Desecration of the Innocent: Adult Ritualized Sexual Abuse in Buddhism

Over the past two decades, Buddhism in the UK's development has been marred by a number of cases of sexual and psychological abuse by senior figures in some of Britain's most prominent Buddhist organizations.

In the FWBO (now, as the result of a calculated name change, the TBC) leaders justified abuse of new followers by reliance on a supposed 'Buddhist' teaching which conflated tantra, 'Greek love' (of an older man toward a younger, male acolyte), and their own selfish desires, for the purposes of sexual gratification. In the NKT, tantric teachings were distorted so that at least two of Kelsang Gyatso's appointed successors, meticulously groomed to lead the New Kadampa Tradition, could have sex with vulnerable young women while posing as monks ( A subsequent appointee also resigned suddenly, purportedly due to 'ill health'-no further  explanation was given). Finally, Sogyal Rinpoche, the founder of the Rigpa organization used offers of a 'tantric experience' and 'indulgences' (the remission of karmic consequences) in return for sexual favors. 

In each of these cases it was clear that the abused were manipulated on the basis of ignorance of what the Buddha actually taught along with a complete lack of knowledge of what constituted abuse. These cases led to followers abandoning their religious beliefs, widespread psychiatric disorders, and a number of attempted suicides: Sadly, in two cases at least, the victims were successful. Surprisingly, though what they experienced was clearly abuse, very few of these unfortunate victims seemed to understand this and, instead, blamed themselves.

Dennis Lingwood, AKA Sangharakshita, founder of the FWBO/TBC and  serial sexual abuser.

Read the initial revelations about Lingwood in the Guardian here

Reproduced here is a short piece on adult, ritualized sexual abuse which first appeared on the Dialogue Ireland website. The  brief, slightly abridged article clarifies the nature of such abuse, clearly explaining why such imbalanced relations constitute a criminal act. The post was, in part, a response to an article in the Irish Sunday Times in which journalist Eoghan Harris condemned.

‘…American victim culture, of which weird sexual suits are an integral part…. I do not believe gurus are perfect, nor the women who follow them, do not believe that adults who make messy choices are victims of anybody except themselves, do not believe that adult women (or men) who have consensual sex with gurus, superiors, bosses, film producers etc are really in the same boat as Cuban refugees who are sexually exploited because they have no real choice, and certainly not in the same boat as rape victims. I have no doubt but that (Sogyal) Rinpoche, like many priests, ministers, gurus, comes onto women. But he comes onto adults. It is not nice, but it is not unusual and it has no bearing on the general message of Buddhism, no more than Paisley's behaviour can discredit the message of Christianity.’
Neil Elliott or Gelong Thubten Gyatso, Kelsang Gyatso's protege and first appointed successor. 
Elliott was forced to disrobe due to conduct unbecoming but remains in a senior position within the NKT. He is also very active in coordinating the anti-Dalai Lama, Shugden campaign.

Read the Guardian article on Elliott's disrobing here

And for the Guardian on the NKT, click here

DI's Buddhist correspondent responded:

Adult Ritualized Sexual Abuse in Buddhism.

‘While all sexual abuse is immoral, it is obvious that the depth of the immorality varies in dependence on the context of the abuse: the abuse of an adult is immoral, but that of a minor is significantly more so. In these cases, sexual activity at first seems to have occurred between two, consenting adults and, generally speaking, such a consensual act would not be considered immoral; this is certainly how the correspondent appears to perceive it.
However, where a religious figure, in a position of trust engages in a sexual act with a follower, that person’s status transforms a seemingly consensual act into an abusive one. It is blatant abuse where a person in a position of trust engages in sexual relations with another, both from the perspective of the abuse of power and the abuse of the individual victim.
The status of the teacher too contributes to determining the depth of the abusiveness of the act. If relations occur between a ‘mere mortal’ teacher and an equally mortal student, that is one thing. But where the teacher is perceived as a ‘tantric master’, and the act is accompanied by the promise of spiritual benefit, salvation, or 'karmic remission', this moves everything to an even deeper level of abusive depravity. 
The abusive guru, Sogyal Rinpoche
If the multiple allegations are true and were accompanied by promises of a ‘tantric experience’, or victims were told they ‘would be strengthened and healed by having sex’, the relations were both sexually abusive and ritualized.
It is clear that in groups of all religious traditions, this type of abuse has existed for generations. To be a victim of such then, does not render one part of what the correspondent mistakenly portrays as contemporary ‘American victim culture’, though no doubt such a culture exists. Rather it renders one yet another unfortunate victim of that serious and calculated deception that, while as old as the hills, remains as improper and immoral as it has done for the millennia for which it has existed throughout mankind’s different cultures and creeds. In short, such behaviour constitutes adult, ritualized sexual abuse.
That this has existed for so long however renders it no less immoral. In fact, with religion in the advanced state of decline that it is, this renders the act even more so, for it destroys what little is left of what is good in the world.  If the faiths are to survive and assist the spiritually needy, we have a responsibility to rid all of the traditions of those who engage in such selfish and irreligious acts in the name of their faith. The correspondent may be correct in his assertion that such abuse, ‘…has no bearing on the general message of Buddhism’. However, it certainly does have a bearing on the purity and future existence of the faith: while it may not destroy ‘the message’, it damages ‘the medium’ irreparably.’

'British Buddhism' urges those who have experienced abuse to network with others and to contact the authorities. 

Abuse spoils lives AND destroys Buddhism


  1. I was a member of the Sangha in California where Gen Thubten has his good times. I knew him. I saw the NKT from Geshe Kelsang on down look the other way. The parents of those girls were upset though. That's when I left. I afterwards found out about the Shugden wraith worship that the HHDL banned. NKT is really dysfunctional.

    1. Hi it is really important to me to know more about Gen Thubten's activities at tgat rime. I woukd be very very grateful if you coukd provide more, soecific info. Many of my the nkt people i know consider him wonderful but i took an instant instinctive dislike to him almost immediately. Please reply if you can

    2. The best places to find out more on this issue and get feedback are the New Kadampa Survivors Activists Facebook page or the Buddhism Controversy blog. The web masters of both sites have extensive knowledge of this issue
      Good luck