I also wanted to reiterate that this was my experience as a volunteer, and that I was not privy to much of the behind the scenes occurences. I felt that Kindness House and Human Kindness Foundation needed to be seriously set apart from cultish institutions. In no way do I defend the sexual activities that Bo conducted, nor do I want to marginalize the hurt and pain that those women have experienced.
My name is Huy Pham, and I was a resident of Kindness House for almost a year from the summer of 2004 to April 2005 when I was 25.
I know I am finding about this article way after the fact but I feel I need to add some insight to the record. I lived there primarily as an intern to get non-profit experience and secondarily to experience a lifestyle that would help me become a more kind, loving, and mature human being, as well as live a responsible, simple and ecological lifestyle.
I am really shocked and confused from reading the article. I cannot comment on the sexual allegations because I had absolutely no idea of that during my stay there. But I am really sad and feel really let down to discover this.
As for Bo's relationship with Kevin (who was living there at the time I was, and Charles too), that is an issue between them that most of the volunteers were not a part of. I have to say that I love Kevin very much as well as Bo, and it breaks my heart to read about this turmoil between them.
I do want to focus on what kind of picture the article was trying to portray. First I must say that in no way am I a religious person at all, but I do find ideas in various religious teachings very beneficial to my life. My interpretation of this article was that the author was trying to sensationalize Bo as another egomaniacal, nutty cult leader with oppressive rules and that life was this intolerable experience at Kindness House. Yes there were many rules (some of which I broke more than once), but they were there because to help you become more disciplined, clear headed, and free of desires that restrain us (materialism, addictions, bad habits) so that we can be more open human beings that are less selfish and more compassionate. The rules were also there to promote simple and ecological living...which is in fact very trendy nowadays and not just a cultish or monastery type thing to do.
People came there to take part in an experimenta social and personal one. We had to wake up at 6am for hour meditation followed by a half hour discussion of spiritual readings, which Bo primarily led. After that we had silence, which was quiet time or work time until breakfast bell when we could speak. I miss that quiet time. We had work until evening, which was around 6pm. After dinner, we would all get together and play outside, card games, etc. For me, it was very much idyllic with a strong undercurrent of spirituality underneath. Thinking back 3 years later, I feel it should have been more strict actually. Maybe I enjoyed myself way too much. I feel like I got away with too much. I wanted to get away from my conventional, materialistic life yet I still found certain times to indulge in those aspects.
The work was amazing. I learned so many skills such as working in the garden, picking fruit, cutting down dead trees, operating machinery, carpentry, baking, cooking, etc. We went picking blueberries every day during August.
I was yelled at by Bo once. But I deserved it. I did something that theoretically couldve gotten Kevin in trouble. Bo yelled at me not from anger but more righteous indignance. I would have yelled too if I were him. He questioned what I was doing at Kindness House if I was not there for the benefit of the people they were trying to serve. The management seriously questioned whether or not I should be allowed to stay there and they had every reason too. I had gotten too comfortable, and the whole point of being there was to be constantly uncomfortable in order to grow as a human being.
Bo is really funny. If he ever referred to Oprah as Satan, then I can bet my life on it that he was joking about it. He had very, very strong convictions and viewpoints, but I never felt that he forced me to conform to his way of thinking. I always felt more guided by him than anything, and challenged more than forced. I love Bo, but I NEVER was blindly putting him on a pedestal. He has his faults yes, but to say that is to totally patronize and marginalize him. He, Sita, and Catherine have sacrificed and done greater work more than all of us somehow involved with this put together. I am a graduate student now studying Public and nonprofit administration, and considering their work, they did a great job up until they had to close Kindness House. Running a national/semi-international organization for over 14 years with no real model to follow and only 3 core staff?
No one was ever forced to stay there. No one was ever forced to do anything. We had the option to leave anytime. We had tasks to do, and certain rules of conduct. If we didnt abide by them we were asked to leave. Hmm, sounds like ajob?
Bo always wanted to make the place better and to fit his vision on what community living should be like. I really feel like none of us were cut out to fit his vision. We were too modernized, too weak, too indulgent, and too much a product of Western living. We had DSL for gods sake. I never had DSL until then.
Maybe Bo was yelling at because he really wanted us to change and grow, but not because he was an egomaniac who tried to conform us to his idea. He loved us. He really did love us. He really believed in tough love because that was what our lazy asses needed. The best dancers are the ones who have teachers that push them and yell at them to be their best. Sometimes thats what it takes.
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