Buddhist Teachers’ Responses to Sexual Violence: Epistemological Violence in American Buddhism

Ray Buckner


In 2018, popular North American Buddhist teacher, Noah Levine, was accused of sexual assault and misconduct. Several Buddhist teachers responded in Levine’s defense through a seemingly neutral posture of “waiting to find out” the truth. This paper examines these teachers’ responses, asking the question: “Which Buddhist concepts are mobilized in responding to alleged sexual violence?” I find that these teachers respond to allegations with the language of not-knowing, equanimity, and right speech. They ask their communities to “wait and see” whether these allegations are true, with the unspoken assumption that they are not. I assert these responses use Buddhist teachings to uphold cis-masculine innocence by using hegemonic logics and commitments to downplay and delegitimize the phenomenon of sexual violence. I argue that these responses uphold hegemonic control within Buddhist communities, and conclude that a feminist response to allegations of misconduct requires centering survivors of sexual assault.


American Buddhism; Against the Stream; Noah Levine; #metoo; sexual misconduct; feminism; gender and sexuality; anger

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.4031009


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