. The FWS used the WBO's premises for its meetings and its Statement of aims was distributed by the WBO. 'The Western Buddhist` continued to appear until 1989; references to the actual WBO as an ongoing activity appear until at least the spring of 1969. Assertions that the original WBO was 'effectively defunct` by the 1960s are therefore obviously nonsense.
[p10] "Nonetheless, to avoid confusion with this previous body, the name of the new organisation Sangharakshita established on 4th April 1967 was the Friends of the Western Sangha (FWS)...because the new organization was so clearly different from what had gone before, and because the original WBO was no longer effectively operating, the name was changed..."
The Response does not mention the relationship between Austin's WBO and the newly founded FWS, nor does it mention that Austin was it's vice President. Why?
We have already demonstrated that the assertion that the real WBO was no longer operating is nonsense. Let us now examine the claim that "the new organisation was so clearly different from what had gone before".
Sangharakshita's Facing Mount Kanchenjunga (p366ff) in speaking of the real WBO and its founder, tells us:
1) "One of the press cuttings showed Clifton touching an ordinee on the head with what was only too obviously a bread knife ....this part of the proceedings represented a 'symbolical` head shaving, the head shaving being symbolical because no one was in a position actually to shave their head and give up the world"
Sangharakshita's WBO 'ordination` ceremony was invented in 1968.
2) "Not only was his (Clifton's) knowledge of the Dharma extremely superficial...he seemed to think of Buddhism in almost exclusively organisational terms."
3) "...he was brashly self confident and by no means above making claims which were, it subsequently transpired, completely without foundation."
4) "A photograph that Jack sent me showed a man in his middle forties wearing a magenta coloured robe over a lounge suit...What position in the Buddhist hierarchy (?) the magenta robe signified I did not know"
Readers are referred to the publicity for yet another set of Sangharakshita's memoirs, 'The Rainbow Road`, as well as to photographs in numerous other FWBO publications, showing Sangharakshita in various permutations of lay/monastic dress with shoulder length hair, often wearing the magenta robe of a Tibetan monk, a monastic tradition into which, like all other monastic traditions, Sangharakshita was not ordained.
5) "I assumed that the ordinations he had handed out so freely in London in fact were, as they purported to be, regular Zen ordinations and that he was fully qualified to confer such ordinations. This proved not to be the case. Clifton's position in the (Zen) Buddhist hierarchy was ambiguous, and the Supreme Patriarch of Soto Zen had certainly not authorized him to confer ordinations in the Western world....His ordinations were therefore no ordinations at all; they were null and void, at least in the technical sense."
Sangharakshita's 'ordinations` are not 'regular`. No one has authorized either his invention or giving of these. Thus they are also 'no ordinations at all` and are 'null and void, at least in the technical sense`.
6) "It was obvious to me that there existed among the newly ordained English Buddhists a good deal of confusion as to what 'ordination` actually meant and that this confusion extended to the Founder Superior himself."
7) "For most of them ordination meant becoming a priest...while still carrying on with one's secular occupation and one's family life. It meant achieving a higher religious status without actually having to renounce the world in the way that a monk did."
8) "Confusion about the meaning of ordination inevitably led to confusion about the meaning and function of the Order....For this confusion the rank-and-file members of the Order were not altogether to blame. Perhaps Clifton himself was not altogether to blame, except insofar as the confusion was due to his own misrepresentations and false claims."
Note 84 of the Response claims that "the resemblance between the two organizations is entirely superficial." In light of the above, the author of the present document invites readers to make up their own minds on this issue. However, considering the above, it would clearly have been quite fitting for the 'new` WBO to adopt the original WBO name, if indeed the distinction between 'old` and 'new` had ever existed.
[p10] "As Andrew Rawlinson, perhaps the leading scholar of the development of Eastern traditions in the West, says the new organisation had 'exactly the same name as Clifton's organisation, but there was no formal link between them.'"
Readers will note that, within the space of only a few pages, Andrew Rawlinson has been promoted from 'academic commentator` to 'the leading scholar of the development of Eastern traditions in the West`. Such a rapid, indeed meteoric, rise to academic fame is unprecedented and one wonders what dizzy heights Rawlinson will have reached by the end of the Response, particularly in light of the obvious lack of alternative referees. And whose account of the lack of a formal link between the WBO and Sangharakshita's organization does non-Buddhist Rawlinson rely upon to form his judgement? Er, Sangharakshita's.
The final accompanying footnote
to this section ends with the following:
[n85] "Austin and others participated in the first ordinations into the new Western Buddhist Order; some time later Austin's involvement in the new movement ceased. The reasons for this are unclear and we shall have to await the publication of Sangharakshita's memoirs for his account."
Thus despite, according to Rawlinson, there being "no formal link" between the real WBO and Sangharakshita's Order, Jack Austin, the representative of the real WBO in Britain, officiated in the first 'ordination` ceremonies into that Order. Whereas the FWBO portray this as the birth of a new Order, it is clear from the Response that Austin thought this was simply the FWS with a de-Sanskritized name. Not long after this Austin broke off relations with Sangharakshita clearly believing, as is evidenced by his continued use of the name WBO in its publications, that he was taking the name of the organization he represented with him.
Again, do we really "have to await the publication of Sangharakshita's memoirs for his account" of why Austin broke off relations with Sangharakshita and the 'new` Order? Perhaps reference to Austin's own account might shed more light on his reasons than Sangharakshita's. In a letter dated 20 March 1992 he states:
"Soon after its launch I broke company with Lingwood [Sangharakshita] over his insistence that a Zen master must not be allowed to teach Zen, only Lingwood being qualified to do so!...The movement had the gall to suggest that I sold my house and put the money into buying some old nunnery so that they could live in it, and I would be graciously allowed a room or two in it. That was curtains for me, so far as this group was concerned, and I am only thankful that I did not succumb to such madness...Lingwood never did brook any disagreement at any time. He assumed an air of superiority if anyone suggested he might be anything but right in everything, and one was left with the feeling that it was his own fault if he could not see things in the light of the 'bhante`....Do try to get at the Dharma free of Lingwood, and worth following as pure Dharma, not as a new movement to re-interpret it in the light of one man's idiosyncratic approach to life."
The Response's portrayal of the 'birth` of Sangharakshita's WBO can equally be seen as a slow and calculated usurping of a name whose non-denominational nature would have obvious benefits in Buddhism's new home. The gradual transition from WBO (Represented by Austin in the UK) to FWS (Daughter organization of Austin's WBO, with Sangharakshita as President and Austin as vice-President) to FWBO (President Sangharakshita & vice-President Austin assisting while assuming that this was simply the FWS with a 'de-Sanskritized` name) to WBO (Sangharakshita minus the disaffected Austin who, as is clear, continued to believe he was the WBO's representative in the UK ) can be interpreted in either way.
Sangharakshita and his accomplices have portrayed the 'founding` of their Order as if it were the hatching of some great Garuda bird, fully fledged and capable of flight, immediately from the moment of its emergence. Yet in considering the above, the analogy of the cuckoo seems far more appropriate, the cuckoo relying for its birth and existence as it does on disguise, the deception of those who nurture and feed it, and then the casting out and destruction of its supposed kin. One of the central aims of the present work is to demonstrate that this same tactic, employed by Sangharakshita in relation to the good name of Jack Austin's WBO, is one also being employed by the FWBO in relation to the whole of the Buddhist tradition. Let us hope that the analogy stops there however, for in the cuckoo's case, it eventually becomes so large and powerful that its surrogate parents are driven to the point of near-starvation; if such a tragedy were to befall Buddhism, then apart from the FWBO, the responsibilty for it would lie solely with ourselves.
Section V. Sangharakshita and the FWBO's teachings in theory and practice
1. Sangharakshita's Actual Teaching
[p10] ".. the summary published on the Internet alongside the Files says:
'the actual goal of the Order which controls these Charities is the dissemination of a specious, non-Buddhist ideology, invented by Sangharakshita, which, inter alia, attacks family values and promotes homosexuality. Essentially, Sangharakshita has conflated traditional Buddhist teachings with his own personal views, to produce an amalgam which could be described as Lingwoodism.'
"However the Files' account of FWBO teaching and Sangharakshita's approach to Buddhism is largely fallacious. Those wishing to know what Sangharakshita actually teaches should consult his principal works: A Survey of Buddhism, The Three Jewels, and The Eternal Legacy."
Here the Response's authors identify the above three texts as Sangharakshita's "principal works". In fact they are only three works among many within which Sangharakshita sets out his own personal view of the meaning of the Buddha's teaching, all of these works being read by his disciples as if they were representative of the Buddha's actual teaching. These particular three are chosen not because they represent his principal works but because, amongst his many works, they represent the ones which most closely resemble the actual Dharma. 'The Eternal Legacy` is in reality nothing more than a catalogue using solely English language translations as sources, a fact which demonstrates a complete lack of knowledge of the original texts.
The aim of the Files however, was never to establish the commonalities between the Buddhist tradition and Sangharakshita's personal philosophy. Rather it was written to demonstrate the many discrepancies between the two. Those wishing to know which personal opinions Sangharakshita and the FWBO conflate Buddhism with should refer to such works as 'Mind-Reactive and Creative (a term borrowed from Scientology), 'Buddhism and Blasphemy` (a vitriolic attack on the Christian tradition), Subhuti's 'Women, Men & Angels` (which denies the 'myth` of Womans opression by Man, and then consigns women to 'the Lower Evolution') and 'Extending the Hand of Fellowship` (wherein Sangharakshita systematically attacks first the the Theravada, followed by the Mahayana and then the Vajrayana, claiming that all are not orthodox, while at the same time asserting that the FWBO is). Further non-Buddhist teachings appear in various other FWBO publications, as well as in pamphlets and periodicals, and are no doubt also disseminated in their centres during their 'Buddhism` classes.
[p10] "These works by Sangharakshita were published to critical acclaim,"
See L.S. Cousins' review of 'The Eternal Legacy` for instance.
[p10] "..and The Survey has been used as a study text by Buddhists of various traditions."
The footnote [n89] tells us: "A Survey of Buddhism has been a recommended study text at Naropa Institute (Shambhala) and in the Arya Maitreya Mandala."
The Arya Maitreya Mandala is not affiliated to any particular Buddhist tradition. Naropa Institute is admittedly affiliated to the Tibetan Kagyu tradition. The words "has been used" mean "was once used". In full then, if we are to establish to what extent his works are respected by the 'traditions`, the above statement should actually read "Amongst Sangharakshita's many works, one was once referred to at an American Tibetan Buddhist Centre". This has a slightly different ring to it than: "The Survey has been used as a study text by Buddhists of various traditions" but is evidently closer to the truth.
[p11] "We shall also not attempt to persuade readers that Sangharakshita is right, or that his teaching is the correct interpretation of Buddhism,...In any case, these are perhaps matters of opinion on which there will never be complete agreement."
The whole of the Response is an attempt by its authors to prove that Sangharakshita is right as are the vast majority of the FWBO's publications. What, for example is the motive behind the writing of 'Extending the Hand of Fellowship`or 'The Meaning of Orthodoxy in Buddhism`? What was Subhuti trying to achieve in his 'reluctant conclusion` that the FWBO are "the only authentic vanguard of Western Buddhism" in his 'An Old Net for New Monsters`?
[p11] "The point is simply that what Sangharakshita says is a reasonable interpretation of the Dharma which is offered in good faith and on the basis of considerable knowledge and understanding of Buddhism."
The question of the depth of Sangharakshita's "considerable knowledge" has been addressed, but who decides on what is a "reasonable interpretation" of the Dharma? This author for example, finds Sangharakshita's interpretation of the Dharma totally unreasonable, indeed almost completely heterodox. Surely, it is for the teachers and representatives of the various Asian traditions to decide on what constitutes a 'reasonable interpretation` of the teachings expressed within their respective traditions, or for independent observers, rather than the supporters of the author of those 'interpretations`.
a) The Question of Orthodoxy
[p11] "It is apparent from the Files' account of Sangharakshita's training that it equates 'orthodox' Buddhism with the teaching and institutions of one or other of its various Eastern denominations. Sangharakshita disagrees with this approach for well-argued reasons which are thoroughly based on the canonical scriptures of Buddhism, and take into account the precedent established by Buddhist history. The Files does not address this argument."
The Files' author relies upon the definition of the word 'orthodoxy` employed by all English speaking peoples: "generally accepted or approved" (Oxford), "Conforming with established or accepted standards" (Collins), "Generally or officially accepted" (Longmans)." Sangharakshita disagrees with this approach for well argued reasons" claims the Response, but the obvious reason that he disagrees with the universally accepted definition of the word is because if it is relied upon, much of his teaching falls outside of it. The truth is that, according to the accepted definition, his 'Buddhism` is not even unorthodox, indeed, according to 'established`, 'generally or officially accepted` 'or approved` standards, a large part of it can be defined as totally 'heterodox`.
As to the claim that "his arguments [are] based on the canonical scriptures of Buddhism, and take into account the precedent established by Buddhist history", if one scrutinizes the text of 'Extending the Hand of Fellowship` for instance, wherein Sangharakshita gives another self serving definition of the word 'orthodox`, the number of references to Buddhist history can be counted on one hand and the scriptural quotations number none; the overwhelming majority of the text is simply an expression of Sangharakshita's own personal opinions. Since it is through the citation of scriptural references that the sages of the past have guaranteed their philosophical orthodoxy, this tendency not to rely on scriptural citation, a characteristic of much of his work, is a clear indication of the lack of orthodoxy of Sangharakshita's ideas.
Finally, it is clear that any attempt at debate ('argument`?) with opponents such as Sangharakshita or the FWBO on this issue would tend to be meaningless. How on earth can one possibly arrive at any logical conclusions when one proponent in the debate declines to accept the meaning of language itself?
2 ) The Teachings of the FWBO
'There is nobody in the three realms who is more all-knowing than the perfectly accomplished Buddha
It is therefore neccessary to adhere faithfully to the Sutras and Tantras which are the words of the Buddha
To add anything false to the Sutras and Tantras renders one liable to criticism from the exalted ones`
a) 'Higher and Lower Beings'
[p12] "The basis for this sweeping characterisation of the FWBO's interpretation of Buddhism [as being based on concepts of 'Higher and Lower Beings`] is a public teaching centre's publicity leaflet - the meaning of which has plainly been misconstrued."
The first footnote relating
to this section continues:
[n101] "The absurdity of minute discussion of such a source is obvious, yet it is worth noting that the leaflet refers to meditation, not Buddhism, and is simply pointing out meditation's developmental nature."
Is the minute discussion of such a source absurd? Has the source in question's meaning been misconstrued? Let us examine the source in question.
The publicity leaflet concerned is from the FWBO's Manchester Buddhist Centre. The cover of the leaflet features an image of the Buddha. Superimposed on this image are the words, in quotation marks, 'the real aim of meditation is to transform consciousness - to make you a higher type of being than you were before you began practising it`. Though the 'quotation` is unattributed, in light of the accompanying marks and background image, would it be wrong to assume that the quote came from the Buddha himself, or if not, that it was a tenet of Buddhist philosophers? Would it be wrong for someone to assume, on the basis of the above, that what was being taught at the Manchester Buddhist Centre was Buddhist meditation and that the process of Buddhist meditation involved developing into 'a higher type of being than you were before you began practising it`? Finally, does not the statement that the above quotation "is simply pointing out meditation's developmental nature" indicate that the Response's author (a senior Order member) believes that this process of development from a lower to a higher type of being IS the actual nature of the Buddhist meditational path?
[p12] "...Indeed Sangharakshita has never spoken of 'Higher and Lower Beings' at all, in the way suggested."
Then what was Sangharakshita inferring in 1969 when he stated "that spiritual life consists...in an abrupt transition from one level or dimension of experience, or from one mode of being, to another"? (A Guide to the Buddhist Path, Windhorse,1990 p.154). What was the significance of his comment that: "A jhana (a level of meditative absorption) is not a 'state` in which 'we` are, but a way in which we reorganize our being"? (Peace is a Fire, Windhorse).
Actually (and despite all the above), if one examines the relevant section in the Files, it nowhere suggests that Sangharakshita speaks of 'Higher and Lower Beings`. Rather it argues that, on the basis of a scant understanding of Buddhist philosophy, a penchant for the works of Nietzsche, and a knowledge of the Nazi interpretation of the term 'Arya`, Sangharakshita has misconstrued the concept of Arya Pudgala (Tib. 'Phags pa'i Gang zag) and, on the basis of this misconstruing, formulated a pseudo-Buddhist philosophy. This philosophy is based on ideas of beings evolving through a 'spiritual hierarchy`( a term unheard of in Buddhist circles), in an 'evolution` from lower to higher states of being and, as their publicity demonstrates, has led to FWBO followers believing that "the real aim of meditation is to transform consciousness - to make you a higher type of being than you were before you began practising it". As the Files pointed out, this is not reminiscent of any Buddhist ideology, since the Buddha's teaching advocates the transcendence of consciousness rather than its transformation.(see Files, 'Higher and Lower Beings` p16-17 for a fuller explanation of the meaning of the term 'Arya` and how Sangharakshita has misinterpreted its meaning.)
Furthermore, it is not necessary to rely solely on the above publicity leaflet or quotes from Sangharakshita to prove that such a misconception is widely enshrined within FWBO thought. Examples of it are evident throughout their publications. In 'Meditation and the Transformation of Mind (Windhorse 1986, p27) for example, Order member Nagabodhi states:
"The jhana states are our experience of ourselves as we potentially exist, on higher and higher planes of being. As human beings we have the possibility of living at different levels...Through meditiation practice we get the opportunity to live on higher levels still...we become gods..."
In the same publication Subhuti declares:
"When we break through into real meditation we experience ourselves as more than mortal clay. We find that we are, as it were, spiritual beings existing in a dimension of hitherto unimagined clarity and brilliance." (p31)
Similarly, in 1997 Dharmachari Vipassi wrote in 'The Western Buddhist Review`:
"What Buddhists call 'knowledge and vision of things as they are` already includes a reference to a transformation of the person. Such knowledge...is not available to us because we have not become the being who knows. There is a necessary relationship in other words, between being and knowledge, and we will have our freedom, and be finally unconstrained, only when we have become that being." (P199)
Are the Responses authors being completely honest when they accuse the Files author of 'misconstruing` the meaning of their slogan in light of this? Is the Files allegation that FWBO philosophy has at its core concepts of Higher and Lower Beings really a "sweeping characterisation of the FWBOs interpretation of Buddhism"?
The Response concludes:
 "So patently false and so easily disproved is this interpretation of the FWBO's teaching that one must question what purpose is served by entering into debate with so inept and transparent an interlocutor. Either the author of the Files is truly ignorant of FWBO teaching, or else the text knowingly misrepresents it for polemical ends."
"Sangharakshita and Nietzsche"
The Response now attempts to defend FWBO philosophy against the Files accusation that, rather than it being based on Buddhist philosophical principles, it is based on a large number of non-Buddhist teachings, here and in particular, the works of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.
The Response's authors correctly point out [p12] that the allegations in the Files are based on:
1) A "verbal resonance" between quotes from the two authors, which, the Response claims, "can be set aside as a literary curiosity."
2) The fact that senior Order member Sagaramati authored a work on the distinctions and "ironic affinities" between the philosophies of the two men, and
3) Sangharakshita's theory of the Higher Evolution of Man (which, the Response claims, actually has nothing to do with Nietzsche but is rather a "skilful means", and can be fully justified by reference to the Saddharma Pundarika as well as to "the spirit that underlies Buddhism as a whole").
For the Response then there is little to connect the philosophies of the two men, and indeed Sangharakshita's philosophy is justified by the underlying spirit of the whole of Buddhism.
Let us examine the proposition that there is little to connect the philosophies of Sangharakshita and Nietzsche. It is well known that the Buddhist code of moral discipline (Vinaya, Pratimoksha Samvara), the maintenance of which is recognized as the foundation of the spiritual path, is an ethical model of which the observance is an absolute prequisite necessity in the vast majority of Buddhist traditions. On the rare occasions where there is variation, as in the Soto Zen and Jodo-shin schools, it is in the position of the practice within the overall system, rather than in the nature of the observances themselves.
The fundamental importance of ethical and moral practise within Buddhism is well described for example in Stephen Batchelor's previously mentioned report 'Western Buddhist Teachers Meet the Dalai Lama : Dharamsala, India. March 13-22, 1993', from which the following extract is taken:
'If a teacher's actions are unethical, responded the Dalai Lama , then even if they have practised for many years, their practice has been wrong. Quite simply, they lack a proper understanding of the dharma. There is a "gap" between the dharma and their lives. He challenged the idea that once one has insight into the ultimate truth of emptiness, then one is no longer bound by the norms of morality. On the contrary: through revealing the web of relationships that ethically connects all living beings, the understanding of emptiness does not mystically transcend morality but grounds it in experience.'Whereas Buddhism has conformity to these standards as its very foundation, Nietzsche's philosophy demonstrates a clear contempt for the idea of conformity to pre-existing moral codes. For him there was no absolute morality; "there are moralities but no morality". Thus, in the formulation of his Master Morality, Nietzsche relied on the idea that "nothing is true" and its corollary, "everything is permitted" (Thus Spoke Zarathustra), his argument being that it was only by engaging in actions which might be considered immoral by pre-existent standards that one could determine for oneself whether such actions were of benefit or not. This notion is demonstrated in 'The Wanderer and his Shadow` for instance wherein he states:
"A prohibition whose reason we do not understand or admit is not only for the obstinate man but also for the man thirsty for knowledge almost the injunction: let us put it to the test, so as to learn why this prohibition exists. Moral prohibitions such as those of the Decalogue are suitable only for ages when reason is subjugated.."
Subhuti's 'Bringing Buddhism to the West`, as the Response itself points out, delineates Sangharakshita's methodology in 're-formulating` the Dharma on his return to the West. As Subhuti puts it:
"Since he no longer felt himself to be bound by exisitng models and conventions he was free to experiment and explore... he simply opened himself up to what was going on around him, seeing what could and could not be used, without preconception...he had come to see that much traditional monastic practice was actually counter-productive since it elevated formal observance over genuine asceticism. He therefore no longer considered the traditional formalised monastic structure to be of relevance. As the new movement he created has became more established he has felt himself increasingly able to abandon the forms and styles of that old Buddhist world and to present himself exclusively in terms of the new."
On the basis of which set of standards was Sangharakshita formulating his ideas (sorry, 're-formulating` the Dharma)? Was he really applying Buddhist principles to this new situation? Or was he casting aside the precedent set by a two and a half thousand year old spiritual tradition born from the mind of the Enlightened One and instead applying ideas formulated less than a century before? Are not the commonalities of the two above passages a clear indication of the answer to this question?
In 'Human, All too Human: A book for Free Spirits`  Nietzsche contrasts "free spirits" with the majority of human beings who are, as he suggests "all too human". Free spirits are those who have freed themselves from the bonds of acculturation, from the oppression inflicted by human communities:
"The origin of custom lies in two ideas:'The community is worth more than the individual` and 'an enduring advantage is to be preferred to a transient one'; from which it follows that the enduring advantage of the community is to take unconditional precedence over the advantage of the individual, especially over his momentary well being but also over his enduring advantage and even over his survival."
The free spirit is also portrayed as one who has fled a previous spiritual world to reconsider matters previously taken for granted, one who has broken the bonds of reverence for those things once found most praiseworthy. The ultimate aim of this liberation is independent self-mastery and supreme well being in a life of continual experimentation. This idea is further developed in 'Thus Spoke Zarathustra` in 'On the Three Metamorphoses`, and in 'Beyond Good and Evil`, in Nietzsche's description of the philosophers of the future, wherein he also describes religious and societal norms of morality as "herd morality" and "slave morality", the moral outlook of the oppressed.
Let us now examine Subhuti's 'Buddhism for Today: A Portrait of a New Buddhist Movement` (1983), wherein we are told:
"The Dharma is the path of the 'Higher Evolution` of the individual...it is not an ant heap philosophy or creed which seeks to keep the individual human being in subservience to the wider group. It seeks to help the individual become free. The group is usually the enemy of the individual - the real individual who wishes to think and act for himself. The group... is the human version of the animal herd offering its members security and other advantages necessary to their survival. The benefits of the group are gained however at a price: the needs of the individual must be subordinated to the group. The individual must conform; his thoughts and attitudes, his tastes and actions must conform to the sanction of the group...
"Most groups... prevent the individual from developing any further since the higher development of the individual (ie The 'Dharma`) requires that he think and act for himself and not out of conformity with the group...
"The Dharma begins with the individual, with his or her desire to become something other than merely a member of a group. It seeks to strengthen real individuality and to create the circumstances under which it can be developed. The Dharma applies to any one who wishes to think and act as an individual...
"The concept of individuality is crucial to an understanding of Buddhism since it is to the potential individual that it is addressed. The individual is not an individualist... nor yet an eccentric. He is aware of himself in all his aspects...and he is prepared to act as he himself considers fit. The groups around him no longer hold sway over over his behaviour..."
Readers could be forgiven for thinking that the above represents verbatim quotation from the works of Nietzsche mentioned above. Buddhists reading this can also be forgiven for wondering which of the orthodox Asian Buddhist traditions these ideas come from. The answer is they do not; they are the ideas of Nietzsche, for this is Nietzsche's 'European Buddhism`, as expressed extensively in his 'Will to Power`. It is a 'Buddhism` created by someone with no experience of any Asian tradition and one whose morality is based on the logic of nihilism, a fundamental wrong view from the Buddhist perspective. Sangharakshita and his associates may consider that such ideas represent a reasonable interpretation but, do they tell the public who come to them for Buddhism that they are being fed the ideas of Nietzsche? Or do they allow the public to believe that what they are getting (and perhaps more importantly, what they are paying for) is the Buddha's teaching, as it was transmitted to Sangharakshita from his numerous Buddhist masters while, at the same time of course, being purified of any 'cultural defilement`? Further, is not Nietzsche a 'cultural defilement`?
The ‘higher evolution’ and Darwinism, biological and social
Setting aside such "literary curiosities" and "ironic affinities" as those mentioned above, let us now turn to Sangharakshita's supposedly Buddhist doctrine of 'the Higher Evolution of Man`. Since the Response recommends that, "this theory needs consideration in its own terms", let us start by doing just that. So as to avoid misinterpretation and allegations of selective quotation, what follows will rely on extensive quotation from FWBO literature:
"Buddhism is the instrument of the Higher Evolution of mankind; that is to say, the instrument of the evolution of each individual human being from an un-enlightened condition to the condition of supreme Enlightenment" (Sangharakshita, A Guide to The Buddhist Path p25);
"The whole process of the development of life, from the primeval stirrings at its origins right up to the supremely developed consciousness of the Enlightened mind, can be seen as one long evolution, which can be divided into two distinct stages, the Lower Evolution and the Higher Evolution. The Lower Evolution denotes the process of the development of life from its beginnings aeons back in pre-history up to the emergence of human life. The Higher Evolution begins from a certain level of self (or reflexive) consciousness and continues right up to Enlightenment itself." (A Guide to The Buddhist Path p221 & The History of My Going for Refuge p94-95 are basis);
"The Path of the Higher Evolution...consists of a progressive series of mental and spiritual states or experiences - a series wherein each state or experience arises in dependence on the one immediately preceding." (The History of My Going for Refuge p96)
"In modern Western terms, ...[there can be seen] a partial coincidence, between the process of spiritual development as depicted in traditional Buddhist teaching and the course of human evolution as described by modern science....The course of human - and animal - evolution and the same process of spiritual development are parts of one and the same upward movement of life and consciousness....This upward movement of life and consciousness, of which the course of evolution and the process of spiritual development both form part, is one that on planet Earth alone has continued for hundreds of millions of years. From the human point of view the most important point in the entire vast and complex movement is that at which sense consciousness evolves into reflexive consciousness... At that point man became man i.e. an animal who in some respects resembled a man was succeeded by a man who in some respects resembled an animal." (Sangharakshita, The Bodhisattva: Evolution & Self-transcendence p18-20);
this is what Subhuti described as the transition "between the animal in us and the man, between the man and the 'New Man`. (Buddhism for Today p81).
"Though Lower and Higher Evolution are continuous this does not mean there are no qualitiative differences between them...The most important difference is that whereas the Lower Evolution is unconscious rather than conscious the Higher Evolution is conscious rather than unconscious..."(The Bodhisattva: Evolution & Self-transcendence p20).
"In human beings, at least human beings at their best, reflexive consciousness - consciousness of self - has emerged, and henceforth we can only evolve as individuals. This means individually wanting, and not just wanting but deciding, to evolve, and acting appropriately on that volition." (Sangharakshita, Buddhism for Today &Tomorrow p13).
"The Lower Evolution is
a biological and collective process, the Higher Evolution is an evolution of
consciousness and can only be undertaken as a result of individual choice; progress
can only result from individual effort." (A Guide to The Buddhist Path p221)
Now let us compare these ideas, not to traditional Buddhism, but to the Rennaisance theory of the Great Chain of Being. This theory had its roots in the ideas of the 3rd century neo-Platonic philosopher, Plotinus. That Plotinus is a source of inspiration to Sangharakshita is not in doubt; for example, at an ordination course at Guhyaloka in 1988, Sangharakshita told his students that he felt Plotinus had: "attained the Transcendental, judging by his metaphysical insight and his life." (Shabda Oct 1988 p91). Plotinus, basing his outlook on the works of Plato and Aristotle, theorized a hierarchical system of rising transcendency, ascending from the simple to the complex. According to the principle of linear gradation and in this ascending order, the series ranged from, at its lowest end, the barest type of existence, 'mineral`, through 'vegetable`, 'animal`, then 'man` and ultimately to the ens perfectissimum, divine beings superior to man. Each of these 'divisions` exhibited characteristics also demonstrated by those of the preceeding and succeeding divisions.
The Response argues:
[p12] "Sangharakshita's employment of the notion of evolution as a means of expounding the Dharma is an example of his translating Buddhist ideas into a Western idiom. Closely paralleling the frequent use of images of growth which are found throughout the Buddhist Canon, Sangharakshita makes an analogy between the progressive nature of biological evolution ('the Lower Evolution') and that of the spiritual path ('the Higher Evolution')"
[p13] "Far from being based on the Renaissance 'Great Chain of Being', as the Files groundlessly asserts (p17), 'the Higher Evolution"' is very clearly expounded by Sangharakshita in this way."
However, bearing in mind the above brief outline of the Theory of the Great Chain of Being, along with Sangharakshita's obvious penchant for Plotinus, is his philosophy really so "Far from being based on the Rennaisance 'Great Chain of Being`" as the Response suggests? Is this really such a "groundless assertion"? Such a denial could easily be taken as indicating the wish to hide, even to preserve something; that which is to be hidden being the truth and that which is to be preserved being status.
The fact that the Great Chain of Being formed the foundation of the philosophy of Madame Blavatsky's Theosophical Society is not insignificant. As Harvey's 'Introduction to Buddhism` tells us, the Theosophists:
"...mingled Neo-Platonic mysticism, other elements of the Western esoteric tradition, Hindu and Buddhist ideas, and a religious version of 'evolution`. It saw individuals as spiritually evolving over many lives, through cycles of the universe, according to their 'karma` and knowledge. It did not accept that a human could be born at an animal level again, though. Ultimate reality was seen more in Hindu than in Buddhist terms..."(page 303)
It is further not insignificant that Sangharakshita's first contact with other Buddhists was at the Buddhist Society in 1943. This had been founded in 1924 by Christmas Humphreys as the Buddhist Lodge of the Theosophical Society. As Snelling points out:
"Humphreys himself was a product of Theosophy and his Buddhism was one with a distinctive Blavatskian slant." (Buddhist Handbook page 230). Though the Society parted from the Theosophists over 'philosophical differences`, Humphreys' book 'Buddhism`, reprinted many times since 1951, demonstrates an interpretation of Buddhism which remains tinged with several Theosophical concepts.
The flaws in the philosophy of both the Theosophists and the FWBO from a Buddhist perspective are easily demonstrated. No Asian tradition for instance, teaches that there is an ineluctable upward movement in the spiritual development of beings ("Lower and Higher Evolution are continuous", "The whole process...from..its origins ...up to the Enlightened mind, can be seen as one long evolution"). Furthermore, whereas the Buddhist notion of existence is based on a cyclic model conditioned by karma, the model of the Higher Evolution is a vertical one which occurs due to a linear evolutionary process. The fundamental Buddhist notion of Karma , although revealing itself at the level of the 'New Man`, elsewhere apparently does not play a role; passage through those states below that of the human being determined by the Lower (biological) Evolution rather than by the seeds of volitional acts.
Despite the Response's claims then, Sangharakshita's evolutionary model does not simply "closely parallel the frequent use of images of growth which are found throughout the Buddhist Canon" [p12], in fact it directly contradicts the teaching of the Buddha, denying as it does that all forms of existence are conditioned by volitional actions. The fact that Sangharakshita felt justified in holding onto this wrong view, obviously acquired on his first contacts with Theosophical Buddhists, even in the light of the teachings of all of the pre-existing Asian traditions, only indicates his arrogance as well as his attachment to his own personal opinions as if they were superior to the teaching of the Buddha himself.
The Response states [p12]: "Some may argue that no translation or reformulation of ideas is permissible - and the term for such a position is fundamentalism." However, the fact of the matter is that the above ideas are neither a 'translation` or a 'reformulation`; they are totally alien concepts. The Response accuses the Files' author of fundamentalism in this respect but, if fundamentalism is the insistence that teachings which purport to be Buddhist are based on Buddhist principles, should such fundamentalism be termed a fault?
Sangharakshita himself justifies all the above by claiming:
[p12] "I... soon felt the need, purely as a 'skilful means' (upaya-kausalya), of a principle sufficiently familiar to the modern mind not to require much explanation and capable, at the same time, of being generalised in such a way as to provide a medium for the exposition of Buddhism."
Unfortunately however, he has chosen a principle which, by its nature, contradicts Buddha's teaching and which consequently cannot act as such a medium. Moreover, why on earth complicate matters when there are terms and images already available within the Buddha's teaching which adequately, indeed perfectly convey Buddhist concepts: ideas such as rebirth, the law of cause and effect, Dharma practitioners and worldly beings, the cycle of birth and death? Isn't explaining the Buddha's teaching to those ignorant of its philosophy through the medium of Rennaisance thought and Darwinian evolutionary theory, like teaching Sanskrit to English speakers in German? Far from being a 'skilful means` such an approach complicates original ideas beyond recognition.
Let us now return to our original theme of Nietzsche, and examine another fundamental FWBO concept, that of 'the New Society`. Again, in order to understand this concept as it is taught in the FWBO, we shall rely heavily on quotation from the Order's own publications.
"There is.. the possibility of two kinds of society:on the one hand, a society of individuals based on common spiritual ideals and a commitment to personal development; and on the other, a society of non-individuals who are simply members of various groups. The first I would term a spiritual community, and the second a 'group`. The first type of society is what I am choosing to call the new society; the second is the old society...of course, the first is very small, the second very large. But although it is a daunting task, we must try nevertheless to turn the second into the first, to transform the group into the spiritual community, the old society into the new...It is as the nucleus of a new society that the FWBO offers itself, a nucleus of which the Order is the central and most essential part." ( Buddhism for Today & Tomorrow p45)
"The creation of a New Society is the purpose of the FWBO. It is unlikely that in any part of the world such a society could become coextensive with society as a whole. However a number of such ideal societies in miniature existing in the midst of the wider social context can help those who are in contact with them grow as human beings and can provide a model for others. The work which Order members and others undertake to bring about these ideal conditions is, it might be said, the political aspect of the FWBO. The foundation and dissemination of a social environment in which many people are free to develop is, in the last analysis, the only solution to the problems of a crisis-laden world. To work at one's own development and to seek to help others by creating the institutions and conditions in which as many people as possible can grow is the social and political platform of the FWBO..." (Buddhism for Today p129-130)
The FWBO..."has created and will continue to create a New Society in the midst of the old. But the purpose of the FWBO is not to find a corner for Buddhists in the midst of the old society. It does not seek to give Buddhism a place in the Establishment...The FWBO is... revolutionary: it wishes to change society - to turn the old society into the new.
..."The New Society...is only the New Society if the basis of human relations within it is love and friendliness. Nonetheless, the New Society is at war with the old - a non-violent war, whose aim is not to destroy but to transform...
"The weapons with which the war is carried out are threefold: attraction, example, and criticism. The members of the New Society seek to attract more and more people to it, to inspire them also to develop and to help others to develop. They also hope that their achievement... will provide an example. Their Centres, Communities, Co-operatives and other structures will form a blueprint which will encourage others to transform themselves and the old society around them. The last weapon of the New Society is criticism. Not only is support withdrawn from those features of the old society which are destructive and stultifying but, by actively demonstrating their faults and failings, change may be precipitated...
"Criticism is also important to keep the the New Society free of the failings of the old. The New grows in the midst of the old, and there is a constant danger that the old will exert its influence upon the New rather than the other way round. Everyone in the FWBO has been brought up within the old society, and it still has its subtle pulls upon them from within as well as from without. They must know clearly what they are up against.
"Criticism - even forceful, heated criticism - is an essential part of the process of growth. It is a clearing of the weeds so that choice blossoms may bloom, a casting off of the old so that the new can be put on. Spiritual growth involves constant death, death of those parts of ourselves which are conditioned and which hold us back from happiness and understanding. Within the spiritual community criticism is the act of a friend...As Nietzsche has said, 'To attack is with me a proof of good will, and sometimes of gratitude`."(Buddhism for Today p174-175)
This New Society is "A Blueprint for a New World" (Buddhism for Today & Tomorrow p47). "This world is an entirely new world, a world radically different from the old one. The new world will be, in short, a spiritual community. This is the only world worth having, the only new world worth working for." (Above cit p48)
" I would like to see, in Britain, in the West generally, and even in the World, more people practising Dharma. I would like to see so many people practising Dharma that society is forced to change and I certainly hope that the FWBO will be in the forefront of that development. I'm not a prophet and I don't have a crystal ball, but that is my hope...I might even say, my confidence." (Sangharakshita, Going for Refuge, BBC East TV Programme 12 Nov.1992)
Those familiar with nineteenth century theories of social evolution, theories which frequently associated evolutionism with progress and a movement towards morally superior forms of society, will recognize the above as social Darwinism. As its name suggests, social Darwinism drew its inspiration from Charles Darwin's writings on biological evolution, ideas which, as we have already seen, influenced Sangharakshita's theory of the development of the Higher Individual. Here, the same ideas are applied at a macrocosmic level, in relation to human society itself. Social Darwinists claimed that, as with biological organisms, human societies struggled with one another for survival. Modern Western society had clearly come out on top in this struggle and therefore represented the highest level of social progress yet achieved. Thus, this viewpoint emphasized the importance of struggle or warfare between groups or societies as the motor of development. One will note the references to 'non-violent war`(?) in the passage above. The subsequent unquoted part of the relevant passage refers to "enemies to be attacked", these being previously mentioned as "the nuclear family, Christianity, and pseudo-liberalism." (Buddhism for Today p176).
Notwithstanding the fact
that Subhuti quotes directly from Nietzsche in the above tractate, the connections
between Nietzschean thought and social Darwinism have been the object of extensive
commentary for more than a century, commencing in 1895 with Alexander Tille's
work, 'Von Darwin bis Nietzsche: Ein Buch Entwicklungsethik`. From Tille's viewpoint,
Nietzsche provided ethics consonant with Darwins's evolutionary teachings which
were applicable to the development of humanity. Though Nietzsche may not have
been aware that his Zarathustrian ideal had grown out of the soil of evolutionary
thought, there is no doubt that he drew the ethical conclusions of the Darwinian
world view: that a physiologically higher form of human being was the moral
goal of mankind. Though the theories of social Darwinists had been thoroughly
discredited by the 1920's, the combination of the two men's ideas did see a
brief renaissance just over a decade later, in the philosophy of the German
National Socialist party and their leader, Adolf Hitler.
The Response states [p12]: "Nowhere does Sangharakshita use Nietzsche's ideas as a validation for his own exposition of Buddhism, and Nietzsche is a minor presence in his thought."
However, Footnote 104 of the Response tells us that, in Sangharakshita's 'Buddhism, Nietzsche and the 'Superman`: The Higher Evolution of Man` lectures, he concludes that "While Nietzsche points in a general way toward a path of transcendence, he fails to provide any indication of how that can be achieved." Isn't it obvious that Sangharakshita's 'Buddhism` is the solution he offers to this problem? Isn't the theory of the Higher Evolution of the Individual Sangharakshita's 'Buddhism`, validated on the basis of Nietzschean thought? Isn't the idea of the New Society an obvious manifestation of social Darwinism for which, as Tille points out, Nietzsche, albeit unknowingly, provided the ethical framework?
The Response's denial of the concurrences between FWBO thinking and that of Nietzsche is clearly thoroughly disingenuous. Subhuti's 'Buddhism for Today` further confirms this, for therein we are told:
"In some few individuals we may feel that we discern something of the Transcendental Insight which is at the heart of Buddhism. The FWBO has already made its own a few of the outstanding figures of Western culture, figures who are a link between the old society and the New. Foremost among these figures are three....Blake, Goethe and Nietzsche." (p181),
Nietzsche, "expresses his burning vision in explosive aphorisms which point to the goal of 'the overman` [ubermensch], the final product of self-overcoming. The works of these and others like them can help Buddhism to find a new and appropriate language to speak in the West. By using what is best and rejecting what confines the indvidual, the New Society can reach out to many in the old society and show them that they too can live a healthier life and that they too can realise in their own lives the vision that these men so clearly saw." (p182)
Is Nietzsche then really a "minor presence" in FWBO thought as the Response suggests? Is such language "appropriate" in the expression of Buddhist ideals? Which Buddhist concept does 'the overman` express? If there is the "overman" [ubermensch] then surely there is the "underman" [untermensch], the 'Lower Being` as opposed to the 'Higher Being`.
Does this type of language and thought really have anything at all to do with Buddhist sentiments or is it an idea more at home in a fascist ideology? If those who go to the FWBO for Buddhism follow Subhuti's directions, will they end up realising the vision of the Buddha or the vision that Nietzsche "so clearly saw"? Again, are these two destinations the same or radically distinct? Finally, what is the FWBO's motive in denying their obvious and significant connection with Nietzschean thought? What are they trying to hide? What are they trying to preserve?
FWBO Ideology and Nazism
The Response then nonchalantly states:
[p12] "The reference to Nazism is plainly gratuitous, an attempt to malign Sangharakshita by a most tenuous strand of association".
But is that strand so tenuous? Picture for a moment a New Order, founded on the ideas of one man, a man who is answerable to no-one. A man whose philosophical outlook and the movement he has spawned are inspired by the ideas of Nietzsche and Darwin, and whose aim is to build a New Society of evolved individuals. These individuals have abandoned attachment to the limiting archaic values characteristic of less evolved beings, the 'herd` mentality of values such as shame in the face of God, liberalism, and fixed ideas concerning the value of society and its institutions, old concepts of right and wrong. Their wish is to build for themselves a new morality and free themselves from those beliefs and ideas which render them more animal than man. This morality has at its foundation, not the logic of cause and effect, but the logic of nihilism. The aim of this movement is to combine and to overwhelm, to replace the old society with a new one; an aim to be achieved, not by peaceful means, but by force, in a "war" using "weapons" against "enemies to be attacked". Ultimately, the aim of this New Society of evolved individuals and their leader is the deposition of the old, and the building of a new world filled only with the evolved, for this "in the last analysis, is the only solution".
Of whom are we speaking here? If the reader considers the above bearing in mind the philosophy and aims of the National Socialist party and their leader, and then reconsiders it bearing those of the FWBO and their leader in mind, does any of it become inapplicable? Or does the description perfectly fit the philosophy and ideology of both organizations?
These similarities are not simply occasional "literary curiosities"; the language of the FWBO and that of National Socialism are frequently similar, indeed frequently the same. Again, both movements identify the same enemies and derive their views from the same sources of inspiration. These similarities in the philosophy and ideology of the two movements are not simply "ironic affinities"; they are disturbing equivalents which indicate that, just as Nazism was a consciously applied experiment in Nietzscheanism, so too is the FWBO's 'Buddhism`. Perhaps most disturbing of all is the fact that, just as Hitler's ultimate goal was one of world domination, so to is Sangharakshita's, for as his "Blueprint for a New World" makes clear, his wish is not just to change the face of Buddhism, it is to change the world itself.
FWBO Buddhism and Nichiren
The Response states:
[p13] "...it should be demonstrable that... [Sangharakshita's] translation is true to the meaning of traditional Buddhist teaching." and that he "...accounts for his translations in relation to specific Buddhist terms, and also in relation to the spirit that underlies Buddhism as a whole:
'The Buddhist scriptures, especially those of the Mahayana, quite clearly envisage a universe...in which, under the guidance of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas innumerable, all sentient beings are ultimately destined for Enlightenment... In this sense, one may therefore speak of Buddhism as a religion of evolution, of spiritual evolution, on a cosmic scale. Indeed, in texts such as the Saddharma Pundarika this is exactly how the Mahayana sees itself.No tour de force of interpretation is required.'"
The choice of the Mahayana sutras as a justification for Sangharakshita's approach is very strange when, only a few pages previously, in justifying the FWBO's rewriting of the Dharma, the Response talks about the incompatibility of such scriptures "with the findings of modern science and scholarship,...the Mahayana's view of the origin of it's sutras..[being].. contradicted by textual and historical scholarship". The introduction to H. Kern's translation of the particular scripture quoted, the Saddharma Pundarika, is an extended essay on the composite nature of the sutra and depicts it as certainly being of more than one origin.(Kern. H. Saddharma Pundarika, Lotus of True Law. Dover pub. N Y 1963) Should one really base characterisations of the fundamental nature of the whole of Buddhism on such a work?
Again if, with reference to Sangharakshita's teaching on the Higher Evolution, it is "demonstrable that the translation is true to the meaning of traditional Buddhist teaching" and he "accounts for his translations in relation to specific Buddhist terms", if, as the Response states, "no tour de force of interpretation is required" of the above scripture in order to justify his approach, then why is it that throughout the whole of the Saddharma Pundarika, there is not one single reference to 'Evolution`, either in its 'Higher` or 'Lower` forms (nor indeed in any other Buddhist scripture)?
In fact, Sangharakshita's choice of the Saddharma Pundarika to justify his approach is a sinister and significant one, and one which, far from damping down the criticisms levelled at he and the FWBO, actually only adds more fuel to the controversy already surrounding them.
The Saddharma Pundarika or 'Lotus of the True Law Sutra`, (frequently abbreviated to 'the Lotus Sutra`) was the scripture Nichiren Shonin (1222-1283) relied upon to justify his own characteristic brand of militant Buddhism, back in 13th century Japan. Nichiren who, unlike Sangharakshita, did actually receive some education in traditional Japanese Buddhism, was a controversial figure who invented his own form of Buddhism based on the idea that one could only achieve enlightenment by revering the Saddharma Pundarika, and in particular by reciting its name, which he declared encapsulated the meaning of the whole of the Buddha's teaching. His right to determine the essence of Dharma was justified by his claim that he was:"master and lord...of all of the Buddhists of other schools" (Williams, Mahayana Buddhism, page 164). His ideas have been propagated by various subsects which have arisen subsequent to his death right down to the present day, most notably the infamous Nichiren Shoshu and their breakaway lay organization, the notorious Soka Gakkai, or 'Value-Creation Society`.
Taking as his inspiration the Saddharma Pundarika, Nichiren justified a militant and exclusive Buddhism which preached a gospel of agression and whose aim was national and then world conversion; this was the 'struggle of the 'pure` community of Japan against all foes`(Ling p316). Taking on the guise of a revivalist, he alienated himself from all other forms of Buddhism in pluralist Japan by condemning them, indeed vehemently denouncing them, as being polluted with the enervating influences of piety and formalism (Smart, Religious Experience of Mankind p271); he condemned the Tendai tradition which he had been raised in, for example, as 'hollow and false` (N Smart, World's Religions p141), and the Ritsu school, as 'traitors to the country` for their study and observance of the Vinaya (Williams p161). Nichiren condemned this school's views, declaring that it was only possible to know what was morally proper by resting in the state of mind which arose subsequent to the recitation of the title (daimoku) of the Lotus sutra. For Nichiren, all of the previous Japanese Buddhist traditions, riddled with faults as they were, had had their day and should now move on, for they were perverse anachronisms, no longer capable of saving Japan at a crisis point in its history.
What is disturbing about this assessment of Nichiren and his ideas is that it exemplifies a pattern of thought and behaviour which is closely replicated in the present by that of the FWBO and their founder. Sangharakshita, like Nichiren, is a self appointed teacher who claims to have discerned the essence of the whole of Buddhism; the Response itself makes the ridiculous assertion that, in relation to Tibetan Buddhism at least, their leader is the spiritual heir and successor to all the traditions. Where Nichiren declares one practice to be the essence of Buddhism (reciting the name of the Lotus Sutra), Sangharakshita declares that essence to be 'the central act of Going for Refuge`. His morals too arise, not by comformity to any pre-existing codes of behaviour, but by abandoning conformity to old standards and then reliance upon intuition.
Nichiren's attacks on the pre-existent traditions as perverse and archaic are perfectly replicated by those of the FWBO on the Asian traditions and frequently use exactly the same explicit language and argument; FWBO titles such as 'Buddhism for Today and 'Buddhism for Today and Tomorrow` implicitly assert that pre-existent Buddhist traditions preach the Buddhism of yesterday and thus, are no longer relevant. Again,just as Nichiren claimed that the only way to effectively promulgate Buddhism in Japan and cure its ills at an important juncture in Japanese history was through the application of his method, Subhuti declares the FWBO to be the "only authentic vanguard of Western Buddhism", and , as we have seen, the Response itself offers its own perfect solution to Buddhism's supposed present transitional 'crisis`.
In Subhuti's 'An Old Net For new Monsters` (p8) he actually goes so far as to justify the militant means by which the FWBO propagate their teachings, on the basis of exactly the same chapter of the Saddharma Pundarika with which Nichiren justified his. Further Nichiren's aims of converting Japan and subsequently the World, mirror exactly the FWBO's goals of the creation of the New Society and, ultimately, a New World.
According to an article by Stephen Batchelor in 'The Middle Way` magazine (Feb 1987 p.260), Nichiren stated:
"It is said in the chapter in the Lotus Sutra on Fortitude (ch.13) that in the fifth five hundred year period of the Dharma, there would appear enemies of the truth of three kinds. The present time is just this period, and I see clearly the existence of three kinds of enemies..."
Subhuti's declaration in 'Buddhism for Today` that there are 'three enemies` against whom we should be on our guard, indeed 'enemies to be attacked` (p176) is a chilling replication of this. As Batchelor concluded, though Subhuti's enemies are distinct from those of Nichiren, the language, and more disturbingly the psychological attitude, are exactly the same.
In his own time Nichiren attracted only a relatively small following; despite this, the consequences of his approach for Japanese Buddhism have been long lasting and, some would say, severely damaging. However, because of his initial marginality, it has taken over half a millenia for his ideas to take shape as a significant force in Japanese politics; by the late 1960's the Komei-to, or 'Clean Government` party, the political wing of the Soka Gakkai, was the third largest in the Japanese Parliament. (Harvey, p286)
The FWBO on the other hand, are already Britain's richest, most powerful and fastest growing Buddhist organization; unlike many other Buddhist groups, they have demonstrated a distinctly political agenda. They are already shaping the society of tomorrow by providing educational resources for teaching their own peculiar brand of 'Buddhism` to children and as advisors in the construction of RE syllabuses for local authorities throughout the land. Further, they take every opportunity that arises to forge links with local and national politicians; the publicity for the opening of their Birmingham Buddhist Centre in September 1998, boasted that several local councillors and MPs would be present. More than this, they also have links in the House of Lords, for a recently elevated life peer is a partner in a legal firm who are known to have acted on their behalf. So, whereas it took Nichiren 600 years to inflict his politics on the Japanese people, the FWBO have already managed to forge links at both local and national government levels, as well as in the House of Lords.
No doubt the FWBO will attempt to portray the above as the present author's obsessive paranoia. But, if it is a paranoia, it is one shared by others. In November 1983, shortly after the publication of Subhuti's 'Buddhism for Today`, The Guardian published a letter entitled "The bigotry of a Buddhist order which mixes 'mystical truth` with political ambition". The letter which touched on many of the issues mentioned in this document, concluded: "One does not need to be a political genius or psychoanalyst to smell a rat. We smell a rat, the 'rat` of an incipient fascism. We all know the scenario in which 'mystical truth` is compounded with the need for social and economic change" (8 Nov 83) Is the Guardian's publication of this an indication that their readers also suffer from obsessive paranoia?
If the FWBO's growth continues unabated, without anyone questioning their identity, doctrines and methods, their power to shape society with their 'values` could easily reach considerable proportions. As for their attitude towards orthodox Buddhist traditions, their substantial wealth and increasing power combined with an agressively condemnatory attitude towards those traditions, could well prove severely damaging, indeed possibly fatal, for the pre-existent Asian traditions.
Some might subsequently blame the FWBO for the demise of traditional Buddhism and the transformation of society. Others, from a wider perspective, might blame a combination of the Order's activities and the unwitting ignorance of the British public. However, there is a third party in this equation which equals the demise of traditional Buddhism and society's transformation, a party who have so far played no role whatsoever in any of the above. That group is us, we Buddhists ourselves, for, if the FWBO are allowed to continue their mission in the name of 'Buddhism` unabated, if they are allowed to carry on and ultimately destroy Asian Buddhism, as well as to infiltrate political circles, it will have occurred not simply by their courtesy nor by that of the British public; it will have occured by courtesy of ourselves, our own abject apathy and unwillingness to act as we stand here at the 'thin end of the wedge`.
The metamorphosis will have arisen due to our own unwillingness to discriminate between the realities of truth and falsity, between categories of right and wrong which DO matter because they DO pertain at the relative level. Our own unwillingness to speak out on behalf of the Dharma and beings, to protect them by condemning this false teaching which is preached in the name of truth. Surely, if the present moment is as crucial a juncture as the FWBO suggest, it is important, indeed imperative, that genuine Buddhists speak out now.
Support for Sangharakshita's approach
The next section of the Response resorts to that time-honored sales technique, the testimonial. The Order have already attempted to employ testimonials elsewhere; subsequent to the publication of the Files, when the TES indicated that Lord Avebury and the Liberal Democrat MP Don Foster had become suspicious of their activities, both were bombarded with reams of them, each proclaiming the irreproachable nature of the Order and the efficacy of their doctrines. The response of both figures was to tell the Order that the Files raised sufficient questions about the activities of the Order to merit investigation, irregardless of however many testimonials they could provide; that investigation is now in progress.
As stated above, the use of testimonial is a time-honoured technique relied upon, frequently, by many in the sales industry. However, we are not buying double-glazing or encyclopedias here; we are trying to discern the authenticity of a tradition, trying to discern whether someone who has proclaimed himself a Buddhist teacher is genuine, and whether his teachings are actually Buddhism. Though testimonials might be valuable in this quest, isn't this a situation where we should be allowed to examine all of the available evidence and then judge for ourselves? In the FWBOs case, testimonials really only prove that they have managed to dupe a number of people into believing that their teachings and teacher are of a genuinely Buddhist origin, whereas the fact of the matter is that they are clearly not.
Nevertheless, let us examine the origin of these particular testimonies. First we have "the 'full support' that Christmas Humphreys gave the FWBO", second "Edward Conze, the leading western scholar of Mahayana in his day, described Sangharakshita in his autobiography as 'the only English Buddhist leader so far who has understood Buddhist doctrine'" and third, "a growing and well documented body of people now practising in the Order and FWBO who have previously been serious practitioners of other Buddhist traditions." This third group is elucidated in the footnotes as a trio of FWBO members whose previous contacts with other traditions have been documented and published by the Order.
The opinions of Humphreys (he of the bloodied hands), as has already been proven, is hardly worthy of considering. Conze's contempt for Humphreys is the stuff of contemporary occidental Buddhist legend and, since apart from Sangharakshita, Humphreys was the only other English Buddhist leader around at the time, his motive for making the statement above was obviously dubious.
The third group, "the growing and well documented body of people" from within the Order "who have previously been serious practitioners of other [sic] Buddhist traditions" are three in number according to the Response (See Response footnote 111). This number may be "growing and well documented" but it is unfortunately miniscule. If, as the Guardian stated, there are 20,000 people a year passing through the FWBO's meditation classes in the UK alone, three is hardly a significant number, representing as it does only 0.015% of 20,000. Moreover, since the articles referred to have actually been published over a four year period, this figure actually comes out at 0.00375% or, expressed another way, 3 of the 80,000 people who passed through the FWBOs centres between 1994 & 1998, and who had some experience of other traditions decided the FWBO was for them. Thus, the impression created by the claim that the "growing and well documented body of people" practising within the Order "who have previously been serious practitioners of other Buddhist traditions" is a significant number, is totally false; it is, in fact, completely insignificant.
What IS significant is that their particular experiences are 'well documented`. These people have been singled out, their experience documented and then distributed to FWBO members and potential converts in their publications. Why? To create an image of the inadequacies of the Asian traditions when it comes to dealing with the Western mind, to establish the irrelevance of the 'Buddhism of yesterday`. Here, once again, in attempting to defend themselves, the FWBO only dig their graves deeper.
3) Theory and Practice
[p13] "The present document is a Response to the allegations in the Files. However, it is not an attempt to depict the FWBO as being wholly flawless. Individuals in the FWBO have sometimes engaged in harsh or even unethical actions - and there is at least one example of the collective culpability, in this respect, of a group within the FWBO. We do not want to present a whitewash. However, the Files is not essentially concerned with individuals, other than Sangharakshita, but with the FWBO as a whole. It charges that teachings and practices in the FWBO have legitimised behaviour it considers unacceptable. While accepting that there may well have been lapses on the part of individuals, this Response will argue that, correctly understood, Sangharakshita's teachings do not legitimise abusive behaviour. Indeed, his teaching has perhaps placed a greater emphasis on the importance of ethics within an individual's Buddhist practice than any other contemporary teacher."(!)
If the Response "is not an attempt to depict the FWBO as being wholly flawless", it certainly does a very good impression of one, particularly in concluding that Sangharakshita's teaching places: "a greater emphasis on the importance of ethics...than any other contemporary teacher". Really? Further, the Files IS concerned with individuals other than (and as well as) Sangharakshita. Kulananda, co-author of the Response has a number of allegations of sexual abuse to answer to, as does Vajranada. Does Kulanada believe that these issues can be brushed under the carpet, simply by stating that the Files is not concerned with individuals other than Sangharakshita?
Readers might consider the above passage from the Response in light of Steven Hassan's 'Combatting Cult Mind Control`, one of the most significant works on cult behaviour to emerge from the US in recent years, indeed in the cult field it is considered something of a bible. Hassan states that, in "destructive cults, there is never a problem with the leader, the doctrine, or the organization's behaviour - it's always the fault of the members"(p88); "any problem is merely the result of one member's idiosyncratic behaviour, not the system itself." The reader is advised to re-read the above paragraph from the Response and see if it differs in any way from Hassan's analysis of this particular cult characteristic.
In his work, Hassan, who was once assistant director of the Moonies in the United States before emerging from the cult, delineates a number of characteristics common to cults in general. Needless to say, the FWBO fulfil nearly all of the listed criteria. This author recommends that any sincere person considering becoming involved with the FWBO or deepening an already existent relationship, first consult this work and examine their own experience in light of it, to see how many of the characteristics ring true. It might also be of benefit to those already involved with the Order at the highest levels to do the same.
a) Men and Women
'To despise women, who are intrinsically wisdom, is the fourteenth root downfall`
- Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen's commentary on tantric vows
[p13] "The Files' interpretation of Sangharakshita's teaching on the relative spiritual aptitude of men and women is based on a serious, though not uncommon, misunderstanding of his views on the various issues that men and women have to work with in the spiritual life. In asserting that Sangharakshita is a misogynist it cites Subhuti's Women, Men and Angels. However its quotes are inaccurate, and in some instances fabricated."
The accompanying footnotes
[n112] "The Files has several apparent quotes from Subhuti, Women, Men and Angels, Windhorse, Birmingham, 1995, which are inaccurate or incomplete.
1. The Files misquotes: 'Women are anchored in a "lower evolution" than men.' This is not found in Women Men and Angels, or any other book by Sangharakshita or Subhuti."
One will note the positioning of the quotation marks in the above. These were inserted to indicate that the whole sentence is not a direct quote from Subhuti's 'Women, Men & Angels`(WMA), although the Response here attempts to create the notion that the Files intended to give this impression, so as to serve as the basis for maligning the work and its author. Rather, the above is an abrreviation of a recurrent theme throughout the work, written by Subhuti to clarify Sangharakshita's thoughts on women and the spiritual life. (see intro to WMA), as are each of the points raised at the beginning of this section of the Files. Nevertheless, let us again refer back to the work to establish which of the 'quotes` in the Files are "inaccurate or incomplete" or even "fabricated".
a) 'Women are anchored in a "lower evolution" than men.`
Consider then, women are: "...characteristically far more anchored in the Lower Evolution." WMA p42
Or the statement that, unlike the situation women find themselves in: "The insistent tug of the body and its concerns does not drag men back into the lower evolution, so they are freer to rise on the Higher Evolution."
Perhaps these are the "inaccurate or incomplete" 'quotes` to which the Response refers.
[n112] "2. The Files quotes out of context: 'Women have less "spiritual aptitude" than men. Men are better able to actualize their potential for enlightenment than women.' WMA actually says: 'Men generally are better able to actualise that potential than women. It should be well noted that this does not say that women do not have the aptitude to actualise their potential.'",
No, only that, in general:" Men..are better able to actualize that potential than women." (WMA p25)
Elsewhere, in the same chapter entitled 'The Spirtual Aptitude of Women`, Subhuti tells us that: "...comparing men and women from the same group under roughly similar environmental circumstances, it is likely that any given man will have greater spiritual aptitude than any given woman" (WMA p20)
Does this 'contextualizing` significantly change the nature of Subhuti's sexist comments?
The whole of the chapter is what Subhuti describes as an attempt:
"...to clarify Sangharakshita's assertion that women have less spiritual aptitude than men,.." (p47)
Or, to put it another way, the FWBO founder's observation that:
"It is generally true that men have a greater spiritual aptitude than women" (p47)
Again, we are told: "For those of us who are Sangharakshita's disciples, the position is clear. He does say that women generally have less spiritual aptitude than men..." (p58)
Subhuti repeatedly qualifies these statements by using the 'generalisation` disclaimer. This is a nonsense; if the FWBO were to claim that white people are 'generally` better able to actualise their potential for enlightenment than black people, would the word 'generally` render the statement non-racist? Obviously not, and the inclusion of the term in this context does not render the statements non sexist. On the contrary, this is classic sexism, discrimination on the basis of sex", the belief that one sex is superior to the other. It exhibits the archetypal sexist tendency to judge women and men unequally in matters that have nothing to do with differences in sex.
Sangharakshita actually justifies his views on the 'spiritual inequality` of male and female consciousness (which, it should be noted, actually has no gender) on the basis of an argument taking the 'inferiority` of the female form as its basic premise. He points out:
"..woman's form, her 'psycho-physical complex`, already gives greater expression to interests and concerns that have little affinity with spiritual life. Her consciousness is therefore, from the outset, likely to be more limited because it expresses a more limited disposition." (WMA p30)
The Response continues in
the same footnote:
[n112] "3. The Files says: 'On the occasions when Buddha did talk about the nature of female existence, he described it as "less advantageous." Subhuti however, translates "less advantageous" as "less aptitude", a discrepancy which goes unnoticed, even by himself.' WMA actually says: 'Whatever the manner of discussion of women occasionally found in Buddhist texts, the tradition seems universally to consider the female form less spiritually advantageous. This was sufficient starting point for Sangharakshita.'
and then continues in its
[p13] "The idea that birth as a female is less advantageous than birth as a male is a commonplace in Buddhism that has stimulated much critical discussion. Far from contradicting Buddhist teaching, Sangharakshita takes it as his starting point, and considers how to make sense of it in the modern world. Sangharakshita has observed, in his experience of thousands of students, that a significant proportion of women seem to find spiritual progress more difficult at the outset of their spiritual life than most men. In this sense he argues that men and women have different aptitudes for the spiritual life in the earliest stages.
"However, saying that women's biological conditioning has an influence on their spiritual lives is not misogyny - that being a form of hatred."
One will note that the Response defends the FWBO against allegations of misogyny made supposedly in the Files. While the Files does on occasions make reference to misogyny, it is solely in relation to the allegation of the FWBO's teaching being based on a 'misogynistic biological determinism` made by Madeleine Bunting of the Guardian and the FWBO's defence of themselves specifically in relation to that charge. It is only in this context that the Files mentions misogyny; nowhere does the Files itself make this allegation. The principle accusation of the Files, evident from both the tone and language of the relevant section concerning women, is one of sexism. Though the Response gives an appearance of answering the allegations made in the Files by addressing the allegation of misogyny, which is not actually made by the Files, it never once addresses the charge of sexism which is made by the Files. In other words, this is a fudge - the Response pretends to answer the allegation without actually answering it at all.
All of the above represents an attempt on the part of the Response to create the impression that, the Files author's allegiance lies with those radical feminists who assert that sexism equals misogyny; it is a covert attempt to place this author in the same camp as holders of extreme views. Though in this case the Files author believes that FWBO sexism has led to misogyny, it is not an accusation he himself has made, and indeed he would distance himself from those who turn such a specific belief into a sweeping generalisation. While sexism and misogyny are clearly related, one frequently giving rise to the other, they are at the same time, quite obviously, distinct phenomena.
The whole of point 3 of the Response above demonstrates the fundamental mistake which underlies Sangharakshita and the FWBO's view of women for, in taking as his starting point the commonly held Buddhist view that women are placed at a disadvantage by nature of their birth, Sangharakshita makes a giant leap of illogic and arrives at the ridiculous conclusion that they are more anchored in the 'Lower Evolution`, have a lower spiritual aptitude than men, and are less able to actualize their potential for enlightenment.
Not only is there no logic to such a conclusion, it also bears no resemblance to any teaching in any of the Buddhist traditions. Would he similarly conclude that, because blind people cannot read written scripture or disabled people cannot bow in the traditional manner, that they too are anchored in a 'Lower Evolution`, that they too are of a lower spiritual aptitude compared to the sighted and able bodied, or that they too are less able to actualize their potential for enlightenment? Such a conclusion would be repugnant to all, yet it follows exactly the same line of reasoning as that employed by Sangharakshita and Subhuti.
The presence of such a perverse attitude is clear and explicit evidence of the presence of sexism within the Order, as well as an implicit indicator of an accompanying misogyny. Misogyny after all,is contempt, and contempt has its origin in notions of superiority and inferiority. Such notions are fully at home in the FWBO, whose teachings encapsulate as they do, concepts of the lower and Higher Evolution, and notions of a 'spiritual hierarchy` (another teaching unheard of in Buddhist circles).
It should be obvious from all of this that none of the above 'quotes` taken from the Files is "inaccurate", or "fabricated" as the Response disingenuously suggests.
What is also extremely disingenuous is the impression given by the Response that it has answered each of the 'quotes` from the Files systematically, whereas it has not. As well as those above, The Files lists the following:
*Men are more likely to take up the spiritual life in a fuller sense than women
*Men surpass women in their commitment to spiritual life
*The domination of women by men is not historical fact but myth - "The feminist reading of history as the story of Womans's oppression and exploitation by man belongs not to history but to mythology" and "Men have of course, sometimes suppressed women (and women, men) just as Jews have sometimes enslaved Gentiles (and Gentiles, Jews!)."(MWA p11)
All of these appear in WMA. Questions:
1) Why did the Response not address these particular statements, and
2) On the basis of which Buddhist scriptures do the FWBO justify these supposedly 'Buddhist` teachings?
Furthermore, if the FWBO are to deny that they teach that women are inferior to men, to whom is Subhuti referring when he states:
"Actually, it is quite possible to recognize relative inferiority in another whilst retaining a very positive and sympathetic attitude to them."(WMA p13)
Again, if ideas of male superiority are not prevalent in the Order nor are they part of their teaching, why is it that in their teaching on the Hierarchy of Being:
"Sangharakshita has expressed this hierarchy in more contemporary and Western terms: animal, woman, man, artist, angel...'Angels are to men as men are to women-because they are more human and, therefore, more divine`." (WMA p28),
Why will women:
"generally be lower on the hierarchy than men." ? (WMA p28)
The next paragraph of the Response attempts to prove that there is no instutionalized sexism within the Order by speaking of Sangharakshita's 'thousands` of women disciples and what an important role they play in the running of the FWBO. Indeed, we are informed in a footnote:
[n115] "The College of Public Preceptors, the body that is assuming Sangharakshita's primary responsibilties, currently comprises three men and three women."
Again, the fact that there are 'thousands` of women dedicated to supporting Sangharakshita and running his movement is only an indication of how many sincere women he has managed to dupe by claiming to be a genuine Buddhist master teaching Buddhism, neither of these being true as has been proven repeatedly. Bhagawan Shree Rajneesh also accumulated a following of thousands on the basis of dishonest claims but this number was no proof of his authenticity, only of his cunning and dishonesty.
The presence of three women Public Preceptors indicates, perhaps, a certain egalitarianism but the appointments certainly beg the question as to whether this proves that women and men are considered equal within the Order (Subhuti's writings, for this author at least, indicating they are not), or whether they are there to provide a 'flag of convenience` for Sangharakshita and the male-dominated upper echelons of the FWBO's 'spiritual` hierarchy to hide behind. It further causes one to speculate if those particular women can provide an answer to Subhuti's question as to whether "women who do show great aptitude for spiritual life display masculine characteristics"? (WMA p 23)
The Response [p14] now attacks
the Files for stating:
the existence of a separate women's wing, in what is a non-monastic environment... indicates the existence of both apartheid and sexism in Order hierarchies... the relative ease with which one can find female ex-Order members who have left because of the above reasons being a clear indicator of the sexism and apartheid that goes on behind the egalitarian facade of the FWBO.'(p.18)
The Response continues:
[p14] "Why should the FWBO's single-sex activities be termed 'apartheid' any more than other such activities in our society for men or women alone, that are considered quite normal?"
Which activities "that are considered quite normal in our society" mirror the single sex activities of the FWBO: gentlemen's clubs, the Boy's Brigade? These anachronistic institutions are noted for their maintenance and perpetuation of archaic sexist values, an accusation which, in light of the views expressed in 'Women, Men & Angels` can easily be levelled at the FWBO. Does the institutionalisation of such values really merit designation as a 'Buddhism` perfectly attuned to the needs of contemporary society, or is it simply another manifestation of a peculiar perpetuation of those same out-dated & archaic values?
'Apartheid` or 'separate development` was the white South African government regime's policy of segregation based on ideas of racial difference, indeed racial superiority. Van den Berghe's 'Race and Ethnicity: Essays in Comparative Sociology` (NY, Basic Books 1970) distinguished three main levels of segregation in South Africa during the apartheid years:
1) Microsegregation - the segregation of public places such that public areas had separate facilities for whites and non-whites
2) Mezzosegregation - segregation by neighbourhood, with blacks compelled to live in separate zones
3) Macrosegregation - segregation of whole peoples in distinct territories
The reason the FWBO's single-sex activities should be termed apartheid is because women are separated from men on the basis of a comparable philosophy which deems one being superior to another on the basis of a physical distinction.
They are further worthy of the designation because FWBO single sex communities and activities which manifest on the basis of such elitist distinctions perfectly mirror Van den Berghes concepts of 'microsegregation` and 'mezzosegregation`. There can be little doubt that if the FWBO's stated goal of the deposition of the old society were to be accomplished and the 'Blueprint for a New World` became a reality, then 'macrosegregation` would also become a mamifest phenomenon, although here it would be based on ideas of sexual rather than racial superiority.
This then, is why the FWBOs
single-sex activities should be termed apartheid: because they are based on
ideas of inferiority and superiority and because their structure closely mirrors
Van den Berghe's classification of the various levels of segregation manifest
in a society which is founded on apartheid principles.
[p14] "As to the claim that one can easily find female ex-Order members who have left primarily for reasons of sexism, the writers of this Response know of none."
There is little point in addressing this since the Response then immediately continues:
[p14] "This is not to say that some people might not have experienced misogyny within the FWBO, or that misogynistic attitudes have never been held by individuals in the FWBO, and there may have been those who have left the FWBO for these reasons."
So the Response's authors know of none but admit that they may exist? So do they deny the allegation or not?
[p14] "However, sexist attitudes are wholly out of keeping with the purpose for which single-sex activities were established. This purpose was to create conditions for Dharma practice that are free from the tensions of mixed-sex environments."
The function of the single sex community in the FWBO is here clarified: "To create conditions for Dharma practice that are free from the tensions of mixed sex environments". According to David Scott's paper 'The Friends of the Western Buddhist Order: British Buddhism in Transition?" (Brunel University) the single sex community has developed in the FWBO because the male-female sexual relationship has the disadvantage of becoming exclusive on two levels: outer & inner:
"In the more obvious sense comes sexual gratification and overbalancing of sensual gratification in terms of indulgent excess, in a more subtle way...this exclusivity limits the greater opening up to the wider community of fellow trainees and internally dampens down the inner unfolding of both feminine and masculine characterisitics through maintaining a more external polarised situation and relationship."(p8)
The explicit assumption here is that male-female sexual relationships cause of such problems; the implicit assumption made in FWBO 'inner circle` doctrine is that same sex sexual relationships do not.
This second assumption was explicitly demonstrated by Subhuti in 1986 in his paper to the conference on the ordination of men (reprinted in Shabda Sept 1986) wherein he stated:
"Sexual interest on the part of a male Order member for a male mitra ('friend`) can create a connection which may allow kalyana mitrata ('spiritual friendship`) to develop. Some of course are predisposed to this attraction, others have deliberately chosen to change their sexual preferences in order to use sex as a medium of kalyana mitrata - and to stay clear of the dangers of male-female relationships without giving up sex."
Or, to put it another way, whereas male-female sexual relationships are fraught with 'dangers`, male-male sexual relationships are not.( Admittedly, Subhuti qualifies this by stating that ordinary gay relationships are 'fraught with jealousies` but he further qualifies the statement by pointing out that he is speaking here not about ordinary gay relationships but about homosexual relationships "within the context of the spiritual community.")
That this is an example of thought which pervades the upper echelons of FWBO structures is further evidenced by Vishvapani's revelation that:
"There are some communities which are completely closed to members of the opposite sex for any visits whatsoever. They may however be open to overnight stays by same sex sexual partners" (Scott p9)
So, sexual partners of the same sex are allowed overnight stays, but not partners of the opposite sex. Obviously, from the FWBO's viewpoint homosexual sex is not detrimental to the well being of the spiritual community, whereas heterosexual sex is a disruptive influence.
This raises some interesting issues for, quite apart from the fact that it demonstrates explicitly the ridiculous assumption that homosexual relationships are less fraught with delusion than heterosexual ones, it also demonstrates that the particular type of discrimination at work here is not after all sexist in nature, sexism being discrimination on the basis of sex.
What we have here is discrimination
on the basis of sexuality; the idea that one gender is by its nature superior
to another. Since the purpose behind the creation of single sex communities
is to "create conditions for Dharma practice that are free from the tensions
of mixed sex environments" and since same sex sexual partners are allowed overnight
stays in these environments whereas partners of the opposite sex are not, it
is obvious that FWBO thinking enshrines such ideas of the superiority of homosexuality
to heterosexuality. Question: What kind of future are the FWBO hoping to create
by placing members of the same sex together in closed communities wherein sex
is permitted only on the condition that it is not of a heterosexual nature?
In light of all this, the
Response's claim that:
[p14] "sexist attitudes are wholly out of keeping with the purpose of which single sex activities were established" may (somewhat surprisingly) contain an element of truth, for evidence indicates that it is not, after all, discriminatory attitudes on the basis of sex, but discriminatory attitudes on the basis of sexuality, which are really in keeping with the purpose for which said communities were established. Well, thats alright then(?).
b) Sex and Lifestyle
[p14] "'Having alienated followers from their families, women and heterosexual relationships, Order members are encouraged to engage in homosexual relationships since, within the FWBO, such relationships are considered to be part of the path to enlightenment.'(p.19)
"The Files' most serious allegations against the FWBO concern sex, and the associated area of lifestyle. However, its account is utterly wrong."
Those who wish to decide whether the Files account of what goes on inside the FWBO is true should feel free to consult the Files itself and make their own decision. Statements such as "its account is utterly wrong" constitute nothing more than denial. What is required to disprove such allegations is proof, hard evidence, not empty words. However, whereas the allegations in the Files are based on substantial evidence, the FWBO have responded with little more than attacks on the person of the Files author, easily disproved illogical arguments, obvious lies and various other devious tactics, in a document which, though written to defend its activities, has actually so far substantiated a large number of the allegations made in the Files itself.
The distinctions between truth and falsity are like the distinctions between an oasis and a mirage in that, the closer one comes to an oasis, the more one understands it to be real, whereas the closer one comes to a mirage, the more it becomes apparent that it is a false appearance. Within the context of the present debate, the Files can be likened to the oasis, in that the more one scrutinizes the Response, the more the Files account is validated. The founder's and 'Buddhist` doctrines of the FWBO, on the other hand, are like the mirage for, the more one scrutinizes them, the more apparent it becomes that both the teacher and the doctrines are false.
[p14] "The FWBO's approach to sex in theory and practice is readily attested by the heterosexual, homosexual, married and celibate Buddhists practicing in the FWBO. It has also been discussed very fully in numerous texts, yet these go unmentioned in the Files."
This, as we will see, is another of the devious tactics repeatedly employed by the authors of the Response to draw attention away from the real issues. Rather than addressing those issues raised by the Files arising out of specific quotation from their own literature, they point to alternative statements in articles which contradict what they have said or are sufficiently ambiguous to justify their own arguments. For the sake of future brevity I shall from now on refer to this as the 'contradictory statement argument`. The function of such an argument is not to answer an allegation, but simply to fudge the issue, to give the appearance of having answered an accusation while at the same time not addressing it at all.
With reference to the specific texts which "go unmentioned in the Files", this author intends to quote fully and extensively herein from more than one of these in order to substantiate allegations made initally in the Files. He apologizes particularly for not referring to the July 1998 edition of Dharma Life, an omission for which he is denigrated by the Response's authors. The lack of reference to said text is because the Files was printed and distributed three months before that particular issue of Dharma Life was published.
[p14] "It also makes no attempt to see the FWBO's experiments with lifestyle in relation to the FWBO's doctrinal position, or in an historical context - and this gives rise to grave misunderstandings. For a full account of the historical context see the article by Dhammadinna in Appendix 1."
This article by Dhammadinna, which also appeared in the FWBO magazine 'Dharma Life` (Summer 1998) might easily have been subtitled 'Why it doesn't matter about Sangharakshita's claiming to be a monk when he wasn't one, how he never said any of the things that the nasty old author of the FWBO Files said he did, and why it was perfectly alright to get stoned and have lots of free love with as many different people as possible, of as many different sexual inclinations we could think of, because it was all in the name of Buddhism`; it is one of several self-justificatory pieces which have appeared in Dharma Life since the Files was published and contains a number of examples of the 'contradictory statement argument` discussed above. Before moving on, it might be of use to examine several of the quotes the article contained, rather than spend more time refuting its content later.
Dhammadina tells us that, in relation to the hedonistic attitude towards sex prevalent the Sixties:
"The positive side to this was a willingness to explore and experiment, taking nothing for granted"
"We were trying to break taboos, perhaps derived from Christian and social attitudes to sex, which sometimes resulted in irrational guilt"
This is equivalent to: "the Sixties was positive because it meant we didn't have to consider our sexual activities in light of pre-established ethical systems (Christian or Buddhist), as Nietzschean morality was much more 'in` at the time."
She also, once again, speaks of Sangharakshita's return to England: "after 20 years in India as a Buddhist monk". This author was under the impression that Sangharakshita had publicly admitted that he had never been a monk and that the FWBO were not intent on perpetuating the myth of his ordained status by lying to the public.The above statement on the other hand appears in the Summer 1998 edition of Dharma Life.
Dhammadina advises: "We should be aware of the tendency to see the past through the eyes of the present: a time affected by AIDs and by discussion of sexual abuse, as well as by political correctness and gender politics".
Why should "we" (here meaning "you") be aware of our tendency to see things through the eyes of the present? Because otherwise what went on might look suspiciously like a hedonistic free for all, involving politically incorrect behaviour encompassing a multiude of types of sexual abuse and drug taking, all justified in the name of Buddhism. Dhammadinna might equally advise us not to think of the murder of six million Jews as genocide as, at the time, it was seen simply as Hitler's way of putting right the ills of German society. Well, I guess thats alright then; it might not be alright now, but it was the norm then.
Perhaps "we" should also "be aware of the tendency to see the past" through the eyes of those who practised the Dharma for two and a half thousand years previous to the period under discussion. Otherwise what went on might look, just a little, like flagrant vow breaking, moral depravity and the pollution of the Dharma by persons anxious to fulfil their own personal, selfish desires, using the good name of Buddhism as justification.
Next we have the justification of Sangharakshita's 'dressing up` tendency, along with the implicit condemnation of the 'traditonalist` attitude that expects Buddhist monks to keep their vows, particularly in relation to sex.
People..."referred to rumours concerning Sangharakshita and sex. I was not at all bothered; it didn't occur to me to check with Sangharakshita whether they were true. It struck me as a fuss about nothing...I knew he wore robes for ceremonial reasons but less and less so otherwise. I did not think of Sangharakshita as a traditional Bhikkhu, and at that time I wasn't interested in traditional forms of Buddhism. I trusted him".
"A fuss about nothing"? Someone dressing as a monk while at the same time having sex with those who had gone to him for spiritual guidance? And Dhammadinna's response? "I trusted him"? The above is reminiscent of one newspaper advertising campaign depicting a used-car salesman dressed as a priest with the accompanying caption 'Would you buy a used car from this man?" Clearly Dhammadinna would and, as indicated by the publication and distribution of her comments in their magazine, the FWBO would also advise the same to anyone who came to them for an opinion. Sound advice? Would you buy a used car from that man? What about a new 'Buddhism`?
The next quotes further confirm the present document's allegation that single sex communities are founded on the basis of discriminatory attitudes towards heterosexuals and heterosexual couples.
"..we were beginning to realise that the romantic ideal - so prevalent in our Western conditioning - could lead to dependency and work against the development of...a harmonious sangha (spiritual community). Reflections such as these led to the establishment of single sex activities"
Meaning: Whereas the majority of Westerners are trapped in romantic heterosexual relationships, people of the same sex do not become romantic towards one another and therefore dependency cannot arise. Single sex activities then, are the perfect antidote to the romanticism and dependency of heterosexual relationships, for they prevent the couple, who are after all "the 'enemy` of the spiritual community" (Sangharakshita, Alternative traditions, Windhorse, 1986 p179), from disrupting the development of that community. This is the FWBO's glorification of homo-erotic feelings as though they are somehow more spiritual, more liberating than heterosexual ones.
Again, we have:
"Our decision to practise within these single sex situations...arose out of a desire to break our dependency on the opposite sex."
Confirming that, whereas desire or craving is considered by Buddhists to be the main problem which affects peoples lives , the FWBO, like followers of the Islamic faith, consider the problem to be something which arises from the side of the object, for if we remove the object (the opposite sex), according to this philosophy, the delusion subsides.
This may well have been the philosophy which motivated the foundation of Buddhist monasteries, but, whereas these were for celibate monks and nuns and this complimented that particular style of practice, the FWBOs single sex establishments are not for celibates; such non-celibate single-sex environments are common to the FWBO alone in the Buddhist world. In such a situation, the delusion does not subside, rather it simply refers to the next most available object, in this case a member of the same sex. This is an argument which has been levelled at the FWBO in the past (see Scott's paper for example) for, in isolating individuals with their own sex, in a situation where the expression of sexual desire is still seen as a healthy expression of one's 'individuality` (see Subhuti BFT), one of the most obvious responses is the cultivation of homosexual relationships.
That this is true is obvious, for in prisons, where heterosexual celibacy is enforced by the nature of the prison system, a culture of casual homosexuality arises, in effect by default. That this occurs in FWBO centres is obvious from what happened at Croydon and Lesingham House in the 1980s. Though the Order may claim that they have put a stop to this, by introducing 'structural reforms` (Guardian Oct 27 1997), they have not ceased to promote those doctrines which facilitated the growth of such ideas, nor have they ceased to create those environments wherein such occured. Isn't it obvious that such 'reforms` do nothing to prevent such behaviour, and instead only drive that behaviour further 'underground`, further out of view of the public eye, where it can be lied about for even longer?
Dhammadinna's comment that:
"This kind of exploration, however, was specific to the West...It wouldn't be appropriate in a more traditional society, where it might be unacceptable and undermine social stability.",
is one which confirms the fears expressed in the Files, for it confirms that one of the consequences of allowing the FWBO to 'play` Buddhism in the field of Western society will be the undermining of the structures of that society itself.
What Dhammadina is saying here is that it was perfectly acceptable to experiment with new structures and behaviours in the West, because such fundamental values as the heterosexual nuclear family and 'formalised morality` were already in a state of decline. Of course, according to her, such experimentation would be completely unacceptable in a society where those fundamental values were not in question, but in the West, where things were already in decline anyway, such behaviour didn't matter, such behaviour was not "unacceptable" and indeed did not "undermine social stability" any more than it already was. What kind of attitude is that? "It didn't matter what we did because things were already in a mess". Is this Buddhism or anarchy?
Doesn't the explanation
of the motives behind the creation of non-celibate single sex communities amidst
declining Western civilization illustrate exactly what type of society the FWBO
think should rise from its ashes? Are they or are they not indicating that the
new direction for Western society should be towards such single sex communities?
Are not the single sex non-celibate communities they have been cultivating over
the last twenty years the beginnings of their alternative 'New Society`?
Next we have reference to Sangharakshita's advice that:
"a man having strong feelings towards another man, even if those feelings are tinged with sexual attraction, need not mean he is homosexual"
So, don't feel bad about those feelings, go on, let yourself experience them etc, etc. Buddhism or a step towards sexual coercion?
Dhammadina then tells us that:
"In 1981 experimentation took another direction at one FWBO centre where a number of people decide to engage in friendly heterosexual sex (!?)...This experiment involved very few people, did not last long" etc, etc.
Readers can be forgiven for thinking that Dhammadina is referring here to events at the FWBO's infamous Croydon centre. However, anyone who scrutinized the events at Croydon in detail would know that Dhammadina was referring to another centre for, whereas the events at the centre mentioned here carried on for only a year, those at Croydon occured over a period of several, in the full knowledge of Sangharakshita and his cohorts. Again whereas the behaviour at the centre to which Dhammadina refers was heterosexual, the activities at Croydon were homosexual. Furthermore, whereas the experiment above did not last long and everyone reportedly returned to normal settled relationships of one kind or another afterwards, the events at Croydon left thirty men suffering from severe psychological damage and one man dead (so far). As stated, it is important to note these differences because otherwise people might have thought Dhammmadina was referring to the Croydon Buddhist Centre (which, of course, was "an isolated event" according to the FWBO).
Next comes another fascinating insight into Sangharakshita's unique teaching:
"Under fidelity...Sangharakshita outlined three possible modes: monogamy, promiscuity and celibacy. Each, he suggested, has a healthy and a neurotic form."
On the teachings of which of the Buddhist traditions, on the content of which Buddhist scripture, is the teaching on 'healthy promiscuity` founded? Answer: none. However, the FWBO propagate such ideas, claiming that such ideas represent a 'reasonable interpretation` of Buddhist doctrine. Which doctrine? How is it possible to 'interpret` the non-existent? This is typical of much FWBO 'Buddhism`. It is neither a translation, nor an interpretation of any Buddhist doctrine. It is the creation of something from nothing (or rather from the mind of Sangharakshita), it is the preaching of false Dharma.
The most ridiculous part of Dhammadina's justification of immorality is a reiteration of Sangharakshita's view that:
"...we are all celibate or non-celibate to some extent....he said that he would like to see everyone in the FWBO ...becoming 'more and more celibate every day."
This is a wonderful example, as we shall see, of the way Sangharakshita justifies his own promiscuity while posing as a monk ('sometimes I was celibate, sometimes I was not`) It is founded on the belief that, when it comes to celibacy, there are grey areas which can be used to justify sexual activity, that you can be 'a little` celibate as opposed to 'a lot`.
There are no grey areas when it comes to celibacy; you are either consciously sexually inactive for a sustained period of time or you are not.
The idea that there are degrees of celibacy is the devious and disingenuous argument of the monk who broke his vows yesterday but claims that, since he is not having sex today, he is therefore celibate (until tonight at least). But celibacy doesn't happen the moment you stop having sex. It is a conscious decision to remain free from any form of sexual activity for a sustained period of time, a decision which is embodied in the monastic ordination ceremony. The argument that if you are not having sex then you are celibate is as senseless and arrogant as the argument that if a murderer is not actually engaged in the act of committing the crime, he is therefore not a murderer.
"Beyond the Monk - Lay Split"
Returning to the main text of the FWBO's Response, the section "Beyond the Monk-Lay Split" begins:
[p14] "Sangharakshita concluded from his experience as a Theravadin bhikkhu that the rigid division between monks and laity was unhelpful to both parties."
This is the conclusion Sangharakshita reached in his '43 Years Ago`, a conclusion, as we have seen (Files p5) described by Bhikkhu Brahmavamso, someone who does have extensive experience of both Theravada Buddhism and Theravada countries, as:
'the misunderstandings of an outsider, one with little experience of the rich and beneficial lifestyles of both the bhikkhu and the layperson in the traditional Theravada countries.'
Let us briefly examine Sangharakshita's experience as a Theravadin bhikkhu, the experience of which formed the basis of his cataclysmic conclusion. Four questions:
For how many years did Sangharakshita live in a traditionally Theravadin country? Answer: None.
Of how many Theravadin monastic communities has Sangharakshita been a member? Answer: None.
For how many years was Sangharakshita a Theravadin bhikkhu? Answer: None.
Finally and therefore, how much "experience as a Theravadin bhikkhu" does Sangharakshita have? Answer: None.
This is the extent of Sangharakshita's Theravadin experience on which he based his theory of the need for a radical restructuring of the Buddhist community.
[p14] "According to his interpretation of Buddhist history (which is reflected in scholarly views of the subject and an analysis of the textual evidence) this division developed in the early Buddhist sangha as the result of cultural processes which altered the nature of the community the Buddha himself established." (ie. 'cultural conditioning`)
The scholarly views (plural) are expressed in one book (singular) recently published by Shambala, by one scholar (singular), Reginald Ray. In light of this, the above passage may equally be expressed in plain English as:
"Sangharakshita who has hardly any experience whatsoever of Theravadin culture decided (on the basis of having met a few Theravada monks) that there was something fundamentally wrong in the structure of traditional Theravadin Buddhist society. His theory was subsequently validated by Western scholar, Reginald Ray, who reached similar conclusions."
Sangharakshita must be thanked for his valuable insight, one which seems to have evaded the hundreds of millions of lay-people and bhikkhu sangha who have lived happily in traditional Theravada countries over the last two and a half millenia. It is regrettable (for the FWBO at least) that, if one examines Dr Ray's work, one finds that it does not in fact validate Sangharakshita's theories and indeed reaches quite different conclusions, a fact Kulananda appears to have overlooked in his eagerness to see FWBO theories validated.
[p14] "The WBO includes men and women who have made a deep commitment to the Buddhist path, but may be married, single, celibate or sexually active."
All western Buddhist traditions are made up of married, single, celibate or sexually active men and women who have made a deep commitment to the Buddhist path. For the FWBO to portray this as a unique characteristic of their Order alone is an insult to the deeply committed Buddhists of all genuine traditions and represents an attempt to portray them as still being caught up in 'archaic` social structures.
[p14] "... if one removes the assumptions about how one should live that are implicit in the adoption of a formal role, the Buddha's critique of craving and suffering can be applied to all aspects of the lives of all serious practitioners."
Again, an insult. This is the fundamental assumption which underlies the practice of all genuine western Buddhists; whether monk or layman, heterosexual or homosexual, craving is the problem and the abandonment of craving is the goal. The FWBO's feeling that this is some kind of major insight they can offer others indicates both arrogance and a complete lack of meaningful communication with anyone outside the mandala of Sangharakshita's ego.
Sex and Spiritual Life
[p15] "In considering the appropriate Buddhist attitude to sex, Sangharakshita takes the wholly traditional position that the aim for one following the Buddhist path is brahmacarya, the state of transcending sexual desire which finds expression in a cessation of sexual activity."
Such ideas are not 'wholly traditional` at all. Since when has the "aim" of traditional Buddhism been to arrive at a point of celibacy? Isn't the aim of traditional Buddhism liberation or enlightenment and celibate practice part of the path to that rather than the goal itself? Again does the cessation of sexual desire find its expression in a cessation of sexual activity? Perhaps the FWBO should consult their 'lineage holding` tantric master on that one.
In truth, the above statement belittles those Buddhists who do not choose the path of celibacy but do choose to regulate sexual behaviour while devoting all of their energy to spiritual practice. Sangharakshita himself followed neither of these two 'traditional` paths, therefore his position is not, in the least, "wholly traditional". Neither his theoretical position, nor his practice of unbridled lust and untruths resemble anything, anywhere amongst any of the traditions.
[p15] "He comments that 'there is probably an irreducible element of craving in sex,' which makes it, in the final analysis, inherently unskillful."
How can someone who supposedly has a sufficient understanding of tantra to be able to discern its fundamental essence, someone who is a self-proclaimed lineage holder of all of the Tibetan tantric traditions, and someone who heads what is supposedly a 'three vehicle` 'Buddhist` tradition, make such a statement, one which flies in the face of the fundamental assumption of the tantras, that being that there is no such thing as an 'inherently unskilful` delusion. This statement directly contradicts the fundamental principles underlying the tantric path of transformation and only proves further that Sangharakshita and his cohorts, the senior Order members who wrote the Response, know nothing whatsoever about tantra.
[p15] "An important consideration stressed by Sangharakshita is the need for emotional independence. Thus he speaks of developing the quality of 'individuality'."
Isn't this particular concept of 'individuality` more at home on the psychiatrist's couch rather than the meditation cushion? When and where did the Buddha stress the importance of 'individuality`? No, the Buddha's teaching states that it is the belief in the 'individual` which lies at the root of suffering. Again, Shantideva's Bodhicharyavatara clearly explains that it is the belief in the individual and wishing solely for that individual to be happy which prevents us from achieving enlightenment and liberating beings from suffering.
The whole of this section of the Response is an attempt to portray the FWBO's attitude towards sex as wholly orthodox and in keeping with tradition. Why? to convince the public who read the Response that nothing is going on; that the Files was lies and actually everything is just fine and hunky dory. However, the Response was written for the public and written AFTER the publication of the Files and the Guardian. On the other hand, what were senior Order members telling other Order members about sex behind closed doors before the truth became public? What information was fed to Order members in internal publications, not intended for public distribution? At what was Subhuti intimating, for instance, when he stated that:
"Sexual interest on the part of a male Order member for a male mitra ('friend`) can create a connection which may allow kalyana mitrata ('spiritual friendship`) to develop.",
a statement that was made at a major FWBO conference and was then subsequently distributed internationally to FWBO members?
The Response on p18 argues that Subhuti was not advocating: "the combination of sex and kalyana mitrata, but expressed the idea in the interest of considering it". This is nonsense. Subhuti's paper was given at the FWBO 'Conference on the Ordination Process for Men` in July 1986 and then published in the internal communications magazine Shabda. The relevant quote was made within the context of a section of the speech delineating the factors which motivate Order members to spend time with mitras. There is nothing in the speech which points to Subhuti 'expressing the idea in the interest of considering it`. On the contrary, he makes it quite clear that what is being talked about is what actually goes on in the FWBO. No attempt is made to conceal this fact and it is blatantly obvious from the wording of the speech that this is the case. If this does not represent promotion of homosexual relationships as the path, then what does? Such ideas are unlocatable anywhere in any genuine Buddhist tradition. How then can the FWBO attitude towards sex possibly be described as "wholly traditional"?
The Response claims that "the Files fails to mention that the conclusion of this discussion (what 'discussion`?) was that this practice is not a good idea and is best avoided" but, having scrutinized the text of the speech repeatedly this author has been unable to find any such conclusion. Subhuti does however conclude that the fact that some people are unable to change their heterosexual preferences to homosexual ones so as to engage in 'spiritual friendships`:
"..means that a great deal of the Order's combined emotional energy goes into male-female relationships which are probably not spiritually conducive. If one is sexually satisfied and is getting affection and personal attention from one's girlfriend one will be less likely to seek strong emotional connections with men mitras. Besides which, what time one does have will be taken up with her." (Shabda, Sept 1986, p125-6)
Isnt it obvious what's going on here? If the FWBO are going to accumulate large numbers of followers and substantial profits, as well as influence our children through their input into the educational system, all in the name of Buddhism, isn't it the duty of real Buddhists, for the sake of the Dharma, of new converts and of society itself, to demand that they identify from which Buddhist teaching these doctrines are derived? Isnt it time that the FWBO were obliged to justify these ideas? Isn't it time to do this now, before the cuckoo starves its surrogate parents to death, and more people are left psychologically damaged or even dead?
c) Families and Lifestyle
The Files stated:
'the FWBO encourages the undermining and abolition of heterosexual, nuclear family relationships... Sangharakshita believes that heterosexual couples engaged in the creation and caring for such a family are "the enemy of the spiritual community".'(p.18)
The Response's authors now make their excuses:
[p15] "In 1986, in reviewing a biography of D.H.Lawrence Sangharakshita considered why Lawrence's attempts to found a spiritual community foundered and, in the light of his own experience in founding the FWBO, he made four points:
'1) The spiritual community consists of individuals. 2) The "couple" is the enemy of the spiritual community. 3) The spiritual community is not a group. 4) The spiritual community must have a common ideal and a common method of practice.'
"...Sangharakshita's uncontroversial (!) conclusion in response to the destructive effects of sexual relationships within Lawrence's communities is that neurotic relationships - where either partner compulsively seeks to find in the other that which in reality they are lacking within themselves - are not compatible with spiritual community.
"...his answer was that, for a spiritual community to thrive, its members need to be engaged simply as individuals and not part of a 'couple`. As the inverted commas (dropped by the Files) suggest, Sangharakshita means the word in a distinctive way:
'By the couple, in this context, one means two people, usually of the opposite sex, who are neurotically dependent on each other and whose relationship, therefore, is one of mutual exploitation and mutual addiction. A couple consists, in fact, of two half-people, each of whom unconsciously invests part of his or her total being in the other: each is dependent on the other for the kind of psychological security that can be found, ultimately, only within oneself.' "(Alternative Traditions p179-181)
One will note first of all that "By the couple, in this context, one means two people usually of the opposite sex, who are neurotically dependent on each other". One might alternatively state: "By the couple we mean two people who are neurotically dependent on each other and are usually of the opposite sex" (Or alternatively "those involved in heterosexual relationships are frequently neurotically dependent on each other"). However, for now it is sufficient to bear in mind that Sangharakshita's definition of 'couple` refers to a pair who are "usually of the opposite sex".
This is further qualified by the condition that they are "neurotically dependent on each other". Sangharakshita elaborates: [the] "relationship, therefore is one of mutual exploitation and mutual addiction ...each... unconsciously invests part of his or her total being in the other: each is dependent on each other for the kind of psychological security that can be found ultimately, only within oneself".
Subhuti also comments on the nature of this neurotic dependency in Buddhism for Today, attributing its cause to the "Western glorification of romantic love", those who find themselves in such a state being described as "those guided by impulses of infatuation. For romantic love, so glorified in popular culture, is no more than this - sexual attraction followed on by psychological projection."
"The glorification of romance places far greater emphasis on the marital relationship than it can usually stand. For many, it is their foremost and most basic relationship from which they expect to derive most of their social needs - friendship, sex, comfort, support, stimulation, etc. Few if any, are able to get from each other everything they need of other human beings, and few will find in the relationship everything they had hoped for." (p177)
Putting all these things together then, we can conclude that when Sangharakshita speaks of the 'couple` (which I include here in response to the above objection that they were ommited in the Files) who are the 'enemy of the spiritual community` what he means is, usually, a heterosexual couple who are in love.
Such 'couples` form or create a large part of contemporary society; they are after all the fundamental nucleus of the nuclear family. Interestingly, whereas Sangharakshita clarified his definition of 'couple` by the use of inverted commas, when Subhuti comes to speak of the nuclear family, the inverted commas are omitted, as indeed they are on six of the seven occasions that the word 'couple` appears in the passage from Sangharakshita's Alternative Traditions quoted above.
Subhuti defines nuclear family for us:
"The nuclear family is the basic unit of modern society: mother, father, and 'two point three` children."
He describes this unit as one of three "enemies to be attacked" in the "war" waged by the New Society against the old.
How can the Response possibly justify its claim that these ideas do not imply "that heterosexuality or family life are wrong" [Response p15]? How can they make such ridiculous claims in light of their founder's statements such as, the family is "a fragile and unwholesome unit. It offers little real stability and happiness and, by virtue of the clinging and delusion that it embodies, is antithetical to the spiritual life."(Alternative Traditions), a statement they justify by claiming, "In its original context, this statement does not imply that all families are bad. It describes a tendency families can exhibit" [note 128]. This is just nonsense. The original text does not qualify the statement in this manner, so was this something readers were supposed to work out for themselves?
Again, how can they claim that Sangharakshita's saying:
"But if you set up communities, particularly men's communities and women's commmunities, then there's a different sort of social set-up immediately. You abolish the family at a stroke - and everything that that implies. The whole family based way of life is just abolished, just broken down, and that's a very, very big thing to have done: a really massive source of conditioning is removed. Unless one does something like this there's no real carana: its all quite empty pseudo-vijja...the single sex community is probably one of our most powerful means of assault on the existing social set-up." (from 'Salutation to the Three Jewels', a seminar on the Tiratana Vandana, transcribed by Kulananda, edited by Sangharakshita, pub FWBO/Ola Leaves 1978, p18)
is "asserting the existence of a positive(?) alternative to nuclear families but not suggesting that people who cannot or do not wish to pursue this alternative should feel obliged to do so"? [note 128]. Isn't it obvious that the agenda here is a hostile one and that anyone who lives with a family in the 'New Society` will be looked down upon as some sort of spiritually inadequate, second class, 'lower being`, a throwback of the 'old society` who remains ensnared in the 'lower evolution`?
Ridiculous declarations such as "Sangharakshita and the FWBO do not seek to undermine heterosexual relationships or family life" [Response p15] do nothing to allay fears or answer these questions when senior Order members such as Subhuti make statements that are subsequently publicised internationally, on the negative effects that heterosexual relationships have on the Orders "combined emotional energy" (Subhuti's paper for Men's Ordination Conference, Shabda Sept 1986 p125 ) or make comments such as "The mounting divorce rate..is..to be rejoiced in." (New Society, BFT 176)
[p16] "Sangharakshita insists that in seeking to apply Buddhist teachings to the West we should not ignore the scriptures' persistent criticism of the constraints family life imposes on one wishing to follow the Buddhist path. The Buddha of the Pali Canon speaks of family life as 'narrow, dusty, imprisoning', and urges his followers to go forth from it, if they can."
This demonstrates the fundamental mistake made by Sangharakshita in his critique of the family, as well as his lack of serious training in the Theravada for, in applying the particular criticisms which the Response quotes above, to modern society, he is recommending the application of ideas originally designed specifically to aid bhikkhus in their maintenance of detachment from family life, to members and potential members of the family unit; no Asian Buddhist tradition makes this leap. The very first word of the scripture the Response quotes to justify their approach gives this away; the word "Bhikkhus". (It is also of note that this is the only reference to scripture used to justify their doctrines that the authors make in the whole of their Response.)
During the course of his life, Lord Buddha gave thousands of teachings to people, who all approached the path from their own particular lifestyle; monks, laymen, paupers and kings, householders and forest dwellers all sought the Buddha's advice, and thus he tailored that advice specifically to the needs of the indviduals he encountered. These varied teachings became the basis of the subsequent threefold division into the Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana.
The teachings of the Theravada can, for the purpose of our present discussion, be further subdivided into two: those designed for the layman and those designed for the monk or 'bhikkhu`. The advice Lord Buddha gave to bhikkhus frequently differed radically from that which he gave to laymen. Whereas for instance, as the Response points out, Lord Buddha's advice to bhikkhus was that family life was "narrow, dusty, imprisoning", he advised laymen to choose their wives well, to cherish their children, and to honour their mother and father; one finds frequent references to topics such as these in the Pali canon, in the Sigalovada Sutta (Digha Nikaya III, 180-93), the Khuddaka patha (3) to name but two; in the Jatakas (1,329) it is stated that family harmony and unity gives strength, "just as a tree can better resist a gale as part of a forest, rather than standing alone". Again, in the Anguttara Nikaya, Lord Buddha stated:
"...these two, husband and wife, should indeed desire to rejoice with each other in this life and also rejoice with each other in the next world." (Eternal Legacy p43)
There are numerous other references of this type throughout the Pali canon and indeed in the scriptures of the general Mahayana. That the Vajrayana does not reject the institution of the family is obvious from the life stories of great mahasiddhas such as Ghantapa and present day enlightened masters such as His Holiness Sakya Trizin, head of the Tibetan Sakya tradition.
Throughout the whole of the Buddhist tradition we find examples of the fact that the Buddha's teaching is inclusive of the family. Furthermore it is definitely not possible to find teachings anywhere in the various Buddhist canons which advocate the undermining of this institution. For the FWBO on the other hand, the couple is the 'enemy of the spiritual community`, the nuclear family are the 'enemy to be attacked`.
What Sangharakshita and the FWBO are doing here is preaching doctrines designed specifically for bhikkhus, to lay people. Lord Buddha himself contributed significantly to social stability by assisting and encouraging both those who lived within society and those who lived outside of it. Sangharakshita, on the other hand, having denigrated the lifestyle of the renunciate sangha, then offers the philosophy designed specifically for them to those who dwell WITHIN the confines of society. The consequence of this can obviously only lead to mounting dissatisfaction with the lay lifestyle. The FWBO then offer their followers the alternative of the single sex, non-celibate community; isn't it obvious what motivates this and what the intended outcome of this is?
So, whereas Lord Buddha used these teachings to maintain and assist social stability, Sangharakshita and the FWBO use the same teaching to undermine it; whereas Lord Buddha's teaching kept those on the outside as well those on the inside of society happy, Sangharakshita's misapplication of the bhikkhu doctrine causes those on the inside of the 'Old Society` to feel unhappy and drives them out of it, straight into the open and waiting arms of the 'New`. Whereas poisons are used as medicines by doctors and tantrikas alike, here Sangharakshita uses the medicine of the Buddha's teaching as a poison for the whole of society.
This is not just an issue which should concern occidental Buddhists. As the Files pointed out, the FWBO are instrumental in the production of Religious Education syllabuses for Local Education Authorities throughout the length and breadth of the UK; the Response further informs us that the resources produced by the FWBO are being used overseas on the basis of the advice of supporters in positions of power, in Singapore for example.
In commenting on a Government consultation paper entitled 'Supporting Families`, published in November 1998, the Home Secretary Jack Straw, made it quite clear that "the Government believe that marriage is the best unit in which to bring up children" (The Times, 5/11/98). The Government view outlined in the paper states:
"Strong and stable families provide the best basis for raising children and for building strong and supportive communities" (4.1 p30)
Government policy is to promote the nuclear family as the basis of a healthy society and they have, as a consequence, invested millions of pounds to ensure that such an institution is given the best possible opportunity of survival.
Notwithstanding the fact that the FWBO teach views directly opposed to the government's views in their adult meditation classes, does it not seem senseless to allow an organization who have as one of their stated aims the eradication of the nuclear family, to educate children on that very topic? Two of the recurrent themes in Religious Education are the family and marriage. If Local Authorities allow the FWBO to influence minors with their peculiar ideas about such topics through RE syllabuses, while national Government promotes the institution of the family, isn't this the same as the left hand pouring water into a vessel while the right hand drills holes in its base?
Perhaps the most peculiar contradiction in the whole of this section concerning families comes towards its conclusion. The Response states:
[p16] "The FWBO nowhere encourages people to cut themselves off from their own families. Indeed, Sangharakshita has stressed the need for people to cultivate good relations with their parents, as he himself did - despite the Files baseless assertion to the contrary."
The footnote [n131] then quotes from Sangharakshita's 'Transforming Self and World`, wherein he states:
"Not attending to one's parents is quite a serious matter. If you are on bad terms with your parents...you can't make much spiritual progress. Your relationship with your parents is so deep that if it isn't positive, there's a lot in you that isn't positive"
In 'Facing Mount Kanchejunga`(p371) Sangharakshita tells us:
"...I considered it incumbent upon me to sever all connection with my relations in England. Consequently for the last five years I had not written to any member of my family...so far as I was aware they did not even know whether I was alive or dead...I received a letter from my sister...though I replied to her letter, I must have made it clear that I had no intention of keeping up the correspondence, for she did not write again and it was twelve years before any communication passed between myself and any of my relations."
Sangharakshita did not then, speak to his own parents for seventeen years. As he says "Your relationship with your parents is so deep that if it isn't positive, there's a lot in you that isn't positive... you can't make much spiritual progress".
d) Sex and the FWBO
[p16] "The Files makes two serious charges in relation to sex and the FWBO: firstly that it teaches that homosexuality is superior to heterosexuality, and second that members are 'converted' to homosexuality through coercive psychological means. Both of these charges are untrue."
Actually the Files did not make such a division and considered both of these 'charges` to be part of the same issue. It stated:
"..in the final analysis, it is not of overriding importance that Sangharakshita or a number of those around him are homosexual and it would be wrong to view all of the above as some kind of homophobic witch-hunt. Notwithstanding their view of homosexual acts as non-virtuous, Buddhist societies have traditionally been inclusive and tolerant and homosexuals are not precluded in any manner from Buddhist practice. Rather what is at issue here is the deceit, manipulation and distortion of Buddhist teachings systematically practised in this regard by Sangharakshita and his retinue in order to legitimize and satisfy their own selfish desires." (Files p25)
Why then separate the two issues of coercion and homosexuality in such an arbitrary manner? Why? Because it is then possible to sway opinion in the FWBO's favour by portraying the Files author and, as we shall see, the Buddhist traditions, as 'homophobic`, and thus to create a picture of the pre-existent Asian traditions as being governed by archaic principles and values.
It further allows the FWBO to reduce the level of the debate to a 'sex scandal` of the 'Clinton-Lewinsky` genre, a 'moral debate` over issues of personal/private sexual activity. But that is not the issue here; if Sangharakshita and those around him prefer to have sexual relations with members of their own sex, that is their decision, just as it was Monica Lewinsky's decision to have a sexual relationship with Bill Clinton. If, on the other hand, Clinton had told Lewinsky that she would be elevated through that sexual act to a position of power within the US government, the nature of the act they committed together would have been one that involved sexual coercion rather than simply sex.
This is the important distinction which must be borne in mind when considering the sex issue as it manifests in the present debate: we are discussing neither sex, nor sexuality. We are discussing sexual coercion, the sexually abusive behaviour of Sangharakshita and FWBO doyens, facilitated by their convincing others that homosexual activity, as opposed to heterosexual activity, is conducive to spiritual growth and was part of the historical Buddha's teaching. It is both incorrect and devious to separate the aspects of this issue in the arbitrary way in which the Response's authors have done.
Finally, the statement that "Both of these charges are untrue" means nothing; it is simply a denial. Both the Files and the present document present substantial evidence to indicate that the charge IS true. If the Response were to have fulfilled its intended role, it should have relied on evidence that the charges were untrue rather than simply denial.
[p16] "In the absence of evidence for these charges within the public domain, the Files constructs a wholly fictitious sense of an 'inner circle' where such attitudes are actually found, though remaining invisible."
What "..absence of evidence for these charges within the public domain"? Is the 'Guardian` newspaper not in the public domain? Are the numerous newspapers around the world who reprinted the story (none of whom were sued) not in the public domain? Is the FWBO Files, published on the Internet for the whole world to see as it is (www.fwbo.com), not in the public domain?
Let us examine the evidence for the existence of this "wholly fictitious 'inner circle`".
1) Mark Dunlop accused Sangharakshita of coercing him into secretly having homosexual sex with him under the auspices that it would help him transcend his 'conditioning`. Although Sangharakshita refused to answer this allegation when it was put to him by the Guardian, it has since been confirmed, within the Response, that such a relationship took place. He has denied however, that it was coercive. One will note that at the time of the relationship, Sangharakshita was in his 40's and Dunlop was in his early 20's. Dunlop had gone to Sangharakshita for advice on Buddhism of hich he knew nothing; Sangharakshita, at that time, posed as a bhikkhu and claimed extensive knowledge of all Buddhist traditions.
2) Sangharakshita's subsequent 'close disciple`, Yuveraj (Maurice Cook), claimed that he also endured the same type of abuse at the hands of the FWBO 'founder`. Cook has since endured prolonged bouts of psychological disturbance.
3) Subhuti's speech at the conference on the ordination of men promoting homosexuality as a means of enhancing 'spiritual friendship`, quoted above, was intended for senior FWBO members and was circulated in Shabda, an 'in-house` magazine for distribution amongst established Order members.
4) Matt, who eventually made the decision to take his own life after enduring abuse at the hands of Sangharakshita's protege Stephen Barnham, was, according to his psychiatrist, subjected to the ordeal of senior Order members (plural) endeavouring to deliberately break down his personality and, after alienating him from his family and women, attempts were made to force him to engage in homosexual acts "both by using inducements and by using threats"
5) 'Tim`, another of Barnham's victims (who incidentally, according to the Guardian, numbered thirty) stated that Barnham had raped him after being told that 'new vistas` would be opened to him if he engaged in homosexual sex with this senior Order member.
6) 'Martin` (p26 Files) stated that he had been repeatedly coerced into homosexual acts by Kulananda, close disciple of Sangharakshita, under the auspices that it would help him transcend his conditioning.
7) He further confirmed that Kulanada had engaged in a large number of similar relations with other Order members.
8) 'David`, (above cit) who lived at the FWBOs Lesingham House, Sangharakshita's principal seat in the 1980s, stated that Order member Vajranada (who, for some reason, goes unmentioned in the Response) had a 'prolific sexual appetite` and engaged in sexual relations with a large number of young disciples using the 'conditioning` argument. He added that at least half of the 20 residents of Lesingham House were engaged in similar relations.
9) Kulananda himself confirmed in 1990 that homosexual relationships between teachers and disciples occured within the FWBO, 'as had happened in Ancient Greece`, despite the fact that the Order now state that abuse took place only at Croydon, solely at the hands of Stephen Barnham ("teachers"?). But by 1990 Stephen Barnham was long gone and no longer had anything to do with the Order).
All of this evidence is in the public domain and has been since the Files and the Guardian were published. Were these allegations isolated incidents, one might decide to give Order doyens the benefit of the doubt, but the fact is that they have been made by a number of individuals in relation to specific persons, concerning exactly the same type of behaviour, on numerous occasions. All of this went on within a very real 'inner circle` which has continued to endure at the heart of the FWBO for years. In a court of law this would surely be deemed clear evidence of that.
It is worth noting a comment buried in Appendix 2 of the Response, wherein Vishvapani, one of the co-authors of the Response, describes some of his ‘personal experience’ at the FWBO’s Croydon centre during the 1980’s. He writes, inter alia: ‘I know there was homosexual activity in the single-sex communities [plural], but the curious thing is I never once heard a discussion of it…But I believe the secrecy surrounding it established a pattern of duplicity and confusion that corroded people’s integrity.’ Vishvapani concludes his personal account with a quote from Edward Gibbon: ‘As a wise man may deceive himself and a good man may deceive others, so the conscience may slumber in a mixed and middle state between self-illusion and voluntary fraud.’
What then, does the Response mean by 'in the absence of evidence in the public domain`? Kulanada and Subhuti, both of whom are present members of that very 'inner circle`, have both very clearly confirmed the existence of such practices. So, apart from the desire to hide the truth, what is the point of the Response's obviously disingenuous denial? Further, what does the naivete they presume in others say about their opinions of themselves and those they attempt to deceive?
Heterosexuality and Homosexuality
[p16] "What Sangharakshita says:
"In alleging that the FWBO teaches that homosexuality is superior to heterosexuality, the Files is unable to present a single quotation where Sangharakshita argues this allegedly central part of his teaching. Indeed, it quotes Sangharakshita as saying 'We don't say you should be homosexual, or you should have a wife or not.' This is the position Sangharakshita has consistently taught."
The latter part of this passage is another example of the 'contradictory statement argument`. The former is again an indication of the gullibilty FWBO doyens project onto the British public. Of course Sangharakshita has never been so foolish as to publicly state that homosexuality is superior to heterosexuality in those exact words, although we have already seen occasions where he came dangerously close to doing so. On the other hand, Subhuti has stated that homosexuality is superior to heterosexuality in his men's ordination conference speech. Kulanada has confirmed that, in an organization which sees the heterosexual family as being part of the 'lower evolution`, homosexual practices took place between teachers and students 'as happened in Ancient Greece`. Furthermore, a number of ex-Order members have confirmed the existence of such doctrines within the upper echelons of the group.
The fact then, that Sangharakshita has never been so foolish as to make such a statement publicly, is by now largely inconsequential. Whether he has or has not, there is an overwhelmingly large body of evidence to prove that these views are secretly held by he and his cohorts. In pointing to their leaders not having totally committed himself on this specific issue, the Response's authors merely point to one of the few mistakes that the FWBO leader has yet left to make.
The footnote [n136] accompanying this section tells us that:
"The idea that the FWBO privileges homosexuality has been give recent currency by The Guardian"
Rumours about the FWBO and homosexual practices have been rife throughout the Buddhist world for years, ever since Sangharakshita's shenanigans at Hampstead. The television programme from which Sangharakshita's above quote came, 'Going For Refuge` (BBC East TV 12 Nov 92), was broadcast five years before the Guardian article for instance, as the Response itself tells us in this very same footnote; the programme itself focussed on exactly the same allegations. Madeleine Bunting then, did not give the idea that the FWBO privileges homosexuality currency; she simply publicly reiterated opinions that had already been circulating for years, in a forum where they clearly deserved to be heard.
[p16] "As Dhammadinna reports from the seminars Sangharakshita held in the 1970s:
'...Sangharakshita concludes that there is probably not much difference between heterosexual and homosexual relationships....'"
So heterosexual and homosexual relationships are the same? Which Buddhist scripture states this? From which of the traditions that have handed the Buddha's teachings down to us, was this particular teaching taken from? Answer: None. Such a teaching does not exist in any pre-existent Asian tradition's canon. It is therefore not Buddhism. But it is sold as Buddhism by the FWBO. Here, once again, the Order preach false Dharma.
[p16] "Where Sangharakshita differs from some traditions of Buddhism and, indeed, from the modern phenomenon of 'homophobia',"
Here we have the predictable accusation, clearly designed to appeal to those enamoured with 'political correctness`, that Buddhist traditions (here 'some`) hold views that are the same as those of present day 'homophobics`.
1) 'Some` Asian Buddhist traditions are homophobic. (Since this is not politically correct, their ideas are therefore, anachronistic irrelevancies).
2) Therefore,'some` (other) Asian Buddhist traditions do not consider homosexual acts to be contrary to Buddhist codes of moral conduct.
Question: Which? Which Asian tradition asserts that homosexuality and heterosexuality are the same? Which Asian tradition says that oral or anal sex, be it between heterosexuals or homosexuals, does not constitute sexual misconduct?
[p16] "Subhuti writes:
'So long as there is no infringement of the ethical principles enshrined in the Ten Precepts, Sangharakshita does not think that the particular way an individual gains sexual satisfaction is necessarily a moral issue. Masturbation, homosexuality, whether male or female, and heterosexuality are all, in themselves, morally neutral.'"
This is very interesting and once again one wonders from which of the Buddhist traditions Sangharakshita and Subhuti have gleaned these teachings so as to create their 'Buddhism based on fundamental principles`.
Perhaps the Nyingma tradition, with whom Sangharakshita feels such a strong 'spiritual affinity` teaches such acts are "morally neutral"?
Apparently not, for in Patrul Rinpoche's Kunzang lama'i Zhelung, 'The Words of my Perfect Teacher`, one of the 'bibles` of all Nyingmas, the author reiterates the Buddha's teaching that:
"Sexual misconduct...includes...masturbation,...in the mouth or anus, and so on."
Perhaps then we can find support for Sangharakshita's views from within his teacher Dhardo Rinpoche's tradition, the Gelug, and in particular from one of Dhardo's greatest masters, Pabongka Rinpoche, the main progenitor of the new, 'New Kadampa Tradition`.
Again, no. For Pabongka states quite clearly in his 'Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand' that sexual misconduct, which is definitely not 'morally neutral`, is committed with reference to:
"..any wrong orifice, or, all orifices except the vagina."
Pehaps then, it might be possible to find something in Theravadin writings which might confirm the origin of Sangharakshita's teaching.
The Pali commentary accompanying Conze's translation of the five precepts in his 'Buddhist Scriptures` tells us:
"By 'those one should not go into`, first of all men are meant." [p71]
Again, Harvey's 'Introduction to Buddhism` points to Buddhaghosa's 'Path of Purification` teaching that homosexuality is seen as breaking the sexual misconduct precept and indeed, that one born homosexual is seen as being unable to experience certain deep meditative states.
Latter day leading Buddhist authorities also make it clear that homosexual activity, in fact any sexual activity between heterosexuals or homosexuals employing organs other than those which mutually facilitate reproduction, constitutes sexual misconduct. As the Response itself points out, His Holiness the Dalai Lama stated in May 1997 that:
"From the Buddhist point of view, men to men (sex) and women to women is considered sexual misconduct"
"a sexual act is proper when the couple use the organs created for sexual intercourse and nothing else."
As this is so, what illusion are the FWBO and the authors of the Response attempting to create when they make the ridiculous assertion that:
[p17] "The Buddhist attitude to homosexuality and the attitudes of the historical Buddha are moot points."?
The Response's support for this argument is reference to a single academic text which suggests the possibility of a relaxed attitude towards homosexuality in Pali sources on the basis of an apparent lack of reference to it in said sources; even the Response's authors admit that it is not possible to reach conclusions on this basis [Response footnote 139]. Obviously the author of the text had not considered the fifth century commentator Buddhaghosa's work mentioned above. The fact that Buddhaghosa's text, which is considered to be a 'bible` by most Theravadins, was overlooked by this academic author says much about his credentials.
Whereas then, the Response does not produce a single scriptural quotation to support the argument that homosexual acts are 'morally neutral`, the fact that the Buddhist traditions do not consider these actions morally neutral is clearly demonstrated. The fact that the Buddhist attitude towards homosexuality is not a 'moot point` then, despite the Response's claims, is blindingly obvious. Buddhism considers homosexual acts non-virtuous, negative actions; bad karma.
Of course, it may not be politically correct to hold such views but we are not here to discuss whether Buddhism is politically correct, which is indeed a debate in itself. Rather we are here discussing whether or not the Buddhist traditions consider homosexual acts to be "morally neutral" or straightforward bad karma; do the FWBO's teachings on homosexuality have any scriptural origin whatsoever, or are they simply Quasi-Buddhist 'Sangharakshitism`?
Further, the Order have vehemently denied that their supposedly Buddhist teachings on homosexuality have been used to justify a secret culture of homosexual sex as the path to enlightenment within the upper echelons of the organisation. Let us examine some of the publicity for 'Buddhism, Homosexuality and Desire`, a lecture by Maitreyabandhu given in 1997, to see if we can ascertain whether such a culture exists. According to Dharma Life, the FWBO quarterly (Summer98), Maitreyabandhu, has been teaching for the FWBO for the last eight years at the London Buddhist Centre, where he has lived in the men's community for the last twelve. (Interestingly for us, although perhaps startlingly irrelevant for others, we are also told that he has never given up sex during this period). He is well known in London's gay community for his Buddhist perspective on 'modern sexual identity`: Dharma Life does not tell us on which scriptures he bases his perspective.
The publicity for his lecture questions:
"At various times in history, homosexuality has been seen as a mortal sin, an abberation and an illness. What is Buddhism's view of homosexuality and how does the ancient tradition of Buddhism tackle the issue of sex, desire and sexuality in a modern world increasingly preoccupied with them?"
The publicity for one of the FWBO's many retreats for gay men that took place in 1997 explains the supposedly 'Buddhist` stance on the issue:
"Most religions see homosexuality as somehow deviant or 'unnatural`. Buddhism has no such view; instead it offers a practical path of spiritual development for all, regardless of sexual preference, race, class, or gender. On this retreat we will explore meditation and Buddhism in order to understand what makes this radical vision possible." (Introductory programme 1997 Dhanakosa)
"Buddhism has no such view"? Is this the Buddha's teaching or is it more preaching of False Dharma? Of what sort of 'radical vision` are we speaking here, and what kind of 'Buddhism` "makes this radical vision possible"?
Maitreyabandhu's article in Dharma Life might provide some answers. He advises:
"What is needed is a vision of the spiritual life that is realistic about the urgency of sexual feelings and the allure of romance, while offering ways to move beyond involvement, or at least dependency, on them [or in other words, ways which we can have our cake and eat it - my brackets]...Not everyone will want to move away from sexual relationships altogether - some people have family responsibilities while others will be content with a more mature sexual relationship that is supportive of their spiritual aspirations, and which leaves them ample opportunity to develop their respective friendships."
Who are these 'others`, without 'family responsibilities`, who will be enjoying a 'more mature sexual relationship that is more supportive of their spiritual aspirations`? At what type of practice is Maitreyabandhu intimating here and from which tradition does this idea originate? What kind of sexual relationship outside of the family context did Lord Buddha encourage his disciples to engage in as an aid to their spiritual growth? Finally, isn't it blindingly obvious that what is being intimated at here, in the summer of 1998, is exactly the same thing that has been going on within the FWBO for years, despite the fact that they have repeatedly and disingenuously denied it?
[p17] "Sangharakshita's approach is to go back to first principles, and to consider the doctrines of particular schools in the light of them."
This is the argument the Order use to justify their newly created 'Buddhism` and actually represents the FWBO flying the academic flag of convenience so as to justify their 'fundamental principles` idea and false doctrines. However, in relying on academic opinion for justification, the Order actually shoot themselves right in the foot.
The first statement, from the Response, claims that Sangharakshita has been able to discern 'first principles` which pre-date the teachings of the traditions. (That he can consider their doctrines in light of the principles infers that these principles existed before the traditions were born). Yet there is no evdence of what the Buddha taught which precedes the canons of the various traditions. How then can one possibly go back to first principles and consider the traditions in light of them. This is simply a way of creating a situation where one can invent one's own doctrines and then claim that they represent first principles, as did Luther.
Elsewhere, Kulananda expands:
"To understand the fundamentals of Buddhism...it is necessary to get back as close as we can to the Buddha himself. We can do this by looking into the earliest texts and seeing what they have to say for us today. This is not to reject later developments. Buddhists in the West today stand as heirs to the whole Buddhist tradition. We can admire, respect and make practical use of elements of Japanese Soto Zen as much as we can elements of Tibetan Vajrayana or Thai Theravada. But to understand the tradition as a whole we need to go back to its roots." (Principles of Buddhism X11)
In this second statement Kulananda advises that, if we wish "to understand the fundamentals of Buddhism" we should "do this by looking into the earliest texts". However, present academics tell us that these "earliest texts" are equivalent to the contents of the Pali Canon, that body of writings which form the foundation of the Theravada. Thus, in identifying the teachings of the Thai Theravada as subsequent to the 'earliest texts` as above, Kulanada merely demonstrates his own ignorance of Buddhist history.
With reference to the Pali Canon itself, after the Rains Retreat following the Parinirvana of the Buddha, 500 senior monks met at Rajagaha to recollect his Word. This became known as the First Council. The various renderings were debated and a definitive oral version for recitation was agreed on, notably not unanimously. Furthermore, some members of the Sangha who had not been present at Rajagaha refused to accept the authorized version, and preserved and handed on their own versions instead. A further Council, occurred approximately 70 years later, and some 20 years after that, at the next Council, the first official schism arose, although it is obvious that by this time schisms were nothing new. Numerous further schisms arose subsequent to this. Academics and historians agree that it was not until around 35 BCE, or 350 years after the death of the Buddha, that the teachings of the Pali Canon were actually committed to writing, after generations of disagreement over what should constitute their actual content.
Since nothing whatsoever was written down before the above, and since what was written down only manifested after 350 years of disagreement, how can we ever identify or go back to so-called "first principles" ? How can we even rely on the supposedly "earliest texts as the Buddha's teaching? This is simply an impossibility; no one can say with certainty that, "These are the precise words of the Buddha", " This is the true word of the Buddha" or "This is what the Buddha actually taught", because the truth of the matter is that nobody knows. Thus the "first principles" contained in the "earliest texts" of which Kulananda speaks are unknowable, and the FWBO's claim to be returning to them is simply a nonsense.
Arguments against the validity of the Mahayana in general and the tantras specifically, can easily be countered. Academic opinion holds that the teachings of the Mahayana tradition began to appear around 150 BCE. However, the teachings in the Pali Canon were not actually written down until around 35 BCE, over a century AFTER the first appearance of the Mahayana. Thus, even the idea that the teachings in the "earliest texts" of the Pali Canon might represent the "first principles" of Buddhism is highly questionable from an academic viewpoint, committed to writing as they were subsequent to the first appearance of the Mahayana.
The Vajrayana tantras too, are dispensed with by present academics and the FWB0: with the earliest tantra, the Guhyasamaja, dating from the fourth century CE, how then, it is argued, could this possibly be the teaching of the Buddha?
However, up until 35 BCE, the teachings contained in the Pali Canon had been passed on orally for centuries. The argument against the valid origins of the tantras on the basis of their not being written down until the 4th century CE is therefore an extremely flimsy one, since it can quite easily be argued that these too were preserved as an oral tradition until that time and remained hidden for longer for the very reason that the Buddha wished those particular teachings to remain so, hence the term Secret Mantra (Skt Guhya mantra). The preservation and transmission of a religious tradition over a number of centuries in a purely oral form is hardly a rarity, indeed it is a commonplace as any religious scholar will tell you. To condemn the tantras as later accretions then, only further exposes the lack of vision of the proponents of such a view.
In conclusion, it is completely impossible to:
a) positively discern "first principles" or
b) prove that the scriptures of the Thai Theravada, the ordinary Mahayana or Tibetan Vajrayana represent later accretions.
Further, if we are to attempt to discern said "first principles" then the only points of reference we have are the scriptures of the traditions, since there are no teachings available to us which pre-date those contained in the canons of those traditions.
The above comments from the Response and Kulananda therefore deserve careful consideration, for they actually serve a sinister twofold purpose. Firstly, they act to totally undermine any authority the Asian Buddhist traditions possess, since these are all, Japanese, Tibetan and Thai, identified as subsequent cultural accretions, 'later developments`. Secondly, the comments provide a basis for the fabrication of a 'Buddhism` which bears no relationship to any of the traditions which have preceeded it, it being founded on "first principles" as opposed to the teachings of the pre-existent traditions.
As was said, this was the same idea as that employed by Luther, an idea which resulted in the Reformation schism and the ongoing demise of the Christian Church. First, denigrate the pre-existent tradition (In Luther's case, Catholicism) as a perverse accretion, then provide a set of self created 'first principles` which supposedly encapsulate the fundamental essence of the religion. In the same way that Luther employed the idea that the Catholic Church had not remained true to 'first principles` of Christianity so as to prepare the ground for the introduction of his own 'first principles`, the claim that the FWBO's Buddhism relies on principles which pre-date the traditions is simply a means of undermining the authority of the traditions while at the same time justifying the gross distortions and contradictions manifest in FWBO philosophy, distortions and contradictions which bear no resemblance whatsoever to any of the doctrines contained within the various historical Buddhist Canons.
[p17] "The comments in the Files regarding the question of authority suggest one of its underlying objections to Sangharakshita's teaching - that his views are not wholly reliant on external precedents."
The "external [?] precedents" to which the Response refers are the teachings of the pre-existent traditions. However, the reason the Files rejects Sangharakshita's teachings is not because his views are "not wholly" reliant on external precedents. Rather they are considered unacceptable because they do not rely on established Buddhist precedents in any way, rather they are wholly unreliant; they are creations which have arisen in the mind of Sangharakshita and which bear no resemblance whatsoever to the Buddha's teaching in any of its traditional manifestations.
[p17] "Readers must decide for themselves whether they consider it legitimate for a modern Westerner to arrive at their own understanding of the Buddhist position on a subject such as homosexuality, taking tradition and canonical sources into account, and decide for themselves what they think about it; or if any divergence from the doctrines of particular schools is inadmissible."
Who is qualified to do this? To claim that Sangharakshita is fit to engage in such an undertaking is to place him on a par with the Buddha himself, and further, it is to claim that he knows better than the traditions. Surely what readers must decide for themselves is whether they consider a known liar and charlatan, a psychological and sexual abuser of disciples, someone shown to possess hardly any genuine experience of the traditions whatsoever and with no proper training in any of them, is a fit person to interpret the Buddha's teaching and determine the future direction of Buddhism in the West. Would anyone in their right mind put themselves in the hands of such a man?
The Dalai Lama and his attitude towards homosexuality
Above, the Response attempts to justify Sangharakshita's understanding of the Budddhist position(?) on homosexuality. Here, they continue, in regard to the Dalai Lama and his attitude towards homosexuality:
[p17] "The Dalai Lama may well not be in a position to do the same, but his statement following the meeting mentioned above suggests that he is open to the opinion held by Sangharakshita in a way the Files is not, and wishes to find ways of reading his tradition in the light of modern understanding. According to a Reuters' news report, the Dalai Lama
'urged those present to build a consensus among other Buddhist traditions and communities to collectively change the understanding of the texts for contemporary society.'
The above is accompanied by the following footnote [n140]:
'His Holiness was greatly concerned by reports made available to him regarding violence and discrimination against gay and lesbian people. His Holiness opposes violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation. He urges respect, tolerance, compassion, and the full recognition of human rights for all. His Holiness discussed issues relating to Buddhism and sexuality with the gay and lesbian participants. Since these matters are complex and require careful consideration, His Holiness welcomes the invitation and suggestion for further study on human sexuality to be organised by some of the participants.' Statement from the Office of Tibet, 11/6/97.
The image this presents of the Dalai Lama as a supporter specifically of gay rights. Actually the Response is here taking advantage of the ambiguity of the official statement from the Office of Tibet and combining it with the Reuters report (not the words of the Dalai Lama himself) to create such an illusion. The official statement tells us His Holiness was concerned about violence and discrimination in relation to gays and lesbians and that he opposed such on the basis of sexual orientation. Now come the key words: "He urges respect, tolerance, compassion and the full recognition of human rights for all." In other words, His Holiness is opposed to discrimination against gays because he is opposed to all forms of discrimination and the restriction of human rights; His Holiness is a champion of the rights of all beings to happiness and freedom from suffering. He does not however choose to single out any particular group (apart, of course, from the Tibetan people) for special mention.
To confirm this, I contacted the Office of Tibet suggesting that the above indicated His Holiness was coming out in support of gay rights; their reply was that, "His Holiness has not singled out the gay community for special attention, he is a supporter of equal rights for all sentient beings, irregardless of race, creed, colour, gender, or sexuality." Any Buddhist or journalist who contacts the Office of Tibet (His Holiness' official spokespersons) over this issue is free to do so. They can be assured however, that they will receive the same answer.
The use of the Reuters report certainly makes it look as if the Dalai Lama is open to changing "the understanding of the texts" to accomodate homosexual behaviour but these are the words of the Reuters report (filtered through the FWBO), not those of His Holiness. According to the official statement, "His Holiness welcomes the invitation and suggestion for further study on human sexuality to be organised by some of the participants". This is definitely not an invitation to them to "change the understanding of the texts" as the Reuters report suggests and indeed, the FWBO's own publication 'Dharma Life` (11 June 1997) tells us that the Dalai Lama "stressed that he does not have the personal authority unilaterally to reinterpret Buddhist scriptures". If His Holiness does not possess such authority, how could he possibly grant such authority to others? Furthermore, if His Holiness does not possess such authority, who on earth gave Sangharakshita the authority?
One of the funniest parts of the Response comes in reply to the Files accusation that, in the same issue of Dharma Life mentioned above, the Order attempt to blacken the name of the Dalai Lama by associating him with the Nazi party (Files p24). The Response tells us:
"The same issue also gives brief news coverage to the revelations of the Nazi past of Heinrich Harrer's which the Files considers an attempt to malign the Dalai Lama. There is no connection between the two stories, which appear on different pages of the magazine. [footnote 141]
This should read: "There is no connection between the two stories, which appear on different pages of the same magazine and are clearly cross-referenced ." The omission of these words is again an indication of the low esteem in which the Response's authors hold the public as well as their dishonest nature.
The Charge of Coercion
[p17] "The Files gives an account of FWBO practice which constructs an image of systematic coercion, not to say brainwashing, the aim of which is 'to satisfy the selfish desires of Sangharakshita and his retinue.' (p.25). This account is pure fabrication and bears no relation to what actually takes place in the FWBO.",
which is merely denial. Whereas all of the allegations in the Files are supported by evidence, the FWBO's defence is simply to say "We didn't do it". Hardly a convincing case for the defence. The Response continues:
[p17] "This fabrication is demonstrated by comparison of the above text with the original, noting the qualifications the Files excludes..."
The original to which the Files and the FWBO's Response refer to here is an interview with Sangharakshita entitled 'Buddhism, Sex and Spiritual Life', published in Golden Drum magazine (FWBO/Windhorse, August 1986). In the interview Sangharakshita lays out his views on the relationship between sex and spirituality. Overall an impression is created of fair-mindedness, openness and compassion. He does not, on the whole appear to tell his listener or readers what they should and shouldn't do but behind the tolerance and easy-going delivery a very clear message emerges. While male-female sexual relationships are not condemned outright, there does not appear to be anything positive about them. In fact they are fraught with dangers. The message which comes over is that if you can't control your 'desires' and 'cravings' then there is nothing really bad about heterosexuality but it is fairly certain to reinforce your conditioning and it will probably only end badly. The best thing, if you must have a partner of the opposite sex, is to live separately from them and to cut down sexual contacts to a minimum.
When it comes to homosexuality on the other hand the emphasis is very different. According to Sangharakshita's analysis 'men find it quite difficult to experience physical contact with other men because of their fear of homosexuality' (p12). This is all part of their conditioning and is something which needs to be positively overcome. Later on the same page he goes on: 'They' [Western men] 'must break down their fear of homosexuality, by facing it and by not being afraid of sexual contact with other men.'
Whereas physical contact between men and women is presented as a source of conditioning and therefore of spiritual failure, in the case of relationships between men, lack of physical contact with each other 'very often limit[s] the possibilities of friendship with other men. And so because they don't develop friendship with other men, they don't develop spiritual friendship with other men. And because they don't develop spiritual friendship with other men, they're not able to develop what the Buddha declared to be the most important element in the spiritual life.'
Having appeared to advocate homosexuality as a means of spiritual advancement, Sangharakshita then backs off and attempts to return to a stance of compassion and aloofness. He goes on: 'This is not necessarily to say that they [men] should have sexual contact with men, but at least that they should not be afraid of the idea. They have to realise that physical, and even sexual, contact between men is just physical or sexual contact between men. It is a quite ordinary thing and men's fear of that should not be allowed to get in the way of one's friendships.'
Anyone who took his argument seriously would it appears be faced with something of a paradox, amounting to a double-bind. Fear of homosexuality must be faced, but how can it really be faced without actually engaging in homosexual acts? Theoretically, it might be possible to overcome this alleged fear in abstract, by thinking about it, analysing it and so on, but thinking about something isn't the same as doing it. The student might merely convince himself that he no longer feared homosexuality. If on the other hand the student really had accepted homosexuality, then he would have realised that male homosexual acts were 'just physical or sexual contact between men' and 'a quite ordinary thing', and therefore he might as well put his belief that he had deconditioned himself to the test by performing homosexual acts. While Sangharakshita says explicitly therefore that sexual contact with other men isn't actually necessary, his analysis seems to leave only one option for anyone who wants to develop 'spiritual friendship'. The analysis seems to imply that anyone open to spiritual friendship, should at least be open to homosexual seduction.
Again, the Files is concerned with the relationship, if any, between such ideas and Buddhism. Where do these ideas come from and what do they have to do with the teaching of the Buddha? Answer: They come from the twisted mind of Sangharakshita and have nothing to do with Buddhism. They are simply the initial stages in his perverse, self-created theory of homosexual sex as a path to enlightenment, one which he invented first for his own personal satisfaction at the expense of the faithful, and which subsequently became the secret 'tantric` philosophy of the FWBO in general.
Those curious about how paradoxical assertions (like 'men find it quite difficult to experience physical contact with other men because of their fear of homosexuality', and men 'must break down their fear of homosexuality, by facing it and by not being afraid of sexual contact with other men.') can be used to systematically restrict a student's freedom of choice, or in other words to brainwash them, may find it informative to refer to the analysis 'What is a cult? The mind control process in the FWBO' at: www.fwbo.com/TheFWBOFiles/fwbosection2.htm or at: www.ex-cult.org/fwbo/fwbosection2.htm
[p17] "Sangharakshita is suggesting that emotional freedom is an important aspect of spiritual friendship, and that physical contact can help this. This is surely a psychological commonplace and, while it remains a matter of opinion, it is none the less a reasonable opinion to hold."
Is the idea that physical contact between a spiritual teacher and his student or between Sangha members a "psychological commonplace"? Which of the traditions is it common to? Is the belief in the efficacy of such a practise as an aid to spiritual growth "a reasonable opinion" to hold? Does the physical contact between Catholic priests and young males aid these youngsters in their development of emotional freedom? Again, on the basis of what kind of reasoning can such an idea be justified; one which looks back and justifies itself on the basis of precedents set by pre-existent traditions? No, for none of the Buddhist traditions has ever advocated physical contact as an aspect of spiritual friendship. It is therefore not a reasonable opinion to hold within a Buddhist context. It is only so in the minds of those who feel it is perfectly 'reasonable` to justify their own homo-erotic feelings by twisting the words of the Buddha and mixing them with a substantial amount of self-created, quasi-Buddhist ideas, so as to facilitate sexual abuse.
[p17] "The systematic coercion of men into homosexual acts does not occur in the FWBO. The Files cites references to conditioning....The evidence that this idea has been used coercively is the testimony of Mark Dunlop."
Actually, as the Files pointed out, Subhuti told the FWBO conference on the ordination of men in July 1986 that some Order members felt unable to change their sexual preferences to homosexual ones ("so as to use sex as a medium of spiritual friendship") as a result of..."reluctance to give up a conditioned predisposition". Again, the Files tells us (p26) that Kulananda used the 'conditioning` argument to seduce 18 year old 'Martin` in the early 1980s as did Vajranada when seducing 'David`. Thus the evidence that the 'conditioning` idea was used coercively is not merely the testimony of Mark Dunlop. The Files contained all of the above instances of its usage, so why do the Response's authors not refer to them, claiming that the only evidence that the 'conditioning` argument was used to facilitate abuse is Dunlop's testimony?
It would seem that those who wrote the Response have some difficulty in understanding the meaning of the terms 'coercion` and 'systematic coercion`. To coerce is to use one's authority to persuade and compel others to engage in acts, normally against their will. When Mark Dunlop went to Sangharakshita for spiritual guidance he was 22 years old while Sangharakshita was 47. Mark went in search of spiritual teachings and was told that, in order to overcome his 'conditioning` he should engage in homosexual activities with his teacher. Sangharakshita justified this using his pseudo-Buddhist philosophy, which due to ignorance of the truth, Mark took to be genuine.
Sangharakshita used his position of power, status and authority to make his student have sex with him. In such a situation, meaningful consent can be deemed to be absent; Dunlop had been tricked, against his will, into engaging in sexual acts on the basis of a totally fabricated 'Buddhism`. This is systematic coercion, as was that perpetrated by Kulananda, Vajranada and Stephen Barnham at Croydon. For the Response's authors to state that :"the systematic coercion of men into homosexual acts does not occur in the FWBO" in the face of the overwhelming evidence that it does, proves only that they are lying. When one further considers that Kulanada, implicated as he is in the abuse, was one of the authors of the Response as well as being Sangharakshita's right hand man, one wonders what direction the Order will take after the death of its leader.
[p17] "Sangharakshita did have an affair with Mark, who was in his mid-twenties at the time."
When Mark Dunlop initially tried to warn others in the FWBO about Sangharakshita's activities he was ridiculed, and practically accused of insanity (Karmabhandu, Internet newsgroup uk.religion.buddhist 15 Nov 1997). When the Guardian asked him to comment on the allegation, Sangharakshita refused to do so. Now we have the admission that there was a sexual aspect to their relationship but it is described as an affair. First denial and accusations of insanity, then no comment, then yes but no coercion or abuse. Three different answers that serve to clearly indicate two things: deviousness and dishonesty.
[p17] "It lasted for two years and stopped, at Mark's request, when they moved to Padmaloka together. Mark's account, however, gives a strong impression of victimisation which simply does not correspond to the recollections of those who knew him and Sangharakshita at the time."
In other words, Mark Dunlop is a liar. Consider the evidence: The Order have admitted that Sangharakshita was engaged in sexual activities in the 1960s and 70s. In the next section of the Response, written in 1998, we are told: "Sangharakshita has now been celibate for at least a decade" (as have many men of 73 years of age). Thus, we can conclude that Sangharakshita was sexually active throughout the 60s, 70s & 80s. During this 30 year period of sexual activity he lied constantly about his monastic status. He invented doctrines which clearly facilitated homosexual acts between himself and his disciples as well as between those around him.
Dunlop on the other hand has, unlike Sangharakshita, no proven history of dishonesty. He has further, for the last two decades exhibited many of the symptoms common to victims of sexual abuse and that disorder which psychologists now term 'egodystonic sexual orientation`, in this case guilt about his heterosexuality, as a consequence of being made to feel that this rendered him emotionally blocked, inferior, and abnormal.
So, who do we believe; a known devout liar and proven charlatan or someone who has clearly, in the opinion of more than one psychologist, been subjected to sexual abuse and degradation? Who do we believe; Sangharakshita and "those who knew him (Dunlop) at the time", (ie Sangharakshita's present compatriots), or Mark Dunlop, who is still busy trying to pick up the pieces of his life after 20 years of mental illness? Or is Dunlop's illness simply a sham?
[p18] "There are many therapists, psychiatrists and psychologists involved in the FWBO, including senior members of the profession, who testify to the sound psychology of its activities and ethical integrity in this respect."
Of course they testify to this; they are Order members. Similarly, a large number of neo-Nazis claim that the Holocaust never occured. The accompanying footnote [n143] quotes an unprinted letter to the Guardian from senior registrar Dr Paramabandhu Groves and senior lecturer Dr. Roger Farmer which states, inter alia, '...the overwhelming experience of each of us has been that the teachings and practices of the FWBO are generally beneficial to the psychological and emotional health of the people who come in contact with them.' Why didn't the Guardian print the letter? Probably because they considered their readers intelligent enough to realise that a letter which quite clearly came from someone within the Order (Paramabandhu?) could hold little weight in terms of its objectivity. Seemingly the Response's authors expected those who read their work to be either more gullible or less intelligent than the average Guardian reader. On the other hand and from a more objective viewpoint, a number of psychiatric health professionals from outside the Order, as has been shown both here and in the Files, see the doctrines of the FWBO as being direct causes of mental illness and indeed suicide.
As mentioned earlier, the consultant psychiatrist Dr.E.T (MA MB B Ch(Camb) MRCPsych), has devoted decades to treating numerous cult victims. A letter to the author of the Files, dated August 1998, states:
"I write to confirm that we discussed the case histories of four people who had experienced unfortunate results from having been recruited by the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order. On the basis of the symptomology which was extremely similar I suggested they were suffering from serious adjustment disorders.
"As a result of their indoctrination, their states would in my opinion warrant the definition 'ego dystonic sexual orientation` [F66.1, ICD 10] in that, being heterosexual, they were persuaded to participate in homosexual activities which they found distasteful, and as a result suffered identity crises; in two cases this sadly led to violent suicides."
ICD is the International Classification of Diseases, used by the World Health Organisation and UK health professionals. In layman's terms, egodystonic sexual orientation means that the person's sexual orientation is not compatible with where they think they "should" be to such an extent that it is causing "marked decline in social functioning," or "dysfunctionality" as some might label it.
Whether Dr. Paramabandhu Groves and Dr. Roger Farmer, or indeed any of the 'many therapists, psychiatrists and psychologists involved in the FWBO' will be willing to defend FWBO teachings and practices in the particular as well as 'generally', remains to be seen.
This Refutation has concentrated on the ways in which Sangharakshita and the FWBO misrepresent and distort Buddhist teaching. There are a number of other significant aspects to the FWBO's teaching and practice which are outwith the scope and purpose of this present document. There are medical aspects, upon which this Refutation is not qualified to comment. There are wider social and legal aspects to the FWBO's attitude to Christianity, to the family, and to religious education in schools, and to the FWBO's involvement with charitable fund-raising trusts and the social security system, upon which again this Refutation must defer to more authoritative agencies. In particular, the UK Government Dept. of Education and Employment is presently investigating the FWBO's fitness to contribute to religious education in schools. This investigation is ongoing, and the FWBO have by no means been given a clean bill of health, as they have claimed elsewhere. In fact, the Dept. of Education and Employment has written to the Home Office, suggesting that the scope of the enquiry should be widened.