DZOGCHEN WEST

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DZOGCHEN WEST

Dzogchen Fellowship Ethics and Reconciliation Policy

Statement of Policy

Dzogchen Fellowship (“Dzogchen West”) is a California non-profit religious corporation qualifying as a church under IRC s.501(c)(3). It is a community of Buddhist practitioners within the Ancient (Nyingma) non-sectarian practicing lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. Its mission is to transmit the teachings of Dzogchen (Natural Great Completeness) and the Vajrayana (Indestructible Path) in a manner that is both authentic and accessible to the West. Dzogchen West strives not only to uphold high standards of ethics and equity, but also to consciously elevate such standards in Buddhist practice in the West.

The Lamas, Teachers and Fellowship of Dzogchen West are committed to the overarching principles of:

a)    kindfulness (great compassion) and non-harming; and

b)    equity in access, opportunity and respect for all (please refer to the Fellowship’s Diversity Statement for further details).

This Ethics and Reconciliation Policy applies at all times to any Lama, Teacher or other person holding office with Dzogchen West, and to any invited teacher or person exercising authority while acting in connection with Dzogchen West or any of its participants. Together these are referred to as “persons in authority”.

The Lamas and Teachers of Dzogchen West vow by way of the five Buddhist lay precepts to refrain from:

1)    taking life;
2)    taking that which is not freely given;
3)    harmful sexual conduct;
4)    false speech; and
5)    intoxication to the point of heedlessness.

I.        Prohibited  Conduct by Persons in Authority

  • A.      Abuse of Power or  Position

All share responsibility for honoring the profound trust and respect on which the teaching relationship is founded. However, persons in authority are responsible for recognizing the power dynamic implicit in their role, and refraining from any use of this authority to secure special privileges or to influence others inappropriately, or for any other personal ends. They are also required to refrain from any situation or action that might result in harm to a participant or the  Fellowship.

  • B.      Breach of Confidentiality

Matters discussed in meetings between persons in authority and participants 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 Lama or Teacher to disclose confidential information in the context of a professional legal or psychological consultation, this consultation will also be kept in confidence.

In California, a private communication made in confidence to a Lama (as a member of the clergy authorized to hear such communications in the course of practice of the Fellowship) may be privileged from disclosure. For the avoidance of doubt, a Lama hearing such communication has a disciplinary duty to keep it secret.

Persons in authority will comply with mandated reporting to the extent required by law.

  • C.       Breach of Fiduciary Responsibility

Any person in authority who handles funds or assets on behalf of the Fellowship, or of any other person connected with the Fellowship,  shall act solely in the best interest of those to whom the funds or assets belong; shall serve with accountable and transparent stewardship; and shall never use funds or assets that belong to others without prior authorization.

  • D.      Sexual Misconduct

Persons in authority are expected to uphold the highest standards of integrity in all personal encounters. In particular, with regard to the teacher-­‐student relationship, responsibility for maintaining appropriate and clear boundaries between teacher and student always rests with the teacher.

“Student” means any participant other than one who:

a)      was in an established, committed relationship with the relevant person in authority at the time that person became so; or

b)      has satisfied the Ethics Council that they are no longer a student, and have not been for a period of at least six months.

A sexual or romantic relationship between any student and any Lama, Teacher or other person in authority is prohibited. A Lama, Teacher or other person in authority who feels unable to uphold this standard shall:

a)    refrain from engaging in that relationship;

b)    seek guidance from a qualified, independent third party;
c)     advise the student to seek qualified, independent guidance from a different third party; and

d)    notify the Ethics Council.

  • E.       Discrimination or Harassment

Persons in authority and participants are expected to treat each other with respect and kindness both physically and verbally. Dzogchen West strives to 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 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.

II.               Ethics Council

The Ethics Council (“EC”) will consist of three persons appointed by the Board of Directors. Lamas or Teachers shall not be eligible for appointment to the Ethics Council.

Membership of the EC will be reviewed annually by the Board of Directors.

The EC shall provide counsel and assistance to participants and persons in authority concerning nondiscrimination and harassment policies and procedures, and shall oversee the proper conduct of all grievances and informal resolution measures involving participants and persons in authorityunder 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 their responsibilities, a replacement shall be appointed by the Board of Directors (excluding any Director having a conflict of interest).

Any complaints or concerns regarding ethical issues in the community can be submitted to the EC at any time by email to EthicsCouncil@DzogchenWest.org, or to any member of the Ethics Council.

III.            Grievance  Procedure

Any person who experiences inappropriate conduct from any person in authority (or who themself engages in such conduct) should be aware that these actions violate the spirit and practice of right conduct, and seriously undermine the harmony of the Fellowship. In the event of a concern arising in the Fellowship, either by complaint or perception, the sequence of actions outlined below is suggested.

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 collectively acknowledge that there may be no solution to a particular problem that is acceptable to all concerned, but we will endeavor to help all parties arrive at the best possible solution in the circumstances.

If a person in the Fellowship has difficulty with one or more person(s) in authority or other individual(s) within the Fellowship, those involved should work to resolve the problem, preferably by following these steps in order:

  • 1.      Meet with the other person(s) privately to discuss the problem. If this does not bring a resolution, or if either person, using their individual judgment, does not wish or is too uncomfortable to meet privately, that person should:

  • 2.      Ask one uninvolved person from the Ethics Council (failing whom an uninvolved member of the Board of Directors)  to witness and/or mediate discussion of the problem. If the problem involves one or more members of the Ethics Council, the person mediating shall seek to invoke the procedure set out in II above for replacement of members of the Ethics Council having a conflict of interest. In the absence of resolution, either party may then:

  • 3.      Submit a written statement describing the problem to the Ethics Council by sending email to EthicsCouncil@DzogchenWest.org 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 the issue in writing to the Ethics Council. At such a hearing, which will be conducted by the Ethics Council as a whole, the procedure shall be determined by the Ethics Council acting in accordance with the principles of natural justice (the right of all concerned to a fair hearing by independent parties). A hearing will result in a formal recommendation by the Ethics Council. Either party or the Ethics Council itself may appeal to the Board of Directors (excluding any director who is a party to the issue). In that case:

  • 5.      After hearing from all parties and reviewing the recommendation of the Ethics Council, the Board may issue a binding decision and/or, at their discretion, may contract on behalf of the Fellowship with one or more independent investigators and/or mediators, and/or seek advice from other experts and professionals in order to facilitate a resolution.

Dzogchen West will endeavor to maintain confidentiality in all informal and formal proceedings. All related documents will be kept confidential except as required by law. All participants will be instructed to maintain confidentiality.


I, as a person in authority at Dzogchen West, have received, understand and undertake to abide by the above Ethics and Reconciliation Policy. I understand that this Policy may be revised in future, and that if so I will be asked to update these commitments.


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