Ethics Policy of Palpung Thubten Choling

Ethics Policy and Grievance Procedure

Maintaining a Harmonious Environment for Spiritual Practice

  1. Policy Statement

Palpung Thubten Chöling Monastery, established in 1978, is a community within the Kagyu Lineage of Vajrayana Tibetan Buddhism. Its primary goal is to preserve the authenticity and continuity of the three vehicles of the Buddha’s teachings in the contemporary world in order to benefit all sentient beings, and to make these available to all who are interested. The PTC community is made up of both ordained and lay practitioners. PTC shares with all traditions of Buddhism the three principal refuges and the commitment to avoid the ten negative actions. All teachers and residents are expected to take these to heart. The three principal refuges: We take refuge in the three jewels: Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and we take refuge in the three roots: the Lama, Yidam, and the Dharma Protectors.

The ten negative actions: We vow to refrain from:

  1. Killing
  2. Taking what is not given
  3. Inappropriate sexual conduct
  4. False speech
  5. Harsh speech
  6. Divisive speech
  7. Gossip/idle speech
  8. Covetousness
  9. Ill will
  10. Wrong view

All teachers and residents who have taken formal vows hold a greater level of commitment and are expected to adhere at all times to the specific vows they have taken. Those who hold any level of formal ordination are expected to keep all the vows of ordination. Lay practitioners who have taken one or more of the five lay (genyen) vows are expected to keep the vow(s) they hold by refraining from:

The ten negative actions: We vow to refrain from:

  1. Killing
  2. Taking what is not given
  3. Inappropriate sexual conduct
  4. False speech
  5. Intoxicants of any kind
  1. Prohibited Conduct
  1. Abuse of Power and Position
    While it is the mutual responsibility of teacher and student to honor the deep trust and respect on which their relationship is founded, the teacher is responsible for recognizing the authority implicit in this role and refraining from any use of this authority to secure special privileges or to inappropriately influence others, or for any other personal ends; and to refrain from any situation or action that might result in harm to a student or the community.
  2. Breach of Confidentiality
    Matters discussed in meetings between teacher and student are to be kept in confidence when confidentiality is requested and agreed to, except as may be required by law. If it is necessary for a teacher to disclose confidential information in the context of a professional legal or psychological consultation, this consultation will also be kept in confidence.
  3. Breach of Fiduciary Responsibility
    It is incumbent upon any teacher or resident entrusted with handling funds or assets on behalf of practitioners to act solely in the best interest of the community, to serve with accountable and transparent stewardship, and never to use funds or assets that belong to the sangha without authorization.
  4. Sexual Misconduct
    Teachers and residents are expected to uphold the highest standards of integrity in all personal relationships. In particular, with regard to teacher-student relationships, responsibility for maintaining appropriate and clear boundaries between teacher and student always rests with the teacher. A sexual or romantic relationship between any student and teacher is prohibited. A teacher who feels unable to uphold this standard will seek guidance and counsel from a senior teacher at PTC, a senior teacher within the lineage, and/or one or more members of the PTC Ethics Council, and will advise the student to seek independent guidance as well. If, after receiving guidance, the teacher and student still wish to pursue a romantic or sexual relationship, the teacher must notify the Ethics Council and the teacher-student relationship must clearly and consciously be ended before a more personal relationship begins. The Ethics Council may require disclosure to the community.
  5. Use of Drugs or Alcohol
    Violation of the precepts regarding drugs, alcohol and other intoxicants is an ethical violation. Lay teachers and residents who have not taken the vow to refrain from intoxicants are prohibited from using intoxicants while wearing robes or while on the property of PTC monastery or its affiliated centers. Likewise, teachers and residents are prohibited from being on PTC property or the property of a PTC affiliated center while in an intoxicated state, and also from engaging in idle talk with students or visitors about the use of intoxicants while in robes or on the property of PTC or its affiliated centers.
  6. Discrimination or Harassment
    PTC’s teachers and residents are expected to treat each other with respect and kindness both physically and verbally. At PTC we will maintain an environment free of discrimination of any kind based on race, color, age, ethnicity or national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

In addition, unwelcome and unauthorized incidents and/or patterns of conduct and/or speech towards any other person or group that are unkind, persistent or pervasive shall be considered harassment.

  1. PTC Ethics Council

The PTC Ethics Council (“EC”) will consist of five members selected jointly by the PTC Executive Council and the PTC Board of Trustees to serve a two-year term. In order to stagger terms, 3 of the initial EC members will be appointed for 3 years and 2 members appointed for two years. The EC will include:

  1. A member of the Board of Trustees
  2. A monastic resident of PTC
  3. A non-monastic or lay member of PTC
  4. Two additional members

Membership of the EC will be reviewed annually by the Executive Council and Board of Trustees.

The EC provides counsel and assistance to teachers and students concerning nondiscrimination and harassment policies and procedures, and shall oversee the proper conduct of all grievances and informal resolution measures involving PTC teachers and residents under these policies. If, for any reason, any member(s) of the EC has a conflict of interest, illness, or prolonged absence and is unable to carry out his or her responsibilities, a designee shall be appointed by majority vote of the Executive Council and Board of Trustees. Any complaints or concerns regarding ethical issues in the community can be submitted to the EC at any time by writing

  1. Grievance Procedure

Persons who experience inappropriate conduct from any member of the PTC sangha (or themselves practice such conduct) should be aware that these actions violate the spirit and practice of right conduct and seriously undermine the harmony of the sangha. In the event of a concern arising in the sangha, either by complaint or perception, the sequence of actions outlined below is recommended.

The purpose of these steps is to facilitate communication and bring the problem to resolution in as honest, simple, and straightforward a manner as possible. We acknowledge that there is no perfect solution to any problem between people, but we will endeavor to help all parties arrive at the best possible solution given the situation. If a person in the sangha has a problem with an individual, teacher, board member, or entity within the sangha, that person should work to resolve the problem by following these steps in order:

  1. Meet with the person one-on-one and discuss the problem. If this does not bring a resolution, or if either person, using his or her individual judgment, does not wish, or is too uncomfortable, to meet one-on-one, that person should:
  2. Ask for one mutually acceptable person from the Ethics Council to witness and/or mediate the discussion of the problem. If that does not bring about a resolution, either party may:
  3. Submit a written statement describing the problem to the Ethics Council by writing with a request that the Council as a whole meet with the parties to assist with or mediate the issue. If the problem still persists, either party may:
  4. Request a formal hearing by submitting an issue in writing to the Ethics Council. At a hearing, which will be conducted by the Ethics Council as a whole, either party may present his or her version of the dispute, call witnesses, and ask questions of the other party and of the witnesses. A hearing will result in a formal recommendation by the Ethics Council. Either party or the Ethics Council itself may appeal to the PTC Board of Trustees and Executive Council for assistance. In that case:
  5. After hearing from all parties and reviewing the recommendation of the Ethics Council, the Board and Executive Council may issue a binding decision, or, at their discretion, may contract with an outside mediator or seek advice from other experts and professionals.

PTC will endeavor to maintain confidentiality in all informal and formal proceedings. All related documents will be maintained as confidential. All participants will be instructed to maintain confidentiality.

Addendum to PTC Ethics Policy and Protocol for Resolving Concerns

Examples of resolutions that may be reached in an issue resolution:

This is a list of some possible resolutions intended as a partial, not a comprehensive, guideline. As it is not possible to anticipate every kind of situation that might require resolution, other additional types of resolutions may be reached as well.

  • Finding of no ethical breach.
  • Finding of no ethical breach while acknowledging the existence of a problem that needs resolution by another means.
  • Reversal of an administrative decision or action.
  • Direct or mediated private apology.
  • Apology to the community.
  • Follow-up meetings with one or more members of the Ethics Council or a designated teacher or other party.
  • Recommended education, training or intervention program (e.g., therapy or relevant 12-step program).
  • Private reprimand.
  • Public censure (in which the findings and action of the Ethics Council are made public to the sangha).
  • Period of probation, with probationary terms set by the Ethics Council.
  • Suspension or dismissal from a position of responsibility in the sangha.
  • Suspension from teaching for a period of time, with stipulation of conditions under which teaching may be recommenced.
  • Request that teacher or resident leave the monastery.
  • Decision limited simply to whether or not an ethical transgression has occurred.
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