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Christopher Titmuss "controversy" ?

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Christopher Titmuss "controversy" ?
Answer
4/18/19 1:50 PM
Hi,

could someone please briefly explain to me what is the nature of "controversy" with Christoher, and maybe link me to some articles about it? 

Daniel briefly mentions it in a footnote in MCTB2 ("Yes, I am aware of the controversy regarding Christopher Titmuss.", MCTB2, CH48. footnote 1)

And to not blow this foot note out of proportion, Daniel has nothing but praise for this, by so many accounts, amazing teacher.

("...Christopher Titmuss himself, for whom I have profound gratitude. His embodiment of awakening as a living truth was palpable, open, and inspiring. His cultivation of awakened teachers around him who were from not only various strains of Buddhism, but also from traditions outside Buddhism, embodied a spirit of pragmatism and non-dogmatism regarding awakening as a human right rather than the property of some religion—that was a rare example of what is possible in terms of dharma cooperation. His message of engagement with life in all its rich and complex tragicomic glory, delivered from a place of awakening and encompassing a full range of powerfully articulated emotional reactions to a wide range of real-world topics, modeled lessons that it would take me years to assimilate.")

RE: Christopher Titmuss "controversy" ?
Answer
4/19/19 4:00 PM as a reply to Jan Pavuk.
Alright, yes, legit question, deserves a legit answer.

First, I should say that I really, really, really appreciate Christopher Titmuss, got stream entry sitting with Christopher Titmuss, did four retreats with Christopher Titmuss and crew back in the day, one of which was my first retreat ever, and spent two months at Gaia House back when he was one of the directors/cofounders. He helped me tremendously on the path, being among my first serious meditation teachers along with Sharda and the rest of his crew. My gratitude for him and those other teachers is profound.

That said, when I stayed at Gaia House and after discussions with some other people who were there back in the day, the rumor was that he was unusually friendly to and attention-giving to younger pretty female meditators. He apparently defended himself saying it was all benign, that there was nothing wrong at all with his giving people attention as teacher, and apparently couldn't see what they were talking about. Those I personally spoke with then, who were also dharma teachers at Gaia House and who were intimately involved in these discussions, said he seemed to have some obvious blind spot around this.

I personally never witnessed this sort of thing occur during the whole time I sat with him, but I am not and never was a young pretty female. I very much do not wish to in any way discount the points of view of those who felt something in his interactions with young, pretty females was inappropriate. Whether or not it ever went farther than simply giving more attention to them, I do not know.

I do know that some on the inside of the world of insight meditation teaching told me that Gaia House booted him out of his role prominent at Gaia House due to this issue, but that was decades ago, and its relevance to the 20 or so year older version of Christopher Titmuss, I also don't know. Again, this is all second-hand, so I must be careful. Still, you asked, and the rumors are out there, and this is their origin, so far as I know, and this is an era when such topics are getting a lot of weight and importance, and rightly so, but I am hesitant to be sure I know how significant those issues from the past are to the living man himself today. Helpful?

RE: Christopher Titmuss "controversy" ?
Answer
4/20/19 4:57 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Does Christopher have a number children? With how many women? Has he ever been married? While I am not directly pointing at Christopher, my impression is the Western Vipassana Mafia scene was/is a "swinging" scene. I recall living in a Thai monastery where a certain Western monk disrobed & went to live in IMS (USA) as a "teacher" and suddenly he was hooked up with a female IMS teacher who was once a student at the same Thai monastery. As a young Buddhist, I found it rather strange. But as a became older, I got the impression the Western Vipasana Mafia is a "swinging" scene. Jack Kornfield, self-admittedly, was once a womanizer as a teacher; a certain American Mahasi student teacher who I won't name had a reputation as a womanizer. Noah Levine is certainly from this Vipassana Mafia Lineage. Since I don't follow the scene, that is the only "gossip" I am aware of. 

RE: Christopher Titmuss "controversy" ?
Answer
4/20/19 5:23 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
I appreciate the honesty and balance of that answer.

RE: Christopher Titmuss "controversy" ?
Answer
4/20/19 5:56 AM as a reply to Nicky.
I know nothing about any "swinging scene" in the Western Vipassana teacher community from that far back in the day, and, while not a true insider, am prone to hearing rumors about that sort of thing when it occurs, and have heard nothing. That doesn't mean it hasn't occurred, but, if it has, I know nothing about it.

Yes, Noah has gotten a reputation, true, but, again, I believe that investigation is ongoing?, and all my knowledge of him is superficial and only based on what speculation and accusation is available easily in the public domain. I personally know no rumors regarding Jack and womanizing.

Christopher has one grown daughter, I believe. I do not know the specifics of his relationship to her mother beyond that, in the mid 90's when I was hanging out with him, they were no longer together. He used to talk about his daughter when giving dharma talks, specifically mentioning the numerous lessons parenthood gives in letting go, patience, etc. He also mentioned negative impressions of marriage in some dharma talks.

RE: Christopher Titmuss "controversy" ?
Answer
4/20/19 6:24 AM as a reply to Nicky.
Although I'm open to the reality that there can be womanizers amongst vipassana teachers, I fail to see "womanizing" in the examples you give. Being hooked with a female teacher from the same monastery at a meditation center sounds more like either a match-making situation or they just met and got together. What's wrong with that? And to my knowledge, Jack Kornfield fell in love with one female student and they got together quite officially, with no hidden agenda or dual relationship. Again, nothing wrong with that. I think he's always made his romantic involvements clear and ethical, for all we know.

IMS has an ethics code regarding sexuality that says it's ok for a teacher to develop a romantic relationship with a student, provided certain ethical criterias are respected, such as making the relationship clear and official and ending the official teacher-student relationship.

I think it's quite ok for a single vipassana yogi to look for... well, someone that has common values and practices, and therefore, another vipassana yogi.

And may I know why you call it the Western Vipassana Mafia? I have my own critique of the movement but I wonder why you would call it a "mafia"?

RE: Christopher Titmuss "controversy" ?
Answer
4/22/19 4:46 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Thanks, Daniel. Certainly helpful.

That footnote left a nagging question in my subconsciousness, so i needed some information on that as i am planning to go on a retreat with Christopeher : )

And now that I understand better the nature of this "controversy", it's easier for me to make a decision.

With all due respect to disgusting and harmful behavior and mentality that women face from men even within buddhist environments (like you wrote, Lust for Enlightenment by John Stevens is a good book on the topic), there seems to be very little information to go by here, and the only ones who know what happened (and whether or not anything bad/unwise actually happened) is Christopher, and those lady retreatants.

On the other hand, there is a surplus of information from people who are very thankful for his guidance.

RE: Christopher Titmuss "controversy" ?
Answer
4/23/19 3:42 AM as a reply to Jan Pavuk.
While I agree that it is mostly men that sexually exploit their students and positions of power in this particular way, women do this also occasionally.

Case in point, some people I know who are in a cult (and happy about it) did recently mention that the female leader of this cult did end up in a relationship with one of her students when the dogma in this cult was that such things weren't supposed to happen, and of course the cult leader rationalized it all in spiritual mumbo jumbo terms. I am sure it is more complicated than that, as these things often are, but the point about the possible abuse of power and sex not being so perfectly confined to males remains.