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In early 2018 (in collaboration with members of the Adhisthana Kula) the ECA’s Safeguarding team looked in detail into concerns that a number of men had been told to share Sangharakshita’s bed with him in the 1980s. The following is the text we wrote which forms part of the Triratna Controversy FAQ.
In 2003 a then Order member published an account of how, in the early 1980s, he attended an Order weekend at Padmaloka and found himself allocated to Sangharakshita’s bedroom. He said that there was no extra bed in the room and that Sangharakshita indicated that he should share his double bed. He said that Sangharakshita approached him sexually. He believed this might have happened to others too.
Though it is difficult to establish facts after more than 35 years, Triratna’s Safeguarding Team and Ethics Kula have been looking into this matter during 2018 and are continuing to do so, including consulting with the man himself as to his wishes. To do this we have contacted as many people as we could find who lived at Padmaloka in the 1970s and 1980s, including retreat organisers responsible for room allocations.
So far, nobody has told us they were aware of anyone allocating anyone to Sangharakshita’s bed, but we are aware of two other men who have said they were allocated to Sangharakshita’s room and found they were expected to share his bed. One did so, the other did not. It may be that this happened to others but that they have not come forward.
We do know some were allocated to sleep on a second mattress in his room. It may also have appeared that other men were being allocated to Sangharakshita’s bed because the list on the noticeboard would indicate only to which room a person had been allocated, without mentioning the number of beds in the room on that occasion.
It was also the case that people were allocated to sleep in his room when he was away, but whether or not he was using the room would not have been indicated on the list on the noticeboard. (It was common for all members of the community to share their rooms with visitors on large events, due to lack of space.)
Asked about this matter by the Safeguarding officer, Munisha, Sangharakshita himself said it was possible men were allocated to share his room, but he did not remember asking the retreat organiser to allocate any particular person to his room. He said he always remembered the room with a second mattress in it, though he could not remember for certain that there was always a second mattress.
As is standard Safeguarding practice when addressing serious allegations, the Safeguarding officer has been in touch with the police about this matter. They confirmed that the information they have gathered over the years about this does not indicate need for any criminal investigation by them. This means we are dependent on people coming forward to share their experience with the Safeguarding team.
We would encourage anyone with information to email us at safeguarding [at] triratna.community
Read about Safeguarding at Padmaloka today.
Nobody else has ever come forward to say they were told to share Sangharakshita’s bed. However, a former Mitra contacted Munisha at the Safeguarding team in 2019 to say that another former Mitra had told her years ago that he had been told to share Bhante’s bed at Padmaloka in the 1990s. Yet by the year in which this was said to have happened Bhante had long since moved to live in London and no longer had a bedroom or bed at Padmaloka. Added to this, the alleged complainant was a wheelchair user, and the room Bhante had formerly occupied at Padmaloka was upstairs and there was no lift. Munisha responded to the woman’s emails several times offering to talk but there was no response. Since the man had died a number of years earlier it was not possible to make further progress.
One more man (unconnected with the FWBO/Triratna) has come forward to say that he and Sangharakshita had sexual relations. By coincidence, on the morning of 30th October 2018 he looked up Sangharakshita on the internet intending after many years to make contact with him, only to discover that he had died an hour so earlier.
This man wrote to the Buddhist Centre Online that morning to say that he had had sex with Sangharakshita in 1969, when he was 17 and Sangharakshita was 43/44. Though their sexual relations were consensual, in hindsight he felt they were unethical given his youth, the age difference and the fact that he looked up to Sangharakshita, even though he had no connection with the FWBO.
Because at that point, in England, the age of consent for sex between men was 21, this would have been criminal at the time. However, the age of consent was lowered to 16 in the year 2000 (as it had long been for sex between women and between women and men).
Munisha maintained friendly contact with this man until his death in December 2019.
Munisha contacted the police again in 2019 to ask whether they had received any further complaints against Sangharakshita since 2017. They said they were not aware of any further complaints.