Our new digital world has made it impossible to believe in infallible teachers. What comes next is up to us.
Changing cultural attitudes are not the only only reason that public revelations of institutionalized sexual abuse have been at the forefront of mainstream consciousness. Abuse is nothing new. What is new is the way it is being revealed to the public—and what the public is doing with the information.
In the following interview, Ursula Richard of the German magazine Buddhismus aktuell discusses with Pörksen the exposure and aftermath of scandals in Buddhist communities today and how we can understand the emerging role played by digital media.
Ursula Richard: In an article you wrote for the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit entitled “Demystified Gurus,” you speak about the end of the era of religious and spiritual heroes. In the past few years, in fact, a number of Buddhist gurus have been unmasked. Why is this happening so frequently just now?
Bernhard Pörksen: I see it as a media effect. In our age of digital networking, the authority of gurus or masters— something that was unassailable until recently—has become vulnerable. Suddenly anyone can compose a petition or post a description on blogs and forums of what has been done to them. What we are experiencing at the moment in Tibetan and Japanese Buddhist groups and at the same time in yoga schools and communities around the world is an implosion of spiritual authority.