Abuse within Buddhism: What does it take to heal? The case Ehipassiko Antwerp

A new article today on BodhiTV about the case of Ehipassiko / Paul Van Hooydonk. It is very sad to see how abuse, be it sexual, mental, spiritual or institutional, can be so very destructive to the health and wellbeing of so many people as well as destroy people’s faith in Buddhism and the Buddha’s teachings. If abuse is not addressed adequately and, like in so many cases, is denied, victims are blamed for “being angry” and Dhamma teachings are used for spiritual bypassing, how can healing ever take place?

(it’s in Dutch but DeepL or Google Translate do a good job)

In 2017 I visited Ehipassiko with Ajahn @Brahmali. The room was full to the maximum allowed. When Bhante @Sujato visited in 2019 the problems had still not come out in the open and they organized a much bigger space, which was also full. When Ajahn Brahmali returned to Belgium last year, it became clear that a lot of damage had been done. I had by this time joined the Ethical Committee of the Buddhist Union and realized that Paul van Hooydonk, nor the Ehipassiko Board, had made changes to address the problems and accusation of abuse. The whole thing had resulted in an openly very hostile attitude towards the women and the BUB. Instead, myself and Ajahn went to support the women who had left the organization and who had just started up on their own. Although for the women this was a very important occasion that really helped them to feel supported and heal, it was sad to see that hardly anybody showed up.

Often we look up to a teacher and although something might not feel right, we gloss over it and don’t pay much attention. Often this also has to do with our internalized patriarchy that we don’t always see how our perceptions, attitudes and behavior toward other people change based on their gender. But over a longer period of time this permeates the atmosphere of the organisation and several women reported a toxic atmosphere in Ehipassiko.

As Heidi put it: “It’s about climate and atmosphere, about a creeping poison slowly spreading in communication. And about power relationships and patterns that install themselves. Being manipulated, blackmailed and insulted without you noticing it right away. This manifested itself in attitude, body language, the tone in which something was said and things insinuated. In facts that were distorted. In emails, for example, Paul often used derogatory terms toward me and belittled me with his words.”

I admire the courage of Heidi and the other women to stand up and speak out against injustice, even though they were met with denial, hostility and victim-blaming. The Buddha never told us we just have to accept injustice and “let it go” or be silent. In fact, it is our duty to point it out to others if they have done something harmful so they get a chance to change their behavior in the future, to look at their defilements and let go of those; it is a precious gift. We also have to speak out for the sake of others so not more people get harmed. Speaking out is an act of compassion.

Foto van x1klima.


Thank you so much for sharing this. And best wishes to Heidi and the other women! :heart:


Thank you so much Ayya, for your work and advocacy, and for sharing it with us.