Scientific research into abuse in Tibetan Buddhist communities

Here is the recent paper by Dr. Anne Iris Miriam Anders from the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich’s Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology:

Silencing and Oblivion of Psychological Trauma, Its Unconscious Aspects, and Their Impact on the Inflation of Vajrayāna. An Analysis of Cross-Group Dynamics and Recent Developments in Buddhist Groups Based on Qualitative Data.

Qualitative data was extracted from survey responses from victims and witnesses of abuse in Tibetan Buddhist communities, such as Rigpa, Shambhala, Ogyen Kunzang Choling and Pathgate.

Abstract of the paper:

The commercialization of Buddhist philosophy has led to decontextualization and indoctrinating issues across groups, as well as abuse and trauma in that context. Methodologically, from an interdisciplinary approach, based on the current situation in international Buddhist groups and citations of victims from the ongoing research, the psychological mechanisms of rationalizing and silencing trauma were analyzed. The results show how supposedly Buddhist terminology and concepts are used to rationalize and justify economic, psychological and physical abuse. This is discussed against the background of psychological mechanisms of silencing trauma and the impact of ignoring the unconscious in that particular context. Inadequate consideration regarding the teacher–student relationship, combined with an unreflective use of Tibetan honorary titles and distorted conceptualizations of methods, such as the constant merging prescribed in so-called ‘guru yoga’, resulted in giving up self-responsibility and enhanced dependency. These new concepts, commercialized as ‘karma purification’ and ‘pure view’, have served to rationalize and conceal abuse, as well as to isolate the victims. Therefore, we are facing societal challenges, in terms of providing health and economic care to the victims and implementing preventive measures. This use of language also impacts on scientific discourse and Vajrayāna itself, and will affect many future generations.

Dr. Anders’ paper contributes to initial scientific investigation into the mechanics underlying the abuse in Tibetan Buddhist communities and its impact on victims. It serves as an invaluable foundation for future research into this phenomenon.

The full paper can be read here.

Powerful Woman of Eternity

This is the testimony of “Chime”, who was a student from 2009-2012. Text has been edited for grammar and readability.


I met Peter Yeung (PY) and his entourage back in April 2009 in Athens where I was living at that time.

It was a very difficult period for me — I was sad and with no motivation in my life, a girl in her late 20s who was trying to find her place in the world.

I was fascinated from the beginning because PY gave me a lot of attention and seemed to care about me. I followed the lessons and got really into the whole Buddhist thing. During that period PY had starting teaching in Italy and asked me right away if I could go and translate his lessons from English into Italian. I thought “Wow! If he asks me to do something like this it means I have something special, I can get into his inner circle, I’m lucky…” and that’s how it all started.

In June 2009 I went to Italy for the first time with him and translated simultaneously the lessons, then I went in August to the last retreat held in Epidavros, Greece. I didn’t know what was going to happen there and on the first day I was shocked by the whole thing. I had decided to go with camping but it was really not for me. PY probably understood this and decided to offer me and another girl a gift: an apartment for us to stay for the whole period!

I became more and more fascinated by Buddhism, the lessons and all that I was hearing. I took refuge and received my Buddhist name: Chime Wangmo (Powerful woman of eternity).

Coming back to the real world it had become difficult because I was finding other people meaningless. Peter Young was becoming so influential in my life that my family began to get scared of what was happening. I dissimulated quite well and tried to be “normal” for them.

I didn’t have friends outside the Pathgate circle and was spending all my free time with its people, living with the monks and nuns, helping them at their centre, the organisation of the seminars, cooking etc.

The same year I went to the Winter Retreat in Newcastle, England for the first time and spent my Christmas there. After that, I was in Italy translating for PY, and was in England for Easter. Then everything changed during the retreat held in Athens in 2010.

I had a very big house in the centre of Athens and I don’t remember how this happened but he stayed in my place for the whole retreat and that’s how it began…

I can say I was really adoring him and he understood this and abused my state. We also started having a “relationship” and I was living a dream in those days, I was happy and feeling lucky I had him with me. This continued till winter 2010, when I was going to Italy with him, staying in the same hotel and with him at night, and him staying in my place In Athens.

(Editor’s note:
Q: “When you said “relationship” with PY, what do you mean? Did you and PY hold hands? Kiss? Have sex etc.?”
A: “Everything you mentioned.
“)

Then I went for the winter retreat in 2010 and was hoping to have some private time with him like in other occasions. It was there that I saw his indifference and realised I actually meant nothing to him. I understood that he was just playing with me and that I was not the only woman. I was feeling frustrated and very sad because I understood this was normal for him and that after me, there would be others suffering the same fate.

I said to myself I had to give myself a time and leave all this, because I was becoming afraid that if I left the Pathgate entourage I would be cursed and ruined by his powerful means.

In Easter 2011 I met my actual husband and started going out with him. I understood what normal life was and wanted to find a way to escape Pathgate. I continued seeing PY in Italy, in my place in Athens, but I was really afraid of him and what could happen to me. I had to find a way to leave him and everyone.

In Autumn 2011 I decided to move back to Italy and live with the man who is now my husband. I said to PY I wanted to go back to Italy to help him create a centre in Italy like in Greece so he wouldn’t suspect anything. I moved in January 2012 and in early February there was a seminar in Milan. I didn’t invite him to my home in Milan and only went to pick him up at the hotel and translated his lessons.

It was then PY understood what was going on, and after the last day of lessons, he started screaming at me over dinner in front of everyone, and offensively saying that I was going to have a terrible future because I had lost the motivation and so on… I can’t remember everything he said. At the end he slapped my face in front of everyone.

I didn’t cry, tried to be calm and then went home. Before entering my apartment I cried in the car, called my mother who knew what happened, and I felt lucky to have at least her hearing me out and helping me.

It was the last time I saw PY.

I was free.

But I was scared he would interfere in my future, that he would do something evil to me or my beloved family.

I got pregnant the same year and lost the baby. After some examinations the result showed that the baby had Down Syndrome. I was shocked and thought this might have something to do with PY. I started suffering from panic attacks and went to see a psychiatrist. I took some medication for a few months.

Then I got married and now I have a normal happy life with two kids.

It’s only after years that I understood that PY’s influence was bullshit. Yet today, even if I feel free from it, I still check Pathgate’s website to see what is going on, and if he still teaches.

I want to share my story because I want to show women that the line between normality and getting involved in a cult is very subtle, and if you are in a difficult period, it’s very easy to be taken advantage of. Don’t be scared of what people tell you in there, nothing bad will happen to you. Buddhism is not like this. You can live a normal life after leaving.

Another Survivor Testimony

Reposting a recent message from another ex-student, with his permission.


Hi there,

Pretty random how I found [Pathgate Survivors] as I was looking for some incense. I was a student of PY from the late 90’s moving to live in Newcastle in 2000, I stayed there and experienced much of what had been described by others on your site until my “Buddha nature” spoke to me to leave in 2004, ironic as PY would have said this was pride talking… but literally was the only thing that saved me!

I was subject to many forms of abuse and because I had originally joined for the focus on martial arts I was repeatedly hit. Because of my practice I did well in his cult despite initially “breaking every vow possible” and being “destined to linger in hell for many lifetimes”.. this came from kissing another student… thankfully PY was there to “clear my negative karma” by systematically beating me..!

I would very much like to connect to others who I may know during my time there as they were truly great people who were so wrongly hurt.

Ben


The message speaks for itself, but to make it clear, several cult dynamics have been presented here:

  1. physical abuse, degradation and loss of dignity of student-victims.
  2. loaded language, in this case, “pride”, “vows” and “purifying negative karma”.
  3. fearmongering and shame-inducing by cult leader.
  4. delegitimisation and isolation of former members.

It’s great that we have, over the past year, been able to reconnect ex-students who had either self-isolated out of unwarranted fear and shame, or were forcefully isolated by Pathgate. We look forward to reuniting more of us.