By Roberto Maranzano
The Scottish Government has been accused of sponsoring a pro-Buddhism charitable organisation that works with former drug addicts.
Questions are being asked within the drug rehabilitation world as to why grant aid is paying for the promotion of the eastern religion, and particularly to vulnerable people.
The charity, Scottish Drugs Recovery Consortium (SDRC), is fully funded by the Scottish Government.
It has established a “university” to instruct ex-drug addicts in Buddhism. Launched in 2010 as part of as strategy entitled “The Road To Recovery” and initially funded by the Scottish Government to the tune of £300,000, the consortium hoped to change the culture of drug treatment, and to focus on encouraging “abstinent recovery” from addiction.
Its four-year history has been characterised by changes of leadership and direction, staff turnover, perceived “mission creep” and re-brandings. Newly styled as the Scottish Recovery Consortium (SRC), it is now managed by a Buddhist nun.
Dharmacarini Kuladharini, who worked in the drugs field previously as Sophie Young but adopted a new name on becoming a Buddhist, was appointed SRC Director in March 2012. At the time she was an ordained member of Triratna Buddhism. In August 2013 she deepened her commitment, becoming an “anagarika”, or Buddhist nun.
She announced this on the Consortium’s website saying: “I am so happy about it. I feel peace and contentment that I could not have imagined.” The Consortium claimed that becoming a nun was “a natural development in both her spiritual practice and her work”. She asked people to “be happy for me.”
Buddhism, sometimes described as a non-theistic religion, is nevertheless a religion, and it is this aspect that has raised eyebrows among the many charities and related organisations dealing with drugs, social work and justice in Scotland.
Since Kuladharini’s investiture as a nun, the line between the personal spiritual path of the Director, now styling herself Chief Executive, and the work of the Government-funded registered charity has become further blurred, observers believe.
In the summer of this year, the Consortium started a new project, “The University of Life in Recovery”, a summer programme that included day-long sessions led by Kuladharini on “Learning to Meditate” and “On Love”.
The University’s winter programme includes five free two-day residential courses, paid for entirely by the Consortium. These include “recovery weekends” for men and women and weekend sessions entitled ‘Buddhism and Recovery from Addiction’ and ‘Teaching Self Compassion’.
The Consortium claims that people from all over Scotland attended the summer sessions and they are expecting similar demand for the winter programme.
It says that its role is to “support the implementation of national drug strategy”, which if true ties it closely to the interests of responsible minister, Roseanna Cunningham MSP, Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs. The Consortium continues to be wholly funded by the Scottish Government.