Code of Ethics for Spiritual Guides

for ex-BKs to discuss matters related to experiences in BKWSU & after leaving.
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Code of Ethics for Spiritual Guides

Post21 Aug 2009

To the attention of the silent BK readers,

to check the stage of their beloved Seniors, who believe themselves to be the highest human beings on earth and therefore don't take care of any Code of Ethics, carelessly putting the lives and mental health of the vulnerable BK believers at risk without taking any responsibility whatever happens to them.

From Council on Spiritual Practices
Council on Spiritual Practices wrote:
Code of Ethics for Spiritual Guides


People have long sought to enrich their lives and to awaken to their full natures through spiritual practices including prayer, meditation, mind-body disciplines, service, ritual, community liturgy, holy-day and seasonal observances, and rites of passage. "Primary religious practices" are those intended, or especially likely, to bring about exceptional states of consciousness such as the direct experience of the divine, of cosmic unity, or of boundless awareness.

In any community, there are some who feel called to assist others along spiritual paths, and who are known as ministers, rabbis, pastors, curanderas, shamans, priests, or other titles. We call such people 'guides': those experienced in some practice, familiar with the terrain, and who act to facilitate the spiritual practices of others. A guide need not claim exclusive or definitive knowledge of the terrain.

Spiritual practices, and especially primary religious practices, carry risks. Therefore, when an individual chooses to practice with the assistance of a guide, both take on special responsibilities. The Council on Spiritual Practices proposes the following Code of Ethics for those who serve as spiritual guides.

1. Intention

    Spiritual guides are to practice and serve in ways that cultivate awareness, empathy, and wisdom.
2. Serving Society

    Spiritual practices are to be designed and conducted in ways that respect the common good, with due regard for public safety, health, and order. Because the increased awareness gained from spiritual practices can catalyze desire for personal and social change, guides shall use special care to help direct the energies of those they serve, as well as their own, in responsible ways that reflect a loving regard for all life.
3. Serving Individuals

    Spiritual guides shall respect and seek to preserve the autonomy and dignity of each person. Participation in any primary religious practice must be voluntary and based on prior disclosure and consent given individually by each participant while in an ordinary state of consciousness.

    Disclosure shall include, at a minimum, discussion of any elements of the practice that could reasonably be seen as presenting physical or psychological risks. In particular, participants must be warned that primary religious experience can be difficult and dramatically transformative.

    Guides shall make reasonable preparations to protect each participant's health and safety during spiritual practices and in the periods of vulnerability that may follow. Limits on the behaviors of participants and facilitators are to be made clear and agreed upon in advance of any session. Appropriate customs of confidentiality are to be established and honored.
4. Competence

    Spiritual guides shall assist with only those practices for which they are qualified by personal experience and by training or education.
5. Integrity

    Spiritual guides shall strive to be aware of how their own belief systems, values, needs, and limitations affect their work.

    During primary religious practices, participants may be especially open to suggestion, manipulation, and exploitation; therefore, guides pledge to protect participants and not to allow anyone to use that vulnerability in ways that harm participants or others.
6. Quiet Presence

    To help safeguard against the harmful consequences of personal and organizational ambition, spiritual communities are usually better allowed to grow through attraction rather than active promotion.
7. Not for Profit

    Spiritual practices are to be conducted in the spirit of service. Spiritual guides shall strive to accommodate participants without regard to their ability to pay or make donations.
8. Tolerance

    Spiritual guides shall practice openness and respect towards people whose beliefs are in apparent contradiction to their own.
9. Peer Review

    Each guide shall seek the counsel of other guides to help ensure the wholesomeness of his or her practices and shall offer counsel when there is need.
This draft for public comment was released 10 August 2001.
The current version is available at

Copyright © 1995 - 2001 Council on Spiritual Practices

Creative Commons License

Code of Ethics for Spiritual Guides by Council on Spiritual Practices, R. Jesse, Convenor
is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Copies and derivative works must contain a link to


spiritual seeker

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Re: Code of Ethics for Spiritual Guides

Post19 Dec 2009

This is incredible. I am from a Buddhist group and am doing precisely the same thing. Having seen some things go wrong, I am writing a code of ethics. I came here & went to many other groups to ask for ideas. So here I am & here is my request


I am writing a document that can be used to criticise cults and am seeking advice & ideas for editing it from former cult members. If you feel anything is missing or something could be said clearer please give me your opinion & ideas, thank you. It is 10 ethics based on Rick Ross's "10 Characteristics of a Cult".
1. Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability.

The religious ethic:

The solution to this is to have a feedback system where the feedback is valued & considered properly & addressed both by the leader & its administrators.

Would this solve it? Let’s try an example out. In any religious organization, where celibates are running the show, if they have a sex scandal this is damaging. So let’s apply my solution.

Feedback ignored :

    Always someone speaks up in the early stages. By discounting their evidence, the person with the hidden scandal will rise in the organization & later when in a high position it will almost always come to light. At that time, a lot of people will be affected. Most people will remember this scandal & think of how the person was hiding it, putting on a clean face. There will then develop two groups. The people trying to move on from the scandal & the people exposing it.
Feedback listened to :

    Before the person gets power, the scandal is told. The person exposing it is LISTENED to & an investigation is done that establishes the truth. The accused clearly understands the catalogue of disasters that will come if they are dishonest & in caring for the reputation of the organization cooperates with investigation.

2. No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry.

The religious ethic: Again a feedback system that is not just a token gesture but genuine.

Listening to feedback is a great protector of religious groups. If 1 out of 10 people are finding a problem, then when you convert 1000 people, 100 of them will have a problem. So it is crucial to solve these problems & address these issues in the early stages.

3. No meaningful financial disclosure regarding budget, expenses such as an independently audited financial statement.

The religious ethic (please comment & revise)

Do not take large amounts of money from individuals. Find an ethical way to fundraise that is not this method. Do not lavish the leaders & admins with luxury whilst the new boy grinds away in a servile manner. Do not spend fundraised money on other than you declared it was for.

So the outcome:

Advice ignored :

    Amongst the entourage of the leader, accountants & admins with time people naturally leave any organization & a few are unhappy. Those people produce financial information they were privy to that is an embarrassment. All the raised money ends up being spent on defending the group in legal circles. People come away in debt & with a feeling of having being used for their money. Due to their debts they cannot move on as it is a constant reminder so they stay bitter & naturally begin to warn others.
Advice listened to :

    Although some people may become unhappy in certain circumstances and leave the organization they will not feel like they were used for their money. They can move on & not have any debts to remind them of the organization.

4. Unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies and persecutions.

Religious ethic (please comment & revise this one really needs input)

Do not speak ill of the non believer. They are sponsoring your spiritual life, building your halls of worship, making the clothes you wear & providing a society in which all the things you need are given with ease. They are also supporting your religious freedom. Do not say they are degenerates, lower beings, foolish etc.

Always keep respect gratitude & valuing of the community. Keep good relations with neighbours and the community without any conversion agenda. Do not chastise people who want to read news & go outside & socialize. (Does this go against any traditional way of life?)

Advice ignored :

    The larger community will always find out from former members that they are being spoken of as lesser or lower. The group will get a bad reputation in wider society for doing this. Without interaction with the community....(please suggest more readers thanks)
Advice taken :

    The group is respected in society as a whole and is accessible & unmysterious. The help they give to the community with no agenda is admired and neighbours as well as friends and relatives of members feel comfortable.

5. There is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil.

Religious ethic (please comment & revise)

Do not coerce or pressure people in any way to convert so they then have to 'leave'. Do not let people take commitments/vows/contracts when they are not ready. People who have converted must be treated well if they choose to leave and not be put under any pressure to stay. They must be as free as a bird. Once they are outside they must continue to be treated well & respected with gratitude for their contribution before they left. If the philosophy is very different from world view then the person should be supported as they go back to their previous world view as it can be disorientating. Even traditional religions hold a strong view of the world & it is hard to move to a non religious view.

Advice ignored :

    Members who inevitably leave develop mental health problems as they struggle to rebuild their belief system alone without any support. The lack of support brings them to believe they were being used because the friendships dissolved when they changed their beliefs. Feeling used & dumped they become resentful & bitter. Former members fill the internet with bitter propaganda against the group. People are hesitant to recommend the group as they feel that those they recommend might be pushed into a situation or used & dumped. The group gets a bad reputation. Members go through the motions because they are being forced to stay and have conflicting emotions/dual personality. They later speak of feeling unable to leave online which scares off newcomers.
Advice taken :

    People go but they often come back & feel happy. They write on the internet that although it wasn’t for them it was a good experience & they would recommend it to others. People invite their friends to the group feeling confident that they will be looked after and not pressured to adhere to anything. The group becomes a valuable resource that people can come & go with confidence using at their own pace. People who are there are enjoying & want to be there.

6. Former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a similar pattern of grievances.


7. There are records, books, news articles, or television programs that document the abuses of the group/leader.

Follow the feedback ethic & you don’t end up in this situation?

8. Followers feel they can never be "good enough".

Religious ethic (please comment & revise - I am far off the mark with this one)

Do not treat new people & visitors different from converts. If you wouldn’t do it to a new person don’t do it to a convert & vice versa (Corboy's addition)do not treat rich young able people differently from sick elderly poor people.

Advice ignored :

    Converts are like slaves whilst new people are lavished & praised. Converts criticized & being judged on their personal life whilst new people are treated with tolerance & respect. Converts come away feeling used & like the love teaching is hypocrisy. This solves many, many problems.

Advice taken :

    During the early stages of the organization using this guideline of measuring converts and new people some inequalities in respect for people & valuing people are noticed. They are corrected & the organization becomes healthy with people feeling treated well & happy. Then later, when it is bigger there are not big problems. It also prevents convertees getting special treatment because the equality extends to that a new person could be a potential elder in the future & the convertee was one a new person & also a beer drinking hedonistic normal person.

9. The group/leader is always right.

Religious ethic (please comment & revise)

As a leader admit your mistakes. We are all on a spiritual journey together & seeing how you overcome problems will help us do the same. Purity is about your intention so if you are open to feedback on how to do things administratively this does not damage people’s faith in you as long as you have a good intention of cherishing & respecting other people both converts & non converts.

Do not hide your faults & shortcomings. Do not discourage feedback by showing distress. If you are distressed by information, people who work for you will hide it from you. Do not teach arrogance by chastising people. Because then they will copy you. Do not be distant from your disciples as misunderstandings will develop if people cannot contact you. Do not dictate policy rather ask people for ideas. Of course the teaching cannot be edited but to administrate enforced control of people’s activities & speech leads to rebellion & harm to everybody, yourself, your admins, current members & former members.

Advice ignored :

    People endlessly seek to prove the leader doesn’t have the qualities he claims. The leader comes to be seen as someone engaging in deception to arouse faith. Members enforce rigorously more & more ridiculous rules because of things they saw the leader do or say and all sorts of administrative problems arise. Because some of these strange policies conflict with member’s wellbeing the leader is then deemed responsible for mistreatment of members and someone who teaches one thing whilst behind closed doors teaching to be heartless to members. The admins hide calamities from the leader and mistreatment. Forcing members to follow strange policies becomes the norm. In the end the group is more famous for these strange rulings that the philosophy they originally taught. Admins become like controlling, uncaring dictators.
Advice followed :

    Overexcited members tell you to tie your shoes the way the leader does because he is never wrong & is divine etc but they are laughed off because the majority have a good open relationship with the leader. People feel able to express their views & feelings to the leader. Administrators are able to make practical & sensible decisions rather than following policies which are inflexible. Strange policy clashes don’t arise & the emphasis becomes less on administration tactics & more on the philosophy itself. Administrative problems are quickly resolved.

10. The group/leader is the exclusive means of knowing "truth" or receiving validation, no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible

Religious ethic (this one is a mess lol- suggestions please!)

Do not pressure other sects to follow your methods; each sect has their own way. If another sect is pressuring you then show them this document. The only time to interfere in another sects business is if members of the other sect ask you for help. At that time help in accordance with their wishes if it is ethical. Do not belittle other sects as you do not know if they have secret more advanced instructions that surpass yours.

If another sect is being unethical they will culminate many ex followers raising protest. Therefore the issue will automatically be resolved between the sect & its ex members. Therefore there is no need to criticize other sects as nature will take its course. The sect will have to adapt & stop upsetting people. If you think your sect is better than other sects you might be able to say this without it corrupting your heart but when everyone starts copying you & saying it and it becomes the norm what will happen? Offense, arrogance will arise in the disciples because they are human beings.

Advice ignored :

    The group gradually transforms into people who are haughty & arrogant, looking down their nose at others. Newcomers sense this & the group gets a bad reputation in society. The habit of being big headed will filter into every area of the group’s routine. The leader might say we are simply acknowledging that these teachings are better but the members being human will be prone to self importance and thus these problems will grow. They will start lecturing others with a know-it-all attitude & become bad listeners, believing that newcomers have nothing to offer knowledge wise. They will come across as controlling dictator type people, and being bad listeners be deemed uncompassionate & uncaring. Other sects will have no respect for the group & relations with them will deteriorate.
Advice taken :

    The group maintains good relations with other sects. All people are valued as sources of knowledge. Newcomers feel welcome & listened to. Members are good listeners & are seen as caring & considerate. Many people gain spiritual insight from their listening & socializing skills.

Please can you help & advise me from your experiences if such a document addresses all the problems in your group, thank you.
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Re: Code of Ethics for Spiritual Guides

Post21 Dec 2009

Just a quick reply ... first of all, drop the "my" word. Not "my solution" but "this solution". Your piece reads like you are thinking aloud to yourself. Most people don't think and don't want to, some people thrive and are artful at manipulation conflicts. What might be best is just to deliver a 'Code of Ethics for Spiritual Guides", based on the one above your post.

Welcome back to the real world! It seems you guys have that first "Honeymoon Period" when everything looks dreamy and wonderful, and you are in love with life, then - wham - the real world interrupts yet again.

My first response is to suggest, as my main priority has been here, that you study history in order to arm and protect yourself and accept that all this is just part of real life, and educate others about it.

My second response is to wonder whether this is a stage of evolution all "spiritual seekers" must go through in order to grow, i.e. the growing out of the cult, the leader and cultism, or if there is a general, broader pattern going on of religions and religious cults having to democratize. I am thinking here of the comments about the BKWSU's political aims.

I do not know much about your groups specific issues but politics to the point of medieval skullduggery are NOT new to Tibetanism. Indeed, it is fair to say that as late as WWII they were engaged in all the same stuff as Medieval Rome was; e.g. tribalism, wars of succession, material acquisition, territorialism, political intrigue, murderous assassinations and the general suppression of the Tibetan people in awful poverty.

There was not, was never unity amongst all the different school. Some of this conflict was real and material, some of it "spiritual". The Yellow hats, Dalai Lama's lot, were no enlightening angels. Even within the superficial fronts, there is division between those that want to preserve the traditions of 'business-religions' in aspic and those that realise that they do not always work and the tools need to be improved and adopted to suit different environments. There are followers caught up in the romance of the ancient, and those attempting to modernize within the spirit of it. We see the same things too.

From the first point, and this applies as much to Brahma Kumarism, the question then become, do I want to get/stay involved either as a player or as a supporter ... whose tower do I want to lean my ladder up against? Where do I want to get to? Do I want to play these games?

For both of us, I think there is the necessity to accept that we were just suckered in by the exotic aspect of Orientalism and were naive to its underbellies. So what do I suggest?

What I really want to ask is, what feeling are you driven by and why?

In a way, by either of us commencing to do what we are doing, we are engaging in the powerplay. The democratization of religion ... which mean much more than a 'vote for all', rather it is about the responsibility and accountability of the leadership ... is also a powerplay. It is about a transfer of power away from leaders to 'ideals' and by levering it, you are learning about power and experimenting with your power. Where you want to put that power, is your own business. Some want it for themselves, some throw it away, other invest it in better things.

The last question is, what hope do you have of achieving what you want to do? Probably not a lot in our experience. Leaders like things the way they are and they know that there are more suckers, sorry I mean 'followers', born every day.

Are you ready to be a leader ... would you want to be one? Or are you inspired to protect and educate others? Have you come to do that job for the leader?


spiritual seeker

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Re: Code of Ethics for Spiritual Guides

Post23 Dec 2009

What drives me is that people are being harmed & I want some way to campaign for positive religion. That's why I am making this document. To clarify healthy & unhealthy & where the harm is coming from, i.e. clarify karma itself.

The 2nd thing that drives me is a desire to be on the right path myself. Buddhism teaches that you can waste infinite lives going on wrong paths, e.g. ending up as a formless realm god & then back to the lower realms, i.e. it takes an incredibly long time to get back to another chance & even then you might make the same mistakes & retake the same wrong path due to habit. In order to not waste huge amounts of time & effort in this way, I need a clear discrimination in my mind. I need to be able to identify what is correct & wrong. Then I need to get a strong habit of familiarity in this discrimination. Then, in future lives, if I seek a teacher I will not remember the discrimination but it will give me a gut feeling & increase my chances of dedicating those lives to the best opportunities.

There is a book which has just been produced about the controversy in Gelugpa school called 'A Great Deception - the Ruling Lamas' Policy'. It is all about a split & a power struggle between the 13th & 14th Dalai Lama & the other lamas. There's been a lot of arguing about whether the teachings can be edited & parts removed. It also talks about the mixing of politics & religion.

Old Tibetan citizens in the settlement in India are being told they are spies for the Chinese & persecuted because they wont accept an edit the Dalai Lama has made to the Gelugpa tradition. They're banned from shops & hospitals & not issued identity cards. Their kids are removed from the schools until they accept the edit & sign declarations that they will only practice the new edition & not the old one of Gelugpa.
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Re: Code of Ethics for Spiritual Guides

Post25 Dec 2009

whatisacult wrote:To clarify healthy & unhealthy & where the harm is coming from, i.e. clarify karma itself ... Buddhism teaches that you can waste infinite lives going on wrong paths, e.g. ending up as a formless realm god & then back to the lower realms.

Within that context, Brahma Kumarism is probably the worship of a "formless realm god". The early leaders being said to ascended to an angelic form. The Brahma Kumaris are heavily into spiritualism believing their god spirit to the one and the same as the God of all other religions.

Karma is something that followers do and leaders are seemingly immune to ... ho ho ho. Within Brahma Kumarism, all the leaders have to do is "remember" their god spirit and they claim they are free from any karmic effects. Great news if you want to fiddle the tax, fix bogus immigration applications, use donations to extend your own property, fly around the world in business class sucking up to VIPs. Sounds familiar?

Is the problem we are seeing here the collision between Western expectations of democracy, accountability, liberalism and so on with, basically, medieval fuedal religions where such concepts do not exist? And another collision between those medieval religions and the tools of the 21st Century like publishing and the internet over which they have no control?

"Players", such as Dadi Janki or the Dalai Lama, seem skilled at playing both systems. Funnily enough, one of the BKWSU leaders Jayanti Kripalani publicly claimed to have "worked with the Dalai Lama", riding on his coat tails to establish credibility. I contacted the Lama's office ... they have never heard of her. "Working" meant have a chit-chat once it would seem. They exploit the orientalist exotica.

My introduction to the realities of the TIbetan situation came from the mystic book "Beyond the Himalayas" written by Murdo MacDonald-Bayne in the 40s or 50s, and then from Dzogchen practitioners who themselves had suffered under the Yellow Hats.

So how far are you with your campaign? The above is a discussion of sorts rather than a prescription. I would start with a prescription then encourage adoption.

It would be harder for the leaders to avoid losing face by obstructing adoption.

One problem you might have, and might also be right, is that seemingly some people need to abused for the sakes of their own spiritual growth. It is their karma (as the BKs would say). Read that as you wish. You can expect the path to enlightenment to smell of roses ... whether it is the path to enlightenment or not. And it might not be either.

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