Sexual Violation and the Times in Which We Live – Marianne Williamson [Updated]

Who among us has not been reviewing our sexual past these last few weeks.

You have been, right? #metoo

It’s made me realize that more than anything else this Thanksgiving , I’m thankful to the men who have been kind to me. Who respected me. Who said, when shadows from the past came upon us, “Marianne, I am not that guy.” With so many sexual shadows in our society being uncovered these days – an uncovering being done because it must be done – it feels important to remember as well the men who are not that guy.

It is not just the traumatic events of our lives but also the events that surround them and come after them, that determine how they influence our lives going forward. I have been through some rotten events in my life and assault was one of them. But the tears I cry now when I think of those things are not for the pain that was inflicted upon me, but rather gratitude to those who helped me live through it…survive, and so much more. Some were women, and some were men.

It was in the middle of the night in 1967, when I was seventeen years old, that a young man took two doors in our house off their hinges, made his way to my bedroom, and sprang like a cat from a crawled position at my bedroom door to land right on top of me as I lay in my bed on the other side of the room. I had heard the door slowly open; I remember lifting my head up and saying, “Mommy?”

No, it was not Mommy.

What occurred afterward is not something I want to write about. But I understand the trauma many women are describing today. I understand the tears and I understand the fear. I also understand that through the grace of God each one of them can and will have a wonderful life ahead of her. “God Himself will wipe away all tears” is one of the most powerful sentences in the Bible, or anywhere.

I did not grow up at a time where you were taught to just stuff your painful feelings, no. I was encouraged to feel them and work through them. But I was also taught that such a painful situation was just one thing that would happen in my life — that it would affect me but not define me. I look at that situation as having increased my capacity to understand and feel compassion for others. And for that I am grateful.

In 1993, I published a book called ILLUMINATA. I remembered over the last few days that I wrote in that book about Sexual Violation. I include it here:

Sexual Violation

There is a category of sex that is very dark. I mean rape, incest, molestation, abuse of any number of varieties, centered around sex, then lodged like a knife in people’s souls. It is now more pervasive, more of an issue in American society, than anyone would have imagined or predicted twenty years ago. Millions of people are thought to carry the burden, the vicious psychic wounding of someone somewhere having violated them sexually. Sexual abuse survivors are haunted by horrible memories, in bed and out. Their efforts to forgive can feel like the need to lift a boulder with one little finger, their access to one of the most beautiful human energies having been sullied and damaged and grossly misused.

They are here among us and their tears run deep. Sexual abuse is an obscene betrayal. It is such a sign of the insanity of our times that anyone would touch a child, yet many people do; that anyone would rape, yet some people do; that anyone would have to suffer such a terrible transgression, yet many people have and do.

Dear God,
Please help me to heal in the area of sex.
I feel so wounded, so damaged, betrayed by those
I thought were here to love me and protect me.
No words can say the pain I feel, when I remember the abuse I suffered.
I surrender to You my memories and my anger toward this person.
Please lift from me the burden of my resentment.
Please release me from this terrible pain.
Amen

Dear God,
I release to You this terrible wound.
I surrender to You my pain, my anger, my fear of disease, my feeling that I will never again
Have a healthy experience of sex.
Only a miracle can lift this burden from my heart.
Please send Your angels to help me and heal me.
Help me feel my body is pure and not tainted.
Help me to forgive my offender,
That peace might flood my heart.
Give me new life.
Thank you.
Amen

(Exorcism of the sexually abused to be said by a healer)

In the name of God and all His angels,
I cast out the demon left in you by this evil.
I say unto you, the force of darkness, be gone from this beloved child.
Through the power of God within us, I order you gone,
Nevermore to return or to cast your wicked energies in the direction
Of this precious child of God.
In the name of God, I command you gone.
Dear God, please bind this prayer to earth.
Thank you very much.

Amen.

— from ILLUMINATA

That was my offering then and it is my offering now. To those who have suffered, I send my good will. To those of you who have helped us heal, I send my thanks.

Source:Marianne Williamson

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The Worst of Both Worlds: The “Shimano Problem” Underscores Clash of Cultures When Buddhism Spread to West By Russ Wellen

New York, USA — The “Shimano Problem” and its recent resolution make this an opportune time to briefly explore the subject of Buddhism’s integration into the West.

Eido Shimano Roshi had been the abbot of the New York Zen Studies Society, one of the oldest Buddhist institutions in the West, and its 1,400-acre Dai Bosatsu retreat in the Catkills until he resigned from both earlier this week. Even though he’s headed the former since 1965 and is 77 years old, he isn’t retiring. This comment below, posted at the Tricycle Buddhist magazine blog (http://www.tricycle.com/blog/?p=2271) in reaction to the apology that accompanied his announcement, gives you an idea of what transpired.

Take it from someone who has known Eido Shimano for over thirty years, this is anything but a sincere apology. It is the same tired routine he has repeated each time he has been “caught with his robe open” for three decades.

Yes, the Achilles heel of gurus, abbots, and pastors everywhere — sleeping with their students and/or worshippers. Before we explore its prevalence in Buddhist America, let’s take a moment to celebrate “how the swans came to the lake,” to borrow the title of a history of the Zen Buddhism diaspora, if you will, to the United States by Rick Fields (Shambhala, 1992).

Since Buddhism originated in India and moved east to China and then Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia, it was probably as inevitable a migration across the Pacific as Homo erectus following the game out of Africa and populating Asia and Europe. Also since Eastern teachers were often stuck with students sent to them by their families, they were happy to find students in the West who, stoked in part by American traditions such as Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Transcendentalism, sought out the teachers on their own and were eager to initiate practice.

Of course, the extent to which Buddhism needed to be Westernized became a central issue. American Buddhist centers may appear to have integrated East and West seamlessly, but many obstacles were surmounted during their formative years. Looking back, rituals, practice, and teachings may have been the least of it. Instead, due to mixed signals between the two cultures and, however much a cliché, culture shock on the part of the Easterners, many American students wound up emotionally and spiritually wounded by Buddhist teachers — Eastern and American. Besides, of course, the good names of the most highly regarded forms of Buddhism in America, Tibetan and Zen, were sullied.

Perhaps the most notorious perpetrator of spiritual abuses was Trungpa Rinpoche, who, while still a teenager, headed several large Tibetan monasteries until, like the Dalai Lama, he was forced out by the 1959 Chinese invasion. Once in the West, his gift for teaching facilitated the founding of what has become known as the Vajradhatu (his U.S. meditation centers), Shambhala Meditation Centers around the world, and the Naropa Institute (now University). But his hedonistic lifestyle and provocative “crazy wisdom” both mystified and alienated.

Trungpa died a grisly alcoholic’s death, but his successor was arguably even more dissolute. The claim to fame of Osel Tendzin, an American from New Jersey, was not only seducing students, but becoming infected with HIV and failing to tell those with whom he engaged in sexual behavior. This scenario was paralleled by two American Zen teachers: the womanizing Richard Baker, the abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center, and his successor, Reb Anderson, who gained fame by appropriating the gun from a suicide victim and later wielding it in public.

As for Shimano, his serial philandering was a source of concern for decades to long-time colleague Roshi Robert Aitken, who recently died. At the Zen Site, Vladimir K. and Stuart Lachs (http://www.thezensite.com/ZenEssays/CriticalZen/Aitken_Shimano_Letters.html) illuminated a series of letters from Aitken to Shimano and to others in the Zen community, including two of Japan’s most venerated roshis who had been his teachers. Only much later was one of them inclined to condemn Shimano. Watch how the culture clash played out in this instance. (Emphasis added.)

Aitken excuses this lack of interest by the two Japanese Zen masters to cultural differences between America and Japan, writing “it is important to understand that mental illness and character pathology are viewed tolerantly in Japan.” Aitken infers that he believes that Shimano may be suffering some form of mental illness or pathology, calling him “someone in a different dimension altogether.” Nevertheless, Shimano’s Japanese teachers “felt responsible for him, and were not prepared to disgrace him by recalling him to Japan.”

In a 1990 piece titled Encountering the Shadow in Buddhist America (http://www.katybutler.com/publications/commonboundary/index_files/commbound_shadowbuddhistusa.htm) that’s as nuanced as you’ll find on the subject, the culture clash was elucidated by Katy Butler. (If you haven’t yet, read her recent powerful New York Times magazine piece that begins with her mother speaking with her about her father: “Please help me get Jeff’s pacemaker turned off.”) Upon arriving in the United States, Eastern teachers found a nation already predisposed to hero worship and religious hucksterism. Here Ms. Butler writes about what keeps Eastern teachers in line back home until they arrive on these shores and act like a kid in a candy store.

“Pressure from the community is very important in controlling behavior in Tibetan communities,” said Dr. Barbara Aziz, an internationally known social . . . who has spent 20 years doing fieldwork among Tibetans. . . . “In Tibetan society, they expect more of the guy they put on the pedes­tal . . . if such a scandal [as Osel Tendzin’s] had happened in Tibet [he] might have been driven from the valley.”

Furthermore, Aziz pointed out, Tibetans may “demonstrate all kinds of reverence to a [teacher], but they won’t necessarily do what he says. I see far more discernment among my Tibetan and Nepali friends,” she concluded, “than among Westerners.” [Emphasis added.]

Alan Roland, a psychoanalyst and author of In Search of Self in India and Japan . . . . believes that Asian students approach the teacher-student relation­ships more subtly than Americans-who often commit rapidly and completely, or not at all. Asian students may display deference, but withhold veneration, until they have studied with a teacher for years. They seem to have a “private self” unknown to many Americans, which is capable of reserving judgement even while scrupulously following the forms. When a teacher fails, Asians may con­tinue to defer to his superior rank but silently withdraw affection and respect.

In America, it’s often the reverse. Some Vajradhatu students could forgive Osel Tendzin as a human being, but could not treat him as a leader. . . . few Americans can show deference to some­one they don’t venerate without feeling hypocritical. Faced with this cognitive dissonance, they either abandon deference and leave, or they deny inner feelings.

Ms. Butler then quotes the current Dalai Lama.

“I recommend never adopting the attitude toward one’s Spiritual teacher of seeing his or her every action as divine or noble. . . . if one has a teacher who is not qualified, who is engaging in unsuitable or wrong behavior, then it is appropriate for the student to criticize that behavior.”

Finally, a couple random observations about the issues teachers in Eastern traditions sometimes have with power and sex:

1. The sheer immaturity they’re manifesting is breathtaking. Either they’re resisting the transformation that long hours of meditation should be impressing on them or, in the belief that they’re fully realized, or enlightened, they think that they’re beyond the effects of bad karma on their future as souls.
2. It goes without saying that these problems are all but nonexistent in woman-led sanghas and zendos.

A message from Eido Shimano

September 7, 2010

Dear Friends,

I would like to acknowledge the pain and unnecessary suffering you went through in your hearts due to my faults. I have a profound feeling of remorse for my actions.

This August marked my 50th anniversary in the United States. During this half-century I have received so much from people the world over. Over time, I took your kindness for granted and arrogance grew in my heart. As a result, my sensitivity to feel the pain of others decreased. Now, as I reflect on the past, I realize how many people’s feelings and trust in me were hurt by my words and deeds. Please accept my heartfelt apology.

My mother was the person who encouraged me the most to follow Buddha’s path. Tomorrow is her memorial day, as she passed away on September 8, 1986. Hearing her voice, I have decided to observe my 50th anniversary in the United States by stepping down from my position as abbot of the Zen Studies Society on the last day of Rohatsu sesshin in 2010.

Even though I carry sadness in my heart, as a Buddhist monk, my vow to practice will not end. In order to preserve the Dharma legacy, ensure the training of future teachers, and to purify my own karma, I must march on.

Gassho,

Eido Shimano

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