natural awareness


Ethical Statement

George Draffan


revised 2013 March 3

I do my best to support the spiritual practice of those who request teachings. How to do this well is an open question, given the complexities of spiritual practice, the dynamics of human relationships, and the fallibility of human nature -- but the foundation of spiritual friendship is surely ethical behavior. 

Ethics, meditation, and wisdom are the three essential and interrelated aspects of the noble Buddhist path. Traditional Buddhist ethics include refraining from killing, stealing, wrong speech (false, harsh or divisive speech, or idle chatter), sexual misconduct, and intoxication. A growing number of Buddhist organizations are adopting additional ethical codes and procedures, some of which are linked here.


I am committed to clear boundaries and ethical standards, including:

  • I will respect all spiritual traditions, Buddhist and non-Buddhist.

  • I will not engage in religious, ethnic, financial, gender, or sexual discrimination or harassment of any student, volunteer, donor, or employee.

  • I teach to support others in their spiritual practice, rather than for financial gain, reputation, or personal gratification.

  • To protect the health, safety, and well-being of the community, I maintain clear professional boundaries and limit personal relations with students.

  • I do not offer medical or psychotherapeutic treatment; I will use my best judgment to refer you to qualified practitioners.

  • I hold interviews and other communications confidential except as required by law, or where in my judgement intervention may prevent serious imminent threat to health or safety.


If you have concerns about our work together, please raise them with me. If direct dialogue does not lead to resolution, we can bring in third parties in ways that combine transparency, confidentiality and discretion, fairness, and accountability. I am working to develop:

  • A procedure for submitting concerns or complaints to an independent ethics committee that has experience with spiritual teaching, counseling, and conflict resolution.

  • A process for accountability to the committee's investigations, conclusions, and recommendations.

  • A mechanism for appeal, if necessary, to a recognized third party for meditation.


Understanding the complex psychological and ethical dynamics in spiritual communities is a necessary step in creating a safe and effective container for spiritual practice. Here are a few resources that can help inform and empower students and teachers:

  • At Personal Risk: Boundary Violations in Professional-Client Relationships,
    by Marilyn Peterson

  • Them and Us (revised version of The Wrong Way Home), by Arthur J. Deikman
  • Spiritual Bypassing, by Robert Augustus Masters
  • Eyes Wide Open [and] Halfway Up the Mountain, both by Mariana Caplan

  • Faith Trust Institute

  • Safe Harbor: Guidelines, Process and Resources for Ethics and Right Conduct in Buddhist Communities (Buddhist Peace Fellowship)

  • Sex and the Spiritual Teacher, by Scott Edelstein

  • Wise Student, Wise Teacher (previously published as Relating to a Spiritual Teacher), by Alex Berzin (also online)

  • Guidance on Finding a Buddhist Teacher or Organization