During August of 2016, Sogyal Lakar gut-punched a nun in front of an assembly of more than 1,000 students at the Lerab Ling Retreat Center in France. Recently, the nun responded to allegations that this constitutes abuse, saying this is an acceptable part of her Buddhist training.
These are thoughts on the matter from Constance O’Mara, now a former Rigpa student:
She might be okay with violence being perpetrated against her, but I’m not. Nor is our society. There was a Muslim woman in the news recently saying being hit by her husband was okay and a blessing. Our law says otherwise. So perhaps there’s another way he can bless her?
Me leaving the Rigpa organisation (and taking my dollars with me) is a statement of a clear position on the unacceptability of violence. There’s enough suffering in the world (and in our own heads) already without purposefully inflicting it upon ourselves and others.
We need to consider the impact on the witnesses too. Human beings are naturally altruistic. Seeing someone assaulted creates a flight or fright response. It does not settle the mind. It stirs it up. And if it doesn’t, that is not called enlightenment, it’s called ‘desensitisation to violence’.
Repeated exposure to violent stimuli makes us ‘comfortably numb’ to pain and suffering. It causes a reduction in empathy. The infliction of hurt becomes normalised in the family home (or in this case shrine room) and begins to be seen as ‘not so serious’ to the point where people can have broken bones, go unconscious or have bleeding wounds and no one takes them to the doctor. (Those of you who have worked in shelters, etc. know what I’m talking about.)
I wasn’t in the room that day, but desensitisation to violence could be why, in a room full of 1,000 people, a man punched a woman in the stomach and no one got up to help her or call the police (as far as I understand please correct me if I’m wrong). Because gradually over time we’ve become used to our buttons being gradually pushed harder and harder until we don’t respond as any human normally would if they witnessed this event somewhere else. (In saying that, I’m not meaning to be critical of anyone there. I likely would not have done anything either. I would have been too frightened.)
I really do hope that there were no impressionable young men in the audience who think this is a fine example of how to treat an assistant you supposedly love. I love my kids. But I don’t hit them. It’s an antiquated form of discipline that has no place in a compassionate world.
So when someone says “She’s ok with it.”
My response is: “Well, I’m not!”
If that makes me an unenlightened Samaya breaker who’s going to vajra hell, so be it. Likely there will be a lot of suffering beings there who need a hand.
Please share your thoughts in the comments.
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