Behind Buddha’s Smile

28 Sep

Behind Buddha’s smile is a wounded child.

The beatific being with the bountiful belly and over-sized earlobes hides a big ugly secret. The West’s favorite “other” religion, Buddhism, and the better-known Tibetan Buddhism of the Dalai Lama, were the topics of this week’s Mythicist Milwaukee show podcast. Joining us in the studio was David DiValerio, associate professor of religious studies at UW-Milwaukee with a special interest in Buddhism.  A “conscious atheist”, DiValerio’s childlike enthusiasm for the subject is that of a true academe: lingering fascination tempered by clinical objectivity.  His one-hour primer on the great eastern religion itself made a nice change of pace for the podcast, thick as it is with Christ-Myth Theory and the Abrahamic faiths.  But beyond basic Buddhism, the conversation quickly uncovered a typical cache of controversy.

The author of two books on Tibetan holy men, DiValerio readily acknowledges that the West is bottle-fed a custom brew of pasteurized Buddhism, but tends to blame the demand side, as thirsty seekers pine for a peaceful, easy escape from the Judeo-Christian guilt/fear faith models that drove them into therapy.  The tall, cool draught of the Dalai Lama is one tasty IPA.  Like a bespectacled, bullet-proof, diaper-trained Gandhi, a New-Age no-judge Jesus, he need but sweetly smile while pearly, well-placed platitudes parade upon on his lips, and we happily drink.

This, of course, is a slickly marketed fantasy, and only a naive fool would think any major Buddhist establishment could somehow be free of the corruption and abuse that has plagued other major world religions.  The truth it would seem, brought to light by a concerned listener, hints at a scandal of more, shall we say, catholic proportions.  Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, as it turns out, house a culture of institutionalized sexual abuse. Not terribly surprising in the all-male schools, where boys are involuntarily enrolled as early as age 5, to live, work and learn under older monks and masters who have taken a vow of celibacy. Say what you want about the Catholics, at least they don’t throw kindergartners into the seminary on a whim, with complete impunity. Several eyewitness accounts from victims have been documented, blogged and YouTubed, but no one is doing anything about it.  Until now.

Listen to the podcast here to get a glimpse at the reasons behind this issue, and follow these links to read more:

Child Abuse in Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries
Are Buddhist monasteries suitable places for children
Sri Lanka’s hidden scourge of religious child abuse.
Bhutan’s Buddhist monks accused of sexually molesting boys.
Stories of children abused in Bhutanese Buddhist monasteries.
Not in the name of the Dalai Lama.
The lamas who give Tibetan Buddhism a bad name.
Members of Mythicist Milwaukee plan to partner with SNAP, The Survivor’s Network of those Abused by Priests to kick the door open on this chronic, insidious culture of child sexual abuse.
-RM

 

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