“There have been issues with Arnaud (Maitland) in the past…”

This email was sent by Jack Petranker, longtime member of Tarthang Tulku’s organizations, sent me this e-mail when the organization decided to take action against Mr Maitland after learning (for the second time) about his sexual harassment of and retaliation toward me – the emphasis on the sentence there have been issues is mine:

Jack Petranker <jackp@creativeinquiry.org> Sat, May 11, 2013 at 6:21 PM Reply­To: jackp@creativeinquiry.org

Hi       ,
Apart from me, Ralph, and Carolyn (and Janet), Leslie has been brought in as well.

What I meant about handling this “with care” is that we want to treat it seriously; there have been issues with Arnaud in the past, as I’m sure you know, and it does not seem right to look the other way.

We will be discussing where we stand by phone tomorrow. If you have any wishes about how you’d like us to proceed, that would be helpful. We’re aware of your wish to stay active at DP and especially with Kum Nye Dancing.

Best wishes, Jack

Jack Petranker, Director

Center for Creative Inquiry

New ways to know . . . . . more ways to experience

Here is an image of the actual e-mail:

There have been issues with Arnaud in the past

As you can see in comments on other entries on this blog, other women have mentioned that they know people who were also harassed by Mr Maitland or that they themselves were.

Mr Maitland is not the only member of the Nyingma organizations who approached students in this way. Mr Petranker made an inappropriate gesture toward me when I was working for him; fortunately, he backed off when I told him it was inappropriate and I hoped it would never happen again.

One has to ask oneself it one wants study with, support, or be a part of an organization that would turn a blind eye to this kind of behavior. It is because people continue to support organizations that allow this type of behavior that it can be allowed to continue. It is bad enough when it happens in ordinary workplaces, but to happen in a space where someone comes for spiritual training and refuge, that goes against everything that the Dharma is about.

Though the organizations say that they teach and spread the teachings of the Dharma and of Tarthang Tulku, I am fairly certain that neither the Dharma nor Tarthang Tulku would condone sexual harassment. Anyone who would support or defend the position and actions that the Nyingma organizations have taken over the years with regard to sexual harassment clearly does not embody, practice, or even understand the Dharma. People were thrown out of sanghas in the time of Shakyamuni Buddha for repeated transgressions like this, and even lesser ones. That is the standard we need to have in this day and age as well.

Sexual harassment in Buddhist organizations

Yesterday I went to small claims court with a case against Tibetan Nyingma Meditation Center (TNMC), to recover funds they offered to pay me after I was sexually harassed by one of their long-time, senior members.

The person representing TNMC was Jack Petranker, lawyer, and another long-time member. Although Mr Petranker was not the person who sexually harassed me, he had also engaged in inappropriate behavior towards me, though thankfully, he had the sense to back off when I told him that it was unwelcome and should never happen again.

I presented evidence that representatives of the organization who were handling my instance of sexual harassment (there apparently have been many) suggested that I go to India on pilgrimage to recover, and offered to pay for the trip and additional money so that I would have resources to re-orient myself when I returned to the US after my travels.

Mr Petranker, who was a party to nearly all the e-mails that were exchanged at the time, in response to my evidence, said nothing about the harassment or the original intent of the committee to help me recover from the harassment and the brutal retaliation that followed when I said no.

In his attempts at putting up a defense to my claim, Mr Petranker showed his character. He tried to lie and misdirect the court from the facts of the case, which were that I was harmed, and the organization was responsible and had offered to provide compensation to remedy that harm.

A wonderful friend who spent the whole day with me, driving me to court and staying in the courtroom until my case was called pointed out that Mr Petranker did not acknowledge the harassment or express any regret or sorrow about what happened. Mr Petranker, a long time member of TNMC and allegedly a long time Buddhist, showed no kindness or compassion. And in his very first statement to the court, he deliberately lied, in an effort to mislead the court into simply dropping the case.

Then the judge asked him “Procedure aside, what would you like to say regarding the merits of the case? Can you dispute the plaintiff’s claim that someone from your organization offered her money to recover from the harassment?” He could not. Instead, he offered more lies and misdirection, which I then refuted.

How different it could have been if Mr Petranker had been willing to apologize and to acknowledge the harm done. How much more humane, let alone Buddhist. You don’t have to be a Buddhist for 40 years to be kind; in fact, if you have been a Buddhist for 40 years and the best you can come up with in the face of someone’s pain and suffering, particularly pain and suffering that you had a part in causing, is lies and denial, then it seems to me that those 40 years have clearly been a big waste of time.