arnaud maitland and sexual harassment

It has been a year since this blog was last updated, and it feels important to publish it again and reiterate some of the messages.

It is important that people know the kind things that Mr Maitland has done in the past, so that they can make an informed decision about whether to study with him, short or long-term. 

This and other posts about Mr Maitland’s harassment have received many comments of appreciation that this information is available. One person in particular said that she had a funny feeling about him, and she was glad to find this information; it validated that feeling for her. The FBI has said that one of the reasons that women wind up being victims of attacks is that they do not trust their instincts. (See this post for some suggestions about how to protect yourself, should you decide to interact with Mr Maitland.) t would be great if we all trusted our instincts more in this area, and shared what we know with others. It is in that spirit that this information is available.

Note there is a comment from a long-time member of the community which acknowledges what has been happening:

…I just want to acknowledge what you said as true. As a long term member of the organization I was and am truly shamed with this situation. A classical denial reaction is not what I would expect from us, or from any Buddhist practitioner, not for that extended period of time anyhow. I am truly sorry for your pain
I am not in pain. I am deeply disappointed that any organization, and particularly a Buddhist organization would allow this to happen and then, knowing about it, would allow it to continue. There is no way that this type of behavior and response should be a model for how the Dharma comes to the West. This is not Dharma, and this is not how Dharma should come to the West. By allowing Mr Maitland to continue his activities, the organization condones his behavior and implicitly says – “this is OK in a Dharma context.” And it is not.

This is an updated version of the post that used to be called ‘being good at life, part 2.’

Between Sept 2012 and May 2013, I was sexually harassed by Arnaud Maitland while I was volunteering at Dharma Publishing. It started off as persistent pursuit and evolved into a six month period of subtle and vicious retaliation. I reported this to senior members of the TNMC community, and they did nothing until May of 2013. At that time, in May 2013, Jack Petranker, Vice President of Dharma Publishing and a senior member said “We’ve had problems like this with him before, and this time, we think we should take it seriously.” After a series of meetings, I was asked to leave, and Mr Maitland was allowed to continue with his activities.

About a year afterward, I was watching TV with my mother and saw an episode of Law and Order during which a woman kills herself after being subjected to much of the same retaliatory behavior that I experienced. It was the first time I really understood both the intensity of what I had endured, and the depth of my resilience.

I believe that the reason I was able to be resilient is that, despite the fact that my teacher violated almost all the tenets of the Dharma and his own teacher’s teachings, I believed in the Dharma. That belief and faith in the Dharma helped me to deal with the  repeated shocks to my system that I was experiencing with each incident of harassment. Each time he did something – picking an argument; singling me out for punishment for a made-up transgression; inventing fault with minute aspects of my work; saying one thing and then taking it back and saying the opposite; making an agreement to do something and then doing something completely different; assigning me trivial and time consuming tasks that utilized none of my skills and contributed nothing the success of the organization; allowing others to take ownership of ideas I had put forward; deliberately sabotaging projects that I was working on – I would feel a huge shock to my system.

Maybe you’ve felt this kind of thing before. Maybe it is the feeling you get when your parent criticizes you again, even though you are an adult and have done everything you can to please them much of your adult life. Perhaps you get the feeling when you’re standing up and speaking in front of a room full of people and someone asks you a nasty question Or when your boss calls you stupid, lazy, or incompetent in front of your colleagues and peers. I don’t know a better word for it than shock, the kind that really takes your breath away.  The sensation made my whole body feel short circuited, like none of it would work properly again.

I experienced those sensations over and over again. In the beginning, there were lulls, when I foolishly believed that perhaps the attacks were over. After the first few months, they just kept coming. Sometimes I had barely recovered from one when the next one came in. It was a very deliberate and well executed campaign. I wound up off balance, out of sorts, confused, and depressed. Finally, I woke up one day and had decided to leave. When asked why, I mentioned again the harassment of Arnaud Maitland. Although the organization said they were going to take it seriously, I was asked to leave the community, and Mr Maitland was able to continue to teach and interact with students much as he had before.

Mr Maitland does not teach an authentic version of Kum Nye. If after doing and teaching Kum Nye for 35 years, he was capable of the type of behavior he exhibited with me and others, something is definitely not right. In the Buddhist teachings, it says that a good teacher should embody the teachings. There is no way that Mr Maitland’s behavior is an embodiment of the Dharma or of Tarthang Tulku Rinpoche’s teachings. Read this blog for more about that.

For those of you who are already studying with or otherwise interacting with Mr Maitland, it may be helpful to know his tactics.

He sends e-mails in which he refers to you as ‘dear’. He will share seemingly intimate details about his work, travel, or personal life. He responds quickly, almost immediately to your e-mails for a while, and you have the feeling you can actually sense when he reads them. He has given you glib reasons for why you should be in a relationship with him – you’re the first student he’s ever fallen in love with, or things are not going well between him and his wife, for example. He approached at least one woman during a retreat and told her that he wanted to have ‘a special Nyingma relationship’ with her; she is not the first one he has said that to. One woman came to a retreat as a result of Mr Maitland’s seduction and spent over $1,000 in addition to the retreat fees. After she left, Mr Maitland never contacted her again.

I do not know what the situation is at Dharma Publishing and TNMC now. They told me that they were going to do sexual harassment training, and make the community safer – he was not the only one who thought it was OK to approach students in that way. I hope that is the case. But people who interact with Mr Maitland should know he has this history, and should ask him about it. It is always possible for people to change. But it is not guaranteed, and Mr Maitland had a long history of this kind of behavior, which was kept secret from people who interacted with him. As a result, he caused much suffering. Hopefully, this will prevent additional suffering of that kind.