In the Media

Three women accuse upstate Buddhist leader of rape (Times Union)


The KTC lawsuit was filed in the Southern District of New York on Nov. 17. It names the monastery, now known as Palpung Thubten Choling, as the sole defendant. (Dead people cannot be sued.) It is the latest in a rising chorus of sexual abuse allegations emerging from Tibetan Buddhist communities in the United States and Canada that are ringing out on social media, blogs and in the Buddhist press — though rarely in courts. Several of its claims fall under New York’s Adult Survivors Act, which created a one-year window for people to file civil sexual assault lawsuits that would otherwise fall outside the statute of limitations. The few prior lawsuits against Tibetan Buddhist leaders and temples in the U.S. have been settled out of court or withdrawn under often murky circumstances.

“For far too long, no one has held these organizations accountable, least of all their boards of directors who have sworn an oath of absolute loyalty and obedience to the leader and therefore overlook and cover up egregious acts of sexual assault,” said the lawyer for the three women, Carol Merchasin, who has represented dozens of survivors in sexual-assault cases against Tibetan Buddhist churches and yoga organizations in the U.S.

In December 2016, after several women came forward to KTC leadership, the monastery hired An Olive Branch, a Buddhist nonprofit organization that investigates allegations of ethical misconduct, to look into claims of sexual abuse by Lama Norlha. Its report concluded that at least some of the allegations, including those from the three women who would later sue the monastery, were credible.