Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Are Monasteries a Good Place for Children?

I am not sure what to believe about this. (Name removed)is a Tibetan Buddhist lineage that teaches the tantric sexual practices of the Kalacakra Tantra. This Tantra teaches the sexual visualization of 12 year old children, and so on. Is this school part of the monastery, because China has outlawed children in the monasteries? Who is caring for these children? Here is the article:

Educating students from the ages of 5-18, the Tibet Primary School Project hosted by (School name removed) provides the facilities, instructors, and classroom environments for Tibetan nomad children to learn the skills necessary for them to progress onto secondary education and college. Concentrated around (name removed) monasteries in the remote Amdo region of far eastern Tibet, this school project constructs schoolhouses, provides qualified teachers, and outfits schools with supplies. 

The schoolhouse is a 3-tiered construction built in traditional Tibetan style architecture. The square footage is approximately: 125 feet long x 50 feet wide.

(line for this article was removed)

A letter from  Perry Bulwer:

Dear (name withheld),

I took a quick look at the (School's Name Removed) website.  According to that, the school "... is being built adjacent to a (name removed) Monastery and will serve as a boarding school for up to 300 students."  So, it is not inside the monastery, but obviously still closely connected to it.  

From my perspective, the first sign of abuse I noticed was that these schools are intended to indoctrinate children, especially Tibetan nomad children.  That sounds similar to the residential schools used in Canada, the U.S. and Australia  to indoctrinate the indigenous populations. All kinds of horrific abuses occurred in those boarding schools.

As for sexual abuse, even if they did not teach sexual tantras, religious boarding schools can be very dangerous places for children. My news archive blog has many articles regarding abuse in Christian boarding schools such as the residential schools I mentioned, or other types of  homes for orphans, troubled youth, etc.   Much abuse also occurs in Islamic boarding schools, and although I don't have many articles in my archive on this, I know that much physical, sexual and psychological abuse occurred in the past in Hare Krishna boarding schools.  And just this morning someone posted a comment to an article in the archive on abuse in Buddhist monasteries. Here's the link to the article and see the comment for the link to another article:

So, like you, I am concerned for the children that will be housed in those indoctrination centers, but I don't know what can be done about it other than what you are already doing. Keeping an eye on the situation and warning others about it is good. Beyond that I'm really not sure as the Chinese government does not have a good record of listening to the concern's of outsiders. 

I don't mean to be pessimistic, just realistic.  At some point you may become aware of specific instances of abuse, which you might then bring to the attention of authorities as well as other child advocates (for example, the author of the article that is linked to in the comment I received this morning might be a good ally on this issue). That is awfully frustrating, though, having to wait until there is evidence of child abuse before before being able to stop it.  

If you've read my very last entry on Religion and Child Abuse News, you will know that I am no longer updating it with new articles, though I will be keeping it open as a research resource. I will add some new items, like a link to your blog which I will add to the links list after I'm finished writing this.  

Thanks for contacting me,

Perry Bulwer
Humanist, Free-Thinker, Atheist, Agnostic, Skeptic, Secularist, Experiential Cult Expert, Lawyer, Human Rights Advocate


  1. China outlawed the entry into the monkhood of anyone under 18, but because the government has not built schools in the more remote regions, monasteries continue to serve as schools for boys (do the girls get any education at all, then?), and China has to allow violation of its own law.

    And now China appears to be allowing the Jonang Foundation, funded by donations from the West, to build a school adjacent to a monastery, a quasi-monastic school, under the lofty-sounding rubric of a "Tibet Primary School Project". If the Jonang Foundation had truly humanitarian motives, it would build a secular primary school, rather than continue the tradition of monastic schools, which have a long history of sexual abuse of child novices.

    One thing that remains unclear is where the students will live. These are nomad children, and children from Lhasa as well. Is this to be a boarding school? If so, this raises concerns not only about the boys' welfare, but the girls' as well.

    Why China is allowing this is mystifying. Jonang Foundation's motives are clear, after examining their website; their main interest is in preserving the tantric tradition represented by the Jonang sect. Again, this represents a strange contradiction with Chinese policy, which is to end the secret tantric sex practices in the monasteries, that tend to leave traumatized women in their wake, and have nothing to do with authentic Buddhist practice. This school project is a collaboration between dubious Western interests and the Chinese authorities that only raises suspicion about the possibility of multiple hidden agendas at work.

  2. Perry Bulwer certainly means well, and has done important work with his website on religious child abuse. The difficulty in addressing the issue of child abuse in Tibetan monasteries (whether in China or in exile) makes me very sad. Mr. Bulwer says, "you may become aware of specific instances of abuse..." Unlike child molestation cases in Buddhist monasteries in Sri Lanka and Taiwan that have gone to court, the much more severe abuse (including chronic rape) of the Tibetan novices remains well-hidden. One only becomes aware of abuse cases after the monks have turned 21 and are allowed to choose to leave the monastery. Until that age, they are held against their will, and are hunted down and dragged back to the monastery if they manage to escape.

    You can probably go into any Tibetan community in exile, even the one in your home town, if there is a Tibetan community near you, and find adult survivors of this horrific abuse. They are the ones with the child-like demeanor, even into middle age, which is caused by severely limited emotional development as a result of extreme childhood trauma. They are the ones who struggle to participate in (or avoid altogether) the simplest conversations on any intellectual topic, because their schooling in the monastery only covered basic math and calligraphy, and also because severe trauma stunts intellectual development. These are the ones who seem to always be on their guard, rarely at ease in a conversation, because they've grown up in an all-male environment that didn't allow normal emotional expression, even as it brutalized them to tears nightly. The boys learn to stuff their emotions, and try to get ahead by cultivating influential contacts (often the only way they know how--by offering themselves as sex toys) and manipulating people in a childlike way to try to get their needs met.

    Although one can see such cases in the community, the problem is that once the boys become adults and are in secular life, they just want to put the past behind them. They don't want to talk about it or hear about therapy. They continue to stuff the pain, as they learned to do as children, and try to make a new life for themselves, unaware of how the legacy of chronic childhood sexual abuse follows them and affects their well-being and their potential throughout life. As adults, these men have difficulties forming loving relationships, experience emotional outbursts due to unresolved Post-Traumatic Stress, and have employment difficulties.

    And of course, there is the whole problem of "political correctness" in the Tibetan exile community. You're not supposed to say anything critical of Tibetan culture, monastic culture, so these survivors of monastic abuse have to live in public denial of their own experience.

    Due to all of the above circumstances, it would be a miracle to find one willing to speak out. We can only hope that India and Nepal pass a law requiring a minimum age in the late teens for entry into the monkhood, and that they enforce the law.

  3. For an eyewitness account of child sexual abuse of boy novices in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, see:

  4. Perry BulwerJul 27, 2011 10:45 AM
    From the Chicago Tribune:,0,7057292,full.story

    Buddhist monks walk away from sex-abuse cases

    Across the U.S., temples frustrate investigators by insisting they have no control over monks' actions, whereabouts


    A Tribune review of sexual abuse cases involving several Theravada Buddhist temples found minimal accountability and lax oversight of monks accused of preying on vulnerable targets.

    Because they answer to no outside ecclesiastical authority, the temples respond to allegations as they see fit. And because the monks are viewed as free agents, temples claim to have no way of controlling what they do next. Those found guilty of wrongdoing can pack a bag and move to another temple — much to the dismay of victims, law enforcement and other monks.

    "You'd think they'd want to make sure these guys are not out there trying to get into other temples," said Rishi Agrawal, the attorney for a victim of a west suburban monk convicted of battery for sexual contact last fall. "What is the institutional approach here? It seems to be ignorance and inaction."

  5. joseyJul 27, 2011 11:10 AM
    Thank you so much Perry Bulwer, I would have never thought it of the Theravadins. They seemed to be the most strict of all the Buddhist traditions.

  6. If you think this is bad, there is much worse going on, for example, beatings. If you really want to learn more read "The Struggle for Modern Tibet, the Autobiography of Tahis Tsering who was in the Dalai Lama's dance troup, and who was chosen to be a sex slave for what the author calls, "official monks". The Tibetan Buddhists get around the issues of celibacy by not penetrating orifices. At least this monk was very kind to Tashi, but at the same time he had a hard time getting away from being raped by other monks and so often was raped, in what manner he doesn't say. Your other post on Tibetan Buddhism being a cesspool is very correct.