Sexual abuse among Buddhists in the Netherlands, update


This video from the Netherlands is called The Memorial Ceremony 2555 (2012) for Luang Poh Mettavihari – Amsterdam.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Alarms about abuse among Buddhists ignored

Today, 15:55

Followers of the Thai monk Mettavihari are shocked at the extent of the sexual abuse of which their teacher was guilty. They say they are overwhelmed by the news and the extent of the abuse.

But how surprising can the news actually be for them? A reconstruction by the NOS shows that leaders of Buddhism in the early 1980s were informed about the abuse. Also in a major abuse case in Middelburg prominent Dutch Buddhists were warned at an early stage, in 2004.

Main outline in these two cases: the warned executive officials and others downplayed the abuse, looked away and neglected to take adequate measures, which meant that the responsible monks could continue to make victims.

1. Mettavihari (abuse from 1974 to at least 1992)

In late 1980 or early 1981, the police called the Buddharama temple in Waalwijk. Board member Patrick Franssen answered the phone. The police told him that a message had been received of sexual abuse of a minor by head monk Mettavihari.

For Franssen this was the straw that broke the camel´s back. He also had particularly bad experiences with Mettavihari in this. In 1974, as a 19-year-old “labile” boy, he had already been forced to have sex with the monk. In the at least two years that followed from there, that happened again, according to Franssen, still some forty to fifty times. As a 19-year-old one was at that time legally underage.

Franssen decided: this guy has to go. He flew to Chicago to talk about Mettavihari’s conduct with a high priest, who in his words represented the Thai “Ministry of Religious Affairs.” The high priest, according to Franssen, decided to replace Mettavihari by another head monk without further discussion. In June 1981 Mettavihari was deposed as president of the temple administration, to be replaced by Henk Barendregt. This eminent mathematician who later would win the most important scientific award in the Netherlands, the Spinoza Prize, had been a board member since its inception in 1975.

Second chance

To Franssen’s amazement, Barendregt returned his teacher a few months later to the temple administration, supported by another loyal follower of Mettavihari: Aad Verboom, president of the Foundation of Young Buddhists in the Netherlands. Franssen knew that the new head monk wanted to grant Mettavihari a second opportunity. That he accepted, but having Mettavihari back in the temple administration? That would really be too much of a rehabilitation.

There arose a fierce debate. How bad is it in modern times if a monk has sex? Franssen thought that the Thai Dutch, for whom the temple was intended primarily, would be cheated if their monk secretly would break his vow of celibacy. Barendregt, according to Franssen, argued that this was an old-fashioned view: most Dutch still even now think that a parish priest should not be judged if he falls in love with his housekeeper?

Involuntary sex

That in this case it was involuntary sex with minors who are not on an equal footing with the teacher played for Franssen in that discussion no decisive role. It’s the early 1980s, the era of ‘anything goes’ in the progressive Netherlands. Aad Verboom admits in 2015 that he also had not believed Patrick Franssen’s story about the abuse he had suffered. For that, he has meanwhile apologized to Franssen via the Boeddhistisch Dagblad.

Eventually Barendregt got what he wanted, after which Franssen drew his conclusions. He left the temple administration in December 1981 disconcertedly, to emigrate to Thailand four years later, dismayed by in his eyes “amateurish” Dutch Buddhism. He was replaced on the board by Mettavihari, the man against whom he had tried to take action.

New incidents

There may then have been further incidents, because in 1983 the monk had to disappear definitively from the temple in Waalwijk. Anyway Barendregt and Verboom neglected to find out how often Mettavihari had misbehaved and how bad his misdemeanors were. According to the Thai monastic rules, a monk should take off his habit when he has had sex, but Mettavihari’s prominent students do not think that is necessary. They cover up why their teacher had to leave the temple in Waalwijk. In an introduction to a book he published later that year, Aad Verboom explained the break with the temple as because of “significant differences in views on Buddhism and the practice thereof.” This Verboom was from 1990 to 1998 board member and president of the Buddhist Union in the Netherlands (BUN).

With the help of Barendregt and Verboom Mettavihari got the chance to leave the Thai tradition in which he had got in a jam, to continue as the revered spiritual leader of a group of Dutch Buddhists. The boards of other Buddhist centers meanwhile exchanged only rumors about what happened in Waalwijk. A concrete consequence of this was that for nine years Mettavihari unhinderedly could abuse young adult men in other places, including in Groningen.

Overstep the mark

In 1995, according to some of his students, he was at last confronted because of his behaviour. Mettavihari admitted that he had crossed the line, but also said that he had since stopped the abuse. This apparently was enough for those followers; in 2006, fourteen of them accepted consecrations as teachers by him. A year later Mettavihari died.

Only in May 2015 there is a rupture between “the fourteen”. The immediate causes are the alarming findings of their own investigation into the extent of the abuse that two people in the group have conducted at last. Some of the teachers feel that the scandal must become known, name included, while Barendregt, Verboom and five other teachers think that this is not necessary. Their reasoning is that Mettavihari can no longer defend himself. The mention of his name would supposedly be offensive to the Thai community.

Ignorance

Barendregt claims also to have contacted the Thai spiritual authorities in the early 1980s. But Barendregt now also admits: “With the knowledge we have now, more should have been done to avoid repetition. In my ignorance I thought that the actions at administrative and spiritual levels were adequate.”

Verboom also notes that he had “been asleep at the wheel. I have accepted being lied to. And I have always given Mettavihari the benefit of the doubt. I must note now that there is much more pain and suffering for the victims than I thought possible.”

2. Gerhard Mattioli (2001-2007)

Frans de Reeper had visited for over a year a Buddhist center in Middelburg when he heard something disturbing in the summer of 2004. One of the women in the group told him, crying on the phone, that the monk who led the group had expelled her from the center. According to her, it happened because this Gerhard Mattioli, who told his students to call him ‘Lama Kelsang Chöpel’, for years had a relationship with her. During their vacation that broke up and then he also expelled her from the group.

De Reeper is stunned. To be sure, he immersed himself once more in the rules for monks: surely, this is absolutely unacceptable? He consults literature and hears evidence from an experienced monk and a Buddhist institute. He also asks in a letter to Mattioli what is going on. Mattioli refuses to answer the questions. “I am not subordinate or dependent on other Buddhist organizations or lamas or rinpoche, not even to His Holiness the Dalai Lama,” he writes.

Action

De Reeper subsequently decided to take action. He writes a long letter to the other members of the group, in which he says what he has found out. And he also informs among others Jean Charles Hylkema, at that time director of the Buddhist Broadcasting Foundation (BOS) and also treasurer of the Buddhist Union (BUN). The BUN also receives a separate letter, like the editors of the magazine Kwartaalblad Boeddhisme (later renamed Vorm en Leegte).

The message of the letters is clear: “We believe that we have sufficient evidence that the people who visit the center get in touch with Buddhism in a way which is ultimately harmful for them.” The broadcaster and the magazine according to the letter’s authors should at least stop having commercials and ads for Mattioli’s center.

Not responsible

It does not have many consequences. The often very vulnerable followers of Mattioli are so spellbound that they ignore the warnings by De Reeper. An employee of the Kwartaalblad Boeddhisme / Vorm en Leegte calls De Reeper, but says that they are not responsible for what happens in the centers that are advertised in the magazine. The editors refuse to stop the ads.

A new letter to Vorm en Leegte in the spring of 2005 also did not yield anything, just like a personal request to the aforementioned employee of Kwartaalblad Boeddhisme / Vorm en Leegte during a lecture. BOS director Hylkema writes back that the broadcaster will stop paying attention to Mattioli’s center. The BUN announces there is nothing they can do because the center is not a member.

Bomb explodes

In late 2007, the issue exploded in Middelburg, as Mattioli’s group learns that their teacher had started sexual relationships with four women simultaneously. One of them has become even pregnant. Several people involved go to the police (according to Mattioli himself “under threat of violence from their partners’), but they eventually do not complain officially. In a letter Mattioli threatened his students inter alia with ‘reincarnation in hell‘ if they would break up with him.

President Varamitra (Theo Alkemade) of the Buddhist Union announced in April 2008 during a meeting that “a self-styled lama” in Middelburg “in a terrible way has wreaked havoc.” He also revealed that women in Middelburg now have been helped by the BUN: Varamitra and a Buddhist nun went to Zeeland to talk to the women and to offer them perspectives again. “A good example of tradition-borders crossing cooperation”, is said satisfiedly during the BUN meeting of April 2008.

The issue is not brought into the open. Buddhist and researcher Rob Hogendoorn finds out in 2013 and publishes about it in the web magazine Open Boeddhisme, which he runs together with his colleague Theo Dik. Hogendoorn and Dik also report the matter to the police. Because of that action, they are fiercely attacked by an editor of another Buddhist site, Joop Hoek. He points out in a column that Mattioli denies the allegations and has never been convicted by a court. He calls them inter alia “fake prosecutors, the fake Thomson and Thompson of our society.” Hoek was in 2004 an employee of Kwartaalblad Boeddhisme, so the magazine which was warned about the practices of Mattioli.

Hylkema also thinks that he did not have to do more to prevent worse things, after he had been warned about the activities of ‘monk’ Mattioli. To Open Boeddhisme he downplayed the seriousness of the situation, “Lamas impregnating women, that undoubtedly happens sometimes. There are women who wish to be more than just students, and who want a sexual relationship. Some lamas go along with that, and sometimes that leads to pregnancy.”

Buddhist monk in Purmerend accused of abuse: here.

Buddhist temple apologizes for sexual abuse


This video from the USA says about itself:

Zen Buddhist Leader Groped Female Followers

12 February 2013

“Since arriving in Los Angeles from Japan in 1962, the Buddhist teacher Joshu Sasaki, who is 105 years old, has taught thousands of Americans at his two Zen centers in the area and one in New Mexico. He has influenced thousands more enlightenment seekers through a chain of some 30 affiliated Zen centers from the Puget Sound to Princeton to Berlin. And he is known as a Buddhist teacher of Leonard Cohen, the poet and songwriter.”*

A 105 Zen Buddhist leader is under fire for groping many female followers over the years under the guise of helping them religiously and otherwise manipulating people. Did he abuse his power? Is this a reason to not trust religious leaders? Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian discuss.

*Read more from the New York Times: here.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Apology by temple in Waalwijk for abuse by monk

Today, 12:54

The Buddharama Temple in Waalwijk has apologized to victims of its former head monk Mettavihari in a statement.

The Thai Buddhist monk from 1974 to at least 1992 abused between twenty and thirty students, in Waalwijk and elsewhere. Also a victim who used to live near the temple has reported that at the age of 12 was he was abused by the monk.

President Toine van Beek of the current temple administration says he was shocked by the news which the NOS published last week. “My first feelings while processing the news was anger and compassion,” writes Van Beek. “Anger at Mettavihari and sympathy with the victims. The board of Buddharama realizes that now this still has an impact, day after day.”

Confidant

Van Beek had last week his first contact with a victim to hear how the temple administration can help best. Victims can now go to counselor Frank Uyttebroeck, who also has assisted other victims of abuse in Buddhist circles and has no connection with the temple.

Uyttebroeck will inter alia organize a meeting of victims. That meeting will not be in the temple itself, as NOS News reported earlier, but on neutral ground.

Van Beek has also contacted other temples and Buddhist centers to talk on measures to prevent sexual abuse by monks and teachers.

Sexually abused by a monk, a survivor speaks out


This video from the USA says about itself:

Zen Buddhism Sex Abuse Scandal

16 November 2013

Even Zen masters can be deviants. Inside the new book that unearths a disturbing pattern of affairs at the top of one of the largest Buddhist communities in the U.S…

Read more here.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

‘The monk patted me on my head, I was not used to that’

Today, 16:30

by Bas de Vries, NOS Net editor

He has never told the story to anyone. Even his wife does not know he has been abused by a Thai Buddhist monk in the second half of the 1970s when he was a 12-year-old in Waalwijk. “Or maybe I was even younger, I was in any case still in elementary school.” We will call him Huub, but that’s not his real name.

Huub did not like it at home. Therefore, he wandered about the streets. He became fascinated by the corner house a few hundred meters away. A temple where a large golden Buddha statue stood in the living room. Sometimes there were festivities and then the whole Talmastraat street was full of people in orange robes. Not exactly a commonplace spectacle for a little boy in Waalwijk of those years.

Bare feet

One day, one of those Thai men spoke to him. The monk was still relatively young. “At least not as old as those dirty old men you saw in the abuse cases in the Catholic Church.” The monk asked Huub if he wanted to come inside. He walked barefoot in slippers. Huub only now knows from the publicity of the past few days he was Mettavihari, the monk who – as far as is known now – in twenty years abused certainly dozens of young men and minors.

Huub was timid, but also very curious. So he went into that “strange-smelling” house. Huub got a cup of lemonade. To truly have a conversation with the five or six men there was not possible; he spoke no English. But that friendly smiling monk patted him on the head a few times. “And that did something with me. I experienced it as a form of love. I was not used to that at home. He seduced me completely.”

Fifteen minutes later he was outside again. With some brochures about Buddhism. Without pictures, just text. In this incomprehensible English.

A few times he went back. And still he got that lemonade again. Huub remembers that he thought: this house is built exactly in the same way as ours. A temple in a private house. The third or fourth time he had to go upstairs to the bedroom of the monk.

He starts crying uncontrollably when he tells what happened next. “I had to masturbate him. The expression is ‘as if transfixed to the ground’, but I was transfixed to the ground. Then I ran back down the stairs as fast as I could. Downstairs there were still the same five men.”

“I never went back. That temple a few years later moved to another street. I have very bad memories of that house. I live somewhere else now, but in my neighborhood there is a Buddhist center on a main street. If at all possible, I try not to drive along there.”

Shameful

He never told police about this. Once he went to the police in Waalwijk because of ill-treatment by his stepfather. But the abuse by the monk, he did tell them then. It was too shameful. “I just did not dare.”

“I have always kept this nasty experience to myself, but when those Catholic church affairs began to become known, then it all came back. I saw the news on the NOS [about other Buddhist clerical abuse cases] and I thought: I have been there as well!

Buddhist clerical sexual abuse in the Netherlands


This video from Thailand, with English subtitles, says about itself:

2 March 2014

Protection of Children’s Rights Foundation (Thailand) produced this video to campaign for laws against possessing child sexual abuse material and raising awareness of foreigners arrested in Thailand for child sex abuse jumping bail.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Sexual abuse among Buddhists in Netherlands

Today, 15:56

By NOS-Net editor Bas de Vries

Buddhist monks and teachers in the Netherlands have been guilty in recent decades of sexual abuse of students, both men and women. In some cases the victims were minors. There are abuse scandals in, eg, Waalwijk, Middelburg and Makkinga (Friesland province).

People have been silent about the abuse for decades in some cases. But after the scandals in the Catholic Church now victims of abuse by Buddhist leaders are telling their stories.

Thai monk

In recent months, the NOS spoke together with Buddhism scholar Rob Hogendoorn, among others with three victims of a Thai monk who after his arrival in the Netherlands in the 1970s for at least twenty years abused young men or attempted to do so.

This Mettavihari, according to those involved, in the early 1980s had to leave his temple in Waalwijk. The reason is said to have been a message to the police about the molestation of a minor.

Earlier this month a number of Mettavihari’s former followers decided, after a silence of decades, to speak out about “repeated inappropriate behavior”. Their statement shows that they have already known this for decades. The reason to speak out now, according to them, is that their recent own research showed that the abuse was worse than they thought until now.

Scandals

This affair of Mettavihari, deceased in 2007, does not stand alone. The NOS also investigated two other major scandals involving teachers abusing their dominant position with respect to often very vulnerable students. In both cases, the people involved went to the police, but ultimately did not lodge official complaints. Those issues were in various places.

– A Buddhist center in Middelburg, where ‘Kelsang Chöpel’ (the Austrian Gerhard Mattioli) was guilty in the period 2001-2008 of harassment and sexual abuse of female students. In minutes of the Buddhist Union of the Netherlands (BUN) the former president spoke of “a self-proclaimed lama (teacher) who in a horrible way has wreaked havoc.” The BUN sent several people to speak with the victims and gave no further publicity to the scandal.

– A monastery in the Frisian Makkinga. End of 2001, ‘Dhammawiranatha’ (then again Pierre Krul from Den Haag) resigned as a monk after he was confronted with the many sexual relationships he had entered with women. Also in this case the people involved appealed to the BUN. A board member noted: “The stories were truly staggering: brainwashing, instigation, ruining financially, sexual relationships with (usually mentally dependent) women, but also with very young, underage girls.” This issue is the only one which made it to the press. The website of his organization gives the impression that Krul in any case last year was still active as a teacher.

Also very recently, there were cases of abuse in Buddhist circles. The Buddhist teacher Frank Uyttebroeck reports that since 2010 at least five other people who were abused by five different teachers, have sought help from him. Two of them were so traumatized that he referred them to the medical community. He does not mention the names of these teachers, in his own words because he had pledged that to the victims.

Culture of silence

The victims who are willing to come out think the time is now to end the culture of silence, as has happened in the Catholic Church. They cite the example of the United States, where hundreds of Zen teachers last January published an open letter in which they offered their apologies for their “collective failure” in the fight against abuse.

Professor of practical theology Ruard Ganzevoort, specializing in religion and trauma, is not surprised that now among the Buddhists this problem is surfacing. “You can see in every religious tradition that if you bring vulnerable people in contact with people reputed to have much authority, with too little oversight, abuse will occur.”

Codes of conduct

Most Buddhist organizations in the Netherlands are now beginning to think about measures to stop sexual abuse in their own circles and to help victims better. After questions by the NOS about this the executive of the Buddhist Union in the Netherlands recently sent an appeal to the more than forty affiliated centers.

In it, the BUN, the contact point of the Dutch government for the 50,000 to 65,000 Buddhists in the Netherlands, poins out the importance of precautions. “For example, through confidants, codes of conduct or otherwise.” The administration warns individual Buddhists “to orientate well and think” before they join a particular organization or teacher.

“I want to particularly say this to make it clear that you should act immediately if something is wrong,” said Patrick Franssen, who was abused in the 1970s from his 19th year in his own words forty to fifty times by Mettavihari. “You have to stop it early, otherwise even worse things will happen. And do not be afraid of negative publicity. Buddhism can take criticism, it is much larger than these issues.”

The Dalai Lama and sexual abuse among Buddhists: here.

Buddhism and archaeology in Nepal


This video from Nepal says about itself:

Oldest Shrine Found Near Buddha’s Birthplace unearthed in Lumbini 26-11-2013

Earliest ever Buddhist Shrine unearthed in Lumbini

Archaeologists digging at Lord Buddha’s birthplace have uncovered remains of the earliest ever “Buddhist shrine”. They unearthed a 6th Century BC timber structure buried within the Maya Devi Temple at Lumbini in Nepal.

The shrine appears to have housed a tree. This links to accounts in Buddhist chronicles where his mother gave birth while holding on to a tree branch. This is the earliest evidence of a Buddhist shrine anywhere in the world. Tradition records that Queen Maha Maya gave birth to the Buddha while grasping the branch of a tree within the Lumbini Garden.

The narrative of Lumbini’s establishment as a pilgrimage site under Ashokan patronage must be modified since it is clear that the site had already undergone embellishment for centuries. The dig also detected signs of ancient tree roots in the wooden building’s central void — suggesting it was a tree shrine. It sheds light on a very long debate, which has led to differences in teachings and traditions of Buddhism.

By K. Kris Hirst in the USA:

Archaeology and the Buddha

December 8, 2013

December 8th is the traditional date for Bodhi Day, when the historical Buddha Siddartha Gautama is said to have reached enlightenment: when better to speak of the enlightening effects of archaeology?

Several recent archaeological studies associated with the life of the Buddha have been conducted, most recently excavations at Lumbini in Nepal, said to have been his birthplace. The oldest phase of the Maya Devi shrine at Lumbini is securely dated between 550-800 BC, making it the earliest shrine associated with the Buddha to date.

Coningham RAE, Acharya KP, Strickland KM, Davis CE, Manuel MJ, Simpson IA, Gilliland K, Tremblay J, Kinnaird TC, and Sanderson DCW. 2013. The earliest Buddhist shrine: excavating the birthplace of the Buddha, Lumbini (Nepal). Antiquity 87(338):1104-1123.

Buddhist monks protect endangered snow leopards


This video is called Full Documentary Natural World: Snow Leopard – Beyond the Myth.

From msnNOW:

Researchers find Buddhist monks protecting endangered snow leopards

7 September 2013

There aren’t many snow leopards left in Asia. Between 3,500 and 7,000 live high in the mountains there, with about 60 percent in China. Largely because their thick, warm fur is desired by humans and their organs are considered valuable in Chinese medicine, snow leopards have seen their numbers decline by 20 percent in the last 20 years.

Research published in the journal Conservation Biology last week suggests that more snow leopards are being protected in the Tibetan Plateau, where there are Buddhist monasteries, than in the nature reserve set aside for the cats. The monks patrol the area and prevent poachers from killing the animals. In addition, the monks are teaching the local people that killing snow leopards is wrong. “Buddhism has as a basic tenet, the love, respect, and compassion for all living beings,” George Schaller, a biologist with the endangered-cat conservation group Panthera, said in a statement.

See also here.