Dalai Lama meets alleged victims of abuse by Buddhist gurus


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Ricardo Mendes, one of four alleged victims of sexual, physical, and psychological abuse by Buddhist teachers talks to reporters prior to a meeting with spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in Rotterdam, Netherlands, Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Ricardo Mendes, one of four alleged victims of sexual, physical, and psychological abuse by Buddhist teachers talks to reporters prior to a meeting with spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in Rotterdam, Netherlands, Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Four people who say Tibetan Buddhist teachers abused them physically or psychologically presented the Dalai Lama with written accounts from 12 alleged victims and appealed to him Friday in the Netherlands to address the problem.

A group using the hashtag “metooguru” gathered some 1,300 signatures on an online petition calling for a meeting with the spiritual leader so he could receive its collection of testimonies. He met with four representatives for about 20 minutes on the first day of a four-day visit to the Netherlands.

The Dalai Lama is the leader of one school of Tibetan Buddhism. Organizers of Friday’s meeting at a Rotterdam hotel hope the Nobel Peace Prize winner will use his moral authority to influence the faith more broadly.

“What we want from him is that he is very clear about the fact that religious leaders in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition are not above the law,” said Oane Bijlsma, one of the four people who met the Dalai Lama. “That even if they claim that their tradition endorses behavior that is supposedly beyond good and evil, it can never be the case.”

The alleged victims, from the Netherlands and Belgium, said the Dalai Lama pledged to take action, including bringing up at a meeting of Buddhist teachers in November their reports of sexual, physical and psychological abuse.

The Dalai Lama did not speak to reporters after the meeting. Members of his entourage did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The people he met with emerged from their audience expressing mixed reactions. One said she was a bit disappointed.

But Ricardo Mendes, who said he was physically abused as child being raised in a Buddhist sect in Belgium, said he was pleased the Dalai Lama appeared moved by the accounts they shared.

“He was like: OK, now I have maybe the material. I have real papers, real stories of real people that I can use to point fingers in the Buddhist landscape and say ‘This guy, this guy, this guy are behaving this way, and you should not follow them, and this is not Tibetan Buddhism.'”

That gave Mendes hope for the future.

“Maybe, maybe this is what is going to come out of this meeting, that he is going to have the ammo to actually fire,” he said.


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