White Plum Asanga Code of Ethics


1. Confidentiality. The relationship between student and teacher often involves the sharing of highly sensitive personal information. Respect for the student and for the relationship requires that teachers maintain such information in confidence. There may be occasions when, for the well being of specific individuals and of the sangha teachers may need to consult with other teachers or professionals concerning such confidences. On such occasions, teachers should strive to assure that such consultations are maintained in confidence. Despite the foregoing, if a teacher has reason to believe that a student has an intention to harm themselves or others, it is the responsibility of the teacher to inform the proper authorities as provided under applicable law. Each teacher also has an obligation to be aware of the applicable law with respect to reporting crimes disclosed during confidential communications.
2. Power. Teachers have an obligation to educate themselves about the subtle power issues that inhere in the teacher/student relationship, as well as the potential effects of that power and its exercise on both teachers and others. Teachers should seek counsel from other teachers and professionals, as appropriate, about the use of power and the harmful effects caused by its abuse. Teachers should also encourage their sanghas to offer training about such issues and their dynamics. Teachers should be especially aware of the potential for subtle abuse of power that may arise in relation to their personal interests.

3. Right Speech. Mutual respect is foundational for an environment supportive of sound practice. Such respect is manifested when sangha members treat others with dignity and engage others truthfully and compassionately with a positive intention. Sangha harmony is promoted when the teacher models, and all members observe, the clear mind precepts regarding right speech: refraining from lies, self-serving talk, slander, angry or abusive speech, and apportioning blame.

4. Humility. Occupying the role of teacher can subtly undermine a healthy sense of humility. In turn, a lack of humility can impair one’s ability to recognize and live into the fullness of the responsibilities of being a teacher. For that reason, teachers have an obligation to engage in self-monitoring and self-care with the object of being fully self-aware in all situations. Teachers should engage in activities that balance the teaching role with grounding in regular practice and study of the Dharma, leisure, engagement in family responsibilities, and the establishment of a relationship with another teacher with whom they can discuss and reflect on their work as teachers.

5. Boundaries. Teachers should not violate trust or use power and/or position for personal gain or self-satisfaction. The ultimate responsibility for maintaining appropriate and clear boundaries between teacher and student always rests with the teacher. When a teacher is asked to act in a capacity that calls for competencies beyond the teacher’s expertise, he/she will refer students to those with requisite expertise (e.g., mental health professionals, medical professionals, legal professionals).

6. Dual Relationships. Although not all dual relationships are harmful to students or the sangha, they have a significant potential to complicate student/teacher relationships and to undermine sangha harmony. Teachers should be alert to maintain appropriate boundaries and carefully consider the implications and dangers of dual relationships. Examples of dual relationships include romantic relationships, financial relationships, intimate friendships, therapeutic relationships, and professional relationships. Each sangha should have express policies to address dual relationships.

7. Sexual Conduct. Because sexual relations between a student and teacher have serious potential for the subtle and overt abuse of power, for disruption of the sangha, and for consequent harm to all individuals and institutions involved, they should be avoided unless the teacher and a student are in a committed and publicly transparent relationship with each other. If a teacher and a student enter a sexual relationship, they should openly declare their relationship to the sangha. The teacher, student, and sangha should then strive for ongoing openness, particularly as respects the potential for this relationship might cause disruption within the sangha. The teacher has the ultimate obligation to assure that these guidelines are observed.

8. Sangha Code of Ethical Conduct. Teachers will make students aware of this Code of Ethical Conduct and will assure that their individual sanghas have in place both a code of ethical conduct and processes for receiving and dealing with complaints against teachers at the sangha level. Teachers will also assure that information about both the individual sangha code and processes and those of the White Plum Asanga are made known within their sanghas.

9. Processes. To ensure openness within the sangha, teachers and students will engage in processes, such as council, which utilize horizontal power sharing and listening and which regularly and openly address ethical issues.

10. Collegial Respect. When a student requests to study with a teacher, the teacher should inquire whether the student has been studying with another teacher and if this is the case, encourage closure wherever possible. When a student changes teachers, the new teacher shall comply with the WPA guidelines for such changes, which are attached. Teachers will not actively recruit students from other teachers.

11. Accountability and Governance. Maintaining the well­being of the sangha is the mutual responsibility of all members and requires active participation in governance by members. Teachers will support the sangha’s chosen governance structure and will act to further the goals of accountability and transparency in all areas, including finances, decision-making, and consideration of grievances, including allegations of ethical misconduct.

12. Transparency. Transparency is crucial to maintain balance and harmony within the sangha. Teachers will be alert to potential conflicts of interest with students and other members of the sangha and will act so as to avoid them, and any material conflicts of interest will be disclosed to sangha leadership immediately.