Buddhist Teachers’ Responses to Sexual Violence: Epistemological Violence in American Buddhism

Ray Buckner

Abstract


In 2018, popular North American Buddhist teacher, Noah Levine, was accused of sexual assault and misconduct. Several Buddhist teachers responded in Levine’s defense through a seemingly neutral posture of “waiting to find out” the truth. This paper examines these teachers’ responses, asking the question: “Which Buddhist concepts are mobilized in responding to alleged sexual violence?” I find that these teachers respond to allegations with the language of not-knowing, equanimity, and right speech. They ask their communities to “wait and see” whether these allegations are true, with the unspoken assumption that they are not. I assert these responses use Buddhist teachings to uphold cis-masculine innocence by using hegemonic logics and commitments to downplay and delegitimize the phenomenon of sexual violence. I argue that these responses uphold hegemonic control within Buddhist communities, and conclude that a feminist response to allegations of misconduct requires centering survivors of sexual assault.



Keywords


American Buddhism; Against the Stream; Noah Levine; #metoo; sexual misconduct; feminism; gender and sexuality; anger

Full Text:

PDF

References


Abrahams, Matthew. 2018. Troubling Uncertainty Follows Misconduct Allegations at Against the Stream. [online] Tricycle.org. Available at: https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/against-the-stream/

Ahmed, Sara. 2010. “Feminist Killjoys (And Other Willful Subjects).” The Scholar and Feminist Online 8 (3).

Ahmed, Sara. 2017. A Complaint Biography. [blog] Feministkilljoys. Available at: https://feministkilljoys.com/2017/08/09/a-complaint-biography/

Ahmed, Sara. 2018. Uses of Use/No! Refusal, Resignation and Complaint. Colonial Repurcussions, Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Germany, June 23–24, 2018. Available at: https://feministkilljoys.com/2018/06/28/refusal-resignation-and-complaint/

Bailey, Moya, and Trudy. 2018. “On misogynoir: Citation, Erasure, and Plagiarism.” Feminist Media Studies 18 (4):1–7.

Bell, Sandra. 2002. “Scandals in emerging Western Buddhism,” in Westward Dharma: Buddhism beyond Asia. Berkeley: University of California Press: 230–242.

Brotto, Lori. 2018. Better Sex Through Mindfulness: How Women can Cultivate Desire. Berkeley: Greystone Books.

Burk, Domyo. 2017. The Practice of Not-Knowing: Relief, Intimacy, and Ground for Effective Action. [podcast]. Zen Studies Podcast. Available at: https://zenstudiespodcast.com/not-knowing/

Butler, Katy. 1990. “Encountering the Shadow in Buddhist America.” Common Boundary Magazine.

Cheah, Joseph. 2011. Race and Religion in American Buddhism: White Supremacy and Immigrant Adaptation. New York: Oxford University Press.

Deveaux, Tynette. 2017. Kagyu Thubten Choling addresses sangha about Lama Norlha Rinpoche’s sexual misconduct with students. [online] lionsroar.com. Available at: https://www.lionsroar.com/kagyu-thubten-choling-addresses-sangha-about-lama-norhla-rinpoches-sexual-misconduct-with-students/

Fronsdal, Gil. 2005. A Perfect Balance. [online] Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. Available at: https://tricycle.org/magazine/perfect-balance/

Gleig, Ann. 2016. “External Mindfulness, Secure (Non)-Attachment, and Healing Relational Trauma: Emerging Models of Wellness for Modern Buddhists and Buddhist Modernism.” Journal of Global Buddhism 17:1–21.

Gleig, Ann. 2019. American Dharma: Buddhism Beyond Modernity. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Gleig, Ann. 2020. Sexual Violations in American Buddhism: Interpretive Frameworks and Generative Responses. [online] Ten Thousand Things. Available at: http://blog.shin-ibs.edu/sexual-violations-in-american-buddhism-interpretive-frameworks-and-generative-responses/

Greenblatt, Lilly. 2018. Independent investigation confirms “physical, sexual, emotional abuse” by Sogyal Rinpoche. [online] Lionsroar.com. Available at: https://www.lionsroar.com/independent-investigation-confirms-physical-sexual-emotional-abuse-by-sogyal-rinpoche/

Han, Chenxing. 2019. “Contesting ‘Conversion’ and ‘Reversion’ among Young Adult Asian American Buddhists.” Religions 10 (261):1–18.

Hase, Craig Nicholas, Meadows, James C., and Budge, Stephanie L. 2019. “Inclusion and Exclusion in the White Space: An Investigation of Experiences of People of Color in a Primarily White American Meditation Community.” Journal of Global Buddhism 20:1–18.

Hickey, Wakoh Shannon. 2010. “Two Buddhisms, Three Buddhisms, and Racism.” Journal of Global Buddhism 11:1–25.

James, Sandy E., Herman, Jody L., Rankin, Susan, Keisling, Mara, Mottet, Lisa, and Anafi, Ma’ayan. 2016. The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. [online] Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality. Available at: https://www.transequality.org/sites/default/files/docs/USTS-Full-Report-FINAL.PDF

Jang, Eunhwa. 2014. “An Investigation of Seung Sahn’s Seon: ‘Don’t Know’ Mind, Ten Gates, and Systems of Hierarchy and Authorization.” Korea Journal 54 (4):29–51.

Kane, Stephanie. 1994. “Sacred Deviance and AIDS in a North American Buddhist Community.” Law & Policy 16 (3):323–339.

Keefe, Alice A. 2019. “Tending the Fire of Anger: A Feminist Defense of a Much Maligned Emotion.” Buddhist-Christian Studies 39:67–76.

King, Sallie. 2017. “Right Speech Is Not Always Gentle: The Buddha’s Authorization of Sharp Criticism, its Rationale, Limits, and Possible Applications.” Journal of Buddhist Ethics 24:347–367.

Korda, Josh. 2018. I Just Don’t Know What to Make of it and That’s OK. [podcast] Dharmapunx NYC. Available at: https://dharmapunxnyc.podbean.com/e/i-just-dont-know-what-to-make-of-it-and-thats-ok/

Lisak, David, Gardinier, Lori, and Nicksa, Sarah C. 2010. “False Allegations of Sexual Assault: An Analysis of Ten Years of Reported Cases.” Violence Against Women 16 (12):1318–1334.

Lull, James. 2000. Media, Communications and Culture: A Global Approach. Oxford: Polity Press.

Meade Sperry, Rod. and Atwood, Hal. 2018. Against the Stream to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct by Noah Levine; results expected within a month. [online] lionsroar.com. Available at: https://www.lionsroar.com/against-the-stream-to-investigate-allegations-of-sexual-misconduct-by-founding-teacher-noah-levine/

Merlan, Anna. 2018a. A Murky Scandal Involving a Powerful Punk Rock Dharma Teacher is Dividing a Major Buddhist Community. [online] jezebel.com. Available at: https://jezebel.com/a-murky-scandal-involving-a-powerful-punk-rock-dharma-t-1827742746

Merlan, Anna. 2018b. Leaked Internal Report: Famous Buddhist Leader Was Accused of Rape and Assault. [online] Jezebel.com. Available at: https://jezebel.com/leaked-internal-report-famous-buddhist-leader-noah-lev-1829873134

Morgan, Rachel E. and Oudekerk, Barbara A. 2019. Criminal Victimization, 2018. U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Available at: https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cv18.pdf

Oppenheimer, Mark. 2014. The Zen Predator of the Upper East Side. [online] The Atlantic. Available at: https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/12/the-zen-predator-of-the-upper-east-side/383831/

RAINN. n.d. The Criminal Justice System: Statistics. [online] rainn.org. Available at: https://www.rainn.org/statistics/criminal-justice-system

Savage, Rachael. 2018. Why I Still Stand with Noah Levine and Why You Should Too! [online] Rebel Saints Meditation Society. Available at: https://www.theamericanbuddhist.com/newsab1/2018/12/26/why-i-still-stand-with-noah-levine-and-why-you-should-too

Seek, V.L. 2018. “Utmost Resistance: Law and the Queer Woman or How I Sat in a Classroom and Listened to my Male Classmates Debate How to Define Force and Consent,” in Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

Sharda, Gautam. 2019. “The Importance of Right Speech in Buddhism and its Relevance Today.” Journal of Religion and Theology 3 (2):32–38.

Smith, Sharon G., Zhang, Xinjian, Basile, Kathleen C., Merrick, Melissa T., Wang, Jing, Kresnow, Marcie-Jo, & Chen, Jieru. 2018. The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2015 data brief – updated release. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/2015data-brief508.pdf

Suzuki, Shunryū. 1975. Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. New York: Weatherhill.

Sweet, Paige. 2019. “The Sociology of Gaslighting.” American Sociological Review 84 (5):851–875.

Warner, Brad. 2018. Addendum to “Noah Levine (is What This Article is About).” [blog] Hardcore Zen. Available at: http://hardcorezen.info/addendum-to-noah-levine-is-what-this-article-is-about/5983

Warner, Brad. 2019a. American Buddhism Round-Up 2018. [blog] Hardcore Zen. Available at: http://hardcorezen.info/american-buddhism-round-up-2018/6087

Warner, Brad. 2019b. Is American Buddhism Really “Too White”? [blog] Hardcore Zen. Available at: http://hardcorezen.info/is-american-buddhism-really-too-white/6520

Warner, Brad. 2019c. What You Don’t Speak Out Against You Co-Sign? [blog] Hardcore Zen. Available at: http://hardcorezen.info/what-you-dont-speak-out-against-you-co-sign/6416

Welwood, John. 2000. Toward a Psychology of Awakening: Buddhism, Psychotherapy, and the Path of Personal and Spiritual Transformation. Boston: Shambhala.

Westerhoff, Jan Christoph. 2018. Nāgārjuna. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Available at: https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2019/entries/nagarjuna/

Winn, Andrea. 2018. Buddhist Project Sunshine Phase 3 Final Report: The nail: Bringing things to a clear point. [online] Queens, NY: Buddhist Project Sunshine. Available at: http://andreamwinn.com/project_sunshine/Buddhist_Project_Sunshine_Phase_3_Final_Report.pdf




DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5281/4031009

Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.




Copyright (c) 2020 Ray Moishe Buckner

The JGB is indexed by Scopus, ATLA Religion Database, ProQuest, EBSCO, eGranary Digital Library, the DOAJ, and ERIH PLUS. The works published in this journal are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.  ISSN 1527-6457

Contact: jgb@globalbuddhism.org