105-year-old California Buddhist teacher accused of sex abuse
February 13, 2013
A 105-year-old Buddhist teacher in Los Angeles allegedly groped, molested and even raped female followers throughout his decades-long tenure as a leading Buddhist figure. [LA Times]
An investigation conducted by a council of Buddhist leaders suggested that Joshu Sasaki Roshi may have abused hundreds of women in his 50 years since arriving in Los Angeles.
“We see how, knowingly and unknowingly, the community was drawn into an open secret,” the council wrote. “We have reports that those who chose to speak out were silenced, exiled, ridiculed or otherwise punished.”
One victim, Shari Young, said Roshi molested her for about a year in the early 1960s. In one-on-one meetings with Young, Roshi fondled her breasts and groped her body. Young left Roshi’s Jefferson Park Zen center in confusion after a year of abuse.
“The impact on me was so tremendous,” Young said. “It’s kind of a relief and confirming to know I wasn’t just odd,” Young said.
Like Young, Susanna Stewart, 71, turned to Roshi for enlightenment. Roshi, too, abused Stewart. But, Stewart said she felt conflicted about the abuse because she also loved and respected Roshi as a teacher.
The Buddhist council investigation into Roshi began after a Zen website published a letter by Eshu Martin titled, “Everybody know.”
“It’s been sort of a tribal secret for 50 years, and I just wanted to provide an opportunity for people to start talking about this in an open forum that couldn’t be shut up,” Martin said about his letter.
Roshi arrived in Los Angeles 50 years ago as part of a wave of Japanese teachers planning to teach Buddhism to Westerners. The 105-year-old is currently in poor health, and his Buddhist center spokesman says he is too ill to respond to allegations.