Ethical Policy of the FPMT
The purpose of this policy document is to
help maintain and foster a supportive environment for Buddhist
practice within the FPMT.
This document describes the ethical responsibilities of people
in positions of authority within the FPMT, such as teachers,
interpreters, center directors and spiritual program coordinators
in the centers, and Board members and members of the International
Office Management Committee within the larger organization.
This document should be accompanied by the document entitled
Grievance Procedures, which outlines the procedures that should
be followed if complaints or grievances against any of these
people should arise.
As Buddhists, our main concern when grievances arise is the
ability to forgive and be compassionate within an understanding
of karma. Genuine forgiveness and apologies for inappropriate
actions should in general be accepted and encouraged. This
means that the 'victim' also has a responsibility to be compassionate.
A fundamental responsibility to ourselves and to the FPMT
community is to create a supportive, harmonious, and safe
environment for Dharma practice. If we notice conduct that
we believe is harmful to an individual or the community as
a whole, it is crucial that we recognize and express our concerns,
so a culturally appropriate forum for dealing with problems
needs to be developed. Ethical guidelines are commonplace
in most businesses, organizations, and government offices.
As a Dharma organization, we should maintain an even higher
standard of ethics than an ordinary organization.
As Buddhist practice includes the support and involvement
of a spiritual community, participants in FPMT centers are
caretakers of the community’s well-being. We share a
responsibility to foster an environment of integrity and respect.
Part of our shared responsibility involves refraining from
behavior that harms other participants or the community as
a whole. Another part of our shared responsibility is to attend
to any concerns we may have about misconduct within the FPMT.
FPMT center teachers, directors, and staff are trusted to
behave in ways that further the community’s well-being.
The community expresses its special trust in individuals by
placing them in these positions. In addition, these individuals
are seen as representing Lama Zopa Rinpoche, and the FPMT;
in that way, they act as ambassadors, and their behavior is
a reflection on Rinpoche and the entire organization.
Examples of misconduct include, but are not limited to, physical
violence; sexual harassment, such as inappropriate and unwanted
sexual advances; misappropriation of community funds for personal
use; and sexual relationships between teachers and students.
Misconduct on the part of those in positions of trust can
significantly undermine the community’s integrity; and
users of the center can be considerably demoralized, and lose
faith in the center. For these reasons, this behavior is prohibited,
and the procedures outlined in Grievance Procedures should
be put into place if such a breach occurs.
The five Buddhist precepts are the basis of ethics in FPMT
centers. The FPMT Handbook states:
For the centers to offer a Dharma environment depends on each
member of the community emphasizing Dharma in their own life.
To facilitate this all those visiting or living in a center,
while in the center are required to live within the basic
The five precepts are not to kill, steal, indulge in sexual
misconduct, lie or take intoxicants. Intoxicants include alcohol,
narcotics and cigarettes.
In addition, the following policy is established:
Relationships: Sexual relationships
between FPMT staff in positions of authority, especially teachers
(please see below for additional policy for Dharma teachers),
and beginning Dharma students are strongly discouraged, due
to the power and authority imbalances inherent in this relationship.
FPMT teachers and staff should also be careful to refrain
from behavior that could be interpreted as sexual advances
or sexual harassment. In addition, even if a potential relationship
between a staff member and a student would not otherwise be
discouraged, no staff member should make sexual advances to
any participant during a course or retreat.
Right Speech: It is important
that FPMT teachers and staff be careful not to gossip about
or disparage other teachers, FPMT staff, or students, or use
harsh or abusive language. We should avoid speech that is
intentionally hurtful. If we are hurt or angry, we should
wait before we respond and think about the impact and usefulness
of our words. Overhearing conversations in which other teachers
or students are disparaged can have an especially negative
impact on newcomers and visitors to the center. If a difficult
exchange is warranted, it should take place in private, away
from the public areas of the center.
Center Finances: Great
care should be taken in dealing with center finances. In a
Dharma center, the way certain financial transactions are
handled is regulated by codes of conduct that are far more
stringent than those of an ordinary business. Money that has
been donated for specific Dharma projects should never be
made available for general operating expenses, except as a
temporary loan, and income from Dharma items should be used
for Dharma purposes, not for general expenses. All Center
income and expenditure should be clearly and transparently
accounted for, according to generally accepted accounting
way is to accommodate and not exclude anyone on the basis
of race, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, or physical
handicap. FPMT staff should also be aware that there are laws
in effect in many countries prohibiting discrimination on
the basis of many of these factors. The underlying principle,
which is a fundamental part of our Dharma practice, is to
treat others with respect, in a way in which we would like
to be treated.
Because of the uniqueness of the teacher-student relationship,
FPMT Dharma teachers are required to observe the following
Confidentiality: Teachers should respect
the confidentiality of students, and treat all communications
from students with professional confidence. Teachers should
assume that all conversations with students are private, and
should not disclose information acquired in the conversation
without the consent of the student. This is another way of
respecting the guideline of right speech mentioned above.
This is also required of interpreters.
Qualifications: Dharma teachers should be
honest about their qualifications, and should be careful to
correct any misrepresentation of their qualifications.
Relationships: Teachers are not to engage
in a sexual relationship or communicate such an intention
with a student who they meet during one of their classes.
If the teacher and student wish to enter into an intimate
relationship, the teacher must take responsibility to ensure
that a period of more than six months has elapsed between
the end of the course and the beginning of the relationship.
This is to help protect both the teacher and the student from
misusing the teacher-student relationship.
Dharma teachers are usually held to high standards of conduct
and thus should make every effort to conduct their personal
relationships in an exemplary manner. Teachers should never
use their authority and position in order to initiate sexual
and intimate relationships with students.
If the Ethical Policy is Breached
In a case that a center staff member or volunteer is accused
of having breached the FPMT Ethical Policy, and a grievance
procedure is initiated against them, that individual's case
should be considered by his/her line manager.
If the individual is the center director or resident teacher
, then their case must go to the International Office Management
Committee, and possibly to the Board. That individual may
be subject to disciplinary procedure. If the individual is
a member of the Board of FPMT Inc., the case must go to the
Board of FPMT Inc.
It is FPMT policy that every individual accused of breaching
ethical policy be given the opportunity to explain their behavior,
and if it is agreed that they indeed were unethical, have
the benefit of receiving an explanation of why their conduct
was considered unethical. If that individual agrees to change
that conduct in line with FPMT Ethical Policy, they should
be given the opportunity to continue serving that center,
unless that center's governing body consider it too detrimental
to the center. However if they do not agree, or are considered
to have breached Ethical Policy a second time, they will be
dismissed immediately from their position.
Center Services, International Office, Oct. 2000