Book Review : ‘Sex and the Spiritual Teacher’ – Scott Edelstein

2011 February 27

Seems that we Buddhists are starting act on a growing desire to explore the topic of sex as many authors are offering up a menage a trois of writing on the topics of on right view, wrong view and everything in between. Personally, I think that it’s reassuring that a topic that we once relegated to being only in the realm of samsaric perverts is now having the covers pulled back and we’re given a peek into how Buddhas do it.

I just made my way through a recent addition to this growing library of work, namely,  ‘Sex and the Spiritual Teacher- Why it Happens, When It’s a Problem, and What We All Can Do‘ by Scott Edelstein.

The book covers a lot of ground but isn’t dense or overbearing in its tone. Given a subject as serious as sex and how it fits into the lives of spiritual teachers, Edelstein is upbeat without being too sugary, realistic about the sexual urges present in this human realm and direct in his call for both students and teachers to be responsible with each other and to consider the consequences for both ourselves and our sanghas that  arise from becoming involved in an intimate relationship of this nature.

Edelstein gets at the psychological workings behind both sides of the teacher/student equation and the power trips that can arise for each party. I appreciate his balanced approach in viewing this slippery slope from both angles as well as providing suggestions as to how spiritual teachers can best handle temptation, seduction and feelings of desire either by being celibate, remaining in monogamous relationships with their partners or displaying honesty and engaging in conversations with their teachers, students, peers and sangha members. Granted it’s not as easy as it sounds and this single blog post can’t possibly convey all that I want to say on this book and the themes within so I will be sure to post more thoughts as they come up.

One area that I wish to explore in a future post is whether victims of sexual transgressions by spiritual teachers should be named or have a responsibility to confront or openly discuss the situation with their sanghas as is suggested by Scott Edelstein. I have my own opinions on this and while they differ from the authors, I still respect the majority of his arguments and positions without being severely distracted by my personal beliefs on this matter.

‘Sex and the Spiritual Teacher’ will be published by Wisdom Publications in March 2011 and the author hopes that it will stimulate conversation within our sanghas and help us to develop policies and procedures to better equip organizations to deal with situations that may arise when groups of people congregate and the potential for desire and sexual attraction is present. Scott has created a blog related to the book so that this kind of discourse and can take place as well as to provide additional resources and assistance for those who are either curious to learn more about this topic or who are or who have been affected by misuse of sexuality by a spiritual teacher.


Comments are closed.