Tendai Buddhist priest accused of abuse in Japan

- through Henry Oudin

Published on

Taken from kyodonews.net

A Buddhist nun in Japan has made allegations of brainwashing and sexual abuse against a prominent Tendai priest, sparking shock within the country's Buddhist community. The nun, identified by her Buddhist name Eicho, described feeling betrayed and exploited, and said her faith was manipulated to facilitate sexual abuse, leading to complex post-traumatic stress disorder.

Eicho said she came forward to “restore my dignity, which has been erased from my existence for 14 years. I spent my days like a bird in a cage. My identity had been stolen and erased. (Kyodo News)

Eicho's education in the Tendai school, a Buddhist tradition that dates back approximately 1 years in Japan, played an important role in his life. Her grandfather was a high-ranking priest, and she grew up immersed in Buddhist teachings, eventually becoming a devoted follower.

According to Eicho, the alleged abuse occurred over a period of more than a decade. She petitioned the Tendai school, to which the temple belongs, to revoke the priesthood of the accused perpetrator, who is now in his sixties, as well as his mentor, an 80-year-old abbot who holds the known high rank under the name of "daisojo.” At this time, none of these individuals have been publicly named. These actions follow an unsuccessful attempt to file a criminal complaint against the high priest.

The alleged abuse began in 2009, when Eicho was ordered by his family's cousin, the high-ranking priest, to visit the accused high priest at another temple. Despite her initial reluctance to come forward due to her respect for priests and her fear of religious consequences, Eicho eventually sought help from a women's helpline in 2015.

Eicho's subsequent decision to speak out stems from a desire to raise awareness about sexual violence against women, particularly in religious contexts where victims may fear reprisals if they speak out about the abuse. She said she was inspired by Japanese journalist Shiori Ito, whom she saw come forward in 2017 to accuse former television journalist Noriyuki Yamaguchi of sexual assault. At the time, few women in Japan had publicly complained about assault or abuse. Ito's actions therefore helped spark the #metoo movement in Japan.

“I was able to know that being a victim of sexual violence is nothing to be ashamed of,” Eicho remarked, recounting Ito's actions. (Kyodo News)

Despite filing a complaint with the police, the charges were not pursued due to lack of evidence. Eicho's attempts to seek justice were met with resistance, including pressure from the accused abbot and disillusionment with the Tendai school's response.

Eicho's accusations sparked an internal investigation within the Tendai tradition. However, skepticism remains over the impartiality of the investigation, with Eicho and his legal representative calling for the creation of a third-party committee to look into the allegations.

Michiko Sato, left, with Eicho at a press conference in March 2024. According to kyodonews.net

It was not until 2023 that Eicho's family, concerned for her well-being, convinced her to flee the temple once and for all. She hesitated, however, and only left after meeting and working with Michiko Sato, a lawyer who would accompany her through the ensuing legal process.

The accused high priest declined to comment on the details of the case but maintained his innocence, emphasizing his long-standing ties to the temple and his mentor, the high-ranking priest.

The allegations have raised broader concerns about sexual violence within religious communities and the difficulties victims face in coming forward. Psychiatrist Miyako Shirakawa noted that victims often struggle to report abuse for fear of accusations of blasphemy and treason, particularly in cases involving authority figures within religious hierarchies.

“Sexual violence within religion is easily covered up, and if it is sexual violence committed by someone in a position of authority, victims are often not believed by those around them,” Shirakawa said. (Kyodo News) She added that power imbalances, such as the master-disciple relationship, can be abused to convince victims that they are wrong to complain about harmful behavior. She also noted that these incidents often shattered the victims' faith, causing deep and lasting psychological trauma.

Eicho expressed hope that by sharing her story, she can bring about change and support other victims of sexual abuse. She remains steadfast in her quest for justice, determined to restore her dignity and prevent similar harm from happening to others.

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FILE: A nun speaks out about allegations of sexual abuse by priest Tendai (Kyodo News)

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The article Tendai Buddhist priest accused of abuse in Japan appeared first on Buddhadoor Global.

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Henry Oudin

Henry Oudin is a Buddhist scholar, spiritual adventurer and journalist. He is a passionate seeker of the depths of Buddhist wisdom, and travels regularly to learn more about Buddhism and spiritual cultures. By sharing his knowledge and life experiences on Buddhist News, Henry hopes to inspire others to embrace more spiritual and mindful ways of living.

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